When I wasn't looking at his slovenly slack-jawed face, his woodpecker-like thudding made me think of my father. Old dad was another one who couldn't keep still. If my father wasn't drumming the arm of a chair or rasping his fingernails across the sofa fabric then he was jingling change in his pocket or snapping Wrigley's Spearmint in his straight white choppers. I don't know how my mother stood it for 45 years. I had enough after 18 and was a gone pecan, not letting the door hit me on the ass on the way out.
A chubby white boy with a long greasy pony tail, tied twice along its length with thin scrunchies, shambled in wearing what we in New Orleans used to call a short-set, in blue plaid. Black Vans were on his surprisingly small feet. Behind him waited a yuppie in a pretentious olive-drab jacket with a military cut. Pretentious because it had an angled, zippered pocket over the right kidney, to be used for... what? A concealed hog-leg? Extra credit cards? An ever-ready passport for convenient jet-setting?
You know what local fashions remind me of? Wardrobe from bad science fiction shows. No worse than my father's plaid shorts and black socks or my anonymous, button-down Stafford dress shirts from JC Penny's, I suppose.
A young Asian girl in a brown sweater top and hideous, ill-fitting, red and white paisley skirt that was too ugly not to also be hideously expensive chattered on her cell phone while waiting for her half-chai, as did three-fourths of the rest of the mall denizens.
I wonder what my father would have done with a cell phone. A child of the depression, he was a scrimper and never willing to adopt something new until it was forced upon him. Color television? Don't need it. Cable television? Don't need it. VCR? Don't need it. Anyone see a trend in my childhood? You wouldn't think I read as much as I did.
My father and his Montovani LP's. He was some pissed when I bought my first CD player and was trying to get him to listen to the sound quality. I think my sister got him a VCR, eventually, and it wasn't long until the family 8mm home movies ended up transferred to videotape. Pop sprung for a sound track as well. Whoever did the job didn't bother to try and synch the music to what was on screen in any way, however. How strange it was to see the antics of my sister at five years of age, and my own summer time schlumphing, to the tune of Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Then, two or three minutes later, the tape would actually switch to Christmas scenes.
On The Sopranos, the other night, Tony was watching DVD transfers of his own family home movies, given to him for his birthday by his sister, Janice, and I thought, "How like my own family's." Why do home movies from the 60s always turn out that way, running slightly too fast, flickering. Washed out shots in the sunlight, and faded looking even when new.
I sometimes imagine my childhood that way - clattering on a white movie screen, kept stored away in the closet until the traditional holiday viewing. My life threading past a searingly hot bright bulb, the end of it white spotty and spooling off the reel, flap flap flapping round and round until someone turns off the Bell & Howell.
Do people who grew up in the 80s imagine their lives on cartridges, Beta or VHS, plastic clacking into a slot? Will people today later imagine their lives as a series of five minute spots on YouTube?
I think it was the Internet that finally did my father in. My sister bought him an account on AOL TV and along came emails, written in all caps, three or four spaces between each word. So tentative. Not at all like his bold, assured handwriting. I think that was the end, right there. It's always the god damned Internet's fault.