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No Mercy No Malice

Father-Son Crime

February 21, 2020

4-min read

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 on to 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 damn word Dundonian dialect. 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.

Less Successful

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 a dead language twins speak 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.

Wokesters 

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, 

53 comments

  1. Michael Aidan says:

    It’s a very lame comment I’m afraid. I just read this while cleaning up a 1.732 old email mail box and i find it extremely well written, witty and insightful. As a dad of 2 big boys, I’m on the same quest. Next I am going to steal our neighbors car and later apologize using a Canadian accent that will make Celine Dion look like my sister. Thank you Michaël

  2. zelot says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog, but one thing struck me today, at one point your dad had a Dundonioan accent ( so is from Dundee ) and the next thing he has a Glasgow twang. Living in Bonnie Scotland myself I can tell you these two accents are very far apart. Are you sure your dad was Scots 😛

  3. Matt says:

    Scott – go surfing – it will change your life – take your sons and it will change theirs as well – a whole new way to bond.

  4. Brian says:

    I’m a loyal reader and commenter, usually in support of you. But why do you joke about wokesters committing microaggressions against you? Why would you lower yourself to mocking very real things like that? You will never know what it’s like to be genuinely mistreated for being non-white in this country, for being a woman, or for being differently abled, and to be on the receiving end of real microaggressions, or even real violence and hatred. You’re a great writer and you usually aren’t malicious. But your insistence on co-opting this language is one of the more malicious things I’ve read from you.

    • Former Student says:

      Yeah, this is something you have to get used to with him. He used to annoy me in class with some of the more tone deaf things he would say, but I’ve come to realize that with him, and people of his ilk, their ability to learn about these things only goes so far, and their ignorance can never be combatted. This new perspective makes it a lot easier to stomach his stuff, which usually has some brilliance in it.

    • Brunel says:

      Give it a rest. Why can’t the behaviour he’s described be a micro aggression? Context is important and I sense zero malice in this article

    • Josh says:

      Boohoo spare me ……

    • Parker says:

      Y’all really always gotta be made about something huh?

    • Brian says:

      I shouldn’t be surprised that the majority of Professor Galloway’s followers would descend so quickly into infantilizing and insulting, and can’t bear to engage in a mature conversation. Except for @Brunel–we just see this differently. When people like Prof Galloway co-opt the language to make a joke, it works to undermine when these things actually happen to real people who are vulnerable. We can agree to disagree here. Thanks for not being a dick in your comment.

    • Jaime Lokier says:

      @Brian I totally respect what you say, and I´m sure some people can undermine deep concepts when used wrong… But these whole piece is filled with comedy and I don’t think there is a single soul who changed the way they feel about micro aggressions because of this joke.

    • anon says:

      @Brian You live in fantasy land.

  5. Marcio Moerbeck says:

    It’s “Dine & Dash”, Scott… don’t ask me how I know it, but it just is… 🙂

  6. James Akers says:

    You are too much, Prof. Loved the read and the evocation of my own memories, especially the innate difference in the brothers’ dispositions. By the way, I am the only one who keeps seeing cranky-but-fun Bruce Dern in professor G’s visage? Also, @profgalloway, have you ever read Pat Conroy’s novels? Your style reminds me a little of his. Like him and Norman Mailer and David Sedaris all had a baby.

  7. Craig Randall says:

    loved reading this. hope to establish a similar connection with my future kid!

  8. Chris says:

    Goddammit, I love this so much. This is how I’d write if I was 2X as creative and 4X as funny.

  9. Jamie Thingelstad says:

    Enjoyed this so much. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Lois says:

    I wonder how this story would sound like if Scott was black. 🤔

  11. Thorsten says:

    Beautiful read. Thank you, Scott!

  12. Bill Kornmuller says:

    So your father was a charming criminal?

  13. Mark Renton says:

    Do you realize what an a-hole you sound like – or are you being ironic?

    • Andrew Madeira says:

      I am curious what in particular bothered you about this? If you know this guy, you would not be too worked up about this (in my opinion) pretty funny piece. Did you just stumble across this newsletter by mistake?

  14. David Pring says:

    Great proof that there is a soft underbelly to the dog!

  15. Tripp says:

    Yep… hope they’ll miss me.

  16. Lynda Napolitano says:

    Best email ever. Even though I’ve never met you I will miss you terribly when you’re gone.

  17. Jim Grey says:

    I love it when you do posts like these.

  18. Jay Rock says:

    I’d love to see a black father/son get away with the same things. I’m guessing the dad would still be imprisoned.

  19. Steve K says:

    I really enjoyed this, beginning to end!

  20. Scott says:

    Spot on! With two boys (8,11) I couldn’t agree more…nothing like a little bending/breaking the rules to get them going which is also about as ‘cool’ as I’m going to get.

  21. Maria Elisa from Brazil says:

    Loved reading more about your perspective on simple life and kids ! Mix of vulnerability and wit! Keep rocking

  22. Jon-y-than says:

    I didn’t even realize there was nothing businessy until after I was done reading. It didn’t feel like there was anything missing, and it was just an enjoyable read.

  23. Mitch Dunn says:

    I thought of my dad the entire time I was reading this. Great stuff.

  24. Nick says:

    One of your best, thanks for sharing

  25. Michael says:

    Most apt writing yet.

  26. CR says:

    Yes, why not be Michael Whitehall, when every father zigs, you zag!

  27. robert smalley says:

    A very enthused piece. Sounds as though the author is relatively content. No mention of musical tastes which would be a further insight.

  28. Finstp says:

    Dundonian accent and Glasgow twang?? Incompatible, but I loved the story nevertheless.

  29. ben says:

    As if we need another reason to strike “woke” from the lexicon…

  30. c1ue says:

    Nice! And I see the wokesters are already gently castigating you for introducing your children to the real world of discomfort and lines as suggestions…

  31. mcort says:

    Great article – I see a lot of me and my kids in your story. I’m torturing my kids by doing even crazier shit with the grandkids.

  32. Asia D Prude says:

    I just want my money back. That’s all.

  33. Kemal says:

    Hahaha you are brilliantly fucked in the brain Scott.

  34. Rafa FCM says:

    Scott: so much in common, you have made my day with this article. Mortality is a word that it is not used often in our lexicon, but one that we should think about more often to remind us that we are here in nano seconds of time. Enjoy this precious gift and love without conditions, work hard and make new mistakes every day. Feliz viernes!

  35. Alexander Zwissler says:

    ..glorious

  36. scott says:

    pictures or it didn’t happen.

  37. Matt says:

    Gadzooks. Great formula for dadness. I am stealing it.

  38. Susan says:

    Ah, nostalgia. I, too, was the feral child in my family, in cahoots with my father, both of us sneaking around my mother. Taught me to ride from age 1, sitting in front of him holding the reins, then let me drive at 14, so I could get to the stables. Gave me my first motorcycle at 16, then on weekend mornings raced to see who could get it first and be gone for the day. And on and on. Your premise is sound: he’s been gone 9 years (at age 96) and I still miss him every day. Spoil your kids rotten—the time will evaporate, but the memories will be with them forever.

  39. Stan Konwiser says:

    Scott- I generally enjoy your observations, but this time I have to ask that you not visit upon your sons the damage done by your father. There is a way to connect with them: Be there. Find a way to chaperone on class trips. Watch those soccer games. Make sure the family shares meals (no phones) together and actually listen to what they say. Engage them in what they are interested in and, in simple terms, engage them in what you are interested in. One more thing: Provide a model of a household they will WANT to emulate when it is their turn. It’s sometimes difficult, but the value is immeasurable.

  40. David A says:

    You made me feel something. Stop that.

  41. Your Son says:

    Ok boomer.

  42. Joe says:

    Turns out, Scott is a writer, not just an interesting storyteller with business stats. Nicely done.

  43. Mark Gruen says:

    Beautiful…one of your best!