Booze and Babies DO Mix… Occasionally

There isn’t much room for overlap when it comes to writing about spirits and taking care of a child.  Thankfully, booze tasting/writing is generally an evening activity and baby-raising takes place in the daytime.  But once in a while, I get to combine the two.  The best tasting I’ve ever done was a one-on-one with Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell — well, one-on-one if you count the couple of PR folks who were assigned to me and the one who was placed on Weevy duty.  Jimmy’s been in the business for close to 60 years now, and he’s a big, rotund, 100% down-home Southern gent.  A totally charming guy.  While Jimmy and I munched on chicken sandwiches and sampled the line of Wild Turkey bourbons and ryes, Weevy played with her toys on the floor, joined by the designated publicists.  She was in her babbling phase at the time, and transcribing the conversation was a bitch, as she was a lot louder than either Jimmy or I.  The projected article never came to pass, though — the PR company had a talk with Wild Turkey and thought that perhaps an article about a whiskey tasting with a baby in the room wasn’t the best publicity for them or me.  Especially since I wound up more than a little tipsy by afternoon’s end — the one time I’ve broken my vow to never drink while on solo Weevy duty.  (Hangovers, though, are another story entirely.)

Every few months Weevy and I make a pilgrimage to the office of one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met, in the spirits industry or otherwise.  He’s the president of a small company that mainly deals in wine and high-end whiskey, and he’s gracious, humble, and incredibly generous with his time and whatever else he has.  When we visit, he pretty much suspends all work in the office and puts everyone at our beck and call — that’s how it seems, anyway.  Weevy is given full run of the office, a lavish spread is laid out in the conference room for everyone to enjoy, and he even goes and buys toys and books for Weevy, although she generally has more fun with the phones — she’s placed at least a few calls by accident.  Of course, the inevitable “Have you tried this whiskey yet?  Well, you have to!” happens every time, but I somehow manage to keep it in check.  For Weevy’s sake, you understand — when I go out to dinner with him, I inevitably wind up fairly bombed.  Weevy paid him the ultimate honor by pooping at the office.  Understand, this girl NEVER poops anywhere she isn’t comfortable.  It’s like a stinky badge of honor.

It’s been too long since I brought Weevy to a booze event, but it’s that time of year.  The invites are coming fast and furious.  And I must admit she’s a pretty charming plus-one.

I Hate Halloween

My first Halloween memory is from when I was about, oh, four or so. I was dressed as a scarecrow. My dad was walking me up and down the stairs in our Upper East Side building, watching as I rang doorbells and held out my bag — and probably helping out a little with my “Trick or treat”s as well, since I was painfully shy. A group of three or four girls, about 13 or so, passed me and — in one of the defining moments of my life, I think — burst into giggles. I, of course, burst into tears. “We’re not laughing at you!” they frantically tried to explain. “You just look so cute!” But it made no difference as I clung to my dad, sobbing hysterically. The die had been cast.

Fast forward to a few years later. I’d started wearing glasses at age 7. For Halloween 1978 (when I was nine) I had a nifty John Travolta costume, complete with mask. Only problem was that without my glasses, everything was a blur. What to do? Wear the glasses under the mask? Wear them OVER the mask? I finally decided to take my chances without them. I remember, literally, letting a piece of candy intended for my bag drop to the floor because I couldn’t see a damn thing. Repeat this scenario until age 13 (with different masks, natch), when I was finally old enough to stop trick-or-treating without my friends thinking I was some sort of candy-hating commie.

I think the last time I actively tried to celebrate Halloween was my freshman year of college, when I dressed as a lounge lizard, complete with gold chain and gold lamé shirt open to the navel, and went to the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village. It was about 40 degrees that night — my nipples still hurt just thinking about it. And things got a little out of hand, if I remember, complete with a mini-riot and a car overturned and set on fire.

Is it any wonder, I ask you, that I hate Halloween? And aside from my personal trauma, I simply don’t get the appeal of putting on an uncomfortable costume and marching from door to door begging one’s neighbors for candy. First of all, if you’re not destitute, why are you asking the guy down the block to give you a damn Mr. Goodbar? (In my memory, my Halloween bags were filled with countless bite-size Mr. Goodbars and Special Darks, both of which I hated.) OK, so it’s not really begging. It’s worse, in a way. “Trick or treat.” Give me some candy or I will do something nasty to you. And you may not even recognize me because I’m wearing this costume, so good luck calling the juvie cops on me, sucker.

As an adult, the last thing I want to do is hand out individually wrapped candies to Tinkerbell or Darth Vader wannabes who scream “Trick or treat” at me. Screw you, you damn kids! You should get your parents to rot your teeth and give you a sugar high! Of course, leaving a bowl full of candies outside your door with the implicit request to not bother the folks inside is kind of lame. And not participating at all is a little Scrooge-ish. But yeah, the Scrooge route, as you can imagine, is the one I’ve practiced all these years.

Now that I’m a parent, of course, I’m forced to relive the horrors of my youth and indoctrinate my beautiful daughter into the many sucktastic activities in which I was forced to participate when I was her age. Last year, Weevy was too young to understand the whole Halloween thing, though she did love the pumpkins she saw everywhere. My wife, God bless her, decided to dress her up anyway for a Gymboree Halloween party — as a dog. And I, in an attempt to put my Halloween-hating past behind me, dressed as a dog catcher. Cute, right? Weevy, to her eternal credit, hated the dog costume, though the pictures were pretty funny.

This year, it’s been announced that not only is Weevy going to wear a costume, but she is now old enough to trick-or-treat. Oy fucking vey.

But my attitude is, hey, if Weevy loves something, I love it too. Even if I don’t. I mean, I hate playgrounds. But Weevy loves them. So I take her every day, and try not to be too much of an asshole (to her, at least) while we’re there. Hell, with the exception of my daughter, I don’t even like most kids. But if Weevy wants to have a playdate with one of her hyperactive, semi-coherent, tantrum-throwing peers, then by golly, we’re going to have one, and we’ll have a great time. (By “we,” you understand, I mean Weevy.) And if she decides she loves Halloween… well, she hasn’t really decided she loves it yet. In fact, I’m still not sure she fully understands the whole I-put-on-costume-so-strangers-give-me-candy part of the deal. But she won’t hear a negative word about it from me. Unless her mother’s not around.

Dog Dog Dog

I know I shouldn’t be upset when Weevy correctly says a word she’s been pronouncing wrong from the get-go. But when she said “Gymboree” instead of “Doo-doo-dwee” the other day, my heart broke just a little bit. I mean, I don’t want her going into high school saying “shoo-shoo” instead of “scooter” or “ah-ice” for “ices” or what I could swear is “Jar-Jar Binks” for “jelly beans.” But my little girl is growing up, goddammit, and doing so just a little faster than I’d like her to.

Now that Weevy is a chatterbox who rarely stops talking — even if it’s just stuff like pointing out various parts of our cat’s anatomy (“Ears! Eyes! Mouth! Nose! Tail!”) — it’s funny to think about when she first started talking. I know I’m supposed to remember whether her first word was “Mama” or “Dada.” I assume it was one of the two. But the first word I remember her saying was “duck,” in reference to the rubber duckie she played with in the bathtub. I was so excited that she’d learned a word I tried to get her to learn a second one.

“This is a duck. Can you say ‘duck’?”

“Duck.”

“Very good! Now, this is a ball. Can you say ‘ball’?”

“Duck.”

Hey, it was a start, right?

Before long, she’d added “dog” to her repertoire, in honor of her favorite stuffed animal, which she told us was named Dog. And it was pretty much the only word she used for a while. For some reason, one of my foremost memories of Weevy as a baby (as opposed to the mature 2-year-old she is now) is from last October, right around Halloween. Pumpkins were everywhere, and Weevy had decided she loved pumpkins. She couldn’t see a pumpkin without stopping to pet it. (She also loved petting squash, gourds… anything that vaguely resembled and felt like a pumpkin.  I don’t get it either.)

Anyway, one day I was pushing her stroller across the street on 73rd and Columbus. As we neared our local corner grocery, she started bouncing up and down in the stroller, screaming “Dog dog dog dog dog!!!” I started looking around for a dog, but it turned out she was pointing at the pile of pumpkins they had for sale outside.

Some people say “Cool,” some people say “Awesome.” Weevy’s catch-all word for something she liked was “dog.” And as far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty damn… dog.

My Life of Leisure

Weevy’s new favorite cartoon is Team Umizoomi, about a tiny brother and sister and their tiny robot who go around Umi City solving all these kids’ problems using their “mighty math power.”  Her favorite episode is, as she calls it “the milk one,” where this kid runs out of milk for her cereal.  The Umi siblings and the robot go to a farm, milk the cows, put the milk in containers, the whole megillah, and finally get the damn milk to the kid.  Well, needless to say, after watching the episode a couple of times, Weevy wanted some milk.  And not just any milk, she wanted strawberry milk, which Team Umizoomi also helped to make in the episode (along with chocolate milk and plain milk).  “Pink one?” she asked plaintively.

I’m not one to tell my daughter no, especially when it comes to something like strawberry milk.  But of course we didn’t have any in the house, nor did we have any powder or syrup with which to make it.  So I went to the supermarket to get some.

Only problem was, it was about 7:30 in the morning, and the supermarket wasn’t open yet.  This being Manhattan, there’s a 24-hour bodega/grocery store on just about every block, so I figured no problem.  That was until I’d hit one, then two, then three of them, with no strawberry milk OR strawberry milk-making ingredients on hand.  Think about it — when was the last time YOU went to your bodega for some strawberry milk?  So it kinda makes sense that they didn’t have it.

Finally, at the fourth bodega I saw, I met with success.  Twenty minutes after I’d left, I was the triumphant hunter-gatherer, returning to my delighted brood with not one but two containers of strawberry milk.  Feeling a little swelled of chest, I proudly tweeted, “Never realized how tough it is to find strawberry milk at 7:45 AM until RetroBaby [Weevy’s Twitter handle] demanded some just now. Success at bodega # 4.”

Later that morning I got a response from a (childless) friend of mine:

“I wish I could lead a leisurely life like yours… 4 bodegas in one morning for strawberry milkshake?  That’s a very loved baby…”

Well, I did agree with her about Weevy being loved.  No doubt about that.  But “leisurely life”?  Hello, I’m tramping around the Upper West Side at 7:45 in the morning looking for strawberry milk!  That’s not my idea of leisure.  When I go on vacation, I don’t get up and say, “You know what I’m gonna do this morning?  I’m gonna wander around and try to find some strawberry milk.”  Retirees don’t spend their golden years tramping from bodega to bodega in search of fucking strawberry milk.  THIS IS NOT LEISURE.  THIS IS WORK.  Taking care of my daughter, carting her to and from school and music class and art class and playdates and wherever the hell else she feels like going, seeing that she’s clean and fed and happy and healthy and intellectually stimulated and socially active and learning how to say “please” and “thank you” and not running smack into a fence while on her scooter (which I admit she did on my watch last week), all those things, and many more, are MY JOB.  And if she wants me to walk all over my neighborhood looking for strawberry milk at an hour when I’d much rather be asleep, well, that’s part of the job too.

I think a lot of people see child-rearing — especially by a man — as something less than real work.  Maybe because it doesn’t involve sitting at a desk.  Maybe because, instead of staring at a computer screen all day, I get to go to the park and the playground.  Maybe because, unlike most desk jobs, my job is incredibly rewarding emotionally.  But leisurely it ain’t.  To any non-parent who accuses me, or any stay-at-home parent, of having a “leisurely life,” put yourself in my shoes (which often as not have rainbow sprinkles on them and sand in them) for a day.  You’ll see that raising a 2-year-old is not the same thing as lying in a hammock and drinking piña coladas by the beach.

End of rant.  Thank you and goodnight.