My boys usually sleep until the afternoon, snoring in their beds and grazing through the day on frozen pizza and leftovers and stone fruit, the pits of which they leave wherever it is convenient to leave them. I endure the greater wear and tear on the abode as it is a change in routine from the tyranny of driving carpool. The fifteen year old is on the move and sleeps at friends houses more than he sleeps at ours. When he does sleep at home it is usually with a convivial guest of good humor and oft of large appetite. He and one such friend left at 6:00 in the morning, wildly excited to transverse three trains to Universal City and wait in line for twelve hours to receive free tickets for a premiere of the new Batman film. Spuds partook of the free 7/11 Slurpee day at 8:00 a.m, and I suspect partook again, several times later in the day, as did his brother partake too. Here, in the middle of the possibility fraught days of summer, my boys are filled with glee and delight and will rise near dawn for the thrilling thrill of free stuff.
A Slurpee wouldn’t drive me from the early morning balminess of a summer bed and if I do see the Batman, I’ll pay the ten bucks and see it at my leisure. But I am embarrassingly delighted by $5.00 coupons from the Fresh and Easy Market. There was also a two dollar coupon for Depends in my wallet which may remind my children of their fleeting youth should they rummage there, lacking further free offers for them to avail themselves of.
I found the ideal alternative to those pricey day camps for Spuds. No lunch to pack and no driving either. For $77.00 including shipping, I purchased the Wii game Guitar Heroes, Legends of Rock, from a buy-it-now eBay auction. Spuds has barely surfaced since the contraption arrived and he moves around like a real rocker as he thwacks the thing. Himself wouldn’t go near the little plastic guitar with color coded push buttons instead of strings and frets. I was game but was “booed off the stage” in the parlance of the game, three times while attempting to play Slow Ride. I can see why kids would play this for hours and yet there is something about it that repulses me and it’s not just sour grapes after the Slow Ride humiliation. The whole thang of it has a cheapness to it. A plastic guitar. Graphics that make it look like we haven’t progressed much since Pac Man. Pretty icky songs. The vulgar and tawdry seduction of a cheap harlot.
But they said rock ‘n roll wasn’t music and guitars weren’t instruments. Perhaps there is potential for real music to be created by the part of the brain that determines whether or not you are good at Tetris. I used to be very good at Tetris. Once in a while I try a game for old time’s sake but I have never been able to find the simple interface that I was used to and the newer versions overwhelm me. I don’t think I’ll ever again pass another hour playing Tetris but sometimes I imagine the zen like “right” feeling I’d get when I was able to manipulate the pieces to fit together, and I miss it. Maybe someday that special thing that comes from our Tetris place will generate truly beautiful music. Maybe when I nail Slow Ride. I’m stocking up on those jumbo battery packs for the Wii from the Costco. Too bad they won’t redeem that Depends coupon there.
The New Yorker arrived with the cover that parodied how stupid Americans are towards Islam, particularly and weirdly on the eve of the election of the first Black president. Obama called the cartoon an affront to Muslims. Is he, former editor of the Harvard Law Review, being coy and pandering to the ignorant masses and feigning ignorance to the true poignancy of the cartoon? In an NPR interview with Latina McCain boosters in Texas, the women questioned uniformly believed that Obama was a fickle Muslim who had already abandoned one faith and they felt therefore that his stalwartness as a Christian “convert” is suspect and that Obama may return to his “original” faith. We have seen BARAK OSAMA bumper stickers. The masses are ignorant. The masses don’t have to be ignorant and maybe I am ignorant myself to believe that if nothing else, Obama is the better education candidate. The many pleasures of this summer in memory will always play in counterpart to the sting of the (brilliantly calculated) cynicism of the election’s summer chapter.
The technological miracle of my own fifteenth summer was a turntable that allowed for the stacking and continuous play of 10 different lps, enabling me to remain in bed most of the day. I ate stone fruits and spat the pits out the torn screen and pled innocence when my mother discovered a six foot apricot tree outside my bedroom window. In 1972, less than a decade had gone by since I’d stood at attention on the blacktop at Riverside Drive Elementary for the announcement that the president had fallen. Only four years had passed since RFK and MLK and Chicago and I saw the nightly news of Viet Nam and glowering, cynical Nixon in color for the first time at a cousin’s.
I roused myself several afternoons a week and then in September, every day after school, and rode my bike or took a bus to the McGovern for President Headquarters on Van Nuys Blvd. I stuffed envelopes and answered phones. I have never volunteered for another candidate. My mother underestimated the impact of my single foray into electoral politics. Years later I saw her housekeeper’s son wearing my maroon “McGovern 1972” t-shirt. I made him take it off. I still have it. I wish Obama could fill me with the same hope for a new order that George McGovern did as I rode my bike through the valley proudly wearing my campaign t-shirt, then as new an innovation as a stacking turntable.
Maybe Obama will be president and maybe national priorities will shift to more closely reflect my own. The selection of a vice-presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton, who was discovered to have had electric shock therapy for chronic depression, cost McGovern the election. My mother and sister were mentally ill and because of minimal understanding and stigma, never received effective treatment. I am lucky to have disavowed my legacy and Leslie would be disappointed if I did not add that there is a good degree of personal vigilance to this, and not just kismet. My older sister was not lucky or vigilant and her mental illness ravaged our family for decades. If it weren’t for my nieces Cari and Marlene I don’t think I could even bring myself to think about my sister’s life. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Las Vegas. I have never seen it and furthermore, I have neglected to provide a headstone. My sister’s granddaughter Marlene turns 21 this week and will vote in her first presidential election in November. My sister’s granddaughter is at that impossible young stage of adulthood when she can do everything but rent a car. She has a job she likes and a cute and funny boyfriend and she reminds me again and again that beauty, like a spectacular phoenix, can rise from the saddest of sad things.
Obama might turn out to be the greatest president this country has ever had. You can bet his running mate will not have had electroshock therapy. The campaign bums me out but I pay attention because as calculated and insincere at all seems, I suspect some good will come. A world with free Slurpees makes this easier to believe.