An Award-Winning Disclaimer

A charming little Magpie whispered this disclaimer into my ear, and I'm happy to regurgitate it into your sweet little mouth:

"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

These views represent the thoughts and opinions of a blogger clearly superior to yourself in every way. If you're in any way offended by any of the content on this blog, it is clearly not the blog for you. Kindly exit the page by clicking on the small 'x' you see at the top right of the screen, and go fuck yourself."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flunk, Fail, Flail, Flucked

I can convince myself of anything as long as it's bad.




If I work hard enough, I can convince myself that I don't know something that I know I really know. I can convince myself I don't know how to tie my shoes. I can sit on the edge of my bed in the morning, pick up my right shoe, stare at it, sigh in that familiar, disappointed way I've perfected after so many years of self-hatred and disappointment and say to myself, "That-- you can't do that. Look at that knot, it's doubled. It's doubled and you're singled and you can't undo what's been done." And an eyebrow will rise slightly, and my head will cock to the side a bit, and I'll pull the tongue of the shoe from the heel and I'll jam my flat, misshapen foot inside of it, stretching out the leather and decreasing the life expectancy of the shoe I paid for with my hard-earned money I received from the auspices of the employer of the job that I oftentimes convince myself I don't know how to do.

I don't know how to do my job.

My job is someone else's job. At least, it should be.

I didn't go to school for my job.

I went to school for another job, a job that I also don't know how to do.

What I do know how to do is fake things. I'm a brilliant faker-- I remarkable faker. I perform in operettas, but I don't know how to sing. Not really. I imitate professional performers who do know how to sing, who spent decades under the stern tutelage of foreign voice coaches and sipped countless mugs of honey-imbued lemon tea to coat their throats and I mimic them and fool audiences, some of them even discerning ones, that I know how to sing.

But, I don't know how to sing. I've convinced myself of that. Some day, someone will find out, and I will be outed, possibly in the midst of a performance. They'll be sitting in Row L and they'll stand up, hitch up their trousers unceremoniously and scream, "FAKER!" and he won't even bother pointing at me, because everybody will instantly know whom he's speaking about.

And I'll be crestfallen, but, in the back of my mind, I'll admire him for having the balls to do what no one has done before: expose me.

That I've lived 31 years and graduated high school even though I cannot perform the most rudimentary mathematical equations without the aid of a calculator and life support, the fact that I've held multiple jobs, some of them dealing with actual life and death, the fact that I've been compensated for ineptitude and indifference and incompetence is startling, shocking and scary.

I guess it's because I'm white and wear glasses and I tuck in my shirts. I can do anything.

A friend of mine hired me to do freelance editing and copywriting work for her a while ago. My name's on her company's website. She sends me jobs, I do them. I have no idea what I'm doing. Does she know? I don't know. These companies that accept my copy-- I can't believe they do it. I don't know what I'm writing about. I don't know the first thing about these corporations or what they do or what they expect from me or what they want. I don't know what they're selling or to whom, I don't know the target audience or the demographics. I stumble through my work blindly and, the second I'm finished, I send the fakery, the lunacy, the ridiculum to my friend without editing it, without looking at it because it makes me sick. I pray it's good enough. I pray no one catches on that I'm a fraud, or, as Holden would say, "a goddamn phony".

Some day, someone will get it. Some day.

I don't know how to be a father. I hold and kiss and change and burp and swaddle and shush and dress but I don't know what I'm doing. I'm faking it. And I suppose being a father, the most important thing I've ever been in my life, is the only thing in this world that's acceptable to fake, because every man who's ever reproduced as faked his way through it.

It's all the other stuff I've ever done that you're supposed to be good at before you do it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Me No Read

I'm six-and-change weeks into my FMLA "Paternity Leave". I'm going back to work in two-and-a-half weeks. Back to the psych hospital. Back to locked doors and lots of keys and leather restraints and groups of dubious moral, educational, and spiritual value. But, despite how that last sentence probably sounded, I love my job, and I'm really looking forward to going back. And not just because the twins are driving me insane, and not just because I'm irrepressibly stir-crazy, and not just because I long for adult conversation that doesn't revolve around the merits of Pampers vs Huggies (Huggies, you are shit and, well, holding in shit), but because I like to work. I like interacting with the staff and the patients. I like making money. I like being active. I like writing my reports and walking the halls and saying "Good morning" to people who are shuffling around while not wearing pants like it's just any old thing.

I like that.

That said, of course, I also like being home.

A lot.

And because of that, I have very much enjoyed this time with my wife, my buddy, my best friend, my partner, and my two new, small, nice-smelling (most of the time) buddies.

I have to say, though, that when I look back on the nine weeks I'll have spent at home, I think I'll be most disappointed by one immutable fact: I haven't read.


No books. I've barely skimmed a "Car & Driver", and I did so listlessly and in such a disconnected fashion I couldn't tell you if I read about the new Passat or about the new Porsche Cayman.

Forget about books-- I'm not sure I even know what a book looks like. I ordered "The Art of Gilbert & Sullivan" by Gayden (suppressed snicker) Wren to get Free Super Saver Shipping on something else and I fanned through it, instantly turned off by how Wren was overtly judging and critiquing Gilbert's product quality in the later operettas like "Utopia, Ltd" and "The Grand Duke", when Gayden Wren himself is responsible for one of the most regrettable stage productions ever, "A Gilbert & Sullivan Christmas Carol". Don't even get me started.

I couldn't read more than fifteen pages. It's on the shelf with the two-dozen other G&S related books and libretti and scores. Moo.

I don't read blogs anymore so, if you write a blog that I used to read, forgive me. I still love you, but I just... I don't know. I don't read anymore. You're probably doing something really awesomeballs that I don't know about because I don't read your blog anymore, but it's not that I'm too cool for school, it's that, I don't know. Maybe it's the sleep deprivation. I am writing portions of this blog with my eyes closed-- and I can do that thanks to my 6th grade typing teacher, Mrs. "F. J. Space" Dougherty who, in addition to being strict as a nun, was a world-renowned emetophobe. All you had to do to be excused from her typing class was say you felt sick to your stomach. You wouldn't be welcomed back for two weeks.

My sister-in-law told me, just after we'd had our children, that new parents' I.Q.s diminish by twenty points.

"So I suppose that means that parents of twins lose forty points," I said, surprising everyone in the recovery room that I could muster up that math after such a traumatic, intelligence quotient-lowering event.

"Probably," she surmised. "It's only temporary, though," she said, attempting reassurance.

But, how temporary? Like, when does it come back? And, does it come back gradually, like at a ratio of a point a year or something like that? I've never had an I.Q. test. I think, to get into the Challenge program in middle school you were required to take an I.Q. test, but my parents told me that was ridiculous and that they wouldn't sign the form, so I never got into the Challenge program and I never got an I.Q. test. Frankly, I'd be scared to take one. I know it doesn't hurt, but I don't like engaging in tests that reveal something about me. This is why I've never taken a "Cosmo Quiz". If I have puffy areolae or way too much in my purse, I'll let you know, damnit. The only exception the self-revelatory test aversion is the occupational aptitude test I took in high school-- I enjoyed that. Though I'm very sorry I never got to become a forest ranger.

I suppose I could read about forest rangers, though. You know, if I ever read again.

Monday, January 23, 2012

America's Comeback Kids

The New York Times headline read, "For Giffords, House Comeback is One Too Many."

It's funny to me how a mere headline can hit you, instantly, and make you feel something you didn't know you were going to feel. I mean, if I understood my college journalism class (which I took over the summer so I could have an occasional awkward coupling with my Catholic girlfriend who was doing summer theatre, thank you very much) that's part of what a headline's supposed to do. It's supposed to be quick, sharp, and it's supposed to hook you, to con you into reading the rest of the story.

Well, this headline kind of worked. It was quick and sharp, and it hooked me-- but I didn't read the story. Blame it on the Amazing Shitting Twins, who prevent me from doing, well, anything these days. Except blogging. YOU'LL NEVER TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME, YOU LITTLE SPIT-UP PARASITES!

*Ahem.* Sorry.

Maybe I should read the article before writing this post. That's generally how it's done. The best lesson I was ever taught as an undergraduate theatre major was "never audition for a play you haven't read". I mean, no shit, right? But I don't have the time to both read AND write these days. So, I'm going to be one of those people I can't stand, who comment on something they haven't read. Actually, sort of, but sort of not. See, I'm only commenting on the headline, which I have read.

The headline in The New York Times, to me anyway, reeked of a sort of intrinsic disappointment. It was as if to say that Giffords recovery has been remarkable, inspiring, (warning, the word I hate) amazing, but it's just.... short of perfect. Just shy of the American ideal of the person who beats all the odds, who defies all the expectations, who does the un-doable.

To me, the fact that Gabrielle Giffords is still alive today, that she is a living, breathing human being after taking a bullet to the brain is comeback enough. Why should she be expected to return to Congress? Now, she may have had that expectation for herself, and that's fine, one cannot poo-poo a person's expectations for him or herself, but what about what we expect. Had she returned to Congress, this country would have gone apeshit, falling all over itself to post laudatory Facebook status updates featuring pictures of her in her smart business suit, sitting in her tufted leather chair in the House. But why would that be something to celebrate? Why is Gabrielle Giffords going to her physical therapy appointments not something to cheer about? How about her eating a bowl of cereal? Why do we encumber the sick or the injured or the unfortunate with these inflated and conflated ideas and ideals about what "comeback" and "success" and "recovery" mean?

After my wife had her brain surgery, I had to bathe her, and make her meals, and drive her places. I had to endure conversations with her where she spoke at such a high pitch and such a fast rate of speed that I could not understand her. She learned to drive again, to use her left hand again. She went back to work. She regained her place in society. But she can't play the bassoon anymore.

Is my wife just short of the ideal American recovery?

We're the country that invented the phrase "the comeback kid". We love that shit. We eat it up. Runners with one leg beating the balls off their able-bodied competitors with the use of a prosthesis. The homeless girl getting the scholarship. The black kid from the ghetto going to Harvard.

What's... wrong with us? Unfortunately, our warped notions of what it means to be successful in this country inspire people to do things that might be better for us and our egos and our insecurities than things that are necessarily better... for them.


It's not bad enough she had to get shot in the head on camera, now the cameras, and the expectations, will just never go away.

On September 11th, 2001, I remember how the late Peter Jennings and other dapper news anchors like him lauded the first responders who went back to Ground Zero again and again and again and again. Shift after shift after shift, police officers, medics, firefighters working seventy-two, eighty-four, ninety-six hours straight with no break. No masks. No fear. Well, I'm sure there was fear. And we ate it up-- the footage of those men and women in the prime of their life sifting through the rubble looking for their fallen brothers and sisters, looking for the fallen brothers and sisters of New York, tirelessly, frantically, endlessly, and we all cheered them on. But there was nobody there when those formerly healthy police officers and paramedics and firefighters were diagnosed with a plethora of cancers, and the great American public was not at their too-soon funerals, as the bagpipes bleated out their mournful dirge for these former heroes who, well, couldn't quite overcome adversity.

But, damn, they tried-- didn't they?

Well. Almost.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Old House...

...can suck my dick.

When my wife were young and stupid, and childless, and when she wasn't my wife, we'd go traipsing around quaint neighborhoods and looked at lots of charming old houses, because that's what we liked.

In the end, we bought a house that was more old than it was charming. We made it charming inside, by painting its walls all kinds of fucked up circus colors, and by adding our tchotchkies and our touches and our random piles of shit.

We have such charming random piles of shit.

1928 was a long time ago. It was before the stock market crash. It was before color television and before women going to work and women going to war. 1928 was before the "Wizard of Oz"-- that's how long ago 1928 was. Do you believe there was a time before that movie?

Our house was built in 1928 and, thus, it is eighty-four years old. When you're young and stupid, the idea of living inside a thing built before your parents were built doesn't seem absurd at all. Having lived in this house for some time, it does now. Noam Chomsky is eighty-four years old, and I wouldn't want to live inside him. I can't stand the fucking guy. Shirley Temple, I just learned, was also born in 1928. Somehow, living inside her sounds better, but only marginally.

At first, the old home was fun-- it gave us things to do. Old lady wallpaper? Let's strip it and paint! Nasty linoleum floor the color of a three-year-old's vomit? Let's rip the bejesus out of the floor and replace it! Old windows-- caked in decades and decades of lead paint? Let's....


See, 'cuz window replacement people don't like dealing with lead paint. And a new law was passed recently that says that they don't have to-- that the onus is on the homeowner to get an environmental hazard specialist into the home to either remove or encapsulate all the lead paint and provide the window people with a certificate of non-PB-ness before they can proceed with the work.

Can you say:


Because, with two month-old children bleating their tiny genitals off in the next room, I sure as Christ can't!

These days, it seems that everywhere I look in this old house of ours there is something to be replaced, fixed, updated, re-done, dealt with. The windows are the obvious priority. Last year, before this fucking regulation was passed, we replaced half the windows in the house. The downstairs, mostly new windows, is toasty warm. Our bedroom and the rest of the upstairs, mostly old windows, is like living inside Shirley Temple's Kelvinator. After two horrifying nights spent shivering in our bedroom with the twins, we moved "OPERATION NEW LIFE" downstairs. The twins sleep in a pack-n-play in the dining room, the parents sleep on the sofa in the living room.

That's right, we're crashing on the couch in our own goddamn house, and we have been for over a month. And we will continue to do so until the windows are all replaced.

There's water damage on the wall in the nursery. There's water damage in the wall in the 1st floor bathroom. The roof's probably falling in because it was clearly installed by a guy with a sixth grade education. When you're feeding and changing and clothing and burping and wiping two little children, projects are no longer fun, old houses are no longer charming. You finally get why young couples buy pristine, 4.5-year-old homes in developments where the biggest dilemma they have is choosing the white, the off-white, the bone, or the creme one.

I get it now.

You win.

I can't take it anymore.

If I have to spend another month on this sofa, it's not going to be pretty.

Don't get me wrong, I love this house. We're not going to go live in a gated community because we've got "a few holes in the floor, the odd door missing" (to quote Basil Fawlty), but you can love something that makes absolutely no sense. It's nice to know that, even though we went and got married and had kids and got a mortgage and two dogs and two cars and some more gray hairs, that I'm still basically just as fucking stupid as I was before.

I was worried there for a second-- weren't you?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Purportedly Supported

*** If anybody still reads this shit: I'm really going to get it for this post. I can taste it. And it tastes strangely like breastmilk. ***

So, my wife is doing the best possible thing she can be doing to preserve and protect our twins. No, she's not dressing them in identical Osh-Kosh B'Gosh overall outfits and teaching them Spanish. She's breastfeeding, and I couldn't be happier about it.

I don't need to sit here and go over why breastmilk is infinitely superior to formula, or feeding your children shredded cardboard boxes or veal parmigiana or wine-soaked seat upholstery from a 1992 Chevrolet Cavalier. If you don't understand why breastmilk is better for infants than something concocted in a laboratory by balding men with swamp-ass and taint pimples, then there's nothing I can do for you. Leave this blog at once.

(But not before leaving a comment! Apron <3's comments!)

What my wife and I have had to learn through the birth and one-month-ness of our twinners is that doing what's natural isn't always easy. Breastfeeding the children was hard at first-- in the hospital neither would latch particularly well, and feedings were a miserable, stressful experience, especially since our daughter was sick and our son was underweight-- the pressure to get them nutrients was palpable, and it nearly drove us utterly crackers. What I failed to realize was the emotional piece of breastfeeding, that, when a child doesn't latch to its mother, the mother cannot help but feel rejected, and wounded. I was panicked that the children were losing weight, so I put extra pressure on Mrs. Apron to keep at it, and I wasn't as sensitive as I should have been, and, hence, I should be shot and then have the bullet-hole fingered by an agnostic gorilla.

As the weeks went on, though, feedings got easier. Still, Mrs. Apron, seeking resources and information, joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. Because she and I are basically joined at the hip while I am home from work caring for the children, I am frequently next to her on the couch while she is on her iPad ($$$$$$$$!!!!!!!) checking out the latest questions and answers from the women belonging to the breastfeeding support group.

And I've got to tell you, after you read enough of that shit, you want to kill yourself.

I have no problem with people who join support groups-- hell, I should probably be in at least eight different ones, but who has the time?-- but, like anything, it can be taken a little too far. Sometimes I feel like groups such as these pray on people's insecurities, their need for validation, or for convivial indignation, or to assuage their fears or to proclaim them to be normal.


We all want to be normal, or we all at least want to think that we're normal. So many of these questions are:

"I do ____________, is that normal?"

"My child does ___________________. Any other ladies had this experience with their kids?"

"My son/daughter used to feed like ___________________, but not s/he only feeds when ________________________ is on the radio and the clothes dryer is on-- is that weird?"

Yes. It is. Move the fuck on.

The worst, though, are the women who ask questions of their peers that should only be directed at medical professionals.

"Does anyone out there know if (insert name of prescription drug) can be excreted in breastmilk?"

"I'm breastfeeding and I'm taking (insert name of prescription drug), is that okay?"

Are you fucking kidding me?

If it's a PRESCRIPTION DRUG, that means that a medical professional PRESCRIBED IT for you. Ask him or her, don't ask random boob-marms on Facebook. Jesus Christ. While you're at it, why don't you ask the gals if that abdominal discomfort you're having means you ought to have your spleen removed?

This is where online "support groups" move from helpful, past irritating, to downright dangerous. It would be fine of everyone out there realized they were unqualified to answer the question and chose to shut up, but of course questions like these get dozens of frequently redundant and specious replies. Inevitably, there's a genius or two that replies, "you should probably ask your doctor, but..."

Groups like this, with inane, endless reply-strings that are endlessly extended by that one last person who just has that one last thing to say, that one nugget of advice that nobody can do without, become no better than online news sites that permit the dregs of society to comment on stories, no better than the online version of "Foxtrot", where readers can compare the antics of Jason and his friend Marcus to their real-life children. The banality never ends and the most important thing about the experience is about giving your two cents, it's not actually about helping anybody.

You might say that female breastfeeding doctors are also members of the support group and can offer advice. Well, that's not their job. Doctors go to med school so that they can work for a hospital or a practice or a clinic and have appointments with people, people that they get to know, people with whose medical histories they become acquainted, people who are seen and evaluated in a clinical setting. Dispensing medical advice through Facebook is a mistake, and these groups are no replacement for directing important medical questions to a medical professional.

A support group should be just that, a place to get support. Maybe comments like,

"I can hear you're having a hard time breastfeeding, it was really challenging for me, too. I hope things get easier for you. They did for me."

That's... support. Recommending pump products, talking about football hold versus cradle carry. Cheering on a mother whose confidence in herself is flagging.

Advice? You heard it here first: stay away from support groups, especially ones that pretend to be one thing and turn into quite another.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Down to Zero

"Oh the feeling
When you're reeling
You step lightly thinking you're number one
Down to zero with a word
For another one

Now you walk with your feet
Back on the ground
Down to the ground
Down to the ground."

My wife and I have been spending a lot of time recently watching "Homicide: Life on the Street". It's a police procedural-- well, it's a lot more than that-- that was filmed in Baltimore, and Fells Point, from 1993-1999, and it was one of my favorite shows on television when I was in middle and high school. There's a picture of me, somewhere, standing in front of the building that was used as the headquarters, in Fells Point-- and I'm grinning in that picture about as big as I can.

I can remember well watching Pembleton, who made suspenders look cool, scream a confession out of some moke in The Box, or Bayliss going through some existential crisis, or Munch never doing any actual police work-- just cracking wise, or paranoid. I can remember the brilliant Yaphet Kotto astonishing with his performance as Al Giardello, expertly towing the line between rabid attack dog and sensitive mentor. I can remember watching this show in 1998 when I decided to enter college as a theatre major, but I can remember watching "Homicide" in my parents' basement dreaming not of becoming an actor, but becoming a cop.

Instead, I became a father. I wrote a book about cops. I appear in local theatre plays. And, in 2011, I'm still watching "Homicide", with my best friend beside me on the couch-- and she loves it-- while she breastfeeds our twins, or pumps.

The song lyrics at the beginning of this blog are from the Joan Armatrading song "Down to Zero". The song plays at the end of the Season 5 episode of "Homicide" called "Prison Riot". I love Joan Armatrading's voice. It's a lot like Tracy Chapman's, and it's frequently confused for hers, but there's an earthier quality, a more impassioned fervor to Armatrading's voice. Something. If I knew more about music, or anything, maybe I could tell you what it is, but I don't know.

The older I get, the more I realize that there's a lot I don't know.

Life's funny. On December 15th, my twins were born. I didn't get to cut the cords, because the O.R. was way too chaotic, and my son came out white as a hospital wall. I was hurt, bummed-- diminished, I suppose might be a better way to describe it. My daughter had jaundice, my son had to have help to breathe, but we all went home together, and they grew, and we fell into a new routine, of feeding, and pumping, and watching Kay Howard, Meldrick Lewis, Mikey Kellerman, John Munch, Tim Bayliss, Frank Pembleton slug their way through another shift on the dirty streets of Bal'more.

Maybe four days after we got home with the twins, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer. Stage 4. Metastases in his stomach, his liver, his brain. Multiple masses in the brain, including one that was so huge it was growing even while he was hospitalized. A mass that's 9 centimeters in his chest. He's lost thirty pounds in no time at all.

No time at all. Down to zero.

Down to the ground,
Down to the ground.

I was reminded, in thinking of all this, of the story of a young New York City patrolman who, on one particular shift in the early 1970s, shot and killed a suspect who had pulled a gun on him, and, several hours into the same shift, delivered a baby. That's how fucked up life is-- that these things happen like that. That life can come in and go out so soon, so close. My brother-in-law's life has not gone out, but it feels as though it is on its way out, as the lives of my children begin.

And what's to be done? My mother-in-law wants to send them lasagna, and cookies. She wants to festoon my nephew's room and life with an abundance of toys to make up for the fact that his father won't see much of 2012, let alone 2013. People want to clean their house and hold beef-n-beer benefits. People want to pay their bills, and I guess I hope they do. Me? I don't know what I want to do. It sounds cruel, but I have two children to raise and provide for, and I don't know how to do that, and I feel like I've got to start figuring that out. I never figured me out, and I guess that's going to have to wait until, I don't know-- retirement?


In the meantime, I'll be changing diapers, and receiving more bad news texts from my sister, and watching "Homicide" with my wife while our twins snore on our chests.

Since news of my brother-in-law's ill health broke on New Year's Day, I know now what Joan Armatrading is singing about, about being down to zero-- at the beginning, or at the end, it barely makes a difference. Sleep-deprived, half-psychotic, half-dreaming, in love, in mourning, in despair, infatuated, indefinable.

Down to the ground,
Down to the ground.