Happy Holidays from Ian, Tessa and Lucy!
see you in a week or so
Some Great Moments in Williams Family Christmases:
5. Christmas 1980 - Deep in a proto-existential 12-year-old funk, I walk down the stairs Xmas morning to find a brand new Huffy 10-speed bike, colored burnt sienna with fuzzy handle grips. Promptly forget depression until I'm almost 20. Immediately take the bike outside and try to ride on sheets of Iowa ice. It will not thaw for another five months.
4. Christmas 1971 - About fifty of my family, half of us under the age of ten, are gathered at my Grandma's place in Utah. In one of my first holiday memories, I begin to sense the whole "Santa" thing is a hunk of burning bullshit, and begin to caucus with my cousins. At that moment, sleigh bells are heard outside, and we all look at each other with unbelievable excitement and dread, and bolt upstairs to bed. I'm told about ten years later it was my Uncle Steve in the bushes with the sleigh bells.
3. Christmas 1985 - On Xmas eve, my parents scream at each other and throw antiques. My dad walks out, and my mom goes into a tailspin. I amble out into the snow in New Jersey, where my parents had relocated for a few months. I look to the black, cold sky and decide to change my life. I get a haircut, buy contact lenses, and in five months I have my first girlfriend ever.
2. Christmas 1993 - We rent a house in Big Bear, California. My mom nearly burns the place down by throwing hot oil out onto the porch. Sean and Michelle spend hours with fingernail clippers trying to snip out the burned tips of the shag rug. On the way to the store, I mention that "Baby It's Cold Outside" is actually a song about date rape. I'm read the riot act for an hour by Sean's first wife.
1. Christmas 2006 - We start the next generation of crazy-ass shenanigans with Lucy and Barnaby!
Christmas 1972 in Provo, UT - Santa freaks out Sean (held by Steve) while my cousin Vince and I are psyched
I just got an email from Salem. Here's a picture of his truck:
Here's who did it:
In Salem's own words:
I was hit by a red Volvo, driven by an English Sheep Dog named "Jeeves". Yes, yes, the car was being driven by a large English Sheep Dog. Apparently, the owner was at the veterinary office next door. He had parked his car and taken the keys. His dog became impatient, hopped into the drivers seat and shifted the car into neutral. Parked on a hill, it traveled across the vet parking lot where it jumped the railroad ties and gained speed. I think the dog took his paws off the steering wheel just in time for the car to spin around backwards and nail my truck. He traveled at least one hundred yards!
I'm not much for "Hang In There!" pictures, but that dog is frickin' PRICELESS.
It's time to come right out and say it: the NBA fucking sucks. It is a national embarrassment. I am officially withdrawing what parsimonious scraps of support I once harbored for professional basketball and telling them all to lick my nuts. If I have to sit through another goddamn NBA game again, please just do me a favor, take me out to the garden shed and hit me in the head with the business end of a hoe.
This latest brawl between the Knicks and the Nuggets (oh, just YouTube it if you haven't seen it) was the nail in a rotting coffin that began when Jordan actually retired and was furthered by the unbelievable ugliness of Ron Artest & Co. two years ago. There's a place for unchecked egos throwing sucker punches, and it's called either "prison" or "my middle school locker room."
When the players aren't fouling the shit out of each other, the NBA game is soporific, funereal, rote and mind-numbing. I've had it with watching these multi-multi-millionaires with tattoo-festooned necks offer unearned braggadocio in every interview, jack up shots from 35 feet without regard to any teammate, and allow rivals to take a twenty point lead in the first quarter and do nothing about it. They have no heart, dulled by numbing vats of money, and have absolutely no pride in whatever city they happen to be playing for this year.
Some might find this line of reasoning racist, or generationalist, but I swear, I used to love the pro game. My favorite player growing up was the Iceman. I come from a school in North Carolina that provided the NBA its greatest player ever, and a platoon of guys that were among the most awesome dudes you could ask for. I loved Antawn Jamison and Jerry Stackhouse about as much as you can love those from afar, but they disappeared for me as soon as they left the fold. I still harbor affection for all Carolina players, but I simply cannot buttress up any amount of excitement for the pro careers that swallowed them.
Besides - the cold, European, long-range assassins ruin the game just as much. I can't stand any of it. Darko Milicic, you're almost as boring as Tim Duncan. Nowitzki, whatever. Shaq, you've become a real boor. Marbury, you're a complete head case, and you're stinking up NYC. You and your Knicks serve only to generate hilarious headlines for the Post and the Daily News.
Yes, I know everyone has their favorites. Yes, I like Steve Nash and Earl Boykins. Yes, I know teams occasionally wake from their slumber in time for the playoffs. But is it worth the shoe deals, the posturing, the sneers after dunks, the 15-game suspensions, the endless clunked shots from twelve feet? I'm just one guy, but I'm one guy with lots of cable sports packages who just banned the game from my house.
Do I cry at the end of "Hoosiers"? Yes. Am I a twee, old-school, sentimental fop? I suppose so. But for me, the farther away you get from Dean Smith's way of thinking, the less the game becomes a gorgeous metaphor for everything in life, and more of a profane, cruel, stupid, "fuck you, pay me" dumbshow carnival.
In college, any given team can beat any other. Santa Clara can beat the Heels in a championship season. Lorenzo Charles can tip the ball. Walter Davis can bank a 35-footer in a meaningless game at the end of the 1974 season and change lives forever. I'm taller than Wes Miller, and he wears the blue and white. THAT'S the game I love.
Some pictures for the folks who can't be here! First off, waiting for Barnaby to be born was a day full of baited exhalation for us, but a huge night on the town for Lucy:
When we finally got to go into the recovery room a few hours after he was born, Barnaby looked like one of those babies who had done a lot of maturation on the inside before bothering to come out: they tell you to expect a blue-colored frog, but ol' Barno looked awesome. We put a few of their pictures side by side, and he bears some resemblance to his cousin:
Nine pounds and fifteen ounces is not just a huge baby, it means Jordana gets bragging rights on us all. Not only that, but Barnaby latched quickly, stayed buoyant, and was unbelievably happy on his first day out. He uttered nary a peep the whole time we were there, choosing instead to take the world in giant, wondrous gulps. His parents were tired, relieved, and victorious:
By the time Barnaby came home to Astoria today, Lucy was in Brooklyn blowing a gasket from excitement. Barnaby's birth happened to coincide with La Luz's recent obsession with babies and taking care of them. The thought of a real-live baby being born into the family has dominated her conversation for weeks. Tessa said it best: when she finally got to meet Barnaby, it showed superhuman willpower on her part not to eat him from desire. Instead, she gently touched his little head all night, and Barnaby, the perfect gentleman, let her:
Up way past her bedtime, Lucy was on late-night crack all the way home. Two conversational nuggets:
"My elbows are inside my coat."
"Noah's nose is in LA."
We took a bath with her new sticky letters, and she now sleeps, dreaming of an extended family that just got WAY MORE FUN.
Everyone, please welcome to the world my nephew, Barnaby Williams! Clocking in at an amazing 9 pounds and 15 ounces, he was born this evening at 6:45pm the natural way. Mother and baby are rocking, figuratively and literally. Lucy's first statement: "It's Barnaby's birthday!" How right you are, my sweet.
a few hours ago in Astoria
It's a huge day in the Williams family, as Jordana is set to induce their baby at some point in the early morning. The actual due date is not until the 17th, but if all of the measurements are correct, the little tyke is careening towards ten pounds and Jordi is dilated, effaced and huge. Sean is hiding a lot of her belly in the picture above, so you don't get the full effect, but it's pretty awesome (in all senses of the word).
We've been trying to help put their house together in anticipation, and I think we'll spend most of Friday painting trim on windows and putting together Ikea shelves while - god willing - miraculous things are happening at the hospital. By the way, the Ikea in Hicksville, NY provides a much more human experience than that of Elizabeth, NJ. I mean, assuming you were equidistant and you really needed to get your hands on a RØTTERRÜMDAK.
Isn't it amazing, planning the imminent arrival of a family member that doesn't quite exist yet? When we were building Lucy's room in the winter of 2005, the place seemed to be haunted by her future presence, even though she was separated from us by only a half-inch of tummy.
I feel so happy for Sean, so in awe of Jordana, so over-the-moon for Lucy having a new little cousin. Please send your best wishes to St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan, and I'll update the blog later with news.
I'm trying not to be sexist, I'm really not - and we're about to welcome a brand new boy into our family, so I've got to be on my best behavior - but what is it with guys? We are the saddest, hamhock-handed sacks of flesh on God's green earth, and I'm not sure if any of us are remotely fine-tuned for the 21st century.
Cons of being a guy:
- unprovoked bursts of rage
- no innate understanding of affection; must be taught love
- quick, meaningless orgasms followed by occasional idiopathic guilt
- constant unwanted erections from age 12 to 19 (or, really, 39)
- would rather close our own face in a hot waffle iron than admit fault
- can be brought 90% of the way through intimacy, but can only close the deal through objectification
- don't want to talk about it, seriously, just shut the fuck up already
- violent roughhousing as toddlers melding into faggot jokes as teens
- constantly picking fights on the freeway
- incessant interruptions, usually leading to unflagging repetition of the same anecdote
- dime-store philosophy sold at 85 decibels as incontestable epiphany
- persistent yet erroneous belief that she doesn't know our true intentions
- biological relevancy ends at age 27
- grows fat, sickeningly hirsute, obtuse, bald-pated and sedentary over time
- while doing so, tends to choose female partners inversely reciprocal in age and physical desirability
- started, fought and finished almost every war in human history
- invented the nuclear bomb, leaded gasoline, fundamental religion and worldwide terror
- dies, on average, five years before women
Pros of being a guy:
- upper body strength
It's amazing that we're still in charge of anything. Sure, we have a certain rugged appeal to heterosexual women who may like the pheromonal smell, or the way we hold them on winter nights, but you get the feeling we're all yesterday's model. The only parts of myself that I really love - and the qualities I love about my brothers and my guy friends - could all be considered vaguely female. Sean and Jordana's baby boy will be awesome, mostly because they will teach him how to transcend his manhood.
Self-loathing on my part? Sure. But sometimes you just have to hand it to the other gender when you know they've got you licked.
Today Tessa stood in line at the UPS store here on Flatbush Avenue, and right ahead of her was this hipster jerk who, while not being overtly unpleasant, was asking the cashier questions like "um, did YOU spell this name wrong on the label, or did the computer do it?" When, of course, anyone with an ounce of social skills would say, "I'm sorry, I think I might have given this to you incorrectly" or a million other ways of fixing his problem.
This little interaction got me thinking about the incredible effect of Tiny Corrections Over a Long Period of Time. It's my belief that this hipster guy may have only lost a few seconds of good will on behalf of the UPS store guy, but over the course of time, after years and years of being a 4% asshole, he has amassed weeks of inefficiency upon himself. I'd say that he operates at only four-fifths strength.
Why? Because for every little niggling comment, every little subtly-asinine move, those around him slow his progress by imperceptible microseconds. Sure, he makes everyone else infinitesimally more miserable, but his biggest victim is himself.
I'm amazed at how often Tiny Corrections Over a Long Period of Time can be used in other ways, mostly for benefit. My friends in Alcoholics Anonymous are familiar with the cliché "one day at a time," which, loosely translated, can mean "I'm not saying I'm never drinking, I'm saying I'm not drinking today." It's a philosophy that allows the recovering alcoholic to see his/her sobriety in terms that aren't so daunting, but if you look at the actual math, "one day at a time" works because it is a small correction that pays incredible dividends over time.
By simply not drinking each day, the days become weeks, then months, and pretty soon your recidivism rate plunges towards zero. I know "simply not drinking" sounds easy to those of us who aren't addicts, but in the larger scope of things, the intake of alcohol could be categorized as stunningly optional.
In related news, I have lost a fair amount of weight, originally from running with Lucy in the mornings, but lately because of my adventures on Dexedrine. Speed is a natural appetite suppressant, which is why it was doled out to housewives in the 1950s, but I haven't noticed that effect on me.
What I have noticed is probably two skipped meals a week, simply because I forgot to eat. Also, every time I have lunch or dinner, I finish two or three bites shy of usual. These tiny corrections over time, completely unnoticeable by me, have led to a quick ten pounds or so I've given back to the earth, just in two months.
Tiny Corrections is also used for some amazing works of art: bending the wood for the sides of pianos, bringing the neck of a guitar back to true, even jacking up a three-story house and moving it up the mountain.
The problem is, we live in a time when results need to be seen in five business days, or we're off to the laser surgeon. Sometimes I wonder if there's a magic number of days, or weeks, when one's tiny corrections can change almost any basic part of our character. When are we truly free of our addiction? When can we lose weight and actually see it? When will we stop being so defensive and hear criticism without immediately freaking out? How long would it take to take something you once hated and bend it towards your love, like the grand oak on the side of a Steinway?
Tessa's dad Blakey always said that your character is just your habits. Once you get over how cynical that sounds, it might provide any of us with an unbelievable amount of freedom.
Time to hit some ground-rule-doubles for the home team, my friends. Here are a few things you should do to keep your acquaintances - at least those within two degrees of separation - happy in their artistic lives.
First up, vote for Block here on the WFUV website to keep them spinning "Last Single Guy." Jamie's latest, as some of you may attest, is his best, and it doesn't hurt that yours truly played keyboards and violins on certain tracks. For best song, might I suggest "Molly Malone" by Block as well? Fill in the other entries with your faves - some of you will win the prize they're giving away.
Secondly, Greg Humphreys' very own Hobex has just turned a decade old, and released "Enlightened Soul" on iTunes and Rhapsody. For a stunning look at Greg's work ethic, you need go no further than here to look at a list of the shows he's played since 1996. A truly stunning dedication to music, and worthy of a huge hit song. I've loved pretty much everything Greggy Homefries has laid to vinyl, but the brand new stuff holds a candle to barnburners like "Rollin'" from the Payback EP.
Thirdly, why not take a spin on ABC's "Daybreak"? I admit a bias; producer Abe Hoch, along with some of the Touchstone crew, are among my favorite people in Hollywood. Taye Diggs is a class act, and he is simply amazing in this show. Don't read about the ratings - yes, I know it can be compared to "Groundhog Day" and it can sound frustrating, but I have to say, I'm fully into it, and utterly along for the ride. You don't have to be a sucker for time-twisting plotlines to see how they're breaking new ground. Catch this one on broadcast before having to splurge on the DVD.
Anything else the blog audience should be doing? YAY HOME TEAM!
hauling the 10-foot Christmas tree through Brooklyn last week with Tim Ransom
After many months of arguing, cajoling, sulking and Yalta-like compromise, Tessa and I finally agreed, circa 2003, to alternate Christmases. This means that every other Christmas, each of us get to pick where we'd like to go. 95% of the time my choice is the farm upstate, because the place was built in 1818 expressly for the purpose of at least three hundred consecutive Christmases - plus, it usually snows, and there's room for my humongous family, etcetera.
This happened to be Tessa's year, but her hand was forced, somewhat, but the imminent arrival of Jordi and Sean's baby. So we're actually doing the holiday here in our Brooklyn apartment, which my wife has wanted to do for some time. I'm cool with it because we'll only be a few miles away from the baby boy, but getting all the Christmas Krap™ down from the farm was a backbreaking ordeal.
New York City - and Brooklyn - was not designed to be easy, folks. Sure, ordering food is simple, but you have to pay for it, and then give the guy a tip. Other than that, traversing each block, especially in winter and ESPECIALLY if you're carrying something, feels like one of the Labours of Hercules.
There are very few places I'd actually live, because I'm an insufferable, unbelievable snob, but I occasionally long for the convenience of living in Iowa, or Virginia, where we would simply want something, drive to get it, park in our garage, and carry it into the living room. Obviously, our lives as children were environmentally unconscious, but GODDAMN I wish I could just park in front our apartment, instead of lugging three tons of shit four blocks with a wind chill of 15 degrees.
New York is a tough sell. There are far too many people here, the traffic is suicide-inducing, the weather is almost always uncooperative, the local news is filled with some of the most grotesque crimes ever committed, and it's expensive as shit. And yet, one night in the East Village, or a day in Prospect Park, or the best dinner conversation you ever had, and you know you could never, ever leave.
I mean, we leave a lot, but you know what I mean.
Since this is my blog and I get to be self-referential, navel-gazing, and woefully overestimate my own importance, I'd like to do a two-month check-in on My Adventures With Speed. It has been about ten weeks since I boarded the non-stop Dexedrine train bypassing ADD Central and Fatigue Hollow, and I have to say, it has been a wonderful ride.
First, the cons. There are a lot of pills to take, and I'm not even taking them all. It's supposed to be two pills in the morning, two at noon, and two at 4pm. I usually forego the late afternoon speed, or break a pill in half. Why? Because if you don't, you can find yourself at 3am wondering the name of the guy who had the locker next to you in 10th grade.
When they say Dexedrine stops narcolepsy, they're not frickin' kidding. I'd compare it with that crazy buzz you'd get in college during an all-nighter when your second wind kicks in. Your next day's exhaustion can be cured by more Dexedrine, of course, but that's a spiral with an unhappy ending.
One more thing; sometimes the drug can make you irritable, with a short fuse. I've had to apologize to Tessa a couple of times when the intensity of my drive has collided with hers. Cooler heads prevail mere seconds later, but it's best to head that off at the pass.
Other than that, my tour with Dexy's Midnight Runners has been a smashing success. I used to be routinely daunted by the big projects in my life; now I long to be in the middle of them. I used to have a 2-4pm crapout that would send me into a Coriolis Effect of lethargic misery; now I'm swinging for the fences.
Here's the best part - you'd think a drug that makes you concentrate better would send you down several rabbit holes, or intensifying your mundane tasks at the price of missing out on the greater sense of the world. It might force you to become the Anti-Buddhist. Yet this hasn't happened. My environs, the beauty and decay of the world, the hours I spend with Lucy, even daydreaming has been put into sharper focus.
Perhaps it's just having the energy, simple as that. The curtains of the world rise easily for the person who isn't struggling to stay awake during the previews.
We're steeling ourselves for the holidays and the weather here in New York, but mostly we're in a holding pattern waiting for the unfathomably pregnant Jordana to give birth to their son. She's already pretty much effaced, a few centimeters dilated, and, I imagine, quite miserable. No possible way this event will hold off until the due date of December 17; the baby will be 15 pounds by then. So we're in a wait-and-see mode because nobody wants to induce, either. C'mon, kiddo, it's time! Lucy wants a tiny cousin!
The night before last, we carried on a new tradition of making Padsicles™ for the mother-to-be. These literally saved Tessa's ass after her delivery, and we've made several sets since. It's apparently a divine secret mixture of clear aloe vera, witch hazel and lavender applied to a maxi-pad and then stuck in the freezer, and will no doubt be Tessa's contribution to the pantheon of child-bearing.
Tessa, Jordi and Sean work the Padsicle™ assembly line
Being in Brooklyn - and inside - means Lucy gets to spend almost every afternoon with Hank, usually to explosive effect. Those two are like bumper cars being driven by coke addicts. Basically, we set them loose in the house, and they run 15 miles in random loops, pausing only to hear Nell read "The Night Before Christmas" (which Hank refers to as the book about "Nick").
Lucy tries to get Hank to be serious about the bass clef of Bach's Partita in E Major
Being inside may have also kicked Lucy's language skills into high gear. She's using complex sentences now, and surprising us every day by busting something cool. My recent favorite was when she came into my bedroom and said, "I'm making you eggs."
Never mind she was a whole floor away from the kitchen and can't reach the stove, I liked how she laid down some skillz with the subject-verb-indirect object-verb. Also, she said "I" - which is a nice segue from the usual third-person "Lucy is all wet" kind of thing that she still uses. Other faves:
"I'm going get Kirsty and be right back" (Kirsty is her doll)
"Socks are in the bed. Socks are funny!"
"Daddo put on Lucy's purple pantapoons."
When walking into the empty kitchen: "Everybody? GUYS?"
Grabbing my computer with immediate justification: "See pictures of zebras? Okay."
She has become a huge fan of this Mother Goose book that features samples of well-worn rhymes. We sing the ones that have tunes, like "Baa Baa Black Sheep," but "Humpty Dumpty" happens to be on the same page, so she thinks they're the same poem.
She tends to sing as a secondary activity, thus not really caring to nail everything, but hopefully you can hear her sing the following:
Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full
One for the master, one for the dame
One for the little boy who lives down the lane
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall...
Lucy's rocking chair!
In this video, she is showing her newfound (as in Monday) skill in getting into the piano seat. She says "Lucy's back!" and then launches into a semi-silent version of the ABC song, then starts to run into the other room. However, she's still singing it in her head, because she goes "YAAAAAYYY!" when she finishes it in the kitchen:
Oh, and fans of South Park: in the movie, the song "Uncle Fucka" has a brilliant ending phrase uttered by Terrance (or Philip) that I used to sing at the end of her nursery rhyme songs when she was mere weeks old. It was the only way I found solace in the tedium of those early days, and I forgot how often I did it. Fast-forward to last week, when we were singing "Wheels on the Bus":
Me: The wheels on the bus go-
Lucy: Round and round!
Me: Round and round, round and round, the wheels on the bus-
Lucy: Go round and round!
Me: (big ending) All... through... the TOWN.
Lucy: Suck my balls!
Sure, it made Tessa want to draw up separation papers, but I was doubled over on the floor laughing. IT WAS SO WORTH IT!
You know, all of you were robbed of a perfectly decent blog today because of the following game:
Download the version for your computer and you'll see why I stopped writing an award-winning entry for you lot and concentrated on getting the word "OCCLUDE."
So I ask: besides your most humble servant, what is your favorite obsessive time-waster on the internet?
minutes before bedtime last night
And how is the onset of real winter affecting you?
I'd like to add an addendum to yesterday's entry, something brought up by many commenters: my lack of R&B appreciation. If you look at the list, there are several song/artists that I loved, including Kurtis Blow, Sade, Prince, and "Jungle Love." However, it is no secret that my tastes have always run toward the high-harmony white-as-alabaster Brit pop and proto-Emo shoegazing. Sean loves to make fun of my tastes, as if he is some paragon of lick-you-all-over rhythm and blues, but he's essentially correct.
I look at the list from 1985 knowing who I was at the time. In short, I was a pent-up, frustrated, emotionally-stunted prep school boy wearing a tie, corduroys and Velcro tennis shoes. I had bad acne, huge glasses, and was many, many moons away from ever touching the breasts of a girl. My appreciation for music was filtered through my dad's orchestra, where I'd been weaned on Mahler, Elgar, the Brandenburg Symphonies, "Carnival of the Animals" and Shostakovich's 5th. Until 1985, there had been some serious talk of me being a professional violinist, sitting in the second violin section of some metropolitan orchestra.
In short, there weren't a lot of chances for UTFO or Kool Moe Dee to slip onto my radar. The huge education I got in that sort of music was my summer washing dishes in the back of Courtney's Restaurant in Norfolk, where the local homeboys taught me how to smoke a joint, and degreased my rubber mats in exchange for a ride back into the hood.
Even so, I was allowed to have an opinion. One of those guys kept playing the Mary Jane Girls' album, which had a sound that was mysterious and sexy. Yesterday, because Jon G. objected so vociferously, I downloaded "Roxanne, Roxanne" for a fresh listen, and I have to say it doesn't hold a candle to "In My House." Some of that stuff hits you in your hindbrain, and some misses you completely.
But the fact remains: I have very few African-American artists on my iPod. By and large, the groups and solo artists that make up the original landscape of rock & roll just never gave me goosebumps. I've always appreciated them intellectually, and been unspeakably thankful that black musicians gave rise to the Beatles and almost everything else, but R&B - and, for that matter, 99% of hip-hop - says absolutely nothing to me.
My question is this: can one's tastes make one a racist?