Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Work in Progress

Artwork by Junior

If my son's adolescence had a theme song, it would be this. I only speak, of course, from my perspective. From his vantage point, that theme song would probably be a track from a subgenre of one of the 100+ varieties of metal music.* Or a meandering modal jazz meditation by John Zorn. Or maybe one of the Tuvan throat singing ditties he so enjoys practicing at the dinner table no matter how many times we beg him to stop. But I digress.

Suffice to say that it's been quite a ride, but he seems to be getting it out of his system, whatever "it" may be. The kid is serious about music and art and has enrolled in community college. In addition to the evening classes scheduled for working people and night owls (guess which one he is?) the boy actually signed up for a 10 a.m. class. Better yet, he manages to get himself out of bed for it, although he's as irascible as a grizzly coming out of hibernation and has to brush his teeth in the car.

In the immortal words of Bob, "Baby steps, baby steps." Thus it was that my son and I recently spent an afternoon together without a single skirmish. Less a baby step than a huge leap forward, since this is something we have not managed, or even attempted to do, in at least six years.

Since the boy is studying cubism in art class, I suggested we go see the Picasso exhibit at the De Young in Golden Gate Park. To my surprise, he agreed. We had a nice lunch in the museum cafeteria and then hit the exhibit. The young Artiste's comments were insightful, visually sophisticated and funny. At one point, he stopped to point out the fact that one of the Picasso drawings looked a lot like George W. Bush. The woman behind us chortled – it was true.

We followed our foray into high culture with a pop culture festival in Little Japan. The event consisted of numerous tchotchke booths selling manga, assorted pokeman-like objects and wigs in purple, pink and teal. Chubby young women wandered around in stylized sailor suits and Little Bo Peep outfits. Their boyfriends were in costume too, but I'm too Japanese Pop Culture challenged to understand what they were wearing or why.

The kid and I concurred that we couldn't relate to people who dress like anime characters when it's neither Tokyo nor Halloween. Since he normally makes a point of arguing the opposite of everything I say, this was a definite breakthrough. We even agreed on a CD to listen to on the ride home, David Bowie's Hunky Dory, which he had bought me that week as a gift, just because.

Maybe none of this sounds at all remarkable to you. And maybe you haven't spent the past six years attempting to raise a "troubled teen." Maybe you've never sat around helplessly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Believe me, there's always another shoe. It's as though you'd given birth to a centipede.

My husband and I have been through enough drama for three separate movies on the Life Time Channel. Except actual life doesn't come with a remote control, and our trial-by-teen has left me looking a hell of a lot more shopworn than Debra Messing. My current appearance is more akin to Weeping Woman, Picasso's famous portrait of Dora Maar.

Like my son, I'm developing a newfound appreciation for cubism.

*A sampling of metal genres and sub-genres: Heavy/Traditional, Speed/Thrash, Death, Black, Orchestrated/Symphonic, Power, Doom, American Hardcore (for those Boogie Nights) , Progressive, Gothic, Electronic, Folk/Viking, Blackened Death Metal (not to be confused with blackened redfish), Symphonic Power Metal, Melodic Death Metal (Melodic? Really?), Technical Death Metal and Grindcore (please, no encore). All loud, ugly, testosterone-driven and beloved of adolescent boys and homicidal Scandinavians.

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