It's been ages since I hung out in Greenwich Village, but every so often I need my Greenwich Village fix and a walk down memory lane. Erin and I are sitting in the Starbucks at Astor Place, sipping Frappuccinos and people watching.
As I look down St. Marks Place, I think back to all the time I use to spend in the East Village and all the shows I saw at the Fillmore East, one of the great rock palaces of all time. For only $4, you could see three incredible bands and the psychedelic Joshua Light Show. The ghosts of my rock `n' roll past are out tonight.
Between sips of her Frappuccino, Erin is ranting about the uncertainty and challenging nature of relationships. Being the lone member of the exclusive guys club, privy to all things related to guys, I'm often sought out for advice by both my daughters; I'm the sounding board for some very funny rants about male pluses and minuses.
I try to explain what she's up against and the inherent difficulty of the dating-mating ritual. How women are a mystery to men, how it's hard for us to decipher what they're saying and how we long for an instruction manual to provide some help. Women also have 11 percent more neurons in their brain centers for language and hearing than men; they use on average 20,000 words a day while men use 7,000, which is why we're often speechless in their presence or don't hear what they're saying.
In addition, the fact that the romantic part of a man's brain is right next to the prehistoric part of his brain can create difficulties during dating. When the man is in a romantic mood, his neurons often fire like a July Fourth celebration, leading to overload and massive confusion; then the caveman part kicks in, usually scaring the woman away.
For fun, we make believe we're anthropologists studying coupling rituals in the wilds of New York City. We spy a male whose head is bobbing and spinning around at a fairly high rate of speed, and observe his open-mouth stare and the somewhat voracious glint in his eye, as he approaches a female sitting on her own. She gives him a no-nonsense "get lost" look and continues to read her book.
"Ugh!, guys are just so gross sometimes."
"Unfortunately, the art of subtlety escapes us during the dating-mating dance. Sometimes, we're just doing the best we can -- holding on for dear life to the love merry-go-round, hoping we don't fall off."
"Thanks Dad, I'll try to remember that."
Days later I arrive at my polling place and feel like I'm running with the bulls at Pamplona, as I wend my way through upbeat, smiling candidate supporters waving billboard-size placards and thanking me for coming out to vote in the primary.
I get into a conversation with one of them about political campaigns and how they seem to feature a little bit of truth and a whole of fiction, smearing and cutting up of the opponent. I prescribe what I think is a fairly reasonable solution to negative campaign ads; make each politician devote 75 percent of his ad time telling the people what he can and will do for them and the country, which leaves 25 percent left to float lies, falsify reality and attack his opponent.
Later that night, I drive Erin back from the train station, zigzagging around orange cones, which seem to be everywhere these days. The Post Road, awash in eerie and blinding movie set lighting, takes on the look of a futuristic alien world. As the workers move about, looking like the Mole people in a Flash Gordon episode (where's Ming the Merciless when we need him), Erin, my lovable, yet always vigilant back seat driver admonishes me with her, "Dad, Dad, Dad, be careful," mantra.
When we arrive home I ask, "So sweetie, how was the sausage sandwich?"
A fleeting moment of silence, a smile and then she says "Dad, I hate to say it but the Irish sausages weren't well done enough. You know I like them burnt."
"Erin, do you know the amount of love that went into cooking the sausages late last night and then making what most people would say was a perfectly delicious sausage sandwich at 6:30 this morning?"
"I'm not most people, Dad, and the sausages taste better when they're burnt."
"Is this going to affect my approval rating?"
A hearty laugh, a "Yeah sure!" and a hug. One of those moments between Erin and me, when the world slows down and there's time for a chat, laughs and some late night snacks.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in New Canaan and Darien. He's also the director of the county-wide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin/ E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.