That’s My Moon.

Language is a tricky beast. Think about it. I’m typing characters, which are converted to document code, which are then converted to binary on/off switches, which are then uploaded- seemingly through air- to another machine. This machine has its own set of languages that it uses to interpret those on/off switches, switches it to another code, and that code plasters it – the words, the images, the amateur food porn instagrams- all over a ‘wall’ of my digitally created Social Media platform. Still then, that ‘wall’ is selective about what it shows- there are separate algorithms that decides who gets to see it and when, largely influenced by the application of large sums of digital money, another set of 1’s and 0’s that we won’t get into here. And that’s just the technical side of it. Let’s not even go into whether or not I bought the amateur food at Safeway.

The other problem is language itself,  and this comes from a person who last week- completely enamored with a spot of free time, spent it at the library, and considered updating his “status”  to “Fucking lucky librarians! This is AWESOME!” on his wall- I clearly love books, writing, and all the best things in life.

All that said, all language is just an iteration of a former language ( and that’s an extremely clumsy statement, but hence the problem) – it’s both a specific and precise set of tools used to mirror an image of a very intricate network of information processing (normally called ‘feelings in your brains’) and something that is subject to  malleability. Meanings change, memes gain traction, the world turns, and we must keep up. At the same time, clichés are clichés for a reason- some things are always true, and no one has found a better way to distill the truth. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but if the shoe fucking fits, why waste another cottin’ pickin’ minute re-inventing the wheel? A penny saved might be a quaint sologigliasmish,  but the point still stands.

All that said, it’s a wonderfully weird thing to watch this language thing from the ground up.

I have a 3-year old. In the beginning, I just felt like a sperm donor. She shat, slept, cried, and we plugged along through job problems, diaper decisions, and the usual. Not much input from her for the first 15 months. Then….speech.

Watching the process of a new brain make language connections has been ….educational. And by ‘educational’ , I mean both fascinating and terrifying in equal measures.

Take the moon- she loves it. On evenings where it sets over the house across the street, about every-ahem- once in a blue moon,  we watch it in our pyjamas, at least until the fascination wears off ( about 45 seconds ) and then commence deliberations about how many insipid episodes of animated hamsters we are allowed to watch this evening. Still, it has always been an object of fascination for her, and I’m watching the language she uses to describe it change- and it’s a steady variable. Watch.

The first time she described the moon- and there must have been many ‘first times’ as she glommed onto words, descriptions, ways to make your tongue and mouth say ‘moon’,  but I hadn’t had much sleep at the time, so I don’t remember- she was in the swing at the playground. We were doing the obvious thing, and I was 20-40% mentally occupied with the notion that all the moms were casting disparaging glances at me for swinging my kid too high, too young which says a lot about the Y chromosome. Still, she was up, the moon was up, and she saw it.

“Daddy!”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“What’s that cookie?”

The moon was full that afternoon, and since we had a routine- I would always put her in the swing with her precious face-skin away from the setting sun- the view was always the same.

“That’s the moon!” I explained.

“Is that my moon?” she asked.

“Yes, sweetie, it’s your moon.” I replied. Insert whatever “wrapped around her tiny little finger” joke you need to about me, ‘cause it’s fucking true.

Now, every dad goes through phases. Pre-kid, it’s “What?!? You’re pregnant?!?” It’s the first, simplest one, and  rather stupid- you did stick it in after all. What were you expecting? Still, the kid is born, words come, bonds form, relationships begin to gel, the specifics of which aren’t always noticed by dads- Y chromosome- until they take their kids out onto the playground, often and repeatedly. You get into habits. You hit the swings. Every 29.5 days, the moon repeats itself, and the kid sees it.

But the moon goes through phases.

“Daddy, that’s my Moon!” she exulted.

We were on the swings, me feeling confident and masculine about shoving her and rubberized safety gravity harness into the pre-school stratosphere, probably a bit more forcefully than I should have, but I wanted to impress. Whom, I’m not sure, but probably borne of a need to progress.

“Where, sweetie?”

“There!” She pointed.

“Yes, that’s your moon!”

In my mind and memory, I saw her brow furrow. If I apply physics, it would tell me that I probably couldn’t actually see  her thought processes on an oscillating swing, but fuck that noise, I know my kid. She was puzzled, and I saw what was coming.

“Daddy….my moon is broken!”

To her, half of it was gone- to me, I felt the earth tremble over code and language she didn’t have yet- ‘waxing and waning’ weren’t options. The she plucked that impossible heart string.

“Daddy, can you fix it?”

……..

…Should I say “In about 2 weeks?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on July 22, 2013 at 9:27 PM  Comments (1)  

At the Zoo.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about humans, and how weird we are. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about how much effort it takes for all of us to to have to swallow our tongues when presented with absolutely ABSURD ideas, and how much that taxes out brains. Example: Sarah Palin for President. My grey matter lacks the associated muscles to twist it into those kind of pretzels.

We are asked- A LOT- to ignore the obvious, and I can’t help but wonder if it takes it’s toll.

We were at the Zoo, fresh from the Grizzly Bear feeding. They throw salmon and apples in the Bear pond, and let ‘em rip into it, ‘catching’ their own prey while we watch from the viewing window. It is very difficult to get a good seat.

All we saw was a Bear dejectedly eating an apple as a consolation prize (ripped off!). Fortunately, by the ‘Big Cats’ Exhibit afterwards, a male lion started to bellow. And I mean BELLOW. He was making an almost alien sound, a loud gutterel throng, an uvula slapping around in the back of his throat in a way that live meat hasn’t since the last whale childbirth, and we ran forth.

Think of this. How many thousands of years of evolutionary programming must we have overridden to think-

“Loud, Powerful Predator Cat? GOTTA SEE THAT! Oh, my precious, helpless charge can’t SEE? I’ll fight to get you a GOOD SPOT to make EYE CONTACT WITH HIM! I want to make sure HE KNOWS YOU ARE THERE!

More on this later.

Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 3:58 PM  Comments (5)  

The Daily Slog

I am now in the phase of unemployment where I need to prove I’m looking for jobs. I kinda find this offensive- I’VE BEEN LOOKING- and there is a certain malaise that sets in after awhile. The vast majority of employers don’t even send you a generic email acknowledging that you sent application materials, which is frustrating when they ask for a cover letter, personal statement, resume, photo, writing sample, 12 hours of volunteer work, chilled sperm sample, letter of rec for their brother-in-law and a four hour commitment to take the SAT for their sister’s ‘cognitively challenged’ teenager.

I do apply for real jobs, but I’ve also started to apply for jobs that I could care less if I get. It breaks up the monotony and the low expectations. As evidence, I offer my most recent cover letter:

Numushkar ( Bengali for Namaste)  to you:

 I understand you are looking for a Friday AM yoga instructor. I am a certified Yoga Alliance 200hr yoga teacher. I’ve taught here and there.

You’ve asked for ‘presence’ on the Web. The only Yoga presence on the web that I have is an old Yoga blog, dedicated mostly to my ambivalence about Yoga. Obviously, this was before I did teacher training, and clearly an angrier man. You can find the blog here.

While I appreciate that my take on Yoga is ‘unique’, I do believe there is room for a class entitled “Yoga for the Unenlightened”, or perhaps “Yoga for the Chakra-Skeptical” or even “It’s F*cking Yoga!” I do understand that this might offend many with a more serious take on the matter, but it I still think the idea has merit. I won’t be at all offended if you choose to ignore my application- it’s a rather controversial take, I realize- but if the notion appeals to you at all, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Chini,

Shumit DasGupta.

P.S. My resume has little or nothing to do with ‘Yoga’ employment, as I have no real desire to earn my living teaching it X amount of hours a week. I simply would like to see a class like this exist.”

Whacha think my chances are? Pretty good, yes?

.

Published in: on September 14, 2011 at 1:45 PM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

My friend, JC, inspires a rerun.

A conversation today with the big JC * inspired me to re-post my former foibles with online dating. Funny how the world works, eh?

I feel I should precede this project with a poem. I’ve only ever written one that I like, and, outside of high school English classes, I’ve only ever written two poems.

The first one was when I was 15. This was about the age where I started sneaking out to drink beers with friends, and one late night, about 1 in the morning, I stealthily unlocked the front door of my parents’ house and plopped my fanny on the couch to drunkenly watch MTV. The late night programming was ‘alternative’ and after a few gothic videos, I was feeling forlorn enough to put my feelings down on paper. Reading what I had written with the clarity of sobriety the next morning, I could only say I felt good about recognizing my complete lack of prosaic talent early in life. It was all typical teenage angst, full of ‘How Black my Soul is Painted, like Mystical Tar, I will always be Alone’ type of nonsense, and I decided right then that poetry, like the accordion, is only for those that can.

My second poem, years later, has a straightforward quality that the first lacked, and is unencumbered by the very concept of prose, which is probably why I like it. It is based on real-life experience, entitled ‘Ex-Girlfriend’. It goes thusly:

Ex-Girlfriend

 

I saw my ex-girlfriend the other day.

You know, the Crazy One?

And if it weren’t for that giant stone pillar

She would have seen me, too.

I am thirty-one and lonely, and so I’ve decided to start dating. Not ‘going on dates’, I  have technically done that before, but dating, actual intentional dating. I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I think it has something to do with a larger, more informed picture of the dating world, a more mature outlook, and a cool, clearheaded practical approach to finding someone with the same values that would be willing and happy to share them with me. It sounds terribly boring, but- as I’m getting older, and terribly boring seems to be what my peers strive for- I feel compelled to follow suit.

“Terribly boring” is an inaccurate way of summarizing my dating experience. “Terribly boring” reduces my dating experience to seemingly little or no experience, and that is false. It’s just that at my age, anybody with similar experience knows that there are certain types of “Exciting” that you must avoid. These types of “Exciting” seem to attach themselves with certain types of experience as well. Like my friend who dropped a jar of mayonnaise at age six in the grocery store and subsequently got cussed out by a passing elementary teacher and henceforth can no longer eat mayonnaise, I can no longer have certain types of sex, listen to certain types of music while having sex, or even watch certain movies which led to certain types of sex that I am reminded of every time I have to see them. I have become peculiar. It’s almost like an anti-fetish; I’m up for anything, except what’s on this list of no-no’s, here it is, please call me if you fit all of my anti-qualifications.

And so I’ve joined a dating service. An internet dating service.

The idea sprung from a discussion with friends over brunch, in the most innocuous way. A friend was talking with a friend, and she offhandedly asked,

“So, what do you do when you aren’t responding to emails?”

It occurred to me right then that this was the perfect webspeak equivalent of a bad pick-up line, something you might say to someone you might meet face-to-face when you are more accustomed to socializing on Facebook. I decided it was time. It was a perverse notion, I’ll admit, but so be it-  I would catch up with the rest of humanity and online date.

Before I begin here, I should let you know I chose the most generic of the generic dating services. It’s not Facebook, it isn’t Match.com, it ain’t even Friendster.  I’m a schoolteacher, after all, and the potential for bedlam- should students find my profile -is too horrific to even consider. I elected an old fashioned website.

I hear there are sites on-line that are strictly for casual sex. No pretence, no one looking for a ‘relationship’ allowed. We meet here, we get super-freaky, and we go home without even learning each other’s first names. I am intrigued, I want to learn more, I want to have super non-committal sex. I could handle it; I’ve done it before, and sex without strings can be wonderful. I think. It sure seems like it could be, and It worked once before, right? That one time in college?

The problem with hook-ups is that they are really exiting the first time. Hugely exiting, and you think they will be as exiting, or close, forever. That’s the part about getting old, and seeing things for second, third, umpteen times. They become tired, lose a little glory, and, perhaps, with a little hindsight, they may not have been the brilliant idea you thought they were in the first place. Despite these early mistakes, you hope that someone else made them as well, a kindred damaged spirit, and perhaps they use personals as well. If folks can use the internet for a specific purpose like “Tired of pathetic husband, looking to find 3 well-hung black males to show me a good time” or “ My sex crazed wife wants piles of  *** from a *****, which I will  then ****off, while you tie me up and call me a d*****”, surely I can find someone with the odd aversion to raw tomatoes and a penchant for watching CSI, right?

Strike One:

I put up a personal ad on (Unnamed) Personals. I have a hard time being too serious about this, not so much that I’m afraid it won’t work, but rather what to do if it does. I envision the next 100 dinner parties, and the inevitable “So how did you guys meet?” and the accompanying uncomfortable pause that follows the conversation killer “on-line”. So to actually sabotage this effort early, I put up a goofy photo with a goofy written profile so I don’t have to feel terrible when no one replies. I fill out the questionnaire, and press the scary-no-going-back-anybody-can-look-at-this ‘send’ button. I haven’t even started, and I’m already having commitment issues.

After about a week, I check my Inbox and, surprise, I have no new messages. I feel I should take some action, so I start flipping through my ‘Matches”. There is one girl whose profile starts of saying ‘Ok first off I’m fat, so if you don’t like big girls, don’t even bother.” The rest of her schpeal is similarly blunt, and I am amused. For her photo, she stuck her face right in the camera and smiled. It should be noted that she had slipped in a pair of ‘Billy-Bob’ plastic hillbilly teeth, the kind you find in supermarket toy machines. I scope through her other pictures and find that despite the self-deprecating humor, she is actually quite attractive, and so I decide to contact her. Granted, she’s and inch taller than me, and about 8 years younger, which may make me look like a pedophile, but, too late, I’ve decided. I soon find out that while you are allowed to post an ad for free, you actually have to pay to use the service. This is not unreasonable, as it is a service after all, but I’m a little put off by the idea, as it seems like paying for love. It’s not, but the microscopic and completely invalid parallel that could be drawn to prostitution makes me feel uneasy and desperate. I can, I find out, send what is known as an ‘Ice-BreakerÓ’, a list of one line greetings, pre-written. I select the one that says, “You have a beautiful smile. Let’s talk.” I’m hoping she gets the joke.

Predictably- predictable because who the fuck would think a canned greeting would be so cleverly selected to match up with the teeth- she doesn’t get it, and I suspect I might be living in my own head too much, which also means that while I may consider myself ‘clever’, I’m actually a bit obtuse.  I get no reply.

Strike Two:

The next time I open up my Inbox, I am surprised to find not one, but three new hits. The first and third are ‘Ice-BreakersÓ’. Number one boasts the headline “Loves to work with children.” I don’t remember putting down on the questionnaire that I was a teacher, but I figure that must have done it for her, as we have little else in common. She is also looking for someone taller than me, like most. I’m beginning to receive confirmation of what I had long suspected was true: women dig tall men. This does not bode well for me. She also doesn’t include a picture, something I am suspect of. I don’t think, or at least I like to think that I don’t think that looks are a reasonable basis for selecting someone to hang out with. We are all a little ugly in one way or another, and those of us that aren’t tend to have personalities similar to celery. Unfortunately, it’s the anti-fetish. You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on, but the lack of picture encourages a lack of faith. No one can be that ugly. Or can they? I don’t reply.

Strike Three (First Out):

The second is an actual email with an actual email address to reply to, and I am excited. Someone thought my profile was interesting enough to send a real message, and I open it with small hope and anticipation. I probably shouldn’t do this, but considering the circumstances, here is the message:

<>Hello my new friend!!!

<>I to find your profile on http://www.personals.yahoo.com and I have decided to

<>write to you this letter. I very much would like to get acquainted with you

<>closer. I have decided to write to you because you to me most of all another

<>loved. I would search such for the person who might understand and love me.

<>I want to find mine the satellite in life for the one whom I might expect at

<>the most difficult and difficult moments. I want to get acquainted with you

<>closer. I to search such for the person with that whom I my future life might

<>incorporate. I the first time get acquainted thus, and very much I want it,

Blah blah blah.

Someone used the online translation service and didn’t pay for the $29.95 version.

Strike One,(1 out)

The third message in my Inbox bears the headline “Love to Ride my Bike”. I’m intrigued, as I am an avid cyclist. She’s pretty in a sorority sort of way, the kind I can recognize as a generic American sort of pretty, but not the sort that I am attracted to. She also gets a lot of thumbs-down for anti-fetish; If ‘sports-nut’ were listed under hobbies, I could take it, but it doesn’t fly well under ‘television preferences’. Also in that category is “Reality TV Freak”, and although I’m not fond of TV but watch it anyway, I really have a problem with reality TV. If reality TV were real in America, it would be a close up shot of people watching TV. Fuck it, though, I guess I’ll send her an ‘Ice-BreakerÓ’ back. They don’t seem to matter anyway. She chose “Hey, how are you doing?” In reply I chose “I bet you say that to everyone.” No reply.

Strike Two, (1 out.)

It’s clearly necessary that I have to buy into the membership if this is going to go anywhere, which it ain’t. And that’s OK. Rooting around through profiles, I find one that actually sounds kind of interesting. She’s an attractive lady, either Indian or ABCD (standing for “American-Born-Confused-Desi”- an acronym used by the sons and daughters of Indian immigrants, ‘desi’ being the Hindi word for ‘Indian’) . I decide to take the plunge, to become an active member, to actually pay for the services rendered, so that I can send her the email. This now feels a little weird, like I am officially socially inept enough to need a dating service. It shouldn’t. People spend more money and time than I have at the bar on a Friday trying to hook it up, while I get the use of this service, and it is a service, for an entire month. It’s just that before I could beg off, say that this whole thing was a lark, a bit of fun, but now that I’ve shelled out actual dough, I am officially involved. At any rate, I sign up, write a brief, noncommittal email, asking a question or two and being generally ‘clever’, or so I think. I wait two weeks. No reply.

Strike Three (2 outs)

While I am fiddling around with someone or other’s profile on a random Wednesday evening, my housemate strolls in and pokes her nose in my business. I tell her what I’m doing, and she immediately commandeers my laptop and starts sorting through various profiles and sending them ‘Ice-BreakersÓ’ on my behalf. I think she sends out three, although truthfully I bail from the room and let her do her thing, because if I don’t, I am liable to become finicky and (truthfully) embarrassed. Only one ever replies, with an ‘Ice-BreakerÓ’ that says ‘Sorry, but I’ve met someone else…”. Oh well, at least she had the decency to inform me. As I had nothing to do with these particular selections on the jukebox, I’m only counting this as one collective strike.

Foul Ball (2 outs)

( a few weeks later…)

I’m returning from a bike trip, and I’m hoping a thing or two happened with the ole personals. Sure enough, I got two hits. Upon examining the profiles, however, I am unimpressed. Both have written fairly generic statements about themselves, of course they are seeking a man who is into honesty and not a game-player, and I’m very sure you are a sincere likeable human being who enjoys theatre, long walks and candle-lit dinners. Who doesn’t? I don’t reply.

Do you have to shackle up with someone for life, find your Soulmate, in order to become blissfully fulfilled? Is it OK to mess around a bit without becoming officially committed? Other people don’t, my Aunt whom I love and respect included. Maybe this mating business isn’t for everyone, and, despite the current paradigm, it may actually be possible to be happy and fulfilled on your own. Truthfully, I had suspected this for a while, as some of my most fulfilling spiritual moments were spent with me and my brain, working things out in a way that made sense to me and me only. In a small way, I feel less than a true manly-man, that perhaps if I had secretly elucidated the secrets of the universe, that I should’ve created a family to share this inner wisdom with. Things don’t really work like that, though. I teach teenagers in public school, so I am painfully aware of the disillusionment of the parents of adolescents. Do I even want kids, a domestic lifestyle, a minivan, a mortgage and a sullen kid around the house? Do I just want sex from time to time? I’m not so sure, now, but, like a parent, I started something I need to finish.

COMING SOON: On Sex and the Single Teacher-The Sequel.

*Jennifer Cogley. Who’d ya think I meant?

Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 8:45 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

A moment of frustration, documented.

Dorcas: Hello. Thank you for choosing Bank of America and our Online Banking Text Chat service. I’m here to assist you with  your Online access. My name is Dorcas. To begin, may I know your full name and zip code as it appears on your account?

You: S****  *****************

Dorcas: Hi S****, how may I assist you with your Online access today?

You: Where does the name Dorcas hail from?

You: Besides that, I need access to online banking

You: It would appear I don’t know both my username or password

Dorcas: I understand that you forgot Online ID and passcode to access your accounts.

Dorcas: Dorcas is the name from Bible.

Dorcas: Please allow me a moment while I access your profile.

Dorcas: Thank you for waiting.

Dorcas: May I please have last four digits of the account you are trying to access?

You: ****

Dorcas: Thank you for your information.

You: Are you full of good works and charitable deeds?

Dorcas: I do not see any account ending with **** listed under your profile.

Dorcas: Please confirm me the complete account number.

You: Sorry, I’m not feeling to secure on chat. Can I call a person on the phone? A real person? I still don’t have confirmation that you are full of good works and charitable deeds.

You: *too

Dorcas: Please do not ask sorry.

Dorcas: We truly appreciate and understand your concerns related to Online chat security.

Dorcas: Be assured that this chat is encrypted using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. You can verify this by the little yellow lock icon in the chat window and at the right hand bottom of the screen.

You: “do not ask sorry?”

Dorcas: However, I am not supposed to disclose any personal details

You: It’s not a personal detail, per se, it’s just the description of Dorcas in the Bible

Dorcas: If you do not feel comfortable with Live Chat you can contact us directly at 1.800.792.0808. Our associates will be happy to assist you over the phone.

Dorcas: We  are available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday Pacific Time.

You: I called that number and got a computer.

Dorcas: Once you call the number, the system would ask you to verify your account number. Post verification, please press 1 for problems signing in to Online Banking. Next, please press 1 for assistance regarding passcode, 2 for assistance regarding the “SiteKey’ or 3 for assistance regarding Online ID.

Dorcas: I udnerstand; I wish I could share that with you.

Dorcas: However, I cannot share the information as it is a professional chat.

You: There is still a computer talking to me

Dorcas: Please use the above IVR options.

Dorcas: Are you still with me? Please respond so I can leave this chat window open to answer any questions for you.

You: im still talking to a F*cking computer

Dorcas: Please note that Bank of America does not allow me to chat with someone in this way. Please refrain from using such language or I will be forced to end this chat.

You: i used a G*ddam asterisk

Dorcas: Okay. Please do not use such language via chat. If you have problems with sign in I will be glad to help you.

You: I got hung up on by a computer. How undignified.

Dorcas: I do not have access to phone; I am an Online Banking specialist to assist via Live chat.

You: Yes, I get that, and I’m not swe*ring at you, per se, just your g*ddam organization.

You: Sorry, G*sh D*rn

You: Weeelll, looks like I’m changing banks. Have a nice day Dorcas. You seem nice. Fuck Bank of America, though.

Last text message received Dorcas: S*****, we understand situations like the one you are experiencing can cause a great deal of frustration.

Published in: on August 10, 2011 at 7:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

An Ode to Bob Part 2: The new apartment

Bob and I ended up on a block next to Wicker Park. You’ve probably heard of it. Every big city has a Wicker Park. In NYC, it’s Greenwich Village. In San Francisco, it’s the Mission. It basically amounts to any neighborhood that started as a ghetto, before artists and bohemians moved in, followed by hipsters, and the final wave of metrosexuals, wine connasouers, and general gentrification. Before I ever thought I could ever be an agent of gentrification- when I was still a twenty-something who shopped at thrift stores for ironic  T-shirts and not because I needed to save money for diapers, here’s what I wrote:

 

I was on my way to the fish store the other day, being as I had to pick up some snails for a classroom project (or rather a snail: they’re hermaphroditic, and need only a single individual to spark a population of thousands. I really only needed to buy one and just wait) It turns out that snail reproduction is actually a big orgy, where they all pile up on each other and, well, do it. Gender is defined by where you are in the pile: bottom/middle, female, top/outside, male. It occurs to me that while we consider invertebrates ‘simple’ animals, they probably have a more extensive knowledge of sexual politics than we do.

 

Ahem. Anyway, perched next to the fish store was a dog salon with perfectly rounded corner windows that extended almost half the circumference around the store, offering a panoramic view into the life and times of a pet grooming business. It reminded me of the new yuppies on the block that I had recently moved into (the block, not the yuppies), the local champions of gentrification.[1] Unlike the Latino population that lives in the area, the folks with hordes of roaming children and porch parties every Sunday, these people do not live on the street. At least not in the same literal way that their neighbors do. As a replacement though, they have allowed the neighborhood the privilege of viewing them as they live inside their new condos and townhouses. I’m not sure which architect thought of this, but all the new buildings on the street are almost entirely glass windows in front, both first, second, and third floors. We can watch them prepare dinner, yell at the kids, do the newest tai-bo-yoga-wholefoods-holististic-herbal-naturaopathic-aromatherapy exercise routine, and generally perform all the mundane activities of everyday living in the limelight of their track-lighting illumination systems by IKEA. I don’t know why they thought anyone would be interested, but apparently they figured they would exchange the intensity of their 15 minutes of fame in order to spread it out over several decades. If I’m watching them watch a virtual reality program on TV, and the virtual reality people are watching TV as well, what degree of separation is that?

            This was all roaming through my head as I was dawdling on the sidewalk. Perhaps the fact that the dog that was receiving a blow-dry from a complicated apparatus on the left wing of the grooming salon- in full view- inspired this soliloquy. I just can’t imagine how this became a reasonable way of making a living, and the fact that there is probably a yellow pages category devoted entirely to dog grooming and pet manicures.

 

“So what are you doing this weekend, Chuck?”

 

“Well, I was thinking of taking the dog and a pair of clippers and shaving off his fur in such a way that he looked like a complete twit.”

 

“No Kidding! You ever done something like that before?”

 

“Can’t say I have.”

 

“You should look into the place where the wife takes our dog. The last time I tried to sheer the poodle, well, he looked kinda dumb, but he didn’t have that red-hot-face-flushing kind of embarrassing hair-doo like only a professional can provide, you know what I’m saying? Took him to this upscale little place, and I won’t say I wasn’t skeptical. It’s true, it’s a little pricey, but I have to say the dog looked like a total asshole.”

 

“You don’t say? I’ll have to give it a try.”

 

So. This was our new neighborhood. Sort of.

 

The ‘Sort of’ ends up being much more significant than I imagined, and the reason is this: Yes, the neighborhood was undergoing gentrification, but it wasn’t at all gentrified. When we signed the lease on our tiny apartment on our tiny block, the landlord glanced across the street, shifted nervously on the balls of his feet, and said:

 

“You should avoid those guys. They’re trouble.”

 

‘What kind of trouble’ I thought. I must have said it out loud.

 

“They deal arms. And drugs. I distrust them.”

 

Distrust? Arms? Like Reaganomics? What the fuck was going on here?


[1] Although, I should note I have a steady paycheck, and while teachers –REASONABLY- like to complain about the salary, we really aren’t all that bad off. I will probably soon be one of the local champions of gentrification.

 

Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 9:26 PM  Comments (1)  

An Ode to Bob Part 1: The Co-op

I’ve never felt like a proper Californian, and I don’t know that I ever will. I moved here in my early 30’s, a bit too late in life to shake my upbringing. I do have some credentials now- our daughter was born on up at Parnassus, overlooking the Golden Gate, both park and bridge, but the fact of the matter is, I’m a born and bred Midwesterner.

 

I should note that I’m the only one in my family able to stake a claim on this, although the privilege is dubious. My parents are immigrants, on both sides of the British Raj, dad from Calcutta, and mom from the Cotswold’s in England. Even my brother was born in London. Me though, I’m Midwest from the get go, and I’m having trouble adapting to these West coast ways, particularly the whole ‘find a job’ ‘pay the rent’ and ‘raise a child’ ones.

 

I grew up in Michigan, but most recently was living in Chicago. It’s on Lake Michigan, and only a few miles from the MI boarder, and the weather is equally as foul, so it’s all the same to me. I suppose it feels like home because it is where my adult life was born- my first real job as a teacher, two long-term girlfriends that I believed would end in marriage- and didn’t- and all the other merit badges of adulthood. It was during my first year of teaching, when I met Bob.

 

Now, Bob is hands-down one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He’s of Nigerian descent- his parents are also immigrants- but he, like me, grew up in Midwest suburbia. He, like me, doesn’t look the part- he has very long fingers, and not an ounce of body fat. He has a physique like a marathon runner, and if you look closely, you’d see that he is covered head-to-toe in tattoos, although his skin is so dark it is not immediately obvious. He has his nose pierced and had, throughout the time that I’ve known him, dreadlocks, a shorn-to- skin scalp, and a Mohawk. He manages to look both polished and thuggish at the same time. He also has cadence to his speech that is animated, enthusiastic, and decidedly un-urban. He has a Masters degree in psychology, believes it is possible that extra-terrestrial reptilian overlords have infiltrated the government, spent some time drinking his own urine for ‘therapeutic effects’ and has worked restraining behaviorally disruptive kids, counseled Vietnam veterans, and moonlighted as an uncertified massage therapist. He is, in short, a hodge-podge of contradictions. He was also my roommate for most of the time I lived in Chicago.

 

We met at a housing co-op in Hyde Park, a tony part of town boasting of a world class University, the mansion of Louis Farrakhan and the parks that hosted the 1893 Worlds Fair; where Cracker Jack, the Tesla Coil, the Ferris Wheel and the tune from ‘there’s a place in France, where the naked ladies dance” were all introduced to the world. It is also bordered on three sides by some of the poorest ghettos on Chicago’s south side. It is an island of academic and cultural idealism, and the riff raff regularly infiltrates its borders to remind the residents what ‘multiculturalism’ really means.

 

The co-op consisted of two apartment blocks side by side. We all had ‘units’- apartments really- but we still acted as a functioning cooperative with all-house meetings, shared meals and chores, and common space. The co-op didn’t last. It, as an entity, was trying to expand the amount of space and the number of residents by planning to convert each unit’s living room into an extra bedroom.

 

“How will (we) pay for this?” we asked.

 

“Well, (we) thought we’d use security deposits for the initial funding-“

 

“WAIT, what?!? Who decided this? And where will (we) live while construction was being done?”

 

 

The treasurer was an authentic flower child named Star who was dodging student loans from the 70’s. Whether or not this had anything to do with the budget being slim and unaccounted shortfalls- who can say for sure. All (we) knew was that (we) were pissed, and the most vocal opponent was Bob.

 

“Goddam it!” he shouted off our back stairwell. “ I’m having an anti-commune party! Who’s with me?”

 

Chicago buildings are blockish deals, crammed together like rows of dominos. The need for recreational space was solved- no doubt by savvy urban planners- by adding wooden stairwells and covered porches on the outsides of buildings. Since all units in a building need access to the porches ‘o’ fun, each level is connected by a zigzag staircase, the result being that in most residences, you can creep up and down the stairs and watch your neighbors have sex, cook dinner, clean the cat box, whatever, as long as you are discreet and the stairs don’t creek. During daylight hours, it also lends to a sense of community among residents- you all have to use the same stairs threading through your patios, and so you are forced to socialize.

 

In the housing co-op, the effect was multiplied. We all knew each other anyway, and had no reserves about just shouting to each other from whatever level we were at. It became an unofficial ‘relax’ zone, a place where you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about ‘group dynamics’ or ‘consensus’ or ‘meeting protocol’.

 

“Who wants a fucking beer?” Bob shouted to both sets of stairwells. “They’re free, here at the anti-fucking-commune party!”

 

I should note that Bob doesn’t drink all that much- the line between super-fun tipsy guy and puking in the gutter is very thin for him- but when he does, it’s always great fun.

 

“Yessir, beers are free here at the anti- commune!” He gathered a crowd of 20+ dissidents, no short order for a commune of 50.

 

(We) had our evening, bitched and moaned, and called it an evening after a pleasant skinny-dip in Lake Michigan. Still, the next morning, someone still had our security deposit, and things weren’t looking good. It was time to start the apartment search.

Published in: on July 22, 2011 at 9:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

A Beacon of Daddy-hood

A note before we start here: this is a cross-pollination experiment. I’m going to post another man’s post, and say what you will about cuckolding and whiptail lizards, because we don’t care. We have children.

Seriously, though, I love the opening line of this post, and I love it for this reason: when my baby was born, I expected the magic gene of Dadhood to turn on. I would, somehow, have a biochemical reaction to the birth of my baby girl, and it would open up an untapped gland in my brain, the one that would flood my bloodstream with Deepness hormones. The first night I was at home from the hospital-mom and baby were still there- I checked my skin for signs. It didn’t feel different. I looked in the mirror for new Wiseness- nothing. I was stuck with both ME and a giant task ahead.

Basically, like every new parent, I had to swallow the fact that while I had passed the practical exam, so to speak,  I had no fucking idea about the theory. I was still the same unprepared asshole, and all my treasured opinions about how the world should be run were about to explode in a mess of kid. I was still madly concerned about the “I” part of it, something that just has to get beat out of you. We no longer resist our destiny.

I think this introduction might have gone on longer than the actual post I was trying to plug. No matter, fuck it, whateva. Find it Here.

 

Published in: on June 9, 2011 at 7:16 PM  Comments (2)  

A Silver-ish Mucus Lining

We’ve been sick. All of us. Mom, Dad, Bean, Grandma Tutu, the whole shebang. There has been a pouring of snot from our collective orifices- and enough tears- to grease the gears of an entire Indy 500. Were going on week seven of constant sickness. Young children are just mobile disease vectors, and it’s a serious design flaw of the universe that parents have to take care of them while they are coming down with the same thing.

 

Still, there is always a candle to light the darkness, even if it’s cast of a sort of bemused parental irony. The Bean has, like most months, a cough. She still can’t snort in her boogers and swallow them, so they just kinda drain into her lungs- hence the cough.

 

When the cough comes on good and strong, it dislodges great clumps of mucus. I can’t even begin to imagine what she thinks is happening when a lump of warm mess comes up her throat and lands in her mouth, but her horrified befuddlement- coupled with the fact that she can’t wail about it, cause her mouth is full of oook- is really magic to watch.

 

 

 

Published in: on June 3, 2011 at 6:38 PM  Comments (1)  

Remad ( courtesy of the Missus)

Remad(ree-mahd, adj.): When, in the course of normal spousal conversation, you bring up some fucking stupid thing you did, and the reaction is such that your partner becomes mad again, i.e. “I can’t believe you even said that, I’m SO re-mad at you.”

Published in: on June 2, 2011 at 8:06 PM  Comments (1)  
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.