Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blogging at DullesMoms This Week

I've got a new story posted on this week. Look for And You Thought Curious George Was Naughty.

Thanks for reading and sharing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Big City, Small World

We knew the pizza and pong would be tasty and fun after seeing Comet Ping Pong featured on The Food Network's hit show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with Guy Fieri, but who knew date night would lead to a chat with a Pulitzer Prize nominated author about the Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa over Peruvian cocktails and beers in D.C.

It happened just like that. On a whim we decided to book a babysitter and take a night for ourselves. So with the man-van parked at the Springfield Metro station, we took a carefree train ride into D.C. to sample some new pizza and battle for ping pong bragging rights.

Comet's neon sign may be visible from the moon. I've never visited the lunar rock, but the sign is a bright beacon to any and all crispy crust, wood-fired pizza lovers in our corner of the solar system. Seriously, the pizza was awesome, the beer selection was more than respectable, and the ping pong action was hot.

Comet features three full-size tables and one mini table in the back, and one full-size table outside- yes, outside. The outdoor seating area was packed with pizza people! So dinner was a rockin' success, except that the online review we read had us hop off at one Metro station too soon. Luckily the cabs were prevalent and we caught a relaxing ride north. Last thing about the Comet: have fun finding the restrooms. I mean it - have fun!

So the pepperoni and cheese of this blog post was our bartender at Los Andes in Adams Morgan. The basement bar beneath the Peruvian restaurant Los Canteras caught Angie's attention because she saw a lone patron through the barred windows. Well, barred windows, dark stairs to a subterranean bar, and anything in Spanish is usually enough to draw us in for a drink.

The lone patron turned out to be the chef, and he quickly withdrew to the kitchen to prepare for the dinner rush. (We're parents, so date night starts around Boca del Vista time, i.e. early) So with the chef cooking, we had the barman's full attention. He slid me a bottle of Cusquena, which he described as a fuller beer than Peru's alternate hopped beverage option, Cristal. (Cusquena's slogan is "the gold of the Incas") My wife went with a Macchu Pisco, an egg-free twist on the bar's signature Pisco Sour cocktail.

My wife shared a story about our friends, who married themselves along the Inca trail on the way to the mountain ruins of Machu Picchu. The barman listened quietly, a knowing smirk forming in the corners of his mouth. After listening to her story, he divulged that he was co-owner of a B&B in a small Peruvian village near the Machu Picchu trailhead.

As the conversation flowed on, we learned that he had been a travel writer for the Washington Post and Time magazine. In fact, he once ran the Post's Moscow bureau in Russia. I didn't learn until later, during a Google search on the way home, that he was fluent in five languages and had been nominated for a Pulitzer for his writing. He was much too modest to brag about such an honor.

Maybe the most interesting thing to us was that one of his brothers had run a restaurant in Ames, Iowa, where we had gone to college. He couldn't remember the name of the joint, but we left our email address in case it came to him. After reading his profile on a travel writers Web site, I think he'll follow through. As a former Post reporter, I'm sure he won't be able to sleep until he knows the restaurant's name.

What a great night out! The best thing about living in and around big cities is meeting fellow transplants. Everyone has a story to tell. We were just lucky enough to be served by a well-traveled, professional storyteller and Pulitzer Prize nominee from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mourning Naptime

My latest story for I Am Modern Magazine was just published in their Fall 2010 issue. Read it, share it, and let me know what you think. Read it online here:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Meltdown at 30 Thousand Feet: A Flying With Children Fiasco

As first published by

If you’ve ever seen a pair of scampering squirrels chasing each other up and down a tree at dizzying speeds, you may understand what flying with young children is like. Now take those two squirrels, stuff them in a paper sack, give it a shake until their good and mad, and then ask them to sit quietly on an airplane. Now you know what flying with my two sons is like. On a recent flight home from Colorado to D.C., they had a very public meltdown, and my response was about as effective as using gasoline to extinguish a fire.

When it comes to flying, I’ve become THAT guy at the airport, the guy with the rental cart piled high with a massive, over-stuffed, family-size suitcase, two backpacks bursting with toys, books, blankets and diapers, a cooler full of sippycups, and two car seats stacked precariously on top of it all. The carefree, pre-children days of traveling with a single backpack, a book and a buzz are a distant memory. So by boarding time, after loading and unloading the taxi, checking in to the whining demands for more juice, the usual headache of being processed by security, multiple bathroom breaks and an excessively long line to buy bagels; I was already worn out and ready to relax. I just wanted to find our seats, point the little jet of cold air on my face, and close my eyes. Of course, that turned out to be a ridiculously naive fantasy.

After gate-checking the jogging stroller, we were welcomed aboard by grinning flight attendants. Their insincere Barbie smirks couldn’t mask their true thoughts as they sized us up. They knew with one look - This family is going to be a problem. My wife carried our 16-month-old and a backpack, and I had a bag and my three-year-old’s hand. The apprehensive looks on the faces of the other passengers as we ambled past them down the aisle bordered on dread. I could almost read their minds as their fearful eyes moved from our procession to the empty seats around them: Please don’t sit next to me.Please...

With one bag stowed above and the other stuffed under the seat, it wasn’t long before my sons’ cheerful disposition dissipated and their behavior became unruly. Poor ‘Lil C was too young for a seat of his own and just wanted to lie down in his crib. He writhed and screamed and threw his Nuk and sippycup on the floor over and over. Then like the flip of a bi-polar switch, his wailing briefly turned to laughter and he sat still for a page or two of a story before returning to his sonorous assault on my ears.

Big C continuously pulled the window shade down. He unfastened his seatbelt during takeoff and banged his tray down repeatedly. The woman in front of us had her seat kicked multiple times as he whined, cried and threw tantrums over the most infinitesimal things. I tried to point things out the window like rivers, fields and clouds, but he wasn’t interested. My patience was gone and the end of my rope was tattered and frayed. I was screaming at my son through clenched teeth, yelling and gesturing at my wife in frustration, and generally making everything worse. The unfolding scene drew sympathetic looks from parents and irritated glances from others. The cacophony was so invasive, so crushing that I’m sure everyone was secretly praying that the mild turbulence we were experiencing would increase, tear the roof off, and suck them out into a blissful freefall.

There’s nothing worse than sitting near an irate parent. The offending parent’s hostility is contagious. A dark cloud of revulsion and hate spreads from them throughout the cabin and taints everyone’s mood. The recycled air tastes more stale than normal. People take long, hopeful looks at their watches. The merchandise in the Sky Mall catalog seems junkier than ever, and the already completed crossword puzzle feels like a personal insult. Passengers normally tolerate misbehaving children, but they loathe the hotheaded parent that loses their cool and makes things worse. I had become the irate parent.

I was nearly institutional. After being scolded by my wife for losing my temper, I was in a near catatonic state, staring blankly at the graphic of the airplane traveling across the screen mounted on the seat in front of me. The plane was moving slower than eastbound traffic on Hwy 66 on a Monday morning. Slugs inch across the sidewalk faster than the animated plane moved. As we hovered over the Midwest, Washington might as well have been in Europe. My mind filled with fantastic visions of escape. Maybe if I kicked over the beverage cart, the anonymous Air Marshall would choke me out of my misery with a headlock. I wanted off the plane one way or another.

And just as I was about to commit a felony at 30 thousand feet, my baby boy fell asleep and his older brother’s attention was captured by a surprise gift. The remainder of the flight had its challenges, but the worst was over. When it comes to flying, I learned not to expect too much from the kids. After all, they were out of their element and out of their routine. Their sleep schedules had been obliterated by the switch in time zones, and ‘Lil C was forced to sleep in a Pack n’ Play all week. Like their father, I’m sure they just wanted off that plane, too.