Monthly Archives: May 2011

does the mind rule the body, i don’t know



square A and square B are exactly the same color

I’d seen this illusion a while back, but it’s always great to know your brain sees what it wants to see – and could give a shit about “reality”. Tessa wouldn’t believe me, and I had to cut’n’paste with Photoshop to prove it. Anyone else got some good illusions out there?

mush, husky parent


Those afflicted with a burning, itching case of misopedia will love this article: Why Do We Hate Seeing Big Kids In Strollers? For those disinclined to click on any links, ever, it’s a spirited Q&A with the proprietor of the blog Too Big For Stroller. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a collection of photos of slightly-older kids who seem perfectly capable of walking on their own, yet are pushed around in strollers by their doting parents.


from the TBFS blog – I blurred the faces

This is another occasion where I get to say MAN, PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY SURE HAVE OPINIONS ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S PARENTING SKILLS. And I’m not immune to it, either – I’ve certainly found myself in full catty/bitchy mode discussing how eye-rollingly stupid some mother or father seems, despite knowing full well my subjectivity is shot. But I do try to keep it in check, because

a) what the fuck do I know?

b) kids are not widgets and respond differently to every coping mechanism

c) and, c,

d) complaining about other people’s parenting is so easy and feels so good that it must be bad for you.

My problem with the Salon article and the blog is not the mean-spiritedness (for which I’ve always meant spirit), but because it plays into a larger American narrative: kids today are lazy, obese, overconfident fuckwads who are mollycoddled by their ninny parents. Forget that these children in strollers are under 8 years old – it’s part of the same instant hatred we have for teens who text while they drive, can’t find Florida on a map of Florida, and are drunk with their own vanity.

You might counter that the criticism isn’t hurled at the kids; it’s reserved for their parents. But I think it’s time to debunk that particular canard. When people are disgusted by kids’ behavior, they are disgusted with the kid first and foremost, and the parent as an afterthought. Let’s face facts: children that don’t behave the way you want them to are easy to hate. I know, I was one of them.

When you see a child who is way too big for their stroller, you instantly think “what a lazy brat.” And that’s the real problem, because the child herself has no idea what’s going on – she just knows there’s a stroller and she was told to sit in it. And when there’s an article called “Why Do We Hate Seeing Big Kids in Strollers?”, it means there isn’t an article called “Why Do Parents Put Big Kids in Strollers?”

My other problem with the article and the blog is that both were written by someone without kids:

“I don’t have a kid. Maybe I don’t understand…”

“I don’t have kids either, and so maybe this is na├»ve, but…”

They probably should have recused themselves from the topic for the same reason I don’t write about experiences in the Israeli army or my struggles with endometriosis.

But let’s step even further back. Let’s forget about all the reasons why you’d have a larger kid in a stroller. Let’s ignore that it enables you and your child to see half a European city in one day (rather than twelve), or that you may have a child with special needs. Let us walk far enough back to ask: WHY THE FUCK DO WE EVEN HAVE AN OPINION? Why have we become such JUDGMENTAL NERVOUS NELLY SNARKMONSTERS that we feel our displeasure needs to be aired?

A woman pushing a shopping cart down the produce aisle is a discerning, healthy shopper – but if she pushes the same cart down a sidewalk, she’s fucking homeless. Doesn’t it all get a bit exhausting, all these opinions? For my part, I promise you this: I will never judge you by the thing with wheels you’re pushing.

I don’t care if the kid in your stroller is 10 years old and barking out directions in an English accent, with his knees near his mouth like a basketball player sitting in coach. I don’t care if you’re carting a masturbating teenager through the ped mall in a perambulator because his toesies hurt. If I see a big kid in a stroller, I’m not going to assume you’ve got a pretty damned good reason for it, I’m not even going to do you the dishonor of giving a shit.


Lucy and Polly traverse Paris via stroller last year

an element of blank


What would it be like, to not have so many worries pressing from all sides, like dark ocean water eight miles down? Yeah, sure, we have luxury problems, all of us, compared to the hells on earth in other countries, but when has that ever offered anything but more guilt?

Always waiting for the next thing, never living right now, you’re nothing without a plan, and your plans need revamping. What have you done for me lately? Yes, yes, but still, that was a long time ago. Every good action is like bread; it starts to go stale the millisecond it leaves the oven.

They speak of sensory deprivation tanks, safe and warm metallic caverns of salt water and relaxing pitch-black darkness. You float and float, and there is no sound other than the high-pitched hiss of blood passing near your eardrum, and you go to places you haven’t been since you were a toddler.

What will you find there? Will it be a crazy static mess of random white electricity, or will it be a peace so profound that you add warm tears to the water? What if you go to that place, the core of who you are, and you’re just another chocolate bunny with air on the inside?

You look around and wonder how crazy you are, compared to everyone else. You wonder if they, too, have occasional suicidal thoughts that seem hilarious mere seconds later. You wonder if there’s a test, a universal measurement scale by which you can compare your “green” to their “green” and see if they’re remotely the same. You sometimes think the whole world is unsustainably crazy, and the next day you’re stunned when everyone seems so preternaturally calm while you battle hurricanes.

If they had this test, a test of well-being, a test of happiness and normalcy, where would you fall? You know you’re important, a very meaningful speck of nothing in a galaxy cluster too immense to fathom. How else could you have made it here? You must be doing something right.

And yet, you’re going about it all wrong. Both ends pull on you day and night, trade winds flutter in your upper masts while deep sea currents tug in opposition. You figure you must stay elastic. You love the music, but wonder how much longer you can do this dance.

a case of her


It’s both Mother’s Day and Tessa’s birthday today and yesterday, so if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna dote on th’ wife a little…


Rome, 2008


Woodstock, NY, 2004


Monhegan Island, 2003


New York, 2007


Prince Edward Island, 2008


Brooklyn, 2005

to a land where the horses run free


Okay, so the ladies have gone to Texas to visit Lucy’s grandmother Nana, which means I have the next three days alone in the house to do whatever I think needs doing. As such, I have played music very loud, written, begun shoddy hygiene, fucked with the dog, used a lot of power tools, and watched all three hours of Shackleton.

So today’s code word question is this: if you had two or three days with nothing expected of you besides what you expect of yourself – no work, no childcare, no schedule – what would you do with that time?


Shackleton would have dragged 28 men across Antarctica alive

exceptions prove rules


While we’re on the subject of Bin Laden and an innocent and accidental mash-up of a MLK quote, I don’t think the attribution “controversy” (such as it is) isn’t the interesting thing here, it’s the sentiment. The genesis of the quote is from an English teacher in Japan, who posted her Facebook status thusly:


Which raises the question: If you don’t believe in the death penalty, and you don’t believe in killing other human beings, is it still okay to kill Osama bin Laden? In the morally relativistic world of adulthood, it can be answered with a shrug, but that’s not the world you live in if you’ve got kids.

When Lucy was about two and a half, we were driving along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, and the car conversation invariably turned to the giant gaping hole in the ground where the World Trade Center had been. Not one to let anything slip by uncommented, she pressed us on the issue. As any of you with kids knows, the words “September 11” are in the ether – short of hiding them in the attic, your offspring are going to hear those words, and they’re going to know they’re bad in some way.

I finally told her a very bad man knocked the two towers down, and she mentioned it every time we saw skyscrapers from Brooklyn – not in a scared way, just matter-of-fact. Fast-forward to this Monday morning, and Tessa felt like she had to say something to Lucy about the breaking news, since it was going to come up at school, somehow, someway.

“You remember that really bad man who knocked those towers down in New York, sweetie?” Tessa asked.

“Yeah,” Lucy responded.

“Well, he died last night.”

To which Lucy immediately asked, “Did we die him?”

“Yes,” Tessa said, “we did.”

Lucy has a habit of using nouns for verbs and making shit up on the fly, hence jewels like “the boys were swording each other on the playground” and something heartbreaking like “did we die him”. I found it pretty amazing that her first response upon hearing the news was the assumption Osama bin Laden did not die of natural causes.

Often the way you keep your kid from freaking out about something is to act as if everything is natural and suspected – after all, they get most of their cues from you. When my Auntie Donna died, we did a pretty good job of being honest and loving about it with Lucy, and she responded in kind. But this is different, because we – as a country – went into another country, found someone we’d been looking for, and murdered him. It’s pretty hard to make up a cute parable for that one.

Part of the overwhelming jumble of emotions I experienced Sunday night was unadulterated jubilation. I wanted that motherfucker dead, and I would have been willing to take a crowbar to the back of his head for what he did to New York City and my psyche. But I am devoutly against capital punishment, like to consider myself a pacifist, and Buddhism is the only “religion” that has ever struck me at the soul. So what am I made of, really?

There’s an internet meme called Godwin’s Law, which states that every argument, if carried on long enough, eventually mentions Hitler, in which case the argument itself is rendered irrelevant. But this is one time when mentioning Hitler is warranted, because Bin Laden hits Americans in the same place. He evokes similar rage, gouges at a similar wound. Sure, we nominally would have taken Bin Laden alive, but like Hitler, is that a trial we wanted to experience?

Even the usually-equanimous Jon Stewart admitted last night he was far too close to the subject matter to be rational; instead, he relished Al Qaeda’s demise, saying they might attack us again, but even if they do…

“…you know who won’t see it? Bin Laden. ‘Cause we shot out his eyes, and now he lives in a pineapple under the sea!”

I share his enthusiasm, and to be honest, much of the hand-wringing I’ve seen among my cohorts smacks of weenie-minded namby-pambyism from people who feel massive relief Bin Laden is dead, but still want to feel as though killing people is wrong. Weirdly, I share their unease. And you can bet your ass this paradox will not be lost on our kids.

But maybe that’s just life. You can strive for ideological purity, but when it comes down to it, if you invent a time machine, you kinda have to go back and put a bullet in Hitler’s brain. Perhaps “I don’t believe in killing anybody, but I would kill Bin Laden” isn’t necessarily a logical fallacy. Only question is, how do you explain it to a 6-year-old?


Lucy pontificates from back seat of car, June 2008

the wasp’s nest burns


I’ve spent a lot of time exhorting people to forget about 9/11 – I’ve even written hypocritical blogs detailing many of the things that happened to us that day, ending with a plea for everyone else to shut up about it. I feel like Tessa and I have recounted the story so many times that it no longer happened to us; it happened to a semi-apocryphal “us” that lived on that street 10 years ago and bears no cellular relation to who we are now.

9/11 became a song we sang on stage, an old hit on a reunion tour, our minds wandering to other topics even as we sang in tune. We stopped following that kind of news so long ago, and began to treat the early ’00s with the detached academia of a sophomore history professor.

So why is it, when we heard the news Osama Bin Laden had been identified and killed, that we collapsed into each other in silent sobs? Why is this so overwhelming?

Does it evoke the day almost 10 years ago with alarming immediacy? Sort of, but that’s not it. Does anyone think that terrorism is defeated? Hardly. Do we relish the idea of Osama getting shot in the head? Part of my reptilian response assures me this is so, but I also agree with the WTC survivor in the NYTimes, who said “If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that… But I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden.”

In the end, perhaps it’s just exhaustion, or the glimmer of good news and a little brotherhood in a time of cholera and bile. Sometimes you cry because you have no idea how else to react. I just had to hug Tessa and mumble, “the last decade… has been… a lot.”


May 2001