Saturday, December 29, 2007
I guess in educational aspects you can't be anything but backward-looking. But there is something deeper than that going on here. In a sense, everyone is an amalgamation of one's own formative years in confront- and collabor-ation with one's parents' formative years.
In my case, I think it makes me a mix of the tail end of the Cold War as lived in Berlin (also known as the Eighties) with a dash of Fifties' California and post-WWII Berlin. Happy Days as written by Heinrich Boell, if you will.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
She proposes something along the lines of:
GB: Ingestion of product has deleterious effects.
US: Keep this stuff out of your mouth.
I'd go one step further and keep the US as the GB one and let evolution take care of the rest. Wait. Maybe that's what Playmobil has planned anyway.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Coco is at an in-between age. On the one hand he'll just stop unwrapping presents in order to play with one that strikes his fancy. On the other hand he'll unwrap something and then say, "Now you can go to Target to get me that Headbangers Bowling game and wrap it and put it under the tree for me."
Monday, December 24, 2007
It's ironic, though. Madge now understands the need to wait and therefore gets impatient with Coco, who doesn't.
And then there's the preliminary to the main event: the comparative under-the-tree package count. Whoopeeeee.
Friday, December 21, 2007
While Coco was at school, I went to the post office to send off some belated gifts - belated by kid-free standards, early by family-laden ones. At the window, finally, I was confronted by an employee who informed me that my re-used Amazon box couldn't be used as-was because it had advertising on it. No problem, I thought.
"Could you just sell me the postage for it now and I'll take care of the advertising at home?"
Apparently that was not possible because, once the postage was on it, I couldn't handle it again. Which, I believe, is bullsh*t. He just left out a bunch of info. He's allowed to tell me the postage and sell me the stamps. What he meant, I think, was that he couldn't put on one of his pre-printed deals for the exact postage - and, of course, that he was too lazy to do it the other way.
I said, "Okay, can you just tell me the postage for it, then? I'd like to know."
After he weighed it he said it was above blah-blah ounces and therefore had to go Priority anyway.
Then he reluctantly revealed that I could use the Priority Mail tape to tape over the logos on the box. Which I did to everyone's rejoicing.
An elderly lady in line behind me leaned close to me as he was busy with something else and said, "Battle well fought."
Which I find odd because I wasn't really out to battle anyone - I was just doing my infuriatingly slow maneuvering, trying to make sure I got all the details right. A Columbo, of sorts.
When I can't flirt with the employees, this works as well, if not better.
Come to think of it, that's probably how I ended up with the lovely wife I have - infuriatingly slow maneuvering: a Columbo of love.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
One of the decorations was a kneeling Santa who had removed his hat in order to bow his bald pate in the direction of a baby in a hay thingie (trough?).
Madge said, "Why is he doing that?"
I said, "I have no idea. It makes as much sense as a crucified bunny at Easter."
And, you know what, I think she got the point (the point being, of course, that Daddy's really obnoxious).
Now, is this guy just finished with something or other or is he actually a somewhat literate loan collector?
In this city, it wouldn't surprise me.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
On a similar note, I was guilty this the other week when we were at a playdate and the host had dressed as a pirate and I joined in the fun by being First Mate Snoop:
"Well, harrr, let's see what's in this treasure chest. A bunch of blankets and ... [closes lid hastily] more blankets."
When I retold this awkward moment to the host kid's mom (who was absent from the playdate), I tried to talk around the fact that I found presents and referred merely to hidden treats. To which she replied, "Oh, my mom stays here a lot and she's a big pothead."
This was one of the rare situations in which I enjoyed being misunderstood.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
She is still reading the same book she was reading last week. I think it's as much a matter of getting familiar with the language as it is a matter of following a story, especially since she says the book isn't very good. I asked her why she didn't just put the book down if it's no good and she just smiled and shrugged and said that she doesn't do that.
I could see the whole thing made her uncomfortable, like suggesting to a certain generation to just throw away leftover food or keeping a DVD past the due date and resigning oneself to paying the overdue fees.
It's really bugging me. Isn't it a bit like taking a bite from an apple, noting how mealy and slightly rotten it is and then deciding to finish it anyway?
I suggested the bad meal analogy and she said she'd not finish a meal, but she will finish the book.
I even offered to pay her for the book if she put it down and picked up a new one, but she wouldn't.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
She was having a playdate this afternoon. I was helping Coco fall asleep since he really wasn't feeling too well - high-ish temperature and his "eyes hurt" - and needed a nap. While we were laying down I heard Madge run to the bathroom and an explosive commotion followed by a giggly whisper. "Psssst, [playdate friend]. Go to my room and get me some underwear, but make sure my dad doesn't notice." Her good friend had to go twice because she couldn't find any the first time.
That won't embarrass her later, will it?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
We were in one such three-story gorgeous thingies today. The kids were watched by the nanny and the cleaning lady was doing her bi-weekly thing (as in twice a week, not every two weeks - right?) and I was trying very hard to just be happy for the people who lived there and not jealous of their twelve- or fifteen-foot ceilings or whatever they were.
The best I could come up with was this:
If I worked the playdate angle, I could probably manage to spend more waking hours in this house than the people who pay the mortgage.
That's not too snarky, is it?
Anyway, Madge was addressing Christmas cards (yet another advantage to having a kid get bigger) and asked her, "Yo, Pump, what's your ad?"
Time to brush up on my lingo, or ling.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Not a big deal, but I saw a truck of theirs parked in front of the kids' school the other day.
On its back was a picture of a house and this text:
Are You Comfortable?
Is your home:
To Cold - To Hot - To Dry - To Damp
or just plain uncomfortable?
WE CAN HELP!
It wouldn't be so funny if it didn't have the repetition.
I have a feeling their writers were trying to be Shakespearean: Too be or not too be...
Thursday, December 06, 2007
I’m tempted to pitch one sentence of this book as a movie (probably to Sophia Coppola because I can’t think of another director it might interest). The sentence is:
The movie would end, I guess with the reunification of the couple, now more estranged than ever. It would take a lot of research, so it's lucky for me that the strike is still going on.
The life at St. Petersburg was hardly gay for her [Louisa Adams, wife of President-to-be John Quincy]; they were far too poor to shine in that extravagant society; but she survived it, though her little girl baby did not, and in the winter of 1814-15, alone with the boy of seven years old, crossed Europe from St. Petersburg to Paris, in her travelling-carriage, passing through the armies, and reaching Paris in the Cent Jours after Napoleon’s return from Elba.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
When he's fed up enough, he tells you to be quiet, and he keeps telling you to be quiet until you say "okay" at which point he shouts at you because you're not quiet. If you try to take the seemingly smart way out by merely nodding, he just keeps repeating himself.
Last Friday was the book sale day for his class and he was supposed to bring in five dollars.
But he didn't want the "five money," he wanted the "one money." When we told him his teachers said to bring in five, but if he were really insistent (we were trying not to be late) a five and a one would be no problem, he'd just have six.
So he tore up the five.
Guess whose Crock-knock-offs finally died.
Madge and her friends apparently play a game during recess in which the point (for lack of a better word) is to kick off a shoe as far as possible and then hobble after to retrieve it.
And sandal-shoes were ideal for this game. No more.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Too bad for the rest of New York, though. Julie was in a SoHo store, I think, helping some customers who were simply amazed that New York had so much more to offer than Broadway shows.
Without the flashy lights to distract the deer, I guess they do start wandering about.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
But independence is striking early, it seems, and he didn't want to accompany me when I had to pee. We were at the library at the time and the bathrooms aren't the most appetizing, but I'm not asking him to eat a sandwich there. Just stand and wait.
Of course he pumped lovely foamy soap all over his hands and shouted at me to turn on the water.
When that didn't happen quickly enough, we had a pouting session on the steps, followed by a defiant stomp away from me, followed by an accusatory howl that he couldn't find me.
Remind me to download the song, "Every Time I Move I Lose" (a favorite with the Harper Court speed chess players).
The "gingerbread" houses were made on Friday, I think. They were Graham cracker houses held up by milk cartons as learned in some preschool along the way. It was fun and sugary and I presume contributed to a weakened immune system. Yesterday afternoon we made actual gingerbread dough which will be converted into men today. As Coco says, "For gingerbread men you need ginger, bread, and men." Sounds more like a bachelorette party.
Forgive me it Madge Monday is light on Madge, but she's been especially confrontational so I'm hard-pressed finding lighthearted moments with her.
Or, conversely, I'm quite tired, so all potentially humorous holiday related drollery just strikes me as greedy lately.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
When elf spoke to another, calling her Sweetie Sweetums, Julie and I remembered David Sedaris' "SantaLand Diaries" and the fact that all elves are given elf names (his was Crumpet, but he wanted to change it to Blister, if I remember correctly).
Many of the elves were female and African-American. This in itself isn't that spectacular, but one particular elf near the end of the proceedings - right before we went to see and pay for some pictures and a snow globe - didn't have chandelier-size holiday earrings, but instead sported oversized gold caps on her front teeth. I couldn't resist asking her elf name, figuring she had a good one.
And she told me, without a hint of irony: Country.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
At least we got our letters to Santa written.
And we saw "Enchanted" yesterday. Fun movie, especially since all the kids in the audience were really into it. I was quite reluctant because I'm tired of movies that are cashing in on children's need for bombastic kitsch and then are supposedly ironic about it themselves. If they really felt so bad about regurgitating past kids' movies, why don't they just not do it?
Also, a Barbie movie came in the mail. So I'm a little tired of the industry and now I'm no longer sure how I feel about the WGA strike in Hollywood. There is quite a lot of stuff I could do without. But I know it's up to me to have a viewer's strike. Let the struggling writers keep struggling and compromising their struggle.
Does anyone working on a Barbie movie use his or her real name?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
One of the categories of grading involved how welcome the school makes us feel, and I wasn't sure how to answer it. Madge's teachers have all been wonderful and welcoming - but, man, those pre-retirees in the office are another matter altogether. Any parent in the office is obviously an idiot and interfering with their journey to moving their car on alternate-side parking or whatever.
Today I took Madge out of her class to hang out at Coco's Harvest Festival. I'd sent a note with her to give to her teacher. When I got to the office, my special bleached-blond, badly tanned friend glared at me. I said it's for an hour for a party in her brother's class. Her teacher knows about it.
My friend said, "She'll be missing out on a lot of important academic stuff."
I, trying to be friendly and encouraging (most secretaries of a certain age can be buttered up easily with a little flirting), laughed at her joke.
She only glared harder. Turns out, she wasn't joking.
So I said, "It's an h-o-u-r. And part of that she has gym anyway."
And then I turned my back to keep from really confronting her.
Tomorrow I'm coming back with some Gorgonzola to put in the mail slots. Heh, heh.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I was talking with a kid in the school's hallways when another kid came by, returning from the bathroom. The first kid couldn't help bringing up the word "butt" - snicker, snicker. And, because I didn't object to the use of such a risque word, the other kid told me that his dad's butt exploded. "Really, my dad said his butt exploded."
Now all I have to do is figure out the kid's last name and I'm onto something. Class lists come out soon.
Playdate at our house. Talkative nanny, divulging things about the parents' marital situation. I should have been taking notes.
Her attitude has skyrocketed recently and we're trying to take it down a few notches. But, man, it's not easy, since I'm essentially hearing my own smartassiness out of a younger, female mouth. Oops.
Recently, for example, Coco apologized to her.
Coco: I'm sorry.
Madge: Sorry for what?
Daddy: Aw, c'mon. He's apologizing. Now you're just being mean.
Madge: Well, that's what you say to me.
Daddy: Well, that's when I'm being mean.
Friday, November 16, 2007
This week, it was obvious that having cable paid off. On Tuesday, the night after the Premiere -WHOOOOO! - of SpongeBob's Atlantis Squarepantis, Madge ran into a friend on the way to school. Here's the conversation in its entirety (remember, she cried about not having cable because that's all kids talk about after the weekend):
"Did you see SpongeBob last night?"
First I was going to make fun of this, but maybe they are hardcore in their criticism and don't waste words on things that don't deserve them. Bloggers could learn from this. Newspapers, too, as a matter of fact.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Apparently, New York City schools are getting grades, and parent groups are upset about this. They asked me and all the parents they could talk to during parent-teacher conferences to send letters to the mayor and others.
Luckily, I no longer try to impress random women by letting them dictate my opinions, so I asked the lady who tried to recruit my voice what difference it would make if the school got a B or a D, she wasn’t quite sure, but thought it might reflect in funding that goes to the school. I didn’t ask the follow-up, namely whether the B or the D gets more money. Oh, well.
The letter I’m supposed to sign has a list of grievances, all of which pertain to the flaws of a grading system. Ironic, given the context of parent-teacher conferences. Obviously, a major one is that the grading system tries to take into consideration both “achievement” and “progress,” which means that the only way to really get a good grade is to screw up initially.
The letter doesn’t address two flaws I can think of off the top of my head, namely (A) that, unlike a grade for a student which – as the name report card implies – is a report from the school to the parent, here the grader and the recipient of the report card is one and the same; and (B) that the grades aren’t an age-appropriate reflection. What I’m trying to say is that a third grader and a first grader can’t do the same work; neither can schools with differing histories and problems.
But none of this is what really gets my goat. What riled me is that the school that is complaining here got a B and wants an A. This is reflected in the final point on the letter: “the report card demoralizes whole school communities that have worked hard for the success of their schools.”
Is our school’s self-esteem so fragile that a grade makes all the difference? Eek.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
This morning the kids were sleeping in past 7, so I went in to wake them at 7:20.
"Hey, how's my Madgie this morning?"
"I don't feel like Madgie today."
"No? Who do you feel like?"
(And she was not doing a Richard Roundtree imitation.)
Madge's poetry prize was a thermometer in her ear and a pass to stay home.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Either way, it appears that the teachers like Madge and Coco, and why shouldn't they.
Coco seems to be doing even better than anticipated - no balky transitions, no scratching, so I'm happy.
Right now, though, he's chewing on the coffee table while pretending to be scared of "What's New, Scooby-Doo?"
Next up: the turn-off-tv fight and bathtime.
Monday, November 12, 2007
I should have just said "yes" because when I explained it, her eyes glazed over.
We used the opportunity to see "Fred Claus." Good enough movie.
I'm not sure how much Madge and Coco got out of it. These movies raise as many questions as answer them about you-know-who and neither of the kids really like it when I remind them that it's just a movie and no one has actually seen you-know-who and that all these movies are just "educated" guesses as to his whereabouts and activities.
But they'll paste together their own versions, I'm sure.
I like northern light because it casts fewer shadows.
Is that the secret to Southern goth? The light casts more shadows? Things are visually presented in greater relief?
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Still, TV is bringing up as many issues as either of the kids, so I think I’ll give it a go.
More than just: TV is crap. Because, sure, it is, but it is crap everyone can relate to and everyone seems to have to deal with.
The irony, of course, is that there’s the WGA strike going on now and the kids wouldn’t know the difference since, quite frankly, Disney Channel’s acting is so bad that the writing really doesn’t make a difference.
Only a strike by the fake studio audience would affect their production
I still need to figure out how to get them to watch some TMC. If only that bleeping channel’s schedule would coincide better with the kids’ bedtime, we’d have something.
I’ve said this to Julie and I’ll write it here. I remember viscerally hating my parents for not letting me watch my favorite show, “Wickie,” or for turning it off so we could have dinner or something. Of course now I’m embarrassed by my behavior.
I see where they’re coming from. This just means that when I turn it off I show them my tough skin that can take the insults and attitude.
But I remember…
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
So what is Henry James doing by using adjectives? He’s commenting on the characters he writes about. For example, the passage in “Brooksmith” that made me come up with my silly poetic exercise in “adjectives, adverbs” is this:
They required no depth of attention – they were all referable to usual irredeemable inevitable types. It was the world of cheerful commonplace and conscious gentility and prosperous density, a full-fed material insular world, a world of hideous florid plate and ponderous order and thin conversation.
And later on the same page there is mention of “an elderly dreary dingy person.” If stories let actions and characters unfold, then caricatures burdened with so many adjectives have no chance of becoming anything but stage props. And that is exactly what this “person” is.
Of course I wouldn’t have noticed any of this if Madge hadn’t pointed it out in the reading room of the New York Public Library.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Today was an election here, voting for or against several judges and one proposition. Since the voting uses public schools, public schools close for an election and bake sale extravaganza. The voting was in the gym, so we were polite and got the crumbly goodies after voting.
I lured Coco to the voting by saying that it was going to be in the gym and that there might be basketballs around. This worked fine, until he started whining about the absence of sporting equipment. So he got the extra-sugary doughnut on the way out.
Doughnuts followed bus- and subway-ride. Lucky me.
We went to Grand Central Station, just to check it out and to see if the O & Co. store is somewhere I’d like to work. It’s affiliated with L’Occitane, started by the same founder, and does with olive oils what L’Occitane does with soaps. Looks good.
But to get them to go into an olive oil (and other yummy accompanimental foods) store, I plied them with Lifesavers and Dots. And then we got hungry. And Grand Central is a lovely place with lovely foods, but it’s crowded and fairly fast-paced, so the kids did not feel good about eating there.
Luckily, there was a Food Exchange nearby. I know, you’re thinking what I’m thinking: what, you get to bring in food you don’t like and trade it for something you do? No. Turns out you bring in money. So we went to Citibank first.
The irony, though, is that you can’t even exchange the food you put in for something you put out since the place doesn’t have bathrooms.
So we walked a bit to Starbucks. From there we saw the Central Library and forewent the ubiquitous coffee place for a lovely tinkle in a grand old stone building.
Madgie-cutie was enamored by the reading room and picked up, get this, the first volume of The Collected Works of Henry James. She wanted to read it there. I love that kid.
She and I will have to go back to argue in peace – since we all know that she’ll only want to stay and read for about ten minutes before she’ll beg to use the computer terminals.
Still, it was a moment to be cherished. Or would have been if Coco hadn’t whined about going home. Which turned into a whine about Old MacDonald’s and finally a tantrum about not being able to use the subway turnstile on his own.
I should have put out a hat. I’m sure our show would have made us some money.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Julie's out of town again and as so often happens I use my "spare" time pretending to be literary.
Take a good look at the face in the etching here. Now read the following lines.
Whenas is silks my Julia goes,
Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows
The liquefaction of her clothes.
See, if he had had a pretty face, he wouldn't have the need to come up with such smooth lines, even if he had the capacity, which, with a pretty face, he wouldn't have in the first place. Or would he and we wouldn't have known because the need had never arisen?
Madge's friend is quite fun and has an amazingly infectious laugh. She's a middle child, so she knows how to deal with a little sibling and is good to Coco. And, apparently, they are very much at ease with one another, which is great to see.
For example, at one point Madge came out of the bathroom (after spending about ten seconds in it) and said,
"Don't you hate it when you have to go to the bathroom and you get there and then you don't have to?"
Which is funny enough on its own and sounds like an intro to a stand-uppy rant. But then her friends topped it off with,
"And then you tell people and they don't believe you that you didn't pee in your pants."
Happens to me every day.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I'm nosing around in a book called 50 Great Short Stories, edited by Milton Crane. I said to Julie that if I ever got around to writing a collection of short stories, the collection would be entitled 12 Middling Short Stories, With One or Two Great Ones Lurking About.
But the weirdest thing has happened. The more stories I read in this book, the more I realize they're all great. Imagine.
Anyway, there's a story by Henry James in it, "Brooksmith." Henry James is an author I've never read much, mostly because of the kind of people who seem to be enamored by his works. My friend Flo is an exception, and because of him have I read "Brooksmith," which, of course, is great.
I noticed, though, that James embraces adjectives and adverbs and in general writes in the kind of way that "How To Get Your Book Out Of the Slushpile and Into Print" warn against.
So I had this idea of collecting his adjectives and adverbs and writing them up as a poem. The problem is that the story is a bit long and that readers might lose interest. An an exercise, it is endlessly fascinating, especially because the one short paragraphs without any adjectives or adverbs whatsoever is the one in which a decisive crisis occurs.
Here's a select snippet of the opening pages, condensed:
Scattered late certain esoteric enough such most agreeable most attaching retired good deal confined delighted any most intimate prime foreign delightful signal horrid principal,
Not too grumpily simply
Overwhelmed particular happy Londonish grey opposite white high exact particular pruned tendered human,
Perpetually merely essentially vividly intensely well largely
Many famous finest social English smiling suggestive sinuous affectionate pious sallow smoked large last distinguished dear apt some physical many social slow only own pleasantest compact charmed casual fine old last-century remarkable best rich somewhat superannuated,
Doubtless usually insidiously slightly certainly peculiarly really finally notoriously
Some opposed present such good happy obvious feminine mere hidden occult other very natural fine,
Perfectly supremely singularly already
Many few right right wrong general single convenient all convenient happy ready willing foreordained unheard of fundamental,
Never never always really always never fast never quickly
Friday, November 02, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
He saw a preview of Over the Hedge, in which the Steve-Carrell-voiced squirrel burps the alphabet (though he may have had a burp double). Coco therefore proceeded to do the same, since he learned from his Opa how to swallow air and make himself burp. But Coco doesn't know his alphabet yet, so he burped something like "A, B, D, G, C, O, P, F, ..."
Monday, October 29, 2007
This weekend I told one of my classes about getting TV. For some reason I thought they'd find it cute. They're sixteen and seventeen. They found it no such thing. They were shocked and outraged. "What!? What do you mean, you have no TV!?!"
And then the following questions really blew me away.
How do you get the news?
Don't you follow sports?
How do you watch movies?
And, my favorite: What do you do when you don't know what to do?
Little did I know how deprived Madge really is, having to figure out something to do when there's nothing to do.
Her solution, by the way, is to say, "I'm bored."
Expecting me (or some electronic surrogate) to unbore her.
I'm currently reading a book on punctuation. Grammar book publishers seem to have a law that insists on punny titles: "A Dash of Style," "You Have a Point," "Lapsing Into a Comma," etc. Therefore I found it rather strange that the book has a section entitled,
"What your use of the colon says about you."
How I use my colon is between me and my proctologist, I think.
What's next, a security check?
Jeez. He called me about ten minutes ago, asking if the part came. Since I said yes, he's going to show up. I'm guessing he's looking for parking now on streetcleaning day with alternate double parking.
I'll try to make his job easy.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Let me just say that when someone asks me about our summer and I talk about going to the pool and then reciprocate innocently by asking about her summer I do not expect, "We separated because my in-laws came to stay here."
In retrospect, I feel blindsided. At the time, I was just fighting to keep a neutral expression.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
From Goldwater to Blackwater: Sounding the Depths of the Republican Party.
(I know there's Watergate and Whitewater in between, but I think this suffices. Or, one could play an analogy game - Goldwater is to Watergate as Whitewater is to Blackwater - or some such.)
Across from Coco's classroom is a science lab, and on its wall hang several third-grade pictures of a scientific nature: circuits, volcanos, the usual, all drawn in thin lines with plenty of labeling. But one is different. It's in marker, colorful.
The more I think about it, the more awesome it is.
The picture itself is half green (grass) and half blue (sky). The blue part has a huge sun in it, bright yellow, towards the left.
I think the picture is meant to be "read" from the middle out, but that's just my interpretation. For the sake of this post, I'll continue from top left to bottom right. So, top left had the sun. The ottom left (entirely on the grass) has a red apple WITH A BITE OUT OF IT - I told you it's awesome. In the middle is a black and gray gorilla, bridging grass and sky. On the far right, also entirely on the grass, is yellow fire (from black sticks).
Here's the kicker. It has only two words: one, the artist's name (Peter), and the other, CHANCE (all caps).
At first I thought it was just a weird picture but then I realized that this kid is triangulating creation stories (Biblical-Edenic, Darwinist, Greek-Promethean) and is questioning them by adding the word CHANCE (or is he stacking the deck for Darwinism?) and, don't forget, his own name (which appears to be stacking the deck towards the creationist base).
I've tried to share my interpretation with other parents waiting for their kids, but none have caught his Promethean spark. I'm working on them, Peter.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Only the meat for one.
The other wants only the bun.
But – here the vendor gets flustered –
One wants ketchup, the other one mustard.
On a different note, we noticed again how little he likes change. We moved some furniture around this weekend to more fully accommodate the arrival of cable TV. While we were shuffling stuff around, he just played with a toy on the couch, oblivious to the world.
(This post is meant in particular for Julie, Auntie Boo, and Teacher Ana, but anyone is welcome, of course.)
Monday, October 22, 2007
Madge had substitutes today, which meant less homework, which meant that, two minutes into our wait for Coco's dance class, she declared, "I'm bored."
So, instead of telling her that her boredom is not my responsibility, but rather her own, I decided to be more fun than that and said, "Do you want to play Battleship?"
She knew what I was talking about because that odd internet stuffed-animal phenomenon Webkinz has a battleship game.
But she had never played the old-school, pencil and paper version. I do think she enjoyed it, as did one of the moms in the waiting room (moms are a rarity there, it's mostly nannies and a surprising number of dads) who, it turns out, is Czech and reminds me a lot of our friend, Punkin. This Czech lady also played it a lot as a kid and had forgotten about it until this afternoon.
For me, many a school tedium was alleviated by this game, and it's hard to describe how glad I am that Madge and I clicked on this - it's been a while since we've clicked on anything. The game worked so well as a pass-time that we had to fold up our papers and continue at home.
Madge won. For some reason she hadn't launched four boats, only three, but that really doesn't have any bearing on the outcome. All boats sunk is all boats sunk, no matter how many. If anything, she could complain that she had four boats to sink - though, as experience taught me, it is rather disheartening to only hear the virtual splashes of failed missiles.
Friday, October 19, 2007
I can't wait. Not because of the food, but because of the open invitation to harass the help.
Today, in Coco's class. He doesn't know about it. (I didn't even tell Madge for fear she might pull her "I know something you don't know" first-born thing.)
Yesterday one of the helpers in his class asked me for hints to tell the kids so they might guess who I am. "You know, like if you're a policeman, we can say, 'He's the dad of two and he's a policeman. Who here knows what a policeman does?'"
To which the kids would say, "Writes parking tickets and eats donuts."
No. In my case, it would be, "He's the dad of two and isn't a policeman. Who else has a dad who isn't a policeman?"
Come to think of it, that would be a good way to introduce myself, especially if I added the word "exactly" because it's so evokative. As in, "Well, I'm not a policeman, exactly." See where that's leading your mind? Definitely not towards limericist for a public radio show. If it does, you're twisted.
So now I'm trying to decide what to read. I think Bark, George! has to be on the program. Short. Good sounds. Big pictures. And maybe a George and Martha book, or Pete's a Pizza, asking Coco to be my audience volunteer - but we only have a that in a small board book format, so it might be hard to see.
And I can't help but open with some sort of joke, so I think I'll ask how much time I have and thn, after the answer, open up Anna Karenina and read the line about the happy and unhappy families.
Or maybe something by the Marquis de Sade?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
So here’s an open letter to the lady at Barnes and Noble.
Contrary to your remark, my son was not being “mean” when he called you fat. He was being what we in the profession of describing things call “honest.” I might even give you “rude,” but “mean,” no. He doesn’t know you. He has no reason to be mean.
I’m guessing you mean “mean” in the sense of “malicious” as derived from the word referring to baseness of class and character and not in the sense of “that was a mean game of tennis you played.”
Neither of these meanings applies. He had no hurtful intent and he definitely did not use a very original way of noting your appearance. He used the best descriptor available to him. If you hadn’t attempted to hide your physique in the mythically slimming all black, he might have pointed out a flashy color or cute shoes or a lovely handbag. But, from what I saw, he actually chose something fairly benign.
Please keep in mind that my son plays no part in the dialogue between your outer husky bitch and your inner skinny one. When he said, “She’s fat,” he did not append the phrase “and therefore can’t be loved.” That’s all you.
I, on the other hand, would like to add that if you didn’t have the propensity to sink your misery along with your teeth into the nearest available baked good, maybe you wouldn’t have been taking the elevator away from people with strollers or carts or wheelchairs and might have seen the malfunctioning escalator as an opportunity to shed 4.62 calories.
In a way, my son did you a favor: he elevated your heart rate.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I still find it odd that she's branded now. I understand this is the case, but I find it odd. Madge told Julie that when her friends ask her why she didn't see the shows they talk about, she says it's because we don't have cable, at which her friends gasp - in proxy pain, I assume.
Julie says her own coworkers did/do the same thing when she can't relate to American Idol moments, for example. Weird.
Poor Madge will have to wear a scarlet C for "cable-less." Until we rectify the situation, that is.
Since it was only one of several first-time parent idealist stances, maybe I should make her eat meat, drink soda and beer, and start smoking now, too. Or do I wait for her to make the first move?
Wait. No. That'll be Coco.
Monday, October 15, 2007
After eight years of not having TV as the rest of the world knows it, Madge feels left out.
Apparently kids talk about what they watched on TV over the weekend when they get to school on Monday; and apparently I'm an anomaly for not having done so when I was a kid. Sure, the occasional soccer game was discussed, but episodes of shows? Maybe an especially obnoxious ad was made fun of, but episodes of shows?
I know, I know. TV was different "back then," especially in three-channel Germany (and a couple East German ones and AFN).
I still maintain that she can keep up with conversations by renting DVDs of shows and guessing at what happens since nothing new ever does. Somehow she doesn't want to hear that. Imagine.
But, hey, if we get cable TV, at least we'll have something to take away when she balks.
On a more uplifting note: we went to IKEA on Saturday. We got some down comforters (with Chinese lead paint in them, I fear), so we're ready for the winter, sort of. We also got a coffee table - maybe that was the beginning of the TV-watching doom.
Madge assembled the darn thing herself. I tightened some of those magic IKEA hex-things myself at first and took the liberty of twisting in two of the tougher wood screws, but the did the rest of the hex-things and all the other assembly, with me as her spotter and Coco as her jealous screaming sibling who wanted to do Bob the Builder stuff, too.
Her hands have already healed; mine are still red and bruised.
Friday, October 12, 2007
What, you haven't been taking notes? And my parents and in-laws didn't send you a card?
Well, let me tell you then. Anniversary. Wedding. 11 years ago. Chicago City Hall. Basement (more of a pedestrian underpass, really).
One of the books I started this summer and set aside because others came along is Lord Byron's Don Juan. In it there's this funny line:
All tragedies are finish'd by a death,
All comedies are ended by a marriage.
Funny and mellifluous, but, in our case, wrong. As far as I can tell, our comedy continues. Yay, us.
I love you, Julie.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Prevert's "Feuilles Mortes" with subtitles. Lucky you.
But I was amazed to find some of their sketches on YouTube, so I'm sharing.
It's still funny. (They're two parents who are about to go to the theater and want to leave their grown son, whose name they have a hard time remembering since they only call him Bubi, a note about the food he can warm up or eat cold.) It actually gets funnier the more you think about it.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
In the previous two paragraphs two guys were talking at a bar. One was named Steven, and the other "Kyser."
But hey, at least this discrepancy in vowel sound spelling made the article memorable to me.
So why not use the best words available?
For instance, in Babies in the Bayou, by Jim Arnosky, which Madge picked up at the library for Coco (aw, how sweet), there's a picture of a mama duck guiding her babies away from the sleeping alligators. The text reads, "She shepherds them away from danger - "
Like I said, I'm overly sensitive, but why "shepherds"? They're not sheep. It's not the kind of book that would get cute and use "duckherds" but that would at least connect kids with the possibilities of language. What about "guides," or "leads," or simply "herds?"
Yesterday we went to the big library, whose architecture is a blend Vegas faux Egyptian and East Bloc governmental. Weird.
They sell food and drink in the lobby. Usually we only get something to drink but yesterday the snack bar was open so we picked up some popcorn, too. I think they allow food throughout the library because of this, though I don't understand why. Coco promptly carried his popcorn throughout the library as we went in search of comics for Madge (on the third floor).
Whenever we came by security officers - who are now in full force trying to keep the teenagers from brawling - I recommended to Coco to be inconspicuous about the popcorn consumption. No, I didn't use those words, I used 4-yr-old words. "Coco, try not to let them see the popcorn." So he took the tub and put it behind his back, walking around like Groucho Marx. Inconspicuous, no; funny, yes. I asked him who taught him to do that (because I hadn't), and he said, "Miss M[y pre-K teacher]."
I'm sure she'd be proud.
The saga continues, mostly for the benefit of my first-born in-law. (Hi, Karen!)
When we got off the elevator we went by the down escalator. Of course Madge had to go over and try to go up it, even though I told her not to and said it's time to leave. (nag, nag) Once she did it, Coco had to do it, too. But not only did he not listen to me about not doing it in the first place, he also refused to give up his popcorn. Instead, he wound up feeding it to the escalator teeth. Accidentally, of course, but still.
So I yelled at both of them about it. See, Karen, Madge is also to blame for the spilled popcorn because she couldn't let it be when I said no. Also, the whole reason we went to the library in the first place was her darned literacy.
Can't win, can you?
Monday, October 08, 2007
Now I'm losing sleep about this show. I'm like a junkie waiting for the video place to open up so I can get my fix.
I'm just glad it's on DVD, not because we don't have actual cable TV but because, in the first episode, one of the characters takes a leak about 5 minutes before the episode ends, which means I've been holding whatever I'd been drinking for about 15 minutes already. Luckily, I had the opportunity to pause the thing. Otherwise we might have had to shop for a new sofa cushion.
Omigod. I almost forgot.
She tends to wake us up way too early on weekends and asks to play on the computer. She's no dummy, she knows we just want her to let us sleep some more.
This morning she says I said, after her third or fourth time asking, "Go ahead, bitch."
All I'm saying is, "No way."
The bigger question is, even if I had said it, which I didn't, how would she even know what that is. I'm guessing, from the fact that she repeated it (or, rather, twisted around some misheard morning grunt of mine) without sounding upset about it, makes me think she's not too clear on the whole thing and only knows it's bad.
Still, I would NEVER.
(Okay, NEVER is a big word, but not when she's eight. I'm not saying there might not come a time when... But I hope I'll have the wherewithal not to say it aloud.)
Friday, October 05, 2007
The other day I was in a coffee shop. In front of me was a woman – other people, too, probably, but my field of vision is strangely selective – who looked great. Women tend to, especially in the mornings, when the various tricks they’ve learned from magazines are freshly applied. Clean; good smell; funky hair; interesting clothes, well tailored. But then she turned around and I saw that the raw materials she had to work with hadn’t really given her a head start.
Part of me wanted to compliment her on her ability to make the most of what she had. Because, really, that’s the only compliment that can really mean anything. The things she could take charge of, she did. (Well, maybe the foundation wasn’t blended perfectly at the neck, but still.)
The point is, I’m quite sure that it wouldn’t have worked. People would much rather hear that their parents produced a lucky mix of genes.
Anyway, I didn’t have the guts to try and find out.
Having to pick up Coco two and a half hours after dropping him off doesn’t give me enough time to talk myself out of that kind of a mess.
Without it, I wouldn't have recalled a little exchange I had yesterday.
On my way to school, I passed by a double-parked car with a pregnant woman on the passenger side. It was double parked in front of the house of a pregnant woman. The hair color was the same. The car looked different, but hey, whatever. I, therefore, do the lean-down and happy wave only to see a stranger's face awkwardly wave back at me.
Moments like that are always so deliciously awkward because you want to retract the friendly gesture. You want a gesture that says, "Yes, I'm friendly and you're pregnant and that's always a happy thing even if you're uncomfortable because the concept of creating a new life is a happy thing in theory, but I'm sorry I was giving you a familiarly friendly wave when it should have been non-committedly friendly, neutrally friendly, but there we are, we've both smiled and waved so we may as well be friends in a joint-humanity kind of way." But I didn't even have a kid with me at the time and as a sort-of-regular guy that kind of behaviour is just creepy.
With my luck, she wasn't even pregnant.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I don't know if this is a reflection on school bus drivers or on the way Park Slope women cross the street. Perhaps it's a toss-up.
Either way, I'd prefer it hadn't happened.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The more we get together, together, together,
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.
For your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends;
The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.
Now, I happened to recognize the melody. It’s a song I got to sing as a kid in Germany, too. But the words I remember go something like:
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin.
Stock ist hin, Hut ist hin, [mumble indecipherably], alles ist hin,
Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin.
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin.
Geld ist weg, Weib ist weg, [more mumbling]
Ach, du lieber Augustin, alles ist hin.
The most simple paraphrase is, “Oh, dear Augustin, everything is shot to shit.”
And I think it encapsulates nicely the difference between the two cultures. In the old country, a happy tune will be overlaid with some rich irony which is totally wasted on the audience; whereas here a happy tune gets smothered by sappy lyrics which totally waste the audience.
The full text, if you care, sans mumbling. Apparently Augustin was a guy who drank too much during the plague in Vienna, passed out, and was piled on a cart with corpses on their way to be disposed of, but awoke in time to gather his wits and some material for a song.
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
Geld ist hin, Mädl ist hin, Alles ist hin, Augustin!
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
Rock ist weg, Stock ist weg, Augustin liegt im Dreck.
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
Und selbst das reiche Wien, Hin ist's wie Augustin;
Weint mit mir im gleichen Sinn, Alles ist hin!
Jeder Tag war ein Fest, Jetzt haben wir die Pest!
Nur ein großes Leichenfest, Das ist der Rest.
Augustin, Augustin, Leg' nur ins Grab dich hin!
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
To which I show him my upright palm and say, "Talk to the hand."
Ah, we have some great times while we wait for Madge to get out of school.
Monday, October 01, 2007
She, dear reader(s), is awesome. I, on the other hand, am a weenie.
And I relearned something else today. When agreeing to get a toy at the toy store, the only adequate way to do it is to simply hand over the credit card and say, "See you outside." Otherwise, the disappointment in having to get the smaller toy while the larger, more shiny, so much cooler one is standing on the shelf RIGHT NEXT TO IT is so overwhelming that the offer to buy anything at all is rendered meaningless.
But, lest you think her an ingrate, she was happy and thankful. And if memory serves, I was waaaaaay worse in my greed.
Currently it reads,
THE SIMULATED PROTECTIVE DEVICE WAS NOT
SAFETY DEVICE AND OFFERED NO PROTECTION
MADE IN CHINA
How about breaking up the lines a little to make it more evocative,
The simulated protective device
safety device and offered
As for titles, how about:
Told You So
Wait, is "Positive" Good or Bad? or, the Pregnancy/STD6 Test
or, back to original kid's toy theme:
One Eye is Better Than None, or, Hindsight is 20
And he had hands that were softer and more supple than my grandmother's.
For the record, he is the swingingest m-f- ever. One of the main reasons I got into playing jazz in the first place is that I saw a concert of the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Berlin Philharmonic with my friend Warner P. And the concert bowled me over. They were promoting their Ellington album at the time.
For what it's worth, I was worried, going in, that the "Modern" in the MJQ would refer to something like the Art Ensemble of Chicago. I was really only fulfilling a concert requirement for a music class. But, man, what a pleasant surprise.
Connie Kay on drums was this giant (6ft something) playing on a mininal drum set; Percy Heath was stoic and steady; John Lewis minimalist and square; and Milt Jackson was just swinging like mad.
Never before this concert had I realized how much "play" is involved in playing music. The contrast of styles between John Lewis and Milt Jackson just made songs soar. Awesome stuff.
And yet, none of their albums really captured that spirit for me. Which just made me buy more, of course. I'd recommend "No Sun in Venice" and "Pyramid," but they're all tantalizingly near-great.
(Bear with Sanborn's yacking; the song is worth it.)