“Take my shirt off! Take my shirt off!” my 3yo shouted with pure childhood bliss. She wanted to be like the older kids running across the grass as shirtless savages of summer. Normally, she does not let it all hang out.
So I took off the shirt, cursing myself for having left the sunscreen at home. It was already 4:30. Post-PTH, hopefully. (*peak tanning hours.)
I knew one of the boy’s parents and we’d met at the park for happy hour summer picnic. I needed adult contact since my one-year-old was near peak of his incessant whininess.
Upon arrival, the parents offered me a beer. I nearly downed it in one sip.
Seconds later, I noticed my 3yo and the older kiddos were missing. I said as much.
“Oh, they’re over behind that brick wall playing in the fountain,” the mom said as she handed me a second beer. “They’re fine. Don’t worry.”
I’m sorry. What part of that statement should not have made me panic? Our kids were out of sight, in New York City, playing in a fountain hidden by a stone wall.
I was fairly certain the 5-year-olds weren’t trained lifeguards.
I tried looking calm with a frozen smile. I took a sip, stood up, carried the whiny 1yo (who whined with the movement), and left to investigate.
At the stone wall I saw that the fountain was “only” a 12-inch-wide ring of water surrounding a 10-foot sculpture by Tom Otterness. The water flowed in a circle around the sculpture. True: I needn’t worry. Too much.
My 3yo joined the boys dropping items (trash, really…broken balloons, styrofoam) in the “upstream” part of the fountain, then chased it around the 10-foot circle. They were definitely in pure childhood bliss.
As I approached, my kiddo reached into the water, jumped up with hand clenched and squealed, “I got one!”
“What’d you get, buddy?”
“Yeah!” she beamed. It was new for her to play so imaginatively.
She was so happy. I was so happy to watch it.
The entire situation reminded me of studying “A Perfect Day for Bananafish“, J.D. Salinger’s short story, in my high school English class. It’s a moment of innocence in which an unstable Army Veteran is reminded of “pure childhood bliss” as he unexpectedly plays with a child in the ocean who swears she sees “bananafish” underwater.
But I digress.
Some kids around nine or ten years old had entered the scene at the fountain. They sat on benches nearby. They held skateboards and sported baseball caps over shaggy hair.
The 5-year-olds playing in the fountain stuck started taunting the skater boys and sang “nanny, nanny- boo, boo.” The skater boys didn’t take the bait. They minded their own business and joshed around like 10-year-old boys. They occasionally laughed or pointed at the little kids. It was innocent, but it also looked like gangs forming.
My 3yo still jumped and splashed, squealed and laughed. She kept grabbing items (trash) at the “top” of the stream and watched it float with the current. He dipped his bloated diaper in the water. She looked at me and enthusiastically screamed, “Daddy!”
It was a juxtaposition of innocence (and innocents): my kid and the two rival gangs (the 5yo’s and the 10 yo’s). I whipped my phone out to video the pure childhood bliss. She hadn’t a care in the world, least of all the chiding of other kids. Not a speck of self-consciousness informed her actions…no insecurities about clothes, having two daddies, vocabulary, nothing.
She just played.
How can she know the joy that brought me or how precious that time was for her? The only thing existing for her was imagination and water and pure childhood bliss (and trash).
If I could endow my kids with only one gift, just one, I’d make them impervious to judgment. I know that’s impossible. But couldn’t she always play in her own world with the water and ignore the others?
Kiddo: don’t modify your behavior or preferences or speech. Just play. Just be. Just maintain that pure childhood bliss for as long as possible.
I hope I’m able to show that video to her one day (assuming I don’t drop my phone in the kids’ bathtub a third time) and help her reconnect with a paradigm free of self-consciousness.
May there be many, many, many more moments of pure childhood bliss.
The fabric of real New York is often obscured by exasperation. The city’s too expensive, too crowded, too corporate and has sold out to international investors parking nefarious earnings in apartments that are driving up prices for all the rest of the people actually living here.
But occasionally, one stumbles upon scrappy outposts that harken to the creative energy making real New York colorful and exciting.
This happened to me, recently, and inspired me to actually get off my lazy ass and write one of those forever-threatened (but never executed) Yelp reviews – a love letter to the creative types who pursue passion and make real New York badass.
Dear Louis Rossman – You made me fall in love with New York, again.
So my computer blanked out on
me over the summer.
I stood up from typing to refill my coffee, returned seconds later, and the computer had turned off. Weird.
I clicked the track pad, then the space and return buttons (somewhere between two and seventy-six times) with varying degrees of force. Then I hit the on/off switch.
It re-booted and miraculously
re-started for fifteen seconds until: poof.
My screen went dark.
And I couldn’t revive it.
The next day, I went to the Apple Store in Grand Central (talk about spectacular location) and the Apple Genius diagnosed it as “electronic anomaly.”
Him: It happens more than you
Him: Did you have it backed
Him: It’s only 2 years old.
For $450 we can send it away for a new motherboard.
Me: Will my 736 documents
randomly strewn across my desktop be saved?
Him: Most likely not.
Me: Welp, how do I do that?
Him (suddenly under his breath and leaning closer to me): There’s this guy on the Lower East Side. My colleagues around me would be pissed if I told you about him. But go to him.
(And the Genius Bar guy typed
out a phone number on his iPad to show me.)
A few hours later, I stumbled
upon the least charming storefront in New York City and walked in. A dude at a workstation
a few feet from the front window had multiple monitors and cameras pointing at
him, his desk, his hands, and his face.
He looked at me, said hello, then turned back to his work while saying, “What can we do for you?”
It was very efficient – not overly Midwestern-ly warm, nor in that NYC way of mild annoyance at being in the service industry.
Also, I felt like I’d stepped
into Mr. Robot.
He was Louis Rossman. The owner and head technician. Or as he later said to me, “The Mac Janitor.”
I explained my situation, he nodded, took my computer and immediately unscrewed the microscopic screws, himself.
Taking in the entirety of his operation, there were four or five more technicians doing varying things in the workplace – answering phones, organizing boxes, and presumably repairing all manner of tech. It was the organized chaos usually hidden from public eye but that makes real New York so much more exciting. It was thrilling to witness because it had the air of scrappy DIY’ers saving technical lives. I stared until jolted from my awe as Louis piped up at me: Yep. Your motherboard. I can replace it for $350 in a couple days and transfer data for $100.
Me: Is my data safe?
Louis: Is it backed up?
Me: LOL. No.
He pulls some thing looking
like a micro thumb drive out of my motherboard and says, “Looks fine.”
He grabs another laptop near
him, puts my data thumb drive thingy into that
computer’s hard drive, hands it to me and says, “Start uploading to Google
So I turned on this other
random computer that suddenly had all my data on it.
Huh. That’s how it works? Everything that makes my computer mine is
imprinted on that mini-thumb drive and plugs into the other doo-hickey that
must be a motherboard but looks like the crumb tray in a toaster.
I copied my ten million
documents to upload.
Google drive told me it would
take approximately 3 hours.
I sat there for one hour watching
the status of my upload tick down far too slowly. Meanwhile, Louis was a
At the same time that he
dissected a computer (I didn’t realize it was mine…his hands worked so quickly
and, well…they all look the same), under the watchful eye of his multiple
cameras, he calmly answered questions of his employees who shouted out without
care of interrupting him, answered the consistent main phone line, and greeted
every single European tourist, hipster, delivery person and desperate person
like me without the slightest hint of being overwhelmed.
He was a master – unshakably
calm at the epicenter of a business driven by panicking techno-idiots like
myself. We rubes who dropped, shook, spilled upon and generally abused our phones
and laptops were the cogs in the wheel making his business hum at a
An hour later, he hands me my
computer, says, “Stop your back-up. Just put it back in here.”
My computer was fixed.
Him: You had water damage.
But I didn’t see any spills.
Me: Weird. Could it be
He popped onto the monitor in front of him and reversed the real-time video screen to show me the motherboard he’d just fixed. He pointed out a circuit that had blown and apparently started a chain reaction. (Or something. Not sure I understood it all.)