Saturday, June 30, 2012

Back to NYU

The boys attended a technology "camp" at NYU this week. It brought back memories of 32 summers ago (yikes), when I first attended NYU. I was only 3 years older than Samuel, fresh out of high school, and NYU was the coolest place in the world.

The interesting thing is, it really hasn't changed all that much in 32 years. Most of the buildings and landmarks are the same. It's just gotten "nicer," kind of like the alternate 1985 Hill Valley that Marty McFly returns to. And instead of being Marty, I'm now George.

(An aside: I got the first printing of "Ten Tiny Toes" in the mail last week, and when I opened it in front of my family I said, "If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything," knowing that Samuel would get the joke.)

But back to NYU...

The Astor Place subway station looks pretty much the same, except for the digital display that tells you when the next train is coming, which is a definite improvement. It also looks a little less "Hill Street Blues" than it did back then, if you know what I mean.

The Astor Place cube is still there. If you block out the big glass luxury tower to the right that used to be a seedy parking lot, it looks exactly the same. 

And the Astor Place barber shop, which in 1980 specialized in dyed Mohawks, is still there, though they moved to the basement.

The Delion deli, which was there in 1980, looks like it closed only recently.

Ben's Pizza not only looks exactly the same as it did in 1980, I'm not sure it's even been cleaned since then. And is it my imagination, or is that one of the dudes from The Village People? Time waaaarrrrpp.

The trees look fuller and greener, and the passers-by look less like "Serpico" than they used to. (In fact, I think it's Alicia Silverstone coming down the sidewalk.)

The building where I attended my summer session used to have its first-floor windows covered up. Now there's a cafe there with full-length windows looking out toward Washington Square Park.

And, man, Washington Square Park has never looked so good! Particularly from the 8th floor of the NYU student center!

If I were 17 I'd want to attend a summer session here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

There's a boy in our bed

This morning at around 5am there was a very loud thunderstorm. Kahlua jumped into our bed, shivering and frightened.

Next thing I knew, Ethan was there too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Bob Moulin

Jennifer and I went to a memorial service this weekend for our neighbor Bob, who died last fall. He was an architect, and a dad, and a husband, and a good guy.

The thing I'll always remember him for, aside from the fact that he was kind to my boys, is that he and I tried to buy a set of original blueprints of Fallingwater at auction a couple of years ago.

I saw them posted on the auction site, and having no money whatsoever, I immediatelty sent an email to Bob saying, let's pool our resources and buy them! The estimated value was only $5K because they were in such poor shape, so I figured if we had $10K to spend we'd surely get them. They had to be worth--what, $100K? A million? Original blueprints to the most iconic house of the 20th century?

You know, people value things differently, but Bob and I were of like minds on this one. These were priceless. These were like--how could anyone even auction off such a thing? How could they possibly be valued at $5K?

So together we went down to the auction house to see them in advance, and the agent there pulled them out of their plastic sleeves, and we spread them out on the table and touched them and were about to pee our pants just looking at them.

We agreed to put in $5K each, and we figured, hey, if we get them, we get them; if we don't, it's not the end of the world.

Bob wasn't able to attend the live auction, so I went by myself. I got there a full hour early, so I had to wait for about 60 other lots to be auctioned off. There were only about 30 bidders in the room, all in folding metal chairs, plus the auctioneer and several people manning a phone bank for remote bidders.

With about 10 lots to go my palms were starting to sweat. Most of the items were going for near the minimum, and some weren't even selling. Could it be possible? With 5 lots to go I was visibly shaking. My mouth was dry. My feet were tapping uncontrollably on the floor.

Then the Fallingwater blueprints came up, and the opening bid was $1,000, and I raised my paddle, and then it was $2,000, and then it was $3,000, and I kept raising my paddle. And then it was $6,000, and paddles stopped going up, and suddenly there were only two of us left. Come on, baby, come on, baby, get those damn blueprints. $7,000. $8,000. $9,000. Come on, come on, drop out, you son-of-a-bitch, those are mine! And then it was $10,000. Damn. Damn.

Okay. I'm in. I'm in. I'm in. Come on.

And then it was $11,000.

Damn. Damn.


And then it was $12,000.

And someone else got those damn Fallingwater blueprints.

The last conversation I ever had with Bob was a couple of months before he passed away. He had been diagnosed with cancer. He was looking thin, but he was smiling. He said maybe we could contact the auction house and see if they'd give us the name of the winning bidder. You know, they probably wouldn't do it--why would they do it?--but, hey, he had cancer, right? Maybe they'd make an exception!

We laughed.

He was a good guy. Life is short. Too damn short.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Camelbeach 2012

First (outdoor) waterpark of 2012! This is my new favorite waterpark. Third time we've been, and even on a super-sunny weekend there was never a line more than 5 minutes long.

They don't have extreme attractions here like 10-story straight-drop slides--it's pretty much wave pool, lazy river, and standard slides, but that makes it a little more family friendly and a bit less rowdy teenage testosterone. 13-year-old girls seemed to rule the roost here. Well, and overweight, sunburned dads with toddlers.

What is it with all the tattoos these days, anyway? Holy cripes. That entire cultural phenomenon passed me by, I guess. 

We started with the family raft slide, followed by a tube slide, followed by the wave pool. We took a break for lunch, then did the tube slide again, and the lazy river. Jennifer and Samuel were starting to fade, so Ethan and I went by ourselves on another raft slide. By that point Jennifer and Samuel had already changed into their street clothes, so Ethan changed while I took one more quick dip in the wave pool, then we headed home.

The weather was sunny and mid-80s, everything was clean, everyone was polite, and I don't want to praise it too much--really, you'd be much better off going to Splish Splash or Hurricane Harbor. Also, I'm not going to mention that the parking was free.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Latest book news

"Ten Tiny Toes" is #18 on Amazon's Hot New Releases in New Baby Books. That bodes well, because it won't even be out for another ten weeks.

I really think this one is going to do well, but I'm also trying to be philosophical about it.

If I were a more emotionally balanced, less competitive person, I'd say, "It doesn't matter how many people buy a book I wrote. It doesn't matter if no publisher ever buys another of my manuscripts. It's about the joy of writing, and that's the only part of the process I can control."

To which the real me responds, "Plllltttttt!"

I watch Mo Willems crank out best-selling children's books every 13 minutes. "The Pigeon Flies a Plane." "The Pigeon Eats a Sandwich." "Elephant and Piggy Take Out the Trash." "Knuffle Bunny and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." It's highly annoying.

I love to write about babies and toddlers, because they are the greatest things in the world. They offset all the evil crap that adults do to each other to try and make the world rotten. Babies are the antidote to evil, and the world needs to be reminded of that.

But I'm competitive about it. I like to win.

So...that's where I am. I'm hoping "Ten Tiny Toes" goes big, knocking "KB6: Knuffle Bunny's Revenge" out of the #1 spot, and Mo Willems becomes so depressed that he goes on a 13-minute drinking binge, delaying the release of "KB7: Knuffle Bunny and the Goblet of Fire."

I promise to keep you apprised.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Naked Korean Father's Day

We were hoping to go to a waterpark, but it was too cold.

So we flipped a coin between Rye Playland and a Korean spa in Queens called Spa Castle. Seriously.

"Spa" is not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Father's Day, but I figured it was our best shot at being in water on a 70-degree day, and I also figured it might not be too crowded, because, hey, who would choose to go to a spa on Father's Day?? Except maybe John Travolta.

It turned out to be pretty cool: heated indoor and outdoor pools, and several saunas. We had a great time.

Here were the weird things:

1. In order to shower or even get a towel, you had to walk stark naked into a gargantuan 100x100-foot pool room. And by "shower" I mean there were shower heads on the walls. No stalls or curtains. It was like walking around naked in Macy's. Even worse, it was men-only.

2. The food area had corn dogs, Hagen Daz bars, and sushi.

3. You had to wear Spa Castle-issued shorts and shirts over your swimsuit unless you were in a pool. The women's uniforms were orange, so I had to resist the urge to do gang signals and trade cigarettes with them.

All things considered, we gave it a thumbs up. It was cheaper than actually going to Korea, and more relaxing than actually visiting a women's prison.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

8th grade graduation

We didn't have 8th-grade graduation ceremonies when I was growing up. They just said, "School's out, go home," and everybody left, and when we came back in September we were in 9th grade. Nobody made a big, sappy deal about it.

I went to six different schools between Kindergarten and 8th grade. Samuel went to one--including nursery school and pre-K.

I probably had 250 classmates in 8th grade. Samuel had 3. Four close friends, through thick and thin, in their comfy little schoolhouse on the Upper West Side.

And I never gave a graduation speech, but if I had, I seriously doubt I would've even mentioned my brother or sister, much less said something nice about them. Proof, if anyone needed it, that Samuel is still the sweetest boy in the universe.

Sigh...the slide show. Thank goodness the lights were low during that part. So many memories of my little boy.

I'm a lucky dad. I think that's redundant, but I'll say it anyway.

Playground chalk train tracks

This is what 60-packs of colored chalk are for.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New cheap, ugly sofa

Rather than just declaw the stupid cat, we buy a cheap, ugly sofa every three years to replace the cheap, ugly sofa that the cat has shredded. It works out to a cost of $100/year to have a cheap, ugly, cat-shredded sofa as the focal point of our apartment. But the benefit is that for exactly one week every three years, we have a BRAND NEW, NON-CAT-SCRATCHED, cheap, ugly sofa.

The other options are to have a really nice, plush, leather, cat-shredded sofa that we could only afford to replace every ten years, by which time it would basically look like leather confetti...or get rid of the cat and have a really nice, plush, leather sofa that is infested by mice.

Or, yeah, just declaw the damn cat--my proposed idea, which Jen keeps nixing because she would rather have a shredded sofa than have some anonymous veterinarian think poorly of us.

Anyway, we just got our new cheap, ugly sofa and threw out the old cheap, ugly, cat-shredded sofa. When we took Bailey and Kahlua out for their evening walk, they saw the old sofa sitting at the curb and were so confused that they immediately jumped up on it and sat down to watch TV.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pessimsim vs. Optimism


Ethan: "Mom says I should try to look on the bright side more often. But I don't think it's possible."

Todd: "Well, I guess if you always look at the dark side, you're never disappointed."

Ethan: "That's right."

Todd: "I get it. I was a pessimist too."

Ethan: "Are you still a pessimist?"

Todd: "Nope. One day I became an optimist."

Ethan: "What happened?"

Todd: "I became a dad."

Shakespeare in the Park

We live 800 yards away, but Jen and I have been exactly once--around 1996--and Samuel and Ethan had never been. So when Samuel got an invitation from his classmate, Lindsey, and Lindsey's mom had an extra ticket for me, we figured, "Hey, let's be crazy."

The play was "As You Like It," but it's not like it mattered. The fun part is sitting in an open-air theater in Central Park at dusk with 1,000 close friends watching terrific actors perform just for you. That's what it felt like.

FYI, no photography permitted in the theater. If you look closely you may be able to see security personnel in the background coming to remind us. Luckily we were able to time-travel just before they reached us.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Things I saw on my way to work this morning

Samuel, Lindsey, Elyse and their dogs. Central Park near West 93rd Street, where they were having a pet photo shoot for their 8th grade graduation announcement.

Bailey rolling in the grass.

The Central Park tennis courts.

A very cool bridge to the reservoir running path.

Midtown skyline from the north end of the reservoir.

A soon-to-be-filled playground. A grade-school class arrived as I was passing by.

Fruit vendor at 96th & Lexington.

A good start to the day.

It doesn't suck to be Ethan's dad

Tonight as I was trying and failing to revise a manuscript, Ethan came into the office, sat down next to me and started singing "It's a Fine, Fine Line" from Avenue Q.

If you've never heard that song before, it's a very sweet song about love and heartbreak, and without even any curse words.

So I opened my browser to YouTube and typed in "Avenue Q karaoke," and Ethan and I sang songs together until it was way past bedtime.

He still has the sweetest little voice, even at 11. It was fun to sing with to hear him, to watch him, to see him smile. It's really good to be his dad.

Bonus: our upstairs neighbors and their 6-year-old kids now know every song from Avenue Q--whether they wanted to or not.