The Valentine’s Day Rule

For Valentine’s Day, let’s revisit a story I wrote a post about last year.   This happened almost ten years ago now, but Ms. J reminds me of this story every year.     I’m sure that I’ll be reminded of this story for the rest of my life.    

A few years ago, when Ms. J and I had just started going out together, I had a meeting with a client I was working with at my former Ad Agency job that was scheduled for February 14. It was a dinner meeting.  A business meeting on Valentine’s Day. And of course, the client was a woman who was about the same age as I was. It’s OK, said Ms. J, not a problem, if you have to work, then you have to work, it’s a stupid holiday anyway that people put too much pressure on themselves to make into a special night, she said.

The client worked for a company in London, so she had scheduled the meeting months in advance since she had to arrange to fly from London to New Hampshire for the meeting. Once she had arrived, I drove over to the little Inn where she was staying. Apparently, this Inn is a popular place for a romantic getaway, as it seemed to be filled with couples on dates. I asked for her at the front desk and the clerk asked if we might want to have dinner at the Inn since they were having a special Valentine’s Day dinner. My client soon arrived in the Lobby area and it was then that she remembered that it was Valentine’s Day and apologized for scheduling the meeting on that day. When she had made the plans months ago, she had forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day. Oh no, don’t worry about it, I assured her. It won’t be a problem.

We drove a few miles to the restaurant where I had made reservations. It was a somewhat formal restaurant, and of course it was packed with couples who had planned special Valentine’s Day dates. As we reviewed the menu, we discussed plans for the coming year. What approach will the Marketing take this year, what the goals were, what the budget looked like, that sort of thing. The sommelier approached the table and asked us if we might like a recommendation of an appropriate wine for this romantic dinner ? The waiter asked if we might like to order the creme brulee or the popovers early so that we could have them ready at the end of our romantic dinner ? While we ate dinner, someone from another table asked us where we had met. The bartender came by to ask if there was a special drink we might want to have a toast with ? The owner of the restaurant came by to let us know that he appreciated our business and hoped that our big night was everything we had hoped it would be. While we reviewed the Advertising plan over dinner, a violinist came by to serenade us with some kind of romantic song while we both cringed and hoped would stop as soon as possible.

At least we both thought that it was amusing that we were surrounded by couples on well planned Valentine’s Day dinners, while we were there reviewing business plans for the coming year. Though I did want that violin player to not come back to the table again, after having come by for the third time in his rounds of the room.

Since this was New Hampshire in mid February, the ground was covered by about a foot of snow and ice. On the way out of the restaurant, as we walked down the sidewalk back to the car, I slipped on some ice on the sidewalk and went flying across the sidewalk. I landed flat on my back, in a pile of slush and ice. I was unhurt, but I did find out later that the business suit I was wearing was pretty much ruined by that fall into the dirty slushy snow. As I lay there on the pavement, an older couple came by and offered assistance. I rose to my feet with some help. Once I was back on my feet, the older couple said that the story of how I crashed to the ground on Valentine’s Day would we be a funny story to tell our kids years from now.

After that night, I readily agreed to a new rule for Valentine’s Day that Ms. J proposed. We don’t have to do anything on Valentine’s Day, but we can not go to dinner with anyone else.

Thankful

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For the Thanksgiving holiday, Mr. C’s kindergarten teacher created a little booklet for her student’s parents. Each page is a color copy of a student’s answer to the “I am thankful for _____ ” question.

Most of the kid’s responses run along the lines of “my cat”, “my toys”, “candy”. So I was paging through it, reading each one, looking forward to what Mr. C would come up with.

I am thankful for my Dad.

 

Yes, that’s a pretty good likeness of me.

 

The Valentine’s Day Rule

A few years ago, when Ms. J and I had just started going out together, I had a meeting with a client I was working with at my former Ad Agency job that was scheduled for February 14. It was a dinner meeting. On Valentine’s Day. And of course, the client was a woman who was about the same age as I was. It’s OK, said Ms. J, not a problem, if you have to work, then you have to work, it’s a stupid holiday anyway that people put too much pressure on themselves to make into a special night, she said.

The client worked for a company in London, so she had scheduled the meeting months in advance since she had to arrange to fly from London to New Hampshire for the meeting. Once she had arrived, I drove over to the little Inn where she was staying. Apparently, this Inn is a popular place for a romantic getaway, as it seemed to be filled with couples on dates. I asked for her at the front desk and the clerk asked if we might want to have dinner at the Inn since they were having a special Valentine’s Day dinner. My client soon arrived in the Lobby area and it was then that she remembered that it was Valentine’s Day and apologized for scheduling the meeting on that day. When she had made the plans months ago, she had forgotten that it was Valentine’s Day. Oh no, don’t worry about it, I assured her. It won’t be a problem.

We drove a few miles to the restaurant where I had made reservations. It was a somewhat formal restaurant, and of course it was packed with couples who had planned special Valentine’s Day dates. As we reviewed the menu, we discussed plans for the coming year. What approach will the Marketing take this year, what the goals were, what the budget looked like, that sort of thing. The sommelier approached the table and asked us if we might like a recommendation of an appropriate wine for this romantic dinner ? The waiter asked if we might like to order the creme brulee or the popovers early so that we could have them ready at the end of our romantic dinner ? While we ate dinner, someone from another table asked us where we had met. The bartender came by to ask if there was a special drink we might want to have a toast with ? The owner of the restaurant came by to let us know that he appreciated our business and hoped that our big night was everything we had hoped it would be. While we reviewed the Advertising plan over dinner, a violinist came by to serenade us with some kind of romantic song while we both cringed and hoped would stop as soon as possible.

At least we both thought that it was amusing that we were surrounded by couples on well planned Valentine’s Day dinners, while we were there reviewing business plans for the coming year. Though I did want that violin player to not come back to the table again, after having come by for the third time in his rounds of the room.

Since this was New Hampshire in mid February, the ground was covered by about a foot of snow and ice. On the way out of the restaurant, as we walked down the sidewalk back to the car, I slipped on some ice on the sidewalk and went flying across the sidewalk. I landed flat on my back, in a pile of slush and ice. I was unhurt, but I did find out later that the business suit I was wearing was pretty much ruined by that fall into the dirty slushy snow. As I lay there on the pavement, an older couple came by and offered assistance. I rose to my feet with some help. Once I was back on my feet, the older couple said that the story of how I crashed to the ground on Valentine’s Day would we be a funny story to tell our kids years from now.

After that night, I readily agreed to a new rule for Valentine’s Day that Ms. J proposed. We don’t have to do anything on Valentine’s Day, but we can not go to dinner with anyone else.

Best Gift Ever ?

I’ll do something outside of the usual parenting thing today.

In a case of ‘coals to Newcastle’ I received a subscription to the New York Review Books monthly book service for Christmas this year. I’ve always read a lot, but when Mr. C was a baby, I tended to read a lot during his naps. In the fight between ‘cleaning the house’ or ‘reading’, reading would usually win. We already have more than enough books in the house, but a few more won’t bring down the floor boards will they ?

As someone who worked in Marketing for publishers for many years, I think that New York Review has come up with a brilliant way to market their books by creating a consistent and distinctive design across all titles. Their books all use creative details of paintings or photos, with a large square design in the center of the book for the title. A great way to create customer loyalty, and also a great way to get the buyers who just like nicely designed books to buy more. That would include me of course, since I’ve bought several titles based entirely on liking the cover. I’m someone who reads the fine print in the back of books to see if there is a ‘Note on the Type’. I also check to see who designed the cover, and can usually tell if someone well known like Chip Kidd was the designer. As an added note on my crazy obsession with book design, I collect books that were designed by Richard Powers who was the Art Director for Ballantine paperbacks in the 50’s and 60’s. One of the first NRYB copies I bought was a Patrick Leigh Fermor book with a detail of a Bruegel painting on the cover. The designer for NYRB is Katy Homans, who does an excellent job with each one I’ve seen.

As far as the books themselves go, I don’t think I’ve come across one that has been out right ‘bad’. Many are somewhat experimental such as ‘That Awful Mess on the Via Merulana’ by Emilio Gadda, or a bit odd like ‘A High Wind in Jamaica’ by Richard Hughes, but at least they are all very memorable. Most have been excellent, such as ‘Warlock’ by Oakley Hall, and ‘The Way of the World’ by Nicholas Bouvier, and a long series of Georges Simenon books that have been restored to print here in the U.S..

Considering that they concentrate on reprinting books that they feel have been neglected, with an emphasis on works in translation from the early to mid 20th Century, it must have been a hard sell to get noticed at first. But with those distinctive covers, I’m sure that they have a very loyal following now. There’s not a lot of other publishers that have created such a distinctive brand. Penguin of course has been publishing their Classics line for many years with their brand specific black cover, and their earlier color coded covers. Vintage Contemporaries is another that has done a good job. Hard Case Crime has done a great job bringing back some out of print crime novels with well designed books, and there’s a few Sci-Fi publishers that do a good job of standing out from the crowd. But mostly, publishers design for each specific book rather than trying to create their own brand.

The way the subscription service works is subscribers receive a new book published by New York Review Books each month. They choose the book, there’s no advance notice as to what it will be, and no returns. So it’s a mystery what each book will be.

This month, the selection is ‘The Human Comedy’ a selection of short stories by Balzac, with a detail from a Della Rocca painting on the cover. The story I heard about Balzac is that his writing was fueled by non stop coffee drinking which gave him heart problems and eventually led to his death. I had read some of his work in college, but nothing recently. On to the To Be Read mountain it goes! I put the question mark at the end of the title of the post since I’ve only received the first book so far! I wonder what next month’s book will be ?

Here’s a few from the collection so you can get an idea of how they tend to look.

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Mother’s Day Fail

Ms. J had one request for Mothers Day. Just one thing that she thought would be cute for Mr. C to wrap up for her to open up on the morning of Mothers Day. A pin cushion. As long as it was not a tomato pin cushion, since she had one of those somewhere. She couldn’t find it though, must be in one of the boxes from the big move in, somewhere in the basement. So maybe something else, something like a pin cushion in the shape of a mouse maybe, something memorable and cute. No big deal, just something small that he can give to Mommy for Mothers Day.

So being the procrastinator that I am I looked and looked for a pin cushion, over the two days prior to Mothers Day. I was surprised to find that apparently, the only thing that anyone has ever thought of sticking pins into is something in the shape of a tomato. How did that happen ? What is the history of the pin cushion tomato ? Is it the same way all over the world ? Is the US unique in its preference of pin cushions in that shape ?

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This is NOT a pin cushion

I searched everywhere. Well, as much as possible with a 3 year old present. Have you ever gone to a craft store or sewing store with a 3 year old boy ? No, he wasn’t bored by it all. He did want to find out what everything is though. What is this, what is this, what is this, what is this, he asked me. It’s his new mantra. I do enjoy explaining what things are and how they are used, so any visit to a new store can result in an hour long lesson in the wonders of retail, or complete frustration on my part. So after spending those two days searching the area craft and sewing stores, Mr. C now knows all about the variety of fabrics, types of needles, quality colored pencils from Germany and Japan, and the infinite variety of paper available, and I still had no cute pin cushion. I had to give up. It was too late to try the internet though, so what to do?

She likes honey, maybe Mr. C can give her some new honey. The honey she likes is usually from New Zealand. Varieties like Manuka, Blue Borage, Rewarewa. We were also running dangerously low on supply too. However, I can only get this honey via the internet, or one small gourmet shop nearby.

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Running Low on the Fancy Honey

So Mothers Day arrives and I have nothing.

‘Ummm, I have to go get some groceries” I said Sunday morning.

‘Didn’t we get groceries Friday ?’ , Ms. J said, always remembering everything.

“We need some extra mumble mumble” I said as I raced out the door. I speed to the gourmet food store. Closed. CLOSED! It’s a small store, and it is Mothers Day after all. Now what?

I race to the supermarket. I do end up getting some food, if only to provide some cover. Do they have any fancy honey at the supermarket ? No, they do not. I went to three supermarkets looking for something that might at least appear to be exotic. Nothing from New Zealand was found. Nothing the least bit exotic was found either. The closest I could get was this, a honey from Maine.

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Maine is NOT New Zealand

This would have to do.

I sneak the honey into the house, along with a few bags of miscellaneous foods that we didn’t really need, run to the closet to get a scrap of wrapping paper, wrap it up, and race over to Mr C. Out of breath, I hand it to him as he’s playing with Legos, saying here’s Mama’s gift, lets go surprise Mama for Mothers Day!

Of course, she loved it. Did you get this for me ? she asked Mr. C.

‘I don’t remember’ he says.

I’ll have to plan on buying next year’s Mothers Day gift early, sometime in March.

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