(In Three Parts)

My wife was a bartender when we first met. She worked in a dive on the New Jersey shore that looked kind of like this:

We got married, she got pregnant, and that was the end of her career as a bartender. Our first child was a girl, Eliza.

Maggie and I had been the last of our friends to get married, but the first to have children. Bill and Susan, our best friends, had been married for years, and the four of us used to do a lot of partying and late-night carousing together. When Eliza was born, Maggie and I were especially excited to introduce our new plaything to Bill and Susan, assuming they'd be as excited about her as we were.

We were disappointed in their reaction. They visited in the hospital, but seemed distracted and subdued. We'd looked forward to telling them the long story of the delivery, but they didn't seem as interested as we'd thought. They left early that day, and a few days later when they visited us at home they didn't gush over the baby like we'd expected them to, and they seemed impatient with all our parent-talk.

Deep down inside, Maggie and I finally realized, Bill and Susan thought it was uncool of us to have become parents. We'd been a pretty freewheeling foursome, always drinking and smoking and driving too fast and using foul language and acting like idiots together. But Maggie and I fully intended to go on doing these things as much as we could, and yet we could not make Bill and Susan believe this. Suddenly we were their 'quiet' friends, the ones they visited on Sunday afternoon instead of Friday night.

We had a talk with them about this and asked them to please trust that we were the same people we'd been before. We all hugged, and Maggie and Susan wiped away tears and all that shit ... but then we found ourselves unable to get our friendship back into the rhythm it had had before. Nothing we did worked. They called us impulsively one snowy winter night and suggested we meet them at a restaurant. We did it, but first we had to spend half an hour bundling little Eliza into a snow suit and squeezing the pudgy overstuffed package into a car seat, and by the time we got there we were both in horrible moods. On days the weather was good, though, Bill and Susan wouldn't call.

No matter how we tried, we couldn't get Bill or Susan to understand which things were hard for us and which were easy. Putting a snow suit on a baby is hard; changing a diaper, on the other hand, is incredibly easy. Only a person who's never changed one would think twice about doing it; anybody who's done it knows it's nothing. But Bill would stand there and heckle me while I changed Eliza's diaper. He'd cackle about how disgusting it was, and one day this started to bug me so much I threw a wrapped-up soaked diaper into his lap. He yelped as it I'd just tossed him a lit bomb and ran into the bathroom screaming that he had to wash himself off.

It's sad to realize this, but our friendship with Bill and Susan was ultimately not strong enough to survive the birth of Eliza, and Maggie and I found ourselves spending a lot of time alone together in these first few years after she was born. Sometimes on a weekend night when there was nothing good on TV and we had nothing else to do we'd go into the kitchen and entertain ourselves sampling all the incredible drinks Maggie knew how to make from her days working that bar on the Jersey shore. She'd make blue whales, frozen sea breeze dauiquiris, neat martinis with toothpick-pierced olives, perfect tequila sunrises that shimmered like Georgia O'Keefe landscapes ... she'd stir them up, we'd drink them down, comparing and contemplating and reviewing them as if we were writing a Consumer's Reports article on mixed drinks. It was great.

Continue to Part 2 of 3

Queensboro Ballads
by Levi Asher