Friday, July 31, 2009

Karl the Curmudgeon Deals With His Grandson

Karl the Curmudgeon Deals With His Grandson

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2009

"Kid, I need your help," said the voice on the other end of the phone. It was Karl, my friend and part-time curmudgeon. "Come over to the house. I've got a problem."

Karl met me at the door and led me to the back porch where I saw a spotty-looking youth, dressed all in black, glaring out at the back fence, as if daring it to make a move.

"Kid, this is Kevin, my grandson. Kevin, this is the Kid."

Kevin looked at me suspiciously, as if I were about to harsh his happy, or whatever the young kids are calling disappointment these days.

What's the problem, Karl?

"Kevin is having some problems with his parents right now, so he left home in a show of defiance. I wanted to see if you could talk some sense into him. I figured since you're the same age as his dad, you might be able to offer an outsider's viewpoint."

So what's the matter? I said, sitting down in one of Karl's lawn chairs. Karl handed me a beer, and Kevin a Coke.

"My parents just don't understand me," said Kevin, plonking his Coke on the patio table. "They don't know how hard it is to be a teenager. They don't understand what my life is like, and they can't relate to me."

Give me an example, I said.

"Well, I was listening to some Blink-182 in my room, when my dad pounded on the door and told me to turn down that noise. Then he started to lecture me on how my music was crap, and that my bands are just talentless slugs compared to the music he listened to when he was a kid."

And how is that a problem? Every kid goes through that. Every parent goes through it too. Believe it or not, your parents went through the same problems with their choice of music and lifestyle.

"No way," said Kevin. "My parents grew up in the 70s and 80s, this is the, uh, zeros. It's way different!"

Kevin, I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

"Then you don't understand either!" Kevin almost shouted. "You didn't listen to the same music, wear the same clothes, or face the same problems."

Actually, I have to go with your father on the whole music thing.

"Figures," he muttered.

Do your bands have piercings?

"Absolutely," he said. "Pierced eyebrows, noses, lips, tongues."

And body art? Lots of tattoos, I suppose.

"Oh yeah, great tattoos."

Piercings done in a safe, sterile environment by a trained professional, and tattoos done with clean needles also by a trained professional?

"Yeah, so?" he said.

Junior, I said, tagging him with a new nickname, in the 70s and 80s, our bands didn't have sterile piercing salons or trained tattoo artists. The fans didn't go in for it either.

"See? I knew it!" he said. I shushed him and continued.

I was a KISS fan in 1978. Do you know who they are?

"The dad from Gene Simmons' 'Family Jewels,' right?"

Right, but before that, he was the blood-spitting, fire-breathing bassist for KISS. Does Blink-182 breathe fire or spit blood, Junior?

"Uh, no, I guess not."

Ever heard of the Sex Pistols? They're the godfathers of punk. And both the fans and the musicians didn't go in for your namby-pamby sterile piercing parlors. If a punk wanted a piercing, he shoved a safety pin through his cheek and fastened it at the corner of his mouth. Sid Vicious never went in for tattoos. Instead, he once carved "Gimme a fix" on his chest with a razor.

You think you're hard core just because your parents' music is 30 years old? Junior, you don't know what the meaning of hard core is. Hardcore is not gold-plated piercings and concerts with corporate sponsors. Hardcore is getting into fights with your audience and smashing up the offices of record labels that just signed you.

Kevin just stared at me, open-mouthed. I could tell this was quite a blow to the image he had of his parents.

"I, uh, I gotta call my folks," he said, walking into the house.

Karl clapped me on the shoulder. "See Kid, I knew you could do it. Not quite what I had envisioned, but the end justify the means."

No problem, Karl. Hey, what kind of music did his parents listen to.

"Oh, my son was quite the Pat Benatar fan when he was growing up. He was quite the little rocker. We had to pound on his bedroom door more than once."

Yeah, I can totally see that.

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