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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 01.07.08
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

If you want them to like The Beatles, let it be

Okay, stay cool. Don't scare them off. E-e-e-easy. That's right. And whatever you do, don't start singing.

I have to keep telling myself this now that my older girls have started expressing interest in music and literature. I mean music and literature that I know. It feels like a game of Trivial Pursuit and I've landed on a category I'm a whiz at.

Music and literature? Ooo, ooo, pick me, pick me!

No, no. Stay calm. Remember: you're the parent and therefore an imbecile. For every over-enthusiastic response by an adult there is an equal and opposite teenage revulsion.

The girls have a growing interest in The Beatles. I don't even particularly like The Beatles. I call it wallpaper music: it may have been exciting when it first went up but now it's just... there.

I actually think The Beatles made a few really awful songs. I cringe every time I hear "Obladi-Oblada," but that may have something to do with the fact that my "hip" Grade 5 teacher made us do classroom calisthenics to the song.

Beatles-shmeatles.

But that doesn't mean my brain isn't filled with Beatle trivia.

"Yes, 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' is a fine song but how about 'Strawberry Fields'? Hey, do you know the whole 'Paul is dead' myth? Oh, and by the way, that's Eric Clapton on 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps.' Who's Eric Clapton? AKA God?

Here, let me pull out my Cream album? Unless you'd like to hear my Blind Faith cassette. You know, with Steve Winwood? Who's Steve Winwood? Here, let me pull out my Spencer Davis Group album..."

You see where I'm going with this. I see this burgeoning interest in The Beatles as a portal through which I can drag my daughters towards music actually worth getting excited about - you know, my music.

You can't, you see, just force your music on your kids, no matter how clearly superior it is to their tripe. I was reminded of this not long ago when the family went bowling and my son put two dollars worth of quarters into the jukebox and selected all Nickelback songs. Yes, I know they're Canadian, hooray, but blech. I mean, clear your throat, for God's sake.

I complained.

"Yeah, well we have to listen to your music at home all the time and your music sucks," James replied.

Fine, I said.

"It sucks. All of it. Sucks."

Right, I get it.

"I mean it really, really sucks."

Okay, so I guess enforced musical enlightenment is not the way to go.

But this stealth approach -- when they bring up the subject -- that's something I can do.

So when one of the girls says she needs to find some poems for a school project, it's important not to run to the bookcase yelling, "I got it! I got it! I've got poems by the dozen. I've got poems by the shelf. I've got poems by the Ezra Pound."

And whatever you do, don't start reciting. This will definitely scare them off. Can there be anything more repulsive to a teenager than a parent reading poetry? Except maybe parents smooching in public?

It's better to lay back, maybe offer to review that essay they're working on, provide some key aspects of literary criticism (e.g. fake it, but fake it with confidence).

Or bring up topics casually. "Say, did you hear that Kurt Vonnegut died? Who's Kurt Vonnegut? Just one of the greatest American satirists ever. Why, look, I happen to have a full collection of his paperbacks right here. Cat's Cradle is a good one to start with..."

And then shut up. Don't start going on about how Breakfast of Champions was a seminal book in your life. And whatever you do, don't say "seminal."

I'm now plotting the next phase of Operation Flashback. I've got The Blues Brother on order and I'm practicing acting casual when I say, "That's Aretha Franklin singing. Aretha who? Here, let me pull out my albums, right here next to this pile of Tom Wolfe books..."

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