I just posted my first entry at the new DaveTronik 2000 site. Check it out!
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I've decided to phase this site out, in case you couldn't tell. I'll continue to post here on occasion, since I'm paying for the domain name until the end of this year. But I'm going to move things over to a Blogger site in the near future (DaveTronik 2000), because it's an easier system to post with, and I can link it more easily to my Goodreads author page. And it's free.
I registered this domain name on December 12, 2001, long before Facebook and Blogger and Goodreads and other places where I spend significant time online. The new site will offer the same mix of daily life updates, pictures of the kids, random music videos, updates on a potential Toastmen reunion, marketing pushes and updates on books in progress, etc.
So, stay tuned here for details on the new site. In the meantime, check out my Goodreads page and The Backside of America. There's a lot of good stuff in the hopper for that blog, including a really well put together piece by Mick Melvin about his old neighborhood in Pennsylvania; a post I wrote about a run-down baseball field in Newton; and terrific stuff by Kristen Smith about funky old shacks by the side of the road.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
It's been a while, so let's do this in reverse chronological order.
We had a relaxing Easter Sunday at my in-laws' house. The kids enjoyed an egg hunt in the backyard, and had a lot of fun riding bikes and romping at the playground, while the grown-ups enjoyed pork loin, beer and wine and sports on TV.
On Saturday, I took Owen on a shortened subway ride. He's totally consumed by subways these days, especially after our trip to NYC (see below). I always enjoy our trips, mostly because I like seeing how much Owen gets out of them. He was quite taken with the fact that the driver of one of our Green Line trains had to pull the emergency switch to open the front door of the train and let passengers off at Copley station. His fascination continued when she had to shut down the train and restart it so all the doors would work. This was a first for us.
We returned from NYC on Friday, in time to color eggs at Beth's sister and brother-in-law's house. The kids really got into it, which was fun to see.
As for New York, we had a really good trip. We arrived shortly before 3:00 Monday afternoon, after a mostly smooth ride down (except for a short delay when a drawbridge over the Connecticut River got stuck in the up position). We met up with my sister, Beth, who joined us for the trip as she did last year. And we also got together with my brother, Steve, and his wife Tonya and their kids, Grace and Isaiah. They had planned a trip separately from us, so it was nice to see them. We all schlepped to the Times Square Toys 'R Us to ride the ferris wheel and do a little shopping amid the mania.
Then we all went out to dinner at Smith's Bar, which wasn't anybody's first choice, but it turned out OK. The kids took to the stage and did some impromptu dancing, which was really fun to watch.
Tuesday we made our long-anticipated trip to the New York City Transit Museum. Owen had been looking forward to visiting the museum for months, since before we'd even officially decided to make the trip. Located in a former subway station in Brooklyn, the museum is home to numerous old subway cars, many of which you can walk through. I got a kick out of the old ads on the walls of the cars. Owen loved all of it, and was pretty psyched to buy a few model cars for his train collection.
Tuesday night Beth and I took the kids to see "The Lion King," which, nearly 14 years after its debut, is still packing in the crowds. The costumes and music were fantastic. Amelia was really wowed, and Owen was impressed, too. I have to say, Beth picked a great show for our collective first Broadway experience.
On Wednesday, we went, as we did last year, to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. The museum comprises a former aircraft carrier, along with numerous planes and helicopters, as well as a submarine. We went through the ship from top to bottom, but skipped the sub. We were all impressed yet again.
After lunch, we got back to the hotel in time to meet up with my sister, who was also staying there, and my brother and his family, who had stored luggage there before after checking out of their hotel earlier in the day. We got a chance to say goodbye to them before they boarded a train back to Maryland. It was good to spend a bit of time with them in NYC.
On Thursday Beth, the kids and I headed uptown to the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. The lab is free, but if you don't have reserved tickets, you need to show up at 10:00 a.m. and hope to get some. We waited about 20 minutes to find out that we got tickets to enter the place at 11:45. So we kicked around FAO Schwartz and the Apple store for a while before heading back to the lab.
The place was crowded, so we didn't spend a lot of time there. The most interesting thing was the movie-maker station, where you could make your own short film using clips, music and sound effects. Owen and Amelia had a lot of fun with that.
After returning to the hotel, Beth and the kids chilled out while my sister and I went off to check out the High Line, a former elevated freight railway that's been turned into a park. This was the one thing I'd really wanted to check out (OK, I really looked forward to the Broadway show and the transit museum, too), and I wasn't disappointed. You get cool views of the city, and shortage of views of the backside of NYC (hey, why not check out my other blog, The Backside of America, while we're on the topic!). I look forward to returning to the city once the second section opens.
That night, we met Beth's cousin, Chris, at a nice diner-esque restaurant called Edwards. The food and beer were good, and it was good to catch up with Chris, who plans to move back up to the Boston area with his wife and son in the near future.
After dinner, we said goodbye to Chris and took the subway a few stops down to the South Ferry stop. We walked around Battery Park a little bit, took in some nice views of the Statue of Liberty, and then headed back to the hotel.
The next day was Friday, our last day. We just hung out until check-out time, then headed to Penn Station to catch our Acela back home. The trip back was relaxing -- it's such a great way to travel.
I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook during the week. You can find them here, here, here and here.
Well, that's about enough for now, eh?
Before I wrap it up, though, I want to direct you to the Books page, where I discuss a review posted by a onetime Billboard editor and fellow Booklocker author that I hope will help move some units.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The Toastmen pulled off our most successful jam ever this past weekend, and boy did it feel good. We gathered on Saturday in Portmouth, at singer Pete's apartment. After catching up for an hour or so, we headed over the Piscataqua River and across states lines to his practice space in Kittery, ME.
We played for about two hours -- ripping through old favorites such as "Southern Baptist With a Gun Fetish," "Murder in Honduras" and "Anger Within" -- before taking a mid-afternoon lunch/beer break at the Coat of Arms pub in Portsmouth. Then we headed back to Kittery and jammed for another couple of hours, running through the above-listed songs, as well as "Coyote Pass," "Heroes," "Graven Images," "Drain the Life," and covers of Dream Syndicate's "Burn" and Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray." I may have forgotten a few songs.
I wish I had audio or video to share, but Pete's place isn't set up for recording, and I didn't bother to use the video feature on my camera. Maybe next time.
We sounded pretty good, I must say, and everybody had a blast making a racket and hanging out for the first time in years. Afterwards, we went back to the Coat of Arms for dinner and more drinks with our friends Carrie and Melissa.
Completing the college flashback experience, I slept on a mattress on the floor of Pete's apartment. Didn't get much sleep, what with the uncomfortable set-up and bass player Jim's snoring, but I didn't care.
We all agreed to get together again over the summer. Jim and I headed back home Sunday morning, ready for some rest and peace and quiet.
I was thinking earlier today, while listening to Fu Manchu, that I can't imagine a time when I don't enjoy loud, fast rock 'n' roll. I've had this thought plenty of times before: "Am I going to still be listening to Naked Raygun when I'm 65?"
Probably I am. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Once I got back from Portsmouth, I had to take Owen to his first baseball practice. Felt good to be out in the fresh air, watching him and his teammates get back into the groove. He needs to polish up his skills, but his coaches seem pretty good. They were working with him on getting his arm back for throwing, and really giving a good target when catching, and moving the glove to the right position.
Should be a fun season. Can't wait for the weather to get a little warmer.
Oh, yeah, I posted a quick update on the Books page, including a video that I think you'll want to see.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I'm ready to rock. Once again, The Toastmen have decided to jam, with an eye toward finally playing in front of people, sometime next year, to mark 25 years since our last gig. Yes, yes, I'm fully aware that I've written about this plenty of times before, and throngs of fans have been bitterly disappointed by our lack of follow-through.
But this time it's gonna be different. How can I say that? I don't know, but I just did.
We're slated to get together Saturday, April 2, and play 'til our fingers bleed, our hearing aids pop out and our beer runs out.
I'm the one who usually gets the ball rolling on our reunion. Which is funny, considering I'm the one who spends the least amount of time actually playing his instrument. Our singer, Pete Duchesne, has continued making music over the years, first in the excellent Portsmouth, NH, metal band, Humpmuscle, and currently with Hateful Little Cakes, a band that's not at all metal.
Toastmen drummer Brian Zawodniak currently keeps the beat for Connecticut's Chaug River Blues Band. Guitarist Ken Tretler isn't currently in a band, but I know he practices like a crazy man. Toastmen bassist Jim Corrigan thrums along once in a while, too.
Toastmen 2.0 will pare down our set list from the days when we'd play for two hours, running through a bunch of originals, half decent covers of Bauhaus, Dream Syndicate and Pere Ubu songs, as well as half-assed covers of songs by The Replacements, The Clash, Violent Femmes and others, as well as a never-ending version of Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray."
We might do some new songs; the jury's still out on that. I've written a few songs that I think the band would do a good job with. You can check out my anti-fundamentalist Christian effort, "Ixnay On the Esusjay," here.
I'll post pictures, and possible video or audio, after our April 2nd jam. In the meantime, this will have to do:
Monday, March 14, 2011
The snow has melted, we've set the clocks ahead and spring is officially only a week away. I smell baseball!
Owen's Little League season starts April 23, I believe. Practices will start the weekend of the 9th, I think. I hope to get him to a batting cage at least once before that. Beth and I are trying to impress upon him the need to try harder this season. And to listen to us and his coaches when given suggestions about how to improve his catching, throwing and batting. I'm happy he wants to play again this season, but I suspect he won't be into after this. I hope I'm wrong.
While baseball is in the air, skating is still part of our lives. We were in Connecticut this past weekend celebrating my dad's birthday, so Owen missed yesterday's skating lesson. Instead, he and I went to a public skate for about 45 minutes, which was a lot of fun. I look forward to doing that more in the future.
It was good to see my parents. We gave my dad a book of photos (thanks Snapfish!) mostly of him and the kids. He seemed to really like it.
Time is short, so I'll wrap this up quickly. Looking forward to going to Beth's sister's house this Thursday for the St. Patrick's Day boiled dinner extravaganza. And this Saturday Beth and I are excited for the PTO Auction, a major fundraiser for Owen's school, and the social highlight of the year for parents.
Now, please enjoy "Vehicle" by the Ides of March:
Monday, March 7, 2011
Nostalgia swirls all around me as I write this. It's just after midnight; I can't get back to sleep after Amelia awoke briefly. I started looking through old pictures of the kids, and picked the above one to post. I can't believe that Owen's gonna be 9 in two months, and Amelia will be 4 in June. They're both such great kids and growing up in so many ways. Owen's getting so tall, sure, but he's maturing as well. He actually HELPS his sister with things on occasion, and gets more of my jokes, and impresses the hell out of me with his homework.
As for Amelia, she's becoming quite the character. She's starting to read a bit -- recognizing people's names and the names of stores on signs -- and her writing and drawing are advancing quite rapidly. She's also becoming much more independent, which sometimes translates into obstinateness. For instance, she has been playing a game with Beth's parents in which she refuses to talk to them. She responds to their questions with head nods and shakes, or by pointing to things, but she simply will not speak. Sure, she's quiet at school and with people she doesn't know very well. But she's spoken to Beth's parents plenty up until fairly recently. It's funny, but I think my in-laws are getting a bit frustrated.
Meanwhile, I'm listening to Neil Young's On the Beach, which I just downloaded the other day. Of course, this is fake nostalgia, because I never owned it on CD or vinyl -- had never heard it in its entirety until I tucked the MP3's into iTunes.
Finally, today marks the 6th anniversary of the death of my childhood friend, Bene. One of the most honest and upbeat people I've ever known, Bene (pronounced "Benny") fought cancer for many years, and even went into remission. But the disease came back strong and shriveled his once athletic frame (he was a hockey player and top-notch golfer) and took him away from his friends and family just a month and a half before his 40th birthday.
I met Bene in elementary school, and we hung out all the time in high school, along with my buddies Andy, John and the three Steves. After college we saw each other less and less, as I moved to the Boston area and he stayed close to home in Simsbury, CT. But getting together was always easy, as it always has been with my childhood friends.
Bene's wake and funeral were some of the most moving events I've ever experienced. The turnout for the wake was incredible; hundreds upon hundreds of people who'd known him through all phases of his life were there to pay there respects to his parents, brother, wife, two kids and other family members. His wife, with whom I'd also grown up, gave a wrenching eulogy. Where she found the strength, I can't imagine.
Bene will always live on through fond memories: driving around with him and my friends in his forest-green Ford Galaxy 500; playing hockey on the rink at Simsbury Farms; watching him have a blast at The Ramones, a band who he knew nothing about but enjoyed nonetheless; having a great time playing golf, a game from which he derived so much joy, even when he played with a hacker like me; and driving around with him and our friend Andy listening to Elvis Costello, and going to see him a few times at the old Bridgeport Jai-Alai fronton.
This one's for you, Bene:
Monday, February 21, 2011
It's vacation week, so I won't have a lot of time to post here. Amelia, Owen and I (Beth's at work this week) are going to the MFA today to check out the museum's new Art of the Americas wing, and whatever else catches our fancy, which I suspect, as far as the kids go, won't be much.
I posted a new MegaChips track, "My Favorite Friend Version 300," here, something I haven't done in quite a while. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when Owen said he wanted to jam and record a new song. I hope you like it.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Amelia's got pink eye, and as a result I've got cabin fever.
During a normal week, she goes to preschool Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I kept her home Monday because the combination of the conjunctivitis, a head cold and a bad night's sleep resulted in her sleeping until 10:30. Yesterday we skipped our music & art class and her swim class. And although her conjunctivitis isn't that bad, I kept her home again today because she refuses to let me put the ointment in her eyes that will clear up the pinkness and crustiness.
She and I have gotten by during the last two days by watching TV, dancing to Wiggles music, reading books, going to the grocery store and other mundane tasks. Since we don't have to pick Owen up from his after-school program until 5:00 today, we're gonna get for a drive this afternoon and maybe take some pictures.
Speaking of pictures, I'm taking a photography class through Newton's adult ed program. We've had two sessions, and frankly, I could have saved $111 and just spent more time reading my new camera's manual and digging more deeply into the camera's functions. The teacher is Czech, and sometimes difficult to understand and prone to wander, so I'm not learning all that much. There are still four classes to go (including tonight), so I'm not going to call it a complete waste of time and money yet.
Here are some black and white pics I took a few weeks ago that I'm proud of.
What else? Owen's making good progress with his skating. He and I went for a spin around the Larz Anderson outdoor rink in Brookline Saturday, which was fun. First time on my new skates, and first time out this year. Felt pretty good.
Alright, gotta go....
Thursday, February 3, 2011
It's all about snow around here these days. Watching it fall in incredible amounts from the sky. Shoveling it. Snow blowing it. Trying to figure out where to put it all. Taking pictures of it. Going sledding in it. Watching for information about it on the local news. Talking about it. Trying to get through one snow day per week for the last four weeks. Hoping we're done with it. Knowing that we're not.
As much fun as it is to complain about it, I'm not really that bummed about it. Sure, I'm sick of it and can't wait for spring, but because I don't have to wait outside for a bus or train, or drive to work in it, or break my back with too much shoveling (Thanks, Dad, for the snow blower!), I can't get too worked up about it. Amazed by it all, sure.
On the home front, Owen continues to make progress in his ice skating lessons. He's got seven more lessons; I hope to join him in a public skate once I buy my own skates.
This coming weekend is filling up quickly, although the weather might necessitate canceling our plans to visit our friends Jim and Nikki and their daughter, Sophia, in Walpole, MA, Saturday afternoon. On Sunday morning we're slated to meet with our friends Doug and Jess, and their kids, Max and Rachel, for breakfast at the recently opened Deluxe Station Diner in Newton Center. Later, after Owen's skating class, we're going to Beth's sister's house for their annual Super Bowl Pahty
And, to close things out, a classic from Pat Travers, who gets a brief mention in (C)rock. I loved this song when I was 10 or 11 years old. Still sounds good, but this is the only song of his I ever knew.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
The last two weeks have been chopped up, what with a snow day last Wednesday (the 12th) and Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this week. It's possible school will be cancelled tomorrow as well, but obviously I'm hopeful it won't.
Speaking of chopped up (oh boy this is a terrible segue), one of my neighbors got a finger mangled in his snow blower during last Wednesday's blizzard. I talked to a friend of his on the street over the weekend, and the victim was scheduled for a skin graft this past Monday. I won't provide any other details, but ATTENTION: DON'T PUT YOUR HAND INTO A SNOW BLOWER WHILE IT'S RUNNING is all I want to say.
Beth also had a recent medical mishap. We dropped off the kids for a sleepover at Beth's sister's house late Saturday afternoon before heading up to Portsmouth to visit with some of my Keene State friends. Literally moments before heading out the door, our nephew, Max, rammed his head (accidentally) into Beth's mouth, causing her upper teeth to break through her lower lip.
After taking a while to stem the flow of blood inside her mouth, and recover from feeling woozy, Beth realized she needed to go to the ER. We arrived at Newton-Wellesley Hospital around 5:00. Long story short: she needed a few stitches and an antibiotic prescription. This all took close to three hours, but my trouper of a wife decided she still wanted to continue with our overnight trip.
We arrived at my friend Pete's house around 9:30, after checking in at our hotel. We hung out for three hours or so, eating, drinking, listening to vinyl on Pete's old-school turntable, and generally having a much better time than either of us would have guessed just hours before. I wish we could've hung out a bit longer on Sunday morning, but we had to take off after breakfast (at The Friendly Toast) in order to get Owen to his first ice skating lesson.
The folks at the ice rink were a bit discombobulated (don't you love that word?). There were tons of kids between ages 4 and 14, in addition to some adults learning how to skate. And there were a lot of teachers, but Owen got lost in the shuffle for a while. Other kids around him were getting helped, or at least talked to, but they seemed to be ignoring him. I think the next lesson will be better, as they were separating kids into groups by putting colored stickers on their helmets. He said he had a good time.
Now for the plugs!
Read my latest thoughts about (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturityhere.
Check out The Backside of America if you haven't been there in a while. The site's got a new look, and will soon feature pix and words from new contributors.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Oh, what a neglectful blogger I am!
We had a nice week off between Christmas and New Year's. We were supposed to go to CT on the 26th, but my brother, who was visiting my parents with his family, got a 24-hour stomach bug and we decided to stay away. Unfortunately, by the time we got down there on the 30th, they had gone back to MD. We were sorry to have missed them.
Still, we had a good time with my parents and my sister. They were generous with gifts, including really nice winter vests for the kids. Photos are here.
We had a lot of fun on New Year's Eve, too. Beth's sister, Megan, her husband, Todd, and our nephew, Max, joined us for dinner, drinks, games and a sleepover. We made pizza for the kids, and paella for the grown-ups. All the food turned out great. The kids went to bed around 11:00, and then we pulled out Beth and Amelia's new Wii game, "Just Dance 2."
I have to admit I had no interest in the game at first. I thought it would be difficult and that I would feel stupid. Well, after several beers and rum balls, I had no problem getting into it. I even managed to win the 4-person battle we did. I'm ready for "So You Think You Can Dance?"
Sales of the book have been moving along at a pretty good clip, although they've slowed somewhat in the past few days. On sale for two weeks, (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity has cracked the quarter-hundred mark!
More details about the book's progress are available here.
Finally, I rocked most steadfastly yesterday at my buddy Ray's annual All-Star Holiday Jam. Ray is bassist and producer extraordinaire for Boston band Powderhouse. Every year around Christmas he hosts between a dozen and 15 friends for an all-day music/eating/drinking affair in his well-stocked, well-equipped basement. This was my third jam, and marked my singing debut. I sang the Flaming Lips' "She Don't Use Jelly," and sounded pretty terrible but it felt good nonetheless. My buddy and fellow Toastman, Jim Corrigan, joined this year for the first time. Lots of fun, learned some new songs. Photos are here.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Gotta be quick...kids had a great time today, got lots of cool stuff (Wii and DSI games for Owen, along with a Paper Jamz guitar, hockey helmet, board games, pirate sweater; for Amelia she got a Pillow Pet, Scooby figures, a reindeer shirt, a Dora DVD and plenty of other things).
Tomorrow we head to my parents' house to celebrate with my family. My brother, his wife and their two kids will be there, as will my sister. We're also gonna mark my sister-in-law's 40th birthday. Should be fun.
Blizzard forecasted for the next two days will make travel home on Monday a pain in the ass, I'm sure. Not looking forward to it, but nothing we can do about it. Tried to get the snowblower started today, to no avail. I'm hoping for a miracle by Monday evening when we get home.
On the book front: sent all the necessary verbiage for my Booklocker page, so I'm confident that all will be in order to start selling by middle of next week. Stay tuned....
Friday, December 17, 2010
Busy, busy, busy. Between Christmas shopping, trips to the dump and toy donation centers, trying to make room for the cavalcade of new stuff due to arrive on December 25, AND an outbreak of lice in the household, time has been short of late. So here's a quick update.
Yes, everybody in the house except me and our cat, Cosmo, has lice. Well, the lice has been mostly cleared up thanks to the medicated shampoo Rid, but we're still washing tons of laundry, doing nightly scalp checks and generally being a bit skeeved out around here. I won't provide further details.
On the book front, today I got the word from Booklocker that the proof copy of (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity should arrive tomorrow. Fingers crossed, this time there won't be anything wrong, and I'll sign off by the end of the weekend, and then throngs of people will jam the web site's servers in efforts to get their hands on the most talked-about book on DaveTronik 2000, and legions more will crash the doors of Borders and Barnes & Noble's country-wide, and before you know it I'll be on "Oprah" and a new reality show, "So You Think You Can Write?", will be created in my honor. I will be the judge and jury and make the careers of pale-skinned scribes the world over.
Anyway...Amelia and I had fun going to Owen's school today to watch his class run through their physical education class. Each December his school does what they call Peek Week, when family and friends get to watch the kids do gymnastics -- balance beams, tumbling, uneven bars, parallel bars, vault, etc. Owen did a great job, and Amelia thrilled at watching him and his friends.
On Monday, I get to go to Amelia's school to watch her class sing some holiday songs. I'll have to break out the video camera for that, and will post something next week.
Well, that's all folks!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Yesterday I sent my approval of the final PDF file of my book to the POD people. I found a few minor things that I'm going to have to live with. Next time I write a book, I tell ya, I'm using an editor. I don't think it's that I'm a control freak, but rather that I've been insecure about letting other people see the stories, afraid that they won't like them, or that they'll find some inconsistencies that I overlooked and that will damage my self confidence. Now, for better or worse, I'm done and before too long the book will be on the market, for all to see, enjoy, criticize, burn, use as door stoppers, what have you.
While I've been marketing the book here and through Facebook in recent months, the real selling work is still ahead of me. As soon as I get word that the book is ready to go (which will come once Booklocker sends me the proof copy and I approve it, probably in the next week or so), I'll pull the trigger on my online t-shirt shop. I'll also continue to push the book here and in many other places.
Thanks to my buddy Jay, the push for (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity has actually already begun. He and I sat down last Friday for an hour or so to discuss the genesis for the book, how the stories evolved over the last decade, what the stories are about and how I chose the print on-demand route. You can listen to the first part here.
This past weekend started off on a sour note, as Amelia threw up after dinner on Friday, and continued on through much of the night. Only Owen got a good night's sleep that night. Thankfully, Amelia perked up on Saturday and didn't toss her cookies again. She missed out on going to her preschool's holiday fair, but she didn't seem to mind.
I helped clean up after the fair, and then went back home to scoop up Owen and meet up with his buddy Walter and his dad, Ray, to go to the New England International Auto Show. This is a big event for the boys. They love to run from car to car, jumping in and out of the driver and passenger seats, checking out the glove compartments, moving the seats up and down, back and forth, crawling through the trunk, etc.
Ray and I like the show, too, but we get tired. This year we spent way too much time in the GMC/Buick/Chevy area, as General Motors seemed to have brought three versions of every car in their lineup. But after a dinner and beer break, we rebounded.
It's always fun to see how much fun Owen and Walter have. And listening to their nonsensical banter in the back seat of my car on the ride home was priceless. It went something like this.
Owen: What doesn't rhyme with Cadillac Escalade?
Walter: Television pickle juice!
Both erupt in laughter.
You can see pictures here
from the show, including one of the American Pride Camaro.
On Sunday, both kids had play dates, Owen at his friend Alex's house, and Amelia at our house with a neighbor's daughter. That evening we went to see the annual Big Santa Christmas Extravaganza in The Lake, Newton's sole remaining blue collar neighborhood. It's always a fun affair, as Santa walks down the blocked-off street surrounded by elves and people dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog, Buzz Lightyear, Scooby-Doo and a Care Bear (seriously). Once he arrives at the park where Big Santa sits, the mayor says a few words and then some mushes lead the crowd in caroling before someone throws a switch to light up all the trees in the park -- but not before a bunch of fireworks get launched, scaring all the dogs in the area, sending them into barking conniption fits.
Owen's friend Alex and his dad, Adam, joined us, as did Beth's parents. It was pretty cold, as it inevitably is on this big night, but we all had a good time.
This weekend we'll get our tree and put decorations up, and probably do some shopping. Beth and Amelia will go to her parents' house for the annual cookie baking ritual. Owen has a laser tag birthday party to attend. Lots to do.
Monday, November 29, 2010
First, I want to point you to the Books page, where I've updated the status of "(C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity."
Third, I want to provide you with words, about things.
We had a relatively easy trip to CT for Thanksgiving. We hit a bit of traffic, but nothing like we have in years past, when our journey has taken nearly twice as long as the usual 90 minutes. The dinner crowd included my parents (we were at their house), my sister, and several of my cousins, their spouses and their grown and nearly-grown kids. Owen and Amelia were on great behavior and had a great time playing "I Spy" with everybody and lots of other games. Owen spent a lot of time playing his DSI and reading through the "Wimpy Kid" books.
After dinner, dessert and the Patriots victory, we drove the 15 minutes south to my sister's house, where we slept both nights. On Friday we went back to my parents' house for lunch, and then to my friends Gary and Rebecca's house to hang out. Owen had a blast playing with their son, Evan, who's 10, and Amelia had fun with 9-year-old Olivia. The four parents got to catch up and relax. A perfect afternoon.
That night we went back to my sister's, as she was hosting the extended family for pizza and leftover pie. Another great time was had by all.
On Saturday we went back to my parents' for lunch, hung out a bit and then hit the road. Once again, the traffic wasn't too bad, and we got home around 4:30. That night, Beth and I watched "It Might Get Loud," a cool documentary about Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. I liked it, but found The Edge boring. I'd rather watch him in a movie about U2 where he talks about how he builds their songs, because next to the legendary Page and the charismatic White, he just pales.
Anyway, this week we get back to our regular schedules. On Friday, I plan to talk to my buddy Jay Kumar about my book, for his podcast, Completely Conspicuous. On Saturday Owen and I are going to the big auto show in Boston. Details, links and photos to follow.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Been busy editing the book, trying to get it ready to send off to the POD people before Thanksgiving. I'm being extra-cautious because, as regular readers know, I burned myself by not carefully reading the manuscript before receiving the proof copy. I haven't been using an editor, and realized that I was too close to the material, but I felt confident that I'd caught everything. Anyway, I've made some corrections, rearranged the order of the stories a bit, and feel confident (I swear) that it's ready for prime time now.
As for the Chilly Half Marathon, I felt good most of the race and even once my quads started acting up, I knew they wouldn't get bad enough to prevent me from finishing. Here's proof that I finished -- in 1:58:09, which I felt pretty great about.
As for Thanksgiving, we're heading to CT tomorrow to see my parents, my sister and a bunch of my cousins. On Friday we're going to hook up with my friend Gary and his wife and kids to hang out and catch up. Friday night we'll be at my sister's house (and staying there both nights) and then back up to Boston on Saturday.
Happy Turkey Day!
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Quick, quick, quick.
Tomorrow is the Chilly Half Marathon. My training has gone well, but my body isn't feeling as well as I'd like it to. My lower back is sore, my right knee is a bit funky, and my shins have been barking on my runs of late. But all in all I'm feeling good and ready for the race. Starts at 7:30 tomorrow; I hope to be done no later than 9:45.
On the feline front, Cosmo is doing well with his chemo regimen. He's gained a bit of weight and hasn't had any side effects from the treatment. The fur that the doctors have shaved off for various reasons hasn't really grown back, so he looks a little weird, but he seems to be feeling good, which is all that matters.
On the book front, a bit of a letdown. I was proofing the galley print last Sunday and realized that one of the stories needs to be fixed chronologically. And then I reviewed the rest of the stories and came up with a few minor changes, but also realized that the order of a few stories needs to be switched up. I REALLY wish I'd discovered this stuff before I sent it out to the POD people for the final time. Now I have to pay more money and take more time. But it has to be right....
One of the (C)rock Stories references Naked Raygun, a Chicago punk band I was totally into during my college years. Here are a coupla great tunes from their heyday.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
A quick visit here due to a change in my morning plans. I was supposed to take our cat, Cosmo, to the animal hospital today so they could check his white-cell count and see if he was strong enough to continue his chemo treatment. But I couldn't corral him in time to get Amelia to school, so I dropped her off and came back home, figuring I'd find him and be 15-20 minutes late for the appointment. Except I came home and for the life of me, I can't find the little bugger. Gonna have to find him after I pick Amelia up from school and take him in this afternoon.
Anyway, the kids had a great Halloween. Beth took Amelia out in the immediate neighborhood, while I joined Owen and a bunch of his friends and their parents for a romp around Greater Newtonville. He had a great time, but I was exhausted, as I had completed a nearly 10-mile run that morning. After he finished trick-or-treating, a few of his friends came back to our house and while Beth and one of the moms drank wine and one of the dads and I drank beer, the kids played Mario Kart on the Wii system. A good time was had by all.
As I said, I went for a long run on Sunday. My right knee has been acting up, so my run wasn't as smooth as the rest had been up to that point. Still, I'm feeling pretty good about the half marathon I'm running in 11 days. I went out last night and did 6 miles and felt OK. I'm running in support of the American Liver Foundation, and am raising funds. You can go here to donate.
On the (C)rock front: my manuscript and cover have been sent to the printer. Once the galley proof is done, the printer sends it to Booklocker, who then sends it along to me. If all is hokey dokey, then I give the thumbs up and the book becomes available. I'm expecting this to all go down in the next week or so.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Welcome to the weekly update. As you can see, I've changed the look of the site. I did so in advance of the promotional push for my book, (C)rock Stories: Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity, which should be available for sale by mid-November.
I've put up a new section, Books, where I will promote the book and provide information about where to buy it. For now, I've posted the behind-the-scenes tale of how I began writing the stories a decade ago.
This week I will sign off on the final-final-final versions of the manuscript and cover. Once those tasks are done, the POD people (the good folks at Booklocker) send it to their printer, who sends the finished product back to them. Then Booklocker sends it to me for approval, and then the book hits the shelves.
In other news, Beth leaves today for a business trip to Phoenix. She returns Thursday, so that means three nights of solo parenting, during which the most trying event (I hope) will be helping Owen finish a book report/pumpkin decorating project.
Not much is new since last Monday. We took care of our nephew, Max, this weekend, as his parents were in NYC for a wedding. Owen and Amelia were happy to hang out with their cousin for a few days. We went to the Boston Children's Museum on Saturday, and to a fall fair at Owen's school on Sunday.
Oh yeah, my training for the Chilly Half Marathon continues apace. The race is November 14th; yesterday I did an 80-minute run, which worked out to almost 9.4 miles. I'm pretty happy about that, albeit a bit sore.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Yesterday marked Owen's final Little League game of 2010. His team got crushed in the first round of the playoffs, but after the game, Owen asked me, "So did we win or lose?" I said, "Seriously? You didn't realize that they scored a whole bunch of runs, and you guys scored none?" He didn't answer me, but obviously he wasn't crushed by the loss.
Beth and I are incredibly proud of him. When he started playing in the spring, I wasn't sure he would stick with it, even though I helped coach his team. Now he's played two seasons and is talking about playing again next spring and summer. He still has a lot of skills to learn (his coaches have been great, and very patient with him this fall), but the desire to play is there, even if the awareness of wins and losses isn't.
Our other big event over the weekend was the circus. The kids had a great time, and Beth scored us the Liberty Mutual corporate box at the TD Garden, so we had plenty of room to spread out. I'm not sure it lived up to its billing as the greatest show on Earth, but there were definitely some cool aspects. The high-wire act was really good, as were many of the acrobatic and animal acts.
Speaking of animals, Cosmo continues to react well to his chemotherapy. He has gained a little weight, and has even been a little frisky lately, both good signs. He continues with chemo this Friday.
And my half marathon training is going well, too. I ran about 5 miles on Saturday, and then a 3-mile road race yesterday, and am feeling fine. This week I need to run 5 miles on Tuesday and Thursday, and then 80 minutes (which should be roughly 9 miles) on Sunday.
I have a little more proofing to do on the short story collection before sending it back to the POD people. It's harder finding the time than I thought it would be. But soon enough the book will be available.
In "Sister Fey," a story that takes place in Athens, GA, I reference Atlanta Rhythm Section, a band that I'm embarrassed to admit I liked a bit in junior high/high school. Here's their big hit from 1979:
Monday, October 11, 2010
Some bullet points:
Cosmo had his first found of chemo on Friday and seems to be doing OK, showing no side effects yet. We're also giving him prednisone and some anti-nausea meds to help him out.
Owen had a baseball game Saturday after almost two weeks of rainouts. His team lost 8-2, and is now facing a battle for the final playoff spot. They're likely to have three games this week -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He had some good cuts at the ball, but has yet to make his first contact. That's OK; he's still having fun, which is all that matters.
I've decided to run a half marathon on November 14, my first such race in 6 or 7 years. I'm on a 6-week training schedule, which called for me to run for 70 minutes yesterday. I wasn't sure how I'd do, but managed to complete the run without having to stop. I felt pretty good the whole time, and while I was very sore afterward, I was perfectly OK with that. I managed to go 8 miles, which pleasantly surprised me.
I'm inching closer to publication. I have to review the formatted book that the POD people sent to me, and once I do that, I can't make any more changes without paying an additional fee. Additionally, I'm waiting to get the cover back from the designer. With any luck, the book will be ready for sale in a few weeks.
So, with that in mind, here's a little more promo. The second story in my collection, "Message In a Beer Bottle," has nothing whatsoever to do with the similarly titled song by The Police. It has to to with going to a Husker Du concert, and with the narrator allowing himself to be strung along by a girl, and with his decision to cut himself loose. Here's the video that inspired the title:
Monday, October 4, 2010
A few quick things...
Cosmo is recovering nicely after his surgery, eating well, enjoying our company and only vomiting a small amount. Still, he has been diagnosed with large-cell lymphoma, and will start chemotherapy this Friday. The treatments will be weekly initially, switching to every other week at some point. The doctors told us his maximum survival time is about six months. He'll turn 15 in a month, and has had a good life. With any luck, he'll be able to enjoy the next few months, and if he starts to decline, we'll make sure he doesn't suffer.
On a happier note, my brother, Steve, and sister, Beth, were in town Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. Our longstanding plan for the weekend was to go with Beth to the Sox game. We went, but the game never got played, due to rain. Still, we had a good time hanging out at the park, eating, drinking and catching up. The two of them had fun playing Mario Kart on our Wii system with Owen. The game is his latest obsession, and it was funny to watch my siblings try to learn the game. I hated the game at first, but after countless plays, I've gotten pretty good.
Steve and Beth hung out through lunch on Saturday, played a little more Mario Kart, and then my sister took off for CT, and I drove my brother to the airport. This is the second year in a row that we've gotten together for a quick visit. Last year they met me in Cooperstown, where my baseball team was playing in October. They didn't get to seem my game, but we still had a blast hanging out. We're talking about going to my brother's place in Maryland next year, and perhaps checking out a Nationals game.
Later on Saturday Beth, the kids and I trekked down the street to the 3rd annual Lower Wyoming Road Octoberfest. The weather was perfect, the home-brewed beer was tasty, the pulled pork and sausages were fantastic, and it was good to catch up with neighbors I hadn't seen in a while. The kids had fun, but we went home a bit on the early side.
Yesterday we kept things pretty mellow. We took our first trip to the movies with both kids, opting for "Toy Story 3," which we all liked. Amelia got a bit scared, but she made it through.
On the book front, I still have to finish writing "About the Author" and "About the Book" info for the back cover, and send it to the designer. And I need to review the formatted book that Booklocker sent back to me, and make sure there are no big grammar or spelling gaffes. And I'm waiting for a friend of mine to send a digital copy of his photo that I'm going to use for the cover. With any luck, the book will be available later this month.
Speaking of the book, it's time for more promo. The first story is titled "Dis Me On the Bus," and took it's name from, "Kiss Me On the Bus," a song by The Replacements. The story has nothing at all to do with that band; rather, it's about friends going to a club to see a past-their-prime Foghat. Still, The Replacements are a band I was pretty into back in the day, especially their loud, fast stuff. This song doesn't fit the bill, but it's pleasant enough. The Toastmen tried to cover it once, to minimal success.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
A few quick things....
As I write this, my cat, Cosmo, is spending his second night at Angell Memorial Hospital, the first two nights he's ever spent away from home. He had been vomiting quite a bit over the past few weeks, something that his vet had told us to keep an eye on after I brought him in last month when he had diarrhea. Long story short: his vet took x-rays on Thursday, and said he had a blockage in his intestines, and that the folks at Angell should do an ultrasound. So I took him to the hospital yesterday, and left him because he was on the ultrasound waiting list. They called me 90 minutes later to say his intestines were twisting in on themselves, and they recommended surgery. So they cut him open yesterday afternoon and were able to manually get his intestines back in order, without having to cut internally, which is great.
Because he's almost 15, has a heart murmur and kidney disease, they're monitoring him closely. I visited him briefly today; he wasn't happy to see me. Still, they said he's recovering well, and should be able to come home tomorrow. I hope the surgery takes care of his vomiting issue, and that the four biopsies they took from his intestines and liver come back negative.
My parents are coming up tomorrow to watch Owen's baseball game. Here's hoping he can get a hit, or at least a walk, for them.
Since I've been so busy with the cat, I haven't had much time to review the contracts with Booklocker. They've assigned a cover designer to me, and I need to respond to him with input about how I want the cover to look. I hope to get that stuff wrapped up by the end of the weekend, and get the final version of my manuscript (I have to add in a table of contents, info about the author, a dedication and acknowledgments, which I've mostly done) to the publisher.
Here's a clip from The Ramones, who figure somewhat prominently in my story, "Jerk Boy, Jerk Girl." My father-in-law, bless his heart, was playing some of their stuff when we were at their house last night for dinner, so I've got them in my head.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Last week was full of milestones. As I mentioned last time, Sunday was Beth's birthday. It was also Owen's debut in the AA league. He got up twice, and went 0 for 1 with a walk and a strikeout. He made a nice stop at third base and a pretty good throw to first that didn't get there in time. All in all, he did really well and, more importantly, felt really good about the game. His team won, 8-1.
His team, the Tigers, played again on Wednesday, and ended up tied at 0-0 after a 6-inning pitchers' duel. Owen struck out twice, but that wasn't that unusual in the game. He's happy to be out there playing, which makes Beth and me happy, and extremely proud. He played his third game yesterday, and while he struck out two more times, he had some good cuts. He also walked, and his team won, 9-3. The Tigers are tied for first.
As for Amelia, she finally started school this past Friday after weeks of anticipation. She had no problem being dropped off, and was excited to tell me about her day when I picked her up three hours later. She returned today and her teacher said she's doing really well. I expected that, but it's still nice to hear.
As for me, on Friday I submitted the manuscript for my short story collection to Booklocker, a print on-demand and book retailer. I chose them because they also publish a weekly email for freelance writers that I've been receiving for years and I like the cut of their gib. I wasn't sure how long it would take to hear back, but turns out it was just a little more than 24 hours. I figured they'd accept it, although they claim to reject quite a bit of material, and sure enough they did. I'm pretty excited about that. I have to review and accept their contract, and pay the set-up fee and the fee for having them create an original cover (I could choose a generic one, but no way I'm doing that), which I'll do in the next day or so.
I also need to rejigger this web site and start kicking into high marketing gear. Probably a good way to start marketing would be to reveal the title of my book. As some regular readers know, I started writing stories for this collection about 10 years ago. I emailed them (there were 17 stories, 15 of which made it to the book) to about 30 people just for fun, but realized along the way that if I reworked the stories I could perhaps convince people to pay for them at some point. The name I came up with a decade ago was "(C)rock Stories," trying to get across the point that these were fake stories about rock 'n' roll. When the time came to actually submit the thing, though, I realized that the working subtitle I had didn't cut it, so I came up with: "Million-Dollar Tales of Music, Mayhem and Immaturity."
Anyway, as part of my ongoing push for the book here, I'll be posting videos by bands that appear in the book in some way, shape or form. Here's a great song from one of my favorite bands, Husker Du:
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Happy birthday, Beth! Twenty-nine years young. Hard to believe. We went out Friday night to celebrate her birthday, as well as our 13th wedding anniversary, which was last Monday. We went to local Irish bar The Skellig for a quick dinner and a Guinness, and then saw "Inception," which wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. It was pretty good, but a little too long.
Today Beth's family is coming over for a lunchtime celebration. Later today, Owen plays his first AA baseball game, in which kids pitch. This level is a lot more challenging than the coach-pitch farm division he played in last spring. He's a bit overmatched right now, because he's rusty and many of the kids played summer ball, but ultimately it will be good for him and challenge his skills.
That's the quick news.
In the near future I plan to revamp the site in order to promote my books. As I've mentioned here before, my short story collection is done, but I'm working on some marketing strategies before putting it in the hands of the on-demand publisher I plan to use. I will be using this site to market and promote the book in goofy ways. I will also promote my children's books once I find an agent and/or publisher.
One of the ways is by posting videos from artists I mention in the book. There are close to 100 who in ways small and big, reverential and ironic, made it into (C)rock Stories. I have no particular order that I'm going by, but I don't think there's anything wrong with starting off with Foghat.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Happy anniversary to me and Beth! (OK, I started writing this yesterday, on our actual anniversary, but didn't have time to get back to it).
Thirteen years ago yesterday, after almost nine years of dating and living together, we got married at the beautiful Robert Treat Paine Estate (aka Stonehurst) in Waltham, MA. So, do the math: we've been together for nearly 22 years.
We didn't want a traditional wedding band, so we decided to ask some local bands we liked. My first choice was Charlie Chesterman. I emailed (or maybe called) his guitar player, who served as the band's manager. He said they didn't do weddings very often, and weren't into it. I was bummed.
But then Beth's sister, Megan, and her then-boyfriend (now husband), Todd, told us about Susan Tedeschi. We went to see her at the always excellent Johnny D's in Somerville and were hooked. She was a bit younger than us (I was 31 when we got engaged, Beth was 28), played bluesy rockers you could dance to, and had a helluva voice.
We asked her on the spot if she'd do it, and she said yes. Somehow (the details are lost to me, no surprise) we got in touch with her, filled out a contract and set everything up.
The big day came and everything went perfectly. The estate looked great, Beth looked great, tons of our friends and family were there, and the band looked and sounded great, too (should I say great again?). The only hitch was that the justice of the peace, whom we'd never met, showed up about two minutes before the 6:00 ceremony, because she'd gone to the Lyman estate across the street by mistake. We hadn't practiced the ceremony, but we gave the JP a list of who was to do a reading, and she went with it. She stumbled only once, when she had to ask us quietly whether we wanted her to read the boilerplate religious text. "No!" we exclaimed.
Then the party started. The band sounded great, as I said. Susan seemed to have a bit of a cold, but that didn't prevent her from belting out her songs. As my dad said, a bit taken aback when he heard her, "She sure can sing, can't she?"
A few months after our wedding, she and her band put out Just Won't Burn, which earned a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist. She didn't win, but it was really cool telling people that the woman who played our wedding got a Grammy nod.
Anyway, we've had 13 (really 22) great years. Here's to the rest of our lifetime!
We'll celebrate this Friday with dinner and a movie, I think. Sunday is Beth's birthday, so we've got plenty to whoop it up over.
Here's one of Susan Tedeschi's best songs.
As you can see from the above photo, we lived it up big-time during the last week before school started (which was today). We went to North Conway, NH, last Tuesday and returned Friday. We had a great time -- hanging out in the water park attached to our hotel, going to the always wonderful Storyland, taking a gondola ride up Wildcat Mountain, playing mini golf, meeting up with our friend Joe for dinner.
So, as I said, Owen returned to school today. He seemed excited for it, after being a bit bored over the weekend. He's got a big week: I'm taking him to the Sox game tomorrow, and his first practice and game for fall baseball are on the agenda.
Anyway, gotta go!
Monday, August 30, 2010
Where has the time gone? Oh yeah, into taking care of both kids since Owen's camp ended.
Well, then, let's cover some ground.
On Friday the 20th we went down to CT for the annual Brigham Family Long Weekend Get-Together. We hung out with my sister (and stayed at her house), my parents, my brother, his wife and their two kids. On Friday we took Owen and Amelia (their cousin Isaiah was napping, and cousin Grace wasn't feeling well) to Northwest Park in Windsor. They were pretty excited to see the farm animals, especially the donkey, which was braying loudly when they walked into the barn. We also spent some time at the playground, and I got hungry and jealous watching people from a Bank of America corporate event eating burgers and dogs.
That night my sister hosted all of us for dinner, along with a few of my cousins. It was good to catch up with everyone. Later, Beth and I went to Simsbury to meet up with some of my longtime friends who were in town for a golf tournament in memory of my childhood friend, Bene. We met at Abigail's, a fancy restaurant with a nice bar in a 1740 building that used to be Pettibone's Tavern. The restaurant is named after the ghost that some say haunts the building.
I had to miss the tournament because my family was in town, but it was great to catch up with my friends Andy, Steve, Stacy, Liz, Laureen, Mike, and Jonathan. Andy had us all in stitches, as usual, with his various stories. Afterwards some of us went back to the Simsbury Inn, where Andy and Steve were staying, to drink and reminisce some more. We didn't get back to my sister's house until 2:30. Upon our arrival, we discovered Amelia and my sister awake. Amelia had a tough night, pooping twice after she'd fallen asleep. I felt bad for my sister, but she handled it well and she and got to sleep a little later than usual the next morning.
On Saturday we went to the Connecticut Children's Museum, which is about five minutes from my sister's house. My brother met us there with his two kids; my sister-in-law went shopping with my sister in the meantime. The museum was better than I was expecting. I hadn't been there in a long time, and wasn't sure it could match up against the relatively new Science Center in Hartford. But I'm glad we went, although just thinking about the tank full of giant cockroaches gives me the willies.
After lunch back at my sister's, where my parents joined us, we booked it over to Charter Oak Landing for a one-hour cruise on the Connecticut River. It was a beautiful day for a trip on the water, and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. Owen and Grace were cute roaming the boat taking pictures and narrating videos they were shooting. I loved seeing a part of the state I'd never seen before, from the massive trash-to-energy plant on the banks of the river close to our launch point, to the abandoned Pratt & Whitney engine testing facility, the osprey nests and various boats.
After the boat trip we hung out at my parents' house, had dinner, celebrated my mom's birthday and had a great time watching the kids all get along swimmingly (what exactly does that phrase mean?)
Sunday morning we packed up and went to my parents' for breakfast and to say goodbye to my brother and his family. The visit was short, but it was a good one. We'll see them again at Thanksgiving, most likely.
You can find pictures from the trip on Facebook
, if you haven't already.
Last week, as I said, Owen was free from camp, so we did a few things of interest. We hit Monster Mini Golf, which is always a hoot. We took the T into Boston and visited the New England Aquarium. More than on previous visits, both kids were really into the enormous tank that is the showcase of the aquarium. We did two circuits, with Owen excitedly pointing out the sharks, the rays, the turtles and all sorts of fish, both beautiful and strange, large and small. Amelia followed her big brother around, full of wonder and excitement.
Afterwards, we took a short walk around the harbor before checking out the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the mile-long parkland that replaced the old elevated highway that used to rip through the heart of Boston (the highway now runs under the city, thanks to the megabillion-dollar Big Dig project). The park is pretty nice, with fountains and shady spots to sit. There are plans to add museums, restaurants and other facilities and events to draw people to the park, which sits nice and close to the waterfront. It's gonna take years for it all to come together, but if done right, the greenway will be a fantastic asset for the city.
I'm running out of gas here. We're heading to North Conway, NH, tomorrow for a few days. We'll hit Storyland, of course, and possibly do a gondola ride up Wildcat Mountain. There will also be mini golfing, water park mania at the resort where we're staying, possibly a hike and who knows what else.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
What, it's been nine days? I think my web site is gonna sue me for neglect. Anyway....
Since last we met, Owen has learned how to steer a sailboat, as you can see from the above photo. Our friends Linda and Dave, and their girls, Zoe and Maya, took us out on their boat this past Sunday. We had a terrific time, as the weather was warm, Boston Harbor was beautiful and the Hills served breakfast on board. To see more pictures, go here.
Owen was pretty excited for the trip, and had a big smile on his face while steering, and helping Dave with the ropes. He and Zoe have known each other their whole lives and they always have a lot of fun.
After the trip, we went back to Linda and Dave's house. Somehow the topic of The Backside of America came up (see how I snuck that plug in there?), and Dave showed me some pictures he took on Peddocks Island, one of the Boston Harbor islands, during a recent solo boat trip. Look for his photos and write-up at the Backside in the near future.
Dave also told me about a bar in Hull that features an entryway into a tunnel system that runs under part of the harbor. Fascinated by the prospect on both a personal and blogging level, I checked into it when I got home. Sure enough, without much difficulty, I found the web site for Jo's Nautical Bar, and right there on the web site is a link for "Entrance to Boston Harbor Tunnel." The write-up about the history of a tunnel system was all there, telling the tale of how military engineers in the 18th century began the project, and how the tunnels were upgraded during World War II (The Big One).
I was rapt. And there were pictures, too, of a recent tour that the bar offered. "Incredible!" I thought. So I did the logical thing and signed up for the next tour, a Christmas Eve tour to Boston Light.
Something in the back of my head, however, told me to do a little research. And before too long, I discovered a YouTube video, produced by local newspaper the Patriot Ledger, that exposed the myth. There is no such entry to the tunnel system. There are some tunnels on certain islands in the harbor, but nothing so grand as what Jo's offers up. Still, I'd like to go to that drinking hole with Dave some time, and get out to Peddocks and take some pictures of my own.
On Saturday, we went to the annual Webnoize Summer BBQ at my buddy Lee's house in Boston's Allston neighborhood. Lee and his wife, Mary Helen, sprung for food from the fantastic Somerville joint Redbone's. The food was awesome, the kids had a great time and it was good to catch up with the old dot-com gang.
That about sums things up. I'm looking forward to this Friday, when I'll be taking my first trip to the new House of Blues to see Willie Nelson with my buddy Joe.
I love Willie Nelson, although I really don't know much of his music beyond his most popular ones. I guess I love the idea of Willie Nelson. Still, should be a good show.
I hope he plays this one....
Monday, August 2, 2010
Weekends in late July/early August with temps hovering around 80 and low humidity are rare. I wish the entire summer could be like that. And because we've had so much heat and humidity in recent weeks, the air over the past few days has seemed even fresher than it normally would.
After puttering around the house on Saturday morning, we headed to the beach out after lunch. We convoyed with Beth's sister and her husband and son up to Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, north of Boston. We arrived around 3:00 and spent about 2 1/2 hours enjoying the comfortable temps, the cool water and lots and lots of play time in the sand. The kids had a blast, the grownups got to relax and it wasn't too expensive to park.
Originally we'd planned to go to Woodman's, about 15 minutes away in Essex, for seafood. But we realized that on a beautiful Saturday evening around 6:00, the place would be jammed. Beth's brother-in-law, Todd, had written down the names of a few other places, including the awesomely monikered Lobsta Land. This place was close to the beach, but, alas, it was packed. So we decided to hit the Cheesecake Factory at the North Shore Mall on the way home, but it, too, was jammed.
So we went to Megan and Todd's house for Mexican takeout and, while not quite the experience we'd been hoping for, turned out to be a good decision with three tired kids.
On Sunday, Owen and I headed out for our latest subway trip. We started at Brookline Hills on the D branch of the Green Line on what turned out to be yet another gorgeous day. In general, when the weather's as nice as it was yesterday, I try to spend as much time outside as possible, so I convinced Owen that we'd get off the Silver Line in South Boston and check out the Black Falcon Terminal, where cruise ships and container ships dock.
There were no ships around, but it was cool nonetheless to walk around these massive piers, amid gigantic buildings and watch planes approach Logan Airport, and just take in the blue-blue sky and the massive puffy clouds on display. I posted picture on Facebook that you can check out here.
We had lunch at South Station, as usual, and also hit the Blue, Orange and Red lines, as usual. Other than our stop at the ship terminal, our trip was pretty standard.
Last night we finished off a great weekend by celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday with more delicious Mexican food. We took the kids down to the local park before going back to my in-laws' house for cake and presents.
The thing that kept the weekend from being perfect was the fact that my mother fell outside a CVS Thursday night and badly bruised her face, and cut her lip. She was in the hospital in CT for 48-hour observation, while the doctors conducted a battery of heart and brain tests. She came through the ordeal feeling pretty good, despite the bruises and stitches in her upper lip. She and my dad left this morning for a short vacation in Williamstown, MA, on an Elderhostel trip. They'll watch a bunch of plays while there, and enjoy good food and elegant lodging. I hope they can fully enjoy their stay, and that my mom heals quickly.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
The heat bugs have been buzzing like crazy lately, although the last two days have been far less humid than in recent weeks, so I can actually enjoy their unearthly sounds.
Speaking of unearthly sounds and hunidity...Beth and I went to see the Flaming Lips at Mountain Park, a former amusement park in Holyoke, Mass., that's been turned into an outside concert venue (pictures available here). We drove through torrential rains to get there, but the skies cleared nicely well before showtime.
We went to the show with our friends Ray and Inez and had a great time, despite the thick, soupy air, which was intensified by the crush of two thousand people in front of the stage. Still, once the band kicked in with their psychedelic freak show, complete with confetti guns, massive balloons, lead singer Wayne Coyne rolling over the crowd in his space bubble, lasers and tons of other nearly overwhelming lighting effects, all was good.
I've seen the Lips at least seven times now, and I always have a good time. The last three times I've seen them they've put on a similar show, however, and I'm ready for something different. I doubt they'd strip it down after having done so many bombastic concerts in recent years, but I'd prefer more focus on the music, especially a little bit of older stuff and one or two covers, which they're incredibly adept at, such as Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" or the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army," in which they work in lyrics to the Butthole Surfers' "Movin' to Florida."
Anyway, before the show, Inez, who grew up not far from Holyoke, in Longmeadow, led us from our hotel in Springfield to a great German restaurant called The Fort (a picture of a small section of the restaurant's beer stein collection is in the above-referenced Facebook photo album).
The food was rich (I had the German sampler, with goulash, sausage and pork, which was very tasty, but so filling I couldn't finish), the beer was refreshing and the atmosphere was incredible. The place is lined top to bottom and side to side with beer steins, cuckoo clocks, antler racks, old photos, etc. According to Inez, it's the hottest dinner spot in town. There is also a bar called The Student Prince, which was opened in 1935 and named after a German opera.
After the show, we went out to a bar called Max's Tavern that's in the same building as the Basketball Hall of Fame. After the insanity of the concert, it was nice to sit in a quiet, dimly lit bar and have a few drinks while watching the Sox.
Not much else going on around these parts. The kids are having fun at their respective camps. Amelia went three days last week, and will go three days this week. Then she has about a month and a half off before she starts preschool at the same place.
And now for my usual plug: I was hoping that there might be some remnants of the amusements and rides at Mountain Park, so I could take some shots for The Backside of America. But the place has been wiped clean. But that doesn't mean you can't still visit the site to read about a dilapidated house in Watertown, Mass., and beautiful, long-abandoned railroad gantries on Long Island.
Oh yeah, one last note. I'm honestly about 99% done editing my (C)rock stories. And I've been creating t-shirts online as part of my marketing campaign. Keep coming back here for updates and teasers.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I haven't posted in a while because we were on Cape Cod last week, and the week before that Owen was home sick from camp three of the four days, so I didn't have much free time, and there wasn't much to write about in the run-up to our departure day.
We had a great time on the Cape, as usual, with Beth's parents, Rich and Rose, her sister, Megan, brother-in-law Todd and Owen and Amelia's cousin, Max. We did plenty of swimming, as well as sand castle construction and minnow catching. Owen and Max had a vacation buddy, Nicholas, whose grandmother is a longtime friend of Rich and Rose's, and who owns a beach house right around the corner from where we stay every year. The three boys had a great time in the water, as well as playing with trains in the house, and watching "Scooby-Doo" with Amelia.
We brought our bikes for the first time, and managed one family ride. Beth and I had our old mountain bikes tuned up, and I added a seat on the back of my bike for Amelia. Although we had to take two cars in order to fit the bikes plus all the other gear we brought, it was worth it because Owen and I went on a lot of cool rides. Although we've rented the same house for eight years now, Owen and I discovered lots of new neighborhoods and areas to explore that are close by, but simply places that we never sought out before on foot or by car.
On Wednesday, as we have for the last two years, Owen and I drove to Hyannis (with Todd, Max and Rich) to ride on the Cape Cod Central Railroad. The train takes about an hour to travel through Hyannis and Sandwich, eventually going along the Cape Cod Canal and stopping short of the Sagamore Bridge. Then the engineer decouples the engine, drives it along a side track, and hitches it up to the other end for the trip back to Hyannis. Owen and Max really enjoyed the trip.
What else? Oh yeah, we worked in some mini golf, arcade games, bumper boats and go karts, all of which Owen loved. Check out pictures here.
We got back on Saturday and unpacked and chilled out. On Sunday, however, we were on the road again. We drove about an hour and a half up to Arundel, Maine, to the Seashore Trolley Museum, a place that Owen's been asking about for a few months now.
Operated by rail fans young and old alike, many of them hailing from Greater Boston, the museum is a really cool place even if you're not totally obsessed with subways the way Owen is. All four of us enjoyed riding on an old trolley, as well as walking around the expansive grounds to look at dozens upon dozens of old MBTA trolleys, subways and buses, as well as vehicles from all around the country and the world. Pictures are here.
But wait, there's more: go to The Backside of America and check out Joe Viger's great photos of old house parts in Freedom, NH.
OK, you're free to go now.
Monday, July 5, 2010
Our annual July 4th party was a huge success. The kids had a blast in the wading pool, and playing with the pitching machine, and eating hot dogs and popsicles and just generally running around willy nilly. The grown-ups had a good time, too, as the kids were well behaved and required little intervention. The only hitch: our next door neighbors' 9-month-old boy got a few sips from a bottle of hard lemonade. They didn't realize the yellow nectar had alcohol in it until my mother-in-law clued them in. With any luck the booze made him sleep a little better than usual last night.
After the hijinks and the BBQ, many of us walked a short distance to check out Newton's always excellent fireworks display. Owen took a few videos (one of which I posted here, but it was messing up the width of the site, so I took it down).
Afterwards, we went back to the house, said goodbye to our remaining houseguests and got ready for a sleepover with our friends Jim and Nikki and their daughter Sophia. The kids stayed up until about 11:00, and conked out pretty quickly. Amelia's tired today; Owen woke up a bit under the weather, but is rebounding as the day goes along.
Gonna be a hot week, which I'm not looking forward to. I hope Owen doesn't get too wiped out at camp. He won't tomorrow, because he's got a stomach bug today and won't be going to camp. I hope he recovers quickly, and that he doesn't pass it along to Amelia.
If the kids have to get sick, it's better that it happens this week than next week. We leave Saturday for a week on the Cape. I'm looking forward to the usual mix of beach time, fried seafood, late-afternoon margaritas, a trip on the Cape Cod Railway and perhaps a visit to Pirate Adventures in Hyannis.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Yesterday we threw Amelia's 3rd birthday party, and while I can't believe how quickly she's growing up (she's just a few months away from preschool), I also have to say how impressed I was with Owen's maturity during the party.
The party went off without a hitch, with all the kids (8 in all, including Owen and Amelia) playing well together inside and out, giving the adults plenty of time to eat, chat and drink. My parents and sister came up, joining Beth's parents, her sister, brother-in-law and nephew, as well as a handful of our friends with their kids (pix here).
Amelia had fun showing off her princess shoes (see photo above) and playing with her big-girl friends Brenna, Rory and Sophia. She was a little shy when we sang "Happy Birthday," but was very excited for her mermaid cake. She got loads of great presents, including some books, babies, dress-up dolls and accessories and some cool clothes.
As for Owen, he had a good time with his buddy Walter and his cousin Max, alternating between riding scooters, playing with Snap Circuits and helping dole out party favors to the kids. This last part impressed me. Owen's a good kid, but he's not usually one to volunteer to help with even the smallest tasks, such as taking his dinner plate to the sink, or putting his clothes in the hamper. But there he was handing out goodies to the other kids, of his own volition.
He has also impressed me the last few days with his dedication to Snap Circuits. He loves trying out new patterns in order to make a lightbulb light up, or a fan spin, or an alarm sound. He's even taken to creating his own circuits, which is really cool.
Amelia's been having a great time today showing off her bathing suits to my parents, and reading books with them, and happily drinking water from her new Dora Thermos. It's fun to see.
Owen starts camp tomorrow, which he seems pretty excited about. The forecast is hot, humid and major thunderstorms, which means they'll likely be inside a lot, which is probably OK with Owen.
Amelia's actual birthday is Tuesday, so we'll do a little more celebrating then, and perhaps I'll have a few more pictures to post.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Four days after Amelia had to go to the ER after bumping her head, she contracted a stomach bug. She threw up at night on Saturday, June 5, and off and on again through Monday morning. She was a trouper throughout, and thankfully nobody else got sick.
I had a fear that I was going to have to take her to the ER because she had no energy, and was pretty much refusing to eat anything. Last year we had to take her to the ER after she had thrown up for a few days and got dehydrated. Thankfully, she started gaining back some energy Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday she was back to normal.
As for me, I've got bronchitis. It's not that bad, just a nuisance to be coughing so much and bringing up nasty green phlegm. It's been coming on slowly for the last few weeks, but I realized last Thursday night that I needed to go to the doctor, as the cough kept me awake from 3:15 a.m. I'm now on antibiotics and it's getting better.
Away from the sick bay, Beth and I went out to dinner and a movie on Friday night. After a tasty dinner at tapas restaurant Solea in Waltham, we went to see "Get Him to the Greek."
The movie was pretty funny and not as raunchy as I was expecting. The soundtrack was half-decent, Russell Brand didn't annoy me at all really, which was surprising considering how much I couldn't stand him in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" playing the same character.
The weekend was filled with baseball. Owen's team had a game on Saturday, and a practice Sunday. I'm really impressed with the progress the team has made over the course of a dozen or so games and a handful of practices. The kids are making better, more accurate throws, to the correct base. They are no longer trying to run the ball to the base in order to beat the runner. They are all hitting the ball pretty well, and paying better attention to the coaches when they're on base.
We've got two more games, on Thursday and Saturday. Saturday's game is at "the big field," the one with dugouts, bleachers, a fence and, supposedly, an announcer. It's the only time all season they'll play there. Afterwards, they all get trophies (I never got a trophy, because back in the Mesozoic Era, they only gave trophies for teams that won something). We might take the kids out for ice cream afterwards. Should be a great day.
Sunday is Father's Day. Not sure what's planned for that day, but Owen and I might take a subway trip.
On the (C)rock Story front: I've gotten the 15 stories into one file, formatted them and I have to say, it looks good. Of course, once I send it off for review by the publishing-on-demand company I plan to use, things will surely change. I still have to do some editing on one of the stories, but that shouldn't take too long. In the near future, I plan to sell (C)rock-themed t-shirts via Zazzle.com.
On the children's book front, today I sent my second follow-up email to the one agency that has requested the full manuscript. It's been six weeks since my initial follow-up. I hope they read it soon, and decide to represent it, which, I guess, goes without saying.
Shifting gears: I got around to loading some live T. Rex onto my iPod last night. It's good stuff, and I'm not sure why I didn't do it earlier. Anyway, here's a video for "20th Century Boy."
Friday, June 4, 2010
Summer arrived a few weeks early this week, with temps in the 80s and a fair amount of humidity, leading to thunderstorms. I haven't broken out the air conditioning yet, but we've had fans running here and there to try and cool things off. The temps aren't too bad today, but the humidity is a bit thick. I don't mind it, but I prefer this type of weather in July and August (well, I prefer it not at all, but I can't do anything about it).
I took Owen to his 8-year-old check-up at his doctor's today. He weighs 61 pounds and is four-foot-five-and-one-eighth inches tall. He's healthy and doing well. He and Amelia got their second H1N1 shots as well, since I never got around to scheduling those during the winter.
Owen's been having a great time riding his bike since he got it. He's mastered the gears and the brakes and loves skidding. Won't be long before he's popping wheelies and asking to ride on some single-track.
We had a good Memorial Day weekend filled with friends, family and barbecued food. Owen even got his grandpa to take him on a subway trip on Monday. I was glad to sit that one out, although I really do like going on those journeys with Owen.
What else? Oh yeah, Amelia made her second trip to the emergency room in her young life (Owen's never been). After she and I picked Owen up from school on Tuesday, we drove to the library to return the books he'd used for a report on the United Kingdom in school.
As we walked through the first set of doors, Owen tripped Amelia, so I picked her up, scooted her through the second set of doors and stood her on a rug while I folded up the umbrella and told Owen where to return his books. Somehow, Amelia tripped on the rug and fell straight back on her head. She cried for quite a while, and almost conked out during the 10-minute car ride home. I got her to settle down a bit when we got home. I called Beth and she wisely told me, "Call the doctor" (which I was planning on doing anyway).
The doctor's office said I should take her to the ER. So we went, and Beth met us there. After an exam and some time to see whether concussion symptoms (vomiting, falling asleep, disorientation) set in (they didn't), we went home. She still says her head hurts a little, three days after the fact, but she's fine. If anything, she seems more chatty and silly after bumping her head than she was before.
Anyway, tonight we're all going to the end-of-the-year show for Owen's after-school program. He's not in it, but he wants to watch, as many of his friends are. He's got a game tomorrow, and a birthday party, so it's a busy weekend for him. Oh yeah, and he and I need haircuts, too.
Exciting stuff, eh?
Well, try this out, if you need excitement. My buddy Ric has launched a podcast, More Lost Time, in which he "plays rare recordings from his formidable music library."
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sunday was Owen's 8th birthday, and so the entire weekend was dedicated to helping him celebrate. My parents and my sister came up Friday so they could go to Owen's Little League game Saturday morning. Beth's parents, sister and nephew joined us for the game, which was played on a beautiful day. Owen made a nice play in the field (at 3rd base again) and got on base a few times and scored at least two runs. A nice way to start off the birthday weekend.
In the late afternoon, we gathered at our house for presents and dinner. Owen got not one, but two, video cameras (one each from Beth's parents and sister and brother-in-law), some cool Life Is Good t-shirts, a weather station, a kick pedal for the drum set (from us), a collage poster commemorating our trip to NYC last month, some books and a 4-D puzzle of New York City. Pretty good haul, I must say.
We got dinner from Bertucci's and then had cake and ice cream (see pictures here) before my family hit the road.
Sunday morning is actually when Beth, Amelia and I gave Owen his presents. Then, around 11:00 we gathered up his friend Alex and headed to the Village Green mini golf course to meet Owen's friend Walt. This was the kid party portion of the birthday weekend. Owen invited two other friends, but they couldn't make it. But that was OK, as the three boys had a lot of fun playing golf, eating pizza and cupcakes, and playing with their party favors.
Later that afternoon we took Owen to Harris Cyclery in West Newton, where Beth used to get her bikes as a kid. We've bought a few bikes there, and we always get great service, from Mr. Harris himself (nice toupee!). As you can see in the above photo, Owen loves his new bike. It's pretty big compared to what he had, but Mr. Harris recommended it, so we went along. It's got gears, hand brakes, a shock absorber -- the works! Owen mastered it pretty quickly; it's great to see him riding again.
All in all, a pretty great birthday weekend. Owen's got a game tonight, weather permitting, but none this weekend due to the holiday. Can't wait for the showers to cool things off....
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Owen's team had two games this week, and he did really well in each. After our initial practices last month I wasn't sure how he would do at bat. But he hits the ball every time he's up (a few kids, after 10 or so swings, are given first base), runs the bases well and is excited to score runs. In the field he usually stops the ball pretty well, and manages to throw in the right direction, but he needs to put a little more OOMPH into his tosses. Most importantly, he enjoys the games, being with his friends and learning a little each time.
This all makes me proud to no end. Owen often has a difficult time breaking the ice with new friends, ideas and events (just like his old man). He and I played tons of whiffle ball last year, and he's enjoyed watching the Sox the past few seasons, so Beth and I knew he had a real interest in baseball. But when we asked over the winter whether he wanted to play Little League -- we'd seen some of his friends play games last year -- his answer was always an emphatic, "NO!!"
Finally, I hit upon an idea that I hoped would work. "How about if I help coach your team?" I said. He looked at me with a smile. "Really?"
"Sure," I said, "I know how to play, and I can probably coach." So, he agreed. Still, I wasn't sure whether he would stick with it, or if he might get frustrated or bored or anxious.
To my great surprise and relief, he gets excited for games and practices, gets a little bummed when we get rained out, and has improved his skills and never complained at all. I'm proud of him (did I say that already?), and love that we get to spend time together doing something we both really like. I also love that I get to experience the same feelings my dad had when he helped coach my team when I played Little League.
For close to two years, Owen did tae kwon do every Saturday, from September through June. Beth and I went to his classes and enjoyed hanging out at the facility and chatting with other parents while Amelia ran around the play structure and went on the swings. While Owen may do tae kwon do again in the fall and winter, I have to say that spending time as a family during the spring playing, coaching and watching baseball seems like a much better way to spend our Saturday mornings.
One last thing: when I'm on the field encouraging the kids, or giving them tips on fielding, or admonishing them for not paying attention, I can't help but think of "The Bad News Bears." I love that movie (the original; I never saw the remake), and played on a few teams that resembled that crew. There's even one kid on Owen's team who reminds me a bit of Tanner: short, spunky and tough as nails -- he took a ground ball in the teeth and didn't shed one tear. Anyway, here's a clip from that classic movie.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Today's a beautiful day, albeit a bit on the cool side, and I'm going to the Sox for the second time in six days, so things are looking good. Beth and I took Owen and her dad to the game last Thursday, in which they completed their sweep of the Angels. The seats weren't great, and it was a bit chilly, but we had a good time even though we had to leave early because Owen had school the next day.
Tonight the Sox play the Blue Jays, and I'll be sitting alongside Toronto native (and former Webnoize coworker) Jay Kumar, who was kind enough to offer me the ticket his wife couldn't use. I'm looking forward to staying for the entire game this time, especially since Beth leaves tomorrow for a two-day business trip.
For the second time this season, Owen's game got rained out on Saturday (and the weather for tomorrow's game isn't looking too great either), which was a bummer. We didn't do much that day. On Sunday we had brunch at Beth's parents' house, which turned into about a five-hour hangout session, complete with bloody mary's, mimosas, a trip to the playground and some really good food.
Last week I checked in on the literary agency that requested the full manuscript of my subway-themed children's book, and they said they're swamped and haven't had a chance to review mine yet. Either that or they've stolen my idea and are poised to make millions from it. I'll let you know when anything develops.
Finally, I point you to The Backside of America, where the two most recent posts cover the wonder of jukeboxes and the odd juxtaposition of an abandoned shopping center in Connecticut with cool posters of Muhammad Ali.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Well, by now I assume you've had time to read my novella below about our trip to New York City. So now you're ready to hear about boil water orders, Little League Skills Day and the Red Sox.
On Saturday morning, there was a "catastrophic" (the words of the Mass. Water Resources Authority) water main break in Weston, MA. Installed just seven years ago, the huge main cracked wide open, spilling millions of gallons of water into the Charles River and resulting in a boil water order to nearly 2 million Easter Mass. residents, us included.
Honestly, it wasn't much more than a nuisance, as we had to boil water for drinking, teeth brushing and cooking (which we didn't do), and wash dishes in a mix of pre-boiled water and bleach. We could do laundry as usual and take showers without concern. A few times I rinsed my brush with tap water by mistake, but I lived to tell about it. The pre-boiled water was a little pond-y to the taste, but otherwise OK. I bought a case of water on Monday, less than 24 hours before being told the boil water order had been lifted.
Today, this article tells me we could have saved time on boiling water to drink and brush teeth with. Whatever....
I'm concerned, however, that there are other points in the system that could fail, resulting in another main break. The water authority is working on fixing up the old system as a back-up. I think they'd better kick it double-time.
When the main broke, Owen and I were at Little League Skills Day. The day is run by four coaches from a local batting cage, and is designed to teach the kids batting, fielding and warm-up skills, while simultaneously providing coaches with ideas for practices and games. Owen did well, as did most of his teammates. My fellow Brewers coaches and I, however, spent too much time telling our kids to stop hitting each other's hats off, pay attention to the coaches, and to keep their hands to themselves. All in all, though, it was a good and productive day.
The Brewers have their second game tonight, followed by another one Saturday morning, weather permitting. Today's shaping up to be a beauty, weather-wise, so Owen and I are looking forward to the game.
Tomorrow the Brewers get their team and individual pictures taken (you can order trading cards of your player -- fantastic!), and immediately afterwards Owen and I are meeting Beth at Fenway for the Sox-Angels game. We're all really looking forward to that.
After Skills Day on Saturday, Owen and I went on a subway trip, something we haven't done in two months. We didn't see or learn anything very interesting on the trip, but it was fun nonetheless. Owen really enjoys them and I like spending time with him doing something relatively cheap and easy.
So as I said, we're going to the Sox game tomorrow with Beth and her dad. The Sox have frustrated the Nation so far this year, as their vaunted pitching and defense have been below average, and their hitting, as expected, hasn't had much spark. They've won two in a row against the Angels, which is nice, but getting swept by the lowly Orioles was just horrendous. With two more against the Angels and then the Yankees on tap, now is the time for the Sox to kick themselves in the pants and show what they're made of.
I love going to Fenway no matter what, but a win tomorrow night would be great.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
We had a great time in New York. The end.
I'm joking, I'm joking. Get your extra-strength reading glasses on, 'cuz here we go....
We did have a great time, albeit an exhausting one. On Monday the 19th, we arrived at the Amtrak station along Route 128 in Westwood around 8:45; the train left at 9:30. We were on the Acela, which was comfortable, fast and relaxing. We arrived in Penn Station at 12:45, and met my sister, who'd traveled down from CT earlier in the day. After dropping our bags at the Doubletree Suites in Times Square, we set off for lunch at ESPN Zone.
After lunch we checked into the hotel, which turned out to be a good central location for our vacation. Owen loved that we were on the 36th floor; we had a great view of Times Square, especially the M & M Store, which the kids loved. From there, we walked down the street to the Toys R Us and rode the indoor ferris wheel (see picture of the wheel, and the rest of the trip here). Owen and Amelia were crossing their fingers that we'd get to ride in the Scooby-Doo car, and their wish came true. They were both very excited for the ride (OK, Beth and I were, too).
We ate dinner at Langan's, a decent Irish restaurant and bar right around the corner from our hotel. After putting the kids to bed, Beth and I chilled out by watching a wonderfully cheesy Lifetime movie, "Another Woman's Husband" (which I thought was called "Swimming Lessons," but after a bit of research, I realized that's the book it was based on, although I swear that's the title it was billed under. OK, waaaaay too much information). After a long trip and a busy afternoon and evening, what we needed most was a movie starring Lisa Rinna and Gail O'Grady. We didn't stay up 'til the end, but I'm guessing, since the movie aired during Lifetime's "Happily Never After Week" (did you see what they did there?), that Rinna and O'Grady kill the dude who is O'Grady's husband and Rinna's lover.
Anyway....on Tuesday we ate breakfast on 8th Ave., around the corner from my sister's hotel. On our walk there, I snapped the picture you see above, because I noticed some guy taking a photo of it. If I'd taken more than one pic, I'd have posted them at (shameless plug alert!) The Backside of America. I did some research online in an attempt to find out the history of this building, but didn't find anything. What I learned, though, is that it's likely to be knocked down soon to make way for a gleaming office or residential building, annoying to no end for the folks at Jeremiah's Vanishing New York.
After breakfast, we took a cab (Owen and Amelia's first) to the American Museum of Natural History. The museum has incredible displays of large mammals, from polar bears and grizzly bears to bison and elk. There's a great display of sea life, too, including a massive whale that looms over the exhibit. After the museum we headed into Central Park to find Belvedere Castle.
The castle is impressive from the outside, and offers fantastic views from the top two levels. Built in 1865 as a Victorian folly, the castle now serves in part as a weather station. The kids thought it was great.
After the castle we walked over toward 5th Ave. to find a place to eat lunch. We passed a lot of hoity-toity places before opting for a hot dog cart. My sister left us at this point, as we planned to go to Rockefeller Center, which she'd already visited. Beth and I got a kick out of the snooty older woman who looked down her nose at us as we camped out in front of a very nice building with a doorman, eating our hot dogs.
We took another cab to Rockefeller Center, and got tickets for the Top of the Rock. Owen loved Top of the Rock, because there are blue lights all the way up the elevator shaft, illuminating the way. Topside, we took a bunch of pictures, gawked at all them tall buildings and then went down to the ground floor for ice cream at Ben & Jerry's.
That night we had dinner at Blockhead's, a burrito place that was really yummy.
That night Beth went out to ESPN Zone to meet a friend from work. I was tempted to watch more of "Happily Never After" week, but opted instead for Burma VJ, a documentary about the monk-led uprising in Burma in 2007. Depressing, but riveting nonetheless.
We ate breakfast Wednesday morning in the hotel restaurant, which was a mistake. Slow, inefficient service on overpriced food. 'Nuff said.
After breakfast we took the subway to the Empire State Building, a place that Owen had been looking forward to visiting for months. The views from the top didn't disappoint him. Beth and I visited the top a few years back, at night, and it was really cool, but it was great to see the city during the day. You can see New Jersey, too, of course, but also parts of Connecticut and Pennsylvania, I believe.
Afterward, we met up with my cousin's daughter, Sam, and had lunch at TGI Friday's near Madison Square Garden. It was good to catch up with her, and find out about her potential plans to play basketball in Europe after she graduates from Hofstra in a few weeks. She and my sister split to go shopping after lunch; we took a cab back to the hotel to get ready for our first double-decker bus tour.
We opted for the Downtown Loop, which brings you from Times Square to Greenwich Village, Wall Street, Ground Zero, the Lower East Side, Chinatown and other parts of the city that I'm forgetting. Things started off just fine, as we spotted the Naked Cowboy strumming his guitar and struttin' his bad self in Times Square. We saw a good amount of Greenwich Village and then it started raining so we had to ditch the open-top second deck and head below. Couldn't see much down there, and Amelia fell asleep and it got real crowded, so we didn't exactly get our money's worth for the last half of the tour. Oh well.
That night we got Happy Meals for the kids and ordered room service.
On Thursday we discovered a great breakfast joint right around the corner from our hotel (OK, the concierge directed us there). Evergreen's is your prototypical NY coffee shop/diner, with fast service of great food like bagels with lox and cream cheese and French toast with bacon. Great stuff.
After powering up at Evergreen's, we set out on our second bus tour, this time doing the Uptown Loop. The weather couldn't have been better, so the tour was really great. The tour guide was a little stiff, having obviously memorized most of his spiel, unlike the previous day's guide, who had some character, albeit goofy character, and charm.
Nonetheless, we saw some great architecture and landmarks such as the incongruous but totally cool Hearst Publishing headquarters; the Time Warner headquarters; the Dakota (where Yoko Ono lives and John Lennon was shot); one of the oldest subway stations in NYC, as well as the newest; Columbia University; the Apollo Theatre; a mosque in Harlem; the Guggenheim Museum; and Central Park.
We grabbed lunch at a great deli called Maxie's, where we enjoyed some Yankee-Red Sox banter with the waiter, and chowed on massive sandwiches, salads and hot dogs (Amelia put away about half of her foot-long!).
After lunch we (minus my sister) cabbed it to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, housed on a pier in the Hudson River and consisting of a massive aircraft carrier, several planes and helicopters, a submarine and a Concorde. We went in the Concorde and spent a considerable amount of time in the warship, which was really cool to explore. Owen was fascinated by the ship and all of its various compartments and areas with radar equipment, communications devices and other high-tech stuff.
That evening we took a cab to Tribeca for dinner with Beth's cousin, Chris, his wife, Corinne, and their new baby, Landon. It was great to catch up with them and have a relaxing dinner.
After we got the kids to bed, Beth and I watched, yes, another Lifetime movie, "The Two Mr. Kissels." It was a wonderfully cheesy, soapy way to unwind after a long day.
Friday morning brought us back to Evergreen's. Then we went to the M & M Store and then to the t-shirt emporiums near our hotel. Everybody got some souvenirs, then we checked out and headed back to Penn Station to grab our train. The ride back was relaxing and relatively quick. We got back home a little before 5:00 on Friday and I'm gonna stop typing now because I've been working on this on and off for two days and my back hurts.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Uh, yeah, I've been a bad blog parent, neglecting my child and leaving it to fend for itself. And now isn't the time to make up for it. We leave tomorrow for four days in NYC, and we're in the midst of packing, so I'll promise to post pix and a full report when we get back. I might be able to update during the week from the hotel.
Friday, April 9, 2010
We had a good Easter at my parents' house in CT. They were nice enough to set up two egg hunts, one inside and one outside. We celebrated my birthday and my sister's on Saturday night. In addition to an Amazon gift card, I got three books that I really wanted: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (which I've already begun reading); Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman; and The House of Tomorrow. After Easter dinner on Sunday we had cake and ice cream. Several of my cousins and their kids joined us, which was nice. Pictures are here.
Beth took me out to dinner on my birthday, which was Monday. We went to Stellina, a really good Italian restaurant in Watertown. Beforehand we went to Best Buy looking to buy a new camera (my present). I didn't see anything I liked, but am anxious to find one so I can start taking pictures for (shameless plug alert!) The Backside of America.
We've got a lot of things going on this weekend. Tonight we're celebrating my birthday and Beth's father's birthday. Tomorrow morning Owen and I are taking part in the Little League's field day, during which we'll spend an hour or so alongside other players, coaches and parents getting the field ready for practices and games. Our team's first practice is Sunday. I also have to buy Owen some cleats and baseball pants. Tomorrow afternoon I plan on going to The Skellig in Waltham to see a friend play (in two bands) in a fundraiser for the American Heart Association. My friend Shawna, who I've never actually met but who I've become acquainted with online via fellow Keene Staters, plays in both rock band Cellary and bluegrass combo Rise!
Monday, March 29, 2010
For the third time this month, Eastern Massachusetts is facing heavy rain and the threat of flooding. Two weeks ago we got hit with three days straight of downpours, resulting in 8 to 10 inches of rain and a lot of overflowing river banks and flooded basements in Newton. Last week we had a relatively minor storm, but starting today we're in for several inches once again, according to forecasters.
We've been lucky in that our basement has remained dry. Plenty of our neighbors, however, have had to pump out their basements, and have lost furniture, rugs, recently hung drywall and other items. People will be more prepared this time, but that isn't going to make it any easier. Here's hoping the rain doesn't hit as hard as the meteorologists are predicting.
In contrast, the weekend featured plenty of sunshine. It was cold on Saturday, and a little cool yesterday, but both were great days for being out and about. On Saturday we took the kids to Worcester's Higgins Armory Museum. I'd heard good things from friends about the museum, but frankly I was dubious that we'd get much out of it.
Well, I'm not sure how much Beth enjoyed it, and Owen was sick of it after a short while, but I liked it and so did Amelia (pictures here). The museum houses an impressive collection of suits of armor and related components; medieval swords, knives and guns and accessories; paintings, statues and tapestries; and a kids' area where they can dress up in costumes, play with a small castle and a giant chess set.
On Sunday Beth planned to take Owen to see "Diary of a Wimpy Kid," as he's read four books in that series. Unfortunately, she read the movie schedule wrong, so they ended up seeing "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" instead. They made it through almost the whole movie, which is par for the course for Owen. After lunch, I took Owen to the Cambridge Common playground, which, as it turns out, is designed for younger kids, so we bailed. We spent quite a bit of time cruising around Harvard Square, just enjoying time together, eating ice cream and even doing a little bit of shopping near Porter Square at the Ward Maps store.
Last night Beth and I (well, mostly I) watched a recent episode of "The Sarah Silverman Show", which is a really funny, and often gross, way to spend 23 minutes.
On a completely unrelated note, I've decided not to play baseball this year. I left the Quincy Sons, my team of the last five years, because I didn't want to play every Sunday afternoon for an entire summer. Kind of eats up valuable family time. So I planned to play on a team with a former Sons teammate, one that plays on Monday nights. Their home field is in Lynn and they play all around the Greater Boston area and the more I thought about it, I realized I just couldn't get excited to play with guys I don't know, on a team located a pretty good distance from my house, during a season in which, if past is prologue, I will likely get hurt. I'll spend more time on other things, like writing or taking pictures or drinking or running or something.
And finally, I've changed up the Random page. Check it out.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yes, the Brigham photos are back! The one on the left shows the sign for the MBTA's Brigham Circle stop on the E branch of the Green Line. It's located along Huntington Avenue, near Northeastern University and the Wentworth Institute of Technology. The stop and the circle (which isn't really a circle anymore) are named for Peter Bent Brigham, a distant relative whose name is on the hospital in the photo on the right. The facility has long been part of Brigham & Women's Hospital, where Owen was born.
I've driven through the circle plenty of times over the years, but have never stopped at the Brigham Circle Diner or Brigham Circle Chinese. Many years ago Beth and I went to the now-defunct Ed Burke's blues club with her parents to see Ronnie Earle. That's my lame story, and I'm sticking to it.
Elsewhere in Brighamland....
Last Sunday I received an email from the first literary agency I reached out to. I had sent them a "quick query" briefly describing my subway-themed rhyming alphabet book. They have now requested the full manuscript, which I emailed on Monday. My fingers are crossed....
Also on Sunday we took the kids into Boston, specifically to Newbury Street. We kicked around the Best Buy (formerly Tower Records; weird to see if as an appliance/TV store now), Urban Outfitters, Newbury Comics (where Owen bought a "Little Archie" comic book) and had lunch at the Uno's on Boylston Street. It was a beautiful day, although not as warm as the day before.
Saturday was Owen's last tae kwon do class for a while, as he will soon be playing baseball on Saturdays. He completed the end-of-term test and received his yellow belt. I'm not sure whether he has any interest in picking tae kwon do up in the fall.
Owen also had a play date on Saturday with a friend from school. They spent some time creating comics, which are difficult to read and understand, but nonetheless pretty cool. On Saturday night Beth and I watched "District 9," which was really cool technology-wise, and just so-so movie-wise.
I'm running on fumes right now, as Amelia was awake for 3 hours last night, crying most of the time. She's got a bit of a cold, and might have an ear infection, although today she was fairly chipper at our music/art class. She is napping right now, however, which is rare. Also, Beth was out of town Monday and Tuesday nights, so I was ragged to begin the day yesterday.
Now that you're done here, why don't you stop by The Backside of America to read about neon signs and defunct diners?
Friday, March 19, 2010
It's the last day of winter, and Amelia and I shed our coats at the playground this morning. It's really an incredible day -- temps in the upper 50s/low 60s, not a cloud in the sky, people out and about everywhere. We've got another day or so of this before more rain comes and the temps drop, but that's par for the course. We're thankful that we didn't get any water in our basement after last weekend's Biblical deluge. We know plenty of folks who had to pump out their cellars, and a few who had damage to recently renovated subterranean spaces.
This past week has, in part, been about baseball. I took Owen to Little League evaluations on Sunday during Day Two of the Flood. The tryouts were inside, naturally, and he did very well. I thought he might show a little more trepidation, but he got right into line with the other 7-year-olds and did the running, catching and hitting drills without a problem. We find out in about a week what team he'll be on, and whether any of his friends will be on it with him. Fingers crossed for a buddy on his team....
Last night I went to the first coaches meeting of the season. I convinced Owen to play Little League by agreeing to help coach his team. I've never coached before, and I look forward to working with Owen and his teammates, but I don't want to be the primary coach. Usually coaches work in pairs, and are encouraged to recruit at least one other parent from the team to help out. I've got a rule book and all sorts of safety information to pore over before the season starts in late April. Should be fun.
And of course I've been reading up on this season's Sox team. I'm getting excited for the opener, on Easter Sunday, against the Yankees. There are a lot of questions about the team -- will Mike Lowell still be on the team on April 4? Will Big Papi be able to hit the long ball? Will Dice-K be healthy and contribute? Is Mike Cameron too old for center field? Will Adrian Beltre hit well? It's always fun.
Tomorrow marks the end of Owen's tae kwon do regime. He's been doing it for the last two years, and may yet again pick it up, but for now he's sick of it, and ready to try baseball. He has a test tomorrow and will be rewarded with a yellow belt (I think). I hope he gets back into sometime in the future, but if not, it's been a good run.
I would be remiss if I didn't link you over to The Backside of America, where my fellow contributors in recent weeks have posted photos and written about defunct diners and shuttered factories in Connecticut, and life at the "topside of the continent," Barrow, Alaska.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As you can see in the above photo, we celebrated my dad's birthday this past weekend. My sister was there, as were some of my cousins, which my dad appreciated. We had pizza, cake and ice cream -- just like all the kids' birthday parties that Owen goes to. We gave my dad a framed photo of the kids, as well as some artwork each of them did just for the occasion.
The weather was beautiful both days, so we got outside and played a bit of baseball, and the kids rode their scooters a bit. On Sunday I went for a ride with Owen and my mom to check out a park in Windsor that we'd never been to before. There was a playground, a maple sugaring house, and a barn with animals and loads of walking/biking trails. Good to know for future visits.
The Backside of America continues to evolve. I can't thank my buddy Joe enough for helping me figure out the Blogger and Flickr systems. I posted three of his pictures, of Barrow, AK, at the site today. Check them out; they're great.
Concentrating on the new blog has, of course, taken time away from my writing. Now that the site is working the way I want it to (for the most part), I can spend a bit more time finishing my one remaining (C)rock story, and sending out more query letters to literary agents for my children's book.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
The Backside of America has gone live. It's in test mode, as I figure out which template I like, and try to understand how best to post photos and commentary and add bells and whistles. I'm excited by the volume of pictures my five collaborators have contributed so far. We've got enough stuff to run for months, if not years, already. I hope you'll keep checking there regularly.
We're heading to CT after lunch to celebrate my dad's 81st birthday. My mom's planning a pizza party with my sister and some of my cousins, so that should be fun. The weather's supposed to be great this weekend, so I'm hoping to get the kids out on their scooters. And I'm bringing baseball gloves, a ball and a bat, in hopes of getting Owen prepped a bit for his first Little League season.
We enjoyed the Airborne Comedians show last Sunday. The two guys juggle lawn chairs, ride unicycles and keep up an endless stream of silly jokes that kids love. Apparently they do shows regularly at Boston's Museum of Science on weekends, if you ever want to check them out.
The rest of the week was pretty mellow. Owen was home sick from school on Wednesday. He had a headache, sore throat and was tired, but, surprise! surprise!, about an hour after the late bell rang, he was feeling better. I took him with me to Amelia's swim class, but otherwise we stayed home. I broke out my "Mister Rogers' Play Time" book, which I'd bought when Owen was little, but rarely used. The book came in handy, teaching us how to make toothpaste (didn't really work very well), shine up dirty pennies (using vinegar and salt; worked OK), and construct chefs' hats (pushed my artistic skills to the limit). At the end of the day, thanks to a Facebook friend's suggestion, we made a fort in the living room.
This morning I'm taking Owen to his penultimate tae kwon do class. Next week he has a test to get his next belt, but then he's going to take a break for a while (perhaps permanently) while baseball takes over his Saturdays.
It's a big day for Amelia. She's getting her first haircut. Beth's taking her to her salon. Amelia's been talking about it, but I think she has no idea what she's in for. She's very shy and not too adventurous, so I think there's gonna be trouble. I'll post pictures of the outcome.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Each week I find new and creative ways of ignoring this blog. Chalk this week's dereliction of duty up to the fact that I'm working on, as I mentioned in my last post, a new blog. I will still post stuff here, but as I set up the new blog, and recruit people to help with it, it's taking up a bunch of my free time right now. Plus, I'm trying to wrap up my (C)rock Story collection.
"What's this other blog?"
So glad you asked. It's called The Backside of America, and it's dedicated to photos, commentary and stories about forgotten places, places off the beaten track, the ugly parts of buildings that don't see the light of day, etc. I've long had an interest in such places, but having taken a bunch of pictures during my subway trips with Owen in recent months, I decided I should do something with them. And to take some of the pressure off, I opted to go with a collaborative blog. I've recruited three other photographers so far, and am looking for more if any of my readers are so inclined.
I hope to have the site up next week. I'll post an announcement and link here.
Not much new around these parts. Kind of a dreary week weather-wise, and the weekend looks to be the same.
I signed Owen up for Little League today. He likes baseball, but was reluctant to play, as he sometimes has a hard time jumping into new activities. I told him I'd help coach his team, which convinced him to give it a shot. Should be fun; I hope he sticks with it.
My baseball season starts before too long as well. I'll be playing for a new team this year, the Lynn Lugnuts. I really liked playing for the Quincy Sons of Italy, but got tired of playing every Sunday afternoon during the summer. The Lugnuts (an awesome name, eh?) play on Monday nights. I need to join them at the batting cage a few times in the next month or so to get ready.
This Sunday we're all going to see the Airborne Comedians at the local Jewish Community Center. The duo promises to "ride seven foot high unicycles" and do "flaming lawnchair juggling." Should be a good way to kill an hour.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
As my loyal readers may have guessed, I've been in the middle of school vacation week, so I haven't even thought about this blog over the past seven days. So here are some quick, reverse chronological hits to get you back up to speed. Pictures of some of the below-mentioned events can be found here.
*** I dragged Owen with me to Amelia's Gymboree class yesterday. He had a good time hanging out with little kids, alternated with reading his new favorite book, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." Afterwards he and I got haircuts. In the afternoon we had lunch and a family play date with his buddy Walter, Walter's sister, Rory, and my buddy Ray and his wife, Inez. While the kids played at Walter's house, Ray and I watched Olympic hockey. A nice afternoon all around.
*** On Thursday I took the kids to the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation, aka The Museum of NERDS!!! Located in Waltham, the museum showcases an assortment of products, ranging from pocket watches and player pianos, to paper-bag machines and automobiles, that at one time were made in the city. The kids liked the player piano, but there really wasn't much else for them to do there. We stayed for about half an hour and then went into a few local bookstores before heading home. We did something else that day, but I can't recall right now.
*** On Wednesday we went to the Burlington Mall. I know, that doesn't sound very exciting, but we managed to kill a few hours, which is really what it's all about during vacation week. Owen loves just about anything to do with buildings and stores these days, so we stopped by the massive Barnes & Noble bookstore first, to check out the escalators and elevators. He asked me how old the building is, which is his first question about any structure we see. He seems to think I know everything about every building ever constructed. It's cute in a way. After cruising the mall for a while we ate lunch at the Rainforsest Cafe. I don't get the allure of this place. It's always crowded, and the lines to get in are always long, so this was the first time we actually decided to wait to eat. I made a reservation for noon, and arrived a few minutes ahead of time, only to be told they were running a bit behind. We waited nearly half an hour (really fun with two squirmy, hungry kids!) before being seated. Once inside, I found it nearly impossible to hear what the kids were saying to me, what with all the howling animatronic monkeys, gorillas, elephants and lions. The food was just OK. The best part was the giant aquarium, which leads me to....
*** On Tuesday the kids and I took the subway to the New England Aquarium in Boston. The subway trip took more than an hour, but I didn't feel like driving in the snow, so I didn't mind the long ride. Both kids really liked the aquarium, which features loads of penguins and a massive tank in the middle of the space that's filled with fish of all shapes and sizes, as well as turtles, sharks and rays. We ate lunch there and spent a little more time, before heading back home on the train. A pretty good way to start off the vacation week.
***On Monday we had brunch at Beth's sister's house. And we did...I don't remember what else.
***Sunday was crazy-busy, as we hosted brunch for 18 of my family members before caravaning to my cousin Sam's basketball game at Northeastern University. Sam plays for Hofstra, which played a good game but came up just a bit short. Everybody had a great time cheering her on nonetheless.
*** My parents and my sister arrived in the middle of the afternoon on Saturday. We went out to eat and watched the Olympics that night. They helped us host a bunch of my cousins on Sunday.
*** Oh yeah, Sunday was Valentine's Day. I bought Beth a card and flowers, but we didn't do anything special. I also bought cards for the kids, and cards for the kids to exchange.
*** Other stuff, random: As you can see from the above photos, I took Amelia on a trip through Concord and Sudbury recently to snap some Brigham-related photos. The Brigham Farm Stand has been in business for nearly 200 years, but I have no idea if there's any direct connection to my branch of the family. ***In recent weeks I've submitted three query letters to literary agencies in relation to my subway-themed rhyming alphabet book. I'll send a few more in the coming weeks. Fingers crossed. ***I know I've neglected this site a bit lately, but I have plans to launch another blog soon. More details to follow....
*** But wait, there's more: We had a family play date with Beth's longtime friend Linda, her husband, Dave, and their kids, Zoe and Maya, last Sunday, shortly after we said goodbye to my parents and sister. We had a great time, and Zoe and Owen, who've known each other since birth, moved their friendship to a new level by exchanging phone numbers. Zoe called Owen on her mom's cell phone on the way home that night. The next day Owen and I met Zoe and Dave for some ice skating. On Wednesday night Owen called Zoe at home and left a message with Dave. Zoe called him back shortly after, and they talked for about 30 seconds. Very cute.
OK, that's enough.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Sunday was a day of high culture (touring Boston's Museum of Fine Arts with Beth and the kids) followed by wallowing in the base tendencies of eating pulled pork sandwiches, chicken wings and buffalo chicken dip, drinking beer and watching the Super Bowl. A nicely rounded way to end the weekend.
We had a good time at the museum, but I didn't get to spend any more than about five seconds looking at any painting, sculpture or musical instrument before moving along to keep up with Owen. The visit was Owen's idea, but he was much more interested in the trip there, and the logistics of the museum itself, i.e., where the elevators, escalators and stairways are, the layout of the galleries, how old is the museum, when will the new addition be done, etc.
I love that he's into all that stuff, but I wish he would've spent just a little bit more time looking at, you know, the art. I really wanted to look at the collection of musical instruments, which includes guitars, banjos, flutes, harpsichords and an array of things such as snake-shaped horns that I've never seen anything like before. Unfortunately, that exhibit was the last thing we passed before leaving, so the kids were tired and ready to go. So I made due with a 24 1/2-second whirl through the room.
The Super Bowl party was fun, although I ate waaaaay too much. I was happy to see the Saints win, and wished immediately afterward that I was a betting man.
Saturday night we went to our friends Andra and Andrew's house for dinner. Beth's friend Nuala and her husband Sam were there, too, with their kids, Madeline and William. The kids had fun playing, eating Klondike bars and watching too much TV, while the grown-ups got to eat in peace, have a few drinks and have uninterrupted conversations.
One more thing: got up early this morning and sent off another online query for my subway-themed alphabet book. Have several more to do still, and chances are I won't hear anything for several weeks, but I'm glad to be moving the process along.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
I took Owen skating again this past Sunday, and was glad to see how much he'd improved over the previous week. We met his friend Walter and his family at the rink; the two boys hit the ice and opted to hold on to each other (as opposed to me, although there was a little bit of that). By the end of the hour (Walter's first time skating), both boys were trotting along slowly without holding onto anything or anybody. It was fun to watch.
What wasn't fun to watch was Walter's mom, Inez, slipping and falling straight back onto her head less than a minute after first getting onto the ice. She toughed it out for a while, but apparently gave herself a mild concussion. I spoke to Walter's dad, Ray, two days later and he said she was in kind of rough shape on Monday, but was doing better on Tuesday. She has vowed to wear a helmet in the future.
Because Owen was skating with Walter, I got to take several solo spins around the ice. I really enjoyed it, and found myself thinking that it would be fun to play a very, very mellow game of hockey some time. Been a long time, and would certainly have greater injury potential than baseball, but I do like skating around and playing hockey.
Earlier on Sunday, Owen and I went for our latest subway ride. We covered familiar territory, and I didn't get any pictures worth posting here, but as always it was a fun, and not too exhausting, way to spend some time with him.
Despite my busy day on Sunday, I got up early Monday morning to craft a query for my alphabet book. I opted for the easiest one to do, that being the non-query query. I simply had to provide the agency (a legitimate one this time, I swear!) with my name, email and phone number, a brief description of my book and a message indicating a little background. Now I wait for 3 months or so. In the meantime, I plan to carve out time in a similar fashion in the next few weeks to put together pitches for other agencies.
At the same time, I'm working on the last (C)rock rewrite. I thought my Butthole Surfers-themed tale that I polished off at the end of '09 was the last work I had, but in going back to one of the stories to mesh together two versions, I realized that there was a bit more I wanted to do. I swear this will be it, as I have no desire to revisit any other stories. I just want to wrap this collection up and get it into the hands of my long-suffering acolytes (that's a joke, duh.).
We've got a busy weekend on tap. Owen's got his usual tae kwon do class Saturday morning, but while he, Beth and Amelia are there, I have to take our cat, Cosmo, to the vet for a cardiology exam. He's got a heart murmur and early stage kidney disease, so they want to work him up and see if there's any medication that can help him out. He seems to be doing pretty well, except he's drinking more water than usual and coming around for more lovin'. He's 14, though, so we need to make sure we're doing all we can for him.
Early Saturday afternoon I'll be sitting down to chew the fat with my buddy Jay for his award-winning podcast, Completely Conspicuous (too many awards to list here). Planned topics include road trips and UFO's, I believe. I'll link over to it when he posts it.
Owen has requested that we go to the MFA on Sunday. After a trip to the Museum of Science last week, he said to me, "Dad, you know what's funny about museums in Boston. They don't have art in them."
I explained that he shouldn't measure a city's cultural treasures simply by going to the Museum of Science and Children's Museum. Of course there are art museums, I said. So I told him about a few and he chose the MFA. Should be fun.
That afternoon is the Super Bowl, which means we go to Beth's sister and brother-in-law's house for their annual bash. Eating, drinking, gambling -- what more could you ask for?
Thursday, January 28, 2010
I've spent some time here lately talking about my Brigham ancestors and posting pictures of Brigham-related places in the Boston area. Always in the back of my head, though, is the desire to research the other branches of my family. On my father's side, that primarily includes the French-Canadian LaVentures (who reportedly have some Native American blood) and the Irish O'Briens. Of course, there are numerous other families that have married into those families over the years, making the task rather daunting.
On my mother's side there are Germans (Lohrman, Hinrichs) and Dutch (Bogert), with some French mixed in. This past week my mother forwarded family tree information that my uncle (her brother) and cousin gathered on the Bogert side of the family. I was really happy to get this genealogical trove, as I'd been thinking about hiring someone to do such a search.
My uncle had provided my mother with information several years ago that traced the Bogerts back to my great-great-grandfather and grandmother, Samuel Bogert and Mary Duff (more Irish lineage). My mother said that whenever she asked her father about the Bogert ancestry, he replied, "We're Yankees from way back," but didn't have any details. Well, as my uncle and cousin found out, my grandfather wasn't kidding.
Cornelise Jan Bogaert came to these shores from Holland before 1651 (no specific year is given). He settled in Flatbush, Long Island, before moving to Brooklyn. I haven't digested all of the information yet, but it seems that the Bogerts lived in New York and New Jersey from that point on, as did many Dutch settlers.
Once I add this information into my Ancestry.com account, perhaps I'll have more specific details to add here.
On Sunday Beth and I took the kids skating, meeting up with Beth's sister, brother-in-law and our nephew. Beth doesn't skate, so I did several laps around the rink with each of the kids. Owen started out holding on to me and the wall and falling every other step. By the time we were ready to go home, however, he was holding on to me and holding his balance much better. He didn't get frustrated, and actually seemed to enjoy falling down.
As for Amelia, she had a great time as I pushed her around the ice. I hope to get out a few more times this winter. I posted a few pictures here.
On the music front, Owen and I wrote our first MegaChips song (as opposed to just making stuff up on the spot): "Cats and Dogs." I like it a lot, and once we record it, I'll post it here. Owen said once again that he wants to record an album, so maybe some day I'll be asking you to download our debut from iTunes.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Nine days have slipped past since my last entry. Now that Amelia rarely naps, I don't have as much time to do the important work in my life, such as blog updates, Facebook updates, email checks and reading SPIN magazine. But she's napping now, so....
The MegaChips jammed last Saturday for the first time in months. We created three new songs on the spot, one of which, "Boomin' in da Basement," I've posted here. It's a lame attempt at rap, but what do you expect from a 44-year-old indie rock fanatic given only a few seconds to compose something on the spot?
I'm glad Owen's interested in playing music again. He said he wants to record an album. I told him that meant writing songs ahead of time, not on the spot. And practicing stuff a lot before we record. It may take a while, but I think eventually we'll get to that point. It's fun, no matter what.
I've made a bit of progress toward finding an agent this week. I'm working on a query letter and researching agencies to which to send it. I want to make sure I hit as many of them as I can in order to increase my chances. After an initial hot period of writing and thinking about the possibility of a new career as a children's book writer, I've cooled off a bit. But I'm still committed to getting at least a few books published.
This weekend I'm hoping to get at least one of my kids on the ice. I've been bugging Owen off and on through the winter to see if he wants to skate, but he always says no. Amelia has expressed some interest, although she has no idea that ice skating is different than sliding around on patches of ice on the sidewalk. I've invited Beth's family to join us, figuring if Owen's cousin, Max, who's 3, goes skating, then Owen might want to go too. Either way, I'm looking forward to skating for the first time in four years.
Oh yeah, I took the kids to see Fred Garbo's Inflatable Theater Co. on Monday. We went with my buddy Ray and his kids, who are good friends with Owen and Amelia. Some parts of the show were really cool, as Fred and his partner danced around while sporting inflatable costumes. The juggling was OK, too. Some parts were a little boring, but the show held the kids' interest for about an hour, which is really all that mattered. Afterwards we went to lunch, and ended up killing almost the whole day.
Read today in the Globe about Dale Watson, a honky-tonker whose name is familiar, but whose music I don't know. Seems pretty good, don'tcha think?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
First, an update on my children's book. I realized after sending a query via a literary agency's web site that the company is run by an accused scam artist. So even if I hear back from them, I'll ignore them. On to the reputable agencies!
I took the photos above yesterday when Amelia and I were in Harvard Square for story time at the Harvard Coop. I dragged her along to help me document the site where the my first Brigham ancestor, Thomas Brigham, settled in 1635 upon arriving from England.
According to The History of the Brigham Family by W.I. Tyler Brigham, the lot where Thomas Brigham's property was located "can be identified with exceptional certainty; the 'highway to watertowne,' now Brattle Street, and the 'high waye to the Windemill Hill,' now Ash Street, being two very early thoroughfares, which have maintained their identity from 1630 to the present day."
When Thomas Brigham died in 1654 and the property and his belongings were sold off, the property contained "the late mansion house...with Edifices, Barn, Cow houses and about three acres and a halfe to the same adjoyning...a part whereof is a garden & orchards."
As I mention in the caption in the top left photo, above, the property is now part of Radcliffe College (which itself is part of Harvard University).
When I first researched the Brigham family history many years ago I used this book (but didn't acquire it until later on) but didn't read the specifics of the original property correctly. So in my error I thought that the land where the farm had been was where the house in the photo in the lower left now sits. Nice house, eh? I used to joke to myself that the house was rightfully mine. Well, I guess I need to take up my rights with Radcliffe instead.
I wouldn't be the first in the Brigham clan to try and recapture the property. After Thomas Brigham died, his widow, Mercy Hurd Brigham, married again and moved out of Cambridge with her children. Forty-two years after Thomas Brigham's death, and two years after the death of his widow, their children, now in their 30s and 40s, formally made a claim for their rights to the property. The deeds for the property were not recorded until 31 years after the fact, for some reason. The children believed, according to the book, that the overseers of the sale of the property "had not fulfilled the requirement of the General Court that they should give proper surety for the rights of the heirs."
One more thing -- I've posted an old story here. It's called "Spirit of '77" and, like most of my writing from years past, needs some work to make it better, but that's not gonna happen. I feel as though my writing of late has gotten better. I'm more focused on story continuity, descriptive language and actually making a point than I used to be. Although I'm sure some day I'll look back on the short stories of recent years and be critical of those as well.
Speaking of writing, I sent my first query to a literary agency this week in reference to my first children's book, the alphabet book about subways.. I hope to hear back soon, as the agency's web site (where I submitted the query) indicates a response is usually made within 5 business days. If they don't bite, I'll send out hard-copy queries to other agencies. In the meantime, I've completed a first draft of my next book, a counting book with a subway theme.
And my long-in-the-works (C)rock Stories are just about done (for real, I swear). A little more spit and polish and I'll be ready to talk to an on-demand publisher about getting that collection placed firmly in the real world.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
As promised, I've posted my first Brigham-related image above. As some readers may know, the Brigham's restaurant chain, founded in Newton, Mass., in 1924, recently closed all of its stores. The picture above is of the Wellesley, Mass., restaurant, which was one of the last ones, if not the absolute final one, to close. The clueless investment banker who bought the chain in June, 2008, let the restaurants run into the ground, and issued a notice of closure to store operators on November 23, 2009. The local press carried stories about heartbroken employees and longtime customers, and mentioned how the owner, Deal Metrics LLC, never did anything to improve or promote the business.
A few days after reading about how all 27 locations had closed abruptly, I was driving through Wellesley, the next town over from Newton, and saw that the Brigham's on Route 16 was still open. I figured maybe there was hope for the brand, or at least that someone had simply decided to defy management. But then I found an article online from the Wellesley Townsman indicating that the rogue store was closing as well. As you can see in the above photo, the owners plan to open another restaurant in the same spot.
I have to admit, I didn't do my part over the years to keep the Brigham's chain in business. Many years ago there was a restaurant in West Newton that I went to a few times. And I recall going to other restaurants in the chain just a handful of times. I recall, however, how excited I was as a kid to drive up to Boston from Connecticut for Red Sox games and to visit a Brigham's store nearby. My parents bought several "Brigham's" drinking glasses, a few of which they have to this day.
Fortunately, the Brigham's ice cream brand lives on. HP Hood bought the company's products and recipes in 2008, and continues to sell them in grocery stores throughout New England. And, strangely enough, the Brigham's restaurants web site is still active, pretending that it's still a business. Maybe by some miracle the stores will rise from the dead, but that seems as unlikely as a cone of the company's Big Dig Ice Cream surviving a trip to hell.
January 3, 2010
Happy New Year! Seeing that "2010" up there looks weird, but kind of cool, although it doesn't look as good on celebratory glasses as "2000" or "2002" do.
We had a fun New Year's Eve with Beth's sister, Megan, brother-in-law, Todd, and our nephew, Max. Megan and Todd brought over kielbasa appetizers and lobster mac-n-cheese for dinner, and both dishes were fantastic. The beer, chocolate martinis, wine, champagne and Old Grand-Dad were flowing, and we gave Owen's new Wii Sports Resort a good workout. The kids had a blast playing with Owen and Amelia's new toys and having a sleepover. Max and Owen didn't fall asleep until around 11:00; the grown-ups went to bed around 1:15 after watching the ball drop and a few more rounds of Wii bowling and sword-play. A really fun night. Pictures here.
We had a busy and fun day yesterday, too. We went sledding for a while in the morning, joining up with a few neighborhood folks at the former school just around the corner from our house. The kids had just as much fun kicking around the playground as they did sledding.
In the afternoon we trekked over to my friend Ray's house for a combination family play date and holiday jam session. Ray plays in a band called Powderhouse, and every year around the holidays (except last year, due to a very sick cat) he hosts a hootenanny in his basement, which is loaded with all the necessary playing and recording gear. So while I jammed (not very well) with Ray's band and other guests, Beth and the kids hung out with Ray's wife, Inez, daughter Rory (she's 3 1/2) and son Walter, who's one of Owen's good buddies.
Everybody had a good time, there were no meltdowns and I got to pretend for two hours that I was in a band. I was definitely the worst musician there, and didn't contribute much beyond being the third rhythm guitarist and occasional back-up vocalist, but it was still a lot of fun. Made me itchy for the Toastmen reunion that's been in talks for, oh, I don't know, the last decade or so. One of these days....
In addition to a cool look, 2010 also represents the 375th anniversary of my branch of the Brigham family in America. In 1635, Thomas Brigham arrived from England and settled in Cambridge, MA. I won't bore you with genealogical details, but I will point out that, thanks to Wikipedia, I learned about Thomas Parr, who died in England in 1635, allegedly at the age of 152.
I plan on posting pictures here throughout the course of the year that relate to the Brigham name and legacy. Stay tuned....
Sunday, December 27, 2009
We wrapped up a weekend of celebrating today with my parents and sister. They gave Owen and Amelia some more great gifts, which, added to the stuff from us, my in-laws and Santa, made for a pretty great haul. Owen got two train sets and a monorail system; tons of chapter books; a Snap Circuits electronics set; some subway-related things; a bunch of games, etc. As for Amelia, she got a really big doll house; a stable and a few sets of little horses; a Dora the Explorer car and picnic set; a lot of floor puzzles; books; blah blah blah.
As for me, I got some books, clothes, gloves, a wallet (to replace my Costanza-esque disaster), some cedar grilling planks, and other stuff that I'm forgetting right now. It was good to hang out, eat lots of good food (including peppermint stick ice cream that Owen and I made today), have some good wine and beer, and watch the kids revel in the holiday.
Beth's off the rest of this week, so we'll get to have some good family time, including a small New Year's Eve get together with a few folks. We're slated to go to the Museum of Science tomorrow, and I'm hoping to get Owen ice skating during the week as well.
I posted a few pictures here of Christmas morning at our house, and afternoon at Beth's parents' house.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Lots to do in the next two days, so I'm just gonna wish my extensive readership a Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa (or a very belated Happy Hannukah). Holiday pictures and wrap-up to follow after the mayhem ends.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'll start by filling my numismatic jones. I dug out one of my older coins today. It's a Half Anna India, from 1862. I haven't been able to find out much about this coin, except the obvious: it was minted during the time of British India and features a likeness of Queen Victoria on the obverse, and a wreath on the reverse. Like most of my foreign coins, this one must have come from my father, who served in Europe during his Army stint in the early '50s.
The coin is heavily worn and has a crease on it, so it's got no value. But it's really cool to think that this coin was minted four years after the British initiated their Colonial rule over India. In the U.S. at the time, the Civil War raged on. Also, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Acts, which set into motion the construction of the first transcontinental railroad (thanks Wikipedia!).
Anyway, on to life at hand.
One week away from Christmas, and we're in pretty good shape. The tree is up and decorated. Beth and I have done most of our shopping, in Beth's case, much of it online. Tomorrow we'll send our package to my brother and his family in Maryland. I received the photo books from Snapfish. I still have to buy some more presents for Beth, and put up our outside lights. And wrap everything. But that's par for the course.
On the children's book-writing front: I've been researching agents and have found several who represent the type of books I'm writing, and planning to write. Following the advice of an agent whose blog I read, I am trying to find an agent/agency that could also represent my fiction writing for adults. This makes things a bit harder, but since I've long planned to go the publishing on-demand route with my short story collection, perhaps I'll just seek out a children's lit agent for now.
On the homefront: construction continues on our mud room. The doors are on, the insulation is in and the electrical wiring has been completed. We hoped to have it done by Christmas, but that's not gonna happen. Still, it will be done before winter weather really kicks in. It will be nice not having all the wet boots, coats, hats, mittens, scarves and snow pants piled up right inside our front door.
Um, wow, this is a pretty boring entry.
I'll make it even more boring. Lately I've been reading one of the three Brigham Family History books I got years ago through the New England Historic Genealogical Society. I discovered that Scottish national hero William Wallace had an associate named Sir David Brigham (a possible relative). To quote the book: "Wallace was a man of extraordinary strength, and David Brigham an exceeding good horseman; whereupon the Scots made this rhyme —
The man was ne'er so wight nor geud.
But worthy Wallace durst him bide;
Nor ever horse so wild or weud,
But David Brigham durst him ride."
I don't know what the translation would be for Wallace's half of the rhyme, but as for the Sir David Brigham half, it means my possible namesake relative was a bronco buster.
After tae kwon do class and lunch, Owen and I embarked last Saturday on our latest subway trip. We were both quite curious about the Ashmont-Mattapan High-Speed line, so that was our primary goal. I knew that the high-speed line used old trolley cars, and started at the terminus of the Ashmont branch of the Red line, in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. I didn't know much else, and had a hard time envisioning what the line would be like. So Owen and I put on our investigator hats and set out from the Reservoir stop on the D branch of the Green line, in Brookline.
At Park Street station we transferred to the Red Line. There are two branches of the Red Line going south: Braintree and Ashmont. An Ashmont train arrived just as we walked down to the platform. We went to Downtown Crossing, South Station and Broadway, all stations we'd visited before. After that, however, everything was new to us. We went back above-ground for JFK/UMass, which brought us underneath Route 93. Then it was on to Savin Hill, Fields Corner, Shawmut and then Ashmont.
For those looking to travel a little further south and west, you transfer to the high-speed line, which evidently is also know as the M Line. The line runs in a 2.6-mile loop, with six stations. It runs through a cemetery, using refurbished trolley cars (called PCCs, for President's Conference Committee cars) once used on the Green Line.
The Ashmont–Mattapan Line follows the original right-of-way of the passenger and freight steam railway line that opened in December 1847 as the Dorchester and Milton Branch Railroad. That line later became the Old Colony Railroad and then the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad after 1893. The steam-powered trains were discontinued in 1927 and the line was closed for two years while it was being modified for trolley service. There was a debate at that time whether or not to continue the same subway trains from Boston to Ashmont and on to Mattapan without a need for passengers to switch to trolleys at Ashmont. Apparently, the added cost of full-scale subway service along the remainder of the route was considered to be too high. The right-of-way is privately owned and has only two at-grade crossings on its 2.6-mile route.
Along the high-speed line we saw a building with a large sign on it: WALTER BAKER. I did a little research, and it turns out that the building was once part of a massive complex belonging to the Walter Baker & Co. chocolate-making company, which became a well-known brand in the 19th and 20th centuries, and which was eventually acquired by Kraft Foods. The building is now loft apartments, and has nothing to do with fashion designer Walter Baker.
I took a picture of the Baker building and other stuff. You can find those here.
After the high-speed line we got back on the Red Line and headed for South Station, where we ate cookies and watched the hustle and bustle for a while. Then it was back on the train, which we took one stop, to Downtown Crossing. From there we got on the Orange Line, which we took to Back Bay station. Then back to Downtown Crossing and then to Park Street on the Red Line. From there, we got on the Green Line and headed back to Reservoir station.
I really like these trips, as it's fun to watch how excited Owen gets. He loves everything about the trip: the different types of trains, how the stations differ from each other, going underground, coming back above-ground, listening to the different types of announcements on each line, etc. For my part, I love to learn about new things in the city where I've lived for nearly 20 years.
I've completed the text for my first subway-themed book. I need to find an agent who specializes in children's literature and start working on subsequent books. I'm gonna run with this for a while.
This weekend will find us buying our Christmas tree and decorating the house. Beth and Amelia will be baking cookies at her mom's house, a great Morahan ladies tradition. I think Owen and I will be checking out a model train show today at Lexington's Museum of Our National Heritage, which is run by the Masons.
Friday, December 4, 2009
So I decided about two weeks ago to try my hand at writing children's books. Or at least one, anyway. Of course, this is yet another way for me to put off finishing my long-in-the-works (C)rock Story collection, but I'm really into the idea of writing a book for kids right now, so I figure it's best to run with it.
The idea struck me when Beth and I were with the kids at, of all places, Old Navy. I found myself looking for t-shirts and sweatshirts for Owen that had subway trains on them. I knew it was a hopeless effort, as were all my other attempts in the weeks before that to find books, clothes or toys that had some connection to subways, Owen's longstanding passion. As regular readers know, Owen and I have taken many subway rides over the past year or so (and have another trip planned for tomorrow). He loves the trips, as do I. He also spends a lot of time watching MBTA videos on YouTube, studying maps of the London Underground and building subway stations with Legos.
So Beth and I are always on the lookout for things to help feed his obsession. We bought him a NYC subway t-shirt when we were in New York last month. He has his own Charlie Card for trips on the T, as well as a leather card holder from the MBTA Employees Credit Union that one of Beth's coworkers procured for him. My sister bought him a different NYC subway shirt last year. He also owns two copies of "Transit Maps of the World," a book that is truly fascinating.
He's been into subways on and off for a few years. Two years ago we found a web site for a British TV show called "Underground Ernie," and so I bought him two toy subway cars, at considerable cost, given that they had to be shipped from England.
So, you get the point. He likes subways and has some clothes, toys and other gear to reflect that strong interest. But recently I realized that when compared to freight and passenger trains, subways get the short shrift in popular culture. There are some obvious reasons for this: it's much easier to build and operate train tracks that run above-ground; subways are affiliated with graffiti; subways are for getting people around a city, often to work, not for taking them across the country on vacations. Whatever.
So I decided two weeks ago that I should rectify the situation a bit. There are books for younger kids about subways, as I found during some initial research. And I found at least one book for older kids (a Geronimo Stilton chapter book) that includes subways ("The Phantom of the Subway"), and which we've just ordered for Owen through Scholastic Books. But I feel there should be more books for little kids and older kids, along with t-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball hats, toys, etc..
My first book is an alphabet book, an obvious choice but one that's turning out to be more difficult to write than I'd imagined. I'm going with a rhyming scheme, resulting in 13 couplets. Trying to come up with subway terms, ideas and images that are toddler-appropriate isn't as easy as you think. But I'm just about done with the couplets. Next I need to develop ideas for images to accompany the rhymes. I'm not an artist, so I'll need to find an illustrator, a process that I've begun through a page on Facebook dedicated to writers and illustrators of children's books.
I would like to develop characters to appear throughout the book, possibly boy and girl subway trains (Sammy and Sally Subway, or Tommy and Tracy Trolley or something like that). I plan to do a counting book next. Not sure what comes after that.
I also want to develop stories about subways for older kids, like Owen. I've tried to enlist Owen in this project. He showed initial interest, but I'm not sure if he's really that into it. Obviously those books will require much more time and dedication. If I decide to write those, I would definitely wait until after I've published my (C)rock Stories.
If you've read this far, I'm impressed. As a reward, here are some links to videos for songs about subways:
We had a relatively smooth trip down to CT on Thursday morning, with heavy but steadily moving traffic. Owen and Amelia had a lot of fun with my parents, my sister and my cousins, playing "I Spy" and drawing and, in Amelia's case, making my mom's pink bear sing Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer" over and over and over, ad nauseam. My brother and his wife and two kids, Grace (6) and Isaiah (1) showed up in the early evening, so then Owen and Amelia had kids to play with, too.
On Friday Beth and I took the kids to Hartford's relatively new science center, joined by my brother and his two kids, along with my mom. The center was pretty cool, with sections devoted to motion (mag-lev trains, boats, cars), music (interactive turntables, radio recording booths) and water (all the kids except Isaiah had a blast there). I took a bunch of pictures at the museum and during the weekend, including the trolley museum that I'll describe in the next paragraph. You can see the pictures here.
The trolley museum is about 15 minutes from my parents' house, in East Windsor. We've never been there before, which is surprising considering Owen's longstanding devotion to subways. Friday was the opening day of the museum's Winterfest. We rode on an open-air trolley built in 1924 and formerly used for summer tours in Montreal. Santa rode the trolley with us as we toured about a mile and a half of track in the early evening, with festive holidays lights brightening the cold air just a little bit. Afterward, we went into the museum's main building to check out more trolleys decked out in seasonal lights, some model trains, and to visit with Santa, who gave small presents to the kids.
After the museum, we went back to my parents' house to eat dinner and watch my cousin Sam play basketball. The local public TV station was broadcasting her team, Hofstra, against super-mega powerhouse UConn. Some of my cousin's went to the game, but we didn't feel like fighting the crowds for a 7:30 game that we'd just have to leave early. Hofstra got beat soundly, but it was cool to see Sam playing against the #1 ranked team in the nation.
We kept it mellow on Saturday, leaving after lunch to head home. On Sunday we went to Beth's parents' house for leftover turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce, wrapping up a fine weekend of quality family time and good eating.
Now for a new feature here at DaveTronik 2000. Owen recently asked to break out my coin collection, something we've done a few times in the last year or so. I really love looking at the coins, many of which I pinched from my dad when I was a budding numismatist. He had traveled to Europe when he was in the Army, and brought back a bunch of coins that he had in a box in our basement. I also got some coins from his mom, who was very thoughtful in sending not only coins but also little books and wrappers for them.
Anyway, I picked a coin out of the box at random, and came up with a British penny from 1917. When it was minted, it looked like this. Now it's dull and much of the detail on the obverse has been rubbed so it's smooth. The coin is about as big as a current U.S. half dollar. Subsequent versions of the coin in the ensuing decades got gradually smaller, until they looked about the size of a U.S. penny.
So there ya go, my first coin collector entry. That's the most I've thought about the collection since I was in the coin club in junior high. I either quit the club or it disbanded after a short time, probably because we all realized that as long as we stuck with it girls wouldn't give us the time of day. As I soon found out, though, the club had nothing to do with it....
Monday, November 16, 2009
Owen was awarded a trophy for excellence in tae kwon do. The ceremony recognized the passage of Owen and his classmates from one level of martial arts to another. Whereas for the last two years or so Owen would be awarded a different color Kids U t-shirt for completing each level of tae kwon do, from now on he and his buddies will be on the belt system. As such, in addition to the trophies, they were given (well, we paid for) gis, the traditional outfit of white pants and a robe-type top with a belt.
The class will focus more on kung fu now, and will be taught by a new teacher. The previous teacher did an excellent job with Owen and his classmates, but she wasn't trained in martial arts. Their new teacher is a guy in his 20s who has trained in numerous types of martial arts. He taught his first class this past Saturday, before the ceremony. I expect he'll have them ready for "Enter the Dragon"-type battles before too long.
Beth and I are very proud of Owen, and were extremely bummed that after going to just about every class over the past two years, we missed the big transition class and trophy/gi ceremony. We were in New York (more on that below), so Beth's parents took care of the kids and took pictures from Owen's class. You can see more pictures here.
Before I get to New York, I just wanted to provide a health update. Amelia had her aforementioned stomach bug for close to three days. We ended up taking her to the ER so they could rehydrate her with an I.V. She felt better almost immediately, but Owen got sick the following day. He wasn't as sick as she was, but he missed one day of school. Neither Beth nor I got the bug, but each of us felt a little sick as that week went on. Thankfully, by the time we left for New York this past Friday we were both feeling fine.
So, New York.
We left Friday around 3:30 and arrived at our hotel close to five hours later. The drive was a bit slow at times because of the rain, the dark and rush-hour traffic. And getting close to our hotel in Times Square took a while, too, due to Broadway traffic. But we met up with our friends, Jim and Nikki, and went out and had dinner at a decent hour (9:30). This is the second year in a row we've done this trip with them, and we certainly plan to make it a regular thing. They arrived in the city on Thursday, as Jim had some work to do for a new non-profit freelance gig.
After dinner, my friend Gerard met us for drinks. Gerard was in one of my favorite college-era bands, Phantom Tollbooth. Long story short: I had interviewed Gerard and his bandmates after Guided By Voices frontman Robert Pollard wrote and recorded new lyrics over Tollbooth's Power Toy album. I reviewed the album as well, for Junkmedia. When GBV embarked on its final tour in 2004, Tollbooth opened one of their last shows, at Irving Plaza in NYC. Gerard was nice enough to put me on the guest list for that show, so Beth and I went down for the weekend and had a great time. He and I have kept in touch off and on since then. I saw him play with another band in Somerville (Mass.) a few years ago and he always said if I was in New York to let him know.
He, Jim and I had a great time talking music, from Gerard's love of Bow Wow Wow and Metallica, to the Sex Pistols, whom both he and Jim saw on their reunion tour. I was amazed by how many great bands Phantom Tollbooth had opened for, including the Butthole Surfers, the Minutemen and Sonic Youth. Gerard now plays in Third Border, which features Ben Miller (brother of Mission of Burma guitarist Roger Miller), who was in Destroy All Monsters with Ron Asheton of The Stooges, and Michael Davis of MC5. Gerard was nice enough to give Jim and me each copies of the band's forthcoming CD. Nikki asked him to sign them, and he kindly obliged.
Saturday was our only full day in New York, so we maximized our time. After breakfast we took a cab to the Upper East Side to the Museum of the City of New York. I found this venue on the Information Superhighway, and was intrigued by its exhibit on Eero Saarinen. I had a great time checking out the exhibit, which features lots of great drawings, photos and video of Saarinen's work, which includes the TWA (now JetBlue) terminal at JFK Airport, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a few buildings at M.I.T. and Brandeis University and countless other beautiful and futuristic projects that were designed and built in the '50s and '60s. If you're in New York any time between now and Jan. 31 of next year, I strongly suggest you check it out. The museum also had really cool photos of nature scenes around New York, blown up to massive size.
After the museum, we walked down 5th Avenue, stopped in to the gift shop at the Guggenheim Museum, then met a friend of Nikki's for a leisurely lunch at a really nice Italian restaurant. After lunch, we hoofed it in the rain to the Carlyle Hotel, to check out Bemelman's Bar, which Jim's sister-in-law had recommended. Decorated with murals painted by artist Ludwig Bemelman, known best for his Madeline books for kids, the bar is really cool and elegant in a throwback kind of way. I discovered a new favorite drink there, a Whiskey Smash.
After our cocktail break, we walked and shopped our way back to Times Square. After a brief rest and showers, we took a cab to One If by Land, Two If by Sea, another great place recommended by Jim's sister-in-law. Located in the one-time carriage house of Aaron Burr, who in 1804 killed Founding Father and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in a duel, the restaurant is evidently the "pop-the-question" destination of choice for New Yorkers. The building was right up my alley with its dark wood, chandeliers, active fireplaces and historical art and documents.
From the bar, we walked about 20 minutes to our dinner destination, the Union Square Cafe. We had a great meal there, then took a cab back to the hotel and called it a night. The next day we had a relaxing breakfast in the hotel, did a little souvenir shopping and then hit the road.
The trip back was relatively quick and easy, and included lunch at Katz's Deli in Woodbridge, CT, outside New Haven. Located in a nondescript strip mall, the deli had really terrific and huge sandwiches, fresh cole slaw and delicious onion rings.
We got back a little before 5:00 yesterday. The kids had a great time with Beth's parents, but they were really happy to see us back home.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
It's Election Day, and I had planned to vote after Amelia's Gymboree class, but she's sick today and we're house-bound, so I'm not sure when, or if, I'll be voting for Newton's mayor, aldermen and school committee.
Amelia had a rather deep cough over the past few days, and a bit of a sniffle, but otherwise was fine. But at 11:10 last night I woke to the sound of her throwing up all over herself in her crib. Over the next eight hours she barfed a few more times (mostly bile and mucus) and got little sleep, but she was a trouper throughout the ordeal. Beth and I took turns rocking with her in her chair, or sitting in the chair while she slept in her crib. I did three loads of laundry during the night, and am hopeful that the worst of it is over. She's in good spirits now (at 9:35 a.m.), watching T.V.
Thankfully, Owen is a heavy sleeper and never heard any of the commotion during the night.
Luckily Amelia didn't eat any candy yesterday before getting sick. Not that we let her eat any of the chocolate she got on Halloween.
As you can see by the above picture, Owen and I went as Shaggy Jr. and Shaggy Sr. to his cousin Max's 3rd birthday party, which was a costumed affair during the day on Halloween. We had a great time, with Amelia dressing as Scooby (along with Beth's mom) and Beth wearing her usual festive t-shirt with minimalist dog ears and tail. Pictures are here from that day, as well as a few shots from the long subway trip Owen and I took the following day.
As for trick-or-treating, Owen had a great time running around the 'hood with his friends Emma and Alex. The three dads tried our best to keep up. Owen nearly gave me a coronary when at one point he stepped in front of a car that he hadn't seen. He was a bit upset for a few minutes afterward, as was I, but I talked him down and he continued on without further incident. He got so much candy that we were gonna donate some to his school's PTO, which is handing out donated sugar doses to voters at the school today, but we didn't get our act together in time to load some up for Beth to bring along when she dropped Owen at school.
Amelia had fun trick-or-treating, as well, and enjoyed wearing her Scooby costume the entire night after refusing to put in one in the week preceding All Hallow's Eve. Beth took her around; I wish I'd been there to see her tromping from house to house.
As I said, Owen and I went on a marathon subway adventure on Sunday. We started on the Green line and hit all the lines -- the Red, the Orange, the Blue and the Silver, which is an electric bus system that runs partially underground. He had a great time checking out the stations and the all the ins and outs of the various trains, and I enjoyed catching up on what's going on in the city.
We wrapped up the weekend with family play/dinner date with our friends Linda and Dave and their kids, Zoe and Maya.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Just a quick note today, as I plan over the weekend to provide a complete Halloween wrap-up complete with pictures.
First, I want to direct you to the Random
page, where I have posted "Autumn Suite," comprising three short and goofy tales of my favorite season. I wrote the suite several years ago for Slank, the literary (dare I call it that?) 'zine I published sporadically during the early- and mid-'90s. I wrote it rather quickly and mostly off the top of my head, if I recall correctly, so there are some things I would change if I were writing it now. But I still like it, and it occurs to me that I may have posted it here before.
I took Owen to Boston's Seaport World Trade Center last Sunday for the Halloweentown shindig, but he wasn't that into it. He was way more into our time on the city's subway system. We parked near South Station and took the relatively new Silver Line (underground bus) to the trade center. Afterwards, we went back to South Station and got on a red line train for one stop. I've promised him a much longer trip this Sunday.
Last weekend also marked a watershed in Owen's tae kwon do career. After close to two years of earning different color shirts for each session, Owen will soon be earning belts and moving into the kung fu world.
The place where he's been doing the lessons, Kids U, is geared toward kids under age 9, and isn't a dojo. As such, they've brought in a young guy trained in martial arts to work with Owen and the other older kids at the facility, to teach them a higher level of skills than his existing teacher was able to do, as she's not a trained martial arts instructor. Eventually, if Owen wants to, he'll transfer to a true martial arts school. He's doing really well and likes it, so there's a good chance he'll move on in the near future.
As for me, once again I find I'm not dedicating much time to this blog. But I am (slowly) making progress on my long-in-the-works (C)rock Story collection. With Amelia not taking regular naps lately (today being an exception), and waking up at odd hours during the night and ending up in our bed, I've lost my prime writing/editing time during the day, and am unwilling to get up early because of lack of sleep during the night. But I managed over the past week or so to pull out my red pen and do some hard-copy edits while watching baseball, and yesterday I churned those into my digital copy. There's still more work to be done than I'd like, but the end is in sight.
Friday, October 16, 2009
A mere five days after playing my final baseball game of 2009, snow was flying, albeit briefly, outside my window this morning. It's overcast and cloudy now, with temps hovering around 40. The weekend calls for more of the same. I need some Indian Summer.
My weekend in Cooperstown was fun. I drove up with one of my teammates, Rich, which made the trip go by more quickly. Rich has played in Cooperstown a bunch of times, so he had good suggestions for where to park and eat. Shortly after we arrived in town, we met up with my brother and sister. My brother flew from Maryland to Albany, where my sister, who lives in CT, picked him up. We toured the Hall of Fame after lunch, where my brother caught up with Rich, who, as it turns out, was a freshman at Clark University when my brother was a senior and they hung out a bit.
PIctures from the Hall (and my game the next day) are here.
I hadn't been to the Hall since I was 14, and neither of my siblings had ever been there, so it was good to be able to do it together. The building was smaller than I'd anticipated, but packed with so much stuff that I easily could have spent many more hours there than I did. I was drawn to the really old stuff, such as silver bats, balls and trophies handed out by newspaper companies for local tournaments, and fancy sweaters handed out to world champions, the likes of which you just don't see today.
After our tour, my brother, sister and I wandered the numerous shops on Cooperstown's main street for souvenirs, before heading to dinner at a great bistro that Rich recommended. Then the three of us went back to my motel to watch the playoffs for a while before the two of them headed back to Albany. Unfortunately, neither of them could stick around for my game on Sunday.
I wasn't sure how much of the game I'd be able to play, given that 20 days prior I'd severely injured my upper leg. As it turned out, I played five innings in the field, at short stop, second base and center field. I didn't have to make any plays other than a few pick-off attempts, so that went well. At bat I was 0-2 with a strikeout, pop-out and a walk. I ran into the third out at third base after my walk, which was a bummer. We won 6-5, so in the end my gaffe didn't hurt us.
It was pretty cool playing on Doubleday Field and having an official photographer snapping picture after picture. I hope to return there in the coming years, although my future as a baseball player is up in the air.
I decided toward the end of this season that I no longer want to play on Sunday afternoons, which is mostly what my team does, as it just takes away too much valuable family time. If I can find a team that plays most or all of its games on weeknights, I'll make the move. My teammate Rich is considering putting together a team for a different league, which would play on Monday nights. He needs to find a field, which is difficult, but if he succeeds, I'll move to that team.
On a related note, I was bummed to see the Sox go down so feebly. Luckily, I was driving home on Sunday listening to them getting swept, so I didn't have anything to throw and couldn't get too mad without risking crashing the car. Wait 'til next year....
Friday, October 9, 2009
I love Fridays. I also used to love "Fridays" (for a somewhat funny skit featuring Larry David of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" back when he had a super-duper 'fro, check the Random page). But as for Fridays, I love them because they're a hang loose day for Amelia and me. We used to meet up with a small group of dads and their kids on Fridays, but that fell apart. So now we go to the playground or play in the yard or, as we did today, go to the local mall that has a playroom.
After a short time playing there today, we were invited by a children's entertainer to watch her show outside the playroom. So we, along with many parents, nannies and kids (many of whom said they were there for the express purpose of seeing this performer) tramped along for a show by Jenny the Juggler, who bills herself as "Boston's Best (& only) Female Professional Juggler Since 1997."
As you can see here, Jenny is good with kids, with her goofy jokes, crowd involvement, balloon animal creatures, singing and ukelele playing, face painting and the like. Amelia wasn't that into it, so after about 10 minutes, we went back into the playroom. The whole time we watched, and for a few minutes afterward, as we peeked through the playroom window to check out the show, I kept thinking of Sweet Dee from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." Jenny the Juggler just struck me as a character that Sweet Dee would dream up for some scam. She'd end up getting drunk or hitting on some kid's grandpa and chased out of the mall. If you've seen the show, you know what I'm talking about. If not, well, then check this out.
I stayed up through the 7th inning of last night's Sox game, which was a bummer in two ways: a) they were losing and went on to lose, and b) I hit the pillow at 12:20 and roughly two hours later Amelia woke up and ended up in our bed, an increasingly common occurrence. And tonight's game isn't on until 9:37 again, so I'll be up late again. But not too late, because I gotta leave the house around 8:00 tomorrow morning to start my trek to Cooperstown.
Yes, despite an upper leg (groin? adductor?) injury suffered nearly three weeks ago that is still bothering me, I plan to play at least a few innings Sunday morning in the mecca of baseball. Some guys from my team are joining with guys from another team (or two?) from my league for a two-game tournament at Doubleday Field. There's no way I can play two games as I originally planned, so I'll hobble through as much as I can of the first game and then head home. I'm driving up with a guy from my team and then meeting my brother and sister to hang out at the Hall of Fame during the day and dinner at night. It's cool that they're joining me for the Hall, but they're not gonna get to see me play (or try to) on Sunday, as my brother has to fly home that day, and my sister's gotta drive home. Should be fun. Pictures and story to follow.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
As you can see by the picture above, I took Owen to Fenway again, this time with Beth and my dad. We had a great time in the comfy seats in the State Street Pavilion, complete with in-seat wait service. The Sox won, 6-2, which helped. The occasion marked the first time that three generations of Brigham men have enjoyed a baseball game together. Beth took a bunch of pictures, some of which you can find here.
I asked my dad during the game when was the first time he went to Fenway, and he said it was with a YMCA group out of Springfield, MA, in 1941! He went with another Y group to see a Boston Braves game that same year. He told me that my first Sox game was probably 1967 or '68. I have a vague memory of seeing Jim Lonborg pitch, probably in the early '70s. I'm really glad Owen's into baseball and that he got a chance to see a game with his grandpa (aka Big Gramps).
With the regular baseball season over, however, Owen is now into street hockey. We bought sticks and a plastic puck and plastic balls and played a game yesterday and one today. He has gotten the hang of the game pretty quickly, and of course I go easy on him. We've talked about trying ice skating this year, too. I took him once a few years ago and he liked it, but we never went again. He's mapped out our sports schedule for the week: playoff whiffle ball tomorrow and Wednesday (best of 5 series), followed by a one-game World Series. Then it's back to hockey.
While my parents were in town, they got to see Owen doing tae kwon do for the first time. They were impressed with his mad martial arts skills. They had a nice visit, especially my mom, who got extra Amelia time while the rest of us were at the game Friday night.
What else? Oh yeah, we had a great time at the 2nd annual Lower Wyoming Octoberfest last weekend. Loads of home-brewed beer, sausages, burgers, cookies, etc. for the grown-ups, and a dead-end street for endless mayhem for the kids. Owen had a great time playing football, running around with kids from school and generally just running himself ragged. It was a great event.
What else else? Been giving some thought to what to do with myself next September, when Amelia will go to preschool for a few days a week. I sent away for information on a historic preservation certificate program at Boston Architectural College, but I'm not sure if that would work into whatever my schedule's gonna be. It's certainly a field I find interesting. I plan to also look into study or work in the green industry.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Happy First Partial Day of Autumn!
Yes, at 5:19 ET today summer ends. You wouldn't know it by the forecast for the Boston area, which calls for temps close to 80 today and in the mid 80s tomorrow. I'm not complaining. I love fall, and believe that the best part of fall, when temps are in the upper 50s and low 60s and the leaves are turning, is way too short. Still, I love it when the weather is warm but not hot, and there's little or no humidity. Made for nice baseball conditions last night.
To Beth's chagrin, my team won last night, 10-0, after losing 8-3 on Sunday (her hopes were SO high that we'd get swept, my season would be over, and we'd reclaim normal weekends). Unfortunately, I pulled a groin muscle in the first inning and had to watch the hit barrage from the bench. I've had groin pulls before, but this one feels particularly bad. Good chance I won't play in the third, and final, game of this round of the playoffs on Sunday. If we win, we advance to the finals, which are also best 2 of 3. I'm also supposed to play in a tournament in Cooperstown over Columbus Day weekend, but at this point I'm not sure if I'll follow through, depending on my groin.
Because I had a game Sunday, I missed most of my neighborhood block party, a good occasion to catch up with people who I might see only in passing for most of the year. This Saturday, however, there's an Octoberfest at the other end of our street, hosted by folks who for some reason get snubbed for the block party. The Octoberfest is a much better time, so I'm glad I won't miss it.
What else? Not much. Why don't you go here to find your family crest? Here's what mine looks like. Well, that's one of the choices. I've found a few others, but not the one published in a Brigham family history I used years ago to do genealogy research. That one featured a warthog, hence, it's my favorite.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Boy, it's a good thing this web site isn't one of my kids, or I'd be a really neglectful parent. Nearly two weeks without food or drink. At least it's getting a lot of rest.
As you can see from the above photo, I took Owen to Fenway for his first Sox game. My buddy Dave has four tickets, so he brought his daughter, Owen's lifelong friend, Zoe. The kids had a great time, helped by the fact that the home team won, 10-0. The Sox bashed six home runs, five of which we saw before we left after the 6th inning. Owen was excited, as you would expect, and even told me that the cheeseburger he ate during the game was "the best cheeseburger ever!"
More pictures from the game (and from Owen's first day of school, which fell on the same day) here.
Owen's gotten right into the swing of things at school. He likes his teacher and his classmates, and hasn't complained too much about his homework. He's also doing the afters-chool program for the first time, which he also likes. He has a lot more fun playing with his friends in the after-school program than he had just hanging out with Amelia and me like he did last year.
On the baseball front, my team won last Sunday in the first round (single elimination) of the playoffs. We played the last place team, and only beat them 2-0. This Sunday and Monday we play the second round (double elimination), which will be much tougher, as we haven't been hitting much at all as a team. Beth would be happy if we didn't advance past this round of the playoffs, that's for sure.
I've posted a Giant Sand video on the Random page, just for kicks.
That's about it for now.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
As I was saying....
It's been a fairly busy 3 1/2 weeks since I updated here. Owen finished camp on August 21, so the week after that he, Amelia and I kept busy with whiffle ball, playgrounds, a subway trip and other things that escape me now. On Friday the 28th I traveled to CT for my annual golf outing, a memorial tournament in my hometown, Simsbury. My team didn't play that well, but we had fun, I got to catch up with a bunch of friends, and I won a picnic backpack and a gift certificate in the raffle.
Anybody want a picnic backpack?
Beth and the kids drove down to my parents' house on the 28th and that night we celebrated my mom's birthday along with my sister. We hung out until after lunch on Saturday and then headed back up to Newton.
On Sunday Beth and I went to see the Flaming Lips at Boston's waterfront pavilion, a great spot to see a live show on a pleasant summer night. The Lips are my favorite band, and they didn't disappoint. They put on their usual bombastic, over-the-top show filled with massive balloons floating over the crowd, lead singer Wayne Coyne rolling over the audience in a giant bubble, dozens of people dressed up in costumes, a crazy light show, confetti guns, etc. Oh yeah, the music was pretty damn good, too. I've posted a picture here (along with pics from our trip to Storyland, detailed below).
It was good to get out on the town, have a nice meal (although the Legal Seafoods Test Kitchen got Beth sick), see a great band and hang out with my friend Ray, who was there with a buddy of his.
On Tuesday, we loaded up the kids for our second trip this summer to New Hampshire's Storyland . We hit the park all day on Wednesday, and Owen had a great time, of course, riding all the rides, many of them more than once. Amelia went on a few more rides this time than she did last time. We also checked out the Loopy Lab, a place filled with soft balls that kids can throw and shoot around with crazy cannons. We hadn't gone into the lab when we were at Storyland back in June. Owen went back with Beth a second time.
Tuesday night we met our friends Joe and Jen and their two boys for dinner. They live about 30 minutes away from where we were staying, just outside North Conway. It was good to catch up; been too long since we've seen them.
After checking out of the hotel on Thursday, we hit not one but two mini golf courses before lunch. Owen is still very into the mini golf (he and I went yesterday with his friend Walter and his dad, Ray -- yes, the Flaming Lips guy). We got home a little after 4:00 on Thursday.
I had a game that night, which unfortunately my team lost, 1-0. We've lost three in a row; we're in a collective slump. We're now tied for second place with two games to go, including one against the 1st place team. We need a spark to pull down two victories to give us momentum into the playoffs.
Tomorrow is Beth's and my 12th anniversary. We don't have any big plans, but will probably go out next weekend to combine that celebration with Beth's birthday.
What else? Owen goes back to school on Tuesday, which I think he's ready for. He'll be doing the after-school program three days a week, something that's new for him, and something that concerns him more than actually going back to school. He's got a bigger class this year than he had last year, but he's got a bunch of friends in the group, so he'll be fine from the get-go, I think.
Hard to believe summer's over.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
We've had the AC running for two days straight, but the heat of the day is creeping into the dining room as I type this. We have two units upstairs that keep everybody comfy at night. We run them all day when it gets this hot (low 90s) and humid (oppressive), with fans in the kitchen and living room working to keep things relatively comfortable. But in the midst of a heat wave it's hard to keep things cool enough.
Gonna be a steamy night for baseball. I've got a game at 7:30. I suspect people will be moving pretty slowly. Still, I'm looking forward to it. It's been 9 days since my last game.
As you can see from the above photo, we took Owen and Amelia to a sprinkler park in Belmont over the weekend. We were there with my sister, who was visiting for the first half of the weekend, and our nephew, Max, who we watched for most of the day Saturday. The kids had a great time (more pictures here).
I also took Owen and Max to Monster Mini Golf in Norwood on Saturday afternoon. Nice and cool....
On Sunday our friends Jim and Nikki and their daughter, Sophia, came over for lunch and a trip to the local public pool. We all had a nice, refreshing time!
What else? The Sox are awful right now. Hoping for better things this week.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's a DaveBrigham.com first! A YouTube video posted between the main photo and the blog. I was reminded today via a Facebook thread about the above commercial, which instantly became one of my all-time favorites the first time I saw it several months ago. Please to enjoy!
Elsewhere in Brigham World: Yesterday Beth and I went to Owen's camp for a cookout and to check out his various art and woodworking projects, meet his counselors and watch him swim with his buddies. We were both very impressed with his improved swimming and pool-jumping skills. Until last night, we'd never seen him jump into water over his head -- and so many times! It was a lot of fun.
On Sunday my team won again, 11-0, with Angel striking out the side to wrap up the game. I went 3 for 4 (my coach gave me a charity scoring on one of them), stole a base and scored a run. Unfortunately, I also gave myself a tailbone bruise on an awkward slide into second base. I've got 5 more days until my next game, so I hope to be fully healed by then.
We've got a busy weekend coming up. My sister is coming into town tomorrow, and we're taking care of our nephew, Max, for most of the day Saturday. I think we're gonna all go to a water/spray park in Belmont to keep cool. We've got something planned with our friends Jim and Nikki and their daughter, Sophia, on Sunday, but I don't know what it is.
Speaking of Jim and Nikki, we've begun discussions with them for this fall's New York trip. The four of us went down last November and had a good time, despite some bad weather and lack of good planning. Anybody with suggestions for places to stay and things to do can contact me. Yeah, like anybody's reading this!
Friday, August 7, 2009
The images on the Media page are back. I had to fix them manually, using a work-around provided by my hosting company. The company claimed in an email that they would fix the problem as of 11:00 last night, but that didn't happen. Anyway, enjoy.
I have fixed the MP3's on the Stream page as well.
Not much new since I last posted. The Sox are in a big slide that I hope Josh Beckett can stop tonight. Smoltz is no good; Buccholz, who a week ago I thought would be a good replacement, isn't much better. The Sox are pinning their hopes on former and now current teammate Paul Byrd. I don't have high hopes for him. Wakefield isn't due back for a little while, and Dice-K is on the farm for the foreseeable future.
Just gotta cross those fingers.
I've got a game this Sunday morning, in which I hope to continue my solid hitting of last week. Details to follow.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
This past Saturday we hosted the 6th, 7th or possibly 8th annual Webnoize Summer Bash, a distinguished affair that's been written up in Vanity Fair, The Hamptons Haranguer and The Aspen Agitator over the years. The whole gang was there; well, the ones that matter, anyway: Jay and Deb Kumar and their girls Hannah and Lily; Ric Dube and his wife, Karen Isaacson, and their son, Max; Jay (OJ) and Amy Breitling and their cute-as-a-button baby, Chloe; and Lee and Mary Helen Black and their twins, Luke and Tripp. It was great to see everyone, catch up on everybody's news, watch the kids frolic in the wading pool and slip-n-slide and eat and drink in the hot afternoon sun.
On Sunday I schlepped to Cumberland, RI, for a baseball game. The trip wasn't that bad, but it was hot and the game was 9 innings, as opposed to the 7 we play in our league, and our opponents were hands-down the slowest team we've ever played. Their pitchers stepped off the mound for no reason, their batters seemed surprised each time their slot in the order arrived, and they took their time getting on their batting gloves, circling the batter's box, knocking dirt off their cleats, checking their pulses, etc. We won, 5-3, and as usual our ace, Angel, was in control, striking out 14. I had a rare good day at the bat, going 2-3 with a triple, a two-RBI double and a walk. I scored one run, but somehow didn't make one play in the field. A weird game, but a good one.
That night we went out with Beth's family to celebrate her mom's birthday. We hadn't all been together since our Cape vacation, so it was good to see everyone, eat some cake and watch Rose open her gifts. A nice way to end the weekend.
I've posted two new videos on the Random page. The first is by Mt. St. Helens Band, my new indie rock crush. I read about them in SPIN (Yes, I'm the guy who still reads magazines.) and was curious. Thanks to a hot tip from Beth's brother-in-law, Todd, I finally got my ass in gear to check out EMusic's 14-day trial period, and downloaded the band's album, which I really like. The second video is "Wild One," by Those Darlins, a trio of sassy, country-lovin' women.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Summer finally arrived over the weekend, with temps in the 80s and humidity levels in the somewhat uncomfortable zone. We installed our air conditioners during the day and ran them until bedtime, then opened the windows at night. Today the AC is back on. We have two window units that keep things cool in the bedrooms, and enough of that cool air flows down the stairs that the main floor keeps reasonably comfortable, too. I'll be happy if this is the only week of hot and humid weather, but I'm not counting on it.
We had a busy day yesterday, as we went to a birthday party at our friends Andra and Andrew's house, complete with grilled meats, a bouncy house, beer, ice cream cake and Rock Band. Owen had a great time jamming on the Rock Band drums with the grown ups, and then checking out his friend Lukas's electronic drum kit.
Straight from there we went to our friends Linda and Dave's house for dinner. Owen had fun hanging out with his friend Zoey, who, we realized, is the friend he's known the longest. They were born just a few weeks apart and we see them pretty regularly, and they always have a great time together.
On Saturday we hit the mini golf links once again, this time at McGolf in Dedham (we figured if it's good enough for Ben Affleck, it's good enough for us). The course is tough, with lots of angled fairways that make seemingly easy shots suddenly look very ugly. Still, it was fun.
On Saturday afternoon Beth took Owen to the local pool, where they had a great time and he saw a bunch of his friends from school. Amelia napped while I puttered around the house. That night I played in my league's All-Star game, which was a lot of fun. I went 1 for 2 and scored a run after I reached base on a dropped third strike.
That's about it, folks.
Monday, July 20, 2009
We returned Saturday from a great trip to the Cape. We went to the beach every day except Thursday, played a lot of mini golf, took advantage of Beth's parents as babysitters for one night out on the town with Beth's sister and her husband, and had an all around fantastic time.
Owen and Amelia are both beach bums, that's for sure. Owen couldn't wait to get in the water once we got to the beach. Between free swimming, using a noodle and a boogie board, he was all over the place. He even did some jumps off the dock with his cousin Max one day. He just loved it. Amelia did a bunch of swimming, too, but she was just as happy digging in the sand and collecting rocks and shells. It was really cool to see how much fun they had.
Four of our seven days there included a trip to a mini golf place. Owen has become enamored of the game in recent weeks, and was anxious to check out a few different courses. He is just about the fastest mini golf player I've ever seen, more interested in going as quickly as he can than actually taking his time and shooting a low score. It turned out to be a good morning activity for us, and for Beth's family.
On Wednesday, the boys rode the rails. As we did last year, Owen, Beth's dad and I drove to Hyannis (with Beth's brother-in-law, Todd, and his son, Max) for the Cape Cod Railway scenic train. The trip takes two hours, and goes through beautiful scenery in Hyannnis, Sandwich and Bourne, on the way to the Cape Cod Canal. We all had a good time.
That night, Beth, her sister, Megan, Todd and I went out for dinner and drinks, taking advantage of a really nice offer by Beth's parents to babysit the kids. We went to the Chart Room, a nice seafood place (duh!) at the Cataumet Marina. Afterwards we went to a bar called The Beach House in North Falmouth for a few drinks.
For the second year in a row, we didn't make it to a Cape Cod League Baseball game, which was a bit of a bummer. Also, we didn't even get any ice cream (well, Megan, Todd and Max did). I finished reading "American Rust," a depressing but well written novel about tragic events in the wake of the downfall of the steel industry in Pennsylvania. I started and got a good way through "The Lost City of Z," a non-fiction book about a Victorian-era British explorer's quest for a fabled Amazon city of gold.
I played baseball yesterday for the first time in 5 weeks, and my time off showed. I went 0 for 2 (I'm now batting .167 for the season), made a base-running gaffe and a throwing error. We won, but I hope to redeem myself on Friday night. I'm also going to play in the league's All-Star game on Saturday in Watertown. Our team voted for the three guys on our team who they thought should play in the mid-season classic, and evidently I got one vote. Three of the top four vote-getters can't make it, so by default I'll be joining Angel, our pitching ace.
That's about it. Oh yeah, pictures from the Cape are here.
Friday, July 10, 2009
After a week sans laptop, I bought a new MacBook today. Owen spilled cranberry juice on the old one and it didn't make sense to buy a new keyboard and hard drive in a machine that's 4 1/2 years old.
Quick summary: Owen's having fun in camp, Amelia likes her new music/art class, Beth is glad to be on vacation. We leave tomorrow for a week at the Cape. If I can, I'll update from there, but I'm not sure I'll have a solid signal.
As you were....
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Although we started Amelia's birthday celebrations a week and a half ago with my parents, yesterday she turned two. Because she's ahead of the curve in terms of language and has increasingly been making very vocal demands of us, I've been thinking of her as a two-year-old for quite some time. Now it's official.
My sister came up Friday night and gave Amelia presents on Saturday, because she couldn't stick around for the party we had on Sunday. Beth's family was here for the party, as were our neighbors Fiona and Billy and their kids, Brenna, 3, and Shane, 2; my friend Ray and his daughter, Rory, who's almost 3; and our friends Linda and Dave and their kids, Maya, who recently turned 2, and Zoe, who's 7. The rain held up so I could grill up burgers and dogs, which was nice, given the dreary weather pattern we've been in lately. Amelia had a lot of fun (pictures here) and got a lot of great presents.
Owen started camp yesterday and had a good time. They keep them very busy, with activities including archery (rained out yesterday -- no big surprise), tennis, drama, ceramics, woodworking, swimming twice a day, etc. The day is longer than his school day, so he came home yesterday pretty wiped out. The longer day means Amelia can nap longer, and I can get more stuff done around the house, which is good.
Finally, as someone who cares a lot about music, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of Michael Jackson. I wasn't a fan of his music, although I won't deny having sung or danced along to many of his classic Jackson 5 and solo songs in my day. And I certainly made fun of his bizarre lifestyle many times over the years. But the dude could write a tune and dance like crazy. So I wanted to pay homage to him in my own way. Please to enjoy a video of Iron & Wine (who I know little about) covering the Flaming Lips' (who I know too much about) "Waitin' for a Superman" while Michael Jackson dances.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Another day, another batch of cool clouds with rain. Ugh.
I had a really good Father's Day, hanging out with Beth and the kids and my parents in the morning, and strapping on the feedbag with Beth's family at dinner time for some fine eats from Blue Ribbon BBQ. The kids gave me some really cool t-shirts (The Who, Scooby Doo, others). My parents were in town for the weekend to celebrate Amelia's birthday, since they won't be around this coming weekend. They had fun hanging out with Amelia and Owen, and took us all out to dinner Saturday night at new Newton hot spot The Local.
This morning Beth, Amelia and I dropped Owen off at school and hung out with the rest of the families for a year-capping slideshow and to review all the great work the kids have done over the year (weekend journals, math journals, storybooks about Boston historical sites, self portraits, etc.). It was great to see all the hard work Owen has put in this school year, and to see how much the kids have grown up since September. Hard to believe he's going into second grade!
Tomorrow is Owen's final day of school, so the rest of the week means hitting museums and (weather permitting) playgrounds. He's got a birthday party at a movie theater on Friday morning, and a possible play date either that day or Wednesday. Camp starts next Monday.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
We had an awesome time at Storyland last weekend. The weather was perfect, we got to the park nice and early and spent more than 6 hours, most of them on rides or walking to get to rides. Owen and his cousin Max, who's 2 1/2, went on many of the rides together, which was a lot of fun to watch. Amelia went on a few rides, but mostly was content to hang out and explore while the bigger kids and the adults took turns on rides such as the Polar Coaster, Bamboo Chutes, Twirlin' Turtles, Antique Cars and the Flying Fish.
Over the past few years I've heard countless testimonials from friends about how terrific Storyland is, but didn't really believe them. But in the past few days when people asked how it was, I told them how great it is. The park is neat and clean, the people who work there are helpful, the rides are fun without being scary or skeevy. There are plenty of bathrooms and food options and the lines weren't that long (of course, once summer vacations kick in, that will surely change). We stayed in a condo about 10 minutes from the park, which was great.
With any luck, Owen will still be into Storyland on our planned return next year. Amelia will be 3 and able to go on more rides. I'd love to go on some hikes next time we're up that way, too, and some gondola rides up some of the ski mountains. Or maybe drive up Mount Washington, which I did as a teenager with my parents.
In other news, my team won its first night game of the season, 3-0 behind the usual stellar pitching of our ace, Angel. I was 0 for 3 again, but made two plays in the field that, if I may say so myself, were pretty damn good. The second one was the true highlight. The infield grass was pretty high, so a hard-hit ball up the middle died just as it reached the dirt on the second base side of the bag. I didn't think I had enough time to glove it, pivot and throw to first, so I scooped it with my glove and dished it to the shortstop, who caught it with his barehand to force the runner. Lots of laughs and high-fives after that one.
My parents are coming up this Saturday to celebrate Amelia's birthday a week early. Will be good to see them; the kids always have a great time seeing Purple Gram and Big Gramps. The reason they're coming up a week early is that they're going to a show in the Berkshires the following weekend, when the rest of the family (including my sister) will celebrate Amelia's birthday, which is the 29th. Of course, it's my fault that my parents aren't going to be around for the bigger party. I spearheaded the effort to get tickets for the play my parents are going to see, not even thinking when I bought the tix for my dad's 80th birthday, that the date I'd picked would coincide with Amelia's party. Oh well.
Penultimately, I had two short dreams last night, each involving some old-school Boston rock. I don't remember anything about the first one other than the fact that a song by the hard-hitting Bullet LaVolta was playing in the background. And, of course, dreams being dreams, the song wasn't really one of theirs; I don't know what the hell it was. But I've posted here one of my favorites of theirs, "Dead Wrong," from late '89/90.
The second dream involved a guy from my high school class trying to teach me a guitar riff. After several tries, I got pretty good at it. Uncharacteristically, I recalled upon awakening that the riff was for The Upper Crust's "Rock and Roll Butler." It's also on the Random page.
Finally, two thoughts: watching the Crust video it occurred to me that lead singer Lord Bendover looks like an older, pastier Andy Samberg. Also, the video reinforced in my head that some day soon I need to pitch a book called "Modern Day People Who Look Like Colonialists." I had that idea earlier this week after seeing a woman who, well, you can figure it out.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Thanks to everyone who listened to and/or commented on The MegaChips. Owen was very excited to read the comments people left on Facebook about his drumming. He and I have recorded more songs since I posted the trio that remain here, but nothing worth posting. Stay tuned, though....
In the meantime, I've posted a solo tune, one that I envision The Toastmen playing when we get around to recording and/or performing. It's called "Ixnay On the Esusjay," and if you're a Christian you're not gonna like it. Don't take it personally. I could just as easily have written a ditty critical of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Appalachian snake handling. Well, the latter is one that I actually find really cool.
In other news...
Owen completed his latest tae kwon do test, moving easily from his red shirt to his brown shirt (pictures here). His is the first class to reach this level, with just one more shirt (black) to go. Since Kids U doesn't hold classes over the summer, he'll have to wait until the fall to reach the top t-shirt level. His teacher said they plan to move on to another system, of patches or belts, once the black t-shirts have been handed down from master to students. We're very proud of Owen's tae kwon do skills and dedication to the class.
Speaking of sporting interests, my team is now 3-0 after a victory on Sunday. I made all my plays in the field, which almost made up for my 0 for 3 showing at the bat. Next game is Tuesday.
We're leaving tomorrow afternoon for Bartlett, NH, to spend the weekend at a condo with Beth's family. Owen is beside himself with excitement for Storyland. The boy loves his rides, and it's possible we won't get to all of them, there's just so many. We took him and Amelia to a local carnival on Sunday and Owen had a great time, but the rides were a little lame. After perusing the Storyland web site, oh, maybe 20 times in the past few days, he's worked himself into quite a frenzy for our trip. Should be great.
Finally, Beth and I went to Fenway last night to watch the Sox beat the Yankees, 6-5. I love going to the park, especially when the Evil Empire is in town, and most especially when the Sox beat their big rivals. If anyone has tickets they can't use -- let me know!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Just a quick post. Owen was home sick from school today (although, honestly, he wasn't that sick) and while Amelia napped he and I recorded some songs for the second day in a row. Yes, that's right -- The MegaChips have hit the Internet. Although Owen tells me that today's recording wasn't done under the MegaChips banner, but rather the Fine Friends moniker, I told him that any time we jam, we're The MegaChips as far as I'm concerned.
As you can imagine, I'm really excited to be playing music with Owen. He gets some good beats going, and since he's showing a real interest (as well as an interest in playing drums for Guitar Hero), we'll probably fill out the drum kit with some cymbals soon. Anyway, I'll post more in a day or two about what else is going on in Brigham Town, but for now, enjoy some rock!
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Owen and I have formed a band, called The MegaChips. This is a name he came up with a little while ago, and while we don't always use that name when we're jamming (his current fave is The Fine Winners), for all intents and purposes, that's the one we'll use for our first record. Oh, did I forget to mention that he got a (used) snare drum for his birthday from Beth's parents? We added that to the half drum kit I got from a friend years ago (bass drum with one tom, and a floor tom) and set it up in the basement. Owen usually comes up with our song titles (sample: "Guitar Go") and then I come up with some basic chords while he pounds away. Sometimes I make up silly lyrics. It's a lot of fun.
There are a few pictures here (taken before I set up the whole kit, and switched to electric guitar), as well as some shots of our trip this past Sunday to Lookout Farm in Natick, MA, which I write about below.
It's really fun to watch Owen playing the drums. He just looks so excited when he's doing it. I think all the virtual pounding he's done via the Guitar Hero drum set has helped him. If his interest on the real drums continues, I'll buy him a high-hat and some cymbals, as well as a pedal for the bass drum (I thought I got one with the kit, but haven't been able to find it in the jungle I call a basement).
On Monday, Beth and I took the kids to Lookout Farm on what turned out to be a perfect late-spring day. The temps were in the mid-70s, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, the burgers and dogs tasted great, the playground was fun and not too crowded and there was even a half-decent magician named Magic Dave, who's been endorsed by none other than Mick Jagger. If the farm's usual menagerie of animals had been on full display, the day would have been almost too good. As it turns out, there were only goats, the rest of the animals being "on vacation" until September for some reason.
The rest of the weekend was great, too. We celebrated Owen's birthday on Saturday, when he got the aforementioned snare drum. He also got a bat, balls and batting tee from Beth's sister and brother-in-law. On Sunday, we went to a barbecue at our friends Jess and Doug's house. Good food, good beer, good conversation. What more can you ask for?
Friday, May 22, 2009
Just a quick note about my latest MP3. It's actually an alternate version of the song I posted before, "Area 51 Is for Lovers." The explanation about the differences in the tracks is here, alongside the song.
Beth took today off from work to attend the Fitness for Life function for Owen's school. Scheduled events include: Jelly Ball/Jumbo Jam (I have no idea what that is); Big Box Hockey (Ditto); Fitness Trail; and Games & Relays. She just called and said the kids are hot and tired, but everybody is having a great time.
Check back later; Beth said she has some pictures.
Tomorrow is Owen's birthday, which we'll celebrate with lunch with Beth's parents, and then whatever Owen wants to do, which will probably mean some Guitar Hero on Wii, some time on the monkey bars at a random playground, and perhaps an aimless drive. We don't have any solid plans on Sunday and Monday, but rumor has it there is going to be a neighborhood BBQ.
Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
We're still three days from Owen's birthday, but we held his party for his friends this past Sunday. Pictures from the big to-do are here.
Most of the kids from his class were there, as were his friends Zoe and Walter (and Walter's little sister, Rory, and Amelia, and my nephew, Max). Everybody seemed to have a great time, running wild, eating pizza and cake and running wild again. Owen certainly had a great time, and got loads of nice presents.
After his party, I had my first baseball game of this, my 5th season (I can't believe it's been that long). I hauled myself down to Scituate, a 50-minute drive south, for a great afternoon on the diamond. Our ace, Angel, was his old self, shutting the Giants down, allowing just two hits. We won 4-1. I was 1 for 2 (we had a 15-man batting order) and scored a run. Felt really good to be back out there.
My parents and my sister were here on Saturday to celebrate Owen's birthday. We went out to dinner and when we got back they gave him his presents. He got a bunch of great books and games.
This Saturday, his actual birthday, we'll finish up his celebrations with lunch with Beth's family, and, of course, more presents.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Yesterday I took Amelia to the playground in Newton Center that we've been frequenting lately. The playground used to be a dusty wasteland, but evidently a private citizen who lives near the park paid for its transformation into an oasis, with areas for little kids and big kids, new picnic tables and enough stuff to keep everyone busy for hours.
Sometime around 11:45 I spied a group of teenage girls walking past the adjoining baseball field, headed toward the playground. This wasn't your typical group of Newton girls, however, with cell phones, flip flops and uptalking. They were dressed in long black skirts with matching charcoal gray, velour hooded sweatshirts with a school name, the only part of which I could read was "Boston High School." There were at least two dozen of them, accompanied by three teachers with similar black outfits and helmet-style, ironed-out haircuts.
Their entry into the playground and time spent playing and eating lunch was like something out of the late 19th century. Too old to be playing on the equipment, nonetheless the girls fanned out on to the swings and the monkey bars, talking quietly or sitting primly eating their lunches. All I could think of was "Picnic at Hanging Rock," the movie from the '70s that, frankly, I knew nothing about until I watched this trailer.
My curiosity got the better of me when I got home. A quick search turned up the answer to what school they attend. I was almost certain it was a Jewish school, and I was right. It's the Bais Yaakov of Boston High School for Girls, an Orthodox Jewish institution located just a few blocks from the playground. It's not uncommon to see Orthodox Jews in Newton, especially Newton Center, but they still seem somehow exotic when I see women who wear long, dark dresses and something (hat, bandanna, wig) covering their hair (Thanks Wikipedia; maybe the three teachers I saw were all wearing wigs. Hmm...), and men with long beards dressed in formal attire, with strings hanging from their shirts at the waist (I've always wondered about those strings; now I know they're called tzitzis.).
That's your religion lesson for the week.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Just a quick note while I've got some rare down time. Amelia's napping and Beth took Owen to the playground to meet a friend. Everyone is still healthy, and Owen's allergies are under control. There must be a lot of stuff in the air, because I can feel it a little and I don't have allergies. I feel bad for Owen when his eyes get itchy and his nose gets stuffed up.
I'm looking forward to celebrating Mother's Day with Beth and the kids, her sister, brother-in-law and our nephew, and Beth's parents. The plan right now, weather permitting, is to go to a local playground along the Charles River for a picnic. The menu is lobster rolls, pasta salad, strawberry shortcake and (shhhh) sangria. Should be fun.
I know I've talked about recording songs, both here and on Facebook, and I realized that if I wait until the perfect moment, or until I have the perfect song, I'm never going to do it. So check out a very rough demo of "Area 51 Is for Lovers" on the Stream page. The song is from my ongoing UFO-themed concept album.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Health update: Owen finally emerged from the dark cave of illness on Sunday, but even now, a week after he first got sick, he's still trying to get his strength back. He returned to school on Monday, which made him (and me) happy. But he's battling his seasonal allergies, which make his eyes itchy and stuff up his nose. He takes Claritin, which helps, but because he didn't eat much last week, his system is a bit weaker than normal. Every day he gets a little closer to full recovery. Thankfully, none of the rest of us caught his illness.
Needless to say, because Owen was still recovering over the weekend, we didn't do much for those two days. We did get out for a family drive on Sunday, but that was about it. I skipped my baseball practice, so the next time I throw a ball and swing a bat will be at our first game on May 17.
Last night I went to see The Kills, a duet consisting of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince. She's American and does most of the singing and plays guitar sometimes (and spits on stage once in a while); he's British and plays guitar and sings a fair amount of the time, too. And they use the hell out of a drum machine and pre-recorded bass lines and other sounds to pound out a wonderfully primitive and sexy blues groove.
I was supposed to go with Beth, her sister and brother-in-law, but, well, it being a Tuesday night, they all backed out. I tried to sell the tickets online to no avail. I considered trying to sell them outside the club beforehand, but decided not to. So I ate three tickets and they were just fine with a little salt and pepper.
Anyway, the band was really good. As I stood there watching them growl, writhe, stomp and spit I thought, "This is so primal. It's like it's been handed down from cave-people." They've got the same hypnotic powers that the Velvet Underground, Junior Kimbrough, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and countless others in blues and rock 'n' roll have mastered. Strangely enough, about 10 minutes after Screamin' Jay's name popped into my head, The Kills buzzed through a very down and dirty version of his classic, "I Put a Spell on You."
For three hot Kills videos, go to the Random page.
The second band on last night's bill (I missed opener Magic Wands) was The Horrors, who had a few fans in the crowd. I was not among them. As someone who's seen countless bands over the years, and listened to enough college radio to last 10 lifetimes, I can't help at age 44 breaking down Bands from the Now Times into their various influences. The Horrors are equal parts Bauhaus, The Chameleons UK and Comsat Angels. Toss some Jesus & Mary Chain in there, too. I didn't hear that influence, but the lead singer was wearing one of the band's t-shirts, so there ya go.
If the kids like it, though, who am I to say it's no good?
Friday, May 1, 2009
As I was putting the finishing touches on Tuesday's post, Owen was asleep on the couch. It was about 5:30, so I knew something was going on with him, but little did I suspect that he'd end up missing three days of school in a row.
He developed a fever Tuesday evening and threw up around 9:30 that night. Overnight, he had two bouts of night terror, or pavor nocturnus (Am I the only one who hates when writers drop Latin or French words and phrases into their text as though English isn't good enough and everybody loves nothing more than running to their dictionary or dictionary.com to figure out just what the hell the guy/gal is talking about?), which were freaky and frightening but not completely foreign to Beth and me. Owen has had a few episodes over the last few years, but nothing like he had Tuesday night.
A Night terror is when someone, often a child between 2 and 6, screams, thrashes and otherwise acts possessed after having fallen asleep. The person isn't having a nightmare, but rather is caught between being asleep and awake. In Owen's case, he seemed petrified of something, and having Beth and me there, trying to calm him down, holding him, stroking his hair, only seemed to make it worse. I think in his fever-addled brain, we were monsters or ghosts (too much "Scooby Doo," perhaps?) or some sort of demons. Thankfully, after several minutes he calmed down and woke up, unaware of what had really gone on.
He had another brief episode during a day-time nap on Wednesday, but it was nothing like he'd had the previous night. He's had a fever off and on since Tuesday night and thrown up one more time. He hasn't eaten much until today, so his energy has been low. He appears on the mend, finally, having eaten some chicken nuggets and one of Amelia's cereal bars. With any luck, he'll be able to go to the Big Apple Circus with Beth tomorrow.
Through it all, Owen's been a trouper. He hasn't complained, and has been content to watch TV (we're watching the "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed," starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddy Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and a computer-generated Scooby as I write this), do stuff on the computer, rest quietly on the couch, read and draw. Amelia has been really good about hanging out in the house, even though we had to skip her swimming and Gymboree classes, and our regular Friday playgroup.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that none of the rest of us get what Owen has.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Thanks to my man Jay Kumar for shaking me out of my DaveTronik 2000 doldrums. I wasn't doing a good job of managing my time with this site, and the ongoing work on my short-story collection and life in general. The solution: DON'T SPEND SO MUCH TIME ON FACEBOOK AND EMAIL!!
So here's what's been up since my last post....
We had a great time Sunday afternoon at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA. While I was at baseball practice that morning, Beth came up with the idea of going to the beach (which we erroneously called Crane's Beach; I still like calling it that). She told Owen, who's totally into "Scooby Doo" lately, that we were going on a special adventure in the newly christened Mystery Machine (aka my Mazda 5).
Amelia took a nap on the way up, which was good, and I enjoyed a rare turn in the passenger seat (I was tired from practicing in 85-degree heat, plus going for a two-mile run afterwards). The drive on Route 1-A after we got off Route 128 was really nice. Lots of historic homes and horse farms. The beach was probably more packed than it's been on April 26th for many years. People were in full summer mode: girls and women in bikinis, guys with their shirts off, a few jet skis and motor boats in the near distance.
We stayed for about an hour, going without sunscreen and suffering no ill effects. Owen and I stuck our feet in the surf a few times, but it was ice cold, so we went no further. He, Beth and I built some sand bridges and tunnels, while Amelia mostly stayed in Beth's lap or arms, or my arms, afraid to touch the sand (pictures of our trip are here).
We finished up a perfect afternoon with dinner at Bertucci's in Newton Corner.
As I mentioned, I was at baseball practice Sunday morning. Temps were already in the mid 80s when we started at 10:00. Crazy, yes, but we kept things fairly mellow so nobody melted down. After practice I went for a short run, figuring I was already hot and sweaty. Pretty tough 20 minutes, but it felt good.
Our first game is slated for Sunday, May 17, at 4:00. Owen's birthday party runs from noon to 1:30 that day, so with any luck I'll be able to still make my game.
On the banjo front, the guy who was trying to fix it had no luck. Because there's no truss rod in the neck, he couldn't straighten it out using traditional methods (whatever those are). He suggested I take it to a specialist, but I'm not sure how much money I want to spend on an instrument that I don't know how to play. My buddy Ray suggested I hang it up as a piece of art.
That's all for now.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I gotta tell you, oh faithful readers, I'm just not into this web site much any more. If anyone cares, send me an email and I'll do a better job here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Happy Tax Day!
Spring has sprung this week in the Boston area. I've taken the kids to the playground the last few days and boy, does it feel good. Owen is all over the monkey bars with his friends, and Amelia does her best to keep up. Owen's even gotten into wiffle ball the past few days, something that he never showed any interest in.
We went to CT over the weekend for our usual double birthday celebration (my sister's and mine) and for Easter. We went out to dinner with my sister and my parents on Saturday, and I got two Borders gift cards for my birthday.
Amelia, as you can see in the photo above, had fun playing the piano with my mom. Amelia was very cute banging away on random keys and singing "Twinkle Twinkle."
Music was a big theme for the weekend. Owen, Beth and I put on two air band concerts, one at my parents' house and one for the Sunday brunch crowd. Owen's totally into The Police these days, so we performed four songs from Zenyatta Mondatta for the crowd. Owen played guitar for both shows; Beth and I switched between bass and drums.
Owen's favorite Police song, and one of mine too, is "Driven to Tears."
Please to enjoy the song from "Urgh! A Music War."
Owen especially loves Stewart Copeland ("Oh, Stewart, he's so funny!"), but I haven't told Owen about Klark Kent yet.
Owen and Amelia had a good time doing an Easter egg hunt at my parents' house, although Owen found just about all of them.
Let's see, what else? Oh yeah, I posted something at the Random page about Black Kids and Honeyglazed. If that makes even a little bit of sense to you, check it out. If not, well, check it out.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Thanks to all my friends and family who called or left notes on Facebook wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. For those of you who didn't, I'm keeping a list....
Beth took me out Saturday night to Boston's Smith & Wollensky steak house. We had great filet mignon along with a bottle of red wine. The restaurant occupies, according to Wikipedia, "the Armory of the First Corps of Cadets, a castle built in 1891 originally intended as a military building, and is the only S&W location on the National Register of Historic Places." The building was also once the library for UMass Boston, according to my father-in-law, who taught at the school back in the day. It's a pretty neat place to gorge on beef, that's for sure.
We also went to Finale, a dessert restaurant, where we split the mini sampler and I enjoyed the port wine sampler. A great night.
Beth and the kids gave me a t-shirt and a Guinness baseball hat, so I can play and drink at the same time. They also gave me a Bose Pirated Music Blaster, aka a Digital Music System for my iPod. Kicks ass over the JVC donut-shaped iPod speaker system we had before. Good stuff.
We went out for dinner last night with the kids to Johnny's Luncheonette, one of my favorite places for dinner. We invited along Owen's friend Walter, his sister Rory and of course their parents, Ray and Inez. This guy was making the rounds, entertaining the kids with hidden ball tricks and the adults with his mind-reading abilities. It was a fun night out.
Good news for Toastmen fans: Webmaster Ken has posted rough MP3s from our last (instrumental) jam session, and added some photos at the band's international headquarters. New pictures are here and here.
Yesterday my team had its first practice, and I have to say I felt good being on the diamond again. I was pretty rusty, with lots of muffed grounders on the field and lame ground balls during batting practice, but that's OK. Most of the team is back, and we've added at least one guy. We should definitely contend for the title as we have the past two season, albeit unsuccessfully.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
for obscure music videos from Charlie Chesterman....
Not much going on. I went down to Walpole, MA, Saturday night to visit with my friends Jim and Nikki and their daughter, Sophia. They were hosting a woman Jim and I went to college with, Heidi, who I hadn't seen since, well, college. It was good to catch up with her. She's got grown kids unlike the rest of us suckers who started so late on families. She does graphic design, and talked with Jim and me about doing cover art for the short-story collection that Jim is curating, and to which I am contributing. I've also talked to Heidi about doing some artwork for my own story collection.
Despite the fact that I'm rocking my Red Sox sweatshirt and slippers as I type this, I can't believe that the season starts next Monday. I'm totally ready, but know that it will take me a little while to get fully into the swing of things, baseball-wise. Speaking of which, my team's first practice is slated for Sunday, weather permitting.
Apropos of nothing, I'm linking you to the Mutual UFO Network web site. Longtime readers of this blog know that I love UFOs, and this site offers a lot for fellow enthusiasts: info on upcoming symposiums, places to report sightings, a forum to discuss all things extraterrestrial, and, my favorite, a UFO event report map, which offers real-time info on sightings. Enjoy, my friends....
Thursday, March 26, 2009
First, let me point you to the Stream page, where I blather on about watching Scooby Doo, exploring old nursing homes and speculating on whether a ravine in the woods behind my childhood home was made by a UFO.
Second, not much new 'round here. Beth and I had a good time at the PTO auction last Friday. She was top bidder for a new iPod Touch, which is a pretty cool gadget, even though I have no desire to use it. I won two silent auction bids, one for a local restaurant and the other for a local farm with loads of kids' entertainment.
Third, I've handed my 10,000+ word short story over to my editor, Jim. Now I can get back to my long-neglected (C)rock collection. I also plan to develop a new chord structure for "Hand in Hand in Tucson (Area 51 Is for Lovers"). It was either that or write rhyming lyrics, because the song as it currently exists just doesn't work. I like the lyrics, so I'm gonna try a new musical structure. Something outside of my 3-chord zone of comfort. Or maybe it'll just be one chord. Who knows? I did record it to GarageBand, which was fun, so once I get the song the way I like it I'll record another version and, with any luck, get it online soon.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Ah, spring has arrived! Sure, the temps are struggling to stay in the 40s, and there's nary a leaf on a tree, but the skies are blue-blue-blue, I'm thinking about hitting the batting cage and tonight is the big Spring Auction for Owen's school.
One negative note amid my high-on-life mood: my car is the shop. I bought it just before Thanksgiving, a brand-spanking-new 2009 Mazda 5, and four months later it gets admitted for in-patient surgery. I forget exactly what they're replacing, an oil exchange thingamabob or something. I'm stylin' and profilin' in a PT Cruiser for now, but I want my damn car back!
Not much else going on. Last night I worked on the first song for which I plan to record a demo and upload to Archive.org. "Hand in Hand in Tucson (Area 51 Is for Lovers)" is part of the UFO-themed concept album I've been working on for years. The lyrics are done and I have a chord structure or two that I like. I need to put it together and figure out a lead guitar part and then I'll see about recording it and getting it online.
While you wait for that, please to enjoy The Rezillos' "Flying Saucer Attack":
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I'm having a hard time managing stuff I do at Facebook, the short story I've been wrangling with for quite some time, thinking about writing new songs and reworking existing ones, raising kids, keeping current with TV and trying to keep this web site somewhat up to date.
After last week's big relaunch -- that quartet of lights sweeping the skies over North America was my doing -- I've once again let things slip. I'm trying, trust me, but not hard enough, as I just realized that when I posted a week ago, I forgot to edit out a part about how during the upcoming weekend we were going to CT for my dad's birthday. In fact, we'd already been to the party, and I mentioned that. I tell ya, you can't get good help these days.
I took Owen out last night to see some Irish music at the West Street Tavern around the corner from our house. My neighbor's father plays in a two-man band that I've been curious to see, and Owen is pretty into music, so he watched my father-in-law and me each down a Guinness. Owen was into watching the drummer (my neighbor's brother), and said he wants to buy the rest of the stuff we need to fill out our hand-me-down drum kit (we need the important stuff: snare, hi-hat, ride and crash cymbals). One day maybe we'll have our own family band set up in the basement.
Not much is new. Beth and I are going out this Friday for a PTO function that is the social highlight of the school year. The annual auction is a fun event where we can catch up with friends, have a few drinks and bid in the silent auction and the regular auction. We didn't win any of our bids last year, but maybe this year we'll try a little harder, especially if there are Sox tickets.
And now a tip of the hat to my friend, Mike Caulfield. He's committed himself to writing 52 songs and 12 stories during 2009, an ambitious goal to be sure. I've listened to most of the songs he's posted at his web site, but this one is my favorite so far. I'm going to try hard to get some songs in shape and record them and post them at the same site Mike's using. Somebody please hold me to that pledge.
Oh yeah, I also added something at the Random page.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I am returned!
I'm just gonna jump back into things here, from most recent things in my life to stuff dating back to my last post.
We went to CT over the weekend to celebrate my dad's 80th birthday. I can't believe he's 80; he looks 10 years younger. My brother and his family flew up, joining my sister and most of my cousins for the party. Owen and Amelia had fun with my parents and with their cousin Grace. Here are a few pictures from the party.
I have been working on a story tentatively titled "The Bottle" for a short story anthology being curated by my good friend Jim Corrigan. He hopes to collect stories from 20 writers around a common theme (I'm not sure how much detail he'd like me to give, so I'll keep it basic) and shop it around to publishing house. Jim has been published and has contacts in the right places, so I'm confident he's going to find a publisher. Since my story isn't quite finished (I, like almost every writer he has recruited, missed two deadlines to date), I don't want to give away too many details. I'll just say that it deals with 19th century medicine shows and leave it at that.
I've also been giving a lot of though lately to recording music. When I graduated from college in, ahem, 1987, I swore I would play in a band and record an album before I was 40. I've goofed around musically with people over the years, including the mighty Toastmen, but have played exactly zero gigs over the last 22 years and recorded but one song. I recently blabbed on Facebook all about the songs I've written, and realized that I have some good stuff that I'd love to record for posterity's sake. The Toastmen plan to record some stuff this year, and I have a loose agreement with my buddy Jeff to record some stuff as well. I've spent too much time procrastinating in my life; I'm not getting any younger and I want to get this stuff done. I'm also going to explore using GarageBand to record my stuff.
As for the family, all is well. Owen has lost a total of four teeth, the most recent one this past Monday. He's doing well in school and with his tae kwon do class (see pictures of him, Amelia, Beth and me here). Amelia's language growth continues to amaze Beth and me. She talk more and more every day, in more complex structures. She sings songs, adding more words every time, and even improvising.
Sunday, January 4
I was going to post a Christmas wrap-up, but in the last few days I've realized that one reason I've been neglecting this site is that I'm bored with it. I need to come up with some new ideas. I've got a few, but until I fully develop them this site's gonna be idle. I won't stay away too long, as I do enjoy posting stuff here. Just needs to be a bit more dynamic.
Hope you've enjoyed what I've been posting, and will check back once in a while to see how DaveBrigham.com version 2.0 (or is it 3.0? or 4.0? I forget) progresses.