Here at Off the Markley, it seems we’re in the frequent habit of welcoming babies of friends into the world. In fact, half my career as a writer seems to be covering my friends' unexpected pregnancies while my lackluster and incompetent sperm die horribly before reaching their one and only evolutionary goal. With that introduction, my friend Scott (“James” of the book) and his wife Bri, just welcomed a lovely little girl onto the mortal coil, whom they have named Eloise.
Eloise, I’ve known your dad since college when we lived together for a brief period in Florence, Italy, followed by longer periods in Wyoming and Chicago. I’ve faced innumerable strange situations with him, from an unfortunate encounter with gypsy pickpockets to a terrifying moose (seriously, we may have almost gotten gored by a moose; that’s a real thing). What I’m saying is I know the guy pretty well, and your mom has at least stayed on a rapidly deflating air mattress in my apartment, so I feel as though I am the expert who should give you advice on your newfound arrival to this strange, fascinating existence.
Do not forget the following twelve things:
1) Never ever trust white people, boys, or anyone who has (or had) a large amount of money before turning 25. This is actually advice everyone should follow, but no one ever does. It’s why Native Americans live on reservations, your dad will view your teenage years with abject terror, and the world financial system leaves so much to be desired.
2) Read the following Michael Chrichton books as soon as your little eyes and brain are capable: “Congo”, “Jurassic Park,” and “Sphere.”
3) If you ever meet a boy named Abelard who you really, really like, please leave him alone. Your name is close enough to the 12th Century French abbess that it would be totally groan-inducing. Plus, Abelard ended up getting castrated. I’ll explain what that means when you’re older.
4) If you’re ever trying to make plans or go anywhere with your dad, and you’re waiting on him in another room, and you just saw him laying around reading a book, do not assume that he will be ready on anything approximating a normal human timescale. Go into the room and stand over him until he is ready. Help him along by handing him his wallet or keys or whatever.
5) If your mom tries to get you to read the “Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R.R. Martin just know that they will take up years of your life, he’ll probably die before he finishes them, and the dragons—from what I’ve heard—never even show up.
6) Poetry is fine, but Springsteen is better.
7) Forgive Uncle Steve, quickly and often, for being stupid and bad at life. For instance, he accidentally deleted the very cute picture of you that your dad sent him, the one he was going to use for this blog post, and instead has some stock photo of a wrinkly baby foot that's kind of nauseating if you look at it too close.
8) Refuse to let your dad take you anywhere—soccer practice, overnight camp, sleepovers—if he’s wearing mesh shorts with paint on them.
9) When you outlive your dad, be sure to go through his journals carefully before allowing them to be consumed by other friends, family, or the public. Perhaps I’ll still be alive, and you can have me over to do page-burnings together. Just as an example, one time I had a little too much to drink, vomited profusely, and spent the next few hours laying in the room we shared and muttering weirdly while a young Macedonian woman patted my head with a wet towel while I intermittently tried to make out with her to varying degrees of success. Later, I found out your dad had written down the whole episode in one of those little journals he always carries around. And that’s like the least strange thing I’ve done around him, so God knows what else could be in there.
9) Authors you should read no matter what: Nabokov, McCullers, Markley.
10) Authors you can go ahead and read but understand that we will have long, extremely serious conversations about how hack-terrible their work is: Stephanie Meyer, Ayn Rand.
11) If your parents are any indication, Eloise, you are going to be very, very, very smart—extremely thoughtful and insightful. You are so lucky that the two people who will raise you are two people who will challenge you to think about everything and anything. You’ll be pretty old before you understand how rare that is. So go do something good with that. Don’t listen to cynical people who can only despair at everything wrong with world, and similarly don’t listen to those who refuse to recognize what continues to be so deeply cruel and unjust about it but doesn't have to be. Read, learn, study and traffic in all the high-minded mental masturbation your heart desires, but in the end remember that discussing the nature of existence is only as interesting as the people you’re discussing it with.
12) Read “Sphere” first. It’s got alien spacecraft, time travel, and a giant squid.