b Papa Dog's Blog: September 2005

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Other Night's Excitement

Wednesday night I had just stepped out the front door to take Doggy Dog for his evening constitutional when I heard a scuffle at the corner. A guy on foot had collided with a guy on a bike. Maybe two guys on foot. It was dark, the corner was a good distance away, and it was hard to be sure what was going on. It might have been a fight or a robbery, or it might have just been a couple of guys goofing around. In the dark, from a distance, those all tend to look pretty much the same.

Then it got weird. The guy on the bike started yelling “Fire! Fire! Fire!” in this nasal whiny screech. I paused at the stop of the stairs. Doggy Dog looked back at me uncertainly. Finally, I remembered reading somewhere, in an advice column or something, that if you’re in trouble, the best thing to yell is “Fire,” because people come to see what’s going on. Apparently the guy on the bike had heard the same thing.

Still, I paused. It really was hard to make sense of what was going on. The guys on foot – I could see for sure now there were two of them – were just looking at the guy on the bike, probably wondering if he was loco. I put a hand on the cell phone in my pocket, wondering if I should call the cops. I wasn’t even quite sure what crime, if any, I might be reporting.

Then the guy on the bike, apparently spotting me, called out, “Call the police! These guys just ripped off a bike!” Contrary to what the guy on the bike intended, that stopped me cold, and for a couple of reasons. One is that he had just managed to confuse matters even further. I understood – or thought I did – why he was yelling “fire” in the middle of a non-flaming street, but what was this bullshit about a stolen bike? The only bike there was the one he was sitting on. I don’t recall any advice column ever recommending that when you really want someone to call the police for you, you should yell out that a bike’s been stolen. The other reasons I paused is that he was yelling at me to call the cops while I was standing right at my front door. It sucks that I feel the need to think this way, but I do; this was the last place I wanted to be if I was going to intervene in plain view of the guy’s possible gang-banger possible attackers. There are some bad precedents around these parts that argue strongly against making my house a target.

Fortunately, events overtook my need to make a decision. A car pulled up into the intersection, and the two guys on foot back-pedalled out of the way. The driver came out of the car and said what I thought was “Here’s your bike.” I still wasn’t making any sense of this at all, but I figured it had just ceased to be my problem. The on-foot guys were taking off and the in-the-car guy would take care of the on-the-bike guy. Then the single weirdest thing happened in the whole weird episode; the guy on the bike pedaled away, ringing the little bell on his bicycle as he went.

As I saw it at that point, my only responsibility was to see to it that my dog took a dump. I walked Doggy Dog off in the opposite direction. I started to go on my regular route, but decided that might carry me past the on-foot guys if they were coming around the block, so I struck off in a different direction. I got about half a block away when I heard running behind me. I turned and saw the two on-foot guys booking up a side street towards Telegraph. Probably not gang kids, I decided. But definitely teenagers, judging from their size and the way they moved. Doggy Dog and I took our walk.

My indecision and inertia gnawed at me during the walk. Should I have done something more? What, exactly? Yelled? Called the cops? Went over and let my large vicious-looking dog defuse the situation? It’s a cliché, but it truly did all happen too fast. Things seemed a little clearer with time to think about it. For one thing, I started to piece together what had probably happened. The two on-foot guys had stolen a bike from the house of the on-the-bike guy, or maybe from someone else the on-the-bike guy had been with. He chased them. They ditched the bike and attacked him. The motorist picked up the stolen bike and followed. I never did see a second bike, but befuddled witnesses miss all sorts of things. And like I said, it was far away and dark. It didn’t add up 100%, but it seemed like I was probably pretty close.

When Doggy Dog and I got back to our street, I decided to go to the corner – the scene of the crime – and see if perhaps the police were taking a report. It seemed I ought to at least tell what I’d seen, particularly the direction the malefactors had headed in. Sure enough, when I got around the corner I saw a police car halfway up the block. I walked up there and found a policeman talking to a young fellow holding and ice pack to his face. I figured that was the guy on the bike. I told them as much as I had seen, as clearly as I could given how confused I was by it all. The guy with the ice pack said, “Did you see where the guy on the bike went?” I said, “That wasn’t you?” Turns out, he had come out to intervene on behalf of the bike guy and got popped in the nose for his trouble. The bike guy hadn’t stayed around to say thanks. Or to explain what the hell had gone on. The ice pack guy and the cop seemed as confused by the whole thing as I was, and I chose to take the ice pack guy’s bloody nose as a sign that I’d probably done the right thing by staying out of the middle of it after all.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mama Dog

It’s Mama Dog’s birthday today. No special plans for tonight, though I did come up with a pretty good present (which some of you already know about). I won’t get all gushy here, having done that already last year, except to say happy birthday, Love, and thanks awfully for the child.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

But Not Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, or Thyme

Somewhere around the time Baby Dog started taking solid foods, Mama Dog developed a fascination with vinyl placemats from the 1970s. It was a bit of nostalgic yearning combined with a practical need to find a food serving surface that, unlike our old woven cotton standbys, can be wiped clean with a sponge. Mama Dog haunted EBay and found a couple of sets of bargains. The most recent were these vintage Vera dealies featuring pictures of different herb and spice plants.



Although she took little notice of the placemats initially, they eventually caught Baby Dog’s attention, and during at least one meal a day she inevitably wants to play with one of the placemats. Since any distraction makes her easier to feed, I tend to fork the thing over. We developed a routine. Baby Dog would point at a plant and say, “This!” I’d say “That’s the spearmint.” “This!” “That’s the chicory.” And so on. For Mama Dog’s amusement and because I can’t resist an opportunity to turn things into a quiz, I started asking “Where’s the watercress.” Baby Dog would point confidently at the watercress and say “There!” Mama Dog was surprised and impressed until I pointed out that the watercress is front and center on the placemat and I knew it was the one Baby Dog always points at first. Similar tricks are used to make it look as though horses know how to do arithmetic.

Today, though.... On a lark, I asked Baby Dog one by one where the bergamot, the spearmint, the chicory, the watercress, and the yarrow were. One by one she identified the correct plant. I kind of doubt a horse can be trained to do that. Hell, I only know which one is which because it’s clearly labelled on the mat. Baby Dog must have the memory I used to have before I got middle-aged. I suspect she wouldn’t recognise a bundle of yarrow if we dropped it on the table, but she sure knows what spot on the placemat goes by that name.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Sick Day (Not Mine)

JR’s in the hospital with a blood clot in his lung, which has got to be a pretty crappy way to follow up a honeymoon. He’s not even on any good painkillers. I can’t understand why this should be, but all of a sudden we and our peer group seem to be acquiring problems and challenges that smack of middle age. Blood clots, infertility, mortgages, heart ailments, bad backs, bifocals. As one who only recently departed his teens, I find this puzzling.

We stopped by tonight for a visit, with a card Mama Dog picked out and a deck of cards I picked out. We know each other from poker, see. Figured he could use a brand-new unmarked deck of 52 with which to pass the time between invasions and impertinences.

Baby Dog was in a happy and chatty mood. As we entered the hospital, we encountered almost immediately a coterie of custodians in the lounge area. One hopped up and put himself face to face with Baby Dog, muttering endearments. The act trod a frayed line between sweet and creepy. Mama Dog mentioned that our girl spoke Spanish, so the guy switched languages, and bad her farewell as “amor.” Baby Dog stared stonily at him throughout, refusing to be charmed by a weirdo getting in her face. Good girl. “Let’s leave by a different exit,” Mama Dog suggested later.

JR and the Mircat had a room to themselves, the Mircat having somehow contrived to get JR’s elderly roommate with the sleep apnea transferred elsewhere. The room, like the rest of the hospital, seemed stuck in the early 70s, right down to the wall-mounted Zenith TV. The cool part was that it overlooked the helipad, and midway through the visit we got to see a helicopter arrive. “Helicopter” is a word Baby Dog has recently learned from one of her books, and has come close to saying. She seemed very excited to see a real one.

JR seemed in good spirits, considering. We talked about TV shows and medical procedures and I managed to get Baby Dog to give a small demonstration of her command of farm animal noises before she succumbed to stage fright. The nurse came in to check under the hood, so we took off. Luckily, the janitors weren’t in the lounge anymore—we really didn’t have another exit to chose from.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sick Day

Had the beginnings of a sore throat over the weekend, then this morning I woke up and almost tripped over the dog first thing. I felt dizzy and unbalanced. When I had my first morning taste of OJ, I felt inexplicably nauseous. “I don’t think I’m feeling too well,” I said to Mama Dog, with customary Canadian understatement. She took one look at me and said, “You should stay home.”

One of the unfortunate aspects of my job is that my days off have to be arranged with all the carefree spontaneity of a space shuttle launch. As insignificant as my job is, it’s the kind that gets noticed widely if it’s not getting done. If I fail to show up, klaxons go off. I have backup operators, but I need to arrange in advance for them to cover for me. When I don’t discover until six in the morning that I’m not going to make it to work that day, it can be a bit of a sticky wicket. All I wanted to do, though was go back to bed. I made a few phone calls and did just that.

Mama Dog dropped Baby Dog off at daycare and went to work. I spent a couple of hours trying to rest enough so that I wouldn’t feel like I was playing shuffleboard on the Poseidon when I stood up. Then I acquainted myself with the teevee for the rest of the day. In fact, I got all caught up in my stories.

Around 2:30 in the p.m., Mama Dog called to say that she was feeling dizzy and headachy and nauseous and was going to come home. This is going to sound callous, but I was relieved. I’d been assuming at some level that my symptoms could be attributable only to a brain tumour. Since it’s tumours aren’t contagious and it’s incredibly unlikely we’d have the same one, Mama Dog coming up with the same symptoms was good news. I reckon we both picked up a touch of cold from Baby Dog and then exacerbated it by not getting enough sleep.

I definitely have to go back to the dirt farm tomorrow. So that’s it for tonight. I’m going to try to get a solid eight hours. See you later.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

At Least She Doesn't Make Us Watch Teletubbies Yet

Starting to get a little tired of reading Over in the Meadow again and again and again.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Couple Brief and Sketchy Notes About this Morning

We went out for breakfast this morning with Famiglia Pirate. It may well have been our first time going out to breakfast since Baby Dog was born. We met up at the Homemade Café. Mama Dog, striving for virtue and I, glorying in the binge that follows weigh day, were a study in contrasts. She had the abstemious vegan’s special – grits, tofu and vegetation – and I had cinnamon swirl French toast with maple syrup, extra butter, and a side of bacon. Baby Dog had already eaten before we left, but to forestall fussiness, she was encouraged to share off of Mama Dog’s plate (and Baby Pirate’s). Nobody suggested she have any of my French toast. Baby Pirate seemed most interested in eating ice. They all have their preferences.

We rendezvoused after at our house, where I had a second breakfast because I, for reasons not clear even to me, was still hungry. Then we went off to Children’s Fairyland for fun and frolic. Baby Pirate tried out the Ferris wheel. It’s very slow, very level, and very sedate, but it was enough to give Mama Pirate palpitations watching her baby go up and around in that contraption. We were too faint of heart to even try it with Baby Dog, and probably still will be for another six months or so. Baby Pirate loved it, though, and Baby Dog seemed kind of thrilled vicariously. She smiled and waved when she saw her cool older friend way up in the air.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Alfred, Are You Up Yet?

Baby Dog almost tore the cover off Over in the Meadow the other day, but I got hold of it in time and was able to repair the tear with her blue duct tape (used to be our duct tape but somehow or other its taken up residence in her toy box). Also patched in blue are Ten Little Ladybugs and Owl Babies. Ten Wishing Stars, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Good Night, Sweet Butterflies seem not too far behind. I wasn’t there when it happened so I’m not too clear on the details, but somehow Pat the Bunny got rent thoroughly asunder.

Watching Baby Dog gradually batter her favourite books to bits and pieces has inevitably brought to mind all the books I mauled, defaced, and abused as a child. Sometime during dinner tonight a curiosity I’d been harbouring blossomed into something like an obsession, and now I find I need to know about Alfred, Are You Up Yet?

That, as best I can recall, was the title of my favourite book as a baby. I’m not sure if I even remember the book, or if I just remember being told about it, but I believe it was a story about a cartoony little fellow wandering through a house, calling, “Alfred, are you up yet?” In the last panel, he sees another cartoony fellow dangling from a chandelier and exclaims, “Oh, Alfred, you ARE up!”

Not great literature and not the stuff of classic children’s books. I imagine it was just a cheap and flimsy little paper book for babies. I know that by the time we moved to Nepean when I was four it was, like Baby Dog’s copy of Pat the Bunny, not so much a book as a collection of loose papers. I think maybe I just had the last page.

Tonight after dinner I took a little stab at research. I looked on Google and Alibris and Ebay and even the Library of Congress catalogue with no success. I’m doubting now if I’m remembering the name of the book correctly. Is it “Albert Are You Up Yet?” Or maybe “Are You Up, Alfred?” Or any of a million other near misses or variations?

I know this is a great big stab in the dark, but if what little I can recall about this book rings a bell for anybody out there, please let me know. Any information will help. Or any suggestions for other sources to search. I must find this silly little book.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Nez

It’s a natural consequence of certain economic realities that a child going to daycare in the United States inevitably gains early lessons in languages other than English. Our daycare is owned and operated by Korean-Americans. They have one employee who is Mexican and speaks little to no English. This is why Baby Dog, going on fifteen months, now knows how to say “nose” in three languages. Hell if I know what the Spanish or Korean words for “nose” are. But then, I know how to say it in French, so maybe I’ll catch up eventually.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This Evening's Vignette

Mama Dog came home early tonight because she had an optometrist's appointment. We all went out together, and while she was having her head examined (the ocular portion thereof), Baby Dog and I took a stroll along Piedmont Avenue. We stopped first at L’Amyx, where I had an overpriced pot of Earl Grey tea and a rather dry piece of cake. Baby Dog sipped water from a plastic cup and didn’t make too much noise, but she was clearly restless. We walked on to the only comics store in the East Bay that doesn’t make me nauseous to enter. It’s been so long since I’ve been in one of those places, it felt like a foreign world. Nothing on the racks seemed the least bit familiar to me. We started to head back. Stopped at the lawn of a church or school or something like that, and Baby Dog and I practiced walking. She’s getting very enthusiastic about it. I’d say, “Let’s walk to that tree,” and we’d do that. She would pat the trunk for a bit, then sit down, crawl some, and I’d say “Let’s walk to that other tree,” and we’d do that. She may have a future in environmentalism…at one point, she literally hugged a tree. We met up with Mama Dog just as she was exiting the optometrist's office. Her eyes were dilated and she was seeing a blue outline around everything. We dined at Little Shin Shin, reckoning her eyes might be normal enough for her to drive by the time we were done. We fed Baby Dog with chopsticks, which was novel. She ate enthusiastically, and in fact got kind of wired and rambunctious. I let her play with my keys to keep her happy before the meal, and the last time she dropped them to the floor I just left them there, hoping to keep them out of sight and out of mind so as to make it easier for me to sneak them back in my pocket when we left. Two different waiters alerted me to the keys’ presence. I kept saying “Yes, I know,” but I guess it offended their sense of decorum. A waiter scooped them up and handed them to me. It happened so fast that Baby Dog didn’t see. We headed home with leftovers and a happy, chatty baby.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

It's Never to Soon to Long for Bygone Days

More than a year ago in this faversham, the books that two-month-old Baby Dog was enjoying. Not all of those books have remained in the hit parade. Ten Little Ladybugs has remained a constant favourite, to the point that it’s had to be repaired with duct tape. Are You My Mother? has been similarly constant, though it’s held up better to the wear and tear. A favourite photo of mine shows me lying on the bed reading that book to Baby Dog, who gazes at it in rapt attention. One might assume that this was just a split second caught on film and that she’d been wriggling about and looking at other things all the while, but no, she really did intently watch the books I read her when she was two months old, and she continues to do so today – though now she’s more likely to pick up another book when she gets bored in the middle.

Back then there was one book, Over in the Meadow, which I sometimes suspected I liked more than she did. It was always part of our regular repertoire, but I rather assumed the simpler and gaudier illustrations in Ten Little Ladybugs were garnering a greater share of her attention. The subtle hues of Ezra Jack Keats’ watercolours seemed unlikely to arrest her attention, except maybe for the very bold red background on the page with the crows. Moreover, unlike most of the others, this was not a board book, but an old-fashioned flimsy children’s book – light cardboard cover, very tearable paper insides. When Baby Dog got big enough that she wanted to handle the books herself, this one was placed on administrative leave for its own protection.

Sometime in the last few weeks, its found its way back into the rotation, and to our great surprise it’s become Baby Dog’s absolute favourite. It’s the first book she reaches for in the morning and the last one she wants to hear at night. Maybe it’s the rhythmic meter. Maybe she’s old enough now to better distinguish the figures of the animals in the paintings. Or maybe – and this is my favourite theory – she’s experiencing the first nostalgia of her life. Maybe this book brings back warm and pleasant memories of those halcyon days of last year when she was only two months old and could scarcely dream of one day holding a book in her very own hands.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Little Background on Yesterday's Lamest-Ever Post

Got home from poker just before 1 a.m. Sunday. The Kitty and I were fumbling about in the dark bringing in tabletops and felts and stuff. I set the felt tops down, forgetting that one was taller than the other, and listened to dismay as first the shorter felt thunked loudly on the floor and then Baby Dog began to cry in the next room. Though it had been no fault of his, the Kitty apologised. “No big deal,” I said, “she’s probably not really awake.”

Unfortunately, before I could pick the baby up I had to first wash my hands and for some reason thought I had to get the detritus into the back hall. I guess I thought she’d quickly stop crying on her own. She didn’t, and by the time I got into her room, Mama Dog was wide awake as well and Daddy was in dutch. Baby Dog was sitting up in the crib in her sleep sack, crying away. I picked her up and shushed her and sang to her. Sure enough, she wasn’t really awake, and was soon back to peaceful sleep. Mummy and Daddy were a different story. We lay awake, unable to relax. And of course, in the morning, Baby Dog woke up at a time beginning with 6. Closer to 7 than to 6, yeah, but still beginning with 6.

We were ill-tempered zombies all day Sunday. On thing we got right, though; we went to Picante for supper around 5 in the p.m. It was completely uncrowded and we were able to be in and out – including feeding the child – in less than half an hour. Even though it took us stops at two different grocery stores on the way home to find my ice cream, we managed to have everything done – baby bathed, dog walked and fed, baby lulled to sleep, dishes away – by 8 p.m. By 10 I had made my lame blog post and we were ready to make up for the previous night’s sleep deficit.

Tonight’s been non-stop busy-ness since I got home, and I’m feeling totally wrecked. Looking forward to the extra forty minutes or so of sleep we usually get on Wednesday mornings.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Could This Be the Night When I Finally Don't Post?

Well, yes and no.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

No Time Tonight

Got a poker game and probably won't be back til after midnight, so no time for more than a couple of sentences. Oh well. See you tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dadding Compulsively

It occurred to me today that obsessive-compulsive behaviour which has previously seemed something of a detriment or at least a slight embarrassment is actually an advantage in raising a child. Because I can be reliably counted on to repeatedly do this exactly the same damn way, I’ve helped her learn. When I read story A and come to the page with the cat on it, I would invariably say “See the kittycat? Meow!” After a while, Baby Dog would pre-emptively meow when we came to that page. We’ve developed all manner of little rituals together, and they’ve all helped her learn things. Odd.

In an almost entirely unrelated matter, she did her best walking yet this morning. I held her hands over her head and she took steps all the way across the living room to greet her very thrilled Mummy on the couch. Baby Dog seemed pleased with all the lavish praise and applause, but I don’t think she really knew what all the fuss was about. I get the feeling she could have done this weeks ago if it had occurred to us to try. We’ll practice every day now (compulsively). I think she’ll be walking on her own very soon. Which, having seen Baby Pirate’s early attempts at bipedal locomotion, scares the bejeezus out of me.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Goodnight, Irene

We've been running late all day, at least since I was unable to get Baby Dog's garment over her head on the first three tries and each successive attempt became a bigger struggle until it turned into a full-on screaming meltdown. After work, we were late eating dinner, late getting Baby Dog into the bath, late getting her to bed, and only now at 9:30 is she asleep, the dishes done, the dog fed, the counter cleaned, and peace reigning. I just want to lie down, read my book, have some ice cream, and commune with the wife. So goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene, I'll see you in my dreams.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I Guess It's Time to Have a Jazz Funeral for New Orleans

I spoke with Avenuu today. She’s taken refuge at her mom’s house in Wisconsin, as has her sister. Since the two sisters come with a significant other and a child apiece, the little house is quite crowded. I asked if Avenuu’s sister wanted any of Baby Dog’s hand-me-downs for her daughter, who is several months younger. Wasn’t sure how much stuff she would have taken when fleeing the hurricane. Not much, as it turns out, but she’s received donations since and her boy was on his way down south as we spoke, hoping to pick up anything he could that they left behind. Avenuu says they’re not going to move back, even if it dries out. She’s afraid of the long-term health hazards. When the city is drained, so it’s said, the sludge that’s left behind will eventually dry into dust and become airborne. Who knew a hurricane had a half-life?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Baby Dog's First Art Opening

Baby Dog went to her first art opening tonight. Mama Dog thought it would be politic to put in an appearance at the first gala related to her new job, so though the timing was inconvenient, we did our best to make it work. I raced out of the office as soon as I could, but there wasn’t going to be time for me to walk the dog before we went out again. Heroically, Mama Dog undertook that chore before I got home, walking Doggy Dog while simultaneously pushing Baby Dog along in the stroller. This is not an easy thing to do, Doggy Dog being a large and wilful animal. At one point Doggy Dog caught sight of a cat and lunged at it. Baby Dog, noticing the cat, said “Mao!” “Yes, Doggy Dog’s trying to eat the Mao,” Mama Dog agreed.

We headed out shortly after I got home and changed. I said I thought it was the first time that Baby Dog had ever seen me in a suit, but then remembered I wore one to the Mircat’s wedding. Probably there’s been another suitworthy event or two since Baby Dog was born, but they don’t spring immediately to mind. It was cold-for-California* out, so Mama Dog bundled the little girl up in some sort of woollen body armour that she said made her look like Violet Beauregarde all swoled** up like a blueberry. She was so warm and cozy in this garment that she almost fell asleep in the stroller on the way to the gallery. I picked her up and carried her the last block or so to make sure she actually got to experience her very first art opening.

We didn’t stay long at the gallery, just enough for Mama Dog to hobnob with her orkers and make her presence known. Baby Dog seemed to enjoy looking at the art, particularly when we pointed out that there were monkeys in the background of one painting. “Ee ee ee,” she observed enthusiastically. Not a bad lead for a review, really. Later, she pointed at some of the exhibits in the lower level of the gallery and said with great confidence first “Moo!” then “Neigh!” We went downstairs and I tried dutifully to locate the cows and horses she thought she had seen, but to no avail. I found much post-modern irony but no livestock.

Mama Dog and I were both quite esurient*** by then, so we curtailed our hobnobbing activities and sallied forth to infiltrate some place of purveyance where we could negotiate the vending of some cheesy (or cheese-free) comestibles. Unfortunately, it was in this phase of the operation that things broke down somewhat. We had planned to go out, see the opening briefly, and then eat somewhere, but we had never discussed where that somewhere might be, and we were both too hungry to figure it out. At length, we agreed on Cactus Taqueria, so we headed down College in that direction. Before we got there, Mama Dog spotted a parking space across the street from Barclay’s, and she grabbed it. I looked askance at Barclay’s. “Do you think they even have high chairs?” I asked. Mama Dog shrugged. “It’s Rockridge. Everyplace caters to babies.” “Yeah, but it’s a bar.” “No, it’s just a pub.” Okeydoke. It turns out they did have highchairs. They even had a kids place-mat and crayons. What they didn’t have was any table other than the one by the door, squeezed next to a table full of red-faced lager louts. Baby Dog, close to sleep walking to the gallery, was now wide awake and wired. She squealed and shrieked. The louts looked at us like we were making more noise than they were. Nothing like a restless child to make you blaze through a restaurant meal in record time. With no food for her to eat, it was difficult to keep Baby Dog occupied. She read Bus Stops a few times, but grew bored with that. I finally decided we’d have to take turns eating. There was a woman at the table outside our window with a very friendly-looking puppy, so I took Baby Dog outside to be introduced.

After eating, we drove around until Baby Dog was asleep. But of course she had to be changed before bed and that meant prying her out of the Violet Beauregarde getup. There was no way to do it without waking her up again. I rocked her back to her third sleep of the night. This one took. Big night for Baby Dog.
___________________
*In other words, autumnally mild.
**paul, yes, I know that’s not really a word.
***Eee, I were all ‘ungry, like.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Sound of Cows in the Night

When we put Baby Dog to bed, we generally lay her down under just one blanket or maybe two if it’s cooler Later, when the temperature has dropped a little more, one or the other of us will transfer her to her sleep sack for the night. Usually it’s me on account of we usually do it last thing at night and I tend to go to bed later. The last little while, we’ve been in the habit of doing the sleep sack transfer together. I lift sleeping Baby Dog up, Mama Dog slips the sleep sack under, and we collaboratively get Baby Dog's arms through the holes and zip the thing up. It’s a nice little family ritual.

Last night, as is sometimes the case, Baby Dog seemed determined to stay on her side throughout the sleep sack transfer. This complicates matters because the sack zips up the front. I’d roll her onto her back, we’d start to zip up, she’d roll back on her side, and we’d have to start again. We repeated this several times. On the last rolling/zipping cycle, Baby Dog very clearly said “Moo” before rolling onto her side. Was she dreaming of the cow we saw at the Little Farm this weekend? Or of the cow in The Very Busy Spider? Or was she just working on her vocabulary in her sleep? Whichever it was, perhaps you had to be there, but it was awfully damn cute.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I Don't Actually Love a Parade, But I Seem to End Up at Them from Time to Time

In the twenty years (off and on) I’ve lived in the East Bay, it never once occurred to me to even consider going to the Solano Stroll, but apparently once you have a child it becomes the thing you do every year. In fact, the last two years we’ve had actual reasons to go. Last year, Baby Dog was a Grand Marshall. This year, Mama Dog was working a table for her employer.

Last year, Baby Dog was only two months and change old for the stroll, so she probably didn’t get much out of it. This year she was much more aware of her surroundings, pointing out each and every woof that passed by. The biggest moment for her was when she got her very own balloon. Her first balloon. Daddy was pretty proud of it, too, because the balloons were being given out at a table set up by some petition drive or other, and I got my girl a balloon without having to sign the damn thing. “Are you a Berkeley voter?” the petition lady asked. “Sorry, no, I’m not an American citizen. And she’s [indicating Baby Dog] not old enough yet.” This is one of the areas where my disfranchisement is offset by a little bonus. I can honestly tell any petition gatherer that no, I’m not a registered voter and in fact it would be illegal if they tried to register me. I suppose you can try saying that if you actually are a citizen, but I think there’s more savour to it not having to tell a lie. I also get out of jury duty, and I don’t think you could fib about your citizenship there.

We met the Pirates at Mama Dog’s booth and walked either up (according to me) or down (according to Papa Pirate) to Walker’s Pie Shop for our second annual lunch-at-Walker’s-during-the-stroll. Baby Dog obligingly fell asleep on the way to the restaurant and had her daily nap right through lunch and on until we were back in the car. The Pirates were apparently occupying a different time zone, because Baby Pirate not only didn’t fall asleep but was right miffed she wasn’t allowed to explore the entire restaurant on foot.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Pardon Me Whilst I Shit a Brick of Pride

The nice daycare people have been saying that though she’s lagging in the ambulatory department – she’s still not walking, though we expect her to start anytime now – Baby Dog is incredibly advanced in every other way. She is able to play alone and entertain herself happily but can also share toys with the other babies. Most especially, they’re very impressed with her verbal abilities. We knew that she was a very smart, chatty baby, but we didn’t really get too excited about these anecdotal observations until yesterday, when Mama Dog forwarded an email from this service she subscribes to, which describes your baby’s theoretical development from month to month. This is what it has to say about the cognitive development of 14-month-old children: “At 14 months, your toddler understands many more words than she can say. Her spoken vocabulary likely consists of about three to five words, typically "Mama," "Dada," and one other simple word such as "ball" or "dog," but she learns the meanings of new words every day.” We were both similarly agog at that. We knew for sure that Baby Dog was speaking way more than three to five words.

Today, on a whim, I started tallying up the words Baby Dog speaks. She uses some of them more frequently than others, and there are a few she said for a while and then seemed to forget about. Her pronunciation is a little shaky and her usage is uncertain, but there were so damn many of them. I ran out of steam at 88 words. I’ve certainly forgotten a bunch, so my estimate is that our 14-month-old has a spoken vocabulary in excess of 100 words, and she shows a clear understanding of many many others. (Note, for example, that she generally says either the name of an animal or the noise it makes but not both; she definitely knows both words, though.)

Anyway, here’s the list of Baby Dog’s words, as best I could remember them today:

1. (her own name)
2. ah-choo
3. apple
4. baa
5. baby
6. bah-poo (a word of her own devising; we eventually figured out it means “diaper”)
7. ball
8. balloons (usually pronounced “boonze”)
9. banana (generally she says “nana”)
10. bath
11. bib (usually pronounced “bub”)
12. birdy
13. blue
14. boat
15. bone
16. boom
17. Bud (the name of the titular swine in her absolute favourite book – a bath book – “What a Pig!
18. butterfly (usually pronounced something like “buh” or “buf”)
19. burp
20. bus
21. bwoop bwoop (the sound that Daddy taught her fish fake)
22. bye-ee (usually spoken after the person she’s been asked to say goodbye to has already left)
23. bzzzz (actually, the sound is a raspberry, but it’s as close as she can come to a bumblebee buzz)
24. car
25. cheese
26. da-da (there was confusion about this early on – it means not “daddy” but “music”; specifically, the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as played by her musical butterfly; comes from imitating Mama Dog or Halmonie as they hummed along to the tune – “da da, da da da da da….”)
27. daddy
28. dirty
29. doggie
30. door
31. drawer (hard to hear the difference between “door” and “drawer,” but she uses them appropriately)
32. ducky
33. ee-ee-ee (the sound Daddy taught her is made by monkeys or, as Baby Dog pointed out, the fake President)
34. elbow
35. eyes (applied indiscriminately to refer both to eyes and ears)
36. ha ha (usually spoken after hearing the word “fun” or “funny”; also used spontaneously as a laugh when amused)
37. halmonie
38. hand
39. hat
40. hi
41. hide
42. home
43. hoo (as in “what does the owl say?”)
44. hop (usually used to refer to the book “Hop on Pop”)
45. hot
46. house
47. juice (just started saying that today)
48. keys
49. knees
50. lemons
51. maa (according to “The Very Busy Spider,” that’s what goats say)
52. mail
53. map
54. melon (exclusively used to mean “watermelon”)
55. meow
56. mess
57. monkey
58. moo
59. moon
60. moose
61. mummy
62. neigh
63. night-night
64. no
65. nose
66. num num or nummy
67. out
68. pee
69. shhhhh
70. shoes
71. snacky
72. spoon
73. stay (when Daddy makes Doggy Dog lie down in the bedroom to get him out from underfoot at dinner time, he sternly says “Lie down!” at which point Baby Dog gleefully exclaims “Stay!” because she knows that’s what’s coming next; then she repeats it throughout dinner)
74. sun
75. teeth
76. there
77. this
78. toes
79. towel
80. tree
81. tweet
82. uh-oh! (usually spoken after throwing something to the floor from the high chair; still hasn’t match Baby Pirate’s record of saying “uh-oh!” before throwing something to the floor from the high chair)
83. up
84. whale
85. woof
86. yay
87. yes
88. zizzuzz (meaning Ziggety Zug, the name Mama Dog gave to Baby Dog’s beloved Uglydoll)

Friday, September 09, 2005

(Possibly) Parting Thoughts From Dan the Chemist

Dan the Chemist may or may not be off to the Gulf Coast on assignment to FEMA on Monday. He was still hoping to get out of it when we talked this afternoon. He spun a delightfully convoluted interpretation of recent events. Briefly, the Republicans couldn’t be said to have caused the hurricane (probably not, anyway), but they did specifically allow for the damage to occur to New Orleans, undermining preventative measures beforehand through budget cuts and other legislative shenanigans and exacerbating the damage afterwards by withholding aid. The goal, of course, is to eliminate the last swing state in the south, dispersing Louisiana’s Democratic base by scattering the predominantly black population of New Orleans. “When all those people sue to be allowed to still vote in Louisiana,” he concluded, “The Supreme Court'll be voting six to three against it.”

“Some people say I’m a conspiracy theorist,” Dan admitted. “I dunno. Maybe it’s ‘cause I’m a Jew. I can totally see them doing that.”

I’ll surely and sorely miss Dan the next 90 days if he fails to escape FEMA’s clutches.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Spent Too Much Time Reading a Katrina Blog Today and All I Got Out of It Is this Useless Thought

I’ve been reading The Interdictor today. This is a guy who’s been holed up in a building smack in the middle of the New Orleans Central Business District since before the hurricane, somehow maintaining an Internet connection through it all and posting a continuous stream of pictures and observations from his vantage point on the disaster as it unfolded. Like most of the hurricane blogs, it starts off jocose and quickly grows grim. Last Thursday – the 1st – a NOPD officer took shelter in his building. The post reads: “The situation for the NOPD is critical…..Their command and control infrastructure is shot. They have limited to no communication whatsoever. [The police officer] didn’t even know the city was under martial law until we told him! His precinct (5th Precinct) is under water! UNDER WATER -- every vehicle under water. They had to commandeer moving trucks like Ryder and U-Haul to get around. The coroner’s office is shut down so bodies are being covered in leaves at best or left where they lie at worst.” And more: “He’s only hearing bits and pieces. The people in the city are shooting at the police. They’re upset that they’re not getting help quickly enough. The firemen keep calling because they’re under fire. He doesn’t understand why the people are shooting at the rescuers. Here it is 5 days ago the Mayor said get out of town and nobody went and now they’re pissed.”

I didn’t really see much of this Beyond Thunderdome stuff on TV at the time it was happening – it was pretty peripheral in the CNN coverage. Reading this guy’s take on the situation, though, it suddenly starts to make sense. Here’s what happened – New Orleans was for many years the murder capital of the United States. Although the murder rate has dropped in recent years, it’s still a very murder-prone town. When the evacuation happened, most of the city emptied out. Disproportionately this meant people with money and means departed, but in fact some people from every socioeconomic stratum made it out. The exception, of course, is the dumbass thugs responsible for New Orleans being the murder capital of the world. All of those guys stayed. Every other demographic dwindled; theirs remained constant. Ergo: shots fired at firemen.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Baby Dog's First Time at Cha'am

Because I was home with Baby Dog today and Mama Dog’s work schedule is to a degree flexible, we were able to go out for an unusually early dinner. We’ve never tried to take Baby Dog to Cha’am because it’s always crowded and has little breathing space between tables. It seemed a difficult place to manage a small child, and the fact that we’d never seen a baby there boded poorly. We weren’t even sure they had high chairs. Since we were so early, though, we decided to give it a shot for once. This turned out to be very workable. The place was nearly empty, and we could be seated without worrying about some tipsy shrimp nosher stumbling over the child on the way to befoul the restroom.

It turns out not only do they have high chairs, but judging solely by staff reaction, it’s one of the most child-friendly places we’ve ever gone. That is, the half-dozen tiny Asian waitresses all beamed at Baby Dog when we entered and took turns coming over to say hi to her and stroke her hand. We’d brought several weapons of mass distraction with us – the caterpillar book, some Cheerios, one of her bath books, and her very own set of keys, made up of those mysterious keys that have accumulated on our keychains, meant to open doors whose locations we’ve long since forgotten. Every time one of these items hit the floor, it would be scooped up and returned by a waitress before we could even turn to reach for it. Nobody even seemed to mind when Baby Dog slammed her sippy cup down on the table and bellowed “THERE!” to indicate that the cup had been officially set in its proper place. This is something she does regularly, but since she ordinarily does it in the privacy of our own home or in a very noisy restaurant, we haven’t really noticed how loud it is. In a nearly silent empty restaurant, it came off like a gunshot. One of the waitresses jumped. They all still loved the little girl, though, and clamoured to say “Bye-bye” when it was at last time for us to go.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I Admit I Was Just Watching the Audio Commentary Track on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High DVD

So, I'm too tired to figure out how exactly to Google it, but has it occurred to anybody else that the Stoner Bud character Eric Stoltz played in Fast Times at Ridgemont High grew up to be Lance the Drug Dealer, whom he played in Pulp Fiction? I mean, anybody other than Quentin Tarantino.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Department of Why Didn't We Ever Do this Before?

Baby Dog fell asleep in the car on the way back from the Mircat’s birthday party, leaving us in a bit of a quandary. She hadn’t had a proper supper and also hadn’t had a bath since Saturday night; but she was sleeping soundly fairly close to her proper bedtime and it would be a hell of a chore getting her back to sleep again if we woke her up. We decided not to go to any particular pains to keep her asleep and just let her wake up in the natural course of jostling and dog barking. I took her out of her car seat un-gingerly, and when we entered the house instead of frantically shushing Doggy Dog the way we normally do in such situations, we told him to go ahead and bark like a good dog, which he obligingly did. Baby Dog slumbered through it all. We changed her diaper and she still didn’t’ wake up, so we decided that fate wanted her to go to bed early and without her full supper. Mama Dog gave her a sort of a sponge bath on the changing pad. I was feeding the dog when I heard Mama Dog say “Uh-oh,” and then the familiar sound of Baby Dog chatter. I walked into the baby’s room and there she was in her crib, bouncing up and down on her toes and beaming happily, wide awake. Apparently the last snap of her pyjamas had done it.

We gave her some milk and some fruit and some peanut butter toast. In a major milestone, Baby Dog for the first time successfully fed herself with a spoon, completely unassisted. She picked up a fairly big square of toast and got it into her mouth without dropping it. We applauded and she beamed further. She’d been wanting all day to feed herself, which was a big part of why she hadn’t had enough to eat.

I walked Doggy Dog while Mama Dog bathed the child. After, we spent a few futile minutes trying to put her to bed and then did my plan, which was to take her for another drive until she conked out in the car seat again. We drove randomly around Oakland for about 15 minutes until she was out. It’s hard to believe we’ve never done that before, and that we’ve waited until gasoline was so dadgum expensive to do it. But really, it was pretty fun. Baby Dog is always very happy and quiet in the car, so Mama Dog and I were able to have an actual conversation about a whole bunch of things. “Next time we should put on some tunes,” Mama Dog said, channelling Spicoli. “Yeah,” I said, “and flare up a doobie.”

In other stuff – Baby Dog’s recent new words: “un,” meaning “sun.” “Knees.” “Boons,” meaning “balloons” – she’s really getting a handle on plurals and possessives. “Up.” “Buff,” meaning “butterfly.”

Also: She’s recently learned about monkeys, and I’ve taught her that they say “Eee eee eee!” On the Mircat’s fridge, there’s one of these fake 911 Bush bills:



Baby Dog looked at the caricature of the fake President and with no snide coaching from me said “Eee eee eee!” Good girl!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Yes, I Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans

“If I knew that things would no longer be,” says Sam Krichinsky in Avalon, the warm heart of Barry Levinson’s Baltimore tetralogy,* “I would have tried to remember better. Sam was talking about the changes wrought on a city by passage of time, but surely the same thought applies to a city that has been suddenly flattened by a natural or man-made catastrophe. I haven’t been posting much about my thoughts on New Orleans, mostly because I figured the world didn’t need one more blogger’s thoughts on New Orleans. But I have been thinking about my old home, my adopted native land, and I have been obsessively watching the pictures on CNN of my poor sunken love. It’s impossible to guess now what course will ultimately be taken in rebuilding the town, or whether the town will even be rebuilt at all. Will they relocate? Will it be remade by the backers of the fake President into just another mall-based American town? Will it be neutered and Disneyfied like Las Vegas? I shudder to think, but I fear that whatever the end result might be, it won’t be the New Orleans I knew and loved…so before it’s too late, I’ll try here to remember it better, if randomly…



The office at the fuck motel, where homeless couples would pay for their night’s stay with twenty dollars in panhandled quarters.



Charity Hospital, the site of untold misery this past week…even more so than usual. Charity, the downtrodden free hospital for the poor folk, was known as the place to go if you ever got shot or stabbed, because even though it was underfunded and overstressed, it had the most experienced trauma staff in the city. I temped at Charity several times. It was a land of the lost in the best of times. There were never enough beds, never enough staff, never enough time to care for everyone who needed help. One job I did there involved a patient care audit. A form was attached to a patient’s chart at admission and it had to be initialled at regular milestones through to discharge. My job was to enter all this data in a spreadsheet. I was bemused to notice that in many cases the noted time of discharge was actually earlier than the time of admission. I couldn’t figure out how this error could possibly have been made. Then one morning, walking through the lobby, I happened to check the time on two different clocks – and saw they disagreed by about twenty minutes. I looked around more and realised that no two clocks in the hospital told the same time. I always found that a pretty apt metaphor for the chaos that Charity struggled vainly to hold at bay.



The causeway bridge, now broken, crossing Lake Pontchartrain to Slidell. D. Rex & T and I broke down halfway across that bridge on American Thanksgiving in 1994. D. Rex just wouldn’t believe me that it wasn’t a hardship for me to be alone on a holiday that I didn’t grow up with and don’t celebrate, and insisted that I come along and have dinner with his family. The automotive failure and the resultant tow across the bridge ended up making it the most memorable American Thanksgiving I’ve ever sort of celebrated. I haven’t heard from D. Rex or T and have no idea now how to get in touch with them. I sure hope his parents got the hell away from that damn lake before the storm came.



Marquette House, my first home in New Orleans. The first friends I made in town were at Marquette House, and of course they all came from somewhere else – England, France, Austria, Australia, Japan, Israel. Ambrose and I were staying at Marquette when Hurricane Andrew came in 1992. I remember there was an Australian woman there who worked in radio. She was on vacation, but the happenstance that placed her in the scene of a disaster made her have to work through the storm, phoning in dispatches as the story developed. I imagine there were a lot of people there this time who got roped into staying just the same way, little realising that Andrew was pretty much nothing compared to Katrina.



The sweaty, smoky interior of Preservation Hall, and the fierce glare the bandleader would give anyone who dared make use of flash photography in defiance of the posted warnings to the contrary. I remember one night hearing probably the best version ever of “What a Wonderful World.” I imagine that song playing over the sunken foot of Canal Street, drowned City Park, Mid-City MIA.
___________________
*Tetralogy-plus if you count TV.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Smashed Glass, Bloody Finger, Date Night (not all three are related)

This afternoon I was putting away dishes and attempting to entertain Baby Dog, languishing in her highchair, by singing along to “All My Little Words.” As a consequence, I wasn’t really watching what I was doing and smashed a glass on the edge of the shelf. Could have been worse. The shards landed in a fairly contained area, and though I was standing near the playpen, none of it landed therein. I picked up the big pieces and vacuumed the area, then Mama Dog vacuumed it more just to be sure. I took the trash bag with the glass in it out immediately and compounded my dumbness by pushing on the edge of the bag while trying to bundle it up tight. Der, yes. Glass in the bag – pushing on it not a good idea. Sudden sharp pain in finger. Oh yes, blood. I went back inside and to the bathroom, running cold water over the cut, watching the red red krovvy circle down the drain, my droogs. I was starting to get a little nervous because it didn’t seem to be stopping easily. Mama Dog dug out the first aid kit, and we taped a thick bandage on. When I removed the bandage later, there was hardly any blood in it at all. Must have stopped bleeding right after I taped it up. Oh well.

Because Halmonie’s back in town, we were able to have that much-recommended date night. Actual dinner and a movie kind of deal. Nothing fancy. Burgers at Fatapple’s and then an evening show of The 40 Year Old Virgin. Can’t remember the last time we went to an evening show. Did you know UA charges $10 for a full-price ticket nowadays? Sweet Christmas, as Luke Cage used to say.

Friday, September 02, 2005

PS

Spam comments were getting on my nerves, so I turned on the word verification step for commenting. Apologies for the inconvenience.

Daddy at Home Week: Day 4

A big part of Small Child Management is finding the way to make their schedule loosely agree with yours. Baby Dog, perhaps somehow sensing that this was the last day of Daddy at Home Week, went all out to see that no such congruency occurred today. Things started promisingly enough, with her eating well at both breakfast and morning snack. Then I decided to kill time between morning snack and lunch with a little stroll to the bank and possibly a trip to the park. Halfway to the bank, I found myself chattering desperately at her to keep her from nodding off hours before nap time for the second day in a row. “Look,” I observed trenchantly, “trees! And…uh…cars! They go vroom! Yep, there sure are a lot of trees and cars!” Perhaps understandably, she was fast asleep long before our arrival at the ATM.

Oh well, I thought, making the best of it. An early nap could b e a good thing. I had a bit of a backlog of stories I’d taped. I could maybe watch last week’s episode of Over There. I turned around and wheeled home. Baby Dog was still sound asleep when we got to our door. I’m a past master at getting her out of the stroller without waking her, so I did my thing. The dog cooperated for once and didn’t bark. I managed to pull off Baby Dog’s shoes and socks while still walking her to the crib, and slipped her out of her jacket like pulling off a blanket. She grunted as her head hit the mattress and flopped over into her deep sleep position. I went over to the computer, looked at my email, and heard her crying “Da-Deeeeeee!” before I could open the first message. Total nap time: 24 minutes.

We played in the living room for a while, then I fed her lunch. Changing her diaper after the meal, I saw that she was half asleep. Unsurprising, since it was now almost an hour after nap time and she’d only had twenty minutes’ sleep. I set her down in the crib and she started to scream and cry. I tried all of the usual things to get her to sleep, and nothing worked. Finally I got the bright idea of just going on another stroll. I bundled her up in the stroller and went over to Wally’s World to get some Coke. She was still awake at Wally’s, so I took the long way home, zigging and zagging around the neighbourhood. She chatted all the way, pointing out every tree we passed, and saying “Tree!”

In case you’re missing the irony here, I’ll summarise: while I was walking around trying to keep her awake, she fell asleep; while I was walking around trying to get her to sleep, she stayed awake.

I gave up after about thirty or forty minutes of walking, took her home, and set her down in the crib. At wit’s end, all I could think to do was let her cry it out, which she did. The “cry” part, anyway. The “out” part proved elusive. All she did was get hoarser and hoarser. Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and went in to rock her some more. At long long last, more than two hours after nap time, she fell asleep. I got to watch that episode of Over There.

Just as the episode was ending, Halmonie and C arrived, having driven up from Saint Babs for the long weekend. Their arrival was silent and again the dog mysteriously failed to raise an alarum, but apparently Baby Dog sensed a disturbance in the force, because she was instantly awake. At least I could at that point hand her over to Halmonie, who wanted nothing more than to have full access to the grandchild.

We had dinner at Shen Hua with Halmonie, C, and the Family Whippet. Baby Dog was good through most of it, but got a little fussy towards the end, so I took her out for a stroll up and down College Avenue. We looked at the window of Sweet Dreams, which is now featuring a display of stuffed dogs including one that looks a bit like Doggy Dog. “Woof,” Baby Dog noted. Mostly, though, she wanted to play with some balloons tied to a parking meter outside the shoe store. Balloons have been a big obsession of her since first encountering them at Mel’s. I pulled the balloons down to her eye level and she batted them about and grabbed hold of the string. I said to her, “Let’s let them up up up,” “Up up up” being a phrase she’s learned from Are You My Mother?. Evidently, she’s absorbed the meaning, because when I said that she let go of the string and watched the balloons go up, up, up. We repeated that a few times then went back for a quiet rest of the meal.

At nine, she still hadn’t gone to sleep. I don’t know where all this energy was coming from. She must have been exhausted, but she kept wanting to play. Halmonie finally gave up and passed her on to Mama Dog, who eventually called me in. It was clear that Baby Dog was cranky from lack of sleep but so filled with excitement about the arrival of her beloved Halmonie that she couldn’t go to sleep. I couldn’t get her to hold still on my lap or in my arms, but when I laid her down in the crib and sang to her from the chair, she calmed down. It took several continuous loops of Donald and Lydia, but out she did finally conk.

After that it was dishes, cleaning up the living room, and collapsing in a stupor on the couch to watch more of Willy Wonka, which we’d Netflicked to take the taste of the remake out of our mouths. We’d left off last night after the introduction of Mike TV and managed to stay awake tonight through the departure of Augustus Gloop and the psychedelic boat trip through the tunnel. Now Mama Dog’s asleep and I’m glazed of eye, incoherent, and unspeakably eager to join her. It was one hard-ass day and I’m really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Daddy at Home Week: Day 3

There was a file I wanted to get off my computer at work, so I conceived of a big expedition to the City of San Francisco for Baby Dog and moi. Given the duration of what I had in mind, it was going to be a challenge negotiating snack and nap times, but I figured that if I left right after morning snack and fed her lunch on the go, she’d fall asleep on the way back and the timing would be more or less according to schedule. Naturally, that all went out the window pretty much from the beginning.

I managed to leave on time – early, even, because I did morning snack time somewhat ahead of schedule – but Baby Dog threw a sabot in the works by falling asleep in the BART train,* two and a half hours before scheduled nap time. At least that meant I could read my book on the way out, an unexpected bonus. She woke up half a block from my office, and as I toured around introducing her to my orkers, she was groggy and grumpy instead of her usual engaging outgoing self. Nobody took it amiss, though, probably because I’m always sullen and incommunicative at the office myself; they probably thought she just takes after me.

After a quick nappy change in the men’s room at the Hyatt (handicapped stall for use of guests and attendees only, but I figured I was attending the hotel at that moment so I qualified), we had a little picnic in Justin Herman Plaza just beyond the Vaillancourt Fountain. The whole meal-on-the-go thing proved difficult. I managed to get a whole cup of yogurt and some milk into her, but she dismissed the peanut butter sandwich bits with a curt “No.” We sat under the shade of a tree at the top of a grassy slope and watched some dudes having a soccer game in the field below. Baby Dog pointed and yelled “BALL!” repeatedly. She also bellowed “BIRD! TWEET!” a few times, which is new.

I’ve done the walk up the Embarcadero to Pier 39 numerous times over the years, and I feared doing it with the stroller would be an even longer and more excruciating stroll than usual, but the reverse was true; this was hands down the fastest time I’ve ever made. Since I wasn’t escorting an out-0f-town tourist,** I was able to keep up a brisk pace the whole time. It became even more brisk when a horse-drawn cart pulled out of one of the piers and began clopping up the Embarcadero. I pointed it out to Baby Dog. She was uncertain at first, but gradually became convinced this was indeed a horsey, and started pointing and saying “Neigh! Neigh!” Unfortunately, the horsey was moving a lot faster than Daddy was, and presently it had gained half a block on us, threatening to take itself out of Baby Dog’s field of vision. Before the appearance of the horse, I had been worrying that the stroller ride might put her back to sleep again; the horse was doing an excellent job keeping her awake, so I didn’t want it to get away. There was a long stretch of wide open sidewalk, so I thought “What the hell,” and ran after the horse cart, probably moving Baby Dog’s stroller as fast as it’s ever gone. We caught up with the horse and managed to keep pace with it all the way to Pier 39. Throughout, Baby Dog let me know she was still awake by saying “Neigh!” at the horse every few seconds. As we turned in to Pier 39, I told her to say “Bye Bye, horsey,” which she did – the “Bye Bye” part, anyway, “Horsey” being a word she has yet to add to her spoken vocabulary.

I had been telling Baby Dog all morning that we were going to see the sea lions, but I think she was picturing lion lions, which in her experience means a small green stuffed animal. I took her out of the stroller and up to the railing where she could get a good view (no, Mama Dog, I did not michaeljackson her over the edge). She was enchanted by the sound they made, and I barked along into her ear. She grinned and pointed. It was a long way to go for about five minutes worth of entertainment. The Marine Mammal Center had a booth nearby selling, among other things, stuffed sea lions that bark when you squeeze them. I got Baby Dog one for a memento, and she took to it immediately, holding it in her stroller as Daddy wandered around trying to figure out how to get up to the second level of the Pier 39 complex with a stroller.

Up on the second level is the Eagle Café. I needed lunch too. I’d gotten it in my head that pancakes were the thing, and the Eagle’s Nest serves breakfast until three in the afternoon. I actually ended up with French toast, but six of one, half a dozen of the other.*** They had no baby seats – only booster chairs – so I left Baby Dog in the stroller and gave her some more milk. She took some Cheerios and a bit of a Nutrigrain bar, but mostly she played with her sea lion, read her books, and watched Daddy enjoy his French toast, bacon, and tea. Also, since she had by then recovered from her office-bound grumpiness, she went about charming the serving staff. I saw her grinning widely at one point, and turned around to see the cook, a rough-hewn kinda guy, standing behind the counter waggling his fingers and making happy faces at her.

After the compulsory side trip to The Fudge House to get Mama Dog a caramel apple in commemoration of our visit to that spot on our wedding day.

Usually the walk back downtown seems faster than the walk out, but with no horse to chase, it went a bit slower. As we neared the grass behind Justin Herman Plaza, I heard rapid footsteps behind me. Thinking it was a jogger, I moved to the side, but the guy came running right up to me. He handed me a copy of Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? I was getting set to think “Hey, we have one just like that! What a strange thing for a childless adult to be carrying as he jogs along the Embarcadero,” when he said, “You dropped your book! Don’t wanna lose that one.” “No, she’d never forgive me,” I said, and thanked him. I still don’t know how Baby Dog managed to toss that one out of the stroller without me seeing it. I guess I was lost in contemplation.

I had intended to do another nappy check at the Hyatt, but by the time we got there, she was asleep, as per my original plan. She snoozed all the way through the BART ride back, and only started to stir about a block or two away from our house. When I stopped at our front door, she was awake enough to look up and say “Home,” the way she does.
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*Travel advisory: the elevator at Rockridge station is slow and claustrophobic and lets out in a spot of blank concrete that must be scary at night, but is downright nice compared to the urine-soaked platform-level elevator at Embarcadero station.
**Well, I guess technically I was, since Baby Dog is an Oaklander, but she wasn’t much interested in seeing the bridge views.
***Which, if you think about it, is really a pretty meaningless phrase. It’s meant to imply that two given options are so similar that they may as well be identical; but if you really think that six of one and half a dozen of the other means “the same thing,” I’ll be happy to trade you six rat turds for half a dozen Krugerands.