Xander takes some warm-up swings before a recent “Fall Stars” baseball game; the way I cropped the photo with the tall palms in the background gives off an interesting vertical style panoramic presentation. The second photo is a shot of our TV screen after the Yanks took all three of their ALCS home games vs. the Astros this week. The palm trees also lended a larger-than-life quality to Mr. X and his aspirations of one day rising to the heights of
the 6-foot-7 Yankee rookie slugger Aaron Judge.
When Troy returned from a recent visit to Dave & Buster’s arcade and asked me to assemble this little plastic cell phone jail (complete with lock & key), I saw an opportunity to commandeer his gag prize choice. Yep, this would become my personal toy whenever I deemed their mobile devices needed a little alone time.
Only Troy has a phone number on his iPhone, but I gave my previous cell to Xander so he can text and utilize other features and apps with the home wi-fi.
X watching too many sports highlights on the ESPN app or YouTube? Troy playing too many successive games of MLB17 or Crossy Road? With the handy-dandy cell-phone lock-up, say hello to technology-free activity time!
Available at your nearest Dave & Busters or wherever plastic cell phone jails are sold!
And making the slo-mo highlight reel from the 60th Anniversary festivities…..
March 29, 2017
“Happy 84th” I say to my Dad on a morning call. “I haven’t been able to find the time to send you a gift for your b-day so just wanted to give you a heads up to expect a little something next week.”
Little did he know that the little something would be me and the famiglia in the flesh at his and Sheila’s surprise 60th wedding anniversary party in Florida nine days later.
April 7 (the actual day of their anniversary)
Me, Irene, Troy, Athena, Xander, my bro Gary, Alex, sis Lisa and nieces Jessica and Chelsea are huddled in the upstairs library of the 5-bedroom AirBnB in Boca Raton that would serve as the accommodations for our 4-day fiesta. The anniversary couple thought they were stopping by a listing that Chelsea wanted to show them (Chels recently got her real estate license) before my sister would take them out for breakfast. We decided not to shout “Surprise!” as the doors were flung open, instead letting video and photos capture the moment. Minutes later, the silence was broken by waterworks from the happy couple and greetings from around the room.
Realizing that Grandma and Grandpa Florida (as the kiddies call them) didn’t yet have a grasp of the full surprise, I told them that we would all be staying in this house together and Lisa would be shuttling them back to their condo to pack a small bag for the next few days. Surprise #2 and more waterworks! A buffet lunch kicked off the party and continued well after our home-grilled steak dinner.
Who needs a resort when you have a house that features a pool area with a Jacuzzi, a hammock, a retractable awning for shade and sun worshippers alike, a grill that you could cook a side of beef on, (not to mention a yacht parked alongside the pool for that added ritzy atmosphere) and AN ELEVATOR! The boys even picked up the lone fishing pole that was provided and cast a few lines into the intra-coastal waterway (no fish were caught but Troy did reel in a piece of seaweed with a small green crab clinging to it!)
Earlier that day, Grandpa Florida joined us on a field trip to a local park to watch the boys take some batting practice!
Then it was back to the house for Surprise #3 when some local relatives and friends trickled in for the “official” anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. – a cocktail/dining reception that was enjoyed by all and highlighted by a cake and video tribute (put together by Alex) complete with pictures of the anniversary couple over the years (“Got a booth, babe?” read the best caption alluding to dad’s classic request for his favorite restaurant seating!)
Inside our crib, an assortment of board and table games lent an extra element of camaraderie throughout the weekend: we paired up for a variety of Jenga and chess matches and turned a dining room table into a ping pong court with a portable set that was also provided by the house. Since we had to rise at 4:30 the next morning for our return flight to L.A., we turned in a tad earlier than the previous couple of nights but not before raising a final toast to the magnitude of two people acheiving a six-decades-old bond!
More than 35 years since their 80’s heyday, Duran Duran is sounding (not to mention aging) better than ever. When they announced their two-night St. Patrick’s weekend shows at the Agua Caliente Casino in the Coachella Valley back in December, I picked up a pair of tickets for Irene’s b-day gift.
What made it even sweeter were the amazing seats we scored in this intimate venue: second row in the loge — just above the floor seating with completely unobstructed views of our boy Simon Le Bon, who was in fine voice as always! Simon takes his vocals very seriously and this night was no different than any of the previous couple of shows Irene and I have seen together; his range was impeccable, from holding a falsetto note on songs like the new uptempo “Last Night in the City” to classic ballads like “Ordinary World.” He has definitely distinguished himself as one of the most engaging all-around lead singers in the game!
On being able to remain relevant after all these years, bassist John Taylor told the Dallas Observer in a recent feature: “You can’t fake it. You’ve just got to have the burn and not get hung up on the past. So many of my peers that don’t do music for a living don’t have anything positive to say about contemporary music. You got to be really open and be prepared to really go digging because I think it’s important that you have a sense of what’s happening right now and it’s important that what’s happening right now feeds into the music that we’re making.”
Equally relevant at this show was the band’s stage theatrics: the confetti cannons (during “Pressure Off”), the giant beach balls (“Rio”) and Simon’s request for the audience to pull their iPhones out of their pockets and turn on the flashlight (during “Save a Prayer”) was all reminiscent of any recent Coldplay show. And the big screens on either side of the stage (one right above our excellent seats that afforded us even closer close-ups of the action) provided great animated backdrops for each song as well.
With 14 albums (plus four greatest hits packages) under their belt, D-squared definitely had their work cut out for them deciding which songs to play live but their choices were satisfying for this show; highlights from the 90-minute, 16-song set list (including two encores) for me were “View to a Kill,” “Is There Something I Should Know” and “Notorious” while Irene could be heard belting out “Wild Boys” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” at an enthusiastic volume!
The little quips started in 2012 at five-years-old and ran through 2014; then the classic “Xanderism” made its triumphant return in 2015. Now that he’s 8, I’m inclined to give Mr. X’s humorous wordplay a more age-appropriate title: X-Claims? Yep, that works for me.
So we’re heading to summer camp one recent morning when he begins contemplating the rules of the carpool lane.
What if there’s only one person in the car?
You can get a ticket and pay a fine.
Introducing the “X-Claims”: Do dogs count?
Every dad has traits – good and not-so-good – that define him. And then there are those little idiosyncrasies that you inherit from the guy that fathered you. Just recently, two such quirks that would definitely be considered “learned behavior” made me stop and question: am I turning into my dad?!
These two are pretty straightforward: My dad used to walk through the house turning off the multitude of light switches that were on when nobody seemed to be occupying or using said space as he announced to anyone who was within earshot that we were wasting electricity. I’ve come to realize that I just recently started doing the same thing (just this morning I shut off a half dozen lights before leaving for work), but I merely mutter things like “Electricity doesn’t grow on trees you know!” under my breath. So not completely like Grandpa Florida and certainly less effective!
The second example is much more sentimental. To this day, my dad puts family photos and other heartfelt notes on the visor of his car. Just last week, Athena gave me a little piece of artwork she made with “#1 Dad” written on it. Hmmmm, where should I proudly display this as a constant reminder of what great little kiddies I have? ON THE VISOR OF MY CAR, OF COURSE!
Thanks for those two traits that remind me of you, dad, and Happy Father’s Day to both you and dad-in-law Mr. V.!
There isn’t much that can get me out of bed at 6:15 in the morning, but there I was driving the family to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on its opening weekend.
The special 7 a.m. screening was actually the setting for a birthday party for a friend of Xander’s; when the parents opened it up to the families of the invited guests, the force was with me to get up to experience the hype of this blockbuster (and the movie did not disappoint – harkening back to the elements that made the first three Star Wars movies so good, the film also mixes in solid new characters).
Xander sat with his pajama-clad friends as I kicked back with the unlikely combination of popcorn and coffee (I recommend it!) When the movie ended, everyone moved into a private room across from the theater for, what else?, a Star Wars birthday cake.
Later that afternoon I starred in my own sequel: Star Wars: The Force Naps!
Immediately after checking in via tablet at the entrance to MINIUSA’s downtown L.A. HQs and grabbing a smokey whiskey cocktail from Greenbar Craft Distillery (made from hand-pressed organic produce), I knew we were in for a unique gathering introducing the new Clubman series to an invitation-only crowd.
Inside, it was a salute to local craftsmanship; with a jazz ensemble providing a soundtrack at the far end of the space, guests visited a mix of L.A.-based artisans’ exhibits, including Graf + Lantz and Chocovivo. Irene did a chocolate tasting at the latter and had monogrammed leather luggage tags made at the former that she picked up at the end of the event. Meanwhile, I sampled beers from Eagle Rock Brewery and browsed some furniture made from repurposed/reclaimed materials by Fort Goods.
“This is an event about sharing not just what we make but why we make it, about being inspired and passing it on. A Mini isn’t just made, it’s crafted,” said an event promo.
Indeed, the “Mini Reinvented” event was a story about craftsmanship, “not a story told by a brand to its consumers but one told by a community to its members,” as the promo went on to say. “It’s about turning a day of work into a work of art.”
After about an hour of mingling and sampling a variety of circulated hors d’oeuvres, we moved to the showroom, where the Clubman was unveiled. Irene posed a few options-related queries to one of the Mini reps and a few moments later I spotted her looking a little too comfortable behind the wheel of a sporty Mini Cooper convertible.
Since my birthday was on a Tuesday this year, I decided to spice up the weekday that has the reputation of having the least personality with something a little different: get tickets to see Jimmy Kimmel Live. Before moving to L.A., I had gone to a handful of Late Night with David Letterman tapings when he was with NBC, back when you had to WRITE IN to request tickets. Of course in 2015 that whole process is handled online – in JKL’s case by an entity called 1iota that makes sure everyone is officially screened before receiving confirmation to attend a show on your chosen date.
After being waitlisted for 11/17, I got an email a few weeks later telling me we were in! Babysitter secured for the appointed day, Irene and I hopped on the priority ticketholders line at about 2:30 p.m., where for the next 90 minutes we had our IDs checked, filled out non-disclosure forms and went through a security check before heading inside to be seated.
A segment was planned where the audience asks questions and try to guess who People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive would be this year (David Beckham live on a Skype feed). In the queue outside, each audience member was given a card to fill out with their name and respective question, so about a dozen people who got picked were assigned aisle seats and asked their question during the segment.
I happened to be sitting in the third seat next to two such people and received quite a bit of airtime (on the left side of the screen). Watching it back that night, I suppose we appeared presentable enough, so as they say in talk show land, we have a clip (see the 1:58, 3:18 and 3:57 marks and Irene and I together at 4:21):
The guest list wasn’t that exciting – actor Josh Hutcherson from the Hunger Games movies, some ongoing science teacher dude who presented an array of experiments and band Walk the Moon, which you don’t actually get to see because they perform on an outdoor stage behind the studio for another whole different audience.
Back inside, the energy was high with the house comedian doing his thing between segments, including tossing out t-shirts to the audience, not one of which was thrown my way despite the fact that it was my birthday! Oh well. When the show let out at about 5:30, we headed over to the nearby Pink’s Hot Dogs to close out my Tuesday-tailored birthday festivities!