I was ten when my parents split up. My mother broke the news to us in the car after dropping my father off at the Metro North Station. My twin sister and younger brother were in the back seat. I was in the passenger seat. When she was finished telling us the what was going to happen, I turned to her and said, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll take care of you now."
We grew up quickly over the next few years. My father started dating a woman who lived on the same block as my grandparents on the Upper West Side, and soon they were living together. She was good to us, gave us sex education tips without shame or titilation--straight, blunt, sound advice. I remember seeing a shiny box, The Devil in Miss Jones, next to the other videos on a shelf in her bedroom, but I never had the nerve to watch it on the sly.
Everything was grown-up. When we visited my dad, we hung around adults.
Perhaps the most important discovery I made in her apartment was when I pulled a record from the shelf with a picture of a hippie sitting on a stool. The record was AM/FM, the lp that won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album and the one that put George Carlin on the map for good. It wasn't a racy record--heck, by this point, we had Eddie Murphy to idolize--and it was dated, filled-with Vietnam Era references that I didn't understand. But it had curse words as well as Carlin's elastic imagination, nibble word-play, and funny-sounding voices. Carlin sounded like a grown-up kid. Friendly, approachable, caustic, but decent.
For years, in high school and throughout college, I would go to sleep with the sounds of a comedy record playing in the background. Bill Cosby and Carlin were always good choices--Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor were too lively for that time of night. I must have listened to "Occupation Foole" five hundred times easily. I know Carlins' inflections, the rhythms of his voice, his faces, all of his characters, as well as I know a member of the family.