A long time ago when my better half and i were first dating, i up and quit my job, because it didn’t satisfy me. It paid well, but i was finding myself bored and frustrated. Since i was planning on doing some traveling anyway, i just up and quit, and explained to her that i would just become a hobo. The unemployment didn’t last very long, really, but the epithet stuck.
Years later, i find myself away from my job again, embracing my former hobo ways and teaching them to my infant son with varying degrees of success. Put another way, being on paternity leave is weird. It’s weird to be sitting at home in the middle of a workday, knowing my desk, my job, and my colleagues are all chugging along, but feeling no pressure to deal with any of it. Very happily, i don’t have to, and have instead this brief opportunity to just have this one thing to do, to take care of the little guy.
So what do we do with our days? They fill up, that’s for sure.
- It seems likely that anyone who watched a video of me playing with the man would probably wind up questioning my sanity. Actually i’m pretty sure that if i saw myself, i’d wonder just what the hell i was thinking. It becomes quite literally anything-for-a-laugh. During the morning, it doesn’t take much, and as the meter runs low toward the end of the day things become a bit more desperate.
Not that he’s remotely difficult, but i guess there’s a natural tendency towards being eager to please your little guy, so i find myself jumping up and down, hiding, crawling, singing songs (both correctly and with made-up lyrics that go increasingly off the rails with every passing verse), making faces, making noises, wandering the house, staring at the sky, waggling toys, picking him up, moving him around…
- We spend a decent amount of time exploring the city, too. Lately there’s been a pretty marked increase in the time it takes us to get us out of the house, what with our little man needing an increasing number of layers which he doesn’t want and tiny hats and gloves which he doesn’t want. In general though we try to be prepared to bounce, to go out and bring the man to his mom for lunch, to go to the North End to get more coffee (because someone tried to murder our coffee maker and someone decided to try being nocturnal for a night), to go meet friends playing hooky, go protest the end of the republic, or systematically walk down streets we’ve never been on, or go hit up all those lunch spots that i never get to while working because i just don’t spare the time. He’s got the time, i’ve got the time. Until days like today, where the howling winter winds were not his favorite thing. Maybe our exploring will just be the Copley mall from now on and he’ll grow up having expensive, horrible taste.
- Napping. My assignment for these weeks is to get the kid from being a lap sleeper to being actually put down for naps. Reckon i probably get a C+ on this right now, in that i get him down, but he sleeps shittily. So to make amends for this we are back on the lap later in the day where he sleeps soundly and adorably. And i read Twitter or something. But we’re working on it, grudgingly. Even though he’s enormous, there are worse things than having a little dude snuggle on you.
- The nice thing is, cleaning and other household mundanity passes for entertainment for him. So long as i’m talking about what i’m doing, he is fascinated by it. Especially if there are moving things, lights, noises, a change of setting. He doesn’t know it’s work. Also he’s great at home improvement:
- Lifting. Dude is 22 pounds at just over four months. You spend a lot of time picking him up, putting him down, holding him up to let him try standing (the sooner the better, man, except don’t), lifting him up to play with you. It’s a lot to ask of a busted shoulder.
- Watching the cat has also become a thing in the last week or so, and the feeling is mutual. Our selectively-aloof cat has become very invested in our little man’s well-being. If he’s yelling, you can bet she’s either checking on him, visibly concerned, or coming to let me know i’m a lousy parent, often both. She looks in on his bassinet, curls up on his toys (and i don’t think it’s just territoriality anymore), and gently sniffs him when he’s not flailing. This, at long last, is a good kitty.
- And then of course there is troubleshooting. Does that grunting mean he’s pooping or has he learned to fake it (yes, he has) for some reason? If we’re stuck on 93 for a further 15 minutes and he’s blowing up and i can’t get off, just what can be done (i don’t dare try plugging in the pacifier in motion, but playing with the car’s interior lights moves him away from redlining for a little bit)? Is he cold in the carrier or just twitchy because he wants out (it’s always the latter)? Is he bored with this toy (possibly) and is a change of setting needed (a reliable tactic)?
But anyway have i learned anything? Sure.
Things he likes*:
- Standing and walking directly on my chest
- Watching raindrops in puddles
- Flirting with strangers
- Fish-hooking his pacifier out of his mouth and cursing its sudden absence
- Swiveling his head wildly while eating and wondering why the food is everywhere but his mouth, shouting something to the effect of it being everyone’s fault but his
- The sky
- Our (i have to share it now) stuffed talking Porg
- Bricks and other sharply-defined patterns
- Watching the kitty
- The TV (so we rarely have it on just yet (except we both watch soccer on the weekend))
- Watching videos of himself on the phone
- His reflection
- Most electronic music, Hall & Oates, Bowie, James Brown, They Might Be Giants, ‘Brass Bonanza‘ (you can add a lot of stupid lyrics to that tune), and the Trololo song.
- Putting the incoming clean diaper on his face (okay, at first he didn’t like it but i wore him down)
Things he dislikes*:
- The wind
- The sun
- Republicans (i can’t prove that)
- His car seat, which he is now bigger than
*subject to change
It’s a pretty typical sight on suburban highways, even here in liberal Massachusetts. Sometimes you even see them intrude on the streets of Boston. An oversized, shiny, clean pickup, the soft-hands kind of truck, not the sort that’s ever done a day’s work in its life, its spotless bed sporting only two things, side-by-side American flags set to wave in the breeze as they head out to haul a heavy load of nothing. And something dawned on me the last time i saw one, something that kinda curdled in my brain and bugged me; when i see this type of thing, the first thing i think is, “That man* is my enemy.”
Which is a pretty awful thing to think, for a couple of reasons:
First, let’s consider the fact that it’s gotten to the point where someone that disagrees with me qualifies as an enemy.
Secondly, let’s think about how much it sucks that the flag of my own country has been stolen from me to the point where i’m stirred to anger by people that wave it.
It’s a pretty depressing thing, but this is the place that we are in. It works kinda like this. Anyone in 2018 so moved to ostentatiously fly the American flag is overwhelmingly likely to be a Republican. From 2001 on, the Republican Party and its followers deftly moved to equate their views on everything from counterterrorism to taking healthcare from kids, to taking kids from their parents, to rooting for the Yankees with patriotism, and with the flag. You show the flag**, you’re on their side, almost by definition. And in 2001, we certainly weren’t going to upgrade disagreement to enmity, but by 2003, you could at least understand how we might someday get there. In 2018, i’m pretty comfortable saying that Republicans are my enemy, in that to the extent that they are fighting for their side, i believe they are fighting for evil, full stop.
So it surprised me not when one of those trucks roared down a city street after the Womens March and shouted slurs at us. It’s merely a more overt way of saying what they’ve stolen the flag and made it say. They took my flag and made it say that it hates gays, that immigrants aren’t Americans, that poor people should go uncared for, and that the wealthy should have dominion over us all.
It’s going to say that until we take it back, and we’re only going to take it back by defeating… that’s right, our enemies.
*of course it’s a man, why would you think otherwise?
**an exception: when you’re at the World Cup, you can get away with wearing your flag as a cape, belting out the Star Spangled Banner and drinking Budweiser unironically, and you get it back for just that one month. The Olympics are also probably okay.
For once, i have a good excuse for not having written, dear reader. After what seemed like forever, back in late June, the girl and i had a kid. Many have said that this would be a notable event in life, and upon reflection, i believe they may be on to something.
- It’s amazing how much leaving the hospital with the man resembled buying a house or a car, or getting your diploma in the mail. A huge, momentous thing involving years of effort, buckets of emotion and tens of thousands of dollars, reduced to opening an envelope, or getting handed a set of keys. In this case, signing a form, and snipping off the anti-theft tag, and off you go. You have a kid now, and get to/have to go home on your own.
- Most people’s image of going home from the hospital is probably not chaos. However, since the dude arrived early, none of his stuff was assembled or positioned. And since the girl recovered so well and we got to go home early, a full Sunday’s worth of hospital visitors became houseguests, houseguests who even beat us home. After we were done basking in the glow of everybody being thrilled for us, after the door shut, there we were, in kind of a big ‘now what’ moment, which involved the dude in a little (just-assembled) rocking chair sitting peacefully while we frantically assembled bassinets, put away clothes, ran out to buy stuff we forgot, and tried to piece together a system. My grandfather tells a story about coming home to a tiny apartment in Queens with my mom and immediately going to the nearest pharmacy and asking, “So, what do I need?” We weren’t quite that bad.
- The first few days were near-constant… recycling. The man? He’s fine, he’s easy to deal with, sleeps well, eats well, all that stuff, but i swear, i was breaking down boxes on a near-hourly basis.
- But really, we’re stupidly lucky. The man has been on one feeding a night since he was 4 weeks old. He’s largely calm and cheerful and snuggly. i had just one night of pacing back and forth trying to get him to calm down and go to sleep before i passed out. One.
- It should be noted that our sanity is greatly helped by the nice gadgets i wrote about for my employer here.
- The wicked hot summer has had the unfortunate effect of stranding the girl (with her well-documented love of long-walks) and the dude (who likes sleeping in his stroller just fine) inside for probably half his life so far, which is kinda messed up when you put it that way. Theoretically the man shouldn’t be able to sweat just yet, but since he’s related to me, he found a way. Now that he’s finally able to go out in non-blinding/scorching sun, his reaction to seeing the sky and the trees and the skyscrapers and the cars and the planes and the birds is priceless. Wide-eyed wonder. We can’t wait to show him all the things.
- We’ve been very conscious of self-imposed pressure to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. We always pictured ourselves being light on our feet, and ready to head out the door with the critter on a pretty quick basis. So far we probably deserve a C+ on that. There’ve been plenty of occasions where we’ve been running late, because the man is sleeping, or because the man wakes up and is hungry, or blows his pants up, or whatever. And of course, before vaccinations, we didn’t bring him inside places if we could help it. Despite the increase in difficulty level, we generally head out with one small diaper bag, and have brought him to baseball games, soccer matches, bars, restaurants, beer gardens, and so on. And we’re prepared to flee from these places if things go badly, but haven’t had to. He’s a nice baby. And especially while he’s little, and portable, we want to make sure he’s used to the world outside our basement.
- Terms for the child, other than his name: critter, man, little man, big man, baby man, dude, babby. More to come, i am sure.
- A nice side benefit of having a very big, heavy baby: exercise! Lifting him up in the air has been scientifically proven by me to help burp him, so as a result, it’s good arm exercise. Corollary: the cat now feels practically weightless.
- But really, having a baby is an invitation to tackle a whole bunch of new problems scientifically. Poop color, poop timing, volume, formula consumption, sleep cycles, eat cycles, contrary to my usual tendencies, i don’t have a spreadsheet for any of this, but it’s all in our head, all the time. Learning about him all the time is key to keeping him happy and well, and ourselves sane.
Most of all, though, every new day feels like there might be something that’s new to him, and if he’s excited by it, we get to be, too. It’s a hell of a thing and we’re so lucky to be there for it.
Continued from On Foreign Dialects:
Things we learn from the teenager.
- Shnack, or Shmack, adj.: We’re not sure of the pronunciation and neither is she. Describing something tasty, a fitting snack, logically enough. Example: “I know he brings his Hot Pockets to work for lunch, but they were looking shmack, so I ate them.”
- Brik, adj.: Possible this is only her, and comes from a misunderstanding of the word ‘brisk’. It means ‘brisk’. Example: “I hope you didn’t park the car far away, ’cause it is brik!”
- It’s been a minute: A clever way of saying ‘it has been a while’, but used by default. Example: “I think I shouldn’t have to watch documentaries tonight, because we haven’t, like, done anything fun, I mean, it’s been a minute.”
- Troop, v.: To travel a long way, particularly to somewhere you didn’t want to go. “If Wednesday is a half day, can I just stay home? I mean, what’s the point of me trooping out there if I’m just going to come back?”
- Dip, v.: To leave or GTFO, sometimes implying abruptness or that the place you’re leaving isn’t any fun. “The cat heard a noise outside and dipped”
- The Plug, n.: The connection, the hook-up, the one who makes things happen. Example: “Annette’s like, the plug, we can wait for her to get home to get dinner.”
For the first time since 2002 (when admittedly i did not pay so much attention), i am not going to the World Cup. Notably, neither is the USMNT, but Russia is not a nice place they stole it, later other things, from us, and doesn’t deserve more of my tourist dollars.
In four years, i’m not going, either, because Qatar is not a nice place and they stole it from us and they do not deserve my tourist dollars.
In eight years, happily enough, i won’t have to go anywhere because it’s coming here.
Some words about the above:
A lot of ink’s been spilled about the USMNT fucking it up royally, but this relatively recent article best reflects my assessment of it (which is not of course the same as being most accurate, necessarily, but it’s very well-reported). For me, Klinsmann always struck me as a button-masher with pretensions, someone who had success at the highest level (and obviously on-the-field) but could never communicate why. And it grated on me as a lifelong defender that he never seemed to care about running out a good, or even consistent backline. The best i could say about him is that he asked the right, provocative questions, but he’d also sold us on the idea that he had answers to them. Arena, on the other hand, might well have succeeded if he took over earlier and the US did not dig such a large hole, but he shared a major problem with Klinsmann (hardly unique to either of them). They both leaned on certain players as binkies no matter what kind of form they were in or where they fit on the field. Really, neither of them actually got their best 11 on the field as often as they could have, which is an insane thing for us to have been accustomed to.
And that sucks for the tens of thousands of Americans who are still going to the World Cup, because it’s an amazing time, it really is, and it’s a damn shame that a big part of it they could have reasonably expected and planned around is going to be missing. I feel sad for the people who aren’t going to get to sit in Gelsenkirchen and endure the taunting from an opponent who kicked your ass. Worse for the people who never have the adventure of fording a river of sewage to get to the match in Recife in the 88th minute. Worst for the people who won’t get to sing and shout madly for 90 minutes at altitude in Pretoria until that goal happens. For the stories that are still numerous, amazing, indelible, i hope, but disconnected from the drama of the 31 other countries’ worth of frenemies butting heads. It sucks that all they get to do is be a spectator.
Past Streams of Consciousness from Past World Cups:
Originally posted with the nice people who presumably still run SoccerBlog.com, miraculously still up eight years later. Reposted here because i don’t want to lose it.
hello there. my name is rob colonna from boston, massachusetts. i support the usa, new england revolution, and charlton athletic. in 2006, christian and shourin were kind enough to invite me to write about some of my adventures in germany, and after hearing that i was off to south africa, asked if i could do the same. hope it’s entertaining. (us/england match discussion is at the bottom, after some local color)
– i got up at 0600 on friday morning in boston and flew BOS-ATL-JNB, arriving at the latter at 1710 local (1100 the next day in boston). had an exit row on a 777, near the galley and bathroom, where people gathered to chat. there was enough room to practice charlie davies’ stanky leg dance over the fifteen-plus hour flight, and talk strategy with other people who would also be landing with three hours to get to rustenberg.
– the typically modern, glass-and-steel airport was filled with the periodic blasts of vuvuzelas. i missed a great shot of some wildly dressed locals blasting away from an upper-level walkway, because we were trying to figure out the fifa ticket machines. they work fairly well, and probably would have been no problem at all if there wasn’t such a hurry. it’s also easy to find them at local shopping malls, assuming you have a car. (if you don’t have a car, i don’t know how you’re planning to get around.)
– so, we were not entertaining the option of making the nice lady at our lovely guesthouse stay up until 2am. after checking in, we were down to about two hours before kickoff to make a roughly two-hour drive. but: we got directions from the proprietor of the house, and set off, hoping that the tom-tom app on my iphone would get us there.
– the r24 to rustenberg is a windy, narrow road with crumbling edges creeping into the lanes, sharp turns, and poor marking. people pass recklessly in oncoming lanes. it’s in the middle of nowhere, and while it was nice for this city boy to glimpse the milky way, it was a bit of a white-knuckle trip.
– all that being said, somehow we wound seeing the lights of royal bafokeng about five minutes after kickoff. great news! unfortunately, the stadium signage disappeared at a key moment. this was a good thing and a bad thing. on the one hand, we were totally stumbling around looking for parking that wasn’t sketchy looking. on the other hand, we actually found a dirt lot that would let us park really pretty close for 100R (it was actually 50R but they didn’t have change and i didn’t care). walking around the stadium was no more clearly marked than the surrounding roads or parking.
– i desperately wanted to walk in (nearly halftime) and find it still a match. every roar of the crowd made us nervous. we’d just punched our tickets and heard the sound that could only mean a goal. we saw england flags waving and our hearts sank, but then the american flags rose and the chants of “u.s.a” were heard. the announcer said dempsey’s name, and when we finally glimpsed the field and squeezed into our row that already had extra people getting cozy, we had a match.
– it was tense, but not terrifying, if i had to sum it up. england’s buildups were threatening, and i suspect the usa’s multiple nearly-in-on-net missed counters probably made the english fans feel the same way. maybe. rooney couldn’t ever be marked tight enough for us. cherundolo was a beast down the right, always finding an extra step to get the tackle just right. clark couldn’t hold the ball well enough, but made key stops. donovan and dempsey were most visible (remember we were only there for the second half) for their contributions on defense, which were timely. hustle back saw dempsey’s orange boot snatch the ball from rooney at the 18 at a nervous moment, for instance. gooch noticeably stepped it up in the last fifteen minutes, as if he could sense that more was needed of him. the extra time actually was a bit anticlimactic, if you can believe it; it actually felt under control, maybe even a chance to steal it, at that point. the steep, packed, usa supporters’ sections erupted at the final whistle.
– it was a great feeling to be able to applaud the whole team as they came over after the match. you really felt like you were helping to propel every throw in and corner in the attacking end, and it was nice to see they heard us.
– the english were mostly good sports. at halftime, there was a spirited discussion begun by a shocked “how the f*** can england not have a goalie?” out of an england supporter in the wrong section. nobody had an answer for him. lots of handshakes after the match amongst fans.
– i’ve got to be honest, especially after dealing with the efforts required to get parked for the upcoming matches at soccer city and ellis park, things have not been that smoothly organized here. royal bafokeng is simply not up to the standard needed for this event (we were keeping our own time in the stands, for goodness’ sake!). but that shouldn’t be a reflection on any of the thousands of volunteers, police, and private security, as well as any other citizens of south africa we’ve encountered. they’re all extremely friendly and cheerful and helpful.
– netherlands-denmark at soccer city tomorrow; hope to share more photos and other stuff later this week.
hello again from freezing cold johannesburg.
– it’s pretty clear that the folks who are running things are learning as they go along. the parking and logistics situation at soccer city improved markedly between netherlands-denmark on monday and argentina-south korea today. for instance, they mowed the grass in the parking area–of course they mow the grass by lighting it on fire and now it’s a charred wasteland. the biggest improvement they could make is a boldface mention of the fact that you need to buy ticket for a park-and-walk lot or a park-and-ride lot for ellis park and soccer city, and that you need to buy this from a computicket outlet (online, pick it up in a local supermarket). once you figure this out, all that’s left is to leave for the match a good 2.5-3 hours early. going to an afternoon match is an all-day commitment.
– the empty seats everywhere are a bit disappointing, but the atmosphere in soccer city is certainly not lacking because of it. it’s a vast, covered stadium which does nothing to dissipate the noise of vuvuzelas, but still allows you (at least in person) the ability to hear singing and drums and yelling. on monday, the dutch were in predictably good voice, and today, there were two small but very well-organized south korean sections which drummed and chanted until the end of the match (as well as pulling off some great flag displays).
– the crowd roared today when maradona randomly side-footed a ball that came to the technical area. messi is not too bad either.
– vuvuzelas are as little as 30R, but are surprisingly hard to use. i have two already. i plan to give one to the small children of all of my friends, so that they will hate me forever.
– it’s unfortunate that so much about johannesburg is so decentralized. security concerns, whether or not they’re warranted, have you going from hotel/house, to car, to mall/restaurant/stadium, and it’s a rare treat to walk even a block, in pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods like melville or newtown. it’s a huge switch from the fan-fest/city-center centric experience in germany. even so, we’ve met/talked with/had drinks with people from dozens of countries already, which is half the point of coming to the world cup. it’s an unstoppable social experience.
– both the locals and the americans we’ve run into love rooting for the underdog–even if it’s north korea.
– we were downtown last night cheering on bafana bafana at the fan fest, which for once was actually populated (see previous statement). the locals we’ve talked to apparently detest the cold, which explains some of this. the penalty/red card call took a lot of the starch out of them, which made us sad; we’d all like to see our hosts have as good a time as they’ve helped us have. even if many of them still prefer rugby.
– is it me (with a limited-commentary, live/foreign viewpoint on the matches), or have there been a ton of short corners, free kicks that don’t clear the first guy, etc., and can we blame the lack of scoring and underperforming of the superpowers on this? i will choose to until proven wrong. argentina-south korea at least delivered some truly high-quality scoring plays as opposed to the parade of mostly soft goals or o.g.’s that preceded.
– us vs. slovenia tomorrow–come on, usa!
– let’s talk about the usa-slovenia match and get it over with. i was seated in the usa supporters’ section near the second half offensive end. it was utter bedlam after the equalizing goal; we all knew it was coming and it did not disappoint. beer flying, hugging strangers, jumping up and down. the third goal was almost a continuation of it, and upon catching a glimpse of the referee, i was trying to get people to stop celebrating and look at the field. by the time it had calmed down, it was practically too late to boo and swear. i think a lot of the hardcore supporters took it better than i did; it felt like the party we’d righteously earned had been stolen from us.
– practically everyone we ran into (still wearing assorted usa jerseys) for the next 48 hours would stop and tell us how screwed we got. practically the entire security staff at the stadium in durban wouldn’t let me through until they said as much, and barely patted me down.
– durban is a six hour drive from johannesburg, but couldn’t possibly feel more different. the walled-garden/gilt cage secured houses/malls/parking lots of johannesburg feel a bit stifling after a while. durban, on the other hand has miles of lively boardwalk along the beach, dotted with high-rise hotels. couple that with warm winter weather, drinking beer outside, and the fifa fan fest in the sand, on the beach, and it’s a great part of the world cup.
– beyond that, moses mabhida stadium is one of the most spectacular sporting facilities i’ve ever been to.
– i made a point after the netherlands-japan match on saturday of complimenting japanese fans we met on their team’s performance. their support against the netherlands was great, and they’ve been a fun team to watch.
– brazil-ivory coast at soccer city on sunday night did not quite live up to the billing on the field. it was, however, the first time my hearing felt threatened by the vuvuzelas. the brazilian fans do not take no for an answer when attempting to expand their party to fill the available space. the stewards were very patient in repeatedly removing the drum corps and dancers from the aisles.
– my internet connection here is slow and i’m not around to use it much so i haven’t kept up on news coverage. is anyone talking about the dust situation at soccer city? it’s surrounded by giant plateaus of old mine tailings, and empty lots of red dirt that blows around like mad and makes it hard to breathe on the 2km walk to the stadium. between the dust and the smoke (at any given time, i’d bet that there are 50 fires of various size burning brush or structures in the johannesburg area) and the altitude, soccer city may as well be the new azteca.
– leaving the country on thursday, usa-algeria on wednesday beforehand. looking for a happy plane flight home.