Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Two packages in the mail today

Copies of the new Scholastic paperback version of "Beep! Beep!" (which is nice because it's like having a new book out).

And a Bob Dylan biography I ordered from Amazon to see if I should give him another chance.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Writing picture books doesn't pay the bills

But I get so excited when I finish and submit a manuscript. I get so excited when we make a sale. I get so excited when the book comes out, and it has my name on it, and it's my words, my creative voice. And I get excited when I read it at story time at a bookstore and see babies and toddlers and new moms and dads and think of how great it is to be a parent and how great the world is with kids in it and how great picture books are and how great it is to be a part of that creative process.

I should spend my weekends looking for a permanent job, one that pays the bills and has a 401K and an annual bonus. And I am. I am.

But not my entire weekend. 

I completed and submitted two final manuscripts this weekend. Two! They're good. They rock. They both took months to get through multiple edits and revisions. One was an idea I had literally two years ago and hadn't gotten down on paper until August.

You have to make time for your creative passions. Otherwise your life just goes by, and so much of it is dedicated to simply paying the mortgage and putting food on the table (or, in our case, ordering it from Domino's, then putting the box on the table).

The difference between a good weekend and a mediocre weekend for me is that at the end of a good weekend I can say I created something. This was a good weekend.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bob Dylan, the latest Nobel Prize winner

I've never been a Bob Dylan fan.

Part of the reason is that I didn't come of age in the "Blowin' in the Wind" era. When I was 16, Dylan had nothing of interest to say to me. "Gotta Serve Somebody"? I don't think so.

Let's be honest. Is there really anyone, anywhere, even on the 1980 Grammy committee, who thought "Gotta Serve Somebody" was a great song? Seriously. Listen to it.

I've written previously about how I was backstage when he appeared on Letterman in 1984. He didn't show up for rehearsals, backed away when Letterman tried to talk to him, and when my colleague said, "Great show, Bob," gave us the silent F you. You don't want to be on TV? Don't be on TV.

I've also pointed out previously that when he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, he couldn't be bothered to take off his sunglasses. That's not being a quirky artist. That's being a self-absorbed butthole.

Two minor quibbles, perhaps cherry picked. But I'm just not a fan, okay?

The fact that his major contribution to art over the past decade was being a Cadillac Escalante pitchman actually doesn't bother me. It kind of normalizes him a bit, like being in the Traveling Wilburys. But I still don't like him. 

Look. You gotta separate the art from the artist. Otherwise you're going to be disappointed. Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright...doesn't matter. Idolize art, not people. I'm just saying he doesn't seem like the kind of guy I'd want to have a beer with, or who'd want to have a beer with me either.

As for the art...I get it. Good lyrics, aside from the minor quibble that saving, naming, raging and fading don't rhyme with a-changin'. Major influence on a generation. A self-absorbed generation, but a generation. Was it Nobel Prize for Literature good? 

I'll leave that to others.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Girl on the subway

She was maybe six years old. Her little brother was having a rough day. The mom gave him the crushed remnants of a cookie to calm him, which he promptly poured onto his face and clothes. His big sister dutifully wiped his face with her hands. The mom handed him a napkin, which he rubbed across his face, then wadded up and handed to his big sister. She casually accepted it like she'd done this before. 

As I left the train I whispered to the mom what a good big sister her daughter was. She smiled and nodded.

I miss Samuel.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The return of Samuel

He took a bus from Hartford Friday afternoon, but there was traffic. He got here at 9--his first time home since we dropped him off at college a month ago.

The dogs were happy to see him but acted like he'd only been gone overnight. It was rainy and late. We ordered Domino's. 

"How are your classes going?" (He shrugged. "Pretty good.")

"Still getting along okay with your roommates?" (He shrugged. "Uh-huh.")

"Are you making friends in your classes? ("Uh-huh. A few.")

Aha. He's making friends.

"How's the cafeteria food?" ("Good. But the cafeteria closes at 7:30 so sometimes I forget to eat dinner by then.")

I knew he looked thin in the face. Why on Earth would a college cafeteria close at 7:30 PM? Is it a retirement home? In New York 7:30 is an afternoon snack.

Jen went to bed at midnight; Samuel, Ethan and I stayed up 'til 2--not doing anything, just on our computers, being in the apartment together.

Saturday around noon we got croissants from the new bakery on Columbus & 81st. He spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with a friend-turned-girlfriend from high school, got up early this morning, hugged us, and caught the 7:30 AM bus back to Hartford.

He left his pajamas on the bathroom floor and an unopened Nesquick in the fridge. 

He's a big boy. He's fine. Things will be okay.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Goodbye, NYU Coles Sports Center

My old college gym is being torn down.

I chose NYU for its film school, but I probably spent most of my time at Coles.

My first week at NYU, in the Fall of 1982, I went to the student employment office to find a campus job. I saw a posting for a Weight Room Monitor, walked down to Coles, and was hired on the spot.

My supervisor was the wrestling coach. He said I looked like a wrestler. I hadn't planned on wrestling in college, but I said, "Well, in fact, I was pretty good in high school."

I invited a girl from my dorm to watch our season opener. I lost. But I ended the season with a 16-5 record. It helped that we wrestled schools like Yeshiva and Stevens Institute of Technology.

The photos below are from late 1982, in Coles. Coach Peckett is standing in front of the bench.

I only recognize one teammate from the photo below: Constantine von Hoffman, standing behind the chairs.

One time in the off-season a guy came to the wrestling room and asked me to wrestle. I said sure. About two minutes into it I thought, "This guy is horrible. It's almost like he's never wrestled before." It only dawned on me later that he was gay.

My abbreviated wrestling career at NYU compelled me to continue wrestling after college, and eventually to move to Iowa to train with Gable and the Hawkeyes. That's where I met Jennifer. It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken the student job at Coles. So there is that.

I should mention the skinny dipping incident. The statute of limitations has passed.

It was at the end of my senior year. My friend managed the equipment room and had keys. We knew some girls on the swim team. There were probably a dozen of us. We stripped down and giggled and shushed each other and splashed around in the darkness, even jumped off the high dive a couple of times before panicking about the noise we were making.

Nothing bad happened. No one ever found out. But I can only imagine the insurance liability. 

Stupid kids.

Goodbye, Coles. You were a good gym.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

All good things must come to an end

Well, it was a good summer. Sigh. 

Here are all the things I did...

  • 5 trips to Hurricane Harbor
  • 2 beaches
  • 2 Central Park sprinkler challenges
  • 1 camping trip
  • 3 NEW waterparks (Kalahari, Aquatopia, Brownstone Park)
  • 1 Paul McCartney concert with Jen
  • 1 signed book contract ("Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath")
  • 1 bookstore story time
  • 1 trip to New Orleans for work (the Essence Festival!)
  • 1 freelance job extension (people say money can't buy happiness but it's amazing what paying one's bill does to relieve stress)
  • 1 high school graduation
  • 1 boy off to college

Much as I'd like to slow down this river of life sometimes, all we can do is create the best memories we can.