Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Key be to lock"

Last night at hip hop we were doing some hard, intricate stuff, to some new song built around that old Digable Planets couplet, "We be to rap what key be to lock." There were a lot of regulars there and there was a great energy in the room -- the air felt hot, electric. Some of our teacher's cool hip hop friends came in and joined the group, and that amped things up too. I saw them and I thought, hey I can do that. By the end of the night I was sweaty and my knees hurt from jumping and coming down just so, but it was fantastic. On my way out one of the teacher's friends stopped me to give me five (or do that urban handshake thing, you know) and was complimenting me and saying I was the one to watch. He turned to my teacher and then she said, "Oh, him? That's my man, I love him," all matter-of-factly, like it was as obvious as anything. "He goes in."

Tomorrow L and I are going to Miami for three days of sun-splashed leisure. It is a rare vacation in which none of our relatives are participating (except Little Man, of course). We're staying at a fabulous Donald Trump resort property just a little bit north of Miami, with a beach and several pools and plenty of restaurants. I don't know if we'll ever venture out of Mr. Trump's comforting, opulent arms to actually check out the city, but I think some beach-side R&R will be enough. We will read books, L will get tan, I will get tipsy. And I love the fact that we're staying at the Trump International. If there's not a solid gold bidet in our room, the concierge is going to hear about it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

New Yorker Festival 2009

This weekend was one of my favorite events on the snooty Manhattan liberal calendar: the New Yorker Festival! It's that one weekend where you can turn your solitary magazine habit into a smug social gathering of your socioeconomic and demographic peers: it's just you and a bunch of young people in black plastic glasses and old people in socks and sandals, sipping on wine and laughing at Sarah Palin. This year we went to two events: the political roundtable and a lecture by Atul Gawande.

First, we went to the political discussion featuring Hendrik Hertzberg, Ryan Lizza, Jane Mayer, and moderator Dorothy Wickenden, down at City Winery. When we were there, we ran into an old friend of mine I hadn't seen since a New Yorker Festival event in 2007. The political conversation was interesting although a little predictable. Some woman asked a question about Afghanistan and she spoke in such a halting, gasping way that it sounded like she was about to cry. Another old lady in a funny hat asked a weird, non-political question that had nothing to do with anything. I wanted to ask about how the Republican party can pull itself together, but I didn't. At the end we saw Tate Donovan, which was exciting, and I got Hendrik Hertzberg to autograph my copy of his book, which made me feel like a huge nerd. I felt like such a chump lugging his book around beforehand. But he seems like a very sharp, intelligent, good-humored guy, and I wished I had more to say besides the usual praise and platitudes.

Today we went to a lecture by Atul Gawande on similarities between the construction of skyscrapers and the practice of medicine -- focusing on the use of checklists to bring different disciplines together instead of relying on one master builder or physician. It was interesting, but I felt like I had already read the article that was the basis of his discussion, and also, I found it a little bit boring. But that was more my problem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's a boy

As L said, the little one is a boy. We went to an anatomy scan on Thursday, and our technician assured us it was a male. She showed us his junk on the sonogram, and if she thinks it's a boy based on that, then I will take her word for it. The doctor came in and agreed, so there you have it: our little man.

Now that we can get a little more specific in our planning and in our imagining, my thoughts have immediately turned to what we will name this child. Obviously, the top three possible names are: (1) MKD Jr., (2) Barack, and (3) Justin Timberlake. This list may evolve as the months roll on, but I doubt it.

After our appointment on Thursday we walked through Central Park to get back to the west side. We celebrated with some hot dogs and an ice cream from a street vendor. We ate on a bench and thought about the future. There were some Little League teams practicing in the fields as we walked by, little uncoordinated boys in uniforms and oversized caps, stumbling around and and hollering and missing catches. Then yesterday we saw a father playing with his sons in the Park, batting them easy grounders and laughing good-naturedly as they threw the ball towards each other, waving their tiny mitts in the air. I saw all of that and I thought, I can't wait to do this.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Robert Frank's "The Americans"

We saw the Robert Frank photography exhibit at the Met today. In the mid-1950s, with a Guggenheim fellowship in his pocket, he drove all around the country taking pictures of the people and places he encountered. He picked through his contact sheets, selected 80-some images and carefully organized them into a book that became a lightning rod of political and artistic criticism. He was a deft photographer who arranged his images carefully, so that each one bore some relation to the images that came before and after. He discovered and chronicled a nation of highways, jukeboxes, sharply-dressed men and elegant women, lonely shoe-shiners or elevator girls, crowded trolley cars, bustling dinettes, couples in love, wary bikers and transvestites, cads and children, bars and funerals.

I bought the reprint of "The Americans," complete with a breathlessly verbose introduction by Jack Kerouac. It's no comparison to seeing the prints inflated on a museum wall, but it packs a punch. There is a lot to admire in this work, not least of which is Frank's own ambition. Who embarks on a road trip with the intent of capturing the national character of a sprawling place like this? Does anyone even try to do that anymore? Sometimes I stumble on a novel or a movie or a portfolio like this, the effort of someone who has tried and attained some degree of success in the endeavor, and every time it happens I realize that this is my favorite kind of art.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Stella on Sunday

One of the most decadent ways to spend a Sunday afternoon must be sitting outside at a bar drinking a beer while you read for pleasure. Who gets to do that? Rich people? Although I felt sort of guilty taking up valuable table space with my used UK copy of "Rabbit is Rich" (which included a French train ticket stub from 1991 tucked between its yellowing pages), that did not stop me from enjoying a Stella or two while L sipped on tea and read her book across from me. Walking inside to use the restroom, I saw other readers enjoying their books and newspapers at the bar, and people lounging at tables snacking on french fries and bar food and sipping on drinks. It felt like a conspiracy of leisure: the lazy afternoon sunlight filtering through the warren of rooms, voices raised in slow-paced laughter and conversation, all of us sharing in the seemingly illicit pleasure of entering a night space and claiming it for the beautiful, unhurried day.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Exciting news

Here's some exciting news: L is pregnant. We are in the family way.

It's such a tremendous thing, and we've known for a while now, but I am still trying to grasp it all the way around. Nothing will ever be the same, that's for sure. L is due on March 27, which happens to be her mom's birthday, and we are now in the second trimester, on the brink of week 15. Each Saturday we get a fun email explaining what the little one is doing ("your baby is now yawning, winking, and cracking its knuckles...") and offering a new estimate of approximate size ("...and is the size of a beet"). Anticipation of these emails is the force that gets me out of bed on Saturdays.

I have been conspicuously quiet on this blog for the last several weeks, and this beautiful new fact is a main reason behind it. Thinking about this baby and our new lives has been such a source of joy, of refuge, for me these last few months, no matter what other storms we are weathering. Realizing that I'm going to be a father soon, just on the other side of this coming winter, has inspired in me surprising feelings of cool confidence and serenity. I was afraid this would magnify my stress in other aspects of my life, but instead it has acted as a counterweight, reminding me of what is important and urging me towards the knowledge that I need to get my life together by the time this kid arrives. To make the nest. I am excited to enter a season of change, of preparation.

L and I spend a lot of time musing about the kid and who he or she will be. I think a lot about how amazing my parents are and have been, and how I can support this kid and love him or her and be a guide and a protector. What if this kid is dumb as a brick, and an extremely good athlete? What if it hates reading? I won't know what to do with that. What if the kid has eyebrows like Bert on Sesame Street? This is a real possibility, genetics-wise. Let's be honest here.

I have a million things to say about all this. My beautiful wife is looking lovely and voluptuous, with that baby curve already announcing itself. We are batting names back and forth and musing about how we'll be as parents. L will be patient and kind, and will expertly know how to deal with a child, while I will make be making fun of the kid for my own amusement like the dad in "Calvin and Hobbes."

I really love this sonogram of the little one. Those are his or her legs flailing outward, floating in its little nest while we are outside surrounding it with love. I am so glad this adventure is with L and me. No matter what else is happening, these are such bright days for us. There is a world in every minute.