Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Saturday was the kid’s 4th birthday. He had his first kids-oriented party. He invited his pre-school class. Three showed up, parents in tow, plus our neighbor with two kids (one a few months younger than ours and one a toddler), and another good friend with her toddler.

The good friend with the toddler had commended to my beloved spouse a memory from her childhood, when her mother had made her a shiny costume which she loved. So my beloved spouse bought plastic tubes and tin foil and gathered cardboard boxes, and all the kids made robot costumes. Everybody had a great time. Face painting too. And it was nice to meet some of the kids and parents from our kid’s school. Nice people.

After the party we took our friends S & L out to dinner; they have watched our boy a number of times without remuneration, and our boy loves them, so we wanted to take them out. Our boy chose the restaurant, a very good one, though the food wasn’t his main object: he likes the Northwest Coast Native art there, and they give paper bear masks in Northwest Coast Native style to kids. He had said, “I want to go to the place where they give bear masks.” OK, maybe on your birthday. And so we did. Really nice day.

Our friend L had been to the previous birthday parties, and she remembered something from the 2nd birthday, the only one I neglected to commemorate on the blog. L said, “Nat was learning to talk, and he was very excited about the cake, and he kept saying, ‘Nat. Eat. Cake?’”

I had forgotten that, but she reminded me, and I was grateful.

* * *

The next day we saw a charming installation by Trimpin at the Frye Art Museum, called Klompen (photo above courtesy of the artist). 120 wooden shoes suspended from a frame, with computer-triggered mallets embedded in the shoes. A coin-slot accepts quarters, which activates a short (45 seconds or so) percussion piece composed and programmed by Trimpin. Lively charming pieces; we heard a couple dozen of them, and never a repetition.

Of the pieces we heard – and I’m not sure how many he programmed – Trimpin limits the possibilities to 5 or maybe 10 shoes per piece. I would have liked more variety within one piece, but his choice kept the pieces distinct from one another. He had scored the shoes, carving notches in them to get the pitches and tones he wanted.

It was Pop modernism, hooked with a visual gimmick, and set in a museum, where people talk through the pieces. But if you listened, the pieces held together, usually with a funky syncopated pattern but not always. I’ve said it twice, and I’ll say it again: Charming; really sweet. The kid loved it.

* * *

After the Trimpin exhibition my beloved spouse went to work and the kid and I walked back home. On the way we stopped at an international café chain headquartered in Seattle and named after a noble and perceptive but ineffectual character in Moby-Dick. I ordered a “non-dairy” kid’s hot cocoa for the kid. Non-dairy, because he’s allergic to dairy. “My son is allergic to milk,” I said.

When I picked the drinks up, I repeated my concern. “It’s non-dairy, right?” Yeah, no whip cream, said the barrista.

I should have pressed further, because Nat drank a whole cup of milk and burst out in hives from his toes to his face, his skin on fire, monstrously itchy, crying and crying hot tears, before we left the café. I carried him running the two blocks home, gave him anti-histamine, ran a cool bath, and called the Consulting Nurse. The nurse told me to bring him to urgent care, so off we went.

On the way to the hospital he started to doze off, which made me nervous, so before he fell asleep I said,
“I’ll teach you a funny song.” And I started singing “A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” which he thought was great; fortunately, he has not asked for it since. The doc checked him out, and he’s fine; the anti-histamine solved the problem; but jeepers the whole episode was a stress.

After we got home I called the café, and the manager remembered me and was properly horrified and apologetic. He asked how he could rectify the situation and I asked him to pay the $30 co-pay for the visit. He said come on down and gave me $30 cash from the till, not asking for verification, not asking for my name, not asking for anything. I told him that if we go over our four-visit annual limit to the hospital and have to start paying deductibles we would be back for more compensation, and he said, “Just let us know.”

As it happened, I still had the cup. And it said “No WC” – no whip cream – but it didn’t say “Soy.” I should have said, “Soy,” but in my ignorance I thought saying “non-dairy,” twice, and saying
“allergic to milk,” would communicate the need for NO MILK.

I didn’t the keep the cup as evidence, but because of a joke. I was cleaning up to leave, before my son’s skin lit on fire, and I set his empty cup in my larger empty cup. He asked where his cup was. I showed him and said, “It’s like those Russian dolls we saw Christmas shopping. Russian coffee cups!” He laughed and said, “I want to show Mamu.”

I said, “I don’t think Mamu will laugh at your toy garbage.”

“Toy garbage” is a coinage of the kid’s. One day months ago, he was playing with some bit of detritus, and my beloved spouse entreated him to throw it away, telling him it was garbage and reminding him that he had plenty of toys, and he said he wanted to keep playing with his “toy garbage.” The term stuck.

So without thinking I kept the toy garbage because I told the kid we could take it home. And we’re keeping the toy garbage now in case we want to use it as evidence that some underpaid young person had a brief mental lapse that sent my son into severe discomfort and could possibly result in increased problems down the road but hopefully will not.
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