Weathered the Storm?

I really thought that once we made it through that first weekend in March, things would get smoother. It was fool’s gold. Like 2007 Browns. Or Chumbawumba. Since school started in August we’ve been lucky enough to take Rye to 6 a.m. dance team practices on Mondays and Wednesdays. And Bails had choir Monday morning at 8:00 and orchestra Thursday morning at 8:00. You know what else starts at 8:00? Work. So I’m late to work twice a week. Then, in January, Kinz told us she was going to do mimes. Yes. Mimes. For two months. Three times a week at 6:30 in the morning. Plus she decided that she thought joining show choir, which is twice a week after school and requires Mom to leave early from work on Tuesdays and me on Fridays, was also an excellent idea. And don’t forget the normal after school stuff. Dance for Rye on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with added practices on Wednesdays when a competition gets close. Then Kinz and Bails worked with a softball hitting coach once a week during the softball off-season. An off-season which included once a week practices on Sundays for Bails and twice a week practices on Sundays and Tuesdays for Kinz. Plus we have church on Wednesdays.

The significance of the first week in March was that all of the morning bullsh…I mean activities were completed. Except for Thursday morning orchestra. But so what, the last couple weeks have been awesome. It’s a like short morning vacation where you get to open the present of extra time 4 days a week. You know what you never have when you have three girls involved in activities – none of whom have a driver’s license – and all of whom seem to relish the morning battle over the bathroom? Time. Extra time. We never have this. At this point in our lives, extra time is like a good draft in Oakland. Or a bad Goldberg’s episode. And it is precious and should be savored. So that’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks. Because as of today, we’re back in the sh*t. Rye’s dance practices continue and she has competitions coming up at the end of April and the beginning of May so they are ramping up the extra practices. Because, you know, adding things at the last minute to a schedule never creates unintended consequences. And Kinz and Bails both have softball hitting the gas pedal too. This past weekend was the start of multiple practices a week for both of them. They also are required to play in the local recreational softball league since they play on the tournament teams. And those teams are playing in April in May too. And then Bails decided that she wanted to try track. And considering her build and unlimited amounts of energy, we thought she might be able to compete a little longer in track than softball. So we signed her up. Signed her for three more practices every week through July. Yeah, anybody have a cloning device? Or at least something capable of producing a believable life-size hologram so we can at least fake it when it comes to being at all practices? Next Tuesday Bails has a rec league softball practice from 5:30-7 followed up by a tournament team practice from 7-8:30. This happens on top of her first track team practice from 5:45-7:15. Kinz has a tournament softball team practice from 6:00-7:00 while also having a show choir rehearsal from 5-7:45. Plus the regular 7:45-9:30 dance practice for Rye. Yeah, and by the way, April and sometimes May is my busiest time of year at work. Super excited for spring…

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The First Ten Amendments

Recently, while Mom and I were watching TV, we heard some whining from the kitchen table. This is not unusual. Neither the whining or the TV watching. Mom and I watch TV all the time. In fact, I find it somewhat unsettling when I find out other people don’t watch TV. I mean, how does that even happen?

For example, if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…who?

The A-Team. The freaking A-Team. That’s who hire.

But if you never watched TV, you’ll end up hiring the B Team. Which, if I’m not mistaken, is like hiring Zito and Switek to take over for Crockett and Tubbs.

Anyway, back to the whining. Because that is what really got to me. Anytime at least two of the girls occupy chairs at the table, whining is a common occurrence. A general lack of consideration for each other? Typical. Nastiness? Routine. So we didn’t pay much attention until the tears, crying and snorting started. Turns out Bails was doing some homework, didn’t understand it and Rye evidently thought telling her to “zip it” was an effective helping strategy.

Finally, I couldn’t take it and walked over to the table, sat down next to Bails and asked if I could help. I was stunned to look at the worksheet on the table. It was titled “The First 10 Amendments.” Naturally I had assumed she was working on some type of math homework. I mean only math can induce the high levels of frustration and helplessness which cause crying and snorting. And it was that snorting that happens when they are crying, and their nose is running, and they kinda lose their breath so it sounds like a snort/cough/hack. Or the sound a millennial makes when a Gen Xer ridicules grunge.

Anyway, I look down and think “The Bill of Rights? How could this frustrate anybody except the Obama White House? Everybody likes the Bill of Rights.”

The front side was one of those match-up exercises where they had to draw a line from the amendment to the correct description. For example: Amendment 1 is matched up with Freedom of Speech and Religion. Amendment 2 is matched up with the Right to Possess Arms. You get the idea. Well I assume you get the idea. The results on the last presidential election clearly indicates some of you don’t.

On the back side is an invisible treasure map. Kidding. The back side contains ten hypothetical situations which pertain to a certain amendment in the Bill of Rights. Here’s an example:

“Elias wrote a nice lengthy article for the Daily News describing the changes students would like to see at Roosevelt Middle School. The principal tried to stop Elias’s article from being published in the local newspaper but she was unsuccessful.”

After I finished reading this example, I naturally thought this was a good time to explain the IRS scandal and how the Obama administration uses the power of the federal government to eliminate any group from articulating an argument opposed to the President’s agenda. Just like the principal at Roosevelt Middle School tried to do to Elias. As is usually the case, my additional information did not clarify things for Bails.

“What is the IRS?”

“Remember when I told you about taxes? Well, the IRS is the agency that collects all our taxes. They know all kinds of things about us. Where we live, how much money we have, what we do with our money, what we care about. Lots of stuff. Then once a year…”

“Wait, so these people know all that stuff?”

“Yes.”

“Do we know this stuff about them?”

“Well, no.”

“Dad, I don’t even like people knowing my middle name. Its nobody’s business. If they know my middle name they can find me and kidnap me. And now you are saying that some people know all kinds of private stuff about us. I don’t like that AT ALL.”

Only you know how you would react to this information presented to you by your 5th grade daughter. Maybe you’d refocus the discussion on the question at hand. Maybe you’d go into a more detailed explanation of the IRS and the federal income tax…if you did do this I’m sure you’d include all the ridicule due Woodrow Wilson and his status as the worst president in American history. Or maybe you’d do what I did.

magnumI smiled. Widely and broadly. Her reaction is so awesome, its hard to fathom. Like the rumored cross-over show between Quantum Leap and Magnum, PI with Sam Beckett leaping into Thomas Magnum. Yeah, that almost happened. For real. I know. Try going to sleep thinking about that!

But instead of adding that to conversation I said, “You’re dang right Bails. I don’t like people knowing stuff either that isn’t any of their business and I especially don’t like it when the president says those people are allowed to snoop around in your business and make threats against you so you’ll stop saying things that president don’t like.”

“But what does that have to do with my homework.”

“Because its all about the 1st Amendment. Just like Elias’ principal shouldn’t be allowed to censor his article because the principal doesn’t like it (to be completely honest I’m really not sure I agree with this example but that’s beside the point) the president doesn’t have the right to stop me from saying or doing things by threatening me with legal action from the IRS.”

“So the IRS knows all this private stuff about us and we have to pay them taxes? Dad, I don’t like taxes. Especially those taxes you were talking about that we have to pay because we have a house.”

“Property taxes?”

“Yeah, those are dumb. Why do we have to pay them just because we have a house?”

“Well they go to pay for things like schools, police, fire even the garbage guys. The police protect us, the fire department puts out fires and the garbage guys pick up our garbage. I don’t really see a problem with paying them for that kind of stuff. But they also pay for schools and teachers. You go to school and that costs money.”

“Well when I’m a grown up and I don’t have any kids, I’m not paying property taxes. I don’t have kids, so I shouldn’t have to pay those taxes for schools. That’s like paying for nothing.”

Wide broad smiles. Bailey’s natural opposition to paying taxes, especially ones for which she perceives no benefit, was heartwarming. Gratifying. Freaking awesome. She’s only in 5th grade and she’s already mad about taxes. Imagine what she’ll be like when she’s 40!? I don’t remember her teaching that. Sure she’s heard Mom and I discuss various topics, and she’s heard me talk about my distaste for elitist narcissist a-holes who like to lecture me about the public good while defining what the public good is.

But this is just who she is. And I ain’t coaching that outta her.

Go Minnesota!

Who knew the Norse were so nice? Turns out those folks up there are pretty good neighbors. Or they just have a shared cultural value of helping people out during winter. Because Minnesota winters will literally KILL YOU. Seriously. Do you remember the Vikings in the 70’s? There was a reason that was the most successful decade in the history of the franchise. They played outside. Bud Grant shipped in giant blocks of Norwegian ice, put it in a wood chipper and sprayed it all over the visiting team’s hotel just to make sure they knew who they were playing. Rumor anyway. Things didn’t go that far with Mom last weekend but using my innate worst case scenario logic it is possible they could have ended up frozen to death covered with ice chips.

Anyway, last weekend Mom, Rye, Rye’s friend Madison and Madison’s Mom Kim all went up to Minneapolis for the national dance championships. Or some such thing. I’m unclear on how teams actually qualify for these championships. There doesn’t seem to be a selection committee that is sequestered in a hotel deciding bids. There also does not appear to be a dance regular season in which a team must prove themselves before making the playoffs. So as far as I was able to surmise, it is all based on cash. Sorta like how Big 12 football officials decide when to blow the whistle and throw a flag. For reference sake see the end of the 2013 Iowa State-Texas game. Anyway, there were lots of dance teams from lots of places – including Guam and Mexico. Not sure why a team from Mexico was competing in the national dance championships or why they decided that Minneapolis in February was a sweet place to visit. Anyway, Rye and Madison were in five different dances plus Mom entered Rye in a jumps and leaps competition. Rye was less than enthused about this. But as I explained to her, back in the day – before the weight of increasing federal government intrusion, two knee surgeries and kids beat me down – I once had the second highest vertical jump at basketball camp so she had genetics on her side.

They left on Thursday evening and took my truck. Snow was in the forecast and we figured 4 wheel drive was a good failsafe. They arrived with no issues. The same cannot be said for Bails. Her and I decided to go out for dinner on Friday since Mom and Rye were gone and Kinz went to a movie with some friends. She picked Red Robin. Haven’t been there in awhile because Red Robin isn’t on Mom’s list of favorites. Mine either to be honest. I’m always going to pick Rock Bottom if given a choice. Nachos and a microbrew are like the Friday night dinner version of Swann and Stallworth. Simon and Simon. Poison and neon green. Bails decided that since she was at Red Robin, she wasn’t messing around. We got pretzel bites and milkshakes to go with her chicken strips and fries. Lots of fries. She slugs her way through about half her food and milkshake and declares that she’s full. Good enough for me. Around 10 or so Bails gets up off the couch and says that she’s still full and her stomach kinda hurts.

“Well, you ate a lot there dude. Give it a chance to settle. You’ll be okay in the morning.”

Morning comes and I head out on my Saturday morning ritual. 44 oz Diet Pepsi for me, donuts for the girls. Bails comes down to the couch, gets a donut and then just lays there for about hour groaning about her stomach still hurting. She sounded like the White House press corps after every answer Josh Earnest gives. I get curious and go over feel her forehead. No fever.

“Well, its possible you just ate too much or there was something in your food that just didn’t sit right and its messing up your tummy.”

She gives me that look that says, “Yeah, thanks a pantload there Chet but that doesn’t really help me.”

My lack of helpfulness was confirmed about 10 minutes later when she went upstairs into the bathroom and conducted an emergency evacuation of everything on the stomach level. Everything. Fries. Milkshake. Candy still there from Halloween. It was loud too. Like a prehistoric burp from a T-Rex.

“Dad, I just threw up. But I feel better.”

“Good. Go brush your teeth Upchuck McVomit.”

Aside from that we only got good news on Saturday. Rye placed 3rd in the jumps competition, 5th in two dances, 3rd in another and then two 1st place finishes. Sunday each team gets to pick their best performance and compete in the grand championship. Naturally, Rye’s team picked one of their 1st place dances. A team from Sioux Falls, which they beat on Saturday, turned around and beat them out on Sunday. My reaction? Did anybody check where these judges are from? It matters. I mean, not to beat a dead horse, but look at Big 12 football officials. They’re all from Texas. Teams from Texas sure seem to do well against teams not from Texas. The Big 12 supervisor of officials is a freaking Texas grad. But I’m sure he’s unbiased…

Anyway, they finally get down with all the dances and awards Sunday evening and they head out about 9 p.m. Three hour drive back home. As a bonus, Mom is bringing home another girl on the dance team. Evidently, she’s uncomfortable unless she has three girls in the backseat. So I get a call from Mom at the gas station after they get done filling up.

“Hey, so the truck won’t start.”

“What? Didn’t you just drive it to the gas station?”

“Yes, but now its dead.”

“Awesome.”

“But there a guy here who is going to jump the truck.”

“Um…okay…call me when you get it started.”

But what I was thinking was, “Um…okay…please God let this guy not be Jeffrey Dahmer. Or Peter Stormare from Fargo.”

Well, turns out this guy’s name was John. John drives a pick-up, carries jumper cables and has a dog. He notices that my truck is deader than the ability of movie producers to come up with an idea that doesn’t involve a Marvel Comics character. He jumps the truck. Then, with the experience of years of Minnesota’s badass winters, tells Mom that driving back to Des Moines with a crap-ass battery is a bad idea when it is below zero outside. He leads them to a close-by hotel – the Prime Rate Inn – walks in with Mom to make sure that they get a room and then drives over to a full service BP station to see when the place opens in the morning. He comes back and tells Mom that they open at 7:30, gives her his cell phone number in case she needs the truck to get jumped again in the morning and then goes home. Mom calls me, tells me the whole story and whilst relaying it she insists on calling him “St. John.” My Dad lived in Minnesota for a while during the winter of 1999-2000 and told me that the folks up in Minnesota don’t mess around with helping each other out in wintertime. Well, thanks Minnesota. Go Gophers I guess. Mom gets up Monday morning calls the BP and they come over, jump the truck, and after Mom drives it over to the station, they drive her back to the Prime Rate Inn. Turns out it’s a crap-ass battery.

So Mom and everyone else makes it back home without incident. I drive the truck to work all week without incident. So I guess thanks BP. Who knew the national dance championships would be so perilous…

The so-called world dance championships are in April. In Orlando. Just FYI.

Panic

Do you remember any specific instances of total abject panic in your life?

Maybe the first time you saw the dreaded red and blue rollers in your rear view mirror?  Possibly when you heard Spenser For Hire was going off the air?  Happened to me when I realized for the first time most of people I work with don’t get Fletch quotes, Tesla songs or my world view based the dominance of the 70’s Steelers over the Raiders and Cowboys.

More recent examples?  How about December 28, 2014 when Reggie Nelson went low and viciously and deliberately went after Le’Veon Bell’s knee during the defacto AFC North Championship game that the Steelers won over the Bengals on the last weekend of the NFL season.  This heinous and cowardly act led to an early departure from the playoffs.  The second time was Super Bowl Sunday.  Not sure you’re aware but we were lucky enough to receive a foot of wet heavy snow in central Iowa.  It was wonderful.  If your definition of wonderful includes shoveling your driveway and sidewalks three freaking times in the about 6 hours and digging and pushing two of your neighbors two-wheel drive vehicles out of the street because for some reason they desperately needed to be somewhere.  And listen nobody has to be anywhere Sunday morning unless you’re going to church.  And all the local churches cancelled their services.  Even the Catholics.  Oh and also our Direct TV dish lost contact with the mothership on Saturday night and remained  as dark as the prospects of U.S. economic dominance under Obamacare through Sunday morning.  Yeah, so we’re faced with a situation where the snow has knocked out our reception and, since we live on a cul-de-sac, the city has deprioritized our street when it comes to plowing.  So we’re trapped.  It’s either fix the dish or miss the Super Bowl.  On a normal Sunday we’d just que up our DVR inventory of Archer and The Goldberg’s and call it a day.  Maybe watch some Riptide episodes on youtube.  I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t the zombie apocalypse, just go out brush off the 4 or 5 inches of snow which have collected on the dish…the dish that is located roughly one million feet above my head.

Several years ago this happened and I didn’t get the snow brushed off before it melted and refroze.  No TV for a week.  Lesson learned.  After our second round of driveway shoveling, I decided it was time to address the DTV dish situation.  The girls were steadily ramping up their whining and my consternation regarding the Super Bowl was doing the same.  I take my 12 foot extendable Mr. Longarm painting pole and duct tape my old garage broom to the end of it.  It’s about 16 and a-half feet of dish dusting badassery.  But I still can’t actually reach the dish.  I get my 8 foot ladder and trudge through the snow to the deck.  Mom and I clear the deck of snow and set up the ladder.  I head up to the step right below the one that warns you of severe bodily injury or death if you happen to use it.  Since the whole point of this adventure is watching the Super Bowl and not dying, I decide to go ahead follow the directions.  I get my MacGyver’d dish duster and begin the moment of truth.   Does it reach?

You’re damn right it reaches!  Worked smoother than a fresh dry skippy.  A couple minutes later and the TV is fully operational.  A couple hours and few more inches of snow later I clean it again just to be safe and we settle in for the game.  Like most of America I was cheering for the Patriots to lose.  They’re cheaters and the rules have been changed to prevent anyone from touching Tom Brady.  Not that I wanted the Seahawks to win.  I realize Russell Wilson seems like a good dude but Pete Carroll is a cheater too.  And a 9/11 truther.  Plus Richard Sherman is not a guy who makes it easy for you to cheer for him.  Aside from that here’s my major takeaway from the game:

Budweiser can suck it.  Not only does Bud Heavy taste like crap but we’re not really fans of Bud Light either in our house.  The whole assertion that its brewed “the hard way” and that people who drink their beer are people who” like to drink beer” since its not supposed to be “fussed over” since its beechwood fricking aged?  WTF?  Brewed the hard way?  Its brewed the easy way so they can produce billions of kegs.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s capitalism.  I like capitalism.  I also like to drink beer and the last beer I’m drinking is Budweiser.  I’m going to get a freaking warm Iron City and mix it with a flat Old Style before I’m drinking Bud Heavy.  Won’t be any fussing at all.  Why?  Because nobody freaking knows what beechwood aged means.  Plus, and I’m just spitballin’ here but aren’t you brewing some crap called Mang-o-rita and Lime-o-rita?  Are those brewed the hard way?  Are they for people who like to drink beer?  Yeah, thought so.

I’ve Never Sent an Email

One thing I would have really liked in school is if History class and English class collided. If I’m going to be forced to read a book that I haven’t picked out myself, it might as well be about the campaign in North Africa in 1943. Kinsey isn’t that lucky. Her 7th grade Social Studies class is studying the Greek Empire right now. In English they are reading about Greek mythology. And they’ve collided. Some of you immediately find this interesting. You’re smiling and a bit jealous. Ooooo…the Parthenon, Aphrodite and Gerard Butler. Whatever. I am neither smiling, nor jealous. This period in history never really kept my attention. So I’m not much help when it comes to knowing facts about Greek Gods. The extent of my knowledge is limited to the original Clash of the Titans. Kinz, however, had to pick a Greek God and give a 3 minute oral report. If you remember 7th grade, getting up in front of the class and giving a report wasn’t at the top of the list of awesome things to do. Not to mention the fact they had to memorize the speech, dress in costume and have some kind of props to accentuate their choice of Greek deity.

You know who liked lugging stage props like a toga and cardboard sword onto the bus school bus in 7th grade? Exactly nobody. Ever.

Anyway Kinz picked Hera. Yeah, I had no idea who that was either. But in case you’re wondering…Queen of the Gods, Goddess of Marriage, women and birth. And the peacock is considered sacred to her. After listening to Kinz describe her, my conclusion was Hera was some sort of genetic experiment conducted in the labs of some Greek Big Pharma conglomerate headed by some mid-level Greek staff god that combined the DNA of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton.

Aside from that though, Kinz put together a costume consisting of a bedsheet – because everyone with any knowledge of Animal House knows the best togas are made of the oldest of bedsheets – along with a gold necklace, other ancillary jewelry and an extendable painting attachment which I use to paint ceilings. Using purple duct tape she attached a whiffle ball to the top of the pole. She evidently thought Hera might excel at whiffle ball. She also wanted a peacock.

Mom finds her a peacock online for like $8 and gets free shipping. But it doesn’t arrive in time so she calls me at work and says I have to print this picture of a peacock she found. As an aside, the peacock was about 4 inches wide and 3 inches tall. It looked bigger in the pic on the website evidently. Anyway, I assume you’re asking why doesn’t she just print the picture of the peacock at home? For a very simple reason…we can’t get the f’ing printer to work. Oh, it worked when we bought it and installed it. Worked just fine. We could print from our laptop, print from our phones, it was great. But at some point, the printer just decided to go all Obama and won’t work with anybody now. Its threatening vetoes on everything we send to it, it’s raising taxes on our college savings accounts, just an all out mess.

So in light of this printer jam (see what I did there?), Kinz wants me to print the peacock picture at work. Cool. No problem. I’ve done it before. Not printing peacock pictures but printing things for the girls at work. Because who would be printing peacock pictures at work? Nobody. That’s just weird. Anyway, I tell her that she needs to email me the picture in order for me to print it.

“How do I do that?”

“How do you do what?”

“Email. I’ve never sent an email.”

magnumburnoutIt appears that email is so uncool and technologically obsolete that 7th graders are unaware of it. Like hair metal, the mid-range jump shot and Magnum, P.I.

“You don’t know how to send an email?”

“No. I’ve never done it. Can’t I just take a picture of it with my phone and send it to you?”

“No. Well, yes you could but it would be completely pointless and totally unnecessary. Like these last two years of Obama’s second term.”

“What? What do you mean? Are we still talking about the peacock email?”

“Yeah, sorry. Are you logged into you’re school account?”

“Yes. Oh, I have an email on there! What do I do?”

“Open up the email, hit “compose new email” and type my email address into the “to” box. Then go to the picture and right click and then hit “copy.”

“Ok, done.”

“Go back to the email and right click in the body of the email and hit “paste.”

“Done.”

“Send it.”

A couple seconds later I get my first ever email from Kinz. Nice father-daughter moment right there. It contains a picture of a peacock. I print said picture on the sweet color printer and later the same day I bring that picture home with me. Kinz even remembered to use it during her Hera speech. On which she made a point to tell me how awesome she did. And now Hera has the additional power of email. Boom.

I-76 Christmas

Every other year we travel to Colorado for Christmas. You could do worse. Colorado is cool place. It has mountains, a crap ton of microbreweries and both of my sisters live there. It was also 65 degrees in the middle of December. Not too shabby. This trip not only gives us the chance to spend time with my side of the family but also affords us the opportunity to really evaluate the interstate system, grade the exits and their dining opportunities along with the scenery along I-76.

So, Colorado, you have legal pot now. I am sure this reality has drawn a certain demographic to settle within your borders. Congrats, I guess. But you did not have to hire all them to work at the Department of Transportation. Because one of two things is happening as a result. Either the Colorado DOT forgot to take care of their roads because they got hungry or Colorado isn’t using any of the pot tax revenue on its roads. Granted, you probably have other needs which need funding. Off the top of my head, I guessing more law enforcement. But geez, c’mon Colorado, you suck at highways. Badly. It’s like you deliberately laid each concrete section of I-76 a half inch off of the last one. Describing it as washboard effect does not do washboards justice. The right lane going west was like driving on the brain waves of Nancy Pelosi. So we switched lanes to the less annoying but still shoddy asphalt in the left lane. It was like we were driving on pillows. And not the crappy Wal-Mart pillows, the expensive ones at Pottery Barn. Regardless, how about throwing some of that new drug money at the interstate?

Now, if you find yourself traveling on I-76 in eastern Colorado, here’s a few things to remember:

First, your cell reception will be as reliable as a French armored division in the spring of 1940. Two, if you enjoy watching barbed wire fencing, cattle and a complete lack of trees, you’re in luck. If you’re driving west and you forget to get gas in Ogallala, here’s a rundown on your options just over the pot frontier in Colorado.

Julesburg. We’ve never made it past the Shell station or Wagon Wheel right at the exit so I can’t comment on the town itself. The Wagon Wheel has more room and nicer bathrooms. Also it has an impressive about of trinkets and baubles.

Segewick. I’m not sure what Segewick looks like or actually entails. Lucy’s Café is right off the interstate and had a couple gas pumps. Lucy also had a General Store. I assume the General Store sold more than gun powder and sasparilla. But one thing Lucy’s didn’t have was pavement. I don’t want to cast aspersions upon Segewick or Lucy’s Café and General Store but we haven’t been back since we stopped there in ’08.

Sterling. I recommend stopping here. Although we never have. It appears to be the biggest small town you’ll pass until you get to Ft. Morgan. So I guess there’s less chance you’ll be mauled by a rabid elk or something.

Atwood. There’s a Sinclair station. We stopped there on our way home. It looks like its located on the moon. And there was a small café-type restaurant attached. We were there pretty early on a Sunday morning so it wasn’t real busy. Not that anything is busy at any time anywhere on I-76 in eastern Colorado.

So, in conclusion, getting gas before you cross the Nebraska-Colorado stateline is a good idea. Also having a large capacity bladder.

Uptown Funk’s Parental Application

Nothing brings teens and soon to be teens together with their folks better than Mom and Dad liking the same songs they like. This also gives you the chance to introduce your kids to your stuff. Mom, the girls and I have been bonding over this song:

It is impossible not to like that song if you’re a Gen Xer. Might not be your favorite, but you like it. Not as much as a 15 year-old girl, but you still like it. Why do you like it so much?

This is why:

Morris Day and The Freaking Time. This dance ain’t for everybody, just the sexy people… Uptown Funk clearly has drawn some influence from Morris.

Furthermore, somewhere deep down in your childhood, this song has taken up residence:

I got bodyguards, I got two big cars, That definitely ain’t the wack, I got a Lincoln Continental and a sunfoofed Cadillac. You’re welcome. Bruno Mars is awesome and everything, but let’s not forget Sugarhill Gang cause Bruno obviously hasn’t.

I really wanted to add Parliament Funkadelic but I don’t think Bruno Mars really sounds like them. You don’t remember hearing P-Funk. But you did. You were over at the neighbor’s house and their teenager had it going on the record player and without you knowing it, you identified this stuff as cool because you were 8 and a teenager was listening to it. And teenagers could drive. And swear.

Yeah, Merry Christmas. You’re going to be singing this stuff all day.

Christmas is well underway

Every year I lament the tendency of, well, everyone to jam as much stuff into December as possible. For whatever reason, we all feel the need to schedule EVERYTHING for December. Its not like December is longing for more stuff either. It already has NFL football with playoff implications and Christmas. But we have to fit a Christmas lunch in for every single group with which we have even a passing involvement. Every activity in which girls participate has to have a Christmas performance. Every brewery has to sell us a Winter Lager or a Christmas Ale. Granted, that last one really isn’t that upsetting.

Bails recently had her orchestra concert. It is the third and last of our 5th grade Winter Orchestra concerts. This makes us happy. For the first time, the concert wasn’t held in the junior high’s gym, it was held in the high school’s brand new Performing Arts Center. Rumor has it the stage is equipped with a massive hydraulic lift system. Yeah, that’s taxpayer money well spent…

So she’s supposed to be at the Performing Arts Center, or PAC as the cool kids are calling it, between 6 and 6:30. But like I said, this is our third 5th grade Winter Orchestra concert. If the PAC is anything like the gym, then we need to be there at 6:00 if we want a seat. After she eats dinner, I tell her to get ready. She’s dressed and ready at 5:45. Weird. Ready with a few minutes to spare. What happened next should not be a surprise however.

“Bails, get your viola and music stand in the car, we gotta go.”

“OH MY GOSH, I LEFT MY VIOLA AT SCHOOL!!!!”

Quick review of the relevant facts: She’s been home for over an hour and at no time did it even occur to her that she’d need a viola for an orchestra concert. It’s almost 6:00 which is H-Hour if you want seats and it also happens to be the time in which the school locks down. There is an after school program that ends at 6. You ain’t getting into that school after 6:00 unless you have leverage with the janitor. And the janitor isn’t a cool janitor like Carl from The Breakfast Club. Our janitor is the guy who wields the power of the keys over all who need access to the building and her rooms. Like Lando with his limitless power in the Cloud City…wait that’s a bad example, Lando didn’t have power to do anything except cave to the Galactic Empire.

So we have 11 minutes to get to school before it locks. And we have to hope that the music room isn’t locked. Then we also have to hope that we can make it to the high school in time for me to get a seat and save one for Mom who is coming right from work. Since I’m not a community organizer, I don’t like to base strategies on hope.

My truck is pretty cool. It seats five and has a trunk underneath the bed. The trunk also has a drain so it can double as a cooler. I know, right? But one thing it doesn’t have is the cornering abilities of a Corvette. But we have 11 minutes. Depending on your activity, 11 minutes is a good deal of time. For example if you are watching the Steelers in the playoffs and they have the lead with 11 minutes left and you have to depend on the current sieve of defense, 11 minutes may seem like a lifetime. Or if you have 11 minutes left in an Insanity workout, it seems like a really, really long time. When you are racing to school on a residential road with a speed limit of 25, then driving through a parking lot with an unnecessary amount of speed bumps, then hoping the music room is unlocked, then racing up another 25 mph street before guessing what door is the right door to enter at the massive new PAC, 11 minutes really doesn’t seem like a very long time.

Somehow we did it. Not only did we make it to school before 6:00, but music room was unlocked. Only problem was we parked on the wrong side of the high school for the concert. But we found our way through the building and Bails made it to the stage with plenty of time to spare. I began the dreaded seat search.

No parent likes this process. No parent likes to save seats. No parent likes to continually ask if these seats are saved. So I just thought, hey this place is massive, I’ll just go up to a corner near the top and grab a couple seats. Easy enough.

I find two seats in a row near the top right on the aisle. Sweet. I sit down, begin taking off my coat to place on the seat next to me and the woman three empty seats away from springs into action. She had the speed and quickness of an NBA point guard. Within seconds of my arrival, she goes from mom reading a book not really aware of her surroundings to the Darth Freaking Vader of Seat Saving. Out of nowhere, three coats arrive on the three empty seats next to me. Not kidding. It was like she used some kind black magic to conjure up some coats to save the seats. It couldn’t have been more than 5 seconds from the time I sat down to the time I took my jacket off to the save the seat next to me for Mom. I was too slow. This woman was a seat saving savant. Or a huge jerk. Either one. You choose.

Once Mom arrived, I stood. Not too bad. But the place was about 800 degrees. Millions of dollars to build this place and it retains heat like a brick oven. But the concert was only six songs. 5th graders can’t really behave longer than that.

Christmas pic of the day:
christmastreewallpaper

Haters gonna hate

Did you know that there are people that hate Thanksgiving? There are. I googled it. They write about it with such disdainful contempt that its takes you aback. Gotta admit that not only was I unsure how to react but I was really, really curious. I wanted to know why these America-hating, Howard Zinn-loving, foodie-snobbing, vacation-loathing, self-important douchebags despised it so much. I mean its Thanksgiving, not prostate exam day.

After a short bit of looking, I’ve come to the conclusion that their hate was pretty well articulated by Colin McGuire two years ago in his column In Defense of…Hating Thanksgiving at PopMatters when he wrote that Thanksgiving, “…is without question the most meaningless, annoyingly traditional holiday celebrated.”

Um, what? Most meaningless, annoyingly traditional holiday? Valentine’s Day? Hello? If we’re going to start assigning the terms meaningless and annoying to traditional holidays it seems stunningly obvious that Valentine’s Day already occupies that spot. It was entirely created by Hallmark and the chocolate barons as way to make money in an otherwise meaningless month. And if these Thanksgiving haters have proven anything is that they detest anything as traditionally American as making money.

Regardless, McGuire blasts away at Thanksgiving the same way the Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, or T-101, treated the police station when it was looking for Sarah Conner. My entirely subjective and utterly biased summary of his argument for Thanksgiving hate is below:

turkeyday#1It’s About Genocide.
Evidently by celebrating Thanksgiving we are not only taking pleasure in the slaughter of millions of native peoples over that last 500 years in the New World, we are also chortling through our bloody fangs at the carnage left by the mass murder of millions of turkeys. Now, I could be wrong but I don’t think I’m alone when I say genocide really wasn’t Abe Lincoln’s plan when he declared the last Thursday of November in 1863 a day of thanks. And I could have this wrong too but didn’t the Pilgrims leave England because they were in search of religious freedom? Or, in other words, they were a bunch of crazy right-wing nut bars who hated the government. Or people who watch Fox News, I guess, to those of you who are Thanksgiving haters. I mean the Pilgrims weren’t walking around with flamethrowers and bulldozers obliterating everything in their line of sight. But I guess, yeah, genocide is accurately blamed on Myles Standish.

ThanksgivingDinnerThe Menu
Bird, stuffing, and I assume by extension, gravy, crescent rolls, any form of potato, pumpkin pie and beer are all bad. They are bland and without flavor. You know, in America, we’re still free to make our own decisions. Unless its about keeping your own doctor and your own health care plan. Sure turkey is the traditional choice but that doesn’t mean you can’t add something. At my in-laws, they make ham balls. I’m told they’re good. Don’t really know because I don’t like to eat anything that ends in “balls.” Or “log.” And sometimes “loaf” if the word right before “loaf” is “cheese.” How miserable must you be if your reason for hating Thanksgiving is because someone invited you over and made you a big meal of turkey, stuffing and gravy? I’m just spitballing here but my instincts tell me the appropriate reaction to this is WTF…followed by derisive headshaking and an exasperated “you’ve got to be f’ing kidding me.” Or the same reaction you had when you were forced to endure two movies with Timothy Dalton as 007.

fall5Family
Turns out Thanksgiving forces folks to get together with family members who they spend the rest of the year avoiding. McGuire describes the day and the travel and events around the day as “habitual torture.” Torture, at least the way I understand it, is something that is inflicted upon you, not something in which you show up for and voluntarily participate. When I was growing up we weren’t really close to family for a good part of my younger years. So we, brace yourselves, got together with friends to celebrate Turkey Day. And sometimes, in addition to friends, my folks would invite some individuals who they worked with that also were relatively alone on Thanksgiving. And we celebrated with them too. Plus, and I’m totally not joking about this, they sometimes brought over their own contributions to the feast that weren’t within our own traditional menu options. And we, you’re totally not going to believe this, actually ate what they brought over even though it wasn’t traditional. Even though it was from the dude who liked NHL more than college football. And that was hard. So, in the interest of space, this line of reasoning in the hater’s satchel is, well, dung.

collegeHeartbreak
I had never heard of Dumpsgiving. Evidently this is a phenomenon that occurs every Thanksgiving week when college freshmen come home and dump their high school sweetheart after spending a couple months at college. Something else of which I have never heard? A single person who gives two craps about this. Dumpsgiving? Shut up.

nov27Thursday
Apparently when Thanksgiving was designated for a Thursday it was huge mistake because it lands in the middle of the week creating an inconvenience for millions of Americans. What is this so-called inconvenience? The inconvenience of being told to stay home from work. Evidently, the haters love work so much they are repelled, possibly nauseated, definitely offended, by the idea of not going to work. I assume that talking to these people is a lot like listening to Nancy Pelosi while trying to follow her logic.

McGuire finally summarizes his hate with this:

“The practice of celebrating Thanksgiving is old and trite and dull and boring and forced and a slave to a kind of tradition that is borderline intolerable. Outside of it solidifying the fact that yes, the calendar year is almost over, and no, it won’t be warm again for a little while (for those of us in the northern climes, anyway), the holiday itself is nothing more than a hollow attempt for poignancy by people who, in all honesty, would have to spend the next 10,000 years saying “thank you” on a loop to justify all the good fortune they have. It’s a manufactured conscience-clearer designed to trick us into thinking that a higher power actually believes us when we say—a mere one time a year, mind you—that we know precisely how spoiled we are. It’s smothered in the type of empty promises and obnoxious grandstanding that proves exactly how pious and obsessed most of us exemplify with our own exaggerated perception of ourselves.”

Yeah, that right there America is why it sucks to be an elitist know-it-all who condescendingly looks down upon the unenlightened masses foolishly duped into celebrating a backward and offensive holiday. While the sheer volume of pompous sanctimonious smuggery wrapped into that one paragraph is astounding, all it really does is make me hungry. For turkey. And stuffing. And beer.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

It’s Thanksgiving Season Dammit!

Once you get past Halloween, and election day every other year, it’s just a countdown to Christmas. It shouldn’t be, but it is. As many of you know I am of the belief that Thanksgiving doesn’t get it’s due. In past I’ve described Thanksgiving in various ways:

2008: “Thanksgiving! It’s more than just bird and mashed potatoes. It’s the only time of year that everyone cares what the Detroit Lions are doing.”

2010: “Regardless, in 1863 Abe Lincoln was the first to name the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving in America. Then in 1941 Congress and FDR permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday. Interestingly enough FDR tried to move Thanksgiving from Lincoln’s designated day to earlier to give the country an economic boost. It would seem liberals need to control the economy extends to changing national holidays.”

2011: “Anyway, Thanksgiving gets lost in the corporate commercial onslaught of Halloween and Christmas. Evidently, turkeys and pilgrims aren’t all that marketable. Thanksgiving has pretty much been rebranded as the tailgate immediately preceeding black Friday. Not that anything is wrong with tailgating. Especially when it is centered on turkey, potatoes, corn and beer.”

2012: “We’re all cheating on Thanksgiving and it needs to stop. This truly American holiday gets lost between Halloween and Christmas. It’s Wendy’s to McDonald’s and Burger King. It’s Coors Light to Bud Light and Miller Light. It’s the Admiral Ackbar of minor Star Wars characters. Appreciated? Yes. Quickly discarded? Also yes.”

2013: “Holiday music is to Christmas nostalgia what the smell of toast is to mornings, the smell of burning leaves to fall, the smell of Milwaukee’s Best Light to hangovers. I’m powerless, POWERLESS I SAY, to end my own cheating on Thanksgiving. I’m so, so sorry but its really hard to turn off the songs. Its an excuse, I know. I realize its entirely up to me and I need to take ownership of my failings. I’m sorry to you Macy’s Department Store. You made giant balloons cool and allowed Matt Lauer to host something he doesn’t suck at. And I’m sorry to you John Madden. Since the mid-80’s you’ve made Thanksgiving so much more important than Myles Standish, Abraham Lincoln and FDR could have ever hoped. I’m sorry to you Joey Tribbiani. For it was you who made Thanksgiving pants acceptable. Finally, I’m sorry to you mashed potatoes and gravy…and probably pumpkin pie too. When paired with beer, you make Thanksgiving so delicious I shouldn’t stray.”

You know, Ren MacCormack was right when he was speaking before the Bomont Town Council and Rev. Moore back in ’84 when he quoted from Ecclesiastes that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. And the time for winter is winter. Not November. Winter, you’re getting greedy my unwelcome friend. You’re killing Buffalo for no reason. What has Buffalo ever done to deserve this? C’mon man, they’ve missed the playoffs for 15 straight years and now that they’re actually in the hunt, you hit them with this crazy biblical snow. Oh and it was 12 freaking degrees on Nov. 17 here. This after last November when Rye and I went to an Iowa State game where the kickoff temperature was 8 f’ing degrees. That sucks. Go home. You’re like Green Day at AC DC concert. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet you cold bitter old bastard. Stop dumping snow on us. I mean I’ll live with the cold temps. Sucks, but I’ll do it. What I don’t want in mid freaking November is ice on the damn roads. I don’t want to be chipping that stuff off my driveway a week before Turkey Day. First it’s Americans rampantly cheating on our own damn holiday. We invented it. It’s ours. Now it’s the weather. I blame Al Gore. Dammit America, am I the only one who this feels way about Thanksgiving?