Rock In, Folk Out: Introducing Music to Small Children (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by local musician & music teacher Peter Kenyon about his experiences teaching a music class at a Montessori preschool.

I feel that I can truthfully say that I am still in close contact with my inner child. This is a good and bad thing. I find myself being affected by life’s offerings and reacting in much the same way as the children around me. If a large truck drives by, I react with a “Woahhhhhh!!!” exclamation by accident, with my students or son voicing the same proclamation. If a scary event happens in a movie, I tend to jump and give an exaggerated scream of terror, something that the accompanying child(ren) would also do. The good aspects of my connection to my inner child tend to make me get through to and show companionship with children.

However, these moments of being easily impressed and scared don’t bode too well in adult contexts. Shouting excitedly and pointing at a shrimp cocktail platter while at an art gallery opening party isn’t necessarily the definition of decorum. I think life seems more fun when people look at you with a slight scowl. They obviously don’t work with or have children. And if they do, I feel sorry for those kids.

All that inner child connectedness being said, one day two years ago, while working at a Montessori preschool, I was sitting with children in a music class. Now, the music teacher subscribed to the traditional  “Let’s Sing Nursery Rhymes and Songs About Colors with an Acoustic Guitar” mentality that you see the world over, and I was bored after ten minutes.  It was Safe, tried but not necessarily true methods of music teaching.

On this particular day two years ago, sitting in the Safe music teaching session, I started formulating ideas for my own music class. Primarily I thought “How could I hold children’s attention for the entire span of a lesson? How could I get small children to talk about music outside of a music setting?” And “Is there a way that small children can compose their own music?”  These questions were just the beginning of the music class I created to supplement the already established acoustic performer.

Over the one and a half years I taught this class, I taught Rock, Jazz, site reading, film scores, found instruments, Elvis, Surf Rock, Reggae, noise, the list goes on and on. The class had its ups and downs, lessons that worked and lessons that didn’t. But in the end, I did find a way to reach my three goals of Keeping Attention, Enthusiasm Outside of Class, and Original Composition.

I find that when parents are actively seeking advice on how to introduce music to their children, I suggest that they do some of the following things that I found out through my music class experience:

Immerse children in fully engaging activities or LOUD performance. This does not necessarily mean play loud music, per se, but that works, too. What I mean is immerse children in an experience that they simply cannot turn their attention away from.

  • When I taught Elvis, I was a tour guide for Graceland, Elvis’ lavish home. I planted items within the classrooms of the school, such as a mic stand and microphone, a picture of a jumpsuit, a small television. The mic stand was Elvis’ recording studio, the TV was Elvis’ personal television, and the jumpsuit picture was taped up in a cubby to simulate Elvis’ closet. I then led the class as a group from one section of the classroom to another, showing each “room”, including showing the bathroom, saying that that was where Elvis met his demise . . . on the toilet. This was gold to the kids. They still remember the name Elvis and that he was the King of Rock n’ Roll.
  • I wanted to show the kids Tom Waits, because I thought that they would be interested in his theatrics and vocal style. So I performed a five song set of his material, starting with “What’s He Building in There?”, a creepy spoken word piece. I turned off the lights for five seconds, then turned on a bare light bulb and placed it underneath my chin, while speaking in his same raspy drawl. After this song, I placed the bulb on a drum and picked up two maracas, and started singing “Baby Gonna Leave Me”. Each song upped the ante on dynamics, with me banging on an actual floor tom, snare, and cymbal, along with me screaming in Tom’s Cookie Monster voice for “Big in Japan”. The kids were at first scared, but interested. They were head banging by the end of the set. Nobody talked for the full thirty minutes. And these are three-year-olds we’re talking about.
  • I wanted to teach the children about different small percussion instruments. It was Easter time, so they had to find instruments that I had placed in our indoor play area. I called out “Find the tambourines!” “Find the maracas!” They knew the names of nine different instruments and how to play them by the end of the lesson.

Don’t stick to one genre. The Safe music method likes to use Folk as the overall genre to teach music to small children. What’s funny is that even when I tried to teach Folk, donning a theatrical role as a hippie dressed in Indian garb and leading a parade around the playground singing John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, the children still lost interest after ten minutes. When the music was louder and electronic, the children stayed focused and attentive.

I do recommend starting off with Folk, however, when first introducing music to your children as toddlers. There are a plethora of children’s artists, but Raffi takes the cake as my personal favorite. Nobody holds a candle to him in terms of singing traditional nursery rhymes and original compositions. He has a personable, humble touch to his music. Even as an adult, I become emotionally invested in his songs. Plus, he doesn’t come off as a creepy children’s artist, of which there are also a plethora. Here’s a video sample of Raffi in concert:

 

  • Around the age of two, start changing things up. Keep a steady collection of Raffi, The Beatles, Elvis, new age, techno, noise, everything. But keep the music up-tempo. Two- and three-year-olds really love to dance.
  • If you want to bring attention to a certain artist, I’d show them The Beatles. Their melodies are so captivating to small children. Plus, after the initial folk upbringing in toddlerhood, they bridge the gap between children’s music and louder rock. Songs like “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus’ Garden” mix well with the louder tracks like “Helter Skelter” and “Revolution”.
  • Five-year-olds love heavy percussion and distortion. I’ve found they love Nine Inch Nails.  Steer clear of any songs with dirty language, of course, but NIN have a plethora of instrumental material. I’ve found that I’ve gotten the most response from these two tracks: “The Day the World Went Away”  and “The Mark Has Been Made”, mainly for their use of dynamics. Kids love the interplay between quiet and loud. The distortion and emotional effecting on the instruments hold children’s attention. They tend to ask “What’s that sound?” with each added instrument.
  • All ages, including one-year-olds, love loud sing alongs, like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and “Yellow Submarine”. Stuff that they can belt at the top of their lungs sticks with them, and you’ll see them singing those songs at all hours of the day.
  • Play different genres each week in the car while out and about, on pick ups from school, waiting for Mom or Dad in the car while they make a bank transaction. One week, play rock n roll. The next week, play techno (if you’re into that sort of thing). The next, folk. And discuss the properties of the music. Ask with rock “Are the drums fast or slow? Loud or soft?” With folk “Is the guitar electric or acoustic?”

Ladybug in the Instrument Petting Zoo at Rock the Cradle 2011

Introduce instruments. Show children pictures and videos of musicians performing. They’ll most likely mime performing instruments as they listen to music, causing an interest in actually wanting to play an instrument to spark. Start instrument playing at the toddler level, and let children of all ages know that common household items can be instruments, too. Bring out pots and pans, boxes, toilet paper rolls, rubber bands. Ask them to play along to loud music and see if they can keep a beat or melody.

Learn the lyrics. Having a child learn the lyrics to a song promotes enthusiasm. There was always a peak of enthusiasm whenever a Winter or Spring Concert was coming up, since they had to memorize lyrics, melodies, and rhythms.

Encourage them to make music. The most I’ve ever seen children enthusiastic about music is when they’ve written the music themselves. The final aspect of my class was to have four different classes pick a topic of their choosing (they came up with Nature, School, Family and Speed). Then, I asked them to draw pictures related to their topic (the class with Nature drew pictures of boats, trees, camping, the class with speed drew pictures of monsters taking down buildings, police cars chasing people on motorcycles). Each child showed the class their picture and said something about it. I wrote down what they said in a notebook. I then put each child’s sentence about their picture into an arrangement of sentences for each class in a way that made sense. These became the lyrics to their song. Each class then decided on an instrument and a tempo to accompany their song, including whether the beat would be straightforward, like a march, loud or soft. I then recorded each song and gave each class a CD with their song on it. The classes then learned their songs by heart and sang them to an audience of 200 people at their Spring Concert. Each child knew the line that they had contributed, and whenever they heard it or sang it, they blushed or looked extremely proud. You can listen to these songs and read the lyrics here.

Like I said, these are merely some suggestions for how to introduce music into your child’s life. Follow some of these, follow all, follow none. But this is what I took away from the wonderful experience of sharing my deepest passion with a group of 100 awesome kids.

Just please don’t stick to only acoustic based children’s folk music past the toddler age. I’m begging you, and your children are begging you. Jazz it up a little. Introduce a little noise to the musical palette.

Peter Kenyon is a local musician and music teacher in the Twin Cities. His current project is a band called Patch, which you can find at www.patchband.com.  He also works as a nanny and is a father of an adopted one-year-old boy.

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Creating a Play Space for Preschoolers (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Jennifer Zimmerman about how she set up a Montessori and Waldorf inspired space for her kids to learn and play.

When my son Owen was approaching preschool age, we moved into a new home. This motivated me to really think about his new bedroom and how I wanted him to use it. I also  thought a lot about his future schooling and which educational philosophies would be a good match for his personality and needs. I looked into both Montessori and Waldorf education. I liked different things about both philosophies. I liked how Montessori encouraged self-help skills, independence and allowed the child to choose learning materials that fit their abilities and advance at their own pace. Yet, I also felt myself attracted to how Waldorf focused on the arts, encouraged pretend play and immersed children into a magical fantasy world. I favored Montessori for Owen, but I still wanted to incorporate a few things from Waldorf. I set out to create a fun and playful environment that had many opportunities for self-directed learning and exploration.

I loved the Montessori reading nooks, and so I created one by using a short and wide bookshelf to partition off a small area of his room. I hung a reading lamp on the wall and placed cozy pillows and stuffed animals near his rocking chair inside the nook. I placed his books on the bookshelf in easy reach so he could choose which ones to pull out and read. In this photo you can see his partitioned off nook. Just behind the shelf is where his cozy reading spot was:

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In another area of the room I hung a mirror close to the floor at my son’s level. The low hanging mirror is a common Montessori item, but this is also where some Waldorf influence came in. I hung some dress up clothes on hooks near the mirror, as well as some colorful play silks for pretend play. Play silks are an open ended toy which Waldorf really encourages.

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Open ended toys are toys that are gender neutral and do not have a specific purpose. Their purpose is up to the child to imagine. Play silks are square or rectangular pieces of real silk that usually have been dyed different colors. A play silk can be tied on the body as a skirt, a hat, a cape, wings, or a doll sling. They can be used as water, land, or sky with small toys, as a doll blanket, or simply waved around in the air during active play. Another example of an open ended toy is a push cart. The cart can be used by babies learning to walk, by toddlers transporting toys, as a stroller for dolls or stuffed animals, as a dump truck, or many other things according to what the child wants to imagine that day. Waldorf toys are quite spendy, so if you are on a budget like me then you must get creative about obtaining them. Waldorf-like toys can be purchased at thrift stores or homemade. There are many websites that give directions on how to make Waldorf toys if you are crafty. I bought the play silks as blanks for around five dollars each and then dyed them myself. I bought a push cart at Ikea for just under twenty dollars. This multipurpose toy, which can be used for many years, was well worth the price.

Next, I placed some Montessori-inspired educational materials on low shelves. These shelves should be short enough for children to reach, and wide enough to hold quite a few materials. The materials are objects and toys that allow children to practice life skills. Things like stringing beads and shape puzzles are placed in bowls or on trays on the shelves. There are many websites that show how to create these materials yourself. This concept melded very well with Waldorf’s idea of having natural objects around to be used as open ended play things. I found many real wood bowls and plates at thrift stores, some even shaped like tree leaves, and filled them with objects from nature such as pine cones, rocks, and nuts. Owen had a small table and chair that he could bring his materials over to play with them.

One area where Waldorf and Montessori are in complete agreement is the play kitchen. A play kitchen is a place that is ripe for pretend play for any preschooler, and also teaches important life skills to satisfy the Montessori side of things. Along with Owen’s play kitchen, we also found him a small play hutch made out of real wood at a thrift store. The hutch has real glass doors and contains real ceramic dishes, real metal pots and panscookware and silverware from Ikea. Learning to handle fragile items at a young age is an important aspect of Montessori education, and Waldorf stresses using natural materials for everything that comes into contact with the child. If a dish breaks, cleaning it up also becomes a learning experience that the child can be engaged in. They can use their child sized broom and dust pan to help clean it up.  Owen not only plays with real glass and ceramic kitchen items, he also eats and drinks from them. As a result, he learned about these materials early in life and is very careful with them. In fact, I accidentally break more dishes then he does.

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In Owen’s closet I placed a large shelf that holds his folded clothing. There is also a bar at his height with some of his clothes hung on it. This is another Montessori philosophy. Children are encouraged to choose their own clothing from a young age. Having the clothes out on shelves instead of stuffed into drawers makes it much easier for little hands to find what they need without making a big mess. Dressing oneself is another life skill that Montessori teaches. Waldorf encourages that clothing be made out of natural materials such as cotton or wool, and they discourage any commercial or fictional characters on clothing. This is one of those somewhat odd things about Waldorf (there are many!) but one that I personally try to live by.

ImageWhat we didn’t have room for in Owen’s room was an art station. Art, music and dancing are a very important part of a Waldorf education. We stored Owen’s art and music supplies in a tall shelf with bins. The art bin could easily be taken out and carried to the kitchen where Owen was encouraged to paint, color and draw. Owen preferred abstract paintings and I learned that if I gave him three complementary colors he would produce some pretty cool looking art work.

Owen is six years old now, and he has been joined by his little sister Isla who just turned 16 months. We just recently moved again and I now face the task of setting up a bedroom for each of them, and a small play area that they can play in together. Thanks to their  Montessori and Waldorf inspired toys, it is not hard to create a play room that a six-year old boy and 16-month old girl can play in together. They both love their play kitchen. While Owen ties play silks around his neck as capes, Isla uses them to wrap up her dolls. They both push their dolls and stuffed animals around in their cart, and Owen even gives Isla a ride in it every so often. They do art work together and Owen reads books to his little sister. Owen ended up attending a traditional school as he didn’t make it through the lottery system to gain entrance to the Montessori public school in our city. Waldorf was never an option for him, mostly because it is private and very expensive, but also because some aspects of their philosophy do not mesh with his personality or our personal beliefs. However, I think what we did take from both systems was very beneficial for him, and will also be beneficial for Isla as she grows.

Jennifer lives with her family in St. Paul, MN.  You can read more about Owen and Isla on her blog, Kinder Tales.

Including Kids in Exercise (Guest Post)

This is a guest post by Diane Jorgensen about her efforts to be a more fit person–and include her young daughter in the process.  Thanks for sharing your story, Diane!

I’m a plus size middle-aged mother. Every day I work on the correct balance between work, personal commitments, family relationships and of course, parenting. That often leaves little room for self care. And yet, I know by personal experience how important it is to take care of myself, especially with exercise or even simply focusing on increasing my physical activity day to day. When I add spending quality time with my daughter to needing time to exercise often the best solution is to combine the two. In addition, knowing my little one has half of my genes is added incentive for me to keep her active and instill in her an appreciation of physical activities.

I look at physical activity for Punkin and me in three categories: there are my activities, her activities, and then those things that we can enjoy together. When I am in the final stages of training for my now 2nd annual triathlon and I need to get a 15 mile bike ride in, I have to schedule it during a time when she is happily occupied with my partner or with other family or friends. Most of the year, however, there are many things we can do together, and I can include her in my workouts at least once or twice a week.

Our most enjoyable activity to do together is to bike ride. She loves it, and I enjoy her company. I don’t go as fast as I do on other rides and she can’t tolerate a very long ride, but we both enjoy the rides, the fresh air, and our time together.

When she was a toddler we bought a bike tutor bike seat on-line. It’s a little saddle that attached to my bike between my bike seat and the handle bars. She wore a belt that attached to the saddle for safety. The saddle also had some foot rests on it. The Bike Tutor came with a separate U shaped bar that attached to my bike to become her  handle bar. The many rides we took on the bike tutor will forever be cherished moments for me. She was comfortably seated directly in front of me, and the entire ride we were close, almost in a hug, with her back to my front. I was able to hear her and whisper in her ear. Her view was very similar to mine, and we could talk about the all the wondrous sights along the way.

Now, three years later, she has outgrown the bike tutor and graduated to a tag-along. This is a half bike that has a long pole in front. The pole attaches to the post of my bike seat, making “our bike” a three wheel, two rider contraption. Our rides together continue to be fun and exciting, though they are more separate experiences as it is difficult to talk to each other and she has to look around me to see ahead of us.

I also do a lot of walking. Most weekends I plan to do an easy 1.5 mile leisure walk. Several times she has accompanied me on this walk. I let her bring a doll and we bring her backpack for her to carry it when she inevitably gets tired of holding her baby. I make a point to have it a type of nature hike, discussing the various trees and other fauna that line the trail. She generally enjoys the walks, though she does need to stop once to rest her legs.

When Punkin wants to be included in my other workouts, I try to  do my best to accommodate her. I’ll take her to the Y with me so she can be in the child care program and I answer her questions about what I was doing on exactly which machine on the way out. One time at home I was doing my kettle bell work out and she wanted to do it, too. I set her up with a blanket to mimic my workout matt and we used some weightless toys as her kettle bell weights. She lifted in tandem with me, groaning appropriately and making comments throughout about how well we were both doing and how strong we are. It was a little distracting and very entertaining!

Other “exercise” we enjoy together:

  • Playing Wii Fit games as a family
  • Taking her swimming as much as possible
  • Helping her master skills on the playground
  • Going snow tubing as a family a few times a year

We also have Punkin in her own activities:

  • Dance – She has chosen to take dance classes at a local studio, but I also look at is as a way for her to fight against any ungraceful genes of mine that could try to manifest themselves as she grows into an adult body.
  • Swim - This is more so that she can learn to swim than to have her be physically active, but it definitely keeps her limbs in motion and tires her out. Personally, I believe all children need to know how to swim for their own safety. To me it is a necessary life skill.

For my part, I am committed to taking her to both dance class and swim lessons weekly and I watch her in both, praising her on her progress and on her accomplishments.

In the future I expect we’ll continue to adjust how we are physically active together. It won’t be too many more years and she can ride her bike while I walk or jog alongside her. This summer I enjoyed watching a happy little girl, a few years older than Punkin, bike on the bike path around Lake Harriet, beaming at her father who was jogging next to her on the separate pedestrian path. I hope to do that with Punkin in a few summers. And, as we progress to that state and beyond, who knows, maybe rather than her just cheering me on at the transitions and the finish line of the triathlon, we’ll cross together.

In addition to being a mom, Diane is a social worker in Minneapolis.  In the interest of full disclosure, she is my step-mother-in-law, and Punkin is my five-year-old sister-in-law.  :)  Families who want to be more active together may also be interested in my post about the 5k I ran last year (and books to get kids moving) or this post about the joy of riding bike.

Reading in the summer: Keep the momentum going

Guest Post by Melissa Harrison

If I had to venture a guess, I would say that between all of my kids (I have four, ages 6 years and under) we have about 300 children’s books in our home. Two entire bookcases are dedicated just to books in our play area. My kids are obsessed with books.

I am, too.

When I was little, not only did I grow up reading books, I grew up writing them. My best friend and I would write chapter stories and exchange manuscripts on the bus to school each morning. When we started, it was before we had computers in our homes. So, I’m talking about countless hand-written pages (I don’t think it was until we were in middle school that we started typing out our musings).

I’ve been a reader and a writer for as long as I can remember. Now, I can’t say what percentage of my reading and writing obsession has caused my kids to love books as much as I do (I’m guessing my husband had something to do with it, too) but I’m fortunate that they have learned this important value at such young ages.

As school starts to wind down for the year, here are some tips to keep everyone interested in reading (I’m talking about you, your kids, the neighbor kids, your nieces and nephews, or a friend’s kid you decide to hang on to for the day):

  • Check your local library listings for family or children’s story time and try to get to one each month.
  • Make time for yourself and set a reading goal. Maybe it’s reading one “fun” book a month in addition to one “work-related” book (oh wait, that’s my goal…but I’ll share if it works with your schedule, too).
  • Keep a list of books you want to share with your kids either through an Amazon wish list or on GoodReads and check them off as you go through them this summer.
  • Have the kids in your life choose a “letter of the day.” Then, choose books to read that start with that letter. Or, go exploring outside and look for things that begin with your daily letter. Reading and word comprehension don’t always have to be about the physical book.
  • Pretend to “jump in” to the book you’re reading. Grab hands, count to three, and “jump” into the cover. Then, as you read the story aloud, ask your kids questions about where they are or what they’re doing in the book.

And check this out: On May 24, Target announced they will be providing 42 schools across the country with new libraries as part of the 2011 Target School Library Makeover program. Three of the lucky schools are even located right here in Minnesota!

So while it’s not breaking news, reading is and always will be important. Just because school’s out for the summer, it’s not an excuse to take a break. Think of all the great adventures you’ll miss!

Now, what will you do this summer to encourage the value of reading?

Melissa Harrison is a business owner, avid reader, writer and mother of four. She lives in Albertville, MN and is always looking for great book suggestions. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter or email.

Porky’s Last Stand

[When I heard that Porky’s in St. Paul was closing, I knew I had to post something about it on the blog.  And I also knew that it was the perfect topic for my first Guest Blogger on Proper Noun Blog: local stay-at-home dad, Chad Rhiger.  You may know him as the bass player for HighTV.  I know him as my husband.]

I was the only child of a single mother. In an attempt to look after “widows and fatherless boys,” a family in our congregation took my mother and me under their wing. The patriarch in this household was a man we kids called Papa Ron. Papa Ron was as keen and observant as he was silly and gregarious, quick with a self-deprecating joke or a playful insult. And he was a great lover of cars. Especially classics. He would take us boys to car shows out at the MN State Fair grounds. Being 5 years younger than his youngest son, I was not yet learned in the nuances of car identification. Papa Ron would frequently quiz me, asking the year, make, and model of a particular car, and then follow my answers with a tutorial, saying something to the effect of “Ya see, in ’65 they switched to two side-by-side square headlights. Otherwise they’re almost identical.”

PorkysAnytime we were in St. Paul, we’d stop by Porky’s. Sometimes he’d pile a few of us into his ’65 Ford Galaxy 500 and cruise up to Porky’s on Friday or Saturday nights to park and canoodle with the other car owners and afficionados. Papa Ron would show off his tutelage by quizzing me in front of the owner of whatever car. He’d ask how I knew. The owner would flash Ron an impressed look, and I’d bask in the only sense of fatherly pride I’d ever known.

A week ago I learned that Porky’s was going to be closing shop after 58 years. My patronage had slowed to maybe once or twice a year, but I was always grateful that a few of the important things from my youth were still around. I was grateful that I might be able to share these things with my daughter as well.

Yesterday was closing day. Mindy and I decided to take Ladybug to get dinner and take in the festive farewell. We stood for almost two hours in a line that snaked around the parking lot, rendering it almost useless for parking. Ironically, the road construction making way for the new Light Rail – the very Light Rail that was cited as a major contributing factor for Porky’s closing down – made an impromptu extended parking lot for the entire block in from of the restaurant. While in line we made “line buddies” with the family of four ahead of us, their five-year-old daughter being roughly the same size as our three-and-a-half-year-old. Making quips about selling our increasingly favorable place in line to the “poor suckas all the way back there” (I got on this joke good and early when the “poor suckas” in question were within earshot), we passed the time telling our kids to stay out of puddles, discussing Minnesota-isms, and talking about the institution we were there to bid farewell to.

When we finally got our food, we took a table close to our new friends. Ladybug and her new friend were excitedly making sleep-over plans. I complained that they had forgotten to give us a burger I ordered and that our order of onion rings was insultingly meager. Mindy nodded thoughtfully, understanding my annoyance after such a long line wait, but also seeming a bit disappointed that I would choose to vocalize my negativity in what had otherwise been a glowingly appreciative and sentimental wake. I smiled at her and said quietly “Bitching about the service and value is part of the experience, my love” and shot her a knowing wink. Her disappointment melted, she squeezed my arm, and continued contently munching on her pulled pork sandwich.

By the time we finished, the sun was low enough to no longer offer the warmth of early on, so we made for our car. We walked along the avenue, looking at cars to our right, hoods propped up and admirers leaning over the engines, and watching the procession on the road to our left. People in all manner of cars and motorcycles were revving engines, blasting loud and/or unique horns, and, of course, doing burn-outs in front of the gathered crowd. At the cheers and chants of the assembly, the drivers would wind up their engines, then you’d hear an unholy screech followed by gigantic plumes of rubber smoke. Yes, none of these things are good for the environment or any sense of tranquility. But they are exciting. A unifying focal point of reckless ruckus and homage. And these things, like Porky’s, will be gone sooner than we imagine.

On our way out of the make-shift carnival, I jokingly revved up the engine to our ’02 Hyundai Accent. Economy transport at it’s least sexy or impressive. The crowd lining the street roared in approval. Tracking the length of the street with my eyes, I realized that all of the chants and cheers were directed at me. “Light ‘em up! Light ‘em up! C’mon!” The sincerity and joy on the faces of my well-meaning taunters won me over. I braked to allow space ahead of me. Winding that little bastard up to 6 or 7 thousand RPM’s, I popped the clutch. The tires let out a slight chirp, and my little car accelerated impressively, gloriously, for maybe 50 feet. My audience erupted in whistles, laughter, and cheers. With the silhouette of the giant Porky’s sign in my rearview, I pulled on to a road leading to the freeway.

I haven’t seen Papa Ron in years. But I imagine – had he been there – he would have laughed his ass off.