Friday, October 31, 2008


These days I'm particularly susceptible to portents. My watched stopped at 13 minutes to midnight last night (I'm not making this up), the date dial frozen mid-switch. I'm afraid to fix it for what might begin or end. And I find myself finding messages in the The Boy's morning oatmeal, though I'm not quite sure of their meaning. I'd probably throw bones if I had access to goats.

Soon we will put on our costumes and go trick-or-treating, which is good: I am in the mood for pretending.

As you move about in your mask tonight, be kind to the ghosts — they will be leaving soon, and we need to talk with them. What can they tell us about the living and those at the line between?

It is the unknown that scares the most.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Boo, scared you

Our favorite time of year, usually.

As I type this, the weather is practicing its winter meanness via a respectably heavy snow, believe it or don't. But last Sunday was an ideal fall day, perfect for celebrating Halloween.

Each year our building hosts a Halloween party for its residents, decorating much of the lobby and all of the playroom in inflatable spookiness. This tradition started about four years ago and has gotten a little smaller each year (no edible treats or building staff dressed up as Darth Vader this year, for example), but it's always the first official occasion for Q and The Boy to wear their costumes. As you can tell from the pic above, The Boy is eyebrows-deep into Star Wars and wanted to be a clone trooper this year. Q took a while to come to her costume — first she wanted to be Chilly Willy, then a witch. Once The Boy started playing Lego Star Wars on the Wii, though, she decided she wanted to look like this:

which is a little hard to pull off, as you might imagine. And though I think Q would have made a fabulous Darth Maul (maybe next year!), we managed to convince her that she would make a wonderful witch. And she is. (A wonderful witch, that is).

Halloween proper is this Friday, of course, and the kids can barely contain themselves. The Boy has posted an October calendar, largely of his own making, on the fridge and dutifully crosses off the passing days in red pen. Q stands next to him as he does this each day and counts off the uncrossed date boxes to the end. (My lovely wife and I look forward to Friday, too — we like to eat around the edges of all that candy.)

To be honest, I'm hoping that for us Halloween reverts to the ancient traditions. On October 31, evil spirits became dangerous for the living, and people dressed in costumes and masks to propitiate them. November 1st, though, marked the beginning of the new year, and the spirits retreated to the underworld, leaving the living to the business of living.

We have seen more than our share of demons this October. May Q The Witch and The Boy The Clone Trooper — and Darth Maul himself, if it comes to that — usher them home and us into a new year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If you haven't seen these, you probably should

This election season has been a long one, nearly interminable at times. And even those who aren't political junkies (like me, I'm afraid) can't escape seeing and hearing the candidates.

It's easy to believe, I think, that we glimpse national politicians as they are, particularly in the cuts of video passed around the Internet or included in a nightly newscast. It's probably safer (and more accurate), though, to believe that we see packages more than people.

Enter the photographer. I'll admit right up front that I prefer both photography to video and Obama to McCain, so adjust your grains of salt accordingly. But if you, too, appreciate even one of the two, you really should have a look at the series of photos by Callie Shell. (A little background on it and her can be found here.)

Here are two of my favorites (click each for the full-size version):


Looking at these pictures (as she calls them), I get the feeling that I'm seeing him for the first time. And I keep finding hints of my grandfather in his face, which may not be that unusual since there's a fair amount of Kansas in both of us.

In any event, please do have a look at them all. (Note: You'll need to click "Show More Images" several times at the bottom to show the entire set.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What I wanted to say v. what I did say

When I visited The Boy's Kindergarten classroom recently to see him at work and to help him paste together a picture of his family. The teacher asked all us parents to leave, and he went into a slump that slowly rolled into a sob.

What I wanted to say:
Don't cry. This is the smallest of moments. Growing up and older has a lot to do with figuring out the true size of things (which I myself am trying to get better at even now), and what may seem monumental at the moment will not be worth remembering, let alone forgetting, just a little later. Once I leave this room to go back to turning the smaller gears of our life, you will come back to yourself. You will have a snack and make things that we will marvel at. When I pick you up, you will tell me how much you enjoyed being here without me.

What I did say:
It's okay, it's okay. Your teacher said that I've got to go now, but I'll be back to pick you up soon. Have a good day.

When Q and the boy were fighting over the K'Nex building tools a few days ago, mainly because The Boy said they were playing spaceships and Q insisted they were playing guns.

What I wanted to say:
Look, son, she's just pushing you around because you're an easy mark. She's got you figured all the way out already and can move you around the house almost without effort, like you're on those Moving Men things from TV. Take a look at what she's doing — using your belief in rules and Truth to flip you over — and learn that belief can be bigger than both of you. Do that and she loses her power over you. Besides, Q should be reminded that there are other wills in the world besides hers (though good luck with that).

What I did say:
Stop it.

When Q simply refused to go to sleep last night (like most nights).

What I wanted to say:
Come, get into your bed, it's late, time to relinquish the day. But this isn't surrendering, there's no need to fight the night that's here. Dreams are for stringing the shiny bits of the day just past into a Queen's necklace. And pick your battles. I love that you're resolute, but you need to make out the line between resoluteness and stubbornness, and that line has to do with object, what to be resolute about. My father taught me that mules are misunderstood — they, unlike horses, know their limits and won't overwork themselves. I know that this regular struggle is you discovering the shape of limit and that it's our job to be something firm for you to push against. Which is why we keep putting you back in your bed, and will do so pretty much forever. And good luck with the pushing. Have you not met your mother?

What I did say:
It's late, Q, time for sleep. I bet if you ask nicely, mom will lie down with you for a while.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

If the election doesn't go the way you want...

Particularly funny to me as a Midwestern Boy cum East Coast Elite. (Get a load of the magazine the guy slams on the coffee table, for example.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Because I like it

This picture is a little old (from around our wedding anniversary), but I couldn't find a swell spot to drop it in. I like it, though, so here's Q looking over our wedding album. (Afterward, we asked her if she was going to get married. Her response? "No.")

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Now for something completely different — and Good, actually

Things have been a little serious around here lately (understandably), but I know just the thing to brighten the mood. A friend of ours is a great filmmaker, and her latest work is a documentary called "Frontrunners," that follows the student council elections at Stuyvesant High School (the prestigious public school near our apartment where we go swimming on the weekends).

As for release dates, it starts trickling out to theaters in larger cities starting this Friday, October 15. In the meantime, though, you can enjoy the trailer:

You can also view a higher-resolution version of the trailer over on Apple's trailers page.

That first part still makes me chortle every time I see it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

We're sick of all this

This past week has been healthcare week — or rather sick-care week. Q's breathing worsened last Monday, so much so that a quick call to the pediatrician sent me carrying Q in her pajamas and stocking feet out to a cab to NYU Medical Center, while my lovely wife stayed home with The Boy who was sleeping unknowingly. Q and I spent five first worrisome and then boring hours trying to get people with medicine to pay attention to us. In the end, everything worked out — a steroid shot released her throat and cheered her up enough to play silly games in our ER bed until I bothered them enough to let us go. On the way out at 3 a.m., they gave her a little blue teddy bear as some sort of bizarre parting gift, which she cleverly named Bluebear-y.

Soon after, we heard that Grandma's root canal (which is something bad enough as it is) went awry, and the stuff they put into the hollowed-out tooth — and I'm cringing even as I type this — leaked into her jaw. So she's basically waiting for her body to reject it and for the necessary surgery to scrape out — again, cringing — the whatever it is.

Then we heard that Ba Ngoai went to the ER with severe liver problems, the extent of which is still unknown. The entire family sprang into action to find her the best care (my wife's sister is an administrator for Scripps, so that really helped), and she's doing much better. Even so there's been serious talk of a transplant, which is serious talk indeed.

The health of our healthcare system is questionable, too. Without her daughter's inside help, would Ba Ngoai still be sitting in the first Emergency Room? What if we didn't have the money to cover the insurance or the co-pay for Q's hospital visit or The Boy's cast? What if the recklessness of financial institutions and fecklessness of government has now made responsible overhaul of U.S. healthcare all but impossible, even if Barack Obama wins the presidency?

On the brighter side, Q and The Boy also went to the dentist last week. The Boy is a real champ at these kinds of things (general checkups, that is), but Q is a wildcard. After her ER experience, we didn't know what to expect. She watched her brother in the chair and, holding her mom's hand, took after his example. I'm happy to say that they both did very well.

Now if we could just fix healthcare or something, they'd have a lot more to flash those great smiles at.

(Photo by Flickr user gaultiero used under Creative Commons license.)