We go to the zoo a lot, even though zoos are horrifying places filled with encaged, unhappy animals; trapped, unhappy parents; and wild, shrieking children. Zoos are difficult to find--you could circumnavigate the globe following signs to the Bronx Zoo--smelly and expensive to park at, despite almost every living being at the zoo wishing he, she, or it were somewhere else, such as a bar or Africa. Because of these factors and more, my wife loudly complains about the zoo. She complains at the zoo and while planning the next trip to the zoo, which is often as soon as the next day.
At the National Zoo on Friday
James is two years old and has been to the zoo three times. His favorite things to do at the National Zoo in Washington DC, include leaving the zoo, running over children slightly smaller than he is, and chasing subcontinental rodents in five-hundred-degree rooms while shouting "NO NO NO" every time the subcontinental rodent tries to do something vaguely resembling its natural routine in a not especially large plexiglass box.
Taunting a small mammal
My wife has been to the zoo four times with me. (The first time was the perfect zoo trip: There were no children, and everyone was drinking because it was a wedding.) Her favorite things to do at the National Zoo in Washington DC, include complaining about the absence of pandas (actual quote: "I'm going to write a letter to the editor to the Washington Post about how there are no pandas), complaining about the absence of giraffes (one of the few animals James reliably recognizes), and complaining about the ubiquity of fried dough (actual quote: "Is it weird that THIS ENTIRE ZOO smells like fried dough [editor's note: the entire zoo actually smells like animals pooping]). She also enjoys comparing the present iteration of the zoo unfavorably to her memory (unreliable) of the National Zoo and trying to coax James into appreciating animals, leading to exchanges like the following:
Wife (pointing to five-ton Asian elephant): James, what's that?
James (picks at infinitesimally small speck of dust on the floor)
Wife (pointing more emphatically): What's that?
James (backs into several small children, spins around, smiles, tries to steal whatever is in their hands)
Wife (picking up James and holding him before five-ton Asian elephant): What's that, James?
James: A hippo!
1) Wait until James is old enough to appreciate zoo or renounce it as inhumane
2) Only go to zoo during childless social events featuring alcohol
3) Do anything else in New York City or Washington DC other than zoo (hard)
We were assured cheetahs "cannot jump or climb" and so were unlikely to eat James
Since we were already so far south visiting Michele, Kevin and I did our pilgrimage to Charlottesville on Thursday. We love Charlottesville because we met here, it's warm and pleasant, it's green and full of trees and mountains, and it's the home of UVA which we love just as much, just to name a few reasons.
On UVA grounds
We went a little over a year ago, and we did pretty much the exact same things this time. It's pretty much our Cville greatest hits. Kevin went hiking during James's naptime, which made him very happy. The man really loves hiking. Back when we were dating I used to go and even kind of keep up. If he brought me along he usually kept the hike a little easier and I'd do 3-7 miles with him. These days I find the stairs somewhat challenging.
After naptime, we had Belair Market sandwiches- we always get the Jefferson sandwich because it's turkey and cranberry. Then we went to the main UVA grounds because they're beautiful. We took photos there again this year. The first time we took photos there together was in 2008, first for my law school graduation in May, and then we took engagement photos there later in the summer. It's fun to bring James to the the place it all began even if he doesn't get yet. Last year we got James a Virginia t-shirt, this year he scored a Virginia shirt and hat.
James is flying I think
James's preferred mode of transportation in the heat
Then we went Downtown. We took a photo in front of Mudhouse Coffee again this year. It's where we met and had our first date in 2006. Their coffee is totally holding up, even after all this time drinking fancy Brooklyn coffee.
We Kevin and I met 7 years ago!
This time when we went by the Freedom of Speech Wall, James was inspired to chalk it up. Apparently he has a lot of speech he wants to share. Or scribbles. He also felt the need to crowd this little girl out. SHe was pretty close to his age, but he prefers older women of 3 or 4 years old.
Drawing with his new Charlottesville girlfriend
We met up with James W. for dinner at the noodle place on the mall. I had this bright idea to pass some time while we waited for James W. James has been asking about bubbles frequently because he saw some episode of the Mickey Mouse Cluhouse that featured bubbles. There's a CVS on the mall so I figured they would have bubbles for kids. Not only did they have bubbles, but they had Mickey Mouse bubbles. James went crazy. He doesn't care at all about Charlottesville, but the bubbles were the highlight of the day for him. It was maybe too exciting actually because I was getting worried that he was going to fall on the brick while chasing the bubbles with wild abandon.
Little James looks excited to see James W but is in fact just excited about the bubbles
I always called Marco & Luca Noodle Shop "the dumpling place." That related to the fact that I always just got one order of dumplings there. Since we were making a whole dinner of it we got dumplings and different types of noodles and I have to say the non-spicy noodles are now my favorite. I'm going to have to figure out how to make them because I've been dreaming about them ever since I got home. Kevin, James, and James W are also big fans. After, we went to Splendora's Gelato, where I was planning to have a gelato to myself, but James immediately helped himself to copious amounts of Mexican chocolate. Yum.
Marco & Luca Noodle Shop
Finally, I let Kevin and James W go get drinks and have a good time without a toddler. But James and I had a good time at the hotel. We watched a little Mickey on my Kindle, blew bubbles inside, and he had a luxurious bath with all the plastic cups the hotel room offered.
Like a little angel watching a video on the Kindle
Kevin had a break from school last week so we took a little roadtrip to the South. We started by visiting Michele in Richmond. Michele moved back to Richmond in November, and along with her friend Susan is starting the Richmond Food Cooperative. If you live near Richmond in Virginia, you should check them out! And whether or not you live nearby you can buy their awesome shirts in support of the Coop. Anyway, we had such a good time visiting that I have the absurd problem of having too many good pictures to reasonably post in one entry.
James photo bomb in Maymont Park!
We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday. James was pretty good for the first 5 hours of the drive but then he wasn't so good for hours 6 and 7. Nonetheless, we were excited to make it from Long Island to Richmond in just 7 hours with just a few stops for sanity and food. When we got in, Michele suggested we take James to the park so that he could get some energy out after sitting in the car all day. She took us to Maymont Park, a big beautiful park with a children's zoo. We toured the whole thing and got some fresh vegetables for dinner from the vegetable garden volunteers. Michele's family was nice enough to invite us to dinner.
James loves Maymont Park
Tuesday we had lunch at a delicious sandwich shop called Chiocca's and got everything on our sandwiches from prosciutto to liverwurst and anchovies. Yum! James ate some of our sandwiches but he was mostly interested in stealing all of our potato chips and drinking out of a straw.
At Chiocca's enjoying some crazy sandwiches.
Potato chips make him thirsty.
We grabbed some coffee after lunch and then headed over to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Both the outside and the inside of the museum is lovely and impressive.
Michele and I outside the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
James is concerned that this giant lady is falling
Michele in the Eastern art section
Enjoying the interplay between the sculpture and the canvas
Tuesday night we had dinner at Michele's family's home again. Besides the company, my favorite part was the sweet tea vodkas with fresh mint from the garden Michele made each night.Yum! The weather was so nice the whole time we were there that it was very pleasant sitting outside, especially in the evening.
Sweet tea vodka on the porch. I could get used to Richmond!
Hanging out on the porch with Michele's brother and mother
Kevin used to visit one of his friends in Richmond all the time before we met, but I had never been out in Richmond before, so Kevin offered to stay in and watch James so that Michele and I could go out for drinks. I was thinking like the parody song "32" says,"It feels like one of those nights I'll have like one drink." But we went to a Cuban cigar bar and ordered mojitos and they gave me the biggest mojito I've ever seen, so really, one was plenty.
Havana 59 Cigar Bar in Richmond
Wednesday, we finally went to Buz and Ned's. I have been dreaming about it basically since last time I went in 2006 or 2007. It held up to my expectations more or less since my BBQ roadtrip of 2012 dramatically increased my BBQ expectations. I would have liked it more saucy, but that was the only critique I had. The hush puppies, beans, and apples were divine. James strongly approved of every portion of the meal.
Kevin and I with scary portion of food at Buz and Ned's
Michele feeding James some beans
Group self-photo outside of Buz and Ned's- cute times 4!
At my suggestion we walked through the large famous Hollywood Cemetery. It's a little weird, but Kevin often checks out famous graves at cemeteries anyway, and I had my sights set on the pyramid I saw listed in the Richmond Wikipedia entry.
Pyramid to honor Confederate soldiers in the Hollywood Cemetery
After lots of exercise in the hilly cemetery, we went to Hardywood Brewery to cool off with some local beers. The main part of the brewery was closed for a law firm event. Figures. But the Brewery also had a large outside area with a farmers market. They provided some chalk as well, which was all James needed to be entertained for hours.
At Hardywood Brewery
James artistically expressing himself at the Farmer's Market
Finally, since I'd expressed an interest in getting a good view of the James River, Michele took us over to Libby Hill Park. James loved playing in the fountain until he was soaked. Water hoses and fountains are a huge passion of his.
Libby Hill Park fountain
Michele taking a photo of James who is about to use a stick to make a wish
She made us a delicious dinner on Wednesday night. We left Thursday morning, but only because Michele was leaving for her brother Matthew's college graduation in Vermont. Otherwise, she might have had some trouble getting rid of us. We took her to the airport so that we could spend every last second with her, and we miss her already!
This weekend, Jon celebrated his 33rd birthday with his family, us, and many long-term friends and some new friends from his job. They had delicious burritos, and amazing chocolate cake from the Chocolate Room. Eating that cake, I sort of felt like it was my birthday.
Jon on his 33rd birthday with his son
As a bonus to celebrating our friend there were a four kids there counting James, so James got to play with other kids and was happy most of the time we were there. It was lie a little bonus playgroup. And of course, I got to hold and snuggle Ben which is itself an event. You might notice a strong pro-Ben bias in these pictures and I am not apologizing for it. He's pretty great. So I would say the party rocked. Happy birthday, Jon!
Look at that awesome little face.
Playing with his daddy
My turn to play with Ben!
I was generous and shared Ben with Grandma Kathy (her 2nd visit to Ben!)
We met Nick and Emily for dinner at a Himalayan restaurant in the East Village. I have never had Himalayan food before and actually I didn't even have any idea what it was. So naturally I thought it was a great idea. It turns out that it's a cross between Chinese and Indian food which makes sense when you consider the geography. When we got our dishes some looked specifically Chinese and some looked specifically Indian. Only Emily's vegetarian dish seemed a little hard to classify as either.
Outside Himalayan Cafe
Then we headed over to Tile Bar for lots of drinks. I've only been to Tile Bar a few times, but it's rapidly grown on me. It's a dive bar, but it's always so comfortable and everyone there behaves amazingly civilized for New York City. Although, in our book, dive bars are a positive not a negative.
We had lots of fun with Nick and Emily! So much fun that we almost missed our train. A mad dash through Atlantic Terminal (picture Kevin sliding down the banister of the subway stairs) and a late LIRR train saved the day though.
Ash has had a very successful career in Marketing, but she really wanted a career where she could use her skills to help people so she went back to graduate school for School Psychology. I was super excited and invited myself to graduation, because frankly, that's how I roll. She graciously accepted my self-invitation.
Ash and her family at Radio City Music Hall
The graduation ceremony was at Radio City Music Hall which is amazing. I got there early and sat close to the front with my big camera. After many introductory remarks the presentations began with awards. I started wondering if Ash was going to get one, and I didn't have a program so I asked the woman next to me if I could look at hers. Just as I got all excited that Ash's name was listed under Graduate Departmental Awards for School Psychology, I saw a curly-haired person in the front start moving around. Apparently, Ash didn't know she was getting an award either and she had to jump up to get in line to go up on stage! I hooted like a crazy person when they called her up. I was like one of those moms on "Toddlers in Tiaras" which I realized only because the row in front of me turned around to look at me.
Ash accepts her award
The chorus after degrees were conferred
Ash and her friends from graduate school
Afterwards, her family, Kevin, and I went for drinks to celebrate. Ash came too. She told me that on the way to the graduation, they'd had a lot of traffic on the way over and Ash had to get out of her car and run the rest of the way leaving her sister to park the car. Luckily, everybody made it in time.
Sisters Aneira and Ash
Me and Ash
Walking around Manhattan... in circles.
We made her hold up her award
Drinks at Le Maison
Me, Ash, and Kevin
Congratulations, Ash! You're going to be so helpful to many young people.