Am I My Son’s Worst Nightmare?

When I tuck my four-year-old son into bed every night, I repeat the same thing my mother always said to me at bedtime, “Happy dreams.”

But recently, my son told me that he never has happy dreams. He has always been a good sleeper and other than the obligatory asking for a glass of water, he has never had problems going to bed. So when he said he only had bad dreams, I was very surprised.

But it’s when he describes his dreams that I get upset. His nightmares go from the classic, dreams about falling, to the heartbreaking, dreams about being hit by a truck. His surreal dream-scapes really freak me out, “There is a scary puddle with a face that turns into a monster,” and “A monster swallowed a balloon.” When I ask why this is scary, he tells me, “Because the monster is choking.”

It is bad enough that he has nothing but terrifying dreams, but the biggest monsters in his dreams are his parents. I can hear myself yelling at him:

“Don’t climb up there, you’ll fall!”

” Do not step in the street!”

” You better not run through that puddle!”

” Do not leave balloons on the ground; your baby sister could choke to death!”

His nightmares don’t seem to affect his sleep, but should I be concerned that he doesn’t have sweet dreams and that my anxieties seem to be the inspiration for his bad dreams?

What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Organic Arugula?

The Park Slope Food Co-op has been a lightning rod for criticism for years, from people complaining about the co-op banning bottled water,  nannies covering members the mandatory work shifts, and most recently, the meeting to decide whether to decide if they should boycott Israeli products.  Because the Israel boycott flap got so much attention, Reuters Chadwick Matlin decided to “live-tweet” the most recent Food Co-op general meeting (which had nothing to do with banning Israeli products.)

Oh how the hilarity ensued. And all the blogs laughed and laughed.  Oh those silly, stupid co-op members/Park Slope residents/Brooklyn resident/Liberals/Democrats etc. (the derision broadened as the comments went on.)

But why is a business that is truly democratic, and gives everyone a chance to speak, including the kooks, subject to such ridicule? (Full disclosure, I was briefly a co-op member, so I am familiar with the fringe element of a number of the members…let’s face it, some of them are genuine squirrel-bait.)

But rather than just take pot shots,  the Atlantic puts it in perspective with the article The More Things Change the More Food Co-ops Stay Mockable, “The temptation to mock is irresistible. We love to laugh at the Park Slope Food Co-op as the ne plus ultra of overwrought political correctness and smug social consciousness. We need that in our disgruntled, cynical lives.”

Maybe the Park Slope Food Co-op is a naive cockeyed optimist who thinks they can change the world, and that might make them seem a little batty.  But I’m sure if someone live tweeted a Reuters board meeting, you’d hear a few things a little more scandalous than people concerned about plastic bags. Chadwick Matlin, are you willing to direct your clever smarm on David Thomson and James Smith?

What the New Whole Foods Won’t Have

I am thrilled that Whole Foods is FINALLY going to open in Gowanus. Regardless of what you think of of Whole Foods, it is a well run business. It’s clean,  they have excellent products, and the employees are friendly, professional, and efficient.

Always the sentimentalist, here are some of the things I will miss by not shopping at some of the other local grocery stores:

Key Food
I’ll miss your produce pre-wrapped in plastic and packed in threes.

Trader Joe’s
I’m not sure what I’ll do without your overly-OVERLY-friendly cashiers.

Fairway
Who wouldn’t miss the byzantine cobble-stoned route that one must drive to get to Fairway.

Met Food
I will miss your friendly cats (but the bugs in the pasta, not so much.)

The Park Slope Food Co-op
I think I’ll miss you most of all, where will I get the over inflated sense of self regard that comes with shopping at the co-op.

What will you miss while shopping at Whole Foods?

Happy Presidents’ Day- How Lincoln Place Got Its Name

There are a number of presidential associations in Park Slope. In 1883  Macomb Place was renamed Garfield Place after the assignation of President James Garfield (who interestingly enough also shared an affinity for lasagna with the cat of the same name), in 1892 President Grover Cleveland, the Justin Bieber of presidents, was besieged by admirers at the Montauk Club and of course there is President Street, the laziest street name ever.

But the most curious presidential connection in Park Slope is Lincoln Place. Lincoln Place seems innocuous enough, what town doesn’t have a street named after one of our greatest and most popular presidents?  The interesting part is why that street’s name was changed.

Degraw Street runs from Red Hook through Cobble Hill and Gowanus and into Park Slope, where at 5th Street it suddenly changes its name to Lincoln Place.  It was renamed in 1873 shortly after Kate Stoddard shot her lover, Charles Goodrich, 3 times in the head in his home at 731 Degraw Street (right across the street from where the Lincoln Playground is now.)  The murder was a tabloid sensation and property owners thought the macabre association would bring down property values and petitioned the name to be changed to Lincoln Place.

To me, t really amazing part about it was the murder took place on March 21, 1873 and the street was renamed by April 15th 1873, only 25 days later! Apparently the city bureaucracy was a bit faster back then.

Grass fed beef patties, wasabi sauce, kale, soy cheese, pickled onions on a gluten-free bun: Pick Your Park Slope Burger

I thought the Park Slope BBQ renaissance was going to stop the burger trend, but now two new burger joints are opening in the Slope, Chez Bibis and Burger Bistro. This brings the grand total of burger-centric restaurants in Park Slope to 11. (And that’s not including restaurants that make great burgers like Dram, Bonnie’s, or Johnny Macks.)

I know the “common wisdom” is that burgers are a child’s favorite food, and Park Slope is the playground mecca of the east coast. But I still don’t see how this neighborhood can support this dizzying array of artery clogging dining establishments. So here are the pros and cons of each burger palace:

Burger Bistro
Pro-The Bay Ridge location is very popular
Con- While both are part of Brooklyn, to much of Park Slope, Bay Ridge may as well be Dubuque, and I’m not talking about the burger restaurant of that name in Carroll Gardens.

Chez Bibis
Pro- Their burger and beer concept will go well with the young urbanites.
Con- Parents might get upset in wrongly assuming it’s a french baby store.

Bare Burger
Pro- Organic beef + PS 321 next door =line out the door
Con- No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.

5 Guys 7th Ave
Pro- Across the street from Methodist Hospital/Free Peanuts
Con- 5 Guys now seem like Old Guys/Peanut allergies are a big concern with the Park Slope parent set

5 Guys Flatbush
Pro- New arena may bring more traffic to the area
Con- New arena traffic may keep locals away from the area

Cheeburger Cheeburger
Pro- Very kid friendly/Name is fun to say
Con- Not even an ironic nod to the health conscious/And does anyone under 40 even get the SNL reference?

67 Burger
Pro-People go eager to try their beer milkshake
Con-People never come back after trying their beer milkshake

Corner Burger
Pro-Middle school only 2 blocks north
Con-McDonalds only 2 blocks south

Brooklyn Flipsters
Pro-A great location
Con-Maybe a not so great location,this place has been at least 5 different restaurants in 7 years

McDonalds
Pro- McDonalds restaurants never go out of business
Con- McDonalds restaurants never go out of business

Maybe the Slope can support all these burger joints, at least until an I-N-Out Burger or Talde opens a burger restaurant and runs them all out of business.

Stop the Half-Spot Hoarder Tyanny!

Forget Babyccinos and bike lanes.  In today’s Brooklyn Paper I finally found a Park Slope controversy I can really sink my teeth into- The Montgomery Place Half-Spot Hoarders!

We’ve all been there, driving in concentric circles, looking for a spot. Up ahead you see what looks like a spot, but like a mirage it disappears as you get closer.  It’s the dreaded half-spot, not big-enough for a car, but an incredible waste of parking real estate.

Apparently at the doormen at 27 Prospect Park West, who park the cars for its tenants, intentionally create un-parkable “half spaces” on Montgomery Place to save spots.  So when a resident drives up, move one car forward and one care backward, and viola, a space appears out of thin air.

As someone who takes his parking very seriously, this kind of behavior infuriates me.  Technically it’s not illegal, but it should be, and a felony at that! Trust me if Dante had a car in Park Slope, he would have reserved a special circle in hell for the half-spot hoarder, right between the blasphemers and the sodomites.

After finding out about this parking fraud, I swallowed my bile in my throat, calmed down and decided to see if it was true.  A quick look at street view on Google maps showed an extraordinarily large amount of “half-spots.”

I urge everyone with SmartCars, Minis, scooters, rickshaws and any vehicle small enough for a half-spot, and park on Montgomery Place. This spot tyranny will not stand. It’s time to take back our spots!

Park Slope is Dead, God Save Park Slope!

The New Yorker recently had a story called “Park Slope is Dead,” which consists mostly of the co-owner of Southpaw, Matt Roff, bitching about how the neighborhood has changed. He is closing his 5th Avenue club Southpaw not for financial reasons but  because Park Slope isn’t what it used to be, yet somehow he neglects to mention the other thriving music venues in the neighborhood (The Bell House, Union Hall, Littlefield.)

Matt says, “My folks came (to Park Slope) in the seventies and it was rough, dude. Just bodegas and stuff, and this wave of ex-hippies buying houses for twenty thousand dollars.” He is just keepin’ it real. Except that it was his parents who were the gentrifiers, at least in the eyes of the people they were pushing out.

Park Slope has become the punchline of jokes about yuppie parents, and overprotected children on a diet of pastured free range chicken and organic kale. The common wisdom among the blogs is that that yuppie families have killed Brooklyn, or at least Park Slope. In the last few years they have forced out the minorities and are destroying the fabric of this neighborhood with their gourmet coffee and cookies, and the neighborhood is now overrun with breeders and their double-wide strollers!

This is, of course, nonsense! Sure, gentrification is going on in Park Slope, but it started in the late ’60s when the middle class were being priced out of Manhattan, and they found they could afford brownstones in the blue collar Park Slope.

The Brooklyn lifers thought the people moving in were nuts, ”I couldn’t understand why a nice couple like that would buy into a neighborhood like this,” said a long time resident when the first “pioneers” moved in in the late ’60s.

But by the early 80’s the “post-pioneers” were complaining about new interlopers moving in and driving up the price of real estate.  They had to create an “other” to blame their problems on,  “lawyers from Manhattan,” ”People don’t know their neighbors. It isn’t families coming in any more.”

Can you believe that, people were complaining that there were not ENOUGH families in Park Slope?  They even had a name for them, “DINKs,” dual income, no kids.

Of course, people who moved in the 80’s complained about the people who were moving in in the ’90s and so on.  The moral of this is unless you were neighbors of Gil Hodges, you should probably not complain about gentrification.

POST SCRIPT- I’d like to correct one misconception in the newyorker article about Park Slope not being cool anymore. It is impossible for Park Slope to not be cool anymore, because PARK SLOPE WAS NEVER COOL!  It was always a bedroom community with a few nice restaurants and bars.  It was never the “It” neighborhood that Williamsburg, Dumbo, and Brooklyn Heights were. It was always the also-ran where you moved because you weren’t cool enough to live in “Greenpoint”.

Vanderbilt Street Would Make the Commodore Proud

About 5 years ago, my wife and I were looking at an apartment for sale on the corner of Vanderbilt Ave and Prospect Place, and the realtor was speaking about the charm of the neighborhood, “Vanderbilt is really up and coming. A liquor store just opened up, and The Bob Law Seafood Cafe is just around the corner!”  I wouldn’t say that stretch of Vanderbilt was desolate, but it hardly seemed up-and-coming. And a new liquor store and Bob Law not withstanding, this did not ease the minds of a young couple, one of whom was 6 months pregnant.

The Vanderbilt stretch of Prospect Height has now up and came. The 5 blocks between Park Place and Pacific can now boast some of the best restaurants and bars in Brooklyn.  Having overlooked its potential years ago, I was certainly lat eto discover all the new restaurants and cocktail lounges popping up, but I have now been making a point to sample them all.

I’m not going to review all of them, as other sites do a better job at that than I, but I have all of these on my to do list and I’ll point out my highlights as I visit:

The Vanderbilt (a gorgeous dining room)
Cornelius (Whiskey AND $1 Blue Points!!!)
Ample Hills Creamery (must go back for the Salted Crack Caramel ice cream)
Chucko
Weather Up
Beast
Soda
Sunburnt Calf
Amorina
606 R & D.

Goog-roots and the (lack of) Free Kim Dotcom Movement

The FBI shut down the file sharing website MegaUpload last week, and arrested 4 people, including founder/COO, Kim Dotcom.  With the exception of the ineffectual cyber attacks by “Anonymous” on Universal, the MPAA and the DOJ, there seems to been very little anxiety expressed by the shut down of MegaUpload. The digital locker service was charged with a criminal conspiracy of illegally distributing copyrighted material.

Why haven’t the newly empowered netizen activists cried out at this abuse of government?  After all isn’t this the type of “abuse” they were so worried about with SOPA just a day before?  After complaints from copyright holders, the US government decided not only shut down a website, but have jack-booted feds arrest non-us citizens in a foreign country.  This seems like exactly the chilling scenario everyone was screaming that SOPA would cause, and that would censor the internet, and ruin the webtopia that is the world wide webs.

But for some reason, my Facebook is not flooded with status updates saying “Stop the Government Takeover of the Internet.” I haven’t seen one tweet saying “Free Kim Dotcom. Free the Internet.” Nor a plea from Jimmy Wales on MegaUpload’s behalf.

Especially after their victory lap, I’d have thought these newly empowered freedom fighters would flex their social media muscles.  But they didn’t.

Why?

Google doesn’t care.

SOPA and PIPA had been debated for the last year.  It was being revised and hashed out in committees, but the only people who seemed to say much about it were the usual small group of internet journalists, and even most of them really didn’t take a side until last week.  But last week Google and Wikipedia decided to take a stand. Their “blackout” and fear mongering got over 8 million people to email their congressman saying NO to SOPA.

Impressive, but a little scary if you consider the motives.  For better or worse, Google and Wikipedia traffic in a lot of illegally copyrighted material.  They know it, and if they had to put even more resources to reduce the amount of copyright infringement, it would cost money.  Why should Google spend more money to curb piracy when they can say “it’s not our responsibility.”  Of course, that doesn’t have the same ring as “End Piracy, Not Liberty.”

What if FOX and CNN decided to not broadcast their regular programs for an entire day, but instead showed stated that “The Government” was trying to take over the airwaves, and urged you to write your congressman. Then other networks joined in solidarity. I’m sure congress would get at least 8 million calls, but FOX and the other networks would also be called on their lack of objectivity, and most people would see the nets craven self-interests.

But the “enlightened” Google get a free pass.

It’s too bad, because it would be great it we did have a “super-power” who used their might to fight for social justice.  But Google isn’t interested in social justice, just the bottom line.

Standing On My SOPA Box

My job is in the music industry, and I have been working with independent musicians for 20 years. So naturally I was very interested in the recent hoopla over The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If I’ve learned anything from the anti-SOPA movement, it’s that most “netizen activists” are either willfully blind or out and out hypocrites.

For the most part they nod and say that piracy is “bad” and “something needs to be done,” but when there is a law that might actually have the ability to curb piracy, they call it “draconian.” I think I’ve heard that term a hundred times.  Do any of them know anything about Draco?  As far as I know, there is nothing in the SOPA bill suggesting that copyright violators be sold into slavery.

They say SOPA will cause sites to self-censor the Internet, yet the same breath demand boycotts against companies that support SOPA. So censorship is ok, as long as its censoring the things you don’t like.

They say that the government should not have the power to decide what you can or cannot see, yet Google does that every time you search, basing your query returns on past searched and demographics. “In Google We Trust,” I guess.

They say that you can’t trust a bill that is sponsored by the big bad music and film industry. It’s big business against those mom and pops worth over half a trillion dollars (Google, Yahoo, Twitter and AOL.)

But then you usually get to the heart of the matter, people like getting music and movies for free.  They like that you can use someone else’s intellectual property anyway you want, whether it’s giving away an MP3 of your favorite song, or making a “mash-up” of the most recent internet meme using someone else’s creation. The truth is almost everyone has downloaded an illegal song or movie at one time.  You might feel a little bad about it, but you will come up with all the standard rationalizations:

“Most music sucks anyway”

“They charge too much.”

“I spent all this money in the past so I’m entitled to a freebie.”

“It’s too complicated to buy.”

“It’s unavailable legally, so I had to steal it.”

“Big companies are ripping off the artists anyway.”

SOPA and PIPA are not perfect bills, and a lot of the issues could be fixed by spelling out clear definitions of theft and modify the penalties. Maybe they can be modified and address people’s concerns but the knee-jerk opposition to it shows that internet companies and people themselves really don’t want to curb piracy and copyright infringement. The real reason people are so opposed to this legislation (other than the overstated claim of censorship ginned up by Google and Wikipedia) is that they like the internet being a lawless place, where all it takes is a little cognitive dissonance and a click of a mouse and you can have all your movies and music for free.

N.B.- For me this is not a thought experiment or playing devils advocate in a debate game. This is my livelihood. It was my parent’s livelihood. Intellectual property and copyright laws puts a roof over my head and feeds my children.  So please spare me the B.S. about the industry using outmoded business models and need to find a new paradigm to generate revenue.  Doublespeak like that is cold comfort after the Visigoths have sacked the village.