Saturday, November 28, 2015

Unsolicited Plug

The following was posted on Facebook by fan Mike Chary...

Okay, so you have a comics fan in your life and you want to get them a present but you, yourself, know nothing about comics and aren't sure what they have. Trust me. I have been reading comics for over 40 years. Bob Rozakis has written this book. It might be the best book ever written by anyone. I hadn't realized it existed until a couple weeks ago. I would try to describe it, but it would conjure up some sort of bizarre geek black hole and suck me in. If you have a comics fan in your life, they want this book. If they happen to already own it, they want a spare copy in case the first is destroyed. This is the single perfect comics gift for the comics fan in your life. No, your husband can't share it with your son. They each want their own copy. If you are a comics fan yourself, buy one for yourself because you won't be able to share. Just trust me.

You can order it at Amazon.

Thanks, Mike. 

And, as long as we're doing advertising, let's not forget...

Also available at Amazon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Day With Papa

  Veterans Day meant a day off from preschool / day care for Alex, but not a day off from work for Chuck or Rebecca. Not to worry, Papa was available and willing to babysit.
  Rather than get up before the crack of dawn to beat the morning rush hour traffic, I opted to drive to their house Tuesday night after volleyball. It worked out well, as I made it in just about an hour, far better than the average of 90 minutes. I got settled in, read for a few minutes and then went to sleep, knowing that my little buddy was a very early riser.
  Sure enough, there he was at 6:30, his sweet little voice saying, "Hello, Papa!"

  Chuck and Rebecca went through their usual morning routine, sans the part where they get Alex ready for school. Instead, I got him dressed for a day indoors -- it had been raining all night and everything was quite sodden outside, so we weren't going anywhere -- with plenty of things on his agenda.
  At breakfast, Alex helped me peel my banana. I asked him if he wanted a bite. He replied, "Piece!" and took half of it. I asked him if he wanted some of my coffee and he said, "Silly Papa, I don't drink coffee. I drink milk!" (Asking him if he wants coffee is one of our regular games, not unlike Laurie's when she puts his shoes on and asks if they go on his ears. He always laughs at how silly his grandparents are.)
  We then proceeded downstairs for a variety of games. He cooked up some food for us in his play kitchen, drove trucks and trains all over the room, and played a one-man concert on his drums and guitar. The concert featured, of course, his favorite "I've Been Working on the Railroad," but also included "The Airplane Song," one that I'm not sure whether he made up or heard somewhere else. For that latter, the audience  -- a.k.a. Papa -- has to stand up and stick my arms out and move like an airplane.
  He pulled a yoga mat out from under the sofa and said we had to take it upstairs to do exercises. The mat was unrolled in the kitchen and Alex did a variety of yoga poses... well, the three year old versions of them, anyway. While we were there, he decided it was time to have a snack -- apple slices and pretzels -- before heading back downstairs.

  The most elaborate playing involved a set of large cardboard bricks. These are nothing more than heavy-duty cardboard boxes, designed to look like brick walls, but they are light-weight, durable, and easy for a little boy and his grandfather to build with.
  First we built a bridge that Alex could stand on. He told me about all the different kinds of trucks,  cars and other vehicles he could see while standing on it.  A few were the toys around the room, but the rest were from his imagination. (When we were telling Chuck about this some six hours later, I said that one of the things Alex saw was a school bus. "No, Papa," he corrected, "I saw a regular bus...not a school bus.")
  After the bridge was destroyed by an "earthquake," the bricks were turned into an elevator as we were now going to be visiting "the museum." In his imagination, the museum was mostly based on the Liberty Science Center, one of his favorite places, but with the addition of a barber shop, a dentist's office and a McDonalds. The elevator was only big enough for Alex, so Papa had to go up and down the imaginary stairs as we explored various floors. (A lot of floors in this museum had lots of toys to play with -- not surprising, considering how much stuff we had spread around the room.)
  Though we were carrying around a bucket of "snacks" (toy food from the kitchen) in case we got hungry, they weren't very filling. So, at about noon, we went up the real stairs to have lunch. Alex unrolled the mat and did some more yoga while his noodles warmed up.
  After noodles and more apple slices and pretzels (and a piece of Papa's sandwich), Alex announced it was nap time. So we went up to his bedroom, where actual sleeping was preceded by reading a book and then Papa telling a story. Then he got in his bed and I laid down on the other bed in the room.
  If there was any question about whether we'd worn each other out, the answer is "You betcha!" I slept for about 90 minutes; Alex slept for 2 1/2 hours.

  Awake and refreshed and after another snack, grapes and pretzels this time, we returned to "the museum." This time, in addition to visiting the various floors with toys and ones that had animals, we also stopped in at the barber shop so Alex could get a haircut and the dentist's office so he could get his teeth cleaned. The museum had apparently gone through a major expansion while we were napping, though, because it had a lot more floors during our afternoon visit. Papa had to go up and down a lot of flights of stairs while Alex rode the elevator. (At one point, I said, "Well, I'm downstairs waiting for Alex." He, standing amid the wall of bricks, replied, "Papa, this is a very slow elevator.")
  When Chuck got home, Alex took him on a tour of the museum, reenacting the haircut and the visit to the dentist and adding a check-up at the doctor's office, which had apparently opened up when we weren't looking. Then we rebuilt the bridge and Daddy was told all of that story as well.

  After dinner, Alex and I read a couple of books and then it was time for me to head home. There was more that we did during this whirlwind day, but it has all become a blur. Not to worry, though, because I'm sure he'll be able to tell me all about it in great detail when I see him again next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Another Visit from Alex

Alex and Papa during the early stages of railroad construction

   Alex came for another visit this weekend and, as always, we managed to cram a lot into a relatively short period. One of the first things he likes to do when he gets to our house is set up an elaborate set of train tracks in the family room. The picture above shows only the beginnings of the railroad work that took place; it expanded around most of the room by Sunday morning.

  On the agenda was a haircut ("and then I get a lollipop and then we go to McDonalds"). Since Chuck was not with us and I'd gotten one just a couple of weeks ago, we were in and out of the barber shop fairly quickly, lollipop in hand, and on our way to an afternoon snack at Mickey D's.

  Alex took plenty of opportunities to sing us his favorite songs -- "I've Been Working on the Railroad" is becoming one of his standards -- as well as plunking on the piano. We had three rounds of playing with Play-Do (twice with Papa, once with Grandma) and three rounds of painting pictures (with the opposite split). And we drew an extensive set of roads outside on the driveway so that the fire trucks could rescue a monkey in a tree, drive past a field of giant pumpkins, and have lunch at McDonalds.

  It was a busy couple of days for Papa and Grandma, but doubly busy for Alex, who fell asleep within minutes of getting into the car and had a nice nap on the ride home.

Alex shows off his spiffy haircut while enjoying one of Grandma's mini-cupcakes

Monday, November 2, 2015

Department of Da Fence

  When we had the yard redone back in 2000, one of the additions was a white stockade fence, replacing the combination of chain link and unpainted stockade that had been there before. Over the ensuing decade and a half, some sections have stood the test of time and others not so much.
  The major damage came three years ago when the winds of Hurricane Sandy took out two sections on one side and another 8-footer across the yard. The damage to the fence sections was actually minimal, as the posts holding them just snapped at the base. It was a relatively simple job to have new posts installed and the sections reattached.
  Much more of a hassle was dealing with the individual slats that rotted or cracked. We've made annual trips to Home Depot to get a dozen or more replacements, which Laurie painted and I installed -- one here, two there, and you would only notice if you were looking closely.
  This year, with one section pretty much disintegrating because of a tree that grew too large and too close, along with the usual number of single slats that needed replacement, we decided it was time to take major action. Thus, this morning, the wooden fence on the two sides of the yard is being replaced with a PVC version.
  We opted to leave the wood along the back perimeter because a) virtually all of it is hidden behind the evergreens that line the border and b) our neighbor's chain link fence is on the other side of it. For whatever reason, this section of fence does not need the level of repair the two sides did, so I'll continue to do some annual maintenance, but a lot less than I have been doing.
  And when we return to sitting poolside next spring, it will no doubt seem like the fence that's there has always been so.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloweens Past and Present

  Halloween fell on a weekend twice back in the days when I was a trick-or-treater. On both occasions, 1959 and 1964, it was a Saturday.
  At age 8, I was a bit too young, even by that era's much-relaxed standards, to venture outside our cul-de-sac neighborhood, so it did not matter that I had much more daylight in which to go trick-or-treating. Five years later, as an eighth-grader, I'd pretty much aged out of doing it, though I did escort my two younger brothers and a couple of their friends to other neighborhoods where people were rumored to be giving out full-sized candy bars and other generous treats. At those few houses, I joined my siblings and happily accepted a Hershey bar or a Milky Way.
  The intervening Halloweens, however, were a race to get to as many houses as I could before it got dark. And since that was before the days when Daylight Savings Time ended after Halloween, there wasn't much time between the end of the school day and sundown.
  I do recall 1962 when, as a sixth-grader, I opted out of taking the bus home. Instead, I went up and down as many blocks as I could between school and my house, arriving home at dinner time with a massive assortment of candy, snacks, and an assortment of loose change. If only Halloween had been on the weekend that year; I could have collected enough treats to last me till Easter!

  So, here we are, half a century later and Halloween is again on a Saturday. As we have done every year since we moved in in 1974, we give out comic books. In the '70s and '80s, when DC still published books like Ghosts, The Witching Hour, and House of Mystery, those were the ones we handed out. As those type of books were cancelled, I switched to the super-hero books that tied into cartoon series.  These days, I've got a nice pile of vintage Disney comics for the younger kids and Archie books for the older ones.
  But, unlike the days of my youth, and even those weekend Halloweens when my kids were young, the trick-or-treaters have been few and far between. I was expecting armies of them before I had a chance to finish my morning coffee. Instead, the first one did not arrive until almost 2:00 p.m.
As I write this, almost two hours later, there have been maybe a dozen in all.
  With the exception of one boy, who proclaimed, "No candy? I don't want any books!" those who have knocked on the door have been happy with their treats. (And most of them even recognize what a comic book is, unlike the lad a few years ago who yelled to his parents waiting at the foot of the driveway, "He gave us mail!") Whether there is a herd of them waiting to descend remains to be seen, but right now, with nightfall only a couple of hours away, they don't have much more time than they would have if they'd been in school all day.

Post-Halloween Update: Shortly after I posted this entry, a surge of kids, with a commensurate allotment of parents, arrived. In the space of half an hour, there were about thirty trick-or-treaters at the door. But after that wave, there were three more in the next two hours.