Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Nomine Patris

I suppose the first order of business, before a lofty and swooping pronouncement of my return to the world of blogging, is to speak to the primary reason my attention has been cast away from this medium, lo these many months. Allow me the indulgence here, to speak on the subject of fatherhood, and the riveting last few stages before reaching those shores.

When Eleanor Sheridan Sonnier arrived, (gasp) almost six months ago, the feelings associated can no more be put into words than, perhaps can the very thoughts she was having at the same time. Fear, elation, confusion, and a limitless and bewildering array of sensations bring that to mind images of plasticine porters with looking glass ties. It’s just too much to take in, much less describe. However, the essence of good story-telling is embellishment, so I will muster what little aptitude I have as a wordsmith, and do my jolly best.

Sheer unadulterated joy was not what I felt. I have felt sheer, unadulterated joy before, and this was not it. This was fear and confusion, and though unmitigated happiness was there, I could feel it waiting in the wings, looking at its watch. I was crying, I knew that much, but it was more sheer exhaustion than anything else, and perhaps great relief that the ordeal was over and most of the danger had passed.

She was crying, both of them were, but the smallest one was crying because she didn’t know what was happening, and because it was cold and someone was poking and prodding at her like a half-cooked turkey. Her weight was healthy and her size above average, but now the final gauntlet was set to begin. For this, unfortunately, we were unable to hold together and slog through; she would be on her own this time. She was removed and we were alone again. Thankfully not for long, because even though I had known her for only a few minutes before they whisked her away for tests, her absence was felt like a weight, a great pregnant pause filling the room.

She was returned to us with a clean bill of health, to gawk at, and to do our own, albeit unscientific, poking and prodding, the way one might kick a tire on a car about to be purchased. She was tiny and to be handled with great care. She was quiet, almost frighteningly so, and I was soon to learn the meaning of the words muconium and vernix.

It was a flurry of forms and pills and family members and The Eukanuba Dog Show and weights and lengths and bits and pieces of Big Trouble in Little China on a struggling laptop. The world outside was visible from the window, but its pallor seemed gray and lifeless, compared to the bright light inside that room.

That was when I felt it. That’s when the joy came to me, the moment I left that room for the first time. I walked out of the hospital to a Burger King a block away for some approximation of “real food.” I sat in the dining room of the establishment, wondering about the time, deducing that since I was eating a breakfast burrito, it must be between the posted hours of 5:00 AM and 10:30 AM. I chewed slowly, savoring everything but the meal. I was filthy and tired, hair more unkempt than usual. I watched as two men on horses rode through the drive-thru. They clopped past my window with coffees in one hand and reigns in the other, bags of Croissanwhiches and mini-hash browns resting behind the necks of their rides. This was not the most amazing thing I had seen all day.

The happiness I felt at that time seemed to inflate me, the way standing over an air-vent will puff up your untucked shirt. I thought for certain that the other people in the dining room, a handful of fraternity fascists recovering from a night of self-abuse, would notice something was amiss with this man, something painfully wonderful was happening in his life. But they took no notice of me. I was alone in my joy, a thought that sent me scurrying back to the hospital room, most of a breakfast burrito deposited in the garbage where it belonged.

The next few days were a blur of naps, work (yes, I was working the whole time) and sudden interest in diaper commercials and life insurance advertisements. Though riddled with guilt, we sent baby Eleanor to the nursery the first couple of nights hoping for uninterrupted sleep after such exhaustion, but I found myself waking in the night, feeling in the dark room for her bassinet, and that weighty absence again.

We brought her home, and the rest is too boring and typical to bother telling. It’s been a great deal of trial and error, learning as much about ourselves as about her, and the lack of sleep has given way to an abundance of anxiety over her bowel movements. I am closer to my family than I have been in years, and they are closer to me. The relief of coming home after a trying day at work, now features the added benefit of an absurdly wide smile and even a chuckle at the sound of my voice.

Despite seeing the ship of a former life sail farther and farther into the horizon, so much that it appears only as a speck to the naked eye, I have found more happiness that can be contained. Despite the frustration of the mundane aspects of parenthood, the satisfaction cannot be compared. This is not only the rank satisfaction of the achievement of one’s biological imperative, but the thought that you have created a new person in your own image. God truly is in the man.

Mine has not been a sheltered existence, and I have experienced all the pain and joy and fright and elation that we are designed to process, but before staring into the huge, doe-like eyes of my daughter, I did not know the magnitude of happiness and devotion I was capable of experiencing.

A lot has been said to diminish the human experience on the planet earth. There are those who don’t believe in love, deferring that it’s a mechanism to ensure coupling and effective child-rearing, which can be reduced to a series of chemical reactions in the brain. I don’t dispute this, being essentially a secular humanist, but humbly submit that my fratres in armis acknowledge the very real power these emotions have, and value they add to the very humanity they celebrate.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Girls and Dolls

I've always been fascinated by the unbelievable complications of the human brain and all the weird things that people do simply because they're compelled to. I'm not speaking specifically about the mentally ill, but their addled attempts to interact with the world by covering dead squirrels with mustard and putting them in people's mailboxes are always a welcome respite from the humdrum of daily life. I'm talking about the bizarre, ridiculous and creepy ways people, who are otherwise normal, functional members of modern society, seem to express the animalistic feelings, desires and impulses we humans are forced to endure and interpret with our big, modern logic-seeking minds.

We can start small, with a subject I've bored you all with many times in the past. It's to do with the brains primary function gone haywire: pareidolia. This is the brain's attempt to take any and all stimulus and form it into a cohesive image or message, even when none exists. This phenomenon has formed the basis of our inquisitive human nature, but also makes us easily fooled, this why you hear all the stories about the face Jesus appearing on Google Maps or Allah's name showing up on the label for Burger King ice cream. Pareidolia can even be fun:

Is it a duck or a rabbit? The fact is, it's neither, but your brain takes all the appropriate bits it recognizes about both and tries to make a decision, which can't be done.

The brain is an amazingly complex and extremely flawed mechanism, and when all of this raw computing power is filtered through the twists and turns of an enigmatic, counter-intuitive and paradoxical society, well now we're cooking with gas.

Society, fashion, tradition, values, these are all considerations that we take into account when we interpret data, and make decisions for ourselves about the way we live our lives. Of all the impetuses we feel, of all the desires we have in the most carnal and primitive corners of our brains, the desires we feel for sex and procreation are by far the most powerful, the most complicated, and the most ceaselessly frustrating.

There is, perhaps, no better indicator of the extreme nature of these feelings than those individuals that choose to opt out of the whole game. Take, for example, the purchasers of one of the most creep-tastic products available: The Realdoll. The Realdoll is a super-realistic (and pornographically expensive) doll that men purchase for drama-free sexual relief. Think of it as a $6,500 wanking machine.

While the Realdoll may be nothing new to you, let me introduce you something, perhaps, even creepier, The Reborn Baby.

The desire to procreate, and all the inherent nuances, drama, taboos, social stigmas, restraining orders, highest of highs and lowest of lows involved, are by far the most intense we as humans are forced to endure for the past and future success of the species. For some people, this can just be too much to bear, and in classic modern fashion, seek a better and less complicated solution from technology.

Both of these extremely creep-tastic products appeal to the same physical and psychological desperation of their consumers, albeit the disparate male and female versions thereof. It has to do with the anguished expression of those very biological imperatives of sex and procreation, but thanks to technology, now attainable by people who are unwilling or incapable of making the necessary investment or commitment to achieve such things in reality.

It's obviously a gross simplification to chalk it up to "men fuck things, women care for things," but these two products actually make a pretty good case. The point is, we all face desires to do things we're supposed to do, like have sex and care for babies, but like anything that's filtered through the modern human brain, sometimes the messages get mixed up.

As a fan of human nature, these two things appear to me as two side of the same fucked up human coin, latex approximates to serve the deep-seated desires with which we contend, but without all the mess and fuss of actually having to interact or care for another person. It's a classic psychological shield: I make no investment, I won't get hurt. A plastic woman won't tell you that you're not a great lover, or step out with another man and a plastic baby will never grow up, and will never leave you.

However, some manner by which people sidestep their fundamental biological desires are worse than others. Trying my best to not sound misogynistic (a battle I face each and every day) I'd like to try and make the case why women who heap maternal love and affection onto inanimate objects is worse than men who fuck plastic women.

Men fuck things, and not ll of these things are necessarily human women. The desire to jam your penis into anything and everything is a desire with which we men have been forced to battle since time immemorial. It's natural and it's always more of a burden than a joy, but it's part of the package (pun intended.) Women, on the other hand, are much more complex creatures, dealing with many more complex emotions and desires. A man fucking a doll, while discomforting and extremely strange, is just a manifestation of our gender's limitless sexual needs in the rare situation of living alone, and possessing disposable income.

On the other hand, an adult woman who heaps maternal affection and care onto a plastic baby is not just creepy, it's a waste. Even crazy cat ladies are providing care, love and attention to living things that can actually benefit and return that affection. A woman exercising her maternal instincts on a inanimate object is like pouring water down the drain during a drought. The best part of being a human is that our brains are wired to reward us when we do things that are good for us and other people: it feels good to work out, it feels good to eat food, it feels good to make love, and it feels good to help other people. I simply refuse to believe anyone could get as much satisfaction loving a doll, which is vastly different than simply fucking a doll.

I suppose I could try to get some external input on this quite rattled and rambling post. Fucking a doll, or mothering a doll: which is creepier?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Schrodinger's Splat

The theory of Schrodinger's cat is a paradoxical thought experiment wherein a cat is placed in a box with a Geiger counter, a sealed flask of airborne poison and a small amount of radioactive material. The mechanism is designed in such a way that if the radioactive material decays, the Geiger counter will detect it, activating the mechanism that will shatter the glass and kill the cat.

Quantum mechanics has always been above my pay grade, but as I understand it, the theory was designed to illustrate its limitations. The point is that as long as the box is sealed, there exists an unlimited number of possibilities within it. The unobserved cat, which may or may not be conscience, is simultaneously alive, dead and everything in between. Inside the box, all possibilities and probabilities exist, insulated from time and space. In the box, there exists a dead cat, a living cat, sixteen copies of Henry Kissinger's Harvard transcripts, a headlight from 1974 Dodge Dart, an empty copy machine toner cartridge, the holy grail, and just about everything else.

The point of the experiment (as far as it's been explained to me by very good-bearded scientists) is that outside of human observation, all probabilities exist paradoxically. By the act of observation, we inject the variable probability of ourselves into the infinitely complex equation, changing the results. In this theory, the act of opening the box kills or rescues the cat, not the poison.

The fetching Mrs. Sonnier and I are scheduled for our first "anatomical ultrasound" today. Yes, another post about baby-related insecurities, you're no doubt groaning. The fact is, this is about the most monolithic thing going on in the world today, so you can just shut it.

There exists, in Mrs. Sonnier's abdomen, all probability of things. Granted, it's most probably a baby boy or girl, but, though improbable, it could also be an octopus, the DVD special edition of C.H.U.D., or a ziploc bag filled with paper clips and stale Fritos.

Despite the clear 50/50 probability of human male or human female, I can't help but be flabbergasted that one of the two has to be true. By the very act of observation, everything will change. The very act of narrowing the list of probable names from two to one, will change the outcome of every action I take for the rest of my life. There exists in that container all things, all manners of joy, grief, responsibility and possibility.

There exists in that container my first and most important contribution to the world, and once the nature of that thing is observed, the nature of everything else will change.


It's an anatomically perfect baby girl.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

By Any Other Name

In the early days of our species, before civilization reared its ugly head, names were almost unnecessary. Humans lived in small family tribes and only occasionally interacted with others outside that unit. Language was minimal, and people, if they did have a name, were typically known by defining features. “One-arm,” or “Father of many” or “Penis-nose” were standard names for individuals. Then came the obvious “Son of Penis-Nose,” and so on and so forth. As the seeds of civilization began to bloom, tribes became larger, and cities sprang up along trade routes, people and families became known by their occupations: Baker, Smith, Hancock and the like. As commerce became more and more important, as did personal property, and natural resources. The combination of natural resources and personal property leads inevitably to conflict.

It’s been said that civilization emerged when a group of people who spoke similar languages decided to come together and defend themselves and their property. Once that happened, it was time for more specific names. In the barbaric and oft idiotically idealized “time of chivalry,” armor was what kept a fighter alive. Unfortunately, armor also hid the fighter’s face. In order to identify himself and the family from whence he came, knights and the like began carrying standards displaying the symbols of their names. It was this tradition that is attributed with the catalog and importance of familial names.

In more superstitious times, it was believed that to know the true name of a person or a thing, was to have power over it. It was believed that to know the name of a spirit or a demon, for instance, gave one the power to summon it from the shadows and command it to do one’s bidding. Once can easily see the roots of this superstition, because there is not power greater than the one who names a thing. We name pets, boats, and we also name children.

The fetching Mrs. Sonnier is expecting in only an armful of months, and one of the innumerable responsibilities associated with that eventuality is determining the name of the child. One would think that once the sex is determined, choosing a name would be much easier, when in fact it just brings the list of choices from one hundred million to fifty million. Narrowing our choices to two has been a most impossible task. Elise likes classic names, yet won’t commit because they’re on the rise in popularity right now. I, on the other hand, like contemporary names, such as those of characters from Transformers, Thundercats and popular pornographic films of the eighties. As you can see, we just don’t see eye to eye.

This is a huge thing, let’s make no mistake. The proper naming of a child is part and parcel to their proper care, and delicacy is imperative. However, I’m beginning to realize this is just a symptom of a larger issue. Very soon, we’re going to be parents to a helpless baby, a fact which fills me with equal amounts of dread and elation. Having never even met the little guy, I’m already starting to feel the creeping instinct of protection. Its cliché, but everyone wants the best of everything for their children, and an obvious first step is giving them the perfect name.

Take for example, the dashing young Almighty Supremebeing Allah of West Hartford, Connecticut. You see, his parents really, really loved him, and saw fit to give him the most amazingly perfect name that one could imagine. If we named our kid Almighty Supremebeing Allah, it would just seem kitschy and lame. It seems like all the good names, like Nevaeh, Pilot, Apple, Trout, Nacho, and Zenya Zulu Butterfuly Wallace are all taken. I even found out that Asswipe Johnson isn’t even up for grabs anymore. Neither is Sunshine Megatron.

We can’t even have Talulah Does The Hula From Hawaii, and that was number three on a very long list.

Everyone wants the same thing from a name: something recognizable that most people at the DMV will be able to pronounce, but not something that seven other kids in his class will have, but also not something pretentious or made up like Jaydon or Kristobell. (Sorry Jaydon and Kristobell, your parents are retarded)

Despite everything, I’m still just scared. Names are important, and to name something is indeed a manner of having power over that thing. In just a few short weeks, we’ll be finding out if it’s a boy or a girl (or the “hamburger or hot dog test,” as they call it in the ultrasound industry, yes, they do have quite the sense of humor…) and then the process of actually coming up with a name will begin its journey towards full stride. Once this little thing has a name, that’s when my power and responsibility as a parent will come into real focus, and that’s a terrifying prospect.

What’s in a name? A hell of a lot, as it turns out. It’s what you’ll be yelling loudly when you find a permanent marker drawing of a ninja turtle on the kitchen cabinet, it’s also the name that will be standing forefront in your mind as your wife squeezes your hand as she pushes the little bugger into the world. It’s a daunting task, picking a name, but it certainly won’t be the last, I just hope we can get off to a good start.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Creature Stirs...

The air is still, the only sounds are of spiders creeping across the stone walls of the underground cavern. Light struggles to break though the few cracks and windows, but dust and gossamer choke it to a wisp. The cold, musty room is the picture of neglect, and of death. Death comes to mind as one’s eyes settle on the coffin situated in the middle of the room.

No decoration or adornment, blanketed with filth, the crypt sits silently as the dust flits through the occasional ray of light. One is impressed with a feeling of timelessness, as if the inexorable motion of the earth has no effect here, as if one is stranded on an island frozen and unaffected by the rushing waters of days gone by.

The silence weighs heavily and cautiously, like a beast in slumber, and seems as if it will remain forever. Yet suddenly, the silence is broken. The sound is a rustling, far more audible than the scraping of rats or the scurrying of spiders. The sound is coming from within the coffin. A muffled knock is heard and the origin confirmed. There is something in the coffin, and that thing is alive.

Scratch, scrape, knock. The thing inside the coffin begins to move with a greater regularity, as if probing the interior of the box for a latch, or a hole, some nature of escape. Scratch, scrape, knock. The thing in the box is becoming more desperate and frustrated. As suddenly as it had broken, the silence is returned. An hour passes, maybe a day?

The hinges of the coffin scream in dry protest as a set of thin, dessicated fingers scrap around the lid. The hand attached to those fingers pushes the lid up, exposing the creature that lives inside. The corpse coughs and a cloud of dust is expelled from its mouth, the creature rasps. It grips the sides of the coffin and slowly stands erect, the filthy gown that clings to its thin, brown frame is dotted with rotten holes and cakes of dust.

The creature looks at you. Its yellow eyes fixed on yours, and it steps from the coffin and begins to move towards you. You are paralyzed by fear, as the creature reaches one bony hand toward you and opens its foul mouth to say...

No, I’m not dead, I’ve just been really busy lately. This stake protruding from my chest is just itchy. I don’t want to call this a resurrection of OTR, as that would infer a prior death, but let’s just say that my unscheduled and unannounced hiatus has come to a close. The door to the OTR Institute has had its hinges oiled, the floor has been swept and a fresh pot of coffee was put on in the break room.

Welcome back everyone (especially you Mom).

If you must know the details of my recent adventures, I’ll keep it short. I am thankfully no longer working out-of-state and now have the privilege of spending each and every night with the loving and fetching Mrs. Sonnier. This situation is made all the more rewarding by the fact that the fetching Mrs. Sonnier is now heavy with child. Despite the fact that careful mathematics indicates that I was somewhere on the upper East Coast and she was likely traipsing around France when this tiny miracle occurred, I will reserve my skepticism until the appropriate test results are available. Until then, we could not be happier, and I could not be more terrified.

Again, if curiosity had taken you by delicate bits, I will relate that the fetching Mrs. Sonnier is a little less than fourteen weeks progressed, and is expected to deliver our little bundle of oi! in late Winter 2009. While I have no pictures to post, (our one and only ultrasound photo looks like a shell-less oyster in profile), composite artists believe he looks something like this:

As my life takes on a more adult flavor, cigarettes and jello shots become a thing of the past, and my concern over the current state of the lawn becomes more forthright in my mind, I hope to have more time to devote to this forum. Though the number of people who partake in my semi-regular diatribes can be counted on James Doohan's right hand, it is an extremely cathartic exercise with the added advantage of keeping the hands away from the genitals.

Salutations to all, and godspeed.