Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm the New "Daddy Blogger" for CafeMom's The Stir!

And I couldn't be happier as I'm both a daddy and a blogger.

Please take a moment to read my first piece on why decided to pass on getting our son genetically tested in the womb.

Then, after you've recovered from that awesomeness, take a moment and read why we have decided to circumcise our son!

This is a great new beginning for me, and I hope to do them proud!

Mean Spirited Internet Commentators Unite!

So, my WhatToExpect.com entry about my wife eating her placenta (in capsule form) has stirred up a predictable hornets nest. If you go back a little ways with me, us, or this blog give those comments a look.

And if you like us, feel free to write down your own thoughts on this new tempest in a teapot.

That's all for now!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why I'm Excited My Wife Is Eating Her Placenta

Hi Everyone,
I wrote a blog post for Whattoexpect.com, titled "Why I'm Excited My Wife Is Eating Her Placenta." I hope you take a moment to give it a read!

Friday, August 16, 2013

What I Don't Miss About New York City

Continuing on my series of ruminations, I am going to follow my piece on what I miss about NYC with this post about where I think the city's gone very wrong.

I don't need 10 points for this.

1. NYC Has Become WAY Too Expensive: This plays out in a million ways. The $20 hamburger. The $10 Cronut, whatever that is. The $80,000 parking space.

As the city became safer in the mid to late 1990s all the moneyed fradycats finally felt it was okay to move in. The energy of the city, since then, has changed enormously, and in so many ways, for the worse.

Whereas before it was a haven for artists and creative types, those folks have been pushed and driven from where they used to reside. I can't think of another city that has seen so many of its legendary marquees closed in such a short period of time: CBGB, Mars Bar, various iterations of the Knitting Factory, Tonic. The creative, wild heart of the city has been shuttered because the rent was too damn high.

The Village has become a place poisoned by enormous buildings that don't fit with the neighborhood, and act as a sort of cultural pesticide wherever they are dropped.

In short I've seen an unhealthy number of things that were quaint, charming, quirky, idiosyncratic, and authentically cool replaced with the designer boutique version of itself. The difference is history, and culture. NYC has done am amazing job catering to the obscenely rich as it continues to ignore the very poor. The only cost has been, in many cases, it's soul.

I know, I'm living in the past, all that. Sure, I guess I am. But The City was always a welcoming haven for the strange, the misfit, the useful creative outcast. Now I feel that is no longer the case. Simply because no one can really afford to struggle there anymore. It's get rich or go home.

Do I love New York? Of course I do. I miss it every day. But I don't love the way decades of its cultural ecosystem have been clear-cut to cater to the pampered, hipster crowd. The crowd that consumes far more than it creates.

The rise of foodie culture epitomizes so much of this for me. Whereas before the hallmarks of the city where that it was a place to go out, maybe see some kind of unique, amazing show, or, better still, be in one, now so much magazine ink is spilled over the world of extremely expensive locovore culture. Food is essential to life, I fully understand, and appreciate this. But what a thoroughly safe way to spend your cultural calories. And it's all done for you. All you have to do is eat.

Is there a place for great foodie culture? Of course there is. In fact it's essential to any city that hopes to be world class. But I feel it's grown exponentially while cheaper, more vital forms of expression and culture have been slowly drained from the city.

I don't have an answer to all this. But I long for the city I knew, where half the kick was finding a good, cheap place to do whatever: get a meal, yes, see a show, get a drink. I just am not as thrilled by the high-end retail experience as so many now seem to be.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Top 10 Things I Miss About NYC

Continuing from last night’s, here is the partner post of things I miss about NYC, the Big Apple, The City. (If you grew up near NYC at all it was simply The City.)

1.       My friends and family. (Since I first wrote this post my dear Aunt Marilyn has passed away. So obviously this resonates with me more than it did before. I didn't rewrite the whole entry, because I don't think that would be a fair way to commemorate her. But know she is on my mind now.) Okay, an obvious one, but still very real to me. You can move the boy from NYC, but you can’t move the boy’s family and friends. I miss my mother very much, siblings, cousins and my father. I miss being in a place where they, and I, all grew up. NYC is very much home to me, it’s been a part of my life since before I can remember. I miss seeing my nieces very much, and I think they might miss me too. My friends are a given. I was so lucky as to have such great friends in New York. Brilliant, urbane, witty, smarter than I was, a lot of the time at least, but also sympathetic. Peers, my people. We still talk, and I still keep up with their lives, and they mine, but a good friend is worth more than gems and dollars. I miss them very much.

2.       My professional network. Related to #1, but different. This is the wide circle of friends, and friendly acquaintances I’d built up over a decade. People I could hang with, talk shop, we’d let one another know about professional opportunities, some were friends of friends. It was a whole ecosystem of sources, mentors, contacts, people who knew people, people who knew people who knew people. This was kind of a biggie for me. It felt like uprooting an old oak tree, meaning me, and putting him in all new soil, then ordering him to grow. So I did my best to grow.
3.       Chinese Food. Of course Louisville has Chinese food, but it kind of sucks. I love Louisville’s almost insultingly old school Oriental House, mostly because it looks like a set from “The Rockford Files,” and there’s one other good place around here, but I miss my Chinese food. Expensive, cheap, in those weird places that also sold Mexican food, I ate at them all, and at least liked most of them. I really miss Chinatown, and, forgive me rabbi, crab pork soup dumplings. Yes. Chinese Food.
4.       Improv Comedy. There is a team here, and they are wonderful, funny and friendly people. But NYC is so ripe with great, cheap improv it’s astonishing. And that was a big part of my world for about three years, so I still feel at home in that world, even if you can’t quite ever go home again. If you get what I’m saying. Suffice to say I had many of my biggest laughs of all time watching great NYC improv. And I miss it.
5.       Jewish Food. Okay, the deli food here sucks too. I miss the real delis. The first thing Randi, Stella and I did when we visited last winter was hit the Second Avenue Deli. The half sour pickles alone pretty much made me cry, and it only got better from there. The corned beef was to die for, and if I had died right then it would have been with a smile on my face. Then there’s the appetizing, the lox, the sable, the white fish, the matzo ball soup, the everything, that is not too hard to find in my old hometown, but impossible to find here. Deli=Jewish BBQ. (I don’t miss the pizza as much for some reason.)
6.       The Downtown Art Scene. This means art, of course, but also music, culture, that whole Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, cool Brooklyn thing. Seeing John Zorn, and some other weirdos at the Knitting Factory for $7. Catching Sonny Sharock at the same place for not much more. Being in the center of the entire world of cool, and knowing it, and reveling in it. Nothing can touch that vibration.
7.       The beach. When we lived in Brooklyn we went to the beach as much as was feasible. Coney Island, Manhattan Beach, Jones Beach. I loved the beach, it was part of summer for me. We got to go to Kiawah Island, which has a great beach this summer, but we had to go East to do it.
8.       The Publishing Industry. No way to get around it, when you’re a journalist it’s not a bad idea to be near the center of the publishing world. It’s changed a lot, and taken a lot of hits over the past five years, but this is the still the happening place to be if you want to be on staff at a publication of some sort.
9.       Those Magical Nights When the City Becomes Your Lover, Confidant, and Best Friend. I don’t know how to explain it. NYC is a total bitch most of the time, but sometimes, once in a while, there are those times when it just surrenders to you. All the lights turn and stay green as you cruise uptown in your cab. You see Spike Lee and his posse at an East Village record shop. (Happened to me in high school.) You walk down St. Marks Street and pass 80 Saint Marks, that little movie theater, that has since become a live performance space, and they just let you in because the show’s halfway over anyway. When you learn that your favorite hotdog place is also connected to a speakeasy. Those times when the locus of energy is working for you, not against you, and you get it, why you chose to spend your life force and time here. Until it’s happened to you I can’t explain it any more. But once it happens to you, you will understand. It’s a New York thing.
10.   Park Slope, Brooklyn. In my mind’s eye I cannot imagine a more perfect combination of both urbanity and a friendly neighborhood. Of all the places I’ve ever lived Park Slope was my favorite. Walk out the door, and go one block up and you’re in the city, with its shops, boutiques, bars, and street life. Walk two blocks the other way, and you’re along the canal. Hit the subway and boom, Manhattan is 15 minutes away over the bridge. If it didn’t cost so fucking much it would be damn near perfect!
So that’s my list. I’m sure I’ll think of more as the days pass, but this is a pretty good list. Maybe in some ways it’s a love letter to the city that I knew, rather than the city that is. That’s okay. It will do for now.
Next up: Top 10 Things I Think Louisville Needs to Work On (Don’t worry I’ll have a similar list for NYC too.)
*Okay, I have a few more things I miss a lot.
11. Bodegas. I loved having a convenient little store, usually with a friendly cat inside, about every two blocks or so. We don’t have that here, and I miss them a bunch. When I went back last time among the first things I did was walk into a bodega, and order something. It’s a common hang out place, a place for late night munchies, a place with dozens of different kinds of beers, sometimes some pretty decent sandwiches, toilet paper, all in the size of a very big walk in closet. Bodegas rule!

12. The Skyline. Okay, here I’m gonna sound pretty NYC chauvinistic, but whatever. All other cities have buildings, including tall buildings. Only New York truly has a skyline. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top 10 Things I Love About Louisville/Top 10 Things I Miss About NYC

Hard for me to believe, but we've been here now over three years. I came into this town making some waves, talking about how NYC and Louisville stack up. You can read it here, if you like.

I no longer feel so polarized about it all. But I do feel it could be fun to remember the good about what we left, and commemorate the good about what we've found. So here goes!

Top 10 Things I Love About Louisville:
1. There's a great community of families here. As a member of the Jewish community in Louisville my daughter attended the local Jewish pre-school, and we've really gotten to know many of the parents well, both Jewish and non. (Only 25% of the kids in the school are Jewish.) People have been incredibly kind, and because this is such a small town I see the same friendly faces almost every day it feels like. This is a really good thing.
2. Affordability. I just read that a parking spot in our old Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood sold for $80,000. You could buy, for real, two houses here for that dough. Maybe not in the best area, but ... On a more realistic note housing prices here are about where they were in NJ, I'm not joking, 20 years ago. Think about that. Our expensive apartment cost $920 a month.
3. No real traffic. I drive downtown, and get a spot literally anytime, and almost anywhere I want. If I need a garage it costs $5, maybe a little more. Not per hour, per day.
4. Good BBQ. NYC has the best food in the world, with the exception of BBQ. Okay, there are some high-end bullshit, hedge fund douchebag places, but those aren't really the same thing. If your BBQ costs $20 or more per diner, I call bullshit. Here one of the first things I noticed is that there were all these places with massive meat smokers in the parking lot. A whole smoked chicken costs like $11.
5. It's a small town, after all. I was in the newspaper recently, like everybody saw it. My friend was in the paper. Everyone saw it. My other friend writes for the paper, and later I heard him on the NPR station. I got some assignments writing for our local city magazine because, no lie, my wife's friend's friend used to write for it. She talked to me, and I then talked to the editor, and boom, got an assignment. That connected friend? Her husband is Stella's doctor.
6. Kids are kids longer here. They're just not as jaded and worldly as NYC kids. Which is good.
7. We bought a house. This is so beyond the realm of anything fathomable in NYC that it goes beyond saying. And it's a nice house. For 1/6 of what a two bedroom NYC apartment would have cost.
8. I have friends here I can relate to. Okay, I was terrified of moving here because I thought the heartland would mean I'd have a really hard time fining people to relate to, as an East coast ethnic person. But this simply isn't true. I know college professors, IT geniuses, other writers, poets, musicians, lawyers, as many smart people as I could ever want. I just had to know where to look, and it wan't all that hard.
9. Stella is happy here. We got to put her in that great preschool, which we never could have afforded in NYC. Never ever. She has friends who live close by, and family who live not too much farther away. She has her mom and dad here. She's happy.
10. Good culture and arts scene, and it's accessible. Okay, no place will ever have all the arts and culture NYC has. Given. But Louisville packs a pretty strong punch in that realm if you know where to look. There are great local bands, festivals, a cool craft brew culture, Actor's Theater of Louisville, the Humana Festival, galleries, times when they close down the streets to traffic, a great selection of national acts that come by, and tickets are cheap compared to NYC. There's enough for me to do where if I weren't a dad I could be out most nights. But I am a dad, so I guess it's a moot point. But I'm surprised, in a good way.

I'll do the other top 10 tomorrow night.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Last Day of Camp Today

What a great, heartbreaking day, but in a good way. Today I taught music for what is probably the last time at the JCC camps, at least this summer. I will work there next week, but for the most part the summer camp part of summer is over. Now the children get ready for school.

I never thought I would fall in love with the kids as much as I did. Does that sounds weird? I hope not. It's been a great experience. They are all from four to eight years old, and even when they gave me trouble they were still great. All you have to do is get them singing, and you're set.

My middle group (I had three today) was the best. They were all girls, probably about eight years old. And they all loved to sing. They even sang along to my special, acoustic-dude version of "Call Me, Maybe." They also loved singing "Shabbat Shalom (Hey!)", "Yellow Submarine", and a whole host of other songs. We even had a sing-off during "Country Roads" where I had one group of kids sing against another to see who could be louder. The answer? They all were very, very loud. I think some dogs heard their young girl vocals a few miles away.

That became one of my go-tos this summer: the sing-off. I would pick a song, such as "Country Roads" and see if the boys could sing louder than the girls, or vice versa. Or if there were two groups to see if one could sing louder than the other. Or if the kids could sing louder than the counselors. They always loved this last one, as they always won.

During "Yellow Submarine" one of my favorite kids, Victoria, got up, and did swimming motions. I also fielded a request for "David Melach Israel" which was so fun. The request was from one of my kids who was almost certainly not Jewish, in fact most of the kids at the JCC camp aren't Jewish, but they'd all learned how to do those old timey Hebrew schoolie hand gestures that went along with the song. And it just delighted me to no end to see this wonderful East Indian child doing the Jewish Hand-Jive Hoe-Down as fast as humanly possible. And singing the words too! I was worried if the girls would all know how to do the hand gestures, but I shouldn't have. They are girls. Somehow they ALL know how to do this, even if they've only seen it once.

The session ended after 45 minutes. We all gathered around the music stand, and I sang "I'd Like to Visit the Moon" from Sesame Street. And about 5-7 kids were all singing it along with me. It was a great feeling.

I think I did pretty well this summer at this job. I came into it terrified, but left it feeling wonderful. There were so many unexpected surprises.

There was one boy, about eight, who was so much trouble. If I let him he would just cut up the whole time, dancing around pretending he had to pee, that kind of thing. Actually, pretty funny, up to a point. But they never stop on their own, you know. And his friend, a big strawberry blond kid was if possible worse. He would make every song about death and destruction, and all that.

I got fed up, and split them up. Then Trouble Kid #1 pushed me too far, and I exiled him to an empty picnic bench. Some punishment, right? He didn't want to participate anyway. But something odd happened. All the other kids, including Trouble #2, became angels, singing along with all the songs, and having a great time. Then after the session Trouble #1 came up to me, apologized, and gave me a big hug. He's just a little boy, you know?

And that's the thing I never forgot, they're ALL just little boys and girls. No matter what happened, even if they were crazy, I couldn't get really mad at them. They were there to play and have fun, and I did my best to help them have the most fun as possible. They're just kids, sweet, fun, crazy, sometimes loud, sometimes a bit obnoxious, but also kind, gentle, uninhibited, and totally great. They would greet me when they saw me outside of music, want to play my guitar.

I gave Trouble #1 a guitar pick today, and he was so grateful. I will miss him. Because he wasn't really trouble at all. You know?