Raising your Kids Green or Finding the Jello at Walgreens….

A couple of days ago my son started singing along to “Kill the Poor” by the Dead Kennedys. Two things dawned on me. First off, I was so proud of my boy for singing along to good music. Second, was the realization of my influence in him. Here he is, two years old, singing along to a song that is about class warfare. This is my kid. Mine. Every time I turn my music on in the van (hey if I’m in the captain’s seat and there are no other people of equal rank, ie my wife Katie, I control the music. End of discussion. And no that is not fascist.) these kids are soaking it in, learning, absorbing my politics.

The first and only time I saw former front man to the Dead Kennedys, Jello Biafra, in person was at a Green Party Rally at the Congress theater in 2001. It was the birthplace of me thinking politically. Fresh out of high school and in my first year at community college. It all started the day that George W. Bush held a campaign event at College of DuPage in the Art building’s courtyard. I wasn’t able to get to my classes since the building went on lockdown as soon as he showed up. There were snipers in the roof. I had nothing better to do, so I joined up with the Campus Greens group that was setting up a priest march around campus. Who did I bump into but my future wife who I hadn’t really seen since graduating. She was there to observe and cause a little hell. She joined in with our “BUSH AND GORE MAKE ME WANT TO RALPH!!” chants, got in people’s faces and vehemently argued for women’s right to choice. She doesn’t know it, but I was in love with her right then and there.

We then met up again at the Campus Greens organized rally at the Congress. Listened to Jello Biafra, cornel West, Ani Difranco, and Ralph Nader speak to an audience of young people that hadn’t even learned why they were pissed off yet. I was now a third party supporting, young leftist and the music I had been listening to for years suddenly made more sense than ever.

Flash forward a dozen years later and I’m sitting in the parking lot of the walgreens in my home town listening to my 2yo son sing “Kill the Poor”. If we can get this next generation thinking critically about the system at 2, then we might actually be changing the world in ways we could have only dreamed about when we were standing in that crowd at the Congress theater all those years ago.

Recommended track list:
Dead Kennedys: Kill the Poor
NOFX: Murder the Government
Strike Anywhere: Riot of Words

(Mosh) Pit falls…

Confession time. The thing I miss most about my youth is going to shows whenever I felt like it. Whenever I felt like it is code for every freaking day. When we were kids, we’d have some show to go to pretty much all the time. Where we going tonite? Tonite’s the Fireside Bowl to see the Lawrence Arms. Wow that opening band, the Ghost, was amazing, lets come back in two days for their cd release. Where are we going tonite? Some church basement in Lombard to see Hook Line & Sinker. Tomorrow? The Annex in Algonquin. The next day, backyard Stale Chofli show… The Wheaton Community Center to see all of the local bands in one huge show… Some place called the Barn… A VFW… After that the Metro to see Alkaline Trio for the umpteenth time this year.

There was always somewhere to see the bands we loved playing.

Why am I bringing this up now? There is no way that I could physically keep up with that kind of schedule again, but this weekend there is a huge music festival playing 20 minutes from where we live and a ton of my favorite bands are playing. And I am not going. I tried to talk my way into a press pass and failed and lost out on my chance to buy tickets. Not like I would have been able to afford them any ways. No Riot Fest for me. I’m actually surprised at how down this is making me feel. There are tons of other shows that i have missed over the years, but this one is hitting me harder than I had expected. I miss the overall feeling of the live show. The mass of people that know all the lyrics, running into other hot sweaty people having an almost religious experience. The last time I was at a show was Mustard Plug randomly playing at the House Cafe in Dekalb over a year ago and before that Coheed and Cambria at the Riv in 2009. And they were great. Absolutely great. Now I have gotten into this routine of being super busy all of the time and I can’t go. I have a family that I love dearly and I adore spending time with my kids, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have the desire to once in awhile going out and run into a mosh pit (do they still have those?). Between work and school and family life, I just don’t seem to have the time. Do you see how I keep dancing back and forth between wanting to and talking my way out of it?

So there’s my confession. I’m really down about not going to Riot Fest this weekend. I feel selfish that I feel this way, but I miss it. I really do.

Education system anxiety…

Of all the things that are stressful about parenthood, choosing a school for your kids is up there. The other day we visited a Montessori school down the street from our home and absolutely fell in love with it. Being a kid that grew up in the public school system, I can see the pluses and minuses. Yes, socially there is an advantage to how public schools operate, a large number of kids are grouped into a setting where they are encouraged to make friendships and be exposed to a large variety of people. There’s of course the financial side too. The fact that public schools are covered in your taxes is nice.

Here’s my guff though… Public schools are the first to lose funding. The child to teacher ratio is getting out of hand due to spending cuts. You know, because it makes sense to cut teachers before you cut anything else. What else is underfunded in public schools? Yeah, that’s the arts, obviously something near and dear to me.

I was one of those smart kids that slipped through the cracks. I wasn’t properly challenged until middle school where I was suddenly thrown into the advanced English and math classes. I always felt like the dumbest smart kid since everyone else had been supported and encouraged in these subjects for the years before. I was the outcast of the outcasts. That being said, I also had a huge problem with authority. Yeah had. S what did I do? I stopped caring and coasted by. I managed to do so in a way that i was able to get out of high school a full year early because I didn’t care for the system and I knew how to make it work for me.

I don’t want that to happen to my kids. I Want them to be challenged and encouraged to do their best in school. I don’t want them to be the outcast of the outcasts, not knowing where they belonged. Sure that contributed to my becoming the person I am today, introduced me to the punk scene way back when. Solidified my political all beliefs. BUT, my kids have something I didn’t have that can make up for that… An awesome punk dad. They’ll still be super unique and exposed to so much of that.

The school we visited had everything we were looking for and want for our kids.there is a low student to teacher ratio, it’s a large school (it’s actually housed inside a giant old church and has a very Hogwarts-y feel to it), it’s double Montessori certified, close to home, mixed age groups, individualized learning, and a huge bonus, there’s financial aid for your second year onwards. Oh and it goes all the way through middle school, so they’ll have the continuity that I never had as a kid.

That’s why.

Recommended track list:
Operation Ivy: Gonna Find You
The Sex Pistols: Seventeen
The Minutemen: God Bows to Math

When an Anniversary date becomes a family nite and why that’s ok.

My wife and I just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Well, at least we were creative in how we celebrated it. She just started a new job and we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together since. Last Thursday we decided to do something crazy. Some fun family activity to make the Summer feel extra summer-y. We went to the drive-in.
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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

Full circle…

Years ago, I was on the Student Activities Program Board at the College of DuPage. I was in charge of booking bands and entertainment. This meant that I had a presence in the local music scene. It was awesome. I won’t lie about it. I was able to talk my way into shows without paying, was approached by local bands, given CDs and T-shirts. One time I even got to sit in the VIP section at the Metro in Chicago while on the coveted “guest list”. This was and is still considered to be one of the best times in my life.

My group of friends and I always had a show to go to. The Metro when we felt like paying $15+ to see Alkaline Trio or the like; the Fireside Bowl when that was still a thing and was always on the cheap, we were offended if it was more than $5. There was the Annex in Algonquin IL, which was in a church basement filled with couches, a foosball table, air hockey, and pool tables. That’s where we saw most of our ska shows. Backyard shows, other random church basements, VFWs, and the local scene’s biggest venue: the Wheaton Park District Building where we would see the big names in our local scene: Plain White Ts, Stale Chofli, the Pechanios, the Dog and Everything, and toward the end, the Scissors.

That was a time when Alkaline Trio were the hometown heroes of Wrigleyville and the Plain white Ts played louder and harder on stage than their records would have you believe, before Delilah was even a thought. I will admit that I really stopped listening to them after Delilah hit the airwaves. I knew them before they were big.

That brings me to a strange occurrence that happened after my son was born. My wife had just delivered him via cesarean and I was patiently waiting to be able to hold him in the nursery while he screamed away getting his initial exam stuff done with. When I finally got to hold him, he quieted down a little and I could hear that the nurses had a radio on. Right as he entered my arms the Plain White Ts came on with their song “1,2,3,4”. Super sweet and sappy. It was a ripple from my youth here to coincide with this monumental moment of adulthood: the birth of my second child.

I laughed to myself, told him,”hey kiddo, your dad used to be cool and knew these guys on the radio.” This is our song now and I get a little emotional every time I hear it. To be honest, I become full on emo and shed a single tear. Even stranger than that, they have been on Sesame Street and I get to tell my daughter that dad knew those Letter T muppets. Suddenly I am cool again. All because of a band I used to listen to and chat with at shows that I thought weren’t cool anymore when they got famous. The world is a strange, strange place.

recommended track list:
The Plain White Ts: Stop, 1,2,3,4, Sesame Street clip
Alkaline Trio: Stupid Kid
The Pechanios: anything you can find
Stale Chofli: same^
The Scissors: Riv Rat Rob