The {foo} Talk

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

So my kid told a cou­ple of oth­er kids (girls) at school that a “male penis” goes in­side a fe­male and re­leas­es sperm and the sperm meets the egg and that is mat­ing. I learned of this when the Assistant Principal gave me a call & was au­di­bly awk­ward about the whole thing. I get that 3rd grade might be a bit too ear­ly for some par­ents to want their kid to know that kind of stuff, but the night is dark and full of ter­rors.

I’m just glad my kid knows the right ter­mi­nol­o­gy and the me­chan­ics of the process & that he’s still in­no­cent on the tech­nique. I gave him the de­tails when he asked. My mom did the same for me when I was nought but a wee bairn.

He knows all of the com­mon curse words. He al­so knows that I know that he knows them. He al­so knows that I know that he knows that I know that he knows not to use those words un­til he’s has a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the tim­ing & ap­pro­pri­ate­ness there­of.

He knows that I fuck up screw up as a dad and a hu­man some­times. He knows that this hap­pens and it’s okay, and that it’s healthy to ad­mit when we do some­thing wrong & that we have to work to­geth­er to be bet­ter peo­ple.

The world is tough to nav­i­gate — I don’t want to make it any hard­er for my kid. I try to give it to him straight.

Weekly Wrap-up — Third Place

Saturday, 17 September 2016

I’m try­ing to write more and be more pos­i­tive. These week­ly wrap-ups will prob­a­bly con­tin­ue. It’s go­ing to be hard to be “plus-side” this week. It has been a very emo­tion­al­ly try­ing one.

I took a walk tonight to get a slaw dog at Steve’s Diner and got to see the amaz­ing har­vest moon. I have en­joyed liv­ing in Old Brooklyn so much more than liv­ing in Tremont.

I am part of a team at work that does drag­on boat­ing as part of the Cleveland Dragon Boating Association. The fes­ti­val was to­day, and we end­ed up com­ing home with third place medal — which we earned. It’s nice to be part of a fo­cused team en­vi­ron­ment that has a clear and eas­i­ly mea­sured goal. So much of mod­ern work (and this is not a com­plaint) re­quires com­plex teams with dif­fer­ing time­li­nes and goals, that when a project is com­plete, it might nev­er re­al­ly feel like it. And it’s even rar­er that you have time to cel­e­brate af­ter.

I’ve been hav­ing more luck with get­ting Abraham to do things that he has, in the past, not been in­clined to do. I think I’ve ei­ther been too sim­ple or too com­plex in my ex­pla­na­tions as to why he should eat broc­coli, for ex­am­ple. I find out what he pre­con­cep­tions are (broc­coli is sog­gy) and then ex­plain that he had ob­vi­ous­ly had over­cooked broc­coli, and that is can be very tasty in oth­er ways. Then I ex­plained the nu­tri­tion­al val­ue and how those vi­t­a­mins & min­er­als af­fect his body. Next thing I know, he’s chomp­ing away. This method has al­so worked a bit with the neat­ness of his school­work.

My friend Amy is a trea­sure. She’s my longest and stead­i­est friend here in Cleveland and if we get to choose friends as a sec­ond fam­i­ly, she’s my first choice for sis­ter.

I went to Sabor Miami for lunch ear­lier this week, and was greet­ed by name, and treat­ed to an amaz­ing­ly de­li­cious lunch. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence bright­ened my day.

My car doesn’t smell much like salt­ed caramel/​vanilla lat­te any­more af­ter an ac­ci­dent I had in it a few weeks ago. Either that or I’ve got ol­fac­to­ry fa­tigue.

Week in Review

Saturday, 10 September 2016

  • I try to add a bit of va­ri­ety to my in­ges­tion of news & po­lit­i­cal com­men­tary by read­ing pub­li­ca­tions that I con­sid­er to be a bit ex­treme, but still rel­a­tive­ly rea­son­able. So I sub­scribe to Reason for lib­er­tar­i­an po­si­tions & Jacobin (“Reason in Revolt”, lol) for so­cial­ist ones. Something they have in com­mon is that they on­ly play one tune: “here are the rea­sons [what­ev­er is in the news] isn’t [libertarian/​socialist] enough for us”. It gets old quick­ly, and I’ve found my­self skip­ping most of what they post.
  • A guy at a GetGo com­pli­ment­ed me on my sun­glass­es, which I picked be­cause they were as close to Isaac Hayes sun­glass­es as I could find that would al­so take a pre­scrip­tion. I re­al­ly wish I could af­ford, and had the op­por­tu­ni­ty to rock Cazal’s but I guess I might as well get crazy and wish to get some­thing made by Maison Bourgeat while I’m at it..
  • It is very dif­fi­cult for me to read mod­ern po­et­ry in bites larg­er than one po­em a day. I can’t fig­ure out why read­ing stuff old­er than the past 10 years is so much more con­sum­able to me.
  • I’ve re­al­ized that for awhile I was kin­da “dressed by the in­ter­net”. I think I’ve toned that down a bit, but it’s still pret­ty damned hard to find #menswear in­for­ma­tion that isn’t more cos­tume than style. Permanent Style is great for be­spoke, best in class, sub­tle lux­u­ry & fit-re­lat­ed items — but I’ll nev­er af­ford be­spoke & the flannel-​trousers/​suede loafers “sprez­zat­u­ra” doesn’t fit my per­son­al­i­ty. Put This On is en­joy­able, but they al­so fo­cus on main­tain­ing a clas­sic fash­ion sense. Well Spent oc­ca­sion­al­ly has good finds but their house look is es­sen­tial­ly the Pumpkin Spice Latte of menswear. I’d like HYPEBEAST if there weren’t 500 posts about shoes & Kanye every day. I kind of read them all and try to take ap­pro­pri­ate bits and pieces, but it is all way too rules-based and none of it re­al­ly show­cas­es unique looks and dif­fer­ent styles.
  • I guess I like va­ri­ety, and with the in­creas­ing spe­cial­iza­tion of “con­tent cre­ators”, I have to work hard­er than I think I should to find it.
  • “Content Creator” as a self-de­scribed job-ti­tle might be the worst in­vent­ed job ti­tle of all time.
  • I’ve been catch­ing up on my mag­a­zine back­log. My goal is to be caught up ful­ly by the new year.
  • I’m re­al­ly start­ing no­tice class priv­i­lege as part of my son’s school­ing. The stu­dents are pret­ty  much ex­pect­ed to have their own com­put­er and mo­bile de­vice at home to in­ter­face with all the var­i­ous apps, sites, and sundry oth­er dig­i­tal as­sets they use for school­ing nowa­days.
  • I’m al­so try­ing to be less grouchy, but judg­ing by this post, I have work to do.

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Brows

Thursday, 11 August 2016

I caught a glimpse of my life from the cor­ner of my eye the oth­er day & re­al­ized I ap­pear to have be­come a care­ful­ly dressed, quar­ter­ly mag­a­zine-read­ing, European wag­on-dri­ving, scotch-lov­ing, in­suf­fer­able, tweedy, beard­ed cliché.

I hate that. Problem is: I like all of those things. Even be­ing in­suf­fer­able. So yeah, I’ve got some cham­pag­ne tastes on a beer bud­get.

I’m try­ing to give my­self sparse so­lace be­cause while I ap­pear to be the cliché, my tem­pera­ment is dif­fer­ent. (I hope). I don’t like cool jazz, NPR, The New Yorker, or pret­ty much any oth­er safe, soft, ac­cept­ed, lib­er­al com­fort-blan­kets. After I stopped be­ing Actively Catholic®, I went to an Episcopal church for a bit, the mes­sage was good but the peo­ple were ag­gra­vat­ing­ly mil­que­toast about every­thing. To para­phrase some­thing some­one said some­time: The meek will in­her­it the earth be­cause no one else will take it. That’s those peo­ple. God bless ‘em. No one else will.

Anyway, but. If you catch me out of the oth­er eye-cor­ner, you’ll see a greasy-spoon eat­ing, di­ve bar plant­ed, un­leashed dog walk­ing, win­dows open hol­ler­in’ at my kid, shirt­less on the porch, filthy-jeaned, south­ern-drawl­ing met­al­head.

I love that. Problem is: ain’t al­most no one else does.

I some­times won­der what con­clu­sions peo­ple reach about me at work, but I’m too busy work­ing to care about it.

I like high brow. I like low brow. I pre­tend mid­dle­brow doesn’t ex­ist.

I have no oth­er point.

If you need one then the point is that the world is messy & even when I re­ject stereo­types, I of­ten use them in the same breath. I’m un­re­pen­tant. I just try to im­prove.

Father’s Day

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

So hey, it’s near­ly Father’s Day again. A day that is fraught for me — I know what stirs up the anx­i­ety and it’s main­ly ig­no­rance at how well I’m do­ing my job.

I’ve cer­tain­ly writ­ten about it enough:

Being a dad is my fa­vorite thing and be­ing a sin­gle dad is a pret­ty tough job. I don’t know how much eas­ier it would be with a part­ner, so I don’t know how hard it is to be a dad in a nuclear/​whole fam­i­ly for­mat. The times I’ve had a part­ner that got to spend qual­i­ty time with my child, That third di­men­sion added a no­tice­able and healthy lev­el of com­plex­i­ty to our lives. So I of­ten feel that that my father/​son dy­nam­ic is two-di­men­sion­al in com­par­ison. We miss out on a lot to­geth­er be­cause I have to work, and main­tain a clean home, provide healthy meals, and struc­ture and adult in­struc­tion he doesn’t get else­where. I have a bit of guilt over this — I feel like the added lev­el — that part­ner, that nu­clear fam­i­ly, is some­thing I should be able to provide to him.

Being a sin­gle dad is tough in weird ways. I’m not as self-con­scious as I was a few years ago about be­ing a sin­gle dad out with his kid. I don’t care — but I do no­tice the oth­er sin­gle dads, and help out when I can by tak­ing pho­tos. I know those in­ter­nal mo­ments of cha­grin when you take a pic­ture of your kid do­ing some­thing mem­o­rable with no way to show that yes, you were there, you were the one to make it hap­pen. There al­so isn’t an emo­ji for sin­gle par­ents.

I al­so wor­ry about him when he’s with his mom. We have di­a­met­ri­cal­ly op­posed views on 99% of what is in his best in­ter­est. The on­ly way to mit­i­gate is to lit­i­gate and I don’t make that kind of cash. I do my best to teach my son the skills he is not learn­ing else­where, and I must al­so keep rein on my­self so that I don’t try to over­com­pen­sate to solve for his oth­er life.

I’m 20+ years out from hav­ing had any mean­ing­ful, non-far­ci­cal in­ter­ac­tion with my dad. I on­ly have a sense of him from a 14 year old boy’s per­spec­tive — I’ve learned to be a man by tri­al and er­ror, and learned to be a fa­ther by be­ing not-my-fa­ther. Yet I’m smart enough to re­al­ize that “not-my-fa­ther” is a 14 year old’s shal­low un­der­stand­ing of fa­ther­hood. The on­ly ways that I know I’m act­ing like my fa­ther are the on­ly ways I knew my fa­ther act­ed when I was 14. I know I was a dis­ap­point­ment to him. I do not know if he was proud of me. I do not know if he had wis­dom to im­part to a grown son. I do not know the ways I am a re­flec­tion of him. I’ve asked fam­i­ly mem­bers to tell me how he was — or what they see of him in me, and haven’t got­ten the best an­swers.

My mom tried and failed to an­swer that ques­tion, no fault there — how does one an­swer it? But sweet­ly and clev­er­ly ap­proached it this year by send­ing me a pho­to al­bum of pic­tures of me and my dad — the most re­cent one over 25 years old. The al­bum is more than half emp­ty. I can’t look at the pho­tos with­out cry­ing — and they are fa­mil­iar tears — they are the ones I get when­ev­er I’m ter­ri­fied that I’m not be­ing a best par­ent — when I lose my con­cep­tion of what it means to be a best par­ent — when I don’t know what to do to help my son grow in­to some­one brave, in­de­pen­dent, em­pa­thet­ic, lov­ing, and ca­pa­ble. The pic­tures show love, but what hap­pened to it? Where did it go? Being a fa­ther is high fuck­ing stakes, and I’ve al­ways hat­ed sec­ond-rate, and not know­ing when the rules change.

I want to know the­se things about my fa­ther be­cause I have no fa­ther fig­ure to seek ad­vice from. I have three won­der­ful un­cles who each provide their own ex­cel­lent ex­am­ples of how to be a good fa­ther, but I don’t feel close enough, or safe enough, or like they un­der­stand me like a fa­ther would in or­der to ask for ad­vice. I’ve been per­fect­ing bravado since I gave up on my fa­ther at 14. I don’t know how an adult son ap­proach­es a fa­ther. I’ve had no prac­tice be­ing the son in a healthy re­la­tion­ship, or hav­ing a healthy fa­ther. I feel bad that my son and I have to fig­ure this out to­geth­er. I don’t know, is it like that for every fa­ther?

Most of the peo­ple who tell me I’m a good fa­ther have had crum­my fa­thers. I don’t know if that means any­thing, or if I’m just be­ing an ass.

Father’s Day is fraught be­cause my son has no one to teach him to hon­or his fa­ther. A fa­ther can’t do it — that’s nar­cis­sis­tic. He’s missed the prepa­ra­tions for sev­er­al Father’s Days — all I want is a hand­made card and a can­dy bar — but I don’t blame him. Someone else should be teach­ing him to take care of that busi­ness. He’s on­ly 8. There is ze­ro fault for him in this — but it shows me that there are some things I can’t teach him, and that he won’t learn at all un­less there is some­one else to teach him. When my mom was up here a cou­ple of week ago I asked her to get him to work on a card while I ran er­rands. That’s the kind of stuff a sin­gle dad has to do.

He says he’s go­ing to be a sin­gle fa­ther, and adopt a daugh­ter and a son. They are go­ing to live on an ex­o­plan­et and I can come vis­it on a rock­et when­ev­er I want. I know what all of that means, and I know the mean­ing of none of it.

The point that comes from all of this, if there is one, ap­pears to be a chron­ic, low-grade fever feel­ing that I am not giv­ing my son the best life that he de­serves. I doubt, I grope for tools I nev­er saw used, and don’t know the name of. I work the skills I do have, but don’t have enough time to give him every­thing I want him to have. A healthy meal and emo­tion­al sup­port solve a lot, but not every­thing. I have him half of the time and that is just not enough for me to give him all he needs. I’m ef­fi­cient, but he’s a boy, not a process.

So there is it. I feel my best isn’t good enough — and I hate sec­ond-rate. What do I tell my­self?

Who cares? It doesn’t mat­ter. I don’t do this for glo­ry, renown, or my own sat­is­fac­tion. I love my son. I do it for him.

So fresh and so clean clean.

A pho­to post­ed by Adam Harvey (@adamincle) on

Satiety

Friday, 13 May 2016

About a year ago I wrote about giv­ing up, and pro­ceed­ed to live a rel­a­tive­ly monas­tic life for a the rest of 2015. My kith and kin were con­cerned that I was de­pressed. I don’t think I was, but I do think I might have been a bit bleak in my fram­ing. As I sat on my porch tonight, I lis­tened to Ali Farka Touré’s wan­der­ing gui­tar, drank some scotch, and pet my dog.

The on­ly thing I missed was my son. Having him every day would be a dream come true, but 50% is the best I can hope for. I get a lot of sat­is­fac­tion from striv­ing to do well as a fa­ther and at my job. The rest of the things that I’d like but don’t have are no big deal — and that’s what gave me a thought that hap­pi­ness isn’t hav­ing every­thing you want — it’s ap­pre­ci­at­ing what you have in com­par­ison to what you don’t. It’s a round­about way of reach­ing a cliché, but it’s some­thing I need­ed to re­learn.

I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to be hap­py un­less you’re miss­ing at least one big thing from your life. There’s no shape to what you have if you have every­thing — and try­ing to have every­thing usu­al­ly means that you cut cor­ners.

Happiness is pay­ing at­ten­tion to the shape of what you have, not the empti­ness around it.

Satiety is hav­ing enough, not hav­ing it all.

Food tastes bet­ter when you know you’ll be hun­gry to­mor­row.

I still miss my son.

Yelling at Clouds

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

I’ve been “Old Man Yells at Cloud” a bit more than usu­al late­ly.

That was my re­ac­tion to see­ing a pho­to of a $30 plate of ribs, coleslaw, pick­les & bread at Michael Symon’s new restau­rant, Mabel’s BBQ. It was the thin slice of white bread in par­tic­u­lar that drove me to such hero­ic lengths. My beef is, I think, le­git­i­mate. Foods that have been tra­di­tion­al­ly val­ued for their sim­plic­i­ty, tra­di­tion, & nos­tal­gia have been hi­jacked by haute cuisine and pa­rad­ed around in gar­ish cos­tume.

I feel like the ex­pe­ri­ence of a cul­tur­al, re­gion­al, or eth­nic cuisine is en­hanced by en­joy­ment of it in con­text. I’m an an­thro­pol­o­gist; I want the cul­tur­al ex­pe­ri­ence of get­ting amaz­ing, noth­ing-fan­cy ribs from a guy cook­ing them in a con­vert­ed steel drum at an aban­doned gas sta­tion on East 131st Street. I want to buy pou­tine in sub-ze­ro temps from a food truck in Kingston, ON that has been park­ing in the same spot and serv­ing the same lunch to the same group of peo­ple for years. I want black-pep­pered grits, ei­ther plain or cooked in pot­likker. I want to go in­to a restau­rant in Little Arabia or Ukrainian Village or Asia Town where English is a sec­ond or third lan­guage and take my chances.

I’ve iden­ti­fied two things about this that dri­ve me crazy, and a pret­ty solid rea­son why I’m be­ing un­fair, which I’ll get to in a min­ute.

  1. Branding/​Marketing. The suc­cess­ful haute cuisine is so ag­gres­sive­ly mar­ket­ed and gran­u­lar­ly brand­ed that the ex­pe­ri­ence be­comes less about the food and more about the ex­clu­siv­i­ty of it. Everything is sold as if it is ar­che­typ­al — post­mod­ernist ed­i­bles.
  2. Safety. The suc­cess­ful restau­ran­teur the­se days seems to be a white guy who ap­pro­pri­ates a non-white cul­tur­al cuisine and ad­ju­di­cates its pre­sen­ta­tion in such a way that the sur­round­ings feel safe and com­fort­able to oth­er white folks. That’s not an ad­ven­ture to me.

When I say haute cuisine, I’m talk­ing about a kitchen that mansplains food. “You ple­beians, here’s how you should be mak­ing your poor-folk food.”

I took a course called Crucial Conversations a few weeks ago, and one of the things we learned is when to iden­ti­fy sit­u­a­tions where you’re telling your­self a sto­ry be­cause you lack enough in­for­ma­tion to re­al­ly know what’s go­ing on. So I tried to come up with an al­ter­na­tive sto­ry to why some­one might do things to foods that I love that I find com­plete­ly un­con­scionable. The eas­i­est em­pathic path I was able to come up with is think­ing of a restau­ran­teur as an artist. The stuff they are do­ing to food is their art. I can at least un­der­stand that mo­tive, even if I think there’s a met­ric butt-ton of priv­i­lege in the im­ple­men­ta­tion. An artist would, can, and some­times should ig­nore cul­tur­al con­text if they are remix­ing an­oth­er art. This al­lows a food artist to ig­nore the fact that Wonder Bread is nap­kins and gravy-sop for poor Southern folks and cre­ate an ar­ti­sanal hand-ground, preser­v­a­tive and HFCS-free white bread to go with the $30 lamb BBQ. The thing be­ing val­ued is the ex­clu­siv­i­ty and remix, not the au­then­tic­i­ty. Damien Hirst as chef.

I can at least un­der­stand that, even if I think it’s dumb.

Most folks I know don’t think of me as par­tic­u­lar­ly con­ser­v­a­tive, but on the whole I tend to val­ue the ver­nac­u­lar — craft over art, things that re­main rather than things rein­vent­ed. Maybe I’m a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.


Tangentially, I read an ar­ti­cle to­day about co-sleep­ing and whether it’s good or bad. This is such a sil­ly ar­gu­ment to me — like ar­gu­ing whether cir­cum­ci­sion is good or bad. (If it wasn’t meant to be there, it wouldn’t be). It wasn’t that long ago that wom­en were com­plete­ly knocked out when they went in­to labor and “med­ical pro­fes­sion­als” took de­liv­ery on from there be­cause that was con­sid­ered bet­ter than nat­u­ral child­birth. It wasn’t that long ago that for­mu­la was con­sid­ered a bet­ter op­tion than nat­u­ral nurs­ing. Currently, peo­ple in Western coun­tries think it is bet­ter to leave a new­born in­fant alone, in a qui­et room, for most of the day or night and to keep track of them via an elec­tron­ic mon­i­tor than keep them close for com­fort. Forget the fact that pri­mates have been:

  1. hav­ing nat­u­ral birth for mil­lions of years
  2. nurs­ing their off­spring for mil­lions of years
  3. not let­ting new­born off­spring out of their sight for mil­lions of years

By all means, keep the in­fant in a dark, qui­et, sep­a­rate room, com­plete­ly cut off from warmth, com­fort, and sta­bi­liz­ing in­flu­ence of their par­ents. I’d cry too.

Yeah, def­i­nite­ly a mis­an­thro­pol­o­gist.