Rude, thoughtless, c’est moi.

I was listening to Alec Baldwin tune up on his daughter, trying to think of the worst thing I ever said to my own kid. The list is so long. I try not to lose my temper, but sometimes I do. I’ve never called her a rude, thoughtless little pig, but once when she was a baby, when she was pounding on her high chair tray and shrieking BANANA! BANANA! BANANA! I may have turned to her at hissed, Jack Nicholson-style, “WE DON’T HAVE ANY GODDAMN BANANAS.”

My defense: It was 7 o’clock on a winter morning and I was feeling really, really raw. I tried not to yell; I delivered the line the way Jack did in “Terms of Endearment,” when he’s having his first, disastrous lunch with Shirley Maclaine, and he encourages her to order a drink. “I think you need a lot of drinks,” he says. “To kill that bug up your ass.” (That’s the sequence that ends with the two of them driving his Corvette down the beach, Jack sitting on top of the driver’s seat, steering with his feet, bellowing “Wind in the hair! Lead in the pencil!” Great scene.) But it was pretty menacing; her eyes got big and round, and she stopped yelling for bananas.

I’m glad no one recorded that moment, although I guess I just did. Maybe that’s how Baldwin can get through this; he can call in every marker he has and ask them all to stand up and say, essentially, “I am Spartacus.” I doubt it would work; we promote the myth of the perfect parent relentlessly in this country.

There’s a guy, Tim Goeglein, who writes occasional guest columns for my old newspaper (he’s from Fort Wayne). He has a very big job in the White House, “special assistant to the president,” serving as liaison between the Worst President Ever and conservative special-interest groups. You’d think he’d write an occasional piece about policy or D.C. culture or whatever, but no, for years now he’s been contributing these awful, drippy essays about his sainted parents and how good the good old days were, and blah blah blah. The last one he wrote about mom ‘n’ dad was typical, and I’d like to quote from it for you, but I’m finding that none of his columns appear to be in the paper’s archive. Oh, but here’s Memory Lane for you, a story from the archive in which his name is mentioned. Who do you think wrote this snappy prose?

What did I tell you? What did I tell you? Did I not tell you that Madonna’s insult of Evansville would not pass without some high-ranking weenie embarrassing himself with a totally humorless effort to “change her mind?” I did. Only even I underestimated the weenieosity that would be unleashed. I thought the inevitable blustery response would come from a chamber of commerce official, or maybe the mayor, but nooooo. We have a real U.S. senator getting in on

It cuts off because you only get the first few lines of a story in the paid archive. That’s from 1991. Yours truly, getting the word “weenieosity” in the newspaper.

Back to Timmy. I’d like to quote from one of his columns but I can’t, so I’ll paraphrase the last one from memory: Mom and Dad have been married for many years. Never for one day have they been less than 100 percent devoted to one another. They owe their love to their intense devotion to Jesus Christ, who has rewarded them with a marriage so strong and perfect that it enriches all who behold it. Mother never let a cross word pass her lips, and we could all rely on Father’s quiet wisdom in times of trouble, which we hardly ever had because Jesus was blessing us all the time. And so on.

Listening to Laura Lippman speak last night, she said, “I hate perfect people,” by way of explaining how she approaches the characters in her fiction. Of course, no one is perfect, but many work very hard to convince you they are. I was in my 30s before I was able to get my brain around the idea that a person could be a titan of accomplishment in one area of their life, and a miserable failure in another, and that the latter did not take away from the former. And I’m not talking about being a great father and occasionally putting the water bottle back in the refrigerator with only an ounce left in it. I’m talking about Miles Davis, for example, simultaneously a musical genius and a wife-beater. If you were God, and you had the option of saving Cicely Tyson some black eyes by pushing the “miscarry” button on an embryonic Miles Davis, would the world be a better place without him? I don’t think so.

This was a huge relief to finally accept. I could enjoy art again without fretting that the artist was a schmuck. Which most of them are.

Which most of us are, actually. At least sometimes. I’ve never yelled at my daughter’s voice mail. But I have it in me.

OK, then:

Last night was great, if only to be in my old neighborhood again. The reading was at Nicola’s Books, an independent book store in the Westgate shopping center, which all you Tree Towners should patronize, because it is an exceptionally good one. Nicola herself took us all out to dinner afterward, which was more generous than we deserved; I knew I should have bought some more books while I was there. We had some publishing-industry gossip, and some journalism gossip, and Laura told us the line she delivers in her cameo in Season 5, Episode 1 of “The Wire.” Ahem: “I’m not the police reporter.” (Or maybe it was, “Do I look like the police reporter?” Can’t recall.) I laughed, because everyone who’s ever worked in a newsroom has heard that line approximately a million times, sometimes in its alternative forms: “Do I resemble an obit clerk?” “Are you mistaking me for the education writer?” or the ever-popular, “Can we give this one to Features?” When I was first given the newsroom mail to open, there was but one firm order: Give as much of this as possible to other departments. Buck-passing — it’s our art form.

OK, I have to get to work now.

Posted at 10:41 am in Current events, Media, Popculch |

30 responses to “Rude, thoughtless, c’est moi.”

  1. Dorothy said on April 20, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Well I’ve certainly had my share of shouts at the children back in the day. One I’m not particularly proud of was actually recorded on our video camera, and my sister Diane loves to remind me of it.

    The Family (me, hubby and the two kids) were posing outside in the yard for Easter pictures in all our Easter finery. Laura would not stop messing with her lil’ bonnet. I had told her probably six times to keep it on her head. Suddenly I bellowed “Laura if you don’t keep that hat on your head, I’m going to NAIL it on there!”

    Ahhh the good old days….!

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  2. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 11:16 am

    As someone who has to share kids with an absent parent, I can tell you the temptation to get ugly about visitation arrangements, communication arrangements, money, all that crap, is huge. How close I have come to informing the kids of why exactly dad isn’t seeing them this weekend, and to shut up about what a fun guy he is. I haven’t done it yet, though. Closest I’ve come is to hiss that dad sees them as much as he wants to. That might have been a pretty mean, but I’m human.

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  3. Peter said on April 20, 2007 at 11:40 am

    My best friend’s mom is the sweetest person I’ve ever met, and my best friend said it took him years but he finally realized what his mom was saying when she lovingly referred to him and his sisters as “GD snots”, “MFA holes” and “MFD bags”. People have told me that my mom is just a sweet saint, and I remember how she would say to us (in an eastern euopean accent that you really need Mel Blanc for) “You rotten keeds – I sell you to the gypsies! When you die I will speet on your graves!” There. Now I don’t feel so bad when my son pushes my button. Pardon me, time for my medication.

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  4. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve threatened to take my 13 year old to Petco and see if they would take him as a trade in for a hamster. Recently my younger son reminded me I hadn’t said that to my older son in a while, and I realized younger son was now the one I wanted to trade in for a hamster. It’s something to do with being 13, I think.
    I’ve also referred to Jose, a very sweet and polite kid who rides to school with my kids, as, “the son I never had.” This confuses them and pleases Jose no end.

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  5. nancy said on April 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I have a comedy routine I do when Kate is bugging me in the morning: “X reasons coffee is better than children.” A few particulars:

    Coffee? Always smells good. Children? Sometimes smell good. Advantage, coffee.

    Coffee? Wakes you up when you ask it to. Children? Wake you up long before you’ve asked them to. Advantage, coffee.

    Coffee is briefly noisy when being ground from beans, then falls silent. Children are noisy more often than not. Advantage, coffee.

    And so on. I lay off when she gives me the big eyes and says, “But do you really love coffee more than me?” No, sweetie.

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  6. colleen said on April 20, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    most pictures of my dad from our childhood have his mouth in the shape of one of the words in the phrase “take the goddamn picture”.

    There is another FW person who writes treacly stories of How Great Things Used To Be. Yawn. We know. Christmas at W & D. Cruising Gardner’s and Hall’s. Blah de blah.

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  7. alex said on April 20, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Ah, Timmy. Also one of my least favorite News-Sentinel guest columnists, although he’s not your typical crass ignoramus on a soapbox. He just leads a remarkably unexamined life, which he’s always holding up for examination.

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  8. John said on April 20, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Ouch! Alex, you are the wit!

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  9. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    Remember months ago I mentioned my assistant thought a ghost was causing her computer to act up? Now we have several people thinking this department is haunted, and we are going to have the spiritual care department come in and do a ceremony of some sort to rid ourselves of the ghost. There was a staff meeting to discuss this and the non believers were heavily outnumbered.

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  10. brian stouder said on April 20, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    either there are some over-tired people there, or else you’re trapped in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy

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  11. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Thing is, they claim they see this ghost, or evidence of this ghost’s presence, when they work late. Lord knows, I work late an awful lot, and I’ve never seen anything strange.

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  12. brian stouder said on April 20, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I work late an awful lot, and I’ve never seen anything strange.

    If I’m on the computer late at night and ‘see strange things’ upon it, and then try and blame my invisible friend the ghost

    – Pammy ain’t gonna buy my story!

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  13. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    They do film Grey’s Anatomy across the street at Disney, and my parking space looks directly at a giant poster for that show. There’s also a giant poster of Johnny Depp. He replaced the Desperate Housewives.

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  14. brian stouder said on April 20, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Johnny Depp is one of those fellows who has yet to make a movie that I didn’t like…although I confess that I’ve never seen one of his Pirate movies (but I’ve ridden the ride, b’gosh!)

    Gilbert Grape was just good stuff….and The Ninth Gate has been running on IFC – and is surprisingly funny!

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  15. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Gilbert Grape is really good. Did you see Chocolat? Same director (Lasse Hallstrom) and Johnny Depp again. Women I know who saw that movie really liked Johnny Depp.

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  16. nancy said on April 20, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    He makes even crappy movies better — “Blow” as an excellent example. I liked him in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” too. Although “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” — ugh.

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  17. brian stouder said on April 20, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I forgot about the Chocolate Factory! A very worthwhile remake of the older Gene Wilder movie.

    My 4th grade teacher, Ms Rickert (who not long ago had a very nice guest editorial in the paper) read the book to us – and she expressed great disappointment in that original movie.

    Actually – the Depp one would be one I’d name to the tween-list, if I had remembered it. Also – our young folks liked Aviator, although I winced at a scene or two

    PS – do elementary teachers do that anymore? Read favorite books to their class? I believe Ms R read us Charlotte’s Webb, James & the Giant Peach, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Uncle Fonzo’s Ford….and it was all marvelously captivating!

    Come to think of it, how the heck did we get anything else done??!!

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  18. LA mary said on April 20, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    I remember Mrs. Van Stone reading The Secret Garden to us. It was wonderful.

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  19. MichaelG said on April 20, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    We’ve all observed appalling parental behavior toward children in the supermarket. I saw something nice one time. Turning the corner into the paper products aisle, I noted a woman piling up four packs of toilet paper on the shelf. As I approached, I could see that she had her very young child on the shelf and was bricking the kid up behind the packs of TP. She and the child were both absolutely laughing their asses off. She hadn’t noticed me and I kind of tip-toed my way back up the aisle away from their private and obviously very entertaining moment.

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  20. Jeff said on April 20, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    Was the child’s name Montressor, by any chance?

    When my Little Guy gets old enough to assemble to lit’ry and pop culture jibes i throw over his head now, at 8, he’s gonna be callin’ CPS in a heartbeat. But Baldwin sounds . . . ayyy, this is not going to improve my enjoyment of SNL reruns one little bit.

    More like Lamont Cranston losing his personality to . . . The Shadow!!!!

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  21. Dave said on April 20, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Thing is, they claim they see this ghost, or evidence of this ghost’s presence, when they work late. Lord knows, I work late an awful lot, and I’ve never seen anything strange.

    Meredith was dead for three hours and made a miraculous recovery. There, I confess I watch that silly show and I really don’t know why.

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  22. Dave said on April 20, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    I wrongly assumed when I quoted someone, it somehow italicized itself. Sorry.

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  23. susang said on April 21, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Growing up in Ft. Wayne, there were hundreds of perfect families. Impectable house, two kids-one girl, one boy-mom never said a cross word, mostly Lutherans.

    Then there was our family. Perfect father, yes, but mother? Stayed up all night, smoking and sewing, singing along to South Pacific. I was so embarrassed and wished I was in one of those perfect famillies.

    Over many years, I discovered the truth. Perfect families weren’t perfect. Families with two children? They hate each other.

    And my perfect father? He loved my mother because she was willing to be the bad guy. She’d come down on the kids, tell the neighbors they were idiots, do battle with his mother and sister, and tell just about everyone in Ft. Wayne that they were parachocial, small-minded idiots.

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  24. cce said on April 21, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Oh God, If I’d been taped having my own anti-seven year old temper tantrum yesterday…well, I’m no Alec Baldwin but I’m sure there are some neighbors that would like to pass judgment.
    The wonderful thing about children is that they have little capacity for grudges. Today is a new day, a better day. Here’s hoping that Baldwin’s 11 year old is capable of forgiveness.

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  25. ashley said on April 21, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    “I can’t see, fuckmook, I have no eyes”.

    My favorite Johnny Depp line, ever.

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  26. fwgadfly said on April 22, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    So Tim Goeglein catches more grief than Alec Baldwin? I will never understand the liberal mind.

    Regardless, we miss your column in the News-Sentinel. Perhaps you could substitute for Tim as a contributor of Guest Editorials.

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  27. Marcia said on April 23, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    I had three kids in three and a half years, and thank God my kids didn’t have cell phones over the following few years to record some of my tirades. You try spending all day, every day, with a preschooler and two toddlers and see if your head doesn’t spin around and spew green vomit every now and then.

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  28. brian stouder said on April 23, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    You try spending all day, every day, with a preschooler and two toddlers

    But see, that’s the problem with Mr Baldwin;

    YOU were home with the kids, whereas HE is off who-knows-where. Rather than being tired and harried – it looks like his pride was hurt, and he lashed out.

    This whole Bassinger/Baldwin thing looks like a clash of egos and vanity, more than anything remotely resembling physical fatigue with which normal people (like us) might relate.

    And by the by – if I was world-famous, and involved in a nasty lawsuit, why on earth would I leave a recording of my irrational tirade?

    Whatever else Baldwin is – he ain’t very smart

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  29. Marcia said on April 23, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Yeah, Brian, I was going to say that–why on earth would he give her ammunition like that? What an idiot.

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  30. Bob said on June 7, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Anybody see Johnny Depp in “Crybaby”?

    He got spanked in his tighty whities, unless I’m confusing memory with fantasy.

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