Breakup, then Roadtrip

It was late. We did not pack very much. We were not planning on going for very long; I figured we could stay with some friends.

My brother had just been dumped by the girl who he thought he was going to marry. He was 20.

The girl was nice. She was big into Winnie the Pooh. Disney Pooh, not Classic Pooh; I never really understood her.

We were going to Colorado because it was different; there are big mountains to in Colorade and we needed a scene change. Mike was real sad. The bonding would do us good.

When we got there, we found the house my friend was staying at. She had just moved colleges and it was weird to see her in this state. Drunk, happy and free.

Mike and I scoped out the tattoo scene a bit. It was pre-Google, so we just had to talk to some people. We chose the tattoo shop nearest the bagel shop because we were hungry.

We asked the guy how much his rates were.

The price seemed both like an advantage and also questionable. Did Mike really want a tattoo from a guy who did not value himself so well?

But this was not a trip taken for sensibility. We were here to be reckless.

So we made an appointment and brought a couple of design ideas to the bagel shop.

And then headed back to get Mike’s tattoo.

I’ve always run faster than Mike.

When I was a kid, I would sometimes let him win a race.

Being the older brother is glorious territory.There is honor, no matter how badly you screw up.

Mike was a wreck, and even though he badly wanted a tattoo – he couldn’t decide on what to get.

The tattoo guy was only slightly irked.

I stepped in. I said I had an idea for a tattoo and I showed the guy my ring.


“Cool.” The guy said.

I told him about how my mom had given me the ring years ago, and although I had lost it dozens of times, I always found it – or it found me in many cases.

I didn’t tell him about how she had died. But I didn’t have to; tattoo artists are empaths. I can steel myself to no artist.

The guy set to work laying out the design on velum while Mike and I took my dog for a walk around the block. He hung outside, waiting for us tied to a street sign.

After the tattoo was done the artist pulled out a little vanity mirror to show off his talents.

It is no small feat lining up a band of equal proportion around a calf of unequal proportion. He was definitely proud.

But something was wrong. He said it needed color. He offered to do the blues and greens for free.

It was a gift.

For me at the time, it was a very significant gift, not because of the cash savings, but of the validation from this stranger; Oh how my mom was still alive in me, in my brother, and now in this tattoo guy.


PS: I lost the ring for good at an impromptu drum circle with some hobos on the Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago two weeks after returning home from our trip.

Baby Micah is still floppy, but not for long

Micah is funny. Like Jacob, he is quick to laugh.

When he was getting his 3 month well-baby checkup he giggled several times at the hand of the nurse, who had to ask Mary if that was him actually laughing. Most babies do not laugh like that so early. It’s the wacky McCabe gene, that’s what I think. His laugh is like a car engine that sparks well, but doesn’t turn over.

He is also contemplative, like Elouise. Yes, he is a baby and all but it’s more the way he stares off into space. Oh, how I wish I could shrink myself like Martin Short and get into the head of this kid. I keep staring into his eyes, hoping for enlightenment through osmosis.

I have been up with him at night only a handful of times. He sleeps really well. Sometimes he sleeps with a binky thing; very un-Lawrence-kid-like of him. Mary is up with him at night, but not nearly as much as she was with Jacob.

What is very Lawrence-kid of him is the degree to which he wants to be held. He has set new records in length of time held by a parent.

Mary is getting quite buff in that one shoulder blade of hers. (If you want to do something nice for that momma, get her a massage.)

He likes Yo La Tengo. A lot. We dance to it. Slow, real slow. And we pretend we are in a club in Chicago and all the whole audience is doing this trance kind of dance. And I snuck him in to the show in my bag and didn’t get caught by the bouncer. But a couple songs into the first set, he falls asleep. So like him.

He likes other kids, and seems to fully expect that they will do funny things, just to make him laugh. He expects I will make him laugh. And he expects Mary will make him feel good and warm and loved.

All of these things come true for him. He is off to a good start.

Elouise reads her first sentence

little quacks bedtime

Last night as I was settling in between the kids, Elouise was preparing the books for me to read.

She said, “Poppa, read this one first.”

Joking with her, I asked her to read. She agreed.

Mama duck had five little ducklings: Widdle, Waddle, Piddle, Puddle and Little Quack.

She read it. All by herself. This was not rote recital. Rather, she worked on each word, first on the letters, how they sounded alone and then how they sounded together.

I burst out laughing astonished and proud. My daughter reads!

I remember feeling somewhat snobbish to books such as these as a new parent. There was an aesthetic I was going for with my children’s literature.

Little Quack, and books of its ilk were always given to us, they were not the books of our choosing.

Ironic how endeared I am now to the entirety of these books, but especially the opening sentence  for Bedtime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

Will I still care about The Talking Heads in 400 years?

We have this thing called Mozart’s Requiem.

There is a choir, 4 soloists, a few violins, some bassoons, a trumpet or two, an organ, a couple trombones, you know, the usual suspects.

Nothing in its parts suggest what will be accomplished in that hour as a whole is unique in any special kind of way.

There is no lightning maker. There is no thunder machine (if anything, the drums and organ are rather subtle).

Mozart wrote a funeral mass. He wrote about Jesus. He wrote about joy and sadness and hope, and put music to it.

Who will come to hear the Beastie Boys, Modest Mouse, The Foo Fighters in 200, 400, 800 years? Will anyone really care about the Golden Oldies?

Greats like David Byrne, Patti Smith, Bob Marley will be remembered.

In 200 years, people will still go out to see a performance of The Wall (replete with lasers).

But it’s when I feel the air being passed through my teeth and into my belly has been consumed before, and I am not just one more notch, but rather one more soul touched by beauty.

It is for (even in requiem’s) the spark of hope, that will bring people together in 400 years.

Hope that not all is lost in death.

Enter Micah James Lawrence


Micah James Lawrence

March 16, 2012 at 11:27 am

9 lbs

21 inches (for those that are counting)

He was born in the tub.

A pisces through and through – like his big brother – born on the same day, three years ago.

It was an amazing birth. Mary was incredibly courageous, I am forever humbled by her strength.

We could not have done it without the skilled midwifery of Gail Murphy and her assistant Jill Bulow, our lovely friends and house mates, Merrit Mitchell and Ben Scott-Killian, and loving mother Rose and sister Lena.

Thank you all for your well wishes, prayers, quiches, and champagne.

LCD Soundsystem makes the kids clean the house

It’s not that our house is small. I think it is rather large.  Yeah, ok – there are two kids sleeping in what should be a laundry room, and the master bedroom has no closets, doors, and barely fits a queen size bed. But how much more room do we need? What would we do with it?

I always think of other people, the people living in Russia and Africa. Those people, my ancestors. What they do with space is marvelous.  Entire generations piled on top of each other.

If anything, these restrictions in size help us to keep the house tidy.

But that is just it. When Mary is about to give birth and the kids need to eat like all day long, and they need to play with everything and sometimes they put stuff away, when they are asked nicely, and if I am convincing, and if I am playing LCD Soundsytem, to you know… get them in the mood, then (maybe) they will help me clean.

I am not complaining. Seriously. But what I have learned about myself these past three days is that three days is my capacity for domesticity. Right now, all I want to do is go to the bar.

There is still a bottle of rye in the cupboard from the winter. If I was Mary, I would have drunken that shit a long ass time ago. And actually, I just finished it. Mary and the kids, finally asleep. Mary taking her much needed rest so that (by God) if she does go into labor tonight, she will have the energy for it.

But all there is to do all day in this house is cook and clean.

Oh, and enjoy the coziness of love that we have created here, in our house. I enjoy it so much here that I didn’t notice until after I put the kids to bed that I had yet to get out of my PJ’s (working from home) and did not step outside.

When I count my blessings, my house is definitely one of them. My house and all the wondrous people in it.

Elouise has photography in her bones

My mom, Linda Lawrence liked to take pictures. She was good at capturing her boys together or alone, contemplative or joyful. The really good ones, she would blow up to an 8×10 and frame.

Linda had a Minolta XD-11 and she taught me how to use it.

I loved advancing the film after I took a picture. The sound matched the feel, which I thought was awesome. Heavy cool metal in my small hands; a big responsibility paired with the magic it produced had me hooked from first use.

In my notebook, I logged how I shot the nearby nature preserve of Harms Woods at 200 with f5, then again at f5.6, then again at 125 f.6, and so on. Later, when I developed the film, I would know how to shoot that scene, with that lighting, that camera, that film, and that moment, flawlessly. (Or at least that was the idea.)

She gave me the XD when she upgraded to the Minolta Maxxum 7000. Her new camera had an LCD screen, and a fully automatic setting – I thought it was a stunning machine and knew it was not to be trifled with, mostly because it was all black and had an LCD screen.

She always shot in manual mode – and made me do the same.

Linda Lawrence, 32 – taken by me at age 11

I was always too nervous about dropping the camera to get the focus right – as you can see from above. I rarely thought about composition. (Why, oh why did this beautiful lady need all that head room? She looks like she is sinking!) In the early days, I felt the pressure of having to get the shot right the first or second time, or else I wouldn’t be able to at all.

My mom was a perfectionist. She curated the photos she took for our photo albums with a heavy hand, teaching me to be frugal with what we decide to commemorate. Her meticulously kept photo albums were the final touch to her artwork, though she never said that she was an artist. But to me, she always was. Linda was a designer, a writer, and took all those amazing photos. She worked with artists, and had beautiful artwork all around the house.

Yesterday, while driving Elouise to Sunday school, she told me that when she grows up, she is going to be really good at Instagram, and I believe she will.

Together, we look through my Instagram feed and she double taps the photos she likes ()and scrolls past the ones she does not. We talk about what she does and does not like in these photos. I think this is teaching her discernment and engagement. Sometimes, Elouise asks me to make a comment in a photo and tells to me what she would like to say to the photographer. Then a couple of minutes later, a reply comes in. I read it to Elouise and her face lights up.

She gets that she has just made a connection with the person that took the photo that she just liked.

Sometimes, there is all kinds of stuff around the things that she sees most important, but that it doesn’t matter – she goes for the shot anyway. She is isolating one thing, either on it’s own or in it’s environment and elevating it to the status of “subject”, whether it’s a jar of honey, a helmut, or her brother.

She is an artist, she said so herself one day. Words, I would love to utter so confidently.

Family dates

It was Mary’s idea. She knows that I tend to load up our calendar.

Let’s have family dates before the baby comes. 

So we did. This weekend (maybe the last weekend before our new baby) we just bopped around the island, doing family things.

We went to Minglement and got mochas, steamers and cookies. We sat around a table too small in a room packed with people. We talked about new names for the baby and played tic tac toe. Elouise and I made an instagram picture and Mary reconnected with a friend.


We cleaned different areas of the house. Mary had the inspired idea to fly a kite at KVI. So we went to Essentials 4 and got the most amazing and wonderful kite. It will be in our family forever. It loves to fly, and Jacob loves to fly it.