A few days ago, as Archer and I were driving somewhere in the car, he asked me this question clear out of the blue: If you could live forever, what would you want to accomplish?
I have seldom heard a more profound question, and I told him so. After a moment’s thought, the answer that popped into my head — and from then until now, the only real answer that has occurred to me — was, “Help people use the Earth more responsibly.”
I do my part: I recycle, I drive a fuel-economical car, I vote in favor of open-space measures, I turn off lights, and so on. But that’s armchair environmentalism. Archer’s question, and my surprising reply, makes me think maybe it’s time to start doing more. I don’t expect to live forever, but I do hope my descendants will. Shouldn’t I act as if that’s the same thing?
Jonah and Archer, ages 9 and 7, recently had occasion to watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. They thought it was hilarious and quoted it around the house for a few days.
A week or so after they saw it there was this conversation between them:
Archer: What was Bill and Ted’s favorite number again?
Jonah [authoritatively]: Sixty-eight.
Archer [puzzled]: Sixty-eight?
Jonah: Yep. Sixty-eight. …It might have been seventy-eight.
Archer: I don’t get what’s funny about that.
Jonah: Me neither. But it was definitely either seventy-eight or sixty-eight.
Yesterday Andrea and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary (and our twenty-first year of togetherness). To get some alone time, we packed the kids off to the house of some friends.
I asked them to get together the things they’d need for an overnight. They disappeared into their room and came back out into the living room a minute later with an armload of stuff apiece. But Jonah forgot his socks, and he was feeling lazy, so he said to Archer, “If you go get me some socks, I’ll give you…” (and here he thought for a moment) “…a hug!”
Archer said, “OK!” at once and disappeared back into their room — whereupon Jonah leaned over to me and whispered, “I’m actually going to give him a hug and a kiss!”
Over dinner the other night, Andrea and I were gushing to our kids about how wonderful they are. “We’re so proud of you guys,” we told them. “You’re smart, you’re funny, you’re polite, you’re thoughtful. We’re very lucky to have two such wonderful boys.” They seemed indifferent to our praise, so, curious to know how and whether they valued their own attributes, I turned first to Archer and asked, “What’s your favorite thing about yourself?”
It took him just a beat to answer definitively, “My wiener.”
Hey, he’s only saying what the rest of us are thinking.
Earlier this summer I took Jonah to a birthday party at a local park. At one point I found him strolling with his friend Jude, each of them holding wads of paper napkins, dripping wet. On closer inspection I could see that the napkins were wrapped around pieces of ice they’d taken from the beverage cooler. I asked Jonah what he was doing.
Briefly noted, since I haven’t managed to do any proper blogging this past week:
Roger Moore (who played The Saint on TV in the 1960′s) is behind a new push to revive The Saint yet again. Although he’s in good company (e.g., Barry Levinson), if past performance is any guarantee of future results, the new Saint will be sucktastic, at least compared to the canonical pulp-novella Saint from the 1930′s.
Strangeness update: the closer we get to consummating the Microsoft acquisition of Danger, the more I feel like Charles in the classic Ray Bradbury story, “Fever Dream.”
They stole my idea: the celebrated guerrilla-performance-art group Improv Everywhere planted sixteen “agents” in the food court of a Los Angeles shopping mall. At a signal, they suddenly staged a musical amid unsuspecting shoppers. Many years ago, in college, I tried to sell my friend Steve on the same idea: I wanted to perform the “Moses Supposes” number from Singin’ in the Rain in the school cafeteria. The main difference between me and Improv Everywhere is that they actually execute their hare-brained schemes…
Me: It’s a homework night. (for Jonah) Jonah: Aww. Archer: Yippee! Jonah: Wouldn’t you rather play with me, than me doing homework? Archer, leaning forward and whispering: Then I can play with your toys.
Most mornings, Archer and I drive Jonah to kindergarten, and then I drive Archer to his preschool. We have recently developed a ritual for that second leg: we each chew a piece of gum, spitting it out when we arrive. Here’s how Archer chose to stage that ritual last Wednesday: “You give me the gum and I open it and take one myself, then I close it and give it to you and you take one. I unwrapper [sic] mine and you unwrapper yours and throw your wrapper away in the garbage. When we get to preschool you spit your gum into my wrapper and I spit my gum into my wrapper too. You spit yours first.”
Jonah, who’s been learning about Europe in kindergarten, identified Italy (the “boot-shaped country”) on a map. Trying to recall the name of the island off the tip of the “boot” — Sicily — he ventured, “Shitaly?”
While trying to get a reluctant Archer to go to sleep:
Archer: What if a boot came down a slide and kicked someone off? Me: Then you’d have to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. Are you OK?” Archer: Why? Me: Well if you throw a boot down a slide and it hits someone, you have to apologize. Archer: What if I didn’t throw the boot? Me: Then no boot would go down the slide and hit someone. Archer: What if it did? Me: Well boots don’t go down slides by themselves! Archer: Why? Me: They’re inanimate. They don’t move unless someone makes them move. Archer: What if it went down the slide by itself? Me: That would be one amazing boot. Archer: What if it kicked someone? Me: Then that person would probably say, “Hey, who threw that boot?!” Archer: But no one did. Me: Right.
That satisfied him, and he rolled over and went to sleep.
Andrea took the kids to the city today. They went to the California Academy of Sciences, had lunch at Buca di Beppo, walked around the waterfront, and generally had a fun time. But at one point things turned ugly when Jonah refused to listen to Andrea and started running away from her, and Andrea had to read him the riot act. It escalated from there and, in the ensuing argument, Jonah angrily hurled this statement:
“I’m eleventy feet mad at you!”
A little later in the same argument Jonah had composed himself enough to construct some plausible deniability:
“Mommy, you have to calm down. You disturbed my thinking when I was running down the hill.”
Four and a half years old, ladies and gentlemen, and already mastering the rhetorical technique of deflecting blame onto the accuser! That’s-a my boy.