I received a surprising birthday present this year. Totally unexpected package arrived in the mail from someone I barely ever hear from. Heck, I didn’t think he even knew when my birthday was.
Although now that I think of it, my birthday’s probably listed on my medical file.
That’s right, the gift came from my doctor. Normally packages from one’s primary care provider don’t arrive unannounced. Normally it’s more of a, “Oh right, I refilled my prescription.”
And technically this wasn’t from my doctor. I doubt he took time out of his day to look up everybody’s birthday. I have Kaiser, so the algorithm probably just spits out generic packages at the appropriate time. Much like how Amazon just sends us shit we didn’t know we needed. I can’t be the only one who sees random Amazon packages on my porch and thinks, “Wait, did I order something from Amazon?” followed by a “Cool. I was totally getting low on toilet paper.”
It should come as no surprise that I belong to Kaiser. What self-respecting history teacher wouldn’t want their insurance covered by the pre-WWI German Emperor? I mean, have you SEEN that glorious mustache?
Allegedly Kaiser Permanente is named after some guy named Henry Kaiser, not His Most Exalted Highness Kaiser Wilhelm II. Uh huh, sure. And they’re called Freedom Sandwiches, not hamburgers, right? I’m sure they just changed the designation when we were fighting the krauts. Maybe Henry Kaiser made the Kaiser Roll. I’ll give him that.
So what was this gift Herr Kaiser sent me? With my big five-oh on the horizon, he opted for one of those humorous “Over the Hill” gag gifts. You know the kind. Spencer’s Gifts stocks a bunch of them. You can send someone a black balloon or maybe a tombstone. Not that a tombstone would be a great gag gift from your doctor.
Fortunately what my doctor sent me was, at least in theory, something for avoiding that early tombstone. Assuming I use it, which I’m maybe fifty-fifty on right now.
He sent me a colonoscopy test.
Spencer’s Gifts loves those poop jokes.
I should’ve known the colonoscopy was coming in the mail. A couple months ago, a coworker who’s about a year older than me asked if I’ve had to do the whole colonoscopy test yet. No. I hadn’t had the pleasure. Yeah, he explained, it was new to him, too. And although the paperwork said everyone over 45 should get tested, it seemed to be triggered at the 48th birthday.
He then explained the process to me. I didn’t fully pay attention, what with me only being 47 at the time. While I’ve heard plenty about colonoscopies before, I never really paid attention at all. Who the hell delves deep into such things in their youth? It’s got the trifecta of topics to avoid: cancer, mortality, and butt stuff.
I’m paying attention now.
To be honest, I’m not sure I realized there was a difference between prostate exams and colon exams. I still don’t. They shove something up your ass and look around for cancer, yeah? What’s the difference? Is the colonoscopy a camera while the prostate’s a finger? But camera’s haven’t always been microscopic, so before that it was maybe a scrape? One’s looking for a polyp, whatever the fuck that is, and the other is searching for, I don’t know, a tumor? Why bother separating the two? Seems ripe for a two-for-one deal. Once one has enema’d oneself, how about we get everything out of the butt in one fell swoop.
I heard rumors that prostate checks weren’t in vogue anymore. They’re not as reliable as, say, mammograms, and they might actually be causing more harm than they’re preventing. I guess someone reaching into your ass to twiddle with your nads from the inside isn’t great for your long-term health. And it just might, shock of shocks!, discourage guys from getting checked in the first place.
Obviously I was still very uninformed. It’s not like I was going to delve much deeper. That’s the doctor’s job – hey oh! If I’m not reading beyond the headline for important matters like who’s going to be the next president or James Bond, why would I pay attention to minor issues like finding out if I have cancer? Instead, I saw a headline saying some questioned the effectiveness of prostate checks and patted myself on the back that I’d never have anything going up my butt unless I bought it a drink first. And not the enema drink.
Then my colonoscopy came in the mail.
Although apparently, according to the instructions, the whole up-the-butt thing isn’t necessary anymore. It’s focused more on stuff coming out of the butt instead of into the butt.
I didn’t misspeak at the beginning when I said mt colonoscopy came through the mail. No, the didn’t send the Robocop apparatus through the mail with instructions to send it on to the next guy. The only thing in my mailbox was an envelope with a stick. Plus a ginormous piece of paper and a set of instructions only slightly less daunting than “How to Defuse an Atomic Bomb.”
Here’s the best I can figure: I’m supposed to place the sheet of paper into the toilet (but above the water) before I poop. Then poop onto said sheet of paper. Then dip the stick into the poop. And… send it back to my doctor…
Isn’t sending biological material through the mail a felony? Maybe not if it’s, like, a skin graft or something. But fecal matter seems a step too far. Should I alert my mail carrier that he’s handling biological waste? Maybe I’ll tell him I’m sending it tomorrow so he can take the day off. Because poop in the mail hardly seems sanitary.
Ironic because sanitation, or at least the desire to avoid pathogens, was probably the impetus for this change in tactics. When the world shut down, they still needed to see inside our butts. All that depression eating in 2020 and 2021 might be turning into tumors in our colons.
Editor’s note: does eating cause colon cancer? Probably. Safe to say that people who never eat also never catch cancer.
Writer’s note: I do my own editing.
So a) we needed our colon’s checked out, but b) we can’t come into the office for ye olde reacharounde, so c) maybe we can just dip the poo.
Imagine the sales pitch: “Can’t come for the ass chaffing? We’ll bring it to you!”
As a bonus, it works just like the Covid test we were supposed to be taking that year. Sure, they were never available at the time, but here in 2022, I’m sure we’ve all done it at least once. Heck, you can dip a stick into anything these days, and get a reading. Covid. Colon cancer. Pregnancy.
Unless you’re looking for blood sugar. Then all you get is a humiliating trial and a Netflix documentary. Not the good kind.
But now I’ve got another question. Was this “Poke the Poop” technology available before Covid? If so, why were we making people come in for the ass ramming? I kinda feel like if I had Robocop feeling around on my insides back in 2019, and then all of a sudden they say, “All we need is a Stick o’ Poo,” I’d have a bit of buyer’s remorse. Like the last group of acolytes before the fraternity gets banned. What’s the fun of being hazed if you don’t get to haze the next group? Sure, I was tarred and feathered and the next guy only had to poop on a stick.
One more question: If I’m sending it through the mail, why did my doctor have both hands on my shoulders?
No wait, that’s not it. I know the answer to that one.
It’s this: What am I supposed to do with the rest of the poop sitting on a piece of paper in my toilet?
I’m entering what I assume to be my last holiday season.
No, I’m not suffering from any sort of debilitating illness. My bout with Covid was, much like most people’s, little more than a couple days of a sore throat.
Why will this be my last holiday season, then? Because my daughter is eight.
Truthfully, she might not even believe in the big guy anymore. Fortunately, though, she’s never brought up any suspicions. Granted, when the stupid, fucking elves “forgot” to move from one spot in the house to another spot last year, she seemed to think we were responsible. Like honestly kid, what the hell do your parents have to do with your elves’ choice of locale? Maybe you accidentally touched them yesterday and fucked up their magic.
Then I politely remind Wife that I never wanted to do NSA on the fucking Shelf in the first place.
Santa Claus isn’t the only one she’s still on board with. She hasn’t even shown skepticism about the Easter Bunny, which I remember giving up hope on long before Big Red. On St. Patrick’s Day, she still giddily set traps out for leprechauns, because evidently that’s a thing now. Why am I not being consulted before we add random nymphs to holidays? I’d like to register my opposition to the forthcoming Fourth of July Sprite ahead of time.
Ditto for the Tooth Fairy, although now that I’m living through it, I realize there’s a long gap between losing tooth number eight and nine, which makes a natural barrier. She lost all eight in a span of twenty-four months between kindergarten and second grade, but the next tooth isn’t likely to come out till fourth or possibly even fifth grade. And by then, she’ll probably want a Target gift card instead of cash under her pillow.
But even if her tooth came out early, I don’t know how vested she’d be in a perverted bone harvester sneaking into her bedroom at night. Because eight years of no verifiable proof is about how long it takes most people. Unless I’m raising a flat-earther or anti-vaxxer or something. Hopefully that’s not in her future. But you know what is? High school.
I teach high school, and for most of her life, there was a clear demarcation between the child in my home and the children in my classroom. It’s still there, to be sure, but it’s becoming blurrier. There are times I can see the high schooler she’ll become. Sometimes in the past, when her school has had a day off, I’ve brought her into my classroom. The teenagers are usually on their best behavior when there’s a little kid. Now I’d be worried she’d sit in the back row rolling her eyes with the rest of them. Maybe they would show her how to take twenty minutes in the bathroom and come back smelling like weed.
Yes, in the year 2022, teenagers still can’t figure out how to mask the smell of weed. It doesn’t matter that edibles are legal. Vaping is also widely available, despite the government’s decided effort to ban them so people go… back to smoking? But nope. Teenagers still feel it’s much better to give everybody else in the room the munchies.
And just like those teenagers, OMG the fucking DRAMA my third-grader brings home. Girl A wasn’t playing with her last week, so she started playing with Girl B. This week, Girl A wants to play and she’s quick to throw Girl B to the curb. Next week Girl A will be playing WITH Girl B and Daughter is just beside herself wondering why she has no friends. It’s sort of like Mean Girls, except it’s not a small cadre holding reign over the school. They’re ALL Mean Girls. Until puberty and/or cheerleading sorts out the alphas, society has no way to determine who has the right to demean others. So they’re all practicing being at both the top and the bottom of the social pecking order.
And to think most of them aren’t even interested in boys yet. Yikes. I always thought those neurotic tendencies only came out when interested in the opposite gender, but if Daughter’s third grade is any indicator, our own gender fucks us up plenty good on its own. I recently took a day off to help the science docent at her school. And of course, when the students came in for the science docent lesson, all the boys went to one side of the room, all the girls to the other. That’ll change by high school, when only about 80% of them self-segregate and the others surreptitiously hold hands in the middle. And all the boys and all the girls were competing against each other in one form or another.
I’ve thought the national obsession with bullying the last twenty years odd. Obviously we don’t want to encourage bullying, and when bullying delves into harassment territory, we should definitely come down with a zero-tolerance angle. But in elementary school EVERYBODY is a bully. I remember kids who bullied me, and I could probably guess at a few kids who thought I bullied them. And the crazy thing is that there’d be plenty of names in the middle of that Venn Diagram. Every elementary kid is a bully and bullied, because they’re still figuring out how reality works.
A funny thing happened a couple weeks ago. Daughter called out from the top of the stairs that the dog had pooped upstairs. Although on second thought, she reported, it didn’t really smell like poop, per se. Maybe pee? “It’s something rotten, like raw sewage,” were her exact words. Imagine her horror when she realized the stench came not from a canine’s nether regions but from her own armpits!
Of course, we still can’t parlay this realization into more than two bathings a week. Maybe we need to get some of those bullies in on her. I started bathing every day around second or third grade, but I still only did my hair once or twice a week. Until somebody rode me mercilessly in sixth grade. “Why don’t you take a shower?” he said to me on a daily basis. When I’d finally had enough and told him I showered every damn day and it was a stupid insult, he said, “Well, your hair doesn’t look like it.” Touche. Guess what I started adding to my daily shower? Now, approaching 50 years old, I still use my hair as the barometer on when I need to bust out a shower over a three-day weekend or over Summer Break.
I took another day off when she was getting an award. Her school, like most, makes up some adjectives they want their students to exhibit and then make an acronym tied to the mascot. It’s bullshit because we come up with the acronym first, then decide how our students should act. At my school, we’re the Hawks, so we came up with SOAR, then found attributes that started with each of those letters. I tried a write-in campaign for “Hawks CA-CAWWW!” but came up just short.
Daughter got an award in both second and third grade. After her second grade award, she decided she wants to get all four by the time she’s done with elementary school. Let’s see how she’s doing. Second grade, she got Accountable. Third grade, she got… Accountable. Great. I’m raising a narc. At least she’s consistent. Now she might as well go for four straight years of Accountable. Because I don’t think she’s ever getting the “Cooperative” award.
Yes, that’s TWO days I took off to support Daughter’s education this year. Normally I don’t take days off for jack shit, because if I can accumulate more than 185 sick days, I can retire a year early. But in another couple years, she won’t be caught dead having her parents there to support her at a school event. I can recoup my sick days then.
I think that’s where I’m going with the whole “Childhood Sweet Spot.” Most of their childhood, you’re usually looking forward to something. It’ll be so much nicer/easier when they can walk, or talk, or when they’re in school, or when they can watch something besides “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.” Now she’s able to do all those things. She’s watched all of the phase one Marvel movies. She’s got legitimate opinions about things. She’s found a sport she likes playing and wants to get better at, and she’s even tried to engage in watching some MLB playoff games this year.
Meanwhile, the list of things we’re looking forward to is dwindling. Acne? Interest in boys? Hard pass. Driving seems pretty far in the distance. Double her current lifespan, in fact, and at the rate the current generation is waiting to get their license, it might be another half-decade beyond that.
Which is not to say everything’s honky-dorry right now. It’s amazing how seeing a video of two-year-old her “reading” (ie reciting from memory) through Brown Bear, Brown Bear makes me so nostalgic for her sweeter days. Missing from that video was the fact that she usually did this while spending a fucking HALF-HOUR on the fucking toilet, with either Wife or I, often both, in attendance the whole fucking time. Now wonder we recorded it. We’d already finished reading the copy of War and Peace we grabbed when she said she had to pee.
But the video of it is sweet. Now.
I’m sure I’ll find things to enjoy about her future, as well. Perhaps she’ll be able to engage in conversation about more worldly topics. Maybe, instead of doing soccer and softball and volleyball and gymnastics and dance and art, all poorly, she’ll focus on one or two activities and excel. Even better, maybe we can drop her off at those things and leave. She won’t be caught dead having her parents come to each practice and game, so Wife and I might actually be able to breathe on a typical weeknight.
I have a friend with a younger child who is in a similar boat I was once in, impatient for the walking, then the talking. I tell him not to be in such a hurry. Looking back, those were some fond times, and they go by so quickly. And now that this age I’ve been looking forward to is skimming by, it’s probably a good note to myself. Each age comes with its own pros and cons, and they ain’t coming back when it’s gone. Sometimes I miss the toddler days with the constant discovery of new abilities.
I distinctly remember the time I took her out of my car with very full hands and thought, “Wait a second, if I put her down, she can walk toward the front door on her own.” Nowadays I’m more likely to remind myself that I can send her to the garage to get a Phillips screwdriver. Or I don’t have to hover over the pool with my shirt half-unbuttoned every time she’s more than two inches away from the side. But the idea is the same.
That’s why I only get a smattering of parents to my high school Back-to-School Night as opposed to the 80% or so who show up to Daughter’s. Of course, when she was in kindergarten, it was pretty much 100%. Because, you know, kindergarten is so demanding, we need to make sure we understand the complicated assignment structure.
Not sure how I feel about becoming less and less important in her educational journey. Or any of her other journeys in life. Sure, it’s a pain in the ass when I’m doing important things, like blogging or video gaming, and she’s asking me what six times seven is. Will I look up from a full blog page one day in 2030 and wonder what level of math she’s in?
And no, I’m not going to get into some Cat’s in the Cradle bullshit where I never gave her the time she needed until it was too late. Here’s the thing about that song. “My boy was just like me.” No he wasn’t, you self-centered ass. Your son blew you off, in part, because “the kid’s got the flu.” So he’s actually being a father to his kid, which you hadn’t been. Him ignoring his father is not the same as you ignoring your son.
Sorry, where was I?
A week or two ago, she came downstairs around her bed time and asked if I was coming up to snuggle her. I had just turned on the baseball game and was preparing to do some editing, and damn near told her sorry, can’t be bothered on this particular night. Or any other night, really, because 9:00 pm is the only time I get to accomplish jack shit on a daily basis, and I’m probably crashing by 10:00. Plus, I remember this game from her youth and if go lie down with her or, hell, even sit on the floor next to her and rest my head, there’s a damn good chance I ain’t getting back up.
But then I realized it’s not a request I hear often anymore. Not that she doesn’t whine about a lack of attention, but it’s usually more along the lines of a passive aggressive “I guess nobody’s going to snuggle with me,” which drives Wife and I absolutely bug-nutty. But this request was an earnest desire, not a spoiled whine. In fact, the way she asked was awkward, almost like she wasn’t sure how to ask for it. did it used to just happen organically?
At some point, she will ask for snuggles for the final time. Maybe this was it. Because it won’t come with a pronouncement. Just like she’s won’t wake up December 1 claiming that by next year, she won’t believe. But they’re both coming and fuck me if I let them pass me by.
If only I could get her to mispronounce all the words in Brown Bear, Brown Bear.
That’s the thing about raising children: The days drag, but the years fly by.
Wow, the queen died. Who could’ve seen that one coming? Aside from everyone, of course.
It’s like that extra verse of Alanis Morisette’s song. A ninety-six year old woman died. Isn’t it ironic? Dontcha think?
I know I’m not the only person shocked by the news. I don’t know how many times I heard, and remarked myself, over the initial weekend, “Wow, I can’t believe the queen died.”
Maybe shocked isn’t the right word. We’ve known it’s bound to happen. We tracked her reign against Queen Victoria, against Francis Joseph, against Rama IX. In the end she fell short of only King Louis XIV, the French besting the British in another round of a century-old rivalry. Then again, Louis was underage when his reign began. Sorry Frogs, regencies don’t count. Or I guess they do, according to Wikipedia. Maybe I should make one of those signs: Louis XIV is not MY longest-reigning European monarch.
And yet… We all thought she was going to hang around long enough to deliver the monarchy straight to William, didn’t we?
In our brains, we knew she couldn’t live forever, but she’s ALWAYS been queen. Sure, it’s called the United Kingdom, but it’s been a Queendom pretty much forever. Hell, if you add up Elizabeth’s and Victoria’s reigns, Britain’s had a queen at the head for 134 of the last 185 years. Not bad for a country that spent the entire sixteenth century obsessed with producing male heirs. Of course, they’ve updated their succession laws to allow female heirs. Right in time for a line of succession with three males at the top. Unless Princess Charlotte goes medieval, we probably just witnessed the last reigning queen of our lifetimes.
More on that later. Trust me, if you’ve read my blog at all, you should know I’ll have some thoughts on Queen Elizabeth’s progeny.
Now that she’s gone, I have questions. Major, world-deciding questions: 1. Is the national anthem changing to “God Save the King?” Or are they now hoping He only protects Camilla? (Note: At the funeral today, I saw they did in fact change the lyrics. Not sure if Bernie Taupin was consulted) 2. Same question, but with James Bond. Is he now on His Majesty’s Secret Service? This feels even more sacrilegious than a minor thing like the national anthem.
I thought maybe I could go back to the source to see if the James Bond’s work pronouns changed, but it was no use. Casino Royale, the first James Bond book, was published in 1953, one year after Elizabeth took the throne. Perhaps a first draft might provide an answer, but I found no reference. Did they have to change it after the book had been sent to editors?
Let’s dwell on that: Ian Fleming created the character based on his service in World War II. Fleming died in 1964, three years after a suave thirty-year-old, relatively unknown actor took over the role on the screen. That unknown actor went on to become a cultural icon, dubbed the “Sexiest Man Alive,” and was even knighted by the queen. He retired from acting twenty years ago and died in 2020.
My brother-in-law is British, so I thought maybe I could ask him what’s going to happen to the national anthem and James Bond, but he’s the same age as me, so it’s not like he’s ever learned a different set of lyrics. His mother was born in 1948, so she might not know either.
That’s the weird thing about this one. When Pope John Paul II died, it was new and exciting for me, having been born in the mid-1970s, but older people had been through quite a few papal conclaves. John Paul I only lasted a few months, so they got to experience two in the same calendar year. Sure, they didn’t have 24-hour news networks with cameras trained on the smokestack in 1978, but the whole idea of a new pope was only shocking to those of us thirty and under. By contrast, nobody under the age of 75 remembers a different monarch.
By the way, electing a new pope is way better than ascending a new king. I was able to run a gambling pool on the new pope. Charles’s odds are at something like -1000000000.
But I’m not talking about Charles yet.
Americans allegedly were shocked when FDR died, wondering how anybody else could possibly run the country, and that dude had only been president for thirteen years. Soviets had a similar reaction when Stalin died after 25-30 years, depending on one’s definition of when Stalin was actually in charge. Then again, Stalin had systematically murdered most of the people who remembered life before he was around. He couldn’t quite master that whole “living to be almost 100” thing.
Add together Stalin and FDR’s reigns and you’d still be missing almost half of Elizabeth’s reign. When people say they don’t remember any other ruler, they’re being literal. There aren’t a lot of people over the age of 75, American politics notwithstanding. Unlike Stalin, Elizabeth didn’t murder all the eighty-year-olds. That was Covid’s doing. Although if I’m to believe all the tweets about how genocidal she was, perhaps she’s the one who leaked the virus from the lab. Unfortunately, her primary target, a certain British noble born in 1948 named Charles, mustered up every ounce of his reptilian blood to avoid the virus.
There are plenty of tropes I’ve had in my back pocket for years that are now gone. Like why the hell does Canada have the queen on their money. Or pointing out the young Elizabeth when showing The King’s Speech. When teaching about James VI of Scotland becoming James I of England, it’s helpful to point out Prince Harry being farther down the line than his snot-nosed nephews.
And now there are two strikes against Naked Gun. O.J’s still alive, but the queen is dead. If you haven’t seen Reggie Jackson’s tweet, go look it up. Classic. Now if only they can solve the mystery of why the Angels were playing a game at Dodger Stadium in that movie.
While we’re mentioning former colonies, why the hell are we running the flags at half-staff in the United States? Didn’t we fight a little thing called the Revolution to avoid having to lower our flag when a monarch dies? Yeah, I’m writing a few thousand words about my shock, but that’s not the same as a directive from the government. Did we lower the flag when Betty White died? Because the two women occupied similar places in our zeitgeist, but last time I checked, Queen Elizabeth never made tawdry double entendres on the Match Game. Point: Betty White
Sure, some tropes still work. I can still put the side-by-side of Prince Harry and James Hewitt to discuss who the real father is. Speaking of Harry, how the hell did he become the beleaguered hero in this whole thing? Just because he married a woman who made him disown his family? That’s heroic these days? It seems nobody remembers him dressing up as a Nazi. That used to be my intro to The King’s Speech. When you’re the second son, nobody gives a shit about you. Some react with a deep-seeded inferiority complex. Others dress up as Nazis.
Okay fine, we’re talking about the family. I can’t believe the fucker went with King Charles III. For years, I was told he wouldn’t take that name. The first Charles was beheaded and the second was damn near run out of town because everybody hated his wife, who he cheated on incessantly. A little too on the nose, huh? The difference was that, after Oliver Cromwell, the people liked Charles II, so a little closet Catholicism wasn’t enough to change the king. They waited till his brother took over.
A beefeater at the Tower of London once told me the British people’s real fear about Charles becoming king. Since he’d (allegedly) ruled out Charles, he could use any of his other names. He’s Charles Philip Arthur George, for those keeping track. Meaning he’ could ‘d likely go with George VII or Philip I, although they technically had a Philip when the Spanish king was married to Bloody Mary. He considered himself king on England, but the English didn’t.
Or he could’ve gone with that… other… name. For the past hundred years, they’ve given a lot of the royal princes the middle name of Arthur as an homage to that mythical leader, with the understanding that nobody would be obtuse enough to name themselves King Arthur. Then again, have you ever heard Prince (shit, King, I mean) Charles referred to as anything other than obtuse? Hell, he might as well have gone with his most well-known moniker and become King Tampon.
Which brings up another question. If a king eventually opts to take the reginal name King Arthur, would they be King Arthur I or King Arthur II? Technically there is no English monarch named Arthur on the historical register.
Fortunately, Elizabeth lasted long enough to make it a complete joke for Charles to pick any name other than Charles. You can’t be Prince Charles for seventy fucking years just to be all, “LOL guys, call me Arthur now.” Hell, William’s only 40, but even if he became king tomorrow, could he really go with one of his other names? One of which is Louis, by the way. How would you like that, Mr. Sun King?
I wonder if we’re beyond the time when princes could take a new name when they become king. The last two new kings changed their names, but that was almost a century ago. I don’t know how “call me George now” would fly these days. Sure, they’ve always been celebrities, but we don’t interact with our celebrities the same way these days. The old kings didn’t have Twitter accounts. They were celebrities in the vein of Frank Sinatra, aloof and afar, not Miley Cyrus showing off her junk. The paparazzi didn’t follow Queen Victoria around, filling tabloids with pictures of her in a Nazi outfit.
Shit, George I didn’t even know a lick of English. Times have changed. The only people who want their figurative leaders incapable of communicating in the vernacular are Americans, who elected Bush, Trump, and (in California), Schwarzenegger.
Hopefully we’ll get these answers soon enough. I don’t think Charles is up for a seventy-year reign of his own. I also don’t think the transition to William will be quite as somber. We might’ve just witnessed the end of an era in more ways than one. Not even sure the English people will care.
And I’m damn sure not gonna lower my American flag next time.
I recently posted about my family trip to New York, then Boston. I glossed over the middle part, where we spent two nights, and a very full day in between, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. There are many Great Wolf Lodges throughout this country, but this was the first one we ventured into. I assume many of them are similar. Once you find a business model where parents shovel money toward a bottomless pit for ten minutes worth of child engagement at a time, why bother switching it up? Just ask Disney.
The Great Wolf Lodges combine water slides and a ropes course, with an arcade and a scavenger hunt. Throw in a buffet and a Build-a-Bear with exclusive content, and it’s like a childhood Mardi Gras. You’re just as likely to send you home with rashes in uncomfortable spots.
The thing they’re probably most known for is the ginormous water park smack dab in the middle of the hotel. Daughter’s finally to the point where we feel she can exit the pool after finishing a water slide. Still not sure I’d be comfortable with the types where they plunge her into the pool at the end, but if the slide comes out at the same level as the pool, such that her momentum is already heading toward the exit, she’ll be fine. Fortunately, a park that caters to five-to-ten-year-olds isn’t gonna have much of the former. In fact, the only slides that ended in anything other than a splash pad were tube rides.
Not that getting out of an innertube is easy at my age. But the park ain’t catering to me. The only part of the parents’ bodies they give a shit about are our wallets.
While the wave pool and lazy river (more of a stream) are more meh than wow, the slides are legit. Two of them drop the entire four stories of the hotel. As a bonus, you don’t even have to lug the tube up to the top. They have a conveyor belt elevator for that.
Unfortunately, you still gotta get your own ass up there. No conveyor belt for the humans. The look of pain and exhaustion on the adults at the top of this torture device spoke volumes. We all needed a breather and maybe a calf massage.
Even worse, I wasn’t wearing my Fitbit. I must’ve missed out on fifty floors that day.
And now my kid wants to plummet all the way down and then hike right the fuck back up. Forget the massage, how about a margarita bar up here? They’ve got lifeguards down there who can get her out of the family tube that probably flipped over on her fifty pounds, and I’ll be waiting for her when she gets back up here. With a salt rim.
Unfortunately, the booze is at the bottom, so I might as well ride down with her.
I just gotta grab my gas mask first.
The chlorine level in the air is, after all, enough to kill any random waterborne or airborne pathogen. Or any stray boche soldiers out in No Man’s Land.
Fortunately the waterslide area is closed off from the rest of the lodge, cause man, it hits you as soon as you open the door to the water park. The air is THICK with chemicals. But at least down by the chaise lounges, it’s technically indoors and climate controlled. The tubes, on the other hand, go outside, where you’re now ensconced in a thick plastic tube that’s baking in the sun, heating the chlorine inside into a substance that’s been banned since the Treaty of Versailles.
Chemical weapons aren’t the only war crimes being committed in the water park. Their drink policy is also a Geneva Code violation.
For lunch on Water Slide Day, we opted for the food stand instead of returning to Lodge Proper for a wedge salad. The “burgers” were meh, but the cheese curds were good. Then again, I’m not from Wisconsin, so I probably wouldn’t know the difference between a good or bad cheese curd. Are there really gradations of deep-fried dairy?
We also bought a round of drinks, each of which was a maybe 10 oz. cup to access one of those “add your own flavor” Coke machines are growing ubiquitous. Heck, we even have a movie theater nearby that uses them, which is saying a lot, because movie theaters usually don’t let you pour your own drinks lest you break their golden ratio of nine parts ice to one part soda. I usually love these machines, because Coke Zero tastes a hell of a lot better with a bit o’ raspberry and lime, something I never would’ve guessed four years ago.
This particular drink machine seemed defective at first. It kept telling us we were using the wrong cup, which I wouldn’t think is something a non-sentient machine can determine. The employee exchanged our cups and then it worked fine. Although it still oddly had different fruit flavors available or unavailable for different drinks. For instance, raspberry ginger ale was shadowed as “temporarily out,” but raspberry Coke Zero was available. Isn’t it the same flavored syrup being added to either drink?
But that was nothing compared to what happened when I went up for a refill. I got maybe two ounces in the bottom of the cup before I got a similar error message about the wrong cup. But this message was slightly different, in that it acknowledged the cup was correct but it had already been used. Holy shit! They’re tracking refills now? And even worse, they’re not giving you ANY! Because what was in the bottom of my cup was pretty much what was missing from the top of the last one after you account for bubbles subsiding.
Then there’s the unsettling addendum to this thought: my first cup had already been used. By someone else. Not sure if there’s enough chlorine to wash that taste out of my brain. Good thing I can go to the bar. At least I know ahead of time I’ll have to pay for my second glass of beer. And, again, it’s a glass that’s SUPPOSED to be reusable.
I ended up having that wedge salad for dinner. It was pretty disappointing for a wedge salad. They chopped up the wedge. It’s supposed to be a ginormous wedge. Hence the name. And if I had to guess, they used ranch over bleu cheese crumbles instead of actual bleu cheese dressing. And that was in the “restaurant” portion, not the snack bar or buffet portion. We had buffet for breakfast the next morning, finishing the hat trick of disappointment.
Not overly surprising for a place that caters to kids. In keeping with that theme, the Dunkin’ Donuts was meh. I’ve tried Dunkin’ on many occasions, and I don’t think I can ever get more than a meh out of it. Not really sure the appeal. I’ll take Starbucks any day over bitter coffee and mediocre donuts.
MagiQuest and the Rest
Food aside, the Great Wolf Lodge experience was solid. Daughter wants to climb any and everything she comes across these days. It must be a thing for kids her age, because the Lodge was prepared with both a rock climbing wall and ropes course. I figured she’d only want to do the rock climbing wall once, so I was going to buy her an unlimited on the ropes with one or two runs on the rock wall, when they told me that if I bought unlimited on both, it was only an extra four dollars. Why the hell not? I wonder if it’s always four dollars more than whatever it is you’re about to buy.
Hey, give me a beer for $10.
How about a beer with unlimited rock climbs for $14?
Those courses were nice because I didn’t have to follow her around. And, legitimately, there’s a beer barn and tables right there. I can look up into the air and give Daughter a thumbs up that she thinks is because she made it across the rope bridge, but in reality is my signal for one more blueberry ale.
Unfortunately, the game that occupied most of her time required a tad more movement from the parentage. In a direction away from the beer. At least at first.
Magiquest is a scavenger hunt of the entire property. Kids are given a laser tag magic wand that, when aimed at various places around the resort, causes them to light up or animate or say something. Treasure chests that open up, paintings on the wall that change when activated, random stars in the ceiling that you don’t even notice until they light up. At first it’s unnerving when you’re just walking around the resort only to hear random sparkling with an ethereal, “You’ve already completed this task.”
There are maybe thirty total targets throughout the resort. Some of them give you virtual gold pieces, many are used in different quests as the player “levels up.” The first quests were for the fairy princess, then the goblin king, and finally the dragon. While the princess missions only required Daughter to pick up three “items” (at completely opposite ends of the resort), by the time she was constructing her weapons to defeat the dragon, each quest took six or seven steps. And to defeat the dragon, you have to make four or five of these weapons. But by then, Daughter knew precisely where to go. The “portal” (basically a mounted Android tablet) showed her a crown and a rose and a star, and she’s off running around the hotel because she knows precisely where the crown, rose, and star are. All on opposite ends of the place.
Even better, Wife and I could just sit there as she ran back and forth, checking in with us to excitedly tell us how close she was to the dragon.
Did I mention there was a brewery? I call that a win.
A few weeks ago, we took my eight-year-old daughter to New York for a trip originally planned before the pandemic. In my last post, I wrote about the touristy stuff we did, like Statue of Liberty and Coney Island. This post will delve more into the personal things, the people and oddities we encountered that you won’t exactly be able to book through a travel agent.
While in New York and Boston, we did two concerts and a Broadway show. The show was Aladdin, which was neither great nor terrible. There isn’t much chance for surprise from a show that follows a 30-year-old movie beat by beat. Unlike the Frozen musical, which adds a song, “Hygge,” that might be better than any in the original movie, the only songs worth knowing in Aladdin are all from the movie. The magic carpet ride, however, was pretty fucking cool. Daughter was mostly “meh” throughout the first act, but when everything went dark and the carpet took off, she couldn’t lean forward enough.
The second concert we went to was Lake Street Dive in Boston. I’ll review it in my normal year-end post. Normal as in “every year up until 2019.” Pretty sure that’s the dictionary definition now. Normal (adj): occurring regularly prior to 2020.” We also spent a few days at the Great Wolf Lodge, an experience which will get its own addendum after I post these two New York writings, because I’ve got a LOT to say about that juvenile bacchanal.
But the first concert we saw was Billy Joel, performing his 80th “straight” show in his Madison Square Garde “residency.” I don’t know how it qualifies as a residency if it’s only one show a month. I also question the designation of “80 straight,” for which they raised a banner to the rafters next to those of the Knicks and Rangers. After all, we originally had tickets for a Billy Joel concert at the Garden in June, 2020 that didn’t happen. Perhaps “residency with 80 straight concerts” is just a fancy way for Billy Joel to say, “I ain’t coming to your town, you’ve got to come to mine.”Not that I’m knocking it. If I could just roll out of bed once a month for my job, sign me up. On second thought, Billy Joel is over 70. I sure as shit hope I’m not still teaching then, even if it’s only once a month.
Billy Joel is known for giving away his front row seats. He got tired of looking into the audience and only seeing super richies who didn’t give a shit about the concert. Next time you watch a baseball game, check out how many people behind home plate aren’t watching the game. So Billy Joel sends his band members and/or security out into the crowds before the concert starts and hands out front row upgrades. That way, not only does he get a “real fan” who was willing to see him from a half-mile away, but he also gets a real fan who is super excited to no longer be seeing him from a half-mile away.
Evidently, now that it’s a well known practice, many fans go to the shows looking for the undercover ticket people. Then they loudly talk about how excited they are to have these Row ZZZ tickets to see their FAVORITE artist of ALL TIME. With signs to boot.
I was not one of those people. I was just a dumbass tourist trying to figure out how to get up to the nosebleeds of an arena I’d never been in before. We were supposed to be on the fourth floor (which, oddly, is beneath the third floor) behind the stage. The fourth floor, or I suppose I should call it the 400s section, only exists in one area of the arena, only accessible by one set of stairs. It isn’t by any arena entrance and isn’t referenced on many of the signs showing people where to go to find their more plentiful sections.
“I think we’re up here,” I said to my family when we found a random staircase in the general section of the arena where I thought our seats were. I’m still not entirely sure the staircase was marked with the sections it led to.
I’m not entirely sure what the guy in the suit first said as Daughter barreled past him. It was something along the lines of “Why are you going up there?” Although it might’ve been more directed, like “You don’t wanna go up there” or “That’s the wrong direction.”
Still completely obtuse, I responded something like, “We’re in section 413,” showing him my phone.
“No, you don’t want those seats. Do you want to sit somewhere closer? “
At this point, I’m thinking the guy is trying to swindle us. Been to far too many ballgames where the “I need tickets” guy is 50 yards away from the “I’ve got tickets” guy. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I slowly realized that, wait a second, we’re already inside the arena. Not the smartest place to engage in ticket scalping when all your customers already have tickets. Like the T-Rex at the Natural History Museum waking up from a nap in the tar pits, I remember we are at a Billy Joel concert, and Billy Joel is famous for…
Fortunately, Wife was much quicker in the uptake. “We’d love better seats. We came all the way from California and it’s her-,” puts hands on Daughter’s head, “first concert. She loves Billy Joel.”
(Never mind that Daughter’s way more excited about Lake Street Dive in a couple of days and, while she does know most of his songs, is mainly just tagging along for this leg of the journey.)
“Are you okay with her being in the floor?” the guy asks.
Are you fucking kidding me? Of fucking course she’s fine sitting on the fucking floor and if she isn’t, then she best be shutting the fuck up about it right the fuck now. We paid $100 for these tickets and were about to be sitting in $1000 seats.
Remember that whole thing about wanting excited fans in the front row? I think my last comment is what he’s going for.
Of course, once we had the tickets, we had no fucking clue where to go. We returned to the spot at the bottom of the stairs to ask the guy, but he was gone. They’ve got to keep moving. As soon as attendees see other random attendees being handed tickets, the swarm is on. After our exchange, we heard other people muttering, “No, it’s usually a lady, but this time it’s a guy in a suit. Look for a guy in a black suit.”
Eventually, three elevators and four or five confused ushers (“Those are floor seats. What are you doing up here in the nose bleeds?”), we finally made our way to the floor. The last usher knew the score. “Hey, you’ve been upgraded!”
So anyway, on the left is a picture of where our original seats were. Third row, right above the Bud Light sign. The picture on the right is the view from our actual seats. Not bad for $110 on the secondary market, huh?
In the past, Billy Joel was criticized for having hot women in the front row. He explained that he gave the tickets to his band members and roadies to hand out to whoever they thought would be good for the front row and, well, guess who they want looking back at them? Not a couple approaching their fifties with an eight-year-old who kinda sorta knows some of the songs.
I assume Billy Joel has adjusted who gets to hand out tickets, and presumably now that he’s playing the same spot every month, he’s switching up who hands out the goods. That’s why the other fans expected a woman. And clearly the guy who gave us the tickets wasn’t going to be staring into our bosoms for the whole concert. Billy Joel now has a daughter close to my daughter’s age, so maybe there are general instructions to find families with kids. Or maybe it’s just to look for the numbnuts who clearly have no idea what they’re doing. That fit us to a T.
Either way, Daughter’s has a lifetime of concert disappointment in front of her after getting front row at Madison Square Garden for her first.
I’ve got to save a few column inches to discuss the bathroom at our hotel. Not that I have any clue what the fuck was going on in said bathroom. I assume it had something to do with New York being visited by many Europeans, so maybe it’s what happens when you translate bathroom into metric? I know it fucked up the Hubble Telescope. And I might’ve been able to see alien galaxies with the contraptions in there, if only I could figure out how to use them.
First up was Toilet 2.0. What’s that? You didn’t think toilets could grow sentient?
Of course, it had a bidet. That’s to be expected if you cater to foreigners. I’ve dealt with them before, and by “dealt with them,” I mean I’ve largely ignored them because, thankfully I’ve never used a toilet that was bidet only, like many bathrooms give you no paper towel option, only air dryers. How did Covid not do away with those germ spreaders? Every person leaving a dryer-only bathroom is still shaking water from their hands.
While I didn’t use this bidet, I did at least take note of it. It’s got your normal settings for back wash and front wash. The person requesting the front wash looks suspiciously female, which would seem to be a no-no these days. There’s also an option for soft or hard, which makes sense on the back end. Some visits require more aftermath, if you know what I mean. Although I don’t know how a bidet user knows which visit is which. I usually need to check the damage on the TP to know how the rest of the visit will go.
What strikes me most about this bidet is that you can program in two user profiles. What is there to do beyond front or back, hard or soft? I’m trying to think of the person who has a specific bidet method that requires a complex procession and progression through the four options, such that they must save the profile. Add to that the fact that this is a hotel, so you’re really only using this bidet for a few days. And he’s probably still wiping when he’s out and about. Oh, and he’s got someone else in this very hotel room that needs their own super secret, super special progression ofH2O up the Wazoo.
More unusual than the programmable bidet, however, was that it appeared to be a self-cleaning toilet. Not in the manner of a self-cleaning oven or coffee maker, where you can set it to a cycle. More like a Hal-9000, Terminator gaining sentience style of self-cleaning. Every time one of us walked in the room, we would hear the water running. Not like a full flush or anything, but a trickle of water, a sprinkling, like a pre-lubrication of the bowl.
At first we worried that it would run all night, but it seemed tied to movement. It ran even if we kept the light off. So now my toilet is taking notes of how often I’m visiting. Should I expect an introductory email from my friendly neighborhood proctologist by the time I return home?
Oh yeah, and the seat was warm. At first I thought I was imaging it, but Wife and Daughter confirmed. It was like the car seat warmers, except that those can be turned on and off. The toilet seat was on ALL the time. Sometimes when I’m back from walking Central Park on a muggy June day in New York, I might want to deposit funds in the porcelain bank without scalding my sack.
Considering the damn thing had AI and enough energy to power a nuclear power plant, it isn’t surprising that this toilet came with an extensive list of rules and regulations, a standard list of dos and don’ts to avoid liability when it leaves the hotel room to kill Sarah Connor.
The list took up the entire inside of the lid, and while I didn’t read all the terms and conditions before accepting (I had to pee, after all), I noted the first warning, which was “Don’t get water inside.” Um… it’s s toilet. Do… do they not know how toilets work? It takes some water to help alleviate the skid marks. Because even after an overnight of self cleaning, they were still noticeable.
Next to the toilet was a shower that had not two, nor three, but FOUR shower heads. None of which were a standard shower head. First up was a hand held wand, like an old game show microphone with the water coming out the sides. Then you had the overhead waterfall spigot. We’ve got one in our house and I don’t fucking get it. Who the hell wants the water to be dumping down on them from above? Such that, if any of your skin gets merely a splash of water, your entire body is also drenched. How does one lather up or apply shampoo?
The final two shower heads were in the wall, one about chest height and the other at my thigh. They were adjustable to a point, but their sprays were still only able to make it up to my chin and waist, respectively. The spray also maxed out maybe two feet from the wall, with a force equivalent to a water fountain. Not enough to rinse off my armpits or undercarriage, two spots I also couldn’t hit from the overhead. And the microphone came out with too much force for the giblets.
There was only one handle to control all four spigots. Turn it a little bit and you’ll have both microphone and wall. Go too far and you’ll cycle back around to the waterfall. Another handle controlled the temperature, but it didn’t matter, because all four started out frigid.
By day three I figured out how to conduct a masterpiece like I was a few blocks over at Carnegie Hall. Use the wall to get wet, use the microphone to rinse off. Try not to teabag the wall. Turn the microphone on to wet the hair, then off while I shampoo, then back on to rinse. Avoid the third rail of the waterfall faucet at all costs.
Do I get a doctorate at Columbia for figuring all that out?
1. Daughter doesn’t know what cigarettes are. Not sure if this is a sign that we’ve parented well or poorly. Maybe it says more about the times. She thinks she knows what cigarettes are, but what she’s actually smelling is marijuana. She doesn’t like the smell, and she doesn’t encounter it often, but now that I think of it, she probably encounters it a hell of a lot more often than cigarettes. I mean, who smokes tobacco anymore? Anyway, whenever she smelled weed (and trust me, it’s all over the place in New York, and that’s coming from a California guy), she’d plug her nose and whine, “Ugh, really? Why do people have to smoke cigarettes here, too?” I’ll be curious to see what she calls it if she ever smells a legitimate cigarette.
2. On our first day in New York, after checking into the 44th floor of our hotel, Daughter looked out the window at the 57th Street abomination. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but it looks like a damn pole. It only takes up maybe 100 feet by 100 feet of real estate, but then shoots up 90-odd floors. The top floors aren’t finished yet and are currently on the market for $180 million. What a bargain. Anyway, when she saw it, she asked, “Is that a skyscraper? I’ve heard of them, but I’ve never seen one.” Bear in mind she’s visited her aunt in San Francisco no fewer than twenty times. And did I mention we were on the 44th floor of our own hotel? Not sure what them kids are calling skyscrapers these days.
3. She ended up being fine with the subway, but her only complaint was that it should be more like Disneyland. Shouldn’t everything? But what she was specifically looking for was the part of the Disneyland train where you go through the dinosaurs and Native American lands. I mean, what good is an underground train system that transports you miles closer to where you need to go for three dollars if it doesn’t also have some racist animatronics?
4. In my whole trip, three people jumped out at me that I needed to note. First was the lady wearing her Miller High Life t-shirt to see Aladdin. Look, I know it’s a show for kids and all, but it is a Broadway theater. She couldn’t upgraded to her nice MGD shirt? Second was the dude wearing a “Don’t California My Texas” t-shirt. At the Statue of Liberty. In New York, which is neither Texas nor California and probably doesn’t want us apply either of the latter two locations to their former.
Third was the guitar dude at the Imagine mosaic in Central Park near the Dakota building where Lennon lived and was shot. Seems it used to be a quiet, contemplative spot, but the last two times I’ve been, it’s a spot for selfies and self-important douchebags who bust out their accoustics for poor renditions of Beatles songs that nobody requested, as if two of them being dead wasn’t bad enough. Anyway, when we walked by this time, Dude was playing “Get Back,” which… um… is a Paul McCartney song? Under normal circumstances I might not critique a guy for not knowing that John had nothing to do with the writing or performance of that song, but Peter Jackson just made a nine-hour documentary, that anybody with the audacity to think they deserve to play their own instrument at a John Lennon memorial ought to have seen, which showed “Get Back” being created from scratch while John was still sleeping off a heroin hangover.
5. Last time I was in New York, I made sure to have pizza from Lombardi’s, the first pizzeria in America. This time I added a few more iconic food items: cheesecake from Junior’s and a hot dog from Nathan’s. I mistakenly thought Junior’s was the cheesecake referenced in Guys and Dolls, but apparently that’s Lindy’s, which has closed. Good thing, too, because the cheesecake was just kinda meh. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it didn’t have much flavor to it. It was sweeter than I expected, more cream than cheese. I’ve had plenty of better cheesecakes in my life.
The Nathan’s, on the other hand, was solid. I’ve had a ton of Nathan’s dogs at various establishments, but the ones at the original location are different. They grill the buns, which the ones in the mall don’t. They also seem longer and thinner than the ones you find in the store, and the griddling (not boiling or grilling) is uniform and thorough. My only regret was standing in the long line with the people who wanted burgers or who knew they served clams, before I realized there was a hot dog express lane where I could’ve got my dog and fries twenty minutes earlier.
6. I don’t mean to criticize these photo op guys in Times Square, but… *Hulk needs to work out a bit. You wouldn’t like me when I get a beer belly. *Spiderman, a secret identity does no good if you stand around with your mask off the whole time. *Grodd is a DC property, not a Marvel property. Shouldn’t be hanging out with Avengers. Oh wait, is that supposed to be King Kong? Dude, he doesn’t even HAVE a comic book title.
7. I only found one sign to add to my collection. If you’ve followed my other travelbolg posts, you know I love signs that are a little too cutesy or on-the-nose. The sign on this particular trip that amused me was neither of those. In fact, the only thing I enjoyed about it was a missing letter.
Sure, I know it’s really just a room. But am I alone in thinking a luggage storage ‘roo would be much better? I mean, it already has a pouch. And then when I’m finally able to get in my room, it can just hop them up there for me instead of making me do the schlepping my own shit after hours of walking around Central Park after minimal sleep on a red-eye. Imagine my disappointment when it was only a closet manned by a human being. I guess I’ll swap the tip for a smaller bill.
I probably need to visit Sydney to find an actual Luggage Storage ‘Roo.
Back in February of 2020, we had a summer trip booked to New York with Daughter. She was really into Billy Joel Radio at the time, and it seemed like all the good movies and video games take place there. Heck, she was playing (or trying to play) Marvel Lego Super Heroes, where Magneto literally makes the Statue of Liberty walk off her pedestal and attack the Lego heroes. Not sure how that works with said statue having no actual legs. But other that that minor squabble, the physics of a Lego video game are entirely spot on.
Somehow that vacation fell apart. Can’t put my finger on it. Did anything major happen in March or 2020?
Regardless, we finally decided that two years was long enough a wait. Billy Joel wasn’t getting any younger, there was a new favorite band playing the same weekend as him, and the time share was going to keep charging us “maintenance” fees whether we used the room or not.
So in June of 2022, we finally made our 2020 trip to New York. I’ll break this into a couple of posts, one about the generic New York kinda touristy stuff, and then a second one about some of the experiences more personal to us.
No true Travelblog this decade is complete without an update on when and where, and under which conditions, we must mask and/or show proof of vaccination and/or bend over and have a random stranger shove something up our ass.
Wait, that last one isn’t a Covid precaution? Damn, I want my money back from that dude in the trench coat.
Most of New York is mask-free these days, with some notable exceptions. JFK Airport required masks, even though the planes didn’t anymore, so as we landed, the flight attendants told us to put our masks on before leaving the plane. Would’ve been a nice thing for them to tell us before we checked our baggage. Fortunately I had one in my carry-on because we connected through Seattle, which I figured was second on the list of places most likely to still impose masks. Turns out we only needed the mask to get off the plane. Once in the terminal, many people weren’t wearing masks and nobody bothered to enforce it. And I’m not talking pulled down in chin diaper fashion, I mean no sign of cloth anywhere near their face. The situation was similar in the subways. Masks are required, but only about fifty percent complied and nobody gave a shit.
Where we had to mask the longest was the American Museum of Natural History. We went there on our first day, before we were even able to check into our hotel and shower. So the other people in the museum were probably happy to be wearing masks. The museum was one of the first places on our go-to list because we’d made Daughter watch the Night at the Museum movies as prep, so she was jazzed to go. Her favorite movie was the sequel, which took place at the Smithsonian, but she still couldn’t wait to see the statue of President Robin Williams. Unfortunately, the one on horseback has been removed because it had Native Americans in it. I was also worried she wouldn’t be able to find Sacajawea, who features prominently in the movies., but we finally found her tucked away in the back of the fourth floor. Unfortunately, no Egyptian pharaoh or magical tablet that brings them all to life. Daughter was pissed.
We also had to wear a mask en route to the Statue of Liberty, but only for the one airport-style security room. Then the masks came back off. I think we had to wear them in the Statue of Liberty museum, as well. Because, you know, liberty! Ironically, the one other place where we were harangued about wearing a mask was the Hamilton store. Similar to the Statue, Hamilton is an endearing symbol of standing up to an arbitrary, overreaching government…
After New York, we went on to Boston, where masks were less mandated but more prominent. Imagine that, people wearing masks only out of concern for their fellow humans. Almost as if, with freedom and liberty ought to also come respect and responsibility. Ha ha, jk. This is ‘Murica, where freedom means I don’t gotta do shit while everybody else needs to kowtow to whatever made up offense I’m feigning this week.
Taxi in from Airport
Last time in New York, when it was just we adults, we took the subway in from JFK. Easy enough. But arriving after a red-eye from the west coast during morning commute, with an eight-year-old not accustomed to mass transit, we figured we’d splurge for a taxi. It was the first of many “We haven’t vacayed in three years” splurges over the next six days.
In retrospect, maybe not the best decision from a timing perspective. Holy crap, that morning commute is brutal. I thought nobody drove in New York? Those streets and freeways (sorry, “turnpikes,” cause they ain’t free) were bumper to bumper! It took us well over an hour to get to midtown from JFK. It was a half hour before we realized that the tiny windows on the side of the minivan/prison-transport hybrid could open. That was a blessing, because it’d been 24 hours since we showered and the Plexiglass partition was making the environment moist.
At first I thought a $52 fixed fare seemed a bit steep, but it ended up a blessing. If we paid normal taxi “idling time” surcharges, it would’ve been in the triple digits. A few days later, I checked Uber to Coney Island, which is a little bit farther than the airport, and it would’ve been $80. Plus that wasn’t during morning commute, which I’m guessing would’ve been prime surge time. So yeah, $52 was a screaming deal.
We did get two “congestion charges” of $2.50 each, added at the thirty and sixty minute marks. Plus a six dollar charge going through one of the tunnels. But how often do you ride in a taxi for over an hour and add less than $10 to the fare?
I kinda felt bad for the driver. Sure, we tipped him 20%, but that still only came out to $16, which might not even be minimum wage in New York City. Hopefully he hung around Manhattan and picked up a bunch of $20 fares in rapid succession.
Next time I’ll splurge the $3 for a subway ride and all those commuters can just deal with my luggage.
Statue of Liberty
When I went to New York with Wife in 2018, we intentionally skipped some of the more kid-friendly attractions, like Coney Island and the Statue of Liberty, in favor of stuff like the 9/11 Memorial and Avenue Q, figuring we’d be bringing Daughter back with us at some point. So this time we did all the stuff that she’ll roll her eyes at when she’s a teenager.
I did the Statue once on my first trip to New York in the 1990s. Back then you could go up into the crown, which I did. When my mom first visited in the 1950s, you could still go up to the torch. Now you can’t do either. Turns out the Statue of Liberty is a great metaphor for the lives and restrictions of Boomers vs. Gen X vs. Gen Z, or whatever the hell they’ll call Daughter’s generation. Can’t wait to have my grandkids on my knee some day, while looking at the Statue from the boat, the closest we’re able to get by that time, regaling them with stories about lawn darts.
Allegedly they’re going to bring back crown access at some point, but I can’t find reasoning for shutting down in the first place. It doesn’t seem to be a Covid restriction, since you’re still allowed in the pedestal which necessitates many people in small confines. I don’t think it’s a remnant of 9/11, per se, but I think since then, they’re looking for any and every excuse to shut it down. They’re doing some construction refurbishment on the former military fort under the pedestal. Maybe that’s their excuse. Although, again, pedestal access would be just as damage to the base as going to the crown. Then again, they’re also drastically limiting pedestal access – it was sold out for all three days we were there. That’s what happens when it only costs thirty cents more than regular ol’ island access.
At least we took the correct ferry. We almost got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” from one of those hop-on/hop-off busses. The wording is very questionable, claiming to be the only bus tour with “close up” views of the Statue. Complete with a “live audio tour.” And a “Statue Selfie Spot.” Good thing yours truly considers himself well versed in the English language. I became skeptical that the boat tour started over near the Brooklyn Bridge, not Battery Park, and if you look closely at the map, it doesn’t actually dock at the island. Once I saw how the dock is actually run, there’s no way they could have more than one operating companies. We were on the bus when a whole bunch of excited people got off to go “see the Statue.” Totally wish I could’ve been on the bus that collects a bunch of pissed off patrons afterward.
If we wanted a “close up” look, we also could’ve taken a helicopter. Not that I saw any advertisements for that. They don’t cater to the TKTS crowd. But I saw a heck of a lot of them flying around. Many of them were black, a detail I might not have noticed with my vision topping out at about ten yards. But Daughter noticed. “Look, it’s another black helicopter. There sure are a lot of black helicopters flying around the Statue.”
Of course there are. The real question is: government? Or aliens?
Turns out there’s an even better way to get up close. Walking around the island is kinda groovy.
The Statue is, who woulda guessed it, majestic and beautiful. I don’t think I bothered to look up in awe much back when my primary goal was to climb upher insides. Probably a metaphor for a lot of my twenties. But when you’re staring out from the crown, all you’re see is Manhattan, a view you can find from many locations. Including a “Liberty Cruise.” But this shot can only be found in one spot:
The audio tour has some great info, too. Sure, a lot of it I already knew because I’ve taught U.S. History many times. So I only yawned while Wife and Daughter were fascinated about Pulitzer’s fundraising drive and Gustave Eiffel building the superstructure ten years before he repeated the process with a minor tower in Paris you’ve probably never heard of.
But all the scientific and construction stuff was news to me. Turns out the outer “skin” of copper is only the thickness of two pennies. The individual sheets could be bent to conform to Eiffel’s structure. If you look close enough, you can see the seams between one plate and the next. Impressive, to be sure, but all I could think is that’s an awful lot of coaxial cable. I mean, aren’t people stealing catalytic converters for a couple ounces of copper? Liberty’s got 62,000 pounds!
I’m envisioning a heist story. Kinda like Die Hard, the assumption will be that the criminals are storming the Statue for terrorism reasons, but the twist will be that they’re just trying to take off her dress. And face.
I think I just figured out why they won’t let us in the crown anymore. Bring a file and you can buy your own Liberty Cruise.
The other child-friendly locale we skipped last time was Coney Island. Or I guess we didn’t “skip” it, so much as didn’t give it much of a thought. We “skipped” the Empire State Building, meaning we went past it, discussed going in, but decided to move on. If you aren’t partaking in Coney Island, being an hour-plus trip on the subway, it’s easier to just ignore it.
I assumed Coney Island would be kinda sleepy, kinda sleazy. And yeah… As long as you’re expectation is a bastardized love-child of a Six Flags and a county fair, you’ll be fine. Honestly, the midway was fun. The rides were fine. The only thing that this SoCal-raised guy found truly beneath me was what they passed off as a beach. So maybe they should just move it to the Upper East Side.
The rides were expensive, but that’s to be expected when it isn’t one-ticket-for-all access. Most of the rides worth riding were in the eight to ten dollar range, depending on what bulk you bought the tickets. Considering the rides last, on average, a quarter to a third of the time a Disneyland ride lasts, it doesn’t take long for the trip to cost in the Disneyland range. I think Daughter and I rode six rides each, so that’s over $100.
It was only supposed to be five rides each, but we got duped into the “Liberty Cruise” scam of Coney Island. There are two companies that run the amusement parks, but they own random lots that aren’t always adjacent. So you’re in Luna Park, but to get to another Luna ride, you have to walk through Deno’s, where you’ll have to buy a different ticket card. Overall. we did a pretty good job of purchasing tickets a la carte (a.k.a. more expensively), for specific rides we could see nearby, to make sure we didn’t waste money.
Until we didn’t.
One of the biggest rides, viewable from blocks away and one of the first you see when exiting the subway, is called the Thunderbolt. It goes straight up, then straight down. Sign me up. It’s a Luna Park property, although there’s nothing on the ride that designates it as such. Nor was it referenced at the other Luna Park a few blocks away, where we rode a painful ride that lays you down flat and then cracks your back more than a chiropractor, but not as therapeutic. Reminds me of the signs I saw at a water slide. Don’t go on if you have back or neck problems. What do you mean? I’m using this water slide to FIX my back and neck problems.
Deno’s also has a ride called the Thunderbolt. Not that I rode it. I don’t even know if I saw it. I only know they have a Thunderbolt because the sign with ticket prices, in plain view of the legit Thunderbolt, said that the I could buy ten tickets to ride the Thunderbolt. A block away, when the Thunderbolt employee told me my tickets wouldn’t work, I explained where I bought them and they said, “Yeah, that happens a lot.” Kinda weird in a city renowned for an overly aggressive government that likes to regulate what size soda you can get.
We didn’t go to the Freak Show. I didn’t even notice it until we were on our way back to the subway. That’s another thing I’m surprised is still allowed in twenty-first century NYC. You can’t call her a bearded woman anymore, she’s a bearded birthing human. Unless she can’t give birth. And to be fair, the sign didn’t specify bearded women, it only listed “Weird Women,” which is kinda worse. I mean, I’m far from uber-woke, but who the fuck are the proprietors to designate what is weird and, by extension, what is normal. They run a business at Coney Island, for chrissakes. I don’t think I saw a normal person the entire time I was there, present company included.
The one Coney Island attraction we didn’t partake was the only fucking one I wanted to do in the first place, which was the Cyclone. It’s the original wooden roller coaster that’s been there for almost one hundred years. It’s a Luna Park property, but we actually had the correct tickets that time. The problem came down to weights and measures. The ticket lady didn’t want to let us get in line until after she’d measured Daughter to ensure she was 54 inches. She failed.
I’m not saying, for sure, that Daughter is at the magical height. Its damn close, but I feel like she hit 54 at all the other measuring spots. But the measuring stick they used here wasn’t a permanent fixture, but a pole they lugged out of the ticket booth and held up next to the child being measured. From my vantage point, it appeared the sidewalk was on an uphill slant. Well, not really uphill, more 95-year-old heaving pavement. They put the stick on the uphill side of her and she ended up being just under it. It was close. Kinda like the when the NFL brings the chains out to measure first down, despite having not placed the ball at the correct forward progress. And I couldn’t ask for video replay to confirm the stick wasn’t on level ground.
I was about to point this out, but figured the most likely result would be they take my money and still not let her on when the numbnut at the front of the line was just at inept at measuring children as the one at the end of the line. So I guess I have to wait until next time to ride the Cyclone. Not sure if there’ll ever be a next time I visit Coney Island, but whatever. It’s been there for ninety-five years, so maybe when I have grandkids. Not that they’ll be tall enough to ride.
Come back next week to hear about our hotel bathroom, marijuana, the most awesome thing that can happen at a Billy Joel concert.
Since it’s finally the time of year when the joys of teaching are realized (ie when we don’t have to deal with people who haven’t turned in a damn thing all year wondering what they need to do to pass), it’s a good time to look at some of the other minor perks.
The pay, for instance. And the respect.
No wait, sorry. I must’ve been thinking about something else. In reality, random politicians who wouldn’t be able to pass my class get to tell me I’m not teaching correctly. Yes, Congressperson, you’re supposed to provide a check and balance on the president, even if he’s in your own party. Grandstanding while bequeathing power to the Executive Branch is not, actually, one of the enumerated powers.
But hey, at least we’re gonna get free guns soon, right?
I won’t spend much time on this one, since I don’t think it’s a good faith argument, but arming teachers would be a phenomenally bad idea. There’s a teacher at my school who’s about 4’10”. Explain to me how she keeps her sidearm when the six-foot linebacker lunges for it. And you know that teacher that you’re convinced hated you? Spoiler alert: They really did. Now imagine that they had a gun every time you mouthed off in class. Should I fire a warning shot into the air to wake up all the kids who think Emmett Till is “boring”? I doubt the second-floor teacher would appreciate that.
No, the real gift of being a teacher, at least for the ten months out of the year not named June and July, are the wonderful answers we get to out insightful questions.
And no, I’m not talking about the good answers.
How did Hitler come to power? He was really popular, you see, because he threw a Nazi party. Ain’t no party like a Nazi party cause a Nazi party don’t stop… until 1945.
After twenty years, bad answers don’t phase me much. Answers I used to find hilarious now seem pat. They lack the flair they once had, and are usually just copied from Wikipedia these days.
For instance, every year I ask “When and where was the Berlin Conference of 1884?” Wanna guess how many students just write “IDK”? A couple months later, I ask where the Berlin Wall was built. Can you imagine that they STILL haven’t figured out where? Maybe I should give them the hint that it’s in the same place they held the Berlin Conference.
But I got a response recently that broke through this grizzled vet’s exterior. The type that makes me run to the other teachers in my department and repeat it for guffaws. Ironically, it wasn’t even a wrong answer.
The question, from a random reading (not a test or anything, which is where I usually see the best responses), asked how Leon Trotsky died. The answer read, quite correctly, “A Stalinist agent in Mexico City struck him in the head with an ice pick.”
Ouch. Not a fun way to go. Where’s the joy, you may ask? It stemmed from an unrequested addendum, a cherry on top of that otherwise pat answer.
“I think it was murder.”
Whoa! Slow down, Perry Mason!
After all, I also teach Intro to Law. Doesn’t this eighty-year old “alleged” criminal get any due process? Sure, the fifth amendment doesn’t apply in Mexico City, but considering he was working for the Soviets in Mexico, I think it all cancels out. They call that quid pro decisis.
Sure, the perpetrator (sorry, defendant) had a letter on his body claiming his intention. But it also included lies about who he was. And if we can’t trust a guy to level with us about his name, why should we take at face value his admission of intent? And the fact that he was carrying around an ice pick under a trenchcoat in the middle of August in Mexico is completely circumstantial. I’ve seen plenty of David E. Kelley programs. The DA doesn’t have a case. Maybe he was on his way to the North Pole? Or maybe it was self defense! Yeah, yeah, the sixty-year-old attacked him, totally unprovoked. Good thing my client had that sawed-off ice pick under his summer trenchcoat!
Okay, okay, maybe he did it. Good eye, Student, for delving into the mind of a murderer to get at true intent. Although all you really had to do was describe the act. Save your opinion for things like the decision to drop the atomic bomb.
But nah, this student was totally mute when I actually asked to debate motive.
For now, I’m saying this is my third favorite student answer, but that means it wins the bronze medal. The best student answers of my tenure work a lot like the American two-party system. The top two are forever etched in stone, and depending on my mood, they’ll switch who’s in the driver’s seat. Trotsky’s alleged murder and Hitler’s bumpin’ parties are the Ralph Naders and Gary Johnsons. They make me chuckle for a season or two, then are largely forgotten when the newest batch comes in.
Statement number one came on an economics test. The question requested a where to set a price ceiling. A price ceiling, for those of you who haven’t spent much time in an economics class over the past decades, is a maximum price set by the government, which often creates shortages. For a recent example, take a look at that “anti price gouging” bill going through Congress right now. Clearly none of the members of Congress have spent a lot of time in economics classes. Why, it was only a couple years ago they were convinced that macroeconomics was a defunct study, and that inflation wasn’t really a thing anymore. How’d that turn out?
Anyway, for a price ceiling to be effective, it must be set below the market price. This is the concept the question was testing. Many students assume that, since it’s a ceiling, it should be high. Very confusing, I know, but a price FLOOR would have to be high. If that anti-gouging bill said the price of gasoline couldn’t go above $20 a gallon, it wouldn’t be a very effective law. At least for the next month or two, after which that’ll probably be where supply meets demand anyway.
I know, Congress doesn’t really care about making effective laws. They care about getting YouTube views and Twitter likes.
Don’t worry if the concept of price ceilings is foreign to you. My student also didn’t understand the concept. Not only did she fail to give me a dollar amount, she didn’t even acknowledge the product the question was about, chocolate chip cookies. Instead, she discussed the price of… ceilings.
Most ceilings, you see, are similar to each other and should probably be priced the same. It isn’t the price of the ceiling that’s important, she informed me, but the quality. Cheap ceilings are more likely to leak.
Had she delved into the complimentary or supplementary market of roofs vis-a-vis ceilings, I might’ve given her the points. I’m all for bringing in real world examples, and maybe this girl ran a stucco company in her free time. When I asked another student, after reading an article about the supply and demand of illicit drugs, what determines the price of cocaine and marijuana, he happily told me pot is about $50 for a quarter ounce.
But since ceiling girl couldn’t provide me with an actual price of the top of my house, it’s a big fat zero.
Zero, it turns out, would’ve been a good answer for an effective price ceiling. I’m surprised Congress hasn’t attempted to make those evil oil companies give us gas for free. Can’t imagine any drawbacks to that plan.
What separates the final answer from those that came before was the fact that it was an unforced error. Price ceilings and Nazi parties and Stalinist Law & Order were in responses to prompts, either after readings or on a test. I applaud ceiling girl for trying to make sense of the question and taking an “educated” guess instead of opting for the ubiquitous “IDK.”
This last answer, however, came on a term paper. He didn’t have to write a damn thing, but opted to go off the board with a phenomenally preposterous statement. Probably shouldn’t be surprising from a guy whose bibliography included, I shit you not, http://www.thegovernment.com. I guess http://www.thegovernment.gov was already taken?
The term paper could be on any political topic, like abortion or gerrymandering or sin taxes. He opted for the draft, which doesn’t pique too many interests these days, but is always an acceptable foray into timeless queries of individual rights versus societal responsibilities, of implicit versus explicit government powers. So sure, kid, but me up with some knowledge.
“The U.S. military draft,” he began, “is very similar to the NFL draft.”
Cue the record scratching sound effect
So wait, which branch of the military has the number one pick this year? Does it rotate between the branches or, like the NFL, does it go to whichever branch had the worst year? How is that determined? I mean, the Afghanistan pullout didn’t go swimmingly, but I don’t know how to assign the blame. I assume the army, but the lasting image was of the airplane leaving Kabul Airport, leaving the top pick to the Wild Blue Yonder.
More questions abound. Let’s say the navy has the number one overall draft pick one year, but the top prospect is a sniper. Do they draft him in the hopes of “developing” him into a submarine captain? Or do they trade that pick to the army or marines? But I can’t imagine they can get a lot in return, since the army knows they won’t draft the guy anyway, and they can just wait to draft him in the two or three spot for less money.
Come to think of it, other than the Marines, I don’t see a lot of overlap in the skills required by the top recruits in the various branches, leaving the draft with little suspense and less action. No wonder they don’t televise that thing.
But wait, Space Force is an expansion franchise, so they should get the first pick. Damn, I really hope the number one pick isn’t infantry.
I was recently at a minor league baseball team’s military appreciation night. After every inning, they asked all current and former members of a specific armed force to stand up and be applauded. At first I thought they were stretching the definition of military when we had to applaud the Coast Guard and the National Guard. I mean, shit, the latter were all just Vietnam draft dodgers, while the former’s claim to fame is running slow motion in Baywatch scenes.
Come to think of it, that Vietnam War draft was televised. Although the only trades going on that day were people trading their residency to Canada.
Just like John Elway and Eli Manning.
Holy shit, my student was right! The military draft IS just like the NFL draft.
You know how sometimes you wake up in a weird location? Sometimes it’s a dark hotel room when you turn the wrong way while looking for the bathroom. In my younger days, I found myself sprawled out on my living room floor with the front door still wide open. I’d managed to make it all of two steps inside my domicile.
In a similar fashion, I recently looked around, bewildered, coaching my daughter’s volleyball team.
An odd place to find oneself, to be sure. At least when I passed out in my living room, I knew how I got there. But coaching a sport one never played beyond maybe junior high takes a gargantuan lack of organizational skills. Surprisingly, in this instance, not my own.
We figured Daughter had more chance for success in volleyball than in the standards like soccer and softball. Sports that required endurance and precision, or even a general awareness of where your body is at any moment, were never going to be her forte.
First we tried soccer. She was okay with it, except for the fact that it was a co-ed team. The boys were mostly ball hogs and the girls had little desire to assert themselves. The following year, it would’ve been girls only. Not sure why they wouldn’t do that from year one, but whatever. Daughter wasn’t opposed to trying soccer again, but also wasn’t gung-ho to return to the pitch.
In softball, she was already a year behind some of the other players. Then everything got shut down for Covid. In 2021, when it returned, we still weren’t sure it was the best idea, so by now she’d be three years behind other players and, even worse, at the age of eight, she’s at a point where she’d notice being behind, and Daughter ain’t the type to use that as motivation to catch up.
Volleyball, we figured, was a better option for her. She loves playing keepy-uppy with a balloon, which is the basic concept behind volleyball. Don’t let the damn thing hit the ground. She’s also, somehow, always been tall for her age. Don’t ask me how. I’m 5’8″ on a good day and my wife needs tip-toes to reach 5’5″. Neither our parents or grandparents come from tall stock. A bunch of diminutive Irish and Italian ancestors. Yet Daughter has consistently been above the 90th percentile for height. Her birthday is in May and she’s usually the same height as her classmates whose birthdays are in September and October.
Allegedly my dad was one of the tallest kids in his elementary school classes. Then he stopped growing in eighth grade, and by the time I knew him, he was 5’6″ and looking up at the gents the ladies call handsome. So maybe Daughter will peter out in time. Maybe she’ll be the blocker in elementary school before transitioning to the digger in high school.
And no, basketball never entered into the equation. Remember, she has virtually no coordination. Basketball requires not only running up and down the court, but bouncing a ball at the same time. If it’s possible to trip over both a foot and a ball at the same time, Daughter would find a way.
So it’s volleyball or curling. And I don’t think many colleges offer curling scholarships.
I still wasn’t planning on coaching, though. That came much later. Much, much later. As in, two days before the season started.
We signed Daughter up in January and, apart from an initial acknowledgement of registration, we heard nothing for a good eight weeks. It got so bad that my mom thought we lying to her about having no schedule, trying to finagle out of her visiting, but it was legit. We were less than two weeks from opening day and were still on radio silence.
I was on my curling club’s Board of Directors for six years, and ran the league for a good portion of that time. I totally get that these endeavors are chaotic in the best of times. You can tell people when the sign-ups are, you can email them repeatedly, and you’ll still get a whole lotta “Wait, when does league start?” Noting’s more infuriating than, a week after the “deadline,” when you find yourself with an odd number of players/teams, you contact someone asking if there’s any way they can spare the time, expecting an ”Of course not, otherwise I would’ve signed up,” but instead getting a “Yeah, totally. Sounds great.” Umm… then why didn’t you… You know what? Never mind.
But at least when we were rearranging teams 24 hours before the start of the season, we were still sending out information. “Don’t forget we start this weekend.” “Here are the dates, but we might be assigning byes, so let me know if there’s a date you’ll be out of town.” “We’ve got more teams than skips, does anyone want to try their hand at a new role?” In reality, we were still recruiting ten players while those were going out, but from the members’ perspective, it seemed like it was ninety percent set.
With volleyball, it was a whole lotta nothing until about ten days out, when an email gave a generic list of days, not dates. “Every Thursday and Saturday, starting next week.” No mention of which days are practice, which are games, but if I know anything about youth sports, the games gotta be on Saturday morning. Just maybe not the first Saturday? Cause Daughter doesn’t know shit about volleyball yet, and given that they don’t allow any kids younger than her, for once she won’t be the only clueless kid.
Buried in that first email was a brief mention that there were still coaching spots available, so hey, if you’ve ever thought about maybe wanting to help out, they’d love to have ya.
Yeah, no thanks. Looking forward to letting someone who knows what they’re doing take the reins.
As a bonus, the email went on, the coach gets, not only their own kid, but one other player of choice to ensure your child’s with their friend. Considering we didn’t know anyone else signing up, that wasn’t much of an incentive. Also, while I was unaware at the time, they only had enough kids for one under-nine team, so whether I coached or not, Daughter was going to be on the same team as everyone younger than fourth grade.
Another week went by before we heard anything else. This time they were a *little* more focused with their messaging. We need fifty coaches. We only have ten. As of now (three days before the first practice (or maybe game), your child’s team does not have a coach.
Okay, that’s a little different. If they were forty coaches short, one wonders what the numbers looked like when they sent out the, “Hey, have we got a great opportunity for you” email. Maybe they should’ve been in four-alarm fire territory long before the eve of play.
While the email never explicitly said that if we didn’t step up, the season wasn’t happening, I took it as such and signed up to assistant coach. So did one other parent and one older sibling who’s in high school. Wow. A team of thirteen and, even after a “you have no coach” plea, only three sign up to assistant coach. Maybe if there’d been more regular communication, they might find more buy-in.
At least no other parents better bitch about my coaching. Cause they all coulda had the position.
Ironically enough, when I followed the link to sign up for assistant coaching, I had to provide two references, particularly people to attest to my volunteer work and work ethic. Uh huh, sure. It’s Wednesday and you are hoping to get forty-plus coaches “hired” before Saturday. I’m putting my hooker and drug dealer in the field and daring you to tell me no.
Instead of a “sorry, but no” email, I get, predictably, a “Hey, thanks for your interest in being an assistant coach. Wanna be coach?”
To which I reply, “Not really. I’ll miss at least one practice and I am bad with names, to say nothing of my propensity to beat small children.”
“No problem,” they respond. “Welcome aboard, Coach!”
Evidently, Adolf Stalin Beelzebub must’ve given me a great reference.
They sent me and another co-coach (Who also reluctantly signed up to assistant) a couple YouTube videos, and wit twelve hours to spare, we were set to teach a bunch of seven-year-olds how to spike a volleyball.
Wait, spiking is first? Not bumping? I thought every volleyball instruction started with bumping. Maybe this is why they only recruit coaches two days before the season starts. Fewer questions.
Coaches were told to come a half-hour early to help set up nets, for which there was also a YouTube. When I showed up early, however, it was absolute chaos. We gravitated toward a few parents who had volleyball t-shirts, meaning it’s at least their second season. They showed us how to set up a net, but there was little guidance beyond that.
By the time the hour was up, and all the peons (ie parents smart enough to not bow to last minute, passive aggressive recruitment) showed up with children ready to play volleyball, only half the courts were set up. Parents and children practiced bumping to each other during the delay. Bumping, that skill that won’t be covered till the third or fourth practice. After setting. How the hell does one set without first receiving a bump?
There was supposed to be a coaches meeting ten minutes before practice started. In reality, it took place ten minutes after practice was supposed to start. My co-coach and I already had our kids in a circle playing the “name game” when we were called away. Um, so maybe let the kids keep playing the name game amongst themselves? It’s not like we coaches need to know their names or anything.
The coaches meeting, it turns out, was only to go over the agenda for today’s practice. Like the name game, which we were already doing because they’d sent the agenda out the day before. We’re to spend ten minutes playing the name game, then fifteen minutes spiking, then thirty minutes serving. Except now we only have about thirty-five minutes left for the whole practice.
Again, I understand these volunteer organization difficulties. At the curling club, we throw a number of events that come off by the skin of the grace of God’s teeth. There are league games where the rocks sink into the ice because we forgot to bring them down to temperature first. Or learn-to-curls with five instructors and forty students.
The difference is that participants rarely know when we’re skimming the tangent of disaster. In my eight years curling, six of which I was on the Board, we never once made a new learn-to-curler carry a rock to the ice. Even if we were still setting the hacks while they receive introductions in the warm room, the second they walked onto the ice, the picture’s pristine. After we rope them in to the game, then we can rope them into helping.
If Big Volleyball wanted to look like a well-oiled machine, the type of organization other parents would want to join, they probably should’ve had us fools who agreed to coach show up an hour early, not a half-hour. Then, when the average parent shows up ten minutes before the first practice, the courts are all put together and the coaches are off to the side at an ooo, aaah, special meeting that wouldn’t you really like to be part of in the future?
Other practices followed suit. The coaches meeting that is supposed to occur ten minutes prior to practice actually takes place five minutes after call time. My co-coach and I stopped going to them, because they only go over the practice plan, which was emailed to us at 10:00 last night, and which we’re going to promptly ignore. Unfortunately the damage was already done, because half our team doesn’t show up on time anymore.
The reason we ignore the agenda is because it isn’t what our kids need. I understand it’s hard to make a practice plan that fits teams ranging from ages 7 to 14 And far be it from them to come up with, I don’t know, two practice plans. So we’re stuck “teaching” our team how to block a powerful jump spike. Because that happens all the time with seven-year-olds. How about we focus on getting the fucking ball over the net instead? Or, I don’t know, maybe explaining the purpose of the game to them?
Their long-term planning is even worse than the short-term. The night after our second practice, we received the agenda for practice the following day when we were finally going to go over bumping. A coach replied-all that the invoice we were sent didn’t have the park reserved tomorrow. Does that mean we’re on Spring Break? An hour later, the “in charge” guy emails back that, hah hah, oh yeah, the next three practices aren’t actually happening. See you in two weeks.
Um, okay, but are you going to tell all the parents who I said “See you Saturday” to last night?
Damn, I really wish we had gone over bumping first. If for no other reason than I don’t want to spend the next ten days making my daughter work on setting, a skill that rarely shows up before varsity-level high school.
Later in the season we had another late all-call. “Reminder:” the text read, “Tomorrow is a game day. The game will last two hours, rotating fields every twenty minutes.”
Perhaps they don’t understand the subtle nuance of “reminder.” It’s usually meant to imply something we’d already known. For instance, I can “remind” my wife that I’m hitting the grocery store on the way home from work. I can’t “remind” my students about the fall of the Berlin Wall when we’re still studying the Enlightenment.
Needless to say, when we showed up the next day, I had a whole bunch of parents coming up to me saying they had to leave after an hour. If only they’d known beforehand. I fired back that I was right there with them. As coach, I’d love to have more than twelve hours notice that we might have a game instead of a practice or scrimmage.
That’s the particularly shitty thing about this arrangement. I’m somehow seen as an authority figure, as if I have any fucking clue about what’s going on. When I told them I was as surprised as them, they roll their eyes as if I’m just a slacker. Shit, they probably think I came up with the bright idea to hold off bumping until after Spring Break. I can only politely remind them that they could’ve had the fucking job.
Fortunately, whatever league was visiting us didn’t have a u9 team to play against, so the fact that I would’ve been down to three players after one hour didn’t matter. The guy in charge said they contemplated rotating us in with the 9 & 10 year olds but decided against it. Of course, they didn’t incorporate any of the coaches or parents to these discussions.
The guy in charge, by the way, says he loves teaching our age level. They’re so enthusiastic and their growth during the season is spectacular. In fact, he’s coached the u9 team each of the last four seasons. Really? Well then why the fuck did he leave it up to a couple know nothings who can’t even convince the kids that the goal is to get the ball back over to the other side of the net this time? How about he give us the 14-year-olds he’s currently coaching. I’ll have them setting like motherfuckers.
Although maybe not. Then I’d have to stay for two hours on game days, whenever the hell those things are. Probably with only half a team, all of whom were pissed at me for hoarding the information to myself.
So maybe I should just stay over here on my court with a bunch of kids who have no idea what they’re doing.
Holy shit. Camptathalon 2022 is less than a month away. Maybe I should finally transcribe the 2021 journal? I mean, I’ve already posted about my January 2022 snow camping. Plus spring break in Hawaii. Maybe I should stop throwing the log in with the camping gear at the end of the summer. Meh.
If this is your first visit, Camptathalon is an annual guys’ trip/competition. We jot down much of what is said and done for posterity’s sake. You know, got to keep the proper historical perspective.
All statements are accurate, if deliberately out of context.
Thursday 12:50 PM text exchange: Getting one growler of brown ale, one of pale. A coffee porter sounds interesting.” -“Wait, there’s beer?” – “Of course not. No way am I already at a brewery that’s an hour and a half from work.”
2:08 Arrive at Silvertip Campsite. Just the Tip # 17. Matt Gaetz’s favorite campsite. 2:34 Camp host gives the whatfor about quiet hours. “I know what five guys are like.” Dude, we’re in our forties, not our twenties. 2:35 “Don’t leave your beers out, or the bears will drink them.” “The last thing we want is some drunk bears.” “That’s not it. They like the sugar.” 3:20 First beer. Other than at brewery 4:25 Sparky arrives 4:30 Wow. These campsites are really close to each other. Should we go check the first come, first serve campsite? 5:05 Much better 5:43 First site packed up, So long, Matt Gaetz. So long, Buzzkill camp host. 6:40 Campsite 2.0 finished 7:06 Burgers 10:15 Night, night 10:17I hope the bear doesn’t play my sudoku
6:23 There’s pee coming off my pee 6:43 I’d fail the COVID screener. I have a sore throat, but it’s totally explainable. 6:55 We’ve got a coffee three-way. Pour over, French press, and percolator 7:16 Wow, I can say Alexa out loud. 7:30 Climb the Big Fucking Rock, because why not?
7:43 Way down isn’t as fun. 7:47 Oatmeal for breakfast. We are old. 9:22 I hope the last guy to use that toilet didn’t have crabs, because my fat ass was touching every possible surface. 9:34 Neighbors packing up & leaving. The toddler who’s been shouting “I don’t want to go camping” for the past 16 hours won the argument. 10:04 New people move in next door. More kids. Bonus! 10:19 From the campsite next door: “Push it through more!” Good thing I’m not drinking yet. 10:42 Rick arrives. We have a quorum. 10:46 “I’ve added a twist to the loser libation this year.” 11:09 First beer of the day 11:14 First whiskey of the day 11:22 Sparky returns. He had trouble getting wood. 11:36 Trying to remember the last time we had Pringles. 11:45 Chris H arrives. 12:05 “If everyone grabs a corner of the EZ Up, it’ll go faster.” “If we keep sitting here drinking beer, it’ll still get done.” 12:15″Will the twist happen at the same time as the Loser Libation?” (Thinks) “No. Not necessarily.” 12:41 That beer ain’t gonna drink itself, bitch. 12:50 “Trust me, I know what a climax is.” “Really? Did he enjoy it, too?” “Why the hell should I care?” 1:09 “Damn, the family next door is back. I guess I’ll put my cock away.” “It’s not like they could see it.” 1:35 Alright, fucking bitch. 1:37 “1:37 is a good time for whiskey.” 1:50 “Do it! Take my bishop, bitch!” 1:54 “I puked in a cup at a Tesla concert.” 1:59 There’s a joke in there somewhere, but I haven’t figured it out yet. 2:01 Like a good condom, you can reuse it. 2:12 Love box. 2:26 Chess game over. “Thank you for making me feel good.” “Did you give him a reach-around, too?” 2:32 No, seriously. Take it all off. 3:05 Chris D arrives. 3:16 And it doesn’t even mention pedophilia. 3:17 Cheese Balls arrive 3:18 More Tesla stories: Trying to get into a video shoot at a bowling alley. 3:27 Chris D packed the wrong chair: Unicorns & rainbows. 3:30 Official Opening Toast 3:33 Flag is up 3:36 Loser Libation wrinkle revealed: Two libations. Fourth place chooses which one he drinks, assigns other to 5th place. 3:45 “It’ll just come out same color, different smell.” 3:54 Any time you put a cock in front of me, I’m going to take it. 4:43 You know parliamentary procedure makes me hard. 4:48 Cheese balls open. 4:50 I hate to bring it up, but my grandma loved cheese balls. Sorry, MaMaw. 5:06 So Chris, how is Mein Kampf going? 5:27 We could do some damage with a rifle. 5:35 Chili for dinner. Side of mellow corn whiskey. 6:11 Camptathalon Event #1: Poker. 6:18 “Not sure how I’ll do. I had groin surgery.” “Most of Camptathalon is based on groin strength.” 6:30 Dave Winfield is disappointed 6:33 It’s not my fault you ran into my full house last year. 6:47 $50 bet by the pre-ejaculate 7:04 Are you pouring water in your vagina? 7:13 First all in. Loser Libation(s) revealed: Goldschlager & Jagaermeister 7:14 Chris D finishes DFL 7:19 Pocket queens nullified by a misdeal 7:29 Who brings drums camping? 7:43 Tony all in on Anna Kournikova: A/K looks really good but rarely wins. 7:44 Tony selects Goldschlager, assigns Jagaermeister to Chris 7:58 Standings after one event: Chris H. 5, Sparky 4, Rick 3, Tony 2, Chris D 0 8:35 When did “Filling the Bucket” start referring to licking someone’s ass? 8:40 Rumors of Rick spewing have been greatly exaggerated 8:42 A month before he was murdered, JFK was in Marilyn Monroe 8:55 Fast Food Draft:
Wingstop Lousiana Rub
Western Bacon Cheeseburger
McDonald’s French Fries
Surfin’ Bird (Beach Hut Deli)
Animal Style Cheeseburger
Chicken Katsu (L&L Hawaiian BBQ)
Wendy’s Spicy Chicken
Beefy 5-Layer Burrito
Burger King Double Cheeseburger
Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese
Sausage McMuffin w/ Egg
Arby’s Roast Beef
Panda Express Kung Pao Chicken
Popeye’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Crunch Wrap Supreme
Jimboy’s Beef Taco
9:05 During Draft: Tony’s dick. “That ain’t fast. Baby, that takes all night. 9:06 During Draft:I wonder where Arby’s will go? 9:52 Rick & Chris D down for the count 9:54 They rally. 10:00 Rick’s down for good this time. 10;15 There’s a hole in your pants. Is that where the water goes? 10:38 Was “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” by Loverboy? 10:53 Tony calling it a night. 11:10 Okay, for real. Tony’s going to sleep.
6:59 Rick falls back asleep at the fire. 8:00 Still only two of us awake. What the fuck is this, vacation? 8:44 Where did all the Maker’s Mark go? 9:06 Last person finally wakes up. 9:07 “A bear came into my tent last night and shit in my mouth.” 9:25 “Ooo, that one smells like rotten chili.” “My work here is done.” 9:44 First beer of Saturday 9:49 Butter removed from ice 10:10 First whiskey shot of Saturday 10:46 Camptathalon Event #2: Home Run Derby 11:07 Deadball era: First round ends with three-way tie for first with 2 HR each. 11:17 Round two: 3 HR, 3 HR, 1 HR, 0 HR. Still no need for a jack-off 11:24 Chris D has only needed one home run in each round 11:26 Chris vs. Chris in the final 11:31 Chris H get zero, Chris D only needs 1 again. 11:32 With grand total of four, Chris D wins Homerun Derby *After Two Events: Chris H 9, Sparky 7, Chris D 5, Tony 4, Rick 3* 12:00 Camptathalon Event #3: Cornhole 12:27 Chris D comes back from 20-7 deficit to win 21-20 1:14 Chris H comes back from 20-10 deficit to win 21-20 1:32 Cornhole Results: Chris D, Sparky, Chris H, Tony, Rick *After Three Events: Chris H 12, Sparky 11, Chris D 10, Tony 6, Rick 3* 2:22 Is Rick down for the count? 2:28 Zombie Rick emerges 2:59 Two first-roll Farkles in a row 3:12 “Do you want more sausage?” “That’s why his back hurts in the first place.” 3:13 Rick’s back down again 3:41 Camptathalon Event #4: Jon Goudreau Memorial Butter Toss
3:49 Butter Toss Results: Sparky, Chris D, Chris H, Tony, Rick *After Four Events: Sparky 16, Chris H 15, Chris D 14, Tony 8, Rick 3* 3:55 Slingshot a cheeseball into somebody’s mouth 3:57 Last time I checked, the number of balls was not an issue 4:15 The paper towels we wiped the butter off our hands with catch fire in the pit, giving the campground a pleasant movie-theater smell 4:18 Meat stick? 4:21 Radio announcer: “All four batters this inning have really smoked their balls.” 4:34 Are you ready for adventure? I need balls 4:40 Camptathalon Event #5: Adventure Bocce 5:15 Sparky can’t find one of his balls 5:38 Adventure Bocce Results: Chris D, Rick, Sparky, Tony, Chris H *After Five Events: Sparky 19, Chris D 19, Chris H 15, Tony 10, Rick 7* 7:05 Rick has a beer 7:10 Camptathalon Event #6: Slingshot 7:17 Everybody goose-egged the first round. Great fucking idea. 7:46 Slingshot Results: Chris D, Chris H, Tony, Sparky, Rick *After six events: Chris D 24, Sparky 21, Chris H 19, Tony 13, Rick 7* 8:01 Sparky boycotts Event 7, Cards Against Humanity, giving Chris D an anticlimactic Camptathalon Championship 8:37 First reading of the Rimmer book 10:09 When Pete Townshend masturbates, does he do it windmill style?
After more than two years away, I ventured into a super-spreader event.
Sorry, I meant a concert. Damn you, autocorrect!
Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of super-spreaders. Most of them included forty-five hormonal teenagers thinking their masks are supposed to go on their chin, not live music.
Oddly enough, the hormonal teenagers are STILL wearing masks around their chins, even after the mask mandate expired. I guess it’s the new version of wearing conservative clothes when you leave the house then going full goth. Their parents think they’re wearing the masks. But if that’s the case, why not put it in your pocket when you get to school?
Sorry. Concert. Right. A friend of mine texted me on a Monday night, asking if I wanted to go to a concert two days later. Seeing as the ticket said 7:00 show, I thought that sounded like a capital idea. I should be home by, what, 9:30? 10:00 at the latest.
Turns out the doors opened at 7:00. And they had this thing called a, what was it, opening band? I guess I’m out of practice.
In addition to getting my sea legs back, this was a band I didn’t know many songs from. I had heard of them, and when I checked YouTube, I recognized a few of the songs, so it’s not like I was totally flying blind. But it turns out there’s a difference between being marginally aware of a band’s songs and knowing (and singing along to) every fucking lyric, which described roughly every other human being in the place. It felt really awkward when the lead singer pointed at us to finish the chorus and all I could do was mouth some bullshit. Reminded me of the Apostle’s Creed back in my Catholic days. Did I miss the week when Catechism covered the Airborne Toxic Event?
That was the name of the band we saw, by the way. The Airborne Toxic Event. With special guest Mondo Cozmo. In case you’ve forgotten, as I clearly had, “special guest” means opening act. That band goes on at 8:00, not the 7:00 printed on the ticket, and the band you’re there to see, or that your friend is dragging you to see, won’t be on for another ninety minutes.
My friend invited me because his son, who was the original owner of the extra ticket, had dutifully cleared a night in June of 2020, not April of 2022. He might have been able to make the makeup date March of 2021, but hat didn’t happen, either. In the intervening two years, he’d dropped out of college, had a kid, and started working construction. He (perhaps wisely) didn’t want to attend a late concert then wake up for work the next day. Instead, his twenty-year-old ass makes the two pushing-fifty guys do the late night thing. What am I missing here? Isn’t that what being twenty is all about? I remember overnight trips to Reno (without a hotel) that ended with me getting home just long enough to shower and head into work with no sleep.
Then again, I didn’t have a toddler till I was forty.
The concert was almost pushed off again. The week prior to our show, they had to cancel another thrice-rescheduled show in Southern California because somebody on their bus tested positive. Fortunately, he got the negative test before the Sacramento show.
Are the 2020s maybe not the best time for a band named “The Airborne Toxic Event?” If any new Covid cases are traced back to their concert, the headlines might become confusing.
The venue they were playing was one I’d always been curious to attend, which helped counteract my reluctance to miss sleep. It caters to bands that don’t cater to people my age. Bands with names like Goth After Dark or Dub Stars or Guadalupe Hidalgo. Or Gwar.
Holy shit, Gwar is playing there Memorial Day Weekend! I’m super curious about the clientele at a Gwar show. They were already an obscure joke back in 1990. So it’s got to be a slew of fifty-somethings that never really got the joke. I’m tempted to buy a ticket for crowd watching, but the bastards would probably expect me to sing along with their choruses.
The venue is tiny. And crowded. Hopefully Whitesnake never plays there, because any errant pyrotechnics and we weren’t getting out. As it stood, I couldn’t even leave my spot to grab another beer. I might not make it back. Not that I wanted any more beer, because it would be four hours before I left the confines, and who the hell goes to the bathroom during a concert? I might miss the lyrics.
Wait, are they saying, “Like gasoline”? That’s what it sounded like on maybe the fifth iteration. I guess that’s a cool lyric. I think the line referenced making out when they were seventeen. It rhymes. And, you know, gasoline is explosive. Fire equals passion. Just ask creepy elder statesman Bruce Springsteen and his “Hey little girl, is your daddy home?” Or Whitesnake.
Maybe this band isn’t too bad.
Two people in my close vicinity passed out. We’re all out of practice.
Oddly enough, the pass outs happened not during the concert while people were jumping around, but in between the opening band and the main event. The first lady to pass out was one of the only ones wearing a mask.
Did I mention super-spreader event?
Not too surprising. It was stuffy as hell and people were jockeying for position, despite the fact that nobody in the entire venue was more than twenty feet from the stage. And I know we’re only supposed to mock people who claim that it’s harder to breathe while wearing a mask, but I imagine that when five hundred people are jostling around you, the mask can’t be doing wonders. It was hard enough for me to catch a full breath, and my nose and mouth were wide open. Each inhalation contained about 85% body odor. Plus 15% Covid.
Her mask fluxed in and out heavily a couple times, then her eyes fluttered and she did the standard pirouette before being caught by her companion, also wearing a mask. The crowd was nice enough to part to let him pull her out. As long as you’re going away from the stage, you’re golden. Five people moved into the spot she vacated.
I suppose I should thank this particular canary for reminding me I was in a coalmine. After she went down, I remembered to bend my knees more often. Flex those calf muscles! But after four hours of standing in more or less the same spot, my feet still felt like they’d gone 25,000 steps. You know what’s nice about seeing Classic Rockers in arenas and stadiums? Assigned seating!
The second fainter fell a couple minutes before the band came on. His pass-out was the more pedestrian, self-inflicted style. No mask near his mouth, but he did have a beer, and it clearly wasn’t his first. And “near his mouth” was the closest he came. He couldn’t quite find it. When he faceplanted toward the back of the woman’s head, somebody else grabbed him and stood him back up. At first I thought they were together, but second dude might’ve just been a good Samaritan. Drunkie then sways backward, toward said Samaritan.
When security came around, Samaritan held his hand up, signalling toward the drunkard like a plane’s flying over his deserted island for the first time in a decade. Security was already looking for the drunkard, which was impressive because as far as I knew, the guy had just shown up. Maybe they’ve got us all under strict surveillance. We didn’t have to show our vaccination card because they’re already monitoring our biorhythms from the 5g DNA sequencing that Bill Gates put into our bodies!
Sir Sways-a-Lot didn’t put up a fight. I don’t even think he knew they were ushering him away, nor whether he was at a concert in the first place. Security used the “hey buddy” approach instead of “Respect my Authori-TAY!” and dude was easily led toward the back. For good measure, he took one more sip from the IPA while following along. Not so much rebellion as inertia.
Good Samaritan immediately took two steps forward to take the vacated spot.
How was the band? Not sure. You might want to check with someone who knew what they were seeing. They had a viola player. Or maybe it was a violin. Perhaps even a fiddle. When she wasn’t on the strings, she played the keyboard. But then when she was playing violin, other members of the band stopped playing guitar and went over to play the lonely keyboards. By the end of the concert, that thing had more people tickling its ivory than your mom.
The opening act was also impressive. Much like Jethro Tull, I don’t know if Mondo Cosmo was a person or the whole band. Unlike Jethro Tull, nobody named Mondo Cosmo invented a seed drill. The guitar player was great. Drummer, too. But in looking at this guy’s/band’s videos online, it’s clear that, Mondo Cosmo or not, Mondo Cosmo is the only guy who gets camera time.
He’s pretty hard core. Every bit the Mondo. Seemed way more comfortable on the songs he was jumping around the stage than on the songs he had to sit still and play rhythm guitar. I feel like he’s either going to make it big or flame out very, very hard. I’m rooting for the former.
The drawback of the band was that they had way too much pre-recorded backing tracks. It took me a number of songs to figure out where the hell the bass was coming from. Was he behind the curtain? Was the lead guitar busting out low notes on the thick strings when he wasn’t in solo mode. Once I realized the bass was still going while he was soloing, I realized it was all a ruse.
Then they did a cover of “Bittersweet Symphony.” I knew for a FACT there was no string section in the three-man band.
Did you know you could jump around the stage and headbang to “Bittersweet Symphony”? Although, as a general rule, you shouldn’t get more into another band’s songs than your own.
I don’t want to give away too much, because for the first time sine 2019, I can have a year-end concert review. I’ve got tickets bought for at least one more, with potential plans for as many as three more. When it rains, it pours.
I just had to make sure I got that “your mom” joke in before I forgot it.