Friday, October 12, 2007

Yes You Can

Los Angeles, California -- I actually know who said, "You can't go home again" because I looked it up after hearing people knowlingly toss off the phrase dozens of times. However, I never read the book beccause that would have required mental heavy lifting of which I'm not capable nor inclined. But I knew that someday the phrase would come in handy.

I'm in Los Angeles to sit with yes, my famed good ole mom, while she recovers from a mild illness. Not only do I get to come home again, but I get to listen to her biting liberal observations spliced with lamentations of her ideologically lost son. It's a real tightrope -- showering genuine affection on a woman who lambasts your world view at every turn (please see "Good Ole Mom" post).

In addition to criticizing my entire professional career, she has never been comfortable with my upbringing, coincidentally which she oversaw. That's because I grew up in standard fashion: pretty happy-go-lucky, mildly excelling at school and sports, with many friends and no irretrievable mistakes.

Moreover, I actually liked the many hackneyed features of adolescence and reveled in all the mundaneity that it brought. No tortured childhood here, folks. No brooding intellectual, simmering with rage at subtle or perceived insults, no lifelong grudges against The Man and the vacuity of modern society. No ravings of how plastic everything was and how I was "misunderstood" and my sublime thoughts were not appreciated. I loved the beaches of Santa Monica, where I was born, and the pleasant suburb and schools that were my lucky lot. My teachers and coaches, almost to person, were admirable and my friends from 40 years ago are still today.

Indeed, if you're most crushing adolescent blow is having to go to the prom with your childhood friend, then you're simply not fit to be some dark, tormented neo-Goth nor conversely, some shrill, righteous crusader avenging wrongs and all that stuff.

In addition to boring All-American stability, growing up in LA gave you brushes with future fame mesiters that put life in perspective. One of Peter Lawford's daughters was in my high school class; former UCLA and Denver Nugget great Kiki Vanderweghe once blocked one of my numerous ill considered shots in a basketball tournament. On my track team and in my French class was Christopher Knight, aka the world famous Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch. Our rival high school was quarterbacked by John Elway and one of my best pals intercepted him. John Coltrane's family lived a few blocks away; Joan Jett a little farther. The nifty brushes with color and style added a swirl to the plain vanilla childhood I had, all of it against the express wishes of my flinty, sharper, penetrating mother. Despite this letdown, she wasn't despondent throughout and even today is grudgingly aware of having raised a son whom you can introduce to friends.

For example, when her friends visit and ask what I'm doing, I reply robotically, "I'm a loyal shock trooper in the Bush Administration." "That's nice," they say politely and ask about all those "wonderful programs you people want to cut."

But the old ghosts of three decades don't die. Mom and I are lounging on the patio one afternoon, trading casual invective at each other when the phone rings. It's an old pal along with whom I'm meeting that evening with a bunch of guys from the team who still live in the area. "We're all gonna meet at the Sagebrush Cantaina and talk b-ball and girls," I cackle mercilessly to a world-weary mother. She sighs at this preposterous continuance of the juvenile, cornball son I've been and remain. "Jeffrey," she says sadly, "As the man says, you can't go home again."

For one of the few times in my whole life, I am actually prepared for good ole mom. I clear my throat and reply, "Thomas Wolfe was a disillusioned, embittered old Southern cracker" and then I deliver the crushing finale, adding, "Besides, he never played against Kiki Vanderweghe."

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