On the VMAs, Tweeting, Miley Cyrus and Keeping My Minions Off the Pole

Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening and/or Night, fellow Sh*theads. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I spent last night after my minions went to bed sitting in my living room with my wife, Nicole, drinking raspberry lemonade, Tweeting and watching the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs for short). Why? Morbid curiosity and a dearth of things to watch on Sunday nights now that “The Killing” is over and “The Walking Dead” is still a few weeks away. I hadn’t watched a full VMAs in over a decade and admittedly, the idea of seeing how much it’s changed since my days of watching it for acts like Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chili Peppers really appealed to me. Like I said: Morbid curiosity. And Justin Timberlake. FYI: I think JT is the f*cking bomb. That’s a little known fact about me that I hope doesn’t ruin my “street cred.”

He didn’t disappoint (though I could have done without the N’Sync mini-reunion) but that’s not why I’m writing this blog entry, right now. I made it through Lady Gaga’s opening performance unscarred though admittedly, I got really sick of seeing her in the audience wearing her shell bikini all night. Taylor Swift, too. I know that Miss Swift is “in” right now but seriously, someone PLEASE feed her a sandwich. It pains me to look at her emaciated figure.

Post-Gaga, they gave out the first award which went to an “ar-teest” I’ve never heard of before and then? Then? Oh my goodness, then. I can’t describe it. You simply have to see it for yourselves if you haven’t yet. And here it is for your… ahem… viewing pleasure, sarcasm 150 percent fully intended:

Like I said: There are no words. Nada. Zilcho. Zip-a-rooni. If you follow me on Twitter (@madchronicler97) and were keeping up with my feed last night well? This particular Tweet says it all:

Why is Hannah Montana on stage in a bathing suit, dancing with teddy bears? #ThingsIthinkIthink while watching the #VMAs. 

And this one, which followed it a few moments later:

“WTF IS this?” #ThingsIthinkIthink AND VOCALIZE to @CarasMomma while watching the #VMAs. 

BTW, @CarasMomma is my wife’s Twitter handle. I highly recommend following her as she tempers my oft-times insane, subjective Twitterverse that centers around sports and books with a much more restrained one of her own that circulates around @adamlevine and pharmacy memes. She’s funny. Here’s a sample of her “work”:

I’m going to be defeated by a 1 year old today. Her super power of whining will indeed win out. 

Seriously, guys: Check her out. She deserves to feel as loved in her own, subjective Twitterverse as I feel in mine. End parenthetical aside.

What is it with these once-Disney Channel superstars post-their Disney Channel careers? Miley Cyrus, alias “Hannah Montana,” Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears et al. In truth? JT may be the only one that left the Mouse House and went onto a scandal-free, successful career. The rest of ’em? It’s like they’re the… to employ a much overused yet highly relevant cliche, “the cat’s meow” pre-leaving. They’re the “next big thing.” Then they leave and embark on careers sans-the overbearing influence of the Disney Powers-That-Be and within a couple of years, they’re in rehab, or posing for Penthouse, or in Miley’s case, copulating with Robin Thicke and a foam finger while wearing a gold bikini that looks like something out of Cheryl Tieg’s closet circa 1976. WTF?

It makes no sense to me. Maybe the old adage about finding fame young is true. Maybe it really does destroy people like Miley. I can’t imagine that a teenager or a pre-teen… a “tween” is equipped to cope with all that comes with stardom. But for every train wreck like Miss Party in the USA there’s an Emma Watson, who started playing Hermoine in the Harry Potter movies at the ripe, young age of 11 and managed to come out of the experience not just unscathed, but more mature and well-rounded than most teenagers I knew growing up. For every Amanda Bynes there’s an Emma Stone who found success early, and is now at 20-something one of the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood.

Maybe “Hermoine” and “Easy A” are the exceptions to the adage. For every child “ar-teest” that went onto a successful, adult career there’s a half a dozen Macaulay Culkins and Jodie Sweetins. Mind you, my interest in this kind of thing is purely limited to what I hear about from my co-workers and read in my wife’s Twitter feed. But admittedly, I’m a bit… I wouldn’t say concerned about it but perturbed? Most definitely.

Consider that last night, I had a dream. As near as I can tell I had it sometime between when I passed out around midnight and when smallish bear woke up briefly at 2:30 AM. In it, I was at a diner with Miley Cyrus post-her VMA performance and I questioned her… for lack of a better (and less repetitive term) questionable acts in pursuit of her “art,” i.e. dry-humping the guy who sings “Blurred Lines” and simulating masturbation with a foam, nail polished finger. Her response was to tell me that she didn’t give a sh*t what I thought. She proceeded to call security and have me thrown out of the diner. The fact that the security guards were all zombies ala “The Walking Dead” was just an extra added bonus, as was the crossbow I magically had on my person and used to eliminate said “biters” before I turned back and saw that Miley was gone. Then, I woke up. True story, guys. I rarely remember my dreams but that one? It stuck with me, and I’ve been dying… no pun intended… to write it down all day.

But the dream itself was supplemental to the fact that in my explanation to the former Miss Montana of why she should re-consider her raunchy “act” in the future, I brought up my own daughters, i.e. my minions, and I remembered… and still remember what Chris Rock said once upon a time: My only job as a father is to keep my daughters off the pole, i.e. the stripper pole. I pride myself on my capacity to raise them right and keep them from a life spent dry humping smelly dudes wearing stained sweatpants and fishing dollar bills out of their underwear. And Billy Ray Cyrus? He did a piss poor job of keeping his own, talented little girl off the proverbial pole. Shame on you, Billy Ray. As if “Achy Breaky Heart” wasn’t bad enough. Insert b*tch slap here.

But I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks that my minions have certain talents, likely inherited from their father and his grandfather, both once-theater geeks who sang, acted, danced and even had one or two moments of caddiness that they… that I regret, to this day. But I don’t think that I’m tooting my own horn when I say that I was talented. Perhaps I still am despite the rigors of age, cigarettes and alcohol. I caught myself singing “Jesus Christ Superstar” yesterday while driving home from my sister’s house and I’ve got to admit, I sounded pretty good. Even Cara told me so. Maybe one day I’ll re-embrace that side of my personality and fulfill my dream of playing Pilate in “JCS.” Regardless of whether I do or don’t I have to acknowledge the fact that my little ladies? They may have a career in front of them as singing, dancing and acting “ar-teests.”

Cara’s a born performer: She’s been making up songs and banging away on her little pink piano ever since she got it for Christmas a few years ago. I have a video of her singing “Call Me Maybe” that is priceless though I won’t post it here (at this point, I hope you are aware of my feelings on publicly posting pics/vids of my daughters). And Natalie? Natalie’s not even 15 months old yet and she already can sing parts of the “Caillou” theme song and the “boom, boom, boom” portion of Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I just played JT’s new single “Take Back The Night” for her earlier and she was smiling, dancing and laughing to it the entire time. It warmed my heart. It always does when I watch them perform.

But then, I think of the curse of the once-Disney Channel stars and starlets. And I think to myself, “what if one of both of MY daughters are the next face of the Mouse House?” My gut tightens and I wretch because my lone job as their father is to keep them off the f*cking pole and if that happens? Then the odds of them one day wearing a teddy bear leotard and sticking their tongues out incessantly in front of tens of millions of people increases. If the old adage about childhood fame is, in fact, true, and all evidence points to the fact that it is, then stardom = Rehab. And I don’t want that for either of my little’uns. So what do I do?

If one or both are, in fact, born performers… if it’s “what they’re meant to do” then the last thing I want to do is suppress them. What parent doesn’t want to see their child or children successful? But I also don’t want to see them 19 and Tweeting topless pictures of themselves to their million plus Twitter followers ala Miss Bynes. I don’t want them to be the featured “ar-teests” on that skank Perez Hilton’s highly overrated website. I never want the term “upskirt” associated with them. Mind you this is all speculation. I have no idea what biggish bear and smallish bear are going to be doing x-amount of years from now. The future is, of course, unwritten. “Destiny” is equivalent to laziness, i.e. it’s an excuse that people use to sit still and not work for the things that they want. But could it happen? Of course it could. Cara could be “Hannah Montana: The Next Generation” and Natalie could be Selena Gomez. So how do I resolve one with the other? If one or both have futures as “ar-teests,” how do I keep them off the pole?

By doing exactly what I’m doing, right now. By preaching “right,” decrying “wrong” and eliminating any “Blurred Lines” between the two. By fostering a love of a real “ar-teest” like Justin Timberlake who has managed to achieve super stardom, sans controversy despite his lowly beginnings as a member of the Mickey Mouse Club and later, as a member of… SIGH… N’Sync. By making sure they know who Pearl Jam and The Red Hot Chili Peppers are, despite the fact that by the time they’re “of age” Anthony Kedis and Eddie Vetter will likely be sharing a room in their local Home for Aged Persons. By introducing them to Taylor Swift’s music which is, actually, pretty good, but cautioning them against her lifestyle (or, just telling them to EAT A SANDWICH). By allowing no trace of Miley “I Was Just Impregnated By A Foam Finger,” “Hannah Montana” Cyrus to impinge upon their own, subjective universes… EVER, By blocking Amanda Bynes from their respective Twitter feeds when they’re old enough to use Twitter and all social media responsibly. By encouraging them to watch cerebral television and not just the VMAs. By reading the Harry Potter books and watching the Harry Potter movies with them, and pointing out that Hermoine is a textbook example of what a strong, young female role model looks like. By watching “Easy A” with them and making sure they understand not just the humorous subtext, but the story behind it, i.e. The Scarlet Letter.

And last but not least? That being a theater geek who sings, acts, dances and even has one or two moments of caddiness is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing so long as they keep things in perspective, and understand always that being a member, proverbial or not of the Mouse House is not necessarily a precursor to being a punchline on TMZ. Being one doesn’t give you “street cred.” No, not at all. Nada. Zilch. Zip-a-rooni. Keep your wits about you, little’uns, and don’t crush your daddy’s achy breaky heart, else I might have to roll up and bitch slap Perez Hilton.

G’Night, friends. Have a glass of raspberry lemonade on your old buddy the Madchronicler.

The Thunderstorm – A Long Overdue Appreciation

generic+umbrella+rain+storm

“I think there’s a poet who wrote once a tragedy by Shakespeare, a symphony by Beethoven and a thunderstorm are based on the same elements.”

Maximilian Schell 

It dawned on me last night–as I watched a storm roll in over my home in Broomall, Pennsylvania with my ever-enraptured oldest minion, Cara on one side of me and my youngest, I-could-give-a-sh*t-about-a-thunderstorm-I-just-want-my-ba ba minion, Natalie on the other–that I’ve been writing for years. Decades, actually. Depending on who you ask, I’ve been writing since I was between 10 and 13 years old (whenever I wrote that fully illustrated short story about meeting Bruce Springsteen; I’m still waiting for Mom to confirm). I’m now almost 38 (SHIVER). I’ve published a novel, am 118 pages deep into another and in the time between then and now I have written little to nothing about my love of a good thunderstorm. A sublime love, really. In truth? It’s one of things that I enjoy the most in my life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. All sun and no storms makes Frankie a dull boy.

Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining by Stephen King, coming soon to a bookstore near you. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. Have you?

I’m not quite sure why I’ve never written about thunderstorms before now. I can pinpoint one or two possibilities. The easiest? That some things are just too awe inspiring to explain. Sure, I can describe what a thunderstorm looks AND feels like… can write about the way everything falls silent seconds before the first drops of rain begin to fall… can ruminate at how charged the air feels, so much so that the hairs on your forearms and the nape of your neck stand on end. I can write about that smell… you know the one? That sharp, metallic smell that precedes the first lightning strike. But even that feels insufficient. For me, trying to describe a thunderstorm is like trying to describe God, or rather, my concept of what God is (not necessarily the same as yours but no worries: Variety is the spice of life). I can do so using a f*ckload of superlatives like “awe inspiring” but I’ll never get close. Some things simply defy explanation. Thunderstorms are like that.

The other possibility? Not so easy to describe, not even using superlatives. Thunderstorms are invariably linked in my mind to my Biological. Once upon a time, ’cause all good stories, and even a few of the not-so-good ones begin as such, my once-Dad was a storm chaser. Before “Storm Chasers” existed. He’d gather up his son–me–pile him… ME into whatever second hand car he was driving at the time, and drive off after the lightning and the thunder. He never used a map, nor did he use GPS (Tom-Tom and Garmin weren’t exactly in wide use back then and had they been, he wouldn’t have been able to afford them anyway). He “followed his nose.” More often times than not, his nose was pretty accurate. I can remember multiple times when we found ourselves in the middle of the nastiest part of the cell. We’d follow it as far as we could for as long as we could, until such time as either A.) We got low on gas or B.) Found our road blocked by a fallen tree or other obstacle. But he… WE never tired of the chase. If we stopped and turned around, we did so because of an extenuating circumstance or two. Never out of boredom.

Fast forward X-amount of decades to last evening as I watched a pretty nasty cell roll over my… over OUR home in Broomall, Pennsylvania. You know, the one I share with Mama Bear, Biggish Bear and Smallish Bear. Cara–Biggish Bear–has always been fascinated with thunderstorms. Never afraid of them. Quite the contrary, actually: She loves them. She loves the “ziggy-zaggy” lightning and the “s’raining, Daddy, raining!” She’s not a huge fan of thunder… she generally cringes when an unusually large clap of it shakes the house or the car, but she understands that there is something called “God” and that God–whatever your idea of him, her or it is–occasionally likes to go bowling like her Pop-Pop does. Hence “thunder,” otherwise known as the sound of God getting a Strike. As for power outages? Well, despite Broomall’s notoriously fragile power grid, we haven’t had an extensive one since Hurricane Irene rolled through back in 2011 and I prefer it that way. Cara doesn’t like the dark. Something tells me she’s going to be sleeping with her fish tank light and her desk lamp on until she’s a teenager. Oh well. Acknowledged. Time to move on.

It’s no secret to anyone that’s been following “Random Musings” in it’s newest incarnation–Version 2.0–and/or it’s earlier one–Version 1.0–that I’ve got a few well-documented Daddy Issues. I’d really rather not recap them for you, herein. If you’re curious about them (which I highly doubt but hey: To each their own), you can check out “The Man I Once Called Dad.” It’s about as comprehensive a listing as exists. It’s also one of my all time most-viewed blog entries on either version of “Random Musings.” Go fig. I guess some people were interested once upon a time. Regardless, you don’t need to be familiar with it or my psyche to understand this next part. Having kids? It’s was tough for me to initially agree to it. I’ve always wanted children, but for a time, I was standoffish about it. Why? Because I was fearful of making the same mistakes that my own father, AKA The Man I Once Called Dad AKA my Biological made with me. ‘Cause I’m a lot like him. He was… IS a writer. Me, too. He’s wordy. Me, too. He loved Stanley Kubrick’s version of “The Shining.” I maintain that it is one of the freakiest movies I’ve ever seen, albeit no where near as good as the book was. He loved… LOVES thunderstorms (I’m sure). Me? See above.

But in the end, I conceded that my misgivings about having children and my undeniable similarities (appearance wise, too) to my father were not enough to keep me on the sidelines. I wanted to be a Dad. Daddy. And now? I’m one times two. Both girls… thankfully. I’ll not lie: The idea of having a son still kinda’ freaks me out. Not as much because of the whole “making the same mistakes as my own father made” thing. No. Not anymore. I’ve made my bones as a Daddy and while I’m still learning… ALWAYS learning, I think I’ve done a pretty serviceable job despite certain mental handicaps, i.e. my always overactive psyche. But because I simply can’t envision a smaller version of me in the world. A living, breathing, walking and talking facsimile of a smiley face with a graying beard, a pot belly, an aversion to anything green (broccoli? Can’t do it) and a fondness for Velveeta cheese? Not to mention wordiness, and a love of Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick? He sounds like a nightmare. What would Mama Bear do?

But I digress. Despite the fact that my daughters are, at an early age, undeniably more like my wife than me (though Natalie belches like a champ and Cara thinks it’s funny to “toot” on you, two very, not-so-endearing traits that are reminiscent of me and my well-documented, sophomoric sense of humor) my oldest has adapted one characteristic that is undoubtedly mine: Her love of thunderstorms. As she watched, awe inspired last night, gasping at every lightning strike no matter how minor, I found myself smiling. Because she looked SO MUCH like I’m sure I did back in the day, before divorce lawyers and visitation rights forever tarnished my youthful naivety at an early age. I’ve always focused intently on what happened AFTER that moment–the day when the Man I Once Called Dad took me for a walk along the Delaware Bay Beach in North Cape May and told me that he and my mother were separating–and how my experiences thereafter turned me into the man I am at almost 38. But I’ve rarely ruminated on my life BEFORE. Probably because I don’t remember much of it.

But I remember thunderstorms. They pre-date my short story about meeting Bruce Springsteen. They pre-date the end of my mother and my once-father, now Biological’s marriage.  They LONG pre-date my first reading of The Shining and my first viewing of “The Shining” but, in the case of the latter, not by much. What can I say? I watched a lot of seriously f*cked up sh*t when I was a kid, thanks largely in part to you-know-who. They pre-date Mama Bear, Biggish Bear and Smallish Bear, Tom-Tom and Garmin, blogging, Hurricane Irene, one published novel and one novel that’s 118 pages to the good as of last night. In short? Save for my mother and my sister, both of whom I love immensely, they have been the lone constant in my life the longest. And to not ever write of them and what they mean to me would be… IS a disservice. I write plenty about God. Why hesitate to write about him bowling?

Because some things, like God and his ever-present quest for a perfect 300 frame are indescribable. Some things? They’re deeper than writing. Some things you can’t explicate. You just FEEL them. And as I watched  my storm chaser in training, Cara last evening out of one eye and my Greens-loving Natalie “You-Take’a-My-Ba Ba-I-Break’a-Your-Face” out of the other, I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And I smiled. ‘Cause all sun and no storms really DO make Frankie a dull boy. But only partially. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I felt youthful. Naive. At peace with my ever-present Daddy Issues and my at times turbulent past. And now? Almost 24 hours later? Well, they’re calling for another round of “ziggy-zaggy, s’raining, Daddy, raining” tonight. It’s going to take every ounce of restraint that I have in me to keep from grabbing my girls, throwing them in my car and heading off in search of the nastiest part of the cell.

😉