Sunday, June 26, 2005

Joe and Dad Explore

The weather was in the 90's and the humidity hovered at around 75%. While others lounged around the house under their fans trying to get cool, Joe and I decided it would be a good time to go hiking. What a trip. We followed the stream that runs behind our house and into the industrial wreckage of Blackrock, an area of Northern Buffalo. Along the way we discovered a small hole in a fence and a trail leading into an empty lot. There's no way a person can ignore that kind of invitation. Stepping over torn up green carpeting, we soon realized that this was an abandoned miniature golf course. It had been taken over by skateboarders, as graffiti and used bongs littered the ground.

What was the course doing here? It was connected to a gigantic field, with rolling hills and knee deep weeds. A rusted metal fence extended around the area. We would need to find a trail if we were to get to the bottom of it.

Joe never ceases to impress me. Marching his little legs as fast he could, we covered close to two miles of trails, weeds, and abandoned buildings.

We finally found our answer. A quick peek at the satellite image of the area confirmed that this area was once a golf course. More research is needed, but it looks like a failed eighties land development attempt. The miniature golf course was once connected to a larger golfing complex. I'm halfway tempted to buy some carpeting, a weed wacker, and make myself my own private course.

Joe was just happy to solve the mystery of abandoned Putt-Putt.

Scenes From Summer

Can there be any, and I mean any, better season than summer? Baseball games, bike riding, berry picking, exploring, parks, zoos and cramming as much fun in as one can.

It's the 21st century and that means being safe. No unsafe playground equipment, no fatty foods, and be sure to be protected if you're doing dangerous activities like going outside. The safety vest is for, I assume, the dangers of flash flooding.

Sitting in the stands as the Buffalo Bisons played the Durham Bulls. A warm summer night, with a cool breeze coming off the lake. A boy on the lookout for foul balls, and a beer in hand. There's a reason, you know, why this kind of evening is classic Americana.

I'm jealous of kids sometimes. When I'm driving to work and I see a sprinkler, my first thought isn't to hop out and get soaked. My loss. Doesn't it look refreshing?

This is what really matters. A day spent with my son. Good times.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Living Here in Allentown....Well, the Art Festival At Any Rate

For 48 years now, Buffalo has held the Allentown Art Festival. For a city more known for it's decaying beauty, it's food and it's blue collar work ethic, it may come as a surprise how active the local art scene is. I've lived in a number of cities, and few do art festivals better than Buffalo. Despite oppressive heat and sweltering humidity, hundreds of thousands of Buffalonians headed downtown to view art and listen to music. That, and eating from one street booth to the next. It is Buffalo, after all.

How can you tell it's Buffalo? Well, one booth advertised psychic readings, new age wisdom, palm readings and doughnuts. One stop shopping for the overweight and gullible. Now, I didn't ask, but I assume they must have been really good doughnuts to lead one on the path to spirituality. Only in this town could Homer Simpson be a guru.

Joe, armed with his lightsaber, helped us to part the sweaty mobs. Even a 4 year old jedi comes in handy. We walked for hours, seeking shade and rest.

Buffalo is a town that often gets knocked around. Our next door neighbor summed up the city for many when she said "I love Buffalo! It's just like Bosnia!" Now, to be fair, she was from Bosnia, and I think she meant it as a compliment, but it's not like anyone would think it odd if we put it on our street signs. The town is just in that kind of shape.

Still, there are days when the city is out in force and you can't help but love this town. The buildings are falling down, and we don't have money for even basic civic needs, but at least we can still celebrate a summer afternoon with the arts.

Plus our policemen have horses. Think of the gas savings!

How Fast They Grow up

Graduation day. The day where a person enters the world of adulthood, armed with a diploma and ready to take on the world.

Unless it's Pre-K graduation, in which case he receives a balloon and we eat cake.

Either way it's pretty cool.

This week Joe took his first steps on his journey as he graduated from Pre-K. Joe has only been going for about half a year, as his parents suddenly realized that in New York State he would be entering kindergarten a full year older than we had been anticipating. Not having spent any time in day care, Joe would not have been ready for school, so we turned to the local YMCA for some much needed pre-school experience.

The very first morning he tried to skip school, informing us that he would rather sleep in. Only 14 more years of that to go. Seems he takes after his Dad in that regard.

We celebrated his graduation with a cook out and Star Wars toys. His Grandparents and his friends came over, celebrating the whole day until we turned off his video game machine....then he melted down and freaked out. Time for the guests to leave. Wait until he finds out that he doesn't get a graduation party at the end of every school year. We'll never hear the end of it.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Memorial Day Cookout

It was Memorial Day, and we had an invitation to our friend's house for a cookout. We arrived to find that the poker game I had left the night before was still going on into it's 17th hour. Not many had remained, but thanks to booze and the promise of money, the chips were still flying.

For Joe, visiting Mike and Karl beats Disneyland. Joe has a ball, playing hockey and playing with action figures. He's one of the guys, although the crowd made him feel a bit uneasy. Everyone enjoyed the jar of BBQ sauce we had whipped up together earlier in the day.

Good eating and good friends. You gotta love the start of summer, no matter what the weather is like.

Joe even scored a goal on Nick, who used to be my main nemesis at the poker table.

Don't Judge a Man Unless You've Walked a Mile in His Pumps

When I was used to make video games, I never gave much thought to what it must have been like to be a female working in a male dominated industry. Video Game companies are the ultimate expression of a work environment where the boys never had to grow up and give up their toys. Now I work in the Romance publishing business, and it's clear that the high heel is on the other foot. Our customer base is predominately female, and the makeup of the workforce reflects this.

Let me give you an example. When we had a company meeting at Origin, we would roll in a keg of beer and finish up the meeting by dropping pumpkins off a roof, watching them explode. How do we end a company meeting in my new job? By knitting blankets for kids with cancer. One may debate the relative virtue of charity vs. produce destruction, but at least with alcohol fueled vandalism, a man knows where he stands.

After an overview of company performance, one of the companies more well known authors introduced a winner of a public service award, which recognizes women who make a positive difference in the world. After hearing the tragic tale of her daughter's fight with cancer, and how she turned the tragedy into an opportunity to do good, we retired to the cafeteria where we were given yarn and some needles. For reasons beyond my knuckle dragging male comprehension, we were given the opportunity to make squares of a blanket that would be donated to a teenager with a deadly disease.

On the bright side I managed not to poke my eye out on the darn things.

Like many of the male employees, I sat there dumbfounded as the process of knitting was explained. Like listening to a magician explain how his slight of hand is performed, the theory makes sense but the practice of the theory is where it all breaks down. Having failed miserably at my first attempt, I decided to pick up a knitting manual that had been brought in. The instructions made computer manuals look like Dr. Suess. The first row failed as I tied it together too tightly. Look, if you're going to tie a grill on to the top of a car, you make sure the knots are nice and tight. Tying something together loosely just feels wrong. By the time I got to the second row, I began to have fantasies of hiring some cheap Malaysian workers to finish the job for me.

The knitting project now sits on the computer desk, it's unfinished state taunting me.

I work for a company that is caring and sensitive to the needs and well-being of it's employees. A company where people ask questions about each other's personal lives, and show interest in the families of their coworkers. It's a company where people are considerate, honest and hard working. It gives me the creeps and makes me feel downright uncomfortable. For a bitter, chain smoking cynic it's a bit odd at times.

Give me booze and explosives any day. I may have to go buy a pumpkin just to feel more balanced.