Barry weathers the parents
Right at this very moment, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Manhattan, writing this column.This should be a wonderful moment for me, but it is bittersweet. My one-man show, “Jesus In Montana,” opened last night at the New York International Fringe Festival to a great audience and what will hopefully be good critical response. My friends have flown to NY to help make this show happen. I’m drinking a celebratory cup of caffeinated beverage – my first such in several months. And I’m in a NY coffee shop – how totally cool!Yet my experience is marred by the fact that my father was right.In my little place where I keep columns-in-progress, there’s one called “My Father Was Right.” It’s a file containing all of my father’s odd sayings and aphorisms that I once considered wrong at best, insane at worst. The idea was to revisit these and somehow make them make sense, the theory being that you have truly reached adulthood when you realize all the crazy things your parents once said were actually wise and true. Kind of a coming-of-age-ish kinda thing, or something. Only funny.But I’ve resisted this idea for years, because I could never quite figure out the wisdom in things like, “If you have so much energy you should go clean something” or “Washing dishes is good for you, it keeps your fingernails clean” or “You make-a-da mess, you clean uppa-da-mess.” And no, my father is not Chico Marx, making that last one all the more bizarre.And yes, my father’s words of wisdom all had to do with housework.A few months ago, shortly after receiving word of my acceptance in the NY Fringe Fest, I found myself at my parents’ Southern California house for my obligatory every-few-years visit. We all settled in on the back patio, my father, stepmother and I, cigarettes ablaze, and they asked, “So, Barry, what’s new?”Now, the answer I usually give is “Not much … how’s the weather been here?” This is the answer that makes the most sense, because even if what’s new is that I have just won the Nobel Prize for discovering how lawn clippings can be used to cure cancer, the topic will quickly turn to the weather anyway, so why not make things easy on everyone?However, in that moment I was just so excited about what was actually new that I made an amateur mistake: I shared.I said: “Well, I wrote a one-man show and I just found out it has been accepted in this big festival, so I’m going to perform it in New York this August.”What the hell was I thinking?Now, I have a photographic memory for certain things, so let me assure you that this is the EXACT conversation that followed:DAD: August in New York? It’s gonna be hot. And humid!JAN (stepmother): Oh, how do you know? When have you ever been in New York in August?DAD: A few times! And it was hot and humid!JAN: Oh, you don’t know! What causes humidity, anyway? I thought it was rain …And the conversation galloped off into the distance, like a team of runaway horses spooked by a rattlesnake.There was a time when this would have upset me, but as I sat there listening to the best meteorological dissertation this side of the Weather Channel, I thought, “You just can’t make this stuff up.”I repeated this story a few times to various friends with great success. We all laughed and nodded and smugly agreed on all sorts of things on the topic of parents.A few days ago I arrived in New York. And guess what?It’s hot! And humid! No, but I mean REALLY HOT! And REALLY HUMID!It’s sticky and sweltering and miserable and I’ve seen several heat-related altercations per day and people on the subway platforms look like they’ve been hosed down and it generally feels like what you imagine Hell would be like, only with more efficient public transportation and occasional air-conditioned coffee shops.And though I’m hanging out in New York with my friends participating in an amazing festival and having the most creatively satisfying time of my life thus far, I can’t shake that horrible feeling …Damnit! My father was right!Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is barry@Irrelativity.com, and his very own Web page is at http://www.Irrelativity.com
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