Sunday, November 29, 2009


Strange weekend at home. My parents are moving from Virginia to Austin in a few weeks, and they have been busy packing up the house. As it happens we are moving that same day from our home in the village to the new place uptown. Originally we planned to pick up a U-Haul on Saturday in Virginia, load it up with the bed, rocking chair, wedding gifts, and books for the baby, and then drive it all back to New York on Sunday. I was nervous about timing, though, and traffic, and work. So we decided to pack up the truck and drive out late Saturday night.

As I sorted through all of the old stuff in my closet, I tried to move too quickly to feel sentimental. I let my eyes fall on old programs, tickets, letters, awards, cards, trophies, yearbooks, and threw most of it away. I saved the journals and the photos. I couldn't let myself think too hard about any of it.

Last night, after we had a great dinner with my parents and sister, we loaded the last of our stuff into the mighty U-Haul and pulled out. We left so quickly. "Don't think about what's happening right now," I said to L, and to myself. I tried to honk the horn jauntily as we pulled away into the night. That was my last time in that house, the last sight of my parents and sister waving from the driveway. Inside the house was a tangle of half-packed boxes and old objects on their way out of the house and our lives. Things had already changed.

It was a weird feeling driving through the cold night from Washington to New York. We left after nine and arrived around 2:30 in the morning. The highways were dark and vacant, no traffic anywhere. The U-Haul rattled mercilessly, cold air hanging around us in the cab as the engine wheezed below us. We listened to pop songs and NPR, kept our jackets on. As L closed her eyes in an attempt at sleep I sang along to the music just to make a sound. The string of headlights on the other side of the highway flattened into a broad smear before my tired eyes.

Driving through a cold night in a truck that isn't yours, carrying your old bed and the rocking chair from which your parents read to you as a child, from which you can still remember sitting in your dad's lap with his soothing arm around your shoulders, listening to the deep timbre of his voice and relaxing into the comfort and security of another night's sleep.

And now: we were hurrying towards a new room, a new dad, a new sleepy child. There was a reason we couldn't wait. Despite the late hour and the cold air and the thoughts kept at bay, it still felt, in its own pained way, like some kind of beginning.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gratitude 2009

1. For my lovely wife and the clearly gifted child she is carrying

2. For friends, the ones who are seen regularly and the ones who swoop into orbit, comet-like, more rarely

3. For the family we're going home to this weekend

4. For parents who are gutsy enough to go west, looking to start fresh with the liberal politics and live music scene they so profoundly appreciate

5. For the few and hardy people at work who say "please" and "thank you," sometimes even in the context of discussing work assignments

6. For Chipotle

7. For the neighborhood where we've spent the last four years building a marriage and a new phase of our lives, anchored by the small daily relationships that somehow create such a deep sense of connection and community

8. For the three-bedroom manse waiting for us in Manhattanville, for the clean white walls and shiny hardwood floors and sky-filled windows that will soon house us and our tiny little new person

9. For the neighborhood to come, for Riverside Park and Morningside Heights and the new rituals we'll discover

10. For "Imma Be" and "Ring-a-Ling," two songs by the Black Eyed Peas that have really gotten under my skin

11. For the works of Robert A. Caro, whose massive biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson have made me think a lot about the relationship, tensions, and balance between happiness and ambition

12. For our health

13. For this moment in our lives, and recognizing the good fortune of a happy marriage, prenatal normalcy, gainful employment, and reasonably successful urban living

14. For maintaining a clear vision of how we want our lives to be

15. For the tenacity to make that vision happen

16. For yams

Some of these are thanks and some of these are prayers, but maybe that is a meaningless distinction. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


There were two significant things today amidst the usual daily cacophony.

First, L went to the doctor to check out the baby, our little man. And it turns out that a GIRL. It's a Girl! Not a Boy! This news left us both reeling. How did they miss this information? Are they using a sonogram or a dowsing rod? What year is this? It's very weird how you can spend a month imagining a very particular life for yourself with the utmost certainty that those ideas will be realized. For some reason the most vivid thing I could imagine was introducing my kid to other people, saying, "this is my son, X," as a shy toddler hid behind my legs. This was the vignette that gave life to otherwise abstract ideas of fatherhood, identity, and devotion. And now I am reworking those ideas, those scenarios, to wrap my mind around the idea of a daughter. It's surprising how quickly the track shifts. Worries about autism give way to questions about how girls pee. It seems as if life is now cast in a different yet more revealing light. From our little man to our sweet girl, the way it was before we even knew it. Our girl.

Second, today we were approved to sign a new lease on a three-bedroom apartment in Morningside Heights, right on the edge of Manhattanville. The apartment is on the top floor of a pre-war six-story elevator building. The rooms are large and flooded with light, with pleasantly warped hardwood floors and crisp white paint over the walls and moldings. The kitchen is large, although a little dated. L and I both realized that this was a good apartment as soon as we entered. The price was fantastic and it's right by the 125th stop on the 1 train, an easy 20 minutes from my office. It's farther north than we expected, and I worry about some of those ramifications, but now we've got it and we have a new home waiting for us. We'll be moving in around the middle of December.

So today has been a day of change. We knew these changes were coming, that this would be a season of transition. In a few weeks we will be taking our stuff and our lives and the new idea of our daughter to a new home, the place where she will enter this world and experience some love and solace and security. I feel very aware that we are entering a new stage in our lives. I can see how these last few years -- our years in the village, years of walking to the bookstore and the gym, years of idleness and books and wealth and thought -- are giving way to something else: possibly something more grounded, more tightly woven. Days of looking out over the roofs of Morningside Heights, wandering with our daughter through Riverside Park, singing her songs she can't understand yet. Teaching a new person empathy and kindness.

There is so much excitement to bear, but there are also fears and doubts. Change requires endings and beginnings, and I've never been able to face an ending without some measure of doubt and nostalgia for the places left behind. Today seemed like a a prophecy, and it left us exhausted.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Luxury, thy name is Trump

L and I had a very enjoyable long weekend at the Trump International in Miami. From the moment I opened the trunk of the cab at the Miami Airport, only to discover a tidy pair of men's briefs lying there, I knew this would be a special weekend. And it did not disappoint.

We never left the Trump compound. We hovered near the pool, splashing under its waterfalls and looking out to the ocean just beyond the deck. We ate at the Trump restaurants, unless we ordered room service, or unless I had a pina colada for my meal. I read a Richard Yates novel, "Young Hearts Crying," which was beautiful and inspiring. I read the Atlantic and the New Yorker. I kept my phone off for hours at a time. It was wonderful.

Take a look, then, at this photo, because it captures most of it. See the pink sky rolling slowly from the horizon. See the lifeguard cabana keeping vigil down by the sand. See the tips of the palm trees. See the bowl of tortilla chips. See the LBJ biography I'm starting to read. And see a pina colada, soaked in rum even up through the straw, decked out with a cherry and a thick wedge of pineapple. It was a delicious cherry.