Eric Alterman,

Eric Alterman,

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 23 1998 3:30 AM

Eric Alterman,

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       Eve, Diana, and I toured a new day care place at Roosevelt Hospital this morning. It looked bright and cheery, but the kids are too far away from Central Park to play on grass. On the other hand, they are right next door to the hospital in case anything horrible happens. It's a 22 minute walk, but because it is south and west, it's an amazingly ugly one. Our other choice is on lovely Central Park West, but it's 30 blocks north, which is too far to walk, and maybe 15 blocks from any hospital, if, God forbid ... The one on CPW wants a $2,000 deposit. The one at Roosevelt won't know for about three weeks if it will have space in September. Hospitals vs. grass, deposits vs. waiting? Nobody writes about this kind of decision in those "what to expect when you're expecting" manuals.
       Rolling Eve back from the park in the afternoon, I spied a group of teen-agers passing around cigarettes. I wanted to run up to them and beg, "Tell the truth. You're doing this because your parents never married, right?"
       When Eve gets old enough to smoke I plan to offer her a bribe not to do it, say $10,000 (in constant 1998 dollars), derived from marriage penalty savings. It's hard for kids to understand how stupid smoking is when they're still kids, but they can understand 10 grand. My guess is that other kids--the evil, peer-pressury ones--will also understand the power of the money and back off when Eve explains that yes, while she is cool enough to smoke, she's getting paid rather well not to. I'll give her the money when she's 21. Of course I may not have the money by then, what with college and all, but what's Eve going to do? Sue me?
       The would-be juvenile delinquents may not have intended the irony, but they were smoking in front of one of those drug rehab centers, a Phoenix House--which reminds me, nothing, in my view, is more stupid and hypocritical about the media than the hysteria with which it treats marijuana, compared with liquor. Virtually everyone I grew up with smoked a serious amount of pot, and none have gone reefer mad or any other kind of drug crazy, while booze has messed up any number of lives, particularly through car accidents. (Drunken-driving teen-agers, by the way, are one big reason why my guess is that it is statistically safer to raise kids in Manhattan than in Scarsdale.) When Eve is old enough to smoke pot, I plan to let her do it at home, the same way I would let her have a glass of wine or beer. My hope is that this will remove a lot of the romance from both. If there is nothing rebellious about getting drunk or stoned, the enterprise loses half the fun. Since becoming an adult, I hardly even remember to smoke pot anymore.
       Speaking of induced madness, I see from Alexander Chancellor's report that Israel is trying to drive accused nuclear spy Mordechai Vanunu insane by keeping him in solitary for 12 years. It is cruel and unusual for Jews to do this but a lot kinder than what they've done to Abe Rosenthal. Vanunu can go nuts in private. By ordering poor Abe to use his Times op-ed page column to defend absolutely everything the Israelis do to the Palestinians, they have driven him out of his mind in public. Just when you thought Abe could not get any nuttier, he writes two columns accusing a man of murdering his sister by exposing his penis to her. I am not making this up. If any loser ever pulls down his pants in front of Eve, I hope she will have the good sense to make fun of the size of his putz. But if the guy is governor of Arkansas, she might want to take pictures.

Eric Alterman is a columnist for The Nation and MSNBC. His daughter, Eve Rose Alterman, was born on April 6, 1998 (7 lbs., 11 oz.).