Rock On

The house was hushed today during naptime except for the hum of a fan and the gentle music drifting out of the stereo speakers. Short Stack was tucked into our bed; his preferred napping spot. Downstairs, I toiled along on my computer desperately trying to get my brain to reconnect with the psychobabble that passes for college level discussions on educational methods courses.

The iPod has a few carefully selected playlists that get a lot of airtime in our house. Odd combinations of artists whom you would not expect to hear in the same mix roll through the living room on an endless loop. Norah Jones is followed by Billy Holiday who comes just before Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and then it’s on to some Dido and Loreena McKennitt. My “mix tape” building skills, honed throughout college, has come in handy. The common thread with this mix is the mood: Mellow. I actually named this particular playlist “Napping Folks” and it does a good job.

Then, I hear the tell tale sound of tiny, scuffing feet at the top of the stairs. HE’S UP!

The plan has been that he gets to go for a ride with Mom if he takes his nap a little early and wakes up in time. Action Girl is captain of the ferry to our island today, a relative oddity, and the chance for Short Stack to ride with her in the wheelhouse leaves both of them excited. After the Laurel and Hardy-esque dance of getting dressed, finding shoes, packing snacks and answering roughly twelve hundred questions about every single topic that might zip through his hyper distracted brain, we’re out the door and headed for the dock. With a hug, kiss and wave, he’s off for an adventure and I tromp back to the house alone.

Lulu Belle is at my folk’s, slowly disassembling their kitchen and moving it, one item at a time, into the living room. She’s helpful that way! When I step through the my front door, the soothing music that’s been playing for hours attacks me like ants crawling up a pant leg. A lunge at the stereo and it falls silent. Then… a new play list is started. A special play list. A Daddy play list. This one is all mine, and it…



Action Girl and I have a lot of things in common. We love mountain biking. We enjoy making and viewing art. We have the same parenting philosophy. We love world travel. There is one path where we diverge heavily though. Music.

All right, there are several paths where we diverge, but music is the one that I come up against the most often.

There are very few musical forms I don’t enjoy listening to. For the most part, if it’s good music, I’ll happily listen. There are moments that seem right for just about any genre and my music collection has a sampling from most.

Mornings go great with Cat Stevens. Evenings are a little nicer with some Nina Simone. A dinner party with a little Edith Piaf? Sure! I like them all and so does she. However, on several million occasions, she’s come home unexpectedly while I’m listening to my own picks and said something along the lines of, “Can I just turn this off?” or, the less subtle, “What the hell IS that?!”

When I’m alone… and especially when there’s physical work to do, well… that calls for something different. The warmup often starts with AC/DC and escalates from there.


For what ever reason, Action Girl lost her taste for rowdy music long, long ago. This is even more curious since she and not I, actually attended an AC/DC concert back in high school. I don’t the reason, but I have been growing steadily towards the roudy stuff over the years.

Back in high school, the loudest thing I owned was Van Halen’s 1984, (which I still own in the original vinyl) Most of my stuff was more sedate, however. The Police, perhaps some Doors LP’s liberated from my Mom’s collection and a good deal of 80’s pop. That was about it. The punk beats of The Police planted the seed though and later lead me on to the Ramones… who in turn brought me to The Clash and then the Dead Kennedys and… you get the idea.

Now, when there’s manly work to be done involving power tools, hammers and possibly the first aid kit, I like to punch it up. The problem is that I almost never get that chance anymore. For ten years, I ran my own manufacturing shop. Most of the time, it was just a bunch of loud machines and I, alone in an ancient factory building. Orders were via fax and email so I never worried about customers coming through the door. This was the absolute PEFECT place to go nuts with the heavy metal and other musical obnoxiousness, and I did! I’d pound away with its driving beat all day. On my commute home, I’d cool down with something more main stream and mellower, if for no other reason than avoiding the temptation to drive like a testosterone poisoned seventeen year old. On the ferry ride back to the island, I might listen to some boisterious classical. Copeland, Verdi or Saint-Saens worked nicely and did a wonderful job of drowning out the chatter from clueless tourists. Once home, it was whatever Action Girl wanted. Often, this was nothing at all.

She enjoys her silence.

The day before Christmas last year, I sold my business. In one fell swoop I lost my place for listening to the corrosive heavy metal or electronica that I enjoyed, the drive home for my pop music listening and the boat ride for my zippy classical.

Short Stack seems to have taken after his mother when it comes to listening choices. Anything more rambunctious than Emmy Lou Harris will send him to me with his hands over his ears and the announcement that, “Daddy, this is TOO loud.” So, I wait for the rare times like this when the house is empty. I crank the volume to eleven and queue up The Offspring. Who knows, perhaps some day I’ll be telling Shorts Stack to “turn that DOWN!” …but I’m not betting on it.

In the mean time, when he’s at school and Action Girl is at work, Little Lulu Belle and I listen to music all day long. Nothing scary and fast, naturally, but I’m starting her off right in the hopes of having someone who’ll join me in rocking out one day.

She already likes the Talking Heads and will actually dance to Credence Clearwater Revival, so… there’s hope. Normally, I’ll stick to the relaxing stuff, but when the house is mine and there’s work to be done… hey, I’ve got to be able to hear it over the table saw, don’t I? I just need to make the lunge for the power before the front door opens and I get the greeting, “How can you listen to this?”

The politic answer is to simply shrug.

The one I say in my head is, “Loudly!”

6 Responses

  1. Love Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. The rest? um, no. Mellow and classical has its place and time, these days I’m listening to contemporary Christian. The lyrics are safe for the whole family and Lil’bug listens to the words. Yesterday she asked me what ‘darkness’ was. twice. (the song came on twice while we were out running errands.) The most raucous I’ve gotten the past year? Coldplay Viva la Vida.

    • Oh boy, do I ever hear you on the “safe lyric” issue. Short Stack is in full sponge mode and will not only parrot what ever he hears but just like Lil’bug did to you, ask what it means. We listen to a lot of “safe” material around the house. A personal favorite for me is to play Dean Martin or Leon Redbone during the day. I love the fact that my three year old knows some of the words to “That’s Amore” and “Polly Wally Doodle all the day.”

      The best part of this post was that as I was looking for a picture to include here, I tossed in an earbud to get to hear just one AC/DC song. About fifteen seconds into the music, Short Stack wandered up and asked, “What are you listening to, dad?”

      What followed was one of my faster parental redirects. “Hey Buddy! Want to go outside?!?” 😛


  2. Your life sounds like something out of a Norman Rockwell poster.

    My wife calls the louder music that I sometimes listen to (like The Butthole Surfers), “boys music”. Luckily we both love world music so there is always something that we can play that we both like.

    Ladybudhugs comment reminded me of when I was the manager of an outdoor equipment store.

    One day a lady with a little girl about 6 or 7 came in and while I was talking to her, the DJ on the radio that was playing, back announced the Regurgitator song, “I sucked a lot of c*ck to get where I am”. The woman customer’s face froze into an accusing rictus. There was a short lull before she hysterically spat out, “HOW AM I GOING TO EXPLAIN THAT TO MY DAUGHTER?!!”. Her daughter was oblivious and caught up in her own little world and hadn’t noticed what the DJ had said. I said that if her daughter asks what it means, to tell her it’s about eating chicken.

    • Wow.. The Butthole Surfers. I haven’t listened to them in ages. Time to dig through the box of cassette tapes!

      I’ve had an interesting time trying to figure out what to do with my music collection as time moves on. Some day (and fairly soon), Short Stack is going to learn how to use the iPod and then take a better look at the music selection. How does one explain Rammstein and the Dead Kennedys to a five year old?

      Eeesh. I might have to buy my self a “Dad’s private iPod”


  3. I can’t do any heavy thinking to heavy metal, but it sure speeds up the pace of house work.

    I was a big Engelbert Humperdinck fan when I was 5 … but I’ve moved on since then.

    • There is NOTHING like heavy metal to get your butt moving when there’s physical labor to be done! Except perhaps Techno. It depends on the day. Elgelburt can come after the day is over and I’m on the second beer.


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