Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tales of a man and his Clothesline. Also, thoughts on the Holidays.

I know it’s New Years, and Christmas just passed, but right now, I am in love with my clothesline. I’ll have some thoughts on the holidays at the end.

But I love my new clothesline. I’ve been thinking about having one for a while-it’s hot here. It’s windy here. Kinda makes sense. Our friends down the street have a fancy European one that retracts into its own spool. I had clothesline envy for a while, and I tried to find one like that here, but alas, was unable to do so.

So, I lost interest for a while, and continued using our electric dryer.

But it was irritating me. It makes the garage hot, doesn’t always finish when I need it to be done, and I have to turn it off if we have to leave the house, as we certainly don’t want a fire, but moreover, it just wasn‘t getting the job done, and costs money to run, as we do a lot of laundry.

So, about a week ago, I had alls I could stand, and I couldn’t stands no more…

I found a long covered cable and another rope in the garage. I used my extensive knot-tying training from my time as a student at Hurricane Island Outward Bound, and rigged me an old fashioned clothesline on the back porch, what the locals call a “Lanai,” but I call a porch.

I found myself some pins, and up that first load went. I felt great satisfaction as my Philadelphia Eagles Jersey (they made the playoffs! Woot!) gently swayed in the breeze. The combination of the wind and heat had the job done in less than an hour. I was hooked, and went looking for more laundry to do so I could dry it on my new clothesline.

Walking past the dryer over the last week, I feel like I’m walking by that girl who broke up with me for that dude with the hair, only now, I have a hot new clothesline, or rather, girlfriend, as the metaphor poorly indicates. I’m sure the dryer, had it feelings, would feel rejected, and that would be appropriate. I’m done with that thing. It costs money, and like I said, makes the garage hot, and despite this being Hawaii, I still don’t enjoy being unnecessarily hot if I have some say in the matter.

In all honesty, I have learned the following about how my new clothesline is better than the dumb dryer in the garage:
1) My clothesline uses no electricity, and was essentially free, since I made it from stuff we already owned.
2) I can leave laundry on the line if we have to go out.
3) My clothesline doesn’t get cranky and start banging against the washer when it feels too full.
4) My clothesline doesn’t need its lint trap cleaned.
5) My clothesline is so easy to use, the kids can help me. It takes longer when they do, but it’s an easy way to fill up 30 minutes or so in-between playgroups and such.

And those are just off the top of my head. I’m sure it’s considered “going green,” but that’s just gravy. For some reason, beyond the top five above, I have to admit, that I have found a sense of inner peace when I’m putting clothes on the line.

Unless the kids are clamoring about, there is something about just being a man outside on the porch, with my clothesline and the gentle Leeward Oahu breeze, that is centering and spiritually uplifting. I feel at one with our washables. Perhaps there is a sense of balance to be found in the process. More research is clearly warranted. Stay tuned for the next load…

Couple of notes on Christmas: thanks again to all who’ve written me of late regarding the blog. Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Hope your holidays were great.

In the days leading up to Christmas, the kids spent their time at home wrapping “presents” in a dishtowel and giving it to one another to “practice” opening presents. They’d take turns opening and being surprised and saying, “OHHHHHHHH! It’s a Pooh Movie!!!!” or “OHHHHHHHH! It’s a Princess something!” and so forth. They entertained one another like this for hours.
It was great-I got a lot of laundry done, and as such, got to spend time with my clothesline.

Christmas day, we opened some presents with family on the mainland via the magic of the Logitech Webcam. It was nice, and the girl in particular reveled in the joy of each present. Wanting one after the other in quick succession, enjoying them all tremendously.

Her Twin brother on the other hand, opened one, loved it, and ran up to his room to play with it by himself. He came down a little later and opened more, and then went back up to the cave to play undisturbed. He’s a smart boyo.

The little bear loved her presents, and everyone else’s, and the boxes, and packaging, and especially the paper, that soon covered every inch of the house in small, torn-up squares. Felt like we’d been in a ticker-tape parade…

The fireworks here started about two weeks ago. As you can buy them as an impulse item while checking out at Foodland and Walmart, to say they are easy to come by here, is like saying the Eagles barely beat the Cowboys this past week. (They won 44-6. Go Eagles) The lead up to New Years in Hawaii is bombastic. I have a friend who spent time in Iraq. He says that our town on New Years Eve is louder than anything he saw over there.

And for those of you who asked, yes we were affected by the blackout, but it was really not a big deal for us. Lit some candles, made sure there were no clothes on the clothesline (I love my clothesline), and read a book. No big whoop. Our side of the island was without power from 7pm-3am. We got ours back before the “Windward” or “snotty” side of the island. So there Kailua! (I still love Kailua. Not as much as my clothesline though.)

Oh, and one final note. I’m not sure this fits into the theme of this column, but I had to mention it as it happened this evening and was really cool. I got some Itunes gift cards, and have downloaded a lot of new stuff that I’ve been wanting to get for months. Included in that is a great young band from New Brunswick, New Jersey named “The Gaslight Anthem.” You can check them out here: http://gaslightanthem.com/ They clearly have prayed at the alter of Springsteen…

Anyway, we were listening to new stuff, and the kids were grooving on it, and as we finished dinner, the boyo says:

“Dad, do we have a sad song?”
And I said, “Well, we have lots of sad songs I guess-what do you mean?”
“Dad…can we take a sad song and make it better?”

For those of you playing along at home, that is, of course a lyric from “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. And while the kids have heard that version, I knew the one he wanted to listen to was the Wilson Pickett version featuring the late and still great Duane Allman on lead guitar. We hadn’t heard it for a while.

I asked him, “You mean, ‘Hey Jude?’”
And he said, “Yeah, Dad. That’s the one.”

He’s four. That was cool.

Hopefully, I will have an actually entertaining column regarding New Years in the coming week. Last year’s ‘Eve was pretty exciting. We shall see. Until then, thanks for reading. Tell a friend…Aloha!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By Popular Demand: The Great Tree-Knocking-Over incident of 2008

We had a little tree for Christmas last year when were stuck in that truly craptacular apartment in Waikiki. We had arrived on the Island December 10, and our house wasn’t ready for us. So, we lived there and muddled through as best a family of five can in a two-bedroom apartment. That is poorly, at least for me. I got a total of zero nights of decent sleep in the 29 days we lived in that place.

But, I digress. We had a little tree, no more than 24 inches at its best. We put the Snoopy tree blanket around it as it sat on the glass table. That glass table…that mother of toddler facial bruises that it was…was the worst, but it was home to last year’s Christmas tree. Our first Hawaiian Christmas.

It was weak at best. But it sufficed. We had the tree, and watched the Grinch and “Charlie Brown Christmas” on Youtube on the old laptop, and we made it through.

This year, I had hoped that we could do better. After all, we were in our house, and have been here almost a year. It’s become our home, and our kids, as one of their Godfather’s once said, “Dude, they are old enough to remember this stuff now…make with a tree!”

And so, with that in mind, all three kids and I made a sojourn to the Waikele K-Mart. I’ll admit I didn’t even consider a live tree, although they were available at K-Mart, and elsewhere. They cost way too damn much here, and there’s nowhere to plant it after the fact, and in this economy, I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay that much for something that’s going to die and leave needles all over that I have to vacuum up, not to mention the fact that I was still unsure if the kids would be able to handle having the tree out and about.

I am certain that there are families that have children in a variety of quantities and ages who manage to enjoy having their Christmas Tree out and about in various states of repose. I’m sure “John and Kate Plus Eight” have a tree in everyone’s room, and everyone behaves, as they fear, quite rightly I would think, that Kate might actually bite their heads off both figuratively, and perhaps, well, I‘ll leave it there...

But, I was concerned as it relates to my children’s ability to co-exist with a large fake tree adorned with cool things under which at some point presents would appear.

Call me crazy.

You see, my children are an interesting amalgamation of personages: the twins are four now. Their little sister is two. They can communicate across the board now and work together on any number of missions, both productive and destructive.

The kids and I put the tree together in the foyer of our upstairs area, which is a common area in between everyone’s bedrooms. While I shall avoid, out of good taste the opportunity to rail against the term “Easy to Install,” I am pleased to say that we got it done in something less than two hours. There is only one piece of furniture in the landing area, and that is the Wife’s Grandfather’s old Leather Easy chair. It is more often than not an open area that they bring their toys into and have a variety of adventures and so forth. The tree made it through the first night, and the kids were promised a tree-trimming with Mommy and Daddy a few nights later as work schedules allowed.

While the tree was an object of interest the first few days before the ornaments went up, it was a casual one at best. There was interest when we put it up and I added lights, but without the ornaments, it was a bit dull to their sensibilities. They left it alone, and that, I am sorry to say, gave me the false sense of security that would later prove problematic.

The tree survived, and was left very much to its own devices for the first few days of its time with us. It had a place of prominence in the main foyer upstairs, abreast the largest window in our home. It was a prominent feature in our daily lives those days, those all too brief days…as we awoke in the morning, it was among the first things we saw.

Those were good days. Those four days that the tree lasted.

As I said, the first two, it was just a tree with lights. Then we did the ornaments…and all Snoop broke loose. Once the tree was adorned with Snoopy, and colorful balls, birdies, and angels, and lacrosse sticks, and toy soldiers, and, man, I fear to say it as the kids might wake up and run down here and tackle the computer….once S-A-N-T-A showed up on the tree, the sheer enthusiasm alone was nearly enough to blow a hole in the kid-waiting-for-present-time-continuum….

And the event was fraught with Holiday albums: Johnny Mathis, Charlie Brown, and Sinatra, along with John Denver and The Muppets, carried us though an evening of Pizza, Spicy Ahi, and Egg Nog. That everyone’s stomachs were off the next day is irrelevant. Mele Kalikimaka…

So we trimmed the tree and it was good. And the children were told that the tree was to look at, and not to play with. The more delicate ornaments were either put high atop our glorious six-foot artificial tree from K-Mart, or they were tucked away for safe keeping. We talked about where some of the ornaments were from, and each of the kids clearly had their favorites. Little Bear loved the Snoopy ornaments. Much like her Mother, which explains the bevy of them on the tree. The Girl liked Snoopy too, but she enjoyed far more the ones that had pictures on them: some of her and her twin brother, and another that was a wedding favor at her Aunt and Uncle’s wedding.

I took that picture that they used. Took the ones of the twins too.

The boyo liked the ones that looked like “houses” but are actually replicas of old-school ornaments of church houses. He liked the one that looked like Gracie too. I like that one too.

And the tree was very welcome in our home. The weather here, which rarely wavers, did in fact just that, and there was a period of heavy rain so hard that the twins pre-school was cancelled. It was one of those time that I really understood that I am still an East Coast guy, as I said, “What, people can’t drive in this? C’mon…” Much like people from Minnesota ride people from Ohio for their small amounts of snow, and people from Buffalo ridicule people from New Jersey (at their peril…) and people from Maryland laugh out loud at people from Georgia who cancel school when it snows 1 inch. It’s all relative I suppose.

But the storms were pretty severe, and I saw some serious lightning and there were flash floods all over the Islands. This relates to our story in the manner in which it meant we were homebound a bit more, and as Daddy is not one to throw extra TV at the problem, we were upstairs a bit more, and the tree was right there…and it had all this cool stuff on it.

I should have known it was short for the house when school was cancelled. It was midmorning when I heard the crash. I had already been upstairs several times, and I had give a few timeouts for messing with the tree, though truth be told, I knew it was only a matter of time. I had gone downstairs to start on lunch, when I heard it.

Oddly, if not for the twins reaction, I might not have thought anything of the slight shuffling and crunchy noise I heard. But, alas, I heard the thunderous thuderousness of the boyo hopping down the steps…and felt a sense of dread as he reached the bottom step, calling out:

“Um, Daaad?”

To which I replied: “What is it Boyo?”

“Um, Dad, Did you hear that crash?”

And I looked over, as he stood at the bottom of the stairs, his face scrunched up in thought. And as I flew to the stair well, and bounded up the stairs, I knew halfway up that this tree was not long for our house.

And there it lay, our first genuine Tree, all six-feet of it, fully knocked over on its right side, the little bear standing on her great-grandfather’s leather chair, truly resplendent in her joy at having reached the ornament of Snoopy kicking a soccer ball.

I sighed. And then, I picked the whole tree up, and moved it into our bedroom, moved Grandpa’s Chair, and gave the tree a new home.

The kids would later earn visitation rights, which became far more popular once gifts started collecting beneath the tree. Truth be told, it has turned out to be a blessing: the tree has survived, and I’ve enjoyed having the chance to sleep in a room with a Christmas tree.

In addition, I wrote in my last column about “Grandpa’s Radio Time.” That might never have occurred had not the tree been there. That first Sunday, when I gathered around the radio with the kids before bed was motivated by a number of things, one of which was the kids desire to visit their Christmas Tree.

And as I wrote last time-it has been the beginning of something really cool for me and the kids.
The kids consistently ask for “radio time” during the week now. We had one last night, and caught the end of a cool broadcast of Tchaikovsky. The kids enjoyed it, and I asked them if they liked the radio time just because of the tree…and the presents...

The girl told me, when I asked her “No Daddy…” and then proceeded to dance around the room, at least in the moment oblivious of the tree.

I hope it continues.

Happy holidays, and thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Grandpa's Radio

It’s a Silvertone, with Sears Integrated Circuits, Model # 8072 in Colonial Style Cabinet. It was a gift from his parents when he graduated college in 1961. Growing up, until I was in the eighth grade, it was the center of many of our evenings.

It plays both AM/FM stereo and played records until recently, when the needle and cartridge succumbed to the age of the unit. It is quite fixable, so if anyone knows where I could find Cartridge #57-88930 and Needle #5788119 for the Silvertone, vintage 1961, I would totally love you for ever and ever. Honest.

Music was a huge part of my life in my parents house, and continues to be in my own home. As a kid, I remember very fondly listening to “Friday’s With Frank Sinatra” hosted by our old friend and Philadelphia legend, Sid Mark. We followed Sid from Friday’s with Frank, to “Saturdays with Sinatra,” and later Sundays. Sid is still making it happen: www.soundsofsinatra.com/ Good for you Sid. I remember fondly learning at Dad’s left hand at the dining room table the difference between the Dorsey Era-Sinatra, and his later work with Percy Faith and Nelson Riddle.

When Frank wasn’t on the radio, it was likely be Philly’s favorite Oldies station, WOGL, with Hy-Lit, or one of the other score of vintage DJ’s they carried. Dad would quiz us on Artist names and song titles. I still find myself playing this game in m y head whenever there is music on, and have taken to torturing my children, co-workers, family members, and occasionally complete strangers with what they must surely see as trivial information. Alas, all that info is locked in my brain, never to be removed, and always feeling somehow important. I mean, who can anticipate when I might be called upon to tell someone if that is Ben E. King or Clyde McFatter leading The Drifters on a particular song? Perhaps someday I’ll be called upon to settle an argument of international significance by clearing up a dispute over whether “Big Mama” Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” was better than Elvis’ version. (It was)

When the radio wasn’t on, it was records. Vinyl. Yeah, the good old stuff. I’ve always been a vinyl fan, in many reasons because 8-tracks always sucked, I didn’t get a cassette player until I was ten, and CD’s weren’t even widely available until I was in Junior High. So, we listened to records. And we listened to them on the Silvertone. The favorite records were kept in the small storage space beneath the turntable. On any given evening, I might find myself sitting in front of the speaker and listening to Elvis, or Sam Cooke, or Simon and Garfunkel, or Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young), but we would be just as likely to have the Soundtrack to West Side Story, Oklahoma, Pirates of Penzance, and the whole Gilbert and Sullivan lexicon.

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was a popular play, but only the version with the Chicago Symphony, conducted by Sir Georg Solti. This was a departure for Dad, as he typically preferred the conducting of Eugene Ormandy and the local Philadelphia Orchestra, and that of Leonard Bernstein, both of whom had conducted the 9th. I know this, as they were also part of Dad’s record collection. But, he swore by the Solti one, and to be honest, I think it holds up the best, and it is the only version of the piece on my Ipod. Still have the vinyl though…

I remember one Winter Saturday in particular, when for some reason, Mom and my sister were out of the house, and Dad baked bread, and we listened to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” conducted by Leopold Stokowski, with Basil Rathbone as the storyteller. It is an album, playable on at 78 speed, which most modern turntables don‘t even offer. I remember looking at the picture on the cover, and was confused at first, thinking it was a story record, like the “Star Wars” story record and the “Gingerbread Man” story record I used to listen to in my room on my “Popeye” record player. Yes, I know how cool that makes me. I also had a .45 of The Monkees “Last Train the Clarksville,” so maybe it’s a wash?

I once told a student about my .45 record collection, and, aghast, she cried, “YOU own a gun?!” But I digress…

“Peter and the Wolf” was neat, but I was confused because the story was mostly music. He explained to me that I had to imagine what the music was describing. It was weird at first, but by the time it ended, I understood, and remember feeling like my brain suddenly had access to a whole new kind of music. Bread was pretty good too.

Between general yearly use, and it’s increased use around the Holidays, I remember vividly the day he taught me how to use the turntable on his Silvertone, and got authority to change sides. I was also given clearance to adjust the player when it got to that skip in Johnny Mathis’s “Blue Christmas.” I still can’t hear that song without hearing “I’ll have a bluuuuu, a bluuuuu, a bluuuu, a bluuuuu….”

To have earned permission to use and handle the unit was very much a coming of age in our house, as until the great “Christmas CD player and stereo system purchase of 1986,” Dad’s radio was in many ways the centerpiece of Family dinners, and general evenings at home. Seems like there was always something playing.

After the Christmas of ‘86, The Silvertone was the old boy in the neighborhood, having been replaced by a brand new “Realistic” cabinet system with huge speakers and a graphic equalizer. The Radio Shack up in the Jamesway shopping center saw my Dad coming a block away, and sold him the system by pulling on his need for better sound with which to conduct the tympani player of the Chicago Orchestra. “It’ll feel like you’re there at the concert! That’s what the man said!” And while the sound was immeasurably better, and liking new technology as much as the next guy in 8th grade, I found it to be pretty darn cool, I was sad a little too for the Silvertone.

Once the dust settled, I asked if I could have the old stereo to use in my sanctuary, that of course, being New Jersey in the 80’s was the basement. I already had a recycled black and white TV down there, and a couch, and a weight bench. Now, I could have some tunes, Maaan!

I know, like something right out of “Visionquest.” The momentum carried me. Sorry about that.

And so it spent the next 20 years or so in my half of the basement. It got a lot of use. I played the hell out of that thing; the radio didn’t get a lot of stations way down in the basement, and by the time I was in high school, I had a stereo in my room. I fell in love with vinyl, partly because it just seemed cool, but the sound was good, and, more vital as I got older and was a broke high school student, and then a broker college student, I could get records pretty cheap. So, I started collecting every record of every artist I liked. I remember vividly when I was introduced to “The Smiths” around 11th grade. One CD of theirs was nearly $25 at Sam Goody, and was about the same at Jamesway. So, I hit the Record Exchange, and bought pretty much their whole catalog on Vinyl, including “Louder than Bombs” and a great Import Pressing of “Rank” for $20.

Stuff I really liked, I would transfer to cassette on the soon to be obsolete, yet once new "Realistic" stero, for playing in my fancy new AM/FM stereo AND cassette player that Mom and Dad got me for my 17th birthday, and had installed in the old Nissan after I got my license.

Ironically I suppose, it was the last gift my parents gave me before Dad died. The car is long gone, but I still have that stereo in a box in the garage.

Still have the records too.

And I still have the Silvertone. It’s in our bedroom upstairs. And it gets regular use, especially on Sunday nights, which are now “Grandpa’s Radio time.” It happened almost on accident a few weeks ago, but the kids really dug it, and it’s turning into a regular activity.

The wife works late on Sundays and they tend to be very busy days: between church, Football, and the copious amounts of birthday parties, fairs, special events, and other kinds of things there are to do here on Sundays. I usually aim for them to be in bed between 6:30 and 7:30pm these days, as they really have lost the regular nap. And they wake up around the same time every morning, so I aim for that as their bedtime, and it’s been pretty standard.

Hawaii Public Radio, 89.3 FM, has “Sinatra, the man and his music” on from 5-6 pm, and we listen to that during dinner, and then I’d been listening to “Prairie Home Companion” at 6pm. I usually only got to hear a few minutes though, as it got to be bedtime. So every weekend, I’d have that as a target, but then the night would get away from me. I’ve always liked the show, but never had a chance to listen regularly.

So, it was time for a shift. We got ready for bed early a few weeks ago. We ate dinner, and then went upstairs to Mommy and Daddy’s room, and plugged in the Christmas tree (where it was moved after the great tree-knocking over incident) and put the show on. They sat on the bed, or on my Dad’s old recliner, and looked at the tree, and listened to Garrison Kielor start the show on Grandpa’s Radio. The sound is remarkably good for a unit of its age, and the kids played with some ornaments, and listened to the songs, and the silly stories, and asked about people in the pictures that sit atop the unit. After about 45 minutes, we moved to bed, and they went. It was a lot of fun, and we’ve repeated it every Sunday since. Week two, when the “Guy Noir” story started, they asked if “Mr. Wiggles” or the "Snake" were in this one, as he had been a prominent character the week before. I explained that it would be a new story, but was impressed with their recall.

They ask about it during the week, and when someone mentioned Sunday to the twins the other day, they replied, “That’s Grandpa’s Radio Day!” They’ve asked to hear it during the week too.
The kids never knew my Dad, and this activity has given me a chance to connect with him in some way. What’s cool for me, is that this has given me a chance to remember the times when the whole family would be centered around that radio, and those are times I remember fondly.

When I grew up, there always seemed to be music on, and that I believe helped me learn to love, appreciate and gain joy from it for my whole life. One of the things that was elementary to me when the kids were born, was that I wanted to do the same. They’ve been exposed to everything I can give them. My Mom played stuff for them. My sister has played stuff for them. And my kids have heard it all.

So, while they’ve been listening all their lives, it’s been fun to reconnect with Dad’s Silvertone now. It’s a beautiful piece visually, and has outlasted any radio that I’ve ever had. Giving my kids a regular chance to connect with the Grandfather they’ve never known through the music of his radio is as pleasant as it is to do so myself.

I don’t know how long it will last, but I’m going to enjoy it while it does. Thus far, it’s been really fun. And at least I get to hear some of “Prairie Home Companion.” And they get to bed on time too. Gotta check the rest of the week’s radio schedule…

Music and story are powerful mediums, especially when provided by a vintage, 1961 Sears Silvertone, with stereo and Integrated Circuits.

I’ve spent the morning writing this, and the kids have been really excellent. They’ve played nicely all morning, with of course, Daddy’s Ipod playing on shuffle mode. As I was proofreading this to publish, I let them watch one Thomas and Friends episode, during which they saw a Christmas tree. The boyo said, “We have a Christmas tree, but not until Sunday with Grandpa’s Radio.” I told him we could listen and see the tree some other times too, if he wanted to. And smiled and said, “Ok, Dad!”

Well said boyo. Ok, Dad. Enjoy the show.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Well, that's enough of that

Writing in general has always been something that I enjoy. My posting of yesterday not withstanding, I have found, for the most part, that the blog has been a positive experience for me, and has taken me in some interesting directions.

Last nights post was born of simple frustration, and I thank you all for your comments and feedback, both in public and in private. In addition to the blog, I have been working on a novel and some other projects. The blog does take a great deal of time to do, and I grew frustrated yesterday while working on it, realizing that I've neglected those other projects. As I was writing about our trip of last year, I suddenly felt like I was repeating myself, and where it would have been more professional to simply walk away and come back to it later, I instead put that frustration into the column, and published it. If you were offended by my tone, I apologize.

I considered deleting it, but have decided not to, as warts and all, it is reflective of what I was feeling in that moment. And, for better or worse, that's what this space was created for. I plan to keep writing here, and do hope you will keep reading.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One year in...shall I continue?

One year ago…

It was a rainy morning, and having been up seriously late the night before making sure everything was ready, the weather kind of matched my mood. My sleep during the last night in our old house was somewhat indicative of what the next month’s worth of sleeping would hold, though I didn’t know that at the time.

The gigantic van pulled up and we loaded the car seats and all the stuff we could muster on board, and we drove off to the Philadelphia Airport. It was an uneventful trip until my Mother-in-law phoned to let us know that we had not left her our house keys. She was at our home to oversee the pickup of all of out stuff…

And so we turned around. We gave the keys, and managed to make the plane on time, despite an overzealous security agent thinking that the boyo might have been hiding Al Queda in his “Incredibles” jacket.

And then we just carried on. The flight was a bit rough, and I’ve written about that in this space, and American Airlines made good on my complaints, so I’ll leave it there.

We landed, and the wife’s colleague met us at the airport, and we went to the McDonald’s drive thru, as there was no food on our flights…and then we went directly on to our temporary housing in Waikiki.

We spent the next 4 hours making the apartment, complete with its balcony, and two bedrooms, a kid proof home for our five person family.

It was a difficult transition, but we managed. I remember getting off the plane last year and feeling hot.

And beyond that, we adjusted. It’s been said in this space, and in all honesty, I am considering terminating this column.

The readership is not what I had hoped, and while I appreciate those of you who have read, I do not believe that this space will be greatly missed should it be terminated.

So, if you wish to hear more, please comment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

50th post: Thanksgivings on a year

This is my 50th post in this space.

I have gone through a great deal of changes in the past year. I left my career in education. I moved my family about as far away from New Jersey as you can go. I chose to be a stay at home parent. I moved way outside what was my comfort zone. It’s been quite an eventful year.

Reflecting on a year is a daunting task. A year ago today, I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for our family, while working with the wife to manage our impending move, and attending the PG/PHS Annual Football game, as was my responsibility as AD/AP of PGHS. It was my final official function. It was fun to do, and there are days that I miss that connection to the kids and their lives. That PG is in the State finals is wonderful, and I’m happy for the kids and school.

I received a nice send-off from the school and staff. While there are days I miss it, it seems very much like it was another life ago, or even like it was someone else’s life entirely. With a year under my belt now, I realize that my life has changed so much…no-that’s not it. I have changed. I feel like I could go back to that work, and that I could be good at it and feel rewarded by it. Maybe someday I will. I just don’t know that I want to.

I’ve lamented at times both in this space and elsewhere, about the transition to living here in Hawaii. It was a very difficult time when we first arrived-living in that windblown apartment in Waikiki was a mess: Five people living in a two bedroom apartment for a month was not good. But we managed.

Our first few months in our new house were challenging too. Many of our neighbors did not speak to us, and some still don’t. But we’ve made enough friends here that we make it work, and don’t feel as isolated as we did when we first arrived. I don’t get the “stink eye” anymore at the store, or about town. Seems like we are pretty much taken as residents in most cases now. We've come to some level of peace about being here. It's odd now to think back to the fact that I almost got into a fistfight in the Honolulu Library.

I still want a piece of that guy though...but that was another post.

As I look at it though, the biggest change for me has clearly been the life I now have with my children. I’m with them all the time, and although being a “stay at home dad” has proven to be far more of a challenge than I had initially anticipated, I now have the chance to have a relationship with them that I simply did not and would not have ever had the chance to have back home.

In light of that, I thought I would share some moments that I’ve had with them of late. These are moments that I know would never have happened in our life before.

-I took the kids to Chili’s for a birthday lunch last week. As you may know, I do a few shifts a week there as a server, and so they are very familiar with the cuisine and the people. We always get the Chips and Salsa, as everyone likes it. While we were there, the Boy picks up two chips and presses them together, handing them to me, saying, “Here Daddy-I know your favorite is when they stick together.” He’s right of course.

-Driving home from school the other day, the twins were talking about octagons and hexagons and pentagons, and the Little Bear, looking at a stop sign said, “Octagon Daddy!”

-All three of them just this morning took all of the cushions off of the couch, and put them one after another in a line. It was then a train, and they took turns moving from one cushion to the next calling out “chugga-chugga-choo-choo.”

-At the Zoo last week, the twins were able to discuss the fact that the Hippos are herbivores and the Komodo Dragon is a Carnivore. And of course, they reiterated the fact that a “Prehensile tail” means it can grab onto stuff.

-As we drove past the Ala Moana Mall last week, the kids all were pleased to see the Gigantic Santa atop the main building. When I said, “Hey kids, it’s Santa…” they replied… “No Daddy…it’s Santa CLAUS….” and I could actually hear the rolling of the eyes.

-I took the boy to the ER today. Bonked his head and ended up needed two stitches. No big whoop. But he was amazing in how he handled everything. He’s a very different kid when he’s flying solo. Until I had to hold him down so they could stitch him up, a privilege I’ve enjoyed with all three kids now, he and I were having a lot of fun just hanging out. He was pretty upset with me after he got stitched up, but a timely purchased bag of Oahu’s own “Famous Amos’ Chocolate Chip Cookies” from the vending machine managed to stave off a more dramatic tantrum. Mahalo Wally!

-All three of the kids have done great in their swimming lessons.

-They can name the members of the E Street Band.

-They know that Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Blues Traveler are all from New Jersey.

-I’ve learned that there is a whole world that operates outside the confines of the school calendar and clock. It’s really something to be at home with my kids at 9:30 am on a Wednesday and talk to them about what they want to do. I remember a time in my life when 9:30 am simply meant a change in classes.

-When I asked them today what they were thankful for, being Thanksgiving and all, I received the following litany of blessings: The Girl is thankful for Lights, stars, trees, her Pinky Dog, Mommy and her brother and sister, and for, as she said verbatim “I am thankful for everything, Daddy.” The Boy was thankful for many of the same, but also his Blue Doggie, Spider Man, and for his shadow. The Bear was too busy running back and forth and all over to reply in a serviceable manner.

What’s more, and this may be the point I’m somewhat driving at, is that I know my children now. I suppose I knew them back when I was working full time in some manner, but not in the way I do now. I don’t say any of this to say that one cannot be a good parent and still work-my wife manages it, so I know it’s possible. I just know that I was spending a great deal of my heart and soul in my work in education, and that there was no way I could have kept doing what I was doing and still have the connection to my children that I now enjoy.

I don’t know, honestly, how good of a stay-at-home parent I really am. There’s no annual review, no online quiz, no immediate feedback available. Who would have thought that I’d miss my annual evaluations…

My performance will be judged in many ways by the kind of kids they turn into, and that judgment is to be years in the making. I do hope though that the choices that I’ve made, to be with them, turn out well. I’ve seen way too many amazing things from my children to think that this was not the right thing for me. I hope that it turns out to be the right thing for them as well.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for reading. Feedback is always welcome.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mining the journals in celebration of a month of anniversaries

The little bear just turned two.

The twins turn four this week.

The wife has a birthday coming up. I’ll leave that one alone…

At the end of this month, it will be a year since I retired from education to become a stay at home parent.

Next month, it will be a year since we moved to Oahu, and a year since I started writing in this space.

I thought it might be interesting to revisit some things I’ve written in past journals, as they relate to the events that are upcoming.

Thinking back on the twins birth, it was a chilly day in South Jersey, where we were living, and in Philadelphia where they were born. Heidi had spent the night before in the hospital, and I went home to care for our dog, Gracie. The doctors told us they would likely induce in the morning.

So I went home for a bit, and woke up about 4am to drive back into Philly. The twins were born at 1:57 and 2:00 PM respectively. The following is from a journal I kept at the time, slightly edited for readability:

1:05 PM. Been here since about 5am. I spent a long time here last night and she spent the night. Her parents are now at our house.

The Ohio State vs. Michigan game is on-Touchdown Buckeyes just as I write this.

I know this is happening, and I’m excited, but I keep wondering how I’m going to feel when the babies come out. Wife’s been a trooper through this all. Thirty-seven weeks today, and what a journey this has been--a year ago we were struggling with getting pregnant, and today we are hours away from parenthood. What a dramatic turnaround.

I imagine the wife and I will feel different after they get here, but I wonder other things too-who will they be? What will they become? Will they like us? What kind of parents will we be?

I already know I love them, but who will Heidi and I become once they are here? Will we be good at teaching them about the world? Will they be happy?

The wife has been really something-she’s going to be a great mom-she’s worked so hard to get our world ready for them.

I’m still a little nervous about everyone’s health. Everyone says they are perfect, but I probably won’t feel totally OK until everyone is settled and OK. I know I tend to harbor a bit of fear about medical stuff, and this time is no different. It’s just who I am-as excited as I am, I am a bit nervous as well. Part of having lived the life I have I suppose.

These residents at the hospital are just so anxious to do stuff. It’s cute.

I’m excited, but I’ll feel better when they are here and they are OK and so is the wife.

The twins arrived shortly after I finished that last sentence. Upon reflection, there’s nothing ground-breaking there I know-typical first time parent jitters I suppose, but to think about who I was then, and who I am now gives me a great deal of pause. Just reflecting on the young man who sat in that chair makes me smile a bit, as he had no idea what was in for him.

That the twins will be four is incredibly exciting and somewhat humbling. For that much time to pass that fast is mind-boggling. It really might as well have been yesterday that I was falling asleep with my head precariously balanced on the top of their crib watching them sleep because I was afraid they might roll over and need help.

The wife and I were so nervous about them eating enough and pooping enough that we kept a daily flow chart to track these things.

I remember the first time I left the house with them in the stroller, I called the wife at work from the corner, a good 100 feet from our house saying, “I made it to the corner! Should I keep going?”

We were afraid of everything that first go-round, which I suppose is not that uncommon. It certainly set the stage for the Bear, who celebrated her second birthday this week, and had promptly decided that there are certain times of the day when it is unacceptable to wear pants.

Regardless of where we are…She’s benefited from our experience, in that we developed a clear “walk it off” policy just in time for her to start running into things. She’s learning new words every day, knows many of her colors, numbers and letters, and has decided that her favorite thing to do, outside of occasionally running full speed into random walls, is to give hugs, some of which get a running start.

I’m a big fan of this. The hugs I mean. The running into walls things is, um, well, it’s pretty damned funny. She likes to dance with her sister and plays nicely with the twins in a variety of ways.

In thinking about the end of my career, I revisited the journal that I kept during our house-hunting trip in October ‘07. Heidi and I stayed in Waikiki for a week looking for a home and setting up temporary housing for when we arrived in December. I write the following while sitting at the bar at “Da Big Kahuna Bar and Grill,” after a very pleasant conversation with a member of the United States Air Force, who happened to be from Philadelphia, of all places. This is again slightly edited for readability:

My career will take a hit, that’s without a doubt. But I don’t know what I want it any more anyway as although I’ve had loads of fun and I’ve been blessed to know a lot of great kids and people, I don’t know what I can point to any time where I was genuinely happy.

Just because I’ve had some success at something does not mean that I should do it. I suppose it’s possible that I’m not that good at it at all, but who’s to say?

I’d like to think my Dad would have been supportive of all this, but this month marks seventeen years since he died. I’ve spent as much time with him in my life as without him. I am not my Dad-not even a little. Did I go into education because of him? Was there somewhere else I was supposed to go?

I’ll never know what he would think-he never deviated from the Philly/New Jersey area his whole life. Don’t know that I can argue with that, except to say that we have made a new choice.
It was right at the Anniversary of his death that I wrote that, so I’m not surprised that I was thinking of him in the context of the move and my career. Truth be told, I don’t miss it anymore. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back.

In terms of becoming a stay-at-home dad, I pull again from the House-hunting trip journals, and share with you, gentle reader, this chestnut that I wrote while making a pilgrimage to “Don Ho’s Island Grill,” God rest his Groovy soul. The entry references a hike I did earlier that day at Diamondhead Crater.

I really got excited at Diamondhead, on the way down. I get to raise my kids! I get to take all the energy and focus and TIME that I’ve been giving to school after ungrateful school all these years and focus on our family. I get to be my kids’ teacher. I get to see them grow up and I am going to help them have a lot of fun doing it. All of my creativity can go into feeding and teaching and loving my family.

Now, we may get here and just not do well-I suppose it’s possible, but I think that as long as we are together, we will be alright. And, as I’ve said, unless we fall in love with life here, this, although beautiful, is temporary if we want it to be.

I’m really glad I found this section, as truth be told, I need to remind myself of the above-that we have a tremendous opportunity as a family to be together and it’s an opportunity I did not have when I was working. The wife’s job gave us the chance to come here, and one year later, though there have been bumps in the road, some of them pretty hefty (I may reflect on those bumps next month…stay tuned), I am glad we came here. I have worked harder than I ever have in my life as a stay-at-home parent. In all honesty, that surprised me. I knew it would be a challenge, but I was probably a little cavalier about it at the start.

And truth be told, I’ve occasionally fallen into some of the patterns that made life more difficult when I was working full time--too much caffeine, not enough sleep, taking on more than I can handle…Last July, I wrote a column about falling into the “Perilous Patterns” that lead to stress and anxiety and overwork, and the like. I’m still waiting on Brett Favre’s response to that one, by the way. I reference it here as a reminder to myself if nothing else to continue to reflect on the challenges and how one copes with them.

So here, on the cusp of all these birthdays and all these anniversaries, I need to remind myself of not only what I walked away from and why I was ready to do so, but also what I chose to walk towards, which is this family, in this place.

Guess that’s the funny thing about birthdays and anniversaries: they always seem to put it all back in focus on the things that mattered, because they have always mattered. And will do so year after year.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

But what will you do? Thoughts for the President-Elect, by way of Trinity Church, sorta.

Jean was a pillar of our church as I was growing up. She was the Lay Reader Emeritus, so to speak, and she was that because she was simply the best and cared the most about that particular ministry. She was an extraordinary woman who I was fortunate to know.

Earlier in her life, she had been a Broadway performer, and had worked with Ray Bolger, if memory serves. She later was married to a gentleman of significant means and influence. I once visited the New Jersey Governor’s mansion on a class trip, and saw a clock there, with a plaque saying it had been donated by her. That was wicked cool.

I know that she received regular correspondence from the Queen Mother. For real. I visited her home, and she shared it with me. Amazing penmanship that Queen Mother.

I’m thinking of her today, and I’m thinking very much of the last time that I saw her. My mother and I visited her in her home. She was elderly at this point, but my father had died, and she had adored him. She had not been well enough to attend his services.

My dad had been head acolyte at church, while she was in charge of Lay Readers, and he treated her with the deference that only my dad could. She thought he was “timeless” and I’ll never forget the way she said that when she described him.

I still think of Jean every Christmas, and Easter, and every other major holiday in the Church Calendar, as those were the events that Jean would read the lessons herself. The last Christmas my father had was one of our best: He was the Crucifer for the clergy, which meant he led them in carrying the cross. I was the Crucifer for the Choir, and at one moment, on Christmas Eve, after I had led the choir in, in front of a packed Midnight Mass audience, as the choir had been seated, and I was to step aside for the clergy to enter the sanctuary, it was just him and I, both dressed in full crucifer robes, which I’m happy to say were pretty kick-ass, standing in front of one another. I dipped my cross to him, and he dipped his back, and we were all business. We’d done it before, and we would do it again in the months before he got sick, but that moment on Christmas Eve stands out to me as a moment that he and I shared in a place and a time that will always matter to me. It was Christmas Eve 1989. It was the last one I would have with my dad, and it was a really amazing moment that he and I never spoke of.

And John played “Silent Night” on the bells in the tower, and it reminded us all of the fact that he had been doing it for years, including the December that he lost his youngest son a few weeks before Christmas. These were the things that mattered, and they mattered because we all shared in them.

And Jean read that night. She was the voice of that congregation, and to be honest, I listen for her in every Lay Reader that I am subjected to, and likely will continue to do so. She was a special lady, and I’ll leave it there, lest I get further a field of what I’m actually trying to talk about.

We went to visit Jean a few months after my Dad died. She was dressed to the nines-it was after New Years, so she had her Holiday Cards on the gigantic Grand Piano in her parlor. The cards included some from current President Bush, former President Reagan, the Queen, Her mother, and others, before she snapped at me to come over and talk to her.

I’d not had a lot of solo interaction with Jean, accept the one time I was a participant in the Passion reading around Easter, which she directed. As I recall, she asked that I “not speak as though I’m chewing marbles,” and “Say it five times MORE than you think you should say it.” So, as I sat with her, and my mother in her sitting room, which as I recall looked out on an expanse of trees and fields that I was not aware existed in central New Jersey. And we chatted for a while, and then, clearly having decided pleasantry was done, looked to my mother and said, regarding my father’s death:

“What Happened?”

I remember being surprised by the emotion that carried her words. She seemed genuinely upset. I was still just a kid, and still myself only a few months away from having just eulogized him in front of the congregation he so loved, as did Jean.

My mother explained that he had developed a cancer that turned out to not be treatable, and while he had fought it, he died. My mother seemed to know that a simple and direct answer was the way to go, and Jean listened, and then sat for what felt like to teenage-me an eternity. She looked away, off into the parlor of her home, and then nodded her head, as though she had processed and accepted the story for the first time, and yet projected a dignity that was palpable. She nodded again and then looked at me.

She titled her head at me. She was an older woman by this point, but you could tell that she had been even more beautiful in her day, and not just because of the myriad of photos of her with famous people that were copiously sprinkled throughout the house. I felt like her eyes were piercing me as she looked at me, the son of a man she genuinely respected through our church, and she narrowed her eyes, as though looking at me for the first time.

“And what about you then?” she asked. “What about you?”

As I remember that moment, I remember feeling caught off guard, but at the same time I felt some relief that someone had asked something about me and been direct about it, as opposed to talking about me as though I weren't in the room, which happened a lot back then. My initial response was not memorable…

“Um…well…” and that was my reply to this great woman…

“Um…oh dear. We know you are handsome dear…” she said, while she not only patted my arm gently, but also rolled her eyes, but only a little;

“But, I wonder what will you do?”

What will you do?

That meeting, which was the last time I saw her alive, has been in my mind a great deal of late, and was in my mind almost daily when I was working in education.

The answer I gave her, after a long stretch, was that I thought I might teach, or do music, or act or something, but that I was going to go to school and figure that out.

I remember telling her that my dad was a teacher, and that my mom and uncle and grandmother had taught, so that seemed like a good place to start, and she seemed pleased by that. I made a comment that I thought that, with “all that in my family history, maybe I could be good at it, or at something.”

She listened and nodded again, and then looked me dead in the eye, and said;

“See that you do, young man. See that you do.”

While there was some chitchat, that was essentially the end of our meeting.

I’ve tried to do what she told me, and truth me told, I can’t think of her without thinking of that last Christmas Eve with my Dad.

Between my time in public and private education, I honestly feel like I’ve done some good work. I’ve had some amazing students. I’ve had students who’ve disappointed me, and some who’ve shocked me with their creativity. I’ve had some that I know I’ve reached, and others that I knew would never get what I was telling them. I’ve taught some lessons that were fun, and others that were absolutely horrendous to participate in. I’ve had some students who have died in service of this country. And I’ve helped memorialize them. I’ve been hailed both publicly and privately as the best thing to ever happen to the students of X,Y and Z. And, I’ve been told I’m useless as well. So it goes, as Uncle Kurt would say…

But at the end of all of this, I’m doing something different now. And there have been times that I have wondered what my dad and Jean would think of it.

What I do now, put real simple is: I raise my kids and try to create a positive environment for my family. When I get free time I write on this blog, and when I get more free time I work on a novel and I work on a children’s picture-story book; in addition, I serve as “Class Mom” to my kids Pre-school, and I clean the house. A work a few shifts a week at a restaurant/bar, as much to get out of the house as for what it brings in. I am now a “stay at home dad” but I don’t stay at home…I make it go. My kids know what “Prehensile” means…And I’m damned proud of it.

I think of this as I look at our latest Presidential election. Barack Obama is our President-Elect. I voted for him. I am glad he was elected.

But I am not a nineteen year-old kid, cheering on Clinton while in college. I supported him mightily and worked on that campaign. I remember screaming out my dorm window when the election returns came in. I thought he was to be it-the start of a new American Idealism.

And while there was good from that administration, I will admit, it did not live up to what I had hoped. The years since have not been politically pleasant for me either. But I’ll gloss that over like a Clarence Clemmons Saxophone solo, to groove back into my actual point…

Barack Obama becomes President at a time where, in my opinion, our nation is at a crossroads both domestically and internationally. The world at large, as I see it has been waiting this one out. They want an American Nation that will engage the rest of the world. People way smarter than I are comparing the crisis of these times to those facing the nation when Lincoln and FDR were elected. That’s pretty heady stuff.

Watching the returns come in, and seeing the crowds gathering in cities all over the world, and their excitement has been inspiring. I can’t recall ever seeing that type of excitement outside of a Philadelphia Phillies World Championship Parade.

Yeah, I had to toss that Phils reference in.

My hope, and I have no reason not to do so, other than a natural East-coast born penchant for expectant failure, is that Obama will be who he says he is. He was born here in Hawaii, not 15 miles from where I write this now. He says a lot about hope and change, and he is seen here very much as a man who has been shaped by the Hawaiian culture. I mean that as a complement.

I believe in hope, and I believe in change, especially after the last eight years of the current administration. I still can’t believe that the nation was ever in a place that they elected that guy twice…but…I digress.

This is not a column about politics. This is a column about Hope. Obama has spoken about it a great deal. So, I ask of him, the President-Elect, the same question that Jean asked me all those years ago, “What will you do?”

You have ascended to the office. You have a majority in Congress. You have called on America to serve and sacrifice. They have listened.

So-What will you do?

I hope it is good. The World will be watching.

As they say here on Oahu, Maika’i pomaika’i, Mr. President-Elect.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Math that Matters.

This will likely be my last sports-related column for a while. But, I had to write it. I will get back to talking about the family and the kids soon, and in fact have a column that is halfway completed regarding the kids and their recent independent-streak…stay tuned.

As you may have heard, my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, are, as Harry Kalas would say, the World Champions, of baseball. I’ve followed this team a long time, and have written about sports in this space before. Here are some of my thoughts of late. Thank you as always for your indulgence…

The way that I spoke to my father in many ways was through sports. The hard part was that for the most part, during our time together, our teams, on a regrettable and consistent manner, sucked ass.

While I remember the Phillies 1980 World Series win very well, I was more interested in the Sixers in 1983 than Dad was. It was not something we shared.

What remained was a double decade of awfulness. Dad died in 1990. While I know he would have loved, as I did, the 93 Phillies, I’ve written here more than once about that season.

Over those years, the Eagles, and Flyers, and even the Sixers, though I never cared for the Iverson teams… they all gave us a few potential title runs, and came close, I only now realize that this Phillies championship is what would have made my dad the happiest of all.

Dad was a ballplayer. He taught me the game, and that was the game I played growing up. I wasn’t given the chance to play football, but in addition to swimming, I was allowed to play baseball. He taught me a few pitches, and I made them work while I still played. If I could have hit a curve ball, perhaps I would have played longer. But, once they started throwing those, I knew it was time to focus on swimming and music.

While I was old enough to care, the Eagles and Phillies were both horrible, and then we had the Buddy Ryan years. I don’t remember Dad being overly interested, not in the manner in which I was, and by that, I mean that manner in which I got into fights with the front running-fair-weather-cockroach Dallas fans, or on occasion the Giants fans. Like many young sports fans, I learned how to calculate a batting average long before I understood Algebra. It may have kept me from honor roll a few times, but it mattered far more to me that I could understand ERA and Yards per carry, so I could read football and baseball box scores than it mattered that I understood the “order of Operations” and PEMDAS. There was math that mattered to my life, and well, then there was Algebra.

The math that mattered was far more interesting. Still is.

I remember my dad telling me once that his mom kept scorebooks on the Phillies. Reams of them. I started doing it too, but regrettably, I was keeping score during the forgettable Lance Parrish and Dickie Thon years of Phillies baseball. Those were lean, lean years, and my interest in that pursuit waned a bit.

But Dad loved baseball. He would watch the World Series every year, even if he didn’t care much about either team. As the Phillies were so bad during the late 1980’s, my interest waned, but he always seemed to find a way to get my sister and I to watch some of the series. So I remember the Earthquake during the 1989 Oakland-San Francisco series. I remember the Kirk Gibson Home Run in Game one of the 1988 Dodgers vs. Athletics series. I remember Dad was happy that the Dodgers won, as I think he still begrudged the A’s for leaving Philadelphia. Can’t blame him. I remember the 86 Mets-Red Sox series really well, and I remember him telling me not to go to bed yet…it wasn’t over, and then the ball went through Buckner’s legs, and the Mets won. I didn’t much care for the Mets, and I thoroughly hate them now…but at the time, I knew it was a pretty major moment.

My interest dropped a bit after he died. Whereas he and I and my sister could make even a Von “Five for one” Hayes Phillies team interesting, removing him from that equation, and her as well after she moved out, made for a somewhat less engaging experience. I figure, subtract my family, and any semblance of decent play or a chance to win, and that math added up to me paying attention to other things. The Phils were just awful in those years. And, there was music to learn to dance badly to, Star Trek to watch, girls to flirt with and be rejected by and bad jokes to tell over and over.

But, going into 1993, when reading the Trenton Times, noteably Mark Eckel, and the paper's coverage of the team and it’s new acquisitions, and their personalities, I got hooked all over again. I went to a lot of games that year, and it was a wild ride that I’ve written of here before. While I’d always cared, that team brought the joy of the game back to me.

But now, after 28 years, the Phillies won a World Championship. I think Dad would have been most happy about this. More so than the Flyers two Stanley cups in the 70’s. More so than the 1980 series win. More so than the…well, the Eagles have their own road to travel there, but as they last won an NFL Championship in 1960, and have never won a Super Bowl, they seem like the odd one out here… But overall, I think Dad would have liked this won most of all, as it was of course a fun season, but my sister and I are both old enough, and have truly demonstrated symptoms of the disease that is Philly Sports Fever. I think we could have shared this one in a really fun way. Factor in the addition of my unwitting children to this equation, and one is left with a very satisfying result, were Dad around to enjoy it.

So, what’s odd about this experience for me, is that while I am certifiably excited and happy that the Championship drought of 25 years is over, I’m finding myself feeling two distinct things:

The first is relief. I got way too geeked up for some of these games, to the point that if they had lost, I very likely would have caused great harm to the walls of my home. Just being honest. The d├ęcor is intact.

The second though, is an even deeper desire than I had before for my teams to win. I thought I would feel satisfaction, but now that I’ve tasted it…I want more. More….More. I’m not satisfied. I want the teams to care as much as the fans do. I want more parades. I don't want to see teams let up, now that the "curse" is over.

My kids are now, as I’ve taught them, referring to the Phils as the “World Champion Phillies.” My daughter is in love with the Phanatic. My son wants to watch Hockey, but loved the series, and as the final outs were recorded, I held on to whichever one happened to get close enough for me to hug, in turn. I don’t know that they’ll remember it, but I’ll see that they hear about it. Over and over again. They are part of the Math now.

The twins will be four next month, and the Bear will be two. They’ve lived to experience one Eagles Super Bowl (loss), and a Phillies world championship. That’s two chances for a World Championship and one title in just under four years.

By the time I was four, I had lived through the following: two Flyers Stanley Cup wins in three consecutive trips to the NHL finals; The Sixers went to the NBA Finals one time and lost to Portland. That’s four chances and two titles in the first four years of my life.

I for one, hope that the twins averages hold or improve, as mine did neither: the next 30 some years of my life yielded only a Sixers title, and now a second Phillies title.

I want this to be the start of something great, rather than the start of another 28 year wait.

Here's hoping the Math adds up.

Until the next one. Hope I can make that Parade. Go Philly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Being a Philadelphia sports fan is very much like living through a Russian novel.

People who know nothing of fact make a lot of comments about the “city of Brotherly love” Often, such comments are limited to ignorant sports commentators। But now and then, the “Philadelphia attitude” becomes newsworthy.

And it has in some ways this week। And I don’t know where to start।

OK-that’s not true। I’d be an even worse writer than I am if I sat down to plunk away at this without any idea what I wanted to say…

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin dropped the puck at the opening game for my beloved Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week। They lost। She received what I would call a ‘respectful boo” though it was by no means overwhelming. She was received as well as one would hope from a crowd in south Philly that was very likely divided almost down the middle politically. But that has not stopped the media, in their ‘wisdom’ from taking the chance to beat up on the Philly fans. I saw one “reporter” say, “They booed Santa-how will Sarah Palin fare?” Again with this nonsense…

Ohhhh…they booed Santa Claus…।know what? Damn right they did. They booed the hell out of that guy, but do any of you know why?

It was Halftime of a game against the Minnesota Vikings, December 15, 1968. The fans who were not utilizing the time to get more beer or use the facilities, and were actually watching the halftime show, heartily booed a young man in a Santa Claus suit, who had been enlisted from the stands, due to the fact that the guy scheduled to appear as Santa had been snowed in down in Wildwood, of all places.

They pelted him with snowballs, and they booed him heartily…because he made an ass of himself. As my friends from Boston might say, “that guy was wicked hammered...”

The guy embarrassed himself. And he was rightly booed. The fact that sports reporters cling to it even today, nearly 30 years later strikes me as pure laziness. Yeah, cheering Michael Irvin when he got hurt was a little wrong, but that guy tore us up for years. I, for one never threw a battery at J.D. Drew, nor did I throw a snowball at Jimmy Johnson, though I know some who did. Overall, the Flyer’s fans did what they do-expressed their opinion: some booed. Some stood and cheered. And then it was done. Regrettably they lost, as they have all three of their games to start this season, which I assure you, gentle reader, is all that mattered to the fans when the horn sounded.

Philly fans are passionate, they are interactive with the product, they do their homework, and in general, live and breathe the ups and downs of their teams. That said, they probably care more about winning than the owners do, and that has led to generations of disappointment. Many are convinced that the jersey they wear or the bar stool they inhabit makes a genuine difference in whether or not the team wins. I once saw at guy in a bar sent to his car by his buddies to change his shirt after a particularly bad first quarter for the Eagles. He did as he was ordered without argument. I’ve done the mid-game jersey switch myself, as recently as this past Sunday when the Eagles were lucky to get past a pretty weak 49ers team…I’m not proud, but nor am I apologetic. As Pennsylvania native DJ Wiz Khalifa sings, “It’s all in the blood…” But I digress.

Being a Philadelphia sports fan is very much like living through a Russian novel. There are ups and downs, and inexplicable turns of fate. There are characters that come from nowhere and make a demonstrative difference, and there are plotlines that start months away, and culminate 562 pages in in a manner that makes the reader jump out of their seat. And the denouement is so spectacularly tragic, that, while you were glad to have been there to see it, you know you will walk away viscerally changed. Even if you arrive at the conclusion you’d hoped for, you may feel challenged by how you got there. Nothing insignificant ever happens. It all ends up mattering somehow, and the result is usually somewhat melancholy.

In my life, I remember the Phillies 1980 World Series win. To date, it is the only championship for the franchise.

I remember the Sixers 1983 title win, and Moses, and Doc, and Mo Cheeks. I was really into basketball in those years, but I didn’t get to see many of those games on TV. But I loved Moses and Doc. We used to fight on the playground about who got to be Doctor J during our pickup games.

And that was the last championship. I’ve talked about the 93 Phillies here and about the Eagles Super Bowl teams. The Flyers have had their chances, and I’ve written of them in this space too.
I watched the Eagles play in the Super Bowl with my sister back at Ott’s in South Jersey, and up until they lost, it was one of the best nights I’ve had.

I know where I was when Joe Carter hit his homerun and sent Lenny Dykstra, who would have been MVP of that series but for one pitch, into his own version of Philadelphia lore. I was sitting in my dorm room in Ohio, and my girlfriend, who later turned into the wife later on, was dressed to the nines. It was the Fall Formal Dance, and if memory serves, the Artie Shaw Orchestra was playing. Still went to the dance, but Artie’s music never sounded worse.

I’d gone to at least 20 games that summer. I listened to Harry Kalas on the radio on a daily basis. All of those games…I was there for them all, even the one that ended at like 4am and was won by Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams making the game-winning hit, while, as I recall, his Dad was sleeping in Mitch’s Truck. I remember all that, and I remember the names of every player and knew every story. I even got to meet Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn. Well, I accidentally bumped into him, but it was cool. '93 was a fun season, and I don’t think I remember it any less fondly because they lost in the series. Be nice to know what it feels like to have a championship though.

Philly sports fans are a different breed to be sure. I’ve witnessed fights in the 700 level of the Vet, and in the parking lot. I’ve seen a grown man dressed up as “Baby New Year,” diaper and all during a cold winter Eagles playoff game. One time, in the restroom, I saw a guy look at the long line for the urinal and just shrugged his shoulders, and took a leak in the sink. Washed his hands there too.

But, we are nothing if not loyal, and perhaps to a fault. I’ve been very frustrated with my teams, and more than once, I’ve said to myself, there’s GOT to be more to life than this! I’ve tried turning off games that are going poorly-like this weekend’s Eagles and Phils and Flyers games. I try to say that I don’t care, and I say I don’t need to watch. I try to act as though it’s really not important, and that I don’t need to see it all unfold. I can walk away, turn away, is what I tell myself.

But I’m a liar. I always end up turning the game back on, and sometimes, like this weekend, I’m rewarded with the Eagles pulling it out. And sometimes, it goes from bad to worse. I still end up feeling mad, and saying I’ve got to find other things to do with my time and emotional energy, but I can’t stop. I’m hooked. It’s in the blood.

And what’s worse, I’m teaching this to my children. I have passed it on, and while they are all under four years old at this writing, I am passing it on to them. They will toil with me, and while they don’t yet understand what they are in for, I’m comforted by the fact that at least I can pass this affliction on to others. If I do a good job, at least I’ll have the opportunity to suffer with my children.

But in the meantime, the media needs to come up with some new ammunition. The Santa Claus thing is old news, and almost everyone who references it doesn’t know a thing about that day, nor do they understand the people they are lambasting. So, go do some homework. Pure laziness. Do Philadephia fans boo? Yep. Do they boo and cheer sometimes in the same minute. Yep. We cheer what’s good and boo what’s not. Deal with it.

Whether they like it or not, I am actively indoctrinating my children with this mania that more often than not brings me more heartache than joy. At least so far, but I mean, I never had a choice, why should they?

And maybe, one day, they’ll know what it’s like to celebrate a championship. Maybe I will too. I mean, I was 10 last time.

It’s all in the blood, and that doesn’t change.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

This is what I do now. And my kids are cool.

My kids rule. I’ve always thought that, and have always felt that, even in the time in their lives when I wasn’t spending as much time with them as I am now.

I’ve made some critical comments about living in Hawaii since we’ve come here, and while it has been an interesting challenge living here at times, I want to make clear that this move was made for a variety of reasons; the wife’s career may have been the genesis, but it was not the only factor. The move here gave me a chance to walk away from the Educational industry that, to be honest, was continuing to disappoint me. In addition, it gave me a chance to focus on the only job
I’ve ever wanted to be good at-parent. Our family has time together now, and I am spending more time with my kids than ever, and it is truly time that I will never get back, so I am glad to have it. It is also, quite simply time that I would never have been able to have with them back in Jersey, things being as they were. The move here made this possible, and I am grateful for it.

And I always will be, and for a great many reasons. However this all will play out in the coming years, the move to Oahu was the right one for us as a family. Period.

It was just a year ago that the wife and I came over here to look for a home. This December it will have been a year that we’ve lived here. It’s somewhat hard to recall that it has truly been that short of a time, as life in this place has very much been intense in a way that I did not expect.

There are times that the distance from friends and family is difficult in a palpable manner. There are times that time difference alone feels absurd. Having to get up at 7am to see my beloved Eagles play on a Sunday is simply an exercise in ridiculousness. Of course, I’ll do it, but while it may be 7am, my heart is telling me ‘hot cider, chili, wings, Yuengling, and a relaxing Sunday afternoon,’ while my clock is telling me, um, ‘good morning.’ One might see this as trivial, but then, if you do, you are clearly not a Philadelphia sports fan. Or perhaps not a sports fan at all, as I imagine that the “bandwagon-jumping-on-and-off” Dallas fans might have a similar reaction, but only if their team was good that year. They hide like the Mongooses of Hawaii when their team is bad. But, I digress. Cowboys suck by the way.

There are times, that, as unsavory as it is for me to say after the joy with which I walked away from my professional life, that I miss aspects of that life. I did good work then, and I got a lot of satisfaction from the connections that I had with the staff, and with parents and colleagues, but mostly with the kids. Truthfully, there are days, if I’m honest, that I feel some guilt for leaving behind some of the students that I had worked with and for. But they have moved on, and I hope they have done well.

In the end, I could have kept on at all that, but I had the chance to do something else, and I took it. And that something else was my kids.

And, man, they are really something these days. The stuff that they come up with is great, and every day they are giving me something new. Sometimes, I don’t know how I can keep up with their minds and imaginations.

The little bear has entered the ‘I’m learning 10 new words a day now Daddy, so you’ve got to keep up with what I’m asking you, if you don’t mind’ phase. It’s been a real whirlwind. She knows what she’s saying, and means it quite vehemently, and pity on me if I don’t get it right away. Fortunately, she has her older brother and sister to help me get it, which they did very nicely the other day as we were getting ready for bed.

The bear was very clearly saying to me, “Do-da shoo!” and I thought, no, honestly, I had no bloody idea what she was talking about. I tried every stuffed animal in her room, and books, and non of it seemed to make any difference, so I just said to her, all of 22 months that she is, “Bear…I don’t know what you are asking for.”

And so, the Girl, who had been in the room with us, with her “I’m almost four years old-AND, I’m 3 minutes older than my twin brother” senior analysis offered the following:

“Daddy…she wants her Dora shoes.”

There was no physical eye roll, but I felt it deep within. It was all so simple to the Big Sister.

The aforementioned shoes were collected from the next room, and placed where they apparently were supposed to go during nighttime, and the Bear was quite happy. Not so happy that she went to bed in her new “big kid bed” without hollering, but we’ve rather covered that here. It was a big help.

The Girl, in addition to providing insight on her sister, has taken to providing her collection of stuffed animals with their own “big kids” beds since she is now in one. As I have put her to bed over the last few evenings, what I have seen is truly a remarkable achievement in event planning and nocturnal research. Those “Sleep Number” people ought to take notice. The arrangements included the following:

-Panda Bear had her bed on the little chair, with a small book as her pillow. The night before, Panda Bear slept on the floor near the closet, with the little beach rug as her blanket.

-Dinosaur had her bed in her suitcase.

-Tubby the Hippo had a very cozy bed in the Tinkerbell shoebox with Pinky-Dog’s blankie. This was a very nice concession of Pinky to share, which is of course in her nature. Pinky was the first and is still the favorite.

-Happy Bear slept on the other little chair, and had one of the Girl’s drawings as a blanket. Oh, the power of art…

-Pajama Bear and Pinky both had cozy spots in the big Princess box.

-Koala Bear was on a lovely shelf in the bookcase, not far from Pinky, and Pajama Bear.

It was meticulous the manner in which she had laid them all out. Every animal had a spot, and was cared for. She’d read books to them, and tucked them all in, and made sure they were comfy.

And then she went to bed. I’ve checked on her the last few nights just to see where everyone was, and man, the meticulous manner with which she’s made this whole thing happen is impressive. It’s the kind of thing I probably would have missed seeing, but would have heard about later maybe back when I was in Jersey.

The Boy on the other hand has always been meticulous. His toys, and particularly his animals are usually pretty organized, although it rarely looks like it. He is particular in the way that he’ll line up his toys, and books. This is not to say that he won’t simply make a mess just to make one…all of them excel at that, which I find encouraging. He will be quite content to line up his trains, or his cars, and spend hours having them interact. He’s really very fun that way.

The Boy of late, much to my great delight, has become interested in Dinosaurs. In particular, he’s popped on two book that my parents gave me when I was a kid, and was interested in Dinosaurs. He can identify a Tyrannosaur, and Oviraptor, which he knows means, “Egg Stealer,” as does his sister. He likes the Stegosaurus, and knows that it is a plant eater. He also likes the Triceratops, with its three horns. He says it looks like the Rhinoceros form the Zoo, but with more horns. He can also identify the Diplodocus, and the Brachiosaurus, both of whom eat plants.
And, all of my kids, including the Bear, know what “prehensile” means. That may seem a small thing, but to me, right now, and the fact that I was able to spend that time with them in the reptile house at the Honolulu Zoo explaining it to them, and the fact that they remember it verbatim after repeated visits matters to me.

All of my kids, can sing the Philadelphia Eagles fight song. It was their first lullaby, so I would expect no less.

The twins can name the members of the E. Street Band. We are working on Bon Jovi, but they know that they are from Sayreville.

They are great, and they are doing new things every day, and I’m here to see it, and that, my friends, is cool. No matter what else this time in Hawaii may turn out to be, the fact that I’m here living this life with my family is pretty damned cool, and that is really the state of things.

Yeah-it's hard sometimes. I've forced myself to count to ten, and I've walked into the garage and forced myself to breathe...it's not an easy job.

But it's the only one I need to be good at. I'm not where I thought I'd be, but I'm exactly where I'm called to be, and that, despite the challenges, is truly satisfying.

Plus, the prehensile thing is pretty impressive isn't it?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My day at the beach.

We don’t go to the beach all that much, although it’s really only just down the street from our house. And it’s Hawaii. It’s odd, as we were very excited about being this close to the ocean, and truth be told, we’ve been there less than ten times since we arrived last December. The same sort of thing happened when we lived in Wildwood.

But, I like to go the beach down the street, that most would consider a “local” beach, and I have in fact been told by some that I should be careful going there as being a “Haole,” I might not be welcome. But that has not been the case to date. I have had no problems at this beach, and have gotten more work done there than anywhere else on the island.

In case you are wondering…“Haole” is a word that the locals use to describe that which is not native, or in its indigenous definition means “outsider.” Typically, it is used to refer to Caucasians, and it is not seen by most as a derisive term. Not every Haole likes it, but so it goes.

When I get a break from things at home, and am able to leave the house by myself to write, I go down to the beach, and I park the car, and I sit in the lot that is 30 yards from the water, and I work. I have always been productive there, and as the beach plays a role in the novel, it has always seemed like the right place to go. It is quiet, and despite my Haole-ness, no one has ever once bothered me. Most people there are surfing, or gathering among themselves.

So I went there today to write, the wife giving me a break in gracious fashion, and I made a real breakthrough on a chapter that I’ve been hung up on for some time. I was doing some productive work, and then it was time to go. So, I backed out and was set to head home, but I noticed that the higher ridge was empty. There’s an area right on the shore that is always occupied, and no one was there tonight, so I figured I’d drive through and check the view.

So I did. Driving the Honda Odyssey. You will note of course that, the Odyssey is not a sport utility vehicle. This would have been a truly delightful realization for me to have had before. I got stuck that is. I had driven only forty some feet when I knew I had made a huge mistake.

The Minivan was stuck in the sand. I thought perhaps I could back out of it, and much to my chagrin, I was no longer driving my beloved Subaru Outback…I was driving a Mini Van. And I was stuck.

So, I tried to dig out. There was no one anywhere near me at the time, so I figured I could just dig out and be gone.

I was wrong and it was clear that I was in a situation similar to the one that the wife and I found ourselves in back during our honeymoon in Ireland, so....

Using the Patented “Way-Back” Machine, I’ll share this one:
The back passenger tire or our small and economical rental car, which we picked up at the Shannon Airport, blew a tire in the middle of the Irish countryside, and then the cheap-ass jack from the rental car broke as I was trying to fix it. I looked to the left…grass and sheep. I looked to the right, grass and sheep. The occasional tour bus blew by us, and more than one sheep bleeted at me in what I would translate to be an unpleasant manner.

And then there was nothing. For quite some time, we were alone in the Irish countryside, with nothing save my own irritation and the dulcet sounds of the radio, which for some reason was playing “I Want it that Way” by the Backstreet Boys, and “That Don’t Impress me Much” by Shania Twain thrice an hour, while they played local bands like Travis, and Robbie Williams, who’s music did much more for me, far less, but consistently. I digress, but I still think Travis is a good band.

Long was it that we sat there by the side of that road with no one to call. My Irish family was a good 250 miles away, and we’d not yet met them.

So, we sat, for a long time. Then an older man pulled up in a Ford Pickup, a Step-side, which I remember driving when I worked at the Monmouth Battlefield Park. It was at the time an odd remembrance, but as we were potentially late for our check-in at out first honeymoon suite, I welcomed his slow-down.

He got out of his truck and walked to me, asking me, what I assume was “Do you need help?” in perfect Gaelic, which I speak less of now than I did then. After several moments of confusing conversation, it became clear that he could understand me, but I could not do the same for him. I was embarrassed, but felt better when he smiled and pulled a gigantic Jack-lift out of the bed of his truck. I didn’t see jacks like this when I worked with the Garbage truck or the postal service, so I knew this man could help me.

And he did. Long story less long, he helped me change the tire out, and the wife and I were on our way, which is another story entirely.

But, this man, that I could not even thank properly had stopped and helped me, just because he could. I’ve never forgotten that, and I think of him now and then.

Honestly, I think of him a lot of late. There is a bumper sticker that is very popular here in Hawaii. I saw it for the first time while I was sitting at Don Ho’s Island Grill, and we were looking for a house here back in October. It was plastered to the bar, so I asked the bartender about it, as all it said was “Eddie Would Go.”

It turns out that those three words carried an awful lot of weight here in Hawaii. They refer to a man named Eddie Aikau, who’s amazing life I could not do justice in this space (though you can read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Aikau )

The short version, is that Eddie is a legend here as both a lifeguard on the North Shore and as a surfer. As a lifeguard on the perilous North Shore, he became known as the guy who would go to help someone when no one else would. He died as part of an expedition seeking to recreate the migratory route between Hawaii and Tahitian Islands via double-hulled canoes. When one of the vessels began to leak, Eddie volunteered to go-to use his surfboard to paddle towards the Island of Lanai.

He was never seen again, but his spirit of selflessness is something that is celebrated here very openly. And why shouldn’t it be? I think that at our best most of us hope to be strong enough to sacrifice for others, and selfless enough to at the very least, help others from time to time.
So, my man in Ireland, and Eddie Aikau were in my mind this evening as I was inexorably stuck in the sand at the beach because I am a dumbass and got the Mini Van stuck in the sand.
And as I start digging, I’m still hoping, like that high school kid who has broken something in his parents home that he knows he can’t fix, but yet he tries, over and over.

I knew right away that I would not get out of this pit without help. The van is only front-wheel drive, and I had buried them both in pretty good. That didn’t stop me from trying, nor did it stop me from telling the wife that she did not need to call our friends to come out and help me.
That was selfish on my part, but as I look back on it, the idea of having my wife call one of our friends to have the husband of that couple come out to bail out my dumbass, was waaaay in my mind to try to avoid. I’m already a stay-at-home dad to them…

So, I told her I was working on it. And I was, as I lolled about in the sand, trying to give the wheels some kind of traction.

It didn’t work. Other people started

to show up at the beach. Most of them laughed at me, unrepentantly. There I was, chest deep in sand, digging out my car. A lot of locals slowed down to laugh at me. A group parked near me, within fifteen feet, and set up their luau right next me.

They were all women, one of whom turned out to be pregnant, but they spent the next half hour mocking me tremendously.

And so I dug. And dug. And Failed. I was going to need help, and I thought about my Irish friend, and about Eddie in that moment, as I also thought about my earlier column about the NJ Attitude vs. the Aloha Spirit. In my mind, if I'm being honest, I started thinking about how the "Aloha Spirit" was dead. I've been missing Jersey anyway...so it fit my mindset.

I had a lot of time to dig. I covered a lot of ground. The ladies next door had a great time watching me. Several cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters. And bicycles, wove their way past me without a word. A lot of them laughed once they got a loot at me.
And then, I heard a truck stop, and a young man and his Dad stepped out.

“Do you need help, yeah?” he asked.

Screw Pride-I was fracked, so I said, “yeah, I really do.”
And so it went that I met Keith and Jesse. Father and son. I still don’t know what they were doing on this beach at this time, but they were there, and after they helped me, they went home, without staying.

So I’m not sure why they were there. They asked me if I had rope, which regrettably I did not. Clearly not my only shortcoming today, so then they drove back to their home, to get rope.
I started to dig again as they drove off, and the kid called out, “We’ll be back, yeah.”
I was hopeful that they would return, but not sure. At that point I did not know their names, nor did I know anything about them. It turns out, as they did return, that Jesse’s dad, a union man according to his bumper sticker, had gotten stuck similarly a while back.
And so they stopped. They helped. They got rope and came back and I tied the car up and with their help, and the help of the Marine and his brother that showed up at the moment of the last push, the van was free.

Once the van was free, I got to talk with them, and Keith and his son Jesse, in that moment were very much akin to the man in Ireland, and to Eddie, at least in my estimation.
While people were driving by, and laughing at my Haole-self trying in vain to dig myself out of a dummass jam, there was help on the way.

In all honestly, I was driving deep into my own cynicism before they stopped to help. I was waiting to be disappointed and was writing a blog in my head about how the Aloha Spirit is dead.
And then, Keith and Jesse stopped the truck.

Once I was out they asked what I was doing there, and I told them that I came here to write.
The kid asked what kind of things I wrote, and I told him I was working on a novel, and that I’d include them in it. He seemed to pop on that, and I think that all things considered, I won't have a genuine problem honoring that.

It’s just too a good a story to have been an accident.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Making the Beds; Philly’s “The Hooters;” and “What Stacy had written”

Auspicious start, I know.

If you happened to read my last column, you’ll know that we’ve been on quite a ride here on Oahu, with the Bear-who-wants-to-be-a-big-kid-so-darn-bad, and the twins regular levels of transition times two.

So, as we discussed, the bear is out of the crib. Dramatically. The last few nights have been on the rough side for her, (and us) as her ‘lil mattress has been stuck on the floor while we figured out what we wanted to do after she began spelunking from her earlier digs.

And again, another transition pushed forward, or course, not on our time but on theirs. As it should be, but the heart readies itself for things in its own time too. Mine wasn’t quite. And so they grow…

A bold move we made today, but not without setting the table-this time anyway. The wife, ever the smart one in this equation, started in with the twins about moving to their own “real big kid” beds in the last few days. The wife was also the one who thought it wise to have the government move these beds that no one was using at the time from Jersey to Oahu in the first place, I imagine, nay, have been told, for just such an occasion.

Pardon me for marrying up.

So, the twins popped on the idea. And off to the races we went.

The girl got a nice headboard from her Great-Grandma’s house that her Aunt used to use when she visited upstate New York as a kid. It had been saved “for her,” and she liked that. When one is a twin, such things matter.

The Boyo got his Daddy’s old headboard and footer, complete with sideboards and all the accoutrements. It was the only bed that I ever remember in my room at my parents’ from the age of whenever I started remembering until I moved out, and then it was saved, and I brought it here.

As I put it together, I could remember a lot of moments, like when I was sick as a kid, and the cat would come and sleep at the top of the bed, where there are little cubbies in the headboard, and he would slink in and out of them until he was comfortable, and nuzzling my head. I remember the first time the bed was moved from the wall perpendicular to the window to the wall parallel to the window. It was traumatic, and no further attempts were made to move it again. But it was better after the move. Eventually.

I remember a period when, for some reason, I slept very badly in my early teens, and kept waking up in-between the wall and the bed. Those side runners really earned their keep…I never hit the floor.

As with most young people growing up, my room was my sanctuary, and having no other furniture of note, that bed was my throne. I wrote the Eulogy to my Father while sitting on this bed, often looking out the window, that day, as I talked to friends who tried to say the right thing and I loved them for it.

I wrote my first song sitting on that bed, the lyrics of which I shall not be sharing in this space, on a crapulent guitar I found in the back of the prop room at school, and paid the teacher $5 to take home, with a promise of another $5 the next day. Still owe for that, but it was never brought up again. To me then, sitting on that bed, with that horrendous guitar, it opened a world up to me that meant a whole lot down the line. I played that one until I got to college, and then bought another, and then another, and it was a part of my life, and each time I went home, I played them all from the same spot, on the same bed. And a lot of songs were written there. And, though there have been no real genuine calls for a new album…there were a lot of great nights, playing music, in front of fun people, that all started, playing that $5 but I owe $5 guitar.
A young lady I went to high school with wrote a great poem in one of our yearbooks that I have remembered to this day. It was about “her room.” I could go upstairs and read it verbatim and wax poetic, but I remember her using the motif of the room starting as a girls room, and later becoming that of a young woman…and my oldest girl is all about the Princesses and such now, and that is her room. “My room. It started out like that” I remember my classmate writing. It’s odd the things you remember in moments like this, but I’m glad to remember that poem. It was over twenty year ago that she wrote it, but I remember it, and it has made an impact on my writing. I don’t know if she’s still writing, but that was a damned good piece, in my opinion. Better than anything I wrote or remember reading by most anyone else when we were in school.
I digress again, and now, that bed of mine is the boyo’s. I’m grateful that my mom saved it. It’s a quality piece of furniture, from New Hampshire (Oddly ironic) and just really solid. It’s not a ton to look at, unless one enjoys utilitarian NH furniture, but who doesn’t? But overall, today, when I was done setting it up in my son’s room, it was a truly surreal moment. To be here, all the way out here, in the middle of the Pacific, and Ocean I never bothered with until now….to see my old bed in my boyo’s room…it was something.

He was all cranked up. He and his sisters took turns jumping on his new bed, and then they ran into the bear’s room, and they jumped on her new bed (which was in her sister’s room mere moments before….) and then to the girl’s room, and jumped on her bed, and they were all so proud to take ownership. The rooms had once again become a statement about who they are and where they are going.

And so, I started putting dinner together, and plugged in the Ipod to play some music, and what song just happens to pop up?

OK-you read the title-if you’re from the NJ, Philly, NY area…you get a moment to think…

OK-Philly’s own Hooters pop up on my Ipod, in the midst of this moment, and what song is it? Is it their big hit “And We Danced?” No. Is it the follow-up hit “Day by Day?” Nope. Is it even the infamous “Don’t take my Car out Tonight,” or later hits like “Karla with a K,” or “Amore?”
Nope. Of course, with the great Spin-Master in the sky, perhaps aided by the late Isaac Hayes, or perhaps even by the later Jam Master Jay, spinning from the spirit, the song that pops on, in this moment, where I am doing my darndest to manage the sudden and rapid growth of my kids, is, of course…

“Where Do the Children Go?”

It wasn’t a huge hit for The Hooters, though I still think it’s their best song. “Nervous Night” is a great album, but that one, in my opinion, is the best song. I used it is as soundtrack/background in a few plays I produced back in the old SKS days.

But that’s the song that hits. What are the odds? Well, I’ve got 900 songs on my Ipod. Math was never my thing, so, best of luck smartys.

It was really something seeing them not only excited about their new big kid beds, but also to simply experience the visual of these beds in their rooms, that very well might be what they have in their rooms until they go to college, or whatever. It was a moment that really gave me a rather circuitous vision of my role as their parent. Especially in light of that fact that that is my full time job now. It’s what I do.

Whether I want them to or not, they are growing up. And of course, I want them to grow up. It would be silly not to, and they are certainly doing so, and developing, and making friends outside the home and, as they must; moving away from me. It is inevitable, I know, and my hope is that I do a good enough job that though they may be ready to move on with their lives when they are grown, they still feel a connection to the family life that the wife and I, an dour families, are working to create. The twins, and their sister will always be siblings. I hope they do a good job with that. I hope that I’m able to impart in them how important family is, and that no matter what happens, no matter what demons we face in this life, or how far we may travel, that we should be able to talk to and reach out to our family. I hope I will teach them that.

I hope they grow to be good people.

As I tucked in the girl tonight, she was chatty, as she always is. She didn’t become the “littlest houseguest” by not being overly conversational. Where o’ where did she get that, I wonder?
But, as I tucked her in, we talked about the transition to her new bed, and how she, as she said “will be soooo big to touch the ceiling!” Now I’m 6’3” and the wife is 5’ 10”. They went through three loaves of bread and peanut butter like you would not believe.

I told her not to grow up too fast…to which she said, with brow furrowed, “Daddy-I’m not a grown-up yet.” and hugged me without request.

Man did I pop on that. I could have lost it in that moment, but I held on, as I did to her. I kissed her good night, and her doggie too.

“Pinky Dog is a big kid too, Daddy,” she said, as I gave Pinky her goodnight kiss. I told her that I was proud of her, and her brother and sister for growing up strong and healthy.

And I am.

They all went to bed pretty much without incident this evening. Even the little bear…first night in a big kid bed, with a big kid bed frame…and she’s asleep. It’s good stuff. They are happy.

When it’s good, it’s great, and when it’s hard, it’s good, but it’s the only job I’ve ever wanted to be good at.

It is the only job I have ever wanted to be good at.

It is honestly harder than anything I have ever done. But I’m there. It is the only job that I have ever aspired to.

I won’t get my performance evaluation until later, but I hope its good.

I blinked, and so they grew, again.