Phoebe's Mantra


Sari’s away at Yaddo for two weeks — one more week to go — and this is a representative sample of Phoebe’s conversation:

"I’m a friendly little birdie! And you’re the friendly daddy birdie! Peep peep!" And "I’m a friendly little kitty. And you’re the friendly daddy kitty. Meow!" And "I’m a friendly little doggy. And you’re the friendly daddy doggy. Ruffie!" And "I’m a friendly little bee. And you’re the friendly daddy bee. (Daddy, what sound does a bee make?)" Repeat ad infinitum.

Sari said basically the same conversations occurred between her and Phoebe while I was gone in Burma, with "mommy" replacing "daddy."



Recently, Phoebe has discovered the word (and concept) "baby." Wherever she sees a baby — in real life, in books, on TV, on her jars of food, even photos of herself — she yells out "bay-beeeee!" She’s totally fixated.

The funniest thing, though, is she thinks pictures of balding old men are babies too. Specifically, one of the guys running for President:

John McCain

A year ago today…


Today Phoebe is one. A-mazing. Having a child definitely bifurcates one’s perception of time. For me, the passage of 12 months seems like an instant: I don’t appear to be noticeably more wrinkly, grey, or feeble. But just to think that one year ago today, Sari was finishing up 36 hours of labor and squeezing out our little girl. In that one year, Phoebe has gone from a helpless newt to a vibrant, talkative, neo-toddler. (She can’t quite walk yet, but she can stand unaided, and loves to cruise around on the furniture.) And she’s so interactive! She hugs and kisses me, waves goodbye, allows herself to be comforted when scared, and calls me “Da-da”. (She also calls Sari “Da-da,” but that’s another story.) So officially today her one-year warranty is up; it’s a good thing we long ago decided we were going to keep her.

Phoebe and her dad

Phoebe in her party dress

Phoebe sez: "Grass = Bleaugh"


This is Phoebe, taking over my dad’s blog to get something off my chest:

I hate to be a hater, BUT I THINK GRASS SUCKS! I’ve heard nice things about lawns and fields in the past, but I didn’t have to actually touch any of it. When they created urban parks, they put in plenty of paved spaces and concrete playgrounds in a concerted effort to appeal to city kids like myself, which they balanced with some grassy areas to appeal to “nature lovers.” But now there’s more and more grass starting to appear everywhere.

For instance, right near my apartment building, there’s a big grassy area in front of the Brooklyn Museum. Yesterday my mom and dad set me down there, so I could crawl around a bit or even practice “cruising” against the low wall which abuts it. But the instant I touched the turf, I just started to cry. Granted, it is “spring,” which is probably the most intense growing period for natural things like flowers and trees and the like, but it’s crazy out there: grass, grass, grass, everywhere you look! I can’t say enough how unpleasant it is to feel those sharp individual blades on my delicate little hands.

And today my parents brought me to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! They wheeled me onto this big green expanse and just sat down, plop! in the middle of it. I wasn’t having any of it, even thought my dad plucked some individual blades to show me how “harmless” they were. To me, nothing about grass is appealing. It’s all natural, and green, and multi-faceted. And how can something be both sharp and soft—at the same time?! Sure, I saw lots of other kids running and rolling around on the lawn, seeming to have a good time. But even if I had seen, say, another nine-month-old I knew, that lawn was no environment in which to bite another kid’s arm or drool on their toys.

So now I know I can skip this grass stuff in the future and just stick to safe places like my living room rug or the kitchen linoleum. If nothing else, the experience reminds me why cities were created, and how anachronistic (and insulting!) grass in urban areas is in terms of its attempt to bring “nature” to the civilized world.

Just Like a Phoebe


Phoebe(To the tune of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”)

It’s all very plain
Today as we stroll down the lane
Ev’rybody knows
That baby’s got new clothes
And lately I see her ribbons and her bows
Have perched on her curls.

Ah, you eat tofu with both hands, yes, you do
You yawn like your grandpa, yes, you do
Then you smile just like Ellen Barkin
But you cry just like a little girl.

Phoebe Leaps & Bounds


The last five weeks have been an incredible growth period for Phoebe. I can date her progress because we’ve been “homeless” since February 11, living over at Sari’s parents’ house in Brooklyn Heights while our apartment is being repainted and baby-proofed. (The job was supposed to take two weeks. Don’t ask.) During that period, our little infant has shot right through babyhood practically into toddlerhood.

For example, when we left our place, she could barely roll herself onto her back. If we propped her up, she could sit upright, but not for long before the weight of her head toppled her over. She did little “push-ups” on the rug, but nothing close to crawling. She could barely grasp objects in her hands, and her limbs often flapped around, seemingly without rhyme or reason. She had just started eating solid foods, but more as a way to get used to eating from a spoon than for actual nutrition. The best sound she could make was a Bronx cheer. And her constant drooling required her to wear a bib most of the day.

Five short weeks later, she can not only crawl wherever she wants, but she can lift herself up to a standing position! She even sometimes forgets she can’t walk yet, and lets go of her support. Thank goodness someone’s always there to catch her before she tumbles all the way down. She eats three meals a day, and whereas we once were introducing new foods only every three days, to make sure she didn’t develop rashes or allergies, now we pretty much give her a taste of whatever we’re having. She has two nice little bottom teeth, which we even brush at night (when we remember). And just two days ago, she started making actual word-like sounds: “bah bah bah,” or maybe “blah blah blah” — she doesn’t think much of adult conversation. She’s generally much more alert, more in control of her arms and legs, and is fully in control of her opposable thumbs. Most of all, she’s glorying in her newfound independence. She’s impatient with being a baby already, and wants to be a little girl. Her cuteness quotient is also at an all-time high. (I’m purely objective, of course.)

Clichéd as it is to say, i’m dumbfounded to realize that she’s only seven-and-a-half months old, that this time a year ago, me and a pregnant Sari were relaxing on a beach in Puerto Rico. A year ago, our lives were basically the same: I was working on A.D., Sari was at HRW, etc., etc. But in that time, we became parents, and our little 8-1/2-pound newborn is now a person, a personality, a permanent member of our little family.


A recent shot of the girl after she lost a bet. She swore that if she lost, she’d either eat her shoe or her hat. (As you can see, she chose her shoe.)

My 6-Word Memoir In Print


This seems to be the week for Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, the new book from SMITH Magazine (yes, the same SMITH which publishes A.D.). The book’s been getting tons of press, including an excellent interview with co-editors Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser on NPR’s “Talk of The Nation.”

Not Quite What I Was Planning originated from a contest SMITH held with Twitter last year, inspired by a possibly heretical tale that Ernest Hemingway wrote a complete short story in six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Although Not Quite What I Was Planning‘s premise seems light, the pieces ultimately chosen for the book are a compelling, fascinating mix of personal stories: sad, funny, outrageous, wacky, and thought-provoking. Contributors include Sebastian Junger, Po Bronson, Deepak Chopra, Aimee Mann, Dave Eggers, Harold Ramis, Douglas Rushkoff, Nick Flynn, Paul Pope, Stephen Colbert, Arianna Huffington, Lemony Snicket, Neal Pollack, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Ford, Amy Sedaris, and hundreds of other more “obscure” memoirists. Oh, and yours truly: “When she proposed, I said yes” (p. 71). (Plus, I drew the pic of Harvey Pekar that graces his memoir, “Fight, work, persevere — gain slight notoriety,” p. 38.)

Sari (who’s also a contributor: “Suburban girl tries to make bad,” p. 152) and I (and little Phoebe) dropped by Housing Works this past Saturday night for the Not Quite What I Was Planningrelease party, where we saw fellow 6-word-ists man_size, bobfingerman, sazzabee, dangoldman, and jahfurry, as well as about a million other people. (I also had the pleasure of meeting, in person for the first time, SMITH co-editor Tim Barkow, who designed the amazing comics interface that makes A.D. real so well.) It was quite a scene! Phoebe, as usual, stole the show, and she even appears (twice) in a video shot at the party by Jason Boog from The Publishing Spot. Sari & Phoebe come off great in the video, but for some reason, my voice sounds exactly like Kermit the Frog’s. Ugh.

There’s also a funny riff on the book’s premise on today, imagining 6-word-memoirs by classic writers of the past & present. Some of them are quite amusing, even though some of the writers who are spoofed — like Joyce Carol Oates — actually have 6-word-memoirs in the book! And contributor Frank Gilroy is putting together a registry of Not Quite What I Was Planning memoirists and their websites.

So forgive my bias when I say the book isn’t just a quick novelty piece, but something real and trenchant and worth reading. After all, Vanity Fair says the little book “will thrill minimalists and inspire maximalists,” while Publisher’s Weekly finds that it makes for “compulsive reading and prove arguably as insightful as any 300+ page biography.” Go ahead and buy a copy or two. It’ll be the best $12 you ever spent to support a great online journal, and provide yourself with some fantastic bathroom reading.

Oh, and go ahead and submit your pithy memoir to — rumor is that a sequel is already in the works.