December 2006 Archives

Alternadad Reviews

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Booklist
"Pop-culture writer Pollack has a reputation as a fun-loving, party-going hipster. For years he danced awkwardly from relationship to relationship, until he found the person he was looking for and settled down (sort of). Now we learn his deep, dark secret: he loves his little boy, loves him with a goofy, all-consuming love that makes him (and the reader) break out into smiles nearly constantly. This book, which recounts the author's transition from hipster guy to hipster dad, is both laugh-out-loud funny and cry-softly poignant. Written in Pollack's in-your-face, no-holds-barred style, it just may be the most offbeat book about parenting ever written, and fans of the author's previous, equally idiosyncratic book--including that pop-culture staple The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature (2000)--will be utterly enraptured."

Texas Monthly
"Engaging...Pollack is...America's postmodern Erma Bombeck."

Los Angeles Times

Revelatory and funny...He writes deliciously of his son's malapropisms and imaginary playmates, of the intense satisfaction they get joking, moshing and telling stories. More traditional dads surely love their kids just as much, but rarely has the bond felt more moving than it does here."

Slate.com
"Very funny...Pollack shouldn't simply be lumped in with a spurious hipster parenting movement. His book reveals that the core aim of fatherhood has barely budged: provide food, clothing, shelter."

San Francisco Bay Guardian

"Alternadad is more than just the work of a proud papa toking from a vaporizer. Pollack proves himself capable of handling serious subject matter."

The New York Times Book Review
"Amusingly cranky...The hilarious and emotional all-family brouhaha that erupts over the topic of circumcision will resonate with many, as will Pollack's description of the conflicted feelings all parents have at one time or another. "

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Bracingly honest, and so full of love it could just as easily go in the Parenting section, next to Anne Lamont's classic, "Operating Instructions"... "Alternadad" gives comfort, with a bonus of lots of laughs, to every parent who is just doing the best he can. "

Welcome!

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To those of you who've discovered this magical place via the L.A. Times article. Also, hello to anyone who got sent here from the interview on Gothamist. I hope you stick around for a while, maybe even forever.

Now, if you please, continue reading the next post down for a tale of Red-State holiday adventure. Happy New Year to all.

An Ice Thing To Do

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We were in Nashville over the holidays. Though Regina grew up in Nashville and though we got married there, it's relatively unknown parental territory for us. Therefore, after a few days, Regina and I fell into a trap that has captured millions of American parents before us. We decided Elijah needed "something to do."

So that's how I ended up taking my son to an ice fortress in the shadow of the Grand Ole Opry.

Alternadad In The News

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The San Francisco Chronicle covers a super-fun Alternadad party.


Time Magazine

"The Howl of this movement is Neal Pollack's new memoir Alternadad. Pollack, a novelist and erstwhile punk-rock frontman, sets out to make sure that in a world of Disney and Barney, his baby Elijah, now 5, will be cool (and thus that Dad will remain so). He home schools the boy in hipster culture, taking him to blues shows and playing him a curated collection of punk. Goodbye, Baby Mozart; hello, Baby Ramone.
Full disclosure: I have two young sons, and if anything, Pollack gets my experience unsettlingly right."

It's not a trend until USA TODAY says so.

A Satirist Shows His Soft Side--A brief excerpt from my cover profile in Poets & Writers, which calls Alternadad "a carefully considered and well-drawn portrait of modern parents."

"Daddy coolest"--A Los Angeles Times profile that calls this site "hilarious" and says that Elijah is a "precocious child with the face of a Botticelli and the temperament of Dennis The Menace."

Alternadad, Alternafood--a lovely food-based profile in the Minneapolis City Paper by the brilliant Dara Moskowitz.

An interview with Gothamist.

An interview with Radar.

The Boston Herald smells a trend.
Largehearted Boy's book notes, featuring my "soundtrack" to Alternadad.

Great article in the Nashville Tennessean about rock music for kids, featuring lots of quotes from Dan Zanes and Jason Ringenberg, and a short piece of Gen-X punditry from me.

Winter Break

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Alternadad will be coming out in two weeks. I've been anticipating its release for so long, I can barely believe it's here. I'm nervous. Of course I'm nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I can only write in cliches.

I don't know what the next year will bring, at all. But I do know that if it's anything like the year currently concluding, I'll be happy. It's been a great pleasure meeting hundreds, if not thousands, of readers and parents through this site. Long after "hipster parenting" goes the way of the Nehru jacket and goldfish swallowing, we're still going to be raising our kids, so it's good to have some like-minded people around. Being a parent can be alienating and isolating. The people who I've met through this site have made it a little less so, and I thank you all.

Great Alternadad-related adventures await. Whether you all come to see my tour events, or read the book, or just keep on with this site, I look forward to going through them with all of you. Now I'm bowing out of the blogging business until January 2. Hopefully, the Suns' incredible win streak will be intact when I return, and I hope you all will still be here as well.

So with that, I bid you hasta luego. From all of us, to all of you, Happy Holidays. See you in 2007.

Neal

Take Your Bushmills

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In case you care about such things, my extremely sideburned face is on the cover of this month's Poets And Writers magazine. In the piece, the writer says, "Pollack's books vary dramatically in form, but each contains, at its center, a grandstanding author's lustful humor, a search for truth."

Exactly. He really nailed the "lustful" bit, and the other stuff has relevance as well. For instance, I've lately been in search of the truth about creeping heart disease.

Recently, in another sign that the middle ages are crawling up on me, I was diagnosed with high triglycerides. What, you might ask, are triglycerides? A full definition can be found here. But let's just say that they're bad for my ticker.

On January 1, thanks to the Writers' Guild Of America (which has reluctantly accepted me as a member), I finally get good health insurance for the first time this decade. But this pre-Guild year, I went to whatever crappy doctor near my house that my bad, expensive insurance would take. In this case, I chose a kindly Armenian guy who stopped reading medical journals around the time of the Nixon resignation. He diagnosed me correctly, then told me to go on a diet that eschewed "anything white, creamy, or that walks on four legs." No cheese, no butter, no bacon, nothing.

Because Regina had done some pre-research, I knew for a fact that he was wrong. High trigylcerides can be caused by a number of things, but their main cause is excess carbohyrdates. I needed to cut out alcohol, sugars, and bread; I could easily go through a box of Stoned Wheat Thins in a week.

I questioned the doctor's recommendations.

"Nothing white, creamy, or that walks on four legs," he repeated, as though I were a two-pack-a-week smoker in 1975.

"What about exercise?" I asked.

"Nothing white, creamy, or that walks on four legs," he said again, and then he walked out of the room.

The Marlboro Man Of Steel

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Today after school, I took Elijah to the Arclight, L.A.'s grand temple of contemporary moviegoing, to see Charlotte's Web. Elijah greatly admires the 1973 Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The new version, we both agree, is a better movie in most respects, though the voice work is bland by comparison, and we missed the songs. Then again, maybe it's for the best. The magnificent Paul Lynde/Agnes Moorhead duet would have been performed, in this version, by Steve Buscemi and Oprah Winfrey.

But I need not reveal any more of my inner middle-aged queen than necessary. The real story here is that Elijah and I spent an hour and a half hanging out in the Arclight lobby before the movie started. It was kind of chilly outside, and he wasn't really interested in rummaging through the stacks at Amoeba Records. So I tried to keep him busy.

First, we had some protein, and I found myself saying ridiculous things like, "Eat your hot dog or you don't get any popcorn." Then it was on to racing games. One route took us all around the upper floor atrium, down three flights of stairs, up those same three flights of stairs, and then all the way down the hall pass the snack stand. This tired me a bit, so our next race was to that "bench over there." Following that, we played "Only Step On The Squares With A Little Square Inside Them," counted to 100, and went a few rounds of "I Spy" before he got bored.

Finally, we toured the photographs. The current exhibit at the Arclight features large photos of superhero characters from Hollywood Boulevard as they go about mundane domestic tasks. Elijah was greatly amused by images of Wonder Woman taking out the garbage, Captain America working on his car, a gardening Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman hanging out his costumes to dry on his roof. One picture, however, disturbed him.

"Daddy?" he asked. "Why is Superman smoking?"

Sure enough, there was the Man Of Steel, running a vacuum in a room full of superhero memorabilia, and he had a ciggie between his lips.

"That's not Superman," I said. "It's an actor who plays Superman."

"But why is he smoking?"

"He probably had a rough day at work," I said.

"Oh."

"But listen, smoking is really bad for you and you shouldn't do it."

"It could kill you, right?"

"It almost definitely will kill you."

Pause.

"How do you know about smoking, anyway?" I said.

"I just do."

"Well, don't smoke cigarettes, or you'll die."

"OK, daddy," Elijah said. "I'm ready for popcorn now."

And thus our veritable smorgasbord orgasbord continued.

Hump Day

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On Sunday, I was supposed to take Elijah to the aquarium in Long Beach, one of his favorite places in the world. Regina needed time to paint decorative butterflies on a wooden table. When Elijah woke up, mercifully, at 8:15 AM, he wasn't in much of an aquarium mood.

"I just want to sit around the house all day," he said.

"No, you don't," I replied.

"I'll be good."

"You will destroy every possession that I love, and some of them on purpose."

"Daddy, you're a poo-poo knucklehead."

"Don't call me a poo-poo knucklehead."

"OK, pee-pee face."

"You're a genius."

So the aquarium was out.

"What do you want to do today, Elijah?" I asked.

"I want to marry JoJo."

"Weddings take a long time to plan. What else do you want to do?"

"Go to JoJo's house."

We were not going to JoJo's house. JoJo's parents, unlike certain parents I know, usually plan things to do with their kids on the weekend. Fortunately, a nearby friend, who I will call Cinderella to protect her identity, is often available.

I called Cinderella's mother and asked for a last-minute playdate.

"Oh, thank God," she said.

Sooner rather than later, Cinderella's mother pulled up into our driveway with Cinderella and Cinderella's 17-month-old sister, who was asleep in the car. The mother looked very tired. I was surprised that she didn't walk straight into our screen door.

Immediately, Cinderella and Elijah ran off to his room. Cinderella's mother staggered around our living room for a bit, trying to say something coherent.

"I think I need to take a nap in the car," she said.

"Go ahead," I said. "I've got everything under control here."

Point And Click And Click And Click

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On the first night of Chanukah, Elijah received a digital camera from his grandparents. It's still hard for me to believe that digital cameras for kids are now standard middle-class holiday gift fare. But there it was, a fully-functioning hard plastic Fisher-Price digital camera. Thus far, this is definitely the highlight of Elijah's fine holiday haul, which has also included an encyclopedia of dinosaurs, a treasury of Curious George stories, a toy accordion, and a semi-educational video about the physics of rollercoasters.

As soon as Regina set up the camera, Elijah transformed into a gore-less Weegee, an unadventurous Margaret Bourke-White, a transitional neighborhood Ansel Adams, the Annie Leibowitz of the ordinary. He took hundreds of pictures that first night, pointing the camera, for instance, at a magazine on the coffee table and clicking shoot 20 times in a row. His face looked very serious, almost professional. He proved a tempermental artist, erasing whole rolls of film before we had a chance to see them.

Then he went into his bedroom and took a stuffed cat and a stuffed flamingo (who he calls JoJo and Elijah, respectively) off his bed. Elijah laid proxy JoJo and proxy Elijah on his bedroom carpet and captured their essence intensely and repeatedly, like he was Diane Arbus about to have pretentiously kinky sex with a guy played by Robert Downey, Jr. He erased all those pictures as well.

The next morning, we called Grandma and Opa to thank them for the present.

"I wuv it," Elijah said.

"Can you send some to me?" asked my mother, on the phone.

At that moment, Regina was getting a set of photos reading for public viewing.

"In a wittle bit," Elijah said. "We're downwoading them into the computer."

Elijah's skills need some development, as it were. About a third of the photos were either all black or all white, because he was taking the coffee table surface up too close, or blocking the lens with his finger. Most of the rest of the photos were blurred nonsense, and not artisitcally deliberate, either, like shots of his bedroom window at a weird angle, or a sliver of one of his shoes. Only two photos looked coherent. One was of Elijah's own face, and the other was of Hercules' butt.

Well, at least he's having fun. I am, however, going to have to destroy the picture of me that he surreptitiously snapped while I was on the john. L.A. may corrupt my son in many ways, but I am not going to let him become a paparrazo.

Rock Out With Your Latke Out

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As I drove Elijah to school yesterday, he said,

"Daddy, is tomorrow Thanksgiving?"

"No," I said.

"But it's Friday!"

"Thanksgiving is on Thursday. And it's in November."

"I thought we were getting presents tomorrow."

"We are. Because it's Chanukah."

"Oh," he said, but because he said it while laughing, it kind of sounded like "oh ho ho." And then he added, "I knew that."

A brief pause.

"How many presents do I get a night?" he asked.

"One," I said.

"Or sometimes two," he said, trying out his negotiation skills.

"Perhaps."

Anyway, I have a Chanukah piece up right now at Jewcy. It's about last weekend's awesome "Festival Of Lights" at Elijah's school. You can read the piece by clicking here.

Chappy Chanukah, everyone!

Coffee Klutz

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You will notice, when you click on the Appearances link above you, that I've announced my 2007 tour dates two weeks before Christmas, when no one is paying attention. With such self-promotional acumen, can the bestseller list be far behind?

We're looking to add a gig in New York, and there are still times and musical acts to be sorted out for certain events. But this is basically the schedule. Highlights include an appearance in Boston with Harry And The Potters, a "dance party" in Portland with Belinda and Hova from Greasy Kid Stuff, and reading pair-ups with Dan Savage and Beth Lisick.

These events will be lots of fun. I really hope to see you all on the road.

Now then, as I was sitting here writing this, I heard a shriek above me. A voice called out. It was Regina's voice.

"NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL!"

She sounded very distressed. I whipped off my noise-reduction headphones and dashed up the stairs. It wasn't a long dash, since the stairs are about four feet from my desk.

There I saw Regina standing with an empty cup of coffee. The cup was empty because Regina had tripped, and now the coffee was now all over the wall, a bookshelf, the carpet, and several suitcases that Regina has contracted to decoratively paint.

"Great," I said. "Now we're never going to get our security deposit back."

On Daddy's BS Knee

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Many of you have noticed changes to the site. It would be hard not to notice them. Thanks to the excellent professional designer Jefferson Rabb, this particular Internet patch now closely resembles the design of the Alternadad book jacket. We'll be making incremental adjustments over the next few days, but they'll be small. From now on, this is nealpollack.com.

However, other than a slightly amped-up personal bio and additional press links (to come soon), the content will remain the same. So adjust your eyes to the new colors, sit back, relax, and watch all kinds of crazy shit come out of Elijah's mouth.

The other night, the boy and I were on the couch, sharing a bag of mini-carrots. I searched for conversation. Thanks to my Del Close-taught improv skills, a new vein of absurdity opened.

"Son," I said. "When I was a kid, carrots were called farrots. And they were purple."

"Are you joking?" Elijah asked.

"Of course not."

"What were cucumbers called, daddy?"

"Pukecumbers."

"Were they made of puke?"

"Yes."

Elijah caught on quickly.

"When I was a kid," he said. "Dogs didn't have butts, and they had to poop out of their noses."

"Really?"

"Yes."

Tonight, the adventure continued. We pulled into the driveway after another thrilling family trip to the gym and the Soup Plantation. Elijah pointed out the moon.

"When I was a kid," I said, "the moon was called a spoon, and it was purple."

"When I was a kid," said Elijah, "the moon was called schrappy rappy b'dang dang. And it was made out of JoJo."

Damn. It always comes down to JoJo.

One-Eyed Trouser Sock

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Getting ready for school the other morning.

Regina: "Elijah, it's time to get dressed."

Elijah: "But I am dressed."

"No, you have a sock on your peenie. That is not dressed."

"Yes it is."

"No it's not."

"This is what I want to wear to school."

"You can't wear that to school."

"Why?"

"Because you have to wear clothes."

"But I don't want to wear clothes. I want to wear a sock on my peenie."

"I know you do. But you can't."

"Yes I can."

Eventually, Regina got the sock off the peenie and clothes onto the body. But we didn't tell Elijah that he can wear a sock on his peenie at home whenever he wants. First of all, that would be bad advice. Also, really, he shouldn't do something like that. If he does, I don't want to know.

Reefer Dadness

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En lieu of an actual post today, please enjoy my current Jewcy.com "Alternadad" column about a highly-controversial subject.

Down In The Valley

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My sister called last night with the news that I'd missed watching one of the greatest basketball games of all time. I knew that. Instead, I'd followed the Suns 161-157 double-overtime win over the Nets (the fourth-highest-scoring game in NBA history) via ESPN GameCast, which is just a step too slow. But my sister and brother-in-law had me to thank for the fact that they were able to bear witness.

To allow Regina extra time to paint butterflies on custom-made picture frames, I've been dragging Elijah out to Encino a couple of afternoons a week. There lives his cousin Alison, and there Elijah can disappear into Ali's bedroom for a couple of hours to dance around to some of the most godawful kids' music ever recorded. Meanwhile, I sit on my sister's couch and complain that there's nothing on TV. Or at least I did.

"What are you complaining about?" said my sister. "I feed your son and give him a bath. I even wash his hair."

"It's not enough," I said.

One evening last week, I saw that the Suns and Rockets were scheduled to play on NBA TV. But my sister's TV plan didn't receive that channel.

"Hey, Margot," I said.

"What do you want?" she said, with more than a touch of wary bitterness in her voice.

"Didn't you say you wanted to get Lloyd the NBA League Pass for Chanukah?"

"Yeah..."

"Is there any chance you could give him an early Chanukah present?"

"Maybe."

"You'd better hurry up, then," I said. "The game starts in an hour and a half."

And thus I got to watch as much of the Suns-Rockets game as I could. At some point, I had to leave because Elijah reached the portion of the evening where he writhes on the floor and claws at his eyes. But I was back a few nights later to watch the Suns put the blocks to Sacramento. Of course, I missed the instant classic against New Jersey, but there will be more. At this very moment, the Suns have put up 24 on an admittedly inferior Boston team with five minutes left in the first quarter. That offense is cookin' now! I never thought I'd write this sentence, but it looks like I'll be heading out to Encino as often as possible.

All this, of course, is prelude to another awesome Elijah story.

Sativa, Take Me Away!

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I'm sure many of you have been wondering what Regina's up to these days. Well, first of all, she's now being represented by Black Maria, an art gallery in Los Angeles. That website is here. More time-consumingly, she's starting a business with my sister. If you've ever wanted children's furniture brilliantly custom-painted with a design featuring a retro-looking robot and his pet dog (or with any of dozens of other designs that Regina's come up with), Spitting Image Studios is the place where you must turn. The business is doing great, and I'm proud of them both.

That said, Spitting Image Studios has forced Regina into a dreary pattern of 10-to-12 hour workdays. She toils upstairs from me, custom-painting children's toy suitcases just for you. I, on the other hand, am what they call "between projects." Alternadad doesn't appear in stores for five weeks (though you should still order it right now), and I've just turned in a draft of the Alternadad screenplay.

This means that I've got lots of time to be a dad.

I've been taking Elijah to school in the mornings, and picking him up in the afternoons. Some days, I haul him out to the Valley to play with his cousin. Other days, I try to keep him occupied and full of ice cream for however long Regina needs us out of the house.

Yesterday, I ferried him to Kidspace, in Pasadena, where we met a half-dozen of his classmates. None of these children is nannied, so it was me and six mothers. Fortunately, these mothers are all intelligent and unpretentious, and I don't dislike any of them. This is no mean feat, as I dislike many people. Still, when the conversation turned to breast-feeding, I drifted away from the crowd and sat on a bench by myself, far away from everyone else, including Elijah, who was happily racing a tricycle.

The sun went down. The air grew chilly. I stared at my hands and tried to remember a time when my days were my own.

Occasionally, I get alone time. On Sunday, around 11 AM, Regina took Elijah out to my sister's. My mother was in town, and she wanted a visit. Therefore, I had the day to myself. I pulled my beloved vaporizer down from its shelf of honor. Within minutes, I was as baked as I could possibly get.

Beanie, Baby

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I went to a party on Saturday night, and I wore my new hat because it was cold outside.

This particular hat is brown, with a pom-pom on top. I'd bought it at an American Apparel store. When I first tried it on, I asked the shopgirl, "do you really think I can carry off a pom-pom?" She leaned toward me and said, "Oh yeah. It looks really good on you," and then, according to American Apparel's near-pedophiliac corporate policy, bit her lower lip in a manner implying that if I were to buy the hat, she and all her friends would have sex with me whenever I wanted for the rest of my life.

So, the pom-pom. I had it on at the party. At one point, I found myself under a heating lamp, talking with a bunch of people who work at a law office that defends people who've been arrested on marijuana charges. One of them, a woman young enough to be Elijah's babysitter, said to me,

"I like your beanie."

"My what?" I said.

"Your beanie."

"I'm not wearing a beanie."

"Yes you are."

"No, a beanie is a circular hat that has a propeller on top."

My friend Jerod stopped me.

"Dude, wait. I thought the same thing. But sometime in the last ten years while we were off getting stoned somewhere, they started calling ski caps beanies."

"No," I said.

"It's true."

"You know, I'm only 36. And I've been wearing these kinds of hats for years. You'd think I would have heard about this."

"It's a beanie," the woman said.

Obviously, I've now reached an age where basic changes in slang are no longer reaching me. A little later, I found myself talking with a couple who were in their early 30s.

"I like your beanie," the guy said to me.

"Again with the fucking beanie," I said, much to their confusion.

And a little later still, I found myself in a conversation with a charming actress from Chicago.

"I like your hat," she said.

"Thank you," I said. "Everyone keeps calling it a beanie."

"No," she said. "A beanie is that round hat that Jughead from Archie Comics wears. The one with the little propeller on it."

"That's what I said!"

She was now my best friend.

Later, I headed for the door.

"It was nice to meet you," my young adversary said, politely.

"It's been a dilly of a hootennany," I said. "But now I've got to drag a hoof."

She looked at me strangely. But I'd made the decision. If I was going to be linguistically out-of-date, then I was really going to be out-of-date. Twenty-three skiddoo to all, and to all a good night.

ON TWITTER

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