Whoa! Didja get the numbers off that truck?!?

September 16, 2001 - 11:14 p.m.


I learned two things today. The first I learned while watching Almost Famous again. Thatís a good movie to watch, especially if youíre an Old Fart like me. I discovered music at about the same time Cameron Crowe did. I have some of the albums his sister gave him. And like him, I wasnít cool. Not even close. I only wish Iíd paid attention to the Guides and developed my writing skills at that age like he did. I might be working right now.

Okay enough, hereís what I learned. Remember that song done by Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show? Cover of the Rolling Stone? Youíll never guess who wrote it.

Go on and guess.

Give up?

It was written by Shel Silverstein! You know, The Giving Tree? That writer of immeasurable brilliance, the guy who made reading to kids fun and poignant (along with the good Dr. Seuss and Judith Viorst.) And people, The Stinky Cheese Man and other stories has to be in your book collection or itís just not complete. Iím saving that one for my grandkids; theyíll never know what hit Ďem.

I miss reading to my kids. Last time we read was for kicks, they were fourteen and twelve and we found Pickles the Fire Cat in Son1ís room, which was an old favorite. We gathered together on my bed, one kid on each side like the good old days. But, I did the voices differently. When you read to kids you have to do the characters in voice, it keeps them (and you) from falling asleep right away.

This time the fire chief was openly gay, and Mrs. Goodkind sounded like an old black jazz musician. And her language was saltier than what would be appropriate in say, a third grade classroom. Every good comic knows that timing and the element of surprise are two sure fire weapons in any good arsenal.

I kill. They were falling off the bed. A real crowd pleaser.

Hereís the second thing I learned, itís a lot more subtle.

Iím watching my kids evolve through puberty. With Son1 itís been staccato pain/pleasure with a few knockout punches to me. I think weíve found communication lately but heís not completely together yet. He has advantages I missed and heís missing a few things that hopefully he can get in the coming months.

Iím watching Son2 grow. I saw something significant today. He and Flannie decided to get the Legos out this morning.

The Lego collection weíve amassed in this house is more accurately measured in pounds, and not in pieces. Legos were a significant and essential part of growing up in this house for my kids, and Son1 was the Lego Master. For all their virtues for the growing young mind, Legos have two basic faults: 1- they effing hurt when you step on them on a dark and sleepy workday morning, and 2- theyíre designed from plastic of a specific density that resists the vacuum pressure of your average upright Hoover. They just rattle around and make a big racket in the beater bar until theyíre eventually puked out again. Thatís when my conscience usually attacked me (you heartless bastard!) and I usually tossed them in the direction of the rest of the pile to be bagged up later like grass clippings.

I think Legos are a comfort thing for my kids. Itís evidence to the evolving maturity of Son2 in the way I saw him playing with them.

He remembers what they meant, he assembles things from them like he used to. But I watched him as he held an airplane aloft that heíd made. The old cues were thereÖ make like itís flying! Two years ago he would have been lost in the play of making that plane real in his mind. There would have been sound effects, and a true and perilous mission for that plane to fly. The complex imagination of plane-in-space-time separation would have worked for him and heíd be a little boy again, lost inside that flying plane.

But today he held that plane aloftÖ and looked at it. Like a plane made from Legos. It wasnít a keynote to a whole flight of imagination anymore. It was a plastic toy. The little boy in him subsided and gave way to a deepening voice and other trappings of maturity. I watched my creative little child advance past another milestone. He may not have been aware of it, but I sure was. I watched my playful little boy evolve into a young man. Heís sitting in the portal and Iím pretty sure he may have missed that playful boyish-ness on some level for a few seconds before rushing headlong into welcome maturity.

But Iím going to miss it a lot.

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