We all owe Stacey Abrams a huge debt of gratitude for ridding us of Mitch McConnell

I know it’s probably a bit premature, but, if The Economist’s G. Elliott Morris is correct (see below), both Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have won their Senate run-off races in Georgia today, meaning that control of the chamber will soon change hands, and that Mitch McConnell’s reign of terror will finally be coming to long-awaited end. [With both Democrats winning in Georgia, the Senate would be split evenly between the two parties, with each holding 50 seats. According to the Constitution, this means that the Vice President would be called upon to cast the deciding votes in instances of deadlock. And, as Kamala Harris will be our new Vice President come January 20, that means the Democrats will have control over the chamber, making McConnell the Senate Minority Leader.]

While both Warnock and Ossoff ran great races, and we Democrats benefited mightily from the fact that the Republicans running were so incredibly terrible, I stand with those who give a majority of the credit to Stacey Abrams, who, after having the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia in large part due to Republican voter suppression efforts, made it her mission to see that other Democrats running in the state had a fighting chance going forward. Through her organization Fair Fight, she fought voter suppression policies in Georgia, registered roughly 1 million new voters, and laid the groundwork making it possible for the state to flip from red to blue. There is no way, without her, that Biden, Warnock or Ossoff would have won in the state, and we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. Assuming things play out like we expect them to, and Mitch McConnell is driven from power, Abrams will have the distinction of being the person most responsible, and we cannot forget that. When we see comprehensive health care reform, a new voting rights act, positive movement on global warming, or new legislation to address gun violence, it will be because of what she had done in Georgia. I know the temptation today will be to focus on how terrible Mitch McConnell is, and how happy we are to be rid of his smirking obstructionism, but it’s worth pointing out, I think, that there is an equal and opposite force in the universe, and that force is Stacey Abrams. Here’s hoping she’s given the national platform she deserves.

And, yes, I know there were other forces at play in Georgia. As Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling said today, much of this falls “squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since November 3.” Not only are his incessant lies about the 2020 election turning off mainstream Republican voters, who know that he lost fair and square, but his baseless allegations about elections being rigged against him and his cronies has kept many of his more delusional supporters from turning out. But I don’t feel like giving Donald Trump credit for anything right now, even destroying the rotten shell of the political party he’d taken over in 2016. I’d much rather see hard-working, decent people like Abrams get the credit.

One last thing. The big winner today is Kamala Harris, who is likely going to be the most powerful and consequential Vice President in our lifetimes (unless you count Cheney, I guess) due to the fact that she’ll be deciding almost every vote in the Senate.

Oh, and Biden has no excuses now. He must be bold, and take decisive action these next two years to not only right the ship, but set a clear, just, and sustainable path for the future. Not one minute should be spent coddling the would-be-authoritarians who lined up to defend and enable Donald Trump. Furthermore, no one should be spared as we move forward, investigating the truth of what happened during the Trump administration. There’s far too much at stake to just put it all behind us and move on. If we don’t deal with it now, and do so decisively, you can be sure that we’ll pay the price for generations to come. Our democratic institutions need to be defended, and criminals must be prosecuted. And we now have the levers of power at our disposal to see that happen.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 56 Comments

In hopes of currying favor with the President and his followers, Republican members of the U.S. Senate seek to throw out the results of a free and fair election. This is sedition.

Sorry I’ve been away for a while. It’s not that I haven’t missed you all. I have. And I’ve wanted to write. I’ve just been forcing myself not to. I knew, if I started spending time here again, I’d eventually begin writing about Trump, and I didn’t want to do that. After Biden’s victory, I didn’t see any justification for it. Before then, I could argue that my writing about Trump here was beneficial. “By obsessively documenting every assault of the Trump administration,” I told myself, “I’m helping to motivate people to volunteer for Democratic candidates, to get out and vote, and to contribute financially.” Now that Biden has won, though, I don’t really see what’s to be gained by talking about our failed despot. It’s much better, I’ve thought, to just stay quiet, and allow him to fade away. Today, though, I felt as though I had to say something.

First, just to recap… All of the states have now certified their election results. In the end, Joe Biden secured 306 electoral votes to Donald Trump’s 232, making him the next President of the United States. Donald Trump, of course, has tried to make the case that there was rampant voter fraud, and that he had, in fact, won the election. His attorneys brought 60 cases across the United States alleging fraud, of which 59 have already been thrown out, in many cases by judges that he himself had placed on the bench. This, of course, is not surprising, given that Trump and his team offered no actual proof of widespread voter fraud. For all their talk of fraud, they’ve still demonstrated none. And in each of the states where they’ve claimed fraud to have taken place have, the election results have now been certified. And this is true even in states like Georgia, where Republicans control the legislature. Donald Trump, as we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt, lost the electoral vote overwhelmingly, and the popular vote by approximately 7 million votes. This is just a fact.

In spite of this, several elected Republican Senators have made it known that, on January 6, they intend to vote against certifying the 2020 election results at the federal level, joining around 140 Republican members of the House of Representatives in their attempt to overturn the results of a free and fair election. “We intend to vote on January 6 to reject the electors from disputed states as not ‘regularly given’ and ‘lawfully certified’ (the statutory requisite), unless and until that emergency 10-day audit is completed,” the eleven Republican Senators and Senators-Elect wrote in a statement yesterday. Like everything else that Trump and his allies have attempted, this will not work. [They don’t have the votes to actually stop the process from moving forward.] But that’s not the point. [Ironically, it should be pointed out that many of these Senators won in elections they’re claiming to have been fraudulent.]

We know why these people are doing this. It’s not that they believe an election was stolen, but that they want to inherit the mantle of Donald Trump, and they don’t care about the ramifications. They don’t care about the long term consequences of telling the American people that an election has been stolen when it hasn’t. As Mitt Romney just said, “The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic… I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world. Has ambition so eclipsed principle?” [Former House Speaker Paul Ryan joined Romney in speaking out today, saying, “Under our system, voters determine the president… Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate.”]

Republican political strategist Steve Schmidt took things a little further in his Twitter feed today, where he said the following about the Republicans, like Ted Cruz, who have made it known they they intend to help Donald Trump perpetuate the lie that the election was stolen from him. [I guess the Harvard-educated Cruz, who once swore that he would never be Trump’s “servile puppy dog,” has had a change of heart.]

2021 will be a hard year in the life of the American nation. There is a great struggle that lies before us and our disbelief at its arrival must not blind us to the lethal danger it poses to the American experiment. The poisonous bounty of Trump’s catastrophic Presidency is ready for harvest and the whole world will get to watch his seditious antics play out during a joint session of Congress on January 6th. It will play out as a farce and it will fail. Nearly 100 years on America will have it’s version of the Beer Hall Putsch. The danger lies in the act, not the outcome. We are in a dangerous moment and I’d like to try my best to explain how I see it.

Before I start, there is an important matter of fact which unfortunately needs restating. Joe Biden won the Presidential election decisively. The election was free, fair and legitimate. There is no evidence of any wide spread fraud. Allegations of fraud are premeditated lies being made by a rancid assortment of Trump’s stooges and propagandists. With the exception of a few of the more addled House GOP members like Louis Gohmert, every single House Member and every US Senator that participates in denying this reality and thus the legitimacy of our election does so as a cynical act which they know for certain has no legitimate basis. Such actions are a grievous sin against America democracy and a brutal betrayal of their oaths of office and duty. They will be desecrating the blood sacrifices of 13 generations of American Patriots of all creeds and origins who died so that our children could be free. They are fighting to maintain the power of a defeated President against the sovereign will of the American people as lawfully exercised under the Constitution of the United States. They are fighting to establish a tyranny. They are deliberately poisoning Faith and Belief in American democracy.

Democratic Republic’s cannot survive such a collapse. The system is rooted in the willingness of one side to cede power to another at the will of the people. There are no other systems of government except for this type that are free. The legitimacy of that system is being strangled by Trumps lies and the lies of his movement. That movement is an autocratic one with fascistic markers. It is hostile to the American Constitution, the rule of law and the highest ideas and ideals of American liberty.

January 6, will be a historic day in America. The battle lines will be drawn. The Autocrats will step forward into the light. They will include a majority of the House GOP Conference. After the 6th, Kevin McCarthy will be the leader of House Autocrats, and Liz Cheney will be the Leader of House Conservatives. They will include a substantial number of GOP Senators and almost all of the known GOP Presidential aspirants.

The Rubicon will be crossed on the 6th. The ruthless and amoral cynicism of Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, James Lankford and Josh Hawley will be on appalling display. It must be opposed fiercely. It must be recognized for what it is. Another storm is gathering in the constant struggle between liberty and her enemies. Trump has unleashed the furies and has found his following. It will be a long fight. At the hour of his defeat and defenestration Trump has done his greatest damage. This is a movement that is fueled by lies, conspiracies, corruption, greed, extremism, racism, grievance, resentment, cynicism and a profound absence of love for America. It is right to feel anger and contempt towards its leaders and enablers. There is only one proposition that America’s pro-democracy coalition can offer to these people. “We win – you lose.” It’s that simple. Sedition is the precise word and the right word to describe what we have been witnessing. Never before have so many American leaders betrayed their country. We will watch their eternal disgrace on live TV. The evidence of their ignominy will exist forever as will the memory of their monumental betrayal. Shame on them all.

Here are the names of those Republican Senators and Senators-Elect who have signed-on to join Ted Cruz in his attempt to stop the results of our last election from being accepted. They are Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Senators-Elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. Remember their names. By refusing to accept the results of our free and fair election, they are guilty of sedition, at the very least, and they should held accountable.

If any of you have any question at all as to what the above mentioned Senators and Senators-Elect have agreed to support when signing on to this document, I’d encourage you to listen to the following audio of President Donald Trump, recorded recently, threatening Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to, in the words of Senator Dick Durbin, “deliberately change and misrepresent the legally confirmed vote totals” in that state.

“It’s gonna be costly to you,” Trump says to Raffensperger on the call, when the Secretary of State refuses to “find 11,780 votes” for him. [Trump had tried to call Raffensperger 18 times before the Secretary of State took the call. He clearly knew the President was going to try to shake him down, the same way he did the President of Ukraine. Thankfully he had the presence of mind to record the entire call. As one of Raffensperger associates told Politico today, “It’s nice to have something like this, hard evidence, to dispute whatever he’s claiming about the secretary. Lindsey Graham asked us to throw out legally cast ballots. So yeah, after that call, we decided maybe we should do this.”] This is the kind of criminal activity one sees from a mob boss. The members of the U.S. Senate named above know it. And yet they continue to go along. It is pathetic, grotesque and dangerous. And all of their political careers should end immediately.

update: The snow person featured above was created by Arlo and I this morning in Riverside Park. I was going to use a photo of Donald Trump, but this made me happier.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

106 members of Congress are guilty of sedition

As you may have heard, the Supreme Court issued a one sentence order on Tuesday stating that they would not be hearing the case brought by Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in their state. Trump’s assault on our nation isn’t over yet, though. There’s still one more election-related case before America’s highest court. The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, has filed a case alleging that Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia — four battleground states that Donald Trump lost — had “exploited the COVID-19 pandemic” when they made it possible for their citizens to vote-by-mail, and, in the process, unfairly skewed the results of the election against Donald Trump. The case, of course, is absolute bullshit, but Republicans across the country are throwing their support behind it, which is incredibly concerning for those of us who who would prefer America not to become a fascist dictatorship. Not only have 17 other red state Attorneys General signed-on, but today 106 Republican House members declared their support.

Just to be clear, these Republican officials are singing-on to a case that, absent any evidence of electoral fraud, is requesting that the ballots of millions be cast aside, making it possible for the loser of a free and fair election to remain in power. I know some will push back against me use of the word “sedition,” but it seems like the correct word to me. Here’s the dictionary definition: “Sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward rebellion against the established order.”

The Attorneys General of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia have pushed back hard, encouraging the Supreme Court to throw the case out, as they did the Pennsylvania case a few days ago. “These continued attacks on our fair and free election system are beyond meritless, beyond reckless — they are a scheme by the President of the United States and some in the Republican party to disregard the will of the people — and name their own victors,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. And Joshua Kaul, the Attorney General of Wisconsin, had the following to say. “Texas proposes an extraordinary intrusion into Wisconsin’s and the other defendant states’ elections, a task that the Constitution leaves to each state,” he said. “Wisconsin has conducted its election and its voters have chosen a winning candidate for their state. Texas’s bid to nullify that choice is devoid of a legal foundation or a factual basis.” Donald Trump, however, is positioning this as a fight to save the nation. [As Trump and his team have been unable to produce any evidence of election fraud, it seems as though they’re just arguing that Biden shouldn’t be allowed to take office because he’s a terrible person, in spite fo the fact that an overwhelming majority of American voters elected him.]

[note: Just in case you missed it, the above looks like a concession on the part of Trump, acknowledging that there will be a Biden presidency.]

As for why Ken Paxton filed this suit, I’m inclined to agree with Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who suspects that the Attorney General of Texas may be fishing for a pardon… Paxton, you see, appears to be the subject of an FBI probe right now for offenses including bribery and abuse of his office. Here’s the quote from Sasse.

Why Paxton filed the case is less interesting to me, however, than the fact that 106 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today signed-on in support. That, I hope you’ll agree, is absolutely, fucking insane. Not only are elected representatives arguing that the results of an American election should be thrown out in states where their party’s candidate did not win (in hopes that Republican legislatures in those states might appoint their own pro-Trump electors), but they’re also alleging widespread fraud in an election that all of them just won. [All 106 who signed-on ran and won in 2020.] Here’s the list. One hopes that every one of them is forced to pay a price in the very near future for helping Donald Trump to push forward this vile act of sedition.

There was much more I was going to say on the subject, but then I happened across Susan Glasser’s piece in today’s New Yorker, which states everything better than I could ever hope to. Here’s an excerpt.

…In the days immediately following the election, Trump said that his goal was to “STOP THE COUNT.” Then it was to “stop the steal,” or to demand recounts, or to discover evidence of fraud. During this period, one senior Republican official said there was no real harm in letting Trump have his temper tantrum; it would not affect the outcome anyway. “What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,” the Republican told the Washington Post. “He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on January 20. He’s tweeting about filing some lawsuits, those lawsuits will fail, then he’ll tweet some more about how the election was stolen, and then he’ll leave.”

But, rather than merely taking a few days to come to terms with his loss, and then sulk off to Florida once the courts threw out his lawsuits, Trump has escalated and escalated, culminating on Wednesday with a single-word tweet announcing his new goal: not to win the election but to “#OVERTURN” the results. Even more strikingly, while his allies have lost fifty-plus cases since the election, Trump has convinced millions of Americans to believe that the election was rigged against him—seventy-seven per cent of Republicans now say massive fraud occurred, according to a new Quinnipiac poll out Thursday—and enlisted virtually the entire national leadership of the Republican Party in his concerted attack on the legitimacy of the results.

This week, twenty-seven House Republicans asked the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to investigate the election—the same number as House and Senate Republicans who, as the Post found in a survey, will publicly recognize Biden’s victory. Not only have both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to recognize his win; they both voted against a ceremonial motion of the committee organizing the January 20th handover of power to “notify the American people” of plans to inaugurate Biden. In the immediate aftermath of the election, McConnell said that Trump “has every right to look into allegations and request recounts under the law.” Now that Trump has lost the recounts and lost the lawsuits, now that the results have been certified and Trump is openly talking about overturning them, McConnell has been silent.

Somehow, that’s the part I was not entirely prepared for, even after all the Republican enabling and excuses of the past four years. The ballots that Trump and his allies are attacking, after all, are the same that elected Trump’s allies, if not Trump himself. The votes that they want thrown out were cast not only by evil Democrats in faraway cities but by their friends and, in some cases, neighbors. They were counted and recounted and certified by Republican officials in many of the places that sealed Trump’s defeat…

These are dangerous and crazy times, my friends. And I’m afraid they are only going to get worse. In spite of the fact that no evidence of voter fraud has been offered, and state legislatures around the country have certified their vote counts, showing that Biden was the clear winner, there are still tens of millions of American citizens who apparently believe that the Supreme Court should exercise its “wisdom” and declare Donald Trump the winner.

update: The Supreme Court did the right thing and threw out the Paxton case. (None of the three Justices Trump nominated to the court have indicated that they supported the case.) I’m thankful they didn’t make us wait through the weekend. It’s also worth noting that, since I posted the above, quite a few people have started suggesting that we not seat the newly elected members of Congress who chose to join the suit.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 202 Comments

Talking about death with my son

I was 13 years old on December 29, 1981 — the day that my great grandmother Minnie Wise Florian died in Liberty, Kentucky. I was with her when she passed, a few weeks after her 89th birthday. It was a traumatic night. My father was out, playing basketball with some old high school friends, and I’m not sure where my mother and sister were. It was just me and my grandparents there when my great grandmother, who we all called Ma Florian, passed away at the kitchen table, near where she used to shell beans and grind country ham into a kind of cotton candy-like substance. My grandfather had been drinking, and I remember him holding the phone and trying to call for an ambulance with no success, as my grandmother, who was suffering from ALS, was talking to her mother, attempting to call her back to our world. I took off barefoot to the house next door, where I knew a doctor lived. By the time my father had returned, his grandmother — the woman who had raised him during much of his young life — had been taken away to the local hospital where she’d been pronounced dead. It was the first time, I believe, that I ever saw my father cry. And that memory came back to me today as I sat next to Arlo on the bank of the Huron River, sobbing.

“When’s the first time you remember seeing your father cry?” That’s a question that I should remember the next time I’m interviewing someone. I suspect, for quite a few people, there’s a lot of meaning to be found in exploring that moment.

I’m not sure what happened this week, but, since turning nine years old, Arlo has changed in a way. He’s become more serious, and more empathetic… at least in these kind of brief flashes, where we’re alone together, and out of the house. Today, as I was sitting alongside him on a fallen tree, crying my eyes out, he put his hand on my shoulder and asked if there was anything that he could do to help. I was upset at the time, but I was also really proud of him for understanding the situation for what it was, and trying, in his way, to help talk me through it. [He asked if it might help if we walked to one of my favorite spots.]

It all started when, noting a small path toward the river, I suggested that he and I try it out, ultimately finding a sunny little opening on the bank with a fallen tree at perfect bench height, surrounded by the hoof prints of deer. He remarked at how “pretty” it was, and suggested that we sit and talk for a while. After about five minutes, I suggested that we get up and keep moving, and he responded by asking if we could sit a little longer. I told him that we could, and I asked if there was anything specific he wanted to talk about, or if he just wanted to listen to the water and the birds for a while. He responded by saying that he was afraid of death.

What ensued was a long conversation about death, during which he said, “This would be a nice place to die, sunny and peaceful,” referring to this spot which he and I had found. I agreed with him, and we talked more about birth, death, different visions of the afterlife, and a lot of other stuff. He then asked about suicide, and why so many people in our family, including my Uncle, had killed themselves. And we talked some more. And at some point he said, “It probably made Mimi Dorothy’s heart really sad that her son killed himself.” And I guess it was the thought of losing a son to suicide, but I just couldn’t hold it together. I started telling about how it had affected my grandmother, having lost both her son and husband to suicide, but, a few sentences in, I just started sobbing. It was at the point in our conversation where I was telling him how, outside of my Uncle’s funeral, my grandmother had hugged me tightly and asked if I would be there for her like a son now that her only son was gone. It’s something that I hadn’t consciously thought about since she died a few years ago, and I just broke down.

It was a good moment for us, as father and son, I think. At least he didn’t seem to be too traumatized by it, and I found it cathartic, as it forced me to reflect on how incredibly fortunate I am to have make it this far, to have been able to see him grow into the thoughtful, inquisitive little man he is today. It’s truly a gift. So many of us who suffer from anxiety and depression never have that opportunity, and I’m thankful to everyone in my life who has had a hand in getting me to this place.

As for why I broke down like I did, I’m sure, in large part, it was due to thinking about the accumulated grief in my grandmother’s life, and what it must be like to lose a child, but I also think that I was just long overdue for an emotional reset of some kind, having recently lost a job after nearly 21 years, the security that comes along with it, and everything else. I thought that maybe I could avoid that by immediately throwing myself into things at the restaurant, but I should have known that eventually I’d have to confront the enormity of it all… the fact that, at 52 years old, I was essentially having to recreate myself, and find new ways to care for my family. And, on top of it all, as you might imagine, there’s trying to navigate a new startup through both a pandemic and the economic uncertainty that surrounds it. The good news is, I apparently have a family that cares for me, and a nine year old son who’s already man enough to put his hand on my shoulder and ask me if he can help. I’m in a much better spot than most, and I am eternally grateful.

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

On the occasion of my son turning nine

My son Arlo turns 9 years old today. This (above) is what he looks like these days. This was taken a few days ago on one of our long, late morning walks around Ypsilanti between his two online class periods. I suspect, at some point, he’ll tire of hanging around with me, but, as of right now, he still seems to enjoy my company.

Today, after sledding in Riverside Park, we were climbing up the hill to come home, and he was slipping a bit in the snow. I extended my hand to pull him up. And, as he came up alongside of me, he said, “Thanks for being my dad.” He’s always been a good, sweet kid, but it doesn’t usually come out in such a direct way. And it meant a lot to me, as did the fact that, a few minutes before that, when I slipped and fell, kind of hurting my arm in the process, he ran over to make sure that I was alright, asking if there was anything that he could do to help me. We have our issues, especially when it comes to screen time, and his constant desire to be playing video games, but, when it comes to the important stuff, I couldn’t ask for a better son. He’s smart, caring and inquisitive. And he’s got a pretty fucking good sense of humor.

And I love the fact that I’ve gotten to know him so much better since the onset of the pandemic. We’d always spent a lot of time together, but, lately, since we’ve started taking these long walks of ours, the amount of quality time we’ve spent together has increased tenfold. Out of the house, just walking around, without the lure of video games, or any other distractions, we just talk. In the summer, we’d take a chess board with us, and play on the banks of the river. Now, we bring a thermos of tea and something to eat. Lately we’ve been spending more time at the graveyard, talking about the things that can be gleaned from the tombstones, and speculating as to what life might have been like in the Ypsilanti of yesteryear. And, when we’re not hiking, we’re reading, learning about animals, and drawing together. This afternoon, we started working on a story about an octopus that built a robot with an aquarium for a head so that he could leave the ocean. Oh, and we spend a lot of time looking for hawks. Here’s Arlo approaching what we’re pretty sure is a red tailed hawk. [Arlo is at the bottom, the hawk is at the top.]

I’d love to go on, and tell you more about this incredible little person, but I have work to do, as we’re getting ready to roll out our holiday meals at Bellflower. As I don’t want to end just yet, though, I thought that I’d share the following two things, which I wrote on the occasion of previous birthdays celebrated by my son.

Here’s what I said on his first birthday:

A year ago yesterday, Linette and I we welcomed our son Arlo into the world. Like his sister, once he made up his mind that he wanted to join us, he came shooting down the birth canal like a rocket. I think I must have mentioned it here before, but, eight years ago, when Linette was pregnant with Clementine, we barely made it to the hospital in time. And, as second babies usually come faster, we thought that we’d plan on having this one at home, with a midwife. Some members of my family were a little apprehensive, but we’d done our homework, and, given how incredibly well Clementine’s birth had gone, we didn’t seem to think that there was much risk. So, we rented an inflatable pool, which we put in our living room, just a few feet from where I’m now typing this, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s what the little guy looked like a few minutes after coming out.

Our midwives, who were delayed a bit due to unforeseen transportation issues, arrived at a little after 1:00 AM on the morning of December 2. And, within nine minutes of their arrival, we were holding the baby. I can’t remember the exact series of events. I remember making a lot of trips to the stove, where I was heating up water for the pool. And I remember making a few calls to the midwives, trading status updates. At some point before the baby was born, I ran upstairs and woke Clementine, telling her that, if she wanted to, she could join us for the big event. She wasn’t sure at first, but she eventually came down and stood at my side, at the end of the pool, waiting for her sibling to emerge. It all happened really quickly once Linette stepped into the pool. With one exception, everything went without a hitch. As the baby was about half-way into the world, the midwife told me help make sure that the baby’s head didn’t come above the surface of the water. Apparently babies are fine as long as they’re underwater, but, as soon as they break the surface, they need to remain out, as they instinctively begin to inhale once they feel air on their skin. So, the last thing you want to do, if you’re at home, planning to have an unassisted water birth tonight, is to come out of the water between pushes, when the baby is half-way out, as it could result in drowning. Fortunately, though, we were able to keep all the action below the surface of the water, and, a few seconds later, he kind of shot out into my hands.

If I’m not mistaken, it was Clementine who informed us that we’d had a son, having had the presence of mind to check for a penis.

We all smiled at him, introduced ourselves, and covered him in blankets. And that’s when the midwife, having begun her paperwork, asked us what his name was. We’d had a girl’s name that we’d both liked – Violet – but we still hadn’t come to consensus on a boy’s name. I had been advocating for Powell. (I also liked Sullivan, although I didn’t like the idea that people could refer to him as “Sully”.) Linette had liked Arlo. And, when the midwife asked us, I said “go ahead,” and she made it official. She liked Arlo, she said, because she was fed up with names that sounded as if they had trust funds attached to them. And she thought that he would be “cute enough to pull it off.” My main objection to Arlo stemmed from the fact that I knew people would think that we’d named him after libertarian former hippie Arlo Guthrie. With time it’s grown on me, though, and I’ve enjoyed the many chances I’ve been given to inform people as to the politics of Arlo Gutherie. Plus, I think Arlo sounds like a good astronaut name.

Speaking of what Arlo will be when he grows up, a friend of ours who teaches first and second grade asked us to bring the baby to her class a few days ago. They’d been studying Chinese culture, and apparently there’s something that people in that country used to do upon the first birthday of a baby. They’d lay a number of objects in front of the baby, with each representing a specific career, and then they’d see which one the baby went for. If the baby, for instance, picked up a shoe, he could be a cobbler. So, these kids all brought things from home to tempt my baby with. There were about twenty things laid out on a blanket, including a caligrapher’s pen, a piece of chalk, a paintbrush, a small jewel, a doctor’s coat, a picture of the president, a toy car, and a test tube. As I held Arlo above it, surveying the choices, it occurred to me that it was more a test for me than for him, as I could choose to set him down anywhere. So, I positioned myself as far away as possible from the caligrapher’s pen… because, really, what kind of career is that… and let him go, hoping that he wouldn’t just immediately dive for the shiniest object, thereby setting in motion a chain of events that would see him in a career selling costume jewelry from a cardboard box on a Manhattan street corner. As it turned out, I didn’t have to intervene, and shove something into his hand. After a little thought, he picked up the test tube, which, according to the kids in the class, means that he’ll be a scientist. And, after the test tube, he then went for a frog puppet, which, they tell me, means that he’ll do some puppeteering on the side.

Here he is at a few months old, in a photo taken by our friend Leisa Thompson. (The hideous crone hand is mine.)

While birth was easy, pregnancy wasn’t. The seven years separating Clementine and Arlo were full of miscarriages. Eventually it all worked out. Linette attributes it to acupuncture, and that fact that we started going to bed early, so that we could watch episodes of Friday Night Lights on Netflix.

As for what Arlo is like today, he’s both physically strong and strong willed. I remember being struck, just after his birth, that he could already lift his head and turn it. He’s always had incredible strength, not just of muscle, but will. He knows what he likes, and god help you if you want to take something from him that he doesn’t want to give up. He’s got a vice-like grip, and he can snatch the glasses off your face before the first neuron fires in your brain telling you to implement evasive counter-measures. I have little doubt that, if he wanted to, he could tear my face off faster than a drunken baboon.

I’d like to comment on his intellect, but, to be honest, he hasn’t shown me much so far. As of today, he knows how to say “ball,” “bye,” and “balloon.” According to Linette, he can say “mama” but chooses not to. And he knows to wave when someone puts on their jacket. Other than that, and being incredibly cute, and as strong as an ox, he’s probably just like any other one year-old. His grandparents hate it when say that, but it’s true.

He doesn’t like to sit still. He’s always moving from one experience to the next. Whereas Clementine would be happy as a baby to just curl up like a cat on my belly, as I watched episodes of Columbo, Arlo can’t lay still for longer than minute. When he’s not latched onto a breast, he’s compelled to move. In the early months, I would have to pace around with him for hours on end. Nothing else would make him happy. The songs that Clementine used to love do absolutely nothing for him. And books are repeatedly smacked out of my hands. I try to tell myself that all little boys are like this, but I fear that, in a few more years I might have to give up any pretense that I’m in charge, and just slink off into a closet somewhere. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of something that gives me hope that he won’t be like this forever, though. I’ll catch him looking thoughtfully at something for a moment, for instance, before he launches it across the room with a bloodcurdling scream. As he’s only one, I’m reluctant to make any snap judgements, but, based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s certainly possible that, like it or not, I’ll be engaged in some form of extreme parenting. I have visions of myself chasing him through perilous construction sites, and being beaten nearly to death playing football in our back yard. Ribs, at the very least, will be broken. I know that much.

This is what Arlo looked like this summer, when he was about eight months old. (The tintype was taken at Photobooth SF.)

I’m feeling my age.

For a good deal of my father’s life, he was raised by his grandparents, on their small, Kentucky farm. I remember, as a kid, being struck how odd that must have been, being raised by an old man. Well, a few days ago, as I was struggling to lift my son, it occurred to me that I’m probably older than my great-grandfather was when my father was born. I’m also older right now than my dad was when I moved out of the house, at the age of 18.

There’s a lot to be said for waiting to have children. I’d like to think that I’m smarter, more reflective, and more thoughtful than I was twenty years ago. I don’t know, however, that the trade-off is worth it. While I can certainly do things for him now that I couldn’t do at 20, like afford to take him on a whirlwind tour of New York’s museums, I don’t know that I’ll me in any condition to go on long hiking trips with him, like my dad did with me. Or, for that matter, even give him a piggyback ride without wincing.

And, finally, here’s what the little guy looks like today.

In conclusion, I’m a very lucky man, even with the OCD, the bad back, and the sleepless nights. I’m not good at much, but apparently I make lovely, delightful children… Here’s hoping they continue on to be productive, happy, relatively well-adjusted adults…

Here’s what I said when he turned 7:

If the Jesuit motto, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” as popularized in Michael Apted’s Up Series, has any merit, the time we have left to influence our son Arlo, who turned 7 this morning, is fast running out. As of right now, we have just 364 days to mold him into the man he will be the rest of his life.

For the most part, I’d say that, if he grew up to be exactly the same as he is now, only a little bit larger, more worldly, and perhaps employable, we would have done a pretty good job as parents. He is, by most accounts, a pretty terrific kid. He is smart, inquisitive, thoughtful, and, when it really matters, kind. He’s not perfect by a long shot, but he shows great potential. He pushes boundaries at home, pokes and prods for attention, and quarrels with his teenage sister, bit, beneath it all, he’s an incredibly sensitive kid with a big heart. With no encouragement on our behalf, he told us a few years ago that he wanted to be a vegetarian, as he couldn’t stand the thought of animals dying so that he might eat them. Granted, he said he still wanted to make an exception for bacon and pepperoni, but, for a five year old to say that on his own, and then stick with it, I think, is an impressive thing. And I think it gets to the heart of who he is. Beneath all of the fart jokes, and the nonsense, he’s a pretty serious, thoughtful young man who cares about those around him. And I couldn’t be happier to have him living here with us, even if he spends a good part of each day asking us if he can get on the iPad, talking about Pokemon, and making up reasons not to go to sleep.

I had a migraine this morning, so I missed a good deal of his birthday, locked up in my bedroom, with a pillow over my head. I usually get my migraines later in the day, and I always handle them in the same way. I rush home from wherever I am before I completely lose my vision, which usually takes about half an hour, and then I jump into bed and go to sleep. When I wake up, I’m usually a bit disoriented, but the headache is gone, and I can see clearly again. As today’s migraine hit me early in the morning, though, as I was folding laundry, I couldn’t get back to sleep. So I just lay in bed, thinking. I spend hours just watching the light show of my migraine flash across my closed eyelids, while thinking about my son. [Thankfully, the pain this time wasn’t too bad.] It was like I was dreaming while awake. My thoughts just jumped around without much rhyme or reason. One minute, I was thinking about watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with him in bed on a snowy night, and the next, I was thinking of how much he impressed me during a recent trip to Greenfield Village, when he was talking with one of the historical reenactors about turn-of-the-century refrigeration. And I didn’t really have any control over what I was seeing. I wasn’t trying to summon up specific memories. It was as if I were dying, and everything was just kind of flashing before me. I’d see his smile on a carrousel, and the next thing I knew, I was standing in a pool and he was jumping into my arms for the first time. It sounds weird to say it, as most of my life is spent worrying that a migraine might strike in any minute, but it was really incredibly beautiful.

I don’t know how much Arlo would want me to make public about his young life with us. I’m sure, at some point, he’ll ask me to scrub this site of any mention, for instance, that he was born in our dining room, with his sister helping, but there are a few things I’d like to mention, just so they’re recorded somewhere. The following are in no particular order, and they’re not necessarily the most important things about my son. They’re just all things that I thought about today, while in bed, waiting for my migraine to pass.

First, I used to tease him about not being human. I’m not sure when it started, but it was relatively early on. I told him that he was a creature called a Whoodie Boodie, and that a farmer somewhere in rural Michigan had caught him in a Whoodie Boodie trap. [The Whoodie Boodie were eating his fields, so he didn’t have much choice.] Arlo knew that I was kidding, as he knew that he was born in our dining room, in a rented, inflatable pool, which he’d seen photos of, but he’d get mad every time I said it. [It was kind of a fake mad that I don’t think we have a word for in English.] I’d tell him in detail how we had to surgically remove his trunk, file down his fangs, and shave him every night in his sleep, and he’d scream at me in this funny kind of way, yelling, “I am a real boy, not a Whoodie Boodie.” Clementine, for what it’s worth, was not a Whoodie Boodie, but something called a Fuddah Fuddah. There was no real origin story in her case as I recall. She wasn’t caught in a trap, and surgically transformed into a little girl. And, if memory serves, I think she started it. She would say that I was a Fuddah Fuddah, and I would correct her, saying that, no, it was she who was the Fuddah Fuddah. And we’d go back and forth.

Speaking of Clementine, I just remembered that one of the first things she said as a baby was in response to me saying, “Daddy’s alwayssss.” I’d say, “Daddy’s alwayssss….,” and she’d enthusiastically add, “RIGHT!” Linette didn’t find it funny, but it amused me. I guess it was probably my first foray into the world of what people now refer to as dad humor.

Second, it’s a super small thing, but Arlo told us a few days ago that a girl in his school came in late because she had to have her feet shaved. When asked to explain, he couldn’t. He just said that was what he’d heard. And I told myself that, one of these days, I should write it down for posterity. It must have been this thought, this morning, as I lay in bed with a headache, that triggered my memory of telling him that we had to shave him every night, so people wouldn’t recognize him as a Whoodie Boodie. [Who knows, maybe Whoodie Boodies are real.]

Third, Arlo is getting to the point where he appreciates that there’s a difference between boys and girls. Last fall, he was telling me about a girl that he’d been playing tag with at school, and how it felt different when she tagged him than when his other friends tagged him. He was genuinely asking me why it felt different to him, and I found it to be incredibly sweet. He also said that her eyes were “sparkly,” which isn’t something he’s ever said about his male friends. I don’t want him to rush into the world of young-adulthood, but it’s interesting to see how it happens, and I’m happy for our conversations. I don’t think I was very open about such things as a boy, and I suspect my life my way in life may have been a bit easier if I had been. At any rate, I’m thankful that we have the kind of relationship where we can talk about such things.

Fourth, we’ve been having quite a few conversations lately about how it’s important for people to “know their audience,” and how, for instance, humor that might work incredibly well on the playground, doesn’t work quite so well with a teenage sister, or middle-aged patents. And I think that’s one big downside to having an older father. While I think I’m probably better in a lot of ways, my tolerance for some things is pretty much nonexistent. For instance, there’s a pitch that he can hit that just kills one of my 50-year-old ears. And it’s difficult to convince a six year old, no matter what kind of potential they may show toward empathy, to hold it down. I mean, he knows he can’t push me down the stairs, as he knows what would happen. But it’s impossible to convey what might be going on inside my ear, or, for that matter, inside the mind of his 14 year old sister. It just doesn’t register with him. So we’ve been talking more about his need for attention, how absolutely normal it is, how there’s a difference between positive and negative attention, and how, if what he really desires is our time, he might do better to request that we read the Three Investigators together, or play a game of Uno, than leap out of a box, and scream “oodgie budgie,” while poking us in the stomach. [Thankfully, he sees to be transitioning away from “oodgie budgie.” His new go-to phrase this week is “mommy karate.”]

Fifth, we took him and some friends to an indoor trampoline park yesterday, to jump around like maniacs and eat donuts. When the jumping was over, a young woman who worked at the place led Arlo over to a giant wheel, where he could spin for gifts. She told him to go ahead and spin the wheel, pointing out all of the things that he might win, and then he gave the wheel the tiniest of spins ever, moving it about two inches, and landing on “Icees for the Crew,” which is what he’d wanted. She thought about it for a moment, considering the possibility of telling him that he’d broken the rules by not spinning the wheel harder, but she just said, “Well, no one has ever done that before, but I guess there’s no rule against it.” As we walked forward to get our icees, she said, “He’s a really smart kid, isn’t he?” And it was at that point, it dawned on me that he’d probably be able to take care of himself once he left he nest. At least that’s my hope. And, while it’s true that he is smart, I think a better word for him is clever….

Posted in Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Connect

BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Pythias