The “Oldies But Goodies” Friday night at PPOV post last week got me recollecting about a neat thing that happened this summer. It was something that showed me how music can speak through the generations – when you least expect it to.
I was downtown with my daughter and her Mexican friend,”Anna,” whom we were hosting during the summer. It was one of my first real, actual days off in a couple of weeks.
I had barely seen my daughter all summer, for myriad reasons. It was turning into her “lost summer.” She was having the time of her life – without me being much a part of it. She went to an astronomy camp in Arizona for a week, along with “Anna,” who came up from Monterrey (the two of them had been chatting for nearly a year via an astronomy Web site), then the two of them attended a science day camp at the local university, which entailed field trips to dig for artifacts at a ghost town and to a famous dinosaur museum in Bozeman. Thank God she’s smart enough to get scholarships to these camps, because otherwise, we could never afford them.
Anyway, we had also stumbled unexpectedly into a house out in the country. It happened with extreme short notice, and it meant making a major move with almost no preparation time. It was very stressful. I had to ship my daughter and Anna off to my sister’s in California for two weeks while we made the move, because we felt they would’ve been neglected while we were harried with moving. They spent a week at a beach house with a heap of cousins, went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences, and she celebrated her 9th birthday – without me – at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, while we pulled our muscles and tweaked our backs moving furniture and gave ourselves migraines dealing with utility companies and our old Fascist property manager.
Anyway, after they returned from California in mid-July, I *finally* had some time with her. I realized I had spent virtually no time with her since the end of school and I was starting to feel horribly guilty.
Now, to digress a bit so this story makes more sense. Anna’s father is apparently very wealthy; he’s some sort of bigwig executive at some Monterrey-based telecom. We kept calling him “The Most Powerful Man in ALL of Mexico.” Anna was interested in attending the Montana science camp after the astronomy camp, and he wrote me asking if we would be so kind to take her in as host parents because she got along so well with our daughter. He then asked if she could stay the summer because she was interested in going to college at Stanford or UCLA and he wanted her to experience America for a summer, and he thought Montana would be good for her, because it was rugged and old-fashioned and she had lived a pampered life and needed to see more of how the “other side lived.” The whole thing seemed a tad condescending, but I also thought it was hilarious that this guy wanted us to be a part of some sort of “sociological experiment.”
We explained we weren’t rich and didn’t have a luxurious home, and we didn’t attend church and were living together but not married, but he said none of that mattered and he repeated that he wanted her to see how working people lived. He also said he would take care of all of Anna’s expenses. He sent us a ridiculously huge check, and after much back and forth with him because we thought the check was pretty excessive, he announced “I like you and I respect you, senor, but you WILL deposit this check. Thank you for your trouble.” Well, what do you say to the Most Powerful Man in ALL of Mexico? Finally, we talked him into letting us apply whatever was left over to charities after Anna’s expenses.
Anna arrived and the only clothes her parents had given her were fine, frilly dresses, patent leather shoes and a couple of heavy coats (Apparently, her parents thought Montana summers were cold). We realized this would never do. So, we used part of her father’s money to buy Anna a more suitable wardrobe for Montana – a couple of pairs of overalls, shortalls, shorts, jeans, t-shirts and most importantly, tennis shoes. Anna didn’t know what to think of her overalls and tennis shoes and said she wasn’t allowed to dress like a boy. We pointed out to her that all girls in Montana dressed like this and she couldn’t very well dig for ghost town artifacts in a dress and patent leather shoes. She didn’t complain about it again, and I suspect she enjoyed the freedom to be scruffy.
Anna was required to write her parents every day. I got an e-mail from her father one day about “What is this about you turning my daughter into a boy?” Sure enough, Anna had written him, saying, “they’re trying to turn me into a boy, papa!” We explained that Montana being a rough and rugged place, she had to dress for the elements and that all the girls here dressed like this (We didn’t tell him the other kids probably would’ve eaten her alive for dressing like a flower girl.). He responded, “I trust you, senor, and I like and respect you, but just remember if anything happens to my daughter, I am the Most Powerful Man in ALL of Mexico … and I will crush you.”
That was our first run-in with Anna’s terrifyingly intimidating father. We discovered that, either because of language differences or because Anna liked to embellish her stories, that many of her e-mails to her father were like this.
So, back to mid-July. I hadn’t made any plans for my day with Kiddo and Anna. We were still pretty busy unpacking and dealing with satellite dishes and getting decent phone service (never happened – 50 year old lines. Hopeless.). I took them to a carousel, but they were a little old for that and got bored pretty quick. There were starting to be long, awkward silences. While we were wandering around downtown, Kiddo was definitely starting to act like, “ … astronomy camp, Lowell Observatory, science camp, Museum of the Rockies, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences, Santa Cruz Boardwalk – wow, by comparison, dad, you rock. Yawn. DWEEB!” Again, those pangs of guilt hit. They were bored. I sucked. The Worst Parent Who Has Ever Lived had struck again. We had lots of activities planned late in the summer – some hikes and a couple of nice mountain climbs and a big trip to Glacier and Banff – but nothing for a few weeks. I simply hadn’t given it any thought of how I was going to entertain them for the time being. Then, we walked past an old, downtown theater.
And I said, “Oh, my God!”
They were showing a restored 30-year anniversary version of “The Kids are Alright.” I had seen this movie once when I was in junior high school. There was a matinee starting in only half an hour. My daughter whined that she didn’t want to see a movie about a bunch of “old hippies.” (“Old hippies” is code for “you’re a nerd and a dweeb and a geek and you embarrass the bejeezus out of me.”)
“C’mon, it’ll be great,” I told her. “No, it’s just going to be about a bunch of old long-haired hippie nerds. It’ll be boring..,” she said. This is a kid who thinks any music recorded before 1998 is well, just plain stupid.
Finally, I bribed her with promises of popcorn and Dr. Pepper and Bunch a Crunch (We don’t let her eat junk food, normally, but at this point, I was desperate. I had to see this movie.). Anna was indifferent about the whole thing. I never heard a peep of complaint out of her the whole summer about much of anything, frankly.
I went through the same thing with my parents. They were big fans of Eddie Arnold, Porter Wagoner, Slim Whitman, Hank Snow, Conway Twitty, Jimmy Reeves, etc. Basically, if it was awful 60s Country and Western … they liked it. Really, the worst of the worst C&W ever had to offer. They even thought Johnny Cash was a damn hippie. To this day, I can’t listen to Country.
But, Jesus, we were talking The Who! I had *completely* forgotten how much I loved this movie. The Who were a big part of my teenage years, but after The Police, U2, Nirvana and Primus, I had kind of stopped listening to them. How many times can you really listen to “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” But, man, these guys were something back in the day, I was reminded.
Here’s what I remember most about that afternoon, the first real time I had spent with my kid in something like six weeks – when all the awesome things that she was experiencing that summer had occurred with me out of the picture. About halfway into the movie, toward the crescendo of an especially searing 1968 version of “A Quick One While He’s Away,” (It was part of a Rolling Stones Christmas special that never aired. Part of the reason it never aired is because the Who blew the Rolling Stones off the stage and the Stones were too vain to have that aired. True story.), I sneaked a glance over at my 9-year-old and I swear, she was sitting there with her mouth half-agape watching in … absolute … unadulterated … abject … AWE ….
She had never seen anything like these guys and she was completely blown away. Oh, my God, it was funny. As soon as the movie ended, the first thing she said to me was, “I want more Who.”
“I want more Who” quickly morphed into “I DEMAND more Who!” She fell into a Whomania that lasted into the fall and lots and lots of questions about the Who and did I really see them in the old Seattle Kingdome in 1982 (yes, I did), and what was the real meaning of “Tommy,” etc., which concluded with her announcement at the dinner table one night that she thought Tommy could see and hear and speak all along, but he simply chose not to. I got her a Pete Townshend poster and we found a DVD of “The Kids are Alright” at a local funky record store. I even found a reissue of “Live at Leeds,” which I don’t think I had listened to since about 1985. She is eagerly awaiting the Super Bowl because Townshend and Daltry are playing at halftime.
After that afternoon, I also got in trouble with Anna’s father again. She wrote him one of her daily e-mails after that movie and I got an e-mail back from him, asking me, “What is this about you exposing my daughter to ‘ Ingleses locos?’”
Anna had written him that the Who were “smashing guitars and their drums and blowing things up and beating each other up and spinning their arms around and running around acting loco and they didn’t wear shirts …!”
Oh, boy. I was in for it now. I told him about the movie and how it was a very famous British rock band from the 60s and 70s and yes, they were a little crazy, but everyone had fun at the movie, and most importantly, there were no sex scenes in the movie. He said to me, “I like you senor, I trust you, but if anything happens to taint my daughter, I, the most powerful man in ALL of Mexico … will crush you.”
Well, after that, we started a new Fascist policy that we would get to read ALL of Anna’s correspondence to her father beforehand to prevent any more misunderstandings.
The upshot of the story is, my daughter is now every bit as much of a Who fan as I ever was when I was 14. Anna told her father she had the time of her life and that I was very kind and took good care of her and did not let the “Ingleses locos” taint her and I received a gift of a huge box of Mexican cigars afterward, which were smoked with much rejoicing. And, my daughter, the latest in a line in our family of Who fanatics, is spending two weeks in Monterrey next summer with them.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, dig The Who …
“A Quick One (While He’s Away)”