The other day Wood told me that an abandoned building on her way to work was being torn down. "Which one?" I asked, because she walks past probably a dozen abandoned skyscrapers on her way to work. "I don't know," she said. "A white one."

I once spent several hours standing in a forest, watching a mighty tree crack and slowly fall after an ice storm. I was not going to miss this demolition. Juniper and I went with Wood yesterday morning and walked around and around the Detroit Commerce Building in palliative appreciation of its gentle arches and modest ornamentation: this was a building in its final days, thirteen stories that had stood since 1925, sealed off since 1997, now just standing in the way of a parking garage planned for the soon-to-be-restored Book-Cadillac hotel next door. We watched a wrecking ball slam into what had once been one of the largest department stores in a city where everyone once had good jobs and where the city was the place to shop. This building also held dozens of offices and law firms over the years. Those who've been inside it recently say many of the old files and furniture are still in there. That is not unusual. When they demolished a building that once held Motown Records' downtown offices to "beautify" the city before last year's Superbowl, they did not even save Marvin Gaye's desk---some guy exploring the building before it went down found some of Gaye's signed receipts and even a letter to his wife in the desk drawers. Juniper and I spent yesterday morning watching another building and its contents go on its way to nothing more than piles of brick and concrete and a twisted mess of rebar and wiring.

I've been doing this stay-at-home dad thing for about four or five months now, and I have to say it really agrees with me. I have intentionally not written much about it, because I have really been waiting for a day when I could complain about how boring and miserable it is. See, back when I was spending all day away from my kid and sitting in my office gasping for air as all the the sentimentality gushing out of me threatened to drown my be-khakied ass, I figured once I was at home getting a taste of how miserable stay-at-home parenthood actually is I would finally be able to write nasty things about how much being around my kid all day sucks. You know, so I wouldn't sound like such a sappy sonofabitch all the time.

But this lifestyle suits me. I am basically living the life of Riley here, folks. First of all, I don't do a lot of housework. I know that's a real disservice to all the other SAHDs out there slugging it out for equality in the homeplace, but I just don't make "doing dishes" or "picking up" a huge priority every day. Second of all, as far as childcare goes, there's only one of them around here. We play for most of the day; we go to the zoo or museums. She is my buddy. Even without television, she is so easy to distract with all the gewgaws and gimcracks that lie strewn about our house when I have to get something done. Plus, because I am so much bigger and stronger than her, she basically has to go wherever I want her to. I can just scoop her up and carry her around and there's little she can do to stop me. That is the third and most important thing: I love being able to go and do whatever I want. Lately that has meant taking advantage of the warm weather and walking around Detroit's central business district, which pleases us both. She jabbers on and on about the holiday decorations while I think and learn more every day about the city where we've chosen to live. I can't help myself: sometimes I find myself staring at her in my arms, after she's made a funny, smiling face on one adventure of ours or another, and think, Dear God this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. Gag, I know. But bear with me.

When I was growing up, my own father worked from home. He ran his own auto body shop and restored antique automobiles in a building he built in our backyard. He had dozens of his own cars out there, too; most of them arrived in cardboard boxes and left fitted with shiny brass lights and 'uh-ooga' horns, sold to wealthier men who sputtered out of our driveway in the cars my father lovingly restored. I spent my childhood not going on vacations, but going to antique car shows and swap meets around the Midwest, sometimes driving 30 mph for many hours down blue highways in a 1927 Franklin or perhaps a bit faster in a 1931 Buick Phaeton. My dad worked on Packards from the 1920s and Ferraris from the 1960s, but he also repaired dented fenders on Cutless Supremes and Ford Tauri in the eighties when customers asked him to. His favorite era of the automobile was the 1910s through the 1930s, and as far as his personal tastes were concerned there wasn't a car manufactured after 1937 that mattered much. He raised me to respect the curve on a Duesenberg the way some fathers teach their sons about sports, or women. My father taught me that an Auburn automobile is a work of art, and he showed me that he himself was an artist who could turn a heap of rust into a gleaming canvas of steel.

But more than that, one important lesson I think I learned from my dad was to uncompromisingly pursue a life doing exactly what makes me happy. He never said that in so many words, but he showed me by doing what he did, quitting a job he hated to strike out on his own, creating beauty in unexpected ways and always being there when his son and daughter came home from school. I hope that as she grows, Juniper will learn that same lesson from my own life, and from the things we do together.

I have been driving with Juniper past the ruins of old automobile plants, most notably the sprawling Packard campus not far from our house. All around this city there are vacant lots and vacant buildings where other great factories once stood, places where cars were built with names that mean nothing to anyone except people like my dad: Hudson, Lozier, Rickenbacker, Hupp, Reliance, Graham-Paige, and so many others. I sometimes think about those cars when I look up at the empty buildings downtown Detroit; I think about the lives those factories sustained that kept those buildings full of working men and women. But I have been training myself when looking at ruins not to think about the past but to think about the beauty of the ruin itself. This is the city we inherited. What lessons might we learn from these stones?

I like to think they remind us that we are alive.