Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award


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Reading tonight in New York!

I’m in New York for tonight’s episode of Pen Parentis, the New York literary salon for writers who are also parents. Fitting for this hot day, our theme is “Love”. How did the organizers know I don’t write about anything else?

I’m joined by the mega-talented and enormously successful Jennifer Probst and Marcy Dermansky. The reading is in the ultra-swank Andaz Hyatt on Wall Street, where literary nerds rub elbows with masters of the universe. In the meantime, Jennifer, Marcy and I will entertain questions about how parents can carve out time to write.

Copies of The Fugue will be available for purchase, and I’ll be happy to sign your copy, along with all the copies you buy for the people you love.

If you’re in New York, I hope you’ll show up.

andaz-wall-street-a-concept-by-hyatt-entrancePhoto of the Wall Street Andaz Hyatt. 


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My son is a capitalist mathematician

My son will be five years old in January. Today he was allowed to watch two cartoons after breakfast. Towards the end of his session, we had this discussion. (Mind you, this conversation sounds much better in Lithuanian, so if you speak the language, try to imagine it.)

Me: “How many more minutes are left in that cartoon?”

Boy: “I don’t know. Maybe five or maybe fifty five.”

Me: “So, it will be over soon?”

Boy: “Yeah, but then can I watch more?”

Me: “How  many more?”

Boy: (Thinks about it) “Three?”

Me: “Oh, no. That’s too much. But I’ll allow one more if you help me water the tomatoes.”

Boy: (Thinks about it) “Well, but if I watch one more, then I will watch three.”

Me: “You’ll have watched three. Yes. Two plus one is three.”

Boy: (Nodding, cocksure) “Good. That means you let me watch three. So I can watch three more.”

Me: “But then you’ll have watched more than three.”

Boy: (Brow furrowed) “When you’re allowed three, you should always get three, anytime you want. That’s what ‘you’re allowed’ means, dad.”

Me: “But then how many tomatoes will you have to water?”

Boy: (Waves his hand.) “Dad, it’ll rain. We don’t have to worry about it.”

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Photo: My son looking out the window of Gediminas Castle, Vilnius, spring 2016


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The story of my vasectomy

WARNING! This link will take you to a video of an actual vasectomy. While I highly encourage people to watch it—all surgery is fascinating, and this is the kind of “no scalpel” procedure I had done—I should state that it presents a tug of war between stainless steel instruments and very thin and sensitive body parts.

I was never this nervous going into a medical procedure. I’ve had four wisdom teeth beaten out of my skull. I’ve had my wrist screwed together. I had to get plantars warts burned off of my sole with a laser. Nothing quite compares to lying on your back mostly naked with your shaved scrotum (I did it myself) the focal point of the afternoon.

Weeks before the surgery, my doctor had explained the procedure in pretty vivid detail. Of course, my writer’s imagination had gone wild, and it did not help to see, so soon as I had entered the room, a stainless steel tray holding almost a dozen surgical instruments, and also gauze smeared with iodine, the color of brown scabs. I knew it was iodine. But iodine recalls the color of coagulated blood.

There I lay, nards under a tissue-thin square of sky blue paper, and the doctor came in with a host of people: four (at least) medical students, all of them preparing for lucrative careers of nard hacking. In the small room, I soon developed a sense of claustrophobia, this while my testicles swelled to the size of peaches. Supine, I stiffened to a board, sweat beating my brow, the room a trash compactor, my nards now ripened Michigan fruits, their skin red and downy. And I had a multicultural audience wearing scrubs.

I was wearing my dashiki. The doctor said, “Hey, this shirt looks Caribbean. Let’s put on some Caribbean music.” Songs by Mark Anthony and the loathsome Ricky Martin streamed from a corner. The procedure had begun before Ricky could sing Go go go! Ole ole ole!

“You’re just going to feel a pinch.”

Indeed, a pinch, if that’s what you want to call a needle stabbing your sack. I tried to be mindful, as my Roshi had trained me, but my mind went rather haywire, and I started hearing all sorts of idiotic associations, including the jingle, “You save big money when you shop Menards.” It did not go well with Ricky Martin, not when Raymond Jack Szmanda (the Menards guy) danced before me, his nuts bleeding.

The doctor was training his students, explaining all sorts of things about skin and vessels and placement and tools, and using words like cauterize, and a nurse kept handing him some branding rod attached to five million watts of electric death. I could smell my testes burning.

It hurt to be yanked around. Not the way it hurts when you stab yourself with a screwdriver. But the vas is short and rather thick, thicker than you imagine; the sound and vibration of cutting it was similar to what I felt when I cut my kids’ umbilical cords. There’s also very little room to maneuver, and with so much attention on me, I felt I was in a toaster.

I was pouring sweat. The doctor opened the door to let in air. This made a nurse feel she could now come in to ask random questions. “Just one quick question, doctor.” Are those Michigan peaches? Could someone cauterize Raymond Jack before he bleeds all over the floor?

The stitching required more yanking, more explanations, “These are going to dissolve.” Dissolve? How? Where? Into what? “We won’t need to remove any sutures.” You’re damn right about that. “Oh, good. Rihanna is on.”

Now that I was all stitched up, nauseated, a dripping human sponge of sweat, the doctor asked me, his hand on my shoulder, “What kind of music do you like?”

“Me?” I gasped. I found the breath to say, “Tom Waits.”

The doctor and the audience exchanged clueless glances.

“Should we know him?” he asked.

I nodded. “If you die today, what deity you believe in will meet you at the gates of paradise. And you’ll be asked, ‘Do you like Tom Waits?’ Answer ‘No’ and you’ll go to hell where five strangers will cut your genitals.”

They all guffawed. “We’ll look him up. We’ll look him up.” The doctor patted my shoulder. “You did great. You’re all done.”

Just pay at the counter. And spread no seed.

Pecan nuts on tree

Pecan nuts on tree

Photo from Wikipedia.


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On snot, a parenting episode

My children have recently figured out that snot makes for a funny topic and a fascinating substance. I’m surprised by how often they eat their own snot. I was not this kind of child—I’ll admit I have tasted snot in my adulthood out of something like childhood curiosity, but I have never actually swallowed it. In this way, my kids are completely different from me. They get in there and yum.

The other week, my son—he is two—started picking his nose on our public transit train. When he scored a winner, he tried to give the snot to a fellow passenger. The woman smiled at me, giggling a bit, but she told my son, “No, thank you.” My boy then wiped the snot on his jacket and smirked as if to say, “Your loss.”

My daughter—she’s five—thinks snot is really delicious. She refuses to share it. When I sit with her watching a film or listening to music, she’ll freely and openly dig in for some slime and eat it. When I tell her that snot plants trees in people’s stomachs, and that these trees grow out of the throat and ears, extending branches through the eyeballs, she’ll say, “I asked mom and she said this is just fantasy.”

 


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What I really really really wanted on Father’s Day

Yes, I know I’ve commented on this before. However, I got to thinking about what would knock me backwards and send me shocked through sheets of lightning if it ever happened. So I came up with this, A Father’s Day Fantasy, published yesterday on The Good Men Project.

You should share it with the other dads in your life.

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Photo by sigma316


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On turning 40

I have very little to say on this topic, actually. But here’s this:

I woke up this morning, and my first thought was not “Hey, you’re 40!” I wondered why the damn cat needs to step on my stomach so hard only at times when I really need to take a piss. Then, from somewhere deep in my sub-conscious, the Phish song “David Bowie” began rising. I heard them singing UB-40 and realized, “Hey, it’s my birthday.”

The prospect of my 40th birthday first loomed menacingly on my 36th. I thought to myself, “I’ll have to make it great! I’ll have to go to Vancouver or Amsterdam or Vegas with two or three friends, and we’ll have to rock all night.” There were other notions of self-inflation. I should buy myself a symbol of adulthood, perhaps an Armani suit. I should treat myself to something I’ve always wanted, to attend a Champions League match, or to try Peyote in the desert. If I don’t have a published book by my 40th birthday, I’ll know I’m a loser. I should get to work on that right away.

This morning I had none of those thoughts, besides my memories of them. What did I want? I hoped to get all my work done before 4:30 so that I could spend some time with the kids before they go to bed. And I found myself feeling thankful for a good home, a wonderful wife, employment, health.

That’s all. Nothing more.

Namaste.