23.5.13

Two Different Drives

This past Tuesday, I made a relaxing drive across Pennsylvania. I left the house at 10 AM and wove my way  through the foothills of the Appalachian enjoying Starbucks, Miles Davis, David Crowder's Requiem, The Delta Saints, and a long Onyx Reserve.

I'm married and the father of three, so the time alone was refreshing. My house is a loud place. Everyone in my house plays at least one instrument, so in addition to all the normal household noises--the sibling spats and the how-was-your-day's, La Casa Shallenberger almost always features one rehearsal at any given moment: Vocals, piano, drums, or guitar. Often, rehearsal times overlap. My wife will be memorizing a Muddy Water's riff, while my middle schooler pounds out the theme music to Doctor Who on the piano. When Alex is home, he's usually attempting to recreate a Neil Peart drum solo, oblivious to the dissonance he's addin. Meanwhile, I sit on the couch with my laptop and try to focus on my writing while trying not to notice my anxiety-induced shedding of hair.

So, a seven hour car ride alone is heavenly.


On Friday, I returned to Erie with my eldest, who just finished his senior year at college. Within an hour of driving, the entire van absorbed the odor of a month's dirty laundry. I enjoyed one my first conversations where you get to talk to your adult son like he's an adult. We talked about God and his friends and what it takes to be an emotionally healthy human being. I listened to him explain his opinions on how we are in the Golden Age of Comic Book movies and how D.C. Comics will always be inferior to Marvel and how the Harry Potter movies are an abomination. I squirmed when I heard his scathing indictment of  Christian music until I remembered he picked up those attitudes from me. I listened and prayed he wouldn't toss Baby Jesus out with the bath water. I squirmed more when he informed me that Cory Taylor of Slipknot wrote a book where he waxed on about his moral philosophy. "Everyone has a path, dad." If you aren't sure why I squirmed, here's a snap shot promoting one of their recent albums.


Four hours into the trip, he informed me he was a hipster and had an iPod full of music that would someday become cool. Then he proceeded to plug said magic iPod into my sound system and proceed to pump prog rock. I smiled at his pretentiousness. Amy and I introduced him to Rush and Return to Forever back in the day. The stuff he played was pleasant enough, but featured mellow guitar jams that threatened to lull me to sleep. I asked him to play something a bit more aggressive. He responded with The Mars Volta. The Mars Volta is also prog, but more in the vein of Tool. But The Mars Volta features moments my son calls "organized chaos", measures of the music that can only be described as the sound of the systematic rape and execution every kitten whoever graced ICanHasCheezburger.com set to 7/4 time.

Every father worth his salt knows when a child plays a song for you, that child is like the family dog who catches a bunny in the backyard and sets the bloody corpse at your feet in the kitchen. In both cases, this is an act of love and the expected response is pride in their cleverness. I swallowed hard and did my best to appreciate the album and hoped that in the dark of night my son wouldn't notice the clumps of hair falling our of my scalp.We rolled in at 1 AM, with the knowledge I had a day's worth of yard work waiting for me to tackle.

Two very different drives. If you told me that my brain was running out of space for memories and that I could only keep the memory of one of those drives I would pick the latter without blinking, which is a long-winded way of saying I love being a dad.

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