Friday, November 03, 2006
Adam and the Ants
My son Adam is a guy who jumps feet-first into whatever he becomes interested in-- or obsessed with.
Take, for instance, Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side." From when he was about age one to about three years old, it was his favorite song. If it came on the radio, everything would have to stop while he listened to it. One time, when my friend Garrett was visiting, we were taking Adam to the Lincoln Park Zoo. As we parked the car, "Take a Walk" came on and we had to wait a couple of minutes while the three of us sang along. I think that he liked the part where Lou and the "colored girls" sang "Doo-da-doo."
He's twelve now, and it's only a matter of time before he discovers what Lou meant by Candy never losing her head, even when she was giving head. It'll give him a great story to tell at parties when he's in college.
Later, there were cinematic obsessions. His first one was Toy Story, when he was two. He never got tired of it. For anybody who would listen, he would tell them that "Buzz Lightyear say 'infinity and beyooond!'" and that "Woody say 'weach for da sky!'" "Space Jam," and an obsession with Michael Jordan came and went. I think that his otherwise inexplicable fascination with talk-show host Montell Williams was related to that.
When he was about four, he first watched Them!, a '50's schlock epic about giant ants, spawned by the first atomic test in 1945, attacking Los Angeles ten years later. It was a life-changing event for him. His world began to revolve around this movie; he would watch it repeatedly. He began to study it like a graduate film student, wondering about the lives and motivations of characters: why, Dad, had (main character) Bob Graham moved from Chicago to Los Angeles? Was he married? Did Sgt. Ben Peterson leave a family behind when he nobly sacrificed his life to save the two children trapped in the ant's lair? Do you think that Bob Graham will eventually marry Professor Medford's daughter?
I didn't know how to explain to him-- that it was not an exercise in Method acting-- it was a big dumb movie about giant ants attacking Los Angeles.
One day, he sat and watched it twice. And then he rewound it again-- this was before the DVD came out-- and was about to watch it a third time. I told him no, it was a nice, sunny day and we were going outside to play baseball.
When the dvd came out in 2002, it got ridiculous. It was my father's favorite movie too, and I got both he and Adam copies of it for Christmas. They began to watch it together. It got completely out of hand.
Cynthia, my now-ex-wife (wife #2), was a little disturbed; right after this, our home was invaded by ants the size of Chihuahuas. She voiced suspicion that it was related to Adam's obssession.
Maybe she was right to be suspicious-- the ant invasion outlasted the marriage.
Adam has since moved on to The Blues Brothers and other cinema classics, but there was one lasting legacy of his giant ant infatuation. At the height of Antmania, when he was four, he created this work of fine art, which hangs in my home. I love how the ant, blissfully unaware that he is about to succomb to the combined forces of the United States Army, the Los Angeles Police Department, and UCLA's Entomology Department, has a big shit-eating grin on his face.