Who’s your Daddy?

Retro-FathersDay-Images-Hammock-Graphics-FairyKFRG

 

“I don’t know what’s more exhausting about parenting: the getting up early, or acting like you know what you’re doing.”

― Jim Gaffigan, from his book, Dad Is Fat

With Father’s Day upon us, it seemed appropriate to have a Father’s Day post.  Aside from Jim Gaffigan’s musings on fatherhood, I’m inspired also by Jimmy Fallon who tweeted this week requesting comments on the “worst advice your father ever gave you” – some were hilarious and really brought me back to thinking about my own father and my transition into another job where I’m uniquely under-qualified.

Jimmy’s own tweet went something like, “Don’t worry about striking out son, at least we’ll get to go home early.”

To be fair, my own experience as a father has actually been tremendous.  From early sleepless nights when the kids were young, to even more sleepless nights when they get older and are out in the evening – it’s basically a job designed for insomniacs.  Don’t kid yourself (pun intended), the skill sets for this role are patience, a controllable gag reflex, a sixth sense about impending danger, patience, diplomacy skills, patience, trust, a sense of humor…and oh, did I mention patience?

The best moments are really when you watch them grow up – crawling, walking, eating, making friends, going to school, playing sports or extra-curricular activities, gaining a sense of humor, handling disappointments and becoming real adults.  Despite the ups and downs, they really become your favorite people in life!

Parents today are a hell of a lot more sensitive to our children’s needs than the old days. Part of it may be due to growing up in a household with a father with an iron hand, or maybe we are not the primary bread-winners and choose to stay home, or we are just PC people who follow the norm of society.  When they are babies we boil the first child’s pacifier when it touches the floor, and by the third child, we just wipe it off on our pants and jam it back in their mouth.  Some of us fathers carry our kids in backpacks, front packs, fanny packs or drive them around in the stroller equivalent of a Porsche.  Those of us from the Baby Boom generation can’t even imagine our fathers doing any of this, in fact I think Mom’s back then pretty much raised the kids and Dad didn’t get involved until there was nothing to “wipe off” anymore.

In my youth, where a bicycle was our XBox, we’d leave the house in the morning and only swing back for lunch and then later for dinner. Unlike today, voicing one’s opinion under the age of 21 wasn’t a smart option.  The thought of talking back to my father was not even on my list of allowable mistakes.  Dad, although very good-natured in general, was a disciplinarian when necessary. Spankings today are cause for litigation, but, have to admit Dad gave me a good spanking once when I did something wrong – and actually he never had to do it again. From that moment on, when I was bad and he asked me to get the paddle from the kitchen drawer, I’d collapse and spent more time crying that I would have with a spanking (with my parents trying to contain their laughter).

Sure there were many more moments which were great with my father; ice-cube and water fights in the kitchen, at a stop light where some idiot leaned on the horn just as the light turns green only to see my father put the car in park and come back to ask “was there something you wanted?”, learning how to train dogs (although I’m horrible at it now), learning how to make a dry Manhattan (see if your 10-year-old can do that.)

Never one to fear voicing his opinion, my father had a real knack for “telling it like it is.”  One story still cracks me up to this day, and sums up Dad for me:

Picture the local town pool in the summer.  My brother and I went to Day Camp there and afterward were told to head to the main pool area to meet our parents. My mother and father and their buddies would show up at noon each day with a thermos of what today’s kids call “Mommy & Daddy juice” and spend the afternoon sunning at the pool and getting a “goon” on.  All of us kids avoided this crowd as much as possible!

The story goes that we’d had the same Pool Director for several years, and he left early one season and was replaced by one of the local high school coaches/physical education teachers.  I think he was probably the football coach; big stocky guy, a bit gruff and imposing.  Unlike the previous Director, nobody seemed to notice this guy – it was as if he were never around the pool and the lifeguards were handling everything.

The parents, loaded up with Mom and Dad juice would complain daily in their group chatter noting, “who is this pool director, has anyone seen him, does he even come to work here?”

One day my father is up in the vestibule by the snack bar looking out over the pool area.  It’s a particularly hot day and he’s eating an ice cream standing next to a stranger, also eating an ice cream.  A little bit of small talk ensues like this:

Dad:  “Hot day and this ice cream really helps.”

Stranger: “No kidding, the pool is really packed today.”

Dad: “Yeah, it is most days and we spend a lot of time here as our kids are on the swim team.”

Stranger: “Really, well – how do you think the pool is running this year?”

Dad: “I guess it’s really going along nicely as it always seems to, but you know, apparently there’s a new Pool Director here, and nobody’s seen him as yet.”

Stranger: “Do you know who I am?”

Dad: “No”

Stranger: “Well, I’m Joe Smith, the new Pool Director…”

Dad (with a grin): “Oh really, so where the Hell have you been?”

Stranger was speechless, and then slipped into a “have been very busy lately, but will be around more” off the cuff answer.

That was Dad, don’t back down, but do it with a smile.

So, I’m no fatherhood expert, but I’ve pretty much taken most of the curriculum without earning a degree (think that’s an honorary degree when your own kids have children). There’s no handbook on being successful in this job except to pay attention to them, be interested in what they do, talk to them, love them whether they are great or unreasonable, and, oh did I mention…..be patient?!

Happy Father’s Day!

Blog Jam!

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Hi everybody, my name is WallyWord…I’m a blogging addict, and it’s been seven months since my last post.

Impressive as it may be to give something up for seven months; this particular stay of addiction isn’t encouraging.  With a job which takes me daily to the bottom of Manhattan and is a time-eating large commute – looking at the computer screen, even on the weekends has become less attractive.  You could say I’m in a blogjam of sorts.

Sure, suppose I could try the voice-activated writing route, but after continual nagging by electronic wenches Siri, and Jane, my GPS, I’m not really interested in chatting up a computer either in the evening or on weekends.

Sometime the creative juices just go on hold, much the way my hair did in the early 90’s.

It’s not like interesting things haven’t happened in the last seven months to chat about, it’s just I haven’t been able to put “pen to paper.”   Even my co-conspirator Hudson has been lab-a-daisical about writing posts, just unable to put “paw to paper.”

The good news is the world and our society are pretty much an open buffet of content ideas for the cynical writing team at WallyWord. Sure, we’ll grab a plate and take a spoonful of Obamacare, just a couple of slices of NSA leaks, one lost plane, and a soup bowl of climate change. Don’t forget to help yourself to drones of all sizes, a boiled Donald Sterling from the Clippers, the overdone Kimye wedding, and finish with a big helping of legalized marijuana.

I’ve decided that abstinence (I know, absence; work with me) doesn’t make the heart grow fonder; it makes one’s followers disappear.  The sad thing is in reviewing our reader statistics that a few of them keep circling back every once in a while to see if WallyWord has emerged from creative hibernation. Followers you can always count on are the spammers, who are signing up in droves weekly.  Like mail-order brides, my guess is they want something more than love from our site.

If you’ve gotten this far in this post, you’re probably thinking “have I dropped into a Seinfeld episode,” and “is anything really happening here?”  Actually, this post is really the first step in a two-step program recognizing that WallyWord has a problem and we’re here to announce we’re dealing with it.  No more waving off the family platter of creativity, its time to dive back in to our addiction in full force.  We’ll be careful not to fall off the wagon too quickly.  Everything in moderation, of course.

Sit down, napkin in your lap and stay tuned to WallyWord for a progressive dinner of sarcasm, wit, deep inner perspective, and engaging dialogue on today’s most critical issues.

You’re all invited (spammers, too) – there’s plenty of seats at the table!

Talladega Nights

Subway Serious – railing on the hottest ride in town

Chambers_st_nyc_subway  NY Subway Map subway platform

With the good fortune of recently being hired by a well-known company to work at their corporate offices in NYC downtown, I’ve been re-introduced to a form of transportation used by thousands daily. The NYC Subway.

I’ve commuted to NYC for most of my 30+ years in the workforce; this is the first time that it’s been necessary for me to go downtown to work via the subway everyday.  Oh sure, I’ve used the subway sporadically all my working life; quick hops to get to appointments, avoiding the rain when there aren’t cabs, lunch with friends, head to Yankee Stadium, etc.

Still fresh in my mind are the fond memories of the underground life in the gory, er glory days of the early ‘80’s before subway car air-conditioning.  Subway cars were covered in graffiti, relatively dirty, loud and the car windows were open all the time. In the summer, riding an express train was your only option for a “cooler” train as the hot air flew through the car at high speeds creating the illusion of a temperature drop.  Coupled with the heat was the unmistakable and highly fragrant presence of the “residents” who roamed beyond the turnstiles.  Often times, one would see people camped out on subway platform benches and in corners, huddled in what I’m sure wasn’t a swaddling cloth, but more like a mangy blanket reeking of a number of unessential scents. Of course this phenomenon was pre-Giuliani administration and then we woke up one morning and this crowd had vanished.

Oh, and I remember using subway tokens, which have now been replaced by Metro Cards.

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Despite the noise and darkness of the underworld, you still can’t beat the subway in NYC for convenience. You can get most anywhere in town and the 5 boroughs for what is now $2.50. The system has improved greatly over the years. Most cars are air-conditioned and it’s working pretty well a good percentage of the time. The maps are clearer, even visible electronically on the trains, and announcements have been introduced telling you about the upcoming station.  For people watchers, you get a view like no other into the diverse NYC population. It’s also a helluva lot cleaner down there as compared to the old days.  Interestingly, like the past, the subway is full of people still mumbling to themselves, but now it’s due to the onset of iPods and Smartphones.

The main thing that hasn’t changed is the temperature.  In the summer months, that underground world is one big convection oven.  Those of you from Phoenix, AZ reading this – no, it isn’t the legendary “dry heat” of your climate. Also, I can assure you that those “things” you see moving on the tracks are likely not geckos or gilas.  Might be an alligator or two, though, but don’t ask.

Yep, at least in my opinion, the heat’s still a big deal. So, if you’re like most subway commuters whether living in NYC or commuting from Penn or Grand Central Stations, the plan is to spend as little time on that subway platform as possible.  It’s a challenging goal, and there’s a real science to timing your entrance to fly through the turnstile trying to get on the train that is sitting in the station right now.  Because the alternative is waiting for the next train which could mean a few minutes or 15+.  If its 15+ you’re going to find yourself feeling like a chicken roasting in a self-basting bag!  In fact, if you wear a suit to work, it’s pretty much guaranteed that post subway ride you’ll be simmering in your own gravy by the time you arrive at work.  Best plan is to find a dry cleaner near the office!

As a public service to subway neophytes who need to navigate the system, I’d like to offer out some things you may see in your travels and some tips:

  • Turnstiles – Make sure to run your MTA card through the slot and pause briefly until it registers. Most males reading this will know this tip as we’ve all had the “please run it through again” message simultaneously flashed while trying to move our crotchal region through the iron bar. Something’s gotta give – and take it from me – it’s not going to be the turnstile.
  • Train platform – the rule of thumb is to stay off the yellow strip for safety, especially when packed.  But you also might find it beneficial to hover under a fan which is blowing cool air which will help with the several minute wait in the convection oven. Those fans seem to be covered in something which looks like a dark sweater, but I try to not think about it
  • Know your locations – after a few rides between the same locations, quickly you’ll discover where you need to stand on the platform and which car to be in to depart right off the train and to the stairs upward and out.  This is essential commuter knowledge to reduce your time in the tube which is the goal
  • Droplets – unless somebody’s Coke just exploded, most likely the drops that fell from the ceiling onto your head would be a really cool sample for a biology student at NYU.  Meaning, get them off there quickly before they grow into something evil
  • Platform crowds – at rush hour, predictably, it will be a mad house on the platform. Be prepared to get jostled by others who are trying to get on the train with you at the same time. Yes, briefly let people off and then jump in. But, don’t be timid, or you’ll be waiting for several trains while continuing the self-basting process
  • Train cars – once on board – depending on the crowd size, you could very well make many new friends in what appears to be tribute to Dirty Dancing. It’s so tight people are seemingly attached to your hip, arm, butt – anything that (we hope) accidentally presses into you while the train is careening. Agoraphobics and claustrophobics, you should take a taxi.
  • Hold onto something – don’t just stand there untethered; grab poles, overhead bars, straps (the old word), your significant other – because the train will inevitably lurch at some point, and no anchor means no more stand up for you. Sitting if fine, but you risk having someone standing right in front of you and leaning in on sharp turns…just keep your book in front of your face!
  • Empty Train CarsDo Not Enter! There’s a reason they’re empty, and it’s not because it’s your lucky day.  Most likely there is a fragrant rider in the car, a crazy person, or a combination of both and they decided they couldn’t make it to the loo. Most riders make this mistake only once; I’m saving you that agony.
  • Portable music – essential on any subway ride, cuts out the noise of the train, the droning electronic announcements, the panhandler spiel, and depending on the tune can be really entertaining. For example last week after waiting 3 trains to get on, I was then crammed inside the fourth, sweating, body to body with some big people, heading uptown at high speeds and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” came on my MP3.  Think my laughter creep-ed out a few people, who stepped away. Hey, whatever works to clear some space!
  • Eye contact – as a NY’er you should know this already; avoid eye contact with all people – choosing instead to read the compelling advertising above. If you do by chance make eye contact, you know you will likely look again – if they are still looking at you, then look away….forever!
  • Exiting – there’s two kinds; from the train and from the station. If you are exiting the train, you have a nanosecond where the hoards on the platform are adhering to the electronic “let ‘em off first” warning. So move quickly or you’ll be trapped on board as the swarm enters. In leaving the station, you’ll immediately notice there are a large number of shufflers – these are the people in no rush whatsoever, similar to a slow driver in the passing lane on a highway. You need to move around them and at a pace just ahead of the crowd to work your way out. By the way, in a large station with hundreds of people, no eye contact works well here as well – just keep looking forward and although you see that large person peripherally about to smash into you, don’t look at them – just bravely go forward, most times you’ll find your own right of way without collision!

Hope these suggestions help and I have to say that despite the high temperatures, in the end the subway’s a lot cheaper than a taxi ride each way everyday and often times a lot faster – and for me a necessary evil.

Good luck, and oh, and most importantly – as they say in the UK underground – Mind the Gap!

mind the gap

Keep on Truckin’

chuckwagonKeep_On_TruckinFood Truck

There’s an old saying which is that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Those that know this author well know that I’ve always been a chowhound; but that label and the above statement have been even truer for me over the last several weeks.

I’ve recently started working for a large global company based in downtown NYC. Our offices are located in the World Financial Center (WFC).  From my home in the burbs, it’s quite the commute most days, but its well worth it as my new-found love of culinary delights delivered via a window in a vehicle is sure to pack on the pounds – so the longer walk to work is welcome!

While the WFC has a number of indoor restaurants and specialty shops providing decent chow from coffee to sandwiches to salads to soups and more – the culinary masterpieces I crave are outside in the ever-changing restaurant on four wheels, the Food Truck.

Look, I know that buying food from a vendor cart is not a new phenomenon. For years I got my coffee and buttered roll from a cart right in front of the building where I worked. You couldn’t beat the convenience and they always slapped way too much butter on the roll…no probs, butter happens to be one of my favorite food groups!  In NYC, one learns pretty quickly where to go (and not to go) to get their street food…for instance Sabrett carts are great places for hot dogs and sausages, but steer clear of the ones with the old umbrellas!

However, the four-wheel food truck is essentially a new phenomenon for me and has apparently been around since the ChuckWagon days in the late 1800’s.

But, some would say a food truck is the new hot business venture

My foodie daughter and her boyfriend who operate Full Belly Blog have talked for sometime how they would like to open a food truck and what they want to serve.  While discussing their dream the menu keeps changing, but the constant theme is driving your own office to work and sharing your passion of food with others.

That conversation was basically intangible to me until I ventured one day onto Vesey Street and Brookfield Place.

Each weekday, there are 4-5 food trucks stationed outside in the square during the lunch hour. If so inclined, one can purchase anything – burgers & fries, barbecue, Vietnamese food, Greek food, cheese steaks, Chinese food, salads, grilled cheese, milkshakes, Mexican food, even Lobster rolls…and I’m sure I’ve missed a country or food type somewhere!  Prices generally range from about $5 to a max of $14, which I think is a food truck rule of thumb (cheap and plentiful), and so far at least, the food is almost always terrific!

OK, this is a problem for a food addict like me.  I’ll leave the office thinking “let’s get a salad today” and then gravitate over to the truck area and end up with a ham & Gruyère grilled cheese with Colman’s mustard on rosemary bread the size of a Frisbee. Yes, I’ll have the Old Bay fries with that, thanks.

Or it will be, “just a cup of vegetable soup today”…and oops, it’s a cheese steak with hot peppers and onions the size of a small dachshund.

Yes, I’m very weak-willed as making questionable dietary food choices occurs almost daily. I suspect the calories will add up or as my children like to say – I’m going to put on the “Food Truck 15” pretty soon!

You’ve got to try it.  These trucks show up daily in certain locations – try the NYCTruckFood link online, and they have an app for it. World Financial Center lists its daily food truck schedule online – and the truck’s themselves have sites and post on Twitter where they will be on certain days. Or if you just love street food in general, NY Street Food is a good link.

While it’s too early to share my favorites; make sure to look back here, as I might provide a few quick reviews purely as a public service…and, well, excuse to eat.

Warning though…like everything in life, you’d better munch in moderation…I’m personally not there yet – but I’m pretty sure there’s a sensible salad with lemon juice dressing in my future!

Until then, just Keep on Truckin’!

The End of the Affair 2013

They say most blogs are disguised personal therapy….if that’s so, then I’m happy to have this blog to carry me through a recent big life change!

Well, you knew it had to happen. Sometimes even the most longstanding relationships eventually come to an end.  After spending years together, you think you know each other, get comfortable in a routine, and then all of a sudden one day it becomes painfully clear a change is necessary.

For me, this particular relationship lasted for nearly 15 years.  When we were younger it was different – I was just starting a new career and my significant other was the popular model in town.  Life was great “right out of the box.” We went hand-in-hand everyday, virtually inseparable; morning, noon and night. We always felt like we were plugged in. Even when I was travelling to Europe on business, we were still connected and I thought our communication was even better. Best of all in this relationship was our ability to grow together over the years. Somehow each of us was always improving in what we did for a living, and that enhanced our fitting together as a couple!

Love is truly blind.

Other people I know, even my own family members, saw the end coming though. Despite the well-intentioned suggestions to change my relationship status, I stood my ground – determined to make this work.  Look, it wasn’t like I didn’t notice things were slipping – oddly, I had made a mental note every two years to reassess the relationship before moving forward. It wasn’t an assessment as much as a perfunctory consideration to keep our “contract” going. You see, I became convinced that after that much time together, we were inseparable – and so it just made sense to keep on going.

Then one day things finally began to change noticeably in our relationship. There was a breakdown in our ability to communicate with each other.  We worked on it, but it wasn’t a battery/energy thing – it just seemed like our “relationship software” was corrupted. I wasn’t getting my messages, and it seemed like it was almost impossible for us to stay in sync.  Don’t think I didn’t try – I read blogs and websites devoted to making a relationship like this work better; but, sadly there were no answers. In fact, others on those blogs had expressed similar dissatisfaction with their relationships, and said they had moved on.

This was the catalyst which forced me to assess the relationship once more.  We were about to hit an anniversary, and I became convinced that we’d lost touch with each other and I also knew there were other, more interesting options out there.

I mean, when you can’t count on each other any longer, then what do you have?

So it was just last weekend I decided to trade my existing relationship in for a new model.  I’m glad I did. While initially sad at the change, I just couldn’t carry the torch any longer.

On the plus side, I quickly entered into a new and more exciting relationship. One which was more in tune with the energy of today’s couples – lots of excitement, new things to explore; we are even playing games together.  I’m not hung up on body types; but this current handholder is thinner and lighter.  Importantly, our communication is just as good, if not better, and so I’m thrilled to be able to get what was the best part of my former relationship…and more!  So,

Goodbye BlackBerry, Hello IPhone5!

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Gere-ing up for a house sale…

PR house 2010 Richard-Gere

 

“Get your ass over here now, Richard Gere will be here in a few minutes!”

That’s the order my mother barked out to my wife April, who was sitting at her desk in Stamford, CT at 3:00pm in the afternoon, about 15 or so miles away, and unable to leave the office that day. Sadly.

Yes, this was the actual Richard Gere, coming to my family home for a second or third visit as the family house was up for sale and he might be interested in buying.

The time was somewhere in the early 90’s. The only one living at our old family house was my mother Nancy (who deserves a blog post of her own someday), and the usual collection of dogs and cats. The house was a classic. 200 years old, it was on the bi-centennial tour in 1976 in Pound Ridge, NY, somehow lasting all those years and as mom would say, “wearing out the teeth of termites for generations.”

However, Nancy had decided enough already; my brother and I had married and moved out and it made no sense for her to stay in the house. She was going to sell and move to a nice condo area up-county, making life much easier on all of us.  Besides, lots of work was needed (you’ve likely read on this blog about all the dogs & cats we owned) to keep this place up, and it was just better “to unload it.”

This 4-bedroom colonial house sat on thirteen acres or so and faced the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, a 3,000+ acre, “never-to-be-developed” area.  My mother had subdivided the property to sell a portion with the house on it, and some land in the back in a separate parcel closer to the Reservation.

Richard Gere, or “Richard” as my mother called him, was then engaged or married to Cindy Crawford the fashion model.  As Mom would tell it – usually over a dry Manhattan with a twist – Richard and Cindy came by out of the blue one day to look at the house.  They already had property in town; but she got the sense that Richard was looking for an old fixer-upper. They walked all around, and it was clear, at least to my mother, that Richard liked the house more than Cindy did, but they still took the time to look and think about the possibilities.

Less than a week later, one weekday afternoon my mother is awakened from her nap (she tended to nap on days where she had lunch with her buddies and a couple of “bloodys”), by a knock at the door…the exchange goes like this:

Mom, from the upstairs window – “Who’s there?”

Voice below at the front door – “It’s Richard.”

Mom – “Richard who?”

Voice below – “Gere”

Mom – “Oh, what the hell do you want?”

Voice below – “Sorry for not calling first, but I was hoping to get another look at the house…”

Mom – “Hold on, let me get dressed…”

Richard was alone and wanted to take another look at the house.  He ended up spending a quite a few minutes there, looking at the house, asking questions about its history. Finally, he said he would “come back with Cindy again” at some point for a final look. My mother would often joke about how she (“a short, fat woman”) and Richard were on a first name basis…

A few days later, Richard called the house in the afternoon and alerted my mother that they would be over in about 20 minutes.  My mother hung up the phone and immediately called my wife at work with her signature whiskey and cigarette growl “get your ass over here April; Richard and Cindy are coming in 20 minutes!” Unfortunately, my wife had a meeting to go to and couldn’t break away, and I know is still kicking herself to this day.

Me? I was in NYC at work, and when Mom called me later to say they were over, my only thought was to seek confirmation that “Cindy Crawford had been standing in my bedroom”…you see, that very line would last me quite awhile in bar discussions with buddies, and nobody needed to know I wasn’t actually there at the time!

The end story is that Richard and Cindy ended up not buying the house after all, but purchased the property in the back of the house which actually abutted their existing property.  I guess you could say he was “A Gentleman, but no Offer.”

Entertainment junkies like me know that they have since split up and Richard is married to Carrie Lowell and they still live in the area and operate the Bedford Post Inn.  I understand the restaurant is terrific.

One other relevant piece – a few months after the above story I was on a business trip in LA, and my wife was with me. We were dining one evening at the Ivy in Santa Monica and behold, two tables over was Richard Gere having dinner as well.  He left before we did, and as it happened when we left and walked up the street, his limo was waiting.  We passed by and all of a sudden he popped out of the shadows for a second and then hopped in the car.

My wife was egging me on to go up and say hello before he got in the car, and I really wanted to yell out to him that “Nancy from Pound Ridge says hello,” hoping he would have engaged us in conversation. I chickened out and regret not giving it a try, but didn’t want to bother him during private time.  Must have been the Pound-Ridger in me…although, maybe “Richard” will read this post and reach out to me to say hello!

Hudson’s View; Our Animal Farm…it’s not Orwellian, but the revolution is here

Hudwoodchuck babieswoodchuck

Sorry, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  I get started on something and my claws don’t work really well on the keyboard. Actually waiting for a voice-activated technology to help me, but afraid all my posts will just end up saying Woof, Woof.

My column is called Hudson’s View, and I aside from my naturally cynical nature, the fact is I’ve really only got two views – the front yard and the backyard.  And to be clear, I support both views wholeheartedly!

This post is about the growing animal farm in the backyard.  First of all, there isn’t that much space there and a small barn takes up the back corner; so extra “residents” are very noticeable.  It’s teeming with animal life. Deer routinely march through there despite my barking “get off the lawn,” although, to be fair, that probably sounds more like woof, woof.  In addition, an aggressive Robin stands in the yard gathering stuff everyday, unflappable (ha, ha get it?); acting like it owns the place. There is also a cardinal who lands there occasionally, and Wally’s convinced it’s his late father stopping by to say hello as the cardinal was his dad’s favorite bird.  Right. Stay off the martini’s Wally.

However, the most interesting of the visitors has actually now become a permanent resident under the barn as evidenced by the large hole next to it.  That visitor would be a woodchuck or groundhog.

It’s really a message about the economy if this poor groundhog has to live under a barn. I mean, get a meaningful job already. Punxsutawney Phil is working; sure, its only one day a year…but at least he’s pulling down a paychuck.  Yuk, yuk.

Anyway, our boarder “Woody,” as Wally named him with glaring unoriginality, was the sole proprietor of the back yard for about a year. He’d come and go randomly, I might try to chase him occasionally, but he’d have none of that – running into the woods or behind the barn. I then noticed one day that there was another woodchuck hanging in the yard with him, and just assumed it was his significant other…and so we decided to call her – Woodina. Equally lame name.

How do we know she is female?

Well, pretty simple. When the snow finally cleared away this spring, Woody, Woodina and three little woodchucks rambled out from under the barn.  It’s a mob scene, but these guys aren’t revolting (my nod to Animal Farm), they’re actually pretty cute; scurrying around the backyard munching on grass and I’m sure trying to avoid some of the stuff I leave lying around the yard.  They come out at the same times of the day to dine, often chasing that aggressive robin across the lawn.  When the family drives in the driveway, the crowd all hot-foot’s it back under the barn, multiple noses poking out to see when the commotion clears.

I’ve never gotten close to these guys at all, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Wally generally keeps me on a leash, so when I hit the yard and it was only Woody and Woodina…they were gone in a flash.  It’s a bit different however with their kids; they don’t move as quickly, not really understanding, or probably not paying attention in woodchuck school…yeah, we got a lot of not paying attention in school going on in this house as well!

Anyway, one day last week, Wally takes me out on the leash and we see one of the parent woodchucks make a bee-line to the barn. As we enter the backyard, we see that one of the woodchuckettes (let’s call him Chuck Woodery, ya know, like the game show host), didn’t notice and we were between it and the barn.  Chuck, sensing us there, scrunched down as low in the grass as he could probably with the thought that we wouldn’t see him.  We saw him. Wally let me get a little bit closer, but have to admit I was a bit afraid…all the while, Chuck Woodery just flattened himself further really believing he looked like part of the lawn.

I decided not to bother him and went on about my business.  He never moved. Finally, I went back into the house, and I assume Chuck took off for home when we went inside.

Happy to have those hogs around to make life interesting and to keep that snooty robin in his place! But, I know I’m faster than all of them and Wally says he’ll let me off the leash someday so I can chase them…although, what would I do if I caught one? But in the end, it’s my job to make sure the backyard revolution doesn’t get out of hand.  So, I’m just content to keep Woody, Woodina, Chuck Woodery and the chuckettes on their toes, earning a “good job Hud” with a pat on the head when back at the house!

And THAT, pretty much makes my day…

My first Yankee Game – June 8, 1967

yankee stadium oldmickey_mantle_

Amazing what your mind will remember. Can’t remember the name of the person I met 15 minutes ago at a cocktail party, but somehow remember my kindergarten classroom and teacher like it was yesterday.  We’ve all been there and I’m sure there’s a medical term for this which I really don’t need to know about right now – as I’ll probably forget it by the end of this post.

Not the least embarrassed to admit that The Yankees are my favorite sports team.  Yes, because I grew up in the New York area, and No, not because they have the largest payroll in sports.  To those detractors who are thinking “sure, he likes them because they win all the time and it’s easy to root for a winner” – you’ve got no clue.  My love of this team started with my very first Yankee game in 1967, when the Yankees were terrible with a record under .500.

It’s funny as I was trying to organize this post I remembered a bunch of odd moments, players, home runs, events and stories of that night…and was able to confirm some of it through the wonder of the Internet. Thanks Al Gore.

The story begins around my 10th birthday in June.  My father, an advertising executive at BBDO, is given tickets by an advertising sales buddy at Sports Illustrated (“SI” for those who know publishing) nicknamed the Bear, a close family friend for years.  Oh, yes there’s a bunch of “the Bear” stories too, but I would need his family’s permission before sharing those!  Anyway, Bear gives my father the four tickets to the Yankee Game on June 8th, 1967 vs. the Washington Senators; a couple of days before my 10th birthday and it just so happens we’re in the Sports Illustrated box!

Well, like any kid would be – I’m crazy excited, as is my younger brother Chris.  We’re talking about bringing our baseball gloves to catch foul balls and eating endless hot dogs; this game is going to be great…but, there’s always a catch

On the day of the game, my father announces that we will both need to dress up in coat & tie for the game.  We’re thinking…what, it’s a baseball game? Well, it seems that these tickets included a pass to the Stadium Club where one can have a proper dinner and of course, a cocktail, therefore everybody had to be dressed appropriately. My parents, long time dry Manhattan drinkers, loved this idea because they could have a couple of “pops” pre-game (or as my kids call it now – pre-gaming), and avoid having to swallow a listless stadium draft beer – probably Ballantine.

Wonderful. No, we won’t stand out at all at ages 10 and 8 looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy’s.  Figuring we looked like geeks in our blazers already, Chris and I passed on bringing our mitts to the game. Besides, they just didn’t go with our outfits.

We finished dinner at the Stadium Club (I think Chris and I still had hot dogs, but we held off the Manhattans) and headed to our seats, which were near the dugout, about 6 rows back from First Base – yeah, the base that Mickey Mantle played.  It was a great night. I remember a few of the players; Joe Pepitone, Horace Clarke, Tom Tresh, Mickey…good stuff.  The game turns out to be really exciting, lots of runs scored by the Yankees, and Jake Gibbs the catcher hits a home run to right field.  At a moment during the game, the scoreboard announces that the “Yankees Welcome Joe Louis” to the stadium and there’s a bit of commotion around us as this enormous man stands up a row over and begins shaking hands with people.  My brother and I ask – “Who’s Joe Louis?” The look on our parent’s faces is indescribable…maybe “incredulous” or “disdainful” might summarize it.  Hey, look we’re only 10 and 8, we don’t watch boxing, we box each other!

The highlight of the evening however is a moment where a foul ball gets hit extremely high in the air toward the first base section. My mother screams “Wally, go catch it…”

I run down the aisle to the edge, only to be facing a very large pinstriped #7 in front of me, who catches the foul ball, ending the inning.  Heart still pounding that I was that close to Mickey Mantle; I run back to the seat out of breath and floored that I’d seen my favorite player.  Chris immediately asks me why I didn’t catch the ball…I pause for a moment, and then told him “I was going to catch it…but then changed my mind” and said “you take it, Mick.” You know, I think my brother bought that story for years and may still believe it today…

Have been to many more games at Yankee Stadium, both old and new, but will always remember my first visit the best…and of course my “conversation with Mantle.”  We’ll never know if I really said that or not, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

By the way….here’s the box score…oddly; there was no mention of my interaction with Mickey.

June 8, 1967

Poor golfing, like ignored crushes and reckless driving, are fore gone conclusions!

prince-golf-course-825x525-2c mario-kart-

 

Spring is in the air in the northeast, well, that’s if a 60 degree day excites you. Despite the teasingly slow rise in temperature there are several things which signal the change in season – aggressive crocus pushing its way out of the ground, a lawn which resembles my hairline (some growing in some places, some not growing in others), and The Masters.

To me The Masters Golf tournament in early April signals the onset of Spring whether the rest of the country is ready or not. It’s inspirational – the golf course always looks great; the flowers are in bloom and most everybody is looking out their own windows saying, “do we live in the same country as Augusta, Georgia?”

The sport of golf for me has always been a love/hate relationship. It reminds me of a middle school crush on a girl who doesn’t even know you’re alive, or just doesn’t care. That’s golf. You would do anything to be good in the sport; buy the best equipment, go to the driving range, take lessons, and travel to great courses…and “she” just ignores your “crush” by letting you spend a day driving out-of-bounds on every tee shot!

Some may ask why I would even take up this sport, well here’s my story…

My lovely wife and I met in college. As those who have been in any relationships, getting along with the parents is the key to success.  My late father-in-law (called Dadoo later by his grandchildren) was a dentist who adored his game of golf.  He would play every weekend, and sneak out on the occasional afternoon because he could make his own schedule.  When it was clear that I was going to be hanging around the family for a while, Dadoo asked me whether I’d ever played golf before or would be interested in picking up the sport…relationship-builder that I am, of course said yes, and we were off.

I’m sure most of you know that in nearly all cases, “dentist” means “perfectionist” and so he clearly operated by the rules in his work and on the golf course.  Fine with me; I’d had some exposure to the sport in high school, as my roommate taught me the fine art of caddying while he played our school course. So, I was pretty well schooled in the etiquette of the sport, but never really swung a club with much success.

Dadoo would take me to his local club to play and on family vacations as well.  Patience was definitely a virtue as I went through a horrid period of learning the game.  Like any perfectionist, Dadoo held me to following the rules early on…out of bounds – tee it up again, count all the strokes, handing out very few gimmies.  A decent and consistent golfer, when we would go to places like Myrtle Beach with great courses, Dadoo was happy to take me to the “goat patch” type courses which were cheap and full of hackers like me. Have to say as I’ve taken my own children to these courses as well, and I’ve had new-found respect for Dadoo (and his commitment to my learning the game) who had to just hate playing on those tracks.

Well, finally my game was up to speed and I was allowed out to play with the big boys.  Our family vacations were lots of fun as we would play great courses, and always hold the “in-laws vs. the outlaws” tournament each year for bragging rights over many, many Coors Lights.

When not on vacation, Dadoo would come to our area and bring his clubs. Not having a local club membership, we were often victims of the public courses in the area both in terms of cost, quality and long, long waiting times and rounds of golf.

One such course was in the town next to ours and had a strict rule about non-residents teeing off after 2pm.  The course was a goat path (sparse and hilly), where a bike helmet would have made more sense than a visor…but hey, it was golf.

One weekend, we had a relatively late tee time.  We had contracted a golf cart, and the dude (clearly from the Sopranos cast) behind the desk in the pro shop said that he didn’t care if we were playing 18 holes – he wanted the cart back at 5pm. Agreeing to the terms, off we went.

I remember that we made the turn and teed off of the 10th hole, probably around 4:50 pm.  We discussed the cart situation and decided we weren’t going to walk with our bags as we couldn’t be back by dark.

I think it was after we teed off of the 11th hole and as we were proceeding to our balls in the fairway a scene out of Mario Karts occurred. Chasing, yes chasing us were two other carts from the pro shop, one of which had our Soprano friend driving and screaming for us to return the cart.  Picture Mario and Luigi being attacked by Donkey Kong. Adding to the horror is if you’d ever been in a car with Dadoo, you would know this wouldn’t deter him…in fact, he simply sped up and the race was on…up and down hills!

Yes, they finally caught us and ordered us (‘youse) to”get the damn carts back now”….which we did and decided to head home….laughing all the way.

Dadoo and I did go back to the course the next year only to learn from a memorial sign near the putting green that our Soprano’s guy had passed away that winter…our guess it was from reckless golf cart operating (Mario Kart karma?)…or maybe he simply chased the wrong guy!

Not sure I’ll ever be a consistent golfer, but have Dadoo to thank for introducing me to the sport that I still have a “crush” on and won’t pay attention to me….

C’mon golf, we don’t have to date – can we at least be friends?

Ivory Slope ‘ya Dope – My first (and last) time skiing

downhill-skiing-1-206x300 skiing-injury-prevention

 

Although it’s a bit late in the season for a post on skiing; the President’s Day holiday (a favorite ski getaway weekend) reminded me of my first…and only…time skiing.

Those that know me well are aware that I only participate sports which need limited athletic equipment; for instance – a swimsuit, goggles and a cocktail shaker (I’m talking about two different sports of course). Winter sports was never my thing, but my father was an avid skier in his day, so one would assume I possessed a decent gene pool for the sport. But because he was older, as a family we never had an opportunity to hit the slopes.  Also, as I was usually swimming in the winters, skiing was never on my radar screen.

Well, one day several years ago, that would change.

Believe it was the late nineties, as I was in my early forties at the time. With a three-day weekend in process and a Monday off; my friend Mike called to suggest we take our two oldest boys skiing on that Monday. I told him that while my son had skied with friends before, I hadn’t been to a ski slope – ever…he said, “C’mon, give it a try, it would be fun and there are beginner slopes.” So, I reluctantly agreed.

Piling the boys into the SUV early in the morning, we headed up to Butternut Resort just over the Connecticut border in Massachusetts. Everybody was buzzing with excitement in the car, while I spent the ride asking myself why I would decide to do this in my 40’s when broken bones don’t mend quickly…and trying to recall what kind of coverage I had on my life insurance – hoping I’d remembered to pay the premium.

Arriving at Butternut, it was a nice sunny day out and we made sure the boys were set-up first. They were quickly outfitted with skis, helmets; everything they needed, and we put them into ski class saying we would catch up to ski with them later.

Then it was my turn. Boots, helmet, skis, poles, etc…all fitted for me. Felt like I was headed into battle; little did I know.  Mike took me out the back door of the ski hut and gave me a quick lesson: how to get into skis, how to release the bindings, how to walk sideways in skis, and finally helped me understand the value of the snowplow.  This “lesson” might have taken all of 15 minutes, then it was off to the Bunny Hill.

For those who don’t ski, the Bunny Hill is where novices, young children and chickens (the human kind) choose to ski.  Not sure why the hill is named “Bunny,” as one usually thinks of soft, kind, furry animals that wouldn’t even think of harming you. This hill was really a precursor to what I can only describe as Velociraptor Hill, something that looked harmless, but could remove your head. Well, we had a couple of trips down the Bunny Hill and then Mike said “Not a bad start, let’s go to the beginner hill.”

We head over to the T-Bar which will take us up to the top of the beginner slope, and right then I remembered one of the main reasons I don’t ski – I’m deathly afraid of heights! I share this detail with Mike just as our asses are planted on the bar, and he says “In that case, don’t look down.” Ah, gulp.  I try my best to stare upward the whole way, occasionally peeking down and envisioning that I’m going to fall off the bar into the ravine like a James Bond villain in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Once arriving at the top, my first experience is one that I’ve seen in several of ski-comedy movies. Real skiers smoothly exit the T-Bar and ski to one side (preferably the green colored side, not the black double diamond). However, I smoothly land right on my butt, skis in the air, trying to scramble out-of-the-way before those coming in behind from the T-Bar run me over.  After this initial humiliation, and once back on my feet, I take my first run down Velociraptor hill.

Have to say the first trip down a ski slope is simultaneously exhilarating and horrifying. Let’s face it, it’s a beginner slope – so it is relatively wide open with exception of a tree stump situated in the middle of the slope, wrapped with an old tire. Snowplowing my way down slowly side-to-side, soon it’s clear that I’m really not in control of my destiny. This was confirmed as invariably veered toward the stump and of course, ran directly into it.  After this second humiliation and back on my feet, I finished my first run and lined up with Mike to go up again.  Will say that Mike was patient as hell since he knew how to ski and I didn’t…he waited most times mid-slope for me to show up…I’m guessing he was worried that he’d have to call my wife to say I’m wrapped around a tree, or another skier.

The rest of the morning was pretty good. Several trips down the same slope, falling down a few times. I got used to the heights on the T-Bar, and only skied into the T-Bar line at the bottom of the hill one time running over a couple of people – just like in the movies!  The boys joined us late morning…also an embarrassing moment as we were supposed to ski “together” and my son just said “Bye Dad,” and off he went flying down the hill at high speed; no ski poles.  Ah well, at least the remainder of the day was, thankfully, uneventful.

Thought it might be helpful to share some quick ski tips for first timers over 40 years old:

Clothing – If you’re a first time skier, you of course don’t have any ski clothing. Realize you will get quite warm even in the coldest weather, so re-think wearing that overstuffed down coat. It’s not waterproof anyway and becomes like a damp roll of paper towels and is really heavy when wet – it does however, provide good protection when you hit the stump in the middle, and you will…repeatedly. Additionally, no need for a sweater underneath…I wore a long sweater in which the bottom fell below my coat. After several falls in the snow, it looked like I was wearing a WWF Championship Belt made of solid ice!  Guess you could say I was Stone Cold.

Lunch – While nourishment is always good, I was so stressed out that I thought having a couple of Bloody Mary’s at lunch was a good idea and would relax me. Wrong.  Basically, when my body realized I was sitting down it seized up like an old rusted out car.  The alcohol just acted like formaldehyde in a dead body, locking up my joints, and like the car, I was unable to get myself started again.

Aspirin – Yes, aspirin is your friend after your first time skiing.  I was sore for days after the trip.

Caller ID – you’ll need this when you see your friend calling you again to go skiing, and you can avoid picking up the phone!

Thankfully, my father wasn’t alive to see my skiing antics that day and needless to say I won’t appear again on a ski slope, which I think other skiers will appreciate.

Since I already have the equipment, I’ve decided to stick with my favorite sport  which allows me to use the cocktail shaker…and crosses all seasons.

My suggestion to everybody is to skip the slopes, and have a great Spring!