June 20, 2010
July 12, 2009
Lovely & Sweet Thing
Club Night 20
Sweet Love Dream
New Look Hero
Obama Obama Obama
November 28, 2008
November 4, 2008
At about 2am last night I took a cab from Manhattan to Brooklyn. It was my fifth cab of the day and this driver and like all the other drivers today wanted to talk about the election. The drivers were a diverse lot ranging from a Bangladeshi immigrant to a man who moved to New York from New Orleans after the flood, but all the conversations had a common theme. They men started by asking me who I was voting for and when I said Barack Obama, they would say they were so glad and that they hoped he would win too. Then they enumerated their reasons for supporting him but all ended with a variation of "They won't let him win."
The election stealing conspiracies varied from computer fraud, to hidden racism, to vote fraud, but despite my protestations none would allow themselves to believe that Obama could actually win, almost as if the disappointment of losing would be to great. I'll spare you a long oratory (I suspect blog audiences are largely self selecting and the vast majority of you are already in the Obama column). But I wanted to say, let's prove the fears of these men unfounded. Get out there and do this thing right.
September 28, 2008
August 18, 2008
The kids dug up some old Halloween costumes today. Blame the camerawork on Jenn.
Related: Happy Halloween
August 10, 2008
February 3, 2008
January 3, 2008
It is the third day of the year
I’m on a train eating clementines
The woman behind me is enjoying a bucket of chicken
Which smells delicious
but she would never share
and besides, the clementines are sweeter.
January 2, 2008
One of my wife's aunts just bought a new house in one of those pre-fab subdivisions that seem to be taking over middle America, a McMansion. The subdivision is still brand new. The streets aren't on maps, and most of the houses are half-finished, or have that just-moved-in look. But there is one house with green grass and trees outside. It's the model house, and that's the one they bought—fully furnished. To give the illusion of the perfect life, the model house has fake family photos in each room—the pictures always feature a handsome couple with one or two kids. The couple would vary from room to room, but you wouldn't notice if you didn't look closely. The mom was always blonde, the dad, muscular, occassionally shirtless. In the kid's room a framed drawing titled, "World's Best Dad" was carefully hung in the corner while the master bedroom was decorated with glossy travel magazines, and books in bookshelves that invitably carried the word "success" in the title. In the living room a pretend television displays a serene ocean scene.
My wife's aunt and uncle and their daughter will move into the new house leaving most of their old furniture behind, walking into a readymade life. In truth the new life looks pretty similar to the old life. The new house is virtually indistinguishable from the old one which is also in a pre-fab subdivision. Inside the house feels the same- miles of beige carpet, huge windows with plastic sills, and a sense of complete anonymity. The cherry veneer furniture and bland paintings on the walls are indistinguishable between the homes. But in the new house the rooms are all one or two sizes bigger, there's a third door on the garage, and the basement is graced with a media room. A year from now little will have changed in the model house. The furniture will not have been moved, the paintings will stay exactly as they are, and my guess is it will take months if not years to replace all those family photos scattered around. Even the plastic TV will stay put.
It is easy for my wife and I to be horrified by all this as the house and everything it represents is pretty much the opposite of how we believe life should be lived, but for my wife's aunt and uncle, immigrants from Korea who were both children of war who arrived here with nothing, the house is tangilbe evidence of a life of unbelievably hard work— year upon year of labor without vacations or government holidays often in dangerous neighborhoods where they are mocked and threatened. The house will remain chilly in winter as they would never waste money on something as frivoulous as heat, and it will feel empty to visitors, but out in the back Jenn's uncle will plant a vegetable garden with seeds sent from Korea. He grew up on a farm and still sometimes refers to himself as a farmer. He'll complain about the soil, but he'll make it work and before long the garden will be overflowing with tomatos and squash and chilis. In the summers he'll host barbecues complaining about the expense of such a big house, but enjoying hosting everyone in it, and dreaming of a bigger one.
October 23, 2007
My wife on my hopes of getting internet service in our new apartment which seems to exist in a one block blackhole of telecommunication : "You know what you are, you're a duck in a game preserve. So happy, so hopeful: "Look," you quack, "the cage door is open. A pond, blue sky, lets go waddle out and flyyyy...."
October 10, 2007
Jenn to me while driving on the NJ Turnpike: "Don't deny you make moral judgements about people based on their font choices, you know it's true. Peel the onion a bit and there's an entire corrupt little universe based on a disdain of comic sans and the like."
October 5, 2007
A few people have emailed asking why I haven't been posting lately... basically it's been a rotten week.
1. My one day move from State St. to Pacific St. turned into a three day move. Thank goodness for capped moving rates (thanks to tina for recommending Brian Shea). Note there's a fine line between being a collector of things and a packrat. I might have crossed that line.
2. On the first night in the new place I turned around while my 2 1/2 year old son was taking a bath. He tried to get out but being unused to the height of a clawfoot tub he fell hard and fractured his arm in two places. So we ended up in the emergency room. My wife keeps saying "at least it didn't happen on my watch."
3. I have no internet or phones at the new place yet. (writing this from a starbucks).
4. The new place is a loft with less square footage than the old place. And the thing you realize about lofts is that without walls you have no place to hang things or put things. Consequently we are living in a maze of boxes right now.
5. Shelves and shelves of books to organize.
6. General exhaustion.
Things should be back to normal next week.
September 20, 2007
Very late last night I found myself in the City Hall subway stop with 8 other stragglers waiting for a non-existent R train. We were all spread out across the platform, all standing, but after half an hour everyone had migrated to the benches and we were all sitting in a row. Nobody had anything to read, cellphone service wasn't working, and most unusually, no one was attached to an ipod.
After a few minutes a very tall girl with long brown hair who I would later learn was a Parsons design student, broke social convention, turned to her fellow benchmates, and said, "My God, wasn't today beautiful." At first she just got a few quiet affirmations,"yeah, gorgeous", "best day yet" etc, but then a young woman in a business suit again broke social convention and revealed personal information: "It was so nice, when I woke up I decided I didn't want to feel miserable about anything, and broke up with my boyfriend. I ditched him at 7:30 in the morning. He didn't know what hit him." This revelation shattered the dam of silence and soon the entire group: a couple from Denmark, the Parsons student, the businesswoman, a somewhat scruffy writer named Mike, a lady carrying a violin, and a young tough-looking couple from Coney Island were all chatting. In short order we covered breakups, design books, Facebook, muggings (The Danish couple were surprised to learn none of us had been violently mugged...), and Thai food in Brooklyn. Another half hour passed. Finally Mike, said, "screw the train, let's walk, my car is on the other side and I can take some of you home." We immediately lost the Coney Island couple ("That's foolish man. Foolish.") but everyone else was on board. The violin woman slipped out of her heels into white tennis shoes and we headed out into the night.
Midnight walks across the Brooklyn Bridge are always beautiful, but last night, particularly so: a half moon hung low in the sky, the lower deck of the bridge was covered in little red flares which gave everything an otherworldly light, and the air was velvety cool. Perfect walking weather. Except for Mike who apparently walks the bridge regularly, and myself, for most of our group this was a new experience. "The only time I've ever walked across was going home on 9/11", said the businesswoman, "It was my first week on the job, my first week in New York."
The Parsons girl who had not known the bridge was walkable looked out over the water towards the city, "I was 13 on 9/11. Afterwards my weird reaction was that I wanted to move to New York. From then on, I knew I would end up here." Mike, who had been deep in conversation with the Parsons girl beforehand was startled. "You were 13? My God." He crossed himself.
At the second tower we lost the Danish tourists. They had been headed to the Fulton Ferry Landing and decided the view from down below couldn't be better than the view from the bridge itself. They said no goodbyes, and as we walked away they practically lunged for each other and began making out. "Name the kid Brooklyn," Mike called out after them. The conversation turned to PDAs. Mike felt they were unavoidable. The Parsons girl pled guilty. The businesswoman said, "I've never been with anyone that made me want to kiss them outside," and the violin lady just giggled.
On the other side of the bridge we all headed up Henry Street in silence into Brooklyn Heights where we found Mike's car am old Volvo. "I can walk," I said, I'm pretty close." "Me too," said the businesswoman. Mike insisted. "
It's more fun if everybody goes," said the violin woman who had hadn't said much since leaving Manhattan. We bundled into the car and rolled down the windows. "Such a pefect night," said the businesswoman sticking her hand outside. " A few minutes later we dropped her off. "Thanks," she said, "that was fun."
"You make me feel like we were on a date," Mike answered.
"Hey, I'm available now," she smiled, "and you know where I live."
We drove off leaving her waving on the curb. "I don't think she's over her boyfriend yet," noted the Parsons girl.
"No way," said Mike, she's much too happy. Can't be real."
"Nope," chimed in the violin woman.
I was the next to be dropped off. "We'll look you up on the web," everyone said. "Just google raul", I replied. We waved goodbye and I wondered what observations would be made about me when I was out of earshot. I smiled and watched the Volvo headed down Henry towards Cobble Hill marveling at how little takes to transform a group of tired grumpy New Yorkers into friends if only for the span of the Brooklyn Bridge.
September 13, 2007
I spent last week down in Texas packing up my childhood house. My parents built the place when I was 12 and ever since it’s been home for me. When we moved there the roads were dirt and the nearest neighbor was over a mile away. 28 years later the woods behind the house are still wild full of coyotes and snake and deer, but the city has moved closer, other mailboxes dot the road, and the nights are less dark. It is hard to pack up a house you have lived in so long. What do do with the junk drawer by the kitchen not so much full of junk, but of small memories?
And this house had another burden. It was where my mother and brother died. With them much of the life of the house was frozen. My mother was constantly reinventing the place, in fact she had planned to build a new house and sell this one, but my dad, after the deaths, perhaps out of comfort or perhaps out of a need to hold on, changed very little. So for the last 17 years the house has been almost a museum piece. My room was exactly as I left it when I drove away to college. My brother Christopher’s room remained full of his unfinished model planes, a kite ready to fly, and stacks of astronomy magazines none dated later than 1989. What do do with all this stuff, so sentiment-laden and yet inert?
I received the call that the house was sold and I was needed to pack it up at the worst possible time. We’re moving here too (just a few blocks away but of course we still have to pack everything), so instead of the normal amount of time we would give ourselves to do such a job, we only had 3 days. I was dreading the flight, dreading the 2 hour drive from Houston, dreading the drive into the dark pines. We flew into thunderstorm-the type of pounding rain and violent thunder you only see in Texas. The drive was long, but of course familiar and pulling into the driveway I was, as always, shocked by the size of the trees. The house is surrounded by forest but the trees close to the house were planted by us. I remember the magnolia as a sapling. Now it towers some 30 feet. The dogwoods have canopies. The holly tree is so big some limbs have fallen. The heat at this time of year in Texas was oppressive and lends a heavy quiet to things. The dirt dobbers were busy building their mud tubes. Hummingbirds were buzzing everywhere. There have always been hummingbirds.
Opening the door, the slight cedar smell overwhelmed. I was home. I looked down at my childhood handprint in one of the tiles on the floor. My 2 1/2 year old ran into the house, "Daddy’s old house", going from room to room, pulling toys and books from the shelves, and mixing things up that had been so carefully kept apart for years. Within minutes he had set up a fort of sorts and was happily engrossed. And seeing him playing in rooms that have not been enjoyed in so long suddenly made the whole task easier. We would be clearing the way for another family to live there—to fill the place with their stories as we once did before the house became immobilized in memory. With that thought, it became easier to give away what needed to be given away, to pack what needed to be packed, and to finally say goodbye.
August 3, 2007
In the office of Melvin Hurwitz you will find fourl guys in ill fitting grey suits hunched over metal desks, all in a row. The lights are florescent and harsh, the walls are dingy, haphazardly decorated with pictures of wives and old pictures of Mr. Hurwitz who sits at the last desk. While the other men chat on the phone or sort through papers, Hurwitz sits with his hands on his desk with a look of real calm. He's ready to do business.
Melvin Hurwitz is a notary public. He is also a lawyer. On his desk you will find a roll of peppermints. He'll offer you one if you stare at them long enough.
I was having a car title notarized. Mr. Hurwitz asked for ID and I slid him my passport. "This could be you, but maybe it's not," he said after a cursory examination, "what do I know?"
"It's me." I said.
"So you say," he said. "you know, I see everything here. Marriages. Divorces. Buying and selling. Right here at this desk. Half the time people lie. You can't trust anybody."
Then we sat in silence as he fiddled with a desk drawer to find the notary stamp. I signed. He stamped. I paid my 3 dollars.
"I had a very good friend. Dear friend. He got locked up. My age. Good guy. You want to know why?" Mr. Hurwitz took a ballpoint pen out of his breast pocket, tore a scrap of paper from a legal pad, wrote something on it, folded the paper 3 times, and slid it to me. "Read it," he said.
I picked up the paper, and unfolded it. 'HUBRIS' was written in all caps and circled.
"Do you know what that word means?" he asked.
"Yes of course." I answered. He gave me a look that said, 'I don't believe you,' so I elaborated "excessive pride, um, insolence."
He studied me, "I looked up that word. Do you know it originally meant in Greek? It meant laughing at the gods? You know what happens if you laugh at the gods. Tragedy. My friend, good guy, but he laughed at the gods."
We sat in silence looking at each other for a moment.
"You know you're the first person who knew that word."
I slid the scrap of paper back to him. He folded it neatly, pushed it into his breast pocket, and wished me good day.
June 26, 2007
I lived I don't know how many years alone but loneliness never touched me. I was happy eating at restaurants with my book, traveling far and wide on my single ticket, comfortable in silence.
Last week my family decamped for a couple of nights and the days since have been endless. The house is too still. I can hear myself think. I can't even sleep at a time in my life when sleep is the ultimate luxury. This is the state of things.
June 1, 2007
A few longtime readers might remember that I started our #1 son with his rolling R lessons very early. Now it's time to begin with #2:
May 30, 2007
May 6, 2007
You couldn't ask for a nicer night.
May 2, 2007
Today I wandered around Amsterdam with my friend JP from New York who now lives in Brussels. He came in on the train for the day. I was shopping for some gifts my wife when I noticed he and a local shopgirl were flirting heavily with each other (falling for Dutch girls is a major hazard for unattached American guys in this city). He was just asking her ordinary tourist questions about what to see and do... but something was going on, everyone could feel it, there was palpable frisson between them...
And then I paid, the gifts were wrapped, and it was time to go. "Vamos," I said and we headed to the door. The girl was watching JP. Just as we were almost outside, an unremoved security tag in my bag set off an alarm and we had to go back inside. Grabbing the opportunity, JP asked the girl out for dinner... "Oh, but tonight I have a birthday party," came the reply. She sounded disappointed... He was flustered and said something like, "Ahh. Um ok. Sorry." Again we headed out. He started talking about her immediately. "My god," he said shaking his head. As we walked away he kept looking back, his disappointment growing... "It's like she was tearing apart my molecular sctructure." "Dammit why didn't I ask her to do something after the birthday party, or before...tea. Anything"
"Just go back," I urged, "The worst thing she'll say is no." We walked another few blocks before he finally turned around. I waited at an outdoor bar. An hour or so later he returned, crushed. He had procrastinated. The shop had closed. The girl was gone.
But at least he tried and maybe some day soon he'll return to find the place again, because those moments when your molecular structure gets torn apart are rare indeed and you never know what might happen when you ask the right girl the right question... sometimes you even end up married to her.
April 14, 2007
As recounted by cousin Esther (age 14):
"It all started when Heather and I wore similar outfits. Grace thought we had planned it and left her out on purpose and she got upset because all three of us-me, Grace, and Heather, were best friends but it was just a coincidence. And the outfits weren't even that similar, I mean they were pretty similar, we bought them together but they weren't exactly similar. But Grace didn’t believe me. Then Grace took me off her myspace heros list. She didn’t even say anything, she just took me off the list. So we don’t talk anymore. I mean we talk, but not like before, we’re not really friends. It was a coincidence. "
As recounted by cousin Nathan (age 14):
"I don't really have friends. It's hard to have friends when you are home schooled. It's hard to talk to people you know? I'm easily influenced. Right now I'm influenced by Starcraft. Sometimes I meet people online when I play Starcraft. They're my friends I guess but I don't really know them. Sometimes I wish we could all meet up and have pizza together, but it would be strange to ask in the middle of a battle."
As recounted by cousin Faith (age 6):
"The turtle got lost. Sometimes they let him crawl around and he got lost and everyone forgot about him for a few days and then he was dead. Dead turtles smell."
As recounted by Lauren (age 9):
"LD is doing so much to save the environment. Did you know that? Did you know he was named Leonardo after Leonardo da Vinci? Did you know he's going to do another movie with Kate Winslet? I like them together so I'm looking forward to it. Do you think he's going to die in this movie? He usually dies in his movies, but that doesn't bother me too much.... Did you know his parents were divorced and he had to live with his mom just like me. "
Also by Faith:
"I don't really have bad dreams. Once had a REALLY bad dream about spiders when I was 3 but that was a long time ago. Oh wait, not spiders, spiderman. But sometimes when I close my eyes I see these orange and purple and yellow things....and after I open my eyes in the dark I can still see them and I try to catch them. Wait, how did we get on this subject?"
March 26, 2007
A friend I haven't seen since college wrote saying she had a hard time imagining me changing diapers.... photographic proof. Not only do I change infant diapers but I change 2 year old diapers and as Jenn's mom says of our 2 year old, "He makes dong like man!" Taking on diaper changing duties is one of the baseline responsibilities of all good dads. Hell, it's the least we can do.
March 14, 2007
March 1, 2007
Born @ 8:45PM, 9 pounds 12 ounces, 21inches
Mother and baby are just fine.
More to follow...
March 1, 2007
Jenn's labor started and is gradually ramping up. We're still at home. Raul Andres is running around the kitchen table being chased by his grandmother. The contractions are starting to get intense. Gotta split.
February 28, 2007
Everyone predicted our 2nd child to be born already, but he's taking his time. I'm in the middle of an ugly cold so I wouldn't mind if the birth were delayed a few days as sneezing on newborns is not recommended. The due date is today or tomorrow or yesterday depending on which chart you believe. My dad keeps saying, "He should have been born already," as if we are in control. He and my stepmother have also stated they could never love the second one as much as the first. "Impossible" they say in Spanish. When you love one kid so much, and that love has given you so much, the appearance of a second one is almost threatening as if it will dilute what you feel. They underestimate the size of their hearts.
If you've never seen the belly of a woman at full term, it's an extraordinary thing. Knees and elbows poke out when the baby shifts. Occasionally you see a foot or handprint. You push, the little guy inside pushes back. It's staggering how the journey of a few inches will change all our lives. Our first son is 2 years and 3 months old. He understands he'll have a brother soon, but of course he has no idea of how his life will transform. My wife and I are both firstborn, so we empathize.
We're all tired of waiting, ready for what's next. Now if I could just shake this cold.
February 22, 2007
I was curled up in my son's toddler bed last night finishing up our nightime routine of 4 books and a song about the moon when a streetsweeper two stories below drove slowly past the house . The flashing lights refracting through the window panes lit up the dark room painting the walls with bright orange and white squares. After the vehicle turned the corner and the room fell dark again I heard my son's quiet voice, "Wow." he said. Then after a long pause, "more?" and then, "more!" Before I could say, I couldn't make more, as if on cue, another streetsweeper began it's slow journey down the block. This time my son held up his hands to catch the light making huge shadows on the ceiling. After this too passed my son, content, bumped his head against mine and closed his eyes. Or so I thought. After a few minutes I turned to see if he had dozed off and was greeted by wide open eyes. He was watching me, studying me. "No daddy" he said seeing me notice him. Then he put a hand over my eyes. "Sleep Daddy," he said. I played along closing my eyes waiting for him to fade and for the hand to drop but while I was waiting I was the one who drifted off.
We parents complain about the lack of sleep, the length nighttime routine, and the hoops through which we have to jump to induce sleep... time gallops by so fast it's often hard to slow down and say, I want to hold on to this particular day and not let it get lost in the slippery blur of life... I woke up an hour or two later, my son finally asleep, his nose pressed up against my ear and slowly began to make my escape. As I was sitting on the edge of the bed clearing my fuzzy head I had one of those moments where time folded and I was suddenly a kid again on a similar small bed somewhere in Houston Texas a lifetime ago. In the middle of the night a firetruck's siren broke my sleep. I opened my eyes to a room painted in red flashing light. I'm pretty sure I said, "wow." Looking down at my son I wondered if this evening would lodge somewhere deep in his memory. Probably not—those early memory banks are most often reserved for bee stings, and tumbles, and getting lost in department stores. Maybe he'll remember, but probably not, and if not, I hope I have the wherewithal to remind him someday.
February 2, 2007
You know your wife is very very pregnant when the OB can't help but exclaim, "Wow! Now that's a belly." Officially there are 30 days left, but it looks like it could happen yesterday.
January 20, 2007
January 1, 2007
December 24, 2006
Posting will be sparse until after the holiday.... I trust you all will pass it well.
related: same window
November 26, 2006
If hell exists, I expect it looks something like the King of Prussia Mall, the day after Thanksgiving. I get the sense my son agrees.
related: The Costco Reaction
November 23, 2006
For the first time since we started dating Jenn won't be making Thanksgiving dinner. We'll be with Korean relatives in Philadelphia enjoying a Turkey dinner preceded by banchan and served with kimchee on the side. This is not unlike the way I grew up where we often had Turkey with a side of salsa. Tortillas were always an option and turkey tacos were the favored way of prepping leftovers. We had Indian neighbors who would serve Turkey and samosas. Russians who would serve borscht. Some my friends in East Texas would always have deep fried turkey, or better yet, deep fried turduckin. In LA I knew vegetarians who would craft a tofurky. However you celebrate it, enjoy the holiday. Eat well. Enjoy your family and friends. Travel safe.
October 29, 2006
For some reason a few of my friends have a hard time believing I went canoeing in the Gowanas canal last week. Here's photographic evidence.
August 29, 2006
Just the other day I said I don't believe in lucky talismans, but two ladybugs landing on your hand on the third floor of a Brooklyn apartment at 3:14am (and an apartment with closed windows at that) must mean something right? I just opened the window and let them free.
August 17, 2006
1. Wake up on the couch with a stiff neck because you fell asleep watching a movie the night before.
2. Find your recently repaired air conditioner broken.
3. Hear an awful grinding sound from one of your hard disks. Perhaps because the room is a thousand degrees without the air conditioner.
4. Haul 100 pound air conditioner down 4 flights of stairs into the car. Air conditioner leaks a sticky oily fluid all over your shirt.
5. Blow out a tire on the Gowanas Expressway in an area with construction and no shoulder. Look desperately for an exit. Drive on a rim throwing up showers of sparks. At some point it dawns on you that this is not wise. You stop.
6. Realize your aversion to cellphones is mighty inconvenient.
7. Abandon your car. Walk several hundred yards down the Gowanas Expressway with traffic whizzing by suffering occasional insults from passersby.
8. Be refused a phone in 7 or 8 businesses because you are drenched in sweat, covered in brown air conditioner grease, and looking wild eyed.
9. Walk back onto the Gowanas and back to your car as demanded by a tow truck operator named Joey who refuses to pick you up at the deli because he would have to go a few blocks out of his way. Arrive back at your car. Pray you won't be rear ended. Wait. Realize you should have picked up a drink at the deli. Argue with a cop who says he's going to have to tow you. When Joey finally arrives almost an hour later his tow truck is blasting a band named Malevolent Creation.
10. Discover you must replace both front tires at a cost of $670. Have the guys at the garage laugh when they give you the bill and say, "Oof. That one stings." One guy adds, "You know your brakes are totally shot. "
11. Arrive back to your sweltering airless office. Grab some things for a meeting in the city. Realize you left important papers from your car in the Joey's tow truck...
Should I continue?
Do over please.
July 30, 2006
...is awfully nice. I keep finding myself wanting to crawl up a tree, and yell 'Beauty!"...
Some admittedly touristy snapshots:
July 23, 2006
I was having drinks with some of my brother's Spanish friends the other night when the talk turned to the 2008 election. The Europeans are rightfully angry at the US. Their anger is so deep they have essentially written us off as a corrupt nation. They fact that 1/2 the country voted against Bush and Co. in 2004 is essentially ignored (not to mention the fact that he didn't actually win the popular vote 2000). Generally speaking Europeans treat us as all gung ho Bush supporters.
When I apologetically explained that most of the country, even those of us who did not vote for Bush, did support the war initially because we believed the lies that were being told by the government I was greeted with incredulity. 'How could you have not seen through the lies?' they asked. 'How could you be so stupid.' No amount of contrition or explanation that we were a wounded nation susceptible to those spreading fear could convince my fellow beer drinkers that a majority of people in our nation now sees the war as national disgrace, a colossal and shameful mistake.
When the conversation came around to talking about the 2008 election I told them I thought the Republicans would lose for sure and they would lose to either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I was greeted with disbelief. 'The Republicans will just steal this election too,' they said. They had never heard of Obama but when I explained he was was a young 1/2 Kenyan Senator from Illinois who had been against the Iraq war from the beginning, they were incredulous. 'No way,' they said, 'no way for Hillary either. America will vote Republican just as you did in 2004.' It was not long before they were essentially calling us warmongering racists and from their perspective that's probably what it looks like. This is now the image of our country amongst young liberal Europeans
I believe we will redeem ourselves. I believe the the current administration will be crushed in the 2008 election, and I believe we will elect someone who will remake our government so that we are once again proud of it and can once again be accepted as citizens of the world. We can't erase the wounds we've created, but perhaps, by being more true to our creed as a nation we can start to regain the world's respect. Mark my words you're going to hear a lot more about this Senator from Illinois in the near future. My vote will be for Obama in 2008.
July 20, 2006
Jenn and I did our part for world jump day.
While our son played the part of the nink in the sink.
June 12, 2006
Immigrants given enough time away from the place they have forsaken will often return to find themselves a stranger in a strange place. This happens because either they have changed and return to find the place unchanged, or they will cling to the traditions of their youth and return to a place that has moved on. Either way they will end up feeling adrift-people without a home. I noticed our bus driver's pinky nails were both very long and etched with characters. While you still might find the long pinky nail amongst Chinese men, the tradition of character etching is pretty much dead. The driver said he had been in New York for almost 35 years. He returned to his village in Fujian province in 2004. "They destroy everything." he said, "I will never go back there."
Why are all the Jamacians on this bus wearing small cowboy hats?
Is it strange that every white person on this bus has a tattoo?
It is the common view in the west that Muslim women who are strict in their dress, the women who wear black flowing robes, and a hijab with only a tiny slit for the eyes) feel trapped by their clothing... is it possible wearing the hajib feels makes one feel the way I did when I wore a ninja costume... stealthy? A person with secrets. There is a woman on this bus with only the tiniest opening for her eyes, she is covered head to toe and yet I swear I can feel her smiling underneath there.
This is the primary Qur'anic verse used explain the Islamic custom women's modest dress btw, "And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their headcoverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms, and not to display their beauty except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their womenfolk, or what their right hands rule (slaves), or the followers from the men who do not feel sexual desire, or the small children to whom the nakedness of women is not apparent, and not to strike their feet (on the ground) so as to make known what they hide of their adornments." There is also another verse about drawing their jalābib (long coat) close when they go out...
I love the strangeness of the world, but is baby octopus ever good breakfast food?
One of my favorite things to do on a bus is to look down into the windows of the cars as they pass. People relax in their cars. Their walls are down. You know that opening scene of "Wings of Desire"? I imagine it like that.
Is it impolite to change seats if the person next to you is quietly breaking wind?
May 30, 2006
Many thanks to everyone who emailed. Sorry to have scared some of you. Jenn is still feeling lousy, but improving... Emergency Rooms are never fun, especially in New York, but all in all things went as well as can be expected. I'm always in awe of the doctors and nurses who work these jobs, I have no idea how they manage to sustain the energy and focus needed to deal with moment to moment stress of patients in crisis and worried family.
In case you ever find yourself having to rush someone to the hospital, here are a couple of things I learned today. Perhaps one will stick in the back of your mind somewhere in your time of need.
1. Grab some food (bananas are perfect) and a bottle of water. Often feeding patients is prohibited because of the meds being given, but often food is ok, and there is usually no nearby place to get food. Also you need to eat too.
2. If you have time put an extra pair of clothes the bag.
3. Bring something to read. Even in the most dramatic situations there will be hours of downtime with nothing to do.
4.Try to write down as much hard data as possible... Times of fevers/chills/temperatures. This way you can be precise when rapid-fire questions are being asked.
5. If the place isn't crazy busy, it's never hurts to ask for an extra blanket/pillow/water etc.
6. Be nice. Remember people's names. You wouldn't believe how many people I saw today being incredibly rude to the staff. The worst offenders were family/friends. A little niceness goes a long way. Remember there is always someone else in there with a more critical emergency.
7. If you are discharged but the doctors tell you to "come back if things turn for the worse again", get your doctor's name/number. This way you can won't find yourself trying to track down the numbers/names if the patient worsens. Also if you have to be admitted a second time it's a good idea to have the new doc talk with the old one.
8. It's probably not cool to ask the cops escorting in a very sick prisoner, "What was he in for?"
9. If your wife declares she is feeling much better it is best not to joke that if she were on TV medical drama this would be the point that she would flatline and someone could come in with palettes yelling "defib!"
10. Wash your hands when you leave.
May 30, 2006
When your wife is in the emergency room, very sick, and very much in pain, and when the nurse can’t find a vein to draw blood and has to make repeated jabs with a long needle including one in between the knuckles, this is when, you as a husband, start to worry in earnest.
But then, between the grimaces, you see a smile flicker across your wife’s face, and when the nurse runs out to find another needle your wife turns and smiles and says, "I just had the thought, ‘maybe she can’t find the vein because I’ve been kissed by a vampire. My transmogrification has begun.’" This is when you know everything will be ok.
May 20, 2006
Snippets of recent IMs and recent conversations:
MH: here's a general question for you, an early adopter:
what do i not have that i should look into aside from a cost effective sound and video server for the whole house
MH: Think about it.
RG: Umm. Photo printer?
MH: mmm - i can print photo's on my printer, but don't know if it is good enough. I think the answer is: (dramtic pause) survival kits, a fail-safe exit route, rally points, ingot stashes, and property in wyoming or panama to retreat to when the apocalypse hits
RG: your problem would be getting out... in LA there aren't so many options and if the shit was really going down it would be hard to get out
MH: already have that covered, my friend
and so on
RG: You know how I wasn't supposed to be cutting the baby's hair... well I've been cutting it... just little trims here and there and you haven't noticed...
Jenn: You've been cutting his hair behind my back!
RG: Just around the edges where's it's in danger of mulleting out.
Jenn:So why are you telling me this?
RG: Well... I slipped with the clippers... he moved his head, and well, now it pretty much looks like he's prepared for a lobotomy. But you know, it will grow back fast...and he has lots of hats. He looks great in hats.
and so on
RG: My problem is that I don't have a graduated sense of the world. I either love something or I hate it, it's binary. Cheese-Makes me want to die. Cats-Grr. Hate is too poor a word. White brick buildings make me want to throw myself in the East River.
TR: Aren't you being a little dramatic. Are you saying you have a strong opinion on everything. How about... graph paper.
RG: I LOVE graph paper!
TR:The Manhattan bridge.
RG: Bleah. Hate it. Functional and uninspired.
TR: So there's nothing that you say, "well that was just ok."
RG: You're not understanding... it's not like an opinion with me it just is. White or black.
TR: That's incredibly obnoxious.
RG: I know. I hate this about myself.
and so on
April 30, 2006
April 21, 2006
April 16, 2006
It is 3:24 AM.
I am in the attic office and it's raining out. A minute ago I heard heavy footsteps tromp across the roof from somewhere around the chimmney. Wind? No steps. Step, step, step. Must be a man, a big man. It, no correction-he, pauses seemingly right above my head. Chills. My first thought: "The shovel is right over there and I can get it before he can." I edge over to the shovel. Pause. Listen. It's late I must be imagining things. I should be asleep. A big rat maybe? Then, unmistakably, more heavy steps. He stops at the skylight (all the townhouses from the early 19th century have skylights over the stairwell). I am a few feet from the skylight and I am furious that this person is on my roof. I creep over to the opening with my shovel to see what I can see. There is a face and two hands peering down through the thick 19th century glass. He doesn't see me yet. At this point, it gets hazy because I am in a rage, but I bang the shovel against the frame like a madman and in a full terror, yell, "GET OFF MY ROOF!!" The face vanishes followed by the sound of quick footsteps slipping and sliding over to the next house. Now silence.
Ahh Brooklyn at night. I will sleep with one eye open.
March 18, 2006
We're in our car sitting on Atlantic Avenue trying to cross the street into Fort Green, but people keep running the red light preventing us from crossing.
Me: Aaarg. I think I have road rage.
Jenn: We don't drive enough for you to have road rage. You have to earn it.
Another car runs red light.
Jenn: It's not road rage if you're smiling.
Me: (frowning) Son of a Bitch!
Jenn: More like a road meow.
March 8, 2006
We're back home... Say hello. I'll be posting DR images on Mexican Pictures for another week or so.
February 14, 2006
As a tonic to the somewhat purple prose of many of my late night ramblings, my wife proposes I start a new blog titled Heading Into the East River with actual quotes from our daily lives.
While throwing a ball across the kitchen:
"Jenn watch it because if you miss, I bean the kid."
. . .
As I lotion the baby after a bath:
Jenn: What's that smell.
Jenn: You're lotioning our child with soap.
. . .
Jenn: Your son is peeing on the carpet.
. . .
Me: Your son just punched me in the adam's apple.
. . .
Jenn: Your son shoved a Japanese kid to the ground.
. . .
Me: Your son is eating leaves.
. . .
Jenn: Your son is eating toilet paper.
. . .
Jenn: Arh.. Argr. Argh.
Me (from the other room): What is it, speak up woman.
Jenn: Arhh. Grrrr. Barrby.
Jenn: Baby vomit. My face.
January 12, 2006
New York City *
North Wales, PA *
Monterrey, MX *
Catorce de Real, MX *
Lufkin, TX *
Beijing, PRC *
Chengdu, PRC *
Litang, PRC *
Kanze, PRC *
Pelyul, PRC *
Derge, PRC *
Aba, PRC *
Oliverea, NY *
Gage, TX *
Interesting exercise... without that China trip it would have been a boring year indeed, but a new baby is a good excuse for immobility. We'll do better in 2006.
January 9, 2006
January 1, 2006
December 24, 2005
The scene: Jenn lying on the floor staring at the ceiling and talking, Raul Andres crawling around the room bottomless.
Jenn: "I know it's not rational, but there's something very satisfying about having a boy."
Me: "Some deep seated Korean thing?"
Jenn: "No, it's like- 'I made the other sex'. It doesn't seem that hard to duplicate yourself, but to make a man, that's something. I mean had a penis in my belly.
Me: That's weird.
December 18, 2005
Our entire clan has been struck down by a stomach bug our child picked up at the pediatrician's office (this is my theory, Jenn thinks it could have been picked up anywhere). Last night was a non-stop vomit-fest with the three of us abandoning the soiled bed and parking on a futon which was easier to clean up. I haven't felt so bad since had dysentery in India. Jenn was writhing around with cramps and our son would sit up with a scared look on his face and projectile vomit all over us. We didn't sleep much. Despite his suffering at 6:30 as usual the baby was in a remarkably good and ready to play. Jenn and I were less well. These were the respective comments of our parents when we called in for reinforcements.
Me: Dad, Jenn and I can barely make it out of bed we need your help.
My Dad: How are you going to have a second child if you can't take care of one?
Jenn's Mom: Hallelujah!
Jenn: Omma all three of us are sick with a stomach bug. We were all throwing up all night. Can you come up?
Jenn's Mom: But I don't want to get sick. You'll be ok, just pray to Jesus.
December 16, 2005
December 16, 2005
It is 4 in the morning. Outside it is bitterly cold. Rain is blowing in sheets and there is thunder. The weatherman predicts sleet by morning. In the street below a young woman without an umbrella has just passed by for the 3rd time in as many hours calling for her dog Samson who has apparently run off. This my friends is love.
December 1, 2005
October 1, 2005
These are pictures of my family's house in Lufkin. It took a pretty good hit with Rita. Almost more shocking to me than the damage to the house was the fact that a giant Magnolia tree out in the yard was uprooted. I planted that tree and watched it grow from a small thing to a 60 foot high beauty. I thought it would just always be there.
September 20, 2005
If you were walking in the vicinity of Hicks and Atlantic this evening you might have heard a long loud man scream. A rat, one of the large armadillo-like ones that come up from the river, jumped off a fence using me as stepping stone on the way to the ground. So yeah, that was me. Inelegant I know.
September 12, 2005
September 11, 2005
But while wandering around Red Hook with my family and looking out over the water towards Manhattan I remembered it is September 11th. "September 11th" has been so co-opted by our president and his party for crass political gain and war mongering that even the silent mental recitation of the phrase made me feel queasy. But of course it is absurd to allow the petty vainglorious machinations of the current administration interfere with remembrance of what is all of ours to bear.
I was not here in 9/11/2001. I had left town on September 5th on one of my sojourns half a world away. On the eleventh I was in the mountains cut off from all communication. I didn't hear about the attacks until almost a week later, and even then the information was incomplete. It wasn't until I landed in Hong Kong almost a month after the fact and walked into a newsstand in the deserted airport that the full scale of the destruction hit me. The rows of magazines with pictures of the towers, the victims, and the aftermath was shattering... almost incomprehensible, but of course everything was over.
Never did I have to suffer the urgent fear of not knowing what was going to happen next so prevalent on that day. It was much later still that I discovered a friend of mine, Suria Clarke had been working for Cantor Fitzgerald and had perished in the North Tower. She had been in a division of the company known as eSpeed and I didn't know it was connected to Cantor. I tried to contact her on my return to New York and found her phone dead. I had assumed she had moved and that I would hear from her soon. Only after suggesting to a mutual friend that she be a guest at a dinner party did I learn the awful truth.
Suria had a quality one so rarely finds in New York: she was an utterly reliable friend. I could call her late on a Monday night for dinner and she would arrive within the hour in good spirits and with 2 or 3 good stories to tell. She was always up for a movie or drinks or an exploratory walk around an unknown neighborhood. As both a Brit and a new arrival she had sharp eye for the absurdities of this city which she loved dearly. She of all people would be horrified by so much of what has been done in the name of the victims. Any tragedy becomes amplified if you have some connection to it and Suria's loss even more than the holes in the sky made it all hit home for me.
Photos from that day from the nonist.
July 13, 2005
A few weeks ago on the subway I overheard a lady say there are no fireflies in Brooklyn. The comment bounced around my head. It's the type of thing I remember. Sad. Then a few nights ago when lying next to my son, I noticed his eyes wander beyond me followed by utter rapture. A light on our phone was blinking. Voicemail. Each blink threw orange light onto the walls and to his unpolluted brain it was a vision somewhere between beauty and magic. This got me to thinking about fireflies again. When I was a kid we lived on the edge of the forest. At twilight on hot summer nights the fireflies would come. First one, then another, and then suddenly hundreds even thousands. Sometimes they would cluster in balls moving together through the trees in a strange and beautiful orgy of activity throwing dim shadows in all directions. The light was like a siren song, but we knew better than to cross the barbed wire into the the forest. We had heard too many stories. With fog the shadows were spooky and would send us running home, but fog was rare. Most nights we would draw them out with penlights following the pattern of their blinks. Strays would wander toward us over the grass flying low and slow only to be caught and smeared like warpaint on our faces and chests. Others would go into bottles that would sit by our beds lighting the ceiling late into the night to be released first thing in the morning. How could we have known then that time would be so short because in that moment time seemed endless. And these thoughts made me sad for my son who I realized had not yet seen fireflies and as a city kid might know these pleasures only as exotic rarities when visiting the countryside.
Tonight Jenn was at her writing workshop and I was in charge of putting the boy to sleep. He was fidgety so I decided to sit out on the stoop for a while with him in my arms. I was watching the empty taxis returning to Manhattan, but his focus was in the tree above. And then that look. Before I turned my head somehow I knew what I would see. Fireflies--a couple of them, blinking around, oblivious to the streets below. I watched them for a very long time and perhaps if you had passed by my face would have that look as well, for it wasn't just our tree, it was all the trees on the block. The night grew darker, the fireflies glowed brighter. And then one came towards me. Without a moments hesitation I reached up and caught it, my hand in a hollow fist. I could see the light coming between my fingers as it crawled around looking for escape. I brought my hand down to open it in front of my son's face and watch his reaction, but he had already absorbed the moment. His eyes were closed. I thought of waking him, but no. He had crossed into the river of sleep and that was that. I opened my hand.
I wanted it to be known for the record: Brooklyn has plenty of fireflies. Lady, you were wrong.
July 5, 2005
The short version is:
We went to the Catskills for a wedding.
The wedding was lovely although we were super late to the ceremony (much to our horror), but otherwise everything ran smoothly and the bride and groom radiated a happy calm throughout. We had a great table or fellow Brooklynites, and we danced. The weather cooperated. The evenings ended with bonfires, sparklers, and fireflies. An unbeatable combination just about anywhere.
Raul Andres had many firsts: first time on grass (an upsetting experience), first time seeing a stream (he enjoyed it), first time in the pool (he's getting the hang of it), first time at a carnival (seemed to love it), first time for fireworks (they rattled him) etc. We're realizing to our horror that he is something of a city kid and needs to get out in nature more.
As a bonus Jenn's sister Becky tagged along for the weekend to help us with the baby. We had promised her a nice weekend away, but our hotel was more motel. Damn internet advertising. Sorry about the place Becks. Next time we'll do better. Still even with the sad Cobblestone Motel, we had lots of laughs.
. . . . .
I don't know why but I remember my July 4th's even better than Christmases, Thanksgivings, or New Years. Christmases all run together. Thanksgiving is a blur of food and New Years is too mixed up with the deaths in my family for me to sort them out. But July 4ths are crystal clear. If you were to sit me down, I could tell you where I was and what I was doing on every July 4th back to junior high school.
Last July 4th Jenn and I were just starting to pack up the house in LA for our move here. She was four months pregnant and we were just starting feel we were no longer two but three. The feeling was unformed though, full of unknowns. For Jenn the reality was facing her in the mirror each day as her body changed, and she was beginning to experience those small internal kicks that make the abstract real, but for me it was all still theoretical. For hours we would discuss the possibilities "what if he" or "what if she"...
We drove up to Santa Barbara on a whim. It was one of those perfect California days and we drove with the windows down listening to music not talking much. On long trips my wife always puts her feet up on the dashboard despite my protestations and one was no exception. Santa Barbara was crowded but by luck we found an empty room at a good hotel by the beach. The fireworks were perfect as was the nighttime swim in the heated pool later on. Afterwards wrapped ourselves in towels, left the window ajar for the breeze, and plotted and planned late into the night.
A year is only 365 days, but that was another life.
I was talking to someone at the wedding this weekend about parerenthoodhood this is the best I could come up with: When we look back at our life before, as happy and as in love as we were, when we remember that time now we feel as if we were missing this person who had not yet been born. We didn't know it yet, but our lives while so very full, were still empty.
July 1, 2005
Jenn's sister Becky is taking care of the baby. Jenn hears her from the other room repeating, "If a bear can do it, so can you. If a a bear can do it so can you." Curious, Jenn walks into the room and finds Becky holding the baby over a large blue ball trying to get him to roll it with his feet like a circus bear. Jenn, unnoticed, says nothing and retreats. "If a bear can do it, so can you," is repeated for a good long time followed by an "oh well...", a sigh, and then silence.
June 22, 2005
I am up in the attic engrossed on my computer working out some arcane css issue and I feel something skitter across my toes. A cockroach. No too big. A rat. Chills, then terror. I let out a man scream while simultaneously rolling back in chair and jumping in the air.
Cut to my wife in her underwear rolling on the ground with screams of laughter under my desk with a piece of string that she had run across my food. Cracking up so hard she can't breath. Tears.
Then Becky, Jenn's sister, runs up (she thought I had fallen down the stairs) and Jenn (still hysterical with laughter), mocks me "Who am I? Who am I?" as she mimics my inelegant scream.
She got me.
But this is an ongoing war I will have my revenge.
May 15, 2005
in the Garden of Memories near Lufkin: 'Jackie Lee Asque, April 10, 1919. March 4, 1983. See, I told you I was sick. P.S. I knew this would happen, I just didn't know it would happen so soon.'
April 21, 2005
Jenn and the baby are asleep. I hear them both on the monitor-the reassuring repeat of dual breaths over staticy air. Today it was hot for the first time. People were out in shorts. I broke a sweat.
The windows are open and the sounds Brooklyn are wafting in. The room is dark save for the computer light. Music arrives on the breeze, Hayden I think. More music somewhere further away. Radio in an unknown language. A couple talking. TV sounds & blue flickering light on the brick wall in the back yard. Rain keeps threatening but right now there is only silent mist. Best of all: the breeze is full the first smell of a summer night. It's not actually a full summer smell yet, but it is so mixed up in 100 memories that it overwhelms. In an instant I am in Texas stargazing, wandering around a Beijing hutong finally anonymous in the dark, getting into trouble at Princeton, out in Amagansett on the beach... I missed this smell in LA. LA is a desert and even on hot summer days it is usually cool at night. There is the over sweet smell of palms and green and dew but it doesn't smell like summer, it smells like LA, and it's a year round thing. So I will enjoy the dark for a few moments. Take a quick picture of the flowering tree lit from below and say goodnight.
April 19, 2005
April 14, 2005
There are certain places - crowded malls, busy Kinkos, Walmarts, suburbia, that inspire in me intense feelings of panic. My wife named the syndrome "Raul's Costco Reaction". Upon entering a Costco I feel ill, suffocated and slightly crazy and have the strong urge to run away. Jenn on the other hand LOVES Costco. She deems shopping there 'thrilling' and can spend hours comparing/weighing/and figuring out how to get the best deal on a pound of butter. Normally this would not be a problem (I would simply stay home), but now with our #1, I'm forced into service. If you ever want to see a miserable Raul, picture me pushing a heavy shopping cart filled with giant tubs of random food, baby strapped to my chest, wife slowly going through her long list. That was me today. If I end up in hell, I'm pretty sure it will look like Costco. That or the old Kinko's on Lexington and 77th run by Samoans where the lines were always out the door, the heat always cranked to unbearable, and the toner cartridges always empty. After a few minutes in there I would find myself muttering, "Death of the soul, man. Death of the soul." Sigh.
. . .
p.s. To the nice lady reader of this blog who said hello while we were at Costco today. I hope I didn't seem abrupt or startled. See above for an explanation of the green tinge in my face.
February 15, 2005
Gingerbread cookies AND a ukulele. My wife knows me all too well. I hope everyone else out there had as nice a day as we had here.
January 1, 2005
There was a time after the shock of the unnatural deaths of my mother and brother when I thought I would always dread January firsts. The date and even the year- 1990- are cruelly easy to remember so that at any time without a moments calculation I could say, "it has been 2 years, 3 months and 2 days since..." or something like that. But the crucible of loss is fickle and I was not left with the albatross of hating the specific day more or less than any other. Of course I have always recognized this sad anniversary and am careful to put aside time for some private ritual of remembrance, but I do the same on other days for other people I have lost. Strange too is my appreciation for what the deaths have done to me as a person, allowing me, I hope, to be a husband and now a father who, aware of what can be taken away, tries his best to love with an open heart.
That event fourteen years ago was one of those which divide time into "before" and "after", but what I could not foresee then were the other events that similarly divide time. Those events, whether they be something as large as the birth of a child or as small as some quiet realization, lift us past the burden of memory and into the realm of undiscovered country.
So I think what I'm trying to say is, it's a new year, let's try to make the best of it.
December 11, 2004
This kid is the first grandchild on both sides. It's amazing how fast how our parents instantly become doting grandparents. Jenn's mom keeps raving about how smart the boy is... on day 4! What will it be like when he can actually count to 3? My dad and stepmother are equally enamored and are already planning secret trips that "your parents won't know about". And we're figuring out the parent thing. Everyone is gone from the house now so we're finally on our own. When everyone decamped I had the memory of the first time I ever took a sailboat alone on the ocean. I was in England off the coast of Eastbourne and suddenly I was out beyond where I could see land and it was getting dark. My first reaction was a small panic, but then one by one, I started remembering everything I had been taught and gradually made my way back to land.
October 2, 2004
In the great pantheon of annoyance, lathering up to shave with a 3 week beard and not having a razor is certainly just a minor cubbyhole. But lathering up, not having a razor, unlathering, discovering you actually do have a razor, relathering, and accidentally knocking your one razor in the toilet... that has to merit a broom closet at least.
I hung about 50 paintings today. The house is starting to feel like home.
We are 2 months from the expected due date and have lots of baby stuff already. Stroller. Crib. Too many clothes. I was looking at the stroller sitting empty in the hall this morning and was haunted by Hemingway's shortest story: "Baby shoes. Never worn. For sale."