- @SocialBrown @marykateruf @saranmatthews @edwardocean @thecpmcd @SmashleyDubs @suzymags Good luck w/the new digs today! 2013-04-08
- I am writing you from inside The Google. (@ Googleplex – @google w/ 12 others) http://t.co/p0pvLR6Z92 2013-04-08
- Chrome Android says hello! http://t.co/5iClf1ftmH 2013-04-08
- Must resist buying Google baby gear. Must. Resist. 2013-04-08
- @ChrisUrie There were a notable population of people walking around with Glass. They uniformly looked like creepers. Cyborg creepers. in reply to ChrisUrie 2013-04-08
- @mtomasetti Because you recently played Spider-Man in a major motion picture? in reply to mtomasetti 2013-04-08
- @joeross Interested to see what sorts of tea geek resources you amass. I’m just now realizing not all teas want the same temperature water. in reply to joeross 2013-04-09
- After walking up what seems like a neverending hill @not_pele located a Chinese Candy Store that meets her vaguely-defined quality standards 2013-04-09
- Her booty? Fruit flavored beef jerky her grandmother used to buy in the 80s. Possibly from the 80s. http://t.co/0ioAWYgz7s 2013-04-09
- We have reached the end of today’s quest. http://t.co/SV7LG97Q1T 2013-04-09
- This day will last in my memory forever, with its eight mile quest up and down the hills and various unexpected stops along the way. 2013-04-09
- @bengarvey The one we walked up… there are no words. It was stairs up to a point and then they gave up and it was like crawling. in reply to bengarvey 2013-04-09
- @shunmahoney Because you will occasionally be tapped to guest-host? in reply to shunmahoney 2013-04-09
- Okay, this is some really bad sunburn. The Left Coast may have won the day. 2013-04-09
- This is what happens when I travel without my travel hat. Hopefully today’s adventures will be shaded. http://t.co/vKI3Uhqmhp 2013-04-10
Archives for 2013
The Run Around
I would look for any excuse. Forgot my gym clothes. Wore boots instead of sneakers. My eczema meant I was predisposed to asthma.
Anything not to run a mile for the Presidential Fitness Test in gym class.
I look back and laugh to myself. I barely weighed anything at the time. How hard could it have been to locomote myself 5280 feet? Certainly easier than now, where every galumphing step makes me acutely aware of just where I’m storing all that ice cream I’ve been eating lately.
Actually, now that I think about it, it wasn’t really the running I was avoiding. Well, okay, it was the running a little. Mostly it was where we were running it. I attended a city high school with a tiny school yard on its roof. There was no track anywhere to be found, and letting us loose in the surrounding neighborhood could result in any number of side trips to buy cigarettes or hook up with reprobates lurking outside the college across the street.
No, to keep things contained we would need to run around the parking lot. Just the west half of it, actually. Nine and a half times.
I like to think if they loosed us up and down Green Street I might not have minded as much, but the utter drudgery and the hurdling over mounds of trash bags was too much to bear. Some kids sat it out in protest, no doubt earning a firm note home to mom and dad. I protested, but I was and have ever remained averse to official forms of reprimand, so I would run.
Actually, now that I think back to my time, I was pretty fast.
I was doing just that, yesterday. Not running fast. Thinking about my time. Because I found myself in the drudgery of all drudgeries – running a mile on a treadmill without any music to run along too.
And why was I undertaking this Sisyphean task, you might wonder? Because I was taking the Presidential Fitness Test, along with three of my co-workers. We worked up a devilish little challenge for Q2 of 2013, and it started with timing ourselves on a mile jog.
Now, I had gotten pretty good at jogging by this time last year. Once, a single time, I managed to come within a hair of an 8:30 mile, which is as fast as these luscious Italian thighs should ever have to carry me over that distance. The past year has not been especially kind to my body and I, so that time is now far behind me. I had no illusions of matching it on my personal hamster wheel. No, this was a run for my life. Gasping and wincing and biting my lip and humming one of my own songs just to cut through the digital tick tock tick of the timer on the screen in front of me. I would defeat this electronic taskmaster and its 5280 feet of endlessly looping pavement. I would run that damned mile.
In that moment of sureness I had a feeling not unlike what people might refer to as someone walking on your grave, but in reverse. I knew at that very moment that somewhere in the continuum of time a version of me half of my age had been cajoled into taking nine and a half laps around the parking lot, and was hurdling over a trashbag with secret glee.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m due for another run.
When I was age seven or eight I wanted to be a comedian. I never told anyone.
My mother really liked to watch comedians on television. I guess my parents had that in common, because I could always seem to unearth yet another comedy routine of Robin Williams or George Carlin from our pile of dubbed Beta tapes. My mother would always say they were not appropriate for me, but she never stopped me from watching them.
At the time I didn’t especially enjoy being in front of people. I had to be dragged into performing a simple narration in a school Christmas pageant at age 10, which I have absolutely no recollection of due to what I have to assume was my blacking out from fear.
I did not want to be in front of an audience, but I wanted to be clever. I liked the idea of making people laugh for a living.
Even eight-year-old me understood the precarious economics of the Comedy profession. You would have to be super, ultra funny to get as many people to sit in front of you as Williams or Carlin, let alone Gallagher with his watermelons. I loved Gallagher. Jay Leno. Tim Allen, too. They were zany, and they were clearly very talented. I was sure they wrote their own jokes, which was an awful lot of jokes.
(I cannot speculate on whether that lead me to focus on writing. I didn’t write things that were especially funny at that age. I preferred the macabre. Too much Stephen King, I guess, another one my mother was never sure about but kept letting me read.)
Eventually I gave up my secret comedian wish in favor of one more typical for a bright kid – doctor, I figured. Yet, that early urge to be funny probably informed my profession more than most of my math and science scholastic endeavors aimed at a future in medical school.
Now I don’t like most funny things. Jokes, pranks, comedians, sitcoms – they mostly elicit a groan from me. I still laugh, mind you, but I like my humor sarcastic, or ironic, or soaked in pop culture. Nothing overt. No cartoonish hammers wielded against watermelons. Joss Whedon and Tina Fey are my comedy gold.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “comedy is for kids.” When you are a child, every joke is a new one. Every episode of I Love Lucy or Looney Tunes has a gag so funny you think you will stop breathing. Sitcoms play out tropes you’ve never seen before. Talk show hosts tell groaners, but you don’t understand that you should groan.
I do not want to be a comedian anymore. I don’t think I ever did, to begin with. I wanted to be what comedy represented. An innovator. A trailblazer. Something novel, every time.
Little did I know how in demand that would be when I grew up.
My grandfather Steven was a gym teacher.
I never knew too much about him. My relationships have always gravitated towards the women in my life, and grandparents are no exception. I spent countless Sundays at the kitchen table with my grandmother, reading the Sunday paper. We watched Golden Girls together on Saturday nights. I would hover at her elbow every Christmas, awaiting my first ladle full of her Italian Wedding Soup.
My memories of my grandfather are more scant. He was retired. He would drive down to Florida and return with a Nintendo game for me, bought from a pawn shop – cartridge only, no instructions. He was genial beneath a gruff exterior, and I never once believed he was actually mean or angry with me. He liked baseball, which I still don’t, and The X-Files, I think, which gave me something to talk to him about when we would sit in my Aunt Susan’s sun room at family parties in the 90s.
My father Peter owns a gun shop. He managed bars and restaurants for decades. In his twenties he was a roadie for a band – lights, I think.
I know many facts about my father, but they are disconnected. They’re like a cloud that drifts through my memory, never quite coalescing into a specific narrative. He attended Central (my rival high school) and Temple (my rival college). (Funny, that.) He had a motorcycle accident in one of the roundabouts near the Art Museum that left his butt susceptible to numbness during long movies. He farms hot peppers in his spare time.
My memories of my father are many. He and my mother separated when I was three or four, but I saw him every week until I was eleven or twelve, and then every other week until school work made it impractical to spend alternate weekends away from home. I remember his old apartment with the low mattress, the bar where I spent countless Sundays watching Eagles games, and his first house with his now-wife with its bubble skylight windows off the master bedroom.
I will become a father sometime this summer. Or, I suppose, I am already. I am an account manager, a musician, and a writer.
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a father. I remember a specific point in my teenage years where – in a mix of angst and sudden, acute awareness of the world around me – I decided it would be irresponsible to bring anyone else into such an unfair and capricious world. But before that, I remember that I was always very concerned that I was my grandfather’s only grandson, and that I had to have children to continue our name to another generation.
E and I agreed a long time ago that there would be at least one child in our shared future, though the last name was (and continues to be) undecided. Over the years I’ve become accustomed to the idea. Much like our hypothetical eventual wedding would one day become reality, I knew that one day our hypothetical eventual child would arrive. I would joke with co-workers that she or he would be enrolled in military school at age three to combat all the various foibles of modern youth, but secretly I think I can solve those via limited screen exposure and regular listening to The Beatles.
(More on that, later.)
My grandfather passed away last Thursday. He was 87.
I don’t mention this in search of condolence. To lose him was a tragedy, but not a great surprise. At Christmas my three aunts told me it might be the last time I would see him, winking there from the end of the table.
He was my last living grandparent, including those in my still-new family-in-law.
The aunts brought pictures to his viewing on Sunday night. Old black and white photographs and pages from his yearbooks. I was struck by one photo of him, smiling from his wide face, hair black as pitch in a way I had never seen. On either side of him boys struggled up knotted ropes. Some of the boys were black, others white. The yearbook was from the early 60s.
I spoke at church on Monday morning, the same one where a much smaller version of me served as ring-bearer for Aunt Susan’s wedding. She and her husband picked me up the morning of the funeral and drove me to the cemetery after the services. Two men in crisp army uniforms awaited us there. They thanked us on behalf of our country and our president, and handed my father a flag folded thirteen times before one of them played the most beautiful and somber “Taps” I have ever heard in my life. I cried, finally, beside the headstone that he shares with my grandmother Florence.
I never knew my grandfather served.
At lunch after the burial my aunts and cousins took turns sharing somewhat apocryphal stories about him. He loved teaching people things. He loved cars – or, at least, driving – and aliens, and pointing out how people were “meatheads” and “nimblebrains” while subtly showing you what you were doing right.
He was alive for 31 years of my life – a decade over my next-oldest cousin – but I didn’t have a story to share, aside from those video games without instruction books. No tale from before I was born. No specific, outstanding memory, spurious or not. Nothing he had taught me that I could remember.
I don’t think that was his fault or mine. It was just life, and the years that separated us.
My father is now in his 60s. When our child is old enough to have memories he or she might really remember – those strong, crystalline memories – he will be in his 70s, much older than my grandfather was when I was that age. My father shared so many stories about my grandfather over the weekend, but none of them sounded familiar to me. Had I forgotten, or just never listened?
Now, our child will not have any great-grandparents, but will inherit a set of seven caring and altogether hilarious (and sometimes crazy) grandparents. I can’t say what my child will know or think about my father, among them. Some days I can’t even say what I think or know about him, though I am sure that I love him very much.
We called him a few weeks ago to set up our next dinner together, and to tell him about the baby – because waiting until the dinner would have been far too long. “Great news,” he said, smiling from the other side of the phone, and then asked me about my band.
Last Friday, while we discussed the funeral arrangements for his father on the phone, my father said, “I haven’t told the aunts about you and E and the baby – it’s your news to tell. I think maybe you should wait until after the funeral is over. But, earlier this week I did tell my father about it when I visited him. I didn’t think you would mind, or that he would tell anyone else. And now he won’t, I suppose. ”
“Thanks,” I said. “Thanks, dad.”
What’s In a Name?
We’re still a day away from our first actual baby-focused medical appointment, but even with an unspecified kumquat-sized squatter in E’s belly we have already begun the great name debate.
Apparently in Iceland there is a list of approved baby names, and if you name your child from off the list they wind up as an unnamed ronin baby who is questioned by every teacher and bank official about how their irresponsible parent could possible give them an unofficial name – because obviously everyone has all 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules committed to memory.
While I don’t necessarily think it’s a terrible idea to have some basic pronunciation and grammar rules around the naming conventions of a living thing, that also means everyone’s name in Iceland can only be so unique. Measurably so, actually. Some kid has the LEAST POPULAR name in all of Iceland, and they probably know it!
E and I don’t have especially common names. I mean, mine is biblical and all, but it was only #55 the year I was born, and on its way down. Hers was #394 in her birth year, with only a TENTH as many babies calling it their own as had mine. As recently as two years ago we’re barely even in the top 200 – neck and neck at #193 and #196.
The relative lack of other Peters in my life was definitely a major factor in my personality. People had heard my name before, but I was always unique. I never even knew another Peter my age until college, and I just started working with one for the first time in 2012. I never had to be called by my last name, or have nicknames. I was always just me. Compare that to my office, where my single department has four each of “Chris” and “Karen.”
Thus, when it comes to our own baby name picking, I’m pretty adamant – nothing in the top 50, and nothing that is trending upward based on the past few years of data. I don’t need to come up with a non-name like “Apple” or something off-the-wall like “Hashtag” – but, why pick one of the most common names on the list? It’s dooming a kid to being “Chris Number Three” for half of her or his life!
Note: This post was embargoed until we reached 20 weeks; it was made public on 3/20/2013.