Saturday, October 31, 2009


It's Zoey's first Halloween and she's stoked...actually she has no idea that today is any different from any other day but we're putting words in her mouth instead of candy.

There really isn't any long standing tradition of Halloween in Japan. It's become popular in the last decade or so but historically it hasn't been celebrated as a holiday by generations of Zoey's far off family. Here in North America it's a pretty big deal. Zo doesn't know that yet though so we should probably try to enjoy our last Halloween without a sugar addled toddler driving us mad. Every year after this one is going to be ridiculous.

Check back for costume pics's gonna be a fun day!

Zoey couldn't care less what you call's colder than it was.

Zo playing outside w Kaede leaf
Zedder playing out in the yard near the Japanese Maple...June's tree.

I know a guy who hates the word "Autumn" and prefers that people just say "Fall," because it doesn't drip with all that unnecessary verbiage. He thinks that by saying "Autumn" a person's being kind of arrogant and smarmy (my third favorite word these days, just behind "turd" and "stupid"). I think you can call it any damn thing that you want to...Autumn, Fall, Septembert, post-summer, almost winter...whatever you want. Zoey can't string together enough syllables to call it anything and no one gets all over her about it. She is, admittedly, a pretty smarmy little kid, and of course, she reeks of arrogance so I imagine that once she's able to speak she'll call it "Autumn." She'll likely also likely overuse words like, superfluous, bourgeois, dichotomy, ostentatious, and ubiquitous. I'm quite sure she might also be the type to use the term boondoggle, and actually know what it means. Oh yeah, she's that audacious.

She's not talking yet, although she has managed to muster things like Mumma, and Dada, and even strung together Debu the other day. It was the clearest thing she's said yet, aside from Mumma. Debu wasn't all that impressed, but we were.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Phillies & Yankees and a Sleeping, Ignorant Zedderooni

B&W Sleeping Zoey

As the World Series echoes throughout the house our beautiful little funster is sleeping. I tried to articulate the significance of the Fall Classic to her but she just didn't care. Of course, there may have been a little something that was lost in the translation between my English and her jibberish but I think it's just that we' haven't done a good enough job steering her towards baseball. I blame myself. I think I lost her interest with that whole designated hitter explanation a few months back. Either way, the Phillies and Yankees are on their way to giving us what should be a good Series and Zo is sleeping. I bet her Baachan isn't.

It seems that Mihoko wins this time 'round. This household will be cheering for the Yankees as the World Series begins tonight. It's kind of hard to believe but that's what we're doing. It feels better to say that we're "supporting" Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, etc...than it does to say that we're behind the Yankees. As long as the Yanks have Alex Rodriguez we won't be rooting for them. Actually, who are we kidding? We'll probably never root for the Yankees as a whole. We can temporarily find faith in Hedeki Matsui though...but even as I type it here I'm not saying it to Mihoko's face. A guy has to do his best to maintain some sense of self-respect.

Let's change the subject before I throw up in my own mouth...

We're anxiously awaiting Halloween around here. Naturally, it's Zoey's first and we've got one heckuva costume for her. It's a real beauty, I'm telling ya. It kind of came together accidentally. We were sort of set on the idea that Zoey would be Charlie Brown for her first round of Trick or Treating...easy...hilarious considering her lack of hair...but then we stumbled into what is practically the perfect costume. Can't wait to show everyone.

It's not Hideki Matsui, if that's what you're thinking.

Getting Zedder ready for all those sushi lunches in Kindergarden


A good friend of mine, my best friend from back in the day, had a Kindergarden teacher for a Mom. She was a cool lady, as you can imagine, and I always loved her. She was kindness incarnate. When my friend, John, found out that June and I were married, he mentioned it to his Mom, who it turns out taught a tiny little funster named Kaede June Partridge at W.T. Laing Elementary School waaay back when. She had a fun reaction to John's news. First, she was happy that we had found one another because she adored June as a child and thought I'd done quite well for myself in finding such a sweet girl. Second, she said that she always remembered June as the first five year old she ever taught who brought sushi in her lunch box.

Isn't that hilarious? I died when I heard it.

June and Netta, just a few years before Mrs. Teeter would see sushi appear in the little girls' lunches.

When June started Kindergarden her Mom, Mihoko, had really only been in Canada a few years. Certainly not many more than June's five years. Her English was improving, thanks to a patient husband and a loving little five year old girl...Sesame Street helped, and so did the abrupt kind of socialization than any new immigrant experiences. Even as Mihoko's English improved daily she was obviously not well versed in the traditions or expectations that parenting in Canada placed on her. She raised her first daughter, Kaede June, the only way she knew how...with a mix of Japanese and Canadian ways, which meant Japanese bedtime stories and the occasional scolding, and which also meant sushi in June's lunch. So while other children packed perhaps Fruit Roll Ups or Twinkies, June sat down to lunch and unpacked an unfamiliar assortment of nori, rice, and egg. She may have even been the first Japanese-Canadian child to ever open a lunch box in Mrs. Teeter's Kindergarden class? Either way, her teachers remembered her as being a sweet and beautiful little child certainly unlike any of her classmates. I like that story, in fact, I love that story.

Zoey will grow up with a much more traditionally Canadian experience than her Mom did, but fortunately she will find some of her heritage in many of her Baachan's ways. She will play Japanese games, and she too will hear Japanese bedtime stories. She is already familiar with the inflection in the tone of a Japanese phrase and is even reminded to stop what she's doing with a sharply uttered, dame!, which translates to "bad"...She will learn the language by listening to her Baachan, and watching Japanese programs on television. She will eat whatever her Baachan puts in front of her, and just like her father, will like some of it and find other things odd. She will be spoiled by family still living in Japan, and if she's very, very lucky she'll visit Japan every few years for as long as we can manage it.

She'll also start playing with this fake sushi play set that you see in the picture above. I found it in the toy section at a local "Winners" store and figured that she might as well get started early. Mihoko's going to have her eating nori and rice before she can even say "pancake" so she might has well be familiar with it. Besides, it's fun as hell don't you think?

In a funny twist, and a testament to the kind of place that Canada is nowadays, she certainly won't be the only child in her Kindergarden class to bring something as foreign as sushi in her lunch box. Her Mom broke that barrier down thirty years ago.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who is Naomi Kramer and what the hell does 'hoister' mean?

Spam email pic

Once again I can't stop laughing at the kind of SPAM you can find waiting to ambush your sensibilities in your inbox. This was my latest...

First, why do I get this crap?

Second, what could you possibly think you're gonna sell with SPAM like this?

Third, what the hell is a hoister?

I can't stop laughing. That Naomi Kramer is one hilarious lady!

BTW..."pork lever" might just be the funniest term for a fellas junk that I've ever heard...ever! So funny that I "Googled" it and this is what I got...

Google results for the search "pork lever"...

Monday, October 26, 2009

A photoless weekend of photos

Scotty, Stacey, and the Samsquench...I stole this bad fella from Stace's Facebook profile...

We were enjoying your standard run of the mill Friday night when the telephone rang and my fourteen-teenth cousin, schvifty-five times removed, Scott, called and told us that we were going to be visiting him and his family in Penetanguishene , ON this weekend. He'd be looking forward to seeing us on Saturday. Since we had nothing else to do, except drive around in the rain or maybe go watch a football game in the rain or any number of other activities that we would have to enjoy in the rain, we packed Zo up and split first thing Saturday morning. We left the lake at 7:30am and Zed got busy sleeping for the entire four hour trip, that's right, sleeping for the entire trip. Curse us if you will but we've trained her well...babies don't just fall out of the sky ready for road trips, nope, we earned this gift.

We arrived at Scott and Stacey's before noon and settled into enjoying a weekend full of Zoey and Sammer with plenty of hands and eyes to manage them both. We mostly just hung out but it was some serious good hangin'. There was some Maker's Mark on ice, some good eats, some background music and a lot of high brow and extremely low brow conversation, the perfect balance in fact. It was a beauty weekend of nothing but affectionate goodness.

Only when we see Zo around other kids do we ever really notice how her personality differs from other funsters and we really notice what we take for granted. She's an awfully quiet little girl, as Steph Wilkinson says, very suspicious, and pretty content to just lay low. It's rare that she gets rambunctious or even aggressive. She's very much a contemplative sort and interacts well but likes it to be nice and easy. She's not necessarily the assertive sort yet, and maybe will never be...who knows, she's only 9 months old! You can definitely notice the innate difference between boys and girls when she plays with young fellas but it's much more than that. She's just a very chill little funster. She reaches for books as often as basketballs (whereas Sam's obsessed with his basketball...he may indeed play in the NBA someday, provided he likes wearing shorts and learns how to jump a little better than he does now) and she just likes to be around people. She doesn't need to be climbing all over everything or everyone but is usually pretty content to just hang out...very much like us. I know it'll all change, and probably by next week, but for now allow me this one misconception. Right now I think we've got a pretty quiet little contemplative one on our hands. We'll see what the next stage is.

It was SO good to see Scott and Stacey avec the Samsquench...SO good. It was also nice to blow off damn near every expectation for the weekend...we're annoyingly good at that. Being our friends and family must be hard.

Anyway...we bolted out of our place like it was on fire Saturday morning and forgot the memory card for our Scott and Stace snapped mucho pics but we can't post any until those cats get chance to float 'em this way. There's some beauts. Scott and Stace snap a lot of photos as well so there are a bunch, and many, many good ones...but you can't see 'em. Maybe later you can but not now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

When the going gets tough...the tough bust out raincoats

Weather map

We had every intention of road tripping somewhere silly this weekend...finding some sun and some temps approaching 60 degrees,a nd we'd just bask in all of our ambitious thinking. That is, until I saw a weather map that makes the entire upper midwest look like a rain festival. Why is it that every time we spontaneously decide to take off and drive, we couldn't find sunshine for six hours in any direction? You might think that this family has horseshoes up our butts but on occasion we roll around in the poop too.

Look at that map! We'd half to drive halfway to Kansas to find some sunny fun, and what's fun about Kansas, what's fun about whatever is halfway to Kansas? Nuthin'...that's what!

Time to re-group. Maybe Zoey will have some ideas?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Matsui draws a walk instead of going down on strikes.

HIDEKI MATSUI!!! Damn your patience...damn your iron clad courage...damn your eagle eyes! We were one strike away from a game strike! But no...we have to sweat through the bases loaded and a heart stopping pop fly to finally end it all. Sigh...

Matsui...I think you just shot my blood pressure up 17 points. I may never forgive you.

Mihoko...stop your laughing~!

Baachan is a Yankee Lover...I hope it doesn't rub off on Zedder

Angels Game 5
Anaheim fans celebrating an Angels rally for the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.

The phone rang tonight at 10:30pm but June and I didn't rush to get it...we were watching the Angels-Yankees game 5 and figured we'd just check the message later. It turns out that it was Mihoko chucking out some Yankees trash talk in the top of the seventh, just as the Angels were losing their grip on things...silly Matsui lover! If I wasn't lying in bed typing this blog post immediately after the Angels just WENT BACK AHEAD I'd call her and ask her how the bottom of the inning treated her Yankees. No Rivera just yet sir!

I can't believe that I just got trash talked by a 61 year old Japanese landed immigrant with a part time affection for the "Evil Empire". How did I ever come to be related to a Yankees fan? Man, I hope Matsui gets traded after this year.

I still can't believe it. I can't stop laughing. My Japanese Yankee-in-law is calling me up in the middle of the night to trash talk me and my Angels affinity...may buddha bless her rotten, putrid Yankee loving soul. This is fun.

Welcome to the Big Suck Noah! I Mean...what? Where am I?

Noah Finley

Meet Noah Joseph Finley, slayer of dragons and hitter of triples...scraped knee expert and digger of worms...4th grade heartbreaker and heartbroken every year the Cubs blow it...

Noah was born a few days ago and already he's got the best resume in the pile, the best left handed shot from the baseline, and a perfect grasp of past and present tenses. He's less than a week old and he's already the guy who refuses to rat out his friends, and the kid who forces the cheater to own up to it.

Noah Finley is the easiest kid to coach, the most fun in the mini-van, and he listens to his parents. His friends actually get a glass to pour their milk into rather than drinking straight from the carton in the Finley fridge. Noah can eat four hot dogs at the baseball game and he never ever wants a new hat...he likes his old one. He dates nice girls.

Noah Joseph Finley jokes around about becoming a Cardinals fan but never does because he loves his dad too much. He goes to camp every summer and writes long letters home to his Mom. She cries when he's away at camp more than he does. He gets straight B's with the occasional A and he fails just one course ever... in high school, math I think, but the failure gives him perspective. He never has one traffic accident and he can parallel park right away. He can run fast.

Noah likes root beer and the color blue. He's got a lifetime 289-3-1 record in "Connect Four" and only ruins one sofa in his lifetime but that's in college so who cares. He's as fun as Colin Wallace, as kind as Coop, and as well-spoken as Keith Welch. He reads a lot, and can draw his little ass off. He buys flowers for girls because he wants to, not because he has to, and he jumps 536 homemade bike ramps in his life time without incident. He thinks race cars are stupid but race car drivers are pretty damn cool. He never once wants to ride a motorcycle (Chantelle, you owe me one for that)...He grows up into the kind of man women call beautiful and men call friend. He marries the right girl and never misses a Christmas with his family, never.

Welcome to the Big Suck Noah...I think you're gonna like it. I sure do.

Son of Scott...Practitioner of falls & other shenanigans

Squencher black eye #2
This is documented black eye #2 for the Samsquencher according to Dad...

You've met the illusive Samsquench before, right? He's my cousin Scott and his wife, Stacey's little guy, and he is, in the parlance of past times, the bomb. The kid's got some serious chops when it comes to wooing the affections of random others and if you're not fully won over by the kid then you may need to check your chest for a heart.

This is black eye #2 for the Squencher according to his Dad...doesn't it suit him right down to the ground? He looks like some old school Bowery muscle doesn't he...some legit kinda tough if you're askin' me. I hope he earns nuthin' but the best black eyes for the rest of his know the kind...earned with distinction or at least humor. The kind where the other guy looks worse, or the one where the immoveable door that you ran into leaving your dorm room just doesn't shut the same anymore. You know, the kind you don't regret all that much.

We haven't seen the Squencher in awhile and need to hook that action up asap...unfortunately, lives get in the way of a lot of goodness and we know we'll see the little piece of Penetang meat soon enough. We were hoping that Zedder and the Squench got to be real friendly growing up but at this rate we'll have to move to Midland to facilitate the kind of wishful dreams these funster's parents have. Unless of course someone invents an affordable means of transporting matter across time and space, then we'd be set...of course then Sammer might not have any more black eyes either and dat's no damn good.

Keep swingin' day that black and blue will reap a whirlwind of female attention. If you really wanna do it right kid get yourself some leather and some barking tailpipes beneath your butt. Your Uncle Mark could hook you up...but that's all he should hook you up with. We'll explain later.

A New Approach to an Old Problem

Please don't ask me where this came from. I couldn't begin to explain the weird workings of my mind...not that they're any different from anyone else's but...well, maybe they are. You be the judge.

So I'm sitting in a cold office this morning, talking to kids who are struggling with all manner of said struggles -- homelessness, drugs, abuse, mental health, legal problems -- you name it and they're juggling it. It struck me in that typical Brian chronology, the kind that only looks like a connect-a-dot puzzle if I actually take the time to draw it out for you, otherwise it more closely resembles Attention Deficit Disorder.

The day started with a discussion of old school values, took a quick left at Angela Davis, and then started to orbit around Paul Newman until it landed smack dab in the middle of Konstantin Stanislavski's idea of "Method Acting," and whether or not those same principles could or should be applied to dealing with people in a helping capacity. Translation= don't work at helping others, just help them.

Dennis Hopper tells a story about how during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause he cornered James Dean and asked him what he was doing that made him so great, so head and torso above any of the other actors he had ever seen. Dean doled out healthy scoops of Lee Strasberg's Method Acting lessons in his own central Indiana interpretations.

He said, "Don't act," to a young and confused Hopper. He articulated further, "Like if you're supposed to smoke a cigarette, don't act like you're smoking a cigarette...just smoke the cigarette. That's it." Hopper left stunned and committed to learning how not to act, to rid himself of the urge to think too much.

The notion sticks in my head. Couldn't the same technique be applied to helping other people? Shouldn't it be imperative that an individual doesn't get too weighted down with the task of helping someone but rather shouldn't they just simply get busy helping them? You know, it really shouldn't be that much effort, should it? Perhaps a little more explanation is required? A personal story maybe...

In the place where I work...or perhaps I should more accurately say, the place where they pay me to go every day because it so often doesn't feel like work...but in the place where I work it's not uncommon for two people to fall into conflict. In fact, it's more often the norm rather than the exception. On one occasion a conflict between staff and student quickly turned unruly and could very well have flipped into violence. The incident stirred notions of unpreparedness and so an in-service training was quickly slapped together. A police officer came to the YMCA and the Alternative Learning Centre and did his very best to teach us how to deal with a situation that was quickly deteriorating. He lost me after three minutes.

The officer dispatched to train those staff in attendance began his presentation with the idea that your first priority in a conflict situation is to settle the situation down, and to do so we should work to make the person involved believe that we were equals, that we each deserved the same respect and consideration. If you could achieve that then you had a foundation to work on.

Now I know what the officer meant, and I understand his intentions but I excused myself from the training because I felt pretty strongly that something of that nature shouldn't require work. You either believed that you were equals or you didn't. It isn't something that should be manufactured. A person immediately fails if they don't own that undeniable truth. I didn't want to participate in the training another second. See, I believe that there is no such thing as superior or inferior on this planet, and I certainly wasn't going to pretend that I was willing to tolerate otherwise. There is an obvious element of Stanislavski's ideology in that. In figurative terms, I wasn't about to act like I was smoking a cigarette when I could just simply smoke the damn cigarette.

Does that build any better of a bridge between the two things? Probably not, but there's something to this connection and I'm going to keep digging. I have no intention of becoming a better actor, or a better person, but it might shed some light on why this kind of work seems simple for some and is hopelessly lost on others.

Today in that cold office, with those struggling kids it hit me that there isn't much to what I do. I'm just another human being privy to their worst information. The difference lies in the notion that maybe, just maybe, it's who I am and what I believe that makes me good at this job, not what I do or what I know. I don't have to try to find a place where I feel equal to these kids...I just do.

I hope that one day Zoey can say that her father didn't just try to be a good person...he simply was. He didn't try to find definition in being good to others, but rather being good to others found definition in him. I hope she'll be able to say that.

California Dreamin' with a New York State of Mind

Zo Subway NYC

Can't get NYC out of my mind today. Can't get the picture of my family sitting across from me on the A train headed downtown. It's cold and windy here, and it likely isn't much different there under that crowded sky but the view and attitude is markedly different. Similarly, I can't stop flipping from the feel of Bryant Park to the smell of Southern California and the feel of September San Clemente sand beneath my feet. To say that I'm torn today would be an incredible understatement.

Shouldn't I be living in the moment? At least more than what I am? Most days it feels better to drift off and dream. I'm sure I'm not all that different from the guy my old elementary school report cards described. "Must try harder...needs to concentrate...MUST stop daydreaming... I haven't changed all that much.

I've been a daydreamer ever since I was a small child. I found stories in the sky or in the wood grain of a bookshelf, certainly in the pages of books or between commercials on the television. I grew up and found places that only fed those fires and when I learned that they didn't have to stay just dreams then my chances of ever becoming something of a success were dashed. As long as there are empty places on far away beaches where fathers stand and watch their children skim across Pacific waves, or as long as there are quiet numbered side streets that pour out into parks as big as hometowns I'll be thinking of better places. The day I don't I hope I'm ready to check out.

If I stumbled into a fortune I could guarantee you could find me without as much as a note left on a cluttered table. You'd need to search the stretch of continent south of Los Angeles and all the way to Northern San Diego County. In fact you could probably just drop by the Starbucks at 300 S El Camino Real in San Clemente on any given morning and find me soaking up some beans and sun before the day gets too old.

On the Beach
Soaking up some post-Rose Bowl winter sun in San Clemente... 2005

If I wasn't there then you could maybe slip on down the coast and check that chuck of beach between Encinitas and Leucadia. If all else fails I'd recommend jumping on that A train and get off on the West Fourth Street station in Greenwich Village. Swing through Washington Square and keep a sharp eye out. I'll be the guy playing checkers with my daughter on a bench near the Memorial Arch...come say Hi.

I suppose there's always a chance you could find me at Rudy's Bar at 627 9th Ave near 44th Street in Hell's Kitchen...sometime after 9pm...or maybe hanging out on some balcony with a city view at the Hollywood Hills Hotel high above Sunset...I dunno...You just won't find me in the places I find myself when I'm not daydreaming. One thing's for sure, if we ever do go, there'll be no note.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Night Lights...and some surprise nostalgia

The Reverend and Mike...better men than most.

June, Zo and myself slipped on down to Norm Perry Park to catch our nephew, Reece's, minor football game. Zo's Uncle Brad coaches Reece as well so we had to go see how the father/son combo was doin' on the gridiron. Turns out not too bad.

We stumbled into a nice surprise when one of my best friends from high school, Mike Tatsu, was there as well. He was watching his son play (who is pretty damn slick I gotta say) and we got to unexpectedly catch up. Mike got to meet Zoey for the first time and I got to visit with Mike's father, or "Sir," as I used to call him, too.

The Tatsu's were like a second family for me somewhere in the middle of my high school years. In fact, I almost moved in with the family so that I could attend a school in another district. Mike's father, The Rev, is the kindest soul you'll ever know...and there's no subtle innuendo there. He's just one of the best people I've ever of the men in my life who reinforced a different image of what a man should be. I love him like a second parent. His son, Mike, didn't fall all that far from the family tree. For as few as three years, maybe, we were as tight as friends got, and I could say, without hesitation, that I love him too. It's the kind of family that you can find after years and years have slipped past and there's a hug and a smile and the most hearty welcome you could want regardless of time past. I think the last time I saw Mike and his father was three years ago when I dropped by to visit them at Mike's house. Despite a three year gap in connection, tonight felt as though no time had passed whatsoever.

We missed most of the boys games because we were laughing and talking, even snapped a few pictures...June and I thought we were going out for a quick visit with Brad and Reece and we stumbled into the best night we've had in awhile. It slapped us back into reality after having spent so many nights either gone and indulging ourselves or hiding away on the lake. We rarely soak up our own community.

Funny thing is that in a similar fashion to so many of our relationships, some of the best ones don't live in our postal code. More often than not the people who we would spend most of our time with if we were neighbors -- John and Danielle, Kevin and Aimee, Scott and Stacey, Andrew and Michelle, Arvin and Sam, Mike and Afaf, Stu and Anne -- all live relatively out of the way in terms of ease of access. We remind ourselves that such is life but I'd like to formally acknowledge here that the phenomenon is bull@#$%.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good Morning to You Young Lady...and a High Five for NYC

Zo close up pink May09
A smiling, freshly woken Zo is the norm around our house.

Zo slept almost the entire night, and then woke up with the barest of whimpers. She smiled so big it hurt my face and I wondered aloud, "how does she do that?" It's amazing. I wake up hoping it's a good day, and she opens her eyes just knowing it will be.

So in honor of Zo making the world a better place just by waking up here's some wanker in NYC trying to do the same thing, just with high fives (pardon the occasional expletive). If this doesn't start your day off right you could be dead or seriously depressed, either way you should see a doctor.

I think today I will do something I've never done...or maybe something I don't do enough...or maybe I'll just plot and plan something really great, you know, hatch some evil plans for world domination or something? I dunno, whatever I do it'll be fun. Zo set the bar pretty high this morning, and then that NY high five guy (Nathaniel Kassel) turned it up still another notch.

Whew, I'd better get busy making this a good day.

What's on my scattered mind right now...

If you're anything like me my head is in forty-six places at once, but oddly, I'm not not the usual parenting type distracted, it's a million other things...always has been. It's just how I roll, I guess...for some reason I wish I could have seen George W. Bush say that...I can picture it in my head.

See what I mean?

Here's what's on my mind RIGHT now...

I hate the Yankees...which is weird only in the sense that I like most of those guys (except A-Rod) as individuals, but collectively, and the Yankees as an idea...forget it.

I don't do obligations well...or maybe I should just say I implode at the prospect. Call me a jerk, berate me in front of my friends and family...I don't care. If I don't want to do it I just don't want to do it.

I don't play the role of host/tour guide very well...the experience ends up sucking for everyone. First, you get to see the stuff I like, which usually isn't what the rest of the population wants to see, and second, I don't get to stumble along my quirky way with independence and guilt free indulgence flowing behind me like a wake.

Sunday morning coffee tastes different than Mon-Sat coffee...better.

Man, I love this shirt...

The Felice Brothers is a really stupid name for a band, even if you actually are "the Felice Brothers"...

Ha Ha... Ohio State...self-rightous #$%^fu#$%^#s...

I think a have the start of a new and fairly stellar tattoo design started...

Zoey looks amazing first thing in the morning...can't decide whether she really & truly does or it just because I haven't seen her in awhile?

I think I would like to watch the Jets game today...

If I stick to my savings plan by the time it's Christmas I'll only be $2000 short of my ultimate ten month goal for Sept-June '09! Whoa...

Man, I hope the Angels and Dodgers can play each other in the Series...

My new hat is excellent...

June's always happy...WTF?

I really need to buy Paul Newman's biography...and I've got gift cards!

Three weeks away at Christmas sounds peachy...

I don't know why I just used the word peachy?

Zoey needs more winter stuff...

Al Green's version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," is one sweet song...

I think I can make lots of money building tailgate trailers...seriously...

Stephan Marbury is an idiot. If I ever met him I think I'd laugh in his face...NBA athlete,, alright...but 98% of us have him beat on the human being front.

I'm pretty selfish outside of my own family unit and I don't really care...

I need to call the dentist...

It's almost November and that's "Novel Writing Month"...whoa, maybe I can start this book with the word "unprepared?

Grown men really need to pay attention to nose hair and other assorted facial grossness a la dry, flaky skin, one eyebrow instead of two...visible boogers...Wait, can neck hair count as "facial grossness"? I guess it can if it runs right into your stubble...echh.

Women+scarves= goooooood

I enjoy June's fashion sense, and the stuff she covers up with it...Did that cross some kind of puritanical discretion line? Too bad.

Sleeping babies kick ass...

I need a cheap flight back to NY for one night...

I want to have an Ohio State party...cold be damned!

Got a sweet email from my friend Gail in I feel better...

I want a night at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra again...badly.

I would like to play outside.

Hail to taking advantage of lesser institutions...

A sideline view of a ridiculously uneven field... Michigan 63 - Delaware State 6

Today's Michigan - Delaware State football game in Ann Arbor was a 63-6 example of Goliath punching David right in the mouth. It was ugly, but fun, and I've been in desperate need of some kind of sporting fun for awhile. It seems as though my sporting luck has run out and now it's my turn to endure crap. A Tigers collapse, two straight losses to MSU, etc...heartbreaking etc...I needed an absolute debacle of a game so that I could just enjoy myself again. Like a good friend of mine once said, "I don't know why I care about this stuff so much, but I do."

June slipped off to shoot a wedding today, and then I snuck off to see the Wolverines drub the visiting Hornets from Delaware State while Zoey chilled out with Baachan today. It was a beauty autumn afternoon for everyone, and I think we all enjoyed it.

Next weekend is the Penn State game and we have every intention of making it Zoey's first UM tailgate. She won't attend the game, June and her will go shopping and maybe hit the hotel early, but she'll get in some pre-game fun and we'll hook up with friends all weekend long. We'll take lots of pics while the team allows more than 6 pts and scores less than 60. Every indication is that it will be a stellar weekend.

By the time I got home today it was Zoey's bath time, then we slipped on through naked floor time, a bottle, and then bed. She's been a pretty good little girl and fell asleep almost instantly, woke back up almost instantly...then fell back asleep almost instantly once again, and then finally woke back up again, at which point we just got up and waited for Mom to get home.

It's been a good day. It would be better if the umpires in NY didn't hose Iybar with a call that they consistently didn't make all year, and then if they didn't rule A-Rod's top of the wall 0-2 whack a home run, but the sun shone on my face this afternoon and Zo had a good day so who can complain. Man, I hate that A-Rod though...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Holy Cold October! Did we move to Sudbury?? Seriously.

Driving to Baachans Thanksgiving
Zo sleeping with a watchful Mathilda during a random car ride...

Can an October get any colder? This is stupid. Normally we're outside grilling still. I've even swam in the lake in October (November once but that was ugly), and we've usually got until Halloween before we start to shiver. Not this year. We came home from Hawaii to a bloody arctic summer and now we might as well live in Thunder Bay. It's colder than David Letterman's dinner these days.

On the news front...since there's nothing to do but freeze...

Zo is standing on her own more and more. She's actually standing right up on her own sometimes and my bet is she's walking before December 1st...maybe more accurately taking first steps. She's a gangly one but she's strong.

June's back to business, kind of, doing her first photo work since the beeb arrived tomorrow. It's a wedding in Tillsonburg, ON and she's already packed!

We left Zo with Grandma last night and actually left the country with minimal weird feelings. The Zedder's such a mondo-champ (I've been dying to use the word "modo" for weeks now) that we know it's no big deal. June was a little weirded out but that lasted about 20 minutes. Grandma was fine, Zoey was fine, we were all fine.

Zoey will be going to her first Michigan tailgate next weekend so we need to talk to Kevin and Aimee and try to hook up. We're planning on finding ourselves a hotel room for Saturday night and that way we can connect with friends before the Penn State game, and Zedder can get her first tailgate on...then I'll go to the game while June and Zo go shopping and chilling out in Ann Arbor...then we'll meet up after the game and get Zo back to the hotel, if we find one available...we will.

We're going to connect with an old friend, Beth, before the game. It's been at least eight or nine years since I've seen her. We all worked together at the summer camp that June and I met at so we're pretty excited. Beth is sincerely one of the sweetest people I know, and always has been. I last saw her walking on campus at UWO in London something like eight or nine years ago. We just bumped into one another by accident and that's the last time we got to smile at each other in person. June probably hasn't seen Beth since camp! So we're pretty excited.

By the time the game is over and everyone is settled it will likely be too late to hook up with Kevin and Aimee and the boys (not sure about the Bergquist funsters bedtimes) but if they're around and free we can always meet for breakfast or somethin'...guess I should ask them before I blog it, huh? Probably...

Gonna be a great weekend. Lots of pics and some old Rick Ocasik once said, I guess it's "just what I needed." I wish I had that cool sounding old synthesizer to play right do doo dooo do doo do do doo doooo do dooo do doo...Wait, was that stupid? It felt stupid.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hot Date Night Sans Zedder...

Wings Kings

Alright, so it wasn't The Whitney followed by the Detroit Symphony was Cobo Joe's followed by the Red Wings-LA Kings game but it was still a baby free evening of entertainment, and it was fun.

June and I got the chance (thanks to Genny Charron) to slip on over to the Wings game Thursday night for cheapola. We scored $80 center ice tickets...15th row...for $25 measly dollars each. We lucked into Grandma babysitting and BAM...a hot date night sans Zedder. It wouldn't happened without the generosity of Genny though so I bow in her direction with a sincere appreciation. She was always a cool girl.

I was excited to see Ryan Smyth play a post-Oilers game live and in-person, June was excited to do anything, and to top it all off we got to sit with an old buddy from high school...Harv... It was fun to see the guy again, and fun to watch Smyth sit in the penalty box all night too...twit.

The Wings won 5-2 and Nik Lidstrom scored his 1000th NHL point so we had a nice night to find ourselves Zedder-free. We missed the hell out of her though, almost a full 10 miles down I-94 and we were already wondering how she was doing. Must be a parent phase that I'm sure we'll grow out of...or maybe not. Regardless, it was a fun night out and Zo behaved like the best kid in the world for Grandma so once again, we felt as spoiled as spoiled gets. It was a necessary night out for both Zoey and us. She needs more babysitting night to get used to them, and we need more crowded nights out watching grown men shake sticks at one another and occasionally punch each another out. Who doesn't?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I wish my name was Edwardo, except spelled with a "U"...

Yeah, you read that right...I wish my name was Edwardo except spelled with the letter "U"...which I suppose would make it simply "Eduardo" but it's far more fun to type the whole damn thing out (actually not really, in fact, it's far more cumbersome). Why do I wish for such a meaningless, mundane thing as changing my name from Brian to Edwardo except spelled with a "U," you ask? Well, because Alfonso was already taken by the little black kid who hung around Michael jackson and then grew up to become Carlton, that's why? Stupid question...

So sitting around all day helping to steer wayward funsters through great big heaping piles of poop got me to thinking...

First...I shouldn't ever use the word poop. life kicks ass pretty good. What the hell am I ever stressing over? and tuna salad are a worse combo than Pam and Tommy Lee.

I've got a pretty good life going here on the beside Lake Huron, on the outskirts of Detroit, and on the bottom edge of Canada. I make decent moola (please, allow me to indulge myself with the term "moola")... I can spend said moola with little regard for the safety of myself or others...I go places, lots and lots of places...I do things, a whole bunch of things...When even the notion of moving elsewhere slips from my fingertips I get random messages telling me to "@#$% off and stay," which although it sounds like a bit of an oxymoron is actually just a pretty awesome and sweet compliment...and I think I want to stick around, maybe build a stupid company that makes stupid products with ungodly profits and then maybe write a book too, you know, just for fun...and then I could still do everything I do now, just with more money and way more stupid stories. How's that?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're not going anywhere, it's official...and please, feel free to call me Edwardo, except, you know, spelled with the letter "U"...

Waking up to reality...

Almost as soon as my eyes opened this morning I thought, this isn't something that's going to work out, with regard to yesterday's job opportunity. Apparently sleep juggling is something I'm good at.

It doesn't seem that it could possibly work out for us and so I may just shrug and say, "thanks," but inevitably move on. The following factors are still bouncing around my head in the half light of a cold morning...

We'd need daycare, and if White Rock/Surrey is anything like the rest of Canada there would likely be a waiting list everywhere. A move West would be almost immediate and a daycare solution would not.

Our cost of living would increase and June would not be guaranteed a job anywhere. My income, while fine here in Southwestern Ontario, wouldn't support an entire family for long all by itself.

Grandparents would grieve, and Cathy, Zoey's Grandma/soon-to-be new Nanny would be jobless.

The job is a management job very much like the one I just told M-Smith (by current super boss) I'd hate to do. Budgetary this and thats etc...puke inducing thanks.

Ann Arbor, the Detroit Tigers, cheap flights to New York are all much more difficult to access from Vancouver.

So alas, the term "sleeping on it" is good advice. A few hours of subconscious consideration has left me quite certain that I'm in a far better spot. Albeit, that could all change, and as early as April, when the funding for my YMCA work is either renewed or gone, and then of course there's always the notion that the school board doesn't renew my contract next fall, but neither the money, the autonomy, the support, or the personal connections are as guaranteed out there as they are here. In the end I'd be taking a $10,000 pay cut to move to a more financially demanding area code and embrace a much more demanding job. This might be an easier decision than I thought. Wow, I'm pretty amazed at the obvious power of "sleeping on it,"...why have I not made better, more prudent use of that practice before now?

Uhmm, I think today I'm going to do something to remind me about the benefits of living in the now, and not next week.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Meet Mathilda...She's a Hippo, and a Comfort

week 36 - lovin' her hippo matilda
Mathilda and Zoey chillin' in the living room at the beach house...

Mathilda has become Zoey's best friend. Forget "Target" her first BFF...and "Cowraffe" has since been retired, even "Rarrrr" only garners Zoey's occasional attention these days. It's all about her stuffed Hippo, Mathilda, and justifiably so. Mathilda is softer than Zo's butt, which is pretty damn soft. Mathilda is a good listener, which Zo demands from all her friends, and Mathilda goes to sleep with Zo every night. She's perched right there in the corner of Zed's crib, and like Rarrrr, she keeps a good watch on her buddy, Zo. She's become the friend we can't get rid know, the one that always comes over unannounced and eats straight from the fridge? Naturally, she doesn't do all that but if she could she surely would.

Even I'm comforted by Mathilda. That's why tonight when I discovered that I'd been shortlisted for a pretty heavy job in Crescent Beach, British Columbia, I had to seek Mathilda's counsel. A few minutes in Mathilda's soothing plush presence is enough to ease whatever burden you might be afflicted with. She certainly puts me at ease.

The opportunity sits at the core of a pretty phenomenal community initiative out in Vancouver. The city has a number of neighborhood houses that deliver community, social and recreational services to residents balancing real grass roots efforts with pretty innovative community supports. I'd been eying the work these neighborhood houses do for a few years now, and always thought that the work was so absolutely grounded in local activism and community work that I would never have the opportunity to get it's on the other side of the country. I was wrong...well, not about the other side of the country stuff...that's still very much true. I was wrong to imagine that I was somehow unable to play in that world. Apparently, I was the only one who thought that. The people running the show think that I'd do just least enough so to short list me for consideration to fill the position. It was a bit of a surprise that they got in touch so out of the blue.

So now I need to complete some screening work, and submit that, then I need to evaluate the life change, then I need to talk to some people...then I need to either get it and say, "yes," or get it and say, "no," or blow the whole thing. Where's Mathilda?

The things we need to consider...

Are we ready to leave the area?

Can we afford the new scenario?

Can June transfer or find work?

Can we realistically steal a granddaughter away from new grandparents?

Is this what we want?

What the hell do we actually want?

That's a lot to consider. Some other random things to chuck in the mix...

We had always planned on heading West and just didn't.

June's sister Anette is living in Vancouver.

Brian's Uncle Marvin and Aunt Shirley are living in Victoria.

Brian's cousin Steven is living in Vic as well.

June's cousin Scott is in the Vancouver area too.

Brian's good friend Gail Armstrong and her awesome family is also in the area.

The position sounds as though it starts as early as December.

It's funny, a long time ago when we looked at a map of the West coast and imagined where we'd want to live we decided that White Rock was the place...right on the Washington border, right on the ocean, part of a major metropolitan area but feels like a small town...and now, however many years distant, this job opportunity is in Crescent Beach, a beachside village on the northern edge of White Rock. Hmmm, can you say, "crazy? We can.

I'm supposed to try and sleep tonight...yeah, right. Now all I can think of is, "are we ready for this if it were to happen?" and, "could we drag Zo away from people that love her beyond comprehension?" It's some heavy stuff, isn't it?

I might just sneak into Zo's room and abduct Mathilda for the night, either that or snuggle real close to June and hope for clarity.

I wish I was Paul Newman...


I wish I were Paul Newman. That’s right. I said that I wished that I were Paul Newman. Who doesn’t? Walking along W 44th a few days ago I stumbled into “The Actors Studio”…the method acting mecca made most famous by Lee Strasburg and founded on the principles of Constantin Stanislavski…the basics being, ”don’t act, just do,” and whose alumni include James Dean, Marlon Brando, and, of course, Paul Newman. I was impressed beyond measure and imagined a scruffy Newman, collar flipped to shield the wind, struggling to light a cigarette right there on those steps. Paul friggin’ Newman… Butch Cassidy, Riff, Hud Bannon, Luke Jackson, Reg Dunlop, Petrie, Fast Eddie Felson…Paul friggin’ Newman. It’s no stretch for a man to say that he wishes he were Paul Newman.

This is what Steve Levy says about Newman in his biography, “Paul Newman: A Life.” Any one of us could be so lucky…

For fifty years, on-screen and off, Newman vividly embodied certain tendencies in the American male character: active and roguish and earnest and sly and determined and vulnerable and brave and humble and reliable and compassionate and fair. He was a man of his time, and that time ranged from World War II to the contemporary era of digitally animated feature films. He was equally at home on Hollywood soundstages, in theatrical workshops, in the pits of racetracks, and especially on the blessedly raucous fields and in the log cabins and swimming holes of the camps he built and maintained for seriously ill children. The world was his for the claiming—and he claimed only the bit that he felt was reasonably due him, and he gave back more, by far, than he ever took.

He was ridiculously handsome and trim, with a face that belonged on an ancient coin, eyes that stunned and dazed even cynics, and an athlete's compact, lithe, and peppy body. Having fallen into acting as a profession, he would have been guaranteed at least minimal success by sheer virtue of his physical charms. If he'd had no talent or tenacity or intellect or drive, he might still have enjoyed fame and riches. Put him in a dinner jacket, and he could sit confidently at table with presidents or poets or kings. He looked the part—in fact, he looked any part, virtually, that he was asked to play.
But he was smart and cagey and suspicious of fortune too easily won, and he was scrupulous in distinguishing the things that came to him through luck from those he felt he'd earned. He opted to live as far as reasonable from Hollywood, preferred barn coats and blue jeans to tuxedos, and chose the company of troupers and mechanics and beer- swillers over that of celebrities and swells and hobnobbers every time. There was crust and vinegar to him, and he relished the opportunity that his position in life afforded him to startle big shots with his sometimes downmarket tastes and preferences. And vice versa: he loved to sprinkle unexpected stardust in the humblest of contexts, just when he was taken for an ordinary joe.

He was, as he always insisted, a private man whose profession gave him a public face. And he grappled with the incongruity of that for a long time. If he was a cautious and shy fellow raised to a painfully puritanical ethos, he would learn to espouse his inner wildness by adapting personae—in life and in art—that camouflaged his insecurity and reticence in the cloth of exuberance and levity. If he was treated as a freak because of the inescapable fact that he was born beautiful, he would learn to turn that beauty into a tool of subterfuge, creating characters whose allure hid complex and painful depths. If his looks would make him a star, he would redirect that stardom into a benefit for others, slapping his face on labels for food products and creating staggering wealth—then giving all the money away. If he was, regardless of his age, a sex symbol, he would work hard at being a good husband and father. If his personal wealth meant that he could take up motor sports at a high level, he would work as tenaciously at racing as he did at acting and earn acceptance in that world through sheer application and diligently acquired skill. If things came easily to him, he determined to share the benefit he accrued.

Few have lived fuller or richer lives than Paul Newman, and at the time of his death, the world seemed to take stock for the first time of all the Paul Newmans it had known: the actor, the driver, the public citizen, the entrepreneur, the philanthropist, the family man.

But as Newman always knew, it all began with luck—the genetics, upbringing, education, and career fortunes that uniquely enabled him to become a movie star. And it was as a movie star that he made his most obvious mark on the world.
In ways, he did it through the back door. Rarely appearing in obvious blockbusters, striving to reinvent himself by shedding his skin every few years, he compiled a cinematic résumé over five decades that was studded regularly with milestone films and performances: Somebody Up There Likes Me; The Long, Hot Summer; The Left Handed Gun; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Exodus; The Hustler; Paris Blues; Hud; Harper; Hombre; Cool Hand Luke; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid; The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean; The Sting; The Towering Inferno; Buffalo Bill and the Indians; Slap Shot; Fort Apache the Bronx; Absence of Malice; The Verdict; The Color of Money; Blaze; Mr. & Mrs. Bridge; The Hudsucker Proxy; Nobody's Fool; Road to Perdition; Empire Falls; Cars. This is more than just a litany of estimable (and in some cases commercially gigantic) film titles. It's the trajectory of an actor determined to squirm away from preconceptions and to sharpen his artistic abilities at the same time. It stands against the very few similar lists of films ever compiled, and it spans eras, styles, generations. He wasn't the greatest American actor, and he was not even the greatest actor of his own vintage.

But he was arguably the most American actor, the fellow whose roles and accumulated persona best captured the tenor of his times and his people. Newman arrived in movies with the Method actor invaders of the 1950s and rode out their splashy heyday, becoming a commercial superstar while insistently pushing forward the boundaries of his craft.

If you approached him initially only at the superficial level—the level of beauty, as it were—you might have mistaken him for Rock Hudson or Tony Curtis or Robert Wagner, handsome and capable, sure, but movie stars principally rather than craftsmen. Newman, though, had an internal discipline that demanded he make more of himself, and he earned, through sheer perseverance, a place alongside—and in ways, above—the Method gods Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean. He was ultimately the one true superstar to emerge from the original Actors Studio generation, the most popular and enduring Stanislavskyan actor in American screen history, the only one who could sit comfortably alongside big- time Golden Era movie stars and newfangled subversive interlopers.

And he was able to bridge the space between those two brands of actors for decades. In a half- century of movies, the characteristic Newman role morphed from almost- too- pretty to dangerously sleek to deliberately wily to weathered and weary- wise. At his best he played against his looks—which may be why he is widely regarded as improving as an actor as he aged. And his instinct to cut against himself meant that he couldn't personify scions of wealth and privilege as well as he could ordinary men struggling with quotidian issues—particularly the struggles of fathers and sons who couldn't communicate adequately or, indeed, love each other enough. Even though he was a partner in a famed half- century marriage, he rarely played a romantic lead and, truly, never all that well. Rather, he played broken athletes, half- crazed outlaws, cocky scam artists, insouciant iconoclasts, and a long skein of rascally and unreliable private eyes, liquor salesmen, cops, spies, lawyers, loggers, and construction workers. Very occasionally—and perhaps only to satisfy a seemingly visceral need to avoid repeating himself—he played men of ramrod morality and authority whose positions as social leaders belied their failures as human beings; predictably, as with so many other types he essayed, he nailed them.

Taken as a whole, Newman's body of work nicely encapsulated the history of an in- between generation of American men who helped their fathers and uncles conquer the world in war and commerce but who could only watch—likely with some jealousy—as their younger siblings and their own children acted out on the native rebellious impulse to overturn everything. He fit in precisely with neither the Greatest Generation nor the Baby Boomers but represented instead a vital link in the American century—a band of men who were meant to inherit a system that was no longer reliably in place by the time their fathers willed it to them. Torn by the conflicting impulses to rule and rebel, his was arguably the pivotal generation of the twentieth century, and Newman, almost unconsciously, was its actor laureate.

Newman was proud of his profession, eternally grateful to his teachers and peers and colleagues and to the writers and directors who created the roles and the projects he appeared in. But like other men's men who take up acting, he could find himself embarrassed by the fussiness of his craft, and he had a need to assert himself in other, more physical areas of life in order to pass muster with himself. And so auto racing, as alien a pastime to the arts as could be imagined, became a second world for him. Picking it up in his mid- forties, he was seen at first as a dilettante. But his bulldog tenacity (and, too, his native athleticism and his uncommon financial means) took him to remarkable levels of accomplishment: four national amateur titles, two professional race victories, a second- place finish at the famed twenty- four hour race in Le Mans, and, at age seventy, a victory in his team's class in the 24 Hours of Daytona—making him the oldest person to win a sanctioned auto race ever, anywhere. As a team owner in even higher classes of competition, his success was greater still: 8 national titles and107 individual race victories—a massive haul.

And he was nearly as accomplished an entrepreneur as he was a race- car driver and owner. As a purveyor of food products, a business that he didn't enter until his mid- fifties, he created new standards for the elimination of preservatives and the use of fresh ingredients in salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, salsas, and snack foods. And when he expanded into organic foods, his became one of the nation's most recognized and trusted brands. Those businesses led to another area of achievement: philanthropy. Aside from the millions of dollars and thousands of hours he donated privately over the years, his Newman's Own Foundation, which gave away all posttax profits from the food businesses, doled out more than $250 million in its first twenty- five years of existence. And in the final years before his death, Newman bequeathed his share of the company—valued at nearly $120 million— for similar distribution.

It's a staggering list of achievements—the acting, the racing, the earnings, the giving away—and he could sometimes seem uneasy about it all and, especially, about the image that the rest of the world had of him as a result. The great sportswriter Jim Murray, who met him on a racetrack, opined, "He's probably the only guy in America who doesn't want to be Paul Newman." And William Goldman, who wrote Harper and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, remarked similarly, "I don't think Paul Newman really thinks he is Paul Newman in his head.

"In rare unguarded moments, he admitted as much. "The toughest role is playing Paul Newman," he told a reporter. "My own personality is so vapid and bland, I have to go steal the personalities of other people to be effective."
He wasn't blowing smoke. He was a man of great gifts, but he was genuinely humble, believing in work and family and luck and community and the greater good—and if a surfeit of that good slopped up onto his plate over the years, he would be sure to share it, and he would do so in the best humor he could. Somehow he had turned the gifts life and luck had granted him into things he could multiply and give back. Occasionally along the way he would misstep or be discourteous or make a wrong aesthetic choice or drive ill- advisedly or whatnot, but what he never did was hole up, retreat, give in, surrender, or fail to engage.

"What I would really like to put on my tombstone," he once said, "is that I was part of my time."

And he was.

Like I said, I wish I was Paul Newman.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Zoey's First Thanksgiving...Gobble Gobble etc...

Zoey Mom 1st Thanksgiving Pic
Zo and Mom wrecking the kitchen on Zed's first Thanksgiving ever!

Zo's first Thanksgiving was spread over two days...Sunday afternoon and evening with Grandma and Pops...then Monday afternoon and evening with Baachan and Granddad. As far as I can tell she enjoyed both immensely. She was the focal point of both and got more attention than any damn turkey.

Zoey Thanksgiving Baachans kitchen
Zo in Baachan's kitchen patiently awaiting dinner...

There was an obvious absence of siblings this year...Brad and family had their own plans, and Anette and Ian are both pretty far away, respectively...It just didn't feel all that much like Thanksgiving on either the Sunday at the lake or today on Running Creek. The Partridge house needs siblings, and a Thanksgiving without Avery and Reece running around like fools just isn't a Thanksgiving.

Those things I'm thankful for...

week 37 - mom's birthday kiss
Mom and Zo squeezing in a smooch - October 2009

It's Thanksgiving here in Canada. I suppose it's more than just a day off of work and some time with family, certainly it's much more than a turkey dinner and the feeling that you want to end your life if you can't pull a hatch and just empty your belly. It's supposed to be about being thankful...We are...I am.

I'm thankful for the life I have right now. It feels like I've been on vacation for half a decade now, and in a lot of ways I suppose I have been. We live in a beautiful spot on the lake, we make enough money to save and spend, we do what we want when we want, and we have options. That's more than most.

week 35 - fake chucks
The view Zoey is getting to grow up far.

We have families that are healthy, and we can finally call our own little unit by that same name -- we're a family. Just the notion can make my eyes swell with sappy stuff. We laugh a lot, and don't need much. We're proud of the people we've been lucky enough to become. We feel no compromises and have no regrets, again, that's more than most.

We just wandered back into this world here on the edge of this blue water and sky, all the way from New York...and in a few months we'll wander West and soak up California to end the year. It's become something of a yearly tradition, with the odd extra side trip thrown in. We're absolutely spoiled rotten, and without question thankful for all of it.

June and I have known one another for 14 years now. We've been together for 11 years, and married for 2...we have an 8 month old daughter and an exceptionally large cat who has blessed us with his litter box shenanigans for a decade. We're a happy family.

So if you ask me what I'm thankful for I say everything, and I mean it. Everything. Especially the past 14 years.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Waking up siren free with wind and waves...

Lake Huron mornings are a little different than one in Hell's Kitchen.

Home means waking up without the sound of sirens, without the drone of morning commuter traffic...without the fun of waving "good morning" to New Jersey. It means the rhythmic wash of waves, the sound of seagulls and freighters off in the dark distance. It means a sunrise you can watch on the horizon and Michigan to welcome into the morning.

It's good to go, it's good to come back, but mostly it's just good to wake up.

Time to grab the iPod and go cut the grass to a soundtrack of Corrine Bailey Rae singing Joni Mitchell's "River"...maybe some Oscar Peterson if I get around to it. Wish I could sneak off to Rudy's when I'm done. I'll have to settle for a beer on the floor with the Zedder...I hate doing that though 'cause I always feel so guilty getting her drunk in the afternoon.

Bryant Park etc...The Long Goodbye

Awesome candid Zo
Zoey playing in the grass in Bryant Park while the Lincoln Center Jazz Series plays.

It tough to say goodbye to NY, especially when you've got about a dozen favorite spots and not enough time to get to them all. Bryant Park is one of the those places and was a priority, little did we know that we'd be catching some free Lincoln Center Jazz and resting our feet while we were at it. Zoey used the stop to play in the grass and make friends with every damn stranger who passed. Shyness may never be an issue for our little girl.

Zo Dad Playing 3
Zoey and Dad fooling around with "April in Paris" as a soundtrack to their shenanigans.

The view from Bryant Park is my favorite in the entire city...a little piece of green surrounded by towering mid-town buildings and the shadows of the New York Public LIbrary. Then, of course, there's the carousel, the hundreds of people relaxing on the grass. The place is iconic and easily one of my favorites. There are tens of thousands of people who wander through the park each day and the grass is as green and thick as you might imagine a lawn without the foot traffic of one of the world's largest cities. There are children playing and laughing, the sounds of the city aren't as hushed as in Central Park, not at all, and yet it's an oasis of serenity in the heart of some serious craziness. I love it.

Bryant Park is as good a place as any to gather your wits and pretend like you never have to go home.

Grandma was happy to rest her tired feet, after three days of chasing us, and many more miles than she had ever imagined. We took in Rockefeller Plaza and Radio City Music Hall earlier and then shuffled on down to the Park looking as much for the chance to show Grandma as to give her a decent rest in a decent place.

Grandma Zo Bryant park 2
Grandma and Zo chilling out in Bryant Park with the Lincoln Center Jazz Series for company.

I think that everyone is drawn to these places but I find that I gravitate to the parks whenever I'm in the city. The parks are the places that help you feel like you might actually be in rhythm with the rest of the world, every street of this city has you fast forwarding through life, but the parks slow your pace and anchor you to some green. Growing up in the midwest you don't realize what "green" means to us. Step away from cornfields and bush lots and all of the random greenery in our everyday lives and you feel very much like an island. Stumbling into NYC's parks feels like seeing a familiar face.

Bryant Park Montage
Dad and Zo enjoyed themselves with a city soundtrack of live jazz floated above their giggling heads.

Bryant Park is as good a place to spend your last night in NY as any, in fact, better than most. We've become particularly tuned in to the opportunities that allow us the ease of managing this new "family life" with enjoying the good stuff we'd gotten ourselves so used to. Now we look for those opportunities that allow us the freedom to parent AND enjoy -- outdoor concerts, ballparks that let you wander from your seats -- it's the hassle free events that we like now. We want to have Zoey with us. We want to hang out with our precocious offspring and things like the Lincoln Center Jazz Series at Bryant Park is perfect for that. We get the music, get the vibe and atmosphere of doing something fun and cool, and we get to roll around in the grass with our daughter, who also, I might add, is soaking it all up too.

Relaxin Zo candid
Zo relaxin' on Mom with the Dan Nimmer Trio and the Chris Byars Quartet offering sweet Bryant Park lullabies.

Now we look for fun things to do that don't demand that we leave Zo at home, or that we get knee deep into that higher form of maintenance we refer to as "sadly spontaneous parenting"...we're learning that such a thoughtless enterprise makes nothing very much fun. We don't necessarily need to bend over backwards for Zo and, naturally, she shouldn't stumble through some miserable experience on our whim either. It's compromise that we're learning, I suppose.

For example, we'd like to sneak down to the SXSW Festival in Austin, TX this March Break, while Zo's still comfortably portable. The event has a lot of outdoor music venues in parks, etc...and we could likely visit with family and bring some along to help with the task that can be Zo. We could enjoy something we've wanted to take in for years and yet still be a family in doing so. That's not to say that we don't want to break free on occasion, but it's important to us that we don't pawn Zo off just to selfishly sow our own oats. If we were in that kind of space still, well, then we should have just not had any children. Investing in her wholeheartedly makes the most sense to us...ot doting, or spoiling, but spending time and planting seeds. I know that some of you out there get it...Johnny T, Scott and Stace, etc...BTW, I can't think of any other people I'd enjoy SXSW with more than you funsters. Sorry, just planting seeds still.

June Zo Bryant Park x 2
June and Zo enjoying our last day in New York - Bryant Park Fall Festival, Lincoln Center Jazz.

We're just not the type to dump Zo off very often, I don't think, and that's not something that needs to be read into. We are more than comfortable dumping the Zipster off in capable hands, and have done it. We just want to invest in this experience as much as we can, and to be absolutely honest, we worked hard to achieve a kind of been there, done that, life before we settled into kids, and I think we've managed it. Now we want to achieve the same except with Zo in tow, not left behind and missing out. We're happy with the effort so far.

Like the R.E.M. song says, leaving New York's never easy, especially not when it feels like you just saw it for the first time through your daughters eyes.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

$8 for two dozen roses? What if we throw in the kid?

June Zo flowers 2
June and Zo taking in the flowers at a 49th street stall.

Getting busy getting gone on our last day meant walking down to Rockefeller Center and seeing the new ice rink, taking in Radio City Music Hall and showing a tired Grandma Madison Avenue. We tend to like the side streets best but you can't come here without dipping your toes in the tourist water. It's the side streets though that give you a feel for living in Manhattan...flower stalls, and newspaper stands, quiet little barber shops and fenced in schools exploding with the noise of recess. If you want to really fall in love with NY then stay away from the tourist haunts.

Grandma didn't come all this way not to see some of this big stuff though, so we packed up her crunchded (that's her word) toes and headed off for the middle of this island.

Grandma Rainbow Room
Grandma grinning through almost amputated feet.

We really just did a drive by on everything, there isn't much point to lingering at Radio City, or the Rainbow Room, or even Rockefeller Plaza unless you're doing something there. We weren't. I think Mom was happy just to see those places but it was becoming more and more clear that NYC is less her style than it is ours. She was impressed more than awed, and enjoyed it but probably wouldn't have come here or will return without us. It didn't help that we motored around the city like it was on fire and that's just not Grandma's style either...Oddly, I think a longer stay would have benefitted Grandma. We could have just soaked it in, took our time, lingered. It would have been nice to grab a coffee and just head back over to the rink at Rockefeller Plaza and just hung out....or slipped down to Greenwich Village and just jumped from this restaurant to that one, a nibble here, a drink there...a longer stay, as weird as that sounds, would have helped Grandma adjust. New York in three days is a whirlwind for a girl from Dover Centre.

June Zo Rainbow Room 2
Zo and Mom out front of the Rainbow Room at 30 Rock...

The rink at the Plaza was in early, and in hindsight it would have been nice to just hang out and soak it all up. Grandma seemed to like the scene there and we probably rushed right on through. We should have grabbed a steaming cup of beans and sat and watched the gay guys pretend to figure skate.

Mom June Zo Rockefeller Plaza Rink
Grandma, June, and Zo at the rink in Rockefeller Plaza.

So weather your fet are killing you or not Grandmama, it's more than likely you're heading back to NYC with the family. Start getting your walking in now.

Friday, October 9, 2009

May the Schwarz Be With You

FAO Schwarz

FAO Schwarz is like crack for kids! That's the biggest, coolest toy store I've ever seen! It was nuts...I'm glad we held off visiting it until we had a funster to drag along with us. It made the venture much more fun and way worthwhile, but then so did Betsy, Julia, and Alex!

We met up with Betz and her little funsters, Julia and Alex, over at FAO Schwarz and we took in a few floors of toys and an hour and a half of visiting. We wandered, talked, and kinda shopped while Julia got busy chucking everything she saw in the stroller...and it was a friggin' big stroller. Betz's stroller was a double wide, like the trailer she grew up in. Just kidding, Betsy didn't grow up in any double wide was a regular size one. I'm just kidding again...the truth just sounds so harsh, saying that she grew up in a tent trailer is awful so I'm aggrandizing the living conditions she grew up in so that she doesn't feel so bad. Sorry...I must be tired 'cause just typing that makes me giggle like a 13 year old girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. It was indeed a double stroller, and was indeed WIDE but the only truth to this whole paragraph was that Julia was madly chucking toys in it as we walked. Sorry Betz...that was way too much fun to type.

Betsy Alex Zo June Schwarz
Betz and Alexander the Great meeting Zedder and June...getting a feel for the Schwarz.

We got in a good visit and the kids tore up FAO like any good kids should. I hadn't seen Betz in fourteen years so it was cool to cross paths now that all that trailer living is behind her. Once again, just kidding...oh man, it's too easy. Guaranteed Aimee's laughing her ass off right now!

Julia Zoey June floor Schwarz
June, Zo and Julia chillin' on the floor on the Schwarz...

Betsy was this super impressive Mom, juggling Julia on a fun high, and Alex who was hangin' off of her like a giant piece of costume jewelry. She was visiting with us, paying attention to Alex and keeping track of Julia in the universe's biggest toy store. I was impressed. We even soaked some of that Super Mom sage advice. We learned about what we're calling "The Betsy Rule". It's kind of like that whole cheesy, if you set something free and it comes back it's yours, if it doesn't then it never was, deal, you know, except with toys and junk. We're adopting it as Zoey policy.

Ugly Dolls
We stumbled upon a tonne of "Ugly Dolls"...our favorite was called "Minimum Wage" (middle right)

We almost bought about a million and a half things -- an ugly doll, this wicked cool home meth amphetamine kit, some Lego -- and might have to sneak back to scoop up another stuffed jellyfish (we didn't see them until we'd already left the store and spied it through the window). Zoey had her eyes on a stuffed Elmo and she nearly got this awesome "Ugly Doll" named Minimum Wage but we ended up grabbing a couple of books and this awesome bowl that suctions itself to a table. We probably could have jacked up the credit and took the whole store home but we practiced some restraint.

June Zoey Elmo Schwarz
June and Zo communing with a stuffed Elmo...we used "The Betsy Rule" and left him there.

The book sections were Zoey's favorite as more often than not the tags on toys were just as thrilling as the toys themselves. She's a bit of a book hound though and we make it a point to buy her books whenever we can. I'm sure there'll come a time when such a chore is taxing on the finances, but for now we love the enterprise, mostly Dad, in fact. He'll drop his entire stash of personal spending money on books without breaking a sweat, then Mom is the one she likes to hear read to her. Shrug...

Zo June floor reading Schwarz
Zo could sit and read for hours...well, many minutes...but a long time in baby terms.

It was a fun morning, and the kids were pretty great considering the crazy place their parents dragged them to. Not sure when we'll see Betz again so it was nice to squeeze in a visit. If we keep to the schedule of coming back to NY every year then we'll see her regularly, if we don't...well then I suppose we won't. I never really hung out with Betz, and knew her almost exclusively through a friend, Aimee, but we always got along easily and today felt just the same...a simple slip into conversation and a no-worries hour of visiting. It was nice.

Betsy June feeding Schwarz
Lunch time...for Alex and Zoey, that it. The rest of us would have to wait.

We might have to make a yearly visit to FAO Schwarz...just as much for Mom and Dad as for Zo. As long as Betz is in town we can get a visit in, and then, of course, there is the city that FAO in smack dab in the middle of...Zo gets toys and we get NY. Good deal, I think.

Grey morning Grandma...

Watching Grandma get ready
Zo watches Grandma get ready in the morning. It's a fascinating ritual.

Grey days are meant for one of two things...either you wrestle all the fun and adventure out of the day that you possibly can, or you hunker down for a quiet day of dodging all that exhausting enterprise. Grandma is choosing the latter today. After two full days of walking and with a morning that looks like rain, Grandma is opting to start her day with a hot bath, maybe sneak on down to the Star Light Diner at W 52nd, and order a breakfast she can actually sit and enjoy. Maybe she;ll read about President Obama's newly awarded Nobel Peace Prize or flip pages in Mitch Albom's newest book, "Have a Little Faith". EIther way she won't be trudging on over to FAO Schwarz with Zoey and her overly ambitious parents.

We're going to meet up with Brian's old friend, Betsy, at the famous toy store on 5th. He hasn't seen her since 1995 and coffee, a chance to meet Bets's little ones, Julia and Alex, and an hour or so at the iconic toy store sounds pretty good. We'll just have to pack an umbrella.

Grandma is going to relax. She didn't come to NYC just so that she would require a pediatrist when she got home.

Zo woke up laughing and smiling and doing that crazy nose scrunch thing that she does so it should be a stellar day. Whn Zo gets the scrunchers your in for a solid day of fun.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Read that palm weird woman! I need to know the future!

Psychic Readings by Amanda

So June and I walked past a psychic's shop on West 51st that was promising $7 palm readings so we jumped. Why not? June went first and was told to stay away from lima beans, her brother Ian, and New Orleans, and I went second and the woman told me this...

I was going to live into my 90's and no disease would touch me...

I was surrounded by obstacles my whole life and continue to be but I tend to overcome them...

I was supposed to be writing, she wondered why I was doing anything else...

I am supposed to be living in California by 2011...

It is important that I help people, not as much for me but for them, they need me to...

We are supposed to have two more children...two boys...

My Mom raised me...

I should never eat Doritos, or hummus...

That last one was obviously a joke. She was pretty great, and the whole thing was way worth $7 each. June got told some awesome stuff too, like how many of you bastards talk behind our backs and then are nice to our faces...Smarten up a$$%oles, 'cause now we're onto you! There'll be hell to pay boyo...hell.

Subways and Ferries...Fairies and Subways...and a Naked Cowboy

Times Square Bri June
Mom, Zo, and Dad interrupting a photo shoot in Times Square...getting in the way is what we do best.

Once we got going today we knocked off a bunch of blocks and did almost nothing that we set out to was pretty awful actually. We hate the who tourist runaround and somehow we ended up smack in the middle of it all. From Times Square all teh way to Staten Island and back...blech.

Zoey slept while we wandered through Times Square...yep, missed the whole thing. Out like a light despite all of the craziness. Grandma and June watched some silly model photo shoot with two guys that looked twelve who had their suits pinned up in a dozen places...really reinforcing the idea of being sold to. Those damn suits don't even fit the models right so they're never going to fit people like us.

The only good part of Times Square was getting the chance to act like an ass with the Naked Cowboy...well worth fighting the crowds. It's not everyday you get your picture taken next to some dude in his tighty whiteys, unless of course you hang out with Stu McNaughton, then your odds are much higher.

Brian and Naked Cowboy 2
Brian and a Stu McNaughton look-a-like -- the Naked Cowboy.

We hooked up with the W train headed downtown to South Ferry. None of us had ever jumped on the Staten Island Ferry before and now I know kinda sucks. It's free though, so at least you didn't pay money to be cold and sit near weirdos bound for St. George.

Staten Island Ferry
It's free, and there's beer on board, but the ride isn't much of a thrill unless you're easily thrilled

We slipped on over with plans of slipping right back but we missed the first ferry back to Manhattan and had to chill out at the Ferry Terminal for a half hour until the next one arrived. We watched fish in an aquarium, mingled with a film crew, and Dad had a super strange fairy waiting for a ferry staring at him for thirty minutes. Dad's new BFF was wearing a black crushed velvet blouse, had deep, dark black dyed hair and mustache and was playing with a red and pink ballerina doll. He was a real beaut.

June Zo Ferry 2
June and Zo took in the ferry thrill ride with the typical enthusiasm such a vigorous enterprise inspires.

Zo Ferry 1
Zo can whip off that brooding child model pose better than anyone I know.

Once we got back onboard we ditched the Statue of Liberty side of the ferry and stuck to the sunny Governors Island side. There were fewer freaks and we didn't freeze our arses off. Zo even made friends with a family of six. That's right, I said six. It seems Zoey and large Orthodox Jewish families are endlessly attracted to one another. She took turns rubbing their heads and giggling at them. Yeah, I dunno...she enjoyed herself. She likes Judaism.

Zoey on ferry smiling
Zo and her "amused with Judaism" smile. It's a heart warmer.

The ferry ride back turned out to be better than the whole trip up to that point. Zo was busy exploring and the sun was warm on our faces. It helped ease the burden of wasting several hours. The whole damn place is painted orange and Zo seems to have a bit of an attraction to the color orange. She has ever since she was tiny. Orange ferry benches thrilled her endlessly.

Bum and leggings Ferry
Argyle leggings and a baby bum...

We shuffled off of the ferry as soon as the crowd would allow, jumped back on the W train headed uptown and got the hell out of Lower Manhattan. As usual, Zo was ecstatic to be taking advantage of pubic transportation. She digs the filthiest forms of transportation available to her parents detriment.

Zo June Grandma subway 1
Zo entertaining Mom and Grandma on the W Train...she's a public nuisance with all her annoying happiness.

You can't imagine how excited Zo gets to travel with the masses of Joe Publics headed to work, or home from a day here or there. It's like a friend buffet for the Zedder and she performs the whole time. She smiles and laughs and yells at you if you're not paying attention. It's pretty funny...almost funny enough to take the subway or the bus all the time...almost.

Zo June subway 1
Zedder on display on NYC's public transit system. She's a walking billboard for public transportation

All in all a busy day doing almost nothing that i would have typically enjoyed. It's amazing how fast you can slip off track and end up a smiling and willing participant in a so-so day of wandering. No FAO Madison Battery Park...just pink doll lovin' freakshows and two boat rides.