Parents end the column fodder |

Parents end the column fodder

Last week I paid an unexpected visit to my parents in Southern California.I usually visit about once a year, often less, but this was my second visit in six months’ time.During my last visit, I accidentally told my father and stepmother, Jan, some very exciting news that had just happened in my life. They responded by using my news as a jumping off point to talking about the weather. I responded by writing a column about it.I know people who claim to talk to one or more of their parents on a regular, even daily, basis. When I hear this I always think, “Why? Doesn’t your cable package include the Weather Channel?”Don’t get me wrong – I love my parents, and I love visiting them, because I have a weekly column deadline. I know that a parental visit is good for 2-5 columns that I can spread out throughout the year. They are living fountainheads of “you just can’t make this stuff up,” and during my visits I have on hand my notebook, two pens, a microcassette recorder and a thirst for column fodder.”So? How’s it been going?” I asked as I sat down at the back patio. I rotated my writing hand a few times to loosen it up, then poised my pen over my black notebook. I didn’t want to miss a thing, as this may have to carry me through those lean December months when I can’t think of anything else to write about.”Very well,” Jan replied.”Yes,” my father agreed, “quite well.””Been kinda hot, though, hasn’t it?” I goaded. “I mean, Southern California? Been a hot summer, right? Maybe a bit windier than usual? And hot?” “No, not really,” Jan said.”Well, now that you mention it …” my dad said, and I visibly squirmed in my seat, “I haven’t really paid the weather much attention lately, not since I’ve been enjoying the works of William Blake.””Really?” I said, scribbling furiously. “So you got the old ‘Baretta’ episodes from Netflix, eh? Oh, this is classic!””Not Robert Blake,” my dad corrected, “William Blake, 18th century poet and printmaker. I’m currently taken by his ‘Visions of the Daughters of Albion.'”I looked up from trying to figure out if “Baretta” was one or two r’s. “Are you familiar with Blake’s Illuminated works?” he asked. “I think you, especially, would appreciate his classical depictions of the Old Testament God.”I was confused. I looked at Jan. I asked her if it had been hot lately.”You already asked me that,” she said. “Now, why don’t you just tell us all about what YOU’VE been up to while we sit here and take a genuine interest, interrupting only to ask you to clarify certain points, or to give more details about aspects of your life we find particularly fascinating.”I dropped my pen.”Really? Well, OK, then. Uh, let’s see, for the past few months I’ve had … Hey, wait a minute. What the hell’s going on here?””Nothing at all,” dad said, crossing his legs. “Now go on. Tell us all about yourself.””I know what you’re trying to do!” I yelled. “You’re trying to get me to not write about you, aren’t you?”They exchanged puzzled glances, then looked at me with concern.”I see your little plan,” I said. “You’re trying to rob me of hard-earned deadline material. You think I came a thousand miles to NOT write about you? Now cut the crap right now and start talking about things that you think are normal, but that I think are funny and ironic! I’m serious!” “No, really, Barry … we’re interested to hear …””OK, then, fine!” I snatched a Marlboro Light from my dad’s pack and lit it. “It’s like that, is it? Well, guess what? I’m gonna write a column about you trying to get me to NOT write a column about you. Ha! How dare you deny me my birthright! How dare you not yell at the dogs, quibble with each other and talk about the weather instead of me! Mark my words, you will rue this day!””Can I get you a beer or something, Barry?” Jan asked. “We stocked up on that kind you like. Then maybe after I cook your dinner we can watch the DVD you made.””Silence!” I exclaimed.I picked up my pen and began to write: “Last week I paid an unexpected visit …”Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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