Friday, September 19, 2008

On parenting, video-making, and the continued persistence of all things Rocky. Well, more about the first two things.

Lately I've been surrounded by bad parenting. Not from my parents, per se (though they did send me a letter bomb and the shriveled body of my childhood fish "Mr. Gillsworthy" last week), but from parents at large. First, there was the couple who brought their baby to "The Dark Knight," the parenting equivalent of Operation "Just Cause" (which, for clarification, was when the US Army played "Welcome to the Jungle" as loud and as constantly as possible to frustrate Manuel Noriega into surrender back in '89. It worked. Guns 'N' Roses then ran for Senate and lost to Paul Anka.) Then there was the set of parents I heard exchanging all sorts of vibrant language while bottle-feeding their pair of children; I'm no expert on child-rearing, certainly, but I doubt a conversation comprised largely of racial epithets, blue language, and multiple synonyms for male genitalia is setting up baby for success. Though, if the ever do a celebrity roast at his preschool, he could emcee.

Then, there was last weekend's plane flight. See, we were flying to Seattle to do an honest-to-God video and I had the good fortune of getting the "screaming baby seat," a seat nearly as coveted as the exit row or the one behind first class with the extra leg room my dad calls "Poor Man's First Class." It was supposed to be like this: Mom & baby in 23A, Dad in 23C, me in 23B. But nobody wanted that, so I did what any normal human would do: let the happy parents sit together by trading seats with Dad, that way, he could enjoy the miracle that is child rearing while I could finish the Stephen King book I'd just started*. Everybody wins, right?


About 15 minutes before we're taxiing, baby starts crying. No big deal. This is to be expected. What's not to be expected is Dad's knee-jerk reaction: "This is why I didn't want kids." I hope he remembers that for the baby's next birthday: "Blow out the candles, my little mistake. I wish I could take a mulligan on your whole existence, yes I do! yes I do!"

Of course, Dad's surly commentary did not calm baby. No, no. This baby was angry and it needed to let everyone know about it. So it cried: cried through taxiing, cried through the intelligence-insulting "here's how a seatbelt works" speech, cried through chapters 6-10, cried through the take-off. Indeed, kept crying long enough to hear one last gem from Dad. Mom had to fetch some more fake-milk from her purse and so, handed little baby off to Dad, who, by way of greeting said "Shut up, you goddamn baby."

If I'd had a few beers in me, I probably would have said something. I would have tried to be cutting, incisive, didactic, and flippant. But it was 2 in the afternoon and I was tragically sober so I went back to reading about the gunslinger while trying to explode Dad's head with telepathic brain-ju-ju. When we landed, I called the Bellagio and put $50 on an "impending divorce" / "maternal custody" quinella. They're shit odds, but sometimes you gotta bet the chalk.

We were flying to Seattle, like I mentioned, to film a video for a track on the new album. Since still photographs make me moderately nervous (I'm afraid they're steal my soul), the idea of film had petrified me into a state agoraphobic inertness. But this had the possibility of being something truly fun, so I ditched my fake psychosis and flew to Seattle. And you know what? It was. It was fun, I mean. Strike this paragraph from your memory.

Without spoiling any of the surprise for when it's actually completed and because lists are the crutch of writers who no longer feel like writing transitions or being vaguely linear, I've decided to do a brief list about what I learned while filming our video. Onwards:

- There was a twelve-year old kid in our video. We liked him. When I was twelve, life centered around "Magic: the Gathering," video games, soccer, and trying to drink as many cans of soda as I could before my heart erupted from my ribcage. I was a sad, sad, child. This kid, less than half my age, had already achieved one of my life's goals: to be an extra in a zombie movie. Regular readers will know that my acting career is to encompass only one faze: a complete cornering of all wizard-related roles when I'm 70 and older. I'll be growing that beard starting two decades before, smoking cigarettes to sag my face into a look of wizened genius, and wearing only sparkly muu-muus. However, I've also always wanted to be devoured alive on camera, preferably in some low-budget C-movie and preferably by a zombie eating either my innards while I lie on a table yelling in mock-agony. Anyway, the kid in our video had his brains eaten in exactly one such movie. I wish my childhood had been less dorky and more zombie.

- There was also an old dude in our video. We liked him. I almost told him my wizard idea, but I didn't want him to take it. I know I've got a good forty-plus years until this plan goes into action, but you can't go blabbing it to real actors. That's like telling a joke to Carlos Mencia; you know he's stealing that shit.

- Part of the conceit of the video involved a family room and it's eventually plant-related destruction. Now, since we couldn't afford Michael Bay or ILM, we were allowed to, you know, actually destroy an entire room. That was great. Nothing brings people together like building things, unless that something is breaking things. Unfortunately, we had to fly home before the room was completely and utterly razed. And, in a way, that's good. It'll be new and exciting to me when I see it. The gentleman who built the room was also the point man for it's controlled demise and I kept thinking about that Simpsons where Bart sees his future, employed as a wrecking ball operator and says "I can't believe they pay me for this." I just thought I'd share that.

- In fact, everyone on the set was great. And I'm not just saying that. When you're in a situation that's new to you, vaguely intimidating, and under a serious time-crunch, it takes a whole crew of good folks to get it done and get it done well. We had that. It's a luxury to a band that's been to bars where they've had to do their own sound or restaurants where they've had to make their own salads.** So thanks to one and all.

- We had maybe 5 hours of off-time in Seattle and we managed to watch the beginning of Rocky III and the end of Rocky II, which proves a thesis from the last post: Rocky is always on TV always no matter what. That's comforting to me.

Lastly, and not related to anything video-y or horrible-parenting-y, we leave for tour in seven days. I'm nervous and overjoyed simultaneously. This also means copious bloggery because, you know, I'll actually be doing something instead of, say, spending a half-day critiquing Rocky IV. I'm happy about this development.


* Its been a while for me and Stephen and I foolishly chose the "Dark Tower" series, an 8,000 some-odd page epic which has addicted me like only a heroin-crack-nicotine muffin could. At least I know how I'll be spending my free time for the foreseeable future.

** I hate salad bars, by the way. As if a sneeze-shield can make me forget about the guy in overalls who just fingered his ass-crack before going thumb-first into the Jello. I'd like my food prepared behind closed doors where I can't see that stuff happening.


SOL's view said...

Lol. My son travelled six hours on a train recently. Near the end of the journey, he mentioned that he didn't think it possible for a baby to cry for SIX SOLID HOURS! HOW COME IT DIDN'T RUN OUT OF TEARS and so on.

I just smiled....

Anonymous said...

"Shut up, you goddamn baby"? SERIOUSLY? To an ACTUAL baby?

If that dude was in HoboCourt, I'd sentence him to Dick Cancer.

birdmonster said...

SOL: That's a lesson we all learn firsthand, parents or not. I learned it at four when my little sister had an ear infection. And six hours is NOTHING.

Hobo: I miss comments like that.

I imagine you in a smelly hobo robe, smashing your dilapidated hobo gavel repeatedly, before getting your stern, Judge Joe Brown look on and saying "I sentence Dick Cancer," followed by cheers from the gallery. It makes me happy.