Wednesday, April 3, 2013

...It Was Good Clean Fun...

The last movie to keep me up past my bedtime was The Flowers of War.


Not long after that it was Pariah with a performance from Kim Wayans that made you completely forget she started out in comedy.

And now that honor goes to The Sessions. A dramatized account of the late poet Mark O’Brien’s experience with a sex surrogate. I found the story to be surprisingly sweet and captivating.

John Hawkes and Helen Hunt got tons of well- deserved nominations for this movie, and a couple of wins and William H Macy was understated perfection as usual.

I also watched The Last Dragon again. For the umpteenth time in forever. I’ve heard that younger people don’t like this movie, but what do they know about it?

As an adult I can appreciate the good clean fun of this film, the incredible soundtrack that included Willie Hutch, and the blink and you’ll miss it W.H. Macy appearance.

But back then, this movie had everything a pre-teen girl could want: a role model in Vanity (because we were young and all we saw was a pretty face and a girl who personally knew Prince); a gorgeous lead male in Taimak (even though I’ve heard repeatedly that he’s kind of a dirt bag off screen); and an itty bitty clip of a Debarge video.

Growing up our room was covered in posters of Prince, Michael Jackson, New Edition, and DeBarge so that smidgen of El that shows up in the movie was enough to make my day back then.

It made me wonder what kids like now. Who are all the posters on the wall these days?

I flipped through a rack of posters in the store about a month back and didn’t recognize anyone and I’ve been wondering who the little girls scream and lose their mind over, or if there’s no clean fun to be had anymore.

We wonder why kids are getting drunk, or high or engaging in activity that seems to far exceed their years but what else is there to do?

And that’s not an excuse. Being bored is not a free pass to bad behavior. When we were kids, an admission of boredom usually meant you were going to have to clean something around the house.

Us kids: Mom, we’re bored.

Mom: Oh, good. You, get the vacuum cleaner and hit every room on this floor; You, get the dust mop and make upstairs sparkle, and you, you get a broom and work on the basement.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had better find ways to entertain ourselves during the slow days of summer.

I had to be especially creative sometimes because often my sister and cousin who were closer in age would go off together to hang out and it was just me.

I’d find something to do in the neighborhood, visit a friend, ride my bike up and down the street all day in the sweltering heat, or weed the neighbor’s yard. (For some reason doing this to someone else’s yard didn’t seem like work as much as it seemed like fun.)

Often times my mom took us to the mall where if I was patient enough with all that annoying shopping I’d be rewarded with a bag Cookie Kitchen chocolate chip cookies and small carton of milk.

We also went to the library all the time. There were plays, the various museums, Greenfield Village, and the (forever Detroit) Science Center.

And of course there were movies. Sometimes the whole family would go to a drive-in, and sometimes just me and my Dad would get to the theatre early having planned the timing just right to catch two or three shows in a row.

We’d visit family, friends, drive through old neighborhoods that my parents grew up in and they’d point out something new or something newly demolished.

There was always something to do; something to be interested in, something to love and get excited about.

I won’t pretend there weren’t some juvenile delinquents among us that messed around with things like drugs, alcohol, or sex, but at the time those kids got the side-eye. That stuff made you the exception not the rule and you were probably ostracized or pitied. Odds were if no other adult on your block showed you any love, there was no love to be seen at all. Your parents were absentee and in all ways negligent.

Seems like now there are no parents, just kids. And the kids are doing stuff that I only knew about at that age because I was constantly reading stuff I had no business reading.

And from what I can tell celebrity role models are long gone. I remember the whole, “I am not a role model” era but I still think if you can be seen by someone else you are potentially a role model whether you like it or not. I discovered this for sure after a two year old became my accidental partner for Wayne’s World version of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.



Kids have more opportunities than ever available to them these days. I’m still blown away by hearing from a friend that all the kids at her daughters’ school get laptops or tablets for the school year. Her girls were somewhere between disbelief and hysterical laughter when I told them we sat three to a computer. And only the honors kids got computer classes. The screen was black with square, green lettering with no color or graphics and the printer was two feet wide and sounded like an airplane landing on your roof.

We used encyclopedias or went to the library to look something up. There was no Google or Bing.

But it was a good life. Sure you had to try to stay up late enough to catch Friday Night videos or wait until Saturday afternoon to hope to see one on Soul Train rather than just hit You Tube, but life without having everything right in front of you had its perks.

That innate explorer spirit was cultivated. You had to dig deeper for everything but it taught you how to think, try, and problem solve.

Everyone didn’t have something to say about everything so you were more apt to listen and learn.

Everybody wasn’t too cool to care about the little things. (Note to the sales guy who sold my mom her new Galaxy and said there was no physical instruction manual because it saves the planet: who do you think you’re saving it for?)

Of course, none of this is to say all kids today are crud and ruining everything and we’re all going to heck in a hand-basket. That’s simply not true. There are lots of good kids that probably don’t get the attention they deserve simply because they are good.

To them, I say, keep being you. You are awesome.

And this isn’t to oversimplify things and say that kids today are having a rough go of things because there aren’t really any cool people to post on their bedroom wall.

I can acknowledge that DeBarge family is as known for their struggles with substance abuse as they are for their tremendous talent. And Bobby Brown hasn’t exactly been role model material since the late 80s.

It takes so many little things in the right place at the right time to get to a good meanwhile. I say “meanwhile” because how it starts doesn’t necessarily determine how it will end.

Either way I’m sure my life would have still turned out fine with DeBarge or New Edition or the Last Dragon.

And since it was all just so much fun for a kid, I’m glad that I’m never going to know for sure.

DeBarge – Rhythm of the Night



Yeah, she’s fresh!

Vanity – Seventh Heaven



Willie Hutch – Glow



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