Friday, February 27, 2009

Adinah's Sixth Birthday Party Checklist


-Blow up balloons
-Make cakes
-Prepare paper mask game
-Buy 2 or 3 more pairs kids scissors
-Select disco party music
-Mummify ballroom
-Buy 1 flower each for each kid (12)
-Build Igloo
-Buy Nacho makings @ Spar

-Pick-up all kids at kindergarten, making sure Maya has joined us and that we've gotten Vinzy from the other class
-Transport kids
-At home, play "Who's the Bird?"
-Cake, juice, etc.
-Mask game at big table in ballroom
-Build magic castle, with igloo and kitchen table extensions
-Disco Party/Hit parade game
-Musical Chairs
-Open Presents
-Child pick-up


Nachos or Pizza?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Flashback #476

(I'm writing a piece on my old friends David and David, and their band, Jesus Lizard. Like hypnotherapy, the process releases a lot of old memories and toxins. Here is one...)

It should be known that David Yow, possibly the funniest man ever alive, once swam under a rusty tugboat in the toxic depths of the Hudson River. He was on the Frying Pan, a party boat anchored off the West Side of Manhattan. He was on the Lido deck, just, you know, discussing Hemingway, and he thought, 'Hey, I'll act like I'm going to jump into the river.' So he swung himself over the rail above the starboard bow, where he intended to perch, threatening to jump into the brine, until people noticed him and yelled, 'Hey, David, please don't do that!'
But once he was over there, hanging off the boat by his fingernails, he noticed the side of the old tub was a bit...greasy. And he started to slide. Down the bulkhead. Like a drop of orange fat off the side of a hearty mug of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. After a short while, he decided to just go ahead and make it look good, like he'd intended to go in all along. He took a dive.
Some girls threw a ladder down to him. This sunk. Other people panicked and ran to the bar.
Yow was already climbing out of the fetid river on the other side of the boat. I found him there, wringing his socks dry.
Two days later, I saw Yow again. He was "modeling" in a college rock fashion show. He had not changed clothes.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

looking out a train

About a week ago, I was sitting on the No. 5 Strassenbahn at 7:50 a.m., trying to wake up, when a young girl got on and sat down two seats in front of me. She was looking out the window with her whole body. She leaned to the glass, put her hands on the sill; her face was open and intent and her eyes called out, ‘Hello, hello!’

I turned my head to see what she was looking at: a middle-aged woman, pinched face, sealed inside a too-thin beige coat. Mom. And mom wasn’t looking back. Then she did, but she looked away again quickly. Mom was annoyed, or Mom was pissed. Maybe Mom was in a hurry.

None of this changed the look on the young girl’s face. The only thing she wanted and the only thing she could think about was her mother’s gaze, looking back at her.

I watched this girl—maybe 10 or 12—struggling, and failing, to get what she wanted. Then the Strassenbahn started moving again and we left her mother behind. The girl kept looking back for awhile.

Who knows what had happened between them? But it was clear that all the girl wanted was a few seconds of her mother's full attention. It made me think of something Jesper Juul wrote in my favorite book about parenting. He said all children want--often desperately--to please their parents. And he said that every child needs to feel valuable to their parents. They need to know they have worth.

Something to remember.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Some Days

Some days you kill the bear. Some days, the bear kills you.

Some days, you get to work, ready to confront that employee who’s been making mistakes. Then that other employee, the really good one, pulls you aside and tells you she’s quitting. And you have to say congratulations, because you know she’s going to a better job, but it’s easier to say, ’Shit, we’re gonna miss you.’ And you have to stop yourself from feeling jealous that she’s going to a better (paying) job. And that doesn’t work.

And then some days--then--you get to meet with the employee who’s been making mistakes. Fun! Because now you have to be very Direct and Clear and....And you do all of that, and it’s only later that your colleague, the only other person who was in the room, tells you, ‘Wow, usually I’m the bad cop.’

Then over lunch, this colleague, an American whom you like very much, tells you that it was 26 years before she realized she would never live in the USA again. And some days, this is just not what you need to hear.

Then some days, you go into a meeting that should take half an hour, but it takes two, drifting...into the Van Ryan Belt.

Some days you rush home from work and stop off at the grocery store that isn't so good, because if you go anywhere else, you'll be late and that's not fair to the babysitter.

And you play with the kids and you cook dinner and sometimes the kids are a handful and that's really okay because they're beautiful. But at the dinner table you hang your head and tell your six year old and your two and a half year old that you're exhausted from all the drama.

And you give them their bath and your wife comes home to help put them to bed and that's great. Then some nights your wife leaves again for a class, and you clean up the kitchen and the living room and the bathroom and you cook up that hamburger too because otherwise it'll go bad.

Then another employee SMS's to tell you they're sick and won't be in for the rest of the week. So you call your boss to discuss how to squeeze by without that employee. and you look at your watch and hey, it's nine-thirty p.m.!

And you sit down to watch a silly old tv show.

And some nights, your wife comes home again and the second thing she says is, 'Which supermarket did you go to? These apples are totally rotten!'

And sometimes you lose it. You employ sarcasm, you get angry, you throw up your hands. 'Doesn't she understand what a sad, bad day dad had?' Sometimes you break your own rule. You go to bed mad.

Some days.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Dog, Sick as a

Depending on who you ask, between twenty and forty thousand people have the flu in Vienna right now. Last week, I was just another one of them. But I was only woozly for about 36 hours--I don't get sick too often, and when I do, the only thing I ever seem to get is a Lite version of whatever virus is stalking my town at the moment. (Must be all those Cheetos I ate as an infant.) Lots of other people in Vienna have been laid low for one or two weeks. At Kindergarten, Adinah's gruppe, which normally has about 22 kids, is down to twelve.

A famous friend of one of my colleagues died from this epidemic.

We got a flu for fancy birds, too. One of our swans is missing.

Look, in Europe in the nineteenth century, the Flu was Public Enemy Number One. I keep telling people, but everybody says I'm being alarmist. Fine. But I'm stocking up on Emergen-C.

That's all I got. I got nothing else.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Drinks with Condi

Here's an interesting update on Condaleeza Rice and her search for a huggy bunny she can call her own. After I read it, I found myself wondering, 'What if, what if.........?' The lights went low and the background details started to blur, and I got this glazed look in my eyes. What if I was out on the town, and one of those ancient Tyrolean yodelers on the Strassenbahn knocked me over and I suffered some temporary long-term memory loss, and somehow I ended up at Champs, the sports bar underneath the Marriott, just because the only thing I could remember was their half-decent cheeseburger? What if I walked in and saw an attractive, vaguely familiar woman, who had just recently cut her hair again and now looked like a more worried Halle Berry, sitting bolt upright with an economy size ice tea? Wouldn't I approach, and say something like,

"Um, excuse me, aren't you-."

And wouldn't she say,
"Why, hello, you. Pull up a chair and rest your boots."

“Okay… I’m actually looking for someone to-“

“Love?” she asks, cocking one very determined eyebrow.


“You really cut to the chase, don’t you, Tex? What do you do for a living?”

“That’s the thing,” I say unsteadily. “I’m a little confused right now. But I think I’m a teacher.”

Somehow these words have exactly the wrong effect on Condi. She softens, and her eyes get bigger and browner. “You know, that’s just how I feel,” she purrs. “Sometimes a situation changes, and so much change is involved that it’s hard to know exactly how much of the changing is due to this particular transitional phase, and how much is due to weapons of mass destruction.”


“But I think of myself as a teacher, too.”


“Tell me, Tex—is it okay if I call you Tex? I was with a guy from Texas for awhile and you, well, you remind me of him a little. Fine. So, Tex, how do you feel about bad guys?”

“You mean, like disruptive students?”

“No, the bad guys. You know, Bin Laden, Putin, Jon Stewart, John Kerry?”

“Look,” I say, as my head begins to clear, “I think I might need medical attention.“

“Okay, bottom line, Tex: I’m a pretty good cook, and I’m sitting on my groceries.”

“Whoa, you’re Condoleezza Rice! I’m so outta here!!”

“Wait, don’t go yet! Your glass is half empty and we just met!”