Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Time to open the door. Time to leave. Time to get better.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Boy is 6

carrier cake

Like Q, The Boy celebrated his birth this year at least three times:
  1. On his official birthday, which was June 6th,* he opened his presents from Ong Ngoai, Grandpa & Grandma, his cousins in Minnesota, Q, and us. And we spent that Saturday and Sunday assembling large, wondrous Lego and Bionicle sets.
  2. Receiving a gift from his babysitter, also Legos (which he assembled, proudly, all by himself).
  3. Blue frosted cupcakes with a '6' piped on them at school, the tops licked clean by his classmates.
  4. At his party proper on Sunday, 6/14.
Though he turned 6 on the 6th, we set aside the 14th for his party so that his friends could all make it. And what a party it was. After Q's fairly girly celebration just a few months ago, we found it only fitting to go All Boy for The Boy's 6th. We decided to keep it small but go big, inviting six of his guy friends and Q to the Intrepid Museum and then back to our apartment for pizza and cake.

We all met at the Intrepid right as the doors opened, and headed up to the flight deck to check out the fighter jets and attack helicopters.

Don't touch the aircraft

The Boy had been there before, and he happily served as informal tour guide for his friends (even the ones who themselves had already toured the museum). Among so many other things, he showed them where to sit on the large anti-aircraft guns and how to fire up the fans that demonstrate how a wing creates lift, and nearly lifted off himself. We were there for about two hours and probably could have made a day of it.

We then came back to the roof deck of our apartment building for pizza. The adults, good friends all, caught up a bit while the kids chased each other along the pavers or, fingers hooked in the fence, spied the boats 200 feet below. The wind being what it was, we all went down to our apartment for the singing and the candle-blowing and delicious aircraft carrier birthday cake. (My lovely wife did an amazing job on the cake, right? Certainly one of her best, and The Boy loved it. You better thank your mother.) As his friends and their parents forked aircraft carrier into their mouths, The Boy took time to get everyone cups of water.

It's funny, but I sometimes have trouble writing about him. Here's more or less how he began:

Little The Boy

(That's Ba Ngoai doing the soothing, by the way.)

He's long now — has to fold himself up now to sit on my lap — but I can remember holding him in a single hand. Why he came early will remain a puzzle, as will what that's done to him, if anything.**

Also, I think of Q as part of Einstein's universe, like a heavy ball lying on a sheet, curving space and time and light around her. The Boy's pull, though, reminds me of Newton's gravity — a mysterious force, unexplainable action at a distance.

Some mysteries improve in their dispelling; others are more precious just the way they are.

Happy Birthday, son. We're proud of you, and we love you.

*Yes, he was 6 on the 6th day of the 6th month. I expected either the devil or Dan Brown to drop by that Saturday, but I guess neither was ultimately interested.
**I know, I know, but it's hard to stop thinking about.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Father's Day

Breakfast for dad

In our house, we tend to praise each other with food. And so it was on Father's Day, when Q and The Boy together carried in a tray with homemade cinnamon rolls, juice, hot coffee, a crisp white napkin, and a flower they sneakily picked from the park moments before. As I held the tray, Q combed my hair* while The Boy scratched my back with a backscratcher we've had hanging behind the bathroom door for something like forever. I brought the wonderful breakfast spread out of our bedroom to the table, though, so that I could sit by both of them as we all dismantled the sweet rolls.

Later, my lovely wife made delicious enchiladas while the kids and I were outside on the swings in the light rain. After we all ate too much for lunch, we took in Pixar's "UP" in 3D.** Which, by the way, was one of their finest films, and that's saying something. It was a wonderful day, just the kind I like.

I love being a dad. Among other things, I get to be the fixer, the assembler, the tosser-in-the-air, the paper airplane maker, the highest shoulders upon which to sit. (It does help, of course, that I've got a fantastic wife and two swell kids to make my role so much easier to realize.)

Unlike so many other roles (jobs, e.g.), I will never stop being a father, long past the years where I'll embarrass them and then won't again, past their own marriages (should they have them), past their parenthoods (again, should they have them), past when I'll need plates brought to me, past me. All along I will be proud.

Happy Father's Day, all.

*The hair combing was The Boy's idea. Not sure where it came from, but I must say that I rather enjoyed it.
**Unexpected bonus: The heavy, black-framed 3D glasses made us each look like Martin Scorsese, particularly (for some unknown reason), Q. Probably has something to do with her being about the same height as him.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not well heeled

The good folks at SlateV go to a convention for baby, toddler, and tween products. Yes, you will make one of those uncomfortable laughs, especially if you have a daughter:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Tour and Duty

Memorial Day in the City is usually somewhat of a big deal, for two reasons. First, lots of people leave, which opens up lots more space (physically and psychologically) for those of us who stay. And second, it coincides with Fleet Week, where various branches of the military glide into the city, on water or air, for a yearly exchange: They open their boats and planes and tanks; New York opens itself to them.

We took advantage of the emptiness (as we usually do) by going out for lunch on Sunday, after a morning spent burning our breakfast in the park. Tables were, as expected, plentiful. We ate outside even, in praise of the excellent weather, and between courses Q and The Boy shot their hands into the waterfall/fountain just outside the Winter Garden, as if after fish. It seemed very much like summertime, and, as the old song goes, the living did seem easy.

On Monday, we first honored the military side of the holiday. The Boy, as many boys his age do, has become interested in military hardware. We’ve been to the Intrepid Museum here in New York, a WW II-era aircraft carrier repurposed as an exhibit, complete with a flight deck full of decommissioned jets and helicopters. During Fleet Week, the military and Coast Guard open a few ships for free tours, so we take advantage.

We’re up early, as we usually are on bright mornings thanks to The Boy, and we make it to the ships early, too. Past the metal detectors and lines of rigid but friendly soldiers, everything stands amazingly open. A steep ramp leads up into the cavernous hold of the aircraft carrier USS Iwo Jima, where we can hold the weapons currently in use by Marines on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can feel the weight of mortar shells and sniper rifles. We can climb into tanks and troop transports and assault craft meant for land or water or both. And military personnel stand everywhere in crisp camouflage, happy to answer questions or to pose for all manner of photos.

We climb onto some amphibious vehicle with large weapons mounted in all directions. Q, her hair in pigtails and wearing a bright-red butterfly dress, draws smiles and some cameras when she pretends to point the heavy guns at nothing in particular.* The Boy wonders what some oddly shaped canisters on the truck/boat’s stern are for, and I encourage him to ask the young marine. He’s too shy, so I ask for him. Turns out they’re smoke flares for evading pursuers. I also ask, for myself this time, about a particularly thick-necked gun guarding one side. The young marine tells me that it’s an MK 19 automatic grenade launcher, capable of shooting 325+ rounds a minute. He adds, with more than a little relish, that having it is like “playing a game with all the cheat codes.”

We keep going up the ship’s insides, from the main hold to a level where Navy sailors in their anti-camouflage display their branch’s firearms. Then up a longer and steeper grade to the flight deck, from which we can see miles of Hudson, including the Intrepid just to the south.

flight deck

About a dozen aircraft, helicopters mostly, have been opened up for anyone to walk through. The Boy turns shy again, but Q convinces her brother to go inside them all, and they do.


Q plays this game with my lovely wife where she goes in one end of an aircraft while my wife stays outside, only to come out the other to surprise her. My wife is all too happy to play along.

After nearly two hours, we leave as the really big crowds begin to come in. Q and The Boy impress, as always, with their easy behavior.

Later, after lunch, we travel up to Connecticut for another Memorial Day tradition — a barbecue with friends by a swimming pool. As my wife and I eat jerk chicken and Q and The Boy and our friends' son splash in the shallows, it's hard not to notice the gap between where we spent our morning and where we spent our afternoon. Here in the sun, everything still seems possible; less so in the dark of the ship. I sometimes think of my kids' futures as arcs that shoot out from them, curving up and out beyond where anyone, including themselves, can see. To think about them and war is to imagine a bullet or a bomb tracing those arcs back in, erasing the paths as they work. I don't even want to do this kind of thinking, but I do. Sometimes.

Many thanks to those, like many in my own family, who have and do risk themselves. We do remember.
*Look for her on the next brochure for the Marines; the "tip of the spear" never looked so cute.