A couple of years ago, when I was the morning DJ on WFPK, there was something that happened to me that felt like a strong punch to the stomach, and it still feels like it to remember it tonight.
My morning routine was always the same: At about 5:50, I’d put on the headphones – my next three hours of music mapped out and on the little shelf in front of me – and listen to the last song that Bob Parlocha would play, and his closing monologue (Bob’s a syndicated overnight jazz host that we use for the 1 am to 6 am stretch). Usually it was nothing very dramatic, and I’d come out of it and say good morning to the good people of Louisville and plunge right into some Husker Du or Pixies or whatever.
But this one particular morning, he played a song with a vocal, a song I’d never heard with a vocal before – “Waltz for Debby,” one of the immortal Bill Evans pieces. I’m pretty sure the version he played was sung by Al Jarreau. And the words … my god, the words …
My daughter is six years old now, so she was either four or five when this happened. And I’ve always been a sentimental fool. So these words, all about how ephemeral a little girl’s childhood is, absolutely destroyed me:
In her own sweet world
Populated by dolls and clowns
And a prince and a big purple bear
Lives my favorite girl.
Unaware of the worried frowns
That we weary grown-ups all wear.
In the sun she dances
To silent music-songs
That are spun of gold
Somewhere in her own little head.
Then one day all too soon
She’ll grow up & she’ll leave her doll
And her prince & her silly old bear.
When she goes they will cry
As they whisper good-bye
They will miss her I know
but then so will I.
This is exactly the same nerve that those beautiful bastards at Pixar willingly and knowingly poked and prodded with “Toy Story 3,” the nerve that connects a parent’s own childhood with his view of his child’s, now informed with the understanding that it all happens too fast. And it’s just not fair how fast it all is.
So that morning, I recall having about a minute and a half to pull myself together and get the quiver out of my voice in time to say “Good morning!” on the radio. And I guess I did it, but probably only barely. And no joke, from that morning forward, I didn’t put the headphones on until 5:59.
Tonight, my six-year-old daughter and my nine-year-old son had a fight. It was stupid, and unnecessarily mean, and they both acted badly and they knew it and both ended up in their respective rooms, in their beds. My son got some extra hugs from me and his mom, and I’m sure he still thinks he was right in the whole matter, but he was okay. My daughter got the hugs too, and cried a little bit more, and when it was over she retired to bed with a very battered and beaten babydoll that everyone in our house knows as Soft Baby, an absolutely precious couple of ounces of fluff and plastic that has provided her comfort on many, many occasions.
One day, all too soon, she’ll grow up and leave her Soft Baby and her silly old bear. And they will cry and whisper goodbye. They will miss her, but so will I.
Earlier this week, it was announced that ABC was canceling “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The final episodes will air in January. And this made me deeply sad.
The show is cheesier than the aggregate of all of Wisconsin, it is corporate and sponsored out the wazoo, and it is heavily edited and storyline-manipulated within an inch of its life. But I love it very much because, as a parent, it has facilitated some amazing conversations between my children and I that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
For several years now, it has been the Sunday night routine at my house that we sit down to watch “the build-a-house show” as we call it, myself and my nine-year-old son and my six-year-old daughter. We “oooh” and “aahh” at all the moments everybody else does once the (Diamond Coach, yes, branding) bus has been moved. We talk about the things that would go into our dream house, and would you look how pretty that bedroom is, and oh my gosh, are you kidding me, that kid has got a climbing wall in his room now?
But leading up to that is something more important. The show, for us, has been an opportunity to talk about and explore empathy. It’s been an entry point for my kids and I to discuss the many ways we are fortunate, to talk about the struggles that lots of people have that we are fortunate not to have.
We have talked about our good health when the show chronicles a child with some debilitating illness that makes their current house a deathtrap. We talk about how grateful we are to be together when the show focuses on a family that has been split apart for one reason or another. We talk about how blessed we are to have a home that is a blessing rather than a curse.
You can try to explain to kids that they are better off than many other people and therefore should be grateful – just ask any parent who has attempted that “starving kids in China” routine. You can tell them just how lucky they are, and you will exhaust yourself, because only a tiny bit of what you are telling them will get through. (They’re not that different from us adults, in that they’re much more likely to focus on what they don’t have rather than what they do. It appears to be the default position on the switch of human emotion.)
But despite its relentless ad placement and goofball tone, this show has for years given us a real-world barometer for those conversations. It has humanized pain, suffering, guilt, regret – and along with those, compassion, hope, love and kindness – in a simple way that child and parent alike can understand. And talk about.
For all those reasons, I will miss it dearly.
Well, this is quite wonderful … 17 days and counting!
Man, I love me some cheeseburgers! That’s good eating! I say keep it simple when you’re cooking them, too: some freshly ground sirloin, salt and cracked pepper, slice of good cheese, two very large eyes eerilly protruding from the top of the bun, almost defying you to end its life. The classics never really go out of style, you know.
This is one of my favorite songs from one of my very favorite bands, the amazing Glasvegas. Dumb-lucked upon this just now – I did not realize how many videos the band has made. Compelling stuff.
(There is some profanity in this song – and most of their songs, for that matter – but to be honest the guy’s accent is so thick you probably won’t even notice.)
I love me some whimsical and wacky Amazon reviews, so I don’t know why I never thought to look here: Check out this solid gold review of the New Testament of the King James Bible:
For those of you who don’t know, this is God’s second novel after the Old Testament. It’s a marked improvement, in my opinion. He got rid of a lot of his previous angst and scorn, and has really begun to show some of the maturity present in his later works. He’s become a much more loving and kind God, and, noticeably, he doesn’t throw nearly as many tantrums as he did in the first book.
That said, there is still vast room for improvement. Plot wise, there isn’t really much suspense, and the story can be incredibly repetitive. In like four chapters, he just rewords the same basic story over and over again. To top that off, he puts those chapters one right after the other. Like we wouldn’t notice! I like the whole Jesus character, but let’s face it, the whole good guy martyr thing has been done before. There was no need to devote so much of the book to that guy.
I got to spend about 13 minutes on the phone with the great Barry Manilow today, discussing, among other things, his new concept album “15 Minutes.” Listen for bits and pieces of this interview to show up on my morning show on WFPK over the next week.
Salient takeaway for hardcore Manilow fans: He tells me his next record will likely be a sequel to his first jazz album, the great “2 AM: Paradise Cafe.”Barry Manilow interview, 7/17/11