The Little Lebowski, Part 2

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 29, 2006 | , ,

[The following is the second fragment of the script for "The Little Lebowski," a sequel to the Big Lebowski that thankfully was never made; parts of the proposed script were recovered by an associate at the Sepulveda Boulevard Kinkos in Van Nuys, CA, after a frazzled Ethan Coen rushed in to copy a small stack of typewritten pages, accidentally leaving several in the recycling bin. The first fragment is here. Note: if you have not seen the movie, this will not make any sense]

BOWLING PINS
There is the sound of pins scattering in the background noise of the bowling alley. The Dude is leaning his head against a pay phone set between the lockers and the men's room. Walter stands near him, staring down the barrel of a plastic Uzi submachine gun pointed at the screen of a shoot-em-up-style arcade game called 'Operation Wolf.' The Dude keeps entering numbers into the telephone.

DUDE
What the fuck is wrong with me, I can never remember the code for my goddamn machine!

WALTER
Um, might that not have something to do with all of that marijuana you've been smoking there, Dude? I'll tell you what, once my band of brothers in 'Nam started smoking that stuff, their short-term memories as well as their hand-to-hand-combat skills deteriorated. You think the fucking gooks were smoking dope down the tunnels with their rat balls and rice meat?

DUDE
It's not the pot, Walter. I'm pretty sure pot got all the brain cells it was ever going to take from me twenty years ago. I think I'm just getting old, man.

WALTER
[screaming at video game] Goddamn it I shot that last goddamn canister of life potion! [turns to the dude] Well, it's about time you got a cell phone anyways.

DUDE
We've had this conversation, Walter. The Dude does not do cell phones.

WALTER
All I'm saying is that you don't have to know a fucking code to check your voicemail when you've got a fucking cell phone.

DUDE
First of all, Walter, this is my answering machine, not voicemail. Second of all. . .well fuck it I can't remember what's second of all. See what I'm talking about?

WALTER
Well, I still don't understand why a call from that fucking strumpet should take precedence over practice for the league quarterfinals.

DUDE
Watch it, man, that's the mother of my son you're talking about.

WALTER
Sorry, Dude.

DUDE
Walter, I'm just not in any position to turn down, you know, any vagina that comes my way. Until last month I hadn't been with a real woman for over two years. Not since that checker girl from Ralph's I met at Smokey's barbecue.

WALTER
That's nothing. Unless you count Suki down at the Tokyo Spa down on Lincoln Boulevard, I haven't been with a woman since 1987.

DUDE
Christ, Walter. Well, anyway, the two last times I brought the kid back after my Saturday with him, well, you know, Maude and I, we've ended up sharing, you know, the physical act of love.

WALTER
You mean coitus?

DUDE
That's exactly what I mean, Walter.

WALTER
Way to go, Dude! If you will it, it is no dream.

DUDE
Yeah, well, I don't think this has just been fun and games. I saw her doing that leg thing.

WALTER
Oh. I see. When we were married, Cynthia always wanted more than one kid.

DUDE
Don't she and Marty Ackerman have two kids now?

WALTER
Shira and Ben, yeah, they're sweet kids.

DUDE
She named her daughter She-ra? Like the Princess of Power?

WALTER
Dude, you're such a shlemiel. Shira is the Hebrew word for 'song.'

DUDE
Oh. [dials again] I think I got it!

MAUDE'S VOICE
[on the machine] Jeffrey this is Maude. I need for you to come up here this evening. I'm sending the driver. If he doesn't find you at home, I've instructed him to look for you at that odious bowling parlor you frequent. This is important Jeffrey. It is in regard to your son.

END SCENE

MAUDE'S LOFT

[Dude walks in humming Suzie Q., turns on a light, clearly now at ease in the unusual space. He walks over to the bar and fixes himself a White Russian after sniffing the carton of half-n-half.]

DUDE
Maude? You here?

MAUDE [voice coming from the darkness of the cavernous space]
I'm just finishing putting Egon to bed, Jeffrey, I'll be out in a minute. Make yourself a drink.

DUDE
Yeah, uh, Maude, you know, I've been thinking about what's happened, um, the last couple of times I've come here. And I'm not really sure it's such a good idea.

[Maude steps out from a private room in one corner of the loft; she is wearing a bathrobe with cleavage indicating that it's all she's wearing]

MAUDE
Why, whatever do you mean, Jeffrey?

DUDE
I mean, the sex.

MAUDE
You're not interested in sex?

DUDE
It's just. Well, Maude, it's just I'm not sure I'm ready to have another kid, man.

MAUDE
Whoever said anything about having another child, Jeffrey?

DUDE
I saw you doing, you know, that leg thing the last time, you know, while I was walking off to take a piss.

MAUDE
[pauses] Right. It's true, Jeffrey. I do want another child. I would like to give little Egon a sister. He is nearly three-years old now and all of the texts I have been reading suggest that this the perfect age for him to have a sibling. Besides, having Egon hasn't turned out nearly as bad as you thought, has it?

DUDE
No. I do actually kind of like the little guy. We do have some fun times. But something tells me that having two is just going to be a lot more work, man. A lot more of a strain on the Dude's lifestyle, you know what I'm trying to say.

MAUDE
If you won't help me, Jeffrey, I may be forced to find another source of semen. Or I might even pick out one of those baby girls next time I'm in Beijing. But I would prefer my children to fully share their genetic makeup. Dr. R. Trivers has suggested that the normal antipathies of sibling rivalry are tempered when the siblings share genes, providing an evolutionary motivation for love between them. I have been doing a great deal of reading about sibling relationships. All of my understanding is theoretical, of course, as I am an only child and want nothing more than to provide Egon with a sibling, thus sparing him the loneliness I knew as a child. Do you have any siblings, Jeffrey?

DUDE
I have a sister. She's a lawyer in Atlanta.

MAUDE
Is she older or younger?

DUDE
Older.

MAUDE
Very good. You understand, don't you Jeffrey? I need you.

DUDE
Well, I suppose it would require us to adhere to a pretty strict, uh, sex regimen, you know, to keep my testicles limber?

MAUDE
Au Contraire, Jeffrey, I would ask that you abstain from any onanistic behaviors over the next several months. You must refrain from any 'servicing of yourself,' or 'jerking off' to use the parlance of our times. I need you to avoid 'any hand-to-gland combat,' and ask you to stop 'tickling your trout,' as it were.

DUDE
Um, Maude, you know, that's a lot to ask of the Dude.

MAUDE
Actually, I don't care what you do with your rod or your johnson so long as you do not waste your ejaculate. So you can 'pound your pud' as much as you'd like, but please refrain from 'busting a nut' or 'tossing off' what I need you to have in full supply.

DUDE
Oh come on, Maude, that's like asking me to drink non-alcoholic beer. Or smoke industrial-grade hemp.

MAUDE
Regardless, Jeffrey, I expect the only place for you to shoot any of that sperm of yours these next few months is into my vaginal canal. And only when my OBGYN tells me that I might be ovulating.

DUDE
Mmmm. Sounds like fun.

MAUDE
Yes, well, also if you don't already I would ask you to start wearing boxer shorts.

DUDE
Clearly you do not know the Dude. The Dude does not do briefs.

MAUDE
And now is not the time for him to start. And Jeffrey, how much actual marijuana do you smoke every day?

DUDE
OK, let's not even go there. That is a battle I do not think you can win. Besides, man, I'm not even sure I want another kid. I've just got my new rug, you know, and. . .and my place is looking all together and I'm pretty comfortable with the arrangement we have now, man. The first kid really, you know, shook things up in old Duder's life as it is, you know, and I'm just afraid another one would. . .

MAUDE
Let me ease your fears, Jeffrey. I certainly wouldn't expect any more of your time with a second child than what you already give to the first, which is more than adequate. Those six hours each month are more than I expected, to be sure. And if I am lucky enough to give birth to a girl, Jeffrey, I would not mind it at if I could rear her alone. I would like to shield her from all patriarchal and paternal influence.

DUDE
Huh. Why do you even want another kid? What about, uh, all those Achievers?

MAUDE
Yes, well, I want another of my own. [Maude rolls her eyes] Recently I was speaking with my father, and he told me that Brandt and his lover had adopted a baby girl, and he wanted me to bring Egon over there so we could all take a look at the poor thing. When we arrived and I held her in my arms for the first time I said to myself, "I have got to get another one of these." I have since been channeling all these maternal emotions into a new set of paintings using my bungee ceiling harness and menstrual fluid. You know, Jeffrey, I've made so many of these paintings I've had to farm out more menses blood from some women down in Tijuana. You are welcome to take a look at my paintings if you'd like.

DUDE
No. Thank you.

MAUDE
Very well. Another reason that I want to have another child now rather than later is that I look forward to ridding my home of all of these miserable plastic toys and furniture as soon as possible. I do wonder if I could get Assa Ashuach to design me some nursery furniture. I'm afraid he'd find me a bit tedious now that I've bred.

DUDE
Uh-huh.

MAUDE
Jeffrey, we certainly don't need to have sex tonight if you don't desire it. Relax, 'do a jay,' as you like to say. Finish your drink, I'll make you another. We could just talk.

[The Dude dutifully pulls a small joint out of his front-shirt pocket and Maude holds out an old-fashioned cigarette lighter. Maude then reaches for a drink next to the Dude, and her nipple slips out of her bathrobe. She doesn't notice it for a second, but when she does she coyly looks at him and covers it up. The Dude chokes on smoke a little]

DUDE
So what do you want to talk about?

MAUDE
Jeffrey, have I ever showed you up close how the carpets match the drapes?

DUDE
What are you talking about, man, the floor in here is all concrete. Oh. Right.

[End scene]

Wood chose this one. I think she felt some kinship with the freckled fella up front.

This is the second part of the story of my summer spent as a cowherd on a dysfunctional farm in western Ireland in 1998. A lot of nice people said they wanted to hear more so I'm indulging whatever inclination I have for storytelling today. The first part is here.

I last left off talking about how my boss had been away on a two-week bender down in Milltown-Malbay, and how the first sign I saw of her by the backdoor where I took off my wellington boots was a red keychain hanging on a hook that read Sexy Bitches Carry Red Keychains.

Before I met her, everybody in West Clare seemed compelled to warn me about this woman. A teenage girl who worked in the bed and breakfast looked over my shoulder while I vacuumed under the tea cart: "You're gonna have to do better than that when Aideen comes round." A regular guest from Dublin munched on a piece of soda bread and said, "She's an intense woman, but very kind inside. When she yells at you, don't let yourself get too worked up about it." Tessie, her mother-in-law who had been running the farm in her absence scrubbed potatoes over murky water in the sink said, "My daughter worked at a hotel in Switzerland. They were very hard on her. She takes it out on us. Sure, you'll see for yourself when she gets back." A long-haired hippie girl who worked at the laundry in Lisdoonvarna bent over and handed me a sack full of quilts: "You're working for Aideen? Jesus, fair play to you."

After I first saw her keychain, I heard her screaming in the kitchen:

"Oh Jaysus Mary and Saint Joseph what's been going on here while I've been gone. For fuck's sake who's been scrubbing the pots?" I walked into the kitchen and she sized me up with a quick look. "Are you Jimmy, then? What time do you think we get started on this farm, Jimmy? It's nearly seven-tirty. It must be Tir na nOg out there."

Tessie later explained to me that in Irish mythology Tir na nOg was a land of infinite beauty, where sickness and death did not exist, and everyone sat around doing nothing all day. For the rest of summer, Aideen referred to the pile of hay covered in moldy duvets where I slept in the barn only as Tir na nOg. She was in her fifties; her face plotted with moles sprouting long white hairs that she never bothered to cut. And dear Jesus and Mary and Saint Joseph I don't know about the sexy part but she was a fucking bitch. She was the kind of woman who could silence a room full of four chattering farmhands with one look from her crooked eyes.

I avoided her as much as I could for the rest of the summer.

When I got done with my pubic-hair duties one day, there was an old man wearing a tweed cap and muddy wellingtons down in the kitchen drinking a glass of whiskey with her. It wasn't even close to noon yet. Aideen seemed in good spirits. "Davey O'Dwyer," she said with an emphasis and annunciation that connoted all the good times they'd shared over the years, "it's good to see you, crater." She introduced me to him and I sat down across the butcher block table from him, staring at his farmer's hands, dirt crusted into every crack and crevasse of his knuckles. His nails were black with blood and filth, caked with toil. They reminded me of my own father's hands, both of which had lost several digits over the years that were reattached dead and bloated in several frankenstein-esque surgeries. Not long before I'd left for Ireland he'd called to tell me he'd just driven across town to the hospital with his right ring finger sitting in a cup full of ice in his lap.

"Davey," Aideen said. "Will you take Jimmy here down to the fields to look after that lame heifer?"

In Ireland, a man's masculinity is not tied to his automobile as it is in the states. Davey drove a miniature Ford hatchback of some unfamiliar vintage. I would like to say that he and I had an interesting conversation on the drive down to the fields, but the truth is I didn't even know if the man spoke English. From what I could tell he communicated in some proto-Indo-European dialect spoken only by his particular tribe of bog-dwelling muck farmers. He seemed to understand me just fine, though, but in the end it was decided that simple grunting and pointing were best. In the car I got a better look at the rest of him: a swelling belly; a drinker's face below the cap, checkered with the parabolas of age; a short, red nose. The face of a well-fed farmer. A face meant for smiling.

He drove me past the ruins of old phosphate mines, farms and abbeys. When we got to the field he removed a pre-loaded syringe from the glove box and we walked through a huge field that stretched several hundred yards to granite cliffs impeding the progress of the sea. The timid cattle scurried away from us, and Davey zeroed in on a cow who was favoring one of her back legs. The karstified ground was so full of sinkholes and limestone crevasses that cows often broke their legs while grazing. Davey walked right up to to the lame heifer, laid his palm against the ridge of her back and she let out a tremendous fart in his face that oozed out a couple pounds of steaming shit that landed right on his wellies. He didn't seem to notice, or even say a word. I turned aside to prevent him from seeing the surprise on my own face, suppressing laughter. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him push down the plunger on the hypodermic, pushing morphine into her haunch. She jumped forward. He pulled out the needle. That was all we did for her.

Over the next few days I realized Aideen was sending Davey along with me while I did my tasks, probably to make sure I didn't do anything that would endanger her entire herd. I'm glad she did. After several days with Davey, I became accustomed enough to his manner of speaking that if I trained my ears I could make out a few words of the Queen's English. He came with me one day when I was supposed to move Christopher to a different field where I'd seen some heifers "bulling" each other, their euphemism for hot lesbian bovine action. Christopher was Aideen's bull. He slept in the barn with me. Before we left, Aideen splashed us with holy water and said several hail Marys.

Davey walked right up to Christopher and grabbed the rope attached to the ring in his nose. "He's as gentle as a baby if you've got him by the nose." We walked down back roads for nearly an hour. Christopher was slow and stubborn. But when we were about halfway, he surprised the both of us by charging through a low spot in a stonewall. "Oh Jesus," Davey said mournfully. "He's after Gussie's heifers."

Unfortunately, there was a bull in that field, too, and he silently watched Christopher head for the cows and then watched us charge over the wall after him. "Grab a piece of wood, lad," Davey shouted. "Hit him in the ring." Davey surged towards Christopher, holding his blackthorn like a bayonet. But Gussie's bull was already charging. The two bulls rammed heads and roared. "Oh Jesus," yelled Davey, reversing himself at full speed back over the wall. Again, I followed. The bulls thrashed at each other for a few seconds, then Christopher got loose and retreated straight towards the low wall, leaping through it, tossing old stones all over the road.

The two bulls snorted and panted at each other. We stood there for a moment before Davey ran down to Christopher and swept the rope up in his hand, swatting at the bull's nose with his stick, dragging the giant beast down the road.

"When two meet there's usually certain death for one." We looked at Christopher, timid now from the fight and breathing heavily. "He's absolutely knackered," said Davey.

"What's that sound?" I asked. There was a loud rapid rumbling noise in the air.

"'Tis his heart," Davey said.

Gussie's bull snorted fifty feet behind us. Christopher would only move twenty feet at a time before he needed a rest. We walked and waited to the music of his heart. "A bull is never the same after something like that," Davey said, handing the rope off to me.

* * * * *

That night we celebrated in the spa, which is what the locals called the town of Lisdoonvarna. We started in the afternoon, actually, and the only people in the pub when we got there were two priests eating egg sandwiches. Davey drank three pints of Guinness for every one I finished, and I never saw him exchange any money with the bartender. We moved on to a pub called "the Ritz" where people were dancing. Davey was telling the story of Christopher the bull to anyone who'd listen. I sat there silently, wondering how a man could drink as much as he was drinking without a seismic shift in his sobriety. Aideen had told me stories of his drinking:

"Davey is a great fighter, he is a man that loves his row. One time he was down at the Ritz with my brother before he died. There were two men who got into a fight and were throwing punches and pushing each other all over the bar. Now my brother was the type of man who would avoid a fight at all cost; if you told him the moon was red he'd say, 'Yes, indeed it is.' When the men stopped hitting each other, they started to argue about who started the fight. One went up to Michael and Davey and asked who threw the first punch. Michael said all he'd seen was the head on his pint. But Davey looked over at the bigger of the two and said, 'I saw this dirty fucker punch yeh in the eye!' Any time there's a row in a pub, there will be loads of drink afterwards. So that night they showed up here at the farmhouse piss drunk and I was still up preparing cooked meats and salads for a big dinner the next day. They sat down at the kitchen table quietly giggling at each other and I told 'em to stay away from the food. But of course the second I turned my back Davey was into it. When I turned around I saw him lifting a fork full of meat and sticking it in his ear. He was so drunk he couldn't tell his mouth from his ear, or his arse for that matter, and he just sat there with a big smile on his face and a fork full of meat in his ear."

The pub filled up and I grew extremely drunk. Davey kept bringing me pints. Occasionally his friends Paddy O'So-And-So and Seamus MacSomethingorother would come up to me to me and accost me in their indecipherable accents made worse by the din. I smiled and nodded. Aideen eventually showed up, but she was, in her own words, fluthered. Turns out what all those people should have warned me was that she was intolerable when sober, but a gas woman when drunk. We talked and laughed. Eventually all these filthy men and their extremely ugly women started dancing and I got caught up in it. At one point I remember Davey hoisted me on his shoulders and covered himself up in a long coat and whirled me around the room while some hippies played traditional music with some old men in the corner. I think he was doing a fucking jig below me. The room was spinning even after I stopped dancing, and I thought about Wood. She was five hours earlier in Washington D.C., interning for a Republican congressman and we hadn't spoken in the three weeks I'd been on the farm. Some girl who washed dishes at a hotel was talking to me when my head hit the table. I'd counted 23 pints that Nicky had consumed, far more than me, and he may have drank even more when I wasn't looking. At 11:30 the man himself dragged me like Christopher the bull back to his Ford hatchback and dropped me off back at the farm. Except for the three old stone walls he clipped with his side mirror on the way there, you'd hardly know he'd been drinking.

Another humbling evening

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, November 21, 2006 |

Friday night we took Juniper to the Detroit Institute of Arts for a free concert by this guy named Dan Zanes. Some of you may have heard of him. He sings earnest yet tolerable children's music. Judging by the hordes of hip, suburban parents and their offspring competing for floor space, Mr. Zanes (think Sideshow Bob after a thrift-store shopping spree) is quite popular. I embarrassed my wife by walking around saying things like, "Holy shit, I haven't seen this many white people in one place since we moved to Detroit!" and, "Well, we're about to have our Dan Zanes cherries popped. How do you feel about that?" and "Kid's music is kind of like Christian rock--- the bar sure is set considerably lower."

The concert was held in the Rivera court of the museum, a giant room covered in murals painted by Diego Rivera in 1932 when he came to Detroit weighing 316 pounds and ready to observe and paint the industry of what was then arguably the greatest city in North America. It took him 11 months and when he was done he'd lost 108 pounds. In 2001, I saw the White Stripes play two free sets in that beautiful room while Jack White's dozens of nieces and nephews ran around and danced with all of the hardcore Detroit hipsters who weren't already over the band by then. If I put my hands over my ears and squinted last Friday night, while I watched dozens of happy kids jumping and dancing around in front of the stage (including one young girl who did The Worm extremely well) I could almost imagine that amazing night five years ago.

Mr. Zanes was nice enough to acknowledge it was the most beautiful room he'd ever played. He and his "friends" played a lot of fun songs and the kids really had a good time. Juniper decided she enjoyed dancing, so much so that at one point she uncharacteristically wandered away from us leaning up against the wall and immersed herself in a crowd of dancing older kids:

We watched her with that clenched-throat terror that parents have when their baby is out of reach in a sea of writhing preschoolers, but she seemed to be getting along so well dancing with them I half expected to see her being passed above their heads, crowd surfing up to the stage. I left the show with several conclusions, presented here in no particular order: (1) kids are awesome dancers, especially very-excited little boys with bowl cuts; (2) you should use a quiet voice when talking about how easy it would be to steal Van Gogh's Portrait of Postman Roulin if you only had a Bugaboo stroller; (3) guys who write baby blogs shouldn't be too judgmental of guys who sing songs to dancing babies; (4) free Dan Zanes concerts are totally worth it; and (5) two of Dan Zanes' friends are kind of hot:

From the great Helen Levitt.

You wouldn't know it from the hundreds of stories on parenting issues he writes for Blogging Baby or from the sorts of things he writes around here, but there was a time when Dutch was scared shitless of becoming a parent. We were living in San Francisco, and every month when he heard me pull the tampon box out from under the sink it was as if the collective weight of a thousand dirty diapers had been lifted off our apartment. Each time I dragged him into our neighborhood baby gear store looking for a gift for one of the growing number of children being born to my friends, he would break out into hives while looking at books with titles like Finding a Preschool for Your Child in San Francisco and Finding a Nanny for Your Child in the San Francisco Bay Area, and inevitably he would storm out of the store to hyperventilate on the sidewalk outside. "We're not going to have a kid in this city," he'd say. "There's no way I'm going to deal with all that crap here."

It came as quite a shock to me, then, when one day in 2003, well over a year before I got pregnant, he came home with the newly-reissued Miroslav Sasek book, This is San Francisco, which at first he claimed to have purchased for the classic mid-century illustrations, but which he later admitted to buying so that one day our kids could read it and learn all about the city where their parents lived when they were young.

Today Juniper is sick. Her symptoms include a runny nose, general crabbiness, whining, all sorts of carrying on, crappy sleeping, and lots of complaining. The only weapon we seem to have against it all is reading books. It's the only thing that makes her forget how miserable she is, and so we spend hours reading the same ones, repeatedly caving to the dreaded, "Again? Again, please?" and starting from the beginning, over and over and over.

Last night Juniper finally got tired of her own favorites and toddled over to her bookshelves in search of something new. She eventually settled on This is San Francisco. It's a big book, and after she lugged it across the room over to my lap last night, I read it to her for the first time in many months, the first time when we weren't sitting in the middle of the city portrayed in the book. She was quiet and didn't protest at the lack of dogs or monkeys or babies, the way she had the last time I'd tried to read it to her. I assumed she was just tolerating it because the snot filling up every spare hole in her head made it hard for her to hear, but on the 5th page she interrupted me, pointing to a drawing of typical San Francisco houses lining a hilly, typical San Francisco street, and said: "Home?" On the next page, she pointed to another house and asked, "Mama dada, live?"

For the first time since we've moved here, it felt like someone had stolen my heartbeat, and I was overwhelmed with longing for San Francisco. The page featuring a drawing of Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, where I reminded Juniper about how we used to feed the ducks after picking up coffee and bagels, reduced me to tears. In that moment I felt foolish for ever denying that I miss our old home. Co-workers and new friends have asked me so many times some permutation of the question of how could we ever leave San Francisco, don't we miss it, and wasn't it so much better than Detroit. I've shrugged those questions off every time, expressing mild irritation as I tried to explain my new love for this new city. Moving here was risky in so many ways, that I think I was afraid that even the smallest acknowledgment that San Francisco was a city well worth missing would be an acknowledgment of our worst fears: that moving here could be a mistake.

Now that we've been here for two months, I'm confident enough in our decision to move to Detroit that I can allow myself some space to miss San Francisco. Our well-worn apartment on 2nd Avenue was the place where my boyfriend turned into my husband, and after that, where we grew together from people terrified of accidentally becoming pregnant to the parents that we were both born to be.

Sweet Juniper Fall Mix CD

Posted by jdg | Monday, November 13, 2006 | ,

Late last night we returned from Durham, North Carolina, where over the course of the weekend I believe I ate my own weight in pulled-pork sandwiches. And in between bites of stringy, vinegary pig, there was a wedding. Wood woke up sore-all-over Sunday morning after some serious imbibing and dancing her ass off to bluegrass music. I love watching my wife dance. She has so much fun. And dancing well to bluegrass is not easy; yet Wood did it all night with some serious aplomb.

While in Durham, we met up with some folks who read this blog, one of whom has cooked dinner for Michael Stipe and designed books for Duke University and the other who started, oh, the greatest independent record label in the world and used to play bass for some band. I was seriously out of my league in terms of cool-parent credibility as we hung out with those two and their beautiful daughters (and one very cool husband).

North Carolina is just so lovely. And it was still fall down there with warm and crunchy leaves on Saturday and wet, mournful winds on Sunday. I just put together a mix of songs we listened to in our rented PT Cruiser [yikes!] while driving through Durham and Raleigh and the soggy cotton fields and fallow tobacco plots outside of town looking for backwoods barbecue shacks and whirlygig farms. When Juniper was asleep, that is. While she was awake all three of us sat in awe of the Sirius radio stations that played kids music. I'll say this directly: if you ever hear me say a single positive thing about the Wiggles that is officially the time to kill me.

1. Great Lakes Swimmers- Moving Pictures, Silent Films
2. Bonnie Prince Billy - Strange Form of Life
3. Guillemots - Made-Up Lovesong #43
4. Yo La Tengo - Beanbag Chair
5. The Blow - Parentheses
6. Edith Frost - Playmate
7. Pajo - Who's That Knocking at my Door
8. Aberdeen - Cities and Buses
9. D+ - Our Father
10. Mirah - La Familia (remix by Guy Sigsworth)
11. Smog - The Orange Glow of a Stranger's Living Room
12. Bishop Allen - Butterfly Net
13. Pinetop Seven - Made a Whisper Out of Me
14. Okkervil River - Listening to Otis Redding at Home
15. The Shins - Phantom Limb

As always, you can listen to it streaming here.

Thursday Morning Wood: Late night edition

Posted by Wood | Friday, November 10, 2006 |

No one commented last week on how pathetic we are for falling asleep every night on the couch at 11:00 p.m. Did I fail to mention that we usually fall asleep watching "Yo Momma," the Wilmer Valderrama vehicle on MTV where his decidedly un-gay, non foreign-exchange-student actual meathead self parades around the five boroughs looking for guys to make fun of each others' mommas. He'll end up with two guys from two different neighborhoods standing around in a MTVified version of the traditional dozens. The jokes are inevitably either so tired or rendered so nonsensical by the censors that I spend most of the time watching the show astonished that this Wilmer chump is the guy to whom Lindsay Lohan gave the delicate, fiery flower of her virginity. No matter what, the program is a great elixir for sleeplessness.

But last night I was awake on the couch while on the screen Wilmer held his palm to his mouth with his eyes saying, "Oh, I know he didn't just say that horrible thing about that other guy's mother," and there was the other guy's mother standing over there next to him, a plump target in hair curlers. Could she not take her hair curlers out before she went on MTV? I got to wondering, where was her outrage? Now that I'm a fucking mother, I take great offense to all that trash talking. I'm not "so stank" that "my shit is glad to escape out my ass." My shit is happy right where it is, thank you. Why haven't any mommybloggers taken Wilmer to task for perpetuating this heinous species of "humor"? Well, snap, if no one else is going to do it, I'm just going take on the fight myself. And in my corner in this very serious fight, I have the help of one man who don't take no jibba-jabba from none of those fools he pities. Please, for the love of mommas everywhere, watch Mr. T bring it:



In case those snazzily-dressed backup singers distracted you, these are the lyrics he's "rapping":

M is for the moan, and the miserable groan from the pain that she felt when I was born
O is for the oven with it's burnin' heat where she stood makin' sure I had something to eat
T is for the time that she stayed up at night and took my temperature when I wasn't feelin' right
H is for the hard earned money she spent to keep clothes on my back and try to pay da' rent
E is every wrinkle I put on her face and every worry that I caused when I stayed out late
The last letter R is that she taught me Respect and for the room up in Heaven that I know she'll get.

Well, doesn't that just say it all? Hooray for mothers everywhere. There's even a remix. Remember kids, as Mr. T says, "When you put down one mother, you put down mothers all over the world."

The Sweet Juniper November Index

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 08, 2006 | ,

Likelihood that Dutch would dine on Kraft macaroni & cheese with hot dog chunks on any given weekday while he was working as a corporate lawyer: 0 in 0.

Likelihood that Dutch dines on Kraft macaroni & cheese with hot dog chunks on any given weekday now that he is a stay-at-home dad: 1 in 3.

Average percentage change in the likelihood that Dutch will speak to you in an animated matter about how much better it is to use plain, full-fat yogurt rather than milk should you happen to bring up cooking Kraft macaroni & cheese now that he is a stay-at-home dad: 100.

Average number of frozen peas consumed by Juniper during the last three months (in pounds): 11.

Average percentage of those peas consumed uncooked (still frozen): 75.

Number of failed attempts Dutch has made to convince Juniper that edamame beans are actually "just big peas": 4.

Percentage of his former salary Dutch makes writing for blogging baby: 4.

Number of pages in Dutch's unfinished novel that he started writing in 2003: 646.

Number of pages long it probably should be: 323.

Number of pages he's written since starting this blog: 6.

Number of pages he's cut from the manuscript: 11.

Percentage likelihood that Dutch has a problem with self editing: 100.

Estimated percentage of visitors Dutch believes come to this site solely for the shadenfreudic value, or to marvel at what a dickhead he is: 28.

Percentage Wood thinks Dutch is full of shit when he expresses such concerns to her: 84.

Average number of times per day Dutch and Wood discuss shutting down this blog completely: 3.

Estimated chance that Dutch would see an individual selling heroin on his morning bus commute through the Tenderloin in San Francisco: 1/2.

Number of drug deals Dutch has seen in two months of living in downtown Detroit: 0.

Number of unconscious junkies Dutch had to step over in San Francisco while they were sprawled on the steps to Juniper's daycare center with a needle still stuck between their toes: 1.

Number of unconscious junkies the Junipers have encountered in Detroit: 0.

Estimated number of months Dutch believes it will take before he and Juniper discover a dead body in a pile of smelly clothes and paint cans in front of some graffiti-covered wall in Detroit: 4.

Likelihood that Dutch, Wood, and Juniper will move to the suburbs: 0.

Estimated percentage of readers of this site will think Dutch and Wood are sell outs for accepting advertising revenue: 90.

Estimated percentage who will think they are exploiting their child: 44.

Estimated percentage of readers Dutch believes will fill out this survey to show what cultured, intelligent, and savvy consumers they are, after he begs them to do it ("please, I beg you, fill out this survey. . .") : 22.

Number of slaps from the ol' cat o' nine tails Dutch will inflict upon himself in a brutal (but satisfying) self-flagellation session later this afternoon for even asking his readers to do this: 17.

Figures cited are the latest available as of November, 2006. Sources are Dutch's imagination.

A different kind of fear

Posted by jdg | Monday, November 06, 2006 | ,

I have a confession. Although I have complained about kids' music time and time again, even comparing most of it to, "a secret U.S. Army acoustic weapons system designed to paralyze and induce vomiting by all exposed to it," I do have this cassette tape that Juniper's old day care gave us to listen to at home so she would be familiar with the music at the weekly singalong. And I have been playing it in the car lately. A lot. At first I treated it like one of those little hammers in the "break only in case of emergency" boxes. But only an emergency turned into "only when she's screaming" which then turned into "only when she asks for that goddamn Dancing with Teddy song" which then turned into the tape being the default audio experience in our 4-door sedan. Wood and I went out for dinner without Juniper on Saturday night and we drove two miles before we realized we were still listening to that fucking tape. And we were fucking humming along with it.

But that's not the worst of it. Yesterday was an unusually warm and pleasant November day, and Juniper and I were driving with the windows halfway down on Detroit's east side. At a stoplight two young black dudes rolled to a slow stop next to me, their chrome-plated rims shaped to look like the barrel of a revolver were spinning long after their car had ceased forward motion, and from the trunk of their car two enormous speakers were blasting a bass-heavy rap song, the only lyrics of which seemed to be, "Scared motherfucker? Then call the police. . .Scared motherfucker? Then call the police." This, by itself, did not bother me. In high school I had driven a friend to "a fat girl's house" so he could "get some pussy" in my 1990 Pontiac Grand Prix with the one gray fender and he put an MC Breed cassette in my Kenwood deck, but the only lyric on the whole album seemed to be, "it's just another nigga to my AK. . .it's just another nigga to my AK." That made me uncomfortable. These guys turned to look at me through their backseat passenger window and I nodded, feeling pretty out-macho'd just by virtue of their ride. Then the driver of the car leaned forward and turned his stereo' volume down, and all you could hear was the music coming from my car stereo at an unexpectedly high volume:

Everyone jump-n-jump-n-Josie,
Everyone jump-n-jump-n-Josie,
Everyone jump-n-jump-n-Josie
Jumpin' all day long!

I would have reached for the volume knob myself, but that would have sent Juniper into a whiny chorus of "more Jumpin-n-Josie? more Jumpin-n-Josie?" So I just shrugged my shoulders, and before I could offer them some of our pruno, their stereo was blasting even louder than before and the light had turned green, and they were squealing their tires to get away from us. Now who's scared, motherfuckers?

The urchin costume was still in the closet, and it still fit her. Could I really resist?

Well over a year ago I articulated my totally annoying elitist-asshole position on Juniper and television here. I asked, with a certain very-punchable naivete, whether Juniper would ever love watching Charlie Chaplin movies with me. Well, for the first and probably the last time in our lives, Juniper and I have the same favorite movie: Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. She asks for it every morning. Some days we watch the entire thing together. When I pick her up and swing her around the room she screams, "fly like Chachi!" referring, I think, to the "dreamland" sequence at the end of the film when the Tramp wakes to find himself in heaven, and "flies" about the tenement courtyard with the kid on wires while wearing angel wings and white robes. Her idol is the kid, played by Jackie Coogan, who starred in dozens of movies typecast as a street urchin. When he was middle-aged he played Uncle Fester on the Addams Family series.

So when I found a pair of fairy wings at the dollar store next to the wig store down the street, I knew I could put together a costume that she and I both would love:

She just kept shouting "kid, wings!" and made me fly her up and down the alleys where we were walking down by the Detroit River during the day on Halloween. The only moments she grew pensive were when I put her down to take a picture. I took a lot of them.

Thursday Morning Wood

Posted by Wood | Thursday, November 02, 2006 | ,

My new favorite moment of the day happens at around midnight, when, after Dutch and I drift in and out of sleep on the couch for an hour, we finally drag ourselves upstairs to go to bed. I turn off all of the lights upstairs before slowly opening the door to Juniper's bedroom, and then I tiptoe through her toys like a doughboy crossing no man's land, keeping a lookout for the especially dangerous toys that will launch into song or bleat out animal sounds with just one misplaced step. When I get to Juniper's twin bed, I find her tiny, pajama-clad body scrunched up near the wall, coverless. I pick her up and move her 4 feet down to the foot of her bed, and then carefully recover her with blankets, making sure that her favorite, softest blanket is right by her face. I lean down and put my cheek on hers, breathing deeply to take in all of her sweet, sleepy smell. Then I retrace my steps and close the door.

Saccharine observation of my sleeping cherub is not the reason I love this moment. It's because a year or even just six months ago I never would have dreamed of EVER, EVER FESSING WITH A SLEEPING BABY. You couldn't have paid me enough money to willingly lay my hands on her while she was sleeping, because then she would have woken up and she would have screamed and then what? We might have been up all night.

But now? Now she sleeps so well that I'm cocky. I go into to her room just because I can, and while I'm there, I figure I might as well make sure she doesn't have her head jammed up against the wall and that she's covered with blankets. It just reminds me of how much better life is when your kid sleeps all night long. The sleep wars were rough on our household. Juniper, by all accounts, was an incredibly shitty sleeper. I almost wasn't sure we were going to make it through the final battles. But let this veteran comfort you parents out there who have kids that sleep like crap: a day will come when those miserable nights and zombie-like days will be nothing more than a distant, yet very vivid, memory.

Pixie sticks are not bamboo

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, November 01, 2006 |

When we got home from trick-or-treating in the Summers' dream neighborhood last evening, and after we'd tackled all the houses in our Detroit neighborhood that were giving out candy, we brought Juniper into our house, her makeup smudged and mostly gone, and we stood her on the bathroom counter facing the mirror. "Who's that?" we asked.

"Juney Panda!" she shouted, and did a little dance and cackle. This was the inspiration for the costume her mother made for her, and she clutched it in her hand all day in anticipation of being a panda.

Earlier in the day I'd set her in front of the mirror with another costume (I'll write about that one later this week) and she stood there and laughed with such joy when she realized who she was dressed to be. For Wood and I, this Halloween dredged up all kinds of memories after that long interlude of slutty and ironic Halloweens. The holiday is such a wonderful chance for kids to use their imagination. There was such joy emanating from all the kids. I was a little worried about Max, though. I was concerned that all that joy was going to start shooting through his skin and do to the other children what the Ark of the Covenant did to that creepy Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

There was just something about being out with Juniper after dark in dancing flashlights, holding her little paw up the walkways onto the porches and into the province of strangers, teaching her there is one day where it is perfectly acceptable to accept candy from strangers and stare into their foyers and living rooms, inspect the art on their walls and imagine, for a second, what their lives are like and how different things would be if that was your house, hearing her say "trick or treat" and then, "tank you," while watching candy drop into her pumpkin. It was what it should be, after all.