7 Things for 7 Days No. 3

So my publishing has been a bit irregular with the challenge of taking care of two feral children and attempting to work from home taking precedence. Here are a few things that made the last week special.

NOT QUITE MURDER HORNETS

A few months ago in the midst of corona we all got a momentary jump scare in the form of murder hornets. They were terrifying enough to sting their way into the crowded 2020 news cycle for a few days. While my yard has remained murder hornet free, it has proven to be a breeding ground for scary looking insects this summer.

While working in the kitchen recently I noticed some flickering shadows in the afternoon sunlight. Above our back door a tornado of wasps or bees was diving and swirling around what could only be a nest. Avoiding the war zone, I called an exterminator who ventured into the backyard in full beekeeper gear and eliminated the problem. Turns out they were carpenter bees and had drilled some pretty substantial holes into the wood frame around the door. Despite their menacing appearance carpenter bees do not sting.

Then this past weekend our patio has been invaded by what appears to be platoons of low flying hornets and dozens of tiny holes resembling anthills. Armed with a broom I swept the dirt back into the nests and cleaned up the yard. The flying insects left me alone and seemed unperturbed, but kept their low altitude vigil. I did a little research and discovered that our backyard guests are likely cicada killer wasps. Somewhere under my patio their queen is burrowed. While the threatening name suggests death and danger, they too do not sting.

So no murder hornets, but we’ve got bees that eat wood and wasps that kill cicadas. I am curious what will turn up next in our 20′ x ’20 patch of deadly urban wilderness.

TOTAL IMMERSION IN LATTER DAY SONIC YOUTH

I’ve long been a big fan of going back and revisiting a favorite artist’s catalogue and immersing myself in their work. It’s a great way to rediscover and reevaluate treasured bands and artists. My obsession with music goes back to childhood and there is only so much I can consume. My ability to amass music has only grown in inverse proportion to the time I have available. At 25 all I did was read and listen to music. Now there is so much more music and so much less time.

No matter how much I love a band it can be impossible to keep up. I am struck by how much I missed or barely heard. Whole albums seem new again. My current immersion project is latter day Sonic Youth.

Triggered by a recent Brooklyn Vegan article looking back on their 16 studio albums I began to revisit a band I’ve loved for decades. I was an instant fan the second I heard Death Valley ‘69 a long time ago, captivated by every new release. I saw them live a dozen times, but somewhere around 1998’s A Thousand Leaves I stopped paying attention, giving each new record a couple of listens and filing it away. Life got busy, but the albums kept coming, six of them. Pitchfork gave NYC Ghosts & Flowers a 0.0. They put out a ton of experimental releases on their own SYR Records. Then, they broke up. And I missed out on most of it.

It’s strange to realize that you blanked out on a decade of a favorite band’s career. Now I get a chance to start again and live with these half dozen records, hearing them without the rock snob approach I would have had 20 years ago. All of them are worthy of deep listening, even the maligned NYC Ghosts & Flowers. This was a band that reinvented guitar rock, mastering beautiful, coruscating noise and shimmering dissonance. I may have skimmed over them the first time around, but here’s to second chances.

BRIGHT RUNNING SHOES

I’ve been an avid runner for most of my adult life. The majority of my running career I ran in anonymous blue, gray and white shoes. Neutral and inconspicuous was the only way to go. Then in 2014 I needed motivation after not running and gaining a lot of weight. At my local Fleet Feet I gazed upon a bright lime green pair with orange laces. If I bought these I knew I couldn’t escape them. They would scream at me from the closet to get out and run. Plus, anyone wearing shoes that ghastly had better run fast. Buying them changed my running game. Those shoes ran me. I got faster and shed the weight. Since then I’ve opted for fluorescent blue, blood red, neon green and flaming orange. I wear my flashy shoes with pride. Even the rest of my running gear has taken a turn for the flamboyant. Those green shoes six years ago kickstarted a late career comeback and my new screaming yellow Sauconys are my latest motivation.

FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT

We just launched a new family tradition. The three year old announced we would be watching a movie together and there would be popcorn While this was a cynical ploy for the boys to eat snacks in front of the TV without consequences we embraced the time together. There is no downside apart from an occasional lame movie. So far we’ve enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me and Finding Dory. We also endured one of the most mind bogglingly incomprehensible Scooby Doo movies ever, Zombie Island, featuring the voice talents of Mark Hamill and Adrienne Barbeau. We’ve stocked up on microwave popcorn and cleared our calendars. It is already set in stone as our permanent Saturday night event.

BIG JOE

Bean bag chairs seem like the greatest invention ever until you actually sit on one and realize your folly. However, let go of the disappointment and allow Big Joe to embrace you. It’s a bean bag chair with structure and support. The Big Joe in my kids’ room has become my favorite place to hide while we have been sheltered in place these last few months. His wide open arms welcome me at least twice a day. He’s perfect for writing, reading, listening, meditating and relaxing amidst the occasional chaos of our current semi-permanent home confinement. Highly recommended.

BLUE BOTTLE COFFEE BEANS

Coffee is an essential in our household and we needed a solution when all the local coffee shops shut down for quarantine. Once again my wife came to the rescue with a recurring weekly order of Blue Bottle beans. Yes, they are a little expensive, but the price still beats what we spent on a coffee or two each day at the office. Plus the coffee is very, very good. If you’re working from home this is a great way to treat yourself.

OUTDOOR TRAINING SESSIONS

When my gym shut down in mid-March it put all the trainers out of work. I knew this would put a financial hurt on the trainer I’ve been working with so when he suggested working out on one of the piers here in Hoboken, I agreed. At first I was more than a little embarrassed to get my sorry 98 pound weakling ass pummeled by a trainer in front of hundreds of apartments, but soon the sun and breeze made me forget I had an audience. I’ve grown to enjoy the outdoor sessions. I’ve been impressed by the tortures he can devise with just a few weights and a TRX suspension trainer. Someday the gym will reopen, but for now I look forward punishing myself out on Hoboken’s Piers for an hour a week.

***Bonus Thing***

BUILDING AN IGLOO

With the temperature teasing 100° over the past several days, I focused on cold thoughts and was reminded of a chilly adventure a long time ago. My friend Marc Burns and I headed to Paradise on Mount Rainier one January morning. Armed with an ice saw and a sizable bag of provisions we crunched off into the heavy snow pack with the goal of building an igloo.. Marc provided the expert knowledge and I brought the mule power. Together we built a damn fine shelter in a few short hours. Decades later I still remember that day as one of the coolest things I ever did. Thank you again, Marc!

See you next week with whatever gets me through the week. Thank you for reading.

This is Why We Hate Each Other

man-couple-people-womanThe following is based on a true incident. This could be your life. It might be mine, but if you have kids it’s happened to you.

A paralyzing silence permeates the house. It’s silent treatment time for the grownups. The weekend has been looong and tensions are running high. A couple of hours ago the teen and the tween refused to go to bed. The toddler and the baby were howling in solidarity.

Mom and dad had words. Anger can be a drug and perhaps we both overindulged. Our simmering cold war escalated quickly. The kids who could walk sprinted upstairs and the baby knew silence was the winning strategy. Go team!

Nothing like a little drama on Sunday night to cap off two days of juggling playdates, swim practice, spills, errands, dirty diapers and finding the goddamn TV remote for the 17th time. The adults can’t wait to get back to the comparatively relaxing pace of the 9-5. We’ve both retreated to our corners, but the bitterness remains.

Relationships are hard. Kids make them harder and long weekends can be brutal. All either of us want is a little quiet without whining, squabbling, crying or any other soul sucking time consuming interruptions. You’re never off the clock. It’s the little things that kill marriages and relationships. Everyone needs to be themselves and stop being parents. Life becomes a pitched battle over minutes of free time and nobody gets what they want. Compromise is the only way to avoid a neverending argument.

It is easy so see the other person as the enemy in this situation. Their very existence which once was the whole reason you fell in love and wanted to live with them has now become an assault. Their face, their voice, their habits are all an attack. It is friendly fire masking malice and evil intent.

A few extra minutes at the gym or spent watching tv or getting home late while the other is struggling with the kids is grounds for rage and hostility. Everything seems a capital crime committed brazenly with a giant middle finger in added defiance.

And the truth is, it’s not. We want our time. We want our lives. We want a few seconds to read, maybe shower, maybe just go to the bathroom in silence. And we don’t get it. Someone wants something or another one demands something else. Every opportunity for a moment of peace is shattered and stolen by tiny grasping hands and demanding young voices.

So we turn on one another. It must be their fault because they got extra time sleeping or snuck off for the entire morning or dared to be themselves for one goddamn minute.

But that’s why we like them, why we love them, because they like to sleep in or go to the gym or read a lot or listen to music or eat like a king. We love them because they are funny, wonderful, creative, sexy, adults who have goddamn children and just need a fucking minute alone.