“POTUS is on the move”

My two least favorite times of day should be my most cherished:  walking the boys to school, and putting them to bed.  They are, on the contrary, two of the most challenging that a parent faces, because what you’re talking about is, essentially, executing advanced logistical operations with the aid and consent of small criminals who have little to no moral foundation.

Let’s face it:  clothing and unclothing little bodies within a specific and relatively unmovable timeframe, and delivering them to an intended destination with their mental and physical beings intact and free of visible signs of torture or abuse, is not an easy proposition to begin with.  Doing it with subjects who respond like crazed jungle animals on crack is…difficult.  Doing it, furthermore, with a smile on your face is tantamount to sainthood.

To be truthful, getting the President of the United States around town is probably easier.  The President doesn’t roll around the bedroom floor and squeal like a stuck pig when you tell him to put on his socks.  Nor does the President do an Irish jig across Broadway with traffic bearing down on you.  Nor does he slump his shoulders when you tell him to brush his teeth.  My guess is he even brushes his teeth without a second reminder.

But that’s a hunch.

 

photo:  fallingutopia

heartless man

There was a mosquito in my office this evening, and I killed it without a second thought.

I saw it doing a lazy air dance in front of me, almost like a drunken kamikaze pilot who’s off course:  it was slowly lilting from right to left over my laptop as I prepared a presentation for Monday on the topic of “stewardship,” which of course includes the proper cultivation and care of God’s creation…and all the animals therein.

It was odd.

While I open my window a crack if my office gets hot, it was closed today, and we are on the 11th floor of a modernized space.  This bug was definitely out of its neighborhood.  Definitely far from home.  Which was probably Queens.

I had read part of an essay in The Sun the other day by Andrew Boyd about his stay and quasi-apprenticeship at Doi Suthep, a Thai monastery.  As part of his regimen, he was to live by certain vows:  no sexual activity, no stealing, and no killing, meaning he “couldn’t even murder mosquitoes.”  I had taken so such mosquito-specific vow, nor would I during the months from April to October.  Neither would I near large amounts of standing water during the months of November through March.

So I swatted at the damn thing first:  you know, the hand clap thing in front of you where you figure it will get dead no matter which way it goes.  But it seemed to have eluded my very un-Zen hands.  (This was indeed the sound of two hands clapping.)  I forgot about it and kept typing, still trying to figure out how it got into our space.

Perhaps fifteen minutes later I looked down along the F key row on my keyboard and just above F8, on the concave power button, there was a small body, struggling for life on its back.  I knew what I must do.  I took my thumb – for with that digit I could exert the maximum pounds per square inch, and the thumb also has fewer nerves it seems than my other fingers and I was feeling a little sensitive about the while Doi-Suthep-no-murder thingy – and I pressed down on its entire being until it was still.

I made sure not to press too much, or my computer would power down.

I picked up the cadaver between said thumb and middle finger and deposited it in the wastebasket on top of my used dinner containers from Cafe Metro downstairs.

Now, some may find me cruel.  Or heartless.

The way I see it, it’s either him or me.  Him or me.  And I have a family to feed.  He’s a bug.  Alone, way above his altitude, far from home, and ostensibly looking for a fight.

Well, he found one.

 

photo:  tux-penguin

On 86th Street

This image of a father stays with me.  It was about two weeks ago on 86th between Amsterdam and Columbus, north side of the street.

He is 30-something with short brown messy hair, almost like that of a statuesque Greek god, and he is wearing a whitish shirt untucked over jeans.  He is with his wife and toddler, though I can’t remember the gender of the child.  He looks down at something the child is doing.  I don’t recall what it was.  He smiles a crinkled smile that shows that the only thing he notices is what his child is doing at that moment.  He doesn’t know I am watching, though I am walking by him only five feet away, and he will likely never know I am writing about him.  I don’t know who he is or his name.  He doesn’t even seem to acknowledge his wife next to him.  He is oblivious to everything else.  His smile is relaxed and consuming.  He is forgetful of himself.  The observer cannot discern any other emotion in his face than joy.

Feeding time

The Central Park Zoo yesterday was packed with families, like our own, who had small children off from school for the week.  The Hassidic families were out in their sartorial splendor, this being Passover week, the men in long black silk coats and robes and women dressed in sensible skirt suits, their children often dressed in matching shirts or sweaters.  The Lovely K was getting overheated just looking at all of them in the 75-degree+ sun.  By 4:00, the entire visitor population, it seemed, was congregated around the sea lion tank, where the three pinnipeds put on a show swimming around their small home and sticking their heads out on cue in anticipation of feeding time.  Around the outer glass wall of the tank – there were two walls with a drainage “moat” in between – people of all ilk hung their arms over the edge and waited:  Hassidic and gentile children whose heads barely cleared the wall, Hispanic teenagers in sparkly blue NY Yankees ball caps, parents hanging back on the top step of three, chatting with each other and letting the sun warm their faces.

 

photo:  nikographer

“the darkness is my closest friend”

Sunday the boys and I went to the “River Run” playground.  All the places have names now, so our circuit is usually River Run, Hippo (adjacent to about 91st Street), Spector (85th and Central Park West), and Diana Ross (CPW and 81st).  Ours is just inside the entrance to Riverside Park at 83rd Street.

 

This is the same steep entrance that 5-year-old Teak decided recently to bomb on his Mini Micro scooter – two wheels in front and one in back – and I, reluctant to let him go but trying to coach him in vain, saw him whiz by me with an undaunted look and then wobble at the end, finally succumbing to the ultimate face plant.  A woman going uphill while I was jogging down to check him out said, “It looked worse than it is.”  Smiled at me like, Don’t worry, he’ll make it to graduation.

 

But Sunday, they played on the rocks, this rise of basalt/gneiss/schist? about twenty feet high outside the iron fence of River Run, for about half an hour.  It was good to get out with them, because I needed to for my mental health.  The boys each had plastic light sabers, two red and one blue.  Carter’s extended like a stiletto with a flick of a plastic button, which will no doubt jam one day soon and render the saber unusable.  A Jedi on the unemployment line.

 

A boy named Mason showed up and “borrowed” Teak’s light saber after Teak had let it sit too long near him on the ground.  He swung it around like he was a 1940s Errol Flynn, truly sword-like, jumped up onto the top of the rock and had fights with Carter and Bennett.  Teak looked somewhat stunned and helpless.  I looked up and must have said something about giving it back, or gave him a knowing look, because he returned it.

 

The past ten days have been yet another depression, but this time I was almost able to look at it objectively.  Like, step outside myself and view it as a commodity, a thing.  In these depressions, I always try to find the trigger.  And find what emotion the trigger triggers.  Because the trigger is the mere event or circumstance that points to some weakness or inadequacy in my life that I can’t deal with.  But instead of some controlled intellectual exercise, I slide into an emotional sinkhole.  I am bombing the hill thinking it’s a great ride and all of a sudden my scooter ends up behind me and my front is exploring the concrete.

 

More and more I wonder if my bipolar disorder is a convenient excuse.  I posed the question to the Lovely K (and first myself) this week – “What would I do if someone came to me today and told me I didn’t have bipolar…I’d have no more excuses!”  I would suddenly have no reason for the slow mornings, the painful shyness or the terrors of loneliness.

 

Yet taking emotional stock is often tricky.  I think aiming directly at an emotional object – fear, sadness, loneliness, etc. – always misses the mark.  It’s like looking at something in the dark, and where the reflected or radiated light from the object hits the point on the retina where the optic nerve pierces it and where there are no photosensitive cells, on the back wall, opposite the pupil, the eye is blind.  You miss the object.  The only way to see it is to look to one side or the other.  You catch a glance and see not its defined edges perhaps but maybe the representation of the whole.  It is only hinted at, yes, but it’s there and you know it.  It’s just that you can’t describe it in detail.

 

Lutrum showed up at one point.  (That’s a boy in Carter’s class and not a medication, in case you were wondering.)  So did Dylan, and Bennett was soon all in a snit because Carter was playing with the other boys, and he was getting short shrift.  My guess is that Bennett was used to being sidekick and now he was the brunt of jokes between older kids.  My mercy side pined for him.  Pined for lost relationship and hurt feelings and crushed identity.  None of which will last past the day.  When he cries, he seems genuinely sad, unlike the angry cry of his younger brother or scared cry of his older one.  Instead he is heart-broken.  Like he’s just lost a puppy.

 

By the end of our playground time, Bennett’s face had black streaks under his eyes, like a football player’s worn off anti-glare grease, caused by the tears he had wiped away with his dirty hands.  I found him sitting underneath the jungle gym, and he explained how Carter was playing with the other boys and kept running from him and wouldn’t let him catch up.  He bent his face toward his knees, as he pulled them closer to his chest.  He was sitting down, with me next to him, and his face crinkled into its crying shape.  His eyes squinted shut, his mouth went out at the sides, and tears kind of popped out of the corners of his eyes the way they do.

 

In twenty years he will not remember that moment.

 

But I most likely will.

 

 

 

graphic:  NYC Parks Dept.

photo:  kirshenfeld

my first writing

At age…6?…while in Mexico with my family over Christmas break, found in a writing tablet that was unearthed when we moved back to NYC and had to weed through odds and ends:

People talking, people laughing, old house, dirty house, people whispering, dirty people, old people, music, Spanish, boys, girls, mother, old father, in rags, old boys, old girls, young father, old mother.