I play a lot of music in my house. I loathe silence. It’s both a character flaw and a persistent joy.
Since I’m home most days with the kids that equals a lot of time listening. That equals a lot of time exposing my children to the music I love, but also the music I hope they’ll eventually come to love as well. I hooked my elder daughter on The Cars, The Knack and Huey Lewis when she was 2. My wife introduced her to Adele and Foster the People’s first record (we don’t speak of that second one). She’s since expanded her playlist. I’m pretty sure, however, she could listen to Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” for 24 consecutive hours. The point is that my children listen almost entirely to the music that we curate for them. We don’t listen to modern Top 40, some exceptions apply. For example, my mom recently brought over a Radio Disney CD for them. I’m still trying to explain how a compact disc can also be a “radio” and why I can’t just play “Radio Disney” in the car or on my record player. I’d just succeeded in explaining the concept of the “radio” and now this comes along and throws wrench into the whole concept.
But now about my youngest. My 2yo (almost 3) has never shown the same affection for music or individual songs. She’s starting to identify specific music, but discrimination has never been her strongest trait. She learned how to operate the Hello Kitty CD player and spins tracks like a furious little DJ strung out on adrenaline (maybe cocaine, knowing her tendency to do that most dangerous activities imaginable). She swaps CDs without finishing more than 30 seconds of a song and bounces uncontrollably between swaps. I don’t know how she can hear anything other than the reverberations of her own brain. It’s like a squash court in there. She too has taken a liking to “the Radio Disney.” Or at least the first track. I accidentally let 90’s on 9 provide the soundtrack to a recent car ride. Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5” came on — the first track on that Radio Disney CD, albeit rewritten to refer to happy fun times with Disney characters instead of one-night stands with lady friends. She squeals. “the Radio Disney!’ I shake my head and thank the maker that I’d arrived at my destination before needing to explain the lyrical differences.
Now to the point of my story. I know… too much back story. You can deal with it.
I put on Toad the Wet Sprocket’s live album Welcome Home: Live at the Arlington Theater 1992. You may or may not know this, but I’m a die-hard Toad fan. I consider their 1994 record, Dulcinea, a desert-island essential. I’m that kind of crazy-serious about Toad. I don’t joke about Toad, goddammit.
I’m singing along to every damn word of that album and my 2yo comes bounding up to me, kinda dancing, kinda pretending to sing. My cockles warm like the Grinch’s tiny frozen heart. Have I raised a child that loves Toad the Wet Sprocket? I imagine all the concerts we’ll attend. Don’t stop touring, Toad! Don’t break up again, Toad! I’ve got a child to mold and treat to your underappreciated sonic gifts to the world!
Right about now I’m holding her in my arms and we’re bouncing around the living room to Toad’s kinda-sorta breakout MTV hit “Fall Down.”
And then she says to me, as plain and coherent as the day is long, “This sounds like Paw Patrol.”
Has anyone ever gone from elation to totally fucking crestfallen in a shorter amount of time than I did in that moment? In case you don’t know about Paw Patrol, it’s this kid’s show about a squad of community service dogs, each with their own specialties and a tricked-out vehicles. And they don’t f’ing form like Voltron. It’s dogs and trucks. That’s pretty much it. They solve problems like finding the mayor’s lost chicken. When I watch any amount of this show, my brain goes blank in the name of self-preservation. They watch this show at my parents’ house. I can’t complain. Paw Patrol means a night out for my wife and I. A necessary intelligence-sucking evil that maintains parental sanity. But now… BUT NOW… my 2yo just compared my beloved Toad the Wet Sprocket with the Paw Patrol theme song.
Toad the Wet Sprocket – “Fall Down”
Paw Patrol theme song
For now I will bide my time until she’s capable of understanding the depth with which this cuts. Then I will tell her. I might even make her apologize. Listen to three “Windmills” and atone for his past sins.
Sigh. But I won’t. Not really.
Even then in the moment of supreme shock and dismay, Toad being compared to Paw Patrol… I laughed and kissed her on the forehead. I’ve told the story to at least ten people with put-on dismay, because that is what’s expected of someone who takes music seriously. But even when these damn kids cause painful, brute-force self-inflicted facepalms, they’re still our most favorite people on the planet. They also have a way of putting our own tendencies toward wildly superficial histrionics in perfect perspective.
This is going to be one of those self-help nonsense posts that sometimes pop up on here. I shouldn’t regret self-help. It’s really self-help for me, reminders and gentle nudges to change the way I look at each day. It’s important to consider each day a limited resource. There are 24 hours in each day. How are you going to use them?
During my depression a few years ago, my therapist told me that I’d stopped doing things for myself. I had work and writing and taking care of my kids as a part-time stay-at-home dad. Sometime along the way, I’d stopped watching movies, listening to music and writing for pleasure. In fact, I’d gone so far down the pit that I couldn’t even bring myself to watch movies because the pains of nostalgia I experienced while watching them had become too great. I couldn’t watch Star Wars, for example, because I couldn’t feel the same thrill of being young and in awe. I’d lost much of what had made me, well… me. I just wasn’t taking care of myself because I’d decided that taking care of everybody else was going to be enough.
And it’s easy to get into this habit. Life will consume you if you let it. Kids, relationships, work. There’s no time on Monday. Monday becomes Wednesday. And Wednesday becomes 2017. Take stock of the ways in which you waste small moments of your day. Needlessly checking your email or idly scrolling twitter or reading depressing-as-fuck news on CNN as some kind of masochistic torture porn. My point is, there’s always time. 15. 20. 30 minutes. Make time for yourself. Be selfish and not mindlessly complacent with that time.
You have a movie you’ve been wanting to watch? Put it in, if only for a little while. Give yourself a moment to listen to some music, without distraction. Pick your poison…
…there’s always time.
I woke up last Wednesday and felt the need to watch Ghostbusters and despite having plenty of opportunities I still haven’t watched Ghostbusters. One thing just led to another… you know how it goes. I’m sharing these thoughts to remind myself to stop wasting that time. Seize that idle, wasted fruitless time. Watch Ghostbusters. Read a book. Play a video game. Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to do. Do it. Be selfish.
Credit goes to culture connoisseur @ThatAndyRoss for bringing this video to my attention on Facebook. He probably didn’t know he would end up in a shout out on my bl-g, but so it goes. The dude in the video is John of the vlogbrothers video blogs on Youtube. He also creates videos for MentalFloss.com, one of my favorite daily diversions. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen some of my rampant Mental Floss shares. Well, they’re goddamn interesting, okay! Gosh. Point is that I’ve been a fan of John for quite some time. His delivery contains the requisite amount of sincere sarcasm. If you’ve seen his videos, you probably get what I’m saying with “sincere sarcasm.” If you haven’t, you’re probably trying to cry “oxymoron” or “bullshit.” Stop being so negative. And ultimately that’s what this video is about. Stop being negative, John says, and “Watch Harvey.” It hits very close to home, having endured… we’ll call it a mental episode of my own. That downward spiral caused me to create this bl-g and write about how rediscovering vinyl helped pull me out of said funk. At that second in my life my “Harvey” was vinyl and the pop music of my childhood… but if I had to pick a “Harvey” for most of the rest of my seconds, it also might be Harvey.
Last week the wife and I attended the theater. Occasionally we go out and do random cultural things to be a part of a better more art conscious society The problem with partaking of cultural novelties in Pittsburgh is that they’re often poorly advertised and don’t reach their intended audience. We picked this show out of a pile of other potential options because 1) it wasn’t sold out and B) the show is French and if there’s one thing I’ve come to learn about the French it’s that they know how to do weird things on stage. Full on French or French Canadian, it doesn’t matter. Zimmerman & de Perrot seem to share the same wicked sense of humor as Jacques Tati. The show turned out to be a brilliant combination of acrobatics and avant-garde satire. And beats… we can’t forget the very, very, very French DJ spinning beats and sound effects on three different turntables to provide the show’s soundtrack. The overall result was something mesmerizing and affecting with layered sight gags, soundscapes and acrobatics. You might not notice when this show comes to town. I saw very little targeted advertising and it wound up lost among the many other shows during the “Festival of Firsts” here in town.
Here’s a mishmash of moments from their performance. If you notice, somehow that it’s coming to your general area, buy tickets. Go. Make the effort.
I was in the middle of writing my OCTOPUSSY essay for #Bond_age_ and needed a break. And I figured what better way to break from writing about Bond than to clutter this page with more nonsense. Off the top of my head I had nothing music-related to share so I figured I might branch out a bit into the realm of food. Food blogging is all the rage. And then I figured everyone food blogs, but does anyone food bl-g? I thought not.
As parents my wife and I have struggled with how to get green vegetables into our daughters without tying them down and force feeding them with a tube. If you’re thinking foie gras, you’re on the same page. Our oldest ate vegetables of all kinds for good awhile, unforced and unprovoked, and then one morning realized that in the world of 4yo cuisine she was totally off-base. More than likely when she went to pre-school someone told her about these things called Happy Meals and now she’s on strike. And since the 1yo just imitates the 4yo, she was going to join the picket line sooner or later.
We’re in our third summer of receiving weekly boxes from our local CSA (community supported agriculture). In these boxes we always receive many many many leafy green vegetables. Our response to the tidal wave of greens is to sautee them in olive oil and garlic. This only works for so long. And Kale, in particular, had always been a curiosity. We knew people loved Kale and we were supposed to eat kale. But damn if we weren’t yet on board the Kale parade. One night my wife decided to look up “green smoothie” recipes. We call these smoothies “green” because calling them “kale smoothies” tips off the little people. If they’re just “green,” they’re a color. Not a vegetable. My wife spent a week just throwing green things in a blender with only a rudimentary memory of the recipes she’d read. This came to a head one morning when I came downstairs for breakfast and she handed me a green smoothie. I tasted it and felt like I’d gotten kicked in the testicles. “Dandelion greens,” she said. After that, I took the matter into my own hands. And by that I mean I spent way too much time searching for and assembling a tasting menu of smoothies containing green things. Not vegetables. Again, we have to refrain from tipping off the little people.
The result of my recipe search and my own tinkering is the following culinary delight. Proof: the 4yo even once asked for a refill. And the 1yo will really just drink anything in liquid form, so she’s not exactly a good gauge.
THE “GREEN SMOOTHIE”
Put the following in the blender (liquids at the bottom):
1/2 cup lite coconut milk 1/2 cup water 1 banana 6oz (1 container) Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cultured Coconut Milk (or 6-10oz of vanilla Greek yogurt) 1 1/2-2 cups frozen pineapple (fresh is also good, but I find the smoothies taste better when colder, hence the frozen pineapple) roughly 2 cups chopped, stemmed Kale (I say chopped but I just tear the leaves off the stems, then tear again by hand)
Turn the blender on low for awhile and then high for a longer while. You want the kale to be sufficiently pulverized. There’s something off-putting about large bits of kale stuck in your teeth during breakfast. Also when we first started these smoothies, we were told to use the leafy kale rather than the curly. But we found that the curly blended better than the leafy. But you know, whatever floats your boat. Likewise with the yogurt. The cultured coconut milk adds some extra sweetness but the Greek yogurt obviously provides more of nutritional balance, because, well, the cultured coconut milk isn’t really yogurt. I don’t recommend the plain yogurt in smoothies for little people as they seem to require that small hint of sweetness that comes in the vanilla.
I will save this picture on the off chance that one day I can build my DREAM house and find this architect and this decorator and tell them to make me a dining room like this. I think it's one of the first formal dining rooms I've ever really liked.