A Father’s Day Quest for Laziness
This Father’s Day my quest is to be as lazy as possible without appearing to be ungrateful or a bad father. If I could move my couch and laptop to the nearest White Castle and camp out for a day feasting on delicious burgers and watching hunting shows.
There were days before I had children that I enjoyed extreme forms of laziness. I have spent some days doing nothing but eating and watching ‘Law & Order’ reruns. I’m not proud of being that lazy, but sometimes you just have to be. I spend the rest of my time trying hard to achieve ambitious things, so a day here and there of intense couch warming is not out of line.
But having children means that those days of restorative sloth are behind me for the time being. If you are the father of small children you have some kind of work to do just to make sure your children don’t wander into traffic and get themselves killed. Children have to be fed every day, and if you don’t change their diapers with regularity they begin to smell bad and behave strangely.
This coming Father’s Day I will relax as much as possible and I plan to travel with my family to Staten Island to the Punk Island festival. This will be the first time in several years that our band Blackout Shoppers is not playing the all-day FREE festival (our guitar player will be out of the country). I’m eager to be able to go and enjoy it without having to worry about bringing equipment or being ready to play. My wife and I plan to bring ear protection for the girls and they can walk now so it may be a chore keeping them out of the mosh pits because they love to dance when they hear music. But any stress will be well worth it.
I am very lucky to have the father I have. He raised me with a good sense of right and wrong and a love of reading and the arts. Not everyone is so lucky, but having a good father is not a prerequisite for being one. I’ve discovered that fatherhood is a lot like hunting. If you have good instincts and are willing to put in the time, you’re chances of success will be much greater.
At the end of the day Sunday I will have relaxed as much as I can and my children will have survived my indulgent slacking off.
Of course I’d like to do better than having children that merely survive. I want my daughters to be willful and strong, and smart enough not to be subservient to the societal groupthink that is slowly choking the life out of the American intellect. I want my girls to be able to be legendary warrior-poets and forge their poetic souls to the cause of their people and be among the elite of their future world. But I’ve got to get them potty trained first.
A Bronx Zoo Tale
The Bronx Zoo is not on everyone’s to-do list but should be. No year in New York City is complete without at least one long visit to this great zoo, which insists on calling itself the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The Wildlife Conservation Society has a Run for the Wild 5K run/walk every year to help raise money for its conservation efforts. Each year has the theme for some endangered animal and this year it was gorillas. In the past it was fun to run the 5k and then spend the day at the zoo. Nowadays the wife and I walk the 5k with our babies in a jogging stroller and then spend as much time as possible at the zoo until our offspring become too tired and cranky to make the zoo pleasant.
So it was a fun family trip to the zoo and we of course got there much later than we expected. We parked in a field farther away from the starting line of the 5K than we had hoped but in the process of finding our way to the 5K starting line, we happened to walk on the Mitsubishi Riverwalk, a nature walk with a lot of informative displays about local wildlife. It opened in 2004 and totally free and open to the public every day.
It’s a rarer thing to find stuff to do in New York that is both family-friendly and free. It was nice to see waterfalls and woodlands and know that you are in the Bronx.
We did a brisk walk for the 5K though there were lots of slow-moving people, parents and grandparents seriously lacking in stroller-parking etiquette, and mobs of people stopping to gawk at the animals.
We still finished the 5K walk in good time (I assume, who really gives a shit) and we collected our prizes, which included stuffed gorillas for our girls. Then we began traversing the zoo and seeing as much as we could while letting our 15-month old girls walk. Walking with them while also steering a double-wide jogging stroller is a new and unique challenge. It is like other parenthood skills in that you will master it just in time to not need it anymore.
The Bronx Zoo now kind of nickel-and-dimes you at every turn though. Lots of the cool exhibits cost an extra three or four dollars, which can all add up if you want to see the more popular animals. We were lucky in that we got a zoo membership as a gift, but also running the 5K gets you discounts during your zoo trip.
There were long lines at the World of Asia Monorail line, and you get to know people waiting in line just because your kids are interacting with one another and you have to be minimally sociable. A couple of parents with very well-painted faces were asked a half dozen times where they had their faces painted. A bald father with tattoos on his head berated his children and joking (I hope) offered to exchange his daughters for ours, although his daughters weren’t behaving badly at all. An Asian grandfather in the family ahead of us shot me a look of insulting contempt every time my crankier daughter cried and fussed. I hope my devil baby put his panties in a bunch. Full disclosure: his infant grandson was an absolute angel.
For all her fussing, my older daughter became quiet and seemed to be enjoying seeing the animals on the monorail, but that was because she fell asleep. That was our signal to head home after the monorail ride.
Luckily we got to swing by the bison on our way out. After viewing animals from every corner of the globe, it feels right to visit the bison, the great and very American animal that we have here in our own land. They are not native to New York, of course, but I vow that one day I will travel west and see buffalo in the wild. Until then I will be happy to conclude my Bronx Zoo visits with them.
Down on the Farm, in New York City
No city is as emblematic of the urban life as New York City, so it may be a surprise to find that there are several farms operating in the city. There’s a working farm in Queens, the city’s largest borough.
The Queens County Farm Museum is a real working farm located in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Queens.
The farm dates all the way back to the late 1600s and is the longest continually farmed site in New York State. It started as a farm during the days of the Dutch settlers. For many years it survived because it was run by patients of Creedmoor State Hospital, a mental hospital. Creedmoor is still in use today even though some of its buildings are abandoned. It’s fitting that farming survived in this area of Queens because of inmates from an insane asylum.
The Queens County Farm Museum is open to the public and while it is largely used for educational purposes, it is still a legitimate farm. You can buy fresh eggs laid by their chickens and eat vegetables grown there. When you go to visit you’ll see workers moving wheelbarrows of dirt and feeding animals.
The farm is visited by school groups and has lots of activities for students and volunteers. You can take classes there on a variety of topics. You can also rent space for parties. In the autumn, the farm grows an elaborate corn maze and the public is challenged to work their way through it with a map. My wife and I entered the maze a few years ago and it was not easy to find your way out.
This past weekend, they held a carnival there and the wife and I took our 15-month-old girls there to meet up with the in-laws and enjoy the nice weather. They got to pet rabbits, feed goats and sheep, ride ponies and take a hay ride. The girls got free balloons from the Glen Oakes Volunteer Ambulance Corps. We were able to take the girls up on a large tractor and got to see a great magic show by Cordone.
The five boroughs used to be covered in farms. New York City at one point did not extend far beyond the downtown area. Where City Hall is now was considered the remote outskirts of town (when they renovated City Hall Park in the late 1990s, workers unearthed graves from a poor house that used to be there).
In addition to the Queens County Farm Museum, there are urban farmers growing vegetables and raising chickens on small plots of land throughout the city. Staten Island has several working farms, though not open to the public. And there are people trying to preach the gospel of organic food by carving gardens out of abandoned lots and any scrap of space they can find.
The city currently doesn’t have enough arable land to make a dent in the agricultural markets, but it’s nice to know that people who live in this hothouse of a metropolis can get a taste of the farming life without leaving the city.
Surviving One Year as a Parent
Just over a year ago I became the father of two beautiful and perfect twin girls. It’s been a great year and I look forward to many more as a Dad.
When I say my girls are perfect, please take that with a grain of salt. In theory no one who can’t speak any language fluently and soils themselves on a daily basis could be considered perfect. These girls are both unemployed and do not go to school. They waste food by throwing it on the floor or rubbing it into their hair. They rudely grab my wife’s breasts. If they were adults, they’d be the worst people in the world.
I marvel at the things my girls do, but if I wasn’t their father it would be pretty normal baby stuff. Just about every baby learns to walk and talk and makes cute sounds while they’re trying to form words. It’s a pretty normal part of life and not exciting unless it’s YOUR baby that’s doing it.
I try to keep in perspective that not all people have or want children and don’t really care about the details of my children’s lives. Endless child-rearing talk can get pretty old pretty fast even when you have kids. There are a lot of shitty parents out there, and you notice that even more when you become a parent yourself.
A lot of parents adopt a bullshit attitude that doesn’t take other adults seriously unless they’ve had children. I have made it a point not to fall into this trap. Being a parent can become a crutch and I’ve seen ignorant people push strollers around like they were some kind of moralistic steamroller. Way too many parents think that the fact that they’ve reproduced puts them on some higher moral plane.
Here, in no particular order of intensity, are five key things to expect when you become a parent:
You will get disgusting bodily fluids on you. When you set out to paint your house, you know you’re going to get paint on your clothes. When you go to do carpentry you know there will be sawdust on your shoes. You will get unpleasant bodily fluids on you when you are a parent. Just a few weeks ago I had one of my babies on my lap as we flew from New York City to Atlanta to visit relatives over the holidays. My daughter’s diaper sprung a leak, so I had large urine stains on the crotch of my pants
A baby’s cry will push you towards insanity. Do you like loud grating noises that you can’t stop waking you up at 3 a.m.? Then you’ll love this aspect of parenthood. Sometimes a baby will go on a crying tantrum and drone on in the loudest, most annoying crying possible. You will do everything for the baby and it will still cry. Something in the human psyche snaps when it’s subjected to loud, unstoppable noise. Your baby will cry uncontrollably at the worst possible times and push you to the brink of insanity. You will think dark thoughts and not act on them, and the baby will eventually stop crying.
To some extent you will join the parenting herd. If the 25-year-old-me could see the 42-year-old me, he’d be horrified that I do things like grocery shopping and give babies baths on weekends. I’ll sometimes talk parenting crap with other parents. I’ll even consider buying a minivan or SUV. No part of being a parent is immune from looking lame. You think you can remain an absolute badass through any situation? Sure champ, try looking edgy while carrying a Cabbage Patch kid across a crowded restaurant.
You will lose a lot of freedom but gain a measure of immortality. There are great times when someone suggests something at the last minute that leads to a fun outing or great adventure. That tends to stop happening when you have little mouths to feed. Those days when your wife or girlfriend suggested you go to the beach or to a movie and you just drop everything and go won’t be back for a few decades. The kind of sudden outings are gone for now, and your freedom is tremendously curtailed when you have kids. But, you have insured that a piece of you will live on after you. You have helped make another human being, another small version of yourself who has a whole lifetime of glory and possibilities ahead of them.
So enjoy the measure of immortality you achieve by having kids. It will be the most annoying yet the most joyful thing you will ever do. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I highly recommend it.
Short Story: Grandpa The Clown
It’s been a while since I’ve had some fiction published, so it’s long overdue that I managed to get a short story published by Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers.
The story is Grandpa The Clown and is about the kind of clown we should have been educated by while we were children, but were instead in short supply. Clowns are usually in cahoots with parents and authority figures. This is a story about a clown that isn’t.
Fear of a White Santa
The endless salvos in the American cultural war normally give me a headache and are usually beneath the dignity of comment. But the latest jeremiad against a Fox News host about the race of Santa Claus was informative.
Megyn Kelly, on her program The Kelly File, remarked that Santa Claus is white. (She mentioned that Jesus Christ was white too, and while I’d love to discuss the colorful variations among the 12 tribes of Israel, I’ll instead point out that white people handed over the name Jesus to the Latinos a while ago.)
Kelly was of course buried in a brouhaha of accusations of racism and “look what she said” type coverage, but if you actually watch the damn video, her piece is actually discussing an article on Slate that advocates doing without a white Santa, or a human Santa entirely, and replace him with a penguin in the name of helping nonwhite children love Christmas. Slate’s cultural blogger Aisha Harris recounts her childhood angst at the ubiquity of peckerwood Santa Clauses and thinks that a penguin Santa is a win-win for everyone.
When I was a kid growing up in Yonkers, my brother and I were sent to an afterschool center on weekday afternoons in nearby Eastchester. The kids at the daycare center were mostly white, but sometimes our center would get together with a nearby black organization called CAP (Community Action Program). We would take trips with them and every year we went to their Christmas party.
At every CAP Christmas party Santa Claus appeared and gave out presents, and at CAP, Santa was black. Not only was their Santa black, but he was someone that worked there that the black kids all knew. They laughed hilariously at the black Santa, in part because it was someone they knew and also because it was so obviously NOT Santa Claus.
Like Aisha Harris mentions in her piece on Slate, a non-white Santa doesn’t look quite right, even to a sympathetic non-white audience. It’s an obviously pandering variation awkwardly hammered into place. And children, ever suspicious of adult manipulation into their world, resent such obvious engineering. Harris was right to take umbrage at the black Santa. Even though the adults in her life were doing it for her perceived benefit, it was too much adult interference and that just ain’t right.
Us white kids resented the black Santa, not because we were racist or hated blacks but because we were treated to a needless maiming of a cultural icon that was supposed to be race-neutral.
And this fear of a white Santa is a very telling sign on the part of the multicultural left that’s calling for the head of Megyn Kelly on a charger. Wanting to get rid of white Santa is a tacit acknowledgement of the failure and hopelessness of multiculturalism itself.
If you buy into the belief of Santa Claus and believe that he’s a kindly, saintly man who loves good children, then he certainly loves all the good children of the world and brings them all gifts. That nonwhite children are automatically aggrieved at the sight of a white Santa Claus means that the hopes of fostering an integrated, diverse society is hopeless. If all the races should be equally valued and accepted by everyone, then the traditional white Santa is for everyone too.
If my kids have to stand for a black President, why can’t black kids accept gifts from a white Santa Claus? If multiculturalism is for real, then it’s not a one-way street. If non-white children can’t accept a benevolent white saint who gives them presents out of love, then there’s not much racial harmony in America’s future.
Santa Claus, like many other holiday trappings, developed from European traditions that were adapted to Christianity as it spread westward from the Middle East. Saint Nicholas, the Catholic patron saint of children and sailors and generally agreed to as the basis of Santa Claus, was Greek. If white people invented Santa Claus, then it makes sense he’d be white.
And so even assuming that Kelly was being racially assertive, what makes wanting Santa to look like you wrong? If Aisha Harris’ Christmas penguin catches on, so be it. I’ll be one of the last white fathers telling his kids about the real white Santa Claus.