Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Cat's Not in the Cradle, He's Driving a Car!

Okay, this young man, who just very recently (I think) I was contorting my body into unnatural positions so as to put him in his infant carseat (particularly painful during my period of broken ribs) was now strapping himself behind the steering wheel of a one ton killing machine, while I was buckling myself into the passeneger’s seat. Me! The best driver in the world! At least he has the benefit of having the best driver in the world as his teacher.

Over time, I have seen him transition from one mode of transportation to another. First, the infant carseat, which was facing backwards for some reason, then the toddler carseat, still firmly strapped in, but facing forward now. Then walking on two feet. A tricycle. A bicycle with training wheels, then sans the training wheels. A school bus. And then my wife and I mysteriously transmogrified into chauffeurs. Jazz Band, Debate, Marching Band, etc. And now, from time to time, his friends are acting as the chauffeurs, taking him to drug and alcohol fueled orgies, I’m sure. (Those Debate Team people are wilder than you think. Or I think).

He’s going to turn 16 in about 3 weeks, when one would normally get their driver’s licenses, but due to the vagaries of Illinois law, one must now have their permit for NINE months before taking the driver’s license test. Most of his friends got their licenses when they were 16, but due to a combination of his busy extracurricular activities, school schedule and missed deadlines for signing him up for classes/lessons on the part of his parents (perhaps an unconscious desire on the part of his parents to keep him in a state of suspended animation), he only started driving lessons on Monday, and got his permit on Tuesday.

I remember the days when driver’s ed. was just part of the required curriculum, taught by gym teachers. I’m guessing it was gym teachers, the reasoning being that you can’t be around smelly gym socks all day without going insane or risking permanent brain damage, though I think the damage had already been done to some of them. They’d teach you some things you already knew, put you in a ‘simulator’ for a few hours (I’m pretty sure NASA stole this idea for their astronauts-in-training), let you drive around the parking lot for a few hours until it could be reasonably determined you weren’t going to kill them when they actually let you drive around the surrounding comatose residential areas for a while. Then, for the last class, they showed you a gory movie about the hazards of unsafe or drunk driving (drugs had yet to be invented) to scare the crap out of you and sent you on your merry way to get your permit. Then your terrified parents would drive with you for about 15 minutes, and you’d be driven to the Deerfield DMV (in Illinois, it’s actually called the Secretary of State’s office. Secretary of State? Maybe they also formulate diplomatic relations between hostile nearby states such as Wisconsin and Indiana). You ALWAYS went to the Deerfield office, since they were notoriously easy on potential license-getters. I have proof. My sister and father both blew stop signs during their tests, and STILL got their licenses.

Anyway, my son pulled away from the curb, and did just fine. But I had a strange feeling. Now the roles are reversed. He’s looking forward, and I……I am the one looking backwards.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Crosby, Stills & Nash concert ~ Chicago, 6/4/09

Well, here it is - my first official "blog". As Dorothy Parker said, "I hate writing, but love having written". That's my motto. Well, in Writing 101, they say the first lesson is to write about something you know. So I'll give you my impressions of the Crosby, Stills & Nash concert that "The Tomster", aka Tom, my wonderful 15 year old son and I went to last night. Hey, how can you pass up $25 tickets for (barely) living legends? I mean really, Crosby and Nash are 67, and Stills is the baby of the group at 64.

I'd never been to the "Charter One Pavilion" on Northerly Island before. Northerly Island used to be Meigs Field, a small plane airport. In one of the most dickish moves ever made by an American mayor, Mayor Daley tore up Meigs Field in the middle of the night in the name of 'homeland security'. Charter One Pavilion sort of looks like something that had been thrown up yesterday from a kit from the Home Depot. Regardless, it's pretty nice. Decent sight lines and ditto for the sound system (though for my tastes, they could have turned it up to 11. It's one more, you know). And with my precisie sense of timing, we got downtown about 3 1/2 hours before the concert, not thrilling The Tomster. But it gave us time to look around. It's right on the lake, and about 3 or 4 blocks east of Soldier (not Soldiers) Field, home of "Da Bears". They recently renovated it, and to give it something of its original charm, left the Greco-Roman collonades on both sides, but built a fancy silver stadium around them. It looked like an extraterrestrial, Close Encounters kind of spacecraft had landed on the Acropolis, circa the 5th century B.C. . And the Adler Planetarium is just a stone's throw away, if you happen to be an Olympic stone-thrower. And the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum are right around the corner, which is nice.

On to the concert. It's hard to believe their second live performance was at Woodstock, 40 years ago. They haven't aged too badly, though. Steven Stills, I think was born with a congenital receding hairline, so he didn't look too bad. Graham Nash looks sort of like a hedge fund trader with gray hair, and David Crosby (Melissa Etheridge's kids' "biological" father, in the sense that he was the donor of the X chromosome. Seemed a strange choice to me) looks precisely the same- hefty(!), same long hair and bushy mustache he had 40 years ago, except that the hair was now white instead of gray. Hey, if you've got a look you like, stick with it, I say.

Musically, they're still exceptionally talented. Steven Stills, for my money, is one of the most underrated guitarists around. And their harmonies are still, amazingly, wonderful. The first half of the show was a little disappointing. They did a fair amount of new stuff, and about 5 covers (C,S & N doing Ruby Tuesday?). Then the second half picked up considerably. They did a lot of the standards, "For What It's Worth", and others. Stills exhorted the crowd to join in, but us old geezers were too tired to get into it. I assidously wrote down their setlist and have lost it already, so I can't tell you exactly which songs they performed, but I do remember an amazing jam on "DejaVu", though. The temperature had dropped into the forties, and The Tomster (who was wearing shorts) and I were freezing, being in the top row, exposed to the delightful 'breeze' from the lake. I was determined to wait it out until "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time. So they came out for their obligatory encore, and played something else. Then something else again. It was at that point that The Tomster, in his best Oliver Twist voice, said, "Please, dad, can we leave now?". I agreed at that point, and we left. I'm sure they played it eventually, and for all I know, may be playing it now.

I think their hearts weren't really all into it, though. Their entire "Summer 2009 Tour" consists of ten cities, all within a week and a half. And I'm sure it helped their egos seeing that the largest city in the tour couldn't even sell out. "Hey, we're famous, damn it!". Maybe they did it to pay for alimony checks and college tuition.

It was really weird seeing Graham Nash. I was in middle school, and remember buying The Hollies 45s, like "Bus Stop", for God's sake! And it was also strange when they sang "Chicago", they were doing a song that had arisen in protest from the Democratic National Convention in 1968, and the subsequent trial of the Chicago 7, when, as you will recall, all hell broke loose for a few days just up the street. Like I said, weird.

And, finally, The Tomster and I, who have a great relationship, discovered that 9 hours is our limit for being together before we start to crack.