22 March 2007...10:33 pm

Edward Said on the First Day of Spring

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This story is about Young Max and “Arabian II,” a certain genre of music that may be familiar to those of you who are so cool you live at the bottom of the Gowanus Canal or that putrid stream in Greenpoint.

Indeed, it was atop the aforementioned canal–we were walking on the Union Tree Bridge, which was maybe maybe maybe the Union Street Bridge in the early eighties–that Max stopped kicking the unfathomably dirty snow crust and said “Emma? You know what my favorite kind of music is?”

I thought I did know. I already knew, for example, which Mets player Young Max thought was the greatest, and which of his after-school teachers he was aware are objectively hotties: because I tell him. I tell him about music, too, and even though I tried super hard last summer to plant in him a love of either 50 Cent or the Mountain Goats, we managed to come to a truce on The Beatles.

Not a bad truce it was, especially when you remember Blackbird and also finally have an excuse to listen to Eddie Vedder’s cover of You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away. I bought him some CDs for his birthday, along with a Yellow Submarine poster, and I thought that might be that. The boy might just, you know, listen to The Beatles in perpetuity. That’s basically what my mother’s done.

So, smirking, I asked “What kind of music is it, Maxman?”

“Arabian!” He was triumphant.

“What kind of music is that?” He didn’t seem to know how to answer. “Like, where is it from?”

“ARABIA!” Oh, no. Arabia? I cook dinner for an Orientalist every night? I reacted the way I would have if Young Max were an ignorant twenty four year old who’d succeeded in taking me home the night before.

“I’m not sure I know what you mean, Max.” I was being Extremely Serious, like I am when I am lame and ask dbags whether they mean something is literally homosexual when they’ve just called it gay. Young Max need more clues than some dude drinking Heineken, though.

“Arabia isn’t a country. A long time ago, some people might have called a certain area of the world Arabia, the peninsula where Saudi Arabia is? Or maybe that means countries where people speak Arabic?”

He still wasn’t answering, and I wasn’t relenting. The boy goes to a Montessori school, for pete’s sake. He’s always, like, teaching me about ethical rocket fuel. But I did feel kind of ridiculous.

“Where did you hear about it?”


Runescape is the very preteen’s tutorial in electronic interaction. Also, they appear to trade capes a lot. Max has recently graduated from Club Penguin. I can’t say I’m not impressed.

Max continued, “It is one of the OPTIONS. There are a lot of options and my favorite is Arabian.”

He was fine. He wasn’t a cultural imperialist, and if he was I didn’t want to be terrible enough to preach it out of him. I am, however, terrible. For even thinking such an annoying thing. That much should be clear.

But, then, Max seemed to get as uncomfortable as I’d been. “Emma, actually? It’s Arabian two. So I guess Arabian Two is my favorite kind of music.”

I was suddenly reminded of what Young Max had said as we’d bought a four inch-square, seventy-five cent package of Gushers this afternoon. He’d commented that seventy-five cents sounded like a great deal. I told him that at the other deli, the one right near the Gowanus projects, I remembered them being, like, thirty cents or something. (I hate Carroll Gardens and thus I exaggerated). But then I explained that really, that deli guy was just doing smart business because people in public housing might have less money to spend on candy.

We burst out of the deli door, which is how we leave places inside which there are also strangers, and Max made a stunningly perceptive observation.

“Unless you’re a STREET PERSON! Then you don’t even have not one dollar.” The various white mothers and their white babies on the sidewalk looked aghast. I wondered which homeless guys Max had heard cussing each other out, because he sounded exactly like one of them. Super. I hate Carroll Gardens, anyway. And all was right with the world.

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