Category Archives: Kids

Day of the Dad

Father’s Day. It’s a second-rate holiday compared to Mother’s Day, which is a much grander celebration all around. Shortchange mom on Mother’s Day and you’re in trouble. Dads don’t really care.

So, I was asked the other day what I want for Father’s Day. As usual, I answered, “Nothing.”

And anyway, I’ve already gotten the best gift a father could have: two great sons.

They’re both fine, smart people — and even at their young age, they’ve accomplished important things, especially in the commitment they’ve shown to a purpose bigger than themselves.

My older son took a year off from law school when he was deployed with his infantry company to Afghanistan. There they patrolled a landscape he likens to Tatooine in Star Wars — right down to the troublemakers roaming the desert like Tusken Raiders.

My younger son just graduated from Marine recruit training at Parris Island. We all have a mental image of what that’s like from the movies, but what they were subjected to every day sounds like it was much, much more challenging.

Brothers

I’ll be honest, I tried to talk him out of it, attempting to convince him on going to college first. How about ROTC, I said, or the National Guard? You can serve and go to school at the same time. Nope. And while may of the newly minted Marines he graduated with will now go off to learn skills like repairing helicopters, he’s pursuing a much more traditional skill: that of the infantryman. That’s the job he chose.

When I was that age, what sort of big decisions did I make? Whether to study for an exam or go to dollar pitcher night at Goober’s in Plattsburgh. Yes, I chose Goobers.

So, on Father’s Day I celebrate the boys who made me a father, and who as men, make me proud as hell.

Fright Fest

If you are a fan of Night of the Living Dead, you must see Birth of the Living Dead, a documentary about the making of the iconic horror film and its influence on popular culture.

George Romero’s stories about the ragtag cast and crew, a motley assemblage of friends and business associates, are priceless. It was everyone’s first movie — and as if by magic, they created something completely different. The film also puts Night in the context of its time; they may not have set out to make an allegory for the turbulent late-sixties, but that’s what they ended up with.

One of the interesting things I learned was that Night was originally released in theaters as a matinée feature aimed at kids; it was typical in those days for theaters to run low-budget sci-fi and horror stuff on weekend and holiday afternoons.

Harmless fun — but Night of the Living Dead was like no horror movie ever made.

I vividly remember seeing it at one of those afternoon shows. As my mother dropped us off in front of the movie house in Mineola, a pimply faced teenager with thick glasses accosted us. “I hope you brought a spoon! This movie’s so scary it’ll make you swallow your tongue!”

I was really little, like 7 or 8 years old, along for a fun day out with my older sister and cousins. Swallow my tongue? Bring a spoon? Now I was beginning to worry.

Well, it turns out that spoonboy was correct.

The film was so intensely disturbing and terrifying that several times during the movie we ran from the theater screaming and cowered in the lobby. It was just too much.

Film critic Roger Ebert happened to attend one of these matinée screenings, in a crowd full of children, and wrote this:

The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying.

A good time was had by all!

Hockey Puck

When I was a kid, I somehow ended up rooting for the Philadelphia Flyers. This was the height of the Broad Street Bullies era, the heady days between 1973 and 1976 when the team made it to the Stanley Cup finals three times and won twice.

I was such a big fan that I once staked out the Island Inn in Westbury to wait for the team as they departed for a game against the Islanders. In the lobby I got autographs from Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and The Hammer Dave Schultz, whose number I wore on the back of my Flyers jersey.

Over the years I lost interest in hockey, but now the game seems interesting to me again. A big part of it is TV; brilliant widescreen HD has made hockey a spectacle to watch at home, compared to the awful wide angles and invisible puck that used to dominate hockey coverage.

Watching the Rangers and Canadiens the other night reminded me of this wonderful short film based on made Roch Carrier’s iconic story The Hockey Sweater. If you have ten minutes, it’s really worth the time; it’s a story of boyhood, but also a thinly veiled commentary on the tension between Quebec and English Canada.

The Sweater by Sheldon Cohen, National Film Board of Canada

Tradition

We had a conversation last night about Easter morning. The question? Do we hide eggs.

Hiding the easter eggs is something I’ve done that goes all the way back to when my older son was little. We’re talking decades. Today, one son is in his mid-twenties and the other not even living at home — but the egg thing. It worries me.

Will he be disappointed when he comes over on Easter if there are no eggs to look for?

eggs

Traditions can be important in ways you don’t always realize. The best example of this was Christmas a few years ago when I had the great idea to put the gifts out on Christmas Eve instead of early Christmas morning. It seemed like an insignificant thing to me, but it caused quite an uproar with the kids. What’s going on? Why are the presents out? Presents aren’t supposed to appear UNTIL MORNING!

I never did that again.

Don’t screw around with your traditions, not even the small ones.

For the Record

recordsThis comic somebody posted on Facebook really caught my attention.

I’ve told my kids about the days before iTunes, when you’d have to go to a store to buy music. Yes, there were even stores that sold nothing but vinyl records! Really, it’s true!
Making a special trip made music buying a ritual. From my house you could walk to Korvettes or to Record World at Roosevelt Field Mall.

Korvettes, while it had a smaller selection, always had the best price. Record World was more for connoisseurs — plus, going to the mall meant the compulsory visit to World Imports to see the groovy dayglo posters in the back and gawk at the bongs in the head shop.

Then you’d walk back home. Unseal the package, take out the inner sleeve — it always felt like a bonus when it was a printed inner sleeve — and put your new treasure on the turntable. Was there anything as good as that first perfectly pristine play of a new record?

Don’t get me wrong, I love that anything I want to hear is a click away. Everything is so easy now. Back then nothing was a click away.

0113

I knew exactly what I’d hear when I picked up the phone at 1:13am. Read this in shouting mode for the full effect:

Hello, this is recruit Madeo!
I have arrived safely at Parris Island!
Please do not send any food or bulky items!
I will contact you in 3 to 5 days via postcard with my new mailing address!
Thank you for your support!
Goodbye for now!

We tried to queeeze in a few words at the end of his scripted call, but he was gone in a flash, off for 12 weeks we can read about, but hardly imagine.

The Ballad of Bohack Pete

There was a kid in our town that they used to call Bohack Pete.

melon

Felix Unger, melon shopping at Bohack’s.

To those of you who grew up downstate, the Bohack name may be familiar. Bohack’s was a chain of grocery stores; it was along the same lines as A&P, back in the days when groceries were still fairly modest compared to today’s megastores. In the movie The Odd Couple, it’s where Felix Unger goes shopping.

Anyway, Pete wore sneakers that were clearly not Keds or Converse — in fact, they appeared to have no identifiable brand at all. Someone decided that such cheap and generic shoes could only have come from Bohack’s, and so he was christened Bohack Pete.

Did Bohack’s even sell sneakers? Doesn’t matter.

We’ll never know if Bohack Pete minded his nickname. I hope not, because if I remember him being called Bohack Pete, I’m sure he does too. It’s hard to say when kids became brand conscious. This story is from the 1970s — and by 1979 when I graduated high school, canvas sneakers were falling from favor and Puma and Adidas shoes were the accepted footwear.

It’s a small thing, but to kids, small things become huge things. I wish I could go back in time and tell Bohack Pete how in the future his sneakers would be the envy of hipsters everywhere.

Payback Time

Parents: how much money do you think you’ve spent on video games?

Consoles, cartridges, disks, online subscriptions, wireless controllers, memory modules… and how much of hardware is in a shoebox in the basement, replaced by the latest system?

Yeah, I know.

That’s why I’m so happy to report that I’ve finally gotten some of that money back! Yes, after shelling out untold piles of cash — particularly around birthdays and Christmas — the video game industry is now paying me. Ha!

checkJust last week, I received this check in the mail for the whopping sum of $24!
Woo-hoo! Windfall! The $24 is my share of the settlement of a class action suit, Pecover vs. Electronic Arts. My purchase of a copy of Madden NFL makes me one of the aggrieved consumers. Power to the people!

I’m not sure how many more lawsuits it will take for me to put a dent in my video game expenses, but it’s a start.

Farewell to Woodworth Lake

You don’t have to drive far into the hills outside Gloversville to be in the Adirondack Park — and just within the park’s boundaries is Woodworth Lake Scout Reservation.

Woodworth Sign

 I’ve spent many chilly nights in cabins at Woodworth, nights punctuated by breathtaking trips to even chillier latrines. The days were filled with sledding, hikes, games of Risk and meals prepared by the scouts. Some adult leaders — and I’m not naming names — would bring their own food to avoid the scout cuisine. O ye of little faith!

DSC_1582

Those winter weekends are a thing of the past now, as the Twin Rivers Council has quietly sold the 1200 acre camp to an undisclosed buyer. And I can’t say I blame them.

Nationwide, scouting has faced declining membership and skyrocketing expenses. Add to this the damage the Boy Scout’s public image has suffered in recent years, and you’ve got a tough situation. When Woodworth opened in 1949, scouting was in its heyday. Today, they have too much property and not enough scouts.

Consolidation like this, while painful, will help the council survive.

In the cabins and dining hall at Woodworth, generations of Boy Scouts have left their mark and memorialized their visit with inscribed plaques. Some are very elaborate, and others crudely etched in scraps of wood and bark. Many of those scouts are now grown men who have children of their own; I hope that their kids get to experience the same great things as the thousands of children who have passed through the gates at Woodworth.