Speaking of birth certificates, did I ever tell you that our youngest, T-Dawg, was very nearly born in a forest on the outskirts of Berlin? It’s true. He very nearly was.
We lived in an apartment in Zehlendorf on the southern edge of the city, right next to the Berlin wall, and when I say “right next to,” I mean we were right next to it! Keep going down the street past our apartment about a hundred yards and you were in a wooded park looking through barbed wire across a kill zone at the wall on the eastern side.
The wooded park ran all along that part of the wall, and on the inside of it there was a footpath called Koenigsweg that went from Duppel all the way out to Potsdam, I think. It was a very popular place to go walking just about any time of day, but especially in the evening.
My Darling B and I were expecting Timbers in August. As a matter of fact, when B started having strong, regular contractions on the eve of our anniversary, she was pretty sure he’d be born on the same day we were married, but sometime during the night the little bugger changed his mind. B was sorely disappointed, but she couldn’t convince him to come out that day, not for nothing.
But that afternoon she felt the contractions coming on again. After last night’s false alarm, though, she played them down. “It’s probably nothing again, I’m okay,” she kept saying, even after a contraction was strong enough to make her sit down and suck in a whole lot of air for a few minutes.
This went on for a couple hours, and the contractions didn’t seem to be going away. If anything, they seemed to be getting stronger, but B continued to downplay them. “Really, I’m all right,” she insisted, even while she sat slumped over, her head practically between her knees.
After a couple hours of that, B’s back was killing her. She wanted to try to walk it off, but I didn’t want to get too far from a phone, so I agreed to walk her up and down the street in front of the apartment. While we were out there, though, she wanted to keep walking down to the footpath through the woods. “Are you sure?” I asked her.
“Oh, yeah, I’ll be fine,” she assured me, even while she was still sucking wind. Since I wasn’t the one having contractions, and because she’d just been through a long night of them with no result, I reluctantly took her at her word, and off to the forest we went.
It was slow going. She would shuffle a dozen or so steps with one hand pressed against the small of her back, stop and make a this-is-killing-me face, then double over forward with her hands on her knees and take deep breaths for a minute or two before straightening up again and assuring me, “I’m fine, I’m okay.”
And I’d keep asking her, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, uh-huh,” she’d say, and for some weird reason I’d believe her.
Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle, this-is-killing-me, huff-huff-huff.
“I’m okay, let’s keep going.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh yeah, uh-huh.”
Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle, this-is-killing-me, huff-huff-huff.
We did that over and over again until we were about a half-mile down the footpath, which was strangely empty for once. There we were, in the woods, far away from any telephone, and neither one of us knew how to say, “Take me to a hospital, I’m about to have a baby,” in German. Boy, were we stupid.
Shuffle-shuffle-shuffle, this-is-killing-me, huff-huff-huff.
“Uh, I think we’d better get to the hospital.”
“Yeah. I think we’d better head back and get to the hospital.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever had to hurry a very pregnant woman to the hospital when the only hurrying she can do is a very slow shuffle. I know she was in a lot of pain just then, but I was primed and ready to literally explode. I have never been so juiced up with adrenaline in my life, yet there was nothing I could do. With that much nervous energy banging on every one of my muscle fibers I should’ve been able to scoop her up in my arms and jump to the hospital in a single bound, but that’s Superman’s gig and I couldn’t get in on it. Talk about frustrating. What good does it do to get such a charge built up if you can’t do anything with it?
I was sure I’d have to deliver my own baby boy myself right there in the road in the middle of the forest, but somehow B found the strength to hold him back until we shuffled all the way to our apartment, where I phoned a friend who gave us a ride to the hospital. Only a little more than an hour after we got there, Tim popped out.
3:09 am CDT
Category: My Darling B, My Glorious Air Force Career, O'Folks, story time, T-Dawg, work
| Tags: Berlin
I understand somebody in the royal family of Britain is getting married. I had this admittedly vague bit of information stashed away in the back of my brain cell, ready to whip out in case I heard somebody talking about it, but nobody did, so I pretty much forgot about it until this week.
This week suddenly everybody I worked with was talking about the royal wedding. Mostly they were talking about how sick to death they were of hearing about it, which ironically required them to talk about it, forcing the rest of us to hear about it a lot which was what they were sick of in the first place.
Coincidentally, all the radio shows I listened to started to talk about how much the news has been oversaturated with trivia about the royal wedding, pegging the irony meter once again.
Then I started to hear about it on television, which is really hard for me because I don’t watch television. I watch just one or two television shows, like The Daily Show, on the interwebs. Actually, I watch just that one show. If I see any other television, it’s sound bites and short clips of morning news shows on wonkette. And yet I was suddenly inundated with news clips featuring the royal wedding.
In the space of three or four days I knew who Kate Middleton was. I had never heard of her before. In a week, I won’t be able to remember her name, but I know it right now. And apparently she’s marrying Wills. I’m guessing that would be Prince William. That’s the extent of my knowledge of the royal wedding. It’s probably yours, too, but I’ll bet you’re hearing it repeated every day, just as I am.
The royal wedding is like winter in Wisconsin: The end is just around the corner, and yet somehow it drags on and on.
8:18 pm CDT
Category: current events
I should stop paying any attention at all to the news. It only pisses me off. Once again, they’re calling for snow in the weather forecast. This late in the year, when the month of April will shortly be replaced by the month of May, they should be telling us only that it’s going to be sunny and warm and we’ll have nothing but blue skies and rainbows every day for the rest of our lives even if it’s a lie. Even if there’s a whiteout blizzard tomorrow and there are glaciers approaching the border, I only want to hear good news, like nobody out there really thinks Donald Trump should be president, or that we should all have to carry government-issued identification cards to vote. Blue skies, nothing but blue skies…
8:54 pm CDT
Category: current events
My boss, the secretary of the department, dropped by my desk today with the rest of his staff in tow to present me with a certificate of appreciation, because I’m basically just awesome and pretty much know everything. As he was presenting me with the certificate, he asked me a question I can’t recall hearing in years: “Are you any relation to Alvin O’Konski, the Wisconsin state congressman?” I couldn’t stop at telling him I was; I had to try to remember a few stories about him, too. It turns out the secretary is Alvin’s biggest fan, wrote letters to him and told me all about the time he met Alvin with the enthusiasm you would typically see only in the face of a sports fan talking about his favorite big-league baseball star. The guy was a sports fan, but for politicians. He knew all about Alvin, where he served, how long and how he eventually lost his seat after redistricting and the election to Dave Obey.
I’m pretty sure the last time anybody asked me about Alvin was more than twenty years ago. Certainly nobody’s asked me since I came back to Wisconsin, and I wasn’t sure anybody even remembered him any more, but at least I know now that one person does.
6:15 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: office work
Thoughts that went through my head at 4:30 a.m. after the cat woke me up from a sound sleep by dancing across the bed several times:
Obviously, the first thought was, Aww, dammit! What time is it? Feeling around the top of my bedside bookstand, my fingers found the flap that covers the bright green clock face, lifted it up and read the time, which led to the next thought:
Angel of God, prithee smite mine cat with thy rod and thy staff, repeatedly, until she pesters me no more, amen. In the absence of any smiting I got out of bed to confirm that the robot feeding dishes were full, because nothing’s going to stop Boo from keeping me awake if she doesn’t have her morning kibble. And a good thing I got up, because the tiny little mind of the robot feeding dish thought it was supposed to feed the cat at five o’clock instead of four, the time I originally programmed it to burp up more food. I gave it a manual burp and made a mental note to figure that one out later.
That done, I went back to bed. Three to five minutes later, Boo came back to bed, too, and sat down heavily right between my shoulder blades. Angel of God …
That was at about four-forty. My clock starts bleeping at five. I don’t know what you’re like, but I can’t get much sleeping done in twenty minutes, so I start thinking about stuff, like:
I wonder if it’s raining this morning? I was thinking of biking to work if it wasn’t raining. There was rain in the forecast, but only in the afternoon or evening. I’m only worried about the morning. If it rains on the way home, no big deal, but if it rains on the way to work, I have to sit in soggy clothes all day. Bleh.
I don’t hear water running through the downspout. It could be frozen. It’s not likely, but this is Wisconsin, after all. The guy who announces the weather on the radio in the mornings is still using the word “snow” in his forecast. I think he’s even enjoying it now. He pauses, just for half a beat, to get the right dramatic effect before he says “snow” and there’s a little frisson of glee in his voice as he says it, usually with an exclamation point, like a little kid looking out the window at Christmas. Most other announcers would say it with dread, but not him.
I could stop at the coffee shop if I rode in. Of all the things on your desk first thing in the morning, Is there anything better than a great big thermos full of steaming coffee? Of course there isn’t, don’t even bother to answer that. How do coffee shops make coffee so chocolaty good? I’ve tried all the recommended ways to make good coffee, grinding whole beans, brewing it with a drip cone, and I still can’t make coffee as deliciously yummy as they can at a coffee shop. I suppose that’s why there are coffee shops.
6:11 am CDT
Category: Boo, coffee, commuting, daily drivel, food & drink, O'Folks, play, sleeplessness, work
While we were waiting in line for the doors to open at the Majestic last night, a car coming up King Street pulled a yooie in the middle of the block, trying to swing into the open parking spot right in front of the theater. It was a small car and had an impressively tight turning radius, but the driver had a little too much confidence that it would be able to squeeze through that turn without hitting the curb. Everyone in line winced and more that a few sucked air in through their teeth when the undercarriage of the car connected with the cement of the curb with a grinding noise that we could feel in our bones. Backing off the curb, the driver slid easily into the parking slot after realigning the wheels and the passengers started to climb a little self-consciously out of the car.
Barely a minute or two later, another compact car did exactly the same thing, only this time everyone was laughing, even the guys who were getting out of the first car, making it extremely awkward for the guys in the second car to even think about getting out. The driver of the first car made it a little easier for them by explaining what had just happened, though.
When the doors finally opened and we got into the theater, we headed straight for the balcony. There is a row of seats on either side of the stage, and we’ve been lucky enough to snag a couple chairs up there every time we’ve seen this show. The luck held last night. Not only that, but the seats right next to the stage were open! Score!
We hadn’t been sitting there more than a couple minutes when who should come visit us at our seats than the guy who got out of the second car. “I wonder if I could ask a favor,” he appealed to me; “My brother and I have seen every Jonathan Coulton concert from these seats …”
I didn’t want to be the one to break this guy’s streak, so we traded seats with him — and ended up with the balcony seats we saw our first Jonathan Coulton concert from. Even more coincidentally: The people sitting next to us were the people sitting there when we saw Coulton the first time and they were the people in the first car that scraped the curb. Small world.
Curb appeal |
4:19 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show
| Tags: Jonathan Coulton
Ears: Still ringing. Voice: Intermittent and hoarse. Smile: Still broad and frequent after last night’s concert at the Majestic with Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton.
Paul & Storm did a great set, starting off right this time with “We Are The Opening Band.” They tried mixing it up when they came here once before by opening with another song and didn’t get to “Opening Band” until two or three songs into the set, confusing the hell out of ever fan who came that night. We have never fully recovered, but last night’s concert went a long way toward our hopes for a full rehabilitation someday.
Jonathan Coulton had a back-up band with him last night! So we got to hear lots of old favorites, as well as some new songs, in full rock-out mode. The new songs would have been even more exciting if we’d been able to hear the lyrics … and here I go again into my grumpy old man riff:
Why doe the backing band have to be so goddamned loud? Are there really people who go to a Jonathan Coulton concert who don’t want to hear the words? I find that really hard to believe. Although the music is great, the nerd appeal of the lyrics has to be a huge draw. I snatched a phrase or two out of the cacophony but, for the most part, the new material was completely lost to me. I’ll have to buy the album after it’s released to find out just how great those songs really were. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ploy. Clever, Coulton, very clever.
Not that overblown volume of the concert kept us from enjoying ourselves. My Darling B was dancing in her seat just about the whole concert through, and we had great seats up in the balcony, the same seats we had when we saw this show for the first time, many moons ago. Of all the times I’ve seen them here in Madison I think I liked the show they did at the Barrymore best, but every show has its own pluses and the full-on rock mode of this one added a lot to it.
11:15 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show, yet another rant
| Tags: Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm
At least one of the cats has been peeing in the sawdust that piles up under the miter saw in the work shop, and I don’t know how to make them stop, not in a way that doesn’t involve putting them in a sack with a brick.
When they’ve done this before, I just cleaned it up and they stopped. No special technique involved. I’m not even sure that cleaning it up sent them a message. But, on the off-chance that I’d stumbled upon the solution, I swept up the sawdust. Unfortunately, I cut up some wood later that night and forgot to sweep up the sawdust. I guess they thought that was an invitation, so they peed in it again. This did not make me happy.
But I did not go looking for a brick, not this time. I just cleaned it up again, then moved one of their litter boxes across the room to the patch of floor right under the miter saw. If they want to pee in that spot again, they’ll have to use the box. After a day or two of that I’ll move the box back and, I hope, they’ll move with it.
If that doesn’t get the message through to them, I might have to start looking for a burlap sack. I already know where I can get a brick.
2:32 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: cats
We just got back from watching The Last Frontier, probably the goofiest western I’ve ever seen, almost on a par with the television series F Troop. Oddly, I don’t think director Anthony Mann was shooting for goofball, but that’s what he got.
Robert Preston, who will forever be The Music Man in my memory, shows up here as the army colonel forever haunted by his past, “the Butcher of Shiloh.” Naturally, he wants to make up for it by marching every last one of his men into glorious battle, the sooner the better. Luckily for him there’s a huge number of Indians gathering nearby who want to slaughter every last army soldier they can get their hands on, almost as if it was scripted for him. Oh, wait, it was.
Victor Mature plays a trapper with a bizarre kind of innocence that leads him to think it would be a good idea to scoop up Robert Preston’s wife as if he were a cave man, drag her off behind a log cabin and start mashing his lips against hers as a way of saying “hi.” When it becomes clear to him that everyone on the army post thinks Preston is deranged and ought to be locked up, he figures it would be a good idea to kill the commander, and leads him into a bear trap with a jolly smile on his face. He’s still smiling when he returns to the post to tell everyone. Nobody else smiles back. This confuses him, but he goes back to rescue the commander from the bear trap anyway.
When Preston finally gets killed after leading the cavalry troop into an Indian ambush, everybody’s happy again and Mature goes back to Missus Music Man’s arms, presumably to mash on her lips some more.
They just don’t make movies like that any more, do they?
The Last Frontier |
10:50 pm CDT
| Tags: movies
Here’s an update on my project to glue together every piece of scrap lumber in my workshop until it fills one whole end of the basement. As you may be able to tell from the helpfully-placed photograph, it’s coming along well.
To be perfectly candid, not every bit of it is scrap wood. I’ve made quite a few trips to the local hardware store to buy about a half-dozen two by four-foot sheets of plywood that I cut into strips and used in various ways, mostly to substitute for high-quality lumber that would have cost me an arm and a leg if I’d built something this big with the good stuff. It’s the cheapskate gene in me taking over. Plywood is sooo cheap, and easy to cut into almost any size and shape I need.
But quite a lot of the wood in this bench came straight out of my scrap pile with only a cut or two on the miter saw to clean it up and make it usable. Just this evening I was rifling through the boxes of sticks and stub ends to find pieces I could use to support the slabs of ply that will be the ground under the railroad tracks. I get about two usable sticks for every splinter in my hand. I don’t know if that’s typical for most people. They’re almost all annoying at worst and easily plucked out between the nails on my thumb and forefinger, so I keep on digging.
About once a day, though, I end up with a splinter that’s not quite so innocuous and, even though it’s still pretty easy to pull out, doesn’t let go without drawing blood. A little cussing goes a long way toward making these bearable.
Then, maybe about once a week, I get one that slides in just under the skin, not too deep, so I can clearly see it, and the end breaks off at the surface, denying me a handle to get hold of it. “Go ahead, try to get me out,” these taunt me. Fingernails and cussing won’t do anything but drive these deeper into my flesh. These call for much more drastic measures. These get the sharp end of a knife.
There seems to be an unspoken agreement among most people that prevents them from digging at their flesh with knifes while in view of the public. I can usually keep this in mind but, the other night when I caught one of these splinters that stung in the worst way, I grabbed the first sharp instrument at hand, a craft knife, the kind you usually see construction workers use to slice open cardboard boxes, and started chopping away at my middle finger, forgetting for the moment that I was in the middle of making a remark to my youngest son.
“I can’t believe you’re doing that,” he said after watching me, without comment, for about a minute.
9:51 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, hobby, LoCo Rwy