All the Ketchup I Want

October 18, 2013

Often enough, when one of the kdis throws a fit, Cate and I will joke about it to each other. The jokes are usually along the lines of how hard it is to be a kid because you get to play all day and you don’t really have any responsibilites and boy, wouldn’t that be nice.

But we also have conversations sometimes about how hard it is to be a kid. James has been a royal pain in the ass lately because he’s teething and not sleeping really well, and so he’s fussy and all that. His general buttheadedness has been kind of rough on Simone because she isn’t getting the attention we would like her to get. Don’t get me wrong, she’s not really suffering or anything, but she doesn’t get read to as much. We aren’t as patient with her.

She’s been reacting by being pretty cranky herself. Lots of fits about little stuff, which only tells us that she feels like she doesn’t have control over what is going on. And you know what? She doesn’t, and I bet it really sucks.

Think about it for minute. Imagine you come home and your spouse is too busy with work or whatever so he or she can’t really interact. Fine. You’re a grownup, you can cope with that. Maybe you decide to have a cup of coffee, but just as you start to get it together, your spouse chimes in that the coffee is needed for tomorrow so it will have to be tea. Okay, fine. Oh and wait, not that mug. No, you have to use this mug.

Why? Why can’t I pick my own damn mug?

You sit down to watch a little TV, but the show is bothering your spouse, so you have to turn it off. You pick up a book, but the spouse says know, I need that for research.

You decide to order dinner. The spouse shoots down everything except for the place you don’t like and the place you’ve been three times in a row.

You sick of this yet? This is the life of a kid. The only difference is, they often don’t understand our reasons even if we try to explain it.

It is really hard. I wouldn’t want to do that. If Cate acted like the spouse I descibed, I’d have told her to go to hell and then gone and gotten the dinner I wanted and she could fend for herself, thank you very much. Kids, of course, can’t do that.

A month or so ago, Simone and I were at a local park together while Cate and James were off at a baby-wearing function. It’s a big park with lots of woods and a nice walking path. We started at a little playground and Simone had fun, but after a while, she was ready to explore.

I let her take charge and we went from tree to tree so she could try to climb them. Then she was ready to go into the woods and explore. She was adamant that she stay in the lead, which was fine with me. She took us down one path and than another and then another. It was kind of sticky and there were bugs in spots, but it was mostly pretty nice. It was quieter than usually get in the city and she was having fun exploring and being in charge for a change.

And then I looked up and saw a white-tailed doe with her fawn. I stopped and pointed them out to Simone. We looked at them for a moment, I snapped a few pictures and we kept going down the path. Much to my surprise, however , the path curved, and we ended up circling the deer. We got closer and closer. At our nearest point, we were maybe 10 or 15 feet away. They were reasonably tame from living so close to lots of people. They skittered around, but didn’t run.

It was all very cool and Simone had a ball and was very happy and I felt very close to her.

As a parent, trying to teach a kid how to be a person, it’s easy to forget that it has been a long time since someone told me what path I could go down or how much TV I could watch or how much ketchup I could have. I’m an adult. I do what I want. As Jerry Seinfeld once said, “If I want a cookie, I’m having a cookie.”

Sometimes, we have to let our kids have cookies. Life is better when we do.

What Is Popular Culture?

October 11, 2013

I got into an argument on the internets recently about the quality of a pop group. The pop group is irrelevant, but it came with some comments about the need to stay current with popular culture, and it got me wondering about how we define popular culture.

It seems to me, and this is an open invitation for people to contradict/inform me, that we define popular culture as those things which teenagers and college students really dig. So, for instance, when I was a kid, pop culture was Titanic and The Dave Matthews Band and Spiderman movies and everything else you can think of that made a shitload of money from teenagers around then. We can have debates about whether or not this stuff is good, but that’s not really my point.

My point, more or less, can be thought of this way: Right now, Elton John has an album in the top-10. So does Metallica. So does Cher. When I was in the teenage/college years, Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) had several Albums that can only be described as world wide hits (even if they weren’t high charting in the US). Eric Clapton had 4 top-10 albums during this time. Hell, Knopfler still charts in the top-ten in most of Europe.

But look, with the exception of maybe Metallica, none of my students are listening to any of that stuff. Almost no one I knew in college was at all conscious of it. It wasn’t a part of popular culture, but it was really popular. Why? Because of old people (here “old” means over 25). This strikes me as incredibly stupid because, frankly, teenagers and college kids don’t know much of anything. That’s why they’re still in school. I mean, I remember all the great music I discovered in college and half of it was from before I was born. I didn’t know who Dire Straits was, and then I was obsessed (I tend to obsess).  The point is that I didn’t yet know how much I didn’t know.

There are three reasons we pay so much attention to pop culture, one is that it is “new.” Another is that teenagers are still forming loyalties, so advertisers are all over that stuff, thus it has a larger media presence. The third is that it theoretically gives us a glimpse into the collective psyche.

The second of those reasons is pretty easy to discount. Regarding the first, I have found, frankly, that one of the best things about getting older is the realization that there’s lots of new stuff and that most of it is really old. As a musician (can’t remember the name) said recently on Sound Opinions, “the only thing new is you finding out about it.” I don’t really feel the need to go after everything that is extremely popular right now because, well, I’m much more interested in stuff I think is good. Sometimes, what I think is good is that same as what pop culture thinks is good (this happened with Lupe Fiasco a few years ago). Sometimes, pop culture has no clue, even with a relatively young act (Teddy Thompson and Tedeschi Trucks Band spring to mind). And as for the last reason, if you have even a very rudimentary sense of pop culture, you know as much about the collective psyche as anyone.

So, yeah, pop culture. Whatever. Lots of stuff has been pop culture at one point or another, but there’s a reason we don’t still listen to Wham! just like there’s a reason we still read Jane Austen.


October 7, 2013

Baseball season just ended and the Reds were destroyed in the playoffs for the third time in four years and then the manager was fired. In other words, it has been freaking busy. I love baseball, I do, but this year was the most stress baseball has ever laid on me. For one, it was the first season during which I had a regular column for which I was actually getting paid. That was pretty cool, but it was also every week, no matter what. Speaking of which, I wrote my last column of the season in metered verse. It was fun, and you can find it here if you want.

Also, I’ve been given the chance to write for a new internet magazine. It is called The Louisville Lip. The first issue will be in November, and I’ll have an article in it. It’s nice because it gives me the chance to write on a larger platform about things other than baseball. I’m not sure how often I’ll contribute or how often I they want me to contribute, but I’m happy for the opportunity.

I haven’t written about my fiction writing for a bit. It’s amazing how the school year grinds creative endeavors to a halt. I’m giving Lonely Human Atoms another read through, and then I’m going to start sending it out again. Reading back over it is good for me. I like it. it makes me believe in myself again. Anyway, I have a couple of other projects going as well and I’m hoping to get one of them finished during the offseason.

So, I guess this is all the long way of saying that I’ve been writing, but it hasn’t been here very often. I’ve been keeping this blog for a long time now. I started the first version of it five years ago last month, and my favorite part is that I’ve never felt like I had to write about one particular topic. Everywhere else I write, it’s very focused on one thing or another, but here I write what I want. Sometimes that’s about my job, sometimes it’s my family, sometimes it’s stupid crap that I find interesting.

The blog isn’t going anywhere, but as someone who really seeks to have his writing read, I have to take opportunities where I can find them, and sometimes that means it will be a few weeks between posts here, especially if my kids don’t do anything noteworthy.

But I’m here. I’m around. James wants to be just like his sister. Simone is excited for Halloween and in not too long, she’ll get to write to Santa, which she’s been waiting to do since roughly December 26th last year. Cate is just coming back to a bit of blogging after a hiatus. She’s also starting a weaving business. I recently decided to take the dust jackets from all my hardback books, and now they’re so pretty I’ve become obsessed with all manner of fancy hardback books that I can’t really afford. It’s fun to dream, though. Even if the dreams are small.