The Days Of Firsts

For the new parent, life is filled with various "firsts." There is the first smile, the first walk around the block, the first pamper blowout. The firsts are endless.

It's sort of like how annoying people in love can sometimes be — first dates, first kisses, flora flattened in reference books . . . the whole thing. Except with a kid, the mundane is pushed to the forefront like you wouldn't believe. I've already talked about first movies, first bottle returns and first opportunities to flee (not taken). Well, we added several more firsts this past week.

One big one: First plane trip. We were very excited about this and of course somewhat nervous. What if the plane tumbled out of the sky? This of course meant that we were experiencing another new first: First completely irrational fear of all-out tragedy; I think the only way to get over this one is to get the fuck out of your house — and your head. Easier said than done, but the more "risks" you take, the easier it is to gloss over the idea that anything is particularly risky. In this way, I'm looking forward to our first bungee jump, single-engine airplane ride and K2 ascent.

The only tricky thing about plane rides is to make sure a baby is feeding at takeoff and landing. It's just like when you chew gum: the jaw movement of nursing pops a child's ears. Taking off from JFK can be problematic when a plane is number 48 for takeoff or some such thing, which makes it tough to figure out when to start nursing. Fortunately we timed it right and Animal didn't seem to mind that he was hurtling through the air seven miles above the earth at 500 miles per hour.

Infant Fine Motor Skills

Another thing: Changing an infant in an airplane bathroom is actually not as difficult as you might believe. Well, maybe you're a pro and you can fix an all-out blowout in a Greyhound bus without having to use a drop of Purell; I'm not that person. Yet. But I never realized there are changing tables above those dinky airplane vacuum toilets. I think we did OK; I still don't see any signs of E. coli or hepatitis, so I'm assuming "mission accomplished."

The only time anything was amiss was when Animal was shocked out of sleep by the cabin lights and PA after the plane came to a complete stop and began wailing. Still, we were proud when Jen heard someone a few rows back exclaim that he/she didn't even realize there was a baby sitting there.

While away, we had our first real sitdown meal; it went fine. We had our first taxi ride; no problem; I even took a picture of the driver's badge and medallion number so we could remember him.

And we had our first baseball game. That was pretty special to me and only gets more special the more I think about it. Not to get all Kevin Costner on you, but there's something about this. Yes, he was asleep for long stretches of the action and no, I don't think three-month-olds can fully comprehend the concept of a sacrifice fly, but it felt good to expose him to . . . a meaningless early season game? No, in my mind I'll keep it Kevin Costner. All of us sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" to him during the seventh inning stretch. Pretty big stuff, in my mind.

Did Uncle Goober make a "My First Game" sign? Did I hold that sign over our heads during every half inning? Was I jazzed to see us on the Jumbotron? Is Mom checking with the front office to see if they have a picture of the Jumbotron? Did I record the game to see if Fox showed us? Did I watch the entire game on double speed?

Suffice it to say, the answer to all of these questions is "yes." And yet, the coolest thing for me was holding Animal on my lap thinking that one day Jen would teach him to keep score, one day he'd see something extraordinary, one night he'd root for the other team to win just to get home, some day he might root for the Mets to spite us, maybe some day he'd go fetch beer for the two of us . . . stuff like that.

And we stayed for the whole game. It was a short game, mind you, and like I said, he was asleep for long stretches of time, but the feeling — to paraphrase Mark Grace — was pretty big league.

One thing we learned — and if you have an infant and are planning to travel, or have yet to have an infant and might still like to travel if you have one, this might be useful: An infant's internal clock doesn't really change like an adult's does. So that if you're traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast and your child normally starts to wind down at, say, 8 p.m., you can expect him or her to start to wind down around 5 p.m. or so. It's not scientific, but in the future we know not to plan to be out anytime past 5 or perhaps 6. (And if you don't have children, or haven't had them in quite some time and forgot, this is why you shouldn't feel dissed if you visit someone in the evening and their child who you haven't yet met is nowhere to be seen.)

Of course, the main reason we went out west was to see my grandmother, who at 94 going on 95 in a little over a week, has waited a long time to see this moment, her first great-grandchild.

Now intellectually you know that when it comes to raising a child, the goal is to nurture a decent, moral, thoughtful, independent member of society. But once you tell your parents that either you or your partner are pregnant a secondary reason quickly emerges. It's not that it's not about you — because it never was — but it's more that you are part of an unbroken line that continues on after even you shuffle off this blah-blah-blah.

A long time ago when we were teenagers we assumed that having children was some kind of "selfish" act. Maybe you still see it that way. If so, try to keep believing that when you deliver your newborn to your grandmother. It doesn't feel so selfish then.

And that's not to mention what it does to your parents. I don't know if I've ever seen parents as purely joyful as when they find out they're becoming grandparents (except on 16 and Pregnant, that is). I believe the technical term is "apeshit." When Jen was pregnant I asked one of my parents' friends if he cared at all about his daughter now that he has grandchildren. "Of course not!" he laughed. I asked my parents if they felt similarly and they sort of shuffled their feet around and assured me that no, of course that wasn't the case. They wouldn't dare admit it, but of course they're lying. And that's OK. I don't mind that they're lying. That's part of the deal, and it's not even a bad one.

Posted: April 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Hardcover Book Is The Cornicello Charm Of A Celebrity's Career

Mike (The Situation) Sorrentino was at a Staten Island Barnes & Noble last night signing copies of his new 144-page book, Here's the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting Your GTL on the Jersey Shore, published by a Penguin imprint:

He wrote the book, he says, the better to communicate with fans, and nostalgia led him to choose Staten Island as the kick-off for his book-signing tour.

"I was born here and have a life here," he said.

Sorrentino's fame monster is clearly growing. Between TV appearances, plans for a new clothing line, a vitamin line with GNC, the third-hottest-selling Halloween costume and other ventures, including a third season of "Jersey Shore," he is on tap to bring in at least $5 to $10 million this year.

This is when writing a book seems like a really silly thing to do.

The Washington Post's Celebritology 2.0 blog delves further into the text, and comes up with this:

But seriously, he has to have some kind words about women? Oh yes — on page 99, you'll see his "Women as Food" comparison. A Filet Mignon is the "hottest of the hot chicks" while Dry-aged (aka the Cougar Cut) has been "out in the salt air for some time" but still has a "nice depth of flavor."

We've seen all 22 episodes of Jersey Shore, and I have to say, The Sitch really started to grate on my nerves, particularly when his toxic personality flaws took over in the final episodes of the second season and he tried as hard as he could to prevent any of his roommates from having any fun at all at the club. The producers were lucky that Angelina provided such a stake-raising dramatic tension for as long as she was in the house, because when Sitch was left to his own devices, a really disturbing side of him began to emerge, and the season didn't end quickly enough.

I'm thinking in particular of the times when Sitch, having struck out with all of the really beautiful Miami women at a club, would sit by himself on the lounge's sofa and sulk. On "better" nights, he'd simply round up everyone and instruct them that it was "time to bounce." On worse nights, he'd hit on his roommates' prospective women partners while they were off using the restroom, then somehow justify a "robbery." The best example of the latter came when Vinny went off to use the bathroom and Sitch almost immediately flew in to try to rub up on Vinny's ladystory, arguing, unsuccessfully, that Vinny "f****d up" (to quote the show's subtitles) by leaving this woman unattended for three minutes. This attempted robbery was preceded by shots of Sitch glowering on the club couch, maddogging Vinny and the lady the whole time.

The Sitch's mind games tended to be fairly transparent, and it wasn't hard to see when he was being intentionally provocative — "grenades," "DTF" and the rest is just bluster that you kind of disregard. There's no need to self-righteously agonize over his "behavior" because it's not real — it's important to view it on a continuum somewhere between, say, The Roxbury Guys on one end and maybe GG Allin on the other end (but way down on the other end). This doesn't excuse the mass-marketing of misogyny (which is really something to take up with the producers telling the monkeys to dance and not the dancing monkeys themselves), but when you watch The Sitch enough, you start to question just how much is real and how much is mugging for MTV viewers. (I'll conveniently disregard this recent news story about Sorrentino's brother.) But at the end of season two, The Sitch's campy facade seemed to break down and he just seemed kind of psychologically fucked up. And that was what was really disturbing.

I know that the Real Worldy producers learned early on that having a television in the house was a show stopper, but I can't imagine sitting in one of those places all day just gazing at navels, even navels on midsections as ripped as The Sitch's.

Season two stood out to me in the way it reinvigorated the concept of the kitchen sink drama — I loved how they'd all start hollering at each other like they were acting a scene from a John Osborne play — and then the expressive Italian hands would start flying around and it was just brilliant. This played into The Sitch's game plan, as he was clearly the most self-aware and sociopathic of the group, and he tended to talk his way into drama almost as well as he talked everyone else out of drama. But it was weird how much pleasure he got fucking with his roommate's heads, like it was a debate tournament on steroids — some kind of gorilla juicehead chode grundle debate tournament. On steroids.

That said, the finale was a letdown — there was another big kitchen sink blowout, which was cool — hey, Jimmy's hectoring Alison and he tells her that he wishes she could have a miscarriage, just to know the meaning of pain! But then the roommates just kind of make up and have a fairly uneventful last night together in the Miami house. To paraphrase Angelina in the show's opening sequence, "Um, hello!?"

At first I was bummed, but then I thought about it and, jeez, it's kind of brilliant when you think about it, because it's exactly like the end of Look Back in Anger when Jimmy and Alison make up for no good reason and you get the sense that the whole thing is going to repeat itself, just some other day and not on this particular night. On this particular night we go back to playing squirrels and bears; The Sitch obsequiously kisses Snooki on the forehead before throwing her over his shoulder as he tells her that "they're all family" or some such thing that you know he doesn't believe. And back inside they all sort of make up. And for at least that night there's no more drama and hollering, but just like some kind of fucked up family, you know they'll be at each other's throats in the first episode of season three. It's not "kind of brilliant" — it's actually brilliant! Very existential!

At the time, however, here's how I wanted the show to end: One, the producers should have taken out all the furniture and decorations in that living room area, leaving only that hulking rec room sectional sofa; Two, no overdubbed music here — let the voices be their own music; Three, this allows the roommates, who over the course of the season have shown themselves to be relatively sane — or at least not so psychologically fucked up — to stage an intervention on the last night in which each takes The Sitch to task for being psychologically abusive and just kind of weird and generally damaged; Four, The Sitch not so slowly breaks down and starts to cry, beating his breast and bellowing something along the lines of "I know, I know — I just have so much unresolved anger and pain"; Five, the credits roll on a black background with no music — just like on the series finale of The Sopranos. I would have cried, literally cried.

The best part about The Sitch is really his "Sitch-guage" language, with all the snappy "GTLs" and "grenades" and whatever other goofy vocabulary that you know he labored over trying to get just right (there's nothing off the cuff about this guy — even his arguments seemed rehearsed — unlike Pauly D, who can screeeeam!). Most of the stuff he came up with sort of flew out of my mental space already — and not for lack of trying, believe me, but just because it just doesn't seem like The Sitch really commits to most of the stuff he comes up with. I don't know if he popularized "creeping" or if the first time I heard it was when Ronnie accused him of creeping almost immediately after Snooki was punched by that one dude in season one, but I like that word, too.

That said, I think most of what The Sitch comes up with is only half baked. The "grenade" concept sounds like a bastardization of something I heard former baseball player Mark Grace say about "jumping on the grenade" — which was a version of The Sitch's "grenade" only adapted to the world of baseball superstitions in which, according to Gracie, a player would basically "jump on a grenade" in order to stop a team's losing streak (see "slumpbuster"). I understand the concept of "jumping on the grenade" where I guess you "take one for the team" in order to get your buddy laid, but how often did this actually happen on Jersey Shore? (And we shouldn't have to add that this terminology is totally offensive while the country is still at war and there are people who literally jump on grenades to save fellow soldiers.) It seemed like there were often, uh, situations when there were only grenades, and to me that's when The Sitch's Sitch-guage breaks down. Or "evolves" I guess . . . whatever, I was still confused most of the time.

Which is to say, I think The Sitch could streamline his message somewhat. This might seem like an odd thing to suggest to someone who has only written a 144-page book, but I think his message can be a little convoluted. That and The Sitch's monomaniacal pursuit of non-incendiary women sort of misses what I see as his sense of justice and morality (no, seriously — it's there, it's just that he hides it most of the time). And he seems like such a good cook! Why couldn't he have done a cookbook?

If I were to have worked with The Sitch on his 144-page debut, I would have probably first lobbied to change the title from Here's the Situation: A Guide to Creeping on Chicks, Avoiding Grenades, and Getting Your GTL on the Jersey Shore to something a little more direct. Say, Guys Just Want To Stick Their Dick In Stuff.

Yes, it goes "off message" somewhat, but we don't want a rehashed Greatest Hits Of Sitch but rather something more like Sitch As The Conduit To Understand Deeper Truths About The Male Psyche. The Sitch was all about just wanting to put his dick into things, and he seems like the perfect spokesperson for the concept.

Consider — sticking one's dick into stuff is a time-honored tradition in literature, especially American literature: Moby Dick's harpoon, Walt Whitman dry humping ferry passengers, seven-eighths of Tropic of Cancer, the liver in Portnoy's Complaint, the pie in American Pie. Even the burrito in Mötley Crüe's The Dirt . . . male protagonists are always sticking, sticking, sticking!

Consider also — the book-buying public needs — demands! — another self-help book that translates the namby-pambyness of He's Just Not That Into You into something that the book-buying public can really understand: Guys just want to stick their dicks in stuff — not "like to" or "prefer to" or "if druthers were had, would be sticking" but rather that the urge, whether acted upon or suppressed, is the modus operandi for male behavior, and the prime explanation for interpreting male-female interactions. And once the world accepts this idea, we are free to understand it, accept it, overcome it — whatever.

And The Sitch is the person we need to communicate this concept.

If I were working with The Sitch, I'd be like, hey, The Sitch, get your thesaurus ready, because this is going to be big. I'd talk to Penguin and be like, hey, Gotham Books, A Penguin Imprint, think about it — whether it's a "grenade" or a water-rich fruit, the dirty little secret is that guys just want to stick their dick in stuff and maybe they'd be like, "you mean guys just want to stick their dicks in stuff?" and I'd be like no, no, no — there's just one dick that all guys want to stick in stuff, and they'd be like, "wow, that's pretty deep" and I'd hit The Sitch on the shoulder and be all like, no way man, you're telling me — have you ever watched Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1981 film Quest For Fire? Well have you?

And so on.

And I wouldn't roll The Sitch's book out in some Barnes & Noble on Staten Island. No, I'd have him roll into Times Square on the back of an elephant. Because, again, it's just that big. And maybe we could concoct a scene where JWoww shoots a tranquilizer dart at the elephant, and The Sitch falls to the pavement, and JWoww just sits there with that modern day Mona Lisa smirk looking awesome, because, well, have you ever actually considered how cool JWoww's smirk is? It is. But then that would be JWoww's book, and that's yet another one that we still have to do.

I want to say something quippy and brilliant here but I think I should save it for the foreward.

You with me, dawg?

Posted: November 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Books Are The SUVs Of Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,