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Friday, September 28, 2007

the fight for kisses

more urgent matters of state

new dad jason kottke asks only the most important questions about fatherhood:
When your child is of an appropriate age to start watching movies, in which order will you show him/her the six Star Wars movies? By original release date (Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith) or according to the intra-movie chronology (Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith, Star Wars, Empire, Jedi)?
what would you do? WHAT WOULD DO? me, i'd probably protect my spawn from the three prequels entirely. just shield her from the fact that they were ever made.

something we can all get behind

dear lady in the park feeding your 3 year old multiple bags of delicious, nutritious doritos: i am sorry that i offended people by calling you fat. they're right. that was probably uncalled for. mostly because it detracted from my actual point: i don't hate you for being zaftig, long may you live! i hate you for feeding my kid something (anything) without asking first. i think i might be able to get over it though. somehow.

here. how about something we can all agree on? from the news: new york's own fair Mayor Mike's company
is being sued by the equal opportunity employment commission for "a pattern or practice of demoting and reducing the pay of female employees after they announced their pregnancies and after they took maternity leave." holy shit!

i, for one, am against discrimination. even against pregnant women. i just think it's wrong. am i right?

just trying to reduce my asshole footprint here ... i know, i know. too late.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

for every season turn, turn, turn

hi! it's fall now! has it really been a week since my last post? wow! i suck! here's five new things:

  1. sonny rollins is undefeatable. superimpossible. beyond.
  2. i was at my friendly corner bodega tonight and the guy was watching tv. here's the conversation we had:

    "holy shit! that's john laroquette! from night court! his hair is all white! when did he get so ooooold?"
    "him? this? this is boston legal! great show!"
    "oh my god! candace bergen too! and william shatner! fuck! everyone looks bloated and 90!"
    "you don't have tv?"
    "not a tv that gets reception. long story. short answer: no."
    "yes, i understand. i only get basic cable for al jazeera. 10 minutes of al jazeera every morning and every night. i need it. tv is crap but i need al jazeera. and boston legal."

  3. here's the conversation my daughter and i had at the mail boxes etc. store yesterday. i went in there to send a fax for work. as i was writing the note, ever-present coffee cup in my other hand, she engaged me thusly:

    "what's doing, daddy?"
    "i'm writing a note. i need to send a fax. then we can go to the playground together!"
    "what's that man doing?"
    "him? he's going to send the fax for me, sweetie."
    "HE HAS A PENIS???!"
    "shhh. yes, i believe so."
    it gets better. the man in question set up the fax machine, dialed the number and brought his own very large coffee cup over to us. he smiled at my daughter.
    "hi," he said. "my coffee is bigger than your daddy's."

    oh, hell no. i thought.

    "coffee bigger?" she asked me pointing at creepy-strangerman's 32 ounce cup.
    "yes, sweetie. his coffee is bigger than daddy's. but that's because he's SO MUCH OLDER. when daddy gets VERY OLD LIKE HIM, his cup will get bigger too. but at least DADDY'S COFFEE WILL STILL BE STRONG."

  4. here is something i'd like your input on: mrs nice guy and i had taken the tot to the tot lot the other day. we were all minding our own business, playing on the monkey bars. then my kid saunters over to a neighboring family. as it happens, everyone in the neighboring family is MORBIDLY OBESE and the mother is feeding her own 90-pound three year old dorritos by the bagful. not my problem, i figure. until, that is, she offers my kid -- MY HEALTHY DAUGHTER -- a fistful of solid lardchips WITHOUT ASKING US. my kid, being a kid, took the chips and wolfed them down. i was pissed.

    "Mama Cass over there just fed our kid a bunch of chips without asking us if it was ok! it's not ok!"
    "relax. it's a chip. she'll live."
    "but Shamu-mom didn't ask us if it was ok!! i would never give a toddler food without asking her parents permission first! fuck! i am having a stroke!"
    "you know what, mr nice guy?" asked my wife, because now she calls me mr nice guy, "you're what's wrong with parents today. just chill out."

  5. finally, this: mrs nice guy worked late tonight, so i put the kid to bed. i read her 29 books, sang her dutch lullabies and left her 3 elmos to cuddle with. "night-night, daddy," she said as i left the room. officially off-duty, i changed clothes and poured myself a drink. then i passed by her room and put my ear to the door. here is what i heard her sing, by herself, in the dark:

    "twinkle baa-baa, little star. how i wonder what you are. you are my sunshine, my only sunshine. you make me happy, when skies are great."

    i stood there and, in all seriousness, i was stroking the door. i was thiiiis close to tears. because she is her own person now. here she is, doing her own thing, on her own time, in her own room. my heart almost burst from the ridiculous pride, the irresistible cuteness, the plain sadness of it all. when did she get so big? how can i possibly always protect her? why must she hurt, feel alone, grow old and die?

    most importantly, what channel is boston legal on?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

sonnymoon for two

guess who's going to see sonny rollins at carnegie hall tonight. (this time i double checked the date.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

oh kermit, what have you become

do not watch this if you don't want your childhood vigorously molested.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

more on anniversaries

not much to say today. i've been rereading On the Road because it's the 50th anniversary of the book and i first read it in high school mostly to look cool even though i didn't really get it and now i just feel too old and bah-humbuggy for it -- i missed my kerouac window i think. anyway, i was reading it last night to celebrate its 40th anniversary and of course today is the sixth anniversary of 9/11. i was living in boston at the time, the place where two of the planes took off. and mercifully nobody i knew then was directly affected by the awful events of the day.

still, you can imagine the rude slap this sentence felt like:
When daybreak came we were zooming through New Jersey with the great cloud of Metropolitan New York rising before us in the snowy distance. Dean had a sweater wrapped around his ears to keep warm. He said we were a band of Arabs coming in to blow up New York.

of course, that wasn't the first eerily prophetic thing ever written that foreshadowed 9/11. a much more famous example: in 1948 e.b. white wrote Here is New York (a brilliant little shot that is best followed immediately with a james agee chaser: Brooklyn Is, which was written 10 years earlier). check out this passage if you haven't already:

The subtlest change in New York is something that people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer who might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.

It used to be that the Statue of Liberty was the signpost that proclaimed New York and translated it for all the world. Today Liberty shares the role with Death.

on a much lighter note ... if (and only if) you are not easily offended, have a very bleak and twisted sense of humor, and consider yourself a fan of what the kids call "hip hop," read this. it's wickedly hilarious.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

nice guy's anatomy

so if i were to come up with a list of days in my life that i would rather not have to repeat, i would put tuesday fairly high up there.

of course surgery is never fun. the doctor's office tells you that they want to come first thing in the morning so you can be done by noon "and walk out of there on a cane." this entails arriving at 5:30 in the morning. it's still dark outside and you haven't slept because, you know, you're going to have surgery as soon as you wake up. but then you couldn't find a car because there's a taxi strike and all the car services in brooklyn are booked so you frantically call every ride in the phone book until you find some ghetto-ass dude who comes to pick you up in his rusted out mercury sable and he doesn't take credit cards.

fine. so you get there at 5:30 and you're given paperwork to do. ahhh, paperwork before dawn -- is there any greater delight? you try to focus. do you have any allergies to latex? no. any history of heart disease? nope. did you pack your bags yourself? uhh. did any strangers ask you to carry anything into the operating room for them? definitely. do you swear to tell the whole truth? never!

then you wait. then they escort you to a freezing hospital room and someone else asks you all the same questions again before telling you to get naked and put on a paper robe and wait some more. then at around 7 am they put an IV in your arm, a saline drip. this is the first fluid that enters your body since about 9 pm the night before. you're hungry and would commit foul crimes against nature for a cup of coffee.

then the physician's assistant comes in and makes small talk while fondling you knee. she asks you all the same questions all over again. takes your pulse. after a nurse takes your blood pressure and asks you all the same questions yet again, you're told that your number has come up: surgery time.

you amble over to the OR in your paper robe, a nurse trailing behind you holding the saline bag. you accidentally walk a little too close to a table with scary-looking surgical tools on it, sending the entire room into a tizzy: "DID HE JUST TOUCH THOSE? CHRIST! THOSE ARE STERILIZED! DID YOU TOUCH THEM?!?!?!" you did not. so they lay you down on the table.

the anesthesiology resident, who looks about 13, appears over your head. he is fiddling with your IV. he says: "just you giving a something little to to to take the edge offfffffffffffff lurpooooooting quib893 hhhhhhhhhhhhhhjui EEP EEP EEP EEP!" then his face dissolves and is replaced by a blinding white light and suddenly you can hear what god smells like.

you wake up either 2 hours or 900 years later. you can't tell which. you feel pretty damn good. then you remember where you are and you suddenly realize that the epidural you were given has rendered you paralyzed from the waist down. you can't move your feet, much less feel them. there is a flimsy little tube stuck in your nostrils blowing cold, unwanted air straight up your nose. you are suddenly feeling not as pretty damn good.

time passes. the nurse brings you the best-tasting turkey sandwich and cup of coffee you have ever had in your life. you slowly regain sensation in your legs. your wife is on her way to pick you up. you're feeling pretty damn good again. then you are informed at this point that YOU CANNOT LEAVE UNTIL YOU PEE and are wheeled to the bathroom while a nurse waits outside, making it very difficult indeed to pee.

while you're getting dressed the physician's assistant comes to tell you what they found: a little tiny tear at the periphery of the meniscus. nothing serious. also: a shit-ton of scar tissue and adhesions that were gumming up the mechanics of the joint, not unlike charlie chaplin caught up in those gears in Modern Times. and all that clicking and popping and locking? turns out it WAS the get fresh crew! seems you had a serious case of b-boy infestation. the doctor took them out and put them in a little jar for you to take home. aren't they cute?

so your wife comes and together you get into a cab. this is because the hospital won't let you leave on your own even though you feel fine. they don't want you to sue them if you die on the way home because you were unsupervised. anyway your wife puts you in a cab and she gets out like three blocks later to go back to work. that'll show the hospital protocol! you go home to brooklyn where your daughter is playing with the sitter. she has been briefed that you might not be feeling well, so she greets you accordingly. "daddy go to doctor?" "yes, sweetie. i went to the doctor." "daddy scary?" "no, i wasn't that scared." "yeah. daddy scary and daddy cry. poor daddy." bless.

you spend the afternoon on the couch watching netflix goodness. your wife won't be home until 7 or so, and she's got your prescription for Vicodin. but you start to feel a little unpleasantness in your knee at around 5, so you go to your medicine cabinet and pull out the leftover Percocet from your surgery in march. you take one.

ok, maybe you take two. after all, you just had surgery and you earned it. for about an hour you feel fucking fantastic. you are a fluffy cloud filling; your are eight million stars puncturing the black canopy of night with your shimmering incandescence. then, you are suddenly very nauseous.

you lie down on your bed, your headphones excreting Funkadelic into your ears in a desperate bid to get the ceiling to stop spinning. you float in and out of nauseous consciousness for three hours. you get your sorry ass out of bed at around 9 pm to urinate. as you're peeing you realize that there is an awful lot of saliva in your mouth. your stomach turns. crap. you're going to barf. but you're standing, bearing all your weight on your one good leg. how are you supposed to get down on the ground quickly enough in order to puke into the toiLUUURRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! oof. you just barely make it. sure your bad leg knocked the cover off the heating vent, but at least you BLLLURRRRRRRRGHHHHHH!!

your wife looks at you as you emerge from the bathroom. "whoa. did that come out of nowhere?" and this is the last thing you remember saying tuesday night: "no. it came out of my stomach."

Monday, September 03, 2007

european vacation

hello! finally, i got things sorted out with the evil cable empire, got my connection back and uploaded a few photos. huzzah! before i get into any extreme pig-eating detail about the horror that my german vacation wasn't, a little housekeeping announcement: i'll be going in for a spot of follow-up knee surgery tomorrow. the one i had in march wasn't painful or traumatic enough so they've re-upped me for round two.

actually, i was healing quite nicely until the Second Flooding of the Basement, just before vacation. as i was frantically bailing out the ankle-deep wasteland of our storage/wash-room i felt something crunch in my knee. actually, it was more like a grinding screaming sort of pop-clicking excruciating agony that caused my testicles to ascend into my thorax and rendered me blind for a good twenty minutes. every subsequent step i took felt like the inside of my joint was lined with gravel and broken glass. since then i haven't been able to walk much without the knee popping, locking and clicking--so, naturally, i was worried that the Get Fresh Crew might be living inside me (it's possible, right? i mean, have you seen them around lately?). the doctor ordered up an MRI which revealed that i did not, in fact, tear the new meniscus, nor do i have B-Boy-on-the-knee. everything looked good. but since there is clearly something wrong, he wants to take a look inside with a little scope tomorrow. hopefully it's just one of the sutures rubbing up against the bone or something else really easy to fix. i'll know more this time tomorrow. i'll also have a renewed subscription to Percocet Monthly.

in the meantime, let's think of happier things. let's think about Mr Nice Guy's Summer Vacation to Heerlen and Bad Neuenahr (that's bad meaning good, not bad meaning bad). we flew to Koln, which is pronounced "Cologne," not "Koln," even though i have owned Keith Jarrett's Koln concert on LP and CD for more than a decade and have not once, apparently, pronounced its title correctly. i thought they were two different cities. don't even ask me how i pronounce Tuscon.

anyway, we flew into germany so we could spend two days in the netherlands before returning to germany. makes perfect sense, right? so we went to Heerlen, which is my baby mama's mother's motherland. the best part about going to this teensy corner of europe's nerther-regions? my wife's uncle runs a family restaurant. Auberge du Rousch. it's in an old farm house. and it's their home. and the food is delicious -- go there at once! and it's also impossibly quaint and gorgeous. i mean ... look:

toddler bonus: there's also a feral rooster running around the property. and aggressive geese. my daughter loved frolicking among all these wild birds, although i am not sure the feeling was reciprocated. she got to pet the banty houseguest, although he submitted grudgingly. the geese by the pond actually moved in for an attack when she was feeding them bread. the girl wasn't afraid, but i was fully prepared to sacrifice her if needed in a last-ditch sprint to preserve my own self. sophie's choice should only have been this easy. mean honking fuckers, they were.

but enough about fowl. the days spent in holland were leisurely, filled with family and food. and wine. and fun. but it was not our final destination. after having flown exceptionally well and adjusted reasonably to the time difference, the kid was packed up again and taken back into germany.

we arrived in bad neuenahr and suddenly found ourselves in some weird parallel universe where everyone is 87 years old, german and waiting patiently to die. BN is an ancient spa town where for hundreds of years germans with dropsy would make pilgrimages to take the waters. to this day it remains a hot spot among ailing octogenarian Teutons. i prayed that the senile saxons would not sniff out my child's jewish blood and have flashbacks to the '30s -- i mean, had she survived the rabid dutch geese only to suffer a much more sinister fate? i urged my wife not to mention the war.

despite the cultish fervor with which everyone visited the thermal baths, the town was quite lovely. here's is the main bath house:

napoleon himself is said to have dipped in her waters. so who were we to scoff at the preponderance of wheelchairs, walkers and sagging kraut-flesh? mrs nice guy and i figured that when in bad neuenahr, one must do what the bad neuenahrians do: TAKE THE WATERS!!!! so we booked ourselves some massages and eagerly anticipated our dip in the famed thermal bath. it promised to be a "Symphony of the Senses."

and indeed it was! once inside, the place was straight out of the belle epoque. stunningly gorgeous, a tad antiseptic, yet a spa in the true, old school meaning of the word. mrs nice guy booked herself a "classic massage." that struck me as too easy, unadventurous. me? i simply couldn't resist the item on the menu called, tantalizingly, the "4o-minute red wine massage" administered by "Frau Julia." so i signed up for one of those. oenophile though i am, there was a very large part of me dreading that this germanic red wine massage would culminate in a blood-crimson colonic irrigation administered by a stocky black-clad matronly dominatrix. and probably lots of crying. by me. i was brave anyway and showed up at my appointment, prepared to have Frau Julia work all the kinks out of my damaged id. with red wine.

this is the hall you walk down to get to your massage. imposing much?:

incidentally, that's not a real person sitting in that chair reading a magazine. i thought she was an actual human. she scared the daylights out of me. Frau Julia, thankfully, was not as frightening. nor was she wearing black. stocky, yes, but young. and firm. there was no high colonic, nor was there a happy ending. i briefly entertained vague hopes that things might take a swinging turn ("my, you're the youngest client i've had in about 38 years!") but in fact i was really, very uncomfortably naked under her stern gaze as she worked me over with her powerful forearms.

the only red wine i saw was the glass i drank before hand. there was a lotion that smelled vaguely of cabernet, but otherwise, i got ripped off.

or so i thought! after our massages, mrs nice guy and i checked out the pool. the thermal pool. what a pool! hugh hefner himself could plan a party in this pool. tell me this isn't the most-swinging late-belle epoque groovy sex-pool you've ever seen:

i sense there may have been some remodeling at the bad neuenahr thermal bath as recently as 1978. heretical! anyway, the water was very warm and surprisingly reinvigorating. we swam for about an hour. we emerged from the waters feeling all tingly and new. then we read a sign that said it was strenuously advised that bathers spend NO MORE THAN 15 MINUTES in the water ... because it has high levels of radiation.

so now my semen glows in the dark. oh well.

the kid liked the spa too. she liked the village, filled with elders (most of whom looked at us like we had three heads). mostly she liked the "thomas choo-choo" that ran through the town every 40 minutes. she liked it so much that she cried big heavy tears and screamed great squawks of despair every time it drove by and we didn't let her on it ... which was every time it went by except once.


the food was delicious. one night we all went to a restaurant that was supposed to be Very German and uber-authentic (as they say) and filled basement-to-attic with meat and beer. i was excited. at least i THOUGHT i was excited until i got there and i saw the menu. then i truly knew the meaning of the word. check out the special of the evening:

A HALF METER OF BRATWURST! do you have any idea how much sausage that is, my non-metric understanding children? i myself was vaguely aware that it was Not a Small Amount of Bratwurst, but i ordered it anyway because it also came with a pile of sauerkraut, a mountain of potatoes, a beer and a shot of weird german firewater. i placed the order, which elicited gasps of horror from my gentle dutch in-laws. here's what arrived at my table:

here is the waitress placing it before me as onlookers look on in disgust and admiration:

i ate the whole thing. and i seriously contemplated ordering another. but i restrained myself because i was after all in a land of people known for their restraint.

after a big fat pig-centric meal like that, one must go for a walk. so mrs nice guy and her aunt and uncle and i went the following day on a Rotweinwanderweg. which is german for Red Wine Wandering.

you see, the part of germany we were in is called the Ahr region -- which is more famous as the birthplace of pirating (Ahhhhrrr!) than it is known outside of germany as a small wine growing region. it's not really known outside of germany as a wine-growing region because they drink all of the wine they make before they can export it. that's no joke. these people make wine that's too good to share with the rest of the world.

on our Red Wine Wandering, we ended up at these old cloisters where old german nuns of yore apparently used to hike up their skirts and stomp on grapes. the cloisters are still there -- artfully decaying among the pinot vines:

so after our walk we sauntered into the main building and had ourselves a wine tasting. and did some wine drinking. which got us to thinking: what is it about european monks and nuns? they made the best hooch.

let's see. what else did we do? we went on a boat tour down the rhine. it required a 2 hour train ride, 3 hours of sitting on a boat and the total loss of whatever sanity our daughter had until that point retained, but it was beautiful. the rhine river is lined with lovely old castles. you don't get to actually get off the boat and walk around them on the abridged tour we took, but it was worth it for two main reasons.

one: we got to see the loreley, the great rock where dwell the rhine sirens who, with their song, lure unsuspecting sailors to their watery grave. which makes you think: probably not the best spot to float by on your family boat-tour. but we made it past the loreley alive. here she is:

the other draw? we got to see Assmann's house

i always wondered where he lived. good old Assman. his house is apparently a very popular spot to visit:

we also went to a big wine festival that a neighboring town throws every year. at least we thought it was a wine festival until we got there and learned that ... it was a german Renaissance Faire. Renaissance Faires are about as cringe inducing in germany as they are in northern massachusetts, only in german. but all was forgiven once we were greeted to the sixteenth century by this welcoming committee of one:

hello, piglet. can't wait to eat you! while you roast on your spit, however, i think we'll cruise the grounds. waiting for that scrumptious looking swine to cook, we drank some wine. witnessed some displays of archery derring-do. we drank more wine. saw some german sword fighting. drank. listened to some excellent bagpiping.

whhhhaaaa? german bagpipes? pass the haggis!

whatever. der kinder enjoyed it. she also enjoyed her first taste of proper german sausage. it's all good when there's bratwurst in the hood:

3 hours later, our friend Babe still wasn't fully cooked, so we had to take our leave of Ye Olde German Faire without having had a proper taste. bye bye, little swine of mine:

that's about it. traveling with a kid is easier when you have grandparents and cousins and uncles and even a great grandmother in the mix. we still did a lot of stuff that we would have been doing had we just stayed in brooklyn: some time in the (nonradioactive) public pool, a lot of playground action, slow walks to nowhere in particular, fussy meals, dvds.

oh, a word about european playgrounds: THEY ARE AWESOME. clearly they are a less litigious people, those europeans. more concerned with fun and design than they are with child safety. i'm all for it. check out this thing -- the greatest invention in the history of playgrounds. you sit on the little red seat and it glides down a long, sloping cable--james bond-style--until you reach the end and it hits a giant spring, sending the seat flying up in the air. you only keep from falling off by clinging for dear life--no seatbelts on this continent. check it out:

wheeee! i actually muscled my way through a pack of patiently waiting 6 year olds to ride this thing over and over and over again. i don't think i've ever had this much fun in my life.

and neither did the daughter. after our time was up in germany, we spend another day in holland. she got to go on a trampoline for the first time. a trampoline! in a public park! would never happen in new york. (next to the park was a little flock of grazing sheep. that's right, sheep! you could actually hear my daughter's mind totally blowing a gasket as we rolled up to the playground. "baa-baa! baa-baa in da playground!" there was also a tunnel. she couldn't freakin' believe her luck.) after a few very cautious initial outings, the trampoline proved to be a hit too.

whooooo! she cried big sloppy tears of sadness and betrayal when we made her put her shoes back on. but it was time to head home. it was time to get ready to get back on the airplane.

after 10 great days and another a long, long journey -- a two hour drive followed by a nine hour flight and a taxi ride to brooklyn from newark -- she was really, really happy to get back. "dat's my house!" she shouted as the cab pulled up. bless. she ran in and greated the cats enthusiastically. she ran up and down the stairs. home. it was warm and happy and comfortable and sweet.

mostly, though, she was really stoked to see all her friends again. i think they were glad to see her too.