This is a column I didn't want to start too soon. You know, like I didn't want to be starting it twenty years ago. The technology just wasn't there. This is a column by an all too self-consciously self-aware man, at the height of his self-styled middle-aged-hipster-of-sorts angst. It's the story of that man at that moment deciding, although not unilaterally, to have a baby for the first time in his lengthy life. I know, the first draft of Seabiscuit probably began as dryly as this too, and while I apologize, I just wanted to be sure y'all knew what you are in for here, lest you need to move on.
Choosing a stroller is an easy and splendid distraction for someone like me and I'd imagine for a lot of first time fathers too. Lavishing leisurely research time online, and taking plenty of test drives too, it's process akin to buying a car, but we'd already bought a car with the child in mind, and so, the stroller, what could be more natural for me to agonize over. Better that than the copy of The Birth Within idling on the nightstand.
These days, when you find your favorite coffee shop is overrun with your former friends and your former friends' new kids, it's most likely that that will have been a Bugaboo Cameleon rolling over your foot. When it comes to contemporary stroller design, everything about the Bugaboo brand is as stylishly desirable as can be. I won't say that a $1000 stroller is for everyone, but last time I was over at Naartjie at the Galleria, they seemed to be for just about every customer in there and that's Glendale - they sure seem as essential to the breeding bourgeoisie as a big screen plasma TV.
Bugaboo broke the mold with their original Cameleon, it was the iPhone of strollers, but that was in 1999. Nearly ten years later, there are several other excellent brands and models and to a greater or lesser extent absolute knock-offs too, to be considered before you open up a line of credit against your home. Check out Jools Bloom, Mutsy 4Rider, Bugabooo Cameleon, Quinny Buzz. Stokke Xplory, Uppa Baby, some newer Britax and Peg Perego models and Rock Star Baby Jon Bon Jovi's most complete bugaboo rip off. The list of fancy strollers is trending toward endless, so we're going to stick with what I found in town...
When Baby Wonderland in Brentwood, ca showed us around a Bugaboo Cameleon, it simply appeared to be as essential to baby as mothers' milk. Maybe more so. And OMG the standard of Customer Service at Baby Wonderland... I came away knowing, "so that's how it is when rich people shop." It was... pleasant. Of course we appreciated the Bugaboo's combination of high style, bountiful extras and beautiful fabrics and how the handlebar traversed in the frame so that the big wheels could be positioned at the front - for hikes over sand or snow - (really...). That's important. The sidewalks in our neighborhood are like plowed fields. But Wife-X was less than immediately convinced by the Bugaboo than I. You can't know much about her, or me, but let's say she is a little more financially astute than I.
At Kid's Place, Wilshire, near the Wiltern, where it might seem that in terms of customer service, some of the Tower Records refugee long hairs found work, we took a look at the Stokke Xplory. Our friends have one, but as you know, it never pays to appear to be too interested in your friends' choices. There's Something About The Xplory. It is the Stroller equivalent of an Absolute bottle. It's inimitable, once seen never to be forgotten. It's a unique design with a supremely high ride. And that's cool. Baby rides at eye-level. Great for baby when in reverse. Rugged Suspension. And a price tag which had me wincing on the inside while I smiled and said, "That's a pretty good price..." Really, I shop above my weight. But oh that high ride. Without a hint of empirical evidence (although I have been proven right before), the Xplory me thinking of those SUV's that Consumer Reports managed to roll over..., WWJCS, What Would Jeremy Clarkson Say? Really. Those words didn't cross my mind at Kid's Place. But the lots of 'splaining you'd do, relentlessly, if you owned an Xplory, made me feel tired before I even owned it. Time to move on.
I can't find a Mutsy 4Rider offline anywhere within the hours I need to open my wallet and empty it out. This Mutsy's beauty too, is Absolute. Single spoke big wheels all round if you want it. Steering on the back. Cantilevered frame. Hold out for one, if you're flush and can find it.
All of the actual child rearing manuals I'd been reading, and the classes I'd been attending had cowed me into believing that children must be held... not pushed around in a stroller... Hmmmm, really? Maybe if you're 25 or your name is Jack Palance... those things get heavy. Meanwhile I was searching for a baby mattress and Macy's were giving away lightweight umbrella strollers for free it seemed. Free, or $12. Whichever is less.
That I sometimes do listen to my friends... Mr. Lake had suggested I get something I could open or close with one hand. I am going to recommend something at least halfway better than that. Something that opens with a push of a button... I don't know why I love BabyStyle so much. Nor do I know why BabyStyle often feels so frigging expensive. But BabyStyle was where we saw our first Quinny Buzz. They had a bunch of other strollers there too, of course, each disassembled and reassembled themselves as easily as a busted Rubik's cube. But the Quinny Buzz, rose up to a standing position pneumatically at the push of a button. By itself. Wow. And that novel feat of engineering didn't stop it from looking incredible in gorgeous bright orange ('juice') or sulphur green. With it's unique brushed aluminum frame and big, spongy-tired rear wheels, it has the maneuverability to match its sensational looks.
No one is going to admit that they bought the wrong stroller. It's too expensive a mistake and an abdication of dad's responsibility to get the best for their kid. No one, unless they bought a bmw 1-series would tell you they'd bought the wrong bmw would they? So for those of you still reading, next time I will tell you about living with the Quinny Buzz for six months, how it has held it's own against Echo Park's shameful sidewalks, worse than plowed fields now, and how much we still love it. On a daily basis I have to contend with men telling me how much they love the stroller and wanting to know all about it (Wife X swears baby will be strollerjacked), and women telling me how cute baby is. I'm not sure what happens more often, it's a close run thing.
(Strollers clockwise from upper left, Mutsy 4Rider, Quinny Buzz, Bugaboo, Stokke)