Luck

Timmy Smith Super Bowl XXIILuck is a funny thing. Sometimes it snowballs and you just can’t believe how fate has smiled upon you. Kinda like Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII. Sometimes it goes the other way. Like how a small group of Navy divebombers changed the course of the Battle of Midway for the Japanese Empire. Other times I think it just depends on your perspective. What may appear to bad luck is actually a stroke of good fortune. A blessing. And if you recognize it as such, it may lead to more good luck.

That’s kinda what happened to me this weekend.

I’m picking up the girls Friday after school. Mom is already home packing her car because we’re headed out to her sister’s house. Almost a two hour drive. The girls and I are discussing what they are going to bring in the car with them to stay busy. This always transpires like Germany’s behavior in the late 30’s. Riley is telling everybody what to do while everybody appeases her until she stops. It never works out well.

So I apply the brakes and hit the left turn signal as I approach our street. Done it thousands of times. Except I’ve never done it without any sort of gas powered locomotion. Or steering. Or brakes.

My car literally died right there as I’m turning onto our street. I had only turned the wheel far enough to drift across the left lane and coast gently into the curb. Except the back end my car is sticking out into traffic. And this is a fairly busy street at about 5:00 on Friday afternoon.

Lou Ferrigno Incredible HulkQuickly, I examine my options. 1) I could get out and hope the gamma radiation Dr. Bruce Banner and I were exposed to during our experiments kicks in and I turn green and into Lou Ferrigno. 2) I could start swearing. A lot. 3) Something else.

I got the girls out of the car and had them walk the 150 yards or so to our house. I quickly realized that their suggestions like “Dad you need to move the car” and “Dad you missed the turn” weren’t really going to help. Then a guy in a Dish Network van turns left behind me and stops on our street. He hops out and asks if I need any help.

Turns out I do.

I shift the car into neutral, we wait for a short break in traffic, and we push the car back from the curb and then forward onto our street. As this is happening a guy running happens to jog by.

“Hey you guys need a hand?”

Turns out we did.

We push the car about 20 yards and I ask if they help me push it down the street and help me get it into driveway. To paraphrase Fee Waybill from The Tubes in “Talk to Ya Later,” they reluctantly agreed. Our street is pretty flat. But my car is an SUV. And you really don’t notice the insignificant changes in elevation on your street until you’re pushing an SUV. I have one hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the car. Jogger Guy and Dish Network Guy are pushing from the back. Then one of the teenagers who lives on our street sees us struggling and he comes out.

“Looks like you guys could use some help.”

Turns out we could.

Right as you get to our driveway there is what cartographers might call a slight rise. Or, if you’re really tired, an incline of epic magnitude. It was not an easy task but we reached the crest and gained a little speed on the down slope. My neighbor sees this from his driveway and comes running over.

“One more can’t hurt.”

Turns out it couldn’t.

We get it into the driveway but get stuck. Jogger Guy says he’s out of gas. I give him a fist bump, say thanks and he jogs away. Ironic. Dish Network guy is already running back to his van and Teenager Neighbor Kid walks back home. I give them both a wave. I’m still not switching to Dish Network. Mom comes out and gets behind the wheel. Neighbor Guy and I push the car back a little and then up across the sidewalk.

Turns out the city fines you if you block the sidewalk over night with your vehicle in your driveway. Damn government.

Anyhow, we park it, lock it and head to Mom’s sister’s house.

We’re there for a wedding on Saturday. A wedding that starts at 2:00. Which means we have to leave the house about 1:15. Which means I don’t get to watch the second half of the Iowa State-Nebraska game.

The only text message update I get during the wedding is “gotta get rid of our kicker!” This does not give me hope. Mom’s other sister calls home after the wedding and finds out that we’re up 9-7 with 2 minutes left.

Iowa State 9 Nebraska 7Picture this: grown man wearing a black suit in a dead on full sprint across a church parking lot. I was moving so fast I created a wind vortex behind me that sucked up all the fallen leaves. It looked like jet exhaust. I was pretty sure I heard Oscar Goldman narrating my sprint with “better, faster, stronger…” That loud “WOOOOOOOOO! you heard about 2:45 p.m. on Saturday was me.

9-7 baby! Last time we won in Lincoln was when Charlie was talking to the Angels on that crazy speaker box. This all happens as Mom’s family is trying to take a family picture outside the church. And there are about 50 people involved here including about 20 little kids. And there’s me standing in the parking lot yelling “WOOOOOOO!”

But here’s the thing. I could have been really angry and cursed the bad luck of my car dying right in the middle of a busy street as I’m turning across traffic while I have the girls in the car. But I didn’t. I thought it was pretty damn lucky that it happened right there on our street. And even luckier that some neighbors and strangers decided to actually help me push the car down the street.

Because I thought it was all rather lucky that it happened the way it did, the good luck snowballed.

Instead of being upset that we had to go into Memorial Stadium without our starting quarterback and the conference’s leading rusher, I thought to myself that this is how legends are born.

So who knows? If I get angry on Friday maybe the Cyclones don’t pull it out on Saturday? If I curse the bad luck about the car maybe the Huskers don’t go three and out on ISU’s 35 after they blocked a field goal and changed the momentum.

So I’m telling you…you never know…

Hit it with something

Ash Tree Fall ColorHere’s the fall picture of the day. Ash tree in my front yard.

Anyway, let me know if this happened to you too on Monday morning.

I’m dropping the girls off at daycare. Things go smoothly. I’m mildly surprised since I had to get them up, fed and ready since Mom left early for work. But we’re at the point when Rye pretty much takes of herself and all Kinz and Bails need are ponytails. And Bails went ponytail free on Monday.

After dropping them off I head back out to my car. Open the door, slide into my seat, insert key in ignition and…hmmm…it seems to be locked. Or stuck. Or frozen in place by a ripple in the fabric of time.

I take the key out. Reinsert it. Attempt to turn it. Nothing. Its not moving. Must have locked the ignition switch somehow. I reach over and grab the owner’s manual in the glove compartment.

Ignition locked – page 13. Cool. Evidently you can lock your ignition switch and/or your steering column if you turn the wheel too far in one direction after you’ve removed your key. I seem to remember doing this a time or two in my long and uneventful history as a driver. I follow the directions listed in the owners manual and, not surprisingly, they don’t work. This, I say to myself, is exactly how socialized medicine would work. It looks simple on paper, but in practice it works as smoothly as the Oakland Raiders.

I try the “jiggle the key” method for a short time. It is unsuccessful. Not like the Dieppe Raid in 1942 on the beaches of France unsuccessful but more like Johnny Unitas to the Chargers in 1972 unsuccessful.

Hmmm…luckily I have a receipt from the local dealership left over in my car from the last time I took it in for repairs. Sometimes being lazy and a pack rat is helpful. I find the phone number and give them a call.

“Hey got a question, the ignition switch is stone cold locked. I can’t figure out why and I can’t figure out how to unlock it. Did what the owners manual said and it didn’t work. Any ideas?”

“Well you’ve got three options. First put the key in and turn it while at the same giving the wheel a good long slow turn. Don’t give yourself a hernia but give it a good turn.”

“Okay….didn’t work.”

“All right, try this. Shift it into neutral and get it rolling. Sometimes that pops it.”

“Not going to happen. I’m in a parking lot facing a sidewalk that’s a good 4 inches higher than the pavement.”

“Okay, here’s your last shot. Put the key in.”

“Done.”

“Now hit it with something.”

“What?”

“Hit it with something. Not real hard, but give it a smack. Sometimes that pops it loose.”

I give the front seat a quick once over. The closet thing to a hammer I have is a CD case. Maybe the owners manual. There’s probably a random shoe in the back seat from the girls. Hmmm…

The Fonz and the Jukebox“So you want me to use the Fonzie Method.”

“Um…well…yeah.”

“If this doesn’t work, I’m screwed aren’t I?”

“Yep.”

“Great. Thanks. If I call you back in two minutes its because I need the number for a tow truck.”

I hang up, put down my phone and grimace. Not in anticipation of any pain slamming my hand onto the key will cause but because I’m thinking after all the engineering and design, government interference and union wages that went into building my car, the best method to unlock the ignition switch is to hit it with something.

I’m pretty sure this is how I used to solve problems when I was 2.

Its weird but if somebody said how do you unlock the ignition in your car and what would you do if Nancy Pelosi stuck her head around the corner, the answer is the same.

Anyway, I smack it and reach for the key with the same hope for success I had when the Steelers played Miami in the ’84 AFC Championship.

In an upset on par with 1980 US Olympic Hockey team beating the Soviets, it turned and the car started. Okay that might be overstating it. But it was at least on par with Rocky Balboa taking Apollo Creed the distance in their first fight.

At any rate, that’s not a bad start to a Monday. Maybe it means I’m going to have a good week? Steelers have the Vikings this week and we need all the good karma we can get.

I Love Friday

I love Fridays. Easily my favorite day of the week. I think its always been at the top of my Days of the Week Rankings. There’s been some shuffling beneath Friday but nobody has been able to knock Friday off. Sometimes Saturday has made a run and in college Thursday ran pretty strong. Friday is the Pittsburgh Steelers of days. Traditionally and consistently good. Saturday is like the Cowboys. Traditionally good but never quite the same as Friday. Thursday is like the Patriots. A quick burst of awesomeness but now just another day.

loverboyAnyway, today was another good Friday. I’m going to lunch, turn on the radio, and what do I hear barking out of the speakers? Loverboy. Working for the Weekend. This is not only a great Friday song, it’s probably Loverboy’s best song if you were to rank them. And I have.

1-Working for the Weekend
2-The Kid is Hot Tonight
3-Queen of the Broken Hearts

Then Pat Benetar comes on – Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Great song. Awesome rocker chick. My favorite rocker chick of all time? Not sure. Joan Jett and Lita Ford have some pretty strong arguments.

I get my sandwich and get back in the car and head back to work. First song I hear? Trixter – Give it to me Good. This is a really classic example of why hair metal died. So is Firehouse. It’s a good song but hearing it a good 18 years after it was cool just exposes why its not. Its okay. Its like Steven Segal. Those movies were cool. But if you watch Hard to Kill now, you’re sort of confused as to why it was cool. And why Steven Segal was such a bad dude.

This is not to say that I wasn’t singing along to Trixter. I was. Or to Thunder’s Dirty Love which came on next. Guilty. Dirty Love is the prototype for perfect hair metal video song. Bad Medicine followed. First person who says they don’t know the words 21 years after it was cool is lying.

Didya catch a vintage back in the day Pam Anderson in that video?

All of this just proves that my ranking of Friday as the top day of the week is accurate. Hair metal makes everything better. But that’s not the best part of this weekend. We’re taking two of the girls to the Iowa State-Baylor game Saturday. Night game. Going to be cold for the boys from Waco. For Bailey, it’s her first Cyclone game. I’m very excited. Although this could easily change depending on the score and her behavior.

bill_mazeroskiBut this week has special meaning to me. Why? On October 13th, 49 years ago, Bill Mazeroski hit a homer in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 to win the 1960 World Series. My Dad walked from his job at Gimbels department store in Pittsburgh to the Hilton Hotel to meet some friends afterwards and join in the celebration in downtown Pittsburgh. He met my Mom upon joining up with his friends.

Seventeen years later, almost to the day on Oct. 15th, 1977, my folks took me to my first college football game. Pitt vs. Navy. Pitt won 34-17. Randy Holloway blocked a field goal. Iowa State also happened to beat Nebraska the same day. Hmmm…weird.

Pitt Stadium

Anyway, I’m excited about taking the girls to the game. Especially since Riley and Kinsey have been sick most of the week. Some Indonesian junk been going ‘round. Took about half the week but everybody is better. Didn’t even need the government to help.

I’m already ruling out candy during the game however. They can eat as many hot dogs as they want. All that will do is make them lethargic and queasy. Giving candy to Bails and then asking her to sit down is dumber than casting Keanu Reeves as a super genius scientist in Chain Reaction. Give her a bag of M&M’s and she freaks out faster than the media when Rush Limbaugh tries to buy a football team.

No concerns about Riley. She sat with me last Sunday and watched football. She’s starting to grasp the fundamentals and what’s happening on the field. Which, of course, is freaking excellent. Now if I could get the stadium guys to show Phineas and Ferb on the jumbo-tron during the game we’d be all set.

Bad Words

Quick story about why Mom is cool.

Last night Mom and I are talking. She says to me, “hey you know what tomorrow is?”

I reply tepidly knowing that my answer, while obvious, cannot possibly be correct.

“Um, yeah, its Friday.”

“No its pumpkin beer night at Rock Bottom.”

See that’s why she’s cool.

We’re going to a wedding tomorrow. My buddy walks up to my desk today just before leaving and says, “hey, you guys are going to the wedding right?”

“Right.”

“Well, what are we going to do between the wedding and reception? We have like an hour and a half to kill.”

“Well, let me explain why my wife is always the coolest person in whatever room the two of us happen to occupy. I tell her yesterday that we probably need to find a place for a beer between the wedding and the reception. And she tells me, ‘yeah and a really a big TV so we can watch college football.'”

And that’s why Mom is the coolest.

Anyway, we’re headed home from school today. As we get close to our street we see this fuzzy white dog. Not being a dog owner or someone who really cares to know about dogs, I have no idea what kind of dog it is. All I know is that it is white and looks like an exploded feather pillow with four legs and decent agility.

“Hey guys check out this funny looking dog over here.”

“What kind of dog is that?”

“I don’t know Rye.”

“Is it a Shute-zoo?”, asks Kinsey.

“Um, well, not sure kiddo.”

“No Kinsey its Szhitsu.”

This kinda cracks me up because my aunt and uncle had a Szhitzu when we were little kids and we thought it was freaking excellent because we got to say a swear word and not get slapped or get soap shoved into our mouths for it.

Riley says “Szhitzu” a few more times and I get suspicious.

“Hey listen I think you’re just saying the name of the dog because it has a bad word in it. That’s what we did when we were kids and I’m pretty sure that the kid code still has some bylaws somewhere that explain the backstory to Szhitzu.”

“What are you talking about Dad?”

“It has a bad word in it. The “S” word. And I think that’s why you’re saying Szhitzu over and over.”

This is really confusing to Kinsey because she’s pretty certain that the bad word known as the “S” word, also referred to as the “Sh” word in our house, is “shutup.” We don’t let the girls say that either.

In a tone best described as pure bewilderment, Kinsey says, “Sh*ts is a bad word?”

Silence. Riley can’t believe somebody actually said a swear word.

“No Kinsey. That’s not the bad word.”

I’m not really sure what to do here. Do I tell them what the bad word is? Riley is in fourth grade, she not only knows the word but probably hears it on the playground in all its usages. I mean next to “dude” it might be the single most versatile word in the english language.

I make a snap decision.

“The bad word is sh*t. Its a swear word. You’re not allowed to say it.”

We have a good 5 to 10 seconds of pure silence. Not sure why. Maybe the girls were contemplating the fact that I said “sh*t” in a setting that didn’t involve the Cyclones blowing a game or Jeff Reed missing a field goal. But Bails decides to break the silence.

“SH*T!”

A fleeting instance of stunned silence and then…pandemonium.

I tried really really hard not to laugh.

I failed.

“Okay, Bails, that’s the word I just said was the “S” word that you’re not allowed to say. It’s funny once. And you just used up your whole childhood quota for saying bad words and having Dad laugh. So if you say it again – you’re in trouble. Room, bed, no TV, no snack, nothing. Got it?”

“Yes.”

From the back of the car I hear Kinz, “So wait a minute. ‘Shutup’ isn’t the “S” word?”

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  
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Jackets: Potential Pitfalls

There are lots of things I like. Fritos. My field boots. My sweet collection of NFL mini-helmets that I have carefully altered to ensure that they accurately reflect what they looked like in the mid to late 70’s. You can’t buy an Oilers or Rams helmet with the gray facemask. I’m just saying…

One of the other things I like is fall. Or Autumn if you’re a northeastern liberal. Or an English major.

fall foliage

Fall has the best holidays with Halloween, Thanksgiving and NFL Kickoff Sunday. Now I know technically NFL Kickoff Sunday occurs in the summer as the calendar doesn’t officially turn to fall until September 21. But that’s crap. Everybody starts behaving like its fall on Sept. 1. Just like they do for winter on December 1, spring on March 1 and summer on June 1. Telling people “ya know, it’s still technically summer” on Sept. 20 is pointless. Nobody cares. It’s like Harry Reid telling people he’s still in charge of the Senate. Or Kevin Costner telling people he’s still an actor.

Anyhow, despite fall’s advantages with pumpkins, football and the leaves changing colors, it does come with one distinct disadvantage. The girls have to wear jackets to school.

This doesn’t not sound like it would cause problems. I mean most people are actually kind of excited that they get to break out their favorite fall apparel. Not the girls. And especially not Bailey. She’d wear shorts, tank tops and flip-flops every day, all day, for every occasion in any place at all times if we let her. I was mowing the grass and leaves and pine needles on Sunday in a sweatshirt and jeans. She comes outside in shorts and a tank top and bare feet.

“Bails its too cold for that. Go change.”

A few minutes later she comes out with flips-flops and a jacket.

“Bails its too cold for a tank top.”

“I’m not wearing tank top.”

“Yes you are. I can see it under your jacket.”

“No you can’t,” she slyly replies with a sneaky grin as she slowly turns away and zips up her jacket.

Am I really that gullible? Have I given off the impression that not even the Jedi mind trick is necessary to fool me? When did I turn into General Howard’s XI Corps at Chancellorsville in 1863? When did I become Chazz Palminteri in The Usual Suspects?

So this morning we trying to get out the door and I tell the girls to get their backpacks and jackets. Riley is already at the door with her jacket on, backpack slung disgustedly pointing out to Mom and I that the other two girls don’t even have their shoes on yet.

We rectified that and went to the coat rack to get their jackets. Grab Kinsey’s and then…hmmm…where’s Bailey’s jacket? She wears a different jacket practically every day since the other two girls have passed so many down to her. She has a purple one, a purplish-pink one, a new one with flowers on it she got for her birthday from Grandma, a red one with a weird design on it and her blue fleece jacket. All the girls have fleece jackets. I recommend them to anybody with little kids. They are the perfect jacket for that in between weather you get between fall and winter and between winter and spring. They prevent any sort of morning delaying actions that manifest themselves through a jacket protest from the girls. In fact, I made sure Bails wore her fleece yesterday when her class went to an apple orchard on a field trip. Another cool thing about fall right there. Apple orchards. Anyway, Bails has this incredibly annoying tendency to leave her jacket at school or at daycare. Yesterday morning, when I couldn’t find her blue fleece jacket on the rack, I asked her where it was. Not to mention her purple jacket and flowered jacket.

“It’s at school Daddy. I think. Maybe it’s at daycare?”

“Bails, it’s going to be cold when you go to the apple orchard so you have to wear your fleece jacket. You have to remember to wear it when you guys leave for the field trip.”

It was cold yesterday. And windy. Her teacher even asked the kids to bring winter hats to wear. Which she did. Except she used it as a bag to fill with dried corn kernels as she walked this “big giant pool of corn” at the orchard. Another cool there about fall. Corn pools. She’s telling me this story this morning as I’m looking for a jacket…any jacket…for her.

“Um, Daddy, I couldn’t find my fleece jacket at school yesterday.”

“What? Then what jacket did you wear to the orchard? It was really cold.”

“I didn’t bring one.”

“So let’s see here…you didn’t bring the fleece jacket I specifically told you to wear. And you didn’t wear the hat you brought along because you filled it with corn.”

“Well, I couldn’t find my fleece jacket. It wasn’t at daycare either.”

“So the reason you didn’t wear it isn’t because you forgot, it is because you lost it. Okay, that’s way better.”

At this point, I’m really starting to angry. I mean how hard is it to bring the same jacket you wear to school home from school? Evidently pretty damn hard. It’s like I’m asking her to beat the ’85 Bears with Tony Eason at quarterback. She better come home with about 17 jackets stuffed into her backpack or I’m bringing the thunder…

A New First

Something odd happened on Sunday. It was not only unplanned but was accomplished completely without effort on our part. It was the first time it happened to us. Although I’m sure it will happen again.

For one entire hour on Sunday afternoon we were sans kids.

Think about that for a second. Not only is it the first time our children have been out of the house without the kind of intense logistical planning usually reserved for moon landings, but it happened on Sunday afternoon. In the fall. Right at the close of the noon games through the first quarter or so of the 3:00 games.

It is more likely Tom Cruise de-crazies himself before this happens again.

The only possible way that this could be topped would be if somehow on a Friday afternoon all three girls ended up spending not only the night somewhere else but the entire weekend through the end of second slate of NFL games on Sunday. And that we didn’t have to do any planning. Or packing. Or use our vehicles to transport them. And Rock Bottom let us drink Pumpkin Ale all night. For free. And that my buddies from high school randomly decided to visit for the weekend. And that the Cyclones beat Nebraska. And Troy Polamalu’s knee injury actually made him faster…

Anyway, Riley was at a friend’s house. Kinsey went to one of those places with the big inflatable play things. Bailey was at a birthday party with our neighbors. And we weren’t responsible for any dropoffs or pickups. Plus they were all tired out so they went to sleep early Sunday night.

I know. Its just freaking unbelievable. Bailey was the last to go and after she left the house, I turned to Mom and said, ”Hmm…do you realize we haven’t done a damn thing to cause this awesome chain of events to occur but we are completely and totally without kids for the next hour?”

bengalsWe immediately sat on the couch, flipped between a few of the NFL games using The NFL Sunday Ticket and then promptly fell asleep and took a nap. In our defense, the Bengals-Browns overtime period wasn’t a real riveting 5th quarter of action. Plus you really need to look away when watching the Bengals because those uniforms look like costumes for a Broadway play about Halloween. Either decide what color your jerseys are or go back to the Esiason-era uniforms.

stakeoutFirst time the girls all were out doing their own deal without us really involved. At some point when they have more autonomy, hormones and driver’s licenses, I’ll be a tad bit more concerned. Mostly because they won’t be as free about their plans or location. But you can track people through their cell phones. And I’m not above a stakeout. Which, by the way, is one of the most underrated movies of the 80’s.

Riley has been alternating Mondays after school with one of her friends who lives real close. One Monday Rye will walk over to her friend’s house and do homework and then the next Monday her friend will come over to our house. They get to hang out and they actually do their homework. They quiz each other on spelling words and do math tests. States and capitals too. I can’t wait until they really start studying American History. I mean somebody is going to have to correct any of that Howard Zinn inspired socialist heresy with which most history textbooks are infected.

At any rate, they are walking by themselves. Outside. After school. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’ve grown up in an era of constant media reports of kids being snatched off the street, it’s a big deal to trust your 4th grader to do this by themselves.

Of course, how do they learn to be independent and confident if you don’t allow them the opportunity to do things unsupervised? How else do they really learn that being responsible is up to them?

Anyway, this is all new to me. But I kinda like it. And if you want to volunteer for that weekend with the girls, let me know…