Paternity Time

January 23, 2019 – For me, every new year brings with it the same stupid goal – to write more. And I know what I’m really saying is I want to write more for other eyes; I want to actually put words out into the world instead of keeping them all for myself, and that means exhibiting boldness with my writing, during the good and bad spells. So here goes, and, what do I know, maybe this idea will die after three weeks, and I’ll just go back to my old, guitar-playing ways. For now, the words come easy, and I am happy to welcome them.

Thanks to my job, I’ve been on paternity time now since mid November, just my kid and I. I check in at work once a week, but mostly I’m left alone to give my 8-month-old son my full attention. You’ve never experienced the Earth slow in its rotations until you’ve hung out, one on one, with a baby for 10 straight weeks. Give it a try. Notice how horribly you handle witnessing your life drift by in crushing 24-hour increments. Take stock of how thoroughly conditioned you’ve become to being productive! and motivated! and intentional! and all that shit; now recalibrate your dials and sit your ass down because it’s time to play with blocks again, right after another “Signing Time” DVD. See how often you subconsciously reach for your phone, innately searching for any sign of mental stimulation or human connection. Entertaining a kid is tough work, man, but we’ve gotten into a groove together, my boy and I.

We take walks all over the village, make an adventure out of a store or library trip, and putz around the dinosaur museum and the sciencenter. We spy the clown fish in the aquariums, the mastodon skeleton, and I read him placards about the Devonian period. He stares at the other kids and just gums all of the battered toys laying around the place, and then we leave. When his nap time arrives, I write the songs that have dodged me for months and practice like I haven’t in years. It’s wonderful. He’s wonderful… all of our time spent together has been amazing and an incredible opportunity I don’t take for granted.

February 1, 2019 – Green Day’s Dookie turned 25 this week, and it got me thinking how important that record was in my life. There is no other piece of music that resounded as profoundly and mesmerized so completely. If Guns n Roses and Pearl Jam had laid the foundation for a lifelong love and infatuation with music, Green Day swept through and just paved it all over. Everything that I would grow to love in punk rock and music in general, from childhood into adulthood, would be built from Green Day up. And I know I’m veering dangerously close to hyperbole here, but Dookie really did change my life. I’d never seen a guy play guitar like Billie Joe did in the “Basket Case” video. He didn’t strum his Stratocaster – that iconic faded blue strat, with a personality and mystique of its own – but inflict violence on it. I wanted to do that, play guitar like that, and much to the delight of my 13- or 14-year-old self, doing that on guitar wasn’t too terribly difficult. Billie Joe played the same exact chords, only in different positions. The music was stupid simple and accessible and perfect for a budding guitar player. I haven’t put the instrument back down since, and my life is richer and more fulfilling because of it, because of that silly pop-punk record. How many records, how many anythings, can you honestly say changed your life in positive, tangible ways?

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