Thursday, June 28, 2007

Great America

After our great day at Kiddieland, I’ve had theme parks on the brain. Now I’m starting to think I live in one. Our village has the charming details they try to replicate in an ersatz Disneyland Main Street – sidewalks that curve around the century old tree trunks, brick streets, iron lampposts straight out of C.S. Lewis.

And the theme park population of big-eyed cuddly characters who give you hugs? I live with two miniature versions.

I felt the Magical Sense of Wonder that Disney tries to bottle up and sell when Mr. Nicki came to our door the other afternoon. Around dinnertime, I heard a soft knock and some strummed chords through the screen door. Was it our ukulele-playing neighbor? A singing telegram from my extravagently thoughtful husband? No, it was a genuine traveling minstrel! The girls were wide-eyed, a little shy, but game while Mommy giggled at the funny lyrics. Nora even danced a little.

Here’s a sample:

Some people say you’re weird cause you’re covered with slime!
And you’re a boy and a girl at the very same time!

Earthworm! Earthworm!

If they cut off your head it might not grow back
So keep it in your tunnel when the birds attack!


The title “Nerds and Weirdos” didn’t sound promising to me, but the actual song had a great message and an infectious beat:

Without the nerds and weirdos we could never get along
Cause the nerds made our computers and the weirdos write our songs!

How could I ever been so blind to see
That everyone’s important in this world?
Including me!

Mr. Nicki plays Sunday, July 15, 6:30, at CJ Arthur's in Wilmette and at 1:00 on Sunday, July 22 at Centennial Pool, 2300 Old Glenview Road, Wilmette.

You could say Suburbia is an adult “Great America,” with the teen pleasure we wrung out of death-defying thrills replaced with their adult opposites: comfort, ease, community, security. And, like kids gorged on funnel cakes and Coke, we can still fall prey to a surfeit of sweetness.

Tom Perrotta writes of this discontent in paradise in his 2004 novel Little Children. A Hollywood darling, Perrotta has had his novels Election and Little Children adapted into smart moneymaker films.

The perfectly named novel Little Children introduces us to a crowd of suburban characters acting out the needy and self-centered behavior that is blameless in a child, but potentially tragedy-making in grown-ups.

Sarah, our main character, carries the sullenness of an adolescent who thinks she is alone in feeling underappreciated and misunderstood as she begins an affair with another stay-at-home parent she meets on the playground.

The pages of Little Children fly by. Perrotta writes a great football scene. I loved the killer last paragraph. A perfect ending.

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