Mother-Son Bonding One Neurotic Moment at a Time

My son on the Carnegie Hall Billboard
The Carnegie Hall poster for The Crescent Super Band

If you’re friends with me on Facebook (And if you’re not, what’s wrong with you? “Friend” me right now!) you know that my oldest son, Derrick, played this week at Carnegie Hall with jazz sax legend David Sanborn. At age 17 Derrick’s the lead alto sax player in the pro big band, Caleb Chapman’s Crescent Super Band, and they did a New York tour.

Being that I feel music trumps just about any other subject in school, I did the responsible thing and took my younger son, Quinn (who is a HS freshman) out of school, so that he could join me in following the Crescent Super Band like a couple of Dead Heads stalking Jerry Garcia and company.

But as cool as it is to watch my oldest, who isn’t even old enough to vote yet, command one of the most prestigious stages in history with one of the best sax players on the planet, that’s not what this post is about. For the first time my youngest and I got to embark upon a trip, just the two of us, that led to several Paper Moon moments, during which it was sometimes hard to tell which one of us was the responsible adult.

So in a shout-out to Quinn, who has (for many years) graciously taken a supportive back seat while his older brother sets the world on fire, here are but a few highlights of Quinn and Stacy’s Fabulous Adventure. (The rest will come soon in book that I will no doubt pester you incessantly to buy.)

After Music Comes Comedy

My son in the subway
Taking the subway at night builds character

As soon as we landed at JFK on a Saturday night, I immediately took Quinn to the late night show at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club — because if music is the most important subject in school, comedy is definitely a close second. For some reason, the bouncers at the door thought my 14-year-old son was 17, which is the minimum age you have to be to get in. Probably because I implied he was 17 by saying, “This kid is 17, let him in.” They did. We sat at the front table, adhering to our two-drink minimum (his were virgin pinâ coladas, mine were a bit stronger and less sweet).

To my surprise Quinn got even the raunchiest of jokes, which leads me to believe we need to have a serious talk later.

Afterward we took the subway back to our midtown hotel in the wee hours of the morning, carefully stepping over passed-out drunks and circumventing a homeless guy on the platform taking a whiz on a poster of Mayor Bloomberg touting “If you see something, say something.” And like true New Yorkers, we were able to avoid the panhandlers at the ticket machines because we’d previously bought unlimited-ride Metro Cards.

Good times.

“Forget It, Jake, It’s Chinatown”

The next day we explored Chinatown in the pouring rain. Being that Quinn is enamored with all things Martial Arts, he begged me to let him buy some real nunchucks he found in one of those dodgy-looking “spice shops” like you see in kung fu movies. For some reason I acquiesced. Thinking I’d have to be the one to pay for it (since he’s a minor) I made my way to the front of the store, only to find Quinn conducting the transaction himself with a wizened up shopkeeper who barely spoke English. When I asked the geezer if he needed my approval he said, “No. Boy have cash. All good.” Then he turned to Quinn and said, “Be wise with nunchucks.”

That’s it? You just sold a Martial Arts weapon to a teenager not even old enough to drive and all you got is, “Be wise?” Someone told me later that such advice counts as a legal liability waiver in Chinatown, which I tend to believe since we didn’t see even one law enforcement officer of any kind south of Canal Street.

Just Be Cool, My Son

After that we went to lunch in a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant called Big Wong’s (too easy—just write your own joke and insert here). We were the only Caucasians in the place and no one spoke English. To order we just pointed to things other people were eating. Needless to say it was delicious, but when I set my debit card down on the bill after we were finished, a waitress shouted from across the room in broken syllables, “No card, cash only!”

Well, I didn’t have any cash. So I told Quinn I’d have to leave him as collateral while I went in search of an ATM, adding, “If they make you wash dishes wear gloves. That dishwater is probably pretty nasty.”

What every son should give his mother
I don’t know what the hell this is, but I just had to stop to take a pic while looking for an ATM

Quinn looked at me like I’d just sold him into slavery. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. Oh, and have them box up this leftover barbecued pork…or whatever the hell that is. It’ll be yummy later.”

“What? We don’t even know if we can pay for it!”

“They don’t know that. Besides it’ll be a great time killer. I’ll be back soon.”

I left him at the table, and wandered the streets until I found a Chase bank…which is NOT my bank, but at this point who the hell cares? What’s a $3 withdrawal fee when you’ve offered your son as collateral at a Chinese restaurant where they don’t speak English. As luck would have it, the Chase ATMs were locked away in atriums that you had to swipe your Chase card to get into. I waited until a legit cardholder entered, and then caught the door before it closed. Once inside I immediately saw that the buttons and the screens were all in Chinese. No matter, I could figure it out. I fished around in my purse for my debit card. No card. Damn it. I must’ve left it at the restaurant.

I ran back, found Quinn still sitting there looking like he’d just shit his pants, but relieved to see me.

“Don’t exhale yet, Skippy. I can’t find my debit card.”

“What?! You should’ve let me keep it for you,” countered my responsible 14-year-old son.

“Now is not the time to be pulling rank. We have to find that card. I think I left on the table.”

We started looking on, under, around the table, during which time a waiter came by and asked if we needed anything else.

“Yes, more tea and eggrolls, please,” I graciously answered.

Quinn shot me a WTF look from under the table. “Are you crazy? We can’t even afford the food we’ve eaten.”

“Time killer.” I said, and then decided to check my purse once more. “Oh look! Here’s my card. It was in my purse the whole time! How funny.”

Quinn wasn’t laughing.

I ran back to the bank, stood around AGAIN until an authentic customer unknowingly let me in, got some cash (which took several minutes because it was harder than I thought to navigate an ATM in Chinese), then ran back to the restaurant.

I found Quinn languishing over empty plates. “Where’d all the food go? You didn’t let them take it, did you?”

Didn't get to meet Big Wong personally (note the ATM sign by the door)
Didn’t get to meet Big Wong personally (note the ATM sign by the door)

“No, I ate it. I needed to look like I had a real reason to still be here by myself. But now I’m so full I could blow chunks.”

“Man, I was looking forward to that pork thingie later. I can’t believe you ate it when you didn’t even really want it.” He looked at me like he wanted to punch me in the throat.

I threw some cash on the table and we gathered our stuff. As we exited, Quinn noticed a big box hanging on one of the walls of the restaurant.

It was an ATM machine.

In my crazy haste I ran right by it. “Oh my god,” I laughed, “there was an ATM machine in here all along? How funny is that?”

Again, Quinn was not laughing. “Oh, can the dirty looks, Gladys.” I tend to come up with odd pet names for my sons when they irritate me. “Little adventures like this build character. By the time this trip is over you’ll be a new man.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of…” muttered Quinn as we exited into the mean streets of New York in search of some more mother-son bonding moments that I’m sure will stick with my little boy long after I’m gone.


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Stacy Dymalski is the host of the hilarious TV talk show “Mother Bloggers” on She’s also an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.

For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.