Monday, July 30, 2007

7 Deadly Sins

Moving on (however briefly) from the joys & trials of new parenthood, I've been stewing on a philosophical issue of late. Part of this comes from listening to George Carlin and his spiel about reducing the 10 commandments to just two; another part is having "The Seven Deadly Virtues" from Camelot stuck in my head (grrr!) for the better part of three days. I began to consider the biblical 7 deadly sins, and decided - all on my own, since no one asked! - that they needed updating.

Most of you already know (or suspect this), but I am not a Christian. I believe in the factual existence of Jesus of Nazareth, and that he was a kind & gentle man who preached love and tolerance. As I do not believe in the Judeo-Catholic version of a creator "god," I therefore cannot accept JC as any sort of "son." I suppose I'm part Secular Humanist, part Agnostic. I believe in humankind and our achievements, but I'd also believe in a creator-god if I could have proof of his/her existence. I suppose I lack what is usually referred to as "faith," at least in religious terms. I've come to interesting discussion crossroads about this lack of faith, especially with V, who is a former student and mentored my First Year Experience class one semester. V is a passionate Christian, but college-educated so she's not bible-thumper ignorant. She often took me to task about my sense of morality, wondering why it was I would refrain from, say, theft or murder if I didn't have biblical faith (and rules) telling me not to. I was as fascinated by this concept as she was, but obviously from the opposite perspective: how, I wondered, could someone NOT recognize that there are certain (inalienable) requirements to successful human existence and social integration? Oh, the conversations we had!

So, I've decided now to post my updated, 21st-Century list of humanist-derived sins. I freely admit to scamming 1) the number of 7, and 2) the idea of "sin" in the first place, even though I don't belive in such a concept. For me, these would be more like a list of "7 Inexcusable Existence Flaws." First, though, a quick look at the biblical sins; you can certainly do your own research for a more in-depth look at past & present philosophy regarding these sins, but in brief we're talking about the following:
1) Lust: usually focusing on excessive sexual thoughts & desires.
2) Gluttony: still a sin of excess, but in the realm of thoughtless consumption.
3) Greed: excess again, but in terms of gaining material wealth.
4) Sloth: a failure to work hard and use your personal talents.
5) Wrath: uncontrolled anger and hatred.
6) Envy: again with the desire, but this time for what someone ELSE posesses.
7) Pride: the "original" sin, considered to be the worst, this is a desire to be more important and/or attractive than others.

Here, forthwith, are your New Sins. Go forth, spread the word, and lead lives of quiet fulfillment and positive energy!

1) Hypocrisy: a favourite of our elected officials and pseudo-Christians everywhere, this is the "Say one thing, do sumthin' diff'rent" sin. Look, don't call your environmental policy the "Clean Air Act" and then promote coal as an energy source! Don't claim to follow the Word of Jesus and then fill your heart with hatred for those who are different than you! Hypocrisy, man. That's some negative shit.
2) Apathy: a favourite not of politicians, but of the electorate in general. "Why vote, I can't possibly make a difference?" "Well, there's nothing I can do about it anyway!" "Oh, who cares about the animals in ANWR?" Od's blood, take a fuckin' STAND, willya?!? Dig your head out of the sand and just GIVE A SHIT!
3) Ignorance: a little trickier, because obviously every person cannot possibly know every THING. What I propose here is a willful shielding of the facts, a deliberate attempt to THINK you know something and then do nothing to disprove yourself. I am just disgusted with people who spout their uninformed opinions all the live-long day, sounding like a cage full of monkeys. Buy a book, numbnuts; question everything, from your president to your pope, your teachers and your best friends and even yo mama. Be strong in your opinions, but dammit be KNOWLEDGEABLE about them!
4) Sloth: no reason not to keep this one. Whatever happened to the idea that "if it's not hard work, it's not worth doing"? I know a woman who has a VERY valuable degree but refuses to work in that field...but then, also refuses to take "menial" jobs because they are "beneath" her education. WTF?!? Hey, someone has to clean shitty toilets and mop up puke! Someone has to pick up the trash you generate every week! Work is work: sometimes (if you're lucky) it's a career, sometime's it's even fun, but at the end of the day you should be tired. Go do something with your days.
5) Hatred: this is a thin slice of the original Wrath. I am not opposed to a good, frothy, righteous anger, as long as you're not doing harm to someone else (phone solicitors excluded...although no one can really accuse those bastards of Sloth). What every person on the planet SHOULD be opposed to is outright hatred for others. This is where all your ethnic slurs come from (often combined with Ignorance). I cringe when I overhear folks bitch about the price of gas here in the U.S.A., and then follow up with a suggestion to "bomb those damn towel-heads and just TAKE the oil!" Wow. Dude. thy neighbor, huh?
6) Negligence: this is rather a broad category, but basically I think it means a lack of concern (or even acknowledgement!) of others. There are some literal ideas, like neglecting to do your homework (and then pestering me for the opportunity to do a paper for "extra credit"...which shows a lack of concern for MY time). But more general things apply here too, like jabbering on your fucking mobile phone and driving like a dipshit all over the highway. That's negligence: neglecting to acknowledge that other people exist. Grrr.
7) Dishonesty: sort of a more narrowly-defined aspect of Hypocrisy, this sin is one of the deliberate spreading of falseness. Lying is certainly part of this ("My printer ran out of ink, that's why I can't turn in my paper today"), but concepts of loyalty come into play as well. If, for instance, you want to make flag-burning a crime (because you LOVE America!), but you don't understand that burning is the only acceptable means of disposing of a tattered flag, you've commited the sin of Ignorance. If you bitch about jobs leaving America for cheaper overseas labor, but you buy cheap "Made in Taiwan" crap from Wal-Mart...that's Hypcrisy, with a little Apathy thrown in. BUT: if you vote for a person simply because he or she has the right "family values," and then bitch and gripe and moan about the direction the country is taking...that THERE is your Dishonesty. You willingly performed an action that you KNEW was not in your best interest...or in anyone ELSE'S, either.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Roslyn, Part 4: "Holy Shit!"

Monday, July 16th 2007

I could be pretty glib and sardonic while blogging about Tess' pregnancy, going for yuks while still delivering pertinent information. Even her labor was fertile ground for a blow-by-blow description. The birth itself, though...well, those of you who have been through it know that it's intensely emotional, and intensely private. Here are some observances about Roslyn's delivery, without going into a detail that robs my heart & memory of their most treasured observances...

• Pushing feels good. Once you're finally ALLOWED to push, you feel like you're doing something worthwhile to alleviate the pressure.

• How long you push depends wholly on where the baby is. If she's positioned high up, you'll push for a long damn time; this is why Dr. G told us she would ALWAYS take a stubborn cervix but a low-lying baby over the opposite.

• Birthing was, for us, very private. Only I, Tess and Nurse P were in the mostly-darkened room right up until Roslyn crowned.

• Birthing smells. Not bad, just...odd. Like nothing I've ever smelled before.

• Labia sort of roll outward, like turning your eyelid inside-out. I suppose I expected the hole to just sort of...I dunno, "open wider" or something. Nope. The lips just sort of splooge inside-out.

• Head = 45 minutes to deliver. Body = 4.5 seconds. WOW.

• Books I'd read told us we'd be so overwhelmed and focused on our new baby, we probably wouldn't even be aware of the placental delivery. Totally right. Not only that, but Dr. G sewed up Tess' average tear during this time as well. I only had to look once, to see her pulling several bloody feet of surgical thread through the air, to never need to look again.

• Placentas are FUCKING HUGE. Od's blood! I just couldn't believe it. Dr. G held it up for us, using both hands with thumb & fingers about 2 inches apart, proclaiming it to be beautiful and healthy-looking. I suppose it was: but, ultimately, it resembled nothing so much as a 5-lb. round steak. Raw. And wet. (*shudder!*)

• Instinct takes over for men as well as women. Never having handled a newborn before, I nevertheless immediately picked her up when Nurse P asked me to bring her over for a Vitamin K shot and some additional cleaning.

• The technical stats: born 7/16/07 at 10:29pm. 6 lbs. 7 oz., 19.5 inches long. Apgar tests 9 and 9. Absolutely the most beautiful fucking thing ever. EVER.

We got to stay in the delivery room for 3 hours, during which time Tess FINALLY got to eat something, and we cooed & hovered over our new daughter. By the time we finally got moved over to the mommy/baby room (with pull-out chair for dad), the reality of being parents was kind of overwhelmed by the heavy emotion of a nearly 24-hour day. Sleep came quickly, the sleep of supreme confidence and miraculous achievement. Welcome to the world, Roslyn. We hope to make it live up to your expectations.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Roslyn, Part 3: "Showtime"

Nuke: Were YOU ever in The Show?!?

Crash: Yeah, I was in The Show. I was in The Show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in The Show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

I love that little exchange. I hate sports, but I LOVE sports movies, especially good ones, and I think Bull Durham is about as good as it gets. The gist of this exchange is that, no matter how great you think it is in the minors, once you make it to the big time, things are noticeably different. For me, that's how Tess' pregnancy was: the nine months leading up to Roz's birth were like the minors. We bought preggo clothes, we took the classes, we read the books...but it's all minor league stuff compared to being in that labor & delivery room. That The Show.

Monday, July 16th 2007

3:30am: I am awakened. I do not LIKE to be awakened, really for any reason other than natural causes. Upon said natural causes, I like to lay there for awhile, maybe 20 minutes, and really get the sleep out of my eyes. I like to repeatedly crack my toes, and whatever else I can get to crack: hips, knees, whatever. I may fart a little. Then I like to get up, wander Ozzy-style downstairs in search of coffee and eggs. This time, though, it's the middle of the fuckin' night, and Tess is leaning over me saying "Scott, I think my water broke, I felt a pop." Actually, she was AWAKENED by a pop, which, since we just read about this online earlier in the evening, I am convinced she dreamed. But whatever: she is clearly anxious, and since this technically IS Roslyn's due date, I grumble my way out of bed, pee, make some STRONG coffee, and prepare to head to Lansing: feed the cat, close some windows, grab the camera. The traffic is, obviously, sparse, and we make good time, all the while with me thinking we'll be back in St. Johns around 5:30, just in time to try the breakfast at this seedy little diner we've recently discovered.

5:30am: Tess is admitted. Guess I bet wrong on going home today! After checking Tess' leakage, the nice (impossibly young) resident on call came out and announced "You are ruptured!" Uh...WOW. Okay. Um. Yeah. Whew. Tess signs the necessary paperwork, then we wander dazedly down to the caffeteria for breakfast...likely Tess' ONLY meal of the day! Dr. B is on call today from Tess' ob/gyn, and she wants to immediately administer prostaglandin to "ripen" Tess' cervix; however, we feel like we don't want to start medical intervention quite so soon, and instead walk around after breakfast in an attempt to get something going. It's sinking in...holy shit! We. Are. Having. A. Baby. TODAY!

Two hospital gowns and big ol'baby belly...
and STILL hotter than hell!

10:30am: Tess is only at 1cm. She has been so consumed with Braxton-Hicks contractions for WEEKS now, I've taken to calling her Contracto, which of course I find hilarious. "Her uterus has the strength of 100 men, it's...Contracto!!" But, once the game is on, nothing much is going on down there. We finally submit to the prostaglandin suppository, which bums Tess out because now she is trapped to the external fetal monitoring machine. We need to give the goop 2 hours, and then we'll see.

12:30pm: We got nuthin'. The hormone bullet gave Tess some regular contractions, but nothing to write home about: still only at 1.5cm. NOW Dr. B would like to start a pitocin drip, and Tess & I look worriedly at each other; we were warned during our preggo classes that oftentimes, one medical intervention brings on another, then another, and pretty soon you've bought yourself a C-section. We stall on the pit, electing to walk around for another hour. This has two negative consequences: 1) Tess doesn't get any lunch beyond a peanut butter Kashi bar, and 2) her contractions stop completely.

A black line of itty-bitty contractions,
which ain't enough to do squat.

2:30pm: The pit drip is up & running. Our nurse, the very calming and capable S, has indicated that it'll start at 2mL per hour, and increase 2mL every 15 minutes. Tess is still cabled to to the monitor, and now the IV as well. She's not happy about this, wishing instead to be able to walk around and/or get on her exercise ball. But whatever: we're approaching 12 hours since we KNOW her water broke, and for infection purposes it's standard to try to shoehorn the baby out before 24 hours has passed. Tess' mom & sister settle in to chat, and we wait.

5:30pm: Tess is still smiling & chatting. Every once in awhile she will stop her incessant popsicle consumption to stare off at the ceiling with a focused and faraway gaze, but she's back within minutes. Nurse S disapproves: a laboring woman shouldn't be able to smile, but a cervical check shows Tess dilated to 3cm. Not the greatest progress, but some. Tess says something that upon later reflection will show the very greatest heights of naivetée: "If this is as bad as the contractions get, I think I can handle it!"

6:35pm: Mom & Sis leave. Tess finally decides that maybe she's getting enough pain to "not be fun anymore" and sends everyone out of the room except me. I promise Sue & Amanda that I'll come out to the waiting room every 20 minutes to give progress reports.

7:00pm: I deliver my first progress report. I never go back for another one.

7:10pm: I take a pee break. I've been hanging out in a chair at the foot of Tess' bed, feet propped on the unused labor ball, just kind of watching her. As one contraction ends I quickly take a potty break. Upon returning, I find Tess in an alarming state of pain, using the "three hee's and a whooo" breathing technique we learned at preggo class. We rather joked about the "focus techniques" that were taught, Tess preferring instead to let her body do "what felt natural at the time." I move to sit at her side, offering my arm for grip support; it is used in that capacity for the next two hours.

7:30pm: Dr. G has replaced Dr. B. It's tough to play favourites with a physician staff whom you trust completely, but both Tess & I are VERY happy with this development. We both bonded with Dr. G immediately, and now her trusted face and no-nonsense approach are utterly soothing. Dr. G measures Tess at 5cm, halfway there, and offers up that sometimes women shoot off and are done in 2 hours...others can go for 7 hours. That's an unpleasant thought. Discussion of pain management begins to take place. Nurse S stops in before she leaves for the night. She takes one look at Tess and a wry smile appears: "Now THIS is the face of a woman in labor!" she declares. She wishes us the best and takes her leave.

8:30pm: I am stunned by my wife's fortitude. I've always known Tess to be an incredibly strong and capable woman, but seeing her surf these increasingly rough contractions is beyond description. I suspect the pain is also beyond description, but all I can do is coach her through each one. I now understand the whole "ice chips" thing: she's emitting a ton of heat & energy, and between contractions I spoonfeed ice to her. As Tess is doing, I allow my coaching to develop as events warrant, taking my cues from her. Pain management is again considered, but I secretly suspect we've passed the point of no return: I doubt Tess could sit still long enough for an epidural to be administered, as she is spending many contractions simply thrashing her legs back & forth. There is a near-constant stream of activity in the room now: P is our new nurse, and she's nattering about the room in a calm but efficient way. Instruments are brought out (and discreetly covered), the warmer is turned on, a scale is brought god, my god, we are having this baby. SOON.

8:45pm: Tess is overtaken by an incredible urge to push with each contraction. She is quickly measured, and is told NOT to push! She's not fully dilated yet, and pushing against her cervix at this point would only cause the opening to swell and puff up...exactly what we DON'T want! I'm now in the unenviable position of needing to coach her three ways: 1) breathe & focus!, 2) open!, 3) HOLD! The pain is incredible, and Tess is pretty much moved to a place beyond speech. Dr. G stops in frequently, never offering sympathy, but a constant stream of support, plus assertions that the baby is handling the contractions like a champ.

Tess is measured at 9.5cm. So close...

9:30pm: Tess reverts to a cavewoman. Two contractions after the last measurement, she makes a wholly inhuman sound. It is part grunt, part howl, and all animal. I've never heard anything like it before. Dr. G, who happened to be in the room for this audio display, turns with interest toward us and announces: "Tess, you are fully dilated and ready to push. I can tell by the sound you just made." She tells us that Nurse P will teach Tess how to push, and then takes her leave. Thankfully, we've known all day that Roslyn's head is right down at the cervical opening, so we're hoping Tess won't be pushing for another couple of hours.

It's showtime.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Roslyn, Part 2: "The Long Weekend"

Saturday & Sunday, July 14th & 15th 2007

We woke up today (Saturday) both feeling a little out-of-sorts and jittery. Things are REALLY closing in fast: my class is done, as is the home renovation project for the summer...all we need now is a damn BABY! Last night's scare made us edgy with excitement and impatience, and we're having trouble knowing what to do with ourselves.

First order of biz, though, is to hit the farmer's market. It's really a pathetic little affair, with too many kitschy nailed-together birdhouses and a rather poor supply of actual FOOD. Hmmm...I wonder if that's because "big-box" retailers have bought up all the land in our county?!? Anyway...once we really got looking we saw lots of good foodstuffs: big quarts of fresh blueberries, the sweetest black cherries you ever did eat, lots of sweet corn and fresh tomatoes and a whole table of baked goods priced to sell. We made our purchases, and on the way home discussed the importance of teaching good food consupmtion and community support to Roslyn. Who could pretty much show up ANY DAMN TIME, NOW!

With the afternoon looming before us, we decide to just get the hell out of the house, and so we head off to that hell-hole we very rarely visit: The Mall. We actually ended up making several purchases: new work shirts for me, of the wrinkle-free variety (normally I enjoy a good monthly ironing session, but I'm pretty sure that baby will force a cessation of this activity), new bath rugs, of the non-rubber-backed variety, and a few other odds-&-ends. One important thing happened as we were leaving, though:


Oh, this is very exciting! We hurry home to consult all our books, the internet, and various friends. And we find out...exactly zilch. Losing one's mucus plug means that labor COULD be imminent...or, it could be two, maybe three weeks off. Shit-a-brick. Looks like ANOTHER walk to the video store is in order! Yeah, that's right: we've been hiking to our local Chart Hits Video on a near-nightly basis, a round-trip trek of about 1.5 miles that is refreshing and reassuring in its familiarity. We're convinced that all the people we regularly greet on our route must be wondering WHEN we're having that damn baby! We're wondering the same thing, as we try to literally WALK Tess into some meaningful contractions.

(Side note: Saturday's rental, Never Was, is a great film of intriguing story and quality acting. May be my favourite rental of the summer. Check it out.)

Sunday becomes another day of restlessness and anxious excitement as Miss Tessmacher continues to dribble. Much discussion ensues as to how to interpret the color, consistency and smell of her meager output. DOES is smell like Clorox? IS it clear and wet, or is it more brownish and sticky? In all the time I've known Tess, I must say I've never considered her nether-regions in quite this way before, but suddenly it all seems very important. We deliberate heading to the hospital: if this near-constant trace IS amniotic fluid, we should go because the docs (in their "infinite wisdome," nudge-nudge, wink-wink) would like the baby to be born within 24 hours of amniotic rupture. But our sources are all over the place: a trusted friend and nursing student says "Go," while other reputable friends & moms aren't so sure. We dread going to triage, only to be told 1) it's just your mucus plug draining off, you're still a week from labor, OR 2) it IS your "water," you're not having any contractions, the baby is in distress and we're gonna CUT HER OUT! Another walk to the video store ensues...

this time for some trusted favorites. The "3 for 3" special allows us to get Valley Girl (Tess had never seen), Grosse Pointe Blank (strangely, I had never seen) and Office Space (yeah...gonna have to ask you to...bring the movies back on SUNDAY...yeah...), all of which will be due on Friday. Tess, for the most part, enjoys Valley Girl, but looks a little askance at my obvious worship of Randy. We're starting to endure countless phone calls as well, something I had read about but never actually anticipated. Now that we're so close, though, they're starting to pour in. I aggressively push for a simple solution: take the damn think off the hook! (Something that is emminently feasible given my penchant for antique, working rotary-dial phones.) But no...past 10:00pm the ringing dries up, leaving us to wonder: are we making the right decision by not going in? Will we cause permanent damage to the baby because we were loathe to make a (probably) needless trip? And even more pressing: what will TOMORROW bring?!?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Roslyn, Part 1: "Wicked Girl"

Friday, July 13th 2007

Yaaayyy, it's my birthday! Booooo, I have to go to work! But, that's okay: it's my last day of class, and really we're only talking about the students going through their music creation projects, a last listening quiz and a brief history of rock & roll ("Kiss is the greatest band ever. EVER. You there, in the third wanna pass? Repeat after me...").

We also have tickets to see Wicked tonight at the Wharton Center. This will later cause us to shake our heads with wonder at our own stupidity: hindsight forced us to realize that we should have exchanged these tix MONTHS ago, way back when we realized the show was a mere 3 days prior to Tess' due date. But no matter: too late now, as the show is hopelessly sold out. Our plan is simple: head into E. Lansing for yet ANOTHER interminable NST (non-stress test) for the babe, then meet MY mother at a nearby shopping mall and drive over to meet TESS' parents for dinner. The show follows dinner, and perhaps we'll head to the hospital afterwards? Ahhhh, if only Fate would be so kind!

But...alas, no. Tess' ob/gyn practice, which is really a great place full of caring and nature-oriented doctors and nurses, has been putting Tess & Roslyn through tons of these NSTs for various reasons: low amnio fluid readings, slow baseline heart rate, and on & on. Tess & I occasionally clash about doctors & medical care in general: she's much more skeptical than I am, sometimes saying "Doctors just don't know anything about the body!" What I'm realizing is that sometimes doctors only know about levels of commonality when it comes to the body...and that anything outside a commonly-accepted range is "cause for concern", which translates to "Let's scare the shit out of the parents!" So it is with these NSTs: a low amnio reading could be 1) Roz has swallowed a lot of it and hasn't yet peed it out; 2) Roz is lying in such a way that she's smooshing all the fluid up against one side of the uterus, disallowing for an accurate reading; 3) her kidneys aren't functioning properly. Same thing with the baseline heart rate: the docs seem to think that a rate of 136-150 bpm is "normal," but Roslyn typically beats around 118-124. Ultimately, I think we're given too much information that doesn't have nearly enough in terms of irrefutable answers. Y'know, Tess & I both have our doctorates, so we generate a lot of questions in these appointments...enough to show us that sometimes the docs can't quite put a finger on why they're concerned...just that they ARE, because Rozzle is "outside the norm." Hmmm...sounds a lot like guesswork in a white lab coat to ME! Maybe Tess is onto something...

So, back to the point: we're sitting in the office, Tess strapped to the heartbeat and abdominal contraction monitors, when Roz's heartbeat suddenly dips down to around a 60, then only recovers to a ponderous 72. We waited long enough for me to open the door, whereupon we discovered the tech already on her way to us: "I see it, we picked up Mom's heartbeat by accident." Um...we DID? How did THAT happen?!? Said tech then proceeds to futz around with the heartbeat microphone, moving it this way and that over Tess' bulging belly, never getting anything but that slow-but-steady beat. FINALLY a doc comes in, announces that Roz has "failed" her NST, and says we should go over to triage (aka, the third floor of the hospital, where Roz will be born) so that we can undergo a much LONGER version of this selfsame test.


Now, instead of our relaxing night out - our LAST relaxing night out! - we have to scrounge up Tess' mom and ship her off to meet MY mom, and then BOTH can come meet us at the hospital. That ends up working okay, but we stay & stay & STAY at the hospital, listening anxiously to Roslyn's TOTALLY NORMAL heartbeat, the one we've been hearing all along, but still has the nurses & residents "concerned" because it's outside the range they consider normal. Fugh.

As it turns out, we're done at the hospital around 7:10pm...with an 8:00 curtain at the Wharton. Nope. Not happening...none of us have eaten, it'll easily take 30 minutes to navigate across town in lovely Friday evening traffic, plus we have to park, get to our seats...nope. Five tickets to the hottest show in town, down the fuckin' drain. Well, not exactly. Good friends Stephene & Kirsten have been "on-call" as emergency attendees, and they gratefully took three of the tix for themselves and a friend, leaving only two unused. It felt rather like a waste of several hundred dollars, but then again the tickets were PAID FOR at least a year ago, and we were all too emotional & worked up to even think about sitting through a show.

So we head for home, stopping for burgers & beer (not so much for Tess, y'know) at our fave local watering hole, then get home & collapse. Ah well...I'm sure Wicked will be back. In the meantime, we're closer than ever to the ACTUAL due date...whereupon I'm sure we'll discover that this is only the FIRST time that Roslyn will screw up our carefully-laid plans!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Talkin' 'Bout My Girls

This is just a quick tribute to the three most important women in my life. Soon, there will be a fourth, but for right now, these are my girls...

Miss Tessmacher: who not only puts up with me calling her that (after the dingbat femme fatale in Superman...when Tess is anything BUT!), but who also puts up with my renovation urges and bad music. Okay, the music is really great, but I can't seem to convince her of that. Whatever. She traipses after me to various headbanger concerts (Kiss, Poison, Cinderella, Sammy Hagar...) and, even if she doesn't necessarily wave her devil-horn salute in the air, at least she gets a kick out of people-watching. She not only is okay with me spending $60-$70 a month on comic books, but she graciously goes into the store with me and waits patiently while I make comic-book-guy talk with Damon & Jen. She's managed to move my display of Kiss crap out of the house and into my work office, but she also has made me crazy enough for her not to mind in the slightest. When I suggest leaving the Kiss lava lamp as a "nightlight" for the baby, she gives me that wooden stare I know so well and leaves it up to ME to decide that probably isn't the best idea I've ever had...which is INFINITELY better than being condescending or patronizing. She listens to me natter on & on when we're on our evening walks, and just basically puts up with all my bullshit...which can be pretty deep sometimes. Love you, hot stuff.

Mama: who is a "mother" without being a "mutha" in ANY sense of the word. She gave me life and then made it fantastic enough that I want to pass the favor along to my OWN spawn. She taught me how to use every power tool under the sun, and gave me the courage to tackle hilariously huge jobs by saying "I can do that!" (This uttered before we spent a week putting a new convertible top on an old Coravair...) She taught me how to renovate, where to spend money and where to save it, and how to make the whole project look better than a "professional" could because, since it's my house, I care more. What more can I say? SHE BOUGHT ME MY FIRST KISS RECORD! Now, that's love. You da best, mom!

Ramona Q.: a foundling who showed up at my mother's house, but couldn't be kept there because all HER cats were FEL-V positive. Just when I needed a pet, 'Mona showed up and earned her name by being both brave and pesty. She learned to play rough without using her claws, and in the winter she sleeps on her back in the crook of my arm while I watch TV. She forgave me for leaving her at my apartment with little or no human companionship for several summers during grad school, and when Tess & I get it right by her, she brings us this ridiculous yellow & torquoise bird toy to show her devotion. Live forever, mon chat.

During stairway demolition and rebuilding, I put my 60-year-old mother on a stiff futon and my 9-months-pregnant spouse on the air mattress. The ONLY one having a good time with this living-room campout is my feline sidekick. Thank you, ladies, for making me a better man.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


No, that's not some drunkard's word-of-the-day, nor is it the new (illegal) prison where the U.S. keeps "detainees" (aka, "prisoners of war") to be "interrogated" (aka, tortured and held without Geneva Convention rights). Wow! Sorry about that! I guess my political nose is getting more bent out of shape lately...although there are so many different directions to sniff, I can't quite decide which head-shakingly awful thing our government has done THIS week to pounce on.


No, "BLFAC" is an unpronouncable acronym for Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a fairly well-known summer camp near Michigan's west shore. I've been thinking about Blue Lake a lot today, because last night Dr. Tessmacher and I went to the St. Johns Independence Day festivities, and the highlight of the evening (fireworks excepted) was a performance by the BLFAC faculty band. Sitting there, watching those folks wear their ubiquitous blue shirts (and pants...and socks...and shoes...y'ever try to find BLUE SHOES? I mean the men, of course...) and playing their instruments, I was really transported back to my teenage years of Blue Lake attendance.

First things first. For those who DON'T know, Blue Lake was formed in 1966, and while the band-o's probably think of it primarily as a MUSIC camp, it really does treat dance and visual art on an equal footing. I think that reputation-wise, Blue Lake is kind of second banana to our perhaps more-famous arts academy, Interlochen. I've never been to the Interlochen summer camp, so I have no point of comparison. But, as Interlochen also serves as a year-round school, their "campus" is much more collegey-looking than Blue Lake, which retains the rustic charm of unheated cabins and dirt trails.

When I was in junior high, my parents kind of signed me up to go to the junior version of Blue Lake, called Camp Emery. I spent two weeks in August at Camp Emery before both 7th and 8th grades. While there, I was immersed in all of the musical challenges that my own small-town band could never afford me. I also learned how to REALLY kiss, courtesy of a cute blonde bari sax player named Laura (and yes, I gallantly hauled that fucking saxophone all over camp for her...but, y'know, she was a year older than I was and she was a very patient teacher of kissing, willing to devote almost all our free time to it). Ahem.

By the time high school rolled around I had gotten completely over my first-summer jitters of being away from home, and I tackled Main Camp with gusto. Good friend Lisa of Great Lakes Running Gal was there that summer, with her friend Sue. Who played the horn. (Note to self: sax embouchre = good kisser; horn embouchre...not so much.) I made some great friends at main camp: mainly Bill and Jeff, but there were other guys too, like Rick, who flitted mothlike around the bright light created by the three of us. It's odd, though: I never kept in touch with these guys. It's like...we were "camp friends" only. I saw Bill a few times while I was in college, and Jeff randomly emails me every few years...but, really, it's been almost 20 years since I've seen these guys.

I met my "first love" at main camp. GJ and I kept up a relationship throughout high school, but she lived near one end of Michigan and I lived near the other, and we really didn't see each other much outside of camp. She taught me a lot about myself in those formative years of being a boyfriend; you know, what is and is NOT acceptable to say, concepts of loyalty and truthfulness, and how to really work on developing a relationship that was deeper than one based solely on kissing. Even though GJ was a year YOUNGER than I was, I always felt like she was the older one; I'll be the first to admit that, in certain ways, I took a VERY long time to reach "maturity."

I also learned a lot about MUSIC at Blue Lake, which I guess was supposed to be the ultimate reason I went to camp in the first place. My high school band director, Mr. B, was a nice guy who did a lot to keep my musical passion burning bright, but he just didn't have the resources in our tiny town to do a lot. At Blue Lake I consistently worked with Tracy, a young George Carlin lookalike who drove various incarnations of VW buses and looked like he partied pretty hard once we campers were snug in our bunks. He did great things with me percussively, and it was always a treat to see him every summer. By the third summer, I asked him if I could be be excused from our daily studio work, inasmuch as I'd heard him teach it for two years. He allowed this, but put me to work with a vibraphone trying to pick out the notes of Over The Rainbow by ear. I did pretty well, not having the slightest clue that he was having me engage in basic ear-training. Good for him...AND me!

George "Tracy" Tyler and his bus.

In the summer before my senior year Gail and I arranged to do the Bavarian Tour together. We spent the month of July, 1985 wandering around (at that time) West Germany (including a great picnic day at Checkpoint Charlie), Denmark and Switzerland. This was a great musical time for me. Also I learned to drink and smoke. A-heh. Whoops.

Me, GJ and friends on the road to Neus...Nuyschwan...
fuck, that Disneyland Castle!

The sign you never wanted to see.

Ricardo helping Goran "escape" into E. Berlin.

I've not actually been back to Blue Lake since 1984, which seems like kind of a funny thing to me now. I mean, I probably only live a couple of hours from the camp, IF THAT, but I never go there. That's kind of a thing with me, in some instances. For as nostalgic a guy as I can occasionally be, there's a "face front!" aspect of my personality that puts certain times and places away in storage, to be sifted through like report cards of old, but never - NEVER! - revisited. And, like said report cards, eventually it feels like these experiences happened to "someone else," someone who only bears the most peripheral of relationships to who I am now. Hmmm. I must investigate this some future mind-numbing self-psychoanalytical blog. Don't wait up.

So, Blue Lake. As I sat there in the park last night, with dusk falling and bugs crawling around on my bare feet, the smell of pines and fresh leaves came drifting over me and I felt transported back to the band shell at camp. That's JUST the kind of thing a nostalgic guy like me appreciates, and perhaps one of the primary reasons I desired a Spawn: so that I could create these kinds of memories for her, so that a band concert in the park with fireworks afterward becomes a night of fullest magick.

P.S. (No Spawn yet. Maybe tomorrow...?)