Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Fashion Police

I recently took a stroll down memory lane, which is pretty hard to avoid doing when you live among the many ghosts of your sordid past like I do. However, even within the fraught and liminal space that is Carmel Valley, I managed to revisit the true sanctum sanctorum of my misspent youth. The place where I watched the Berenstain Bears paddle their canoe past a haunted bog, thick with alligators. The place where I researched fighter jets and their weaponry, against the day I might have occasion to use one to resolve a schoolyard dispute. The place where I was able to read about sex in Cosmo or Redbook before we had the Internet. In other words, the Carmel Valley Library.

During the Harry Potter fracas of the last week or two, I was repeatedly accused of having lost my childlike sense of imagination, of being an old grouch, of hating kids, and many other charges that are all absolutely correct, and to which I say "Yeah. So?" However, even I am not beyond a little reconsideration (unless you ask my parade of ex-wives). And for some reason I had recently had a flashback of a book that had strongly affected me as a kid, Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia. So, I set out to the library to see if this gem of the late 80's was as meaningful to me now, having experienced a few losses of my own along with the obvious innocence and wonder. And, as it turned out, it was. Perhaps even more so.

Before I could reach the children's book room, I had to wait out one of the library's weekly storytimes, when the very young foregather to be read and sung to by kindly adults, occasionally my mother. It being about four o'clock, I had to wade through the storytime crowd and the older grade-school kids as well, and as a result, I experienced another flashback - or so I thought - as powerful as that concerning Bridge. E.A. Robinson probably said it best in his poem "The Wandering Jew":

A dawning on the dust of years
Had shaped with an elusive light
Mirages of remembered scenes
That were no longer for the sight.

However, this turned out to be very true and physically immediate indeed. And what did it consist of? A kid with a foot-long rat tail. A kid with a foot-long, braided rat tail. A kid with both a rat tail AND a bowl cut, all at the same time. It was like 1987 all over again. But in Carmel Valley, we have no sense of retro. As we were, we are. But what could these kids have known? If Confederate flags were considered cool by high schoolers a few years ago (and my trusty source tells me they were), what might enthrall a lad of eight or nine? Clearly, they knew not what they did.

And then, today, I was speaking with someone, and her thirteen year old kid came into the room sporting that rarest of species - the bowl cut where the bowl half isn't much longer than the short half. My first impulse was to snicker. But then I suddenly recalled that crack that someone (Edmund Burke?) once made about how, for evil to triumph, all that must happen is for good men to do nothing. And believe me, if his creepy religious fanatic of a mother hadn't been right there, there would have been nothing stopping me from laying a fatherly hand on the boy's shoulder and saying, in a knowing but kind voice, "Son, you are entering an age that is awkward for all of us, during which it will be all you can manage for girls to not vomit on you outright, much less like you. Why make it harder than it needs to be? I.E., by having a haircut that makes you look, as my Mom used to say, like someone's butt?"

But, as any parent knows, sometimes you have to let people make their own mistakes. And sometimes, it feels better to snicker than to lend a helping hand.


Blogger Mithril Gold said...

Hey Gabe, man, you write like you're already an 80 year old man. =) Yeah, looking back at childhood memories are kinda weird, really weird. I'm doing lots of that right now, although the place has changed so much. Take care of yourself and be a little more positive man!

10:54 PM  

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