Monday, February 15, 2010

Of neckchins and thumb-sucking

Our little family unit took Valentine’s Day a day early this year. Me and The Missus dropped The Boy off with The Last Boy Scout, his mom and two little girls and went to the local art house theater to see “Crazy Heart.”

I was not terribly into the movie initially, but it’s been growing sweeter and smoother in my memory ever since. I figured Jeff Bridges would acquit himself nicely in a role that sounded like The Dude meets Hank Williams. But who knew Colin Farrell could act, let alone sing American country & western music convincingly? This move is full of little revelations. Between Bridges’ lived-in performance of what press notes describe as basically “the fifth Highwayman,” the fact that I know the world of spiraling-down-on-their-luck musicians backwards and forwards plus the welcoming vibe created by the film’s soundtrack, this is the little movie I can’t shake. Maybe it was the Townes Van Zandt tune playing in the background of one scene...

I even went on the iTunes to try to buy a copy of Bridges singing the movie’s title track only to find, not without some appreciation of the irony, the song was only available in a weeping-strings-laden version by its author. I wish they had offered a Bridges version and an acoustic version by the songwriter, one Ryan Bingham. But if wishes were fishes, beggars would float. Or sink. Or something. That metaphor always gets away from me.

Anyway, the movie really worked for me. I bought Bingham’s tarted-up version of the title track out of respect for the songwriting and I look forward to Mr. Bridges’ acceptance speech come Oscar night. Remember the Academy loves to reward films about principals with handicaps, and what handicap can anyone in showbiz relate to more easily than substance abuse? Bridges is a virtual lock.

But oops, I got off track. What does any of this have to do with neckchins? Or thumb-sucking, for that matter?

After the movie (and the fine meal that preceded it), we picked up The Boy and thanked his hosts sincerely. I accidentally gave TLBS the wrong mix disc, containing a batch of songs he is bound to hate, but his mom seemed to genuinely appreciate the flowers we brought her, so it was a wash on the gratuities front. TLBS should listen to more Tom Waits anyhow. Goddammit, he’s our Leonard Cohen. I guess every country gets the Leonard Cohen they deserve. Oh, Canada…

Anyhow, later that night, TLBS sent in a report on his babysitting stint that included the following about our sometimes-reticent scion. His daughter, the same age as our son, discussing him as if he were a science experiment: “He talked a lot today, and he didn’t suck his thumb at all, the whole day.”

This morning during couch-time I told him about his peer’s comment, and as I spoke, he pulled his thumb out of his mouth. Which led to a big talk about thumb-sucking in general. “Who else at school sucks their thumb?” “Just Me.” “That’s right. Because all the other kids used to do it but stopped when they weren’t babies anymore, huh?” “Yeah...” And so forth for quite a while. We ended up agreeing that thumb-sucking really was a baby thing to do, and that he is certainly no longer a baby. (Thank you, fragile male ego!)

It was one of those talks I’ve been dreading but still waiting for an opportunity to present itself to tackle. 

We ended agreeing that starting now, there will be no thumb-sucking in public. Once that starts to stick, we’ll work on cutting it out altogether.

But it got me to thinking. I was asking him to do something pretty tough. When The Missus got up we talked to her about it, and she jumped on board, adding that I, his very Daddy, had had to quit a lot of stuff that I used to like to do, too.

Instinctively sensing an opportunity to turn the conversation toward myself, I lept. I told him that there was still one bad habit Daddy had that he could use to quit. I’m sure The Missus was trying to figure out which one I had narrowed it down to.

I was thinking of the drawing he had made a couple nights before (see inset). The Missus had brought it in to show me (she is his creative engine but I, apparently, am his muse, at least when he’s not drawing super-villains and exploding eyeballs). She told me how he had explained what he was doing as he sketched it out, body-part by body-part. Nose, eyes, ears, you get the idea.

She was especially impressed with the scruff of Beaker-esque hair (that’s how we knew it was a picture of me), and the neck, which as she pointed out, looked like a real drawing of a neck, not a childish stick-neck. She complimented him on this and he corrected, “No, that’s a neckchin.” Just like Daddy.

Oh man I hate my neckchin. And I blame it all the Dew®.

I’ve shrugged off most of my other major monkeys over the years, but the soda pop lingers. The social stigma just hasn’t been strong enough to motivate me to quit.

But all it does is make me fat and it’s hell on my teeth, too, according to my dentist. And she doesn’t even know we’re discussing Mountain Dew, which is like drinking a sweetened industrial solvent. It even looks radioactive. It literally does nothing but further destroy my teeth, fatten me up and make me jumpy and irritable. And a likelier candidate for adult-onset diabetes.

God, I love the stuff.

It’s also the current oral-compulsive element of my creative process. I can’t imagine what I would replace it with.

And I am just plain psychologically strung-out on the stuff. Every morning starts with a mental calculation of what time I need to put the Mountain Dew in the freezer to have it at peak slushiness by the time The Missus and The Boy are scheduled to leave that day.

Classic junkie behavior.

But the neckchin thing was, hopefully, my wake-up call. I’m gonna try to make it that. If not for me, for The Boy. He shouldn’t have to go through life thinking there is a body-part called neckchins and that they are okay to have.

So I expressed the Dad-to-4-year-old version of this whole sorry situation to The Boy and proposed that I tried to quit doing my bad thing at the same time as he tried to quit doing his. He seemed reassured by the idea that he wouldn’t be taking this unwelcome journey of self-denial alone.

So we’re both starting out the same way. None of our respective “that”s in public any more, with the understanding that the goal is eventually none of those thats in private anymore, either.

Maybe there’s even a movie to be made of this. As I noted earlier, the Academy just eats up stories of triumph over addiction; throw in the father/son angle, a couple Townes Van Zandt tunes and we’re practically guaranteed to go home with the gold. And not just in my fillings.


Blogger Carrie Lofty said...

Colin Farrel is actually very good. I bet pretty boys, bad boys, etc. have as much difficulty proving that as beautiful women. If you haven't seen In Bruges, go do so immediately--if only for Ralph Fiennes shockingly different performance. But the whole show belongs to Colin.

7:58 AM

Blogger ClizBiz said...

Yeah, my Dad had to finally give up his precious 'Whiskey Dews' for the same reason.

Thanks for the insight on the 'Crazy Heart.' We were going to see it on Valentine's Day but heard that it's kind of dark and depressing and settled on 'Super Troopers' instead.

11:37 AM

Blogger JustThinking said...

Good luck to you on your quit and to The Boy too, I've quit both, and I'm not sure which was harder to give up!

8:47 PM


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