John Stewart did a segment of “free-range kids” last night, which got me all excited because, of course, that’s what our current story is about. We do our comic strips approximately 2 months before they run, so it’s rare for us to to be running a story about a topic that’s actually being discussed by the rest of the media at the time. Of course, the free-range thing has been ongoing for a while now, cropping up from time to time. Still, operating as we do in what’s become a relatively obscure corner of popular culture, it’s nice to feel like we’re part of something that’s happening right now.
This series ends the story of Colin’s Bar Mitzvah, which we’ve returned to several times over the last 8 months. It’s a story we took years to work up to…I don’t know if the subject is sensitive for everyone, but it is for us. I have to thank Teri Leibson, who does The Pajama Diaries for leading the way on this topic. Our approach is different from hers, but looking at the way she put Jewish ritual in a comic strip context was reassuring and inspirational. I don’t know why showing our characters actually reading Torah should make me nervous, but it does. But between the ritual and the party, I think we’ve been able to walk the line between being respectful and being funny. And of course, it’s been way easier than putting on a real bar mitzvah. If you want any advice on that, feel free to ask. Having been through twice, I feel imminently qualified to help.
Colin’s interest in folk music, sparked by his Bar Mitzvah tutor’s accidental inclusion of cuts from Harry Smith’s famous Anthology of American Folk Music on the CD of his Torah portion, is admittedly an odd turn for the story to take. But it’s actually one of the more autobiographical things we’ve included in the strip. When our son was preparing for his bar mitzvah, back in 2008, our cantor gave him a CD much like Colin’s. When our son opened it, he found not only a recording of his Torah portion being chanted, but also the contents of our cantor’s iTunes, which wasn’t folk music, but indy pop. Our son, who’d previously not had any particular interest in music, listened to it repeatedly and it became a springboard into what quickly became his passion. He learned to play the guitar and later drums, acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of pop history, and has gone on to play in bands, record a self-released album and study media production in college. Though the music he loves now probably wouldn’t interest the cantor—our son leans towards hard-core punk and underground hip hop—it all started with that CD.