More Complicated?

Was Christmas less complicated when we were kids?  I mean pretty much all you did was agonizingly count down the days before Christmas Break, watch the Bob Hope Christmas Special and wait for Santa to deliver the loot.  Now it seems we either get overwhelmed or it sneaks up on us.  Although to be honest, if Christmas sneaks up on you there is really no one to blame but yourself.  C’mon the decorations are up in October.  It’s not like Christmas arrives all stealthy.  The songs have been on the radio since before Thanksgiving and the decorations are up in all the stores minutes after Halloween is over.

I think what really happens is we let it overwhelm us.  Every year we vow to shop earlier, get the Christmas cards done over Thanksgiving and to help Mom wrap the presents.  Well, that last part is a complete falsehood.  I’ve never done that.  I stick the labels on the gifts.  That is extent to which Mom trusts my wrapping skills.  I’m a strong proponent of the widespread use of gift bags.

Now I’m must spitballin’ here but I’m pretty sure my appreciation for gift bag usage is based in the Christmas story.  And I’m not talking about the 1983 movie in which Ralphie told us, “”Christmas was on its way. Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas, upon which the entire kid year revolved.”  No, I’m talking about the traditional telling of the actual Christmas story…updated for levity during this busy time of year.

Feel free to let me know if you remember it a bit differently.

According to yuletide folklore, Mary and Joseph traveled a long way to Bethlehem, inadvertently obligating couples from thenceforth to the customary holiday journey to visit family and friends while dealing with delayed flights, snowy roads and impatient whining children.  Or, depending on your current parental situation, know-it-all, eye-rolling teenagers.  Nary a mention of wrapping gifts.  Also no condemnation of the rampant use of gift bags in place of traditional wrapping.  Go back and look.  Pretty sure the Biblical scholars are going to back me up on this.   Mary made a list of what they needed and Joseph stupidly viewed the list as suggestions and instead only brought egg nog, chips and a list of where all the rest areas were located.  Thankfully he was smart enough to observe a star in the sky which guided them to the Inn where they were told their reservations had somehow been lost and had been “upgraded” to the stable.

Anyway, Mary and Joseph, settled in next to the manger in which they placed the baby Jesus.  Next to the manager was a small conifer.  In this case, a fir.  Possibly a spruce.  Biblical arborists disagree.  Regardless, Joseph, having driven the cart all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, suggested that they just put all Christmas gifts for family and friends in gift bags.  After all it would be quicker and the important thing is the gift not the wrapping paper.

Thankfully, the three Wise Men also saw the star and began their trek to see the baby Jesus.  Lesser known is the story of the Wise Men.  They saw a star and began a trek to bring gifts to the baby Jesus.  This, of course, began the age-old practice of dudes everywhere driving aimlessly through mall parking lots searching for open spots whilst their wives and girlfriends incessantly sent them pics asking which gifts they should buy.  Unbeknownst to them at the time, the three Wise Men doomed husbands and boyfriends throughout the ages to consistent criticism for the gift decisions because of their weird gifts choice of gold, frankincense and myrrh .  Maybe some 0-6 month onesies or some diapers?  Or even a gift card to Rock Bottom for Mary and Joseph would’ve been nice.  I mean they are going to want to get out of the stable for a few hours here and there.

Anyway, key thing to remember is the story does not include anything about:  1) wrapping gifts, and 2) saving Christmas cookies for some unnamed post-holiday reason.

So, feel free to use gifts bags for any type of gift and don’t worry about saving any Christmas cookies for later.  Nobody makes New Year’s cookies…unless they help with hangovers…

 

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Surviving Thanksgiving?

Hey it’s tomorrow. Thanksgiving. Best holiday of the year.  However, I’ve been reading how Americans are dreading the day this time around.  And I really can’t blame them.  Sooner or later somebody is going to bring up Colin Kaepernick, Harvey Weinstein or Clint Longely.

And nobody engenders more heated discussion, at my house anyway, than Clint Longley.  Only thing that comes remotely close is lack of 70’s throwbacks.  Well, to be honest, that is a sore point throughout the year.  Go ahead and keep pushing those mostly terrible color rush uni’s. Regardless, Longley came out nowhere back in ’74 to engineer a crazy Cowboy comeback over the Redskins.  Longely went to accomplish exactly nothing as a QB later in his career.  Kinda like Eric Holder’s tenure at AG. Anyway, many misguided observers will try and convince you that Longely’s unexpected performance constitutes the best Thanksgiving Day game in NFL history.  Which, as we all know, is like saying Frank Stallone’s Stayin’ Alive is somehow better than Olivia Newton John’s Twist of Fate  when it comes to post Saturday Night Fever John Travolta movie theme songs.

Because we all know the best Turkey Day NFL game is Lions-Bears in 1980.  First, it happened in the 80’s which as all know is the best decade in the history of decades.  Also, during halftime of this game, Pat Summerall interviewed a newly elected Ronald Reagan.  Doubt CBS and the NFL would allow a Republican president the same opportunity now.  Anyway, if you remember your Thanksgiving Day NFL history – and judging by the NFL’s ratings this season most of you don’t – Vince Evans scrambled in for the tying touchdown as time ran out.  Then the Lions kicked off and the Bears’ Dave Williams took the overtime kick back for a touchdown.

So listen I don’t know anything about anything but I’m going to go ahead suggest that if your going to go head to head with some random family member let it be about Clint Longley.  Or cranberry sauce.  Which as we all know isn’t a sauce.  Or a food if you’re being honest with yourself.  Also I suppose some of you spend time arguing about oven roasting, smoking or deep frying your bird.  Which, like arguing over whether or not to serve beer, is a pointless debate.  Like making the case that Woodrow Wilson’s decision to implement the income tax was somehow a good decision. We all know there is no wrong answer on bird prep.  Also learned some of you evidently have issues with each other when it comes to gravy placement.  On the mashed potatoes, on the taters and the bird, or pretty much on everything.  I mean its gravy.  It doesn’t ruin stuff.  It’s like hair metal.  Or the ability to consistently run the football. It only helps.

So remember that tomorrow.  Or don’t.  I’m eating bird either way…

 

Published in: on November 22, 2017 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Required Volunteering

Yeah so I’m pretty sure you know what I’m talking about.   Your kid plays on this team and this team is supposed to provide a certain number of volunteers to man the concessions, or clean up the stadium or do some other crappy task that nobody really wants to do.  So who ya gonna call?  Parent volunteers.

So there are at least two kinds of required volunteering.  The kind you do because somebody at the booster club is somehow in charge of making sure the dance team parents or softball team parents provide a certain number of volunteers to man the concessions.  Then there is the kind of volunteers who do something, like clean up the stadium after home games, as a way to raise money for the team so they can compete in regional competitions or pay for uniforms, etc.

Mom and I are both.  Not by choice though.  Nobody shares this eventual responsibility with you when you decide to have kids.  Other things nobody tells you when you decide to have kids?  That teenagers are, without question, God’s way of payback.  And this isn’t a theory.  Its a stone cold freaking fact.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few observations should you ever find yourself in these kind of crappy volunteer situations.  Here’s what I learned doing the concessions:

If there is a choice between working the concessions for your school or the local Catholic school, go with the Catholics.  This isn’t because of some sort of religious favoritism.  Its a pure numbers game.  There are just fewer people.  And, as I found out, they don’t really like to buy too much at the concessions because the public school gets to keep the cash.  Less work for me.

Second thing I learned is that if you are presented with the option of working the front counter taking orders and money or working in the back getting the food, preparing the orders – pick the front.  Why?  Because nobody wants to deal with the freaking liquid cheese nacho dispenser.  The rate of dispersal is unpredictable.  The shut off valve doesn’t fully close.  The density of the cheese is variable.  And nobody wants to deliver a customer nachos with loose cheese.

Also do 2nd shift.  Yeah, I know logic dictates the opposite.  Everybody knows set up is easier than clean up.  Well who knew concessions work is counter-intuitive.  Like Facebook political activism.  You’d think the more you condescending preach to your friends across your social media platforms the more it would persuade them.  Anyway, turns out that clean up really only entails sweeping the floor and pulling down the garage-like door thereby separating you from the public.  Pretty sweet.

Finally, volunteer for last game of the season.  If you’re lucky, it’ll be freaking freezing.  Drives down attendance and the only thing anybody wants is hot chocolate.  You only have to memorize the price of one item and their is always a heater in the concessions.  That’s called winning.

Sometimes the coach of your kids’ team will be presented with the opportunity to clean the stadium after home football games as a way to raise money.  I’m only going to say this once and its going to be fast so pay attention.  Do it.  Do it every chance you get.  Easy money.  Nobody bothers you.  Takes about 20 minutes.  Stop at the gas station on the way home and pick up some beers.

Seriously.  Easiest involuntary volunteering you’ll ever do.  But here’s the catch.  Only do it if it is the high school football stadium.  If they want you to do the local Triple A baseball team, don’t do it.  Ever.  Under any circumstances.  Got it?

Now you know what I know.  Use this knowledge wisely.

So I have a question…

When is it appropriate to call a meeting with a high school teacher and how is it done as to avoid any negative blowback on the student in question?

High school is different than junior high.  Junior high is different than grade school.  In grade school it was easy.  Junior high also pretty straight forward.  If there is a problem, whatever that problem may be, you send an email and set up a meeting.  Situation is addressed and everybody moves on.  Teachers expect, and sometimes even welcome, parents to be involved and keep track of their kids’ academic and social progress.

I don’t want to offend any teachers out there who might think it is belittling or maybe flat out preposterous to suggest a teacher would be so unprofessional as to retaliate against a student whose parents choose to disagree with the teacher on a particular matter.

Columbus Day for example.  Or Thanksgiving since I’m sure we’ll be engaged in that annual battle with the PC illuminati.

We’re sitting in church last month and I mention that Monday is Columbus Day and that the girls don’t have school so they can sleep in.  Bails responds with, “Columbus Day?  Gross.”

“Gross?  Why?  No school!”

She responds, “After Columbus got here millions of native Americans died because of disease and other bad things.”

Bails’ social studies is a Bernie supporter.  Good teacher and otherwise good dude.  But he’s a gullibly idealistic millennial.  Last fall her social studies teacher, different guy but also a naive lefty millennial, barely could teach the class the day after the election.  Still makes me smile.  Anyway, her teacher this year has evidently “taught” the class – and by “taught” I mean deconstructing American history through a PC disinfectant – that Columbus’ intent upon sailing from Spain was to enslave and infect any indigenous peoples he might need to overrun while he was stealing land for the rich oppressive elites in the super white European aristocracy.  And that any of the current flaws America currently suffers from are, in fact, the fault of Columbus.

This shallow misunderstanding of basic American history conveniently forgets that Columbus himself was an Italian Catholic.  Italian Catholics, if you recall, weren’t exactly popular with the Anglo-Saxon nativists during their emigration to America in the late 1800’s.  Columbus was a source of pride for this persecuted minority.  And, in an ironic and confusing twist to modern PC stormtroopers, an article in The Atlantic pointed out that Columbus Day parades in the early 20th century were a way to advance the goal of assimilating immigrants into a single American identity.  Local newspapers even “celebrated it as an important step in combating prejudice and bigotry, but it was much more. It served as a formal acknowledgment that immigrants could preserve their own ethnic identities and simultaneously embrace their new nation.”

Weird how a lack of historical perspective leads to a lack of, well, perspective.

Of course my on-going frustrations with millennial PC snowflakery aren’t the only source of consternation in relation to contacting high school teachers.  What about a biology teacher who only teaches biology in a way which makes it literally, not virtually, impossible for anyone to get better than a C.

How is that teaching?  I mean, and I’m just spitballin’ here, I thought the point of teaching was to impart knowledge.  Knowledge that the pupil will be able to recall and use.  Knowledge that helps them become a functioning and contributing part of American society.  Knowledge which makes them a well rounded citizen while also helping the pupil slowly but surely narrow down their academic interests in such a way that it allows them to decide which way to take their future education thereby determining the direction of the professional lives.

Nowhere do I remember in either the formal or informal definitions of teaching making the pupil hate the subject in question with same intensity Jack Lambert hated quarterbacks in the 70’s.  Nowhere do I remember the teacher purposely putting things on tests that were deliberately glossed over in the class in order to give the teacher the pleasure of abundant red pen usage.

But that’s is what is happening.  So we’re put in a position of having to challenge the teacher.  Gotta admit I kinda resent it.  So instead of going all Beverly Goldberg on the teachers, I’m writing about it here.

And yes I realize this blog post solves nothing.  Whatever…

Just a couple things…

Every day there are a couple things for which I’m grateful.  Well, that’s not true, there’s more than a couple.  Like pumpkin beer being back at Rock Bottom!  But that’s kind of an aside.  And probably a bit of stretch.  I’m not really thankful for pumpkin beer every single day.  That’s ridiculous.  Probably most days in the fall though…

FrankDonHowardMNFAnyway, better example?  Hmmm…Monday Night Football when it was a big deal with Frank, Howard and Dandy Don.  Literally the only good thing about Monday when I was a kid.  I mean what the hell else are you looking forward to on the Monday morning bus ride to school?  Eventually on Tuesdays we’d have The A-Team and Riptide making Tuesday somewhat tolerable.  For a couple years we had WKRP on Wednesdays and, of course, Thursdays we had Cheers and Magnum.  Which made Thursday the best day of week not named Friday or Saturday or Sunday.  But MNF was a big awesome deal.  In fact, if I could do anything over again, it would be to have Frank Gifford introduce Mom and I at our wedding reception to the theme from Monday Night Football.

Also grateful I was part of the generation which had Saturday morning cartoons in the 70’s and 80’s.  Our kids don’t have those.  I get up on Saturday morning now and the news is on.  The effing news.  And it’s a travesty.  A disgrace.  Where are the damn Superfriends!? Since Saturday morning cartoons went away, kids have been robbed of a valuable cultural lesson.  Commonality.  We all watched them.  Then we went outside and played together and talked about them.  Gen Xers had this cool period of time carved out of American culture that was ours.  And everybody knew it.  It was one of the reasons why the weekend was, well, the weekend.  For 3 or so hours every Saturday morning, we’d get Thundarr, Johnny Quest and Scooby.  And in between, we got Schoolhouse Rock.  Don’t really remember anything about kneeling for the anthem in Schoolhouse Rock

But Saturday morning cartoons were a cultural touchstone for all of us – then and now.  Kids don’t have that time today.  They have social media, which turns out, is the opposite of commonality.

Which brings me back to the couple of things for which I’m grateful for everyday:

1- I went to high school and college before the rise of social media.  Let’s face it Gen X, we’re the last of the old breed.  We could turn off the world.  We’d do something stupid and against the rules, providing our folks with solid reasons to ground us for a month and, if we made it home with only our fellow morons (friends) knowing, then that was it.  It was over.  We got away with it.  Nothing to see here, time to move on.

Not now.  Our kids can’t escape.  There’s no shelter.  Yet, we have somehow all decided that the yet to be fully developed teenager brain can fully process the pros and cons of permanent digital evidence of their bad decision making.  Which must only get worse in college.   Can you imagine high school and college with the hammer of shareable evidence hanging over your head?  Pics, videos, etc.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s there wasn’t any easily created or obtained proof.  Now there is digital verification within seconds.   You go back to some random weekend during my senior year in high school during the fall of ’87, and it would not have been to hard to get a pic of me holding a Stroh’s.  Or a video of me and my friends playing Chandeliers.  Which, if I remember correctly, wasn’t exactly within the confines of the legal drinking age.  Now I (arguably) have the wisdom that comes with experience.  Which teaches all of us not to drink Stroh’s.  I mean I’d rather listen to Stephen Colbert continue to be unfunny than drink a Stroh’s.  Wait, do they even still brew Stroh’s?  Or has it retired to the same crappy beer retirement community with Lowenbrau, Miller Genuine Draft and Blatz?

Now if somebody decides to scan and share a pic of me with actual hair in front of empty cans of Meisterbrau, it really isn’t proof of anything except teenagery.  And that the 80’s did, in fact, occur.

Anyway, any time I mention how happy I am I grew up without smartphones, I get this dumbfounded look from millennials and from my kids.  Same look I get when I argue that the mid-90’s were likely the worst period of music in the history of, well, music.  Yeah, grunge was and remains terrible.  Green Day sucks.  I don’t like Nirvana.  Yeah, I said it Xers.

2-I made it through college without any campus unrest.  Protests were sparse.  Violence from weird left wing black hooded anarchists wasn’t a thing.  When the Gulf War started in ’91, there were demonstrations in favor of the war.  Why?  Because like Rich Cohen wrote a couple months ago in Vanity Fair, Gen X is a revolt against the revolt.  Boomers revolted against power structures of America.  And, thank Christ, we’re not them.  I just finished watching Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War.  And, back me up here, I could not have been the only one who was crying like baby when they brought the POW’s home.  But what really struck me was the breadth of the insanity going down on college campuses.  I mean, let’s be honest, I went to college and the last people that should be deciding anything for anyone other than themselves are college students.  C’mon, if you’re willing to drink 9 Natural Lights and eat a half-thawed frozen pizza because you’re too impatient to wait the full 12 minutes for it to cook, you shouldn’t be trusted with determining items on the national agenda.

Now we have a Boomer president and a bunch millennial football players blaming each other in an argument so utterly devoid of reasonableness its dumbfounding.  We have Boomers running college campuses populated with Millennials and neither one has any respect or understanding for the First Amendment.  Instead, with no appreciation for karma, they are running headlong into some weird kind of smug totalitarian moralism.  It is exasperating that Gen X still cannot prevent Boomers and Millennials from deciding the national debate.  What we really need is the pragmatism, self sufficiency and natural problem solving of Xers to lead instead of allowing the naive and gullible idealism of Boomers and Millennials determine the issues.  Regardless of how you feel about Paul Ryan, you have to admire his Gen X stubbornness. While the President and millennial NFLers are yelling at each other about various issues, Ryan doggedly talks about health care, taxes and immigration.  Tell me again which generational leaders are serious?

Gen Xers, conservative and liberal, know how the story of socialism ends because it always ends the same way.  And, even though I don’t agree with some of Cohen’s takes, he makes a great Gen X point here, “we could not stand to hear the Utopian talk of the boomers as we cannot stand to hear the Utopian talk of the millennials.”  Or like Leslie Loftis wrote in a response to Cohen, “The Boomers lived richly and naively. They passed their idealistic ignorance on to their children, the Millennials.”

Thankfully, when Gen Xers were going through college we weren’t trying bring down LBJ or Nixon, we weren’t trying to burn the First Amendment in the name of social justice.  We watched Animal House, Up the Creek and Back to School.  We went to college because we wanted to party and make money when we were done.  Why?  So we could do whatever the hell it was we wanted to do.  Gen Xers are independent and self reliant.  It was, and remains, a simple clearly articulated plan of action.

Because, going back to Cohen one more time, “…even if you could tell other people what to say and what not to say, even if you could tell them how to live, even if you could enforce those rules through social pressure and public shaming, why would you want to? I mean, it’s just so uncool.”

Or to put a little differently like Loftis, “We will, like we always have, do whatever it is that needs doing.”

Because you can be damn sure the Boomers and Millennials will be doing something else.

 

Well Played 47, Well Played…

Birthdays mean things.  At 16 you get your driver’s license.  And for awhile, and also for the only time in your life – you think its cool to drive a ’81 Volkswagen Rabbit.  A beige one with a stick shift that only takes diesel.  Bad ass, I know.  At 21 you get to over pay for beers at the bar. And nothing says adulthood like paying more for something you could have done on your own with a little patience and planning.  Nothing really special happened on my 30th. I was already married and had a kid so turning 30 just seemed like a day.  On my 40th Mom and I had a party since we both turned 40 within a month of each other. We had a local place make us a couple big trays of barbecue while one of our friends brought over burnt ends.  And listen, after several beers, that stuff is quite possibly the greatest food you’ve ever tasted.

Anyway, I recently turned 47.  Which really isn’t anything special.  Doesn’t feel any different from any of my other recent birthdays. Aside from Mel Blount wearing #47 and being responsible for the NFL rules changes that allow the modern passing game, it isn’t an especially great number.  I was, however, pretty damned determined to kick 47’s ass.

So we made some plans with some good friends.  They picked us up and we drove back to their house.  Why? The key advantage of the location of their house is that you can walk to the bar.  A place called Taco Hangover.  At 3:00 in the afternoon.  On a Friday.  So, two things:

1-I’d like a little appreciation for our mature decision to not drive.  To not even have a vehicle at the bar.

2-Taco Hangover puts a laxative in its tacos.

Not sure how that makes for repeat customers but somewhere in their business model is a flow chart on how to make tacos and it includes a laxative.  Soft flour tortilla, chicken, stool softener/bowel stimulant, shredded cheese, etc.  The catch is that their tacos are awesome.  Seriously.  Bacon, egg and cheese tacos.  Kansas City burnt ends tacos. Chorizo and crispy potato tacos.  They even have sloppy joe tacos.  And listen, the tacos need to be awesome because you can’t get Miller Lite Tall Boys on the patio.  I know, I’m sitting there wondering if we’re in communist Russia or a bar in red, white and blue middle America…that sells laxative laden tacos.  Regardless, you did read that correctly.  No Miller Lite tall boys.  How the hell does that happen?  Friday afternoon ice cold tall boys on the patio is about as midwest American as you can get.  The really infuriating thing was that if I wanted to – although I can’t imagine a scenario in which this would happen unless it gave me the power of invisibility – I could get Pabst Blue Ribbon in a tall boy. I’m just spit ballin’ here but nobody really wants extra PBR.  Nobody.  And that’s what you get in a PBR tall boy.  Because of the outright and inexcusable lack of proper fridge stocking, I was forced to consume Coors Light.  In a tall boy.  And by forced I mean I wasn’t.  I could have had a normal regulation size draw of Miller Lite in the typical plastic cup required on patios.  But everybody else, including Mom at one point, is drinking tall boys and I’m not sure if you realize this, but tall boys have more beer in them.  Again, just spit ballin’ here but you know who likes more beer?  Everybody.

So as the day wears on and we have various conversations, including my agreeing to go a Flo Rida concert with Mom, we order tacos.  And a continuing flow of beers.  And, I’m not necessarily proud – or ashamed – of this but we put those away faster than Billy Idol was pumping fists in the Flesh for Fantasy video.

Mom tapped out first.  Got ride home from a friend.  About an hour later, I was done. Was about ready to get in the same friend’s car as she had recently arrived back at the patio after dropping Mom off and the taco effect suddenly become apparent to me.

So I did what anybody else would have done.  I bombed the bathroom.

Then I went home.  Upon my arrival I ask Mom how she’s doing – and just for reference sake it was still light out – and Mom informs me that she bombed our bathroom.

While we both felt pretty damn good afterwards, the effect of the beers hadn’t been evicted from our systems.  It was about this time that Kinz comes into our room and asks if her friend – a boy – could come over for a few hours.  My answer?  “Sure.”

Her response?  “Ok, but you’re going to have to talk to his Dad when he drops him off.”

My response to that?  “Ummm…you should ask Mom to do that.”

From the bedroom we hear, “No she shouldn’t!”

So it’s up to me to somehow behave like a responsible parent so this kid isn’t banned from our house because I wanted to kick 47’s ass.

Short while later – and after another visit or two to the bathroom – the kid and his Dad are at our door.  We introduce ourselves.  And then…

“Hey so I need to go through my whole deal here since we haven’t been to your house before.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Any alcohol in the house?”

I sorta tilted my head slightly and said, “Yeah…but they’re not going to drink any of it.”

“Any firearms in the house?”

I’m thinking, sure okay, this is a legit question.  I guess I could be Bob Lee Swagger.  I might be slamming beers while I make my own ammo out back.

“Nope, no firearms.”

“Any explosives in the house?”

“You’ll have to be more specific.  Do you mean military, commercial or recreational?”

No I didn’t really say that.  But I’d never been asked – ever – if there were any explosives in my house.  Do people stock explosives?  I’m not counting fireworks.  Where do you even purchase them if you were to stock them?  Because if this is a thing, I kinda would like to know that too.

And listen I get the first question.  I’m not going to ask it because I’m assuming it to be true in nearly every house in America.  I also understand the second question.  And maybe I should be asking that too.  Maybe we all should.  Or maybe we shouldn’t. Alcohol and firearms aren’t illegal.  Often dangerous when used in concert but not illegal.

But even weirder than the questions was I’m answering them after spending the last 5 hours at the bar drinking Coors Light tall boys while eating laxative tacos talking about going to the Flo Rida concert.

So well played 47, well played…

An Awesome Time Machine

Time travel is cool.  And thanks to the magic of Youtube it is possible.

I can’t be the only person who has sat down and watch an episode or two of Magnum, P.I. and Riptide on Youtube.  I mean c’mon, Nick and Cody lived on a freaking boat in L.A.! Nor can I be the only one who has watched the Monday Night Football game from October 20, 1980 between the Raiders and the Steelers when we all realized the dynasty was over.  And there’s no way I’m alone watching old MTV videos.  Now, don’t get me wrong, if given the choice I’m watching old NFL Films highlights all day.  And maybe a couple of the Riptide episodes when the all-female crew of the Barefoot Contessa were featured.  But if you really want to go back in time, go watch the videos.

Like this doesn’t take you right back to the May of ’83?

How about May of ’85?

May of ’87?

But here’s the thing, it is still just a video.  You’re not there.  Granted, you’re experiencing nostalgia at awesome levels.  Actual time travel, while elusive, is possible.  You can get there.

Again, if you went to high school or college with me in the 80’s and early 90’s, this might make some sense…especially after watching that Poison video.  Mom and I went to Def Leppard, Poison and Tesla a few weeks ago.  Five years ago we went to a similar version of this concert when we saw Def Leppard, Poison and Lita Ford.  The common factor – I mean besides the fact that Phil Collen is like 57 years old and still doesn’t wear a damn shirt – is going to these concerts is like experiencing an awesome time machine.  Its like you’re in one big giant DeLorean.  I love going.  Because just for a few hours, you’re back! Which, at our ages, is really all we can handle at this point anyway.

You get into the arena and you immediately do two things that you didn’t do in high school or your first couple years of college.  You go buy a couple of these:

Defleppardbeers

That’s $18 worth of Miller Lite right there.  You need a salary and health insurance to afford these.  You don’t have that in high school or college.

Then you buy a $36 concert t-shirt because its freaking worth it. Here’s mine:

deflepconcertt

After you get your second 25 oz Miller Lite you head to your seats.  The first beer is a walking beer.  Meaning its the beer you drink while walking to get your sweet new concert tee.  Once in your seats I always take a look around at the folks sitting in my immediate area.  I like to know who will be rocking it old school with me, flashing the horns and belting out every single freaking lyric.  Who are my co-pilots on this awesome journey back to the late 80’s and early 90’s?  Also its good to get a feel for those who won’t be doing that so you have an idea who you are going to be annoying for next 3 hours or so.

Tesla is first.  I wanted to hear 4 songs – Getting Better, Little Suzi, Signs and What You Give.  Ending up hitting .500 as they left the stage without singing Getting Better and What You Give.  And I gotta be honest, it felt a little empty without hearing Getting Better. But…Little Suzi, well she’s on the up.  It was awesome.  And the only person who probably liked it better than me was the woman in the row below us and off to the right who was absolutely rocking.  She was belting out those lyrics so loud she was shaming the rest of us.  We became immediate friends.

When they hit the first few chords of Signs there was an impressive roar from the Gen X dominated crowd.  And we clearly – CLEARLY – preferred the unedited version as we sang, “So I made up my f*#&ing sign!”

Poison was next.  And Bret Michaels obviously understands who his audience is.  No messing around with their new stuff.  Listen, it was a good thing they can dial it back a bit with Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Something to Believe In because I probably would have needed to take a knee just to regroup.  Ride the Wind, Fallen Angel and then Nothing But A Good Time…I was exhausted.  I mean that’s A LOT of air guitar.  My fingers were cramping up.  Plus Nothing But A Good Time is synonymous with the summer of ’88…along with my sweet ’81 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit, Stroh Light and the Lakers going back to back.

Then Def Leppard.

DefLeppardSugarDef Leppard dominated my senior year of high school. Dominated.  Like Markie Post’s hotness dominated the set of Night Court.  Sure Micheal Jackson got in there with Man in the Mirror and David Lee Roth kicked our asses with Just Like Paradise and Arnold Schwarzenegger was in every freaking movie. Anybody else think they should remake The Running Man?  No?  Just me then. Anyway, point being Def Leppard was awesome in the ’87-’88 school year and they are still awesome. Armaggedon It is a like flamethrower showering us with late 80’s nostalgia.  Plus it melts your face off. Pour Some Sugar On Me hits you like city bus filled with all your high school memories.  Like the time my buddy Pete almost blew his finger off in the front seat of my car as he lit a bottle rocket that recorded a total travel distance of his side of the dashboard to mine and then exploded. Or The Longest Day (Feb. 27, 1988) when my buddies and I, allegedly, used fake IDs to load up at EJ’s Liquors to keep us hydrated throughout an entire Saturday.

It all hits you.  You feel it.  And for a few fleeting instances, you’re there.  You’re really there. And then you realize you’ve spent $54 dollars on a six pack of 25 oz Miller Lites and you have to be up early to make sure your 7th grader has a ride to school.

But it was still awesome…

After Prom

High School Prom.  You remember it.  I liked Prom.  Had a great time both times I went. Junior year 1987 theme was Bon Jovi’s I’ll Be There For You.  Top Gun had recently hit VHS and the Atomic Shakespeare episode of Moonlighting was the funniest thing anybody had ever seen.  Senior year, if you can believe it, was even more awesome.  The series finale of Magnum aired the same weekend as Prom.  Poison had just released Nothing But a Good Time and we had access to multiple 30 packs of Stroh’s and Stroh Light.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…how does any self-respecting high school senior pick Stroh’s over Milwaukee’s Best?  Well, it came in a 30 pack.  Just saying. Also next time you have the chance to crack a Stroh’s or an MB you’ll swear to the sweet baby Jesus that it smells exactly like high school.  And Prom…if you went to high school in the late 80’s with me.  Seriously, just for a second, you’ll feel like you’re wearing shredded jeans, listening to Just Like Paradise on your way to see Coming to America.

Now sure as as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti some of you are judging me right now.  How in the hell can I hold any high moral ground while talking to my oldest daughter about Prom while I’m writing about the venerable and sorely missed Stroh’s 30 pack?

Well, thStrohs30pack1988e truth is parenting teenagers is f’ing hard.  I’m not perfect and I certainly don’t have all the right answers.  I mean example #1, I miss the taste of Stroh’s.  Sure its mostly nostalgic but I still do.  Example #2, I have no freaking clue where the point of balance is between letting your teenage daughter do things and protecting her from things actually is.  Example #3, I really don’t have any idea how these kids can enjoy Prom without hair metal.  These morons are listening to Chance the Rapper and DJ Khaled.  But here’s the thing, I remember being a teenager.  So do you.  I remember my two proms.  I thought about two things my last couple years of high school – girls and beer. That’s it. Sometimes, during basketball practice, I thought about basketball.  But that was kinda hit and miss.  As was my playing time as a result.  So while I was pretty unhappy about Mom volunteering for the After Prom party at the high school, it did put me in a position to at least be in proximity to my 17 year-old daughter during a key high milestone.  Plus, we did have access to a truckload of free food.

First, if your high school doesn’t do an After Prom party, here’s the low down.  The school opens itself up, parents volunteer to staff various activities and other crap to occupy the Prom-goers from the end of Prom to the middle of the freaking night.  Ostensibly to keep them in a relatively safe environment instead of driving around slamming beers.   Which, as we all know, may or may not have happened to a few of us Gen Xers during our high school years.  Afterwards, since these kids do everything in groups, the groups assemble at somebody’s house and they all sleep there.  Then your kid shows up at home sometime Sunday morning.

Our adventure begins with us meeting some of the other parents downtown to take some Prom pics.  Here’s one of the group.

Prom 88 Matt Ladd Jeff Nick

Oh, wait that’s a pic of me and some of my friends at Senior Prom back in ’88.  Here’s Rye and her group.

Prom17

Two things become obvious – 1) the guys are more excited about the pics than the girls. 2) My own douchiness as a high school junior and senior became painfully clear to myself.   These guys were posing their asses off.  But I did get to meet Rye’s date for the first time. But it was a day late.  While I was at work Friday night, Rye brought him over to meet us. We’d made a pretty big deal out of the fact that he hadn’t been to the house and we hadn’t met him.  Rye and him spent a little time talking to Mom about Prom and what their plans were.  Mom was pleased.  I was not.  Mostly because I was stuck at work during that 23.5 hour marathon.  I explained to  a couple coworkers what was happening while lamenting the fact that none of my questions for him could be answered.

So I improvised and started texting Mom the aforementioned questions.  Here’s the list:

  • What is his parent’s debt to asset ratio?
  • Any history of felonies or involvement with organized crime?
  • Trump or Hillary?
  • Steelers or Ravens?
  • Who was the better president: Woodrow Wilson or Calvin Coolidge?
  • What kind of car does he drive?
  • Grunge or Hair Metal?
  • Skinny jeans or normal jeans?

Mom was no help.  All she told us was that he drives a white car.  Which is useless. Provides me with absolutely no actionable intel.  Might as well have told me Tom Cruise is coming out with an action movie this summer.  Or that Eric Dickerson had a pretty good rookie year in ’83.  Useless.

PromdonutsAnyway, we head home after the pics for a hour or so then head over to Jersey Mike’s to pick up 8 boxes of subs.  Local businesses were donating food or giving us a deal. Our job to pick up Jersey Mike’s.  We arrived and there was Subway, Jimmy John’s, Krispy Kremes, Scratch Cupcakes, mini blizzards from Dairy Queen, a truckload of Papa John’s pizza, and not nearly enough wings from Buffalo Wild Wings.  After getting everything set up, I volunteered to be in charge of ice.  It required me to get ice and dump it into the big coolers to keep the pop, water and Gatorade cold.  I spent most of my time sitting while marveling at the amount of food these kids can consume.  These kids just wasted the donuts.  They looked like the Terminator walking into the West Highland Police Station looking for Sarah Connor.

One kid took 6 donuts and built them into a small pyramid on top of his pizza.  6 donuts. Who eats 6 donuts at midnight before they eat half a pizza?

PromjerseymikesI ended up with some leftover Gatorade, a box of Jersey Mike’s and two cases of Diet Pepsi.  We got home about 3:15 am…and were up at 6 am for more softball.  But as luck would have it, Bails’ team lost their first two games of the day and we were home by 11:30 and I immediately went to sleep.  5 and a-half hours later, the girls woke me up so I could mow the lawn.  Because this is what Dads do.  We go to softball on a couple hours sleep for two days in a row, we volunteer at After Prom parties and then we come home and mow the lawn.

Go Dads.

Next blog…An Awesome Time Machine.

 

Sleep and Other Stuff

I’ve never run a marathon.  Never been through Navy Seal training.  Never had to listen to a full speech from Elizabeth Warren.  All these things require endurance.  And in the case of the last example the ability to suppress audible laughter.  Staying awake also requires endurance.  Because staying awake can be hard.  It doesn’t matter if you’re watching golf, listening to Ed Sheeran, or staying at work for nearly 24 consecutive hours.

Stop me if this also happened to you a couple weeks ago.  You show up at work at 8 a.m. Friday morning.  With me so far?  Then you leave work at 7:15…a.m. Saturday morning. Sound fun?  How about this – starting Monday morning April 17 and ending Saturday morning April 22, I put in exactly 80 hours at work.  Which made me curious as to how many hours actually passed between the time I arrived that Monday morning and when I made it home alive the following Saturday.  There are only 119.25 hours in that time frame.  80 hours at work, 39ish hours for everything else.  That includes about 25 hours for sleep.

You may be asking yourself how dumb my job is.  Fair question.  April is normally my busiest month.  By the time we finish up the busy season I usually reset my personal bests for caffeine consumption use of the “f” word.  But lots of people have busy jobs, busy lives with kids’ activities and other assorted bullsh*t.  Mine all just happened on the same freaking day.

On my drive home I was trying to do some rudimentary math because I suck at it and because I had a pretty busy Saturday about to commence.  I’ll get home about 7:20, Bails softball schedule for Saturday is 8, 9:30, 2, 3:30.  Also happened to be Prom weekend for Rye.  Pics downtown at 5:30.  Then Mom stupidly volunteered for the After Prom Committee so we have to pick up subs from Jersey Mike’s at 8:45 and be at the high school at 9.  Then work the After Prom party until…wait for it…3 a.m.  Then be up at 6 a.m. Sunday to get to the softball fields by 7 a.m. for another set of games at 8 and 9:30. Once that’s done I needed to mow the lawn because it looked like Vietnam out there.

I walk into the house and two things are of the utmost importance.  1) I’m hungry.  2) I have never wanted out of a jacket and tie this much in my life. Not even when I went through first communion back in ’78 and I had one of those clip-on ties and those little blue sport coats that make every other Mom comment on your cuteness.  No boy wants comments on his cute mini-me grown up clothes.  Its uncomfortable.  Anyway, after eating what was easily the best two pieces of toast I’ve ever tasted in my life and shedding my work clothes I got in bed.

Now I’m sure there are some super Dads out there who in the name of proper parenting would’ve thrown on jeans and a sweatshirt and headed right out to the 8:00 softball game because nothing is more important than showing your kids that they are your #1 priority and you’d do anything for them.

Turns out I’m not that guy.  Adversity struck and I hit the sack faster than the donations to the Clinton Foundation dried up the day after the election.

Two things though  – 1) once you’ve missed your sleep window, its not that easy to force yourself into a peaceful slumber, and 2) the brightness of the morning sun spikes your aggravation levels to unhealthy heights.

So I, and I’m not exaggerating, totally buried myself under blankets and pillows in order to simulate darkness.  Worked for a couple hours until Mom, Bails and Kinz got home after the first two games with Chinese food for lunch.

eggrolldust

I made my way downstairs and without warning attacked the egg rolls.  I looked like a wood chipper clearing a street after a tornado.  Instead of sawdust it was remnants of egg rolls and fried rice.

Then it was out to the softball fields for the last two games of the day.  Its weird how Saturday feels when you really didn’t have a normal Friday.  My Fridays in the spring normally consist of me getting home, drinking more than one can of the variety of summer seasonal beers I like to populate my basement fridge with, watching Youtube videos of classic NFL games from the 70’s and 80’s and then waiting for Mom to get home.  Its a tried and true system that has consistently served me well.  So not only was I knocked off my routine but I was working on 2 hours of sleep fueled only by grocery store Chinese food.  I surprised myself with my coherence.  Didn’t have too much trouble speaking in complete sentences.  But eliminating the “f” word from your normal parlance is difficult after it becomes so culturally accepted in nearly every setting when you’re at work for 23.5 consecutive hours.  Normally walking into a room at work and asking, “Who is the asshat who called this f*&$ing meeting?” isn’t a thing that is heard without eliciting some kind of response.  But that’s what happens.  Unfortunately that doesn’t translate to a 14U softball game.  You can’t sit there behind home plate and comment in a conversational volume that, “this f*&$ing ump couldn’t find his ass with both hands, no chance he finds the strike zone.  He’s missed a f*&$load of calls already.”

So I decided to be silent with my feedback.  And I was able to stay awake…but the 5 or 6 Diet Pepsi’s probably had something to do with that.

Last game ends and we head for home for about 30 minutes to be there in time for Rye’s date to pick her up before we head downtown for Prom pics…

Next blog…After Prom…

 

You’ve Got To Learn To Be The Ball

Being a parent presents you with some interesting dilemma’s.  Do you buy your kid a car when they turn 16?  They’ve obviously done nothing to deserve it.  But it will also simplify your life significantly if they can drive themselves to school and pick up your other two kids from school, practices and activities.  Do you, through steady but almost undetectable daily pressure indoctrinate your kid into being an Iowa State fan even though their Mom went to Iowa? Naturally some are more important than others but almost all can be approached with some wisdom from 80’s movies.  Don’t leave your wingman, never get involved in a land war in Asia, screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.  But if parenting and the 80’s have taught me anything, its you’ve got to learn to be the ball.

For example most parents preach good decision-making to their kids so they are armed with enough sound judgement that can make tough decisions in the course of their day.  So…parental dilemmas, be the ball, good decision-making…

A couple Friday afternoons ago, I’m driving home from work listening to Lita Ford’s underappreciated early 90’s hit “Shot of Poison.”  If you’re wondering what 1991 sounded like wait till the 2:13 mark of the song and that’s exactly what it sounded like.  1991 was the year I turned 21.  So the song reminds of beers…and Friday afternoons…and beers on a Friday afternoon.

Which led me to think about my old neighbors.  A thought which they’ll appreciate.  One of them is a huge Duke basketball fan and Duke tipped at 6:20.  But it was only about 4:30.  Hmm…

A quick phone call, a quick stop at the gas station with the walk-in beer cooler and I’m sitting in my neighbor’s garage just as the SMU-USC game ends.  We have a few beers, talk college basketball and…have a few beers.  This is literally my favorite thing to do.  That isn’t hyperbole or a superfluous use of the word “literally.”  It combines several things which I – and you if your’re being honest with yourself – enjoy.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them all independently.  I do.  But I really enjoy them all together.  Kinda like nachos.  Chips, cheese, meat, salsa, etc.  All good on their own but really good together.  Let me further explain.  I like beers.  So I stopped and picked up a six-pack of Miller Lite tallboys even though I was fully aware that my old neighbors had close to a full case of Miller Lite in their fridge…mostly for me when I drop by unexpectedly.  And probably when I do it expectedly.  Regardless, the Miller Lite is for me.  In addition to beers, I like Friday afternoon right after work.  It’s my favorite time of the week.  The whole weekend is ahead of you and it’s the only time I totally and completely feel free to unplug from the my responsibilities as an adult.  In addition to beers and Friday afternoon after work, I love that first weekend of the NCAA tournament.  32 games (of which I picked 30 correctly this year) and games nearly around the clock.  In addition to beers, Friday afternoon after work and the first weekend of the NCAA tourney, I like hanging with my old neighbors in their garage.  We named it the DT – short for Downing Tap – a few years ago.  Best neighbor bar I’ve ever been too.  Plenty parking, the bathroom is clean, Miller Lites are cold, there’s a TV in the garage and if you forget to bring your own chair they almost always have an extra.  Plus, if you’re lucky, you show up on a day they’re serving food.  This particular Friday was such a day.

Let’s review – beers, Friday afternoon after work, first weekend of the NCAA tourney, the DT.  Naturally I stayed until about 10:30.

What?  All I did was essentially FAC.  It was okay in college and its okay now.  But here’s the cool thing.  Mom took all the girls down to Kansas City on Thursday morning.  It was like my own mini-version of the National Day Without Women.  Or whatever that was supposed to be.  I can’t keep track of all the awareness outragery that I’m supposed to care about.  Here’s the thing, Mom said they get home about 7:00 Friday evening.  I’m no math wiz but I figured they’d home in plenty of time in case I needed somebody to come pick me up.

Which I of course did.  Anything would have been surprise.  I texted Mom and told her I needed a ride home at some point and she might want to send Rye and Kinz over to pick me up.  Rye’s had her license for over a year and Kinz has her learner’s permit.  And I needed somebody to drive my truck home.  So Rye drops off Kinz, I give her the keys and she drives us both home.

Now depending on your level of judgmental smuggery and/or condescending moral superiority, you’re assessing my fitness as a parent.  While some of you, if you subscribe to the same child-raising handbook as me, are smiling and nodding to yourself thinking, “yeah, that’s just smart parenting.”

How is that those of you in living the land of Smuggington contemptuously ask.  Simple.

You’ve got to learn to be the ball.  I combined beers, Friday afternoon after work, the first weekend of the NCAA tourney and the DT into a real life lesson on what to do after you’ve had one (four) beer(s) too many.  You know what that makes me?  The best Dad on the planet.