It wasn’t too hot when I had a few minutes to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a year. We brought our kids to Francis Lewis Park, where there is a playground with a sprinkler and a view of Flushing Bay and the Whitestone Bridge.
“I don’t know how you own three of these things,” he said as my two older girls played with his son. Our youngest is only a year old and he and his wife have a three-year-old son.
“I don’t either.”
Having children is something that everyone is terrified of but no one regrets. Spending time with your kids is a great thing and you’ll regret not getting in every minute with them. But when they are as young as ours are, it leaves you too tired to do anything else. Many a night began with great plans and ended with me falling asleep on the couch at 10:15 p.m.
At the park our children go different ways in the playground. I don’t mind staying back and sitting down and watching the kids from a distance. You can’t be hovering over them all the time. But the world being the way it is, you don’t want to let your kids out of your sight for too long. A few times I lose sight of one of the girls and I start to get worried looking for her and just before I break out into a fearful disaster sweat she’ll come into view. This happens a few times and it wears you down a bit further.
My friend and I talk music, mutual friends, and the itch to be creative and make music. His son wants to go down to the water, to where there’s a great view of the Whitestone Bridge and a miniscule beach at the end of a small boat launch. I and my two older girls accompany them. We are disappointed by the amount of garbage on the beach and in the water but the view of the bay and the bridge, makes up for this.
One of my girls isn’t wearing any shoes since she was running through the sprinkler in the playground and I don’t think anything of it until we get to the boat launch and see some broken glass there. I curse myself for letting her come down here with no shoes on. On further inspection this turns out to be sea glass—glass that’s been in the water long enough that it’s been made smooth. Sea glass makes for a nice collectible and I tell the girls I will take this home for them to enjoy later. New York City will disappoint you and impress you in quick succession.
A lot of my friends also have kids but I also have many friends who are smart, creative people, the kind of people who should be doing more reproducing, but aren’t. I highly recommend having kids, though I realize it’s not for everyone.
My friend and I talk a bit more, discuss doing music again, what our schedules will look like later this year, and how we have the itch.
The itch, the need to produce art in some form, it never goes away and is a call that has to be answered. Children, jobs, the multitude of tasks one has to perform just to keep a roof over one’s head and the bills paid on time, these will slow you down, but they can’t kill whatever fire drives you to create.
Judging by what I see on my much-too-frequent perusal of social media, many of my friends and acquaintances have taken great lengths to see the latest Star Wars movie. I’ve read some excellent reviews and fully intend to see it, but this may be the first time I have not seen a Star Wars movie in the theater. It’s not because I don’t like Star Wars, it’s because I no longer put the same value or effort into pop culture.
I am the oldest person in the small office where I work. I’m even a few years older than the manager, my boss. I work with people who were born while I was in high school or college. It makes me feel old. Very few of them own a SLAYER CD, if they own CDs at all. I recognize some of the names of the people or musical groups they say they listen to, but I’m definitely plugged into another era. This summer my wife and I were talking to her teenage niece about what music she listens to. She mentioned several popular bands that played large venues and I had never heard of any of them.
I am not attuned to what is popular with today’s teenagers and young adults. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I am glad that I’m out of touch on these things and out of the loop, and not because today’s pop culture is all crap and the pop culture of my time was so much better. I watched Morton Downey Jr. and listened to Howard Stern habitually when I was a teen and young adult, I honestly have no business looking down my nose at people who follow the Kardashians (but I still do).
One can make the argument that that pop culture of today is overly sanitized and bears the telltale signs of patchwork social engineering. Because our society’s mass media is trying to appeal to a multitude of cultures in a divided and tribal world, any cultural authenticity has been discreetly purged from it. But pop culture is always a remnant and a reflection of its times, and human beings have a tendency to romanticize the past.
Being unfamiliar with today’s popular culture doesn’t bother me because I ought to be spending my time more wisely than familiarizing myself with it. There was a time that I was very much immersed in pop culture, but life goes on after high school and college.
It’s a natural part of aging, to be out of touch with the latest in pop culture. If I was well-versed in what is trendy among the younger generations, I’d be a pathetic middle-aged clown desperately trying to cling to some shred of youth. I want no part in that. Acting your age is part of embracing life and living it to the fullest.
The music I listened to and the movies I watched when I was steeped in the pop culture of my time are now decades old and being rehashed for profit. I don’t want to spoil the memories I have of those times by trying to relive the days of my youth with self-congratulating sentimentality. I don’t need to see a movie about N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton album; I had the album on cassette when it came out.
Let’s not be close-minded and refuse to pay attention to worthwhile contemporary art and culture, but let’s be comfortable with who we are and with our stage in life.