By Dom Cioffi
I took my family to Washington, D.C., this past weekend to roam the monuments and museums located within our nation’s capitol. Both my wife and I were looking forward to immersing ourselves within the history, science and wonder that the Smithsonian and other museums have to offer, but we were concerned that our 11-year-old son might be too young to truly appreciate the offerings.
And while he did stand in awe beneath the Washington Monument and within the columns of the Jefferson Memorial, and he did marvel at James Bond’s car at the International Spy Museum, in the end he found several “lesser” experiences much more rewarding.
First of all, he could not comprehend the number of food and souvenir trucks parked along the curbs of the National Mall. It didn’t matter where we were headed, if we passed by a line of trucks, he had to stop to gaze at the multitude of ridiculously over-priced trinkets and junk food that were being hawked.
“Dad, look… at… this… shirt,” he begged, as if it were a piece of valuable artwork. I stared at a cheap knock-off of the Minecraft block people visiting Washington and then imagined him wearing it out to dinner.
“Ahhh, how about something a little less… video-gamey,” I responded.
Over the course of three days he attempted to buy Washington pencils, Washington hats, Washington postcards, Washington sunglasses, even a plastic mask of George Washington himself.
Now some may call me a bad father for not appeasing my son of at least one vacation token, but I knew 15 minutes after he purchased it, I would be the one carrying it around for the rest of the day. And so I promised my son that if he waited until we got home, I would buy him anything he wanted (within reason) and he wouldn’t have to use his own money to pay for it.
The next thing that captured my son’s attention was the homeless people. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C., seems to have a lingering homeless problem. And while the authorities did keep the poverty-stricken folks off the national monument sites, there was little they could do to keep them from congregating in the multitude of smaller parks located throughout the city. And since we walked everywhere, there was little escaping the reality of the problem.
My son had endless questions about how people wind up homeless and why they might choose to sleep their days away on park benches.
At one point, while I was scanning my iPhone trying to locate our next stop, my son mindlessly approached a vagrant who was pawing through a garbage can. “What are you looking for?” he asked, with all the innocence of his middle-class upbringing.
The elderly gentleman abruptly stopped and responded, “If I’m lucky, I’ll find myself some lunch!” He then laughed loudly, which is what alerted me to the situation. I cautiously removed my son from the vicinity while the tattered old man returned to his endeavor.
After going into another long-winded explanation about the issue of homelessness, my son asked if he could give the man some money. At first I was against the idea, but relented when I saw the look of empathy in his eyes. I walked with him as he approached the man and delivered the coached line of, “Excuse me, sir, but I’d like to buy your lunch today.”
Thankfully the old man took the $5 bill in a genuinely appreciative manner.
However, from that point forward my son decided to become Washington’s most charitable resource, giving out cash to every street musician within earshot and every donation box we walked past. He even felt compelled to donate coins to the multitude of fountains located throughout the city. In fact, any body of water turned into a wishing well in his mind.
Finally, I had to stop him to give him a lecture about the value of currency, at which point he lectured me that you can’t put a price on wishes.
In this week’s feature, “Inside Out,” we meet a young girl who can’t stop wishing for her old life back after her parents abruptly move her across the country.
Starring the voices of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Lewis Black, “Inside Out” imagines what might be gong on inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl as she struggles to make sense out of a difficult period in her life.
Pixar has made a name for itself when it comes to the art of storytelling and “Inside Out” is no exception. This is one of their more inventive undertakings as they attempt to tackle the various emotions that make up the personality of a young child. I wouldn’t say this is one of their best offerings, but it certainly delivers all the elements necessary to be a box office smash.
As is the case with most Pixar films, this one will play just as well with adults as it does with children. So gather together a crew of youngsters and adults and once again revel in the artistry of Pixar – easily one of the world’s most brilliantly creative forces.
A heady “B+” for “Inside Out.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.