Circle of Life, my ass

I threw 10-Year Old daughter into the car and took her down to Asbury Park for a little one-on-one time. Soon, I’ll be nothing but a constant source of embarrassment to her so I think it’s important to take advantage while she can still stand to be in the same room with me.
[I have a much larger point to make at the end of all this, so hang in there.]
We started at the fabulous Silver Ball Museum on the boardwalk. Pinball machines figured prominently in my youth and I wanted her to know where some of her roots are buried.
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There are over 200 working pinball machines, some dating back to the 1950’s. Each machine has a placard on top that gives the machine’s history; the year it was constructed, how many of that model were manufactured, the designer and critical player reaction. You can really lose yourself in this place, especially if you’re in a certain age category that will go unmentioned. It’s $10 bucks for an hour of open play and worth every penny.

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It was sunny and pleasant. Nice enough to kick off our shoes and go for a walk on the beach. We climbed on the rocks and poked around the tide pools. It’s off season so the beach was gloriously empty. In a few weeks, the tourists and off-seasonals will start to descend upon the Jersey Shore. None of those clowns you see on TV are from New Jersey. They’re all from Staten Island and Brooklyn. A lot us wish they’d stay there.

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The tourists haven’t come around to strip the beach yet so you can find some pretty cool things, like this sand dollar. Also, there are no plastic bottles or McDonald’s wrappers to step over. Yet.
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We popped into New Jersey’s most famous dive bar/music venue, The Stone Pony. Everyone has played there. It’s an institution.
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Here’s the interior with its famous wall of signed guitars. It looks like 90% of them are Fenders. There seems to be a prejudice against Gibsons. What’s up with that?
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*     *     *
The next day I took 5-Year Old Daughter into the city to see The Lion King. Just her and I. It was another gloriously bright, sunny day, so beforehand we hung out in Times Square for a while. We sat high atop the TKTS half price ticket booth and she spotted “celebrities.” (Those celebrities being people walking around in Disney character costumes.)
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The Lion King is a gateway drug. Once a kid sees it, there’s no stopping them. “Dad, can we go to another play?” Yes, we can! Julie Taymor has become a punch line because of the Spider-Man musical debacle, but people seem to forget about The Lion King or discount it because it’s a favorite with the tourists. It’s not a perfect play as far as music and pacing is concerned but for visuals, staging, costumes, lighting and creativity, there’s simply nothing better. Some of it is quite moving.
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The plot concerns a father and son. Much of it is borrowed from Hamlet. An uncle murders a father and tricks the son into thinking he’s responsible. The son flees into exile. The uncle takes the father’s place on the throne as the new, demented king. While exiled, the son is visited by his father’s ghost. The father tells the son that he doesn’t realize who he is yet and that he can achieve greatness. The father explains he is alive, as he lives on through his son.
I was listening to all this, getting angrier and sadder by the minute. I thought of the past two days with my daughters and how much joy it gave me to be with them. My own idiot father didn’t spent :10 minutes trying to connect with any of us. He doesn’t know what he missed. When the face of his father’s ghost came into focus and floated amongst the stars, I wondered what I might have achieved if I had had just a modicum of guidance, instead of making it up as I go along, as I have been all these years. What if I had been taught that I could be more than the sum of my parts? Wouldn’t that have been a useful piece information to pass along?
I caution the girls to never think that they’re better than anyone else because if they do, nobody will want to be their friend. But do you know what? I am better than him.
Hakuna Mafuckingtata.

21 thoughts on “Circle of Life, my ass

  1. just maybe…. maybe… becuase you didn’t have any paternal influence, you were able to craft something from scratch. a far more fresh, ideal version of fatherhood than you might have had if you’d had a deeply flawed role model in your life.because i’ll tell you something, brother. you’re doing it right.this was a greatfuckingpost.

  2. This was a great post and you’re doing a damn good job with the daughters. I still remember the Sundays spent at Coney Island with my Dad when I was a kid. Those memories are forever. Keep ’em coming.

  3. Ellie: Thank you. Even though it sounds like it, I’m not fishing for compliments. I was just very pissed and felt cheated. Simba had a great dad. Why couldn’t I have had one, too?! The Silver Ball Museum is a step into the time tunnel.daisy: Thank you too, dear. I’m not very good at accepting compliments but I’ll do my best. I’m lucky things turned out the way they did. It could have all gone terribly wrong.

  4. Sharon: You snuck that in while I was posting a response. Do you know that 5-Year Old was extremely disappointed that we weren’t meeting you in the city? She’s obsessed with it! She wants to meet you and see the Degas little dancer statue.

  5. sugar, i know you’re not fishin’ for compliments and i know it’s hard to hear them, but dammit all, son, (yeah, now i feel like i’m YOUR mama) you done good! those girls are a delight to read about. daisy pegged it, you’ve become who you are in spite of what you think/know didn’t happen and i’m grateful to know you! now say, thank you and go have some fun! ;~) xoxoxox

  6. Pat: Sorry for the vulgarity but sometimes I work blue. If you use it sparingly, it can be effective.sav: Maybe I should be grateful that he left me the hell alone. God only knows how much harm he would have inflicted if he had tried.map: Thanks to you and a special tip of the hat to Google Translate.

  7. Lovely to spend time with your dear daughters, treasure it.Don’t beat yourself up about your Dad. Sometimes I think we grow to be good peolple despite what our parents said/did.Safe, warm, fed and dry. They’re the basics, all extra is cream, although a little ove is nice.Gice your gilrs plenty of cuddles. My daughter is now 30, and she still wants Daddy’s hugs. *Shh* (So do I)

  8. I have a great dad but I don’t remember so much one to one time. And I vaguely resent not getting a via-parent introduction to anything half-cultural, and having to acquire my own totally jungli tastes. Simba be damned. I think you’re super for giving them so much exclusive undivided you-time.

  9. TSB: I’m not really beating myself. (Well…maybe just a bit.) I’m more in a quandary. Spending time with the kids is so satisfying! I wonder why my dad had no interest? I can’t imagine my daughters at 30. That’s such a long way off.Nimpipi: Your dad is an awesome dad. His generation was not so hands-on as they are now. That was part of my dad’s problem as well. Your dad wrote a book for cryin’ out loud! Do you know how many dads are smart enough to accomplish that?!

  10. Fuck guidance it’s over-rated… i’m living proof of that… and the fact that you try to do what’s right by your daughters is proof enough that you didn’t need some guy who really didn’t seem to be interested in being a dad giving you advice… you’re doing a fine job without it.

  11. Completely off-topic, but keep an eye out for a musical currently in development out here in San Diego called Hands on a Hardbody. It is based on a cult documentary from about 15 years ago of the same name. Keith Carradine stars – music written by that Phish guy. My guess is that they’re beta testing it here and eventually going to try it out in the Big Apple. It’s pretty funny.(formerly known as Sonny Amou).

  12. It looks like 90% of them are Fenders. There seems to be a prejudice against Gibsons. What’s up with that?I know that’s probably a rhetorical question, but the reason you see more signed Fenders in general is because Fender puts their name on a “Stratocaster” made in Indonesia that you can buy for $200. There is not a comparable cheap-and-useless-for-actually-playing Gibson model.So if you’re getting a guitar signed that is going to hang on a wall and no one is ever going to play it, why drop a grand on the cheapest Gibson when you can buy five “Strats” as wall-hangers for the same money?Besides, it’s a sin (I’m pretty sure it’s in the bible) to put a Gibson away on a wall like that where it can’t be played.

  13. kono: I sure as hell HOPE that guidance isn’t overrated! Otherwise, why bother trying?! Plus, it’s just too easy to say my deficits are a result of a lack of direction. Sonny! Holy hell! How are you!? Will keep an eye out for that. Is it playing at the Globe? The Globe is a pipeline from SD to NYC. I saw Keith Carradine in The Will Rogers Follies a million years ago on Broadway. It was pretty good stuff.mjp: Gibsons have so much more bite and body. Listen to Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow, in which he employs a Les Paul, and then listen to his next album, Wired, where he uses a Strat. What a difference! Wired sounds too soft.

  14. ooh thank you for transporting me back to America…sounds like your kids lucked out with their dad…I lived there for 7 years, 5 of the best in NY…I was writing for a UK music industry mag and did an interview with the ‘avant garde director Julie Taymor’ which lasted a couple of hours because of my exhaustive knowledge of Lion King as my ADHD son had the movie on endless loop….we had press tickets 4 rows from the front, on the isle, on Halloween night and both of us were blown away….my son was wearing a spiderman costume!!!

  15. Dude you’re friggin right. Lion King is a rip off of Hamlet. If you’d never have pointed it out, I’d never have known.

  16. YAH: Thanks for the compliment. I thought being a dad would be a major effort but I’m find it to be mostly a pleasure. My understanding is that it gets tougher as they get older. Don’t tell me anything. You’d spoil the surprise.nurse: And you are a lovely mum.Sid: Don’t be impressed. Someone pointed it out to me. I just parrot what I hear and come off sounding clever.

  17. Not to justify your father’s choices AT ALL, but you turned out to be an AWESOME father, husband and friend. Who knows what you would have been if you Dad had helped to shape you more. There are always pros and cons. We all have a path…and as tough as yours has been, you’ve created an amazing amount of things with your life. Keep at it and those daughters will be very proud to keep you in their lives. (a bit redundant from the other responses, but had to say it, yo.)

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