You Look Good

Last night I said goodbye to Weevy for a few days; I’m headed to Mexico on a press trip.  She wanted to talk about jewelry given to her by her great aunt Betty who died before she was born (Betty actually bequeathed the jewelry to my wife, but Betty’s fingers were so slender that some of her rings actually fit Weevy).  For school, she had to bring in a photo of an artifact in her home, so we took a picture of one of Betty’s rings.

As Weevy got into bed and we said our goodnights, she asked me about Betty.

“When was her birthday?”

“September 10th.  You would have liked her.”

“Why?”

“She was a very nice and kind person.”

[Pause]

“I like you.”

“I like you too, Weevy.”

[Pause]

“You look good.”

“Oh, thank you!  And you look very beautiful.”

“I have a very handsome daddy, and a very pretty mommy.”

“Why thank you, that’s very sweet of you to say.”

[Pause]

“I want to go to sleep now.”

“OK, sweetie, goodnight.”

Just one of those random moments that make life worth living in a week when Donald Trump was elected president, and that right now make me miss her even more than I would have.

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“I’m Too Young To Be Called Grandpa!”

Weevy’s grandfather — my dad — died a couple of weeks ago.  He’d been sick for a couple of years, so I’m not sure how much Weevy remembers of him when he was healthy.  But he used to hang out with us all the time before she started going to school.  Not that I particularly WANTED him to as much as he did, but he loved coming over.  Not so much to see Weevy, I don’t think, because he never seemed to know what to do with her when she was a toddler.  But he enjoyed sitting in her room and reading my copy of the Times and eating lunch that I’d order for the three of us and occasionally dozing off while Weevy and I played.  Family togetherness.

When Weevy was born, the missus and I asked him what he wanted to be called.  “Shel,” he said.  “I’m too young to be called Grandpa!”  Mind you, he was 80 at the time.  But he really believed it.  His body may have been 80, but I think until the day he died he thought of himself as a hearty middle-aged guy.  So Shel it was.  Which confused Weevy — who calls her other grandfather Grandpa — quite a bit when she was a tot.  If we bumped into people we knew while walking with him, she’d introduce him as “our friend Shel.”  One time I asked her:  “Do you think of Shel as our weird old friend or your grandfather?”  “Weird old friend,” she replied, without missing a beat.

Shel never quite knew how to talk to Weevy — his favorite thing to say to her was “Where’s your nose?” which never failed to amuse her.  He started saying it before she really knew where it was — she’d point to the right place sometimes, but more often her cheek or her eye — and continued right up until the end.  Sometimes he’d ask her when they were on the phone, and then say, “I can’t see where you’re pointing.”  So I’d tell him she was pointing at the right spot.

Shel was hard of hearing but was too stubborn to get a hearing aid.  He honestly thought the entire world had started mumbling except for me, because I spoke extra loud and clearly to compensate for his hearing loss.  Weevy, however, was a bit shy around him and tended to mumble, especially on the phone.  He usually couldn’t get much more than a “Hi, Shel” out of her, no matter how hard we both tried to get her to have a conversation.  One of the few times it got further than that, the following ensued:

SHEL:  Hey Weevy, how’s school?

WEEVY: [mumbling] Good.

SHEL:  What’s that?

WEEVY: [a little louder] GOOD.

SHEL:  Bad?!  Why is it bad?  You don’t like school?

ME:  Dad, she said “good.”

SHEL:  Oh!  OK then, let’s try it again.  Hey Weevy, how’s school?

WEEVY:  [at moderate volume] GOOD.

SHEL: She said “bad” again!

Weevy didn’t see much of Shel the last year or so, because of his dialysis schedule and because he was too sick to get to the West Side.  His apartment was a couple degrees shy of being declared a federal disaster area, so I never brought her by to see him.  The wife and I brought her to see him in hospice the day before he died.  He looked horrible; he’d fallen and really done a number on himself a week or two before, so his head was a mass of bruises and swelling.  He was lying on his side, not able to do much more than open his eyes and communicate in the occasional monosyllable.  I wasn’t sure how Weevy would react, because I didn’t have a close relative of mine die until I was in my mid 20s.  But Weevy wasn’t afraid, thanks in large part to her mother, who’d prepared her for what she was going to see.  She said a chipper “Hi, Shel!” and we told him a little about what she’d been up to with school, swimming, cello lessons, etc.  He couldn’t talk but I know he understood.  She even talked extra loud and clear so he would understand.  I was so proud of her.

The next day, he died when I was in a cab going to see him.  He never liked to wait for anyone and he was always early for every appointment, so I suppose his final departure was in character.  Weevy and the wife came by about 20 minutes after I got there.  Again, I didn’t know how she’d react to seeing a dead body.  But she was, to my surprise, fine.  She looked at him for a minute, said “Goodbye, Shel,” and then sat down and played her iPad while we waited for the funeral home to come take him away.  After a couple of hours, we all left, and out of habit, I guess, I said, “Bye, Dad.”  “Why did you say goodbye to him?” Weevy asked.  “He’s dead!”  She did have a point.  She was great at the funeral, too, which to be fair is a lot like a party, only with a very… reserved guest of honor, who ends the proceedings in a box in the ground.

I’m not sure whether she fully understands that Shel is gone and not coming back.  A few days after the funeral, the phone rang at about 7:30 in the morning — the time he’d usually call.  “Is that Shel?” she asked, with a little sly smile.  Hey, I keep thinking I’m going to hear from him any minute, so she’s not alone.

Shel was crazy about Weevy, whether or not they had anything to say to each other.  And for a long time she was crazy about him, too.  My wife was always fascinated that he adored her so much, because he didn’t seem to have much use for females in general, unless he was dating them.  And he often told me how he’d always wanted a son.  “Well, what if I was a girl?” I’d sometimes ask him. “Well, I’m just glad I had a son.” I sort of get it, having desired a daughter from the get-go.  But he adored her from the moment she was born — even before, actually.  While cleaning out his apartment last weekend, I found an unsent letter he wrote when the missus was pregnant.  It said, in part: “Christine is pregnant and they already know it’s going to be a GIRL.  I’m telling everyone I’m gonna be a grandmother!”

 

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

So there’s this thing Weevy does.  After dinner, when her mother and I inevitably let her have too many sweets, she inevitably gets a raging sugar high and commences to babbling, laughing hysterically at nothing much at all, staggering around and falling down… basically, she’s a dead ringer for a sheltered freshman at her first frat party.  It’s equal parts cute, annoying, and — because I can imagine her doing this sort of thing when she’s 18 and on a college campus somewhere, terrifying.  At the same time, I have to remember she’s five years old, and it’s totally normal for a five year old who’s hopped up on macarons and milk chocolate to act like a goddamned idiot.  So as long as I can drag her home from her favorite restaurant without her injuring herself or others, I generally try to stay cool with it.

The other day — and this is related to the story above, it just takes a little while to get to the point — I looked at Weevy and, as is the wont of sappy daddies, was overcome by how beautiful she is.  She caught me staring at her and said, “What are you looking at?”

“You know, you’re really pretty.”

“Even when I’m naked?”

Weird question, but I decided to roll with it and try to teach her a lesson.  “Of course, sweetie.  Clothes don’t make you pretty.  You could wear pretty clothes, or ugly clothes, or nothing at all, and you’d still be just as pretty.”  Not bad, right?

“Am I pretty even when I’m walking around sticking my butt out?” Cue hysterical laughter.

What the hell?  Did my wise, damn near poetic words have no effect?  “Yes, even when you’re sticking your butt out.  Although I hope you don’t do that in public.”

Cut to a few days later.  The missus and I have a couple of dear friends over for dinner, with whom Weevy is well acquainted.  At home, Weevy will generally have three categories of outfit: a costume, her mermaid swimsuit with monofin (mermaids have at least temporarily replaced princesses at the top of her “what I’d like to be when I grow up” list), or undies.  When she’s in the last guise she’s known as Underwear Girl.

Well, this evening, Weevy was in Underwear Girl mode, hosting our guests and drinking Shirley Temples wearing Disney princess undies, socks and high heels.  The things you can get away with when you’re five, right?

I made the mistake of telling our friends the story about my telling Weevy she’s pretty while she was in earshot.  Once I got to the part about sticking her butt out… well, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Down came the undies and out came her shaking booty, accompanied by gales of laughter from Weevy and averted eyes and muffled giggles from the rest of us.

I’ve got 13 years before she heads off to college.  Hopefully I can straighten her out before she becomes known as her sorority’s exhibitionist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking About Vodka

I’m writing this from a hotel room in San Diego, where Weevy has discovered, among other things, the joys of a hotel minibar.  I don’t think she ever knew they existed until I showed this one to her the other day.  Chips Ahoy!  Pringles!  Coke!  Gatorade!  And we can just take this stuff?  And then they’ll put MORE in there the next day?  It’s like magic or something!  I did try to explain to her that her loving mom and pop not only had to pay for that stuff, but pay highway robbery-type prices for it, just because it was in a fucking minibar.  But she wasn’t really dissuaded.

Anyway, this afternoon, while she was perusing the minibar for about the 80th time this weekend, she pulled out a little airline-sized bottle of Grey Goose, and said with a smirk, “And if you’re a grownup and you need a drink, here’s some whiskey.”

“Actually, that’s vodka.”

She studied the bottle carefully.  “You know, Daddy, this vodka kind of looks like water!”

“That’s the idea.  Vodka’s not supposed to have any color, smell or taste.”

She looked intrigued.  “Does this vodka… taste like… water?”

I quickly nipped in the bud any notion she had of taking a swig.  “No, it tastes like alcohol.  You definitely wouldn’t like it.  And besides,” I said, in a somewhat secretive tone, “that is my least favorite vodka in the world.”

“Really?  Why?”

“I just think it tastes disgusting.  When someone offers it to me, I say No thank you!  But you know,” I said, adopting that sly, just-between-us voice again, “I’m going to an event of theirs in a couple of days.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Well, it’s a tennis lesson with a really famous tennis player.  And he’s going to give ME a lesson!”  It’s true.  Former US Open champion Andy Roddick will be giving me and a handful of other writers a semi-private lesson.  How much Grey Goose paid him is beside the point.  Tennis!  With Andy Roddick!  Well, and Grey Goose, unfortunately.

“So I’ll probably have to drink some Grey Goose after the lesson.”

“But Daddy, can’t you just tell them you don’t like it?”

“Well, if they’re giving me a tennis lesson with a really famous player, I figure the least I can do is drink their vodka after.”

“Are you going to tell them you don’t like it when you drink it?”

“I don’t think so.  It’s best to be polite in that kind of situation, I think.”

And there you go.  Hypocrisy 101, courtesy of her own damned father.  But at least I’ve got it drummed into her head that Grey Goose is a lousy vodka.  Mission accomplished in that department.

Later on, when I told Weevy’s mother about our little chat, she said, “You have far more interesting conversations with her than I do.  With me, she’s just like, ‘I like flowers.'”

Priorities in order

Weevy has a new best friend, H.  They were in the same class together all year but never really bonded until late in the game.  And then it took their parents a while to get our shit together and finally start scheduling playdates.  But now they’re totally crazy about each other, which makes the fact that they’ll be going to different schools next month kind of sad.  But we’re determined that they’re going to stay friends, and have been scheduling weekly playdates all summer.

One recent playdate, we were scheduled to head over to H’s place.  Weevy likes to prepare for these things, carefully selecting a few toys to bring over — I guess it’s the five year old version of bringing a bottle of wine when you’re invited over for dinner.  She also likes to choose her own outfits (sometimes a dress, more often a costume, NEVER jeans or shorts, dah-ling).  So I left her to it while I got myself ready and did some last-minute work.

She came out with a little pink handbag full of toys.  “OK, Daddy, I’m ready to go.  I even put on my own shoes.”  It’s a relatively recent skill she’s acquired, and sure enough, her sandals were on the correct feet and properly strapped.  But something was missing.

“Weevy, look down.  I think you forgot something.”

Apart from her sandals, all she had on was her Disney princess undies.

“Oh yeah!”  Cue hysterical laughter from both of us.

I guess sometimes, even for a clotheshorse like my daughter, showing up with the right MagiClip dolls is more important than showing up with the right outfit.

Teaching The Important Stuff

Weevy finished up pre-K last week, and with it she completed three years of insanely expensive private school.  I hate to admit it, but it was really worth the money — she’s made new friends, learned how to socialize with kids her own age, started reading and writing (a little)… she’s turned into a real little human being, thanks in large part to the amazing and nurturing teachers she’s had.  Hell, she knows more about the rainforest and the ocean than my wife and I do.  Not that we’re experts or anything, but that’s still pretty cool.

Of course, there’s plenty of important stuff that school hasn’t taught her, and that’s where I come in.  It’s inevitable, of course.  We spend enough time together, after all, so some of my passions and habits and idiosyncrasies are bound to rub off on the kid.  And personally, I think these things are as important as anything she’ll learn in school.

Like hailing a cab, for instance.  I never liked the whole “stand in the street with your hand up until a free taxi comes along” move.  I think it looks silly, and if you’re standing in the rain in rush hour, your arm is bound to get tired.  No, I peer out into the distance from my vantage point of a couple steps (OK, sometimes several steps) off the curb, looking for that little speck of light on top of a yellow car that means “available cab.”  I hold Weevy while I’m doing this, of course, and she’s not only gotten pretty good at spotting cabs, she’s an ace cab hailer, with an elegant, fluid hand-raising motion that most kids her age could only dream of having.  Of course, with Uber ascendant, she may not need this particular skill when she’s older, but it’s better to have it than not.

I’m particularly proud of her ordering skills in restaurants.  The wife and I usually have to prompt her, and occasionally we have to remind her to say “thank you,” but for not quite five years old, she’s damn good at ordering her own food.  It usually goes like this:

“Can I please have chicken nuggets?  And can I have a Shirley Temple please?  With no cherries.”

I mean, if you’re a waiter and you don’t find that fucking charming as hell, you’ve been on too many auditions with too few callbacks lately.  This is a skill she’s going to need for the rest of her life, and she’s already mastered it.  I am a proud papa.

Most importantly, I think, she’s finally getting into pop music.  Now, listening to your favorite Top 40 songs (and watching the videos on YouTube) is not a skill per se, of course.  But it’s an invaluable social skill that will serve her well at least through adolescence.  I mean, the music you like says a lot about who you are, and in those all-important tweener and teen years, how better to declare “this is who I am” than by allegiance to your favorite musical artist?

Weevy’s big thing the last few days has been to do a round robin dance party of sorts, where she, the wife and I all take turns picking songs to listen and dance to.  She’s pretty big on Katy Perry, whose music has always left me cold.  But the missus sums it up pretty succinctly — “Empowerment for sale.”  So who am I to deny the message of songs like “Roar” and “Firework,” whether or not I like the music?  Her favorites are generally songs she’s heard in music class at school, but every now and then the wife and I play her something she gloms on to.  A current favorite of mine that’s became a favorite of hers is “I Really Like You,” by teenybopper chanteuse Carly Rae Jepsen.  The chorus:  “I really really really really really really like you, and I want you, do you want me?  Do you want me too?”  Shakespeare it ain’t, but it’s catchy as hell.

I have a terrible tendency to mishear lyrics, and I’ve passed that on to Weevy as well.  “Uptown Funk,” a current hit by Bruno Mars, features a line, repeated several times, that sounded to me like “If you don’t believe me, just wipe.”  Weevy and I heard it every day at our local ice cream shop for a few weeks, and I totally had her convinced that’s what he was saying, too.  Even when her mother told us what he was really saying, Weevy refused to believe her.  I like my interpretation better, anyway.

It always kills me when she asks me if I know a song that she’s heard in her travels as a four-year-old.  She’ll describe it to me as best she can, until I either figure out what she’s talking about or I can find it on YouTube.  As a record store owner, I did this sort of thing for a living, having to figure out songs from the barest of clues given to me by customers far less coherent than Weevy.  I’m a bit out of touch with the current music scene, but I’m trying to stretch the old muscles again and get back into fighting trim for her.  Today she introduced me to a new song (new for me, anyway) called “Crayon Box.”  Good stuff for the post-toddler set, I must say.

The Food Glossary

One thing everyone knows — especially those on the service end of the restaurant business on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — is that Weevy has special names for food that correspond very little, if at all, with the names on the menu.  There are a surprising number of waiters/waitresses out there who, thanks to the frequency of our visits, speak her culinary language.  For the rest of you, here’s this handy-dandy glossary, complete with the origins of how each dish got its name.  Bon apetit!

Hot-hots: French fries.  This was her first Weevified food name, which came from the missus and me telling her not to eat them right away:  “Don’t touch, hot! Hot!”  She was so young when she started eating them she couldn’t even say “Hot-hots,” much less “French fries,” so they were “‘ot-‘ot” for a while.

Chicken and hot-hots:  Variation on above.  This was her favorite meal for a while, though lately she’s gotten sick of all chicken except Chicken McNuggets.  That particular dish is known as “Chicken nuggets and hot-hots,” and it can be purchased at “Old McDonald’s.”  Props to Helen at Sugar & Plumm for knowing this one (as well as its sibling, “corn dogs and hot-hots”).

Favorite chicken nuggets: Onion rings.  They’ve got the same color breading as chicken nuggets, you see, and they’re fucking awesome, so they became “favorite chicken nuggets.”  I’ve tried to explain to her that there’s no chicken in favorite chicken nuggets, but there may not be much chicken in real chicken nuggets either, so who cares?  Big ups to Kathy and “Mr. Carwash” (more on that name later) at Old John’s for remembering this one.

Backwash: Soda.  This one is my fault.  During her formative years (birth to age 2, I suppose) I’d walk around guzzling 2-liter bottles of Pepsi Max (DON’T JUDGE) straight from the bottle.  She was, as any inquisitive toddler would be, intrigued.  When I polished off a bottle there was always an ounce or two of flat soda/saliva hybrid at the bottom — also known as “backwash.”  Like a damn fool, I let her drink said backwash at some point before her 18th birthday.  And just as a sip of wine supposedly leads straight to Bowery Bum-style alcoholism, that ounce of warm, flat, saliva-diluted soda has evolved into “Daddy, I want backwash” at every meal, in between meals… she might as well just stick a backwash IV into her veins.

Carwash: See Backwash.  A new waiter at Old John’s, unfamiliar with Weevyspeak, mistakenly called it “carwash” instead of “backwash.”  Weevy and I both thought that was hilarious, and now we call it carwash whenever we’re at Old John’s.  In fact, we’re now known as the Carwash family, and we call the waiter “Mr. Carwash.”  Weevy brings people together, she does.

White dumplings: Chicken dumplings.  Our late lamented favorite neighborhood Chinese restaurant, China Fun, served steamed mixed dumplings — two each of pork, beef, chicken and veggie — that were out of this world.  At some point Weevy started partaking with me and the missus, but she only liked the chicken dumplings.  The veggies had green skin, the rest were white.  How we figured out “white” only meant chicken is lost in the mists of time.  To this day, they’re still her favorite dumplings, so we trek to the remaining China Fun on the East Side for them occasionally.

Cereal Crunch: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.  She started calling it that when she was too young to say “cinnamon toast.”  Not the most thrilling story in the world, but still cute, so don’t judge.

Duck bread and blue drink: When Weevy was about two, I started taking her to the little pond in Central Park where people sail toy boats — and where ducks congregate in warm weather months.  I think we’re not supposed to feed them, but that never stopped all the folks who bring bread or crackers or what-have-you for them.  They’ve got to be the best fed ducks in New York.  There’s a little cafe by the pond where you can buy mediocre meals or pre-packaged snacks, so we’d get a piece of pound cake and feed it to the delighted and cholesterol-laden ducks.  One day Weevy asked to try a bit of the pound cake, which I’d told her was bread, and found that it was surprisingly sweet and cake-like and delicious compared to all the bread she’d eaten before.  Thereafter, the ducks got a lot less of the “duck bread”: “Sorry ducks, duck bread for Weevy!”  As for “blue drink,” well, that’s blue Gatorade.  I find it kinda rancid myself but Weevy loves it.  One of her favorite breakfasts, which we let her have far too often, is duck bread and blue drink.  Nutritional value, close to zero.  Probably negative, in fact.  But it gets some food into her notoriously fussy craw, and it’s easy besides.  A perfect parent I ain’t.

Mommy Daddy bacon: Morningstar Veggie Strips.  I eat veggie bacon because it’s easy to prepare, tastes like bacon and is relatively healthy and low-calorie, even if it’s the texture of cardboard.  (My wife doesn’t like bacon, which is one of the reasons I married her — more bacon for me.)  We started giving it to Weevy instead of the real thing because we rarely had actual bacon in the house, and besides, it’s healthier.  She likes it, although she prefers “Grandpa bacon,” which she gets whenever she visits my in-laws on Long Island.  Grandpa also makes “grandpa eggs,” which are scrambled eggs with a lot of butter and a little milk added.  Delicious.

Red pasta: This refers to one very specific type of pasta — penne with chipotle cream sauce from Citrus, which has tragically just closed.  It can be pasta, and it can have a red sauce, but unless it’s penne with chipotle cream sauce, it’s not red pasta.  Spaghetti & tomato sauce?  Not red pasta.  Linguine marinara?  Not red pasta.  Orecchiette putanesca?  Not red pasta.  You get the idea.  The irony is that the sauce is actually more orange than red, but we’re not splitting hairs here.

Poopy bun: Roast pork bun.  We get them frozen from Trader Joe’s — not the greatest char siu baoin the world, but more than passable.  Weevy decided the pork looked like “poopy,” so she would only eat the bread.  “Daddy, I want a poopy bun.  You eat the poopy, I’ll eat the bun.”  Those words will be emblazoned on my memory until my dying breath.

Daddy Friends

My wife and I had Weevy at roughly the same time as three other couple friends had their kids, and the men in all three couples were stay-at-home dads.  I was thrilled.  Visions of martini-soaked playdates danced in my head.  I’d make the ‘tinis, we’d sit around and shoot the shit while our kids played or napped or watched TV or basically did anything that required precious little parental input.  It was going to be a breeze.  It was going to be fun.  And it was going to be our job.

I didn’t take into account the fact that I have, pretty much since high school, preferred the company of women to that of men. I never really considered the fact that all three of my fellow stay-at-homes lived in various far-flung reaches of Brooklyn, while I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — a subway ride that’s a minor ordeal even without a baby in tow.  I didn’t know that parenting would be a much more… hands-on job than I wanted to believe.  And I certainly didn’t think that two of my three comrade dads would bite the bullet, give up the ghost, admit defeat and send their kids to daycare while they pursued their own lives, which involved varying degrees of actual productivity.  Certainly it’s not that difficult… is it?  I have no idea.  All I know is that the thought of nannies and daycare never crossed my cranium for a second, not even during the first few months of Weevy’s existence, when parenthood occasionally drove me completely bonkers and on more than one occasion sent me scurrying out of the apartment, leaving the missus to figure out if I was truly batshit crazy or just having a bad morning.

There’s a lot being written about how hip and trendy the stay-at-home dad movement is, and how so many dads are doing it.  But truth be told, I never saw too many of my brethren at the playground or Gymboree or, later, preschool.  And even if I had, the likelihood that we would even speak to each other, let alone want to hang out voluntarily, would be slim.  I often joke: How do I know I’d get along famously with a particular dude?  When he doesn’t try to talk to me, either.  It’s just not how guys are built.  There are a handful of stay-at-home dads in Weevy’s school, one of whom looks like a perfectly nice guy, seems like a cool father, has a daughter who’s Weevy’s age, and for a long time they’d go to the same diner as me and Weevy after school.  My wife even spoke to him.  But did it ever cross my mind to even go over and say “Hey, how ya doin’?”  No.  And I’m sure it never crossed his, either.  Which is why I’m sure that, if we were kidnapped and locked in a room together for a week or something, we’d become best buddies.  But barring some pretty serious intervention, it wasn’t going to happen.

Four years and change after Weevy’s birth, I’ve made exactly one stay-at-home dad friend.  And he’s nothing like the kind of guy I’d normally be pals with.  Mr. R — not his real initial — is a tall WASP from Connecticut.  His father just happens to be a writer whom I greatly admire — his sophisticated, slightly world-weary air mixed with just enough bonhomie to not be off-putting totally dazzles and intimidates me, to the extent that I actually avoid talking to him in the few social situations where we’ve been thrown together.  This guy is the three-martini lunch made flesh — tall, erudite, wildly successful — the kind of fellow that you don’t come across too often.

Mr. R is tall like his father, but that’s where the similarities end, pretty much.  A Deadhead from adolescence who was in rehab before he was in college, he was a successful pot dealer in Colorado before the risk and the worry associated with it became too much for him.  He chucked it all, moved to New York and went to work on Wall Street, which is what he was doing when he met the woman who became Mrs. R.  Thing is, he hated the broker’s life and was looking for a way out.  When they had kids, the opportunity presented itself.

He’s now the stay-at-home dad, a job which sometimes seems to play second fiddle to his true passion — taping live concerts and uploading them online.  He doesn’t really care who he tapes — if they had hits in the ’70s and ’80s, he’ll go see them — as long as the sound comes out good.  Now that bootlegs are traded and downloaded for free rather than sold, there is absolutely no way for him to monetize his passion, but he treats it as seriously as if he were making six figures.

We were thrown together by chance.  His daughter was going to Weevy’s school and his wife, a much more social sort than he, decided to get in touch with some of the parents on the class list.  We just happened to live in the same building as Mr. R’s famous writer dad, so of course she got in touch with us.  Weevy and Mr. R’s daughter became fast friends, and as such required playdates.  With each other.  While our spouses were busy working.  And a playdate for the kids is a playdate for the parents, too — as I’ve learned on numerous, very awkward and trying occasions.

We’re not very much alike, Mr. R and I.  I drink whisky, he smokes weed.  I’m nuts about baseball, he’s indifferent.  I hate the Grateful Dead, he’s never even heard most of the bands I like.  I’m a gourmand, he sticks to diner food.  But Mr. R and I got along well from the start.  We’re both rather introverted — the last thing we want to do is make idle chit-chat with other parents — but once we got comfortable with each other, the banter flowed easily and comfortably.  We love to mock each other’s music tastes via text.  He loves to tell me about his taping adventures, specifically how to avoid ushers whose job it is to prevent people from recording the show, and I love to listen.  We can sit and watch TV and not say a word — in fact, I’ve fallen asleep on his couch in mid-“conversation” more than once.  Mrs. R once asked him what we talk about during the girls’ playdates, and he said, “We’re beyond having to make small talk.  We just hang out.”  And it’s true.  He’s one of the few guys I actually look forward to hanging out with.  Not that we’d necessarily get together when the kiddies aren’t playing together, but that’s because we both enjoy solitude more than the company of another dude.  Yet another reason we’re so simpatico.

How Do You Spell Yummy?

It had been a while since I’d taken Weevy to a booze tasting.  And it wasn’t for lack of trying.  I always tell publicists, hey, your event starts at 6:30, I’m on kid duty until 7:30, I’ll get down to the event at 8 — by which time the event is half over, and it doesn’t make sense for me to show up for the end of a tasting or the third course of a three-course dinner or what have you.  Let me bring Weevy with me, on the other hand, and we’ll be there for the whole shebang.  And of course I make it clear that I will NOT be feeding Weevy whatever spirits I’ll be trying that evening.  First off, I don’t want to get arrested, and secondly, the last thing she wants to do is taste alcohol.  She’s got her juice, her water, her milk, her “backwash” (which is what she calls soda, which is a story for another time).  What could she want with anything else?

But apparently there are rules about bringing underage kids to spirits events — legal bullshit and what-have-you.  Now, I understand why this might apply if Weevy were 19 or something.  But for chrissake, the girl is FOUR FUCKING YEARS OLD.  Nobody in their right mind is going to think this girl is anywhere near legal in any country on the face of the earth.  And given that alcohol tastes like, well, alcohol, she’s not exactly going to mistakenly down a Glencairn glass of cask strength bourbon instead of her sippy cup of milk.

The most annoying example of fear of lawsuits trumping common sense came a couple months back, when I was invited to an event sponsored by Snow Leopard Vodka.  This event involved seeing actual snow leopards.  At the Central Park Zoo.  To repeat — leopards at the zoo.  And it started at 6:00, early enough for Weevy to see the snow leopards and get home by bedtime, which is generally around 7:30-8:00.  I figured this had to be one of those rare kid-friendly booze events.  I mean, how could it not be?  So I emailed my usual shpiel — hey, I’m on kid duty, but if I can bring the daughter, yada yada.  I was so confident Weevy could go with me that I even told her about it.  She likes going to events with me, at least in theory, and hey, the zoo!  Snow leopards!  Best event ever!

So when the email came back saying the legal department specifically prohibited under-21s from attending, we were disappointed, to say the least.  Weevy looked at me quizzically and asked, “Why wouldn’t they let me go?”  “I don’t know, honey, I guess you have to be old enough to drink vodka.”  “But I don’t have to drink it.  I could drink water.”  So fucking true.  And while it turned out the wife was free to watch Weevy so I could go to the event by myself, I wound up canceling.  It just wouldn’t have felt right to be looking at the snow leopards without her, no matter how much vodka I’d consumed.

Fast forward to last week.  I’d been invited to the Whisky Extravaganza, sponsored by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America, which started at 6:00 and was taking place a mere two blocks from home.  I did the usual can-I-bring-my-sprog deal, but this time the answer was a resounding YES.  At last, common sense prevails!

Weevy looked stunning in her Halloween outfit, replete with orange bows and pumpkins and ghosts and polka dots and stuff, and also brought a gorgeous shiny pink handbag filled with her Disney MagiClip dolls.  Hey, she’s no dummy, she wanted something to do while Daddy was working.  We entered the restaurant and walked downstairs to find the place teeming with big, boisterous men — maybe 90% of the attendees were male.  The double-takes as I walked through the room holding the hand of a tiny girl were hilarious.  The publicist was the consummate hostess, fetching Weevy “hot-hots” (fries) and “backwash”, playing with the MagiClip dolls, while at the same time chatting me up about each of the five whiskies I was there to try.

Weevy was on her best behavior.  While the SMWSA spokesman gave a lecture on the history and how-tos of whisky distilling, she grabbed my camera and took some very artsy black-and-white pics of her dolls.  While I tasted the whiskies, she took my notebook and pen and started “taking notes” for me, mostly random scribbles and nonsensical strings of letters.  But she did take her job seriously.  As I sipped and furrowed my brow, she said, “What should I write, Daddy?”

I thought for a minute.  “Just write ‘yummy.'”

Pause.  “Daddy, how do you spell yummy?”

Did I mention I love my daughter?

I dictated it letter by letter, and sure enough, there in my notes about the Whisky Extravaganza is the following:

Y U M M

Y

She got bored and cranky after about 40 minutes, which was right about when the missus came to pick her up.  I lingered for another half hour or so.  But even though we didn’t leave together, I’d have to say that Weevy was the best plus-one ever.  I can’t wait for the next event… assuming legal departments don’t get in the way.

The Beastie Club

It’s been quite an exciting week for Weevy.  She visited her first distillery, went to a whisky event, and went apple and pumpkin picking.  Oh, and joined the Beastie Club.

Much as I would like to tell you that the Beastie Club is some kind of Beastie Boys fan organization, it’s not.  Weevy may have inherited a lot of things from her daddy (including, thankfully, my love of Chinese food), but her music taste comes straight from Mommy.  Katy Perry, Christina Aguilera, that fucking “Let It Go” song from Frozen… seriously, don’t get me started.

No, Weevy joined the Beastie Club just after we’d arrived at the Hurd family farm in the Hudson Valley to do our second annual apple and pumpkin-picking trip.  We’d been there literally about five minutes and were still waiting to buy our admission tickets when Weevy let out a scream that turned the heads of everyone in the enormous tent.  She was so freaked out she couldn’t even say what was wrong for a minute or two, until we finally figured out that a bee had stung her on the hand.  Thankfully the stinger was already out, but a portion of her hand was a pretty angry red, and having been stung myself, I know how painful it must have been (Weevy also, alas, inherited her Daddy’s strong aversion to pain and general physical discomfort).

Shrieking.  Sobbing.  Whimpering.  Completely going bonkers whenever a bee was within ten feet of her (and there were a LOT of bees there).  Refusing to move unless one of us carried her.  I figured the rest of our stay would be little more than damage control.  But some particularly deft parentage saved the day.  Actually, I don’t know quite how deft it was, but this is my blog, so I’m going to give myself (and her mother, of course) full credit.  The first thing I did was tell her, “You know, bees can only sting once, and then they die.  So that bee that stung you?  He’s dead now.  And you’re going to feel all better in a little while and that bee will still be dead, so don’t worry about him stinging you again.”  She actually thought that was pretty cool, and made me explain WHY bees die after they sting.  I’ve forgotten about 99.83% of everything I ever learned in science class, but I’m glad that little nugget stuck with me.

Then she asked, “Daddy, why would a bee want to sting me?”  “Well,” I ventured, “you’re wearing a bright jacket with colored polka dots on it, so the bee might have thought you were a flower.”

“Really?  The bee thought I was a flower?”

“Sure.  And you might have startled it when it turned out you weren’t a flower and started moving.”

“But I’m not a flower!” (Laughing)

Once she laughed, I knew she was doing OK.

Later on, she was eating one of the apples she’d picked, and a bee started getting a little too close.  The shrieking started again, and I quickly grabbed her, told her to drop her apple, and ran several steps away.  “You see, Weevy, the bee doesn’t want anything to do with you, it wants your food.”

“It wants my food?”

“Sure.  These apples are delicious.  If you were a bee, wouldn’t you want a juicy apple, too?”

“Oh!  It doesn’t want to sting me, it just wants my food!”

“Right!  And you see what we did there?  The bee got close, you dropped the apple, and now the bee isn’t bothering you.”

I was on a fucking roll, people.  I could do no wrong.  I was in the zone.  I was en fuego.  And sure enough, a few minutes later…. “Mommy?  Daddy?  My hand isn’t hurting anymore!”  And that’s when I uncorked the piece de resistance.

“Congratulations, Weevy!  You are now a member of the Bee Sting Club!”

“What’s that?”

“Well, once you get stung by a bee, you become a member of the Bee Sting Club.  Mommy’s a member, I’m a member, and now you’re a member.  You did it!”

This girl had gone from being completely overwhelmed to wearing that slightly red and swollen hand like it was a badge of honor.  A club!  Mommy and Daddy are members, and now she’s a member too?  This was a great day!  She loved it.  She had to keep reasserting how cool and exclusive her club is.  “Daddy,” she repeated several times, “not everyone got stung by a bee.  Some people aren’t in the Beastie Club.” I wanted to correct her, but… no, actually I didn’t want to correct her.  I wanted to be a member of the Beastie Club too.

All we need now is membership cards.