My Britney Spears Moment

I know. Comparisons are odious. But sometimes they just happen. Take me and Britney Spears. She and I are the same age. She has always been out there, some weird unparallel parallel.  The measure of the awkwardness of my adolescence.

 1999: Hamming up the girl-next-door-turned-star act, she got taken on a shopping spree by some hip New York designer.  I hung out the bridge over Ravenna park in my mom’s old dust-colored Gortex coat and believed I was invisible.

2000: Dress like Britney Spears! the magazines suggested. I was the superior and awkward college kid in the check-out line, noting the irony and the constructed construct of the pop star.

2001: She was dancing in those ads for Pepsi. I watched them awkwardly with my mother in the suburban theater where I did not want to be.

(Then years with no Britney moments.  This was a good sign, I think.)

And then, 2006: I was at home at my parents’ indefinitely, done with grad school, lost in writing my novel, with no romantic prospects or clear sense of where I was going. I was restless and vicious and lonely. I went online one day and the AOL headline blared, “OOPS I DID IT AGAIN!” What do you know: Britney was pregnant with her second kid.



And then I stopped. Self, don’t compare yourself to Britney Spears, I told myself.

But maybe that was premature: pretty soon after that, she went seriously downhill. I didn’t follow her personal issues. My next Britney moment was of sitting on my awesome Alder St. roof deck in the sunshine while Toxic whined out of some neighbors window.  What the heck is that crap? It’s a beautiful day, was my review.

Now, I am back at my parents’ at the end of another restless, vicious, lonely day. They hit you sometimes, you know? Britney is selling some house for $2 million bucks and the newspapers are commenting on her sweatpants.  Hell, it’s all life.

Britney Spears Britney Spears spends the day laying out poolside at the Ritz Carlton in Marina Del Rey with her two sons Preston and Jayden. Both boys showed off new buzz cuts for summer and played with sail boats in the water.


Classic Rock

Have you ever noticed how the classic rock station always plays the same songs? I realize there aren’t any new classic rock songs for them to put on, but there have to be some neglected gems.  I was thinking about this the other day, while I was in my dad’s wood shop sharpening a hoe.

I was preparing to take on the waist high buttercups in the raspberry patch, and needed to turn that hoe from a bludgeoning instrument into a chopping one.

“Dad?” I asked,  “How do I sharpen a hoe?”

He was on the phone with the repair shop that had his truck.  “Flat file,” he hissed.  I went out to his shop.  I switched on the lights, and the radio came on too, as it always does.  It was tuned, as it always is, to the classic rock station.  KZOK FM.  I dug around in my dad’s toolbox for something I might call a flat file, and began rasping away on the hoe blade. Literally. Luckily, my dad came out a minute later.

“That’s a rasp. For wood.  See the big teeth? You need a file, like this.” And he put the hoe in a vise, showed me the right angle and stroke with the file, warned me not to knick my knuckles, and wandered out again.

I set to filing.  On the radio, a guitar solo was trying to blow my mind. It was wasted on me, like the genius of a mosquito or a lawnmower is wasted on me. The shop smelled like sawdust and linseed oil and garbage. One of the dogs was lying in the sawdust pile, the other nosing around the trash can.  It’s been like this forever, I thought.  The same smells, the same music, my dad.  All of my life, my dad has been listening to the same 150 songs.

Rocking out with my dad, circa 1982

Except for a brief time in the ’90’s when he had a Peruvian panpipe album he’d bought at Folklife and a didgeridoo CD we used to clean the house to, to my knowledge my dad has pretty much just listened to classic rock.  Also, there was the period, after my dad got in a fender-bender, when his little silver Saab hatchback named Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang was stuck on the classical station and wouldn’t turn off.  This was before he had the truck, so when he had firewood he wanted to bring in he had to load it into Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.  I remember being down on the road heaving rounds of wood into that snazzy little car, my dad chainsawing up a downed tree, opera blaring.  The neighbors drove by real slow in their trucks.  We’ve never quite blended in in this neighborhood.

But even during the opera period, the radio in my dad’s shop was tuned to KZOK.  Those same 150 songs.  As if it isn’t music, but an identity, a canon of belonging, the soundtrack that ties my father in his shop to all the other men in their shops, and this year to last year and to those long ago years when that music wasn’t classic rock at all but a bunch of guys blowing my dad’s young mind with their electric guitars.  And maybe I’m just feeling some Father’s Day sentimentality, but I hope my dad is still listening to those songs and tinkering in his shop when he’s and old, old man.


Remember when I got my Squinch? This picture was taken a whole year ago.  Everyone in it has grown.

Aidan is taller, burlier, occasionally surlier, but generally just as awesome to be around.

Jack is a flour sack.  Fifty pounds of pure, wholegrain love and neck licking.

Squinchy is an existential otter-fox, immortalized in song and beloved by two year olds.  His nose and ears have both grown pointy.

I’ve grown too, though mostly on the inside.  You can tell, though, because of my hair.  That’s my insides growing outwards.