Monday, September 30, 2013

The Mets Truly Are a Poor Man's Team

It's become a tradition: Every September — after the Mets have long been eliminated from playoff contention — Elliot and I head over to Citi Field to take in a game.

My loyalties still lie with the San Francisco Giants, but I have to admit that I'm warming to the Mets. The stadium is an easy subway ride from Roosevelt Island, the park isn't usually too crowded, and the tickets are cheap (I paid about $14 apiece this time on

It's hard to say Elliot is a budding Mets fan — I spent part of Saturday's game explaining what the word "fan" meant — but he is fiercely loyal to the Home Run Apple: the giant red orb that rises from center field whenever the Mets hit a home run. (There's also a replica of it out front.)

The entire game he asked when the Home Run Apple would appear. I explained that you never know when the apple might come, and that's what makes things interesting. Elliot repeated this to himself, and nodded wistfully.

Sadly, the Home Run Apple stayed firmly ensconced in its outfield warren on this day. The Mets scored no home runs and lost 4-2.

I've spent most of my life in cities with relatively cheap baseball. It wasn't hard to score an inexpensive Giants ticket when they played at Candlestick, and you could always go watch the A's as a fallback. In New York, seeing the Mets is far more affordable than going to a Yankees game.

Yesterday I was hearing about the experience of going to a Red Sox game, where a family of four can easily shell out $600 for a game ($100 each for tickets, then another $200 on food and parking). And of course, there's no unpopular team to fall back on if you live in Beantown. How terrible.

In that respect, the Mets are a real asset — especially for someone like me, who just wants to take his son to a game and doesn't care who's playing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A 5-Year-Old's Photo Essay of Jackson Heights, Queens

Elliot and I went to the Mets game on Saturday. On the way home, he desperately had to pee, so we got off the 7 train and made an planned stop in Queens in search of a bathroom.

We never found one — Elliot ended up going between two cars — but he soon became intrigued by the neighborhood.

"Daddy, this place is very interesting to me," he said.

And I had to admit, the neighborhood was interesting to me too. This is a portion of Jackson Heights called Little India, which looks nothing like the parts of Manhattan and Roosevelt Island we usually frequent.

Elliot asked for my camera. And even though we know how that ended the last time, I let him take it.

He began walking around the neighborhood snapping pictures.

I'm included the results of his photo expedition here. It's interesting because there was very little guidance from me (I spent most of the time shouting, "Put away the camera, Elliot! Let's go!"), so it gives you a direct window into this neighborhood through the eyes of a 5-year-old.

Before taking the photo above, he said, "Look, Daddy, their front yard is made of rocks. I've never seen that before." (Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)

He was intrigued by the graffiti. It's kind of astounding that you can raise a kid in New York City in 2013 and have him regard graffiti as a novelty.

We reached a table piled high with DVDs and CDs. This was definitely noteworthy in Elliot's mind, so he took pictures of several of them.

He took the photo below because the blue lights made him think of a smile.

Finally, I dragged him away and we got back on the 7 train. (The photo below is the only one of the set taken by me.)

For a 5-year-old, he seems to have a good eye — even if taking pictures of DVDs is unlikely to win him a gallery showing.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Message of 'Star Wars': Watch Out for White People

One of the most delightful outcomes of our 5-year-old watching "Star Wars": He has begun referring to stormtroopers as "white people."

I suppose it's not that crazy: The characters in "Star Wars" rarely refer to stormtroopers by name, and their armor is almost entirely white. What else are you going to call them?

The upshot: Elliot has started saying things like, "White people are dangerous!" and "I hope we don't see any white people there."

It's somewhat awkward, but I'm really tempted not to correct him on this.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I Think We Have a Nascent Screenwriter Here

As I mentioned over the weekend, Elliot had never seen any of the "Star Wars" movies before his fifth birthday this month and knew nothing of the mythology.

After watching the Death Star get destroyed, he wondered aloud why a hole had been left in its defenses.

Fair enough, that thought has occurred to many of the movie's viewers.

But then he suggested someone write a new "Star Wars" story in which the Death Star is rebuilt without that weakness.

But, he said, it should have some other vulnerability — because the good guys should still be able to destroy it. 

Eerie. He so accurately described "Return of the Jedi," I feel like I witnessed a studio pitch meeting in the late '70s.

Monday, September 23, 2013

'Star Wars' Is a Movie About the Delivery of Secret Plans

After months of anticipation, our 5-year-old finally got to watch "Star Wars" on his birthday.

Despite he and his schoolmates developing a borderline obsession with the "Star Wars" franchise, Elliot had never seen any of the movies and was almost entirely unfamiliar with the plot or the characters (he memorized the name Darth Vader, but that was about it).

So it was interesting to see the film through his eyes.

One thing immediately became clear: "Star Wars" is a movie about the delivery of secret plans.

Elliot latched on to the part about R2-D2 downloading Princess Leia's covert message for Obi-Wan Kenobi and assumed this was the main thrust of the film.

Those secret plans are then sent to Tatooine, captured by the Jawas and threatened by the Sand People.

The secret plans are ultimately received by Obi-Wan Kenobi, suffer through a white-knuckle ride at the Mos Eisley cantina, loaded onto the Millennium Falcon, sucked into the Death Star and transported to the planet Yavin.

Finally, the secret plans are used to destroy the Death Star.

Hooray for secret plans!

Due to Elliot's 8 p.m. bedtime, we had to watch the movie in three installments of about 40 minutes each.

Each night he asked me, "Will the secret plans be OK? The bad guys don't get them, right?"

I assured him that the secret plans survive. (I wasn't sure how to tell him that the secret plans were just the MacGuffin of the movie.)

All this makes me wonder how Elliot would experience the much-derided "Star Wars" prequels.

"The Phantom Menace" concerns itself with the taxation of trade routes and legislative machinations within the Galactic Senate.

I've been hesitant to show Elliot this film — because, well, it's terrible. But if he's determined to fixate on tangential minutia, maybe this movie is right up his alley!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seeing 'Star Wars' Is Harder Than You'd Think

Our eldest child turned 5 this month, and that meant he finally got to watch "Star Wars" — something he's been eagerly anticipating for months (as you'll recall from the video below).

Despite all the buildup, we only realized a couple days before his birthday that we didn't actually have "Star Wars."

Our DVD of "Episode IV" is sitting in storage in Berkeley, and it's surprisingly hard to obtain a copy on short notice.

It's not on iTunes or's streaming site, and there were no copies at the library. Our local video store (yes, one still exists) said someone had checked out their DVD and never returned it.

I had to beg my co-workers to bring in a copy on the day Elliot turned 5. (We had promised him he could stay up late that night and see it.)

Fortunately, it all worked out in the end.

Still, it's odd that one of the seminal movies of the 20th century is almost impossible to see without planning well ahead (or pirating it).

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cheap Thrills

Who needs an iPad? You can get hours of amusement with just a balloon, some string and a straw.

Well, maybe not hours of amusement, but surely several minutes.

Friday, September 20, 2013

More Stop-Sign Fun

A BuzzFeed community member did a rundown of "revised stop signs," and included a photo of mine from Berkeley (which I still believe leads the country in this sort of thing).

The list has many of the mainstays in the stop-sign game — such as "Stop War," "Stop Hammertime" and "Don't Stop Believing" — but there are some fresh ones too.

I hadn't seen this before (though it loses points for not using the subjunctive "were")...

...or this one.

This one qualifies as lower-impact graffiti — even if it sends a potentially dangerous message to drivers.

Click here for BuboBlog's complete coverage of the topic.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Staring Wistfully at the Holland Tunnel

The New Yorker's latest cover is an ode to city-fleeing parents.

I like how the artwork efficiently conveys the situation: You see that the couple is expecting their second child. The mom gapes at real estate prices while the dad thinks of an easier life on the other side of the Hudson River.

Still, what kind of bozo puts on a suit and then wears his baby FACE IN?

Never point the vomit nozzle toward you if you're wearing work clothes, dude. No wonder this couple can't hack New York living.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The San Gennaro Festival: Where Even Superman Is Italian

This weekend we went to the Feast of San Gennaro, an 11-day festival that draws thousands of people to the narrow streets of Little Italy.

Photo courtesy of City Guide.

I have to admit, I'd never heard of the Feast of San Gennaro before  perhaps because it wasn't featured in an episode of Seinfeld. (I'm pretty clueless.) But according to the City Guide website, it's the "longest-running, biggest and most revered religious outdoor festival."

I didn't see anything religious while we were there — mostly just chockablock humanity squeezing past vendors hawking cannolis, frozen drinks and Italian sausage. But apparently a group of Italian priests walk through the grounds on the first day of the festival and bless all the restaurants and booths. (Even the one selling deep-fried Oreos??) This is probably the closest that Christian folk can get to kosher certification.

I enjoyed the food, but what most amused me were the attempts to make the festival seem like a typical suburban fair (ignoring the fact that it's crammed into the alleyways of one of New York's denser neighborhoods).

This train (below) was particularly delightful.

Elliot won an inflatable hand at a high-striker game — something we all soon regretted.

As we made our way through the crowds on Mulberry Street, I realized in horror that the thing was whapping people in the face. Talking to the hand has never been so violent!

I made Elliot stop, of course. But in fairness, his behavior only seemed slightly worse than the guy who pushed a side-by-side double stroller through the multitudes. (These things should probably be banned from New York.)

The highlight of the entire festival — for our 5-year-old, at least — was the Superman bouncy house.

Look closely: Does it seem like they made Superman extra Italian?

He kind of resembles Marlon Brando. (But maybe that's fitting, since he did play Superman's father.)

If we all get to be a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, I guess we can all be a little Italian on the Feast of San Gennaro — even Kryptonians.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

FAO Schwarz: The Classic New York Toy Store for People Who Don't Live in a New York Apartment

When I bought the stuffed animal mentioned in my last post, I got it at FAO Schwarz.

Now, normally I buy the kids' toys exclusively at Duane Reade (when they're lucky enough to get anything at all). But our 2-year-old did lose a tooth well before its due date, and it seemed fitting to buy her something special. Plus FAO Schwarz is only a few blocks from my office.

I'm not sure I've ever set foot in FAO Schwarz before, but wow — everything is gigantic here.

Half the stuffed animals couldn't fit inside a typical Manhattan bedroom. This $300 Patrick the Pup, below, is 5 feet long. (I did manage to find Alice a more modestly sized stuffed animal for under $25.)

I'm not sure where I'm supposed to put this puppet-show theater.

Then, of course, there's this — the store's signature toy from the movie "Big."

Sure, that will fit nicely in our drywall-partitioned living room.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Tooth Fairy Summoned Too Soon

Our 2-year-old took a bit of a spill this week and lost her tooth.

Well, more like she lost her tooth, then got it back, then lost it again.

Alice fell off a wall and did a face-plant into the sidewalk. In addition to scrapes and bruises, one of her front incisors popped out and she was rushed to the doctor and then the dentist.

The dentist reinserted the tooth into the socket, saying it could reroot itself to her mouth.

Question: Is this legit? Because I'm pretty sure Alice is not a lizard.

Not a dental instrument.
He also asked for some milk to swirl the incisor around in, since apparently the calcium helps prepare the tooth. My wife only had chocolate milk, which wouldn't seem like the ideal solution, but he said it was better than nothing. Second question: Shouldn't a dentist have something more medical-seeming than a chocolate-milk box?

Unfortunately, the tooth didn't take. After an agonizing two days for Alice, she was taken back to the dentist and he removed it for good. (If there's any silver lining here, it at least was the same tooth that was already chipped.)

This means poor Alice will be missing one of her front teeth for at least four years  and maybe longer (though central incisors are usually the first adult teeth to come in). She's always been a tough girl, and now she has a tough girl's smile.

It also led to our first experience acting as the Tooth Fairy.

As with our young family's Christmas traditions, we had to decide how to handle this procedure. Kelly decided to gather the kids around and write a note to the Tooth Fairy that we would leave by Alice's bed.

The note gave instructions to take good care of the tooth, but Elliot soon hijacked the message and it devolved into a warning to the Tooth Fairy to avoid Green Goblin.

We also had to settle on how to compensate Alice for the tooth.

I'm not really sure what the going rate is these days, and Alice seems a little young to be handling cash, so we got her a stuffed animal.

It cost $22, so clearly I've set a dangerous precedent as Tooth Fairy.

Three kids, approximately 20 baby teeth each. This could get expensive.