Friday I let Jackson take a day off of school so we could drive down to L.A. for a press screening of Kung Fu Panda 2 on the Dreamworks campus. Admittedly, all the placards called it a Mommyblogger screening. Several dads were in attendance, though, which makes me wonder if the word “mommyblogger” is subsuming the word “daddyblogger” and becoming shorthand for “bloggers who admit they have children.” If so, I will lay down my arms against the word mommyblogger for it has swallowed us all, man and woman alike. Take that, centuries of grammatical patriarchy.
I talked to one of the dads and it turned out he wasn’t a mommyblogger; his wife was. We were all eating lunch together after the screening (which we were asked not to blog about) and toy demo (which we were). Mattel employees were on hand to answer questions. I couldn’t think of any questions, possibly because there were two kinds of cupcakes and they were both free.
“I have a blog,” Jackson told the non-mommyblogger and his wife. Their small daughter was dipping a plastic panda in cupcake frosting and then licking it off his foot.
“You do?” they said in surprise. They looked at me. I do not know for sure what they were thinking. They seemed like genuinely lovely, down-home people but I detected a hint of concern. It could have been curiosity. It could have been boredom mixed with horror masquerading as polite ambivalence. We’ll never know for sure.
“He doesn’t post anything personal, just dog photos and YouTube videos of cats falling into swimming pools,” I said. “You haven’t posted in a while, have you?”
“I posted about twelve times last year,” said Jackson.
“WHAT?!” I said.
The couple laughed nervously. Their daughter wandered away to examine some decorative Dreamworks gravel.
“I posted some jokes,” said Jackson. “You know, Mom. Mitch Hedberg.”
I’d forgotten. Jackson had had a brief obsession with Mitch Hedberg after I’d let him download Mitch All Together last year. I had been trying to steer him away from Lady Gaga and thought he might take to comedy. I loved comedy albums as a kid and it’s funny now to think of twelve-year-old me listening to all that Cheech and Chong. My mom probably asked my much-older brothers if it was okay for me to listen to that stuff, and I imagine them telling her, “Oh, yeah, Mom, it’s TOTALLY cool,” and then driving off to buy some weed in the 7-11 parking lot. (Note: I have no proof that any such thing ever happened. My brothers are fine, upstanding citizens. As far as I know.)
Anyway, I felt like Mitch Hedberg would be cool for a kid because even though his language is kind of blue, it’s nothing Jackson doesn’t hear at home, and the jokes themselves are usually pretty clean.
“Mitch Hedberg jokes,” repeated the mom in surprise.
“Yeah,” said Jackson. “Do you know the one about the duck?”
What was crazy about listening to Jackson tell this joke was that he had the delivery down, he enunciated in that precise way Just. Like. Mitch. Hedberg. The couple laughed, and the woman revealed that she and her husband were both stand-up comedians and they’d performed with Mitch at the Laugh Factory in L.A. before he died, and that he was a real nice guy. We. Were. Impressed.
Then I realized I had a question for the Mattel rep.
“I have this blog where I demonstrate yoga using action figures?” The Mattel rep looked unimpressed, perhaps anticipating that I was about to ask for free toys. “So I’m wondering, do you have anything in the Kung Fu Panda 2 line with more articulation?”
This caught the attention of a second Mattel rep, an earnest young man wearing bangs and glasses.
“Something with more articulation? Like a true action figure?” he asked. “Like a G.I. Joe?”
“Exactly,” I said.
He shook his head sadly. “These figures are aimed at the pre-school market. They have these dynamic poses . . . ” he gestured toward a peacock whose two feathered “hands” were outstretched as though he were conducting an orchestra, ” . . . but that’s about it.”
I liked this young guy, he gave me the sense that working for a toy company like Mattel was a geek dream come exquisitely true and that his apartment was possibly bursting with of unopened boxes of original Power Rangers and vintage Aqua Men. I was, in fact, about to ask if he could send me some free toys when Jackson ran up and desperately tugged on my jacket.
“Mom, the studio tour is starting NOW!”
“Do you have a business card?” I asked the young guy.
I am fortunate enough to have been on some famous old studio lots in L.A. where I’ve seen the huge old soundstages and Lucille Ball’s office and idling limousines and once I was hit by a production assistant tearing around a corner on a Paramount bicycle. Dreamworks isn’t like that. Dreamworks is a cluster of office buildings filled with twenty- and thirtysomethings hunched over computers. They get free breakfast and free lunch and a game room with every kind of gaming system AND a pool table AND pinball and a couch to take naps on, free yoga classes, and frozen yogurt any time they want.
“I want to work at Dreamworks when I grow up,” said you-know-who.
“Does anyone have any questions?” asked our tour guide, who was a nice man from marketing.
“Mom, you ask my question. I’m shyer than you are,” Jackson whispered.
“No you’re not.”
“I am, too.”
“That is such a lie.”
I raised my hand.
“Don’t tell him you’re asking for your son.”
“My son wants to know–” severe poking in my side “– if we’ll see any movie stars today.”
“No, I’m sorry, the voice actors did their work here quite a while ago and none are on campus today.”
“You ask your question now. Ask them if they filmed Galaxy Quest here.”
“I don’t want to!”
“Ask it, Mom!”
“Is Galaxy Quest even a Dreamworks film?”
I raised my hand.
“Uh, are there any soundstages here for filming or is it all just computer animation?”
Either the guide misunderstood my question or I’ve been using the word “soundstage” incorrectly my entire life. I thought a soundstage was one of those giant airplane hangar-sized buildings where they built huge sets filled with lighting and whatnot and filmed scenes in movies. “Yes, we do all the sound recording here,” said the tour guide, trailing off politely because didn’t he already made it clear that they record sound here? Perhaps on a stage of some sort?
When the tour was over we asked for some frozen yogurt. FREE frozen yogurt.
Then we listened to Lady Gaga all the way home.