Projectile Vomit and Puppies with Joni and Johnny

Our beautiful boy, Will, glanced up. He wore an expression so calm and knowing that I thought he might recite the lyrics to "Same Situation," a song he heard often at home and in our Honda.

There was Joni Mitchell, and here was my wife, close to tears.

For years, she had loved the lady. Now the poet priestess was one table away at a mostly empty eatery on another hot 'n' hazy day in the San Fernando Valley. My wife approached, clutching at her heart, lavishing praise on _The Hissing of Summer Lawns._

Touched, Joni Mitchell inquired about our son, who was scrawling away with an orange crayon in his high chair. "He's an artist," my wife said. "Like you." Mitchell came in for a closer look. Our beautiful boy, Will, glanced up. He wore an expression so calm and knowing that I thought he might recite the lyrics to "Same Situation," a song he heard often at home and in our Honda.

Instead, what shot out of his mouth was green and yellow ("greellow" to some parents). Not a bit poetic, but plenty chunky.

"Oh! Oh! I'm so sorry," my wife gasped. Mitchell beat a slow, calm retreat, the way I imagine she'd move if confronted backstage by a rampaging Joe Walsh. She was gracious, even in the face of the greellow chunkiness.

My mortified wife could've murdered her young family at that moment, and for weeks I worried she might. But now, she's sure that at any given time, Joni Mitchell is somewhere telling the story of her biggest fan and the upchucking baby artist. Telling it to Neil Young, maybe, or Joe Walsh. We are—we believe—among her greatest hits.

My son figured into another celebrity encounter a couple of years later. This time we were in the hills, round and happy after a big brunch, sauntering along the sidewalks in search of fun. A pet shop fit the bill perfectly. Will pressed his face to the window, head-over-high-tops in love with a romping beagle puppy.

As my son squealed, a man sidled up to us. His reflection in the glass made me turn to him sharply, but Johnny Ramone didn't take his eyes off the puppy. "Cute," the punk demigod offered, with no trace of CBGB snark.

Staring at the bowl haircut and ferret features, I wanted to tell him how much I adored the Ramones' first four flawlessly feral albums. But the moment didn't belong to my fan-iness. Its quiet sweetness belonged to the puppy and Will and this nice fellow who seemed content to watch.

In a second, Johnny Ramone would amble away. In a couple of years, he would be dead. Cancer. In another couple of years, the Ramones would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But for that minute, we were just three boys savoring a morning when nothing mattered but sunshine and dogs.

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