Thursday, March 29, 2001

Wow, despite the TWENTY-ONE pictures of Aviva in my last posting, some people still aren't satisfied. Hmph! I probably should have spaced them out over several entries. No, you don't get any new pictures of Aviva today, I'm writing on the train and my digital camera is at home. So there. Just be good and pretend you're paying attention anyway.

The Little Weasel can find her hands consistently now, she is starting to look at things and grab for them, and she babbles her head off constantly. Her love affair with Bonbo the dragon, who hangs over her changing table, seems to be over; they're still good friends, and she will regard him calmly as he bobs up and down above her and occasionally direct some comment at him, like "Auuwughh", but the windmilling, thrashing, caterwauling passion that used to imbue their relationship is gone. She is more and more interested, however, in the bizarre toy. She can grab, maul and masticate it, unlike Bonbo who remains out of reach, and that's just where she is as a person right now, okay? 

This condition of parenthood, of observing the forward rush of time through the bright and accelerated life of your child as they grow in and out of things, gain and lose them, is new to me, and makes me happy and sad at the same time.

The other day we were lying on the couch and Aviva was pounding on my face with her little fists -- whomp, whomp, whomp -- and she's getting pretty strong, you know -- and I had this reaction like, how do I explain that this might be a little too hard to be pounding on Daddy's face? But of course, I thought, that comes later, that whole What You Should And Shouldn't Do and How Much Is Too Much and all that. And it occurred to me that Aviva is still in the Garden of  Eden; she hasn't eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There is no ounce of hesitation or shame or calculation or chagrin in her; there is only whatever there is before her right now, textures under her hands, light from the window, faces and shapes, things to feel and pound on. 

I think she does have pride, though, in the sense of pride in accomplishment. If you lift her up under her arms she can actually stand, bearing basically her whole weight on her legs (as long as you provide the missing sense of balance), and she's got this look of confidence and pride as she bobs her head slightly back and forth, and gestures with her arms, like, look! ha ha! I'm standing!

Since I'm on the subject of people pounding on my face anyway, I might as well tell this rugby story, since it's a milestone of a sort. Also, I really like those online journals, like Diana's, that allow a window into another life. Diana is a cop and it's always fascinating to read her stories of the beat. So perhaps this might entertain in the same fashion, since not everyone is masochistic enough to be on a rugby team. Plus, it may be interesting for those of you writing fight scenes.

Up until the weekend before last, I hadn't been in any real fights in my life. A couple of times I've had to restrain someone physically to get them to calm down or something like that, and I used to wrestle and spar in various martial arts courses, but I had never actually had someone punching me trying to hurt me before.

Anyway, a fight broke out on the sidelines right next to where I was standing. Now, the week before, after a particularly pugnacious and lousy game with Yverdon in which the rucks kept degenerating into wrestling matches with punching and kicking (and me yelling from the sidelines, "Yo! If I wanted to watch World Wide Wrestling, I could've stayed at home!"), we of the Basel team had had an argument about what you should do if you see your teammates getting pounded on -- get involved? Stand back and wait for it to be over? I had suggested the thing to do was to go in to break it up, making your peaceful intentions clear. I was told this would just get me punched, to which I had stubbornly replied, "Well, I'll do it anyway." 

Now, feeling sort of obligated to follow up on my expressed intention, I rushed over to the fight. But how exactly do you break up a fight? If you pull your guy off, the other guy will just keep punching him, which seems counterproductive. If you pull the other guy off, that's even worse, as it looks like you are holding him for your guy to punch, which will invite further reinforcements from his side, escalating the situation. Ideally one peacemaker from each team would pull his own guy off, with the combatants being separated in a single, coordinated motion. I wasn't quite sure how to arrange this, however, so I just stepped between them, trying to speak soothingly and placing my hands on their shoulders.

It's actually pretty difficult to step between two guys who are fighting. I had to stop and then shoulder my way in, like getting on board one of those Japanese subway cars where they have paid professionals who squeeze one more passenger in before the car departs. At this point, I ended up facing the Albaladejo (that was the other team) player, a young French-Swiss fellow with about a third of a meter and 20 kilos on me, looking about as angry as anyone I ever saw. He spent the next couple of seconds punching, kicking and head-butting me while I was trying to get ahold of his arms to make him stop. At that point another Albaledejo player pulled me off, making soothing sounds to calm me down, which I thought was pretty funny.

Here are my observations on this brief interlude of physical combat:

  • You know how in cartoons a fight is often represented as a cloud with hands, feet, stars, squiggles, and exclamation points coming out at random points? And you know how in the movies, you see Jet Li or Jackie Chan's every artful blow and parry, and it's like an exciting, well choreographed dance?  Well, the cartoon representation is much more phenomenologically accurate, at least for my skill level. There is too much physical information too quickly for your brain to process, so it actually seems very abstract, more like a cloud with exclamation points coming out of it than anything else.

  • It didn't really hurt. That was the most surprising thing. Given the apparently phenomenal amount of blows this guy was able to land (he head-butted me at least three times, for instance), and his size, why wasn't he able to do more damage? I didn't even have a headache afterwards. I had a slight bruise above my eyebrow, and my knee hurt that evening -- but that may have been from diving on the ball later, when I did finally get into the game. Really, receiving an average tackle is much more painful than getting pounded on by some big guy trying to hurt you. Was this guy just particularly incompetent, or is unarmed combat by untrained folk just a really inefficient process? I tend to think the latter. This comes as quite a revelation, I can tell you.

  • I wasn't moved at all to hit this guy back. That was another surprise. It's not that I'm a pacifist - I think there are valid reasons to use violence. I mean, if this guy was trying to hurt Aviva, I'd shoot him if I thought that was necessary to stop him. It's just that the fact that he was hitting me, by itself, didn't seem like a good reason to hit him. I was, after all, trying to stop the fight, not escalate it, so hitting him didn't seem constructive. That sounds merely logical, but I kind of imagined that, when actually being beaten on, I might be overcome with anger and the need to strike back. But I was quite calm; I was thinking, "Dude, like, what's your problem?" and "How do you say 'break up a fight' in French?"

  • I was elated afterwards. After living the past thirty-one years attached to glands that daily pump me full of testosterone (a chemical designed, as far as I can tell, to build muscle, increase aggression, and interfere with rational thought), but too civilized and self-righteously moral to do anything about it, there's something really wonderful about being in a nice cathartic brawl. Even if it was me standing there looking silly while this big guy whaled on me. I had been rather depressed about being stuck on the bench, beforehand, but afterwards I was like "Woo-hoo! Now I'm ready to play!"
So yes, it was just like in Fight Club.

All right, now that my parents are probably worried out of their minds, let me state for the record that I'm not planning to get in any more of these. Next time I'm going to round up some assistance and do the pulling the combatants off of each other thing, rather than the stick my head in between them thing. (Or just let them go at it, if it's a fair fight: that may be one of those unwritten rules of boy etiquette that I never quite mastered.)

Still, it was good research.

I put the revision of "A Siege of Cranes" on hold to work on "Crimp", the horror novel I'm writing with my friend Ramin. I've been stuck on Crimp and avoiding it. I was excited about what Ramin was doing with the plotline he was working on, and totally stifled and bored with what I was doing with my bit. Finally it occurred to me to talk Ramin into switching. This is the great thing you can do when you're collaborating. Now he's stuck with the boring, mystical Collectors, and I got to write 3000 words of action-packed horror in the Steve and Nurit plotline. Whee!  I'm wandering away from our plot outline, which is great; it feels alive again. I have no idea if this book will ever come together or what it will end up looking like, frankly, but I'm learning a lot just attempting something novel-sized.

"Other Cities" was rejected by The Kenyon Review. You gotta appreciate the chutzpah of a magazine that includes a subscription form with their rejection form letter. It's out to Strange Horizons.

"The Orange" is out as a simultaneous submission to Quarterly West, Fiction and The Paris Review.

 "A Gardener Betrayed By Roses" will be in the April issue of  Strange Horizons

I am very impatient to see what Asimov's has to say about "Baby Love"... ought to be any day now...

 "All your submissions are belong to us!"