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All the Tired Horses in the Sun

Today is the first day in seven weeks that our house is entirely without guests. For as much as I'd like to blame them for my recent inefficiency and fatigue, I couldn't do it with a clear conscience. The most that any of them asked of us was to see Ivan and Veronika and help take care of them, and that kind of visitor isn't too difficult to tolerate. Nonetheless I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do, having spent much of the last month celebrating and relaxing. I doubt that I'll get to most of it, but I'll be darned if I'm going to let the inspiration pass me by. Some Dylan, then:

John Wesley Harding — I was prepared for this album to be quite bleak—given the motorcycle accident, seclusion and all—but despite all the contemplation of society's outcasts and Old Testament references, the sparse sound and lyrics felt urgent and strong to me. The first side has most of my favorites ("I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine" and "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" especially), but then instead of ending the album on the somber note it had carried throughout, he lets the sun break through the clouds for the last two tracks. It must have been difficult to wait two years for Nashville Skyline to be released after having a taste of what was to come with "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight". When I heard that steel guitar come in, I knew that there was something right about the combination of Bob Dylan and country. Speaking of which...

Nashville Skyline — I have only two problems with this album: 1) the length (27:13? Really?), and 2) the replacement of the substantial Dylan lyrics that I had grown accustomed to with more disposable "country" lyrics. Add ten minutes to this album and give me a little more to chew on and you would have a hard time prying this out of my rotation. I love the Dylan country sound. It just makes me happy and I can't say exactly why (I suspect it has something to do with all the infectious blues he sneaks in there). I was ready to buy some boots and drive to Nashville (ask Dinka, it's true, sadly) but then Ivan was born and I became permanently distracted from that goal.

Self Portrait — I normally avoid reading anything about these albums before I listen to them to avoid interfering with my experience of them, but with this one I broke down. I had heard so many bad (and weird) things about it that I wanted to find out a little more before putting any money down. I allowed myself the Wikipedia entry, which mentions two popular theories about this album: 1) it was a genuine attempt at exploring Dylan's musical influences; 2) it was an intentionally poor effort designed to destroy people's expectations of him. After listening to the album, I have no doubt that it was purposely unconventional in form but there's too much good stuff on there for me to believe that it wasn't genuine. However I cannot deny the extensive problems: unfortunate choices for cover songs ("Blue Moon"), poor recording quality ("Belle Isle"), uncomfortably off-key vocals, etc. Listening to this album was like having Bob Dylan's brain on shuffle—everything he's ever listened to is in there, all jumbled up, sometimes poorly remembered and replayed through his voice, for better or worse. I'm ready to move on.

April 22, 2006 | Comments (1)

I Can Hear That Whistle Blowin'

I'm sure going to miss you, baby girl

Today is the last day of my paternity leave. Before Ivan was born, I was joking with Dinka that it would be great to be on vacation, to be at home all day with nothing to do (like she has all the time—ha!), although I knew full well that that would not be the case. As it turns out, it was kind of a vacation and one of the best I've had. When you're on vacation, you do things you can't do during the work year, right? Well, spending that kind of time with my family is not something that I can do while I'm working. I'm sure that when kids reach a certain age it doesn't work as well but if I had five weeks of vacation like certain Europeans, I would be happy to regularly spend a week or two of it at home like I just did.

When I started thinking about returning, I realized that the thing I will miss most is my time with Veronika. This probably sounds strange, since I took the time off to spend with Ivan and help out with everything Ivan-related, but as it turns out (and this is something that I had forgotten in the last two and a half years), the first few weeks of a baby's life are a frustrating time for a father. Newborns—and Ivan in particular—do two things: eat and sleep, and they are very much intertwined. This doesn't leave much room for a father to help out or spend much quality (i.e. awake) time with the baby, despite his best intentions. In the first few days, I mostly found myself trying to distract him and kill time while waiting for Dinka to arrive or wake up or whatever. The situation has improved in the last few days but only to point where he'll stare at my goofy faces for a bit with a perplexed expression (not unlike when he's studying the pattern on the couch) before deciding that it's time to eat again.

So where does that leave me, where can I be of most assistance? With Veronika. In the eleven days since we returned from the birth center, I've spent almost every waking minute of the day with her. And how has it been? Better than I ever could have imagined. She is at such a terrific age (two and a half) for doing things, so articulate and imaginative and engrossed in everything she enjoys, that after spending a long stretch of time with her, I often felt that we could go on like that forever, just her and me. When the time would end or be interrupted, it would even sadden me that it wasn't just her and me, that so many other things existed that kept us apart.

Part of what was so great about hanging out with her was that I could make her every wish come true, which is really an amazing way to spend time with a child. Every night before bed, I would ask her what she wanted to do the next day. Her response was always some subset of the following: blow bubbles, watch Thomas/Baby Songs/Mary Poppins, go to the park, ride the bike, go swimming, take a bath. We could do all of that and then some in a day, and often did. Whenever I needed to add something to our schedule, it was always met with enthusiasm. Want to go to Target? YEAH! Can you help me unload the dishwasher/set the table? OK!

So that is how my days off went. Veronika and I are just the best of friends and I wish I didn't ever have to spend one minute away from her. And I'm sure that pretty soon it will be the same with Ivan and I'll feel the same heartbreak when leaving him every morning. I can only hope that one day they'll understand why I always had to go.

April 02, 2006 | Comments (1)