I don’t have time to write a regular post right now, mostly because I’ve been partying too much, which if you’re me translates into “entertaining your husband’s visiting high school buddy by going out to pizza dinners and hearing stories about the movie shorts they made as teenagers, Gay Gangsters and Gay Gangsters II, which despite their titles are not porn, but rather adolescent, homoerotic, homophobic noir.” Because of the Gay Gangsters, I haven’t remotely gotten my work done this week, so I am sitting in a coffeeshop drinking something called “Organic Raw Kombucha,” which tastes like apple cider vinegar mixed with grass (Kentucky blue, not Maui Wowie), and which hints that it may just cure all current and future diseases I have. I’m hoping the kombucha will perk me up so that I can answer hundreds of student discussion board posts about Emily Dickinson.

At any rate, Alex, the high school pal of K.’s, and I went a round on the Clinton/Obama issue, which was the same as pretty much every other round I’ve gone with anyone: he argued that Hillary and the Clintons were corrupt, warmongering establishment wonks with no right to still be in a race that Obama “has already won,” I argued that apportioning delegates by population is problematic but the Dems’s stupid rules aren’t Hillary’s fault (I’m still hoping for a nationwide, closed Democratic primary next time, although I guess that will never happen because local vendors would miss out on all the campaign events business — it’s always the economy, stupid) and that she’s the better candidate because of her ideas about health care, gender and race equality, and education, plus the fact that she’s the candidate with the highest percentage of minorities on staff. (Thanks, Weboy.) He said he just hated Hillary and that he “believed” in Obama, I said it was a mistake to assume that Obama is so much better just because we haven’t seen all the private interest and political crony strings attached to his back. I’m getting kind of tired of that conversation because, as I’ve said before, I’m sure there must actually be reasons to support Obama, but every time one of my callow, overprivileged, self-styled egalitarian friends talks to me about it, it becomes a Hillary hatefest.

We didn’t resolve anything, of course, although the conversation ended with Alex saying, “I’m sure you can out-argue me on the actual facts, because I don’t know them, but that’s not really part of why I support Obama.” And with K. leaning down to whisper in my ear, “I love it when you annihilate people, baby. It’s so sexy.” (I would have chosen a different word for it…say, “obliterate.”) Then he took Alex out for a beer and left me to tend the screaming infant rather than sleeping, which sucked because, of course, some people were too tired from their trip to the pub to get up and help with breakfast in the morning.

But I did have a few minutes in between child-minding to try to shed my irritation with that conversation. And I didn’t have any friends to talk to about it because, as I’ve mentioned before, I am the Obama demographic in so many ways that discussing my candidate preferences with friends is like advertising a special on B.L.T.s at the Arby’s in South Williamsburg (the Hasidim are not really down with the B.). So, in a transparent attempt to cash in on the fact that my dad and I agree on something for once, I wrote my dad and told him about it, then asked what his peers were doing.

I include his response because it showed me that even though my dad is a sixtysomething engineer whose first language is not English, he still has the power to delight and surprise me with his command of its subtleties (note: the opinions expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the management, particularly those on “reverse bias;” try to be charitable and keep in mind that the man has immigrant-must-excel-I’m-not-white-and-I-did-it-so-you-should-too mentality and his perspective on reparative justice is thus skewed). The last line, in particular, is priceless:

Daughter,

I am, of course, peerless.

I am still troubled by the double standard, the fact that black voters are demonstrating reverse bias by going for Obama to the extent of 80%-90%, by the fact that in all this time, Obama has yet to propose anything substantive other than selling “change we can believe in”, and by the fact that Bill’s issues still drag Hillary down. Whatever happens, though it will be cold comfort for her, Hillary is still the most competent candidate with the best intentions and ideas.

I hear Hillary raised $2.5 million just last night so hopefully Barack’s huge bankroll (really no strings, really change we can believe in, really not the same old politics?) won’t prevail.

Of course, these are just words and I am not bitter.

Love,

Dad

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Thing One, playing with my Barry Bonds nesting dolls:

“Mama, Barry has a baby in his tummy. It’s going to be born now.”

Sorry posting has been so light. It’s spring break here, which means that I’m trying to fight the inertia that inevitably (and deliciously and deservedly) sets in when I don’t have an immediate laundry list of daily job-related tasks to do. Why fight it, you ask? Oh, because I have to design two new courses by, say, now in order to teach starting next week. Which means any computer time has been spent designing course shells rather than blogging. Plus, I heard Tracey Ullman on “Fresh Air” and (insert snarky, derogatory comment about Terry Gross’s breathless Cult of Personality-mongering here) and she was saying something like this:

“The bloggers! The #@&*^!@!! bloggers! I’ll tell you, Terry, one of these days I’m going to shoot the bloody bloggers. Sitting in their mother’s basements making snarky, derogatory comments about other people’s efforts as if they ever did anything themselves. The !(*@!!! bloggers, I swear!”

This inspired a few moments of soul-searching. I’m not really too thrilled with the blogosphere lately; it is snarky, and petty, and annoying, and I’ve quit spending time places like Bitch, Phd. because I’m tired of the whole “more thoughtful, considerate, and mature than thou” routine B. pulls, such as in this post where she chides people not to take it seriously when she characterizes all Clinton supporters as “old white women” and then tells everyone they lack a sense of humor if they try to discuss it further.

(Yes, the originator of the “silliness” was me. And yes, I think it’s ironic that Bitch is both considerably older and immeasurably whiter than I, so really, she’s slagging herself. But I’m gonna take the high road and not belabor that point.)

Anyhow, the snarkfest has been getting me down, and so, while I’ve gotten attached to blogging as a medium, I’ve been a bit too disenchanted to keep up my normal pace. But enough of that. It’s clear to me, from checking my blog stats, that you, fair reader, are here for one reason, and one reason only:

You love to read about pee.

And boy, am I not going to disappoint you.

Anyone who co-parents has probably had the experience of playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop.” But yesterday’s events brought that routine to new levels.

It was early evening, after an abortive attempt at dinner in which Thing One refused to eat anything but capers picked out the of the pasta/salmon/capers/fennel/avocado dish I’d made after having spent the afternoon — the first sunny, warm afternoon — in exile in a north-facing coffee shop, attempting to work while he and his aunt whooped it up at the local park. Kayo and I inhaled our portions, and then I announced that I had had it up to here with juvenile whining and belligerence, after which I performed the classy move of dumping K.’s wine into mine and taking the whole glass, plus my book, upstairs. I got to enjoy the setting sun and an escape into fiction for at least five minutes before I heard K.’s voice through the floor yelling at Thing One.

This in itself is not that shocking an occurrence; it happens at least once every time they’re alone together. K. is more of the “exhibit your displeasure” type of parent, I’m the “calculate and manipulate, at least until Vesuvius froths over” type. Anyway, even through several layers of plaster and fir I could hear that K. was shaking with rage, that he had never sounded that pissed off at our son, who was wailing hysterically in response.

So I sighed, put down the book, and came downstairs.

Where, gentle reader, what did I find but: 1)Thing One screaming “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY’ as he clung, limpet-like, to my leg; 2)Thing Two, who is six months old now, placidly getting her head wiped off by a red-faced and furious K.; and 3)A suspicious-looking pool of wetness in the middle of the dining room rug.

My husband explained to me the source of his ire: Thing Two had been peacefully enjoying some “tummy time,” and Thing One had been dancing to “Bodysnatchers” (again, !&@^%%^&!! Radiohead, I am so over In Rainbows), so K. had decided this was an opportune time to go to the bathroom. And because K. is a sensitive, New Age guy who sits down to go, and because our bathroom looks directly into the dining room, he had a front row seat for the ensuing transgression, in which Thing One stood directly over his baby sister…

…and urinated, quite deliberately, straight onto the crown of her head.

Oh, the frustration, the impotence, the paralyzed fury! To be imprisoned by your own stream of urine, as your son wreaks havoc with his!

What to do, what to do. Since K. had clearly taken on the “bad cop” role, I decided it was Natural Consequences time. I calmly asked Thing One to get a towel, which he did, and to wipe up the pee from the rug, which he did. Then I took it outside to hang in the sun (this neutralizes any odor — works for pets, too) on the front porch. Everyone was still sitting there in shell-shocked disbelief, so I asked Thing One to lie down on the floor. He complied. Then I took Thing Two from her father and calmly, methodically, stripped off her diaper and held her over my son.

“No! No! No!” he cried, thrashing.

“Thing Two is going to pee on your head now,” I said calmly.

“No Mama! No! No pee! Noooooooo!” he wailed.

“But I thought you liked it when people pee on your head,” I rejoined.

“Nooooooo! No peeing! Don’t pee on me!” he screamed, feebly pushing at his sister’s bare bottom.

“Oh, you don’t like that?” I inquired. He shook his head, chin trembling. “Oh, okay. Well, you’d better not do it to other people or they might think you like it.”

My infant daughter was very tolerant of this whole little charade. I handed her back to her father, helped up my son, and proceeded with bedtime. And I’m not entirely sure of whether I handled that right. I have fears that I’ve ruined water sports for my children forever — or that I’ve predisposed them to a lifetime of pee fetish. But really, we’ve established that screaming, however necessary in the moment, doesn’t really get your point across.

At least not as effectively as the threat of a faceful of pee.

When my grandparents-in-law came to visit a week ago, they brought two enormous boxes full of toys, toys they’d been keeping since my husband was a small boy and his impoverished parents came to live in the garret of their house. Included among these toys were several luxurious Fisher Price play sets — “Main Street” and the doll house — that I remember from my own childhood; the plastic dollhouse hinges open so that you can access all the rooms and comes with little people that resemble plastic clothes pegs (cylindrical body, spherical head) and fit into the depressions in the armchairs, etc. We’ve been having fun playing with them, and I’ve made sure to name all the girly-looking ones male names so that Thing One will grow up open-minded about gender identity (or metrosexual, or gay, depending on whom you ask). But the pièce de résistance, the biggest hit with Thing One and his father before him, is the Fisher Price plastic tugboat. It has a captain, complete with sailor hat, shaved head, and blue jersey, who resembles the thumb-sized dollhouse people but on a much larger scale, about the circumference of a Red Bull can, and she (yes, she!) fits into a specially made extra-deep (in case of capsizing) cylindrical hole in the cheery red-and-white boat. It provides endless hours of bathtime entertainment; you can hook up the chain to the tug, pull them both around, anchor, disembark, etc.

But of course the best use is one not sanctioned by Fisher Price. Yesterday, when Thing One got in the bath, he immediately grabbed the boat in one hand, dumped the hapless captain into the engulfing sea, took his penis in the other hand, and began to pee in the captain’s seat. “Look, Mama!” he crowed. “This is yellow water! I’m gonna dump it in the bath!”

“What color is the bath water?” I queried.

“White!” he replied.

“And what color is the pee?” I asked.

“Yellow!” he replied.

Right!” I said, “And that’s why we’re going to dump it in the toilet.”

It’s the aesthetics of the thing, really; I have no particular objection to his seasoning the bath water a bit, and anyway urine is the cleanest body fluid there is. But I figure I have to maintain some standards so that when he hits the public swimming pool he doesn’t immediately flip open his Sippy cup, pee in it, and empty the contents onto an unsuspecting bather. Otherwise, I’m happy for him to pee in the tub, and in fact, I’m thrilled that he’s taught himself to pee in a cup so efficiently, because that is a skill that could come in handy. Back when I was regularly making multi-hour trips up I-5, I got to the point where I would pee in an empty gas station drink cup (from Big Gulp thou hast come, and to Big Gulp thou shalt return). While driving. A stick shift. In traffic. In Fife. Because Fife is really close to Seattle, and Fife also happens to consist almost entirely of car dealerships, and the idea of stopping to find a bathroom when you’ve got your eyes on the prize is pretty unappealing.

So really, Thing One is carrying on a proud family tradition. I just have to make sure that the first time we try it in the car, he dumps it out the window and not on the floor.

Tonight, after dinner, Thing One used the potty (which he has been excellent about lately, and I think diapers are a thing of the past) and then went to get in his bath. As is his wont, he got in, then realized that what would be really fun would be to urinate in the tub, perhaps catching a stream of pee in one of the little plastic Easter eggs that are his favorite bath toys. He stood up, penis in hand, and said, “I’m gonna pee in the bath!” — but of course the pee wouldn’t come, having been recently voided into his Fisher Price musical potty chair. And this is how cool a mom I am: despite having spent ALL DAY thwarting attempts of his to fling toys through the windows and crush his sister under the weight of various large, heavy objects, and despite wanting nothing more than to take up smoking again (it’s been three years) and get drunk enough to perhaps wake up in a pool of my own vomit, in bed with some aspiring foreign rock star, rather than waking up sober, at five-thirty a.m., to the chanted, “Mama, come! I’m ready to get up!”, I said to him considerately,

“Would you like me to get you some water so you can drink it and make more pee?”

And he was delighted. Because we had a moment of perfect, copacetic understanding just then, a moment during which I really demonstrated empathy for my offspring, a moment when our hopes and dreams were united. It reminded me of the story a friend told me a few years ago, that she saw a family of three admiring a large crane at a construction site downtown, and just as she walked past them, the boy exclaimed admiringly, “You could PEE off that!”

Far be it from me to stand between a boy and his pee.

My two-year-old son, Thing One, loves the music of Abd Al-Malik; we listen to his album Gibraltar in the car so frequently that I have almost all the words memorized to the first two songs (the average length of our drives). Thing One has recently taking to requesting “Al-Malik!” at bedtime, so I am forced to try to imitate French hip-hop in lieu of lullabies. Here’s a sample from my personal favorite, “12 Septembre 2001“:
Je fus choqué dans mon intime et je vous jure,
que si j’n’avais pas eu la foi j’aurais eu honte d’être mouslim.
Après ça fallait qu’on montre aux yeux du monde,
que nous aussi nous n’étions que des hommes,
que s’il y avait des fous, la majorité d’entre nous ne mélangeait pas, la politique avec la foi.

I wonder if Thing One realizes he’s steeping himself in a Franco-muslim response to the “war” on “terror”? Regardless, he loves Abd Al-Malik, and he requests him at every opportunity. Which is why this morning, I shouldn’t have been surprised when K. put on “Cars,” and Thing One started gyrating like a dervish, and he yelled,

“I’m dancing REALLY FAST!! This is Al-Malik!!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised. There was precedent for this, like the time we got up and listened to Cat Stevens and he insisted that it was Cat Power. So I shouldn’t have been caught unawares. But I was.

You know Crispin Glover’s character in Back to the Future? You know how he’s so completely clueless and naive and utterly out of sync with his peers’ snappy double entendres and slangy catchphrases that you just want to shake him, because he will never, ever get it and you fear that someday his ignorance will hurt him?

Well, I am that guy.

I just realized it this morning, although I’ve suspected for a long time. The smoking gun of my massive dork factor was a headline for this story from the New York Times, which read “Johnson was There, but Magic Was Clinton’s.” It caught my eye, of course, because it deals with one of my favorite subjects, the incandescent awesomeness of Bill Clinton and how he can show up even pro basketball players. But the headline made me realize something that had never before entered my head:

Magic. Johnson. The dude’s name is “Magic Johnson.” And he is legendary for his numerous exploits with the ladies. Which, presumably, involve his Magic Johnson. Wow. Never saw that one coming — no, sir! I was blindsided by the revelation.

And then I remembered what a more socially ept boyfriend used to joke about Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson, who’s edging towards seven feet tall: “They call him ‘Big Johnson,'” he would quip, and snicker. And I never really realized what was so funny, until now, because he was big, and his name was Johnson, right?

Come to think of it, I now also realize why the two lawyers who team-taught my Constitutional debate class back in 1989 were so appalled when I caught them whispering amongst themselves and said loudly, “Mr. Hardman, are you blowing Mr. Sparks?” (I knew “blowing” was somehow intimate and a little risqué, but at the age of fifteen I had no idea exactly how intimate or how risqué.)

I’m pretty sure that there are other examples — I feel on the edges of my consciousness some suppressed memories of times during my career as a college professor when I’ve made entire roomsful of 20-year-olds guffaw in shocked and salacious glee — but I’m going to try very hard not to remember them. Because then I might have to resign, and besides, I can’t tear the image of Earvin’s Magic Johnson out of my head.