Ice Age

In 2019, I took the twins to Disney on Ice. They loved it and I was, to my surprise, very impressed. Not so much by the skating etc, but by the way they ran a tight, engaging show. I’m forever remarking the failure of adult-led activities for children to respect basic principles of entertainment. I looked forward to returning next year.

We didn’t return until this year. And this time… Well. I wouldn’t say I had to drag the twins, but they definitely did not seem as excited. And the expense! Golly. I even went to the box office the day before to try to dodge the service fee, but Ticketmaster was all: you thought. I got the cheapest seats available, in the Karakoram Range, and, long story short, none of us seemed to enjoy the show as much as last time. Thus concluded my costly lesson in the futility of enforced nostalgia.


A few weeks ago I was at my mom’s, and I can’t remember how we got on the subject, but she mentioned she’d seen the Ice Capades in high school, and the only reason she could attend was that someone had given her a ticket. I asked her to write down the story. Here it is. Continue reading “Ice Age”

The Overcoat

This summer I did the most Old Man thing I’ve ever done, yet: I got my overcoat relined.

The lining had a few tears, and while I only wear the coat from home to the classroom and back, one must look smart for the day job.

I took it to the local tailor, who quoted me a frightfully high price, but what do I know about this stuff, so I said ok. He happened to catch me on To-Do List Day.

I’d been thinking about the lining for a while, and decided what is most dashing is crimson. When I put this to the tailor, he looked at me liked I’d asked for chain mail. After laborious diminution of his disbelief, we settled on dark blue, which, along with brown, was the only lining-grade fabric he kept in stock. (Having ascertained he was in the presence of a simpleton, he graciously presented swatches that I might understand the difference.)

Dark blue was not, at all, what I’d had in mind, but it looked… fine, I guess. And figuring out where to get lining-grade crimson was not on the day’s list.

Now, the teacher in me knows that, when giving instructions, it’s important to check for understanding, so I verified that the lining would be dark blue instead of the standard brown. He politely showed me where he’d written DARK BLUE, and told me to return in two weeks.

I came back two weeks later and he said that he’d had to order the lining, so it wasn’t ready yet. Since it was summer in the northern hemisphere, I let it slide.

A couple weeks later I went to pick it up and this is what I beheld:

Continue reading “The Overcoat”

Artful Pause

I was in a band in college with these guys from the local art institute. One day the guitarist, for his own amusement, printed up stickers that forcefully expressed, in but four words, the sentiment that art was inferior to the purchase of tacos.

I’m fine with either, although I hadn’t bought any art for years until this masterpiece.


There’s more at the artist’s site, Stuff by Mark. When the East Wing is finally constructed I’m going back for more.


And what of grandmama’s parlor? Stop by the estimable William Schaff’s site. Teatime will never be the same.


Speaking of clutched pearls, I learned about the new song of the summer from a recent New York Times article. Good gravy! Perhaps let’s listen instead to the debut single from Shaun Ryder’s new band. It’s him and Bez and the guitarist from Ride and the drummer whose dad was in some band.

Shaun doesn’t quite hit, lyrically, the Yeatsian heights of yore, but when I heard that first “Gorilla!”… Oh, Shaun. [Celine voice] It’s all coming back to me now.

Happy summer, Gentle Reader. See you in a bit.

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

A few years back I got around to The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. I liked it but I swear, all I can remember is something about the Schlieffen Plan, and then the description of the German officer who spent his nights drinking wine and eating sausages. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother reading books.

I just finished Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race by Roger D. Launius. I’m pretty sure this is what I’ll remember:


[Pete] Conrad’s sense of humor became legendary at NASA… when a psychologist showed him a blank white card and asked him to describe what he saw, he replied that it was upside down.


The scientific community worked with the Apollo astronauts to prepare them for geological fieldwork… flight crews underwent formal education roughly equivalent to a master’s degree in geology.


In May 1974 the Kremlin shut the whole program down… government officials directed that the remaining hardware be destroyed to validate the Soviets’ continuing denial that the USSR had ever intended to engage in a race to the Moon.


Gagarin was surprisingly calm and confident. He relieved himself on the side of the carrier before entering the capsule at the top of the rocket; that became a ritual engaged in by all cosmonauts ever after.


“Johnny and Andy were completely obsessed with Spinal Tap,” he says, “and there were mini Stonehenges of cigarette packs left all over the studio… Andy had learned – by note – the bass line to Big Bottom! We only did that when Morrissey wasn’t in the room, though. Don’t worry.”


A few years back I took Twin 1 up to a local seaside town for A Special Day With Dad. We walked past a record shop, and, after asking her if she knew what records were (“They’re like old CDs,” I said), we went in.

We looked around, and I got a used book on REM, and we got in line to check out. There was some awful music playing. It was the kind of racket you’d expect in a place like that. And then – mirabile dictu – one of the clerks took the record off mid-song and put on “Panic” by the Smiths.

(“Panic” is on my Mount Rushmore of 2:20ish knockouts, along with “She Loves You,” “Fortunate Son,” and “Immigrant Song.”)

I grasped Twin 1 by the shoulders and looked her in the eye. “[Twin 1], this is my jam!” (Up til then I’d been telling them it was “Cake by the Ocean.”)

I saluted the clerk on his choice, and he and the other guy and me talked about how awesome the Smiths are. It was only for a minute or two, but Smithdom requires no more.


Andy Rourke, their bassist, who “provided the muscle and drive,” died recently.

This next bit is pretty much a lecture series, so I will do my best to compress it to a paragraph. The Smiths were The Best Band. This is due to their singular singer and virtuoso guitarist, but also to their rhythm section, which grew, over the course of the band’s five-year life, from good to perfect. (You go try that, pal.) At their beginning, you could have swapped out either the drummer or bassist and maybe done better; by their last album this would have been only in the realm of infinite possibility.

The point I’m trying to make is probably best briefly illustrated by one of the singer’s post-Smiths early singles, “Interesting Drug,” in which the lineup is the Smiths without their original guitarist. Holy smokes that’s some drum n’ bass.

But I’ll share instead this one, my favorite Morrissey single. There’s Andy stage right, holding it down.


I smiled at him once, at a club in Brooklyn. He smiled back.

So long, Andy. May it ever be your lucky bun-day.


I wonder if Daniels’s appeal has something to do with the fact that many men, if asked to cast their lives without undue conceit, might settle on Jeff Daniels to play themselves.

– Magic Hours, Tom Bissell


In October of 1994, some friends and I drove up to Philadelphia to see Pulp and Blur at the Trocodero. Pulp were opening.

The opener took the stage and we were like: … huh? It was obviously not Pulp.

Deciding to chat up a nearby concertgoer, I asked, with wry and salty disparagement, who was onstage. In my storied ledger of rejections, hers was among the more emphatic. She damn near took the roof off with her eye-roll.

In fairness to me, there may have been other factors; after the set the singer came up to her and they embraced and left together.

I later learned that Pulp had left the tour to go back to England as shortlisters for the Mercury Prize. I finally saw them a few years later at the Paradise in Boston, and they were terrific.


When it comes to pop songs, these are a few of my favorite things: Handclaps. Xylophones. Full stops. Pre-intros. Choral shouting. Intermittent bass lines. Toms instead of snares.

I also like songs that don’t have choruses, and songs that speed up, and songs about heartbreakers. Voilà le hat trick!


Steve Mackey, their bassist, died in March. His Guardian obituary declares him “a model of self-contained cool.”

So long, Steve. I declare, with over-due conceit, those dummies can have Jeff Daniels.

Batter Up

Twenty summers ago I made myself pancakes every day over vacation. I couldn’t get away with it now, but it was awesome and I kind of miss it.


When the twins were little I’d make them pancakes (or, as Twin 2 called them, “panpakes”). This was less pleasant. Serving a brace of toddlers breakfast is like being a waiter in Hell Restaurant.


Less enjoyable still was when, last year, Twin 1 asked me to play a song on my phone. Propriety forbids me from stating its title; suffice it to say my commotio cordis ended only by learning she innocently sought a parody, “Waffles and Pancakes.”


You know what’s fun, though? The “biggest pop-art extravaganza to shake North America in the past decade.” Thursday, May 18. Me and my buddy Scott will be selling t-shirts. Stop by and stop, buy!

PS ask about the friends and family discount. I’ll tell you to eat your pancakes and pay full price, but Scott’s a nice guy. Maybe ask him.

Me Again

La vieillesse est un naufrage. – Chuck D


I’ve been busy! Working on this thing, and this other thing, and another thing too. Tell you more later. In the meantime spare a thought for my laptop, which winterlong faced this thing:


Now then. I am not bad at shooting baskets. I wouldn’t say I’m good, but I’m definitely not bad. This has been remarked by Twins 1 & 2, who are super into basketball, and good at it. Neither seems to have inherited my lack of athletic grace.

Which is weird, for if fatherhood has taught me anything, it’s that genetics is for real. Accordingly, I am somewhat terrified I’ve inherited my old man’s bad knees. When I’ve gone for a morning run, and later in the day the twins ask me to play basketball… oof.

So I tell them I’ll be the stationary teammate of whoever has the ball. And when it’s passed to me, I shoot. I find this a decent solution, but it does produce disagreement about whether my varying field goal percentages indicate bias. I always say if I miss it’s because I prefer the sister.

As for the knees, I’ve started running on trails in the local state park. It’s definitely easier on the knees, but more important, so much more enjoyable. Running on sidewalks is like drinking warm Coors in your garage; running in the forest is a G&T on the veranda at sunset. Either way, if you happen upon me, please revive me with the latter.