Once upon a time … and then in America

Paul Hopkins – Talking the Talk

AGE is fast catching up on me, despite me doing my utmost to keep up with my two sons as we make our way on foot and by subway from New York’s Queens to the Lower West side, they galloping ahead, zig-zagging people in this city of eight million souls where everyone keeps on moving at a speed at times Herculean.

I have long got over the Empty Nest syndrome. After all, the two are in their early 30s, have chosen to work and live in the US, not out of economic necessity like previous generations but because they wish to.

I like to think their mother and I instilled good values in them and daily I am reminded that I must have done something right as they and their sister are wonderful, talented and well-adjusted individuals.

There was a time that I could not go anywhere but they wanted to come along, to engage with me: to listen and discuss and learn from one half of a couple given the duty of rearing them.

They hung on my every word, like most children do, and in doing so, hopefully, picked up the odd pearl of wisdom on this uncertain road we call Life. At least, that’s what I like to think.

Nowadays, they don’t listen so much. They have no need to, for they have their own ideas and own values.

‘Pool? I don’t play pool. We are supposed to be doing something  together …’

The silence at home when they left was deafening. They are gone a good while but the feeling persists, that feeling of being redundant ¬– your job is done, you are no longer required, surplus to their needs in their world of chance and opportunity.

So, we three, my grown sons and I, are heading down to the Village on a dry but crisp afternoon in November. They are ahead of me, engrossed in animated conversation.

“Where are we heading,” I call as their pace quickens. “Dunno,” they grunt collectively. “Keep up will you.”

I pull back, to gather my thoughts. I am in NYC the past four days and neither has yet asked how I am, how I’m getting on, how things are in this diminishing world of what was traditional newspapers. How I really, really am.

God, I am beginning to sound like my own Father, all that self-pity palaver about his kids no longer needing him, no longer hanging on his every word.

I give myself a quick talking to. Cop on, I say, and hasten to catch up.

We are turning into Christopher Street, in the West Village. “We’re heading for Fat Cat,” says my youngest, “so we can play pool.”

Pool? I don’t play pool. We are supposed to be doing something together.

Stop that malarkey, I say, pulling myself up again, as we descend dark and dodgy stairs into a basement littered with pool tables. But, ye gods, it is also a jazz club, all smoke and smouldering crooners and a very fine sextet playing Cole Porter and Artie Shaw standards.

I am in heaven,

“Jazz was on your wish-list,” smiles my eldest son. “Enjoy.” And he places a beer at my table in this dingy den of decadence and good grooves.

“Go show your brother who’s the pool king,” I say and note to myself that, perhaps, they are listening to their Old Man after all.

Next day we three take in a good chunk of Central Park crossing from the Upper West side to the Upper East and end up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

To ramble languidly in Central Park in the glorious sunshine and to take in Michelangelo at the Met, along with Rodin and Andy Warhol, are two more checked off my bucket list.

See stupid, I say to myself, they do listen to you – in between texting and tweeting.

And I think: I may have instilled a love of Art into the pair of them, but their prowess at the pool table is another matter?

That has to be a trait on their mother’s side…