School’s Out Forever

Big day for Little Bear, who’s been with me since kindergarten.

Hello, friends! Happy 2016, and welcome to the new, improved DANNED FOR LIFE! Let this serve as my inaugural post on (along with some highlights I’ve migrated from the old site), and even more excitingly, as my very first post as a college graduate!

That’s right, I’m DONE. School’s out FOREVER. After five-plus years of hard work, studying, and pitiful blog-neglect, I’ve finally earned that History degree I wouldn’t shut up about, and somehow managed to get the words “Magna Cum Laude” inscribed on my diploma. I know, right? All this, and I’m only in my mid-30s!

But don’t worry. I may be like a zillion times smarter now, but I won’t let it change me. I’ll still be that snarky, but soft-spoken know-it-all you’ve come to adore. And now, with all this free time on my hands, I expect you’ll be hearing quite a bit more from me. (That is, until I find a job. Which actually is my number-one priority right now, so … )

Stay tuned for what I promise will be a fresh, dazzling showcase of all the wit and wisdom bursting from this newly minted BA-brain of mine. You won’t be disappointed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Mike has a Mrs. Robinson outfit to try on for our role-play night innocently watching The Graduate on Netflix night.


Donuts of New York: Love at First Bite


“We met one night while waiting for the G train. Blue said my glaze looked irresistible; I told her she was berry sweet. It was a recipe for warm, gooey love. I asked if she wanted to take a walk around the park sometime. She said, ‘I can’t. I don’t have legs.’ Forty minutes later the G train rolled up, and by then, we knew we were baked for each other. That was a dozen years ago. Today we share a charming prewar pastry box on Kent Street, raising our own little batch of munchkins together. After all this time, we’ve managed to keep the dough-mance as fresh as ever.”

– Chocolate Cake and Blueberry Buttermilk, Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop, Greenpoint.

I Remember “Danny Boy”

I remember the piano in the patients’ lounge down the hall from Dad’s room.

I remember how I was aimlessly plunking the keys when an old man came in to play.

I remember when, two months earlier, Dad told me he didn’t have much time left.

I remember how he made a point of telling me that there was one particular song he wished to be remembered by.

I remember how he referred to it as my song.

I remember the curiosity of this moment, as he had never so much as hummed a bar of my song in my presence.

I remember how non-musically inclined he was.

I remember how he hardly ever called me “Dan.”

I remember how the news hollowed me with fear.

I remember the new He-Man figure he gave me when I was in the hospital eleven years earlier.

I remember how that piano was a cheering distraction from what was mounting down the hall.

I remember that I was just beginning to figure out how piano playing works.

I remember watching the old man start into a seasoned rendition of a song he knew from memory.

I remember leaving the room before he was done, but I don’t remember why.

I remember that twenty minutes later I was at the foot of Dad’s bed watching him give his last breath.

I remember Dad’s love of all things Irish.

I remember the old man’s pitch-perfect intro.

I remember the uncanny moment and the familiar emerald air.

I remember the gentle cadence.

I remember wondering if the old man had any idea who that song belonged to.

Wayne Thies, March 18, 1945 – April 4, 1995

Little Elliot, Big New York Times Review

This Sunday, a glowing review of Little Elliot, Big City will appear in a little publication called THE NEW YORK TIMES! Here’s a snippet:

“The author-illustrator Mike Curato, making his picture book debut, beautifully renders the images in rich earth tones that are soft and smooth, calling to mind ‘The Sweetest Fig,’ by Chris Van Allsburg … “

So yeah, that was Mike being compared to one of his idols in the Sunday Times book reviewYou know, NBD. Be sure to read the rest here.

Seriously, though, what an honor for Mike. I know I keep saying it, but I am SO DAMN PROUD of him!

“We’ve all been there.”

Update: We just found out that Little Elliot also made Amazon’s list of the 20 best children’s books of 2014! So much excitement here!

What “The Birdcage” Did for Me: A Short Tribute to Robin Williams

Sometime after the release of The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams, I remember my mom telling me how much she had enjoyed the film. It was a revelation that stuck with me because I was surprised to see that she – a devout, lifelong Catholic – was completely unfazed by the film’s sympathetic (yet over-the-top) portrayal of a “non-traditional” family. The movie depicted the de facto marriage of two unabashedly flamboyant gay nightclub owners, along with their having raised a seemingly happy, healthy, well-adjusted son together. It was edgy fare for 1996 – the year that DOMA became law – flying in the face of what many, perhaps most Americans still believed about queer families. But my conservative-ish mom didn’t seem the least bit bothered or offended by any of it. In fact, she loved it.

It was with this specifically in mind a few years later that I finally summoned the courage to come out to my mom. And she has been nothing but awesome ever since.

Mom and me on my gay wedding day.

So thank you, Robin Williams, for the many great performances you gave us, but especially, thank you for The Birdcage. 

Rest in peace.  


Who Has Two Thumbs and His Own “Little Elliot” Tote Bag?

Two thumbs
This guy.

Apparently, the Little Elliot tote bag, a promotional giveaway at this year’s Book Expo America, was a huge hit. From Publishers Weekly’s “ShelfTalker” blog (emphasis mine):

“Savvy booksellers paced themselves on the number of galleys they took. Mostly there was talk about how to get a particular tote bag. I missed my chance, but for some reason many people asked me about it, as if I had a magical power to make them appear at the Macmillan booth. So cute, but alas there seemed to be a limited number that were given out Thursday and then gone. This was actually a really smart move on the publisher’s part. Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted this bag. And it just gets you ready for the book, which is equally good.”

I guess being married to Mr. Little Elliot himself has its perks.

You can read the whole BEA wrap-up here, and Mike’s own take on his first BEA experience here.

My New Life in Movie Land, Part II

Yesterday Mike and I took advantage of the glorious sunshine and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a first for both of us:

Enjoyin’ the view

We then followed our little cross-river excursion with a visit to an equally iconic NYC landmark:

That’s me haunting the street corner

This one was not a first for us (I stumbled across it totally by accident while exploring the city shorty after moving here), but it was the first time pictures were taken:

(Cute texting fireman not included in tour package. I asked.)

Amazingly, there’s a Ghostbusters sign hanging inside the station, and the on-duty firemen seem relatively unbothered by the occasional gawking tourist (or newbie local) wandering in to pose beneath it:

I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghostly white legs
Who you gonna call?
This is my life now.

(For further reading on the Ghostbusters firehouse, my friend Geraldine made the same pilgrimage a couple years ago, and did a great write-up on her blog. Check it out!)

Danned for Life: Same Blog, New Name

New name, new logo

So, I changed my blog’s name over the weekend.

I know what you’re all thinking. He’s crazy. This is a huge gamble. Speak of the Daniel is already an established brand with dozens of followers and a proud record of hard-won critical acclaim (thanks, Mom). So why is he messing with perfection?

Be that as it may, the change was long overdue. You see, I’ve never been super psyched about the old name. It’s clever enough, I guess. It does what a personal blog name is supposed to do, using a punny play on the blogger’s name to set the tone and convey some sense of the blog’s theme. But the problem is that, while it is my given Christian name, I never go by Daniel. I’ve always been Dan (and occasionally Danny), and so a play on the name Daniel always felt like the topical simile I was trying to end this sentence with – unnatural and forced. That’s really all there is to it.

I’ve been kickin’ around the name Danned for Life for quite a while now. I was hesitant to make the change at first, fearing that it, too, would quickly lose its pleasing ring and I would soon come to regret the new name. But I’ve decided that it has worn well over time. It does everything the old name does, but with a more natural-sounding play on the name Dan. As my sister-in-law observed, it’s “just as funny, fewer syllables, so it works.”

And so it’s time, as MJ would say, to make that change. I understand if you’ll need some time to adjust emotionally, and I apologize for the hassle of having to update the bookmark tabs on all of your devices ( But I promise the new name will grow on you, and you’ll soon be wondering how you ever got by in this crazy blog world before you got yourself DANNED FOR LIFE.

My New Life in Movie Land

I was walking up Broadway the other day, and I stopped to snap a quick picture to send to my bestie, Meg. She’ll be visiting NYC for the first time in a few weeks, and it’s been lots of fun stoking her excitement:

“Soon, my friend”

Meg: “Gasp!”

Me: “You know. Just another day. Walkin’ around the city.”

Meg: “In Movie Land!”

This is my life now.

Speaking of Kindergarten: My Year of Silence

Kindergarten pic
St. Mike’s kindergarten class of ’85. (Like I need to point out which of those kids is me.)

When I was in kindergarten, I went the entire school year without uttering a single word to my teacher. Mrs. O’Connor was both a seasoned educator and a veteran parent, and as such, she was surely mystified by my unwillingness to speak to her. Not only did it obstruct her ability to evaluate me as a student; I believe she took my stubborn reticence as a personal challenge, putting a career’s worth of teaching and a lifetime of mothering to the test. But the harder she tried, the quieter I became. The longer I went without speaking to her, the bigger the deal it became for me to open up. I could feel the pressure mounting, and each day became an anxiety-ridden struggle to resist her conversational advances. It wasn’t until my very last moments as her pupil that she finally got me to speak in her presence. It seems she had realized that when one is trying too hard to make something happen, sometimes it’s best to step back, turn down the pressure, and just let that something happen instead.

I had always been a shy child, notoriously tight-lipped around unfamiliar grownups and prone to zeroing in on any random peccadillo that might render one radioactive in my eyes. Mrs. O’Connor was what I now imagine to be very model of an early-childhood educator. She was a kind, cheerful lady whose expert blend of firmness and nurturing gently ushered us into the world of schoolhouse learning. But, while any fathomable reason to dislike her may have eluded most people, I was instantly able to fixate on one rattling quirk: her voice. She spoke with a distinctive, jarring falsetto that resembled a cross between Mickey Mouse and Julia Child, and honked out words with the dynamic range of an air horn. Some may have found it peculiar; I found it terrifying. My instinctive response in the face of this bellowing Irish banshee was to shut down entirely, refusing to let my voice fall on her ears while her shrill howls tormented mine. And so began the yearlong standoff between a teacher’s uncanny voice and a student’s unyielding silence.

Over the course of the year, Mrs. O’Connor’s attempts to coax a few words out of me came in various escalating forms. At first, when I wanted to play with an out-of-reach toy, she would tell me I had to ask for it before she would agree to retrieve it. I would simply huff and go without the toy. Later on, set off by my standard refusal to say “here” during the morning roll call, she ratcheted up her efforts by sending me home early two days in a row. She explained that if I wouldn’t state my presence in class, I wasn’t allowed to be present in class. But I was unbothered by the extra time away from Mrs. O’Connor, and the gravity of this two-day suspension never sunk in. A parent-teacher conference was eventually called, and to my horror, this involved Mrs. O’Connor (who also happened to be my neighbor) coming into my house and sitting in my living room. Perhaps she had hoped that the comfort of home and the reassurance of my parents might soften me up a bit. But, to everyone’s chagrin, I just laid low – hiding under my bed – until she was gone. Her more direct approaches weren’t working, and time in the school year was running out.

While my aversion to Mrs. O’Connor was at first rooted in the sound of her voice, I did eventually grow accustomed to it, and as the year wore on, my abhorrence of her very existence lessened somewhat. I became warily cooperative in the occasional one-on-one scenario, like the time she asked me to help her search for the escaped class hamster, and when she offered to take me home from school after my usual escort (my older brother) had fallen through. I even started participating in show-and-tell, proudly waving my favorite teddy bear in front of the class (though still leaving the whole “tell” portion out of it). But, by the latter half of the year, a slightly different reason for my silence had emerged. One day, I arrived at school wearing my very first pair of glasses. Unfortunately for me, five-year-olds in glasses are irresistibly cute, and Mrs. O’Connor couldn’t contain her effusion over how adorable I looked in my new specs. The overwrought, cheek-pinching attention from her left me absolutely petrified. If this was how she reacted to my glasses, what was she going to do when I finally spoke? Now, more than anything, I dreaded the ecstatic fireworks I was convinced my first words to her would ignite. The very prospect of such gushing elation only deepened my resolve to keep quiet.

As the school year came to a close, Mrs. O’Connor, no closer to getting me to speak in her presence, decided to make kindergarten graduation her last-ditch gambit. For the ceremony, she decided that I would be the one to recite the Pledge of Allegiance for all the parents, teachers, and students in attendance. This, of course, was a huge gamble on her part, as all indications were that I would just stand silently, as I had in rehearsal, until relieved by a more willing classmate. Mrs. O’Connor had never gotten a single word out of me; what made her think she could get thirty-one out of me in a single night? She must have had a plan.

The night of graduation, when the moment of truth arrived, I nervously approached the microphone. Unsure of what I would do next, I anxiously scanned the crowd to see if Mrs. O’Connor was watching. I soon noticed that she had moved to the rear of the auditorium, turned her back to the stage, and appeared to occupy herself with something other than my impending performance. This was my chance. She wasn’t paying any attention to me. I had to speak now, or stand before the crowd in awkward, humiliating silence. Seizing the moment, turned to the flag, took a deep breath, and spoke. I was done in mere seconds, my delivery as rapid-fire as my heartbeat. Mrs. O’Connor stared at the back wall the whole time, and though she must have been delighted by her successful ruse, she withheld any reaction when I finished. It was a hard-won breakthrough – the first time she’d ever heard the sound of my voice – but she played it totally cool. I let out a huge sigh of relief, and returned to my seat.

And just like that, kindergarten was over.

K Diploma