Monthly Archives: December 2006

sweepin’ the clouds away

12/10/06

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hauling the 10-foot Christmas tree through Brooklyn last week with Tim Ransom

After many months of arguing, cajoling, sulking and Yalta-like compromise, Tessa and I finally agreed, circa 2003, to alternate Christmases. This means that every other Christmas, each of us get to pick where we’d like to go. 95% of the time my choice is the farm upstate, because the place was built in 1818 expressly for the purpose of at least three hundred consecutive Christmases – plus, it usually snows, and there’s room for my humongous family, etcetera.

This happened to be Tessa’s year, but her hand was forced, somewhat, but the imminent arrival of Jordi and Sean’s baby. So we’re actually doing the holiday here in our Brooklyn apartment, which my wife has wanted to do for some time. I’m cool with it because we’ll only be a few miles away from the baby boy, but getting all the Christmas Krap™ down from the farm was a backbreaking ordeal.

New York City – and Brooklyn – was not designed to be easy, folks. Sure, ordering food is simple, but you have to pay for it, and then give the guy a tip. Other than that, traversing each block, especially in winter and ESPECIALLY if you’re carrying something, feels like one of the Labours of Hercules.

There are very few places I’d actually live, because I’m an insufferable, unbelievable snob, but I occasionally long for the convenience of living in Iowa, or Virginia, where we would simply want something, drive to get it, park in our garage, and carry it into the living room. Obviously, our lives as children were environmentally unconscious, but GODDAMN I wish I could just park in front our apartment, instead of lugging three tons of shit four blocks with a wind chill of 15 degrees.

New York is a tough sell. There are far too many people here, the traffic is suicide-inducing, the weather is almost always uncooperative, the local news is filled with some of the most grotesque crimes ever committed, and it’s expensive as shit. And yet, one night in the East Village, or a day in Prospect Park, or the best dinner conversation you ever had, and you know you could never, ever leave.

I mean, we leave a lot, but you know what I mean.

too-rye-aye

12/7/06

Since this is my blog and I get to be self-referential, navel-gazing, and woefully overestimate my own importance, I’d like to do a two-month check-in on My Adventures With Speed. It has been about ten weeks since I boarded the non-stop Dexedrine train bypassing ADD Central and Fatigue Hollow, and I have to say, it has been a wonderful ride.

First, the cons. There are a lot of pills to take, and I’m not even taking them all. It’s supposed to be two pills in the morning, two at noon, and two at 4pm. I usually forego the late afternoon speed, or break a pill in half. Why? Because if you don’t, you can find yourself at 3am wondering the name of the guy who had the locker next to you in 10th grade.

When they say Dexedrine stops narcolepsy, they’re not frickin’ kidding. I’d compare it with that crazy buzz you’d get in college during an all-nighter when your second wind kicks in. Your next day’s exhaustion can be cured by more Dexedrine, of course, but that’s a spiral with an unhappy ending.

One more thing; sometimes the drug can make you irritable, with a short fuse. I’ve had to apologize to Tessa a couple of times when the intensity of my drive has collided with hers. Cooler heads prevail mere seconds later, but it’s best to head that off at the pass.

Other than that, my tour with Dexy’s Midnight Runners has been a smashing success. I used to be routinely daunted by the big projects in my life; now I long to be in the middle of them. I used to have a 2-4pm crapout that would send me into a Coriolis Effect of lethargic misery; now I’m swinging for the fences.

Here’s the best part – you’d think a drug that makes you concentrate better would send you down several rabbit holes, or intensifying your mundane tasks at the price of missing out on the greater sense of the world. It might force you to become the Anti-Buddhist. Yet this hasn’t happened. My environs, the beauty and decay of the world, the hours I spend with Lucy, even daydreaming has been put into sharper focus.

Perhaps it’s just having the energy, simple as that. The curtains of the world rise easily for the person who isn’t struggling to stay awake during the previews.

portrait of the artist as a 19-month old

12/6/06

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We’re steeling ourselves for the holidays and the weather here in New York, but mostly we’re in a holding pattern waiting for the unfathomably pregnant Jordana to give birth to their son. She’s already pretty much effaced, a few centimeters dilated, and, I imagine, quite miserable. No possible way this event will hold off until the due date of December 17; the baby will be 15 pounds by then. So we’re in a wait-and-see mode because nobody wants to induce, either. C’mon, kiddo, it’s time! Lucy wants a tiny cousin!

The night before last, we carried on a new tradition of making Padsicles™ for the mother-to-be. These literally saved Tessa’s ass after her delivery, and we’ve made several sets since. It’s apparently a divine secret mixture of clear aloe vera, witch hazel and lavender applied to a maxi-pad and then stuck in the freezer, and will no doubt be Tessa’s contribution to the pantheon of child-bearing.

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Tessa, Jordi and Sean work the Padsicle™ assembly line

Being in Brooklyn – and inside – means Lucy gets to spend almost every afternoon with Hank, usually to explosive effect. Those two are like bumper cars being driven by coke addicts. Basically, we set them loose in the house, and they run 15 miles in random loops, pausing only to hear Nell read “The Night Before Christmas” (which Hank refers to as the book about “Nick”).

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Lucy tries to get Hank to be serious about the bass clef of Bach’s Partita in E Major

Being inside may have also kicked Lucy’s language skills into high gear. She’s using complex sentences now, and surprising us every day by busting something cool. My recent favorite was when she came into my bedroom and said, “I’m making you eggs.”

Never mind she was a whole floor away from the kitchen and can’t reach the stove, I liked how she laid down some skillz with the subject-verb-indirect object-verb. Also, she said “I” – which is a nice segue from the usual third-person “Lucy is all wet” kind of thing that she still uses. Other faves:

“I’m going get Kirsty and be right back” (Kirsty is her doll)

“Socks are in the bed. Socks are funny!”

“Daddo put on Lucy’s purple pantapoons.”

When walking into the empty kitchen: “Everybody? GUYS?”

Grabbing my computer with immediate justification: “See pictures of zebras? Okay.”

She has become a huge fan of this Mother Goose book that features samples of well-worn rhymes. We sing the ones that have tunes, like “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” but “Humpty Dumpty” happens to be on the same page, so she thinks they’re the same poem.

She tends to sing as a secondary activity, thus not really caring to nail everything, but hopefully you can hear her sing the following:

Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?

Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full

One for the master, one for the dame

One for the little boy who lives down the lane

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

Lucy’s rocking chair!

In this video, she is showing her newfound (as in Monday) skill in getting into the piano seat. She says “Lucy’s back!” and then launches into a semi-silent version of the ABC song, then starts to run into the other room. However, she’s still singing it in her head, because she goes “YAAAAAYYY!” when she finishes it in the kitchen:

Oh, and fans of South Park: in the movie, the song “Uncle Fucka” has a brilliant ending phrase uttered by Terrance (or Philip) that I used to sing at the end of her nursery rhyme songs when she was mere weeks old. It was the only way I found solace in the tedium of those early days, and I forgot how often I did it. Fast-forward to last week, when we were singing “Wheels on the Bus”:

Me: The wheels on the bus go-

Lucy: Round and round!

Me: Round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus-

Lucy: Go round and round!

Me: (big ending) All… through… the TOWN.

Lucy: Suck my balls!

Sure, it made Tessa want to draw up separation papers, but I was doubled over on the floor laughing. IT WAS SO WORTH IT!

and RAPPELS

12/5/06

You know, all of you were robbed of a perfectly decent blog today because of the following game:

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Download the version for your computer and you’ll see why I stopped writing an award-winning entry for you lot and concentrated on getting the word “OCCLUDE.”

So I ask: besides your most humble servant, what is your favorite obsessive time-waster on the internet?

oh, sheila

12/3/06

I’d like to add an addendum to yesterday’s entry, something brought up by many commenters: my lack of R&B appreciation. If you look at the list, there are several song/artists that I loved, including Kurtis Blow, Sade, Prince, and “Jungle Love.” However, it is no secret that my tastes have always run toward the high-harmony white-as-alabaster Brit pop and proto-Emo shoegazing. Sean loves to make fun of my tastes, as if he is some paragon of lick-you-all-over rhythm and blues, but he’s essentially correct.

I look at the list from 1985 knowing who I was at the time. In short, I was a pent-up, frustrated, emotionally-stunted prep school boy wearing a tie, corduroys and Velcro tennis shoes. I had bad acne, huge glasses, and was many, many moons away from ever touching the breasts of a girl. My appreciation for music was filtered through my dad’s orchestra, where I’d been weaned on Mahler, Elgar, the Brandenburg Symphonies, “Carnival of the Animals” and Shostakovich’s 5th. Until 1985, there had been some serious talk of me being a professional violinist, sitting in the second violin section of some metropolitan orchestra.

In short, there weren’t a lot of chances for UTFO or Kool Moe Dee to slip onto my radar. The huge education I got in that sort of music was my summer washing dishes in the back of Courtney’s Restaurant in Norfolk, where the local homeboys taught me how to smoke a joint, and degreased my rubber mats in exchange for a ride back into the hood.

Even so, I was allowed to have an opinion. One of those guys kept playing the Mary Jane Girls’ album, which had a sound that was mysterious and sexy. Yesterday, because Jon G. objected so vociferously, I downloaded “Roxanne, Roxanne” for a fresh listen, and I have to say it doesn’t hold a candle to “In My House.” Some of that stuff hits you in your hindbrain, and some misses you completely.

But the fact remains: I have very few African-American artists on my iPod. By and large, the groups and solo artists that make up the original landscape of rock & roll just never gave me goosebumps. I’ve always appreciated them intellectually, and been unspeakably thankful that black musicians gave rise to the Beatles and almost everything else, but R&B – and, for that matter, 99% of hip-hop – says absolutely nothing to me.

My question is this: can one’s tastes make one a racist?