Road Trip Day Three . . . We Travel at the Air-Speed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow

Pittsburgh to Chicago is a long and boring haul through Ohio and Indiana, but luckily my son Alex lost his mind at the latter end of the ride, providing some much needed entertainment:

Alex: a coconut is almost a mammal!

Dad: what?

Alex: it has hair, and it gives milk . . . all it needs is to have live young;

Mom: what about a heart and a brain?

Alex: Ian doesn't have a brain, and he's a mammal!

but despite the long haul, the high temperatures, and my epic quest to find parking, we were able to rally and cover a lot of ground in the city-- for all the shortcomings of my children, I will give them this: as long as we keep feeding them, they can walk forever . . . even with the addition of "punishment push-ups," which they are consistently doing for various bad choices; anyway, here are a few highlights and lowlights of Day Three:

1) major surprise . . . when it's hot in Chicago, it's a beach town . . . at the shore of Lake Michigan, the skyscrapers abruptly end and the beaches begin . . . and another surprise . . . there were lots of attractive, scantily clad women roaming about (I had imagined the women of Chicago to be stout and solid . . . female versions of the guys in the SNL "dah Bears" skit) and there were loads of people sailing little boats and partying on yachts;

2) the view from the top of the John Hancock Observatory is astounding, but it must eventually get rather mundane, as the girl who ran the elevator made herself an excellent rubber band ball and was having a good time bouncing it;

3) the view from our hotel is awful, as all the rooms at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart are on the interior of the building, but this is karma-- as we were upgraded in Pittsburgh and got the best view in the city-- so things needed to even out (and you can see down into the hotel pool, which is mildly entertaining . . . and if you leave the room, you can look down into the lobby, which is very nice . . . the hotel is a donut within a donut, I think);

5) deep dish pizza at Gino's East is good but very filling (and also really expensive and takes quite a while to make) so though the kids loved it, I much prefer Pete and Elda's at the Jersey shore;

5) nutritionally, I had an especially ugly day: Jimmy Dean sausage and egg sandwich for breakfast, two McDonald cheeseburgers for brunch, a chili dog with onions at Portillo's for lunch, and deep dish pizza with sausage, peppers, and onions for dinner . . . but at least I avoided the deep-fried cheeseburger;

6) there was also some serious nutritional disappoint when we found out that Rick Bayless's two Mexican places that we were dying to visit are closed on both Sundays and Mondays . . . our only hope is a quick breakfast on Tuesday before we head to Iowa.

Road Trip Day Two . . . Can I Keep It Short and Sweet?

In order to keep my fans from migrating to my competitor's blog, I am going to summarize our second day in Pittsburgh in as few words as possible . . . I'm going to try my best to be terse and laconic:

1) we visited the Carnegie Science Center, which is quite a bit better than the Liberty Science Center (although I found being inside the submarine extremely claustrophobic);

2) while my wife and kids were watching a show in the Buhl Planetarium, I slipped off to the Jerome Bettis Grille in order to watch the noon Brazil/Chile World Cup game and found myself sitting alone, making strange noises at a giant TV, and drinking copious amounts of beer to mask my embarrassment, because every other person in the bar was in town for the 4 PM Pirates/Mets game, and they were doing their best to look at anything besides the soccer match-- though it was on the majority of the TV sets in the place-- so these people were watching baseball pre-game, or hockey reruns, or even looking at the autographs and memorabilia on the walls . . . they all seemed to be of the same mind, that if their glance happened upon soccer, they would turn communist or something worse . . . but my wife and kids joined me at half-time and an ethnic guy (Asian? Filipino? Colombian? all three?) from Long Island, who was also a soccer coach, stood next to us and we all yelled and rooted like crazy people, as the match was fantastic and went to penalty kicks, but even though they made a special announcement on the PA about the game and actually shut off the classic rock for a bit and played the volume, the baseball fans in the bar still refused to look at the game, they focused on their deep-fried cheeseburgers and got ready to enjoy an afternoon watching America's pastime, not some artistic sport that you play with your feet and head (and you heard me right, the Jerome Bettis Grille specialty is the deep-fried cheeseburger . . . I was tempted to order one until I actually saw the sort of person who eats one . . . 

3) we then hauled it up the hill into the Mexican War Streets -- the best name for a neighborhood ever-- and went on an epic quest in the epic Pittsburgh heat to find The Mattress Factory . . . a contemporary art museum with room sized installation pieces . . . and once again we were going against the grain, walking past a tide of Mets and Pirates fans, none of whom knew the way to this museum . . . but we finally found it and it was weird and eerie and dark and fun and mainly air-conditioned, much more exciting than an afternoon baseball game in 90 degree heat game could ever be;

4) and finally, my wife (and competitor) has banned me from using her pictures, so this is all I have to offer in the way of photography (and so much for keeping it short and sweet, but I'm better with words than with a camera . . . and that's not saying much).

An Original Photo by Dave

Road Trip Day One . . . We Become Honorary Pittsburghers

I'm going to stretch the boundaries of the sentence for these posts (mainly because I'm competing against another, ersatz blog being written by my wife -- Sentences of Cat -- and I want to be the definitive and comprehensive provider for information about this cross country trip) and so I'm going to use a chronological listing format to give you all the stuff you need to know:

1) we made it to Fallingwater without much conflict in the car, mainly because of two podcasts -- Song Exploder  . . . artists take apart songs track by track and explain how they put them together -- and Professor Blastoff . . . which is slightly inappropriate for the kids but hysterically funny;

2) Fallingwater makes miraculous use of steel-reinforced concrete, which I just learned all about in the highly entertaining book Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World, and while I could appreciate the aesthetic charms of the place, mainly what kept running through my mind was: this would be an awesome place to have a party! but then I kept imagining drunk people leaning over the low balustrades and falling onto the wet slate below, and I questioned Frank Lloyd Wright's brilliance;

3) Hotwire upgraded us without telling us, and we found ourselves staying in the Pittsburgh Wyndham Grand, with a fantastic view from high above the confluence of the three rivers (the Ohio, the Allegheny, and the oft forgotten Monongohelalhgonelagonorrhea) and so after a surprisingly cheap meal at Pittsburgh's oldest restaurant -- the Original Oyster House-- we were able to watch the sun set into the confluence (and you're not going to get a word like "confluence" over at my competitor's blog;

4) the concierge at the Wyndham asked me where we were coming in from, and when I told him New Jersey, he said, "I've been to Elizabeth . . . they'll murder you twice there before you get out of the car," and I agreed that it was a tough town -- but not quite that bad (we travel there and play soccer, and while they play rather rough and tumble, no one ever gets knifed) and then he said, "I've also been to Camden" and I told him that's a rough town too, but "with a great aquarium" and I didn't bother to explain to him that not all of New Jersey is evocative of Mad Max and that I live in an innocuous Jersey town full of liberals, lesbians, Orthodox Jews, grad students, and a sprinkling of every ethnic group on the planet, and he assured me that Pittsburgh "is like Mr. Rogers" and it did seem to be full of nice old white men like the concierge, but we did meet one black guy, who owned the ice cream parlor we went to . . . the place is called DreamCream and each flavor in the shop represents a charity-- it could be an organization like the Red Cross, or an individual who needs an expensive medical test -- and by purchasing a particular flavor, you support that particular charity . . . so very Mr. Rogers;

5) and while I'm not above trashing my competitor's blog, I will steal one of her pictures.

Soccer Injury

During the USA/Portugal match, all the kids watching the game were sitting on the floor of my living room, and my son Ian didn't jump up quickly enough when the US scored their second goal, and so he got kneed in the side of the face . . . so amidst the jubilation he was curled in a ball, crying, and had to be extricated from the throng of cheering boys . . . and in my usual empathetic fashion I blamed the injury on his slow reaction time to the goal-- not the insane boys that injured him-- and advised him "when you watch soccer you've got to really pay attention because if a goal gets scored people go crazy."

Boats: Could They Cure PTSD?

In Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, Geoff Dyer summarizes writer Karl Marlantes theory: "in the Second World War people came home slowly, gradually, by boat, as part of a unit" but "in Vietnam, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, the swift return and dispersal of the group was accelerated and increased, something that may well have played a part in the drastic increase of PTSD" . . . and while this reverse acclimatization into the civilian life may be necessary to healthily adjust from wartime to peacetime, it's also possible that WWII guys were just tougher (this was the time of leather football helmets, a time when you could still die of septicemia from a rotten tooth). 

My Grill Communicates With Me In the Only Way It Knows How

 I assumed that the very high temperatures on my Ducane grill thermometer were like the zone beyond the 85 mph mark on my mini-van's speedometer-- just for show-- but apparently if you let enough fat and grease and meat shards pile up on the heat plates and the floor of the grill, and then throw a bunch of burgers on and close the lid, you can start a 700 degree fire inside your grill -- which charcoalizes burgers in mere minutes (and inspired me to finally clean the grill).


I am posting my cross country trip itinerary here so I don't get any statements like this after the trip . . . you should have told me you were going to Nebraska, my uncle owns a circus in Nebraska and you could have performed in it! or You were in Hot Springs, South Dakota last week . . . I was in Hot Springs, South Dakota last week . . . we could have met for margaritas at my favorite place . . . so here it is, and if you have any information about these places, I'd be happy to hear it: Pittsburgh to Chicago to Sioux City (near Adventureland) to Nebraska (Ashfall Fossil Beds) to the Badlands to the Black Hills (Rapid City and Hot Springs) to the Grand Tetons and finally to Yellowstone (we are staying north of the park in Emigrant, Montana).

Why Did All the Good Stuff Happen a Long Time Ago?

A lot of the supernatural -- werewolves and mermaids and vampires-- and the most fantastic religious miracles -- Jesus walking on water and Moses parting the Red Sea-- can probably be attributed to the fact that no one in ancient times had access to eyeglasses.

Parallel Preparation (Not Really)

If you're a diligent reader of this blog, you may have noticed that I haven't been reviewing many books lately, and that's because I have been reading travel guides and hiking guides and (my favorite) eating guides, in preparation for our cross-country trip, but one writer was able to pull me away from this preparatory research -- the humorous British curmudgeon Geoff Dyer; his new book is called Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush and it is a study in the act of perpetual preparation, because-- as the men on board repeatedly tell him-- the lessons they learn about how to effectively and safely run an aircraft carrier are "written in blood"-- the bad things that can happen on the ship and in the air above the ship are multifaceted and multifarious, and Dyer describes them all (though he doesn't witness anything horrific, but he hears about soldiers being sucked into jet engines and blown overboard and killed by catapulting cables and the variety of ways to crash land, etc. etc.) and the book is both absurdist in its detailed observation and inspirational in how these men lead their lives, and it's great preparation for our cross-country trip, because no matter how claustrophobic it gets in the mini-van and no matter how annoying the kids get, this is NOTHING compared to what men and women have to endure when they are contained for months on an aircraft carrier (which, to Dyer's chagrin, has neither a bar nor a ping-pong table).

Sometimes A Short Walk Can Be a Very Good Time

I warn my composition students not to take to much lined paper at the start of the exam, because the only fun thing that you can do during the course of the examination is walk to the front of the room to get more paper (of course, normal people can sit in one place for an hour and a half straight without taking a short walk, but I know that I need little breaks like that to look forward to).

Probably Better Off This Way

On Wednesday morning, I tried to telepathically call my dog to my bedside, but he didn't come; though this would have been a neat trick, it's probably better that he can't read my thoughts . . . I wouldn't want to burden anyone with my stream of crappiness, especially my most faithful canine companion.

I Welcome the NSA to Read This

I am reading Glenn Greenwald's book No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State and while the revelations in the book are frightening and I certainly agree with Greenwald's point that "surveillance changes human behavior . . . people who know they are being watched are more confined, more cautious about what they say, less free" but I wonder if this is always an awful thing; there are people who feel they are always being surveilled by an omnipotent and omniscient being, and this doesn't bother them, in fact, it makes them strive harder to be moral and a good person in the eyes of their God (which can mean a lot of things, but that's a whole other can of worms) and I'm trying to convince my children that they are often being watched, even when they don't realize it (such as when they are eating in a restaurant, and my older son picks his nose and eats it) and even if our electronic correspondence is being surveilled by the U.S. government, this really hasn't changed things, as Greenwald still published his book-- sureveilled or not, he wasn't disappeared, like Dunbar in Catch-22, so I say to Uncle Sam, surveil away . . . read my third rate blog and my banal text messages . . . enjoy!

A Man Can Dream, Can't He?

I'd be fired for this, I suppose, but the other day, when I was showing my senior class the climax of The Matrix, there was a lock-drill . . . and so there was trouble inside the computer generated world designed to enslave humans (the matrix) because Neo was locked in battle with Agent Smith and there was trouble in "reality," because the robotic squid creatures were attacking Morpheus's hovercraft, and then the lock-down drill added another layer of trouble in our own reality outside of the movie and it made me think it would be really wonderful if I could stage some kind of attack of my classroom during this climactic moment, so there would be actual believable trouble on three levels of reality . . . the reality of the matrix, the reality of the world outside of the matrix but inside the film, and then the reality of the place where the film is being shown (some technical troubles with the projector might help the metaphor as well) but considering the climate in schools these days, I don't think it would be wise for me to stage an attack of my own classroom to accentuate a meta-philosophical point.

The Other Black Night

While my favorite Black Knight is the heavily armored dude in The Holy Grail who loses his arm and claims "it's just a flesh wound," I will concede a close second to The Black Knight pinball machine -- which introduced the two level playing field and also had feature called "Magna-save," which allowed you to press a button and operate an electromagnet to save your ball from draining-- when I played this thing back in 1980 it absolutely blew my mind (multi-balls on two levels! holy shit!) and so when the boys and I went to Asbury Park to visit the Silverball Pinball Museum last week, I was hoping they would have this machine . . . and they did, and it was a good lesson about the power of nostalgia over memory, because the game looks pretty lame and dated now (especially compared to the machines surrounding it) and so my advice is this: don't revisit anything from your youth, because experiencing it in the present might destroy happy memories from when you were ten (although I still had fun playing Centipede . . . whatever happened to the track ball?)

Dialing It In (For Good Reason)

This sentence is to celebrate the longest run of beautiful weather in the history of central New Jersey (and I apologize for a weak literary effort, but it's been too nice outside to sit at the computer and write . . . if I lived in Colorado this blog wouldn't exist).

A Student Teaches Me That LIfe Is a Different Kind of Highway

My students had to present philosophical metaphors last week and a very smart girl explained that her take on life is like driving -- she said that we are all rolling along the road, some one way and some in the opposite direction, and we all share the road but we don't know exactly where the other cars are going -- they may even be going to the same address as us, but for a very different reason, or just using the same road -- and we may wave or give them the finger, but we don't fully understand them and what's going on inside that vehicle . . . and that parallels her view of other people, we don't know their full intentions or thoughts but we can see similarities and/or major contrasts in how they are moving and acting and this gives us clues to how they think and feel; this philosophy boggled my mind because when I am driving, I don't think of the other cars as human entities, I think of them as obstacles and I'm often angry and wondering What the hell are these people doing out here on the road? Don't they have jobs? Are they just driving around aimlessly to irritate me? Why are they taking up space on this planet? Why are they driving 34 miles an hour in the passing lane? and if I get caught in a traffic jam, I don't console myself with the fact that I'm surrounded by other conscious people who have wants and needs, and a desire to get places, instead I feel claustrophobic and oppressed and insane and want all the cars around me to be vaporized by alien lasers form space . . . but from here on in, I'm going to try to change (a little) and (occasionally) attempt to empathize with both other cars and other people.

RISK Statistics Make Me Wonder

My son Ian begs us to play RISK, which is a major commitment, and then when we finally agree to play, he's usually miserable . . . on average, he cries 2.7 times a game, he outright cheats 6.5 times a game, and he fake quits 2.2 times per game; so my question is: why does he desire to "play" this game of domination, manipulation and betrayal . . . why does he desire this emotional turmoil?

This Hockey Puck Has Nothing To Do with the Rangers

A student of mine relayed an incident from her brother's dorm in college which I found radically inventive, but apparently, "to hockey puck" someone is a fairly mundane thing . . . so if you live in a dorm and you hate your RA, then you can urinate into some kind of cylinder -- such as the top of a peanut butter jar -- then freeze the urine, then pry the frozen urine from the lid, so that you have a "hockey puck" of frozen pee, and then you can slide this hockey puck of frozen pee under the door of the hated RA upon which you want to exact revenge (when he/she isn't in the room, of course) so that when they return to their room, they are greeted by a mysterious puddle of urine (in the story I heard, the RA was so befuddled by the urine puddles -- which were nowhere near the door, because it's easy to slide the "hockey puck"-- that he first changed the locks and then called animal control because he thought there was some creature living in his room that like to urinate on his floor when he was at class).

Sleep > Success

Yesterday a student played a video narrated by Eric Thomas, an ex-professional football player who is now a motivational speaker, and -- serendipitously-- the theme coincided with yesterday's sentence; in fact, it seemed as if Thomas was giving me a stern talking to about my need for sleep . . . he says you need to "want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe" and then (at 3:54 into the clip) he elaborates and says that most people "don't want success as much as you want to be cool . . . most of you don't want success as much as you want to sleep . . . some of you love sleep more than you love success," and I couldn't help agreeing with him . . . I would love to be more successful, but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

Sad But True (Awkward Dave Walks the Halls)

I'll never be a great man (for many reasons) but mainly because I need too much sleep (case in point: last week there was a half day for the students and so I had some free time to spend in my classroom, and a great man would have finished Amanda Gefter's Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn: A Father, A Daughter, the Meaning of Nothing and the Beginning of Everything, a fascinating book about the most metaphysical questions in physics, but instead I fell asleep at work in a plastic chair, head leaning against the file cabinet, feet resting on a desk . . . a position so uncomfortable that when I awoke, twenty minutes later, both my legs were asleep, from my glutes to my toes, and I didn't realize the extent that they were asleep until I had walked twenty yards down the hall, to the water fountain -- I'm always thirsty after a nap-- and that's when the pins and needles struck, and so I had to stagger back down the hallway to my room (on surveillance camera) and almost made it without being seen, but just before I opened my door a teacher rounded the corner and gave me a funny look (well deserved, since I was careening from one side of the hall to the other) and so, as I collapsed through my classroom door, I yelled to her, "both my legs are asleep!" so she wouldn't think I was drunk (an actual possibility, since we were able to leave the school for lunch because it was a half day).

Educating the Youth With Facial Hair

We've been watching The Matrix in senior English class, and half-way through, I realized that if I shaved my facial hair into a goatee/mohawk then I'd look a bit like Cypher (at least in the facial hair department) and so I gave it my best shot (it's a bit crooked) and then on Monday I came into class with my new look, and I instructed my students to take out a sheet of paper for a quiz and then I said: "Question #1" and pointed to my face and asked them to"connect my face with what we've been doing in class," and about a third of the students answered correctly (and while it was well worth the laugh, the only problem is that I don't have a good exit strategy from this look, and so I've been wearing this ridiculous goatee/mohawk for a couple of days now . . . I even attended a wake with it . . . no one said anything).

When You Need Clean, But Not VERY Clean

Finger + hose = ghetto powerwasher.

Locks, Sad News, and Other Things

On my way to the gym, I was listening to a Radiolab episode called "Things," and I came to the conclusion that I was not much of a "things" person-- that I don't attach a lot of sentimentality or significance to objects . . . and then I went into the locker-room and saw a lock that looked like my lock, and I thought to myself: I'd better not lock my bag next to that lock, because I won't know which lock is which, so instead I'll lock up over here and then I noticed that my lock was missing -- it wasn't attached to the strap of my gym bag as it usually is, and after searching a bit, I went over to the lock that looked my lock and tried my combination and it worked -- but there was nothing in the locker, of course, and I pondered this for a moment or two and then I realized what had happened; the last time I was at the gym was Tuesday, and I overheard two guys talking about a guy I knew named Lee, a guy I had played pick-up basketball with for twenty years, and they mentioned his trademark army duffel bag and then they started talking in hushed tones but I thought I heard the word "drowned" and this really disturbed me-- but for some reason I didn't go up to the guys, maybe I was embarrassed because I was eavesdropping and instead I lifted for a few more minutes-- but I couldn't concentrate-- so I left, and I guess because my mind was on other things, I relocked my lock after I packed up my stuff and left it there . . . and then I headed home and started searching for Lee on the internet, but I realized that though I had known him for twenty years, I didn't know his last name . . . and I should point out that this guy was one of the nicest, most positive guys I've ever met, and a great basketball player, and the kind of guy you'd want on your team, because he'd pass you the ball, compliment you up and down, and then make four three pointers in a row so you'd get to play in the next game . . . and after a little searching , I found out what happened and it's tragic . . . Lee went missing on Wednesday and they found his body in Farrington Lake, the lake behind my parents' house-- the lake next to the court at Bicentennial Park, where I first started playing with this guy-- and while nothing is particularly clear about what happened, there was even mention of depression or possible mental troubles in the newspaper (which I really couldn't fathom, but you never know what's going on in somebody's head, no matter how they act in public) but I will say this: he was a great guy and he will be missed.

Dave Uses the Word Quadrennial in Proper Context!

If you're excited for the World Cup, or like the word quadrennially, or just want to hear some stuff my friend Terry told me, then head over to Gheorghe: The Blog for Dave's Definitive and Quadrennial World Cup Preview.

It's a Lot of Work Not Doing Work!

Tuesday evening, our neighbor knocked at the door and then asked Catherine if she could come over and turn on their stove, and this is because our neighbors are Orthodox Jews, and during the holiday (Shavuot) they couldn't use electrical appliances (thus the knocking at the door, ringing the doorbell is prohibited) or do any "work," such as turn on the stove (but once the stove is on, then they can use it to cook).

Life Changing Sentence You Might Want to Avoid

I assume you know about Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom's logically argued premise that we are probably living in a computer simulation (but if you don't know about this theory, then do NOT click on the links and FORGET YOU EVER READ THIS!)

Dart Board > Laundry Room = Duh

I recently put up a dart board in the basement, and while my stroke has improved because of this, I've often gone down to the basement in order to switch the laundry over, gotten waylaid by the dart board, ironed out a few kinks in the delivery, then headed upstairs, happy with my progress . . . my initial purpose to do some laundry totally forgotten, until I get upstairs, so I head down again, take a few more shots at the dartboard . . . rinse, lather, repeat.

Two Furry Thumbs Down

I can't remember who implored me to watch Ted, but if I do, I'm going to punch them in the nose.

Reverspectively Speaking

Not only was the Patrick Hughes show at the Flowers Gallery in Chelsea well worth the trip-- the art is trippy and three-dimensional, mesmerizing, and mind-blowing-- but the curator was also the nicest person we've ever encountered in a private gallery . . . she gave us a tour of all the paintings, pointed out cool stuff in many of them, showed us how some differed from others, and spoke at length about the artist (and she knew full well that we weren't buying anything, but maybe she thought our kids were cute or something; anyway, the show is up for a few more weeks, and I highly recommend getting over there and seeing it).

Reminder x 14!

Today my wife and I have been married for fourteen years, and this sentence is to celebrate this fantastic occasion (and also-- since I wrote it several days ago and "scheduled" it to appear-- to remind me to make my sentiments about this fantastic occasion known to my wife).

Who Knew?

Friday night, my ten year old son surprised and impressed the family with a passable British accent (apparently, he's been working on it for a while and he claims that it's hard to say American words-- such as "barbecue"-- properly . . . after he tried to say "barbecue", then his younger brother gave it a shot, and so I tried as well . . . and my accent was so heinous that it ended the episode).


My family is driving cross country this summer and I've got to remember to play Bruce Springsteen's song "Badlands" when we enter the Badlands . . . I wonder what the odds are that I actually do this?
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.