Dad You Be Killin Em: Amos Zeichner

June 13, 2012

We have so much to thank our fathers for. In addition to teaching us how to ride bikes and be good sports, they’ve also been our sagely guides through life. As a small token of our affection, we’re counting down to Father’s Day (this Sunday, heads up!) by celebrating our dads’ style, wit and wisdom.

What did your dad like to wear? Uniforms throughout his childhood in Tel Aviv, school then scouts then army. Big-collar tunics in the '70s and a much-maligned brown polyester suit to his wedding. When he was hired as a professor and moved to Georgia, he arrived with a tweed blazer with corduroy elbow patches, which he wore with a tie. He abandoned this look soon after, realizing his colleagues were "preppies" (his words) and that casual khakis and polo shirts were the rule. In the faculty photo they took of him when he started the job, he's wearing a turquoise button up. He wore the same shirt to work regularly some 15 years later, as unwavering in his wardrobe as in the lunches he packs himself, which have been the same every day for three decades (minus the Snickers bar, which has been cut). Once, at the time Queer Eye was popular, I took him to the mall and we bought some "cool dad" jeans. Now, ten years past their prime, he's still very enamored with them. His retirement/"going Emeritus" party is in a couple weeks, so from here on out he'll be spending more time in play clothes—long-ride bike shorts, T-shirts from the colleges his kids went to, the swishy pants that zip off at the knee and a pair of crocs he bought after a visit to Israel, where all his buddies had them. Most significantly, he's worn a mustache since puberty, like a grin that never leaves his face. There are at least 50 pairs of craft/cooking/garden scissors at my parents' house, but the ones he uses to trim his mustache, badly hidden, are definitely the sharpest and best.

What music did he listen to? Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind, fairly enough a pretty great album, has been in the front console of his 4 Runner since it was released in 1997. In his 20s he kept a record collection that would probably pull big dollars on eBay now; Beatles, Nina Simone and Leonard Cohen vinyl with cool import stickers in Hebrew affixed to their sleeves. Recently, I sent my dad something I wrote about this year's Summer Jam. He read it, but had to remind me that Big Sean, Hot 97 and Waka Flocka are new to him—bless his heart—and that maybe someone "in the know" might enjoy it more. He's always indulged my interest in rap though, generously empathizing with my near-religious devotion to Outkast. He's most familiar with Aquemini and likes "Synthesizer" the best. My dad's got a goofy accent that I can't always hear, a mix of Israeli/German/Swiss sounds, he says. When he sings along with "Rosa Parks" in his approximation of a Southern accent, ahh haaaa, huuushhhh that fusssss, jerking his head back and forward like a hungry turtle, it's really very sweet. The other day he asked me if I knew about Shazam ("Fucking magic!") and tried to tell me how much he's always loved Tracy Chapman, but he couldn't remember her name until I guessed it.

What would he say? Does he have a favorite phrase or saying? Something anecdote-y. He's fond of telling jokes that aren't jokes with a dead face, so people never know when to laugh. A current favorite is, when he sees or tastes something really nice, he tells the people he's with: "You know, it's like my grandmother used to say: Fucking amazing!" His grandmother never said this. I'm hot-tempered, and he's encouraged me to use "I" statements to diffuse fights. To him, saying "You're being an asshole" is ridiculous. Wiser to use "I feel hurt right now." His go-to statement of post-conflict consolation is, "You know, people are strange." That's true.

Dad You Be Killin Em: Amos Zeichner