Dad Duty

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June 29, 2009 by David Gillaspie


Parents still hold primary responsible for socializing their offspring; fitting them into a cultural framework.  In the end, if they stay out of jail, the whole village celebrates their success. 

If they crack the top ten call list with the local police, there’s only one person to blame, to shun:  The father.  Everytime.  But it’s even worse for the father of a son in trouble.  They are the most liable of all parents.

It’s the father who equips his children with the survival skills needed for success in life, even if he has none himself.  The father who pushes the extra mile.  Why?  If his kids fail, he is the reason.  If his sons fail, he is faulty, defective.  If they succeed, he is the main hindrance.

The cautious Dad proceeds with good intentions.

This is the man who introduces the process of boyhood to manhood.  This is about gender focus, boy to man, a complex series of experiments taken one unscientific step at a time.  These are events, when occurring at the right time, that shape a man’s life.

The strains of manliness come in many varieties, but a clean strain needs the right test tube to incubate.  That’s what football is all about.  After you go through a few years of that you learn how to get along with people.

Once you figure out what to do on a football field, you have to figure out when to do it and when not to do it.  It’s a pretty limited set of skills that can get you in trouble if you use them in the wrong place.

The fathering guide steps in for the job of showing the right place and the right time for football.  The father instructs his sons that football behavior is reserved for playing football games.

For added contrast in wrong place, wrong time, the considerate father chooses a set of Death Metal concerts as observational laboratories for social research.

The first experiment, an arena show in full scream, was Korn in their thin days.  Disturbed opened.  Between acts a man below us, a tanned longhair in a beater, fell into a frenzy.  His date, or his sister, rubbed his shoulder to calm him down, but he roared like Raider fan on a goal line stand.  Security stepped in and removed him.

The lesson?  Behave yourself long enough to see the headliner; that’s what you paid for.

Two women in seats beside the stage bared their breasts, caught a spotlight, got invited up on stage.  They stayed there all night and left with the band.  There’s a lesson with the girls, but once the spotlight hit them it all blurred into rock mythology.

The next targeted experiment was an all age concert in a smaller setting.  It had a tight stage, a small dance floor, and a second floor balcony with a bar.  More controlled.  Shorter sight lines.

I took four mid-teen boys to the infamous club, telling them ahead of time about the blues murder in the basement.  Nothing sets the table for the night  like a Rock Club murder.  None of the boys said, “Cool.”  We agreed that murder is a wrong thing to be a part of, let alone commit, even a blues murder over a John Lee Hooker show.

During the first of four acts I told the boys to find a Rock Queen, the one girl in the place with Rock and Roll in her soul, who makes you feel it.  There’s always at least one.  Turned out to be quite a few after a closer inspection.

I spotted the first queen in the balcony, looking like a second grade teacher, but shaking the horns with both hands.  Responsible and wild.  She leads the normal life, but she gets the boogie-woogie flu.  No pill gonna cure her ill. 

From the back of the room you could see where tattooed men with shaved heads and no shirts slammed into each other below the stage.  The pecking order was established when one after another skulked back into the crowd, leaving one man standing his ground, dancing his dance. 

The lesson:  Learn to express your aggression in a positive manner when you get out of prison.  Main lesson? Behave well enough to stay out of prison.

We were all there for the same reason: The legendary guitar player in Static X.  No one goes to a stinking din of unshowered people lathered up in a mosh pit for anything else.   

You’re not there for the lyrics.  You have to read them ahead of time to understand the words because the painful vocal style of the genre is a guttural growl like someone vomiting.  Is there a better way to say ‘I love you’.

The boys made it clear from the start that I stay at least fifteen feet away at all times.  I respected their request.  Either they were frightened of the survival mode of the mosh pit and wanted me near, or they were cruising for Rock chicks and wanted me out of sight. 

The best place to keep an eye on them was the crows nest view from the balcony.  I made it past the bar and found a place on the wall to lean back.

The story I had planned on telling the kid’s parents, and my wife, had me as the responsible chaperone for coming of age boys. 

The story gets a little confusing when the Rock Queen schoolteacher starts squeezing past me face to face in an uncrowded catwalk every five minutes.  Back and forth, rubbing tighter each time. 

I kept my eye on the boys down on the floor.  They were watching me.  I could have moved, but I wasn’t in the way of anyone else.  Rock Queen couldn’t keep from pressing closer and closer.  What was I supposed to do?  I was the same place, I had an established position, not a flinch.  She was the encroacher.  My take was from the NBA, no blood, no foul.

The moment the headliner took the stage, the guys in the mosh pit forgot the asskicking they received earlier and started jamming on each other again.  The principal dancer renewed his effort to smash them off the floor.

The lead singer in the band, looking like a Turkish holy man with his hair straight up and his beard straight down, jumped up on a platform and began growling.  I heard an echo behind me.  Amazing acoustics, I thought. 

Instead, I turned around and found a guy singing the songs note for note, growl for growl.  He knew the words.  I was amazed.  It was a first.  I praised his singing.  He introduced me to his big blonde girlfriend.  Fair exchange. 

We watched the crowd surfing below.  A woman in a tube top surfed the crowd hand to hand and got down in front wearing her tube like a belt.  The topless woman wasn’t happy, you could see that, but she didn’t do anything except pull up her top and move to the back where she had been.

This is where the life lessons shifted off the teenagers.  My singing friend’s girl said she’d surf the crowd, too.  She had on a tube top, too.  She kept her clothes on but came back with the first tube top girl.  Before long I was in a crowd of young women in tube tops or less. 

The singer in the balcony was a minor rock star in the area and all the girls knew him.  Groupies?  No, just friends from his girlfriend’s work.  She was a stripper. 

The boys on the floor looked up at the cluster of women surrounding me.  I looked at the cluster of women surrounding me.  I’d never been in such a cluster.  They were shoulder to shoulder. 

Okay, they weren’t there just to surround me, but they surrounded me just the same.  I was in the vicinity.  I was Hugh Hefner for a moment.  Too short a moment, but I got the idea of what it felt like.  It felt nice.  Not just sexy, hot, nice.  Just nice in a safe sort of way.  Real nice.   

I waved from the center of this gathering, bobbing my head and swaying like I was grooving on the industrial metal music.  The girls descended in pairs, surfed the crowd, then returned. 

My boys drifted closer and closer to the balcony, getting a better look at the women gyrating around me.  They watched them from the foot of the stairs to the balcony; watched them come down; watched them surf the crowd; watched them come back; watched them cruise by me with their faces turned up.

I danced.  I smiled.  It was great.

After the first encore, a few of the girls gave me business cards for their strip bar, and invited me to come and see their work.  I looked at them and saw their pictures under the letters VIP.  A VIP pass at a strip bar?  What a great souvenir?

The crushing industrial music finally stopped.  I took the plugs out of my ears.  Very uncool to miss one note of music, so I took them out on the sneak.  I went downstairs and collected the boys. 

We made a vow.  They could ask questions, but I did not have to answer. 

My kid asked first.

“What were you doing up there?”

“Listening to the music.  What did it look like?”

My question would throw him off.  It didn’t.

“You don’t even like the music.  You didn’t even want to come.”

It was true. 

“But I like it now.  When’s the next show.  I have some new friends.”

“What were those people doing?”

I handed them my new VIP cards.

So many lessons we learn seem time-released for the future.  The boys passed the cards around, an image of each girl on the front.  They saw each woman moments ago at the concert, but they were fading to teen mythology on the drive out of town.


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