Nerd-Bird dog has to get up to pee in the wee hours of the morning, so I’ve been spending some time lately standing in the backyard, 4:00 a.m., listening to the quiet of Uptown.
Do you remember Will Smith’s 1989 hit single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand?” A complicated narrative encircling the life of a teenager who is forced to wear bell-bottoms to school and later gets arrested for propositioning a “12-year-old runaway?” This was a key song of my youth. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t get out of bed the morning they finally played the music video on television. My sister tried to shake me awake, but I refused to budge from my cave under the covers.
It was so warm there. I used to be able to sleep in.
Anyway, a couple of days ago, I heaved myself out of the bed’s snugglenest to take the pup out for a pee. It was about 3:30. I stood on the back step, barefoot, bleary-eyed, as she ran to her spot under the tree and relieved herself. The neighborhood was Minnesota silent.
Then her ears perked up, and mine too, as we heard a bass beat thumping in the distance. Closer, and closer, until I heard the first bit of lyrics: “she said what’s wrong, this shirt cost twenty dollars/I said mom, the shirt is plaid/with a butterfly collar.”
I began to sing. Will Smith!
Growing louder by the second, echoing off the brick elementary school and weaving through the lilac bushes, the song settled itself over the sleeping houses like sugar on a donut.
A hipster rode by on his bicycle, a boom box strapped on like a back pack. The volume reached a peak as he passed my pup and me, still staring, and gradually faded as he disappeared down the road.
The pup and I watched him snake away, and then we came back inside.
Strange, I thought as I climbed back into bed, are these moments of collision in life. That I woke up just in time to hear the song I slept through some twenty years ago. That I was standing on the porch the moment this piece of my childhood rode through the neighborhood. And strange that although that childhood is gone, it’s still with me every day, in every moment I find myself diving into my bed like it’s a swimming pool or moving my mouth involuntarily to the long-lost lyricism of Will Smith.
Here’s the song if you want to listen to it.