Tag Archives: children

Lame Adventure 358: Grumpy Young Man

I work in Tribeca, a picturesque neighborhood in Lower Manhattan lined with ancient cobblestone streets and ornate pre-war buildings radiating character and charm.

Franklin Street

Franklin Street

It is a trendy area housing some of the most expensive real estate on Manhattan Island. This is also a location that’s heavily populated with swells, many of them the name-brand variety.

Authentic cobblestone street.

Authentic cobblestone street.

In mid-afternoon, when I run errands, I encounter pampered youngsters clad in their colorful cold weather togs as they’re being met after school by their trophy wife mothers or their fulltime nannies. Everyone looks fashionably chic until I wend my way through the crowd, upsetting the style balance in my drab uniform, the type of duds that scant wages can afford. Compared to the beautiful mothers in their cutting edge fashions, my modest attire, best suited for office work or captivity, bears a distinct resemblance to offal.

The view out my office window.

The view out my office window.

One area where everyone is equal, at least when outside, is the great outdoors where we all suffer the consequences of the elements. Now that the season is the dead of winter, there have been days when the temperature has been frigid cold. Often, noses and eyes run like faucets.  Even when bundled up, any exposed skin can instantly suffer searing pain.  Therefore, it is best to walk at a quick clip, if only to sooner regain sensation in one’s face.

Bright blue frigid cold sky.

Clear blue frigid cold sky.

On an afternoon when the air was feeling particularly arctic I was walking up Hudson Street toward the pretty Powell building behind a handsome lad that looked to be about six.

Powell Building

Powell Building

He was walking hand-in-hand with his mother, who was in her thirties.  He was wearing a blue parka and bright orange corduroy slacks. Mom was nestled in a floor length shapeless black down coat that looked familiar to me. It brought to mind a sleeping bag with sleeves. She must have missed the winter fashions newsletter. Appropriately, they were walking briskly, but not as brisk as motoring me. Just as I was overtaking them I overheard a snippet of their conversation:

Mom: When we get home I’ll make you a sandwich.


Boy: Shit!  It’s cold!

Although I was thinking the exact same thought myself, overhearing the little man drop the s-bomb was a most unexpected surprise. What really made me feel a bat squeak* of unease was that his mother seemed a-okay with it. I did not hear her admonishing her son in the least.

Had I the nerve to casually bleat that curse in the earshot of my mother when I was six, she surely would have detonated. As a child growing up in the sixties and seventies, an era when you served time rather than take a time out, my mother would have beaten every future utterance of both that word and the substance out of me. A beating that might not have ended until I reached age thirty.

That evening, I dined with my friend, Milton, and recounted what I had heard.

Milton: Are you sure he said “shit”? You know your hearing’s not the greatest.  You could have misheard. Maybe he said another word that sounded like shit?

Me: What word sounds like shit other than shit?

Milton looked perplexed. He suggested:

Milton: Sheeeeeeee ahhhhhhhhhhh taaaaaaa, it’s cold!

Me: That kid didn’t say, “Sheeeeeeee ahhhhhhhhhhh taaaaaaa, it’s cold!” That kid said “shit”. Even my deaf ears know the difference between shit and shinola.

I know shit from Shinola.

Shinola on display in Tribeca.

*Thank you Kate Shrewsday for adding “bat squeak” to my vocabulary.

Lame Adventure 338: Kid Art

Last month, I noticed that one of my neighbors, a fit-looking woman in her early to mid-thirties that resides on the fifth floor in my building, had been walking with a significant limp.  Climbing up and down five flights of stairs appeared to be agony for her.  Curious and concerned, I asked her what had happened, anticipating a story about some terrible accident she suffered.

Upstairs Neighbor:  It’s so embarrassing.  I was sitting down, I got up,  and I somehow stood on it funny.   It’s been hurting me ever since.  I’m going to the doctor.

My initial thought was:

Me (thinking):  She’s about twenty years younger than me, she’s slender and in shape.  If something freak like that can happen to her, what might happen to me if I sit down and get up funny?  Could I break a leg?

I said:

Me:  I hope you get well soon.

She thanked me, we parted ways and I made a mental note:

Me: This is a warning sign that you absolutely, positively, no ifs, ands, or buts must start working out again.

Then, I resumed my sluggish ways.  A few days later, it felt like a sleeping squirrel had woken out of a sound slumber behind my right kneecap and was trying to make a break for it with its sharp teeth.  In other words, it was a strange sensation that hurt.  Since the weather was also pleasant I refused to let my discomfort force me to stay housebound.  I simply had to leave my hovel and take a walk; I had to make an effort to burn off some flab (famous last words).

There I was, dragging my hobbled right leg up West 84th Street toward Columbus Avenue, when I encountered a delightful display of outdoor art produced by children attending P.S. 9.

P.S. 9 entrance.

I was so intrigued with their witty and entertaining sculptures I completely forgot about whatever it was gnawing at me from behind my kneecap.

Atomic Hula

Who knew that just looking at imaginative kid art would be therapeutic?

Room for Art

I hope whatever was lurking behind my kneecap will continue to forget about me.

Pin Art

Yes, clothes pins.

If only looking at art could gift me with fitness, but I suppose I shouldn’t grouse, at least I didn’t need to ride an ambulance home.

Three Musicians

Three Musicians detail straight from the Bed Bath and Beyond kitchen accessories collection.

Meanwhile, check out more of the whimsical kid art that may or may not be packed with magical healing power.

Faces in the Crowd (made from plates)

Sock Monster (or where lost tube socks go).

Refuse to grow up and write a blog.

Lame Adventure 308: Little People Power

I have never been compelled to spawn.  The second Someone I’m Dating declares:

Someone I’m Dating:  I want to have children!

I declare back:

Me:  See ya!

I know that I’m about as maternal as an oil slick, but I instinctively allow children and their parents/nannies/caretakers priority.  Translation: I get the hell out of their way.  It recently occurred to me that I’m not the only one following this unwritten rule.  As I was recently walking down Hudson Street in Tribeca to buy a few bananas at a grocer’s near my place of employ, I noticed a footloose toddler who had just been released from the confines of his stroller take off as if he was running the fifty-yard dash.  His mother, who had been pushing the stroller, watched helplessly as her companion hightailed after the wild hombre.

I had been walking at a healthy clip but the second I caught sight of this potential crisis, I downshifted my pace to tai chi speed.  The other pedestrians around me — a businessman and a chap in his twenties — both did the same.  I crossed the street to lengthen my distance from the sidewalk blockade.  Picking up my pace again I pondered:

Me: Wow, you stand 2 ½ feet tall, you weigh 32 pounds, you have an eight word vocabulary, but your presence practically stops traffic.  That’s power!

A short while later, when I approached the checkout lane at the grocer’s with my two bananas I observed that a mile long line of at least eight shoppers waiting at one register, but no one was standing behind the two nannies with four tots in double-wide strollers filling the aisle at the only other open register.  I assessed the situation and ascertained that between the six of them, all they were purchasing was a single bottle of water.  Again, what power!

The chosen few.

On my way back to the office with my bag of two bananas, I saw a girl about five-years-old speed demoning up the street on a toe scooter.   This child was the second coming of Evel Knievel.  Her mother shouted out at her that the chinstrap on her oversized helmet was loose.  Little Evel Knievel-ette obediantly toe scooted back to her mother who presumably tightened the chinstrap.  This did not impair the flow of my thoughts as I was making a mental note to remember to bring home my eight packages of woven tooth twine that night; something I had failed to do the day before.

Haul of floss.

Suddenly my concentration was shattered when I heard the sound of a fast moving toe scooter that seemed to be heading straight for  my back.  The  little daredevil must have been making up for lost time or she was preparing to practice jumping over me before taking on the Grand Canyon a few years hence.  Immediately  I switched gears and did a steady jog when two words from all the French I failed to learn in the five years of pointless study in my youth came to mind:

Me: Zut alors!

As I hot-footed my pace to a fierce trot, my thoughts reverted to English:

Me:  No way am I going to subject myself to the humiliation of being reduced to road kill by a five-year-old burning plastic at supersonic speed!

I returned to my office winded but alive.  I was also impressed with the wee one’s power.

I’m perfectly fine sitting right here.

Lame Adventure 144: Back in the Snowy Apple

Flying JetBlue out of SFO five days after Christmas was a far less stressful experience, once I finally located hidden underground gate A1A, than my narrow escape from a body cavity search conducted by Francina, the JFK TSA screener who had half the poise and none of the cheer of a concentration camp guard.  At SFO I was subject to a full body screen, albeit not one of my favorite joys in life.  Yet, when I compare that indignation to being pat down by a woman resembling Don Knotts cross-bred with Lassie I welcome being viewed front and back in naked x-ray by a cluster of bleary-eyed strangers.

On my return flight, my seatmates were 8-year-old Wyatt and 6-year-old Adelaide, two California kids who were visiting their Uncle Travis in New York City.  At first, when I saw that I was going to be flying six hours across country with unaccompanied small fry, I thought:

Me:  Ugh, kids.

Very Considerate Woman, who was seated adjacent from me, looked back, smiled and said, “They’re so sweet.”  I considered replying:

Me:  Wanna trade seats?

I reasoned that my young seatmates would be completely preoccupied with the excellent in-flight entertainment system.  Therefore, I’d be able to read my book, Tinkers, essentially undisturbed.  Then, a member of the flight crew announced:

Member of Flight Crew:  Folks, we’re real sorry to have to tell you this, but the in-flight entertainment system is not working on this aircraft.  We’ll give you a $15 voucher for the inconvenience.

Immediately, I revised my thinking:

Me:  Jesus Christ, I’m going to fly six hours across the country with two rugrats denied Nickelodeon!  This is cruel!  This is torture!  This is inhumane!

Adelaide:  Does that mean the TV doesn’t work?

Me:  Yes.

Adelaide:  Will they fix it so we can watch it later?

Me:  I don’t think so.

Wyatt:  Are we not gonna have TV when we fly back?

Me:  Let’s hope that you’ll fly back on an airplane where the TV works.  JetBlue has a lot of airplanes, so hopefully, when you guys fly back, you’ll be on a better one.

Adelaide:  I hope so, too!

Following that exchange, the three of us hit it off quite well.

For a while Wyatt, who is a very artistic, somewhat shy boy, drew in his diary, and he also made a paper airplane with nice lift, but we only flew it amongst ourselves.  Child expert me laid the ground rules:

Me:  Let’s not do anything too stupid that gets us in trouble, but a little stupid’s okay, all right?

We were all in agreement and I was Marshall of Stupidity, a role I was born to play.

Adelaide, who has endless personality, confided that her brother’s nickname is “Quiet Wyatt” and she’s “Applelady Adelaide.”  I resisted the urge to deliver a boring lecture about Wyatt Earp and the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls featuring a character called Miss Adelaide.

Adelaide wove a worm into her wooden apple toy during take-off.  We played with Wyatt’s stuffed blue dog, Spots, and Adelaide’s elephant, Stuffy.  I pointed out that Stuffy and I had comparably sized noses.  I taught Adelaide the word ‘tomato’ off the beverage card.  I got one of the crewmembers to give airplane-loving Wyatt a copy of Popular Mechanics to peruse, but explained to him that the $7 in his pocket was not quite enough to purchase the $54 million helicopter that caught his eye.  They used their useless headphones to play racecar.  Adelaide had the card game War in her backpack, but they converted it to Go Fish and cheated each other ruthlessly, reminding me of when I played cards with my brother, Axel.

I regretted not buying a fresh pack of gum when I picked up a New York Times pre-flight.  I always purchase fresh gum when I fly, but I still had a few pieces of the stale stuff from six months ago, and figured I’d make due since I am not a gum chewer.  I felt selfish sneaking a piece into my mouth as we took off, but when we were descending Very Considerate Woman offered her gum.  I handed it to the kids.  Wyatt took a piece and shouted, “Thank you!”

Adelaide the Alpha took four pieces, prompting me to gasp in a voice worthy of Dave, the Chipmunks handler:

Me (as Dave):  Adelaide!

Adelaide (as Alvin):  They’re for my uncle!

I mouthed “real sorry about that” to Very Considerate Woman.

Very Considerate Woman:  It’s fine.

Upon landing, Adelaide announced triumphantly:

Adelaide:  I was bored the entire time!

I was primarily focused on the kids throughout the flight, but I did notice the guy sitting across the narrow aisle from me praying silently and deeply into the religious medallion around his neck during takeoff and landing, prompting me to think, “Like that’s gonna spare us from doom bub.”  Possibly, Adelaide noticed him, too.  I am by nature fatalistic, except when Adelaide asked me if we could crash.  Then, I dug out a degree of moldy optimism that had gathered cobwebs in my mind over the course of the last 40 years, dusted it off and assured her:

Me:  We’re going to arrive New York safe and sound.

Apparently, Very Considerate Woman glanced back at us so often, it prompted Adelaide to ask me:

Adelaide:  Is that lady your mom?  She keeps looking back at you!

Very Considerate Woman was easily five or ten years my junior.  At that moment, I felt so flattered I would have voted charming little pistol Adelaide for mayor – and I am sure she would have taken the recent epic snowstorm that buried New York City far more seriously than a guy named Bloomberg.

Welcome home.

Lame Adventure 126: Fresh Out of the Oven

Pictured below are seven cakes that my dear friend, Mer, baked when she went on an inexplicable cake-baking binge on a Monday night after work last February.

Cakes before being devoured by colleagues.

Coincidentally, around this same time that Mer was channeling her inner Betty Crocker, she also conceived her daughter, Sophie.  I now know that when a woman’s fertility is at its peak, and her husband is intoxicated on his favorite perfume, Fragrant Cake Aroma, this is a recipe where not only seven cakes can come flying out of the oven, but a healthy baby girl can follow nine months later.

Freshly hatched Sophie.

Even though I am an avowed non-breeder, I am actually rather fond of the children produced by my friends, and of course, Sweet Pea, the heir my sister was considerate enough to spawn.  Yet, last week, my patience was sorely tested when seven-year-old bored-out-of-his-mind Little Lance visited my office.  As his temporary sitter met with my boss, Elsbeth, to talk tile, Little Lance made a bee-line for the scissors on my desk and proceeded to cut up a tissue before attempting to tackle a horse hair dust brush.  With visions of this child slicing off his own thumb, I calmly asked him to put the scissors back 687 times.  Eventually he got the message – after eying a far more enticing silver knife that Elsbeth had lying atop a stool.  That knife could have been sitting on that stool for three seconds or thirty years, but I never noticed it until that moment.  Screaming inside my head I thought:

Me:  Jesus Christ, Elsbeth, why the hell do you have a knife on a stool?

Naturally, that knife brought out the Road Runner in Little Lance as he rocketed over to the shiny weapon of child destruction.  I knew if I attempted to hurdle my Acme brand desk to reach that knife pre-Lance, I’d probably morph into Wile E. Coyote, catch my foot on a corner, only half-dive over the desk, and painfully smash my face into its back wall breaking my nose and glasses.  This would surely elicit peals of laughter from Little Lance who might then grab the knife and stab me like a piñata for more fun.

Before anyone needed to call an ambulance for me, Little Lance’s sitter finished his meeting with Elsbeth and grabbed the knife out of the boy’s hand.  The sitter, who at the moment brought to mind Joan Crawford, announced, “This is exactly why I never want to have kids.”  As they left, Greg, my sidekick, entered.

Greg:  Our office isn’t a very safe environment for kids.

Me:  Thank you for noticing, Dr. Spock.

To younger readers, this is not a reference to a certain pointy-earred Vulcan, but to Dr. Benjamin Spock, the pediatrician that wrote The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. This tome has sold more than 50 million copies since it was published in 1946.

Dr. Spock.

Some may remember Sophie’s entry into the world this past Tuesday as the day that Apple began selling the Beatles catalogue on iTunes, or Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton, or if you’re New York Congressman Charlie Rangel, the day your colleagues deemed you guilty as sin of eleven ethics violations.  Sophie’s big sister, Kennedy, will probably remember it best as a cause for celebrating the debut of her buddy and rival.  The games can really begin in Mer’s house.  Dr. Spock might urge Mer to lock up all sharp objects now.

Kennedy, Sophie and Mom, as Kennedy plots the future.