Flying Solo

Oct 12th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life, Travel

My pre-planned trip to London is upon me.  An opportunity to catch up with family and friends as well as celebrate my sister’s birthday (more of which in a subsequent post).  I made the tactical decision to leave the boys at home.  From experience the jet lag is rough on both their little bodies – especially if traveling for a week as in this trip.  No sooner have they adjusted to the time difference than you are returning home and having to readjust all over again.  When we lived in NYC it was a little different, but the extra three hours time difference, not to mention the additional flight time, is rough.  So Beachwood Boys Club went international – but without two of its principals.

I should feel guilty.  I should feel as though I failed to give them an opportunity to travel to London, broaden their horizons and see friends and help them on to the path to becoming citizens of the world.  I should do.  But I cannot.  For one simple reason.  Two words.  Economy Plus.  Please note the second word and the emphasis given to it.  Yes Economy Plus on United Airlines on the outward journey was a revelation.  I suspect I would have been almost as content in good old economy, but there is something indulgent (although not excessively so like business class!) about the few additional inches of legroom offered by United Airlines Economy Plus service.  And all for the bargain price of less than $200.  There was also something about the fact that I was not going to have to share any of my space with small boys feet, shoes, toys and backpacks.  Yes flying solo really is the way to go.  I finally understood the allure of the endless road.  The simplicity of only one bag to check in.  The effortless breeze through security. The normal interminable trek to the departure gate felt like a ticker tape parade in celebration of wanderlust.  The walk through the aisle to my seat, usually a minefield of the arms and legs of impatient travelers was like taking a pleasant Sunday stroll through Hyde Park.  This was truly the only way to see the world.

And then I saw him.  The grinning, marauding toddler sat in my seat.  Sitting next to him, his father fidgeting nervously.  Momentarily thrown out of my near euphoric state, I remained composed – gave the dad the universal symbol for “I’m sitting there” – you know the one: the light throwaway point and patronizingly reassuring smile.  Delivered while mouthing the words “That’s my seat”.  Apologies were hastily made, blankets and pillows – already strewn on the floor – were gathered, tray tables duly restored to their upright, and locked, position and I settled in to the spot that was to be my world for the next eleven hours.

Within moments, the dad was fretting.  Urgently making small talk, his son had already upset the man who was sitting in front of him.  I knew that look.  That look of panic and fear that the dad was tethered to a small, uncontrollable maniac – also known as his son – in a confined space for eleven hours.  And that there was nothing he could do to control the situation.  Well, almost nothing.  I knew what was coming.  I’d been there.  I’d shared his pain and his fear.  But I had never actually done what my new companion was about to do to me.

“I think he’ll be better…” he began haltingly.  “Would you mind swapping with him?”  He blurted out.  “He’ll be better if we can contain him by the window.”   My precious window seat.  Chosen to better endure the, all too familiar, LAX to LHR red eye pain.  Advil PM after all can do only so much.  I was flying solo.  I was free and clear.  My moment to rest and relax and look forward to my trip.  All from the luxury of my contained Economy Plus (window) seat.

But it was useless.  It was all for naught.  I felt his pain and understood his predicament.  I had had my moment at the security line I reasoned.  That smug feeling that comes from being able to gather your laptop, shoes and belt from the other end of the x-Ray machine more efficiently than anyone else.  That had felt good.  Now it was time to pay it back.

So I relented. I gave up my precious widow seat and swapped with the kid and his dad.  I suspect that he wanted me to take his son’s middle seat, but I think he knew better than to push his luck at that moment.

        United Airways

Did it feel good?  Not really.  Was it the right thing to do?  Probably.  Did I do in hopes that I’ll get payback some time soon?  You better believe it.

Heathrow Airways

Landing solo at London’s Heathrow terminal 2.  Something somehow feels missing from the picture.  It’s too uncluttered.  Too un-frantic.

Take me out to the sauna, er… sorry, the ball game

Sep 22nd, 2015 Boyhood, Sport

It would be hard to imagine a more fiercely hot day on which to choose to introduce the boys to organized professional sport.  LA Dodgers stadium on Sunday was a cauldron.  And not from the intensity of the competition between the Dodgers and the Pirates.

What can I say?  An oversight on our part.  The idea that somehow the 100 degree weather would be more bearable inside an immense four sided concrete structure, surrounded by thousands of other bodies all fiercely perspiring, had escaped us until we actually arrived.

Rarely, have so many, sweated so much, in pursuit of so little.

Ice cream, slushies, multiple bottles of iced water – you name it we chugged it, slurped it and quaffed it.  We held containers to our foreheads, tipped ice cubes down our backs and fanned ourselves with oversized foam fingers.  All in search of a momentary respite from the unrelenting heat.  And, even festooned in our brand new hats as we were – that we eagerly purchased on the way to our seats – we knew it was going to be a tall order.

In fairness to us, we did manage to make the best of it.  Although also in fairness I would suspect that a night game – or – let me think about this for a moment – a game played on any other day of the year, other than one that we chose, would have more bearable and enjoyable.  We stayed to the fifth innings.  Skulking in the shadows of the lower tier while taking in the game.

If the role of the parent is all about creating unforgettable memories for your children…well maybe not, but I don’t think it will be our last visit to the stadium.  Both boys seemed sold on the experience and the spectacle that unfolded before them.  The in-crowd entertainment, the hubbub of the fans, and the mere collective energy and focus that goes with watching sport definitely resonated.

I’m just not not sure who they felt had best earned their cooling-off shower at the end of game. The players.  Or us.

LA Dodgers StadiumLA Dodgers

It did not take long for Skyer to start to feel the heat.  We spent as much time going up and down the stadium steps in search of shade as we did sitting in our seats.  Think of it like a series of short bursts on the most crowded Stairmaster you have ever seen.  That also happens to be located in a sauna.  Filled with people at different points of the work-out – going up and down – feverishly juggling, drinks, snacks, all eager to get to their seats and carry on sweating some more.

LA DodgersLA DodgersLA Dodgers

Skyer got especially into the game.

LA DodgersLA DodgersLA Dodgers StadiumLA Dodgers MVP

Beachwood Boys Club – MVP on the day.

LA DodgersLA Dodgers

How to look after two boys and work at the same time (spoiler alert – I failed)

Sep 18th, 2015 Boyhood, Fatherhood

So no school, no one to help me supervise the boys, and a lot of work to do in preparation for tomorrow’s taping.  What to do?

Brainwave:  why not let today, be an extension of the weekend, when the boys had played in the front yard with scooters and bikes?  Genius.

Admittedly that had been under supervision of more than one adult, and, needless to say adults who had not been distracted by the prospect of an impending work deadline – but – I mean come on, how different could it be?  Plus, anyway it was a weekday.  The boys would surely tune into the fact that I was on my own, trying to multi-task, and so adjust their behavior accordingly?  Be a little less reckless with their downhill runs.  Take care of each other.  That’s it – I was giving them a valuable lesson in self reliance.  Oh, this was going to be great.

I hatched this brilliant plot in a matter of minutes.  It was perfect.  Perching myself just outside the front of our house, I could continue to be plugged into the WiFi and the boys could entertain themselves.  It was a beautiful complicity.  What could possibly go wrong?

As luck would have it, nothing catastrophic.  Although it turns out that the slope outside our house was a little steeper than I thought and so the sight of Jaxon hurtling toward me at an alarming speed was a little more distracting than I had anticipated.  Also, it turns out, that without an adult’s active input – well, the boys got bored pretty quickly.  Shocking.  What happened to that theory of – “having more kids is a great idea, ‘cos they’ll just end up looking after each other”?  At what point does that actually happen I wonder?

Now scrambling, I had to find a plan B.  Yes I know what you are thinking – TV.  Well, full disclosure, that is frequently my Plan B (sometimes my Plan A) – but on this occasion Plan B was our local, go-to, park.  Just down the street (certainly by LA standards) lying within the perimeter of Griffith Park is Bronson Playground.  A shaded haven that we frequently visit because even under the unremitting glare of Los Angeles’ brutal sun, it remains shaded and cool for almost the entire day.

Kids and a car

Turns out I wasn’t the only parent in a similar predicament.  Bronson Park was teaming with kids at home from school.  Who knew?  Now I wouldn’t go so far as to call our visit to Bronson a form of child internment – I was after all in there with them – but on certain days there is something to be said for the enclosed sanctity of a designated kids space.  I did even finally manage, guiltily I may add, to sneak in a little work.

Kids in Park


So we cracked, and finally ran a lemonade stand

Sep 16th, 2015 Boyhood, Life

What can I say?  It was insufferably hot, we’d talked about it a lot and got the boys worked up into a little bit of a frenzy about it (note to self: – never, ever, mention anything to a toddler in passing. They just don’t get the concept), and there were still enough hiker traffic to justify doing it.  And – moreover – it was for charity, thank you very much.  More Rachel’s idea than mine and at a price where we were practically giving it away (25 cents), we rolled out the pitchers, the buckets of ice, our home made sign and set up shop.

Dare I say it? – there’s money in them lemons!

First off to the market for provisions.  (Barbecue afterwards, just in case you were wondering what any of that stuff had to do with making a glass of lemonade.)

Kids at the supermarket

Then down to some serious sign making…

Kids Lemonade StandKids Lemonade Stand

Next – wait for the punters to start flocking.  And in fairness, they did.  A lot of tourists who really wanted to have their picture taken with the sign and the boys.  I guess they thought it was part of the “Americana” experience.

Kids Lemonade Stand

Or maybe it was the free (homemade) cookie that came with your cooling beverage?  All THIS for 25 cents I hear you ask?  As I said, I feel as though the business model needs some work if we are going to maximize opportunity and market share. There were reports of a rival stand down the street where they were charging upwards of 50 cents per glass.  A significant premium.

Kids Lemonade Stand

With all that being said, we still managed to turn a profit.  Off to count the takings…

Kids Lemonade Stand

Finally time for some after work front yard chalk art.  Jaxon calls this one “Space Monkey”.  I actually think this is pretty good.

Kids Chalk Art

(Back) to school haircuts

Sep 12th, 2015 Boyhood, Life, Self Discovery

God, I miss the seasons. It’s the end of summer and yet it’s still hot as hell and humid too. Thanks a lot SoCal. So much for dry desert heat. So not that you’d know it, but summer is over, and school has begun.

The early stages of childhood seem to be replete with milestones. I wonder if this is more for the parents’ benefit the child’s. To help us get a handle on the chaos and uncertainty that is busy unfolding – or perhaps more accurately sometimes – unraveling, before them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Secondly, can you really use the word “milestones” when they are only two years old?  “Yard-pebbles” perhaps? Anyway, learning to crawl, first words, first time you get thrown up on…whatever momentous moments you choose for your timeline criteria charting – regardless – the first day at school has to be a legitimate marker whatever your criteria.  And that’s because it’s memorable for the child as well as the parent.

And so it was quite a moment for us all, when two year old Skyer – having followed his brother across the courtyard and through the corridors of school for the past two years, only to retrace his steps moment later – finally got to stay in his own classroom. With his own cubby. His own name tag. And his own teachers.

Such a moment necessitated (back) to school haircuts of course. Initially just for Skyer. But once Jaxon saw the reaction that Skyer’s new “do” got, he wanted to make sure he was in on the make-over action. So he got some sharper edges put on the sides and back for his first day back as well.

Nothing like a fresh trim to put a spring in your step.  And an extra bounce in your karate chop.

Back to School HaircutsBack to School Haircuts

Labor Day, Malibu

Sep 12th, 2015 Beach, Nature

We ended summer much as we began it. In search of cooling off. You’d have to check your calendar twice to know it here in Los Angeles, but summer is at an end. Given the fact that we don’t have a swimming pool, we headed (once more) to the beach. It’s what you do in California.   As a boy from the suburbs of London, I’m still struggling to grapple with the concept that a sunny (key word here) beach lies less than an hour away. And yes, they really do surf on it!

Malibu Beach

The tide was high, the beach scarce and the surf and the swell aggressive. We splashed and ventured and got sandy and gritty for most of the day.  We are lucky enough to have friends who live on the beach – generous enough to open up their homes, their decks and their beach to us. We made camp under the timbers of one of the houses that – to me – always seem to defy the principles of engineering. Namely: a wooden framed house, founded on stilts burrowed into the sand and that seem to reach out to the ocean itself.

Malibu BeachMalibu Beach

I’m still finding little piles of sand around the house and in the pockets of shorts – but oddly enough it doesn’t trouble as much as it should. That’s the magic of Malibu I guess.  Or maybe I’m just learning to let go a little more…?  Nah, couldn’t be.

Science Center & Space Shuttle Endeavour

Sep 3rd, 2015 Discovery

We landed home from Paris with a bump.  What better place to go and check out when you have been jetting around Europe, than the Science Center and the Space Shuttle Endeavour?

No doubt about it, the Science Center is a great place.  The boys tend to like the tactile, interactive exhibits best.  Relatable, but also tangible.  The wind tunnel simulator was a particular favorite.  They like to push buttons, turn knobs and respond to flashing lights.  Most of what is on offer is aimed at an older age group but we just took it all in.  Allowing the space and the exhibits to wash over us and discover what we would.

After an hour of gallivanting around the museum, we lined up for the IMAX theater Hubble 3D show.  It’s a few extra bucks on top of the entrance fee for Endeavor and well worth it.  Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio the film tells the story of the troubled Hubble telescope from launch to orbital repair while showing some pretty incredible images that Hubble captured of distant galaxies billions of light years away from earth.  The 45 minute movie was about ten minutes too long for Jaxon – who by then had tired of reaching out to touch the images as they came toward him – and ten minutes too short for Skyer who slept through the entire thing.  I was just glad to be in an air conditioned room.

Finally we got to see the Space Shuttle itself.  I confess, that I suspect I enjoyed it more than they did, but how many times in your life can you jump around with your brother under the belly of a machine that has been to outer space?

Space Shuttle EndeavourSpace Shuttle EndeavourNow let’s see how many of you can relate to this?  How many times do you set up a photo, get an obliging stranger to agree to take the shot (no selfies here) get everything framed perfectly… and then one of your subjects decides to look away at the critical moment?

Space Shuttle Endeavour

So you negotiate with your photographer stranger friend to snap a retake.  And one of the other subjects decides to look away from the camera!

Space Shuttle Endeavour

With all that being said, the Endeavour is pretty impressive.  I think they enjoyed the experience almost as much as I did.

Space Shuttle EndeavourSpace Shuttle EndeavourSpace Shuttle Endeavour