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The Grateful Dread

February 13, 2018

Just recently, I went to a dinner party given by one of Lebasi’s friends. There were about a dozen or so guests all of whom knew one another in varying degrees.  That is, except for me, who knew no one but Lebasi.

Everyone seemed nice enough but I didn’t really connect with anyone. That, I attribute to two factors; the first and most important is that the person I was traveling with (and am always traveling with) was me.  Secondly, and possibly just as salient, was the fact that there was no hard liquor being served and I was embarrassed to been seen swigging red wine. So I wasn’t as loose as I sometimes can be.

It’s not that I didn’t make an effort to be social. I did. In fact, at one point I found myself in a long conversation with a woman who was probably very nice. I say “probably” because she had a very thick Spanish accent which made understanding her really difficult. I know that a lot of the time I wound up nodding my head as if agreeing to much of what she was saying.  For all I know, she and I may have planned a long vacation together. Yet, Senora X and I did manage a sustained conversation.  Unfortunately, what we wound up talking about included my three least favorite things — real estate, her health and my health. I’m giving myself a B+ for the effort.

As the party wore on we all helped ourselves to the main courses and settled into various places of the living room to eat. I was just about to dig in when I heard the sound of a spoon clanging against a glass. Someone wanted our attention. A woman I had briefly engaged with wanted the floor . . . I thought she was going to toast or thank our hostess. But that’s not what she wanted.  Not by a long shot. Instead, she related how at her house before meals, her family would go around the table to talk about what they were “grateful for”.  And wouldn’t it be a good idea for all of us to the same. I thought that actually that wasn’t such a good idea at all. But as an outsider it wasn’t my place to put the kibosh on such a nifty plan.

The fun began as the first guest spoke and the solemnity made its way around the room  After a few people spoke saying some sincere and sometimes platitudinous remarks, it became my turn. You should know something about me—-public speaking fills me with dread.  And, by “public”, I mean speaking to any more than one person.  So after the person before me made their little speech and all eyes were focused my way, I said, “Ditto”.  I thought that fit the bill quite nicely.

Well . . . no, I didn’t say that. Instead, I said what was in my heart, “I’m kind of a private person and since I don’t know any of you at all, I feel somewhat put upon to have to talk so personally and intimately to strangers.”  I thought this would really lighten the mood in the room.

Actually, I didn’t say that either. Instead, I said something to extricate myself from the nightmare I was in without actually touching upon what I was grateful for. Eventually, the grateful speeches made their way around to the woman who had suggested it and not surprisingly, she was well-prepared with her gratitude platitude(s). And then, we all got back to eating and being less thankful for our blessings.

After the party, on our way home, I complained to Lebasi about how I didn’t like being put on the spot in that way and maybe Ms. Gratitude might have been more sensitive that there was a  gorilla in the mist stranger in her midst and maybe  . . .  blah, blah blah. Lebasi was very patient with me and ultimately brought me down from my high horse and back to earth.  Now that’s something to be grateful for.

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Origin Of The Specious

January 30, 2018

There’s a quote attributable to Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, that I’ve alway liked: “In the history of mankind, no one has ever taken a rented car to a car wash.” His remark was part of a larger point which, for now, eludes me.

I thought of that quote the other day when I was having dinner out with Lebasi and was getting annoyed at how loud the music in the restaurant where we were eating was. I called the waiter over and asked if the music’s volume could be lowered. Which he took care of.  It occurred to me then that, most likely, there’s another thing that has never happened in the history of mankind; no one has ever asked his waiter see if the volume of the music in a restaurant could be turned up loud.

I’ve noticed that lately I’m  becoming much more proactive in dealing with circumstances, such as that one, which annoy me. As if I’ve chosen to light a candle instead of curse the darkness. This trading in of indignation for action is a very big deal for me. In fact, just last week I did something I’d never done before to mollify my grouchiness. I was standing in line at the supermarket holding just a couple of items. I was behind a woman with an entire cartload of groceries who was next to be checked out. I got her attention and while pointing to my paltry payload, asked if I could go ahead of her. Although clearly not too happy about it, she agreed. Beware, this may be the new me.

This got me thinking about how my growing impatience with everyday events (albeit starting from a pretty high mark) has been countered by an offsetting increase in a willingness to get out of my comfort zone, be more brazen and advocate for myself in heretofore unknown ways.  At first glance I saw this change in behavior as simply an arbitrary, interesting and fortunate turn of events.

But when I thought longer and harder about this (aided by some alcohol), I began to see this dynamic as not some aimless, haphazard occurrence. It’s become clear to me that what I’ve been both witnessing and been a part of, is the mobilization of some Darwinian laws of nature. In effect, I’ve become part of a small lab experiment in proving the theory of the survival of the fittest. That is, I’m adapting in ways needed to keep the species (me) going.  This sounds almost noble.

Of course, being part of the entirety of man’s evolution is not something I set out to do. I didn’t seek that kind of responsibility. But I’m happy to do my part to keep mankind going; at least for a while. But only if I can be assured that I won’t have to wait on any long grocery lines.

A Real Thrilla In Wasilla

December 31, 2017

 

Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier had their famous fight known as the “thrilla in Manila” over forty years ago.  Recently we had a smaller, much less well-attended and less publicized battle in Wasilla, Alaska. Ordinarily, this would have been big news but we’re living in (through) an era where everything short of nuclear war seems to fall in the cracks because of a chaos, disruption and outrage that has become almost commonplace in the Trump era.

Last week I came across an article about Sarah Palin and her  family that caused me, at first, to have very mixed reactions. It seems that one of her sons, Track, was recently arrested on a variety of charges including assaulting his father, Todd.  Evidently, Track got into a dispute with his father about borrowing a truck, physically assaulted him and then . . . well  you know how it is, one thing led to another and pretty soon Todd was leveling a shotgun at his son. Track is now awaiting sentencing.

Ms. Palin is and has been one of my least favorite characters in the political world over the last number of years. And I’ve written about her several times on this blog. Upon reading this story of family dysfunction, my initial feeling was one of Schadenfreude (the pleasure taken in someone’s misfortune). But then I began reading some other stories of misfortunes befalling the Palin household in the last several years and I softened and began to feel somewhat sympathetic towards her.  After all, it is the holiday season.

But then I read a news account of Track’s arrest (yes, another) about a year ago for beating up his girlfriend and Ms. Palin’s related comments and I felt the bucket of my new-found generosity of spirit spring a leak.  She attributed Track’s violent behavior to his Army service and the ramifications of PTSD.  No problem with that but she added, “and it makes me realize more than ever, it is now or never for the sake of America’s finest that we’ll have that commander-in-chief who will respect them and honor them.”  Seemingly, that inglorious draft dodger, DJT is Ms. Palin’s North Star when it comes to virtue. I then realized that she is the same idiotic panderer she’s always been and any feelings of empathy I had for her dissipated.

Which is really too bad . . . because I was really getting in this holiday spirit of “good will towards all men.”  Oh well, there’s always next year.

Folks, this concludes the ninth year of the blog.  You’ll be pleased to know that years #8 and #9 will be published as one volume in an attractive non-leather bound edition that will be available in the spring.  This year, we’ll be paying in bitcoins for you to take them off our hands.

We here at the blog factory wish you all a healthy and joyous New Year.

Bargain (De)Basement

December 19, 2017

“Can you do any better?”  That question has stayed with me since I first heard my mother ask it when I was about ten years old.  A carpet salesman was at our house and was giving a quote for wall-to-wall carpeting that my parents were buying.  At first, I didn’t understand what my mother meant; and then it hit me — she was bargaining with the salesman. My first thought was that my family must be going broke.  Why else try to take from the carpet people’s pocket and put it into ours? What other explanation could there be? My shock was followed by an embarrassment so severe that I went upstairs and hid under my bed (a theme for me) until the salesman left.

In all the years I was around my parents this was the sole time I ever heard either of them bargain or hondel (as we Jews might say) with a merchant of any sort. It just wasn’t in their DNA. Nor in mine or my siblings. I say this not out of a feeling of moral superiority but rather as an admission that my family generally lacked the chutzpah required for haggling.

Like most of you, I think my cable bill(s) are way too high. So my ears really perked up when, over dinner, by friend Nnelg told me a story about how he had gotten Time Warner (“We’re now Spectrum!”) to substantially lower his bill.  It required some tenacity and some nerve but he ensured me he knew how to “play the game” with them.

I was very impressed and lamented that I had neither the skills nor the interest in hondeling with the cable company.  And then one of two things happened: either I begged Nnelg to do the same thing for me or he offered to do it. Either way, I told him there was a nice dinner in his future for his efforts.

I transmitted to him all the relevant information regarding my account including my latest bill and gave him license to do his best. I have to say I didn’t feel overly indebted to him because, unlike me, Nnelg warms to this kind of task; he sees it as a challenge or a game. I admire him for the way he makes this kind of thing fun. In fact, as I think about it, it’s probably fairer that he buy me dinner.

In any event, a few days later he reported to me that he had some modest success which would reduce my bill. However, this would involve my installing a new router that was being sent to me. I was less than thrilled at the thought of myself on my hands and (bad) knees fumbling around making connections but accepted my plight. And then a funny thing happened—that evening, when I tried to access HBO, it wasn’t available to me. Nor Showtime. Nor STARZ (whatever that is). All my “premium channels” were gone. In other words, things weren’t going swimmingly.

The next day the box with the new equipment came; a very BIG box. At this point I knew that I was defeated, that Time Warner (We’re now Spectrum!) had won. Rather than re-enlist Nnelg, or call the cable company I decided to go directly to their store located in a nearby neighborhood.  I wanted to give them back the BOX and reinstate my old services. I was willing to sign any document they wanted indicating I would never try bargaining with them again.

I met with a representative, Danissa, who heard my story and out of the blue, offered to lower my bill considerably—just for showing up. I thanked her and walked out, not exultant but with a feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on; one that I found a bit disquieting. Later that day as I was settling in for the beginning of a weekend of binge watching, I turned on my TV only to find that the screen came up with a notice to “Call this number to activate or re-activate your account”. I picked up my land line phone to call ASAP and found that I had no dial tone. And then I checked—no internet either!  I was practically off the grid.

I won’t bore you (further) with my phone call (cellular) for reactivation other than to say I wound up screaming at the top of my lungs at the representative who told me a technician couldn’t get to my house for three or four days. So, as I write this, I’m sitting in front of a large TV that can’t transmit anything. I can’t call anyone nor can I find out all the neat things on the internet that I used to.

One small solace though. With the silence that now surrounds me, I’ve identified that strange feeling I had when I left the Time Warner store. I realize now that I was experiencing a feeling of regret. Regret that when Danissa told me the amount by which she was reducing my bill, that I didn’t just this once say, “Can you do any better?”

 

City Whinery

November 28, 2017

I’ve never thought of myself as a complainer but I think it’s entirely possible I may have been deluding myself.  Because lately, I find myself whining to anyone who’ll listen about how lousy things have been for me recently.  Oh . . . not in all respects, but definitely as regards the attention I need to pay to my body as I try to recover from knee surgery. This endeavor has proven to be way more all-encompassing than I could have suspected. Meaning that I’m almost always attending to some part of my rehabilitation; either I’m going to physical therapy, visiting my gym, icing my freakin’ knee or doing exercises at home. This drudgery is the subject that I seem to be most conversant with.  You can only imagine what good company I’ve become.  You, at least, can avoid me—-I can’t.

The purpose of all this effort is so that some day (hopefully, within my lifetime) I’ll be able to resume those activities that give me the most pleasure.  Sure, sure . . .  there are lots of passive things I can still do that I enjoy.  And truthfully, if those were all I was interested in, I could skip the gym and probably all the rest of it.  But I’d really like to get back to playing tennis . . . both for the playing part and for the social connections with my tennis friends.  But despite my best efforts, that camaraderie that I sorely miss, may be in serious jeopardy.  And there’s no amount of physical therapy in the world that’ll be able to set things right.

There’s a famous baseball story that has become almost metaphorical.  At the height of their baseball hegemony, the New York Yankees had a first baseman, Wally Pipp, who on June 2, 1925 complained to his manager that he had a mild headache and asked if could sit that day’s game out.  He was replaced my an unknown bench player named Lou Gehrig.  Well, that game began what became the longest consecutive games played streak in the history of the game.*  Gehrig, who earned the nickname, “Iron Horse” , would play in every game for the Yankees until May, 1939 —  a stretch of over 2000 games. Mr Pipp (who earned the nickname, “Wally, The Shlemiel”), never again played first base for the Yankees.

Why I’m telling you this story is that I’m in danger of becoming the modern-day tennis version of Wally Pipp.  You see, for a while now, until I needed to drop out because of my knee surgery, I’ve been in a great doubles game with some good friends; the tennis is really good and we have a lot of fun together.  But all that may well become just a bitter memory.

In my absence, my tennis buddies have enlisted a replacement, another friend of mine, Retep#2.  Unfortunately, from what I hear, the four of them are having a grand old time without me.  Which makes sense since Retep#2 is nicer than I am and also a better player.  And if that isn’t bad enough, he also has a car available and has supplanted me as the group’s designated driver.  This is no small deal since that service was my ace in the hole and supposedly made me irreplaceable. Hah!

But unlike Wally Pipp, I don’t intend to take this usurpation lying down. But short of slashing the tires of Retep#2’s car, I haven’t yet figured out a plan to re-insinuate myself into the group.  But I will.  Because believe me, the next-to-last thing I want, is to be referred to as “Neil The Shlemiel”.

Before all the smarty-pants weigh in, I know that some fifty years later,  Cal Ripken Jr. broke Gehrig’s consecutive games record. However, it should be noted that Ripken was often inserted into the lineup for an inning or so, solely to keep his streak going.

 

Halloween

November 10, 2017

As a result of my recent knee surgery, over the past month or so, I’ve been mostly housebound.  On the few occasions where I’ve been in social situations, I’ve noticed something about myself.  Other than responding to questions about my surgery and recuperation, I pretty much have nothing of interest to say.  I’ve become a bore.

I don’t doubt that even before the knee debacle there were people with whom I engaged who didn’t find my presence exactly scintillating but what I now notice is that even I don’t have so much fun being with me. The well of pleasure I took in hanging out with myself has started to run dry.

My descent into becoming a totally un-engaging person has been accompanied by an ennui, a boredom which has been especially hard for me to shake.  When I’ve mentioned this to some friends, a few suggested that with all the time I seem to have on my hands (since I do nothing but ice my knee) I could spend more time writing this blog. Which, on paper, makes sense.  But the truth is, very little happens in the part of my apartment where I’m ensconced that’s worth writing about.

So, when I made plans last week with my girlfriend, Lebasi, to go out for dinner I was pretty excited. It happened to be, as (bad) luck would have it, on Halloween. We decided to walk down to the restaurant which is a few avenue blocks away. But what I didn’t count on was the throngs of people/families in the streets. Apparently, it’s been like this in Park Slope for some time now. But since I’ve spent the last number of Halloweens hiding under my desk or in my car parked inside my garage, the explosion of humanity on the streets has escaped me.

Because I was so worried that some little super-hero or princess would run into my brand-new knee, Lebasi ran interference for me as we made our way to the restaurant.  The trip was very daunting and I arrived at the restaurant with an even greater eagerness than usual (if possible) to have an intimate experience with a martini glass.

About an inch into my glass, I starting to regain some sense of equanimity.  Lebasi and I ordered dinner at the bar and were in the midst of eating when, without warning, several families of trick-or-treaters blew into the restaurant creating a tumult which was completely at odds with my vision of a lovely dinner. This went on for what seemed like days (but was actually about five minutes—  a window into my soul). Unfortunately (for me . . . and for whoever is with me), I have a fairly simple rule: if I’m dining at a restaurant where the entrees are more than $7.99, I pretty much expect an aggravation-free experience.  Which was exactly what was not happening.

So, I went over to these families and asked their addresses.  I said that I’d like to stop by their houses sometime while they’re having dinner. And I’d like to bring my grandkids; maybe with some of their friends. It shouldn’t be more than six or seven kids . . . nine, at most. Would that be okay?

Of course, that’s not what happened. (Maybe in a year or so.) Instead, I stewed or complained to Lebasi.  Or stewed and complained. Which, apparently, is not that attractive. Although she had some sense of my grinchiness from reading some of my blog posts, I think Lebasi had the mistaken impression that I had exaggerated for dramatic effect. Now the (black) cat is out of the bag. And I have some serious ground to make up. I told her that, going forward, I’d try to embrace the holiday. But next Halloween is a long time away.  So what I’m doing now is looking around for just the right outfit for Arbor Day. Sounds like fun!

 

 

 

“Taking A Knee”

October 17, 2017

I’m sure you’ve been following the latest dust-up between our president, our moron-in-chief (MIC), and National Football League players who are protesting social and racial injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem. Somehow a guy who dodged the draft, boasts about not paying taxes and has shown himself to solely “live in the eternal present of his own immediate desires” has made himself the arbiter of what’s patriotic

But the NFL players are not the only ones taking a knee; so has my doctor–my surgeon. And not just any old knee . . .  he’s taken one that used to be mine. (That should read: MINE!!!) Fortunately, he swapped that one out with one he got from Home Depot that’s made with titanium, plastic and chrome.  You see, about two weeks ago I had a total knee arthroplasty which, as bad as that may sound, is actually a lot worse. I’d try not to bore you with the details, but what then would I have to write about.

This is my second joint replacement just this year.  About nine months ago, my surgeon, Dr. M., also replaced my hip. As a result of this latest go around, he and I are gradually warming to one another. But the truth is, I can think of several thousand better ways to go about improving our relationship. A cocktail after work is one that comes to mind immediately.  But at this point, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. However, I’ve one more hip and one more knee available . . .  so I’m not ruling anything out.

I’ve begun my rehab with a physical therapist, Adrianne, who also worked with me after my hip replacement. She’s a really lovely person who seems dedicated to her job. As of now, she comes to my apartment daily. Instead of limiting my rehab to various exercises or stretching, with the mild weather, my therapy has also included our taking slow walks around the neighborhood. Which is fine with me. But as nice as Adrianne is, as we take these walks together, I find that we don’t have a whole lot to talk about. Mostly our conversations are banal chit-chat.  Or we say nothing at all.

Which has struck me as incredibly ironic. After all, just within the last several weeks I wrote about a nightmare I regularly have about working at the Park Slope Food Co-op and having the job of escorting shoppers who use the Co-op’s shopping carts. Walking through my neighborhood making banal chit-chat. Or saying nothing at all.

Yet another instance of life imitating art.

 

 

Hobson’s Choice

October 2, 2017

One of things I like most about writing this blog is I get to do some research and learn new things.  Or I re-learn stuff that I once knew but have forgotten.  And then, in about two weeks or so, I forget everything all over again; as a result, I’m always learning things. Very cool!  So when the situation I find myself in recently developed, I did some noodling around and was able to find the precise term that I was looking for, which is the title of this essay.

Some of you may not know what a Hobson’s Choice is.  Essentially, it is an option that’s given to someone where the alternative is so bad, it’s no choice at all. (The derivation is somewhat interesting but you can follow up that on your own.) The relevance here is that recently, a Hobson’s Choice has entered my life.

As you may remember, the new owners of the real estate office formerly and presently know as Garfield Realty, Luap and Zil, have been, ever so gradually, upending my status in my former office; moving me a little closer to the front door in incremental ways. It started with the downsizing of my desk. Not long after that, there was the indignity of placing it so that I faced a blank wall. I had mostly gotten used  to all that but now . . . now I’m being told that Garfield Realty is going to be re-branded (or so they say) and the office is being reconfigured to a place with fewer desks, none of which shall be mine. What’s being offered to me is the use of a shared conference room style desk. Now, that would be bad enough, but it’s going to be at the front of the office which means that whenever anyone comes in I would be the first person they would encounter.  In other words, I would be the OFFICIAL GREETER!!! (that’s me SCREAMING!!). Engaging in idle CHIT CHAT with whomever shows up!

If you know me at all (and why wouldn’t you want to?), you’d know that this kind of circumstance is probably the essence of every third nightmare that I have. Sometimes that nightmare includes an episode in which I’m working at the Park Slope Food Co-op where one of the jobs is to escort shoppers who are using the Co-op’s shopping carts to their home or car and then bring the cart back.  I see these twosomes all over my neighborhood, very often chatting away as if they go back to grade school together. In my dream, I’m the guy wearing the Co-op’s yellow vest walking with and making inane conversation with a total stranger. Saying the same stuff over and over with different shoppers. Sometimes there’s a variation of the dream where instead of repeating myself endlessly, I’m more or less mute as I walk the streets of my own neighborhood. Either way, I wake up in a cold sweat.

So being up front, right there by the entrance door is, I think, the real estate equivalent of walking someone home with the shopping cart. The only meaningful difference is that I won’t be wearing the yellow vest. Otherwise, just the same.  It seems that the only alternative available to me may be to set up a very small work station in the bathroom.  A Hobson’s choice if there ever was one.

 

The Bris-kit™️

September 22, 2017

I know, I know . . .  you’re thinking: there he goes with another meat blog.  Well, that’s not the case. Not the case at all. Instead, this is a commentary on an article I read a few weeks ago that brought me up short.

It seems that there is a movement afoot by some Jews to overhaul one of the major rites of the Jewish tradition, the bris. Apparently, the circumcision of new-born male offspring is now up for grabs. According to the article, a number of Jewish parents are “aghast at what they see as unnecessary infliction of pain or even mutilation and are retreating from the ancient ritual.”

The article featured a woman who is a single parent living in, where else, Brooklyn.  The mother was steeped in a Jewish background but is a feminist and activist who believes in the “right to your own body”.  After struggling with her decision not to have a traditional bris (the kind that has cutting), she settled on a “gentle bris” ceremony. This rite called for the use of some alternative ritual objects. So, a mohel was replaced by a service that included a pomegranate, a gold kiddish (wine) cup and a large ceramic bowl filled with water to wash the baby’s feet.  No mention was made of bagels, lox or appetizers.                                                    

As an atheist, I may be exactly the wrong person to be critical of this new-fangled approach. But I’ve been a Jew for my entire life and find that I’m still drawn to many of the religion’s traditions, the bris being one of them. Sure, it’s a little barbaric but after all, this has been going on for some 4000 years, starting with God commanding an adult Abraham to circumcise himself. (I imagine Abraham could have negotiated with God to see if He would settle, instead, for some fruit, wine and a large bowl of water. Maybe he could have thrown in a few goats to sweeten the deal. Had that happened, Jewish history penises would be so much different and . .. well, maybe most important, we wouldn’t have this essay.)

This is not the first time I’ve come across this bris mutiny. I checked my blog records and found that I had written about a similar circumstance concerning a measure that was on the ballot in, where else, San Francisco, that would have banned circumcision for all men under eighteen. The proposed law called for making the practice a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of $1000 or up to a year in jail. (Imagine being in Alcatraz and your cellmate asks, “What are you in for?” “Foreskin issues” is the answer I’d give.) Needless to say, the measure failed.

After reading the article, I had a brilliant idea for a business that would take advantage of what I see as the next hula hoop for Jews. I thought I could combine the alternative bris items and market the pomegranate, the wine cup and the washing bowl as a collection . . . as a kit, so to speak. My first step has been to protect the intellectual property rights of the business.  So, at great expense, I’ve registered the name, “Bris-kits ‘R’ US®”.  I am also now the owner of the domains, Bris-kit.com, .org, .net, and just in case this winds up on college campuses, .edu. This may seem as if I’m being overly ambitious in preserving my naming rights but this is too good of an idea to have slip through my fingers.  (Oh . . . and by the way, if you’re thinking of cashing in on a parody of the Ella Fitzgerald song, forget it; I also own the copyright to A Bris-kit A Basket© .)

An addendum:  I’m not the only one who thinks this bris thing could be a whole cottage industry. Marvel Comics also.

Not To Be Confused With Fiveskin Man

 

 

 

 

 

The Kite Bummer

September 7, 2017

“Little Boy”– Kind Of An Unfortunate Name

Recently, my son, Essej and my daughter-in-law, Fets, came with my grandkids to spend a weekend with me in the country. Julian, Levi and Skye are 7, 5 and 3, respectively; at least for a while. The two year differences in their ages is great for me because it’s both easy to remember and also easy to transmit the information if someone asks, “How old are they”.  Remembering all of the birth dates is another matter altogether but has the benefit of requiring me to use some brain cells that I ordinarily keep in cold storage.

Knowing that the kids were coming, I decided to do something grandfatherly—I bought some kites on Amazon, one for each of them. Different colors. I had a Norman Rockwellesque fantasy of them lined up, each flying his/her own kite while occasionally looking in my direction and thanking me for such a treat.  Well . . . this was, at a minimum, magical thinking.

I unpacked the first kite and took it out to my yard to begin the festivities.  But, although it seemed breezy enough, the damned thing wouldn’t go up.  Essej and I took turns running around trying to get it airborne.  No luck.  This went on for much of the weekend.  Apparently, the kite was fly-resistant. And then it hit me — the kites were each shaped and decorated to look like an octopus.  Or maybe a squid. Well, whatever it was, neither of those animals fly. In fact, they do the exact opposite. It’s as if I had taken the kids fishing and all the rod reels had been painted with pictures of birds. Totally wrong. I bet I could get those to fly.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with watching kites fly. When I’m in Prospect Park and I see someone flying a kite, I’ll always spend some time watching.  There’s just something so innocent and pure about the sight of an object floating in the sky, powered by nothing other than nature. When I was a kid, my older brother, Evets and I would occasionally go to Marine Park to fly a kite that we would buy at the local candy store. The kite, a Hi-Flier, was made of paper and came with wooden cross pieces that my brother would assemble. We’d bring some torn rags and tie them together to make the tail for the kite.

Evets was in charge and, as usual, I was his assistant.  Which meant that I’d only occasionally get a chance to do the flying.  My favorite part was when we’d attach a leaf or a piece of paper and watch it miraculously work its way up the string to the kite that was hundreds of feet in the air. I don’t know how long we’d stay in the park but at some point, it would be time to go home. Imagine — two freckle-faced boys tramping home with their kite. Probably to do some chores or maybe prepare for our paper routes the next morning.  So much like . . . like . . . well, like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Truthfully, that’s a fantasy; neither my brother or I have or had freckles. No paper routes either. But as the narrator in The Sun Also Rises asks at the end of the book, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”