Friday, June 25, 2010

Things I'm afraid my daughter is thinking

1.  These people are idiots.

2.  Tummy time is bullshit. On my back! Put me on my back!

3.  The zoo-themed activity mat has become my personal hellscape.

4.  I wish they would take me to a Tea Party rally.  Comrade Nobama is a Socialist.

5.  I hate this apartment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day

Father's Day!  All the self-absorption of birthdays, plus the expectation that relative strangers should acknowledge it!

There's more to it than that, of course.  If there's one thing parenthood points out to the recently initiated, it's that it's not about you anymore.  You are merely incidental to the arrival and progress of the child.  Heads snap away from you and turn towards the babe.  And that's all right.

I had a pretty darn good first Father's Day.  In the morning I woke up early to run a 5 mile race to benefit prostate cancer research.  It was hotter than hell, humid, sticky, and the run was unpleasant.  Sweaty shirt thwapping against my chest.  I took my time at the water breaks, took a few steps at mile 4 to regroup for the last push.  Even though my time wasn't particularly good, I was proud that I held up muscle-wise and breathing-wise -- it was just the heat that got to me, but that's always the case.

The highlight of the race was seeing Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), an amiable, Biden-esque blowhard, who made a few remarks before the race started.  He also invited all of us to give him five as we started the race.  So I jogged over to the side of the pack and made my way to the good senator, who stood there with an open palm and a funny grin on his face as runners slapped him five and moved along.  I keep hoping someone will ask me, "Hey, have you high-fived any U.S. senators this week?", but as usual people are pretty self-absorbed and nobody seems too interested.

The rest of the day continued along this plateau of excellence.  My brilliant wife gave me a Chipotle gift card, earmarked for exclusive use when I'm enjoying some alone time.  Alice gave me a "Hop On Pop" pop-up book, and L even manipulated her tight little fists so that she "signed" the card and labeled the envelope.  It was wonderful.  Here she is signing the card:

We went downtown for lunch at Stand, walking through the soupy air with the baby strapped on my chest like a totem of parenthood.  A nice lady on the subway wished me happy father's day.  We stopped at the bookstore and they were very kind about it, too.  After we made our way back home I escaped to Chipotle by myself for a little bit, enjoying fountain Coke and reading Dave Eggers' "Zeitoun."  Along my walk I listened to Drake's "Find Your Love," which is quickly becoming my song of the summer, and thought about my great good fortune.

For dinner L made me salmon, asparagus, macaroni and cheese, and salad.  We had a little bit of ice cream for dessert.  We watched some television.  And eventually we went to bed in our sweltering apartment, the ceiling fans spinning in their taut, chaotic orbits, the curtains billowing inwards with gusts of warm night air and the dull regular groan of the train, lying under thin cotton sheets, listening for any cries from the baby's room, anticipating another day of heat, of family, of a baby.  It's a new kind of summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Biggest losers

We are on a new fitness initiative in this house.  For several weeks now, L and I have been tackling our new goal: to lost the baby weight that we have accumulated in the last few months.  I face the added challenge of not only addressing the baby weight I gained through pure sympathy, but also the law firm weight I acquired during those last few months of whatever happened to be going on.

Saturday mornings are weigh-in time, when we do it Biggest Loser-style.  "M, last week your weight was X.  Your current weight is...beep beep beep...Y."  Then we write it down on the notepad and decide how we feel about the week's progress.  This week, for instance, I'm rebounding from nearly a week spent in a conference at North Carolina.  There I spent many days eating industrial foods and sitting in overly air-conditioned hotel ballrooms.  I also ate, for the first time, melon wrapped in prosciutto.  The melon was really wet and moist, and the prosciutto was partly flapping off, and when I put the whole damn thing in my mouth I about gagged from the sensation that there was a jellyfish in my mouth.   It was one of the grossest things I've ever eaten.  I've never felt so betrayed by prosciutto. 

This week went better as far as exercise goes -- I fit some good runs in there -- but I experienced a bit of self-sabotage.  One night, after we finished dinner, I ate three slices of pizza because otherwise they would have gone bad.  Another night was date night, so dinner was a platter of meats and cheeses with a glass of wine, followed by movie popcorn and Coke.  Also, L brought home a pint of real Haagen Dazs ice cream -- Dark Chocolate Mint -- because (1) it had all of my favorite things in it and (2) it's a limited edition.  A limited edition!  How could we not eat it?

It must be said, though, that we have actually taken some concrete steps to get back on the straight and narrow that I am pretty proud of.  First, I have cut out most of the soda I usually drink.  Instead of a can of Coke at lunch, plus assorted Cokes throughout the evenings and weekends, I'm now drinking Canada Dry seltzer water, which is like normal water but angrier, and also vaguely flavorful.  Despite the tepid flavoring, I find seltzer to be very aggressively carbonated -- way bubblier than Coke.  I imagine that seltzer has so much carbonation because it's pissed at how tepid its flavors are.  The lemon-lime version tastes like the faintest, vaguest memory of Sprite, and yet it's got enough carbonation to take the skin off the roof of your mouth.  And yet that's a balance I can live with.  Now I come home and think, "oh boy, could I use a seltzer!"  But hey, it has no sodium and no calories, so why the heck not.  Each day I'm saving at least 140 calories from that Coke I'm not drinking.  Second, we've exchanged our ice cream for frozen yogurt (for the most part), which makes me feel virtuous, even though the texture makes me think I'm eating hunks of ice from a glacier.  And third, I'm doing better with exercising consistently.  I am running again, a couple runs a week for 5 miles apiece, down the Hudson River.  It feels great and I can definitely feel my stamina improving already.

Even though the results of our weight loss initiative are slow and often disappointing, I'm feeling healthier and more active.  Tomorrow I'm running a 5 mile Father's Day race to benefit prostate cancer research -- it will be my first road race in over a year, I think, and I'm pretty nervous about it.  These days I'm not used to the hills of Central Park, although I am convinced that my muscle memory endures after all the training I used to do there.  Hopefully the run will go well -- I ran today and I took it easy, but my legs still felt heavy and weak -- and then I can make it through the rest of the week without eating like a lunatic.

To be honest I'm not really concerned with actual weight loss; it's more about reestablishing a more active, balanced lifestyle, and putting in place some good habits to counteract a slower metabolism as I enter a whole new decade of life.  This can't be one of those things where ever year I get a little slower, a little more out of breath, a little paunchier.  Not yet at least.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Parks and recreation

We had a great Memorial Day weekend.  The weather was sunny and clear, the throngs of people abated, and we had three days that reminded us why we love living here.

Saturday: With Alice strapped into the Baby Bjorn on my chest, giving me the opportunity to develop new and unexpected constellations of sweat over the course of a long hot Saturday, we walked all the way from 125th Street to Lincoln Center, in the low 60s, and back -- for a nice urban hike of six miles.  On the way down I was constantly aware of heads turning to stare at the baby, women gushing and cooing over her cuteness.  As parents, we tried to respond modestly ("oh, thank you" with a demure smile) but eventually gave way to bald-faced honesty ("yes, she is!").

One highlight of the day was exploring the new developments at Lincoln Center.  I am constantly amazed by the renovations I'm seeing throughout the city during these lean years.  Where is the money coming from?  Who decides that now is the time to invest in public art and topiary sculptures?  I have no idea, but I'm thankful someone is deciding this.  The most exciting thing at Lincoln Center is a new parabolic lawn -- a sloping wafer of green that serves as the rooftop of a new restaurant and curves upwards to audacious peaks overlooking the streets below.  The edges are lined with glass or metallic fencing, creating unexpected promontories with their own peaks and swells.  It is remarkable.

They've added a lot of other exciting stuff there, too, including the elegantly powerful new fountain, ringed by a sleek black bench; a new grove of trees with plenty of chairs and benches; and an intriguing shallow pool intersecting with a sloping, warmly-colored plaza.  In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs pointed to Lincoln Center as an example of bad urban planning: a broad, single-use space, devoid of foot traffic and isolated in its cold grandeur.  It seems that some smart people have heeded her critique; every new development I saw seemed designed to create a richer, more livable, more welcoming space.  And they are succeeding.

Sunday:  On Sunday L and Alice met me at the gym downtown after a good workout.  Once I emerged from the locker room, all fresh and clean, L put Alice in my arms (which were shaking at that point, due to the rigor of the workout).  A few minutes later I handed the baby back and L looked at me and said, with the kind of sneer I thought we were no longer using in marital conversation, "Are you still sweating?" I looked down at the oblong stain on my shirt.  I smelled it.  "No, she peed on me."  So we ended up going to the Gap to buy a new shirt for me to wear for the day.  Thanks a lot, Alice.

Later we made our way back to the park on the Hudson, where we read and people-watched and let Alice nap on the blanket.  We saw a few reality show celebrities and plenty of people who had clearly been working out for months and months just to be ready on the first plausibly shirtless day of summer.  It was a good reminder of the pros and cons of living in the Village.

Monday: Today I cleaned out my computer, which gave me a disproportionate sense of accomplishment.  And in the evening I went for a run along on the Hudson, on the new route I've found for myself: taking the path on the waterfront from 125th to the 79th Street Boat Basin and back. It's about five miles, and the path hugs the shoreline the entire time (a few sections are next to the West Side Highway, but it's easy enough to focus on the water -- on the boats bobbing along the piers, or the bridge standing tall in the distance).  The path is organized so that pedestrians are on one side, regardless of which direction you are travelling in, and bikers and Rollerbladers are relegated to the other side.

Today there were a ton of bikers in my lane, which posed a problem.  Do I fall off on to the shoulder, and risk stumbling into the inhospitable water of the Hudson?  Or do I bolt into the wrong lane myself, thus perpetuating the original transgression?

I approached the dilemma with the same passive-aggressive, slow-boil approach that has served me so well in the past.  As the bikers came barreling towards me, at first I did nothing. Then I gave one of my tried and true Dirty Looks.  Then I threw up my hands in a gesture of disgust.  Then I started saying, "you're in the wrong lane."  Finally I was confronted with a knot of idiot bikers, coming at me at the same time as the other side of the path was clogged with others.  I had nowhere to go.  "WRONG LANE!"  I said, a few times.  One chick in a sundress and bike helmet actually had to sort of stumble off her pedals to catch the bike with her feet to avoid hitting me.  I ended up maybe six inches from her handlebars.  "WRONG LANE," I pointed out.  "Sorry -- where was I supposed to -- the bike," she explained, but not very nicely.  "You should be in the other lane, that's for bikes," I said, doing my best to explain the clear symbols and words that were paved on the surface of the path in numerous locations.  I mean, Excuse Me New York.  I concluded the conversation with that sound you make when you're huffy and catch the air in the back of your throat in something that's halfway between a sigh and a grunt -- if you've ever talked to me in person you know what I'm talking about -- and that was it.

All in all, a great weekend.  I love this city.