Sadly, this is pretty much how my one and only shot at Shakespeare on stage went. Thanks ever so much for stacking those old sawhorses right behind the curtain I was supposed to run through at the end of my scene, fellas. Twenty years down the road, I don't still find myself remembering that mortifying and painful few seconds every few weeks.
The 8-year-old is at the kitchen table, practicing drawing lessons from one of the roughly seventeen thousand how-to books Top Management has acquired over the years. She begins humming a song she and I had sung—or, more accurately, "sung"—together a few nights earlier: Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile (with the Memphis Blues Again)," a song that, for reasons even I don't entirely understand, is one of the songs I play most frequently on the guitar and which she and her 13-year-old sister therefore have a certain fondness for.
I decide to play the original and call it up on the iTunes. The Golden Weasel listens for a few verses and then says, "he doesn't sing it like we do," which is very true. She then wonders, "why does he talk it instead of singing it?"
I explain about style and technique and touch upon the differences between sprechstimme and sprechgesang and the history of each.
The next song comes on, another we'd sung—"sung"—together the other night. She listens to the first few verses and then, judging by the affectionate smile on her face, thinking she's bestowing upon her parents her highest compliment, she says, "this is yours and mommy's song."
"It Ain't Me, Babe."
Go 'way from my window Leave at your own chosen speed I'm not the one you want, babe I'm not the one you need You say you're lookin' for someone Who's never weak but always strong To protect you an' defend you Whether you are right or wrong Someone to open each and every door But it ain't me, babe No, no, no, it ain't me babe It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe.
Go lightly from the ledge, babe Go lightly on the ground I'm not the one you want, babe I will only let your down You say you're lookin' for someone Who will promise never to part Someone to close his eyes for you Someone to close his heart Someone who will die for you an' more But it ain't me, babe No, no, no, it ain't me babe It ain't me you're lookin' for, babe.
Seems her talents for drawing doesn't extend to lyrical analysis. Or maybe she just doesn't know the word ain't.
...in the mighty wiki, if not the official dictionary, is a shot of me with all four of my daughters, watching Randy Newman on Austin City Limits. The Bean was there from the first—if there's some sort of music thing on the tube, she's there. The others drifted in when they heard him singing Toy Story's "You've Got a Friend in Me," but (perhaps aided by homemade chocolate chip cookies) stayed for the duration. The middle two marveled at his piano prowess. They all agreed "We Love L.A." should be our friend Krissy's ringtone. The Golden Weasel picked up a new nickname, courtesy her older sisters: Short People. And all four hung on every note and syllable of the finale.
The Golden Weasel puts a tinkertoy creation down on my desk.
"This is The Wheel of Doom™," she says. "It—wait."
She pauses, then holds her hands out, palms facing forward. "It's The Wheel of Doom™," she says again, only this time her voice goes down as low as it can (which isn't far) on the final word, adding a certain heft, a certain sense of, well, catastrophic annihilation. "You have to say it the right way. When you just say 'The Wheel of' it sounds like it could be something pretty or fun. But then when you say the last word—Doom (and this time she makes her voice quaver in a ghostly manner)—then people know right away what it's really like."
I consider the sculpture, its neon colors and friendly shapes, and wonder how on earth anyone could ever consider it pretty or fun, anything, really, but an object of abject terror.
"Okay. So it's got lasers here and here, and here and here, and these ones spin around but these lasers spin around and go up and down, so it can pretty much kill anything anywhere right away."
She unleashes an incandescent smile, spins and dashes away. Two seconds later, she's back.
One of the very few good things about having a kid in college is that when she stumbles across an image she's pretty sure you'll like, she IMs it to you.
And she's right. This is pretty much my favorite drawing ever. Not just because I unironically use the adjective "peachy" all the time, but because these two antipodal fruits succinctly sum up the yin-yang relationship of me and my beloved Top Management.
The Golden Weasel is drawing at the kitchen table as I'm doing the dishes. I've got a playlist of several hundreds songs and when it's a song she recognizes, she hums along with the stereo. It makes me very, very happy.
Except tonight, when I gradually become aware of her sweetly, softly singing "la la la la la" to a song I don't think she's ever heard before.
The five-year-old has been playing happily in the corner, chattering away under his breath. He breaks off and starts looking under things: the table, the stepstool, cushions, a shoe.
Finally, he comes over to me. "Have you seen Teal?" the Brawn asks.
I don't remember which toy Teal is, if I ever knew. I have an image of a light blue monkey, or maybe it's a bear? Is that Teal? Cerulean would be a more appropriate name for it, I think. Either way, I think that toy, whatever it is, belongs to his brother.
"I'm sorry, pal—which one's Teal?"
The Brawn looks at me strangely and says slowly, "it's a color of dot paint? Sort of blue and sort of green?"
The 5-year-old comes in from playing with the little boy next door.
"Do you know what happens when you leave a fish too long in the oven?" he asks.
It never even occurs to me that this might be the set up for a joke; his delivery far too sincere, he's clearly about to convey how cool it was when the kid's father ruined dinner just now or something along those lines.
And, indeed, the boy makes a squiggly gesture with his hand, as though illustrating how the poor fish was burnt to a thin, twisty crisp.
"It turns into bread," he says, awestruck.
Now, admittedly, my understanding of chemistry is only slightly less lacking than my knowledge of physics, but even so, I have to break it to him. "Yeah, I'm pretty confident that's not correct."
As he goes off to wash his hands, it occurs to me that the manner in which some sort of bizarre transubstantiation meets alchemy was just explained to him was more or less the same way I learned about sex. Which might be related, in some way, to the fact that I have six children.
The 15-year-old muses as we toss a tennis ball in the backyard.
"I've often wondered if it would be possible to get through an entire day by saying nothing but quotes from books and movies and stuff."
"Well," I respond. "I'm home."
She laughs. The 8-year-old looks disgruntled, knowing that, while it's true, I'm back after being away overnight, she's also missing out on a reference. "It's from The Lord of the Rings," her sister explains.
"Between that and Star Wars, I'd think you could get through a whole day," the 13-year-old opines.
"Hm," the 8-year-old says. "The only quote from that I really know is by Yoda. 'To be or not to be, that is the question'."
Her sisters look at her to see if she's trolling them. She isn't.
"I think you mean 'Do or do not—there is no try'," the 13-year-old says gently.
Six of one, half dozen the other. Or, as Captain James Tiberius Kirk once said, "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
Dear Conservatives—a quick reminder: if you succeed in turning this glorious planet into a wasteland through your avarice and willful ignorance, my grandchildren are going to turn your grandchildren into soylent green.
Twenty years ago today was the loneliest I'd ever been in my life.
I'd had my share of lonely times before that—as the youngest kid by a decent margin, maybe even more than my share. But I'd never felt anything like I felt on May 14th, 1994.
I'd been hanging out with my groomsmen, having a great time, when suddenly I was told it was time to start and I had to go wait in a backroom for the ceremony to begin.
So I'm hearing the music I picked out, played every so beautifully by a trio we'd hired, and peeking out, I can see my brothers and friends from college escorting people down the aisle and smiling and laughing and I'd never felt so isolated before, so absolutely crushingly alone.
Fortunately, just a few minutes later, my brother Jay came and kept me company, which helped considerably. And then a very, very long minute or two after that, we went and stood up at the front and the music shifted and I saw walking towards me the most gorgeous person I'd ever laid eyes upon.
And shortly thereafter we were married. And it's been twenty years and I've pretty much never been lonely since.
And yet I'm still surprised when I'm making the cake with the birthday girl, who wanted red velvet cake, and as we add the wet ingredients the batter goes from a dull brownish powder to a vivid, garish, viscous vermillion, and she gives a low, dark chuckle and growls, "Mmm...blood."