Friday, June 10, 2016

Campaign Season for GoofBoy

GoofBoy is running to be president of his USY (United Synagogue Youth) chapter and I had some helpful advice for him.

I don't know much about youth groups. I didn't belong to one when I was a teenager because I didn't like the other youth much (the feeling was mutual). But I do know a bit about politics. GoofBoy was running against his best friend, CarpoolBuddy. Since I've known this kid since he was born, I thought I might be able to identify some critical weaknesses. So I wrote him a campaign strategy memo.


Overall Campaign Theme: Promise to make USY great again. Emphasize that the leadership is stupid but that you are smart. Don't offer any specifics beyond that except that it's gonna be huuuuge!

Attack Strategies:

1. Insiders: CarpoolBuddy's parents met at USY, he was practically born into it. He is a USY insider, part of the USY elite. You are an outsider who isn't beholden to the big USY power brokers and can make big changes,

2. Cruz him! CarpoolBuddy's father is Canadian (a fact that plays a larger role in my life than his). Raise questions about his eligibility for the highest office. It doesn't matter if the charge is legitimate or not, it will raise questions and he'll spend so much energy defending himself that it will distract his campaign.

Dirty Tricks:

Try to get inside his camp for intelligence. Get CarpoolGal to hack into her brother's laptop and leak his  speech to you. Also lets find out what his delegate strategy is!


GoofBoy, of course, rejected my suggestions and said if he lost he could just be Vice President and get his term as President next year. Of course if GoofBoy is Vice President then I am full of suggestions!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Kids (of all ages) Love Trucks!

Kids love trucks. They are big, they are loud are powerful. Trucks do stuff. They pick up garbage, lift people up high to fix things, and sometimes have sirens. Some are so big they can carry cars. Kids are small and often want to do these things but are not allowed. Kids love trucks. 
The daycare at my synagogue (where I sent the little Goofs back in the day) sponsors an annual day of Truck Touch! The parking is filled with trucks, and there is food, and activities. It is like a Richard Scarry book come to life.

Naturally I volunteered to help. I proposed that I drive the dump truck. We would have a fire truck spray water and make a big mud puddle. Then I'd get all the kids in the back of the dump truck, drive them around, and dump them into the mud. Then we'd use the fire hoses to clean them up. Best of all, if any kids got hurt (unlikely, I know all about dump trucks, I've had a Tonka truck for over 40 years) there's an ambulance right there.

I kept pestering the nice young woman who organizes the event about this idea. (She already has two pre-school boys to wrangle, I really should leave her be - but occasionally I have to give MamaGoof a break from my madness.)

The little Goofs sent her emails:
Thanks so much for letting my dad drive the dump truck. He's so excited, it's all he's been talking about all week. He's been running around the house singing the dump truck song.
My proposal was not accepted, I was put on ticket sales (which I did diligently!) And about a million kids came and they all had a great time!

Zoom in to see the big grin on my face!
However, I did take some time off from my arduous back-breaking labor to SEE THE TRUCKS! I did (sort of) drive the trash truck. More importantly when one of the little boys I mentioned was disconsolate because he wasn't getting his turn at the wheel, I caught his eye and asked if he wanted to drive the coolest truck in the world. He nodded sadly - not believing in much of anything after being denied time in the drivers seat of a Ford F-150. I propped him up on my shoulders and let him grab my hair and drive. Not easy since I don't have much hair left. (GoofGirl pulled it all out sitting on my shoulders.)

Don't drive the truck! Be the truck!
So I didn't get to drive a truck, but really I did one better. I got to be a truck. And really, on some level, that's what every kid wants.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Missing Mama

At my mother-in-law's funeral I met one of my wife's cousins. He was a very nice man and he kept in touch with his beloved aunt. When we met he knew all about me. 

"I heard you wrote a book. Mama Lupe told me all about it." They called her Mama Lupe because, as the eldest daughter in an enormous family, a great deal of mothering was delegated to her.

My background was so very, very different from my mother-in-law. I had very little idea what, if anything, she understood about what I do. (It was not always clear to me that my own parents understood much about what I do either.) But apparently she got a lot more than I realized, and she was very proud.

After Mama died, my wife found a shopping bag candy in her room, and candies in her mother's handbag and the pockets of her clothes. My mother-in-law really should not have been eating bags of candy. Mama's sweet tooth was a well-established fact. When my wife mentioned this to her sister who lived closer by, her sister explained that Mama wasn't eating the candy herself. She was handing it out when she went shopping.

Once, my sister-in-law reported, they were on a shopping trip together and Mama had been giving candy to all of the greeters and stock clerks and cashiers. As she was leaving a store, one worker jokingly called out, "What, no candy for me?"

Mama was not moving so easily. But she bustled back to make sure the store clerk got his dose of sweetness.

My mother-in-law was a force of nature. And if she had your back, she had your back.

The first time I visited my wife's parents in LA, Mama went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. This was a great honor; most of the cooking was done by Nana at this point. But for the great guest (me) all the stops were pulled out. Then I heard the banging. The future MamaGoof (FMG) explained to me, "She is tenderizing the meat with a hammer. It's gonna be good!"

And so it was.

But I also got the message. Be good to this woman and her family, because she knows how to use a hammer.

We'd actually met some time before, at the FMG's PhD graduation. It happened to be the day of death for Rebbe MenachemSchneerson, who some believed was the Messiah of the Jewish people (there's a whole, whole lot of theology tied up in here.) Mama who monitored world affairs from her couch knew everything going on the world and knowing I was Jewish informed me, "Your Messiah died."

"I'd better get my instructions!" I joked and started to get up from the breakfast table.

She laughed, I'd passed a test. She was a devout Catholic herself, but more than willing to be tolerant. But she was testing my character a little – fortunately I passed.

Mama was born in Guadalajara, one of 15, where her father was the foreman on a ranch. At a young age she was married off to an older man who wanted her to clean his hotel. She fled, made her way north and worked in the fields of central California for a few years. (This was the 1950s, immigration wasn’t an issue). It was a hard life. She worked as a housekeeper and as a seamstress. At the factory she became friends with a woman who had a brother.

Together they had four children and she managed the house, pinching pennies so they could all go to Catholic school (instead of LA public schools) where they all excelled (2 MDs, a PhD, and a dental hygienist – the American dream!) She was smart with her money, but also generous.

She loved being a grandmother. I mentioned how Mama cooked for me, but los ninos could have anything their little hearts desired – cookies, candy, fries (she hadn't cooked since the steaks I mentioned above).

Her husband and sister-in-law (Nana lived with them and they were like sisters) had difficult declining years. I’ve written about it before, and I am sad just thinking about it. But, after Nana left us and Papa was placed in a home where he got the care he needed, Mama seemed relaxed. We figured she was good for another decade of telenovelas and visits.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. My wife misses her Mama, the little Goofs miss their Abuelita, and I miss her too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Typical Tubey Day

Today was a great snapshot into life with me.

I woke up tired and grumpy. I headed downstairs to zap a piece of quiche for breakfast. Then my day got much, much better. There was only a little bit of wax paper (to cover the quiche) left on the roll. That left me a cardboard tube - a new toy.

When I finished my quiche I used the tube as a trumpet and "played" a bit of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Then I went upstairs waving the tube excitedly. MamaGoof saw me and said, "Oh, the wax paper roll. I heard you and was wondering where you got a cardboard tube. I knew it wasn't from a toilet paper roll."

"It's TUBEY! My new friend!" I announced.

"Your son isn't getting up. Go get him out of bed." MamaGoof has mastered the art of redirection, it's a survival skill.

I burst into GoofBoy's room, took the cardboard tube and played Reveille. Then I jumped on his bed and bonked him on the head.

"Why Dad? Why?"

"It's TUBEY!" I yelled, "Anyway, get up, you have a field trip today and then a week and a half home from school."

GoofBoy's field trip took him downtown. I knew he'd be having lunch at a park just a block and a half from my office. I had planned to surprise him.

But now, I could bonk him on the head with a cardboard tube!

In front of his friends!

Oh happy day!

Several hours later...
Walking to my office from a meeting I ran into GoofBoy and his class on the street. Unplanned. They were surprised. I walked with them to the park and asked about their trip.

A work colleague came by with his puppy (he lives near by and walks his dog over lunch - lucky!) With GoofBoy and his friends distracted by the dog, I got TUBEY out of my bag and bonked GoofBoy on the head a few times.

"Really Dad, have you been planning this all day? Don't you ever have work to do?"

"Yes and sometimes."

"Can you hit my friends on the head?"


And I did! Each and every one of them.


This was not a particularly unusual day for me.

Update: GoofGirl was apprised of the plan that morning. But she did not tell her brother (which I assumed she would). So he really was surprised to see me downtown.

Good OPSEC GoofGirl!

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Postal Memories & Postal Movies

In writing about my visit to the Postal Museum with GoofGirl, I forgot the most important and interesting thing. 

When I went back to College after delivering the mail all summer I made up fantastic tales of the doings at the post office.

Kicking it back and forth with my friend David Schneider, we start sketching out a movie centering around corruption at the post office. We didn't get very far with it, just had some fun.

Fast forward five years. I was driving cross-country with a friend who was relocating to LA. My plan was to stay with Dave (who was making his way as a screen-writer) for a few days in LA while I waited for my then girlfriend - now the long-suffering MamaGoof - to fly out to LA. From the Grand Canyon I gave Dave a call (this was before cellphones became ubiquitous). I was telling him my planned ETA and he responded, "Sure, but can you come in that afternoon instead of that night?"

"Sure, we can always leave Vegas earlier. But, why?"

"Your movie is opening."

"What? Huh?"

"Remember our movie about corruption at the post office, will we wrote it, it was made, and it's opening that night."

Well okay then.

In fairness, the movie Address Unknown - which was a great boys adventure - was only vaguely linked to the ideas we had kicked around years before. But there was a corrupt postmaster, so it was sort of our story. Dave and his co-author Drew were kind enough to introduce me around as the original inspiration.

(The trailer is here - I don't know why it has Dutch subtitles.)

So, there it was. I was at the Hollywood opening night of MY movie. Many have had the dream. I lived it - thanks to a summer job at the post office.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Going Postal: Yet another adventure with GoofGirl

GoofGirl wanted an adventure, so we headed downtown. Her first priority was the National Building Museum. We'd been before, but there was a Beach exhibit there much of the summer that GoofGirl really wanted to see. This exhibit got a lot of attention, I never quite saw the attraction. It was supposed to be a beach, but with plastic balls in which one could jump or swim. People loved it. I thought it was just a really big ball pit - like at Chuckie Cheese.

GoofGirl wanted to see it so we went. We saw the line out the door to get into the "beach" and GoofGirl agreed that we should just go to the second level of the museum where we could get a good look. She didn't need to spend the day waiting in line.

After a visit to the gift shop (where GoofGirl bought a pair of the plastic balls - apparently planning to start her own beach), we headed on.

Knowing that the Beach might be packed, we had a back-up plan. GoofGirl wants to visit all of the Smithsonian Museums. She is doing pretty well. She's had me take her to the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of the American Indian, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and of course the National Zoo.

On this day, GoofGirl had the National Postal Museum in her sights.

There were a pair of brief detours. First, I insisted we stop at the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. A modest monument not far from Capitol Hill, it is a solemn space remember a great injustice. We talked about the sculpture of an eagle entangled in barbed wire as a fitting symbol.

We visited the memorial to distinguished Senator Robert Taft. I explained he was the son of that Taft and GoofGirl observed, "He wasn't the man his father was."

True that.

The National Postal Museum
GoofGirl enjoyed exploring the stamps including the famed One-Cent Magenta! There was a time when stamps were objects of wonder, tiny windows into exotic places and also the identity of nations and peoples. Extremely rare stamps were critical elements in adventures and mysteries. The importance of postal services, while much reduced now thanks to telecommunications, cannot be underestimated and stamps remain a window - albeit less viewed.

The mail has touched on terrible things and GoofGirl was horrified in the exhibit on the anthrax attacks, which happened before she was born but touched me personally - albeit peripherally. She also did not like seeing KKK members in their hoods in an exhibit on civil rights. She finds them frightening, as well she should.

And then we came to an LLV (Long Life Vehicle.) I delivered mail one summer. It was very, very hard work - particularly in humid gr
eater Baltimore. And I drove an LLV (yes, I also got to drive a jeep.) Something I used is in a museum, sigh.

Whatever images one has of lazy postmen (Cliff Clavin - Hello Newman), that was not my experience. Mail is measured in feet and a certain number of feet have to be delivered per hour. This left little time for breaks. I walked miles, carrying many pounds. I came home tired.

This was 1990, well before easily downloadable audiobooks. If that had been part of the equation I would have loved the job.

When I got back to college, I had a few stories. Friends would ask what I did over the summer and I would say, "I delivered mail."

Invariably they would ask, "For the post office?"

"No, I freelanced."

There was the woman deeply concerned when her church's magazine didn't come in the mail one day. She had been waiting right by the door and was pretty disappointed. "But it comes religiously!"she told me.

I had to shoot a dog with pepper spray once, it was a little dog but it was really mad at me. Another time, a big dog, protecting a little boy came after me. It was barking and I was getting concerned. The little boy had his arms around it, crying, "Don't shoot him!"

I didn't, but it was just pepper spray - and he was obviously a good dog.

I had a few other stories, but more remarkable was my deep rich tan, which ended at my ankles. When I took my socks off, my feet were bone white and practically glowed in the dark.

I began to reminisce with GoofGirl. She rolled her eyes. Turned out, she had heard all of my stories. I was not revealing anything new. She thinks I belong in a museum and maybe I do.