Friday, March 12, 2010

162 days to Bar Mitzvah: DJ volcano saves the day

I almost didn't write in here today. That's how it goes when you come home at the end of the day, only to realize, as you trudge up the hill from the BART station, that you've spent every single one of the past 480 minutes angry.

Why was I angry? It's not important. The results of a mis-conceived career are not always pretty. You end up as fodder for whoever wants to mess with you. And there's not a darn thing you can do about it. Walking around looking dangerous may make you feel better for awhile, but all it does in the long run is make people want to steer clear of you.

So I came home and walked the dog, gave him some dinner and slugged down a beer while reading "Entertainment Weekly." For anyone who still thinks I demand some kind of basic level of sophistication from my reading materials, you can pretend I was reading this week's "New Yorker." The truth is, the quality of the beer I was drinking (Full Sail Amber) was far more important to me than the intellectual challenge presented by the magazine. I'm not picky. I read true crime books sometimes.

But then Sandra Bullock came home, all flush with the radiant glow one can only get after a few hours of hopscotching between Target, Barns & Noble and Best Buy. She dutifully listened to me complain for a half-hour or so, then reminded me that, as twisted as it may seem to the gainfully employed among you, writing in here daily is at least as important to my overall worldview as the thousands of words wrung out of me every day by my employers.

So here I am.

I did one good thing today: I googled the Jawa's computer teacher and found that, in addition to acting as an information superhighway guide to the students of Brandeis Hillel Day School, she is also one-half of an electronica group called "Eats Tapes." Sharing that information with the Jawa was undoubtedly the high point of my day.

He couldn't believe it. Remember that at twelve years old you are absolutely convinced that your teachers are shrink-wrapped at the end of each school day, then stacked like firewood in the teachers lounge by Robert, the omniscient custodian, or by Mrs. Bondoc, whose great powers include the ability to distribute band-aids and determine whether or not a student is healthy enough to return to class.

I knew he'd flip out but his response was still better than I could have hoped. He immediately went to his computer (enjoying the use of his new keyboard, purchased after he shorted out his old one by spilling water on it, unwittingly recalling a "Saturday Night Live" skit from the Three Mile Island era that I'm going to assume I'm alone in remembering) and googled "Eats Tapes." For the next hour, he played youtube videos of the band, letting out an involuntary whoop! or shriek every few minutes. "Dad! Check this out!" he said. "It's her!" He showed me a video of his teacher, looking exactly like she does at school only wearing a t-shirt and shorts, hunched over what looked like an old Moog synthesizer, squeezing out blips and beeps and other electro noises.

From there he expanded. He went to iTunes and shouted, "They've got four CDs!" Since eight o'clock, I've heard one particular song a dozen times. Turns out he could only afford to download one track. I will miss the best part, unfortunately, which will take place on Monday, when he goes to computer class and spills the beans to his teacher.

Can you remember what it would have felt like to be a seventh-grader and have that kind of information about a teacher? I can only imagine how large she must loom in his mind right about now.

But wait; there's more. Even as I type this, the Jawa is loading his iPod into the stereo. He wants us to hear something he just made with some mysterious free software he downloaded. He took the Cut Chemist song "What's the Altitude" and remixed it under his DJ name, "DJ Volcano." That's right; it's the DJ Volcano Mix. Scratching included without charge.

And I've got to tell you, through my suddenly wet eyes and puffed-up chest full of parental pride, it's pretty good. So's the impromptu dance he's presently executing in the middle of the living room. Likewise the look of unfettered happiness he's wearing on his mug. To paraphrase Holden Caulfield, it's beautiful. I wish you could have been here to see it.

So there you go. Right now San Francisco's public schools are jumping through hoops trying to get themselves excised from the state's "Worst Performing Schools" index while simultaneously trying to satisfy a district full of parents who just want their kids to go to school in the neighborhood but cannot, due to the district's primary commitment to diversity above all else, which has resulted in a formula for school assignment that may or may not include Planck's constant.

Meanwhile, we've got a computer teacher who right now is probably out with friends (some bar in the Mission, of course), having no idea of the impact she's having on one of her students. The Jawa's plan tonight was to watch "Mythbusters" on demand until his eyes fell out of his head. Instead, he's spent the past hour downloading DJ software and messing with his favorite songs, all because he was inspired by the effort it took to get his mind around the radical idea that his computer teacher had a life outside the BHDS computer room and man, what a life it turned out to be! If you ask me, that's pretty cool. The next time I see his computer teacher, I'll be sure to tell her all about it.

And if among the three of us we can find a way for my Jawa to avoid ever having to come home from work on a Friday carrying around the realizion that he's just spent 480 consecutive minutes on the verge of going postal and morphing into Michael Douglas in "Falling Down," I will consider us paragon examples of the value of a good education. A Jewish Day School education, and don't you forget it.

1 comment:

ted_dagnese said...

'Planck's constant' - well done