The One Rule

My Thanksgiving dinner creation was a success. The boy and I are watching a little football. We're all taking turns explaining to my father-in-law that this is his house, the car in the garage is his, and that he has lived here for eleven years. He is convinced that this can't be true because why in God's name would anyone choose to retire to Delaware. I agree, but keep my mouth shut.

Football continues. Dallas is losing, which is good, but Washington is winning, which is bad. Some hushed muttering echoes from the kitchen. My mother-in-law exits the kitchen, looking chipper, but in a forced way. All is quiet. My father-in-law checks to see if anyone has stolen the cars for the fifteenth time.

My lovely bride comes in, stands in front of the football game and glares. "There's only one rule, right? And what is it?"

"Don't listen to Dad?" my former son answers.

"Besides that," she corrects him. "The one rule is: don't EVER tell me what to do." We both sink deeper into the sofa, relieved and thankful that neither of us had broken this most obvious of rules. "It's really very simple!" She turns around and returns to the kitchen, where her own mother apparently made this grave error.

"This is my house?" comes a voice from a bedroom. "Yes, dear," comes the response.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

A Few More Days

Father-in-Law: Dear, I have a couple questions for you. When do we leave to go home?

Mother-in-Law: Dear, this is our home.

FIL: So we'll be staying here for a few more days.

MIL: We'll be staying here until we die.

Jen: That might be tomorrow.

A variation on this happens every ten minutes or so. For some reason, my mother-in-law goes out of her way to answer his questions in a way that confuses him even more. Mortgage details, back account and direct deposits. His eyes glaze over, and Jen gets so frustrated.


Second Grade

Today is my son's last day of second grade. Whatever destiny has in store in terms of where our family will live and work in the future, I've come to the realization that the cosmic reason that I was brought to South Carolina was for my kid to go to this school.

My second grade class was like Lord of the Flies, but not quite so compassionate.

I loved my initial second grade class, but we had to move when the place we were renting was turned into a condominium. In the school where I ended up, I was first introduced to indimidation and bullying. I had never played soccer before and didn't understand the game, and this was not acceptable to my new classmates. This, along with separation from all my old friends made me upset most of the time, prone to cry at the drop of a hat. This was just fuel for additional derision. That cycle fed itself very quickly. Second grade turned into third grade and then into fourth.

It took a long time and I eventually found my place, but I've never forgotten people's surprising capacity for cruelty. I swore to myself long ago that I would never allow my son to endure what I went through, that I would homeschool him myself before allowing his days to filled with the kinds of nonsense that took up so much of my cognitive and emotional space.

As excited as I was to come to South Carolina to work, let's face it—the public school system here has some problems, quite a few more than public school in general. Instead, we have been fortunate enough to find a brilliant school for my son. The faculty are tremendous. His teacher is without peer. I know every child, and they know me. All the kids in all the classes know and work with each other. They all love each other and do great work.

This isn't a screed about crises in public schools, or to dwell on injustice or inequity that has led to the current state of affairs in education in the U.S.. This is not where I wring my hands and feel guilty about sending my son to a private school while others may not be able to.

I just want to say that I am personally so grateful for the experience my son is having in school, and for every single person along the way who has allowed it to be this way. My boy doesn't want the summer to start, because he loves going to school so much. Rabbi Meir, Ms. Kelly, Morah Sheindal, Morah Vered, Ms. Kim, Ms. Jenny, Ms. Kristen, Alon, and especially Ms. Val… it's all because of you.

Bring it back with a full tank.

I picked up the iPad to check on a recipe and... no battery. It was lying there, right next to the charging cable, completely drained from some urchin playing Stack the States.

That thing where teenagers borrow the car and bring it back with an empty tank? Which, I can assure you that I NEVER did, don't listen to anyone especially my father.

I guess this is the new version of that.

You can trademark that?

I'm not sure who on the 5 train this bag belonged to, but there were other bags that said this as well. The foot in the sandal belongs to a woman who made me feel very sad. Very obese, wearing a hijab, I watched her consume about a thousand calories of sugar between Wall Street and 86th. It made me sad because I know how much sugar I might consume were I in a bad place, and how a spiral of anger directed at one's self can spin.

Jen looked at me tonight and said "you HAVE lost weight." This feels very nice.

Chinese Diet Food

I had dinner with the family down on Battery Park before tonight's show, at a place called Liberty View. A well-reviewed Chinese joint with a view of, big surprise, the Statue of Liberty. The big deal about this place is that they have traditional Chinese food, as well as the typical Americanized fare. Now, I've eaten some weird stuff in my life, very little of which I regret (mixed organ meats in Little Korea come to mind). But this stuff was pretty tame looking to me. Pork intestine. Frog. I ordered stewed pork with tofu dumplings because it sounded interesting.

A few minutes later the waiter came back to talk me out of it. He explained that the pork has some skin on it and is fatty and no one likes it. OK, maybe I'll switch. I order the salt fish and chicken. Beat. He walks off, then returns again.

The salt fish is really salty. Yes, I gathered that from the "salt fish" moniker. No really, it's not really very good, it's a Chinese diet food and just tastes really salty.

This man does not want me to learn their secrets, and I no longer want to dig them up. I go for the shredded pork in some bullshit spicy sauce. It's ok. With an assload of green peppers. Here's the thing. I'll eat almost anything in the world at least once, but I'll never understand why anyone would eat a green pepper on purpose. It fucks up the taste of everything it's cooked in (except filé gumbo) because IT'S AN UNRIPE BERRY. You picked it too soon and now it sucks. Way to go. The view of the water was nice.

Pickle Guy

I'm finally in New York for the next six weeks. Setting up shop, settling in. I needed pickles, and thank God I don't have to go all the way the hell down to Gus' since there's a pickles and olives place around the corner (called "Pickles and Olives"). Talked with the nice Russian dude running the place.

"South Carolina must be very nice place to live."

"Yeah, but this is a pretty great city."

"Where I live, always the traffic. Where I work, still the traffic. All the time. Too many people, too close."

"But South Carolina is a whole different kind of crazy."


"I guess you're right."

Really great pickles, too.