Do you remember the old Talking Heads song, ‘Once in a Lifetime?’
You may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife,
And you may ask yourself, well,
How did I get here? …
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!
I had a similar, disoriented feeling this morning.
First I picked up my phone and was greeted by roughly 1,100 texts between my brother-in-law and my daughter.
They were discussing the #metoo and #timesup movements, especially sexual harassment in the workplace. My daughter was ticked off.
Never mind that she is 16 years old and has never held a job. More pressing to me was — it was 8:10am on a Tuesday. Wasn’t she at school? Was she texting from the classroom? What the hell?
And these weren’t short breezy little texts, either. They were angry, well-organized declarations. From the tone, you’d think she had been passed over for promotions for 20 years.
One message was so strident, I quickly scrolled up to see what was going on. Was she angry at me? Had I myself done something wrong?
Let’s see … Oh, okay… This is a political discussion. She and her uncle are trading ideas, making arguments and counterarguments. That’s fine … I guess.
My wife interrupted my scrutiny of the phone to say that she and my son had an idea for my vegetable garden out back.
The garden? Oh, sure. No problem.
“Now don’t get defensive,” she said.
“How’s the garden doing?” she said.
The truth is, my vegetable garden is pretty sparse. Not a lot of actual vegetables result from the enterprise.
But that’s okay. I don’t do it for the vegetables. I do it to try to relax.
“What about pot?” she asked.
“What about it?”
“Under the new law, we’re allowed to grow six plants. Maybe you’d have more … luck, with that plant.”
“Okay, first of all,” I said, “it’s not summer anymore. So what you’re seeing with the garden — wait, what?”
“In the garden.”
“You and Jesse want me to grow weed?”
In the old days, it was definitely a bad sign if your 14-year-old brought up weed as a topic of conversation.
- It’s not the old days; and
- I know my son inside and out. His angle was financial.
When he was about 10, he and I were driving north along the Malibu coast. He looked out the window and said wistfully: “Do you ever wish you could go back in time? Like to the 1960s?”
“Mmm,” I said.
“These houses would be worth nothing.”
“You could have bought these for nothing. Look what they’re worth now. You’d be RICH.”
Not the vision of the ’60s I had been conjuring. I had not realized we’d be buying real estate on our time-travel voyage.
I looked over at him. His eyes were bright with the imagined yield on investment.
Sometimes I really do look at my children and wonder where the fuck they came from.
My daughter blowing up my phone with feminist rage…
My son dreaming of the day he corners a market…
Who are these people?
How did I get here?
What ever happened to just going to school, doing homework, maybe watching some TV in the evening?
Lately, even the slightest interruption from my wife or request from the kids causes me to protest.
“Everybody just CALM down. Including me. Let’s do one thing at a time.”
It feels like events are overtaking me.