read various chapters of this autobiography by going to the Individual Stories menu to the right.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Mountain climbing, fitness, pluralism and who I would date or marry

Fitness and Academia

During my last five years living in Little Rock Arkansas (1989-1994), I had a ritual for first dates with new love interests. I would suggest we go to Pinnacle Mountain State Park [link] and climb the mountain. The climb is 2 1/2 miles and an elevation gain of 1000 feet. Pinnacle is on the western edge of Little Rock, an easy drive, and a common activity for people in the area.

I used Pinnacle as a filter. If the person I was on the date with couldn't climb it easily, there was no second date. I even had a specific criteria: they had to have climbed it without stopping for a break on the way to the top.

I had, and still have, a simple goal and vision of myself in old age -I want to be fit enough to go on a hike mountain trails or bike 20 miles without any trouble or soreness. Whatever my last decade is -60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or greater- I want it to be as a fit person. When I was in my 20's a friend of my mom's family, I knew him only as "Brother Louis", climbed straight up Pinnacle without slowing down once. He was 96.

I am currently 58 as of this writing, and just did a 30 mile bike ride with no effort, and 20 miles the next day, again no effort. I did not do any biking in the weeks before that. So I am on track to living up to my expectations.

I intend to be like that in my last years. And of course I wanted whoever I shared my life with to be somewhat capable of accompanying me in such an active lifestyle.

I should back up mention in 1989 I began studying weightlifting and nutrition, and within a year I was a certified fitness instructor at the YMCA in downtown Little Rock (an iconic institution now closed, in the time I was there it was the gym of the the top politicians, lawyers and business people in the state, including Bill and Hillary Clinton). I went on to work at the Gold's Gym in west Little Rock (clientele were a lot of true bodybuilders, I learned a lot). During those years I also started and did very well in college, majoring in history and political science and making as high as 4.0 a semester. I credited mastering weightlifting as the genesis of my turn towards academia: no physical fitness = no academic ability. Just like the ancient Greeks.

Seattle and Encountering Overweight-Pride

While in Arkansas I had no problem dating women that fit this idea. Its when I moved to Seattle that things started to breakdown. Warning: this is complicated, and gets into more things than just fitness.

In Little Rock the progressive and educated embraced physical fitness. The jogging culture there was over the top. In Seattle there are comparatively fewer joggers. On top of that in Seattle was my first contact with overweight-pride. The culture shock spun my head around, confused me.

Overweight-pride shamed my preference for athletic women. Enough so that in 1999 I asked a pear shaped and very not athletic Lex Sp___ out for a date. We dated regularly for a few months, though it was somewhat long distance because she had just moved to Olympia WA to go to Evergreen State College. A few months into our relationship I asked to break up, saying we had little in common. I don't why, but it took a whole year to get her to stop considering us a couple.

Pluralism Misapplied

I believe in pluralistic world, diversity, whatever you want to call it. Not due to the typical social justice angle, rather I believe in diverse communities because they are more exciting, stimulating, healthy, resilient and so forth. 

Because...I just like them more.

When I was first thinking of dating Lex Sp___ I recall one time being very aware this was a mistake, and wondered why I was doing it. Now I know it was the shaming of my preferences by the overweight-pride memes, and also a bizarre psychological tendency: I would tend to pursue women I had less in common with. Women who I had a lot in common with, and compatible in things like being a morning person, and that I was attracted to, etc etc...I wouldn't reinforce the relationship. I wouldn't get more friendly or personable with them, and I certainly wouldn't ask them on a date.

It's a bit late in the game to fully figure all this out now. I wished I had been more of a writer back in those years, putting what is in my head out onto textual media seems to be the only way I can work through my worst psychological pitfalls.

So I was trying to be good by some abstract standard in the sky,trying to be good by sacrificing my desires and preferences on the alter of fitting in. Fitting in with whom...what group? I can answer that with surprising precision. The group of people who love what Dustin Hoffman said in an interview about the movie Tootsie. In the video Hoffman says:

"it was at that moment I had an epiphany, and I went home and started crying, talking to my wife. And I said I have to make this picture, and she said, 'Why?' And I said, 'Because I think I am an interesting woman when I look at myself on screen. And I know that if I met myself at a party, I would never talk to that character because she doesn't fulfill physically the demands that we're brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out. She says, 'What are you saying?'"

Fighting back tears, Hoffman continues: "I said, 'There's too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. That ['Tootsie'] was never a comedy for me."

Brainwashed works in both directions. I was brainwashed to resist the dominant paradigm, and did damage at least in the form of confusion and wasting valuable lifetime (for the person I was dating) by "being a better man" than the norm.

There is an even larger object lesson in this tale. It is common for people to praise "being good", to praise pushing one's moral standards or conduct or whatever up a notch. I did that. And it created confusion and misery, in a number of relationships especially including my first wife and mother of my son.

Watch out -while you are truly thinking for yourself, knowing yourself, and have perfectly reasonable and doable preferences in life- there will be social movements and armies of memes out there working around the clock send you the message you are wrong. I'll say it again because it can never be over-emphasized: if you are truly thinking for yourself, knowing yourself, and have perfectly reasonable and doable preferences in are absolutely right, and the opposing social movements and armies of memes are wrong...for you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

My son is the Master of the Bicycling Universe

Master of the Bicycling Universe is a little over the top, but that's how I feel about my son and bicycling today.

My son was diagnosed autistic at 2 years old. He is now 5 years old.

You can find so much on the web about challenges. I want to just put forward a story of this wonderful kid and his talent.

Within this last year he suddenly asked one day to start riding his blue bike (in photo). No training wheels, and never on it before. He said he would use it as a balance bike. I didn't provide too much coaching or insulting his intelligence, though I secretly chose city parks with no big hills so there would only be flat-ground challenges.

He rode in balance bike mode for three days. Then it happened. I saw him pedaling.

Perfectly. And by that I mean no out of control moments, and more importantly no crashes.

To this day he has never went down. 

In the last week he has had a spike in a sense of maturity. He has begun to vocalize fantasies of independence. "Daddy, I can get a yellow boat, say bye to you, and go out on the water in the boat and go fishing." "Daddy, I could ride my bike up that hill by myself. I could say 'bye daddy' to you and ride my bike up that hill and then ride back down." These ideas are kind of connected to his talking about being 10 or older. He's making plans, good plans I'm all for, by vocalizing these scenarios of saying bye to his daddy...and I love it...I give him affirmation that yes he can do that someday.

Today he wanted to ride his bike on the street. I nudged his goal away from riding totally in the street, instead riding in the parking lot of our local Fred Meyer superstore, and riding on sidewalks to a playground.

He did perfectly, stopping at street corners, riding near me, and never going too fast or away from me. People in the parking lot of the Fred Meyer came up and praised him.

I do want to mention a negative experience, but only to convey a relativistic narrative. At the push of his mom, we tried soccer. It was a little bit of a struggle the first summer. The next summer it was full on miserable, he would run from the practice after just a little time into the session. Then he ran from it right at the start of class. I asked him if he wanted to stop coming to soccer, he said "yes". I called my wife and said this is over, he hates soccer.

My story and object lesson is simple, folks. At least with my autistic kid, all I have to do is listen, respect both when he is conveying something is a misery for him, and even more importantly: provide the tools, opportunity space and sincere respectful verbal support when he voices the desire to take on a challenging new activity.

Along this long journey I expect us to drop misery inducing things like a hot potato, I don't give a ferrets rear end how normal it is for others. And we are going to look for what he fantasizes about, where his wanderlust is, what great big ideas are his ideas. With those I expect we'll just need to open the starting gate, and he'll do the hard stuff, the grand stuff.

Like he's done with biking.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Father dies and the 2500 mile road trip to his funeral

     June 2012
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
                1  2
 3  4  5  6  7  8  9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Below are a few Facebook posts that capture what I wrote in the days surrounding my father's death. He died in the early hours of June 12, 2012, and the evening of the next day I set out in our Volvo driving 2500 miles to be at his funeral. I drove from 8:00 PM Wednesday night till 5:00 PM Friday. The funeral was Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning I left Little Rock around 7:30AM and arrived in Seattle at 1:15 AM Tuesday morning (June 19).

June 12 2012 Facebook post, and was later extended for the eulogy I improvised at my dad's funeral service:

My Dad

He was born in September 1939.

No one in his family drove a car, so when he did it was a big deal. He was forever crazy about cars, especially his cars, after that. His first car was a black 1949 Ford sedan.

Later he got the car that would make him known in Little Rock -a 1955 Chevrolet. It was white with "Ghost" written in Gothic script, it was lowered. He met my mom while driving that car. Legend has it he cruised along side a car full of young ladies that included my aunt and mom, and he asked "who is that?" about my mom, they told him "Martha Sue King" and he smiled and sped off. That move got them all talking and my mom interested.

My mom was 19 and my dad was 22 when they had me.

In 1967 my dad bought a new Magnavox audio system -record player, tuner, amazing amp and speakers- for $500.

$500 in 1967 has to be several thousand dollars today. And in those days, especially in Arkansas, average people didn't buy high end audio equipment.

We had all the albums by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and movie soundtracks that are still respected compositions such as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and all the James Bond movies. Played loud and all the time on the $500 stereo.

I lived enveloped in great sound.

My dad took me to drag races starting when I was in second grade. We would stand near the starting line and the cars would take off in a barrage of smoke and thundering sound. We would hang out in the pits talking to the drivers and looking at the cars while they were worked on. Don Garlits -the greatest drag race driver of all time- gave me a spark plug from his dragster.

The next few decades were rough. I was wild and not normal, going off to adventures on oil rigs in the Gulf, studying everything my dad hated, identifying myself more like a New Yorker and punk rocker than a Southerner that drives cars too fast.

Then in 2002 I came home for a visit and my dad really tried to show he loved me. We sat watching TV and he was raving as we watched some of my favorite guitarists like The Edge and Pete Townsend. My dad really put on a good show going on about the things I liked.

In 2005 two men broke through the door of my mom and dad's home, held guns on them and threatening to kill them. My dad talked them out of killing them, and the men just stole their money and car. My mom and dad left that house and never went back, selling it and retiring sixty miles away.

My dad always loved his hometown of Little Rock Arkansas. I'm sure it was a let down to have been chased out of the city because of crime, to die in a place with less connection to his memories.

He later told me loved his new town of residence.

In June 2012 his vital signs became extremely bad. My mom asks for me to call immediately. I call and she says I need to say something to my dad, he can hear, just can't speak. I tell him I love him,
North the day of the phone call.
appreciate all we had, and I know its hard right now. North is yelling 'daddy' at my side, and I tell dad that's North and he's excited to be talking to my dad. I tell him I love him one more time.

After I'm done speaking to him my sister takes the phone out of the hospital room and tells me the doctors said someone about to pass away holds on till they speak to some person not present but that they want to hear from, and once they do they pass away.

I was that person.

He died 3AM June 12 2012.

June 17 2012 Facebook post:

Sitting in a truck stop with free wifi, 700 miles into the trip back. My time back home in AR was deeply meaningful on so many levels. The funeral service for my dad brought out stronger crying than I've ever done. They asked me to do the eulogy -most everyone laughed at a few stories, cried, and clapped when I was done- all this made me feel good but more importantly I think my dad and the things he liked got represented. My uncle (or someone) said most kids don't know their parents lives with such detail and ability to summarize as I do, so my dad got a good story told of his life. While there I drove downtown and saw where we used to live, that part was great too. Then seeing my life-long friend Greg's awesome living-space within music studio within old warehouse in the industrial district near the airport was a hoot. Hanging out with Greg Ward and Traci Michele was even more of a hoot.

One thing this trip did for me was being able to indulge once again in a roadtrip across the Rockies and high plains. I have been frustrated and longing for seeing these roads I used travel so much on in 1990's. Now that I've actually done it again I found out its not such a big deal, even the greatest scenery in Utah and Wyoming didn't cause rapturous emotions like it once did.

I got a good dose of home, cried about my dad, saw all my family, got to roadtrip and now I just want to get back and fix North his breakfast and sit with him and watch his airplane video. He usually leans against me and puts his head on my arm through a lot of the video. — in Ellis Kansas at Love's Truck Stop, 200 Washington Street, Ellis Kansas 67637 (map) .

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pacific Northwest Seattle Times article featuring our family

On October 27 2011 I got an email from Tyrone Beason, a journalist for the Seattle Times. He was in the process of "...writing an upcoming piece about people in our region who are struggling to move into (or remain in) the middle class at a time when many are slipping down the economic ladder. If you're interested in participating and sharing the story of your family, it would be great to chat and go from there..." Over the next several months we did several interviews and photo shoots with Mr Beason and award winning newspaper photographer Ken Lambert. Eventually the article was published with our photo on the cover.

Scrimping and saving for a piece of the American dream
-by Tyrone Beason. Seattle Times.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Photo Journal: Snow in Fremont (neighborhood of Seattle)

I know this is an autobiographic blog, and relies foremost on telling stories through text. But sometimes just a series of photos tell a story as well, and in some cases the photos themselves are the most interesting thing to come out of that day.

These photos were taken in a time when I was a stay at home dad, my son North was two years old, and we lived in the very core of Fremont, in the Bridgeview Apartments near the corner of Fremont Avenue and 35th Street in Seattle. In late November 2010 we got a good layer of snow, and I took these around 4:00 AM, before the daylight and the traffic would remove most of the white stuff on the streets. Also fortuitous was the timing of the snow storm with the placement of Christmas lights on the buildings and trees that time of the year.

This record also shows how magical the immediate few blocks were of the place we chose for North began his life in.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Family Vacation in Wallace Idaho

On November 23, 2008 our family embarked on a vacation. It was a unique time -ten months after the birth of our first child, and in the middle of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Some might have chosen to skip a vacation altogether, but we chose to have fun while being mindful of what we spent. We chose to make a trek to Wallace Idaho.

We live in Seattle, and do not own an automobile. We walk to work, to the store, and only use a car occasionally. When we do, we rent a Zipcar. What the heck is a Zipcar? Answer: Usually a Honda, Subaru, or Toyota; parked in our neighborhood, which we can rent anytime, paying per hour or per day. For example, we rent for one hour to make a run for a large load of groceries. For this trip we needed an all-wheel drive car for the winter conditions on the mountain passes, so we chose the Subaru Forrester just two blocks from our home. Our trip was for five days, so we had to contact customer support and make a request for keeping the car that long. They were fast and courteous with a response of yes, and the little wagon was ours for those dates. (booking a car for the more usual few hours of use is much less trouble, just login the site and select a car that is not booked.)

November 23 I got the car packed and the family loaded and we were on the Interstate 90 at 6AM. The first light of dawn came when we ascended Snoqualmie Pass. It was my first interstate road trip driving a car since 1995. I have travelled across the country a few times by train or bus since '95, and thousands of miles by air around the world, but driving has an appeal and beauty all its own, and Interstate 90 is a great highway for it.
Interstate 90 at the Columbia Gorge.

The scene as we approached the Columbia River was surreal. There was a thick fog filling the river valley, which is more like a canyon than valley. Driving past this we proceeded through a geological region known as the Columbia River Plateau, a lava plain known by most as Washington State's only desert landscape. The air was dryer and colder, and I kept commenting to my wife how great it felt. She just grinned warily, knowing I prefer cold, dry, tree-less climates.

We got to Moses Lake before 10AM, and took an exit to have breakfast. Out in a vast desert plain, Moses Lake is one of the largest towns for a stop along the Interstate in this region. In Seattle, we have an almost endless number of nice restaurants. What I am about to say may sound, um, like I don't know much about good restaurants. I think I do know something about good food, and with that proclaim: I love the Moses Lake Denny's. We ordered omelettes served on a hot griddle. I'm not a paid spokesman, I promise, but the hot plate breakfast dish I had ( it was the more spicy of the selections ) totally rocked.

Our experience at this Denny's made me think up a motto: Being on a budget makes you go to average places, and have average things. Its great when this average stuff is great. Enjoy it.

After Moses Lake we did our best re-enactment of Dukes of Hazard, and sped (70MPH) towards Wallace. Our baby's only crying was somewhere between Moses Lake and Ritzville, then slept, like a baby, till our next stop.

Within a few miles of Wallace I began to question whether we had made the right choice. A few of the towns before Wallace seemed really cute, from what I could see driving on the Interstate. Then Wallace appeared. Clouds clinging to the edge of town, mountains rising right from behind the town buildings, and dozens of ornate "story book" brick buildings. I remembered why we came: it stands out as the prettiest small town on I-90.

Our reservation was for five nights at The Ryan Hotel, a circa 1903 miner's residential hotel. Our room was an especially large suite, with a wrap-around couch the size of a 747 airliner. A microwave, refrigerator, and space larger than our apartment in Seattle -all for $38 per night. Note that $38 is the price of the smaller suites, they simply gave us the master suite because it was vacant and we had a baby. The hotel was clean, everything worked, and looked like a movie scene about a ritzy hotel in the Old West. The hotel manager, John, was more like a nice cousin looking after us while visiting his house. He made sure we had everything we needed.

Once we were settled we walked around town. Any point in town was within a ten minute walk, or maybe five minutes. A three floor store, Tabor's Drug, is on the first corner next to The Ryan. We shopped there looking at all the toys. baby clothes, and sourveniors. The ladies at the counter were fun to talk to, interested in us and why we chose Wallace for our trip. We had that same conversation several times around town. Wallace is a "destination", for skiers and mountain bikers because of the ski slopes and huge trail system in the area. But a family simply staying there to see the town, particularly in the tourist offseason of Thanksgiving, was a little unusual.

We may have been some of the first customers ever at the newly revamped "Vintage Games". It is more like a tourist trap than any place in town, but wow, what a cool tourist trap. It has a wireless cafe ( maybe the only one in this region of I-90 ), bookstore, upscale sci-fi and toys store, all kinds of oddities store, and retro game arcade with old pinball machines. They even had a LIFE SIZE TYRANNOSAURUS HEAD for sale. $5000. Briefly, I wanted to stray from our budget constraints to buy this obvious bargain. A once in a lifetime chance to grace our living room with a VW sized dinosaur head.

My wife did not want a dinosaur head for $5000. ( She is a conservative New Englander. )

Later at the hotel we made sandwiches. Being on a budget, wary of spending money during a world financial crisis, we planned to fix our own food for lunch and dinner during the vacation ( when not on the road ). We had stocked up on cold cuts, fruits and milk; even packed our coffee maker. This is not as romantic looking as the marketing photos promoting most vacations, but as Sting sang in the old Police song : When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around. We watched a lot of cable TV while at the hotel, this was a treat for people with no TV or cable at home. I was glued to the 24 hour news when in the hotel room.

We planned to eat out for breakfasts. We ventured out around 9AM and quickly settled on the Brooks Motel Restaurant, which had a sizable crowd already being served. I had eggs, bacon and toast; and our son liked looking at all the new people. He got to crawl around on the floor playing with year old girl. Her family lived in town, the father's home state was the same as mine: Arkansas. We both went on about how we liked the Northwest. There was an elderly man that stopped and talk to us and entertained our baby. He looked every bit the part of old miner -an old tough but jovial man who had lost his wife, telling us stories of his old heirlooms he had stashed in his house, and his kids taking and wearing some of the old jewelry without his permission.

Wallace is not a resort, it is full real people like this. What is nice is it is not a typical working class town either. There is no McDonald's/KFC/Pizza Hut/Wendy's or Burger King, no mall, and no Wal-Mart. There is a Harvest Food (full size grocery store), TrueValue Hardware, and Tabor's Drugstore. The town is thriving with nice restaurants and bars. It is the Silver Mining capital of the world, with businesses and people that really serve that way of life. Think of a thriving Old West mining town in 1920, that is what Wallace does, without any fakery or mock up. It is the real thing.

The Brooks was advertising a Thanksgiving buffet from Noon to 4PM. We decided to go for it. It was our first Thanksgiving as parents, as a real family. A lady I assume is the owner offered to hold and entertain our baby while we ate. When we came back the next day she remembered our son's name.

On our third day in town we toured the Wallace District Mining Museum. They have the semi-famous last traffic light on Interstate 90. Wallace was featured on 20/20 as the town that stood up against the building of an Interstate through it. I-90 had a detour in Wallace, traffic had to exit the interstate and travel through a few city streets and then re-enter I-90 on the other side of town. The museum has that traffic light. Historical note: the Interstate was eventually fully built by building a bridge outside the town, leaving the town untouched by the construction.

I got to jaw with the Museum proprietor about Wallace and how it reminds me of towns in southeast Alaska, along the Inside Passage. Like in SE Alaska, Wallace is hemmed in by topography, not able to sprawl out indefinitely. The mountainsides are right in town, with a few houses built right on the hillsides. The proprietor opined that the land had made a people that are tough, independent, and hard to categorize.

On Friday night I got an early birthday gift -I got to go out to the bars. I started my bar hopping at the 1313 Club. There I was able to test an early run of "Orehouse Amber" from the totally new Wallace Brewing Company. I even got to meet one of the brewery's owners, Chase Sanborn. My taste test put the beer somewhere close to Seattle cult favorite Mack & Jack's African Amber. I stressed to Chase this was a compliment. Beyond the good beer, I got in a really long and indepth chat with locals, including one guy back home for the weekend from Portland, talking about crime on my side of the mountains and how unfortunate that is, and how fortunate the people in Wallace are.
1313 Club. Wallace Idaho

I closed down the 1313, and went on to the slightly rougher Silver Corner Bar and Grille. It was packed. Within minutes a crazy drunk woman knocked a beer bottle over and onto me. Now this was a bar! I eventually got in a conversation with a group that included a Navy man on leave back home, with his wife who had moved here from Dallas Texas. Later I met a brilliant electrical engineer and we talked tech stuff till I finally called it a night.

The next day was more of the same. I visited the little computer store and got to geek out talking about my favorite subject with the owner, then had a huckleberry milkshake at the Red Light Garage. They were closed for a little renovation, but let me in for a milkshake, even pressing me to taste test their micro-brew ( which was good, tasted like Killian's Red ).

That afternoon we decided to pack up and hit the road to beat the Sunday after Thanksgiving traffic. I drove to the entrance ramp on the east side of town, so as to get one more look at Wallace.

For anyone in the Northwest, Wallace is worth a look.

New York Times Photo Essay: Wallace Idaho

The author of this blog also has two books available on Amazon. Athena Techne uses some of the autobiographical content of this blog and adds a philosophical perspective utilizing the ancient Greek god Athena.

Athena Techne :: Page

Autistic Crow Computer is a fiction set in Seattle, about an autistic boy and two crows. The book was written for young autistic readers, although reviews by non-autistics have been positive.

Autistic Crow Computer :: Page

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The birth of North

Below is the entire first chapter of my book Athena Techne

On January 24, 2008 my wife began her first day on leave from work. She was nine months pregnant, and wanted the last days or weeks of pregnancy to be at home, gathering up her strength and thoughts before the big moment of labor began. A bookish, geeky introvert -she was looking forward to a few days alone reading, journaling, knitting and napping.

This loner's paradise was interrupted around 2 PM that day, when she called me and said her water had broke. We were employees at Streambox -a tech company with less than twenty employees, unknown locally, but an Emmy winning technology used by news organizations worldwide. I came downstairs from my hot, loud R&D laboratory and told the CEO and CTO the news. They told me to go, immediately, and someone offered to rush me home.

We live in the inner city, half hour walk from work, and don't need a car. So our drama of the going-into-labor car race to the hospital was different from Hollywood's standard script. We called a taxi. Actually, we packed up our supplies (snacks, clothes, more snacks, and the kitchen sink), went outside, dialed for a taxi from our cell phone, and waited. Patiently.

The stories of a rushed affair during this phase of giving birth are pure fiction, statistically. I enjoyed seeing our neighborhood environs in a new light of meaning; standing there waiting with my life partner and knowing we would return with a new life partner.

The taxicab driver was surprised he was driving a woman in early stages of labor to the hospital. He was supportive in every way. He drove at the legal speed limit, and told his stories about childbirth. It was a great way to get to the hospital in this situation.
Swedish Medical Center. Main Campus. Seattle. 

Upon arrival at the hospital, we were first sent to maternity triage, where they determine whether or not it was a false start, and whether or not to send you home or to a birthing suite. They found there was a rupture of the protective sack around the baby, meaning germs could now travel from the outside world to him. He had to be born before the bad germs caused infection.

Natural processes don't receive orders to do something at a specific point in time, but they can be encouraged to move along. We didn't get sent to a room where a doctor induced labor and out popped a baby. We were instructed our best option was to walk the hallways of the hospital, for about an hour and half, to enlist gravity and working torso muscles to push the baby into a better position for birth.
Us walking the halls of Swedish 

For me, this was another one of those great moments in our lives together. It was kind of surreal romantic -the quiet, sterilized, well decorated hallways with a view of the city; us holding hands and being very much a couple. We walked around an area of the hospital full of offices and seminar rooms, and it was after 5PM, so almost no one was there. At this stage there was little discomfort for my wife, so the walk was truly enjoyable; a walk that had an added dimension to "recreational". We have photos of us on those walks, and it looks like the most romantic date, the kind of date where the couple only knows about each other.

2 PM, January 25th. My wife had been in labor seventeen hours. The doctors have figured out there is an urgent problem: the umbilical cord is wrapped around our son's neck, and he is slowly choking. Another complication: he is very large and not fitting through the passageway. My wife and son were both in dire trouble.

At this point I remember a room full of mostly women. Maybe this was a continuum of an ancient pattern, a pattern repeated across the full spectrum of races and cultures. Women clustered around and in charge of baby having. Maybe so, but these women had something more they bought to the room -professional and intellectual empowerment. They had years of hard science and practical, physical experience delivering babies to inform this moment.

We were at the top hospital for having babies in the Northwest section of the United States. Seven hundred babies a month. World-renowned physicians, teams and programs. I'm not writing a promotional brochure, these things matter in the speeding calculus of the moment when your wife and son might live or die. So it mattered, it registered as important, when they said a doctor renowned for her special ability at surgically altering the birth passageway was on her way to the room. When she entered, the entire room gave her a privileged deference. In hindsight I'd say it was because she's smarter than most and gets it done.

The doctors did the surgical work, and told us we only had the next wave of contractions to get the baby out, and if that didn't work we'd have no choice but try a C-section. The waves came in three pushes. My wife pushed so hard on the first push, then the second, when that failed I felt we were up against a wall of last chance. She began the third push. I looked down and saw the baby's head totally outside her body. He was out and on the clean up table shortly. I still recall almost every second of the next fifteen minutes, especially the first time he ever opened an eye, and looked at his mom. Months after all this my wife and I talked a lot about what happened during North's birth. I came to a realization, and my wife agrees, that if we had done this birth at home, or even been at a less advanced hospital, North would not be alive. Maybe even my wife wouldn't be alive.

At the hospital we had two friends lending their presence and support through a lot of that eighteen hours. They are women with a strong identification with natural childbirth, and "nature is best" in general. I appreciate their friendship, care and support towards my wife. Blunt statement: I am so thankful their values were not in control, I'm so glad our (female) medical science doctors were in control. That childbirth suite had a hierarchy of values, knowledge, wisdom, and practical application far superior, in any respect, to the folkways world of natural childbirth. How can I make such a grand and sweeping assessment of such a complex cross-cultural domain that involves women more than it involves men?

Because my son, and maybe my wife, would be dead -if natural childbirth had been our choice. And in places where natural childbirth is the only choice, there are a lot of men who do not hold their child or wife, because they are dead.

Across a lot of time and cultures (from the white Protestant American Old West, to Muslim Turkey, to Confucian China) there are large swaths of family mores where the men are aloof -taking themselves seriously as businessmen, political leaders or warriors; and offering no deep peer connection with their wives and children. We may never figure out all the causes for this kind of society. But I do think I've figured out one cause for men's aloofness and detachment from their mates: the high death rate for mothers and their babies during childbirth. I am not putting up a stopgap to Feminist's perennial critique of these male-dominant societies; I think Feminists are right in their negative appraisal of many societies. But it makes sense on a certain level: to not become too attached to someone very likely to die through the course of what you both will be doing a lot of; having sex and having kids. Lots of wives and lots of attempts at childbirth are a way to leap over the statistical wall of death that faces those without the aid of medical science.

I'm glad I don't face that stark and cruel world without science, where my deepest and most meaningful bonds to my wife and son would not be encouraged. I like being in love with them.

Love -it's what our modern civilized life affords.
Jenni's first time holding and seeing North

North's first night with us. 

The author of this blog also has two books available on Amazon. Athena Techne uses some of the autobiographical content of this blog and adds a philosophical perspective utilizing the ancient Greek god Athena.

Athena Techne :: Page

Autistic Crow Computer is a fiction set in Seattle, about an autistic boy and two crows. The book was written for young autistic readers, although reviews by non-autistics have been positive.

Autistic Crow Computer :: Page