Saturday, February 27, 2010

the Fury

Yesterday was the second time in a week that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to lose my temper. But I had to do something. A fellow can only be in a crowded public place, listening to his sweetest little precious scream, ‘You are shit!” so many times….

V. is at that delicate stage of life when one gives up one’s afternoon nap because Emily and Katarina and Doo Doo don’t take one anymore. Even though one is not really physically strong enough to go without that sleep. So one is a tad irritable when a papa picks one up from kindergarten.

She shrieked at me in school, at the U-Bahn station, on the train, and also when we got stuck in the elevator, after V. punched all the buttons, including the red one that says, ‘STOP.’ She called me caca, and stupid, then she added that she would not be giving me any presents. That really hurt.

The walk home was nice, though.

A small dose of bubble gum seemed to placate her for awhile.

But the kniptions erupted again after dinner. Violent protestations about my choice of pajamas for her, etc. etc. So I said to her, “V., you’ve been screaming at me for no good reason for three hours now. I don’t like it. I’ve had enough. Will you stop?” And she stopped. For about a minute.

Then she screamed,”Kakao!!”(Translation: Give me my bottle of warm soy milk, NOW!)

“No,” I said. “That’s it. No bottle tonight. And you’re going to bed right now.”

So she lets loose the Fury. Screams of indignity, the ear-piercing howls of the criminally persecuted.

I looked right into her little eyes, and told her, “Honey, if you scream at people, they’re not going to do Anything nice for you. I’ve had it. I know you’re tired. But I asked you if you would stop, you said you would, but you kept screaming at me. Now that’s it.”

The Fury raged on for a while, though it had probably turned to hurt. I gave her some water in her bottle, and sang “Moonshadow” to her, like I always do. But she got no kakao. And I didn’t get mad.

Beastly behavior has consequences. And she won't get to be CEO of Google, or for that matter, play right midfield for Manchester United, until she understands that.

It took her a few minutes longer to fall asleep. The next morning, she was my sweetest little precious again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm Here to Kick Ass and Chew Gum, and I Just Ran out of Gum: (my first) Motorvational top ten iPod list

1) Replacements - "Fuck School" or "God Damn Job"

2) Daft Punk-"Rollin' and Scratchin'"

3) Gang of Four-"Ether"

4) the Rezillos-"Somebody's Gonna Get their Head Kicked in Tonight"

5) Fiona Apple - "Limp"

6) Diamanda Galas-"Let my People Go"

7) Led Zeppelin-"Hots on for Nowhere"

8) Neil Young-"Cinnamon GIrl"

9) AC/DC- "Sin City"

10) Soft Boys - "I Wanna Destroy You"

Friday, February 19, 2010

No Time

Last night, I got home at six, said goodbye to the babysitter, fixed a quick dinner, then spent 90 minutes driving the girls towards bedtime.

This morning, I got up just after six, had a few moments to myself, then spent an hour and fifteen minutes persuading, asking ‘Please’ and finally pushing them out of the door to school.

And so it goes. During the week, my time with my daughters is tight. And I spend so much of it getting them dressed or begging them to let me brush their teeth, I barely have any time to give them Sugar. To give them the encouragement and support and love they need.

I worry a little that they think their papa is a psycho who bosses them around, occasionally dances with them, then bosses them around some more. I worry more that they will start to think life is just a slog: all personal hygiene, household tasks and no fun.

Actually, they both love playing with their friends. And they like playing with each other a lot too.

What I miss is my playtime with them. I miss getting-to-know-them time. They’re growing up, changing, and learning, and it’s difficult to understand how or why they’re changing when I have so few moments to really see and hear them. I don’t get to talk to my girls enough....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Big Fat Faschings Party Top 10

Best Kids Costume:
Tie: Oskar, who came as a Chemist (white lab coat with periodic table symbols scrawled on it) and Ainoah and her brother Andreas, who came as Ninjas (dressed all in black, with t-shirts that said 'Ninja')

My Daughters' Costumes:
Adinah-Witch, V.-Rockstar Fairy. (But she took the Axl Rose wig off after five minutes, and then she looked like every other pink girl in the place.

Best Adult Costume:
Christiana, who was completely done up in orange, with tights, cape and horn-rimmed glasses--apparently she was some kind of...Librarian Superhero!

Most Overheard Phrase:
"Gummi Bears-YAHHHHHHGHH!"

Bravest Costume:
Lino, who is six, came dressed as a Baby. With a pacifier. That kid was letting himself in for so much abuse from his fellow first graders. But apparently Adinah and her other friends at the party just laffed and said, 'Yeah, that Lino, he's so creative.'

Most Krapfen Eaten by an Individual:
4, consumed by the above mentioned Lino. (BTW, "Krapfen" is German for Jelly Donut.) At the end of the party, he did hurl.

Music on the small Jambox:
Miriam Makeba-"Pata Pata"
Elizabeth Mitchell-"You are My Sunshine"
Slayer-Reign in Blood

Ratio of Children to Meltdowns, Hissy Fits or other Conniptions:

Most Amazing Revelation:
Hand them a push broom and seven-year-olds love to sweep up streamers, confetti and dirty socks!

Most Dangerous Costume:
Our friend Andy borrowed my colleague Mark's full body Monkey costume, and the children tried to kill him. Last I saw, the Monkey was limping across the gymnasium floor, with a kid in a Tiger costume clamped to his foot.

Friday, February 12, 2010

beloved thing

I bought an iPod. Now pigs will fly.

A couple of months ago I suddenly noticed one of my colleagues’ ipod Nano. So sleek, so simple and nice to look at. Started salivating with pure design lust. Then I started perculating the idear—I’m always complaining (in my mind, if not out loud) that I can’t listen to music at volume any more. Either I’ll be waking up the girls, or distracting Anette from work or reading. But I still really really like having a Relationship with a piece of music. This is so delicious: giving some sounds—weird, spooky, lush, whatever-- your pure attention, your brain. Listening with all of yourself. And finally I put two and two together, and determined to buy myself a new toy. This I deserve.

Last night I snuck over to the mall, and lingered over a display case at Saturn for awhile. Like a sign from God, one of the sales clerks paused behind me and asked if I needed any help, which never ever happens at that place. So I asked a couple of guilty, perfunctory questions, and one hundred and fifty Euros later, I had become one of those people who walk around plugged in 24-7. Without even knowing it, I bought the exact color and model I’d seen on my colleague’s desk.

And it’s so fucking cool.

The first thing I listened to on it was a basshead stoner techno masterpiece I only discovered last week: Burial’s Untrue. The second thing I listened to was a record that’s almost forty years older: Fairport Convention’s lesser known electric folk jewel, Full House. They both sounded sooo...good.

I listened to Burial last night as I creeped around my neighborhood taking photos of the snow and brutalist architecture. It was the perfect soundtrack: dark, paranoid, lost, sad and mysterious, with a low-end that I can feel in my chest. It’s amazing how headphone music can re-contextualize the everyday and every-night landscape. Billboards look more poignant or tragic, shadows more sinister, street lights even harsher....

This may become my latest, greatest disease.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Male Trouble

I met a man the other day who told me, 'Well, I've got two kids--one's still in diapers. They won't stay with me. They won't let me take care of them by myself--they only want their mom."

It seemed like something he'd said before, as a way to do three things at once: wriggle out of doing any childcare himself, get his wife to do the extra work, and keep his wife at home. His wife was nowhere to be seen--he was speaking for her.

I told him he should find another shoulder to cry on.

If he had just wanted a little sympathy from me, that might have been okay. Before I was a dad, the thought of changing diapers was ghastly. If he had wanted understanding, I could have just said,'Brother, I don't understand you. Maybe you ought to try spending some time with your children--you might actually like it.' But he also seemed to want some sort of favor from me, though I'm not sure what. And this was too much.

Look, I know every mom and pop make their own Deal. Maybe he makes all the money and she stays home and works with the kids--that's a deal I don't love, but, okay, fine. Even in that situation, though, if you want to call yourself a father, you've got to be able to care for your kids. Period.

BTW, I only know one couple like that, and they're rich. I suspect that's the only way a woman can be a housewife in the US these days: if she or he is a millionaire. But even my (one) rich friend can take his children in a pinch.

And even if you were a rich workaholic, what kind of a man would want trophy kids? Children to show off, pat on the head, then hand off to mommy? Who would want that?

Look, I'm aware of the different choices people make (and don't make) because of differences in class, race and culture. That doesn't mean I have to accept lame male excuses, or behavior I find to be toilet. At many times during the Years of Shit--otherwise known as the Bush Administration era--I thought that he would not have gotten the US (and the world) into half of the trouble he did if W. had not been an absentee father. If he hadn't outsourced his childcare, and had actually spent some time with Jenna and whatever that other one's name was, he might not have fucked up their future (and that of our children) so thoroughly.

But...well, I digress. Back in this dimension, the other day, when I bumped into this man a second time, he had his wife and kids with him.

I looked at his daughter, and asked, 'How old is she?'

'Two,' he said.

'Mine's three,' I said, still not feeling the bon homie. 'And she's a lot louder.'

The wife, in the meantime, looked like she might enjoy handing the kids over to her man every once in a while. Maybe she's the one who needs a break.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Variations on a Mall

The girls and I are just back from four days in the the snowiest mountain village I have ever seen, and I will post pictures from that soon. But right now I want to tell everyone in Vienna (and anyone else who can see ORF 2) that a film by my brilliant wife will be showing on Austrian TV tomorrow night, the 7th of February, at 23.05. It's called The Gruen Effect, and it's about Victor Gruen, the inventor of the shopping mall. It's a great, smart, groovy movie and if you watch it you might even learn something! Here's a synopsis, and be sure to tune in tomorrow night!

The Gruen Effect (52 min)

Victor Gruen couldn’t possibly have known how much he would change
the world. The world famous Viennese architect is chiefly remembered
as the inventor of the shopping mall. His “green” ideas spawned cities,
which ultimately became shrines to the Gods of consumption and the
free market. This documentary follows Gruen’s dramatic escape from
Nazi controlled Vienna in 1938, his subsequent adventures in booming
post-war America and finally his return to Vienna in the 1960s as a
committed socialist. The life, work and critical humour of this exceptional
architect serve as a starting point for an examination of the cities in
which we live today. A portrait of a man who, in keeping with the motto
“cars buy nothing”, has had a lasting influence on economics, politics
and, above all, consumers.

Director:Katharina Weingartner and Anette Baldauf
Production:co-production: Wailand Filmproduktion and ORF
Language:german | original version
Format:4:3 Letterbox, 16:9, PAL, HDTV
Length:52 min