When “The Sun” Doesn’t Shine

I looked forward to reading Dan Rodricks’ Baltimore Sun column on ‘annoyances’ last Thursday–all set to sip caffeine and commiserate with his curmudgeonly commentary.

After reading a few of his personal irritants (and wondering, ‘where’s the funny?’), I found a reference to speed cameras, specifically the one on North Charles Street near Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore. Thanks for highlighting this ridiculous trap for drivers. Supposedly a School Zone (since when are college kids elementary age-minded?), there is no crosswalk anywhere near this speed camera. One would be more logical near the traffic light at Coldspring Lane, though the light itself slows drivers down.

This is clearly a money-making endeavor. I know. I got my first ticket there right around Christmastime. Rodricks also notes that Notre Dame’s new name is an odd choice, and he asks why it’s not Notre Dame University of Maryland. The short version of the school’s name would then be NDUM, referencing a more likely moniker for this speed camera.


Writing-Prompt Narrative

The kindergarten assignment: Write two words that start with G.

The sentence: I saw the glass guitar.

The story: I was going to the store by the flea market, and everything there was made of glass. Then I saw the glass guitar. And it was just Little Bunny’s size.

— C.M. Simpson

Battle Ready

Woman in hotel cafe describing elderly mother: “Her teeth are broken and she hasn’t fixed them. She has cataracts, and I’m not sure how she can see to get around. She says she can see shadows. And I try to talk to her about her hearing, and she yells, I CAN HEAR FINE!”

“She’s tough,” the grown daughter adds, pausing to reflect . . . “She was 14 years old and killing Nazis. I guess that imprints.”

Overheard at Conversations & Connections Conference

Re: fiction, with its bursts of color and exaggeration, versus nonfiction: “Fiction is an expressionist painting rather than a photograph.”

— Josip Novakovich, author of Shopping for a Better Country, (Dzanc Books 2012), Stories of War and Lust (Harper Perennial, 2005), April Fool’s Day (HarperCollins, 2004), and several books on the writing of fiction, including The Fiction Writer’s Workshop (2008).

Drop the Boomerang

Susan Reimer, the self-proclaimed voice of the Baby Boom Generation has done it again—noting in her recent Baltimore Sun column, “Boomerang kids seek comforts of home,” that her generation has somehow set a superior model of parenting by welcoming home Boomerang kids (post-college) because, well, it’s the new norm. And a lot of the children, and even some parents, seem pretty okay with the whole arrangement, according to a Pew Research Center report cited by Reimer. “It is hard to be irritated by something you perceive as the norm,” Reimer writes.

Well, I’d like to say a big No Thanks to this new ‘standard’ of parenting—if only out of desperation. I don’t know if I speak for Gen X-ers, at least quite as well as Claire and Phil Dunphy on Modern Family, but I can only hope (and hope, and hope) that our children feel confident enough to go out on their own after college—or, if not living alone because of finances, then find themselves roommate situations where expenses are shared and adulthood launched.

And I also wonder about the Boomerang trend and the assertion that it’s comfortable for all involved. To some degree, the societal standard for Reimer and other moms in the 1980s and ‘90s was to go back to work right after maternity leave; Do parents who now let their kids live at home rent-free between the ages of 18 and 34 feel like they are making up for lost time? Isn’t there enough parenting guilt out there? I know I don’t need any residuals.

As a generation, admittedly, Boomers have set a lot of new standards: Hanging onto youth a good bit longer than previously thought possible. All I’m saying is don’t push back this finish line, too. I can only hope (there’s that word again) that my husband and I can concentrate a bit more on ourselves as a couple once our children—now 7 and 9—walk across that second stage, holding their bachelor’s degree in one hand and a plan for the future in the other.

I know I’ll miss them. And I dread that day, too. But I have a bit of pay-it-forward advice to Baby Boomers and Boomlet-ers:  Please just grow up.

Where the Jobs Are

You’d think, after watching reality TV, that our current sub-conomy has led us to a fascination with the employed. Tons of shows now center on people at work, and mostly hard labor jobs at that: There’s Ice Truckers, Coast Guard Alaska, Turbine Cowboys, Ice Pilots, Lifeguard, Swamp People, Gold Rush, Ax Men, etcetera. The fad could be a new form of vicarious exercise or a working class-celebrity subgenre.

And now a new show is being launched, a la Pawn Stars, at Robbie’s First Base in Timonium, Md. It’s set to be called Ball Boys, a show which “follows the sports memorabilia business at iconic Robbie’s,” according to the store’s website, “and the charming family-like relationships of the sports fanatics who work there – Robbie Sr., Junior, Sweet Lou, and Shaggy.” Yet, we wonder, will Ball Boys offer the oddball retail drama of L.A. Ink or the how-much-is-it-really-worth lottery of The Antiques Roadshow or American Pickers? Who will play the sardonic doofus-type, Chumley, of Pawn Stars fame? (I’m betting on Shaggy).

And. who would’ve thunk–in the new millennium–that just having a job trading baseball cards, chopping down trees, or hand-catching catfish while cursing would make one a Star?