Tuesday, November 29, 2011

J. Edgar - A Review

'J. Edgar' was not exactly what I was expecting.  I was surprised at the power or Leonardo DiCaprio in this biopic on the life of the legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  I was also surprised that it's as much of a love story as it is an historical drama.

I don't go to the movies much.  I went last summer to see the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie.  The summer before, on a rainy day in Maine, we saw another kid's flick, though which one it was escapes me at the moment.  I'm not sure why I don't go more.  I love the big screen, I love hearing the other movie-goers interacting with the film, I love the smell of popcorn.

I guess they are kind of a date night thing and, well, uhh, I am not going on many dates these days.  In my last relationship, our date night thing was going out for drinks and dinner more than it was going to the movies, so it's been a while since I saw a regular (notice I avoided the use of the word adult) movie in the theater.  But I am looking for new things to do with new friends, and a movie seemed low-key and not really too difficult.

J. Edgar is a pretty good movie.  It's a sweeping story about a really troubled and flawed man, moving across 50 years.  DiCaprio is really good.  REALLY REALLY good.  I have never been a fan of Leo, but this is the best work I have seen him do.  He shows Hoover to be the deluded, but fearsomely powerful man who built the FBI into his own empire.  The tortured, troubled but still brilliant man plays out on director Clint Eastwood's bleak sets and stages, seeming to drain the color from all around him.

Hoover's long-time companion, Clyde Tolson, is played almost silently by Armie Hammer, who is best known for his roles in The Social Network.  Tolson is played as Hoover's foil, the light to Hoover's dark.  This is overplayed a bit and Tolson comes off as a bit of a pale moralist who doesn't really fit next to the gigantic Hoover that DiCaprio brings to life.

The love story between these two men is played as an affection never brought to fruition because Hoover is afraid of his mother's disapproval.  The real story between the men is as shrouded as the contents of Hoover's secret files, the MacGuffin of the movie, which are used to move the story thought the arc of the 20th century.

The sharp intake of breath audience from the when the men fight and utimately violently kiss was surprising to me.  It's not the first guy-guy kiss we've seen on the silver screen and I thought everyone kind of knew that Hoover had some skeletons in his closet.  My companion, though was shocked and had no idea what might be coming.

At a bit more than 2 hours, the film dragged a bit, especially in the early scenes.  I was also struck by how dependent I have become on being able to use IMDB and Wikipedia during a movie to fact-check or research actors and locations.  I resisted, but it was difficult! 

This is a tough movie to like.  It's spare and drab.  Hoover is not a guy who is exactly warm and cuddly.  We never really get beyond the basics with any of the supporting cast and Tolson is a 1 dimensional screen pairing. Still, it's a hck of a story and it's always nice to be in a treaer to see a movie.  All in all, it was a fun night out and worth the 2 hours and $11 a person to sit in the top row of a full stadium theater and be taken to another time and place for just a little while.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Philly is Still Occupied - For Now

image from www.flickr.comDilworth Plaza is still an occupied camp as of lunch time today, with about half as many tents in evidence than there were 2 weeks ago. 

I took a walk on this beautiful late November Monday, enjoying the bright blue sky and what is probably the last day we will see with 60 degree temperatures until April.  There were throngs of people out walking the Center City Philadelphia sidewalks, and lots of them were headed over to Dilworth Plaza, site of the Occupy Philly encampment.

Since the group was supposed to be out by late yesterday, some of the Occupiers have moved on.  Others are very much  still there.  Signs up around the plaza note that the Occupy Philly group plans to move to a number of decentralzied locations once the inevitable forcible eviction begins.

The mix of hard-core homeless to hard-core activist is about 50-50 right now, with several dozen of each group milling around quietly.  Police and media are prominently present.  There is a much quieter air than I have seen before, no bullhorns or group chants, no music or any really signs of energy.

Warm food was being distributed, a few folks were packing up, and mostly people were sitting around, waiting to see what is going to happen next.  I didn't bring my Canon on my walk today, as the big camera attracted some unwanted attention on my last visit.  Instead, I snapped today's photos with my HTC Thunderbolt camera.  Many others were doing the same thing, documenting what it seems may be the final day that Occupy Philly calls Dilworth Plaza home.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back To Work!

It's a slow Sunday night here in Medford.  I'm winding down the weekend and waiting for Boardwalk Empire

I will be the first to admit that I am still struggling to find a rhythm to the weekends when the kids are not here.  The contrast between the whirlwind they create when they are home and the silence of the walls when they are not is so striking that I need to stay busy or go crazy.

And it was certainly a busy weekend!  Wednesday night's brush with mortality gave me a great deal to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.  The kids and I enjoyed the day Thursday, making 12 pounds of mashed potatoes before heading over to Carin and Kevin's for Thanksgiving dinner.  The food and family were great, and everyone pitched in to make it a good time. 

The kids played Wii while I met The Hills and Chicken for the traditional post-family decompression.  The conversation was outstanding as always, though I am not sure we will make The Plumstead the new location in future years.  It's a mite grungy for even a dive bar aficionado.  Carin convinced me to drive her to the hellish nightmare that was pre-Black Friday at Toys R Us.  45 minutes in line to be herded like cattle through a maze of merchandise to another line for electronics.  Sadly we didn't make it in time to get the item she was hoping for.  A drive by Target at midnight convinced us it was time to call it a night.

I participated in Black Friday, hitting Kohl's in PA with my mom and sister before my shopping meter hit the red zone.  Later, the kids and I hit Best Buy and Target, before we retreated to the relative quiet of Medford.  After the kids left, I worked a bit Friday night and really felt my age, seeing all the young folks back home visiting their families and desperate for a drink.

Saturday was a busy day, with several hours of leaf removal that sandwiched a visit from Carlo 'The Chief' Iacono.  He rescued me from a waist-high pile of leaves and took me for a ride in his '67 Mustang. We spent an hour talking about kids and Occupy Philly and how much our lives have changed.  I got back in time to wrap up the yard work for the year.  After a quick dinner with an old friend, I did some curtain shopping and saw a movie with a new friend. 

Saturday wrapped up at the Indian Chief, commiserating with a fellow soccer coach and listening to perhaps the worst cover band I have ever heard.  At least the company was good. 

The glorious weather of the weekend rolled on today.  I did some light hiking at a nearby nature preserve and worked up a pretty good sweat, showing just how out of shape I have managed to get.  After discovering there was no way to get electric to my christmas lights, I decided to add an outdoor outlet so I could hang the icicle lights

I weathered the Eagles loss before realizing that shopping is not my forte.  While all the curtians are the same size and color, two different patters were mixed together.  I guess I need to go back!

So, long story short, I made myself as busy as I could this weekend.  There were some highlights and some tough moments.  Still, now it's Sunday night and I can't believe how quickly this beautiful weekend passed! A four day weekend with glorious 60 degree weather in November and some very fine moments and wonderful people. 

Have a great week!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four - Black Friday

It's Black Friday in America, that orgy of consumer excess that has shoppers pepper spraying each other over a $200 TV and people abandoning the Thanksgiving dinner table to eat dinner in line for the  Pod Touch 8gb that 728 other people are in line for ahead of you.

What are the four most insane things about Black Friday?

  1. The 2,000 people in line at midnight at the Springfield Mall Target.
  2. That I actually was out shopping in it. (Lasted a bit more than an hour!)
  3. That the fire marshall actually thinks it is safe to put 1,200 people into a Toys R Us so stuffed with crap that you can only follow the person in front of you though the maze of aisles.
  4. That it started at 9pm on Thanksgiving?

The kids and I are home enjoying the quiet finally.  I hope that you are enjoying some leftovers!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Time To Be Thankful

1943-03-06-Saturday-Evening-Post-Norman-Rockwell-article-Freedom-from-Want-430-DigimarcIt's Thanksgiving in America.  I am sure the turkey is in the oven at many houses already. But before its scent starts to fill the house or we all run off to wherever we are gathering later, it's time to think about the things that make our lives special and give thanks.

It's been a year of great personal turmoil and change for me.  I've had to move, lost a relationship with a wonderful partner, downsized my life and forced to take a hard look at who I am and what is really important.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because we can spend some time reflecting and then we usually get to enjoy our friends and family eating great food and sitting around the TV or fire.  These days, with Facebook and Skype and the like, there isn't as much catching up to do, but it's still important to have the gatherings.  I know from experience these last few months that the internet and the connections it brings can be a great friend when you are lonely, but there is no substitute for everyone being together.

Gas is $3.13 this morning.  A winter vacation isn't in the cards for many of us this year.  The economy is still stagnant and there is no NBA season.  Congress can't agree on a single thing and the only thing the Republican presidential candidates agree on is that it's all Obama's fault. 

Still, we live free in the greatest nation on earth.  I was able to get up and go to Wawa this morning in my car, my kids are playing nicely in the living room and we have a nice little home we have made our own.  We have many challenges, but far more to be thankful for.

Today I am thinking about the 102 settlers who came across the storm-tossed Atlantic seeking just the life I live today (with a lot more church going probably).  I am also thinking about the millions of men and women who were already here, living for generations in this land before Europeans invaded.  I am thinking about the land itself and all that it provides for us in food, shelter, energy, and recreation. 

I am very thankful for all those who will not be able to spend the day with their families, from the men and women serving in the armed forces, the police officers and first responders on duty keeping us safe, everyone in the service industry feeding America today and all those folks at retail establishments who will stock the shelves so we can take everything we want home today and tonight.

I am also thankful for those who are gone now.  Family and friends who were very important to me and to John and Emma for a long time.  The impact of those who we miss today can't be measured, but can be seen every day in who we are and in how we live.

My family and friends have gotten me through a very difficult period.  I am thankful to them for providing great summer vacations, a place relax and enjoy, a beautiful wedding and party, help moving and re-establishing and so many moments of fellowship that I can't even count them all.  As doors close in any life, new doors open and I have been heartened to find all kinds of folks, both new to our life and returners, behind the doors we have opened and re-opened recently.

Finally I am thankful for my two wonderful childrenJohn and Emma make it all worth it.  They fill the house with noise, give me so many moments of joy and help me see the positives even on really tough days.  They are the constant in my life.

This is my 6th Thanksgiving day post, and Norman Rockwell's 'Freedom From Want' has been with us since the beginning.  It's symbolic to me of all that it means to be an American.  But that's the simple, easy version of being an American.  The truth is, that it's a lot harder than the picture makes it out to be.  So today, please take a moment to consider the sacrifices of all those who make your life what it is today.  Thank those you can and remember and consider those you can't.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Eve - Getaway Day Followed by Amateur Night

After five days off, Another Delco Guy is in the office today with his skeleton crew, dreading the traffic we will see later.  This is a work day for me that is sandwiched in between 5 off for family time and the 4 day Thanksgiving holiday. 

The kids have half days all week, and going in today was particularly hard for Emma. I had visited John's classroom yesterday to see his presentation on 'Hurricane Jyatt'  which is a pretty funny video if you are interested.  Emma was feeling a bit left out that I wasn't visiting her class today for the Thanksgiving feast.  Sadly, I didn't know about the feast until last night and had already been scheduled in the office today.  Thankfully, we have had a lot of daughter-daddy time lately and she perked up a bit when I reminded her that I would see her tomorrow and we would go see her cousins in Swarthmore for Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, we're holding down the fort at the UArts ghost town and maintaining our pre-holiday good cheer.  Later on we will fight our way through the traffic to get home or to second jobs or to whatever else might be planned on the biggest traveling and drinking day of the year.  I know many of you are on a half-day as well, so enjoy the afternoon off!

Tomorrow is the big day, family, food, football and fellowship.  It's the greatest holiday of them all, and I will of course have my 6th annual Thanksgiving Day post as well.  I know you are all breathless with anticipation!

Whatever your plans for later, please be patient and safe on the roads, enjoy your friends and family and remember to tip your bartenders and wait staff!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rainy Tuesdays Aren't All Bad

I am so glad that today happened the way it did.  A morning that was a bit slower-paced than usual.  Running some errands around town and catching up with  image from www.flickr.comsome friends via text message.  A few moments to myself.  A visit to John's classroom for his presentation on weather.

A work teleconference, some emails about baseball and a good conversation with my son.  Music to think about on the radio, antipasti for lunch, a happy little girl, clean laundry folded and put away.  A good deed proposed, done and delivered. A heart made lighter, but tighter.

Doing some email while homework is done, watching the kids play a board game.  Rooms cleaned, trash cans out.  Computer problem solved, dishes done and bathroom cleaned. Angry birds to play with while we wait for dinner.  Clean plates, quick showers and books read equals ice cream cake for dessert.  Teeth brushed and a quiet house gives me a moment to reflect. 

Rain on the windows with no other sound and my eyes droop ...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sometimes She's A Handful - A Single Dad Reflects On His Daughter

Anyone who reads these pages knows I am completely devoted to my daughter Emma.  Some days are just a bit more trying than others, though and today was one of them.  Thanks to my many friends who have contacted me tonight after my image from www.flickr.comexasperated Facebook post a bit earlier. You are all correct.  She's a super little girl who cares deeply about everyone she meets and loves her friends and family with all her heart.

I guess maybe the wonderful weekend we had kind of made a tough day an inevitability.  On Friday, Emma got a great report card, so we took her and her BFF out to lunch.   Then we had a wonderfully fun afternoon visiting her best friend's house.  We went to the book fair and community night at school and then out to dinner at The Pub with a bunch of our Tabernacle friends.  Emma wrapped up the evening with her first sleep over at a friend's house and she loved every minute of it.

Saturday was no less packed, as Emma hosted her friend for a few hours and then we headed over to Swarthmore for my niece Ellie's 5th birthday.  Cake, ice cream, presents and some very happy kids!  We wrapped that night up with her second sleepover.  After a communal brunch Sunday with the Ranson and Newsome clans, we headed back to Medford for an afternoon of much needed-relaxing and a wonderful pork loin dinner.

I said earlier today that I am trying to raise a young woman who is strong and self-assured.  'You're succeeding,' a friend pointed out. 'But that makes everything just a bit harder.'

So when I think back over what I am sure was one of Emma's best weekends ever, and consider all that she is as an 8 year old, I must agree with you all that she deserves a pass for today.  Thanks everyone for the attitude adjustment!


The cold bite of evening frost is made all the harder

By the unexpected warmth of the past day’s sun

The clear shine of the moon’s rise

Kills all beneath it and chases summer finally away

The cold ache of winter drives the promise of spring

To the cold edge of darkness

-- Chris Pesotski - November, 2011- Medford, NJ

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four - Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday and I have decided to extend the fun by a bit!  What could be better than a holiday that is about cooking, eating, hanging out with family and watching football?  Yes, I understand that there is much more to it and I will cover those things in my annual Thanksgiving day post, but for now, let's just talk about the fun stuff...

What are your four favorite things about Thanksgiving?

  1. Dark meat - yup - I love it!  Everyone else can fight over the dry turkey breast, I am a thigh guy!
  2. Football rivalries - from the big local high school games to the Lions and the Cowboys, football has become as important to this holiday as cranberry sauce.
  3. Gathering - it's the best part of the day, when people from all over converge before dinner, covered dishes or bottles of wine in hand.  This year we'll be at my sister's in Swarthmore.  Stop by!
  4. Watching the women plan the Black Friday assault.  If this much planning had gone into the war in Afghanistan, the troops would have been home years ago!

I hope you are all getting ready for the holidays.  We've got a nice long weekend here full of dances and birthdays and school stuff.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Celebrating the Little Things

image from www.flickr.comTuesday we found out that John was selected to play travel baseball again next spring.  That good news came on the heels of Emma's completion of her first season of soccer and at the end of two really long days of work for me.  On the spur of the moment, I decided a little family celebration was in order and we headed to PJ Whelihan's in Medford Lakes for an impromptu dinner out.

While it was a luxury we really can't afford right now, it ended up being a great night as PJs was filled with families doing pretty much the same thing we were.  The restaurant hires a balloon artist on Tuesdays, so everyone had brightly colored headdresses and there was a lot of laughter in the air.  Emma did her homework and chatted with classmates, John watched the big screen TVs while talking baseball and we all relaxed for an unexpected hour of fun.

image from www.flickr.comI've never been a big fan of the PJ's chain, but this night may have turned the corner for me.  Emma's meal, which included a drink and dessert was only $5.99.  My fish tacos were $7.99.  John, as usual,  was the big spender with a bacon cheese burger and crab fries that topped out at $13.99.  Emma enjoyed her chicken fingers, which were nothing special, John's burger was cooked just the way he likes it and my fish tacos were good-sized and had great flavor.  I never knew the family night was a big thing there, but the balloon artist said the place is packed every week during the school year. 

We had a chance to talk about school without me running around like a crazy man trying to get dinner together, the kids had nice night out and there were no dishes to do!

Maybe we will have to make it a tradition to celebrate the little things there more often!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Changes At Occupy Philly

Yesterday I took a bit of a walk at lunch and headed over to the Occupy Philly encampment at Dilworth Plaza, adjacent to Philadelphia City Hall.  I have visited four times since the occupiers took root there in September.

image from www.flickr.comThere has been some news lately, as just after the election, Mayor Nutter took to the airwaves to declare that the Occupy Philly group had changed, and that given the change he was going to have to start dealing with them differently.  Nutter noted issues with public health and safety as well as the group's refusal to move to an area across the street to allow a planned renovation of the Dilworth Plaza site to begin.

The Occupy Philly folks on the other hand have shot back that they have not changed, but rather it's Nutter that has been on the move.  Various Occupy Philly members made statements in stark contrast to the Mayor Nutter's allegations.  And, predictably, there were some folks in the middle, not sure who was right as the movement heads into the winter.

From my visit, I have to say that the encampment is distinctly different than it was in late summer.  Then it seemed like a large portion of the group were college students enjoying the warm nights and permissive atmosphere rather than having to stay in their dorm rooms.  When I visited during the day, the core group was a combination of aging hippies,  some homeless people, a group of hard-core activists and a sprinkling of young people.  All of those folks were there in the evening hours too, but there was also a night-time influx of vocal college aged-students, suspiciously clean for folks allegedly living outside.

Things have changed a lot in the last few weeks.  The population of hard-core homeless is much greater.  There are obviously people there up to no good.  Most of the college students are gone.  Many of the older folks have moved on as well.  The police presences is decidedly more edgy. The place has the look and smell of a homeless encampment; it does not feel like a political movement from my perspective. 

My photos don't show the change as much as they should.  I didnt take as many this time and I definitely was careful who I shot.  For the first time, I was subjected to open hostilty as I walked among the tents.  There were areas where I not only didn't feel welcome, but I didn't walk though because they did not appear safe.  It's also clear that there are concerns among those camping there about safety. 

I am not sure what the future is for Occupy Philly.  Will it be cleared away by force like Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland?  Will they move across the street to the area suggested by the city?  With the movement continue to with as the temerature drop anonly those experienced with sleeping outside in a Philadelphia winter are willing to stay?

Whatever happens, I do feel like it will be happening soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Delco Sunset

image from www.flickr.com

I am a sunset guy.  I will pull over on the side of the road to watch the amazing play of pinks and purples across the sky on summer evenings or pull on a coat and watch the golds dance on a cold winter afternoon.  I take a lot of sunset photos, some that look like an inferno is engulfing the earth, some where the sun just disappeared into the desert twilight, some others that certainly show the face of god, a few that illuminated special moments and some where the world seemed near an end.

Yesterday as the sun was setting on the Eagles' season, Dan Walklett said, "You should get your camera."  I am glad he did.  All my life I have enjoyed taking photos, somtimes alone, some times prompted by others, sometimes with someone special at my side. 

I've never seen to that were the same and yet I alwasy have the same thought. "What a great way to end a day."  Regardless of how bad the day way, a good sunset can always make it better.  This time of year it's a little tough with the sun setting before I get out of work, but that just gives me another reason to look forward to the weekend!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wrapping Up The Youth Sports Seasons

Yesterday, Emma played the last game of her soccer season for the TAA "Green Machine."  She thoroughly enjoyed her first year of soccer, and I enjoyed coaching her and her friends.  I still say anyone must be qualified to coach soccer if I can, but image from www.flickr.comit was still a great time.

Emma has begun to understand how to move to the ball and how to use her size against smaller, quicker players.  She has gotten a lot better at being able run around for the whole game without losing interest or getting tired.  She has been one of the first to volunteer to play when other kids don't want to.

I'm very proud of all that she learned and I wish we had her play soccer before this fall.  It was a far better experience for her than the T-Ball experience two years ago!  The last game was not a win, but the trophy helped the sting of the loss.  Thanks to Coach Dave and Coach Jim for really doing the real work of coaching this year.

John's fall baseball season ended a while back, the last games a casualty of the freak pre-Halloween snowstorm that hit the Mid-Atlantic.  His War Eagles squad really came together this fall, winning the last 5 games of the season. He is a big boy who is still growing into his long legs and big frame.  He's got a lot of potential and determination, but his progress this fall was image from www.flickr.comincremental rather than spectacular.

John loves playing baseball and is a darn good pitcher, but his footspeed limits what he can do in the field.  His bat began to come around this fall after some coaching that found a problem with his swing.  Tryouts for the spring War Eagles teams were held last weekend and he did well, and he is on pins and needles waiting to see if he made the team.

For me, this fall season probably brings to close my 6 years of youth coaching.  The fall has been a struggle for me to balance coaching duties, work schedules and getting the kids where they need to be every day.  As John has moved up the baseball ladder, my ability to help the teams he is on has been smaller and smaller.  While Emma and I enjoyed me helping her soccer team this year, there are plenty of folks who can do what I did for the team.

Sometimes something has to give when you are a single dad, and I have known this moment was coming for some time.  Coaching my kids has given me some of the happiest moments of my life.  Seeing them grow and succeed, have fun with their friends and learn some hard lessons has been an absolute privilege.  Thankfully, there are lots of good coaches in baseball program to be able to help my son develop.  I'm still not sure how good a soccer coach I was, so I am sure someone (anyone) can fill those shoes! 

I'll still be at the games, and some of the practices, but I'll be in the stands with the other dads and moms, taking my pictures, grumbling about the coaches and enjoying every minute of it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four - Best War Books

It's Veterans Day here in the US the day we set aside to specially remember those who have served, fought and given so much for our nation.

So we've got a military-themed Fantastic Four this week:

What are the four best war books?

The Killer Angels – Michael Shaara - some of the best historic fiction ever written.  Wonderful dialog and a perfect sense of setting at the battle of Gettysburg.

  1. All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque - I remember the first time i read this in high school and how much it changed how I looked at war, the military and  the value of life.
  2. The Caine Mutiny – Herman Wouk - A fantastic story, wonderful characters and writing.  Very believable war sequence and a great courtroom finale.
  3. The Great Escape - Paul Brickhill - Maybe the greatest escape ever, the true story that inspired the movie.

Thanks to veterans everywhere who make it possible for my family and me to live safely and in freedom.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Beautiful Day

I wish I had taken more pictures yesterday.  It's a day I want to remember for the rest of my life.  There was nothing super special about it, but the sum total was one of those days that you never want to have end.  It was Election Day and the kids were off from school.  I had made a decision several months ago to take the day as well.  As it turned out, the weather was glorious, with brilliant blue skies, some orange and red leaves still hanging on, and temperatures hitting 72 degrees.

image from www.flickr.comEmma and I started the day teaching each other to paint her nails.  Now I am a doting father, and I don't get too hung up on gender roles, but this was not something I have done before for her.  In between the color and glitter coats, I made her French toast and we chatted about school and Halloween and her friend's pug. She ate every bit of her breakfast and gave me a big hug, burying her buttery face in my shirt and saying, 'That was great, I love you Daddy.'

After we got things cleaned up, it was time to vote.  Emma was very interested in voting this year, and she pressed all the buttons for me.  We spent some time talking about 'important US symbols' and 'just important American stuff.' I explained what an election was, who we were voting for and why and talked about leaders and decisions. Some pretty big concepts, but she seemed to get them pretty well.

After our civics lesson, Emma begged for some time at the park, so we headed over to the swings and slides and she ran shrieking with joy from one to the other until it was time to go get her brother.

On of john's friends is having some serious family health issues right now, so John had spent the night there, but by lunch time, the air guns and Wii games were kind of boring, so Emma and I went over to pick them up.  Everyone was pretty hungry after spending most of the morning outside, so we headed over to Prospector's for lunch on their indoor/outdoor patio.  John saw a few of his former classmates from Mount Laurel, we all enjoyed our root beers and watched the Penn State debacle on ESPN.

After that we were looking for a way we could all go the same place for a few hours.  The library had books for Emma and newspapers for me, as well computers for John and his buddy.  We killed an easy two hours before heading back home. 

The boys headed off to the creek to do some exploring and Emma and I enjoyed some reading time out on the porch.  She headed off for a bit with a friend for some ice cream and I sat in the late autumn sun and was thankful for a day that had brought me so many small, but special moments. 

In the evening it was time to get ready for the next day, organizing lunches, doing neglected homework, following election returns.  The day slipped away quietly, but I wanted to make sure I wrote it all down, so that I would always have it.  Thanks for sharing it with me!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Election Day Is Tomorrow

All across the county, Americans will go to the polls tomorrow to exercise our constitutional responsibility to voice our opinion and select our leaders.  For the most part, the general elections are local affairs, from my dad's first contested race in over 30 years of politics to town councils and state house elections that are the true grass roots of our political culture.

image from www.flickr.comIn my new home town, we have been consumed lately by allegations that our Republican mayor, Chris Myers has some skeletons in his closet and is now essentially being blackmailed by a man he paid for sex while on a business trip.  Signs like the one to the left have appeared all over town.  It's inflamed the community and the media, but really won't have much effect on politics here as no Democrat bothered to run for anything this year.  It's not as though there aren't some serious issues facing the community.  Sigh.

Due to the NJ politicos making deals to protect themselves, there are not really any serious races for the state house in Trenton.  Only three races are expected to be remotely close.  I love how Trneton really enpowered people with these new districts!

In Burlington County, the Freeholder election is the most important, but the Surrogate race is certainly the most colorful.  I have no idea what's going on with former Dem turned Republican George Kotch and Medford Lawyer Sander Friedman, who are vying for the Surrogate post, but I sure wish I had a third choice.  Just reading about this stuff makes me want to take a shower.  The race is a big ekough deal for the Republicans that I caught a TV attack ad against Friedman that ran this weekend on cable.  Pretty big spending for a seemingly useless post.

The Freeholder race pits the lone Democrat on the board, Mary Anne Reinhart and her running mate Machell Still-Pettis against the Burlington County GOP's slate of newcomers, Leah Arter and Joe Howarth in the heavily Republican-represented county.  While control of the Board is not at stake, the race is big enough that the county's big boys have bought TV time in this race too, really smacking Reinhart pretty hard

The Republicans have a lot of negative material to work with, as the Shamong Dem wrangled with the sheriff last week, while managing the most tepid newspaper endorsement I have ever seen. When people who are supporting you say that you 'need to try a different approach if re-elected,' I think there are some issues with your candidacy.  I've met Ms. Reinhart and found her violently confrontational approach distasteful and over the top.  I'll be voting the other way on this one.

Finally, in Cherry Hill, my friend and fellow Cabrini alum Steve Buividas is running for mayor.  I know very little of the issues or politics in this race, but I can tell you that I know Steve and he is a good person and will be an honest and strong mayor.

Whomever you support, I urge you to go to the polls tomorrow.  It's what our democracy is built on and it's the only direct way he have to make our choices known.  If you don't go out to vote tomorrow, I don't want to hear your complaining when things don't get done the way you want them to get done.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Village Pub - A Review

First, you have to know what you are getting when you go to "The Pub."  The floors are plywood.  The bar is plywood.  The biggest TV is 27 inches, it's on a stack of milk crates, and it was made in the Carter administration.

You aren't here for the ambiance.

What you are here for is surprisingly good, cheap Italian food, local color and/or a night of beers with your friends.  This local hangout caters to everyone from serious drunks to families out after a youth sports event. While the place is certainly clean, it's clean in a gritty, mellow way.

There is always a full roster of specials, heavy on the pasta and easy on the wallet.  I think they do a great job with their veal dishes. There is also a full bar menu with excellent wings and a chicken cheesesteak that is one of the best around.  Marinated chunks of chicken breast are grilled, slathered in cheese and dumped in a soft roll.  Not the standard prep, but a darn good spin on a classic.

Every tradesman in the area stops at the bar at least once a week for the cheap beer and the good conversation.  If you're looking for your son's basketball coach after the game, trust me, he's here.  I've even seen a bachelorette party here.

You'd never guess the place was any good from the road.  Or even from the dining table.  But trust me on this. The food is WAY better and the prices are better than PJs.  Sure, you aren't going to get 16 flatscreen TVs and seriously hot waitresses like PJs, but you'll thank me for telling you to sit down, ignore the wobbly table, grab a $2 draft and enjoy one of the specials.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Out On The Town With Emma!

While her brother is showing off his 'Moves Like Jagger' at the school dance, Emma and I are enjoying ice cream sundaes at Leo's. I hope everyone is enjoying the start to the weekend!


Friday Fantastic Four - Favorite Authors

We've been on a movie theme lately, but with Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham releasing big new books lately and Stephen King's much anticipated 11/22/63 coming out next week, I think it is a good time to switch to a book theme.

Who are your four favorite authors?

  1. John Sandford - From his 'Prey' novels starring smartass detective Lucas Davenport to his new books featuring quirky Virgil Flowers, Sandford makes Minnesota interesting!  Maybe the best characters in the crime genre today.
  2. John Feinstein - While he will never beat his debut 'A Season on the Brink' that took us all inside college basketball like no one ever had or will again, Feinstein turns out thoughtful sports inside stories nearly every year, showing us the heroism and frailties of the people we watch on TV every weekend.
  3. Michael Connelly - Once again, an author who has had huge success with two characters, first LAPD detective Harry Bosch and now a bit player from that series has his own hit series as lawyer Mickey Haller keeps Connelly fresh.  His love for LA really comes though in these books.
  4. Ruth Downie - A recent discovery for me, Downie is a British historical fiction writer whose novels feature a Roman doctor living in Britain in the second century.  Very interesting period detail, wry humor and complex plots make these a new favorite.

So who are the writers who will make you pick up a new release every time?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Barbuzzo Review

Maybe the best restaurant in Philly right now.  No hyperbole there.

Caution - you should know before reading the rest of the review that I am in full-on love with Barbuzzo at the moment.

image from www.flickr.comFirst, it's a beautiful space.  At night it's a bit hard to tell with every table filled from 5 though 11 pm, but stop by for lunch and look around.  The place was meticulously put together by people with a wonderful eye for detail and quality.

Second, the food.  Good lord, what flavors and preparation.  Amazing vegetarian soup is a wonderful way to start any meal.  The distinct flavors of each of the vegetables are evident.  I also have had a chicken vegetable chorizo soup that was simply stunning.

The star of the antipasti plate was the buffalo mozzarella with an incredible arugula pesto.  It's a fair sized meal, or an excellent sharing appetizer, and under priced at $13.

I have also enjoyed the Barbuzzo burger.  It's a juicy, tender blend of salty and sweet with a tomato onion spread that makes me consider if it's better than the burgers at Village Whiskey.  Maybe not quite, but close.  Marcie Turney has an inspired menu and Paul Lyons and Chris Davis are doing amazing work in the kitchen.

Third, the drinks.  It's a well-tended bar with every ingredient you could ever hope image from www.flickr.comfor.  The Sazerac 13 features Old Overholt Rye and a several rather hard to find bitters.  There are 6 taps of excellent craft brews as well as a number of great canned and bottled beers.  If you are a wine fan, this is a super list by the glass, rivaling any wine bar in the area.

I have had great service in my two visits, though things are a bit noisy and tight in the evening.  It's a really fun place and certainly the best food I have had out in some time.  Make it a point to get in there!  And stop by their website.  The blog features reviews by people more famous than me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My Princess is 8!

It's absolutely incredible to me that my daughter Emma turns 8 today.  It seems like just yesterday she was a tiny little thing on a respirator, stubbornly fighting her way into the world.  Today she is a sweet, sometimes sassy study of a suburban tween girl who loves her shoes, her dance, her soccer and Justin Beiber.

image from www.flickr.comShe's my observant child, always checking things out, noting when someone has a new haircut or a cool new pair of shoes.  She's whip-smart, an enthusiastic reader who loves to write, do her art and dreams about being a dance teacher.  She is a firm teacher when working with her babies and loves to help in the kitchen.

A close follower of all things Justin Beiber, Emma also follows pop music and fashion trends closely.  She is a girl's girl, avoiding dirt, but really getting into things that are pink.  She enjoys taking pictures and shopping, is always up for a chat on the phone and can be counted on to ask me every night to read her another book to push off bedtime just a bit longer.

Still there are days when my little angel is a bit of a mystery to me.  She is often able to entertain herself for hours and will get upset if you bother her.  Other times, she needs you to constantly pay attention to her and her pretty little face will cloud over if you don't have a moment for her right then.  Generally she is easy going ans cheerful and very tolerant of her older brother.  Occasionally (especially when she is tired) all heck will break loose over the tiniest perceived problem.

I am so grateful that she has a tough spirit and a positive outlook about everything in her life.  She's had some tough times for a child and I am ever so lucky that she has come through them so well.  I am also so thankful for all the people who have helped me along the way to understand my little girl.  A single dad with a smart, willful energetic girl is very lucky to have such a tremendous array of moms, grand mothers and other friends and family to fall back on when I have questions.  We're a happy little family with a lot of love and support.

Emma's a super little girl, one of the most perfect little people I have ever known.  It makes me so happy to see her when she comes running up to me.  I know there are tougher days coming as she gets older, but today I just want to see her as the wonderful kid she has always been. 

Happy Birthday Emma!  I love you so much!