How to not punk yr kids

I didn’t have the heart to get even with my daughters for fooling me. Part of the problem was that I am too soft-hearted to freak them out when it came down to it, and part of the problem was that I am too wise to start an arms race with them, because I can’t see that ending well for me.

It was not for lack of ideas. After consulting with a friend, I had two plans that made me laugh until I cried, just thinking about them. An administrative hell plan for Beta (notice of eviction containing a grammar error (she is a stickler for proper grammar, among other things) and a contact # that puts her on perpetual hold, while Pachelbel’s Canon (of which she is sick) plays eternally); a medical hell plan for Gamma, requiring her to (among other things) collect urine samples and stool samples daily for a week.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There were lots of fun, custom-designed details, like the stool-sample-kits would be especially constructed to be impossible to open.

For example.

But I decided not to go through with it.

It’s not that I choked. See the above.

After it became clear to me that I would not do it, I shared my plot with Gamma.

She laughed and laughed. A while later she told me she was sorry I had not gone through with my plans, because she had a really good idea now to get even.

Yes, sometimes the wisest move is no move at all.

World prematurity day

Yesterday, 17 November, was World Prematurity Day. I saw a discussion on Mefi where a list of the things that can go wrong was mentioned, and I remember how terrified I was when Beta was born seven or eight weeks early because I had seen the same list. So much increased risk for so many conditions. You’re just gobsmacked when you go in and see the tiny child in the incubator for the first time, hooked up to wires and tubes and the doctor gently explains what to expect and what to fear.

It gave my opinion of medical technology a real makeover. Until then I had seen it primarily as a way to expensively and questionably drag things out at the end of things, but it made a real convert out of me.

I have written about this here before, so I won’t go into great detail, but it is important to me to point out, in case some frightened young parent stumbles across this by chance some day, that while all of those risks are real, things can also go very, very right. Both of my daughters were born prematurely, and they are both healthy, brilliant, original, wonderful, funny and beautiful, beyond all hope and expectation, and I am thankful for them daily. So have hope. May you be as fortunate and lucky as I was.

How to punk yr dad

(Note: this works best if you live near Vienna)

Timing is essential, so wait until your mom is out of town on business, your dad is real busy with a conference and hungover from drinking with the distinguished delegate from the U.K. and being a general worry wart from trying to keep things organized in wife’s absence.

(Note: PS this is based on the method of team predation illustrated in the scene in Jurassic Park where the two raptors punk the dinosaur hunter guy.)

Dad: (text message) Be sure and let me know when you are on your way 2 yr sister in Vienna and when u will arrive

Dad: (couple hours later, phone call) Any idea when your sister is arriving?

Beta: No. I’ll let you know, though.

Dad: (later, calling Gamma) When are you going to visit your sister?

Gamma: I’m on my way.

Dad: You’re on the train?

Gamma: Yeah.

Dad: Your grandfather drive you to the station or did you take a taxi like you were talking about?

Gamma: He drove me.

Dad: Okay. Let me know when you get there.

Gamma: Okay.

(2 hours later)

Beta: (text message) Wasn’t Gamma supposed to come in to see me today?

Dad: (WTF!!!) (Calls Gamma, no answer) (Calls Beta) WTFWTF?

Beta: She’s not answering my calls.

Dad: !!!

Gamma: (text message) Where is Ceska Velice?

Dad: (Text message) Czech Republic

Dad: (Picking up distinguished delegate from U.K. at the UN.) You’ll never guess where Gamma is.

Dad: (Calls Gamma) So.

Gamma: Hi.

Dad: Fucking Schengen. In the good old days they would’ve stopped you at the border w/o a passport.

Gamma: There’s another train out in half an hour. My school pass should get me back into town. There’s an advent market here, want anything? Should I get you a gingerbread heart.

Dad: (Thinks: She’s such a sweety)

Dad: (to distinguished delegate from the UK) She’s such a sweety. She’s stuck in the Czech Republic and all she asks is do I want a gingerbread heart.

Distinguished delegate from the UK: Bless.

Dad: (To Gamma) Be sure and let me know when you’re back on a train in to town and when you arrive and are you okay. Also I don’t think you can buy a heart w/o Czech crowns. you only have euro on you right?

Gamma: Oh, right.

Dad: (To DDFUTK) We might be taking a drive up to the Czech Republic tonight. I’ll go home and charge my satnav thing just in case. There’s the exit we take when we go there.

DDFTUK: Don’t you have a power cord for the lighter?

Dad: Sure I do, but the jack got bent I think.

Dad: (To Beta) Heard from your sister?

Beta: No.

Dad: (To Gamma) So, you on the train?

Gamma: Nah, I missed it.

Dad: (To DDFTUK) She missed it. My sweet little 14 yr old daughter is stuck in the Czech Republic in the middle of the night with a broken leg. What could possibly go wrong?

Dad: Also the battery in my mobile phone is going dead.

DDFTUK: You seem relatively calm about it.

Gamma: There’s another one in like an hour.

Beta: So what’s up with Gamma?

Dad: !!!blah blah You heard from her?

Beta: Er, yeah, she’s here with me.

Dad: ????!?? OMG. Excellent one, you guys. You each get 5 Euro for putting one over on me like that.

Dad: (Describes situation to DDFTUK)

DDFTUK: You’ve been punked.

Beta: Wow, I’m so proud of you for taking it so well!

Dad: You guys are brilliant. You were like those two dinosaurs in Jurassic Park who hunted that hunter guy.

Gamma: (later, text message) Srry, Beta was bored.

Gamma: (Later) (Gives dad gingerbread heart with “Papa ist ein Goldschatz” written on it in frosting.

Dad: Aw.

So anyway, let me know if this works for you.

Performance piece (“Schrödinger’s parking garage”)

I performed an art performance last night. Is that redundant? I staged an art performance? There was an art performance last night and I was the star?

And you are the audience. You, there.

Part one:

Setting: Cafe Ritter in Vienna, smoking section.

Performer 1 meets a Friend (Performer 2) for scintillating conversation. Symbolic of the communication/non-communication dichotomy among humans, Performer 2 does all the scintillating while Performer 1’s side of the conversation consists largely of questions here and there and words such as, Okay, reminiscent of The Boy‘s side of dialogue in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, suggestive of the apocalyptic nature of modern life. And requests for another cigarette, which  Performer 2 rolls. Conversation centers on writing (communication! and culture!) and the music biz in the 1650s, which is pretty a 1:1 metaphor for the publishing business at the present time, namely in Huge Transition.

Part two:

Setting: Subterranean (!) parking garage (!)

Jingle-jangling with nicotine, Performer 1 pays (criticism of capitalism!)  for parking (stasis!) at the machine (alienation from fellow man!), gets in car(mobility? slavery? materialism?) and attempts (life is a series of attempts!) to exit (!) parking garage (!). The car starts on the first try (irony!) and Performer 1 drives (!) slowly (!) through the labyrinthine (!) garage, and up the very long, very steep (!) ramp (!) to the exit. He waits (!) for the car ahead of him to insert ticket and drive out. But before Performer 1 can exit, the garage’s night (!) security (!) door (!) rolls closed again because whatever sensor senses approaching cars and opens the security door automatically failed to sense him approaching because it had just sensed two previous cars and was temporarily tired of sensing (!!!!!). The Performer waits  (!) a while (!), then lets car roll back down the ramp a little, then approaches the night security door again, expecting to trigger the sensor, but nothing (!) happens (!!). After another brief wait (human optimism in the face of proof otherwise!), the performer rolls a little further back down the ramp before approaching the door again (dichotomic relation between experimentation (trying something new) and perseveration (trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results)!). Once again, nothing happens. Performer 1 makes another attempt, rolling a little (!) further back down the ramp (!) before again approaching the door, beginning to get a little concerned about the effect this is having on his clutch and brake pads (which are thin). Once again, nothing happens.

Part three:

Setting: Subterranean parking garage

Performer 1 continues to roll down the ramp and reapproach the night security door, each time rolling a little further back down and waiting a little longer at the door, but never rolling completely down to the end of the ramp. Never does the exit open.

This is the longest part of the performance, lasting for all eternity, or until a car wishing to park enters the garage from the other direction, triggering the external customer sensor and allowing Performer 1 to exit (reminiscent of Schrödinger’s concept of Verschränkung (entanglement) and the co-existence of modern man in two states of being, entrapment and escape).


Indeterminate. Perhaps Performer 1 is still there, driving up the ramp, waiting at the closed door, and rolling back down.