Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lions, Tigers, and Baseball...Oh My!

     Every now and then a day comes along that is just perfect.  If you could run it on a continuous loop over and over you would do it in a second.  I like to believe that those days happen often, but truly great days are few.  When I was a younger man things like special days and how wonderful they are did not occur to me.  Sure, I knew if the day was fun or exciting or whatever, but no attention was given to the days that were awesome beyond measure.  I had one of these days recently, and as most of my most precious moments in "my next 40 years" they revolve around my family.  And Baseball.  Softball too, but they are the same game in my opinion with only subtle differences.  The softball is larger.  Girls play softball.  Boys play baseball, although I know a few girls who could take a fast ball downtown.  This day began with the world famous Lime Lions, and ended with the equally famous Birmingham Baseball Academy.  Sit back and relax, and enjoy this retelling of a great day.  I'm sure you'll agree.

     The Lime Lions.  Who are they?  Only the greatest softball team ever.  That's right.  Ever.  You've probably heard of them, they're right up there with Alabama Football and the Green Bay Packers.  I just so happen to be the head softball coach of those fine bunch of young ladies, and we had our final game of the season on my "best day ever" (I'm a Historian and here I would give a footnote to Spongebob Squarepants.  I cite all my sources/quotes.)  I have coached quite a few teams over the years, but these girls are as exciting as it gets.  If the league charged a cover to come watch these games everyone would get their money's worth.  Trust me when I say that.  They can play, and we have faced some fine competition.  However, we've come out on top more times than not.  Really only lost one, and that one was a bottom of the fifth thriller that we were leading til the bitter end!  All of what follows is true.

     The day was nice and warm, beautiful weather for a softball game.  It was comfortable, but Mother Nature only lulled the combatants into a false sense of security and comfort.   A battle would be waged on this day, and not since brave King Leonidas and his band of 300 Spartan soldiers fell at Thermopylae has a conflict of comparable stature occurred.  On this occasion the warriors wore bright colors.  The Lime Lions vs. The Pink Polka Dots....nothing would ever be the same again.  The Polka Dots were on a mission to avenge a mid season loss to these same Lime Lions.  The Lions were battle tested, and coming off a heart breaking one run loss in the de facto league championship game that will likely go down as the greatest single athletic contest ever played in the history of the world. (Side note, the Lime Lions split the season series (1-1) with the Orange Tigers, and they shared the best record in the league.  Just to get that straight.  :))

     The Polka Dots started fast, scoring four quick runs, but the Lions started faster scoring five of their own.  It was a seesaw battle with at least one hundred lead changes throughout the contest.  Pluck and grit were shown by all those fine young ladies, and when the Lions came up to bat in the bottom of the 5th inning the score stood Polka Dots 14, Lions 12.  It was time to dig deep, and those fantastic Lime Lions were ready to give it all they had one more time!  However, a ground out to first started the inning.  Were the Lions finished?  Had they given it all in a losing effort?  Was this the end?  Not by a long shot.  Hit after hit.  Run and after run.  Excitement that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up!  When the dust settled and all the runs had been calculated, once again those Lions were victorious 15-14!  In his post game press conference, Coach Chris Perry broke down in tears when recounting the unbelievable character and will to win that this team had shown all year long.  The Coach's contract is up for renewal and he has been contacted by many other teams about taking the helm of their organizations.  When asked about this Perry responded, "I'm a Lion.  I'll always be a Lion.  I love the socks."  Truth be told.  I love those girls.  They're awesome.

     Ballpark perfect day, part deux.  Jesse Perry and the Birmingham Baseball 13 year olds.  This is serious baseball, but these guys are fun to watch too.  This is especially true, because I have not been able to attend many of Jesse's games of late.  I missed the entire NJMS Blue Devil season, and quite a few tournaments of Birmingham Baseball travel ball dating back to last fall.  This is a by product of my life as a 44 year old graduate student/soon to be History Instructor-Professor and other factors that have prevented my attendance.  Most recently, it was my honor to be the coach of the Lime Lions, but you already know about them.  They're still awesome.  On this particularly fantastic late Spring Alabama evening I was back at the ballpark to watch my sole male heir and his extraordinary teammates!

     There's just something special about being at a ballpark.  The intoxicating smell of fried food, the ping of the bat, the pop of a fine leather glove, and hollering at blue because he made a bad call.  It's even more special when you're watching such a fine group of young men who you've seen grow as ballplayers and young adults.  It was plain euphoric to lean on the back of those aluminum bleachers and spit a few sunflower seeds.  To quote one of the coolest cats in recorded history, Dean Martin, "Memories are made of this."  Yep, Deano, they sure are.

     The BBA 13s played extremely well and won both pool games, and it was a glorious day and night.  The next day they would go all the way to the championship game of the tournament, and lose to a bunch of light bat swinging 13 year olds.  This is an area of contention for me, but I will leave it alone.  Suffice to say that bats are weighted heavier for Middle school/High School players for a reason and even if it is technically legal in a particular tournament to swing a lighter bat it still doesn't make it right.  The boys of Birmingham Baseball feel the same way.  Look below for proof.

They're not happy

     My perfect day was just that perfect.  Life goes by pretty fast, and to risk sounding like Ferris Bueller, a person truly does need to slow down and enjoy it a bit.  I did that on this day, and it was good.  Really good.  I was grinning so much that my cheeks hurt.  True story.  Although, I have smile lines like nobody's business.  I know there are quite a few people out there that try to diminish those lines, but I for one love my lines.  Every line, every crack, every crevice on my face tells a story.  Some good, some bad, but they tell the story of a life lived the best way I know how.  I smile a lot.  Thank you Lime Lions, assistant coaches, team mom, parents, Upward league, all the other teams, and players.  It was a fantastic year!  I'm also really looking forward to seeing the BBA 13s play the next few tournaments.  One is even at the beach.  Orange Beach, Alabama to be exact.  My wife and I plan on retiring there one day.  I may just stay down there and open up one of those beach chair businesses.  I could be Chris Perry, head softball coach/History mercenary/beach bum/all around cool dude.  Or not.  It was truly 'The Best Day Ever."  Well, pretty close.  Go Lime Lions!  Go BBA!  I'm out.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Feminine Side of The Uber Dad

     So where has the world famous, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing, rolex wearing, limousine riding, jet flying Uber Dad been?  Not having a hard time holding my alligators down, that's for sure.  I've been getting in touch with my feminine side.  That's right, you heard it here first.  You see, my day job is that of an award winning (this is a recent occurrence, but I'm not making it up.  I've actually been voted OUTSTANDING.  That's a first!) historian, but I moonlight as a "jack of all trades" ball coach.  Yep, I'm in the same league as the ole ball coach Steve Spurrier.  Well, not really, but I do truly enjoy working with young people and helping to facilitate a fantastic time on whatever field of play we're talking about.  Football, Baseball, Basketball, Socc....disregard.  Never did soccer, but I have now been introduced to the glorious world of Girls 9U Softball.  Yes sir!  Additionally, as of late while my oldest, the equally world famous Speed demon with the heart of gold, young Jesse (J-Jam) Perry is playing middle school baseball I have rejoined my companion of so many years ago the lovely Miss Madino!  As parents, you have to divide and conquer, and with all that history out there that needs my direct attention and whatnot, my awesome better half Dr. Cheryl has taken over my baseball dad duties and created a baseball mom movement all her own.  But, the Perrydawg (that's me) was forced to come out of retirement.  That's right.  My wife told me that I needed to coach Maddie's softball team because I am such a fantastic and knowledgeable master of the game and sports in general.  Well, to be honest she knew that Maddie needed a certain practice time, and the best way that she could control the issue was put good ole Pdawg to work doing what he does best.  Work the room....and schedule an early practice undoubtedly.  So, long story short, you're talking to the Head Softball Coach of the 9U Lime Lions.  That's right.  We're bright and we're bad.  We'll highlight, pun intended, your day and chew you up and spit you out!  Well, probably not the latter, but you never know.  These girls mean business.

     Before I wax poetic about these fantastic young ladies that I have the pleasure of coaching, I want to relay an event that occurred right before our practice the other day.  Spring Break was the timeline, and I was running with my main gal Madino.  We've been spending quite a bit of quality time together lately, and it is nostalgic of the good old days when she used to eat sweet potato baby food and leave unidentified substances on my clothing, and I could change a diaper like I was in the pits at Talladega.  Times have changed, but I still have some skills.  Like cooking lunch.  Hey, I'm heck at preheating an oven and boiling water.  I got game people.  I can nuke some Mac and Cheese with the best of them, don't hate.  On this day things got crazy, and long story short- Cheryl came home to burnt towels and a scorched stove.  Maddie, ever the grifter, was attempting to work me for some dessert or something and attacked her prey at a time when I was most vulnerable.  While attempting to cook.  After she was given the go ahead to eat chips or ice cream or something or other, I began to smell burning and see smoke.  Unfortunately, my cat like reflexes are not equipped to handle cooking emergencies, and it took me longer than normal to find the dish towel on fire on the stove.  I did attack it like they did on Backdraft though.  Threw that bad boy in the sink and turned the water on.  The fire won't get me.  I know more than it does.  Plus, I have opposable thumbs.  That comes in handy.  On to the softball!

     These girls are amazing.  They're showing me a thing or two.  Back in the day when I once coached boys baseball, football, and basketball- I had a young man that had an affinity for eating dirt, a young football player that I swear kept a shiv in his cleats, and I have witnessed grown men get teed up in a 5 year old basketball game and chase football referees to the parking lot wanting to throw hands.  Craziness.  This is NOT that.  These girls are professionals.  On the field and off.  Plus, normally, girls smell better than boys.  It's a scientific fact.  My girl, young Maddie Perry, has not donned a ball cap or visor (Girl's wear visors.  I found that out when I had to purchase hats.  You see those of us who are let's say, follicley challenged, should not ever wear a visor.  Not enough coverage, but I digress) since she played rag ball back many moons ago.  Well, it probably wasn't that many moons, I guess, because Maddie hasn't seen that many moons yet.  Regardless, it's been a few years.  If you don't know what Rag Ball is, it is like herding cats.  It's organized chaos of the under 5 year old set.  It's more of an event for the parents to watch their little ones hit off a tee and run around the bases.  The kids don't know or really care, normally, what's going on, but it is what it is.

     Game Day approached for the fantastic Lime Lions, and they were ready.  The day was unusually chilly but the bats were on fire!  These girls truly put on a hitting display.  Hit after hit, run after run, it was as if they were possessed by the spirit of Mickey Mantle.  Wait, hold on, we're talking about young women here so....the spirit of Mary Lou Retton or Sonja Henie, maybe Flo Jo! (That's Florence Griffith Joyner to those who don't already know)  Ashley, Graclyn, Ella, Gianna, Mady Claire, Carissa, Maddie P (my girl,) Kennedy, Katylin, Madison, and Karla were present and in full effect.  We were rockin and rollin!   Throw in fine coaches like Marlow and Bobby, and an outstanding team mom in Krista- that's a winning combination.  It's going to be a fantastic year, and I think its pretty cool that I get to hang out with 11 wonderful young ladies who actually enjoy my company!  Now don't go thinking because I'm running with girls that I've done went and got soft.  These girls are not your tea party kind.  They're tough.  They're smart.  They're awesome.  They're my friends.  It's like the back in the day when I wore an 88 on my jersey and tried to kill quarterbacks.  You mess with one of us, you got us all.  They're much cuter than I am, and likely will kill you with cuteness.  Still tough as nails.  I'm glad that I've got in touch with my feminine side, and found such fine examples of what it means to be a girl.  Thank you ladies!  The Lime Lions are coming.  Get ready.  Things are about to get interesting.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Wars: The Uber Dad Awakens

     Star Wars rules.  True story, no doubt about it.  The saga of good vs. evil resonates with us all, and I for one have been a fan since the very beginning.  Timeline- May 1977.  A very young blonde haired, green eyed boy fell in love with the story and the characters created by George Lucas.  So much so that I attended showings of the movie upwards of a dozen times.  This was only the beginning.  Since then, every Star Wars movie released peaked my attention, and I had to see it.  Heck, I even thought highly of the dreaded prequel trilogy.  I know Anakin was a whiny petulant child version of the soon to be dark lord, Darth Vader, but I ate this stuff up with a spoon.  Qui-Gon Jinn became one of my favorite Jedi Knights, and don't even get me started on my affinity for Darth Maul or Mace Windu.  So, when the news broke that a brand new Star Wars would be produced by JJ Abrams, this guy was immediately not only intrigued but very excited.  Plus, what made this truly special was that I could share the Star Wars experience with my children.  Sure, Jesse has, of course, seen all the movies up to this point, but has never really experienced what I knew was coming with this latest tale in the Star Wars saga.  Lines around the corner at the local theater, and excitement that every fan of movie making can feel like electricity running through their very body.  Sort of like, lets say, a "Force."  Well, I decided that Jesse and I must experience this firsthand together.  A passing of the proverbial torch or light saber.  I always fancied myself more of a Sith Lord than a Jedi, but if there ever was a person that exemplified all that was good with the world, and was full of light and virtue like a Jedi it would be my son Jesse.  I should mention that my daughter Maddie is, unfortunately, in the 1% of those who could care less about Star Wars so she would not be joining us on our adventure, but her mother will take her to see Alvin and the Chipmunks at a later date.  All of what follows is true, and the hero's journey that my son and I went on to see this movie is epic.  Well, interesting at least.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

     The show started at 2:15 at a local cinema.  It was a bit of a rush job this event, because at the spur of the moment I decided it must be now.  The boy and I will go see the new Star Wars movie, and mobilization will commence.  I had originally intended to take Jesse the week of Christmas, but many unforeseen and unfortunate events prevented this from happening.  Crate training dogs and face pimples....nevermind.  The point is that now was the time, and we would be experiencing the grand spectacle that is Star Wars soon.  Very soon.

     We arrived just in time to see a parking lot full of vehicles.  A parking challenge presented the first obstacle for our heroes.  As far as the eye can, trucks, vans, even motorcycles.  Nowhere to park, but trust was placed in the fact that eventually by divine intervention if nothing else, a parking spot would open.  Surely this would be the case.  We went round and round so much I felt like I was in an 80s song performed by either Ratt or that odd fellow that was spun round, round like a record baby...round, round.  I digress.  Finally like a beacon of hope a spot was located and taken immediately.  Now a long trek through a busy parking lot began.  At first it was a walk, then a more brisk pace began that eventually broke out into a jog and finally a full blown gallop!  We could feel the excitement beginning to build as we approached the movie theater.  Finally, we arrived at the ticket window, but soon our spirit would be diminished significantly.  It seems that during my quick mobilization I got the time wrong.  Well right time, wrong movie theater.  There was no 2:15 showtime, and my heart sank with sadness.  Was this to be the end of the hero's journey....

     No.  It's not about how hard you hit, but it's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  A setback.  Frustrating sure, but not a defining moment.  Keep moving forward or in this case, keep moving to another movie theater or later movie showing time.  I had to enter my own Death Star to accomplish this feat.  The dreaded HWY 280 traffic on a Sunday afternoon had to be conquered to reach the next showing of Star Wars at 2:45.  The Nissan Xterra performed admirably like the Millennium Falcon.  Jesse was Chewbacca to my Han Solo.  He'll love that analogy.  The traffic proved to be thick and hard to handle, but nothing would stop us from the completion of the mission at hand!  Movie we will see...Yes.  We did arrive, and again the parking lot was full, and this time a line was forming around the corner to gain entry to the phenom that is Star Wars!  I began to relax a bit, because we were there in time and it appeared out of the danger zone.  However, it was not over just yet.

     Standing in line we began to hear chatter about the movie being sold out.  Discussions with fellow hopeful movie goers led me to believe that there was a chance we would not get to see the movie after all.  At least not at the time we wanted.  The closer we got to the ticket window the more nervous I became, and one lady and her five children seemed to take an exorbitant amount of time, but we were inching closer and closer.  Finally, we arrived at the window.  2nd in line at the time, and I noticed the slow lady was back standing off to the side looking longingly at me.  I knew what was coming.  A mistake had been made, and she had returned to attempt to fix the issue.  This was concerning for many reasons, but mainly I was distressed due to the amount of time she had taken previously.  The family in front of us buying tickets to Alvin and the Chipmunks were finished, and it was our turn.  However, slow lady was standing there and wanted to step in front of me.  Have you ever had a moment in life when you were thinking something in your head, and by some mystical force you blurted it out.  That was what happened to me in this moment.  In my head I was thinking, "Lady, I understand that you want this fixed, but you have no idea what we have been through to get to this movie, and you better hurry up!"  Yep, that's right the lady asked me, "Do you mind if I step in front of you?" and my response was, "Yes, go ahead, but you better hurry up!"  I couldn't believe the words were coming out of my mouth, but that was how important getting into this movie was for me.  All I could think of was that now this lady was going to get the last ticket to Star Wars, and my son and I would be left out.  NOOOOOOO!  Luckily, the lady did as I asked and "HURRIED UP!"  I did apologize to her for my rudeness, but there are no rules in Star Wars fandom.  True to my Sith heart I used anger to assist in my ultimate goal.  Well, not really, but I probably shouldn't have told the nice lady to hurry up.  Out of character, but it is what it is.  The silver lining to this was that we got our tickets to the movie!!  The dark storm cloud part was that the popcorn line was so long we did not have time to purchase the delicious buttery salt laden delicacy.  Which distressed my son extremely.

     The movie theater itself was packed.  For a moment I thought we would have to take some of the neck breaking seats in the front.  You know the ones where you have to look straight up to see the movie, and you get an old school "crick" in your neck.  It reminded me of going to see Silence of the Lambs in 1991 for the Midnight show with some friends, and having to sit on the front row and look straight up at Hannibal Lecter eating a liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.  Cue slurping sound.  We got pretty good seats, and outside of the absence of popcorn we were ready to go!  Ready, except for the two hours of coming attractions.  The previews that preceded the showing of Star Wars were absolutely ridiculous. They weren't even good previews.  However, this is Capitalism, and I like Capitalism.  The more selling one can do the better I suppose, but it provided an unwanted irritant for those of us chomping at the bit to see the real attraction - Star Wars:  The Force Awakens.  Although I could have bought some popcorn during all those previews, I suppose, I didn't, much to the dismay of my sole male heir.  I have to say when I heard that glorious John Williams score begin and saw that familiar beginning, I was moved.  I looked over at my son, and felt really good.  That's what this entire day is all about.

     It was a very nostalgically moving experience overall.  No doubt about it.  JJ Abrams definitely gave a huge shout out to the original Star Wars and made it appealing to the aficionado of the series, but also made it entertaining enough for the novice in the ways of the force.  Sitting there with my son, and being able to share something with him that I enjoyed so much as a child was priceless.  Star Wars can be considered one of those special American institutions that so many people can share and relate to, and it truly bridges the generation gap.  I remember very well watching Star Wars when I was Jesse's age (it would have been Return of the Jedi by that point) and sitting there with him watching the latest installment was special.  I hope that some day he will get to do the same with his children.  May the force be with you, always.



Sunday, December 20, 2015

From Garbage Can Lids to Xbox: What a difference a generation makes

     Back in the day stuff was different.  The truth in this statement cannot be underestimated.  Today, my son and daughter have a plethora of toys and electronics to amuse themselves with, but back in my day....well things got interesting and downright dangerous at times.  Things have changed.  To take this idea further I'm going to employ an old fashioned compare and contrast format to show exactly how different things actually were back in my formative years.  Quite possibly an argument could be made that my generation was the last of a truly wild bunch.  It's a wonder we all survived, and while I'm sure there are children today that survive much like we did, it has definitely become a rarity.  That being said, I am extremely happy that my son is not wrecking dirt bikes or smoking marlboro lights.  That's a good thing.

     Jesse plays Call of Duty Black Ops.  We played Call of Duty Duck and Cover.  Rocks and Garbage can lids.  The garbage can lid was used as a shield against the thrown rock.  These weren't the rubber or plastic garbage can lids either, they were the straight up metal variety that made a fantastic sound when struck by a large projectile.  We played war with these weapons on a vacant lot of an unfinished house a street over from good ole Bessie Ave.  Ground zero for this type of stuff.  Jesse plays and spends time in a place called the "field."  Back in my day we spent our time at a place called the "Desert," and we would frequent an area known in local lore as the "Swamp."  Differences aplenty, and one can easily see that my generation took the idea of rough around the edges to a different level.

     Jesse and Maddie ride bicycles, but I attempted to emulate Evel Kneivel on my bike.  I jumped ditches, embankments, concrete blocks, and once I even jumped a tombstone.  That's right we hung out in the cemetery.  I grew up about 150 yards from a cemetery.  Some of my people were buried there too.  We played games in the old boneyard, and had fun doing it.  I can't imagine young Jesse doing that, but Maddie may be up for it.  She loves scary stuff so that probably wouldn't bother her.  Once upon a time, yours truly, bought a Ouija board and took a group of would be paranormal investigators up to the old cemetery at midnight on a hot, dark and gloomy Alabama summer night right after a nice July rain.  The damp conditions provided a bit of a fog, and the Ghost Hunters and I set out to conjure up some hijinks from the spirit world.  We were pretty stupid, and fueled by the vigor of youth and probably a different kind of beast (Milwaukee's Best Light.)  We got a good scare out of the adventure, but that was about it.  No spirits were awakened or harmed with the Ouija board experiment, and since then I don't really put much stock in those things.  Mind over matter really.  I don't pay them any mind, so they don't matter.

     Jesse is almost thirteen years of age, and to compare my son at 13 to me at the same age is fascinating.  At 13 I was riding dirt bikes in the aforementioned "desert," and climbing the infamous Ramada Inn Hill.  No way in the world that I could imagine Jesse doing the same.  He plays XBOX, but I barely was able to capture the Princess on old school Mario Bros. original Nintendo version.  I had only recently graduated from the Atari 2600.  Jesse can work all kinds of computers, PC or MAC it doesn't matter.  I, on the other hand, could not for the life of me figure out the Commodore 64, but I was hell on a Honda XR 100.

     My hairstyle of choice was the mullet.  Business in the front and party in the back.  How you doin?  Jesse has the Bama Bangs or Swoosh style, and to be honest it is basically in reverse of the old school mullet.  Party in the front, business in the back.  So what does it all mean?  My hypothesis contends that everything old is truly new again, but sometimes it is in reverse.  Makes sense to me in an odd confusing sort of way, but probably the actual reason for the hairstyles of choice in any generation is that "chicks dig it."  True story.  Or at least that is the belief of the red blooded American Male in their formative years.

     Things sure are different these days.  We rode in the back of pick up trucks, drank water straight from the garden hose in the back yard, went to schools that were built with cancer causing asbestos as an ingredient, and never heard of SPF 100.  I walked for miles with a fishing pole in my hand to go fishing in a creek, and after completion of my fishing business I went swimming in the same creek.  My children go to the pool, which is cool, but something special can be said about getting that creek mud between your toes on a hot summer day.  The feeling of nostalgic places and things provides comfort, and I even tried to argue that the 1980s were better than today in a blog a couple years ago.  I was trolled, heck I thought a troll lived under a bridge, but internet trolls are a completely different animal.  This "troll" said the following to my the 80s are better argument:  "There was no internet in the 80s...end of thread." I could make the same argument in opposition to the 19th century, "No antibiotics in the 1880s...end of thread."  In some respects I agree with the troll, but we still had fun.  Technology and science have provided an exciting time for my children to live in, and I look forward to what comes next.  Our ways may be archaic by today's standard, but fun was had by all I can assure you.  It's a wonder we survived.

It is a fun exercise to compare the childhood experience form different generations, and while I am happy that my children are coming of age in a time of much wonder and promise in the world there are concerns.  The only terrorist activity back in the day that I can remember involved eggs being thrown at houses, and the only guns that one had to be concerned about normally were attached to a guy who rolled his sleeves up a little too far.  The children of today have quite a bit to deal with on a regular basis, and for the most part it looks like they're doing a fine job overall.  That being said, while I could smoke my kids in a belly buster contest up at the lake they may be more well adjusted to things that really matter.  Maybe?  The truth will be revealed at a later date.  I've got faith in the youth of America!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where have you gone Diabolical Dr. Up?

     They grow up so fast.  You better slow down or you'll miss it.  Time flies.  That's what they say, and you know what?  They're right.  Right as rain.  No doubt about it.  Where does the time go?  One minute you're changing diapers like you're in the pits at Talladega in 13 seconds flat, and the next you're watching them drive away headed for higher education.  Granted we haven't reached the latter yet here in the Uber Dad household, but it'll be here before you know it.  The central theme of this post revolves around a birthday for my Witchy Woman the lovely Miss Maddie.  She is an amazing young lady whom we love so very much.  The only problem is that she's growing up.  Just like my son, Jesse, who won't stop growing and aging either.  I need a little Peter Pan magic in my life.  Is it wrong that I don't want my kids to grow up?  It's not about me getting old, because my growing old gracefully and looking distinguished plan is in full effect.  What it comes down to is simple - I've never had something in my life mean so much, and the very thought of them growing up and moving away breaks my heart.  It is the circle of life I know, but I still want them to be my little girl and little boy a little while longer.  It is what it is.

     I remember the day she was born.  Halloween.  Madino was special from the jump for many reasons, but she made our lives complete.  I was inflicted with strep throat at the time of her birth, but it was something that I wouldn't have missed for the world.  She became the impetus for my immersion into Uber Daddom.  I know, I already had Jesse, but Maddie made my Uber Dad turn complete.  She spent more time with me in those first few years than with anyone else.  I became a savant at identifying mysterious fluids that ended up on my clothes and person, and was quite adept at changing the already mentioned dirty diaper.  We watched The Fresh Beat Band, Bubble Guppies, Dora the Explorer, and Go Diego Go!  Life seemed simple, but oh so wonderful.  Me and my girl against the world.  Jesse was in Kindergarten so Maddie and I would show up in the car pool lane at school to pick him up.  She would throw things at my head and laugh, and I would sing Bon Jovi songs to her.  We were quite a pair the two of us.  Where you saw one, you saw the other.  I was in charge of caring for this beautiful girl, and let me tell you:  I took it very seriously.  Once upon a time I put folks in jail for a living, and now I cared for the cutest blonde haired, blue eyed girl in the universe.  Putting folks in jail was easy compared to hanging with Miss Madino.  She can be a handle, but I loved every minute of it.

     Back when both my kids were much younger we used to play a game.  It was Macho Man (me of course) and Too Fast Too Furious (Jesse) in their adventures battling the evil villain The Diabolical Dr. Up.  Dr. Up was played by Maddie.  She was referred to as Dr. Up, because at that time "Up" was the only word she said effectively.  She would run around the house yelling, "Up, Up, Up, Up, Up, Uppie, Up, Up, Uppie."  True story.  Thus, the Diabolical Dr. Up was born, and what an evil villain she became.  The foil for the adventures of Macho Man and Too Fast Too Furious.  Adventures galore.  Those days seem like a dream now, but they were all too real.  So much fun and so many great memories.  I've written about some of these adventures before.  How can I forget The Dora Swimsuit Miracle, Maddie and Twinkle the Wonder Horse, the Cupcake Monster, and many, many more.  Maddie was there when I discovered that I was Batman.  She is my muse.  She is my warmth and my heart.  My little girl, who is not so little anymore.

     I know, she's only 7, I get it.  We've got many more years ahead for many more adventures and fun times.  However, every year brings me closer to the inevitable.  She will not be my little girl forever.  No matter how bad I want her to be.  Time slows for no man.  One day I'm going to turn around and she will be dating (Good luck prospective suitors.  I don't play, and am skilled in the art of the Redneck Jedi.  Take that to the bank) and picking out colleges. Then she will be a young professional doing something amazing with her life thinking about a family of her own.  These thoughts, while part of the deal I know, are heartbreaking.  She will always be my little girl.  No matter what occurs.  I was there the first time she cried.  The first time she skinned her knee.  The first time she said "I love you daddy."  The first time she hugged my neck and kissed my cheek.  I'll never forget, and I hope she doesn't either.  I'll always be there if she needs a soft place to land.  It is my job after all.  The Diabolical Dr. Up may not be around anymore, but she will always be in my heart.  Where have you gone Diabolical Dr. Up?  Nowhere, she's been there all along.  As long as there is a dad out there spending time with his beautiful daughter whether it be a tea party or jumping into the fall leaves - the Diabolic Dr. Up lives.  Oh, how she lives.  I love you Maddie.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Lord of the Wasps

     The morning began crisp and somewhat cool, but the heat of the summer would commence shortly.  The work needed to be done before it became too oppressive.  Dew covered the ground and glistened as the sun kissed the grass.  The participants in this ritual were two in number, and shared a familial bond.  A passing of the proverbial torch.  One generation imparting wisdom to the next.  A mystifying confluence of knowledge.  In this case, knowledge of the land.  An upkeep of the terra firma.  The cutting of the grass.

     One equipped with a mower, and the other armed with a weedeater.  As if guided by some unknown force they began.  The earth must be held to a standard set forth by civilization itself.  They would abide and prostrate themselves in front of the neighborhood covenant.  The grass will not overtake us!  We will capitulate to the norms of the culture in which we live.  It is only rational to yield to the general will.  Grass will be cut.  Tears may be shed.  Danger lurks around every turn.

     A symphony of sounds began.  The humming of the mower and the loud whining of the weedeater.  The song they played was mesmerizing and hypnotic, but the harmony was interrupted by a vile creature.  Second only to the demon yellow jackets of Hades, a cluster of Red Wasps would soon invade the tranquil work setting of our protagonists.

     The attack was swift and extremely painful.  The more seasoned of our landscaping duo was the victim.  An immediate feeling of red hot needles going into the skin as if applied by some zombie witch doctor.  The pain sensors notified the brain, and the fight or flight response began.  We will fight!  Target located.  At least a dozen, maybe more, of the demon wasps were flying around a wooden fence where our hero was trimming.  Attempts to strike the evil insects were not successful, and another painful sting occurred on the right ear lobe.  The lungs of the attacked emptied with a combination of curses and aired frustration.  Immediately out of the corner of his eye he saw a weapon.  A broom no less.  The arch enemy of a wasp, and a fine way to smash these most atrocious creatures into oblivion!  The sweeping device was retrieved, and a sweep of wasps would commence.  This was war!

     Swinging a broom in hopes of killing a wasp is oddly liberating.  It was not the perfect form Ted Williams swing, but malicious intent was behind the action.  The wasps retreated to the safety located behind a piece of the wood fence.  This was where the nest resided, but extermination of the entire wasp civilization was the goal.  An attempt to remove the wasps from their place of safety was made, and the stick end of the broom was used to stir up the proverbial nest.  Or, rather, in this case, the actual nest.  Immediately the spawns of Satan attacked, but stealth and pure athletic ability saved our hero from a most certain doom.  However, quite possibly the movement was too fluid and smooth, because the broom handle broke off of the broom and became implanted in the fence.  This happened just as the wasp attack victim was gaining the upper hand, and these heinous insects must have understood this with some type of waspy sixth sense.  They went on the offensive, and attacked once more.

     At this point the younger of the two landscapers appeared and began to observe the carnage in which his father was caught up.  He would later report what he observed.  It was an awful sight.  A grown man swinging a partially intact broom at flying bugs while ducking and weaving constantly like Mike Tyson was the opponent.  The man fought valiantly, but eventually in a last ditch attempt to crush his opponent, performed what can only be described as a partial back somersault, eventually landing extremely hard on his backside and directly onto the very ravenous red wasps he was trying to kill.  In the process the victim became victimized yet again.  Red hot poker stings in several more spots.  It was a good day to die.  At least for the wasps, but they went out in a blaze of glory stinging the slightly insane man wielding broom pieces.

     The sun still shines even in our darkest hour.  Life still goes on regardless of the pain and suffering all around us.  Nature is still as wild as it was on the first day, and man no matter how hard he tries will never completely tame it.  I know this.  I am aware of the impossibility of this idea, because I am the Lord of the Wasps.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The War Games Effect

     The generational gap between parents and children can be quite significant.  Personally, I feel very young, and sometimes I forget that I'm probably considered a fossil by my children and many of their friends.  Recently I found out just how substantial this gap truly is, and you could drive the proverbial semi truck through it.  My discovery occurred while I was enlightening my son through entertainment.  Movie watching to be exact.  The movie was the 80s classic War Games starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.  I've heard of various people analyzing movies for all kinds of reasons.  Case in point, The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon synchronized to form a magical mystery ride, so to speak, referred to as The Dark Side of the Rainbow.  In addition, recently I stumbled across a Netflix movie entitled Room 237 that provided all kinds of interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's classic film adaptation of the Stephen King novel The Shining.  My breakthrough moment came by complete accident, and didn't involve Pink Floyd or Stanley Kubrick but it was eye opening all the same.   

     Almost immediately the generation gap between my son, Jesse, and I could be felt.  The movie War Games begins in a nuclear bomb silo with the two military men and their fingers are on the button.  Well, to be more specific, fingers on the key to launch the bomb and start World War III.  This event perplexed young Jesse, and then it dawned on me that the movie came out in 1983-84.  I was 12 years old at that time, just like Jesse is 12 years old in the present day.  My son, needless to say, is not very familiar with the Cold War, and the less than cordial relationship with the former Soviet Union that the United States had during this time.  As a guy who really understands the importance of History and why it should be embraced, I sincerely hope that the events that occurred post WWII leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 are covered in high school history classes.  I'm sure they are, but the point is I had to give Jesse a history lesson about why we would be that close to launching a bomb that could quite possibly wipe out a majority of everything that was known at the time.  Great way to start off a movie viewing, huh?!?! 

     Then the video game and computer confusion began.  Matthew Broderick in a video arcade with nothing but console video games.  Pac Man, Asteroids, and my personal favorite Galaga.  Mr. Broderick plays quite a bit of Galaga in the movie too, but this type of activity vexed young Jesse.  "Dad, did everyone hang out at a video arcade?"  I answered, "Well, it was a popular pastime in the 80s, and I did spend a lot of time in quarter arcades."  I then tried to tell him that I was once a champion foosball player back in the day, but his attention drifted.  Then came the inevitable query, "Where are their phones?"  My response was, "In the house.  Attached to the wall."  The look of horror on the boy's face was comical.  I had to remind myself that at the time, this movie was cutting edge as far as technology was concerned.  Especially, when we arrived at the part of the movie where we first observe the computer system of the Matthew Broderick character, David Lightman.  Back in the day this was amazing.  Heck, a talking computer with a phone hook up to connect with other computers.  Who would have thunk it!!  Jesse lives in the world of Siri, Facebook, Instagram, and the World Wide Web, and he has more technology in his hand at any given time than was in the entire room of David Lightman.  This is profound on many levels, because where will we go in 30 more years, or even 50?  Exciting stuff to be sure.  Jesse was impressed by one thing in the early stages of the movie, however, the father of David Lightman used a slice of bread to butter a piece of corn by first buttering the bread and then placing the corn in the bread and rolling it around.  Jesse thought this was a stroke of genius.  Come to think of it, I did too.

     Speaking of phones.  One of the more famous scenes in the movie, and one I tried to emulate many times to no avail, involved David Lightman getting a free call on a pay phone with a drink pull tab or for you Jimmy Buffett fans, pop top.  He was MacGyver before MacGyver!  As this scene began I told Jesse to pay close attention, because this was really cool.  Almost immediately he asked, "What is that?"  It took me a moment, but I eventually realized that he was asking about the phone booth.  Then it dawned on me.  Jesse has no idea what a phone booth or a pay phone is or was.  I began to explain that a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away we did not have cell phones, and if you wanted to make a call on the go and you didn't have access to a land line you needed a quarter or a dime, depending on how far back you want to go, and a pay phone to make a call.  I got the you must have grown up in the medieval period look, but it paled in comparison to the next portion of this scene.  Lightman/Broderick leaves the phone booth to look for a tool to rig the phone and he finds a pop top.  He brings the pop top back into the phone booth removes the mouthpiece places the pop top inside and on the metal button thingy on the phone base making some sort of mystical connection and voila a free call. (Side note- I tried this technique dozens of times, but I was never successful.) It became immediately apparent that my son had no idea what a pop top was.  He undoubtedly never wore flip flops in Magaritaville, but I digress.  I explained that drink cans once came with a pull tabs or pop tops, and they were removed from the can before drinking. The space age bottles of whatever it is he drinks (Utopian Snapple Smart Water, Maybe?) don't have pop tops.  Man, all these history lessons were distracting from the movie.

     Well, we all know, well at least all of us of a certain age, know how the movie ends.  Joshua, the computer, plays out his quest for Globalthermonuclear War and realizes that like a game of Tic Tac Toe it can't be won.  Joshua never played Tic Tac Toe with me, because I had a system.  However, it all ended well and no one was blown up and Matthew Broderick got to kiss Ally Sheedy!   Which drew the normal rolling of the eyes from Jesse.  Ally Sheedy was hot back in the day.  I was partial to Diane Lane in the Outsiders and Demi Moore in St. Elmo's Fire, but that's just me.  Yep, Cherry Valance (Diane Lane) and Jules (Demi Moore.)  Sorry, stroll down memory lane there.  Bottom line is that it was fun to watch this movie with Jesse, and enlighten him on some of the things that I experienced at his exact age.  I would recommend it.  Nibbling on spongecake, watching the sun bake, all of those tourists covered with oil.....I can't believe he didn't know what a pop top was!  Strike that. I do know how, his mother always thought that the "pop top" part of the classic Margaritaville said "pop tart."  So in her mind poor Jimmy Buffett blew out his flip flop and stepped on a pop tart that cut his heel bad enough that he had to cruise on back home. It all makes sense now. Shall we play a game?