2. Hemingway, Old Key West, Cuba. I was in this enormous fishing store the other day, and there in the middle was the fishing yacht PILAR, made famous in Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". It had become a minor Hemingway museum, with lots of pictures, posters, portraits and the like festooning what was still (it was a 76 year old boat) a beautiful vessel. Looking at all those pictures of Papa, I envied him...that he got to experience Key West and Havana in the 30's/40's/and 50's--places that are now mere remnants of their former coolness. Kitschy and done up, the Florida Keys stretch out before you as a monument to the strip mall, spliced together with thin bridges and state parks. Havana may still have some of the old charm, but my sense is that 60 years of Communism has taken some of the bloom off the rose.
Where are the "way cool" places today, places where 50 years from now people will be saying "I wish I experienced that?". If I knew where some of them were, I'd visit them now. I'm not looking for "cool" as in "popular" or "pretentious"--I'm thinking about it in terms of uniqueness and stylishness, places where there is a vibe that seemingly belongs to that place and that place alone. If any of you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
3. On my failings as a father, sort of. Many of you know that the Kitten has two little girls, one 9 and one 7. Their Dad died when they were both under 2, and I guess at this point, I'm about as close to a father as they've ever had...though that isn't saying much, as I've found yet another thing that I really don't think I'm too good at. I grew up in a family with four brothers and a sister--we basically had someone to play with ALL the time---and that person was almost NEVER Mom or Dad. They just didn't DO that (at least not to my memory--though my family is free to chime in). Mom and Dad raised us--they occasionally did things with us, but the bottom line around our house was that the kids occupied themselves, and that complaints about being bored were met with statements like "read a book", something that I took them up with quite a bit. I now find myself utterly unprepared for a society in which it appears to me that most people expect that I am to be the playmate of these two lovely girls. I know I don't rise on the Kitten's list when i tell them "play with your sister" or worse yet, say "absolutely" when they ask if they can watch TV. I have no model for this role, I have no sense of how its done--worse yet, I'm not sure I have any desire for it. I couldn't WAIT to grow up when I was a kid (ask my brothers). I started drinking coffee when I was 8. I watched the Republican National Convention coverage on TV when I was 7. Plain truth is, I wasn't too thrilled with life as a kid when I was one--there was SO MUCH MORE out there for adults....and now that I am an adult, doing "kid" things now is even less thrilling.
Was in the Keys this weekend with two great families, each with a modern day giant of a Dad at the helm (I had huge Woody Allen like bouts of patrimonial inadequacy). The ladies left us to go shopping about midday today, and the three of us found ourselves sitting around a table enjoying a conversation. Toward the end of the conversation, one of the guys says to the two of us, "well, we probably ought to go and find something for the kids to do--they're awfully quiet up there--I'll bet they are watching TV." The wheels began to turn in my brain immediately. I said none of this aloud (of course--I'm not a Dad--I have no standing), but I thought, "Wait a minute--there are six children here between the ages of 5-9. I have a feeling that if properly motivated, they'll entertain themselves in fine form." I was enjoying this moment of adult conversation, and I couldn't see why it wouldn't go on for a good bit more of time. But this is not the way of modern fatherhood. The modern father sees television as much as an evil as his spouse does. The modern father creates treasure hunts, organizes games, builds forts....and the like. I'm sure my Dad did this stuff--but what made it special is that he RARELY did it. He was busy doing DAD things. Are there "DAD" things anymore?