quiet sunday

December 5, 2004

I talked to a friend today who had a baby girl about a month ago. He's in the curious situation of not living in the same city as his wife. She and the baby are hundreds of miles away. The situation is perfectly logical (they plan to be together at some point), there are good reasons they are where they are, and yet the situation seems so cruelly unfair, his sadness palpable. I can't imagine being away... and yet I know it happens all the time. Another friend of mine lives in London, his wife and kids in Miami simply because he couldn't give up his job nor she hers. Every other cab driver in Manhattan has a family half a world a way... Still, hard for me to wrap my mind around...

My dad was still in Vietnam when I was born. My mom in was in the Hospital Muguerza in Monterrey Mexico. Shortly after the long labor a nurse came in, waking her, and repeating the word "nieve". Confused, my mom kept saying she didn't want "nieve" which she understood as the word for ice cream. But the word can also mean snow, and eventually my mom was led to the window. Almost two feet of snow fell that night in a city that never sees snow. My mom had been worried about my dad, but looking out at the snow she took it as a sign he was ok.

My dad's tour of duty had months remaining and news of the birth travelled slowly as communications between the Mekong Delta and Monterrey were sketchy at best. A telegram arrived almost two weeks late followed a week later still by a letter containing a dusty bit of umbilical cord (not knowing what to do, he buried it). Oddly enough news of the snow came almost immediately in the Stars and Bars. Knowing the storm had hit around the expected due date, he took it as a sign everything was going to be ok.

december

December 4, 2004

We have a humidifier in our bedroom that makes water sounds. Combine that with a tangled pair of long johns, free floating anxiety about the upcoming birth, and a baby kicking me in the back through my wife's belly and it all combines into one monster of a bad dream. The short version is that I'm in a straight jacket mid-ocean trying to stay afloat and get my wife to the hospital on time.

--

We've largely stopped being worrying about "when" and are instead just focusing on staying ready. In the meantime we've made the mental shift from thinking about a Thanksgiving baby to a December one. I'm not sure why this makes a difference but it does. Our current worry is that our daughter will crowd her aunt Becky's birthday. The Yuns take birthdays seriously and we want to give Becks plenty of space to revel and be appreciated.

But these are idle thoughts. Most of all we just want this girl to be healthy and loved. We, like all parents, have a million other hopes and fears... that she will avoid some of the mistakes we have made, that she won't be as difficult as we were, that she will see us as friends... ultimately that she will be better than us. But of course she must fail to learn and must sometimes hate us in order to grow. We know all this.

I've been computerizing our family tree of late. We are an unlikely mix of Gutierrez' and Yuns, Mudges' and Paeks, Perez', and Townes. A hundred years ago our ancestors lived on 3 continents and probably would have killed each other on site. I'm sure this child will have a bit of the best and worst of us all.

--

quiet day

December 4, 2004

Jenn had a pre-labor contractions, but nothing major... and these pre-labor contractions can last for days...

--
I've discovered our ice cream maker can double as a poor man's slurpee machine. Yum.

Vsyo pad kontrolem

December 2, 2004

Nothing to report on the baby front. Watched pots and all... So we try to go about our days.

We read the paper over breakfast. (Jenn is fascinated and repelled by Vladimir Putin, always taking special interest in news of his friends or foes. Sometimes, between spoonfuls of cereal, I will hear my wife chuckling ruefully, "Khodorkovsky, my friend, bad move. Bad move." or "Watch your back Yushchenko, the next time the poison will take."

We plan on naming a dog Putin someday.)

We putter about and run errands.

I do work.

And act like everything is totally normal.

I'm done with making predictions and will let the biology take it's own mysterious course without prognosticating and getting everyone all riled up. Jenn is enjoying a nice bath.

Perhaps tomorrow.

--
p.s. does anyone else find it odd that if you google "Russian Phrases" the first thing that comes up is a page from a dating site with phrases like "I liked your photo and message very much" and "I dream to meet a woman to share my life with." I especially like this sequence "You are so soft. You are so gentle. You are so delightful. You are so supernatural!"

circling

December 1, 2004

For whatever reason neither of us think the child will be born today. Right now I feel it will be tomorrow night, Jenn has been cagey.

We keep wanting to do things, but it's hard to make plans in more than 6 hour chunks of time, especially when our doctor keeps telling us it could be any minute.

Still we try not to think too much about the actual timing, because if we do, we become like kids waiting for a Christmas that never comes.

In some ways these last days have been the hardest of an otherwise easy pregnancy. Balance is an issue. Clothes don't fit. The belly is itchy. Stuff like that. All that said, Jenn has been calm and productive. We've been cracking each other up. The mood is light.

My dad just told me when my mom was pregant with my youngest brother, she went out and cut the grass which threw her right into labor. Jenn with a lawnmower would be quite a site. Sadly we have no yard.

It's windy and sunny after a night of rain. The house has been quiet except for my tunes playing in the attic office and the sound of the whirlybird on the roof.

I've been informed we are going out for a walk.

stay tuned..

the right metaphor

November 30, 2004

Everyone keeps asking how we are feeling... obviously things are very different for me than they are for my wife. She's about to go through an experience that is physical, possibly frightening, and deeply emotional. Actually she's calm as a cucumber. For me, well of course it could never be as intense in the same way, but we both have full knowledge that in a few days (hell, possibly today) everything will be transformed (the truth is I've been a bit agitated). So it's one of those funny inflection points in life where you know that you'll be on the other side of the mountain soon, but you don't know what it looks like over on the other side, you don't know where the path is yet, you don't know how long it will take, and there are all sorts of hidden dangers on the way. So right now we stand there looking at it in the distance, contemplating it, and heading inexorably towards it, knowing that one way or another we'll get to the other side as long as we keep going..

Something like this:

the last days are the longest...

November 29, 2004

Technically speaking, the baby is due tomorrow, but practically speaking it could be up to two weeks...

We're getting lots of pressure from friends and family (as if there was something we could do)...

Bridge music

November 28, 2004

If you are into classical music and the Brooklyn Bridge, I can highly recommend catching a performance at Barge Music. It's a floating barge that has been converted into a small concert hall right on the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. There's a fireplace inside, and you have views of lower Manhattan bobbing in the background. Kind of an awesome New Yorky thing to do. Jenn and I (and my parents) enjoyed it thouroughly.

--
My wife objected to the size of the picture of her that I posted yesterday. I have now reduced it 50%. She generally objects to my posting pictures of her, but I do it anyway.

--

It's already after midnight. November 28th. A nice day to be born I think.

--
Did I mention I've been thinking about Jenn's dad lately. We don't have many pictures of him, and in many of those that we do have he is sitting in or standing next to a car. The images don't give away much.

What would he have thought of us and this life we have?

--
What do other people hope for their children befoe they are born? After her health, I hope our daughter will travel well. I hope she can get out there and see the world while she is young so the experiences become part of her and that she is free from fear. Is that a strange thing to put on someone not yet here.

true mirror

November 27, 2004

We went to a restaurant tonight on Ludlow that featured a non-reversing mirror in the bathroom. I've always heard that these mirrors freak people out, but I looked fairly normal.

--
After spending a good 25 years of my life typing in front of a computer virtually every day, today I discovered my dad had no idea how a word processor worked. He seemed truly amazed.... "so it's like a piece of paper that you write on".

--
No, no news.

Aftermath

November 26, 2004

It was only after the meal, when we were cleaning up, that I realized I totally forgot to take any pictures.

Sad. It was a good time all around, and delicious to boot.

One year ago...

November 24, 2004

...we were celebrating Becky's birthday early with Jenn's family. Jenn was cooking a major Thanksgiving feast. Tonight Becks is doing most of the cooking and we're expecting my family...

Weird to think how much has changed in a year... and how much is the same.

I think about the old house sometimes and wonder what's going on in there, but that life is already distant.

As much as I enjoy actual weather here on the East Coast and as much as I have enjoyed the fall, sometimes I miss waking up in that light filled bedroom on Lakewood Ave. and the sound of all those birds every morning...


It was not much to look at on the outside, but inside it was so darned pleasant...

I believe the apple pie has just emerged from the oven. Smells delicious. I'm going down to check it out.

Waiting...

November 24, 2004

No. No baby news yet. Technically Jenn's not even due for another week but since 2 of our friends recently had their kids early, we've been in it-could-happen-any-minute mode for about a week.

So we wait. It actually reminds me of travelling around the South America or Tibet. Your truck or bus breaks down and you wait. Could be a day, could be a week, the secret is to just be patient.

1966

November 21, 2004

Today in my quest to catalog family negatives I hit a batch from 1966 when my dad was in Vietnam. He had just bought a camera while on R&R in Hong Kong (a Pentax that was to become my first camera years later) and took pictures to send home. My mom was living in Monterrey, was pregnant, and was understandably worried, so most of the pictures he sent were of himself smiling and with friends. The images are usually labeled. "Beach at Vin Tau", or "Enjoying C-Rations", "Chuck Connors and Anne Margaret on USO tour", or something else innocuous.

But occasionally in the margins of the images you'll spot something that speaks to the seriousness of what was going on. There in the background of an infirmary shot, a body covered in a sheet with a prominent toe tag. Or of dark plumes of smoke in the distance. Tonight I was struck by these two images:

I also noted the progression of pictures. He took less than one roll a month, and usually the pictures were portraits of people or documentation of events. But in the last month, he shot many rolls, of the barracks, of the earth, of the sky, of the waterbuffalo beyond the fences, finally a flurry images unframed out the window of a jeep as he was headed for his last helicoptor ride out. It was as if he was straining to capture something of the place to hold on to. I know because I do the same thing.

Australia

November 20, 2004

Sometimes I doubt the existence of Australia.

Oatmeal, Texas

November 19, 2004

There is this place far away from everything called Oatmeal where they used to listen to fishing on the radio. It's not much of a town--just a cemetery, a store, and a boarded up church. You can get there by turning off the main road between Austin and Burnet and following the the signs for "Live Homegrown Minnows by Pearl". The road is thick with cottonwoods and sometimes you have to swerve to avoid deer darting just in front of you. I used to drive out there hoping to find something.

An old friend having heard a few of my stories paid the place a visit. Apparently they don't play that radio show anymore.

Paul

November 19, 2004

Jenn was video chatting with Paul in Korea today. The video really makes the the miles shrink to nothing. Watching her model her pregnant self to her brother was like an advertisement for what these things should be. Now I want everyone wired up...

--

We had dinner with another couple who are due to have a baby on the same day as us. As both prematurely grey haired husbands walked in front of our ridiculously pregnant wives we got big smiles from virtually everyone who passed...like we were from some odd tribe. I know the ladies are tired of the belly, but we the husbands were discussing how we find them sort of glorious.

Mail call

November 16, 2004

We live for mail around here. A good letter is always cause for excitement... but a package from Almaty. Well that's like hitting the lottery.

Listo

November 16, 2004

On Sunday we were scheduled to have brunch with the doctors' Winkler. Mrs. Dr. Winkler was due a week after Jenn. It was supposed to be a friendly "let's talk about how things are going in the final weeks" get together. It didn't happen. About an hour before we were supposed to meet, I got a call..."Raul... (heavy breathing)... I'm sorry but we won't be able to make..... lunch. I'm in labor... we're headed to the hospital." The call won points for drama and it freaked us out a bit kicking us into high gear to finish up the details that remained. Now our bags are packed. The nursery is done & stocked. We've taken all the classes, discussed things till we're blue in the face. I think we're as ready to go...

---
From Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles:

I keep praying

For a double bill

of

Bad Day at Black Rock

and

Vera Cruz

MARTIN D-42K

November 14, 2004

Need a Martin D-42K? This is a very fancy guitar. My friend JP is selling one that is brand new at an absurdly low price. Email me if you want me to forward you his info. This is an amazing instrument with incredible warm sound.
--
It's Saturday night so we must once again be a a birth/newborn class (I think this is our last one). Perhaps doing this stuff on Saturdays prepares you for parenthood... or not. We caught Primer, a low budget sci-fi time travel movie afterwards. Fun movie for geeks... reminded me a bit of La-Jette, cheap, dirty, moody.

Falluja

November 12, 2004

No matter what you think of the war, it's hard not have a grim fascination with the events in Falluja. Kevin Sites blog give you grounds eye perspective on the American side of the battle.

This is the view from an Iraqi who lives there.

Ghosts

November 12, 2004

With fatherhood impending, I've found myself thinking quite a bit about Jenn's dad. He died young of a heart attack when Jenn was a kid. At the time of his death he wasn't much older than I am now.

We don't have many photos, but in his formal portraits he always seems to be chaffing a bit in his suits, just suppressing a smile. By all accounts he was funny, hard working, and tough--a devoted son and father who doted on his family. I regret his not being here, just as I regret the absence of so many of the others.

Signs

November 11, 2004

You always know you are officially moved in when Albert shows up as a houseguest. His tale of being bullied into going to an initation ceremony for a quasi-cult has had us giggling for days.

Visa mig på kartan var jag är

November 9, 2004

A Swedish man wrote in today and asked me today if I had any images of holy places in Amdo. The simple answer is yes of course, I have lots of images of monasteries, temples, and specific holy sites around the region, but the truer answer is that people who live there have a very broad sense of what is a holy place. This is one of the most isolated corners of Tibet. There are large swaths of unbroken plateau. Nomads tend to move around in small family groups gathering together only occasionally for festivals and trade. There are cities, but these are few and far between. Up in the mountains you will still find pockets of pre-Buddhist animists (the Bon). For the nomads who live in a world of such utter emptiness, the mountains, the rivers, the grass, the wind, and even the yaks all have some spiritual significance. For the most part these are not literate people... their faith is expressed simply and organically. A man on horseback will remove his hat when crossing a pass even when he is alone. Women will often circle a spring before collecting water. Children will often say a small prayer before venturing into a cave. In the mountains the traveler will encounter mounds of stones arranged into stupas often near key geological or natural features. This might not sound like much but if you have been walking for hours over featureless brown plains, seeing that simple marker near a patch of wildflowers can be a profound experience. Caves and springs are often marked with bits of cloth. Praying is expressed by circumambulating whether it be a stone stupa, a cave, or an entire mountain. So the holy sites often look like nothing special in pictures, a pass marked by rocks, a slight trickle of water — the mouth of a stream, or a small patch of hillside

prayers.jpg

People ask why I keep going back... hard to say exactly, but perhaps this slightly bastardized quote from H.G. Wells explains something of it:

"Most people in this world seem to live "in character"; they have a beginning, a middle and an end... They have a class, they have a place, they know what is becoming in them. But there is also another kind of life that is not so much living as a miscellaneous tasting of life. One gets hit by some unusual transverse force, one is jerked out of one's stratum and lives crosswise for the rest of the time"

Spam

November 9, 2004

After my haircut post. I received this bit of odd bit of SPAM:

------
You too can have gorgeous hair.

Silky.

Smooth.

Shiny.

Powerful.

Hair that other men envy and women can't resist. You will be a Samson and your Delilahs will come flocking.

If you want the best man hair buy....

Squeaker

November 9, 2004

To my European friends who look at our red/blue electoral maps on CNN and think we are all right wing rednecks, I offer this graphic by Jeff Culver at the University of Washington. It shows a US map proportional to it's electoral votes (and hence roughly proportional to population) and shaded by the intensity of the vote. This election was awfully close, in most places that matter... a landslide only in the eyes of someone who lost the popular vote last time and then declared victory.

This page by some folks at the University of Michigan offers a few more interesting cartograms.

Robert Vanderbei of Princeton also has some informative election maps.

Speaking of Princeton. This was the scene November 1986, 18! years ago:


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