About Me and Why I Write

main st J

I JUST WANT TO BE AN EXCELLENT WRITER. That’s it. Keep me pure. I want a future where I’ve written so much that I can showcase my texts on a handmade shelf in my office. And then I’ll be somewhere pining over my latest piece or novel or story, wondering if I can keep up with myself and my readers. I just want it all to be excellent.

Personally…I have an amazing wife and three children who color and create my universe in the best possible way, and I am the luckiest man ever. I will never tire of thinking or saying that. I’ve taught high school English and coached soccer for more than a decade now, and I get to write curriculum and tutor kids too. I love all of it, I really do. I’m currently editing a book of essays and working on my first novel and my first graphic novel. I also have a ton of short stories I’m trying to sell to magazines. Oh and I do all of this in Massachusetts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 11.36.06 AM

I write because I’m a writer. I have ideas every day and have to put them down. I see stories and characters and conflict where there are none, and then create a world to encapsulate these motifs, even if the worlds are short and combustible. Some stars need to explode.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 11.27.37 AM
I write because I have to. If you’re a writer and you try to walk away from writing, and you do so successfully, then you’re not a writer in the existential sense. If you write every day, and dream about more time to write, and scan and re-read books looking for those magical pockets of literary moments that made the writing alive, and practice them yourself, and think about your life in terms of when you can become published, then you are a writer. But you have to write.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 11.28.23 AM

YEARS FROM NOW some kid will be forced to read my novel or one of my stories or essays in high school, and think the title is boring, and not really read it, and hopefully the enthusiasm of the teacher will carry the day. I’m okay with that, because I’ve been there as a reader and teacher. But if one of my writings made it into the classroom? What an honor. That means that someone was so moved by something that I wrote that they would want to share it with a class. I do that as a teacher and it’s one of my dreams for the future.

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.15.31 AM
Backyard sledding.

I’m finally at the beginning of where I want to be as a writer…I want to thank la ostra magazine, The Gloucester Clam, BLUNTmoms, the Original Bunker Punks, DAD Bloggers (Oren Miller’s group), and The Good Men Project for allowing me to work and do what I love, so far. I’ve just started.

Here's me with Gatsby.
Here’s me with Gatsby.

…And now for the interview questions from the Original Bunker Punks tour:

Original Bunker Punks: What is your most prized possession?

Me: I have so many…I’m a few steps away from being a hoarder, says my wife. But with a wife and three kids there isn’t one object that holds all the prized possessive power without alienating someone. I have this ratty sweatshirt that is in most of our family pictures, including a few Christmas pictures, and I wear it every night, next to my wife or holding my children, or sitting around the house. So maybe that. I don’t even know where I got it.

Hans cool
In real life I sort of look like Hans from Frozen. Really.

OBP: How do you unwind after a long day? 

Me: Time with the kids, a drink or two, and something on DVR with the missus. Or writing if I stay up past everyone.

hsm stand up
Back from protesting days.

OBP: What is one song that has followed you throughout your whole life?

Me: “Rocket and a Bomb” by Michael Knott. I’ve listened to it and his Aunt Bettys album on a monthly basis since 1996. I have the mix tape “regulars” that span the spectrum, and it’s on every one.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 4.54.44 PM
Hosting “Hey Everybody! Take Care, Have Fun!” …the series was short run.

OBP: If you could give one piece of advice to new bloggers in your field, what would it be?

Me: Just focus on the writing. Forget the likes and shares and all that – but it’s easy to get caught up in it. And take your time making it really good. If the writing is no good, then we can see right through it. Decide what you want the blog to be, and stick with it or change it, only based on the purity of your goals. My goal is to write at least a hundred good essays, and then make a career out of writing that I’m proud of away from the blog world (that may not happen the way things are). I have lists of writing goals to keep to and change, and it took me about seven tries to make a blog I liked and kept with. Nerdy Dad Shirt is still an experiment!

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.06.55 PM
Uncanny or ironic or fitting? Father’s Day, 2014.

Original Bunker Punks: Now that you’re famous, we need a quote from you.

 Me: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.” I stole that from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.08.22 PM
Beardo, grading papers, 2004.

Thank you! Leave a comment if you’re still reading…

Advertisements

I Can’t. I Have To Hold The Baby

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 1.36.50 PM

I WOULD LOVE TO DO WHATEVER IT IS YOU’RE DOING or plan on doing, or whatever it is I did before I had the third kid, but I have to hold the baby. Everything now revolves around the world headquarters for life that is my house. You should know that. And I’m more than okay with that. I love it more than anything. Seriously, anything. I am, after all, holding the baby. I’m holding the whole universe in my arms, and she only reaches from my navel to my right above my heart. I want to hold the baby.

Recently I was given the most brilliant insight into being a newborn dad by another father of three. He simply said that all his time was taken up by holding the baby. It made total sense and gave me a new maxim, excuse, and principle to live by:

I CAN’T, I HAVE TO HOLD THE BABY.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 6.12.09 PM

This is useful for the following situations:

–>”Hey man, how’s your novel going?”

“I CAN’T WRITE, I HAVE TO HOLD THE BABY.”

–>”Hey man, want to go out for drinks after work?”

“HA HA YOU’RE DELIRIOUS OR CHILDLESS…YOU KNOW I CAN’T, I HAVE TO GET HOME TO HOLD THE BABY. PLUS THERE IS NO DRINKING MONEY UNTIL LATER IN LIFE. ASK ME IN EIGHTEEN YEARS OR SO, OR MAYBE WHEN I’M RETIRED.”

–>”Hey bro bro, want to catch a movie?”

“That’s nice. That’s also what DVR, Netflix, Hulu, Redbox, YouTube, and HBO GO is for. I’m in bed by 9. And most of the time, I’M HOLDING THE BABY.”

“Hey you want to catch my friend’s band? They play at 12AM on Tuesday night.”

“Uh, I wouldn’t even do that in my baby-free 20s when I was playing the same night at the same place. Sorry, friend.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 1.45.28 PM

You see, holding the baby is exactly what you’re doing when people wonder why you can’t go out anymore. Yes, we know that babysitters exist. Yes, we know that there is a whole race of people going out all the time with kids at home. Yes, we know that people have been having kids for millennium. But, you see, I have to hold the baby.

…Because I love her. Because her head smells great. Because because because…in a few months and years I won’t be holding her as much, and then there will come a time when I never get to hold her, or at least not as much. And soon I’ll be an old man looking back on my life and wishing I had spent more time holding the baby. And then I’ll want to hold my children’s babies, but won’t be able to as much as my own, and it won’t be the same.

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 1.46.06 PM

Here’s how life breaks down when holding the baby:

Disclaimer: “holding the baby” includes and refers to all the following but is not limited to: relieving the mother by holding the baby, holding the baby after a diaper change, sitting in front of the bouncer seat the baby is in, holding while rocking said baby to sleep, letting the baby sleep or sit next to you while you’re NOT moving from where you are, and anything that resembles holding the baby or spotting while other people hold the baby (although at this point with three kids you’re always ready for someone else to hold the baby). And mom is doing any amazing job.

All of this applies to being in public while with or while holding that amazing bundle of joyous eternity:

Wake-up: hold the baby, put baby in seat or with mother while getting ready for work.

Work: 8-10 hours. Thinking about holding the baby. Look at baby’s picture and think about getting to hold her when you get home.

Home: roughly 6-9PM – hold the baby any chance you get in-between feeding and showing interest in other kids, including diaper changes, spit-up cleanup, holding the baby just to calm her before putting her down, and holding the baby during any opportune time.

Bedtime: You’re probably going to hold the baby at some point, maybe in the middle of the night, maybe not. You’re ready.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 6.13.45 PM

Things you can do while holding the baby:

– watch tv or read a book

– anything where you don’t move as to wake her. DO NOT WAKE HER.

– anything you can do with one hand, or both hands while balancing the baby on your chest or on your arm, or anything where you can kind of put her down for like a minute while doing something else.

…and I’m actually holding the baby right now. She’s the greatest. What the world needs more of is people holding babies. The revolution starts tonight, or whenever she gets a little cranky after a feeding (who needs a burp?), and then I’m too busy because, well, I’m holding the baby.

Read this on BLUNTMoms.

Read this on The Good Men Project.

Traffic (a poem sprung up lately)

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.18.33 AM

BEFORE I WAS A LAZY BLOGGER, I WAS A NOVELIST AND SHORT STORY WRITER. And before that, a poet. Some undusting here. I still “am” a novelist, short story, screenplay, and assorted essays writer, but at one point I wrote a lot of poetry, like a Ginsberg/Whitman-Supermarket-bunch of poetry. Here’s one.


Traffic

I planned on being on time,

but then I wasn’t.

 

Some say traffic

is like

nothingness-

 

Some say traffic

is like

everything-

 

You never know why it happened

no one ever tells you

but every now and then

there is a pile of wreckage

and you’re like

oh that’s what it was.

 

I planned on being there early,

but the highway was full of returning saviors

and unwanted children

and burning tanks-

 

The highway was full of hopes and wishes

and alarm clocks

and anxiety dreams about being late-

 

I was delayed by relaxed shoulders

and choice of driver’s music

and rising early

and such and such

and nada Hemingway

and my happy place

which is not the highway-

 

The highway was full

and empty

of the same cars I see every day-

the same bend,

and hidden patrol,

and the first four tones of the morning news-

 

Some say traffic

is like-

 

Some say life

is like-

 

I planned on being here on time,

and then I wasn’t.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 10.18.59 AM

 

 

 

Just Don’t Be A Shitty Dad

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 10.53.58 AM

DADS, STOP HIDING IN THE BATHROOM, GARAGE, SHED, BACKYARD, BAR, and WORK. The kids and wife will find you there eventually. It’s okay, all you have to do it play with your kids, be nice to your wife, and give them your entire mortal life and all the attention and beauty and care inside it. That’s all.

Those are secrets to a long, beautiful life, and one day, when the kids are out of the house, you will have the bathroom all to yourself (between their college years and your death) and you’ll miss being interrupted all the time with urgent matters like who hit who, who needs to really really really go to the bathroom right now (so it’s not okay to have the kids pee in the tub while you’re occupying the throne?), and who is bothering who.

If you’re reading this, and you’re a dad, you’re probably not needing the “advice” I’m going to shell out. But most people out there can be shitty, awful people, and especially to their kids. But if, by chance, an awful human being has become a parent, I’m hoping he would someone stumble upon this post. Somehow.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 10.57.29 AM

So chances are you’re not a shitty dad. But if you were tending toward that reality, here are some pointers to pass along.

Be there. Just be there. Absenteeism by dads is an epidemic in America and the world. There is no greater struggle, archetype, or therapy-prompt than “talk about your relationship with your dad.” By just being there all the time you’ve saved a future broken human being from suffering from thoughts of insecurity and abandonment at their current and future age. Fight hard against the struggles and obstacles of life to be there for every moment you can.

Don’t be a selfish asshole with your time. Your stuff isn’t that important. The kids want your attention, and if you don’t give it to them, they will get the hint and not bother you again, or give their attention to anyone else, preferably not you. For life maybe. But don’t helicopter over them all the time either. Everyone needs some time alone sometime, but not that much time. One day you’re going to get home late and realize you haven’t talked to your kids in a few days, and you’ll wonder where all the time went. Play this scene over in your mind and adjust accordingly. This also goes for your precious stuff that you don’t want them touching.

Just play Princess or LEGOS with your kids. Just do it. Whatever you’re doing is not as important as tea party, princess ball, picnic, kitchen, school, construction site, or any of the wonderful games you could be playing with your amazing, perfect children. Whatever they’re into, they’re looking for reinforcement and approval. Play all the games they want, and engage them on their level as much as you can before they fade out and revert to only playing by themselves. You are the most important person in the world to them, for now.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 10.55.57 AM

Turn off the t.v. after a little bit, or for good. Remember Jim Carrey’s character in The Cable Guy plummeting to his death? His last words were, “Kill the Babysitter,” referring to the boob tube that had “raised” him. This goes for the YouTube, handheld device, and iPad. Kids should be experiencing plenty of fresh air, free play, and whatever it is you’re doing away from the couch. Or in the house – whatever you’re doing, include them, even if it’s “above their heads” (which will probably never be the case unless you’re splitting the atom or making toxic chemicals – even then, that’s pretty cool to share). Once the television is off, you can actually feel the parasites leaving your brain to go onto more creative uses of your time with the kids.

Learn with your kids. Kids are crazy sponges and love to explore and learn. So expose them to all the not-so-boring things you want to learn, and be pleasantly surprised when they take it as seriously as you. They are literally blank slates, so fill up their brains with great life stuff.

Talk a lot and use big words. Successful adult humans often have strong educational backgrounds because of their parents’ education and willingness to share words and ideas. It’s not too late or too early to get all the knowledge in your head into theirs. You are your child’s first teacher, so have something good to say, and don’t water down your vocabulary. And read to them and with them, and make sure they see you reading.

Don’t hit your kids. Getting a switch from the tree or “bopping” your two-year old just isn’t necessary. Time outs, taking away privileges, and a loud, mean voice of authority work just as well. “Spoiling the child by sparing the rod” makes no sense when you consider that hitting your kid with a rod would be awful. A grown man hitting a little kid because he spilled his juice or did something naughty has no correlation in the real world unless you’re equating violence in prisons with people actually learning something about life, which isn’t happening. Most people hit their kids between ages two to twelve, and then don’t hit anymore when the kids get older (although we all know that some hitting and forms of physical abuse continues long after twelve or until the child is big enough to hit back) – doesn’t that seem illogical? At the most precious memory and skill-forming time in the child’s life, you’re using physical aggression and violence to teach important lessons. They can’t learn any other way? I think – and know – not.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 11.10.14 AM

Just be yourself, or the better version of yourself you hope to be. Your kids are going to solidify an image and character of you and stick with that for life, so give your best to them, always. Don’t worry about being perfect, and don’t be afraid to learn from new mistakes.

When all else fails, just say to yourself, Just don’t be a shitty dad. Whatever that means to you, apply it and stick with it, and enjoy your kids while you can. Tell them you love them at least a hundred times a day, and show them that you love them that many times and more.

They’ll love it. Because all they want is you.

How To Properly Beach It (or Why All Men Hate The Beach)

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 8.49.42 PM

ALL MEN HATE THE BEACH, GOING TO THE BEACH, AND THE IDEA OF A BEACH DAY.

Or maybe, all men hate sunbathing. Or maybe it’s that all dads hate the beach. Ask any man (and we’re talking men here, not teens or college-age boys or men who, fully clothed, like to walk their dogs at the beach after hours). I’m sure it’s a mixture of all varieties of men, although I’ve seen men sunbathing here and there, and I just assume that they fell asleep.

Men go to the beach for two reasons: women and kids. Or to launch a kayak. And don’t forget scuba classes. But almost no group of men will say to each other hey guys, want to sit, lay, and run around in the direct sun all day? The answer is always that I already work in the hot, direct sun all day. I don’t want to do it surrounded by sand. And old men in sunny beach-side cultures who fished for a living and spend their retirement days at the beach don’t count. That’s like hanging out near where you worked, which a lot of men do. In fact, legend has it that the first boat was invented when men were bored at the beach with their families and had to devise a way to break up the monotony of heating up and then taking a dip, heating up and then taking a dip, heating up and then taking a dip. You’ve all been there.

There’s just something about being in the hot sun for hours without getting paid that makes men restless, resistant, and adverse to the lazy day at the beach. Don’t get me wrong – I love doing nothing while my skin isn’t burning and I’m showing signs of dehydration. Well, now that the kids are able to play on their own, I can do more nothing at the beach, in the shade, guarding my stuff from the wiles of the desert sands.

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 1.05.17 PM

On the other hand, women love the beach. Like, insanely love the beach. My working theory is that because our species’ better half have monthly cycles like the moon, and the moon controls the waves, and women can control men best at the beach, women, therefore, love the beach. Maybe not all women, but at least 96% of them. Young women in bikinis can control men’s actions, and older women in bikinis with offspring of those men can control men’s actions. It’s a vicious and beautiful cycle within a cycle within a cycle, all dependent on getting us men to the beach.

And for women there is some magical moment that happens when the sun hits the skin, something beyond a vitamin D boost. Sunbathing or tanning is vital to a woman’s happiness. Learn this, men. Learn it and respect and never question it. Any chance women can get to sunbathe, they will. This, dear men, allows you to be free to do other things but only if the kids are being watched. And when you bring men to the beach, they can play with the kids and you women are free to sunbathe. See? It’s pure genius.

Before having kids, a beach trip might have been you and some friends, the wife, and a cooler of sody pop and sandwiches. Maybe you rode boogie boards ironically in your 20s or played frisbee. Maybe you showed up at the beach in jeans and a sweatshirt after hours for a BBQ or something youthful and curfew-free. But you weren’t sitting or walking all day long in the hot sun unless that included said sody pop and cigarettes and a boombox and bikinis. If you were lucky to get time alone with the missus at the beach, you frolicked in the water, bodies favorably close, and possibly took a walk or napped or did anything, without kids bothering you, in quick peace. Then after the beach you ended up somewhere with immediate access to margaritas or cold beer and chicken wings.

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 1.08.26 PM

A beach day with the kids means at least two hours prep at home dressing the kids and packing. Then there’s the drive. Then there’s filling up the Beach Buddy Buggy with cooler, chairs, blankets, towels, shovels, pails, and the like, and then dragging it a quarter of a mile to a spot of Earth that the sun will bear down on all day (oh you thought wheels on your Beach Buddy Buggy were helpful? Fool!). You then have to dig holes for the umbrellas and/or build a tent while setting up camp. Oh, yes. The beach is like camping except that when you are camping (or having a picnic), you don’t always have to worry about something falling in the grass because we all know the five second rule, and grass always seems kind of clean. But not sand. Not that cursed, desert material that rules the beach.

But while at the beach, dear readers, you’re in the blazing hot sun, half naked, setting up a complicated array of chairs and blankets while the kids bug you to just go in the water already daddy, guarding your food and perspiring water bottle away from the Earth because sand gets in and on everything. I don’t mind sandy feet or a little sand at home from the kids’ bathing suits, but this invasive alien craws into every space, wrinkle, and available niche it can. And please oh please let the kids already have sunscreen on, because lathering up children on the hot sand is the very last thing anyone wants to do, especially when they’re already sandy from the 4.2 minutes you’ve actually been at the beach.

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 11.03.39 AM

In the real world we seek shade, proper covering, and air conditioning – but not on a beach day. In the real world we never dig up the backyard to make dirtcastles – but not on a beach day. In the real world we hope for peace after death in a nice, cool, cloudy heaven- but not on a beach day. In the real world, we dress professionally or at least we cover up most of our skin – but not on a beach day. The beach allows us to be lazy savages in the hot, deadly sun.

There are only so many things to do at the beach, so you have to be inventive because you’ll be there longer than you want but just long enough so that the missus feels like it was a “long beach day.” So just get used to not checking the time. Don’t be like that, dad.

Okay we climbed the rocks, check. We swam around, check. Caught hermit crabs, regular crabs, and tadpoles, check. Took a walk, check. Tried to nap, check. Ate kids’ leftover lunch when they were not looking, check. Bought overpriced ice cream and goods from the beach restaurant or truck, check. Tried checking your smartphone for a distraction, check. Tried reading a book, check. Built a sandcastle or something like it, check. Tried to people watch, check. Checked checkered skin for sunburn check-marks, check. Time gone by: forty-three minutes.

SO, DEAR MEN, if you can hold out long enough, however, then driving home with your ocean-kissed skin adjusting in the shade of the car will make it all worthwhile. You don’t even care that you’re wearing slightly dried, slightly wet shorts. The trunk is sufficiently filled with sand – ain’t no thang. You’ll be dead tired and dehydrated at work tomorrow, who cares. Your pasty white skin is red but the wife looks great – that sunbathing makes her all the more delicious.

So it’s all good because the wife is happy and the kids are exhausted, and you get to drink cold beer at home and watch some t.v. You’ll do anything to get to this place because you are a man, and a dad, and alive in the summer.

Happy beaching – especially to my Gloucester Beach Bums. You all know the drill.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 8.31.07 AM

All original material is copyright Nerdy Dad Shirt/Jeremy McKeen 2014

 

 

My People Run The World Now

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 7.52.34 PM

Years ago during a night shift job I got hooked on the old Comedy Roast commercials – not the actual roasts,  which cost money to order, but the commercials featuring Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, and the old comedy guard of the 60s and 70s. You’ve probably seen them: half hour commercials featuring the Rat Pack and an aging Lucille Ball and that schticky woman who hit people with her purse, all on a dais with Carson and Martin and Rickles and Rich Little and even Truman Capote. There was something official about them – the forty-somethings who once ran the world of entertainment, all smoking and drinking and made up to look younger on camera, those comedians and entertainers born out of the earlier golden age of entertainment, which had been the original age of television, right after people stopped buying radios.

Now that I’m thirty-five, I’m realizing that my people now run the world – that is to say,  the world of entertainment and education is run by twenty-five to forty-year olds, but specifically thirty-five and up category. The world of entertainment and media is run by the Class of 1992 to 2002 – and I’m inbetween as the Class of 1997, so there’s a range to fill, like Mark Zuckerberg being five years my junior and Kayne West a year my senior; the cast of SNL which I’ve followed every Saturday night since I was thirteen now runs every movie made it seems, including all the movies I rent for my kids; music belongs to the young, but the judges on the Voice and those other judge shows are in their early forties, if not closer to thirty-five. Justin Timberlake, Brittany Spears, and Usher are all slightly my youngers – so my people run late night and the radio too, which is evidenced by a thirty-nine year old Jimmy Fallon having a forty-five year old Will Smith and a fiftysomethings U2 on his first show.

Whoever the new Frank Sinatra is – Jay-Z? – I’m the plebian radio listener who is stuck inside of a time period where he is the Boss, and I’ll be stuck with that until, in the elderly care system when I’m 91, I’ll still be reciting every word of “Hard Knock Life.” I think of my grandmother’s love for Johnny Mathis, and my parents’ generation love for the 60s acts, and the entertaining class that I’ve stuck with since the 90s  – we are all servants of the same maxim: the world is always run by twenty-five to forty-somethings, whether it’s the book you’re reading or show you’re watching. Go ahead, look – then google the age. You’ll see. More often than not, you’re reading something written by someone more successful and younger than you. It’s okay.

Gas Crunch 79

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country,” and unfortunately, and logically, that’s what is happening now. Whoever owns the company that owns the company that owns the company that produces that show you love, is well aware of the class of 1992, ’97, and ’02. It’s our time! Those teenagers are on our tail, and soon we’ll be too old, fat, and bald to have a say. But until then, damn it, we run this show.

Just think, Dr. King was in his thirties when he helped shape the world; Thomas Jefferson was thirty-three in 1776; Hemingway, Whitman, Fitzgerald, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Updike, Baldwin, Dave Eggers, you get the idea: all of them did their best or first works roughly in this magical age. Christian Bale’s Batman was roughly twenty-five but played by a thirty-something (he’s now forty) and the new new new new Batman, Ben Affleck, is forty-two. And I’m still contemplating my theatre degree.

Boss Mug

Nowadays the Comedy Central Roasts are hosted by my people – early forty-somethings or late twenty-somethings trying to make it on the B list, usually roasting legends who beat the age curve. And in twenty five years, will we be watching outdated celebrities on late night television infomercials? We just might.

In fact, most dramatic or comedic hit movies out there are about “a 36 year old guy trying to find his way” whether it’s Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, or Bradley Cooper, who are all, well – my age. At some point my age became the safe place to launch a thousand film tropes and arcs from. Only all of them are hapless, single, childless guys still with their own hair and much too physically fit. Hollywood, make that money off of my people!

So, well…Shit. I have to get to work. I won’t be young forever, but at least my students think I look young – especially when I shave my beard off. “Twenty-eight,” they say. Or twenty-four. A guess a decade doesn’t matter in the eye of the mind of the beholder.

I am reminded of Whitman’s lines in Leaves of Grass, “now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin” and I’m a bit comforted. Once on the dais, with good make-up, we can look eternal. Even if we’re only thirty-five.

Dad to Dad: Dr. King

Dad to Dad: Dr. King

Image

Back in my activist and rock and roll days, I had a moment to define whatever movement I feel like I’m a part of for life: I was standing next to Noam Chomsky at T.T. the Bear’s in Boston listening to Howard Zinn speak. Let me write that again – I was standing next to Noam Chomsky while watching Howard Zinn speak. If you live in Boston, there are a few times this kind of thing might happen. If you don’t live in Boston, or the Northeast, or aren’t part of the kind of crowd that reveres or seeks out this kind of thing, it was a big deal that happened by accident, but still happened.

It was one of those moments I’ll forever hold in that weird celebrity part of my brain, like sitting next to John Updike in a movie theatre (well, across the aisle) or talking with then Senator Kerry while waiting for my turn on the microphone at an AFL-CIO conference, or getting a half an hour with Kurt Vonnegut in his office when he was teaching at Smith.

I’m enough distanced from these moments that now when I think of them, I do so as a Dad. When you’re young you march and protest alongside other young people, and then you go out to celebrate and publish the happenings in your ‘zine. Then you pick it up again as soon as you can, and repeat. When you’re a little older and a parent, you march and protest as long as there’s a sitter, or you can do so around preschool hours and days off. The Movement is always moving, however old you’re getting.

Image

On this MLK day, I think of Dr. King the Dad, recalling his constant referencing to his children over the course of his life as a speaker and essayist. Like him, all parents have a grandiose view of an idyllic society, one where our kids can play and learn in peace. As a parent, continual maintenance of the local playground is more of a focal point for city activism than fighting the WTO or corporations or the Man (Damn the Man! oh wait, am I the Man?). This is where true change happens in a society: moms and dads making it nice for everyone. And this sentiment is essentially the idea behind every great movement: let’s just make it nice for everyone. You know, for the kids.

Image

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 10.51.48 AM(the author as a little leaguer)

Since Dr. King’s day, the marches and sit-ins have changed dramatically in focus – in a First World setting, we’re fighting for things like Minimum Wage increase, the Dream Act, Sustainability, Marriage Equality, and some equitable legislation toward solving the drop-out rate in high schools while fighting the effects of poverty seen in American children (and hopefully children around the world). We’re signing petitions online between play dates and diaper changes, and posting the you-should-care-about-this videos and memes on social media while getting ready for that second job so the kids can have a few more presents during the holidays. Aside from a pro-breastfeeding “sit-in” and Farmer’s Market signature collecting, parents don’t have the same marching and parade options as the parents in the 60s and 70s did, although the Unions keep this proud tradition alive, and every now and then we’ll see millions gathered for a cause (gee I’d really like to Occupy Boston, but I have to work and take the kids to soccer). But while we’re fighting for the reparations of the last list of incongruities here in the First World, there is a huge world of Dads and Moms out there just trying to make ends meet in countries where food and vaccines can’t just be bought at the other CVS or Walgreens in your city.

Image

The other day I was pleased to hear my kindergardener tell me about an outdated world where there were “Whites Only” signs and people were mean to each other because of skin color. We talked about being kind, peaceful, and how to share, and what Dr. King did to help people. Absent from the conversation was the heavy topic of racism, but for a six year old in 2014, ideas about race from the 1960s can be summed up in that wonderful story of Once Upon A Time people were mean to each other because of skin color, and now they’re not as mean. And that’s pretty much it, from Dad to Child: you just have to be kind and fair. My four year old constantly asks why we look white and pink (why do people look like each other? is one of my favorite questions from her), and I tell her about DNA and families and somehow she gets it (although she thinks all females have brown eyes and all males have blue eyes, which is only because she and her mother have brown eyes while the boy and I have blue). To add to this we live in a drastically different media world than ever before, as if Handy Manny, Dora, and Doc McStuffins have led the way for our children to see the world in a way that I only started to see back in the 80s. Is this the romantic future the marchers were imagining back in the abolition days and on through towards the 60s? Maybe so. 

And so, on this MLK Day, I salute the thirty-something Dad who spoke, marched, petitioned, protested, was jailed for, and preached on behalf of his children, their classmates and their families, and how he continues to inspire this thirty-something Dad to speak out and write on behalf of my children and their classmates and their families when and where I can, albeit in a different world than it was a few generations ago, and toward the (brand) new or revised world it will be by the time my children are writing about their children.

The Dad Stays In The Picture

The Dad Stays In The Picture

Image

Last night my wife showed me a picture of Kayne West and his daughter from Kim Kardashian’s Instagram page, where Kayne just looks like a dad having a good time, playing Sea Horse Express (that’s my own invented game, anyone can borrow it) with his child on his back. 

“That’s such a great picture of a normal dad,” we both said, eerily, knowing full well the enormous media-industrial complex institution behind the picture (celebrity to the power of wealth multiplied by fame-seeking).

“And he’s smiling. He doesn’t look like a huge asshole,” added the wife. It struck me: this is exactly what my life has looked like since becoming a father – and the exact moment that true joy becomes a life-long thing no one can deny. See that joy? That’s Dad Joy.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.45.28 AM

This Dad Joy got me thinking of several recent articles regarding pictures of Dads and Moms. Recently Doyin Richards (Daddy Doin’ Work blog) made a dent in online bloggership fame (and daytime talk tv) by reacting to the reactions of this photo his wife took and he posted: 

Image

When he originally posted this picture on his online media sites, he got a large sharing bump (~23,000 plus Faces pages shared this picture and the picture received over 452K Likes) and a bit of a sexist and racist backlash. Racist trolls of every avatar persuasion posted comments you can just imagine (commenting on race mostly), and thus a little bit of fame found this DDW (ABC News, Katie).

The picture tells a tale of the mundane morning routine for most Dads, and a tale of outrageous abnormalcy for others. Add in the fact that this is a black man doing these tasks, and for some reason people reacted in the most race and gender-based ways. Perhaps if you put anything out there you might eventually get a snowball effect from a part of the population just waiting to say something snarky. Or there might be a bigger story there we still don’t know about. If there is a “bigger conversation” about dads and parenting, I’d love to be in on it.

Image

My own morning routine as a dad is a lot like the above, especially on weekends and/or when the wife is working and I’m trying to dress two kids and feed two kids and brush two kids’ teeth and get out of the door and keep them alive and make sure the kids don’t look like oh, isn’t that cute? Dad’s taking care of them and they look like wayward gypsy people with bed hair.

Image

Today we see in-the-moment pictures all the time online, and usually it’s women posting, that is, Moms posting in the 30s-something Dad world that I inhabit (I know, I know, a lot of you have no idea what this world is like, and that’s okay, and you will someday soon enough). I became a Dad the same time the internet became a non-stop place for everyone all the time everyowhere, it seems. In my 20s the internet was for Myspace, email, and a bit of googling, and that’s about it; I became an internet savvy person too late to be hip or young-ish.

Let’s face it: regarding posting pictures, the internet belongs to women and the rest of us have to claim what corners we can. The Mom in “The Mom Stays In the Picture” has nothing on my Mom friends: my Facebook and Instagram feeds load a million new Mom-n-baby or baby selfies every six seconds, and I say this is a good thing, because eventually Dad will come home and, like my wonderful shared internet feed, I get to be in a few pictures and enjoy the rest. I love looking at my wife and kids, and one day I’ll be old and out of step with online picture taking and wish for the days of Posts and Likes. I’ll be in my sixties looking at my Holo-Wall of all the “media in the Cloud” and remembering when we were young and excited about direct mailing each other on Instagram.

IMG_5734

We used to take pictures every now and then, mainly parties and holidays. There was even a time when we videotaped everything because you never know – we might be famous one day, or use this in a movie. Now we take pictures every few hours, and soon we’ll abandon the art altogether as a new medium takes over.

Regardless of the moment in a visual, I’ll stay the Dad who is still learning to braid his daughter’s hair (I was very successful the other night!) and navigate the finer points of Lego-building with my son. And guaranteed the wife will snap a pic, and I’ll snap one too, and maybe we’ll share it, and maybe you’ll Like it, and maybe we’ll all start a conversation of our own.

Disney Is Behind the Polar Vortex!

*Image

I have to admit it, dear readers, but this nerdy dad shirt wearing dad really digs Disney’s winter tale Frozen, and not just because my four year old princess loves the line “the cold never bothered me anyway” (she really just loves the sassy shoulder-hip movement of Elsa in that scene) or because my **musically-eidetic six-year old memorized the whole soundtrack the first time he heard it (“Start it at the beginning, Dad-o, where the men are cutting the ice!”), but because it holds up. It just holds up. Here’s why.

1. Many critics love the whole true-love-is-between-family-(sisters) and not just a prince-and-princess trope. Yes, me too! Although, for a split second I was afraid that Olaf was going to save the day, and at the end of singing “Love is an Open Door” I’ve trained the kids to yell “Don’t do it!” to Anna and Hans agreeing to marriage, which I did at the movie theatre before we knew that Hans was the evil Darth Sidious. But the great redemption moment of the sisterly love is perfect, and because the sisters haven’t connected in fifteen-plus years or whatever, it makes sense on a I’m-glad-they-did-that level, where Kristoff and Hans aren’t the “true loves” that will save the day and break the curse. Stupid men princes always bringing magical true love.

**2. The soundtrack is well done. Our Kidz Bop/Pop rotation is getting oooooold. And the Frozen soundtrack is essentially a Broadway-standards hitmaker, powered by Idina Menzel of Wicked and Glee fame. “Love is an Open Door” plays second fiddle to the uberpopular “Let It Go” but if you get the deluxe album on iTunes, you can hear songs that didn’t make it. This is the first Disney soundtrack we’ve ever bought, so maybe I’m weirdly biased. I’m sure if your Lion King and The Little Mermaid cassettes are worn down to the wheel, you may have some notes for me.

3. TWO Princesses! AND two love interests – for the same princess! Two princess dresses, dolls, and accompanying sets we now have to buy? Disney you evil genius, you. Will schoolyard fights start now between older sisters and their younger, more liberal sisters as they decided who to be while playing Frozen? You bet. And the adventurous younger sister kind of cheating on Hans with Kristoff? Scandalous. But two princesses is a first for Disney – especially one who has superpowers and finds herself while communing with nature, flirting with that line between use and abuse of that self-same power. 

4. New Villain Archetype and absence of Fairy Godmothers, sort of. Well the Trollfather sort of acts like that shaman/fairy godmother/Wise Uncle archetype we’re used to, but the main Villain isn’t a larger-than-life predictable character, he’s the underdog at first! Very clever. I still don’t know if I like the Trolls, though – but then I never liked the Lollipop Guild either. Granted we have the Reluctant Orphan Heroines and the Swashbuckling Loner Anti-hero character, I’m sure we were due for the Wise-Indigenous-Nature-People who really know how to throw on the southern drawl and goofy chorus-ing. Thus, the Trolls.

4. **Stars Wars-like Archetypes. Here’s my favorite connection, and I think it holds up in terms of relating the character to an all-too-familiar galaxy not that far away: Kristoff as Han Solo, Anna as Leia, and Sven the Reindeer as Chewie, with Olaf acting for BOTH comic reliefs (C3PO and R2D2) and Hans as the Palpatine-but-you’d-never-guess-he’s-really-Darth Sidious/Emperor, while Elsa as Luke gets the why-doesn’t-Leia-have-the-Force-too? treatment. Elsa’s ice castle is Luke’s Dagobah. Right?

My only criticism is that Frozen is so, well, white. When Elsa gives Olaf eternal life by providing him with a snow cloud, is Disney telling audiences that their stories and archetypes are frozen in time, and we never have to worry about running out of white, skinny, big-eyed beautiful heroes and heroines? That every good story has to take place in the 1700s somewhere in Europe? Maybe a discussion for another post.

Any way you slice it, Frozen is solid. So slice it up, form it into a snowball, and throw a few before the polar vortex takes us into the spring-climate of Disney’s other blockbusters, where sleds and ice castles wait for a winter audience.

Image

“Yeah, people will beat you and curse you and cheat you” – Kristoff as Sven the Reindeer to Kristoff.