Labor Day

What a Summer for this guy! I currently sit in one of my favorite spots in the known universe: Eventide Cabin on Mt. Desert Island. Acadia is a personal paradise and spending time here with my wife, child and parents is very high on my who/what/where triangulation rankings.

I have been consistently scoring very well this Summer, packed with fantastic weekends around the Northeast: The Land, Bellport, Osterville, Vermont, Maine, and even a few in Brooklyn; Ivy and I rolled all over town on my bike and explored beaches and amusement parks (Coney Island!), swimming pools and water playgrounds (Sunset Park! Brooklyn Bridge Park!), sports events (Cyclones! NYCFC! US Open!), concerts (Prospect Park!) and celebrated her birthday with a backyard BBQ bash. I have enjoyed freedom from work over the past three months and have spent it with my daughter as well as I could. She may not remember our adventures, but I had so many experiences with her that I will never forget! Alaina and I spent every weekend together, which never happened when she worked in theater, and we had two incredible theater date nights, seeing Cymbeline in Central Park and Hamilton on Broadway, the latter of which set a new gold standard for me; simply the most exciting theatrical experience of my life. I also played a round on the best golf course I have ever seen at Fishers Island and are at my new favorite restaurant, The Honey Paw in Portland, established by my awesomely talented brother. 

And now I sit overlooking Frenchman’s Bay in one of my most tranquil moments of the Summer (Ivy is napping!) and reminiscing on time passed and time ahead: Labor Day weekend is always bittersweet as my return to labor is imminent. I have great work to go back to, but I will definitely miss my freedom and days of Ivy. We’re on to Fall!
  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

             

Three Months Pass Fast

Wow. Since my last post 88 days ago, written in a moment of great leisure on vacation in Barcelona, I have been through a vortex of time and space. It has been a wonderful but somewhat delirious 3 months of my life and I have had zero seconds to compose an account of it, which I will finally do here and now, sitting in my new studio in my new home with free time that I now have since school ended last week. Things are different now: Alaina is pregnant again and we moved into an amazing home in Kensington, Brooklyn. The move has been a dominant daily feature in my life for most of the past three months and will continue to be, in some way, for years. The boxes and home improvement projects are endless and I can think of a few that are calling my name right now, but I need to make me time too.

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School has been another major black hole of time. I had the pleasure of teaching every student in the school, Nursery to 4th Grade, this year and I loved it. It was a challenge with great rewards, as I learned from and was inspired by each student. I have been teaching music for 13 years and almost all of it has been with kids under 5. I was working with kids up to 11 this year and I am so impressed by the skills and passion they are bringing to music. I was interacting with some phenomenally talented children, whose instrumental abilities are infinitely beyond what mine were at that age and who demonstrate unadulterated excitement for all aspects of music. It has really been one of the most interesting and fun work experiences I have ever had and I will miss it next year when the esteemed Ms. Nelson returns from sabbatical and resumes her position. While I will miss the job, I won’t miss the long hours, typically 10 hour days, that I’ve been working over the past year. I would love to have more time to spend with Alaina, Ivy and the incoming baby, as well as a few more hours per week to make my music and maybe write about how great my life is. This blog has, I realize, just become insufferable gloating about my awesome life, but I can’t help it. I feel so lucky to have great people, homes, vacations and sports teams in my life and I need to express my gratitude somehow.

Ivy is really fun. She talks a lot and some of it is indecipherable, but when she can communicate a food or activity preference or a song request (we have listened to Bop To The Top and Let It Go hundreds of times in the past three months) I am truly amazed at her growing ability to shape her life experience and fascinated by the choices she makes. The one aspect of Summer break I am looking forward to the most is not traveling or composing music or visiting friends and family, but simply spending five days a week with her. She is joyful and always learning and exploring, teaching me about basic survival and a world of wonder. I feel my Love expanding every day and I look forward to sharing my life with another baby soon!

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From The Place I Am Sitting

On a balcony, overlooking the Calle in Barcelona, I am thoroughly enjoying my amazing European vacation. There is a vibrant street life and I am listening to unfamiliar languages and seeing a larger humanity in a longer time-frame; Ancient Traditions and Relics with Futuristic Thought and Style.

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Two days ago, I found myself at Camp Nou, where local heroes FC Barcelona were taking on Manchester City in a Champions League match. I couldn’t have been further away from the pitch in the 99,000 seat stadium, but it was one of the most exciting sports experiences of my life. It was all about the match; everyone was there to watch the action. After the quick initial fanfare, it was 90 minutes of pure sport. A Competitive Focus and Flow that evades most forms of athletics. The one tiny concession stand only sold hotdogs, didn’t sell beer and was, it seemed, only for tourists; at halftime, the locals pulled out homemade baguette sandwiches. During action, the crowd attention was intense. I had a wonderful running commentary in Catalan next to me, which I am sure was exactly what I was thinking but in a language I don’t understand. At one point, I was chastised by a fan behind me for jumping out of my seat too soon on a Neymar breakaway and my American arsenal of sports cheering was useless: I quickly learned that whistling is reserved for bad or missed calls and the typical two-note taunt that we blast at opposing players is highest praise reserved for the revered one: Messi.

In a Barca 1 – 0 victory, the lone goal was a gorgeous looping volley over the keeper on a perfect 40 yard assist by the Great Lionel Messi. I have seen many great athletes in many sports, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player so obviously on such a different level as everyone else in the game. He controls the ball deftly and makes others miss it comically. He is a wizard.

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The past 48 hours in this city have been exciting and refreshing, and I look forward to another 36 before departing on an overland journey through the Pyrenees to Borde Neuve, France, where we will bask in the stunning vineyard scenery and drink pure wine. I am already reminiscing about the first 96 hours, spent with Great G and Grand in Sydling St. Nicholas, England, with the absolutely incredible Buckland family. This vacation is so unreal and beautiful it seems like a fantasy, but sitting on this balcony overlooking Spanish culture, I know that it is just the lovely life I lead! Of course, no matter where we are, the best aspect of vacation is spending all of my time with Amazing Alaina and Incredible Ivy; I am so blessed to be able to love these two and share their company around the world!

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Snow Blessings

The past two weekends were spent in the abundantly snow-covered Green Mountains of Vermont, getting after some of the best conditions one could hope for; February was one of the best months for snow in the Northeast that I can ever remember. I spent two days at good ol’ Magic Mountain, riding Red Chair and finding pristine stashes of untracked powder everywhere. Saturday was actually the most crowded I’ve ever seen the mountain, and the usually empty lift line involved a 15 minute wait a few times. While I love that place for its desolation, I like to see it selling some tickets and hope that with a few days like that, it can manage to clear the bare-bones-but-not-cheap expenses that it costs to operate the area for the year. Sunday was frigid and back to emptiness with plenty of snow to enjoy, and we brought the whole family and a crew of friends and spent time trading off child-care in the remarkably kid-friendly lodge. While it does offer some of the steepest and most challenging tree skiing in the East, the mountain is perfect for all ages and abilities, with its lone chair servicing a wide variety of terrain and a convenient meeting spot for everyone at the bottom, no matter what run you choose. I also spent a morning skiing “The Backyard” in Chester, hiking up and dropping into some of the deepest powder I have ever experienced; the runs are quick but also some of the sweetest turns I could imagine.

The following weekend was a boys trip to Sugarbush. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands my obsession with the sport and my need for vertical feet when the conditions are calling, so I made the trip North solo at 4am on Saturday and met my Boston buddies on the hill. We skied hard and maximized our time deep in the woods, finding spots we had never discovered with the highlight run being a quick hike off the Heaven’s Gate lift along the Long Trail to an untouched line of pure joy. We were whooping ecstatically with every turn, loving the blissful sensation of effortless carving through the fresh snow.

Despair and Euphoria in an Instant

Unbelievable. I have watched sports for my entire life and have witnessed dramatic victories and crushing defeats and experienced the full spectrum of emotions on every level. I learned about heartbreak early, watching the ’86 Red Sox fall apart in Game 6 with family and friends in my living room, then tasted my first glory with the Patriots’ first Super Bowl victory in 2002 in The Louisiana Superdome with my dad. These epic contests ended on singular plays that are eternally enshrined in Boston sports lore: Bill Buckner’s ground ball whiff and Adam Vinatieri’s boot through the uprights. They were certainly dramatic and instantaneous finishes, but in reality, they both came out of ties: had Buckner managed to corral the grounder and step on 1st, the game would have gone to extra innings and had Vinatieri missed his opportunity, Super Bowl XXXVI would have been decided in overtime.

This is why the ending of Super Bowl XLIX was so beyond anything I have ever experienced. It was a battle from the start and the lead changed several times, with the Seahawks taking a 10-point lead in the third quarter that became a 4-point Patriots lead with 2 minutes left in the game. The last two Patriots’ Super Bowls had eerily similar situations that set up game-winning drives by their opponents, and when Seattle completed a miracle catch at the 5-yard line, the absurd inevitability of deja vu (see Tyree, 2008 and Manningham, 2012) and acceptance of a curse on the team seemed logical. One play later and they were 36 inches from delivering that same backbreaking blow. With three plays to get the ball past the goal line, I put the odds of the Patriots winning the game at less than 1%. It could not have been more certain doom for the Pats, and as I watched with my family in the same living room where I had witnessed the Red Sox collapse 28 years earlier, we were absolutely resigned to defeat. It was hopeless to imagine any other outcome. But then, in a flash of Malcom Butler colliding with Ricardo Lockette and intercepting an ill-conceived pass, the Patriots were Champions once again! In all my years of watching sports, I have never seen the tables turn from defeat to victory in an instant like that: I have seen comebacks and last minute drives and clutch baskets and walk-off home runs, but nothing like a game-stealing goal line interception for the win in the biggest single game in sports. It is almost impossible to comprehend just how significant this play was, but I will never forget jumping up and screaming and hugging my dad and shattering his glass in a moment that ran through the entire spectrum of sports emotion and will happily live with me for eternity.

Like the yin and the yang, there are two sides to this moment. As an invested sports fan, you have to accept that either outcome is a possibility. This compilation of reactions to the play shows our culture’s obsession and deep emotional connection to the game. I have been in both camps and can only enjoy this victory with the knowledge that I will inevitably see the dark and depressing side again. No matter what my teams may suffer in the future, past glories will live forever!

Sufjan Stevens at BAM Again!

A few years ago, I witnessed a performance that still ranks as the most incredible live event I have ever attended. Sufjan Stevens’ BQE at BAM: video of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with a live score performed by large ensemble and hoop dancers. It was such a unique and special event and I cherish it as an inspiring and beautiful demonstration of audio-visual possibilities.

Last night, he performed his newest piece, Round-Up, with slow-motion rodeo footage and an entrancing score performed by Sufjan and quartet Yarn/Wire. It was phenomenal. The music was layered and textured, with a propulsive Steve Reich feel, and the musicians played pianos, organs, vibraphones, percussion while Sufjan conducted from his laptop. The score was synced tightly with cuts in the film and the long, detailed shots matched the pace and depth of the composition.

The rodeo is a fascinating study in human culture and ritual, and of our dominating and violent relationship with animals. In the faces and character of its participants, Cowboys and Indians, and the raw chaos to be tamed of the wild beasts, we see through time to our primal ancestors and the quest to conquer their domain.

The Patriots Are in the Super Bowl Again!

It has been truly astonishing to witness the consistency of The New England Patriots’ domination. I am inspired by their greatness and feel fortunate to have experienced their ascent from nothing to everything in my lifetime. Of course, I am aware that they will return to nothingness again, likely after Belichick and Brady move on (and not, as it briefly appeared, after the Kansas City game of this season), but in the meantime I will enjoy every meaningful game of this run.

Unfortunately, nobody wants to talk about how great the Patriots are now, about how they are about to play one of the most important games in any dynastic conversation and about how they have raised the standard of superiority in any sport.

All anybody wants to talk about is #deflategate. Five days after their crushing 45-7 destruction of the Indianapolis Colts, I have barely heard a word of analysis from that game and hardly a mention of their upcoming contest with the defending champions in the Super Bowl. The only discussion happening right now is about pounds per square inch, and how the acceptable range (which I never knew but will now never forget is 12.5-13.5 psi) was violated in footballs being used by the Patriots’ offense.

Instead of talking about championships, we are talking about cheating. Instead of marveling at the perennial success of this franchise, we are questioning its honor and integrity. Belichick, a tactical mastermind always pushing the envelope of the game, and Brady, the consummate professional on his way to establishing the greatest Quarterback career in history, are instantly villains in the very game they defined.

So, what happened to alter perception? While my first reaction to this story was admittedly grief and despair, I have made peace with it and even give them credit for creative rule interpretation. With the same amount of journalistic standards I have seen in this coverage and lacking any proof, I present my definitive description for this farce:

Using simple physics that any equipment manager whose main duties involve pumping up the ball for Tom, who openly states his preference for softer footballs, could probably figure out, they are filled with warm, indoor air just before inspection and pass, but as time goes on and the temperature drops, the pressure drops as well (PV = nRT), resulting in a softer ball that Brady underthrows into the hands of D’Qwell Jackson who returns it to The Colts’ sideline as a souvenir, which then is measured by their equipment manager (who may have been tipped off by the Patriots’ previous opponent, The Ravens, who noticed soft balls because they played in even colder temperatures and also intercepted a pass, grumbled about the “kicking” balls’ inflation, and were embarrassed by revolutionary yet fully legal offensive formations for which they were completely unprepared and failed to properly defend) and it is discovered that the balls have below standard psi when tested five hours after they originally passed, so the team getting whooped whips up a media frenzy to attack the greatest, the one they couldn’t beat on the field, as the worst, the one who would defile the integrity of the holy game…

Questions and Answers that I don’t really know:

Q: Have any other game balls used in the history of this sport been outside the allowable 1 psi range?

A: Yes. Obviously.

Q: Has anyone in the history of this sport been penalized even a yard for this infraction?

A: No. If it has ever been detected, it was probably remedied immediately without public knowledge.

Q: Do Belichick and Brady know exactly what is being done to their game balls?

A: Yes. They are the best in their field because they are perfectionists and highly particular about their tools and techniques.

Q: Do they believe they are following the rules set by the league regarding pre-game testing?

A: Yes. As there has never been a previous example of anyone being punished for low psi before, during or after a game, they probably couldn’t even conceive of the ball-capture, test and ignition of media-wildfire scenario. They have suddenly magnified a gray area of the rules that nobody even considered: the effect of atmospheric conditions on game balls.

Q: Do they need to do this to be the most successful sports franchise on the planet?

A: Of course not, and yet it demonstrates exactly why they are so great: They always think outside the box and in between the rules, on offense and defense, in formations and personnel, with scouting and scheming, and to the appropriation of the ideal gas law with respect to a hand gripping a football. This franchise inspires me not because they win more than anyone else, but because they are focused and driven and disciplined and crafty and constantly defying conventional wisdom while revolutionizing the sport. The league is constantly behind the Patriots, rewriting the rules to define their ambiguous loopholes. Does the rulebook state that balls must be inflated at the same temperature the game will be played at? No. Does it state that balls’ pressure must be accurately measured every time they are put in play? No. Should it? No. Are the refs are responsible for ensuring that balls are legal and aren’t they implicitly declaring they are every time they place it on the line of scrimmage? It sure seems like it: if they can’t tell that something is amiss with the central piece of equipment that millions of people are focused on, then isn’t it, for all practical purposes, acceptable? If my theory is correct, did The Patriots tamper with the football? Maybe, depending on how hot their inflation environment was, in a way that possibly seems against the spirit of the rules but not necessarily against the actual rules. Would it be different if the equipment manager were deflating balls with a needle on the sideline after they had been measured and approved by officials? Yes. Is it ethically wrong for them to take advantage of basic atmospheric science to create a ball that softens as temperature drops? Maybe, but in a way that can’t really be corrected without explicit rules on inflating temperature and measurements on every play.

Bill said he has never given a thought to a ball’s legality after it is approved by the refs pregame. Tom says he doesn’t believe he is a cheater. Maybe it is cognitive dissonance and maybe it is the mark of artistic genius, refusing to accept vague boundaries as limits in rules that are revised every year. Either way, they are probably lying when they say they don’t know what happened to the balls, and that is maybe the most painful part of this debacle because there is nothing I despise more than lying, but they are talking to the media, which they have demonstrated, through controlled and tempered responses to all press conferences and a thorough mocking of the weekly injury reports, is just an extension of the game itself, and are playing a sport in which “deception” is key to success and are acting on higher principles of circling the wagons around a team and leaving no man, not even a lowly equipment manager, behind for the media vultures. Those are the guys I want on my team.

And maybe there were no shenanigans whatsoever and this is common in all cold weather games but nobody has ever considered it an issue before the Patriots were “caught”…

After five days of confusion and disappointment worrying about their tarnished reputation, I have accepted it and earned an even deeper appreciation for the greatest dynasty in sports. I am proud to be a Patriots fan and look forward to them winning another Super Bowl and rewriting the record and rule books for years to come.

Here’s Hoover

Sometimes I do things now that remind me of how different life was before Ivy. Last night, Alaina and I did something incredibly rare that we did frequently until 16 months ago. Seeing a show together involves many more calculations now but occasionally we make it happen. We hired a baby sitter and went to see Les Freres Corbusier’s new production, “Here’s Hoover!” at the Abrons Art Center. It was a blast: Herbert Hoover’s Comeback Special as a rock star dead set on re-telling his legacy and escaping the pack of below average presidents. It is fun and ridiculous with a sweet soundtrack and free beer last night! Our 4-hour escape even included 2 bonus stops at bars before and after, and some time to enjoy each other and chat without distractions.

Our lives are infinitely richer now than they were 16 months ago, but we have made sacrifices. It’s nice to know that it’s still there when we need it.

A Favorite Day

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I had a fun family day today! We went to New Jersey to spend time at Liberty Science Center; Ivy loved the animals there, including tamarins, lizards and neon frogs, and I was excited about the guitar exhibition. Alaina appreciated the Infection Connection for the giant sneezing nose and the “actors” portraying her dad’s job, and we watched a phenomenal performance by a Brazilian student string orchestra, playing sambas, Beatles and James Brown while dancing and jumping out of their seats.

Then we went to Harrison for some playoff soccer! Red Bulls v. Revolution in leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals of the MLS Cup. We brought Ivy to a game at Gillette Stadium this Summer and it was awesome; while I would never consider bringing her to a Patriots game at this age (And I’m not sure I completely understand why that is true), soccer provides a great atmosphere for all ages and seems to encourage youth attendance. Today, our busy schedule left her with only a quick nap in the car and after the pre-match techno blast and fireworks, she fell asleep for most of the first half and missed two great goals – and was awake but getting a diaper changed in the 85th minute when Jermaine Jones scored the winner for the visitors. Being a Jersey Girl, Alaina was rooting for the local club and bought Ivy a supporters T-shirt, but I was obviously cheering for New England.

When we got home, we watched the condensed DVR version of the Patriots’ 34-9 dismantling of the Lions and my day was officially in the books as a lifetime favorite day! Good results in great company is unbeatable!

Busy

The fact that I have not written here in over two months speaks to how fast time has accelerated recently. I am working more than I have ever worked and doing my best to learn new skills and techniques of teaching older kids. It has been a challenging period for me, but I am enjoying it immensely. Seeing the musical abilities of children rapidly improving through the elementary years is awesome and inspiring!

Unfortunately, this schedule has made Ivy time increasingly rare. During the week, I see her from too-early in the morning until I leave for work. She is usually asleep when I return, so I cherish the hour or so I do spend with her, even in my typical morning zombie mode. Because of my limited Ivy-hours, I enjoy the weekend even more than I did when I spent those days in party zombie mode. Last weekend was a bit of a throwback to the olden days of my younger self; a Friday night Halloween kids parade followed by 5th Ave bar crawl and a Saturday night with Dean Ween band at Brooklyn Bowl, and a trip to Foxboro with Dad and Bro on Sunday where the Patriots stomped all over the Broncos and reasserted their dominance in the NFL. It was an epic party weekend with a confluence of amazing events! This weekend was more low-key and the past three days were wonderfully family-centric, sending me back to work tomorrow with great memories of time shared with my favorite people. I had Friday off and took Ivy on a tour of Brooklyn parks; we took a walk in Prospect Park, then Sunset Park and the brand new Bush Terminal Piers Park, where Ivy was recognized as the first baby visitor! Saturday was a Geisler/Taylor family adventure to the beautiful Storm King Sculpture Park and a trip to The Bronx Zoo and Sunday was a stroll through local Greenwood Cemetery and some quality time with Ivy’s bestie, Maisie. October weekends included a Vermont excursion and celebration of Grandma’s 90th birthday with four generations of Herters! Of all the amazing things I get to do in my life, there is nothing better than simply sharing time with Alaina and Ivy!

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