Dear Nate… 004: Understanding is gold

Defending something you didn’t choose

Dear Nate;

It’s May so I spend a lotta time thinking of your mama.

This fella named Nilesh Jain once said, “Five minutes after your birth, they decide your name, nationality, religion, sect, and you spend rest of your life defending something you didn’t choose.”

I’ve always felt that everyone is who they are because of the parents to whom they were born.

For good or bad, you either inherit your parents views or rebel against them. Don’t know which path you’ll choose but I hope you understand why I live my life as I do.

I chase understanding, not knowledge. Friends, not fortune. Meaning, not entertainment.

There’s a saying called, “Tiger Parents,” where Asian parents push their children for success through any means necessary. To a large extent, I’m the result of tiger parents.

But I don’t want that for you. I want something greater for you: Not knowledge but understanding.

I look at my role in your life as your guard and instructor. My job is to protect you so that I have time to show you what I know and hope you find some wisdom in it.

My life is full of instructors: Uncles Chad and Agapito teach me violence but are some of kindest souls I know. Uncle Aki is the single smartest human being I’ve ever met, yet uses that brilliance to help others, including us.

You see, we are all the average of the five people we spend the most time with so I make sure to spend time with those that can instruct me. Because they bring value to me, so that I can bring value to you.

I don’t want you to root for a team because you happen to be born in that team’s city, or – even worse – hate someone else because they were born in a different city. Or to different parents.

That’s beyond worthless in my eyes and, I hope, with time, your eyes as well.

Understanding lets you maximize the valuable and minimize the worthless. And none of us are here very long so the sooner you can separate the wheat from the chaff, the better.

If most people aren’t here very long, your mama was here for just a beautiful moment in time. But she died knowing things. Things she told me that I will tell you because they made my life richer and will do the same for you.

For all this, I also hope you grow up enjoying frivolous things, because there’s joy in the ability to be extravagant.

But knowing that something is frivolous makes it ok; thinking that the unimportant is important is not.

To collect gold, you have to know what is tin. Because, you see, you don’t get gold by making it; you get gold by washing away everything that’s not gold.

The self-made wealthy are wealthy because of what they eschew, not because of what they acquire.

We’re all given 24 hours here; what you do with it plots out your life, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have 26,280 days here. Use them wisely. Surround yourself with kind and knowledgeable instructors.

Speaking of luck, you’re my son – and Alison McCarthy’s son – by pure luck. For us, it was the best possible kind. For you, only time will tell if it was good or bad.

I hope it’s the former but luck, and life, is what you make of it.

In the end, I don’t want you to be some imitation of me. I want you to be better than me.

Love,

Papa

Him: (randomly) We don’t have a mommy at home.
Me: (pause) No, we don’t.
Him: Is she stuck?
Me: No. Papa misspoke.
Him: Where is she?
Me: She’s…she died.
Him: She died? Why?
Me: She got sick.
Him: She got sick? Will she feel better?
Me: I don’t…no. She won’t. But I’ll tell you all about her because I was her best friend and she was mine. (clears throat) OK?
Him: (laughs) OK!

Dear Nate… 001
Dear Nate… 002: Wait and wish
Dear Nate… 003: Rain happens

Location: Central Park West and W 72nd, crossing the street
Mood: unhappy
Music: Not enough time for all that I want for you
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Catching a film

It’s a good thing


I finally saw Avengers: Endgame the other day. It was pretty good, I have to say.

It also makes sense why they split it into two films, cause, man, it was long enough as it was.

A buncha my friends said it made them cry, but there was only one part that made me. Without giving too much away, one of the dead significant others came back and called a character on his mobile phone.

That made me cry.

Because it’s just another thing that’ll never happen again.

The Gymgirl patted me on the shoulder, which she does a lot for me. Her kindness helps.

Well, that and our inadvertent comedic moments.

Her: I’m balling in this bathtub.
Me: You’re “bawling?” Are you ok?
Her: No, not “bawling” – “balling.”
Me: We have a 17-year age difference. I have no idea what that means; is “balling” good or bad?
Her: (laughs) It’s a good thing.

It’s May. I hate May.

Location: earlier today, 68th and Broadway, with a toddler
Mood: blah
Music: I would never do you wrong
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All the places I’ll never see

Decrepit old man

The Gymgirl kept doing things for me all week for my birthday, including buying me a Red Velvet cupcake.

She also pulled a bunch of my friends from the gym together for a surprise dinner for me last week but I had a stomach bug so I couldn’t really eat anything, which is a shame because it was at my favourite local joint of Cuban-Chinese food.

They came back to my pad to play some games but I had to call it an early night because I started getting feverish. It was a rough two days – we were supposed to go to see the Gymgirl’s family the next day but I was so sick that I couldn’t make it.

Her: Call me if you need anything!
Me: …

The next day, she came in to check in on me.

The Gymgirl: (upbeat) You look much better. (pause) Hey, are you ok?
Me: Sorry. (distracted) I’m better. I’m just thinking of Alison. She felt rotten for years. I just think about how much she suffered and endured…
Her: I’m sorry Logan.
Me: No – I’m sorry I’m such a downer all the time.
Her: You’re not. (later) At least you’re not projectile vomiting.
Me: Yes, there is that.

Eventually, I felt good enough to get out of bed and we had a nice day together and watched a few travel programs.

I like to look at all the places that I’ll never see in real life.

Her: Why don’t you actually go?
Me: (shrugging) I’ve lost that drive. Plus the kid and work means it’s hard to get away. This is like the next best thing. (watching a show on St. Paul Cathedral) I do like London, though. I’d climb that the next time I’m in London.
Her: It’s 30 stories! You’d never make it, you decrepit old man.

Also saw my boss for drinks the other day.

Me: I wanted to say, “I’m sorry.”
Him: (surprised) For what?
Me: For how things turned out. I had all these beautiful plans – personal and professional. And life ____ed me outta all of them. I thought I’d come back this summer but I just wanna take care of the kid. That’s all I want to do these days.
Him: You don’t ever have to apologize for any of that. And raise your son. We’ll be here when you’re ready. Trust me – when he goes to school, you’ll be itching for something to do.
Me: (laughing) Maybe…

Location: the gym, pretending I’m not 46
Mood: hopeful
Music: I’m a little bit home, but I’m not there yet
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Falling to the level of our training

Defining things

Me: Can you pack stuff for a picnic and I’ll meet you in the park? It’s beautiful today.
The Gymgirl: Pier?
Me: Perfect. I was also thinking of getting us half a roast duck.
Her: Woo-hoo!

I had run down to Chinatown for a haircut and some food but the weather was so nice that we made last minute lunch plans.

We’d not been out in a few days because we both got sick with a stomach bug so it was nice getting out.

We’d also not been able to get to the gym, which we both wanted to do.

This fella named Archilochus once said that, We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.

In a way, at our gym, we’re both training for something that will hopefully never happen. But I thought about that quote for a different reason.

You see, if not for this blog, I’m not really sure how much I would have remembered about our meeting.

Don’t remember much from the last several years. My mother-in-law thinks it’s because I slept so little and sleep is when your memories are set.

This is probably a good thing. There are horrors I experienced with Alison that I don’t wanna remember. But there are things I wish I did remember. About Alison. About the boy. About the Gymgirl.

All I know is that, after Alison died, I could barely function. So I just did that which I trained myself to do – after all, you are what you constantly do and after years of womanizing,* that’s what I defaulted to.

Well, that and drink to excess.

And as the fog of all the alcohol, craziness, and misery slowly faded, the Gymgirl came into focus and what I thought initially as another disposable relationship became anything but.

My life and luck has been – admittedly – complete s__t. But she and the boy are welcome outliers to my otherwise execrable existence.

Me: I wanted to say thank you. For everything. For all the things you do around here. With me, with the kid.
Her: Of course. (laughing) It’s not a big deal. But what brought this on?
Me: (shrugging) No reason. Life. Just…thanks.
Her: You’re welcome, Logan.

*Alison hated when I used that word: Womanizing.

But I don’t know a more appropriate word. I don’t think what I did/do really falls squarely in the realm of dating, or pick-up, or what have you – for reasons that are my own. They’re different things to me.

And once I met Alison, I stopped so I never spent any time thinking of a different word.

And once again, I’ve stopped. So it remains the most appropriate word I have.

Location: noon, yesterday, Pier I in NYC
Mood: grateful
Music: we’ll never know when, when we’ll run out of time
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Disposable relationships

Here we go again

Gymgirl: (puts on music)
Me: (after several minutes) What are the lyrics to this song?
Gymgirl: “____ you, I don’t need you, I can be just fine without you.” (the next song plays, Here I go Again) These two songs sum up our entire relationship!

The Gymgirl and I bicker a lot. Not sure it rises to the level of full argument, most of the time, but there’re definitely disagreements.

The problem with me is that I’ve been spoiled by living in NYC and by my old single life. For me, if there was an issue with a relationship, I’d just get another one.

Used to tell people that you can crash and burn all night at 20 different bars and parties but at the 21st, you might meet the girl of your dreams.

Meeting people has never been an issue for me – even when I didn’t need to meet anyone. Wanting to stick around was my issue.

The Gymgirl’s no slouch herself at meeting people so I think we both looked at whatever we were initially as disposable.

Neither of us thought anything much of what might come of us getting together, just that it would be nice to have some company.

Somewhere along the line, we realized that the other was the best company we could have.

But our relationship’s imperfect because life is imperfect; we’re each broken, in our own ways.

Still, we’ve discovered that we’re both pretty good at fixing broken things. Kindness floats, you see – itself and other things.

That Brave New World fella once said that, Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Both the Gymgirl and I catch ourselves forgetting how terrible our lives were before we met each other and, when we bicker, somehow forget that we’re not disposable to each other.

And then we wait until the other remembers.

Ideally…

Me: Man, how does someone as tiny as you get so angry all the time?
Gymgirl: Are you saying I’m short?! Come down here and say that to my face.
Me: (pause, laughter)
Gymgirl: (laughs) You can’t leave me, I’m perfect.
Me: Sheyeah…

Location: Bicker-city
Mood: hopeful
Music: gonna hold on for the rest of my days
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Heading north

I want to be wherever


The best thing about having this here blog is seeing the changes that’ve happened across all this time.

I don’t always use pictures that relate to the entry I’m writing about. For example, this entry is when I met a waitress that looked just like Natalie Portman, but the picture is one I took when I met a girl named Alice.

I don’t mention every person I meet in this blog for a number of reasons, least of which so many people I meet stay in my venn diagram. Natalie didn’t but Alice did.

Alice and I’d not seen each other in years; as I said, before Alison got sick, we stopped being social and in the world because Alison and I lost so many pregnancies. And then the fucking cancer came.

Been gingerly stepping back into the world here and there. When I was young and single, had a rule that served me well: Never turn down an invite.

It’s how I met both Alison and the Gymgirl. And a lotta others.

Anywho, Alice invited me to her birthday party the other day and I decided to go with the Gymgirl to this bar called The Churchill.

Cause I’d decided to stay here in this world so I might as well take part in it. From time-to-time, at least.

Alice: Logan! (hugs me tightly) You came. I haven’t seen you in…
Me: It’s been a while.
Her: (hesitatingly) How have you been?
Me: (shrugging) You know…it’s been a lotta rock bottom. But, maybe I’m heading north.

 

My brother wrote a song once about a girl named Alice – not this Alice – that I’ve always liked.

I seem to like women whose name begin with “Al.”

Location: Not north yet
Mood: pensive
Music: I want to be wherever Alice is
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Dear Nate… 003: Rain happens

Bearing the weight

Boy: Papa, it’s raining.

Dear Nate;

As I write this, you sleep in your room. You’re almost three. I’ve written you twice before. I should write you more.

I’ve been sleeping better lately. I dream a lot but I’m a terrible sleeper. Your mother didn’t have this problem. I hope, in this regard, you take after her.

There are things that I hope you’ll take from me, and things I hope you’ll take from her.

The most important thing I want you to take from both us is the ability to bear the weight of the world.

If you ever read through this blog, I want you to tell you two things:

  1. Papa probably made up most of it; and,
  2. I talk about bearing things, quite a bit.

I always thought I could bear more pain – emotional and otherwise – than most. Then I met your mother.

She was, and remains, the bravest and strongest person I’ve ever known. I’ve never met anyone who bore as much as she did.

I hope never to meet another, because to watch it is soul-crushing.

The first time your mother and I spoke on the phone, she was unkind to me. But she immediately called me to apologize and ask how she could make it better.

I told her, “You get points in life for being brave.” I think I loved her at that moment. There is nothing more attractive than bravery.

You’ll meet a lot of people in this life that have all the trappings of bravery: They yell the loudest, act the craziest, threaten the most. They are many things, but they are not brave.

The truth is, we are made in our sleep and by our lonely. Bravery is quiet and happens when no one looks or notices.

And bravery requires you to bear things you don’t wanna: Disappointment, pain, ridicule, and loss.

We’ve lost so much, you and I.

There will be times when you can’t bear it any more and you’ll want to cry.

I want you to remember that rain happens when clouds can’t bear the weight they carry.

Likewise, tears happen when people can’t bear the weight they carry. So put it down and cry for a bit.

It’s ok to cry. Papa cries a lot when no one looks or notices. Papa carries a lotta weight, you see.

Anyway, once you’re done crying, you pick up the weight again. Because life is nothing if not bearing the weight of the world.

The world will teach you things like anger, greed, hatred, and cruelty. I’m sorry for that. I’m so sorry. I wish so many things were different.

But here – in the four walls of our small Manhattan apartment – I’ll try and teach you curiosity, patience, and kindness. With those things and bravery, you’ll be able to bear the world.

And always remember that you get points in life for being brave.

Love,

Pop

Me: Yes. The clouds can’t bear the weight anymore. But it’s ok. They will again and then it’ll be sunny again.
Him: Sunny again… I like the sun. (thinking) Papa doesn’t like the sun.
Me: (laughing) That’s not wrong.

Dear Nate… 001
Dear Nate… 002: Wait and wish

Location: home with the boy
Mood: heartbroken
Music: I love you oh so well
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Alison saved the day

Nothing is ever as it should be

Went to Boston this past weekend on a last minute, 48-hour trip with the Gymgirl. (I’m as confused as you are.)

Had a great time and was gonna write about it but the kid got sick while visiting Alison’s mom in NJ. They’re in the ER right now. I think he’ll be ok but I’m waiting.

I’m a wreck. Alison once said that the day before you become a parent is the last day you’re not worried. She’s right. Even more so with me. For obvious reasons.

In any case, here’s a something I was working on last week that’s much happier so I post it instead as I wait.

I hate the waiting so.

The kid started going to a five-day-a-week school recently.

When I arrived to pick him up, the teacher wanted to talk to me.

It seems they took his thermos out of his lunchbox, and – for some inexplicable reason – thought it was some other kid’s thermos and wrote that kid’s name on it.

It was annoying but an honest mistake and they felt terrible about it.

I was gonna buy him a new one when I remembered that when Alison moved in here, she bought a multipack of these things called Magic Erasers (that’s what the cap’s sitting on in the pic above) and scrubbed both bathrooms methodically until they sparkled.

She was so proud. She said that Magic Erasers were her favourite cleaning product ever.

I spent a solid 20 minutes going through the entire utility closet and found a single Magic Eraser tucked into the corner and used that to clean his thermos – you can’t even see it.

That made me happier than you might imagine because I know that if she were here, and this happened, she would have done exactly that.

Alison saved the day.

Location: 24 hours ago, Boston Commons
Mood: anxious like you couldn’t believe
Music: Miniature disasters and minor catastrophes bring me to my knees
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The Captain and the Kid

Having Tea with the Kid

Me: I love you, kid.
Him: I love you too, papa.

Holy s__tballs! Well, this was the best night this month, which, let’s be honest, is a low bar.  Not gonna lie, I might’ve wept a little. Just a bit.

Got no one to share it with, so I share it with you.


Speaking of the kid, I try not to write about him cause I always try to remember what it was like when I was a kid: I didn’t want to be discussed and dissected in public.

But now I get why my parents did it. Cause parents love their kids so much that they wanna talk about them and show them off.

So I allow myself a post every so often.

When my sister-in-law brought him home the other day, the song Clocks came on and he knew all the words and that the band was “cold.”

No idea where he picked that up from; she had no idea either.* Kids are really like sponges.

A song I’ve been listening to a lot is a song called Imaginary Tea about a dad writing about having imaginary tea time with his daughter.

I loved you before I heard ever heard your voice
Before I even knew your name
I loved you before I saw those pretty eyes
I loved you right away

That’s precisely how I feel about the kid and if ever there was a song that summed up parenthood, it’s this song.

Speaking of parents and parenthood, the one-year anniversary of my dad passing will be this Friday.

The kid’ll be away and I’ll be locked in my room with my half-bottle of rum, which is all that’s left of the rum from the cruise.

Last year, I had people around. This year, it’s just me and Captain Morgan.

Holy s__tballs (again). What an awful month this has been.

Then again, everything around me seems to go to hell. I’ll take it, though, if that means the kid’ll be ok. Alison woulda felt the same way.

We’d suffer any sling and arrow if the kid’s ok.

Me: Do you wanna hear that song again?
Him: (nodding) Yes, papa.
Me: OK!

*edit: My mother-in-law told me they listen to the album in the car; mystery solved!

Location: surrounded by dishes
Mood: nostalgic
Music: I’ve been picking up the pieces of the mess you made
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It’s May. I hate May.

Some new friends


This time last year was absolute f_____g hell.

I’ve been dreading the start of May since about three weeks ago. And now it’s here.

I hate everything about everything, I think.

That’s not completely true.

Someone told me that the people you hang out with most after having a kid are other parents. Remember thinking that made sense but I wasn’t really aware how true that was until I started caring for the boy myself.

There are three women that I chat to online or in RL on an almost daily basis.

Me: I have a new hobby since I’ve become a father.
Her: What’s that?
Me: Well, I prepare all this really great, expensive, organic food, show it to the boy, and then throw it right into the trash.

One is a Slavic woman, another Chinese, and a third, Caucasian that lives across the street from me. There are other great people, almost all women, that I see on a weekly basis but they’re the main ones.

All three were exactly the type of women that Alison would have liked. Witty, kind, and intelligent. And great parents.

Me: I was running late so I crossed in the middle of the street with the stroller. I feel guilty about that.
Her: (dismissively) Please, I do that all that time. If someone judges you, that means they don’t have a kid.

We met for drinks around the way the other night.  The owner musta liked us because that’s him taking a shot with us.

I’m grateful they’ve accepted me into their club. It’s funny because I must be an odd addition to this group of mothers. An otherwise sad and peculiar single father of this awesome little kid.

As for me, I feel like I’ve stepped into Alison’s shoes and I try to do what she woulda done. At least, what I think she woulda done.

It makes me sad because I’m certain they would all have been friends with her  and she them instead of me. I woulda preferred that so.

But I’m grateful that they’re my friends and help me feel like I’m doing something right. I also wish Alison was here so I could tell her about them. That we have that village here she wanted to have.

And maybe they could tell her that we’re ok.

Because Alison always worried about us and I wanted her to know that they think we’re ok.

Her: You’re doing great as a father.
Me: Am I? Thanks for letting me know. I worry. About everything.
Her: That’s called parenting. He’s such a happy kid. That’s why you’re doing great.
Me: It’s all we ever wanted for him. To be a good and productive member of society. (clearing throat) Thanks.

I’ll tell Alison if I ever see her again.

Oh, I’d love to see her again.

Location: in front of a new bottle of rum. It was new. It’s no longer new.
Mood: heartbroken
Music: Oh, I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
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