Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Low-cut jeans

Christmas was good. I'd post the photos, but I forgot to put the data card into my camera on Christmas morning, and I'm too lazy to rummage through the hundreds of computer cables to find the one that downloads images from the camera when you've forgotten to load the data card.

So instead, here's a picture of me in my new low-cut jeans, which I got at Macys' after-Christmas sale.

(Disclaimer: images on this blog may be graphically enhanced and/or feature body doubles.)

Jennifer and I went shopping together--which itself could be considered kind of a gift to her--and we both got new jeans. Because we are old, we are jean-culturally illiterate. If this were 1981, for example, I would know that she should get Calvin Kleins or Jordache, and I should get Levis, and straight legs are IN, and maybe on the way out of the store I'd be offered a free sample of Paco Rabanne.

(It was in 1981 that I discovered that Brut cologne is considered extremely uncool among the sorority scene. But I digress.)

So it's 2008, and neither Jen nor I have a clue. Is Baby Phat a hip brand? Are white women allowed to wear them? (Jen ultimately opted for a pair of Rocawear jeans, with a big cursive "R" on the butt, which looks remarkably similar to the Jordache "J," if you ask me.)

To play it safe, I went for the Levis. But when I got home I discovered that they're low-cut, so they feel like I'm wearing a thong, or a pair of extra-small Speedos (yikes, another flashback). So I've spent the past few days getting used to them, and hiking them up every 15 minutes or so.

But, as you can see, they look pretty good on me, so I'm sticking with them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

5 scariest experiences known to man

5. Swimming with sharks in the Bermuda Triangle
4. Conducting a seance at the Amityville Horror house
3. Running through the streets of Islamabad shouting anti-Muslim epithets
2. Shopping at Toys'R'Us on the Saturday before Christmas
1. Shopping at Macy's on the Saturday after Christmas

Monday, December 22, 2008

Double Wrestling Injury

Ethan and I were wrestling on the bed, and somehow we got tangled up and toppled over the edge and both landed right on our heads. We both bonked hard, and I was immediately concerned that Ethan was really hurt, because I knew I'd cracked my head pretty good. Jen and Samuel came rushing in, and Jen went to grab ice packs from the freezer. Meanwhile, I reached up and touched my forehead and realized I was bleeding. Ethan became hysterical, concerned that we both might be bleeding to death.

Apparently we didn't have two ice packs in the freezer, because Jen came back with one ice pack and one frozen package of ravioli, which she applied to Ethan's head. Mine stopped bleeding long enough for us to determine that the cut itself was fairly small but that I'd managed to scrape off the top layer of skin from a wide swath of my forehead. Ethan had a small bump but was otherwise okay. No neck trauma. Jen said something about breaking the fall with my head, and Ethan started giggling.

We recuperated together for a few minutes, then Ethan requested ravioli for dinner.

Christmas Tree

The problem with the $30 trees at the corner deli is that they start turning brown about 15 seconds after you pay the deli guy. Then you not only feel like an idiot, you also feel like a bad father--like the Grinch--for being so cheap that you bought your family a brown Christmas tree.

This year we splurged on a $75 tree. We bypassed the corner deli and went to Zingone Brothers vegetable market on Columbus. They specialize in vegetables, and since a tree is basically a very large vegetable, we trusted their expertise.

They did not disappoint. It is, in fact, much, much nicer than a $30 tree. It reaches almost all the way to the ceiling, it has no glaring missing patches, and--best of all--it has actually remained quite green thus far.

The moral of this story is that the true spirit of Christmas cannot be bought for $30. It costs $75, and it is well worth it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

College Discussion

Todd: What are you going to do with the money you made from your toy sale?

Ethan: Probably save it. Maybe for college. Even though I'll probably hate college just like I hate school.

Todd: I have a secret for you. I didn't like school either, but I liked college. I think you will too.

Ethan: Why?

Todd: No one tells you what to do. You can stay up as late as you want. And when you're in college you don't have to have a job and go to work every day.

Ethan: Is that why you stayed in college until you were about 30?

Todd: You're a smart boy.

Samuel is home

Samuel was gone for two nights on a class trip to Washington, DC. It's the first time he's been gone for two nights. The first night, Ethan cried because he was lonely watching TV by himself, and when he went on the computer to play Dragon Fable he couldn't figure out how without Samuel's help.

The second night, I yelled at Ethan for throwing his shoe in McDonalds, and he just kind of withered and puckered up his face and the tears came again. He hadn't cried in quite awhile--and hadn't acted up in awhile, either--and I think it was all related to Samuel being gone.

When Samuel came home Friday night we put both boys to bed and Ethan told Samuel how much he missed him. Samuel climbed into Ethan's bed and hugged him for a few minutes.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Total Drama Island

Ethan would like me to inform you that Owen won "Total Drama Island." He is jumping up and down and running through the apartment like a madman.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dear Tae Kwon Do gym people

First, thanks for teaching my son Ethan Tae Kwon Do. It has helped him focus, which keeps him from spinning completely off the planet and into outer space.

Second, yes, I agree, the ancient art of Tae Kwon Do is amazing, even mystical. Yes, the way the kids shout things out in unison, do their dance-like moves, kick and hit each other with knives and bamboo poles...all really cool.

In fact, I'd say I'm willing to sit through a good 15--no, 20--minutes of it at the graduation ceremony in order to see Ethan break a board and receive his purple belt.

But after--let's go crazy and say 45 minutes--we were kind of planning to go to brunch, then go home and take the dog out, do laundry, take our other son to a birthday know, non-Tae Kwon Do-related activities. We were kinda thinking that a kids' Tae Kwon Do graduation ceremony would only take up a portion of the day.

Long story short, it occurs to me that maybe I just haven't mastered the ancient art of Patience. I am wondering if you have one of those yoga-type meditation classes? Maybe a 15-minute one? With a really short graduation ceremony?

Saturday, December 6, 2008


#1 ranked Iowa beat #2 ranked Iowa State in front of 16,000 fans--the largest dual wrestling meet attendance in history. It was a dead-even match-up on paper: 5 matches to 5. Iowa State scored the first upset at 133, but Iowa followed with upsets at 141 and 165 to secure the victory.

I was, um, at a Christmas party playing "Trouble" with 7-year-olds and a Labradoodle at the time.

Hey, priorities change.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Strangers May Cheer You Up, Study Says

From the NYT:

In fact, said his co-author, James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at University of California, San Diego, their research found that “if your friend’s friend’s friend becomes happy, that has a bigger impact on you being happy than putting an extra $5,000 in your pocket.”

Where do I sign up for this experiment?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

10 Things to do Over Thanksgiving Weekend

1. Get invited to a party on 77th Street overlooking the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons on Wednesday night. Vow to write a children's book called Stinksgiving Day Parade.

2. Take the train to Princeton Junction, New Jersey and spend Thanksgiving Day with relatives. Make toilet-humor-filled family video that Jen won't allow on YouTube. Remember how great babies smell and how much fun it is to make them laugh by kissing their necks.

3. Photoshop Ethan onto an album cover...just because.

4. Follow Iowa Wrestling on the Internet.

5. Help Ethan sell a book he wrote for 50 cents on the sidewalk at Amsterdam and 82nd. (Yes, he was successful.)

6. Go "ice skating" on the synthetic rink at the Museum of Natural History. (The hot chocolate costs $3.25, and the fake ice is like skating on linoleum sprayed with Pam. But kinda fun nonetheless.)

7. Order cheap Mexican food and eat in.

8. Take Kahlua for a walk in Central Park with the boys after 9pm. Let her run around without her leash.

9. Complain about everything that could be better.

10. Be thankful for everything that could be worse.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Purple Belt

Ethan is scheduled to get his purple belt next month. His instructors feel he's not ready for the more advanced class. They suggested giving him a purple-and-orange-stripe belt instead and keeping him in the orange-belt class.

You would think that after working with kids every day that they'd know not to say to him, "The purple belt class is going to have a lot of older kids who are more advanced. It will be a lot tougher, and I'm not sure you're ready for that. Are you?"

Because if you're a 7-year-old boy, you will say, "Yes. I definitely am."

So they had to bring out their big gun: the 6'4" male instructor, who spoke with Ethan man-to-man and told him he'd get his purple belt but that he'd stay in the same class, "to be a role model to the younger kids."

The crisis was averted, Ethan will get his belt, and all will be right with the world.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obnoxious Song Lyrics of the 60s, 70s, and 80s

The Search is Over, by Survivor

“So if you ever loved me, show me that you give a damn
You'll know for certain the man I really am.”

This is what I said to Jennifer right before she whacked me with that brick.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Walking With Ethan

Ethan: I want to live in a house.

Todd: Instead of an apartment?

Ethan: Uh-huh.

Todd: What do you like about a house?

Ethan: It would have stairs. And I would get a spy toy that can climb stairs and go into different rooms and spy on people.

Todd: We'd have to move out of the city. You'd have to change schools.

Ethan: Who cares? I don't like school anyway.

Todd: And I would have to quit my lucrative job that I love oh so much.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Breakfast With Samuel

Samuel puts extra sugar on his cinnamon toast. He is meticulous about it, covering both sides and all corners. He uses a total of 6 sugar packets. He has a tiny bit left at the end, which he pours into his chocolate milk. He will not start eating until the full routine is completed. He got this from Jennifer's side of the family; I'm almost done by the time he takes his first bite.

What's happening in Samuel's life these days:

He gets along well with John, Lindsey, Ben, Halle, and Leah. He likes his teacher, Mr. Williams. Leah calls Mr. Williams "Darth Williams," but Mr. Williams says he prefers not to be called that.

He wants to build a hover board. He saw a video on You Tube called "How to make hover shoes." John suggested they do it with an old skateboard instead of shoes. So Samuel has a list of things to buy, including large magnets. He wonders where we can buy some large magnets.

He likes "Ben 10 Alien Force" and "Total Drama Island" on Cartoon Network. He also likes the video for "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" by Weird Al. He recites the full lyrics for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Past

In celebration of my angry youth, here's a rare look back at the pre-toddler-loving, profanity-spouting, under-employed Todd Tarpley. Roll tape.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Future

A lot of people start out with optimistic idealism, and as they grow older they become pessimistic and cynical. For reasons unknown, I started out pessimistic and cynical, and as I've gotten older I've become optimistic and idealistic. Go figure.

For starters, I lowered my expectations of other people, and raised my own. More important, I had kids, which fundamentally redefined the way I looked at the world. I have seen two little babies be born and grow into beautiful boys, and as a result I know first-hand that the world contains love and hope and joy.

I didn't think I would be particularly moved by this election, but I'm moved in large part by seeing how much others are moved by it. I'm optimistic for our country, and optimistic for Samuel and Ethan's future, and optimistic that the world really can change.

The world will always be a mixture of wonderful and horrible, and the best we can do is appreciate and nurture and align ourselves with the things that are wonderful, and little by little, maybe we really will make the world a teeny bit better by having been here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Obnoxious Song Lyrics of the 60s, 70s and 80s

Time of the Season, by The Zombies

What’s your name?
Who’s your daddy?
Is he rich like me?

Good pick-up line. Telegraphs right from the start that you're a pompous a-hole without even referencing the big letter L on your forehead.


Our building has a party in the lobby every year, and all the kids go trick-or-treating in the building. Because most of the grown-ups are down in the lobby, they just leave giant bowls of candy outside their doors for the kids to get.

At the end of the evening Ethan had about four times as much candy as Samuel.

Ethan has also become more sophisticated in the past year. I used to just be able to take stuff out of his bag the day after Halloween and he wouldn't even notice. This year he's done a complete inventory and is now auctioning off his overstock of Milky Ways and Butterfingers. So far I've paid 48 cents for 5 "fun size" candy bars and a loose Sweet Tart. I still have $4.38 in change sitting next to me, so the auction continues.

Just bought another Milky Way for 10 cents.

Monday, October 27, 2008


As I was putting Ethan to bed he said, sincerely, "I couldn't talk Mom into getting you a real dog for your birthday, so would it be alright if I just get you a fake one instead?"

I love him for the fact that he tried to get me a(nother) real dog.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Top 10 Major World Events of the Past 2 Weeks

10. Samuel's friend John came over for a playdate and accidentally knocked over Ethan's Imaginext castle. This is about the tenth time his castle has been knocked over. He was inconsolable for about 30 minutes. He was finally cheered up by attention, Nickelodeon, and Froot Loops.

9. Samuel found an old portable TV on the sidewalk, which he hauled in and added to his growing collection of junk electronics, which now includes a circa-1980 Polaroid camera and a broken Blackberry.

8. Jen is preparing for an open house for her fall jewelry collection on Nov. 16, so she has been spending her free time making jewelry and flyers. Take a look: Buy something and tell her I sent you, but don't mention that I said she's been kinda crabby lately.

7. The whole family (including Kahlua) attended my 15-year Yale School of Management reunion picnic. One of my classmates told me about the web site he created, which he runs as a hobby and monetizes via Google AdSense. "Google AdSense," I scoffed. "Tough way to make a living." Then he told me the site generates $25K a month. I about blew Coca-Cola Zero out my nose. I spend too much time with idiots and not enough time with smart people.

6. On the way back from New Haven we stopped in New Canaan and got pumpkins. When we got home the boys started carving them but got bored and stopped midway through, so now they're rotting on the floor, half-carved and full of mold.

5. I had a TV series pitch meeting with Scholastic. Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of surreal, but a friend set it up through a friend of a friend, and so we went in and pitched a concept called "DOG-TV," the world's first TV show and web site created for dogs, about dogs, by dogs. They passed.

4. Ethan went to a "Parent's Night Out" party at his Tae Kwon Do gym last night. Jen had to work late, so Samuel and I had a rare meal together at the diner, followed by a trip to Barnes & Noble. We bought a book called "Goodnight Goon." It was one of those "Damn, I wish I'd thought of that first" moments.

3. Kahlua had to go to the vet to get some gland by her butt drained. That's all I know about it and all I want to know.

2. I went for a run today and beat the rain by 30 seconds.

1. Jennifer bought Halloween candy this morning and warned me not to eat it. So far I've eaten about 8 Snickers, 3 Twix, and 1 Three Musketeers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Late for School

Todd: We just missed the bus. You might be a little late to school this morning.

Ethan: That's okay. I kinda like being late.

Todd: Why?

Ethan: It takes longer before I start getting yelled at.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Well, crap.

So I'm interviewing a job candidate and I explain that our senior print editor is "kind of a gruff, Lou Grant type." I continue talking for a few seconds, then say, "You know who Lou Grant is?"


I turn to my Director of Production, who is sitting in on the interview.

She stares blankly, then shakes her head.

Perhaps there will be Lou Grant skit on SNL next week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Yeah, I know should probably be focused on the Presidential debate, or the fact that we all just lost 20% of our net wealth in the past 5 days. But more important, did you see the Lawrence Welk skit on SNL?


So I guess I'm not so culturally out of touch after all, now, am I?

(I know what you're thinking. No one under the age of 40 watches SNL.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

If Sarah Palin Delivered The Gettysburg Address

Ya know, awhile back, when this great country of ours was formed, it was based on the, on the—what’s the word—ya know, the thought, the idea, that, doggone it, folks are created equal. And to that I say, "Darn tootin’."

But, boy-howdy, these are serious times, and right now, as ya know, we’re fightin’ a war that’s all about protecting our freedom and values and our way of life. And our commanders on the ground, General McClell—Kier—and so on, and so we’re gonna win it, by golly, we are.

Well, someone mentioned, I don’t know if you all realize it, but this actually used to be a battlefield. And so, ya know, I thought it’d be kinda nice to sorta dedicate it, ya know, as a final restin’ place for the folks who gave their lives so the rest of us folks might live. And their reward’s in Heaven, right?

So, I’ve gotta tell ya, it’s kinda, what’s the word—proper, I guess—that we should do this, dontcha think? But, ya know, I’m just your average hockey mom, and I guess you could say that makes me the ultimate Washington outsider, but it just seems to me that, golly, ya know, we can’t really make it any more special than the brave men and women from our armed forces have already made it, am I right? I mean, God bless ’em.

So, anyways, because of that and such, I’m guessin’ the world’s probably not gonna remember all that much about what we say here today, and even if they do it’ll prolly be all filtered and distorted by the liberal media.

But, to be serious for a minute, and I’m just gonna give you the straight talk here, the world can’t forget what those other brave folks did here, it really can’t. And you know, we—us regular folks, Joe Six-Pack, soccer moms and what not—ya know, we gotta step up and continue their work, really get our hands dirty. As we say up there in Alaska, apply a little elbow grease, and just, ya know, get the job done. Cause, ya know somethin’? This nation under God is gonna have a new birth of freedom—I believe that, I really do, by jiminy. And this government of the people, by the people, ya know, about the people and so forth—it’s not gonna perish from the earth. At least not until Armageddon.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Medieval Fair

I'm getting cranky in my old age, but somebody's gonna poke an eye out with all the kids brandishing weapons at the Medieval Fair.

First of all, anyone over the age of 12 who attends the Medieval Fair is, by definition, a little bit mentally, you know, not quite right. So the fact that they're all buying 6-foot steel swords is not too comforting. The next time they lose a Dungeons and Dragons game or get dissed by the Goth chick in Geometry class...I don't wanna be around for that.

Meanwhile, the little kids, the 5- and 6- and 7-year-olds running around swinging the plastic and wooden swords at each other. Where are their parents?

Jennifer and I don't allow that, of course. We limit our kids to small machetes, daggers, and cross-bows.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who is Lawrence Welk?

OMG, I'm, like, so old.

I walked by a colleague's desk today and there was a picture of a conservative-looking man in his 60s--apparently her father. And, thinking I was being funny, I said, "Why do you have a picture of Lawrence Welk on your desk?"

And she said, seriously, "Who's Lawrence Welk?"

So I thought, well, okay, so she's a little light on her cultural literacy. So I asked the person at the cubicle next to her, just to reassure myself, "You know who Lawrence Welk is...right?"

And that person said no. And so did the guy in reception waiting for the elevator, and Tony the assistant down the hall, and Nora the circulation director ("Wait--is he a producer?"). 0 for 5.

Now, I'm not saying it's really all that important, in the scheme of things, to know who Lawrence Welk is. But...this raises a whole new set of insecurities for me. If I make some sort of off-the-cuff comment about, say Olivia Newton-John, will anyone know what I'm talking about? Can I still make a reference like, "She's a regular Marsha Brady?" without seeming like I'm 80? God forbid I should say, "Hey, look at the guy in the white suit, it's Colonel Sanders." Everyone will be texting to their friends: omg he's clueless.

All right, I have to go help Ethan fight some computer battle on Planet Teenager or whatever.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Attack of the Evil Monsters and Spies (preview)

Okay, so for the past year Ethan has refused to cut his hair because he claims he's growing it long "for a movie role." After many months of prodding he finally dictated the script to Jennifer, who dutifully transcribed 8 pages, single-spaced. Locations include a school, an underground laboratory, a helicopter, the mountains above Los Angeles, a cave, and a castle.

The jaw-dropping special effects, including a helicopter crash and the explosion of a castle, will require the purchase of Adobe After-Effects, which I actually promised to buy if I get a new job. (Potential employers and executive recruiters, please note.)

I really want to finish this movie because:

1) I want Ethan to get a haircut before it reaches his butt, and
2) I have another movie I want to shoot with him, for which he needs short hair and for which I've already purchased costumes (i.e. "Officer and a Gentleman" re-make...seriously).

Alas, we've managed to shoot about half of his movie so far. Here's a sneak preview.

Monday, September 15, 2008

First Week of School

Well, it's been one full week of school for the boys, and I'm unhappy to report that I have absolutely no information whatsoever.

Todd: How is school going?

Ethan: Fine.

Todd: What did you do today?

Ethan: Stuff.

Todd: Like what?

Ethan: Boring stuff. I need to go on

Todd: Samuel, how is school going?

Samuel: Good.

Todd: What did you do today?

Samuel: Stuff.

Todd: What kind of stuff?

Samuel: Stuff stuff.

Ethan: Dad, once in "My Gym Partner is a Monkey," Jake was talking to another guy and he said, "What's on Mars?" and the guy said, "Stuff." And Jake said, "What kind of stuff?" And the guy said, "Mars stuff." And Jake said, "Oh, cool, I like Mars stuff." Mom, I made up a pirate karate move. Watch this.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

One thing I love about Samuel

He has a gentle soul that absorbs love and offers it back to anyone who needs it. The world is a better place because of him.

Friday, September 5, 2008

See ya, Astroland

Let's not get all maudlin about it. Yeah, it was the last weekend before it closes for good, so we went to say goodbye. But the press makes it seem like Astroland was the greatest thing since Coca-Cola Zero.

Let me set the record straight: this is simply the end of a crappy, run-down amusement park that happened to be on Coney Island. As far as historic Coney Island icons go, Astroland probably doesn't crack the top 10:

1. The Cyclone.

Built in 1927, it's one of the all-time great wooden coasters. From the crest you can see the beach, the parachute jump, the ocean beyond. It still packs a punch, and what makes it extra cool is the fact that it's a legend. Status: Landmarked since 1991, so it ain't going nowhere.

2. Luna Park.

Opened in 1903, this was arguably the most spectacular of the 3 great amusement parks of Coney Island's early 20th century heyday. (And, no, Astroland was not one of the 3.) Status: It closed in the 1940s. The land on which its fanciful towers, turrets, and twinkling lights once stood is now...well...excuse me while I puke in my throat...

3. Steeplechase Park.

The first of Coney's 3 great parks (opened in 1897), and the longest-lived: it survived until 1964, at which point everyone declared Coney Island officially dead.
Status: The land is now the Brooklyn Cyclones' baseball stadium. Coney Island remains in a coma, yes, but still not quite dead.

4. Dreamland.

The third of Coney's big 3, it only operated from 1904-1911. Attractions included Shoot the Chutes, which launched boats from a tower perched over the beach into a lagoon. (Compare this to Astroland's creaky old crap.)

Status: It burned to the ground in a spectacular inferno in 1911. One of the performing lions managed to escape, badly injured, to roam the streets for several hours while the fire raged. The land is now home to the NY Aquarium. (P.S. The fire started in an attraction called Hell Gate, which was located in the vicinity of the photo below.)

5. Wonder Wheel.

An icon on Coney's skyline since 1920. At 150 feet tall, you can see for miles. Status: Landmarked in 1989, ain't going nowhere.

6. The Parachute Jump.

It was originally built for the 1939 World's Fair, then moved in 1941 to Coney Island, where it helped macho men in uniform impress the girls...which in turn led to the Baby Boom. But that's another story. Status: It ceased operations in 1968, but is now landmarked and is on the skyline to stay.

7. The Thunderbolt.

For 50 years there were 3 very cool and very large roller coasters operating virtually side by side at Coney: the Cyclone, the Tornado, and the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt was the first of these, pre-dating the Cyclone by 2 years. Its steep first drop inspired the design of the Cyclone and many others that came afterwards. Status: the Thunderbolt fell into disrepair and closed for good in 1983. It remained a hulking ruin until it was torn down in 2000.

8. Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs.

They didn't invent the hot dog (more about that below), but they made it famous, and became a Coney Island institution. Status: it's been around since 1908, and still going.

9. The Giant Racer.

There were over thirty coasters built at Coney from 1884 through the 1930s. The Giant Racer, built in 1911, had a beautiful whitewashed structure and was one of the largest coasters ever built at the time. Not only did it precede the Cyclone by 16 years, it was razed to make room for...the Cyclone. Status: Long gone, of course.

10. (Tie)

The Elephant Hotel, a relatively short-lived novelty that, yes, resembled an elephant. Or possibly Feltman's, home of the world's first hot dog (no, not Nathan's--and ironically, it was located on the present-day site of Astroland). Any or all of Coney's three huge, elegant seaside hotels of the late 19th century. Or even the beach itself, where millions have sunbathed, swam, flirted, flexed, and people-watched from the 1800s to the present. (And, okay, maybe even Astroland, which opened in 1962 and had a good 46-year run as the main bearer of Coney's much-dimmed amusement park torch.)

Fine to mourn Astroland's passing, but at least give Coney Island the dignity of acknowledging its much grander history...and hopefully future.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge

It was hot, but it really didn't take very long, and there were guys selling Gatorade out of coolers along the way.

We decided we would not want the job of climbing to the top of the towers every morning to raise the flag.

I was expecting a little more on the Brooklyn side, frankly. There was an ice cream shop with a long line out the door, a pizzeria with a long line down the block, and a sushi restaurant with no one else inside. So we had sushi, then wandered down several blocks of unexciting nothingness until we got to the subway back to the more exciting world of Manhattan.

I'd file this one in the "Good to do every five years" category.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Samuel's friend Datar is sleeping over tonight. So far I have had to issue the following warnings:

"All right. No more hammering. Someone is going to get hurt. Put the hammer and the screwdrivers away."

"Guys? PLEASE keep your pizza plates off the floor and away from Kahlua."

"No, Datar, please do NOT tell Ethan how to build a bomb."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Neopets = Real-Life Drama

Ethan (signing on to Neopets): It's called Hot Dog Hero. You have a limited amount of ketchup which you can use as a little bridge. And mustard is super bouncy so you can use it as a super bouncy bridge. You can use it to bounce up on things. And mayonnaise is used to walk up walls. So that's how you play.

(Ethan makes a mistake.)

Samuel: Ethan! Do you remember how to play?

Ethan: Yep. See?

Samuel: Look out! No, no.

Ethan (panicked): How do I jump?

Samuel: You know when that happens you can draw another line beneath you.

Hot Dog Hero: Way to go! You completed level 1.

Ethan: THAT'S how you play!

Samuel: Ethan, jump to get the pickle!

Ethan: I know how to do it. See?

Samuel: There's the key! More mustard!

Ethan: Got it!

(Ethan misses.)

Ethan: Oh! I'm gonna go with ketchup!

Samuel: Maybe you should go with mayonnaise. You could use mayonnaise and walk right to the door.

Hot Dog Hero: Sorry, but you have run out of hot dogs.

Ethan: Oh, no! (Brightens) I'm gonna play again!

Rye Playland

Yes, we love Rye Playland, but we're not married to it. It has amusement rides, a lake, a beach, even a swimming pool--and, as a bonus, Art Deco architecture. The problem is that it's not quite the best at anything--Lake Compounce has better get-wet attractions, Connecticut and Long Island and Jersey have better beaches, and, you know, Samuel, Ethan, and I--we're adventurers; we can't be tied down.

Still, it has earned its place on the summer checklist, so Samuel and Ethan and I plunked down $75 for three Metro North One-Day Getaway packages on Friday. (We spent another $10 for a car from the Rye train station, because we didn't want to wait another 20 minutes for the stupid public bus, whose schedules are purposely un-synchronized with those of the train, simply to annoy important and busy people like us.)

The boys have mysteriously grown since last summer, so we bravely wandered beyond Kiddie Land for the first time and tried a couple of more manly rides like the Family Flyer (a junior roller coaster) and Go-Karts.

Highlight #1: Standing just outside the Playland Plunge (we were too scared to actually go on it) and getting drenched by the splash.

Highlight #2: Throwing snowballs into Long Island Sound in August, courtesy of a mound of snow recently Zambonied from the indoor ice rink.

Cheap thrills.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One thing I love about Ethan

He can't walk for more than 10 feet without hopping or skipping, and he never goes in a straight line. The world is a better place because of him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Byram Beach, Connecticut

We took a train to Connecticut again (this time with Jennifer!) and went to Byram Beach in Greenwich.

Byram Beach is kind of cool: it's a small, sandy beach on the Sound, and there's a pool right there too, and--best of all--a snack bar that has great $2 hot dogs and frozen Milky Ways.

I say "kind of cool" because--frozen Milky Way not withstanding--I was a little disappointed in the upkeep. The swimming pool is circa-1940--maybe updated with some new surrounding cement and a chain link fence sometime around 1975. The teenagers on duty couldn't even be bothered to hose off the goose poop from the cement, and the beach had some glass, some trash in the water.

This is Greenwich, right? Yeah, okay, maybe it's for all of the losers who can't afford their own pool, or can't manage to make friends with people who have their own pool. But still.

In any case, the pool turned out to be fun despite the goose poop and rusty chain link fence. The beach turned out to be fun despite a bit of litter--we found a dead horshoe crab, which we picked up by the tail, then we found a LIVE one in the water, which we also picked up by its tail. F-U-N. And you simply cannot dislike a place with frozen Milky Ways.

We got back to New York by 6:30, then had a sushi dinner--my choice tonight.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Green's Farms Beach

The boys and I set out on an adventure to Green's Farms, Connecticut. I had previously noted on Google Maps that from the train station it's only a short walk to the beach, and there's a narrow inlet that you can cross to get to Sherwood Island State Beach. That means snack bar, which means frozen Milky Ways, and that's enough to form the basis for a trek.

Unfortunately, our train didn't stop at Green's Farms; it whizzed right on past and didn't stop until Southport. So we walked for an hour and a half back to Green's Farms, arriving at the beach at about 3pm, only to realize that you had to have a beach pass to get in.

Fortunately, the guy on duty obviously did a quick mental calculation--"balding, middle-aged white guy and his two sons walking from the estate section of Green's Farms in nothing but swimsuits on a Friday afternoon"--and said simply, "Enjoy the beach," and waved us through. I tried to be nonchalant, like I was a neighbor of Don Imus or Paul Newman, and waved back as we passed.

Unfortunately, it was high tide, and the little channel that I was so sure we could just walk across was a fast-moving river about 50 feet wide and definitely over our heads. So we just waded around a bit in the seaweed-strewn water, looked at some shells and dead crabs, then trekked over to the Green's Farms station at 4:30 and caught a train back to NYC.

(Fortunately there was a bar car on the train, so we got sodas and pretzels. And when we got home we met Jen for dinner. Unfortunately, it was her choice, so it was a tapas restaurant.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jones Beach

We're in that period of ennui right at the end of summer, a week before school starts and summer ends. However, if we think positive thoughts and cram in as many water activities as we can, we will keep summer from ending.

Jen (who works at the boys' school) is back at work, so I'm using one personal day each week to be with the boys in lieu of paying a babysitter to have all the fun.

Samuel recalled that when he and his friend John went to Jones Beach there were a lot of bugs; that comment immediately sent Ethan into a panic. There were very few bugs, although we did see some jellyfish, which we did not like. We did like the big waves ("tidal waves," if you ask Ethan), and we stayed just long enough to enjoy oursleves without getting sunburned or exhausted. (My digital camera got sand or water in it, so I was forced to abandon it in favor of my camcorder for the rest of the week.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Off

Used a vacation day today and went on an adventure with the boys. said thunderstorms all day, but we said damn the umbrellas, full speed ahead.

Took the #1 train to Christopher Street, walked west past the kinky leather shops (Ethan: "Whoa, look at THAT"). First stop, a quick dip in the new Christopher Street Fountain overlooking the Hudson River.

We headed north, pausing only for a brief photo op with a Weimaraner.

If we'd been on our adventure 30 years earlier, we would've seen the warped remains of Cunard's Pier 51. 100 years prior to that, we might've seen Herman Melville, who worked as a customs inspector at a wharf here. 50 years before that, there was a fort here, built for the War of 1812.

But, alas, in 2008 Pier 51 is a waterside playground.

The sun was still out, so we grabbed a hot dog and headed north again, passing the Cunard steel arch of Pier 54, where Titanic survivors arrived aboard the Carpathia in 1912 and--3 years later--where The Lusitania departed on its final voyage.

We found ourselves at Chelsea Piers, where we hit some balls on the driving range.

Then a game of air hockey at the Chelsea Piers bowling alley.

We burned off the last of our remaining energy at Chelsea Waterside, another very cool playground with lots of water. The storm clouds rolled in around 5:15, we made it to the bus before the downpour, and met Jennifer for dinner at EJ's.