Saturday, December 29, 2007

When am I?

Vacations are weird things. Without any sort of routine, I have no idea what day or time it is. Well, time I roughly know, but early sunset in winter makes anything after 5pm a wild guess. Among the many interrupted books on my shelf is Henry Adams' Education, one of the more poignant aspects of which is that he considers himself to be an eighteenth-century person (due to family history and personal proclivities) stuck in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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

Julie's idea

I hope to do it justice here. It arose from seeing some of the new Playmobil toys and noticing the warning label translated into multiple languages.

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 Tuesday

Christmas was bountiful. Was it ever, yikes.
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

Madge Monday

I'll tell you what's cruel and unusual punishment: getting kids all hyped up about Christmas, putting gifts under the tree, then giving them a few days off school and telling them to be patient. Better yet: getting their greed all amped up and then telling them they're overprivileged.
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

Going Package-y


Which means, not quite postal.
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

Overwhelmed

I'm not sure what Boxing Day is, but we had a pre-boxing setup day today. In the span of an hour and a half, DHL, UPS, FedEx, and the USPS made a visit with a Holiday Bonanza.
Whoa.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Strangeness

On another walk with the kids, we went by the hardware store that has Christmas decorations in the window, alongside the perfect stocking-stuffer DirtDevil 9.2.
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).

Aww is Vanity

We came out of the grocery store yesterday and I saw a nineties buick with vanity plates that said: AWW-DUN. Leaning against the car was someone New Jersey spit out, parka with fake fluffy fur, cigarette from fingers, hair greased back.
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

Coco Tuesday



It's Coco's imitation of George Clooney, I think. Or his equivalent of the Zoolander "Blue Steel" pose, "Red Gummies."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Madge Monday

Madge can be quite sensitive. Apparently she's been feeling bad for Coco for a long time. She thinks he may not be too smart because he had to, gulp, repeat Pre-K.

And she's not buying that everything before K is Pre-K.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Hide and Oops

Let's just say that playing hide and seek can be lots of fun, but can become uncomfortable when it is played in a very small apartment in the few days before Christmas.

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

Ronald who?


Coco's way of saying things is still a source of joy.
He's not very original in calling the fast food chain "Old McDonald's," but I believe he is when he calls the spokesclown "Olmec."
In order to differentiate from the Burger King equivalent, "Toltec."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anti-book club

Had another playdate today. Fun stuff, because Coco and his friend play well and the au pair is relaxed enough to just hang out and read or check email or whatever and not force a conversation.
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

Can't Help Myself

I told myself I wouldn't write anything here that would mortify either of my kids if it were publicly known, and I really hope this will pass that test, though it really depends on their future personalities.
Specifically Madge's.
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

Coco Tuesday

This weekend we got our tree. I put up the lights with Madge's help and Julie's supervision, which was very generous, as the lights are far from even. Then we took a little break. But while we weren't looking, our little elf started taking out some ornaments and gently placing them on the branches. He was in his own little world, awesome to watch. (Madge, of course, pitched in as soon as she noticed and the two of them had the tree done in no time.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

House Envy

Occasionally we go on playdates to houses that are, quite frankly, jaw-dropping.
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?

Madge Monday

We have a friend staying over whom we call "Auntie Pumpkin." In a way it's like calling a short person "Stretch" or a bald person "Curly;" in another way the moniker could hardly be more apt.
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

Vigilante Plumbing

There's a plumbing service in the neighborhood called Vigilante.
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

A Treat I Wish I Could Share

It is a special kind of joy to hear a nanny from dee aylaands complain about "Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon."
The accent makes it, well, irie. (pock-ee-MAHN comes close)

Coco, full of surprises

We were going to a playdate in the cold when I responded to the au pair's comment about the cold, "Sure is. You need a hat."
Next thing I know Coco takes off his and hands it to her.
(He has a bit of a crush on her.)

Poor Louisa

Thanks to the NYTimes’ Reading Room I have picked up The Education of Henry Adams, by the educatee himself. I haven’t read far (yet) but am quite intrigued.
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 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.


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.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco's temper is something else.
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.
Whoooeeeeee!

flat tire



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

Madge Monday



Our snow angel.

We had a sprinkling of snow yesterday, so we went out several times. As a snow lover, I have learned my lesson in childhood. Snow never lasts, so enjoy it while you can. Which means that we dragged out tired heinies to the playground at 7 am on a Sunday morning. On the plus side, though, we were the first to deflower the snow, as it were. And sneaky Madge walked backwards in order to leave misleading tracks.

After warming up, we went to the storage unit to get our sled and tried to make it to the skating rink, but our timing was off and the kids (especially Coco) were freezing in their non-winter boots, so attempted some sledding instead.

Finally, Coco fell asleep around 3:30, so Madge and I trudged to the skating rink.

I highly recommend going on walks with Madge. When she's not preoccupied with anything else, she's a delightful conversationalist.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Word Association

Last night Madge was playing MadLibs.
Her first prompt was "plural noun." She said, "boys."
Oooooooh, I thought, my baby is growing up.
Then she said, "Or toilets."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ConEd Overload

They illuminated the tree at Rockefeller Center the other night.
Our lights flickered the same night.
Coincidence?

everyone's striking

But not anymore, I guess. It's hard to hear, on the late night talkshows, that the Broadway strike is over, since the late night talkshows aren't current anymore.
Oh, well.
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

Coco Tuesday

Fairly quiet day today.
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).

Madge Monday

The weekend is one big blur to me, especially because both kids stayed home yesterday with a cough. They shared the cough, but hardly anything else other than a cranky attitude. It was a pleasure serving them, obviously. Today I prepped them with some Motrin and sent them off to school. The wave of crankiness will hit the moment I pick them up, I presume.
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

SantaLand

Today we went to Macy's Herald Square and visited SantaLand. Coco and I visited SantaLand last year, so I had certain expectations, but the most memorable part of last year's visit - the two hours of snaking through the cafeteria and HR department - was missing this year. Apparently you get to walk right in when you show up on a Sunday morning at 10 am. Who knew?
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

Museum fallout


Armed with three brand new sketchbooks, we went to the museum yesterday.
These are our results. Mine is an attempt to capture the composition of "Freiburg in the Snow" by Hugues de Beaumont. I've noticed lately that I really love drawings and paintings of architecture, and this cityscape is especially well done. Not my copy, but the original - come to Brooklyn and I'll show you. The city is floating over a blanket of snow in a gray morning setting. Nice.
Madge chose to focus on a detail of Rippl-Ronai's "Woman With Three Girls." I think she wins the prize. Also, I think she's ready for more sketching of art.
Coco did his own thing. Remarkably patient for a four-year-old, I must say. He lay on the ground on his tummy, legs in the air, facing the central atrium of that hall, and drew the alien and spaceship you see in the picture. I'm surprised they held still long enough for him to get all the details so accurately.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiven

If we hadn't gotten TV recently, I wouldn't have known that I'm missing out by not being outside of JCPenney's at midnight. Darn.
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

Something to say

I'm too tired to come up with anything clever, so:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Coco Tuesday



An awww moment. Madge is reading to Coco, and he is absent-mindedly stroking her hair. They didn't even stop for the flash photography.

The School's Report Card

Last year we got to participate in the all-important grading of the school. And today I was reminded why it was so difficult.
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

Let them talk

Today was a good day for letting people talk too much.
Instance 1:
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.
Instance 2:
Playdate at our house. Talkative nanny, divulging things about the parents' marital situation. I should have been taking notes.

Madge Monday

We had our first major clash in which TV-removal played a part in the punishment. Coco hasn't quite figured it out yet, but he's been indirectly punished, too, since our apartment is too small to let him watch and not her.
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.
...
Daddy: Sorry.

Friday, November 16, 2007

TV Thursday

Sorry I'm behind on this. Thursdays approach all too suddenly after limerick night.

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?"
"Yeah."
"Me, too."

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

My op-ed that I probably won't send anywhere

Is Our Schools Learning?

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

Poetic Madge

Poor Madge.
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?"
"Blaaaaack."
(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

Coco Tuesday

Parent-teacher or teacher-parent meetings today, I'm not sure which.
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

Madge Monday

Madge asked today if veteran's day had anything to do with animals.
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.

Hidden Causes?


In a book called Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art, I stumbled across this note to an image of Mordicai Gerstein's studio:


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

Ornament or Weapon?



One of Coco's teachers wears something like this around her neck.

The other day she pulled me aside and said that Coco asked her, very enthusiastically, "Are you a vampire hunter?"

Hee, hee. We're doing something right.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

TV Thursday

Since the addition of TV to our household, I figure I ought to make it a regular feature on the blog, like Madge Monday and Coco Tuesday. But the most alliterative possibility is TV Thursday and I’m usually too tired after Wednesday’s late-night limerick-write to put something cohesive together.
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 value , but then, how would the kids know when to react .
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

Hank James, again

Okay, learn along with me. Why aren’t “we” supposed to write with too many adjectives? Because adjectives “tell;” they don’t “show.” And mere telling is uninteresting. When characters are and act, readers feel involved. When characters are merely described they are little more than scenery.
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.

Whoa.
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

Coco Tuesday

Coco still has a witching hour between two and three o’clock, but now it comes as a surprise again because of the time change. Today we were in Manhattan, about to come home again when started balking and making adamant illogical demands. And, since Madge is usually in school during these fussy periods she wasn’t able to keep calm during the screaming and urged me to give in. We worked it out, though.
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

Bobby H.




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 Monday

Madge had a sleepover at our house this weekend.
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

Trifles

This is the kind of crazy idea I have and then get behind. Hear me out.

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:


Jamesian, Henrily


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
somehow

Friday, November 02, 2007

Madge and Friend


Whoa. These girls are starting to be big kids, aren't they? Hamming it up for the camera.
And, yes, that's purple hair.

Trick or Treat



Sorry to inform you that our camera is getting old. Apparently, more than two years of service is too much to ask of digital equipment. It takes the darn thing forever to focus and get a picture taken, especially in dark situations, so I just stopped using it.
We had candy to get to, after all.
So this is pretty much it, picture-wise.

Halloween Pix winner




Our neighbors went as a themed family. But it would have been nothing without the dog.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Installation


Madge set it up. We call it
Careful: Spilled Cat.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Can't wait

Ordinarily, I'd wait for a news story on an indictment for tax-evasion to post this, but I don't have the patience right now, since I just thought of these lines yesterday:

Unreported income -
well-reported outcome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Perhaps Coco is precocious in the wrong way.
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

Madge Monday

Madge can't wait for cable to come, which is tomorrow. She even made a set of rules for good TV usage and behavior. Homework first, agree on what to watch or at least take turns choosing, etc. She came up with the rules herself.
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.

Sloppy punctuation

I know I wan't consistent with NUMBERam and simply a.m. But I'm lazy and I think it's obvious that "am" after a number is not a form of the verb "to be" while on its own that's not so clear. So I fudged.
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.

Windows

Last week, the GE guy came for an estimate. The window they gave me: 8am to 5pm. He came at 4pm. Hey, at least they could specify a day. I hear some people are not so lucky. As he put it, "Do you want an a.m. appointment, or p.m.?" and, after a pause, "Let me just say that with an a.m. appointment you're more likely to see me on that day, since we overbook."
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

Teaser for a future post

I have neither the time nor the energy to unpack the whole playdate now.
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.

Coco Waxes Poetic

One of the things it pains me to admit about oil and gas on the roads is that they become mesmerizingly beautiful when swirling in water.
As we were crossing a street today, Coco said,
"Look. A rainbow is taking a bath."

Pictures to go with yesterday's post



Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Title

You're welcome to this title. All you have to do is write the book.

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.)

Science/Art in the Mini-School Hall

One of these days I'll remember to bring my camera, but for now just trust my description.
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

Sharing

I think I've written about this before, but it happened again and it strikes me that it is a parable for parenting in general.


Family Hotdog(s)

Only the meat for one.
The other wants only the bun.
But – here the vendor gets flustered –
One wants ketchup, the other one mustard.

Coco Tuesday

I'm going to have to keep my eye on Coco and the ladies. Today was the second time he told me that he kissed some girl in his class or that some girl kissed him. He's four, girls. Your people need to talk to my people before we can let anything happen.

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.
Poor guy.

Fodder for Discussion

From a quick skim, it seems as if JK Rowling gave a talk and the people from her biggest fan website published what she said. I'm saying seems because this is the web, after all, and fiction and faction get mixed up a lot. That said, there's some steamy things to think about here.
(This post is meant in particular for Julie, Auntie Boo, and Teacher Ana, but anyone is welcome, of course.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Madge Monday

Every once in a while, parenting works the way you want it to.
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

Asking for it

One of the shops-to-be in our neighborhood proclaims the arrival of a ready-to-heat-and-eat prepared foods place of foods with an expiration date rather than a half-life. The store's name, "Get Fresh."
I can't wait. Not because of the food, but because of the open invitation to harass the help.

Mystery Reader

That's me.
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

Ah, Manners

As you may have noticed, I am still working on using my “nice words” instead of the first words that come to mind. Coco is a little behind me in that development. Not much, but that’s because I haven’t advanced as I ought.
So here’s an open letter to the lady at Barnes and Noble.

Dear Rotunda,

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.

Coco’s Dad

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Procrastinating on the Limericks

Listing some rhymes for a topic that might or might not make it on air I came up with this nugget:


Summary of Select Shakespearean Sonnets

I rehearse my verse
to reverse my hearse.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Coco Tuesday

Coco got his first "tying shoes" yesterday. He is now the proud owner of red low-top Chuck Taylors. Kids' size 9, mind you. Coolness.

Not Quite Done with Madge Monday

The whole TV thing. Julie's been waiting for this day to come. My dad, the kids' Opa has been telling me they'll feel left out and have nothing to talk about.
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

Madge Monday

Well, it has finally happened.
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

it's 10/12 again

You know what that means.
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

More YouTube

From something for those who don't speak German to something for those who don't speak French. This one, though, has subtitles. In honor of the season that has finally decided to look at the calendar (air conditioner on in October, whose idea was that?).
Prevert's "Feuilles Mortes" with subtitles. Lucky you.

Karl Valentin und Liesl Karlstadt

Fat lot of good it does to those of you who don't understand German.
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.
Trust me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Uptight-Man might be here to stay

I was perusing the New Yorker that arrived today and found a "Talk of the Town" piece about Jenna Bush and her new book. Cute. It ends nicely with a quote from a guy called "Kaiser" who cautions against too many drinks of a certain kind, "Metaphors come out like crazy." (If only he'd said "simile's.")
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.

Uptight-Man surfaces

I know I'm overly sensitive, but picture books aim - in part - to teach kids what words mean.
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?"
Oh, well.

Coco Tuesday

Still catching up from the day off, sorry.

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

The Wire

I should sue those people from the Shit Parade podcast. They made me think, "Hey, they all seem to love The Wire, why not rent a DVD and give it a shot?"
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.

Madge Monday

It's unfair to do a Madge Monday today because it was a holiday after a weekend after a week during which she was tired and a little under the weather. In other words, I'm making excuses for how cranky she was.
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

more awkwardness

Since I’m already on the topic of awkward moments.
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.

hi, uh, not hi hi, but hi

Coco found my voice recorder, so I'm using it again.
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

Insanity - not the good kind

I now know two women who, as pedestrians, have been hit by a school bus (in the last six months), unfortunately. It's not unfortunate that I know them, but rather that they have this distinction.
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

Whoa


I know everyone thinks his or her kid is a genius.
And why not?
Remember, Coco is 4 1/2. In pre-K, they're practicing circles right now.
He drew this last week and we had to fight with him not to tear it up because "it doesn't look right."
Seriously. We weren't even allowed to look as he was making it. So there was no help provided by us.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Culture Clash

On one of the first days of Coco’s new school, when the parents were asked to stay, the class sang song. I’d heard it before, I think on a bit of the dreaded Barney program. It goes a little something like this (no need to dim the lights):

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.
Refrain:
Ach, du lieber Augustin, Augustin, Augustin,

Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
V1:
Geld ist hin, Mädl ist hin, Alles ist hin, Augustin!

Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
V2:
Rock ist weg, Stock ist weg, Augustin liegt im Dreck.

Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!
V3:
Und selbst das reiche Wien, Hin ist's wie Augustin;

Weint mit mir im gleichen Sinn, Alles ist hin!
V4:
Jeder Tag war ein Fest, Jetzt haben wir die Pest!

Nur ein großes Leichenfest, Das ist der Rest.
V5:
Augustin, Augustin, Leg' nur ins Grab dich hin!

Ach, du lieber Augustin, Alles ist hin!

Coco Tuesday

Lest you think he's all fun and games, he's become so stubborn that now he will hold his ears and say, "I don't like your words, Daddy."
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

Madge Monday

In my haste to be witty, I almost forgot about Madge Monday.
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.

"Was"?

Found Art

Remember the knight costume I wouldn't buy Coco so far in advance of Halloween? Well, now that it's in our house, I've discovered some ancient runes on it which, in their unskilled use of the English language, amount to a sad, short ballad. All it needs is a better title.
Currently it reads,
CAUTION
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
was not
safety device and offered
no protection

As for titles, how about:
Prenup
Told You So
Scarred
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

More on Milt

There was a time when I was playing saxophone on the streets of Berkeley, sort of on a dare to myself, not really for the money. (I sometimes played with an older trumpet player. One night he told me that we couldn't stop until we had enough for his phone bill. I wanted to give him my share, but he wouldn't let me. It wound up being a late night.) One night, this guy came by who looked sort of familiar but I didn't know from where. Then I recognized Billy Higgins and remembered that Milt Jackson was in town and realized that he was the earlier guy. I put down my saxophone and chased after him to shake his hand and thank him for inspiring me. Which was a bonehead move. Not because something happened to my saxophone, it was safe, but because, since he had heard my playing, I wasn't sure he wanted to claim responsibility for my so-called inspiration. Oh, well. At least he had put some money in the case.
And he had hands that were softer and more supple than my grandmother's.

Vibraharp, part 2

As promised, here's Milt Jackson. Unfortunately, the sound quality doesn't do justice to his playing, but there you go.
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.)