I can write until the cows come home about my kids. I can poetically describe my thoughts regarding family, my two boys, and their early foray into brotherhood. Some of it might even be pretty good.
Or, I could just wait for my wife to capture a picture that encapsulates what it means to be brothers far better than my mere words ever could.
Shortly after I left for work this morning, my wife had to go to the bathroom. So she asked Will, our oldest, to watch Sam and make sure he didn’t tip over. This was what she saw when she came back into the room.
Feel free to caption this in the comments section.
I have to admit, I was not looking forward to our family photo shoot last week. Why? I have several reasons.
First of all, well — just look at me! I’m not exactly photogenic thanks to a face that would make a train take a dirt road. That’s a fact that’s magnified tenfold when you put me next to my gorgeous wife and son. But what I dread even more than that is all the other crap that goes along with the family photo. What are we gonna wear? Where do we take the pictures? Do we all have to match? When can we do it? But the most important question — at least to me — was choosing the right photographer who is not only affordable, but who wouldn’t land us on one of the many websites solely devoted to awkward family photos.
And that’s when I got a timely email from an old college classmate.
In addition to being one of the very first readers of this blog, Meri Belanger is the owner of Sootie Studios where she is — wait for it — a professional photographer. I remember her being very talented in the arts at school, but I was nervous to take her up on her offer of doing a family photo shoot. Mainly because I was worried about not liking the pictures and then not being able to give her a good review. The dangers of working with friends and family.
Luckily, that turned out to be a non-issue.
As you can see by looking at these pictures, Meri is insanely talented. But there are some other things you need to consider that make these photos even more impressive:
It was hotter than 90 degrees that day
We were sweating like crazy
There was a 4-year-old involved
There was a crazy golden retriever involved
That’s no easy task to be outdoors in a public place (Borderland State Park in case you were wondering), with a kid and a dog in suffocating heat. But Meri not only took great shots, she did it quickly and efficiently. Probably because she’s also a mom of two kids so she gets it.
The other thing I really appreciated was Meri’s prep work. I really wanted to avoid the studio setting with a canvas background and stupid poses, but I wasn’t sure where we should go. So Meri suggested a few places and we settled on a great state-owned park in Easton, Mass. She did some advance scouting and had a bunch of specific spots picked out ahead of time. And she listened to my requests about not posing and just capturing us in our (mostly) natural state, and was able to get some really terrific candids.
You guys know I don’t do many reviews and I don’t recommend products or people I wouldn’t use myself. But I can promise you with absolute certainty that if you choose to go with Meri at Sootie Studios, you’ll be incredibly happy. And you’ll probably go back because she does newborn/maternity pictures, kids birthday parties, senior pictures, graduation pictures, weddings and any other event you can think of. That’s why it’s my
pleasure to recommend someone who is not only a professional and wonderful
photographer, but also a fellow parent and a friend.
So if you’re in southeastern Massachusetts and you want some fantastic pictures that don’t break the bank, done by a truly nice person who’s also a mom, check out Meri here or here and follow the contact information on her website to set up an appointment.
And on a personal note, I want to thank Meri for our awesome photos. Not only didn’t I end up on Awkward Family Photos, we now have a bunch of pictures that will grace our walls for years. We’re even going to give them to family members as gifts. I’ve never been happier to be wrong in my life!
One of the coolest parts of being a newspaper reporter is during “all hands on deck” situations. Elections, murders, the deaths of prominent people—if it’s breaking and it’s big news in my coverage area, I’ve been on it.
I chased President Barack Obama around Martha’s Vineyard and had a gun drawn on me by Secret Service agents while running through the woods trying to get a picture of Obama teeing off on the golf course. I was first on the scene at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy when Somali pirates seized a graduate of their school and the country anxiously waited as he was held captive until Navy SEALs could free him in dramatic fashion. And I polled grieving Cape residents the day that Sen. Ted Kennedy—the Liberal Lion—died of a brain tumor and officially ended the days of the Kennedy mystique.
But nothing brings all the reporters to the table faster than a natural disaster.
Yesterday, with Tropical Storm Irene bearing down on the region, I found myself in a strange place. My house. After all, storms and other such events always had me roving around looking for good photo opportunities and people to interview. When everyone else is ducking for cover, reporters are out looking for a scoop and keeping the public informed. And since I live right on the water, there’s never a shortage of stories during a hurricane scare.
Despite quitting the paper three months ago, I found myself unable to sit still yesterday. So I called up Karen who I knew would be manning the copy desk, and told her I’d phone in updates. She wasn’t surprised. It’s not like I got paid or anything, but once a reporter always a reporter I guess. Accompanied by a friend, we drove all around the Upper Cape and got some videos and pictures.
This is the Sandwich Boardwalk, an exceptionally beautiful spot.
I know this doesn’t look like much, but anyone from the area will know the water is NEVER this high. Usually there’s a good 10-15 feet between the bottom of the dock and the surface of the water. But yesterday, Irene churned up quite a bit of high seas and had the water just a few feet from turning the Boardwalk into a glorified dock.
And this was three hours AFTER high tide.
The picture to the right is a tree down across Woods Hole Road.
Woods Hole is a tiny fishing village in Falmouth, Mass. It is kind of a world unto itself, and this road is the main artery that goes from the village to downtown. This tree fell less than a minute before we drove up on the scene, and we watched as a bunch of good Samaritans immediately whipped out axes and hacksaws to clear the road.
It was really impressive how neighbors instantly realized the importance of clearing this road, because the only other way to get to Woods Hole is a road by the beach that was flooded. That means in case of an emergency, rescue vehicles might have been cut off from an entire section of town. But New Englanders are a hearty bunch and they were out there in a flash.
Speaking of beach roads, this is Surf Drive in Falmouth.
Normally it is an absolutely beautiful stretch of road with a multitude of beaches and a gorgeous view that includes Martha’s Vineyard in the distance. But on Sunday it was a much different story.
Water was coming over the road and flooding it, tearing up pavement and leaving huge rocks, sand and other debris on the street.
This picture to the right is not a lake. That is the road, or at least it’s supposed to be.
A few pick-up trucks and bigger SUVs were able to make it through, but a couple of cars tried and quickly realized that wasn’t such a good idea.
This downed tree was in Bourne, near John’s CapeSide Diner on Route 6. It fell on some wires but locals said the power didn’t go out. When I left this scene one guy was attempting to cut the tree himself, saying “It’s OK, they’re just cable wires.”
New Englanders are a breed apart.
And speaking of a breed apart, that leads me to perhaps my favorite picture of this entire hurricane.
To the right is the John’s Capeside Diner sign. Now it’s commonplace for people to protect their property. But while most people board up windows, someone decided to take unorthodox steps to protect this restaurant sign.
Yup. That’s duct tape folks.
Wind gusts got up to 65 MPH and wind and rain lashed the region for hours yesterday. Many large trees and even some small structures were damaged yesterday. Which all leads me to wonder how the hell someone thought some duct tape on a sign was going to make a damn bit of difference.
But then again, it’s still there so what do I know? Further proof that duct tape fixes EVERYTHING!
And finally, you always hear about the total wackjobs who either surf or swim in the ocean during hurricanes. Well, it’s your lucky day because here they are. This was taken at Nobska Beach in Woods Hole. And the incredibly attractive young lady in her underwear and thin T-shirt had absolutely no bearing on my decision to capture this footage. None at all.
But do pay attention to the 40-second mark when she gets CREAMED by a wave, and don’t forget to read underneath the video for a new Daddy Files feature!
And finally, I’m starting a new thing on this site. At the conclusion of every post, I’ll offer some featured Amazon.com products relevant to my content. Today, it’s this REALLY cool contraption I found that would be great for power outages. It’s a hand-crank AM/FM radio that also charges your cell phone, tablet, eReader and more. You can charge the internal battery beforehand and then charge your phone, crank it to charge or use the solar panels to charge it during a power outage. For less than $30 this is an awesome thing to have in a pinch!
If you guys could click on the link to buy your Amazon items, I’d really appreciate it. I only get pennies on the dollar but all of it will go towards defraying the cost of running this website. Thanks guys!
I took a friend to the Red Sox game last week. In addition to being a Fenway Park virgin, he’s also a veteran who served in Iraq. Twice. So it was fitting that that particular nationally televised game turned out to be “Military Night” at Fenway. I’d like to say I had it all planned out to impress him, but it was totally coincidental.
The pageantry that night was second to none. Soldiers from all branches of our armed forces were present and accounted for, hundreds of them lining the field. Distinguished veterans were honored and threw out pitches. A soldier with a prosthetic leg running the bases was a particularly poignant moment.
And then came the piece de resistance:
Fenway’s fabled Green Monster—which stands 37-1/2 feet tall in left field—was draped in an enormous American flag while the Star Spangled Banner was performed. And as you can see, our seats provided prime viewing.
It was a powerful moment. But it’s what happened afterwards that moved me most.
My friend—my tough as nails, macho, 6’5″ mountain of a friend—had tears in his eyes. And I realized in that moment how much I take for granted. I donated some money once to a non-profit organization that helps veterans and I take my hat off when the national anthem is played. Aside from that, I haven’t served my country in any tangible way.
But my friend (and countless others just like him) have done so. And then some. They’ve left their families for months and even years at a time, often missing huge milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries and even the births of their kids. They’ve dodged bullets in the desert, and sometimes those bullets didn’t miss. They’ve watched their friends die and they’ve had to defend themselves. Often by lethal means.
Some don’t come back, but even the ones who do don’t always come back whole. The missing parts aren’t as obvious as an absence of limbs either. It’s insidious PTSD, nightmares and memories that never seem to fade. It’s not being able to enter a city block without worrying about snipers, or being uncomfortable every time you’re around a large group of people. It’s being petrified about assimilating back into a society after witnessing the unspeakable.
Is it any wonder the song that encompasses all those things brings tears to the eyes of the people who have taken it upon themselves to experience the unimaginable horror of war so we don’t have to be burdened with it?
I’ve been around veterans when people from the general public come up to them and ask/say stupid things. “How many people did you kill?” “Were you shot at?” “Did anyone in your unit die?” I’m not sure what it is about that uniform that seems to give people the right to think it’s OK to ask ridiculously insensitive questions, but it does happen. And I want to punch them in the face.
I don’t know the best way to honor veterans. But personally, if I see a veteran I offer a handshake and a simple “thank you for your service.” And for my friends who served, I’m just there. There if they want to talk about what happened, and there when they want to talk about everything else instead.
When it comes to Will, all I can do is instill in him an appreciation for the monumental sacrifice our veterans make for us. And lucky for us both, I happen to have a handful of friends I can show him who illustrate that point perfectly.
Happy Memorial Day. And thank you—all of you who put your lives on the line for this country—for your service.
My wife (bless her heart) can be a nightmare when ordering at restaurants. Just like Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally,” she orders things very specifically and on the side and substitute this for that…let’s just say I cringe whenever she makes one of her “special requests.” And if something is wrong or she isn’t happy with her food, she sends it back.
I sent food back once, and that was because there was a band-aid in my mashed potatoes. I’ve gotten food that isn’t cooked exactly right, but I eat it. Or they give me the wrong dressing, so instead of sending it back I just suck it up. Hell, I’ve found a hair in my food and I forge ahead. Maybe it’s because I started working in a restaurant when I was 15 and still vividly remember how horrible some customers can be, but the point is, I have a very strong stomach and—short of a band-aid—there isn’t much that will bother me.
But congratulations McDonald’s, you raised the bar.
On Sunday we stopped at the McDonald’s near our house, located at 370 MacArthur Blvd. in Bourne, Mass. Will loves chicken nuggets and MJ decided to treat herself to a Big Mac and fries. We walked in, ordered, got our food and sat down. Will began munching away (because we told him he can’t open his happy meal toy until he’s done eating) and MJ tore into her Big Mac. She and I were picking at her fries. I was eating so many of them she decided to dump out half the box on a napkin on top of the table for me.
And that’s when we both nearly lost our lunch, because we saw this:
Yup. That’s right. An inchworm. Wriggling away, still very much alive. It came out with the fries when MJ dumped them on the napkin.
Now first of all, this is not a fake picture. I took it shortly after we discovered it, right there on the table. It wasn’t there before, we didn’t go outside after we ordered and we’re not carrying around inchworms trying to scam free meals. There actually was an inchworm in our food.
Look, as I laid out before I’m not a prude. I can deal with a lot. But even though we weren’t dining at a 5-star gourmet bistro, I still think we’re entitled to food without living worms in it. And while I understand McDonald’s is all about their “healthy options menu,” I think we can all agree this is not what they had in mind when they talked about eating more greens.
Now, being a reporter, I wanted to see how the staff would react.
I sent MJ up with the inchworm and the employees let out a simultaneous “EWWWW!” And yes, they apologized. But amazingly, that was it. We got a “Gee I’m really sorry about that” and then it was back to our table. A few minutes later the girl working the register did come back over and ask if she could get us anything else, but at that point I was fuming. A manager did eventually come over, but I was less than enthralled with his attitude as he said “I know you’re never going to eat here again after this, but here’s a coupon for a free meal in case you do.”
Yeah. That’s what I want after finding a worm in my food. More contaminated food.
My question is, WHERE WAS THE OFFER TO REFUND OUR MONEY?!?!? I specifically didn’t ask for it because I was waiting for them to offer. It should’ve been automatic and without an ounce of hesitation. You find a living animal in your food, you get your money back. I think it would be wise for all restaurants to adopt such a policy, don’t you? But instead I got a belated offer of more worm food.
To be fair, I did get a response on Twitter from a McDonald’s team member who had me call an 800 number to report the complaint. The following day. After the picture of the worm had already been viewed hundreds of times on Twitter. But by that time they had already blown it in my eyes.
I guess I should thank them. This McDonald’s is open 24 hours and less than a mile from my house. After a late meeting it’s the only thing open, and I’ve succumbed to the charm of the Golden Arches more than once. But not anymore. Now I’ll eat healthier, if only by subtracting McDonald’s from my diet altogether. Finding a wiggling little worm in your fries will do that.
But I guess the upside is fishermen can look forward to a Big Mac with free bait!