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Archive for May, 2010

The P’s needs

bottle“Having kids will teach you new things about yourself” is a sentence that established parents might trot out when talking to new ones.  While that’s obviously a true statement, I don’t think this is what they had in mind:

While holding one of my kids, it’s often a delicate balance.   Regardless of what’s specifically going on, there are many situations in which their needs come right smack up against mine. I’ve gotten very good at putting the kids and their needs ahead of my own, but there’s one part I’m still finding to be difficult.  Let’s set the scene:

Maybe he’s eating and the bottle has to remain just so, or she’s falling asleep and any movement or derivation from an existing movement would change her progress.  I’m sitting there (also wanting them to complete those actions) when something happens. Let’s say I have to pee.  No matter, I use an old trick Mike Honcho taught me and tell myself, “I’m not supposed to” right now, and then take care of it at a better time.  It might be a sudden urge to blow my nose.  No problem; I’ve sat there mouth-breathing and pushed that desire to the back of my mind.  “I can do that later too,” I tell myself.  The same is true but more difficult with an itch on my face.  I’ll try making weird faces in hopes that I can somehow cause one piece of skin to rub up against the offending spot, but if it doesn’t work, I’m pretty good (not perfect) at focusing on something else until I don’t feel the need to scratch anymore.  To a lesser extent, it’s difficult for me to watch my hot coffee sitting there, cooling in front of me instead of getting in my belly.  “Drink me,” it says, “You love me.”  “I do love you,” I say back telepathically, “but we’ll hang out a little later, ok?”

I could have guessed all of those things and my reactions to them, but being a parent in that situation has taught me a new thing about myself: I can’t stand seeing the blinking red light on my Blackberry that tells me I have a new message waiting without wanting to check it immediately.  I didn’t know I had this problem, but now it’s clear. The same thing is true if I hear it buzz on the coffee table in front of me or elswhere in the house. I have to hope to forget about it (which surprisingly happens on occasion because of the craziness).  If it’s right in front of me though, I have to admit, I’ve repositioned an almost-sleeping baby just to push a button or two on my phone.  I don’t really get it.  I mean, if I were specifically waiting to hear from someone via email or text, that would be one thing.  But more often than not, I see that Amazon recommends new books for me or Ticketmaster has a list of summer concerts to tell me about.  It’s almost never something time-sensitive or important, but that flashing red light is a like a reminder or alarm that goes off every second saying, “You have something waiting for you!  You have something waiting for you!  You have something waiting for you!”  It doesn’t speak to me like coffee does though, because that would be fucked up.

You might be thinking, “Why not put your phone on silent so you don’t know if anything’s come in until after you’re done with the feeding/putting them to bed?”  It’s a good question, but the light still flashes when it’s silent.  In fact, it’s even worse on silent because then I play the whole, “Well maybe something came in and I don’t know because it didn’t buzz,” which leads to me looking at my phone much more often than I (or anyone) should.  The best idea is for me to have it on silent and out of my sight – and more importantly – my reach.  The only problem with that is that I know I’m unreachable during those times, and that makes me feel just a little unsettled (like a child being jostled around while his father gets another email about chicken specials from a local restaurant).  I’m managing this addiction pretty well so far, and I think acknowledging it is a good step.  That said, I didn’t see it coming and I have my kids to thank for shedding light on this issue for me.

Oh, and I’ve learned something else.  After seeing my parents’ reactions this past week, I’m pretty sure that being visibly startled by an unexpected yet forceful poop is genetic.

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Lyrical breakdown: Bob Dylan

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bob dylanI don’t know what is stronger, my love of well-written lyrics or my disgust for poorly-written ones.  Either way, lyrics to songs play a big role in my life (too large a role, some might argue).  So when I had an interesting experience regarding lyrics recently, I wanted to commemorate that here.  Does that sound ok to you?  Excellent.

If I learned a song as a kid, I’ve probably never given the lyrics enough serious thought.  I tended to accept things much more easily at a young age (like the fact that Sigourney’s an acceptable first name), so revisiting them as an adult can be an interesting experience.  Today’s example of that has to do with a song by Bob Dylan.  More specifically, a song he penned and sang as part of the first album by Traveling Wilburys.  It’s called “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” and even though my friend Melissa burned the cd for me years ago, I was still stuck in my 1988 mindset as I listened to the familiar tunes…until last week.  Where was once a song that I’d written off as “a weird but catchy Bob Dylan ditty” is now a song that I intend to dive into head first.

Before I do that though, let me acknowledge my thoughts on Bob Dylan.  He’s not famous for his voice, people.  The man can write some unbelievable songs, including “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” and many more.  He’s also a strange dude, throwing out some bizarre lines from time to time.  In “I Want You,” he finds it appropriate to sing, “Now your dancing child in his Chinese suit/He spoke to me, I took his flute/You know I wasn’t very cute to him, was I?”  Oh yeah, that clears it up, Bob.   Anyway, the dude’s great and strange, and “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” has elements of both.  Here goes…something.

Tweeter and the Monkey Man were hard up for cash.
They stayed up all night selling cocaine and hash
to an undercover cop who had a sister named Jan.
For reasons unexplained, she loved the Monkey Man.

Ok, this is a great start.  In four lines, we get a shitload of plot and backstory.  We have established “bad guys” in the titular characters, and they are unwittingly dealing with the police.  We also get some family history of the cop, though I don’t know why his sister gets a name but he’s just “the undercover cop.”  (Oh yeah, something needed to rhyme with “Monkey Man.”)  I think that’s some exceptional storytelling to being the song.

Tweeter was a boy scout ’fore she went to Vietnam
and found out the hard way nobody gives a damn.

Ok, what the hell just happened?  What do you mean that Tweeter was a female boy scout?  Did s/he have a sex change operation in Vietnam or was the war experience just so intense that it could be categorized as “gender-shifting”?  Moving on, I guess.

They knew that they’d find freedom just across the Jersey line
so they hopped into a stolen car, took Highway 99.

And the walls came down
all the way to hell.
Never saw them when they’re standing,
never saw them when they fell.

Ok, so apparently they’re either now hip to the fact that they’re dealing with a cop and want to get out of town, or they’re running from other law enforcement.  I get it; criminals (especially ones with cool names) often flee their surroundings.  The chorus doesn’t really add much for me and is kind of “just there” lyrically.  And personally, I’m not a big fan of using “they’re” for “they were,” but I’m getting overly picky.  Besides, the chorus is pretty catchy even if it doesn’t advance the plot. 

The undercover cop never liked the Monkey Man.
Even back in childhood he wanted to see him in the can.
Jan got married at fourteen to a racketeer named Bill.
She made secret calls to the Monkey Man from a mansion on the hill.

I’m a little confused by the first two of these four lines.  I can’t decide whether the Monkey Man is a much older criminal that the cop grew up wanting to apprehend, or if they knew each other as kids.  If it’s the latter, then wouldn’t the Monkey Man know that the cop was an undercover cop? If it’s the former, the fact that he “never liked” him strikes me as odd rather than “always tracked him,” or something similar.  Meanwhile, Jan gets further character development, and her pedophile husband even gets a name before the undercover cop.  One more question: which “bad guy” is the leader of these two?  We hear them called “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” and get a confusing snippet of Tweeter’s backstory first, but then the “cop and sister” storyline is focused on the Monkey Man.  Tonto and Robin never got that much love.

It was out on Thunder Road, Tweeter at the wheel,
they crashed into paradise, they could hear them tires squeal.
The undercover cop pulled up and said, “Every one of you’s a liar.
If you don’t surrender now, it’s gonna go down to the wire.”


I’m cool with a “crashing into paradise” metaphor that I don’t understand, because it’s the type of fancy phrasing and possible symbolism I’m used to with Mr. Dylan.  The undercover cop should probably just be “the cop” now since he’s outed himself to the “bad guys,” right?  And is his gun drawn?  How does it get more “down to the wire” than this attempted arrest?  And who uses “every one of you” for two people?  Honestly.  (I’m trying to let the forced rhyme of “liar” slide, but I just wish it were for a better payoff than “down to the wire.”  Like in “Positively 4th Street,” Dylan forces an entire line to get it to end with “rob them” just so it can rhyme with a very strong line of, “Don’t you understand, it’s not my problem.”  Forcing it for that particular idiom that doesn’t make enough sense to me, though.  I’m just sayin’. Yeah but still.)

An ambulance rolled up, a state trooper close behind.
Tweeter took his gun away and messed up his mind.
The undercover cop was left tied up to a tree
near the souvenir stand by the old abandoned factory.

If I’m reading this right, the cop (who’s still “undercover” somehow) called in backup, but the antagonists foiled the plan and killed a dude in the process.  Why didn’t they kill the “overcover cop”?  I’m not sure – maybe there were childhood acquaintances after all.

Next day the undercover cop was hot in pursuit.
He was taking the whole thing personal, he didn’t care about the loot.
Jan had told him many times, “It was you to me who taught:
In Jersey anything’s legal as long as you don’t get caught.”


Wait a second here.  What do you mean that “he didn’t care about the loot”?  His whole life, he’s wanted to arrest this criminal, and now it’s personal and not about money?  When was he going to get money for this?  Is he a crooked cop who was taking a piece of the drug dealing action?  I don’t get those two lines at all.  In the next two, we see a perfect example of me allowing a very forced line in order to set up an important one.  Jan’s line tells us a good deal about her character and about the environment as a whole, so I’m ok with the awkward “you to me who taught” fiasco.  (Is ‘fiasco’ too strong?  Maybe for you.)

Someplace by Rahway Prison they ran out of gas.
The undercover cop had cornered them, said, “Huh, you didn’t think that this could last?”
Jan jumped out of the bed, said, “There’s someplace I gotta go.”
She took a gun out of the drawer and said, “It’s best if you don’t know.”

The undercover cop was found face-down in a field.
The Monkey Man was on the river bridge using Tweeter as a shield.
Jan said to the Monkey Man, “I’m not fooled by Tweeter’s curl.
I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl.”


Wow, where do I even begin with this chunk of lyrics?  I’ll start with the first four lines, which seems like the most logical resolution.  The cop (who is so not undercover now that the moniker is laughable) catches up to his nemeses.  Back in the mansion, Jan grabs a piece and bolts to wreck shit up.  How old is Jan now?  If she got married at 14, has enough time passed that Bill wouldn’t be considered an obvious pedophile by now?  Either way, I’m still a little upset that he gets a name while our main protagonist just has an incorrect adjective and his profession. 

The next line is a doozy: the cop’s dead.  Since this is right after Jan grabbed a gun, we have to assume that she offed her bro in support of her secret love, Mr. Monkey Man.  Especially since the “bad guys” onlytied him to a tree before, that has to be what happened, right?  I ask because of the next line.  Who is aiming to shoot at the Monkey Man?  The cop on their tail was killed, so as far as we know, only pistol-wielding Jan remains.  Why would she hold them at gunpoint after running over there to help their convict asses?  Maybe the next two lines will shed light on that for us…NOPE!  Instead, we get a very confusing gender-bending line about a previous relationship.  I must be missing something here, because here’s how I sum up those lines: “Monkey Man, I came here to save you from my brother because I love you.  But now I must kill you.  Oh please, don’t hind behind Tweeter.  Tweeter’s my homey, and we’ve been in cahoots since before Vietnam changed him to a her.  So you’re out of allies.”  There’s a crapload of faulty logic and 180 degree motive changes in that, and yet it’s the best I got.  What a strange and confusing way to end the song, right?  What’s that?  There’s another verse?  Ooh, maybe that’ll be the missing piece!

Now the town of Jersey City is quieting down again.
I’m sitting in a gambling club called the Lion’s Den.
The TV set was blown up, every bit of it was gone
ever since the nightly news show that the Monkey Man was on.

I guess I’ll go to Florida and get myself some sun.
There ain’t no more opportunity here, everything been done.
Sometimes I think of Tweeter, sometimes I think of Jan,
sometimes I don’t think about nothing but the Monkey Man…

What. The. Fuck.  None of this – absolutely none of it – makes any sense.  The narrator randomly became a character who tells us more details about where he’s sitting than we ever learned about the story’s hero.  So a news show reported on the Monkey Man (and not Tweeter?), which for some reason led to someone or something destroying the television.  No one is even hinted at as a culprit, nor is anything resembling a motive mentioned.  If I’m watching tv and a heinous crime is being reported, I may go as far as, ya know, turning it off.  But blowing it up?  That’s extreme, man.

It’s this final group of four lines that probably confounds me even more than Tweeter’s fluid sexual identification.  First, our suddenly existent narrator tells us of upcoming travel plans to catch some rays.  Then he laments the state of Jersey City, and admits that he occasionally gives thought to some of the characters in the story he just told.  Why?  I have no idea.  These last lines add nothing to the story at all, especially the last four.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but ending with, “I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl” would’ve made much more sense.  Instead, we got…that.  And I still don’t know which one’s the main bad guy and which is the sidekick. 

(If you for some reason haven’t read enough about a 1988 song from a band that no longer exists, Wikipedia’s entry on the song has an interesting point about Dylan nodding to several Bruce Springsteen songs in it.  Some of it I’m sure is 100% right, and other parts…not so much.)

So there you go, readers: so much more than you ever wanted about something you don’t give a crap about.  That’s what I’m here for.  At the very least, I feel a little better now that I’ve properly over-thought through something from my childhood.  Who knows, maybe I’ll dig out another old album and find that my younger self accepted another twisted song at face value.  Hmm, I wonder if I still have “Wild Wild West” by The Escape Club somewhere.  (On second thought, this post took me parts of 4 days to write and review, so this may be one of a kind.  Sorry/you’re welcome.) R.I.P., overcover cop.

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That’s bullshit: Reminder edition

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That's Bullshit!I’ve had my problems with Facebook in the past (documented here, here, and here), but something new came up that annoys me about it and I felt like sharing: it’s being too helpful and taking one of my jobs from me.  Allow me to explain:

Last night, I said to my lovely wife, “It’s Lisa’s birthday on Sunday.”  “I know,” she replied, “Facebook told me.”  What’s wrong with that?  One of my roles in my group of friends is to be Chief Birthday Reminderer.  As CBR, I will text my friends the day of or the day before another friend’s birthday so that they’ll remember to send happy wishes.  My job – which I’ve held for over a dozen years, mind you – is far less necessary now that Facebook announces all of one’s “friends'” birthdays.

There’s another component that bothers me about this, and I fear it says a lot about me.  You see, I used to get “points” for remembering birthdays and anniversaries.  “Oh that’s so sweet of you to remember!” people would say.  Well now, I’ll send a thoughtful email and then go onto Facebook and see 30 of their closest “friends” wishing the same.  My memory was an asset when it came to birthdays and anniversaries, and now even my laziest friends can just go to Facebook and see that it’s Lisa’s birthday tomorrow.  And another thing: when my birthday comes around, I’m going to probably have a bunch of warm notes on my Facebook page wishing me a happy one.  That’s nice, but some of those people will be loose acquaintances who are just programmed to write me upon seeing other people doing it.  I know, it’s the thought that counts, but it feels like I’m saying to them, “It’s my birthday – celebrate me!”  I’m not that guy. 

Look, I understand that it’s a helpful service that allows people who are bad with dates can blend in with the rest of us.  Still, I feel like a small part of my identity has been taken from me, and do you know what that is?  Yes, that’s bullshit!

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The crying game

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my saviorMy lovely wife and I make a great team, if I do say so myself.  When we came home from the hospital with our tiny twins, we talked with some professionals about how to divide our time to care for the kids.  Everyone agreed that if we both tried to do everything, we’d both go crazy.  “We’ll make it work, and the two of us can re-connect when they go off to college,” I said jokingly.  Ok, maybe half-jokingly. 

Not long after, we were fairly set in what almost resembles a routine.  I take the latest feeding of the evening (hopefully in the 10s or 11s), my lovely wife takes the middle of the night one, and I take the early a.m. one before work (in the 5s or 6s).  That way – in theory – we’re both getting a decent stretch of sleep at some point in the night.  Here’s where my question comes in: where is the line in time that shifts from my responsibility to hers?

Let me back up for a second and acknowledge that it’s clearly the responsibility of both of us still at all times.  If I’m having a hell of a time and both kids are crying non-stop, I know I can wake my wife up to help tag-team that feeding, etc.  I’ll try to explain a typical scenario, and maybe then my question will become clearer:

Let’s say I start feeding our son at 10:30pm.  By the time I’m done feeding, changing, re-swaddling, and calming him down enough to put down in his crib, it might be 11.  Then I start on our girl (who is known in these parts as the slower eater of the two so far), and the same process might not be done until close to midnight.  I then creep out of their room and walk the one step to our bedroom.  I put my head down on the pillow and BAM – one of them is making loud sounds.  This may be a cry or one of the pre-cry sounds with which I’ve recently become quite accustomed.  In any case, this is clearly still my gig because the “putting down” process wasn’t yet successful.  We’re all in agreement so far, right?  I’ll get up a few times if needed to do a little rocking, so pacifier repositioning, etc., until I’m able to lie down for more than a couple of minutes before the sounds start again. 

In a perfect scenario, they’re both down and out for hours, but that’s not always the case.  So let’s say a half hour of quiet-time passes after the initial ups and downs, and our boy decides to tell us loudly that he once again got both arms out of his swaddle and is unhappy.  Still me, right?  Now it gets a little tricky, as I see it.  If it’s about 1am now, how do I know if this is the “I’m still not quite settled and come play with me” noise-making instead of the “It’s almost been three hours since I ate and I’d like to be held while you prepare my next meal” line of communication.  Because if it’s the latter, I believe that would fall under my lovely wife’s purview.  Purview?  I don’t use that word…weird.

On one hand, finding that line in the time is important for me because I stay more alert (albeit against my will) when half-listening for cries.  When I know that I’m good until 5 or 6 and need to sleep now or forever hold my yawns, I’m able to get into a deeper groove.  On the other hand, it’s not terribly important because one of us will usually ask the other, “Want me to get this one?” if we realize that the other has gotten up several times in a short span without any semblance of sleep.  (Isn’t my wife great?  I sure do look forward to hanging out with her in 2028.)

With any luck, they’ll be sleeping through the night soon and this entire line of questioning will be moot.  That said, it’s interesting to me when I have entirely new automatic thoughts.  A cry in the middle of the night now makes me think, “Is this one mine?”  Before, it just made me think, “Hallie’s chasing squirrels again in her sleep.  Silly mutt.”  The times have changed, my friends.  And with them come invisible – yet magical – lines.  I look forward to my next round of discoveries.

p.s. If it were legal to marry coffee, I’d be seriously considering it right now.  Holy crap is that stuff amazing.  I mean, I’ve known how wonderful coffee is for…15 years or more, but our relationship has grown exponentially over these past five weeks.  I’m just sayin’.  Yeah but still.

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Clutch performances

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My homeboy PauThere were 18 seconds left in the game.  The Lakers had the ball, down by one point, and were going to hold it for the final shot of the exciting 6th game of the playoff series…and my son started to cry.  “Well that’s a new experience!” I thought.  It was time for him to eat; he knew it and I knew it.  “Oh, not right now, buddy!  Can you wait 30 seconds?”  Still unable to comprehend English, he let out another cry.  Crap.  You see, I was in a special physical position that had helped the Lakers perform well over the last minute of the game, and I didn’t want to move from it yet.  (I do too have those powers!) I made some shushing sounds and watched as Kobe’s jumper bounced off the rim right into my homeboy Pau’s hands for a tip-in (and the lead!) with 0.5 seconds on the clock.  I leapt up from the couch giddily and scooped my son out of his bouncy seat.  I then became his bouncy seat as I jumped up and down in excitement repeatedly with him clutched to my chest and we watched Pau’s shot over and over again on replay during the ensuing timeout. 

The little feller hadn’t calmed down yet, so I sang to him a little.  This time though, it was more of a chant: “No fouls, good D, no fouls, good D!”  It seemed to be working, and I wanted to make sure the Lakers themselves got the message, so I kept bouncing and chatting all the way through the Thunder’s missed shot at the buzzer.  Victory was ours – all of ours: The Lakers won the game (with my help), my son “watched” his first series-clinching Laker victory, and it was now food time.  I’m pretty sure that makes it a win-win-win situation.  Gotta love those.  (And if you think I’m not picking him up and chanting the same way the next time the Lakers need a big stop of defense, you clearly don’t know me at all.)

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