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In Memoriam, Dante Bucci

On Sunday I went on my first hike.

I’ve walked through a forest before, even along a trail when we visited Muir Woods in California last year, but this was the first time I needed to prepare in advance of our journey. What would I wear? How would I stay hydrated? How would I know where I was going?

The internet could have told me, but I have friends who hold that knowledge and were able to share with me directly. My well-travelled friend Jessica coached me on what to wear. My sister-in-law Jenny helped me find the right CamelBack for my battered L.L. Bean bookbag. My dear friend Jack took charge of our little group of hikers to make sure we took the right trail.

The hike went well. We spoke, sweated, laughed, and sang until we reached the top of the mountain and it’s Pinnacle Rock.

An outtake from Dante's press kit shoot with E.

An outtake from Dante’s press kit shoot with E.

We were there to say one final goodbye to our mutual friend, Dante Bucci, who had passed away the week prior due to a tragic and random accident in his home. That mountaintop was one of his favorite places – and where he recorded a video that thrust him into the spotlight as one of the world’s foremost players of the Hang drum.

Dante was in the first play I acted in on the main stage at Drexel. The Man Who Came to Dinner has 29 listed cast members, of whom Gina and I were two. Neither of us had any idea of how much impact some of them would go on to have on our lives, while others would quickly recede. Two were members of my wedding party – three, if you count Gina. One would become my co-worker and good friend. Another, my first kiss.

It took some time to understand what Dante would become to me. I still don’t know if I can articulate it. I remember so clearly how he had to emerge repeatedly from a pair of pocket doors to deliver these brief, exasperated lines, and how the doors would get stuck and eventually Dante’s exasperation and the character’s exasperation were indistinguishable, which made it even funnier.

That lack of distinction between Dante and the part he played was his hallmark. He was not merely an actor, a singer, a musician, or a human being. Dante embodied his art from the first note to the last. He was a work of art himself.

Dante acted. He joined Drexel’s male acappella group 8 To The Bar midway through a season, lending his astounding vocal percussion to their songs. He sang in choir and in a select Madrigal group, whose intricate, interwoven melodies first escaped my comprehension and later delighted me to no end. He was the first drummer I ever recorded, playing the talking drum on the demo of “Amphibious” with Gina for Blogathon. When he was E’s roommate he focused on guitar, playing and replaying songs until he got them right – down to the last little riff. Shortly after, he was on congas when he invited me to join my first band, a rough-at-the-edges covers act with our friends Justin and Geoff. That fall he cut the first drums on any of my original songs for a hi-fi recording of “Icy Cold” for my old podcast Trio.

Dante was always growing and refining. He could play any instrument he picked up in a mere moment. (One of my proudest memories is producing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on a cello slightly faster than Dante could manage when we were both introduced to the instrument.) As we moved up and on from college his tastes in instruments became more electric. Didgeridoo (of which he constructed his own). Nose flute. Theremin. Hang drum.

The Hang drum had something none of the other instruments had. It was more restrictive – it could not play a full chromatic scale, and Dante could not bend or slide notes as he could on so many other instruments. Yet, the Hang is otherworldly. It’s a drum that sings. It’s meditative but insistent.

It was a perfect match for a musician who was as much music as he was man, so it made perfect sense that it was the instrument of his sudden explosion of popularity on YouTube and in the Philadelphia music scene. I watched many times as Dante and his Hang brought a chattering room to awed silence, the air filled only with his melody.

Despite preparing me for my hike, in the preceding week no one could explain to me how to grieve for a friend who was so dear, so talented, and so essential to to the world and to my own life’s story. When E and I first learned the news I couldn’t breathe, my mouth frozen in a silent scream, hands clutched to my heart as if to make sure it would keep beating. I didn’t know how I would walk into his viewing and speak to his family, let alone go on living and listening to his beautiful music without breaking down. I gamely asked our friend Tony the next day, a doctor of Psychology, just in case there was an easy solution that experienced grievers would know about.

He said, “There’s no right thing to say or do. Just be there, and hold people close.”

I have held many people very closely over the past ten days. Some of them repeatedly.

I felt happy and alive at the top of the mountain despite the mournful purpose of our journey. I hiked to the top with friends who I used to see every day at rehearsal and impromptu parties, who now I see every few months or years. We clambered from rock to rock, laughing and watching hawks and vultures circle in the distance. When the rest of our company joined us, including Dante’s family, the mood grew more somber. We gathered around a high rock jutting out into the sky with nothing surrounding it. Lindsay sang “Blackbird” with Dante’s friend John to begin our ceremony with her daughter seated on her lap, smiling. After others spoke and read, Anthony (yet another face from The Man Who) held up his iPhone above his head.

From the speakers wafted Dante’s voice, now gone from this world, singing Paul McCartney’s “Junk.”

I attended the record release show where Dante debuted the song to an audience. I cried there, silently smiling. I used to stand next to Dante in choir to steal his notes, and later in our acappella group Progeny. I knew the perfection of his voice, how it was just one more instrument to bend to his will. (No, not “bend” – Dante never bent, just coaxed.) I never thought of him as a bass or a baritone, but instead a complex machine like that cello – one who could resonate low and deeply only to then sigh so high and delicately.

“Junk” has all of those parts of Dante’s voice. When E and I left his show with his album Kinesthesia in-hand, I turned to her and said, “That is the song I’ve always wanted to hear Dante sing.” I couldn’t stop playing it. I played it for anyone who came to our house – mostly my mother, who kindly said after the second time, “Yes, you’ve played that before – it’s beautiful.”

At Pinnacle, Sunday.

At Pinnacle, Sunday.

All this past week I couldn’t play the song. On the morning we learned the news, I was crying desperately on the floor with E and EV6 squeezed between us and said, “I want to hear him sing so badly, but I’m afraid to hear him, because then I’ll know I can never really hear him again.” E held me close and said, “We already can’t hear him again, but you can listen to him whenever you want.”

Dante gave us songs, and he gave me so many memories – many of which are documented here. He was the best possible friend no matter how close you were or how often you saw him, always supporting, laughing, and dispensing hugs. He and Lindsay brought me to New Hope for the first time. We held music festivals at his family’s house from 2004 through 2008, and in 2005 he agreed to join me for a solo set. I practiced for it so much that I completely wore through all of my calluses, but I would just keep playing – how could I not take advantage of time to play with Dante? Later he would play drums with Arcati Crisis for a Winter Mixer show, and again at a little coffee shop where my father saw me play for the first time.

When his Hang music grew in popularity, his was the first press kit I ever put together, revising repeatedly to try to express the truth of his music in inadequate words. In 2010, he got me booked for my first solo set at the Tin Angel on a bill he was headlining. I don’t think he ever missed an Arcati Crisis show in Philadelphia proper, always hugging and congratulating me as I stepped off the stage.

I did the same for him twice this year, at two record releases – one for his solo album, and another for a thrilling project he undertook with Angela Sheik, who made it a point to have Dante play as many instruments as he was able on stage at each show. Those two shows were a delightful greatest hits of Dante, all those things E used to hear through the wall or that he would excitedly introduce me to in his parents’ basement. This was the true Dante I loved, the human work of art on display for all the world to see.

When Anthony played “Junk” at the top of the mountain, for a moment I was transported back to my first moment of grief, breathless and terrified, clutching my chest. Then the song reached the point between the verses where Dante simply moans the melody in delicate harmony with the strings.

I could breathe, then. I looked up into the beautiful sky from atop the mountain – Dante’s mountain – with nothing between the clouds and I except the air and the waves of sound carrying Dante’s voice away into the distance.

I cried there, silently smiling up into the sunlight.

Dante gave me that moment, too.

retrain

When I am not paying close attention, my left shoulder still slouches slightly inward from when I broke my collarbone in college.

I step too hard on my heels when I walk. I speak and sing with too much tension in my jaw and uneven air support. I touch-type perfectly with my right hand, but hunt and peck with my left. I underuse my pinkies when I play guitar.

These are my thoughts as I struggle to get my left pinky facing down into the plane of water this morning as I backstroke.

There are many people who always square their shoulders, walk correctly, speak and sing well, touch type, and nimbly play guitar. I bet some of them even swim pretty decently, too.

For someone with a reputation as a perfectionist, I have a lot of rough edges. As I look back at learning all of those skills, it not as though I purposely skimped on practice. Well, maybe on walking – you’d have to ask my parents.

Sometimes these imperfections make me afraid, as if I am a fraud at posture and walking and talking and typing and playing guitar. I fear that one day I’ll be exposed as a fake and I won’t be allowed to move or express myself ever again.

It’s not a valid fear. These are my skills that people always appreciate the most – yes, even my fast walking. They are part of who I am, even if I do them a bit wrongly. All I can do to alleviate my fear is retrain myself in increments. Roll my shoulder back every time I notice it leaning forward. Let go of a little of that tension and breathe more. Take the time to play the solo the efficient way instead of the quick way.

My left arm breaks through the water. I swing it up, rotate, and plunge down to slice the water with my pinky finger.

We are all imperfect and we are all improving, and that doesn’t make any of us a fraud.

not drowning, probably

Yesterday I did not drown.

The vast majority of people in the world can say this on the vast majority of days. The group of people on any given day who did drown the day before and are still talking about it is relatively slim.

Yet, of that vast majority, not all of them are doing their first significant swimming since half a life and a third of their body weight ago. That was what I was doing yesterday morning at the absurd hour of 5:30 a.m. in our neighborhood YMCA.

I’ve been swearing for four years now that I would start swimming before work. It’s been an awful lot of swearing. E is quite tired of it. I swore when we first moved, as if the suburbs would suddenly make me a fitness nut out of sheer boredom of not living in the city anymore. I swore when I was getting lumpy the next year, swore again when I got super-fit by practicing yoga three times a week, and swore some more when I joined a start-up last year and my gym time went down to nil.

It took a baby to get me to stop my swearing. I could slip my own vows for four years running, but so help me that baby was learning to swim as soon as she was old enough for her first lesson. I had seen all of the adorable photos from my friends and their swimming babies, and both of my parents still have amusing stories to tell about my baby swimming endeavors – and, honestly, there are very few stories they both tell the same way that do not involve Thriller or my aunt arriving to babysit me bearing a gallon jug of white wine.

Thus, we found a scruffy me and a chubby baby sitting at the counter at our local YMCA four weeks ago, waiting to get my photo taken. The swearing was over. Now we were doing.

Except, baby swim lessons – they’re not the most strenuous activity in the world. It’s not as though you are freestyling with them strapped to your back like a laser on a shark, you know? You are just pushing them through the water in the shallow end where you can stand. I sneak a little treading in at the end of every lesson, but it’s not exactly leaving me breathless.

Ah, but now I have a precious membership card in my wallet, which means half of the swear has been sworn. Now I just needed to get my body into the pool sans baby. So, for the those intervening four weeks I tried to wake up early enough to head to the pool before work.

Yeah – it just wasn’t happening. I am a motivated individual, but when you are juggling baby and the entire account book of a business and a cover band and god knows what else I claim to be doing with my time, the difference between waking up at 5:15 and 6:15 is a BIG DEAL. You can go to sleep in your swim trunks thinking soggy motivational thoughts and set every alarm, but when it comes down to it you are going to choose the extra hour of shut-eye every damn time. You being me, in this example.

That routine played out yesterday morning at 5:15 a.m. as it had for the past 29 days. I shut off the alarm and was about to turn over and go back to sleep. Then, I thought to myself, “What if your swimming is just as important to EV6′s lifetime cumulative happiness as her swimming? Even if it just makes you happier so you enjoy your time with her more. Then would it get you out bed?”

I laid on my back for a minute thinking about that.

Five minutes later I was in the car wearing swim trunks.

Nine minutes later I was halfway through an Olympic-length lap of freestyle thinking a few particular thoughts:

(a) I have not swum for more than a consecutive minute since I was fifteen.

(b) Even at fifteen, I don’t know if I ever attempted laps in an Olympic-sized pool.

(c) 5:30 a.m. is perhaps a bit too early to submerge one’s entire face in water and subsequently coordinate side-breathing.

(d) Wow, there’s like half a pool left in front of me.

(e) Come to think of it, I’ve always been pretty slow at freestyle.

(f) This staying afloat while moving forward thing (or, visa versa) is pretty strenuous compared to how hard it was when I was fifteen and weighed 75% of what I do right now without a single ounce of fat on my body.

(g) But fat is buoyant, right?

(h) Oh my lord, there is still more pool in front of me.

After my first lap and a brief bout of hyperventilation while clinging to the pool side, the lifeguard suddenly emerged from his little office to sit in a chair that happened to be directly facing my lane. My fellow swimmers had received no such treatment. Despite my frequent concerns that I would arrive early to find an entire and entirely-lithe high school swim team dominating the lanes, I was swimming with one middle age woman who also (wisely) was not putting her face in the water and an older gentleman who swam a slow but unceasing freestyle the entire time I was at the pool without stopping once.

The lifeguard continued to stare directly at me as I clumsily completed another lap, as if he was considering administering the swim test they give to tweens and granting me a neon arm band. I probably would have helped my case if I didn’t dip precipitously under the water about two thirds of the way through every lap.

But let me remind you of something about me. It might take me a long time to do something. I might have a lot of concerns about the critical path and the project management triangle. But when I am in the pool getting lapped by the dry-faced lady and the never-ending senior paddler with a lifeguard judging me, you had better believe I will find a way to eek out each successive lap just like I made it through my first hot yoga class while being convinced I was dying the entire time.

So I swam. I did some modified freestyle. I did a side-stroke. About halfway through I remembered that I was actually not terrible at backstroke, and switched to that. Each lap was still a herculean struggle, but moving my body through the water stopped seeming like such an absurd idea during my wall-clinging breaks.

My half-hour of morning pool time done, I emerged triumphantly from the pool – only to very nearly collapse into a heap when gravity took over and I realized I felt like someone had been beating me with a sack of oranges. I gingerly noodled over to a bench and sank down, trying to affect an air of contemplation and self-evaluation so the guard would not come over and check me for delayed drowning.

Five minutes later I rose and limped to my car so I could go wake up a baby and tell her about how her father just went swimming.

 

waffly plans

I make a lot of plans that I don’t follow through to completion.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. When I plan something I more often than not do it. It’s just that nebulous pre-planning stage where I’m a risk. More than just a verbal agreement, but less than an actual day, time, and schedule. That’s where I’m dangerous. The thing could happen or not. I have no way of knowing until we plan some more.

At 6:49 a.m. yesterday morning I was still looking for something to go wrong with the plan. I was in the car, but it still didn’t feel like much of a plan. Not because I didn’t want to see Mel – it had been nearly a year, after all – but because driving across two states to have brunch at a random Waffle House is the sort of thing I verbally commit to and maybe even plot on a map once or twice, but don’t actually follow through and do.  Trust me – I have many friends who can verify this sort of thing. Interstate plans are my least-likely to be achieved.

(The conversation started in Facebook Messenger as follows:

Me: We should have brunch sometime, despite being separated by multiple states and hundreds of miles.

Both: [Interminable rambling about kids' schedules.]

Mel: Well, there’s a Cracker Barrel exactly at the mid-point between our houses.

Me: I was hoping for a Waffle House.

Mel: That’s the next closest dining establishment to the exact mid-point between our homes.

Me: Sold.

As you can see, it really wasn’t much of a plan.)

An hour later I was doing 85 on I-95 South just to keep up with the other cars, belting “Rent” at the top of my lungs to the wind rushing in from my open window. Certainly, something would go wrong once I left the highway. I am not a noted navigator, and there were four separate state routes in Maryland I would need to navigate. Plenty of room for error and plans canceled at the last minute.

I kept thinking that until I actually passed the Waffle House on my right, because that is how I think. The thing that makes me good at project management makes me bad at doing things with friends – I assume the process is in danger and possibly broken until it delivers. Now I just needed to make a right into the parking lot and the plan would be consummated.

A right. I know I passed a ramp into the lot, but it was into the gas station. A Waffle House would have a proper ramp. With signs. Waffly signs. I would be seeing it any moment now.

I came to the intersection at the edge of the not-quite strip mall of gas station, Waffle House, and liquor store. There was no ramp. I leaned forward tentatively to peer across my dash at the road ahead to the right. No ramp. In fact, it looked a bit like a highway, extending unceasingly into the distance with no options for a K-turn. Though it beggared belief, apparently that small and informal gas station ramp was also the entrance to the only Waffle House within two hours of my house.

(That may not be true. According to their handy store-finder, there are three Houses of Waffle slightly nearer within Maryland though not necessarily as directly accessible, and one in Lancaster whose time away would largely be dictated by how many horse-drawn buggies you would get stuck behind in Lancaster.)

I looked left and right. I looked forward and backwards. There were no cars as far as the eye could see.

I carefully placed the car in reverse and drove backwards the hundred or so feet to the entrance to the gas station. A woman was just exiting in her sedan, and I gave her a jaunty wave as I reversed past the ramp, came to a stop, and then turned into the lot.

Mel was waiting for me, seated in the window, drinking coffee from one of those curved little mugs like we used to have at our coffee shop. Her hair seemed impossibly long. I kept meaning to tell her how long her hair looked, but when you’ve driven ninety minutes to see someone for ninety minutes and then drive away for another ninety minutes you have to be efficient with your topics of conversation.

We ate hash browns with picked jalapeños, swapped stories about our kids and eCommerce, and probably said the word “vagina” more than any other pair of people who have ever been seated together in a Waffle House.

My plan was fulfilled. Now I just had to figure out which direction was north so I could get home.

#MusicMonday: “Look At Where We Are” – Hot Chip

hot chip - in our headsWhen you hear these Indie Pop, or Art Pop, or Indietronica, or Electropop, or Synth Pop, or Alternative Dance – or whatever you would label hip wierdball dance bands like Hot Chip and Dirty Projectors with high-voiced male singers  the first thing you almost assuredly notice is their plastic elastic vocals. Just like the skinny-jean culture I loosely associate with their fans, husky(-voiced) boys need not apply.

(I would just call them “Pop” or “Dance” and let them duke it out for attention with Bruno Mars, personally. How they material differ from Paula Abdul I will never understand. But I digress.)

Yet, I don’t trust that we’re always hearing the authentic sound of a real voice singing. It is not just because these are genres that positively glisten with auto-tune. No, it more that as a rule I don’t trust that any vocal that sounds better than George Michael and not as good as Michael Jackson. That’s an uncanny valley that hardly any guy occupies. I’ve heard the subtle stuff you can do with gating and pitch correction and snapping to a click track.

(I actually once questioned Nate from Fun. about that on Twitter, and he swore his own plastic elastic vocals were achieved sans any tuning effects. This was before Some Nights, obvs.)

Then, last week “Look At Where We Are” from Hot Chip’s 2012 record In Our Heads shuffled onto my headphones. It’s such a nude song. A few synth burbles. A two beat kick-snare kick-snare drum loop. Completely unadorned electric guitar, so plaintive you can hear the pick and fingers on the strings. And the voice is right there in your ear. It is not a vacuum-sealed thing in a can. It is silken and easy, and you can hear the air surrounding it.

When all three elements line up, the song turns into some sort of Luther Vandross baby-making jam. Sure, we get some sampled vocals and synths later, but the point has already been made:

Hot Chip can do all of that bippity boopity dance stuff with the best of them, but they don’t need to do it. The best song on the LP is something any kid could do in their bedroom with the most basic instruments out there, yet any kid can’t.

Think it’s an illusion of the studio? Watch this nerdy dude in a sweatshirt who is Hot Chip’s singer deliver a perfect live version complete with the very minor vocal warbles at Coachella:

(Seriously, how freakishly great is his voice?)

Suddenly I find myself liking Hot Chip a lot better, even if they are an indie-art-electronica-indie-synth-pop-dance-indie-alterna-pop band.

Or, you know, A POP BAND, as it was known in 1987.

the one where the baby potty-trains herself

Hark, it is my first post about baby waste! Our baby is at least this chubby. Detail of the Cherubs Fountain at St Peter's Basilica or Basilica di San Pietro, Rome, Italy.

Hark, it is another post about baby waste, as they foretold! Our baby is at least this chubby. Detail of the Cherubs Fountain at St Peter’s Basilica or Basilica di San Pietro, Rome, Italy.

Of all of the challenges that fatherhood held in store for me, I felt the most trepidation about diapers. Luckily, my high-quality baby sensed my weakness in this area and toilet-trained herself to make my life easier.

Maybe I should start at the beginning.

Sure, no one takes a special delight in dealing with human waste (well, certain fetishists excluded), but I just don’t have the coping mechanisms in place for even the briefest of ordeals. Urine, at least, is typically sterile when it’s straight from the tap. The idea that poop might touch some part of my person was enough to cause an anxiety attack even before her birth. I don’t even do well with cleaning a toilet with a very long-handled and disposable brush.

Luckily, baby diapers are really not so hard to manage once you graduate from the initial “explosive bowel movements can happen at any time” phase. After a month or so of finding my footing with disposables so that I could whip them off and quickly … well, dispose of them … we graduated to cloth diapers. It took me a little while to come to peace with them using the same washing machine as all of my clothes, but as with everything else in my life I discovered and documented a multi-step coping process. With that in place, mostly they’re the same as normal diapers – you just roll them up, drop them in a smell-proof pail, and forget about the waste inside.

(Expansive cloth diapering made easy for people who just want to throw money at it without doing any crafting essay to come.)

Cherubs by Fiamiughi [?], Bologna. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

Cherubs by Fiamiughi [?], Bologna. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

Around the six-month mark, a new theme emerged. The problem was not #2, it was #1. For some reason, EV6 viewed the diaper coming off of her butt during a changing as a signal that NOW IS THE TIME TO PEE EVERYWHERE ZOMG GO FOR IT. If that baby had any liquid reserved in the nether half of her body, it was going to gurgle up and out in a matter of seconds once that tush was exposed to air.

This was amusing at first, mostly because EV6 is so incredibly chubby that she looks like some sort of Rubenesque cherub meant to be cast in plaster, peeing off of the side of an Italian fountain. She never failed to giggle maniacally while it happened.

That got me through the first 10 or 15 sopping wet diaper changes. Then I got a little frustrated. Really, EV6? You couldn’t have done that five seconds earlier when the diaper was still beneath your chubby bottom, or twenty seconds later into a new one?

At wit’s end and running twice the amount of laundry to compensate for all the soiled stuff, we ordered a potty she wouldn’t topple off of. I mean, why not? If I could even point her at the darn thing in time it would save a lot of soggy trouble.

Then a magical thing happened. After I rushed EV6 from the pad to the potty in the first few changes, she stopped her reflexive peeing and just waited for the potty. In fact, on many occasions she stopped wetting her diaper entirely and just saved it up for the inevitable potty trip. Then, realizing she vastly preferred the constant dry diaper over an routinely damp one, she began to signal her need to visit the potty while she was still dry.

The first few times this happened I had no idea what she was trying to tell me. It’s not like I was trying to teach her potty-training. There was no established routine or special sign language vocab. I was just avoiding getting hosed down like a front-row audience member at Sea World during changes. Meanwhile, she devised this whole language of little grunts, claps, and sleeve-tugs to indicate her potty-readiness.

I wish you could have been there the day I figured out what she was telling me. Mind: blown. I had always mocked the idea of “elimination communication” as a whacky excuse to hold your baby over a chamber pot every five minutes, yet this little cherub taught me how to communicate about elimination.

If that was the whole story it would be awesome enough. Yet, that is not the end. No. This baby got even more awesome all on her own. Because, you see, though the focus of this exercise was never #2, suddenly she also began hold them for the potty. I have not dealt with a smelly diaper in months.

Like, twenty minutes ago – hilariously, midway through writing this post – we were laying on the couch, and she was like, “Yo, father, potty me.” And I said, “What? Are you sure? We were just there half an hour ago. Aren’t you comfortable here? Aren’t we snuggling?”

She proceeded to stare directly into my eye, mash one fist into an open palm, and grunt at me, as if to say, “You better take this mother-smooshing baby to the mother-smooshing potty RIGHT NOW.”

Up she went with a totally clean, dry diaper. Back we came, having deposited a stink-bomb into the potty rather then earmarking it for the washing machine.

I’ve never been down for this whole “babies are miracles” nonsense, but in this particular instance this baby has been miraculous.

she’s with the band

As evidenced by that last post, E and I elected to stay in for New Year’s Eve.

We originally planned to join some friends for what turned out to be a tremendously awesome party, but once E’s mother volunteered to visit for the night with her brother in tow we realized we had the opportunity to enjoy our own house for 24 entire hours while two totally other people entertained our baby.

(To put things into perspective, last time we had a fleet of family visit us I spent the better part of a night mopping AND I LOVED IT.)

(That’s not a baby-related change – I’ve always loved mopping.)

Since the entire point of holidaying at home was to avoid leaving the house, and since EV6 enjoys music and dancing, I asked bro to bring his Rock Band setup along with him. (I, of course, eschew all shitty plastic instruments that are not actually synthesizers, so my only participation is singing and occasionally playing an actual guitar, which works out even better for me now that I’m covering a pretty significant chunk of these sorts of tunes with Smash Fantastic.)

Thus, on New Year’s Day, we began a run of five-starring any songs left uncovered from our epic renditions of Summer 2011, when we had three microphones on mic stands for harmony and were ranked something like 18th in the world at the entire Bruno Mars catalog and could make the chorus of “Love Game” sound like something performed by the Andrews Sisters.

EV6 was digging it for a while, since from her perspective behind the TV it seemed like she was enjoying a command all-singing, all-dacing performance. Between her chubbiness and her need for us to constantly dance for her pleasure, she’s more and more resembling Jabba the Hutt. It’s impossible to get anything done that cannot be disguised as a command dance party.

However, she began to flag just as we hit the heavy belting stage of our setlist. Bro and I exchanged nervous glances between every song. Was the music lulling her to sleep or keeping her awake? We didn’t want to put her off her downward spiral to slumber, but each successive monster rock song hit I sang could be the one to rouse her.

(Keep in mind that I can be heard singing unamplified over a full drum set. I’m not saying that’s an ideal arrangement, just that my unadulterated singing voice is potentially louder than several hundred dollars worth of wood, metal, and reverberating polymer blends.)

We needn’t have worried. We are raising a rock baby who is completely unphased by loud sounds. After all, EV has been sitting in on full band rehearsals (wearing ear protection) since she was two months old. She went out somewhere in the Ks through Ls, stayed down when I had to move my microphone stand into the kitchen to sing Maroon 5 without it bleeding into the other mics, and did not rouse until after an appropriately rousing rendition of Whitesnake’s “Here We Go Again.”

If you don’t believe that’s a spectacular feat, you should invite me over to sing some hair metal tunes while you’re taking your next nap.