Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Last Night...

Last night, before we got in bed, Anette changed V.'s diaper. But this woke V. up, and so the kid commenced with the screaming. After she settled down, we adults fell asleep, though not before I insisted, muttering, that we have to do something about these nights.

A few hours later, Adinah woke up and came over to our room three times, before Anette told her to get into bed with me. My wife moved to the green couch in the ballroom.

At about 1 a.m., and then again at around three, from the depths of Slumberland, I heard V. erupting again in her crib. It always starts the same way: she wakes up and calls "Mommy!" until one of us mommies wakes up and gives her a bottle of milk, tea or water. But sometimes V. cries out "Nein! NEIN!!" and she is almost...inconsolable. Great torrents of anger and fear exploding out of our baby girl. Sometimes we can talk her down. Sometimes we shout back.

Anette will go to V. three or four times throughout the night. Until they're both exhausted. The screams wake up everyone else all over again. We all get sleep, but no rest.

Sometimes I think Euro Like Me should be called a 'slog'--short for sleep log--because I'm always complaining about our bus station nights. (And I apologize for that, dear reader.) But I honestly don't know when V. will settle down and sleep through the night. When she will finally really feel safe. Somehow she must still be so scared and troubled about the world.

Maybe--likely--her night screaming has something to do with the fact that she's just started kindergarten. She's there Monday through Friday, 9 am to 2 pm, and that must be a long time away from us. Every morning, she tries to be brave and strong when she says goodbye to Anette or me, but her lower lip starts trembling anyway.

Or maybe our life is just too un-routine for her. Some afternoons she's with our babysitter Rosa, sometimes with me, sometimes with Anette's niece. Maybe she just doesn't know who's the real mommy....No, I'm sure she knows.

But, well, Anette and I both have to work. Try explaining that to a two-year old.

She's come a long way in the year that she's been living with us. But I think the night is still very dark and frightening for V. So our house may be unquiet for a while longer.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

nice work, part 2

Well, yes, that was pretty fucking fun.

Garth Hudson wore black. Black pants, black shirt, black gaucho cowboy hat. Black bomber jacket with "Los Lobos" on the back and "Garth" embroidered on the lapel. He still has long hair and the beard. Says he shaved once. In 1973.

He told me about McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Charles Brown, Sonny Boy Williamson. About playing in bars with chicken wire in front of the stage. He talked about the jazz pianist Art Tatum as if he was an infinitely mysterious alien force.

He even talked about Bob Dylan a bit. He said Dylan worked an Olivetti typewriter like a jazz player taking a solo. He told me that he and Dylan used an Ampex tape recorder to make the Basement Tapes.

He told me about The Band, his band. He said the great and tragic Richard Manuel was the finest "energy" piano player he ever saw, and that Manuel's favorite sandwich was whole grain bread, a sweet red onion, and peanut butter. And he said The Band liked to play "the kind of music that could be performed by guys who wanted to be young forever."

What is it about talking to musicians and hearing stories about the making of great albums that still punches my ticket? I'll probably never know....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

nice work if you can get it

Here's something that's pretty goddamn cool: on Monday night, I'm going to interview Garth Hudson, of The Band, then moderate questions from a studio audience. The Band, people. We're gonna be talking about working with Bob Dylan, as part of the Viennale Film Festival's Tribute to Dylan.

This is also amusing on one level, because despite the efforts of my old friend Luke Torn, I've only ever been a semi-impressed Bob Dylan fan. However, I've been a fan of the Band since I was a teenage stoner. Maybe it's because I've always wanted to grow a beard. (I can't because of a tragic childhood barn-burning incident.) And in 1968, the Band had the baddest beards in the business.

See? This was way before Z.Z. Top.

The other night, after I'd had something to smoke, I put on "Across the Great Divide," the opening song from the Band's self-titled second album. Like many great novels, the song begins as our hero, who is a rascal and a wretch, finds himself on the wrong end of a gun. Held by his sweetheart, Molly. The Band wells up, with jaunty horns and pleading vocals, and evokes Motown, the Rocky Mountains, the great American traveling carnival, and a certain unmistakable masculine folly, all at once. Garth Hudson's organ playing is the carnival, and Robbie Robertson's guitar sounds like the helpless shrug of a three-time loser. As I listened to the song for the first time in years, I started grinning like an idiot.

It's really gonna be fun to talk to this guy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

V.'s Birthday Weekend Top Ten!

Two of them. One bundt cake from her kindergarten party, and one that Anette, Adinah and V. herself baked. The first was good, but the second had chocolate frosting and Gummi Bears which spelled out the number "2."

Crayons from Dietlinde, a book about shapes from Oma and Opa, and a baby-blue monkey from us.

Most Characteristic refusal:
V declines to wear the purple paper crown that the kids at school made for her. Even though it has her name spelled out on it in silver glitter. So I've been putting it on when no one's looking.

Most Crushing Disappointment:
We wanted to go swimming to celebrate, but when we got there, the pool was closed. So we made our

Best Rebound:
Our walk back from the pool, on a most amazing burnt-orange and yellow autumn afternoon.

V.'s most Astounding Discovery:

Best Site-specific Performance Art/Birthday Dance:
V. and Adinah spinning in place in the middle of the only slightly seedy Schottentor U-Bahn station. Adinah fell down and got up laughing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead....

I try not to dabble in schadenfreude, but let's just say I'm not sorry that Jörg Haider is dead.

This motherfu--um, this guy is the guy who has steered Austrian politics into a binary argument about whether foreigners are good or evil. This is the guy who said immigrants seeking asylum in Austria should be rounded up and--yes, he did!--put in camps! Some people say he had already started doing this as governor in his home state of Carinthia.

It's people from this guy's party who say that when you see a black man in Vienna, you can be certain that he is a drug dealer.

Naturally, it's his party that is opposed to Turkey joining the EU, and to Muslim women wearing headscarves here.

Jörg Haider is the guy--and, sadly, not the only guy--who said the Nazis did some good stuff.

He died in a car crash last night.

Don't cry no tears around me.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

white noise

"Maww-mee! MAAWWWWW-MEEEEEE!!" "Pat, Pat-look! Look at what I can do!? Pat! Pat?!" "Yahhhhhhh!" "Mommy? Look! Mommy?!" "Adinah, will you sit down please?" "V., will you give me the knife? Give me the knife please, V."

This is the sound of our house tonight.

Jumping Jesus in heaven, grant me strength.

Adinah needs all of our attention all of the time, and V. has learned that if she wants something, she should yell, then scream, then shriek. It's Triple Bonus Multi-Ball Overtime Final Jeopardy Extended Play and Double Live Gonzo. Blue-in-the-face scream-a-delica.

So sometimes Papa just leaves the fuckin' room. It's better than shouting at them.

But I do that too. I do that even though on calmer, quieter nights, when me and the kids are taking a bath, we can hear our tattooed and depressed neighbor screaming non-stop at his kids, and we all shake our heads, and Adinah says things like "Some people don't like each other." In those moments, I feel superior, I feel like a better sort of papa. But tonight, as V. yelled and hollered and wailed with displeasure, I yelled at her several times. "Why are you yelling at her, Papa?," Adinah asked. "You are saying she shouldn't scream, but then you are screaming at V."

"You're right, Adinah," I said, with the slightest crack of a smile. "That's a good point. I guess I'm yelling because I'm frustrated. I don't know how else to get V. to be quiet."

These days, these days. It's very difficult to be heard in our house these days. Before sleepy-time, it seems like adult talk is all short bursts, expletives, fragments--anything else is interrupted, or drowned out. And if I'm patient, and don't yell, I just shrink. Anette asks me why I'm so quiet, and I tell her I don't think I can be heard. There's no more room in this kitchen.

Oh well.

This is part of why I go out by myself. On most of my nights off, I just don't want to talk to or be talked at by anyone. And maybe it explains why sometimes even my beloved pop music--including everything from ambient techno to Buddy Holly-- is too hectic, too much sound in the room.

I need more quiet time. I can't hear myself think.