Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Was Wrong...

...It happens. It’s happened before. It wasn’t just me. But those of us who were wrong were way off.

I honestly can’t remember ever being this wrong about anything. For starters, I was wrong about the polls’ ability to paint an objective picture. I was wrong to pay attention to ‘favorability ratings’.

I was wrong about the media’s inability to see beyond it’s own biases, wrong about it’s reach, it’s ability to influence. I think a lot of us were.

But mostly, and most painfully, is how wrong I was about my fellow Americans.

I was wrong about how angry they must be, about what they think is happening to our country. I was wrong about what they define as ‘great’, and about how many of them felt this way. I was wrong about the type of conduct they would condone from a potential leader of our country, about how much experience or strategy is thought to be sufficient for such a job. I was wrong about our tolerance for cruel and racist language being transmitted directly into our homes, wrong about the type of role model we want for our children. I was wrong to assume that everyone could see what I see and that it would frighten them. I was wrong about what kind of country I thought I lived in, about what being an American means to people, wrong to believe that kindness and decency toward everyone was still a real underpinning of that. I was wrong to believe that democracy was immune to reductive thinking. I was wrong about whom we might consider our champion, about whom we would put our trust in, whom we believe will lead us forward, toward something better.

And so, in my wrongness, we’ve elected a man that I thought had no chance of winning, who has none of the character I’d hope for in my leader, none of the restraint or generosity or compassion. We’ve handed the keys to our country to a man that threatens those who oppose or criticize him, calling them liars, telling them they’ll be sued, calling our democracy rigged. And by doing so we are saying, as a nation, that we are okay with these things, that he represents us in the world, that he is the best of us. We are saying that America was broken, and he is the man to fix it.

So now that Donald Trump—a man I have at times viewed as a laughing-stock, a bully, a panderer, a liar, a clueless diva, a narcissist, a totalitarian, a person that will say anything if he thinks it will help him win, someone with a gaping hole in their heart that can never be filled by all the adulation in the world—is my president, I can only hope I’m wrong about him too.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Menu from Beggars, A Baby-Owned Restaurant For Dogs

Hand-rolled Cheese Crumples
An original! First, a slice of American cheese is torn into millions of pieces. The closest pieces are then kneaded like clay into tiny wads. Just before serving, the wads are smeared against the table edge and dropped scrumptiously to the floor.

Artisanal Giant Croutons
We take the heel of a sourdough loaf, suck on it for 20 minutes, then let it air dry in a couch cushion.

Strawberry Globs in a light Saliva Reduction
Our specialty – these gems are macerated to a viscous gel, then drooled into your open jaws.

Silly Guacachili
Served in courses, this is eaten first in great fistfuls from the Chef himself, and then licked from his face and torso as he giggles with delirium.

A local favorite, chunks of un-chewed & pre-chewed food are soaked in a bowl of drinking water where they expand to 5x their normal size. (Ingredients change daily. Ask your waiter for more details.)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lost in Translation

My son and his Spanish teacher

Parenting is a high-pressure game. I spend long, unhealthy amounts of time thinking of all the ways I'm screwing it up. To me, parenting is a series of decisions you make that transform your pure and perfect little person into someone you won't want around in a few years.

Most of my effort to date has revolved around the simple idea that not everything I think of ought to be said aloud. It's not that I think you shouldn't swear in front of kids, or that kids don't know about (and use) swear words. I just realized that if I wasn't more careful Eli's first word could very well be fuckstick, and even though that would make a hilarious YouTube video I've been trying to use more discipline in my outbursts.

And then there are the things we do as parents that we don't even know are harmful until some scientists point it out:
"...researchers found that at 6 months, the monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard."
— Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language. Perri Klass, M.D. Published: October 10, 2011 in the The New York Times

An article like this can really ruin a morning cup of coffee. Eli turned six months old yesterday, and what I hear when I read this is that I'm permanently screwing up my child's brain by only speaking English. I'm already paranoid about vaccines and water systems full of anti-depressants and their effects on his tiny neurons. Now I feel bad we can't afford a maid.

Even though he has yet to learn his first language, I've been feeling a lot of (self-imposed) pressure to teach Eli a second language. I think a lot of this drive comes from feeling guilty. It's well documented that Americans are in last place in knowing other peoples' languages, and that just makes me feel bad, like the rest of the world is looking down on us and thinks we're really spoiled and ignorant. I hate it when I go to a "local" business and the cashiers greet me and then turn to one another and start rolling their eyes and laughing as they chatter in a foreign language because they know I can't understand them.

"Get a load of this guy. We're talking about him right in front of him and he doesn't even know it."

"I know. We could be saying anything, like making fun of his station wagon, and he would have no idea."

"Look at him, trying to understand us while he pretends he's not listening."

"He has dandruff."

And so, if for no other reason than to be able to interject while buying canned beans at the bodega, I decided ¡Mi hijo hablará español o moriré tratando! (courtesy of That is when I enlisted the help of Jorge.

Jorge is a stuffed monkey a friend got for us in Japan. I named him Jorge as a joke because he looks like a foreign knockoff of a certain monkey famous among children for his curiosity. He is about the same build as his namesake, but he has these saucer eyes that bore into you with their blankness. He looks like an acid casualty. Eli loves him.

I had the idea that Jorge could help me teach Spanish to Eli because Jorge, as you probably guessed, is Spanish-speaking only. By employing a drug-addled stuffed animal to impart a second language, I figured  it would reduce the confusion of switching back and forth between the two. To me this was a simple and beautiful way to convey to my infant son that some people speak one way while others speak another way. Eli will see Jorge and begin to understand that Jorge doesn't speak the same language as Mommy and Daddy. And hopefully he won't only associate Spanish with monkeys, but we can talk about racism later. One thing at a time.

After a few sessions with Jorge, I still believe my idea is good. The only obstacle—and it is a really big obstacle—to my plan is that I don't technically "know" Spanish.

It's not like I'm starting from scratch. I took it in high school, but that was almost 20 years ago, and my teacher was a white guy from Marion, Ohio that we had to call Señor Cheney.

Señor Cheney was ancient, a relic from another era when you could still berate and humiliate your students. I've never met a teacher that hated being in class more than the shiftless potheads I went to school with, but Señor Cheney was at least a tie. He was a humorless and slow-moving man who growled menacingly at us when we did poorly in his lessons, which of course made us want to do poorly. He chain-smoked like a dragon and would come to class five or ten minutes late every day reeking of tobacco. He would conduct twenty or thirty minutes of Spanish and then leave early to do it all over again.

Ironically, his disdain of students and school in general made us like going to his class, if only to see if we could trigger a heart attack.

In his imagination, and perhaps in the days when you were allowed to paddle students, Señor Cheney's classes were conducted entirely in Spanish with the students asking and answering questions fluently and politely. But by the time we got to him there was no such deference, not to mention we'd learned very little Spanish so this was probably not even possible. Rather than apply ourselves, we found it much more rewarding to create nonsensical phrases like por supuesto el sombrero (literally: of course the hat).

Another rule was that each of the students would address one another only with their chosen Spanish names. I chose Paco. For reasons I still cannot fully explain, I got a real kick out of being bellowed at when the teacher wouldn't use my real name.

We also liked to use es muy—which means is very—all the time, for any reason. A typical exchange went like this:

"Señor Cheney, may I go to the bathroom?"

"¡Paco. En Español!"

"Señor Cheney, may I es muy go to the bathroom?

This was unendingly amusing to us, mostly because Señor Cheney's English, when you could get him to break his own rule, was exemplary.

"You peons! You couldn't find your way out of a parking space," he'd fume and we would howl with laughter. "Go ahead and laugh. You sound like a sack full of idiots!"

It was one of my favorite classes ever. I took four years of this. Sadly, my Spanish never sharpened much. Nevertheless, in the great tradition of oral histories, I set out to teach my son what little I know.

Even if you can read and understand a language pretty well, trying to have a conversation is another story and you're quickly and keenly aware of the gaps in your fluency. But I saw this coming, so I decided to try to brush up on my Spanish a bit.

The problem with this plan... well, there are several problems with this plan, but the biggest problem with this plan is that learning a new language is hard. I'm 33, and I ingested a lot of substances when I was younger, so my ability to retain even important things like paying the rent on the first of every month, not just some months, is about the ceiling of my capacity.

And maybe you already suspected this but, after a rigorous afternoon of playing a Spanish language app on my phone, I'm starting to believe you can't just cram for a second language and then pass it along to your child. You have to actually know the language and be able to think and understand it.

Another problem is that most Spanish instruction tapes are aimed at people who are planning to travel to a Spanish-speaking country. They're instructive, but most of the lessons skip over conversation to focus on practical phrases like, "Where is the swimming pool?" and "Do you have a kids' menu?" And some of the inclusions and omissions are curious. For example, I can differentiate between a sofa and a couch, or a table and a little table, but if I'm in a foreign country what I really want to know is how to ask directions to the airport and how to spot a prostitute.

Jorge speaks Spanish in this velvety accent that I learned from the tapes Señor Cheney used to play for us. His pronunciation is very good. Sadly, Jorge speaks Spanish only as well as I do, which is about a Kindergarten level. He can greet you and ask how you are doing, he can make small talk about the weather, and he knows a few random nouns, but that's about it.

For now, with the help of a diccionario, I'm focusing on swapping Spanish for the English words we frequently use with Eli, like asking if he's hungry or sleepy. We point at objects, like the dogs, and try to cobble together descriptions of them. I am sure my Spanish isn't very nuanced—I was recently informed by a nurse that the word for ice cream is not, as I assumed, crema fría—but it's fun. I only hope I'm not doing irreversible harm to my son's ability to learn real Spanish. I can see him in class:

"That's es muy not correcto!"

Whatever happens, I feel this is time well-spent. The rhythmic qualities of the romance languages cannot be overstated. To my ear, anything sung in Spanish sounds beautiful and poignant, and Eli really enjoys Jorge's singing because, even with an extremely abbreviated vocabulary, that monkey can craft a catchy tune. Below is his favorite one about boiling water for my morning coffee:

Necesito hacer
agua caliente
para café
para papá.

If that doesn't promote effective brain growth, nothing will.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Live Blogging a Live Birth

For my wife, who was busy.

July 10, 2011

@ 7:30pm: Oh dear. When Darby stood up to accompany me to dinner her water broke. I guess this is gonna happen. Darby is calling our midwife Jaymi.

8:00pm: The fluid is greenish yellowish. A quick perusal of the web says this is likely Meconium, which is a fancy word for poop.* It’s not necessarily serious, but the baby can aspirate it and this is not good. Jaymi is on the way.

We planned for this moment for months and somehow it has still managed to sneak up on us. We bought medical supplies and special teas and stocked our fridge with Gatorades (which were, apparently, off limits to those who are not with child, as though my thirst might not also need quenching) and all of that seems extremely small when confronted with the fact that a human baby will soon be trying to exit my wife’s body.

I’m not sure what we’re supposed to be doing at this point, but it seems clear we won’t be going for pizza after all. At a loss, I offer Darby a Gatorade and am told to shut up.

8:15pm: Darby is on the can while her fluid drains. I’m sitting in the hallway just outside the can. I was sitting in the living room reading about the American soccer team’s brilliant ouster of Brazil earlier, but then I realized this would seem callous if the midwife walked in.

9:00pm: Jaymi just informed me in sotto voce, “This is going to go fast.” Darby is already 5cm dilated. For the uninitiated and those that don’t use metric, this is about 2 inches and about half the size you need it to be. While that sounds big to me, it also sounds like the baby’s head needs to be only about four inches across to fit comfortably. This seems unlikely. Father’s hat size: 75/8 inches.

In the time since my last entry the parents were called. I wondered if it was too soon to sound the alarms but I decided it would be better than having the baby while they slept and having them feel like they missed it. Both sets live in the Eastern Time Zone, so they were just about asleep. My father-in-law in particular sounded less than pleased to be answering the phone but he softened somewhat when I told him the news.

I also ran to the corner grocer to buy maxi-pads (I guess there will be some bleeding). Gosh, there are some witty people at our local. The guy in line ahead of me saw that I was carrying only two packages of pads and let me cut in front of him.

“Husbandly duties?” he mused.
“You have no idea,” I said.
The cashier, looking at his watch, then said, “I’ve been there.”
I doubt it but I just laugh politely.

Presently, Darby is barfing her brains out. This is normal. Sadly, the puking started between the time the pizza was ordered and delivered, and the order was not without contention.

“I’m gonna order the pizza.”
“Will you get cheese?”
“Ok. What about—“
Just. Cheese.” Darby said with a withering look.

Now her pizza is sitting uneaten on the counter. It sure could use some mushrooms or green chile.

9:15pm: “Do you need anything?”
“My Gatorade. It’s on the red thing.”
Fetches it from the brand new hutch. Sweeps water ring away. Hands the drink over.
“I see you didn’t use a coaster…”
“Give me the damn Gatorade.”

I don’t mean to illustrate these events as though Darby is being cruel or unfair. For one thing, I am a terrible smart aleck, a quality that intensifies when I know I am supposed to be serious (alas, we don’t even own any coasters). For another, her body is preparing to expel an infant and this, I imagine, requires a lot of concentration, leaving little room for the appreciation of subtle jesting.

Darby looks very preoccupied, understandably so. She goes from standing, arms akimbo, panting like she just ran a long race, to sitting, stupefied, like a drunken sorority girl with no hope of making it home tonight.

9:30pm: Into the pool. Given that it’s so hot in our apartment and she’s already covered in sweat, I can’t see how laying in a warm water can feel good.

…and it doesn’t, according to sources. Not that I blame her, but she seems pretty unhappy. She just asked when she can start pushing. Jaymi told her her body would start pushing when it is time.

While stroking Darby’s arm I was informed of the unbeknownst-to-me No Touching policy. Calmly, Jaymi informed me that if I am going to touch, stillness would perhaps be preferable to stroking.

“No touching!” Darby repeated.

Next, Jaymi picked up the camera. Between contractions, Darby recedes into what looks like deep relaxation. Her eyes shut and her breaths slow and deepen to a rate a yogi would be proud of. However, the moment she hears the very identifiable sound of a camera strap quietly jangling as it is slowly lifted from a table across the room Darby springs to life.

“No photography!”
“You can always delete them.”
“No photography,” she repeats, flinging her hands outwards.

Jeesh. It’s like we’re at a museum. I wonder what she’ll say about my live journaling…

9:45pm: Darby is having some pretty intense contractions. Her stomach jumps and lurches like one of those fat comedians that can make their flab do The Wave.

I was holding her hand but I wanted to keep writing. Also, it was getting kind of crushy.

10:00pm: I don’t know if Darby is going to remember this real clearly. I’d guess she won’t. But I’d like to just say that she’s doing awesome. The work involved is evident to the guy in the armchair sipping ginger ale. And she may well talk about how difficult this was but, at the risk of oversimplification, she’s kind of making it look easy.

It’s quiet when the grunting subsides. Trying to be a good reporter, I ask Darby what she’s thinking about. “Nothing,” she practically whispers. This seems about right.

10:30pm: The pushing is in full bore. Darby is grunting like a slow-motion replay of women’s tennis. I switch out my writing hand so she can strangulate the left one. This is intense.

Jaymi is sitting calmly on the sofa. Occasionally she will quietly intone encouragements to Darby, but mostly she just watches. And this is fine with me. She does not appear worried, so I’m trying not to worry but I must look a little nervous because she keeps giving me the Thumbs Up.

10:45pm: The things that are happening in this kiddie pool! I think we both believed we’d be soaking our feet in the evenings later this month. Now I’m less sure.

11:00pm: We’re starting to see some head. Jaymi says he’s not gonna have much hair. How is this possible? I trimmed my ears the other day.

I can’t believe the dogs are sleeping through this! I hope the neighbors are too.

This experience is so strange, that you can just make a new person in your own living room. I kind of can’t believe it’s legal, or that you don’t have to notify the authorities.

Jaymi has been continually checking the baby’s heart rate with a Doppler. I feel tremendous relief each time when the whoosh that signifies blood flow is heard.

11:15pm: The belly button is back. It went missing a few months ago. This is little consolation right now, and I don’t mention it, but still, it’s cute.

“How much longer?” Darby wails.
“Until he’s all the way out,” Jaymi says. This seems at once really obvious and incredibly daunting.

As he begins to crown more my pulse rises. I am starting to get the idea of the size of this thing and it just doesn’t look like it’s going to fit.

“It hurts!!” Darby yells. This characterization seems wildly inadequate.

11:23pm: It done! Darby is cradling a short, bald guy. When the head emerged Jaymi had me move around to help catch him. I held his head under the water while Jaymi pulled and twisted him to the left. The shoulders came out suddenly and then the rest of him rushed out too. My heart racing, I held him there for a moment unsure of what to do.

“Hold him up!” Jaymi beams. I hold him up. He’s squishy and grey. His skin feels like a saggy water balloon. I can’t believe this was inside my wife’s tummy.

“Give him to Darby!” Jaymi says, less beamy now. I hand him to Darby who looks exhausted but also greatly relieved.

“Oh my god,” she says, cradling him in her arm. She repeats this several times. She is not even aware we are here anymore. It’s pretty special.

She looks at me and says, “I’d like to call him Elijah.” This is not surprising. It was on the list. But when she says this I agree because, good lord, this is not the time for an argument. I am happy to let her have the final say.

11:30pm: Pending a positive drug test, it’s official. Darby completed a natural birth in just under four hours and I have a son. Full name: Elijah Skywalker Photos. Stats to follow.

July 11, 2011

@ 1:30am: The living room is back to normal. The pool has been emptied, the tarp is gone, the Oriental rug is visible again. Jaymi assesses the baby and reports no irregularities. Eli is 20 inches long with a 13-inch cranial circumference. He weighs 7lbs. 5oz. For being the most beautiful and amazing baby of all time, his measurements are totally average.

Jaymi tells us to get some rest but this seems unlikely. Though we are both tired**, this is way more exciting than anything I can remember. As kids, when we got new Nintendo games I used to set my alarm for 5 a.m. so I would be up before my brother could get to it, and even then I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.

After some quiet crying in the pool, Eli was dried and swaddled. He is asleep now, breathing in quick shallow sips of air, using his lungs for the first time. He does almost nothing, and we are completely fascinated. We watch him until our eyes grow heavy. We will need our rest. This doesn’t get easier.

Special thanks to Jaymi McKay. She was a wonderful and calming influence throughout the pregnancy and, despite what she says, I wouldn’t have been “fine without her.” She helped us accomplish something momentous and made it seem super ordinary. And, after all, it is, but I needed her to reassure me of it.

Back when I was in art school, one of us posed the question as to whether babies poop in utero. This was before the internet, so we never bothered to research this. Instead my solution was to sing the words Womb Pooper to the tune of Dreamweaver to the delight of no one. There is possibly a video of this which I’m certain will resurface at an inopportune moment.

** I did work a 12 today, and the day before.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Last Words: A Bedtime Story

The pictures from our younger days are always so embarrassing

Dear Young Photos,

This might be my final post. Any moment now, according to a certain portion of the Christian community, Judgment Day will be upon us. Had I realized that The End of Times was fast approaching I might not have been so cavalier about my decision to conceive and raise a child. I am so so sorry. In my defense, part of the reason your mother and I were caught unawares is really part and parcel with the eponymous judgment we're possibly about to receive.

See, humans have spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand life. Questions like how did we get here? and what does it mean? have proved particularly vexing. Despite great strides in science to identify ideas like evolution, Big Bangs, and natural selection, our research falls far short of providing a real nice meaty answer. As far as we can tell: before there was nothing, and now there is everything.

So where did everything come from?

In short, a lot of people think it came from God.

The idea of God is complex and has undergone many changes over the years, but the basic idea is always there—God is an invisible and all-powerful boss and you really need to follow His (and in some cases Her, and in some cases Their) rules because, despite being able to build planets and oceans, He/She/They cannot control what we think, and this just irks them to no end.

God's rules are also somewhat in flux depending on who you ask, and this is a real hot-button issue throughout history. Countries invade each other, slaughtering their people, more or less because they disagree about who God is. It happens over and over. The thing is, in all that time no one has ever really turned up any evidence to sway the public once and for all. It's an argument with no end in sight.

Why, you may ask, does God not just appear and set the record straight? Would we not welcome his omniscience into our lives, especially since Oprah is about to go off the air? You would not be the first to wish for this. It would certainly settle a lot of bets.

In God's absence, humans continue to hope and have faith that He/She/They is/are out there, and they organize groups that get together and go over the details of what they think God wants from us. They call them religions.

It's a nice idea really, to look back and discuss ideas, to lay out guidelines for proper interpersonal conduct, to form the foundations of a like-minded community. What I personally do not like is the rigidity of most religions (see above mention of slaughter). Even though there are many religions, often with many overlapping concepts, each religion claims to have the straight poop on God. There is often a subtext of I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong between the groups. But, since no one really knows anything, I find their insistence intolerable and silly. Mostly I avoid the topic and mind my own business.

Oh, but my young child, I can't be let off the hook so simply. The religious groups saw me coming. Built right into their beliefs (in many cases revealed from a source close to God) is the caveat that you kind of have to believe, or at least you are strongly advised to do so. If you do not, it is not taken as an act of free will to bravely question authority. You are not seen as "philosophical" by most. No, there are words for people like me--heretic, infidel, poor lost sheep. And it's not enough to pity or accuse me of wrongdoing. My beliefs cannot be chalked up as confusion or a simple mistake. According to believers, to not believe, Young Photos, is pretty much the worst thing you can ever do. It means if and when Judgment Day arrives we will be in big big trouble.

In this country the majority of us are known as Christians. Christians vary in their beliefs, but they all concur that God is a masculine spirit, that he created the Universe in one week, and he lives in a kingdom in the sky called Heaven which is just a really great place. And of course there was the time he caused a virgin to give birth to his son. This man, God's son, is called Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as historical figures go, is fairly important. He is so important that just by being born he caused the western world to reset their calendars to differentiate the dull and terrible time before he was born from the wonderful and enlightened time since his birth. He is so wonderful that his birthday is in many ways an even better holiday than your own. For one thing, some of the most beautiful music ever written was in observance of his birthday. I cannot say the same thing for the off-key mewling that will occur just before you blow out your candles.

It is this Jesus fellow that is the real key to modern Christianity. Before he arrived, God was pretty hands on; he was smiting folks and telling people to murder their first-borns and flooding the planet because he didn't like the direction it was heading. If you read the Old Testament, God is actually pretty terrifying, so it could have been doubly bad when he decided suddenly to have children.

But Jesus turned out to be a pretty cool guy. He preached nonviolence and love and acceptance; he healed the sick and fed the hungry and he even brought a dead person back to life before we knew about CPR. But his real coup de grace is that he let a bunch of Romans nail him to a large wooden pole, an act of selflessness of which we are still feeling the effects.

These effects concern the fate of our souls. The soul is a tricky concept but it is similar to the mind in some ways, the main difference being that it goes on thinking and feeling and stuff after you're dead--an important difference because your mind may only be around for 100 years at most, but your soul goes on forever. Christians believe when you die, if you are Christian, your soul ascends to Heaven where it remains alongside God in eternal ecstasy, while your body is stored in the ground until it is exhumed to make space for condos.

Christians also believe that if you aren't Christian, you cannot get in to Heaven. And let me be clear, there is no wiggle room on this. It's like Costco: you're either a member, or you have to go somewhere else. They don't give you a pass for being a super nice guy and always doing the right thing. You have to believe. Even if you're a fairly good person that was not raised as a Christian, or you're a well-read intellectual sort that asks a lot of questions about literacy and translation, or you're weirded out by the amount of wars and persecutions and molestations that have occurred under the flag of Christianity and can't at this late stage possibly see how it can be real, well, off you go.

And that's really it. It's beautiful in its simplicity (if a bit churlish. After all, why does God—a man that created the Universe—and his relatives need our acceptance so desperately?).

The real bummer is your soul still has to go somewhere. So, instead of going to Heaven, if you're a nonbeliever your soul will go to Hell, which is a place of permanent suffering and torture, again, like Costco.

For obvious reasons, I'm glossing over a lot of things, but the point is that, up until today, we humans have always been able to live out our lives, so to speak. We would have the entirety of our lives to sort of weigh our options and decide whether or not to repent and accept Christ, an act that is effectively stamping our ticket to Heaven or Hell.

What is different about today is that today is (possibly) the cutoff line. A group of Christians believe that Judgment Day has arrived. They believe this because of a prophecy in the Old Testament that says the world shall end several thousand years after The Great Flood, and according to one man's math that day is today. (Of course, he also thought the world was going to end in 1994, but hey, we all make mistakes.)

It is thought that, on Judgment Day, Christ himself will return to Earth to summon the souls of the believers to Heaven, an act known as The Rapture, and imagined by me to resemble the tractor beam that sucks humans into flying saucers. After The Rapture, the rest of the people of Earth (including all the plants, animals, and stuff the believers used to own) will remain here to perish and just make a royal mess of things.

According to an article in the New York Times, "Nonbelievers will endure five months of plagues, quakes, famine, and general torment before the planet's total destruction in October." (Honestly though, minus the Christians, you might just as easily be describing pre-Rapture Earth).

As a nonbeliever, it was pretty surprising to find a story about the end of the world on the front page of the paper, especially since I only read elite liberal media.

But what should I think? How am I supposed to know? Is it best to just throw a hail mary to Jesus in the event that The Rapture is real? And, if so, wouldn't he see through it as a feint to save my soul's neck? In other words, isn't it already too late?

At this point, two things can happen. First, the world really could end and I'll be super pissed that I spent my last hours wiping geriatric asses for $9.50 an hour. Second, the world will keep right on chugging, some of the believers will die of embarrassment, and a certain REM song will have enjoyed its best week of airplay in quite some time. (Sing it with me now: Leo-nard-Bern-stein!)

Honestly, I don't think the world is about to end, so I'm not all that concerned. Then again, I do believe the world will end at some point, so maybe today really is the day. All I can do is wait and watch my Facebook feed for updates like Erin has suddenly developed leprosy.

One reason (but certainly not the only reason) I'm not worried is because we've lived through Doomsday prophecies before. On the eve of the new millennium we thought that a massive computer crash was destined to bring about total financial/societal collapse. (This event was known as Y2K, and it amounted to little more than a programming glitch on the scale of a digital clock at Daylight Savings Time. The world didn't even come close to ending, despite the fact that I'd just been dumped by my girlfriend of two years for no discernible reason and really, in a way, wished it would have). These portentious predictions are happening all the time. In fact, if this Doomsday doesn't take there's another one scheduled next year!

So, why do people so desperately want the world to end? Why are they quitting their jobs and spending their life savings to spread the word? And why do they seem so pleased about it?

I think it's an ego thing; these people believe that they're the chosen ones who will witness the destruction of humanity, that they are the last people to live here, like the Earth couldn't possibly go on without them. They don't consider the gajillions of people before that felt the same way. They don't consider that they're just ordinary and the human race will outlast even the memory of them.

Anyway, I hope they approach life with a bit more humility if it turns out they're wrong. Still, there's an outside chance this is it. I confess that I woke up in the middle of the night and, laying there in the dark, became gripped with the fear that they'd been right and the sun had burned out. I was afraid to look at the clock lest it should confirm a late hour without any light. It would be pretty awful. And what really sucks is that here, at last, is the proof I have been hoping for. Finally Christ gives me something I can hang my hat on. Only, by then I've missed the ferry. I will not be allowed to reap the rewards of my convictions. The Real Christians will be gone already, sent to Heaven to laugh and sing and enjoy the heck out of the afterlife, and I'll be here with everyone else trying not to get killed by roving gangs and hoping I freeze to death.

Long story short, my son, the world you are born into may not be such a great place and I can't help but feel responsible. I wish I had planned ahead more thoroughly and considered whether the planet would still be intact on your due date. I am not clear on the policy for entry to Heaven concerning those born after the apocalypse, but it seems unlikely that you'll have the wherewithal to accept Christ at three months. Maybe they make exceptions for tiny babies, even if your soul's brain is still too undeveloped to be able to remember or appreciate how much fun Heaven is.

Goodnight my child. I'll see you in Hell, if not the morning.

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