0.9 Logic

headscratcherNow that 0.9 is a solid two-and-a-half years old and approaching three, his communications skills have evolved far beyond “cat” (his first word), “geh” (his go-to for several months) and “no” (although the latter is still his favorite). His ability to express himself has given me some insight into his logic, and it greatly amuses me. Here are some examples.

One of the first times that I had to both drop him off at daycare and pick him up, I explained to him that Mommy was on the choo-choo, since he’s obsessed with trains. The next time, Mommy actually drove, but when 0.9 realized that Mrs. 9’s car was missing from the driveway, it all clicked in his head: Mommy car choo-choo. Naturally, if Mommy’s car isn’t parked in the driveway, it must be on the train!

Also, if it’s dark outside, that is absolutely the only thing going on outside. It is not possible to be dark outside and raining outside at the same time.

On a similar note, only one person is allowed to be tired at a time. This conversation happens often.

  • 9: I’m tired.
  • 0.9: NO, I TIRED.
  • 9: I’m tired, too.
  • 0.9: NO!
  • 9: Both of us can be tired at the same time.
  • 0.9: NO! I TIRED!

Finally, illustrating my need to purchase this book, crackers, Goldfish crackers, cookies and cereal bars are perfectly acceptable for dinner, whereas fare such as chicken, macaroni and cheese and pizza does not please the fickle palate of 0.9

I’m sure there will be a post titled 0.9 Logic II soon.

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Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

Nine in the suburbs: Why is it so damn dark out here?

It has been just over four months since we moved from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, and we’ve settled in nicely, for the most part. We really like it out here, and everyone is adjusting well, from yours truly, to Mrs. 9, to 0.9, and even the cats.

9House

The 9 Compound

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I mentioned some of these things in a previous post, but that was months ago, and most people online don’t have any attention span, anyway, so here goes:

  • Mrs. 9’s commute has been shortened to about 15-20 minutes, with little to no traffic, from 50 minutes on paper and much longer in real life when we were still in Hoboken.
  • 0.9 loves his daycare and the teachers there.
  • Driving around here in general is a far more pleasant experience. Not only is traffic rarely an issue, but there just seems to be a lot less douchebaggery on the roads.
  • Life in general is a lot less stressful. Things like shopping, or going out for dinner, are much more manageable out here. People just seem to be a lot more relaxed, and it shows.
  • The two fat cats have actually lost weight since we moved here, likely due to having a lot more room to run, as well as the steps. Even 8-Ball, who used to move twice a day, has actually shown signs of being spry. The only bad thing about 8-Ball and Trouble getting into better shape is that one of them might catch Skittles one day, and eat him, because he continues to bait the two of them mercilessly, figuring that he can outrun them.
  • This will not be a factor for another five years or so, but the elementary school 0.9 will eventually attend is picturesque. It looks like something Norman Rockwell would paint. It’s a beautiful building, with so much space around it. I am actually jealous of him, as I feel like when you grow up in Manhattan, classrooms feel more like cells due to the lack of space. The thought of having a vast expense of grass for him to play on, instead of a slab of concrete, is comforting.
  • I have taken advantage of the fact that it is about three-quarters of a mile from our house to the train station and taken New Jersey Transit into Penn Station or Hoboken a few times. It’s pretty easy, and for someone who has been known to enjoy the occasional beer or 12, it’s a great option to have.
  • Being walking distance from the downtown area of Basking Ridge has been a huge plus, as well, and we have taken advantage of it a few times, weather permitting. It’s good to get out, walk, and exercise, rather than having to drive everywhere.
  • I work in the basement, right next to a window that faces our back yard, and I have been fortunate enough to see deer on a number of occasions, and even a red fox, which was larger than I thought, but quite a beautiful animal. It’s nice to see species other than stray cats, PATH rats, squirrels, and pigeons.
  • As I suspected, Cablevision’s Optimum is not even in the same ballpark as Verizon FiOS, especially when you factor in the Internet speed of the latter. Good riddance, Cablevision.
  • I raked leaves for the second time in my life, and shoveled snow for the first. Neither was too tough to pick up. I didn’t rake the entire yard, so sue me. We would eventually like to get a lawn mower, but with all of the expenses related to moving, new furniture, and 0.9, the lawn mower is on the back burner, for now, as is the snow blower, the generator, and the grill, which will likely come first.

There are a few things I’m definitely having trouble adjusting to, however:

  • I simply cannot get over just how fucking dark it is around here at night. I didn’t expect Basking Ridge to be lit up like the Vegas strip, but it is absolutely pitch black. There are very, very few street lights around here, and other sources of light are scant. As soon as the sun goes down, this is what the view from our window looks like:
Our view ...

Our view …

  • Speaking of the dark, when I take the train back to Basking Ridge and arrive after sundown, I have to walk by a cemetery while it’s pitch black outside. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo have the right idea being rattled. It’s definitely creepy.
  • I said earlier that drivers around here seem to be a lot more courteous and less ruthless than those closer to the city, but the one thing I’ve noticed, kind of related to my point above about the darkness, is that a lot of folks out here have a tendency to not bother to switch from brights to dims when other cars are approaching, and some of the newer cars out there, especially some Audi models, have headlights that are completely blinding. One of the first things I was taught when driving at night was to switch off my brights if another car was coming. But for whatever reason, many people out here simply can’t be bothered.
  • Luckily, we haven’t had to deal with anything major yet in terms of household repairs, but I find myself missing the phrase “call the super” more and more. I did have one unfortunate incident that required an emergency plumbing call due to cat litter clogging up the drain to our slop sink. I know enough not to intentionally pour something that is designed to clump when wet down a drain: It was a stupid and costly accident, as I didn’t realize the trash bag I was dumping the litter box into had slipped, and the litter was going into the sink, and not the bag. You learn from your mistakes. But after living in apartments for the first 44-and-a-half years of my life, it’s still scary that there is no safety net. People can make fun of me all they want for some of the things I don’t know how to do, but I have never had to do them. I am more than willing to learn. We’ll see how it goes. I just hope future mistakes or repairs for other reasons aren’t too costly.
  • I never thought I would find a power company that would make PSE&G look like a superstar, but JCP&L can kiss my ass. There is apparently a history of JCP&L neglecting this area, and their response, or lack thereof, to Hurricane Sandy was an utter and complete joke.

Mrs. 9 and I were talking about this the other day: Despite the fact that we’ve been here a little over four months, we both still have the feeling that we’re on vacation, and that we’ll have to pack everything up one day and go back to our apartment in Hoboken. This place is very much like home, but there are times when it feels like the beach house on Long Beach Island that I was part of for years: You feel at home, but it’s still not your home. Obviously, it is, and we will not be returning to our apartment in Hoboken, or any apartment, for that matter. But there are times when this move still doesn’t seem real or permanent.

Overall, I have no regrets: This was a wise and necessary move. Are there things I miss about Hoboken? Sure, but not enough to make me wish we had never moved here. And there are some treats coming up this summer, as we will hopefully join the local pool, and I will try to get a spot in an over-40 (fuck you in advance for what you’re thinking) softball league.

Yeah, Basking Ridge doesn’t suck. But why is it so fucking dark?

My one piece of advice for future parents

No matter how many people tell you how much becoming a parent changes everything else about your life, you have no concept, clue, or theory until you actually go through it. As the father of soon-to-be-four-month-old 0.9, I have one piece of advice to share with anyone contemplating the journey to parenthood.

My advice has nothing to do with parenting. Three-and-a-half months do not qualify me as an expert. Rather, my advice concerns the period before becoming parents.

Until you become a parent, you don’t have a clear understanding of just how many places you really can’t go with kids, or with a pregnant wife, for that matter. It’s not that you’re forbidden from going to these places, whether they are vacation destinations, or beer gardens (which count as vacation destinations to me), or events, or whatever. The logistical issues are what get you.

So my advice is as follows: Make a list of things you want to do before pregnancy, or before childbirth, and try to do as many of the things on the list as possible. You won’t get to all of them, but you will be happy about the things you do get to do.

If it sounds in any way like I regret becoming a father, this could not be further from the truth. 0.9 is the second-best thing to ever happen in my life, behind Mrs. 9, without whom there would be no 0.9.

I only have two regrets, one of which was beyond my control. I wish Mrs. 9 and I had met a little earlier in life, so we could have had a few more years to do things as a couple, before becoming parents, but such is life.

The regret that I could have done something about, however, was not following the advice I just offered. I had a mental list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go, but it’s so easy to get lazy and unmotivated, and to decide to stay local, and when all is said and done, had I actually written out a list, very few items on it would have check marks next to them.

Don’t underestimate how much your life will change. Make up that list, and start checking things off. I wish I had.

Pre-moving mixed emotions

I am now smack in the middle of the most frustrating period of our impending move from Hoboken to Basking Ridge, two very different New Jersey destinations. On the one hand, time seems to be crawling, and on the other hand, it feels like it’s accelerating out of control.

Less than one month …

This experience is new to me, as I have never been involved in the purchase of a home, having spent my entire life in rental properties. It is basically a two-month period between the point when the house was pretty much officially ours until the point when we actually move in, and the two months has seemed like forever.

It’s hard to contain my excitement about the new space, and as much as I want to get started on buying things and laying out areas like my office, there’s so much we can’t do until the walk-through at the end of the month. We need to find out if things like shelving in the storage area are staying in the house or going with its previous owner. And even though we took measurements of all the rooms, there are certain things we can’t really buy or order until physically being in the house. I still don’t have a desk, and I work from home.

Plus, there are certain things that I just couldn’t do that far in advance. For example, I am embracing our upcoming switch from horse shit Cablevision to Verizon FiOS, but I had to wait until the other day to set it up because I couldn’t get an appointment as far in advance as the day after we move in. The same is true for things like magazine subscriptions, which I hope to begin taking care of this week.

On the other hand, there are so many things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go before leaving Hoboken, and all of a sudden, time is short. For example, there are three beer gardens in the immediate area that I must say farewell to, including Pier 13, which I haven’t been to yet, so it will be a hello and a goodbye.

A prevailing theme on Facebook today was surprise at the fact that it’s August already, and, as I said in my status update, it hit me even harder because I will be a resident of an entirely different place when this month comes to a close.

Having a baby in the family doesn’t necessarily have to mean an end to everything fun that we liked to do beforehand, but it also makes things more complicated. It’s not like Mrs. 9 and I are going to strap 0.9 into his car seat on some random weekday night and drive into Hoboken for dinner. It’s all about picking your spots, which we’re still learning to do. We’re new at this. It hasn’t quite been four months. There are so many things I want to do between now and Aug. 30, when the moving truck pulls up to the front of our building, and I know I will never get to all of them.

Although I am 100% confident we are making the right move, if I needed a sign, I got one today, when my neighbor knocked on my door to tell me that a car had been broken into in the parking area of our building. This is the first time I have heard of this happening in my nine years or so here, and it’s a little disturbing. By no means do I believe Basking Ridge is a crime-free utopia, as no such place exists, but I’d like to think our car will be a lot safer in our own garage, instead of in a building’s parking area where the door is constantly being left unlocked, or the lock is constantly broken.

My emotions are very mixed right now. As much as I can’t wait to open the door to our new house for the very first time, I almost wish I had a little more time here in Hoboken. But you can’t have everything, I suppose.

Adam Mansbach is my hero

I have a new favorite author: Adam Mansbach. If you’ve never heard of him, you have probably heard of his most popular book, and just never knew who wrote it. Mansbach captured the one sentence that surely goes through the minds of every parent, and that I have come to embrace over the past 10 weeks or so: Go the Fuck to Sleep.

Go the Fuck to Sleep

Everyone warned me about it, but until I actually became a parent, I never realized how every aspect of my life would be controlled by whether 0.9 has his eyes open or closed.

0.9 goes through days when he exhibits nothing resembling a desire to nap, and when evening strikes, the lack of sleep catches up to him, and he takes cranky to a new dimension. On days of that sort, the following activities have been frowned upon by Mrs. 9 at various points:

  • Watching the Yankees game with any sort of audible volume on the television
  • Cheering
  • Booing
  • Cursing
  • Burping
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Blowing my nose
  • Doing anything on the laptop that generates sound
  • Any noise coming out of my iPhone
  • Keeping my light on so I can read, despite the fact that I have been reading before going to sleep since I was only a little older than 0.9
  • Getting up to use the bathroom
  • Talking
  • Whispering
  • Breathing
  • Existing

Other than all of those, I am free to live a long and complete life.

Having said that, a sleeping 0.9 is preferable to a screaming, screeching, yowling, bawling 0.9, so adjustments are necessary.

Mansbach captured thoughts that every parent has expressed, albeit likely not audibly, including yours truly. And if the book itself doesn’t win you over, watch the video below and listen to Samuel L. Jackson narrate Go the Fuck to Sleep. This is a masterpiece.

Bravo, Adam Mansbach. At the suggestion of Mrs. 9, I now own a reading light, so I can enjoy Go the Fuck to Sleep many more times. Now if you’ll excuse me, 0.9 is sleeping, and you know what that means.

Welcoming 0.9 into this crazy world

0.9 reached two months old Friday, and to say life has changed would be the understatement of the decade. He isn’t the reason I’ve been horrible about posting on this blog. The blog I actually get paid for is to blame for that, and all is well on that front now. But no matter how many friends, friends of friends, relatives, or random numb nuts tell you what a dramatic change your life undergoes when you welcome a baby into the household, you have to experience it yourself to truly grasp it.

0.9 about to leave the hospital

The obvious moment you never forget is the moment when you hold your child for the first time. But I have a few other moments that really stuck out for me, and that I think about constantly.

0.9 decided it would be a good idea to spend his time in the womb with his head opposite where it needed to be and grabbing his feet, so unfortunately, we had to go the C-section route. It’s hard to find good things about surgery, but the only good thing about C-sections is that the unpredictability is removed as far as timing.

On that note, the first moment I’ll never forget is getting into the car at 5:45 a.m. on a Sunday to drive to the hospital for the delivery. Even though the moment was in the works for, oh, about nine months, the enormity of it struck me when we were physically leaving to actually go and do this.

The second unforgettable moment for me was the few minutes I spent standing outside of the operating room, in scrubs, while they prepped Mrs. 9 for the operation. It’s the only time the father is alone in the process, and I couldn’t have been standing out there for much more than five minutes, but it seriously felt like an hour-and-a-half. My nerves were at an all-time high at that point.

The procedure was very quick, and not that I would have looked anyway, but mother and father are behind a curtain so we can’t see what’s going on. Suddenly, I heard a cry that sounded more like a yelp, and one of the nurses handed me a baby — our baby. This is everyone’s big moment for a reason. There is no way to describe this moment that can possibly do it justice, so I’m not even going to try.

Moment No. 4 came shortly thereafter, when Mrs. 9 went to recovery, and I stayed with 0.9. He started crying and, when I tried to comfort him, he grabbed onto my finger and held on tightly, for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. It almost felt like someone was trying to send me a message: You have a son now.

Moments No. 5 and 6 were very similar. I stayed at home the night before Mrs. 9 and 0.9 were discharged, mostly to keep the cats company, as they had been alone for most of the past three days, but also to try to get one last good night of sleep. So moment No. 5 was when I got in the car that morning and realized I was driving to go pick up our child, and moment No. 6 was when I pulled the car up to the front of the hospital after we were discharged, and we strapped 0.9 into the car seat for the very first time.

I am running about two months behind, but now that I’m no longer flying solo at work, I will hopefully have time to begin writing regularly again, and 0.9 is a constant source of topics, as he keeps us entertained every day, Stay tuned.