Sunday, December 29, 2013

Frozen, and drenched

Yicky rainy day here in Westchester, so I went and saw Frozen with Sadie and the kids.  I was told that it was animated, and that I reminded Sadie of the reindeer, so I figured it couldn't be all bad, but my idea of animated was something along the lines of Despicable Me or Toy Story, not one of these things containing pseudo-people.  But, in truth, it was pretty earnest, and there was a lot of singing, and I mean singing from the heart.  It was in fact an animated chick-flick.  And in the middle of it I got a bad attitude, and I thought of running out in the middle of the movie to go to the sporting goods store there in the complex to snatch up some post-holiday bargains.

But I stuck it out.  And although there continued to be singing, it turned out to be not so bad.  Natalie declared it to be one of the best movies ever, and Graham liked it too.  Sadie had already seen it twice, so we knew her opinion. Altogether a reasonable way to spend a blustery winter Sunday.

Meanwhile, poor Mary is stuck out in the rain somewhere in the city.  At least she is with her near-BFFs from grad school, presumably with warm beverages.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Tennis and scallops

Went and played tennis today for the 5th time in recent months, after playing soccer thrice in the fall.  And running 9 miles or so yesterday.  And swimming a lot in the summer.  And a lot of frisbee with Graham.

I think that both quantity and diversity of exercise are -- in the charming language of management consultants -- absolute success metrics for me.  The more I exercise, and the more different ways I do it, the better I feel.  Full stop.

Now, it is true that Kevin and I went out for an absolute, pull out all the stops fish feast frenzy last night at Sammy's Fish Box out on City Island.  We got both a fried platter, which had basically a smattering of everything except belly clams, and a broiled platter, with a couple of everything else. The scallops were particularly kicking in both cases.  Sammy's pretty much blows your mind with quantity, and it was good too.

And it was nice to see that we were minorities there.  The clientele was largely African-American and/or Hispanic. Man, I really don't need to go too far into this, it was all good, America at its best, though if you had plunked a couple of Europeans down there I'm sure it would have occasioned lengthy lectures about the excessive portion sizes served by American restaurants. Bloomberg himself might have tried to pass a law.  Whatever.  I'm going back.

Monday, December 23, 2013


Sitting here in the Bill Blass Reading Room (formerly the Main Reading Room, or somesuch) within the Stephen Schwartzman Building of the New York Public Library.  I know the library has been the beneficiary of largesse in the past (I also saw the name Astor on something, and that is a much older vintage of money, and I'm sure a Carnegie or Rockefeller funded the place from the jump), but this is a lot of naming rights.  Particularly noteworthy in view of the level of aggression we have seen from Schwartzman's firm Blackstone in the rental housing markets of late.  America's rental dollars, paying for the grandeur of this reading room.

It is also rather ironic, given the role the main staircase of the library played in the movie Network, in which the protagonist talk show host Howard what's his name ascends those stairs before being ushered into a large old school conference room (maybe also here in the building), in which Ned Beatty - the personification of corporate America - reads him the riot act:  "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and you must atone!"
It does, in fact, take a lot of money to maintain a place this nice, and it is easier for the private sector to pony it up than a municipal government, particularly in a place like New York where the wealth disparity is so constantly IN YOUR FACE. But still.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A new path

Of all the times I've been running or walking in Larchmont, I would have thought I'd been down every road in the neighborhood between the Post Road and Manor Park at least once, but today, on my way back from a longish run, as I was cooling down while walking, I spied a short lane I hadn't been down.  An old service alley between some of the rather large houses that populate the streets.  And I'm thinking:  it's a short little street, what of note could I possibly see in the 3 or 4 backyards I'm likely to pass. But for the sake of exhaustive inventorying, I sallied forth.

And there it was, as I came past a hedge, back to my left, standing at the edge of his shiny garage with what I'm sure was nice cars in it, was some handsome investment banker-looking guy, dressed in his around the house wear in expensive shirt and jeans, sneaking a cigar.  He was visibly taken aback, wasn't expecting anyone to come by and disturb his stinky reverie, and I nodded hello and then faced my eyes forward, because, hell, let the guy smoke his cigar in piece.

But there was, in any case, a vignette around every corner, as there so often is.

Long day

I have meaty and thoughtful posts to write, but for now I am still processing yesterday's drive up the East Coast so I will just go stream of conscious on it.

The day began well.  Although we left, typically, some 45 minutes later than our nominal start time, we did it without anybody getting particularly mad with anybody else about running behind schedule.  I won't name names.  It is an intricate dance between family members between those running late and those getting mad, normal co/interdependency that makes us a family.  The main thing is getting better about it.

There was a lot of traffic on the 95 corridor.  I'm sure that surprises no one.  As a change of our normal arrangement, I had Mary do the driving through the crucial Fredericksburg, VA to ~Delaware Memorial Bridge segment of the trip so I could concentrate on a new, data-driven navigation methodology.  Which is to say, I more or less stayed glued to Google Maps/Traffic and attempted to do real-time route adjustment in response to traffic conditions as they arose.  And it actually worked pretty well.  We skipped the nasty piece of 295/Balt-Wash pkwy just north of DC, where for some reason it's always backed up, hopped back over to 95, and probably shaved 20-30 minutes off of total drive time.

And then, after taking 895 under the Baltimore harbor, we hopped on 40 and missed a lot of the volume as the 95 ecosystem goes back to a single pipe (after the considerable redundancy of 95 tributaries in the Washimore delta).  Not that that there wasn't traffic there.  Nor, for that matter, was there a Starbucks, as the demographics don't support it, but at least we kept rolling, for the most part.

But it was tiresome.  And then we took 95 north through Philly, which seemed rational, and the traffic kept flowing until, for seemingly no reason, there was a bunch of backup near Yardley, PA, normally a sleepy Bucks County seat of ruling class good taste.  And we, worn the hell out, were like "what's up with this?"  And as we passed the exit for Yardley, we saw:  a massive, industrial-strength installation of Xmas lights.  Not naturally occurring, for sure.  The most uber-Griswoldian thing I ever saw, and at the same time just another gross commercialization of the season ($20/$25 a carload)*.  And here it is:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recent moments

I was just reading Josh Hilberman's (aka Josh Carmen) very funny blog when I realized that, dammit, I was supposed to be writing myself.

I was at somebody else's house yesterday for a kitchen-warming party and found myself blathering on at length about the adventure of our lost cat and the impostor who sought to usurp his place in our household (read here if you missed that episode).  I found myself almost unable to omit details, and I even asked the person I was speaking to if I should speed up.  "I'm enthralled," she said.  She has a dry wit, but she seemed relatively earnest, or in any case just earnest enough.

But I have to wonder why it is I feel drawn so inexorably into what I can only think of as "narrative recursion," a feeling that no story can be really complete without going back a step or two to give the reader some tasty background tidbit.  On the other hand, it is getting late, so I should really just stop before I start theorizing at length.

As an aside, let me just say that we just watched Jane Campion's Top of the Lake on Netflix.  A seven-part mystery for the BBC, it is in many ways a transposition of much of the basic material of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- minus the technophilic genius of the female detective -- into the jaw-dropping beauty of some mountains in New Zealand.  It is good watching, some nasty sexual violence implied but never too graphically onscreen, and lots of cleavage and sex from our refreshingly normal-looking if fit heroine. I displayed the virtues of having a PhD in literature by guessing two key plot twists several episodes in advance.  Not that it's too hard.  Worth watching.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sitting down

Just finished a piece by John McPhee on structure, from the New Yorker exactly 11 months ago, now that I look at the cover.  I found it by Mary's side of the bed, where the magazines often pile up mightily, and it is one of my spousal roles to cut the piles down to size and to sneak them into the recycling.  It is an ongoing battle against one of the elemental forces of nature, much like those McPhee himself liked to chronicle.

Of late Graham has been slowing this process, as he has shown considerable enthusiasm for the cartoons in the New Yorker.  Somewhat hastily, I offered to start explaining them to him.  It would be, I thought, a rather restful process, when compared to the somewhat primal wrestling matches I have described here.  Problem is, the cartoons can be a little complicated, so I end up needing to do a lot of translating to make them comprehensible to the 10-year mind. For example, the magazine has certain set gags it likes, like a person coming into or already into a shrink's office.  Or the man crawling through the burning sand of the desert. Situations that are perfectly easy to understand for those of us who have been imbibing media all our lives, but less clear to those who survive, as Graham does, on a pretty steady diet of the Military Channel, comic books, and Wikipedia articles about tanks. 

Just as often there are cartoons about sex, often with a couple getting into or already in bed and some elaborate sight gag about the man trying to convince his mate to have sex, which is a concept we haven't gotten around to yet with Graham.  So I just describe it as "kissing and snuggling under the covers." He gets that.

So, anyway, the McPhee piece reminded me to write.

Monday, December 09, 2013


I am now in the middle of studying for my 6th exam of the last 10 months, which is the fifth in the CFFP/CFP series, after doing the Series 65 back in February.  This process is a valuable lesson in submission and humility.

All too often -- maybe 15-20 times a day -- I read through some unbelievably boring and granular point and I think "why in the hell would I ever need to know this?"  Each time it is like a little paper cut to the brain, and each time I just have to remember that there is absolutely no profit to resisting.  I have to read it, make a reasonable effort at comprehending it.  Maybe I underline it in the book.  And move forward.  If I need it to pass the course exam, it will probably show up in the review materials.  Ditto for the final final exam. If I need it to help clients later on down the road, that will become apparent too, in due time.

But, I tell ya, the temptation to bitch is hard to fight.

Friday, December 06, 2013

People walking by

One of the fine things about our house is that, despite the fact that it's back in the woods in a confusing subdivision with hilly and winding roads, people are always walking or running past.  It's on a natural circuit for getting around the lake, since there's a crucial cut-thru path just next to our house.  So we get lots of traffic.

Like the really old guy who walks backwards down the hill, always wearing a baseball cap.  Or the guy I call "Sal", for his resemblance to the character Sal from Dog Day Afternoon, who gets waxed by the cops in the end.  This Sal look-alike speaks Russian, I heard him speaking it with what I presume to be his daughter one day when I was out running.  I need to talk to him sometime, but I'm always so durned busy.

Anyway, today it's like 70 degrees out, so I've got my windows open.  A little while back, this woman who lives over the hill apiece -- like me a Chapel Hill native, CHHS circa '98 -- was walking with her 4-year-old daughter, in a tank top.  They were singing "Up on the rooftop Old St Nick" or however that goes.  What's not to like?

Monday, December 02, 2013

El Indio

Our family went to the Florida Keys on spring break in 1981, even though I think my dad was on crutches at the time from having injured his knee at a party.  While we were in Key West, he discovered a little bodega-type place called El Indio, where they served a Cuban-breakfast sandwich on really fresh and crunchy bread. I'm sure it was ham, cheese, and egg.  As I said above, it was 1981, so just having bread with any character to it whatsoever was already a huge check-mark.  We may still have been eating Roman Meal "whole wheat" bread at the time, or we could have followed the Steins' lead and moved up to Pepperidge Farms by then, which was the height of elegance for us back in the day..

In any case, both the bread and the sandwich were very good.  I remember going to get them first thing in the morning and then eating them standing outside next to the car while they were hot and fresh.  Before taking ones to mom and Leslie.  I seem to recall this being a guy thing we did, a "son-father activity," in Graham's terminology.

My dad was a complicated figure in many ways, but he had a good nose for a sandwich, or other snack foods.