Halloween ’13

DSC02450Happy Halloween. Or if you’re from the Des Moines metro area, Happy Day After Trick or Treating Occurs. Yes we continue with the inanely stupid tradition of Beggar’s Night in which kids are forced by the local powers that be to trick or treat the day before Halloween. Not only that but they have to tell a joke. Yeah, the trick part of trick or treat in Des Moines is that they have to earn their candy by telling a joke. This, if you have not already surmised by now, I also consider stupid. I always kinda assumed that the trick part of the trick or treat was “give me some candy or my friends and I will egg your house.” But I prowling the streets trick or treating back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. People were still giving out apples and homemade cookies. Until somebody decided to stick razor blades in the apples. Or maybe that was an urban legend. Regardless, sometime during the first few years of the Reagan administration, fruit was no longer part of the Halloween madness. And madness it was.

I remember riding the bus home from school in ’79 or ’80. Had to be about 3:30 in the afternoon and parents were already taking their little kids door to door. Yeah, that early. And people were ready! They didn’t tell the kids to go away and come back later. They didn’t lecture them about running across their lawn. They gave them candy. Might even have been those candy cigarettes. Ha! Not that I want those to come back or anything but its kinda funny how its entirely unacceptable to manufacture candy cigarettes but its okay to use the IRS to for your own political agenda. Whatever. Back to trick to treating. When those folks answered their doors at 3:30 with a big bowl of candy were they excited? Well, no. It was 3:30. I’m going to go ahead and assume they were unhappy. Why? Nobody wants to hand out candy starting at 3:30. Idiot teenagers are still going to be showing up at your house around 9. And that’s a long freaking time to be camped out by your door before the internet and smartphones.

We’ve been handing out candy at our house since ’97. And yesterday was one of the least active trick or treating events we’ve experienced. Not sure why. But I’m okay with blaming the same folks I blamed last year. Anti-American funsmashers and helicopter parents. Sometimes they are one in the same.

Who in the hell are you people who hate Halloween? Fundamentalist Christians who think it’s a pagan holiday? Relax, it isn’t. Communists who think it’s disrespectful to the authority of the state? Um, FYI, not even the communists could make communism work. Or good old-fashioned grumpy a-holes? Because if you turned your lights off and sat at home watching TV while little hopeful children dressed up as their favorite superheroes and princesses walked by your house…you, my friend, have put yourself on a list. You know what list that is? It’s the asshat list. Not everybody goes trick or treating anymore. And local city governments almost universally limit the timeframe in which it happens to something like 6-8 p.m. So for those kids who still believe in George Washington, apple pie and the American tradition of asking for stuff from your neighbors, you just wiped you nose all over their happiness. Why don’t you go ahead and throw a flaming bag of dog crap at the Lincoln Memorial. Fly out to Pearl Harbor and dump some sewage on the USS Arizona. Because that’s what you’re doing.

Trick or treating might be the only way to save America. When I was doing it in the late 70’s the streets were packed with kids and parents. It was like a roving block party. And neighbors talked with each other. Pretty soon, after all that talking, they realized that Jimmy Carter sucked and Keynesian economic theory was asinine. As a result, Ronald Reagan was able to cut taxes, 70’s easy listening was replaced by hair metal and the three point line was added to college basketball. By your refusal to take part in your patriotic Halloween duty, you’re dooming America to a future of 70% tax rates, Seals and Croft and uncomfortably snug NBA shorts. And ain’t nobody want that…

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Generational Differences

adverbsGenerational differences within an office are often hard to navigate for managers. People of varying ages have different expectations of behavior. We have different cultural reference points. For example, if its lunch time and I say, “Dude, I am hungry like the wolf,”not everybody is going to get it. If I’m singing, “Lolly, lolly, lolly get your adverbs here,” everybody under 40 thinks I’m weird. If I make a reference to Guido the Killer Pimp I get raised eyebrows. And this irritates me. But not as much as learning that one of the guys you hired hasn’t seen Caddyshack, Animal House, The Blues Brothers or Stripes. Or Fletch. Or Beverly Hills Cop 1 or 2. Or Coming to America. Or Major League. Or Weird Science.

He hadn’t even heard of Fletch. Not hadn’t seen it, hadn’t even heard of it.

Let that process for a second. I’m not sure my friends from high school and college, to this day, are able to hold a conversation without a Fletch reference or quote making its way in there.

Stunning. Absolutely stunning. Hadn’t even heard of it. Flatly astonishing. Next thing you know is that he’ll start claiming Kobe is better than Jordan. Or that the Red Dawn remake is better than the original. I mean I was so astounded I was fearful to ask about Scrooged, Ghostbusters and The Naked Gun. And listen I was really just focusing on the comedies. He had not seen The Breakfast Club either until I sent him home with an assignment to watch it before he came back work. Oh and come back he did with a “I don’t really understand the big deal about the movie” argument. Almost fired him. I didn’t know this but this is what happens when you get into your 40’s and you start working with people in their 20’s.

I’m now fairly certain this is why millennials kinda piss me off. They are in their 20’s. And your 20’s sure start out a lot like your teens except now you have a car and some cash so you can finance your questionable decisions. And listen when you’re in your 20’s, you are completely and utterly oblivious to the fact that the only people who think you’re cool are other twentysomethings. Literally EVERYONE else thinks you suck. Not kidding. It’s science. Back then, I didn’t know this either.

The simple fact is that it is difficult for me take someone seriously if they do not understand the overall cultural impact and awesomeness of Magnum, P.I., Moonlighting and MacGyver. Not to mention to global political corollaries of Star Wars and the 80’s. If don’t have a soft spot for a certain TV mini-series known as North and South Book I and II you have a hole in heart. What? It’s about the Civil War, had Swayze’s hair and it was Jimmy Stewart’s last movie role. But you probably don’t know who Jimmy Stewart is because you’ve never taken the time to watch It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas because its too long and you can’t find Jimmy Stewart on Twitter.

Regardless, the guy I work with now has a list of movies that he needs to watch to return to work in good standing.

The Glory of Wednesday

We’re looking forward to Wednesday. Not for the reasons you’d assume either. It is not the 53rd anniversary of Bill Mazeroski’s home to win the ’60 series. That was Sunday. It is not the 36th anniversary of my first college football game. That’s today. It is not the 28th anniversary of A-Ha hitting #1 in Billboard’s Top 40 with Take on Me. That’s next Sunday. Wednesday is the day when we no longer will have daily cross country practice or softball practice. Last softball tournaments of the year are this weekend while the last cross country meet of the year is Tuesday.

Cue Handel’s Messiah.

I might be engaging in a tad bit of hyperbole but it feels like freaking Christmas Eve and the last day of school combined. Or that feeling you got when the Bears Dave Williams took the opening kickoff of overtime back for a touchdown against Detroit Thanksgiving Day in 1980. Or when you see Steelers GM Kevin Colbert walking along the sidewalk outside Jack Trice Stadium at the Iowa State-Texas game and you go all fanboy on him asking him about scouting. All awesome. Last week we had 5 softball practices and 8 games, 4 cross country practices, 1 cross country meet, 4 afternoons/evenings with dance. I’d give the exact number of dance classes contained within those 4 afternoons/evenings but I don’t know. Rye has so many classes that drain our checking accounts, I don’t really care to know the number. If I were to give you an estimate, it would be…a lot.

My point, if I have one, is that the schedule is catching up to us. And by catching up to us I mean in the overwhelming sense similar to what Hans Guderian and his panzers did to the French in the spring of 1940.

The elementary school the girls attend have a program called Challenge of the Books for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Every month for about five months, kids in the program are assigned a particular book to read. Within each grade level the kids broken down into several reading groups comprising about five kids. The 4th grade groups all read the same book and so on. Once a month each group gets together to discuss the book. And, by the way, this reading is in addition to the normal assigned reading they get in the classrooms. So its more homework. But Rye did it and Kinsey has been doing it since 4th grade. This is Bailey’s first year in the program. We totally believe in it. The girls reading levels are a testament to the extra work. And after reading Outliers, I’m a total believer in more practice is always good. Anyway, the books were assigned in early September and they were supposed to get together last week for their first meeting to discuss the books.

Sounds straight-forward enough. Kinz had no problem getting her book, reading her book and preparing herself to discuss her book. Bails path to her first meeting was a bit more rocky. And by rocky I mean like running the ball on the ’76 Steelers using the ’76 Buccaneers offense to do it.

She never actually obtained the book she was assigned to read. Which was a complete breakdown within the sister teamwork processes. Kinsey’s teacher has all the books for all the Challenge of Books groups in her room. She’s like the Challenge of the Books quartermaster. Kinsey, even though she was asked to do it, never found the time to walk the 8 or 9 feet over to the shelf in her room and get the book for Bails. However, Bails, despite knowing the date of the first meeting was coming up displayed absolutely no sense of urgency when it came to acquiring the book. Much like the current administration in regards to anything John Boehner says.

Anyway, I get an email on Friday, October 4 reminding us that the first meeting is the following week. I of course ignored this email because I had taken the day off and was home watching Pirates future pitching ace Gerrit Cole mow down the Cardinals. Too bad the Pirates couldn’t duplicate his effort against Wainwright on last week. Regardless, the email says that Bails’ first meeting is Tuesday Oct. 8 and she’s supposed to bring a cold lunch to school so they don’t waste valuable meeting time waiting in the lunch line.

Well the only email I had checked was the original email containing the book list which was sent around Labor Day. That email also said that the first meeting was to be held the week of Oct. 6 without specifying a day. I asked Kinsey when the meetings were held. She said Wednesdays. I believed her. Which in retrospect is a lot like the US Navy believing that the Japanese didn’t have the technological expertise to develop plane launched torpedoes capable of running the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. I should have done a bit more checking.

So last Monday afternoon we suddenly realize, albeit erroneously, that Bailey’s first Challenge of Books meeting is Wednesday and she not only hasn’t read any of the book but hasn’t even bothered to secure a copy of the book. Our reaction? I asked Mom to download a copy onto her Kindle, Baily would read as much of that downloaded copy as she could Monday evening and Tuesday and then she’d go to the meeting.

Naturally a copy is not available for download.

Okay, so how about we find a nice detailed summary so at least she’ll be able to partially participate in the discussion. Then we’d have her read the book afterwards while also reading the next regularly scheduled book.

After all we still have Monday evening and Tuesday.

Except we didn’t. Once we got home from softball practice, took a shower and did her math homework it was time for her to go to bed. So we’re down to Tuesday to get everything done.

Except we weren’t.

While at work on Tuesday I find the email from Friday the 4th and learn that not only is her meeting on Tuesday and not Wednesday but she was supposed to bring a cold lunch to the meeting. As I finish the email I feel with absolute metaphysical certitude that Bailey, upon learning that information while at school, either refused to go the meeting in the most stubborn and obstinate manner imaginable or she went to the meeting under duress and misbehaved so badly that we’ll need to move out of the school district and send her to a private military school on Iceland.

So I’m sitting at the kitchen table when Bailey gets home from school.

“Hey Bails how did your Challenge of Books meeting go today?”

“We didn’t have it.”

“What? Why?”

“Nobody in my group read the book. Well, nobody read it except for one kid. Everyone thought we were supposed to start reading the book today not finish it today.”

“Huh. Cool.”

So now we not only have a copy of the book courtesy of Kinsey’s renewed efforts but we also have another month to finish it. Plus we have next Wednesday coming up.

Not a bad start to October. I mean if you ignore the Steelers record.

One thing about Fandom

Somewhat recently there was a football game that, in these parts, always is a pretty big deal. Iowa State vs. Iowa. Not to mention that a few weeks ago Mom and I found ourselves on opposite sides again for the Steelers/Bears game. The internet, for all its awesome glory, has taught many of us that its okay to be a complete douchebag because we can hide behind handles and nicknames while typing really nasty things about other people. Twitter also seems to be an accelerant on this fire. Sports fans, Hollywood groupies and political consultants are among the worst when it comes to yelling instead of talking. So Mom and I have decided that douchbaggery is not something in which we want the girls to excel. It turns out that nobody is teaching kids how to disagree without resorting to personal attacks, disrespect and general, well, douchbaggery. So how Mom and I interact with each other and our friends and neighbors who have sports loyalties different than ours, is an opportunity to push back against the continuing acceptance of douchism.

And listen, rivalry games in college sports are among the greatest conflagrations of asshattery in these United States. Regardless if our game is held in Ames or Iowa City, fans of the visiting team show up in their colors. I’ve done this many times. In fact I’ve donned the Cardinal & Gold in Iowa City 10 times. I’ve been treated poorly each time. This is to be expected. You are showing up on the other guys’ turf. Several people asked me during the week leading up to this year’s game if we were bring the girls with us.

Um, no.

First off, we had a live band at our tailgate. I also brought a 10-pack of Miller Lite Tall Boys for myself. This is not an environment in which my Dad skills would have been operating at maximum efficiency. Second, it’s a rivalry game with public drunkenness, rampant f-bombing and widespread dumbassification. So taking the girls to this game is not an ideal environment for teaching the skills we want the girls to learn. A byproduct of this conversation was that we wanted the girls to learn how not to be the type of sports fans whom everyone detests. That in turn led to an interesting debate at our tailgate.

Let’s say you are an Iowa Hawkeye fan. On gamedays you proudly wear your colors. When the Hawks are in Ames to play the Cyclones you show up to the tailgate/game in your black and gold. This seems perfectly acceptable to me. Also seems acceptable to most of the folks at the tailgate. Your team is in the visitor’s stadium to play a game. But what if the Hawks aren’t playing in Ames? Let’s say they are playing in Madison against Wisconsin while the Cyclones are home in Ames against the Kansas State Wildcats. So what you say. Doesn’t matter where your beloved Hawks are playing, its gameday for you. You get up, throw on your favorite black and gold Hawkeye gear, and head to the nearest bar to watch the game with your friends right? No. You get on the road early and head to Madison on a road trip? No. Grab a bag of Ruffles and a six-pack and watch the game on your couch? No.

You drive to Ames and go to the Iowa State-Kansas State game while wearing your black and gold Hawkeye gear. You go to a tailgate with some Cyclone fans you know and then head in and watch the Cyclones and Wildcats. All while wearing your black and gold Hawkeye gear.

Does this make you a douchebag?

Yes. Yes it does. If you answered no, you are, in fact, a douchebag fan. Or you harbor douchebag sympathies. Or your own fan douchebaggery is still in the larval stage and while not fully developed as of today, its only a matter of time until you too are universally identified as a douchebag fan. Even if you behave admirably throughout the tailgate and game, maybe even cheer for the Cyclones, you my thoroughly clueless friend are a douchebag. Simply put, you are a douchebag of considerable magnitude if you wear the gear of your team to an in-state rival team’s stadium and your team is not playing. The excuse that its “gameday” for your team too is so unacceptably lame it is difficult to convey through the English language. I wish there was a word to express, in a literary sense, a throat punch. Because that’s what you’re asking for when you engage in this type of douchebaggery.

Okay, you say, grudgingly admitting that wearing rival team gear in this example is, in fact, asshattery. But let’s say you wear a Georgia Bulldog or Arizona State Sun Devil shirt to an Iowa Hawkeye/Michigan State Spartan game as I witnessed this past weekend. Does that make you a douchebag? Sure does.

You do not wear team gear to a stadium when said team is not playing in that stadium. This is a universal truth. It’s like the 11th commandment. Naturally, there are exceptions. They are well-defined and easy to remember.

You can wear a MLB hat of any team to any game of any sport other than baseball at nearly any time. Detroit Tigers hat to a college football game? Totally fine. This past weekend I wore my Pirates gear to the Iowa/Michigan State game. Douchebag move? Nope. Not only was it gear from a different sport, it was the team colors of the home team. Completely acceptable.

Same thing with NHL or NBA gear. Different sport usually means its okay. Unless you wear a LeBron jersey to anything except a Heat game.

What about wearing your favorite NFL team gear to a college football game. Same sport. Does this constitute douchebaggery? Only if your NFL team sports the same colors as the team the home team is playing or has the same colors as a rival of the team you are watching. Wearing Steelers gear to an Iowa State game is a douche move. I have tons of Steelers gear. But its black and gold. Same colors as the Hawkeyes. So even if its freezing cold in Ames, as it was last Thanksgiving weekend, and my warmest stuff is black and gold I can’t wear it. Why? Because I’m not a douchebag. Wearing Jets gear to the Hawkeye/Spartan game in Iowa City? Douche move. Why? Jets and Spartans are both green and white. See what I’m saying here?

There are some nuances of which everyone should be aware. If you wear your Reds hat to a Pitt Panthers game you’re still a douchebag even though it falls into the different sport rule. Why is this douchebaggery? Easy. You need to be aware of which teams, in every sport, the locals hate. In Pittsburgh, its never okay to wear Reds or Ravens gear. Ever. Doesn’t matter what game you are attending. It’s a douche move.

Anyway, I think I won the debate at the tailgate. The same woman who was arguing that she should be able to wear her Hawkeye gear to every Iowa State home game showed up to the Iowa State/Texas game last Thursday in a white shirt. That my friends is the color of surrender. Of course Iowa wasn’t playing on Thursday so it wasn’t technically gameday for the Hawkeyes. Still counting it as a win.

Regardless of all that however is the underlying responsibility of you, as a parent, to teach your kids how NOT to be a douchebag fan. And I’m just spitballin’ here but my unofficial completely unscientific survey tells me that many of you are not only failing, you are actively engaged in the propagation of fan douchebaggery. I’m blaming Harry Reid and John Boehner. Everybody else is…