Monday, December 31, 2012

Lights out

I think I'm going to wrap things up here at ol' Clarity.  When I started this blog in January 2005 I wanted to create an outlet where I could write and try to record the significant and small moments of life that seemed worth remembering.  Through 550 posts, that idea carried me through law school, getting engaged, getting married, having two careers and having two babies.  I am so thankful that I've had this record of the changes that occurred from age 24 to 32 -- it's hard to imagine a more momentous period of my life.

Things change, though, and for a number of reasons I think it's time to wrap things up here.  As more loved ones began reading the blog I felt compelled to change the way I wrote or what I wrote about.  I began to feel pressure to memorialize everything that seemed significant.  And perhaps most importantly, the blog began to feel like a source of guilt rather than an oasis.  Now I just feel guilty about about not writing or posting more.  

Maybe it's just a function of life with work and two kids under three, but it's hard to muster the energy to think and to write a lot of the time.  Of course, in the last few days I've been thinking about what to do here, and new things to write about seem to appear all around me like shiny coins on the sidewalk: Barrow smiling at me the other day as we sat on the couch, a moment of union and synthesis that in some ways feels like the beginning of my fatherhood of him; my great day on Friday, when I picked up some stationary and the Best American Short Stories 2012 at the bookstore and then entered Chipotle to hear a song I love on the sound system.  Also the fact that I feel more aware than ever of a certain stratification among my friends as all of our careers and life choices seem to push us in different and undeniable directions.  Not to mention what I read this year (the "Game of Thrones" books, the latest LBJ volume by Robert Caro, and not much else) and what I listened to (Drake, Frank Ocean, a lot of dance & pop music).

If I continue writing this blog, I'll feel guilty about not writing more; if I stop writing this blog, I'll feel guilty for stopping.  Because of course, a blog I began in 2005 should continue in perpetuity.  I feel guilty Barrow won't have as many posts as Alice.  I don't know.

So with that in mind, I'm turning out the lights for the time being.  I will certainly find another outlet to write when the time comes, but I don't know if it will be here.  But maybe it will.  

One last thing: over time L and I have developed a silly nickname for each other, "blabe," which comes from one time when I meant to say "babe" but it came out "blabe."  This is like how George W. and Laura Bush call each other "Bushie."  When Alice was in the womb we started calling her "Little Blabe," or LB, which we still sometimes call her.  And when we first started talking about the idea of Barrow, we identified him as "Baby Blabe."  A while back L and I were talking about those six-word biographies that are popular these days, and she asked what mine would be, and I responded: "Blabe, blabe, Little Blabe, Baby Blabe."  

What a life.  So much to be thankful for. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Misadventures with Barrow

Sometimes I forget that Barrow is here. We'll all be sitting around the table eating dinner, L, Alice, and me, and I'll think, "Ah, my family." Then I look over and see him sleeping in his chair on the ground, and I feel a little guilty.

I have accidentally used female pronouns to refer to him. That's because I'm so used to dealing with Alice as a baby (as well as her partners in crime, Naomi and Pen Pen), it can be hard to remember that babies can be male too. This is probably not good in terms of gender identity.

Now that we are more than two weeks in, he is still flashing some deep and mysterious blue-gray eyes. Will they change to a more predictable brown? Where did they come from to begin with? What is this kid, a winter?

The other day I walked into the family room, saw Barrow swaddled up and sleeping on the couch, and for a second thought he was one of Alice's dolls. Then I looked at him again and realized, basically, "That is not a doll. You have a son now. And that is him."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Barrow arrives

Friday was my last day of work, and L's first day away from the office.  We felt you coming soon, a distant rumble, but thought it was a long way off.  Alice had napped until 7:30 that night, so she was up and thrumming as we watched "The Amazing Spider-Man."  L began to feel some contractions and we called the doctor, who assured us we could wait for a while.  Later, as the movie continued, we realized something was happening.  We called our nanny Angie and she and her husband Steven began making their way over.  I paused the movie just as Spiderman was going underground into the sewers after he had battled the Lizard in his (Spiderman's, not the Lizard's) high school.  Needless to say I will probably never know how the movie ends.

We tried to put Alice to bed before Angie came, and L was battling contractions in the baby's (babies') room. I found myself looking out the window for Angie's car.  Finally they arrived and we went out the door, with hospital bag, purse, nursing pillow, and jackets in tow.  We felt calm because the contractions seemed erratic -- four minutes, then ten, then seven.  We were okay in the taxi but the driver was nervous, assuring us as we crossed Central Park North that we would be there in five minutes.  We got out and made our way to the labor and delivery area.  After ten minutes or so, we were waiting in the admission area when L had to go into the bathroom for some really painful contractions.  We had finished the paperwork and were still waiting for someone to deal with us.  After the second strong contraction L was hunched over a handlebar in the bathroom and she told me, "You need to find someone to help us."

Alert to my responsibilities, and slightly resentful of being told what to do, I walked into the hallway and called out, "Can somebody help us, my wife feels the need to push."  Nurses descended on us and we ended up in an antepartum room, a cozy enough space not at all equipped for the gruesome necessities of childbirth.  A wise nurse named Charisse, who guided us through that long night, told L to go with her body and push.  Ride the contraction.  I was holding L's hands awkwardly from the top of the bed.  The nurses were laying down papers and fabrics as L pushed.  No one even knew our names or who our doctors were.  After some comically gross physiological elements had occurred (I will refrain from detailing them here, although they are seared into the same vaults of my memory as certain scenes from "Alien"), you were here in this world - long and blue and squalling.  You immediately landed on your mama's chest and stayed there for a long, lovely while.  Unfortunately L was in a great deal of pain and had a long way to go as the doctors performed the necessary ministrations.  When they finally moved L from one bed to another, the original bed looked like the scene of a car accident.  By which I mean disgusting.  But L was amazing, brave and tough, and the doctor (a wonderful, no-nonsense, slightly masculine woman with a hedgehog-like hairdo) complimented her various body parts and abilities as if she were assessing livestock at the state fair.  That's my girl!

Once you were born -- perhaps an hour after we had left our home -- we called loved ones, telling the story and explaining your name, and waited in the room where the birth had occurred.  The lights were turned off so that you would be more at peace.  Somehow during the birthing process the TV in the room had turned on, and for a long while we had the constant buzz of the Knicks-Grizzlies game (I believe), which we remarked on ironically from time to time.  ("We actually don't care about basketball at all," I explained to our doctor.)  The calm of the room was betrayed by the detritus around us -- the bloody basins and pairs of scissors in the sink, the wet on the floor.  A certain kind of tedium set in as we waited to go to the room where L would spend the next couple days. 

After a long while we moved up to the eighth floor, and L went to get settled in the room and I followed you to the nursery, where I watched behind a glass wall as a new nurse scrubbed you, took measurements, and did who knows what else.  It was now very late, around 2 or so, and the hospital floor was dark and quiet.  I watched as a few other children in the nursery slept and cried in turn like dominoes.  As the nurse worked on you I could see you shiver sometimes, still adjusting to our new reality, cold and unadorned.  For some reason in the hospital I kept hearing some chime, some tone that sounded exactly like the start of an old R&B song, Donell Jones' "You Know That I Love You," a jaunty and happy tune that somehow seemed very appropriate as its first notes bleated from some machine somewhere.  As I watched you from behind the glass I held on to all of our bags and jackets for a long while, then eventually I put them down and just settled into my vigilance. 

Eventually, finally, they returned you to us and we went to your mama's room.  She would spent the night nursing you and sleeping beside you in the bed.  I returned home around 4, said my thanks and apologies to Angie and her husband as they woke up and left, and had a brownie and a seltzer.  I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself.

You looked then, and still look, exhausted and bewildered by your own birth.  You're a little rough around the edges, kid, but I hope that each day, each moment, you are settling into yourself and our family.  Alice has been a dream, immediately doting (yet with a dawning realization that she has new competition for our attention).  As soon as she saw you in the hospital, she ran to your mama so that she could hold you, stroking your head and patting you. 

Welcome to the world, little bear.  We are so happy and blessed to have you.

Barrow Martin

Barrow Martin
November 16, 2012
11:25 pm
8 lbs., 5 oz.

"Barrow" is the street in the Village where L and I first lived together and began our married lives together.  "Martin" is my dad's name.   

Friday, November 16, 2012

Nighttime routine

It occurred to me that before everything changes I should record one nice little rhythm we've fallen into with Alice.  At night L puts her to bed, and then Alice usually reads and putters around her room for about half an hour.  Then she says, quietly and insistently, "Daddy, I need a clean diaper!," over and over until I pad over and knock on the door.  Having waited at the doorway she opens it immediately and looks out to see what fun is happening in the family room.  Then I pick her up and change her diaper, and we chat a little bit about her poop or her books or what have you.  Then we take all the books that she has gathered on her bed and put them in a neat pile by her bookshelf.  Then I tuck her into bed and we sing three songs, her choice.  Lately we have been watching "Mary Poppins" clips, specifically "Supercalifragilistic..." and "Spoonful of Sugar."  Consequently I have grown to despise these songs.  I have had "Super" in my head for weeks now, boppy and unending.  Although the movie clip retains a real charm and energy, the song itself seems long and interminable, especially when Alice insists that I include one of the Dick Van Dyke verses and the "um diddle iddle iddle, um diddle aye" refrain.  Other popular songs include "I Love You, You Love Me," "You Are My Sunshine," and "Zip A Dee Doo Dah"; we touch our shoulders when we reach the part about the bluebird.  (Also, I've noticed that when I'm singing Alice often seems to be watching my mouth move, so I try to enunciate really well.)  After three songs she's usually ready for sleep.  We say good night, love you, sweet dreams, close your eyes, and then close the door.  This is something I don't want to forget.


Come on, little man!  Come join us.

I have been winding down my work to take some time with the baby.  L just had her last day at work yesterday.  As a result I feel an odd mixture of calmness and stress, waiting for this thing to happen.  The part that makes me nervous is that trip to the hospital -- making sure someone is here to watch Alice -- navigating the journey itself -- and then finally feeling secure and ready at Mt. Sinai.  I am really excited to meet this kid, to name him, to bring him home, to see him as a younger brother, to see our girl as a big sister.  I can't wait to know what he will look like and who he will be.  The miraculous surprise of Alice was that she was immediately her own person, not necessarily a combination of L and me, but so clearly her own being.  I can't wait to see who we get to introduce and welcome into our family.

Come on, little man!  Come join us.  We have been waiting for you forever.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Good day with my girl

This morning we went on an epic outing. First we went to "go voting," then down to Columbus Circle. In Central Park we sat on a big rock, ate some snack pack, and read "Me and My Dad" twice. We played on the new playground and made up a game called "Up the hill, down the hill," and then trundled over to Alice's dentist appointment. A little traumatic, but about as good as can be expected. Afterwards she clutched her bright yellow balloon and we returned home.

After she woke up from her nap we "cooked" for a while and played with the turtle. It was a really good day.

And now on to the election results, and the regal trumpets of NBC news...

Monday, September 24, 2012

New perspectives

 A few days ago I wrote a self-pitying blog post about how I don't feel like I have time to think anymore.  Can't afford the gym and am compelled to graze all night, so I feel like a fat-ass. Can't find new music to listen to.  Can't find a book compelling enough to finish.  Can't even fathom the idea of sitting down to write something meaningful.  Between work and home I feel like I have nothing else to give, so I was becoming accustomed to the idea that this was just how life would be, that you just kind of give up on everything else and keep your head down and watch your body become that of an old person.

I've been revisiting that draft post in the last few days, and I think I've done a pretty good job of taking concrete steps to combat it.  To wit:

1. I joined the gym at work and signed up for two classes on Sunday.  I went for the first time yesterday and it kicked my ass.  My body is sore all over the place now.  I felt so happy to be moving and sweaty.  At one point we were doing push-ups and the floor around me was slick with sweat that I could barely keep my bearings.  The last time I was in this gym was in 2005, in a boxing class that I loved, and it was a very odd sense memory to return to this place in a completely different life.  While I feel guilty about being away from the family during that chunk of time on Sundays, I think it's worth it in the long run, especially since A is usually napping and L can use the time to herself.

2. I bought "David Copperfield" at the bookstore and so far I'm loving it.  I was trying to read all these contemporary books that just felt very transitory and slight.  I like reading something that has endured, and Dickens is weirdly accessible to me -- it is popular entertainment, after all.  I'm excited to have one big fat book to chew on for the next two months.

3. Alice and I are doing a dance class at Alvin Ailey on Sunday mornings.  Bringing Alice to the studios where I used to do hip hop is hilarious.  Yesterday I could hear a hip hop class thumping in the room next door to us and it broke my heart (as we ran around with jingle bells tied to our wrists and sang songs about butterflies).  But I like having our own little thing together, and Alice enjoys it and I think it's helpful to teach her the basics of rhythm and movement.  L noted that Alice has been nicer to me since we started doing the class together -- it's our own little adventure, her and I.  The funny thing is that I feel weirdly competitive with the other little kids and their parents (mothers), like I want the teacher to be impressed that I've mastered these exercises designed for 2 year olds.  See me twirl the scarf!  I know what sound a froggy makes!  Watch me gallop!

4. Yesterday we also went to see the big new public art spectacle down at Columbus Circle, in which a Japanese artist has built a living room around the statue of Christopher Columbus on top of a six-story obelisk in the middle of the intersection.  I found the piece more powerful and compelling than I expected.  It was neat to see this old hunk of marble up close, and the views were great.  It raised interesting questions about private ownership of public art/spaces.  And it was amusing to watch Alice ignore the tremendous statue dominating the space so she could flip through the coffee table book at its feet. 

And that's it.  Right now I'm just trying to fight entropy and reclaim some things about life that I enjoy.  If it doesn't happen now, before this new baby comes, then I think we're in trouble.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I've been too busy to think lately. Work has been madness since late August, as the new year began and I started working with a new set of responsibilities and challenges. L started a new job, and so our household has been leaning into the chance for her to make a great first impression, especially considering that she'll be on maternity leave soon. Alice has started potty training and is copping new attitudes and new sets of vocabulary -- today she came back from kiddie yoga and told us, in all seriousness, "NAmaste" -- and all the while the new kid in L's belly becomes all the more comprehensible. There is more to come.

I've realized, in the middle of all of this, that I really miss a few things: reading, exercise, writing.  I feel like a fat slob.  I haven't been able to sink my teeth into a book for a while. I'm dying for some new music. I recently retread John Williams' Stoner, a novel I first read in 2006 and immediately adored. It struck me as one of the most perfect, best novels I ever read, even with its flaws.  Reading it again it maintained its power and inspired me as a writer, a feeling I haven't had in a while.

Throughout my adult life, there have been things that I was so excited about -- I would shape my weeks by thinking about them, anticipating, considering, and the afterwards, reflecting and hoping for the next time.  It stated with improv class, then the gym, then hip hop, and then my writing class a few semesters ago. I miss those things. Now I think about the time commitment and the things I would miss -- time with Alice, family dinners, holding up my end of our domestic bargain. I miss that casual selfishness that made early adulthood so exciting and free.

So I'm trying to do something about it. I rejoined the gym at work and I'm looking for classes. I'm trying to carve out more time to be thoughtful and purposeful. But I still have that nagging fear, that this is the time when we put childish things aside -- passions, exploration -- and disappear into the daily routines that become the engine and the sum of our days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Notes from tonight

Out to dinner tonight for our sixth anniversary at Dovetail. Happy senate term.  Dovetail: spiraling downwards or a bird's ass?

Drunk off of the chef's tasting menu, plus the accompanying wines.  It can't be my fault; I just drank what was given to me.

As we sat through the courses we saw generations of diners come and go.  Over three hours for seven courses, plus special bonus dishes.  Many waiters in different social castes: full servers in complete suits, sommeliers, vested Latino men delivering our plates, suited adolescents refilling our water.  Everyone intensely professional.

Felt like we ate pornography: foie gras and frogs legs.  Tragically, both were delicious.  But I knew they were wrong.

The most expensive dinner we've ever had. The thoughtless wealth in the room was staggering.

After numerous amuse bouches, our dinner ended in ignominy: dessert and a hastily produced check. Maybe because the restaurant was emptying.  The total bill was galling.  We sat and waited for another possible morsel, another bite, and none came.

Conversation this year was better than last.  Honesty, children, professional fulfillment.  She still makes me laugh and makes me proud.  We talked love languages, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch in a dining room.  Six years down and a lifetime to go.  Love you my blabe.

Thursday, August 09, 2012


Yesterday I saw the most disgusting thing ever.

Alice and our new nanny, Angie, were playing in Riverside Park near our office, so I stepped out to visit with them during lunch time.  Alice was excited to see me and we played on the swings together for a while.  Soon I had to say, “Daddy has to go back to work,” and Alice cheerily saw me off with an “Adios” and a few blown kisses.

I crossed Riverside Drive to get back to work and thought about my great fortune.  I’m able to walk to work and remain near my daughter all day long, and I work in an environment that allows me to steal a few summer-midday moments to see my daughter.  Even as I approached her at the playground, I could see that she was happy and well-attended; our urban summer baby. 

I was thinking these thoughts as I started climbing a stairway on the other side of the street, when suddenly I heard a low voice saying, “watch it, watch it.” A man in a white worksuit was sitting eating his lunch nearby.  He gestured and I looked down.  A few feet away from me there was a rat scrabbling slowly along the stairway, making a fearful noise, szrrrk szrrk szrrk.  His backside seemed to be covered with something that looked like dried bird poop, something sore and festering.  Flies were darting around as the rat jerked along the stair.  Szrrk Szrrk szrrk!  I gasped and bounded away, my knees high in the air as I registered the rat shambling along.

“That’s disgusting,” I said to the man once I made it past, feeling the blood along my temples.  “What is wrong with that thing?”  “I don’t know,” the man said, “and I’m trying to eat my lunch.”  My heart was thrumming as I walked away.  I thought about Ebola and “Contagion,” 911 and Old Yeller, killing something with a shovel.  When I was a block past I could hear a girl scream behind me.  “What the hell! What was that!”  By then I was back to the sanctuary of Broadway.   I decided that there was no way the rat would be able to make it all the way back to Alice on the playground. 

So what do you do after that?  I got my lunch, returned to the office, washed my hands.  Thought about Alice playing just a few blocks away.  Wished for a merciful death for the rat staggering through the daylight.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

4th of July

Aboard the Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Yankees vs. Jamestown Jammers.  Jamestown?
Alice loved the mascots, Scooter and Red
Alice with Red.  She was enraptured and terrified

Highlights of the game: ice-cold plastic bottles of Bud Light on a hot evening.  Someone near us fielded a foul ball and gave it to Alice.  All of our neighbors were tickled to hear Alice cheer, sing, and yell "Charge!"  The game ran 12 innings, followed by fireworks.  At one point the mascot Scooter was squatting down trying to "lift" a "heavy" barbell and the sound guy let loose a loud brrrrip, prompting Alice to note, "Scooter tooted, like me!"  We hustled to catch the 11 pm ferry home.  Alice was quiet and thoughtful on the long subway ride back.  Bedtime for her at 12:30.  Cold showers late at night to break the heat and end the day.  Happy birthday America. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The summer

It was the summer of "Call Me Maybe," a song that I didn't know but seemed to like anyway.  There were downsides, of course, like the drug-related triple-execution that took place in a car parked a few blocks away from our home, but the evenings were so long and sweet that we could often stroll through the neighborhood after dinner, taking note of the flowers that had been duct-taped to a tree in memoriam of the three murdered drug dealers.  As the days multiplied the flowers began to wilt and droop in the remembered heat.

I would leave work on Fridays at 1 and then head to Lincoln Center to watch movies and eat popcorn in the solitary dark.  In the afternoons at work I would take a break to walk down to Chipotle to buy a Coke Zero, a concession to time and metabolism that I told myself I enjoyed.  Each day we waited for our nanny to give birth to her baby, but she usually didn't and so life continued normally. 

One Saturday I had to work for much of the day, and when I was finally released into the weekend I went to Five Guys to eat a burger and drink a real Coke and read a New Yorker article about the President's early years.  As a college student he had been no less self-serious than any of the rest of us.  Later we all went to the playground, where Alice enjoys dangling from any horizontal bar she can find, holding her feet in front of her.  Sometimes she and I hang simultaneously from the bars, myself well aware of the embarrassing effort required to maintain the position.

We all went to a Thai restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue, testing fate by actually dining at a restaurant rather than scurrying home with our meals cooling and congealing in their styrofoam.  The menu featured text in Thai and grainy photos of Thai markets.  Looking at it, smelling brief pockets of aromas from other people's entrees, brought me close to the memory of what it had actually been like in Thailand, those four years ago.  I was on the verge of remembering something real about it -- the sweat, the confusion, the happy blind confidence, the age -- but it disappeared before I could grasp it.

No time for reflection.  On the way home we stopped at Columbia so that Alice could clamber among the steps and the fountains, resolutely independent and insistent that we keep our distance.  As the day dissolved around us we returned home.  When we walked by their street I thought of the men who had been murdered there weeks earlier; the street where their ghosts remained, where their ghastly car was long, long gone.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Playground dynamics

I've been thinking about the fact that when you are engaged with your kid in a public space, like the playground or the bus, other people's kids start to gravitate to you.  By now I've gotten used to seeing parents at the playground who are totally disengaged from their kids -- they sit there reading their Economist or talking among themselves as their kids bolt around screaming their heads off.  I've been maintaining an attitude of low-level, simmering self-righteousness about this -- about the same level of ire reserved for smokers who fling their butts on the sidewalk and people who take up two seats on the bus.  Engage with your kids! That's the point of weekends!

Like most weekends, we spent a fair amount of Memorial Day weekend at Riverside Park enjoying the playgrounds. Alice has a nice routine where she clambers up the ladder or the stairway (which earns her a high-five from me), makes her way across the bouncy bridge, and goes down the big-girl twisty slide.  I kind of coach her along and narrate the action.  (It's not helicopter parenting, it's having fun and building confidence.) This weekend she started swinging on the monkey bars on her own, holding her legs out in front of her and just dangling there, her face an expression of quiet intensity that's usually only seen when she's trying to poop.

Sure enough, several kids started hanging out with us.  One little kid on the slide objected when I described him to Alice as a "little boy" -- "I'm a big boy!" he said ("Well, you're littler than me," I told him.)  Another girl, Inga, wandered over to us and got very bossy about the bubbles we were playing with.  I entertained her for ten minutes while her nanny was oblivious to the whole thing. 

Then today on the bus a little four year-old kid just started talking to us about nothing.  "I'm four and a half." "My name's John."  "My favorite bus is the M104, but sometimes we take the M4."  "My shoes light up when I do this."

Kids are drawn to other kids, and a lot of kids like to talk to Alice and learn about her.  But then some just seem very hungry for an adult to pay attention to them, to talk them through the playground, to provide some kind of order and cohesion to the experience.  It's very odd to be in that kind of position sometimes.  But I'm enjoying the process of learning how to talk with kids and entertain them and lead their pack.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Here's a Motherlode blog post from the New York Times that I completely agreed with.  And I was even moved to add a comment.

Motherlode: That ‘He’s Adopted’ One-Liner in ‘The Avengers’? Not Funny.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

So much for the rhythm method

As L explained earlier this week, we are once again in the family way.  I have been quiet about it, but I wrote some thoughts about it when L first told me and you can read all about it, if you're so inclined. 

We find ourselves in yet another season of change: a baby on the way, new professional responsibilities for us both, ever-growing questions about where to live and where to send Alice to school.  For this family, when it rains, it pours.  Why go through one transition when you can tackle three? 

I live a charmed life, for sure. Our great good fortune.

Good things from tonight

A really good evening with Alice.  First, when I went to pick her up, I found out that she had had a  painful poop that interrupted her nap -- this was unfortunate.  The silver lining?  When Mel the nanny went in to check on her, Alice was asking for me to come help her!  Huzzah!  

Second, we had a really nice dinner at Chipotle, where she sat across from me like a big girl and we enjoyed some lively conversation regarding what she did today (played with mommy, read, sang, pooped).  

Third, after we came home we spent some time sitting on the stoop of our building, at her insistence.  Alice would play in her little orbit around me -- climb up the steps, climb back down, jump from the last step to the pavement.  I was singing songs, counting to three for her to jump, clapping my hands as she made it to the ground.  At one point she put her hand on my shoulder and said: "Please stop talking."

(A few minutes later she fell down the steps and earned a large knot on her forehead, but she's ok.)

Fourth, I was giving her a bath and I sneezed loudly.  She looked at me.  "Oh," she said.  "...boy."  And it was funny.

Fifth, on "American Idol" last night some contestant sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me."  (A song that lives on through my marriage, when we often tell each other, "don't patroniiiiiiiize me.")  After we read books we sat in the dark for a few minutes and sang songs.  After the old standbys ("Happy birthday," ABCs, "Doe a deer," "Twinkle, twinkle," etc) I sang "I Can't Make You Love Me."  She leaned against me and just listened, and when I finished she pulled back to tell me, "I like that one."

My girl.  These are the moments.  The scary thing is that I can feel my memories blurring already; it's hard for me to distinguish 12-month Alice from 18-month Alice.  So I write it here in the hope of preserving a few of the remarks, the laughs, the songs she enjoys through the night.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A capella

So much for the last eight weeks, huh?

Two nights ago I attended a fancy dinner to encourage admitted students to attend the University.  They pulled out all the stops -- a cello quartet, a lecture by an esteemed professor.  For part of the lecture I was standing in the back of the room, where I could see a gaggle of kids hanging around in the foyer outside.  They looked young and uncomfortably dressed.  "Are they here for a bar mitzvah?" I wondered. 

After the lecture ended the kids trouped in and - voila! - they were an a capella group here to perform.  They gathered in a semi-circle by the dais and sure enough, the familiar pum pum pum's and beat-boxing began, and they were off.

The sound immediately brought me back 12 years or so to college, to cold nights when we would trundle outside the dorm to the quad where an a capella group was putting on a brief performance at 11:30 or midnight.  The sounds would bounce around the brick buildings surrounding us and the singers would cast long shadows from the streetlamps speckling the walks.  I loved the way the voices would merge and part, the layering of sounds and tones.  Such passion, such defiance, to send those songs up into the cold night!  Such freedom.

All of that came back as those kids sang, bouncing on their toes and gesturing as waiters awkwardly served dessert around them.  When the singers finished I was filled with a rush of pride and love for the University, the kind of unabashed school spirit that is not often found here.  I looked around and it seemed like the parents of the prospective students seemed a little befuddled by what had happened.  But I looked at the prospective students, and the current students, and even the alums, and I think they got it.

Monday, March 05, 2012

November 15

Today I had an interview today at work.  I spent a lot of time last night figuring out which suit I would wear, which shoes, which tie.  The interview wasn't until 4:30 pm so I had all day to sit and worry.  I felt too well-dressed, with my conservative pleated suit pants -- pants that I profoundly hate now, and don't understand why I ever purchased, unless I was in some law-induced stupor of backwater menswear conservatism -- and the janitor told me I looked like a Kennedy cousin with my fancy clothes and the apparently boyish swoop of my bangs.  The interview itself went really well.  I felt like I expressed everything I wanted to, and if I missed anything it's something I never saw coming at all.  I didn't know what I didn't know.  At the end of the interview after I asked my questions I said, "well, that's it, thank you for coming," and the laugh that I earned seemed to represent how the whole thing went.  I got a Chipotle Coke on my way home, stripped out of my suit immediately and read the New Yorker on the couch.  Then L and Alice came home and there was a present for me -- Alice had colored a picture on blue construction paper, and in the middle of the page, written in marker in L's steady hand, was: "Nov. 15th."

"I'm pregnant and that's when the baby is due."

Since last summer, we have spent every month (minus two) hoping and praying that we would get pregnant.  Each month has been punctuated by a few sad days when these hopes were dashed, days that became cumulatively worse as each month passed.  After Alice was conceived practically immediately, this long process of waiting has been difficult.  We both went to the doctor to get things checked out and everything seemed to be fine.  They told us to be patient, but we (I) are not patient people.  I started to worry that we couldn't have another child, and I felt guilty for feeling bad about that when we already have Alice, the greatest blessing of our lives.  My first reaction to the news that L was pregnant was that we didn't have to be sad this month.

Today L had been working with Alice to teach her to say "big sister."  She hadn't told me in the morning because she didn't want to distract me from today's interview, but the secret had been eating her up since she found out at 2 am last night.  Her strength is unbelievable.  After she told me we had a family hug that Alice scurried over to join.  L had gone on the internet to figure out that November 15th due date; that means we'll have a Thanksgiving-time baby.

I was bursting with the need to tell someone when my parents called to ask about the interview.  I successfully managed not to tell them.  We went over to John and Anna's to tell them the good news, because I still had to tell someone.  They had figured it out -- John opened the door with an expectant look, and I nodded yes.  They were so excited for us.  John and I had bourbon and we all had some shepherd's pie.  After a while we came home (Alice pooped tremendously on the bus ride home, crooning "yucky poop" as some indulgent commuters smiled wanly) and the stress of the day receded. 

I can't believe we're about to do this all over again: an impossibly tiny baby, minimal sleep, a new name for a new life.  All of our conversations about jobs, moving, childcare seem completely obsolete.  Game change!  But all those conversations can wait for another day.

If I let myself, I become aware of the meaning and weight of today's news.  The capacity for love, the responsibility, the legacy, the growth of our family, the playmate and lifelong friend for Alice.  Tonight I can skirt around these ideas and know that soon we'll be thinking about them all the time.  But tonight I am still struck by the idea -- L is pregnant.  We don't have to be sad this month.  And that relief is overwhelming.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


 Today is my 32nd birthday! L and A brought me a morning bagel, we went for a nice chilly walk through Central Park, and we made our way to Chipotle, the Gap, and yes, TJ Maxx. (On this day, we are rich.) Tonight L is taking me to see "War Horse" at Lincoln Center and we might try to go out for dinner as a family beforehand at the new ramen place on our block.

The last year was a very good one. It was focused on the rhythms of family and work. Nothing really changed much last year, so I'm looking forward to 32 as an opportunity for change, progress, and growth. The word that keeps popping into my head is: catalyst! It's time for me to catalyze, unless it's time for something else to catalyze me-- I don't even know.

I like birthdays as a chance to reflect on life and consider the many ridiculous blessings I've received. It's a very good day.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

San Diego Diary

Tuesday - On the first night in the hotel I ordered fish tacos in my room and drank the champagne L had waiting for me for Valentine's Day.  I watched "Teen Mom," immediately mystified by how television works on the West Coast.  Some things are shown at the same time as back east....others are not.  Throughout the trip I felt like the east coast was pinging all these news items and alerts to California -- important information about politics, the economy, stocks, Europe -- and it all seemed to lose its importance and meaning by the time it reached the west coast.  Who really cares?  You wake up early in California, the northeast corridor is already getting ready for lunch, and none of it really seems to matter.  Who the hell watches MSNBC in California?

Wednesday - After the conference ended for the day we drove out to La Jolla.  We were in a Suburban-style vehicle with seating for eight.  Rihanna ("We Found Love") was blasting in the speakers and I loved it.  Our driver was a little surly and wore an odd suit.  At one point we were struggling to do something -- unlatch a seatbelt, open a container -- and someone jokingly said, "How many master's degrees does it take to [complete this task]?"  Later, after we had gotten out, the driver said to us, "I have two master's degrees," and explained how he had been a successful businessman in his home country.  I felt bad that he had totally misread us.

We had dinner in La Jolla at a fancy and wonderful restaurant.  The most sophisticated meal I've had in a long time, including a couple of these rosemary-based cocktails:

"Sea Dew Collins"

Afterwards we walked down to where the road curved down by the surf.  It was pitch black and we couldn't see anything, just the roar of the waves, the artless barking of the sea lions, and the great black emptiness of the water.  I thought a lot about the only other time I've been to La Jolla -- on my first trip out west, in the spring break of 2001 (almost eleven years ago now) -- I was with a couple people I loved dearly then, one of whom is still my friend, the other lost to time -- but that was the first trip where I really traveled, saw the Pacific, drove hundreds of new miles.  That trip was a real lodestar for me and it was good to return here under completely different circumstances.

As we piled into the car to return home I said, "I need some Rihanna right now!  Give me some RiRi!"  And sure enough, at that moment the song I wanted to hear ("...In a Hopeless Place") came oomphing through the speakers. 

Night in La Jolla

Thursday - Dinner in Old Town San Diego, at Cafe Coyote (or Coyote Cafe).  We walked by the oldest brick structure in southern California, a regal building that had a large weeping tree of some kind on its property.  I moseyed around the sidewalks and felt completely disoriented.  I thought I was in New Orleans or something, but no... The randomness of this trip and my presence in southern California never really abated.

Friday - After the conference ended at noon on Friday I wasn't sure what to do with myself.  I wandered around the beautiful spacious suburban sprawl and investigated their version of a Chipotle.  It was full of men in their 30s and 40s in business casual attire.  Many people were sitting outside on the little plaza.  The interior was so spacious that I actually took up a whole booth by myself, just me and my food and my copy of The Atlantic with Barack Obama on it.  I felt like a real East Coast elitist asshole.  The food was great -- the steak tasted different, the guacamole was smoother, the chips were better.  Huh. 

I spent more time walking around the hotel area, doing work when I could, and then returned to sit by the pool for a while.  A new conference was launching in those final hours and I felt awkward remaining there.  Our time had passed.  At the airport I realized that I had waited in the same terminal a few years earlier with colleagues from the law firm, and I again thought about how much had changed since then.

Does California only exist as a fantasy, a mirror, a landmark on the horizon to notch the passing of time?  It sure seems that way. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

A good night

After work I went with a colleague to Cibreo for some happy hour drinks.  A couple of good rounds of laughs and good-natured bitching.  Afterwards I met L, Alice, and friends for dinner.  J was in town for a couple days and I was looking forward to a leisurely evening of laughs and revelry.  When I arrived at the apartment the baby girls were just coming out of the bath, all wearing their pajamas - N in hearts, Alice in pink and red footies, P in her blue footies.  The girls giggled and swarmed around the apartment as the adults prepared dinner.

I left the apartment, so briefly, to buy some bourbon and ice cream - 3 pints from Ben and Jerry's for $12 - strawberry cheesecake (the classic), Boston Cream Pie (the chocolate), Cinnamon Buns (the wild card).  Back inside the ladies were drinking dirty martinis while the men moved on to bourbon.  Around 9 or so some wonderful Asian noodly dish made its way to the table as the baby girls slept or mumbled in the bedrooms.  We ate and laughed, ate and laughed.  Dinner plates were replaced by bowls and ice cream.  Alice grew upset, so around 10 pm we brought her back into the fray.  She was charming, eating her ice cream, speaking into the remotes as if they were telephones, hugging and flirting with all of us.   J&A gave us our Christmas presents: a ridiculously hipster hoodie for me, plus a bookstore gift certificate, and a Kindle for L.  J said "we love you" so casually and easily that it must be true. 

Finally we coaxed a jacket onto our daughter and packed everything into a cab.  Made it home here, watched some television.  As I write this I finished some work stuff and L is asleep in the other room.  Tomorrow morning I'll see my friend J briefly, briefly, before he returns to Spain until the summertime.  But it will be enough.

The refrain tonight - "it feels like Friday, but it's only Tuesday."  Such small sweet pleasures in life - good food and drink, friends you love dearly.  Considerate gifts.  A child eating ice cream late at night in her borrowed pajamas; the chance for our daughter to be the girl who stays up, the one who gets to sneak into our nighttime conversation, to see her parents with their friends, so happy, so grateful.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Night rhythms

Tonight, after Alice and I finally got home, after Alice took her bath, after we attempted to FaceTime with L in Atlanta while Alice was in the tub, resulting in an anguished Alice reaching her soapy hands towards L's face enclosed by the distressingly small face of the phone, after reading books and kissing goodnight, after watching the debate, after doing some work and agonizing over the unkempt state of my inbox, after looking around the quiet apartment, I remembered that something good had happened today.  I had been worried about something for a while, and got a phone call in the middle of a meeting this morning telling me that things were okay.  When my phone started vibrating, I knew immediately what it was, and I was able to stride out of the conference room with the unquestioning confidence I can never seem to muster when I really need it.  I got my good news and came back into the meeting, taking that idea and folding it neatly and placing it in my pocket.

And then tonight I discovered it again.  To celebrate I decided to pour some Sambuca for myself and add three coffee beans.  As Alice slept and the city lay dark and still outside the windows, I cleaned the kitchen and listened to music, washing tupperware and making sandwiches for tomorrow, gathering all my ingredients for morning oatmeal, portioning my carrot sticks for lunch.  In the shadowy kitchen I let my iPod be my guide, gliding through the night with the slow, true old songs made for evenings like this. 

Ever since I was in high school these late hours were made for music and quiet.  Singing low in my night kitchen reminded me of the solitude that I don't often experience anymore, for great reasons -- but what joy there was to be found in those old slow songs, a voice worn and lowered by the length of the day, a clean kitchen ready for the morning, a glass of sambuca at hand, patient and restorative, and the memory of good news to absolve the day of worry.