Tag Archives: Charlie Greenwald

Tommy Greenwald: A Pandemic Diary

Broadway advertising executive/children’s book author Tommy Greenwald has lived in Westport on and off since 1967. This morning — as we all adapt to our new normal — he shares his.

Tommy also sends this message to “06880” readers: “Stay safe, stay healthy, stay calm, stays sane. And remember: Only 2 rolls of toilet paper per customer!”

DAY ONE

6:57: Wake up. Enjoy 3 seconds of ignorant bliss before remembering what’s happening in the world. Groan in abject dread, roll over, try to go back to sleep. Fail.

7:13: Go downstairs to the elliptical machine. Tell myself that one good thing that can come out of this crisis is getting in shape and losing weight. Spend the entire time on the elliptical thinking about the chocolate chip cookies I’ll have for breakfast.

8:04: Shower. Use a lot of soap. A lot of soap.

8:28: Get dressed. Have trouble deciding which pair of sweatpants to wear. My socks don’t match. Who cares?

A pandemic problem.

8:32: Say good morning to the first adult child who has moved back in. He answers with a grunt. The other 2 adult children who have moved back in aren’t up yet, though their work days start at 9. Our oldest son’s girlfriend is also with us. She’s great. Still, that’s a lot of 20-somethings for one bathroom.

8:39: Take the dogs for the first of their 19 daily walks.

9:25: Go down to the basement to my workspace. Exiled myself there for privacy, and also because the background decor has a cool funky vibe, which will come in handy for all my Zoom videoconferences.

10:00: The first Zoom videoconference of the day. “Hey, that’s a cool funky vibe you got there, Tom,” says a colleague, which makes me feel good, since she, like almost everyone I work with, is approximately the same age as my kids.

10:42: Scroll the news online, just long enough to be frightened by the state of the world, dismayed by the state of our country, depressed about the stock market, embarrassed I’m dismayed about the stock market when there are far more important things to worry about, and awed by the courage and dedication of health care workers.

11:24: Time for a snack! Go upstairs, past the room where one kid is on the phone trying to sell something to someone who really isn’t in the mood to buy anything right now, through another room, where another kid is on the phone trying to sell something to someone who really isn’t in the mood to buy anything right now, and into the kitchen, where my third kid is on the phone, telling his boss that people really aren’t in the mood to buy anything right now.  Peer longingly into my office, where my son’s girlfriend is working away. She waves cheerfully. Why wouldn’t she be cheerful? She has the sweetest spot in the house.

11:26: Can’t find a snack. The kids ate everything.

Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald reading their dad’s books. Well, at least Charlie and Jack are.

12:30: Another dog walk, this time at Sherwood Island. It’s not crowded, but it’s not empty. It’s gorgeous. I thank the gods it’s still open, and keep reminding my wife, who is too damn friendly to other people, to make sure to respect the 6-foot rule.

2:15: Another Zoom call. I start getting used to seeing people in little square boxes, and find myself fascinated with other people’s decors. Never would have suspected that quiet, unassuming Brad from accounts would have a giant photograph of a nude bowler in his living room, but there it is.

3:05: Road trip. work up the strength to go to the grocery store. Take a deep breath and put my gloves on. Walk in, saying to myself, Youcandothisyoucandothisyoucandothisyoucandothis. Store is moderately crowded with people, but extremely empty of toilet paper.

3:45: Wash my hands, using a lot of soap. A lot of soap.

3:55: Time to visit Mom. She’s 80, but looks 60. Ask her if she needs anything. She says no. She goes to the market every day. Tell her that’s probably not wise at this point. She says, “I enjoy it. I’m very careful. I wear gloves. I bring Purell. I’m fine.” Decide the same thing I’ve decided since I was 10 years old: arguing with my mother is pointless.

4:45: Last Zoom conference of the day. More accolades for my cool, funky vibe. I work in the theater business, so we discuss the perilous state of our industry. Everything is locked down, and will be for the foreseeable future. No shows. No ticket sales. No income. Everyone is hurting, badly. Feels slightly uncouth to complain when so many people in the world are suffering way worse than we are. We do it anyway.

Tommy Greenwald, at the White House piano. Those days are gone for a while.

5:22: Ninth dog walk of the day. Dogs look up at me like, Are you serious? Streets are filled with walkers, joggers, bikers. We all wave and smile. People are much friendlier to each other during a pandemic.

8:15: Dinner. Everyone in the house will take a turn cooking. Tonight is my middle son’s turn. He makes one thing, but makes it very well. He also cranks the music to 11 while he cooks. We plan on taking our dinners very seriously during this crisis. It’s the one time of day when we all come together, try to stop worrying for an hour, and remember how truly lucky we are that we have what we have: a roof over our heads, enough food to eat, a family that enjoys each other’s company. We even laugh a little.

9:10: We spend 20 minutes scrolling Netflix to find something we all want to watch. We fail.

10:15: My wife and I call my wife’s sister, a nurse at Norwalk Hospital. She’s been working almost every day, and is exhausted. We tell her she’s our hero. We tell her all her colleagues are our heroes too. We tell her we love her and to stay safe. She promises she will. We hang up. We worry.

11:30 – Time for bed. I take a very mild sleeping aid. So sue me.

DAY TWO

Pretty much exactly the same thing as Day One. And until further notice.

Tommy Greenwald’s Malady

Nearly everyone in Westport knows Tommy Greenwald. The 1979 Staples High School grad co-founded Spotco, the New York agency specializing in Broadway and entertainment advertising. (You may have heard of one of their clients — a little show called “Hamilton.”)

He’s also the author of the “Charlie Joe Jackson young adult book series. The names come from his 3 sons. If you think Tommy (and his wife, fellow Westport native Cathy Utz) are proud parents, you’re absolutely right.

All 3 kids are already out of Staples. The oldest — Charlie — just graduated from Emerson College.

But they’re all back home. Which leads us to Tommy’s guest post on “06880” today…

Tommy Greenwald

Tommy Greenwald

Most people are well aware of Empty Nest Syndrome, those feelings of melancholy and nostalgia that parents experience when their last child goes off to college or moves away.

Much less frequently examined is Full Nest Syndrome, when the kids return en masse to turn your newly peaceful life upside down.

This affliction is more common than you might think, and scientists are finally learning more about it. For those suffering from Full Nest Syndrome, it’s important to remember: You are not alone.

Here are some symptoms most commonly associated with FNS:

  1. Your head pounds from all the deafening hip hop music in the house.
  2. Your back hurts from picking up all the dirty clothes.
  3. Your blood pressure rises from seeing all the empty cartons in the fridge.
  4. Your throat is sore from arguing about who gets the car.
  5. Your energy is low from being woken up at 2 a.m. by slamming doors, loud voices, video games or beer pong (take your pick).
  6. Your heart is full from having all the kids home again — if only for a little while.
Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald, settled back at home.

Charlie, Jack and Joe Greenwald, settled back at home.

 

A Greenwald Family Two-Fer

In the theater world, a “two-fer” is 2 tickets for the price of 1.

In the Greenwald house, it’s 2 plays written by members of 1 family.

Charlie Greenwald is a junior at Emerson College. On Sunday, March 1, “Surprising Simon” — a play he co-wrote — will be staged there.

The winner of the school’s Rareworks Theatre Playwrights Festival, “Simon” is a farce based on a birthday party gone wrong at many turns.

Charlie’s many friends know he’s a masterful comic (check out his George W. Bush impersonation here). In Staples Players, he participated in shows like “West Side Story” and “Into the Woods.” At Emerson he’s a communications major, involved in both sports broadcasting and play writing.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Though his father Tommy is also one of the funniest folks around (check out his “Charlie Joe Jackson Guide to Not Reading” franchise here), the play he co-wrote is an intimate musical.

Set against the background of a changing America between 1950 and 1990, it probes the complex relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children. It’s all about connections, commitments and the healing of the human heart.

John & Jen” — starring Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan — was first produced at Goodspeed. It opened off-Broadway in New York in 1995.

The show continues to have a healthy life in small theaters all over the country, and abroad. Now — 20 years later — it’s being revived by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street, through April 4.

Tommy — himself a 1979 Staples graduate — was not in Staples Players. (He was a soccer team captain.) But he’s an avid fan of the program. And he understands good theater: his day job is advertising Broadway shows.

So both Tommy and Charlie know something about two-fers. Of course, if you want to see both shows, you’ve got to buy 2 tickets.

(For ticket information on “John & Jen,” click here.)

Charlie Greenwald: One Wild Week In Boston

On Monday — just a few minutes after the Boston Marathon bombing — Staples 2012 grad and current Emerson College communications student Charlie Greenwald reported for “06880” on the mayhem outside his window.

Nearly a week later, he’s had time to reflect. He just posted a long story on his father Tommy’s blog about the craziest week of his life.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, he said:

Charlie Greenwald

Charlie Greenwald

Everything I did was difficult. It was difficult connecting with friends and confirming that they were okay. It was difficult watching the pictures of so many legless people being rushed to the hospital. It was difficult knowing that there were 2 bombers on the loose in Boston, with no idea who they were, why they did this and what they could do next. It was difficult falling asleep.

But that wasn’t nearly the end.

After a horrible, seemingly endless Monday, the administration made the appropriate decision to cancel school in order to mourn and rest. Tuesday was a day to grieve and remember. Many students went down to the memorial sites to pray and leave flowers.

I went as far down Boylston Street as I could, before the police blocked it off. There was leftover paper, jackets, meals abandoned at tables. It was heartbreaking, and I cried at the scene. An 8-year-old and 2 young women were killed, with hundreds injured and many limbless. I could only imagine the psychological damage.

I felt like screaming. I went home that night and sent an email to several hospital employees asking to volunteer, but they all asked for patience and said they would get back to me in a few days.

A makeshift memorial on Boylston Street.

A makeshift memorial on Boylston Street.

On Wednesday:

Emerson president Lee Pelton spoke to the student body about how impressed he was with our courage and how honored he was to represent our college. It was a cathartic day and a step forward in the healing process.

On Thursday, Charlie tried to get back to his schoolwork. That night, he heard the news about the shootout and manhunt in nearby Watertown. The next day after lunch, he said:

Emerson students petting comfort dogs.

Emerson students petting comfort dogs.

I went with a large group of students to the First Lutheran Church to pet some of the comfort dogs that were brought in. It was organized on Facebook.

Some of us at Emerson were so stressed out and frustrated by this horrible week that we wanted to go spend some time with these amazingly beautiful creatures that were trained to make us feel calm and loved. The dogs were brought in to multiple hospitals but they made camp at the church and kindly let us visit, since several Emerson students were at the Marathon when the explosions went off.

The MBTA was shut down and taxis were nowhere to be found. Walking to and from the church was like walking through a ghost town; a huge city with nobody on it. It was eerie and disturbing. I hated it. It reminded me of what it was like Monday morning and Tuesday— a city paralyzed by stress.

On Friday afternoon, Boston Common was deserted.

On Friday afternoon, Boston Common was deserted…

For several incredible hours, authorities closed in on the 19-year-old suspect. Suddenly, he was captured.

I high-fived my friends so hard my palm throbbed. I hugged this random hot girl next to me but didn’t catch her name. We screamed “America!” at the top of our lungs….

In what seemed like a flash, people were storming Boston Commons to celebrate. Kids were pouring down beers and ripping off their t-shirts screaming. Car horns were honking in every direction. People of all shapes and sizes — college students, entire families, scores of police officers, even senior citizens — all were in the heart of Boston screaming for joy.

The American flag was raised and flown with ferocity and pride. People were drinking American beer and singing signature Boston songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “Shipping Up to Boston.” An entire city was out on the streets, releasing all their stress and grief from the past week into the air. Kids were hugging and crying, stripping and dancing, taking pictures with police officers and howling in the rain. There was an unparalleled hometown pride, and I have never felt more patriotic.

I screamed too. I ran up and down the streets. I embraced my friends. We were safe, and we love this city to death….

...but on Friday evening, it was filled with joyful, relieved people.

…but on Friday evening, it was filled with joyful, relieved people.

This week had some of the biggest lows and biggest highs the city of Boston has ever seen. It had an entire city mourning for days, and on edge all week. But most of all, it had an incredibly strong, brave and powerful response to the people who tried to hurt our innocent civilians on a beautiful Monday afternoon. It showed us who the real heroes out there are.

On a more personal level, it was the closest I have ever been to terror. It was the closest I had ever been to the center of the news universe. It was the furthest I had ever felt from my family. And then, when it ended, it was the most patriotic I had ever felt in my life.

That’s what, I suppose, an event like this does. It shows us the darkest depths of the human soul, and the unpredictability of our universe. And then, in response, it shows us how many heroes walk our streets every day.

Boston is the birthplace of this nation. It is also, as everyone saw this past week, an incredible American city emblematic of this country’s values: pride, resiliency, and the power of good.

Charlie Greenwald: Report From The Boston Marathon

Charlie Greenwald graduated last June from Staples. Now a communications student at Emerson College, he joined nearly everyone at school today to watch the Boston Marathon. The route and finish line were just a couple of blocks away.

“Everyone was in high spirits,” Charlie reports. “The runners and their families and friends were full of joy.

“After going for a run himself, Charlie showered. He did not hear the explosions, but in his dorm room he heard sirens.

Police react immediately after today's explosion. This photo, taken by John Tlumacki, was tweeted by Boston Globe Sports. (From Business Insider)

Police react immediately after today’s explosion. This photo, taken by John Tlumacki, was tweeted by Boston Globe Sports. (From Business Insider)

Looking out his window, he saw ambulances and police cars flying down Boylston Street.

His Facebook and Twitter feeds immediately lit up.

The entire Emerson campus immediately went to lockdown. Many students are trying to cover the event for journalism and film classes.

“We are all shocked,” Charlie says. “There’s absolute madness here in Boston. Pandemonium.

“We are all now ordered to stay inside indoors and on campus. But an hour ago, when I looked outside, the screams and tears were everywhere.”

the immediate aftermath of today's explosion. Boston Globe reporter Steve Silva posted this photo on Facebook, with the caption, "God help us." (Courtesy Business Insider)

The immediate aftermath of today’s explosion. Boston Globe reporter Steve Silva posted this photo on Facebook, with the caption, “God help us.” (Courtesy Business Insider)

Charlie Goes To College

Tommy Greenwald is a multi-talented guy.

He’s the executive creative director at Spotco, an ad agency for Broadway shows.

He’s written the Charlie Joe Jackson book series (for reluctant readers), and john & jen (for musical theater-goers). 

Tommy Greenwald

He’s also a Staples grad — married to a fellow alum — and the father of 3 teenage boys.

Tommy’s blog (tagline: “A Shrine to  Everything Me”) is usually light-hearted. On Wednesday, though, he turned misty-eyed. He and Cathy had just left Charlietheir oldest — at college.

Tommy wrote:

I had to wait a day or two to write this post to make sure I could handle it.

On Monday we dropped our oldest son, Charlie, at Emerson for his freshman year. It was a memorable day, in every sense of the word.

I’m going to sound like a typical parent here, but Charlie is a remarkable person. Incredibly kind and extremely funny, he lights up any room he’s in. He’s a great son and a great friend.

So I knew it would be hard letting him go. But I didn’t quite realize how hard.

It first hit me about a week before he left. We’d had a great summer, he was in a fantastic mood, but one night I suddenly realized that in a week’s time, he’d be gone.

That was the first night I cried.

We had a great week after that, though. A lot of fun events, including my book launch events and a commercial shoot with Paul Rudd, kept us occupied and distracted.

But then came Sunday night.

Charlie, Joe and Jack Greenwald, two years ago.

Charlie hunkered down with his brothers Joe and Jack to watch the season finale of True Blood. They watched the show together religiously, every week. It was fortuitous that the season finale was broadcast the night before Charlie left for college and Joe and Jack had their first day of school.

I was watching Charlie as the show ended. He was completely wrapped up in the episode, but the second it ended, his face changed. It was as if he knew summer was officially over, and tomorrow he would be leaving. For the first time, I saw a hint of doubt and nervousness creep into his expression.

It was getting real.

We did a little packing and a lot of hugging that night, and I’m not gonna lie (one of Charlie’s favorite expressions), sleep was a little tough to come by.

The next morning, Monday, we sprung into action. Charlie and I took Moose and Coco for one last walk – his relationship with the dogs is a thing of beauty – and Cathy helped him with his last-minute packing (or should I say stuffing, since his suitcases were garbage bags. A great space-saving technique, btw.)

We hit the road about 11, and had a great drive up. Good conversation, a little nosh, easy traffic. We talked about a lot of things that made us feel good, including that fact that when you add it all up, he’s basically only at college 6 ½ months of the year, and home the other 5 ½ months. At these prices! Never have I been so grateful for being ripped off so royally.

Charlie Greenwald

We pulled into Boston around 2 and turned the corner onto Boylston Street, where we were immediately greeted by the uniquely Emersonian brand of happiness. Adorable students gave us our parking instructions while dancing in the streets; incredibly nice people all over the place got us checked in and situated while music blasted through the halls; we found Charlie’s room, which has a view of the Boston Common that rivals anything on Central Park West.

The hole in my heart was being nicely obscured by all the good vibes around us. But it was still there.

Cathy was a rock; Charlie seemed nervous but excited; and we were running out of excuses to stay by his side.

Finally, with the bed made, the clothes put away and the laundry lesson over, we all took the elevator to the lobby one last time. We contemplated going over to the campus store to take a look around, but Cathy said, “You know what? It’s time to go.” And she was absolutely right.

No long goodbyes, though. That was agreed upon well ahead of time. Cathy and I each gave Charlie a quick hug, kissed him, and sent him on his way. No looking back. Only looking ahead.

The ride home was not easy. Cathy and I cried. But we talked a lot, too, and managed to remind ourselves how blessed we are to have a son that we are going to miss so much.

Last night, Jack, the family computer whiz, hooked up our first video chat with Charlie. It was great to see him. He was funny and goofy. He seemed genuinely happy – although knowing him, even if he wasn’t, he’d pretend to be for our benefit. But I believed it. And since my happiness is in direct correlation with my children’s happiness, I was able to sleep a little better last night.

Time is a funny thing. Relentless, but forgiving. A stealer, and a healer. It’s also a paradox: I don’t want it to go fast, but yet I can’t wait to see my son again. In the meantime, we’ve got to sit our son Joe down this weekend and get down to business.

He’ll be applying to college this fall.

Thanks For Caring

Staples High School principal John Dodig is a passionate, compassionate and very involved educator.

He’s also a keen observer of teenagers – and a gifted writer.

Here is his “Principal’s Message” in the most recent PTA Newsletter.  I can’t think of a better message to kick off the holiday season.

I was struggling to come up with a message that is appropriate for the November PTA Newsletter.  I knew it should be related to Thanksgiving, but I could not think of something I had not said in the past.

This morning it came to me while standing in the foyer greeting kids as they entered school.  It was right in front of my eyes all along, but I took it for granted and never shared it, so I will share it now.

Charlie Greenwald

Around 7:15 a.m. last month a senior, Charlie Greenwald, entered the building.  He is one of dozens of kids who come up to me each morning and shake my hand or engage me about homework, the weather, a game won or a performance in the auditorium.

In the middle of our brief conversation, Charlie excused himself to walk to the des of Patty McQuone, our attendance secretary, to greet Alex, one of our special needs students.

Alex gave Charlie the broadest smile I have ever seen.  He took Charlie’s hand, and the 2 of them talked to Patty for 3 minutes, all the while holding hands tightly.

I had the urge to take their picture with my iPhone and turn it into a poster, but did not.  What a warm, positive way to begin the school day for the 2 of them, for Patty, and for me. That image remained in my mind for the entire day.

The scene at a recent Best Buddies dance. (Photo/Madeline Hardy)

I learned later that day that under Mrs. McQuone’s advisorship, the Best Buddies Club has grown to become the largest club at Staples, with over 220 students. That means about 15% of the student population is in a club that exists solely to support and benefit special needs students.  They provide individual help to each of our students, and once a year they organize and host a dance for special needs students from all over the state.

Over the last 7 years I have written about problems teenagers face.  I’ve written about drinking, cheating, bullying, speeding and other issues that have always existed, and will continue to exist long after I leave Staples.

Some teenagers make poor decisions, but that is part of life.  I talk about them; we as teachers and administrators deal with those matters, but that kind of behavior is seldom the primary focus of our attention.

What we focus on is the fact that our kids are fun to be with 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.  They amaze us every day with something unexpected and positive that they say or do.

John Dodig is a "superfan" of Staples students.

I looked at a list of the over 90 clubs here, and was astonished at the number of them devoted to helping young people somewhere in the world.  Some are raising money to build a school in Guatemala, some are providing soccer balls for young kids in Iraq and Afghanistan, some are feeding the homeless, and a huge number are helping those who were born with a severe handicap and who attend Staples High School.  What a wonderful job I have!

So here is what I am most thankful for, and will share with my family at the Thanksgiving table this year. I am thankful that I am the principal of Staples High School with students who, bottom line, are caring, respectful, involved, and willing to work hard to become well-educated, responsible human beings.

I am thankful that my mother taught me that individual people are important for one reason or another. Because I took her words to heart, I take time each day to get to know your sons and daughters, and to see first hand their warm and caring nature.  Working with your children is a joy, and I am truly thankful for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!