1213504646My day doesn’t usually start at a National Landmark fielding pointed questions from armed security. This was one of those rare mornings when it did.

We’re on a family trip to the N-Y-C. It’s the first time Julie and I have taken the girls along with us to our favorite city and we’re about to begin a big day with a trip to the Statue of Liberty.

I bought tickets online before the trip and made the reservations for the very first ferry of the day. Beat the crowds. Beat the heat. I’m a genius. But there’s a hitch. We’re staying in the beautiful Upper West Side and the ferry leaves from the extreme Southern tip of Manhattan. We’re gonna have to get an early start.

We crawl out of bed in the morning, get dressed and grab a quick breakfast. The kids aren’t really hungry so they don’t eat much. Julie and I know we don’t want hungry kids dragging through the morning so I stick some snacks in my bag, grab a couple more to put in my pockets and we’re out the door.

After a long, early morning subway ride we make it downtown and head to the pier. We already have tickets so we get to skip that line and go straight to the security line. You know those winding lines in amusement parks. It’s just like that. Only instead of a roller coaster, you’re waiting for a metal detector. Wooooo!

We wait and walk as the line inches forward until we eventually make it to the security checkpoint. After Julie and the girls get through, I put my bag on the conveyor belt and it begins its short trip to x-ray land. I keep everything in my bag. Camera, keys, phone. All my metal detector triggers. So when I walk through the metal detector and nothing goes beep-beep, I think I’m good to go. I gather my gear on the other side and prepare to meet Lady Liberty.

But as I start to walk away, a security guard motions me over to the side. She and her partner seem like nice enough ladies but at this moment, they’re looking very serious. The sidearms punctuate their seriousness.

“Is there something wrong officer?” (I actually said that. Like some bad movie line.) Anyway, apparently something is wrong. I’ve aroused suspicion. The officer points at me and asks the strangest question. “What’s that there? In your pants.” My eyes dart down and I’m confused for a second. Then it hits me. This is going to be awkward.

I ask the officers if I can show them and they nod, although, and I’m not making this up, they each put their hands on their holsters. I ease my hand into my pocket, pull out the offending object and show it to the ladies. They both crack up. Actual giggles from officers of the law. There’s a banana in my pocket. I, am a walking punch line.

Now I’m laughing too and I even say the “line” out loud. (I used a horrible Groucho Marx accent. Anyone who has heard me try knows, I can’t do accents. But they didn’t seem to mind.) The officers wave me on as the laughter continues and I leave to catch up to the family.

Julie was waiting up ahead and wondering what the heck was going on. When I told her what happened, she of course got a heavy case of the giggles too. Still makes her laugh today. We affectionately refer to my Statue of Liberty interrogation as, The Chiquita Inquisition.

A good while after the C.I. and after I’d told the story a few times, something dawns on me. I had that banana in my pocket all morning. During the walk from the hotel to the station. During the long subway ride. During the walk to the pier. During the long wait in line. And what I realize is this. Not once does Julie say anything about it. So we have two options. Either she saw the fruit in my looms and just didn’t say anything. That’s unlikely because she would not have let that go. Or option two, she just didn’t notice the entire morning. Not even a glance. Frankly, that bothers me a little bit.

BLB

wii_396x320

The Entertainer

We bought a Wii.

I read a report the other day that said the average child spends 4 hours a day watching television and another 2 hours playing video games. The alarms went off in my head. Like that beeping when they test the Emergency Broadcast System. Only this time, it was an Actual Emergency. My kids are below average!

This will not do. They just need to apply themselves a bit more. I know we can get those numbers up. And if they work hard at it, maybe one day they can even be, dare I say it, ABOVE average.

So Julie and I decided to take action. We got them the Wii to go along with the Playstation from last year. Good start. Now we’re considering adding a third television to the home, perhaps in the younger daughter’s bedroom. It will be a sacrifice but we love them that much.

We’ve locked up the bikes, taken away all books and destroyed any toys that don’t require batteries. (Stuffed animals smell funny when they burn.)

But if that’s still not enough, we’re going to look into getting an Xbox and maybe even a TV on the kitchen table so we can watch while eating. Valuable time is being lost at dinner time discussing events of the day and school work. Time that would be better spent on Hannah Montana for sure.

Speaking of school, that’s one of the major obstacles to our plan. We do our best at home but they spend so much time in school that it doesn’t leave enough hours in the day for TV and gaming. But there may be a solution on this front as well. A portable gaming device or two (PSP and/or GameBoy and/or DS) should allow them to catch up during breaks at school. And if they’re careful, maybe they could even sneak in a few games during certain classes. Nobody really uses math or science after graduating anyway.

And as for TV, if we pick up a couple of iPhones, they can catch up on favorite shows while they’re at school. And it will give them a chance to bring up those low texting numbers too. It’s the best of both worlds.

But there’s another obstacle to the master plan. There aren’t really enough kid shows out there to fill all the time necessary to get our numbers up. So it looks like we’ll have to introduce some other shows little by little until they are up to speed. South Park is a cartoon so that should be a good start. The Sopranos is a possibility too. I’ve heard it’s a good family drama.

Oops. Gotta go. Just found out they’re supposed to be getting in 2 hours a day of web surfing in addition to the TV and video games. We may have to pull them out of school. But that’s the price you pay. Parenting is hard work.

BLB

Backyard Camping

Backyard Camping

Backyard Camping

The girls have a Girl Scout camping trip coming up, so we cracked open our tents this weekend to make sure they were still in good shape*. Since the work part was done, we decided it would be a good idea to camp out in the back yard overnight**. Roasting marshmallows and everything***. J1 joined us for the smores but decided since she’ll be camping soon enough with the Scouts, she would sleep in her nice warm bed while me and the younger J’s braved the suburban wilderness****. It was a blast*****.

-

*Lest anyone get the idea we are outdoorsy people, the tents have been packed away for almost eight years. A camping trip to Ft. Pickens when J3 was a baby was the last time we had them out.

**It really was a good idea and we did have fun even if these astricies make it seem otherwise.

***Everything meaning marshmallows and sleeping. No ghost stories though. They creep me out. Seriously.

****Actually, I was going to let them sleep out there alone. Two sisters having fun in the great outdoors. But J1 and her mom (Nana J) had visions of rabid foxes and ax wielding psychopaths invading our back yard so I ‘chose’ to camp too.

*****More like a blast of cold air. Temps around 50 degrees in mid April in Florida. What’s up with that? Did I mention we’re not really outdoorsy people. I mean we love being outside and playing and biking and beaching. But when it’s time to sleep, a bed is nice. Is it wrong for a grown man to admit he’s more Eva Gabor than Eddie Albert. ******

******From Green Acres in case you haven’t wasted countless hours of your life watching TV re-runs like I have and are unaware of the great ‘Fresh Air’ vs ‘Times Square’ debate. This page will tell you about it and you get an American Gothic parody to boot.

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I posted this little story over on my photoblog Panhandlin’ a few months back. I’m posting it again here because I’ve been reading Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace and was reminded (purely for the stylistic quirk, not a comparison to the genius of DFW) of the camping story.

I’ve been trying to summon the nerve to tackle the monster Infinite Jest and thought I would start with this volume of essays. If they were sufficiently fun-making I’d try to find time for the epic. Wallace is challenging for me and at times I feel like an idiot but OMG he’s fun. So after I finished CtL, I went online to explore a little more and to decide if I’m up to Infinite Jest.

That’s when I read that just two months ago, David Foster Wallace killed himself. (The NYT article) I guess with my election focus at the time, I missed other news even though it was apparently everywhere. The life of a tortured genius.

So I will pick up Infinite Jest soon even though I may not dive in right away. I have a few other books lined up on the runway. I think Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will be taking off next.

"Horse and Riders" by Allan Teger

"Horse and Riders" by Allan Teger

Bodyscapes

There’s a wonderful yearly event here in Pensacola called the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival. We all went down on this near perfect fall day and had a great time taking in all the sights and sounds.

An artist named Allan Teger once again brought himself and his Bodyscapes work to the festival. His booth always gets attention and usually makes smiles. That’s one of his more tame photos above. As his website says:

Allan Teger’s wonderful photographs of the human body
prove that art can be fun and serious at the same time.

In years past we’ve hustled the girls past his booth and tried to distract them a bit just to avoid awkward questions about naked people with small toy figures attached to them. But the girls have gotten older now so this time we chose a different approach. Julie and I gave each other a little look signaling we were thinking the same thing. Let’s see what they say when they see the prints. We slowed down while walking past the booth.

The Revealing Argument post a while back was a funny ha-ha but as I said then, there is a long and respected tradition of nude images in photography, not to mention sculpture and painting. The daughters are getting to an age where an appreciation of art consists of more than just finger painting and they will be seeing the nude human form as we visit museums and galleries so I’d like a certain level of maturity from them about the subject. (Certainly more maturity than I had about the subject when I was their age.) We may be a few years away from seeing David in person but I’d like for them not to be too distracted by the lack of a fig leaf.

Not that Mr. Teger is Michelangelo and not that this isn’t a little awkward because these are my daughters but Julie and I want to be fine, open-minded, progressive parents and in fine, open-minded, progressive parent circles, this is what is known as a “teaching moment”.

So we slow down going past the Bodyscapes booth. It takes a minute but then it hits my older daughter what she’s seeing. Her nose crinkles hard and a look of disgust flashes across her face. I know it’s a look of disgust because she says in a shouted whisper, “That’s disgusting!”

Julie and I fight back laughter. Let the teaching begin. We walk on and I start a defense/speech about this being “art” and that there’s a long and respected tradition and that the human body is not a disgusting thing.

She’s not buying it. She just keeps her nose crinkled and says, “Dad, some parts of it ARE disgusting.” You know, maybe it’s best if we just leave it at that for now. Small steps. “Hey look,” I say. “There’s a beautiful painting of a sunset over there.”

Turns out it was a “teaching moment” and as usual, I’m the one getting taught.
BLB

(For more of Allan Terer’s work visit Bodyscapes.com)

TED

One of my favorite web sites in the whole world wide interweb is TED. Back in my college days, I changed majors a lot. Engineering, English, Pre-Law, Psychology, Broadcasting. It’s perhaps telling that my favorite classes back in those days were broad survey courses where I learned big ideas about big subjects. Once it got down to the nitty-gritty details, I lost interest and moved on to something else. Eight years all total and I still ended up a few credit hours short of graduating.

It drove my family crazy back then. My lovely wife even suggested I needed therapy. She was probably right. But looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Even now, if I could just go back and take classes without worrying about grades or graduating, I’d do it. I just love that feeling of sitting in a lecture hall and having a world of new ideas open up before my eyes. That’s where TED comes in. It’s like getting to sit in on lectures from the greatest minds in the world. From the about page:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

It’s an awesome collection. Here’s one of my favorites from the 2006 conference.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity

Many more gems at www.ted.com

Somewhat related to this subject is a book I’ve written about in the past: A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.

Breakin’ Old Habits

I was a wanna’ be break dancer. I get these obsessions from time to time. I see something that fascinates me and I throw myself into it. Back in the mid ’80s, it was break dancing.

I wish you could have seen it. I had a big piece of cardboard covering the concrete floor of our closed-in garage and would practice, practice, practice. I had my boombox loaded with the soundtracks to Beat Street and Breakin’ and wore the tapes out. (I need to pop over to iTunes and download those to see what memories flood back.) I never was that good at the more acrobatic craziness even though I tried hard and had the bruises to prove it. What I really liked and was able to halfway pull off were the liquid, gliding and popping moves. It was all magical.

Nothing much came of my hobby back then though. I don’t think anyone outside of my family even knew about it. I wanted to wait until I was good enough before springing it on the masses. I had these dreams of showing up at school with my “skills” and having a crowd gather around to cheer me on with Grand Master Flash blaring from the box. What an awesome dream it was.

But one day I mentioned my hobby to a friend and instead of the awe and admiration I expected, the response was laughter and ridicule. I was a pretty shy kid in the first place and that one laugh was all it took for me to pack away my break dance dream.

I wasn’t crushed. I didn’t need therapy. I came a little ways out of my shell later on and at school proms would hit the dance floor. But it was more in the style of Footloose than Beat Street. (You know. That two hand finger snap with alternating front kicks. Can you picture it?) But I was ticked at myself because I never risked showing off the breakin’ in public and I regret it because I let someone’s knee-jerk reaction affect me and something I loved.

But this wouldn’t be the last time. A similar thing happened in college a few years later. Similar in that I found something I loved to death. Something I studied and worked on. Something I knew was right for me. But once again, I mentioned that something to a “friend” and my revelation was met with laughter. So once again I gave it up. Back in the shell.

Maybe I do need therapy. My therapist thinks I do.  I still struggle with it. Not with break dancing. That’s now a physical rather than mental pain. But with the fear of making things I love public because of what other people might think. I don’t even want to say what the second thing was here for fear of that same reaction. I think it’s because that unlike break dancing, this dream still has potential.

The point of all this is, I’m trying to learn from it. I still have that fear. Hell, with the path I’ve chosen, I have it almost every day. I create something and then I wait in fear for the reaction. The thing is, I may never get past the fear but I have to make sure the fear doesn’t stop me from trying. It’s something I have to do for my own sanity and happiness but more importantly for my children. I know. Everything these days is “for the children.” But this one is important. What they see me doing is important. I came across this great quote not too long ago.

We want our children to fit in and to stand out. We rarely address the conflict between these goals. – Ellen Goodman

I’m trying to address it with the kids and with myself. We’ll see how it goes and I may even get to a point where I’m able to talk more openly about that other abandoned hobby. Perhaps it no longer falls in the abandoned category though. I’ll ask my therapist.

_____________________

This was all stirred up tonight because of two movies I watched this weekend. The first was Heckler. Very cool documentary by Jamie Kennedy about the relationship of hecklers and performers. And The Visitor. A movie about the reevaluation of dreams and ideas and long held beliefs that is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Completely different movies that were very connected.

Heckler ended with a performance by a crazy cool dancer named David Elsewhere. A viral video sensation a while back and the best liquid dancer I’ve ever seen. The internet fame got him movie and commercial roles. Here’s a taste.

If you’re into it, you can find a ton more on YouTube: David Elsewhere. By the way, I break out the break dancing every now and then so the girls can have a good laugh at dad. Ironic isin’t it. Something I gave up for fear of being laughed at I now do for laughs.
BLB

The Apple of My Eye

My wife Julie is spending some time with my mistress this week. They get along great. Sure Julie’s a little jealous, what with my going on and on about how wonderful the mistress is. How I long to spend more time with her. How I would pull up stakes tomorrow to be closer to her. She’s mesmerizing. I’ve never felt more at home than when I’m with her.

Please don’t judge me too harshly. It’s not like I love my beautiful wife any less. I want her to come along too. I want us all to be together. I know we could make it work. Is that too much to ask?

It was love at first sight with the mistress. We’ve only seen each other a few times but I can’t stop thinking about her. The way she looks and smells and sounds. Julie thinks that if I had to spend every day with the mistress I’d grow tired of her. She thinks it’s all about the newness and excitement. She thinks the excitement would wear off. I know that’s not true. I mean, I’ve been with Julie for over 16 wonderful years and it gets better every day. I know it would be the same with the mistress given the chance. And if we were all three together it would be triply good.

And my kids love the mistress too. Even though they’ve only met her once. They may not feel as strongly about her as I do yet and I know they’re not sure about us all living together. But I know with time we could all be one happy family.

I also know Julie likes the mistress a lot. She’s told me so. She’s just not sure we can all live together either. So I’m hoping that the time they spend together this week without me will help. Just the two of them getting to know each other better. Gets me excited just thinking about it. A little jealous too. What are they doing there together without me? Anyway, that’s not important. Wish me luck.

Oh. I guess I should tell you her name. I’ve told you this much so why not. You may even know her. My mistress is the one and only New York City. Yes, I’m head over heels for The Big Apple. Julie is spending a week in NYC on what she claims is a business trip. Some “conference” or something. But I took a peek at the itinerary and it looks like there’s more play time than work time scheduled. Maybe I’m right to be jealous. Or maybe not. Surely there’s more than enough of the greatest city on earth to go around. Surely we can find a way to make this work.

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