SuperDuperDad’s Top 10 Urban Dad albums of All Time

Below is my list of ten essential Urban Dad albums, records that every grown man of culture should have come across at some point in his life.

It’s admittedly NYC-skewed and since it’s also dad-oriented, hipness and overall greatness have been jettisoned for a certain maturity and adult-centered mindset. So Lower East Side classics like The Velvet Underground & Nico and modern-day standards like The Strokes’ debut are not included. They’re just too damn cool and youthful.

And like it or not, we fathers must be honest with ourselves if we wish to remain vital: Don’t kid yourself, buddy. Being a dad just ain’t hip.

Anarchy, nihilism, debauchery, narcissism and self-destruction… all piss down giant tsunami-waves of cool upon the punier and more wholesome traits of later life, such as selflessness, sacrifice and caring. And please… don’t try and ply me with any of that, “Well I say that raising a family and being a man and blah, blah, blah,” IS cool sh*t cause’ it ain’t gonna fly over here, pal. This is the United States of America and youthful hipness is KING!

So this list ain’t for kiddies nor is it merely about ‘great’ albums. It’s about music that is somehow linked to a certain geographical and generational time and space. Urban, semi-educated parents who grew up in a certain (literal and figurative) place and can relate to the particular story these records tell. It’s also admittedly very much based on my own personal journey, hence very few albums post 1985.

So with little further ado…

SuperDuperDad presents The Top Ten Urban Dad Records of All Time:

1) John Lennon/Yoko Ono- Double Fantasy

The Beatles are beyond ‘urban.’ They’re beyond ‘British, pop, youth, adult’ and any and all categorizing terms one can apply to a band.

John Lennon, however, is a (sort of) different matter.

He was basically an NYC dad for his entire solo career. So although ‘Plastic Ono Band’ is easily his strongest work (and in fact the ONLY truly essential disc by any ex-Beatle) and greatest hits compilation Shaved Fish is a more enjoyable listen, Double Fantasy is the JL disc that best embodies urban parenthood, in all its bland and over polished glory.

From his reflections on love in adulthood (“Woman”) to that common parental feeling of stir-craziness (“Steppin’ Out,” which Joe Jackson would easily best two years later on another TT Urban Dad disc) to his justifications for just plain taking a goddamn break already (“Watching The Wheels”), this record finds one of rock’s greatest songwriters knee deep in boring-ass fatherhood. Interspersed with Yoko tracks, it’s more a quintessential New York City album than a superb listen, a somehow truthful picture of what it’s like to be a 40 year old juggling being a boy and a man, a rocker and a daddy, with irritating wife-interjections included.

2) Paul Simon- Graceland

Any schlemiel can whip off a classic pop track. Men Without Hats, Crash Test Dummies, The Vapors… It happens. But endurance? Relevance? Well, folks, these are the very heart and soul of true artistic greatness. Miles Davis and Bob Dylan are two examples of artists who defied the odds and made captivating music over a decade after game-changing debuts.

But Paul Simon is a different matter altogether. Name one other 60’s icon who, decades after creating some of his most legendary work, flipped the script and arguably one-upped (or at least equalled) his best material of the past with an astonishing new sound and direction.

Aside from the not-quite as great Leonard Cohen, (see below), Neil Young, with his unfairly maligned ‘Landing on Water’ is the closest example I can conjure up and the act of switching out electric guitars for synths, as Ol’ Man Young did doth not a revolution make, my friends. Plus no one but me liked that album.

Paul, on the other hand, basically ended up starting a stateside “world music” craze and his forward-thinking blend of urban cosmopolitan ennui with African-peasant pop continues to inspire post-modern alchemists to this day. And he made a fantastic album in the process. Far from a dry, academic exercise in musical tourism, Graceland is funky, fabulous and affecting fun from start to finish, with songs as strong as the grooves that drive them.

The 9 year old son from his first marriage accompanies him on the pilgrimage to regain innocence and make sense of his life in the title track, and from bombs in a baby carriage to diamond-soled shoes, the album keeps the somehow worldly yet peculiarly New York-imagery coming. Although it does indeed have a “world music” sound, Graceland is infused with the taste and sensibility of the famous Manhattanite who created it, somehow beating out his other work from the 70’s and 80’s in terms of crafting the definitive portrait of the neurotic and alienated Jewish New York Dad.

Although not everyone was thrilled by Simon’s musical pillaging (esteemed Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was famously disgusted by Paul’s talk of a ‘cinematographer’s party’ over beats taken from the poorest villages of South Africa), time has sanded away the prickly issues of the past and Graceland rightfully stands as one of the 80’s greatest albums, all the more astonishing an achievement coming from an icon of the 1960’s.

3) TIE:

Billy Joel- The Nylon Curtain (When depressed)

Billy Joel- An Innocent Man (When in love or reborn)

Ah, Billy…

Here is an artist who has pried respect from the cold, dead hand of the critical establishment that’s smacked him in the face repeatedly, year after year, from the 70s to the 80’s and beyond, time and time again.

Yet despite the decades of critical sneering, BJ has emerged at the other end not only respected but one of the most commercially successful artists of all time.

Yeah, yeah… Big whoop, Bon Jovi sold plenty of albums too and Hitler was fairly successful at achieving his goals for a while there as well but of course numbers don’t equal greatness.

Ah but Billy showed the longevity we discussed several albums back, and well over a decade after “Piano Man” hijacked 70’s AM radio he continued to churn out chart-topping pop classics, each with that uncanny quality of inevitability, the sense that these songs existed someplace and sometime already and were just waiting to be plucked out of the air and dumped into our public mass-consciousness to reside there forever, inescapable and unforgettable, however slight and facile they may sometimes be.

And if these ruminations of an average Long Island lad growing up on the prowl for beer and girls ain’t exactly Chopin, well… then that’s part of their success: Billy speaks to the average Joe in all of us and his tireless sense of melodic genius and invention keep it compelling.

1982’s Nylon Curtain held particular relevance to me. Like Billy, my dad was going through an unhappy divorce and the sub-urban malaise that permeates the album was real and palpable for many parents struggling through this period of uncertainty and change. The concept of the Modern Dad we know and love today, with a particular blend of sensitivity and stoic strength, was rising painfully from the ashes of the old 60’s and 70’s archetype. And like many men from his generation, my dad was suddenly realizing that something was wrong, that maybe the things he worked so hard for decade after decade weren’t quite what he’d wanted at all. Accidentally coming upon one of his journals in the relatively new Upper East Side bachelor pad he took after abandoning us would leave me shaken, with my first ever realization that parents were people too, with feelings of helplessness and despondency just like everyone else.

Billy fought on with the rest of his restless charge, and the hints of suburban dystopia on 1980’s ‘Glass Houses’ get tweaked and intensified on the relatively dark and moody ‘Nylon Curtain.’ Although tracks like “Allentown” and “Goodnight Saigon” dealt with more topical issues, many songs somehow oozed the scent of too many nights changing the channel aimlessly in a room illuminated only by the lonely blue light of the T.V while cab horns honked relentlessly, twenty stories below. And every single dad who dated in New York knew a crazy “Laura” type who would call in the middle of the night with drama aplenty.

Despite selling over 2 million copies it was a substantial drop in sales from the previous album as well as what would follow. Flush with the ecstasy of falling madly in love with Christie Brinkley, Billy released the commercial smash ‘An Innocent Man’ in 1983. Packed with joyful odes to love and rebirth, it was an instant blockbuster. Songs like “Leave A Tender Moment Alone”, “Keeping the Faith,” and the title track defined love from an adult standpoint while still reveling in it’s youthful high. In “The Longest Time” Joel re-fashions the doo-wop he loved throughout his childhood into a modern classic of his own.

In combination, the two albums tell the story of a dad’s journey through the heartbreaking pain and disillusionment of adulthood that so many of us must face. ‘An Innocent Man’ swept that uncertainty away with it’s enthralling sense of love and optimism, leaving the protagonist renewed and reborn and yet like several other NYC dads in this essay, with a newfound definition of love that was more complex and more layered than what had come before.

After a well-deserved break, 1986’s ‘The Bridge’ would conceptually blend the two previous discs without quite hitting the same peaks or dark chasms, while still delivering some great pop gems. It remains, at the time of this writing, the last great album of his career.

4) Elvis Costello- Imperial Bedroom

Not terribly urban nor fatherly and damn near disqualified for being so bloody British, Declan McManus’s labyrinthine and literate look at love, marriage and home-making still deserves a place on the SuperDuperDad Urban Top Ten.

Possibly the greatest lyricist EVER, with only Dylan and maybe A-game Lou Reed or Paul Simon for competition, Elvis weaves what would be better described as sound-pictures than mere songs. His first 4 albums are some of pop’s greatest ever but are too full of youthfully bracing brilliance and bold feats of lyrical daring for this list.

‘Imperial Bedroom’, on the other hand, with it’s tales of lonely wives and unemployment fits in just fine. Although 1986’s ‘King Of America’ is the album that finally ushers in the true, dreaded ‘maturity’ demon that every artist must slay, (which Elvis does with characteristic greatness on that folk and country-tinged gem), ‘Imperial Bedroom’ emits a new sophistication that many an urban parent can relate to.

5) Bob Dylan- Blood on the Tracks

Like Imperial Bedroom, BOTT is neither urban nor fatherly but somehow takes it’s place in the SDD Urban Dad annals. This famous NYC inhabitant’s take on heartbreak, with the depth and weight that only someone over thirty can know, must surely hold the mantle for one of the greatest breakup albums of all time. And what parent can’t relate to that?

Touching on subjects like regret, time and fate, it’s a dark and sorrowful masterwork of mature pain, lacking the swaggering cool and jarring invention that discounts Dylan’s iconic 60s’ masterpieces from this list.

6) Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band- Born in the U.S.A

As one of NJ’s most famous residents, the Boss sneaks into the urban Dad-album stew by delineating that all-important space to us New Yorkers: the Suburbs. The ‘Burbs are key to the NYC mythology because its where many of us came from and where many end up. And thus its story is our story, one that’s a part of so many city dwellers’ psyches’. The alienation felt by the Vietnam vet in the title track serves as a metaphor for anyone who wakes up to find themselves lost in the middle of their lives, unsure how they got there and without a goddamn clue where they’re going. “Bobby Jean” shares the all-too identifiable pain of watching someone you knew grow into someone you don’t anymore and of course the trenchant but funny “Glory Days” laughs and cries simultaneously about growing older. An adult album through and through, ‘Born in the U.S.A’ shows’s Bruce knocking the aforementioned and dreaded ‘artistic maturity’ phase-album out the park.

7) Joe Jackson- Night And Day

Inspired by the recently divorced and expatriated limey’s move to NYC, ‘Night and Day’ is yet another full-grown take on livin’ in the city, complete with ruminations on mortality, sexuality and that good ol’ staple of growing older, the passage of time. Joe’s focus on ivory-tickling sophisto-pop gives the proceedings a jazzy,cosmopolitan feel as he delivers some of the best songs of his career.

From the restrained euphoria of MTV smash-hit “Steppin’ Out” to the sexual ambiguity of “Real Men,” it’s definitely an album for grown ups. “Always something breaking us in two,” he sings in hurt wonderment on a track that conclusively ends a relationship with a blend of childlike simplicity and adult pain that stands as a good metaphor for the albums’ struggles in general. With themes that constantly draw a parallel between the rebirth and disorientation that one feels in a new and foreign environment and the rebirth and rejuvenation of leaving youth behind, Night and Day weaves a classic ‘coming-into-adulthood’ narrative for the urban dad.

8- Leonard Cohen- I’m Your Man

- Yet another reinvention, almost as startling as the above-mentioned Paul Simon’s, “I’m Your Man” is also Leonard’s most compelling collection of songs. The artificial, funky synth tracks are a perfect counterpoint to his mournful, sorrowful drone, somehow equally hilarious and epic: the perfect blend of old-world European histrionics and the slick, soulless future that we’re constantly inching towards. The icy, heartless Euro-pop of “Everybody Knows” remains a perfect vessel for Lenny to chant, as only he can, that the sweet, warm promise of childhood is an empty dream with no relation to the reality we encounter as grown-ups.

9) Talking Heads- Little Creatures

The album in which some of New York’s favorite boho eggheads ponder raising a family in the way that only an arty NYC egghead can. David Byrne’s perenially weird and wonderful worldview espoused with some of the strongest songwriting of his generation. The superb hooks and warmth of the instrumentation helps take away the edges that made the early Heads’ albums such wonders of twitchy, youthful originality, while retaining the super-strong songwriting.

10) Traveling Wilburys- Volume One

Like Leonard Cohen’s above opus, the Wilbury’s score points just for motive alone. These albums are dealing with growing older, trying to make sense of it with varying degrees of grace and humor. Few LP’s on the subject come more start-studded, which makes the amount of humor and humility here all the more (pleasantly) surprising.

Dylan’s racey -for an ol’ dude anyway- “Dirty World” gets all the right guffaws for it’s auto-themed sexual innuendo while “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” manages to mock his own 60’s work and Springsteen’s early tracks simultaneously and with great aplomb. But it’s the moments where they make fun of themselves and their elder statesman statuses that yield the most affecting chuckles. “Been overexposed, commercialized,” sings George Harrison in the joyful “Handle With Care,” and you’re not sure whether to laugh or cry for him.

“The End of The Line,” prepares for the End with more life-affirming empathy and humor, and has Tom Petty declaring, “I don’t have to be ashamed of the car I drive… I’m just glad to be here, happy to be alive.” The elder Wilbury, Roy Orbison, would pass on soon after the album’s release, safe in the knowledge he’d participated in one more classic piece of art that helped to reaffirm what a glorious, heart-warming mess this life can be.

And there you have it. The Top Ten Urban Dad albums of all time.

Or are they? You disagree, huh?

Add YOUR ten in the comments below, then, why don’t ya, punk?

Obesity Strikes Back: 16 Handles’ Frozen Evil Review

Lately, it seems that America is so damn… American.

From movies to T.V commercials to video games to online dating, everything seems to be getting faster, sleeker, sexier, bigger.

It’s like Turbo-life, or Existence 3.0 or something.

Oh portion control, you have failed me again...

Take the new Planet of the Apes movie. The blazing intensity of the disturbed chimps’ eyes, the explosive violence of its fury and the sheer visceral overload of it all are enough to give you a heart attack. And I’ve only seen the trailer! The original version from the 60’s or 70’s looks positively quaint in comparison. So does the 80’s remake, for that matter.

I tell you, for a television-deprived family like mine, today’s film trailers are practically a quasi-religious experience. And a similar effect occurs when I catch a rare glimpse of modern T.V.

Online dating, too, seems to have shifted into overdrive on sites like OKCupid.com, with its “matching” percentiles and new location-based smart apps that let you find someone in close proximity who’s available NOW. And the omnipotent Facebook itself seems like some sort of hyper-real form of socialization… A sleek, simplified compression of a human soul into some pictures, jumbled thoughts, and text. A recent piece from NaturalPapa.com seems to confirm that even young male brains are starting to get “rewired,” losing the ability to process information that stimulates gradually and requires more subtle forms of thinking and emotionality.

Only music and publishing seem to have kept in a relatively stable place, where the status quo is still fairly conventional and not one million miles ahead of its former self.

So perhaps it’s only natural that in a nation where more is more -and when I say more I mean MORE -dessert should follow suit.

And at 16 Handles, the hot new frozen yogurt chain that seems to be expanding across NYC at an astonishing rate (I’ve spotted three in Manhattan already)…well, forget about following suit. This place takes the frail, desiccated and kindly ol’ gent that dessert was in “the olden days” and blows his freakin’ head off then sh*ts chocolate fudge down his neck!

I mean, this stuff borders on DISGUSTING!

And that’s coming from a guy who would basically sell his mom to Al Qaeda for a few pounds of gummy worms. Yeah, I’m THAT serious a sugar-holic.

Just needs a few more cheesecake chunks & brownie bites...

Yes, 16 Handles may very well cross the line into pure and total DESSERT EVIL.

Upon entering 16H’s mock spaceship-looking emporium, pumping with shiny, happy pop music, you make your way towards the back initiation area. There are several different empty cups for you to choose from. You pick your own size. Seems harmless enough so far, right?

Well, please…
FOR GOD’S SAKE… PICK THE SMALLEST AND ALSO SHARE IT WITH SOMEONE ELSE!
Really, no single human being needs his own bowl of this sinful ooze.

Next, you begin walking along the wall brandishing THE notorious 16 Handles themselves: Sixteen different flavors of mega-rich and luxuriously creamy frozen yogurt.

Now, here one must note what is probably 16H’s major distinction and innovation in the crowded field of frozen desserts: YOU serve yourself. At the conclusion of the fun and appetite-enhancing creation process, your Frankenstein treat is weighed and priced accordingly. And THAT of course is the secret to giving us gluttonous Americans the key to our own self-destruction!

Dance into the Fire!

Look, I’m a guy who runs about 10 swimming and weight-lifting buttressed miles a week, who generally avoids carbs at all cost and consumes mostly eggs, fruits veggies and meats. When it comes to eating right, I make a serious effort and most women I know are positively REPULSED by my obsession with remaining lean since I weigh less than almost all of them and basically look like a 26 year old. Nonetheless, any vestige of self-control vanishes in the presence of a depraved orgy of sweet indulgence like 16 Handles.

How can you practice portion control with 16 FREAKIN’ flavors right in front of you!?
I tried, I really did! But… pulling your own portions is simply an invitation to doom. It’s (USA-bred) human nature.

Now let’s talk about these flavors. These ain’t the spectacle-wearin’, in bed by nine with a mug of hot cocoa, don’t drink, don’t smoke flavors of old like Vanilla or Strawberry, NO SIR-EE-BOB.

Instead there’s heart-stopping sex-bombs of furious sensory titillation like BLACKBERRY ADDICTION, NY CHEESECAKE and CHOCOLATE EXPLOSION.
I mean, these could almost be porn stars.

But where 16 Handles really blows your mind is the toppings.

Now, I explained to SuperDuperKid his tragic mistake later on, but on this visit he had to learn for himself.

You see, he blended the Two Realms.

When it comes to frozen delicacies, one must keep these two mighty areas separate:
Chocolate and Fruit. Now, of course there’s exceptions. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, for example. But combining say, choco-mint ice-cream with gummies is a major no-no.
It’s simply not meant to be, like, say, animals and people together sexually.
Suffice it to say, SDK learned this painful lesson at 16 Handles.

But Lord knows if any place can cause one to violate this mighty tenet, it’s the big One-Six-H.

Your topping selections begin at the clearly-to-be-avoided fruit department: Mango slices, maraschino cherries and lychees are just a smattering of possible choices.
But when you step over to the next table… well, here comes the dazzlement:
Cap’n Crunch, brownie bites, cheesecake wedges, baby peanut butter cups, gummi bears, cookie dough, Fruity Freakin’ Pebbles…!
It’s a veritable orgy of decadent sweetness! And I haven’t even touched on the syrups.

Yes, in the electro-fried USA of 2011, where mega sensory overload is commonplace and enacting something too intensely, quickly or slickly seems impossible for so many citizens, 16 Handles is indeed right at home. Is it gob-smackingly delicious? Hell, yes. Is it healthy? Well… the website claims Chocolate Eruption has only 110 calories per 83 gram serving. Not too bad actually. Is it still too much? Well…..

In this regard, it’s a bit like Vegas: A super-fun experience of extremes that makes for a great place to visit… But I wouldn’t want to live there.
Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict:

You MUST. But only once… then never again.

Details: Seriously, you’ll be happier after if two or even three people split one cup. These things are deadly.

http://16handles.com/

Deconstructing Lust: A Man’s Guide to Surviving Summer in NYC

Ah, summer in NYC.

It evokes such feeling, such emotion…
Such a rich selection of multi-textured memory!
But perhaps one feeling it elicits trumps them all in sheer energy and volume:

LUST.

Luscious treats abound...

Yes especially here in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn where beautiful and intriguing young women pop out of the subway one after the other as if being churned out from some heavenly doll factory in the sky, a man must deal with a relentless surge of hormonal longing on a daily basis.

And incredibly, as I near the end of my 30’s, I can see little discernible ebbing of my testosterone levels. So basically my sex drive (or more aptly, my level of raw DESIRE) is only slightly less than that of a teenage boy. Couple this with the endless barrage of half-undressed dazzling cuties all over the neighborhood and you end up with a state of near constant arousal.

Now, sure, in NYC we all pass attractive females every hour of every day. And admiring them is indeed enjoyable and once they pass life goes on. This is a survival instinct. Accept an unending stream of gorgeous ladies passing by, never to be seen again, or die from frustration. Even Johnny Depp, a man who could conceivably make love with almost any damn woman he chooses, right on the tourist-packed island smack dab in the middle of Times Square, simply by pointing at her, would be unable to have every female he desired. No matter your station or situation, looks or income, you simply can’t have them all, and accepting this premise is part of being a man.

But what about that ONE woman?

Well, not so much a woman… More a PARODY of a woman’s sexuality, that ONE so rife with raw, oozing sex that you’re not sure life can continue as it was before you laid eyes on her if you can’t be with her?

The light-skinned Brazilian, or Spaniard, or whatever she is -though somehow obviously not American as evidenced by a certain languid relaxation with her movements- who apparently only had time to throw what is essentially a pastel-colored tissue over her body and who starts to make you feel like an ooohing and ahhing slack-jawed teen from a bad 80’s movie when she starts STRETCHING and GYRATING in the middle of the coffee shop, her gravity-defying breasts capped by clearly restless nipples, her almost absurdly miniscule shorts completely ridden up the luscious derrière’ revealing just the tantalizing tip of a thong up top and not much else below….?

THE WOMAN whose wild, uncombed plumes of brunette sit atop those blazing baby blues with equal amounts innocence and sinfulness, surrounded by a freckle-flecked visage that makes you think of the one that got away so long ago, makes you want to lift your stupid laptop up over your head right there in broad daylight in the middle of the sleepy, hipster-ridden coffee shop, heft it high over your head, with all it’s stupid blog posts, price sheets, sales data, savings account info and emails about $20 of sushi for $8 and scream “DAMN IT ALL!” at the top of your lungs as you hurl it through the front window with an earth-shaking crash after which you scoop the gorgeous Spaniard up into your arms and escape into the blazing promise of the young day’s sun to dance and drink your cares away… ?

Phew.

I suppose dealing with these blazing outbursts of fiery lust and passion are part of what being a man is about. Maybe they’re even part of what being HUMAN is about…The sometimes painful disconnect between the urges we have to live out scenes from an action movie, to pump automatic weapon fire into a super-villain, to make love to a stunning blonde beneath a cascading waterfall and to drive a Ferrari through a glass storefront window. We want to LIVE at this tremendous, hyper-real level, to experience things we only see in fiction. And part of life is reconciling these urges and visions with the sobering reality of what living really is.

Blame it on summer, I guess. Science has demonstrated the critical importance of testosterone levels in men as they age, how the ebbing of these levels is synonymous with getting old, losing one’s mojo and becoming fat and irrelevant. So I suppose I should be thankful for these powerful if sometimes frustrating feelings. What is life, after all, without passion and yearning?

For me, the best way of dealing is to channel these urges into life itself. A friend of mine -a female Argentinian, no less!- runs a business where she attempts to help her clients feel “horny for life”, and I’d say this may be an apt metaphor for what us men can do to deal with these potent waves of lust.

We need to direct this energy into all we feel and everything we do .
I like to actually use these episodes as inspiration to plan outings and activities that are exciting and different and that hint at the spectacular thrills and chills that life can deliver.

Because it’s not just about women and sex. It’s about a burning hunger to live. 

And I don’t intend to go hungry. I intend to FEAST!

Imagination Beatdown: Imagination Playground Review, South Street Seaport

 

SuperDuperDad is not known for beating around the bush, nor for pulling punches.

Like most NYC parents my time is valuable (more valuable than YOURS, you lolly-gagging, single youngsters and ye’ slothful childless middle-aged-sters!) And as I’ve written previously, one must measure each activities’ worth in relation to time, money and energy expended for it’s fulfillment.

You can see where I’m heading here…

The, um, "breakthrough playspace..."

Between the $20 for parking and the time to hike out to Southstreet Seaport, the much lauded artsy-fartsy playspot Imagination Playground comes up a bust.

(YES of course I realize driving to this ‘hood is sheer insanity but I’d been convinced by SuperDuperGramps to shove our bikes in the car and make the trip on the way to the UES to meet up for some Central Park biking, a damn good reason to give up a Brooklyn parking spot.)

Firstly, despite the creator’s pretentious musings about designing a playground that contains “three core concepts that foster a dynamic, child-centered environment,” it’s still basically just some soft building blocks, fountains, net crawls and ummm… well that’s about it. There’s also some elaborate pully-system-ed sand-carrier that kind of falls flat and one of those walkie-talkie microphone thing-a-ma-bobs which I could not quite figure out.

Further eroding the potential for fun, the park is staffed with earnest, friendly, well-meaning college-student types (Ooooh, I’m sorry, “Play Associates” according to the website) who are ready to extinguish the sometimes rowdy flame of fun that can ignite during standard childs’ play.

As can only happen to SuperDuperDad, one young woman approached me after I knocked down several large building blocks while engaging SuperDuperKid in a mock battle for Imagination Park Supremacy.

“Umm… we’re umm… trying to keep the kids open to building and creating, not umm, destroying… so like, um… you know…”

“I gotcha,” I said, in no mood to tangle with this creature of awkward kindness who nonetheless saw fit to kill any sign of reckless fun the second it reared its joyful head.

And despite what multiple websites claim, bringing a kid here who is over nine is pushing it, indeed. It’s undoubtedly best for the toddler set.

It should be noted that although I’d like to think of myself as an expert on what intrigues the youngsters, one bespectacled 11 year old, perhaps sensing my distaste, quickly stated that the I.P was one of his favorite-est places.

“Why?” I pressed.

“Because, um, it has my favorite things to do…” he stammered, wandering off in mid-thought.

I wondered if perhaps he needed to get out of the Bronx a bit more.

Here though, I must touch on a point I’ve made in multiple writings past: Kids have an endless and insatiable sense of wonder which any resourceful parent can tap at will. I always believe that myself and SDK can have a great time anywhere we go, be it a Ukrainian gulag or the DMV.

So don’t get me wrong…

The I.P is after all a playground, no matter what pretensions adults attempt to heap upon it. Sprinklers transcend any and all circumstances and if your kid can’t have fun in the water, you best rush them to the child psych ward ASAP.

If you’re in the area checking out the fantastic Bodies exhibit (fascinating for kids, if a tad graphic) or enjoying one of the splendid beer sampler packages at Heartland Brewery, then by all means treat the lil’ ones and pop into the I.P.

Otherwise stick with the Imagination Playground in your head.
Parking is always free there!

Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict:   Nay, thanks.

Details:   Although it’s possible, avoid driving at all costs. Even for a master like SDD it’s a challenge. Parking for an hour or so will be $20-25 in local lots.

HOURS:
monday- friday 10:00am – 6:00pm
saturday & sunday 9:00am – 6:30pm

burling slip

South, John & Front Streets
Google Map

parking

Limited metered parking will be available — several garages are located on nearby Pearl Street.

subway

SubwayFulton St/Broadway-Nassau Station

When you exit the subway walk east on Fulton Street and then turn right for one block on South Street. Imagination Playground at Burling Slip will be on your right.

 

Guardians of Your Imagination

New York, Go Swimming! NYC Public Pools Review

JUNE 26, 2013 UPDATE! Yes, ALL pools open tomorrow including McCarren Park Pool. They are free for all and you don’t even need I.D to visit them (just a padlock and a bathing suit!) Read further for a link to all NYC public pools and more info…

 

In a city where the relentless wheel of gentrification seems to tirelessly and remorselessly roll on, its public pools are an especially welcome relief.

Open for business on June 29 (must be a budget thing since lord knows they’d have been welcome weeks if not months ago), they’re just one great freebie in a town that does more for its non-yuppie population than some might realize.

Open from 11am-7pm daily, the pools all have strict, draconian rules that one MUST abide by if they wish to participate (no cell phones or other electronics on deck and mandatory possession of a padlock are the two biggest) and they close from 3-4pm each day for cleaning. Basically, that’s all you need to know.

A comprehensive list of the cities’ pools, conveniently listed by borough,  has a phone number for each so if you’re a lap swimmer you may want to call ahead and get the times when it’s roped off for lapping. At any other time you will find swimming around the masses of frolicking kids and their moms a tad challenging, if possible at all.

Who frequents the pools? Well, it’s worth noting that the first two weekdays I arrived I was the only cracker in the vicinity, with the exception of a lifeguard. This changed my first weekend day but generally Whitey is in the minority here, even at the UES pool discussed below.

Some may take offense at me mentioning this but it’s a concrete detail, a real aspect of the pool and its environment and something that may make the sensitive or panty-waisted uncomfortable, just as one might be if the other swimmers were all Orthodox Jews or Hispanic. It’s basic human nature: We feel vulnerable and self-conscious when we’re different from everyone else. This of course doesn’t bother SuperDuperDad in the slightest, since he is an intrepid explorer and courageous adventurer, but hey, you might be a complete wimpster.

I’ve been to several of the city’s free and open public pools but the one I’m referring to is in Commodore Barry Park, which is between Flushing and Park Ave. in Clinton Hill, and the one now closest to my apartment.

In the past I’ve enjoyed the Red Hook Recreation Area pool, a giant sprawling city block of a space where, according to the city’s website, legendary gangster Al Capone began his career. Having to get in the car and hit the forever traffic-snarled BQE was always a con, but since I was dating a barista at the deeply missed Lonelyville Cafe in Park Slope, I was in the area fairly frequently anyway.

Nestled on the Upper East Side mere feet from my Dad’s apartment and the FDR, John Jay Park’s got a superb albeit smaller pool, plus a swell park with sandbox adjoining it. The diving board also adds tremendous fun.

As for Commodore Barry Park…

Well, when it comes to pools, proximity is the number one draw in my book and the CBP is perfectly placed at the 2 mile mark of my running route. Actually, true perfection would be if it were at the END of my run but since it’s about 2 miles from the SuperDuperDad Manor, where I of course like to end up, that would be difficult to achieve.

So on a scalding broiler like today I’ll hit the first 2 miles hard, knock out 3 sets of pull-ups in the small park on the way before diving into pure refreshment in the cool waters. On the way back I’ll often pop into Fresh Fanatic for an omelette and a superb Stumptown iced coffee before sauntering home, thoughtful and relaxed.

Today, as I trotted back across Park Avenue heading home, one of the hulking storage facilities on the block suddenly cast a shade over me and a soft breeze carried a touch of perfume, suddenly engulfing me in the reverie of a memory of a girl long gone. The breeze, the sun… all was just right and as I re-entered the land of Hasidim children with their cascading curls, staring at me as if I were an alien as I stretched my calves against a lamppost, I had to laugh.

I’ll always be an outcast. But if anyplace makes an outcast feel at home, it’s NYC.

Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict:  Free swimming?! Whaddaya think, dude?!

Details:  DON’T FORGET PADLOCK. And carrying it in plain sight helps facilitate entrance. Also don’t forget that all pools close from 3-4pm for cleaning. It IS possible to smuggle your phone in but if spotted you will be asked to leave.

A culinary Knockout Punch: Mile End Review

Mile End delivers that culinary knockout-punch that so many New Yorkers crave but rarely get: Something superb yet unique in the foodies’ paradise that is this great city.

Great for Atkins' dieters...

That’s because the particular strain of Judaic fare filtered through the Canadian regional dialect which it plies is just plain hard to come by. (Apparently, its Montreal, specifically.)  Sure, in NYC you got yer Katzes and yer Carnegies and a whole nother’ legion of storied Jewish delis with their famous corned beef juggernauts… but they’re not working on quite the same canvas.

No, Mile End features luscious cured meats and an extravagantly decadent take on poutine (basically high-end French fries buried in high-end cheese) that for this diner, had a peculiar whiff of old school Heebery, the flavor of far-off Ashkenazi Judaism transported from some dusty, soulful past straight into modern-day Brooklyn.  As far as bygone semitic cookery goes, it’s more Berlin than LES, a big part of its novel charm.

SuperDuperKid is a big meat fan and (duh) also a fan of fries but as my fellow parents know, one slight nudge of a foreign flavor, one touch of sophistication and it can mean game over when it comes to the fragile eating habits of the young.

For Brooklyn kids... not so much for Kansas kids, maybe?

But helped along by the “micro-brewed” Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream sodas, he dove into the meaty fare with gusto that he maintained until the meal’s end.

Although there’s a tad of a possibility that a kid could be turned off by the novelty of it, chances are the sheer meat n’ potatoes power of it all will triumph in the end.

When you’re ready for a break from the burgers or mac n’ cheese and you’re in the mood for something a little different, try a taste of Jewish Montreal!

Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict:  Oy vey, I mean, Oy YAY!

Details:   Mile End is SMALL and gets crowded quickly. It’s also closed from 4pm-5:30 every day, presumably to change over from the breakfast to dinner format. I often joke to my son that his super-anal Step-Granpa could be abducted by terrorists, tied in heavy chains and tossed into the East River and he’d still somehow make it to his impending appointment 10 minutes early. Step-Gramps had us standing in front of the place at 5:10 sharp and it worked out pretty good, with us lined up for 15 minutes or so before being among the first to be seated.  Bring someone punctual and anal, it works out well in this case!

Fried Twinkies and Beer: Atlantic Chipshop Review, Cobble Hill

Parking in Cobble Hill is a BITCH.

Mind you, that’s coming from a man who can SMELL some youthful yuppie with perfect hair just start THINKING about looking for his car keys so he can pop outside, saunter over to his beige (eh?) Volvo and gently edge it out into the day, with SuperDuperDad, KING of the blood sport that is New York Parking lurking mere inches behind him, waiting to snatch his prey out of the jaws of defeat, aka an irritable soccer mom who somehow thinks she’s more deserving of the space that I rightfully earned from years of honing my mental powers into an almost Jedi-like ability to sense a spot that is about to be vacated.

Uh, anyway, after securing the prize (it was actually a black dude with short, neat dreads pulling out in some sort of baby SUV- apologies from my stereotyping imagination to you, Cob Hill) we popped into the catchily-named UA Court Street Stadium 12 to check out the new Thor movie.

WOW. Maybe it’s because we don’t have television but SuperDuperKid and I were simply dazzled by the trailers leading up to the main feature. Green Lantern and the new X-Men looked cool as hell but even those paled in comparison to the thrill-inducing, action-packed trailer for Immortals, coming 11/11/2011. On the big screen, it was dripping with awe-inducing battle clips and feats of wonder. SDK and I shall be waiting in line with baited breath on opening day, no doubt.

Thor itself was pretty OK, too. Unsurprisingly, it devolved into formulaic tripe but not before delivering some percolating action scenes and tasty visuals.

We stopped at one of the small parks off Henry St. on our way back to the car.

Interestingly, SDK didn’t seem to gel with his Cobble Hill brethren. Was there a snootiness, a glossier sheen, a lack of the rough-hewn edges of WIlliamsburg kids to which he couldn’t relate? Or maybe, like my parking-related rant at the intro, I was displacing some of my own stereotypes? Maybe he just wasn’t in the mood.

He WAS suddenly hungry out of nowhere, however, in the way only a kid can be.

I’d spotted the Atlantic Chipshop on our walk back and thought it sounded perfect.

I was right!

Cor Blimey that's good!

Besides your classic British fish n’ chips, (or fries, as we Yanks call them), this Ol’ Blighty-themed pub/restaurant has a kids menu featuring mac n’ cheese and chicken fingers. The adult fare is equally decadent. With a large selection of beers on tap amidst the deep-fried fish or (gasp) pizza, this is not the place for us namby-pamby health conscious eaters, no sir-ee-BOB.

But where the AC really hits its stride (and starts to pummel your heart and arteries) is with their indulgent desserts. Fried Mars Bars, Snickers and ANYTHING else you can drag in join the mouth-watering fried Twinkie we had from the must-try dessert menu.

Yes, you bring it in, the Atlantic Chipshop will fry it, hence the rowdy bunch behind us with a shopping bag overflowing with Oreos.

The Brit-styled rock theme adds curious fun with SDK wondering aloud who the Stiff Little Fingers were and the both of us musing over classic photos of the Beatles and the Who.

A great place for kids and adults alike, go to the Atlantic Chipshop and you’ll end up “sorted, mate” as da Yoof of the UK used to say, although that of course was drug parlance and may not go over well in the context of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. As a former London dweller, however, I can assure you it went over fine in the mean streets of South Tottenham and Walthamstow.

You too can get sorted at the Atlantic Chipshop, mate. Just try and have a brisk jog home punctuated with thirty-forty minutes of pick up soccer afterwords. It’s the right thing to do.

Official SuperDuperDad Yay or Nay Verdict:  YAY,  as long as you eat healthily the next day, fatso!

Details:  As stated, be aware that parking can be challenging. Also, for extra fun bring something crazy of your own to have fried!

The Atlantic Chipshop

129 Atlantic Ave

(between Clinton St & Henry St)

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Neighborhoods: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights

(718) 855-7774

www.chipshopnyc.com

Hours:

Mon-Thu 11:30 am – 12 am

Fri 11:30 am – 2 am

Sat 11 am – 2 am

Sun 11 am – 12 am

Good for Groups: Yes

Accepts Credit Cards: Yes

Parking: Street

Attire: Casual

Wheelchair accessible with full bar!



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