Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

Another year gone
and not much to report
I'm just not a bold
or embellishing sort

Most of my year was spent
earning a buck
and dreaming of finding
a job that won't suck

I wrote some good stories
or so I've been told
They may become books
but they haven't yet sold

I'm not any wiser
It's sad but it's true
There's practically nothing
I learned that was new

I didn't get famous
I didn't get rich
At least I'm not lying
face-down in a ditch

I stayed out of prison
I stayed deep in debt
I didn't go broke
(Though it may happen yet)

I didn't do anything
shameful or lewd
I didn't tweet pics
of myself in the nude

Or assault a hotel maid
or steal from a granny
or father a child
with the family nanny

I didn't get carried away
in a twister
Or marry a f-ing
Kardashian sister

My children got bigger
so big that it's scary
And one of them even
a little bit hairy

They're healthy and happy
And so is my wife
And that, pretty much,
is what matters in life

So I shouldn't complain
but sometimes I still do
Happy new year to me
Happy new year to you

Friday, December 30, 2011


I would be perfectly happy to eat off paper plates and use paper napkins for the rest of my life--throwing everything away after each meal and avoiding ever having to load or unload the dishwasher.

(I rarely load or unload the dishwasher, but that's not the point.)

I do happen to do laundry sometimes, though, and tonight, as I was pulling the whites out of the dryer, I noticed my Grandmother Tarpley's linen napkins. I remember them from the Christmas dinners of my childhood. I didn't even realize we'd used them for our own Christmas dinner this year, along with Jennifer's grandmother's fine china.

But I noticed them tonight, and it made me smile to think of my Grandmother Tarpley and how she would've loved seeing Samuel and Ethan at 13 and 10, and me and Jennifer still happily married after 21 years, and my mom and dad still happily married after 50.

And that's a good reason to use the fine china and linen napkins now and then, if only to remind ourselves that some things in life are disposable, and some things aren't.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Home for the holidays

My mom and dad are spending Christmas with us in NYC. They brought Samuel back with them from Arizona. His architecture workshop at Taliesin West was a success--here's his academic output: a tree house.

We opened our gifts on Christmas morning with Mom and Dad on the sofa and Jen's parents via Skype on the laptop.

Samuel got a pocket watch, Portal 2 potato science kit, and a shirt that plays music.

Ethan got a computer writing tablet, a new pair of Heelies, and a flying inflatible shark.

On Christmas night Jen and I took my parents to see "Avenue Q." I whispered to Jennifer that Ethan would enjoy it. Then suddenly there was a puppet sex scene, and I whispered, "Probably better that they stayed home."

Here's to family.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tarp Street Journal 2011

The holiday photo and newsletter came out pretty good. Not everyone's going to get it, obviously. Maybe had we dressed up as the Kardashians. Alas, I'm a child of the '70s.

Here's a look at some holidays photos from the past...

The newsletter is here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We miss Samuel

Samuel called us this morning from Scottsdale. My mom made him pancakes for breakfast. He's doing fine.

Last night Jen dreamed that Ethan went on a bus by himself to the mall, and she was panicked that he would get lost.

I dreamed that my in-laws took custody of my nephew, and my sister-in-law wanted him back.

Ethan dreamed that he was a back-up dancer for the star of a Disney show, but he wanted both of them to be in the spotlight at the same time.

Funny how our subconscious doesn't simply let us say, "We miss Samuel."

I forgot to ask him what he dreamed about last night.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Busy Saturday

Today was Samuel's first airplane trip alone--to Arizona to visit his grandparents and attend an architecture workshop.

We rented a car to take him to the airport. I signed up for the "whatever is available" rental car option from Thrifty, and this was what they had left on a Saturday in mid-December.

So we immediately put the top down.

We dropped Samuel off at his airport gate, then proceeded directly to Jen's favorite place in the world: Target.

Tonight we went to a holiday party at friends' apartment, where the girls were holding a contest to see which dad could do the best combination of handstand, cartwheel, and splits.

Seriously, was there ever really any doubt?

Santa even showed up...

We miss our Samuel, but he's safe and sound in Scottsdale...probably playing Minecraft on the grandparents' computer at this moment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ethan: "The only thing that makes me feel better about our apartment is watching 'Hoarders.'"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Tree

Things I like about getting ready for Christmas:

1. Picking out a Christmas tree.
2. Reading Samuel and Ethan's Christmas lists.
3. Listening to my niece and nephew tell me their Christmas lists over the phone.
4. Eating the cookies that Jennifer and Ethan made tonight.

Things I don't like about getting ready for Christmas:

1. Getting decorations down from the closet.
2. Tree sap.
3. Pine needles.
4. Having to clean up the house in advance of having a cleaning person come clean the house.

Here's our beautiful tree with a slumbering lump of Cocker Spaniel in front of it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Working on the holiday photo...

We didn't get much done this weekend, but we did manage to get some shots taken for our holiday photo--against a green screen on the living room wall. I've got them in Photoshop and we'll see how much progress I make tonight.

It will be an "album cover" theme this year, in case the visual isn't familiar yet. (We've done "Help" and "Abbey Road" in the past.)

Stand by.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving video

This year: Hitchcock meets ninjas. As always, we can't show the whole thing, but here's the trailer...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ethan's new book

Ethan has been complaining all week that he has to read 10 pages of a book every night for school.

So the first thing he did this weekend was get the new "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" book, which he has been reading for the past two hours.

He just came in to read me a funny part.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Minecraft party!

As everyone in the free world under the age of 18 apparently knows, today is the official release ("not just the beta") of an online virtual world called Minecraft. Samuel and Ethan are having a pizza party with friends, and everyone is playing the game on their laptops together.

For my generation, I think the equivalent was when "Hotel California" came out and we all gathered around the turntable.

Here's some play-by-play to give you a sense of the excitement level...

Cobblestones, yeah!

I'm taking all the supplies!

Hey, Lindsey, where are you?

I found land!

Ethan, where are you?


I'm invincible!

I'm scared!

Samuel, kill the skeleton! Kill it! Kill it!

I'm gonna turn up my render distance!

I see a creeper!

Oh my god, it's a creeper!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dear Baby

I just submitted a new manuscript this week. I started it at the writer's retreat a couple of weeks ago. I was intrigued by the idea of a dad and baby writing love notes to each other...

Dear Baby,
Welcome to the world.
Love, Daddy

Dear Daddy,
Good to be here. Milk, please.
Love, Baby

It always makes me happy to finish a manuscript. Not as good as it feels to sell one, but it's the only part of the process that I can control. In my next life I'll rule the world and things will be better.

In the meantime, I'll keep plugging away and hope for the best.

Dear Baby,
I love nibbling on your belly and making you giggle.
Like this.
Nibble, nibble, nibble.
Love, Daddy

Dear Daddy,
Love, Baby

Monday, November 14, 2011

Do you hate country music?

Okay, but listen to these songs first...I guarantee you'll be humming at least one for the next four hours.

"A Fool Such as I" by Elvis Presley. It was a country hit for Hank Snow before Elvis took it to #2 on the pop charts in 1959.

"End of the World" by Skeeter Davis. A simple, honest, beautiful melody that stands the test of time. #2 on the pop charts in 1963. Amazingly, it also hit #4 on Billboard's R&B chart!

"When Will I Be Loved" by the Everly Brothers. Holy cow--no, that's not a faulty treble setting, that's Phil Everly's damn voice!

"Rock Around With Ollie Vee" by Buddy Holly. Recorded in Nashville in 1956, it was released after "That'll Be the Day" in 1957 but didn't chart. The quintessential rockabilly song.

"I Don't Want to Spoil the Party" by The Beatles. John and Paul channel Phil and Don. This is a lesser-known song from the 1965 "Beatles For Sale" album, and pretty catchy. The Beatles did several other country songs, including Buck Owens' "Act Naturally" and Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't."

This concludes today's public service announcement on behalf of the Country Music Association. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Writer's retreat

I'm on the 5-hour train ride home from a children's book writer's retreat at an historic lodge on Lake George.

It was cold, there was no cell phone reception, and no TV, so I'm lucky to be alive.

But I met some nice editors and fellow writers, got a manuscript critiqued, and got lots of creative inspiration, so it was a win overall.

Would've been better in summer, that's all. (Some people like to look at leaves and drink coffee. I like to jump in the water and drink Coke Zero.)

Here's some free advice, courtesy of a real book editor: the title and first line are by far the most important elements of any picture book.

That's my freebie to you--I just saved you a few hundred bucks. You're welcome.

Okay, one more: "Every day we make new children--let us also make new children's books."

Buddy and Maria's table

This is Ethan sitting at table 53 at P.J. Clarke's on 3rd Avenue, where he and I had an early dinner. It's the table where Buddy Holly proposed to Maria on their first date in 1958. That's their wedding photo on the wall.

I've been on a Buddy Holly kick for the past month, starting around the time I discovered that his NYC apartment is for sale. I've read four Buddy Holly books, scoured the Internet, even sent a letter to his widow, Maria, asking if I can co-author her memoir.

Some people go on month-long drinking binges; I do stuff like this.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Another Halloween is in the books.

Samuel was an Aperture Science test subject from the computer game "Portal." He finished installing the LED lights in his portal gun moments before trick-or-treating began.

Ethan was Rainbow Dash from "My Little Pony," with wings and a magical rainbow tail. Mac, his puppet-who-doesn't-like-to-be-called-a-puppet, was Spider-man.

Hey, we never claimed to have normal kids.

Jennifer was a cat, and I was just a guy with a mask, although in retrospect, I think with just a couple of tweaks we could've been Catwoman and The Riddler. Oh, well.

We tricked-or-treated in our building, then visited friends on 95th Street, where the kids compared their booty.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I get more excited at birthday parties than my kids

I had a great time playing with a four-year-old this evening.

All you have to do is look them in the eyes and listen, and make a surprised face after everything they say, and the world is a great place.

Hanging out with adults is vastly overrated.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Important things I learned at social media conference today

Brands are starting to measure success not simply by impressions but by expressions...

It's important to reach not just users but influencers...

I wonder how many rock'n'roll songs I could list that consist solely of a person's name...

The new key metrics are reach, frequency, and interaction...

Peggy Sue...Maybelline...Long Tall Sally...Donna...


Suzie Q...Rhiannon...Roseanna...Gloria...Jenny (867-5309)...

Sometimes I get the nagging suspicion that I have a limited attention span.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Portal gun update

Samuel stayed up until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights--and is still up at 11pm tonight--working on his portal gun.

He shaved down and shaped the Styrofoam shell, which he'll cover with paper mache, Bondo, and white paint. He also painted the barrel black, and added the central lighting core, which he built out of a clear acrylic plunger handle surrounded by a clear plastic tube. He'll light it with 22 tiny LED lights--11 orange, 11 blue.

He hopes to finish it in time for his Monster Mash party at school on Wednesday.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Buddy Holly's apartment is for sale!!

Man, if I had any money I would be psychotically dangerous.

I'm reading a book about Buddy Holly, and it mentioned that he and his wife Maria lived at 11 Fifth Avenue, apartment 4H, from the fall of 1958 through early 1959, when Buddy was killed in a plane crash while on tour. He recorded several songs here on an old Ampex tape recorder, which have been released in various forms over the years.

So like any normal person would do, I Googled "11 Fifth Avenue 4H" to see what would come up, and--holy crap--it's for sale!

Here's the listing from Brown Harris Stevens. It doesn't mention Buddy Holly, or even that it's apartment 4H. (It came up on a multiple listings site, StreetEasy, as 4H.)

I feel like I need to run out and alert someone. Everyone else in the Tarpley household is strangely uninterested. Doesn't anyone else find this completely cool??

This is like when I told my dermatologist how cool it was that her office was located in the building where Bill Haley and the Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954, and she looked at me like I was insane.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My declining physical prowess

At age 28, when I was still competing in amateur wrestling, I could run three 5-minute miles in a row. For context, that means I could've kept pace with the leaders of the NYC Marathon for three miles before dropping out, exhausted, while they continued on at the same pace for an additional 23 miles. Still, it's faster than most people ever run, and I was proud of that.

By age 38 I could still run three 6-minute miles in a row--or one 5-minute mile, but only if I didn't have to walk the following day. My feeling was, that's still pretty good for an old person, and I was happy with that.

Now, at age 48, I have achilles tendonitis, hamstrings and calves that pull if I move too suddenly, and the first five minutes of every run are spent mumbling, "Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch" until the adrenaline kicks in.

So I'm almost giddy to report that I ran three miles at 6:27 pace last week, and a 5:57 mile yesterday. Frankly, it doesn't even seem all that fast when I'm doing it, but it's like driving an old sports car at 65 mph--you know it probably could go faster, but why tempt fate?

By my calculations, in ten years I will be writing a blog entry saying how excited I am to have run a 7-minute mile. That will be perfectly fine with me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


"They should make a soup called Cannibal's Soup and the noodles would be shaped like people."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekend update

Samuel got his Scooby Snacks recipe published in "Creative Kids" magazine. He submitted it last year, and he's grown so much in the meantime that his photo looks nothing like him.

At the moment he's busy building a portal gun on the living room floor.

Ethan is making a movie called "Fast as a Phoenix," a comedy about life inside a package-shipping company.

Jen and I are finishing up laundry, filling out high school applications for Samuel, and using our psychic powers to will the boys to get their pajamas on and put themselves to bed.