One Thing I Do Well
There are a few things that I am good at. This is one of them:
Yesterday was the last day of school. I joined all of the parents and children in saying "goodbye" to the Jawa's teacher, who will be taking her Judy Garland-as-Dorothy self back to South Carolina, where she and her husband have already bought a house, which is something two teachers can do in Charleston but not in San Francisco.
The girls all cried loudly as they hugged the teacher, who eventually broke down, too. The boys, being boys, generally ran around yelling loudly.
Also leaving was the class comedian, whose jolly, blue necktie (nak u tai in Japanese) was completely at odds with his stern efforts to hold back tears as he watched the only friends he's known since kindergarten all leave.
Through this chaos came the Jawa and his friend, the self-named Shaman, only child of the Hammer. They burst out of the classroom wearing gigantic smiles, ready for summer which, for me on this day, stretched out before us as five empty hours waiting for someone to fill with fun things to do.
On the way out of school, I also stopped to give a wave to frequent blog contributor Zelda on my way out. Apparently, she was a mess (self-proclaimed), but since I was also chasing two Jawas at the time, I didn't really notice anything untoward.
Five hours is a long time to entertain multiple children and, if it were a day like today, where the children are in the house with me, I might have just told them to "go play" while I worked. But yesterday was sunny and warm, and I know the Shaman well enough to know how he works. And as I said above, there are a few things I am good at. Urban Camp Counselor is one of them.
First, we blew off the traditional fast food establishments in favor of Whiz Burger, a run-down drive-up at 20th and South Van Ness. We dined with hip office workers, construction guys, high school kids and a few homeless people, sitting outside where the jawas could stretch their legs and speak in voices several decibels above what was required for conversation. Then, I smoothly manipulated the conversation to avoid going to Metreon or a playground at Golden Gate Park, offering up instead the "video game museum" at Fisherman's Wharf.
Now you're thinking, "But Lefty, Fisherman's Wharf?" What are you, an overweight tourist from Illinois? An ill-prepared German traveler in strange tennis shoes? No, and no. What you may not know is that children have the exact same interests as tourists. They like cheap electronics, wax museums, theme restaurants and sea lions. I have never had less than a great time with the Jawa at Fisherman's Wharf, so to the Wharf we went.
I love letting kids go nuts in city settings. Here, as a parent, your primary responsibility is just to get them to notice stuff they don't normally see, and to make sure no one steals them. It's a pretty simple job. You do alot of hovering, just out of view.
So I purposely parked several blocks away from the video game museum, knowing that in the time it took us to walk there, I would be enjoying many Art Linkletter-esque moments.
The first came when we passed Hooters. "My mom says that Hooters only hires women with big bazooms," blurted the Shaman. The Jawa considered this, and returned, "I'll bet it's a great place for men, then. Non-gay men."
"I'm usually gay when I play Life," added the Shaman, thoughtfully. "Last time I wasn't, though. I married a girl."
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, kids do say the darndest things. Especially in San Francisco.
It was almost 3 by the time we reached the video game museum, ice cream in hand. As the Hammer would say, we didn't walk, we "meandered." We ditched our ice creams and walked through Laughing Sal's mouth into the arcade, though the Jawa did offer up a warning, saying, "If that's really Laughing Sal's mouth, I'm not going in."
Once inside, the Shaman spent most of his quarters on the old-style arcade games -- where you put a quarter in and some robot dances around, or you see pictures of the Great Earthquake of 1906. The more arcade-savvy Jawa (that is an indictment of my parenting, not an endorsement) went straight for the games of my youth -- Centipede, Asteroids, Battle Zone.
In a short 25 minutes it was over. $10 was gone. We walked back out of Laughing Sal's mouth -- not actually walking, but more like stumbling violently, on my suggestion, as if Laughing Sal had consumed us and then thrown us up. 30 minutes and hundreds of thousands of tourist dollars spent on strange little items with "San Francisco" written on them later we were back at the car. The Shaman admirably tried to carry my own Jawa up Larkin Street, which I found amazing, and was done in spite of a rapidly declining Jawa mood, which at one point inspired the Shaman to say, "What am I doing now that's bothering you? Breathing? Existing?"
We were home by 4:30. Four-and-a-half city hours had passed in what seemed like a second. And as we were walking down on Fisherman's Wharf, I kept wondering what it is that makes a day memorable. Was this one of those days? All we did was drive, get a hamburger, drive some more, walk around and play video games. I'm hoping that the pace of the day -- their pace -- will somehow stamp it into their memories as this great day that happened on the last day of third grade. Either that or the Shaman will remember it as the day no one would give him $3.34 so he could buy that Nintendo DS game he wanted.
This I am good at. Today, though, the three jawas I have upstairs are running around madly while I try to put together a presentation I'm giving tomorrow. Entertaining jawas at home is something I am not good at.