Thursday, October 17, 2013

A government of laws, and not of men.

Ever get a parking ticket in New York City?

I have.

Ever fight one?

I did.

This past May I took my family to the Japan Day festival in Central Park, and after twenty minutes of driving in circles I found a spot four or five blocks from the nearest park entrance.

Now what need there is for parking restrictions on a Sunday I can not imagine. Neither, I would bet, can anyone in the monstrous entity that creates these rules but Hey what a money-maker!

The particular block I parked on is, according to the sign, quite busy between 4 and 7 every day of the week. Reality proves quite a different and, to the city, entirely irrelevant matter. It's 4 o'clock, your car is now a $115 nuisance.

I admit I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to stupid rules and useless authority figures - in other words, anyone and anything that tries to tell me what to do. So I decided to tell NYC Finance what I thought about being ticketed at 4:11 because my one son had very recently dropped a massive bomb in his diaper and my other son was going to soil his Umbros if we didn't find a bathroom pronto.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to Survive Your Kid's Summertime Birthday Party (as seen on Yahoo!)

The following is an intro to my debut as a contributing writer on Yahoo! With this I join the exclusive ranks of those who have been selected to have their literary genius brought to the masses. I think I'm number 608,773. Someone please pass the SEO.

8 Ways to Survive (one involving assaulting a watermelon)

If you are as poor a planner as I am, perhaps you have a child who was born in the dog days of summer. If you are as ambitious a parent as I pretend to be, maybe you're determined to weather the heat and humidity and have your kid's birthday party out in the yard. If so, I'd like to extend a few pointers I've picked up along my way that might help you too avoid a big day meltdown...

I don't expect to change the world. But if I can save the sanity of just one parent it will all be worth it. Though I'd rather get a few million hits.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Small-Town, Good Times: Floyd, Virginia

On the Music Trail - Floyd, VA

The great thing about traveling is, you never know what the road might lead to...

Thus begins my latest post over at Full Of Knowledge. For all you denizens of the Mid-Atlantic looking for a place to go to recharge the old batteries and maybe take in something new this summer, here is one suggestion. You may thank me at your leisure.

I Am Full Of Knowledge


That post titleby the way, is meant not to brag about my extensive expertise on innumerable subjects but to merely point out that I am now writing for - this despite my self-appraisal as Full Of Something Else.

While I expect to be digging into the archives here once in a while to unabashedly beef up my content over at FoKn, you can feel confident, keen and caring reader, that I will not simply be cutting and pasting. Aside from the fact that certain Lords of the Web know how to find and punish such sloth, I find looking back that my writing has had a tendency to suck.

Okay that's a little harsh.

My writing has had a tendency to be as intelligible as my Japanese.

There, that's better.

So when I do bring my classic and dusty wit and wisdom to my new audience I will be editing and refining and splitting my long-winded posts into parts so my list of titles will be longer and it will look like I've been even harder at work than usual. I will not, however, be shutting down this blog. On the contrary, I will be cutting and pasting excerpts from there and sticking them here. Got to keep those Web Lords occupied.

FoKn, aside from providing a vast array of subject matter, aspires to publish only the highest-quality writing anyone will produce for no guaranteed compensation. Which means until they take a good look, I will be contributing in my own linguistically acrobatic way.

So please do head on over to Full Of Knowledge - and feel free to click those wonderful ads.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our High-Dollar, Low-Brow Economy

I recently saw an ad on a New York City subway car for a novel by someone named Sandra Brown. The title itself was not the least bit memorable to me, which did not help Ms. Brown’s cause, at least in my case. But what did catch my eye, and what really made me not want to read the book, was the one-line pitch that, I can only assume, was pored over and debated and twisted and reworked by a highly-paid, grammatically-challenged pack of baboons entrusted with goading me into buying this book. Or maybe it was some influential person’s idiot nephew who decided on the following spine-tingler:

‘She’s on the hunt for a killer…unless he finds her first.’

Wow. With zingers like that who needs barbiturates?

I understand that advertisements are supposed to elicit an emotional response. And, truth be told, this trite bit succeeded in evoking a visceral response in me too – namely, ‘That’s all it takes to be a highly-paid baboon? Where do I apply?’

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Splish Splash Safety

Bobby Hazen, sublime swimming safety hero.
I'm sitting inside an air-conditioned Dunkin Donuts on this beautiful Sunday afternoon for a good reason. That is, they just introduced a new doughnut - lemon-filled, sugar-coated and so very paunch-inducing. To offset this senseless indulgence, in a few minutes I will bike home, rig up a cart using my neighbor's four-wheeled thing, an old baby gate and a jumprope and pull my two boys down the street and around the corner to their friend's aunt's house for a swim. it is the leading cause for children between 1 and 4.

And this is really what brought me here. Summer has begun, and for many of us that means swimming! For some, this also means tragedy. According to the CDC,

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years.

And the leading cause for children between 1 and 4. I've already been out in the backyard a couple of times this season with my kids, watching as they play in four inches of water in their inflatable whale pool. My one-year-old daughter plays on a carpet or in the grass nearby, and as usual, she eventually wants to get involved in what her big brothers are doing.

It is extremely easy to become complacent, to let our attention wander on such a beautiful day when our kids are having fun and, for once, not fighting. But in these moments little girls and boys can crawl or wobble over to four inches of water and topple in. If mom or dad has run into the house 'just for a second' the consequences could be horrific.

There are people committed to helping keep our children safe in the water. One of them is Bobby Hazen. Read about him over at my blog about the great things people in our neighborhoods are doing every day.

And have a safe, wet, wonderful summer! -- kk

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Can I Be Purple?

A post I wrote a while back – a post which included some choice words for Newt Gingrich – came up in conversation recently while I was out having a beer with an old friend. ‘I guess you’re a pretty staunch Democrat then,’ he said. ‘you really ripped into the guy.’

‘It has nothing to do with political affiliation,’ I told him. ‘I simply don’t like the guy.’

Some time before this another friend of mine took a picture of himself in front of a Welcome To Texas sign; I told him it was a nice shot except for George W. Bush’s name at the bottom. My friend called me a stupid bleeding heart liberal with a mental disease of some imagined sort.

Well-thought-out response, except for the fact that I am a registered Republican.


Again, someday...
The kids were up and playing and laughing long before usual. Maybe it was the sunshine streaming through their sheer window curtains. Maybe it was the temperature – perfect for a rolling around on beds that, like the air itself, feel warm and cool in turns. My oldest crept into my room, without knocking as always. ‘Good morning Daddy,’ he said, a broad smile on his face or so it appeared through the fog of sleep still hanging like a blanket over me. The clock on the wall said 6:40. ‘Good morning,’ I mumbled. ‘It’s not seven yet, is it…I’ll see you in a little while...’ My kid knows the rules. He also likes to ignore them, perhaps in hopes that I will too and we can enjoy ourselves a little, something I was much better at once upon a time.

Both my boys asked for cereal for breakfast. ‘Regular Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, mixed!’ I’m only too happy to oblige – there aren’t many lower-maintenance ways to feed your kids. This is my oldest child’s last week of kindergarten; he has done extremely well, in both learning and making friends. I moved the family here last September, two days before the start of the school year, two days after they’d returned from Japan. Into a new town. Into a new home. A hectic transition, confusing at times for the little ones. I’m glad they like it here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Best Father's Day Gifts Are Free

What do I want for Father's Day? Well, if you're asking for gift ideas how about a set of Allen wrenches so I can tighten the high chair so the little girl doesn't die in the middle of dinner. Or some ant killer so I can stop killing ants in the kitchen and actually enjoy my coffee sitting down. A robot that looks like me and will play soccer with the kids for hours on end.

What I would love, though, are things you don't need money or the car to get me. You don't even have to leave the house, although that in itself would suffice as long as you take the kids with you.

I love my family and would do anything for my kids. But I love having my own life once in a while too. That's what I want this Father's Day, an idea I expound upon in typical sarcastic fashion in this article in ET Week. (Click the first article on ET Week's user-not-so-friendly PDF format website.)

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there. I hope you are happy.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Times Again

Last Fall I picked up a copy of my local paper, The Times of Northport & East Northport, and was so blown away by the antics I had to share it with the rest of the world. Last week I came across their Memorial Day issue which was, by comparison and in its own independent right, disappointingly lacking in adventure. And I felt compelled to ask: ‘Would the real Northport & East Northport please stand up?’

In the latest issue, as evidenced below, silliness predominates – if not by the town’s own doing then in the capers of those entrusted to its journalistic representations.

And they waste no time. On the front page, below a piece about the ongoing legal mumbo-jumbo involving the school district and the power company and $47.9 million, we see an article on summertime water safety with the (perhaps intentionally) vague headline ‘Constant Visual Contact.’ Skip this blurb though; go straight to the sub-headline which says it all. ‘To prevent drowning, adults must keep eyes on kids’. Wow. With sharp snatches like this what need is there for the article? Hey, there’s an idea. Instead of an entire newspaper they could put out a single page newsletter comprised solely of headlines. ‘To prevent starvation, adults must feed kids’ for example. Imagine the lives they could save, and for all the money they save on ink and paper the school district and the power company can chill out and have a barbeque.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Street Signs Worth Noting

Major repaving job going on along the major avenue through town notwithstanding it is a beautiful day here in East Northport, New York. Wisps of cirrus clouds float high in the soft blue sky. Azaleas (maybe) bloom pink and white in baskets hung from the lamp posts, lending interesting backdrop to the heavy machinery roaring and rumbling back and forth. Over in front of the fire station a ten-foot-tall piece of steel from the World Trade Center stands in memorial of a day we all know well. And on street corners around town stand signs of people we might not have known personally but still feel a sense of loss when we pass by their names.

Stop by the Cross Blog for a glimpse of what I see when I am biking around town.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Mother's Day

Today was a full day and the kids were pretty wiped out. For me that’s exciting because it means maybe they’ll all crash pretty quickly, and it’s only after everyone else is asleep that I get to enjoy My Time. Yes, that’s with a capital MT. Sadly, it’s Saturday, and My Time tonight, like every other night since became a father, consists of a date with Microsoft Word. And that’s if I’m lucky. Because while going out for a beer is eternally preferable to sitting at home pecking away on the laptop, a quiet evening with a few pages in Times New Roman is infinitely better than dealing with kids who won’t sleep, and since tomorrow is Mother’s Day I’ll feel more obligated than usual to take the little girl off Mom’s hands until eleven or twelve or sometime around dawn.

My three-year-old boy won’t go to sleep by himself. I have to lay there with him until he’s unconscious. This is the by-product of my wife’s insistence that babies should not sleep alone, it’s too scary for them and they need the psychological comfort of knowing Mommy is always there. Well, now my son is extremely psychologically uncomfortable if I am not there to help him fall asleep. If he’s anything like his big brother I’ve got another two years of this crap. Then it’s the girl’s turn to be scared just like she’s been taught.
But like I said, after today they were totaled and I was able to slip away from my kid at 8:30 – a relatively early start to My Time.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Children's Day - No Girls Allowed

Koinobori - 'flying carp'
Today, May 5th, is Children’s Day (子供の日) in Japan. Traditionally known as Tango no Sekku (端午の節句, loosely translated as ‘Yay we had a boy’), Children’s Day is a time for families to pray that their sons be blessed with health, happiness and good English skills.
On this day in Japan huge colorful streamers called koinobori (鯉のぼり, or flying carp) can be seen all over, in front of people’s homes and in many public places. While the carp is said to represent strength and success – in what capacity history has yet to specify – the actual underlying reason people fly these long, brightly-colored fish is to remind anyone who might have forgotten that today is Children’s Day so don’t forget to pray for your son’s strength and success in conjugating his English verbs.

Interestingly, Children’s Day is customarily dedicated to boys. One theory is that girls have an innate capacity for linguistics and don’t need any more help in outdistancing their male counterparts in conversation class. The true reason, of course, is that girls don’t like carp. To compensate, rather than upset the Wa (), a special day for girls was created: Hina no Matsuri (雛の祭り, the Doll Festival, which I did not write about because I don’t like dolls).

Find out more about Children’s Day here. I’d go on but it is May 5th and I am taking my family to – of course – a Tulip Festival.

Happy Children’s Day, boys. (And remember, drink, drank, drunk.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

'Wait, Don't Move!' - a guest post

Back in the day - in those beautiful times when I was still single - I started working for a storage and moving company in Colorado. First I worked on move crews. After a while I was put in charge of the warehouse. Not long after that - due to competence in one thing or incompetence in another - I was moved out of the warehouse and into the position of operations manager.

At first I considered myself lucky. I was making more as an ops manager than I ever had at any other job, I got to wear a t-shirt all day, and I was not only allowed but expected to bark orders at everyone. 'Stick with this business and you can be a millionaire,' my boss told me.

One year later I quit. Some things just ain't worth the money.

The bright side is I've got a substantial cache of stories from my two years in that ridiculous industry. As long as I keep up my meds I can talk about them without slipping into another temporary fugue state.

Recently the good people at asked me to contribute a post. After a couple extra Xanax I was able to dig up one of the lighter tales from my storage and moving crypt.

Check it out here.

One day you might just thank me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Though We Never Really Met...

I see her pretty much every day, the girl with the pink and white dress. She sits on a low stool, or maybe an overturned milk crate – I can’t see below her midriff because she’s surrounded by flowers. Many are yellow, bright like the sun but fuller, deeper; so deep the color itself seems tangible. The rest sit in neat bouquets, splashes of red and purple and white sprouting from water-stained buckets. She’s selling them, for how much I don’t know. I wonder if she’s had any takers on this day. I wonder, for all the flowers she has sold to the husbands and lovers that have come to her, if she has ever been given any.

I look closely at her face. I do this every time I see her because I want to know what lies beneath her unblemished cinnamon features. I want to understand the thoughts that lurk behind the expression that I can not clearly read. She may be lost in a daydream; but those seeking direction and those deep into the sharpened machinations of their desires sometimes look very much alike. She harbors a tint of worry in her face, though the subject of her concern (if that is what it is) is a mystery to me; it could be herself, or the young girl standing coyly in the shadows. Perhaps someone she knows, maybe loves, has gone away, a promise to return though at some point in our lives we learn that a promise is not something we can hold in our hand.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Remembering, With the Help of Friends.

A college friend of mine emailed me yesterday. Considering my poor track record in keeping in touch with people this in itself should be amazing enough, but this was particularly special.

'When you were in Akita,' he began, 'you posted something on facebook...'

He'd dug up two posts for me from March 2011, when I was in the midst of getting my family out of Fukushima and out of Japan while the nuclear reactors were blowing up down on the Fukushima coast, fifty miles or so from where we were living. I was keeping my family and friends up to date on what was happening, where we were and what we were doing - or what I thought we were doing - and though I thought at the time I was doing it for them maybe I was really doing it for me. Either way, standing at a computer in a hotel lobby in Akita Prefecture, this is what I wrote:

"In a hotel in northern Akita, the boys are being total champs, tentative flights tomorrow to tokyo then new jersey, no guarantees. My wife to her mom over the phone - 'good-bye for now' - hit me with something i have never felt. I am wrestling not with the decision to get my family out of here but with leaving when so many people can not."

My friend's response:

"I am glad to hear you are still OK. #1 priority has to be the safety and security of the kids - but all will stay in prayers and thoughts. Travel safely. Reading you post up above makes me wonder if you just stumbled across the title of your next book. A thought for another day..."

With this, my friend brought back a flood of memories which, while they hadn't disappeared, were sitting dormant behind many others. So add to the dedication of this modest recounting the many good friends who helped get me through.

'For Now - After the Quake: A Father's Journey', is my story of the hours and days following the March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Download for free here.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy, Crappy New Year

I thought that once I got married I’d be able to take certain things for granted. Alas, as many of us erstwhile bachelors realize too late, moments that would seem, quite intuitively, to come easier once we don’t have to hide them from the in-laws anymore, prove to be strangely elusive once the honeymoon photos are finally stored away on the external hard drive.

With kids it has gotten even worse. I’m talking in this case, of course, about ringing in the New Year with a kiss.

I wonder if my wife had a bad New Year’s Eve experience when she was a little girl. That wouldn’t adequately explain it though, since she’d made it until midnight every year we were dating. One year she was up until almost a quarter to one, though she was talking like a zombie by the end there, and she doesn’t even drink.