Category Archives: family

i has a tween!

I find it exceptionally hard to believe two things:

  1. ten years have already gone by
  2. the 4’8″ 67lb creature that just tornadoed through the house in search of pants is the same entity who used to be this little angry meatloaf here:

Granted, we do actually have a photo record of him getting larger.

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Also, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t swapped out anywhere along the line because at this point, he literally looks like my face on Paul’s body.

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It is, however, slightly disturbing to think that I HAVE A TWEEN.  This creature is literally a tween.  He is ten.  He is his own person, although that person seems to be a class clown.

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Thankfully, these two awards (received yesterday, 6/18/18) balance each other out.

It’s a weird thing being a parent.  The best description I ever read of it was that it feels like your heart is walking around outside your body. This is my son.  This is the being who is the most important thing in the world to me, whom I would literally do anything I could to protect.  And here he is becoming his own person who is able to walk around in the world without any oversight or protection from me.  Worse, he’s becoming a totally different person all the time as he grows up and becomes whoever he truly is in there.

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Still.  I have a tween now, a boy who is halfway to being a man, a creature who will spend the second decade of his life building the foundation of the person he is meant to be.  My job is to support him as he becomes that person, and then boot him out into the world, because he is a terrible roomate (underwear everywhere, eats all the cereal, leaves dishes out).  It is strange to think that I have been doing that job without any formal training, because helping to create and then raise another human seems almost meta in its vast responsibility.  And yet, we have been doing that job, and we have, so far, produced a fairly decent human being.

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We have a tween.  Ten years ago, when they handed me my son in a bundle at Cedars-Sinai, I could not have imagined getting to this point.  I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when I look back at Mister Class Clown here from his junior year of college.

london calling (the third)

I’m taking my son to London this summer!

Of course I have been to London twice before: once in 2006 when I went and explored it on my own and once in 2010 when Paul and I went on our “honeymoon” (and spent a day at the Tower):

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This is me at the White Tower in 2010.  Paul and I had not yet learned to take selfies.

This is the first time Ben will go to London though.  He’s been to Paris and Verona and Venice, to Basel and Zurich, but the closest he’s been to the British Isles is either visiting Victoria or the British pavilion at Disneyworld (both are equally fake-English – I actually felt quite at home in a fake Tudor cottage sweet shop in EPCOT)

I had been holding off on the UK because it’s easy to visit.  I like my world traveling to be more exploring and challenging.  Visiting Britain (or any of the British Isles) doesn’t require any language or cultural effort.  It’s actually comforting for me to visit Britain because it’s so much like home: growing up with an English parent, in a former colony, in a borough that boasted two separate tea rooms and an invisible “Tweed Curtain” separating it from the rest of Victoria, means that I totally get shows like Very British Problems.  I may have gone all-in on my mother’s family heritage of Brooklyn Jewish, but I also have British citizenship by descent, and I grew up in a country that was still governed by the British constitution until I was four.

But now, we’re going to Eurocamp!  A handful of us will be representing Brooklyn – and the USA based B-PSA groups – at the camp in Newbury.  And on the way back, we’re going to stop in London, see the city, stay at Pax Lodge,  and see two of Ben’s three namesakes: Big Ben and the Tate Museum (Unfortunately, while there is a PAUL chain of patisseries, there is no major “Boothe” attraction to check off Ben’s full name).

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PAUL cubed.

We’ll go swimming at the ponds on Hampstead Heath.  We’ll ride the Eye.  We will go to the Museum of the City of London, and to the Tower and the Bridge; we’ll go to the War Rooms.  I will drag my son with me to shop at Camden Market  (Actually, I may leave him in the hostel room for that.) We will see what we can in the two and a half days we have, from Saturday afternoon to Tuesday morning.  It isn’t a lot of time, but I’m still excited to have it.

So we’re going to London.  And it’s a Mama-Ben adventure, like our trip to Switzerland, because Paul doesn’t have the days off to go with us.  I still look forward to it, even if I have to miss my husband (and Ben has to miss his father).  It will be a great adventure.  And while Ben is not as excited about it as I am, at least, after listening to Neverwhere, and getting over his suspicion of China Mieville to read Un Lun Dun, he’s somewhat interested in visiting the city that has inspired many, many fantasy versions of itself.  Or he could just be interested in riding the London Eye.  Who knows what goes on in the brain of an almost ten year old?

 

 

back to a somewhat less magical existence

And we’re back from Disney World!  That was indeed a world, more than a land.  We were thoroughly Disney Park’d out by the time we got back, although you would never know it by the enthusiasm Ben showed on Friday morning while hanging out with his visiting cousin from Savannah (shown here in Pandora: The World of Avatar in Animal Kingdom, floating mountains in background):

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Six days is a LOT of Disney time, but it turned out to be what we needed to cover all four parks.  Two days each in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, one day in Epcot and a half day in Hollywood Studios was indeed the right mix for our plans.  We were able to hit all the high points on Day One in the parks, and then take it a little more slowly while spending time with my visiting family on Thursday and Friday.  Despite my initial skepticism, this was indeed the right family vacation for us this year, especially since Ben and his second cousin Oliver are JUST the right age to be let loose to complete a pirate quest in Adventureland:

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So now we’re back in Brooklyn, which is still magical to me, even if no one here is going to tell me to “have a magical day” as part of their mandated job scripts.  Ben has also made his list of Top Ten Favorite WDW Attractions:

    1. Star Tours.  We weren’t sure about this, since Ben had a panic attack after riding Flight of the Na’vi in Avatarland, and this was another simulator ride with some drops and a lot of movement.  Ben went on it with great trepidation, but by the end, was grinning broadly from the thrill of flying through the Star Wars universe, and asked to go on it three more times during the day.
    2. Kali River Rapids.  Identical to the Russian River Rapids in California Adventure, only with a different surrounding story of river rafting in India.  We all got drenched on this one, to Ben’s joy and delight.

 

  1. Haunted Mansion.  THAT’S MY BABY.
  2. Mission Space (Orange).  Again, it was the right level of movement and simulator for Ben’s anxiety and dislike of thrill rides.  Also, it is awesome.
  3. Soarin’.  I disagree with this and think it should be first since Soarin’ over California was my favorite thing at California Adventure and Soarin’ Over the World is an upgraded version, but I suppose my nine year old son is prioritizing the space rides as he should.
  4. Pirates of the Caribbean.  The movies are literal nightmare fuel, leading to a BEN WHY ARE YOU IN OUR ROOM IT’S 2AM incident the night before we left, but the ride remains a classic.
  5. Toy Story Midway Mania.  It combined the joy of fairground skill games with a movie Ben loved – of course it was a favorite.
  6. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blasters.  No surprise here either.
  7. Big Thunder Railway.  This was a surprise since Ben was extremely nervous about riding a roller coaster.  However, after riding Flight of the Na’vi, he decided it was actually awesome in that it was well balanced in its thrills.
  8. Kilimanjaro Safaris.  This is basically a big zoo, so we had to balance our appreciation for seeing the animals with our innate dislike of keeping animals in captivity.  It was a well done experience – a Jeep ride through recreated habitats for African animals – but still, not a Disney unique ride.

Ben’s top 5 WDW experiences:

  1. Rampaging Adventureland with his cousin on A Pirate’s Adventure
  2. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which combined Magic: The Gathering with a Disney scavenger hunt
  3. Dinner at Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge, where we ate gluten free naan while watching giraffes outside
  4. The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats at the EPCOT China pavilion.
  5. The Big Thunder Railroad Shutdown, when we got to evacuate the train when the ride stopped with us on it  – and got to see the inside of the cave with the lights on (it’s apparently the one part of Disney World that isn’t cleaned, ever)

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I think we can call this another Successful Family Vacation.  It was a much more exhausting experience than Disneyland, but totally worth the energy, money and time to make that many happy family memories.

The author my son and husband BOTH dislike

Image result for perdido street stationOne of my favorite fantasy series is China Mieville’s “New Crobuzon” trilogy: Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.  This is the steampunk and magic laced world with a corrupt capitalist government, where social, racial and cultural differences are exploited for the political and fiscal gain of the corrupt upper echelons of the city (a familiar story).  The city of New Crobuzon itself is an alternate existence of London, dense with neighborhoods that spiral out over time from a central point on its Thames, the Gross Tar.  Each neighborhood has a history, each neighborhood has its races and cultures, each one is distinct.  New Crobuzon, as a world, is as much about urban history and urban geography and urban sociology as it is a fantasy realm.

I love cities.  I love the stories of cities, how they grow, how neighborhoods are built and change over time.  Therefore, I threw myself wholeheartedly into Perdido Street Station.  I saw, in my imagination, the descriptions of each neighborhood, from the scientific quarter of Brock Marsh, to the abandoned projects of Dog Fenn.  I understood the backstories of how neighborhoods came to be occupied by specific immigrant groups.  I especially loved reading about some neighborhoods went from mansions to slums and back again, keeping tenements as museums to past poverty in their midst (we have one of those!).  And I especially appreciated that, as in all great cities, New Crobuzon grew along its trains, its El, the trains the commuters still take each day, the million ordinary people of a fantasy world, traveling to and from work in a universe full of monsters and magic, between their version of the Outer Boroughs and their white-collar jobs.

Paul was not as much a fan of this concept.  He’s fine with world building – he has slugged through King’s Dark Tower series, which I don’t have patience for – but not an urban studies textbook disguised as a steampunk fantasy.   His response was that Mieville spent too much time city building and writing a Lonely Planet: New Crobuzon and not enough time actually developing characters or plot.  I pointed out that the character development is great in New Crobuzon, it’s just that each character also has to function as a representation of their class, race and culture almost as much as they are a separate being in their own right.  Each character has to also either exemplify their people, or illustrate their community through their outcast or outsider status.  Nothing tells us about a people and their culture like those they choose to exile among them.

Therefore, I should not have been surprised when Ben flat out refused to engage with the children’s version of New Crobuzon: Un Lun Dun.  We’re attempting to read this right now as the nightly bedtime story, and I’m just not getting anywhere with it. There’s a lot of eye rolling, especially when I have to explain the English language:

Image result for un lun dunME: Binja!  Get it?  Bin…ja?  They’re bin ninjas?
BEN: They’re garbage cans with legs and nunchuks
ME: English people call a trash can a bin.
BEN: *eye roll*

I also love Un Lun Dun.  It’s not the flip side of London that Kraken is, but it is a travelogue through a London’s dreams, a city built of London’s cast offs, both material and thought, a city of random buildings and people, traditions and creatures.  There’s ghosts and monsters, creatures of all  shapes and sizes.  There’s houses made from M.O.I.L. – Mildly Obsolete In London – which means typewriters and cassette tapes.  There’s even a November Tree, a tree made of solid light from Guy Fawkes fireworks.  And my favorite part of Un Lun Dun is how it flips the heroine’s journey around, changing how we think of destiny in these kind of children’s stories.  Perhaps it is time that the world gets saved by the “funny one”, not by the chosen one.

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The ab-city, with its houses and dwellings made of everything, in every shape.

Ben, however, is not nearly as charmed and interested in visualizing the ab-city.  I therefore blame Paul for this.  My husband is less into world building that I am.  I want all my books to come with an expansive geography.  I own a copy of the Dictionary of Imaginary Places.  I love maps, I love places, I love cities,  and I love imaginary worlds that come complete with entire sociological histories..  Paul, however, would like his books to be less of an atlas of a mythological land and more of an actual plot and character driven tome.  I suspect our son has taken after his father because attempts to pull Ben into the fantasy books with the best, most memorable and detailed worlds have been met with resistance.  According to Ben, Narnia is boring.  Earthsea was really boring.  (Middle-Earth we are still working on).

I’ll keep working on this.  I want my son to have that sense of expansive imagination, to be able to imagine other worlds, with their own history and mythology, their own rules of physics and magic.  We’re going to flip into Neverwhere on audiobook over the  break.  I’ve got twenty-plus hours to fill with Gaiman and Tolkein and Lewis…and we are going to get through the rest of Un Lun Dun if it kills me.  I just have to figure out how to get my son excited about exploring these imaginary worlds with his mama.

 

the nightmare before christmas, live in brooklyn!

Last Wednesday, I took the boys to see the Nightmare before Christmas – Live to Film. It was the projected film, with live music and vocals by the original cast voices. That meant Danny Elfman, in person, belting out the part of Jack Skellington, in front of a full two hundred piece orchestra and backing vocal chorus, below the projected film. It was amazing.
Featuring famous Canadian Catherine O’Hara!
Nightmare, along with Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, are part of the goth canon for my generation. Burton’s early work is what fits with the whimsical, dark faeryland aesthetic of second generation goth, both due to the constant reference of death in imagery, and the elongated lines, dark curlicues, and stark contrast stripes. That is the the Tim Burton aesthetic, and Nightmare, with its horror theme, Halloween imagery and Danny Elfman soundtrack, is a pinnacle of goth entertainment.
It’s also worth noting here that, while Oingo Boingo are considered goth adjacent, I do not believe they are considered goth canon. Except for “Dead Man’s Party“, and that I heard more as the Last Dance cover at Bar Sinister. Paul, however, enjoys Oingo Boingo quite a bit, and, as he remarked to me at the end of the movie, this was the closest we would get to an Oingo Boingo concert for a long time. The fact that it wasn’t an Oingo Boingo concert though did not stop us from occasionally quiet-yelling “PLAY DEAD MAN’S PARTY” or “ONLY A LAD!”
Ben is not yet a fan of Oingo Boingo (Paul is working on it), but he loves Nightmare and even asks to watch it in off season (That’s my baby.). He likes the movie so much that he even took a second run at watching its cousin film, the recent adaptation of Gaimans Coraline. (Still too scary.) This event appealed so much to our family that I invested in the mid-range seats at the Barclays Center so we could actually see the performers.
We walked in to find genius product placement: Hot Topic ads featuring Jack Skellington. I dislike the appropriation of Jack Skellington as this sort of bad boy symbol in general, and I squarely blame Hot Topic. Still. Genius product placement.  Then again, Nightmare does inspire some things that sound like a Hot Topic imploded into a quasar of overkill.

Marilyn Manson is also NOT GOTH.
I read retroactively that “Barclay’s Center will become Halloweentown!” and that costumes were encouraged, but I didn’t see anything themed or otherwise.  I did see a handful of outfits and Jack Skellington T-shirts, but no effort on the part of the venue was visible as we walked halfway around it to get to our seats.
We sat down just in time for the warm up: Disney’s Silly Skeletons, with a live score performed by the orchestra. I forget how deeply disturbing some of these early cartoons are. Multiple points in this were nightmare fuel:
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I SERIOUSLY CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE WHAT THIS IS.
The next piece was a medley of the score, with what I assume were Tim Burton’s original pencil crayon drawings. Ben was very impressed at the drawings and asked if Tim Burton was also an artist.  We had just finished explaining that yes, he was, but he was best known for directing movies, like the original 1987 Batman and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but by then the movie had started.
Overture with drawings, which someone kindly posted on YouTube
Right away for the opening number, five cast members filed onto stage, whom we assume were all original score, launching right into “This is Halloween”.  It wasn’t until Jack’s first song that Danny Elfman came out, singing “Jack’s Lament” with an incredible intensity.  I haven’t seen Elfman sing live before, so therefore I was amazed by his depth of sound.  Also, like everyone else on stage, he was clearly having a freaking blast.  Despite singing a lament despairing of the sameness of every day in Halloween Town, Danny Elfman was still downright joyful.
That would prove to be the theme for the evening.  I have rarely seen a performer enjoy themselves as much as this cast was.  Ken Page, singing the Oogie Boogie song, was delighted to be there, and was having so much fun with his performance that it took all the fear out of that most nightmarish of characters.  Catherine O’Hara came out and sang “Sally’s Song”, perfectly note for note as she did a quarter century ago, emoting Sally’s tragic longing while still having a good time being on stage.  There is something to being at a show where the performers have that contagious joy at being there.
I was just so impressed with this production.  I can’t even begin to imagine the work to take the score and sound layers apart and put them back together to sync up to the orchestra and singers.  To do so, the original creators of the idea must have had to determine where the live music and voices would cut in, and give direction to sound engineers to specifically take track layers out at those moments.  It must have been incredibly detailed work that would require stress-testing with performers.
For that matter, I can’t imagine being in an orchestra performing an entire score all at once.  That’s insane, two hours of performing a score straight through without more than the intermission break, plus the opening cartoon and overture.  How would you have the entire score on your stand and manage to turn the pages and keep up and play flawlessly for that long?  I am blown away with the caliber of musicians that performed this soundtrack, beginning to end.
LIVE FULL ORCHESTRA.
For all these reasons – for the concept of seeing a live-to-film movie perfectly edited, for the joy of the performers singing on stage, for the quality of the musicians who performed, I was so glad we were able to go.  It’s our way of celebrating the holiday season: by watching a movie where Halloween nightmares try to reproduce Christmas and end up terrifying everyone.  Every family has its traditions.  This was a particularly special way for us to celebrate ours.

brunch date, brooklyn style

Paul and I spent today on a Brunch Date!  We dropped Ben off at his class at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and then, realizing we still had two hours until we had to pick him up, kind of looked at each other

“What do you want to do?” my husband asked me.
“Well, it depends,” I said. “How much biking do you want to do?” I’m back in Physical Training mode, after all – trying to get myself back to the physical shape I was in when I first got sick in June. Therefore, I’m prioritizing more challenging physical activity this week to start rebuilding my endurance, so I can resume my personal training sessions without collapsing halfway through. But I also don’t want Paul to have to wear himself out just because I’m pushing myself more these days.

Fortunately that wasn’t a concern for Paul. “I’m fine,” he told me. “I’ll bike as far as you want to go.”

I smiled. “Then lets go to Smorgasburg! It’s only 4.3 miles away! I checked!”

“Isn’t Smorgasburg coming to Prospect Park on Sundays now though?” Paul asked.

“Yeah, it is,” I replied. “But I think we should go to the Williamsburg location. We will get there right when it opens at 11. It won’t get crowded that early because all the hipsters in Williamsburg wake up late from having been out last night. Whereas the Prospect Park one is going to be mobbed as soon as it opens at 11am tomorrow with families whose kids all woke up at the ass crack of dawn on a Sunday and announced they were bored.”

Paul nodded. “I see the logic here,” he said. “Let’s go. Lead the way.” So I jumped on my bike, and did so, leading the way up Classon to the Navy Yards, and then up the bike path to East River Park. We arrived at 10:52, with just enough time to use the reasonably clean port-a-potties and the conveniently placed hand washing stations before attacking the food vendors.

I had read up before heading out to Smorgasburg this year. The event has, after all, only become larger and even more of a Crazy Food-Off since we first visited it in 2012. I found a good recent Refinery29 article that covered it pretty well and helped me prioritize which stands to hit. (Hint: Not the Ramen Burger…and not just because it had a ridiculous line, ten minutes after it opened)

We wandered up and down to see this year’s lineup first. There were no lines at ANY of the stands because Smorgasburg had just opened, and people were still coming in, so we felt secure taking a few extra minutes to survey the offerings before jumping into brunch. At the recommendation of the R29 article, I suggested starting with the Imperial Egg: a Scotch Egg vendor. What is a Scotch Egg, you ask? It’s an egg, wrapped in meat, and deep fried, and it is AWESOME.

Scotch Egg from The Imperial Egg

This was a lamb merguez style meat coating. The egg was cut in half, covered in a yogurt sauce, and then we added sriracha at the recommendation of the chef. It was amazing at a half-portion each. The egg yolk and yogurt sauce and sriacha all mixed to drip onto the arugula, which was a great counterpoint to the rich layers of the scotch egg.

Then we moved on to Duck Season, again, based on recommendations from the Interwebs…but also because how could anyone resist a blatant Looney Tunes reference?

We opted for their specialty: the Duck Confit, a perfectly cooked duck leg with red onion marmalade. This isn’t the sort of thing that can be easily split, so Paul and I took turns taking bites of it. It was the first duck confit I’ve ever had that wasn’t too salty, but still managed to be crispy on the outside, while being tender and juicy on the inside. I was so interested in eating it, I forgot to take a photo until it looked like this:

post duck season

So here’s a photo I went back and took of the demo model:

duck duck duck

Eating the confit, sitting on a concrete wall, we both discussed how, if no one sets up a food stall called Rabbit Season for 2016, we will be SERIOUSLY disappointed.

We then followed the sound of “Welcome To The Jungle” next door, to Bon Chovie, a seafood and rock and roll themed stall, where I ordered the fried anchovies, “Jersey style” (which I totally didn’t think was a thing.) The menu also included a salmon burger, and a chef that I suspect, based on his Seahawks hat, probably brought that Seattle style. The anchovies were, as promised, head and tail on, deep fried, and served with smoked paprika sauce:

seal food

Yes, these kind of small fish are considered seal food where I come from, but the harbor seal is my spirit animal. I shared two with Paul, after which he declared them “too fishy”, even with lemon squeezed on them.

Since both of us were rapidly approaching Food Overload by then, we decided to hit one more stall. We looked somewhat longingly at the short ribs at Carnal. Paul remarked, “I know I can get fries anywhere, but those giant cones of fries look really good

“You are allowed to choose your own food, my love,” I pointed out. “You do not have to let your wife pick ALL the foods.”

“I know,” he told me, “but wasn’t there one more you wanted to try?”

Yes. Yes there was. The MofonGO, a dish of plantains with a chicken curry stew on top.

MOFONGO!

I love plantains. They’re super versatile, and work with both sweet and savory dishes. My current list of Things I Want To Cook includes this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. And mofongo seemed like the sort of dish I could easily modify for our own meals at home.

We settled in to eat it while sitting on the edge of the East River, watching tourists take selfies, and talking about how we could NEVER TELL BEN about going to Smorgasburg, because he would be no end of annoyed with us. Telling our son that we left him to engage in child labor harvesting vegetables at the botanical gardens while we ran off to eat duck confit and deep fried fish would not sit well with him.

As it was, by the end of the mofongo, we were both definitely full, and it was time to bike back down to Prospect Heights. After all, as fun as it is riding our bikes around Williamsburg and pretending to be the sort of people who to go Smorgasburg, we are usually a little family who do everything together. So we reversed direction back down the bike path, and after some back and forth with Google Maps, managed to get to the Botanical Gardens just in time to retrieve Ben from his gardening class.

I collected Ben at the Children’s Farm, and promptly made the mistake of asking him, “how was your class?”

“Terrible. I only got five beans!”

I looked in his bag, and sure enough, there were five yellow wax beans. Ben continued, “I picked twenty of them, but I had to give them all away because other kids didn’t pick any!”

I sighed internally. “That’s OK, my love. I’m proud of you for sharing. I’m actually prouder of you for sharing that I would be of you for bringing all the beans out with you.”

“But I picked, like, twenty beans and I only got to keep a few!”

Thankfully, it was time after that to take Ben to his next stop: a Lego and Pokemon themed birthday party a half mile away. We loaded ourselves back onto our bikes and headed back up the hill, up to Eastern Parkway, past Grand Army Plaza, and onto the Bergen Street bike path to Brickz 4 Kidz. Ben was dropped off, happy with his people, and seemingly over the horrible indignity of having to pick beans only to have to give them away to other children. (Clearly, our son does not agree with communism.)

Paul and I then headed down into the Slope to engage on our last Brooklyn Food Stereotype activity: picking up our CSA from Fishkill Farms, along with our meat share from McEnroe Farms. Lately, the shares have been sizeable, and Paul has had to bike uphill with an extra twenty pounds of produce strapped to his back. It’s still less than the seventy pounds of Ben and trailer bike he used to haul though, so he has done it cheerfully. This week was no exception, as we collected our vegetables, fruit, and grass-fed cow. And to Paul’s credit, even after biking almost twelve miles at that point, he still steadily paced up the hill, back up from 5th Avenue to Prospect Park West, and finally, back around Grand Army plaza to home.

When I got home, I immediately plugged the routes into MapMyFitness, just so I could see how far we rode…and realized, I had totally burned off all the deep fried food we’d eaten at Smorgasburg. Here’s the map showing our route

Now, sitting on the couch, I realize I a extra tired from the effort. Like, really tired, exhausted tired, the sort of exhausted I used to have to bike a lot further to get to. Getting back to bike commuting before the season ends will be tough: today’s 13 miles was done in chunks, and I’m not sure I can do ten miles in less than an hour anytime soon. But if I don’t start now, I definitely won’t be able to return to that level of physical fitness, so I may as well go for it, and see what I can achieve before winter. And if, in the process, I get to go for bike rides and brunch outings with my husband, so much the better.Here’s the map:

Morning raves are the best thing ever

Yesterday, we took Ben to his first rave party. Because we are Responsible Parents, this was a sober rave, part of the new “early morning rave party” trend. These are dance parties that play house and deep house, that bring in local DJs known for playing parties to do it, and are full of flower necklaces and glowsticks…at 7 in the morning. There’s no alcohol, no X, no Molly, just coffee, cold pressed juice and raw vegan breakfast foods. To those of us too old to stay up all night, but too young to give up on dance parties, they are fantastic.  More importantly,  they are profitable: yesterday’s event was the 11th party hosted to date in NYC by Morning Gloryville,  a London based hosting company, and their schedule seems to be monthly at this point.   There is a clear market for these early morning sober raves,  and me and my contemporaries are probably it.

I haven’t been to anything like a rave in years.  I used to go out a lot in Vancouver,  because I had friends who were either DJs or promoters.   I’d go see my friend Farshad spin at the old Stone Temple  club in Vancouver, or go to the events his promotion company threw.   Even after I left BC for California, I went to the Lotus/Honey for those events every time I was home.   And in LA, I went to the Circus, or to the Burning Man parties in DTLA, in the artists district near the Brewery colony.   But all that stopped years ago when I became a Responsible Adult.  With minimal time to spend on going out and music culture,  I have focused much more on goth than Electronica.   I like EDM, but I love EBM.

So I have fond memories of dancing until 4am to house music in clubs, or even until sunrise occasionally.  My old friend Graham threw an awesome party in an abandoned power plant just before I left Vancouver in 2004 called, of course, “The Gong Show” that is still my defining memory of a rave.  But at all of these events, the focus was always on the music. I have never done any raver drugs: I am too afraid of unbalancing my already precariously balanced brain. If I’m at anything like a rave, the worst thing I’m going to be on is a whole lot of caffeine, which, in my younger days, took the form of vodka Red Bulls. 

Now, in my older, sedate days, that’s two cups of Bulletproof coffee (coffee blended with ghee and coconut oil).  We all hopped out of bed early Wednesday morning – even Ben, who was promised that he could dance however he wanted for an hour before school. He was very enthusiastic about this, and dressed himself to be ready to go with no prodding. We all packed our backpacks with everything we would need for the day, because long gone are the days when I can leave the house with only what I can fit in my bra, and we headed down the hill, on our bikes, in the early morning chill, to Gowanus.

Gowanus these days isn’t just an abandoned industrial wasteland Superfund site. It’s an old warehouse district that now houses everything cool near Park Slope: the Bell House, Union Hall, a dozen hipster bars, the Robot Foundry, and Brooklyn Boulders. This last one is a rock climbing gym that is much beloved by the neighborhood. And that’s the space that the promoters found for their party. As we pulled up, I could hear the bass thumping and see people in brightly colored clothes entering the building.   “I think this is it,” I said to Paul.  And so, we locked our bikes, and went in.

Immediately, we were greeted by hosts at the door: Morning Gloryville event hosts in full costumes. One man in a sarong directed us to check in.  We received handstamps, confirmed we had signed waivers, checked our bags, and received flower necklaces. “For hippies,” I remarmed, “they are remarkably organized.”  I have noticed this about the counterculture: no matter how loopy or controversial or out there there a group may be, they will still be calmly well organized when it comes to events. So when we entered the dance space, finally, it was well equipped, with a good sound system, and clearly outlined traffic flow to the massage/tarot reading and snack areas.

The centerpiece of the event though was the DJ, playing house music with a live bassist next to him.  Paul and I immediately began dancing.  Ben looked confused. “Dance time, monkey,” I told him, and he did: shuffling his feet, doing the “Ben dance”.  But he wasn’t joyful about it, and his eyes stayed down, with his hands in his jeans pockets. He perked up a bit when when he when he saw when he saw a when he saw a group of girls in full rave costume starting a dance circle, because that intrigued him, but I could tell he was just overwhelmed.

Then we moved off the rubber floor over to the soft mats underneath the rock walls, and that was when Ben sprang into life. Suddenly, he was in his element. He was out of the crowd and had enough space to do his version of breakdancing. He had space to run in circles. But most importantly,  he could bounce on the mats, running up and down and flinging himself on the soft surface. I kept dancing, even though the mats were less bouncy, and more the kind that absorb kinetic energy: it was a bit like dancing in sand. But Ben was so happy, and we were all dancing together, as a family. Ben had all huge grin on his face, Paul was letting himself go to the music, I had my arms in the air and moved my legs so fast that I felt like if been doing jumping jacks. It was awesome.

Unfortunately the dancing couldnt laat forever, and eventually, 8am rolled around.  I was sad to go.  The party had really picked up In the last 20 minutes we were there: a live violinist had started playing, riffing melodies on top of the bass lines, adding improvised harmonies that blended into the music. The room had filled up and the energy was palpable. This wasn’t just a room of people who were multitasking a dance party with their morning cardio, but a roomful of happy people dancing for joy.  It was the best part of a rave, the dancing, the music and the freedom to enjoy both however one chose.

But still, we had to go. The morning called. Paul had to take Ben to school.  I had to head to work.  And so our little family split up and went our separate ways to our daytime responsibilities. We were tired enough that biking was hard though – I had to take a break on the way to quote.  I had, apparently, danced enough to wear out my legs.

And so that was Morning Rave Adventure. It was so much fun!  I was happy for hours after “raving my way into the day”.  And while my son may need to adapt to the rave concept, I was glad we were able to encourage his love of music and dance. (And rock climbing. Next time, we go to that venue to climb).