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.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Brownstone Park!

Okay, so this is the coolest "water park" ever, it's only 2 hours from Manhattan, and I'd never heard of it until a week ago, when I was looking for excuses to come visit Samuel at Trinity.

It's an old quarry in Connecticut (between New Haven and Hartford) that filled with water back in the 1930s and sat dormant until some folks decided about 10 years ago that it would make a cool water park.

It makes a very cool water park: zip lines, inflatibles, cliff jumping, a water slide. Lines were short, and I liked the fact that it was in a natural setting and had an interesting history.

Here's what it looked like as a quarry:

See the house at the top of the cliff in the photo above (just to the left of the pole)? It's still there in the photo below.

You can see it clearer here:

Here's a nice POV shot from the top of the slide...

...and from the top of the cliff jump...

This was the last weekend of the season, but we'll be back next year. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

And just like that...

We rented a minivan on Wednesday evening, loaded it with Samuel's stuff: a new mini-fridge, new bike, new towels, suitcase of pants and shirts and socks and underwear, shoes, laundry bag, laundry detergent, desktop computer, laptop computer, desk supplies.

Just as we were about to get in the car, I said, "Wait, Jen, take our picture. Samuel, get on my shoulders." He laughed. I said, "No, really." Jen took the picture. We laughed, got in the car, headed out.

We drove north past the GW Bridge, through the Bronx, toward the Merritt. We sang karaoke via my mobile phone: "Mr. Sandman" and "Johnny B. Goode" from "Back to the Future." I did "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter" because I don't want him to forget what a great British accent I can do.

We stopped at Dunkin Donuts in Stamford, then back on the road and at our hotel in Hartford by 10pm.

It was rainy on Thursday. We moved him into his dorm room--a ground-floor quad, next to the soda machines. "Uh-oh, ground floor, you're going to have water bugs," I told him. He's going to need me to come stomp on them, I thought.

He has his own tiny room off a shared common area. "All right, photo op."

We unpacked and put everything away. Jen said, "We should get you a few more things from Target."

I think it was mostly a stall tactic. We drove to Target. We drove back. We ate lunch in the cafeteria. Samuel picked at his chicken. He's going to need me to help him find food he likes, I thought.

We walked outside. The sun had come out. I saw a banner that said "Welcome New Students." I said, "Stand right here. Photo op."

Then we looked at our watches, realized he had somewhere to be at 2:30, and we needed to get the rental van back. And...shit, this is it, isn't it? We hugged. He headed off toward his dorm. Jen and I watched him go.

And just like that....

Monday, August 29, 2016

Deja vu all over again

Samuel returned from his 4-day freshman backpacking trip late Thursday night. He and Ethan hung out in their bedroom on their laptops all day Friday and Saturday. Then, on Saturday afternoon Jen said, "Do we want to do anything tomorrow?" It is, after all, the final weekend before Samuel leaves for college.

I meekly floated the idea of Hurricane Harbor, which was met with a tepid but not negative response. 

So we did it, and it was a nice way to spend our final pre-college weekend together. The lazy river was closed for "maintenance" (vomit? diarrhea?), so the wave pool was crowded and the lines were long. But it was together time, and I'm thankful for it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ethan is home, Samuel is gone

Ethan is home from summer camp, but Samuel is now off on a four-day backpacking trip with some of his new college classmates. 

We spent Saturday together at a mall in Nyack. Samuel and Ethan both wanted to go there. Manhattan is so dull compared to a suburban mall, after all.

Everyone's favorite part of the day was an interactive adventure at a place called 5Wits. Samuel was totally in his element. 

Ethan had friends over last night, and Jennifer and Samuel were up late packing, while I worked on a manuscript. This morning Jennifer drove Samuel to Connecticut and dropped him off for his backpacking trip.

I had a storytime reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn.

The bookstore was great. The turnout was small. How small? Let's just say I made three new friends: Dash (2), Greta (1), and Max (1). Dash is my new favorite two-year-old, and I think "Beep! Beep!" is his new favorite book.

I read "Beep! Beep!" first. Dash was the perfect age and temperament for it. Then I read "Ten Tiny Toes" for the babies and moms. It's still hard for me to read that one out loud because it reminds me so much of my little boys.

We sold three books, so the store made a $30 profit, and I made $3. Storytime economics are daunting. Never do the math.

Jen met me at home around 2. I decided I'd go to Hurricane Harbor for the afternoon before dropping off the rental car--to take advantage of a paid-for rental car and paid-for season pass. Ethan had a birthday party to go to. Jen had no interest.

As soon as I got in the car and turned on the radio I heard, "Thunderstorms are expected within the hour, continuing until midnight."

Crap. Well, nothing I can do. Keep driving and hope I beat the rain.

I got to Hurricane Harbor at 4:15. The guy at the ticket booth said, "There's a thunderstorm coming." I said, "I know!" and hurried past him.

I went full-body into the lazy river so that at least I could say I got wet. Then I ran to the body slide. The line was about 20 minutes, and just when I got to the top level of the tower...a raindrop. Then another. By the time I was second in line it was raining lightly and I was sure they were going to close the slide right before my turn.

Then an amazing thing happened. They didn't.

The rain fell, but the slides didn't close. People left the park in droves. The lines were short.

Over the next two hours I rode 11 slides. Walk up the steps. Wait behind one or two people. Go down the slide. Repeat.

I made friends with the 10-year-olds who ran up the stairs with me. "Which one are you doing next?" "The orange one!" "Me too! Did you do blue yet?" "No! Next!"

I am who I am. #noapologies, #nojudgments.

I'm home. It's late. I'm tired. I'm going to take the dogs out with Ethan, try to finish the first draft of that manuscript, miss Samuel, and go to bed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Water weekend

Last weekend when Jen and I were dropping off Ethan at camp, Samuel stayed home because he was invited to Splish Splash waterpark with friends. He was supposed to meet them in Queens, but he took the wrong train at Penn Station, ended up in Secaucus, NJ, and spent the day home alone.

So, helicopter parent that I am, I took Friday off and took Samuel to Hurricane Harbor. (He realized on Thursday night that he was supposed to babysit LJ on Friday afternoon, so we took him with us too.)

We had a great day until the thunderstorms rolled in.

Jen requested a beach day on Saturday, and we had a rental car, so we went to Jones Beach.

It's the first nice, wide, clean, glass-free beach to the east of the city. It was developed during the Depression using WPA labor--the showers and concessions buildings, the parking lots, even the highway from the mainland. Say what you will about Robert Moses, he did a nice job with Jones Beach.

Today, feeling the end of summer nearing, Samuel and I decided to do another sprinkler trek through Central Park--every playground sprinkler from 100th Street to 81st Street.

We added the Ross Terrace at the Museum of Natural History, since it is our favorite water play area on the Upper West Side.

We've decided to officially name it the Central Park Sprinkler Trek, Upper West Side version. It takes 90 minutes from start to finish--beginning and ending at a milkshake comfort station. We are going to invite more kids next time.

I vowed to finish a manuscript this weekend and I've written about one line so far, so I'd better get to it.