Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Comforting Words from a Medical Professional

Back when we were still considering whether we should take V. in to live with us, Anette asked her brother-in-law, who's a doctor, about her and her background. He suggested we talk with a great cousin of his, who treats and researches kids just like V. When she spoke to him back then, the cousin doctor offered to see V. in his office at some future date. So on Monday, Anette packed up V. and they went to see the man.

V. napped on the way out there, and apparently she was a little sleepy at first, but after a few minutes, she and the doctor were having long, deep gibberish conversations. He handed her a few toys, but she just tossed them aside and explored the room. Like she does with lots of casual acquaintances and people on the U-bahn, V. called him "Mah-mee" and wanted to sit on his lap.

After awhile, Anette and the Doc got down to brass tacks, and she got the usual mix of good news and bad news. He told her he thinks V. is quite intelligent, which is nice for us to hear, though not actually news to us. But when Anette asked about V.'s restless sleep pattern (or lack of one), the Doc told her that will probably last for awhile. Like two years. [How do I make the emoticon for REM-deprived parent? ): maybe?] The good news here was that, according to this Doc, V.s spasmodic, bolt-awake type of "rest" probably has nothing to do with what her biological moms did or did not imbibe before, during and after pregnancy.

The Doc also said that we shouldn't fret too much about her eagerness to go to strangers. He thinks that only means that even after she's been hurt by some of the people in her early life, she still likes and trusts people in general.

He also had a thought about our smallest one and V.s tendency to hurl toys or her tea bottle across the room. He said that if she's been left or put down by some of the people in her life, this might just be her chance to throw something away herself.

That got me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

NaturHistorischesMuseum Top Ten, yeah!

The results are in from an afternoon spent at Vienna's most magnificent old school museum. Here we go:

Most Ridiculous and Hardly Credible Display which is Apparently Based on Actual Fact: the Russian Ice Age hunters' hut made from wooly mammoth bones. (They really did that?!)

Most Surly Museum Employee: the coat check guy.

Adinah's favorite dinosaur: Brontosaurus, and "those small ones who run really fast."

My Favorite Dinosaur: Triceratops, baby.

Anette's Favorite Moment: Little V. pointing to all of the dinosaurs and saying,"Wuff wuff!"

Creepiest Animal, Alive or Stuffed: the Cow Fish, who swims around devouring plankton and very small rocks, all the while disguised as a brightly-colored shampoo bottle cap.

Most Canny Fashion Move: Adinah wearing all pink and her (pink) princess crown to the museum.

Most Sublime Detail: oil paintings of cavemen and other sweaty, lumbering prehistoric beasts, hung in rooms that resemble Baroque dining halls.

Biggest Disappointment: no dodo bird.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Have it Your Way

So I leave the office at 8:30 tonight (and yes, I'm staying late because I like my job again.) I'm hungry. I want a hamburger. I'm leaning towards Mickey D.'s, possibly because it's my night out and well, Anette doesn't have to know, does she?

Then I remember that someone told me that the restaurant at the Marriott serves a decent cheeseburger.

McDonalds would be easier,'s so, well, it's McDonalds. I do go there sometimes, despite everything we all know about their fecal matter count, their Amazon destoying activities and that evil clown/CEO.

But not tonight. I decide to take the high road. I'll eat a burger at a hotel bar instead.

When I get to the Marriott, my heart sinks a little bit. I see that the place is a sports bar, which I half-expected. But it's also called Champions. This it too much.

Naturally I go in anyway.

And I am not disappointed. I order a chili cheeseburger, and there's corn in the chili, and even I think I taste a little mustard in the middle of the thing, both of which would be cardinal sins at a burger joint back in the US, but I do not care, goddamnit. I'm even eating it with a knife and fork like a real Euro-pussy by the end, but hey, I'm trying to assimilate here! In fact, I devour the burger and the largish pile of fries so fast I barely have time to breathe.

So you see, homesickness can take many forms.

I look up from my now empty plate like a besplattered serial killer taking a cigarette break. The various tv monitors in Champions are showing one soccer game, one sports news program, one game which resembles a cross between basketball, soccer and dodgeball, and one shopping channel. Wow. The sound system plays Bruce, AC/DC and Lenny Kravitz at a polite volume. It makes me think even the sports bars in Vienna are restrained.

Did I want to eat like this tonight, and write like this too, because Vienna is feeling pretty permanent to me? Maybe.

Would that be such a bad thing?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Our Daughters, Ourselves

We've made some educated guesses, but that's all they are. We still don't really know our new daughter.

I know V. eats almost everything, and she likes it when I throw her onto the couch like a sack of potatoes. She wants what she wants when she wants it. She screams until she turns red if she doesn't get it. She really likes Adinah, and she's become very attached to Anette. But is that love? I don't know.

I could list another dozen things that we know about her--another round of attributes--but to say, for example, that she's talkative (in her jibber-jabber way) is really only to say that she's heard how gabby Anette, Adinah and I am, and she's imitating us, adapting herself to us. "V. likes to laugh," but I only know that because I'm tickling her and snatching at her toes and letting her bounce up and down on my chest until she giggles herself into a frenzy. Such is the mirror game of parenthood. Does any Dad ever really know who his kids are?

Then again, within the greater sport of parenthood, and within this house in particular, V. is unique. (I suspect she's getting the short end of the stick, but that's another story.) By the time we met her, she was a year old, and living with her second mommy. It's tempting to fill in the time we missed with all sorts of terrible stuff. Actually, we know that V. was mistreated. But because we don't know exactly what happened, we project. I imagine that anything which V. has experienced has affected her, formed her, or even hardened her. Maybe that's why she's so "tough," or why she's been hitting other little kids, and us too.

But that's speculation. A lot of kids smack each other around, just as a way of saying, 'Hello.' (I do hope V. won't be a biter--blood is such a bitch to wash out of pajamas.)

It could be just as likely that, after living her first year in uncertainty, V. is guarded, and hesitant about asserting her real self.

Okay, yes, she's fifteen months old--it's not like I'm expecting her to suddenly turn to me and say, "You know, actually, my favorite Beatle was Ringo." But I am waiting for that moment when I can recognize something elemental in her. I believe in nature, nurture, and humans who are born with (almost) everything they need to become who they are.

I want to see who V. is, and who she's always been.

Until then, I guess I'll just have to be satisfied knowing she really, Really likes vanilla pudding.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dirty-ass r & R

I've been hit by a couple of waves of hardcore nostalgia lately. In a lifetime previous to the one before the one before this one, I was one of the guys who always brought a camera to the punk rock show in my hometown. Since my hometown was Austin Texas, and this was in the mid-1980's, a lot of pretty great bands passed before my eyes, and some of them left an impression (and a few dents) in my camera. Some of these bands went on to be nationally known, if not exactly famous, like Doctors Mob, True Believers, Poison 13 and the Offenders. Some of the performers definitely were, and still are, infamous, like the Butthole Surfers and Daniel Johnston. And then there were bands that were somewhere in the middle, like Scratch Acid.

Scratch Acid were Brett Bradford, Rey Washam, David Sims, and David Yow. Brett was quiet and restrained, Sims controlled and vaguely menacing, Washam tempramental and probably the best drummer in Texas, Yow was a great frontman, and the most hilarious guy on the planet. For some of these reasons, and for their ferocious music, SA became known in some other regional hotspots, like pre-Nirvana Seattle (I imagine Kurt Cobain was familiar with wild-ass Scratch Acid magic), but they never became Mega. Sims and Yow's next band, Jesus Lizard, were better known (and hopefully better paid.)

But Scratch They were truly amazing: scary, thunderous, cacaphonic and funny. They were as heavy as Led Zeppelin, but far more unhinged.

There's a guy in DC who's making a movie about Scratch Acid, and I want him to see these pictures, so that's one of the reasons I'm posting them. Looking at the images now, I'm struck by how sharply they document a pretty blurry phenomenon and cultural moment in my past. Scratch Acid burned across my life like some sort of a hairball meteorite, and though I couldn't have known it at the time, my life then was as wide-open as their music. Anything could have happened at one of their shows, and anything could have been around the next corner for me. But inscribed into these pictures is exactly who they were, and exactly who I was. You can see just how Yow wrapped his cowboy boots in duct tape, and you can see that I was one of the (many) people who loved the way he did that.

I'm so glad I have these pictures. Without them, I would be tempted to think Scratch Acid slayed me because I was young and stoopid. Now I know I didn't dream them. I can be sure that they were the real deal: bonified slobbbery monsters of rock.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


3:30 pm: I return from work to take V. Anette leaves for work.

5 pm: Adinah's best friend Oskar arrives for his sleepover night with us.

6 pm: I serve dinner: spicy chicken curry for me, rice and soy sauce for the kids.

6:45: V. pees in the bath, then melts down. I hoist her into her pajamas, sling her into bed. She chugs her bottle, screams for awhile, then goes down.

7 pm: Oskar and Adinah decide they want to take a bath together. I don't tell them V. peed in the bathwater. (It wasn't a lot.)

8:15: Oskar and Adinah into bed. Rejecting our original plan, Adinah insists on taking the lower bunk, forcing her towheaded guest to take the upper. Oskar says he doesn't mind. Adinah begins to tell him she thought she saw a clutching hand near the edge of the upper bunk the other night. I shush her.

9:45: Oskar wakes up crying out for Adinah, who doesn't stir. I go in, and try to calm him down. He does not understand my terrible German, but he falls asleep again.

11:30: Oskar wakes up wailing and crying "Adinah!" again. I go in, and try to calm him down. Oskar, who has a hearing problem, doesn't understand me, can't hear me, and isn't really awake anyway, though his eyes are open. I try to wake Adinah, and try to get her to talk to him. She can't wake up, and when she does, she begins to cry. Anette comes home, and takes Adinah into our bed, leaving Oskar alone in Adinah's room.

12:45 a.m. Oskar wakes up wailing again. I call his dad, who is at a party for the Architecture Center Vienna, and says he'll be right over to pick up Oskar.

1:15: Thomas picks up Oskar. I lay down to sleep on the couch.

3:40 Anette, unable to sleep with both V. and Adinah in our bed, brings our youngest daughter out to me.

4 am--5:30: V. turns like a helicopter in my arms...and even sleeps for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. I do not.

7 am: Anette, Adinah and V. awake, ready to play. I am not.

8:30 am: Anette leaves for work. While running interference between Adinah and V., I do a load of wash, fold clothes, and clean up the kitchen.

9:30 am: Pack the kid into the stroller, and we all head down to my haircutter. Who is too busy. V. falls asleep in the stroller on the way home. I bribe Adinah with Walt Disney Princesses! activity and coloring book.

10:25 am: With V. still asleep in the stroller, I beg Adinah to let me sleep while she pores over Walt Disney Princesses! activity and coloring book. She agrees to my proposal. I snooze for a glorious forty minutes.

11: 45: Etc. etc. etc.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Letter to a Woman on the Verge

Dear A.,
Thank you for getting in touch.
You have asked me several really big questions, and I can't really answer most of them. I can only tell how how it has been for myself. My wife and I were never biological parents, so I can't be sure of this, but adoption for us has seemed to be much like other kinds of parenthood in many ways. There's a lot of uncertainty, stress, and challenges to your dignity (and sanity.) All you get out of it is some of the most amazing experiences in the world.
You say that if you adopt, it really has to work. That's exactly right. From my perspective, adoption works because it has to. Once you commit to a kid, you won't fail because you won't let yourself fail. You will make sure you succeed. Maybe everything won't be perfect, maybe you'll do a sloppy job of some things, but as one of my freelance bosses once said, 'You muddle through it.' It's the same if you have a biological child.
Your situation may be more challenging if you are adopting a four-year-old, because there may be some attachment issues, and other difficulties. I can't speak on that, though, since we adopted our first daughter when she was eight months old. But I think even these challenges are something many parents can handle, if they have thought it through and made a promise to themselves and to their child.
You mention your concern that since you're a freelancer, your life might be too uncertain or stressful for parenthood, and this may be true, but again, if you want to make this adoption work, it will. That's one of the magical things about it--you go halfway across the world and you meet this little stranger and you fall in love with her or him. That seems to happen in about ninety percent of the adoptions I've witnessed or heard or read about.
But after reading your mail several times now, the biggest question which seems to be running through it is, Should you have a child or not? And that's not something I can answer.
When I was trying to answer this question for myself, we lived on the Lower East Side of New York City. The question of whether we should adopt or not had been under my skin for a long time, but I couldn't quite face it. Then one morning, I woke up a bit before sunset (which seemed--pre-parenthood--like a really ungodly hour.) I couldn't get back to sleep, so I got up and walked part of the way across the Williamsburg Bridge. I sat down and watched the early morning sun. I asked myself if I wanted to be a papa. I liked the way parenthood had changed some of my friends. I felt that I had had an adventurous life, and that I had experienced a lot of intense, crazy things. But I finally realized that parenthood was something I wanted to experience for myself. It was something I wanted selfishly, not something I wanted to do for any other person.
After I realized that, I made my decision, and everything fell into place.
I hope this is of some help to you, and no matter what you decide, I wish you all the luck in the world.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Ghost Town

We live on Nussdorferstrasse, which translates, loosely, as the Nut Village Street. It is, in the words of Monty Python, a very silly place.

All of the shops are always empty, possibly because they sell rarified, slightly odd, though not undesirable things. Two or three doors down, next to a house where Schubert lived, is a Vespa dealership. I always thought Vespas were sort of cool, but I've never seen a sentient lifeform inside the place. A hundred meters farther on is the Klang Konig ("Sound King"), a stereo and home theatre hut; they sell lots of Bose and Bang and Olufsen equipment, which I've always heard was quality merchandise. Well, the Klang Konig never has any customers either. In this city that time forgot, most of the natives have forgotten about Nussdorferstrasse.

There's the Taj Mahal and Mozart Stuberl, restaurants which serve, respectively, Indian and Wiener Kuche, and I don't know how either stays in business. There's the Central Cola Corner, which wants to be a Hard Rock cafe simulacrum, but it never appears to be open, so Bon Jovi fans--if there are any in Vienna, Austria--wouldn't be able to grab a brew there even if they wanted to.

I suppose I ought to try shopping at the Pride of India grocery, because I've been working on my chicken curry recipe. But after all this time, I'm hesitant to actually step inside one of these shops. I think I might break some spell. Or become trapped inside the Pride of India forever and ever.

The most unforgettable spot used to have a plain, all-glass storefront window to display all of their wares, which happened to be marble gravestones. But that business too is empty, shut down, gone. Even the dead go some place else now.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Big Fucking Deal

As I may have mentioned before, I get around to doing things a little slowly. Like consuming certain highly-touted pop cultural artifacts. Although I was once painfully aware of much of the latest huff-and-puff in the music business, I have now slid to the other extreme, and, unlike most humans, have little idea of what's really Happening. I have never heard hyphy music. Never seen a full episode of Desperate Housewives. Who the fuck is Criss Angel? I don't know, I tells ya.

This being my circumstance, I only just last night got around to seeing Crash. Not the Cronenberg adaption of JG Ballard, which I loved and everyone else hated, but paul Haggis' 2004 film about racism in LA. The one that won Best Picture. Yeah. I just saw it. Last night.

What a fucking rip-off, man. And I didn't even pay for it.

An amazing cast of actors reduced to that laziest of Hollywood Methods wherein actors express intensity by SHOUTING. A LOT. AT EVERYONE. And scriptwriters convey their "worldview" by assigning every character a quota of nasty lines. hey, I don't like Los Angeles much at all, but even I will admit that the place isn't as chock full of profound assholes as this film. Eeegah!

And this overheated, forced spew-a-thon beat out Brokeback Mountain? Damn. Brokeback Mountain was amazing. Two very sweet though sorta tragic homo cowboys fucking each other in a landscape that is a living, breathing Character in Itself, beat out by a movie that manages to take something as ingrained in American life as racism and make it feel unbelievable? No. That shit is wrong.

The thing about racism in America is that it's often as deep and complicated as it is ugly and stoopid. Racism in the US is often surprising. And unlike in the movies, it's not only assholes who say racist, hateful things. Very nice people say casually racist things all the time. That's just one of the things that makes it really awful.

And can I just say, what's with Hollywood films where all the white people get to be pure assholes and the only sympathetic characters are black or Latino? This also seems so false and liberal patronizing mamby pamby ooky dooky Bullshit to me. Last I knew, assholes (and heroes) came in all colors.

Come to think of it, there's not too many Hollywood directors who get racism right (Spike Lee being the one notable exception.) maybe it's too complex for most of them. Or maybe most directors (most of them white males) just aren't very interested in making thoughtful movies dealing with this particular American problem.

And maybe it's time for me to go to bed. So?

But, really. Best Picture?


(whoa, hey. this is my one hundredth post. for someone who spends most of his days in the Cave of Procrastination, that's something like a phenomenon. hey.)