Monday, August 31, 2009
I used to think I had a fairly normal childhood. I had my treehouse. I had my friends. I had a great life. But I've come to realize that I missed out some pretty stereotypical parts of the usual upbringing process. I've recently discovered that, when it comes to Dr. Seuss, I'm a bit of a grinch.
I have no recall of my picture book era whatsoever. Surely I must've had my moment in the sun with the Little Engine That Could, but I sure don't remember it. My mother tells me that I had a somewhat scandalous obsession with "The Poky Little Puppy," but I couldn't give you a synopsis today.
My grandmother used to give me Babar books, but I wasn't having it. After all, as Wikipedia informs, some feel that "although superficially delightful, the Babar stories are politically and morally offensive and can be seen as a justification for colonialism." Clearly this concerned me deeply as a 5-year old. Okay, maybe I just thought Babar looked creepy as heck.
As far as my memory is concerned, here's my childhood in a nutshell: In the beginning, there was nothing. Then Mom said, "Let there be Hardy Boys!" And there were Hardy Boys, and they were good.
I worshipped the Hardy Boys and their keen adventures of, umm, keen-ness. And I'm pretty sure that it was my obsession for collecting the whole series that laid the fundamental groundwork for the OCD-riddled music nerd you know and love today. But by the time I was in grade school, I'd read and re-read the entire series. It was time for a new literary hero.
Naturally, that hero would be: Mack Bolan, The Executioner. Choice reading material for a grade schooler, eh? When I was on the phone asking my mom about the poky puppy just now, she was like, "All I remember are the Hardy Boys and that actiony fellow, what was his name again?"
Here's where you have to learn a little about my dad. My father is one of the most gentle, giving, and harmless people on God's green earth. He wouldn't hurt a fly -- well, unless provoked. But my dad was also a military policeman at Fort Knox for a good long while, and as such, has a bit of a hidden side. A side that subscribes to Soldier of Fortune magazine. A side that's seen every war movie ever made. And a side that apparantly didn't see anything wrong with letting his young son read The Executioner series.
To compare, the Hardy Boys defeat bad guys using their intuition and some wits. Mack Bolan defeats bad guys using his AK-47 and some well-timed head shots. After the Hardy Boys win, they go home and get some pie. After Mack Bolan wins, he goes home and just gets some. (Pie not necessarily included.) If my mother ever knew the contents of those books, my dad might STILL be in the doghouse today.
But the point of this whole literary analysis is that between the innocent mysteries of the Hardy Boys and blood-stained streets of Mack Bolan, I somehow ignored the ultimate childhood rite-of-passage: I was never into Dr. Seuss.
It just wasn't my thing. Odd little amorphous, asexual creatures all talking in rhyme and usually complaining about stuff? Not my scene. Here's how I used to stereotype Dr. Seuss books:
First, have your cat walk across the computer keyboard. Like this (here, kitty!):
This is now your amorphous, asexual main character's name. Now do it again (meow kitty!):
And that's your character's homeland. Then just come up with something bad to happen (you can do that later) and set it to rhyme:
There once was a Prulkinfarg from Ruttving City,
Where (something something really bad) and it was such a pity.
In the end, something something really good happens and everyone learns a lesson. And then when you're in your mid-20's, you learn that your cheezy little children's story of yore is secretly an allegorical condemnation of the horrors of nuclear war and you go "Whoooa, that's deep!"
Me, I just thought they were boring little dumb-named blobs who wore ugly hats and fancied green eggs and one, if not two, fish of the red and/or blue persuasion. So I kinda skipped out on Seuss, and now I feel like I missed the boat. Everyone my age and below reveres Dr. Seuss like a childhood friend. I, meanwhile, was the only person on the planet who recently watched "Horton Hears a Who" and didn't already know the plot.
So it was with some trepidation and reluctance that I accepted my friend Kelly's offer last week to go see Quad City Music Guild's production of "Seussical," the musical that weaves multiple classic Seuss storylines into a magnum opus of cats and hats and Hortons and Whos and Thinks you can think. And for a local production -- heck, for ANY production -- I was blown away.
Between the three fabulous leads (especially fifth-grader Emily Baker stealing the show as Whoville's Jo Jo) and the tight direction of Andy Davis, the entire Seuss canon came to life before my eyes and melted this grinch's heart. The only thing that stunk was that I was watching it WITHOUT the accompaniment of the biggest Seuss fan I know, my girlfriend. (This might be due to the fact that we split up, but that's another topic for another time -- just suffice to say we really suck at breaking up since she's sitting on my couch as I'm writing this.)
I couldn't imagine Seussical without her -- so the very next day, I took her to the matinee and saw the show again. Double the Seuss, double the fun... and now double the incessant songs from the score that are playing in my brain on an infinite loop that could, if they don't soon stop, cause ME to start hearing Whos any minute now. The point is, it only took me 38 years, but I finally realized that I DO like green eggs and ham, Sam I Am. Now I think I need to start work on a musical devoted to Mack Bolan the Executioner -- it's just way hard finding anything that rhymes with "bloody human carcass."