Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Joke

When the weathermen and women of yonder New York City warn you that snow will fall it is usually best to take minimal precaution. That's because they're usually wrong. No offense intended here but if weather forecasts were batting averages, our local meteorologists would be right there with the Chicago Cubs.

It wasn't so many years ago that we were warned of the 'big one' approaching. The tsunami of winter weather supposedly headed towards Manhattan. Schools were closed a day in advance. Salt was emptied frantically from shakers all over the city, creating small mountains of sodium. Dogs were equipped with booties to protect their little paws from the salt, and we were advised to stock up on food supplies to help us through the longhaul, i.e. the bodega closing for an hour to let the poor Flower Guy take a loo break. We did as told and thus prepared, we waited. And waited. And waited. But the sky remained obstinately clear and as the night grew silent, heavy with the white stuff, no doubt, and even the most obstinate among us sat by the window, expectantly, it became apparent that this mammoth event was going to take place in the wee hours. So reluctantly, we went to bed -- sleds ready, alarm clocks turned off.

Next morning the kids were up at the crack of dawn -- it being a snow day and no school it made perfect sense that they were out of their beds -- and already at the window, where, lo and behold, the view outside offered a bright, sunny day, with blue skies, clear pavements, and nary a flake in sight (unless you count my neighbor, Connie, on her morning jog. She waved.).

So nowadays, one really does have to invoke that old Aesop fable, Cry Wolf. When they tell you it's going to snow, you must laugh loudly, ho ho ho, and say "I'll believe it when I see it." And you mean it, until the one rare occasion (about a week ago) when you emerge unknowingly from your lobby and step directly into a six foot snowdrift. Crap! Who the hell said anything about snow?!

But not this morning buddy. No matter that the kids were up at 5am again, listening to the morning news as they have never have, hearing things that they never have, discovering the meaning of the word 'exaggeration.' As in Mark Twain reading his own obituary, the news reports of a coming blizzard were greatly overstated. And so it was with much anger and resentment that one of my teenagers stormed out of the house at 7am, sans gloves, muttering angrily to himself about time lost on the slopes.

Next time, man. There'll always be a next time. Any day now, we believe.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You cannot make this up

The youngest wasn't feeling so hot when she woke up this morning. I could tell immediately because she wouldn't get out of bed. Medically speaking that's a pretty clear sign as far as she's concerned. She just grunted and went back to sleep. Unlike her mother, who steps out of the wrong side of the bed 365 days a year and requires at least a pot of Zabar's blend to get going, my daughter is a morning person. As a toddler she would greet you first thing with a huge smile plastered on her face. If I had been more of a sunrise kind of gal it would have elevated me, but that's another story. There was no moving her this morning, not even Luna, her new hamster, running on the wheel at supersonic speed, could raise her from the pillow. And that was how it went. She barely got dressed, barely ate breakfast, and seemed mopey. When I asked what was going on she told me she felt under the weather but insisted that she was no "malingerer" and wanted to go to school. I was so taken aback by the vocabulary (and busy looking it up) that I said nothing. I told her to call me if she felt bad at school and I would come and get her. By the time she walked through the gate, she seemed more like her peppy self.

Flash forward an hour later to me walking through the door of my apartment to get some work done and the phone ringing: "Hey Mommy, I really don't feel good. Kind of nauseous and a bit of a sore throat."
So I put my jacket back on and got back on the subway. So happy that the MTA has put in boards that let you know how long it will be till the train arrives means not having to stand and wonder for half an hour. I paced a bit and got back to the school. My daughter was nowhere to be found. The principal was hanging around -- an Octagenarian superstar who has created one of the best learning environments in a middle school that I have ever come across.

"Strange that she didn't talk to me before calling you," said the principal and walked off to find my daughter. A few minutes later they emerged from a classroom. R looked sheepish.
"I feel a little better now," she said. "Can I just finish this class and then we can leave?"
I looked at the principal.
"They're mummifying chickens for Egyptology," she said. "Not my bag."
"Can I? Puhleeze?" my daughter pleaded.
"They're pulling the innards out," the principal explained, and shuddered.
My daughter looked as if someone had promised her a bag of Hallowe'en candy.
"Can I? I feel soooo much better now."
Mummifying will do that.
"If you stay, you stay through the end of the day," I told her. Before I could finish the sentence there was a small cloud of dust (I think the Egyptians used baking soda) and she was gone.
"Apparently, she dreaded the concept of mummifying when she was told they were doing it but she appears to love the practice," said the principal, walking away.

I headed back to spend some more time with the MTA. Got to love the subway -- and got to love a kid who can get into pulling the brains out of a corpse, chicken or not.

You may think you know your kid but really, you don't know anything at all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catering to the Bottom Line

Am I the only one sickened by the fact that Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, and Benicio del Toro are going to be the Three Stooges in a feature? I sense a real lack of outrage here and the notion that we can just nick something classic and remake it so reflective of the times we live in. Can't we value the past and then just leave it the hell alone? I understand that musicians peform covers as an homage to their favorite composers and lyrics, but covering film equates to just stealing it outright and devaluing it in the process. I can't think of a single remake that has actually improved the original and fail to understand how Sean will squeeze another Oscar performance out of the Academy with the inevitable prat falls he has lined up. And I know that I'm whipping a dead horse here, but really, what's next? Meryl Streep as Deborah Kerr in End of the Affair, although I think they already remade that with Jennifer Lopez. Forgive me. Then we definitely need to redo His Girl Friday (George Clooney and Julia Roberts, of course, with a steamier script by Judd Apatow perhaps), and Roman Holiday (Joaquim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon heat up the screen again), Dirty Harry (Ed Norton playing Eastwood), and many, many more. Let's not leave out the talented Ashlee Simpson, Britney Spears, Miley, or any of the other dispensable charmless human widgets put out by the Hollywood machine. And let's not forget that the whole point has little to do with entertainment -- not real entertainment that gives you something of value for the big bucks wrestled out of your wallet. How silly. It's all really about the bottom line, isn't it? And we all know what bottom's produce.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's My Blog and I'll Rant If I Want To....

What do you do with your anger if you live in the city? I'm not entirely sure what you do with it in the suburbs other than drink yourself into a quiet oblivion (then go pick up the kids), or take a little fury out on a fellow soccer mom (or dad if you're feeling really choleric). In the city, there is so much external stuff to fuel the internal combustion that I often reach a point at which mercury would be considered somewhat unsafe. I tried kickboxing and had to be wrenched physically off the bag once the session was over, so I guess I could install one in my apartment and risk bringing the neighbor down via my bedroom ceiling, or I could do what I usually do and throw things. The walls are marked with small indentations that record the missile-style trajectory of everything from books, shoes, wooden coat hangars, and pens. The cat knows enough to disappear, fast, lest he find himself hurled through space. Considering that he has already visited this sorry misfortune on himself at least once (he fell out the window, but no biggie, we're only on the third floor), he is obviously loathe to revisit the experience. Which brings me back to the question at hand. How to channel anger in a healthy and meaningful way? While you're pondering it, I'll just nip out for a 30-mile run, and if you happen to have any ideas while I'm gone, be sure to send'em over. Have rage, will try (almost) anything.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Too Hip to Handle?

We forayed into the depths of Brooklyn this weekend, to Williamsburg, where you don't need a passport as much as a woolly cap, a goatee (men too!!), a baby in a sling, chic clothes that appear to be thrift but are really costly designer, and a certain slouch that denotes indifference to anything that is not informally modish. A British accent really helps, which gave me a slight advantage, and while it was initially a relief to be among creative sounding and looking individuals, after a few hours it began to wear off and take on a homogeneous quality all of it's own. We browsed a few of the thrift stores, picked up some vinyl, and hung out in a suitably mellow cafe with an adjoining, indoor playspace, so that the members of our party who could barely walk (and I don't mean those with nasty hangovers) could toddle, bite, push and fall on soft foam, in relative freedom, while we adults sat nearby, sipping chai lattes and discussing sustainable and social networking issues. We even managed to duck into a quick open house -- a 1700 square foot loft -- where we were attacked by a broker who was so incredibly aggressive that we almost succumbed and bought the place on the spot just to get him off our backs. It didn't take that long to get back to Manhattan, making us realize that 'coollness' was just a subway ride away -- and a short one at that. But once we were back uptown, in the relative suburbia of our northern locale, we couldn't help feeling that hip really works best when it stands out and that relocating to a place where everyone looks, sounds, and feels just like you do becomes an emotional prison of it's own. Each to his own, of course, and while it's definitely comes closest to the Portabello Road that we miss dearly, we fear that, generationally-speaking, we have missed the boat. Then again, my fifteen-year old, who I consider pretty chill, pronounced it a little too cool for it's own good, and that he prefers Brooklyn Heights. With you on that one, son.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kung Fu Parenting

Unlike a car, or almost any gizmo on the planet, babies don't come with a manual. They just wrap 'em in a towel and send you on your way with a few bottles of formula, some disposable diapers, and lots of paperwork that eradicates any liability on their part. Anyone can have one, really, and they do. But the best part is that, once you get home, they're all yours to screw up as you see fit.

Thankfully, most of us have only the best of intentions -- too good really -- and indulge 'em with love. So much love, in my case actually, that it is only now, fifteen and a half years later that I take pause and think, wait a minute, what's with these grumbling, moaning, dogmatic, ungracious, unmotivated semi-adults living in my house, rent free?

Being members of the great child-centered parenting generation that we are, and anxious not to repeat any of the dysfunction that marked our own childhood, we have showered our little darlings with love and adoration. And as they scream back across the dinner table, whine endlessly, and roll their eyes when you dare suggest that they make a contribution to the household, such as making their beds, perhaps, or sitting straight, with their legs under the dining table, not half lying across the chair, you can't help thinking of the phrase 'spoiled rotten.'

Like tomatoes that are way past their due date, I often wonder if my three offspring aren't a little ripe at times? I discovered that I wasn't the only one, which led to a conversation with someone in the know about these things, someone who has my mental health interest at heart. Like a good parent really, except I pay him. And this sage and perceptive person revealed that he too has experienced the ungracious teen who will do everything in their power to make your life a misery, and that the root cause of it is, wait for it, too much loving. I kid you not. I call it Kung Fu parenting because of the image of myself leaping up into the air, a la Bruce Lee, parrying a grumble from all sides, with a deft kick here, an arm thrust out there. I never stop. I am exhausted and burned to a crisp.

Some of us love our kids to the point where they can do little for themselves. Don't really want to use the 'enabling' word but it snuck out and there you have it. In our effort to protect our chillun' from the big, bad, world, as such, we inadvertently disable their self-reliance, and independence, and motivation, leaving them with only one way for them to separate and show us that they are different. They stop doing what we want them to, and they sneer, to boot. Which makes (some of) us pull out our hair, rent our shirts, and wail in the bathroom as we puff at that forbidden cigarette, and in doing so, realize that we have become the cliche that we so dreaded -- the deeply disappointed, guilt-tripping, lecturing parent.

Which shows you that what goes around, comes around, however you choose to do it. Dysfunction is dysfunction. Teens are teens. And parents will always be parents. Poor, ignorant suckers, groping in the dark for a helping hand.

And the answer? Simple as it sounds, it makes sense. Love them but leave them be. Their failures are their failures, not yours. Stop catching them when they fall. Show them that you have a life, and get on with it. Stop making their actions the center of your existence, and when they realize that the emotional leverage has gone and that their behavior no longer affects you (visibly), who knows, it might change. It's a long, slow, work in progress. Watch this space.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Thoughts because it's Tuesday

Just watched Crimes & Misdemeanors for the umpteenth time and once again, I made discoveries among the interwoven tales of unhappiness, unrequited love, arrogance, sexual dysfunction, and envy in a questionably moral world. How apt during this time of get-rich-quick scams, mediocre talent, opportunism, war, and corruption, to list just a couple of the issues we appear to be facing right now. I can't help feeling like a bit player in a similar morality tale, watching the forces of good and evil duke it out on every continent of the planet. It seems like there's no safe haven any more -- as the world melts slowly before our eyes and men find even more obscure reasons to kill each other beyond the usual territorial or religious rights. Not to be left out of the fray, the IRA are back in the mix, adding their bullets to the global body count. What's a few more corpses when the numbers are so high, anyway? But it can't all be Sodom and Gomorrah. Like Judah, the rabbi in Allen's flick, I can't help believing that good can prevail and that we are long overdue for a major correction in the world. It isn't just Obamania but he's certainly a manifestation. It's a long-repressed ache for good -- good films, good literature, good communication, good people -- a genuine society that upholds bigger values than winning American Idol, getting your mug on Page Six, or achieving notoriety because it's better than not having been noticed at all.

As I ran this morning, on my son's thirteenth birthday, which is somewhat hard to take in, the notion of time became palpable as it often does when I am forced to remember how old I am. I thought of all the women, at that very moment, delivering infants who will see the year 2100 and I can't help wondering what we have in store for them?