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Memorial Day 2024

New Traditions

For the third year in a row, went to see my college buddies out in Long Island for a Memorial Day BBQ at Gar and Wynn’s.

Like I’ve been saying lately, really do appreciate all of these new traditions that the boy and I have these days.

So, the Firecracker, her kid, my kid, and I, all headed out to see everyone.

The trip was uneventful but it was nice having both kids come for the first time.

We ran into my buddy Cappy and his family on the train when we got out and, within 30 minutes, alla the kids were living their best lives in the pool.

My kid and the Firecracker’s kid were having a blast as well.

But I was mainly focused on the food…

…which was seriously plentiful, as always.

Pretty much ate nonstop the whole time I was there.

Him: We also ordered a three-foot sub.
Me: Sweeeeeet! What’s everyone else gonna eat?

For my birthday, my buddy Thor got me a killer bottle of Clase Azul Reposado Tequila.

Now, I’m not normally a tequila drinker but, damn if it wasn’t the smoothest tequila I’d ever had in my life.

So, I ended up buy a few bottles as gifts because it’s such a pretty bottle and brought one of them with me.

Her: Are we shooting these?
Me: Absolutely not! It’s too good to shoot!

For her part, the Firecracker took some Patron and made Palomas for everyone.

It seemed as soon as we finished one course of food, a new course of stuff came out.

Of course, the kids stuck to the classics.

There was even a crawfish boil but, by then, I was pretty stuffed.

Him: Damn, Logan, where do you put it all?
Me: It’s all about believing in yourself.

Like the past couplea years, Cappy brought dessert – a killer apple pie…

…and a matcha cream pie that I’d never had before but enjoyed so much that I ate the entire slice myself.

Now, the weather the day before and the day after was just the pits but that day, the weather was just perfect.

But the kids were getting tired, so we finally left, along with Cappy and his family as well.

Some 12 hours after we first left the pad, we walked back into the pad.

Him: I’m so tired, do I have to take a shower?
Me: (gently) Yeah, kid. But you’ll sleep like a brick tonight.
Him: (tired) OK, if you say so…

He really did.

Like I said, I really appreciate these new traditions we have.

Here’s hoping the kid appreciates it too.

As an aside, we took the 10-Story Escalator – the largest in the MTA system in NYC right now – at Grand Central.

Man, even sped up 10X, this thing was crazy long.

Location: 5:55 PM tonight – a playground with my laughing kid
Mood: injured
Music: Swimming in our clothes when the beach was closed (Spotify)
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Date night in Chinatown

An early dinner at Nom Wah

The kids were away and, like I said, I’ve been hankering for Chinese, Japanese, and Greek food lately.

Me: We may end up going to Big Wong. I’ll figure it out once I get there.
Her: Soup dumplings are always a good idea
Me: (in Chinatown) There’s zero line at Nom Wah!

For those of you not from NYC, Nom Wah Tea Parlor is one of the very first Chinese dim sum restaurants in America, opened in 1920.

The children of the last generation of owners decided to update the marketing to include social media but not update much else and it’s worked; there are tons of videos about it like this one from Bon Appetit:

Or this one from Munchies:

Or this one from PBS:

Alla this attention means that there’s always a line going around the block.

I’ve been in this little town for 45 years and I’ve never gone in, actually.

But the other day we lucked out and there was zero line and we got superstar seating.

Her: This is what happens when you eat like an old man at 5:30PM.
Me: But…no line!

We were both starving so we ordered a ton of food…

…really, so much food.

We managed to eat almost everything – so good.

Afterward, we had some wine and beer that we slowly enjoyed while chatting when a waiter came up to us and said that there were lots of people waiting; sure enough, there was a long line that went to the neighboring street.

So, we left and, because the kids were away, we headed to a speakeasy that was hidden behind a coke machine called The Basement.

Since it was still early, we easily got a seat…

…and ordered some drinks, which were excellent but…

…she was mainly interested in the kettle corn they gave us.

Her: Ask for more.
Me: Me? Why don’t you ask for more?
Her: Oh, I will.

She’s wasn’t lying.

Her: Do you wanna play some beer pong?
Me: I’m beat, I just wanna sit.
Her: You’re no fun.
Me: Accurate.

Her: We’ll be home and in bed by 10PM.
Me: I know. It’s glorious.

It really was.

Location: earlier today, coughing up a pollen-infused lung on 77th
Mood: hopeful
Music: deep down in my heart, there’s a hole (Spotify)
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Naked hope

Wait for it

Her: It’s gonna overflow!
Me: It’ll be fine.
Her: It’s gonna overflow! We should get something.
Me: It’ll be fine.
Her: (momentarily) It didn’t overflow! You were right.
Me: I was just hoping.

This qualifies as middle-aged excitement.

And I always tell myself that things will be ok, even when I have no idea if they will be.

It’s just naked hope.

All these decades later, it’s still just naked hope and I still don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

For reasons that we don’t need to get into, had to leave my gym recently and join another one.

All-in-all, it’s fine because there are so many great schools in the city, I was able to join another one less than 48 hours later but it’s a bummer that I had to say goodbye to alla my friends from my old spot.

I also have a lotta really seasoned BJJ people to coach me while I make the transition, like Bryson, Giph, and the Frenchman, who’s a black belt himself.

Speaking of the Frenchman, he headed up my way and we – the kid, the Firecracker, him, and me – all grabbed some food around the way.

Because it’s May, and I hate May, been eating a lotta Greek, Japanese, and Chinese food because that’s comfort food for me.

Although I do try to slip in a salad or two here and there since beach weather is coming up.

Have to lose about 5-8 pounds from alla my traveling and eating, but I’m already down about three pounds with the new gym.

Another Mother’s Day and Alison’s birthday down.

Just need to make it to June and then past August and I can breathe a little easier until next May.

Location: my old gym earlier today, shooting some Scenic Fights stuff
Mood: sleep-deprived
Music: Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear (Spotify)
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Fontana’s in Queens

Reminding him of me

I’d been trying for months to see my family but my sister has been doing a lotta construction on the place so I haven’t seen them since Thanksgiving, despite their living in the same city.

But we recently got a chance to head over to wish my mom a Happy Mother’s Day.

Evidently, my mom’s bestie stopped by and dropped off some Greek pastries; the Firecracker never had any so I gave her one of my faves.

The below is a diple from my mom’s BFF – her daughter, Mary, told me the name, which I never knew.

Her: This is so good!
Me: Yup, I grew up eating that stuff.

The very first place that I ate at in Queens when we first moved there and I was like eight or nine in the early 80s (!!) was a Greek joint called Fontana’s where I had my very first gyro.

I’ve had gyro/shwarmas all over the world but, to me, Fontana’s is what a gyro should taste like.

And the fact that Greeks like the Surgeon and Steel both agree says a lot – they were both competitive swimmers and they would also hit up Fontana’s whenever they were close.

Figured it was time for the kid and the Firecracker to give it a whirl, so we picked some up on my mom’s dime.

Ordered a pizza and gyros from the very same guy that’s been serving us since at least 1992.

My dad and I used to LOVE going there.

Remember once I had work out in Queens and he picked me up and told me to open the glove compartment with a mischievous grin; inside were two Fontana’s gyros.

I never eat there without thinking of my dad.

Wonder what will remind my kid of me?

Me: What do you think?
Son: It’s soooo good! Is it a taco?
Me: (laughing) It’s a gyro. But I get why you might think that.

Location: the gym with my kid, hearing someone say they shouldn’t pick their noses
Mood: achy
Music: No one has to know where we go, we go now (Spotify)
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Caught “The Heart of Rock and Roll”

Nectarines

Her: Nectarines.
Me: Nectarines?! Nectarines are the oatmeal raisin cookie of the fruit world; no one picks up a nectarine hoping it’s a nectarine. Everyone hopes it’s peach and accept it’s a nectarine – just like people think it’s a chocolate chip cookie and accept it’s actually an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Her: (shaking head) Nope! Not me, I prefer nectarines.
Me: And just how long have you been a communist?
Her: A long time, apparently.

Right after we got back from LA, RE Mike invited us to one of the opening nights of the new musical, The Heart of Rock and Roll, which was with songs by Huey Lewis and the News.

I grew up listening to Huey, so I was looking forward to it; the last musical he got us into was pretty fun, so I expected the same.

This time, we got four tix so the Firecracker’s sister and BIL could come.

Of course, because it was RE Mike, the tix were great seats and comped.

While we were waiting for them on the line, we saw this reality show being filmed with a classic checkered cab.

You can see in the pic below the little camera attached to the rear trunk – the larger fella to the left to the cab kept people moving as the young lady did her bit and “hailed” the cab.

Me: There’s always something going on in the big city.
Her: Seriously.

When we finally got in, the Firecracker’s sister and BIL immediately bought everyone drinks, which we definitely appreciated, and then we saw the show.

Honestly, I’m a sucker for a optimistic and upbeat show. Life is sad enough as it to go out to be entertained with a lotta sadness and downbeats.

Me: This is so much better than the last musical we saw.
Her: Which one was that?
Firecracker: Merrily we roll along – neither of us really enjoyed it.

This was just a lot more mindless and fun. Which was what we were all in the mood for.

Me: What’d you all think?
Them: We liked it!

I need more mindless fun in my life.

Or even just mindlessness in general.

I’m in my head too much these days.

Location: Back in the Big Apple, wanting a gyro
Mood: busy again
Music: I want a new drug one that does what it should (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Los Angeles 2024, Day 4 – Donuts, burgers, nachos, and home

Everything we’d hoped it be

We didn’t really get a chance to enjoy our hotel at all so, for our last day, we decided to just spend a relaxing morning, lounging about.

Besides Lucky Boy, the other thing I always try to have when I’m in LA is a Fatburger – well, as luck would have it, there was one just down the street from our hotel room.

This may, or may not, have been planned.

Now, the Firecracker had been watching this really cool documentary about donuts – called The Donut King, about an immigrant who made a donut empire but decided to teach other immigrants how to do the same to better their lives – so I also went to the store named the Donut King right next door to FatBurger to get us some donuts and some heart attack sammies.

So, I left bright and early on the morning we were heading back to pick up some loot.

That’s me enjoying my 1/2-pound Fatburger with sweet potato fries. It was everything I’d hope it’d be.

We closed out the morning in the lobby with our Donut King donuts and a $10 cuppa coffee.

Me: That was $10?! Jesus Christ. Did you get a massage with it?
Her: Nope, just the coffee.
Me: (shakes head)

We had time to kill but we were pretty California-ed out so we hopped an Uber to the airport, where we just sat around and bickered over nachos until it was time to leave.

Six hours – and one incredibly smelly seatmate with next-level BO – later, we were home in the middle of the night.

Her: That was a fun trip, but I’m traveled out now. Looking forward to just staying home for a little bit.
Me: Same.

Location: the floor of my new gym, watching the kid try an armbar
Mood: way under-caffeinated
Music: In Santa Monica, you get your coffee from the coolest places on the promenade (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Los Angeles 2024, Day 3 – Admiring the hustle

Combined, we’re 100 years old!

The next day, we woke up pretty early and headed out to Santa Monica.

The Firecracker’s kid is obsessed with trains and wanted pictures/videos of the LA metro system so, for the first time in my life, I took the Los Angeles Subway.

We got onto the Wilshire/Western Station and tried to pay with a TAP card that we bought but it didn’t work so I jumped the turnstile.

Me: Never thought I’d be jumping turnstiles at 51.
Her: Just don’t get arrested!
Me: Well, we paid for the fare, the reader just couldn’t read it.

I don’t feel guilty about it because of that.

The station itself was a ghost town. The Firecracker was decidedly less enthused than her son woulda been.

Her: Well, I took pictures and video. We can just go back up and take an Uber.
Me: We’re in it. We might as well head out to Santa Monica on this.
Her: OK, well, if nothing else, we’re saving a ton, and you can get some writing done.
Me: This is very true.

So, we did.

It was pretty quick, but also much less trafficked than what we were used to back home in NYC.

Me: I think LA people are self-selecting, which is why no one uses the subway here.
Her: How so?
Me: I assume most people that decide to live in LA love the sun and outdoors, which is why they come here. Well, these types of people are probably not keen on traveling around underground and away from the sun.

It was actually a pretty quick trip to Santa Monica, where we checked into our hotel, Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica.

The room was nice; we splurged for it since we spent two nights with my bro.

Me: The shampoo is peppermint, the conditioner is cilantro, and the body wash is sage.
Her: Great, you’ll smell like a salad.
Me: Luckily, that’s precisely what I was going for.

Once we got there, my good buddy Lorin – from whom I got the name of the character for 72nd to Canal – swung by to pick us up.

I’d last gone to Versailles Cuban like two decades ago with my buddies Francis and Cindy.

Wanted the Firecracker to try the food there, so off we went.

Unfortunately, there was a massive bike ride for earth day, so we had to spend quite a while trying to find parking et al, eventually cutting through a street fair…

…before we were finally able to eat.

The food was just as delicious as I remembered it.

Gotta remember to go to things again before decades go by.

Afterward, Lorin drove us to the Original Muscle Beach at Santa Monica because he’s a former acrobat and still keeps his skills sharp, despite pushing 50, like me.

Me: Can we watch you do some acrobatics?
Him: You two are gonna do some with me!

He wasn’t lying.

Me: Combined, we’re 100 years old! I think we look great, all things considered.
Firecracker: You’re the tower of old!
Me: Thanks.

Afterward, we went to walk the pier but not before watching the cops arrest a fella for selling BBQ outta a supermarket cart without a license.

Me: If nuthin else, you gotta admire the hustle.
Her: Very true.

After we watched that for a bit, we made our way to the pier…

…where we saw a fella banging out some Louis Armstrong and Prince…

…and made another furry friend…

…who seems to have seen better days.

But it was cloudy and overcast…

…so, we walked over to the Promenade where we saw someone driving on the street in a boat.

We walked to a bar where we grabbed a quick drink, or three…

…and checked out the Promenade, including watching some buskers (see, more hustle)…

…and meeting my mannequin doppelganger…

…before heading back to the beaches of Santa Monica to meet up with my buddy Paul, his wife, and their kids.

Him: You know, I think I have the single worst nickname out of your blog.
Me: It wasn’t my best work, no.
Firecracker: He tries.

I feel we look pretty close to how we looked almost exactly a decade ago.

After that, very full day, we were looking forward to heading home.

I was trying to fix something on the camera when the Firecracker accidentally hit the shutter button.

Location: A NYC playground surrounded by kids and pigeons. Not sure which I find more taxing.
Mood: caffeinated
Music: How I hate to spend the evening on my own (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Los Angeles 2024, Day 2 – Champagne Breakfast at Tiffany’s

A crispy potato delight

Woke up the next morning and immediately thought of my usual Lucky Boy brekkie, of course, so, off we went.

But not before meeting a new friend.

Right next to Lucky Boy is the very first Trader Joe’s so we had to stop for a picture.

We finally got to Lucky Boy and I got a breakfast BLT and a double cheeseburger.

Three people commented on my jacket, positively.

Her: I just want to say, that is a great jacket on you.
Me: Thank you! My brother doesn’t think so.
Her: (laughing) He’s wrong.

Our bellies full, we walked over to Old Pasadena to check things out.

But first we needed some coffee and pastries.

Once we were fully caffeinated, we continued our walk.

Her: Wait, is that a Tiffany’s?! Can we go in?
Me: …yes?
Her: I’m going to look at engagement rings…because.
Me: Noted.

Do not read into this.

There, we met a fella named Richard…

Him: …Queens. You?
Me: I’m from Queens as well!

…who was nice enough to offer us up some champagne in Tiffany crystal on a literal silver platter with white gloves.

Me: Well, technically, it *is* 2PM for us.
Her: This is true!

The Firecracker and I chatted with Richard for a bit more before we left his fine company.

The Firecracker stopped into another store and tried on some clothing.

Her: What do you think?
Me: You look great!
Her: I’m gonna wear this out.

And she did just that.

Afterward, we stopped in a quiet alleyway, and I got some writing done.

And met another new friend.

We decided to head over to the super wealthy part of Pasadena and check out the multi-million-dollar mansions there.

The coolest thing about them were so many of them had fruit trees everywhere – we saw figs, tons of oranges, limes, and more.

Plus, there were cool things like aloe just growing on the sidewalks.

Although, not everything we saw on the street was fruit.

Me: Someone did not have a good day.

The fruit was definitely nicer to see.

We went back to my brother’s and crashed for a bit, before waking up and having a crapton of Chinese food, mainly dumplings.

Me: There is no soup in these soup dumplings!
Her: They’re just dumplings now.
Me: Blargh.

We ended up playing a buncha board games, including Scattagories.

Our question was: Beginning with “M,” something that you get from a vending machine.

Me: Munchos.
Her: Munchies?
Me: Munchos! They’re a crispy potato delight.

The jet lag was real, so we crashed pretty early.

Location: earlier today, Newark, NJ
Mood: sore
Music: We pulled up for some west coast passion (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Los Angeles 2024, Day 1

Not associating with

My brother was in NYC recently and the Firecracker and I decided to head back with him to LA just because we both had a little time, and she had some frequent flier miles to use up.

The issue was that she had to be in CT for work that morning, so she picked me up from my pad at 2:17 to make a 5:03 flight.

Unfortunately, traffic was ridonk so we cut it pretty close.

Still, we got there just in time and even managed to meet up with my brother at the airport.

My brother had priority with security via TSA Precheck so we all ended up at the gate at the same time.

After we got settled in the plane…

Him: You want something to drink?
Me: Nah, we’re ok.
Him: I’m buying.
Me: Then, yes.

Our flight was completely boring and uneventful – in other words, perfect.

Six-some-odd-hours later, my brother’s wife came to pick us up.

Him: I told her to look for the guy in a bright red leather jacket.
Firecracker: Would you wear a bright red leather jacket?
Him: I never even thought that I’d associate with someone that owned a bright red leather jacket.

We crashed pretty hard that night, waking up at 5AM LA time, 8AM our time.

But I’ll tell you that part in the next entry.

Location: when I wrote this, Westwood, Los Angeles
Mood: Insanely hungry
Music: So what, we’re a littlе drunk, let’s go home togethеr (Spotify)
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A Hotel in California

Scavenging

The Firecracker likes to do things like go on scavenger hunts so she arranged for one for the four of us to do – me, her, my kid, and her kid.

So early on a Saturday morning, we went off to try our hand at it.

Unfortunately, neither boy was really into it and the weather was pretty lousy – rainy, cold, and grey – so after a few hours, we called it.

Although, not before the kids managed to find a playground to play a little.

As for me, I found something to keep my interest.

Me: You don’t see that very often in Manhattan anymore.
Her: What?
Me: An ivy-covered building.

It was good that we ended early, though. Because my kid had his first talent show later on that day.

The person organizing the event has known my son since he was only 18 months old and had wanted him to sing and play the guitar the year before but he didn’t want to, and I didn’t wanna force him.

But this year, he said he wanted to do it – despite having a good friend’s birthday party to go to at the same time.

Now, much as I enjoyed my son’s rendition of 7 Years, he’s spent the last month or so practicing for his school’s talent show, where he was the second act outta maybe 30 something.

He wanted to sing Hotel California by the Eagles.

The crowd thought he did a pretty good job.

What do you think?

Told him that I was super proud of him – he’s only 8 but is calmer in front of an audience than I am, and certainly far more talented – and I told him he could have anything he wanted for dinner.

Oddly, he wanted to go to the local bar we went to before with the dark past.

But a promise is a promise so off we went.

Him: Did you really think I did a good job?
Me: Definitely. It was pretty clear to everyone that you practiced hard. But the most important thing is, do you think you did a good job?
Him: (thinking) Yes? People were clapping along.
Me: They were. Are you proud of yourself?
Him: Yes!
Me: Good! Because that’s the most important thing.

Location: A hotel in California, actually. Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica to be exact.
Mood: headachy
Music: We are all just prisoners here, of our own device (Spotify)
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