Saturday, July 31, 2010

If every day could be like this...

Central Park Zo balloon

Wandering through Central Park should be one of the best things you do in your life, if you're doing it right. It's beautiful in the Fall, and the green of summer is mesmerizing albeit the heat can keep you at home leaving the Park to braver souls than you. Today was near perfect, and there wasn't much holding us back from exploring it for the first time as a family. We considered calling our friend Betsy, but we realized that this really was the first time we would wander this special place as a family, and we slipped up from Brooklyn with more giggles than sweat, for the first time in weeks. We couldn't have stumbled upon a much better day to find ourselves together and walking through Central Park without any kind of specific destination in mind.

Central Park Zoey and Mom

Central Park as a whole is a bit of a wonder, certainly something to marvel at, at least, if you're looking through the right eyes. However, there are parts of Central Park that are some of my favorite places in the world, and the Conservatory Water is one of them. Sailboats for rent...the buildings on Fifth Avenue looming...The Met just up the road a bit. If you don't love Conservatory Waters you've either never been or you need some kind of therapy.

Central Park Zoey and Dad sailboats

Zoey fed the birds, although I'm quite certain that she wasn't supposed to. It was tofu so at the very least it was an extremely healthy alternative for them. We watched the sailboats and wondered at the skyline all around us. We played in the grass and stopped to meet every dog on the entire East side of the park. We stopped to listen to a Jazz trio and watch a ballerina, and Zoey chased pigeons by the dozen. Dad found himself wore out by the end of the day, antibiotics and age working against what were once infatigable (Why isn't that a word? Why do we have to use indefatigable?) legs and enthusiasm. When Dad gets wore down, Dad gets crunchy, and crunchy quick, so we made haste for the subway and home where the rest that the doctors in Newark suggested I take was more readily available. Standing on the F Train for a dozen stops, and then walking twenty or so blocks of mid-town Manhattan likely wasn't what they were getting at.

As the day ended, and we hustled for the train, it was easy to forget that we just spent an entire day doing what a million people around the world would love to do, and fatigue gave way to gratefulness. We're such ridiculously lucky people it's not even funny...well, okay, it's a little funny, for us.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A caterpillar in Bryant Park...

Today I saw a caterpillar reading books in Bryant Park. It only makes sense since the library is right there. He was rather indifferent to the children playing around him, and only took leave of his attention to the literature spread out before him when Zoey and her new friend, Katia, showed an interest in him. His name was Willie, and he was both appreciative of the affection, and simultaneously annoyed that he couldn't finish Hattie the Hippo uninterrupted. It was also quite distressful, I"m sure, when Katia's brother, Alex, tried to kill Willie with a handful of gravel dumped right on his head. Despite such unpleasantries it was a good day. I didn't even know caterpillars could read...or that they had names, let alone names as cool as Willie.

I discovered Willie rooting around the children's bookshelves, near the carousel, in Bryant Park. We became fast friends, and then Alex and Katia came to meet him. Zoey wasn't all that keen on other young children taking an interest in her Dad, so she scooted on over pretty quickly.

Dad with Katia and Alex

Zoey watching Dad Bryant Park

Zoey friends and Dad Bryant park

At first Alex was playing the poop, not exactly believing that caterpillars could read, so after I let him out of the headlock he was much more agreeable, and soon enough we had everyone, including some suspicious German kids (as most German kids are) who were nearby believing that this particular caterpillar could, indeed, read. It didn't help that at first Alex was telling everyone not to touch Willie because caterpillars bite. That's kinda how Alex ended up in such an escape free headlock in the first place. Eventually, he gave in to the notion that perhaps it was possible that caterpillars could read.

Zoey Katie Caterpillar 1

Before I knew it, the kids had stolen Willie and were trying to teach him tricks on the tables several feel away. He was having none of it. He had come to the park to read and here were two little girls and one fairly sadistic little boy fiddling with his morning. He'd had better days, I'm sure.

Zoey Katia Alex Bryant Park

Almost as fast as Willie could conjugate a verb gravel was raining down on his tiny little caterpillar head thanks to Alex. Fortunately, Zoey and Katia were there to dig him out. At that point we were forced to put Alex in a choke hold for everyone's safety. Once he was good and out cold we managed to have a bit more fun. We all agreed that little boys are pretty crazy.

Zoey Katia gravelled Willie

Once it was just Zed and Katia, Willie felt a lot more comfortable, and why shouldn't he? The odds of him dying on this simple walk through the park to read a book or two dropped down to almost nil without Alex in the picture. The girls were getting along famously, and I suspect that Willie is a bit of a ladies man anyway.

Zoey smiling with Willie

Watching little girls play is SO different from watching little boys play. For the most part it's pretty mellow, and fairly cerebral. Willie's certainly not the only one who appreciates it. Dad loves it too. The notion of crazy little freakshow boys running wild across their father's trampled will to live frightens the bejeepers out of me still. Girls are easy, and sure, they probably get harder to manage but at least I'll have had an apprenticeship before then. For now...I'll take the ease of toddler girlfriends and their oh-so gentle ways of making friends without killing one another.

Girlfriends - Zoey and Katia

The morning fell away fast, at least for us, maybe not so much for Willie, who surely suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder now. When all was said and done, the girls had fun, Katia had to go home, we set Willie on his way up into a nearby tree, and Zoey made a new friend, Zadie, and they quickly proceeded to eat each others lunches and not only share but feed one another. Girls...the most pleasantly confusing creatures ever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Good Morning Brooklyn...You're Wet

Rain Brooklyn

I may have said it before, but I like Brooklyn when it rains. It helps that it cools everything down, but it's just a good rainy place, I think. Some places aren't so great when it rains...Brooklyn is just fine.

We have to move the car today...that starting-to-get-old trick of moving the car for an hour and a half while the street cleaners do their thing, and then hauling it back home in good enough time to grab a parking spot. It's kind of annoying, but I have to admit, I miss my car. I like driving my car...I think North Americans in general, like to drive their cars. Sure, I wish I had options to not drive it once in awhile, but I miss my car here. It just sits there and stares at me...useless, neglected.

We've only got five more days in Brooklyn, then it's home for a friend's wedding, then our hometown for a week, and then back to the beach. We're excited. Coming home this year in the second week of August means that we get to have some kind of summer back home, that kind of thing has managed to elude us for a few years. We've always been gone. We get to go to more Tiger games, and we get to hang out on the lawn at Pine Knob. We'll maybe get to catch The Woodward Dream Cruise for the first time in forever, and of course we'll devour as much beach time as the Great Lakes will give us. There'll be bonfires and BBQs...hammocks and affordable groceries. We're excited to come home.

We've tossed about the notion of leaving NY a little early but we wanted to get out to the new Yankee Stadium to see Curtis, and we still haven't managed to see some of the people here in New York that we'd hoped. It could either be a am packed few days, or a shrugged off bail out for some fun spot between here and home. I'm sure that we could think of a few.

As I type I can hear Zoey and Mom yapping in her room...they're talking about feeding the frog and fish, and how the fish eats all of the frog's food and that maybe the frog is half blind since he's an albino frog. It's a pretty funny conversation, highlighted by Zoey's insistence that the fish leave the frog alone. Those girls make me smile.

It's an astonishingly low key day...I was considering walking up Court St. to roust some coffee rather than make it here. A walk with an umbrella sounds about perfect for today. The notion crossed my mind to head on up to the New York Historical Society to catch the Grateful Dead exhibit but that might be far too ambitious. A bookstore perhaps? Maybe, but first Zoey insists that Bear goes poop on the toilet. Yeah, that's her thing lately, and good timing I think. When we get home Zoey's going to have a thing or two to learn.

Zoey bear toilet

I can't imagine today turning into much more than just a quiet Brooklyn afternoon. I could be wrong. I probably will be, but it's nice to dream with a robust kind of apathy...sounds like an impossibility but even the art of doing nothing can be embraced with fervor. I'll do my very best today to prove the phrasing of that notion logical. If I fail...I still kind of win.

A Big Knuffle Fan...


Zoey's becoming quite the Knuffle Bunny fan...well, Knuffle Bunny Too to be specific. It's a good thing 'cause her Dad might have disowned her had she not found an affinity for Mo Willems.

Most nights she wants Mom to read to her, but some nights a nod goes out to the bullpen and I get the call...I try to stay limber so that I'm always ready to answer the bell. When it's Willems that she wants it's pretty easy to get up for it. When it's this one...not so much.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shopping like it's 1989...

80s shopping

Today I bought a blue jean jacket and some Sperry Topsider deck shoes... soft brown leather...feels like I've owned them since 1989. I felt fifteen years old. I half expected John Teeter and my brother, Brad, to walk around the corner of the Flatiron to tell me to quit shopping and get my arse in gear before we're late for hockey practice. Back then, of course, hockey practice wasn't at all about getting better. It was about screwing around, which was exactly what I was doing today. June bought a bag she didn't need in response to the rain boots she didn't need so she left them on the shelf. We wandered from West 4th in the Village all around and up Broadway, hovered around Union Square for awhile and then flipped on over to fifth and back down through Washington Square and home. It was a nice day to feel fifteen.

Broadway view

Gramercy Park and the Gridiron...Union Square, feels like home. We've spent so much time there over the years. It's truly one of my favorite parts of the city. Chuck Greenwich Village in that mix and I could probably pitch my tent here for a long time...not forever, I'm just not a New Yorker, but a long time.

Zed was an absolute dream again today...damn near every day. She handles all this so ridiculously well, and she's honest to goodness the happiest kid alive. With the exception of one or two moments of annoyance today (Dad and Mom's, not hers) she banged out another stellar day of happy to be here, just hope I can help the ball club. She's got the gift of a good attitude, regardless...rain or shine, lazy day or or there, anywhere...she's just happy to be hangin' around. There aren't too many worries in your way when Zed is with you.

Now we've got to get her slowly adjusted to the home she's heading back to. We talk about the beach as much as can...and Grandma, and Baachan, and Grandad, even Debu, and all of the cows in the pasture...there's going to be some adusting, I think, although mostly for grandparents who she'll want to incessantly drag around for walks...loooong walks. She certainly logs the miles less than four or five a day, I'd bet, and although she'll scale that back when she gets back to the beach house, it's hard to keep a good girl down.

It was another good, a lovely day, without fear of sounding lame. It was a lovely day with my wife and daughter and it's rare occasion anyone will hear me use that word, but today it was. It ended with slices of pizza from Giardini Pizzeria, and an awesome tribute to Paul McCartney on PBS, NY it or you're a fool.

Beibered when you least expect it...

Zoey started singing "Baby" by Justin Beiber...She dances and sings the baby, baby, baby part, and whenever the song is over she asks for more.

It's sickening...and insanely cute.

Now I can't get it out of my head.

Home Sweet Home

Block Party
A Brooklyn block party complete with gushing fire hydrant.

It strikes me that, if anything, we are all too typically shells of what we could be...that we wander this world almost entirely unaware of what we could be or become if given a different set of circumstances. It feels as though we've lived here for a long, long time. It's only been a few weeks really. My life back at home, seems awfully distant and almost unfamiliar from this distance. It's not that I'd like to live here. I could, but I don't think it's exactly the place for me, and it's not as though I can no longer imagine doing what it is that I do, but what this move has done is remind me that there are other things, other places. Getting out and going always does that. It's good for the head and heart.

We've been saying it for awhile, but this will be the year that we contemplate some changes. It will be our last ten or so months on the beach...both of my respective bosses will be retiring in the Spring, and then, of course, the opportunity that I have in Newport Beach, CA next summer looms large. There will be a lot of do we...or don't we happening this year and into next, so we're trying to prepare. Slipping off to New York is a good rattles your senses a little.

Are you supposed to know what you want and what you're doing by the time you reach this stage of your life? I know that the most interesting people I've ever known, have not. I believe in starting over, in second chances, and in righting the ship...I do, I see it every day, but I wonder if I can do the same? Can I walk out onto the limb and try something new, something different? I don't know. The people around me have all of the confidence in the world that I can...and sometimes I feel their convictions, but at other times I wonder what's possible when you come from where I come from. Anything theoretically, but realistically, it's a much more rigid set of rules, and in the end, it all takes money. It always does.

I certainly don't have your average ambitions, and I don't go for your average fullfillment...I swear it's like I was born somewhere else, despite the shared history I have with so many people. We're all the same, and yet, my curiosities steal me so far away from the norm. I don't care if my daughte experiences anything like what I experienced as a child. I don't care to coach them or to steer them into this or into that. I only want them to be good people, and to be happy. I don't need to inhabit the familiar feelings of my life for a second time. I do need to smile, and laugh, and know that I've finally found a home. Like Jimmy Buffett said back in 1973. I think I'd have had a nice conversation with 1973 Jimmy.

Gerry and Mihoko have something special, and they feel the magic of the place that they call home. We have not...not ever. The places we feel the most kinship to are the places we typically can't go. We can visit, but we can't stay.

I guess we'll wait and see what happens. We know that we have to be smart, that we have to plan ahead and that risks need be much more than calculated these days, with Zoey in tow, and not a job or opportunity on every corner, but we know that regardless of what happens we've got each other. I could live anywhere with that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Say It Ain't Soho?

June Zo F-Train
Mom and Zedder waiting for the F Train at the Carroll St. Station...nice shoulders Mom.

Soho and all the cobblestone street wandering that you can handle is just five or six subway stops from us. Get on the F-Train, 'cause it's the best train, and shoot across the East River until you smell money... then get off at E. Houston and Broadway and start walking South, but make sure that you've got your wallet with you. Also, you're probably going to feel very ugly and un-stylish, but that's okay 'cause everyone knows that in America you can buy your way into that club.

We wandered aimlessly, well, not entirely aimlessly, we had every intention of getting to the Patagonia store for their big sale...other than that it was a wide open day. We stumbled into a jackpot of credit card wrecking fun. We found a Sabon, and a Muji, and a couple dozen other places that we swore we'd come back to.

Zedder shopping at Mom's favorite store ever...MUJI.

Even if you're the dudest of dudes you could probably get a little jacked about shopping in Soho...first, it's a cool looking neighborhood...second, there about a billion and a half beautiful women wandering around looking like women should when they're too good to be true...and thirdly, there's the most sneakers this side of heaven to root through. I'm not kidding. If you've got feet and they're hankering for something awesome to cushion them from the elements without looking like you bought them at Footlocker, you can find 'em here.

Dad keeps running into these shoes and might need to own them.

We walked and conquered store after store...all while wandering past amazing architecture on cobblestone streets surrounded by sickeningly beautiful people. I think it was sunny out too, I wasn't paying attention.

Soho score at Muji, Patagonia and Sabon.

What's more fun than the stellar scoops Dad got at Patagonia is that we discovered that if you ask Zoey what train we need to take to get home, she says, "the F Train." Yeah she does. She has also become very Daddycentric lately and I've decided that I'm not sharing with anyone.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Watching a little girl grow up...

Zoey drum itterbugs

Zedder has turned into a bit of a celebrity at her Jitterbugs music class. Her teacher, Karen, is sweet and oh-so encouraging. She's really helped Zoey morph into one of the most confident little funsters in the room. She's still cautious, but now we're starting to realize that it's her cautious nature that allows her so much confidence once she's comfortable. It doesn't take Zoey long to size up a room, but size it up she certainly does. She's never been one to dive right into anything blindly, but she doesn't take very long to get a feel for most situations and then turn her smile and charm up to ten.

Zoey playing Jitterbugs

We've watched Zedder become a big girl by moving to this city. Her language has improved, her social sense, her confidence, her awareness and comprehension. She's eager to go and go and go, and wants to walk, for blocks and blocks. She absolutely loves the energy that surrounds her as she takes to the street each day. She loves the park. She loves the subway. She loves the dozens of dogs she walks past and pets each day. She loves the shopping. She loves all of the people on the street who stop to slather attention on her. She's quickly becoming a city girl. More importantly, she's turning into the kind of little person we were hoping she might with so many of these experiences to shape her.

Derek Jeter himself would be proud...

Burgess at Yankees game
Birdie, Kaylen and Jace at Yankee Stadium, sporting the block M.

One of the great pains of my life is knowing that Derek Jeter should have been a Michigan Wolverine...should have been and pretty much was, but then...Rest in peace and all that, but damn you George Steinbrenner!

How cute does the Burgess family look?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When it's raining in Brooklyn...

Rain rain go away

When it's raining in Brooklyn the antique dealer on the corner of 3rd Place and Court Street hurries outside to cover up all of the treasures he has spread out across the sidewalk. The vintage clothing on sale racks that rest right there on the street are hustled inside, and the books that people have left out front of their stoops, for passers by to browse through and take...and why not, they're finished with them...get wet and change from some strangers stumbled upon entertainment to trash already set to the curb. When it's raining in Brooklyn the air cools and the umbrellas come out...the streets are busy, and the patios empty. When it's raining in Brooklyn traffic sounds better, hissing through puddles and slapping through raindrops, cars and cabs leave their precious parking spots and wet people run for the subway. When it rains in Brooklyn the stoops are empty, and Daddy's go walking with daughters, and they drink up the sights and sounds of a better Brooklyn, one where you can walk down the busiest street with the biggest umbrella and get nothing but smiles.

I like it when it rains in Brooklyn. I'm going to it when we finally leave.

The F Train Blues...


Daddy wants an F Train to take home...that's right, his very own F Train. They sell them here, tiny little F Trains, for about a million dollars each. They're toy subway cars for #$%k's sake? I'm sketching up the design and getting Grandad or Pops to help me build a few so that Zedder can always have something to remind her of her little life here in Brooklyn.

It shouldn't be too hard, of course they'll just be wooden blocks all carved up and painted to look like the F Train, or any train for that matter. Naturally, we'll skip all the sketchbags who are inside...naturally.

F Train home

If I can get my hands on some wood I just might carve one while I'm here. I've got my trusty Swiss Army knife, and of course, everyone here in Carroll Gardens sits on their stoops and whittles...bunch of Jed Clampetts around here. No one would stare.

It looks easy, peasy...four doors on each side of each car, three windows, and the front and back of each train are three smaller windows and the F Train logo. How hard can it be? Beside, I could use the Zen fulfillment that such a task would surely inspire. We brought Band Aids, and I already know the intricacies of the US Health Care system now. Daddy might not need Grandad or Pop's help, but don't count it.

The Best Breakfast Sammich Ever...besides the Cooper Pooper

So we all slept in until way past 9 am...all of us. That's what you get when you spend the day in a ghetto hospital and totally bugger up whatever semblance of a schedule your daughter had going...not to mention that no tunnel on the planet earth has ever been more backed up than the Lincoln Tunnel early this morning. We were at least an hour getting out of Jersey and back into Manhattan. An ordeal like that deserves one helluva breakfast sammich. Like June's soon-to-be-famous Brooklyn Dodger.

French toast monster

It's french toast with cinnamon, with peanut butter slather in between and then doused with a liberal splattering of honey. Sounds like something Elvis would have loved, the only thing missing was bananas, but we made that mistake once with Scott Cooper. That bugger cooked up a batch of Cooper Poopers that nearly killed our colons. Ask him to make it for you sometime...he will, gladly, but you'll hate him for the rest of your life after taking you to such lofty heights of breakfast debauchery. The only thing more indulgent might be steak and eggs at the Flamingo at 3 am...but barely.

Look at that's delicious looking, just staring back at you, sticking it's peanut butter tongue out. That's one helluva way to come back to Brooklyn. I woke up singing Welcome Back Kotter and got my day started by mowing down a Brooklyn Dodger and some antibiotics. Sounds like something Howard Hughes would have know, except his infection was syphilis, and mine, you know, isn't.

2nd Best Sentimental Photo of the summer...

Zedder Jace window 2

This is Jace Burgess and Zoey checking out Times Square from above...25 floors up. Zoey was looking for yellow cabs, and Jace was looking down girls tops.

Long story...Little post

So, to make a long story, very, very short. We ended up at a hospital in Newark, NJ last night after a day of deliberating whether or not the awful swelling and discoloration, blood pooling and fever, in my lower right leg was as dangerous as we thought. After deciding that I'd had enough orthopedic nightmares in my past, and that the threat of deep vein thrombosis was significant enough, and the signs were all indicative enough to merit doing something decisive. A call to our insurance provider made the decision that much more easy to make when they told us that a US hospital claim could potentially not be covered considering my orthopedic history and the fact that they might consider the problem as stemming from a previously existing condition. it's go to a hospital here in NYC and risk a daunting medical bill, or make a seven hour run for the border. We packed up quickly and started driving toward Niagara Falls.

A returned phone call from our friend Jeff, who's down here in Brooklyn working hard to finish up his med school work, confirmed that we'd better just haul our arses into a hospital and not fumble around with a run home. So as June emphasized Jeff's concern to me, I wheeled the car off the highway, chasing a blue H hospital sign that I saw. Sure it was downtown Newark...sure, Newark is like the damn crime capitol of North America...but there like a shining beacon was Saint Michael's Medical Center. Done, easy decision. We'll deal with the bills when they start to come. No need to mess with a potential blood clot and die on the side of the road in pile of ignorance and haste.

Six hours later, and a few bags of antibiotics, several physicians examinations and an x-ray to rule a few things out...and I was diagnosed with an infection of the lower leg, prescribed some heavy antibiotics, and released with the admonition to, "be careful, rest for a few days to let the antibiotics work... and get to a doctor if it doesn't clear up," at which point we turned around, drove back to Brooklyn and moved back into our apartment. I felt better. The swelling in my leg had gone down, and the color had returned to normal. It was, in fact, looking better than it had in forever. Now, with all that nonsense behind us, we just have to grab a prescription or two today and chill out for a little bit.

No need to worry our families with a vague telephone call, so we didn' has confirmed billing from the hospital and is more than cool with it, after a night's rest and all those IV antibiotics the leg looks a lot better...a lot...and I'm not worried about croaking from a stupid blood clot and leaving the better part of my life unlived.

Done...end of story. There will be a press conference at noon today.

Friday with the Burgess Schmamily

I have always claimed that I didn't like surprises...and then we discover that Jason and Kaylen and their family, our good friends from back home, are here in New York and I trip over my own grin. We used Friday to meet up with Jason, Kaylen and their son Jace, in Manhattan...and to re-connect. It had been at least a year since we'd spent any time around one another -- new babies, busy schedules, jobs, distance -- and even though it rained, and even though we did nothing more than shop and walk, it was one of my most favorite days that this city has ever given us (a fairly distant third place finish behind my wedding day, and watching Michigan beat Duke at Madison Square Garden.) Who knew that walking around with old friends could be so much fun? What's the old joke, all you need are beers and a football? Apparently you don't need either. You just need to take the F Train into Manhattan while a cute funster in tow, and meet up with another cute funster at FAO Schwarz.

Zedder F train 1

The sky was waiting to dump rain, just kinda looming, and so our plans of FAO Schwarz and then a simple wander up to the Conservatory Water pond in Central Park, on the east side between 72nd and 75th Streets were kinda washed out. Not a big plan, but something simple and nice and quiet in the heat. Nope...we watched Sheryl Crow outside of the store, then wandered in and stayed. It was kinda worth it, watching Zoey and Jace lose their minds was hilarious. Zo had been there before, with our friends Betsy, Julia, and Alex, but she was far too young to remember the experience or even really enjoy any part of it. This time would be more memorable...especially considering Jace starting the day off by porking no less than four giraffes just inside the store's entrance.

Zedder w Jace porking a giraffe
Jace started the day off right by porking Giraffes no less than 20 feet from the entrance of FAO

The kids went nuts, from the minute they entered the store. We tried snapping as many pics as we could, and Jason was filming as much of the nonsense that his camera could keep up to but it was crowded and we were more inclined to not lose our children. They couldn't possibly have cared any less if they lost us. Between Jace and Zoey ripping apart the entire stuffed animals section of the store, including $40 dollar mohair plushed toys, and then Jace trying to hitch a ride on any animal larger than a loaf of bread, we were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt.

Zedder June Jace Kaylen piano

Both Jace and Zoey were a little off their typical games, but then FAO Schwarz isn't your typical toy store. It's three floors of amazing, including the enormous floor piano from the film BIG and dolls that you actually have to take the time to adopt rather than just purchase at a register. It also gives kids plenty of opportunities to settle into anything their tiny little hearts desire... from a Lego wonderland, to Barbie heaven, and even a book section to take a moment to chill in.

Zedder Jace reading at FAO

Zoey even got the opportunity to play Queen for a day...of course Jace joined her. He then, of course, proceeded to put the moves on my daughter, becoming the first legitimate suitor she's ever had. Dirtbag.

Zedder the Queen

Zedder Jace smootching

By the time we were done wandering through several stories of sublime kid-centric crapola, Jason and Kaylen had a stroller full of purchases and we had found Season Three of The Muppet Show, the rain had stopped and it was time to go wandering. The only problem was that it was even more humid than it had been earlier, and it was lunch time in arguably the busiest part of Manhattan and we needed to find a place to sit and eat with two giant strollers and two overwhelmingly jacked up, but tired, toddlers. We eventually scrapped our Central Park plans, grabbed some food across the park at Columbus Circle, and then wandered back to duck in and out of all of the shops on Fifth Avenue, that way we could at least be air conditioned some of the time. It was a tiring couple of hours and by the time we hit The GAP on Fifth, Zoey was asleep and Jace had turned a decent nap into a gongshow of flexibility and maternal embarrassment. It was such a funny moment that we tried to classy it up in Black & White...didn't work.

Jace facedown

I believe Kaylen's words upon discovering Jace in such a predicament, naturally, when left to the supervision of just Daddy's, was, "Oh my God. What is he doing? We're pretty much the worst parents on the planet. Look at pants, his diaper is practically steaming. Jason, what did you do?" At which point Jason looked at me and shrugged, then offered Kaylen the same. Once again, for at least the twentieth time that day I nearly died from laughter. When you spend so much time being busy in your own life and not taking the time to spend it with some of your favorite people on the planet, you can forget what it's like to laugh like that. Jason makes it easy, of course, Jace helps too, and Kaylen kills me on a regular basis.

By the time the day ended it was nearly 6 pm and as we limped on over to the Crowne Plaza in Times Square, where the Burgess' were staying, we were beyond happy to have been aimlessly wandering with our good friends. We took some time to cool off in the hotel room, got to see Tim and Marylou one last time, and even got to introduce Zoey to Layna and Dustin's five month old smash hit, Amelia, at which point Zoey began pointing out all of her features in Japanese...mimi, hana, me (meh), and one else in the room knew what she was doing except us, and June grinned quietly but proudly. What made Dad more proud was watching just how gentle and patient of a child Zoey is as she played in the room with both Jace and Amelia. We've got ourselves a pretty stellar daughter at this stage. She fawned over Amelia in the most reserved and careful way. It had both June and Layna snapping pics like tourists visiting each of our respective families.

Zedder Amelia

When all the fun and sweating from the day was done we loaded up, hopped on the F Train and headed back to Brooklyn. I wish every day in NYC was that much fun...and we really did nothing at that's the definition of an old best friend. Now I can't wait to see Jason and Kaylen when we move back to Canada. There certainly won't be another year between visits. six or seven hours reminded me how much I missed them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Where I come from...

There's always been talk in my family, on my father's side, of the general lack of a family tree past a certain point in our history. My Great Grandfather immigrated to Canada when my Grandfather was just a young boy, and that was about all I knew. That was about all anyone knew for the longest of time, until my Uncle Etienne got busy ignoring my Aunt Sally in great long stretches (with her happy and contented approval) and did a lot of hiding behind computer monitors to fill in some gaps. Without going into a lengthy, and super boring story of who I am and where I came from, most recently I stumbled into something that smoothed over some of the rough spots.

This blog has a stat counter that monitors all of the traffic that it sees. I use it to keep better track of who's spending any amount of time on the site, and you'd be surprised by how detailed and accurate it is. I typically just do spot checks on the traffic, and where that traffic came from, both on the web, and geographically. Occasionally I do a keyword analysis, checking in on what words were searched to land someone on Zoey's Blog. I noticed that the term "Brian DeWagner" was being used quite frequently so I scooted over to see the results. That's when I found my Great Grandfather.

I've done internet searches looking for family members before and never, not once, come up with my Great Grandfather, until recently. What I found was his immigration paperwork as it was registered with the US Department of Immigration and more specifically, Ellis Island. I was fairly astonished. My Great Grandfather, Armand, had come to this new world via Ellis Island, meaning my Great Grandfather had been one of the tired, hungry masses that this city so famously embraced. The paperwork also indicated that his final destination was Detroit, MI. We know now that his last stop would be Canada.

The discovery floored me. I don't know why I thought of my Great Grandfather's journey to this continent as any different from the millions of others who travelled in the bellies of crowded steamships across the Atlantic, but I did. I was pretty overwhelmed to come back here to New York and stare out at Lady Liberty with new eyes. It was that landmark that my Great Grandfather first bore witness to when his ship entered New York Harbor. He too stared up at the grand lady and knew that his life would be forever different.

He left Cherbourg, France aboard the steamer, the Saint Paul and arrived in New York City on October 18th, 1920. When he left France his name was Armand De Waegeneer, and when he arrived in America it was Armand DeWagner. He was 36 years old, with a small family in tow, and $40 in his pocket. The information moved me beyond belief. Something changed inside of me, and I couldn't even tell you what it was. Maybe I knew a little better who I was, and how I'd come to be in this place in my life? Maybe it was just the realization that my family didn't just grow out of the ground, that they struggled and begged for a new life and got it right there below that Manhattan skyline.

Strange, because I've always felt a kinship with this place. There have been others too, but this place for certain. Now I know why, or at least, I think I know why. I once stood on a corner across from the Arc de Triumphe in Paris, France, wearing one of my Grandfathers dog tags that my brother had sent with me on the trip, and knew without a shadow of doubt that I was standing in the exact same spot my Grandfather had stood, staring up at that incredible monument. I knew it, and I felt it in every pore. Even June noticed the sudden change in me as I stepped from le Metro and out into the bright French sun, staring up at something that my Grandfather had surely marveled at himself. The strange thing was that I was convinced that it was from that exact corner, from that exact same place where I stood. I was positive of it.

Today, standing on the pier in Red Hook, and staring out at the Statue of Liberty I felt something I haven't felt since that day In Paris. I felt a hole in my soul open up and allow something out...I don't know what, but something powerful. I felt in an instant, again, in that bright sunshine, that maybe, just maybe, my Great Grandfather was there, as perhaps he could have been. It must be an amazing thing to see his Great Grandson standing there in front of that beautiful lady. It must have been something even more moving to know that his Great Great Granddaughter was there playing in that sunshine, on the edge of that place that gave him his new life all those years ago. It must have meant a lot to know that it was all worth it, that $40 in his pocket and a dream of something better gave way to this...a little girl playing in the sunshine of a beautiful New York afternoon without as much as a clue who was watching...her Father, her Great Grandfather, and her Great Great Grandfather for certain. If there are more moving things I have rarely known them.

People ask me all the time why I live the way that I do...why I wander...why I would move to New York, even if it's just for a summer? How do we do it...what do we do such things? I only know this. I have known some sublime moments of personal enlightenment, made connections with places in this universe that I might never have known existed had I not walked away from my home in search of them. It's a great big world, an even bigger universe, and to know why we're here can only be helped along by actually going out and looking for the reasons. I don't see much of my Father's family, but because of this incessant wandering I've stood now in two spots where I've never felt closer to them.

Armand De Zoey Sakura DeWagner. I think you'd be awfully proud of her.

Bri Zo panoramic

It may not have the same effect as it might standing in the shadow if the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, but read this and try not to choke up.

Gotta move the car...need groceries...FAIRWAY!!

Zoey warehouse

It's Thursday, so street cleaning day on our side of Clinton...gotta move the car for an hour and a, we need groceries and although some of the local markets are good, they're not Fairway. All that and the weather is cooler there at the bottom of Red Hook, the view is awesome, and there was some Artist Co-op show thingy happening that we wanted to see. We never found it despite of the giant sign.

What we did find though was an incredible warehouse that artists are using as studio space (I think the show was on the other side of the warehouse) that overlooks the harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island, and the south end of Manhattan. It was an old Civil War era shipping warehouse that juts out into the harbor behind the Fairway at the very southern end of Van Brunt Street. It's incredible.

Zoey wandered the entire length of the pier, singing and running, introducing herself to the resident artists that were out enjoying the fresh air. She took in the view on a few occasions, and patiently waited for us to stop drinking it in so that we could play with her. She could have moved right in on that pier, and that would have been fine with Mom and Dad, provided we had the loot to do it. I can't imagine what studio space along that stretch of awesome must cost.

Daddy Zo cinqo 2

It took us almost an hour to wander into the Fairway despite being only one-hundred yards behind the place. We left ourselves pretty short on shopping time if we were going to get the car back to Clinton Street and parked while there were still spots available, but we tore through the store, at a relatively casual pace, you know, if it's possible to tear through while simultaneously being leisurely. Even on our second trip the place was awe inspiring...easily the best grocery I've ever been in...ever.

They carry a crazy selection of beer...including this beautiful little number...

Sapporo reserve

They have meat that you didn't even know existed, like black pepper bacon that made you want to rip your clothes off and eat it raw right there on the spot...not really, but you know what I'm gettin' at...

Pepper bacon

Naturally, something that tongue melting doesn't come cheap...That price is for about ten thick cut slices...yeah, it is.

Pepper bacon 2

...and they've got Kobe beef hot dogs? That's right, I said Kobe beef hot dogs...

Kobe Beef Dogs

You didn't believe me, did you? Of course, you won't want to skimp on the bun when you roast these babies up 'cause it'll cost you plenty to eat a Kobe beef hot dog...

Kobe dogs 2

That's right...$10 for four franks...nice. Then, of course, there was the usual goodness, the stuff we took notice of last time we prayed at the alter of cheese, fish and seafood, organics, their very own deli, and serve-yourself prepared lunch bar...and olives...barrels and barrels of olives...just no vodka.

olives fairway

Of course, the whole place reflects the growing trend to eat better, to invest in organic produce and meats, to buy local, and to improve the way that all of us feed ourselves. Oddly, as food-centric as a lot of the people who shop here are, they do a great job of packaging the experience. There's a lot of things that they have in common with the national chain grocery selling you the idea of eating local, but shipping a lot in.

That ain't local

Do you ever get tired of being sold to? Zoey doesn't. She doesn't even know what that means yet. She just likes grocery stores and food, and mostly dry Cheerios...multi-grain.

An unlikely rendezvous...

Best bar ever

Running into an old friend is always awesome, but doing so in NYC almost completely by accident is even better. June and I found out just a few days ago that our good friends Jason and Kaylen were coming to New York for a brief vacation. They were bringing their family with them -- Layna, Dustin, Tim and Marylou -- and they had their little boy, Jace, in tow as well. We quickly arranged to meet up with them on Friday, and Dad scrambled to get over to Manhattan and connect with Jason. There used to be a time when not three or four days would pass without us seeing one another, but as life plays out, that kind of relationship gets harder and harder to maintain, let alone keep. Not a worry for either of us as we're typically just really excited to see one another.

Last night I met Jason and his Father-in-Law, Tim, at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square and we shuffled off down to 44th and 9th to take in some of Rudy's Bar and Grill's debaucherrific (awesome made up word) hospitality. At $2.50 a pint ALL THE TIME, you kinda can't skip Rudy's if you're thirsty and within walking distance of the famous Hells Kitchen landmark.

We had a few pints, laughed a lot, talked excitedly over one another and laughed about even was a great, great night, and an awesome way to re-connect. Tim, Kaylen's father, grew up very close to my grandparents. His father and my grandfather both served in the same infantry unit in WWII, and the stories came flowing as liberally as the Rudy's Blonde Ale. I think everyone had a pretty great time. It was certainly a good enough time that no one wanted it to end. We retired back to Tim's hotel room and enjoyed each other's company (and a few more beers) and kept the conversations going 'til after midnight, at which point I had to haul my bottom back to Brooklyn.

Handshakes...hugs, and the promise that we'd see each other again on Thursday, maybe, but for certain on Friday, kept me grinning all the way home. The F Train never felt so blissful.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Real Life Sopranos...

Marco Polo

See this ristorante? Yeah, a lotta people got off'd because of conversations that began right here. In talking to a local shop owner we were told about the history of this neighborhood, and as one might imagine in Brooklyn, it was Italian, and it was mafia. The local funeral parlors were available for meetings...restaurants were often filled with men only, and closed to the general public despite the open sign in the front clubs littered the borough. There's even a locked Bocce court on the edge of Carroll Park. When it's busy it's full of old timers and long time Al Capone was married just a few short blocks from our apartment, at St. Mary's on Court Street. The name Gambino is a familiar one amongst side street lifers here. This is real life Sopranos stuff.

The word is that there's a reason why this neighborhood is so quiet and safe. A long time ago this was all just South Brooklyn, or even considered the northern edge of Red Hook, and it wasn't the kind of neighborhood that taxi cabs drove into, but it was the kind of neighborhood where a young Italian boy couldn't spit on the sidewalk without his father finding out before he got home. More recently, it's been gentirified, and the young families have moved in, but that hasn't stopped every head in Marco Polo's from turning when you walk in the joint. That hasn't made any of the old men standing out front of Guido's Funeral Home in the half light of evening look any less intimidating.

I'm glad I left the gun at home and packed the cannoli instead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A life with purpose...

I don't care if you're a Sean Penn fan or not, and I don't care if you're political inclinations jive with humanitarian efforts, or if you even can look in the mirror and comprehend your privilege...but this is one of the best interviews I've seen in a long time, and you could just as easily replace the subject of Haiti with a dozen others. Tonight we watched Sean Penn on Charlie Rose and were fairly mesmerized for an hour.

It's a messed up world out there and Sean Penn wants you to know about it, in fact, he's demanding that you take the time to figure it out. Now go out and find yourself some purpose.

Dumbo ain't just a flying elephant...

Manhattan Bridge Dumbo 1

Today we wandered around Dumbo, which used to stand for down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass, but now just stands for, well, Dumbo. The neighborhood used to it's amazing. The views of the looming Manhattan Bridge are both daunting and incredible.

Manhattan Bridge

We mostly just wandered...did a little shopping...seemingly all that we ever do, and followed Dad's customary travel itinerary of meandering through every bookstore in the area. Dad loves it...Zo loves it...Mom tolerates it, maybe snaps a picture or six.

Zoey Dad bookstore

I need to admit openly and with proper reverence, bookstores in New York are some of the best in the world. I find that a lot of New Yorkers think that their city offers something more than what you might find elsewhere, and in some cases it's everything they sell other times it's nothing. Bookstores need a separate scale for comparison, in fact, there might not even be a comparison. The bookstore that Zoey and hunkered down in this afternoon sold everything from new books, to used books...French, Russian, German, Spanish...whatever you needed, there was a decent chance that they could roust it from some shelf somewhere.

Sounds like a good afternoon for Dad and Zed, in any city, let alone this one. I hope that it ends up being one of the more favorite things that we share as Zoey grows up. I could spend an entire week's pay in places like that...and embarrassingly, most of that would be on the little girl.

I haven't found another city yet where you get so lost in books.