I threw 10-Year Old daughter into the car and took her down to Asbury Park for a little one-on-one time. Soon, I'll be nothing but a constant source of embarrassment to her so I think it's important to take advantage while she can still stand to be in the same room with me.
[I have a much larger point to make at the end of all this, so hang in there.]
We started at the fabulous Silver Ball Museum on the boardwalk. Pinball machines figured prominently in my youth and I wanted her to know where some of her roots are buried.
There are over 200 working pinball machines, some dating back to the 1950's. Each machine has a placard on top that gives the machine's history; the year it was constructed, how many of that model were manufactured, the designer and critical player reaction. You can really lose yourself in this place, especially if you're in a certain age category that will go unmentioned. It's $10 bucks for an hour of open play and worth every penny.
It was sunny and pleasant. Nice enough to kick off our shoes and go for a walk on the beach. We climbed on the rocks and poked around the tide pools. It's off season so the beach was gloriously empty. In a few weeks, the tourists and off-seasonals will start to descend upon the Jersey Shore. None of those clowns you see on TV are from New Jersey. They're all from Staten Island and Brooklyn. A lot us wish they'd stay there.
The tourists haven't come around to strip the beach yet so you can find some pretty cool things, like this sand dollar. Also, there are no plastic bottles or McDonald's wrappers to step over. Yet.
We popped into New Jersey's most famous dive bar/music venue, The Stone Pony. Everyone has played there. It's an institution.
Here's the interior with its famous wall of signed guitars. It looks like 90% of them are Fenders. There seems to be a prejudice against Gibsons. What's up with that?
* * *
The next day I took 5-Year Old Daughter into the city to see The Lion King. Just her and I. It was another gloriously bright, sunny day, so beforehand we hung out in Times Square for a while. We sat high atop the TKTS half price ticket booth and she spotted "celebrities." (Those celebrities being people walking around in Disney character costumes.)
The Lion King is a gateway drug. Once a kid sees it, there's no stopping them. "Dad, can we go to another play?" Yes, we can! Julie Taymor has become a punch line because of the Spider-Man musical debacle, but people seem to forget about The Lion King or discount it because it's a favorite with the tourists. It's not a perfect play as far as music and pacing is concerned but for visuals, staging, costumes, lighting and creativity, there's simply nothing better. Some of it is quite moving.
The plot concerns a father and son. Much of it is borrowed from Hamlet. An uncle murders a father and tricks the son into thinking he's responsible. The son flees into exile. The uncle takes the father's place on the throne as the new, demented king. While exiled, the son is visited by his father's ghost. The father tells the son that he doesn't realize who he is yet and that he can achieve greatness. The father explains he is alive, as he lives on through his son.
I was listening to all this, getting angrier and sadder by the minute. I thought of the past two days with my daughters and how much joy it gave me to be with them. My own idiot father didn't spent :10 minutes trying to connect with any of us. He doesn't know what he missed. When the face of his father's ghost came into focus and floated amongst the stars, I wondered what I might have achieved if I had had just a modicum of guidance, instead of making it up as I go along, as I have been all these years. What if I had been taught that I could be more than the sum of my parts? Wouldn't that have been a useful piece information to pass along?
I caution the girls to never think that they're better than anyone else because if they do, nobody will want to be their friend. But do you know what? I am better than him.