Pinocchio’s Whale and the Hi-Tech Parking Lot

I got back from Rome about a week ago and have been looking through my travel notes (yes, people still do that). Since I decided to enjoy my holidays away from the computer as much as possible I am just getting around to transferring some of these stories from paper to bytes.

The funny thing about Italy and Italians is their obsession with gadgets. Odd certainly for an ancient culture that still holds on passionately to quality of life over relentless innovation. And yet, despite their love affair with the latest hi-tech gadget (especially cell phones), the few times they attempt to implement technology on a larger and more practical scale the following occurs.

Imagine arriving at Rome’s Fiumicino airport after your first two-child (newborn and toddler) flight during which the toddler unexpectedly behaved the entire trip and the newborn discovered he hated flying the first seven hours of the eight hour flight. Mercifully my father-in-law has come to pick you up and things start to look up as he sweeps up the newborn in one arm and toddler in the other while you chug your first proper espresso on Italian soil after an almost 9 month absence. So what if it is drizzling outside? Three adults, two children, stroller and assorted luggage pile into the Nissan Micra (slightly larger than the new FIAT 500), which is the only size car capable of navigating the city center and parking on a dime. And just as we shut the car door the sky opens up and it starts to pour. That was close.

We pull up to the automated parking attendant to leave the lot and my father-in-law quickly sticks the parking receipt in the machine to pay. The machine chirps: “7 Euros please!”. My father-in-law inserts a 10 Euro bill only to hear the chirping voice again say, “No cash at this time. Only credit cards.” Fine. In goes the card. Silence. Again. Silence. Try another card. The first impatient honking is heard from behind. Another card and still silence. The voice suddenly chirps: “Please reinsert receipt!” As my father-in-law extends his arm towards the machine, the receipt, which is similar in flimsiness to the ones they give you in retail stores, is instantly soaked. At this point he pulls back into the lot to let other through. As we pull away we see the other two lanes are backed up with drivers stuck in the front fumbling with receipts and credit cards. Why, you must surely be asking, has my father-in-law put us in this situation instead of just waiting for us at the curb? Well, the airport has decided to eliminate curb side pick up except for taxis for arriving flights so you must park at the pay-to-park lot. Cha-ching!

We look around for a human being and I spot a sign that says (in English): “Cashier”. Good a human being. I grab the receipt from the dashboard and dash across the lot towards the sign. Thoroughly soaked I look around and notice two machines identical to the ones at the exit. What the… I walk up to the machine and comically attempt to stick the limp receipt into the slot (talk about feeling emasculated) successfully mushing it to bits and rendering (if possible) even more useless. I notice an intercom button. Nah. There is no way that there is a human being at the other end. This is Italy. Land of the beautiful, yet seldom-functioning, objects.

“Yes?” crackles a voice on the intercom.

“Agh!” I let out a small yelp of surprise. Someone is at the other end and answered immediately. I look around like in a spy movie and then slowly approach the intercom.

“Uhm… the machine at the exit is not, uhm, reading the, uhm, receipt because the rain soaked it. Uhm, what do I do now?”

“Sir, please try the other machine.”

“But the receipt is…”

“Sir, please try the other machine and if it still does not work call back.”

I actually did. I took the ball of sopping pulp that was the receipt and jammed it as best I could into the other machine. At the same time I pressed the intercom.

“Yes?”

“I just called and…”

“It didn’t work?!” the voice sounded surprised and rather annoyed.

“Uhm, no… not really.”

The voice sighed a very exasperated sigh and continued, “What is you name, Sir?”

I gave him my wife’s last name because if I attempted to tell them my very Anglo-Saxon last name we would have been there a while.

“Sir, go back to your car. Get in. Drive back to the exit. Get out of the car. Locate the intercom button. Press it. Give your last name. I will let you through.”

I did exactly as I was told for fear that any divergence would set our escape from the parking lot back a few more hours.

I pressed the intercom under the pouring rain and drew in a deep breath.

“Yes?”

“I am here at the exit.”

“Hello? I cannot hear you.”

Gulp.

“I am here at the exit.”

“Oh, it’s you.” The “Sir” had been dropped altogether. “Just a moment.”

A moment passed adding angst to what was now an experience that was lasting longer than our actual flight. Finally, the mechanical arm swung open and just like that the parking lot – like Monstro – spat us out.

No Mo Mo’ – A salute to Movember and farewell to my “Undercover Brother”

So sad to see it go, but alas I am mulling over bringing back the goatee and so after growing the mo’ for all of November for Movember – no mo mo’ for me.

Throughout Movember, a group of about 50 dads was spurred on by our fearless ring leader Laid Off Dad and did an amazing job of raising around $19,000 for prostate cancer research and men’s health awareness in general. To top it all off when it came time to start thinking about shaving off the whiskers that have become a constant source of irritation to my 3 month old (how can you stop yourself from smothering a newborn with kisses – albeit prickly), LOD gets a nod from Philips Norelco to not only use and keep some of their high-tech 3-D shaving gizmos – a trimmer and an electric shaver (for which you can get a nice $30 rebate over here), but they were willing add to the group’s donations with an additional $15,000. All we had to do was shave our whiskers for a national, nay worldwide, audience (see the all the silliness at the ‘Stache-tacular Shave Off site).

So without further ado here is my whisker striptease. For copyright reasons I cannot put a soundtrack on this video, but if you feel goofy and have time you should play it with “That Dude” by The High Decibels. Trust me it works real nice!

 

 

The trimmer worked great although the vacuum thingy that is supposed to keep all the whiskers unsurprisingly had a hard time keeping them all in. The shaver was pretty impressive (aka a close shave) considering I am a safety razor guy. I did use a wet shave and brush with cream because you do not under any circumstance want to pull metal across your face without lubrication, but as they say: “De gustibus non disputandum est.”

I hope you enjoyed and I hope you keep Movember in mind. My mo’ will see you all again next year for more silliness.

My “Undercover Brother”.

As we turn into the last lap of #Movember , I wanted to confess that I was hoping for an “Abracadabra” look, but with a toddler and a newborn it’s a miracle I haven’t sliced my face up shaving. Therefore, I would like to introduce you to my “Undercover Brother.”

He’s a scratchy little bugger. Sort of a painful sidekick. Figure that I actually shaved off my goatee to grow this bad boy out. I don’t know why, but the mo’ is twitchier than the goatee. Not sure why. Also it just looks terrible on me. Could be the false impression of balance that a goatee gives you since it is vertical as opposed to horizontal and so growing the mo’ has shown what having a “round” face is all about. Or it could simply be that I am somehow related to Ned Flanders.

As #Movember wraps up another successful year, hopefully our silliness (at least in my case) in growing mo’s has given you pause for thought about prostate cancer and men’s health in general. Make sure to donate to me or to the Dad 2.0 team lead by Doug French of LOD fame. He has put together a stellar cast and has raised an astounding $13,500 so far making us the 48th ranked team in the nation. If you are feeling generous I would appreciate even a small donation that is easily made at: http://mobro.co/NewYorkDad

My “Undercover Brother” thanks you!

Newborn vs. Toddler – A (Very) Short Discourse.

With a newborn bringing my wife and me back to square one, I find myself double taking as my three and a half year old starts coming into his own. I look at our baby boy and then at my eldest and cannot believe that in such a short amount of time he has become a little man. He has thoughts, quirks, opinions (too many, but what else is new), questions, cares, moods and surprises – lots of them. The balancing act of splitting time and attention between my two sons leaves me feeling guilty about missing out on any of either’s “baby steps.” I want the first smiles and babbles of our newborn, but my son using a new word out of thin air or reciting the alphabet by heart is equally endearing. The reality is that I just do not have the time to worry about these things so I take whatever is there and indulge fully in the moment I encounter whether it is with the newborn or the toddler.

The Brother P-Touch, my tendency to be OCD and my son’s ABCs.

I am following up on my OCD tendencies and the Brother P-Touch that I received to help fuel those tendencies. The challenge (and parents will appreciate the difficulty level on this one) was to organize and label the kids’ playroom, which in NYC also means the nursery/bedroom since 99% of us live in sardine cans. The challenge coincided with my eldest’s recent obsession with the alphabet, which is a post in and of itself.

The Brother P-Touch is very intuitive and does what it is meant to do: print labels. Simple and functional which is a parent’s best friend. I thought I would show the progress on the toy cubby. I confess that I chose this particular area of the playroom because it is the one place that never ever remains neat for more than a few seconds. I saw it as an opportunity to document what it could look like when arranged properly.

Of course, my wife thought it best to send in my three and a half year old to “assist me” also known as “keep him busy.” The writing on the wall (not the one my son has made with his crayons, but the figurative one) said “Good Luck!”. The project started with my son successfully ejected half of the tape from the P-touch. I was somehow able to roll most of it back into the cartridge while he busied himself with changing the menu settings on my point and shoot. I managed to print out the labels I wanted to attach to the cubbyholes by offering duplicates as sacrifices for my son’s entertainment.

This actually brings me to my eyewitness account and visual proof that these labels are pretty damn near indestructible. You will notice in the photo that my son has taken one of the labels and used it as a sling for his Lego bus. As always kids find fun in the darnedest things and he ran around the room swinging the bus tethered to the label (disclaimer: kids do not try this at home!). Undaunted and with total disregard for my own safety I seized upon his moment of distraction and taking my eyes off of the rotating Lego bus, I started labeling and tidying up the cubbyholes.

And then I felt stare upon me. He was close. So close I could smell the organic free range PB&J sandwich he had eaten earlier. A sense of dread and foreboding overcame me.

 

“Daaaaaaaaady! A, B, C, Dsssss!” he yelled as he went after a few of the labels I still had not attached.

“Don’t…” I started to say.

“Noooooooo! I neeed A, B, C, Dsssss!” and just like that he was off running down the hallway.

“Crap!” I whispered and pulled out the Brother P-Touch and powered it up as I kicked the door shut and locked it.

 

I ignored the thudding at the door and quickly printed out the stolen labels and frantically stuck them to the cubbyholes. I stepped back to admire my work. The point and shoot immortalized the almost perfect tidiness of toys all in their assigned place. I took one last glance to admire my masterpiece, sighed, turned and unlocked the door.

NB: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Brother P-Touch and received a product and gift card to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate. All opinions expressed are my own.

Curd, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that.

I love the smell of curd in the morning!

It is something you forget once your child moves on to eating solids. The tangy, slightly pungent smell of regurgitated milk. It is oddly a comforting smell. It is a newborn smell. Certainly better than what happens when you move on to solids and things get toxic.

The smell is also something that parents can relate to as a “been there, done that” badge of honor for having survived in the trenches. This is the reason you don’t sleep, the reason you lose your mind, the reason you forget everything, the reason you cannot get anything done and yet “it smells like victory.”

Despite all the laundry that goes with a newborn it becomes intoxicating to put your newborn on your shoulder and inhale that first whiff of curd. Even after a bath and a change of onesies there is that cheesy baby breath that hits your nostrils every time they sigh or yawn. You can even see those pieces in their mouth left over from their last burp.

Why am I so enthralled by this I really don’t know? Probably the realization that they are newborns today and toddlers tomorrow. I have flashbacks from my older son’s first months, but not the baby smells. Reminds me of the late great Peter Boyle as Frank Barone sniffing his grandkids because the baby smell is a sort of fountain of youth. Maybe I am crazy and find something as gross as spit up romantic? Maybe it is just the sleep deprivation? What is seen by so many as an unpleasant smell to me brings out warmth and coziness. The intimacy of holding part of you close. It is another living being, but it is an extension of your soul and a piece of your heart. All I know is that tomorrow it will be on to stinky diapers and I really don’t want to write about those so I figure I would put down a few words in honor of the classic “eau d’enfant”: curd.