It's early on a wintry Saturday morning, gray as an undertaker's chin, and I'm trying to steal an extra hour of precious rest. I tore my schnitzel playing touch football last weekend and I need to nurse the injury as long as I possibly can. In fact, they were asking about it after church the other day.
"How's his schnitzel?"
"I hear it might be torn."
Anyway, I'm trying to rest the schnitzel, keep it elevated, reduce the swelling, you know the routine. Lots of luck. For the folks next door are frying up some bacon, the best smell of all time. A smell you could sell on EBay.
"Smoked pork?" I think to myself. "Am I still in L.A.?"
The little guy is in bed next to me. He smells it too. Poor kid, he has seldom smelled something so irresistible and it's messing with his 17 senses. "What's that smell?" he says, like a hound dog sniffing his first bear.
His mother -- my wife -- is always serving crazy hippie food for breakfast: blueberries, yogurt, egg whites, granola. Not bacon. If you slip her 20 bucks, she might lose her morals for a moment and sneak you an actual egg yolk. But bacon? Never.
What a state, California. We have 25 million people, 75 million raccoons and maybe three hogs. If you've ever tried to buy a decent pork chop here, you know just what I'm talking about.
"Go back to sleep," I tell the little guy.
And right away he doesn't. The scent of frying bacon has created a primal stirring in him that sleep will not answer. He dreams of a lot of things -- chocolate waterfalls, dogs that play baseball, skunks that can dunk -- but he has never dreamed of something so wonderful as bacon. I know this, for he is always explaining his dreams to me as if we were both in them together -- like some safari we are recalling later over brandy.
"Can we get up now?"
"Go to sleep."
He puts his head down on the pillow. He blinks twice, inhales the bacon smell, and boomerangs back awake.
"How was I born?"
Like I'm an expert. Kids always want to know where babies come from. Not only are they curious about the process, they suspect that something illicit was involved. The secrecy is what eats them up.
I explain as best I can.
"Well, first your mother and I went to Vegas," I say.
"Then we kissed and stuff," I explain. "That created a gold nugget in her tummy, which was you. Nine months later you were born."
"Wow," he says.
My reaction exactly. I left a few parts out, but that is pretty much how babies are made. Honestly, I'm a little shaky on the details. Like when exactly the doctors administer the spinal block.
The minutiae of conception are also kind of a mystery to me. Do I have to buy her dinner first? Seems I also had to rub her back a lot in advance. Buy her shoes. Take the dog out. Promise her France. Marriage has always been a complicated calculus of want, need, desire, pleading, crying, begging and commerce. When you add sex into the mix, it gets positively wacky. Marriage is an institution that ought to be in an institution.
And I'm not 100% sure the little guy was conceived in Vegas. Might've been up the coast in Cambria. Might've been in San Diego. Chances are it was in a B&B somewhere, in a bedroom with a brass bed and wallpaper featuring little lambs jumping over rainbows. Because the chances of conception happening in our very own bed are almost beyond estimation. Mostly, our bed is where we read.
But I did take Posh to Las Vegas recently. In fact, I just rinsed the desert dust off the minivan yesterday -- limping around, my schnitzel still a little tender, of course. Generally, I don't let a car go too long between washes, but we were busy with the holidays and then I tore the darned schnitz, so the poor car sat dusty in the driveway for weeks. Eventually, the children refused to ride in it.
Vegas was good though, thanks for asking. It was Posh's birthday -- a big one. You don't turn 21 every day, so I got us a nice room at the MGM Grand, an enormous resort-casino with a party vibe. I thought of the hotel as a metaphor for our relationship -- confusing, extravagant and occasionally really loud.
If you've ever seen the MGM Grand, you know just what I mean. Visible from space, and an odd glowy green, the MGM is the sort of place where Martians might hold sales meetings.
Which made it a sensational hotel from which to stage a wild and romantic birthday retreat. Posh was so excited.
At 21, she could finally get into the casinos.
Next week: Posh masters blackjack.