I'm sitting in front of the Ferris wheel when L. rolls up on a scooter, takes half a glance around, then swings right past me. He's got his iPod on, and every cell in him seems to be saying, 'I'm so too cool for this place.'
Why do I even hang out with the guy? He doesn't like the music I like, he fights with my friends, and sometimes when we're out, he makes a scene, just for the hell of it. And he's twelve years old.
L. is the son of my friend K. (she's actually the only one of my friends he fights with, and then only in a 12-year-old versus Mom way). We don't get together too often but we go back a long ways. I took him to one of the first movies he saw in a theatre. It was Pokémon, and we had to leave halfway through, because it got too violent for him.
He lives with K. most of the year, but goes back to New York to visit his dad several times a year. Sometimes he tells his mom that he misses the Lower East Side really bad, and he misses people with a New York sense of humor, and the only guy in Vienna who makes those sorts of nasty jokes is me. So sometimes we see a movie or grab a bite to eat. Tonight we'll play pinball.
On the way over here, I promised myself I would ask L. some actual questions, but our evening quickly devolves into a familiar pattern. That is, the little bastard quizzes me the whole time. "What do you download?" "Do you like living here?" "How do I get the extra ball?" After awhile, I've got a question for me, too: Who's the adult here?
Then we start talking about rock and roll. L.'s moms will only listen to hip hop, African music, funk and soul, so naturally, he's into...the Beatles. I start to tell him what I like and all the sudden I'm explaining what a producer does. "He makes the record sound the way it sounds," I exposit.
"I thought the band did that," he says, screwing up his face.
He's a smart, sweet kid. I guess I sympathize with him, and not just because my parents were divorced, too. We're both in-betweenies, living out something somewhere between an American and an Austrian identity. He's Americanesque, I'm an Austrianist. Naturally, his German's better than mine, and after ingesting forty-plus years of American garbage culture, I understand the finer points of the Simpsons a little better than he does. But we have some things in common. I wish I could say my take on living in Vienna is more sophisticated than his, but I'm not so sure it is.
After the pinball, foosball, and Jurassic Park video dino-kills, we go back to the restaurant underneath the Ferris wheel and have a toast (Euro for 'grill cheese sandwich.')
"I think I'm gonna live in New York again some day," he says.
"Do you like living here?" I ask.
"I dunno," L. mutters. "There's so many moldy old people here. I don't know why they have to be so grumpy. And sometimes, they're grumpy even though they're not old. Why is that?"