Monday, March 31, 2008

March Entertainment Etceterum

Pretty sure 'etceterum' isn't a word but what the hell, I've got a few loose ends to express.....

1 The tabloids here are claiming Brad Pitt is Barack Obama's cousin. Is this true? Could either have been handed a better piece of etceterum publicity?

2 I've seen a lot of good Hollywood films lately but something's really beginning to bug me. I liked Michael Clayton and Breach, but I just read a review of Boarding Gate, this new Oliver Assayas film, and I thought, 'Urp.' Can we have a break from the flicks about rich people behaving monstrously? Nevermind whether the 'good' rich guy wins or not, these films are not critical of the idea that it's all about getting mo' money, mo' money. And you know, there is this, uh, thing called the Wealth Gap in the USA (and the rest of the frigging world.....)

3 Hey, Eliot Spitzer, wow, what a show! But you know what? Who cares about what he does with his penis? I don't. And he seems to have been a good politician. Did any of this sleazy business affect his ability to lead?

4 I finally saw an actual photograph of Amy Winehouse (as opposed to a paparazzi grab shot), and I thought, 'Hmmm. At least she looks like a real person. Sort of.' But isn't she just another sham? Please. Ripping off Erykah Badu and every other black female performer in the history of rock and roll? At the time of this revelation, I was listening to the great old psychedelic band Love, who were led by a black man named Arthur Lee, who spent much of his later life in prison because he discharged a pistol in his front yard. Why is it that black geniuses get incarcerated for bullshit, and white artistes who break the law and misbehave for the cameras just triple their record sales?

Sunday Afternoon, 4:40 pm--5:10 pm

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


My wife is back from the USA, and I have been duly briefed. In ten days, she ate sushi in Los Angeles, got snowed-in in Detroit, shopped like some very efficient Queen Bee in New York City, saw friends, and worked and worked and worked a lot. In the cab back from the airport, she was already making plans for us all to go back to New York for a visit, or to LA for a work-study deal. Sounds like fun--even the snow in Detroit part.

Actually, going back to America even for a quick look sounds so great I don't even want to think about it until I've got the tickets in my hand. I would start to salivate thinking of the cheeseburgers, the light on the buildings, the people, and the sound of the English language all around me--I would swim in it.

How long has it been since I've been back? I don't even know.

Anette says everyone over there is excited about Obama, and excited to be excited about politics again. I wish I was there for that.

But underneath her news and gossip about the US, particularly the New York corner of it, I heard darker things. Mean streets. Sometimes it sounds like people in that city are just holding on by their teeth. Heart attacks, looming evictions, outta-sight daycare costs--all of these fabulous adventures await YOU! if you are not rich and/or famous in NYC. This I don't miss. I'll try to remember that the next time I'm feeling blue about living in a musty dusty capital of Olde Europe.

My life has changed. We have a bathtub and we use it almost every night. Our family is too big to fit inside of a New York City life. And I don't think you should have to be rich and/or famous in order to have a bathtub and a family to put into it.

On the other hand, I hear life in Austin, Texas is pretty goddamn great right now....

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A week with the In-laws

Anette has gone to the USA for ten days to work on a film project, but I haven't been home alone with the kids. Oma and Opa were here to help.

Previously, when my wife went away for work or play, I dreaded the extra papa duty a little, but I also liked being the Boss around here finally. My schedule, my rules, my food, my black metal on the stereo. But this week I wasn't in charge at all. Oma did her best to dominate the kitchen area as soon as she arrived, and Opa's ridiculous shenanigans with the kids really overwhelmed my efforts to be the Dad Who Plays the Most. It's amazing what sort of child entertainment value that eighty-year-old kid can squeeze out of a blank piece of paper and a pair of scissors.

The kids had a great time. Adinah sat at the kitchen table drawing with Opa a lot, and Oma occasionally chased V. around the house, a game which makes our second daughter chuckle so hard she hiccups. One night I was folding clothes in another room, and I started to hear all this maniacal laughter from the next room. When I walked around the corner, all four of them were shuffling around a pile of pennies on the table, and cackling as if they had just invented the most naughty form of amusement known to man.

Oma, a.k.a Teresa, and Opa, also known as Josef, met each other and got married more than fifty years ago: he had fought for the Germans on the front lines, then became a POW, while she stayed home and tried to survive in a tiny farm town in Austria. The first time they saw white bread, they were astounded. A few days ago, I was making us some lunch, and I asked Opa if he would like some shrimp. He said he'd never eaten one.

So it's sort of amazing for me to watch them cavorting around our big city apartment sixty years later with their Ethiopian and half-Nigerian grandaughters. Could they have ever imagined their twilight years would look like this?

Thursday, March 20, 2008


After a two or three week pause, V. has commenced with the fisticuffs again. She hits almost everyone and everything in sight. She smacks Anette, Adinah, smaller kids, bigger kids, chairs, tables, and stuffed lambs. If she slaps Adinah, and I say, "V. no!", "No, V.!" she looks me right in the eye and socks Adinah again. She puts the most hilarious impersonation of insolence on her face. It's nearly as funny as the Phantom of the Opera face she makes (clenched jaw, lips drawn back, teeth barred, eyes bugging) when she's trying to hold onto something someone is trying to take away from her.

I am flummoxed. I have no idea how to get her to stop clobbering everybody. I've tried saying 'No!" firmly and loudly, I've tried holding her fists down at her sides. If she's in a place she likes, such as the bathtub or sitting at the kitchen table, and she hits someone, I've tried taking her out of that spot immediately. She screams and wails. And when I retrieve her, she hits Adinah again.

In desperation, we have told Adinah that if V. keeps smacking her, she should hit her back. Now Adinah gives V. these quick and perfunctory pats on the arm. Which have no persuasive effect on V. whatsoever.

It's tempting to blame this behavior on something that may have happened to V. in her Before years, Flashtrigger would call them, but I think that's a red herring. I don't think this is real aggression. V. is 16 months old. She doesn't really use words, or understand them. She doesn't know how to touch other people yet. I think she's hitting other humans because she's trying to communicate with them.

I know it's sick (and possibly wrong) to compare our foster daughter to a cartoon dog, but I keep thinking of the Simpsons episode where the family is having so much trouble with Santa's Little Helper. Homer keeps saying 'No! NO!' to the dog, but then the camera cuts to Santa's Little Helper's POV, and everything is gray, and all the dog hears is Homer saying, 'Blah! BLAH! Blah blah bah BLAH!'

Maybe it's like that for V. She just doesn't understand what she's doing or what we're saying about it. Maybe.

Maybe we just have to try to ignore her hitting.

Like we do her screaming.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Seen on the U-bahn

1) At the Schottenring station, a giant green and white graffiti tag for Chic, with a fat-lipped duck face serving as an exclamation point.

2) A young Indian man with mustache, iPod and gray jacket with pink word DIESEL.

3) The cover of the latest issue of the subway publication Vormagazin: the face of a beautiful black woman, in tribal make-up and bedecked with flowers, emerging from a ball of fire (!) It's an advertisement for an African circus which has come to town.

4) Within my sight, six people reading Heute, the other subway publication (free, tabloid in size and ethic, right wing blather).

5) Three teenage girls, casually dolled up and ready for their day at BFI trade school: one spilling over the edge of her too-tight blue pants, another limping and looking around with a doughy, unformed face which has yet to make a hard choice in life.

6) Another young guy, with white sneaks, jeans and a New York Yankees cap. He is talking to a vaguely goth-looking girl, and the only word i hear is "Schwule" ("gay".)

7) Lots of people with black, grey or dark blue clothes.

8) A poster of a young Catherine Deneuve, strapped to a post, and ready for whipping. Mmmmh.

9) An open fuse box.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

mia culpa

I'm sorry that I've been out of touch. I'm sorry I haven't returned your phone call/e-mail/blog comment/love letter. I didn't mean it personally--I'm just terrible, I guess. No, actually, I've been away. Away in a beautiful place with candy pillows and billowy soft verbs that console and comfort my brain. Sorry about that.

The thing is, I didn't mean to let it go for so long, this lazy communicator thing, I mean. I just looked up and it was too late to reply, too nonsensical to write, too middled aged of me to have time to take care of my friends because I'm trying to scribble down my thoughts about the World of Me, and I'm obsessed with buying Pampers because they don't leak like the other brands and I'm trying to manage my managers because they keep asking for more of my soul and I've got to whitewash this fence outside of our place, too, you know. Shit, I let some truth creep into that last sentence. That's probly because I was trying to be funny and make sense at the same time.

Anyway, like I was saying, my bad. I'm really gonna try being better about calling. I'm gonna stop leaving e-mails open on my desktop as a way to remind me to reply. I know that's bad for my computer (or something). So I'm going to start using Stickies instead.

I just...need...a...moment. So, uh, yeah, I' right back.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Cough

After her healthiest winter yet, Adinah is once again besieged by The Cough. She hacks and gasps, her eyes turn red, and a tear or two rolls down her face. She draws my attention to this last detail in particular: "Papa, look!"

The only thing we can do is give her puffs of the asthma medicines Flixotide and Sultanol. Usually, she's still miserable for two nights. This week she's been miserable for four. Though not miserable for the whole time--Deanie is always hopping, skipping and/or singing around the place, even when the Cough is sitting on top of her like a high-school wrestler. She puts on a brave face.

We've never seen a doctor who's been able to give us much comfort about it, let alone a cure. They say that kids this age may be asthmatic, but then grow out of it, and never actually develop asthma proper. Great, fine, okay, but isn't there something we can do now for gawd's sake? Apparently not.

So I've been sleeping on the floor next to her bed for most of the week. Waking up at midnight or 4 a.m. to give her more inhalants. Fetching her a glass of water or a roll of toilet paper, so she can wipe her nose. I sort of enjoy this guard dog duty. But I'm pretty wasted after a week of it.

Today she turned a corner, and tonight I told Adinah we could sleep with Anette and V. again. "YAY!" You'd think I'd given her a refill of her Spongebob Squarepants Pez.

I might make a joke or two about it, but it's nice to be able to comfort a kid. Actually, it's awesome.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tagged, or Meme-d?

Are bloggers just the modern, wired and confessional version of stamp collectors? Probably, so I'm doubly damned.

In any case, a writer named Flashtrigger has "tagged" me (is blog tagging the modern version of the chain letter? Yes, but you don't get $42.56 in the mail when the whole thing is over.) So I'm obliged to post seven "random or weird" things about myself, then pass the tag/meme/dutchie on to some of my fellow bloggers (who've probably all done this to death and so will just yawn, & let the love die.) Sorry, Elizabeth, but you're it.

I'm going to mention a few things which seem germane to the secret mission of Euro Like Me: figuring out who the hell I am today.

1) I had a black G.I. Joe. He had a beard. I liked him because he was different. Then he died when the string you pulled to make him talk got caught on one of our dining room chairs. This may be a typical story for a white adoptive parent of two children of color (Anette had black dolls too) but I just think it's goofy and fitting.

2) "Bug" is one of my favorite terms of affection. As in, "Here, let me get that for you, bug." Or "I love you, bug." In Texas, people say that someone is "cute as a bug." I'm from Texas.

3) I can make three meals, none of which can really be called "American": tacos, chicken curry, and pasta with tomato sauce. I also make the best guacamole in Vienna. No, really.

4) I live in Austria, yet I have never seen The Sound of Music. Neither have 90% of the Austrians. But they love the film Sissi, which maybe two people in the US have seen.

5) It's 9:40 pm here, and I'm so tired I could plotz.

6) My middle name makes people of all cultures and ethnicities laugh. I don't know why. "Kerbow" seems like a very nice name to me....

7) I flew a plane once.

(PS: I'm also tagging B., Cowbell, and Ed. Did I do that right......?)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Vienna, #14

This is a more sober (i.e. daytime) view of my favorite bar in Wien. The Fluc. Electronic punk, VJs, dyke know the sort of place I mean.