With all respect to my fellow parents who ate lunch at 10:45 today and who are desperately tossing office supplies at their children in hopes of getting SOME work done, I'm not a big Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work day guy. I think the chances of my kids learning something from watching me weep at my desk compare unfavorably with the opportunities afforded by Alexandria's public schools. And frankly, their interest in my office plummeted after a coworker who always kept lollipops on her desk got laid off.
So I decided to take them to see Queen last night instead. Well, not Queen exactly, but Gary Mullen & the Works, a Queen tribute band that was performing at Strathmore. I picked that show because they love Queen's Greatest Hits I & II. Well, really Vol. I: Vol. II has too much disco for their taste. They are heshers.
Strathmore gave us tickets. The kids, 6 and 3 years old respectively, took naps to get ready. I agreed to give them earplugs and identify them only by birth order to get my wife to go along with this.
The first hurdle: Explaining a tribute band. They know Freddie Mercury is dead; I haven't told them about Paul Rodgers' tenure with the band, because I still haven't come to grips with it. My stab: "This band is not Queen, but it plays Queen's music, and the singer dresses up like the singer of Queen." What I should have said: "They are pretending to be Queen." Kids understand pretending.
They were thrilled when the lights came down and a sound collage that introduced the band included "We Will Rock You." Their second song was "Seven Seas of Rhye." "You know which man I like?" asked my youngest. "The man with the guitar."
OLDER SON ("PRIMO"): This isn't Queen. Is it really loud?
YOUNGER SON ("SEGUNDO"): That guy with the microphone has a mustache!
PRIMO: What are you writing?
Mullen, who the boys were thrilled to learn is, like their mother, Scottish, got a little salty in his between-song patter, warning the crowd they had to dance, not to just "stare at my ass." I dearly hoped I would not be making up rules about when it was OK to say "ass" while we were driving home.
During "Somebody to Love":
SEGUNDO: I'm bored!
Me: This song is a classic! Look at the man dancing!
PRIMO: I need to take a break from this. I need to have my ears not have something in them. I need to take a break from this.
During "You're My Best Friend":
SEGUNDO: When are they going to play "Another One Bites the Dust"?
Me: I don't know. Do you think this man is a good dancer?
Me: Do you think he's a good singer?
Me: Do you like his mustache?
At this point, Gary Mullen & the Works make a crucial error: They play "Another One Bites the Dust," the only song my kids appear to be interested in hearing tonight. During the following song, Primo asks to leave. I tell him the concert's not over. "You mean we have to stay for the whole thing?" he asks, upset. I swear I went over this with them beforehand. After a few more songs, the Works take a break. "They're taking a little rest," Segundo says.
During the break, I try to salvage this evening. The kids have spent every minute that wasn't "Another One Bites the Dust" complaining that they're tired, that they're hungry, that they're bored. We go outside, and I interview them.
Me: Which do you like better, listening to Queen in the car or watching these guys play Queen songs?
PRIMO: Queen in the car. Because it's really late tonight and there's tons of cool stuff in [the songs in the car]. Those ones go in a great, great, great, GREAT, GREAT order.
Me: What do you guys think I should write about this?
PRIMO: My children...went to--what is this place called?
PRIMO: Went to Strathmore to see A Night of Queen. And it was GREAT.
[Segundo], what should I say happened?
I bribe them, promise a Slurpee tomorrow if they stick with this. When we return to our seats, Primo writes a review in my notebook.
- In phonetic writing, this is a checklist: "Lots of people: check. Really late: check. Spotlights x 50: check."
After the Works do "Fat Bottom Girls" three songs into the second set, I am despondent. The kids love this song! Why are they moping around? During a startlingly good version of "Who Wants to Live Forever," a deepish cut, hit-wise, but a hit all the same, Segundo asks to play a game on my phone and seems like he's gonna freak out when I say no. At this point, Primo falls asleep in his seat. Fortunately, things are winding down: "Bohemian Rhapsody," which Mullen freaking NAILS (here's a video of the band doing it in Edinburgh); "Radio Gaga," kind of a nice choice; and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." They leave the stage, and I violate the spirit and letter of Take Your Sons & Daughters to Work Day: I wake Primo, and we split before the encore.
"I think the man without the any shirt is going to bed," says Segundo as we leave. In the car on the way home, until they fall asleep, they make me play the Queen record. "This is just like the band!" they shout.
Oh, and my desire to get them to school instead of my office? They were so wrecked from being out late that we decided to let them sleep in and take the tardy.