Wednesday, March 30, 2011


L arrived home late from work, around 9.  I had put the baby down and had ordered a pizza for us.  L had just walked in and was standing in the doorway of the apartment, talking to a woman in the hallway.  The woman was wearing baggy gray longjohns, clutching a cordless phone and her eyeglasses and a pen.  Apparently her boyfriend, who lives with her, was drunk and raging.  He had smashed his hand through some glass case in their apartment and was bleeding.  He had locked her out.

L invited her inside to have a place to think for a few minutes.  The woman said she just wanted him out of her apartment, but she didn't want the police involved.  She came in and stood in our doorway for a few minutes, then returned to the hallway. We offered to call the police but she declined.  The woman suggested that maybe we could ask him to come into our apartment for a few moments, and then she could return to her apartment and lock him out.  We said no. 

The man opened the door to his apartment and started yelling at her again.  He moved into the hallway, bleary-eyed.  L, the sentinel, held our door open in case the woman needed it.  The man was blathering on and on.  He started referring to us and pointing to us.  "Now my neighbor won't even talk to me!" He started comparing himself to Libya, saying it would take more than one policeman to take him down.  He talked about the Irish.  Staring at L's face to not look at the man's, I kept asking her: should we call the police now?  Are we justified now?  Finally, feeling vaguely threatened as he shuffled into the middle of the hallway, closer to the woman and our door, I called 911.  Not the first time I've done it, here in this city of shit and blood.  I put on a fleece and some flip flops to get ready.

A few minutes later I heard distant sirens, then three cruisers pulled up in front of our building.  A group of policemen swarmed inside.  Someone from dispatch called me to tell me to buzz them up.  When they poured out of the elevator I gestured to the poor woman who was standing forlornly by the stair railing, and they directed their procedures and protocols at her.  One officer, calm and low-voiced, hung back to talk to me about the call.

A little while later I got another call from dispatch, telling me to buzz up the ambulance crew.  I also thought, where is our pizza?  It's been thirty minutes.  Maybe the law enforcement can let our pizza guy in.  The ambulance crew had arrived because the man was apparently bleeding from the broken glass he had smashed.  A little while later we heard yelling from outside -- it was the man, now on the sidewalk, surrounded by cops trying to secure him onto a gurney to go into the ambulance.  He was hollering, howling at them.  Craning out of our window we could see him thrashing on the ground, the lumpy mounds of the officers' backs surrounding him.  Someone was pinning him to the ground with a knee.  Suddenly I saw our pizza delivery guy, toodling along on his bike up the block, past the spectacle of double-parked law enforcement vehicles with their lights ablaze.  "Well, at least the pizza's here."

A few minutes later the man was secured in the ambulance and the cars dispersed.  His antics made me feel more justified in calling 911 in the first place.  The cars and ambulance revved up their lights and sirens to facilitate illegal U-turns on our block, and then they were screaming up Broadway, away from our home. 

The pizza was lukewarm and doughy when we finally ate it.  We wondered what it would be like when the man inevitably returned to his apartment, to the woman in longjohns.  The city is a forceful, unrelenting place on nights like this.  Discretion, or the opportunity to ignore your neighbor, is a luxury.  What were we supposed to do?  Wait for the woman to get hit?  Wait for the drunken man to sober up, stop bleeding, stop pounding on the walls? 

What if we had just closed our door?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Awesome Friday/[Law firm] Saturday

Really good weekend so far:

On Friday I took a half-day of vacation and left work early to go for a long run in the park.  I had bought new sneakers earlier in the week (I endured the full treatment to get the appropriate shoe, running on the treadmill with my dress pants ludicrously cuffed upwards while in loaner sneakers, and noticing on the playback video a disturbing outward kick at the rear point in my stride, leading to possibly an even more gangly form that I thought I had, so that now I'm concerned I run like a Muppet) and I was ready to go.

I did a solid six mile loop in Central Park without any stops or water breaks.  I was happy with this, simply for the endurance factor.  The weather was glorious and it was a great afternoon to run.  The Park felt familiar and challenging, and by the end of the run I was happy that my leg muscles were killing me, but I was ok cardio-wise.  At home I found that I had a massive blister under a pinkie toe, but hopefully this is just a casualty of brand-new running shoes.  I showered and headed to Chipotle for some lunch along with Entertainment Weekly and the New Yorker, and then I went and sat in the sun in Riverside Park and continued reading.  The sun was warm and plenty of people were walking by.  I read a great short story in the New Yorker by Ben Marcus that really captured one part of fatherhood, the part where you love your child and are confounded by her at the same time, and the part where you realize you are still a lazy bastard but it's not as easy to indulge in it anymore.

We had dinner at J&A's, some great pasta with wine and sambuca.  A wonderful evening -- we ended up waking up Alice to take her home around midnight, and she was exhausted but peaceable in the taxi.  It was a really great day.

And today was the one-year anniversary of my last day at my previous job.  My friends have been very excited about this day, and we were able to observe it last night, around the fourth glass of wine.  Not a day goes by that I don't think about my last job and what I learned from there.  I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, many levels of pride and disappointment.  As it recedes further into the past I'm able to appreciate the experience in different ways, and the passage of time has really been a blessing in may ways.  

In any event, I was reading the March 2010 entries in ol' Clarity and realizing that this period of time last year was extremely consequential.  March 19: last day of work!  March 24: first day of work!  April 5: baby is born!  What a season that was.  Thank God it's over, and that we emerged unscathed, baby in arms.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alice at Chipotle

Last night I left work in a foul mood.  I had planned on taking a break at some point in the afternoon and grabbing a Coke, but I was unexpectedly busy and spent the hours watching the window of opportunity close before me.  I was resentful of the amount of work I had to do over spring break, when the office is a ghost town yet my own little shop keeps humming along. 

I had to pick up Alice, and on my way to get her I thought, F it, I'm taking her to Chipotle.  Even though she's been around for almost a year now I still feel weirdly not-autonomous with her.  Like I can't just decide to take her places, that I should be asking L for permission, or that we have to head immediately home if we don't have a fully stocked diaper bag with complete sets of extra clothing and outerwear.  Perhaps this stems from the nasty old cow on the bus who made a comment about how Alice wasn't wearing shoes or a hat one morning.  Turns out none of her toes froze off, heifer!  Thanks for your concern!

Anyways, I took Alice to Chipotle and we had a great time.  I managed to carry our tray of food, plus her, plus a high chair.  I managed to fill our drinks, sit her down, and enjoy a snack of chips and guac and a quesadilla.  She was laughing and babbling the whole time and only nearly choked to death once.  Overall, a wild success.

She is in this painfully cute stage right now.  She does this thing where she runs her tongue side to side, along the edges of her teeth, making this wonderful burbling sound like this: BllBllBllBllBll.  So of course now I make the noise to her, and she'll make it to me.  I made the noise to L once when the two of us were lying on the couch, just because I kind of forgot.  On the walk home from Chipotle Alice was making the noise contentedly, smiling at anyone, craning her neck upwards to look at the sky, reaching in the elevator to poke at the buttons, happy to walk around the apartment with my assistance, euphoric to be playing hide and seek and finding me in such sophisticated hiding spots as on the other side of the bed or behind a door.

I read somewhere that the first year or two of parenthood is about drawing your child close to you, and the rest of it is letting your child go.  I am trying to be aware of and appreciate this moment of drawing her near, welcoming her to our fold, and seeing her light up in the midst of it all.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Night clapping

Last night L was in Atlanta for work, so it was just LB and me on the home front.  She had been fussy in the evening and it took her an extra hour to fall asleep.  She woke up around 11 and 12, but quickly whimpered herself back to sleep both times.  I considered this a personal victory.

She woke up again around 1:45 in the morning, with a shrill, insistent cry.  I slugged myself out of sleep and went in to see her.  She was inconsolable, not hungry or wet.  She missed her mama.  We walked around the apartment for a few minutes, then I just decided to let her fall asleep in bed with me.  I set up some pillows so she couldn't roll off and the tried to demonstrate how to fall asleep.  I approached this task with a sense of willful optimism, knowing it probably wouldn't work anyway, but hoping that she would fall asleep calmly beside me; that I would successfully fight the urge to roll over away from her; that she would not crawl or roll right over the edge of the bed.

She was so tired, my girl, and the night was so thick around us.  She stared at me with large brown eyes as the pacifier bobbed in her mouth.  She put her hands on my face and tried to hide in the crook of my neck.  She lay on my chest.  She rested her head on my belly and stretched her legs out like she was staring at the stars.  She would lie comfortably for a little while, then huff and reposition herself.  I rubbed her back and tried to calm her.  She sprawled next to me with a hand on my arm.  She rested her head on the pillow and stared at me from mere inches away.  The corners of her eyes shading in a familiar smile.

I feigned sleep and she sat up and murmured to herself.  She clapped her hands a few times.  She looked at me and placed a hand on my cheek.  She clapped her hands again.

I felt fortunate to see her night behaviors up close like this.  It felt like watching a wild animal in its natural habitat.  My nocturnal kid.  After an hour it was evident that sleep was not likely for either of us.  I picked her up and we walked around the apartment for a bit.  We moseyed into her room and she leaned down towards her crib.  I placed her in it and she lay down peacefully.  I returned to bed, deconstructed the pillow walls I had built to protect her, and soon enough sleep had claimed us both.

Friday, March 04, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I was at the gym on Sunday morning, like I do, and was half-heartedly lifting some weights on the machines while waiting for my awesome R&B/gospel spinning class to start.  A trainer approached me and pointed out how I was using the machines incorrectly, then he said he could show me some moves that might be better the next week.  Ok fine, I said.

The following Sunday (last Sunday) I found the trainer and he put me through the paces, to the point where I was still sore four days later.  The highlight was when he said I had really good form with squats. 

The unfortunate part, though, came when I was doing dead lifts and he said my back wasn't flat enough.  This turned into a broader discussion of posture, and how apparently I should be puffing my chest up and out at all times.  (I tried this for a little bit at work and felt uncomfortable.)  He gave me some stretches to do to improve my posture -- basically reverse-humping a doorframe, then repeating it three times -- and I've even altered my computer monitor and tried to be more conscientious about how I sit and stand. 

At one point during the session he said, "Just wait, you'll see, when  you stand up straight you'll get more respect at work, people will treat you differently."

I let this sit for a moment while I continued the painful stretch he had me holding for a minute.  Finally I said, "Just so you know, I do get respect at work.  It's not like I get picked on in the hallways or anything."

"Whoa whoa I don't even know you!  I'm just saying, it makes a difference."

"Okay, I'm just saying.  It's not like I'm getting beaten up at work."

So I have spent this last week trying to stand up straight, uncurl my spine, flatten my back.  We'll see if it takes.