Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Life in a Bowl of Cereal

Everybody loves breakfast cereal.  Talking about it, that is. Folks get a dreamy, faraway look in their eyes like they’re remembering their first kiss.  Or puppy.  Or car. And then they begin rhapsodizing about Alpha Bits or Boo Berry.
            Next time you need a conversation starter, give it a try.  In fact, you can try it out with me right now.  Like this: “What was your favorite brand of cereal growing up?”
            Thanks for asking.  Here’s my entire breakfast cereal dossier.
            Age 6 through 9: In descending order of preference – Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Raisin Bran (Kellogg’s not Post) and Cheerios.  All with enough sugar added to create slimy silvery milk goop.
            Age 10 through 12:  Cap’n Crunch. Multiple refills until the original milk – increasingly thick, grainy and orange – finally disappeared.
            Age 13:  Kix.  Life.  Cocoa Krispies.  Lucky Charms (charms only).
            Age 14: Cap’n Crunch.  Heroin. Relapse.
            Age 15 through 17:  Grape Nuts.  Wheat Chex (normally part of a nutritious breakfast but only as part of a snack mix to accompany soda).
            Age 18 through 21:  Grape Nuts.  Wheat Chex (again, only as part of a snack mix; this time to accompany beer).
            Age 22 through 25:  "Who has time for breakfast?"
            Age 26 through 29:  Honey Nut Cheerios.  For breakfast, for snack, for pre-party hangover-prevention, for after-party midnight snack, for morning-after hangover cure, for…
            Age 30:  Quaker Shredded Wheat
            Age 31 to 49:  Barbara’s Shredded Oats
            Never:   Frosted Flakes, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Trix, Froot Loops, Cocoa Puffs, Special K.  Or anything cinnamon-y.  Or apple-y.
            Now:  I stick mostly to oatmeal.  Although (shhh, this is a secretI recently bought a box of Cap’n Crunch, drove it home, sneaked it into the house, hid it in a cupboard and enjoyed a bowl late at night when nobody was watching.  With vanilla soymilk.  Yum.  
            Then, later:  Yuck.  My teeth hurt.
            What is your favorite cold cereal?

Monday, January 14, 2013

So, Kick Back, Dig, While We Do It To You In Your Eardrums*

           His headphones are semi-permanently attached to the sides of his head.  This is funny to me because – back in my “day” – nobody would be caught dead wearing headphones.  Except in the privacy of one’s room or when forced to do so, like in French lab.
            Which may be why despite three years of high school French I can’t speak a word except the entire first dialogue from my first year in Mrs. Liskey’s class:
            Q:  Ou est Philippe?
            A:  Phillipe est a la bibliotheque.  
            Q:  Avec qui?
            A:  Avec Anne.
            But I digress.  At breakfast yesterday I asked my darling old-enough-to-have-a-driver's-license teenager to remove his headphones.  Here’s how the dialogue went:
            Him:  No
            Me:  Why?
            Him:  Because I don’t want to talk.
            Me:  It’s just you and me.  Please can we talk?
            Him:  No.
            Me:  Why?
            Him:  Because I don’t want to talk to you.  I don’t like talking to my parents.  Sometimes I do.  But right now I don’t want to.
            Me:  Well, that’s sort of disturbing.  (Note:  Here I am wondering – as any responsible parent would – if this sort of thing constitutes antisocial behavior that could be a sign of something serious.)
            Him:  What do you mean disturbing? (Note:  He says this while squinting at me as if to say “You don’t really think I’m hoarding weapons and planning an assault on innocent tourists from atop Coit Tower?”)
            Me:  Well, that sort of behavior.  You know, disturbing behavior.
            Him:  You mean typical teenage behavior?  All teenagers do this.  Nobody wants to talk to their parents.  Really.  (Note:  He is shrugging, eye rolling, sighing.  He repositions the headphones so that one earpiece is resting on his hair instead of his ear.  A compromise.)
            Me:  Point taken. 
            Back in my “day” (yes, again, I know) I ignored my parents entirely during my four years of high school (and, come to think of it, for my four years of college and the four years after college, but that’s another tale).
            And what was I doing during those four years of high school?  I was in my love-bead-and-poster-laden room in the basement lying in bed with a pair of headphones on.  Listening to the Rolling Stones, Parliament and Frank Zappa.    If my parents had heard the lyrics to the stuff I was hearing they would certainly have been concerned.  As I’m sure I would be concerned if I could hear the lyrics to the stuff my son is hearing under his headphones now.
            But just because Mick Jagger was singing about hiding speed in his shoe and getting his nose blown didn’t mean I was going to smuggle or use drugs.  Though I certainly fantasized about it.
            And just because George Clinton advocated getting funked up didn’t mean I was seeking an interracial love affair.  Though I would have said yes if anyone had asked, despite the fact that it would have caused quite a stir, given the place and time (the rural South in the early 70s).
            And just because Frank Zappa described a zipless fuck on the floor with a Tarot-throwing rancid-poncho-wearing redhead didn’t mean I was going to dye my hair.  You see, given the place and time, this would have caused a bigger stir than an interracial love affair.
            The things I heard under the headphones revealed to me multiple alternative universes.  Any depraved or wondrous thing I could imagine (or would never have imagined in a million years without my headphones) was possible.
            After I took the posters down and put the headphones aside I made many, many poor choices, but it all worked out.  I’m now a responsible adult with a life full of love and two beautiful nearly-grown children.
            It’ll be interesting to hear what they have to say if and when they’re ready to talk to me.
           **from “P Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”