We realized that friends who owned an apartment in a naturally occurring retirement community had a private playground that was practically unpeopled.
I wanted the kids to go there every day.
We had some problems with the security guard. I was annoyed and recited my new and excessively long last name so rapidly (but repeatedly) that the guard couldn't figure out how to write it down.
Ha! I thought.
I took a photo at the solstice.
It was all downhill, or uphill, from that point.
After praying, I surveyed an new construction site that was upsetting to some, but uplifting to others.
I had petitioned for an endless summer.
We took advantage where we could.
Life was everywhere.
Glorious Japan occasionally made an appearance.
I didn't like any of the water features available in New York City playgrounds. Any of them.
Owing to my obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian/Jewish-Muslim conflict, even innocent sandboxes reminded me of the problems in the Levant.
Over my objections, our children were served unapproved victuals into unwashed hands.
I was enraged.
My spouse had a birth anniversary so we did something.
And had the typical celebratory meal with predictable confections.
We recreated the event for the children at a later date.
I went down to the West Village for yet another mysterious appointment.
Then a bunch of madness started.
I was driven mad. Insane.
We went to visit friends who had a home on the western tip of Fire Island.
We got stuck in traffic.
My smartphone kept blaring rocket warnings for the country in which my spouse was raised and his family lived.
We missed our ferry, so we had to walk from another hamlet.
We arrived at our weekend destination.
Our friends were experiencing an awful tragedy.
I wasn't sure how they felt about the presence of two mewling toddlers.
Our children's screams could be heard in all quarters of the hamlet.
They seemed to like the beach.
I liked the washing-up.
The beach itself was very clean. Cleaner than the beaches of my youth during visits to South Carolina, Georgia, and non-southern Florida.
The lack of vehicular traffic was appreciated by many.
The kids were afraid of the deer.
We taught the children about the dangers of the ocean.
Back in the city, I began my summer Hebrew class, with a new teacher. He was an anarchist.
We went to Brooklyn to visit a non-heterosexual friend who had had an unexpected baby, through surrogacy.
I wished that we lived in Brooklyn.
The next day we went to visit an Israeli non-heterosexual couple who had children through surrogacy.
I wished that we lived in Queens.
I often had to reliquish my smartphone to our daughter, whom we all feared.
Good friends from the old days -- friends I had met through the fabled Centfocs -- were moving to Geneva, in Switzerland.
I wished we lived in Switzerland.
We went to visit Israeli friends in the featureless hamlet of Nanuet, New York.
They had Israeli television with constant reportage of the war.
We went to a nearby park reserved only for residents of the so-called Town of Clarkstown within Rockland County.
Our daughter was almost hit by a strange middle-aged bicyclist who was dressed inappropriately.
I felt like I would have been happy had he met a gruesome death right at that moment.
This was what parenthood did to one.
The kids played in a playground.
We went back to our friends' apartment for some additional relaxation.
Then we drove to visit friends in Maplewood, New Jersey. We went to their community pool.
There was a shockingly photogenic snack bar.
Torrential rains began. Everyone was ordered out of the pools.
We tried to hide under an umbrella, but eventually the adolescent staff ordered us into the building.
Most of the pool-goers left. I thought about how the Hebrew words for "bless", "knee", and "pool" were related.
We had to wait an additional 30 minutes after the rain had stopped before we were allowed back in by the adolescent staff.
Our friends invited us to dinner at the family of a friend I had met once or twice nearly 20 years prior. We drove to a heavily treed suburban community. The forest canopy was so thick it was almost dark at street level.
I had forgotten that this friend was Japanese-American. Her husband turned out to be Japanese-American also. They were totally American-seeming, so at first I didn't understand why the woman kept trying to dissuade me from entering her house. Finally, she made it clear.
"Could you please take off your shoes!" she said, apologetically and sheepishly.
I entered the house. It was much more Japanese in tone than I had imagined. It was clean and dark and smelled of rich Japanesery.
I just wanted to lie on the floor and sleep and dream of bullet trains and chrysanthemums.
For dinner, salmon and chicken katsu (チキンカツ) were served. I ate a staggering amount, embarrassing myself as a gluttonous guest.
I felt shame but couldn't control myself. It was too delicious.
Towards the end of the meal our hosts' gymnast daughter arrived from a day at the beach. She had an unexplained fever, so I demanded that we leave immediately.
The next day we drove back to New Jersey to visit our children's arch-enemy, the daughter of one of Asaph's business school colleagues. This daughter had been born the same day as our children, but she had consistently ranked higher in leading indicators. It led to feelings of envy and frustration.
They had a nice backyard.
I wanted a backyard.
But they were moving to Utah. Even better than New Jersey with a backyard!
They were always one step ahead!
Asaph went to visit another friend who had experienced an unbelievable tragedy. I played with the kids in the yard.
We stopped at a branch of a chain of specialty grocery stores. In New York, I would only go to this store at two o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, owing to excessive patronage and long lines. But in this suburban location, one could simply walk up to a cashier to check out with no wait! It was amazing!
I was fed up.
I wondered if the news could get worse. It could!
I went to a Jewish religious service. The somewhat controversial left-wing rabbi was extremely upset about the killings of Palestinian Arab children. She yelled from the stage at the front of the service. My friend Paul, who was somewhat right-wing on Israeli security, got up and left.
A handout with a list of dead Palestinian Arab children was included with the service leaflet.
It was all very tense. Episcopal church services had never been that tense.
I had been monitoring the Israeli military casualties.
I didn't know what to think.
I wondered if our children would end up serving in the Israeli military.
I thought about how stressful that would be.
The rabbi also read some names of Israeli military casualties, stating that they were basically children as well.
Military casualties were considered more tragic in Israel than Israeli civilian casualties (of whom there weren't many), since young soldiers were considered to represent the future of the country (whereas the civilian casualties were just a random selection of people).
I wondered how it would all end up.
I learned in Hebrew class that the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (רשות השידור) was being abolished. It was a pity, since Israeli Channel 1 (הערוץ הראשון) had a great logotype.
We took the kids to enjoy Central Park as much as possible. Our son liked to take off his clothes.
It smelled like summer unter den Linden.
I fasted for 23 hours.
Our kids' vocabulary increased.
I prepared to leave for Seattle on the occasion of my cousin's wedding.
I had visited Seattle with my family in 1988, and then had spent a summer there before my senior year in college, and I had been back once for a wedding with Centfocs, but it still seemed like a strange location.
The airport was promising.
I reached my cheap hotel by taxi.
My father was staying there as well. I had arrived too late to eat anything.
I woke up to a somewhat uninspiring view.
My father and I walked to a French boulangerie and patisserie and café.
There appeared to only be one employee, who also appeared to be the owner. Consequently, service was quite slow.
The food was so delicious that it was worth the inconvenience.
I noticed something.
I had always thought that the state in which Seattle was located had a ridiculously inappropriate name, but I had not remembered the county being named after Doctor Martin Luther King Junior.
I did some research. It turned out that the county had been named after an obscure Vice President of the United States who died of tuberculosis after 45 days in office. Because this Vice President had owned African-American slaves, and had actively supported African slavery, in 1986 the county had decided to swap out its namesake for a better one.
The logo change had been more recent.
Even though I was certainly a fan of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior, I wasn't crazy about this development, given the lack of connection between this person and the location. And I thought that the county would have to be renamed or reattributed again once Martin Luther King Junior fell out of favor for his ardent theism. It just seemed a bit too random and bleeding-heart and evidence of trying too hard.
Traffic was stopped at some railroad tracks. But no train ever came. The cars just had to wait forever.
We walked over towards Puget Sound.
It was predictably beautiful.
There was a fair amount of law and order.
And environmental stewardship.
My father and I walked back towards our cheap hotel, through vast neighborhoods of new housing.
Occasionally there was a nod to the indigenous inhabitants.
I paused at something Japanese.
There had been a noticeable Japanese population in the area at one point.
We walked by my employer's main competitor.
I wasn't sure if I would be able to work in such a drab building.
We walked back to our cheap hotel.
I dozed with the air conditioning blasting while watching an American police procedural, legal, crime drama television series set in New York City and an American police procedural drama television series, revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducted criminal investigations involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
My dad and I decided to go to Bainbridge Island, where my college friend whose wedding I had attended with Centfocs had grown up.
We walked all the way to the Pike Place Market, even though my father was elderly.
There were too many people.
Back when I had first visted this place as a young person, I had thought that it was wonderful, since we didn't have such things in central Ohio.
I had had my first iced caffè latte from an American global coffee company and coffeehouse chain back when it was not at all global, in 1988. I had not been provided sugar so I immediately threw it in the garbage.
We found the ferry.
I critiqued a logotype.
My father liked being on a boat, since one had few opportunities for such activity in central Ohio.
We arrived at the island.
My smartphone mistook cars waiting to board the ferry for traffic. Stupid smartphone! I thought.
The water churned into a pleasing color.
I hadn't realized that seagulls ate starfish.
We walked to the main street, where we lunched in an upscale restaurant.
I felt relaxed for the first time in a while.
We passed some signage. I wondered when Bainbridge Island might be re-attributed or renamed.
We got back on the ferry.
The sky was still perfectly clear.
I acquiesced to my father's demands, and we took the monorail (!) back.
We took an expensive car service a short distance to my cousin's wedding rehearsal dinner.
It was in a building that served as an Episcopal church, where my cousin and her future husband had met. My cousin had been a Lutheran, but she had evidently crossed over to Canterbury. Her future husband was an Episcopalian, although, fulfilling the fears of many, his father was Jewish.
Her future husband's family was quite rich and western.
There was subsequent carousing, but my dad and I went back to our cheap hotel. I just wanted to sleep. I stopped at an old-fashioned supermarket to buy bottled iced teas, which were handed to me in a large brown paper bag with no handles, like in the 1970s.
The next morning we ambled again in the new neighborhoods surrounding our cheap hotel.
Everything had been built in the 21st Century. Most of the buildings resembled one another.
Qui se ressemble s’assemble, I thought.
They had been constructed with a specific demographic in mind. They all had stupid names.
I took a a self-portrait photograph with my smartphone.
I walked back into the park.
I went as far north as I could.
Walking back I beheld the majesty of Mount Ranier. レーニア山.
I remembered that Kansas had the best route markers in the United States, despite not having the best of much else.
Asaph sent me a photo of the kids.
I didn't approve.
My father and I went to go have pizza in a restaurant run by South Asians and filled with Australian tourists.
We went back to the cheap hotel to dress for the wedding. We passed some new buildings that hadn't opened yet and whose windows were covered with marketing materials. They were seeking an elusive demographic.
I got ready.
We walked over to the place where the given event was to happen.
There were many, many family members present from the groom's western side, but only a small group of us from the bride's midwestern side.
The wedding was lovely. The groom's former rabbi wept quietly in a corner.
The next day we headed to a brunch at the home of some wealthy persons.
The house was luxurious, with many unusual features.
An obviously alcoholic woman was there with her husband and child. She kept complaining to the handsome uniformed waiter that the cocktails made from vodka, tomato juice, and usually other spices or flavorings were not strong enough, alcohol-wise.
"Can I follow you to the kitchen to look for some wine?" she asked.
Her husband was physically attractive in the American style.
"I'm trying to get him drunk," she said to me.
"Oh," I said.
The subject of our hosts' extreme wealth came up.
"If I had this much money, I'd buy a liquor store," she said.
It was hot.
I thought about how odd my location was.
We were driven back to the house where my aunt, uncle, and cousin's two siblings -- who, coincidentally, were also my cousins -- were staying.
I took a nap on the floor, then went outside to enjoy the clean sidewalk.
I used videotelephony to speak to the kids. I tried to show them what I saw on the front porch.
I took a taxi to the airport with my youngest cousin and her Nordic boyfriend.
I arrived much too early.
Hours later, I was able to leave.
The trip reminded me again how much I hated New York.
I wasn't sure about my options.
Our daughter had an unexplained fever. Asaph wanted us to go visit his wealthy co-worker and wife at their luxury estate in fancy Bedford, a town in Westchester County, New York, USA.
In the state of New York, a town was the major division of each county (excluding the five counties of New York City), very similar to townships in other states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana.
Evidently his co-worker was afraid of germs, so we had to adminster heavy doses of antipyretics to our daughter and to pretend that she was well.
She slept while we drove up north.
We arrived at the residence. Asaf's co-worker's beautiful wife began to show us around her holdings.
Then she opened a door in the small barn and a flock of ducks emerged.
She opened another door to reveal a normal cat. Our children were stunned; it was like an illustrated book or farm-themed toy come to life!
She then showed us her horses, and two animals that were half-zebra and half-donkey. That confused the kids.
"Where is the farmer?" asked our son. I pointed to the beautiful woman wearing all white clothing.
We went into the house to play with vintage period instruments.
And some non-period instruments.
I could live here, I thought.
Our son explored the weighty bathtub reserved for the mistress of the house.
We took a ride around the grounds to look at some relocated heirloom roosters. The lady of the house had bought an Israeli license plate for the vehicle.
Our daughter's fever-reducing medicine was wearing off so we had to flee. We went to a nearby river as she cried.
I allowed the children to throw sticks into the water, but no rocks. Throwing rocks was a characteristic of hooliganism.
We observed a fearsome fungus. It was oozing liquid or fluid. We stayed back, although who knew what was airborne?
We administered a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to our daughter and drove to the home of another one of Asaph's coworkers who was somewhat-to-considerably less wealthy.
It was a nice hot day. Our kids played with the coworker's kids.
We headed back.
Even though I hated the city, I felt some relief as we traversed the Devil's Whirlpool.
We surveyed the produce we had obtained.
I attended my summer Hebrew class sporadically.
I had been taught a lot, but retained little.
I tried to speak to my son while at work.
Asaph took the kids to a summer picnic.
An opera that I had seen back in the early 1990s in San Francisco had reappeared. Now I was part of the kind of communities that found it controversial and or upsetting.
Our daughter didn't understand why people threw coins into fountains. I couldn't explain.
We found some exotic garbage at Lincoln Center.
A young boy was forced to play the violin by a type of Asian-American mother who drove her children very hard to succeed in school and or in extracurricular studies like learning a musical instrument while his passive Jewish-American father sat and watched.
Our son ran through some chairs set up for the outdoor viewing of a film.
We took the kids, our paid childminder, and her granddaughter to Fire Island Pines. We told the kids: first the subway, then the train, then a bus, then a boat.
But, as I often feared and predicted, too many persons had alighted at Sayville, and the bus could not accommodate everyone. But Asaph pushed his way on with the children, whom he placed directly in front of the windshield.
Our paid childminder and I had to hold on to a railing in the entry steps; if we had let go we would have fallen out!
It was totally illegal.
"This is like Trinidad, right?" I said, racistly.
"No, this much worse than Trinidad," she said. I felt ashamed.
We survived the bus ride, and then the ferry ride.
We arrived where we were going to stay for three nights.
Or maybe it was two nights.
I was glad that the kids could run free, although since it was mid-week, there were a lot of small motorized vehicles zooming around everywhere for construction projects and to refill cisterns with vodka.
The house in which we were staying had an intriguing shower floor.
"This is so neat!" I cried out!
After my shower, it didn't seem so neat.
There were rusted barbells lying around the property.
Like ancient ruins from the 1970s and very early 1980s.
There were also what I assumed to be poisonous berries everywhere.
"Don't eat these! Don't put these in your mouth!" I lectured the children.
I tried to sweep up as many as I could.
I headed down to the overpriced store to buy some overpriced goods. I secretly hoped I would run into someone I hadn't seen since I had become a parenting unit.
I didn't really see anyone.
We went to the nightly early-evening dance-bar socializing event, named after the British term for a formal meal comprising light snacks, accompanied by a drink made by infusing the dried leaves or buds of Camellia sinensis in hot water. (That beverage was not available.)
There were children present. I was shocked.
We headed back to our house.
The next morning I saw something unsurprising that nevertheless upset Asaph and some others on the internet.
The leaflets had been removed by the time I walked back. (They weren't removed by me.)
Our daughter was enjoying having our paid childminder's granddaughter present.
We went to the beach with an Argentinean non-heterosexual parent of twin girls.
Somehow parenting hadn't had the effect on his body that it had had on ours.
Later I researched this person on the internet and saw that he vigorously supported the people of Gaza in their struggle against Israeli oppression and also strenuously opposed male circumcision.
I took our son into the waves. There was a hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic.
Later we went to the home of wealthy older persons we knew who had a luxurious outdoor swimming pool.
It was very relaxing to swim in the clean and rich waters.
One way you could tell a wealthy person's house from a non-wealthy person's house on Fire Island was whether or not the nails stuck up out of the wood on the deck.
At the place we were staying there was possibly a high risk of tetanus.
We had to return to the city.
Our daughter cried when our paid childminder and her granddaughter transferred at Jamaica Long Island Rail Road Station for their train to Brooklyn.
I learned more about Judaism:
You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to dispossess worshipped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree. Tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that site.
Asaph had my mother's drum repaired.
A person who worked for the same organization I did -- a non-heterosexual Catalan from our Barcelona office -- was temporarily in rural Pennsylvania on the occasion of the birth of his second child through a surrogate, a practice that was illegal and unethical in western Europe.
Even though I had never met him, he had invited our family to come out and visit him, his same-sexed Andalusian partner, their pre-existing toddler, and their new baby.
I was a little nervous, owing to the Israeli aspect. I hadn't mentioned that.
The space-based satellite navigation system took us on a meandrous route.
We stopped to -- as they said in those days -- stretch our legs in a New Jersey borough located on the Delaware River in the western portion of the Hunterdon Plateau.
We went into a bakery-restaurant.
There were two middle-aged men playing ethnic instruments next to some abandoned train tracks.
Our son danced a bit, so we gave them some money.
I admired some decorative legumes.
This is what it has come to, I thought: admiring decorative legumes.
We had been asked to buy beer, so I went into a beer store. I was overwhelmed by the selections, so I had to call my brother for advice.
It was weird to use my smartphone for a phone call.
We continued on our way.
We crossed the Delaware.
As we were driving, Mary, the woman who had birthed our children, contacted us for videotelephony with her young son, Squishy.
We crossed many one-lane bridges.
Finally we arrived at the remote location.
We were greeted by the Catalan, the Andalusian, and their Iberian toddler. The new baby was taking a siesta.
They spoke to their young daughter in both Catalan and Castilian.
Our kids immediately started to commandeer the young Iberian's toys.
I walked with the Iberian child over to a small pond. We heard a splash.
"Hi ha granotes"! she said.
Our kids seemed uninterested in the frogs. I told them to pick up sticks, but it was a cruel joke, since there were only roots, clinging fast to the earth.
It was a beautiful and peaceful location. So safe that they could leave their toddler unattended outdoors.
"Can we play with your phone?" yelped my children.
Two attractive male Catalan friends of theirs who lived in New York arrived.
One of them didn't have a very Catalan first name, however. I was embarrassed to be around them, owing to my condition.
I tried to demonstrate my knowledge of the Catalan language, but my outbursts were met with awkward silence.
Our host said that he had been to Israel and "the territories" many times. I wanted the subject to be changed. I was afraid.
They had prepared pork and hamburgers, but they kindly made an asparagus omelet for us.
I felt sad that our kids were not interested in the natural surroundings.
"Let's go look for totoros!" I suggested.
"Can we play with your phone?" they replied.
We drove back towards New York.
We stopped at our friends in rural New Jersey, since Asaph was having severe chest pains and nausea. He lay on the couch while our kids ate pizza. Our friends had adopted two boys, who were busy wrestling and putting on various scary costumes. One of our friends doted on our daughter, who was surprisingly friendly to him.
"I want a daughter!" he said.
Asaph's father brought us an odd gift from Israel.
So-called fashion week arrived.
Special barriers were constructed in the hallway I used to walk under Lincoln Center, presumably to keep people from sneaking into fashion shows.
I was dreading the coming darkness.