Leaving Your House

It’s been about three weeks since we moved.  It’s weird.  You live in a house for almost 19 years then one morning you wake up and all your stuff gets moved to a different house.  And listen, it is amazing the stuff you’ve not only accumulated over 19 years but the things you’ve somehow kept.  Like my cassette tape single of Dirty Love by Thunder.  Not only a great song but totally emblematic of the summer of the ’91.  Other things awesome about the summer of ’91?  The T-1000, Andy Van Slyke in centerfield for the Pirates and I went to Game 2 of the NBA Finals and saw this:

jordan1991game2handswitch

I really thought it would be more difficult to leave the house once we fixed all the little things and made it look so nice.  Over the last few years, we’d renovated two bathrooms, replaced all the windows, put a new roof on, re-sided the house, sealed and patched the garage floor, put new carpet in the upstairs and downstairs and I really thought, man, we put a lot of cash, time and effort into this house…and then the bank handed me the check at closing.  Turns out I don’t really miss it as much as I thought.  I miss our old neighbors.  I miss the big trees.  I mean the convenience of the location.  Dude, I could get anywhere – bank, grocery store, gas station, Mexican restaurant, Target, mall, softball fields, three different schools, dry cleaners, hardware store all in 10 minutes or less.  New house?  We’ve been completely sealed off by traffic lights.  Everything takes more time.  Seriously add 15 minutes and lots of swearing to everywhere you go.  By the time you’re home on the couch watching The Goldbergs you’ve become pretty irritated.  Thankfully, I’m figuring out the shortcuts.  There’s exactly one.  As in uno.  Regardless, what I really miss is knowing where the hell everything is located inside the house.

You spend 19 years in a house and you literally, not figuratively, know where everything is.  Forks and knives?  Same drawer they’ve been in for 19 years.  Duct tape?  Utility drawer in in the kitchen.  DePaul Blue Demons pennant you’ve had since the ’83-’84 season?  White bin on the second shelf in the basement.

Now?

I don’t even freaking know which freaking switch turns on the freaking lights in the freaking house.  I came down the stairs early in the morning this week and I’m hitting every freaking light switch I can find to try and turn on the damn light above the kitchen table.  It probably looked like gun shots if you were standing outside watching.

You know what else is a bit unsettling?  Tampa Bay possibly playing San Jose for Lord Stanley’s Cup that’s what.  Also, mowing a different yard.  An entirely different patch of earth.  Yeah, I had the pattern rotation down cold in the old yard.  I had it down so I could mow, trim and edge all under an hour.  Now?  I almost collapsed from exhaustion the first time I mowed the new yard.  Didn’t help that the mower kinda crapped out me  but listen, this new yard…is a BIG DAMN yard.  It’s like push mowing Montana.  I looked like Forrest Gump when he was finally done running.

Plus the first time I did it the internet guys hadn’t buried the cable line yet so I had to constantly pick up and mow under the freaking thing.  Pretty sure this is how involuntary amputations happen.  Oh, and special thanks to the builder who decided it was swell idea to grade the dirt around the southeast corner of house so pushing the mower up that hill is like running up the damn American Ninja Warrior Warped Wall.  That was super enjoyable.  Plus the self-propelled part of the self-propelled drive on the right rear wheel packed it in for the rest of the job which meant that not only was the mower now half self-propelled and half 45 year-old-Dad-propelled, but it was pulling heavily to the left.  So I’m trying to mow a small hill that is, roughly speaking, an 80 degree grade while reaching down and picking up the exposed internet line with a mower running at 50% propulsion that really just wants to turn left.  If I had video I’m pretty sure it would be a good visual representation of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Before I could get the trimmer out I had to go inside and sit down for 20 minutes to prevent a cardiac event.  Pretty much decided at that point that I was going to mulch…or pave…the entire yard.  I’d start looking at lawn tractors…or as some of you may know them – riding mowers – but that really just feels like quitting.  Like giving into my impending 46th birthday.   My solution?  American Ninja Warrior.  I’m just gonna scale that damn hill full speed everyday until its easy.  46 years-old my ass.

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:

The Thanksgiving Debate

I really can’t let it go.  The Thanksgiving Haters fascinate me.  The day is about gratitude, family and/or friends and traditions.  Yet many folks simply can’t let the rest of us enjoy it.  They can’t keep the hate to themselves.  They have to make a statement regarding their enlightened views on the holiday.  If you hate Thanksgiving, why do I have to be part of the hate?  Go ahead and hate it.  I know it’s cool amongst smug know it all progressive leftists to hate Thanksgiving.  I understand that the haters believe Thanksgiving is a holiday created by a morally bankrupt America that celebrates murder, genocide and oppression.  And I think its funny that you all get together in faux abhorrence this time of year with your lattes and wax on about the plight of the indigenous peoples of the New World while lamenting your own wretched Caucasian genes and carrying all that white guilt.

 

Now you may be thinking that I’m just a sarcastic intellectually dishonest jerk?  And I’m not going to lie, I do enjoy sarcasm and have often employed it inappropriately.  But while you’re shaking your head in sanctimonious patronizing self-assuredness, read what University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen wrote in his article “How I Stopped Hating Thanksgiving and Learned to Be Afraid” in CommonDreams.org just before Thanksgiving back in 2009.

 

“Although it’s well known to anyone who wants to know, let me summarize the argument against Thanksgiving: European invaders exterminated nearly the entire indigenous population to create the United States. Without that holocaust, the United States as we know it would not exist. The United States celebrates a Thanksgiving Day holiday dominated not by atonement for that horrendous crime against humanity but by a falsified account of the “encounter” between Europeans and American Indians.  When confronted with this, most people in the United States (outside of indigenous communities) ignore the history or attack those who make the argument. This is intellectually dishonest, politically irresponsible, and morally bankrupt.”

 

So, anyway, again for those who care to know, here’s a quick summary of the “falsified” history of Thanksgiving we were all taught.  The first Thanksgiving was in 1621.  The Pilgrims hopped aboard the Mayflower, crossed the Atlantic, and smacked into Plymouth Rock.  Then, those who survived that first winter in Massachusetts celebrated their good fortune with the new neighbors, the Wampanoag.  And like most neighbors they didn’t always get along.  But on this day they evidently did.  However, like many family gatherings, it led to emergency room visits over the next several years.  Most of the Left’s abhorrence regarding the holiday emanates here.  You can choose to debate them.  Or you can shake your head in mock appreciation and just make fun of them.  It’s easier, takes less time and it makes them mad.

 

So here’s a rapid-fire Chronicles of Dad rundown of Turkey Days since the pilgrims.  According to History.com, for the 150 or so years after that first Thanksgiving, New England settlers celebrated days of thanksgiving on an occasional and sometimes annual basis.  The menu was diverse.  And by this I mean they killed things and ate them.  Then in 1789 George Washington “issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation by the national government of the United States; in it, he called upon Americans to express their gratitude for the happy conclusion to the country’s war of independence and the successful ratification of the U.S. Constitution. His successors John Adams and James Madison also designated days of thanks during their presidencies.”  Interestingly, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson did not.

 

New York was the first state to officially name Thanksgiving a holiday in 1817 even though New Hampshire and Massachusetts both held days of Thanksgiving in 1816. In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, the first woman magazine editor in America, began a 36 year campaign to have Thanksgiving named a national holiday.  In 1863, President Lincoln finally agreed.  With the Civil War at its peak Lincoln wrote that all Americans should ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”  Abe named the final Thursday in November as the day and right up until 1939 that’s the way it was.  That’s when FDR tried to move Thanksgiving from Lincoln’s designated day up a week to give the country an economic boost through an additional week of Christmas shopping.  It would seem liberals need to control the economy extends to changing national holidays.  Then in 1941 Congress and FDR permanently established the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday.

 

In 1924 Macy’s began its traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade.  And despite its inherent corporate greed, liberals and progressives have been to known to attend and even watch it on TV.  Rumor has it though that the ensuing self-loathing results in skyrocketing profits for the makers of Prozac and Zoloft… furthering the self-loathing and profits.

 

About ten years later, the Lions started playing, and losing, on Thanksgiving. Then in the 60’s the Cowboys got in on it because they assumed everybody wanted to watch them.  The TV networks got involved and made it awesome.  Then in 1988 “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” soared up the charts which of course led to the hair metal power ballad becoming intertwined with Thanksgiving.

 

Which of course leads back the central questions of how exactly were George Washington, Sarah Hale, Abe Lincoln, the Detroit Lions and Poison engaged in the “genocidal campaign against indigenous people that is central to the creation of the United States”?

 

Or we can all just enjoy the day…

Show Teeth Part 1: Impact

So remember how I was describing wonderfulness of picking up other people’s garbage in minor league baseball stadiums? Yeah, so anyway, I was wondering if you had to choose – and I mean you had to or there’d be dire consequences…like you’d be forced to watch the Don’t Worry Be Happy video over and over – so would you rather do pick up other people’s garbage…or get hit in the face with a line drive?

Take your time. Picking up the garbage is pretty gross when it mostly consists of empty beer cans and stadium food. Oh, and bees. Bees evidently really like to hang out inside empty beer cans. And, truth be told, not too many people are going to have a reliable frame of reference for this particular choice. So you’re guessing. Which is the same thing Josh Scobee evidently does whenever he kicks the football.

Softball really has two seasons. Teams get picked in July, practice starts right after that and then they start playing tournaments in August and, if they want, can play all the way until November. This seems like overkill. People in the Midwest are already complaining about going to football games in November and we might still be playing softball. Thankfully, we usually play until the end of September. So Mom and I decided to take the girls out for some extra practice in August before school started and activities completely took over our lives. It was going really well. We convinced Kinz to adjust her batting stance and suddenly she really started hitting the ball. Hard. Line drives. Rod Freaking Carew. One Thursday afternoon, let’s say it was August 13th, I took her out to the fields. Mom was about 15 minutes behind us. We thought we’d do a little bit of hitting while Bails practiced and we waited for Kinz’ practice to start. I set up with the bucket of balls and tossed a few warm up pitches. Kinz stepped in and took a few cuts to settle in. Hit a couple weak grounders and fouled a couple off, then she got serious. Good contact. Line drives and one-hoppers toward shortstop. It was going pretty well.

For about 10 minutes.

We got out there about 6:15. And about 6:30 or so things changed.

Remember that shot Clue Haywood hit off Ricky Vaughn mid-season back in ’89. The one that he crushed towards South America and left nothing but a vapor trail. Kinz hit one of those except it was a line drive. At my face. Directly into the middle of top lip. Just below my nose. Absorbed completely by my two tooth front teeth.

Blood is warm. You really don’t realize how warm it actually is until it is filling your mouth and spilling out between your fingers as you instinctively – albeit pointlessly – hold your hand(s) over your mouth. Also, just to confirm, it is an odd feeling holding your two front teeth in bottom of your mouth. I’m not a dentist but I was pretty sure this was bad.

I start heading to the dugout to get my phone because I was also pretty sure we were going to need Mom ASAP. Kinz comes sprinting up to me.

“Dad! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”

This is one of those times that you really have to be completely in control of your emotions and have a high degree of control over the brain functions that control speech, word choice, voice tone and other things which convey things to your 13 year-old daughter. If I freak out, all the improvement and momentum she’s gained hitting the ball might evaporate overnight. And after listening to all the 13 year-old girl whining about not hitting the ball as well as she wants…that ain’t an option.

What my natural reaction was:

“MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!! YOU GOTTA BE FU@#^%@ KIDDING ME!!!!”

My actual reaction:

“Nice hit…but you knocked my teeth out.”

You know in movies when the actor gets injured and you’re all, “Dude just get your phone and call for help.” Yeah, so using a smartphone with a touch screen isn’t as simple as you’d hope when both of your hands are covered with blood, you’re holding your two front teeth in the bottom of your mouth, and…just in case you were wondering, it hurts like a MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!!

I quickly did the math and freaking out wasn’t going to stop the bleeding or permit me to travel back in time and complete the Jiu-Jitsu training necessary to improve my hand speed allowing me to bring my glove up in time to catch the ball. Or, worst case, change its trajectory and decrease its air speed. Also I figured out that I needed something to jam into the gaping space that used to hold my teeth. I gave my bloody phone to Kinz and we quickly walked to my truck. And, FYI, in addition to being warm, blood is slippery. I couldn’t get my damn door open because my damn bloody hand kept slipping off the damn handle. Kinz opens the door and then calls Mom. I stop myself from leaning too far into the driver’s side seat of my truck because I don’t want to bleed all over it. I was impressed with myself that I still cared about upholstery…or at least the cost of cleaning it. I manage to reach the roll of paper towels I keep in there.

What? I have three kids. There is always crap to clean up in my truck. Anyway, I shove a couple paper towels into my mouth. Kinz keeps calling Mom because, as is usually the case, she’s ignoring calls from my phone. Kinz tries calling her from her phone. Still no answer.

Thankfully one of the Moms we know from softball sees us struggling and asks if I’m ok. Through the paper towels, blood, fat lip and loose teeth I give a brief, but rough, explanation. She grabs some ice from her cooler. I wrap it up and hold the ice on my lip with the paper towels shoved into my mouth. At this point I’m frustrated that Mom hasn’t answered so I make the call to head to the emergency room ourselves. We just have to grab our stuff off the field before we leave. Just as I’m doing that one of the coaches for another team in our system, who is also a local cop and pretty big guy, comes over the outfield fence and runs over to us. And this is not a short fence. It’s like a 8 foot fence.

Weirdly somebody got video of it:

“Take a knee!” he orders. “What happened?”

“Kinz hit a line drive into my mouth, knocked out my teeth.”

“You black out?”

“What? No, I’m fine. Got my teeth knocked out.”

He takes a look at my mouth, gets a big smile and says, “Unfortunately for you, being the handsome man you are, you now look like a hockey player.”

Kinz is still kinda freaking out. “Dad I’m so, so sorry.”

In the calmest and most reassuring tone I can muster I answer, “Kinz, that’s the best hit you’ve had all fall.”

Cop smiles again, “That’s a good Dad right there. Daughter knocks out his teeth and he’s still encouraging her.”

High Drama

High Drama yesterday morning at the Chronicles of Dad Base Camp. A typical school day morning involves a bit of staggered wake-up schedule and some arguing over the bathroom when one of the three girls lollygags a little bit and wanders into the block of time normally occupied by another. This kind of thing happens regularly. And by regularly I mean every day. I think part of the problem is that they communicate through grunts, dirtly looks and the unexpected blindside hip toss.

Kinz is up at 6 and out the door for the bus stop by 6:50. Then Rye is up around 6:30ish and leaves for school around 7:30. Then Bails rolls outta bed at 7 and leaves for the bus stop at 8:25. This plan has some logic to it. Each girl gets about 30 minutes to themselves in the bathroom. In theory. But Keynesian economics, the Run and Shoot Offense and The Legion of Doom also seemed to work in theory. Anyway, the weakness in the plan is the girls need to get up on time. They don’t. A secondary weakness in the plan is that girls must be in relatively close proximity to each other as they pass in the hall or switch places in the bathroom.

Do other parents seriously considering moving to a bigger house and taking on a larger mortgage and putting themselves at financial risk simply to avoid the daily conflict that occurs amongst their children? We’re thinking about this. A lot. It’s not just the bathroom skirmishes, it is the ceaseless officiating we’re asked to do in regards to tensions arising from the fact that Kinz and Bails share a room. You’d think at some point they’d achieve détente. Reagan and Gorbachev did it, so should they. I mean its not that we want much more room in a house – just an extra bedroom, an extra stall in the garage and a tiny house in the backyard equipped with Direct TV, a mini fridge and wi-fi.

But the drama yesterday morning had nothing to do with space. Yesterday was gym day for Rye. So she needs to wear, or bring, her Nikes. They are almost two years old and pretty beat up but she likes them. But I still broke down and bought her some new ones last week. Should be delivered any day now. But she needed her old ones yesterday morning. And they were gone. My first reaction when she told me they were gone was, “Are you sure?” The doubt in regards to her assertion of their disappearance is entirely due to the fact that a growing heap of shoes is building up next to the front door. It’s a like volcanic island forming in the Pacific. Flip-flops, sneakers, cleats, Toms, sandals. It’ll get worse in the winter when the Uggs and other boots move in. And there is no way you can ascertain the existence of a pair of Nikes within this pile through a casual 15 year-old glance. I am a parent. I am well aware of the “thoroughness” in which 15 year-olds “look” for stuff. They’re like Hillary looking for classified emails. But I wanted her to be sure that the shoes in question were, in fact, gone.

They were.

“Dad, Kinsey wore my Nikes to school without asking. My only pair of gym shoes. And I have gym today. I have to have them. I know exactly where I left them and they’re gone. She never asks if she can wear any of my stuff and then she does it anyway!”

Before she could finish the rant, I cut her off. Mostly because I could see the anger/adrenaline ramping up and since she was about to drive herself to school, I thought rage would only distract her from keeping her eyes on the road. But also because I had a question.

“Don’t you have a pair of black Converse?”

“What? Um…”

So she wore the Converse. And I banned Kinz from wearing any of Rye’s stuff until Oct. 1. Because I’m tired of this particular issue. We’ll see if the ban holds…

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.

That’s a Dinger

We are now 3 and a-half weeks into summer vacation. Not gonna lie. It has been awesome. Mostly because there is no homework for the girls to do. Don’t feel guilty at all about saying that. Mom and I needed a break too. And a roughly 11 week break sounds about right.

Girls have been busy. Bails built this:

BunnyTrap

If you can’t tell from the sign that says “For Bunnies Only,” it’s a bunny trap. Here’s to hoping the literacy programs are better run than IT department at the IRS.

Bails won the Golden Bone award the last week of school. The award is given to all the 4th graders who correctly identify all the human bones on the skeleton test. In actuality it’s a dog bone painted gold. I told her good job. Her response?

“Dad, some people are good looking. Some people are awesome. I just happen to be both.”

“You don’t lack in confidence Bails.”

“That’s just the way I am man.”

The period of time between May 9 and July 6 encompasses nine weekends. We have softball tournaments on eight of them. Just two left however. Oh and Rye has dance three mornings a week and four evenings a week through the 4th of July. And we have softball practices in there a few times a week. And Bails was in this orchestra camp for the last two weeks. Scheduled right in the middle of the morning for the convenience of working parents. If you are searching for the word to describe this, its “stupid.”

Truth be told I’ve really started to enjoy the softball tournaments. Granted it’s a helluva lot easier when Bails hits a homer. Seriously. It was like a combination of Roy Hobbs and the 1978 version of Dave Parker. Except it didn’t clear the fence and there weren’t any sparks falling from the sky.

Gotta admit it was pretty sweet. Bails is not an imposing figure at the plate. The opposing coach never waves his outfielders back when she’s in the box instead a bunt warning is almost always issued. Yes, Bails is built like a pencil and no, she has not been blessed a great deal of height. But its not like she’s a stick figure walking up there. And most of these teams do not have extensive scouting reports. Notice I said “most” because after having spent some time around youth coaches, you realize that even though its 10U softball, some of them do have detailed scouting reports and advanced metrics.

Anyway, she hit the ball into the gap between two outfielders. The ground was pretty hard so when it landed and took a bounce it just took off and rolled to the fence. The complex we were at did a poor job of watering the fields so every time the wind kicked up, which was about every 14 seconds, it was like Maverick and Goose hitting the afterburners creating straight line winds in excess of 70 mph. At one point both the batter and catcher disappeared from view. Like Flight 19 back in 1945. But that meant we had some help from the wind too. As soon as I see the ball headed to the outfield, Mom and I are up yelling “Go 2! Go 2!” then we realize that she’s got a triple easy so we’re yelling “Go 3! Go 3!” She looked like she expected to be held at third but her coach sent her home. One time last fall she hit a liner past the shortstop and aided by a few fielding and throwing errors she came running into third at which point her coach gave her the hold up sign. But it was about 95 degrees that day and all we needed was one run to win the game. So she took it upon herself to just run home. Scored in a cloud of dust. Afterwards when I asked why she ran through the stop sign the coach, she told me “Dad, it’s really hot out here and coach said we could get ice cream if we won.” Good enough. This time she actually had permission to go home. And she didn’t even have to slide. Coolest thing was it wasn’t aided by a bunch of errors. She just beat the throw. Didn’t even realize she was safe until her team mobbed her on the way back to the dugout. Then the next time she’s up I notice something for the first time…the opposing coach telling his outfielders to back up. Damn right I was smiling.

The Final Days

Many days are cause for celebration. NFL kickoff Sunday for example. Admittedly diluted by Goodell and his Thursday night double header to start the season. July 4th always has a certain magical anticipation throughout the day. Also any day that I’m planning on getting nachos at Rock Bottom. And the last day of school. Which was Wednesday. The girls are excited. But their excitement pales, PALES in comparison to my own excitement. There no longer is homework to check, slips to sign, emails to read or logistics to manage. Okay, that last part is a huge load of crap. Transportation and logistics are still going to suck. Despite my inner voice telling me I should let the girls laze around the house all summer, Mom and I ignored that voice and signed them up for a boatload of stuff. Still doesn’t take away from our joy regarding the last day. I mean yes, we still have to go to work instead of sitting around until 10:00 watching Battle of the Planets and Tom & Jerry eating Cheerios. Which I didn’t mind doing when I was 10. But in the name of all that is holy, this last two weeks of school was absolutely killing us. Beating us down mentally and physically. Like the ’89 Pistons. End of the year projects for Kinz and Bails came at us like Mahorn defending the rim. Softball and dance plowed into us like Rodman patrolling the boards.

What is the freaking deal with projects being due the last seven days of school? C’mon man. The kids are already checked out. You hit that weekend after Mother’s Day and that’s it. You can’t really expect their best effort after that. Kinda like if you dropped by your neighbor’s house and he offered you a Schlitz. C’mon man, yes, it’s the beer that made Milwaukee famous but nobody still believes that when you’re your out of Schlitz you’re out of beer and seriously, nobody ever really went for the gusto when they grabbed a Schiltz. They probably went for the bathroom and grabbed the toilet with both hands. Which raises a question. How in the hell does Pabst Brewing stay in business? When you produce Schlitz, Old Style, Old Milwaukee, Olympia, Strohs and PBR aren’t you really just asking to have bankruptcy attorneys on staff? Geez, why don’t you just go ahead and revive Dubuque Star and Red, White & Blue?

Regardless, we had to supervise, cajole and sometimes threaten the girls into completing:

1-A project for Bails on Career Day. Project #1 involved Career Day. She came with me to work. And it really cannot be overstated how excited she was. Which is was cool but also a bit perplexing. I’ve been going to work for about 22 years and I’ve never been this excited. Part of the excitement likely had something to do with us stopping to get donuts and cookies for the office. And that fact that she was allowed to bring Mom’s Kindle with her. Also that I have a TV in my office and I told her that she’d probably get to watch some TV during the day. Here’s a pic of her walking up a really big staircase.

DSC02556

But her project was to bring back at least four “artifacts” from her visit along with several pictures adorned with captions describing said pictures. She also conducted an interview with me. The artifacts and pictures were to be placed on a gigantic poster board which eventually required me asking my neighbor to use his Tahoe Suburban to drive her to school with Kinz and his own kids. Not kidding. But she spent most of her Memorial Day weekend muscling her way through this. It took about 5 or 6 hours to complete mostly due to her inability to stay still. For some reason Bails decided to complete this project along with project #2 concurrently. So she’d move from the kitchen table after working on Project #2 to the family room floor and attach some pictures and write some captions on her gigantic poster for Career Day. And maybe this happens in your house too but what the hell is the deal with kids doing projects in an area of the house limits your mobility to walk from room to room? At one point I could not get to the couch in the family because of the poster, construction paper and sharpies all over the floor.

2-A one page letter Bails had to write pretending she was a character in a book she recently read. The objective was to write a letter as that character and send it to another character in the book. Not totally sure of the objective. Likely something to irritate parents. Or possibly something about putting yourself into somebody else’s shoes and seeing things from their perspective. Or I just made that up because getting Bails to write it was like getting Princess Leia to admit she had feelings for Han while they were stationed on the ice planet of Hoth.

3-A State’s Fair project for Bails. Every year the 4th graders hold a State’s Fair. They make…wait for it…gigantic posters detailing important facts and information about the state of their choosing. Four years ago Rye chose Missouri and renamed it “The Awesome State.” Not sure if that ever went to popular referendum. Two years ago Kinz chose California and I made sure a picture of Ronald Reagan made it onto the poster. Bails chose Idaho. She wanted Pennslyvania since I lived there back in the 70’s but the kid right before her picked it so she went with Idaho. Not sure why. We’ve never been there. When I inquired as to her reasoning she let me know that Idaho has a weird shape so she went with it. Good enough. But neither her nor I knew anything about Idaho other than they grow a lot of potatoes and Sun Valley is evidently a popular resort. Turns out fishing is a big deal up there, huckleberries are native to the mountainous areas of northern Idaho and it was the 43rd state. She also decided she wanted to bring a snack of Idaho food to people to try. Naturally her choice was french fries. Excellent decision. Except for the fact we had no way to keep them warm. Which also meant we had no way to prevent them from becoming cold and soggy. So, since huckleberries are native to the mountainous areas of northern Idaho, she went with that.

Did you know that huckleberry products are not widely available in supermarkets?

Eventually we found huckleberry fruit curd at Whole Foods. Bails said it tasted like sweet and sour sauce. I took her word for it.

4-A World’s Fair project for Kinz. She chose Poland. Everybody in the house, except for Mom, is Polish. I’m half Polish. The girls are a quarter Polish. I detailed my feelings about this before back in May 2012. We think Polish is the largest nationality, by percentage, they possess. I say “think” because Mom has no real idea what her nationalities really are. We’re fairly certain she’s German. She also suspects she has a bit of English heritage. Maybe Scottish, not really sure. Two years ago Rye chose England and we made some English cookies or some such crap. This year Kinz insisted on bringing something Polish. Mom and I in turn insisted we were not going to cook, bake or make anything. So if you’re not going to grill some kielbasa or make some pierogi’s, what the hell is left? Lucky for us poppy seed cakes and rolls are a traditional Polish dessert. We bought some poppy seed muffins, cut them into bite sized pieces and called it good. Polish-American ingenuity.

5-An inordinate and totally inappropriate, at least in Rye’s eyes, amount of homework regarding the Civil War and its causes.

Truth be told, I was kinda excited about Rye having Civil War homework. You know how many people I can talk about the Civil War in our house? Zero. Or some number less than that. Let’s also remember that this is homework Rye believes is completely unacceptable due to its timing during the school year. But more infuriating is the absolute indifference she shows towards the Civil War era of our nation’s history.

“Dad do you know anything about the Compromise of 1850?”

“Yes.”

“Awesome how did the Compromise of 1850, Bleeding Kansas and the Dred Scott decision help the common man?”

“What? That’s the question you have to answer?”

She said something in response at this point but all I was able to make out was a long sustained whining noise. Finally I couldn’t take it.

“Good Lord Rye, literally right behind you on that table is The Patriot’s History of the United States. Contained within its pages are historical facts. At the back is this thing called the index.”

But I couldn’t take it and looked it up the stuff myself. Yes, I should have had her do it. But I reached that place where parents find themselves at various points during their parenting days. That place is found at the intersection of Just Go Away Drive and Please Stop Whining Street.

But she finished. As did the school year. They have two days of summer vacation in the books so far. And yes, they are already bored…

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…