Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Anyone for tennis?

The end of August means the beginning of the U.S. Open and Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. This being our fourth year, we knew to take the comfortable and speedy LIRR train option instead of riding the lumbering 7 Train to its end. We also knew to go early and to head straight for the Hess obstacle course and still the free racquets were gone by the time The Boy made it onto the court. Still, both he and Q earned a fan, sunglasses, and a light up Hess ladder truck toy.

Then it was on to the Little Tennis activities. And this year he was ready to return the balls hit to him by the volunteers. He himself said, "I did much better this year, mom."


(Note: For what it's worth, the above pic got picked up by a contributor to NowPublic.com for an article on the Open, and they have The Boy rubbing elbows, picture-wise anyway, with the likes of Federer, Nadal, and Ivanovic. Or go here for a direct link to the photo itself.)

The lines started to get long as it neared noon, but we heard that Nike was giving free shirts so we headed to that court for a little SPARQ training.

His better
The Boy always steps out into all the flying kids and balls, running to where he's told with his face full of intensity. Q was not in the mood so didn't do much besides look sweaty and eat all the granola bars.

This year we also knew to eat lunch in the shade in the Grandstand court while we watched some pros we didn't recognize hit amazingly hard to each other. (Tip: Don't try to snag one of the tables out by the food stalls around 12 p.m. — too busy, too hot, too messy. Bring your lunch, buy some fries that "look like tennis racquets," according to The Boy, and enjoy the pros showing off. )

We left not long after that and just a little before the Big Show started in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and after the hours and the crowds The Boy still wanted to stay. The whole thing does make you just want to go out and play. Glad he felt it, too.

We've been taking in a lot of sports lately, in fact, which is somewhat weird for us. Watching the Olympics became a nightly ritual before Q and The Boy dismounted into their beds. (We even let them stay up extra late for the opening and closing ceremonies, which The Boy rightly pronounced "flashy.") Now it's the U.S. Open before dreams, and then maybe I'll get both Q and The Boy to watch basketball with me when the time comes.

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day also signals the end of summer. In a week, The Boy starts Kindergarten, and Q begins her own classes shortly thereafter. Outside will give way to inside, and t-shirts to jackets, then to coats. And we lose them, it seems, just a little more to the people they will become.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Cutting a wood floor

Today my lovely wife and I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. That's us up there polishing the floor on 14th Street in Manhattan to Nina Simone singing "My Baby Just Cares for Me." Over champagne tonight we remembered what's past and wondered about what's to come. We both agreed that it doesn't seem as if we've run through that much time (perhaps because we've actually been together for nearly 17 years now), which bodes well for the long term I'd say.

Put on a dark suit; fashion a proper knot in your tie. Drink deeply from your champagne, then rest the flute by the plate. Take a hand and step out into the music together. Twirl so that your dress floats just off the floor — the earth can't keep you. Think of nothing but this.

Happy anniversary to us. They're playing our song:

Dance with us, wish with us, love with us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where I'm from

You get the idea: it's real flat.

(And this is from the major thoroughfare I-70, not from the lonely US-56 where I actually grew up.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Heartland meat blogging

We're still away on our Kansas trip, but my parents happen to have wifi, so I might as well put up a quick post.  Besides, I think I was asked perhaps the greatest question ever.  My father managed to set up an evening for my brother and his wife, the grandparents, and my lovely wife and me.  (An evening without the 8 grandkids, in other words.)  We went out to dinner at a Brazilian churrascaria here in Kansas City where, as is the custom, passadors (or meat waiters) keep accosting you with cooked animals on sticks until you tell them to stop.  And after way too much delicious sausage, flank steak, filet, lamb, and various other meats wrapped in meats, the attentive waiter asked:
Would you like a fresh plate for your meats?
I had to say "No."  Sadly, I had simply had enough meats.

Friday, August 08, 2008

What have I become (and is it really that bad)?

080707 032, originally uploaded by street_scenes.

So this new, huge, Whole Foods market opened less than a month ago just across the West Side Highway from us. For years we've had to walk a fairly long ways either to get gouged by Food Emporium (whose name itself is a cruel joke) or to browse the low-quality groceries at a Gristede's while tolerating some strange smell. We therefore usually fill our fridge via an on-line store called Fresh Direct, but it's impossible not to forget to order something when you're not actually in the store while shopping. Now, we've got a five-minute walk to the Organic Glory that is Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods is clustered in a new high-rise condo building (luxury, of course) along with a Bed, Bath & Beyond, a Barnes & Noble, and a Bank of America, all brand new.  And Whole Foods also has this hippie, hipster cache that puts me off a bit.  Not long ago I stopped in on my way home from work to pick up bananas, and found myself on-line to check out with fancy red bananas, listening to This American Life.  On my iPhone.  Sheesh.

I thought I was too old and too urban to be a suburban and/or hipster cliché.  Guess not.

(Note:  the banans were rather tasty and the TAL episode was a good listen.  So there.  I guess.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

School Daze: Private Edition

School Bus NYC, originally uploaded by Mr.Cab.

The New York Times includes a fairly prominent article today on widespread kindergarten overcrowding in the city's private schools.  Reporter Winnie Hu writes,
Despite mounting layoffs on Wall Street and the broader economic downturn, private schools in New York City continue to thrive, with administrators and consultants saying this year has been the most competitive yet for admission to kindergarten. Some estimate that several hundred children were rejected from every place they applied.
What's behind the growth in private school applications?  Again, from the Times,
Emily Glickman, a private school consultant for Abacus Guide Educational Consulting, which helps parents gain admission to private schools, said competition had intensified not only for brand-name schools like Dalton, Collegiate and Trinity but also for lesser-known and newer schools, as more couples opt to have two or more children; more families remain in the city rather than moving to the suburbs; and the wealthy in New York get wealthier.
And, let's not forget, overcrowding at elite public schools around the city — many of whom sit in neighborhoods of the very wealthy — has undoubtedly pushed some parents toward seeking private enrollments.

Of course, this being New York — and the Times — this problem isn't framed in terms of parents worried about finding their children somewhere to receive a quality education.  Instead, as the article's title declares (a little nonsensically), it's about "where the race begins at kindergarten." Hu points out in her second paragraph that because of all the kids and the money "the competition for kindergarten places can rival that of Ivy League admission."  The thing about Ivy League admissions is that you're always already behind and never doing enough — just the stance I want to take towards my son's education at age 5.

There is a bright side for the wealthy and a lesson for all of us here, though.  When faced with mounting admissions and growing student bodies, upper tier private schools like Mandell and (the relatively new) Claremont school actually expand:
Ms. [Gabrielle] Rowe [Mandell's head of school] has hired 20 new teachers, including specialists in fine arts, music, drama and physical education, and a psychologist, and promises a five to one student-teacher ratio for the elementary grades. She is also negotiating for an additional 47,000-square-foot space nearby for the upper grades.
What an interesting idea.