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Archive for March, 2009

They just end up in the Guardian. 

Skins and Punks by Gavin Watson

 

Photo series by British photographer Gavin Watson of sins and punks in mid-80’s London. Watson knew many of his subjects, and this intimacy comes out in the photographs.

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Prospect Park . . .

The kids are out in force. Or rather, their parents are out in force, dragging pushing them along . . .

In the Barnes and Noble on 7th Ave, the SUV sized baby carriages are parked twenty deep by the door, as parents drag, carry tiheir kids along the shelves, position them in Starbucks in the back. The kid’s section downstairs is a hive of nannies – black, Asian – with young white children in tow . . .

There just seem to be more and more kids in Park Slope. All around the same age as well, between 1 and 5. This is a whole generation that will grow up together, all the same age. Ironically, for a neighborhood that got so solidly behind America’s first black President, the kids are almost all white – even on Prospect Park’s East Side, you see hardly any black kids now.

While I was sitting at one of the tables, a guy came up trailing a little boy and a little girl. He had one of those effete voices, vaguely ironic in an inoffensive way and he coaxed his kids up a hill, carrying a soccer ball.

“Mommy’s waiting . . . we’ll get something to eat.”

Behind him, the kids sat down at a table. “I want to sit here!” the boy said. The girl started crying, then the boy jumped up and ran away, screaming because he saw a spider. The father came back, coaxing the boy back to the table.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s alright. But Mommy’s waiting for us.”

“Maybe Mommy will come down here!” The boy said, the spider forgotten about.

“I don’t think so.”

Ten minutes later, they were still making their way up the small incline. “Come on, people!” the father actually said, in his mincing nasal voice while the kids paid him no attention, standing behind trees, falling down, wandering back down the hill.

I wonder how it will be for these kids. On Vancouver’s East Side, where I lived for awhile when I was young, a whole generation came up after the war. Their fathers had served long and hard in the Canadian forces in WWII,  and were given one of rows of  identical houses in Vancouver’s East Side for their efforts. The men came back battered and tough, with all the usual problems of men brutalized by war, and many passed that on their kids, who grew up tough, and feared throughout the city, since they were all the same age, grew up fighting, formed gangs.

Or I think of the kids I up in Lillooet, BC, a remote logging town in the middle of British Columbia. A  couple dozen American draft dodgers and hippies settled in the valley north of town in the 70’s, fleeing the Vietnam war,  building homesteads and raising their kids. Beautiful country, but tough country too, with long winters and few amenities, and the Americans were true to their principles, carving farms, ranches, homes and community out of nothing. But they had one blind spot: they named their kids  ‘Flower’ and ‘Juniper’, silly hippy names that guaranteed that when these kids went to school with the other kids in the tough logging town . . . well, you can imagine. So these kids too grew up tough and by the time I came around in the late 90’s, they were roaring around town in little pick-ups, blaring AC-DC and drinking a lot of beer, so tough from fighting all through school that no one would fuck with them at all. Some, to their parent’s dismay, even became loggers.

And the kids in Park Slope?

Their parents are professionals, well-off, liberal. Many of the women probably gave all to their careers until the biological clock went off and they realized they had to have kids soon or that was it and suddenly they have to juggle kids and career. The kids don’t look happy – even in the park, on this very warm and sunny day, you hear them screaming, crying, pushing their parent’s boundaries as far as they can. 

I don’t quite understand the modern parenting thing of setting no boundaries for your kids. It’s definitely an Anglo-Saxon thing – in non-British Europe, or French Canada, kids are kids and parents are parents – and both groups are happier for it. In the more liberal, upwardly mobile circles, there sometime seem to be no barriers at all. A few weeks ago, in another Starbucks, I witnessed a kid actually punching his father in the face because he didn’t like the sandwich selection. Having grown up in a violent home, I’m no fan of corporal punishment, but if that were my kid . . . let’s just say on certain occasions reasoning with junior is not quite enough.

Who thinks of the kids and how they’ll grow up? How they’ll feel as teenagers? 

In West Van, a tony, very English suburb of Vancouver where I moved when I was fiftten, the kids ran riot. Their parents were professionals, worked long hours, and tended to give them money instead of affection – and often set no boundaries at all. The first party I went to, some kid had invited twenty of his friends and two hundred people showed up, and methodically trashed his house for him, throwing the stove off the balcony, dog food into all the beds, ripping out the wainscotting, the cabinets and smashing beer bottles on the shag rug until the glass was six inches deep. The kid wasn’t even unpopular – it was just an excuse to trash a house. Later, when the cops showed up, the kids barricaded themselves in, hurling beer bottles at the cops in a pitched battle that lasted an hour or more. 

Sons and daughters of lawyers, doctors, what have you. I’d just moved down from a mining town where if you did that kind of thing, you’d be dead. The kids had spirit, I guess, but they virtually guaranteed no more house parities after a couple more such incidents. 

Generational change is hard to predict. But I sit in the park and wonder how these kids will turn out in ten, twenty years time.

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Midtown Manhattan

Midtown Manhattan

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