Friday, September 28, 2007

Names You Might Be Subjected To

The worst thing about becoming a parent is looking at parents who annoy the hell out of you and realizing that it may only be your lack of a child that separates you from becoming them. To wit, we're trying to cook up a name for you, and in doing so we've stumbled on an unbelievably annoying and pretentious trend. It goes like this. You ask expecting parents if they've been thinking about names. They say yes, they've settled on something. You ask what it is. They say they're keeping it a secret.

I can only think of two reasons for this. One, they're terrified that you're going to steal the name. Perhaps they've seen that Seinfeld episode where George loses Seven one too many times. Two, they think you care. It's the name of a soon to be poop machine, not an Oscar nomination. If you think people are marking their calendars in anticipation of this holy revelation, you are grossly mistaken.

Parents in general make the mistake of thinking that other people care about their kids. I can relate. It took me a long time to figure out that no one else was impressed with pictures of my cat holding a pair of cards like he was Johnny Chan. But I did figure it out. Be sure to remind me of that when you see me getting ready to mass email pictures of your first stool.

Anyway, about your name. I've been pushing for Bear. Your mom hates this. I've simply started referring to you as Bear while in utero in the hopes that it will either become less grating or too entrenched to change. After Bear, the leading contenders are Jackson (apparently where you hopped on the train), Nixon, Ripley, Finn, Ranger, and Merritt. There's not really a, 'if it's a girl / if it's a boy scenario'. It seems likely that you'll just get stuck with a lengthy combination of our favorites regardless of what your sex organs reveal. For me, this is the best thing about your imminent arrival. It's like naming a band and knowing that elementary school teachers will have to ask if it's present for years to come.

Bear Nixon Ripley Killen? Are you eating paste again?
Damn right.

Novel - Outlining
Dunking - Almost walking normally
French - Mon tete hurts

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stick It Out

Yesterday was rough, let's just admit that. But what are we going to do? Give up? If I left you with the impression that that's a good idea, allow me to correct it. Quitting is for rational people with real job skills and as my offspring you're unlikely to fall in either category. Apples and distances from trees and all that.

Perhaps this whole discussion doesn't seem germane to you. Perhaps you're just floating around in some sort of disgusting bodily fluid and thinking that a pep talk for a penny sized entity is unnecessary. Maybe it is. It's just that as an ER doctor your mom is suddenly running into a number of women in the midst of miscarrying. She caught one last night which seemed to leave an impression. Obviously, if you've gotta go you've gotta go. One can't fight nature. I'm just saying that if you can stick it out, we'd appreciate it. I'm sure it's not easy in there, but the difficult things usually end up being the most satisfying. Remember that when you see the size of the exit.

As for me I'm now staring at a wall papered with 83 note cards of various colors which together, somehow, represent the rest of the book. By my early count, there's 33 more chapters to write. That's roughly one a week if you and I are going to be finished at the same time. That's a tall order, no doubt, but I'm game if you are. Honestly, I'd rather write five chapters a week than try to squeeze my head through... there's challenges ahead for both of us is what I'm trying to say.

Novel- On the wall
Dunking - Still crippled
French - What if I just teach you the accent?

Monday, September 24, 2007

No Dice

They say there are all kinds of things you should expose a baby to even while they're in utero. Music, reading, vitamins. So allow me to do some quality parenting and offer you your first taste of disappointment. In my experience you'll run into it more than vitamins.

Disney went the other way. Maybe they never bought the fact that I could live in Austin and spend every week in LA. Maybe it was the experience issue. Maybe they just realized that someone like me should be kept away from children (their lack of endorsement bodes ill for you). In any case, it now seems inevitable that your favorite movie, the one you paper your walls and inadvertently spend your college fund on merchandise for, will be the one that told your father to take a walk way back when you were the size of a coffee bean. I look forward to staring at stuffed reminders of this failure for years to come and having the words I didn't write seared into my brain as the film plays endlessly, helpfully sedating you in the back of some future minivan which I'll no doubt soon be piloting to things like T-ball, soccer, gymnastics, and other not real sports.

Obviously, I knew this was coming, but it's amazing how impossible it is to truly prepare yourself for bad news. It's just human nature that until someone finally tells you that it's over, really over, hope keeps creeping in around the edges. You want to shut it out, to blunt the inevitable kick in the teeth, but you build a wall, it just tunnels under (very illegal immigrant like, that hope). If you'd asked me to write down ahead of time what would be said when I answered the phone this morning I'd have been so close it would have blown your pre-natal mind. But even as I picked it up, there was a part of me I couldn't shut off, a part still saying, 'you never know...'

So what's the lesson here? Forget about crossing your fingers, rubbing lamps, wishing on stars, and all the other stuff that works for people when they're animated. In the world of flesh and blood, sometimes hope is just a pretty noose that you tie for yourself.

Is that too dark for an 8 week old? And to think I couldn't get hired to write a kids movie.

Novel - Big mess
Dunking - Still crippled
French - Mon Dieu

Friday, September 21, 2007

Uterus Is Where The Heart Is

Good news. You apparently have a heart. I saw it blinking at me just hours ago. It's not often you'll get complimented on your heartbeat, but at this point it appears to be your most (only) impressive talent. Keep it up, I predict it will take you places.

No news on the job front. That's probably not good. Good news they want you to have as soon as possible. Bad news they like to hold for Monday. That keeps the weekend suicide rate down. No one wants Saturday and Sunday to get a bad rep.

Anyway, trying not to think about it. In the event that it doesn't go my way I dug out the novel just to see what I'm up against. The good news there is that the chapters I finished and handed in so, so long ago were surprisingly entertaining. The bad news is that they must have been written by someone else. I certainly can't imagine doing it. There's also a dumpster's worth of highly disorganized notes to go through. Perhaps the secret is in there. I'll let you know.

I also got myself a French program. It's not that I care about being able to converse with angry smokers in berets, it's that your mom and I always talked about raising a bilingual child. Apparently learning multiple languages is a piece of cake when your brain is all young and spongy. Later it becomes cement and you wonder how far your child will get if the only foreign phrase you can teach them is, "The white horse horse is under the airplane." Why horses and airplanes are in the opening vocabulary section of a French course, I have no idea. There may be a whole side to French life I know nothing about. Regardless, I wrote a letter in French to a fluent friend announcing my intentions. His response began with "Dear God," and seemed to indicate that he thinks I have some work to do.

But hey, I've got thirty something weeks left and all I have to do is write a book, learn a language, and somehow add like 24 inches to my vertical leap. You have to do everything except grow a heart. I'd say I'm kicking your ass, but you're probably months away from having one.

Au revoir.

Novel - Good as long as someone else keeps writing it
Dunking - I walk like I'm 80
French - Pounding it into cement head

Monday, September 17, 2007

Magic Toast

When other people have horrible things to say about me it’s easy to share them. When they say good things, it’s hard. Maybe it’s modesty. Maybe it’s just so rare I lack experience. Suffice it to say, the interview went well. All I remember is talking for like two hours about toast, but for some reason they seemed to find that fascinating.

According to my ‘people’ I came in a big underdog. The other person they’ve narrowed it down to seems to have a lot more experience (they certainly couldn’t have less) and they probably live in LA. So it sounds like my interview was supposed to be a formality, but it went well enough to get them thinking seriously (insanely) that I might be able to pull it off. We’ll know by the end of the week. If you can grow fingers by then I encourage you to cross them.

I like the project, and I love the environment, but that’s not why I want the job. Honestly, I want that job because I don’t want to be a Stay At Home Dad. Currently my work allows me to stay at home. When you get here I’ll be a dad. You put those together and you can see why I’m worried.

It’s not about diapers, or watching football, or the projected costs of a college education in 2026. It’s the fact that pursuing something, especially if you suck at it, is an inherently selfish activity. And parents are supposed to be selfless. We’re supposed to subjugate our needs and desires to insure you have the opportunity to pursue your own. And for most of the people (men) my age, that’s not a problem. They’ve got the job they’re going to have until they clog an artery or bring a weapon to work. Kids won’t change that. Parenting is like a cell phone plan for them and they’ve got the nights and weekends option.

That's not how it works here. Your mom’s the one with the schedule and the big paycheck. Even if she wanted to give it all up and hang out with you, it just wouldn’t make sense. I, on the other hand, work downstairs and generate enough income to pay bar bills, and your mom and I aren’t big drinkers. So how long do you think it’s going to be before the reality of the situation means that I’m watching Oprah and playing airplane with strained carrots instead of arranging words that no one reads? It’s not so much that I’m not ready to have you and support your dreams and ambitions. It’s that I’m not ready to give up on my own to do it.

Who knows, maybe my insane toast rant will be enough to earn me an office in LA and paycheck for doing what I love and you can watch Oprah with a Swedish nanny. I don’t know if you’re a male yet, so I don’t know to what degree that appeals to you, but if there’s an Y chromosome in there, it’s totally on my side.

Novel - Haven't looked at it

Dunking - Several feet to go

French - I remember Bonjour

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Baby Mojo

Look, I think you have to take the hit for the less than perfect honeymoon. That's just how it is. That said, I also believe in giving credit where credit is due. I've been doing what I do for a long time without much to show for it, then you come along and suddenly I'm interviewing for a job writing a disney/pixar animated feature. Ipso facto, baby mojo.

A little history since you're new around here. I'm what they call a 'not particularly successful writer'. That may be due to my being a 'not particularly good writer'. You pretty much have to know me to have heard of me. The names of the places my material has appeared are so obscure I forget the titles. Add to that the fact that the work itself appeals to a small population of family members and people with those patches on the elbows of their tweed jackets and even you, a brainless bundle of cells would rightly be confused why I'd be in the mix for a big budget mainstream project.

I do have another script that's ostensibly headed into production. According to those in the know, I'm weeks from being on set filling my pockets with food from the craft service table. But, there's a million ways for that to go wrong and only one for it to go right. When things require an alignment of the stars I tend end up in the dark eating rahmen noodles, so until someone says, "hey, those cookies are for the cast" I think we're both better of pretending like that one's not even happening.

But this, this is what they call legitimate work, and I sure as hell didn't have anything to do with it, so you get to take all the credit. Enjoy it. There's always more blame just around the corner.

So don't let me keep you. Whatever you're doing, it's shit for your mom's digestion, but it's working wonders for my career. You may feel someone rubbing you for luck in the morning. I'll need whatever you can spare.

P.S. I injured myself this weekend so the dunk training is going to be delayed. If you want to send some mojo to my hip flexor it would be much appreciated. I might not be able to dunk, but maybe I could get up the stairs.

Novel - Who needs a novel when you've got Disney?
Dunking - Infirm
French - Looking for my books.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Children Don't Make People Happier

I remember reading that a while back and being shocked. I mean, there you are, growing all your 'bundle of joy' faculties as we speak and someone is questioning whether or not you can really bring the happy? Please. Who would assert such a thing? What moron would make a claim so easily falsified by legions of smiling parents?

It turns out it was the parents themselves.

Studies reveal that most married couples start out happy and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives, becoming especially disconsolate when their children are in diapers and in adolescence, and returning to their initial levels of happiness only after their children have had the decency to grow up and go away.

Economists have modeled the impact of many variables on people's overall happiness and have consistently found that children have only a small impact. A small negative impact.

Crazy, right? I mean, I just spent eleven hours on a plane with your mother, who split her time lying on the floor at my feet and orally depositing airplane food into the toilet (I know that's disgusting, but she's throwing up so much I'm running out of fresh ways to say it), and she'll be the first to argue with these results. Impossible, she will tell you. Everyone with kids is happier. Their kids are the best thing that ever happened to them. They wouldn't trade them for all the tropical vacations and not throwing up in the world.

I've noticed that, in fact, most parents will tell you exactly these things. Usually right after you've suggested that you might not be interested in kids, or wondered aloud if changing diapers and fighting over nose rings is how you want to spend the next eighteen years of your life. Words to that effect tend to make parents defensive. You seem to be implying that maybe they've made a choice you're not going to make, and by extension, that their choice might be incorrect. Children are a blessing, dammit!, and if you don't think so you're horrible, selfish, and probably somehow involved in something illegal. Also, you're probably a communist.

Married people are no different. Get married and it suddenly becomes very important to get all your single friends into the club. Holdouts are suspicious. They're saying something about the rest of us. Something bad. We humans like have everyone in the same boat, even if it's sinking.

I'd just like to be able to talk to someone about kids and not feel like they're selling me something. The reality is that kids force you to do a number of things you don't want to and prevent you from doing a number of things you do. Is it so wrong to just be honest about that? It's a long, numbing, slog punctuated by transcendent moments of pure joy. I can live with that. It sounds a lot like being a writer. Just with less crying.

Kids are clearly a source of misery as well as joy. The problem is that until you have your own it's much easier to see the former than the latter. The moments that parents remember: first words, first steps, first indication of an athletic prowess that will allow them to retire early, are different from the ones non parents remember: the screaming toddler on the plane, the kid who keeps kicking their seat, the pregnant lady who's crawling back and forth to the bathroom for eleven hours. It's not surprising that they see the issue differently.

The bottom line is that despite what they say individually, in aggregate parents say their children make them less happy. I didn't say it, they did. But, if happiness were the only thing any of us were after there'd be much longer lines for crack. Am I excited about changing diapers and begging you not get a barbed wire tattoo? Hell no. But I'm not excited about writing outlines or reading rejection notices either. I do it because on rare occasions it leads to something that makes me happier than I can explain. If I have to pretend that I'm going to love every minute of being your father I think we're in trouble. The data seems to indicate that I'll love just slightly less moments than I hate. The fact that so many parents are willing to dispute that indicates that the one kind will be much easier to remember than the other.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I Know You're In There

My understanding is that you still lack sensory organs, so let me fill you in. Our honeymoon has vastly improved. We've changed islands and hotels so that your mom has a completely new place to throw up. It's so gorgeous here she doesn't even seem to mind. Finally, there are rows of loungers pointed at the sunset and they're willing to put a tiny umbrella in anything that comes in a glass. Sadly, no feather people, but I'm willing to give on that one.

Really, there's only one thing missing. Now, the minute you develop a brain (I'm told that's some ways off) the idea of physical intimacy between your parents is going to make you wish it came with an off switch. All I can say is, tough. This is my honeymoon. You're the one who decided to tag along. And really that's the problem. I don't want to say it's all your fault, but it is and the sooner you learn to be accountable for your actions the better.

Under any circumstances your mom is very attractive, but post wedding and despite a week of solid vomiting, when she's not hunched over a toilet she looks pretty damned incredible. She tells me that you're smaller than a watch battery at this point, but when I look at her I still keep seeing... a pregnant lady. Also, the vomiting isn't doing much for me.

She's pointed out that if I don't get over this we're going to be in for a long nine months. And in between sunsets and hurling we've managed to banish these thoughts for sufficient periods of time, but I admit to being worried about what happens when you're closer to the size of a battery for a car than one for a watch. Until then I'm going to point myself towards more glasses with umbrellas and try to ignore that you've come along. Something tells me I should probably be making the most of this time. It might be hard to forget you while you're in there, but it's going to be impossible once you're out.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Are You Enjoying Our Honeymoon?

It's one a.m. and I'm on my honeymoon and writing to my unborn child. That's my problem in a nutshell.

The plan was to spend this trip making a child not gestating one. In truth, I'm not sure I would have been so ready to put the emphasis so much on procreation, but I guess that's neither here nor there since your mom's hurling grape leaves and humus all over our Greek bathroom. That's not entirely true. I mean, she's throwing up, just not grape leaves or humus.

We're at some hotel in a barren part of nowhere island. I think it was supposed to be nice, authentic, and private, but there's a huge difference between feeling secluded and marooned. Anyway, there's only one place to eat here, a little restaurant that this guy runs out of his house. He wakes up everyday and goes fishing in his little boat, then comes home and lovingly chops the heads off his catch and cooks them for the few guests who somehow get sent to this part of nowhere.

Your mom asked him to make her a cheeseburger. In her defense, you're working her insides over like a washing machine, so she was desperate for something familiar and comfortable rather than something scaly and headless. Sadly, he couldn't really understand what she was requesting. Then, the only other customer in the joint stepped in and politely suggested that since we'd come all the way to his country perhaps she should try eating something that didn't come from McDonald's (I had a Greek salad which I think just got me in under the wire). Then, in Greek, he explained cheeseburgers and a bunch of other stuff about Ugly Americans to the proprietor and your mom and I wanted in the silence of the damned while he prepared her one. I've never seen someone sit on the edge of tears for so long without actually losing one. They hung all around the edges of her eyes, but just when one looked like it was going to break loose, she'd somehow to gather it in and hold it tight. Either your mom's not really a crier or she was so dehydrated from the constant barfing that she just couldn't spare a drop.

Either way none of this has been very sexy. There are no drinks with little umbrellas by beach. No sun beating down on rows of comfortable lounge chairs. No one fanning me with a giant feather. Let this be a lesson to you: when you go on vacation, don't assume. Make sure they have the feather people in advance.

Hurling and cheeseburgers.

Things are not going according to plan.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


You're busy, I know, what with growing limbs and organs and all. It makes me feel sort of lazy for having watched football all day. But I've already grown my limbs and organs, so I've earned it. Anyway, I'm writing because, quite to my surprise, I just heard you were on your way in and this seemed like as good a time as any to say hello.


Look, this is awkward, so I'm just going to completely honest. I'm afraid of you.

I haven't met you, but I know your kind. Small, loud, needy, constantly crapping in your pants. If I told you someone like that was on their way to live with you, how would you feel? Exactly. I mean, I knew we were officially 'trying' I just didn't think it would work. When I was like eight I jumped a big dirt mound on my bicycle and landed more or less directly on my testicles. I thought that would buy me more time. And while we're being honest, I don't find your kind particularly cute. I know I'm in the minority here, but frankly, I think you guys are a little freaky in a shrunken down old people kind of way. When it comes to cute, I'll take your average kitten or puppy. I'd even take a baby monkey. If your mom had just told me she was nine months away from birthing one of those, I'd be excited. A little confused, but excited.

But that's not the situation we're in. Instead, you're getting all fired up to start your life and in some way it feels like mine is coming to a close. I know, I know, it's a blessing. Circle of life, all that. But I said we were going to be honest, right? Remember how I just sat around and watched football today? You think you'll let me do that next season? You think you won't need something, or want something, or hate something, or break something, or make something. I can't afford a Swedish nanny to raise you like so many football fans are doing these days. And right now, with you being so abstract, it's hard to imagine all the things you'll be bringing to the table that will be more interesting than a top five team losing in an upset. I'm sure you've got countless tricks up your sleeve, but right now it looks like diapers vs. sportscenter. Wouldn't that make you want to run?

There's a host of other reasons to be terrified, not the least of which is that you're stuck with at least half of my genes. That's a hill we're both going to be climbing for some time. In fact, I could tell you things that would have you looking for a way back where you came from, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Today isn't about you, it's about me. There's going to be lots and lots of days all about you in very short order, so let me have this one. Part of the reason you're so terrifying is that not only does it feel like a part of my life is over, but I'm not sure I spent it all that wisely. I don't think I went enough places or did enough things. I've never even smoked pot. So it feels like while you're on your way I should make an effort to shovel some things in. Would I love to go around the world climbing mountains and learning to surf for the next nine months? Of course. But I don't think that's going to fly with your mom. So I'm going to have to set my sights a little lower. Nothing crazy, just some flags I'd like to plant while I'm still a person instead of a parent. They're not going to seem like much, in fact when you open your eyes and see all this world has on offer, they may seem downright pathetic, but I've thought about it, and if I've only got time to scratch a few more things onto my resume before you show up, these are it.

I want to finish my novel.
I want to dunk a basketball.
I want to learn a foreign language.

Easy right? Well, not really. You'll learn we're not a tall breed soon enough, so the dunking thing is going to call for some Spud Webb (before your time) style magic. The language I've flirted with since high school, but right now you speak better English than I do French. And the novel, well, it's been in the works for a long time. To the degree in which procrastination is hereditary, I wouldn't be surprised if it took you ten years to get out of there.

Anyway, it's your first day, I don't want to overdo it. I'll keep you posted as we go. You just keep doing your thing, I'll belatedly get started doing mine, and with any luck, by the time you show up we'll both be almost fully formed.

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