Sunday, February 26, 2017

BTTF with Samuel (and Christopher Lloyd)

I texted Samuel last week to ask if he wanted to see Huey Lewis & the News in concert in Staten Island tonight. But it's a Sunday night, and he has school tomorrow, and the concert wouldn't end until late, and it's a 3-hour drive back to Trinity. So I knew that wasn't going to happen.

Then, on a whim, I searched "Christopher Lloyd." Lo and behold, he was appearing in person in Easton, PA for a live Q&A following a screening of "Back to the Future" on Saturday night (last night). It wasn't quite sold out, so I bought two tickets, reserved a rental car, and Samuel and I drove to Easton early yesterday evening in a raging thunderstorm to see Doc Brown (how fitting).

Samuel and I have both seen the movie so many times that we know every scene and practically every line, but it's always fun to see again. It was great to see Christopher Lloyd in person, who is 78 years old. (Just doing the math, he was seven years younger than I am now when he was in "BTTF." Great Scott. That's heavy, Doc.)

Most of all it was fun being with Samuel, just a dad and his son. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Top 5 things about this weekend

5. The weather topped 60. I went running in the park Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm sore from  running three days in a row. But it feels like summer.

4. We finally caught that damn mouse. We haven't had a mouse in ten years, and about two weeks ago Jen saw a small one peeking out from behind the kitchen stove. We put traps out, including a battery-operated zapper, but no luck. Today Jen said, "Did you just hear a buzzing noise?" The zapper got him.

3. I got a haircut. And can I tell you? I look awesome.

2. Jen and I made reservations for a romantic vacation in the Dominican Republic in March. We haven't been on a romantic vacation since...ever. We haven't even had time to make the damn reservations.

1. I sold a picture book manuscript on Friday. It will be book #8. Caveat: it's not a done deal 'til it's a done deal, so we'll chill on this while the paperwork gets worked out. But the excitement comes when you read the email that you got an offer, not when you sign the contract. So it's #1 this weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Super Diaper Dog

It's true that I've missed having a little one in diapers around the house, but this is not what I had in mind.

Poor little 14-year-old Kahlua is...I don't want to publicly embarrass her, but recently she's begun leaking like a sieve. This kind of thing happens when you live to be 98 in dog years. #nojudgments #illbeoldsomedaytoo

In addition to diapers she's on three different medications to control chronic wheezing. I have to hide the pills in Stella & Chewy's to get her to eat them. She got wise to the little-dab-of-peanut-butter trick pretty quickly and learned how to just swallow the peanut butter and quietly spit out the pill when I wasn't looking.

She also can't hear a thing. When I walk through the front door of our apartment Bailey jumps up and down and runs to get his toy, but Kahlua just sleeps right through it.

She's lived a good life, she's still in good spirits despite the travails of being old, and we're happy to have a little more time with her, however much longer that turns out to be.

Truth be told, the first time I removed her diaper, I heard that familiar sound of sticky tape ripping away from plastic, and it brought back memories. I really do miss having a little one in diapers around the house. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Structure vs. Creativity

I dislike rules. But I like structure.

Structured creativity is more difficult than unbridled creativity. Can you retain the creativity of a story AND make it rhyme? Can you fit it into a traditional story arc (conflict, rising action, climax, resolution)? Can you incorporate traditional picture book elements like repetition and a child protagonist? Structured creativity is a challenge. That makes it fun. 

I chose a career in media because I embrace creativity and chaos. But every morning I write a to-do list. My daily mission is to harness the chaos for the next 24 hours. Structure harnesses creativity and puts it where you want it to go.

Some say that structure is the enemy of creativity. I get that. I kind of agree with that.

But remember that commercial about your brain on drugs?

This is creativity with structure:

This is creativity without:

Any questions?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yale's re-naming of Calhoun College

I'm not a big proponent of talking politics here (or generally anywhere), so allow me a rare exception.

Yale announced that it's renaming Calhoun College, and I was not in favor of it--until today. I'm a Yale grad, and even though I don't think that makes my opinion any more valid than anyone else's, it's my alma mater, and I have an opinion.

Like many on both sides of the political spectrum, I'm not a fan of the current environment on many campuses in which traditional liberal ideals such as free speech and open-mindedness seem to have been hijacked by rigid adherence to "liberal" dogma. People need to be able to have different points of view without being shouted down.

My initial reluctance to the name change may have been influenced by this, but more broadly my concern is that it's a slippery slope to judge the past by current mores. If we go down that road we're going to have to re-name 90% of America, starting with Washington DC (not to mention Columbus Avenue, FDR Drive, and Robert Moses State Beach). There are a lot of problems to be solved in the world--we need to pick our battles.

Like Yale President Salovey, I believe there should be a pretty high bar to justify changing names of Yale's residential colleges, lest they all be renamed each year based on current fashion. I'm pretty sure I could come up with at least one decent reason for changing any of them.

In this case, however, I agree with the committee's justification for the name change--Calhoun didn't contribute anything of significance to Yale, he was controversial even in his own lifetime, and frankly, it was a mistake to name a college after him to begin with.

As long as decisions like this are based on rational discourse and not overzealous mob-think, I'm fine with it. Salovey's email, linked here, is articulate and well-reasoned, and he deserves some kudos for it (he's going to get plenty of blowback too, obviously). I think Yale handled it well, and I'm cool with the outcome.

Best of all, now we can focus on more important things, like Ivanka and Nordstroms.

Thanks--I appreciate your tolerance of my diversion. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Another (two) bite the dust

Despite it being fifty yards away on Amsterdam, we'd been to Cozy's Cuts exactly twice: for Samuel's first haircut in 1998, and for Ethan's first haircut in 2001. So we weren't exactly helping them pay the rent. 

But I liked seeing toddlers through the window getting haircuts. Every block should have something that makes you smile. I'll miss that.

Essentials, at Broadway and 81st, closed over a year ago, but the construction fence is now up and the windows are boarded up, so I suspect the last traces of the store will be erased any day.

Before it was Essentials it was Shakespeare & Company, an indie bookstore that closed in 1996, two years before we moved to the neighborhood...victim of the then-new Barnes & Noble down the block.

Essentials was never a great store. But we remember it as the place where Samuel spent rainy afternoons playing with the Thomas the Tank Engine table set on the second floor--and riding the coin-operated Ernie & Bert fire engine and Dino rides out front. Here's a shot of a dilapidated Dino (and dilapidated awning) from a 2009 Google Street View. Like I said, it was never a great store.

But I miss anything that reminds me of my little Samuel.

Let's end on a high note: Orwashers Bakery is the newest member of the neighborhood, a few doors south of Cozy's.

Weird how the world keeps changing and I'm not in control of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I saw a little girl today wearing a tiara

Grown-ups are really just like little kids, you know? Everyone wants to be a king or a queen or a princess. We just learn to be more subtle about it.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The latest

Ethan performed an acapella solo at his high school "coffee house" last night. He didn't want us to attend, but we promised we would pretend not to know him and vice-versa.

He was one of maybe two acts that hit all the notes. Not trying to be a competitive parent or anything. Just saying.

There's a giant rotating cube sculpture in the middle of Astor Place that all drunk NYU students push. I think I first pushed it in 1982. Happy to report that Jen is no longer an Astor Place cube virgin.

Our apartment building's front door was finally refinished after two years of my monthly complaining to the board. (And I'm even on the board.) See? Was that so damn hard? Our entrance no longer looks like an unfinished Home Depot project. Nicest front door on the block.

I got an unexpected check in the mail. My first picture book, "How About a Kiss for Me?," which is no longer even in print, was licensed to Scholastic. 

Jen and I have not had a romantic vacation since 1997. The money is going toward that.