Dutch Design 101

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, August 30, 2005 | , ,

Metrodad recently sent out a call for designers to create a baby gate that isn't "inspired by preventive pet measures, county lock-ups and Gitmo."

Well, as Juniper teeters on the cusp of the crawling stage (at this point she is using her head to form a tripod for moving backward, let's call this the "scooching" stage) I put on my thinking cap and came up with a solution to keep her from chewing on all of our electrical cords, a solution that would not offend the aesthetics of the design aficionados who regularly visit and sip gin martinis while discussing Renzo Piano within the confines of our modest Edwardian apartment. I think my design is a rather delicate work that somewhat defies categorization, but on the surface it is reminiscent of the early work of Richard Tuttle, or perhaps more recent pieces by Steve DeGroodt. I experimented with various polyurethane polymers and even plywood before I settled on this material, commonly known as "cardboard." I also experimented with various geometric forms and shapes before I settled on this one, which some call a "box," but which is really more properly known as "hollow cardboard rectangular cube in brownTM (patent pending, all rights reserved). I decided to leave all but one side enclosed, allowing for the desired dual functions of both accessibility and confinement. The remaining side has "flaps" to allow for complete enclosure, for those days when the screeching of the infant interferes with your perusal of obscure German websites for that next pair of black, square-framed eyeglasses. Although not completely soundproof, my design effectively dulls incessant chatter and yowling up to 60 percent when the upper flaps are utilized.

This product is one-hundred percent biodegradable and made of purely recycled materials. In addition to the full sized version shown above, I have developed a smaller, portable version to take to Grandma's (as seen below). This product is being offered at the low, low price of $223 full-sized (24" x 36" x 30"), or $178 for the portable version (18" x 24" x 12"). Availability subject to how much shit I order on eBay the week you put your order in.

My fifteen minutes

Posted by jdg | Monday, August 22, 2005 | , ,

Wood's post below about the bus ride and the puking leaves out some crucial details, which is understandable as she was not privy to most of them.

Before we left Tommaso's, I did feel that we were safe from more banana vomit, because moments earlier I had held Juniper's head above the tiny sink in the tiny bathroom while GALLONS of banana vomit gushed out, desperately trying to clean her off as well as wipe off myself before the busboy outside jumping up and down like a two-year old bust down the door to get his pee on. How much more puke could there possibly be?

We left the restaurant a gaggle of Pennsylvanians and puke-covered locals, including a surprisingly pleasant Juniper. When we reached the corner of Kearny and Sacramento, I went against my better judgment and suggested we take the 1 California home. Three buses had come within minutes (you could see the previous two jerking to starts up Sacramento) so I figured the bus wouldn't get very busy and we would have a comfortable ride home on an empty bus.

I underestimated Chinatown. How does Chinatown have an infinite supply of surly octogenarians refilling the bus stops every two and a half minutes? The 1 California is my least favorite bus in the city: the lurching up Nob Hill, the bus's complete failure to even drive down its eponymous street until you get to Presidio. But the worst aspect is the high percentage of difficult riders:

  • The above-described octogenarians, who (god-forbid you choose to sit with a baby rather than give your seat up to them) will bore holes in you with lights streaking from their eyes like characters from that kick-ass Kurt Russell kung-fu trucker movie. Most only ride for a few blocks from Grant to Stockton or Powell, but many of them are riding from Chinatown I to Chinatown II, the inner Richmond.
  • Crazy middle-aged Chinese guys who sit there with like 6 or 7 red plastic bags filled with unidentifiable vegetables, laughing and talking to themselves while popping lychee nuts into their mouth and tossing the shells on the floor.
  • Yuppies who have been working late in the Financial District for whom the 1 California is the fastest way to Pacific Heights. I don't know if it's their use of the iPod or their cell phones or perhaps years of developed indifference, but the Pacific Heights yuppies are completely immune from the dragon-breathed octogenarians who stare at them for sitting while they stand.

Unfortunately, I have not developed such an immunity. For all I know they marched with the Kuomintang halfway across China more than half a century ago. I'm not going to make them stand on a bus teetering up Nob Hill. The bus was almost full of yuppies when we got on, and Wood and the Pennsylvanians went to the very back of the bus to stand or find seats among the yuppies and lychee-spitters. I sat in the first seat with Juniper in the bjorn. A few stops later, I looked outside the bus and saw about seventeen octogenarians crowding around the bus door like it was a Beijing ticket counter. Shit! As they piled on, already tuning their laser-gaze to focus on my youthful, able body, I stood up and walked towards the back of the bus. The yuppies avoided eye contact, I resigned myself to standing. But suddenly this old Italian dude was like, "Kid, you can't stand. Not with a baby! You CANNOT stand!" and he proceeded to yank my coattail and try to offer me his seat. "No, it's okay," I said. "It's really okay." He kept yanking on my coat and I swear I almost smacked his arm to let go.

Sometimes I prefer to stand on the bus with her. It gives Juniper the opportunity to see out the windows, which prevents her from becoming unpleasant. Plus if she starts whining I can bounce up and down. The problem with remaining afoot after such a scene was the staring. I've been to some remote parts of China that don't get to see whiteys too often, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with the Chinese staring thing. But there's something about seeing a whitey male (or maybe any male) with a baby strapped to his chest that causes old Chinese ladies to stare at me in a way that makes me really uncomfortable. When it happens on the street, Wood is always like, "Cool down, dude. They're staring at the baby, it's not about you. It's okay to stare at a baby. Chill." And that always puts me in my place, even if we have walked twenty paces and the old lady is still back there, mouth agape, staring at me. But the other night, Wood was at the back of the bus and not there to remind me of this while dozens of old Chinese ladies sat there and STARED at me. And I have to say it, they don't smile. They look so angry. Why? Is it me or is it the badly painted-on eyebrows? Why don't they smile? Babies are cute, right? If they're staring at the baby, WHY DON'T THEY SMILE? I started making eye contact with each of them, my face and eyes saying "What? What? What?" Alas, I am nowhere near as powerful as them. They have staring down.

As the bus gradually emptied, I found my way to the back where Wood and her family had seats. The bus was about half full, and I was tense as hell. Then Papa Wood got out his camera. Papa Wood is the kind of guy who will spend twenty minutes positioning a camera on a rock or a ledge and hitting the timer-button and rushing up to get in the picture himself, five or six times, over and over and over while his subjects groan. He will do this in touristy places. In restaurants. In living rooms. On the street. On a boat. He started snapping pictures of all of us on the bus, and this gave a reason for all the octogenarians to crane their necks and start staring all over again. Even the lychee-eaters wanted to get in on the staring. Who wouldn't? Who takes flash photographs on MUNI?

Then Juniper started vomiting again, and I reached out to catch it in the palms of my hands, lest it mix in with the lychee shells and wet, wadded up newspapers littering the floor of the bus.

This gave them something to really stare at, and I leaned back and closed my eyes. Even the yuppies woke up from their post-work daze and joined in on the staring. Is this how it feels to be a celebrity? People STARING at you, papparazzi snapping shots of you in inappropriate places, having sordid details about your child vomiting plastered on the internet? Uggh. And people go to Hollywood wanting to be famous?

The impossible sit-up

Posted by jdg | Monday, August 01, 2005 |

I am so glad that we had a little girl.

Don't get me wrong, little boys are cool and I hope we eventually get to have one, but once we saw the penisless fetus in Wood's uterus, I pulled my fist down out of the air like a golfer and said "hoo-wah!" Fear #1 had been instantly alleviated. Fear #1 was that we would have a little boy, and then another little boy, and then another, so on and so forth. This happened with my aunt, who wanted a little girl but kept having boy after boy after boy. Sometimes it seemed like there were eight or nine little boys in that household, biting at each other's ankles and growling at each other and yanking hunks of meat away from each other with their teeth. So like wolves, little boys are.

And it doesn't get any better when they're in high school. Everyone says to me, "aren't you worried about when she starts dating" and I always say, "yeah, but at least she'll never have to do the impossible sit-up."

"What's the impossible sit-up?" they ask. The impossible sit-up is Fear #2.

Let me back up. I weighed 98 lbs as a high school freshman and I stood 5'2" tall. Yet inexplicably, I wanted to join the high school ice hockey team. It wasn’t like you actually had to try out for the team and survive cuts or anything like that. No, our hockey team took anybody who was willing to change into the awful-smelling equipment and sweat for an hour on ice every day. They even took kids who couldn’t ice skate. I was one of them.

I was a complete failure when I got out on the ice. I'd like to blame it on the equipment. I bought some skates for ten bucks from an ad in the paper and paid ten bucks more for the shin pads. The cheapness runs deep, people. The coach loaned me a pair of shoulder pads that must have been leftover from the seventies when most of the guys on the high school hockey team had mustaches, like they did in the pictures outside the locker room. Those shoulder pads had generations of sweat soaked into them. What had been white once now had a yellow patina of shoulder sweat. I felt like it was giving me rashes. I thought of the words the wrestling team threw around: Scabies. Ringworm. Hookworms. Roundworms. Tapeworms. Pinworms. Whipworms. Bladder worms. Porkworms. Flatworms. Flukes.

Even worse than the fear of worms, I had to wear a boy's-sized jock strap. The elastic on the men's wasitbands wasn't small enough for me. The real problem with a boy's sized jock strap is that the "cup" corresponded to the presumed "size" of the user. The seniors on the team wore cups the size of birdbaths. They could have been filled with honey-sweet mead and passed around at a great Viking feast, they were so big. Meanwhile the cup inside my jock strap was hardly bigger than a hotel ashtray. The day I went out and bought an adult-sized jock strap (with cup) was one of the best days of my life.

Although right-handed, the stick I bought was a left-handed stick. I never corrected myself, and I thought my left-handed status would make me more useful somehow, like a lefty pitcher in baseball. I imagined there might come a need someday for a scrawny left-hander with virtually nonexistent shoulder-pads and scabies whose nuts were protected by an ashtray-sized jock and who couldn’t skate at all to go out on the ice and squeak through the legs of some colossal defenseman to score the winning goal in the Thanksgiving tournament.

Alas, there never was such a need.

I learned about the impossible sit-up before the season even started. They start you out at the beginning of your freshman year, when they have off-ice training like jogging and calisthenics. They start talking about the impossible sit-up then. They stand in a semi-circle, sizing you up.

"I think he can do the impossible sit-up."

"I don’t know. He’s a little scrawny."

"He can do it."

"There's no way he can do it."

This keeps up until you’re practically begging to prove you can do it. Scrawny as I was, I considered myself a very talented sitter-upper. Sitting up didn't involve ice skating. It didn't involve knocking shoulders with a guy (literally) three times my size. I was sure this would be my best chance to impress them. I could do the impossible sit-up. I was sure of it.

Four months later, near the end of the season, they tell us it’s time to do the impossible sit-up. They wait until it has been an exceptionally grueling practice. Everyone is sweaty, tired. They usher all the freshmen into the hallway and one by one you go into the locker room to try the impossible sit-up. I had no idea what it was. When it was my turn, they led me into the locker room where everyone was gathered around an open space in the middle of the floor. You look at the freshmen who have gone before you but they won’t meet your eyes, they stare down into their laps, ashamed. You sit there in that open space on the smelly rubber locker-room floor tiles and two seniors come over and get down on their knees right next to your face. One of them takes a damp towel and covers your face with it, and then they both put their knees on the towel so it is taut over your face. Then they ask you if you want a couple practice runs. You say yes. They keep their knees on the pillow and you try to lift your head. You can’t. You hear sniggering. Then the two guys ask if you are ready. You say you are. They say, "Now!" and suddenly they let go of the towel and your nose is flung straight up into, well, if all goes according to plan, right up into the crack of Paco Perez’s sweaty, hairy Mexican ass. Paco was the goalie, and I think the reason he was the goalie was because he had such an incredibly fat ass, once they stuffed it into the goalposts it was virtually impossible for anyone on the other team to shoot past it.

I was oblivious to what was going on when they let go of the towel. And so I tried to sit up and they yanked the towel away and somehow by the grace of God, Paco wasn’t quite in position as he hovered over me and my head just glanced off his sweaty right butt cheek. There were shrieks of excitement then disappointed groans from the gathered team. Then they brought in the next kid. Poor next kid. They were chanting for him. Paco put himself right down there and the kid caught wind of what was going on he tried to squirm away but Paco just sat right down on his face. There was no escape. And I just sat there and watched, knowing full well what was going to happen.

Why didn’t I warn him? Why didn’t I say anything? I think about the other freshmen who went in before me. Why didn’t they warn me, sitting there with that ass smell on their faces? What is it about men and locker rooms? The impossible sit-up has its more homoerotic derivations. Circle jerks. Cum-on-a-cracker.

I know girls do all kinds of horrible things in high school too. I know they can be incredibly catty and emotionaly destructive. But it was with a sigh of relief that I learned we were having a girl and I realized I would never have to worry about Juniper doing the impossible sit-up. Fear #2 averted.

And if we have a boy, someday, I'm not sure what I'm more worried about: him having to do the impossible sit-up, or him doing the sitting.