Friday, July 28, 2006
ABF Friday: Jamie edition!
So I missed two days of posting. I’m all right, just a bit tired after spending all Tuesday on Beckett, all Wednesday catching up with my ordinary work, and all Thursday watching CNN on the Middle East. I have to say their Rapture coverage is some of the most thorough I’ve ever seen on the secular media. I especially appreciated their advice that incipient Rapturees should dress warmly. It sounds counterintuitive in late July, but sure enough, in their ascent through the upper layers of the atmosphere the Elect will be getting quite chilly, so it’s only sensible to bring along a down comforter and an extra pair of socks just in case.
Tuesday night the cast of Beatlemania came to town, as they do every summer. It’s one of the highlights of Jamie’s summer, for reasons you can imagine. But we missed it! We completely blew it! We didn’t even know it was going on! And when Jamie saw the coverage in Wednesday morning’s newspaper, you can bet he was crestfallen.
But we had good news for him. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were supposed to play the Crowbar, which was practically State College’s only venue for visiting Bands of Stature. But the Crowbar closed, possibly because it was run by the same evil consortium that owns four or five local restaurants of stunning mediocrity; we look forward to visiting the new Slop ‘n’ Stew that will take its place, unless of course it turns into yet another t-shirt emporium. However, some enterprising soul booked Ted Leo at the open-air Tussey Mountain Amphitheater instead, about five miles from here, and the gig was scheduled for this past Wednesday night. Now, who likes Ted Leo in this house? Well, Nick most of all, and he heard about them first. And me and Janet. And Jamie too! His favorite song is “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” from Hearts of Oak, but he likes a few from Shake the Sheets too. So Ted Leo promised to be Fun for the Whole Family!
Nick told us that the promoters needed about 250 people to show up if they were to break even. They didn’t get half that: instead, a sparse and strangely subdued crowd of about 100 gathered to hear Ted Leo play a generous set of about fifteen songs, plus five more in a mini-set encore. Six or seven new tunes were hauled out; half of them sounded great, and the other half, as Mr. Leo himself noted, still need a bit of work. Leo was winsome and mordantly funny, and the band was crisp. The evening was blissfully cool, and though we were sorry that the good people of the State College area hadn’t quite done the band justice, we had to admit it was great to be standing only a few yards from the stage on a nice summer night.
But this post is not about Ted Leo. It’s not even about the Rapture. It’s about Jamie.
Nick hung with his friends to the left of the stage; Janet and I were on the other side. Jamie did not stand with his parents, of course. He took up a position on the right edge of the front row and did his very own Jamie thing, alternating between mild thrashing (ramping it up to moderate thrashing for “Rude Boys,” which, to Jamie’s delight, came early in the set) and watching the band intently with arms folded. You know, like pretty much every other teenager.
OK, so he played with someone’s hat for a few minutes, until Janet told him that it was “completely inappropriate” to do so. But still, Jamie is so cool, just about as cool as his older brother. And so I dedicate this Arbitrary But Fun Friday to Jamie, because there are so many cool things about him that I can’t decide which is coolest. Apart from the Ted Leo thing, which is fairly traditional adolescent-male alt.rock cool:
___ He is utterly free of any form of racial prejudice, and he is particularly intrigued by African-American history. Though I’m not sure he “gets” slavery (for what sane person can?), he has always been curious about African-American leaders who fought for civil rights (and he certainly understands the principle that all children should be able to attend the same school). At one point last month, on our way through a box store, he insisted that we buy a placemat with pictures of all 43 U.S. Presidents, and after he got through reading everyone’s names and listing their home states, he asked me which ones were good for African-Americans. Well, that narrowed things down in a hurry! Good question, Jamie.
___ He loves more forms of animal life than most people are aware of, and he’s always game for learning more. Habitat, diet, means of reproduction, salient characteristics, you name it. He’s a shark fanatic and a marine specialist, yes, but he can also get excited by sitatungas, bison, sparrows, salamanders, crocodiles, eagles, jellyfish, baboons, and snakes (on planes and off). “Is that an emu?” I asked him as we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptileland on our way back from Syracuse. “Yes,” he replied. “It’s related to the ostrich.” Though he doesn’t have quite the same enthusiasm for plants, being somewhat kingdomcentric and all, his fascination with animals is a genuine intellectual curiosity, and it shows no sign of letting up.
___ His intellectual curiosity is also the reason he loves to travel. He initially resisted going to France this year on the grounds that we’d been there before; he suggested we go to Germany. He also wants to go to Japan, China, and New Zealand (for starters). He’s quite good at geography, but for him it’s not just a question of maps and capitals; he knows that the planet is populated by a dazzling variety of people (some of whom are not wholly devoted to slaughtering each other, though the Slaughtering Party just happens to be in the ascendant), and if he had his way he would meet them all, just to find out what they’re like and what they eat and how they talk.
___ He did his best to speak some French in France. This fact, together with his knowledge of the world’s geography, makes him a most atypical—and very cool—American traveler. Jamie took French in seventh grade, and though that little experiment wasn’t so successful as to get him producing French sentences on his own, he did master the days of the week, the months of the year, the numbers up to 60, and an armload of basic vocabulary words. The fruits of his labor became clearest in the grocery stores, where he was able to see the names of products (including fruits) and had much fun reading them aloud as he walked through the aisles. Although this made him irrationally exuberant at times, greeting strange people and chattering too loudly, it also inspired him to address the woman at the cheese counter politely, and to say, with my prompting, nous voudrions du fromage de chèvre, s’il vous plait. Jamie knew what he was doing: he loves goat cheese. Which is also cool.
___ Though he spurns most fruits (except tomatoes) and vegetables (except lettuce and red peppers), he is far more willing to try strange foods than I was at fourteen. He has been a fan of Indian food for the past five years, and welcomes Viet-Thai and Korean dishes as well. One of these days I have to take him to a good churrascuria. He would love that. In Fayence he agreed to try escargot, and did not rebel even when he was told what escargot means. He also tried paté and mussels and a bit of carrot salad. And he loves Orangina and rich black olives, too.
___ He likes Ted Leo. But I already said that.
I’ve told him all these things many times, usually when I put him to bed at night. But I thought I’d set them down here, for future reference and for the benefit of his many Internet friends. And, of course, for the benefit of all those people who foolishly think of Down syndrome as something akin to polio or Alzheimer’s or Tay-Sachs—namely, a regrettable intraspecies variation whose elimination would be an unqualified good. For I can honestly say that even though I can’t figure out which cool thing about Jamie is the very coolest, I would be very happy indeed if the world contained more people like him.