November 30, 2007

A high chair in the dining room

My brother, sister-in-law, and niece came to New York for the week. It is the first time my sister-in-law, "A," has been north of, say, Washington, D.C. My niece, Kayanna, 10-months-old, had her first airplane ride and encounter with the T.S.A.

I wonder if they looked in her diaper for a concealed weapon. I think the odor of a ripe diaper would have been a perfect way -- and so subtle -- for Kayanna to express what I feel when I am disrobing to go through the metal detector. It would certainly have marked her as a member of Aunt Alice's family. We don't suffer fools easily.

Hard to believe I'm saying "sister-in-law" after my brother has only been married for 14 months. Wives one, two, and three were relegated to the status of "my brother's wife." This one, though, "A," mother of my niece, may be a keeper. Kayanna has my family's bloodline, for whatever that's worth. Meanwhile she's adorable.

I'm hoping Kayanna's gene pool will swim with common sense and high intelligence, and forgo the migraines and depression common to "A's" family and mine. In that sense my brother is brave; I was never willing to take the genetic roulette wheel out for a spin.

I like "A", babe in the woods that she is, more than previous models. She's bright, she's funny, she shares my family's sense of humor, which, if you didn't know us, you would have a hard time following, and not only is she intelligent, she wants her daughter to go to Harvard. She wants Kayanna to have more advantages than she did, and I don't doubt that she will try her damnedest to make sure that happens.

(I don't think "A" realizes that she has married into a family that has the financial advantages to make sure Kayanna gets the best education she can receive, but that is a story for another time.)

"A" and I even like the same TV and books. We are House and Law & Order: CI fans. Her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, which give her the seal of intellectual approval from my over-educated self. (Previous wives were fond of Entertainment Tonight and that ilk, and I don't think any of them touched an actual book.)

Kayanna hasn't quite perfected her crawl: after a few steps on and and foot, she relaxes into the Army crawl, pulling herself along solely with the strength of her arms, and dragging the rest of her 20-pound body behind her. However, she can stand up, and if you hold her hand, she can walk.

This may be banal for anyone who writes a mommy blog or who has had their own children, but I'm the Aunt, and my exposure to babies has been very limited. Judging from my mother's anxiety before the Southern ("A" is from a Tiny Town in the deep South, where my brother had taken up permanent residence) contingent arrived, it would be difficult to tell that my mother had raised two children of her own, and those in the era before the participatory dad.

The stories she tells about us are getting more entertaining. Once, she lost my brother, age 3 or so, in Central Park. Another time she offered him PB&J or caviar for lunch. He was about 4. He went for the caviar. I said, no wonder we aren't mainstream. As a baby, I ditched the house key in another park, so the nanny had to go to the super's office to so we could get into the apartment.

What else happened when my mom was raising us? At Schraff's, circa 1964, I refused to wear a napkin tucked into my chin unless my mother and her friend did the same. They complied. Amazing what power I possessed as a 3-year-old. Then there was the time I tried to drown my brother in the wading pool, a story my mother repeats time and again, as if eventually I will remember the incident. I also don't remember pushing his pram into traffic, but it's another of mom's greatest hits.

Onto the high chair: my brother and "A" came to dinner at my house last night, with the baby. I had invited them in part because my mother has become the take-out queen, armed with menus and her VISA card; no one has seen her apply heat to food since the Southerners appeared. I thought they might like one of my rare home-cooked meals, not to mention a meal without my mom (something I was also looking forward to).

They said they thought they would feed Kayanna in her all-purpose baby seat/stroller seat/car seat, until I said, do you want a high chair for her? Next-door, my neighbor has a grandchild about 2 years older than Kayanna, so I called. In less than 5 minutes we had procured the high chair.

Now it sits, pulled in as close to the dining room table as my grown-up chairs. Kayanna and her parents have returned to my mother's, leaving me with an empty chair that says "your niece ate here."

I hope she comes back for more, soon.

Labels: , , , ,

November 13, 2007

Alice to WGA: If she can join, she'll strike

Were I a WGA member, I would happily strike alongside the rest of the creative team. This blog would go dark (as if that's never been it's tone before? you decide.). If I were a Broadway stagehand, I'd be out there picking for job security.

Note to unions: November weather is pleasant on both coasts for picketing. If you're going to picket, April and November both have the most suitable climates for the great outdoors: not too hot, not too cold. Note to other unions: try not to have your contract come up, at least on the East Coast, in February. Picketing climate way too cold for comfort.

Traditional diversionary entertainment prospects in Wonderland are looking bleak in the short-run. Off-Broadway, however, may get a boost. People might go to theater without expecting a musical spectacular guaranteed to please only those who don't live here. Then again, without an increase in employee liaisons, water cooler conversations may be lagging in corporate America, assuming the cooler isn't a 20th century relic.

That said, my sole direct union affiliation has been the National Writers' Union, one with no chance of uniform contracts or Teamster protection. So, since no one is paying me here (will strike for acceptance), I'm blogging, and I don't consider myself a scab. No picket lines are crossed here.

Alice notes that she has never been paid a union wage, even while working in a union shop. That is to say, if she were a Newspaper Guild member, The New York Times would owe Alice big time.

Since Alice the financial planner is not only a non-union shop, she is an enterprise unto herself. Her water cooler is the refrigerator, and she doesn't converse with inanimate objects. Swear at them, sure. But cursing the obstreporous electric/electronic objet du hour does not constitute a dialogue, no matter how much the profanity might make a truck driver blush.

If her building staff went on strike, as they are wont when their contract runs out and their union leader is trying to make a point, then Alice would be a scab. She might bring the staff coffee and chat with them, but returning home trumps union sympathies. Since the rank and file invariably loses more in a strike than they gain, Alice will make it up to them at Christmas.

Meanwhile, this kind of strike makes for building safety that makes corporate and public security measures look like a visit from the tooth fairy. At strike time, a minimum of two building staffers are required to picket outside the building. Inside, the management company hires a security guard. Tenants sign up to check fellow tenant ID cards, ask for visitor names, run the intercom, and verify that all guests are legit.

Usually, we have one doorman for all this activity. At strike time, we have at least four people on the door. We are safer in here than in a locked maximum security prison.

Back to the strikes at hand: Alice is debating purchasing DVDs of her favorite pre-streaming video, pre-Internet linked television series. All of them are on sale. Today Barnes & Noble, whose computer memory and marketing gives Big Brother a run for the money, emailed Alice an offer to buy the entire series of Northern Exposure. (It seems that years ago, Alice bought the first season.)

The Northern Exposure writers (and perhaps cast as well) probably receive no residuals for a medium that wasn't an issue in previous writers' strikes. (Alice would bet the distribution company makes money every time a DVD is purchased.) Thus, Alice's quandry:

She has just returned from a conference on Socially Responsible Investing, reminded about fair labor. So, does she buy the DVD, hence crossing the WGA picket line, whose fight is about the residuals they aren't receiving from this very medium and others?

Why are both Amazon and B&N offering big sales on TV series? Alice doesn't know of any independent video stores that stock these products. She suspects they have gone the way of the indy book store, where the staff knew her name and suggested books for her.

This may be part of the Do-it-Yourself de-evolution Alice has previously mourned. More to the point, how much does Alice want to contribute to Big Business. Which, if either, retailer, is preferable? How much has each company undermined if not destroyed local independent stores.

What about their employment policies? Who gives better benefits? Who remotely tries to be fashionably "green"? Given all the packaging, neither has a shot in hell of being the poster company for "Give a hoot. Don't pollute."

And to which state would Alice, should she make this purchase despite sympathy for the WGA, prefer a company to pay corporate taxes? (Hint: Mr. Bill is in Washington. Amazon is in Washington. Alice lives in New York, home of B&N. If she's going to go with a Big Box chain, where do you think?)

It's ruminations like these that distract Alice, at least as a temporary measure, from her sojourn into the age of grief. It is not much, but for now, ranting about the news is all she can do between weeping for her friend.

November 02, 2007

Carpe diem

This is for my friend, Dona. I mentioned her, not by name, in the first blog I ever posted. Later, I called her "Serena."

This isn't the last post I will write about her, but it is with great love and sadness that all I can tell you is, I have lost a wonderful, kind, funny, smart friend of 29 years standing.

If you want to read about her fight with breast cancer, some of her friends have set up a web site, that takes you through the chronology, from diagnosis, pregnant, at 41, to the end. Her children will never celebrate Halloween. It is, in some cultures, the day of the dead. It is, for all of us, the day she became a spirit, one not of this world.

I will always carry her with me in my heart, and in time, there will be stories, memories of us from our teenage years through co-chairing our college class's 25th reunion, everything in between, and the few months that elapsed between the beginning of June and end of October.

Tears are hitting my keyboard. The world has lost someone whom it could least afford to lose. And I mourn. For now, that is all I can do.