Essays

A collection writings and thoughts by artist Gary Llama.

Making a transparency: Reflecting on how we normalize things in our young

Around 22 years ago I was at this place making a logo for a transparency, in order to screenprint a patch…

…and today i’m doing the same thing, but with my daughter and spouse.

I should preface this: Theres been a lot of talk on the talk shows about how liberals must be careful not to ‘normalize’ the trump presidency. And it’s odd, because I’ve never really noticed this term used before in the way, or at the frequency, it is being used now. That said, this repeating of it has probably caused me to think about what that term means, and what I am normalizing in my life. From there, I can see where I jumped off into thinking about what I am normalizing for my daughter.

I was 15 back then. Computers were not a thing that were easy to come by, most folks had like a packard bell, or some other crappy computer, of the folks that I knew. And on these machines, fonts, well, they looked kinda crap and were super limited.

So we’d go up to kinko’s, get the font ‘preview’ book, and xerox the fuck out of it, make our logo from that. Then we’d shrink the final one down to whatever size we needed via the copier, then xerox that onto a transparency paper, to cut the screens.

Nowadays, I make the logo at home, print it on a laser printer, then mock up the arragnement for the transparency by hand and double-sided tape, and get the transparency. It’s a bit easier, and I could do it ALL in the computer, but there is something about laying things out by hand that makes it feel more real.

But that’s not the point of why I am writing here.

I am super fucking lucky to STILL be making music, and creative stuff, this late in life. For many folks, this was something they did when they were young, and then went on to something else. Why did they move on, and I didn’t? I don’t know. I have no clue. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because they felt it was ‘working’? Like they weren’t meeting a level of success they needed to stay motivated? Could be. Or perhaps, it’s because they got involved in something else, like a career or some other passion, and just liked that more. No idea. Pure speculation.

But to me, doing this stuff, making things, and putting them out myself, it’s just the way to do it.

When I get stressed out, I’ll sometimes wonder, man, what would being on a label that did stuff for you be like? And I daydream about it. But then you think about what you would need to do for the label to be comfortable in that arrangement, like increasing sales and the work that would require, and how that would take up time from making other things, and I’m just like, fuck all that. So it’s a trade off.

What I am super-stoked on, is that my daughter gets to grow up seeing mommy and daddy making these kinds of things. To her, this is normalized. It’s just how things go. Like cereal is for breakfast, for many americans.

I was listening to an interview with my friend, Noah Scalin a few months back, and he was saying he always assumed EVERY home had an art studio in it, cuz his did, as he grew up in an artistic household. And that really made me think about how I grew up, and what was normalized for me, and then what I am providing as normalcy for my daughter, that perhaps I didn’t have as a kid.

Things Normalized In my upbringing

For me, things that stick out as Normalized, that perhaps, weren’t there for other kids:

1) Audio

My dad had a really good stereo. And he really appreciated good sounding music. Accordingly, that seemed like an important thing to me growing up, and definitely influenced how I thought about both music and audio. For instance, the fact that he had very nice stereo equipment, which he taught me required respect, put the impression on my that audio, and by association, music, was something to be respected itself. If music was just something we listened to in the car, I don’t think I would have felt the same way.

2) Building and Repairing things yourself

My dad always changed the oil on our car himself. It’s a simple enough task, why not do it? It’s what saturdays were for, fixing things. And that extended to building and repairing other things around our house.

And my mom was the same way. She would modify or make our clothing as needed. She taught me how to crosstich, and tried to teach me how to use a sewing machine. Additionally, she ran a business making flags that I would sometimes help draw or design.

Between the two of them, I had a literacy for modifying or making things, where in other situtiations, they may have just been purchased.

3) Real dinners

My mom was a big proponent of ‘well balanced’ meals. Every night, it was a protein, some carbs, and a salad. Every night. Made from scratch. I just grew up with that and so when it comes to my daughter, and I see how much time is involved, I’m amazed my mom had the time to do it, and though at the time I couldn’t appreciate, now having a daughter and trying to feed her well, I greatly respect my mom for making that happen every night.

Things I am Normalizing for my Daughter

As for what I’m normalizing for my own daughter.

1) Doing things yourself

To her, Daddy just publishes books and his own music. When he wants to put something into the world, he just does it. You don’t ask anyone for permission, you don’t have to take a class. You just go at it. And when you don’t know how to do something, you just fuck with it till you learn it. So whether it’s making a new song and recording it, building the monitor controller I just built, or adjusting the valve leash on my car, we just do it.

2) Punk rock

When I was growing up, the music my family listened to was generally released by major labels and not part of a subculture. Accordingly, I thought I would have to become a rock star, and be very lucky, in order to make music and put it out. Again, much like the doing things yourself, she is being shown a community and catalogs of music that exist because people just make them. And it’s encouraged. And when she decides to put out her own record, if she chooses so, she can just do that, and it’s just as valuable a piece of art as anything else. But also, there is a community behind it. It’s our family friends who put out records, play in bands, run activist groups, table at shows, and go to things like protests and zine fests. She is being normalized to all of this community as defacto standard.

3) Class-less-ness

Growing up, I came up around the middle class, and accordingly, middle class values and expectations. So when I got into counterculture, it was a shock to see other opportunities for myself. Class tends to reinforce what a person sees as their oppurtunities and life options. So while we may technically be of one economic class, because of the way we live, values wise, and community wise, she won’t be pigeon holed into expecting one thing. She has family that are professors, went to schools in the Ivy league, and also, friends that went to community colleges. She is exposed to folks that went to college to get jobs, and folks who dropped out of high school who now earn more than most college grads. So it’s a diverse mix. She really doesn’t have any of the typical models around us to model from. That leaves me somewhat jealous of how she may be able to open her mind to possibilites for herself that I cannot even fathom for me, precisely because of growing up where I did and putting those expectations on myself, even subconciously.

4) Gender friendly

Also, she is growing up with parents that are accepting of the differences between gender and sex. So if she feels more like a ‘boy’ or more like a ‘girl’, like depending on what she wants to wear, or what toys she wants to play with, we really don’t push her towards anything being more right or wrong. Instead, the thing we judge things she interacts with on, besides obvious safety concerns, is whether or not we feel it’s healthy for her. Like, is having 5 paw patrol figures healthy? Sure they are commercial toys. But if she’s using them for imaginative play, then they may be great. On the flip side, if she uses them for little else than collecting, then maybe it’s not so great, and we could find something better. But is paw patrol a girls toy or a guys toy? Well here, she calls herself a girl, and loves them, so to her, they are girl toys! Pretty simple right?

5) Vegetarianism

While my spouse eats meat, and I am vegan, we decided that the healthy medium would be vegetarianism. So she’s growing up not eating meat or eggs. She loves animals, as do most kids. She doesn’t want to hurt them. And so when she would realize, as most kids do at somepoint, that they are eating the cow, she will be spared that uncomfortable feeling of knowing she kills them to eat, and the odd cognitive dissonance that accompanies that. Should she choose to eat animals later, thats fine. Her choice. I don’t want to push her into anything that would force her into a moral quadary later in life, accordingly vegetarian seemed like a safe bet. But also, growing up with these options being shown to her, if she does decide to eat meat, it won’t be because, like many vegetarians, she misses the taste of it, or is being pressured to by family customs. If she chooses to eat animals, it will be a much easier choice to make, than someone whom is coming from a family that expects one type of diet, always.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, It’s interesting to think about how the things we do as parents, frame the world of our young. And I’m sure it’s something I’ll think about over time. I think it’s important, as parents, to remember how much effect, even the littlest things we do go towards shaping the way our kids perceive the world, and, accordingly, to review them and make sure they are leading to the points of view, and lessons, that we want to be nurturing in our kids.

About The Site

Llamatism is a collection of things, a cabinet of curiosities, and reports from explorations on things, by Gary Llama.

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