steve’s funny column
Children’s memories debunk father’s expertise
By STEVE LANG
“An expert knows all the answers – if you ask the right questions.” – Levi Strauss
“I am an expert in electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison.” – W.C. Fields
Relying on the observation that fellow residents ignored and scoffed the poet Homer in his hometown while alive, but seven cities claimed him after his demise, I have previously stated that an expert can be anyone who moves 50 miles from his birthplace.
Since I now reside some 1,432 miles from my hometown, enjoy AARP, Medicare and Social Security status, have attended two state fairs, a few rodeos and endured philosophical diatribes from a few strange hitchhikers, I occasionally wonder if I might qualify.
However, pondering is short-lived. After careful deliberation, I note just two areas of expertise, and of these, the latter may be difficult to duplicate.
1)I can tie a decent Windsor knot; and 2) I may be the only the only left-handed shortstop to turn a double play and hit into a triple play in the same game, at least, in an Ashby, MN softball tournament in June, 1985.
(Regarding Windsor knots, my best one cannot match a comment overheard in Carey’s Bar, Vermillion, SD, circa 1998. A TV newsreader sported a substantial knot, prompting the comment, “There’s more Windsor in that knot than this place pours in a week!”)
Knowing little or nothing about just everything never stopped me from testing the waters of credibility. As a parent, I initially hoped my children would remember and adopt some of my observations and beliefs, as a testament to my eventual (presumed) elevation to expert status.
Some remains the operative word. Some parents likely reach stages when children match strides and eventually move ahead. For me, these stages include maturity and rational thought.
I now suspect Zeb and Alexis were likely just a step behind as infants.
I do not credit Red Green with everything I learned about parenting, but he passed on some useful stuff, including:
“Learn from my mistakes: someone should,” and, “If life gives you lemons, throw ‘em into a quart of vodka,” and most importantly for me, “Remember, you may have to grow old, but you don’t have to mature.”
In short, most of my credibility died in infancy, but old things I wished best forgotten live on to infinity.
“I got some strange looks in middle school civics class back in South Dakota,” son Zeb noted during a recent phone conversation. “When we moved there, you and Mom registered to vote, and told us you registered as Communists.
“Naturally, I passed this on during class a while later, only to be told that party designation was not recognized.”
For the record, I do not believe my present status as “Benevolent Anarchist” would be recognized, either. Based on some of my emphatic expletives on certain subjects, particularly missed free throws by NBA millionaires and called third strikes on Major League stars with runners in scoring position, Zeb would have gladly opted for more benevolence, regardless of party affiliation. Being a stickler for accuracy from a tender age, he once asked:
“Dad, is that word before ‘missed free throws’ spelled with an ‘f’ or a ‘ph?’”
When Zeb first heard The Tokens’ version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” he marveled at the lead singer’s ability to reach the high notes.
“Chalk it up to tight jeans and duct tape,” I offered, another flippant remark bounced back to me 30 years later. Moreover, as Red Green noted sometime afterward: “Be generous with duct tape, you know; spare the duct tape, spoil the job.”
(The older I become, the more I realize large portions of my philosophical nonsense would be deemed politically incorrect in certain circles. At this point, I am perfectly comfortable with ‘hope’ and ‘remembered’ dwelling in the same sentence.)
My daughter Alexis also learned critical thinking early.
“When we were talking about the meanings of state names, you told me that ‘IOWA’ stood for ‘Idiots Out Wandering Around.’”
Conversely, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “all who wander are not lost,” but I am not sure if he ever visited Iowa.
After this column’s publication, I may be well advised not to visit again, either.
Steve Lang has met many bright, talented and witty Iowans, some of whom still live there. But this column is no place for syrupy sentiment, and in payback, an Iowa native called Minnesota “Baja Ontario.”