Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Junior Four

I joked with Lori that our lives were boring, long past safe; we agreed that if our story were a novel, then something juicy, dramatic would happen to keep the plot moving along, to keep the reader interested.

So, naturally, Damian was born. Dangerously premature. We should have read these tea leaves: he  couldn't wait to commence his tyranny. Our first night home was lovely. Then the screaming commenced. It didn't stop for seven months. He didn't sleep. Well, that's not entirely true, Damian would sleep for fifteen minutes every four hours during the night. Waking and realizing that he had been asleep would outrage him. The screaming resuming at a teeth-splintering volume.

For the last four and a half years, I have been hysterical. To me, parenthood is all about managing hysteria. I may seem perfectly relaxed, but inside I am bonkers.  Oh my god, what have I done, what might I have done instead? Naturally, Lori is hysterical as well. All parents are. Some admit it and some don't. Some smoke pot and some don't.

Only the childless think having a kid is a good idea.

I thought it was a good idea. That's because I didn't have a child, and I wanted it all. Lori capitulated to the breeding because she wanted to see what a product of us would be like. And what a product it is. What a gene pool! Brackish.

Now here's the thing I've learned about having it all: you are literally having IT ALL. You don't just get the stuff you want, the good stuff - although you get that too. You get EVERYTHING, and a lot of it is unbelievably annoying. Having a child means interacting with responsible, workaday adults around whom I feel terminally adolescent.

When your kid makes a friend you are forced to manufacture a genuine relationship with a stranger. Sober. It feels like a test of my will, and my determination to be a good dad. Doing things for the people I love is counterintuitive. I was raised at arm's length because raising a child is unpleasant. Let's face it, kids are assholes. They expect the tenderest kind of care as they shit on you for the rest of your life. My parents didn't want the burden. They could afford the help, so they understandably engaged that help. Good for them. Unfortunately, I can't afford the help.

I loved living only for myself. The problem is I didn't realize it until I stopped. I wanted it all! I wanted a kid but not the responsibility; I wanted to live for myself but I was lonely. It's the permanence of the change that is so jarring.

Imagine the period before Newton's apple fell. That apple might have hung on forever. That was my life before Damian. And then something happened, and in that instant all the things you've done, all the things you thought you knew belong to an earlier period of your life. One that is unrecoverable, one you may look back at wistfully.

I've been warning people against having children. I feel it's my duty to caution them. Wait until you're 70, I tell them. Live your life. Wait until you're too old to have fun so you won't resent the fact that you're socially hobbled.

But I would be miserable without my child, because I would have wondered about him, what is he like? As an adoptee, he is my first blood relative that I know. In his face, in his character, I see - although I don't know what I'm looking for - my biological parents.

These are people who realized very early that they made a grave error, and corrected it. Put me up for adoption. This is awe inspiring decisiveness and assuredness. These are people I want Damian to meet.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Stain On My Notebook

Good morning!

Why then, if it is a good morning, would you ruin it with a cup of molten battery slurry?

I mean, must you start your day, every day, with coffee?

The fact is Coffee Achievers don't give a damn about people who don't drink coffee. They are completely oblivious to the fact that there are people on this planet who think that coffee smells like the boiling bilge of a million dirty ashtrays.

It's a Secondhand Beaning, and you've got some nerve.

The Coffee Maker. What would you sleep-walking wackos do without your automated coffee machines?

I'm a little embarrassed watching you use the coffee maker because you are the weakest link in the caffeine chain. Enormous effort is required to ferry fair trade coffee from the other side of the globe to your quivering, expectant maw. Look at you, stooped over and yawning, vaguely awake, steadying your hand to fill the coffee machine's reservoir. Pathetic.

So there you are, motionless, catatonic, singularly fixed on this wheezing, gasping apparatus as if it were the Oracle at Delphi. You clap your hand to your mouth in amazement as the water finds the coffee grounds and is, alchemically, converted into brown gold. Like Pavlov's barista you begin to salivate.

One thing is obvious: this gleaming, computer-designed, focus-group honed, single-purpose kitchen apparatus was not designed to be used by you. It was designed for a demographic ideal. Maybe someone like you, but not necessarily you. Someone who is wearing clean underwear.

And, why aren't you repulsed that the sound of your coffee maker toiling away is very much like the sound of a man with an enlarged prostate struggling to urinate? If you've never listened to a man with an enlarged prostate try to drain his bladder, I suggest you go brew some coffee.

Your beloved coffee machine, by the way, takes all the fun out of the ritual of coffee making. Surely the least fun part of Coffee is the actual drinking of it. Go buy a French Press, it'll make you look cool to the girls who stay over for breakfast. On second thought, you don't need a French press.

And, the final insult: the coffee bar. The indignity of standing in line for brown water! I can understand paying enormous sums of money for water that is free of sewage, pathogens, and the like, but paying for clean water that has had the sewage pumped back into it I will not abide.

Surely there's something else you can drink in the morning. Tea is very civilized. Milk is a healthy idea. Spring water will keep you rinsed out. How about juice of a million varieties? Not good enough for your finicky self? Okay, how about a fistful of Grapenuts to rattle your Medulla oblongata!

Waaaaaah! That's not going to wake my sleepy ass up in the morning!

You drink coffee for the boost, then? If a substantial jolt is the desired effect, chew tin foil. Or floss with a live wire.

Just kill your coffee machine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Week in Pediatric Reverse Peristalsis

As I was holding my son over my head, singing to him, he vomited directly into my mouth and down my throat.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Eyes On the Prize

File under: Campaign Ad Boners

I panicked today watching New York Governor David Paterson navigate a NYC subway turnstile alone. Where are his handlers? Is someone there to stop him from walking off the platform, AND ONTO THE TRACKS?!?!

Jump-cut to Gov. Paterson stepping out of his limo, unattended. (The editing is brisk.) Good Lord!I hope he didn't fall down right there on the sidewalk!

The New York Governor's Race has begun and the incumbent appears to be testing the persona of someone who is sighted.

Paterson is blind, right? He makes an issue of it by negating it. Did the SNL sketches cut so deeply? He didn't see them!

Gov. Paterson should not be pretending that he can see. This can only backfire hilariously.

Blindness is David Paterson's greatest strength. He has the natural advantage of our empathy, and therefore has little to gain from selling a tough-guy to an irate constituency. He should be making sure that the economic stimulus is being properly allocated, not feeling his way for the Metrocard reader.

He should wait for the campaign proper, and the debates, where he will surprise and impress us with his charm and intelligence.

So, why is Paterson rehabilitating his image? Because he is guilty of the high crime of speaking ill of a Kennedy in a blue state. (And raising taxes.) In fact, Paterson is so unpopular now that a majority of New Yorkers want Spitzer back.

We can't possibly be that blind.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In Vivo, On TiVo

Let's face it, you don't care about Formula One racing.

Americans are repelled by Formula One racing because Grands Prix are raced on road courses, not ovals. Drivers are making both left and right-hand turns, and this clearly vexes us.

Maybe you prefer to watch NASCAR (Nicotine Addled Society of Cro-Magnons And Rednecks), which is like watching people drive the New Jersey Turnpike: A mob of sociopaths tailgating and passing at hideous speeds; one distraction away from multiple vehicular manslaughter.

And you don't care that many F1 innovations are now standard issue on many cars: adjustable suspensions, traction control, paddle shifters mated to dual-clutch, seven speed gearboxes.

For the 2009 season, Formula One's governing body, the FIA, encouraged car constructors to employ hybrid technology in their racecars. The resulting hardware is a regenerative braking technology called KERS: the Kinetic Energy Recovery System. Energy that would otherwise be lost as heat during braking is captured and stored for later use as boost. There are currently two competing technologies: one that uses batteries and another that uses a flywheel to store the captured energy.

The impetus behind KERS is obviously not hybrid efficiency. It is about Formula One's dullness of late. In recent seasons, F1 cars were very evenly matched, making overtaking - the raison d'etre of motorsport - an impossibility. This year, however, drivers who use the KERS system will have a temporary straight-line advantage over those who don't use KERS, or who have depleted their KERS stores. And not all racing teams have implemented a KERS system.

But, you don't care about this awe inspiring new technology. And you probably still won't, a few years from now, after I rocket past you on the Taconic Parkway in my thimble-sized Hyundai, thumb mashing the steering wheel-mounted KERS button, reciting Whitman at top volume: "I am large, I contain multitudes!"

In case you care, the Spanish Grand Prix, from Barcelona, is this weekend. Televised practice begins Friday, May 8 at 4 am EDT. Saturday practice and qualifying begins 5 am EDT. And, the race is scheduled for Sunday, May 10, 8 am EDT.

It's not easy to care about Formula One.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pork Double Good Fortune

Swine flu! Gesundheit.

Some pandemic this is turning out to be. Yes, of course, people are suffering from a very bad head cold, and some people probably have pneumonia by now. There has been a smattering of cases worldwide, but this is no international health crisis. The reality seems to be that people are genuinely shocked by a warm weather flu. Does that justify the hyperbole, histrionics, and hollering of pandemic! in a crowded world. Pandemic? Because some poor pig farmer who lives in pigshit caught and transmitted the pork flu? Quelle surprise?

Memo to myself: propose an end to human-livestock cohabitation. (This may put the kibosh on Iowa's recent bill to legalize marriage between one redneck and one farm animal. Polygamy is an issue, I suppose.)

We should busy ourselves finding a more sinister name for the bug-du-jour, because swine flu frankly sounds delicious; or it sounds like we're insulting the flu, and/or the pig. Poor pigs. The pig cull will certainly be greater than the human moribidity. And, anyway, a saucy acronym would inspire dread among the dubious. How about B.A.C.O.N.? Buy Another Case of Nyquil.

Israel is actively renaming the swine flu, pork being off the Jew's hospital menu. G.O.Y.: Gentile Originated sYndrome.

The facts: The swine flu has a current body count of, approximately, 50 people. How does that constitute a pandemic? It's about the same as the annual winter flu cull in New York City. (Or Mexico City.)

I'll tell you how a few sick people constitutes a pandemic. Because it's Mexico. This oinking flu is piggybacking on Mexican drug war hysteria. Mexico looks more than ever like a failed state.

And you might argue that this is a good time to reconsider, or rescind NAFTA. You would be right. But for the wrong reasons.

This crisis has demonstrated that the US needs to embrace Mexico as if it were part of the US. We need to behave as if there were no border at all because, in practice, there isn't one. If Mexico is a failing state, this medical situation gives us an opportunity to shore up Mexican society. We must synchronize our medical and social welfare delivery systems. Health and Human Services are primary in restoring civil order and confidence in society. And this can only help in the war against Mexican drug lords.

The question is: How can we possibly contain the spread of infection between US and Mexico if we can't document every potential carrier who enters the US? The US-Mexico border is more porous than the proverbial Papal condom.

Mexico may be sending us flu, but we are sending them guns. Both are primary health issues. If 50 deaths constitutes an epidemic, then gun violence is at an epidemic level in both the US and Mexico. The CDC is sending vaccine. Where is the NRA? The ATFE? The DOJ? What are they sending?

Ultimately, no one prays harder for a pandemic than I. Humanity needs a good culling. Look around you. (We could start with the people who named this pandemic.) But there is real danger in wild overreaction to this rather minor outbreak. Perhaps we will be less inclined to mount a serious, sustained response to the next, real(er) pandemic.

We were lucky this time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love Thine Scurvy Dogs

These days, speak fondly about pirates and you may get a lecture on copyright infringement. Or perhaps someone will mockingly call you the perfect model of a modern Major-General.

I mean to talk about real pirates. No eye makeup and Keith Richards impersonations. Just vicious, stinking, amoral terrors to legitimate international commerce. You know, like the people who conjured credit default swaps.

Anyway, there has never been a good time to be a pirate. The typical life of a pirate is nasty, brutish and short, which is a good thing because they rarely bathe. They sail for long periods with nothing to do but drink and sing songs about drinking, and perhaps enjoy social activities like knitting parasols from seaweed or doing the circle jerk.

Is it any wonder they are irritable? Have you ever had scurvy? Of course you haven't. I'll bet you get your RDA of Vitamin C from the fresh lime juice in your gimlet. Snob!

I digress.

The recent, spectacular failure of Somali pirates to capture the Maersk Alabama and its crew highlights the most pressing problem facing today's Pirate of the Somali Main: the US Navy. It is a colossal mismatch, and not in favor of the home team. Amazingly, inexplicably, Somali pirates are still actively hunting off the Horn of Africa. What have they got to lose?

The world is asking the right question: What opportunities are there for young Somalis other than piracy? Soldiering, the madrassa, destitution? Piracy means freedom and glory, potentially, as well as that pursuit of death thing. Live fast, die young and leave no corpse.

We know Somali pirates put to sea in small, fast boats, in teams of 3 or 4 young men who are lightly armed. They are at the mercy of the weather, dozens of miles out at sea, braving wretched conditions for days at a time while waiting for the chance to...WHAT?!? Harpoon and subdue a supertanker and its crew?

I don't understand that moment of decision, where the captain of a tiny pirate vessel spots the cruising city that is a modern container ship and says to his friends, "we can take 'em." Does anyone ask if he's insane? Or do they quietly agree that they can, in fact, take 'em?

Maybe they can take them. But not for long. Soon enough the world's navies will have squeezed their many warships into that narrow lane of water, protecting seaborne commerce to and from the Suez Canal. It will be curtains for the brave Somali pirates. They simply cannot compete with modern gunboats.

The East African Pirate will become extinct. This can only mean one thing: The Pirate is an endangered species, and must be protected!

And here's my plan to save them: Piratourism. The Pirate Safari. Piratespotting!

Here's what we know: The pirates have fast boats. But, we have faster boats. Our boats sneak in close so the piratourist can observe the pirates' normal behavior in his natural habitat. Then we withdraw at either maximum speed or silently depending on whether or not we have disturbed the pirates. We must understand the pirate ecosystem in order to protect it.

Friendly reminder: Pack a lunch. You can use it to negotiate your freedom in the event of engine trouble. This does not happen very, very often. Also, body armor is not compulsory as it doesn't float so well.

For the hearty adventurer who desires a bit more meat in his stew: We offer a glorious excursion around the Horn of Africa where you will enjoy nine days and eight nights of captivity, with or without torture, at sea and/or on land. Your subsequent ransom is built into the price of the vacation.

We can modify your vacation at any point to include the Stockholm Suite, ennabling you to actually become a pirate for as long as you'd like.

We put the host in hostage.

Somalia has much to gain by taxing Piratourism. The annual income will be enough to sustain schools and hospitals and a strong central government.

We must protect the precious resource that is today's pirate.

Would you prefer a world without pirates?