Tuned Out

It might be the distance from the city. It might be the age, or having three kids under five. But I have no idea what’s “in” anymore. Sure, I went to Creamfields three years ago and danced cool and hip to The Prodigy. “Smack My Bitch Up,” “Breathe,” “Firestarter.” And in my elation I said to my wife, “I can still dance to this and, no way, I’ll be 50 in 13 years.”

Now we live in the pine forest at the beach. And my wife is downloading music and she says, “What would you like?”

I draw a blank.

What’s going on? This can’t be. A blank. But it’s not an easy question. You can’t say just anything. It’s got to be cool, alternative, new. Even old. But it’s got to yield a response like, “Yeah, man, that’s good stuff.”


“Hmm, let me think.”

And I think that the last movement I lived through was grunge. I listened to the marathon session of Nirvana after Kurt Cobain’s death, understanding, feeling the music. I’d lived it – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden. I listened to it at university and in the years after. Traveling, broke, surfing and chilling in France, Ireland, Scotland. It was real.

Since then? Nothing.



And I think that if I ever make it famous and get interviewed and they ask me what the most played songs are on my iTunes. Well I’ll turn it on and there you’ll have it: Xuxa, the queen of Latin American kiddy music. Twenty-one tracks in the Top 25 Most Played. I’m to blame, really. The kids are fighting in the back seat on a road trip and how do you bring the peace? “Hey, who wants to listen to Xuxa?” And we’re all singing, a happy family. And sure enough I can now hum them all – in the shower, in line at the bank, waiting in a lobby. Out walking.

So I turn to my wife and say, “Whatever you do, just don’t download High School Musical.”

Mayonnaise Sandwiches

I’m in the city for a few days on my own. You know, freedom. Do what you want. No kids. Hallelujah! Take a nap, drink a beer. Put your feet up.

The trouble is that you’re on deadline, the editor’s calling and there’s nothing in the fridge except bread and mayonnaise. The cupboards? Dry oatmeal and bran flakes.

You feel like you’re back at university, only the stakes are higher. Money, your salary, the bank balance and the credit cards. The clothes to buy, groceries, haircuts, medicine, school tuition. Inflation.

So get back to work and don’t lounge.

Crap, you think. And you pick up the phone to call the kids and your beautiful wife and the damn dog and pesky cat. It’s mayhem down the line, from back in the pine forest. Fighting words out of your daughter, cries from your boy. My wife is frantic. How can she get out of an invitation. “Oh shit who’s that at the door?” she says.

And you think, heartburn and all it sure beats mayonnaise sandwiches and flipping through TV channels on your own.

Sink The Puppy

I was an hour-and-a-half drive south, in Mar del Plata, when the call came in. “It’s that fucking dog. I’m going to kill it,” my wife yelled down the line, from back in the pine forest.

I was at a cocktail party for work, at the top of a hotel. There to interview film directors, producers, talent. Looking for scoops. News to report on. “Hold on a sec,” I say, and move to a quiet spot.

She lets it all out. The dog – a black puppy, what appears to be a mix of Doberman, Labrador and Freddy Krueger – has done something terrible. It’s the neighbors’ dog, a nuisance of the past month. Love is in the eyes of the neighbors’ eldest boy. Hate is in ours. It has taken to crapping in our garden-cum-forest, biting ankles, fingers, toes. Stealing toys. Digging holes.

What now?

Well, she says, it has walked all over the freshly laid cement that has become our back porch. “I’m telling you the bastard waited until the workmen had gone and then it walked all over the cement,” my wife tells me. “Its footprints are everywhere. It’s ruined. You’ve got to come back.”

Keep my cool, I thought. But frustration got to my head. Death to Freddy. I left the party, the news, the scoops. Elevator down. Hopped a cab. Went to my hotel room. Grabbed the car keys. Went to the car. And I was off, the drive north done in record time. Parked in the drive. Got out. My wife is sat on the sofa watching some series on AXN.

“So where is it?”

“Oh, you mean the dog. It won’t be a problem anymore,” she says.

“What do you mean?”

She told me. A workman had come back, by chance. He fixed up the cement floor and asked my fuming wife if she wanted him to take care of it, the dog. You know, dump it far away. It won’t ever make it back, he said. No, too cruel, she said. The neighbors’ kid would be devastated and all.

“So where is it?”

“It’s in the sink.”


“Out there on the grass. You’ll hear it.”

Sure enough, Freddy was trapped under our yet-to-be-installed laundry sink, yelping away.

We never did see the puppy grow much older. It disappeared, got lost, wandered off. The boy’s father told us weeks later. Oh the relief, we thought. Oh the poor boy.