Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hey, thanks for your help

Speaking of work, today a secretary copped some major attitude with me for no reason at all. Since my assistant was out, I went to ask her to turn some documents into PDFs for me, since she works with the associate I was helping. Being the polite, professional, chivalrous dude that I am, I said, "Could you please help me? If you could turn these into PDF's and send them to me, that would be great." Note the use of "please," as well as that weird past imperfect subjunctive -- that was not accidental. This is my go-to grammatical construction to ask people to do things without sounding like a jerk about it. Feel free to try it, it will probably work.

In response to my request, she glared up at me and said, "Don't you have your own secretary?" Oh, snap. No, you did not. Being the unfailingly polite dude that I am, I sort of backed down, hemming and hawing about how I could do it myself. "No, give it to me," she sighed, and I gave it to her. Then I backed away meekly and returned to my office.

I sat in my chair for a minute and thought about what happened. And then I realized, this secretary is not older than me -- she is my age. And excuse me, but I thought one of the general ground rules around here was that if you're going to treat me like crap, you need to be significantly older than me. Filled with righteous indignation, and with a solid plan in my head (no more polite questions - only statements), I went back to her. No more Mr. Nice Past Imperfect Subjunctive Guy.

I said, "please give me the documents back." She was getting up and she said, "No, I'm making the copies now." She started walking towards the copy room. I followed her, saying, "No, give me the documents." She said, "No, no, I'm doing it." I said, "No, stop, give me the documents, I need them." I was looking for someone else in the hallway to make eye contact and share my facial expressions with, since I was almost yelling at this point, or at least someone who could maybe pin her arms back so I could retrieve the stupid documents.

Finally she relented and gave me my papers, and then I asked another secretary to help me, and she did so in a completely courteous and thorough way. It took her about ten minutes to do the job. I told a secretary friend of mine about this little fiasco, and she gasped and said, "But you're an attorney!" Yes, I am. But I never even thought about it like that -- I was more focused on the fact that this chick was my own age and was treating me like crap, and this time, for once, being the hierarchical and authority-fearing dude that I am, I didn't have to sit back and take it. But it was a pretty hollow victory, let's keep it real. My major triumph was that I got my papers back and didn't let her make my PDF's! Ha!

Why the face!? What is wrong with people?

Big lights will inspire you

Sarah's post about music and driving and "Empire State of Mind" definitely struck a chord with me, and reminded me of watching Alicia Keys perform "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" on SNL a couple weeks back. This song shares the same chorus as the Jay-Z anthem, but Alicia's sitting at the piano for this one, singing verses about the city and its people until the drums kick in at the tail end. When I saw it on SNL the song gave me chills, over and over again, listening to her sing about the struggle of the city, how tired it can make you, but then turning on a dime and singing that sense of striving and urgency that draws people here like a magnet. It's a song that describes the place I've chosen as my home, and it seems like a challenge too, something to live up to. Even the way her voice swoops upward on that chorus, veering perilously close to cracking but finding that note and holding it -- somehow that captures it all, too.

It's been awesome to see the city adopt this song as an anthem. It makes me think about what I'm doing and whether I'm living up to it. It makes me feel like I spend too much time watching TV and eating Chipotle when I should be doing other, greater things. Like how the fact that I work in 30 Rock, just a few floors above the studios where they make SNL, can be such a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. What dreams I had for myself.

But hey - I'm still in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new.

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters"

I just read a really interesting book that was recommended to me by Ryan, husband of L's cousin Kristen (thus making him basically my brother): "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters" by Meg Meeker. I have thought a lot lately about the kind of family life I want to build for the three of us: a specific architecture of values, traditions and habits that requires some purpose and forethought.

I was excited to read this on Ryan's recommendation, even though he warned me about some of the God stuff in the book. I felt like the author was writing from a very solid conservative Christian background, which is not exactly the environment in which we will be welcoming this kid. The approach to sexuality was drenched in horrifying statistics about HPV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as earnest hypothetical anecdotes about one day discovering that your own daughter is the centerfold model in your hunting buddy's new issue of Playboy. Statistically, this is very improbable. They only have 12 centerfolds a year!

On the other hand, though, nothing riles up my inner social conservative like the prospect of guiding my daughter through the next 20 years of our increasingly degenerate pop culture. I think about the TV shows L and I thoughtlessly watch, the winkingly obscene music I enjoy (see below), and I wonder how you can protect a child from that stuff when she sees the world innocently and genuinely, without that shield of irony and cynicism that we adults grasp instinctively. The book had some excellent instructions and reminders about a father's role in his daughter's life: his centrality, his moral authority, his modeling of the way men and women interact and how a young woman should expect to be treated. I found myself agreeing with much of it, and feeling a renewed confidence in my own instinct and the way that L and I can complement each other in raising our girl.

There was excellent stuff about the need for fathers to say "I love you," to show affection, to establish boundaries, to make yourself known, to truly listen, to take your daughter on special outings. I particularly loved the chapter on humility, which really resonated with me and seemed to go hand-in-hand with the value of empathy. The book made me excited to raise our girl and thankful to be able to look back and see so many ways that my parents did all of these things, all of these traditions and simple ways of living that I can't wait to pass along.

As expected, the book hits hard with the God stuff, which I did not really enjoy. One big question L and I are grappling with is the role of religion in our kid's life, and in the life of our family. We're not actively going to church these days, and I'm struggling a lot to find a resolution that seems to carry some integrity with it. I want my kid to have a firm moral grounding, but I have so much doubt and anger towards the church's own moral authority. I don't want my daughter thinking she has to submit to a church that doesn't treat her as an equal. I don't want her assuming some of the chuch's toxic attitudes towards women and sexuality. On the other hand, I think the church has done a lot of good in the world, I think it maintains a strong intellectual tradition that I want to pass on, and I think its message about love, charity, sacrifice, forgiveness, and devotion is fundamental and something that a kid should begin to wrestle with. I don't know. Doubt is a part of faith, I know that. I'm just trying to reconcile all of this so that we can figure out what to do with our girl with some measure of integrity. Integrity, and not superstition.

Anyways -- "Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters." I really enjoyed it and I gave it to L to read, too. I mentioned architecture before and I think that's really what I'm trying to do: I want to think about this purposefully, to enter fatherhood with an idea of our compass and our goals for our life together. Now I'm just working on the blueprint.

Monday, January 04, 2010

D*** in a box

Man, I still love this song. It has been rumbling around in my head for the last month or so, and then I realized that somehow this saucy little number has entered my mental canon as a legitimate Christmas song. I can look forward to this chestnut every December for the next fifty years.

Of course the true power of the song was only realized a couple weeks back, when L's cousins Kristen and Ryan were in town and we wound up capping off a day of casual but sustained drinking with a three-hour bout of karaoke at a second-floor dive bar in K-Town, glued to the pleather benches until 2:00 in the morning, maintaining a steady flow of O.B. and generously sharing the tambourine, belting out "D*** in a box" as well as many other timeless classics. That was one hell of a night, although we paid the price the next day. Thank God they didn't have sake.

Anyways, I bought "D*** in a box" on iTunes the other day, and it isn't as good. It's a little more extended, and there's no laugh track. Although I can appreciate the production a little more, the song seems a little removed from the scrappy video that was so good a couple years back that I still can't get it out of my head.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Hello, 2010

Boy am I excited for a new year. Like most other people, I found 2009 to be pretty much a trainwreck, over all. A lot of time spent being unhappy or angry. It was a stressful year, a year of worry, a year of gritted teeth. It seems like all of the good things in 2009 will come to fruition in this new year: the baby, the new apartment, all of the other changes that will flow forward. Now that we are in January I am all set to fast forward to the end of March, thank you very much, to finally meet this kid and get the show on the road.

We had a nice New Year's Eve last night, ducking into Le Monde for a late dinner and enjoying the festive atmosphere in the restaurant. We came home through the snowy rain for some champagne and the final countdown on television. It was quiet but fun. Today has been the same, a lot of reading and napping and watching shows about the morbidly obese on TLC.

The good things in 2009: learning about the baby; the short-story course I took over the summer; a glorious week in Rehoboth in August; weekends in Miami and Cold Spring; good visits with family here in the city; finding the new apartment; going to Alvin; reading some good books. Compared to other years, this is a somewhat meager list in some ways, but I need to remind myself that this past year did have some good elements, even though for the most part it felt like a crucible that had to be endured, for reasons that aren't yet entirely clear. But a page has turned, and it's a new year and a new decade. Time to start again, and do it right.