Monday, January 04, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

I hope your Christmas break was restorative. A few highlights of ours:

- The Boy scored his first gametime basket! As the center, he usually focuses on rebounding, but he made an elegant shot despite good defense. He was grinning ear-to-ear as he made his way downcourt after that. Go, TB!

- We had the worst tree ever. It toppled over at one point, dropping needles and spilling water from its base onto the carpet. Even upright, it dropped more needles than I thought possible. When we finally put the flippin' thing out of our misery, I spent over an hour vacuuming on hands-and-knees to get all the needles out of the carpet. I'm thinking it may be time to relent and get an artificial tree.

- Since they've been great and we go pretty light on trendy toys, we relented and got the kids a wii. I had thought of it as a videogame system, but the kids see it as a video paper-doll kit. They spend most of their time making and remaking their avatars (called "mii's"), as well as some of TW and me. That use hadn't even occurred to me.

- Bowling is the family-friendly game on the wii, but even there the generational differences show. The Boy throws his entire body into his swing, throwing his arm at such a severe angle that the ball actually crosses the entire lane, going from extreme right to the left gutter. The Girl does a little jump when she swings, landing on one foot with the other leg bent at the knee at ninety degrees. Practice, practice...

- We did the cross-multiple-states thing to see family, and again got lucky with timing and traffic. I think we're gonna pay that back with interest on a forthcoming trip. TB is about the same height as his eleven-year-old cousin, which is pretty impressive for an eight-year-old.

- Reading! Glorious reading! I actually got to read stuff just because I wanted to! Ah, the joys of breaks. TW got me All Over But the Shouting, an oral history of the Replacements, which I devoured in an afternoon. The highlight was Westerberg's recollection of trying to convey setlists to Bob Stinson, the guitarist who never actually learned the names to their songs: "The fast one, Bob." "The sorta fast one, Bob." "The one that sounds like this, Bob." If you know the mighty 'mats at all, you know that sounds right.

- I also did a "what the hell happened to Northern Town" twofer, Hollowing Out the Middle and Methland. Reading those two back-to-back was a wee bit depressing, but they painted a hell of a picture. (Yes, this is the kind of stuff I read of my own volition. Yes, I know.) The first detailed how the public schools in flyover territory encourage the best and brightest to get the hell out of flyover territory; the second detailed what happened to some of the folks who stayed. If you're old enough to remember when flyover country held a vibrant middle class, it's alarming. Together, they confirmed my suspicion that my adolescent drive to get the hell out of Northern Town wasn't just teen angst; it was also substantively correct. The culture there has never really been captured on film, though Beavis and Butthead got close. (If you've seen Dazed and Confused, imagine a much less affluent version of that.) This is the culture that gave rise to Timothy McVeigh, who actually struck me as a familiar type. It may not be in the immediate best interest of areas like that to export young talent, but you can't blame the young talent for leaving.

- Finally, I got to take a crack at Saving Alma Mater. That one gets its own post, probably later this week.

- TW and I took the kids to a children's concert in a lovely old theater. Children's music is far better now than it used to be; many of the old 'alternative' rockers have gone this route as they've gotten older, with heartening results. TB and TG had a blast, and it was nice to be able to see a band I had caught in its grownup incarnation about fifteen years ago playing for my kids. The band made the obligatory reference to playing in the daytime, but I kind of like that.

- Ah, sleep. If I were king of the universe, I'd mandate that workdays couldn't start until, oh, ten-ish. Alas. And now it's back to the land of the living...