Posted by jdg | Thursday, June 26, 2008

Her mother reads in the paper that they are wrapping the old stadium in demolition fencing; three kids hardly out of their teens drove down from the thumb to pay their last respects, touch it before it was out of reach. "You'd better tell your dad you want to go today," she says.

Juniper comes up to my room, up to my ear while I'm still sleeping: "I have a secret," she says. All I hear is "tiger foot prints." For many months we have been driving past it and she always tells me she wants to go see the giant paw prints that adorn the exterior of old Tiger Stadium up close. Despite the rain, today's the day.

How big do you think this tiger was?

Did you know he can make himself very small and crawl through that gap under the door? He's in there right now.

You know Juney, the first time I ever came to Detroit this is where I went. Grandpa and I drove for hours to go to a baseball game. There were guys out on Trumbull selling things, and other guys just asking for money. I remember the train station then, too, back before it was broken. That was more than twenty years ago now. We walked through this gate. A pole blocked our view of home plate. One of the best days of my life. They're going to tear it all down soon.

Because the metal it's made out of is worth a lot of money.

Maybe they will turn it into a park. Maybe someday you will play t-ball on the same infield where Ty Cobb used to steal bases.

Ty Cobb was a mean old jerk, but in baseball you're allowed to steal. And boy Ty Cobb could hit, too. We looked at his old house when we were moving here, but it had a leaky roof. Plus, I figured his ghost would probably spit a lot and play mean tricks.

No, we don't have any ghosts in our house now.

Babe Ruth played here too. This is where he hit the longest home run in the history of baseball.

Maybe they'll let the tiger live at the new stadium. Or maybe he could come live at our house?

You're right: that probably would be too many smells.

I think I just heard him. Did you hear him roar?


All he said was Goodbye?

So long, tiger.

Posted by jdg | Monday, June 23, 2008

On the way to Cedar Point amusement park for my eighth-grade class trip, a guy named Alex fell asleep on the bus and my friends and I whittled away the the hours competing for how many potato chips we could balance on his stupendously large lower lip. As an adult, Alex would spend some time in prison and I heard he lost one of his legs.

Later that day, I rode my first roller coaster: The Iron Dragon. I hated it. The only person who would hang out with me for the rest of the day was that kid whose unfortunate surname was something ichthyological, like Grouper or Walleye or Haddock. Eventually I worked up the nerve to get in line for the Magnum with the girl I had a crush on at the time. The Magnum was Cedar Point's most terrifying roller coaster: at its highest point I think it looked down on the CN tower way over in Toronto. It went 600 mph and decapitated half its riders. Still, the line snaked half a mile long and it was a good chance to get my mac on.

There was a spot on the Magnum where everyone knew to smile or flash their tits at a camera and upon exiting the ride a halfhearted effort was made to sell you the photograph as a memento of the good time you had at Cedar Point. I was too busy clutching myself and praying to realize we were approaching this camera, and when we got off the coaster, I noticed a large group of people had gathered around one of the screens showing the photos taken during our ride. They were pointing and cackling. With a sickly feeling I realized they were pointing at the photo of our car. The girl I thought I was totally in love with was raising her hands and smiling with joy. Next to her my face was clenched sideways in terror and pain.

"What's wrong with that guy?" a stranger asked.

"He looks like he's constipated," another replied.

The girl I thought I was totally in love with laughed and bought the photo as a memento of the good time she had at Cedar Point.

* * * * *

It's just who I am: I like keeping my two feet on the ground. I don't enjoy that roller-coaster feeling of being punched in the balls. I prefer my testicles descended, thank you very much. My mother loves to tell the story of how in nursery school, when all the other boys would rush out to the shed where the Big Wheels were stored, I would saunter behind them to avoid the fracas over the fastest big wheels, knowing that none of those boys would touch the inchworm. Yep, that's me: safe and boring. My wife, on the other hand, is just grateful to have someone to hold her purse while she rides the most hair-raising coasters.

So I had a pit in my stomach when Juniper told me she wanted to ride the kiddie dragon rollercoaster being managed by the one-legged carny with a thousand-yard stare and an ash-heavy cigarette dangling from his lips. The kiddie coaster only went about three mph down it's barely-perceivable hill. Still, I envisioned a bleak future of holding purses and half-eaten bags of cotton candy and giant stuffed sideshow prizes while the rest of my family screamed with pleasure around various coasters and tilt-o-whirls.

I needn't have worried.

That's my girl.

Thursday Morning Wood

Posted by Wood | Thursday, June 19, 2008

So last Friday, after Jim finished talking on the radio, we got in the car and drove across the state to watch my mom fight cancer by walking around a middle school track. Heather hadn't yet published Jim's guest post about men's bathrooms and he was taut with nervous energy about whether Heather's readers would like it or hate it, and we had a three-hour car ride between us and our destination. So we stopped at a McDonald's halfway.

Let me back up: ever since our return trip from Indiana a month ago, Juniper has had a secret. You have to bend down and put your ear right up to her lips if you want to hear it. Even then, you'll probably only understand a few hissed syllables. Her secret, I finally determined after listening several times and ending up with lots of spit in my ear, is, "Maybe I will get to go to the fun place again." The fun place is, of course, McDonald's PlayPlace, AKA "The place with the tubes." I think it's a secret because she knows her father and I don't really like McDonald's. There is a definite strain of embarassment in her whisper. Poor kid.

So last week we told her that if she behaved in the car we would stop at a fun place halfway to Nana's. Juniper hasn't really made the connection yet between McDonald's the restaurant and McDonald's the playground -- she won't eat cheeseburgers or fries for some reason, and all she likes are those apples dipped in what she calls "chocolate mustard." So whatever: we stopped. As much as I don't like the idea of treating McDonald's as a reward, I'll pretty much do anything to stop her from whining in the car.

While Juniper romped around with about forty other sticky-fingered kids jacked up on high fructose corn syrup and sodium phosphates, my husband wandered around the restaurant on his laptop trying to find a wi/fi connection.

"Doesn't McDonalds have its own wi/fi?" I asked him.

"Yeah, but you have to pay like $2.99 for it or something." Here he was, panicking about having a post on the most widely-read personal blog on the internet, and he was too cheap to cough up three bucks to see it.

"Do you think several hundred people with Provo IP addresses are systematically going through our archives and calling us agents of the devil as we speak?"

He stood up to go outside where he hoped to pick up a signal from a nearby hotel. He pushed open the door that led from the play space outside, and set off the alarm. All forty children slammed their palms against their ears, their faces pressed against the greasy plexiglass inside the tubes and nodules above us, their parents twisting their heads in aural-inspired agony, the screams of everyone contributing to the piercing alarm he'd triggered before sheepishly backing away from the door.

Apparently the glass-windowed fun place was soundproof, because inside the dining area of this McDonald's business went on as usual: construction workers stared dully into the layers of their Big Macs. Elderly cashiers smiled eagerly for minimum wage. None of them heard the alarm, but out of the corner of his eye one guy in tapered dockers biting into a filet-o-fish glanced over at a room full of parents and children who appeared to be dying painful deaths at the hands of an aggressive strain of bacteria brought into the chamber by a snot-nosed 4-year old. My husband bolted to the counter where he explained what had happened and the manager yelled, "Hey Rod, one of them kids set off the alarm again. Go get the keys." A few minutes later the fun place was silent and empty. "What happened?" Juniper asked, clearly crushed that her new friends had fled. I attempted to calm the still-startled baby.

"Sometimes the fun place isn't so fun, kid," Jim said. "Sometimes it's not fun at all."

Collective bargaining

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One of the most frustrating parts of spending all day with a 3-year-old is that everything devolves into negotiation, from the clothes she puts on in the morning to the number of poems I read before she goes to bed. Once I stopped negotiating and just caved in to whatever meager demands she made, and then she chastised me like the beardmonger in Monty Python's Life of Brian for failing to haggle: "No pops, you're supposed to say I only have five minutes left in the bath," she told me. If I believed in reincarnation, I'd assume my daughter once sold fake Rolexes in a Constantinople bazaar.

As a lawyer, I was often involved in complex negotiations. But even with several multi-million dollar settlements under my belt, I could never have been prepared for the hardcore negotiations of my new career as a stay-at-home dad. My daughter is already as crafty as a seasoned partner at any white-shoe law firm. My infant son is a shrewd but less-seasoned negotiator: his repertoire is limited to the single (though highly-effective) tactic of screaming until he gets exactly what he wants.

Sadly, the potency of this method has not been lost on Juniper, and any unsuccessful negotiations usually end with a shriek-filled showing of sisterly solidarity. On most days, I feel like beleaguered management constantly on the verge of a threatened strike from The Screamers and Whiners Union, Local 413. Take today, for example. After explaining that she could not have PB&Js for three meals in a row, she parleyed with the fact that Gram only eats one kind of food. I told her it was different for her and when she asked "Why?" I resorted to my stock response: "Because I make the rules."

"No, I make the rules," she said, stomping her foot. This was the moment on those nature shows where the upstart adolescent gorilla challenges the aging male silverback. That Ennio Morricone motif from the spaghetti westerns sang out in the background. A tumbleweed rolled past us.

"No one can make the rules about food unless they can reach the counter," I said.

"Then I won't eat. And Gram won't either."

Poor girl. Someone needs to tell her that no matter how much a man loves the Union, he will always love boobs more.

Hi. I'm the guy with the vomit epaulettes

Posted by jdg | Friday, June 13, 2008

So today while Dooce is on vacation she's letting me take over her site and pretend that millions of people care about what I have to say about poop. This is going to be almost as much fun as that time I cut out the album cover of No Jacket Required and pretended to be Sweaty Phil Collins for a day. Su-su-ssudio!

I decided that if I'm going to be Dooce for a day, I'd better do a whirlwind press junket. So I'm going to be at Detroit's NPR affiliate today at 11:15 for an appearance on Detroit Today. I spent an hour debating which shimmering scoop-necked blouse to wear, but then remembered nobody would be able to see my clothes on the radio. So I just put on the t-shirt that had the least dried baby vomit on the shoulders. And these adorable black pumps I picked up at DSW.

If you are not in the metro Detroit area with your radios tuned to 101.9FM, I will post a link to an mp3 of the show later today.

[the guest post on is here]

It's all relative

Posted by jdg | Thursday, June 12, 2008

In San Francisco, I once made the mistake of asking the Korean War-veteran-looking gentleman pushing the child in the next swing how old his grandson was. He laughed awkwardly: "It's my son actually, and he's almost one." When visiting, my 50-something mother-in-law would take the kid to Golden Gate Park and get asked what preschools she was considering for her daughter. We were twenty-seven when Juniper was born, and someone was always around to make us feel like this was scandalously young.

Yesterday we were at a park here in Detroit and Juniper was playing with three older kids in an incredible water feature: a circular basin 30 feet in diameter intermittently flooded with a few inches of water and randomly shooting geysers from jets below the surface. After just a few minutes, the kids' street clothes were soaked. I looked over to the other kids' mom and dad and shrugged my shoulders, and they shrugged theirs back, as if in mutual agreement that we should just let them have their fun. We sat there watching them for nearly an hour. Juniper ran up to me at one point and said, "Look at me pops, I'm soaked TO THE BONE!" The other couple laughed. I said, "We'll see if she's that happy about it on the way home."

"This definitely wasn't part of our plans, either," they told me. They were really nice. I figured they were about my age, give or take a couple years.

Then their boy ran over to them for a snack. His jeans were so saturated they sunk a few inches below the tops of his Spiderman underwear. "Pull up those drawers, Jaden," the man said.

"But Grandpa, they won't stay up!"


Posted by jdg | Tuesday, June 10, 2008

During my wife's recent maternity leave, I always felt like I was running the third leg of a medley relay. It was my job not to lose our lead: to hold the baby, keep him content and quiet for the duration of my leg, and then make sure he didn't get dropped during the hand off to the anchor. Not only did the anchor have working milk ducts, she had that motherly prescience for what was wrong, that wordless, primal bond of murmuring and night. It was this way, too, when Juniper was a baby: I fell into that pattern of fathers who really come into their own when the baby is a bit older, more interactive. Admittedly, I fell hard for her then. But oftentimes, before that, I secretly felt as helpless as my charge.

At the end of her first maternity leave, my wife handed Juniper off to a stranger. At the end of this one, she handed Gram off to me.

And suddenly I had no anchor.

We haven't written much about our son. I've written some about the difficulty of the transition to two kids, but I haven't written much about him. It's not that I don't have anything to say, it's that with this website what it now is, I'm just not sure that it would be fair to him to put his first months under the microscope. Plus, as veterans of the baby-wrangling game, all those little developments, the punch of emotions, none of those things seem revolutionary enough to warrant a few words on this blog at the expense of his privacy.

But I do have this to say about him now: at some point in these recent anchorless weeks, I've fallen for him. Hard. He is such an easygoing, charming dude. He is my son. There is something almost biblical in the way I look at him. But beyond all that, he has given me something of the bond I always envied during my wife's maternity leave: the instinct to hold him against my shoulder and touch his back just the right way when he's upset, or the surest way to make him smile.

One of the coolest parts of staying home with these kids is that no one is around to make fun of me for the way I talk to them. All day I make up stupid songs, talk in horrible Lucky Charms accents, and laugh uproariously at knock knock jokes that don't make sense. I know my wife loves me completely, but I'm not sure if she could still respect me if she heard all of this, and I'm way worse now that Gram is here. With Juniper at preschool, I just sit there with him and do whatever I can to make him smile. This usually involves turning into a much gayer version of Sgt. "Motor Mouth" Jones from the Police Academy movies. Sometimes I hear what I sound like and want to punch myself, but the only person whose opinion really matters weighs fifteen pounds, and apparently he thinks I'm totally awesome.

I love that I know exactly when he's tired. I love that I can now get him to sleep in seconds. I love the way he watches me when I feed him. I love that I know exactly when he's just hungry, before it gets to the point of crying. It took a few difficult weeks, but I'm finally there. I never feel helpless anymore. I'm no longer desperate for that waiting hand, keeping pace ahead, outstretched behind her.

But at the end of the day, it's there anyways. And just because I'm no longer desperate for it doesn't dampen the relief of watching her tuck him under her arm and run with him as well as I ever could.

The New Dilution

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, June 04, 2008

So we're using cloth diapers with the new baby. I haven't written anything about it, because frankly I'm not sure how to write about it without sounding like a hippie blowhard and I fear just by mentioning it, I'll receive half a dozen reactionary e-mails about how washing cloth diapers is just as wasteful as disposables and how dare I make my readers feel guilty for choosing their Elmo-saturated disposable Pampers, etc. Sure I could go on and on about how disposable diapers reflect our decadent, wasteful American values, and how now that the red Chinese have chosen disposables over traditional splitpants, these two superpowers will soon be embroiled in a new cold war with stockpiled mountains of superabsorbent polymer-based biological weapons. But then I'd have to go to early-morning yoga classes and move to Portland and shop for local organic produce. By bike.

But I do love these cloth diapers. We're not getting them free and no one is paying us to write about this. I think my wife just randomly chose a brand based on the number of animated gifs on their website. But these cloth diapers never leak like disposables. Plus they're licensed-character free and come in bold primary colors. They're also really soft and he's never had a single rash.

Until yesterday afternoon, I would have even told you that the washing is no big deal. Sure, every few days I have to dump a brick of clammy, soiled diapers into our washing machine. But that's it, really. You start with a rinse cycle, followed by a full wash.

Unfortunately, yesterday I had the misfortune of going down into the basement during the spin cycle of that initial rinse. Our washing machine empties into a basin during the spin cycle. As desensitized as I have become to all things scatological over the past few years, nothing---nothing---could have prepared me for what was pulsing into the wash basin. Vomiting out of the tube was this butterscotch-tinted gray liquid, quickly filling the room with the humid perfume of pickled baby shit that had marinated in a brine of cold urine for a week. I watched it rise in the basin as the washing machine spun. Just when the vile brew threatened to spill over the top it began to subside in a roaring, fecal Charybdis above the drain. I swear I heard the voices of demons or lost souls calling desperately to me from the gurgling ferment.

Then it was gone. And with it went any judgment I might have held for anyone who chooses disposable diapers.