Thursday, March 29, 2007

We have nothing to fear but food, germs, sunshine, playgrounds, and yes, fear itself

Paula Spencer has a great piece, We Protect Kids From Everything But Fear, in the latest Newsweek about the common--perhaps prevalent--parental culture of paranoia. After detailing everything that we, as parents, have to be nervous about: potato chips, sunshine, germs, and so on, she asks a critical question, "What's the effect of our collective paranoia on the kids?"

She notes that in one case, paranoia may be leading to more harm to our kids:

An Australian study recently found that playground injuries continue to rise despite safety improvements. One of the suspected reasons: the safe new play structures are so boring that kids are taking more risks in order to have fun.
As David Elkind observes in his new book, The Power of Play, “Children can play safely without adult organization; they have done so as long as people have been on earth.” I often wonder, as does Howard Good, the reviewer of Elkind's book, what happened to the days of telling kids to go out and play? As Good notes, "go out and play" was pretty much an order when I was a kid.

Sure, it was phrased as a question, but often as a Socratic negative response to an inquiry:
Can I watch TV?
Why don't you go out and play?
Can I run through the house pretending that I'm a fire truck?
Why don't you go out and play?
Can I play with scissors?
Why don't you go out and play?
And I never didn't want to go outside; I just wouldn't think of it until it was presented to me. Yes, "Look a shiny thing!" worked on me. Still does. Especially fast shiny things. Vroom, vroom, squeeeeal . . . oh, did I digress?

In fact, one of the reasons that Mama and I want to move out of condo gulch--our realtor's name for our end of town--is so that we can reasonably ask 3B, "Why don't you go out and play?"

I don't think that I'm being too paranoid when I say that there aren't good play places for him close to our condo--unless you count the deep fryers at Popeye's as a safe playground. Every day when I ride my bike to work from our house, someone almost kills me. Each time, I shudder to think what would happen if I didn't have full control of my bike and ride defensively--or if, for example, I was a distracted kid on my way to a playground. Our street is nothing like the suburban cul-de-sac that I grew up on, where we could play a full nine-inning wiffle ball game without a single car disturbing us.

Letting a kid loose in our condoville neighborhood would be inviting disaster, but what if we can't afford to move? What if we have to raise him in either this condoville or another one? Will we ever be able to tell 3B to "go out and play"? Or am I just giving in to the paranoia?

And even if we don't let fear run our lives, what will the effects on 3B be of being immersed in a culture of paranoia? Anyone else out there afraid of what fear is doing to our kids? Better yet, anyone got a solution?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Weekend Quickies: Busking for DSL, Casino Royale, and getting jacked in to Jasper Johns

3B at the National Gallery

We're switching from Earthlink to Verizon for DSL, which will cut our monthly bill in half--a good thing since our income was cut in half when we decided that Mama would stay home with 3B--but it means that we're without internet access right now, which means that posts might be a bit sparse this week. It's just the second day, so the DTs--DSL tremens--aren't bad yet, but if you find us sitting on your front stoop, pecking away on our laptop, now you'll know why. Please just don't throw any pocket change into that cup--it's our coffee, we're not panhandlers, just parents trying to stay awake.

Although, hell, maybe I should take up busking as a side job. At any rate, with our income halved, we're all about cutting things in half these days. As I wrote about earlier, we were also planning to cut off our Dish TV subscription, but Mama decided to leave us with some channels, which cut our bill by about 75 percent while preventing us from becoming totally mainstream-impaired.

Speaking of being zeitgeist-challenged, despite Mom's exhortations to always subscribe to my local daily paper, we also dropped our WaPo subscription (which was Sunday only--sorry Mom), but kept the NYTimes Sunday subscription. We keep up-to-date mostly through online news sources, so getting the print copy of either paper is a bit of a luxury item. There's something to be said for laying on the couch leafing through the Sunday paper, a cup of hot coffee on the floor beside me, with Barky warming my feet. We picked the NYTimes as the keeper because we like the writing much more than what's in the WaPo. Besides that, a subscription is needed for access to the NYT archives.

Other than that, we're just minding our P's and Q's--pennies and quarters. It's not that we're going broke, but now that we're in a new year, and living off of half of our previous salary, we're taking a hard look at our finances. We're focusing on what we want to do now, as well as where we want to be in 3, 5, 10 years. It's been a bit of an eye-opener, although there haven't been any big surprises. If anything, it's been nice to know exactly where we stand financially--it makes spending decisions clearer and easier.

Of course, some decisions to spend money are easy to begin with, like when Grammy--Mama's mom, who's been visiting for two weeks--offers to babysit while Mama and I go on a date. We reprised our trip to the Cinema N' Drafthouse, but this time we followed the good example of Dad and Mum to Be and double-checked the showtime and actually made it to the movie we intended to see: Casino Royale.

(Because this is a second run movie, I figure that most of you have seen it or heard about it already. If you haven't, and you want it to be a surprise when you do see it, don't read the following paragraph.)

As a long-time Bond fan (equal parts Fleming, Connery, Aston-Martin, dry, neat, up, olives), I was happily impressed, although I was expecting that, having read so much about it. What I wasn't expecting was the senseless objectification, degradation, violence, and needless destruction. I'm speaking of course of the Aston-Martin crash. It's such a beautiful beast; it's a shame that they couldn't come up with any other purpose for it save acting as window dressing before they tumbled it down a hillside. At least they saved the 1964.

On Sunday, all of us--Grammy, 3B, Mama, and I--went to the Jasper Johns exhibit at the National Gallery of Art (the East, or I.M. Pei, wing). Since we were avec le stroller, we got to ride for the first time in the hexagonal elevators. Cool. The exhibit was fun for all of us. 3B wanted to grab some of the objects--balls, forks, strings--off of the pieces to chew on. But, even though the guards all chatted 3B up, they wouldn't let him do it. Seeing as how Johns himself bit one of his own paintings, I'm not sure that he would mind so much 3B's interest in interacting with his art. I was all for it--it seems much safer than biting our iMac.

Although I'm tempted to say that without our many media distractions, we might continue this trend and become more cultured parents, we did read up on Johns' work in the paper and check all manner of details about the exhibit online--before the DSL went out for the switchover. Besides, how can I be a truly cultured Dad if I can't find out about the latest treasure trove of vintage, mod, or retro gear from Greg at DaddyTypes? But, being disconnected from the net for a bit will help us avoid the negative effects of being jacked in 24/7 in a manner similar to how our attention to budgeting is helping us--by focusing us on what's vital in each activity that we undertake, which makes our decisions to spend time on them, and to ignore others, clearer and easier.

But, until we're all clear, easy, and jacked in again--help a dad in need out and let me know how Ivan Basso's recovery is going.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Life speeds up to a crawl

3B finally has the art of crawling down to a science. A fast moving science. In fact, he's temporarily given up his abiding interest in walking now that he can tear down the hall around his exersaucer and into the living room faster than Michael Schumacher can shoot through a chicane.

For me, the greatest benefit of this is that when I come home from work at the end of the day, I'm greeted by 3B turning, grinning, squealing, and slapping and thumping his way over as fast as he can to greet me.

OK, there are sometimes a few stops along the way, but damn, those stroller tires are fascinating.

The rest of the time that 3B spends tearing around the house is not idle time. He's constantly on the lookout for ways to help, like rearranging all the screws, screwdrivers, and utility knives in the closet. As I was rescuing him from a marauding herd of dust bunnies in the hallway, plucking them off the legs of his footie pajamas, I got to thinking how he could satisfy his needs to crawl and help out at the same time.

All he needs is for me to sew him a set of footie pajamas made out of Swiffer pads. I mean, what could be better for all of us? He'll have a clean floor to crawl around on and we won't throw out our backs Swiffing.

It'll be far easier for him to get under the edges of counters and around the toilet than it will be for us--he's already proved all of that. And for those tough stains, we can sew him some PJs out of that scubber material on the end of the Swiffer pads, then dip him in that Swiffer Wet Jet stuff before we set him loose.

Gives a whole new meaning to his favorite bedtime book, Pajama Time . . . Oops, gotta go. Child Protective Services is at the door. Time to play hide and seek.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dog food on the floor, I've been like this before

"Please do not tell me about the minutiae of your day. I promise I won’t tell you about mine."

Because I don't want to violate MD's first rule of blogging, I won't detail why work makes me forget about the horror, the horror of my blog posts. I'll sum up in two words: I'm busy.

Not only am I busy at work, I'm busy at home. Did I forget to mention the requisite dozen times in this post that I have a fully mobile seven-month old boy at home who has a fascination with tall bookshelves, power strips, strings, and his dog's water bowl? Yeah, I swear that I don't let him use the computer, much less read blogs, but he seems to have picked up the Peanut's fascination with dog bowls.

Hoping that it would satisfy 3B's curiosity, Mama washed out Barky's water bowl and let 3B splash around it in for awhile. Nice try, Mama. While he was splashing around, 3B must have placed a freakin' Dick Tracy homing beacon in the bowl that beams signals to the GPS device he has in his head, because wherever you set 3B down in our house, he sits up, turns his head once or twice to pick up the signal, and then races off on all fours for Barky's water dish.

But I digress . . . of course.

After much pondering, wondering, and floundering, and after reading and re-reading all of your helpful comments in the first two parts of this series on self-doubt, I see more clearly why I keep blogging. But it was Saturday's visit from my Aunt M from California that made clear to me why I continue to have questions about this blog as well as why I continue to write it. As I wrote earlier in this series, I started this blog for many reasons, one of which was to keep in touch with my family, primarily my mom.

Recently, I've been going through a difficult part of mourning my Mom. On the outside, I've been testy, sharp-tongued, and tired. On the inside I've been strung out, sad, and feeling like an orphan. Having been through my Dad's death and my mourning that followed, I wasn't expecting the sense of complete abandonment that followed my Mom's death. It wasn't until a coworker was talking with me about how I was feeling in comparison to her husband, who had just lost his second parent as well, asked, "Do you feel like you're an orphan now? Because my husband said that's how he feels."

Sometimes, it takes someone else describing me to myself for me to know what I'm feeling, and this was one of those times. I know that I have no idea what an orphaned child feels like, but somehow "orphan" is the word that seems to best express my feelings.

Everything that I have and do seems inextricably tied to Mom:
  • Mama and I had plans to move back to, or at least closer to, California someday, to spend time closer to Mom.
  • Mama's work has an international focus, but I could never bring myself to consider an overseas job because of the distance it would put between me and Mom.
  • Secretly, in my deepest of hearts, in everything I did, I was always trying to impress Mom, do something that she would be proud of.
And all of that is gone, leaving me feeling, at times, lost in an empty world, leading me to my questions about why I keep spinning these words out into the wasteland.

Fortunately, I have Mama and 3B to hang onto, and I have beautiful relatives like Aunt M, who reminds me of my Mom's spirit so much that I can almost smell home in Aunt M's hair when we embrace. As she was leaving, Aunt M stopped to tell me how much she enjoys reading the blog, which she does regularly--so I really should watch my mouth, eh?--and how it's helped her know me better and how it's helped her to see me express things that she couldn't necessarily put into words herself. As much a part of my life as my friendships with you, my other five loyal readers, have become, Aunt M's words meant the world to me, because my original motive still beats in my deepest of hearts--to connect with my family.

And that is the main reason why I keep writing--not only to connect with my far-flung family, but also to connect with my close at hand family, particularly 3B. He can't read yet--although he is turning pages now--but my hope is that someday this blog will help him understand me a little better. I'm also glad to hear that it's a connection to me and Mama and 3B for some in my family, like Aunt M. I knew when I started writing about 3B that, even if I could stay on topic and write only about 3B, I would reveal my character obliquely through my writing. Being as unable to avoid a digression as I am, I often reveal myself more directly than that.

At those times, I understand another of my great motivations for continuing this blog: the support of this ever-changing online community of family, friends, and strangers, who have helped me through the worst of times, often by simply being present, sharing their lives with me, and reminding me not to take life too seriously. It's only life, after all. Yeah. And to return the support that I've received, I continue to write, in the hopes that someone out there gets from me even a fraction of what I've gained from from others. Even a tiny sliver of what I've gotten from this community would last a lifetime.

There are other items that I've gotten since becoming a dad that haven't lasted a lifetime, or even until their first set of batteries died. And even some of those toys that don't have batteries or make boop-boop noises or buzz or vibrate or flash have gone the way of the dodo bird--provided, that is, that the dodo bird was dropped off at a Goodwill distribution center for sale in a thrift store--because they were of no use. However, far more items that we've received, either as gifts or by our own hands, have been indispensable to us as we raise 3B. As I deliberated about the purpose of this blog, I realized that I wanted to add my tiny voice to the chorus of those parents sharing with other families their feedback about the usefulness of various items for parents and kids. I've consciously avoided it until now because I didn't want to appear commercial. But who are we kidding--you know that I didn't get these things as schwag handouts from companies for promotional purposes.

I also plan to continue my sporadic review of public policy and policymakers, particularly as it affects kids and parents--but that doesn't mean that I won't ever review their performance on other issues as well. Politics has always mattered to me, and I doubt that the day will come that I still draw breath and can keep my mouth shut about it. Again, I've consciously avoided this topic here, mostly, but it's part of who I am, and if 3B or anyone else is to get to know me through this blog, I have to include it.

And with that, I'm leaving behind the pondering, wondering, and floundering and moving on with the writing of this blog, and it is through that process that I will truly and completely reveal my reasons for continuing with it. As always, thanks to all of you who helped me figure this out and who wrote kind words about this blog--and a particular thanks to Aunt M for her visit, which made me feel less lost and more found, in this blog and in my life.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bitch set me up!

Turns out that the radar camera that busted me over Christmas was about as faithful as Marion Barry's girlfriend. Check it out.

You think they'll give my 50 bucks back? Hey, if D.C. can demonstrate enough forgiveness to let Barry back on the City Council, can't they show a little love to a man hustling to greet his wife and child during the holidays? You would think that they would cut me some slack, but then again, this is D.C., "a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm," as JFK said.

But I'll be watching this story as it, like so many other things in D.C., unravels.

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Mama and Papa remember how to go on a date

Mama and I both love 3B with all our hearts, and we often wonder where the depth of our love comes from. It seems at once so natural and so strange: here's this little man who we don't even know, and we would lay down our lives for him.

Or sacrifice our sleep, the barfless shoulders of our clean clothes, and our entire living room to him, whichever comes first.

And yet, we were both as giddy as high schoolers--OK, as giddy as sleep-deprived, 30-something high schoolers--that we would get to go on one, and maybe two, hot dates this month, since Mama's mom is visiting for a few weeks. I guess that some parents have trouble with in-law visits, but having Mama's mom here is like having a mini-vacation at home. She's another Mom on the scene--and a professional one at that.

The evidence of her mad mom skills is evident in who Mama is--if Mama's mom could raise Mama, I believe that it's entirely likely that in her two week visit, she can undo every parenting mistake that I've made over the last seven-and-a-half months. But, as I said, beyond showing us the way, Mama's mom also lets us go out and play while she watches the baby, which is something that we've done rarely and poorly since last July, so we were looking forward to this opportunity with bated breath for weeks. It would be like old times: we could hold hands, watch a movie, go for a bike ride and stop for a treat at a cafe along the way.

And that--not any lack of love for the light of our lives--is why, when our door closed behind us, with 3B, Mama's mom, and Barky on the inside and Mama and I on the outside, Mama looked at me and said, "Run!"

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Guess who's coming to dinner?


On Wednesday last week, with snot, and tears, and crankiness, 3B heralded the imminent arrival of the latest, long-awaited residents of our house: his two top teeth. Although the waterworks and the wailing faded away after a few days, 3B's top left tooth finally broke through today, soon to be followed by the top right, we're sure.

3B's been gnawing on everything within reach ever since his bottom two teeth came in, including his favorite book--he finally chewed that tag out last Friday. So we've been awaiting this event for some time, with some trepidation, but it seems to have passed without as much fanfare as the first time. Perhaps that's because we didn't strap him into the car and drive him to Boston this time.

See, we're learning.


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Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Cluetrain is leaving the station . . . are you on board?

Ben Stein wrote today about the absence of grown-ups as the heads of businesses and governments, especially the federal government, these days. His point, which is valid, is that most of the adults in those positions are behaving like adolescents rather than grown-ups. And I agree that it appears to be a new phenomenon; I can't picture my father, for all his disagreements with various regulatory agencies, ever shirking responsibility for his or his company's failings. I count myself among those adults who still behave like adolescents far too often, but having a child is certainly breaking me of some of those habits.

As Stein points out, whining and assigning blame for one's own problems to others are prevalent attributes of adolescents . . . and of the heads of businesses--think of the head of any airline except Southwest, who came begging to the government for welfare checks--and governments--think of the entire Dick n' Bush world tour. I've found, however, that whining and passing the buck won't get 3B's diaper changed, it won't get him fed, it won't get him dressed, and it certainly won't get him soothed down for his afternoon nap. Perhaps all of these people had nannies to handle les affaires des enfants in their households, but around here, I won't soon forget this lesson, which is a part of my daily routine, anytime soon.

It's been hard changing my daily habits, just as it is for anyone. It's not that I don't love 3B with all of my being--I do--but I was used to lolling around on Sundays without having to scrape poop off of someone's ass half a dozen times. But, as I changed my routines out of necessity, I found that I enjoy the new ones far more--even with all the diaper changing. Before, Mama and I certainly kept each other company and had fun, but neither of us was as much fun as watching 3B discover the world, in part because, in so doing, he's helping us discover the world. This week, he's started turning pages in books as we read them, and several times I've sat and watched him flip the page back and forth, staring intently, slackjawed, at the book, figuring out how it works.

It's the same look I would have if a goldfish swam circles in the air above our kitchen sink, and that's how new and strange the world must be to 3B. Watching him, I'm reminded to leave behind what I believe and know about the world and look at it for the first time, if I can, and allow myself to be amazed and feel joy at what I see.

Often, we reap such great rewards when we make what seem like painful changes in habits to conform to how the world is now, rather than continuing with our habitual reactions to the world as we once knew it to be. Often, however, we can't reap those rewards because we can't shift our mental model to match the new situation that surrounds us, and it seems to me that this is a greater problem amongst our leadership than the whining the Stein is kvetching about.

Another illustration of boomers who can't understand how outdated their modes of thought are, came in today's Times Magazine, in the Tales from Tehran interview with Abbas Kiarostami. He described his treatment by U.S. immigration officials at JFK: "I had two and a half hours of Q. and A."

I'm not the first to observe that our government's approach to the difficulties of traffic, legal and illegal, across our borders since 9/11 is deeply flawed at best. However, it occurred to me today for the first time that these flawed tactics are logical, given our boomer-leaders, who still believe that bigger is better and will always win the day. Although this has been disproved many times since Microsoft whupped IBM's ass in controlling the PC marketplace, boomers are old dogs, and it's hard for many of them to learn new tricks. I grant that this is a sweeping generalization, and I know that there are boomers with nimble enough minds and spirits to change with the times, but I have yet to see them run a major international company or government near me.

Rather than intelligent sifting of data at the granular level, relying on many small bits of information aggregated into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, which is how businesses around the world have made vast increases in accuracy and efficiency, our boomer-leaders repeatedly apply a blunt-force approach. My guess is that using Google, which relies on the knowledge of dispersed crowds, to run a few searches with skillfully selected search strings would reveal more about Kiarostami than his two-hour date with the immigrations officials at JFK. This would not only save Kiarostami time and engender warmer feelings from this influential Iranian toward the U.S., but also it would save the immigrations officials time, allowing them to focus more closely on those who do deserve scrutiny and who are far more likely to slip in under the radar than a man who is due to be interviewed by the New York Times.

For me, then, the petulance of our leaders that Stein observed is an added insult, but not nearly as vexing as the problem of having one-size-fits-all, bigger-is-better, assembly-line MBAs running a country that is increasingly facing niche, small and finite, and unique difficulties. It appears that all of our leaders have missed the Cluetrain. Perhaps at the next station, some new leaders will get on board. For 3B's sake, I hope so.


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Saturday, March 10, 2007

What not to wear: power ring vs. red underwear

When daddy bloggers decide to use their powers for good and form the Justice League of Dadville to rid the world of snaps on onesies and footie pajamas, at least Steve, over at the Hygiene Chronicles and I won't show up in the same costume.

"Hot headed"? Is that because I said that I like redheads? To clarify, especially since Mama has beautiful dark brown hair, that answer was for my little coppertop, 3B. I suppose the more accurate answer is, "Yes. I like one redhead."

The things we give up for our kids . . . that might have been the answer that kept me from being Superman. But then again, as Green Lantern, I get a cool power ring and can skip the dorky red underwear.

Your results:
You are Green Lantern

























Green Lantern
90%
Superman
75%
Spider-Man
70%
Hulk
70%
The Flash
65%
Supergirl
60%
Iron Man
60%
Robin
50%
Batman
40%
Wonder Woman
35%
Catwoman
35%
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz



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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Give me weed, whites, and wine, and I'll be willin'

A good friend who lives in Laramie wrote to a group of us recently to announce the imminent demise of her beloved Jeep, which, like Johnny Cash, had been everywhere, man:

So long ol’ pal! No more White Rim, Going to the Sun, Coastal Hwy 1, Rabbit Ears Pass, Togotee Pass, Skyline Drive or Powhite Parkway. No more dodging tumbleweed somewhere in Arizona, open range cattle areas in Montana, or driving on the beach at Oregon Inlet, North Carolina . . . No more crazy road trips from Montana to Mexico packed to the rim with stuff and bikes and skis. For fifteen years you’ve taken me places: VA, WV, NC, SC, MD, KY, MO, OH, IN, IL, IA, SD, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, CO, UT, WY, Canada, and Mexico!
I wrote back with a few memories of my own from some of the many trips we took in that Jeep, particularly the one on the White Rim Road, which was so rough that we never left first gear and all but one of our beers popped open. While we were in that Jeep, we listened to a lot of different music, but a few appropriate favorites would always come up, so I wrote back to her:
Strange how synchronicity works . . . I've been listening to Willin' by Little Feat, which reminds me of you and your Jeep, a lot recently.

Here's hoping 3B's first words aren't "weed, whites, and wine."
Her husband, who's a rock star, a philosopher, and also good friends with Mama and myself, wrote back:
Had the strangest dream last night. Our families were hanging out at some cabin together when 3B spoke his first words--actually he sung them over and over again. This in itself is perhaps not that odd--it was WHAT he was singing that took me aback: something that sounded a lot like "Wee White Zin Wine." Strange first words indeed: was he asking for a little wine, or did he just have to pee? Either way, I must say I was immediately concerned, because my dreams are quite often prescient: I fear that before long he may be singing about "Pink Champagne on Ice," or something else indicative of California fru fru culture, and we all know how bad that can get ... Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up to be on the lookout for additional developments.
It appears that either her husband is more of a raging smart ass than I am, or that synchronicity is a two-way street. Or maybe it's a traffic circle, with many streets converging in one place, because everyone seems to be talking about music these days. First, there was MetroDad getting his groove on to the Wonder Pets theme song, then there was DaddyTypes sharing how to listen to NWA with a child in the car, and most recently there was Black Belt Mama cruising in the minivan and tearing up the dance floor with the Humpty Dance.

I love hearing what other people are listening to, because music has always been an integral part of my life. Dad played the piano recreationally, and could play a large catalog from memory. And if he didn't know the song that you wanted to hear, you could hum it for him and he would play it back for you. My Mom never played an instrument that I'm aware of, but she played the stereo constantly, as did Dad--to the point that Mom laughed once that if she was talking too loud in the car, Dad would turn up the radio so he could hear the music.

Although they loved the big band music that they grew up with, both had eclectic taste and deep knowledge of many genres. When Mom died, she had better collections of many of my favorite artists than I probably ever will, plus collections of music that I've been interested in but never got around to buying. In fact, her music buying habit was so strong that after she died, Tower Records went bankrupt, due to declining sales.

So we were always listening to music--in the car, at home, working in the yard--and I'm most comfortable now with some tunes on in the background. Although I don't listen to as much big band music as Mom and Dad did, I always have something playing, if not out loud, it's playing in my head--just loud enough to drown out the voices in there.

It's no surprise, then, that I hope that 3B enjoys music as much as my parents did and as much as Mama and I do. Music was one of the first bonds that Mama and I formed; the first words that I ever spoke to her when The King introduced us were, "What's your favorite Dylan song?" Both of us love to hear new music, and want to introduce 3B to the wonder and happiness that music and the discovery of new music brings. So it's appropriate that The King, in response to the latest video of 3B, had a proposal:
I say we start a soundtrack to 3B's life. What song shall Papa use for his first walk? I say Papa chooses it, but let's give ideas.

From my own catalog:
  • Walk, Don't Run
  • Walk Like an Egyptian
  • Walk This Way
  • Walk the Line
  • Walking the Dog
  • Walk on By
  • Walkin After Midnight
  • Etc...
I love this idea, and it's perfect because 3B's not quite walking yet, which gives us some time. But he is starting to cruise along the edges of things that are at his standing height, so we don't have a lot of time.

So tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell strangers on the street, to come on by and cast their vote for what song should be the soundtrack for the first video of 3B walking. It can be one of those that The King suggested, or another song. When 3B starts walking, I'll count up all the votes and make a video using the song that's gotten the most votes by then and post it here.

Just like in real elections, bribes and undue influence are allowed and will, of course, have absolutely no influence on the final tally. But please keep your weed and your whites for yourself--I will take your wine, which will make me more willin'. If I ever have to see Folsom Prison, I'd like to do it as The Man in Black did it--by visiting, not by taking up residence there for postal contraband.

And with that, let the voting begin--as they say in Texas, vote early and vote often.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Busted!


Even though I was only 20 minutes from home, I already had my story ready.

And it wasn't even a story, it was a series of questions: Officer, do you have a wife and a child? Have you ever been away from them? For several days after Christmas? Have they ever flown back to meet you? Have you ever contemplated the wisdom of flying in the winter--you know, hurling a steel tube full of highly combustible fuel and loved ones into a sky filled with snow, sleet, ice, migratory birds, and gremlins? Has nervousness ever caused you to, you know, speed up a little in the false belief that if you get there a little earlier, so will they?

See, that's the problem with these photo enforcement cameras, like the one just after the D Street tunnel on 395 North in DC, is that you never get the chance to explain to the officer--er--camera, your story, or even ask a few polite questions.



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Monday, March 05, 2007

So the reverend asks the naked cowboy, "Do you need a license for that?"

WELCOME to the UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH MONASTERY

Reverend
Papa Bradstein

Congratulations! You are now a legally ordained minister for life, though you may relinquish your credentials at any time. YOU HAVE BECOME A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS CLERGY. You have earned a title worthy of admiration and respect.

Let it be known on this date that in accordance with the laws of the Universal Life Church Monastery, as ordaining officer, I, Brother Martin, do ordain you into our ministry. From this day forward, you are entitled to all of the rights of an ordained minister. You have the authority to perform marriages, baptisms, and all other ceremonies of the church. You are an independent minister of this church. This is a position that carries with it a burden of responsibility; please respect others and comply with the laws of the land.

We offer beautiful ministry certificates and clergy packages, as well as wedding and baptism certificates. Please visit the Ministry Products page to see what we have available and view our beautiful Victorian wedding certificates. Anyone you marry will love the selection of designs we offer. We also offer religious doctorate degrees and much more.


Of course I used my real name for my ordination. I just replaced it here with my nom de blog to keep that pseudo anonymous air of mystery about me--daddy, reverend, geek . . . who is that man?

All joking aside, I had to get ordained to fulfill the wishes of one of my two best friends--outside of Mama and 3B, that is--who wants me to officiate at his wedding next spring in NYC. But this is just the first step, because NYC has probably the most onerous wedding laws in the country. In fact, for a number of years, they were one of the only jurisdictions in the country that didn't allow ULC ministers to perform weddings.

That's right. It was perfectly legal in NYC for a naked cowboy to perform in Times Square, but not for an ordained minister to perform a wedding. I guess that they got that all worked out, but there are still forms to fill out that require certificates, letters of good standing, four-part harmony, and a processing fee. Of course.

It's been an interesting journey down the thin line that separates church and state here in the U.S. One one side is the state, for which marriages are a legal union, requiring laws and regulations and certifications; on the other side are the churches, for which marriages are a spiritual union, requiring devotion, commitment, and love. Somewhere in the middle, church and state have to come together because the state has declared that it must know when two individuals wed--making the transition, in the eyes of the law, from two separate entities to one, unified entity.

Somehow the state has expanded the notification requirement into a set of requirements that each church and marriage officiant must meet. In the case of NYC, the standards were so stringent that the city declared that the ULC wasn't a church at all. That's a dicey position for a government to take. Especially one that operates under the U.S. Constitution, which states that
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Of course, this could all be untangled if the government wouldn't pass laws that sanction religious rites such as marriages. But it's in the interest of the state--according to the state--to have as many married couples as possible, which is why they offer tax breaks to married couples, which is why they need to know when two become one.

As a married man myself, I suppose I can live with that, although I'd be hard pressed to explain why it's not discrimination against nonmarried people. But I can only live with it as long as the government remembers that it's not legal for the state to become one with the church, even if only by so extensively regulating the church and its activities that the state is, in effect, dictating the affairs of the church.

Beyond that, it's also been an interesting journey into my own beliefs about love, friendship, marriage, and faith. Although it seems easy enough to fill out the online form and become ordained, it gave me great pause to think that I was doing it to take on the responsibility of performing the ceremony that will join two of my friends for the rest of their lives. Of course, they are already so joined, but they have asked me to officiate at the ceremony at which they seal their relationship publicly, legally, and spiritually, which is not something that I take lightly.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Someone could put an eye out

On May 13, 1977, when I was eight years old, I stuck a pair of scissors into my left eye.

OK, it wasn't as simple as that. According to Mom's little blue book

"Papa [I know, funny name for a kid, but prescient, huh?] scratched his left eye w/kitchen shears--He was cutting a folded piece of cardboard and pulling away as he cut--the scissors slipped & hit his eye white."
Everyone done blinking and rubbing their eyes now? OK, good.

It's for knucklehead events like this that my parents had six kids: everyone who was home escorted me across the street to our neighbor's house, where I waited with some of them and the neighbor. Nobody was old enough to drive, so one sister rode her bike as fast as she could to the supermarket, where Mom was shopping for dinner. Another sibling--I believe that it was Brother #2, and he can correct me if I'm wrong--rode off to meet Dad, who was riding his bike home from the train station, as he did every night.

Apparently, Mom left a full cart of groceries in the middle of the aisle and ran out of the store as soon as she heard, "Papa stuck the scissors in his eye!" When Dad heard the same words, he stood up and took off so fast that he might have even gotten home before Mom. By the time they got there, I felt fine--not so many pain receptors in your eye--except the goose egg on my forehead where the scissors had also hit me, so I didn't see the need for the hurry and the hustling.

Now that I have my own baby, I see things a little differently. When I think of the panic that must have flashed through Mom and Dad's hearts when they heard those words, I have to stop writing and cry for a little bit. I can't imagine anything like that happening to 3B--or, to be more accurate, 3B doing something like that to himself. And I've wondered to myself how I would respond if something similar ever happened. So when I was standing on the pedals all the way home tonight--uphill, downhill, sliding around turns so low that my knee almost hit the pavement, heart pounding, lungs clenching, and legs burning--I was wondering if that's how Dad felt.

Fortunately, nobody had attempted self-enucleation, but when I had called Mama to tell her that I was coming home, it went like this:
"I'm down in the gym now, changing to come home."

"Oh, I'm so glad."

"Why? Was it a long day?"

"I know you can't help it, but I just wish that you were home right now."
And that hurt more than a scissor blade in my eye.


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Benevolent Dictator (read: Google)

I had put all of this information in my header, since that was the only place that I could post content for the last two days. I'm aware, however, that many of you subscribe to the feed and rarely come to the blog itself, so here is a recap of where I've been and what I've been doing for the last few days.

Now that I know that I'm not going to lose my entire memoir of our pregnancy and 3B's life up until now, I'm back to breathing again, which is refreshing.

I'll probably take a day or so off from blogging, rip open the boxed wine box, stab a juicebox straw into the top of the sack o' wine, and recline in our desk chair, sipping away as I print out the entire blog as a backup.

You enjoy your weekend too.

(For those of you looking to avoid a similar fate, I have no idea what triggered this or what can be done to avoid triggering it in the future. Good luck.)

First Warning, March 1 ('round about supper time)

When I tried to edit a post, I received this warning from Blogger:

This blog has been locked by Blogger's spam-prevention robots. You will not be able to publish your posts, but you will be able to save them as drafts.

Save your post as a draft or click here for more about what's going on and how to get your blog unlocked.
So until further notice from Blogger, I'm unable to post. But enjoy the new header, courtesy of my cousin.

I really have just about had it with Blogger restraining flexibility, especially with the new version, so if this goes on for too long, I'll switch platforms and let you know where you can find me.

Second Warning, March 1 (sometime after I started drinking)
When I clicked through to learn more, I got this message:
Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What's a spam blog?) Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until one of our humans reviews it and verifies that it is not a spam blog. Please fill out the form below to get a review. We'll take a look at your blog and unlock it in less than a business day.

If we don't hear from you, though, we will remove your blog from Blog*Spot within 10 days.
The good news is that they didn't do this when I had decided to take a week or so off from blogging, because if they had, I would have come back to a black hole rather than my blog. I suppose that I would have then gotten what I paid for--nothing. It's a bit aggravating to think that I could go on vacation and lose the entire blog that I was planning to share with my son as a memoir of his childhood.

Update from BlogGoogler, March 2 (o' dark thirty)

Your blog is locked

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog.

Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

We received your unlock request on March 2, 2007. On behalf of the robots, we apologize for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until one of our humans reviews it and verifies that it is not a spam blog. Please fill out the form below to get a review. We'll take a look at your blog and unlock it in less than a business day.

If we don't hear from you, though, we will remove your blog from Blog*Spot within 10 days.

Update from BlogGoogler, March 2 (1:01 p.m.)
Hello,

Your blog has been reviewed, verified, and cleared for regular use so that
it will no longer appear as potential spam. If you sign out of Blogger and
sign back in again, you should be able to post as normal. Thanks for your
patience, and we apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team


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