Hi Mom,

I know that you’re busy working at a job you hate in the living room, but can I please watch the new Pixar movie about finding meaning in our short, brutal lives? I promise I’ll keep the volume down.

Dad let me watch it three times this weekend! 30 minutes into the last viewing, he dug a dusty guitar case out of the closet and then openly wept when he realized he had forgotten the chords to even the simplest song.

As a kid, I think that the first viewing of a movie is OK. But I really can’t appreciate a movie until I can recite it verbatim. I’ve got the goofy comic relief characters down, but with four or five more viewings, I think that I could recite the monologues about dealing with a death in the family.

I love when a movie just blends into the natural sounds of the house: birds chirping, traffic humming outside, a man realizing that he did not make the most of his time on Earth and now it’s too late.

Please! My friends really love this movie and their parents are letting them watch it all the time! Just look across the street, Mr. Smith is outside having a cigarette for the first time in five years! That can only mean he started his morning with a secondhand existential crisis!

If I don’t watch it at least three times today, then my friends will think I can’t embrace the constant presence of death. They’ll make fun of me! They’ll say that I’m taking tomorrow for granted and that I live in fear of the great unknown!

Ugh! Why won’t you let me watch it? It’s not like it’s violent or anything! All of the characters are cute, innocent-looking bubbles, which makes it all the more jarring when the realization that every single one is long dead surfaces.

Are you worried I’ll sing along to the songs and annoy you? The only music in this movie is post-bop instrumental jazz and ambient music written by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. I can’t rip a Charlie Parker-esque sax solo, so I’ll just hum an eerie, meandering tune on loop for several hours.

No, I don’t want to “hang out and just chat,” Mom. I want to watch the same movie over and over again and center my entire fledgling identity around it.

Maybe watching it again could give us new good conversation pieces? You’re pretty well equipped to answer questions about whether I could be an astronaut (yes) or if I could eat dessert before dinner (no), but I figure now I can pitch some curveballs like, “do you think that Grandma found her purpose before she died?”

Whether you let me watch it today or not, this movie is my whole thing now, OK? Remember when I watched Frozen two dozen times in a week? It’s the same idea; you know the drill. Instead of a toy castle, get me a scale replica of the Village Vanguard. Instead of a princess doll with combable hair, I need a Charles Mingus action figure with a smashable upright bass. Instead of a pretty dress, I need a black fedora and a snifter for my apple juice!

I’m sorry, but I can’t “just play with my old toys” anymore. I am now exclusively into jazz and death. If I cannot watch this animated masterpiece about jazz and death, then I choose to spend my time silently listening to Miles Davis. I will sit on the enclosed porch and write little poems about dying, emerging only to pose queries about the meaning of life.

You can keep me from watching it all you want, but I will be expecting a death-themed birthday party next month. Dad already said yes over the weekend between his panic attacks.


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