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Chapter 4: Who’s Carolina Herrera?

So I called Ben Liberty.

A brief phone conversation revealed a super friendly man who seemed far-from-pretentious when he listed the companies for whom he creates samples: Gucci, Coach, J.Crew.

Once again, I was talking to a behind-the-scenes fashion mover-and-shaker who voiced full enthusiasm for my project.

Spoiler alert: throughout the entirety of my research and building this company, everyone everyone EVERYONE has been nothing but helpful and enthusiastic. I expected Project Runway attitude and fashion snobbery. Nothing could be further from the truth.

(Well, actually, Howard with the Italian fabrics was condescending and unimpressed, but then again, I didn’t actually tell him what I was making.)

So, in person, Ben ended up being a blue-collar Bostonian with a fantastic small factory on the far Lower East Side of Manhattan.

“I used to be one of hundreds. But 9/11 destroyed our business. No one could get to us. Everything south of Chambers was closed off for months. We couldn’t do business. That’s why I’m the only one left.”

His factory was about 1,000 square feet of leather cutting, piercing, treating machines, rolls of extra fabric, and drafting tables with chemicals and dyes.

This felt so authentically cool.

He ruminated: “So anyway. Men’s fashion. It’s much more interesting than women’s. Women’s is cyclical. It’s all been done. There’s not much new. But men are just catching on and becoming more fashionable. That said, it’s tough. Men’s bags are really, really tough. What’s your idea, again?”

“A stylish men’s diaper bag,” I responded.

He stared at the ground with arms folded for a pondering moment and then said, “Oh,” dramatic pause “Now that’s a good idea.”

I smirked. “I know.”

So we (James and I) showed him our initial designs and told him we were waiting for our fabric to arrive from Italy, but could he build for us in the spring? (It was February, now.)

“Um…I think so. I mean, I gotta do some work in my getaway house and I think I’m outta town in a few weeks for a client, and then my wife has forced me to take a vacation and then I have some work to accomplish. But my wife keeps track of all that. But I think I can.”

He took a dramatic pause.

BUT, if Mrs. Herrera calls, I drop everything for her.”

Uh-huh. Anyway.

“Okay, sounds good. Well, we’ll be in touch as soon as possible, get our fabrics, hardware, lining fabric and the like and we will be in touch.”

James and I walked out. Even though this was a research-based initial interview, I was in love. “He’s the guy. I don’t even care if other people are cheaper or easier or anything. He’s just so nice and seems so calm and competent and kind. I wanna use him. But…who was that Japanese-sounding woman he referred to?”

James was aghast and closed his eyes with a smirk. “Somewhere in the world Carolina Herrerra just gagged because someone doesn’t know her name.”

We laughed. Hard. But seriously – I’d never heard of this woman. In my defense, she hardly makes any clothing for men. Now I recognize her as one of the most hoity-toity of all Upper Ease Side women’s designers.

But I hope somewhere in the world, Ms. Hererra was humbled just a little bit…by an entrepreneur fashion wannabe.

You’re ok with being humbled as “Jenny from the block”, Carolina, aren’t you?

And I set out to round out my cache of fabrics and hardware.


My First Sponsored Post (But Actually Not)

I’ve never written a sponsored post. There’s a whole world of badass bloggers who are making a living writing about products and services and restaurants and hotels and all sorts of fabulously gifted items.

I’ve lacked diligence and focus to do so effectively.

I dipped my toe into that world by recently attending the “Dad 2.0” conference, an event where hundreds of dad bloggers from across the country came together to network, commiserate, and meet companies actively seeking bloggers to write sponsored posts.

I’ve found it intimidating to imbue my stories of everyday life with shout outs to Crest or Kia. I’m afraid I’d be disingenuous. It changes blogs, a lot. But before I get judgmental about it, the conference was all about “how to make money from your blog”.

And why not? Companies are desperate to find new ways to reach audiences.

In the Hulu and Instagram world, we try to avoid ads at all costs. But we are a nation of consumers. Buying stuff drives the American economy. And if industry can’t market to us, we don’t know what to consume.

Ads are vital to our economy and industry.

The fact that bloggers are now tools of marketers is a win-win. Bloggers have an audience that marketers need to reach. And the best bloggers still inform and entertain their readers, even with ads.

Anyway, at the Dad 2.0 summit, several companies were there to recruit writers and hand out swag. That was fun. Mini Lego sets of the Millenium Falcom from Lego, energy bars from Plum Organics, a pop-up barber shop sponsored by Dove Men, and Kia loaned cars to go for beignet runs (Dad2.0 was in New Orleans.)

One of the booths was Hanes. I was impressed that the first thing touted in their booth was their effort to reduce water waste in their factories, as well as incorporate recycled fibers into their underwear. Good for you, international-corporation-able-to-single-handedly-affect-climate-change-one-undy-at-a-time.

(They also solicited writers to take a trip to a National Park with their family and write about their experience. Yo, Hanes! Pick me! Pick me!)

Another booth sponsor was Clorox. They had a mock bathroom and kitchen and set up a “cleaning competition” where participants had to pick up plastic balls (like in a ball pit). The winner with the most points won a Visa (* not #ad) gift card as well as a $500 donation to the charity of their choosing.

While standing in line to “compete”, I started sweating because it felt like a commercial audition. As an actor, I loathe commercial auditions. So often casting directors say, “Just improv! Have fun with it!” And I start comparing myself to my audition competition (none of whom I’ve seen) and think about the actors who’ve invested their time and money in improv classes when I just wanna come in and read a card that says, “Buy this shit” and rush back to pick my kids up from school. I’m not that improv/commercial guy.

But at Dad 2.0, there weren’t a lot of actors. So I pulled out some easy fall-back gimmicks like physical comedy and a bump-n-grind in the midst of “cleaning up” my kitchen. It was cheap.

As they tallied my arbitrary points, Clorox gave me the quick schpiel on their current campaign to point out “a cleaner house leads to less stress, more focused kids, and healthier emotional and physical health.“

Such a link isn’t the first thing I think of when I buy Clorox items, but it really did make an impact on me.

And then, at the end of Dad2.0, I learned that I’d won. I felt like I’d cheated, but I won.

And I suddenly had $500 to donate to an organization of my choice? Sweet.

I felt like Clorox gave me keys to a kingdom. I thought of political groups (duh), campaign finance reform, protecting trans kids, etc.
And just a few short days later, Parkland happened.

Working to keep guns OUT of schools would be my cause. (At the very least. I mean – truth be told…I’d just get rid of guns, period. But I digress…)

I wrote my contact at Clorox hoping it wouldn’t be too “controversial” to give Clorox bucks to something slightly controversial and sadly political.

Clorox said: It’s entirely your call.

So I was honored to give $500 to the Sandy Hook Promise. I mean – an organization founded after the mass murder of 1st graders and kindergarteners wasn’t able to convince Congress to act, but it’s still trying to enact change.

And today, I heartily applaud the students from Stoneman Douglas and their activism in demanding that everyone, someone, ANYONE do something about guns in classrooms, the youthful purchase of assault rifles, bump stock sales and (not) arming teachers.

Clorox doesn’t have much of chance to, for instance, ban sales of guns to minors. (Thank you, Dick’s and Walmart!) But they are on a campaign to make people healthier by promoting cleanliness. I’m pretty sure they’d support limits on gun purchase, ownership and use. I won’t force them to take that stand.

But I will gladly use their money to further a cause helping keep children (and adults) safer and healthier. “Clean is the beginning. The rest is everything.” I’ll buy that.

Chapter 3 – International Color Cartel

So I called the fabric guy. It was just before Christmas and he said, “I can’t meet until the new year. I’ll be in Italy making decisions about colors and textures.”

I had it in my mind he was one of the international color cartel that decides what the rest of us poor consumerist schlubs will be force-fed for the next year.

A few weeks later, my design partner (James) and I were ushered into a conference room lined with 4 rows of 12×12 fabric swatches.

Fabric guy (Howard) knew he was dealing with newbies.

His eyes-half-mast behind the glasses demeanor gave away nothing. He wasn’t a shark ready to take advantage of us, but I could see the sigh behind his Elliott-Gould-in-Ocean’s-Eleven glasses that said, “this is such a waste of time.”

Before meeting Howard, I told James I wanted the bag to be leather – like Louis Vuitton bags, but dyed deep navy blue.

“Ok, well Louis Vuitton isn’t leather, first off.”


“It’s coated canvas.”

“Coated with what?”


“You mean, these rich people are just carrying around Chuck Taylors coated in melted Fisher Price toys? How ridiculous.”

Luckily, I didn’t need to expose my low-brow condescension to pompous fabric dude.

When I told him, “We’re looking for deep navy blue coated canvas,” he asked, “What are you making again?”

Julia’s words rang in my head. “Don’t tell him what you’re making.”

“Um…a messenger bag for men.”

He smelled my obfuscation. I smelled his disdain.

“Well, do you want PU or PVC?”

“He-heh. What do those stand for?”

“Polyeurethane and PVC.”

“Like PVC pipes?”


* Amend my previous assertion about rich people carrying canvas grocery bags covered in melted plastic pipes.

“Um…what’s the difference?”

“It’s preference.”

“OK. What would you recommend?”

“I’ll show you both.”

He brought us a few hangers with indistinguishable squares of deep navy blue melted plastic on canvas.

I stared in that quickly-mind-numbing way when you contemplate the difference between paint chips labeled “delft” and “bashful delft.”

Finally, Howard said, “I mean, one thing is: you can’t have PVC with kids. It’s toxic.”

OMG. Was he reading my mind? Thank goodness he was doing so.

“Oh, OK. Um…we want PU.”

Phew. Dodged a PR nightmare, there.

We settled on a fabric that cost 23 euros/square meter.

(Yet another time I think the US absolutely needs to get its act together and adopt the metric system. Seriously, my fellow Americans, what are we doing?)

Howard’s company was NOT converting to inches, let alone dollars.

The height of pretension. Sorta.

To further the sting, I wasn’t ordering in bulk. I just needed a little bit, which doubled the price. So we ordered 3 square meters of this fabric for 46 euros/sq meter.

As we were filling out the paperwork, Howard mentioned, “You know, I really think you should be considering nylon. It’s the future.”

I had my chance – “Wait. Are you part of that international fashion cartel that decides what colors and textures we will be wearing for the next four years? Is that why you had to be in Italy over New Year’s?”

He didn’t even smirk.

“No. That was just for factory meetings. No, I’m telling you that nylon is the future. It’s the 80’s, again.”

“Heh-heh,” I nervously giggled. “What does that mean, actually?”

“Those ‘LeSport’ bags and ‘Members Only’ windbreakers?”

I made an “ew” face.

“Yeah. They’re back. You’re gonna come back here asking for nylon, I’m telling you.”

And then, as an afterghought, I asked, “Do you know any prototype bag makers?”

Before this moment, I’d always assumed I was going to ask some of my costuming/wardrobe contacts in the Broadway community to somehow manufacture a bag for me. I didn’t know if they would or what the result would be, but that was my only brainstorm.

“Nope. They’re all gone. That whole industry is overseas. And what few remain are all schisters and dupes. They’re awful. You can’t trust anyone, anymore.”

Shoot. That was deflating.

“Except this guy I heard about, Ben Liberty. I don’t know him. I don’t know anything about him. Except I hear he’s good.”

“Ok. Ben Liberty. Do you have his number?”


This guy.

I walked out the office door, looked at James and rolled my eyes. “That was a trip.”

“Without a doubt,” he said.

We high-fived.

I’d now put money on the line. This was becoming real.

And then I called Ben Liberty…


Chapter 2 – Starting the Path

So I called a good friend, (also an actor), who had some experience in design, James Brown. I asked him, “I have a random idea for a design I’d like to ask you about. Can you meet me at the playground where I bring my kids?”

A few days later we met at a playground, aka my office.

“What do you think of making a stylish diaper bag for dads?”

He didn’t guffaw in my face. Phew. First step down.

Right away, James put together some inspiring ideas and notions of other bags. A week later, we met up at a coffee shop (so we’d have a table for sketching) and laid out a basic idea of a messenger bag.

I mentioned, “I’d like the bag to be deep navy blue. Like Louis Vuitton material, but blue.”

Armed with a design, I first reached out to a friend, Mike Lubin, whom I like to call “the unofficial president of an unofficial gay dads club” with which I’m remotely active.

I texted him a pic of my design and said, “what do you think of a company making baby gear for stylish dads?”

He texted right back: “You should reach out to my friend, a fashion consultant, Amy Meadow.”

Delighted to be pushed forward, but (ever the needy actor) I still had to ask, “But…what do you think of the design?”

He was very complimentary.

Phew. Someone likes me.

That was pivotal. (The networking, not the compliment.) As an actor, I always think of “networking” as a dirty word – it’s so self-serving. “Hi. What do you think of me? Don’t you think I’m great? Will you hire me?”

But Mike sending me to Amy forced me to call strangers and ask for advice and direction. It’s self-serving, but also collaborative. “Hi. I have this idea and Mike said I should call you and ask for advice and direction.”

Surprisingly, along this mulit-year path of advice-seeking, every single person has enthusiastically contributed to my path.

And I can’t wait to return the favor. It’s exciting to hear about new ideas and work with people to advance a collective cause of entrepreneurial spirit.

So I call Amy Meadow and give her my quick schpiel. As I talked, I could hear her fingers tapping in the background, presumably to Google “baby gear for stylish dads.”

“Ohmigosh, I can’t believe this doesn’t already exist. What a great idea!” she said. “Okay. You don’t need me, right now, you need my friend Julia. She’s a factory-sourcer for diaper bags. She will help a lot more. Call me back after a few more steps.”

So I called Julia

Again I hear background keyboard googling. “Ohmigosh. How does this not already exist? Alright, I help source companies, but mainly I work with UN-stylish quilted bags carried by women in the TKTS line.”

(This cracked me up. I hadn’t even told her I’m an actor and she’, well…joked about the tourists in line for 1/2 price Broadway tickets.)

Julia gave me a brief breakdown of how to budget and breakdown services and products. It was mind-boggling.

And then: “OK, you don’t need me, yet. Go talk to my friend, a fabric importer. He can help you pick a fabric and start building.”I’ll stick with reaching out to the fabric guy.

“He’s the best fabric guy in all of New York. I promise. His products are unparalleled. But,” (dramatic pause) “don’t tell him what you’re doing.”

Happy for the heads-up, I called the fabric guy.


So…Now I Confess…

While my blog is often about my personal/public therapy, it’s now truly my own confession time.

I started blogging to sell stuff.

I know, I know. Once again, I’m a monster. Worse than when I went hoarse yelling at my youngest due to his #tearlesscrying.

But lemme explain:

A few years ago I founded a company making “baby gear for stylish dads”.

See, when I was expecting my first son, I wanted a really nice diaper bag. Something super stylish, super masculine, and not necessarily inexpensive. I was thinking, “I’m cool with paying $250 for a bag that states, ‘I’m a proud dad and I’ve got style.’”

Shockingly, I couldn’t find anything like it.

So I had a kid, got a dumpy bag, became permanently sleep-deprived, got some gray hairs, had another kid, became ten times more overwhelmed and under-rested, and then decided, “I think I’ll start a company making stylish baby gear for dads. I’ve never been a business person, I studied international affairs and philosophy 87 years ago in college, and I’m just an actor.”

What could go wrong?

But I’m certain waaaaaay dumber people than I have figured this out.

So I founded the company, designed a bag and got several steps into the process (don’t worry: I’ll fill in the details, later) when I spoke with married friends, both of whom had graduated from the Harvard Business School. It’s not like I had an inferiority complex due to their Ivy League pedigree (yes I did), but their opinions of my venture really mattered.

I visited these friends at a summer cabin they own in Vermont and it was while we sat around their campfire eating s’mores and waving away smoke when I regaled them with my entrepreneurial story to that point.

They both agreed, “This idea is great. You need to start blogging.”

I was like, “Sweet! Wait. Huh?”

They quickly schooled me on the ways of blogging and building a clientele and marketing and whatnot and eventually I sorta got it: tell relatable stories and there’s your audience.

So I set out to blog. That was the genesis of this trove of half-assed, inconsistent, missives.

The idea was to alternate (weekly) with posts flipping between fatherhood and fashion. That was laughable since fashion is not actually my thing. Undoubtedly I like nice clothes and looking turned out, but my rather vanilla J.Crew personal style is nothing to blog about.

Still – I was venturing into the world of fashion and I don’t dress poorly. So…why not?

I also reached out to network with fashion and dad bloggers across the webisphere. A few immediately said, “Let’s have lunch. My blogging consultation fee is $____.”

That I was not interested in. Paying someone to advise me on blogging felt dirty; like paying for a Donald Trump webinar on “making money in your sleep and from your room.”

One fashion blogger, however, met me for drinks. He tapped around my nascent site and said, “You have to stop writing about your idea right now.”

To that point, I’d shared my idea for a diaper bag in six posts. First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth. (I’d love it if you clicked on all these and shared it with all your friends and bought three bags, while you’re at it. But don’t worry – I’ll re-write them all, then we can fact-check and check my memory since I’m doing all the work over. Because content. )

I was scared to do so, but I figured I needed to go public, at some point. And I figured I’d document my entrepreneurial journey along the way.

“No, dude. No, no, no. It’s probably going to take much longer than you expect. And in the meantime, someone else will take your idea.”

I’m a trusting Coloradan. Not that Coloradans don’t get screwed or have ideas stolen, but I just trust people.

But this fashion blogger made perfect sense.

So I stopped. And I doubled down on writing about my kids, my life in New York, my increasingly whiny younger son, and vented on some topics about which I probably had no business venting.

It’s been a long road. Four years of product development. I have a lot of stories.

And I finally have a product. I can officially announce that the first series of my diaper bag is available at Barney’s on Madison Avenue in NYC and online at Barney’s and my own website,

(The “E” and “C” are for my sons’ names, “Knox” is my middle name.)

And now, I finally get to fulfill the original intent of my blog…to sell stuff. Sorry. Don’t worry – I’m not expecting you to buy a bag. But I’d love it if you mentioned to any man (or woman! – no discrimination in this company.)

Or heck, message me on this page and let me know you’d like to buy one, and I can definitely hook you up with a hefty “friends ‘n family” discount. For reals. I know a guy.

But what might hopefully interest you is me documenting my journey.

After all, I went from an idea to a brainstorming session on a napkin (no joke) to landing a bag at Barney’s.

Yeah. I’m proud. I hope you’ll read my story.

(Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of complaining about my kids along the way.)




Oh! If you’d follow me on Instagram, I’d sure love that!




Guys: we are gross.

Guys – we are so gross. For reals. I mean – I’m in a house of two gay dads, two little boys (one rather gender nonconforming) and a slightly incontinent female dog.

And I swear that dog is cleaner and smells less than the rest of us.

For example – note the above picture. That is the tiny flat part of the base of our toilet where the bolt attaches the john to the floor. Somehow, even though both kids are potty-trained and have a good enough aim, within five days, that part of the toilet is caked in…um…urine. Without fail.

I swear to you – I clean this weekly.

Until becoming a father of two “standing-up-pissers” I have never, EVER regularly (or ever) cleaned that part of a toilet. Admittedly, I lived in college apartments that could’ve violated health codes, I thought that was more about our kitchen cleanliness, rather than our bad pee-pee projection.

Seriously – what is our deal in the bathroom, guys? I read somewhere, once, that mens’ urine can splash up to eight feet.

I’m not a clean-freak, by any stretch. But: gag.

During my early NYC days waiting tables, I had a hilarious manager who cracked us up, saying, “Men, I do not know what you do in those bathrooms. But even the entitled wall street tycoons render our bathroom a nuclear waste site.”

She was right. Our restaurant was a $30/plate kinda place. And the bathrooms were regularly a million-dollar stench.

(The manager read somewhere that a coffee mug of espresso beans could absorb some beans. She placed those under the toilet. The first night she did so, someone complained. Eye roll.)

Bathroom cleanliness has become a minor issue at my kiddo’s school. Luckily, it’s not a bathroom “issue” for my gender-bender. You might recall he solved his own problem of “which bathroom to go to” by proactively asking if he could pee in the unmarked stalls on the kindergarten floor. (So proud of him for solving that issue, himself.)

Anyway, there’s been a convo amongst a few parents about having un-labeled bathrooms.

(If you have strong feelings about separating boys and girls in bathrooms, you might just want to check out, now.)

Seems to me, especially pre-puberty, a lot of the boys would have a lot to learn from the girls in the bathroom. I mean, let’s face it: girls are not “immune” from raising hell in the bathroom, but…how many of you lady-readers recall seeing boogers all over your elementary school bathrooms?

I distinctly remember being semi-traumatized by our elementary school bathrooms – there were no doors on the stalls. I mean…pooping in front of the fifth graders when you’re in third grade was definitely a precursor to lifelong therapy. But why were there no stall doors? Cuz the boys were maniacs, that’s why!

I heard through my school’s bathroom-discussion-grapevine that several kindergarten girls contracted urinary track infections, last year. Reason being they avoided the nasty boys-peed-upon stalls.

I’m not well-versed in 5-yo urinary track infection derivation, but I’d be pissed if I had a daughter in that situation. Pun intended.

But still – what about a real bathroom-awareness campaign? Yeast infections notwithstanding (no small deal, I’m aware), with all-gendered bathrooms, perhaps the teachers (and parents – duh) could raise the bar by demanding better aim and behavior in the bathroom. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?- a school-wide campaign that shames the boys into being cleaner? Progress, people. That’d be progress.

In the midst of a school yard discussion, one woman said, “but what about the fifth grade girls who might be getting their periods?”

And one bold mother said, “You know? I’d appreciate it if my daughter weren’t treated like a disgusting, unsanitary handmaid in a red robe and white habit when she’s menstruating. Why can’t the boys be expected to mature, a bit, and accept this important part of life without thinking my daughter is disgusting?”

Huh. Strong point. Very strong point.

Heck, sometimes we all need privacy in a bathroom. And there’s a lot to be said for kids crying in private or pooping in private or just having a moment of privacy. I suppose I’m a big advocate of the “everybody” bathrooms that have the European floor-to-ceiling private stalls. That gives privacy.

But just imagine the boogers and toilet paper vandalism and graffiti. Sigh.

Ugh. We’re just disgusting animals, all of us. (But mostly the guys.)

Excuse me. I need to go scrub the dried urine off the white toilet. Who knows what’s caked onto our metallic tile floor.



Just Trying to be One of the Ladies

So I’ve re-joined the gym. For a few years I was the “I’ll-stay-in-shape-by-doing a-marathon,” which meant running intensely for three months of the year and eating and drinking my face off the other 9 months.

After the marathon I’d buy a few groupons to a crossfit gym or a kettlebell class and use about 30% of the groupon…exactly the way they hope we will function.

This year, I just thought – rather than waste most of my money, I’d join the neighborhood cheap-ass gym nearest my apartment.

And actually? – it works. The lighting isn’t sexy, the towel service isn’t fluffy, but it’s fine.

So I’ve been taking classes because I just want people to tell me what to do. I’m no longer 25 and hoping to be an underwear model (which was always a pipe dream. I don’t have the wherewithal to live on celery sticks and Emergen-C over ice). Now, I just wanna maintain some leanness. So I’m all about having someone else boss me around.

For the past few months (even before New Year’s…this ain’t some fly-by-night new year resolution that’s gonna be abandoned) I’ve been boxing, spinning and “total body conditioning”.

You know those – the ones filled with women…so men think they’re too tough for them?

Yeah, those.

Every. Single. Time. I’ve walked in arrogantly thinking I was too brutish for the class. And Every. Single. Time. I’ve had my ass (and shoulders and abs and glutes and quads and biceps) handed to me on a dirty yoga mat.

Every single one of my dozen “this’ll be cake since it’s really for ladies” classes has gone something like this:

*** I walk in, assess the room. ***

Hm. Four middle-aged women. All older than me. They must be so intimidated, me who’s gonna come in and ruin their mojo cuz I’m gonna be so much stronger than they are. Wait. Are they older than me?

I glance in the mirror.

Never mind. I’m older. They’re still impressed I’m here. Cuz dudes don’t take these classes. Wait. That’s the teacher? What is she? Like 95? This is not sexy Equinox with a toned 27-yo model body. It’s gonna be jazzercise from the 80’s. Ugh. Wasting my time.

*** Warm up w step-touches, a few grapevines, and step-touches in a circle.***

What is this – a nursing home exercise class? This is embarrassing. The men lifting actual weights outside this studio must be judging me getting my Jane Fonda on. I’m sure they’re not thinking about their own insecurities and checking their body image issues in the mirrors.

***Lunges with weights.***

Lunges with bicep curls? Ok. At least we’re doing two things at once. Should I pick up my medium weights or my heavy weights? Well, these ladies are using mini-weights. I don’t want to seem too arrogant. I’ll do the medium weights.

*** And very quickly… ***

Wow. This is getting hard. At least we’re almost done.

***We weren’t almost done. We were on the first of 147 sets***

Ohmigod. I’m the only one wincing. This instructor has great form. Good for her. Wait, I just gave her a “good for her” sympathy thumbs-up, but she doesn’t need sympathy. This must be the big push at the beginning, though. And my legs are always the quickest to tire. Must be because I’ve got strong ones. We must be almost done.

*** “And another few sets, girls! Oh! And gentleman!” ***

Thanks for the shout out. I need to step it up. Stop looking tired. Wait. Another set? Ohmigod. When will this fresh hell be over? Let’s get to the arm workout. Then it’ll be easy for me. Keep…your…form…come on. Almost done. Come on…

*** We finish the lunges. My legs are quivering. ***

Oh, thank God.

Meanwhile, I’m totally judging the teacher’s choice of 90’s music boy band music…which I secretly love and know all the lyrics. Well, those leg sets were tough, but I’m sure the rest of the class will be easy and a waste of my time.

*** 798 shoulder presses combined with squats and standing-side leg-lifts ***

Come ON, Me! Keep your shoulders up. Wait, is this the Backstreet Boys? Or N’Sync? Wait. Do I like this song? Or do I LOVE it? It’d be a hell of a lot better if I could put these weights down. I’ve skipped, like, half this set. I’m skipping steps. Wait. Are they watching me? Are all these ladies who are doing their 478th leg lift looking at me? Stop being so narcissistic. They aren’t watching. They don’t care. Stop being such a man, dude – thinking they’re all watching; thinking they care that a man invaded the class. No one’s watching me, now…I hope. Because I’ve just collapsed and I’m skipping half these leg holds.

*** Push-ups. ***

Oh, good. Now I’ll regain my dignity.

*** Six push-ups, later…***

Ohmigod. Is this some sick kind of voodoo magic this unicorn-of-an-instructor is pulling? I can usually do 30 push-ups with no problem. But I’m collapsing at seven. I bet the women are all doing knee-push-ups.

*** I look around. They’re not doing knee push-ups. ***

I think I’m already done. Surely they’re all done. Wait, – one-legged push-ups? What’s going ON? And I have to do it again on the other side?

*** OK, ladies – and gentleman- now more arms. You might want to pick up a heavier weight. ***

I audibly laugh. She winks at me.

Oh, yeah. I bet she’s already like, “I knew you’d be dying, by now, kiddo…you and your arrogant, yet fragile, ego. I’ve seen it all, before.”

*** Time for abs ***

By now, I’ve reoriented my goal…just make it through half of these sets. Abs always suck in classes like this.

Yep, they sucked. I did about 30% of the abs. The instructor has done every single move all while coaching us through her Britney Spears microphone.

I need to re-tool my New Year goals: to merely keep up with the badass women in my “only-for-ladies” class.



From Fear to #MeToo and Back Again

I’m fascinated by the ongoing societal discussion of sexual harassment and worldwide reckoning with the thousands-year exploitation of women.

The movement makes me think about a badass dear friend of mine, Charlotte, who talks about the dawning of the age of Aquarius (unrelated to the song) and who’s personal mission is to reunite people with their inner divinity.

I’m not well-versed in astrology, new age intellectualism, or vortexes. But I do believe there is a deep energy force that connects humans to each other and to nature, and is what orchestrates the harmony with our Mother Earth (however unharmonious we humans try to make it.) Call this energy what you will. I’m fine with calling it God.

So Charlotte is the leader (she hates that term but I’m proud to call her that) of an ever-expanding “circle of women”. They believe in the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine (which are vastly different from the notion of gender roles) and seek to harness the power (or divinity) within human beings to reformulate a more peaceful, energy-focused, divine world that’s less fucked up by humans and the institutions that screwed it all up for us: government, church, corporations.

Or, if you will, organizations constructed by men.

All of these institutions are elements of un-divine masculinity: a perverted basis of power, competition, destruction and war that didn’t always dictate humankind.

For example, Charlotte talks about how Europe in the “Dark” Ages was actually much more matriarchal and not “dark”, at all. The women had deep knowledge of nature, plant remedies, and energy forces. Society was egalitarian and symbiotic. There wasn’t ownership of land by individuals since villages had to work together to survive. And women were leaders in their communities.

Sure, there were invading Huns, pestilence, and life was about survival, with much less pleasure. But what we call the “Dark Ages” wasn’t a time of universal suffering; it just happens not to be an era defined by conquer, control, competition, ambition, and domination. Life in fiefdoms was marked by fewer historic milestones, so the men writing the history books considered it a dark time. But “normal” life was not “dark.”

But then societal institutions (church, government, and “companies”…meaning private ownership of stuff) became fearful that they couldn’t keep control. So they move to repress. And these organizations run by men certainly couldn’t have women’s input. They were afraid of losing their grip on power, so these organizations acted as tyrants and demagogues, harnessing power and competing to be top dog.

Bringing that closer to home, “masculinity” (power, competition, domination, war) has screwed up society and men. This last-couple-millennia age of war (as opposed to that of Aquarius) has meant a distorted notion of masculinity has screwed up men, our notion of manhood, and gender roles.

And we men are so very screwed up. We have impenetrable emotional walls, we are afraid of showing vulnerability or proclivities other than the mainstream. In general, we lack the intimate friendships that bond women to each other. We focus on competition instead of mental health, domination instead of mutual benefits, defensiveness instead of openness.

And we are afraid. So very afraid – of not being the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, the richest, the manliest, the most virile and most respected. We fear NOT being top dog.

But what does being the top dog get us? – things that really matter in life?

We have manipulated our worlds into that of power and conquest – leading us directly to the scandals du jour of rampant sexual harassment. Instead of sex being a mutual bond, it’s about domination and conquest.

And I believe that’s directly related to sexual harassment. We have unhealthy perspectives of sex and sexuality that have been bastardized by the institutions that control society and norms and laws…those aforementioned institutions meant to control society and created by, yes: men.

(Andrew Sullivan has written a myopic account, recently, talking about the different genetic programming between men and women and that men are programmed to compete and dominate. I don’t dispute that. And he points out that gay men are a microcosm of competition and domination without women’s influence and basically, “It’s just fine.” I’d argue that, sure, men and women are genetically programmed to act differently and that men are naturally more competitive and seek dominance. However, it can be combined with respect and self-control. Healthy approaches to sex and being in tune with one’s own ego doesn’t mean undermining our genetic predisposition. Come on, Andy. You can’t excuse unwanted groping as being acceptable because of genetic programming…for women or men, gay or straight.)

But I digress.

I used to think the “Age of Aquarius” was hippy mumbo-jumbo. But, maybe we are finally turning a corner from an age of destruction toward an age of, I dunno…construction? You wouldn’t think so with the saber-rattling of international leaders. But let’s think big picture – 51% of the world population is acquiring more influence and proving more than adept in leadership positions. For the first time, possibly in history, societies are legislating parity.

We know we need to collaborate to save the delicate world that sustains our existence.

We know we are economically interdependent and need to wage cooperation, not war.

This dawning age of cooperation is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take decades (or centuries) to establish. But war makes less sense. Domination and selfish competition make less sense.

Is #MeToo leading us closer to Aquarius where men can re-discover the “sacred masculine” (without fear “compromising” a 2018 sense of “masculinity”) and women can settle into the “sacred feminine” (or men can embrace their inner femininity without fear and vice-versa for women?)

The new possibilities are limitless in a world with less fear.

What a world that could be…


I Waited for Two Hours. What was the Point?

Here’s a conversation I had with myself while waiting in sub-freezing temperatures for two hours to spend about five minutes in an art exhibit. I had some real epiphanies about parenting and art…

9:40, not bad. Surely that chalked sign on the sidewalk can’t be accurate: ’90 minute wait from this point.’ Yeah, right. It can’t seriously take that long to see this Japanese artist. Wait, what is this exhibit, again?

I dunno. I just saw it on Instagram and read about it in the Times, a few months ago. So…I’m here because the Times and some people on IG told you to come?

More or less.

So we are posers. Just wanting to see things cuz other people are doing it?

I guess. Isn’t everybody?

Especially in New York.

Seriously – except for the 1% of artistic elite (and who are those people, anyway?) aren’t we all just seeing stuff cuz other people tell us to?

Do you think we’ll get in and think it’s stupid?

I mean, duh. It’s some 90 year-old woman’s paintings of polkadots.

Seriously – like, our six year-old could almost do the exact same thing.


How much time has passed?

Three and a half minutes.

Jesus H. I’m freezing. Thank goodness for this coffee to warm my hands.

For now.


<20 seconds of silence passes in the freezing cold>

Two hours in the bitter cold just to say we did it? Is this worth it? This is when New York sucks. There’s just too much demand.

I know. The crowds screw it up for everyone.

But we still play the game. You just do these things to say “I was there”?


The Gates?


That play you had to see in three parts and some people saw it all in one day.

Right. I missed that. Coast of Utopia?

Something like that.


At the Public.

Right. Pre-Broadway.

That photographic exhibition on the old White Star Lines pier ten years ago?

Right. With the over-sized sepia photography of elephants and kids underwater.

Oh, yeah. That was…random. But it felt cool to have seen it.

And brag that you were there.


But now? We’re standing in line for 2 hours…

Please don’t let it be that long…

And we will be in this room for a couple minutes, at the most.

Wait, what?

Yeah, they don’t let you linger more than 30 seconds in the three rooms. There’s just too much demand.

Ohmigod, this is bullshit.

Thank god the kids aren’t here.

Seriously. And then in those 30 seconds, we’re just gonna have our phones out Insta-bragging about the experience. Shouldn’t we put phones away and just be in the moment?

Are you fucking kidding? Then there’s no proof we were there. If it doesn’t happen on Instagram….

I know. But this is art and it’s fleeting. Maybe we should go all 19th-century?

Hell, no.

I kinda think you shouldn’t photograph churches or sunsets. Photos never do it justice.

Um, 1986 called. It wants its photographic pretension back. Are you kidding me? This is why we’re here! Pretension! Shouldn’t we be too good for instagram?

I suppose. This kinda thing drives me crazy, though. Reminds me of my mom. She drug me around to museums and always took 6 hours to read every panel about harbor seal genus or random Dutch painters who weren’t even in the same epoch as Von Gogh. It was awful. I hated museums.

But you remember going, right?

I guess.

And were you the most worldly 4th grader having schlepped through the Air and Space Museum for six hours?

Um, maybe? Was it worth it? Wouldn’t I still have been smart’ish without suffering through four hours in an art museum that no 10-year-old could care about?

Who could say?

What if I had my kids, here? They’d just whine and say they wanna go and I’d just be herding cats and telling them, “don’t touch that. Don’t touch that. Stop running. Don’t touch anything. Calm the fuck down.”


So what would be the point?

They’d remember it like you remember suffering through the Air and Space Museum.

Is that why we do this? We bring on the sadist and the masochistic cultural suffering to brag we were there and hope our kids will have a faint memory of having done it…just so we all get social ladder points for saying, “I was there.”


Couldn’t we just see it in a book? Instead of waiting for 2 hours in 27 degree weather? How long’s it been? An hour?

Fourteen minutes.

I can’t feel my feet and my coffee’s gone.

Luckily it’s not snowing.


So then we will get inside and just video the entire thing and our pictures of ourselves will be in mirrors with our own reflections. How’s that an artistic experience?

I’m not sure.

Shouldn’t it be a pure experience? Something zen-like?

Like through the eyes of kids?

Right. Un-besmirched by technology.

Sure. But, I dunno. It’s 2017. You’ll have recorded it.

Will I ever watch the video again? Sure as shit no one else wants to watch it.

What’s a “pure” artistic experience, anyway? Who can quantify that?

I suppose just being silent with the art.

Sure. Silence is golden. But we’re limited to 30 seconds. It’s not like you can commune with any of this polkadot nonsense.


How do you ever achieve zen –like appreciation of anything? A sunset, a church, a piece of art?

I dunno. Just…try to enjoy it.



Has it been an hour, yet?

Twenty three minutes.

Ohmigod. I’m really questioning this.

It’ll be great. Just…enjoy the moment.

That’s it?

I mean, shit. It’s just polkadots. Are you supposed to get greater meaning out of life from polkadots?

And tiny, repetitive eyeballs painted by an OCD 90 year-old woman.

Right, that. Is that really art?

Well, it’s silly. And whimsical. And that’s fun, isn’t it? In the age of…

Right. Trump.

See? Don’t we need more colorful eyeballs and polkadots to take us out of our every day?

I guess that could be enough.

Sometimes it just needs to be. Smile at the polkadots, even with your phone in your hand. Enjoy it.

Yeah, I suppose even Van Gogh would say that.

Eh, probably not. He’d have already become pretentious and over-analytical.

But for the rest of us…just…enjoy it.

I’ll try. Makes sense.


How long, now?

Thirty-one minutes.

Why am I sweating so badly in my pits? Always in the cold, if I just stand here, my pits are over-active. Are they confused?

I can’t answer that for you.


So this’ll be worth it?

Sure it will. You’ll remember the suffering, you’ll remember the polkadots, and you’ll remember how you smiled through it.

And I guess that pulls us out of our everyday muddling through Trumpian times.

That should be enough.

It has to be.

And we can brag “we were there.”


And that’s the point of art?

Sometimes. Why not? A memorable blip on our generally boring existence?

Fair point.


How much time, now?

Forty-one minutes.

*Shameless product placement. @E.C.Knox (insert winking emoji, here)


#MeToo and Douchebaggery

I’m late to the #MeToo conversation surrounding sexual harassment, but I’ve encountered fewer men weighing in than I’d expect. I know this is a time when men should often just shut up and listen. (Bad timing for some man-splaining?)

But I also think dads and sons and brothers should be part of the conversation.

This isn’t the time for anyone to ask, “but this all happened so long ago. Why bring it up, now?” (Because it still matters. Even you, Keillor.)

This isn’t the time for postulating, “Yeah, it was bad, but should it really ruin someone’s life?” (Well, Spacey, maybe you should’ve thought about that before thinking with your groin. You weren’t 13. You were in your 20’s. You knew better.)

Women: I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth wading into this delicate issue. So maybe I should just be speaking to the menfolk.

But I have to say: I’m loving this.

I love this zero-tolerance-for-douche-baggery moment we’re witnessing. And I hope it changes our culture for the good.

Several female friends of mine have voiced their cynicism that “nothing’s gonna change. We have so far to go.”

But that was before Lauer and Keillor and Simmons.

I’m so pissed at the people I admire – Franken and Keillor. Do I think their transgressions are as “serious” as Weinstein, Moore or Lauer? Not really. There’s a difference between stupidity and sickness.

But it’s all under the same umbrella of objectifying and exploiting women.

Being a member of the non-douchebag elite, (of which I think a majority of my fellow men are card-carrying members), I’m glad pigs are going down.

I’m happy that the shit that riseth to the top masquerading as cream is being scooped out and exposed.

And I hope there’s more of them, because that’ll cull positions that should go to more women and more men who aren’t entitled douchebags.

And it’ll teach our sons they can’t be creeps and our daughters that they don’t have to tolerate creepiness.

I’m happy that even Franken is on notice for thinking it’s “okay” for him to even joke about harassing a sleeping woman; because that was first-rate douchebaggery.

If a few people (beloved or not) have to take the fall to make society an egalitarian place where women do not feel objectified or exploited or belittled or unsafe, then that’s ok.


Because a systemic cultural sickness that has allowed sexual harassment to be excused for (thousands of) years is worth changing; no matter the sacrifices made or how many supposed role models are scandalized in the process.

For all the Louis C.K.’s and Roy Moore’s that go down (please may Moore go down, Alabama voters, please), someone more talented and less likely to have sexually harassed someone else will replace them.

And that makes the world a better place.

It may be lots and lots of women filling those shoes.

And that’s a good thing.

All you have to do is not be a douchebag. It’s simple.