Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Summer always inveriable constitutes mass amounts of reading for me. It almost feels like a race, a quickly run highly indulgent race. Like watching those professional eaters who in 10 minutes pound down 60 hot-dogs (buns soaked in water/ bite the middle/ shove remaining portion in mouth/ chew once/ swallow/ repeat). My wife absolutely hates it, both the professional eater and me wandering around the house with a book in hand. It renders me somewhat useless and aloof to her "we've got things to do around here!" state of mind. I try to instill my passion for reading in my children, so far it seems to have stuck well. We have a weekly library trip where I often have to negotiate the number of books that I am willing to let my kids check out. Of late, I have turned my tastes more away from fiction stories and to non-fiction biographies. This last trip turned up a copy of Steve Martin's Born Standing Up, a short autobiography of how he came to comedy and his love of vaudvillian magic acts and the like. While I attribute much of my comdic tastes to my fathers exquiste taste for funny comedy albums (George Carlin, Cheech and Chong, essential 60's and 70's drug humor), Steve Martins work was one that I found by accident at about 11 years old. My recently divorced mother and I were staying one summer for several weeks in Santa Cruz Ca. Things had been kinda rough for everyone involved, so a couple of weeks in a beach house seemed to be just the thing that would perk up any kids ailing spirit. Really, looking back on it now, it was a chance for my mom to reconnect with some friends from that area and to gather what she loved most around her. The summer trip was an excuse to get away from the stress of the recent year. The house where we stayed was nothing special, a typical 60's style track home, within walking distance of the Santa Cruz beach and it's treasure of the 80's, the Boardwalk, boasting not one, but two giant arcades that housed the most eclectic and best video games of the day. When we weren't at the Boardwalk, we were hangout around the house, mostly in the evenings. The owners of the home had several albums, yes, albums pressed from plastic, one of which I had never heard but felt horribly drawn to because of the riddiculous cover. The cover had this rather conservative looking fellow in a white three piece suit...sporting a giant ballon made hat and the fake mustache/glasses/nose combo. A veritable miscommunication in the making. It probably wasn't what I needed to hear (a good portion of the contents were not really appropriate for 11 year old ears) though by that time I was a seasoned veteran of my fathers comedy albums. Over the course of several evenings,while my mom talked on the phone or visited with old friends, I listened repeatedly to Steve Martin's seminal work,Let's Get Small. I would put on the headphones so that I wouldn't have to share the more embarrasing jokes with an already overprotective mom, besides, she probably wouldn't find contributing to the delenquincy of a minor all that funny. As I listened, laughing so hard I though that I would surely blow it and draw the attention of my mom, I tried to absorb the nuance of his delivery and began learning the idea of comic timing, though I was too young to realize it at the time. He was just so weird and funny and profane but in a nice way. It was something that I had never heard before. Yes, the jokes were stupid and absurd, but it was also beautiful and just what I needed, someone to laugh at and laugh with.