Letters to Holly

Friday, September 24

Screaming and Screaming

Colic may have emerged at Chez Debacle.

Over the last few days, the deputy has pulled away from milk and begun crying. Last night, he wouldn't stop, and he screamed for a half hour before withering into sleep. It was murder. We set him in his crib and let him peter out. We didn't know what else to do. He was clean, warm but not feverish, freshly fed, and caught up on sleep. Nothing was obviously wrong.

We repaired to our gabillion baby books and read that colic is a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a diagnosis he received before getting Prevacid. The books suggested we give him smaller amounts of milk to avoid the accumulation of painful gas, and it's possible Prevacid has become too strong a drug for him. If this is colic (and it sure looks like it), it should pass soon. The books says colic stops around 10 weeks. (But he's already 12 weeks now. Hush, you.)

We have options, at least. We're comforted that we can try different things before we break down and take him to the doctor and admit failure. We can experiment and tackle this as a problem to be solved, instead of a malady to be weathered.

I worry now about temporarily handing him off to My Mom before trying to sleep with him in a hotel room Saturday night. He woke up this morning as if all was normal, even smiling at us. I hoped he would. I feared he'd begrudge our incompetence. I'm thinking this at the same time I'm telling Your Anxious Sister that he wouldn't be able to do such a thing at this young age.

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Lots of folks are chiming in on Facebook about the reunion tomorrow. A good number say they can't make it to due finances or pregnancy. The latter eases Your Sister's worries that we're the last holdouts to parenthood. Apparently, very much not. But we may be the oldest to have their first child.

Picture of the Day
I'm putting on my best outfit for the reunion.

Thursday, September 23

Choking Up at the Chicken Shack

I ran Tuesday as soon as I got home. I'm now using the new route exclusively as it's the trickiest stretch of the race. It tricks me at every turn. The other segments are upfront about their inclines. I still need to get new running shoes (my current ones sprung a leak in the fancy air supports), but the local sports store is, of course, not open when I'm in town. The run has gotten easier as I play with pace and breathing techniques, and I'll try it again Thursday night.

I did floor exercises (which sounds like an Olympic event) when I got home yesterday, and I feel like I'm getting traction in my efforts to tone up. Your Sis did not make it to the gym this time, but I encourage her to giddy up, time permitting.

The sidekick slept through the whole night for the first time, and that would normally be wonderful. However, when he awoke, hungrier than he had ever been before in his weeks-old life, he screamed like an air raid siren. Our bedroom was dead silent, then suddenly hosted a Nine Inch Nails concert. There may be me-shaped holes in the ceiling when I launched out of bed and crashed back to earth.

Your Dad came to the office yesterday, and I showed him how to install the carseat boot. Modern cars have little icons on the back seats telling us where the boot hooks are. Look at your seats. There may be as many as six circular icons back there. The boots click into place on the u-shaped hooks behind the seats there.

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Rarely, I decide to eat an actual lunch during my break. I usually window shopping and order from Starbucks. Yesterday, I decided to have lunch because I got a new book, the second West Wing script book. I ordered it from Amazon along with a few hundred nursing pads and the collected Little House books. To the Chick-fil-A!

The other West Wing script book I have begins with a forward, and it covers the creation of the show and the assembly of the actors. (Tidbit: CJ Craig was almost black, because the actress leading the hopeful pack was black. But then Alison Janey read for the role.) I really like Sorkin's prose work, and I wish there were more of it to be found.

This new book's forward begins with an award ceremony where the show racked up yet another in its astonishing and valid stack of trophies. Not all the actors are present because they're protesting their payroll, and Sorkin discusses how the contracts were first designed and why West Wing was so expensive and how that only became a problem when the show lasted longer than anyone expected. Sorkin talks about how the pay was eventually solved, and the show could continue. And just about then he got arrested for felony drug possession.

He is clear in his timeline about what happened and the degree of support he received from the crew and his management. And back to work goes Sorkin. The next episode to be written and cobbled together is for Halloween (weeks and weeks away), and Sorkin talks about having nothing in his tank for this episode. The producers want to include the holiday, but Sorkin thinks it's too cute. He can't find a way to make it work. And he's losing momentum from pounding out scripts immediately after his arrest and legal troubles (also, back surgery; also, a separation). But the Halloween script finally emerges, and the cast has a good readthrough, and things seem to be back to normal. And off to bed goes Sorkin. On Sept. 10.

In the wake of the next morning, everything is asunder. The studios shut down, fall premieres are pushed back a week, and no one wants to jump back to work. Sorkin has a bigger problem: He can't abide the idea of the planned premiere episode so soon after 9/11. It's the second half of a story where the president and Josh are shot, and both flash back to the start of the presidential campaign. The origin of the West Wing staff, in short. It's flashy and shouty, and it feels bad now. Sorkin doesn't see it as the needed diversion the studio argues it should be for the audience. It feels wrong to make people wonder if Josh is going to die, to make people again watch their TVs and wait to see if a shoe drops. It's too soon. The world this story takes place in, he argues, no longer exists. Everything has changed, and the show needs to acknowledge that.

So Sorkin timidly makes the rounds to his team about building a new season premiere. Something quieter. No guns or sirens. People talking and specifically talking about what happened without using the events for ratings. And the idea he had for the Halloween episode is reworked; instead of a group of trick-or-treaters talking to the president in the White House, they're now high schoolers during a lockdown. They will talk to the staff, ask Big Questions and process Small Answers. Everyone will. Sorkin gets green light from all involved. It normally takes six weeks to write and film and edit an episode. They did it in 12 days.

The script for that episode -- Issac and Ishmael -- begins with the cast talking to the camera. Instead of the opening credits and music, numbers for various agencies are shown. The cast explains that this will be a play of sorts removed from the show's timeline, and the stories will continue next week. Until then, here's our show, do what you can, and God bless America.

Here, I need to mention my recent readings on the World Trade Center. You might remember a fantastic New York Times package on the construction progress from Labor Day weekend. I pored over it as I threw back gallons of coffee. Among the principle-twisting arguments about the "Ground Zero mosque" were exclamations that the mosque shouldn't be built so long as WTC remains a sacred pit, a ragged scar that remains barren nine years later. And that's horseshit. After years of impotence and preening grandstanding, the WTC site is roaring with activity as the buildings reach skyward.

Just this week, I read the latest Esquire account of the progress, part of a series on the efforts to reclaim, redefine, and reopen Ground Zero. This account began before the building efforts, and I've read about the architectural nightmares involved in designing a memorial site that doubles as a business center on top of an operating train hub just yards from the river in the middle of the financial center of the country's largest city. Just as a design was finally submitted, the security agencies balked at what they deemed insufficient defensive standards. Not helping the cause were stupid gubernatorial appointments for the overseer (a man who had previously only run a bowling alley and a laundry), counter lawsuits over ownership, and budgets that threatened to make any advancement impractical.

Not today. That all was cleared up by a new administrator and the looming tenth anniversary of the attacks. The squabbling was squashed, and the trucks were loaded with the thickest cement yet designed for the construction of a bold and solemn complex that would welcome the mourning and curious and allow business to continue.

That kind of progress catches my breath. That's what affects me most when I hear people talking about WTC. It works to the benefit of many a talking head to refer to it as an eternal smoldering crater because we're supposed to be blinded by our pain and direct our rage against people who had no hand in causing death. But I've exhausted that well of emotion. It's dry. I remember everything of that day, and it's now filtered through the hope and resolve that the air above that site will contain people and utilities and materials employed to the end of normalcy and production. And we're getting there. We're finally getting there. That's what hits me now. And here's Sorkin writing about the same impetus: something must be constructed, and work must move forward. That's more inspiring than hand wringing and the tearing of raiment. We mourned. We paused. Now is the time to work, driven by spite for the bastards and hope for what comes next. We can stop saying "Ground Zero" and go back to "World Trade Center."

I'm reading this forward at the restaurant's outdoor tables and about to fall apart, and that won't do. I'm too old and too nerdy to be seen collapsing into a puddle. I close the book and throw away my trash and get back to my car and think about the comic script I need to write. If I ever write a memoir, it shall be called Don't Lose Your Shit at the Chick-Fil-A.

Sorkin is a really good writer.

Picture of the Day
Mazel Tov Cocktail from last weekend's derby bout. This is from the team's FaceBook page.

Tuesday, September 21


For the first time, the sidekick fell asleep on my shoulder. This is a small victory. After many times where this did not happen and he collapsed into wails and flails, he conked out after a big feeding. My experience as a dad is a string of increased skill levels not unlike a video game. I try to find a pattern in his new behaviors and successfully placate him by reading his signs. This may be the encapsulation of parenthood. We're now draping his bassinet with a blanket as a canopy to reduce his distractions. It help. He sleeps quicker now.

Your Sister and I agreed to try a schedule that lets her go to the country club a few times a week while I'm home. On alternating days, I'll run, and she'll try body combat. The gym offers childcare so she doesn't have to wait for me to get home.

As we watched the first new episode of House this fall, I downed a pumpkin ale. It has 12.5% alcohol, and soon my neck was as useless as the deputy's.

I've begin jotting down ideas for the newest minicomics, both sequels to this year's batch. I plan to stick to the system of production, but I want to give myself more time to hammer them out.

Your Sister continues to be fascinated by my high-school yearbooks and the many tales lingering therein. The reunion FB page says less than 40 people have registered so far. This could be a quick party. I hope to invite folks to a brunch the following morning before we drive back up the mountain. Also, I very much want to host a 20-year reunion for my graduating class at the junior college. The deputy will just be hitting his terrible twos then. What could go wrong?

Picture of the Day
TV Man patrols the subways.

Monday, September 20

Bad Baby

Can any day be bad when it starts with a 2+ mile run and ends with a nicely mixed screwdriver? Let's say no, but barely.

Your Sister's 20th high-school reunion was Saturday, and the hours did not unspool as we hoped. It took much longer than we hoped to get out the door and on to the reunion picnic. The meal was listed in promotional emails as lasting from 12:30 to 2:30, and we had no intention of being there first. We wanted to avoid the crush as we are juggling this baby and all. We arrived at the school at 1:30 and smeared him up good with suntan lotion. By dead happenstance, we ran into people we knew just as they were leaving.

We tried to find the picnic (and that's a phrase that only implies dread) and asked for help at a table under an reunion banner. The woman manning this table was asked where to find the picnic and said she had no idea as she didn't attend the school. After schlepping the stroller down flights of stairs, we found the grand picnic location, and it was over. There was a small table of leftover aluminum pans with scraps. No plasticware, no cups to drink out of. They closed up shop 45 minutes early. Now we were angry and starving. We rambled back to the car, loaded everything back up, and found a bar in downtown Asheville.

Normally we can schedule a meal out around the deputy's eating and sleeping cycle, but this day, he chucked the schedule. As soon as we sat at the table, he started crying. Inconsolable. We fed and changed him in the parking garage, and that only left sleepiness. He no longer drifts easily into sleep. He fights it and cries and kicks, and this is what he did in the bar. We took turns walking him in our corner of the bar and then took turns wolfing down the meals before shoving him back to the car. He cried all the way. Cried when we buckled him in. Cried as we waited in line at the parking booth. And fell asleep as soon as we pulled into the road. He's not a charmer 24/7.

We went straight to Your Parents' house. Your Mom sponged the lotion off him as Your Sis and I cleaned up and changed. I had not seen them since they left for their vacation, but there was no catching up. We instead showed them the cache of baby gear and watched them coo over him. He woke up and stayed cranky again before finally falling into a deep sleep. We left their place about an hour before the reunion was to open in a desperate need to deflate our stress. To unclench, let's say. We parked downtown, walked into Mast General Store, and bought bottled pop. As we were dressed just this side of Wedding Quality, we caught a lot of looks. As we should have; we looked fantastic. We sat on a park bench and caught our breaths from the day and established a martial truce again. And inside the booked tavern we went.

The reunion went very well. She latched onto people she missed (including a biology teacher wearing a kilt) and was able to be something other than a nursing mother for an evening. We located her in an enlarged photo of the graduating class despite her uncertainty that the face I found was really hers. I know that nose. I know that smile. And others confirmed it. So there. She floated through the room and traded catch-up stories for hours.

It was a well-organized small party. There was a cash bar, a savory buffet table, and a dance floor. A slideshow offered pictures of attendees then and now and a memorial segment for those lost in the years between. The hostesses worked the room well, and I -- a plus-one -- felt welcomed by all. If there was anything I would suggest, it's that guest badges be a different color so alumnae wouldn't wonder why they don't remember you. I'm confident my reunion this weekend will not meet the standard set by this party, and I've warned Your Sister. We did agree to wear the same outfits to my reunion regardless of the party's dress code. It's "business casual," and I fear all the men will look like Best Buy employees. Not I, said the bespoke fly. I intend to look good. I have awkward 20-year-old memories to eclipse.

We reclaimed the boy from Your Eager Parents at a very late hour and drove home. He was no better Sunday, and I'm feeling the stress of the day as I type. Again, he doesn't want to sleep, and he was a beast in the Mexican restaurant. He was finally quieted with a hot bottle, and I wore him through the grocery store. Maybe this phase is a growth spurt that passes soon. Your Sister even considered that it was early teething.

I discovered one of my running shoes has a leak, and I need to break in a new pair before the race. Luckily I have a gift card to the local shoe store.

Picture of the Day
A helpful trick to underscore the Chilean miner situation.