Papa’s Guided Tour
Through Imagination

Darling Ruby at Fantasy Island,
June 2001

JUNE 2002

Saturday, June 1:

Ruby's birthday party. Enzo asked this morning to wear his gold silk Chinese outfit, which I had purchased for him when he was barely one while I was in San Francisco on a business trip. I wholeheartedly approved and encouraged this whim for party wear. It ended up fitting him perfectly.

However, his personal dressing consultant adamantly disapproved, arguing that it was not "appropriate" and too ostentatious. After some agonizing ventilation, the battle was lost.

Enzo wore his suit of choice.

It proved becoming of his commandeering presence that afternoon in the Park Slope, Brooklyn Puppetworks marionette theater, where his girlfriend Ruby was hosting her third birthday party.

At first Enzo stood alone, for he did not know any of Ruby's dozen or so preschool, daycare and playdate friends. But within the first hour Ruby and Enzo had renegotiated time lost and they were inseparable once again.

Each was leading the other whimsically about the room, practically incognizant to all the other children.

At one point, they climbed the bleachers and declared it their "castle"; one which proved impervious to any intimacy outside of the pure affection shared by these two three-year olds, mini models of Romeo and Juliet. Even Ruby's best girlfriend, Rachel was not allowed to enter, being shoved away by Ruby herself.

Enzo had once demonstrated such insolent isolation when usurping an entire fifty foot long and ten foot high playground for a few minutes before I self-consciously intervened. There were half a dozen kids trying to climb the ladders and Enzo, who was navigating the one steering wheel that most park playgrounds have, was yelling to them "Go away! This is my spaceship!"

At the birthday party, I was once again equal parts concerned (as they roughly pushed away any kid that vied to join them), embarrassed (to have my kid monopolize the star of the show's time) and privately pleased (not only to see how much they enjoyed each other's company despite their recent residential separation, but also how Enzo continued to display a proclivity towards non-conformist leadership, something I find quite innate to him, and a trait I will surely do my best to nurture).

At some point the puppet show of Pinocchio started and these two paragons of amour-denied sat in the front corner of the mat together.

After the show, pizza and cake were served and they sat hip to hip again. Enzo poured on the charm by hugging Ruby and looking straight into her eyes repeatedly saying, "You're a birthday girl!" to which she coyly giggled joyfully. It was quite easy to see the reflection of me and his mother in this public display, as it was but only a decade ago that I too was hugging Dom and blaringly declaring my love, "You're the Best!" In fact, it was quite easy to see many of the cherished moments Domenica and I have shared over the years in the few minutes I observed Enzo and Ruby.

Enzo's competition sat directly across from Ruby and began copying Enzo immediately by blurting out the same words as E-boy. Ironically enough, I overheard Ruby's mommy casually mention to this little lackey's mother that "Ruby calls Enzo 'her boyfriend'." The would-be cuckold's doting mom replied with a tinge of spite "Oh? I didn't know Ruby believed in polygamy." It seems she did not know a lot of things.

I find it all somewhat unbelievable that Enzo was able to spend so much time with Ruby, considering the throng of friends amongst them. But it is all true I tell you. I saw it as innocent love sincerely unfolded—all through the eyes of a proud Papa. Just look at the photos if you doubt me and my untainted objectivity.

Postmarked June 7:
As always, Ruby proved to be the perfect hostess during and after the party. Addressed to "Mr. Enzo Dominguez," he received the following thank you card in the mail soon after the party:

Dear Enzo,

What can I say? Thanks so much for coming to my party and impressing all my friends with your charm, intelligence, good looks, and sparkly clothing. What more could a little girl ask for? And thanks too for your Mom, Dad + baby brother. I've missed you all terribly since you left the Slope and spending some time with all of you made me very happy.

And a special thanks for the extremely generous and fabulous gifts. I can hardly wait to trade in my city girl ways for a quieter life that includes a wonderful garden, which I can now have, thanks to all of you. I can't wait to start getting my hands dirty.

Lots of Love, Ruby

Monday, June 3:
As I was walking to the bus stop this morning I saw two high-flying objects in the sky. One seemed all-too normal, an airplane at 10,000 feet. The other, at first glance, I also thought to be a plane, but flying at a much lower altitude. To my surprise I discovered upon much closer scrutiny that it happened to be a kite. A kite! at 6:30 in the morning. When half of the world was still asleep someone had decided to get up early to navigate the wind and fly a kite. How wonderful is that? Inspirational really.

Even if it was a glorious day for it—60 degrees, clear bright blue skies—I immediately wondered as to how old the captain of this airship could be, reasoning for an incredulous moment that it had to be a "kid" But then I thought how age was truly and totally irrelevant here. In fact, the older the better. At any age this simple feat was a marvel of modern times, for someone had elevated this form of leisure to a task worthy of supplanting the arduous path to progress and "accomplishment." Sometimes less is more, and this incident seemed to speak to that bit of wisdom quite fluidly.

It was kind of simple lesson that inspired me to teach the boys how to live, before they were indoctrinated how not to. Less is more, subtle persuasion, the soft sell had to be the theme to be conveyed this month of June.

Coincidentally, a passage of my current commuting read illuminated this maxim as well. As excerpted from Alain de Boton's How Proust Can Change Your Life:

"The lesson? To hang on to the performance, to read the newspaper as though it were only the tip of a tragic or comic novel, and to use thirty pages to describe a fall into sleep when need be. And if there is no time, at least to resist the approach of Alfred Humblot at Ollendorf and Jacques Madeleine at Fasquelle, which Proust defined as "the self-satisfaction felt by 'busy' men—however idiotic their business—at 'not having time to do what you are doing."


Nicky continues to display early signs of musical talent. Given the xylophone, he vacillates between chewing the baton and banging it softly against the colored keys in a harmonious spasm of rhythm that only a doting father can hear.

Enzo also recently demonstrated some improvement on the musical front. A recent performance on his trumpet showed marked improved dexterity. By pressing each key separately, he not only indicated that there was increased control in his manual manipulation of the instrument, but also seemingly showed that there was cognitive advancement as well, that is that he recognized that each button pushed functioned to create a separate note.

June 10:
I took Enzo to see his first movie yesterday, or at least his first theater experience.

We saw Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron, a story about a wild "free-spirited" horse (hence, the name), who would "never let anyone ride him," being that he was destined to "fly like the eagle."

That day we also went to breakfast at I-Hop, Enzo got the Rooty-Tooty, Jr. — I got the harvet grain pancakes and a side of hashbrowns; went to Home Depot; bought basketballs for both of us; played an arcade game together, took a sticker photo together; played basketball; met a neighbor who has a three year old named "Zach"; and changed the tires on the Subaru.


What do cows do for fun?
They go to the moooovies!
~ International House of Pancakes, Rooty Tooty, Jr. Children's Cup


Upon exiting the theater there was an employee handing out promotional lollipops to all the children.

I let him have a few licks of the Jolly Rancher Watermelon sucker before I told him he had to through it away.


At the finish of a long day, after I had taken a fun and extened bath with the boys, I put Enzo to sleep with a short story. After I told him with a kiss upon the forehead "Enzo, I had a great day with you today." Enzo replied "me too Papa."

Floating on pride, I proceeded to ask him,
"What did you like most?"
He answered quite bluntly, "The candy,"

Mentally, I almost fell over anticipating more, but there was nothing forthcoming to fill the void.

Of all the things, the kid liked the candy.

Wednesday, June 12:

"Papa, I dreampt Bernie took me to Fantasy Island (amusement park in Long Beach Island - the Jersey Shore) and Popcorn Land. He put me on the motorcycle ride, which had lots of colored lights to press. You pressed one and it would honk the horn. You pressed another and music would play."

"Oh yeah? Who's Bernie?"

"He's a cartoon!"

"I guess that means you don't have to watch TV if you can just dream about these characters. Right?"

"Yeah! My dreams come out of my head. My mind makes pictures."

"That's right. Dreaming is just like watching your own special movie. And imagination is dreaming when you are awake, which means you don't have to sleep to watch cartoons. You just have to close your eyes and use your imagination."



Friday, June 14:
Last night upon entering the door, Enzo excitedly approached me and said "Papa, Mama got me Silly Putty! from the food store." The next morning he told me that "they made things out of it," presuming that it was being used as make-shift molding clay. I was surprised to confirm with him that they had yet to employ it for what it is best known for (at least when I was a kid)—newspaper cartoon "copying" and subsequently silly face stretching. I was thrilled to now know that the opportunity to introduce him to this magic lie ahead.

Along with the Tonka Truck, Silly Putty was inducted into The National Toy Hall of Fame last year on March 28. "The silly toy, used by generations of children for lifting comics off the funny pages, bounces into the Hall's collection of classics which includes Crayola crayons, the hoola hoop, Lincoln Logs and The Monopoly Game. Silly Putty was voted in over 80 other classics nominated last year, including Raggedy Ann and G.I. Joe.

Since 1950, more than 300 million eggs of the 'real solid liquid' have been sold - enough to create a giant wad the size of the Goodyear Blimp. The curious pinkish compound is now sold in 16 different colors including metallic gold, introduced for the 50th anniversary last year, glow-in-the-dark and 'color changeables' that change from orange to yellow and purple to pink from the heat of your hand."


For Father's Day I treated myself to a Sea Monkey Ocean Zoo. The gestation of which I hoped to prove a perfect activity for the day.

After reading the following introduction to the Official Sea-Monkey Handbook I felt that everything one does should be imbued with such optimistic excitement. The indoctrination to this world almost makes you feel like God herself!


You are about to begin a NEW amazing hobby that is so fantastic, it STAGGERS THE IMAGINATION! With only water and the "crystals" in your Sea-Monkey® kit, you will create INSTANT-LIFE®! Yes, singlehanded you will raise up the world's only living, breathing INSTANT-PETS®—amazing live SEA MONKEYS®! With the act of giving your Sea-Monkeys® life, you join in the immensely rewarding experience of fellow hobbyists throughout the world! As a creator of Sea-Monkeys®, you share with them, the knowledge that through your willingness to explore the unknown, you have stepped across the threshold of one of the strange worlds of tomorrow's science…TODAY!


The Sea-Monkeys story began in 1960 as the brainchild of inventor and nature-lover Harold von Braunhut, and since have become a part of American culture and a worldwide phenomenon.

Sea-Monkeys® are a true miracle of nature. They exist in suspended animation inside their tiny eggs for many years. The instant-life crystals, in which the eggs are enclosed, preserve their viability and help to extend still further their un-hatched life span! Sea-Monkeys are real Time-Travelers asleep in biological time capsules for their strange journey into the future!

Scientists call this amazing rare process "cryptobiosis" which means, "hidden life". Among the types of life on Earth that are cryptobiotic in early stages of development are the seeds of higher plants (wheat grains from the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Kings have sprouted after being sealed in urns for more than 2,000 years), the larvae of certain insects, and the thick-shelled eggs of some crustaceans such as Daphnia, seed Shrimps (Ostracods) and Brine Shrimp (Artemia salina). Sea-Monkeys too belong in this category, since they are a variety of Artemia. A relative of Lobsters, Crabs, Fairy Shrimp and other crustaceans, instead of originating in the ocean, Artemia are found in salt lakes and salt evaporation flats. The waters of these areas are often so salty that Artemia may be the only non-microscopic animal inhabiting them.

As Enzo is prone to halitosis (bad breath) in the morning I decided to give him his first (half) stick of chewing gum on the bus as we were going into the City. Even that tab of Wrigley's Winterfresh proved too big for him.

Icy Cool Breath That Lasts

Got a song you love to sing? An exciting story to tell? Just hanging with friends and have something to say? With Winterfresh, you're ready for anything. The icy cool, minty taste gives you icy cool breath that lasts and lasts. So whatever you're into, whatever you have to say, with Winterfresh breath, whatever comes out, it's cool.
~ Advertisement for Wrigley's Winterfesh Gum

We tore it in half again and he masticated cautiously a little more. It was quite cute to see how he was getting his fingers all wet trying to hold on to it and chew at the same time. He took my instructions not to swallow it quite seriously. When I encouraged hi to let go he timidly asked "And it won't go down my throat?" I tried to demonstrate with my own piece how to control the gum with your teeth after which he then slowly relinquished dexterital security. Yet, after only a few token bites he told me, "Papa. that's enough." And it was. I was pleased that this pilot into a pop! culture rite of passage went well.

One might think that the art of chewing is a frivolously benign behavior to teach, but in fact it is a tradition which is rife with tradition and history, which is directly applicable to Enzo's heritage.

Internet historians claim that chewing gum has been historically practiced in a variety of forms including: mastiche, derived from the resin of the mastic tree, sometimes combined with beeswax to soften the mastic resin was chewed by the Ancient Greeks, the Mayans chewed "chicle"- the coagulated sap of the Sapodilla tree; the native Americans of New England chomped on the resin of spruce trees; and during the early settlement of the united states, paraffin wax gum was commercially sold as a chewing product.

However, it was not until 1869 that modern day gum appeared on the market. A well-known Mexican general by the name of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was searching for a substitute for rubber and commissioned American inventor Thomas Adams to experiment with chicle. Adams noticed the General was chewing the same substance he was using as a base for developing a new rubber, and realized that it was far superior to what was currently available as chewing gum. He produced a chicle-based gum and convinced a local pharmacist to be its first vendor. The rest is history, so to speak. Yet, it should be noted that in essence Adams merely rediscovered what the Mayans had known a thousand years earlier.

Saturday, June 22:

Within the fatigued cradle of my arms Nicky struggled in and out of sleep like an addict on rehab. We had spent an exhausting morning playing "No, no," and "shaky index finger" while trying to thwart his indefatigable efforts to crawl the full length of the room to stick his fingers in the electrical sockets or pull the sharp-tipped cable wire out to the wall. You would think that being amongst the zoo of blue and traffic light colored toys that he would choose something less precarious.

Shortly after ,Enzo robotically followed my orders to "color within the lines," wax painting each bird sitting atop Curious George's shoulders a different hue of Crayola. I contemplated whether or not I was training him to be a conformist. "Why no color outside the lines?" I repeatedly asked myself. The answer was simple: Picasso's father made Pablo color within the lines. Argument over.

Besides, he allayed my contrarian fears when he asked, "Papa, can I have the rest of my pizza for breakfast?" It was 8 AM and after a moment of silly consternation I exclaimed "Of course!" He also asked that I relight the candles we had lit the night before to accompany our late-night bowl of hot cereal. It was quite refreshing to turn habit and convention upside down with this precocious three-year old.


"With over seven CDs under his Elvis belt, wonderful merchandising that includes, T-shirts, videos and locks of hair, EL VEZ is a Cross-Cultural Caped Crusader singing for Truth, Justice and the Mexican/American Way." ~ www.rockabillyhall.com

A few minutes into smacking on his crust, Enzo asked "Papa, what is that letter on your shirt?" He was pointing to the picture of "El Vez" imprinted on the t-shirt Christina Bennet had so thoughtfully given me some years ago. Unconsciously I began composing a poem in response:


E as in Enzo
L as in Lorenzo

V as in Vincenzo
E as in Enzo again, and
Z as in the Z in all three of them!

El-Vez knows this is silly. But as a second-generation Mexican-American raised in Chula Vista, Calif., he has a right to be culturally confused. The former Mexican folk-art gallery curator who also answers to the name Robert Lopez explains that as a boy he always thought Elvis was Mexican. "They [Mexicans] invented the velvet painting of Elvis and made many busts of him. And when I was a kid in the '60s, I had uncles with continental slacks and slight pompadours in that Elvis style. I thought Elvis looked like my uncles. He looked Latin. The first movie I ever saw him in was Fun in Acapulco. I remember as a kid thinking, 'Elvis must be Latino, like us'."

But Lopez was encouraged by his parents to assimulate. He lived in a white neighborhood and didn't hear Spanish until high school. "The whole trip to El Vez-ness was a search for identity," he says. "How brown can I be? What are my roots?" Lopez believes that beyond the kitsch factor, El Vez has potential to spread good will. He's tapped into an American ideal: that anyone can be Elvis, no matter which race, creed or jumpsuit size he is. "When you come to an El Vez show, you walk away proud to be a Mexican," he says. "Even when you're not."

Lopez explains that although he has fun with the image of Elvis, "I don't think that you can do this unless you love and admire Elvis. This isn't some fat man on pills-parody." For Lopez, El Vez represents the idea that anyone can be a superstar, "El Vez is the idea of the melting pot, and everyone's welcome. It's Elvis as the American dream."
~ University of California at Riverside/California Museum of Photography Website and Karen Schoemer

While sharing a nectarine and finishing off his milk, we began to talk about Enzo's "followers," a group of aliens who apparently landed their mothership here at our house about a week ago, coming to worship Enzo and obey his every whim. I tried to get some information out of their hereby self-appointed leader, but as the details were not forthcoming, it became apparent they were on a secret mission.

Later that morning during a phone conversation with Ruby I would overhear him relate a telling trait of this enigmatic group of sycophants, they're "goofy," he told her.


When Nicky awoke form his nap, we moved onto pretending that our living room was an ocean, and Nicky was the unsuspecting and innocent dolphin to be fed couch pillows as fishfood. I was beginning to think Nicky was really a dolphin when he smiled knowingly and squealed an "eeek" repeatedly.


Occasionally, to take a break from amusing the boys, I foolishly attempted to do something to entertain myself by trying to read. Yet, this quickly became an embattled exercise, for while Enzo sat on my back raking a comb through my disheveled hair, Nicky leaned over page 65 to dribble saliva onto the parchment. I was bemused by the glistening drops for a moment, but then acquiesced to the futility of any such self-indulging enterprise and closed the book.

At noon, we went outside to jump into the kiddy pool. While the boys were having a blast I comically tried to read again, but after five minutes of water splashing I realized my time would be better spent getting in the water with them. So, I grabbed another beer, put on my trunks and hoped in.

After another hour of aqua frolicking we all got out and dried up. After I put Nicky to sleep, Enzo and I went downstairs to eat lunch. As I prepared to take the first step of my descent, suddenly Enzo bellowed "Papa! why don't you slide down the steps on your tooshy?" I hesitated, thinking "how silly!" Then realizing how ridiculously mature I was being, I sat down next to him and we slid down side-by-side till we landed on the last step when Enzo yelled, "(Hoor)ay! Papa! you're just like a kid!"

Reflections of my own father's exclamations came to me at the moment, for over the years he has liked to sardonically say to his children "I want to be just like you when I grow up!" Now, with a wink in his eye he is apt to convey the same bit of wit to his grandchildren, but with a far lighter tone of sarcasm.