11-24-05, 12:50 PM -
Only ten days ago, I brought my first child, Nathan, home from the hospital, changing me & my life irrevocably. However, with my wife & son airborne on their way to show off our handiwork to the Texas relatives, I now face a Thanksgiving weekend alone. Well, not totally alone. The always-festive deanpence will be around to flip channels & subsidize beer purchases, and the cat will of course revel in the emptiness of my bed.
I know that many of you haven't heard our birth story, though many have. Without going into great detail, I'll just say that New York Methodist Hospital leaves a lot to be desired, and that the Park Slope Midwives will not be recommended by us to anyone as long as they are affiliated with that foul place. The short version is that the baby was too big and had to be brought out via C-section. That by itself would be disappointing enough, but just add callous staff indifference, overcrowding, and poor climate control to that feeling and you'll see where our emotions are right about now. The fuller version of the tale is on the Wifely's site, but I'll warn you not to read it without a hanky.
The GOOD news, though, is that little Nathan is in excellent health. He's alert, he's huge (10 pounds at least), and he's incredibly suspicious of everyone. Good for him.
After the initial new-parent freakout, I must say that I've gotten pretty good at the baby care thing. We're fortunate that this kid is not terribly fussy, and seems to spend most of his time looking around and studying faces. I nearly wrote "feces" just then, because much of my life now involves the cleaning of same. I worried that I might recoil at the prospect, but I guess my experiences of cleaning cat vomit, horse crap, & grocery store bathrooms has made me less squeamish.
The best part, though, is hanging out with him on the couch. He digs that. Plop him on a pillow in my lap and just talk to him. He loves it, even though he hasn't got the foggiest idea what I'm saying. Though I can tell he doesn't entirely trust my opinions, because he'll occasionally give me a dubious frown. And he listens pretty good to whatever's on the TV, particularly if it's music. He really likes the Classic Country station on Music Choice. It's not always the best stuff, but it'll do if you've never heard Charley Pride or Don Williams.
The funniest thing was when the video for Maniac came on VH1 Classic. His eyes got real big & he started pumping his fists in the air. I shit you not. I'm not watching Flashdance with him, though. Not that there's anything wrong with that...
Some folks have asked a few things, and I suppose this is as good a place to address them as any. I had a few people ask me when the christening would be. The problem with that would be assuming he's a Christian. No infant is capable of deciding what religion, if any, he wishes to follow. We're going to let him make up his own mind on the God question. While neither Wifely nor I practice any particular religion, we're not anti-theites. I'm going to make sure that our house contains books on as many religions as possible, not to mention secular morality (humanism, et al). Above all, I want him to know that the question of God is very big, much bigger than the confines of western Judeo-Christianity, and that the whole world has been seeking answers on many different roads for a long time. Perhaps after walking those roads, he'll find one of his own.
Another issue raised by this is magic in general, i.e. Santa Claus. Some find me a bit preposterous, & I can't blame them, but I really don't like lying to my kid. The whole gift-delivering, capricious, morality-judging magic fat man thing is just too far out, and besides which is unnecessary. When Nathan wakes up to find presents under the tree on Christmas morning, he'll know they came from his parents, who love him very much. I fail to see what stories about a mythical bearded man in a red suit could add to that experience.
I just heard someone's eyebrows raise. "Christmas? What ho, Freedom of Religion Man?"
Here's the deal with that: Gathering around a decorated tree and exchanging gifts is a pagan tradition. It only became attached to Christianity when Martin Luther, Hessian immigrants to the U.S., and evergreen farmers shoehorned Jesus in there. Nobody has the remotest idea what day Jesus H. was born, but there was already this holiday in the fourth century that everyone celebrated, so the early church, with the official muscle of the newly-converted Roman Emperor Constantine, called it Christmas.
Personally, I like the fact that over the last several decades, the holiday has returned to its true roots. There should be a day when loved ones offer tokens of their affection and gather to enjoy each other's company. I still call it Christmas because it's easier. U.S. culture already knows it as such, and the Christ has been largely removed from it nowadays anyway. I mean, if I wanted to be completely consistent, I could call it Super Happy Fun Gift Day, but then Nathan would have to spend far too much time explaining that this holiday created by his crazy old man is pretty much the same thing as the way most kids celebrate Christmas. In other words, gathering around a decorated tree and exchanging presents. And perhaps drinking some wine. Not him, me. What's Christmas without seeing your parents staggering around drunk?
11-26-05, 6:42 PM -
Speaking of staggering around drunk...
deanpence and I are riding home on the D train after spending the night at Paul & Maja's place in Harlem. We spent the night because we were drinking wine, & the clock was behind a lamp. When at last the lamp was moved, we found that it was 6:00 AM, and that we'd better stay put and sleep it off. This we did, and after a lunch of burritos & coffee cake, we're back in the world of the living.
I must say, though, that the sun goes down too goddamned fast these days. Sometimes it's like living in a world of night, where human beings step out into the street only when the light disappears from the sky. But that's what I get for living up here in the Land of the Sidelong Shadow.
Had a fabulous barbecue dinner last night at Dinosaur in Harlem. Seriously, they're the only BBQ joing in NYC worthy of the designation. Dang, that's good stuff. Makes you wanna slap your mama. Unless your mama slaps back. Great beer selection, too. Had a 6 Points Oatmeal Stout & a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Fine drinking, and an excellent accompaniment to the food. I also learned a beer joke from Paul:
An Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman walk into a bar and each orders a pint. As the pints are placed in front of them, the wind blows the door open and three flies duck into the bar. Each fly lands on a drink, one for each man's pint.
The Englishman is aghast. "How dreadful! Barman, fetch me another pint straight away!"
The Scotsman is nonchalant. "Ah, fook it!" he says, and slugs back the beer.
The Irishman grabs the tiny fly between his thumb & forefinger and shakes the insect vigorously. "Aye, spit it out, ye little fucker!"
That counts as your daily dose of national stereotyping. Now someone fetch this German a mug.
11-27-05, 4:50 PM -
The Hasidim are quiet now. The throes of Shabbas have subsided, and the big shopping day that always follows is approaching its end. Our neighborhood is putting on its winter coat, now that the leaves have fallen & the air has gotten thinner & more still.
I will only live here for two more months. The track that my life must follow is now separating from the main line of the New York City express, branching off onto a little-frequented piece of track that leads off into a darkened wood. I knew it would come, and now that it's approaching, it seems somewhat unreal. Live somewhere that isn't New York? Have I ever done that? Oh, yeah, I did.
It's good that our move comes during the worst of Northeast weather. It's a good reminder that this city can be a torturous place to live, particularly for those who travel by foot through shuffling crowds and potholed sidewalks. I've seen parents attempt to navigate the snowdrifts & subways with strollers and diaper bags, and I certainly don't wish that fate on me or my wife. It can be done, but that's not a good enough reason to do something.
One image sequence keeps insinuating itself into my head, and I dearly hope it isn't a mirage. It's me & Nathan driving to the park. He's looking out the window, & I've got some Beatles on the radio. We arrive at the park in beautiful Spring weather, and I turn him loose on the grass. He swings, he swirls on the carousel, he stomps his toddler stomp, and I'm there at his side in case he needs me. It's a good dream, but it doesn't take place in New York. In fact, I had a hard time conceiving of it before we decided we were moving. The park in question wasn't concrete. The sky wasn't gray. The playground equipment wasn't covered in graffiti. It wasn't New York.
My friend Preston once told me that New York was for the very young and/or the very rich. This is mostly true, depending on what age "very young" is. I don't believe that NYC is a very good place for small children, and neither does my subconscious. Obviously my childhood memories have something to do with that, as they mostly took place in the country, but I don't think that's my only criteria. People who grew up in this city have advised me against raising my child here, and my own observations lead me to concur.
It could be argued that Texas isn't a very good place to raise children either. Widespread ignorance, a large anti-reason lobby in the schools and communities, venomous critters under backyard rocks, and homogenous culture don't do very much to recommend it as a haven for bringing up kids. But there are pros to counter the cons. For one thing, the culture is becoming less homogenous. As of this year, whites are no longer the majority ethnicity in Texas, with hispanics topping 50%. English can no longer be the single necessary language for living there, and the more languages one speaks, the better one can understand differences in cultures. Cities are also growing larger, increasing the flow of immigration from other countries, and also increasing the potential tide against the entrenched honky bible-beaters who want tradition to come before knowledge. In 10 years, I think we'll see a very different Texas than the one that squeezed the Dubya pustule onto the world's backside.
The spiders-n-snakes thing is balanced by the existence of venomous critters named humans in major urban areas like NYC. The kid's going to face predators, and at least for now, I'd rather they weren't intelligent ones. Besides, my father can teach the boy how to kill rattlesnakes with a hoe. Nathan's middle name is Wynn, after my great-grandfather Winn who was a renowned rattlesnake hunter in West Texas. As soon as the kid can grow a handlebar mustache he'll be ready to continue the family tradition. The one that I'm no good at. You go get 'em, Nathan.
That's about all for now. The new album awaits recording, & the weather gives me few options but to work on it. Tomorrow I'll begin my last month of dayjob work in the city. It's a good reminder that what I want to do isn't here. It's in a little room, somewhere, with my gear and my musical friends. I'll count the days that bring me closer to that, and to my day in the park with my son.
I miss you, Nathan. See you soon.