Category Archives: Under the Whale

Perils of working at home

Me: Upstairs, working on a deadline.

(Noise from the bottom of the steps.)
Dan: “Declan, where are you going?”
Declan: “I have to go see mommy.”
Dan: “Mommy’s working, sweetie. Want to read this book?”
Declan: “Okay.”

(5-10 minutes later – footsteps up the stairs)

Dan: “Declan… I told you, mommy has to work.”
Declan: “She doesn’t has to work!”
Dan: “She does, honey. Let’s go play with Arrow.”

(3-5 minutes later. Footsteps again.)

Dan: “Dec, sweetie…”
Declan: “I just have to go up here and say hi to my friend.” (Climbs the stairs faster.)
Dan: “Say hi to your friend?”
Declan: “Say hi to my friend Mommy. ”

(Rounds the corner to my desk.)

“Hi mommy. Can I hug and snuggle with you?”

Must I have no heart to get my work done?
This is why I wish we had a coffeeshop with WiFi just an eensy bit closer to home…

Related Posts:

Scene from a heart hospital waiting room

Dan: “Hey, it’s a penny! I found a penny!”
(Brief pause)
“Uh oh, it’s tails up. I’d better not touch it.”
(Walks away from said penny, gets distracted by marker-wielding son.)
Me: “Flip it over for the next person.”
Nearby woman: Laughs.
Then, “I’ll do it…. There, I flipped it over.”

Related Posts:

Inventory: 28 Months

Declan is 28 months old today. It’s kind of hard to believe that’s all the time it has been. Mysterious coos and babbles have given way to complete sentences. Once unable to roll over on his own, he’s now the “sultan of somersaultin'” (named so by Dan). Frenetic waves have transformed into deliberate, dramatic hand gestures that accompany mini-lectures about space.

As a family, we’ve also been through a lot in that time. We lost a couple of Dan’s older family members. Dan nearly lost his eye. We lost our dear companion Samson. Even one of our cars and a laptop died (actually, Dan murdered it with ginger ale). And we’ve had horrible luck with landlords.

We had a terrifying bout with lead paint and for our trouble, got kicked out of our conveniently located (although rented) home by a man we had thought had more decency. Then the short-sighted landlord of Dan’s business helped put an unceremonious end to his nearly 20-year run.

But we also bought a house in a part of town where we have no baggage and the neighbors are cartoonishly friendly. We’ve forged new friendships with other new parents and enjoyed an awful lot of days just spending time on our own as a family. I’ve been able to do some writing work that I feel matters. We’ve learned a whole lot about space and physics, which tends to put things like craptastic landlords and life, death and illness in a very different perspective.

Tonight we’ll have cowboy-style Tuvan Throat singing, tomorrow we’ll go to a funeral for a man who has contributed a great deal to the cultural life of the city. Time, as they say, marches on.

Life soundtrack: Rufus Wainwright, I Am Sam soundtrack, “Across the Universe”
Rufus Wainwright - I Am Sam - Across the Universe

Related Posts:

What we do on a Friday night these days

After swimming in the pool with his dad and Giga until he turned blue, Declan went to sleep earlier than ever (and longer than ever) before. Therefore, I finally got a chance to update the Little Brother’s web site while Dan flipped back and forth between an Indians game and a rerun of The Sound of Music.

Our cultural schizophrenia isn’t limited to musicals vs. sporting events around here. I’ve also been collecting space songs lately, because Declan has to be exposed to every musical genre there is or ever has been before he turns three. I made a cosmic playlist that you can listen to:

Launch it.

Of course, I’m sad that I can’t seem to find “Galaxy” by WAR or Mr. Spaceman by the Byrds, but I’ll keep looking…. Any other suggestions for songs that I’ve missed?

P.S. Hilly Kristal passed away this week. He was the proprietor of New York’s CBGBs – which closed after a dispute with its landlord last year.

If you came here looking for random suggestions about things you can do on a Friday or Saturday night, click here.

Related Posts:

Childhood dreams

Here is a stab at my first blog collaboration, with its topic, “Childhood Dreams,” courtesy of the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas.

This is a tough topic to write about without sputtering into platitudes and cliches, so I’m going to take it literally, and write about a few day and night dreams I had that I can still remember.

Most of my early childhood memories took place in a house on the water in New Jersey, where the backyard, house and front driveway were all bordered by feather-topped bulrushes. My friends and I would taunt each other about seeing the faces of monsters and masked people poking through the tall reeds, sometimes until we actually started to believe that we could see them.

Once, while playing with friends in an ocean cove on a beach in Sea Bright, I stepped in something squishy and awful. Fear of Jellyfish made me jump and swim back to shore without looking back. An hour or two later, two boys I knew had retrieved a small squid from the area. It was partially decapitated – a cephalopod Nearly Headless Nick that they gruesomely stuck inside of a clear sandwich bag and gleefully taunted me with. The sight of it wasn’t nearly as disturbing as the realization that I was likely the squid’s killer. I started to stay out of deep water, believing that a mother squid would soon be after me for revenge.

When fall came and hurricanes flooded my backyard, I lay in my bed and imagined a mother squid, laying in wait in the cul-de-sac behind my house, waiting for the water to rise high enough that she could exact her revenge.

Life soundtrack: Hollywood Symphony Orchestra, Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Selected Hits, Theme From 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Hollywood Symphony Orchestra - Hollywood Symphony Orchestra Selected=

Related Posts:

Interpret this!

Last night I dreamed that I was out at a club with the judges from American Idol, watching a band from Argentina. Everyone was raving about their performance, but particularly the title of their song: “I Am the Pope of Your Embarrassment.”

Then Declan woke me up. I tried to fall back asleep to find out what happened next, but it didn’t work out.

I think this song needs to be written.

Life soundtrack: Dinah Washington, The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury, Vol.7, “Dream”
Dinah Washington - The Complete Dinah Washington On Mercury, Vol.7 (1961) - Dream

Related Posts:

“You’re Already Home”

For some reason, this emerged as Declan’s chosen mantra on the final night that Little Brother’s was open. He pointed at several different people, leaned into me and said, “he’s already home, mommy,” nodding, often putting his hand on my cheek and adding, “we’re already home, mommy.”

On Sunday afternoon, my mom and I were part of the wrecking (or, more accurately, preservation) crew at Little Brother’s. She managed to pry out a painting that covered the fireplace – a phoenix with the word Stache’s that painter Dan Work made there years ago. With some help from friends who came by, we also managed to bring down the Elvis, Billie Holliday and Karen Carpenter paintings that used to be the bathroom walls at Stache’s. Not to mention the bird painted on diamond-shaped plywood from the wall next to the sound board that used to cover one of the front windows at the old place. I took enough pictures of the dressing room, which was filled with fairly historic fliers from both clubs, to hopefully reconstruct the room in a photographic collage.

One of Dan’s doormen climbed a ladder and took down the Little Brother’s sign. We loaded it, and some odds and ends, including a life preserver that said “Save our Stache’s (and Little Brother’s)” into the trunk of my car.

Then I went to a friend’s house to pick up Declan.

“Oh mommy!” he said when I walked in the door. “You’re home! You’re really, really home!”

Dan spent a long night and extra day clearing out the place and cleaning. By Tuesday morning, the last few straggling tools were gathered, and the locks on the building were changed.

Meanwhile, Declan’s continued his monologues about the galaxies as well as random declarations, including “all aboard the choo choo train” and the old standby “just the right SPEED, just the right ANGLE” (which he chanted alone while practicing somersaults on the upstairs futon the other afternoon). Last night, the three of us sat around the dinner table at 6:30, which seemed awfully strangely normal.

In these first couple of days in this new life, the mantra keeps coming, usually while we’re sitting together, reading a book or watching TV: “Mommy, daddy, are you home?”

It’s been exactly what I’ve needed to hear.

Life soundtrack: Chris Smither, Leave the Lights On, “Leave the Light On”
Chris Smither - Leave the Lights On - Leave the Light On

Related Posts:

Clearing out

Its been a week since the final night that Little Brother’s was open. Dan and a few other folks have been busy clearing out the place, which has to be vacated by this weekend. They’ve been organizing a yard sale and silent auction, which has me wondering which things we should keep for Declan‘s teenage bedroom wall.

Those last couple of days were amazing, though. The outpouring of support and thanks for Dan was unbelievable. I posted many of the memories we’ve received through email all over the bar, and people wrote more in a couple of books my mom bought for the occasion, even wrote new ones on bar napkins and stuck them to the wall.

Despite some trickiness surrounding the fireworks, Dan had a great, cathartic set with his band the Wahoos, and Declan helped provide the finale. At the end of their cover of “The Weight” by the band, Declan and I walked in the side door and I put him up on the stage. When the band started playing exit music, Declan started dancing toward his dad, and Dan danced back, finally scooping him up in a hug as the crowd went nuts. That was all it took for Dec to be sold on a brief career in entertainment; he went back out on the stage in front of the crowd several times and danced while people cheered for him. The band started an encore and Declan became more and more distraught as he tried to get Dan’s attention, finally flinging himself back into my arms so I could take him back outside. It took him no time to recompose himself and ask, “more dancing?” But the set was officially over.

Old friends Ned and Roddy Wreckman played a wonderful, fun set that I could hear wafting outside as I settled Declan to sleep in the car, waiting out the Red White and Boom traffic. But the last act didn’t show up and gave no warning that they would bail, so none of the dozens of local musicians in the crowd really had time to work up something to fill the gap. It was disappointing, but a little fitting. The last hour or so that the club was open, the stage was empty. It’s just a reminder that as nourishing and invigorating as music can be, it can also breed dysfunction and a kind of selfishness that most of us, as fans, forgive easily. Dan forgives pretty easily too (many would say too easily for a businessman)

The next day, the Doo Dah’s Unband gathered at Little Brother’s for the last time. Dan walked alongside a coffin scrawled with “Little Brother’s R.I.P.” pounding on a drum inside and carrying a wooden musical note. About halfway through, Declan and I joined him. Lots of people yelled “thank you Dan!” from the street side. Periodically, the Unband would stop and Dan would die in the middle of the road, a group of women keening around him until he was resurrected (they took this so seriously it was hysterical – pictured on the right). At one point, I asked Declan to give his daddy the black musical note before they pulled the shroud over him. Just when it seemed he wasn’t going to do it, he walked over and handed it to him, but damn it all, I couldn’t get my digital camera to shoot quickly enough to catch that moment.

All in all, these were a really happy couple of days, with Dan feeling like Tom Sawyer – a pirate at his own funeral. When people asked how he was, the standard answer was “great today, ask me in a about a week.”

I’ve been through more than my fair share of job losses, including at least one that I had my sense of personal identity all wrapped up in, but that was a breath, compared to Dan’s almost 20 years. I am hopeful that the better part of his history will help him find something else to do that allows him to be himself.

It certainly was surreal on Saturday night as we drove past Downtown and saw all of the traffic on the cap over 670, briefly wondering about the size of the crowd at the club, then remembering that there wasn’t one.

Life soundtrack: Freedy Johnson, Can You Fly, “Tearing Down This Place” Freedy Johnston - Can You Fly - Tearing Down This Place

Related Posts:

There is much to say…

…both good and bad, but it’s just been too wild of a week to find the time to say it. It’s been a week of extraordinary highs and lows.

Aaron Beck wrote a really nice commentary in the Dispatch on the 4th, but it spent most of the week in error-land, so I couldn’t post it sooner:

Little Brother’s Won’t Soon Be Forgotten

There is also a slideshow.

Life soundtrack
: Peggy Lee, The Best of Miss Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”
Peggy Lee - The Best of Miss Peggy Lee - Is That All There Is?

Related Posts: