In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
I persist in my efforts to expose the kids to American classics. Last weekend High School Friend on Right Ocean, a chemical engineer who is also a jazz saxophonist, came to visit along with his wife. He brought his alto and soprano saxes, and led The Boy and The Girl in a jam session in the family room. HSFRO played soprano, TB played alto, and TG played piano on “Blues Walk,” by Clifford Brown, and “Sonnymoon for Two,” by Sonny Rollins. They didn’t have any sheet music, so TB and TG had to figure out the notes. Which they did.
Jazz may be well past its prime as a cultural form, but I apologize to nobody for exposing the kids to Sonny Rollins.
For the Fourth, we took the kids to Boston to expose them to Fenway Park and the Freedom Trail, two more American classics.
Aside from an unremitting and indecently strong heat wave, it went beautifully. TG picked up a stuffed “Wally,” the Red Sox mascot based loosely on the Green Monster. I hadn’t realized just how small Fenway actually is. I grew up going to Rochester Red Wings games in the old Silver Stadium -- the one that eventually closed due to pigeon droppings -- and Fenway didn’t feel that much bigger.
We saw them play the San Diego Padres. The Sox won on a pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth. I couldn’t have asked for a better game. The Boy’s favorite player, Jon Lester, pitched, and pitched well. Several players doubled off the Green Monster, which seemed appropriate. And TG got her ice cream in a batting helmet.
Despite the heat, we decided to do the guided tour of the Freedom Trail. I felt bad for our tour guide, who wore a wool overcoat and hat despite Satan’s Sweatsock levels of heat and humidity.
If you haven’t done the Trail, it’s worth doing. The tour guides slip in and out of character as appropriate, and the sights are worth seeing. Paul Revere’s grave! The site of the Boston Massacre! The kids were shocked when the tour guide referred to Christmas celebrations as “Catholic superstition,” but that was appropriate to his character.
Sometimes the clashes of old and new led to unintentional comedy. At the site of the Boston Massacre, the guide noted that the building across the way was the British customs house, the most reviled building in Boston. Now, by contrast, it’s...a Bank of America. Some things just don’t change.
For once, I even got to trot out some of my old political theory training. The guide mentioned John Locke and his theory of “life, liberty, and..,” and the crowd said “pursuit of happiness!” I said “property!” The guide looked surprised that I knew that. The kids were suitably impressed. Yes, reader, I quoted Locke to impress the kids. Because that’s how we roll.
We wrapped it up with a visit to the MIT campus and science museum. The Boy was impressed at the posters for the campus Quidditch league, and we made sure to take pictures in all of the places you’d expect. If you haven’t seen the MIT museum, I recommend it. The building doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s bigger than it looks, and the second story is seriously cool. It has an impressive hologram collection, a nifty exhibit of machines as art, and an arresting collection of photographs of human settlements in extreme climates. TB was like a pig in mud.
Holograms may not be old enough to be American classics, but they’ll get there. And the sight of a twelve year old boy’s face open in undisguised wonder is a classic in any culture.