From Palmy North to Newport Beach
Such a greatness, my lateness.
I think I left you when me and Vorny were performing a play in Palmy North. We had a lotta fun down there and we stayed in a cracker of a motel on the Pioneer Highway. The couple who ran the joint were awesome and nothing short of hospitable. So hospitable in fact, they’d often leave lasagnes in our room when we were performing so we could gorge ourselves when we got home. They’d also wander into our room at a moment’s notice and talk about the old days and how tricky it was to run a motel. Salt of the earth Kiwis with huge hearts. He was her late husband’s former mate, who now resided on the property and did the laundry. She was a talker from way back, talk the arse off an iron pot given half the chance. Both were hilarious. He sported a lopsided toupee. She cackled like a hyena at a hen's party. And both won Lotto the day before we left. He came over after one of our last performances and looked like he’d been struck by a 4 wheeler, “You wanna come over for a cheeky Sav’?” I rubbed my eyes like a worm with glaucoma, “Oh we’ve just come off stage mate. Might hit the sack.” Completely dumbfounded, he shuffled on his feet like a ghost who needed a wee, “I think we’ve just won Lotto.” We promptly went over for a Sauvignon and hugged them like long lost rellies. I impressed on both of them that I still had a sizeable student loan from 1997 and any donations would be gratefully received. They laughed it off and continued partying. I left feeling super happy for them, but gutted that the night was a staunch reminder of my outstanding debt to the government.
After the play we drove back to the Naki and decided to surprise my family with one of those cake gender reveals. Am I getting swept up in all this baby stuff? Yes! Yes I am. I never thought I could have a kid, what with the plumbing downstairs being broken ’n all. Now with the assistance of Fertility Associates, one of my sperms had made it over enemy lines. So what better way to celebrate than with a moist cake. Let’s cut the bugger open and have the family freak out when they see either pink or blue pebbles flowing from it’s madeira centre. Everyone was beyond ecstatic to see pink pebbles limply fall out of ours. I think having a girl will be really cool. I can advise her about men, Miley Cyrus and my limited knowledge of periods. I can also sit her future prom date down and scare the bejesus out of him, “Hey! Hey! Don’t you make any advancesl!! You feel me?! You feel me dawg!...Now you want a herbal tea?”
After the gender reveal, we had another one on Waiheke Island for our Auckland family and friends. For this one, Vorny and I had some shirts screenprinted in the Naki - hers was pink, mine was blue. Both had the words IT’S A GIRL emblazoned on the front. Not hugely creative, I know. I see a South Australian couple's gender reveal recently went rather pear-shaped. They invited a bunch of family and friends to watch a car burnout that produced some pink smoke. Unfortunately the car caught fire and the pink smoke quickly turned black and billowed into the air. I hope they're okay. People are going nuts these days trying to think of awesome ways to surprise bored family members. It's crazy!
After Waiheke, Vorny and I flew back to the US to find a place to settle and have our baby. We’d both done some Googling earlier and were unanimous that Orange County was where we wanted to be, mainly because HOAG Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach was one of the top ranked hospitals.
The first apartment complex we looked at was Park Newport. Cool spot, a lovely mixture of uni students and pensioners. Kinda like Animal House meets Cocoon. Young kids smoking weed and 80 year olds doing Zumba. I said to Vorny, “Ooh I like me a bit of this.” It had a pool area, a gym, conference rooms, tennis courts - it certainly ticked off all the shallow boxes for me. We then had to figure out how to secure the apartment with zero credit history. The lady in the leasing office pretty much laughed us out of the joint. Fearing rejection, we got her talking about some of her interests, like make-up. Apparently, she used to be a make-up saleswoman. Weird considering her lipstick was 3 cm above and below her lips. She looked like a chatty mailbox. But she was lovely and she must have taken pity on us, cos pretty soon she was driving us around in a noisy 6 seater golf buggie. Whenever she reversed, she took so long that a hundred dogs would magically appear. I think they were responding to the buggie’s high pitched reversing sound. We quickly found an apartment we liked and pretty soon we were back in the leasing office talking about dogs and make-up. But the question of credit still remained. To seal the deal, a friend in nearby Lake Forest agreed to act as our guarantor. And BAM!! Just like that we were now the poorest residents living in Newport, California.
We moved our stuff out of storage from Los Angeles to Newport (1 hour in a rented U-Haul truck) and quickly got to work trying to find Vorny an OBGYN (obstetrician/gynaecologist). In the USA, they don’t really have midwives (they do but they're expensive and not super common), the onus is on residents/immigrants to find an OBGYN in your area who happens to be affiliated with your insurance network. Our provider allowed us to land an 83 year old OBGYN, Dr Agnew. He looked like Clint Eastwood with a facelift. When he confirmed that he was affiliated with HOAG Hospital I just about wet my pants. We couldn’t believe our luck. As well as landing a primo hospital to have our baby girl in, we’d also landed the coolest, calmest, sweetest talking, Clint Eastwood lookalike OBGYN in the county of Orange. Not even an earthquake could rock this dude. He was calmer than a coffee mug. An old boy wonder. The only weird thing about him was the first time he examined Vorny downstairs, he turned to me and said, “How about them All Blacks?” Hey pal, was this the time to be talking about our national team? I looked at him, bemused, “Yeah, they're pretty good eh?” The next time we came in for an examination he brought up a different team, “How about them Silver Ferns..?” I was like, “Yeah, how about them? And how about my wife's uterus? Is it all good?” Weird, but this guy was like the baby whisperer. He could sense the well-being of our baby girl from a good mile away. And he talked like Clint Eastwood would talk to horses, “Relax now. Relax." I fell in love with him. He did puff a little bit, which made me hope he’d be around for the birth, but by God was I thankful he was our OBGYN.
The next thing we needed to do was find a bloody pram. Spoilt for choice we were in the US of A. Especially since we found out Babies R Us was having a closing down sale. Vorny and I camped out there for a good 2 weeks, pushing a myriad of prams around and testing out their many functions and accessories. It was like an unhip FAST AND FURIOUS film, with expectant parents gathered around for a lawful stroll down the skinny aisles. In the end, Vorny and I went with The GRACO FastAction™ Fold Jogger stroller - the ultimate crossover stroller, combining all the comfort and convenience features of a traditional stroller with the performance and manoeuverability of a flippin' Sherman tank! It's huge! I can barely manoeuvre it at all. Me and Vorny took it for a stroll around Fashion Island (the local mall), just to get some groceries and familiarise ourselves with it. I could barely control it and almost knocked over a deodorant stand and a tray of avocados at Whole Foods. On the way out a woman wanted to have a look at our newborn. She pulled down the canopy and was shocked to see a bag of loo rolls and a loaf of bread. I felt so embarrassed, "I'm just testing it out. Baby's not due for a month..." She looked at me like I was nuts! (that's me in the photo above with the empty pram).
Now that it was confirmed we’d be having our baby at HOAG, Vorny and I enrolled in some baby classes at the hospital to prepare for the big day. The first one was BABY BASICS - swaddling, baby CPR, all that kind of stuff. I was impressed with the class, but less with the people in it. The facilitator said we’d make lifelong friends in this program, but over the 3 weeks, we didn’t make any! I think everyone was freaking out so much, they never looked to their left and right. If they did they would have seen me waving, "Hey, anyone wanna be my lifelong friend? I’m new to Newport. This is a new port for me!!” Anyway, the class was informative and the room was very clean. The only thing that scared me was the baby mannequins. It felt like a room full of Chucky dolls. Remember the movie? Scary.
The second class I enrolled in was just for men - the New Dads Boot Camp. No drill sergeants or loud personal trainers here. This was a 3 hour weekend class for ROOKIE dads (ie expectant dads) taught by VETERAN dads (i.e. 'know all' dads with new kids and a million stories). The Veterans would bring in their screaming kids and us new dads would hold them and casually freak out about impending fatherhood. It was all very cathartic though and people did look to their left and right (I didn't make any new friends though. It was the New Dads Boot Camp, not the New Friends Boot Camp). Interestingly, the number one worry amongst the group wasn’t the baby. It was THE IN-LAWS! Ha ha. One guy was beside himself, “They’re coming to stay for a month!! You gotta help me or I'm gonna do something stupid?!”
My mother in law arrived a month before our due date. I was sweating’ bullets, but it all turned out swimmingly. Rather than quiz me about my productivity, she was staunchly in baby mode and bought a tonne of baby outfits, toys, a baby bouncer, you name it. She also had a trailer load of baby info to pass on, but watching Vorny and her mum enthusiastically chat about babies, I couldn't keep up. I was in No Man (just me) Land. I just nodded my head like a baby seal who didn’t know the rules, “Oh yes agreed” I’d say. “Couldn’t agree more” I'd nod. But I didn’t bloody know. So I offered to make them cups of tea and plates of crackers and cheese. Until it was time to go to the Doctor’s for another routine check up. “Hey let’s grab a latte straight after eh?”, I suggested. They thought that was a grand idea.
But we never grabbed that latte. Vorny was rushed straight to hospital.