Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dinner with Tomie

(Pics to come soon)
Last night I had a wonderful evening with my friend, the legendary Tomie dePaola.

When he heard I would be in NY during BEA (Book Expo of America) Tomie invited my friend Brian and I to the Mercer along with the lovely bookstore owners from New London, Tomie's hometown, and the very charming Cecilia Yung.

Great food, great people, great evening.

After dinner I took a stroll around the Lower East Side, a neighborhood I had never spent much time in. Saturday night on 2nd and St. Mark's reminded me of Berkeley or SF or Ocean Beach, SD. Basically a scene repeated all over the country when all the kids come to party and retailers make the most of that.
It reminded me of several things:
1. If you need to get in trouble, there is always a spot that will make it easy.
2. If I do have a daughter someday, we will be moving to remote Alaska well before she enters high school.
3. I am glad I can visit places that are wild and fun and crazy, but I am thrilled that I can come back home to my tranquil eden.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Ah. What to say..... hmmm. Oh My.

Well, I went to the "Not a Dinner" event for BEA. It was an art auction with so many of my peoples. The always amazing John Rocco and his lovely wife. My homeboy, Jarrett Krosoczka, and his lovely wife and beautiful Zoey! Mr. Tomie dePaola, my bar chum and friend. And the ever-glowing Laini (preggo) Taylor and effervescent Jim diBartolo. Talk about a cool couple. Good people, those two. No joke. Many blessings on the upcoming baby!!!!!!XOXO
And all kinds of other great folks. Lots of fun. Wild and craaaaaaazy fun.. ahem. For a bunch of kid's authors and illustrators... well, let's just say, this industry knows how to get down. I love these people.

I met some nice gals from Candlewick at the auction. Also, got a chance to very much enjoy a rapid cab ride (We left five minutes after Laini and Jim yet arrived a half an hour before them at the spot?!) across the Brooklyn Bridge and along FDR at night. Feels different with the city lights out and all the vibes going. The Vibes were going, indeed!

I especially enjoyed the always outstanding Betsy Bird and her Kid's Lit Drink Night. She is just a bundle of fun. Cheryl Kline co-hosted it and I had a nice time hanging with some nice librarians and book folk. Good times.

Earlier, I had a chance to say goodbye to our very amazing partner, Abe Barretto! The MAN! (I am seriously so very grateful for his genuine hosting skills. My man made us honorary Bronx peoples and we will never forget it, B! Respect!)

Much love Abe!

In the morning... BEA. Book Expo America. (for those of you who are not up on this particular assembly of letters, it is a ginormous convention of all things book... including the smarmy salesman from intentionally unnamed online book company, with a name that sounds like something you might find in South America. But anyway, I gots to get to bed of I am gonna be worthless in the mornin.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Good Kids

*NOTE* No pics just yet, though I will be adding them very shortly.

Today, I spent the day with some really great kids. First school up in Washington Heights was all ready the moment we walked in the auditorium and due to an overheated projector, we had to work fast to remedy the situation. Luckily some good folks got the other projector to me quickly and we had it set up in no time. This school (PS 005 M) was awesome. So orderly and together. Kids were very well behaved and respectful. Their chess club was also there and I got the great treat of having my butt thoroughly kicked by a little guy. Ok, I wasn't gonna tell the truth but the kid wore a blindfold. And kicked my butt. But to my credit his chess teacher told me that he had not been able to beat this kid in a year. Wow. Incredibly talented kiddo. Good job my man! Keep it up!

The next presentation we gave was at the ever spectacular Hue Man Bookstore on Fredrick Douglass in Harlem. We had a blast and even got the bonus treat of getting some time to talk with Melvin van Peebles, who had just returned from Jamaica. Marva, owner of Hue Man, was very interested in the I AND I book, being from Jamaica and having known Bob long ago. It was cool to see her check out the book.
There were two schools (I will have to ask which schools they were again to give shout outs, because they were very good kids!) that attended the presentation and book signing. I got to play a number of kids as well as a teacher. It was lots of fun.

Tomorrow, Darlene Rodriguez, the morning anchor of NBC New York is filming us during our presentation. Granted it may end up as a two minute piece, but hell, two minutes on network in NY is fine with me.

Should be a fun day.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Come See Me in NY

So, why dont you come hang with the boyz? I promise you, we will not bite. (Ok, I might...)
We are going to be at the Hue Man Bookstore Wednesday at 12 in Harlem.
Be there or be trapped forever in a Renaissance Fair. (sorry to you fans of the R. Fairs. I am not, but I mean no disrespect to your way of life.) (however lame it may be)
Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd
Between 124th and 125th Streets

In da City

Hello from a really big city. Kinda over that, just cause of the long trip. Our bridge is out, so I had to take a middle of the night ferry from PT to Seattle and then drive down to a friend's house to stay the night. Then I got up at the ass of dawn to walk with all my big heavy bags for a few miles to the airport. Where I got on a thankfully functional airplane for the day. Got to Jersey and hopped on a bus after an hour wait for my big heay bags. Got to Grand Central and hopped in a cab who "forgot" to set the meter (figuring I was a tourista) and so he made a wise gamble. Sadly for him, I knew what a cab 30 blocks costs. Oh well. Good for him to try it, though. Coulda maybe got twenty bucks if Ida been a newbie.

Now I am really high up in a apt overlooking Cornel and a bunch of hospitals on the UpEaSi.

Early in the am I go to south Bronx to do school visits all day. Looking forward to bringing some fun and some inspiration to the youth, dem. More Fire. More power. More pawns becoming Kings, yo!


Thursday, May 21, 2009

this one time (Part Three)

I swear I am almost done. Truly. 

So I walk in the airport, Max following me with such strong voodoo that I can feel my back being stabbed again and again by his mental knives. Ah, Max. Good guy. I said goodbye again but we both almost started laughing when I did. He just shook his head of shiny hair at me and told me "Just go. Get on that plane. Please!"

At the little cage, I, trembling uncontrollably, hand the uniformed gun toting frowner my brand new ticket, my passport with new visa and my last hopes of surviving my trip to Moscow. I am not sure if it was the lack of protein or some drug in the Moscow water, but I swear there were dozens of troops lined up behind the cage all watching expectantly for what kind of debacle I would initiate this time. 

The guard takes the ticket and looks at me with a smile. An actual smile. He laughs and turns to say something in Russian to another soldier. I do not smile. Still smiling, he stops his dialogue with his buddy and I see his eyes get bright for a moment. He is looking at my passport. "WHAT?" I demand. "Shtoh? Eh? Hey man, Shtoh?" 

He holds my passport up to the glass to indicate to me the missing visa. Staple still there, but visa with the new stamp completely missing from my passport. This time he takes my passport and gives it to the old guy with a gun who I assumed was the captain or whatever. Then that guy disappears into a little room. The guard hands my ticket to the woman at the Lufthansa ticket counter and she proceeds to look at it, listen to him, look at me, then smirk as she RIPS UP MY TICKET.

sigh. I am nearly too tired to go on. 
But I must. 
So I will.

I scream at her that my bags have already been loaded on the plane (which was leaving in mere minutes). She tosses my ripped up ticket into my hand and shakes her head. I fly down the airport yet again, more curses shaking the foundation of the building. Once again, I see Max shopping for .... YUP... purses. Anyway. 

He turns white. (Now Max is already a pale fellow. Think Edward. Yeah, you know who I am talking about. Dont try to deny it. I know you read them. Ha!) Back to the story. Max was turning white with rage. He whisks me out of the purse store and I follow him as this time HE curses every Russian in his way. And this time they DO understand and everybody stares as the stylish young man with eyes of pure deadly venom march right past the awful ticket ripper at the Lufthansa counter, right past the still laughing guard in the little cage, right past the two heavily armed soldiers at the final gate. He walks up the stairs to the captain's office, opens with no knock and makes me wait outside while he goes in and closes the door behind him. 

I hear yelling. I only make out little bits about how they caused my visa to expire, they killed my grandpa, they made us sore from sleeping on his Grandfather's floor, and how if he had to ride the damned bus to the airport again they would all die, stuff like that. I do not know what went on in there. I do not know what the look on that captain's face was. I did not care. I was too weary. I just stood there leaning back and forth, swaying with the weight of a very long ordeal. 

When Max came out, he was followed by the captain. Max carried my passport and a certain smirk on his face. Max walked me down the stairs, past all the guards and to the walkway. He hugged me and waved me onto the plane. The captain and all the guards looked around at each other, wondering who would shoot me first. Past the guards and gate I did not know what to do. I had no tickets. So I just walked down and got on the plane and sat in my seat. 

Fully expecting to see the guns come back on the plane again and drag me off, I did not breathe for seventeen minutes. After that the engines roared and I felt myself go diagonal and then I fell asleep. Hours later, as I stepped off the plane in Frankfurt I heard a, "Mr Watson?"

Knowing it was the neoKGB or whatever Russian government agent that had been sent to collect the ticketless, visaless flyer, I turned around and followed the black suited stranger into a very tiny room with a desk. I said nothing. Just fell into the chair and waited. 

Eventually a smiling woman came through the door dressed in white. Ah, I thought. Now I am dead. This angel is hot. Sweet. She proceeded to tell me how sorry Lufthansa was about my ordeals and that they had rerouted me directly to LA so I could catch the remaining family there for my Grandpa's funeral.  I asked no questions. I just got on the flight to LA that the hot angel walked me to. I slept for seven and a half hours, waking only when the people next to me stood to get their bags. 

(Almost done. But ... not quite.)

I hauled my one carry-on bag to  pick up the rest of my checked luggage and guess what? Yeah. Of course, all my bags had been flown to NY or somewhere other than LA. So I walked down the corridor to the customs gates. I could see my family on the other side between the frosted glass. So close. 
The large customs agent took my passport and asked, "You say you were in Russia? Where is your visa? Looks like something has been ripped out." 
I, tears in my eyes, began to try to tell him the story. He stopped me and said, "You know, I dont care how you got out of Russia without a visa. Just open up your bag, son." 

Now, since I am bored of typing, let me just say that my choice in souvenirs was odd to him. As was the style of my hair, my clothes, my face. He was not a fan of the pipe I bought for my dad, the knifes I bought for my brother, the chunks of black jade I bought for whatever reason. Basically not a big fan of Jesse. What he found most interesting was the bulge in my pocket. "What is THAT?" he asked. 
"A Bible," I said. That elicited a very classic look based probably on his assumption that someone with little dreads and dressed in a dashiki would never tote around a Holy Bible. "What KIND of Bible?" he asked. 
"What do you mean?" I said. "THE Bible." I shrugged. 

He took it and proceeded to open it, which was a mistake as dried flowers rained down onto his desk. "What the? What is this? Drugs?" he snorted. He then started to read all my little notes I had sketched in there. After a while, apparently having delved a little too deeply into the psychotic inner life of Jesse Watson, he slammed the bible down into my hands and told me to get all my stuff and get out of there. "I dont know what kind of prank you are pulling, Mr. But next time you plan on telling someone you are holding a Bible, you should look a little more... a little more... respectable or something." 

And with that last blessing on my way of life, I stumbled out of the customs doors into the brilliant Los Angeles sunshine and the smiles of my beautiful family who were all there to greet me. 

this one time (Part Two)


This time saying goodbye neither Max nor I were all that teared up. We were probably tired of the ridiculous voyage to the airport and the sleep in the damned airport chair AGAIN. I was tired of his perpetual insistence on the need to stop and shop for handbags. Purses, Max. They're called PURSES. Anyway. Still, sweet guy. He probably thought, "WHAT in the name of all Czars am I doing helping this Jonah of a Yankee?!" Sorry Max. 
When I approach the dude in the little cage this time I am very quiet and meek. I almost dont exist. Try to fly under the radar. WRONG. The gunman takes my ticket and my visa and soon discovers the sweet little prank the wanker at the airport in NY pulled on me. After finding a translator (not the cute girl this time)  he tells me that the ticket is wrong. I have no ticket to fly to Frankfurt today. I look at the ticket and begin bleeding from my ears again. 

Sure enough. A week into an unplanned stay in Moscow I find that my ticket has been taken and I hold a slightly crumpled ticket from NY to Frankfurt to Moscow instead of the other way around. 

Fearing Max was long gone, I race down the airport cussing out every single Russian I laid eyes on. I called down curses on the entire Russian nation as I sped to the one place in the airport that had a phone you could make an international call from. (Lot has changed I know. this was a long time ago though.) I tell the guy the number and he dials my Mom. Nobody home. No message. He dials someone else. Nobody home. Finally I get through to my Mom who is down in LA at my Grandpa's funeral, which was happening while I was trapped in the airport. She freaks out and tries to calm me down. She hangs up and starts calling Lufthansa to attempt a miracle. I hang up, look at the kind man who made all the calls for me and run out of his store without paying a damned ruble. (Ah. Feels good to confess that. I felt like such an awful person. Jeez.) He does not even chase me. I think he knew... He made a wise choice. 

As I run through the airport with fresh curses for all the people I spot Max shopping for purses again and grab him and in a quarter of a second tell him everything that has happened since saying goodbye to him. 

Calmly Max takes a personal moment. Then we leave go back and grab my (worthless) ticket and passport and make the trek back to Moscow. We go to the Lufthansa office and they send me on a treasure hunt through Moscow. When I get back two days later with the things they required they tell me they have still not found my original ticket in their systems and that I will be required to purchase a new one. I call Mom. She begins to glow like that one dude in the first season of Heroes who would start a nuclear explosion with his rage. I feel it through the phone and hand the phone to the poor idiot standing behind the Lufthansa counter unprepared for what he was about to encounter. Oh my. 

Long story short. Not very short, I admit. Long story long, I somehow get a new ticket and make my way with coins I found on the street to the airport again. Ages later, I arrive for the third time at this abomination of an airport and sigh deeply. I almost cannot get out of the bus. Except that there are incredibly stout women in stockings that are rolling down their chubby legs pushing me out with absolutely no expression on their faces at all. 

I walk through the gates of the airport to face my destiny.


this one time (Part One)

I was in Russia and I got the raw end of the deal. The little smiling wanker who took my ticket on my connection from NY to Frankfurt chose to remove my RETURN ticket instead of my ... whatever the right part of the ticket is called. SO, I get word that my Grandpa is dying and that one of my best friends just killed himself. Bad week. Anyway, I decide to bail Siberia early and come home. I go to Moscow with my friend Max (Maxamillion was fab U lous, in all ways, even though his strict religious environment required him to hide his OH MY GOoDness OBVIOUS tendencies. But that is for another discussion. Ah, God bless him wherever he is.) 
Ok, so I was pretty really broke at this point, having spent extra money to keep the mafia dudes from sending me home with a more horizontal posture. We got to Moscow, stay at his Grandfather's house and go to work out the tickets. I shop around, buy a dog fur hat, some Matruschka dolls, some black jade (why I will never know) and look at the Pushkin (which is pretty rad, except all the freakin huge paintings the size of gynormous walls that are of these stiff, boring scenes...). Anyway, it was fun. UNTIL... 

I haul my (then) skinny butt up to the airport (a good seventeen hours away from the city by any means of transportation) and due to the long trip have to spend the night on a little chair inside the airport. In the morning I say goodbye to my buddy, Max, then walk with a slight swagger up to the guy in the little cage to give him my ticket. He takes it and says "Passport Pujalsta".
I hand it over and stupidly ask him to stamp it on a new page (not  huge request, right?). Which causes him to look closer. At my EXPIRED visa. SON OF A...

At this, his hand literally went to his sidearm, then he looked up like I was smuggling a brick of hash in my crotch. He yelled to another dude with a bigger gun and then I watched as my passport and ticket were handed off down a chain of gun wielders until they both vanished. 

Panic not showing its face yet, I kind of roll with it and ask if anyone in the airport speaks english (my russian consisting of directions to bathrooms and quantities of beer). I wind up talking to a cute girl around my age (maybe 18 or 19) and she tells me that my visa (which had been ordered for me by the organization I was paying to volunteer with) was only a Two Week Visa and I had been there for maybe two months. This was really bad news and required that I go find Max and wait until the weekend was over to visit the American Embassy and pay this huge fine and get a renewed visa for longer and apologize to the tomb of Lenin, etc... Which I did. I waited the two days at Max's Grandfather's place (which by then was getting very annoying with its fuzzy paisley wallpaper). Out of money, I begin to not eat meals and save up every cent for the one trip to somewhere cheap to buy a little snack. When I get to the visa office, they issue me the correct one but at a big price. Finally, some progress.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Pa

So, I want all of you (pause for laughter... echos of distant dogs barking... wind... me looking back at my speech...) to go check out my dad. He is an artist, illustrator, writer, ..., and his work is just so damn good you need to see it for yourself. 

Here is an illustration he did for the Washington State History site. It is a short story written by the lovely and talented Kirby Larsen. Go check it!

Also you can see his website of course, but you should first probably go to his blog, which is much more intellectually stimulating, not to mention a hell of a lot more respectable than mine. Go check that! 

Ok, that is all. You may go now. 



Surf Mules Hot off the Press

My homeboy, Greg Neri has done it again. 
Check this book out! It is SMOKING HOT!

Surf Mules
a YA novel by G. Neri
Coming in June 11, 2009 from Penguin / G.P.Putnam's Sons 
ISBN: 978-0-399-25086-6  Hardcover • Novel/Fiction Ages 14 and up • Grades 9 and up 

hen Logan Tom goes searching for the Perfect Monster Wave, he doesn’t expect his former best friend, Fin Hamilton, to be killed by it. With everything else going wrong in his life—including a deadbeat dad who bankrupted his family, a mom on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and the possibility of college going down the drain—Logan is suddenly in a tailspin. So when small-time drug dealer Broza offers Logan and his dropout pal, Z-boy, a summer job that could make them rich, it seems like all his problems are solved. But between Z-boy’s constant screw-ups, a band of Nazi surfers out for blood, and a mysterious stranger on their tail, Logan
is starting to have serious doubts about hauling contraband across country. What started off as a summer job adventure in disorganized crime, quickly turns into a dangerous quest, where the boys find their friendship and loyalty pushed to the limits. Now all these young surf mules have to do is survive.

Advanced Praise:

"Like a monster wave, Neri's story rockets you through the pipeline of teenage angst, delivering a rousing and unforgettable ride."        - Paul Volponi, author of Hurricane Song and Black & White.

"Neri sandwiches his story between a crackling opening and a whipsaw climactic scene... older boys who say they’ve never read anything will be attracted to the novel’s... [view of a] friendship on the brink of disaster." - Kirkus Review

"Neri's novel catches readers' interest on the very first page and propels them to the end in this intense, funny, and exciting read. Reluctant readers will be hooked on this fast-paced, interesting adventure. Difficult and realistic choices face all of the characters, making the story one that teenagers can relate to... it is a definite buy."  
-School Library Journal
"There’s a new YA novelist in town by the name of G. Neri... His first YA novel Surf Mules is sure to be a hit. I predict we’ll be seeing more of G. Neri in the future." - ALAN News of Note

"All you have to do is read the opening chapter and you will be hooked on reading this fast-paced, interesting tale. Intense, funny and exciting. This is a must read." Winters' Wonderland 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Ah. You gotta love boys. They are just their own kind of animal. 

 Big hugs usually turn into...

... big falls. 

But that is why we love them. 

Bikes and Carousels

T's world suddenly expanded in one of life's great pleasures. Riding a bike. For whatever reason we have not given him that opportunity much so when we borrowed this little tiny bike from his homey, he became an instant bike racer. Now I know what to get him for his birthday. 
During the Rhody Weekend in Port Townsend, there was this AMAZING hand carved Carousel set up in my school (Jefferson Community School). The boys got the special treatment and were able to ride all of the animals. T tried each out and his favorite was the Skunk, and the Raccoon, and the Coyote, and the a little bit the Deer, and sometimes the Porcupine. (Yes, that is all of them.)
F was just cool to hang out on whatever one T was not riding. Such a good little brother. 

Suggestion for angry conservatives

It is really very simple. If you are actually so concerned about your religion (and not only preoccupied with telling people what to do with their bodies, passing judgement and being hypocritical), wouldn't it be best to follow that religion? 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you
love one another; as I have loved you, that you
also love one another.

By this all will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

Monday, May 18, 2009

lost is the bomb

How I loved the last LOST finale. Holy Moley. It was fantastic. 
I love the stuff with Richard and Jacob and ?Esau? The mythology is great. My son Clay is the man when it comes to brains. He called me the day after with the goods. The whole god/devil, jacob/esau thing, translations to what lies in the shadow of the statue, yeah. Good stuff. Smart kid. Smart kid.

My Runner Girl

This was a beautiful weekend. Mariah ran in the Rhody Run while the boys and I played on the beach. I am so proud of my wifey. She kicks ass!

The boys were so enthralled in sea-life that I could not pull them away. Finally, after many attempts, I got them distracted by snacks and I strollered their little munching mouths back up to the finish line. I assumed we would be waiting around for a while to see the runners come back in. 

Good thing we left when we did, as Mariah and her homies were already on the home stretch. T, F and I just had time to race over to the sidelines and lift up our shirts. (We drew a big "M" on F's belly, an "O" on mine and another "M" on T's. It was hockey style radness!)

Good job, honey!