Fort Kit!

This morning we revealed our Twelfth Night present to the girls—an upgrade in the DIY fort kit Rebecca had brilliantly concocted for them a few years back. An expansion pack, if you will, on a previous roaring success.

They did not immediately give their delighted “ooh ooh ooh!” reaction that they are so good at, which is not surprising given that it was “just” a reboot, and came at the end of the holiday season. And yet, what matters more is that a few minutes later they were climbing all over the dining room, hanging rope, testing suction cups, and demanding that I fetch even more clothespins, and then got teary as we tried to peel them away to get to school on time.

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Industrious fort building, poorly documented

A DIY fort kit is a great way to give a gift that inspires creativity, free play, and civil engineering practice. And it can be really cheap.

Want to build your own? Here are the essential components: Continue reading

Lingering Questions

Having an unexpected chance at a last-minute final column for Metroland, is a blessing and a curse. No pressure, after an almost-12-year run. At first I scrambled to try to assemble a column on one of the topics I hadn’t gotten to, wanting to just continue as I had been, but over the holidays and it being a big topic, I couldn’t pull it together properly.

Instead, I will leave you with a distinctly non-exhaustive spattering of some questions I didn’t get to, or that I (and plenty others) have written about but remain important and unanswered, some rhetorical, some deeply not. Though Metroland was one important place we could have conversations like these, it needn’t be the only one. Continue reading

Rise Again

“This is all because of Joe McCarthy.” John McCutcheon, folk musician and songwriter extraordinaire, was on the stage at Proctors Sunday night. He was talking about the network of folk venues and series like our own Eighth Step, which is now housed at Proctors, and which was hosting a release concert for Rise Again, the sequel songbook to Rise Up Singing, the venerable 1200-song, tiny-print, words-and-chords only songbook that has enabled thousands of groups of people to sing together over the past 25 years.

My nine year old elbowed me. “Who’s Joe McCarthy?” Oh boy. Continue reading

Just Take a Walk?

Last spring, as I walked to a board meeting of the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region on Orange Street in Albany, I passed a memorial to a young man who had been shot and killed a couple of days earlier. There was a huge collection of candles on the ground between two stoops, marked off by caution tape, and with a large crowd of mourners around it.

Across from that memorial, tacked to a telephone pole was a relatively recent cheerful green and white sign that designates this stretch of road as part of a get-fit walking trail, and exhorts the viewer to “grab someone and take a walk!” This walking route is a loop that extends up into Center Square. Continue reading

In Defense of Saggy Pants

“Pull up your pants already.” “All these guys with their pants around their knees, waddling…”

Hey look, it’s the fashion police. Seems like everyone has something to say about sagging pants, from the president to the mayor of Dallas, who took out billboards to say it. Now Newton, N.J., is the latest town to try to ban sagging.

News flash, everyone: fashion trends look dumb. And sometimes they limit your movement in stupid ways.

But listen up close: Continue reading