From almost nothing

Nook on the bed

BECAUSE I BOUGHT a Nook Color a month ago, it was lying on the bed.

Because it was lying on the bed, a child picked it up and pushed some buttons.

Because he pushed some buttons, he saw a single-player chess app.

Because they didn’t get bored taking turns with the single-player chess app, I bought them a chess set and a chess book.

Because they requested it, they now get a section from the chess book and a game every night at bedtime, instead of a story.

How to Beat Your Brother at Chess


Dyckman Boys

Because we ride bikes, we get up to Isham for the Inwood greenmarket most Saturdays. It’s .6 miles. We wouldn’t walk it, and the subway or bus would cost $9.

Because the boys have a new travel chess set I got them so they could play on the bus after swim class, they brought it today and set it up where kids run around.

They explained the game to a new opponent and attracted an audience of kibitzers.

Chess audience

BECAUSE THEY’RE SO fixated on chess, and because we ride bikes to the Inwood greenmarket, and because bikes engage you with your surroundings instead of isolating you from them, they zeroed in on two men playing chess while we were riding past on Seaman.


Because Inwood has an active Twitter population, I knew one of the players by reputation.

“You can’t play,” I said, “but you can watch.”

“They can play!” offered the man I’d recognized.

So we braked and walked our bikes over.

The men welcomed them, talked to them, challenged them, and taught them the game of Pawns.

They, in turn, cracked one of the men up when I said, “Hey guys, tell him our name for en passant,” and the boys yelled in unison, WHACK ’IM WHILE HE’S RUNNING!

(“I’m running, I’m running—WHACK!” the man riffed, chuckling.)

After two games of Pawns, the boys played chess, with much better kibitzing than they’d had at the greenmarket, and I learned that Sundays, they set up multiple tables for whoever wants to play and actively help kids with the game. I also learned the man I was talking to had ditched his cigarette as the boys came up. They don’t want to teach that. Just chess.

Because it was all so cool, I forgot to take pictures.

Then because the whiny hungry crabbies had arrived, we said thank-you and rode home.

Broadway Boys

We ride bikes.

I got a Nook Color.

Therefore life has gone in a completely unforeseeable way.

Children’s chess, Sundays 10am–3pm, Seaman and 207. All are welcome.





Filed under Bicycling, BikeNYC, Bikes, Chess, Community, Family, Fatherhood, Favorite, Inwood, Kids, Parenting

20 responses to “From almost nothing

  1. Kathleen

    what a great post, what a great chain of causality. Found your post through retweet and it made my Sunday. Hurray for the curiosity of kids, and good for you for feeding and nurturing that curiosity.

  2. Thanks, Kathleen!

    As a coda: We got up to 207 and Seaman to check out the organized chess thing this morning (almost didn’t, for scheduling/tired parent reasons) and my online randonneur friend Bill was there. He’d spent all night doing the Shore By Night 200K out of Cranbury, NJ, read this blog entry, and realized he was just in the right place to maybe swing by and see us before driving all the way home.

    So I got to finally meet him in person, and he got to meet the boys, and worlds converge again. All it needed was a crime writer to happen by, and my life would have been completely encapsulated.

  3. Roger O. Rock

    Cool blog, Keith. Wonderful chain reaction–a real life pay-it-forward kind of deal. Now, thanks to Eli’s sharing this, I’m interested, too. ;>)

  4. jon jordan

    This is awesome. You are raising some very cool kids and if more parents were like you I would demand more people have kids.

  5. Whenever anyone tells me that the internet is full of hate and garbage, my sole counter-argument will be pointing them here.

  6. That was nice. I can’t believe they are that old. I remember seeing them (well, I think at least one of them) in Chicago in 2005, at Bcon. He was just a baby… Time flies…

    I loved chess as a kid. Haven’t played it for years though. I had a friend who played chess by mail. Had a three ring binder, with these big cards with a board printed on them, and little slots where he moved his paper pieces every time he got a move in the mail. He had people all over the world he played with. Times were…slower then.

  7. John Purcell

    Hmm, tried to leave a comment with my real name, but my blog got in the way…

  8. This entry is suddenly getting a ton of hits, so here’s an update, September 29.

    We finished “How to Beat Your Brother at Chess” last week (real title: Chess for Juniors—buy it used; it’s terrific, but the author is a bad person) and started a new chess book at bedtime. Not sure how I like this one yet.

    The boys also pooled their allowance money and went downtown to NYC’s 24-hour chess shop one morning and (with a little help from Dad) made their first joint purchase, a chess clock (much cheaper here), which—in addition to just being fun—significantly speeds up the bedtime-delaying evening chess game.

  9. Rachel Holmen

    A color Nook is a wonderful thing. If it locks up — and mine did once, couldn’t take charge, wouldn’t behave — I tell you the VERY simple, very quick repair: disconnect from any power supply. Press both the on button and either of the volume buttons (so, ON plus LOUDER, for instance) and hold them both down for the count of ten. Should fix things right away.

    I couldn’t locate the reset procedure for a LONG weekend; gave up and got a different tablet. So I actually have a used Nook for sale. But I liked the Nook’s speaker, the way you can add pictures or MP3 files via a MicroSD (Transflash) memory card, that I could charge it either from the wall or a car USB charger, for the number of books it would hold.

    • Since I make ebooks for a living, I have different love/hate relationships with all the devices. The thing that annoys me most about the Nook Color (as a reader; I have a whole long list as an ebook designer) is how long it takes to charge.

      Thanks for the tip–I didn’t know that one!

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  13. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.

    I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

  14. Patrick Knisely

    Words fail… so I’ll just smile and share this.

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