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November 29, 2006

The Pantsless Wonder

It's finally turned autumn here, which means Elijah can no longer wear shorts to school. He was already the last schoolyard holdout, proclaiming that "Hot Man never gets cold!" whenever we tried to pull a pair of jeans out of the laundry basket. But we've reached a point where it would be justified to call the authorities on us if we let him out of the house without some sort of leggings. The battle has been joined.

On Monday morning, a fly on the wall would have borne witness to me crawling under Elijah's bed to retrieve Elijah, who'd hidden there out of fear that the blue sweatpants we'd chosen for him would, in his words, "burn my legs off forever." Regina held his hands down while I forced the pants onto his kicking legs. He clawed at my face. Then, as soon as I got him into the car, he took the pants off.

Yesterday, the sweats were dirty, and we somehow dragooned him into a pair of navy-blue cords. As soon as I sat him in the car seat, he proclaimed that the cords had created an unusual effect.

"Bugs are eating my butt!" he screamed.

"Buts are not eating your butt," I said.

"Yes they are!"

Blubbering like an unanesthesized surgery patient, he wriggled out of his pants. When we got to school, I put the pants back on him, in the parking lot, while he howled maniacally. Regina picked him up a few hours later, and he immediately tore his pants off. This caused her to remove the carton of chocolate milk from his presence, which caused him to howl anew. Finally, Regina set up a new rule. From now on, Elijah isn't allowed to take off his pants in the car.

"Dude," she said. "You've got to stop being so crazy about the pants."

"Pants hurt me!" he said.

Here's the thing: Within a week, he'll be wearing pants every day, without complaint. Come April, when it's shorts time, we'll have the same battle, in reverse. And the magical carousel of life will continue its endless revolution.

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November 27, 2006

The Season Turns

Over the weekend, I went to my first Suns game of the year. It was a typical 2006 affair for my chosen team: Three-and-a-half quarters of stylish, graceful, high-octane offensive basketball, followed by a near-catastrophic six-minute collapse against a lineup of rookies and third-rate reserves. It ever it were possible for a crowd to feel unhappy after a win, that's what we felt on Friday after the Suns finally disposed of the Nets. Also, I felt a little mopey because Jason Kidd has definitely lost a step or two. If he's old, then I'm old. That said, at least he's getting old for another team.

I enjoyed the game very much, but I enjoyed getting the tickets almost more. Both of my brothers-in-law and one of my sisters wanted to go, so I put myself to work. On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I assaulted Craig's List looking for tickets. Finally, after dozens of phone calls and emails, I located two pairs.

For one, I had to drive to what, when I was growing up, was a horse pasture in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains. Now it's a housing development surrounded by other housing developments. My destination was a nondescript house. The inside had been lit in purples and blues, and it was full of mirrors, like a strip club circa 1986. A sad-looking woman with a baby on her hip handed the tickets off to me. She'd won them in a contest, she said, but hadn't been able to find a sitter. For some reason, this exchange made me feel very glum about human nature.

The other pair came with less foreboding. Back in relative civilization, I pulled into the parking lot of a Circle K. A handsome, smiling man stepped out of a FedEx truck. He handed me an envelope containing two tickets and a parking pass.

"I wish I could go," he said. "But Thanksgiving is crazy."

"Yeah," I said. "It's gonna be a good one."

"Jason Kidd versus the Suns? Who wants to miss that?"

"Not me."

"Hope we win!"

"Me, too."

The other tickets had felt like I was buying heroin from an orphan. Or, even worse, they felt like I was selling heroin to an orphan. This felt like I was buying tickets from a fan. It felt like victory, and I knew the Suns were going to be all right.

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November 21, 2006

Father Knows Breast

Elijah came bounding into our room this morning.

"Mommy!" he said. "I want to see the sunrise!"

This would have been five-year-old Olsen Twins-level cute if it hadn't been 6 AM.

"Oh no, Elijah," Regina said.

"But it's so beautiful!"

She groaned awake.

"There'll be other sunrises," she said.

Apparently, Elijah continued his assault in the living room. The following is reportage.

"Come on, mommy. Sunrise!"

"Elijah, in this house, if you want to see the sun rise, you have to go outside."

"So let's go outside."



"Because I'm naked under my bathrobe."

"Why are you naked under your bathrobe?"

"Because I am."

"Can you give me milk from your boobies?"

"No. And would you please stop asking me that?"

Elijah often sees my sister nurse her little baby. He wants in on the action. We constantly have to rebuff him.

The other day, he and I were sitting on the sofa, trying to make it through another hour of another day. I had my shirt off, because I rarely have my shirt on at home when we don't have company. Elijah plunged toward my left nipple, mouth wide open.

"Boooooobie," he said.

"Elijah, I don't have boobies."

"Yes you do. What are those?"

"Those are my nipples."

"And what are these things they're attached to?"

"They're called pectoral muscles."

"Do they have milk?"


"I'm gonna drink your milk...."

"Elijah, I don't have milk."

"You have man milk."

I was not going to discuss "man milk" with my four-year-old.

"This conversation ends now," I said.

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November 20, 2006

There Will Be Pollack

826 LA Adult Writing Series: Freelance Writing.
Thursday, Feb. 4
8:00-9:30 PM
826LA East
1714 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Four freelance writers will share stories and advice about writing for various publications including newspapers and magazines. They will discuss their inspirations, how to turn an idea into a story, and how to get hired. Here's the event's Facebook page.

Neal Pollack's Club Sutra
Thursday, February 11
7 PM

Shakti Box
4640 Franklin Avenue
Los Angeles 90027
(upstairs behind the Video Hut on Vermont)

Join Neal as he reads passages from his hilarious upcoming yoga memoir STRETCH, and as he discusses various topics in yoga philosophy. In between the talky bits, Julie Granata, a most excellent professional yoga teacher, will take the class through a stimulating workout. Guaranteed to impress the mind and the body! $10 suggested donation.

This will be a once-monthly event. The next classes are scheduled for March 11 and April 15. Come study with Neal before he gets too expensive, or before he stops teaching yoga, whichever comes first (almost certainly the former).

May 7-9
Lake Arrowhead, CA

Teaching yoga to comedy nerds.

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For The Love Of Jo-Jo

Much like Al Capone in The Untouchables, Elijah has enthusiasms.



Of late, Elijah's primary enthusiasm is a sweet, wide-eyed, unassuming boy in his preschool class. To protect this boy's identity, I will call him Jo-Jo. Elijah loves Jo-Jo. He loves him very much. He's renamed his favorite stuffed cat Jo-Jo, and he snuggles tight with Jo-jo Kitty every night. The other day he told me the following:

"I wish Jo-Jo and I were twins. That way we could sleep in the same bed every night."

And this morning, on the way to school, he said:

"Jo-Jo and I are married. I'm the Daddy and Jo-Jo is the mommy. And his lamby is the baby. He had three lambies but he can't find the blue one or the white one."

Elijah can think of nothing but Jo-Jo. A typical conversation in our house goes like this.

"Elijah, what do you want for dinner?"


"We don't have Jo-Jo."

"Then I want poo-poo nuts!"

"Besides poo-poo nuts."

"Jo-Jo nuts."

"We're out of Jo-Jo nuts."

"How about Jo-Jo poo-poo nuts?"

"No. Do you want some seaweed?"

"OK. Seaweed."


"Jo-Jo seaweed!"


He's also taken the lyrics of all his favorite songs and Jo-Joized them. For instance, "You Can't Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd" now goes:

"You can't Jo-Jo skate in a Jo-Jo herd. You can't Jo-Jo skate in a Jo-Jo herd! Jo-Jo Jo-Jo Jo-Jo Jo-Jo..."

Mercifully, Regina and I get along with Jo-Jo's parents. Even more mercifully, his parents own the best gelato shop in town and are very generous with their well-stocked liquor cabinet. If Elijah's going to have a boy-husband, he might as well be married to an ice-cream heir.

The other day, I took Elijah over to Jo-Jo's house for a playdate.

There were many adults present. Jo-Jo has a nanny, and his mom works at home. His dad came in at one point, took the dog to the park, and then returned. Also, Jo-Jo has a six-year-old brother who, based on some enthusiastic playing with me at Elijah's birthday party, is under the impression that I want him to try out his karate moves on me.

But Elijah and Jo-Jo are hard to supervise. At various points in the late afternoon/early evening, Elijah and Jo-Jo:

1. Threw a bunch of coasters down a stairwell.

2. Attempted to trash two acoustic guitars.

3. Attempted to turn on the sprinklers.

4. Attempted to run naked through the sprinklers.

5. Got into the shower fully-clothed.

6. Unraveled a roll of toilet paper.

While the bathroom-related items were going on, I was downstairs with Jo-Jo's parents, drinking a glass of wine. Elijah is good for Jo-Jo, they told me. He's brought Jo-Jo out of his shyness phase and introduced him to a bunch of other kids.

"Good for Jo-Jo" might be a bit of a stretch, I thought. That's like saying it's good to get into a serious car accident because the insurance will allow you to buy a new car. I wanted to tell them: You don't understand. Elijah is Dennis The Menace, but written by John Waters. Unusual things happen when he's around. Then again, they're a lot more laid back than we are, and probably won't care.

When we got home, Regina, ever the observant mother, said to Elijah:

"What's all this gunk in your hair?"

"Jo-Jo and I put lotion and toothpaste all over each other," Elijah said.

"Of course you did," Regina replied.

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November 16, 2006

More Alternadad Chatter

As you can see, the comments have returned, and so have my archives. BIG tip of the hat to Kevin Shay, my first webmaster ever, a Movable Type genius, and now a novelist. Examine his soon-to-be-published book here. Also, some of you have inquired about linking to my "dead cat" essay. That's now in play again as well. The permalink is here. A little under-the-weather today. See you on Monday with a fresh Elijah-related disaster tale.


I now have a column in the recently-launched (and summarily excellent) online magazine Jewcy. My column is called, amazingly enough, Alternadad. I'm sure I will be raked over the "grup" coals that I'm stirring up again. Since you can't comment here on my fresh idiocies at the moment, comment over there. For a more socio-economic, as opposed to cultural, discussion of contemporary parenting, please check out this piece by me in Good Magazine.

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November 15, 2006

We Have A Dead Cat

A week ago Monday, around 6:30 PM, I went outside to move the car from the street into the driveway. When I was done, I saw a cat laying on our side, on the lawn. I walked closer.

It was my cat, Gabby. She wasn't moving.

"Gabby?" I said. Then, I said, louder, "GABBY?"

As I knelt beside the cat, Regina flung open the door.

"What's wrong with Gabby?" she said.

"She's dead," I said.

Regina ran outside and felt for a heartbeat.

"Oh my God, Neal! She is dead!"

Elijah ran outside, screaming, "Gabby's dead! Gabby's dead! Oh, no! Gabby's dead!"

We looked at the body. There didn't appear to be any major injuries. A thin trickle of blood had leaked from her mouth, and she'd urinated on the spot where she'd passed.

"No," I said.

At that moment, an extremely tattooed man came walking up our driveway, heading toward the house behind us. I noticed that his earlobes had been elongated. Black discs hung down from both of them. With him was a woman carrying a long-haired little boy. They were going to visit our neighbors.

"How's it going?" he said.

"Not so good," I said. "Our cat just died."

"WHAT?" he said.

He rushed to Gabby's side and felt her.

"Oh, yeah," he said.

He placed a hand on my chest and gazed at me with deep sincerity. It wasn't creepy at all, but because I'm not used to deep sincerity, I thought it was at the time.

"She's a blessing to you," he said, "and she's in a better place now."

"We lost a cat a year ago," said the woman. "We'd just moved to Florida and she was our guiding spirit."

They were weird, but also very kind.

"I had her since 1995," I said. "I've known her, or knew her, longer than my wife."

"Cats are sent here to protect us from evil," he said.

I wanted to reply, "I don't know about that," but I wasn't in the mood to get into a theological argument with a helpful hippie. Instead, Regina said, "I think she was hit by a car."

"She died loving you," said the man.

"No doubt," I said.

The next hour is a bit of a muddle in my memory. Our neighbors behind us provided me with a shovel and a large shoebox. I put Gabby in the box and went into our backyard, where I started digging a hole under the big banana tree. My movements were laconic at best. I was thinking about how Gabby would always drape herself over my shoulders while I was typing, and about how she wasn't going to do that anymore. I also remembered how she shredded my roommates' favorite plant the day I adopted her, setting the stage for many years of naughty behavior. For a while, I had a black plastic stick with a feather on the end. I'd wriggle it in front of Gabby's face, and she'd lunge for it. Then I'd whirl it around in a circle, and she'd lay chase. Then, I'd wriggle it again, just below her chin, and then suddenly whip it up several feet in the air. Gabby would leap several feet in the air, providing amusement for many years' worth of stoned partygoers. She hadn't done that for years, but she still had a pretty good vertical leap.

From behind me I heard, "Let me help you."

It was the hippie.

"Huh?" I said.

"I'm a professional," he said.

I wanted to say, "what? You're a professional gravedigger?" But, again, he was very helpful, so I didn't.

He took the shovel from me and began attacking the ground with a jackhammer motion. His body type (lanky), level of tattooedness (high), and general speed of motion (spastic), called to mind Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I've never seen that band live and haven't ever really been a fan, but I thought of them anyway as the hippie priest attacked my cat's grave as though he were performing a lunatic encore at the Wiltern.

He handed me the shovel silently. I tried to place Gabby's box into the hole. It didn't quite fit. So I poked the shovel around the edges to create a few extra inches of room. From behind me, I heard,

"Hey, Neal, you need a drink?"

"I'm cool," I said.

"You need some bud?"

"Hell, yeah!" I said, and I started to dig faster.

A few minutes later, I scooped the last shovelful of dirt onto my cat's grave, and patted it down. Less than one hour before, she'd been alive. Now she was in a box in my backyard. Life went away that quickly. Man.

The smoke would be there. My family needed me now. Or I needed them. I went into the house where Elijah was watching an episode of Curious George on TIVO, sat down beside him on the couch, and immediately broke down sobbing.

Regina rushed me out of the room.

"Get a grip on yourself," she said.

"How can I?" I said. "My kitty is dead!"

"You need to be strong for your son."

"You fucking Protestants and your repressed emotion!"

"This has nothing to do with me being a Protestant. I just don't want you upsetting Elijah."

"Fair enough."

A few minutes on the bed calmed me. Then we switched our focus. We were concerned, at first, that it would be tough to get Elijah through Gabby's death. But he moved quickly through several odd stages of four-year-old grief.

1. Laying in bed at night, listing all the family members who are still alive.

2. Asking what Gabby is doing in heaven. Asking what a soul is when we tell him that only Gabby's soul is in heaven.

3. Asking how Gabby can eat underground.

4. Pronouncing "We have a dead cat!" upon entering the schoolyard the day after Gabby's death.

5. Less than a week later, asking if we can eat "Gabby stew" for dinner.

I think the kid will be fine.

As for me, I miss my little Gabby. She was a good companion in the days when I didn't have permanent female company. She saw me through the writing of four books, the editing of another, and the composition of countless newspaper and magazine articles. She moved with me from Chicago to Philadelphia to Austin to Los Angeles. She also left little pools of barf everywhere and consistently tore holes in my clothing with her claws. Basically, she was a cat. But she was a sweet cat, and she was mine, and there's a hole in my life without her, even though I now have to do a little less cleaning.

Gabby used to sit on my laptop. Sometimes, I'd leave it open, and she'd sit on the keyboard and really screw things up for me. For 11 years, I made it a habit of running into my office and making sure my laptop was OK. Now at least once a day, it still occurs to me that I should check. But she isn't there.

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November 14, 2006

The Best Of The Maelstrom

You'll have to excuse my lack of original posts this week; I'm working with some emotionally difficult material, and it's taking a while. To keep you interested, I'm going to rerun a classic post from earlier this year. I've chosen this particular post because, to my mind, it was the first one that really featured the narrative voice that you all have grown to love so much. I hope you enjoy. Fresh material is forthcoming. And also, I swear, the site is going to improve very soon.



I picked Elijah up from school yesterday and I brought Hercules with me. Regina was having a General Foods International Coffee Day with another painter, who she met online, and I wanted to give a little extra time. Together, the boys and I drove to the Silverlake Dog Park, about which Elijah complained mightily.

"I don't want to go to the dog park!" he said in the car.

"But we're going," I said, "because Hercules needs to run around with his friends."

"Nooooooo! The dogs will jump on me! Then they will bite me! And they have sharp nails!"

"Oh, don't be such a wuss," I said. "You'll be fine."

"Daddy, will you carry me?"

"I will put you on top of a table, and then I will guard you with my life. Will that be sufficient?"

"Yeah. What's Herky gonna do?"

"Run around."

"Is he gonna eat rabbits? Or is there gonna be a sea monster there?"

And so goes every conversation I have with the boy.

We went to the dog park, where Hercules got it on with a malamute pup, two Scotties, and a three-legged bitch stray. Then we went to the kid park, which was part of a city rec center. Elijah played around for a while. I ran into a mother who'd I'd met at a party, and we chatted noncommitally about how difficult it is to get an agent to read a spec sitcom pilot (a conversation that I rarely had with mothers in Austin). Elijah played with her seven-year-old daughter, Isabella. The boy has a quality that makes slightly older girls want to take him under his wing. When he's sixteen, I predict, he will take a job as a bellhop in a luxury hotel, and at that point, his powers will begin to come in very handy.

Casanova ran up to me and shouted:

"My butt hurts because I have gas!"

And then he ran away.

"Aw," said the mom. "It's cute that he tells you when he has gas."

"It's no big deal," I said. "All Jews do that."

It got less cute when he ran up to me and said.

"I have poopy daddy!"

Jsabella's mom began to back away, and she did it even more quickly when I loudly announced that I'd forgotten to bring a diaper to the park with me. I had one back in the car, a leftover "Disney Princesses" pink pull-up number that my father had accidentally purchased for Elijah, but I had no wipes. It was time to approach a rec center employee.

"My son has to use the potty," I lied.

She led us into a slighty-better-than-average park bathroom.

"Um, I have a dog. Is it OK if I bring him in?"

"Oh sure."

The fact that she would allow me to do it made me uneasy, but I took Hercules in the bathroom with me anyway, and tied his leash to a faucet handle. Then I pulled down Elijah's pants, unfastened his diaper, gently lowered it with the precision of a Nip/Tuck character, lifted it back up, tipped it over, and tumbled some magic nugs into the can. Then I had to pick up the three pieces of crap I'd accidentally dropped on the floor.

For those of you who are planning to have children: Welcome to the rest of your fucking life. Parenthood has many payoffs, but where you once would have been getting high and watching Cartoon Network in the early evening, now you will be picking up human shit from the floor of a Parks And Recreation Center restroom.

Back at the car, I opened the door and turned away to fish the Disney Princesses diaper out from under an Etch-A-Sketch.

"Oh, how cute!" I heard a female voice say.

Elijah stood in the middle of the sidewalk. He'd dropped his pants to his ankles, and was gazing at me with a death-knelling gaze of pure beatific innocence. I knew it was an act. But that's the way he behaves around the ladies. Two young women, almost certainly actresses, were running their hands through his hair, He just smiled, naked from the waist down, and took it.

I hurried over.

"My apologies," I said.

"Oh please. He's the most adorable thing ever," said one of the ladies.

"Yeah, I guess it's better him than me doing that, huh?" I said.

"Um, yeah. I would say so."

"It's a family trait."

I was joking, but I must have sounded lurky, because they backed away. Elijah saw the diaper. He put his hands to his face.

"Nooooooo!" he said. "I don't want a woman diaper!"

At that moment, I knew we'd reached the dread Rubicon of gender awareness.

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November 12, 2006

The Bad Wipe

Elijah made me a pretend breakfast in his toy kitchen this morning. This consisted of, according to him, a tuna sandwich, "spicy chips", a carrot-and-jicama salad, and a glass of lemonade. This was much better than it could have been, as his usual fare consists of something like "barf in pee sauce" or "eggs stuffed inside Hercules' butt." The best part about the breakfast, considering that I'd woken up with Elijah at 7 AM after having not gone to sleep until almost 1 AM the night before, was that it took him almost 45 minutes to prepare. This afforded me much time to lay on Elijah's bed and to stare at his canopy, remembering a time before the first thing I did on Sunday morning involved getting yelled at by a four-year-old because he didn't like what the TIVO had recorded for him.

The breakfast took so long, in fact, that Elijah had to take a break.

He threw down his spatula and declared: "I have to go poopie now."

"Go, then," I said.

Elijah couldn't have been in the bathroom more than 15 seconds when I heard him yell:


He proclaims that every time he's done crapping. Regina and I dread hearing it, because it means we actually do have to wipe another human being's butt. We may not quite be obligated to do this by law, but we love our son and we don't want him walking around smelling like dried shit.

I went into the bathroom, and, as I always do, I examined the evidence.

"It's a little poop this time," said Elijah. "It was soft and it didn't make my butt hurt."

"That's great, son," I said.

I fished a couple of sheets off the roll and did my part.

"Ew," I said. "Mushy."

A couple of additional swipes didn't quite clear the crime scene. We needed extra supplies. On the windowsill sat a box of wet wipes. I popped it open. Empty. Next to those was a packet of fresh wipes. I tried to open it, but it was obviously childproofed.

"What are you doing, daddy?" Elijah asked.

"Wait here," I said. "Do not move."

So I left him standing there with a piece of toilet paper stuck to his butt. He was in the exact position about a minute later, when I returned with a scissors. I cut open the packet and pulled out a fresh wipe. His butt was fully sterilized within seconds.

"There you go, son," I said. "Now go finish my breakfast."

A few hours later, Regina emerged from her tomb. Soon, she paid a visit to the bathroom. I went into my office to watch yet another disastrous fantasy-football week unfold. A couple of minutes later, I heard this:

"Neal, did you use all of my wipes already?"

She appeared in my doorway.


"All of my wipes. Where are they?"

"I put them in the green container."

"You what?"

"Where the wet wipes go."

"Did you wipe Elijah's butt with one of those?"


"Dammit, Neal. Those are for cleaning the toilet and the sink. They contain harsh chemicals!"


"He could get a huge rash on his butt."


"You need to wash his butt right now."

"You've got to be kidding."

"I am not. It might eat away his flesh."

"That's doubtful."

"You never know," she said, and she called into the other room:

"Elijah, go into the bathroom and pull down your pants so daddy can wash your butt!"

By the time I got to the bathroom with the washcloth, Elijah was standing at the ready. I washed his butt and then, on Regina's request, washed it again. Amazingly, Elijah didn't ask why once. The kid has no shame. I still can't figure out where he got that quality.

Later, we went on a family hike. Elijah announced that his butt was itchy. Regina gave me raised eyebrows, indicating that she'd predicted this disaster correctly.

"See," she said. "It's the chemicals."

"Or maybe he just has an itchy butt," I said.

"Maybe," she said. "But not likely."

I was actually right for once, a fact to which Regina could not cop. Still, I'd learned my parenting lesson for the week. Don't wipe your kid's butt using a cloth covered with astringent, abrasive chemicals. You can mark that in stone.

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November 10, 2006

If I Had To Pick A Nose...

Elijah and I were playing rough on the bed the other night. As usual, I dominated. Then he switched strategies on me.

I looked up and saw his finger crooking toward my nose.

"Heh heh heh...." he said. "You'd better watch out...."

"Elijah," I said, "You cannot pick my nose."


"Because you don't pick other people's noses. It's disgusting."

"But I'm out of boogers."

"That's not my problem. Plus, you shouldn't eat your boogers."

"I love them."

"I know."

He moved his finger toward my nose again.

"Look out for my finger. It's coming...." he said.

I tried this tack:

"Go ask mommy if you can pick her nose instead."

He stood up and ran into the other room. I heard:

"Mommy? Can I please pick your nose?"

"No. Go pick daddy's nose."

Elijah returned.

"Daddy! Mommy said I could pick your nose."


He hopped back up on the bed.

"OK," he said. "Then I want you to close your eyes for a very long time and not notice anything that's going on around you."

For some reason, I did what he asked. Suddenly, I realized his plot. I opened my eyes to find Elijah's finger just inches away from my right nostril, slowly moving toward the hole.

"You are a nasty booger thief," I said.

"Booger," said Elijah. "Booooooooger!"

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November 9, 2006

Let The Truth Be Told

I've now watched five of the first six Phoenix Suns games, because four were on national broadcasts and one was against the Clippers, who found their home announcers, I believe, in the parking lot of a Von's. And since I've been watching the Suns win (and lose) 113-110 games since long before Leandro Barbosa's parents conceived him during a Carnaval orgy, I believe I'm uniquely qualified to comment. A few thoughts on the season thus far.

1. The NBA regular-season schedule is as random as a game of Candy Land. The Suns have now opened their season with six games in nine days, all against near-certain playoff teams. They've played back-to-back games three times, while other NBA teams have only played three games, total. The best team of all time (which the Suns are, admittedly, not), would have had a hard time going 3-3 under such conditions. Now they're going to finally get an easy game against Memphis, followed by six days off. They'd better win that Memphis game or else I'm gonna...I'm gonna...oh, I've got no leverage at all, dammit.

2. Complaints about the schedule aside, the Suns are reaping what they've sowed. They had a lousy offseason in which they failed to sign their best clutch shooter, replacing him with a surly headband-wearing backup point guard who had one good half-season for a losing team. And now they've made an emergency signing of Jalen Rose, who hasn't jumped at all since 2002. Perhaps Rik Smits will come out of retirement to help them plug the middle. On top of all that, they held their training camp in Europe, more specifically in Italy. As we learn in nearly every televised game, Mike D'Antoni is the greatest point guard in the history of Italian basketball. Well, perhaps Coach Pornstache rested a little too heavily on his Italian laurels in October, because this team looks unprepared and sluggish.

3. Boris Diaw, in particular, has sucked. He looks as though he had about ten too many helpings of puttanesca (which literally translates as "whore's sauce) while in "training camp". Nine million dollars a year for him to waddle his fat French ass around the court and not guard the other team's third-best shooter. Great move.

4. To continue slandering the French, the Suns appear to have adopted one of Diaw's national characteristics. In the immortal words of Groundskeeper Willie, they are playing like "cheese-eating surrender monkeys." It would be one thing if they were just losing tight games, and another if they were getting crushed, but they are blowing huge leads, night after night. At the ends of games, their opponents are swatting them away like they were gnats, or in Diaw's case, fat-assed French gnats.

5. I'm actually kind of enjoying the return of Amare Stoudemire. He's looking better and better each game. Evolving, if you will. That said, enough hip-check fouls in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. Barkley never did that shit, or at least he never got called for it. Not even when he was 24.

6. Nash and Marion look really good, and so does Barbosa.

7. Did I mention that Boris Diaw sucks?

8. Did I mention that Coach Pornstache looks overmatched out there? I'm surprised. I thought he was some kind of a genius. Well, the rest of the league appears to have adjusted to our "seven seconds or less" boys. Come on, Coach! Throw a new wrinkle into the system! Pornstache Power!

9. To sum up our recent opponents: The Lakers, Clippers, Jazz, and Mavericks all look more poised and deeper than the Suns right now. The Spurs look like they could win the title blindfolded. Manu Ginobili is a flop-ass wussburger. Oh, lord. We're so fucked.

10. Please play better, Suns. Oh, please. I can't bear it.

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November 8, 2006

A Brand New Day

"Hey, Elijah!"


"Guess what happened last night?"


"The Bush man was defeated."

"From who?"

"Don't say that," Regina said, "Because he wasn't. He just lost a lot of his power."

"Why?" Elijah asked.

"You see, son," I said, "Our government has a system of checks and balances, and if one person gets too powerful..."

"I'm watching Clifford the Big Red Dog right now," said Elijah.

"Me so happy," Regina said.

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November 7, 2006

Election Day Distraction

If, like me, you are tired of hearing stories about how evil Republican robots are intimidating black people into not voting, then perhaps I can distract you with this.

I was recently asked by Quick Muse to contribute a piece. Here's the philosophy behind Quick Muse. They choose two writers and give them a theme. But the theme doesn't come up until the writer clicks a link on the website. The writer then has 15 minutes to write a piece, and when the 15 minutes are up, their screen shuts down. I think the idea is to give plebes a peek into the fascinating creative process of literary types. Of course, an average 15 minutes of my workday goes as follows: Masturbate, check baseball statistics, read paranoid political blog, check email, repeat. But I lied to Quick Muse and gave them a piece anyway. You can read the results here. The site also has a feature where you can watch my creative process unfold over the 15 minutes, if you really have to kill some time. So go there and enjoy the best sudden fiction ever written about a testicular rodeo.

And then get off your ass and vote.

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November 3, 2006

Not The Next Karate Kid

Over the summer, the JCC where Elijah attends preschool leased its gym to a gymnastics center for kids called The Klub. Within days, The Klub began renovating the gym, which had pretty much been ripped wall padding and hoopless backboards since before the Yitzhak Rabin assassination. Soon, the bathrooms had a coat of fresh paint, there was a comfy sofa in the foyer with end table and current magazines, and also a Starbucks vending machine.

Soon, an unhealthy competition sprung up among school parents to get their kids into gymnastics classes. There were waiting lists for waiting lists. Fuck it, I thought. The facilities are nice, but the Pollack waits for no one. I was going to enroll my son in an activity he could call his own. Fortunately, there was a Thursday karate class in the upstairs dance room.

Karate would be perfect for Elijah, I thought. He spends a lot of time chasing butterflies in his mind. This is fine to a point, but the boy needs some physical discipline. Also, if he's anything like his old man, which he appears to be, in about three years, kids are going to start attacking him on the playground , just because he's sensitive. I wanted him to have some self-defense. Also, I wanted him to travel back in time and beat up my former assailants, though I realized that was unlikely.

For a while, it appeared that my thesis held. At home, unbidden, Elijah would jump into a ready position and shout "horse stance!" Or he'd suddenly thrust out a fist and exclaim "KEE-YA!" Perhaps, I thought, he'd found his calling. When he could snatch the pebble from my hand, it would be time for him to leave. I realize that's a kung-fu reference, but it kind of applies here, I guess.

He told us he enjoyed karate. When the instructor gave out a free DVD starring the "Kick Time Kids," and a lost-to-Kiddieland history character called "Kirby The Clown," Elijah watched it several days in a row, occasionally trying out the moves, though admittedly, and much to my dismay, he shows much more enthusiasm when confronted with the theme song to "Go Diego Go."

On Thursday, I went to school with checkbook in pocket, prepared to re-up Elijah for another session. I got there a few minutes early. This was fortunate, because as I walked through the security gate, I saw the assistant teacher, clad in a black uniform, walking Elijah down the stairs.

"Where are his shoes?" the instructor said to me, when "how's it going" would probably have done just as well.

"Elijah's really enjoying karate," I said, after I'd found Elijah's shoes.

The instructor snuffled dismissively. What the fuck was his problem?

A few minutes later, the main teacher came down the stairs, with the rest of the students.

"Next week is the last week of class," he said.

"Yes," I said. "And I've brought..."

"I think Elijah should skip a session. The discipline's going to pick up, and he isn't ready."

"OK...." I said. "He seems to be getting something out of it, though."

"It's like eating a piece of cake," said the teacher, "when he should be eating the whole cake."

This was rather cryptic, but I sort of understood. Elijah was pretty young. He could take some time off, and come back to karate when he was four and a half, fresh and ready to break boards. My dream of seeing him receive his brown belt would only be deferred, not destroyed.

In the car, I said,

"So, how was karate?"

"They made me sit off to the side," Elijah said.


"I put my hand in the electric."


"I said, I put my hand in the electric."

"You put your fingers in the electrical outlet?"

"NO! My fingers wouldn't fit in the hole."

"Did you try to put your fingers in the electrical outlet?"

"My fingers were too big."

"I would hope so," I said. "But did you try?"


When I got home, I said to Regina, "Elijah got kicked out of karate because he tried to put his fingers in the electrical socket."

Her face registered no surprise. The previous week, sensei had told her that we weren't getting much "bang for our buck." We didn't really care, because karate essentially meant an extra 45 minutes of day care for us. But we didn't want our kid to get electrocuted.

For some reason, Elijah's early karate failure has affected me. I feel guilty, because it's the exact kind of thing that used to happen to me when I was a kid. I would have traded in all my self-awareness in the world if I could have executed a perfect layup just once, or climbed a rope by myself, or simply carried myself with enough confidence to avoid getting beaten up. I'm afraid that this is the legacy I've left for my son.

It's bad enough that my son was born into a country ruled by a theocratic dictatorship, onto a planet nearing irreversible environmental collapse. Now, I realize, he's not even going to be able to enjoy the final ten years of human civilization with alpha-male confidence. In advance, Elijah, I apologize.

Then again, there is this strange old Japanese man down the street from us who keeps winking at my son. I don't think he's a pervert. There's something else in his gaze. Oh, please let him turn out to be a retired karate master!

Wax on, wax off.

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Science Friday

Elijah in the bathtub. I'm right by the door, doing dishes. A conversation ensues.

"Daddy, what's nature?"

"The natural world."

"What's that?"

"Anything that's not made by people."

"Like what?"

"Trees are nature."

"And water."


"Not buildings."


"Or shoes."


"Are cats nature?"


"And blood?"


"And bones?"


"Poop isn't nature."

It always comes down to poop.

"Actually," I said, "poop is nature."

"But people make it!"

"Good point," I said, "But they don't manufacture it. Poop comes out of us naturally, as part of the process of natural life."

"Pee is nature," he said, obviously onto the concept.


"And birds."


"Who made nature, daddy?"

"It's a mystery."

"Was it aliens?"

"That's one possibility."

"I think it was aliens."

"Well then, son," I said. "You're not alone."

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November 2, 2006

God Forsake Bibs

Our family spent 15 minutes after dinner last night coming up with disgusting flavors of ice cream. This was based on the legendary schoolyard game that begins with one person saying "I one the sandbox,' and the next person saying "I two the sandbox," and so on, until someone says, "I eight the sandbox," and then everyone says, "you ATE the sandbox? Why did you do that?"

So after dinner, Elijah said, "I one the ice cream." Regina took the bait, and went, "I two the ice cream." I stayed out of the game, so when Regina said, "I eight the ice cream," Elijah replied:

"It was poo-poo ice cream."

"EWWWWWWWW! Poo-poo ice cream!" said my son's mother.

From there, it was a short step to such flavors as Pus, Booger, Pee-pee, Teacake Chunk, and Daddy's Farts. The game went on too long, as such games tend to do, but it brought the topic of profanity to mind. I realized that Elijah, despite his over-reliance on potty humor for cheap laughs (something I would never consider myself), doesn't actually use much profanity.

My friend Tanya Schevitz, who I know from a secret Jewish cabal that meets once a year in the mountains of Utah, came to mind. Tanya takes my alternaparent leanings and goes full bore with them. Her son doesn't just like Johnny Cash. He's actually named Cash, and his middle name is Coltrane. Apparently, he also has a filthy mouth. According to this controversial entry that Tanya wrote for The Poop, The San Francisco Chronicle's parenting blog, Cash once called his grandmother a "fucking old teapot." Elijah's worst sin, on the other hand, is that he once called Regina a "pain in the ass," which we quickly squelched even though he was speaking the truth.

It probably won't surprise the two dozen frequent readers of this space that Elijah tends to make up his own profanity. Recently, I heard something crash in his room. Then I heard this exclamation:

"God forbid sakes!"

I went to the crime scene.

"What did you just say?"

He grinned.

"God forbid sakes!" he repeated.


Then he said:

"God forsake bibs!"


"Daddy, is that a naughty word?"

"Oh, yes," I said. "Very naughty."

"God forsake bibs!" he said again. "God forsake bibs! God forsake bibs!"

You know, just once, and I really mean just once, I'd like to hear my kid say something normal. Bibs. Why hath God forsaken you?

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