Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flight from HELL

I could write an entire book about flying with babies and the assholes that I come across during these endeavors.

This last trip was unbelievable because it taught me that while time passes and we age, not all people mature into reasonable human beings. No, there are exceptional people out there who defy the ability that experience and time usually perform; the shaping of an immature adolescent to a (mostly) rational, considerate adult. I digress.

The flight from Los Angeles to New York is about five hours which is an hour and a half shorter than the reverse trek, but this trip felt arduous, long, unbearable....for a few reasons.

First, I was peeved, not in a good mood, so irate you could sear tuna on my skin. We went through security and were questionned very thoroughly. Why? you may ask.....I will tell you why and this is the reason I was so pissed.

Security man (hereafter referred to as 'dude'): 'You packed your own bags?'
Alex: 'Yes.'
Dude: 'You're in big trouble.'
Alex looks over at me as I'm strolling the baby across the ten-by-ten square that now feels like a prison. He looks as though he's lost all color from his face.

Dude pulls out two long steak knives from an inner compartment.
Me (internally, suppressing the desire to scream this): What the fuck is that? I cannot believe he is stupid enough to pack knives? Wait....why would he do that? Shit! We might get cavity searched!
Alex: 'Those aren't mine.' He looks like someone just told him he won a beauty pageant. In other words, stunned.
Dude: 'How did they get in here then?'
Alex: 'I don't know. HONESTLY, I really don't know.'

He looks like he might cry and I think the guy takes pity on us, that is, after he pulls over his boss, the security chief and another woman. Surprisingly, they let us go.

In disbelief, as we're walking toward our gate, Alex remembers that we packed the knives in the inner compartment, the one he never checks, when we moved two years ago. What?! We flew ten times with those knives in our carry-on. Now, THAT is scary.

While waiting to board, he tells me that all the poo and pee in his body almost exploded out of his body when he saw the knives. I wanted to strangle Alex for not checking the bag's inner pockets, but then again, it was my bag, the one I bought in Geneva the summer I fell in love with him.

So, we get on the plane and all I want to do is sleep. I sit in my seat as Alex puts away our bags. A woman crawls over me to get to her window seat and tells me, 'I hope you're staying in that aisle seat. I really don't want to be next to a baby.' Wow. Bitch.

Me: 'Well, I'm sorry. That's not possible. My husband and I will both be carrying the baby.' I wanted to flip her off, but seeing how we were to spend the next five hours together, I shut up.

She kept sighing like it was her job...'OOOOh, ugh, oooough.' You know those sighs, the ones that sound like they're being wrenched from the body. That coupled with the mumbled bitter comments.... I wanted to tell her to shut the fuck up, but I was too busy consoling Adele as it was nearing her bedtime.

Her behavior was so egregious that the flight attendant came to our row, signaled to her and said, 'Excuse me, I'm going to have to move you.'
'Why?' she asked
'Frankly, I'm tired of hearing you complaining. I'm a mom too and I don't appreciate it.'
She moved this woman, a mid thirties, obviously single, bitter sorry excuse of a person to a different row where she could torment her new victims and torment, she did. I overheard her asking a man to switch seats so she could be next to the window. I'm glad the man said, 'No, who do you think you are?' which finally shut her up.

Ten minutes later, the woman in front of me starts screaming, 'I need to get off the plane!'
(Mind you, we're about to take off.)
She is talking to her boyfriend on the phone, 'What do you want me to do? Get off the plane?! I can't!'
Alex whispers, 'Jersey, judging by the accent.'
The older couple sitting next to her, dressed in plaid, tries to pretend that a crazy woman is not sitting right beside them.
'Oh fuck! Shit! I need to get off' she motions to the stewardess. 'Get me off,' I can hear her fake nails clawing at the seat belt.
I whisper to Alex, 'All the crazies are on this plane tonight'. He laughs, but the dark circles under his eyes and the sweat that's accumulating on his brow makes me feel sorry for him.

This flight was absolutely chaotic, miserably seated with crankies, and had only just begun. No matter, I realized that being a parent requires patience, not for your child, but for all the insane, unstable people that surround you, sometimes for five hours, thousands of miles above the revolving earth.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Funny Things Heard in Central Park

Every morning, I stretch my limbs and take a nice stroll in the park. The number one reason for moving into our current abode has to do with the 843 acres right across the street. I love the fact that I can walk out the door and see green, not the green of Wall Street moolah, the the actual shrubbery, trees, foliage that exists abundantly in most other places.

There are definite crowds that mill around the park. There are the nannies (which I've mentioned here, here, and here), runners, tourists, lovers, born-and-bred NYers complete with accent, children, athletes, you name it, they all frequent the park at some point. I feel as though I could blog about each one of these groups on separate occasions, but one aspect links them all together; the incredibly bizarre things I hear.

During my daily walk, I always here the most unusual snippets of conversations. I am not one of those crazy skilled runners, the ones who tote four mini water bottles strapped onto their hip, or squeeze gel food into their mouths. I am the very casual walker who listens to music, not to pump up my energy, but to calm me down, to allow me to unwind from the day's chaos. I walk leisurely, with every bone in my body. Since just about everyone passes me, I cannot help but pick up on their dialogue. Sometimes, it's mild, 'Oh, did Janice tell you about the party?', or 'Billy thought he got an A. Wrong!' Other times, it's downright absurd or hilarious. It's most likely because it's taken out of context, but sometimes, I can't imagine how the word would make sense in any context. Here are a few examples that stand out;

'Get through that fucking hole! See it! Go!Go!Go!' (one bicyclist to another)
'Mom, you said I could pet the squirrel this time!!!' (a teenager to his mother, both tourists)
'I need to go back. He made my fucking breasts lopsided,' (One plastic woman says to another)
'Was that Elizabeth Hasselback?' (A woman says to her friend)...'You mean Hasselbitch? Yeah it is!' the friend replies. (The View host was actually there, strolling her newborn son.)

At other times, the conversation that gets injected into my daily walk seems too intimate, too vulnerable;
'So you gonna leave him? You should, you know. You can't keep letting him get away with that....Shit. Sleeping with other guys is not okay,' (a friend telling the woman to leave her closeted gay husband)

The thing I love about New York is that one any given day, there are crazy uninhibited personalities, conversations, dialogues, moments that filter through my life. Going for a simple walk across the street turns into a voyage into people's psyches; their insecurities, fears, and triumphs.

I always listen to music on these walks, even with the drone of conversation and occasional punctuated comments inbetween, so there is not much chance for someone to hear my thoughts, but oh....if they could listen to my head.

The thought of all the conversations with other people and the ones we carry out in our heads, all contributing to a symphony of voices, curses, laughter, and whispers makes me realize how lucky I am to be a part of it all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

To Rant or Not to Rant

I came home yesterday, fatigued, drained, spent from my job. I tutor as a profession. I am pretty damn good at what I do, but it leaves me extremely tired and sometimes irate. Never because of the children, but somehow the commuting and being away from Adele makes me more sensitive, much to the dismay of Alex waiting for me at home.

He always cooks me dinner. Last night; an homage to my heritage, he cooked kimchi marinated tilapia, steamed kale, spicy squid, and rice. Some of you may have just gagged, but I love this stuff. I love how Korean food makes you TASTE, feel, sweat, and really experience food. Fortunately, so does Alex. He not only appreciates it, but he cooks it for me, following my dad's detailed instructions over the phone. I am blessed. Somehow, in this cosmos of amorous pairing, God paired me with a Southern Scots-Irish man who knows how to make kimchi infused anything.

Mid-meal, he casually tells me about his day, all the fun activities that the twosome did while I was gone. Most of the events were ordinary, but he said one thing that caught me off guard.

'So, a little girl went up to Adele today', Alex begins.
'At the park?' I mumble, my mouth ungracefully filled with food.
'Yeah,' he replies, apparently not disgusted at the sight of me ravaging my food.
'Did they play?' I prod.
'No. Guess what she said?' he says casually.
'What?' He's peaked my interest.
'She said, 'She has squinty eyes!' and pointed to Adele.'
'WHAT the fuck?' I say as I almost choke on my spicy kale.
'Are you serious?' I probe.
'Yeah, but she's just a kid.'
'I don't fucking care.' Fury emanates from my mouth.
'You should've said something,' I chide.
'What was I gonna say? Her dad was right there,' he defends himself.
'Oh my god, he wasn't mortified. He didn't say anything?!'
'No. I mean, we made eye contact. He was probably embarrassed.'
'I bet. He didn't say anything?' My liberal ass, California-raised self can't believe his nonchalance.
'Well, maybe he talked to her later,' Alex always gives people the benefit of a doubt which is nice but sometimes annoying.
'If you live in Manhattan, you better have that talk before the kid is school age,' I continue to fume.

I understand that it wasn't intended to be mean. I understand that the situation may have been awkward, but as a parent of a mixed-race child, I demand that parents wake up and clue their children in to the various differences that exist among us.

Growing up, I am haunted by a couple memories. Most of my childhood is filled with the usual warm, fuzzy feeling that one conjures when nostalgia overcomes them. All my haunted memories come from racism, usually from children. As we get older, we learn to either celebrate our differences or mask our intolerance. From my experience, children often imitate what they learn at home.

Racism at asians is usually directed at the eyes. There are plenty of psychologists and scientists who could point to why this is the case, but no matter, it's always directed there. Wake up world! Asian eyes are different, yes, but they are beautiful. Please put those fingers away, the fingers that stretch the corners of rounded eyes to mock the beautiful almond shape of much of the world.

If Adele were a little older, she would have known what was going on. She would have understood the connotations of the scene. For that, I am grateful. She has yet to delve into human habits of categorization and simple ignorance. For her sake, and for any other child who does not look like she walked out of the pages of Aryan Vogue, please educate your children, tell them what it means to be different, watch them grow into aware, kind, compassionate individuals who think before they say.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Say You're One of Them

The rays of sun fall upon Adelle as she swings in her baby chair at the park. I took this picture a couple months back, midsummer moment captured by my phone, a glimpse into daylight and beginnings.

I've been reading a book by Uwen Akpan, 'Say You're One of Them', a hit with the world since it was featured on Oprah's book club. I am always skeptical of reading mass bestsellers because I tend to be attracted to books that are less known, more complex in narrative and characterization. Essentially, I am a literary snob. Once in a while, I am humbled by something the public has chosen well.

I read on the train, in the midst of hustle and bustle, careening cars on rusty tracks, filled with people, often shoulder-to-shoulder with New York's 'finest', and trying to propel myself into a world that will take me away from the chaos of the city.

I find myself in a different chaos in this book. Every story is about tragedy, but there are seeds of triumph in most of them, a hope that lingers and allows the reader to want the best for that character, his or her world and the Africa that hosts them all. My favorite so far is Fattening for Gabon, a chilling tale of child slavery. What shakes me most is the betrayal that exists in this narrative, an uncle selling his niece and nephew, two children who were already victim to another tragedy; their parents' AIDS, and the continual redemption, remorse, and complexity that remains even after I read its last sentence.

Every night, I find myself climbing the subway steps to the street, making my way from one maze to another, and my hearts aches for these stories, these children who are now heard through the pages that leap into my heart.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I smell fall around the corner. This time of year reminds me of many things; crackling orange leaves, school year mania with my students, falling in love, and now....having my baby Adele, walking into my apartment with her bundled in my arms, wrapped tightly in a swaddle contraction, and hearing the words 'It smells like baby' from a five-year-old boy in the hallway.

She is turning one next week and I can't believe that my baby is becoming a toddler. She can now point and tell me what she wants. She can dance to her favorite song, 'Old McDonald'. She can chuck food halfway across the room with her dainty wrist. She barks (no joke) and growls (yes, it perturbs me a bit, but what can I expect when I let her watch Baby Einstein Animals?) like it's her job.

Looking at her tufts of light brown hair, her (now) pond colored eyes, and her lithe (less chubby) baby figure, my heart aches for those moments when she was content staying in my arms for hours, for the nights when I slept with her nestled in the crook of my arm, and the smell of violet lotion on her newborn skin.

Then, Alex breaks me out of my reverie and reminds me of the all nighters, the scream fests, the yeast infections, staph infections, and all around postpartum pain....I snap out of it. I am glad she can entertain herself. I am relieved that my nipple is no longer her sole comfort. I am freaking ecstatic that she can sleep for twelve hours straight. Hallelujah! This year of sleeplessness and groggy existence has finally come to an end.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Neighborhood; Little Israel, Spanish-speaking gangstas & Crazies, Part II

I need to clarify my title for the last couple entries. The neighborhood that I currently live in borders the projects and the more affluent community, which consists of many yuppies and Jewish families. There are, of course, many mixed asian-white couples in our hood, as there are in most Manhattan neighborhoods. The other day, I told Alex (as I watched the fifth asian-white couple in a three block radius), 'I wish we weren't such a trend,' to which Alex replied, 'I think the trend's here to stay.'

Growing up in the Bay Area, I wasn't immune to mixed families. In my high school alone, there were more and more half-this-and-half-that people than I could count. I loved it! It gave me hope that race would no longer be an issue in, say, a couple generations from now when color lines blur. However, any time I step outside my safe bubble of ethnodiversity, I was slapped in the face with the realization that most people stick to their own.

You would think that in a city with almost every ethnic group represented in its borders, that people would mix and mingle, creating more and more mixed children, more and more interesting communities with two or three cultures in one household, but I've found that many people, even in a place as big and bold as Manhattan, are more comfortable sticking to their own.

At the playground across the street, I have an identity crisis almost everyday. I know I go there for Adele, but I still feel out of place. Do I sit with the (often hispanic or black) nannies and their red-haired chargees or the yuppies (often much more established and older)? While I contemplate this, I begin to wonder if there are others who feel as estranged as I feel.

And there are.... A woman smiles at me. I can't figure out if she's the nanny or the mother. She looks very young and her child has blond hair while she has darker coloring. I'm sure this is the same thought pattern that is racing through her head about me. I sit down next to her, Adele climbing all over the bench and reaching for the baby's toy. Of course, this breaks the ice and we start talking. Turns out, Janice is a young mother like me who also feels out of place. 'Everyone thinks I'm the nanny.' I don't say that I wondered that too. Instead, I nod. She continues, 'Everyone here is either a haitian nanny or an older white lady. I just don't fit in.' I feel like clapping and shouting 'Hallelujah', but instead I demurely state, 'I get what you're saying.'

A few days after I meet Janice, I return to the park with Alex and Adele, happy to enjoy the park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Mid-swing, I look over at Alex and ask, 'Something's different about the park today....What is it?' Alex laughs and simply answers, 'All the white people are here.' Sure enough, I look around and I see WASP families, all perfectly manicured with paisley hats and polos, walking Brooks Brothers advertisements and I don't recognize any of the faces. I make eye contact with Alex and mouth, 'Why the sudden flood?' He mouths back, 'Nannies are off on Saturday. Parents take their kids to the park to feel less guilty about leaving them home during the week.' I gotta hand it to Alex. He says what he thinks, with no hesitation and not so much as a facial twitch.

This brings me back to my first day in Manhattan. I was embezzled out of an apartment (which I will blog about later, I promise) and found myself crying in Central Park. The only distinct memory I have from that day that didn't have to do with testifying against a nasty, heroin addicted crook is noticing all the nannies in the playgrounds. Nannies outnumbered parents 10;1 and it made me sad. I made a promise to myself, that even if I were to make it big, get rich, and have more disposable income than I know what to do with, I will not fall into the super cliche of having a black/hispanic nanny taking care of my mixed child. If anything, I want a young, white manny, preferably one who likes Chaucer, to flip the stereotype slightly on its head as he strolls my little Adele around.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Neighborhood; Little Israel, Spanish-speaking gangstas & Crazies, Part I

First, I've got to apologize for the delay. Moving, they say, is stressful enough to rank right below the death of a child/parent. That tells you something. Considering I've lost a parent at a young age, I can safely say that moving doesn't come close to that type of stress, but I get the point. It is damn aggravating to search through your stuff, get rid of half of it, move, and decide that you should've gotten rid of more useless things.

Being a packrat, it's hard for me to let go. It's always some sentimental reason or some use I'll have for it in the future. I can never just chuck it the way Alex does. He tosses about half my shit into plastic bags, most of which he doesn't ask me about since I'll invent some reason for holding on to it. If I don't see it, I can cope with the purging of accumulated baggage.

Baggage is exactly what it is.... I read an article that talked about how ridiculous it is that we pay for storage units. According to the author, 'How much shit do we have that we have to pay extra to store it?' I won't look down on people who rent them because, quite frankly, we considered getting one to store all of Adele's many baby trinkets. However, being the nerd that I am, I did the math. $50 x 12 months equals $600/yr x 3yrs = $1800....Hmmm, is all her baby stuff worth almost two grand. For that price, we might as well get all new, more bulky, more advanced baby crap.

Moving with a ten-month-old child is like juggling knives; although possible, it's highly likely that someone will get hurt. I don't think I can count the many times I stopped Adele from putting a piece of sticky packing tape into her mouth. We ended up getting a sitter to distract the baby from the disaster we called our apartment.

Once moved in, Adele cried for two days, bewildered about her new surroundings of boxes and bins. I think there was a crawl space for her between the pillars of luggage and laundry. To her, it must have seemed like midtown Manhattan.

Slowly, we unpacked boxes and made our space liveable, but we still had a couple strange occurrences.

For instance, no one told us that our next door neighborhood (being a coop, he's not more than three feet away) was insane. I mean he is certifiably nuts. Our super told us that if he doesn't take his meds, he can be rude and downright mean. Our first day, he squatted on the lobby steps and watched us move. I thought he was the super at first, but Alex told me, 'No, he's our crazy neighbor.' I thought he was kidding at the time.

That day, although a little strange, he was nice--holding the doors open for me, saying 'Howdy neighbor' and all. The next morning, I get in the elevator with him and he gives me the meanest look. He mutters 'bitch' and considering we were alone, I am pretty sure he was talking to me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson R.I.P

Michael Jackson is synonomous with eighties pop, red leather jackets, moonwalks, jerry curls, and my mother. She loved the way he moved his feet, flicked his hair, rotated his pelvis (sounds more naughty than it is) and the howl that he makes when he struts his stuff.

His death saddens the world as everyone gasps at the way his life abruptly came to a halt. I can't help but think of his family, especially his four children, during this time. As in the case of Natasha Richardson, the shocking nature of his death is too reminiscent of the way my mother died.

It's especially difficult when I remember how much my mother loved MJ. She imitated him poorly, but had crazy dance moves all the same. When I think of my mother, I think of certain images, icons, memories than transcend the present. MJ's death is another reminder that the remnants of my childhood with my mother is coming to a close.

I remember one particular winter day near Christmas when I was a young child. It was one of my earliest memories. We were spending the night at my cousin Danny's house in San Francisco. We watched the Charlie Brown special and then the music video, Thriller, premiered on television. I couldn't sleep that night from the images of monsters, crazy dancing, and the transformation MJ made from a shy teenage boy to a dancing maniac. I slept without realizing how much of an impact he would make on the world. The cute kid from Jackson 5 was all grown up and about to transform the entertainment industry. I woke up to a world where MJ was at his finest.

In recent years, he has been the butt of many jokes. His lightening skin tones, narrowing nose, and bizarre parenting choices have provided a different form of entertainment for the world. Everyone has seemed to forget his idiosyncrasies in order to remember what is really important about his life; his contributions to the music and dance worlds.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Everyone Falls Sometimes

Adele: 'Waaaaaahhhh!'
Me: Oh FUCK!!!

No one wants to wake up to a screaming baby, especially when she's your own. In a daze, I search the premises to find Adele. No where in sight, I scour the room and find her on all fours, screaming from the apparent drop. She looks up at me with helpless eyes, tears streaming down her face, and I want to gouge my infected eyes out as self-inflicted punishment. I feel like the most horrible mother alive.

CATCH-UP; I was nursing her in the middle of the night. Although I always take her back to her crib after her night binge eating, I fell asleep from four consecutive days of sleep deprivation as I try to prep spoiled rich brats on their final exams while trying to mother my eight-month-old baby.

I pick her up and ja-jang (a term coined by my sister which means rocking, shushing, swaying, doing-whatever-is-necessary). She calms down and gets sleepy. I feel her sweaty body and want to drown myself in her tears. Is this what it means to be a parent; to feel your heart in your quivering throat every time your child gets hurt? I'm seriously reconsidering having another child if I can't master my own fears/anxieties/guilt with raising this first one.

I don't notice the blood right away. It's only when I attempt to nurse her that I spot blood trickling down her nose. Oh god, I feel sick. My child is bleeding and I didn't even notice. In my hysteria, I couldn't see that her nose was badly scraped. Though it's just a scrape, my vivid imagination and poor eyesight lead me to believe that she's hemorrhaging. I'm too scared to turn the light on so I wait until she finishes and gently examine her under the glow of the closet light. Her eyes, eyelids, eyelashes are drenched but look unscathed. Check. Her forehead seems okay too. Check. It's only her nose.

After putting her down, I tiptoe out of the room and start calling everyone I know. Freaking out, I call Alex about ten times, each voicemail more high-strung than the one before. I call the restuarant and his manager tells me he has left.

'Fifteen minutes ago. He's probably on the train now.'
'Oh... Adele had an accident and she split her nose. I need to talk to him.'
'Call 911,' he says in a deadpan voice. Fucking frenchie. I want to kick his ass and put some feeling into that annoying accent.

I hang up and ring Ms. Barbara. Mother-in-law tells me it's okay, to keep tabs on Adele's lucidity. I am surprised she didn't tell me to rub garlic on her nose or bathe her in acidophilus.

My dad is next on my list.
'Dad. Adele fell off the bed.'
'She okay?'
'I think so, but I can't tell. It's pretty dark in there.'
'Is she still crying?'
'Then she's fine.'
'How do you know?'
'Because if it was bad, she would be crying a lot.'
'What if she's internally bleeding.'
'You know, bleeding inside.'
'No, not from a drop like that. You fell from your bed many times.'
'Yeah, it's fine.'

Okay, so my dad may be the wrong person to talk to since he seems to think falls from my annoying ass medieval style bed are no big deal. The next morning, I realize, that he was worried sick and couldn't sleep the night. He called me at 5:30 am his time.

'Dad you sound tired? Why are you calling me so early?'
'Couldn't sleep.'
'Worried about Adele?'
'Yeah. Is she okay?'
'She seems fine.'
'Babies fall sometimes.'
'I know. I just saw blood and freaked out.'
'It's okay. Don't worry too much.'
'Thanks Dad.'

Adele and I have survived many things; irritating hospital staff, yeast infections, eye infections, impetigo, and now, bed falls. I have to remind myself that babies will get hurt sometimes and that once in a while, I may be the cause of that injury, whether or not it's because I didn't pad the entire bed area in pillows or, when the time comes, because I say a harsh word to her sensitive thirteen-year-old self.

Being a parent is superhard sometimes. As she tries to cruise around, balancing herself on any object suspended on the floor, I feel my hand and heart extended out to catch her potential falls. Nine times out of ten, I catch her. I have to remind myself that part of growing up, is falling down sometimes.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garlic and Scotch

'Put a clove of garlic in your vagina tonight. That'll heal the infection for sure,' Ms. Barbara assures me. According to her, garlic heals everything. Put a little on a wound, swab a little garlic oil in your ear for infections, take a few capsules to ward off a cold. When in doubt, use garlic.

The first time I was confronted with this extreme belief in garlic's healing power, I was definitely more open to it. When I found out I had Group B Strep when pregnant with Adelle, I took at least six capsules to try and kill the buggers. Apparently, the hospital wouldn't let me take another test to see if the bacteria had gone away. My mother-in-law's logic; 'Get rid of GBS so that I will not get antibiotics during labor so that I will not get yeast infection.' As crazy as she sounds, that is actually what happened.

So here I am, taking garlic like nobody's business at three, five, seven, nine months and it doesn't even matter because the hospital won't let me test for the bacteria again. As a last minute resort, Ms. Barbara practically begs me to consider putting the garlic in my vagina. At first she tried to get me to put yogurt up there, 'Yogurt with acidophilus of course.' Then, it was the probiotic capsules, 'Just insert one about a couple inches deep. Heat should melt them.' I tried to appease her by telling her that I would definitely do it that night, whatever hocus pocus she wanted me to try, but every time I looked into my fridge, the yogurt and probiotic containers seemed to be hiding from my hands and especially from my vagina. I couldn't muster up the courage to tell her that I couldn't put foreign, edible objects into my private parts.

'Tie a string around the garlic clove. Peel it first of course.' God, I hope so.
'You could insert a hole to pull the string through, but it might smell.' No shit Sherlock. I bet Alex will cuddle up with me tonight. Not.
'Anyways, put the garlic in there overnight and the heat will soften it up some.' Just what I need; garlic puree in my VJ.
'When you wake up, just pull it out and throw it away.' No, I'm actually going to use it in a broth.

Ms. Barbara isn't the only one who believes in a magic food. In the case of my dad, it's a magic drink...scotch. My dad believes that scotch can heal anything, cure all, and has the ability to make any pain go away. The first he does after taking a seven hour flight to visit us; he pulls out the bottle of Chivas Regal and pours a shot for everyone. The sentence 'Dad, don't you wanna sit down or wash up?' doesn't seem to make it through his head. He barely looks at me as he pours another. When Adelle was colicky, he told me to rub a little scotch on the inside of her mouth, when she was teething, he told me to dip her chew toys in the golden liquor. When Alex had a bad hangover (not surprisingly from drinking with my dad the night before), my dad tells him to make some ramen and drink some scotch.

My father doesn't consider himself an alcoholic, but a scotch aficionado who must, one day, pay a pilgrimage to his beloved's native land. The only place he'd really enjoy in Europe is Scotland where he would be gorging himself on every variety of scotch. I'm sure he would fit right in with all the whiskey loving, beer guzzling Scotsmen. He might even learn a new remedy scotch offers. Perhaps that's why my dad gets along with Alex so well. They both handle their liquor pretty damn well.

If Ms. Barbara ever offered my dad a clove of garlic, I'm sure he'd eat it. I think he's the one person who would understand her and believe in every single healing property of garlic. Then, I'm sure he would chase it down with a little scotch.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Postal Service

Alex tints my world a different color. There are times when I forget how much I love him. Then, there is a moment, a word, a gesture, and I remember why I love him so much. 'Listen to these lyrics,' he tells me. I glance at the Ipod dock and see Postal Service. I could've guessed as much by the voice and melody, but for the first time, I really paid attention to the lyrics;

"I'll be the grapes fermented,
Bottled and served with the table set in my finest suit
Like a perfect gentleman
I'll be the fire escape that's bolted to the ancient brick
Where you will sit and contemplate your day

I'll be the waterwings that save you if you start drowning
In an open tab when your judgment's on the brink
I'll be the phonograph that plays your favorite
Albums back as you're lying there drifting off to sleep...
I'll be the platform shoes and undo what heredity;s done to you...
You won't have to strain to look into my eyes
I'll be your winter coat buttoned and zipped straight to the throat
With the collar up so you won't catch a cold

I want to take you far from the cynics in this town
And kiss you on the mouth
We'll cut our bodies free from the tethers of this scene,
Start a brand new colony
Where everything will change,
We'll give ourselves new names (identities erased)
The sun will heat the grounds
Under our bare feet in this brand new colony
Everything will change"

Loving someone comes with many strings and this song is simply highlighting the possibility that those strings are not necessarily cumbersome without reason. Sometimes you tether yourself to someone to show that her existence matters. Often, I wonder how different our world would be if we remembered this on a daily basis. More often than not, I forget, but once in a blue moon, words through the mouth of a lover or singer makes their way to my ear, gently pounding on the valve to my hardened heart, making it possible to hear love in a chaotic world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Trip Home

I should clarify the title. It wasn't a trip home for me but for Alex. His family had not seen Adelle since she was born. We were long due for a visit.

Packing was a nightmare. Adelle's belongings take up most of one suitcase. We have to squeeze the rest of our shit into a tiny carry-on. Alex packed everything with apocalyptic efficiency; I was afraid to rearrange anything for fear that the bag would explode. I was useless that morning since I spent most of my time on the phone, trying to talk to our cracked-out broker about the Upper West Side apartment we were bidding on. Our broker is one aggressive chick. As Kathy Griffin says, "She'll cut a bitch!"

Getting to the airport wasn't a problem. It's always the ordeal at the airport that makes my head feels like its splitting. I've blogged about it before and it's always the very last thing on earth I'd rather be doing, even over changing ten poopie diapers in a row.

Going through security with a baby is a premier juggling act. Someone should include this event in the Olympics. Holding onto a baby while taking off your shoes requires major balancing skills. Emptying pockets, putting everything into plastic bags and arranging all your belongings into plastic bins while other people are hurrying you along, is a skill set that a modern mommy must master.

Flying there is a breeze. She's in a good mood. Morning person, like myself, she occupies herself with our trinkets and her toys before dozing off to sleep.

Driving from the airport to Alex's rinky dink hometown is a two hour drive and, by far, the most stressful part of our trip. Adelle likes the car for the first hour but HATES the second. We stopped a total of six times, each time, my mother-in-law telling me to nurse her when, in fact, it was just pissing her off. Imagine someone trying to shove a nipple into your mouth every time you complain.

Okay, so we finally arrive at his house that looks like a mansion on a hill. His parents own ten acres which his mother still gripes is not enough land. Given that we just purchased a 700 sq ft apartment for the same amount of money, we're a bit jaded with real estate prices.

The whole week flew by; relatives left and right, babies galore, and scrumptious dinners were rampant during the trip. However, there are a few things that stood out to me.

Adelle went into people shock. Formerly accustomed to living in a tiny apt with her parents and only seeing strangers in limited quantities of time, she officially freaked out when she met the clan of relatives. Number thirteen in a line of copious grandchildren, she hardly knew what to do with her half asian self.

Leo, my favorite nephew of the trip, charmed me with his big eyes, crazy facial gestures, and surprising affection for Adelle. He is also quite an entrepreneur.

After his cousin's birthday party, we were left with a tray of uneaten peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Hating to see the food go to waste, I dared Leo to an eating challenge.

"If you eat half that tray, I'll give you ten bucks."
"What bout ten (mini) sandwiches?" Like the maverick that he is, he bargains.
"Ok, if you eat ten, you get the money. Pace yourself."

He sits down and starts chomping away. Five minutes later, he catches my eye as he holds up his fourth sandwich.

"Jo, this is four."
"Okay," I reply, confirming that I saw his evidence.

The next day, he sits down and finishes his last sandwich. He doesn't know that I would've given him the money even if he didn't accomplish his task, but he proudly waves his hands and signals that the challenge is done, finito, finit.

I pay him the ten dollars and his eyes gleam with curiosity and pride. He is really a cute kid.

He tells me that he's going to save the five dollar bill for something special. I want to eat this kid up.

The next day, we go to the local park. There are kids in every crevice and nook of this playground. Leo is playing happily with his cousins until the ice cream truck comes along. The 'Pop Goes the Weasel' anthem blares across the field and kids come running. I spot Leo among them.

Later, his mom tells me that he almost splurged on the ice cream temptation, but decided against it. Wise choice, young Jedi.

While I was nursing Adelle in the car, I also had my first 'red neck' experience. I find that term a bit degrading, but how else would I describe the following experience? With my boob halfway out of my shirt, I hear a rough Southern accent. "Boy, you git on back here and hep your mama wid da bags." As the little boy ran back to the car, his papa slaps him on the behind. I turn and look towards a man who has a hat tilted askew with his hand down the front of his jean shorts. Without warning, he changes out of his shorts and into a pair of low slung jeans. Last I checked, the space between two cars did not qualify as a changing room. I try not to look at his pale behind, but its moon shaped image is reflected on the car window to my right. I almost gag.
I involuntarily jerk from the shock and Adelle unlatches to belt out in enormous hungry/cranky/tired protest.

To my horror, the guy hears the commotion and walks to the front of the car. "Whas dat hollerin bout?" he says as he peers inside. At first, I try to be as still as possible. (For some reason, my mind rationalizes that if he can't hear me, he can't see me). Meanwhile, milk is shooting out of breast, Adelle's face is getting hosed with milk and the guy is still staring. What the fuck? This guy is either a pervert or completely stupid, probably both.

I look at him with total annoyance and he finally gets the hint. He does a fake limp walk back to his picnic bench. Why do men do this? How is imitating semi-paralysis supposed to be attractive?

With less noise, I attempt to nurse her again, but she is pissed off. Adelle is the most finnicky eater out there. Ever a gourmand, she must have the perfect temperature, mood, position, and amount of hunger in order to nurse. Yes, I am partially to blame. I think she gets her pickiness from me.

The rest of the trip goes well until the trip back to the airport, but that deserves another entry.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Apartment Shopping

There are few things more stressful than moving. Death and divorce are the only two things that rank higher than relocation, according to a national poll about stress. I believe it, considering I moved at the height of my pregnancy from an Upper West Side apartment where I was subletting from an extremely cheap, grouchy, old man who decided (suddenly) that he would extort me for all I am worth (not much). 'Uh yeah, I think I'm gonna double your rent next month.' The asshole was paying a couple hundred dollars in a rent-controlled apartment and illegally subletting it to me for twelve hundred. Do the math. The guy wasn't starving as he enjoyed his home in Massachusetts and carried on this subletting scheme for years. Not to mention the incredible stipulations:
1. Every month, he could come and use the apartment whenever he wanted. I would have to stay with a friend or rent a hotel.
2. His decor was absolutely barf-worthy and I think I upchucked a couple times during my first trimester. Case and point: The man had wooden cat dolls dangling from the shelves and floral print EVERYTHING.
3. His parents lived with me via urns in the bedroom. Alex discovered this one day when asking me about the two big pots in the corner. 'Oh, those are Jack's parents,' I say without flinching. Damn, I had grown used to his freeze dried parents' presence in my bedroom. Gross.
4. He left all his shit in the apartment, old records, books, clothes, and oh, lube. It looked like it should preserved in the Museum of Ancient Sex. The worst part is that it looked like it was half empty. I think I just puked in my mouth.

There are countless other quirky things that made this exchange quite disturbing but still amusing. I'll probably write about them all one day, but for now....Six months pregnant, we decided it was time to leave.

We moved to Woodside, Queens. It was closer to my work and also much cheaper than anything we could afford in Manhattan. This is where I got in touch with my Korean side, or more actually, I was slapped with it in the face every time I walked out the door. There are Korean churches, stores, cafes, and people walking down every street in this neighborhood. I love that I hear Irish and Korean accents just about everywhere I go. The mormons in this neighborhood kill me. I see them targeting apartment buildings with their pamphlets in hand...they need to get the point, Koreans are staunchly Protestant, Irish are usually Catholic. The only people who are going to take their damn pamphlets are the kids who are stupid enough to answer the door.

While being here has been great for the birth and post partum, we are itching to move into a place of our own. At first, we looked at Jackson Heights, a historic neighborhood that features a multiethnic demographic that make politically correct PBS specials look WASP-y, beautiful prewar buildings, and a growing YUPPIE populace. However, we are rethinking this move after running into an asshole named Michael Fucking Lavagne.

There is one brokerage with a ton of listings in JH. The agent I spoke to on the phone was a pleasant, jovial (and if you met him, you would agree that 'jovial' is the perfect word to describe him) man who appeared trustworthy (the more I am learning about the real estate business, the more I am convinced that it is a SLEAZY business). When we showed up to view the first apartment, his boss was there to supervise the meeting.

Just to paint a picture; This guy was dressed in a dark green wool coat, silk scarf, top hat and cane. He looked like he should be showing apartments to people in the 1950s. Today's brokers usually wear casual slacks or even jeans. This guy had pretentious written all over his heavily tanned face.

'Hi, I'm Michael.'
He almost crushed my hand during the handshake.
'Take a look around.'
He then precedes to engage in a phone conference with another client.
After looking around the apartment, trying to imagine ourselves in someone else's home, he interrupts our conversation and says,
'Look, I'm not gonna beat around the bush. You might think that we're hurting, but we're not. We have more listings than all the other brokers put together. So...we're not gonna sell you this apartment if we think you won't pass the board.'
I guess he cut to the chase.
After finding out our credit scores and income, he says, 'Yeah, I don't know if this apartment is the right fit for you.'
Later, I find out that we can afford something much nicer than the piece of shit he showed us, but at the time, he came across as bullying and plain rude. I wanted to take that cane and shove it down his tweed pants.

Since then, we've come across many brokers who are characters from a twisted real estate storybook. Joan, or Joanie as her friends (all of Jackson Heights) call her, is Alex's new girlfriend. Quite fetching at 85, she hauls her butt all over the city, taking this bus or that, and trying to make a deal when she should really be taking it easy in her Florida timeshare like every other retired person in the city. When she shows us apartments, she never remembers where she put her keys, usually can't see the keyhole so Alex has to help her, and is out-of-breath when we reach the top of any walk-up. Despite of all this, we love her. She has been the most helpful, colorful person we have met in this dry, scummy business. She loves Alex, loves his southern charm and his soft mannerisms and that is why she is his new girlfriend.

Our newest encounter with brokers is a man that has spent WAY too much time in the tanning bed. He looks like should be advertisement on late night television for a product that saves overtanned skin. 'Only 9.95 plus shipping and handling. One smooth application and your bad tan comes right off! Call now and save.'

His name is Bob and defines douchebag. A smile permanently plastered on his face, his whitened teeth glow and sharply contrast with his fake-and-bake tan, and he oozes fakeness from his ironed shirt sleeves and pleated pants. He always lights up the dark apartments with every light in the apartment, trying to disguise the fact that the place is a dungeon, and makes crazy statements that try to pressure us into buying. He talks about his kids as pawns in a game to make us trust him. The sad thing is that he probably succeeds at winning people over, but Alex and I can see through his douchebaggery clear across the artificially lit room.

Apartment shopping in New York is much more than simply finding a place to call home. It requires an extra skill set, one that hones you into the lies and truths of each broker's spiel and deal. More than anything else I've found, I have discovered that every apartment has a story and you'll be lucky to find a broker who allows you to find that on your own, without the distraction of fake tans and bully tactics. There are few out there, but every once in awhile, you find a Joanie in a sea of tweed.