Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pool at Tallman State Park

When we were at Tallman State Park for the Studio School picnic in June, we went on an expedition to find the swimming pool, only to discover that it was empty.

So today the boys and I went back, via bus to Piermont, NY.

We figured we'd have the place to ourselves because it's kind of off in the woods, but there were quite a few people there.

The fun lasted less than an hour before a thunder clap compelled the lifeguards to clear the pool. We barely made it the half mile back to the bus shelter when there was a torrential downpour. We made it home alive.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kahlua is 5

Kahlua barks too much, she has a habit of sneezing in your face from one inch away, and she can't stop herself from stealing any morsel of food that's left unattended, even if it's on the table and you've warned her repeatedly NOT to get food from the table.

But these are mere personality quirks.

She loves being petted by strangers, walks to the pet store, car rides to anywhere, wrestling on the bed, and tummy rubs.

She hates thunder and being left alone in the apartment, especially when she sees us leaving with bags. She is also not particularly fond of the cat, whom she knows is evil (but doesn't know that we know it too).

She's a great dog. She may be the greatest dog in the world.

Happy birthday, Kahlua!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Kids

Free advice to couples contemplating parenthood: giving birth to your kids in the summer will save you well over a quarter-million dollars over an 18-year period. While your friends take out second mortgages for winter birthday parties at Kidville, West Side Gym, and Chelsea Piers, you can bring a few bowls of chips and a cake to the playground in July.

Jennifer and I didn't know any better. I've tried persuading her to have a few more kids, based on all the money we could save, but she's not going for it.

In the meantime, some photos from Samuel's friend Leah's mummy-themed party.

"I can touch!"

The Human Water Taxi...

Aaron is happy...

Playground cards...

Playground Moms...

Birthday Girl...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Philadelphia Trip, Day 3

As official family spokesperson in charge of adolescent fun, I was able to negotiate a compromise in which, rather than physically stop to see the Liberty Bell, we simply drove by it in a modified amphibious military vehicle while quacking with plastic duck lips.

The vehicles were known as DUCKs, by virtue of some military acronymn that didn't really make sense (e.g., the letter "D" stood for the fact that they were commissioned in 1942...huh?). Nonetheless, this enabled it to count as an historical attraction.

Finally, on the way back to NYC we made time for one more historical experience, known as Medieval Times. Everyone should experience Medieval Times at least once: there are horses and knights and jousting and swordfights and a king and a queen (she may have been a princess--the storyline was a little hard to follow).

More disturbing were the groups of boisterous grown-ups with no kids in tow, who were either celebrating birthdays or there on some sort of corporate outing. (Note: never work for a company that has corporate outings at Medieval Times.)

The dramatic climax...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Philadelphia Trip, Day 2

As we crossed the bridge from New Jersey into Pennsylvania, I said, "Woo-hoo! We're in Pennsylvania!"

To which Ethan replied, "Is this where Dracula lives?"

We spent the day at the Ben Franklin Institute, a hands-on children's museum. Again, you can see the compromises that make for a successful marriage. (It turned out to be fun.)

The IMAX theater had a domed ceiling like a planetarium. We watched a documentary about the preciousness of water in the American Southwest, narrated by--seriously--Robert Redford.

The pirate exhibit conveniently exited through a gift shop...

Samuel learns about the science of surfing...

Science is hard work...

Hotel beds were made for jumping...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Philadelphia Trip, Day 1

Seriously, lots of people would rather visit the Liberty Bell than waste the summer at a beach or waterpark. People over 75, for example.

But, you know, Jennifer and I are firmly united in our efforts to instill in Samuel and Ethan a keen appreciation of our nation's heritage, and that includes going to boring places like Philadelphia now and then.

(Full disclosure: I do, in fact, have a Master's degree in History, which some might argue was simply a way to avoid getting a job and/or continue to date college women well into my 20s. But I have the diploma, and I'm not above pointing to it in situations like this.)

Jennifer and I mutually agreed that rather than jump right into the full historical experience, we should ease into it by spending Day 1 at a beach. In this case, Ocean Grove, NJ, which actually counted as an historic attraction by virtue of the fact that it was a 19th-century Methodist community, and now has many restored Victorian homes. Enough about that. Here are the beach photos:

Jen and the boys show off the gopher hole that we built entirely out of sand...

Huggable Samuel...

Ethan's March to the Sea. (P.S. That's an historical reference.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lemonade Stand

Samuel and Ethan are trying to raise money to buy something called Bakugan, which, from what I can gather, are a lot like Pokemon, only much different.

So they set up shop at 82nd and Amsterdam on a sizzling afternoon and cleared an impressive $25 in just over an hour, aided by a single $10 transaction courtesy of a frat boy trying to impress his girlfriend. (Not that I'm knocking that.)

Lake Compounce 4th of July

And just in case you want Ethan's COMPLETE, joyous 1-minute description of the Thunder Rapids raft ride...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Retirement Plan

Okay, stay with me.

First, I charter a helicopter tour of the Hamptons, and get Christie on board. Then, when it "mysteriously" crashes off the coast of East Quogue, Chrsitie and I become soulmates, bound by our desire to live life to the fullest.

Disguised as a narcissistic architect/real estate developer/musician with a sex/debt/drinking problem, I woo her into a quick marriage. The wedding takes place at the top of a waterpark slide at midnight, with candles placed around the entire park. Our kids drop flower petals on us as we tube to the bottom in lip-locked embrace.

Then, two years into the marriage--BAM. She discovers that I've secretly adopted over a dozen blonde-haired toddlers, whom I've been hiding in the guest wing of our Hamptons home. She is tipped off when she discovers 9 Ralph Lauren sailboat-print dresses in the online shopping cart of my laptop.

Furious, she files for divorce. I walk away with $2 million, and I probably get to keep most of the kids too.

Jennifer and Samuel and Ethan, meanwhile, have been waiting patiently for me. We have a big dinner at EJ's, then pay off all our debts and retire to a mobile home park in Arkansas.

High-five. Woo!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Nuke the Fridge

So, in case you're the last to hear, the Internet is abuzz with movie fans who are so upset with the atomic bomb scene in "Indiana Jones" (in which Harrison Ford escapes a nuclear blast by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator) that they've coined the term "Nuke the Fridge" to refer to a plot point in a movie that is so asinine that it ruins the entire movie.

It's akin to "Jump the Shark," the buzz word coined back when Fonzie jumped a shark on water skis in the TV series "Happy Days."

The interesting thing about the scene in "Indiana Jones" is not whether it was any less realistic than, say, being dragged under a speeding truck by a whip, experiencing dramatic ambient lighting in an underground cave, or finding Karen Allen attractive at age 65.

The interesting thing was that it was based on an actual event. Here's a quiz (or "nuclear test," if you will):

True or False: There really was a nuclear test that took place in the Nevada desert in the 1950s and involved the destruction of houses and mannequins.

Answer: True. Operation Cue took place in 1955 (not 1957) in the Nevada desert. The test was designed to test the effects of a nuclear blast on several different types of building structures as well as food, clothing, and even, to some degree, people (represented by mannequins).

True or False: The bomb blast took place near "Area 51," a secret military base with a hangar that supposedly housed the remains of an alien.

Answer: True. Ground zero was about 15 miles from the place commonly known as Area 51. The secrecy surrounding Area 51 was due to the fact that it was used in the '50s for testing of the U2 spy plane. That's what one of its hangars contained. The old hangars still exist, but none is nearly as large as the gargantuan warehouse depicted in the "Indiana Jones" movie.

True or False: The bomb blast took place in daylight hours.

Answer: False. It took place at 5:10am. The only light was from the atomic blast itself, which makes the video of the event all the more eerie.

Tue or False: The experiment involved the construction of an entire suburban town, complete with paved streets and an ice cream vendor.

Answer: False. But wouldn't it be cool if it were true? In reality, it involved the construction of only a few structures made of various materials, located at varying distances from ground zero.

It also involved the placement of several vehicles and mobile homes. Mannequins were placed inside some of the structures, as well as out in the open at about 2 miles from ground zero. No paved streets. No ice cream vendor. (There was a refrigerator in one of the homes, seen below in a still frame from the 1955 government film.)
Alas, it would not have been mistaken for a suburban town, either from a distance or up close.

True or false: you can see the remains of the test site on Google Maps, with the mile-circumference scorched desert still faintly visible.

Answer: True! How cool is this??

View Larger Map

Even the shells of the structures are still there. From Ground zero (the center of the circle), follow a straight line at 5-o'clock for one mile and zoom in. There you'll see remnants of the structures. Continue to scroll southeast for another mile and you'll see more.

Here is the map from the government film showing the location of the structures at the mile, 1.5-mile, and 2-mile marks. Compare to Google Maps. (There are no longer structures visible at the 1.5-mile mark.)

Zoom out a little further and pan to the east and you'll see a heavily cratered bomb-testing area from the late '50s; it looks like the surface of the moon. Pan another 10 miles northeast and you'll see Area 51, identifiable by a white lake and airstrip.

True or false: The atomic bomb scene in "Indiana Jones" was so unrealistic that it "nuked the fridge."

Answer: It's a movie. Get a life.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye??

For some reason I had a song in my head tonight: "Let's Just Kiss and Say Goodbye," by The Manhattans. When I started singing it I realized how stupid the lyrics are.

I asked Jennifer, "If someone was breaking up with you and they said, 'Let's just kiss and say goodbye,' would you really want to kiss them?"

She said, "I'd tell him to kiss his own a--."

My thoughts exactly. This is why I married Jennifer.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Mountain Creek Waterpark

Every time we go somewhere halfway cool I want to buy a season pass or, worse, a vacation condo. If we had just a little more money we'd currently be in default on interest-only loans on properties near Rye Playland, Fire Island, Old Greenwich, Lake Compounce, Myrtle Beach, and, after last weekend, Vernon, New Jersey.

The best thing about Mountain Creek is that it has low-tech attractions like a cliff jump and Tarzan swing. Tubes and slides are fun, but there's something kind of primal about jumping off a cliff or swinging from a rope. It's like a waterpark for people who have refrigerators on their front porches and play the banjo.

Samuel and Ethan both inherited Jennifer's Caution Gene, which means they like to stick to things like the toddler pirate ship. (Jennifer used to make Samuel wear a helmet when I took him in the jogging stroller.) It was funny and sweet to see him sliding down the toddler slide going "Wooo-hooo!" with reckless abandon, like it was the biggest ride in the waterpark. He's still the sweetest boy in the universe.

On the way home we stopped for ice cream at Dairy Queen, followed by the obligatory 3-hour stop at Target "to pick up a couple of things." Two sound-asleep boys by the time we got back to Manhattan. Jennifer was asleep soon afterwards.

I stayed up a couple more hours checking out the price of condos in Vernon.