Monthly Archives: July 2005

camelot

7/17/05

When you first started, you only knew how to pine from afar, even laying awake in a single bed mere hours before your parents’ divorce, actually crying because you knew there would be no way Helen from the musical would ever kiss you. They were gothic, Russian, romantic crushes on girls who didn’t know you were alive because you never told them.

Later, the first kiss occurred after tortured months of happenstance meetings in the dorm, labored-over messages written with black marker on doors. It gave you the wrong impression, namely, that love was a spoken act that could be acquitted through words, and you were always good at that.

You were rejected only two times: once in a throbbing nightclub in downtown Los Angeles in 1988; the other on Vance Street in 1995. This was mostly because you chose well, and you were relentless. When Jay said she was “out of your league,” you bloody well seduced her and spent the summer in her black Honda, just to show who was out of anyone’s league.

And as the words kept coming, and the machinations revolved, you got further and further away from what was really love, until it became a chalky substance you needed like the drug, no longer enjoyed, but desperate for nonetheless. St. Exupery said that you were responsible for what you had tamed, but the thought filled you with horror once it got that far.

One lesson unlearned happened the last month in North Carolina, when you unleashed a tirade in front of someone, hoping it would actually repel them; yet after two weeks, you were together. Did you ever really have control? Or were you just walking into situations that were already decided?

They never wanted the words, they just wanted a semblance of what they’d seen on TV, read in books, and you did too. Your endless dialogue was close enough, even though they didn’t want you to talk, they just wanted the feeling of what you were. Great protagonists never talk, they just wait for you to project your feelings onto their pale skin.

It took years of pain, nights contemplating suicide, a relinquishing of control, before you got close to the real thing. You just hadn’t earned it yet, baby. God may punish you by answering your prayers, but he gives you anything you want once you stop caring.

deep shepherdation

7/14/05

Okay, those without babies avert your eyes and ears – this is one entry to totally skip over. As for the rest of you parental units, I was wondering if you could proffer your sagacity on this crucial topic: How did you get your baby to start sleeping longer through the night, and what method did you use for any separation anxiety?

Lucy is still only a 12-weeker, so we’re not going to force any schedules on her for another month, but once we do, we’d like to know how the rest of you fared when it was time to start taking nighttime seriously.

We were well on our way to a dream sleep situation (if you pardon the mixed metaphor/pun/etc.), as Ol’ Ironsides was sleeping up to 7 hours a night, and almost always five in a row. Suddenly, about two weeks ago, she started waking up every 2-3 hours all night, and Tessa has usually responded with a bit of breast milk and a kind word. But we can’t do this dance forever.

We have read some of the books – many of which offer contradictory advice, as you know – and just wanted your own specific experience with a couple of details thrown in. We are much obliged and say HUZZAH for the internet community!

nostrand’s dame, us

7/13/05

Let’s have some fun with predictions, shall we? I’ve found myself involved in a few daydreams that seem prognosticesque, so I’d like to go ahead and put them down so they don’t happen. Or, if they do, I can say “I bloody well told you so.”

1. A current box office star will die of un-natural causes. Someone near the height of their career, like Carole Lombard. It will make them timeless and immortal in that James Dean/Janis Joplin fashion.

2. A woman will be stalked via her own blog, with a violent crime ending. It will lead to parents not allowing any of their kids to keep blogs, and the blog phenomenon will take a huge hit. Most everybody will opt to remain anonymous.

3. Karl Rove isn’t going anywhere.

4. There will be some robbery/assault happening at drive-thrus across America once the bad guys learn that your car is stuck between two others with concrete barriers on both sides. Someone will try to pass a law requiring an “escape route” for drive-thru patrons in bad neighborhoods.

5. Long term: water will become so scarce in the West that mandatory foot pedals will be installed at every sink in every home. Water will only flow if you step on the pedal, and even then, it will be monitored and be shut off after a set number of minutes. This will keep people from keeping the water on while doing the dishes, and whilst brushing teeth.

6. An accidentally breakthrough in hydrogen production will make it easy to come by, without electricity or any other fossil fuels being used. This will make this current administration unwittingly prescient in concentrating on hydrogen-powered cars rather than hybrids. They will, however, take credit.

7. There will not be a Democratic president until 2012, and that will only be because of a completely-unforeseen fluke.

8. A Category 5 hurricane will strike American soil, but not a big city, and while the pictures will be stunning, there won’t be a huge loss of life.

Now it’s your turn. Any predictions you’ve held to yourself for a while?

one quarter-year-old!

7/12/05

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My Dearest Sweet Little Lucy,

This week you will turn three months old, and I wanted to write a little something you can read later. If I’d done it on a piece of paper, or in a computer document, it would definitely get lost, so I’m doing it here on the website where it has a chance of getting to you decades down the road.

Turning three months means the end of your so-called “fourth trimester,” which is commonly thought to be that liminal state when you need to be reminded of the womb at all times lest you begin screaming. Lemme tellya right away: you can sure scream, woman. But alongside this, you gave us your first smile at only six days, your first laugh at two weeks, and four days ago, you gave me your first sustained giggle. I have a feeling you were making fun of me, but whatever – I’m not the one wearing trousers with giraffes on them, ya cheeky bastard.

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You have become such a gigglemonster that it’s hard to get you to stop when it’s past your bedtime. Your mother and I are more than happy to stay up with you, but we occasionally worked you into a tired lather, so we’ve learned not to abuse your laughter. It’s awfully addictive.

You’ve made so many developmental leaps in the last week that it seems like you’re a whole new person, or should I say, you’ve actually become a person. Your face, once puffy like the pudding of all babies, is now becoming angled into a visage that is recognizable as only you.

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A few days ago, you actually reached for a dangling toy and grabbed it, shoving into your mouth. While this seems a bit rudimentary to those of us who went to prep school, it means you made an active decision to change the world with a part of your body. You just learned that YOU have an effect on your surroundings. It was like watching magic leap from the mundane, and of course, I kissed you about fifty times.

Here’s another sea change: in the last week, you started really listening to us. You no longer had the crack-addled jumpiness of the “I just got here” crowd – you sit and stare deep into our eyes for minutes. You sit on your “tummy time” activity mat and regard the world around you for seemingly vast stretches. There was a time – say, like 14 days ago – when five minutes of nothing would have prompted a scream, but now, you are a willing co-conspirator in our daily deeds. I can’t tell you how wonderful that has become.

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Best new thing of all? You took two whole bottles from me yesterday without a hitch. Previously, you screamed so loud during bottle-feeding that it showed up on the local Doppler radars. You were Beholden to the Breast, with naught but Mommy giving sustenance. Yesterday, when you stared up at me and sucked the whole bottle down, it’s as if we knew we had a brand new agreement. You learned the bottle late, but then again, I learned skiing late, and we’re both naturals now.

A few days ago, we took you to see your grandpa and your step-grandma in La Quinta, California, home of the 113-degree afternoons. Mommy and I brought you into the pool, where you splashed, giggled, and filled us with such ecstasy that your mom said it was the most fun she’d ever had. And she went to Carolina in the heady late ’80s!

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The folks at R.I.E. have some good ideas, but they also tell you never to help a baby sit up, never force them to do things they wouldn’t naturally, and basically let you be your own explorer. I’d like to tell you know that we – and especially I – have broken those rules practically every minute we’re with you.

I’m sorry, but it seems totally counter-intuitive to me. The look on your face when you roll yourself over, the joy of accomplishment in your eyes when you manage to sit yourself up, is just too fabulous. So I push you a little bit. When we were in the pool, I asked your mom if I could put you underwater for a split second. I’d seen that all human babies are adapted for swimming from the first day, and though she was nervous, you and I went below the surface for about a quarter of a second.

Upon surfacing, you were shocked, stunned – and then erupted into the biggest smile of the day. You are my brave little soul, my little Lucy, my big light. You have a fighting chance at not being as afraid as I was, of everything. You are not a recliner; you lean forward, you want to be involved, your blue eyes illuminate the room. With you and your wonderful mommy, I will never know complacency. You sleep each night like you’ve earned it, and I love you with the pre-cry tremolo of the back of my throat.

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yes i would like a knuckle sandwich

7/11/05

Andrew asked an interesting question yesterday: namely, in what circumstance would some of us go to war for the United States of America?

I’ve often thought about it, because I have a macabre sense of daydreaming, and I’ve always believe the armed forces to be the absolute worst place for me in the entire world. I have direct, acidic and throngingly furious problems with authority, I don’t like running for no reason, and when someone shouts at me, I feel like hitting them in the face with a tire iron.

I’m also with Chesterton when he said that “my country, right or wrong” was like saying “my mother, drunk or sober.” There are conflicts worth engaging, and those worth fleeing. In World War II, I’m sure I would have volunteered like anyone else, and been enough of a health nightmare (flat feet, blind, etc.) to get a nice desk job where I could have done some good, like speechwriting or something to do with the English language.

During Vietnam, I would have burned my draft card and sought solace with my friends up in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and done all the cooking and cleaning for Peter and Catherine while dodging the window as policemen drove by. I could have lived in the attic and sold Chipwiches in front of the Province House. There’s no way I was going to Vietnam, and I’m crafty enough to have eluded them.

Either way, I’m constitutionally incapable of firing a gun at another human being. The thought of it actually makes me sick. I know I say I want to hit someone with a tire iron, but y’see, I don’t actually do it. It takes a specific kind of person to kill another man, and I’m just not it.

The afternoon of 9/11, when I had helped families streaming up the West Side Highway – and my sister and wife were serving ice cream to the firefighters downtown – I contemplated what I might do. I’ve never even mentioned this to Tessa, but I seriously thought about studying Arabic, or, more weirdly, code-breaking and terrorist-chatter-deciphering. Going after these individual terrorist cells seemed – and still seems – worthwhile to the point of necessity.

Ah, but it doesn’t work like that with this President. If you go into the armed forces – hell, if you’re caught sniffing around a recruiting kiosk at the Walmart – the next thing you know, your testicles are being blown off by a roadside I.E.D. on the way out of Kirkuk. The 350 billion dollars we poured into Iraq could have been spent convincing smart people like ME to join the anti-terror fight at home, but there’s NO FUCKING WAY I’d put myself on the line for the people currently in charge.

America changes; it’s a morphing entity. So am I. I would have fought for Clinton in Serbia, and FDR aboard an aircraft carrier, but I wouldn’t have touched the Spanish-American War with a ten-foot oar, nor will I ever call George Bush my commander-in-chief. My right as an American not only means I get to pick and choose, but it puts upon me the burden of measuring the degree of lunacy of our administration at any given time.

Progressives had an era, and they will again, but our time is not now. We are the quietest 49% of the World’s Remaining Superpower’s Electorate imaginable. We have no leadership, no concrete plan to get us out from under the Republicans, and our gift for nuance puts us at temporary disadvantage. So to answer Andrew’s question, yes, there are wars in which I would have participated, but for now, I’m going to climb back in my hole and hurl poop at passers-by.

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thin ties with piano keys

7/10/05

I’ve been wondering lately about the permanence of American moods; i.e., how long are we going to suffer through this redneck fight-or-flight America-first conservative hoo-hah before the great unwashed masses get sick of it and move on to something else? The current pace of fear-mongering in this country is exhausting, and if history teaches us any lesson, it’s that a hard fad’s gotta die.

We were talking about America’s moods on an email list the other day, and here’s a few I came up with:

Americans’ interest in WWII: 1941-45 (4 years)

Cold war nuclear holocaust fears, Part I: 1955-1963 (8 years)

Hippie movement: 1965-1970 (5 years)

Disco: 1975-1980 (5 years)

Cold war nuclear holocaust fears, Part II: 1981-1986 (5 years)

Internet boom: 1996-2001 (5 years)

Jingoistic terror-obsessed conservatism: 2001-?

Given the attention span of Americans en masse, it seems like we can only stomach a “movement” for around 5-6 years before we move onto something else. Of course, in the middle of such a movement, you can’t ever imagine it ending (like Rubik’s Cubes in 1981) and even now we can’t see our way through the fog of Bush’s “War on Terror.”

But these things must end. There will come a day, even after more spectacular suicide attacks like 9/11 and the London bombings, when most ordinary Americans will realize that while Death will kindly stop for them (apologies to E. Dickinson), they probably won’t die today, or even tomorrow.

The duct tape will grow moldy in the basement, and even the exhortations of our crazy President can’t work them back into a lather. Keeping up a good “bunker mentality” takes a shitload of work. Perhaps there will come a day when the chickenhawks, the anchors on cable news stations and AM Radio pundits will have masturbated us one time too many, leaving us raw, chafed and unable to perform the way they like.

The fact is this: humans adapt. Terror attacks will eventually lose the edge they once had. It’s already happening in social microcosms like the stock market; after an initial drop due to the London bombings, the Dow actually closed higher by the end of the day.

There’s a couple of caveats here, of course – if we’re attacked by a biological agent or atomic weapons that kill hundreds of thousands, then we’re in a whole new ballgame. Also, if we manage to elect a President as chuckleheaded and swooningly reckless as Bush again, we could be looking at decades of this shit.

But if all goes as planned, mark your calendars for 2007, when the tectonic plates of this country’s mood swing away from the current mouth-frothing terror-mongering, and onto something else. I’m not saying it won’t be something else equally as stupid, but it will something new, another pair of pants for this country to try on. Let’s hope it’s better than the Rubik’s Snake.

Dieu et mon Droit

7/7/05

Would it be too predictable to say I believe today’s bombings to be a result of the War on Terror, rather than why we’re fighting it? Regrettably, yes, but tonight I’m just filled with sorrow that London – a town that means so much to me and my family – is going through the same dread we suffered in NYC four years ago.

I’ve oft whined and dined on the beatings I suffered growing up as a red-headed dork in grade school, but I often omit the two years in London that offered a stunning – if temporary – reversal of my social fortune. The second I stepped onto the Dollis Scholl campus for 3rd form (5th grade in the U.S.A.) I was a popular oddity.

It helped that I was going through a semi-cute phase, those years occurring after the miniature polyester lounge suits of the mid-70s and before the ghastly effects of 1980’s horff-tastic fashion and my impending puberty. Besides, we all wore school ties and shorts (regardless of weather) and I happened to be a natural at soccer, which put me on the fast track to superstardom.

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feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square

In London, playing the violin and being smart were actually redeeming values; in America, that sort of thing led to your ass getting kicked. There were so many beautiful classmates that I remember them by name: Jane Feltham, Heidi Downing, Teresa Simonetti. That time in London brought me an epiphany: I wasn’t intrinsically ugly and worthless, my home country just happened to think so.

The London Underground tubes were my playground – I used to go to my lessons early so I could take the Circle Line over to Marble Arch or sneak into the Tower of London without paying. I knew the tube better than natives, and used to take it to places far-flung on the map, just so I could say I did it. 1977-78 was also an amazing time to be in London culturally; think of the bands that were playing after my bedtime.

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Christmas ’77: from left, me (holding a Buckingham Palace guard doll), Michelle, Kent, Sean, Steve

I was more than happy to have stayed in London forever – so was my Mom and the rest of the kids too. But the orchestra in Iowa brought my dad home, and we endured a time we call “2nd Iowa” (regaled here) which taught me another lesson: you are your circumstances, and they can be fragile.

I hope this finds our old friends in England healthy and unscathed, and from those of us in New York, we can truly say we know how you feel.

the venitius command

7/6/05

this blog written in the style of Dr. Stephen Maturin’s diaries from Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” books

Our ship laid anchor in Venice, California – perhaps I should call it the slightly less couth sister of Santa Monica, the bustling port city of Los Angeles. Other groups have taken the jolly boat inland to Hollywood and points beyond, but knowing I must make home here, I’ve chosen to stay and assemble my various collections.

The natives are a leathery, insouciant people; well-heeled women in suggestive topcloths parade around the avenues like so many cockled peacocks, and the men are as manicured as the Egyptians, a tribe of smellsmocks and pinchfarthings jockeying for attention. Still, their dedication to the sea is admirable, and though their style may not answer, one may at least take a droll curiosity from their gait.

When we were docked in New York, I noticed the idiots – in rectus verbum, naturally – would spend hours conversing with themselves, holding infinite dialogue within their own person as they traversed the subterranean locomotor. In Venice, however, the insane, the imbecile and even the “moron” are much preoccupied with talking to you. I find it challenging, to say the least, and have kept to quarters, avoiding quarrel.

We are bunked in, rooming with several other transplants from other climes, each one peddling wares in a local industry hellfire on ignoring them. One in particular, whom I shall call “D.F.,” is a 29-year-old lady in the waning hours of her youthful bloom, clinging to her speculative idea, knowing full well these months will determine her course. I looked at her tongue, and told her the pace would surely send her into ague.

Many are like her in this village, drawn up in high buggies, partaking of coffee in immoderation, always with a canis domesticus by their side. Surely the want of these women and the supply are in unbalanced proportion.

The cuisine is spicy, and is a welcome break from the red meat of Eastern America. Of course I long for the soused hog’s face and goose bits in goose grease, but the “enchilada” and the “quesadilla” are olfactory delights, especially after a “margerita,” a local – and expensive – form of grog.

I inquired after several friends who had once graced this port city, but many, not finding work commensurate with their talents, have gone far inland to cities like Chicago and back to old New Amsterdam. Even the talentless have fled, such as K.L., a lady so untowardly cynical, with legs waxed to reflective gloss, who moved to West Palm Beach. In her last post, received not 18 months ago, she told the surviving members of her sloop that she was “looking for a rich husband.”

Is there any hope for divination in a valley that breeds such people? Could the desert sun, unabating, with so little rain and vegetation sparse and prickly, produce a population that has had their higher virtues blanched away? One hopes that a heavy rain might purge thousands of egos, sending them flooding down streets and out to sea.

And does my own presence make me tacitly complicit? Am I no better than any of them, another rube on horseback playing the ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote to the windmill farms on every hilltop? I have decided to keep my ship free of both barnacle and scale by not dwelling on the whys and wherefores; after all, my age advances as well.

I shall keep to the pen, to my loves, and to the moment. As Virgil says, “tempus erat quo prima quies mortalibus aegris incipit, et dono diuum gratissima serpit,” and I too, shall repair body and mind with sound sleep.

scope, norfolk, VA, 1981

7/5/05

Okay, CODE WORD. Today’s “can’t write a blog ‘cuz of our 12-week-old” questions are:

What song is going through your head this precise moment?

What was your first big rock music concert experience?

I’ll put my answers in the comments later so that the song in my head doesn’t interrupt yours.

reunited and it feels so good

7/4/05

The longing you feel for your child after ten days of being apart – especially in the first twelve weeks – have few literary equals. The closest is Pullman’s description of the “daemons” in the His Dark Materials books, a physical and emotional longing to your charge that becomes almost physically unendurable. When Tessa sent me this picture via email:

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…I started crying in my stupid motel room in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It’s those eyes, I guess, longing and beautiful.

A few words about the last day of the trip: I know everyone says “well, at least it’s a dry heat” when describing the desert, but once it gets over 110 degrees, it doesn’t really matter anymore. I’ve been inside saunas, even dry ones – but when an entire American state scorches, it’s bizarrely oppressive and utterly inescapable.

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One other thing – I always believe myself to be between five and fifteen pounds overweight depending on the year, but I have one thing to say after driving across the middle of this country: I am SO FUCKING THIN, YO! This country is so unbelievably porcine, so unflinchingly obese that it threatens to burst in a wild cataclysm of human fat. If I were a nutritionist, or even a basic G.P., I would consider a jaunt across this nation’s beer belly an exercise in depression.

I know this is terribly mean and asinine, but I just had to snap this shot of a woman and her son at a Walmart in Baton Rouge. I sneaked a peek at her blood pressure – 170 over 110. Now, I’m no doctor, but isn’t that a little… high?

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Okay, so I’m an asshole. I missed my family and started taking pictures of strangers. Whilst I was slowly going mad from heat and desire, Tessa was taking Lucy on her first plane ride:

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Apparently there were only a few screams before takeoff, and she slept the whole way across country. If breast milk is truly that palliative, I’m going to get some for my next flight. I heard it’s quite sweet. I have to say, if guys could lactate, we’d spend all day making White Russians of our own secretion.

I’ve never had an airport moment so wonderful as seeing my two girls after so long on the road. They are such wonderful, mysterious creatures, these women. To counteract this mysticism and bring her down to my level, I tend to dress Lucy in some weird shit, like this sailor’s uniform for Independence Day.

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“no, but seriously, where’s my ‘I Wanna Rock’ T-shirt?”

Salem was right – you can try to stop the “girls wear pink” ethos and strive for a gender-neutral family without any preconceptions, but after 12 weeks of Lucy, I basically want to put her in a bunny suit and cover her with fuchsia frosting.