Picked up Michael Chabon’s “Telegraph Avenue” at the airport for my 4+ hours of unexpected bonus flying. Passage from page 10, as a soon-to-be new father is contemplating fatherhood:
"Except it would never be over … You never would get through to the end of being a father, no matter where you stored your mind or how many steps in the series you followed. Not even if you died. Alive or dead or a thousand miles distant, you were always going to be on the hook for work that was neither a procedure nor a series of steps but, rather, something that demanded your full, constant attention without necessarily calling on you to do, perform or say anything at all … Fathering imposes an obligation that is more than your money, your body or your time. A presence neither physical nor measurable by clocks: open-ended, eternal and invisible, like the commitment of gravity to the stars."
I’ve never tried to put words to the feeling of fatherhood so exactly, but yes, that’s it totally.
My kids were supposed to fly home from Florida as unaccompanied minors today. Got to the airport and found out that because of a weather advisory in Ohio, they can’t fly alone. Airline policy. Too many uncertainties. I get it.
But: For reasons not worth explaining, the kids HAVE to be home today and if they don’t make this flight they’re not back until tomorrow night. Plus: I don’t have a hotel room for them here so it’d be an another additional cost. So: I bought a walk up ticket and I’m flying with them. Then I turn back around and go back to Orlando on the same plane. Cost: insanely expensive. But I somehow avoided crazy security screening.
The things we do. The things we do.
I am taking the kids to Disney World on Tuesday. On Friday I am sending them back on a flight by themselves [gulp] as I stay for the Winter Meetings.
Allison flies down separately after we go, and flies back separately before I come back, but neither of her flights are with the kids.
In the middle of that, my daughter has dance classes and Nutcracker rehearsals requiring after school pickups and things.
I just wrote up all of the details and the itinerary, complete with who goes where when and who handles what while I’m gone for my parents and my kids’ mother. It makes the invasion of Normandy look like an impulse Taco Bell run.
Last night I mentioned that I once wrote for the New York Post. As of today I was once insulted by the New York Daily News:
He’s not exactly Earl Warren: Team #Arod cites NBC Sports blogger as it claims MLB suit vs Biogenesis principles lacked merit.— NYDN Sports I-Team (@NYDNSportsITeam) November 26, 2013
Anyway, I always thought of myself as more of a Learned Hand-type, but what do you expect from these guys? They’re not exactly the New York Times.
I can remember most things from my childhood, most things from my legal career and most things from my time as a baseball writer. But I go months without thinking of the year or so I spent reviewing books for the New York Post.
It wasn’t a job, really. I was still a full-time lawyer and a budding baseball blogger and the book reviewing was a little sidelight that got me a little money and the ego trip of having my name in a real, hard copy newspaper. How did it come about? Somehow some editor from the Post found me and asked if I’d review sports books for them. Why me? I dunno. I came to find out that they had recently fired all of their full-time book reviewers and had outsourced them to bloggers and other freelancers. I agreed to do them and got a couple hundred bucks and a free book for each one.
In all seven reviews were published and can be read here. I did five others which were not published. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the ones which were “spiked,” to use the parlance of the newspaper business, went unpublished because they were sharply negative reviews. It wasn’t until the last one I did — a book about a woman sailing across the pacific by herself, I believe — that the editor told me that they really preferred not to run sharply negative reviews. I’m not sure why, but I’ll assume advertising from publishing houses. Either way, she stopped emailing me after that one and I didn’t do any more. Which was fine with me, as they were a lot of work for the little money they paid.
What a weird little cul-de-sac in my writing career. Taking a whole book and condensing it into 500-750 words for a newspaper that, with all due respect to its readers, does not normally get accused of catering to a particularly literary demographic.
The weirdest thing about it? I often completely forget I even did it until I come across one of the books I reviewed here in the house someplace and say “oh yeah, THAT’S why I read that book …”
There’s a restaurant near my house that does a monthly wine dinner. Allison and I are fans of the place, so we’ve gone to two now. The setup: 8-10 people at a communal table, doing the wine/food pairings thing. Last night the communal part was taken more to heart by the people sitting next to us.
The man to Allison’s right, across the table from me — a Kenny Rogers doppelgänger who we later learned was 71, but who looked rather young for his age — was particularly chatty. I’ll probably forget the wines we tasted by next week, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget this guy.
He started off with not one, but two dick jokes, shared with the whole table. He was classy about it, though: he used the word “member” instead of “dick.” I don’t think I’ve heard someone say “member” in that context since the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts went off the air.
He moved from the dick jokes to far-too-effusively telling me how lovely Allison was, while trying but failing to conceal a leer at her breasts. When Allison smoothly made it clear that she was there with me he called me a “lucky, lucky man,” while trying but failing to conceal his disappointment.
At this point I was prepared to believe that our new friend was the best dinner guest I’d ever encountered. I was hoping for all kinds of more fun from him because impoliteness to the point of chaos can be a wonderful thing. Sadly, however, conversation soon shifted to the sorts of things you might expect at a dinner in public with strangers. Wine. Real Estate. Women. Welfare queens. How slavery wasn’t that big a deal. How Martin Luther King was a charlatan. You know, boring small talk.
Here are some highlights. And to be clear: I am embellishing none of this nor am I robbing these comments of any context that would put them in a better light:
I’d like to say that all of this went smoothly and that I effortlessly jabbed and jousted with him in ways that made him look silly and made me look oh so very clever, but that’s not really true. I just argued with him. Argued with him in a way that most people at a dinner party don’t much care to hear. I know Allison didn’t care for it. She told me afterward that I should have just ignored the asshole and talked to her instead. She’s probably right about that.
But, even if I myself was being a bit rude in not ignoring him or changing the subject, I did take at least some comfort in his discomfort. As the night wore on, he clearly began to dislike me, prefacing things with increasingly agitated comments like “as a young liberal you wouldn’t understand this, but …” and “if you owned a business you’d know …” He wasn’t changing his mind about anything, obviously, but he was clearly upset that he wasn’t surrounded by people who nod and agree with him. And probably surprised too, given that this all took place in a posh New Albany restaurant where, based on the odds, more people than not can be counted on to agree with him. I probably shouldn’t have engaged him at all, but I’ll be damned if I was going to allow him to think that every white guy who travels in his circles thinks the same way he does.
As we left, we shook hands and I lied to him, telling him it was a pleasure to meet him. He lied right back to me. Then he told me once again that I was “a lucky, lucky man.”
He was right. I was leaving.