Weathered the Storm?

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

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

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Something about 1987 and remembering things

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

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

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

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

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

“Did you miss the bus?”

“Yes.”

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

“About 20 minutes.”

“Excellent.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homecoming and Freshmen

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

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

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

So I voted for it and it passed.

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

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

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

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

Nothing.

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

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

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

Sound plan right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I guess that’s a win-win.

The Ride In

I discovered a new local radio station earlier this week. I realize some of you find this silly. “Local radio station? What in the hell is that? Is that like phone with a cord? Or tackling in the NFL? Sorry but I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m so into Pintrest, Tumblr and Pandora right now. Next time instead of speaking out of your mouth to me just go ahead and Snapchat me.”

That was sarcasm. But I’m still fairly certain its how my 14 year-old will begin talking to me. Soon. This will of course lead to repeated digital punches in face such as, but not limited to, me tweeting at her about making sure she comes home right after school so Mom and I can give her smooches on the cheek and posting Youtube video of her hair as she awakes.

Regardless, I listen to the radio. In my car. Sometimes in my house. And I found a station that plays a crap ton of 80’s and early 90’s stuff during my drive into work. Ironically, it’s a college radio station. Weird. So Wednesday I heard Let’s Go All The Way from Sly Fox. Underappreciated one-hit from 1986. Which, by the way, continues to prove itself as an excellent year for music versus the rest of the 80’s. Sure, Sly Fox didn’t do anything after this song. But neither did the Kansas City Royals or Scritti Politti.

Who still loves Perfect Way? This guy. Disappeared from the charts in February of ’86 but not from the collective hearts of those who still quote Top Gun, crush on Markie Post, and wish Thomas Magnum still patrolled Thursday night. Only thing that could have made the ride in cooler is if Sly Fox would have been followed by Kyrie, Life in a Northern Town and Go For Soda. But traffic was light yesterday so I probably would have missed Kim Mitchell. Mom thinks this Go For Soda sucks. Or stupid. Probably both. Granted the video is astoundingly awful. But the song is awesome. It has good message and it was played on a Miami Vice episode where Crockett meets up with an buddy from ‘Nam. You can watch it free on Hulu.

Anyway, yesterday morning on my way into work I heard this combo: Voices of Babylon by The Outfield and My Girl by Chilliwack. I owned the Voices of Babylon cassette back in ’89. Second best song on the album behind My Paradise. But freaking Chilliwack straight outta 1981?! C’mon man, ain’t nobody was expecting that.

Finally, this morning as I’m backing out of my garage I hit the newly designated preset button for my new favorite morning drivetime radio station. King of Wishful Thinking by Go West, followed by ABC singing Be Near Me followed by I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany. That, my friends, is one weird-ass trilogy. At least as weird as the Hannibal Lecter trilogy or when MNF put The Giffer, Broadway Joe and O.J. in the booth for the ’86 season. I mean weird for us not for the local liquor stores. Regardless, the trilogy did get me my first 90’s song. Even though it was featured in Pretty Woman. Which, looking back, just does not have any staying power. In fact it sucks. Sucks worse than I thought it did back in 1990. Other things that sucked in 1990? The New England Patriots. Yes, we all miss 1990.

Anyway, my drive in got a little bit better. So let that be a lesson. The 80’s can fix a lot of stuff.

The Glory of Wednesday

We’re looking forward to Wednesday. Not for the reasons you’d assume either. It is not the 53rd anniversary of Bill Mazeroski’s home to win the ’60 series. That was Sunday. It is not the 36th anniversary of my first college football game. That’s today. It is not the 28th anniversary of A-Ha hitting #1 in Billboard’s Top 40 with Take on Me. That’s next Sunday. Wednesday is the day when we no longer will have daily cross country practice or softball practice. Last softball tournaments of the year are this weekend while the last cross country meet of the year is Tuesday.

Cue Handel’s Messiah.

I might be engaging in a tad bit of hyperbole but it feels like freaking Christmas Eve and the last day of school combined. Or that feeling you got when the Bears Dave Williams took the opening kickoff of overtime back for a touchdown against Detroit Thanksgiving Day in 1980. Or when you see Steelers GM Kevin Colbert walking along the sidewalk outside Jack Trice Stadium at the Iowa State-Texas game and you go all fanboy on him asking him about scouting. All awesome. Last week we had 5 softball practices and 8 games, 4 cross country practices, 1 cross country meet, 4 afternoons/evenings with dance. I’d give the exact number of dance classes contained within those 4 afternoons/evenings but I don’t know. Rye has so many classes that drain our checking accounts, I don’t really care to know the number. If I were to give you an estimate, it would be…a lot.

My point, if I have one, is that the schedule is catching up to us. And by catching up to us I mean in the overwhelming sense similar to what Hans Guderian and his panzers did to the French in the spring of 1940.

The elementary school the girls attend have a program called Challenge of the Books for 4th, 5th and 6th graders. Every month for about five months, kids in the program are assigned a particular book to read. Within each grade level the kids broken down into several reading groups comprising about five kids. The 4th grade groups all read the same book and so on. Once a month each group gets together to discuss the book. And, by the way, this reading is in addition to the normal assigned reading they get in the classrooms. So its more homework. But Rye did it and Kinsey has been doing it since 4th grade. This is Bailey’s first year in the program. We totally believe in it. The girls reading levels are a testament to the extra work. And after reading Outliers, I’m a total believer in more practice is always good. Anyway, the books were assigned in early September and they were supposed to get together last week for their first meeting to discuss the books.

Sounds straight-forward enough. Kinz had no problem getting her book, reading her book and preparing herself to discuss her book. Bails path to her first meeting was a bit more rocky. And by rocky I mean like running the ball on the ’76 Steelers using the ’76 Buccaneers offense to do it.

She never actually obtained the book she was assigned to read. Which was a complete breakdown within the sister teamwork processes. Kinsey’s teacher has all the books for all the Challenge of Books groups in her room. She’s like the Challenge of the Books quartermaster. Kinsey, even though she was asked to do it, never found the time to walk the 8 or 9 feet over to the shelf in her room and get the book for Bails. However, Bails, despite knowing the date of the first meeting was coming up displayed absolutely no sense of urgency when it came to acquiring the book. Much like the current administration in regards to anything John Boehner says.

Anyway, I get an email on Friday, October 4 reminding us that the first meeting is the following week. I of course ignored this email because I had taken the day off and was home watching Pirates future pitching ace Gerrit Cole mow down the Cardinals. Too bad the Pirates couldn’t duplicate his effort against Wainwright on last week. Regardless, the email says that Bails’ first meeting is Tuesday Oct. 8 and she’s supposed to bring a cold lunch to school so they don’t waste valuable meeting time waiting in the lunch line.

Well the only email I had checked was the original email containing the book list which was sent around Labor Day. That email also said that the first meeting was to be held the week of Oct. 6 without specifying a day. I asked Kinsey when the meetings were held. She said Wednesdays. I believed her. Which in retrospect is a lot like the US Navy believing that the Japanese didn’t have the technological expertise to develop plane launched torpedoes capable of running the shallow waters of Pearl Harbor. I should have done a bit more checking.

So last Monday afternoon we suddenly realize, albeit erroneously, that Bailey’s first Challenge of Books meeting is Wednesday and she not only hasn’t read any of the book but hasn’t even bothered to secure a copy of the book. Our reaction? I asked Mom to download a copy onto her Kindle, Baily would read as much of that downloaded copy as she could Monday evening and Tuesday and then she’d go to the meeting.

Naturally a copy is not available for download.

Okay, so how about we find a nice detailed summary so at least she’ll be able to partially participate in the discussion. Then we’d have her read the book afterwards while also reading the next regularly scheduled book.

After all we still have Monday evening and Tuesday.

Except we didn’t. Once we got home from softball practice, took a shower and did her math homework it was time for her to go to bed. So we’re down to Tuesday to get everything done.

Except we weren’t.

While at work on Tuesday I find the email from Friday the 4th and learn that not only is her meeting on Tuesday and not Wednesday but she was supposed to bring a cold lunch to the meeting. As I finish the email I feel with absolute metaphysical certitude that Bailey, upon learning that information while at school, either refused to go the meeting in the most stubborn and obstinate manner imaginable or she went to the meeting under duress and misbehaved so badly that we’ll need to move out of the school district and send her to a private military school on Iceland.

So I’m sitting at the kitchen table when Bailey gets home from school.

“Hey Bails how did your Challenge of Books meeting go today?”

“We didn’t have it.”

“What? Why?”

“Nobody in my group read the book. Well, nobody read it except for one kid. Everyone thought we were supposed to start reading the book today not finish it today.”

“Huh. Cool.”

So now we not only have a copy of the book courtesy of Kinsey’s renewed efforts but we also have another month to finish it. Plus we have next Wednesday coming up.

Not a bad start to October. I mean if you ignore the Steelers record.

Deuce

So we’re leaving Old Navy last weekend. We successfully executed our plan to zip out there and grab a couple of marked down swim suits for Kinz. Summer’s almost up and we figured we could find some bargains. We did. And now Kinz isn’t complaining about swim suits that have saggy drawers. Which, all in all, works out well for all involved.

On our way out Mom and I are having a conversation. Mom is in her typical spot in the co-pilot’s seat while all the girls are in the back seat of my truck. Bails is right behind me. Again, normal seating arrangement. Can’t remember the context but I think I used the term “douchebag” in reference to somebody Mom mentioned. It wasn’t Anthony Weiner. But my attempt at using the aforementioned term of derision under my breath evidently was a failure.

Evidence?

“What’s a doosh?” says the girl sitting right behind me. And she didn’t just ask it that innocent 9 year-old kinda way. There was genuine curiosity behind the ask along some unnecessary emphasis on the word. Like she’s heard it before. From me. In reference to somebody I hold in low regard. Like Bill Maher.

“DOOSH!”

Anyway, this inquiry was posited while I was rocking out to Blinded By The Light by Manfred Mann. Which, by happenstance, is my second favorite Manfred Mann song. Right behind For You. But despite its second place ranking in my all-time Manfred Mann songs list, I still love Blinded By The Light. I love it as much as I love nachos. So yeah, we’re talking nacho level love here. But, as everybody who has listened to this song knows, there is that consistent chorus where he says “Blinded by the light, revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night.” And, again, as everyone knows, there isn’t person on the planet who doesn’t believe they saying “revved up a like doosh.”

So thanks Manfred Mann for your weird 70’s lyrics that sound like doosh. Because now my soon to be fourth grader wants to know what a “doosh” is. Plus I was rocking out to the song. A song that really isn’t in the regular rotation on the radio. But now we’re talking about a “doosh.”

My purely instinctual reaction was to laugh. Because it was funny. Naturally, being the experienced parent that I am I resisted that response and formulated an age appropriate yet truthful explanation.

Seriously that’s all crap. I totally busted a gut laughing. So did Mom. But I did have the presence of mind to attempt a redirect. It’s parenting equivalent of faking a hand off and hitting the tight end over the middle. I simply said he’s not saying “doosh” he’s saying “deuce.”

What’s a “deuce?”

“It’s means the number 2.”

“Like poop?”

For about a second a half, there was silence. Then we all busted up laughing again.

“Um, well, yeah. Like poop. Number 2.” Then to myself I muttered under my breath, because I don’t have the self-control to stop myself when it comes to poop jokes, “hence the phrase ‘droppin a deuce.’”

I’ve yet to hear the girls employ the phrase so either I was successful in my muttering or the girls simply are only saying it when I’m not around.

But Bails remained undeterred in regards to her initial and primary question. She still wanted a definition for a “doosh.” So I told her.

“In the this context, a doosh is an insult somebody calls another person when they think the other person is, well, a real jerk who does crappy things to other people because they are super selfish and often just mean.”

I quickly added, “It’s not a word kids should use.”

So far so good.

Then later during our nice little Saturday, we’re at Bed, Bath and Beyond. We just renovated both of our upstairs bathrooms. Which by the way are now awesome. They were vintage 1991 with builder’s grade everything in there. Now it feels like somebody else’s house. It’s like we’re grown-ups now. I mean it’s kinda weird. Yesterday morning I experienced two firsts. Took my first shower in the new master bath and then I went down to the gas station and cashed my first ever lottery winnings.

$18. Haven’t spent it all yet. But I got my eye on a six pack of Miller Lite tallboys.

Back to Bed, Bath and Beyond. I’m good at alliteration. I want to know who is in charge of the soundtrack in there. Because I heard, in order, Missing Persons doing Words, Big Country doing In a Big Country and LeVert singing Casanova. That’s a combo you don’t hear often. Well, that’s a combo you never hear. Ever. In fact it may have been the first time. Big Country gets played all the time on 80’s stations. That’s not uncommon. It’s like hearing Come on Eileen. Now Missing Persons is a bit more rare. Not totally unheard of but c’mon, you just don’t flip on your radio and hear Missing Persons. And when you do, sometimes it’ll be Destination Unknown instead of Words. But LeVert? C’mon man, nobody has heard that song since 1987. Not that I’ve been clamoring for it…I’m just saying that who goes to Bed, Bath and Beyond and ends up hearing LeVert after having a discussion about Manfred Mann’s pronunciation of the word duece?

We do. Apparently.

Christmas Panic

ChristmastreeoutsideOkay, first, we saw Lincoln this weekend. And its freaking awesome. I can’t even describe how much I liked it. Of course I’ve worked in politics for 20 years too. Anyway, I also narrowed our Christmas to-do list down to a single gift. And today is the really the first time it sort of hit me. Sudden panic. Christmas is only a week or so away. And there are at least 4 gifts still in route. One of Mom’s is among the yet to be delivered gifts. So a moderate amount of panic related to that situation. Especially when I couldn’t find the electronic receipt acknowledging that the order was actually made. Found it though so crisis averted. For now.

We went through our gift inventory and we’re good with everything there. We also navigated our way through a normal weekend. Grandparents Day at school on Friday for Bails who also had a friend stay overnight. Dance class for Rye and Kinz Saturday morning and an extra dance performance at the mall for Rye on Saturday afternoon. Which was cool because Rye’s dance was first. Which made us the first ones done. But all I could think about were those mall tours by Tiffany back in ’87. Which of course brought up memories of lyrics my buddy made up to her one and only hit that fall. If I remember correctly:

I think I’ll blow chow now
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think I’ll blow chow now
The heaving of my guts is the only sound

Anyway, the trip to the mall gave us the chance to use some of the gift cards that Kinz and Bails have received for birthdays and early Christmas #1. Took the two of them into Aeropostale. By myself. Went well. Kinz found herself a new t-shirt and sweatshirt and still has $17 left on a gift card. Bails, through some creative math from Mom, went into Justice and used some gift cards, coupons and the in-store sale and paid $3 for two pairs of jeans! Yes, jeans that she tried on and liked! High hopes that this will help with her morning trials and tribulations. Still some lolly-gagging this morning but one victory at a time. Oh, and she also got a necklace with a big moustache on it. Yeah, I thought it was weird too. But whatever.

I think that’s all that is left is wrapping. Which sucks. For Mom. I can’t really wrap. I’m a major proponent of gift bags. I like gift bags like Karl Rove likes Super PACs. I wrapped all the presents I purchased once. When I came home for Christmas during my freshman year of college I decided I should wrap everything. Little did I know that this required skills. And some rudimentary knowledge of geometry. Watching me do it you’d think it took a degree in advanced physics. I made it up as I went along. Kinda like the TV execs who approved ALF. Except people were generally happy when I gave them my presents as opposed to those stumbled upon ALF.

Anyway, just need to confirm a couple addresses and the Christmas cards are out. Gifts just about done. One more orchestra concert tomorrow and a dance exhibition Wednesday night and all that’s left are the usual activities. So by Thursday around 7:30 we should be done with kid stuff. For roughly two weeks. If you don’t count driving to Grandpa and Grandma’s house on Friday evening for Christmas #2.

Sometimes Things are Just…Awesome

So you get invited to a high school multi-class reunion. Six classes. You decide to go after your wife and high school friends convince you to go. You make the 6 hour drive, stay at your high school buddy’s house for the weekend. Then you head up to the reunion Saturday evening.

But there’s a rumor. And its spreading. The rumor is a cool 80’s band is performing live. Poison, Tesla, Great White, Cinderella and Billy Idol all get tossed around as we run through the names we’ve heard.

But the organizers aren’t talking. Despite that fact that my buddy’s brother is married to one of the organizers. Security is evidently tighter here than at U.S. consulates.

You get up there, see all the people you haven’t seen in years and its been even longer since you’ve seen them all together in the same place. So its…well its weird.

Security, yes security, encourages you to enter the ballroom. There’s a big dance floor, a stage for the band and a giant screen on the wall. Then you notice the boom camera above the dance floor and the camera dude maneuvering amongst the partiers…hey, it’s like a 80’s music video. Or American Bandstand back in the day. But you can see yourself and your buddies on the giant screen and that’s cool…in a disconcerting kind of way.

Then the rumors are put to rest. What would you think if this happened at your high school reunion:

Your standing at one of the bar tables near the dance floor when the lights change and first act comes out…it’s the lead singer from Flock of Seagulls. Dude is totally bald. Way more than me. He sings two songs including I Ran.

Then Stephen Pearcy from Ratt comes out and sings three songs. Lay it Down, something else and Round ‘n Round. And listen, I’m pretty sure that Stephen Pearcy is a zombie. This guy had already been embalmed…with Jack Daniels. He looked like the Crypt Keeper. But at least he didn’t sing Way Cool Junior.

Then you head for the bar to get a beer and you’re standing at the aforementioned bar table with your back to stage because your discussing the coolness of hearing the key ingredient of Ratt live. Sure the guy was already dead but so what. That’s when you hear familiar and awesome first lyrics to Kiss Me Deadly. You turn your head, catch a glimpse and tell your wife and friends with complete seriousness that, “HOLY *&#%, that’s Lita Ford!”

So you charge the stage. Because that’s what you do when you’re at a class reunion and Lita Ford in leather pants is there. Sure she’s got some miles on her, but that chick freaking rocks. And she does like a ten minute extended version before it morphs into Close My Eyes Forever. Yes, her duet with Ozzy. But she’s the only one out there. Who is going to sing Ozzy’s part?

Then you hear it…somebody…somewhere IS singing Ozzy’s part. But it’s not Ozzy…it’s Dee Freaking Snider.

Dee. Snider.

And listen, this dude was having an absolute ball. Flock of Seagulls guy did his songs and was never heard from again. In and out. Stephen Pearcy rocked as hard as a dead guy could but c’mon, if you were afraid your limbs could fall off if you moved too quickly, you’d be subdued too. Lita, 54 years old, freaking brought it. So her and Dee finish the song, which was awesome, and Dee starts into his set of three songs.

I Wanna Rock.

Have you ever seen about 100 people in their early 40’s flashing the horns, fist pumping, jumping up and down, screaming “I Wanna Rock”…and have you seen them do it 5 feet from Dee Freaking Snider? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Songs ends and we’re sorta catching our breath stunned at the pure uncut awesomeness of what just happened. Dee tells us about a new reality show he’s gonna do and then goes into The Price before warning us to get freaking (he used a different “f” word) ready…

We’re Not Gonna Take It! And listen this reunion was held inside Paul Ryan’s congressional district so not only was it awesome but it was the God’s Honest Truth. I mean I wanna rock. I really, really do. But more than that…I just don’t want to take it anymore. At all. Ever. I don’t want it. I didn’t ask for it. I voted against it. And I’m not gonna take it. Anymore.

So I yelled it as loud as my genetics permitted.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I blew out my esophagus during the song. Hurt my knee and sprained my shoulder from excessive fist pumping. The cure? Awesomeness…and beer.

Now take stock of what I’ve just told you. Flock of Seagulls guy, Stephen Pearcy, Lita Ford and Dee Freaking Snider. And you’re 5 feet from the stage. Being filmed by a boom camera. Oh, and you’re pretty sure Lita Ford winked at you while you were rocking out to Kiss Me Deadly.

So we adjourn to the aforementioned bar table, take some candid pics for facebook and posterity, buy some more $4 beers and scan the room for oxygen and defibrillators. While this is happening Mom looks up at the stage and sees the silhouette of someone else. Defining characteristic? Hair. And then he cranks out a familiar scream.

Sebastian Bach. Mom and my buddy’s wife took off so fast for the stage all that was left was vapor and the faint smell of hair spray…

He does like five songs. Was never really a Skid Row fan but it was still awesome. I mean if I’m picking a guy to plug into this spot, its Bret Michaels. Or Jeff Keith from Tesla. But when you’re not paying for it, you just revel in the awesomeness. But Youth Gone Wild was a little ironic as none of us are youth and very few can lay claim to any real bona fide wildness. And none of us had lighters to hold up during I Remember You. Mom didn’t even have her cell phone…so she held up her beer. We’re Gen X, we improvise.

What could top this? How about all of them doing “Rock Me Like a Hurricane.” Yeah, that happened. And I was there.

But its not done yet. No, it’s not. After a short break in which we take some even more candid shots, the lights go down and the headliner comes out. Yes, Dee Snider and Sebastian Bach were not the headliners.

Night Ranger. And they did a full set. Even covered Crazy Train. Plus they did High Enough and Coming of Age from Damn Yankees. Jack Blades still sounds good. Coming of Age is one of my favorite songs from the era and not having Tommy Shaw and Uncle Ted there sorta sells the song short but…it was the first time I’ve heard it live since ’91. So I’m not complaining. Best part, well besides the drums in Sister Christian, is that everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, knows the words. So it was awesome. But right at the end Mom is up by the stage and she reaches up there and rips a sheet of paper duct taped to the floor right beside Jack Blades’ mic stand. She stole the set list. And she was really damn proud of it too. I mean like weirdly proud and excited.

So that’s what we did last Saturday night. What did you do?

P.S. We didn’t get back to my buddy’s house until around 2. And the one thing awesomeness doesn’t help with is being in your early 40’s. Took me two days to recover. \m/

The Cheese of ’87

I saw this for the first time yesterday.

I’ve been to Sioux City. It’s not nearly as fun as this video would lead you to believe.

Then, after we got home from out three softball games last night, I saw this for the first time.

Two questions occurred to me.

1) How did I get through the entire decade of the 80’s and never once did I see this video?

2) If you are as cool as Robert Plant, what in the name of candied yams is that guy in the Speedo doing in your video?

As I’m contemplating these questions, VH1 Classic throws Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love” video at me. Now, I’m just spitballin’ here but is Peter Cetera the absolute unquestioned Lord of the Cheese? Seriously, who else is his peer in the realm of cheese?

Paul Stanley? Maybe, but he’s really more creepy than cheesy. Steve Perry? I admit, his name popped into my head solely due to the “Oh Sherry” and “Separate Ways” videos but the cold hard fact is that Journey is an awesome band with awesome songs. Except for “Open Arms.” The entire year of 1987? Expose, Pretty Poison, Stacey Q, The Whispers, Levert and Richard Marx. That’s an impressive array of cheeses. Now that I mentioned him, Richard Marx just might be in the conversation here. He can’t boast duets with Amy Grant and Cher. But, without laughing, he sang, “Hold onto the Nights.” Hmmm…

Anyway, all of that is very interesting and takes up more than its fair share of space in my brain but none of it is helping us negotiate May. Three softball games last night. The Koala Bears only had five players show up to play Bailey’s team. But at our level 5 vs. 11 is a fair fight. It’s like Cheney vs. Edwards in the ’04 VP debate.

Tomorrow Riley has dance from 5:15 to 6:45. An orchestra concert from 6:30-7:30. And a rained out softball game that has been rescheduled for tomorrow at a yet to be named time. Plus Kinsey and Bailey have dance from 4:45-5:30 and Bails has a softball game from 6-7.

The most interesting things about that lineup is that it has caused me nearly zero stress. None. I’m like Sgt. Malarkey in Episode 8 of Band of Brothers. And that I feel like we’re wasting valuable time only having Riley’s gymnastics class tonight. We have two girls at home tonight without any activities! I have this nagging feeling that we need to be somewhere practicing something.

Which may be just the impending doom I’m feeling for our schedule two weeks from now. That week is the dreaded, and now almost famous, dance recital week. Six softball games, 2 gymnastics classes, 2 dance recital rehearsals, 2 dance recitals and 1 school music concert. By itself, May 25th boasts 3 games, 2 rehearsals, 1 gymnastics class and the music performance. The scary part? If everything remains relatively close to its scheduled times, we can make every single event except gymnastics. I haven’t decided if that’s awesome or some type of parental patience test. I’ll let you know…

Luck

Timmy Smith Super Bowl XXIILuck is a funny thing. Sometimes it snowballs and you just can’t believe how fate has smiled upon you. Kinda like Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII. Sometimes it goes the other way. Like how a small group of Navy divebombers changed the course of the Battle of Midway for the Japanese Empire. Other times I think it just depends on your perspective. What may appear to bad luck is actually a stroke of good fortune. A blessing. And if you recognize it as such, it may lead to more good luck.

That’s kinda what happened to me this weekend.

I’m picking up the girls Friday after school. Mom is already home packing her car because we’re headed out to her sister’s house. Almost a two hour drive. The girls and I are discussing what they are going to bring in the car with them to stay busy. This always transpires like Germany’s behavior in the late 30’s. Riley is telling everybody what to do while everybody appeases her until she stops. It never works out well.

So I apply the brakes and hit the left turn signal as I approach our street. Done it thousands of times. Except I’ve never done it without any sort of gas powered locomotion. Or steering. Or brakes.

My car literally died right there as I’m turning onto our street. I had only turned the wheel far enough to drift across the left lane and coast gently into the curb. Except the back end my car is sticking out into traffic. And this is a fairly busy street at about 5:00 on Friday afternoon.

Lou Ferrigno Incredible HulkQuickly, I examine my options. 1) I could get out and hope the gamma radiation Dr. Bruce Banner and I were exposed to during our experiments kicks in and I turn green and into Lou Ferrigno. 2) I could start swearing. A lot. 3) Something else.

I got the girls out of the car and had them walk the 150 yards or so to our house. I quickly realized that their suggestions like “Dad you need to move the car” and “Dad you missed the turn” weren’t really going to help. Then a guy in a Dish Network van turns left behind me and stops on our street. He hops out and asks if I need any help.

Turns out I do.

I shift the car into neutral, we wait for a short break in traffic, and we push the car back from the curb and then forward onto our street. As this is happening a guy running happens to jog by.

“Hey you guys need a hand?”

Turns out we did.

We push the car about 20 yards and I ask if they help me push it down the street and help me get it into driveway. To paraphrase Fee Waybill from The Tubes in “Talk to Ya Later,” they reluctantly agreed. Our street is pretty flat. But my car is an SUV. And you really don’t notice the insignificant changes in elevation on your street until you’re pushing an SUV. I have one hand on the steering wheel and the other pushing the car. Jogger Guy and Dish Network Guy are pushing from the back. Then one of the teenagers who lives on our street sees us struggling and he comes out.

“Looks like you guys could use some help.”

Turns out we could.

Right as you get to our driveway there is what cartographers might call a slight rise. Or, if you’re really tired, an incline of epic magnitude. It was not an easy task but we reached the crest and gained a little speed on the down slope. My neighbor sees this from his driveway and comes running over.

“One more can’t hurt.”

Turns out it couldn’t.

We get it into the driveway but get stuck. Jogger Guy says he’s out of gas. I give him a fist bump, say thanks and he jogs away. Ironic. Dish Network guy is already running back to his van and Teenager Neighbor Kid walks back home. I give them both a wave. I’m still not switching to Dish Network. Mom comes out and gets behind the wheel. Neighbor Guy and I push the car back a little and then up across the sidewalk.

Turns out the city fines you if you block the sidewalk over night with your vehicle in your driveway. Damn government.

Anyhow, we park it, lock it and head to Mom’s sister’s house.

We’re there for a wedding on Saturday. A wedding that starts at 2:00. Which means we have to leave the house about 1:15. Which means I don’t get to watch the second half of the Iowa State-Nebraska game.

The only text message update I get during the wedding is “gotta get rid of our kicker!” This does not give me hope. Mom’s other sister calls home after the wedding and finds out that we’re up 9-7 with 2 minutes left.

Iowa State 9 Nebraska 7Picture this: grown man wearing a black suit in a dead on full sprint across a church parking lot. I was moving so fast I created a wind vortex behind me that sucked up all the fallen leaves. It looked like jet exhaust. I was pretty sure I heard Oscar Goldman narrating my sprint with “better, faster, stronger…” That loud “WOOOOOOOOO! you heard about 2:45 p.m. on Saturday was me.

9-7 baby! Last time we won in Lincoln was when Charlie was talking to the Angels on that crazy speaker box. This all happens as Mom’s family is trying to take a family picture outside the church. And there are about 50 people involved here including about 20 little kids. And there’s me standing in the parking lot yelling “WOOOOOOO!”

But here’s the thing. I could have been really angry and cursed the bad luck of my car dying right in the middle of a busy street as I’m turning across traffic while I have the girls in the car. But I didn’t. I thought it was pretty damn lucky that it happened right there on our street. And even luckier that some neighbors and strangers decided to actually help me push the car down the street.

Because I thought it was all rather lucky that it happened the way it did, the good luck snowballed.

Instead of being upset that we had to go into Memorial Stadium without our starting quarterback and the conference’s leading rusher, I thought to myself that this is how legends are born.

So who knows? If I get angry on Friday maybe the Cyclones don’t pull it out on Saturday? If I curse the bad luck about the car maybe the Huskers don’t go three and out on ISU’s 35 after they blocked a field goal and changed the momentum.

So I’m telling you…you never know…