Father-Son CrimeSeptember 25, 2020
My 90-year-old father is coming to visit Tuesday. This post, about our relationship, was my last post before Covid-19 hit U.S. shores. As we’ve tripled our subscription base since then, and have a 40% open rate, 9 in 10 of you haven’t seen this.
(Originally published in February 2020.)
My book agent, Jim Levine, gave me a piece of parenting advice that has stuck with me — find moments of engagement. As I have no real manly skills (fishing, building fences) to bond with my kids over, I opt for the cheap route and establish intimacy with my sons by breaking rules. I picked this up from my dad.
In the seventies, we would sneak onto some of Ohio’s most exclusive golf courses at dusk with a 5 iron and a putter (“the only clubs you need”). My dad, like a skilled hunter, would find a clump of bushes sure to be abundant with the exhaust of the rich and uncoordinated — spheres of thermoplastic. Golf balls cost 11 cents to manufacture, but retailed at $1.50 a sphere. We learned this via 30-second ads during ABC’s Wide World of Sports. This brand was “The Number 1 Ball in Golf.” We had bitcoin when Jimmy Carter was president. It was called Titleist.
Similar to a fearless bird dog, I would dive into the foliage using my 5 iron as a makeshift machete. I wouldn’t return until I saw a snake or procured 6 or more balls. We’d lay out our loot on the grass — a new Pinnacle! He’d point at it, nod, and then mess up my hair — his primary vehicle for affection. He did it often, and it felt wonderful. We’d then play 6-7 holes with two clubs.
Our criminality graduated to seeing several movies on one admission ticket and (rarely, but more than once) dining and ditching. I wasn’t a party to the latter. After he’d pick me up from my mom’s, we’d stop at Ships Coffee Shop in Westwood. After the meal, as his Gran Torino would accelerate from the Wilshire Blvd artery feeding the 405, he’d look over and ask, “Did you pay?” I’d stare at him befuddled, and he’d say, “You’re a wee scunner!” and laugh. Again, the mess of the hair, and it all seemed natural, wholesome even.
A couple times, a course ranger in a golf cart emblazoned with badging that said (wait for it) “Ranger” or an exasperated waitress ran after us waiving a check. As if wiping sweat from his brow, my dad would greet them with the welcome surprise of running into an old friend. He’d then break into the thickest Scottish accent, I mean can’t understand a word. He’d point at me a few times, pause, laugh, and put his hand on their shoulder. By this time, they had bonded over the misunderstanding. My seventies Braveheart father would wink at me, and we’d leave the course or pay the check.
I’m convinced police could find my dad on top of a warm corpse with his hands wrapped around the throat, and he’d deploy his Lallans charm to get a ride home from the officers. Nothing can get you into trouble with women who aren’t your wife, or out of trouble with service workers, better than a strong jawline and a Glasgow twang.
I’ve been less successful with my boys. My 9-year-old is easing into mild mischief with his dad, but my 12-year-old will have none of it. The youngest and I drink Coke when their mom is out. I have a stash. The oldest lectures us on how much sugar — which apparently causes inflammation — is in the Atlanta champagne.
I’ve had some success getting my oldest to watch R-rated movies with me, but he demands we fast-forward through the sex scenes. Gratuitous violence is ok, which is something. Note: Deadpool is the only R-rated movie we’ve watched, but still … R-rated.
I thought we were on the verge of a breakthrough last year when, after hibachi, the valet brought our car. As my youngest got in the back, he asked why there was a child seat. I realized, almost immediately … which is strange for me, as I’m not very observant, nor especially quick … it wasn’t our car.
“It’s not our car! But it is now!” I barked, leaning forward. I threw it in drive. “Where do you want to go?!”
My 9-year-old, the crazy one, seemed on board for about 2, maybe 3 seconds. Enough time to say, “Orlando!” But as younger brothers do, he checked his emotions and poked his head through the middle of the front seats to scope out his brother’s reaction. On his brother’s face was the look of terror.
“No, Dad, you’re going to get us in trouble!” So, fun Dad had become scary Dad … not a great feeling. I got about 50 feet before our car-boosting crew had a change of heart, and we returned the car to the valet. Based on my son’s reaction, I thought the valet might be angry. When I got out of the car I attempted to say it was “a wee mishap” in a Scottish accent. Only my Scotch sounds like dead language twins speaking to each other, or what I might sound like mid-stroke.
Why do I want to wreak havoc with my children? I think it’s because I want immortality. I don’t buy that there’s an afterlife, so I believe my only shot is to establish a set of relationships — with people who’ll outlive me — that are singular. The best place to register purchase against this goal is with my sons.
Isn’t that what we all want? To have people you love remember you as someone who, for them, there was no other. Someone they think of, often — your image, your smell, your mannerisms, your oddities. Singular. I hope they’ll understand me. But more than understanding, I need them to miss me, terribly.
We have early millennial wokesters living next to us. They’re a nice couple with a 2-year-old that’s a carbon copy of his dad. They are impossibly good looking and have lessened my gag reflex around tattoos, as they pull it off (see above: impossibly good looking). The dad surfs and invites me all the time, which I believe is a micro-aggression as, let’s be honest, there aren’t that many 55-year-old professors who surf. Or maybe he’s just being nice. Cool Dad also designs and builds furniture because … of course he does.
The hip/woke/surf/artisan/hot couple also own a bar that’s become the hotspot in South Florida, via mixology and a Brooklyn vibe. They also have this ridiculously cool VW T2 Baywindow bus, with a dual carb 1800cc engine and the original Blaupunkt stereo. I know this because Hip Dad always has it parked outside and describes the car, in meticulous (I mean this is how you dismantle an IED) detail. Granted, I’m interested. The VW van has Stephen King’s Christine-like powers. Every time I get into my midlife crisis Range Rover in my athleisure, it’s like the van whispers, “Could you be more lame?”
The inked-up wokesters are great neighbors. This morning they offered to look after our dogs sometime. Good people … good people. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to steal that fahrvergnugen swole AF Volkswagen, and ferry my kids to school. I’ll practice my Scottish accent on the drive back.
Life is so rich,
P.S. Spoke to film director Judd Apatow on my podcast.
I like your blog. Its one of the awesome blogs online
This content just keeps giving. Thank you Scott!
Frickin LOVED this. Be safe with your Dah: 90+Covid=Bad mix! And BTW you can’t open what comes unwrapped: you smartly put the essay in the post so just plow through email and it’s open. But I think you get more reads that way, so good job! (And be safe.) ADBL, Esq.
Love this… But really posting because I was catching up on the Prof G pod and just listened the episode when he wrapped up with 911 comments. As a NY native (in CA for years now) who’s dad worked at the WTC for many years, his comments had me with tears in my eyes in my car. It made the day and time real again and I hope for a time when we can all pull together like that regardless of circumstance.
As you say it, I didn’t read this before. Eventhough I’ve been reading your blog since some time in 2019(WeWork piece) but I only got around to following you online religiously during the lockdown this year. Anyway, sounds like you had a great time with your dad there. The only little mischiefs I can remember committing was climbing into some closed beach bar and having a drink or two of whatever we could find. Sometimes, we leave money behind, at other times, we don’t. But this was not something I did with my late dad. After all, you know how Asian parenting works….🤭🏑🐯
I love my son and two daughters like you would believe ❤ 💕 💙 !!! Have not always been there like I would’ve liked but i try to do my best !!! Wishing you all the best and blessed to call you my kids !!! Many more memories to make !!!! Love you Guys !!!! Love Dad !!!!
i think this is even better the 2nd time i’m reading.
If the rest are as good or better then this, you may have converted another one into a reader… thank u
The cool dad is too cool. Something wrong here. Bet he practices beastiality ever chance he gets.
Maaaate come down to Australia – there are so amny 55 year of profs in the water they could start their own club – but seriously take your kids surfing – a lifetime of bonding and fun!
I was the 1 in 10 who read this first time around and enjoyed it again this time. As a Glasgow expat myself I delight in hearing the term “wee scunner” but the accent is Scots not Scotch – the latter being a drink. Keep up the good work laddie.
My Brother has a 1968 VW Van. Sun roof, 3 row seats, original engine. He has had is reconditioned to mint, blue and white. It always draws a crowd when he get it out. Many years of fun times. Great article this week.
Great read as usual.👌 As a father of 2 little girls (5 and 2) who adore me, “I want daddy to take me to bed, I want daddy to get me dressed, I want daddy to brush my teeth” and so on, I know this time won’t last. Soon they will be 7, 8, 9 and they’ll grow less dependant of me and I’m sure even embarrassed to hug me or to fool around like we do now. No more dressing up or playing with dolls or tea parties. (That never lasts anyway, my 5 year old says I don’t do it right. Maybe cuz the Barbie in my hand eventually starts flying and making machine gun sounds. I can’t resist.) Sometimes I just want to go work out or tinker around in the man space of my garage or just relax, period. But I do my best to be present, caring and loving. I go to their cheerleading or soccer practice, I read them books, take them to the park, and even let them make up on me. (Today was the first actually) It’s these times, these moments, these memories which they will remember. This is why (I hope) they will love me in the future just as much as they do today. My point is as parents all we can do is the best we can. If at the end of the day you ask yourself, “Could I have done better?” and the answer is yes then you try harder the next day.
Oh Nicholas, this is so so true. I have four boys, now 13, 14, 20 and 22. I have played Thomas the Tank Engine, built towers, yelled “take it outside” at Nerf wars and wrestling tournaments, and stood on rugby and cricket sidelines for probably years. Your last sentence nails what it is to be a parent. As a mum to kids further along the path than your wee girls, I can tell you even though they don’t remember so much of that effort, it is what forms their bedrock through the torrid years and puberty and beyond that they are loved, home is safe, comforting and reliable and that you are always there for them. I have made so many mistakes as a parent but I own it and hope my boys see it as me being human. We’re doing our best, and I reckon a flying, machine-gunning Barbie is pretty awesome.
LMFAO!! Loved it! Great read!! Many thanks
Awesome stories. It’s the kind of innocent adventure seeking tales that seem to be disappearing with the digitization of culture. Love Judd’s work, but his political takes on the pod left much to be desired. It lacked any real insight that might sway any detractors. -A fellow Raging Moderate
Prof Galloway is brilliant but I don’t understand this. You need to cheat people to bond with your children? I would have thought setting an example of integrity and respect for others would be a much better way to get your children to remember you.
I don’t believe that is Prof G’s intent. Plus it was a different time then with his father. People weren’t so stiff like they are now. Walking out on a check, eh that’s pushing it but the rest not so bad. As you can see his children are very resistant to doing the wrong thing. Most kids are today, at least I’d like to believe that. When I was a child sitting in the supermarket cart, I eat a whole head of broccoli before getting to the register. My mom didn’t care. Now when my children want to eat or open something before we get to register, I say we didn’t pay for it yet. lol
it’s part of what has made him who he is – which you call ‘brilliant’…the thrill of breaking little rules and not always conforming builds confidence….some things can’t be learned by sticking your nose in a book and getting straight A’s.
I am staying with my dad in the hospital as he is receiving treatment for his agressive cancer. This story reminded me of our own mischiefs. He would put his big camera on his shoulder, pretend he was a journalist and sneak us into front row for children’s show. These moments will be cherished forever.
I guess this was written before surfing. Go to Ditch Plains in Montauk. I heard you like Montauk.
At 53 with a father 92 and 3 boys I get this. Thanks for the reminder.
I’ll admit I bristled at the dining and ditching part (that’s happened to me multiple times when I could least afford it, but that’s my own stuff). (Insert gif of Michael Jackson eating popcorn) Reading the comments, hilarious…serious…too damn serious—seriously? I really liked this one, perhaps because my Dad and your Dad probably bowled or stole something together. Thanks for these ‘mini masterpieces’. Cheers to a good weekend everyone. 🙂
Absolutely love receiving these mini masterpieces – guaranteed to add a spark to anyone’s day. Cheers Prof.
Thanks for two great memories today. Loved Shipp’s in Westwood when I was at UCLA and my Dad’s old VM van that the surfers were always offering to buy.
Hi Sharon Rubalcava, It’s Joe from Tahiti (ahem – 1971)!
Refreshing Friday laughter, thank you!
Comment from my wife while she was driving (and I was reading this): “why are you cracking up?” – Thanks for the laughs! Being from S. Florida, I’m now on the lookout for a good looking tattooed couple who owns a bar. Must check it out.
This almost made me cry and laugh at the same time. Great stuff! Saved in outlook folder ‘life lessons’ :’)
I read this before and thoroughly enjoyed it again. Please lose the Covid and political commentary.
“Orlando!” Laughed out loud.
I have re-read this about 16 times today and I can’t stop smiling! Excellent, thank you!
When’s the memoir coming out? Your writing is brilliant; practically-jumps-off-the-page good.
loved this article prof. and have given me ideas on how spend time with my kids, nephews and nieces
Cheers! F-in’ brilliant. Lost my dad to covid this year. His legacy include memories of his forever optimism, his easy laugh, and his non-handyman workmanship using duct tape and Crazy Glue as his sole tools. He is missed. As I’m sure you will be, although hopefully far in the future.
Beautiful description of the relationships we form in life, big and small, and how they can help us grow.
“ Someone they think of, often — your image, your smell, your mannerisms, your oddities. Singular.“
Oh gosh, this is just a sublime essay! I know I’d be like your oldest son. But I’d be secretly thrilled, as I hope he will, one day, realize is true for him. So glad I didn’t miss this the second time around.
Incredible message! I can totally relate. I’m just thankful this wasn’t a political rant, we have two corrupt dads with their taking advantage sons running for president. Both are disgusting and bad for America. So, thank you!
Nice reminder that it’s ok to love our imperfect fathers, warts and all. Keep up the great commentary.
Crying from laughter…..we call the Millenial Wokesters the “Whiteclaw Gang” in my neighborhood!
You’re hilarious. Thank you.
Rock’n roll way of life Helps find the balance That’s all that matters Love your podcast (even though I surf at 47 )
Oh Scott, you don’t realize how valuable these stories are for me. As a young man with a seemingly similiar background, I greatly appreciate how you manage to openly share these intimate fears of yours while being an absolute badass in your professional life, very much inspiring!
I can’t feel much sympathy for the golf courses or cinemas, but it seems very unfair to stiff the waitress – not only would she lose her tip, but the cost of the meal may well have been taken out of her wages. Not at all amusing.
I kick myself for not being brave enough to retry for a college that was marketing hotspot in my country. I kick myself for pursuing finance and landing in reinsurance, both I hate. I kick myself for not pursuing marketing. Now I will hate myself for one more thing -for not coming across your work earlier. Life’s so rich with your thoughts Scott, Thank you Love from India
From all fathers who have tried to have fun with their kids and who tried to break mom’s rules over the years, thank you, thank you, thank you. Three girls all close in age and all with differing views on risk taking (in a suburban boring kind of way). Anyway, thank you for this story and I will try to brush up on my Scottish accent – maybe I will watch Shrek again?
I must fall into that 10%…. Seems a bit lazy. Regardless, have a great time with your dad.
Was your Dad Royal Tannenbaum?
I feel like I have to take action whenever I read your messages. It’s like being in a cult, but I’m not complaining.
Scott, Thank you for teaching us that love is expressed in different ways. Having your hair mussed and being regaled by an unintelligible Scot’s burr both sound like expressions of love to me. Viva Scott’s Dad!
…fahrvergnugen swole AF Volkswagens FTW!
Scott: This was such a great read— because parents and good parenting is so precious these days. On another note and sorry to bring politics into your moment of family bonding, but I just watched the Mother Jones -You Tube video of the deposition by Trump- for Trump University that David Corn just put out- and it makes me SO ILL that we have this guy in the Oval Office. Look and listen to what he says about education…ughsville:(:(
Wow… a successful, hard working, generous, yet flawed and insecure man (in other words, a typical human) opens up his life and emotional struggles. And a sizable portion of his readers interpret this as license to insult him, or bitch that they didn’t get their free b-school lesson of the day, or deign to lecture him on where to spend his money. Prof, we love you and appreciate the humanity you show. You’ve inspired many of us. The haters and free riders can, if I may poorly imitate your pop’s Glaswegian accent, fek off!
Happy Friday Scott
Loved this one.
You always talk about people that inspire you but you really inspire me. You write so well and I agree with Grant. I love when you write about personal stuff like this. You are extremely thoughtful and I think everyone dreams of making a lasting impact with their children so they will think you are “1 in a million”. I also think you are 1 in a million, Scott. Since you are so open about your fears and you communicate in a way everyone can understand you affect a lot of people so positively. Just happy you are alive. Sincerely.
Pointless article, not funny or clever about obnoxious, shallow people and events. Stiffing a waitress- how cute! Agree with post about people of color having a very different result than a rich, coddled, out of touch professor.
Get a life Jwright. Go troll someone else with your negativity. You are reading his blog. I guarantee no one is reading yours.
Oh, buddy, they’ll miss you. Like crazy. It’s not about what you do with them, it’s about how you make them feel. Adored. Safe. Happy. Listen to what they tell you, and remember the details. There’s your ticket to immortality.
Scott, I have this relationship with my youngest daughter. The trouble? Tame. The “fear turned to giddiness in her lovely brown eyes?” Priceless. Good on ya’ for optimizing those relationships with meaning. Those are keepers of the-flame-that-is-you.
Life is indeed rich. I love when you write or talk about your family. Your podcast about taking care of your dying mother really humanized you as did the article of bonding with one of your father‘s ex wives. I’m 64. I spent a lifetime making the rules and enforcing the rules and living by the rules. Now I get to break them when I want and it’s fun. If I ever need to make a U-turn across a double yellow line I tell my family that highway warnings are for amateur drivers.
Wow! You write so well.
Hope you are out protesting for BLM or donating some of the millions you speak about so often, because anyone of color engaged in your dad’s ‘juvenile mischief’ would have had a very very different life indeed.
Your conclusion is outlandish and perspective ignorant. Let’s assume a Black father and son got into the same shenanigans. I can’t imagine it would be at a WASP eatery in the Upper East Side (or even in Scott’s case). Instead of whining on a pointless message board why don’t you get out and protest?
Really strange. I don’t think I am that old or that square and maybe not woke enough to get this but something seems off about an adult bragging about how his dad thought it was cool to run out on paying a restaurant bill and then commenting on aspects of your neighbors’ looks and lifestyle. Wierd. I wouldn’t want to live next to you Scott.
Best article in I can’t remember how long…
I immensely enjoy your financial and business commentary and insights but suspect I am not alone in not caring much for your personal backstory, familily relationships or self-involved reflections. I could be way off base and perhaps there is an audience for that, but most of the posts my friends send around are for business content. We have RBG, Michelle Obama, and a legion of more compelling biographies to draw larger lessons on life from. Just saying, stick with your competitive advantage.
Sorry Greg – completely disagree. It’s the satirical life stories that make the Prof different. I don’t want Tim Ferriss or Simon Sinek here……need to lighten it up!
@Doug Farren I agree. Business thoughts are plentiful and can be found in hundreds of blogs, podcasts and books. Scott, while he can infuriate me at times, bares his soul in ways that can be thought provoking and sometimes, like now, kind of whacky. That’s rare and what makes him interesting
that is so funny. Great time reading your material!