Can a bit of manual labor and $50 save my kid’s endangered Mets fandom? It’s not as crazy as you might think.
At the grocery store. I swear this is an accurate transcription.
Me: God, they have Yankees brand ice cream? You are never allowed to eat that. EVER.
Kid: OK. Unless I’m starving.
Me: That’s fair. If you’re rescued and starving, yes. But otherwise no way.
Kid: But it doesn’t go the other way around.
Me: What do you mean?
Kid: If there’s Mets ice cream I don’t have to just eat that.
Me: Agreed. It would probably be disappointing.
Kid: I bet it would taste like defeat and being mad.
My kid and I were looking at ancestry.com and I noted one of our ancestors died of typhoid fever. Joshua thought I said “tofu fever” and asked if consuming tofu could kill you. I pointed grimly at the date of death on the screen. My work here is done.
After The Good Men Project ran my essay “About a Boy and a (Temporarily) Secret Chord,” my pal Steve Reynolds was kind enough to invite me in to record an episode of The RT20 Podcast. Steve and I got to yakking about music and kids — both how to help them discover it and how we ourselves discovered it — and one podcast installment turned into two.
But anyway, we had a ball, discussing everything from the possibility that someone doesn’t like “September” to the spooky unpredictability of one-hit wonders to lousy bad names to copy-editing MP3 tags to everything else. It features 12 songs from Joshua’s iPod, as well as a couple of bonus Figgs tunes. Here’s Part 1, and here’s Part 2.
For the late Gary Carter. Until I wrote this, I didn’t realize what he’d meant to me, or how being a fan of his as a kid helped me understand what I told my kid as an adult.
I hope I did right by his memory.
In the absence of Mets news any fan wants to hear, my son and I spent a good chunk of the offseason watching Ken Burns’s Baseball, plus its sequel The Tenth Inning. Some notes from our 22+ hours — I can’t think of a better way to get one’s baseball education.
My kid announced he wanted an iPod for Christmas. It was my job to fill it. That apparently simple task became an obsession, and then a meditation on what music means to us, and how that changes as we grow older. Plus there’s a fair amount about loss in here, too — I didn’t realize just how much until long after I’d finished writing.
Some pieces have a tougher gestation than others, and this was one of the toughest. But I’m glad I wrote it, and happy to have it out there in the world in case others might like it too.
When I was in fourth grade, I read a short story about a boy from an underground city who found a secret passage into a primeval forest world above. I fell in love with the story and needed to know the rest of it. In those pre-digital days, it took some digging by my teacher to find out it had come from a book called The City Under Ground, and some hunting by a determined bookstore manager to locate a copy. But several weeks later we got a call from the store and soon I had the book in my hands. It felt like a miracle.
I saved The City Under Ground long after I got rid of most other books from that period, partially out of nostalgia and partially because it had been so much trouble to find in the first place. And partially because I had some vague idea that one day I’d want my child to read it. Which he now has. After Joshua started asking me about the book, I realized how little of it I remembered. And so I re-read it.
It’s a strange book. It was written in the early 1960s by a Canadian author named Suzanne Martel, and translated from French. (The French title is Surreal 3000.) It’s very short, basically a novella. The ending sets you up for a sequel, but it doesn’t seem like there ever was one.
Re-reading it, I remembered why I liked it. The gleaming white subterranean city Martel imagines is intriguing, as is the society she’s invented, down to robot basketball and spelunking odysseys. (It’s basically the cheery inverse of the dystopia of THX-1138.) There’s a striking contrast between that world and the wilderness of the surface world, and between it and a more savage subterranean realm discovered on the other side of a maze of claustrophobic conduits. Martel sketches all three realms very well, making you almost able to see vast vistas to explore. It’s a small book, but the settings feel big.
Beyond that, though, the characters are basically interchangeable, and there’s essentially zero conflict. The people who represent various institutions threatened by earth-shaking social changes never defend the status quo or protect their own power. They allow themselves the briefest of pauses … and then they do the right thing. For a book set in a high-tech post-apocalyptic city, that’s the most fantastic element of all.
I’m glad I still liked the settings — because I did, I didn’t regret re-reading The City Under Ground. (Nostalgia is usually a door that’s best kept closed.) And I most definitely liked watching my son read a book I kept for him when he was an abstract idea belonging to a far-off future.
Joshua will find his own path, as he should, but this early in his journey I’m still marking the trail. And a kid’s book, shared across a quarter-century, is another small thing that feels big.