Archives for June 2012

It’s My Narcoleptic Piano Teacher’s Fault

My kid is starting kindergarten in the fall, and his new school has a menu of options for his extracurricular afterschool activities. We plan to enroll him in the afterschool program, as gainful employment precludes us from picking him up at 3pm. Martial arts and art are among the options, and as the boy has the energy to power Doc Brown’s Delorean, and spends most of his sitting time drawing pictures of ninjas (actually ninjas, dragons, disemboweled supervillains, dinosaurs, skulls, skeletons, and Spider-Man), it seems martial arts and art are the obvious way to go.

One of his other options is music, specifically Suzuki Piano. I have no idea what the difference is between a Suzuki piano lesson and a regular piano lesson, but I’m a little leery of starting him on music lessons so young, particularly with a teacher at his school.

That seems counterintuitive even to me, because music has been my biggest hobby (and “hobby” doesn’t feel like a strong enough word, but let’s face it: my lifetime music earnings are south of a grand) since I was a teenager. I’ve played in a lot of bands, and in most cases I was the least gifted musician in the room. I got kicked out of bands for that very reason. But I stuck to it, and I got better, but one thing hasn’t changed: in a room full of rehearsing musicians, figuring out how to play this piece or that, I always feel like a kid who flunked freshman algebra sitting in on an astrophysics debate. Read More

When Collect Calling Ruled The Airwaves


I was watching the basketball game the other night, and during one of the many commercial breaks, I couldn’t help noticing how many ads there were for various cell phone data plans, trumpeting higher speeds, and the relative superiority of their networks, and on and on and on… THIS one doesn’t lock you into a contract! THAT one offers unlimited text! This OTHER one has the fastest data network in the country! This one HERE says it’s the most reliable!

So many phones, so many carriers, so many data plans, so much technical jargon to absorb! It’s enough to make a person of a certain age long for the simpler days when there were no such commercials, because cell phones were strictly for rich people and assholes, and the rest of us were forced to use olde-tymey phones with cords and no touchscreens that didn’t vibrate or send text messages or provide turn-by-turn directions to restaurants it recommended itself.

Of course, the networks did not just show test patterns before cell phone commercials came along. Just as cell phones made landlines obsolete, cell phone commercials displaced the many, many commercials for long-distance and collect-calling plans, which by my scientific estimate accounted in the ’90s or 96.9% of all commercials. Read More

Keeping Track Of Your Keys

My wife is smart, a great mother, she’s easy on the eyes, fun to hang out with, she makes me laugh, and we agree on most matters, be they political, personal, or domestic (other than interior design, where I have learned to just keep my mouth shut). Fourteen years into our relationship, I genuinely enjoy her company and look forward to our evenings together (to the extent that she can stay awake for them). I love her with all my heart and more all the time. 

She does have this one habit that gets on my nerves, though. Actually it’s the absence of a habit, and I am taking the unusual step of airing this matter in public in case any of my vast audience suffers from the same problem, because it so happens that I have an easy solution.

It starts with this noise. She makes it a few times a week. It’s kind of like an “Uggggh!” of exasperation, but repetition has attuned me to a particular timbre that says without words or syntax exactly what’s going on: she can’t find her phone. Or, she can’t find her keys. Sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both. Read More

Cops Have Always Hated Me

I had kind of a weird experience the other night: I was bartending my Monday night shift as usual, and as usual I was parked directly across the street from the front door of the bar, in a space that I know after years of parking there to be safe from alternate-side street-cleaning tickets, late-night No Standing tickets (that’s only in effect on the weekends), and after the 7pm expiration of the 2-Hour Parking regulation.

But a little after midnight, one of the security guys stuck his head inside the door to tell me I was getting a ticket. This made no sense: though it’s not uncommon for that space, and all of Ludlow Street for that matter, to get annexed for a movie shoot (I’ve narrowly avoided being towed a couple of times in that situation), there were no orange cones and no signs indicating that, as there usually are.

So I hustled outside and found a uniformed NYPD officer copying my VIN (and, by the way, the ‘N’ stands for ‘number,’ so “VIN number” is redundant and we all need to stop saying it) onto a fresh parking ticket. “What’s the ticket for?” I ask him in a friendly voice. “No parking,” he says without looking at me, jerking a thumb over his shoulder at the three stacked-up parking regulation signs for this side of the street. Just as I start to wonder if maybe they’ve changed the rules for this block (which has happened before) and open my mouth to ask him just that, he turns around and looks at the signs himself, then mumbles, “Oh — it’s Tuesday now.”

We both laugh, and I give him a buddy-buddy “better luck next time” clap on the shoulder, and he wanders over to the other side of the street to write some valid tickets and I go back into the bar. What’s striking about this is that yes, it’s very unusual for a cop to admit he’s done something wrong — everyone I told this story to said anytime they’d tried to move a car in the process of getting ticketed, the cop insisted that once they had begun writing a ticket they were powerless to stop writing it, whereas in my case the guy just balled it up in his hand and shoved it in his pocket — but on a more personal level, I was struck by how different this encounter was from the bulk of my previous interactions with cops in the past. Read More

The Devil’s Kibble

We went to visit my extended family in southwest Missouri over Memorial Day weekend and our travel couldn’t have gone smoother. Our flight was direct, nonstop, and on time. Our rental car was fast, comfortable, and easy to drive. Most important, our five-year-old was well-behaved on the plane, and, except for a minor meltdown directly followed by a nap, in good spirits in the rental car. It seemed that our little friend had graduated to being a somewhat easy travel companion, and we allowed ourselves to fantasize about other, more exotic trips we might soon take with him.

Those hopes were soon dashed, however, as we pulled off the highway and realized that we’d have to make a quick stop at Wal-Mart before arriving at my grandmother’s, because we knew to a certainty that she wouldn’t have anything on hand that the boy would eat in a million years.

To say that this kid is a picky eater is like saying Jimi Hendrix was a guitar player. Though we did our best when he was a baby to expose him to all kinds of foods, he only liked a small fraction of what we gave him: bananas, cheese ravioli, fish sticks, chicken tenders, apple slices, veggie burgers, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, grilled cheese, yogurt, cereal, and (of course) pizza.

That is a very limited diet, and we worried that it wasn’t balanced enough, but at least there was seven days’ worth of meals there, so he was eating something different every day. But at some point, things started coming off the menu. Bananas were first: after eating them almost every day for a couple of years, he was suddenly repulsed by them. Then ravioli, a dependable dinner staple, could only be depended on to get spit back into the bowl. Then apple slices got the hook, and peanut butter wasn’t far behind.

I could feel my chest constricting when he started poking at his pizza and pulling the cheese off. Our go-to, our rock, frozen pizza, in danger? We put it on the bench and put in veggie burgers, which he’d always loved, though not without a strange little quirk: every time I gave him a veggie burger he’d scream and cry and protest that it’s not what he wanted. Every time I’d eventually persuade him to have one bite, and every time he’d declare it yummy and then go to town on it. Eventually I shot a video of him enjoying a veggie burger with my phone so I could show it to him every time I served him one, but even that wasn’t enough to keep him from eventually declaring them yucky.

It wasn’t long before his diet was down to buttered toast in the morning, a grilled cheese for lunch, and either fish sticks or chicken tenders for dinner. Every day. EVERY. DAY. Read More