Lou Reed Plays “Beginning of a Great Adventure”

Here’s a cool clip of drone-rock godfather and professional New York curmudgeon Lou Reed jazzing out on his 1989 album track “Beginning of a Great Adventure”, the studio incarnation of which appears on his superlative New York LP. Having bassist Rob Wasserman on this really is a bonus. Watch out for his tradeoffs with Lou’s guitar in the beginning; magic.

[Listen to the studio version of  “Beginning of a Great Adventure”]

Lou Reed image courtesy of Jazz Fest Wien Team

There is plenty of gooey music about having children out there from super earnest singer-songwriter types, evoking all kinds of über-philosophical musings on how parenthood will change their lives. But, I love Lou’s take on this mini-genre, still full of petulance and dark humour which we expect from him. Yet ultimately, this song is about doubt. Like all expectant dads, Lou is wondering about whether he’ll be any good at it.

I think it’s this last thing that resonates most with me, that being a dad does require inner transformation and all. But, it’s also ultimately a job, and an important one; passing on something better than what we ourselves received, if we can. It really is the beginning of a great adventure. It’s true what Lou’s wife said to him.

I love that the writer of ‘Heroin’ also has this song in his catalogue, that the darkness of drug addiction is balanced off ultimately, by the impulse to nurture. Of course, Lou hasn’t phrased it quite that way. And we’d be disappointed if he had. Nope; he’s going to “raise a little liberal army in the woods”. One man’s nurturing, is another’s mobilization to confront the world, preparing them to be thinkers and dissidents in a world that demands conformity and passivity. And you get the impression that Lou, and his kids, are up for it by the end of this tune.

Enjoy!

Sick Season

Sneezing girlI am wondering about how to think about the end of the Christmas season. Is it post-coital or post traumatic stress? In any case, with all of this running around, and with all of the weird weather we’ve been having here in BC, the beginnings of ‘sick season’ are beginning to become evident. This is a particularly sensitive for our household, because my daughter has a history of respiratory issues. If she gets a cold, we have to be on watch.

In the winter of 2007, she caught cold after cold. Apparently, children average about 10 colds per season. That seems like a lot to me. I don’t remember getting that many colds when I was a kid, but maybe the average is higher today. Maybe bugs are bigger and stronger versions of themselves in this new century. In any case, one particular virus took hold. It was RSV (respiratory synctial virus) which starts out looking like a cold, but later turns a bit uglier. Basically, it causes mucous to block the tiny branches in the lungs where oxygen is absorbed. This causes some very uncomfortable breathing problems. And like a cold, you never become immune. You can get it again and again, even in the same season.

My daughter Maya woke up in the night, her chest heaving, and her breathing laboured. It was pretty frightening. We drove her to the hospital for a series of traumatic tests, one of which involved an x-ray machine. Because she was so young and couldn’t follow instructions as to where to put her arms while they took the x-rays, they had to strap her arms above her head. It was like the Spanish Inquisition – and terrible for a parent to watch, even though I knew it was necessary. Eventually, after exploring the full extent of the resources at one hospital, it was decided that Maya was to be transferred to the Surrey Memorial Hospital Childrens’ Wing where she would be admitted. I knew things were grim, but I didn’t expect her to be admitted and on constant oxygen.

Surrey Memorial HospitalWe eventually spent five days with her; mum in a cot, and me on the floor. I wasn’t actually supposed to be there, but the staff let the rules slide a bit. They were great – friendly, flexible, good at their jobs. The head doctor, a pediatrician, diagnosed RSV right away, saying that it was a pretty common thing at that time of year. He also said that some cases were less severe than others, and that not all instances of the virus lead to where we were. So, Maya was put on some Ventolin which eleviated a lot of her discomfort (well, eventually – she hated the treatment, because it involved breathing into a mask…). But, now that we’d had the experience, we look upon every cold as a potential ‘situation’.

She’s just developed a cold yesterday, but its a head cold – it’s the chest colds that get hairy. Sick Season is on! The main thing we try to do is be vigilant, without getting too panicky either.  It’s easy to cloister children away to avoid illness.  In the end, kids will get sick anyway – that’s a part of the package. In some ways, our experience was an education. At least we now know what to look for, and we know how to take preventative measures. We’re working with our GP to make sure that Maya (and us too) survive sick season like seasoned veterans.

Sleep, perchance to sleep

Lately, the Girl has slid backwards in terms of sleep. My wife and I co-slept for a long time, and I believe this added a lot of benefit to the Girl’s overall well-being. She’s a happy child who has a great sense of security, great temperament, and very curious to explore the world without Mum and Dad during the day. But, since we’ve put her in her own bed, she’s had troubles. There was a time when I would have to stay with her until she fell asleep, and sometimes this would take quite a while – she’s a nighthawk. Her mind comes alive at night. She babbles. She counts to 10 (admittedly, this is kind of cute…). And most of all, she fidgets. For an hour and a half. It’s tough.

In recent months, she’d been going to sleep pretty much on her own. I’d read her a story, then put her in bed. I’d put the baby gate up across her open doorway. And all was good. She’d drift off on her own. Bedtime and the ritual that surrounds it is mostly my domain in the house, which is fine by me ultimately. I like bathing her, getting her ready, and reading to her. That’s our time together. Every parent should have that. But, there is a certain sense of disappointment when things start off shaky, get way better, and then go back to shaky again.

In the last couple of nights, it’s been like the old days, only in some ways worse. The Girl has been calling for her mother and being very adamant about getting out of bed. She’s gone back to fidgeting. And I can’t leave her until she’s asleep. I think this has been because there’s been a lot of stress around her which she’s picked up on, coming from different sources. But, it’s still pretty hard to take.

The thing I have to do is try not to let it show how annoyed I am at losing ground. I have to remember that it’s not just about me. I think she’s got a legitimate reason to be upset in many ways.

We’ll see where things go tonight.

Return of the Blog

It strikes me that I should write something everyday. I don’t know why, really. But the mysterious things in life are often as intriguing as they are confounding. Being a denizen of this part of the universe, I find myself struggling with both intrigue and with being confounded. So, here I am.

This is the second incarnation of ‘The Delete Bin’. The first one captured some important things, but then fell into disuse. I was too ambitious. So, this will be a leaner, meaner delete bin. It will be easy for me, maybe to not have so many expectations placed upon it, or myself (other than trying to write everyday to keep in practice). I might write about a few of those things which I’ve written about once again. Maybe I won’t.

I do have an idea for this model. Here, I’ll write about (in no order)

  • what it’s like to be Dad
  • music, since I am an incurable music geek
  • some film and tv stuff
  • being an awkward guy who likes to make people laugh.

You can follow along if you like. I will write to you every day – long or short, link or sentence. So, now that I’ve said it, you can keep me honest. It’s bound to evolve.

Welcome..

Dedication

This is a speech I gave recently at my neborn daughter Maya’s dedication ceremony:

“I remember the morning Cathy told me she was pretty sure she was pregnant very clearly, because I remember not feeling the way I thought I would feel – that is, terrified. To be fair, we had been talking a lot about and, frankly, been involved in the groundwork, of starting a family. But up until that point it really had been reduced to a sort of abstract, like some kind of theory that had yet to be proven. The moment Cathy told me that she was pretty sure she was pregnant was a joyful one, yes. But it was surprising too in that I knew, and I think Cathy knew too, that we were ready for it. It was this sense of knowledge, of surety, that was surprising, because there was no fear, no trepidation, other than the possibility that Cathy had got it wrong, and she in fact wasn’t pregnant after all.

Perhaps I should explain what I mean by “ready for it” although at the time if you’d asked me to explain, I would certainly have been at a loss to accommodate you. What we were ready for was Parenthood (that’s with a big capital P). Parenthood, as I have certainly discovered in these past few weeks, is the ultimate in practice as opposed to theory. It has to do with bare bones, no nonsense, action and I am sure that this will be the day-to-day nature of it from now on. But in those earliest moments, as far removed as I was from early morning feedings, dirty diapers, and tearful episodes of unknown origin, I knew that this possibility, this new element introduced into our lives, not only had to do with the birth and growth of a new person, but of our own rebirth and subsequent growth as individuals and as life partners. We would stop being partners only; we would become parents.

Since those early days (listen to me, the seasoned father!), I have experienced a certain clarity of purpose in the face of circumstances that would have been sure, 5 years ago say, to have filled me with overwhelming terror. Taking care of an enfant? Being one of two people directly responsible for the upbringing of a healthy, fully functioning person? Me? But, something has been in place to curtail these feelings of fear and doubt. It must be said that much of this sense of confidence stems from Cathy, since she has been possessed of the kind of certainty and strength as a person and as a mother which would rightly leave anyone feeling that all is unfolding as it should. Maybe this “something” has to do with what my own parents instilled in me. Perhaps it has to do with part of myself being unlocked as a part of some mysterious biological process that comes with being a dad. I think it more likely that it has to do with being connected to something greater than simple biology, though. It may have to do with how much I love Maya, and how I fell in love with her before she was even born. That is big. It’s bigger than doubt. It’s bigger than fear. It is important because, unlike the aforementioned negative forces which are often in place, in the best moments this love I experience leads to a place of clarity where parenthood is concerned. I know what I have to do.

I think it would be easy to think of Maya, as young as she is, as a new addition to our lives, without acknowledging her as a unique personality. It is easy to make this oversight just because she has no means to immediately express herself, with no voice other than the very loud one she uses when she is hungry, or tired, or needs a change. At this stage in the proceedings, it is easy to miss the person behind the needs. And sometimes, I do. But looking at her as a person, as an individual, even at this early stage, is leading me closer to the realization that parenthood is not a reactionary effort. I am noticing Maya discovering the world. I am seeing her curiosity, her need to explore, her love of the simple actions on our part that bring comfort to her. I am seeing her growing. This is meaningful. It has purpose beyond simple care-giving and day-to-day routine, as important as those things are right now. It leads somewhere. Where parenthood leads to then, what the purpose of it is I suspect, is not much different than it was when I helped Cathy bring Maya into the world. Parenthood is still about birth, or rather little births in succession, each one leading closer to a destination that has something to do with identity. It seems to me that parenthood is about helping someone become themselves, from infancy to early adulthood, and perhaps beyond. When I think about this, I cannot help but feel excited, and to feel, in these moments, that it is easy to be strong. Knowing what I know about Maya today, and loving her all the more, the opportunity to play a part in helping her to become who she is, to help her to get closer and closer to her true essence as an individual, is enormously meaningful.

So, this idea leads me to the question: why have this gathering, apart from the enjoyment food, family, friends and frilly bits? I suppose one reason is to introduce, formally, this new version of our family, of your family, of this family plus one. Maya’s presence means that we are living in a new era, and if some of us are more, or less, affected by Maya’s presence, the fact remains that the nature of our connections have changed, and have changed for the better. This is cause for celebration. Another aspect is linked to what I was talking about before. The mandate of helping Maya grow into the person she is not only the path where parenthood leads Cathy and I, but I believe that the same goals are common to anyone serious about loving her, in whatever capacity. As such, this excitement I feel at being allowed to play a part in Maya’s life belongs to all of you too. You will play a part, however large or small, in helping her to move closer toward her sense of self, in helping her to recognize her own value. I imagine that this will not always be easy. But I think this is what family and friends are for in general; being involved in each other’s births and re-births in whatever form they may take, whether it’s in good circumstances or bad. I think this is worth a celebration too. I know that Maya can count on all of you to be there for her, surely as Cathy and have experienced your support through out our lives, and even more recently during the dawning of this new era, when all kinds of adjustments have had to have been made.

So this gathering is about a celebration of our connections to each other, now strengthened by the presence of a new person. What could be more worthy of a celebration than that?

Thank you.”

Kindergarten

My nephew has recently reached an important lifetime milestone – age 5. With the coming of age that is associated with being five comes the most important aspect with defines that age; kindergarten. Now, he’s been to pre-school. He is not unused to the idea of being in a room full of other kids, with a teacher, and with a number of rules in place to govern everyone. But, somehow, kindergarten, as he is finding out, means something more. It is the first step, of a sort, to stepping outside of the familiar, and for a longer period of time than ever before. Needeless to say, being a sensitive soul that he is, he has taken on an attitude of caution at best, and out-and-out refusal during tenser moments. I think deep down, he is wary of change. As valuable an experience as Kindergarten is, it can represent the first stirrings of the idea that nothing lasts forever, that things in time are forever on the move. We all know what that is like – it can be as exciting as it can be frightening

My own experience with the big K was similar. In many ways, I think my nephew is much like myself with reference to a fear of change. Despite having gone to junior kindergarten, a class that I attended one year previous to kindergarten, going to school seemed like a leap off of a cliff. Who would I meet there? What would I do there? Would my homelife still be the same when I got home? What, at the end of all of this, could I really count on? Such questions were not so clearly formed, but the impulses which surround those kind of questions are still as real. In one sense, these questions are still pertinent to adult life today. We still don’t know what the future holds for us when we leave our places of safety and venture into the unknown. The only thing to be relied upon is our faith in those who love us, and in ourselves too. But, the fear is still there, the awful “what if” swimming around in our minds.

My embarkation to my first kindergarten class is only a vague memory. I do remember wearing a brown, striped shirt and a tie. I remember a picture being taken of me. My parents certainly recognised that this was a big deal too. Perhaps they even experienced some of what I was feeling – time was moving on for them too. I imagine some of the pressure on them was alleviated in some way. Both of my parents, due to financial and social pressures, worked during the week and the only time I really saw them was going to be on the weekend. I suppose this is a factor which is the source of some of my most lonely childhood memories. And yet, it is a source of one major happy memory surrounding my key kindergarten experience.

One day, I arrived at the classroom. I had morning classes by then, and this was to be another day playing duck duck goose and singing “Farmer in Dell”. But, when I arrived I saw a familiar face – it was my mother, beaming at me from across the classroom. Other parents had visited the classroom in the past, but to me at the time they were just other adults, mere accoutrements to the whole school day routine. But this was my mother – my mother. I remember feeling safe, and proud that the other kids would meet my mother. I suppose too that I realised that change could also represent a change for the better, that surprise could mean new possibilities.

I am sure that my nephew will discover this too and embrace all the things that are presented to him as things to be sought after – new people , new experiences, new ways of looking at things. And suprises, sometimes of the most important kind.

Dad

She looked up at me, standing in the kitchen with her big green eyes, now even bigger, gazing on me, her mouth slackened to a little rosebud and with a flush on each cheek. The expression on her face was one of awe with a little bit of fear perhaps on first glance. I soon realized that tears were in her eyes. As I approached her, about to ask her what was wrong, I noticed in her hand was a home pregnancy test, the type we had been hoping to use for the better part of a year. During that period, I was on a regimen of multivitamins and other assorted goodies in order to get my swim team in shape for the big meet. I think the hardest part was giving up my evening glass of wine; alcohol makes the little swimmers sluggish, you see. Up until that point, the whole thing had really been an exercise in preparation, something which we had thrown a lot of energy into but which had soon settled to a sort of routine. In some ways, the goal we had in mind was almost an abstract to the reality of vitamin regimens and, in my wife’s case, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. That morning, when she held out her hand to reveal the extra line on not one, but two of the tests and said, “I tried it a couple of times, and it’s faint. But I think I’m pregnant”, it still seemed to me like something out of a dream, but at the same time bringing everything that counted into focus. I embraced her, feeling a little numb from just having woken up, but also with an electrical charge of excitement. I realized that I would soon be a Dad, something I had thought about and wondered about perhaps for my whole life.

With the enormity of the prospect, I was absolutely certain that the feeling of excitement, that feeling that life was about to become more real in a way, or at least with a sharper contrast like a TV image adjusted for clarity, would soon turn into a feeling of anxiety. I have a great many strengths, but I am often plagued with paralyzing self-doubt of a kind that often makes me think that my next step could be my last. If anyone was going to freak out about the imminent prospect of becoming a father in the next nine months, it was going to be me. The only real fear I felt soon afterwards however, was that my wife had misread the test, that she had got it wrong. I quipped to her that if we had been sixteen years old and in the same situation, the feeling would have been the exact opposite! So, my wife made sure to visit the clinic that day to confirm what we had hoped, which she did. The naming of the child began that very evening, and no sign of fear. It seems that we are both as ready as we’ll ever be to welcome Little Bump into the world.

One thing that my wife and I had struggled with in our first years together without children, is suffering the comments from people who have kids. There is a certain tone of voice and turn of phrase common only to those with children when they are confronted by a couple who have not yet entered that world of diapers and car seats. More often than not, the revelation that you don’t yet have kids leads them into a monologue about how “it changes everything” and “better enjoy your freedom now”. The world-weary tone of someone who seems to be suggesting that they have been cheated somehow, that having kids meant that they had to stop being who they are in order to be successful parents, has been somewhat of a challenge, mainly because it’s hard to know just what to say, other than to sit and smile and listen to their sage advice. I suspect we’ll hear more from this camp before Little Bump is born. However, I suppose this take on the life of child rearing has challenged us in a good way, because we are now determined to take a path of our own, away from the model set before us that life ends when you have a child. From these experiences, these conversations, I now consider it one of my goals to maintain a life as I have done all along, and not out of a sense of defiance or out of pitting my own needs against those of my child. Rather, I would hope to see that our lives would be entwined, rather than treated as two poles between which I must choose. What better way to raise a successful person, to be responsible for them, then to show that person how to be an individual with three dimensions, with thoughts, with feelings, with interests, with weaknesses, with tastes, with passions, with things to say that cannot be said be anyone else in the world, by my very example? I know that deep down, when I was a child myself, one of my greatest needs was to know who my parents were, to get a glimpse of their personalities beyond their function as teachers, protectors, disciplinarians and people who worked for my well-being. I doubt very much that I was alone in this. Who, I submit, wishes to be raised by someone who has no life of their own, with no dimension and who cannot be truly known because there is nothing to know beyond mere functionality?

Do I believe that life will utterly change when my child is born? I do not doubt it, and I would hope it would change. I take the word of all parents when they describe the magnitude of the responsibility, the taxing nature of what lies in store for my wife and me, as well as the rich rewards. But, I feel the best way to serve our child, the thing that will make sure that our child grows up knowing that he is an individual born into a world of individuals, is to be a true individual myself. I must be ever seeking the balance between my own inner world and the goal to strive to be a better husband, a better friend, a better son, with that of my role and responsibility as a better parent. Were I to believe that I am meant to give up my life, to discontinue my own journey in order to be a successful father, than I feel that my so called sacrifice would cost more than what I should pay, and what my child should pay as well in not having that dimension reflected back in the eyes of their father. It would not be a sacrifice of self so much as a means to instill feelings of guilt lurking beneath all the good I would seek to do, the child knowing that all that lay before and what is to come in the future was due to the fact that I was forced to relinquish my life for theirs. But, guilt has no place in love, I feel. If I am to be successful as a parent, than it will be because my son or daughter knows that my life would have been poorer if they had not shared it, that my life in turn is more vital because I was allowed to know them and have some positive effect on who they have become. In this sense, I give up nothing, and gain everything.

A road stretches out before me. A new chapter is beginning, just as they have done before in times past, although not so visibly, as palpably as this one. As Lou Reed said, “This is the beginning of a great adventure”. It will be an adventure of many lessons, where the things I hold to be true now may be different in the future. The future is a mystery. The only thing we have in any circumstance, living as we do in an eternal present, is willingness. In my naiveté perhaps, I believe that for now it is enough. Perhaps that is the only difference which can be said of any good parent, being willing to meet what the next moment brings. We’ll see.