Live! Naked! Grills! (Not a Typo)

A few nights ago, we decided to leave both boys home alone. We felt confident that Justin could take care of himself and his younger brother for just a few hours while we had an evening with other adults. Not only did Justin meet my expectations, but he far exceeded them in a very classy way. Garrett, on the other hand, is barred from any and all electronics device in the house that have access to YouTube.

The evening began with me giving Justin one simple instruction: ‘Make sure you leave your cell phone on so I can contact you in case of an emergency and to let you know when the pizza is going to arrive.’ When the time came, I called him and his phone went directly to voicemail. He had clearly turned it off. That was the one thing I told him not to do! After three or four tries, I resorted to Alexa. I knew I’d be able to ‘Make an Announcement’ from my phone and the whole house would be able to hear me. Once he heard the announcement, he called me back. (There’s a reason he turned off his phone. I’ll get to that in a minute.) The rest of the evening was uneventful.

When we got home, Justin pulled GWE into his room for a brief conversation. I joined Garrett in the den and watched tv with him before I had to put him to bed. After speaking with Justin, GWE came up the stairs and told me that she needed to tell me something in private. I met her in our bedroom, and she proceeded to tell me this story, from Justin’s point of view:

Right after we left the house, Garrett ran upstairs to watch television and Justin went into his room. It didn’t take long for Justin to get bored, so he went to see what Garrett was watching. As soon as he opened the doors, Garrett quickly shut off the television and looked very guilty. Justin, realizing something was amiss, asked Garrett what he was doing. Garrett refused to tell him or hand over the remote. Justin spent several minutes trying to build up Garrett’s trust by promising not to say anything to us…and that’s why he offered to turn off his phone as a sign of good faith.

Once they had an agreement, Garrett handed Justin the remote. Justin turned on the TV and discovered what Garrett had been hiding. He had gone onto YouTube and decided to look up, “LIVE NUDE GRILLS.” That’s not a typo. That’s really how Garrett spelled it. Garrett was watching video after video after video of half-naked girls making out with each other. (By the way, the Parental Control were on and he was still able to watch this stuff.) In a very nice way, Justin reprimanded Garrett and told him that this was not appropriate for him to see and the he shouldn’t watch it anymore. Garrett agreed, in theory.

GWE and I were half hysterical/half horrified as she told me this story. Because our YouTube account is under GWE’s name, she was able to look up what he was watching. WOW!!! This is what it showed:

GWE and I agreed that YouTube needed to be removed from the family television in the den. It took me a few minutes, but I got it done. Several days have passed and Garrett has not mentioned anything about it. He must have noticed that YouTube is gone by now, but maybe the unsaid is better than the said.

While Garrett’s viewing habits were completely inappropriate and I am outraged…..I do have to give him credit for having excellent taste!

Summer Camp Isn’t For Everyone

This is the pre-camp photo. The post-camp photo is a lot less cheery for one of us.

Over the Summer, both Justin and Garrett attended their first sleep-away camp. It lasted for two weeks and allowed GWE and I just enough time to leave town, get drunk while wine tasting, act like adults again, and then return to Los Angeles as if nothing happened. When we returned, we were met with multiple letters from both boys. Garrett was having the greatest experience of his life and was considering relocating to the woods of Sanger, California full time…at the age of 7. Justin had a different experience. He was not having a good time. He wanted to make it abundantly clear to us that he was having such a terrible time that he never wanted to go back to camp ever again.

Part of me wanted to yell at him and tell him that he better start having fun because this camp was f@#$&%g expensive! But, I decided to take a different route. I didn’t have the greatest camp experiences either when I was a kid. So, I sympathized with his situation and decided to send him this note instead:

8/5/19

Hi Justin –

I saw the letter you mailed home and I’m sorry to hear that you’re not having a good time. I want to tell you about my experiences at camp and give you some advice on what you should think about doing. You’ve got five days left and I think you can find a way to have a great experience there, but it takes a little bit of work and you have to be willing to do things that aren’t in your comfort zone.

Grandma and Papa sent me to a four-week, sleep-away camp starting at your age. I had a miserable experience. I had a very hard time making a connection with anyone. It felt like most of the kids already knew each other or they had more in common with each other than I did. To make matters worse, my cousins were at the same camp. I think it was Grandma and Papa’s hope that (at the very least) my cousins would be friends with me and show me around. They did not. They completely ignored me. I spent the first year alone and I hated every minute of it.

And, it was hot. If you think California is hot, you haven’t felt the humidity of a HOT Georgia Summer. It was so hot on the first year that we couldn’t do any of the lake activities because they lake had dried out. You could walk out on the dock, but it was 10 feet above dry soil. Half the camp’s activities were supposed to be on the lake. But that year, there was no swimming, canoeing, fishing, etc. (Somehow the lake dried up, but Poo Pond was always full. I never understood that.)

Yes, there were activities that I didn’t want to do and thought they were beneath me. I didn’t want to sing songs and I didn’t want to dance around and I really, really hated “Color Wars.” (If they don’t do that, I’ll explain it to you later.) I disliked anything that required running or getting dirty. Just like you, I loved everything tech…and there was little to none of it at camp.

If you ask Grandma, I’m sure she remembers me sending her a note that basically said, “If you loved me, you’d get me out of here.” I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled to get it and she did not come to get me. I felt like I was alone in a place that I didn’t want to be. I was stuck.

That may have been the moment that I realized, it wasn’t up to anyone else to provide me with a good time…or provide me with friends…or make sure I was having a good experience. The truth is, it was completely up to me. So, I’m imparting this (hard-earned) wisdom onto you: Your experiences in camp (and in life) are entirely up to you. If you don’t want to participate and you don’t want to have a good time, you don’t have to. But, if you give a shit 😊 (like I tell you in golf), you may be surprised by the wonderful experiences you end up having by accident.

As I often tell writers, “Bad Decisions lead to Good Stories.” Don’t think going down the waterslide is a good idea? Try doing it anyway. You may get a good story out of it. Don’t think that trying the ropes course seems safe? Try it…you will definitely have a good story. Don’t want to ride the ATV? A good crash will always lead to a good story. Don’t want to fish? Go fishing…and then tell everyone about how the BIG one got away. Good stories and weird experiences are the things that help us create friendships. “You think you had a weird experience on the lake, let me tell you about mine….”

When it came to camp, I made 1 friend. His name was Shlomo. I’m not kidding. He was an exchange student from Israel. He was a weird kid, but my kind of weird. And, then we met a kid named Billy Mitchell. He, too, was weird. He wasn’t Jewish, but his parents sent him to a Jewish camp anyway. And finally, there was “Ice” – the only African American kid in an entirely Jewish camp. Slowly, and by participating, I found friends and we were weird together.

Buddy – it’s up to you. I’m glad you love your art, but it’s sometimes hard to make friends with your nose buried in your sketchbook.

Please try to have a good time. Do something new, something you’ve never done before. And, when you come home, you can tell me how your bad decision led to a great story.

Love you,

Dad

White-Man’s Overbite

What started as a funny, throw-away line in “When Harry Met Sally” has become our family’s “call-to-action” when it comes to dancing. It’s called, “The White Man’s Overbite.” It’s a silly, seductive dance I used to perform for GWE to make her laugh or let her know that I was really appreciating the Yacht Rock radio we were listening to. But, once Justin and Garrett took notice, the dance has taken on a whole new (even sillier) life of its own.

Here’s how you do the dance: put your two front teeth over your bottom lip (show your teeth and curl your upper lip,) both thumbs in the Fonzi “HEYYYYY” position, and then gyrate your hips. The instructions are simple, but each person’s dance is completely unique…and a guaranteed way to be single for the rest of your life.

I now present to you, two different versions of “The White Man’s Overbite!”





I’m Cooler Than I Think I Am

I was accused of trying to be cool by one of my son’s friends. It’s unclear if the thing that I was accused of doing made me cool or if the reverse psychology of someone thinking I was trying to be cool inadvertently made me cool because I was doing it…not knowing it was cool. (Yes, this explanation invalidates all my claims of coolness.)

Here’s what happened: I was with Justin in the car and we went to pick up one of his friends to bring him to our house. Usually, I leave the boys alone to have their private conversations and I zone out and listen to my music. Once they were on our way home (and I think GWE was in the car with us,) I stopped paying attention to what the boys were saying. However, I was mindlessly singing along to Kendrick Lamar and SZA on the “Black Panther” soundtrack. Yes – I realize the optics of a 40+ year old white guy listening to Kendrick and getting into it, but I like what I like.

From behind me I heard Justin’s friend say, “Hey, Jason. Stop trying to be cool.”

Once I got over the fact that my son’s friend decided to address me by my first name as if we were peers, I realized what he was saying. He thought I was trying to be cool by playing this music. He didn’t know that I’ve been listening to Kendrick regardless as to whether he was in the car or not.

Tell me what you gon’ do to me
Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me
You can bring a bullet, bring a sword
Bring a morgue, but you can’t bring the truth to me

So, I think an 11-year inadvertently acknowledged my “coolness” while trying to get me to stop singing. I prefer to view the incident as, “he brought the truth to me.”





Bohemian Rhapsody is a Torture Device

Much like Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Echo, my children are always listening to my conversations and only responding half the time when their names are called. One afternoon I made the mistake of passively mentioned that I really, really, really hated something. Clearly, the boys heard me. From that day forward, Justin and Garrett have chosen to torture me with that knowledge.

I hate the song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” HATE IT!! The moment I hear the opening notes, I have a Pavlovian response that immediately pisses me off and has me reaching for whatever device it’s on so that I can turn it off (or smash it.) I hate that song. Why?

In 1992, during the height of “Wayne’s World”, I was working at a camp radio station. That song was requested EVERY SINGLE HOUR. Imagine listening to any song, 12 times a day, 7 days a week, for three straight months. Now imagine listening to that song (all 6 minutes and 7 seconds of it) over and over and over and over and over again. I would have gladly accepted water-boarding over listening to that song one more time. And for 25 years, I have not had to listen to that song…until Justin and Garret discovered my true hatred for it.

It began with Justin walking up behind me while singing, “Is this the real life?” I did my best “stop it” dead-eye-stare at him, but he just happily walked off. Garrett picked up on what was going on and he too would slowly creep up to me with a mischievous smile as he began to sing, “Is this the real life?” I learned to walk away. They requested it in the car (which I won’t play) and Justin tried to play it for me on iTunes. Angrily, I thwarted their attempts at making me listen.

GWE took a picture of the sheer joy on the faces of Justin and Garrett and they sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” to me in the middle of the LA Auto Show. The lady behind them thought it was funny. I did not.

 

So, now you know my weakness…my Kryptonite. I absolutely, unquestioningly, categorically, and conclusively HATE “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

To Queen, I say: “Let me go….let me go…..let me go ooh ooh ooh!!”