Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Year Blown.

Did you ever see those short little men running around the city with massive bags of multi-colored helium balloons that take up half the street? Well, today my wife and the kids stumbled upon the place where they all live: The Balloon Saloon, in Tribeca.


We dropped in for a few poppers, hats, horns, and balloons. We got everything we needed except for the balloons. They would only sell us 24 for 50 bucks."No thank you," I said, and we strolled on out of there. Later that day, we ended up in a Scandinavian clothes store that gave us four balloons that they had hanging in the store, plus, a coupon for 15% off. — I love New York.

Have New Years!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Specials of the Night: Bearded Hipster with Big Fish and side of Old People with Pastry.


Last night—date night—my wife and I went to the cozy, candle-lit, Moroccan staple in the East Village: Café Mogador. Our 45 minute wait at the bar—a Stella for me, a glass of aged-red grape for Brooke—bunched up against a bunch of twenty-year-olds sporting their first beards, was well worth the taste bud-kicking dishes that would soon appear.

For apps, we got the spicy carrots, some scrumptious humus with warm pitas, and these amazing sardines—yes, I had the spine, the tail, and the head. You could eat anything in that secret sauce. For entrees, Brooke had the Chicken Tagine (long simmered chicken stew seasoned with a traditional blend of herbs and spices) with chickpeas, raisins, and onions. And for me, I had the special fish of the day—one of the most special fishes I’ve ever eaten: The Whole Dorade. I had no idea that the grilled fish would be so plump, and juicy (it was marinated in garlic/lemon olive oil¬¬¬) and the size of my left foot. Served on a bed of delectable grilled fennel, surrounded by a tiny army of tasty olives, and a side of majestic French fries with a lot of ketchup, it was definitely the winner on the menu. As I picked away the bones, and my wife got lost in her tasty bowl, we chewed more than we spoke.

Next up, being too stuffed for dessert, we said good night to hipsters, and moved on to find another place for a night cap. For me, that’s a double espresso and some chocolate goody, like biscotti. I’m not as cool as I used to be. Or drunk and stupid. We walked a few blocks North, and ended up back in time. The sign read: Venieros. It’s a pastry shop café, founded in 1894. And it looks it. Stamped metal ceilings, etched glass doors, highly polished wood mirrors, and the ornate marble floors were the original ones your grandma's grandma probably dropped some cheesecake crumbs on.

But when my wife and I entered, we were shell shock. It was so bright. So gaudy. Everybody was either old, came with kids, or were tourists hungry for a tasty landmark. Brooke hesitated sitting down. “C’mon, you wanna run, I said.” But it was too cold outside. I wanted coffee, so we decided to stick it out. The menu was enormous. It had every kind of miniature pastry, flavored cheese cakes, and hand-made Italian butter cookie you could imagine.

We were definitely out of our element. We may have not been cool and had tribal tattoos and face piercings in our lips, but we weren't coffee and cake late night pasty eaters—or were we? But we enjoyed the moment. I had this massive chocolate raspberry truffle made with Rum (I was living on the edge) and Brooke had a bite of one of Rocky’s homemade cheesecakes, served by Marie.

We visited two different worlds last night—date night—and we had a great time. We were stroller free. No kids. And I got to spend time with my wife—the one I created the cute little fuckers with.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

I See Dead People. But Mostly Feathers left by Invisible Guardian Angels.


If you asked me 15 years ago, if I believed in guardian angels, astrologers, psychics, auras, mediums, soul mates, tarot cards, past lives, and invisible American Indian spirit guides that leave feathers in your path, to help guide you throughout life, or just the day, like finding one on the sidewalk next to a quarter to remind you that you forgot your wallet, having a one land on the “sign here part” of a contract you’re hesitating about, or just seeing one floating in the wind above a girl you’ve been thinking of—I would've put up my middle finger, and said, "How's that for a sign?"No thank you.

Well, I'm not sure exactly when I started connecting with the powers that be, but once I opened up to what was there all along, wow—now I see things so differently. I used to see a psychic regularly on Bleeker Street. She seemed to know things about me, and helped guide me a bit. It was a lot of fun, got me through the end of a relationship, but after awhile, I stopped going. I got my own deck of tarot cards and got pretty good at them.

A major mystical change in my life took place when I spoke with a well-known astrologer in L.A. He did many celebrities charts, so I figured why not? I sent him my name, date of birth, time I was born, and where. Yo, Brooklyn! He got back to me a few days later and my life changed forever. The first thing he said to me was that this reading was unlike any reading I had had before. "This isn't about your personality, it's about your karma. What baggage you carry with you from past lives and how to burn it off." Okay, he freaked me out with the past lives stuff, but I went with it. What followed next, would open my eyes, mind, and chakras forever.

He told me that—because my Neptune was aligned with my blah, blah, blah, and my moon in Saturn was blah, blah, blah—I was murdered in my past life. Well, that got my attention.  I was murdered. He said that I was drowned. That freaked me the hell out. I had been terrified of swimming ever since I was a five years old. I mean scared to death. And then when he was about to say who did it, I was shaking. I knew the answer: “The mafia” he said. I had always been excited about mob movies like everybody else, but I always had a weird feeling when I saw shady characters on the street—like they were looking at me. Anyway, when he said those words, they struck deep. And all I could say was "How real is this?" His response: "Very Real." I told him that I knew he was going to say the mob did it before he did, and he started laughing. “Yeah, they really held you down there,” he said. “Yeah, I wrote on top of your chart: DROWNED BY MOB." Glad it was funny to him. He was in a girl rock band in the 60s, now that was funny.

After that call, I spoke with him some more. We talked about 911. About the homeless. That all is not what it seems kind of stuff. And he didn’t even charge me. I just sent him some incense and a brass ganesh. After a while I had heard enough about soul mates and me being a drug addict alcoholic famous writer in London in 1962,  I walked away. I preferred my daily encounters with angels leaving messages via feathers or signs on trucks. Allow me to explain: One time I was reading a book about how the universe has a big enough supply of everything for everybody. I didn’t believe it, until I walked outside my front door and I truck was sitting there. In  massive letters the sign read: BRUCE SUPPLY. My experience with signs grew wilder overtime. One day I was reading a book about spirituality, and along came a little fruit fly. He started walking on the page circling specific words. I felt a presence. Whoh, this is weird. I wanted to stand up and shout, “Hello, does anybody else see my spiritual master. It freaked me out the first and second time, now I don’t think much of it when things like that happen. And they do: I see auras, a ghost or two. You know, the usual spooky stuff.

But BEWARE of psychics. Some tell you the truth, the whole truth, as they see it, which may not be accurate, or is only accurate at that specific time period. For example, I spoke to a psychic three years ago, and she told me my wife would have a miscarriage. That scared the hell out of me. When my wife got pregnant, I worried nine whole months. And the worst part was that I couldn’t tell my wife. I couldn’t poison her mind.  Well, my daughter came out fine. But I was a nervous wreck till I cut the umbilical cord. Then when my wife got pregnant again last year, I thought that maybe the psychic was referring to that pregnancy. Here we go again. Another 9 months of suffering. This time, I was really dying to tell Brooke. I dreaded the worst. But I controlled myself. I held it in. And Hunter popped out smiling. So be careful what you choose to listen to, because once you hear something, you can’t unhear it.

The truth of the matter is that the answer to all of your questions are within. So always listen to your heart. And if you want to have some fun, watch out for feathers—whether you believe in them or not.

Have a great day!

— Bruce

p.s. If you like my voice, leave some comments about your experiences—and please share on FB.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Crazy Ass Christmas Eve Commute from Hell.


You don't need a car if you live in the city. However, you do need a car Christmas Eve morning when you have a baby and a three-and-a-half-year-old, and you have to get out of the city. But considering Zip cars are $120 a day—and I'm not raking in the dough at the moment—it was cheaper to take the train.

My plan was for the McGoldstein Klan to leave our apartment in Battery Park City at 12:30 to make the 2 o’clock to Fairfield—leaving from Grand Central Station. "Don't you think that's a lot of time?” Brooke asked. And I told her that I’m not rushing like a crazy person this time. “Okay, so let's get moving." We showered, got the kids dressed, packed the presents, and then somehow at 12:25, Brooke was still blow drying her hair, Rowan was eating a peanut butter sandwich watching Heat Miser on YouTube, and Hunter was being held prisoner in his Rainforest Jumparoo. 

We ran out of our building at 1 o’clock towards the subway. "We can still make it!" I yelled, dragging Rowan by her hand, carrying a massive Nike duffel bag over my shoulder, overstuffed with more toys than Santa—you'd think we were going to Europe for a week, not one night to Connecticut—while Brooke pushed Hunter in the stroller. The Wall Street station didn’t have an elevator for the stroller, so we had to run seven blocks out of our way—just past the big-balled, tourist-touching brass bull—to Bowling Green. Only the elevator never came. The sign read: OUT OF SERVICE. "Oh, great." We had no choice but to take the stairs. Brooke carried Hunter and I carried the clumsy stroller with the glittery Christmas presents flopping around in the bottom compartment. Then I had to go back up and carry Rowan down. "Carry me, dada."

The train was pulling in. "Hurry up, Brooke, go!" I swiped my Metro card for her to go first with the stroller. "Great, we're going to make it." No, we weren't. Because when I swiped my card for me and Rowan to go through, the turnstile read: INSUFFICIENT FARE. "Oh, shit." I pushed Rowan under the turnstile to Brooke, and I ran like hell to the ticket machine. When we finally boarded the train, it was 1:34pm -- 26 minutes to get there. "We can still make it." When we got to Grand Central, fortunately the elevator was working. Unfortunately, the lines were very long for Metro North. Brooke and I had to divide and conquer. She waited on line with Hunter, and I took off with Rowan on a mission to get the handicapped section seats that flip up so we can put the stroller—parents know what I’m talking about.

As the train filled up, I raced with Rowan down the platform looking in every car. No seats. No seats. No seats. Then, I saw Brooke racing towards us with the stroller with a look of panic on her face. "What are you doing!?!" she screamed. "Those cars don't open at Fairfield!" So we raced back down the platform scrambling for seats anywhere. The train just kept filling up with packs of people from every nationality, carrying luggage, strollers, presents, and whiny dogs. We ended up sitting separately, including the stroller, we had to park it by the door, which meant Brooke had to hold cranky, hungry Hunter. As for Rowan, and me, we sat a few aisles away, with our knee caps touching these non-talkative Peruvians.

When we finally took off, I kept Rowan entertained by letting her watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on my phone. Brooke kept Hunter entertained and quiet, by covering herself up and giving him some boob. At last, things calmed down for us. But not for the stroller. We stopped in Stanford and about 30 more people boarded, but the train wasn't moving. I looked up to see why. Our stroller was half on the train, the other on the platform—good times. When we finally arrived at our station destination, Brooke’s dad was waiting in a slick, black Mercedes minivan that he borrowed from his neighbor.  The only problem was that the car seats weren’t installed. Thirty minutes later, after sweating to death, trying to install the fucking life savers—who designs these things, anyway?—we drove away. What a morning. What a day. We were home free. Not quite. Brooke's dad took the scenic route to show us the lighthouse on the Sound. And Rowan showed us her breakfast. She barfed all over her coat and the back seat. Poor thing.

That evening, after we cleaned up the puke in the car, washed her coat, made a Christmas tree cheese cake with jelly beans, fed the kids, and put them to bed, Brooke and I finally sat down and had a drink by the fireplace. Ten minutes later, Rowan screamed from the bed room upstairs, “Mama, I want Pookie! I want Pookie!” so Brooke went upstairs to look for her stuffed pink elephant. She tiptoed in the dark trying not to wake Hunter up. “Owwww!," Brooke screamed like she was attacked by the abominable snowman. You ready for this one—she broke her fucking toe.

It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas. Relaxing with our family, sipping good wine, feasting on clams and calamari. That night, we filled Rowan's and Hunter's stockings and left cookies for Santa. But Brooke and I dreaded the next day. We didn’t think we could handle it again. And we didn’t have to. We had a Christmas Day Metro North miracle waiting for us at the station. We scored handicapped seats. We sat together. And there was no vomit.

We all laughed about our adventure walking home from the subway, even Brooke and her broken toe. That night, we made a pact. Next year, screw the presents, spend the money on a car.

Merry Christmas from the McGoldstein's!
p.s. I never mentioned that I'm Jewish


Leave a comment, to share your crazy commuting experiences.



Friday, December 23, 2011

Meet Pookie, but Beware of the Smelly Pink Elephant's Powers.


He looks like your ordinary pink stuffed elephant, but Pookie is powerful stuff—to my three-year-old daughter, anyway. She’s obsessed with Pookie. Unlike most stuffed animals who live in their beds with their stuffed friends, and have no concept of the outside world, Pookie goes everywhere Rowan does - everywhere. Pookie goes to the Potty. Pookie watches TV. Pookie goes to the playground. The slide. The swing. He plays in the sand. Splashes in puddles. Licks the sidewalk. They do everything together. “Hey Rowan, wanna go to the bookstore?” I ask her. “With Pookie?" she says. "Yes, you can bring Pookie?"I tell her. "Yay,Pookie! Pookie! Pookie!"

Not only does she bring Pookie along on her daily excursions, she actually introduces him to people. “Say hi, to my baby Pookie.” And if you ask Rowan for a hug, she shoves Pookie in your face and says, “Give Pookie a little hug, because he’s my little baby.” The crazy thing is that neither my wife nor I can remember where the pink smelling thing came from. But all I know is that Rowan isn’t sending him out into the world by himself any time soon.

Recently, my wife and I were getting increasingly concerned about Rowan’s ragdoll addiction. One night we were switching channels on cable and landed on The Shining with Jack Nicholson. It was the part when Danny’s, (Jack’s son) imaginary friend was communicating with Danny through his finger. When that index finger started screaming, REDRUM, REDRUM, we both looked at each other, MURDER, MURDER, and began plotting to get rid of the baby elephant. Send him to a circus or something.

One night when she was going to bed, she panicked and said she couldn’t find Pookie. "Don't worry Rowan, when you wake up, we'll find him,” I said. She panicked a little, so we gave her Piglet the pink pig to fill in for Pooks. Then she fell asleep. The next morning, Pookie was nowhere to be found. Rowan was devastated. So we called a family search party to find him. “Sorry, Rowan we’ll find him,” I lied. He was missing for five days. Little did she know we stuffed him in a shoe box, under old socks, in Brooke's closet.

At first, things were okay without Pookie, but then going to nursery school became a problem. Every time one of us would drop her off to nursery school, she would grab onto Brooke’s legs, or wrap her arms around my neck like it was a tree trunk. The teacher said she stopped interacting with the other kids, and played by herself. Then at night, she told she us hated school. Our kid was too young to hate school. So Brooke and I talked it over a bottle of wine, and brought Pookie back from the dead to see if he could help our little girl. “Rowan, look who we found in the laundry bin. “ POOKIE!,” she screamed. “My little baby.” She hugged the stink out of him.

Talk about child psychology, she went to school with Pookie and her mood changed from night to day. Her teachers were pleased. And we were pleased. Pookie was now an equal member in our family. He has a permanent place at our dinner table, anywhere actually. Though, a bit much, at the end of the day, when I tip toe into Rowan’s room and she’s snuggling so merrily with her smelly companion, I don't care about her obsession. As long as she’s happy. That’s all the matters. She’s my baby girl.

However, I do have my days when I can’t take hearing the word Pookie anymore, and I have that yearning desire to take grab Pookie and snap his little cotton neck, and pull the stuffing out of him. But I know I never would, there’s a part of me that loves the little guy too.

Please share your childhood friends (imaginary or real) with my readers. If you dare. Happy Holidays!

- B

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season to be Manic.


No matter how many meds you take, once bipolar, always bipolar when it comes to spending. These days, when it comes to making expensive purchases, I hesitate. But sometimes, when I swipe that card, I get that feeling—the tingles. My old manic residue comes alive and says, “Bruce, well it sure has been a long time. Well, what would you like to buy today?” Well, I’m not working steady, I tell him. “Stop! I didn’t ask you that,” he responds. And then I’m in trouble.

I must be strong and fight my mental impulses. Hmm, well, I want to get my wife diamond earrings and my kids a train and a guitar, and while I’m at it, I can sure use an Ipad, and what about going to that hot new restaurant. But this leads to another problem. Mr. Manic wakes up Mr. Anxiety, and he really drives me nuts. I’ve been in too many stores spending away, and it suddenly becomes too much. I’ve spent hours trying to pick out duffle bags and sneakers. I become obsessed with fabrics and zippers. And then comes the sweating and the panic (imaginary heart-attack) attacks.

I don’t have to tell you guys, the holidays aren’t about spending. That it’s about family. But unfortunately, between the advertising and the peer pressure, it’s tough to ignore, and to balance. But do your best. This season, be merry, tell your loved ones you love them, volunteer at a shelter, put on a blinking red nose, and give your dog filet mignon (just kidding). Do whatever makes you feel good. Just be careful about spending money that you don’t have, because you’ll only pay for it later—in credit card interest. There’s nothing worse than buying somebody a stupid smelling candle and not being able to pay for it until 2026—whew, do the math on that one!

This piece was originally posted at my blog @ BPhope.com
Check out my other posts on mental health every Tuesday.

Happy holidays to you and your family.
- Bruce

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Yes Virginia, There are 1,000 Santa Clauses. (Lying to Your Kids, Ho Ho, Hmmm?)


Today is Santacon in New York City. The day where thousands of Santa Clauses parade around—and get merry at all the Irish pubs—in New York City. It’s a pretty incredible sight for kids and parents alike. But what goes through a little kid’s mind when he sees thousands of Santas—in different shapes, sizes, sexes, and nationalities—when he’s been told his whole little life, that there is only one Santa who chills in the North Pole—the fat guy who runs the factory with a dozen or so dedicated, highly-skilled elves that spend one whole year churning out toys for millions of girls and boys—the nice ones. Parents, how do you answer that one? You could tell them Santa broke his leg this year, and had to call in a hell of a lot of back-up, or you could say they’re imposters, and that they’re on the naughty list.

My wife and I have a different Santa situation to deal with, before we have to think about how to lie about that one: My daughter is 3 ½ years-old, and we’re a bit torn on how to handle the whole Santa-existing thing. My wife doesn’t feel it’s right to lie about this imaginary guy giving gifts to our children, when it’s really us doing it. But how do we tell our daughter that Santa is fiction when everybody, including the teachers, the other parents, the department stores sales people, and the ad creators on TV, are in on the gag. Do we really want to make our daughter the outcast?

My wife would love to tell her the truth about the fat man and his flying reindeer. And so would I, especially that I’m Jewish. But the world isn’t kind to 31/2 year-old outcasts—kids could be cruel—so we have to protect her with a white-bearded, cookie-stealing lie. But on the other hand, this can open up a whole can of jelly beans. That one true lie about the red-nosed reindeer can get kids following the faith of a fake chocolate bunny icon. Now, it’s getting crazy: A Nestle rabbit didn't reincarnate, heal people and walk on water. Not to mention, where the hell is Jesus in all of this? Jesus!

Christmas is a holiday celebrating the birth of the son of God. Not the birth of a chimney-squeezing cookie stealer. And hears the real crazy part, that nobody talks about: Jesus Christ was Jewish. The last Supper was a Seder on Passover. He was Rabbi. He loved matzoh. And he was one hell of a dradle player.

So, have a merry egg-hunting bunny, elf toy-making, reindeer-flying, dradel-spinning, whatever you choose to tell your kids about the fat man xmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Living the Writing Life with a Family on No Sleep.


When I wrote my first book, "PUPPY CHOW IS BETTER THAN PROZAC, The true story about the man and the dog who saved his life," it was just me and my 110lb black Lab, Ozzy (The dog that saved my life) living in a studio with high-ceilings on Lexington Avenue. The place was a mess. There were pizza boxes, tons of books, dozens of dusty manuscripts, bones, tumble weeds of dog hair, and a lot of dirty coffee cups. I was unemployed back then, so I was able to write 7 - 14 hours a day. But even with all that typing, it took 11 years to get published. I'm currently writing my second book—another memoir—titled DON'T DROP THE BABY ON HER HEAD, The dirty diaper diary of a stay-at-home dad." And this time around I'm living downtown in Battery Park City, I'm married and we have two kids. Hunter is eight months-old, and Rowan is 31/2 years-old—going on 13. She's the one that I dropped on the head.

Life is very different these days and yet the same. Our apartment is a mess. Toys everywhere. And it smells. Like kids, not saliva-soaked tennis balls. But the hard part is finding time to write. I freelance in advertising, so when I have a gig, I can only write late nights, and that's after I feed Rowan, (while Brooke nurses Hunter) and give her a bath, and read her bedtime stories – I can’t write a sentence when they’re awake. Between the screaming, Rowan wearing my wife’s shoes climbing on my back, and Hunter trying to eat wires, it’s just too hard to focus.

Once I clean up the toys, it's about 9:15, and I get to spend quality time with my wife, eating dinner on the floor watching The Walking Dead on AMC. Then before I know it, my internal clock goes off: 11:00. IT'S TIME TO WRITE. I drink two more espressos, Brooke says, "Good night, don't stay up too late," but I have to. Because that’s my time. I write best when the world sleeps. I usually write till 2am, and that’s because my kids wake up at 7, and 5 hours sleep is the least amount of sleep I can function on. But the past few weeks I haven't been freelancing, other than blogging and writing my column, "A New Yorker's State of Mind" for BP HOPE, so I've been living out of coffee shops (only the ones with free wifi and a lot of outlets) writing six hours straight, only coming up for air when I have to pee. I actually think I spend more time in Whole Foods Cafeteria than the employees -- seriously. Kaffe 1668 on Greenwich in Tribeca is another one of my spots. At that long, wooden table in the front, you’ll find me downing an Americano. And then when I get home, after all the baby and wife stuff go down, I’m back up writing my head off.

Books take a long time to write—for me anyway—and I have a great time writing or I wouldn’t be doing it at all. But I also do it to entertain people, help people, and eventually to earn a nice living from it. I can’t think of another career that gives you the freedom to work anywhere, on your own schedule, and around your family—even though I can't write a single sentence when they're around me.