Unlike a certain septuagenarian presidential candidate, I do know how to send e-mails and run "the Google." I even know how to set up "Google alerts," so that anytime a particular subject is mentioned on the Internet, I am notified via e-mail.
My alerts include "Memphis," "Memphis Flyer," "Memphis Grizzlies," and "University of Memphis," as well as the names of various Memphis organizations, celebs, sports figures, musicians, politicians, etc. The idea being, of course, that these alerts will keep me on top of subjects that might prove helpful in developing stories for the Flyer or its website.
And — I admit this freely — I also have a Google alert set up for "VanWyngarden." I probably wouldn't bother doing this if my name were Bill Johnson, but VanWyngarden is a fairly singular name, and if there's VanWyngarden news out there, then, darn it, I want to know about it.
For many years, an author named Greg VanWyngarden and I had the "VanWyngarden" Google alert franchise sewed up. But, the truth is, as franchises go, it was more a lemonade stand than a Backyard Burgers. Occasionally, some jackleg blogger would attack my column or the mysterious Greg VanWyngarden would write a new book about World War I biplanes, and I'd get an alert. And that was pretty much it for the VanWyngardens on the Net.
Then my son Andrew, of the band MGMT, got famous, and now it's getting weird.
Over my morning coffee recently, I opened my laptop and learned that my son was "dating Kirsten Dunst." And that he had dumped his "previous girlfriend, Fabiola Gotti." Huh? The report was from a British tabloid and was totally bogus (though apparently Spider-man's girlfriend was involved with another band member). But, nonetheless, tabloid rumors of drugs, sex, and celebutards is not what any parent wants to wake up to.
Now I get at least 10 "VanWyngarden" alerts a day. There are even websites where MGMT fans have posted family pictures. (I don't know how they found our family photo-sharing sites, since they're not labeled by name.) I'll respond to an alert and see a picture of Andrew with his mother at Thanksgiving, and somebody's using it for snark. Like I said, it's weird and kind of sad. I'm happy for Andrew's success, but sometimes I miss the old days — when Greg and I ruled the Internets.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."