Thursday, December 30, 2004

Blurry-Eyed the Day Before the Last Day of the Year

Listening to: Beach Boys, Pet Sounds

Appropriate that Nick ran the prehistoric Sponge Bob episode today because I am, at best, Homo Hardly Erectus (no snickering, fools), a slack-jawed, heavy-browed, knuckle-dragging furry man, grunting at my hyper-active children and threatening them with rocks and sticks. Instead of catching precious zees during the wee hours, I was up in front of the computer, indulging my basest fantasies.

World conquest.

I have been playing Civilization 3 off and on since its release in 2001 and if I'm up at 4 A.M. it's either because a kid is puking or I'm going to take one more city... well, that and finish the latest Great Wonder... or, OK, three more cities and then the Greeks will be eliminated... grrrrrr. Damn cheating game. I wiped the Greeks off of my continent even though they had Musketmen. After I took their territory, there wasn't a speck of saltpeter to be found - so, I'm STILL without musketmen; yeah, but where were they getting their gunpowder, huh? Damn cheating game.

After Zeke woke up Grumpy Dad for "Cereal, Daddy, cereal" and to get him out of the 1/2-ton diaper, after everyone was washed up and fed and dressed and the room was adequately picked up for the Dora reward, I turned on the computer - restraining my basest urges to return to Civ3 because kids are up, after all - and checked my "new look" blog. Spiffy, huh? I just wish it loaded better.

Anyway, the beautiful Wendryn informed me in email that the comments weren't working. She had to let me know in email (and I blow a kiss her way for letting me know) because as I said... Grrrrrrr... After a couple of hours of tweaking code that I am absolutely clueless about, I think I got it working. Blogger help is half-assed help (they misled me on the placement of my 'ItemPage' tag) but some trial-and-error shhh-tuff finally got things working. I think. We'll see. If anyone has advice on the page loading, I'd appreciate it.

Looks like Civ3 is not my only obsession, now.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

I Hope This Works...

Listening to: Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique

Quite a price to pay for vanity; I pissed away the better part of my afternoon and evening looking for a half-way decent skin and then finding a truly goofy pic to post. Fortunately it was warm enough for the kids to stay well enough away while I figured out how to make the code work. Still working on it...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Tuesday Question of the Day

Listening to: Beau Jocque & the Zydeco Hi-Rollers, Step Up On This!

My blog is U-G-L-Y - to look at (the jury is out on the content of the writing). Of my daily reads (linked over there at the right), no one's blog is as hideous as mine. I need some serious re-design.

Anyone have any recommendations that don't require any design or hosting fees? Full-time single dad is part-time broke. I Googled up "Blogger templates" (and dozens of different permutations of that phrase) and didn't come up with anything really cool. I don't own Dreamweaver or any other WSYIWYG apps (I'm a notepad coder) - any recommendations?

Post-Christmas Blues

Listening to: Muddy Waters, Hard Again

Surfing around to friends and favorites, I figure most people have been too busy with the holidays to be on the 'net much less taking the time to blog. Putting the various toys together, watching them get torn apart, wrangling up the pieces and determining what goes with what, dragging the mountain of boxes and wrapping paper and plastic containers to the recycling joint... and then dealing the Ground Zero of my kids on Christmas Tweak - IT IS ALL NOW BACK IN ORDER!

What a buzz. Who'd have thought that rehabilitating a post-Christmas disaster would have brought a fist-pumping "YES!!!" from me? Certainly not the 6-years ago me...

Christmas Day was a mellow affair, hosted at my parent's house. They sat back and grinned like idiots while I directed traffic, deftly wielded a small phillips screwdriver, refereed fights, and kept Zeke from opening EVERYONE'S presents while not giving into the urge to collapsing on the floor into a sobbing, babbling mass of insanity. All without the benefit of valium or vodka.

Every piece of every toy was fastened to cardboard with industrial strength twisty wire and I ask "Why?" It's bad enough that I have to assemble something that, really, doesn't need to be assembled, but then to have all the parts almost indellibly lashed to the carton is pure sadism.

Why does the toy for a 3-year old come with an instruction manual the size of small novel? Look, by the time I'm done reading the instruction novel, she'll be old enough to drive, certainly too old to enjoy the toy. When did kid's toys take on the level of complication reserved for surround sound systems? The toy in question is a Barbie learning board and while I was fumbling around trying to figure what goes where, her annoying voice kept coming on, "If you're having trouble figuring it out, get an adult to help you." That robotic voice took on an eerie tone as it spun wildly through the dark over the neighbor's fence...

One consolation: Barbie's horse is named "Nibbles". Hee hee hee... "Nipples?" I'm such a Butthead....

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve Photo Essay

Listening to: The Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come.

My Christmas gift to you, my loyal readers, is a photo essay, a way of doing something different and showing you (as opposed to telling you) a little about what it's like where I live - at least on Christmas Eve.

You'll see that it's a good thing I'm trying to be a writer and not a photographer. Actually, Lilly is the photographer and one of these days, I'll have to post a photo essay from her.

Come to think of it, this isn't much of a gift if you're on some crappy dial-up connection. However, I expect I'll get plenty of "oohs and ahs" from folks looking at these pics and realizing what a lucky guy I am. It really is paradise.

I hope everyone's having a merry Christmas. I left Yahoo Messenger open but no one IM'd me so it appears nobody needed a chat. Very cool, I'm happy everyone's got some place to be and people to share their happiness with. I'll keep Yahoo open a few more hours, just in case someone needs a dry shoulder to soak. Then, I'm going to bed to let the visions of sugarplums dance in my head - then up to pick up the kiddos for what promises to be a very long and trying day.

Best wishes to one and all....
A few people asked about the tree. Yeah, I know it's dark, that's a south-facing window and the sun comes right through it. Plus, I took these pics with an ancient POS Nikon digicam - bleh. Obviously, Daddy has re-hung all the low-hanging ornaments.
My house. There's the minivan that got its tires slashed and my 68 Bug that still has a flat front driver's-side tire. It also needs a new clutch cable which, obviously, I won't be replacing as long as there's that much snow on the ground. Parked next to it is my neighbor's Type II wagon that is in cherry condition and sits there to make my Bug look like shit. Heh - her's is a 1970, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.
Looking west from in front of my house.
This is Highway 24, about 1/10th of a mile more and you go left into my town. The mountain in the middle of the picture is Pikes Peak. Yeah, there's lots of red rock here.
Looking down on my town from a vacant lot. If you look just to the right of that yellow building in the center of the picture, you can see my house.
This is from my deck looking northwest down Manitou Avenue, our Main Street. A bunch of tourist shops run by old hippies. The main drag is about 300 yards long, tops.
This is from my deck, looking south. Because of the mountains, sunset hits about 4 in the afternoon.
This is where I do a lot of my hiking. The shaded area is a canyon and it's difficult to get a good pic because the canyon twists and turns so much. Kind of looks like the landscape from a Western, doesn't it?

On This Christmas Eve...

Listening to: Assorted cuts I'm putting together for X based on a tripped-out mixed-tape I made years ago.

Hopefully, you're not reading this on Christmas Eve; I can barely believe I'm writing this on Christmas Eve but I write because the muse calls and not out of some sense of obligation to the internet. If you are here on Christmas Eve - Merry Christmas or Happy Whatever to those non-Christmas types. I hope your evening is mellow and warm. I hope like hell you're not stuck in traffic somewhere or stranded on the highway or in an airport. If that's the case, this piddling little update is all you're going to get (until I write again, no doubt later tonight, and hopefully posting some pics of Christmas Eve in Manitou Springs) but if some stranded soul somewhere gets a smile from an actual updated blog on Christmas Eve, cool; I've reached someone.

If you're a soldier in Iraq reading this, please know that those of us back in "The World" are grateful for your sacrifice. Please - PLEASE - stay safe. We want you home in one piece. Just because not all of us support the war over there doesn't mean we don't support YOU and I think you know our hearts are with you.

If you're alone and lonely tonight, welcome to my blog. Although I'll be with my kids tomorrow, please know my spirit is with you tonight. I'll be online later, my Yahoo ID is nino_da_mindboggla and if you need to chat, I'll keep Yahoo Messenger open.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Survival of the Fattest

Listening to: Phil Spector, A Christmas Gift For You

And a damn good thing I'm listening to it or else I'd be insane.

After Eve of Christmas Eve at the mall, there's no reason to reassess my oath to misanthropy, the Mr. and Mrs. Mefirsters of the World all out and throwing down attitude faster than their overextended plastic. The brood in tow and dressed to melt the steeliest reserve, on our way to Kiddee Kandeds, my arms loaded down with winter jackets while trying to corral my trio through the crowd and stay focused, point 'A' to point KK, K? The throng around me meandered mindlessly, cudchewing and taking up oxygen and not at all mindful that wee ones were knee-level, underfoot and awed at the big, big mall I never take them into, unaware of all else other than being wherever first or getting whatever done done fast, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."

Cattle stampede notwithstanding, we landed into the photo studio unscathed and found a competent staff overwhelmed, not waiting for us, not wanting to pose tots but up to the task, just jaded ciphers in a mall waiting to swipe another magnetic strip though a machine. Not caring that I have the three cutest kids in the world, they took to our demand for eternity with the alacrity of morticians and my children took to them with likewise enthusaism. And as they say, a good time was had by all.

While we waited for the prints, I submitted to urchin's urgings of indulgence in the mall's "play town", a place where glops of polyurethene pass for playground equipment and parents pass for living human beings. What the thirteen-year old monstrosities were doing there, other than bowling over toddlers, was beyond me but I was thinking how the "play town" inventor was probably in prison somewhere. Why three grown adults thought the book in my face was an invitation to talk to me was equally as vexing. My misanthropy grew to universal proportions.

Of course the kids were oblivious to our heroic escape from the mall parking lot as I navigated the minivan up and down the maze of aisles without as much as gunplay or having to swing a tireiron. What an adventure!

Thursday's Question of the Day & Say Hello To...

Listening to: Goldfrapp, Black Cherry

Say hello to Pale Ale who left comments on my Friday's Question of the Day post. Nino has to love a blog named after his favorite kind of beer and it helps that she writes an excellent blog. She's linked over at the right on the ever-evolving list of Nino's friends.

Question: why does kiddie cereal adhere to surfaces with the tenacity of barnacles? Is kiddie cereal really just reconstituted barnacles? Would my kids believe that Froot Loops are really just barnacles? How do I get this cereal off of stuff short of a paint scraper?

I'm going to ask the Chemistry professor I used to date and see if she has a scientific answer for me....

Winter Wonderland

Listening to: Bjork, Post.

The snow's covered the kids trikes out in the yard, little spontaneous snowanimals frozen in a pre-flight launch. Nothing moves outside, it's too damn cold, Five degrees, Eighteen below with the windchill.

We'll be bundling up later for getting Kiddie Kandeds taken, everybody in their matching redandwhite Christmas outfits, smiling, hopefully. I just hope this beastly weather doesn't take the cheer out of em'; they'll certainly retain some red in their cheeks.

X gets a brief respite while I get a few hours of bliss.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Tons of the White Stuff

Listening to: Pink Floyd, Animals

The weather report called for "a dusting" - heh. We had about a 1/2 inch at 10:15 (about the time the local news does its weather) and that was supposed to be that. By about 10:20, it started to dump. Waking up this morning to almost a foot of it was a groove.

I called X to see if the kids were hyped and she said, yeah, sort of, they're watching School of Rock for the gazziollenth time (Marni especially loves that movie, my little Rock n' Roller). Hopefully they're getting out in it to make a snowman, make snow angels, and generally enjoy this pre-Christmas gift. X reports only about 6-inches down where she is, so not the accumulation we got in Manitou Springs but that's still enough for fun.

I here it's on the way for all you folks in the mid-west... enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Keep the 'X' in Xmas!

Listening to: A Reggae Christmas

First of all, in a rare political comment on this blog (ya'll know where I run my mouth on that), I'm not buying the hype that we secular humanists are out to destroy Christmas. I have no problem saying "Merry Christmas", I don't shudder at the site of a creche (in fact, I set one up a couple weeks back at my parent's house) and my kids know all about "Baby Jesus". Christmas Eve, at the dinner table, I'll bow my head and keep my trap shut while someone says a prayer; for those of you whining that secularists, Jews, observers of Kwanza or Winter's Solstice or celebration of Saturn are ruining Christmas, you may likewise bow your head and shut your pie-hole.

End rant.

For my part, I'm trying to keep the X in Xmas. Last year I bought her a nice pair of diamond earrings and although I'm not as financially well-off to get her anything nearly as nice as that this year, still, she'll get something from me and know that I still love her. We've had our differences, sure, and the other 364 days can be a test of creative compomise. Gift-wrapping my thoughts of, "We shared a life together, we share three beautiful children, and for all of that I am so grateful," is the very least I can do.

By and large, Christmas is for kids and, as such, my kids need to know that their mom and dad respect one another. My kids need to know that that Christmas is not just about Santa Clause or carols or lights or even Baby Jesus but about giving, and giving from the heart. They need to know that the number of presents under the tree isn't what's important, it's the love within those presents that matters. Oh, I know that on Christmas Day they'll be insane with excitement, they're not going to take time for abstractions. It's the payoff of the rest of the year that makes it all worthwhile.

So it goes with X. "You matter, today," isn't the message, "You matter ALWAYS" is what I want to say. Not because it helps us navigate calm waters in the gulf of divorce (although every little bit helps) but because it needs to be said. I'm grateful that we're not consumed with resentment or game-playing or character assissination, I appreciate the care and respect and love we share. We could be a lot worse off. As I said, keeping the X in Xmas is the least I can do.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Adelphia Be Damned

Listening to: The Libertines

My late-night guilty-pleasure admission: hooked on Court TV, I love the forensics shows, true crime, lurid, gruesome details of how our neighbors are packing away bodies and running corpses through wood-chippers.

Adelphia provides my internet and cable, so it's little wonder the Rigas family isn't being featured on Court TV (the Rigas' sons and dad, Adelphia CEO and underlings, were a little fast and loose with stockholders money) but that's beside the point. No one needs me to attest to what kind of shitbirds Adelphia and the Rigas are, it's a matter of public record.

Late night, about the only commercials playing are Adelphia commercials. Gee, I wonder if Adelphia's burned some bridges. They're sure working on it with me.

In Adelphia's grab to be the most repulsive corporation ever, they run commercial that I find incredibly offensive, one that pushes their internet service. An ad featuring the "Tale of Two Mothers", one with high-speed Adelphia and the other with slooooooooooow dial-up. The mother with high-speed Adelphia gets all her stuff done and therefore has time to spend with her children. On the other hand, the mother with slooooooooooooow dial-up is so bogged down by her internet connection that her children are neglected, left to starve and shoot heroin and run the streets to set fire to drunken bums.

I've seen these kinds of commercials before and they disgust me: "If you don't but our product, well, it's not up to us to say you're A BAD PARENT but anything less than OUR PRODUCT is, frankly, enough to get you reported to DSS, really, without OUR PRODUCT, you've obviously lost site of your priorities and decided saving a few pennies is more important than the potential dismemberment or emotional scarring or (*shudder*) death that our competitors product will mean for your precious spawn..."

Hmmmmm... as opposed to becoming a consumerist moron? Hey, thanks for your advice ya' advertising exec douchebag but we'll risk living on the cheap - because we have no choice. You can drive your Volvo straight up your ass. And as far as high-speed internet? I decide how much time I'm on the computer, not you twits. If I'm on dial-up it only means I do less on the internet, not that I get less done with my kids, you sleazy maggots. Cable has only made it easier to download kid's games off of Bear Share so I don't have to go pay for them at a Big Box.

Us "little folks" can embezzle, too.

Well, Hell

Listening to: Brian Eno, Another Green World

WIth the kids gone, I have no inspiration. Damned if I do and damned if I don't. When they're here, sure, there's no shortage of insanity to report on. With them gone... what, my leftovers gave me gas, I ate a whole box of breakfast bars this morning, I went for a stroll downtown and didn't buy anything?

OK, one thing daddy is doing to take advantage of his week-without-kids - and you're going to think I'm a pretentious fop but what the hell. I read an essay a few years back by Martin Amis that recommended that the only way to read Joyce's Ulysses was to take a week off to devote to it. So I started that last night. I read it back in my early 20's but I have to admit that it was a chore. Last night I started reading it in earnest, taking my time, savoring the words, the craft, the brilliance...

Not all is lost, here.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

It's Official - Firefox ROCKS

Listening to: Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

Stop the equivocation. When the Sunday NYT gives the nod to Firefox, ya' gotta say, well, it's ARRIVED. Anybody who isn't using using Firefox is so 2003. Get it?

If you're still getting popups, you STILL haven't got it.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Golden Oldie

Listening to: Fatboy Slim (cuts I took off Napster a long time ago)

In light of the "two-posts-a-day" promise and no motivation to write (plus my promised loooooooong post on the retard brother in the works), I post something from the slim archives, an oldie but a goodie...

Marni is my middle child, my 2nd born, my 3-year old, the little reiteration of my soul. I knew how bound we were almost from the time she was born. She had an affinity for daddy almost from the beginning as she looked to me, constantly, rose in her crib when I got ready for work, scuttled across the floor to greet me when I got home. In her infancy, she saw things I could not.

Asking me who my favorite kid is like asking me what my favorite song is - it's unanswerable because it is such an absurd question. Zeke was good as gold all day while the girls were fighting, fighting, fighting and then Zeke takes a favorite houseplant and turns it into a mound of mud on the carpet... there is no playing "favorites" on this journey. There is only a heart a-glow with three little burning fires, sometimes one outshines the others but only for a moment and then only because it is another's turn to shine. That's just how it works out, just like music.

Ten years ago I couldn't imagine that I could split this kind of total, unconditional love three ways but now I can't comprehend how I could have been so miserly with my love. Before I became a father, friends of mine talked about how parenthood "transforms" a person. I thought, yeah, you have tons more to do and zilch for social life. There was no possible way I could have known what they really meant, just how profound that change would be. Learning to love without limits is just one of the many gifts brought to me by my kids.

Although Marni resembles me in temperament, personality, love of music, so many things, she is not my "favorite", she is just the most like me. She is also very willful and brave (two qualities I do NOT possess) and that can be frightening. Today she ran out into the street and I flipped out, running out to grab her (and proving a poor example for the other two by not looking both ways) and then scolding her with no undue frustration. She cried, not because she had been yelled at, but because she was not getting to do what she wanted to do.

I fear she's going to be the kid who runs into traffic, blindly. Just like I was. I hope she also has my blind luck.

She has my creativity, for certain. She has a talent for making something from nothing and letting that entertain her for hours. In The Dulcimer Shop, she is immediately drawn to the strings, plucking, strumming, making music - she has a natural rhythm. I've wanted to get her into Dance Camp. She is tiny, nimble, a sprite. But Lilly's not getting Acting Camp and Zeke's not getting... well, Zeke's too young for camp and prefers sticking close to daddy... no Dance Camp for Marni but swimming for everybody in the fall. The creativity of compromise.

Interestingly enough, Marni was born on the day I was due to turn 40 (I was a preemie by almost a month). I'm an Aquarian, she's a Pisces. I don't know what that means but plenty of other people say they do and I'll leave those people their assessments. There's coincidence and there's spooky coincidence but I'm a skeptic and call it all Just Coincidence. Spooky thing on the genes, though.

Anyway, since she was about to turn three she's said, "I'm Blue." "Blue" the cartoon dog, she loves that show. Has a "Blue" stuffed animal, "Blue" pajamas. "Blue" is a girl puppy and she sets up puzzles for her friends to solve, so I don't mind that she's "Blue". She can have her Blue Period, like Picasso or Miles Davis, I don't object.

I took the kids for a short stroll through downtown tonight, all 700 Yards of it. A hot summer night, tourists looking for a way to stay cool, bikers filling the frosted mug of The Royal. A friend of mine, Joe, about to be a dad himself, saw me on the street, came over to shake my hand, meet the kids.

"I'm Marni," Marni said.

A small part of my heart broke at that moment. A precipitant sigh of loss, her Blue Period over. As I am cursed and blessed with an almost photographic memory, I can recall all of these moments, in all of my kids, the snaps of development where I see their lives pass before my eyes, arriving back in that point of their becoming, emerging, Marni, not "Blue".

If she's anything like Lilly, she'll be "Blue" for a couple more months and then the fascination will fade. Only to be replaced by another obsession and more of it, but a fascination of more complexity, more depth, more things in it. Marni already tells stories, plots, themes, intents; listening to her integrate more of her world into those stories is astounding to hear. I know she's already gotten a lot of mileage from being Blue and she figures out Blue's puzzles pretty easily.

Then again, Marni is a fighter, persistent, maybe she'll be Blue into Middle School. It wouldn't surprise me; like me, she's also eccentric. However, I'm betting she'll soon find something else to become, more Marni, less whatever it is she fancies herself to be.
Tonight just saw her blaze a little brighter on the street, her flame high in my heart.

OK, your first clue is, she was a baby. Got your handy-dandy notebooks? Your second clue is, she was "Blue". Now, we just need one more clue and we'll have figured out "Blue's Clues".

So, here's the third clue: Daddy is elated.

Answer: Bittersweet.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Things a Single Full-Time Dad Does On a Friday Night

Put another wacky message on my answering machine. I *again* used the voice synthesizer on and mixed it in with a snippet from the Firesign Theatre CD Everything You Know Is Wrong (where "Nino the Mindboggler" comes from); email me for my phone number if you want to hear it - it's a hoot.

Plopped my kids in front of Shrek 2 for their 1,250th viewing; collected their limp bodies and tucked them in after they passed out, one-by-one. No mythology tonight, just lots of Cheetos and root beer. My living room floor is covered in a fine, orange dust.

Yahoo chat with several friends. IM, not chat. The days of fun chat rooms are OVER. Script kiddies have ruined chat rooms for adults. Pathetically, half the idiots with boot codes and mic lockers are 40-something dipshits with serious gender-identity issues. Idiots. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, those morons don't realize that the apps they run are generally given a trojan payload and their machines are used to deliver spam (thus, how the script-writers finance their worthless endeavors).

Did another installment in The Great Cycle of Laundry. Tonight's installment: clothes my daughters pulled out of their dresser, wore for five minutes, and discarded on the floor in order to put something else on. When I asked a female friend what was up with that all I got was, "It's a GIRL THING." Obviously, The Great Cycle of Laundry is NOT a "girl thing" because I'm the only one doing the folding and putting away of my daughters capricious wardrobe.

Dishwasher-less, looked at tonight's sink and said, "nah".

After the wee ones were tucked in, put on Autechre, weird, skull-splitting industrial music (very bass-heavy) to annoy the lesbian downstairs who insists on listening to Ani DeFranco over and over and over and over and over again... played it through an ancient 600-gazillion watts-per-channel Phillips amp and old skool speakers the size of a 351 Hemi engine blocks that create little puffs of orange clouds (from the Cheetos orgy) with every bass boom. That'll show ya'. Put on something different or I'll put on Big Black, you annoy me.

Read a few pages of a Tom Clancy novel ("Splinter Cell") that, after I bought it, discovered was NOT actually a Tom Clancy novel but was "created by" Tom Clancy. WTF? The guy doesn't even write his own novels now, just tells some ghost writer his ideas? Must be nice (the novel isn't - it's a piece of crap). I'm a literature snob but I do like my mind candy. Splinter Cell is a cough drop.

When I put Lilly to bed, kissed her and Rudolph (her constant companion). Put on Debussy because the classical station she usually listens to at bedtime plays jazz on the weekends and she can't handle that drifting into slumber.

Looked at all my sleeping kids and thought there are much worse ways to spend a Friday night.

Friday's Question of the Day

Why is it that when I'm not doing anything (i.e. watching the tube, playing a computer game) or doing housework, my kids will be generally apathetic towards me but when I'm on the phone or trying to blog, I'm Mr. Popularity?

Be Careful What You Open

Just in time for the holidays, some asshat (thanks, Grace!) pindick hacker turd has developed a virus disguised as an email Christmas card:
The W32/Zafi-D worm, which originated in Hungary, is using mass-mailing and P2P (peer-to-peer) techniques to squirm through in-boxes and slow network traffic to a crawl.

The worm, which poses as a Christmas greeting, has the ability to replicate in as many as 19 languages, which makes it a "very serious threat" to computer users worldwide, said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos Inc.
According to a Sophos advisory, the worm arrives with the subject line "Merry Christmas," "Buon Natale!" or "Joyeux Noel!," depending on the location of the recipient.

The body of the e-mail contains a "Happy Hollydays" greeting in green text with a yellow emoticon. The virus arrives as an attachment with the following extensions: ZIP, CMD, PIF, BAT or COM.

Once executed, Zafi-D copies itself to the Windows system folder with the filename "Norton Update.exe." It then creates a number of files in the Windows system folder with filenames consisting of eight random characters and a DLL extension.

The worm has been programmed to harvest e-mail addresses from the Windows Address Book.
European anti-virus company F-Secure released a separate Zafi-D advisory with a warning that a payload is capable of terminating any application that has the words "firewall" or "virus" in it. If an anti-virus application is found on the infected machine, the virus attempts to overwrite those files with a copy of itself.

One of the reasons I use Eudora is that it's not targeted by virus writers. Also, my friends know not to send me email with nifty little attachments, lest they want to feel the heat of my wrath. Look, Nino is not so hard up for entertainment that he needs to read the latest internet joke/rumor, see some nitwit flash animation, or view some moron's command of Photoshop. As such, Nino doesn't open many attachments (unless Nino has asked someone to send him something).

Just because the email comes from a trusted source doesn't mean it's safe, kids. As you read above, viruses attack an address book and sends itself out. So unless you're 100% sure the attachment is safe, you're better off not opening anything.

You've already spent enough this holiday season without having to deal with taking your comp to the shop for a full re-format and OS re-load. Be smart.

UPDATE: My personal opinion is that virus writers, adware/malware writers, and spammers should be castrated. With a spoon. A rusty spoon.

Something Not Adding Up Here

Every year you hear one of these stories, wicked, heartless business (Scrooge) disregards the spirit of the season and puts the screws to some poor schlub and ruins Christmas. Well, that is until someone takes up a collection or someone writes a check and said poor schlub ends up doing twice as well as they would have done had they not been screwed over. For this year's Scrooge story, I came across this story about a family getting its minivan repossessed with all their Christmas presents in it.
A Wrentham, Mass., family said that it has lost all of its Christmas presents that were in the family's minivan, which was reposessed... one week before Christmas, Bonnie Corso added up the bad news.

"I had everything hidden so the kids couldn't get to them," Corso said.

Between her kids' holiday gifts, several computers and many, many valuables, Corso said that she had $10,000 worth of goods in her minivan when the repo man made a midnight visit to her home.
Corso and her husband, Mark, owners of a small Marshfield, Mass., deli and e-business, don't deny they were three months late with their car payments. That was the last time they saw the vehicle and all of their goods.

Corso claims the repo company has refused to give anything back. NewsCenter 5 tried to speak with Eagle Recovery and Transfer, and a company spokesman said that the Corsos should hire an attorney to contact the company.

The Corsos said that they've filed a complaint with the North Attleboro Police Department.

What' not adding up for me is why in the name of St. Nicholas would you hide your presents in your car? I mean, there's what, a report on local news EVERY FRICKIN' NIGHT about Christmas thieves, all saying DO NOT keep presents in your car?!?! Also, these couldn't have been the sharpest tacks in the shit drawer because you don't stash computer equipment out in the cold - especially a Boston winter. Moisture + freezing weather = expanded, snapping computer parts.

I'm no fan of collection agencies or repo men; I put them pretty much on the same level as ticks and fleas. I got behind a payment earlier this year and although I have been paying on time every month since then (plus a little extra to make up for the missed payment), the swine still calls every day to ask about "delinquent payment". However, these people had to figure that being behind three months probably meant a repo was imminent and the only thing that should have been in the van should have been a rotten egg under the accelerator pedal.

So much for holiday cheer, folks, but I'm having a difficult time mustering up any sympathy for the Corsos in Wrentham...

Evil Nino Spoils Your Breakfast

I'll set myself apart here by stating that the difference between being a single-dad blog and a mommy blog or a daddy blog is that the mommies and daddies eventually get another "adult" to talk to at the end of the day. Not so, me. If there's any doubt as to why the content on this blog is so infantile, you got the hint.

Anyhoo, I was surfing over to Candygenius and checking out her "gross recipes" and I thought, y'know, that's the difference between a chick and a dude. Because I don't need recipes for stuff to make you gag. I nuke it on a regular basis.

Steve over at The Sneeze, on the other hand, has it down. He knows what guys do to fill that pit in our stomach (especially after 7 or 20 beers) and his "Steve, Don't Eat It!" series is hillarious, if not for delicate constitutions (but if that's your problem, why are you here?).

Bon Apetite.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Question of the Day

Marni, my three-year old, decided to take the sleeve-cover (or whatever you call it, the paper thingy that tells you what the DVD is) out of the DVD case. Don't ask me why she did it, she couldn't explain it to me.

How do I get the damn thing back in? I tried for twenty minutes, I even cut the plastic on the case... it's not working. Anyone ever had this happen and know how to get the sleeve-cover back on the DVD case short of cutting the plastic all the way and having to tape it back up?

UPDATE: Hank answers in the comments... dude, you're AWESOME! Now I have to come up with another question... :((

Department of Homestead Security

Crap, crap, crap... the last thing I wanted to do today was deal with idiot holiday shoppers in order to pick up a gift for Lilly's kindergarten Secret Santa deal. Maybe I should have anticipated the gift exchange but my mind can't be everywhere at once. However, I need to fess up to the fact that I didn't check her school papers as soon as we got home.

When Lilly gets home, her little brother and sister grap the contents of Lilly's backpack and spread them throughout the house. So it's small wonder I get in trouble for not knowing about pajama day or overdue library books or when it's my turn to bake cookies.

In my defense, little slips of paper sent home is so old skool. Can't the teacher shoot me an email?


As I predicted, hits just - JUST - passed up the political blog :-)

Is it too early in the morning to have a beer?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This, I Don't Understand...

My traffic EXPLODED on this site (believe me, I'm not complaining, it's nice to be read) and everyone who has been visiting here has been really, REALLY cool. I appreciate all the support.

What I'm wondering, however, is why a kind of off-handed post like "If You Don't Hate Me Yet..." will get a bunch of comments (6 comments on this site is "a bunch") but a post that like "Awakening", that I really put my heart into, doesn't get any comments?

Maybe it's blogger Zen, who knows? Any feedback would be appreciated...

Note to Holiday Drivers

Not the Holiday Drivers heading over the river and through the woods (although that's where I like to see a few of them go) but the ones packing the road right now, jockying for their place to be the Number One Driver to Piss Me Off. In the spirit of the season, I give those drivers a little what for, freely, and with holiday wishes that they'll accumulate enough points on their license that next year, they'll be walking.

You, with the wreath on your grill - what is that, a bull's eye? You're not fooling anyone; he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, so WAKE UP, it's a thoughfare, not a damn parking lot.

Lady, we all know why you're driving that H2 - because you're married to Thimble Dick. It's not our fault you got stuck with a guy who can't reach the back of the cabinet, so stop taking it out on us. Eyes front. Rip the cell phone off your most extreme makeover before it becomes a Borg implant. If you don't like the traffic, take it off road, your H2 can handle it, right?

Hey buddy, the huge checkered flag decal on the rear window of your Chevy Cavalier doesn't qualify you for the Daytona 500, it only qualifies you as Loser Stupid Enough to Put That Idiotic Sticker on Your Piece of Crap Car. So slow down, quit switching from lane-to-lane like you're going to get ahead. It's been ten miles and I still see your decal, moron. If you're trying to be Dale Earnhardt, the only part you're likely to achieve is being dead; good luck!

Ms. Nissan Pathfinder, thanks for not being able to not find a path into the passing lane when I wanted to merge from the on-ramp, even though we were the only two vehicles on the road for miles. Then turning your head away when you passed, pretending like your were looking at - what, clouds, because that was the only thing over there, twit - well, you sure had me fooled. Because I was thinking you were an inconsiderate zipper nit. Likewise, turning your head the opposite way when I passed and glared told me you were respecting the unspoken rule of road safety: always check the weather on both sides of the road before letting the air out of your head.

Pops, what would the rest of us crazy, dissolute drivers do if you weren't sitting in the passing lane enforcing the speed limit? Why it would be anarchy, what with hundreds of drivers actually going somewhere without having at least one person on which to wish a quick trip to hell. Those of us driving twenty miles an hour below the limit because you're up ahead enforcing the limit will be happy to contact the police regarding your selfless service and say, yeah, I did it, someone needed to shoot the self-righteous old fart.

There's three lanes, little Ditzy Saturn, a right lane, a left lane, and a turn lane, - PICK ONE. Then, call your therapist. Obviously, your issues have gotten in the way of common sense.

That little lever on the steering column? Try it, it's fun; push it up and a little light on your dash blinks on the left side; push it down and a little light blinks on the right side! Try it, get some exercise, work off that pecan pie. Or better yet, walk it off, genius. Turn signals: not just for smart people.

Snow. It happens, especially this time of year; you know, "White Christmas" and all that. It's not a big deal, in fact, it's been happening for millions of years. So Florida Plates, don't freak, five miles an hour only keeps you out in it that much longer. And Mr. Stupid SUV, I'm positive your owner's manual doesn't say "In snow, drive twice as fast as normal!"

Aren't you lucky, finding a parking spot a mere 400 yards from the mall entrance? So while you're sitting there, with your blinker sounding like the Gulls in "Finding Nemo", waiting for the current occupant of the space to load in two tons of packages and strap six little kids into car seats, MOVE IT OVER. Hear the honking, screaming, and yelling? That's the rest of us letting you know that our search continues, it's not us celebrating your good fortune.

I know a lot of these drivers are on the road every day but never all in the same proximity; ah, the way the holidays brings us together. With that in mind, next year I'm moving way far into the mountains and making everyone presents out of pine cones.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

If You Don't Hate Me Yet...

...just wait and listen to this:

I read greek mythology to my girls at night.

I'm not kidding. My own knowledge of the myths, impoverished at best, led me to pick up a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology and I decided that as long I was going to make a study of it, I'd involve the girls and get them involved. Now, if you've ever read Bullfinch, you know the language is extremely antiquated; he published his mythology books in the mid-Nineteenth century. Naturally, the girls aren't going to sit through a narrative that requires interpreting roughly every third noun or verb. So the trick is to read the story before hand and then, at bedtime, transpose from olden-times, snooty Oxford Don prose to something approximating "Barbie and the Ice-Skating Puppies". Tonight's selection was The Rape of Proserpine which, although sounding a bit intense, was actually pretty tame. My problem is getting the girls to not associate Pluto with Mickey's dog.

We also read Blue's Clues and Pooh and Peter Rabbit, the standard childhood fare. I'm not a sadist (strictly speaking) and I'm actually surprised at how well they've taken to Bullfinch and learned not only the names of Gods and Goddesses but their functions.

They're going to hate me, however, when we start The Inferno.


A late-September morning in Colorado, a snap in the air, the rarified blue of an autumn sky; I remember it like it was just a few days ago but it was 1998. Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa had both broken Roger Maris' single-season home-run record, President Clinton was facing impeachment, and it was a picture perfect day. The day Lilly was born.

The delivery was a scheduled C-section (due to X being considered "high risk" after we lost Noble) at six in the morning. Not exactly a morning person (at least not then, before becoming a dad), I wondered how I would have the presence of mind for the birth. In fact, negotiating the disposable scrubs might as well have been a matter of differential calculus. At 6 A.M., the few neurons firing are the ones devoted to answering nature's call.

Fortunately, other than figuring out back from front on the scrubs and what to do with the shoe-coverings, there wasn't really any function for me in the operating room. Things moved rather quickly, from administering the anesthesia to making the incision, to finally pulling Lilly from X's belly. My heart leapt when I saw her squirming and heard her crying, she had arrived at last.

The nurses clipped the cord and had me cut it, then quickly took Lilly too the heat lamp where they cleaned her up, weighed her, and then wrapped her in the little felt blanket. Turning to me, the nurse pushed the little bundle towards me, "Daddy, would you like to hold her?"

I took her and looked at and fell instantly in love. I had never seen anything so perfect and beautiful and wonderful. And I wept. Massive tears rolling down my cheeks, dripping down onto the blanket, moved by the little pink person I held. At that moment I had a flash, a realization, a giant mystery of the universe was revealed to me. In Zen they all it Kensho, an awakening, a moment of insight into one's self. My own awakening, in that operating room, was full of light, my heart of silk unravelled and opened to the world by a newborn girl.

What I realized was that my life had indelibly changed, for the better, because at that moment I realized that the daughter in my arms was suddenly more important than my own, more important than anything. For the first time ever I was suddenly secondary to something else; from that moment on, Lilly would always take precedence before me. In that flash of awakening I saw that no matter what, I would gladly, unconsciously, sacrifice my own life to save hers. The center of the universe had shifted and I was elated by the change, it was as if a life-long burden had been lifted and I was free.

It was Love, I realized, real Love and not the love of illusion or desire or romance or eliminating lonliness but a genuine, authentic Love that, no matter how much I looked, I could never find. My daughter brought it to me, quite out of my control, freely giving it to me, "This is GOOD, this is GOD, this is the only thing that matters and it is yours, it comes with me in lieu of a User's Manual, make of it what you will but it is your gift of me." My awakening, the realization that yes, this was Love, that I could Love and that I could now know Love. In that flash of a moment, the possibilites of the universe were revealed to me.

When I tell my single friends about the gifts my children have given me, I know that they don't understand, that they can't understand. I understand them - I was clueless like them, once. I once thought love was about finding someone to fawn over and bring flowers to, someone with whom I would always have shaking-the-plaster-off-the-walls sex with. That's nothing like Love. Love is putting someone before me, always, without thinking or planning or sense of obligation but for the sheer joy of it, the ease of it, the inevitability of it that is as natural and necessary as breathing.

Before Marni came along, I wondered how I would be able to share that Love; it really bothered me that I would have to divide my Love because I wanted to give Lilly everything. After Marni came along, I realized that Love was infinite and abundant, I did not have to mete it out because there was more than enough to go around, a well deeper than I could ever dream. With my children, my days are a constant reminder of that fact, each day is a gift of Love. It is nothing I've done; it is all due to my children.

Lilly, Marni, and Zeke may test the limits of my patience but they never test the limits of my love. There are no limits.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Our Christmas tree is now up, decorated, and looking like a project from a drug & alcohol rehab's occupational therapy class. A lot of ornaments from about 3 1/2 feet down and a pretty barren top. Some re-decorating is called for after everyone is in bed.

If you're ever in the mood to test the limits of your mental stability , try decorating a Christmas tree with the help of children ages six, three, and two. As Hunter S. Thompson once said, "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to
anyone," and I'm likewise loathe to recommend repeating my experience, at least not without employing at least two of Dr. Thompson's remedies.

Hot Cartoon Moms

This is going to place me in the pantheon of Pathetically Perverted and Obviously Desperate bloggers but... am I the only guy who thinks Jimmy Neutron's mom is hot? There's something about her, beneath the CGI skin, that betrays a tigress and it's pretty obvious that Jimmy's dad isn't exactly the most responsive dude, in or out of the bedroom. It's not difficult to imagine that while Jimmy is at school and Mr. Neutron is off doing whatever it is he does, Jimmy's mom is satisfying her wicked, un-Nick Jr. needs.

Pathetic, I know.

When I was a kid, Betty Rubble was the object of unnatural affection. She was always saucier than Wilma, naughtier, and her page-boy bob really wrapped it up for me. Besides, Barney was easily a foot shorter than her and you know she regretted making that mistake.

At this age, with three small kids, my prospects are slim, and hot cartoon moms are no less real than flesh-and-blood possibilities. A guy can dream, can't he?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Saturday, December 11, 2004

On the Town

Daddy steps out to see a friend's band and spend whatever money he has left from buying new tires to replace the tires the vandal ass-wipe ruined. Obviously, I need a night out and the kids are back tomorrow so... grab it when you can get it.

The band I'm seeing includes a couple of people who went to college with me. Yeah, they've been around THAT long. They're really pretty good and if you want to check them out, you can stream a few of their songs at and see what kind of freaks went to college with me. Actually, the lead singer Marni is a goddess (and my middle child was named after her) and an incredible woman.

Go check em' out while I go check em' out... I'd aprreciate it if you did and I know they would....

Do the Stupidity

Why am I using the title of a Solomon Burke song as the lead-in for this post? I mean, other than the fact that I love Solomon Burke?

I went to leave for my parent's house around noon today and noticed my van was leaning to the left. All the way to the left. Some sick little psycho slashed both tires on the passenger side of my minivan AND the front driver's side tire on my 68' Bug. Obviously, the cowardly little maggot was working between the vehicles where he would not be detected and I assume was interrupted before he could get the rear tire on the bug. Or maybe three tires exhausted him, I dunno.

I did my fair share of vandalism as a maladjusted, angsty, pimply-faced teen, although I never slashed any tires; let the air out of a few but I was never bold enough to destroy a tire. Destroying tires was for punks who spent time in Juvenile Hall and I suppose my vandal will see his fair share of those walls soon enough, if he hasn't already. I wonder. And I wonder what his parents were doing while he prowled the streets in the middle of the night looking for something to destroy. I wonder if they care when he gets sent up for another few weeks in a Juvenile Correction Facility or if all they care about is what a burden their child is.

No use in wondering. What I need to think about is how to keep my kids out of Juvie Jail when I have teenagers to worry about in a decade or so. When I was in college, I did a summer internship working with at-risk adolescents (a wretched experience) and I noticed one common thread among every single kid I worked with: self-centered parents who had no time for their kids. Likewise, looking back on my own semi-wild adolescence, I remember all the "bad kids" were kids who had no supervision, parents who were never around, were out partying. At the time I envied those kids who could come and go as they pleased but in retrospect, all of them had an aura of profound sadness, a sense of aimlessness and nihilism.

As far as what kind of a parent I'll be when I have teenagers remains to be seen. An article today touted Gen. Tommy Franks as the spokesman for a cell phone containing a GPS chip that sends out regular signals letting parents know where their children are and how fast they're driving. I don't know if I want to be that intrusive; I'd like to think that I will be able to trust my kids on a certain level. Yet, I know I will have to vigilant about who their friends are, where they are going, and what they are doing. I also know that I will have to be extremely involved in their pursuits and passions, attending recitals, games, plays, tournaments, etc., holding their hand through the rough spots and reluctantly letting them go to explore who they will become.

I can't see my kids aimlessly roaming the streets at 2 A.M. looking for a vehicle to vandalize. When I stand in their room admiring their angelic faces as they slumber, it's incomprehensible that in about a dozen years they might be, at that time of the night, awake and rowdy and looking for trouble. As they dream, I dream, dream of them as young adults and although not such angels, not so innocent, still young and eager to explore a large and loving universe. As painful as it is to consider, I know they will have their moments when they fall from grace, when they tumble over the precipice of stupid mistakes.

It will then be my obligation to be there to catch them and not sitting on some bar stool bitching about what worthless brats I've raised.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Obligatory Explanation For Being Home On a Friday Night

Some of you may have noticed a certain amount of snarkiness creeping into posts and you'd be right. In the evolution of this blog I've noticed I have a tendency to sometimes get a little intense about how much I love my children and I'm afraid it, at times, borders on the maudlin. That bothers me because I hold to some pretense of authenticity (some stupid sophomoric grasp of existentialism) and I shouldn't be reluctant to put my feelings out there - HERE - or feel it necessary to explain myself. Still, I feel almost compelled to write ten sarcastic posts for every sweet one, lest I be perceived as a wimp. Pathetic.

I was going to write about Lilly and that's how this inane post got started. Lilly is sensitive, a flower, she's my future granola, vegetarian, Earth Muffin, Birkenstock and patchoulli-wearing 60's throw-back. As long as she's been old enough to conceive of "good" and "bad", she's had a deep-seated sense of shame such that, when she is corrected she cries because she just doesn't want to be wrong; she wants to be good. Marni will cry because Marni wants to keep doing what she's been told to stop doing but with Lilly, it's all shame, she doesn't want to be bad at all.

A couple weeks back, when I was putting the girls to bed, Lilly started crying because, she claimed, I had told Marni "I love you" with the tuck-in and good night kiss but had neglected to tell Lilly that. I was crushed. What transpired was a long explanation of how she was my first and because of that, she held a very special place in my heart, that I didn't love one child more than the other and that each child was "special" to me in their own way, Lilly being the first child, just like Daddy.

So tomorrow you get the sweet stuff. For whatever reason I had to explain myself here and I'm not sure it means anything but at least I've cleared the way for not having to apologize for being a doting dad.

Off To the Rents

My parents live on the north-side of Colorado Springs, about a half-hour drive from here. Not a bad thing, entirely, since they seem to enjoy spending their savings on spoiling my kids. They adore my children and if you asked them they'd tell you that yes, each of my children is capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound, tying up the loose ends of the Grand Unification Theory, and solving world hunger (if they weren't so busy dressing Our Lady of the Backyard in plastic bags or watching Shrek 2).

In return, I remit my services as lawn boy, maintenance guy, and general unpaid labor. Today, I get to go and string up their Christmas lights. I might get a loaf of Banana Bread out of it, I'll definitely get to exercise the more colorful aspects of my vocabulary.

It's an exercise in karma. And when I'm old and sunk into my barco-lounger, hopefully my kids will be up on my roof, swearing like sailors. Ah, the Circle of Life.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I'm So Pretty and Witty and GAY!!!

X got the kids for the weekend and you'd think a rutting buck like me would be out and about looking to mate. Wrong.

I'm celibate.

Just kidding....

No, I thought it was more important to stay at home, clean house, watch E.R.; uh, that sounds gay, doesn't it?

I dunno, the bar scene does nothing for me and the thought of picking someone up in a bar is kind of repulsive. In my 20's it was a different situation but now it's... unseemly. It's not that I never go out but that's usually to see a band or old friends or sit with my composition book, have a beer, and, um, write. I'm not kidding. Write and deal with the inevitable drunk's question, "Whatcha' doin'?" It is for those moments of brilliance that I find bars the best place to go and write.

But not tonight.

Mr. Mom in a Field of Flowers

HAH! In surfing the other day-in-the-life-of-a-parent blogs, I see my gender is not the only thing that sets me apart. As much as I should watch cooking shows, I just don't. I'm more of a History Channel guy and that means my cullinary repertoire is shamefully limited. Not that I'm a complete Bozo in the kitchen (and like most members of my gender, I'm a Master of the Grill) but I really could use some of the pointers offered on those shows. Unfortunately, the Y chromosome kicks in when I reach for the remote and given the choice between Thai Chicken and Big Guns of World War II, the Big Guns win.

However, with my kids, a huge presentation of dinner is received with complete apathy at least, total revulsion at worst. I can go to great lengths with a meal and when it hits the table the inevitable reaction is, "And we're supposed to do WHAT with this? We wanted HOT DOGS!" You can see the futility, here.

"Eat it!" I growl and the battle of wills begins - and ends with me eating Thai Chicken the rest of the week while they inhale the staple of weenies, mac & cheese, and chicken nuggets. So until my brood develops a taste for dinner-time adventure, Emiril loses out to Eisenhower.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Two For Two; Tea For Me, Two For You

RE: my last post.

I'm trying this whole "post twice thing" as an empirical study. Maybe I'll give it 30 days and see where it goes. My two biggest traffic drivers, Candygenius and Pippa definitely boosted my numbers (and welcome, all you visitors from both sites) but I want to find out if being the only full-time single-dad blog gains me any recognition. Call it hubris, call it egomania, call it the last resort of a scoundrel (and then you'd call it 'patriotism' per Samuel Johnson and you would be looking at my other blog) but I want HITS, dammit!

Don't you hate meta-posts - blogging about blogging? What a waste of bandwidth...

Anyhoo, speaking of hits, while I type Marni pokes my elbow, "I'm thirsty, Daddy,"
"I'm thirsty, Daddy,"
"I'm thirsty, Daddy,"
"I'm thirsty, Daddy,"
"I'm thirsty, Daddy,"

and I wonder why putting on "Hunchback of Notre Dame" (Disney cartoon, not the one with Charles Laughton and Maureen O'Hara) wasn't enough to ward off interruption. One of these day I'm going to build a huge cage with a giant Capris Sun container, like a big hamster bottle, and a 6-disk DVD carousel hooked up to their TV. Do that, hook up my Yukon Jack I.V., and then video-tape the whole thing for Child Protective Services to use as a training film.

So there, Ms. or Mr. Smartypants BlogPro, I've managed to two ya' and we'll see if... unless, OMG, blogging about blogging doesn't count... my head hurts...

Hook up the Yukon Jack I.V., STAT!

That's a Fine "How Do You Do?"

I read on someone else's blog (I forget where or else I'd link it) that in order to have a "successful" blog, a blogger has to post at least once a day, twice a day if the blogger is a good writer. Which should explain why my posting about once-a-month is a refelction of my writing skills or, errrrr... I'm confused.

But since I want this to be a "successful" blog - my ultimate dream is that I will be picked up by Cosmo or Ladies Home Journal or some other women's publication as some anomaly, a guy with a maternal instinct. Ha ha, if they only knew....

Actually, this blog is just self-advertisement in a Gore Vidal-ish sort of way except that I'm straight. I'm too cute.

So here's to posting every day, twice a day when my assessment of my writing over shadows the extent of my talent. For now I have four giant mounds of laundry looking at me, a sink full of dishes hissing at me ("It's ALIVE!!!") and two toddlers informing me they're hungry.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Tis' the Season to Be Jaundiced

Over the weekend X had the kids and I took the opportunity to clean up the damage wrought by the rampaging bug. Mountains of laundry, bucket and brush and liberal applications of Lysol on every surface within upchuck range. Hey, I'm not Felix Unger compulsive (the random stacks of CDs and books are the least of it) but as I've travelled this single-dad road, I've learned that maintaining order on the fly is a great way to keep the Health Department out of my hair and greatly reduces the risk of broken ankles. Believe me, I'm not so much fastidious as efficient.

So I'm writing this with heavy heart as I look at the boxes of Christmas decorations calling me to construct a massive kid-magnet that will, once built, emit shreds of cheery detritus that will give this place the permanent appearance of a frat house the morning after a Mardis Gras party. Replace cigarette butts, beer cups, and various discarded under garments with smashed lights, dismembered ornaments and shreds of packaging and the comparison fits. That and my head hammered with a hangover-worthy pain that will endure until well into 2005.

When we put up the tree and string the lights and put up the decorations, sure, it will be my pleasure to watch the exitement of my brood and I'll be certain to stand back and do my "remember this, remember this, remember this" mental exercise wherein I take a psychic snapshot of the moment. That snapshot will carry me through the rest of the insanity of the season and may even prevent me from adding an extra shot of rum to the eggnog. Christmas things, like Trix, are for kids but Dad gets to watch it all go down and if there's any joy in the season for me, it's revisting the snapshots I have so carefully filed in my memory banks.

Really, I don't need any pontification about "the true spirit of the season", all that self-righteous goody two-shoes hokum that has done nothing to stop a fist-fight over a parking space at the mall. If you look at the history of Christmas, it's been a PR scheme from the beginning, what with the Church appropriating a pagan holiday for the sake of boosting its numbers. Seems to me nothing has changed. So you can save your sermon for someone who stomachs it, stick it in your creche along with the kitschy non-semitic looking figurines and plastic farm animals with their 60-watt glow. I know what the spirit of the holidays is and it's letting my children's enthusiasm sweep me up and forget that I'm hip-deep in gilded green and red garbage.

Fa la la la la.

La la.



Thursday, December 02, 2004

TWOO vs. E.T.

Since everyone is sick with whatever this slime is, I decided that we should enhance our meal of soda crackers and 7-Up with a little experiment I've been dying to conduct. With the house reeking like a low-rent Bengali hospital and everyone too langorous to get enthused about much beyond being verticle without spewing, I decided to fire up the VCR.

I just happen to be old enough to remember when E.T. was released in theatres the first time and I recall the raves by every reviewer on the planet (when even the normally curmudgeonly Pauline Kael loved it, you knew it had to be a modern classic). One of the common threads in all those reviews was the comparison made between E.T. and The Wizard of Oz, "TWOO of this generation", stuff like that. Kind of silly, I thought, since I never really liked TWOO, and I threw my vote to the E.T. camp.

In my little experiment, I start with TWOO (giving it the chronological edge) and sit back to observe:

They're not huge with the Kansas stuff, the sepia tones, the relative drabness of the characters. I'm kind of smug in my initial appraisal, "They're bored, my 21st Century kids won't go for this old-skool junk for a moment, they're too sophisticated by a steady diet of Disney and Pixar." Closing towards the end of the Kansas Prelude and the introduction of the tornado, I'm almost laughing at how cheesy the special effects are (by modern standards) and I'm certain the TWOO/ET contest will be a rout - for ET. My kids aren't buying this, I think.

And then, suddenly: MAGIC HAPPENS. It's astounding to me how as soon as Dorothy lands in Munchkinland and the scene switches to technicolor, my children's interest in the movie shifts gears into - I can't describe it, it's too awesome. I could tip the refrigerator over and they wouldn't break their gaze from the screen. And in their eyes, in their faces, in their body language of being completely captivated by the magic of TWOO, I'm bewitched. The total purity of their absolute fascination at what transpires on the screen is gorgeous beyond belief.

Now I'm weeping, huge tears of joy and wonder. My children are unequivocally enrapt by TWOO and I can't control my emotions (what kind of a man am I?), hypnotized by every aspect of the film. Lilly is chattting, giddy with how cute the Munchkins are, Zeke is a zombie, entranced.. and I am laughing, shoving my fist in my mouth because I can barely contain the elation at how mesmerized they are by this movie. Marni wakes up (from throwing up all over my bed) and joins the crew at the point of "Follow the Yellow Brick Road" and she's likewise enthralled, zoned right into the movie... I can't think of anything else that would manifest this kind of perfection.

Watching your kids watching TWOO is a relgious experience, utter transcendance. For me, the beauty of children is their innate ability to transport us to a time when a blade of grass was an entire universe and flying monkeys were truly frightening. In the midst of my workaday existence, the screaming pundits on the right and left, the news of blood-thirsty jackals murdering innocents in the name of their god, the push-and-shove of people racing to gather up everything they can, my children show me the door, my escape, to shut out the noise and remember that the universe is large and inscrutable and loving.

To the end, the coda, my children are awestuck and, obviously, I'm awed by their thrall. Everything about the film, as Dorothy builds her quest party with the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman, and the Lion, their first trip to Oz, their quest back to capture the Witch's broom, and then to the Wizard's rewards (and the revelation of his sham importance), not a frame is wasted, voluptuous to the eye and mind. Watching all three of my children rivetted to everything on the screen suddenly made me reconsider my bet. I have never seen my children so completely captured by a movie, not Nemo, not The Lion King, and certainly not the Care Bears. E.T. had, I reckoned, an insurmountable task in winning the hearts of my children.

The opening scene in E.T. is brilliant (if not a little frightening); the faceless grownups stumbling through the forest, the squealing E.T. hiding from capture - it grabbed the kids at the very start. However, the following scenes with the kids in the dining room and Eliot's eventual discovery of E.T. lose the kids for a bit. Sure, once E.T. becomes a part of the family my kids are back on board with the tale but not nearly to the extent that they were when Dorothy and her friends travelled through Oz. They enjoyed E.T. immensely; Lilly was moved to a few belly-laughs (she has the most dulcet, infectuous whole-body laugh) when E.T. was drunk and when he was dressed up, but just not entirely captivated in the way TWOO captured their imaginations.

So IMHO, my quite anecdotal and unscientific assessment is that E.T. is not TWOO, not by any stretch of the imagination. My sample population, a 6-year old girl, a little girl inching up on 4-years old, and a 2-year old boy were apparently much more wowed by TWOO than they were with E.T. although I have to say that this is based merely on my observations and not due to hooking them up to EEG's or other physiometric equipment. However, I encourage everyone with young children to try this experiment. There are worse ways to occupy your time on a rainy day or with a house full of sick kids.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


WARNING: the subject of this post is pretty ICKY and not for the feint of heart or those with a delicate constitution. However, if that's you're problem, you're obviously not the parent of small children...

Yeesh.... it happened last night about 7:30 PM during Fox's showing of "Ice Age".

Since the brood had been good about finishing their dinner of fish sticks, fruit cups, and green beans, I decided I'd reward everyone with the movie and a treat of Halloween Pringles. The Halloween Pringles had come in hermetically sealed small tubs and had an expiration date well into the next millenium. If civilization can survive the concept of stackable food-like products, they can eat day-glo orange Halloween 2004 Pringles when the earth's alien overlords have forced humans into subterannean cities.

I digress as this post isn't about an underground dystopia so much as it's about vomit deposited around my living room like blobs of orange black-light paint. While the kids were watching "Ice Age", I was enrapt in "Go Down, Moses" (a friend had inspired me to pick up some Faulkner) when my reading was interrupted by the chilling phrase, "Zeke is puking!"

Sure enough, my little man was standing in the middle of the living room, coughing up a disgusting mix of fish stick remnants and pineapple chunks suspended in a bright orange medium. Poor little guy was crying, terrified, feeling like... well, like you feel when your dinner comes back for an encore appearance. Just standing there, puking his guts out, helpless and hapless and sicker than hell.

There I was, suspended in time, paralyzed with revulsion, "Oh gawwwwwwwd..." the gunk was thick on the carpet and Zeke was shaking with malaise. All slow motion, moving to him, picking him up and carrying him to the bathroom to put him in front of the toilet. "It's OK, it's OK," I assured him, knowing part of his fear was thinking he'd done something wrong, "Go ahead and be sick in the toilet, mister... poor little man, I know you feel bad, it's not your fault, Zeke, just be sick in there..."

While he stood over the bowl, continuing his emesis, I bolted for the buckets and rags soapy water and Lysol. And I knew I was in for a long night. It wasn't my first experience of puke all over the place and it won't be my last. In my experience, this moment at the computer is just a lull, I'm buying time before the bug hits the girls and several more loads of laundry get spun through the washer.

Too much experience at this. Which makes me wonder why it isn't until every piece of bedding is soaked in puke that I get the "DADDY!!!" call. Why is it that a toddler has to stand there, dumbfounded, kiddie spew by the quart over everything, waiting for daddy to show them the way to the toilet. I know, I know, this sounds rather hard-heartedbut the empiricist in me is forced to ask "Why?" as far as the blip in cognitive development that prevents children from making the connection that puke, like pee and poop, goes in the potty. They certainly have no problem putting other things (i.e. the latest issue of Rolling Stone, a whole bottle of shampoo, socks, etc.) into the toilet, so what's the deal with vomit?

Zeke's still feeling miserable, curled up in a chair swaddled in a blanket, soda crackers and flat 7-Up sustaining him. Hopefully he'll be back to his usual smiling self and the vomit smell will have cleared up. I'm burning incense to handle the latter and I know time is the only cure for the former. Just in time for the drill to start again when Marni or Lilly shows us all what we had for dinner.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Know Your Enemy

Buddhism has its "Four Noble Truths", one of which is "Life is painful." I've always thought that truth was awfully helpful to remember (if not a little prosaic) since it girds us for the various moments when diaper tonage hits the fan, so to speak. So, "--it happens" serves to remind us that the bed of roses we'd like to imagine we reside in requires a certain amount of manure to thrive. The Buddha says, "Yeah, get used to it."

What the Buddha failed to mention is that the list of "ugly truths" far outnumbers "noble truths", so much so that I won't go into any of the items left off the list. Since life is graciously finite and mercifully short, I'll confine my discussion of "ugly truths" to a single axiom - the moment when you look at another person and speak loudly, in your mind, "What were you thinking?"

You know what I mean. You experience it when your friend shows you how they've invested more money than they have in one of those hideous Honda Box-cars or had the name of the Latest Loser tattoo'd on their back. It's that scream that echoes in the halls of your consciousness when your brother tells you he's engaged our troubled parolee nephew to watch his house while he's off tromping around in the Amazon.

It's easy enough to acknowledge our own dumb mistakes but it's disconcerting to see stupidity (especially stupidity of extreme proportions) in others because the world seems so much safer if we believe no one else is capable of screwing up as badly as we do. The experience of "What were you thinking?" not only comes with a certain degree of contempt and disbelief but also a sad realization that the world is rife with ill-considered decisions.

Take people with small kids who buy white carpet. As far as I'm concerned, people with small children who go with white carpet deserve whatever it is they forgot to anticipate: Kool-aid, pee, Play-Dough, Crayons, the red, red mood of Mississippi mud. Give me a parent with white carpet and I guarantee you kids who will grow up to become accountants.

White fabric is your enemy, folks. Unless you have figured out how to reverse time and can therefore reverse the inevitable Juicy-box-macarroni-and-cheese finger-painting fiasco, give it up unless you're into showing off your furniture as the latest unintentional art project. I have a coffee table (dark brown cherrywood) that has lost to any chance of being considered a "piece of interest" on the "Antiques Roadshow". Aside from being used as a 3-D coloring book, it's found utility as a race track, a diving board, a place to mix crackers and milk, and as the launching pad for a hobby horse rodeo.

Accepting the noble truths of single fatherhood entails being as proactive as I can in averting disaster. All my cabinets have childproof locks, not just the cabinets with toxic chemicals but everything. I'm not inclined to wash every pot and pan in the place after my cookware has been made into footware. I'd rather not find a kitchen floor carpeted with Rice-A-Roni.

My houseplants are sturdy things, oblivious to road-building and Barbie beach parties and unexplained spontaneous defoliation. Scotchguard only goes so far so I've allowed bedspreads to become drop-cloths. Serenity is accepting what is and I've learned to accept that whatever is, my children will cover it sticky hand prints, dye it Care Bear Rainbow and scent it with the remnants of uneaten hot dogs. Denial of these truths would be insanity and my insanity cup runneth over, thank you.

Maybe pride makes me hyper-vigilant for warding off the "What were you thinking" look but I try to pride myself on being nuts, not stupid. My own recognition of the "What were you thinking" moment is paired with recognizing the enemy and the enemy is any toy that has a gazillion pieces. So it's during Birthdays or Christmas (or random acts of stupidity disguised as charity) that my "What were you thinking?" glare kicks in when my children tear off wrapping to reveal The Gigantic Box of Bobby Pins or A Tub-O'-Glitter or anything that contains the imminent demise of a vacuum-cleaner belt. I know who the enemy is... and as the say in Sicily, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Indeed - and revenge is a dish with a Billion tiny pieces as an ingredient.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Back Yardigans ROCK!!!

Never having been a huge television-watcher (except CNN/MSNBC and I've given up on those for matters of principle), I'm pretty inflexible regarding the shows my kids watch. I absolutely deplore the Cartoon Network and The Disney Channel is a bore. Up to this point it's pretty much been a PBS Kids household. That is, until the other day.

Since Marni started pre-school our schedule has changed, including what we watch. "Arthur" just doesn't cut it, for my kids or for me; Arthur is whiny and all the adults in Arthur-world strike me as the kind of Volvo driving liberals who send money to PBS during those interminable fund-raising drives. As a mini-van anarchist, I think I can slam Volvo driving liberals with affection rather than a freeper sneer (as if a freeper would be caught dead watching PBS). Anyway, the characters on Arthur strike me as the type of people I see bitching about the hummus at a downtown coffee shop and I don't need to see them animated as aardvarks.

So sans Arthur, I decided to switch to Nick Jr. and check out the line-up. Previous experience on Nick Jr. has been pretty good, "Dora the Explorer" and "Blue's Clues" being favorites of the kids and truly excellent shows. As the father of two daughters whom I'm trying to raise as "womyn", I can't complain about grrls (Blue and Dora) who figure things out with the help of my three kids shouting and pointing at the TV screen.

In my early morning haze, I'd misread the show listings by a half-hour and would have turned the television off had I not stumbled upon something strange and wonderful and hallucinogenic: The Back Yardigans. I think I was in the kitchen making myself some coffee when the theme song got me, drew me out into the living room, the insistent and insidious melody burrowing deep into my psyche (it still echoes in my brain). It was the theme song that prevented me from turning the TV off and I am so glad that I didn't.

The basic premise is that 5 little animal friends gather in a back yard which then morphs into the episode's adventure land. The animation is good (not great) CGI and the story-lines are pretty much standard lesson-driven cartoon fare. What's truly outstanding is the music - it's incredible. TBY is packed with music, all of it good. Usually the songs on kid shows are phoned in but whoever is doing the music for TBY is going well over the top. In the first episode I watched, the one where Tasha, the little girly-girl hippo character, becomes the Queen of the Nile, Tasha's theme (something about being a princess) ran throughout the entire episode as a thematic foundation underpinning the other songs.

There's a variety of styles in the show ranging from Zydeco to hip/hop to Broadway show tune-ish (the song I just mentioned) to Afro-pop, all them good. Most songs on kid shows are disposable (Sesame Street probably being the notable exception), having the kind of embarassing inauthenticity of Christian Rock. TBY has the distinction of featuring truly outstanding, memorable music.

I'm not going to get into how good the characters and stories are on TBY, check it out for yourself. I'm just happy there's a show on that my kids love to watch and makes me want to listen. The Back Yardigans isn't just a great kid's show; it ROCKS!!!

* Prior to writing this, I did a little research and found a review of The Back Yardigans on by a member calling herself pippadaisy who wrote an excellent piece. Pippadaisy is bright, funny, and a pretty good writer (fairly prolific in the Epinions sphere). Turns out she also blogs on Homewreckers, a kind of Home & Gardening blog attended to by 20 or so H&G types. Alas, Pippa only had 2 entries there but I'm hoping she'll write more.

The gift of the internet: finding these hidden treasures in the most unexpected places.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Zeke, Daddy, Zeke

He's the first one up, "Cereal Daddy, I want Cereal!" and I nod, none too happy, "In a minute son, when your sisters get up."

So he gets them up.

I had a houseful of sick kids this weekend, some fever-and-stomach-cramps thing that started with Zeke and then moved briskly though the brood. The girls lolled around and complained but Zeke was Zeke, smiling and playing, tossed his cookies and he was done with it. The girls were not about breakfast at all but there was Zeke, "Cereal Daddy, Cereal."

After the girls collapsed in my bed (I'll be sleeping in one of their beds tonight, I guess), Zeke was left up, still a full head of steam, still smiling. I was surfing the net and listening to Frank Zappa's "Hot Rats", one of Zappa's jazzier works while Zeke stood against the couch, rocking and swaying to the music. As soon as "The Gumbo Variations" came to its thundering conclusion, Zeke shouted "Awesome!"

Don't know if he's a jazz fan or a Zappa fan (I tend to think the former) but he's a fan of the here and now, that's for certain. He's a fan of life and all it has to offer.

Zeke's the baby but he rarely weilds that as a weapon, he's too good-natured for that. His place in the sibling hierarchy is no concern to him, he expects no deferrence or privileges, he's just happy to be who he is. He's the smiling-est damn kid I've ever seen; even his serious face has a smile. The only real question in life should be how to get what he's got.

The other day Marni asked me to write something for her, much in the way Lilly asks me to write things for her. "Write, 'Marni is seeing the the cars above the sky'" she said, serious, watching me closely at every letter I inscribed. Marni is much more like me, intent, serious, abstract. Not Zeke. He's matter-of-fact, fully participating in the moment, the embodiment of "suchness". If he sees "cars above the sky", he's not consumed so much by the mystery of that as much as he likes cars and cars anywhere suits him.

Zeke, my Zen son, my little Buddha bouncing around the room in complete bliss and spreading that light wherever he goes. I'm surprised no monks have shown up at my doorstep to revere the reincarnation of the venerable Lama whatever. Not that Zeke would mind. He'd roll his little fingers forward and hide his face behind his wrists, blushing, smiling, wondering what kind of car the monks arrived in. Knowing that, about the car, he'd really light up.

"Cereal Daddy, Cereal," isn't really a demand, a statement of desire, it's merely recognizing the condition. While my daughters whine and cajole, Zeke says what's what, he's got the what-what and that's that. Put golf tees in a bowl and pour milk on them and he'll make the most of it. Zeke's just glad that it is what it is.

And that's all we need to know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Noble, Part I

It seems like another time, another life almost, and yet I can see details as clear as though it's the present, now, in this life, this life that, although has changed in a great many ways, remains anchored in a moment that will remain with me forever.

There was another time, another life, other dreams and other perceptions. In that, I figured I would become an academic and spend the rest of my life dealing with lofty theories of Artificial Intelligence. My plans at that time included applying to schools to start my Ph.D. work in Cognitive Science, my degrees in Psychology and Philosophy taken to another level. My intellect was, I reckoned, formidible enough to skirt the unknown and provide me with certainty, a fortress against fear and low self-esteem. My arrogance was not that I would achieve the Ph.D. (I was extremely qualified) but that I could navigate this life without soul or love but only with facts - and declare my victory of reason over emotion.

There was no shortage of arrogance in my life at that time and yet all my dreams meant nothing. And as little regard I had for myself and my plans, I had even less regard for everyone else, the whole of humanity, the human race beneath contempt in my eyes. Although I worked in customer service, tending bar with a smile on my face and pride in my ability to give my customers the finest service available, I looked on them, all of them, with an unequivocal and unqualified hatred. At the end of the night I would crawl to another bar to wash away the filth and hipocracy. And to sustain that cycle, working and drinking all night and then returning to face my hatred with a smile and then drinking to forget it, I propped myself up with crystal meth, loads of it.

Meth had its fingers gripped around my heart; booze, partying, meaningless sex, and utter hedonism had me so wrapped in myself and oblivious to the universe, that I was absolutely lost, adrift, mean and worthless and ugly and there were many times I thought sucking on the barrel of a gun was a perfect existentialist answer to my malais. Meth is insidious in that it plays on the ego, doesn't just give the user a false sense of well-being but omnipotence, that there is nothing in the universe as magnificent or imposing as the greasy zero on tweek. If there were 15 women in my bar (or any bar) while I was geeking, I knew - just KNEW - that all of them would not fail to notice how glib and articulate and sexy and handsome and dangerous and suave and slick and together and intelligent and incredibly irresistible I was and that my only problem was deciding which one of the 15 would be sharing my bed. And once I made my choice, if she was really good at giving me pleasure, she could hang around, keep me entertained, share my insanity, give me one other drug to abuse.

So there was X, my choice and oh, so much fun, smart, sexy, willing to take the wheel when I was crosseyed. A doormat, certainly (they all were doormats) but better than most and worth the hassle of shaking loose, REALLY shaking loose when the inevitable boredom set in and my eyes settled elsewhere. It was just fun, I thought and she seemed fun enough to understand that I could not be taken seriously.

But she did take me seriously and in the midst of this, X and I took each other hostage. We had no idea what our demands would be, what we wanted, or what the result would be, we were just flying without controls. Bad plan but a tweeker has no plans, just desires and needs.

A pregnancy was the last thing I desired or needed (or so I thought); my life obviously had no room for a child, much less a pregnant woman, and my initial reaction to the news was one of nausea and disgust. My dissolute existence was being whacked by forces out of my control, it was not just inconsiderate, it was a violation of my principles as an avowed misanthropist. The image I had created for myself, the edgy intellectual roaring towards certain self-destruction was being given a governor, an extreme make over, a kick towards respectability that I neither desired nor even entertained as an option.

During the following months, my life disintegrated with haste. Lost jobs, jail sentences, evictions, the specter of the impending birth of my son and yet, even as the threads unravelled and the fabric of my illusion of being negligibly human quickly dissipated, I continued on my path, uncaring, unconcerned, spinning out of control and watching the world blur by wondering when it would finally collide and shatter.

And then, suddenly, it stopped. Or rather, I stopped. I remember X miserable on the bed of our junkie-hotel room, miserable from her pregnancy and the shabbiness of our existence, furious at me and my self-centered lifestyle, saying she could not go on with me, as I was. Walking out of the room, I looked into a clear blue sky and it struck me that my life was not what I had thought it would be. At 36 years old, I was a punk, an emotional retard, a loser, incapable of providing for myself much less my unborn son and his mother.

I cried, for the first time in countless years. Sobbing uncontrollably, emotion finally shook forth from my cold and hardened heart. Crying not for X and the baby she held in her belly but for me and the realization of the pathetic being I had become. Crying because for once my arrogance could not hide the real and abiding fear that had been hidden for so long. Crying because I was not what I was supposed to be - brilliant, successful, and capable of doing anything I wanted - but unable to do anything, paralyzed and confused. Crying because I was not a man and a boy was on the way.

It would not be the last time I cried. It would be too soon that I would cry again and the next time, the tears would burn like the coals of hell.

Click here to read Noble, Part II

Monday, October 25, 2004

Noble, Part II

There’s a grave off 26th Street, about a mile west of here, a headstone in a place that sits on a hill beneath a bluff and shaded only by a few ancient poplars. There, a piece of ground is slightly depressed where a tiny casket used to lie, a patch of grass no bigger than a baby blanket. The grave sits just off a mourner’s path and overlooks a few family plots and a view of the city to the east.

I saw a map of the cemetery, once, glanced at where the ground was reserved for families, saw where soldiers from three wars were buried, and what ground was still available to demand eternity. There, on worn vellum, two rows devoted to infants were delineated by their diminution, plots not oblong but checkered. Viewing the map in a small stone building while summer lingered into almost October, I was comforted by how cool the room was. Even though it was mid-morning, the heat was already intense and I was almost relieved to be standing there, alone except for the cemetery managers, looking for squares not scratched out by hash marks. I was struck by how the room resembled something out of an Old Masters painting, a cell where some martyred Saint sat awaiting execution, contemplating God’s glory. If the room was musty at all, I could not tell; the scent of fresh cut grass rolled through the door like a rug of sod.

During the previous four months I’d buried many things: the pipe, my past, my independence, my insanity. It had been a somber summer, sober and passionless, a process of sticking my head down and making the most of a situation that was nothing close to the plans I had made, plans that had been side-tracked by my vices. Instead of Graduate student housing, I’d moved out of the Junkie Motel into a homeless shelter. Rather than writing thesis proposals, I was selling long-distance service and pissing people off while they tried to eat dinner.

X was staying with friends while I held a cot at the homeless shelter. Although I had been offered spare rooms and couches, I felt it necessary to dig myself out of the hole I’d dug, that maybe the experience would strengthen my resolve to never return to the lifestyle that had so defeated me. I was up at five every morning and out the door by six, worked as much as I could and then checked in with X, hung out. When I had time, I hit an NA meeting, somewhat for support but mostly to just to keep me out of the shelter. 12-Step attendees did not have to be in by the shelter’s curfew and I wanted to be away from that constant reminder of how bad things can get.

Pain is relative. What we think is unendurable one moment will suddenly become inconsequential in the face of real tragedy. Your famine and mass graves? My broken CD player, my bunk next to a revolving door of crackheads, my world in shambles for what seems timeless and insurmountable and will never again fill my heart of silk with lights. Eternity unfolds with so many more dark crevices to consume me, places where mortality looks into the void and equivocates its timorous handhold.

With no time to indulge regrets or self-pity but only determination to rise from the ashes and resolve the situation I’d created, I pressed forward. Not proud, not humbled, I had lost sense of self in the shadow of still not providing for X and our unborn child. All I sought was the ability to provide shelter for the three of us, a place to hunker down and regroup, somewhere to nurture a new life, succor a shattered one.

By August, we had a place. Not what we wanted but at least what we needed as far as we were again together and could collect baby things that good souls were giving to us. In X’s estimation, things were looking up not just because we were back together but also because I was entirely present; not intoxicated, not gone for days on a binge, not consumed with inner-turmoil and withdrawals. We could go together to ultrasound appointments, Lamaze classes, check-ups and I wouldn’t have booze and speed seeping through my pores, reeking with the stench of old socks and engine solvents.

X was happy but I was not. Neither was I sad - just numb. Although I did not miss the life I’d left behind four months ago, the life I’d made more X and myself did not seem much better. More than that, my life seemed out of balance, the world was not right, somehow, everything felt out of synch.

We went into the hospital almost three weeks late. X had endured ten months of pregnancy, to the day, the worst of it suffered through the hottest summer Colorado had seen in a long time. She was past ready to have our son and an inducement was ordered, scheduled for September 26th.

It was a perfect Colorado September afternoon the day we entered the hospital and I was sticking a video camera skywards, recording the day for my son. This is your day, I said, as I recorded the moment, we’ll look back on this day and smile.

We settled into the birthing room, filling the drawers and shelves with necessities, a brief nesting to await our arrival. As the delivery nurses prepared X, broke her water, administered pectosin, I set up the CD player and our Lamaze selections, arranged the balloons and flowers sent to wish us well, fluffed X’s pillow and brought her ice chips.

We waited. Hours passed and still, no dilation. After almost 12 hours, we gave up on the notion of natural childbirth and an epidural was given. Nurses rolled X back and forth on the bed, every 15 minutes, hoping that the motion would get X dilated. Between the rolling sessions, while X slept, I pointed the video camera around the room.

The video still exists. X softly snoring with a yellow hospital sheet resting over her pregnant frame like a statuary drape, Debussy ethereal and blissful in the background. I was narrating the scene for my son, there’s your mom sleeping, that’s the music we brought; look out this window, past the parking lot and to the hills, black against the night sky, almost eternal in their reach across the horizon, almost timeless in their silent vigil.

And yet, nothing is timeless, I said. Those hills, the mountains, they weren’t always there and one day, they will be gone.

Click here to read Noble, Part III