We headed out on Tuesday afternoon, my son and I, just because. He was feeling a little cabin feverish and I couldn’t think of a reason not to, so we walked around the mall and the Best Buy store, the same way we always have.
There are some differences. As I’ve said many times, John has never known another home, or one in which his father worked outside of it. This may have been a healthy thing for him, being neurologically inclined to see change as a threat. Dunno. It’s hard to create counterfactuals for him; we’ve been playing catch-up forever, reacting forever. We can’t afford to spend a lot of time trying to change the past.
The differences, though, make me aware of the past, just because we drive the same streets and he’s now 27. Twenty years ago, I would have been mostly focused on keeping him by my side and watching his relentless public politeness. Now we can just be guys, alternating running commentary on the nature of consumerism and how ignorant most salespeople are about the products they’re selling. It passes the time.
We were driving down one of those familiar streets on Tuesday, a dreary day, dark and cold with snow still piled up on the sidewalks, too cold to melt, when he asked me a funny question.
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in Russia?”
I must have. I thought about Russia a lot when I was younger, for good reasons. My first semester in college I took a Russian language class, majoring in journalism and imagining a future of doing stand-up reporting from Moscow. The future looked a lot different then.
Later, I took a class on Russian and Polish theater and got more enlightenment about the culture and political structure of the Soviet Union, so yeah. I’d thought about it. Very dreary, that place. I could see why it had crossed his mind.
I was wrong, though.
He turned 27 yesterday, a birthday that came with some blues but brightened up considerably just as the big day got close. He’s just aware now that life keeps moving and he’s been pretty static, or that’s probably what it feels like. I get that, but what we’ve seen in the past 18 months or so is the opposite of stasis.
He’s on tiny doses of medication now, after 20 years of taking pills. I can’t tell you whether the medication was a good idea or not; I suspect it was, but as I say: We were playing catch-up with brain chemistry. Most of us did our best.
And he’s aware of the world around him, thanks to a news-reading app on his phone, even if he lacks a little context. The context, of course, is history. Most of the time it is, with most of the people.
He wasn’t talking about Russian winters. He was talking about authoritarianism. He was talking about Trump.
I wasn’t biting. I don’t believe it can’t happen here. I just think it would be really, really hard. Americans are ornery down to their DNA. And Trump is demonstrably stupid, and Bannon is an anarchist. Power in this country is all about riding the tiger and not getting eaten. This should at least be interesting.
But history again. Somewhere around here is a scrapbook, a gift from someone, a baby book in which we wrote down details of his birth, etc. I remember noting that Buster Douglas had just defeated Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight title, which seems like it was important at the time.
And I wrote about the Soviet Union quickly disappearing, something that made no sense. It was disorienting to someone growing up during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall came down. It just came down, brick by brick. It felt as though aliens had landed.
I got him another video card for his PC, which as it turns out was what I bought him four years ago. If you’ve never glanced at those things, you’d probably be stunned at the price range. It’s pretty easy to drop hundreds on a video card, if you feel like dropping.
This one was bearable, and it apparently gave him the boost he needed to get true 4K on his 4K monitor (another gift, Christmas a couple of years ago). This matters to someone who plays video games.
It doesn’t matter so much to me, although this new build of mine has a pretty decent card. For what I wanted to do, though, which was some simple video editing and a little animation, it’s mostly about CPU and RAM. I didn’t want to spend the money for a souped-up CPU, but this AMD with a 3.5 clock speed seems to work fine.
I’ve actually been editing video for over 30 years, back to when I’d rent another VCR so I could edit actual videotape. This sort of thing I do now? Could only dream of it, back in those days. I would have killed for the ability to just add titles.
I’m not looking for a bright side. That’s never interested me, twisting logic to rationalize a sunny outlook. I tend to be an optimistic person, but I don’t think I’m unrealistic. I have no idea what’s going to happen to the world, to us, to me. Some things don’t look particularly sunny.
But this is a world that has my son in it, and I can’t seem to see Russia from my porch, no matter what the news says.