You’ve seen the Lone Wolf and Cub
movies, haven’t you? “Baby Cart on the River Styx
” and all that? You have this samurai, a ronin
really, who used to be a legendary bad-ass and now wanders the land in shame. And his wife is dead, or ran off with some young ninja or something
, so the dude takes his little baby with him everywhere. He just goes pushing this clunky old wooden baby cart through the land. And everywhere he goes, people recognise him and want to either kill him or hire him to kill someone. Which is pretty cool in a Chow Yun-Fat
sort of way, except where Chow gives off that vibe of “this is what I was born to do, this is what I will always do, and this is what I like doing, so stay the fuck out of my way,” this Lone Wolf guy doesn’t. He just does his stuff, and you kind of know he would rather be doing something else
. But nobody will leave him alone.
So Lone Wolf, ex-legendary bad-ass AKA Ogami Itto, and Daigoro, his cub in the baby cart from Q Branch, roll across Japan in black and white. Most of Japan, it seems, is rocky mountains shrouded in smoke. And bridges, usually guarded by brigands. And it’s all just... incredibly... really... really... slow. The whole damn series of movies is slow slow slow. Other samurai may bound across the mountains like horny gazelles, but not Lone Wolf. Lone Wolf, don’t forget, has this heavy-ass baby cart to push.
And me? I used to be Chow Yun-Fat. I was the Man, and I had a kick-ass techno soundtrack and a match between my teeth. Swear to God. I fought my way through every job known to modern man, I partied like someone was keeping score, I was light on my feet and I shot down every enemy before they even knew they were my enemies. I was intercontinental, multilingual, omnifuckingcapable. Great hair. Killer wardrobe. Sex? Don’t ask, man, you aren’t even old enough to hear vague descriptions of half the things I’ve done.
Then I left my job and went home to write and take care of the baby. It sounded pretty simple. I would watch over the baby during the day, do my writing whenever I wasn’t busy with her, write two thousand words a night after she went to sleep, and keep the cleanest house in the Western Hemisphere. And the soundtrack would be non-stop coolness, like the Matrix soundtrack almost was but ended up not being. My wife would bring home the paychecks we needed until my career took off and we bought that castle in Scotland. Simple enough, I thought.
But no one told me that when I went home to take care of the baby, I was really getting in bed with the daimyo’s wife. Making myself ronin. Cutting myself off. Nobody told me I was becoming Lone Wolf with his damn baby cart.
Because even if it’s the Twenty First Century, a man with a stroller, out during the day, is a samurai without a lord. You get a vibe when you perambulate through the playgrounds and the supermarkets with your little girl. You can smell people wondering about you. Wondering what you did. Wondering where the nanny is, and why aren’t you at the office. Wondering, suspecting. Lots of people smile, but lots of others think they know there’s something wrong.
A man with a stroller, now matter how hardcore he may innately be, doesn’t have a kicking techno soundtrack. You know why? It’s simple, really. Blindingly fucking obvious. Babies don’t like loud, metallic breakbeat music with funky rhythm changes and samples from science fiction movies. Babies don’t like bad-ass distorted Sonic Youth guitars, and they don’t do well with Nina Hagen shock opera. Babies like mellow, and babies like smooth. Yeah, like Barry White smooth. Like Handel smooth. Or like quiet Japanese flutes and weird percussion instruments you don’t even know the names of.
And a man with a baby cart is slow. Molasses slow, man. Not John Woo blood ballet slow, Stanley Kubrick at his worst atmospheric slow. You don’t slam the baby in the stroller and jump onto the back of a streetcar when a friend calls you up wanting to hang out or shop or go to movies. If you and she are even up for it, there’s bottles to make, diapers to change. You gotta check the Weather Channel to make sure you dress her properly. And if it’s nap time, forget the whole gig. That nap is way more important than meeting your friends. It’s more important than cool movies at matinee prices. Hell, it might be more important than sex. She needs that nap and, if you want to stay sane, you do too.
A man, or woman, with a baby is never all serious and tough and intellectual. It doesn’t work that way. That baby doesn’t give a damn how many times you can twirl your lightsaber before you chop off a bad guy’s arm. She’s not impressed with your dour glares, your Neo trenchcoat and the match gripped between your teeth. She wants smiles, damnit, and if you put any value on peace and quiet, you’d better learn how to smile and how to make googling noises like you mean it. And how to play Peekaboo. In public spaces. You do it, or you get used to hearing loud baby screams all the time.
And a man with a baby doesn’t get a break. Coffee breaks? Get used to cold coffee. Cigarette breaks? You can smoke in Hell, my friend. When the baby goes to sleep, you get to wash dishes. Wash floors. Pick up laundry. Maybe write a little, or go online and chat. I want to rest. I want to sleep for days. I want to float away on Mediterranean waters, with a parasol shading me, a glass of rum next to me and some Marley rocking me to sleep until I’ve damn well had enough. But first I’ve got to write some stuff....
You pity me, do you? Well, don’t. Pity yourself, instead, for the things you don’t have and won’t understand until you have them. Amazing things like bedtime stories every night, shrieks of laughter that make the world glow, little monkey hands hugging me so strongly she feels like part of my own body. Falling asleep while rocking her to sleep. Watching her eyes light up when she discovers a new food. Knowing that she will love me forever unconditionally. Those who have not felt these things have not yet truly lived.
But maybe you don’t need those things. Maybe you’re the fastest samurai alive. Maybe you actually are Neo, and maybe you’ll discover cold fusion one of these days or get a Pulitzer. Maybe you are one of those people, rarer ava than you probably think, who honestly never will need a baby because their world is already too rich and too full and too sweet. Fine. But don’t get in my way. Because I’m Lone Wolf, and my little girl-Daigoro is watching, and she expects me to be a samurai superhero. And as long as I know she’s watching, I’m unstoppable. I don’t want to fight at all. I’d rather be working on my rock garden and noding bad haiku. But if I have to fight, let me tell you that Daigoro will NEVER see her father beaten by any surfer punk with a leather trenchcoat. And I’ve got spears and guns and armour plating hidden in the stroller.
What’s that? The line? Oh, yes, we’ve come to the front of the line. Thank you.
Good afternoon, Miss. One for “Elmo in Grouchland” at 4:30, please. Well, thanks. She’s almost nine months. No, it’s a girl. Hey, is that Barry White? Couldja turn it up just a tiny bit?
Say hello, Daigoro. Oochie coochie coo.