ong time, no see — or something like that. What happened? We moved. And moving takes all the fun out of writing what I’m supposed to be writing: namely a humor column.
Not that two years on the writing lam doesn’t kick up a storm of humor. Trust me, it does. For starters, the movers took all our stuff to the wrong house in the wrong state, causing considerable annoyance to a Mr. and a Mrs. who said they had no knowledge of a me and the me’s daughter, Rebecca, now 13 years old. That sent the movers into smartphone meltdown. Seems they’d gotten moving orders for a client who just happens to share my exact name (minus the middle initial) and, well, they got sort of mixed-up. Try telling that to Idaho and California, since those two states became the illustrious venues of this case of mistaken moving identity, or MMI, as Becca, now knee-deep into screentime acronyms, decided to label the misadventure. I’m kinda old school, so I called it by another name, FUBAR, which it took Rebecca about three nanoseconds to figure out. “Dad!” she exclaimed. “It’s so cool a man your age would say that!”
A man my age?
Yes, Becca is a teen.
In all it took about three months to settle all the mishaps and damages and bureaucratic snarls. At the beginning of the year, the right Mr. Stein, me truly, moved into his coastal California home and the bogus Mr. Stein made it to Boise, which Becca pronounces BOYS-EYE, which has something to do with a band and a podcast, though she’s not “into” saying more. That would be an act of “luciding,” lucid made to come out as a verb. Fact is, just about every word in sight has verb potential in it. Molten? No way! A hot day at Becca’s beach is “so moltening.” Live and learn.
I’d been pretty hard-line on Rebecca over the years when it came to online life driven by smartphone use, which, dumb moltening me, I thought I could keep from becoming an addictive tool. Now, in our new home, the phone’s not even a tool, more like a sixth digit of the right hand, only flat and long. When she does selfies in front of the mirror, she looks like a cross between a Philip K. Dick alien and a lanky lizard with a glowing appendage.
We still talk, even have whole conversations, and that makes Mr. Stein proud. At least his daughter hasn’t withdrawn fully into Textworld, the new Disney World for easily distracted adolescents. One day I told her that as a kid in pre-history I actually sat around with my friends talking baseball, girls, how much we hated school, and how bored we all were. But Becca’s no slouch. “Well, Dad, I’m never bored and don’t talk about girls. I even like school.”
And she does.
But school as she knows it ain’t school as I knew it back in the Jurassic.
She has “courses” in openness and diversity and takes deep dives into the post–George Floyd “Woke” age (and no, you won’t tempt me into that acrimonious cesspool). Two of her friends are boys who want to be girls, with parents who support them all the way, or so she said. One of these supportive moms bought her friend Steve a prom dress (or maybe just pulled out her own). “Steve needs people to totally believe in his girl mood. I do.”
These are subjects I stay away from, since as a one-time young Mr. Stein, my world and my inclinations are a galaxy away from where Becca is now. So, who am I to play space traveler? I figure Steve will just figure it out, with shrinks and hormones in tow. Whenever Becca gives me more on Steve (how he hated the “Barbie” spoof and has no idea who “that dude Oppenheimer” is), I just go into Stones Mode and replay “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as many times as it takes to blot out Steve-chat.
At least, I tell myself, no one had to tell Rebecca who Robert Oppenheimer was, since I studied physics and history, and I’d visited Hiroshima as a kid, part of a high school debating team tour in the ’90s. I remember two things from that week-long jaunt, actually three. That I couldn’t believe how awful the destruction was (we watched a movie), that a few blocks from ground zero were McDonald’s and KFC franchises (packed with Japanese), and a pretty Japanese teen named Miya I soon developed a crush on. Since this was pre-history, we had no mobile phones, and so we actually talked for hours, about how her grandmother had been disfigured by radiation poisoning and how much she liked the band Dire Straits. I never forgot her, and though I could probably find her on social media, I refuse. I want the Miya I remember, a beautiful face held over from youth.
Did I tell Becca the story? Of course. Just after she told me Steve had never heard of Oppenheimer.
Becca listened hard, crinkled her freckled nose, and asked me what I would have done if Miya had told me she really felt more like a man.
Yeah, if you try sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.