Chillin’ like a villain in the … oh, fer crissakes, I went to New York and it was cold, OK? Do I really have to come up with a clever headline for everything?

Time Square

Back in the days when I used to blog more often, much of what I wrote were anecdotes about my day-to-day life. One of the reasons I’ve blogged less often is because I started to feel like “Who gives a shit about my day-to-day life?” That’s the kind of thinking that led to me writing almost never, though, and I’ve since realized that me writing almost never = bad. Thus, I’m going to write about my day-to-day life when the mood strikes (or maybe even when it doesn’t), and you are more than welcome to not give a shit, but I still need to write more often, so let’s make a deal: I’ll be fine with you not giving a shit so long as you’re fine with me not giving a shit that you don’t give a shit. Deal? OK then! Let’s continue!

We’ve been looking forward to taking the kids on an overnight trip to New York City ever since we brought them on their first visit to the Big Apple a couple of years ago. Thing is, an overnight trip for a family of four to New York City isn’t the sort of thing that fits easily within one’s budget … especially when one’s budget isn’t an actual thing that one has … due primarily to the inconvenient reality that one must fund one’s budget with, you know, funds.

Enter: my super generous mother-in-law, who believes no grandchild of hers should be denied the right to experience Manhattan like a visiting dignitary just because that grandchild’s father has so far proven inept at pulling down the kind of cash it takes to facilitate the royal outing she envisioned.

Which is how we and she — as well as my brother-in-law, niece and nephew — found ourselves in the middle of Times Square last weekend, staying at the Marriott Marquis. Let us gaze out the window of our surprisingly large hotel room, shall we?

marriott-view-1

Have I mentioned that I love me some New York City? Because I love me some New York City.

Of course, no trip to Times Square is complete without a visit to my favorite hidden spot of all time … and my knowledge of its whereabouts is something for which I praised myself, loudly and repeatedly, to everyone within earshot, for the entire duration of our time at said establishment … an establishment that continues to be shockingly empty every time we go there.

It was while we were at this swank restaurant/lounge that I took the picture shown at the top of this entry, as well as the following picture of the royal children gazing down upon their kingdom …

kids-rlounge

… and this shot of a particularly photogenic bit of decor:

tesseract

Holy shit! I found the tesseract! (If that reference means nothing to you: Congratulations! You’re not a middle-aged geek!)

After we finished our three-gazillion-dollar luncheon (a price I was more than happy to pay seeing as how the rest of the weekend was taken care of by my previously mentioned super-generous mother-in-law … a fact I keep mentioning because, yes, I’m sucking up to her, and can you blame me?), it was off to the theater to see “The Lion King” … and, as anyone who knows me can tell you, the only thing I love more than a Broadway musical is a Broadway musical whose audience is filled to the brim with other people’s kids!

lion-head

This is a giant wood carving that hangs over the entryway to the theater and measures about six feet in height … and a photographer with even a modicum of skill would have shot it in a way that conveyed some sense of its massive size, but a hack like me can only hope to instead distract you from how much I suck by slapping some whiz-bang effect on it in Photoshop.

I figured the show would be entertaining enough that enduring it for the sake of my children wouldn’t be altogether torturous … and there’s something to be said for having low expectations, because I was blown away by the entire production. Seriously: it was awesome … so much so that I almost didn’t notice the incessant talking of the little brats behind us … and I’m referring, of course, to the parents.

Following our theater experience, we piled into a nearby Italian restaurant for a three-hour feast, then bundled up and braved the cold for a walk around Rockefeller Plaza.

The Rock. #NYC
Bottom of the Rock. #NYC
ds-ww-nyc

Is it just me, or does she look way hotter in her cold-weather gear than I do in mine?

Sufficiently frozen, we called it a night and headed back to our respective hotel rooms … and I’d take the time here to tell you about the absolute stupidity that then ensued with our sleeping arrangements for the night, but my head (and probably yours too) would implode from the vacuum created by the sudden and total disappearance of all logic and reason. Suffice to say that the one of us who is 5’11” and weighs 180 pounds slept on the fold-out love seat, the one of us who is four feet tall and weighs half a pound slept in a double bed by herself, and the one of us to whom I’m married shared a bed with the one of us who is a jumbo-sized 11-year-old boy who normally sleeps in a bed by himself, thereby guaranteeing that neither he nor his mother slept a wink. (It is worth noting here that none of this was my idea, and that there very clearly needs to be a power shift in our family dynamic.)

Fortunately, happiness and bliss returned the next morning as we all headed over to the Empire State Building.

Actual conversation in the hotel lobby before we split into two groups of four and hopped into separate taxis:

Mother-in-law [worried about our group getting separated from her group]: “OK, let me make sure you have the address…”

Me: “It’s the Empire State Building. I’m pretty sure if I get in the cab and say ‘Empire State Building,’ he’ll know where to go.”

(You’ll be less than shocked, I’m sure, to learn that I was correct.)

Upon arrival, we headed up to the 86th-floor observation deck …

empire-view
family-empire

… which was cool and all … but, hey, the 86th floor is where everybody goes, and we can’t have these kids — nor, quite frankly, me — experiencing this breathtaking view like regular, common folk, now, can we? NoooOOOoooo. Fortunately, if you look up …

empire-top

… you’ll see that there’s still some more of the building above us! And wouldn’t you know it? Generous mother-in-law sprang for us to go all the way up to the top-deck observatory on the 102nd floor!

downtown
empire-view2
102
Center of Pattern

That little platform in the picture above has a small, black arrow painted on it, the words above which read “CENTER OF PATTERN” … and when I imagined myself being the person responsible for centering this thing while hanging off the side of the little spire in which I was standing, more than 1,000 feet above the pavement, I peed my pants a little.

Fortunately, we left shortly after my pants-wetting incident, so my discomfort didn’t last long, and we soon were headed back to suburbia. And in less than two hours, we were home. Which, incidentally, means that we live less than two hours away from New York City … a place I like so much that I’m even happy to be there when it’s freezing outside.

Yes, I just used the words “happy” and “freezing” in the same sentence … which should give you a pretty clear sense of just how much I love being in Manhattan … and just how likely it is that I’ll be returning to that island very soon.

me-empire

Freezing yet happy. Wonders never cease.

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Posted in Family, Life, Winter | 6 Responses

Merry Belated Christmakwanzhanukkah and Happy Belated New Year!

xmas-2014a

If memory serves me correctly, since launching this blog on New Year’s Day back in 2006, I have posted both a Christmas-card-picture entry and a New Year’s Day entry every year. This year, however, I decided to break with tradition and post one combined entry on January 7th. Yeah, that’s it: I planned it like this. It’s all part of my grand design. (And you thought I was just being a lazy underachiever. Ha! That’ll teach you to not be such a judgmental prick, now, won’t it?)

Another break from tradition: The photo above is this year’s Scratches Family Christmas Card … which, for the first time since Zan was a year old, does not feature the whole family posing with Mall Santa. No, this year, instead of spending $40 to get a Christmas-card picture at the mall, we decided to spend $9 bazillion to pose for one in front of Cinderella’s castle.

The best thing about going to Disney World during the first week of December is having to then supply Santa with a satchel full of presents just three weeks after Mickey Mouse has vacuumed your wallet clean. Which reminds me: Hey! We went to Disney World! And I’d have told you all about that awesome, dream vacation by now … but I still haven’t finished writing about our 2013 visit to Disneyland, so what makes you (or me) think that a Disney World recap will show up here anytime before 2025?

In related news: I usually start the New Year by proclaiming that I’ll be writing more regularly in the months ahead … but since I’m breaking with so many other traditions this year, I’m going to forego that well-intentioned-but-heretofore-inaccurate prognostication as well. It’s like this: I’ll either write more regularly this year … or I won’t. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What I can tell you is that I want to do more writing this year. I’d even go so far as to say that I need to do more writing this year. And, if nothing else, I can promise that you’ll be hearing from me again soon … because my 45th birthday is one week from this coming Saturday … and since therapy is expensive but bitching and whining on the Internet is free, I’ll need to deal with that milestone by kvetching about it here. So at least you have that to look forward to!

Meanwhile … I hope that you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2015 is off to an epic start. Happy New Year!

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UPDATED: Well, this oughta do wonders for my OCD

Well, this oughta do wonders for my OCD
Click the image above to view full-size photo.

In the spring of 1994, I was approaching the end of my sophomore year at Salem State College in Salem, Massachusetts, where I was… [read the rest]

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I will write something about this photo as soon as I can stop welling up with tears every time I look at it, m’kay?

will-write-something-photo-soon-can-stop-welling-tears-every-time-look
Click the image above to view full-size photo.

This is the face you make when you …… [read the rest]

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The Scratches Family’s Excellent Adventure, Part 3:
Wide Right, motherfucker!

[Click here for Part 1 | Click here for Part 2]

One day. Just one short day. That’s how much time we gave ourselves to tackle Disneyland … a place some folks spend a week exploring.

And because we had just one short day, I decreed well in advance that we would be visiting only one of the two Disney amusement parks that sit side by side in Anaheim. The classic Disneyland Park contains more than enough rides and attractions to fill a day, and it is the quintessential Disney experience, so it was a no-brainer to make that our park of choice. The newer Disney California Adventure complex would just have to wait until our next family trip to California … which, with any luck, will take place some time prior to never.

One park. Not two. Because both parks in a single day? Sheer madness. Utter lunacy. Totally fucking bonkers.

It was a sensible plan. A practical plan. A reasonable plan. Which is exactly why it was destined to fail.

Remember way back in Part 1 (which I’m sure you don’t, thanks to the shitterrific job I’ve done of posting this third installment in anything vaguely resembling a reasonable amount of time) when I said we originally had planned to stay at a so-called “Good Neighbor” hotel but ultimately decided to splurge on an official Disneyland hotel? Well, that splurge spiraled into more splurging, because, Hey! EMH!

“EMH? WTF is EMH?”

Great question! EMH = Extra Magic Hour. You see, when one stays “on property,” one is granted entry into either Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure (which I shall henceforth refer to as DCA) one hour prior to the general public … but only one or the other of those two parks offers the Extra Magic Hour on a given day. And would you care to wager a guess as to which park was offering the Extra Magic Hour on the day we were there? (Hint: Not the one we were planning to visit.)

Fortunately, buying special “Park Hopper” passes for a family of four to bounce back and forth between both parks is surprisingly affordable.

[Pause]

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, Christ, I slay me.

But, hey, truth be told, no one was more pleased than I to have a legitimate reason — nay, an indisputable reason — to visit Disneyland Park and DCA. (I’m sure my financial advisor would object to my use of the word “indisputable” to describe this expenditure … that is, if I actually had a financial advisor. Much to the Walt Disney Company’s delight, however, I don’t … which is just as well, really, because I’d have told my financial advisor to go suck it. The Fun Daddy train had already left the station, and its mission was to visit not one, but two Disneyland amusement parks, consequences be damned.)

Of course, being the completely neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, know-before-we-go kind of guy I am, this change of plans meant that I now had to become a board-certified expert on all things DCA … which is how I learned that the park’s newest attraction, Cars Land, features a ride dubbed “Radiator Springs Racers” — a ride experience that, according to the Internet, is not that dissimilar from meeting God.

Now, as you might expect, meeting God is the kind of the thing that attracts a crowd … and the Internet further informed me that the average wait time for “Radiator Springs Racers” is 90 minutes … which was a problem, because the list of things for which I would be willing to stand in a 90-minute line is spectacularly short … and I can assure you with great certainty that not a single thing on that spectacularly short list is even remotely related to family entertainment. So you can fuck that 90-minute-line shit.

Fortunately, as part of my exhaustive online reconnaissance, I discovered a painstakingly detailed messageboard post titled “The Cars Land Wide Right Technique: How to be one of the first 20 people on Radiator Springs Racers.” No, I am not even kidding. And this life-saving post contained the critical information I would need to whisk my family past the throng of less-fortunate families whose members did not include a neurotic, obsessive-compulsive planner capable of finding things like The Cars Land Wide Right Technique.

I studied it. I learned it. I lived it.

An integral part of successfully executing the Wide Right Technique is to arrive at the DCA gates prior to opening … which, thanks to the three-hour time difference between Philly and Cali, was no problem; we were wide awake by 5:30 a.m., and were standing outside the DCA gates well before the 7:00 a.m. early entry.

Daddy, Zan & Jayna @ Disney California Adventure

“Smile children … and pray that you got enough sleep last night, for there shall be no rest until we have fully conquered each and every inch of this here Disneyland.”

Once the gates opened, the half-dozen-or-so lines that had formed began filing through the turnstiles, and I felt confident we were on the verge of living the Wide Right dream, because I knew that the super-convenient e-tickets on my trusty iPhone’s display would allow us to breeze right through the entry checkpoint with far greater ease than the patrons who so foolishly had armed themselves with those antiquated paper passes of yesteryear. My inner geek laughed at them in smug delight. “Ha,” it said.

So you can imagine my inner geek’s horror as the technophobic ticketholders on either side of us continued streaming into the park without incident while the employee manning the turnstile through which we were attempting to pass presided over an epic duel between my super-convenient e-tickets and her demon-spawn-from-hell scanning device.

This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be. All of my planning … all of my smug-inner-geek know-how … all of my strategic superiority … undone in the blink of an eye.

The paper-ticket people were pointing at us and laughing as they flooded into the park unimpeded, high-fiving each other on their way to Cars Land while complimenting themselves for choosing to avoid the e-ticket option. At least, that’s what I imagined them doing while I closed my eyes and focused all of my energy on Force-choking the turnstile attendant in the hopes that her sudden and mysterious death would a.) distract the other employees long enough for us to slip into the park unnoticed, and b.) create enough of a spectacle to draw the crowd’s attention, thereby thinning the ranks of those headed to “Radiator Springs Racers.”

Unfortunately, my Sith powers failed me and we weren’t granted entry until enough time had passed to completely destroy my finely tuned plan of attack … or so I feared. And that’s when my Army training took over.

“Let’s go, people!” I commanded my family as I led them on an impossibly fast-paced power walk. “C’mon now! Pump those arms! Move like you’ve got a purpose!”

But alas, my son could barely keep up, my daughter even less so, and my wife, in a shining display of her out-of-whack priorities, was determined to keep both children in sight.

I was appalled.

“Goddamn you kids and your short, underdeveloped legs!” I said … to myself … because we were at Disneyland … and I only curse them out in private. Nonetheless, this child’s-pace bullshit just wouldn’t do. I had to kick things up a notch.

“Come here,” I instructed my daughter as I scooped her up in my arms and began sort-of-running towards Cars Land … a move I’m sure the parents around me thought was obnoxious and immature.

Fuck them. We had a ride to get on.

“Try to keep up!” I goaded my wife and son as I navigated my way through the opponents — I mean, the other patrons — who also were beating a path toward “Radiator Springs Racers.”

By the time we reached the main street leading to the ride’s entrance, I was pretty sure we’d regained most of the ground we’d lost at Ye Olde Fashioned Turnstile … but was it enough? I couldn’t tell. Rather than let my doubts and fears get the best of me, though, I did what any good soldier does in these circumstances: I stayed focused on the mission.

“Stick to the plan,” I told myself as I guided my family to the far right side of the crowded street in accordance with my Wide Right marching orders.

It seemed to be working. Though the tightly packed crowd now filled the entire roadway, we were part of a mercifully small group of dorks winners skilled in the art of the Wide Right Technique, all of us moving nimbly between the curb and the less-knowledgeable civilians to our left as we advanced on the ride’s entry point.

And suddenly, just as the author of that insanely detailed messageboard post had promised, Red the fire engine pulled out of his station and blocked off three quarters of the roadway, forcing the massive crowd into a single-file line on the far right side of the street, where — TA-DAH! — we already were.

I was in neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, advance-planner heaven as my family and I zipped through the elaborate and delightfully empty maze that soon would hold a line of people who would wait an hour-and-a-half to board the ride. As we reached the loading platform, Wonder Woman and I high-fived each other. “Wide Right!” she exclaimed.

“Wide Right, motherfucker!” I roared … minus the roaring … and the “motherfucker” part … because getting us all kicked out of Disneyland less than 10 minutes after our arrival seemed like not the kind of memory I was looking to create for my children.

A less-than-impressive facsimile of the kind of memories I was looking to create can be glimpsed in the following series of blurry photos and shaky, poorly framed videos that I shot on that magical morning:

Z & J about to board

Smiling mostly because their lunatic father no longer is forcing them to barrel their way through a massive crowd.

Radiator Springs Racers

The windshield-eyes thing confuses me, because I usually think of a car’s headlights as its eyes, but suddenly the windshield has eyes and now I can’t decide where the fuck I’m supposed to look when I’m talking to one of these things,
and so thanks a lot, Pixar!

Eat your heart out, Francis Ford Coppola.

Lightning McQueen & Mater

From my forthcoming coffee-table book, “Galactically Awful Vacation Photos.”

In answer to your two most obvious questions: Yes, I really was that excited to be in Luigi's shop, and, no, I don't get out very often.

As you can (sort of) see, it was an awesome beginning to an awesome day … and, thanks to our masterful execution of the Wide Right Technique, we still had plenty of time to burn. Hell, we were just getting started.

TO BE CONTINUED …

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