Remembering Spring Break…

As you know, I kinda have an issue with being steamrolled into allowing – (read PAYING FOR) a senior year spring break trip.  Everybody arrived safely and appear to be having a good time.  Mom sent me some pics of their hotel room.  It is nicer than anything I lived prior to the age of 46.  So I’m a bit concerned our senior might have some outlandish expectations of what her living conditions are going be like in college and her 20’s.  But, then again, I may have contributed to her unrealistic view of the world when I sent her to Mexico.  On spring break.  While she’s still in high school.  Truth be told, I’m a firm believer in setting expectations low so this whole spring break situation has me unnerved.

Anyway, as result of this situation I’ve decided to go back to one of things that makes me the most happy.  No, it isn’t beer.  Although that was a solid first guess.  But listen, beer has been a solid first guess when it comes to me since 1987.  Seriously, how am I not a part of owner of Miller Brewing?  It also is not a full court binge on conference tournament basketball…although I am actually doing that while I write this.  No, I’ve decided to go back to the 80’s.  Again.  Quick aside, I’m psyched to see Ready Player One in a couple weeks.  Totally going to nerd out on 80’s pop culture.

The girls are, in descending order in 12th grade, 10th grade and 8th grade.  Aside from being totally outnumbered by teenage girls who go out of their way to pick fights with each other while also outwardly mocking everything that isn’t important to them, it gives me a frame of reference into spring break.

8th grade – 1984.  Ren McCormack was the coolest, Lionel Ritchie wanted to know if it was him we were looking for and Berlin had No More Words.  I was modeling my coolness after Nick Ryder and Cody Allen.  Riptide was, and remains, a manly source of coolness.  Not ashamed to admit this.  Nick and Cody fought Charlie in Viet Nam, they lived on boat, owned a helicopter and drove a ’60 Corvette with flames on the side.  And in a weird twist of fate, they kinda introduced me to Mom.  Go on youtube and look for Season 1 Episode 4.  Originally aired 1-17-84.  Skip all the way to the end and you’ll see an inconsequential appearance by waitress played by Rosalind Allen (credited as Rosalind Ingeldew).  Despite Mom’s objections, she looks exactly the same.  They’re dopplegangers.  Not kidding.

10th grade – 1986.  I’ve made this argument several times but 1986, as a year, is totally overlooked.  It gave us Top Gun, Ferris Bueller and Running Scared.  Along with the criminally underrated Heartbreak Ridge.  I had a pair of these:reebokclassics

Bought one of these at County Seat: fadeddenim

Despite it marking the end of Riptide, the spring of ’86 asked us if all Mike & the Mechanics needed was a miracle, if Honeymoon Suite was feeling it again and we once again totally understood the social strata based conflicts in Pretty in Pink.  Plus, and this kinda throws a bit of doubt on my consternation regarding the unrealistic expectations developed by our senior, but my Dad took the whole family to Hawaii during spring break of ’86.  My Dad traveled a lot.  And he built up what can only be described a f*ck ton of miles and he got free roundtrip tickets to Hawaii for not only my sisters, me and my Mom but my Grandma too.  Turns out my Grandma always wanted to go to Hawaii and when my Dad had the chance to take her, he did.  He’s a good dude.  Despite my record as a parent, I do in fact have a good example.

12th grade – 1988.  White Lion wanted us to Wait and David Lee Roth thought this was just like Living in Paradise.  I do remember putting away a 12 pack of Meister Brau with a couple buddies.  It probably was because Rick Astley and Billy Ocean both somehow had hits songs over spring break my senior year. But best of all, Man in the Mirror was topping the charts.  And I don’t care what you guys say, this is a great song.  Here’s the thing though, aside from those Meister Braus, I don’t really recall a whole lot from my senior year spring break.  But I’m pretty sure Mom and our senior will.  And that makes me smile.

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We Made it

It’s over.  We made it.  And not unlike the ’80 Steelers, there will be a few last gasps which sow doubt on its demise, but winter has lost.  The light has returned.  It’s like the night, on the forest moon of Endor, when  the second Death Star was destroyed.  We made it to March.  Regardless of what calendar traditionalists will have you believe, March 1 is the first day of spring.  It doesn’t matter what winter does from here because the only thing that will happen is winter losing.

March 1, along with the opening Sunday of the NFL season, the last day of school and whatever day you win the Powerball, is the happiest day of the year.  March Madness , with the conference basketball tournaments and the Big Dance, is imminent.  Which means its the only time of year when you can watch basketball at the office and have it be totally within the bounds of all in-house policies inside your workplace.  Plus, we’ll get a 70 degree day in there in the next few weeks that lands on a Friday and literally everybody goes to the bar.  It’s almost magical.  But if we’re really, really lucky, it’ll get unseasonably warm for an extended period of time and we’ll get to mow our lawns!  Just once in my entire life have I been blessed with the opportunity to mow my lawn in the month of March.  Just once.  2010.  And it was glorious!

Quick update on my playlist time machine – I was briefly stuck in the spring of ’90 this morning.  Heard these three:

Dangerous by Roxette.  Aside from Marie Fredricksson’s killer hair in the video, this is just a really catchy song.  It is exactly the kind of stuff the morons who dig the depressing dark brooding of grunge hate.  Which, of course, makes it more appealing to me.  I watched the video like 6 times this morning.  Felt more like spring every time.

Bust a Move by Young MC.  Go get a pen and start making a list of the songs you know the words to but can’t really figure out how.  This song is on that list every time.  “She’s dressed in yellow, she says Hello, come sit next to me you fine fellow.  You run over there without a second to lose, And what comes next hey bust a move.”  Sure you can make a case that Ice Ice Baby or maybe Just a Friend by Biz Markie are on that list too but Bust a Move is on everybody’s list.  I mean, c’mon man, I’m singing those lyrics right now.

Coming of Age by Damn Yankees.  Truth be told this wasn’t the song that was going to pop up next this morning.  But its one of my favorite songs of all time so I made an editorial decision to leapfrog O.P.P.  Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades and Uncle Ted.  Tough to get cooler than that.  But the best thing about this song is that it just punches you in the face with guitar and drums and hair and denim and a really big American eagle statue in the video.  Yeah, it’s that awesome.

 

I got stuck in 1986…

Most people, I assume anyways, develop playlists for various activities in which they engage.  Driving, running the treadmill, folding laundry, etc.  I don’t do that.  I tend to watch DVR’d episodes of The Goldberg’s when I fold laundry.  Regardless, I’m not really sure why but I just don’t make playlists.  It isn’t really a conscious decision either because if I chose to do so, I’d have playlists for all kinds of stupid crap.  Like I’m pretty sure I’d have one for driving home from work on Fridays that would feature Loverboy with Working for the Weekend, Prince with Let’s Go Crazy and Shot of Poison from Lita Ford.  And, if I’m being honest, I’d also have Firewoman from The Cult in there because that song is f’ing badass.

But I don’t have a Friday afternoon drive home playlist.  Instead, out of what is most likely laziness and indifference, I do it old school.  I’ll listen to the radio…or…brace yourselves…I just play the CDs that are stacked up in the CD player in my truck.  So it’s a playlist but just how we did it in 1992.

Anyway, I usually take a portable electronic device down to the basement in the morning when I work out.  I’ll go to youtube and let it play whatever video pops up.  Today, I got stuck in 1986.  Not literally of course.  I don’t have a DeLorean, I didn’t notice the northern lights combining with my HAM radio and I don’t have access to a Hot Tub Time Machine.  But ’86 wasn’t a bad year.  Reagan was still president.  Magnum was still on TV.  And the giant tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon didn’t spy on everyone through advanced computer algorithms which manipulate what we expose ourselves to online.  It was a simpler time.  Plus, 1986 was a good year for music.  Here’s what youtube gave me:

Kyrie.  I don’t care what you guys say.  This song is awesome.  Favorite line – “When I was young I thought of growing old, of what my life would mean to me.”  If there’s a song out there that is more winter of ’86, I’d like to know about it.  Sure you could throw out Life in a Northern Town or Take Me Home or even These Dreams…which is really emblematic of how awesome Heart’s self titled album was during my sophomore year of high school.  But Kyrie is just a really cool mid-80’s rock song/video…that features lead singer Richard Pope wearing a badass coat.

Take It Easy.  Yes, it was featured in a classic example of mid-80’s cheese in the movie American Anthem…which by the way featured a supremely hot Janet Jones before she married Wayne Gretzky.  But two things here: 1) The amount of faded, shredded up denim in the video makes me smile,  2) It features what would have been my senior quote in the yearbook…had my school actually put quotes in our yearbook – “Don’t give me reasons, and I won’t ask for nothing.”

Let’s Go All The Way.  If you are putting together a list of one-hit wonders from the 80’s you gotta include this song.  Plus Michael Camacho’s power mullet may only have been challenged by mullet enthusiast Mel Gibson’s stunning hair in Lethal Weapon.  For an 80’s top 10 hit, this song was preachy politically…but nobody cared because this damn song is too freaking catchy to upset anybody.

Perfect Way.  So nobody really remembers or cares about Scritti Politti but this was a fairly decent pop hit.  According to Wikipedia, these guys started as a “Marxist, DIY post-punk band.”  But like most Marxists in the 80’s, Reagan either crushed under red, white and blue American badassery or converted them into full-throated capitalists trying to make as much money as possible before their window of coolness closed for good.  Kinda like Rachel Maddow right now.

Take Me Home Tonight.  Eddie Freaking Money.  Granted, this isn’t his best song, but you have to admit it is damn close.  She Takes My Breath Away and Gimme Some Water are better and I have a soft spot for Walk on Water.  Don’t have a good explanation for that it just is what it is.  But when it comes to standing around your kitchen late Friday night hanging with your fellow Gen Xers whaling on the air guitar, you could do worse than belting out the lyrics to Take Me Home Tonight while disposing of a few Miller Lites.

Invisible Touch.  Okay, so Genesis is awesome.  Seriously.  These guys are freaking awesome.  I’d go see 1986 Genesis right now…as long as Phil Collins did some of his solo stuff.  Full disclosure – my favorite song on the Invisible Touch CD is Throwing It All Away but who isn’t happy after listening to Invisible Touch?  Who?  No one that’s who.  Because it is impossible not to smile while singing along.  You know why?  Because Phil Collins was cool.  He looked like your chemistry teacher but he could play drums and got to co-star in an episode of Miami Vice.  80’s baby!

And then outta nowhere…Yankee Rose.  This song really doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  It freaking rocks.  It’s literally about the Statue of Liberty.  Freedom.  America.  David Lee Roth.  What is there not to like?  Big giant guitar solo?  It’s in there.  Big giant drums?  Done.  Big giant screaming lyrics.  Boom.

Man, if I could get my hands on a Hot Tub…

Experience, Genetics and Relocation

As far as I can tell, we’re all a product of our experiences with a good dose of genetics mixed in there.  That combination creates the parameters of your particular personality.  What you like, what you’ll put up with and how you view the world.  For example, the entirety of my teen years was spent in the 80’s.  This means I like hair metal, John Hughes movies and judge all presidents against Ronald Reagan.  Although I do have a soft spot for some top 40 nuggets  like Heart & Soul by T’Pau, And We Danced by The Hooters and Dangerous from Roxette.  That being said, another thing I did a fair number of times growing up was move.  By the time I started my junior year of high school I’d moved four times, went to four different schools and went through all the stuff you do when you’re the new kid.  Before you start wondering, I think moving sucks.  Like the ’76 Buccaneers, Howard the Duck and the Big 10’s decision to add Rutgers and Maryland sucks.  I realize some people like it.  Not the Howard the Duck, that’s insane, but moving.  Some people, I’ve heard, even prefer it.  Those people are the ones who have an actual hometown.  Grew up in one place.  I’m not one of those people.  In fact, I’ve always kinda envied them.  Why?  I enjoy stability.  If I listed all the synonyms for stability, they would all sound appealing to me. Steadiness.  Permanence.  Longevity.  I like things you can count on.

Which brings us to right now.  We’re still in the house Mom and I purchased  about the time we were married almost 19 years ago.  I like where we live.  I like not moving.  We are, quite literally, close to just about everything.  And you get spoiled by that.  Especially when you can sit in your next door neighbor’s driveway/garage and drink beers and only have to stumble about 20 feet to your front door.  But, alas, things change.  Injuries pushed the Steelers out of the playoffs in 1980, Lee Majors got too old to play The Fall Guy, and we have almost 5 full grown humans living in the house.  This, for those of you keeping track, creates spacing issues within the house.

So we decided to move.  And by “we” I mean Mom and the girls.  I, as is the case in most major decisions in our family which involve me spending large amounts of money, was the last to agree.  Turns out all I was doing was an impression of the German retreat up the Italian peninsula in 1943 .  It was a delaying action with the outcome never in doubt.

Regardless, a few weeks ago, I stupidly agreed to go look at a few houses with Mom, Kinz and Bails.  Turns out one of the houses we looked at appealed to everybody.  The only reason I even agreed to see the place was because I was curious about what it looked like compared to the older places we’d looked at.  And I liked it.  Not enough to actually move, but I really did like it.  Result?  The part of my brain that governs financial decisions went into full lock down.  Seriously.  I could feel it stringing barbed wire, digging foxholes, throwing up sandbags while it built a perimeter around the decision making switch marked “yes/no.”

It was like my brain was hanging out, enjoying a normal Saturday morning, when suddenly it was invited into a house with a bigger garage, an additional bedroom, a big laundry room on the second floor and a drop zone directly inside the door from the garage to house.  Here’s video of the financial sector of my brain as it realizes what’s happening:

Our house doesn’t have a drop zone.  In fact, my only experience with drop zones was episode 2 of Band of Brothers when Easy Company missed theirs by hundreds of miles and were scattered all over northern France in June of ’44.  A drop zone is the area inside a house where everybody can drop their crap as they come in from the garage – shoes, coats, backpacks, frustration and whatever else you lug around during your day.  I’m joking about dropping your frustration there.  You obviously can’t leave that in the drop zone.  You leave that at the bar.  Ideally a drop zone has hooks, a spot for shoes and best of all, the drop zone is not the ENTIRE FIRST FLOOR of your house.  Which is how it works now.  Shoes go right in front of the door and stay there until they form a small mountain range.

We’re walking around this new house and while I’m thinking about property taxes and utility costs, Kinz and Bails are upstairs picking out rooms and taping off the floor to illustrate where their beds and furniture will go.  They even chose Rye’s room for her.

 

My brain’s reaction:

Then Bails starts showing me how simple and efficient her flow of movement will be on school day mornings as she moves effortlessly from the future location of her bed to the bathroom.  No wasted steps since the closet is conveniently located on the way plus the bathroom has two sinks so her and Kinz won’t fight over space.  While this has a certain degree of logic to it, I’m skeptical about that last part.   Replacing Bo and Luke with Vance and Coy also had a degree of logic and that was a complete disaster.

Meanwhile Mom is downstairs with the realtor talking about how nice the finishes in the kitchen are while mentioning now nicely the first floor flows between rooms.  Then she starts asking questions about how long the house has been listed, who the builder is and long does it typically take get your current house ready to sell.

My brain:

So, to quote myself a couple hours later after Mom let me know that she’d already talked to the bank:

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.

Halloween ’14

Before I even get to Halloween this year, who watched The Goldberg’s this week? They nailed it.  Again.  Who doesn’t love this show?  If you were between or around the ages of 10-20 during the 80’s you love this show.  If somehow you came through that decade as a teenager and don’t love this show, you my delusional friend cannot claim any affilitation, relationship or link to or with the 80’s, Gen X or, and let’s be honest, any amount of coolness.  You can’t.  You just can’t.  I’m sure you’ll argue this point.  And you will lose.  It’s like trying to show off you’re knowledge of hair bands while bringing up Winger and stating with confidence that Seventeen is their best song.  Again wrong.  Can’t Get Enuff.  Suck it.  Winger by the way just played live locally a couple days ago.  Just saying…

Seriously though The Goldbergs is The Wonder Years for Gen Xers. Pop rocks, Coke and Mikey from Life Cereal?  The ghost in the VHS tape of Three Men and a Baby?  Freaking excellent.  You can only hear that rumor about Mikey so many times before it just becomes part of the fabric of time and space itself.

So as many of you know, we live in Des Moines which has the tradition of Beggar’s Night. Which is nothing more than trick or treating on the night before Halloween.

Yes, it is stupid. And I mean stupid in the strongest most literal sense.  But if you go back and research the reasons behind Beggar’s Night you are really left with one conclusion.  It has outlived its usefulness.  Like public employee unions.  It was put into place by a well-meaning individual to stop vandalism and other assorted acts of hooliganism.  But then the do-gooders took up the cause and screwed it up like taking Thundarr the Barbarian off the air because, well, nobody really knows why but it sucked.

Anyway, because Halloween is awesome, I left work early to carve pumpkins. Went with a traditional geometric design.  Triangles for eyes, square nose with a wide fanged smile.  I’ve found that an ice cream scooper is the best tool for cleaning out the pumpkin brains.  Bails and Kinz, much to my dismay, decided to carve their own this year.  Not bad for their first entirely independent foray in the art of pumpkin carving.  I mean all I did was cut the hole in the top and then engaged in a little bit of trim work and clean up after they were done.  A couple years ago I used some of those glow sticks to light them.  Sounded like a good idea.  Turns out it wasn’t.  Not enough wattage.  So this year, after digging through a couple drawers we have that are filled with candles and other assorted seasonal stuff, I went with the plethora of mini Yankee candles we have.  Sure the jack-o-lanterns smell like mistletoe and balsam fir but whatever.  They looked awesome and stayed lit until well after the trick or treaters were done.

Top costumes this year? Ninja turtles and zombies.  Surprisingly not a single Elsa.  No wookies either.  One kid was James Dean.  Not kidding.  He walked up and we asked if he was The Fonz.  His response?  “Well that was my original idea but I decided more people would know who James Dean is.”

What? You’re like 10 years old.  James F’ing Dean?  Seriously kid just go ahead declare Theater as your major now.  As he walked away, he stops, turns and says, “Hey, I’m surprised you guys know who The Fonz is.”

Again, what? The Fonz?  I’m 44.  I know who The Freaking Fonz is.  I know who Potsie is.  I know who Pinky Tuscadero is and I know what the freaking Malachi Crunch is.  I know Laverne and Shirley worked at Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee.  I know Jack, Janet and Chrissy spent a lot of time at The Regal Beagle.   I know BA ain’t flyin’ on no plane!  I know Nick and Cody lived on a boat and I know what the Blue Freaking Moon Detective Agency is.  Don’t freaking test me on Tuesday night TV lineups of the 70’s and 80’s son.

Geez. Do I know who The Fonz is…

One kid looked exactly like one of the clowns from Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Safe to say we kept our eyes on him until he was gone.  Additionally I made the mistake of eating nothing but candy for about 4 hours.  I don’t recommend this.  Nobody is built to consume that much candy.

However the best thing, or worst depending on your perspective, was when my neighbor ordered pizza. Normal standard pizza delivery as the pizza guy pulled into the driveway, got out and walked the pizza up to us as we were sitting in the garage.  However as he was handing the pizza over his van started to roll forward.  Towards the house.

Yeah, he either forgot to put the van in park or it shifted itself into drive.

Pizza guy freaks out and attempts to use his super human pizza guy strength to stop the van from rolling forward with body.  Not kidding, he tried to stop the van with his girth.  And listen this guy was blessed a fine amount girth.  But he’s not stopping a mini van.  Eventually he realizes this and moves with speed he only likely dreamed about and jumps into the driver’s seat.  At this point the rest of us had moved towards the van as well.  None of us however attempted to step in front of the vehicle.  I mean we all were in agreement that the van needed to be stopped and everything it was just that after a quick list of pros and cons, we all kinda decided against the standing in front of the van strategy.  But as fate would have it the van rolled by the corner of the garage and misses it by about six inches and keeps rolling over the walk up to the front door and assumes a collision course with the front window.  Luckily the left front wheel of the van hits a retaining wall.  The grass slopes away from the walk so when the wall engaged in a battle of physics with the van, the wheel had to overcome about a five inch wall.  The van won but the speed was reduced allowing the pizza guy to recover.  But not without incident.  Instead of standing on the brake he accidently hits the gas.  I assume by accident.  Thankfully the amount of adrenaline coursing through his body allowed him to immediately switch his foot to the brake and stop the van from hitting the house.  A couple feet short.  We scored that a win.  Then pizza guy decides that he not only needs to back away from the house but he needs to do it quickly.  So the van again narrowly misses the corner of the garage again…except going the opposite direction at rate of speed that was probably unnecessary.  Unfortunately the excitement was at such a high level I forgot to find out if the pizza was free…

Something about 1987 and remembering things

Have you ever really gone through the list of top 40 songs from 1987? Not that you’d ever really have reason to do that but you know, hypothetically speaking. Kind of like going back through every weekend of the 1977 NFL season and seeing which days you actually remember based on the games played that day. Weird how many of those days I have distinct memories of.

Anyway, if you’re like me and the fall of ’87 happened to be the fall of your senior year in high school, you remember that particular autumn fondly. Except for the NFL strike, the replacement players and the Steelers mired in year 3 of a 4 year stretch of suck. That all sucked. And you know what else sucked? The songs. Not kidding. It’s embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as my 9th grader defending some of the stuff in the top 40 now, but embarrassing nonetheless.

Catch Me (I’m Falling) from Pretty Poison? How did we let this happen Gen X? What in the hell is that song? Answer? It’s the genetic seed of the suckitude which now fills the top 40. But you know what sucks worse than that song? When I hear it, I can feel the tension in my brain between my natural affinity for nostalgia and that horrible burning sensation in my esophagus that stomach acid leaves when vomit starts to creep up. I mean the same fall that we embrace Animal from Def Leppard and Is this Love from Whitesnake, we let Pretty Poison onto the chart? Expose was in there twice! I’m ashamed. And you should be ashamed too Class of ’88. But this is why you have to go back and look at history. Things aren’t always the way you remember them.

For example, I remember Stroh’s Light not tasting all that bad. I don’t remember at all being upset that turtle necks were so popular. I remember seeing the premiere of thirtysomething and thinking, “that must suck.” More recently, I remember saying, “Man, I’m never being one of those Dads whose life consists of carting kids from thing to the next.” Turns out there are some things that inevitably happen. Troy Polamalu is getting slower. My propensity for making fun of millennials is getting higher. And if you were in high school in the fall of ’87, you will remember the words to Belinda Carlise’s Heaven is a Place on Earth. Whether you want to or not. Weird but true. You also are pretty damn sure Running Man is good movie.

Anyway, last a couple Wednesdays ago I wake up early to take Mom to the airport. She’s going to Houston. Quick check with my brain reveals that a major city in Texas is infested with Ebola…or so says the mainstream media. I remember that city is Dallas. Crisis averted and I get Mom to the airport at 5 a.m. Drive back home, read the sports section of the paper for 20 minutes, run upstairs to make sure Kinz is out of bed, then take Rye to dance team practice at her school at 6:00 a.m. Come back home, complete daily morning workout, wake up Bails, shower, dress and…wait why is Kinz still home? Her bus is probably already at the…

“Did you miss the bus?”

“Yes.”

“Awesome. How much time until you have to be at school?”

“About 20 minutes.”

“Excellent.”

Then I hear Bails, “Dad remember we have to go over my Age of Exploration stuff before I go to school because my test is today.”

Right. It’s tough to keep Coronado, Ponce De Leon and Hernando De Soto straight.

I shower, shave and brush my teeth, get dressed, get Kinz to school on time and then head back home to help Bails study. It goes well enough that I’m optimistic she’ll do well.

So to recap, I have transported 3 of 4 other people who live in my house to their various activities and helped the other one identify at least 15 different explorers of the New World. All before 8 a.m.

Get home from work and my folks are in town. They are on their way from Florida to Colorado to Texas to Florida. So they stopped for a day. It was cool. But there is an issue. Kinz is laying on the couch saying she feels sick. Which later proved to be accurate when she walked into the family room holding a garbage can full of barf. And garbage. Awesome that should be easy to clean up.

But remember Ebola is spreading. So I do a Level 1 Surface Scrub Down Containment Protocol, dispose of the vomit, and get on with my evening.

Thursday I wake up, work out, call the school to the tell them Kinz won’t be there due to the whole vomit/garbage can state of affairs. Get ready to take Bails to school early because Thursday morning is orchestra day. We make it. On time. That’s a win. Make it through my day unscathed until I walk out of work look under the back of my truck and realize that I have an issue. Throughout the week it appeared that something was leaking from under my back axle. Some kind of fluid. But now this leak seems to have become worse because there is a puddle under my truck. I get home and ask my neighbor to check it out. He jacks up the truck, crawls under and says, “here’s your problem” while he points to a drain seal that had been clearly loosened and left that way. Turns out the dudes at Jiffy Lube forgot to tighten that bad boy up when they were checking fluid levels. I call them up and say, “hey I’ve been driving around all week since you guys changed the oil and checked the fluid last Saturday morning and now I have a puddle of fluid under my truck that has a red tint.”

“Please bring your truck in right now. That’s transmission fluid.”

If a car place tells you that AFTER they’ve just performed their signature service on it, isn’t the natural reaction panic followed by a perplexed but justifiably boisterous “WTF?”

Plus I need my truck. I have to get Bails to her softball scrimmage in about 20 minutes and then I need to pick up Rye from dance and transport her from dance to the freshman football game and then I need to go the aforementioned scrimmage to watch Bails. Oh and then I need to take Bails home after the scrimmage and then go pick up Rye from the football game.

And then I need to pick up Mom at the airport at 11:30 p.m. Thankfully, I have a cool neighbor. He’s also the owner/operator of the DT. I may have mentioned that previously. Anyway, my neighbor takes Bails to her scrimmage and I take the truck to Jiffy Lube. They fix their mistake and I head to pick up Rye from dance. I’m driving down the on-ramp thinking how sweet it is that I got this potentially expensive transmission problem fixed for nothing more than a little bit of inconvenience. Right up until I noticed my hood wasn’t latched properly. If there is something that you do not expect to be moving while driving down a highway on-ramp, it is your hood. Driving with an unlatched hood is a bit unsettling. Like seeing Joe Biden anywhere near the Oval Office. But the hood has a safety latch so all it was doing was bouncing around a bit until I was able to get out and close it properly once I arrived at dance. Rest of the evening was pretty normal.

Right up until I started checking Mom’s flight status. Here’s the summary. Original flight lands at 11:30. They get to airport in Houston and realize they can hop on a flight that lands at 10:30. So they switch. Once on the plane, the pilot lets them know that door sensor says they have a door that will not close. I assume that the same guys who failed to properly execute the hood closing procedures on my truck do not have cousins working at the Houston airport, so I assume that this is just a glitch. Turns out it is. But it was a glitch that lasted an hour. So her new flight ends up landing at almost exactly the same time as her original flight. Except they got to deal with the aggravation of the door sensor. So bonus I guess. Also, since she switched flights at the airport, they had her check her bag. Which took an extra 30 minutes to make it to baggage claim area. So we didn’t get home till almost 12:30. Back in college getting home at 12:30 in the morning after going out on Thursday night just meant you were the first one home. Now it means I’m going to be worthless at work for the few hours of the day Friday morning. But it’s Friday morning. Which, and I’m just spitballin’ here, but isn’t it kind of an understood thing that we’re all worthless for a few hours on Friday morning? Like ESPN destroying college football rivalries and traditions. Or Green Day sucking. Or being able to stop whatever you’re doing when Shooter is on and not get yelled at.

Anyway, take heed, for it is inevitable. You will turn into that Dad who carts his kids around everywhere. And it happens whether you can remember lyrics from 1987 or not.

Homecoming and Freshmen

It’s weird having a 9th grader. I have extremely clear memories of 9th grade and the fall of 1984. Not all good. I mean aside from Red Dawn being released nothing good happened. My family moved from Chicagoland to the suburbs of Rochester, NY. And Wham hit #1 with Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. Then Jack Wagner hit #2 with All I Need. Plus I spent every football practice getting run over by a kid who went on to play college football. Things could’ve been better.

And now our oldest is braving the dangers of maiden voyage into high school. Although locally its not the same for her as it was for me. Or Mom. In our town the 9th graders are separated from the rest of the high schoolers. So much so that they have their own building. Yep. A stand alone 9th grade.

The Powers That Be sold it to the voters as a stand alone 9th grade building that would be built in such a way so that it could be easily expanded into a second high school. At the time I was childless and thought, “hey, normally I don’t vote for this stuff but by the time I have kids, the current high school will be overcrowded and…crappy, I guess.”

So I voted for it and it passed.

Then about 7 years later, the Powers That Be decided that they never said it could be expanded into a second high school and tried to pass another bond referendum expanding the current high school. Turns out I wasn’t the only person who voted for the 9th grade in anticipation of it turning into a second high school. Because, as most of you know, bond referendums need a 60% vote in favor to pass. Unfortunately for the Powers That Be, 60% of the voters – including me – gave them the finger and voted no.

Later on it turned out that the school district was able to finance an expansion using the district’s reserve fund. Which of course led to more middle fingers while asking why the hell didn’t you just do it that way in the first place.

Regardless, Rye is in 9th grade and she’s physically separated from older boys by a few miles and several brick walls. Turns out that once you have a 14 year old daughter in 9th grade you are okay with her being in stand alone building regardless of the promises of the Powers That Be.

Last weekend she had her first Homecoming Dance. She went with a kid who made a poster for her which contained the actual ask. It was creative. First sentence on the poster said, “I hope you don’t think I’m a nerd for making you this poster.” But instead of writing the word “nerd” he glued a box of Nerds onto the poster. Yeah, that’s pretty creative. Throughout the rest of the poster he the same thing gluing candy strategically into sentences. But what I was really impressed with was the kid’s speed. Not kidding. The doorbell rings and I’m sitting at the kitchen table. It’s no more ten normal steps from my chair to the door. And I got up right away. There was no lag between the doorbell and my movement towards the front door. I open the door and nobody is there. I look down and see this poster on the concrete. I smiled, yelled for Rye to come to the door, and then scanned the horizon.

Nothing.

My thoughts? “Man, this is the fastest kid on the planet. Where the hell did he go?”

I’m sure he was hiding around the corner of the house with one of his buddies who he convinced to come along. But still it only took me about 5 seconds to get to the door. And he was gone. Vanished. Kid has like Rickey Henderson speed or something. Or a cloaking device. Which would be both cool and disconcerting. I mean you don’t want your 14 year old daughter going anywhere with a kid who knows how to become invisible to the naked eye. Plus if a 14 year old kid has a cloaking device…well, what the hell do the terrorists have? But still, a cloaking device! Sweet.

Anyway, the kid and his Dad come over and pick up Rye and drive downtown to the park where they are taking pictures with the rest of their group – about 40 kids in all. Then they went to dinner and then a bus took them to the dance. Mom and I following to get our share of pics and thought we’d take advantage of the fact that we were downtown on a Saturday evening and go to dinner at one of the local brewpubs.

Sound plan right?

Except for the glitch. I know what some of you are saying, “you have a 14 year-old daughter, there is a glitch embedded into your day. All the time.” Which, of course, is correct. This particular glitch involved me giving up a sweet parking spot and driving all the way back home and then all way back downtown. Now its Des Moines, so its not like I have to navigate the streets of Chicago. But still…

Mom’s phone buzzes just as we’re parking my truck. All I saw was the look on her face when she said, “Well you have to tell your Dad.”

Exactly nothing awesome has ever happened when you combine that sentence, Mom’s facial expression and the tone of her voice.

“Hi Dad. I forgot my school ID and they won’t let us into the dance without it. Can you drive home and pick it up and then bring it to the restaurant. And you have to be back her in about 45 minutes.”

So there are, in fact, numerous ways in which to respond.

1) You can say, “Sucks for you.” And hang up the phone. But as every Dad knows this is a death sentence. From that point forward until the end of your natural life – and likely well into eternity – your oldest daughter will constantly be looking for payback. Teenagers often confuse the notion of payback with the process of making really bad decisions so their Dad will be pissed. So I decided against this option.
2) You can lose your sh*t, make her feel terrible and still have to run home get the damn thing.
3) Or you do what I did. You keep calm and using all the strength granted to you by the sweet baby Jesus and the patience you’ve gathered after 14 years of raising kids, you say back to her, “tell me where it is and I’ll be back in 45 minutes no problem.”

SummitOctoberfestWhy do you with option 3? Because you’re her Dad and its her first Homecoming Dance and you are not going to be the person who ruins it should it actually be ruined at some point. Thankfully, it wasn’t ruined. For either of us. She came home and said, “Best night ever!” when I asked how it went. And we ended up testing a few of the microbrews before settling on the traditional marzen style Octoberfest beer and then heading home and hanging at our neighbor’s – which we have affectionately named “The DT.” It’s short for The Downing Tap and is located in both our neighbor’s garage and driveway. It’s our favorite bar. No lines for the bathrooms. Great parking. There’s a TV. Sometimes they have food delivered. And you can bring you own beers. Which I do. Often. Plus when you’ve had too much, you simply stand up and walk home. Which in our case is about 30 feet.

So I guess that’s a win-win.

Reminding Yourself

I am one who subscribes to the theory that past repeats itself. I believe that if you fail to remember the past or, more precisely, if you fail to take the time to know the past, you are doomed to repeat it’s failures. This applies to politics, parenting, and George Lopez – seriously how does he keep getting jobs? It also applies to music. So it should be of no surprise when Mom and I go to a Motley Crue concert that many folks younger than us mockingly flash the horns and ask if we’re going to “rock out.” They snicker to themselves, in the smug way only fans of Green Day can do, as they like your concert pic on facebook of the freaking flamethrower attached to Nikki Sixx’s bass guitar. Your kids joke to each other and their friends about their parents and their horrible rock music and, ironically, are embarrassed when you tell stories about not only Tommy Lee’s anti-gravity drum solo but also the awesomeness of Lita Ford, Poison and Def Leppard two years ago in the same venue. Or even seeing Guns N Roses open for Aerosmith back in the summer of ’88 at Alpine Valley!

Common thread? They haven’t taken the initiative to blow an hour or two watching metal videos on youtube. Or taken the time to know history. Had America done a better job of knowing history we would not have been so quick to embrace a charismatic candidate who learned politics from a radical 60’s domestic terrorist not to mention a Chicago Democrat machine bagman. Being a student of history and a proud Gen Xer, I like to remind myself and Mom, every now and again of the awesomeness of good old fashioned late 80’s/early 90’s hair metal. If you don’t know history, you can’t celebrate its awesomeness. Reminders such as these do have consequences.

Among those consequences is disquieting alarm that accompanies you as your kids become teens. I mean is it simply a fact of parenthood that your kids will be derisive of the music that you like? My parents were in their teens and early 20’s in the 50’s and early 60’s. I can say, with near metaphysical certitude, that I was derisive of the popular music of this period in American history. But there were areas where I found some common ground. My mom and I both like the Beatles. And on one long drive to Florida in the summer of ’87 at about 2 a.m. in central Georgia we also discovered that we both enjoyed listening to Journey.

However if I play Tesla, Poison, maybe throw in some Motley Crue what do I get from the girls? Groans about being forced to endure more “Dad Rock.” WTF? It’s freaking Tesla. Its not Nelson. Although you gotta admit that if Bon Jovi sang More Than Ever, it likely would not be mocked and instead celebrated as one of Jon’s many hits. Anyway, I cannot, intellectually or emotionally, understand how anyone fails to embrace the power of the beginning of Tesla’s Getting Better? Who, regardless of age, or position along the American musical timeline can’t identify in some way with Every Rose Has It’s Thorn?

Exactly nobody.

Yet I’m subjected to hours of relentless dance-electro-synth-hip hop-pop music by the girls. What the hell happen to the guitar? Does nobody play the guitar in bands anymore? And what is with the disturbing lack of power in this stuff?

Remember, without an appreciation of your own past, you miss the greatest high school reunion in history.

So you gotta remind yourself of the awesomeness every now and then. And inevitably, your body will remind you of its age the next day…

Independence Day 2014

The 4th of July, as holiday rankings go, is a pretty solid third for me. Thanksgiving and Christmas are 1 and 2 respectively. Although I gotta admit that it’s a pretty tight race for that top spot. It’s like deciding your favorite Def Leppard song. Photograph or Armageddon It? Tough call. Regardless, I think I’ve landed pretty squarely on Independence Day as my number 3. There was a spirited debate between The 4th and Halloween but in the end, grilled burgers, cold beers and high explosives won out. I am American after all. Plus I get to lecture everybody else about the glaring lack of patriotism on their houses as nearly everyone fails to display Old Glory. C’mon man, at the very least, pretend for one day, you have at least a conversational grasp of American history and traditions and hang the freaking Stars and Stripes out front. You can borrow one of my flags. I have three. A Gadsden Flag featuring the Don’t Tread on Me symbol depicting a rattlesnake. A rattlesnake, according to Benjamin Franklin, was a good symbol for America since America “never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders.” The Betsy Ross Flag displaying the thirteen stars arranged in a circle. This is my favorite. And I have our current edition with 50 stars. Although I don’t think anybody would be that upset if we reduced it to 49 and let Illinois leave the union. I’m embarrassed to say I spent a good deal of my youth growing up in America’s most corrupt state. I feel bad for the all the folks in the Land of Lincoln not from Cook County yet have to deal with the waste from Rahm and Springfield.

Anyway, Independence Day, like most holidays is about traditions. This one just happens to be about America. And summer. Tough to extricate summer from the 4th. I’m writing this on the morning of our nation’s birthday and I’ve already heard firecrackers off in the distance. It won’t be long before I start smelling the sweet, sweet intoxicating aroma of grilled meat. Is there anything more 4th of July than Americans untrained in the use of explosives and gunpowder blowing stuff up while smoke from a grill rolls across the neighborhood backyards? I can still remember my Dad pulling the grill out onto the driveway, swearing at the charcoal as it failed to light and then running with my friends across the backyards of our neighbors as we nearly lost our minds in anticipation of fireworks. I still am somewhat befuddled by the anticipation and excitement for fireworks. I mean, for kids, anticipation and Christmas morning go together like the Obama administration and learning about scandals on the news just like the rest of us. That was sarcasm by the way. Regardless, Americans have been getting together for neighborhood parties since, well, since Lexington and Concord. Difference is back then the British showed up wearing the wrong colors for the party so a bunch of guys, fresh from the local tavern, walked out to meet them. After realizing they were outnumbered the Americans, as Americans sometimes do, talked some smack, flexed their guns and let them know in pointed terms to get the hell off our lawn. Also that taxes sucked. Especially when the money paid went to people who didn’t pay any taxes. Hey, wait a minute…

Anyway, the British, being the heavy favorites according to Vegas odds and not wanting to deal with all their jerkoff bosses back in Boston if they came home with a loss, decided these drunk, small town, animal skin wearing, Kid Rock looking hicks needed to be shown a lesson in manners and professional military combat maneuvers. And, after the typical back and forth jawing often seen at tailgate parties, Thanksgiving dinner and shows hosted by Bill O’Reilly…somebody decided to pop off a round. It was likely preceeded by the following statement, “Dude, hold this, I’m gonna try something.”

Upholding that tradition today are Americans at countless July 4th parties who, after a few cans of Sam Adams, pop off a strategically placed cuss words followed by some firecrackers and finally ending with an argument over whose fans are worse – the Red Sox or Yankees.

Today we show up with a cooler, our tailgate chairs and some deviled eggs and breakdown the top summer songs of the 80’s and early 90’s, discuss the inevitable disappointing exit from the 2014 NFL playoffs by the Peyton Manning led Broncos and the astounding level of douchiness shown by Harry Reid. This guy is like JR Ewing and Mr. Burns rolled together. We punctuate our arguments with f-bombs, our own renditions of Axl Rose’s slither dance and which beer, Miller Lite or Bud Light, really is the unofficial neighborhood get together beer. So its just like Lexington and Concord except nobody has muskets. I mean folks are drinking, talking smack, somebody shows up and causes a problem and the night ends with explosions and the smell of gunpowder. Nothing has really changed. I mean if you go ahead and forget all the unrelenting damage caused by the domestic policies of Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Obama.

And since I know you’re wondering about this – My thoughts on the topic of top summertime songs of the 80’s and early 90’s? Far, far too detailed to summarize here but, in no particular order, here’s a very short sampling of my favorites:

Midnight Blue
Technically not a summertime hit as it peaked at #5 on the charts in February of ’87. But I remember listening to it A LOT in the summer of ’87. So suck it real world timeline.

Summertime
Upon seeing this video for the first time our 14 year old daughter uttered, “Will Smith was a singer?”

Tainted Love
Nothing, absolutely nothing says summer 1982 like this song. I think their was some sort of suburban pool rule that said you had to hear this song at least once while swimming.