Sunday, January 3, 2016


Dave, Bowie, and I met the new year in Fuengirola, a resort town in Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. With us was my brother Kostya (Konstantin for the English speakers). Our friends Olga and Ron made a feast of paella, with rice meticulously cooked in broth to perfection and the freshest local seafood. Just before midnight we took champagne and grapes out onto the town square, where the locals and expats and tourists were assembling.

Once our phones announced midnight, we started placing grapes into our mouths, one a second, for the first twelve seconds of the new year. We’d been hearing about this Spanish custom. A few seconds into this, the church clock rang, and the locals started counting the seconds out loud, in a choir, and eating their grapes. We were almost done with ours but gladly took the opportunity to slow down. Then, instead of the fireworks, the town’s official started shooting firecrackers. Bowie, attached to Dave’s chest in a carrier, handled it well: he startled, but didn’t cry. Olga and Ron’s six-month old baby was also awake, and he came out of his stroller to dance and sway in his parents’ arms.

One of the local bars broadcast dancing music. Many families were out and groups of friends with champagne and beer and cigars and cigarettes. A heavily tattooed Englishman whom his friend called John-O and we heard "Turbo" tried to give high fives to the babies and then pinched them on the cheeks. A local family gave out rattles. Two years earlier, Olga, Ron, Dave, and I celebrated a coming year together in Bangkok, dancing and drinking on top of a skyscraper into the wee hours of the night. Now our babies “danced” around each other and tried to poke each other in the eyes.

Dancing with uncle in the square


Kostya wanted to take a middle of the night swim in the Mediterranean, and I entertained the idea of putting Bowie to bed and then skedaddling to the beach. Once, a few years earlier, on a New Year’s trip to Israel, Kostya and I had shared a late night swim in the Mediterranean—not a bad thing to turn into a tradition, I thought. But this night got a little too late too fast and we were a little too tired, so we let it go. Sometimes just having the idea is enough. The thought alone felt fun and irreverent.

Thanks to Bowie, I’ve been carrying this sense of joyful irreverence all throughout this trip to Spain. We’ve been here for a week already, with another week to go. Kostya returned to Vienna on the second of January, and we took our leave of Olga and Ron and started a road trip in Andalucia. Our first stop is in Sevilla, with Cordoba and Granada coming up on the itinerary. A road trip, across Andalucia, with a thirteen-month old? Why not! It looks similar enough to California and there’s a mountain range here called Sierra Nevada.

Bowie wants room to run around. He’s not walking yet, but he wants to cruise and crawl and climb over things and play hide and seek. On the floor, he'll hide around the corner of a hotel bed and sit there, quietly, until either Dave or I find him. “There’s Bowie!” He laughs. Then, he shoos us off to another part of the room and goes back into hiding. “There’s Bowie!” He laughs. In Fuengirola, Olga and Ron took us to a couple of lovely playgrounds where Bowie tried going up the slides and down the staircases. He spent a couple of afternoons on the beach, eating sand and throwing clumps of sand on his head and hair.

"What's that?"

Let's go UP a slide


What Bowie resolutely does not want to do is sit tied up anywhere. He does not want to ride quietly in his stroller. He does not want to sit in a high chair at a restaurant and listen quietly to adult conversation. He does not want to be in restaurants at all, especially the busy and the noisy ones, where we don’t let him get on all fours and explore on his own. He’s been showing his displeasure by loud shrieking, wiggling, and crying. At best he tolerates being in mine or Dave’s lap, staring at lights, into windows, flirting with other babies and little children. He wants to know what everything is. At one restaurant we received a reprimand from a child psychologist. “Are you from Russia?” this woman asked Dave, having overheard me speak to Bowie in Russian. She spoke English, but with a Nordic, perhaps German, accent. “A child should be in a hotel room, resting,” she told him. “I’m a child psychologist and I don’t care about humans, I only care about children. The restaurant is too noisy for children.”

Backup at the hotel, after a late night game of hide and seek, we received a handwritten note from our neighbors slipped under the door. It said, “Idiots.”


Every morning, Bowie wakes up with a question on his mind. His eyes barely open, he extends an arm and points a finger, “Eh?” Which I take to mean, “What is that?” “Window,” I say, “A curtain. A light. Another light. A smoke detector. An alarm clock. A telephone. Blanket. Pillow. Daddy. Bed. Window. Light. Wall. Our bed. Our luggage. Our clothes. Window. Light. Telephone. Daddy. Daddy’s nose. Mustache. Mouth. Lower lip. Beard. Teeth. Large teeth, the easier to eat you up, baby.”

Bowie’s been nursing a lot. For a week, he hardly ate any solids but a few pieces of bread. After the new year’s feast of paella, he’s been trying more foods. Baby eels. Pasta with meat sauce. Rice in squid ink with calamari. That last meal went down particularly well because Dave had him in the carrier and we ate at a bar window, outside, standing up, so Bowie was sort of on the move throughout the entire meal. He could also eat the rice straight from the table, just shove it into his mouth with both hands. Because we were outside, the waiters didn’t care when half of the rice ended up on the floor. Nobody rushed in to clean it up. Picture baby whose entire face, hands, and sweater are covered in squid ink, and who’s got a grain of rice stuck between his eyebrows, and more rice in his hair. Picture his proud parents: baby’s feeding himself. Professor baby.

For another perspective on the trip and great photos, check out Dave's blog.

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