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 see...cars, 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?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tales from the Dadside

     Just when I think I've got it altogether.  I don't.  Just when I think I'm out.  They pull me back in!  The life of a father who has primary type care responsibilities is perilous indeed.  I have yet to find an instruction or an owner's manual for one 12 year old boy and one 6 year old girl.  No matter, we must adapt, adjust, improvise, and overcome!  This particular tale from the dadside involves all of the following:  new puppies (Welcome Dixie and Chloe to the family,) grass cutting, obstinate weedeaters, and iTunes.  As always, all that follows is true.

      I've been waiting, patiently, for a day to do upkeep around ye olde house.  La Casa Perry grass cutting responsibilities have been passed to my sole male heir.  Recently, my son, the boy who will be king, decided that he wanted an allowance.  His mother and I explained to the boy that we did not receive an allowance growing up, but we were still expected to do chores around the house.  This shocked his sensibilities to the core.  But mom.....no buts here.  However, we decided to take the matter under advisement and revisit it at a later date, but in the meantime in a gesture of good faith, he must perform certain duties.  Grass cutting, garbage disposal and removal, puppy detail (I probably don't need to go into too much detail here, but like the kids book says 'everybody poops',) and various other household functions deemed appropriate by the management.  On this day, grass cutting was the chore du jour.  He wasn't happy about it.

     A sullen boy is a terrible thing.  Especially one that is both tired and afflicted with the smart assedness (sorry for the language.)  However, these issues do not cut the grass so we had to get busy.  I waited on the boy to wake, but he has been burning the proverbial midnight oil around the old neighborhood (technically 9-10 pm oil, because he's not ready for all that goes on at midnight just yet or probably ever for that matter.)  He and his buddies have been playing basketball, riding bikes, video gaming, and doing whatever else it is that 12 year old boys do in the sweet summertime.  Now, sleeping late is not normally a big deal, but this summer in the great state of Alabama the heat has been let's say- oppressive?  brutal maybe?  Truly deadly.  Seriously.  On an average day you can expect about 200 degrees with 100% humidity, and the television weather guys all say the same thing, "If you're going to do work outside, do it early."  I'm an old pro at this heat stuff so I already know that, but young Jesse is a novice. So me, and the hot, tired, and smart aleck boy began our workday.  Kinda like an old rap song, "J with the mower, and dad with weedeater."  Well, that doesn't really rhyme, but I was inspired by Vanilla Ice so what would you expect.

     While the sullen boy was cutting the grass and I was doing some serious weed eating, my lovely daughter Madino was inside on puppy duty.  She loves our new puppies and will do anything to help care for them, well anything except clean up any messes.  It's a fact of life that puppies make messes.  If that upsets you then you probably aren't a puppy person.  Young puppies are like a piece of clay and you must mold into what you want it to be, and if you want an adult dog who is house trained and doesn't chew everything in it's immediate vicinity this is the time to start molding.  I was irritated early and often on this morning, because I can only explain the preferred grass cutting method so many times to a boy who really doesn't want to be cutting grass in the first place.  Back and forth Jesse.  That's all.  I didn't even try to get fancy with a circle type cut, because his mind would have been blown.  They say he's gifted, and he is one smart cookie, but common everyday knowledge and sense are lost on that boy.  Almost at the exact time that I got my weedeater primed and ready to go Jesse finds me.  I immediately told him, "Back and forth Jesse, come on man."  He responded, "No, dad Maddie came outside and said the dogs had an accident."  I came inside to not only an accident of the liquid variety, but little wet puppy prints seemed to be leading to some lost paradise that at that exact moment I truly wanted to find.  One thousand Clorox wipes later I was back out to my weedeater, and Jesse was standing there looking at me.  "I'm done, dad."  was the statement he made.  Of course, he wasn't done- he hadn't really even started yet, but like I said common sense is not his strength.  I explained and showed him that more grass awaited his attention and he seemed really excited by this development.

     I am not and have never been a weedeater savant.  I can run the heck out of those things and they are handy to have around the house, but for some reason I have never been able to master the trouble shooting aspects of the weedeater/trimmer/weed whacker, whatever you want to call it.  My father gave me some tips, and if he was still living today I would call and say, "Help."  Weedeater cord gone.  Try to fix.  Didn't load right.  Fix it again.  Head won't go back on right.  Getting slightly irritated.  Gas spills as I work on it.  More and more irritated.  Cord was improperly loaded from the factory, because this is a brand new weedeater, and I shouldn't be having these kind of problems on the first time I use the dad blame thing!!  Anger is replaced by a blonde haired blue eyed boy who approached me and said, "I'm done dad."  No, Jesse you are still not done, we have an entire backyard that needs your attention.  Cord loaded and back at it, but the feeding mechanism seems to be having trouble feeding too much stupid cord at once, and every time it does the machine cuts off.  I consider smashing the weedeater like a guitar at a Jimi Hendrix concert, but I think better of it.  My father would have been proud, but my temper I get directly from him.  He was the man that ripped the very guts out of a "defective TV."  Well, it was when ole Frank Perry got through with it!  At this point, I decided to let calmer heads prevail and wait on the calmest direction reading hippie I know, my wife.  She can talk me off the cliff most times, and I didn't want to kill the weedeater just yet.  Later, maybe.

     We finally finished, sort of, but the coup de grace of the day was yet to come.  Earlier Maddie had asked me if she could have an extra bike thing on a game she was playing on the iPad.  Bike Pro or something like that, all I know is that it has an irritating sound when played.  I told Maddie that she had done a fantastic job helping with the puppies, and I would most certainly allow her to purchase a .99 cent bike on the app store!  She then asked about an allowance, but I shifted gears.  She watched me closely as I entered my information to purchase her bike and she seemed very pleased!  If she's happy then I'm happy.  The day continued and I tried to do some work that is really important ( I am a 43 year old graduate student) and prepare for my next really cool challenge (I am now a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the best University in the country- UAB.) But I digress. Things were looking up after a shaky start.  Then the emails started.  Emails sent directly from the Apple iTunes app store.  Four emails to be exact.  How could a .99 cent add on warrant four emails?  Well, it doesn't warrant that many email receipts, but a grand total of $100 does.  Yes, Maddie spent $100 on a Zombie bike, kid bike, pink bike, some bike upgrade, a Presidential bike with Obama riding on it I guess.  Bikes and add ons from the four corners of globe it seemed.  Undoubtedly, she either jacked my password or it didn't ask for it after the first purchase.  She's not saying.  I was vexed.  Terribly vexed.

     Don't feel too bad for me.  Well, maybe you should.  Puppy pee, obstinate weedeater, less than enthusiastic grass cutting helper, and $100 in non authorized iTunes app store charges aside, I'm still doing pretty good.  I can clean up, fix the weedeater, fix the boy (maybe,) and contact Apple support to get a refund.  That last one was the most important!  Thank you Apple support!  Although, you didn't have to make it so obvious in your "tips to prevent a minor from making unauthorized purchases" that I could likely be an idiot.  True or not.  Wait a minute Jesse is standing here he needs to say something.  "I'm done dad."  Yes.  We.  Are.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Beach Arcade: A Story of Survival

     Summertime is here!  I love the sweet Summertime.  Swimming pools, BBQ's, and 4th of July fireworks.  However, one of most beloved pastimes of my family during the summer is a trip to the Beach!  The sun, the sand, and all the trimmings.  Man, how we love going down to the best coast.  Vacation at the Gulf of Mexico is a reward for a year of school car pool lanes, teacher conferences, baseball and football practices, and general school year type things.  A wise man once said, "If you're lucky enough to be at the beach, well you're lucky enough."  I agree, but another equally wise man also said, "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes it rains."  So what do you do when it rains at the beach.  Keep reading for the answer.

     There are a few options available to the weary beach goer when rain does begin to fall on those sugar sand beaches and emerald green shorelines.  Maybe a movie?  This is always a good option, but when you have picky children who like a broad spectrum of movies it can be a trap.  It's hard to find a sports themed horror movie starring Taylor Swift.  So if not a movie then maybe the mall?  This would entice the younglings to buy things, and we have way too many things around here to begin with.  Buying things just for the sake of buying things is not a good way to spend a day.  Well, it is if you are independently wealthy, but that ain't us.  So what does that leave?  You know the place.  The 25,000 tickets for 10 cents worth of crap place!  The place where all the sunburned beach goers flock to when the rain begins to fall at the beach.  The Arcade!  Enter at your own risk.
     When you walk in, the place sounds like a cross between a war zone and a Star Wars movie.  The space you've just entered smells of popcorn, plastic, and an electronics store.  Normally, these locations have a very good air conditioner, because of the potential to reach maximum capacity quickly!  That many people in one place could lead to not only body heat issues, but other bodily function type issues.  The latter is something that I try to avoid at all costs.  It's better that way.  One immediately gets the sense of, "Why the heck am I here?" upon entering this establishment, except of course if you are between the ages of 3 and around 13, maybe older depending on video game enthusiasm and potential gambling addiction issues.  Make no mistake this is a form of gambling, and that's why so many adults will drop hundreds of dollars in coins in these machines.  The pay off is not a jackpot of coins or credits or even a free trip to the buffet.  The reward is junk really.  A few cents worth of pure junk.  I know, some of these items are better than others, but for every beach chair there is a parachute man made of paper and something less than high grade plastic.  However, if the real fun is in the journey and not the destination, then rock on arcade loving people.

     Manners seem to get lost in these places though, and I would guess that the police are only moments away from being called at any given time.  One throat punch here or an elbow to the nose there.  Don't cut in front of me on the Deal or no Deal game or you'll we face the consequences.  That is the truth as I know it.  Skee Ball on one side and some type of basketball shooting on the other.  It goes on and on.  Games to the left of me, games to the right, and I'm stuck in the middle with some guy who forgot to shower this morning.  I carry the tickets.  That's my job.  I'm good at it too, but to be honest I'm always looking for and trying to execute an escape plan.  I refuse to do the exchange for prizes at the end, but I do like feeding those tickets into that machine that eats them.  That's fun.  It must be some primal need to purge all the bad mojo from my person or my chakra or chi.  I tend to get my chi wrapped all around my chakra, and it really messes up my inner balance.  I digress.  The end part is when I migrate to the parking lot or conveniently have to go see a man about a horse.  This is when it gets insane.  Nuts.  Trying to decide between a plastic Elsa doll or some Little Einstein's stickers.  The kids never pick the big ticket items either.  They want to pick all those little items that add up to the several thousand tickets that we end up with.  Slow process.  Like cooking a roast in a crock pot or something.  Slow burn.....that goes on and on and on and on.  There is no end in sight, and the guys that are working behind this counter look and act like you would expect them to look and act.  Disinterested.  I would be too if I had to work at this place.  It is hard to imagine a worse occupation than this one.  I could probably think of one or two.  Maybe not.  I think it would top the list. 

     I suppose if I have to be at an arcade, I want to be at the one that is at the beach.  Even if it's raining.  A day at the beach can't be all that bad, and even if you have to box out a few yoga panted moms to get to that Pole Position game.  Wait they don't call it Pole Position anymore.  It's probably some kind of Ninja Surfers driving Monster Trucks or something now.  I enjoyed some Pole Position back in the day.  Simple.  A steering wheel and a gas pedal.  That's it.  No bells and whistles and buttons and gadgets.  Prepare to Qualify.  I just have to remember a bad day at the beach is still pretty dang good.  Now if I could find a good game of Galaga......

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dear Momma: A Tribute to a Mother's Love

     I was a fortunate fellow growing up.  We definitely weren't well off, and we surely didn't live in a mansion on the hill.  There were times that were tough and others that were not, and we probably weren't that much different than most.  However, I always felt special.  I felt rich and wealthy beyond what could be brought by monetary means.  My dear mother made sure that was so, and the fact is that she didn't have to.  My mother and father did not have to take on that slightly rebellious blonde haired, green eyed boy, but they did.  I am forever thankful that they did.  They took me in and cared for me, and I always felt that my life was remarkable because I had two mothers.  The mother that raised me and the mother that gave birth to me.  I was adopted into the same family, so to speak, at least that's how I used to explain it to my childhood friends.  As Mothers Day approaches this year I have looked back on my childhood and my beloved mother.  It is a bitter sweet exercise for me, because the lady that meant so much to me, and everyone that knew her, took her last breath not too long after Mother's Day 12 years ago.  In fact, she passed away only a few days after a new life had entered this world.  A life equally as important, and precious to me.  My son Jesse came into this world almost at the exact time that my Mother, who had been stricken with Parkinson's Disease, left it.  Their paths never crossed, and that is something that will forever trouble me.  Jesse was born about two months premature and if that would not have happened my mother never would have laid eyes on that beautiful boy.  She was only able to do that by watching a videotape that I provided my father, and he assured me that she saw my tiny baby boy.  That fine woman who sacrificed so much for me was gone, but assuredly she was not forgotten.  Equally as sad is the fact that she never spent time with the legendary Miss Madino, my spitfire daughter, but I have to say on many occasions when I look into Maddie's eyes I see my mother.  As I should, because she's there.  The following is a post in honor of one of the finest ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  An ode to my mother...

     Those that knew her well called her Patsy, but she was always Momma to me.  Well, I guess that's not entirely accurate.  She was Granny at first, at least so I've been told.  I was very young and I can only recall a few things.  Initially I did not refer to her as Momma, because the adoption was still recent.  That all changed out of the blue one day when I all of a sudden began to call her Momma.  I was told later that seemingly insignificant verbal designation made her heart swell with happiness.  I called her Momma from then on, because after all, that's what she was.  To put it simply she was more than the matriarch of our clan, she was the sun that kept us all warm.  She was our protector, our nurturer, and the glue that held it all together.  I never had to doubt for a second that she was devoted to me.  I knew that, and it was an important thing to know.  I have never been a trusting person, and there have been very few people in my life that I knew were behind me no matter what occurred.  My mother was the first.  I always knew that life could knock me down, but she would be there encouraging me to get back up.  That's something that my mother and father instilled in me, and trust me, I've been knocked down so many times in my life that I've lost count, but I always get back up.  My Momma taught me that.  She was there when I lost my first tooth, and when I married the love of my life.  And outside of my dear wife, my mother was the kindest and most compassionate soul that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  No wonder those two were and are the most important women in my life.  Patsy was the perfect recipe of sweet and tough.  She was a saint for putting up with me, but she would layeth the smacketh down if need be.  That's a fact.  She was my Momma, and I was extremely proud of that fact.  She was a beautiful, caring woman who devoted her entire life to her family.  I was lucky that she chose me.

     She wore hot pants to the ballpark and drove a fine '68 Mustang.  She was a sight indeed.  Some of this was before my time, but she was still that beautiful woman when my time arrived.  She worked in the Lunchroom at school and on a moving van to help make ends meet, and she always gave me an extra dessert.  Shhh.  Don't tell.  She was stricken in the prime of her life, when many women her age were first experiencing grandkids or a certain balance that comes with maturity and middle age.  The disease ravaged her body for decades, and it was hard to watch.  Such a kind woman that would help anyone in need did not deserve this.  However, she never complained.  Not once that I ever heard.  She was still beautiful inside and out through it all.  Toughness is a virtue that is valued in athletics and competition of all kinds, and my mother had it.  I never realized how tough she really was until I was faced with health problems of my own.  She was stoic, inspiring, and elegant throughout her journey.  If I can be half the human being that she was then I would have accomplished something special.  An exceptional woman living an uncommon life.

     She never got to see Jesse hit a baseball or catch a football.  She never got to see Maddie do gymnastics or learn to swing and I know how very proud she would have been of them.  She never got to witness the family that Cheryl and I have now and the love that lives here.  It's sad in a way, but If you believe as I do, then she did witness all these things.  It is us that are missing out by not having her here.  An angel definitely was needed.  She got those wings.  She deserved them.  While we may miss her and wish that she was here, we're doing exactly what she taught us to do.  Get back up.  Live life and be happy while doing it.  It is a legacy that lives on.  She will live forever in that way.  Dear Momma, I want to say Thank you, because you believed in me and loved me.  I just hope that we can continue the legacy that you left behind.  The ones we leave behind will tell the story.  My Momma's story is extraordinary.  If you can, go and hug your mother today.  I sure do wish I could hug mine.  Happy Mother's Day to all those fantastic mothers out there!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Tale of Four Rugs

     The delight of a new house!  Not only is the house new and exciting, but it is a blank canvas on which an interior decorating masterpiece can be painted.  Picking out just the right items to express one's taste in décor is paramount!  The furniture has to accentuate the grandeur of the surroundings, and the walls must be adorned with just the right mix of folksy charm and modern style.  Makes sense right?  Well, not really, and in actuality not at all.  At least not to me.  I'm not exactly what I would call a interior decorating savant, but my wife sure has a distinct style.  It's nice too, and she does a fantastic job, but I was the guy who decorated his room with old movie, football, and beer posters.  I affixed them to the wall with tacks, and left the holes behind to mark my territory.  I found out later that I wasn't supposed to do that, but like I said I am ignorant to this house decorating thing.  My lovely wife has put everything together in our home to make it special and represent our family in a most delightful way.  I know this, because she told me it was true.  So what was one of the final things that my wife needed to finish off the living room area.  Rugs.  Just like the "Dude" said in The Big Lebowski, a rug can really tie a room together.  The act of actually obtaining this rug or rugs is what our story is about.  The floor cloth, carpet, mat, runner, or just rug is the star of the show.  Well, sort of, and without any further delay the magic carpet or shall I say rug ride!

     The store smelled of cinnamon and new plastic.  Garden Gnomes greeted us at the door as if to say, "Welcome to our nightmare."  Just kidding.  It wasn't that bad, and there were many nice items throughout the store.  It was a mecca for the soccer mom and just right for those that want to be one step ahead of everyone else as far as house decoration goes.  We were here for a rug.  Well two rugs.  You see since we moved into the new house we have purchased new furniture and our old rug did not mix with the new furniture, thus we had to buy a new rug.  Plus, the new living room is much larger than the old living room, so the rug or rugs had to be of a larger size.  Size does matter.  At least it does in living rooms and rugs.  The gang was all there, Me, my lovely wife Cheryl, my son and heir to the throne Jesse, and the girl, the myth, the legend Maddie.  We got a buggy and got to it.  Maddie had to ride in the buggy, of course, and Jesse was running interference by staying out front away from all of us.  If I didn't know better I would think he didn't want to be seen with us.  Maybe, embarrassed, as soon to be teenagers will do from time to time.  So, I did what any dad would do in the same situation.  I found a big pink plastic inflatable bunny rabbit that was left over from Easter and was on sale for 75% off, and danced over to Jesse.  I was waltzing with this Easter Bunny and as I approached young Jesse I said, "Would you like to cut in, the bunny dances divinely."  He saw and turned red.  Now to find those pesky rugs.

     We were able to locate the rugs and almost immediately Cheryl found the right sizes and was ready to move on to the checkout.  This made me extremely happy, because we would be leaving soon.  The only problem was the size of the rugs.  They were too big to fit in a buggy.  You see, size does matter, especially in rugs.  I could not locate any better rug transportation in the store so we decided to load them up as best we could on the buggy.  It was kind of like putting two huge logs on a smart car, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Rugs in place, and it was time to head em up and move em out.

     Cheryl was driving the buggy, I was carrying Maddie (she's a grifter and didn't want to walk...I know,) and Jesse was truly running interference this time.  He was out front checking if everything was clear for the wide load of rugs coming through, and every so often he would raise his hand and motion for us to come on and then he was off like a shot once again.  That boy is fast, and he can cover a lot of ground quickly.  Everything was running smoothly until those evil product placement people struck again.  Why is there candy at the checkout of home goods store?  Capitalism, that's why.  I'm a firm believer in Capitalism and the free market, but why torture us parents so?  Starburst, Skittles, and Snickers all await you at the check out, and this place had an entire aisle of candy at the checkout.  Specialty type candy that costs $50 or something.  I don't mind dropping a dime on a Nestles Crunch every now and then, but my kids do not need any white chocolate truffles.  Me, Cheryl, the kids, their candy, and the rugs made it to the checkout.  However, upon arrival we discovered that the rugs were the wrong ones and much more expensive than the rugs that Cheryl had wanted to purchase.  These were bigger.  Size matters, still.  I was not exactly thrilled with the prospect of heading back into the land of the garden gnomes to find two smaller rugs, but married men have taken an oath.  An oath to do these things that drive us absolutely crazy, and I if I form an allegiance it's forever.  I'm not one to quit on a garment just because it's got a little age, and I'm surely not going to quit on a rug hunt with my beloved either.  Here we go....again.

     I drove the buggy with the rugs on the way back to the floor covering department, and outside of almost taking out an unsuspecting grandma I made it back without incident and in record time.  We ran into three problems while trying to restock and reload in the rug department.  First, there was an onlookers delay.  Several very curious and slow rug shoppers were now in the area, and it was worse than the elderly lady in the produce aisle picking out melons.  Second, we could only find one of the desired rugs at first, and this was vexing.  Third and finally, old iron bladder had to answer the call of nature.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, "I'm a grown man, and I know when I need to make water."  With all this we were still finally able to locate a second rug, and re-attach the rugs to the buggy.  I was driving and we made good time back up to the front.  Maddie attempted to purchase more candy, but I vetoed this move.  The rugs were purchased and that should be the end of the story, right?  Wrong.  We still had to get the rugs in my vehicle and get them home.  These were big rugs.  Size matters when it comes to rugs, I don't know if I've mentioned that before.

     Have you ever tried to stuff two large burritos into small snack size Ziploc bag?  Well, that's what it felt like putting these monstrosities called rugs into the back of my old faithful 2003 Nissan Xterra.  Pushing, Pulling, Hollering, Yelling, and then we finally got Maddie in the car and worked on the rugs.  Ba bump, bump. (Think drumroll for a joke) I digress.  I got rug burns on my head from trying to shove these things in my vehicle.  Hard to do, but not impossible.  Once we finally go them in there we shut the hatchback really quick and hoped for the best.  The car with the kids inside didn't explode so I thought we had accomplished the task.  Only thing was the rugs were blocking not only my rear view mirror, but my gear shift.  The rugs almost pushed me completely out of the drivers seat on the way home when the load shifted.  That would have been one to explain to the State Troopers.  I did my best Cole Trickle from Days of Thunder and drove like a boss all the way home.  An uncomfortable rug burned boss, but a boss nonetheless. 

     The rugs are now home and part of our lives.  I have accepted these rugs as one of us, and that is a good thing.  I think.  They feel good when I walk on them so they can't be all that bad right, but they still have to pass the Texas Death match test.  If this rug could talk man the story it would tell, but maybe some of the details shouldn't be told.  Rugs are important, because if you don't have rugs what are you going to sweep all that stuff under?  Contemplate that for a moment, because after all a red carpet is really just a rug when you come right down to it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Cristos the Spartan and The Magical Math Team Dress

     The last time we heard from our hero Cristos the Spartan he was in search of the legendary lost bathroom on the campus of The University of Alabama at Birmingham.  Since that adventure many other escapades have occurred, but the most recent is worthy of repeating.  It all started with a little girl, a dress, a math team deadline, and evil lurking around every corner.  This journey took our protagonist through three trials, not unlike the Labors of Hercules penned by the ancient Greeks.  However, Hercules had 12 labors and there were only 3 trials for our hero Cristos.  No matter, the story must go on.  The trials consisted of the dress from hades, the crossing of the harrowing intersection, and the shocking phone call.  Cristos the Spartan rides again!  I, for one, am glad he's out there.

     The morning began with the routine activities of any morning at the domicile of Cristos the Spartan.  However, on this particular morning Cristos was given instructions from the Queen Mama Buzzkill.  The boy who would be King and continue the line of Spartan awesomeness needed to be at the middle school early for an expected departure for a math team competition.  The Queen had left early, but she did not account for the dress choice that the Princess of the clan would choose.  Game on.

     The air was thick with tension as a war of wills continued from upstairs to down.  It had to be this dress no matter what the cost.  No amount of bribery or coercion would convince her any different.  Rice Krispy treat offerings fell upon deaf ears.  The dress in question was one of many colors thrown together as if by the chance of a thousand paint brushes with different hues.  It was a paisley tie-dye combination that was difficult to match.  Cristos knew that the elders would say, "Clothes should not match, but they should go."  This was a riddle that the elders obviously put together for confusion and pain.  The girl knew that her brother must depart soon, but this only seemed to intensify her unwillingness for compromise.  What could be a solution?  This was a situation that could not be solved, but had to be fixed.  The ultimatum was given, "Departure time is t minus 15 minutes and counting" declared Cristos.  Then came the passive resistance.  Not a forceful protest, but an arms crossed head down silence that would have rivaled a sit in from the 1960s.  How do you root out one who does not want to be rooted?  I surely do not know.  Cristos sent in the big gun, the boy who will one day rule over the vast kingdom of which we speak, the math whiz himself:  Young J-Jam, Jesse James, old #7, The Dirty Base Stealer....blonde hair, blue eyed, charm personified!  He could move the younger sister!  It was the last chance to arrive on time!  One glance at those blue eyes and his concern over the importance of arriving for the good of the math team seemed to move the protesting young girl.  I hear him say, "I just want to do what's best for my team to help them win, and if that's getting to school on time- then that's what I want to do.  Can you help me?"  We settled on a less colorful skirt and shirt, but movement was beginning to occur.  Many tears were shed on this morning, but enough about Cristos.  The journey had only just begun.

     The crossing was known to be treacherous.  Cristos knew that this would not be an easy venture to make it across the street to the middle school.  Traffic was swarming like ants on a popsicle stick.  The hope for arriving on time was sinking like the Titanic!  There was not any assistance.  Those who direct the horrendous traffic were absent, as was normally the case.  It was like entering the Death Star while driving the Millennium Falcon, but the force was with our heroes today!  Only a few instances of unenlightened driving caused momentary problems.  Going straight comes before a left turn otherwise you crash.  This is as true as the moon glows at night.  However, directly in the midst of the crossing a problem arose!  The little girl absent her colorful dress bellowed, "Can you put on Welcome to New York!?!"  NO!!!  This couldn't be.  Substituting Taylor Swift for Guns N Roses.  Cristos was vexed.  Terribly vexed.  Yet, as the old saying goes, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."  Cue Taylor Swift.  Crossing complete.  The Quantitative Literacy Gangster delivered!  """Walking through a crowd, the village is aglow....Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats....Welcome to New York"""  What does that even mean!!  Cristos was bewildered by Taylor Swift to be sure!

     The Princess had to be dropped off at her school also on this day, and the weather was not cooperating.  Copious amounts of rain fell all over North Jefferson County, and the rivers were close to overflowing their banks!  Cristos pulled up to the Elementary School and Princess Colorful Dress Madino looked down as she attempted to exit the vehicle, and a pool of stagnant water blocked her departure point.  Cristos had to act fast to avoid another outburst from the child.  He attempted to move her from the backseat to the sidewalk with sheer Herculean strength, but it soon became apparent that the leverage that was needed could not be obtained from the front seat.  He then did what any good hero or father would do.  He climbed to the backseat to assist her in avoiding the reservoir of putrid water.  Cristos lifted her up and over the water and in so doing removed himself from his own vehicle from the backseat directly into the very water that he was trying to avoid!  Princess Madino was safe and dry, but the same could not be said for Cristos' kicks, socks, and legs.  The look of confusion by all who witnessed this man exiting the backseat of his own vehicle were abundant.  Cristos smiled and walked around to the front of his vehicle and re-entered.  He left with the quickness.

     The sun was shining through the rain at this point for Cristos.  All was well that ended well.  The goal was obtained, and Captain Crunch Crunch Berry Cereal awaited the victor!  Nonetheless, Cristos thought it necessary to contact the Queen to let her know of the travails of the morning.  While on the phone it became apparent that something was not right.  The Queen said, "What!  Wait!  I just got a text from Jesse and he said he was in a wreck."  The very merger of the words "Jesse" and "Wreck" caused alarm that cannot be expressed.  Cristos' heart began to race.  Concern changed to fear.  The very thought of your child being in a place of pain or fear without the ability to get to them stirs a dread deep inside a parent.  This is a feeling that no mother or father ever wants to experience.  Cristos dropped the phone and ran to his cell phone and discovered several texts from his son.  It read, "We just got into a wreck I'm ok but it was scary."  Finally the boy was reached by phone, and he explained that it was only a minor collision and not a catastrophe.  He and his fellow Mathletes were now walking to the arena of competition.  The ever smart and agile Jesse had even taken a picture of the offending vehicle and texted it to Cristos.  Immediately the thought, "I will have my vengeance, whether in this life or the next," but then a calmness that can only be achieved with the knowledge that your children are well.  One would suppose that matching a colorful dress and arriving on time are not of any vital significance.  One would suppose correctly.

Post Script:  The Math Team did great.  Finished 3rd in the County, and the one and only Jesse did very well himself almost cracking the top 20 overall and finishing 5th in something or another.  I'm unclear on what, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.  I'm a History guy, and History guys do not like math.  That's a fact.  Maddie got to wear the colorful dress the next day thanks to Mama.  There's still not anyone directing traffic at the Middle School.  Cristos abides.

If you've read this and have no idea who or what Cristos the Spartan is, then check out the following for some background. http://perrydawg88.blogspot.com/2013/08/cristos-spartan-and-lost-bathroom.html

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Grass Cutter Diary

     The wonder of the spring and summer!  Everything is new again.  Growth begins anew, and it seems the world is once again alive.  Everything from birds singing, bugs buzzing, and grass growing.  Well, we all know what has to happen when the grass starts growing right?  Somebody has to cut it.  Otherwise the alternative is anarchy.  This is just the way it is, and while I can be a non-conformist on many topics, well probably most topics, I am an ex-cop/43 year old history grad student/uber dad extraordinaire who writes a blog for fun.  However, I do conform with the grass cutting because like my father before me, it's just the right thing to do.  We're civilized folk, and civilized folk cut grass.  That's just all there is to it.  That being said.  I don't like to cut grass.  Never have, never will.  I've been trying to hand off this job for years to anyone who would take it.  It looks like my dreams may have finally come true, and I may have found my man.  My sole male heir may take the job!  I hope to post a video in this blog post to prove that.  We'll see if it works.

Yep it worked!  The boy would only cut the back yard to start off with, because he was too embarrassed to be seen with dear old dad cutting grass in the front yard.  I guess I've blasted Guns N Roses one too many times up at the middle school.  My reputation proceeds me.  While I'm at it, I should also mention another job I've been trying to get of lately!  See if you can guess what that job is.  I kind of kill two birds with one stone with this one.

However, it took me two tries to get it right.  Proof below

I suppose I should just let it go

Ok.  That's enough videos.  The bottom line is that if everything works out well I will not be cutting grass near as much around here.  I'm good with that.  I have to instill some type of knowledge on the next generation.  I only have limited knowledge to give so it'll have to do.  Thank you for your support. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Longest Dad Day (A Day without Baseball)

     Since that little sandy haired blue eyed boy first showed an interest in America's pastime one thing has been constant.  I've been there.  I was there the day he picked out his first little baseball glove.  I was the one throwing out his first pitch, so to speak.  I was the one that instructed him on the finer arts of a proper baseball swing.  At least proper as I knew it, but I found out later that my baseball logic was slightly flawed.  However, the important thing was that I was there.  I was always there.  From coach pitch superstar to Speedy the hit making, base stealing, wheelin' dealin, Rolex wearing, Limo riding.....wait, sorry I went all Ric Flair for a moment.  But he does have a hard time keeping those alligators down!  Woo!  However, this day I would not be there.  That's right absent from something that I love more than I can even begin to explain.  Why?  You ask.  Well, my darling daughter Maddie has been infected by that jackwagon streptococcus.  My lovely wife had taken care of her for the games on Saturday, and it was only right that I would do the same on Sunday.  As hard as it was to do, I knew that it was the right thing.  My wife enjoys watching old number 7 play ball too, and I took one for the team.  It was hard though, and it was the longest day of my life.

     Maybe one of the hardest things I have ever done was watching my son in full uniform walking out the door, and knowing that I would not be there to watch and cheer him and his teammates on.  Hard day indeed.  It was an emotional rollercoaster that I wasn't sure that I would survive, but immediately I was distracted by a request from my daughter.  Netflix was on the menu, and some mermaid show was the pay off.  Australian mermaids in lieu of watching an RBI Double by my favorite baller of all time?  Yes sir-  those are the cards that I have been dealt, and if I have learned anything from my life it is that I have to play the cards that are dealt regardless of how I feel about them.  To be completely honest though, when I looked at my poor sweet Maddie and her obvious discomfort from the dreaded strep throat it wasn't all that difficult to go all in with the mission at hand.  At least at first.

     The two words that no father wants to receive when his wife and baseball playing son are en route to a an undisclosed ballpark on Championship Sunday- "We're lost."  But, I did receive those words, and yes they were, actually lost.  They say the devil is in the details, and to be fair I did provide the directions that led to them becoming astray.  You can take from that what you want, but I wasn't actually driving the proverbial boat.  SS Minnow, notwithstanding, they were lost and late.  Panic ensued, by me really, not them.  If I am anything I am punctual, and the very thought of being late is nauseating.  Plus, not arriving on time for a baseball game is bad karma.  I tried to help with directions, texted the coach about the expected tardiness, and talked myself out of jumping off the top of the stairs in our home.  My luck I would only break my legs.  I was having a bad day, but then my lovely daughter distracted me with funny looking phlegm that was a side effect of that jackwagon streptococcus.  My wife did, in fact, make it to the ballpark before the game began, and that was a good thing.  The funny looking phlegm, however, was not!

     Then the game began without me there.  I know this because my wife and my buddy Hank were kind enough to send me updates throughout the contest!  I am forever in their debt for this kind gesture.  When a man is down, you have to pick him up, and those updates were my pick me up.  The best I can remember the game went something like this:

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the BBA 11's that day;
They were on the wrong side of the score with but an inning left to play;

But there was no quit in Colebug or Chase, and Austin felt the same;
In fact Tate (The Rocket), Tate 19, Carter, and Logan were in the game;

The Dad's were restless at the game they were viewing;
Chad and Sherry were behind the backstop and Bobby was inquiring of Parker, "What are you doing?!"

Hank was pacing and Mark was in a chair- Bryan was keeping the book all the while like an ace;
Then all of a sudden Seth and Jesse got on base!

There was hope with the parents and the players all the same;
Lindsay, Lisa, Krista, Kim, and my wife Cheryl were intently watching the game;

But how does it all end one has to ask;
This is only second hand information so it's kind of a tough task!

Hold on a minute before I go further into the action;
I still haven't mentioned the contribution of Caiden and Jackson!

Oh, somewhere  in this land the sun is shining bright;
A band is playing, birds are singing and someone is ripping off Casey at the bat, and it ain't right!

Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
And please don't get mad at me if I left your name out!

     While I am certainly not a poet, I am a fan of baseball, especially if that baseball involves my favorite player of all time:  Jesse Perry #7!  If there is any way possible I do not plan on missing another baseball game that my son plays in, and I may invest in one of those plastic bubble deals that let John Travolta hang out on the beach.  Instead of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble we'll put that jackwagon streptococcus in there.  Play ball!