Archive | February, 2007

A lil’ pick-me-up

Daily Monster justed stopped production, and we were at a loss as to what computer fun our daughter would get herself up to (somehow it feels different than TV. Marie Winn knows better.)

Be that as it may. Today I peeped my old chum Vikki’s blog Up Popped a Fox, and set my eyes on the 46 seconds of fun that will keep our monkey thrilled, over and over again, for untold hours. Watch this (which she links to offa this post) and see if you can resist watching it over and over. Especially if you have a kiddle peeping over the keyboard.

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Weekend bonus shot, 02.25.07


Portrait of the artist, Berkeley, CA.

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Stockholm Syndrome, infant version

I’m sick, the baby’s sick, the dog’s sick. It looks like the toddler’s en route to getting sick with what I’m trying to kick, which I have because she gave it to me months ago. But worst of all, the computer’s sick! The horror, the horror! ‘Til it’s well again, I’ve had to encamp at a lesser machine, which has greatly hampered the doctoring and online conveying of both prose and photgraphic images. Production will pick up once a dent has been made in any of the above maladies, especially the computer one. Production will also pick up when I can type with more than one hand.

Let me explain.

We only have two kids, so my survey sample size is a little skimpy. (Not that this should deter me: when has inadequate data ever stopped anyone from drawing sweeping conclusions about physiology, psychology, and the like?)  I’m now ready to say there are two kinds of infants: oral-obsessives, and oral couldn’t care less-ives.  In other words, the binkie-bound, and the rest of them.

Just a scant month into his life on the outside and we’re pretty sure that kid#2 is binkie-bound.  He’s fussy, he’s agitated, and then you give him the finger.  He sets his eyes off in the distance for a moment as he registers what it is, then he pulls it in with the vacuum force of a jet engine’s turbofan. And he’s off a-suckin’ to his heart’s content. Nothing will bother him: not the pokey fingers of the big sister; not the pelting down upon him of spit-up rags, slipping as they inexorably do from our shoulders onto his face; not the flinging of his head hither and thither, like a rear-view window bobble-head doll*, as we feebly try to haul him around through the day’s domestic necessities.

Kid#1 could take or leave the finger; mostly she left it. Not a milk-bearing teat? Not interested. But this guy: he’s clearly going to be a lollipop-sucker, a pencil-nibbler, a toothpick-shredder, and a (let’s hope only bubble-gum) cigar-chewer. Yep, it’s plain to see he’s orally fixated, like his ma. (The beloved has found, strictly based on anecdotal research, that most of her opera singer colleagues are orally fixated; maybe this bodes well for his musical future.)

At first, his pinkie-lovin’ was a thrill. The obvious upside of it is that there’s something related to my body which I can procure and apply, to ease his worried mind. I wasn’t able to provide anything of the sort for the lil’ monkey. Someday when I’ve really lost all sense of decorum I may regale you with the tale of what I did try to do, once — just once! — when I was desparate after an hour-long crying jag and no Mama in sight to calm her. It didn’t work, people. But I had to try. I feel a little awkward about it still, though it does provide a point of positive connection to menfolk who think that if only they could, they would, etc., and all would be well. O, but I’ve said too much already.

Back to Stockholm Syndrome, infant version. Of course the downside of his pinkie-lovin’ is that once the digit is inserted, it’s pretty much stuck there, ’til long after he’s drifted off to sleep. So long as the pinkie’s attached to my hand, and my hand’s attached to me, I’m hostage to him. And yet every pinkie-sucking minute is making me love him more. It’s a pernicious cycle and I don’t see myself doing anything about it anytime soon.

*[Want to shock and amaze your friends? Get them their own bobble-head doll of their kid as a gift! Can this really be possible? See for yourself.]

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Notes from a memorial


Photo of Tillie Olsen: Rob Edwards

Tillie Olsen’s memorial on Saturday was profoundly moving. What a life; what a legacy. To do any of it justice is far far beyond my humble capacities. So I won’t, except to say that the event was a fitting reflection of her fierce passion for people and for justice. I can’t imagine anyone who could walk away from there uninspired. Below are simply a few anecdotes that have stayed with me from the day.

    • “If Tillie were here…” began many a sentence. As in, “If Tillie were here she’d be up and down the aisles, eagerly introducing everyone to each other. ‘Oh, you have to meet so-and-so!’ she’d say.”
    • She carried with her everywhere the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights; gave it out like other people give out their business cards. After the memorial, in the adjacent hall where the hundreds of attendees gathered to break bread, scores and scores of the little pamphlets were laid out for us to bring home. I now have one in my wallet and am on the lookout for the first opportunity to pass it along. (Arlene Goldbard notes that yesteday was the anniversary of the passing of Rene Cassin, the author of this document.)
    • She kept a bunch of folded dollar bills handy to give to homeless folks she would encounter (knew everyone in her neighborhood by name, the homeless most especially). When from time to time someone would say to her, upon receiving the bill, “God bless you!” Tillie would reply, “Don’t bless me; curse the system!”
    • Filmmaker Annie Hershey screened a portion of her forthcoming documentary about Tillie, “A Heart in Action.” In it, two young writers were having Olsen sign copies of their books, and one said, “It is such an honor to meet you.” Recoiling at being placed on any kind of pedestal, Tillie responded, “Don’t say ‘honor’!” The young gal quickly came back with, “It’s such a pleasure.” Olsen then smiled and said, “We’re both contributing to the future in a medium I love.”
    • Even toward the end of her life, when Alzheimer’s held so much of her mind hostage, she retained a sense of humor. Whenever one of her grandaughters came to visit, and would ask her “How are you feeling today, Tillie?” she’d reply, “As always, with my hands.”
    • Of the many powerful passages from her works from which her daughters could draw in their eulogies, the passage most frequently cited was this one from “O Yes,” which appears in Tell Me a Riddle:

    “It is a long baptism into the seas of humankind, my daughter. Better immersion than to live untouched…”

Read her works; read about her life from the point of view of her daughters, or from scholars, or from journalists, or in her own words; spend some honest time contemplating how you might beat your own path toward love and justice with some of her spirit egging you on. I know I will.

Those wishing to may send donations to the Tillie Olsen Memorial Fund for Public Libraries, Working Class Literature, and Social Justice:

the Tillie Olsen Memorial Fund
c/o The San Francisco Foundation
225 Bush Street, Suite 500
San Francisco, CA 94104

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Weekend bonus shot, 02.18.07



Not-so-still-life with nursing pillow (elapsed time:19 minutes), Berkeley, CA

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