My $.02 | 39 Years, 364 Days, 23 Hours

I’m sitting here. Having just turned off (mercifully) “This is 40″ and to at least maintain some thematic consistency, popped an aged bottle of FiftyFifty’s Eclipse (Elijah Craig 12 Year) from 2012, and turned on “No Country for Old Men.” I’m about to be 40.

I used to believe in milestones. New Year’s Day, for example. A time to commit to the refresh. Like going to a chiropractor for your life and having snap your spine back into alignment. But it rarely worked. A year was like a half-step (and Big Daddy Kane taught me years ago that simply put, there would be no half-stepping.) I quickly found change to be more valuable in two very extreme time periods:

  1. At the next stroke of midnight to create momentum via urgency and adrenalin (I decided to give up cheese, fried foods, and Facebook earlier today, and set the effective time for midnight.) Deciding something, while giving myself a few hours to process, but not too much time to digress, was a great way to get things going.
  2. At the next five year mark. To create a true arc to my story, to push myself to set large, somewhat audacious goals, and to give myself the freedom and flexibility to take risks as I pursued that five year plan like hell.

I’m a short while away from a milestone many people celebrate. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is that my birthday is truly worth celebrating — but not for me. I’m a short while away from 40. I’m alive. I’m happy. But celebrating 40 for me is celebrating not dying. Truly. Instead, I choose to celebrate the people who have helped me get this far. The people who keep me alive. And the people who go out of their way to make sure I’m happy. My birthday, every year, is a tribute to all of you. And evidence of the fact that even I couldn’t screw it up.

I have many things I need to improve upon in the coming five years, some of them kick-off at midnight. Most of them I’ll keep to myself (like I did at 30, and like I did at 35.) But I can tell you one thing I feel like I made great progress with in the past five years, and that I plan on kicking up several notches in the coming five: love. I love my wife. I love my daughter. I love my family. I love my friends. I love my work (and my team.) And I’m not going to be bashful about saying it.

Life is grand, folks. Years are beautiful. Whether coming at you at blinding speed, or retreating behind you with even greater pace. Life is grand.

That’s all I’ve got. No genius (no surprise?) Just admiration. Respect. Love. For everyone around me. Thank you for making the journey so wonderful. I can’t wait for what’s ahead.

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TMLFYI… | All About Fire

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You’re on fire. And this blog is about to be reignited as well. The music video below says it all, doesn’t it.

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TMLFYI… | Weeeeeeeeeeeee!

Swing 7Van Worst Park is such a simple pleasure. When we moved to Jersey City, we couldn’t quite justify living on the water, so we paid attention to a Realtor who told us that if we can’t get the water in JC, we should be happy with a park. It’s a solid park. But it turned into something special earlier this afternoon.

The weather was nice. We were headed into winter and the fact that it was nice outside (meaning we could go outside without fearing you’d hate us for a few hours after the fact) meant that we had to go outside. You’re an outdoor baby. It calms you. I feel like your happiness is directly correlated to the number of leaves you see around you — maybe with a bit of sunshine factored in.

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Swing 6It’s always been that way, though. From the moment we could take you outside, if we did, you were happier. Taking it all in. Looking around you. Observing. Reaching. The first thing I ever saw you reach for was a leaf. And you went for it. Like you do everything. You saw. You committed. And you went for it.

The park on this beautiful late Fall day was no different. We strolled. You did some slide work. Pulled yourself up to a lovely outdoor abacus. And life was grand. But nothing compared to you on that swing. It was freedom. You were seated. And you were experiencing. No fear. No matter how excited I got and how hard I pushed. You smiled on your way to us and on your way back. Sheer happiness.

I’d like to get a swing installed in every room in our condo. What do you think? My guess if you could respond? Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! Which totally explains my love for you today, munchkin. It was as exhilarating to watch you on that swing as it has been for me to take loops at Great Adventure.

 

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TMLFYI… | Monitored

This is one of those posts that might actually get me in trouble. In a decade, I have no idea how this is going to be taken. I know it’s going to be available. But I’m banking on the fact that by the time this kind of stuff has the potential to embarrass you, the private sector will have created ways to make any of the embarrassing stuff go away. Disappear. I’m banking on it.

Why? Because I don’t care where you are. The fact that you sleep with your butt pointed to the camera and basically up in the air is enjoyable. It’s adorable now. In 10-15 years, it’s going to be an awkward topic of conversation. Again, I’m banking on some things.

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But this is how you sleep, and I love every second of it. It makes your baby monitor substantially more entertaining than anything FiOS could ever cobble together across it’s 1000+ channels.

Today my love for you is anchored in your monitor. Because you’re mooning me. And I’m only hoping you’re smiling on the other side and in your dreams. Because if you aren’t smiling now, you certainly aren’t going to be about this in high school.

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Trial & Error | Beer and Cheese Pairing in Newtown

I’ve been told that the only thing I post about nearly as much as my daughter is beer. Why disappoint?

This past weekend we had a great get together with a bunch of my MBA classmates and their significant others. 15 adults. 9 kids. Times have changed. To make sure we had enough time to actually enjoy each other’s company, a genius weekend attendee suggested we hire a professional chef. And like that, brunch, dinner, and dessert on Saturday were fully covered.

To fill in the gap between lunch and dinner, I decided to pull together a beer and cheese tasting for the crew. I’ve always paired my beer pretty well with food, but I never thought of it in sequence and for such a wide array of palates. I was super happy with the results.

Pairing 1: Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouché Brut de Normandie with a creamy brie and a wild truffle honey drizzled over top

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Why? Don’t underestimate the cider and presume it to be sweet. What I love about this cider specifically is both the maturation as well as the oak barrel aging, both of which turn the cider into more of an oaky white wine than a pressed cider beer from apples. The complexity is still there and it makes for a great seasonal transition drink, between the crispness of Summer and the earthiness of Fall. In this case, you want a creamy cheese that doesn’t dominate your palate and that is complemented by the sharp bite of the cider. The truffle honey was added to complement the oak flavor imparted on the cider by the barrel aging process. The one thing I could have done was better manage expectations about the cider; as hard as I indicated it would taste more like a wine than a typical cider, it was hard for some to process. Regardless, the result was a great start to our tasting.

Also, I believe everything I just wrote above. If it sounds hokey, get off my blog. I wrote it after closing my eyes and reminiscing of the flavors. That pairing was legit!

Pairing 2: He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. with a 7-year Aged Canadian Cheddar

RIPAWhy? IPA – strong on the palate. DIPA – stronger and hotter on the palate. Rye DIPA – game changer. I wanted to blast their palates and take them to an extreme of flavor. I debated the 90 Minute, the Maharaja, and even going Alesmith, but this felt right. Plus, I was able to nod to Rosh Hashana and Lenny Bruce with one bottle.  It’s a radical beer (per Schmaltz Brewing) and the right move. I’ve read that the Rye should have pushed me to a more peppery cheese but I went with one of my favorite combinations of a rich cheddar paired with an IPA. To balance out the hops and malt in the beer, I went for a 7-year aged Canadian. The aging process as I understand it firms up the cheese, concentrates the flavors, and allows the cheese to hold up well to the power of the Rye DIPA. A good cheddar brings with it a buttery, sweet, sharpness which needs a strong beer to mellow it, and vice versa. As advertised. Some people didn’t like either the beer or the cheese alone, but enjoyed them in concert. (Note: I loved the look of this cheddar as well. Every cut of the brick would chip off a piece larger than expected because of the cheese’s density and texture.)

Pairing 3: The Bruery Autumn Maple with Pyrenees Brebis

Autumn MapleWhy? If you haven’t had the Autumn Maple, stop, and go get it now. I think it’s as good a beer as The Bruery makes and there’s not much more time left to get it. With the Autumn Maple you’re drinking Thanksgiving. Nut Brown Ale with yams and maple syrup. It’s a beautiful thing and I feel like something that is this sweet should not be drinkable in such large quantities. But it is. The sweetness hits you fast but vanishes behind all the remaining flavors and before you’re finished enjoying what passed you’re back to your glass for more. There are some cheeses, IMHO, that pair really well with sweetness. Some say Brie, but I believe in many cases Brie becomes a vehicle for the fruit, adding some texture but little flavor complexity against strong competition. So in this case, I had to go sheep’s milk and the Pyrenees Brebis. I wanted butterfat. It’s that simple. I wanted everyone to taste the butterfat and have that lingering fat and oil on their tongue as they enjoyed the nutty base of the ale, followed by all that additional flavor. It’s not an easy cheese to like, as well, so I had to pair it with the most forgiving of beers for newer palates.

Pairing 4: Olde Hickory The Event Horizon (2013) with Wild Boar Sausage

Event HorizonWhy? Few things stand up to a BBA Stout like this one, and the chocolate covered bacon I tried to make didn’t turn out right. The Event Horizon is up there. It’s the beer I’ve experimented the most with on the pairing side because of the way they release this beer in Charlotte, NC — a full on breakfast that incorporates The Event Horizon flavors. It’s sets the mind rushing. I was originally going to pair this with the other cheeses as well, so people could get contrast and understand what beers do to cheese, and vice versa. But when our chef brought out the big guns on the sausage side it was a no-brainer. The flavors that come from malt and roast pair beautifully with cured meats. The bourbon finish of the beer and lingering heat also pairs well with the fat and salt associated with the cured meat. I recommend it.

I was happy with the pairing. I was happier to have shared with the Fuqua crew. Can’t wait to do it again. Maybe a harder push on the Fall Seasonal? Who’s up for it?

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TMLFYI… | Peeking

Game time.

You’ve been playing games with us for a little while, little one. One of my favorites is when you’re trying to get our attention and you fake cough. Your mom and I laugh every time. Because we know you’re not sick. But we also know you just won–because we’re totally paying attention. I’m fine with sharing this here because by the time you can read this, it’ll be too late for those tricks (or will it?)

This was a text I got from your mom. Amazing. You are playing peek-a-book, kind of. You’re doing the peeking, your mom is doing the booing, but together, it makes me smile. Together, the two of you make me smile anyway, so I guess the highlight here goes back to game time. Today my love for you is peeking (and booing.)

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TMLFYI… | Nas

Jessi Masi and Ganesh Masard got married. It was your first wedding. And outside of the bride, I really must say, you stole the show.

Your mom positioned you well for all that show theft for what it’s worth. For every event, you had a tailor made outfit. You wore it with grace and style. Even when you put different parts of your clothing in your mouth, you did so with elegance.

Here are some artistic glam shots from the wedding itself. Mostly because you were sleeping and I couldn’t get a great all-in photo of you to start (it’s hard to magically crop out all of the different belts that strap you in the Cybex Aton.) But also because your Eku Foi started taking the top down photos of you through your bow so I think we’re going to keep that theme flowing. From there, I thought jewelry shots would be lovely. And wouldn’t you know it? They are.

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I was able to get a shot of it all coming together, with you in your mom’s arms and a hell of a backdrop that only you two could outshine.

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But in the end, my favorite pose was you doing your Nas … “if you ruled the world” (imagine that?) Yes, this is how I think you’re going to look the moment you realize the world is all yours.

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Sofie in hand. Not a care in the world. It’s your move, world.

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TMLFYI… | Galavanting

Here I am, proofing our home so you stay safe and what are you doing? Galavanting. On theWest Coast. With your Mom. With your Nitu Masi. And with your two hysterically entertaining brothers, AJ and Alon.

At the Ritz.

You have had a very full and busy day. I know. Because while I was at the Honda dealership, Home Depot, Target, Babies R Us, and Pier 1 imports (I momentarily debated swapping coffee tables but couldn’t find the right inspiration), I was checking text messages with your photos attached.

And I loved every second of it.

So what were you up to? Hmm, let’s see.

You started by waking up at about 3am PT. You don’t know what PT means. Let me explain. It means Mommy is exhausted right now.

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After hanging out with Mommy in the lobby for a bit, while she pounded coffee and you smiled like everything was normal and ok, she proceeded to try and get you to nap on some reasonable schedule. Nope. Not happening. You went from hanging out in the crib to a straight up jailbreak.

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Since you wouldn’t nap in your crib, you napped on the way to prison. The jailbreak comment above was only a primer for letting you know that you went to Alcatraz when you were 8 months old and your Mom was crazy to have taken you.

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The best part of Alcatraz? Apparently, it was your decision to leave. Probably because you were absolutely unimpressed by the moment or the space.

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Which explains why this is how happy you were on the way out.

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Now, shopping brings out a different you. More thoughtful. More pensive. You were down for going, for sure, but IMHO, it was really more of a wait and see for you.

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Good thing. Because apparently, nothing can make you ready for bed more than shopping. Which makes sense, because you are your mother’s daughter.

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And there you have it…galavanting. Eh, I guess you two earned it. Now, back to covering those outlets.

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My $.02 | When Nothing Makes Sense

RU

Not everything makes sense. September 11th does not make sense. I will never be able to make it make sense. Hopefully, that isn’t the case for many things in your life. I want to have answers. But sometimes, I simply won’t. And that hurts.

You have a Neil Kaka. You had another. He was one of my best friends. For me, he is what doesn’t make sense about September 11th.

There are moments in time that one remembers vividly. This will happen to you. Elated moments. Ecstatic moments. Completely new moments. And tragic moments. The elated, ecstatic, and new moments move too quickly. It’s life on Fast Forward. But the tragic moments, that’s when the world slows down. That’s when seconds feel like minutes, and minutes feel like hours. You process just as much. But you process things in between moments of numb. And so even though I remember September 11th as vividly as any other day in my life, it still doesn’t make any sense.

I remember hearing the planes hit the tower. I remember seeing debris after the second collision. I remember watching clouds of debris race from the West side of the island to the East (where I was) enveloping and swallowing everyone and everything along the way. I remember connecting with everyone and believing in my heart-of-hearts that everyone I knew was ok. And then I remember making the walk to midtown and trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t.

The rest is a history that remains present always. Everyone wasn’t ok. Your Neil Kaka wasn’t ok. He went into work early. Nothing was ok.

When you grow older, we’ll talk about this. Like my parents talk about the partition. Or like India’s state of emergency in the mid-70’s. We’ll talk about this. And I’ll be devastated every time I tell you about it. Every new bit of information I share. Wanting to balance your innocence with your right to knowledge. And I’ll be devastated because for all I am supposed to do for you in this world, it will never be more apparent that there are some things I can never protect you from. Nonsense. Hate. Anger. Irrationality. Civic irresponsibility. The loss of innocence.

All of the things that don’t and won’t make sense. But don’t and never disappear.

So I’ll tell you this story. I’ll tell it to you honestly. With my arms around you. Most likely with tears in my eyes. So you feel the power of the moment but not the weight of the experience. We’ll talk about what happens after. How when someone leaves it’s your responsibility to figure out what part of them stays. With you. Forever. And maybe on that day you’ll carry Daddy’s tradition of carrying Neil Kaka’s tradition of always giving to the homeless along with you. You’ll see that every time Daddy sees a homeless person the street he reaches into his pocket for some change to pass back. And you’ll realize that Daddy’s just a conduit for Neil Kaka.

Just like you have the power to be a conduit for all of the people you love. Always and forever. Because — just because when nothing makes sense, you do your best to make sense of something. However little. So the world gets back to being a little right again.

I’ll tell you this story one day, munchkin. And if nothing else, I’m guessing Daddy will make a little more sense to you after we’re done.

Kaka

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TMLFYI… | On the Move

I enjoy our weekends. On most weekend days I get to wake up with you in the morning, give your Mom the opportunity to sleep in a little, and get some dedicated time alone with you. Any time alone with you is a win for me.

We do a little bit of talking. We do a little bit of exercising. We do a little bit of playing. We do a little bit of going outside. (Note: You love dogs. When I walk you around either in Jersey City or Edison, we’re bound to see dogs walking their owners early in the morning, and you reach for them, play with them, completely unfazed, and completely engrossed.) We do a little bit of a lot. And I love every second.

This past Saturday morning you were obsessed with a video of you on Daddy’s phone. So I had a good time balancing getting you some exercise with basically, having you chase yourself in Selfie mode. You were a monster. And it’s all documented.

I love your energy. I love your conviction. I love your resilience. This is everything we’ve known about you from the day you were born, encapsulated in a single video. It’s more than your pursuit of something, it’s your happiness and commitment to that pursuit throughout. Unwavering.

I am willing to wager that over time, we’ll see more and more efforts like this from you. And it’s our job to make sure you maintain that energy to pursue, and find a way to remain happy while you do.

Challenge accepted, my love. Challenge accepted.

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