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?”


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

“About 20 minutes.”


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.


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.

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.

Somehow this involves Bob Seger

So this is the busiest time of the year for Mom and I. My job just gets stupid with the lack of a definable schedule and the girls’ activities get crazier than Biden at a Daughters of the American Revolution mixer. Got home from work around 11 last Tuesday night and then Wednesday I found myself driving back and forth on the same stretch of pavement three times within 90 minutes. Two girls at church, one girl at softball and one city cop running radar. He didn’t get me. But I felt like I should have been waving the last time I passed him humming The Last Mile by Cinderella to myself. Things could be worse though. I could have made fun of Mitt Romney and his claims that Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe in a 2012 presidential debate and laughed heartily with the media sheep when I jabbed him with a one-liner about how 1980’s called and wanted their foreign policy back. That would really suck if I did that and then found myself getting outmaneuvered and verbally punched in the face by Putin on a daily basis. Anyway, Kinz had to be picked up from softball at 7:00. Bails had to be picked up from church at 7:30. And Rye had to be picked up from the same church at roughly 8:00.

The sucky part was that each trip is about 10 minutes. Short enough that I could get each one of them home before heading back out to get the next. Well, you’re snootily thinking to yourself, if the church and softball fields are so close why don’t you just pick up Kinz from the fields, then head over to church and get Bails and then hang out and get churched up a bit while waiting for Rye to be done?

Sounds reasonable. If you’re dumb. And your kids all get along swimmingly instead of being total jerks to each other. You’re saying c’mon, all that driving back and forth is a waste of gas and it’s bad for the environment. Oh, is it? Hmm, really? You know what else is bad for the environment? The fallout from a nuclear freaking eruption. Because that’s what was coming if I had to deal with the girls unprovoked fights with other in that absolutely maddening teenagerly girlish method of jerkiness. Especially after a day when I had to work until 10:30. At night. I mean the uneccessary levels of fight picking are astounding. Like the levels of cheesiness from Kip Winger in the Can’t Get Enuff video.

Plus, and those of you with experience will back me up on this, any benefit gained from getting to spend some one on one time with the girls whilst driving them back and forth pales in comparison to the peace achieved by staggering their bathroom/shower times. Don’t underestimate this. The harmony achieved by doing this is stunning. Like Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik in ’86.

So it was tough to decide if the one on one time with the girls or the peace and tranquility was better. It was a difficult debate. Like trying to pick a top 3 for Bob Seger. Night Moves, Even Now, You’ll Accompany Me, Against the Wind…wait crap that’s four and I haven’t even mentioned Hollywood Nights, Main Street or Fire Inside. Dammit. Or tyring to decide who has a better moustache between Seger or Sam Elliot. Or who is a better story teller – Seger or Billy Joel. Irrespective of all of that, I’m hoping my schedule is a bit more conducive to patience this week. We’ll see…

The Time Has Come

It’s called different things in different states. The Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Condescending Slowness. Regardless, nobody likes to go there. Yet we must. A couple Fridays ago, I took Rye to get her learner’s permit. Yes America, one of my offspring is legally allowed to be on the road behind the wheel of thousands of pounds of steel. Oh and when you start running down the things that make stare your age right in the face, getting a learner’s permit for your child is right up there with not understanding the appeal of the Buccaneers new uniforms or realizing that Purple Rain is 30 years old.

Not a misprint. 30 years. Other things that are 30 years old? Ren’s battle with Reverend Moore for the right to dance in Bomont.

Anyway, the bonus was that it only took about 90 minutes to get the damn thing. Which, if your’re prepared for it, isn’t that bad. Plus there were plenty of seats for us to occupy while we waited. Because that’s what you do for nearly the entire time you’re there. You wait. You wait in line to get into the place, then you wait in your seat until they call your number, then you go back to your seat while your 14 year old daughter takes a written test, then you wait until they call your name in order to ask your daughter several questions before they can approve her for the learner’s permit. One of those questions for Rye was, “Do you have any mental problems?”

Umm…does butter fly? Does a picket fence? Did Falco once ask alles klar, Herr Kommissar?

I mean how are you supposed to honestly answer this question? Do you mean diagnosed problems? Well, no, but dude, she’s a 14 year girl. Mental problems are a daily thing. Like spandex pants in a David Lee Roth video. But just to keep the system moving, I confirmed her “No” as the correct answer. You don’t want to be the guy that slows down the efficiency of the Driver’s License system. It’s a well-oiled bureaucratic symphony. Thankfully once you are done with all the questions they finally, finally give a paper copy of the permit. The real permit won’t arrive in the mail for a couple weeks.

But that means she can drive legally with us in the car. So on the following Saturday morning we did just that. And we had a good time. Mostly because I stopped and bought donuts. And a 44 oz. Diet Pepsi. And that my friends makes everything better. We drove around our neighborhood. It was here when I discovered that at this point in her development, Rye needs to warm up. You can’t just ask her to back out of the driveway or to navigate major streets cold. She needs a little time to acclimate to the vehicle. How did I realize this? She tried to take a turn at nearly 40 mph. Lesson learned.

After that we kinda developed our own little course which was essentially a large rough triangle of roads. Inside said triangle she had pretty much free reign. But once we hit the major roads on the edges of the triangle, I limited her to right turns. What? No left turns is a good strategy for beginning drivers. We’re trying to build confidence. For both of us…


sandyWhat did you do last Friday night? I bet none of you went to a mime performance. I also bet none of you are jealous. Unless you are big Shields and Yarnell fans and are still lamenting the cancellation of their variety show back in ’77. And what was the fascination with variety shows in the 70’s? Sonny and Cher, Carol Burnett, Hee Haw, even the Muppets. Weird. It’s like detective shows in the 80’s. But this is what happens to you once you have kids. They inexplicably become interested in things that provide you with nothing but bafflement.

As far as I can tell, when it comes to the face painting spectrum, mimes anchor one end while ninjas anchor the other. Obviously. And they sometimes perform a really, really crappy variation of the robot while on stage. Granted, I could be wrong. But please explain to me how exactly none of my kids wants to play basketball. None. Zero. The one sport in which I showed a semblance of ability is of no interest to my kids. So far one is showing a growing interest in history. But it is taking every last ounce of my self-control not to smother that interest with a Beverly Goldbergian avalanche of helpfulness.

To be completely honest I had no idea what a mime show was. Or how it would be conducted. Which means it’s a lot like the concept of the NCAA Tournament to Husker fans. According to Rye and her friends, mime is the art of acting without words. Best thing about it was that we were able to enjoy some Foreigner, Journey and Otis Day and the Knights.

Yeah, there were, and I’m just spitballing here, about 428 skits. Or maybe it just seemed like that. No, seriously, I’m guessing around 30 or so little skits, none of which were more than a few minutes long. Each featured a song you most likely heard at some point. Wasn’t expecting to hear Weird Al’s “Eat It” but c’mon, who doesn’t think Weird Al is a genius?

But here’s the thing you really don’t realize until you get there – you spend the first 2 or 3 skits attempting to identify your kid. Not kidding. When there are 35 blonde girls in pony tails and white face paint, it ain’t easy. Oh and they sold cookies at intermission as a fundraiser. And who am I to stand in the way of funding for the arts!

Just another outrageously nutty Friday night at our house…