It’s a beautiful day for an Emergency Room visit, let’s do Two!

Yesterday was spent in not one, but two Emergency Rooms. My son woke up screaming at one poi t in the nite and we dismissed it as anything out of the ordinary. He usually wakes up around 3am and this was right in schedule. Hours later, once we’re all up and getting the day going, my wife calls me into the kitchen to look at his foot. It’s at least twice its normal size and a strange shade of red with some alert of mark in the middle of it. He had been holding out it saying “ow foot” when she noticed it. We decided that I would take him it o the ER down the street to have it checked out while she finished getting our daughter fed and herself ready. She had a big interview lined up later in the morning.

Two hours later and we were still in the waiting room. We were next, then got bumped for an incoming ambulance, then finally we got a room. The doc came in and took a look at the now bright red giant foot. His eyes about popped out of his head. I immediately felt like the most awful, horribly neglectful parent in the ‘verse. I had no answers for them. When did it start? Just noticed it this morning. Did I notice him hurt it? Nope. All I could think of was that somehow he had managed to break it while in his crib or he was having some sort of reaction to something biting him. We had been doing some yard work at his Nana’s house over the weekend. The mosquitoes there could pass as pterodactyls. The doctor looked at me like I was crazy. He ordered x-rays to check for a break and blood cultures to check for an infection whole mentioning something about spending the nite while walking out of the room.

The nurse then came in to start an IV and luckily that’s right about when my wife arrived, all dolled up ready for the interview she wasn’t going to make it to. I don’t care how hard you think you are, nothing prepares you for your child getting and IV. NOTHING. You suddenly feel powerless and as you hold them down so that the nurse can shove a sharp object into their little arm, mildly evil.

The X-rays came back fine. So did the blood work. The doctors were baffled. Always a good sign. We might as well have been in an episode of House. That’s when we got the transfer to Children’s Memorial. There a children’s infectious disease specialist would meet us and hopefully figure out what was going on with our little man and his giant foot. My wife rode the ambulance with him while I had to go pick up our daughter and meet them there. As soon as I got into the van to get her, the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” came on the radio followed by the Smashing Pumpkins’ “tonite, tonite”. A musical reward for the shit day I’d been living through. Swing by home, relieved the babysitter and headed into the city. She fell asleep to the Smoking Popes on the way. Surprisingly peaceful drive. Thank you.

When we got to hospital number 2 we walked in right as the specialist was giving the diagnosis. Bug bite, he apparently is super sensitive to them. He has sever localized reactions to insect bites. She then went on to warn us that should he ever get stung by a bee he won’t have an anaphylactic attack, but he will swell up to an alarming size. Thanks for the heads up. I am now looking I to ordering a tiny beekeeper’s suit. We were discharged and on our way home, with a slightly less swollen Flintstone foot attached to our little boy and a diagnosis that there is little that we can do to help. Yabba dabba do.

Recommended listening:
The Ramones: I Wanna be Sedated
The Smashing Pumpkings: tonite, tonite
The Flintstones them song
The Ghost: This is a Hospital (album). Just for the title, plus the Ghost was amazing.

Post-Punk Parenthood Parishes

What’s the most out there position an old Northside punk could interview for?

This week I interviewed for an art teaching position… On the Southside of Chicago… For a Catholic school. Yep, that’s about as far out there as it gets. It started off with me arriving on time, but finding out that the director of the program had written down the wrong time. So I sat in the old converted convent waiting by myself for either the director or the ghosts that I’m sure haunt that place somewhere. Whichever got there first. Oddly, the room I was waiting in smelled just like the nursing home my great-grandmother spent her last days in. This did not lessen my fear of ghosts.

The director finally got there and apologized a lot for writing down the wrong time and the interview got on the way. She gave me the history of the place I would be teaching in, which was actually pretty interesting. The church has always been the social beacon of the neighborhood. When she was younger they used to put on an annual roller disco-capades; jumps, twirls, and all. Eventually this Brother decided to set up an arts and cultural program for the kids to do after school. He had a massive heart attack and passed away walking into his office five years later. The parish then expanded his program in his honor. Now there are opportunities for dance, visual arts, gardening, and theater classes in an area that is facing extreme school closures.

The interview went very well. We went over expectations of the job and what I should expect of the kids there. It’s in a pretty poor neighborhood, so these kids don’t have a lot. There are a lot of behavior issues and a lack of stick-to-it-ness as the director said. The way I see it though is that it would be a challenge to keep them interested, but as long as its fun, I might make a difference with these kids. They are lucky to have an arts program and as an artist myself, especially one with a punk background, I’m interested in how the arts can transform the world.

The transformation happened in me, I did not feel like just an outsider to this neighborhood. I wanted to become part of it and help them speak out and express their inner voices. The kids with behavior problems, wouldn’t they feel better if they had a way to express themselves, to speak what they can’t say? I know that’s been the case with my kids. They don’t have “behavior problems”, but I’ve seen them act out in similar ways. When my daughter was just learning how to talk, if she couldn’t express what she was feeling verbally she got really frustrated and would bite things. Never people, thank gods, just stuff like the couch or toys. My son freaks out when he tries to buckle the straps on his high chair and they aren’t lined up right. It’s hard not being able to tell the world around you what is going on inside of you. Isn’t that also the reason that punk rock was born? Kids needing to be heard with a world that wasn’t listening?

There is a lot that I want to teach these kids and I guess I really want this job. It might actually be pretty awesome.

Oh yeah, and there was a double stabbing across the street while I was in having my interview. I hear it was a personal dispute.

Recommended listening track list:

Suicidal Tendencies: Institutionalized
This little gem, by Scott Simon
The Ramones: Rock ‘n’ Roll Highschool

My Review of the Other F Word

If you have ever thought to yourself “Flea from Red Hot Chili Pepper (or Needles from Back to the Future, as he will always be to me) will never make me cry” I challenge you to watch the Other F Word and maintain that stance. Don’t believe me? Go to 1:40 on the trailer.

I’ve wanted to see this movie for a while now for obvious reasons. It was everything that I hoped it would be. Equal parts funny and emotional, its what you want in a documentary. The basis for the film was Jim Lindberg’s book Punk Rock Dad, which I finished reading last month. Punk Rock Dad is a memoir rationalizing Jim’s transformation from Punk rocker to dad. There were moments while reading the book on the L that I burst out laughing and realized the whole train was staring at me. There were others where I tried masking tears. The Other F Word captures this spirit and raises the stakes by showing not just Jim Lindberg’s story, but those of several other punks that have made the same metamorphosis, including Lars Frederiksen of Rancid, Fat Mike of NOFX, and the king of the skaters, Tony Hawk.

The documentary does a good job of also serving as a history lesson of American Punk Rock, mostly of the California variety. It informs you of the rots of the subculture, how Hermosa Beach is the home of huge military manufacturers and suppliers and also the home of a huge surf community. These two opposing factors collided in the late seventies when punk broke. California punk has always fascinated me as a Chicago boy. It’s a total different beast. Here in the Midwest, the culture was built around hard work and labor and middle class boredom. California punk is built on the foundation of a surf and skate culture. Different foundations yes, but a mutual politic.

*Spoilers*

Though peppered with lots of anecdotes from other punk dads, the main “plot” follows Jim Lindberg on tour with Pennywise. A tour that lasts two thirds of the year and the strain that puts on him, his wife, and three daughters. The climax ends up being his decision to leave the band to be able to spend time with his family for a change.

Overall I loved this movie and truthfully there was little doubt that I would. I will say that its flaws lie in the middle of the film where it begins relying heavily in the history of the scene. While watching it felt like this segment went on for longer than necessary and I found myself wishing that they would go back to the fatherhood stuff. Afterwards though, its apparent that this backstory is absolutely necessary to truly understand the philosophical dilemma that is present in the mods of these dads. A dilemma that I myself struggle with as apparent that grew up in a similar culture. I cannot wait to buy a copy of this for my collection as it was incredibly hard to return the copy to the library.

Side note: most of the dads featured in the Other F Word are in bands that are going to be playing Riot Fest this year in Chicago. I wanted to go before watching this, now I am absolutely dying to go.

No recommended track list this time, just watch the movie and enjoy the soundtrack.

The Existentialist 4 yo

Generally, the two biggest philosophies in the punk subculture were nihilism and existentialism.

Nihilism:
1
a : a viewpoint that traditional values and beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground of truth and especially of moral truths
2
a : a doctrine or belief that conditions in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program or possibility

Existentialism:

: a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad

So how does someone surrounded by a subculture steeped in these philosophies manage as a father? At what point does the punk with authority issues assume the authority figure? This is something that I’ve been struggling with for a while now. My four year old daughter recently started a phase where she is pretty much rebelling all the time. Doesn’t listen. Drops the “I don’t like you” bomb at a moments notice. It’s driving me insane.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Part of me is all “you need to listen to me and respect me because I’m your dad”. There is a voice in my head, however that’s like “psh, good for her. She’s just questioning what is morally right to her. It’s her right to not respect your authority, she’s just as much a person as you are”.

The strangest part of this for me happened a couple of weeks ago. I cleared my schedule so that my wife and I could go meet with her preschool teacher to discuss our concerns over her acting up. How the tables had turned. There we were discussing a plan of action. Her teacher informed us that a large part of the confrontation stemmed from our daughter being super smart. Congratulations, you have a genuinely smart kid that knows how to manipulate situations. Yay. Expensive schools and hair plugs are in my future. The other side of this is her trying to ask for boundaries. She’s raging against us so that we can show exactly how far she can go. Come again?! Conclusion: kids are weird.

A I guess I should be proud. My kid is apparently ahead of the curve. She is actively questioning the world around her and trying to figure it out. In writing this, I am noticing that I should probably lighten up a bit and encourage her more. I mean, didn’t I spend most of my formative years doing the same thing? Questioning authority, trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense. So she’s doing it at four. Good for her. But, for the love of the gods, could she just go to sleep without fighting so hard?!

Recommended track list:

Pennywise: Fuck Authority
The Clash: Fought the Law
Alkaline Trio: Cop

Complacency and Stagnation

“To make spaces inside these questions, the first thing I want to perturb is my relationship to the systematic ignorance about how our world works. The befuddling irony of the information age is the institutionalization of a profound ignorance about everything: how food gets on our table, who is buying all the new condos in the neighborhood and where the money is coming from, why more and more people I know have cancer, who is living in our cities and how they get around, whether hosting the Olympics actually helps most residents of a city, why education costs more than ever, why there are shelves of lawn pesticides in the home improvement stores, why the Mexican economy is so distressed that thousands risk their lives to come to the U.S., why pledging allegiance to the flag now means pledging allegiance to the approval of torture and trials for certain people without access to the evidence against them.”

This was the most important passage in Claire Pentecost’s article Autonomy, Participation, And. I think It calls into focus the major problems facing our society today. Complacency being one of the biggest. It might be that I’m reading a lot of books on Punk culture and listening to a lot of the music that made me think and get mad at the world when i was younger, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. No one wants to question anything. (Side note, my angsty punk pandora station just put on a Scott’s lawn fertilizer and pesticide commercial… Cosmic irony). It’s one thing to be autonomous, but its an entirely different thing be blind to the world. We may be a mass of individuals, but there is no denying that each and every one of us is part of a whole. We are capable of contributing toward a better world. I hope that I can instill this questioning and reexamination of the status quo in my kids. If we stay complacent we will stagnate.

“But now,” says the Once-ler, “now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

Recommended track list:
Bad Religion: Better off Dead
The Ramones: Humankind

(I wrote this for a class response, but thought I would share here with you, too)