Saturday, August 18, 12:30 a.m.
I am thinking of the first time I had a pint of draft beer. Scruffy Murphy's pub, I think: a pint of Guinness. This was my roommates' local, wedged between a nunnery and a pensioners' apartment building in an alley across from our apartment on Lower Mount Street. I had my third and fourth pint later that night, along with my first glass of Irish whiskey, at a nightclub down the block you entered through the howling mouth of a giant fiberglass wolf. We were the only people there under the age of thirty-five, though as I recall, that did not prevent us from dancing with sloppy-drunk old ladies who smelled of smoke while whispering horrifying things in our ears.
Tonight I am walking the dog up and down Pittsburgh's Southside admiring the crappy little taverns on every corner, half wishing I still had a local where I could get a cold pint. I peer into the glass-bricked facade of Karwoski's gritty pub and then feel grateful for the dog, knowing that if I had no excuse not to go in I might actually do it, order a cold glass of Yuengling and try to make some account of myself to strangers. I keep walking. People who live in these brick rowhouses had fathers who worked in the steel mills, that is, if they're not old enough to have worked there themselves. This is where Wood's father lives, in an old steelworker's house up on the slopes with a million-dollar view of the city that revealed itself only after the mills closed and the smoke clouds drifted away, leaving views in the place of jobs for those who might enjoy them.
I look for a liquor store, but Pennsylvania has some byzantine regulations about selling alcohol that I don't understand; it is damn near impossible to buy a six pack here. I consider that these neighborhoods were built back when the only place to escape the smell of cooling slag and the whining of your seven kids was behind the glass-bricked facade of the corner tavern. And to this day, nearly every corner still has one.
Sunday, August 19, 12:30 a.m.
My stomach contents are a vile slumgullion of grape leaves, McDonalds french fries, ouzo, and wedding-reception flounder. I have returned to the hotel room with Juniper from her first Greek Orthodox Wedding in a small steel town along the Allegheny River. Wood is still off circle dancing. I have been looking forward to this wedding for months, hoping it would be more like The Deer Hunter (before all the Russian roulette) than that other movie about Hellenic nuptials my grandma loved so much. A priest with wacky facial hair shook some smoking bells; crowns were held above the heads of the betrothed like Roman generals in a triumph, everything was spoken in Greek. Instead of reading the Bible, the priest sang it, though it lacked both rhyme and melody. I imagined him ordering Chinese food that way.
It is such a challenge to have something you wish you could change about your kid. You tolerate the late-night feedings and the early mornings and the nap-time tantrums and even the bottled beer because those things only affect you; but it can be so much more trying when the kid makes a public spectacle of her poorer points. Greek Orthodox weddings, perhaps, were not designed with a 2-year old's attention span in mind. The ceiling in the church's balcony was about five and a half feet, so we stooped rather than stood during the entire ceremony. One time I bonked Juniper's head against the ceiling and she started wailing. The priest stopped singing. Everyone turned to look as I rushed her out of the sanctuary. Juniper's stranger anxiety has gotten progressively worse with the diversity of options now available to express her displeasure at being stared at by three-hundred Greeks or stroked by some second cousin or interrogated by a grand aunt. To be honest, I didn't care about the screaming in the church or the rude things that came out of her mouth when someone else's blue-haired yia-yia pinched her cheek. It's the face-burying shyness at her own Pittsburgh grandparents that made us so embarrassed and enraged that we probably deserved the faces from all the onlookers that said, "sheesh, what bad parents."
Upstairs at the reception, all the kids under 13 were locked away under the supervision of a few busty Greek college girls. There was a room full of candy and crayons, bags of french fries and warm bottles of Sunny Delight, and, not surprisingly, dozens of children bouncing off the walls. One kid told me this was "the yelling room" and that he had to go there because he had "the smoke coming out." I brought Juniper to "the quiet room," and we spent some time drawing pictures of Archbishop Demetrios before I tried to return to the company of adults. When I attempted to slink downstairs, I swear she looked up at me and laughed with incredulity before going into hysterics.
Monday, August 20, 12:30 a.m.
Torrential rain, white knuckles, five hours in a car with a wet dog and a crabby 2-year-old. I swear, if there had been a Wal-Mart visible from the Ohio Turnpike, we would now be the proud owners of a portable DVD-player and a Dora-the-Explorer Box Set.
Now we're home, and I've never dreaded a week of stay-at-home fatherhood like this. I used to have Sunday-night nightmares about work: assignments I hadn't completed, angry reproaches from the partners, a meeting with human resources about my internet usage. Tonight I will dream of Aeron chairs and air conditioning, research assignments and bay views from 27 floors above the ground where two-year olds stalk the land.
A Weekend Update, in which Dutch misses the cool grip of a fresh pint, ruins an orthodox wedding, and nearly compromises all his principlesPosted by jdg | Monday, August 20, 2007 | Pittsburgh; , road trip , SAHD
Saturday, August 18, 12:30 a.m.