Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Root beer taste test

Samuel and I were at the deli trying to decide which root beer to get, and we decided to let science determine our future buying habits. The contenders: Boylan, Mug, Stewart's, and Stewart's birch beer.

The verdicts?

Judge #1: "I chose Stewart's. It had a traditional, crisp root beer flavor. Runner-up was Mug, which was good but a tad too creamy. I didn't like the cane sugar in Boylan. And the birch beer was too candy-like. I want my root beer to taste like root beer."

Judge #2: "I liked the birch beer the best. It reminded me of Root Beer Barrel candy, which brought back happy memories of when I was a kid. My runner-up was Boylan, which had a unique taste. I thought there was too much vanilla in the Stewart's."

Judge #3: "Mug was my favorite. It just tasted like root beer. Stewart's was my runner-up. The birch beer had the strongest taste, but it was a little too strong. The Boylan didn't taste enough like root beer to me."

In summary, the judges could not reach a consensus. Judge #4, seen in the background, had absolutely no interest in participating in the taste test to break the tie.

Below, Judge #3 attempts a daring Stewart's root beer/birch beer combo. "Hmm. Not bad." 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas in NYC

The streets and subways were uncrowded--except Times Square. The weather was balmy and spring-like. And my parents came to visit. It was a nice, mellow, low-key holiday.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holiday photo

We wish you simple, pure, loud, fast joy in 2016. 

Our holiday newsletter is at Tarp Street Journal.com.

More about the photo here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Miracle of Science, part 2

Okay, whether my body is truly a self-healing miracle of science depends on the meaning of the words "self-healing," "miracle" and "science." And "body."

I had three runs in a row in which my sports hernia didn't bother me--but I felt my left calf muscle starting to pull and had to walk the last half mile each time. I suppose I can claim that it's a miracle of science that my body knows when it's about to pull a muscle.

Then--two nights ago--I ran a 6:31 mile for the first time all year.

Is that fast? Unfortunately, no.

It's fast enough to brag about on my blog, where three people will see it, but not on Facebook, where a hundred people will see it. I could've gone faster, except I was carrying five extra pounds of body weight and concerned about pulling a muscle. Which is another way of saying I could've gone faster in some alternate universe in which it wasn't 2015. Which is another way of saying I really couldn't go any faster.

Here's something that will either make you feel kind of happy or depress the hell out of you: we're never going to be younger than we are today.

I know--shit.

But I'm happy to be alive. We're gonna shed these extra pounds, sell some more manuscripts, get a better job, put Samuel through college, and, dammit, it's all gonna happen.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Almost a Christmas photo

We finally shot our Christmas photo today, and I spent all day editing it in Photoshop.  

I still need to write the newsletter, so we're not quite ready for the reveal, but for we're going for a musical theme again for the third consecutive year. (Hint above.)

For reference...



Monday, December 7, 2015

Do what you love and you will find yourself living in a trailer in Arkansas

When I was a teenager and into my early 20s, I believed that somewhere there was a group of people just like me, and they all hung out together on a beach, probably in southern California, enjoying the sunshine and partying all night.

I even moved to California for a year after college to find those people. I rented a room in a house by the beach, then immediately went to the beach to hang out with all my new friends. There was no one there.

Then it hit me. Everyone is at work. The only people here on weekdays are heroin addicts and retirees walking their poodles.

Making a living is a grind. People like to say "Do what you love and the money will follow," but that's not true. If people only did what they loved, Central Park would be clogged with joggers all day, and we'd all be running through horse crap, because no one would be there to clean it up.

I have a secret. I do what I love--I write children's books--but I do it in my spare time. Because so far I've made enough money from children's books to live in a trailer in Arkansas for six months. Maybe nine if we shot our own squirrels.

To pay for our little apartment in Manhattan, I have to do things I don't always love. I'm not anti-work. I'm just anti-a-hole. Anti-pretense. Anti-BS. Literally or figuratively, we all have our crap to shovel. I don't think I'd be happier living in a trailer in Arkansas and eating squirrel. It's just life. You make trade-offs.

I think the real secret to happiness is balancing doing the things you love with finding honest, decent, smart, funny people to shovel the crap with. That's my goal for 2016.

Who's with me?

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What I did this weekend

1. On Friday night I rushed home to my family and promptly ignored them to watch an Iowa wrestling match on the Internet. I don't think they noticed.

2. On Saturday morning I got up early (i.e. before noon) and went downtown to Books of Wonder to see a reading by author/illustrator Todd Parr. How nice is Todd Parr? He's like Mister Rogers without all the negativity.

I saw my Little, Brown editor, Allison, at the reading. And multiple toddlers that I wanted to play with--if only we lived in a world in which a middle-aged man could walk up to a mom in a bookstore and say, "Can I play with your toddler?" (I did let one of them chew on my Todd Parr book while I was waiting in line for Todd to autograph it.)

3. On Saturday afternoon I went BACK to Books of Wonder to do my Ninja Day reading with fellow author Corey Rosen Schwartz. We had a decent turnout (enough for a baseball team) and we didn't get booed off the stage. Pics below:

4. Today I went for a run around the reservoir, procrastinated from doing any writing or work on finding a higher paying job, and ended the day with burgers from Shake Shack. (Bonus: Samuel just walked in and said, "Dad, do you want the rest of my shake?")

You know, I wish I could cure cancer, end hunger, and persuade people that God doesn't really want them to kill people in his name.

For now, I vow to hang out with positive people: children's authors, children's book editors, toddlers, kids who like to do ninja kicks, mangy Spaniels who crave food and attention, and my own little family whom I love and who loves me in spite of my not paying more attention to them or how we're going to pay our kids' college tuition.

We're still alive, and that's a good first step.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Let me tell you about Books of Wonder

It's NYC's oldest and largest children's bookstore. It's a magical place that has survived the successive onslaughts of Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. It's a place that has created so many memories for so many children over the past thirty-five years that just to set foot in it is like walking into Disneyland on a day that Jim Henson, Dr, Seuss, and Walt Disney are all there to personally greet you.

I would not have set foot in this place in 1980. 

They did not sell T-shirts with the F word across the front. All they sold was children's books. Bah. And if someone had suggested that in thirty-five years I'd be reading my own children's book here, I'd have said, "What's it called? Go the F to Sleep?" Then I'd laugh and flip the perm out of my eyes.

But here I am, baby. And I'm reading with a fellow author, Corey Rosen Schwartz, who likes ninjas so much that she has written not one but two ninja children's books. She is double cool.

We will be there, center stage, this Saturday, December 5, 18 West 18th Street, at 4pm! How big a deal is this, you ask? Todd Parr, the celebrated author/illustrator of over thirty books and creator of a TV show called "ToddWorld" (which I also wish I'd come up with), is doing his reading at 11am. In other words, he's, like, the warm-up act. Shhh--don't tell him.

Come join us. Buy a book and give it to someone little that you love. Spread a little joy--the world needs it.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015