Newer visitors to the site know that I'm not afraid to watch a little television. In recent months, you've likely heard me profess my love for everything from "Party of Five" to "Miami Vice" to "Fantasty Island." Hell, I even wrote an entire post about "My Name is Earl."
However, those who know me well know that television is really my dirty little mistress. Reading has always been the true love of my life and, ever since I can remember, books have always been one of my greatest passions.
When I was a little kid, I used to freak my parents out by running away from home and going to the library. Since my parents both worked full-time, I used to sometimes play hooky so I could stay home and read in peace. Even in college, I remember a time when I stayed up for three straight days because I wanted to finish "Foucault's Pendulum." So yeah, I admit it. I'm a total book nerd.
And while other kids were collecting baseball cards, stamps or coins, I was always collecting books. I used to spend days foraging the catacombs of used-book stores and flea markets, hoping to unearth some hidden treasures. To this day, my greatest discovery was a small collection of first edition hardcovers by Norman Mailer that I found at a yard sale in Berkeley. During this period, he was one of my favorite authors and when I subsequently met him years later, he was kind enough to sign all of them for me.
At one point, I was such a complete and utter dork that I actually kept a list on my computer of all my favorite books. I also kept a separate list of first edition books that I wanted to own at some point during the course of my life. (As a young child, I had visions of my adult home being very similar to Wayne Manor, replete with a Batcave, a sliding pole and a modified version of the Batmobile. I always pictured myself reading my first editions in the library as Alfred served me mac and cheese on a silver tray.)
Quick story about the BossLady...Somehow, when we were dating, BossLady found out about my nerd list. After we got engaged, she started secretly researching internet databases of book collectors from all over the world. Over a year later, she presented me with a wedding gift, a beautiful first edition hardcover of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man," the book at the top of BOTH my lists. My hands literally were shaking as I opened it. To this day, it's my most prized possession. Do you see why I love this woman?
Anyway, I tell you all of this only to explain why it's important to me that the Peanut share my love of reading. Even though she's only 16 months old now, I can't wait for the day when she's as passionate about books as I am. I long for the time when we can discuss books that she's read, what she got out of it, and whether she's interested in reading other works by the same author. In the back of my head, I have this Norman Rockwell vision of the entire family curled up on the couch by the fireplace and spending quiet evenings immersed in our own books.
So, to this end, I spend a lot of time reading to the Peanut. Whenever she's feeling a little calm, I'll pull her up on my lap and read something to her. In a way, I guess I'm hoping that my love of literature will rub off on her.
Unfortunately, I think books are my daughter's kryptonite.
Don't get me wrong. She loves chewing on them. She loves grabbing them out of my hand and tossing them at the dog. And last week, she practically peed her pants when I slipped on one of her books and busted my ass on the living room floor.
But most of the time? Put a book anywhere near her and she'll run away from it like she's allergic.
Now, of course, being the totally obsessively neurotic freak-out parent that I actually hate, my head starts reeling with a bunch of imaginary "What If?" scenarios. What if she NEVER enjoys hearing stories? What if she NEVER develops the desire to read? Even worse, what if she never LEARNS to read and becomes a functional illiterate? What if her dislike of reading causes her to drop out of school? What will she do then? How will she survive? OMG!
Sigh...well, at least she's pretty.
(Update: Somehow, the Peanut must have known that I was going to put up this post. Over the past few days, she's been pulling books off the shelf, bringing them over to me, and climbing herself into my lap so I can read to her. I haven't been this happy since the day she was born! Special thanks to one of my favorite bloggers and fellow reader, LandisMom, for preaching patience to me when I thought my daughter would never learn how to read.)
By the way, I just finished three books that I was reading simultaneously so I'm looking for a few good books to read. What are YOU guys reading these days? Got any recommendations?
I wrote a post last week over at DadCentric about the lost art of the mixed cocktail. . Aside from the fact that the post got me thinking about turning the Peanut's diaper-changing table into a homemade mini bar, it also got me thinking about other lost arts..like the hand-written thank you note, the two-handed bounce pass, and the hand job. (Just kidding. Sort of. Ok, not really. Whatever!)
Anyway…I think I'm stating the obvious when I say, "the times, man. They are a changing." But seriously, I think that there are quite a few significant socio-cultural traditions in America that are starting to lose significant ground and may soon become extinct. I think that by the time the Peanut hits 18 and I bring up any of these so-called "lost arts," she's going to look at me as if I'm totally crazy.
So, while I was sitting on the can today, I started thinking about other so-called "lost arts." Here's what I've come up with so far...
The Lost Art of Lunching
Approximately once every two months, I meet my buddy Kyle for lunch. He works in a relatively nearby office so, occasionally, we’ll phone one another up to to grab a sandwich and shoot the shit. But the rest of the time? I either go to the deli downstairs and find something to eat at my desk or I bring my lunch from home and eat it at my desk. The whole process usually takes about 10 minutes. Clearly, the days of steak sandwiches and a few martinis are over. But does anyone take a full hour anymore? Are we, as a society, so rushed that we can’t even sit down and eat a proper meal during the workday anymore? Because honestly? I feel like pretty soon, we'll all just be shooting up Big Macs in the backroom during our pee breaks.
The Lost Art of the Bender
These days, the only time that you generally hear about people consuming copious amounts of alcohol is when the conversation turns to the growing trend of binge drinking (the weekly act of high school and college kids boozing it up until they pass out, solely for the sake of entertainment.) But what if you have a deeper, darker desire? What if, in a time of great personal sorrow or despair, you simply wish to escape, disappear from sight and drink unrepentantly for a long period of time? What if you feel the need to vanish from the planet for a “lost” weekend? Then, my friends, you plan on going on a bender.
Now, is it me or has the bender been forgotten as a semi-legitimate form of self-exploration? Because I’ll be honest with you, folks. There have been a few times in my life where therapy and the comfort of loved ones haven’t always been enough to soothe my soul. I wouldn’t prescribe it for everyone but there’s something to be said for grieving via a bottle. But I feel society frowns upon it now. So, is the bender as a form of self-therapy dead? Has it been replaced by Prozac nation? Jut wondering.
The Lost Art of Talking Trash
When I was a kid growing up and playing competitive sports, talking trash was often an integral part of the sub-culture. Many times, it was the battle within the war. With a few well-chosen words, you could get inside your opponent’s head and gain a subtle advantage. Sure, it was part braggadocio. But it was also part entertainment. And make no mistake, talking trash was an art form. Guys like Charles Barkley, Muhammad Ali, and Reggie Jackson were the Van Goghs, Picassos and Rembrandts of the genre.
But now, it seems that political correctness has decried that talking trash is uncivilized and has no part in competitive sports. Furthermore, now you not only have crazed parents in the stands, ready to jump down and attack people but, if you someone is perceivably disrespected, you're also likely to get shot! Too bad. Because talking trash is like great poetry. And I hope that the time comes again when instead of admiring guys do idiotic TD dances in the end zone, we'll have more eloquent spokesmen like Reggie Jackson (who after all, uttered the following: "The only reason I really don't like playing in the World Series is 'cause I can't watch myself play."
The Lost Art of Hitchhiking
When I was in my teens and early 20’s, I used to hitchhike all the time. Now, I’m not talking about thumbing it across country like Tom Robbins’ Sissy Hankshaw. But there was many a summer when I was working in rural Pennsylvania or Massachusetts when I would get around town simply by thumbing a ride. It was cheap and you never knew when you were going to meet someone interesting. But somewhere along the line, something changed. Somehow, hitchhikers became synonymous with criminals (even though they were more likely to be the victims of a crime.) And somehow, we began to trust our fellow brethren less and less. Nowadays? I can’t even remember the last time I saw a hitchhiker.
But hitchhiking is an interesting experience. Do you know what its like to be alone on the side of the road, putting your faith in the kindness of strangers? Sure, there’s always the slightest hint of fear (which probably makes it a little more exciting.) But picking up a hitchhiker truly is a random act of kindness. And you know what? We don’t see too enough of those these days.
The Lost Art of the Crank Call
When Caller ID was first introduced to the public, it’s safe to say that few people were happier than I was. At the time, I was single and in my early 20’s. I won’t go into all the details but let’s just say that I was a horrible dater. If I went out with a woman a few times and I no longer wanted to see her again? I would simply employ technology to disappear off the face of the planet. My friends used to refer to it as the “Total Media Blackout.”
Now, I wasn’t necessarily proud of those times but, in all honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to pull them off without Caller ID. God, I loved Caller ID. Still do. Without it, I would NEVER answer my phone. But with every technological advance, it seems that something irreplaceable has been lost along the way. For me, it’s the lost art of the crank call.
I’m not talking of those asinine crank calls like, “hello? Is Mike Hunt there?” That’s juvenile frat-boy behavior. No, the prank calls my young friends and I did were more cunning and Chekhovian in nature.
Growing up, one of our favorites involved going through the neighborhood directories and crank calling strangers.
Me: "Hi. Is this William T. Gibson?"
Victim: "Yes, it is."
Me: "William Gibson in Manhattan?”
Me: "At 1249 Broadway?"
Victim: "That's right."
Me: "Phone number 555-1212?"
Me: "Well crap, I must have the wrong number. Sorry!"
Victim: "Ok. No problem!" *
We used to make calls like this ALL THE TIME and never--not once--did anyone ever notice anything odd about the conversation. Sadly, the Peanut will never be able to follow in her father's footsteps. Because of Caller ID, the fun aspects of telephonic anonymity are long gone. Alas, the age of innocent pranks may be gone with it. The age of innocent fun has died as well.
(*Upon further contemplation, this type of prank call may have had more in common with Beckett than Chekhov. I'll leave it to my man Dutch to correct me if I'm wrong.)
Again, this may be another case of an old man reminiscing about his youth. But what do you think? And are there any other "lost arts" that you think your child will never get to witness? As always, an inquiring mind wants to know.
We just returned from visiting the BossLady's folks out in Dallas. As always, we had a wonderful time. The grandparents were absolutely thrilled to hang out with the the Peanut and we all enjoyed our little inter-generational love-fest. Personally, I've always thought that 4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend with ANYONE'S parents so, despite our jolly-good time, I'm glad to be back in NYC.
Anyway, as I usually do when I'm a little jammed up in the office, I thought I'd engage in a little random chaos theory. If there's a unifying thread to all this, let me know. My shrink and I would love to hear what it is. Otherwise, I hope that you and your families all had a great Thanksgiving and that none of you burned your houses down by deep-frying a turkey.
SHE'S NOT MY BABY. I'M JUST THE MANNY!
You know that nightmare baby that you sometimes encounter while flying? The one who cries incessantly, only pausing to moan or whimper? Well, flying out to Dallas, our little Peanut was THAT BABY. She'd woken up too early that morning, was thrown off her schedule and was overtired all day. By the time, we got on the plane, she was in total meltdown. How bad did it get? At one point, I took her to the bathroom to give our fellow passengers a break. Suddenly, she stopped crying. I don't know whether it was her fascination with the blue toilet water or the fact that she unrolled about 800 feet of toilet paper in a 3 foot space but I wasn't going to disrupt the silence. We ended up hanging out inside the toilet for about 20 minutes! You should have seen the smile on her face! When people knocked on the bathroom door, I just grunted loudly like I was battling a giant turd. Unfortunately, when we came out, Peanut started wailing again. And as I handed her off to BossLady, I could have sworn I heard myself say, "Here's your daughter, lady. I'll be at the bar!"
BRIBERY, COURTESY AND "THE PRICE IS RIGHT"
We travel enough with the Peanut to know that there are good flights and there are bad flights. And usually, you don't know which one it's going to be until you get on the plane. That being said, I like to think we're pretty courteous people who respect the rights of those around us. I bring this up because we were so scarred by the flight out to Dallas that we started coming up with a game plan for the return flight. I won't go into details but the plan involved buying a large box of ear plugs, a few bags of candy and a stack of Continental drink vouchers. We didn't have to use any of them but, just out of curiosity, would that have made things better? Has anyone ever given you a sympathy bribe on a plane before? Because I'm thinking about packaging these up and marketing them to itinerant parents. What do you all think? Is this a million dollar idea (or just a 5 cent one)?
TURKEY IS A GATEWAY DRUG TO AMBIEN
We don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving. The last time BossLady and I ate turkey was 7 years ago. We were dating long-distance. She was in L.A. and I was in NYC. One weekend, she took the Friday night red-eye and arrived at my apartment around noon. We lounged around for awhile and then decided to order in some buffalo wings for lunch. And although the wings looked suspiciously large, they were mighty tasty so we indulged ourselves to our heart's content. Feeling a little full, we decided to lie down and take a nap. The next thing we remember was the sound of my phone ringing...14 hours later! Turns out the buffalo wings were Turkey wings and we'd both overdosed on Tryptophan. BossLady had to leave a few hours later so it turns out that she'd flown a total of 10 hours just so we could have a meal and a long nap together. We swore on a jumbo wing that we'd never eat turkey again.
IS THERE A SWEETER PHRASE THAN "JACK-IN-THE-BOX DRIVE-THRU (OPEN 24 HOURS)"?
Last time I wrote one of these chaotic posts, I ended up discussing my love of Jack-in-the-Box. Well, it turns out that they opened a 24-hour establishment less than 5 minutes away from my In-Laws' house! (For those of you who are vegetarians, please proceed to the next post. Otherwise, NSFW.) Not only did I go there every day to get my beloved Sourdough Jack with cheese and extra bacon, BossLady was reunited with her Spicy Chicken Club. And the Peanut? Her new best friend is the Oreo milkshake. God bless America. God bless fast-food. And God bless Dallas (where, judging by the increasing girth of its denizens, I think a baby's first words are, "Hey, dude. Can I get fries with that?")
BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN TO HAVE NEVER LOVED AT ALL
The in-laws don't have cable TV, TiVo, DVR, high-speed internet or Wifi. Sometimes, I felt like I was on a bad episode of "Survivor: Plano."
I WAS ONLY GONE FOR 4 DAYS BUT IN BLOGGINGBABY.COM TERMS, THAT'S LIKE 275 POSTS!
Ahhh...God bless Blogging Baby! Without them, how else would I have kept up on Jennifer Garner's pregnancy, Rod Stewart's newborn and the state of lesbian cloth diapering in Western Mongolia? Just kidding. I can give them a little shit because all my favorite bloggers are now working for them. And if you want to play a little game, here's a pretty fun link that allows you to try and match up the bloggers with their baby photos. I'm guessing my buddy Dutch is the one dressed like a street urchin, Jay is the weird kid with a goatee and Stefania is the cute one. In a similar vein, we'll be running a similar contest over at DadCentric next month (except there, you're going to have to match the blogger with a drunken photo of his ass!)
THE SUBTLE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN WEIRD, DYSFUNCTIONAL & JUST PLAIN CRAZY!
During the past four days, I've watched BossLady's father unconsciously rip a flurry of belches at the dinner table that would have made Belushi proud. Another night, I watched as he decided to start repairing the motor of his edge trimmer...on the kitchen table...at midnight. I also got to witness BossLady's mom and her cooking OCD. Watching her in the kitchen is like watching Iron Chef on amphetamines (and by this I don't mean me doing some smack and watching TV. I mean it's as if the Iron Chefs took some meth and started cooking.) I love watching my MIL. She'll cook until she's absolutely wiped out and collapes from exhaustion. When she wakes up? It's right back to the kitchen. If the results weren't so gastronomically amazing, it would be almost frightening to watch.
It's funny because these idiosyncrasies of her parents are sometimes embarrassing for the BossLady but, on the other hand, I think they're absolutely endearing and totally charming. These weird habits of her parents only make me love the BossLady more. But of course, after thinking about it for awhile, I can see where she's coming from. I know there are PLENTY of times when my parents will do something that not only drives me to the brink of insanity but also absolutely embarrasses the hell out of me. Witness...
Whenever we’re in a restaurant and my father wants something, he snaps his fingers and yells, “Senor!” It doesn't matter whether the waiter is Chinese or Italian, my father somehow believes that Spanish is the universal language for the food-services industry. Similarly, he also doesn’t believe it’s necessary to have an empty mouth when having a conversation. These are basically two of the many reasons I don't invite friends out to dinner with my folks anymore.
I was once playing golf with my mother and some of my buddies when we looked up the fairway and saw her sitting in the middle of a giant orange tree. After climbing down, she then ran over to us yelling “Here, boys! Eat, eat! Oranges! Vitamin C! It’s good for you!” Not only was I completely embarrassed but she then went on to birdie the fucking hole.
I'm not even going to bring up my father's ability to clear out a room with his farts or his tendency to cut his nails in public. The list literally goes on and on. But as I sit and think about it, I wonder whether it's all some sort of manifest destiny. In a way, I think parents are supposed to embarrass their kids. It's all part of some cosmic circle involving payback and penance. And knowing this? I can only begin to think of the numerous ways that I'm going to embarrass the Peanut in front of all her friends as she gets older.
But want to know the truth?
I can't wait!
Monday mornings are a bitch, aren't they? Commuting to work via the NYC subway system not only sometimes inflicts salt to the wound but also often truly tests the outer limits of one's patience. With apologies to my friend Heather, I offer a brief glimpse of my Monday morning. Thankfully, it's going to be a short week.
How to Annoy Me
Spread your legs wide while sitting in a crowded subway train, thereby taking up two full seats. Then, cough up a lung without
covering your mouth. Finally? Refuse to give up ONE of your damn seats for a pregnant lady. Don't you know how much that
fucking pisses me off? I would have excused the leg-spreading and the coughing. But there was no way I wasn't going to get all up in your face for not offering your seat to a pregant lady, asshole!
How to Charm Me
Saying thank you. People don't realize how far a simple thank you can go. (Bonus points for remarking that I must be a father myself, asking whether I have a photo of my child, and cooing for an embarrasingly long time while looking at the Peanut's pic on my cell phone.)
I saw a man on the subway today and he had bigger boobs than any woman (pregnant or otherwise) I've ever seen. It was grotesquely fascinating and I found myself rapt with scientific curiosity. What's the biggest cup size of any man on the planet? Would it be in the Guiness Book of Records? Would they have shown it on "That's Incredible!"? What kind of support system would be needed with a rack that large?
No real poop stories from the Monday morning commute. But last Friday? There was a man on the train who smelled as if he'd mixed poop with some Indian food and then rubbed it all over his smelly feet. On the one hand, I was totally grossed out. On the other hand, I sort of started craving Indian food. Kind of weird, eh?
Poop (Part Deux)
Yesterday, the Peanut's butt machine-gunned out what looked like a whole carton of Whoppers malted milk balls! Twice! We checked her diaper and there were literally about 10 of these perfectly-formed poo balls that were so well uniformly well-polished that they looked they were made by Hersheys. I was in such total awe that I wanted to zip-lock the balls of poop, stick them in the fridge and show them to everyone who came over to our apartment.
For pretending that I didn't smell the poop in my daughter's diaper this morning and letting her walk around with a diaper filled with crap until the nanny arrived because I didn't feel like changing her diaper due to the aforementioned traumatization of the Whoppers incident. Feeling guiltier for hearing the nanny in the other room exclaim, "Wow, Peanut! That's quite a poop! How long has that been in there?"
I Take Pictures Every Day with a Nikon D70
Ok, I don't take pictures every day with my D70. But we did take this one recently. The leaves were changing colors so we decided to take a drive up to Storm King Art Center, an amazing outdoor sculpture and nature museum in upstate New York. If any of you are ever visiting in the Tri-State area, go check it out. It's one of New York's secret pleasures. Anyway, we call this photo "A Man, a Girl and a Biscuit."
1.8%. Or 10,080 minutes. That's how much of the Peanut's life we missed while the BossLady and I were away on vacation last week. One week may not seem that long but 1.8% of a lifetime sure does.
I have no other frame of reference for comparison but I have to say it's amazingly cool being the parent of a one-year old little girl. The Peanut is absolutely adorable right now. I've never seen such a good-natured kid. She runs around like a madwoman. She screams "quack, quack" whenever she sees a duck (real or inflatable.) She yells "dog, dog" whenever she sees our dog. And she loves yelling "mama" and "dada" (although I'm often called "mama" and Bosslady "papa.") So it was with great anxiety that we left her in New York for a week while we were gallivanting on the Riviera. Not because we didn't think she would be in good hands but because we didn't want to miss a single step in her development.
Thankfully, we have multiple video cameras in our possession and we instructed everyone to shoot as much video of the Peanut as possible while we were gone. Everyone complied. So when BossLady and I came home, we were able to watch tons of video footage of the time that we missed. Here's what we missed:
-The Peanut has learned to climb steps on her own.
-She even knows how to go back down them.
-Her hair is long enough to put in berets now.
-She's discovered that she loves ice cream. Seriously loves ice cream. As in scream like a banshee if you give her a taste but don't let her finish the whole bowl.
-She's turned into the ultimate baby kisser. If she sees any kid in a stroller, she will go straight up to him (or her) and plant a wet one on their cheek.
-She claps whenever she hears someone singing ABCs and, when they're finished, she squeals in appreciation.
Even in the one week that we've been home now, we're seeing her learn new things every day. It's fascinating to watch. A little frightening. But fascinating none the less.
FYI...Speaking of frightening? 1.8% of MY lifetime? 0.666 years. The "Sign of the Beast." Eerie coincidence? I think not!
For those of you who read the parenting blogs of my Korean Seoul Sisters (City Mama, Keepin It Real and honorary member by marriage Weigook Saram), you may already know that it's a very important Korean custom to honor a child's first birthday by having a celebration. This celebration is called a Dol.
In the past, due to a lack of medical information, the general state of poverty, and many childhood related diseases, the death rate for children in Korea was extremely high. Many children died before their first birthday. However, after the age of one year, the survival rate steeply increased, making this milestone a very happy one for the child's parents.
In modern times, due to the improvements in medicine, the influence of Western culture, and modern industrialization, the life expectancy reasons for the Tol celebration have been reduced. However, the event is still celebrated as a time of congratulations for the parents and family.
Anyway, this past Saturday, we had the Peanut's Dol. It was quite an affair. We took over an enormous private room in a Korean restaurant and had about 75 of our closest friends and family join us in celebrating my daughter's first birthday. There was an enormous buffet filled with Korean food, traditional desserts and a clown. What more could you want?
The highlight of the party was definitely the toljabee. This is a traditional event at any Dol that supposedly determines the future of the child based on the symbolic nature of what object she grabs from the choices laid out in front of her. In front of the Peanut, we laid out a bowl of rice (representing prosperity), money (wealth), some thread (longevity), a notebook (a scholarly life) and a pencil (an artistic/creative life). Dressed in a traditional Korean hanbok, the Peanut looked at the choices in front of her and went immediately for the bowl of the rice. When we mixed up the order of the choices, she went for the pencil. So hopefully this means that my lovely daughter is destined for a prosperous career as an artist.
But it was great celebrating such an important milestone with so many close friends and family. Seeing all the kids run around together made it even more special. The Peanut was in great form. And although she didn't get a nap in all day, she seemed to have a lot of fun running around the room and being kissed by so many people. And despite being pulled in so many different directions, I had a lot of fun too. In that room. With the lovely BossLady by my side. Surrounded by friends and family. And watching my daughter celebrate her first birthday. I couldn't have been happier. Truly a great time.
And holy shit! My daughter is almost one!