Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Wonder Of It All

As someone who loves a good gene splicing (and who doesn't?), I've whiled away many happy hours in the backyard laboratory I share with the lawn mower and several bags of potting soil. I'm just now ready to peel back the curtain and share some of my favorite creations.

Moose of Paradise

The delicate Moose of Paradise combines the resplendent beauty of the traditional blossom with the quiet dignity and unmistakable aroma of the moose. I have high hopes for this as the next trend for prom night.

Siamese Moose

Playful and elegant, the Siamese Moose likes nothing more than to curl up on your lap on a cold winter night. The perfect solution for those pet lovers with an allergy to dander.


With its stunning plumage and uncanny ability to mimic the world around it, the moosekatoo is sure to be a favorite at a pet store near you. It loves to perch on a finger and be hand fed seed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

By Request

Blue Moose, you saw me standing alone
Without a steak on my plate
Without a roast of my own

Blue Moose, you know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could aim for

And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one with marbled meat
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moose it smelled like peat

Blue Moose, now I'm no longer alone
Without a steak on my plate
Without a roast of my own

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Silver Lining

"Mother Nature hates our team," I told Coach P. last week.

"I hate Mother Nature, so that makes us even," he said.

We were discussing whether to cancel that night's baseball practice. The rain was coming down sideways so "discussing" isn't really the right word for it; it was more like synchronized whining. We've missed more than half our scheduled practices so far because of the weather, exacerbating the preexisting instability I've nurtured during the long, dark winter that still hasn't quite released its grip.

Besides making it difficult to evaluate how our players can handle different positions, the lack of practices also means the kids aren't getting to know each other as well as we'd hoped. Neither are the parents, who by now would have normally spent a dozen hours chatting with each other while their sons practiced. Team chemistry's at least as important as athletic skill and with Opening Day less than a week away, the only saving grace is that most other teams are having the same problem.

We do have a leg up in that most of the kids on our team know each other at least slightly, either through school or from playing together in one sport or another in the past. The downside is this has made it even harder on those who don't have any connection with the rest of the group.

O. is one of these boys and his father brought it up a few days ago. Not as a complaint, as an observation. Much to his credit, he offered to host a social gathering at his house, a chance for the families to spend some time together before the season's fully underway. We may yet do this.

In the meantime, Coach P. and I have been trying to work out our lineups and Saturday I called him to see if he wanted to come watch my youngest's basketball tournament before scratching out some more possible rosters. Sadly, that's what passes for a good time in our neighborhood.

"Can't," he said. "My kid and I are going downtown for lunch."

"Nice," I said. "How about I take your son out to eat and you take mine to basketball?"

"Normally I would," he said. "Anything to get away from the brat." I heard his son in the background loudly registering a complaint at being so designated. "O.'s coming with us, though."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah, I figured he'd like it more if he got to spend some more time with at least one of other guys on the team. It's just his bad luck he's stuck with my kid." I heard his son in the background again, complaining about this new slight.

Sunday afternoon we had another practice scheduled. Although we tried valiantly to get in a complete session, it was cold, windy, and wet and after about forty-five minutes Coach P. shouted, "If anyone catches this next fly ball, Coach Snag's taking us all out for ice cream!"

Sure enough one of the little weasels caught it. They stood there watching Coach P. to see if he was serious. So did I. He was, and began gathering up equipment. As we walked to the parking lot he pulled me aside.

"Don't worry, I'll cover it," he told me.

"Whatever," I replied. "I just want to get inside."

Off to the ice cream shop it was. It was empty when we arrived, not surprising on a nasty day right before dinner, but there were fifteen or twenty of us and we filled it up, the players and their brothers and sisters ordering sundaes and cones and and hot dogs while Coach P. and I argued over the bill. The kids finished eating and went outside to the patio and chased each other around, my son and Coach P.'s and all the rest of them, and O.'s father talked with the other parents and watched his son playing with his new friends and I felt better that the season was going to work out just fine.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

All Kinds Of Questions

Hi hon, what's up?


Which kid? The middle one?

He sent you a text message?

From a police car?

From the back seat of a police car? Is he alright?


Why were he and his friend walking home from school in the rain? Did the bus break down?

What do you mean, have I forgotten what he's like?

Some stranger stopped and offered them a ride? They didn't get in the car, did they?

Why'd the cop pick them up? You said the guy left, right?

Really? Somebody just happened to see the driver stop to talk to them and called the police? And then the cop gave them a ride home?

Are the boys kid freaked out?

Why am I not surprised they think it was exciting?

UPDATE: Here's the email I sent to the police chief last night.

Dear Chief _____,

My son and a friend decided to walk home Thursday afternoon from school after checking with parents that it was alright to do so. The two of them were making their way down the street when a car pulled over and the driver offered them a ride. I'm sure it was a well-meaning citizen who was only trying to help but both of them know better than to get in a stranger's car so they thanked him and refused. Apparently someone else saw the person pull over and talk to these two boys, got worried and called the police, and was routed to your department.

My son and his friend tell me that one of your officers was there within a minute or two. He asked them what happened, gave them a ride home, and congratulated them for making the right decision not to accept a ride from a stranger. Both boys later commented that he was a "really nice guy." Although I don't know the officer's name, my wife and I are grateful for his diligence and for his help in watching out for our son. Please accept our thanks and if you can, pass it along to the officer in question.



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Stitch In Time

As I've said, the Snag Family doesn't spend a lot of time together in the morning. I do, however, get my youngest and his best friend off to school in the morning, if by getting them off to school one means making them fetch the newspaper and otherwise tormenting them until the Lovely Bride stops back home to make sure they're actually ready to go. That's her punishment for working a mile from home. At least that's how I justify it.

Today was typical. I drank my coffee and explained the Eisenhower Interstate System to the boys. ("The reason there's one straight mile out of every five is so the mothership can land to take us to the home planet. That's why we live near the airport.") The Lovely Bride came home, told the boys to ignore me, and signed the agendas used to communicate between home and school.

I'm not allowed to sign agendas anymore, not since I wrote a comment in the one belonging to my son's friend about the bean he was growing in science. "M. likes his bean. Please give him more homework. Sincerely, Daddy #2."

Anyway, today I was planning to work from home and I nestled into my bathrobe as the kids got ready. The Lovely Bride poured a cup of coffee to go, my son walked to the garage, I smiled at the thought of a day to myself.

There was a clunk and a muffled scream. The Lovely Bride ran to the garage and came back holding my youngest's head against her shirt while he whimpered.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"He tripped and hit his head on the edge of the van's sliding door," she said.

"Ow, ow, ow," he said.

"Cool," his friend said.

After a few minutes she pulled his head away and brought him over to me. Like I have any useful skills.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"Looks like meat," I said.

"Ow, ow, ow," he said.

"Cool," his friend said.

Off went his friend to school. Off went the boy to the clinic up the road. The Lovely Bride and I met each other there. We were ushered into a room to await the doctor.

"You're sure this isn't a trick to get me to submit to a checkup?" I asked.

"Don't be stupid," she said.

"Can I have a back rub?" I asked.

"Don't be stupid," she said again.

"I'll tell the doctor you pushed him into the door. You'll go to jail."

"Ow, ow, ow," said the boy.

The doctor arrived and examined the wound. "That's a heck of a gash," he said.

"Thanks," I said, prompting him to glance at me curiously. Fortunately he knows me.

"He's being stupid," the Lovely Bride told him.

"She's right," said the boy.

The doctor made a note. That's going to bite me later, I thought.

"I was inside drinking coffee when it happened," I offered helpfully.

The doctor asked the nurse to wash out the cut and stepped out to attend to another patient. The Lovely Bride asked the boy if he was alright.

"I'll be okay, Mom."

"Can I leave you with Dad?" she asked. "I need to get back to work."

"I guess," he sighed.

"Don't worry," I said. "In a pinch, I can help re-engineer the clinic's insurance reimbursement procedure."

While the nurse irrigated we made small talk about baseball. Her son plays too.

"Dad, stop talking so much. I'm bleeding here," said my kid, dabbing at his eyes.

"Practice saying this: 'you should see the other guy,'" I told him.

"I wish Mom was here."

"We all do, sport."

The doctor returned, stitched up the wound, and sent us on our way with a handful of antibiotic cream and instructions on how to care for the injury. I've mostly forgotten them although I vaguely remember something about using a disc sander on his forehead in a few weeks.

The boy spent the rest of the day on the couch watching SportsCenter. Every once in a while I'd check on him, asking if he felt nauseous or wanted a sardine or something.

His brothers and friends arrived home later that day and he was the talk of the neighborhood. He smiled gamely from his seat on the couch as they queried him about pain and blood and the possibility of gangrene.

After dinner, with his mother in class, I asked him if he'd be alright staying home without me while I went to a meeting

"Are you being stupid again?" he asked.

"Probably," I said. "You were tough today."


"That's going to make a cool scar."

"I know."

"Too bad the doctor used pink stitches."

He sighed and turned up the TV.

"Love you buddy."

"Love you Dad."

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Fourth Law

"Did you know Tiger Woods is a robot?" my youngest son's best friend asked me.

"What?" I asked.

"A robot," he said. "That's why he wins so many tournaments."

"Have you been smoking crack?"

"We learned about crack in the D.A.R.E. program."

"They're not supposed to hand out samples. Who told you about Tiger?"

"He did," said the boy, pointing at my oldest son, who pretended to work innocently on his homework.

When his dad stopped by to pick him up the kids were downstairs playing football or something equally destructive. I repeated the story.

"That explains why he was so interested in robots a couple weeks ago," his father said.

"What did you say?" I asked.

"That there were a lot more of them out there than he realized. I told him some of his classmates were probably robots."

"Really?" I asked.


"That's brilliant."

"Thanks," he said modestly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

That First Taste Of Spring

We're pretty careful around my house about not having breakfast together. It rarely leads to anything positive. I specifically chose a career that gives me the flexibility to avoid my family in the morning.

Saturday there was no avoiding it, however. The Lovely Bride had class, the oldest had a tennis match (which he won handily), and the middle boy was running a 5K fundraiser with his soccer team. As for me, it was the baseball league's park clean up day, a chance for me to get up miserably early, rake leaves, and listen to my youngest complain. A treat under any circumstances and one made even better by cold rain and muddy fields.

Today didn't look much more promising at the start, although a couple hours more sleep and bacon for breakfast cut the swearing by at least half from the previous morning. My mother came by for a bit, long enough to remind us we're supposed to make sure the undertaker gives us the gold from her teeth after she's cremated. I told her to discuss it with someone else as I was confident, or at least hopeful, that I'd predecease her.

After that delightful exchange, I left with the middle boy for soccer. He had three scrimmages, each against an older team. He's already playing up a year and is at that age when kids get their growth spurts. His hasn't happened yet and he sometimes looks like a mouse dodging elephants. Fortunately he's sneaky and mean, and he holds his own.

As the last scrimmage was beginning, I packed up my chair and told my youngest to stop wrestling with a dog someone had brought along for the day.

"Where are you going?" another parent asked.

"The middle boy's catching a ride home from someone else after the scrimmages are over," I said. "I've got to get the youngest off to a baseball game."

"It's always about you, isn't it?" the other parent said. "Nothing for your children."

My youngest nodded his agreement. "He never does anything for us."

"Right. I'm the worst dad ever. Let's go."

By the time we'd stopped at home and made our way to the field, the sun had come out and it was the first real day of spring. Coach P. was already there, basking in the sun with a goofy smile on his face.

"Hey, how's it going?" I asked, nodding toward our players, most of whom were assembled and playing catch in the outfield. My son ran to join them.

"I love this game so much," he said.

I walked over to the opposing team's coach. Like my middle son's soccer matches, this wasn't a real game. Coach P. had arranged a scrimmage with a coworker who coaches a team in a neighboring city's league.

"Good to meet you," he said, shaking my hand. "Nice field you've got."

It is nice, part of a complex of five that we rarely get to use during the regular season. This early, it's not busy and we got in and dragged and chalked it for the game.

"The Thunderbirds are doing a flyover right before the National Anthem," I said.

He laughed. "Let's get started."

Coach P. said, "Give me a minute. I want to talk to our parents first."

We walked over to the bleachers where they were sitting while the players sorted through equipment. "There are just a few things I want to say before we start."

The parents stared at him. The ones who had sons on our team last year could guess what was coming. The others weren't sure.

"We'll be setting up a batting order at the beginning of the year and then we'll just rotate through it every game. That way everybody gets an equal chance to hit in every slot."

Nods all around.

"Second, if any of you have friends or relatives coming to watch, grandparents or what have you, let us know and we'll try to get your boy in to play his favorite position so he can show off a little."

More nods.

"Last, this isn't our team. It belongs to you and the kids."

Nods and smiles.

"Coach Snag, anything you want to add?"

"That covers it."

"Let's play some ball."

It was rocky, sometimes ugly. As we expected it to be. Because of the weather there's been little time to practice. With the first game of the year, the team's nervous and jacked up on adrenaline. On top of it, some of the boys are playing their first year with other kids pitching and that takes some getting used to.

It was harder too because the team we were playing is from a league that's one of our main competitors, both of us two of the better baseball associations in the state. There's been enough local notoriety for the players to pick up on it. Every mistake got amplified until along about the fourth inning, Coach P. called everyone over and said, "Come on you guys, you look like you're at a funeral. This is baseball. Have some fun." Simple as it was, it seemed to work.

We had some bright spots. My boy had a single, a triple, and a couple walks and two strikeouts and a crisp play on a ground ball when he was pitching. Coach P.'s son ended up walking three straight times, snagged a ball at first base that could have easily sailed over his head, and made a tremendous throw from center field to home, surprising the catcher who surely didn't expect one of his teammates to hurl it that far.

More important, we saw one boy almost catch someone at first on a ground ball to the outfield, a fine heads up play. I'd coached him in soccer before and knew he was an athlete, but that's different than knowing how to play baseball. Good news for us.

We saw another, who'd never pitched before, come in and immediately give up three walks. Coach P. called time and showed him where to release the ball. He struck out the next two batters and I called him Nolan the rest of the day. He still wouldn't give me any of his sunflower seeds.

Another, he never quite found his groove on the mound and we took him out, telling him he'd reached his pitch limit. He looked as though he might cry, but his teammates told him, "Way to go," and when his turn to bat came around a little later and he drilled one down the first base line and he came around to score later in the inning he was smiling, past troubles forgotten.

Best of all, two of the dads umped and a couple of them coached first and third base and Coach P. and I alternated between talking to the team and making sarcastic comments to each other and visiting with the other team's coach and sitting in the stands with rest of the parents and staring at the sky, filled with a sun that seemed a couple weeks ago unwilling to ever come out again.

In the end we played them close and nobody was keeping score, but I'm pretty sure they finished with more runs than we did. Even though it wasn't a real game, we'd brought snacks and drinks for everyone, our team and theirs, and after everyone shook hands the players and their brothers and sisters took a Rice Krispies bar and a juice box and said goodbye and left for home while Coach P. and the other team's coach and I, and our kids, sat on the bleachers for a few more minutes, talking about how much we love this game.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Welcome To The Snagatory

Genes don't just splice themselves, you know.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Still Here

We had our second outdoor baseball practice tonight. It was cold and overcast, as it will apparently be here forever. Several of the parents huddled together. Finally one of them asked if there was any hot chocolate on the bench.

"Not any more," I said. "It was delicious, though."

The parents jeered. Off to a good start for the season.

The weather has also prevented the city from dragging the fields and they remain a horrid consistency, appropriate for throwing pots but not for playing ball. I tried out a few of the kids as pitchers and soon found myself spattered with mud.

"How are they looking?" asked Coach P. from across the field, where he was hitting fly balls to the rest of the team.

I smiled and waved to him. "My knees hurt and I can't stand up," I muttered before leaning against the backstop for support.

Last night was different. The youngest is in a pitching clinic with Coach P.'s son and two brothers who play on our team. The clinic's held indoors at a full service facility with batting cages and mounds and nets and everything else you need to spend money on a spoiled child. The guy running it told the kids to pair off and start warming up in a couple of the netted areas. Naturally Coach P. and I took the opportunity to warm up too.

"These are the heckle nets," said Coach P. "When you're behind them we can say whatever we want."

"You're toast," I said.

The kids made the mistake of looking at us.

"Step and throw," I said to his son. "Like a big boy."

"You need to use both hands when you catch," he told mine. "Or you'll get an owie."

"Where's your dad tonight?" we both asked the two brothers. "Was he embarrassed to be seen with you?"

Soon enough all four of them were glaring at us. The instructor returned. "Are you warmed up?" he asked.

"We'll give you another twenty bucks if you make one of them cry," said Coach P.

"Not a problem," he replied.

Worth every penny.

Which brings us back to tonight. With sunset approaching we tell the parents they can leave a little early and we'll keep hitting fly balls to the boys who want to stay. Some leave, the rest assemble in the outfield, except for one, Q., who heads for a nearby playground.

"Want to catch some?" I ask.

"No, I'll be over here," he says.

"Alright," I tell him. "Don't leave without telling me you're going." We don't know the parents that well yet and the last thing I want is to lose a kid.

Fifteen minutes go by and I check on him every couple minutes. Suddenly I don't see him anymore.

"Where's Q.?" I demand of my son.

"I saw him walking toward the parking lot with a couple people," he tells me. Visions of pedophiles dance in my head. I start jogging toward the lot and then I see him leaning in the window of a police car.

I get near enough to see I know the officer and realize it's only a friendly conversation. Suddenly a woman appears, flushed and unhappy. "Q.," she demands, "where were you?"

"You must be his mother," I say, extending my hand. "I'm Coach Snag. I don't think we've met."

She takes a breath. "I couldn't find him," she says.

"We were back on that field," I say, pointing. "It's hard to see."

""I couldn't find him," she says again. "I got worried. I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry. We'd never leave him here alone, though. We won't leave any of the kids."

"I know. I just got worried."'

"That's okay."

"I got worried," she says again.

"It's okay. We won't leave him."

"Thank you," she says.

"Have a good night," I tell her.

They get in their car. "Q., buddy, you can't wander off like that," I say to the boy before he closes the door.

"Okay, coach," he says.

One lesson learned
, I think. I hope he learned it too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Relativity of Competence

Nice logos. I'm asking for a raise.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Voice Of Experience

If you play this in the car your children will hate you. They're so wrong it hurts.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Typhoid Snag

I'm still feeling a little off. I'm talking about physical condition; my family has its own unsupportable and defamatory views regarding my mental health. I'm inclined to think it's a mild sinus infection or rickets or something like that. Fortunately I have some antibiotics left over from a previous illness.

My mother and my wife are less than enthusiastic about my self-diagnosis and treatment. The Lovely Bride generally keeps her own counsel on such things; she knows a futile task when she sees one and limits herself to a stern warning and a threat to make a doctor's appointment, one involving gloves, if I don't do so myself.

My mother, on the other hand, refuses to give up even though I have been rejecting her advice for decades. My theory is that she's frustrated by her failure to go to medical school after college. Back then women in her socio-economic group didn't do those sorts of things very commonly. Instead they usually became teachers, or less commonly nurses, or occasionally, as I told my children with regard to their grandmother, chimney sweeps.

"That's why I'm sick," I told her when she was visiting this weekend. "I have black lung disease from all the coal dust you tracked in."

She looked up from chronologically sorting back issues of The New Yorker and The Economist. She brings them over when she's done with them in the hopes I'll read them. Instead I blog. "What is your father going on about now?" she asked my youngest.

"Don't talk to him," I told her. "He's got a basketball game this afternoon and you'll ruin his concentration.

"Hey, come here," I continued, pointing at a friend of my youngest who'd slept over the night before. "Get me a towel. I'll rat tail you."

My son's friend found a dishtowel and walked it over. I spun it tight and started flicking him. My boy yelled, "I get to go next" until I snapped it hard enough that his friend ran shrieking downstairs. I snarled at my own kid and he ran off too. They're cute even if they're not very bright.

My mother watched with dismay. "This is not normal behavior," she said.

"I learned it from you," I replied.

"I did not hit you with towels when you were growing up," she said.

"Usually it's the victim who represses memories," I said. The fact you're the one repressing the abuse proves you're a freak of psychology. You like to travel. You should have joined the circus."

"Have you seen the doctor yet?" she asked me, changing the subject.

"No need," I told her. "I've got some leftover antibiotics."

"You are not taking those," she said definitively.

"I already started," I responded. "I wash them down with coffee and bacon. That's some good eatin'."

"I am quite certain you have a virus. Even if it is bacterial, you'll end up with a drug resistant strain because you don't have a full course of medication."

"I'm suffering from ennui. It's resistant to everything except liquor, musicals, sunshine, and baseball."

"Baseball?" asked my son and his friend from downstairs.

"That's right, boys. You're getting special helmets this year. They sound an alarm when you back up."

"Shut up," said my son.

"I love you buddy," I said. "Don't make me get the towel."

"There's something wrong with you," said my mother.

"Lots of things," I said.

"If the Lovely Bride doesn't make a doctor's appointment I will," she said.

"He's legally obligated to report child abuse. You'll end up in jail."

"It's worth it if you'll get a physical."

"Did the Lovely Bride put you up to this?" I asked.

"That doesn't matter."

"The two of you are oppressing me."

"The two of us are making an appointment for you."

Lucky me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


The first outdoor baseball practice of the year is in a little more than an hour. It's cold, too cold to practice really, but the sun's out, we've already had to skip two and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss another one.

Coach P. feels the same way. He hurt his back last week and he's moving gingerly. When I asked his wife this morning how he was doing, she said, "He's driving me crazy. The only thing that's going to help is baseball. Get him out of here."

In the meantime, we're still finishing up the youngest's extended basketball season. He had a three-game tournament this weekend. The team's made up with the kids he played with during the regular season with the notable exception of one boy, who was the star during regular season and is playing up a grade this spring.

As a result, the team's had to play differently. Instead of relying on one guy to move the ball up the court and score, everyone needs to get involved. The coach thinks it's a better team now because of this. They're passing better, playing more solid defense, taking smarter shots. It showed this weekend.

The first game was an easy one. Thank God. It started at 8 a.m. and I don't handle stress very well that early. Granted, I don't handle it very well at any time, but as the day goes on I get better at internalizing it. Time to feed the heart attack, I think when something goes wrong in the afternoon. In the morning, though, I tend to boil over. If it's not the kids it's the newspaper. Maybe a crossword puzzle clue that I take as a personal affront. In any event, my kid was nervous about having to deal with me at that time of day, but the team won handily and I was able to spend much of the game in borderline catatonia.

The second game, now there was a nailbiter. Up, down, up again, then down again, this time by three points with thirteen seconds left. The coach tells my kid to shoot a three pointer and he lofts one, it hits the rim, circles, then skitters off. Almost, I think. He should feel good about getting that close. "Nice try!" the parents yell. The team hadn't made a three point shot all year, the coaches didn't like them to even try, and there was no reason to expect one to go in now.

Meanwhile, his teammate grabs the rebound, shovels it back to him, and he throws another one up, three seconds left, and it arcs toward the basket. We've got a bad angle and I can see it heading toward the top of the backboard, but the coaches are on the other side of the floor, they can see, and they turn and grin at each other, and I'll be damned, it hits the rim and rolls in to tie the game as the buzzer sounds and this time the parents really make some noise. I'd say our overtime victory was almost anticlimactic after that, but that would be a lie.

We played again this afternoon, for the championship. It was close, a one point game at the end, and my son made another three point shot, this one jacked up on a wing and a prayer as the halftime buzzer sounded. The officiating was lousy, some of the parents on the other team were obnoxious, and it would have been nice to win. We didn't. So it goes. There were some sad faces at the end, but the kids on the team, and their parents, are pretty levelheaded and nobody's going to lose too much sleep over it.

And for those of us who aren't levelheaded, well, this afternoon we have baseball.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hitching A Ride

I picked up the middle kid from school this afternoon. Thursday is honors band day. He wanted to play the tuba, because it's the biggest, but the music teacher sized him up, a kid who consistently places in the lowest height quartile for his age, and said, "No." He settled for the euphonium instead.

He hates to take the activities bus home. It follows a meandering and somewhat incomprehensible route to our neighborhood and wastes forty-five minutes that could be spent playing basketball or watching television. I can sympathize. Too much time with my own thoughts puts me close to the edge.

So he called me and because I was working at home this afternoon I went to get him. While I was on the way, he called to ask if I could give his friend S. a ride home too. Why not? It takes a village and all that.

After they got in the car, I remembered my kid needed to buy a new jacket. The previous new jacket, the one that was big enough to last him another year and then last his younger brother another two years, that got misplaced last week. In a casino or on a beach. Don't ask.

"Do you mind going to the store with us?" I asked his friend.

"No, that's cool," said S. His parents are divorced and he likes hanging out with his friends' fathers. He's a little twitchy but he's a good kid. He once told a basketball referee the ref must have miscounted because he was pretty sure he'd just fouled out. The ref shook his head and shooed him to the bench.

Anyway, off we went to the store. I'd earlier explained to my son that he would have to pay for a new jacket. I did this by turning red and bug eyed and shrieking, "Do you think I'm made of freaking money?" while everyone nearby pretended to ignore us.

Halfway there the kids started talking about golf. I don't know why someone would talk about golf, but there you have it.

"Do you golf?" my son asked his friend.

"Yeah, I love it."

"How often do you go?"

"Not very often. My mom doesn't golf."

"Does your dad?"

"Yeah, but I don't see him that much."

"We should golf this summer," my son told him. "My dad would take us."

"Really?" asked his friend.

"Wait a second," I interjected. "I'll drive you there but I am not golfing with you."

"That's still cool," said S.

"Whatever," I said.

"That's still cool," he said again.

We arrived at the store. What's wrong with me? Seriously. I immediately veered off and began evaluating vacuum cleaners. We have a perfectly serviceable one at home, even though my oldest one hates it. He wants a Dyson. This is the same boy who asked us to clean the house as a birthday present for him one year. "Sorry, kiddo," we told him. "How about an iPod or a camera instead?"

After finishing with the vacuums I wandered over to the cookware department. Oh, that's what I need, another ceramic baking dish, in case the two I already own simultaneously explode. It could happen. I grabbed another.

While I was browsing the kids disappeared. The store's not that big, one of those modern semi-department stores that sell mostly clothes, along with other random dry goods. It's big enough I can't see him, though, and meanwhile my oldest had called and was demanding his own ride home, tennis practice having been canceled because the coach finally realized we live in a hellhole where the weather always sucks.

Thank God for cell phones. I called my middle kid and asked where he was.

"Looking for jackets, pops," he said.

"Hello pops," his friend yelled in the background.

"Damnit, get back here, we have to go," I told him. "I'm in housewares." Talk about things I never thought I'd say.

They returned and after a quick circuit of the store to make sure there weren't any jackets tucked away behind the swimsuits and polo shirts, we reached the cashier. By reaching the cashier I mean we got in line behind Methuselah and his wife, both of whom were apparently trying to barter some of their medication for a price reduction on the designer insulin sacks they were purchasing. I closed my eyes and practiced a favorite yoga pose of mine, The Crazy Bastard Has An Aneurysm.

Of course the boys escaped again. Next thing I know S. scooted by in one of the complimentary wheelchairs the store provides. My son watched him nervously.

"S.," I whispered as he rode by. "Please put that away."

He stared at me without comprehension. The other shoppers stared at me too.

"Now would be fine," I said. My kid backed away. He knew how this could end. I smiled apologetically at the other shoppers. "Sorry, he's not mine. I have to pretend to be nice."

S. scooted by the other way. The cashier stopped ringing up sales to watch.

"Hey buddy, put the wheelchair away. Now."

He smiled at me.

"Now," I repeated, giving him the death glare I normally reserve for my own children. He might not deal with a father every day but he's not stupid. He put it away.

I finally paid and we walked to the car. I clutched my new baking dish and tried to avoid eye contact with any of the other people who'd been standing in line with us.

"Hey, Mr. Snag," said my son's friend.

"What?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said, smiling as he got in the backseat.

"You're both pinheads," I said looking at them in the rear view mirror.

"Thanks for the ride," said S.

"Whatever," I said.

"Thanks for the ride," he said again.

"You're welcome," I said. "Anytime."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Snag's Life - The Soundtrack

C'mon, C'mon

The first outdoor baseball practice of the season was scheduled for tomorrow night. Mother Nature isn't cooperating so Coach P. and I called it off.

We've had a few indoor workouts. Those are pretty limited. A little fielding, some time in the batting cage, that's about it. Not much room for the kids to demonstrate what they can do and not much chance to have them work together as a group.

That's made it hard to get a read on them. There's one boy who needs to be convinced he can't swing a bat that's almost as big as he is, but we'll take care of that before Opening Day. Unlike last year, we don't seem to have any major projects. Everybody's played before, everybody can throw, everybody can catch.

Until we get them outside, though, it's impossible to know for sure. There's another practice scheduled for Sunday. We've got our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bon Appétit, Volume 9 - It's What's For Dinner

The beef arrived this past weekend and we all know what that means; a tallow-infused festival of cholesterol and grease. It also means it's time to break out some of my favorite recipes from that Snag family cookbook, "When I Said I Like My Steak Bloody, It Wasn't A Metaphor."

1. Hoof En Croûte

Dehoof twelve medium cows. Blanch hooves until just tender, approximately six minutes. While hooves are cooling, mix one gallon water, two chaffs wheat, and a teaspoon of salt and form into pastry shell. Wrap hooves in shell and bake in 350 degree oven for 215 minutes. Top with pineapple and serve warm.

Serves 7.

2. Gullet au Poivre

Thinly slice two bull gullets. Cover with paste and allow to marinate at least four weeks. While gullets are soaking, blend two ounces of poivres, a tablespoon of reconstituted mint, and a liter of food grade mercury. Remove gullets from paste and dry with a shawl. Dredge gullets in poivre mixture, then fry in a nonstick skillet until golden black. Serve with a dipping sauce made from reserved paste and three sardines.

Serves 12.

3. Crème de Cud

Squeeze the juice from three small ruminants. Strain into two highball glasses. Add one shot sweet vermouth, a lingonberry, and a handful of dried ice. Garnish with hair and serve immediately.

Serves 1.

4. Meat

Defrost and flavor beef. Cook. Cover with sauce. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

5. Liver Meringue Pie

Peel ten ripe livers. Beat livers with two cups meringue and a pinch of gravel, stirring vigorously until mixture takes on the consistency of shaving lotion. Season to taste with cardamom and brake fluid then scoop into pie tins. Bake at 500 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from pie tins and surround with crust. Pour over brisket and serve chilled.

Serves 26.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Long Weekend

It's funny how the weather changes.

It's funny how other things change too.

My best friend R. has three sons, about the same ages as mine. He's known all of my kids since they were a couple hours old and I've known his as long and even though we live on opposite ends of town, a little distance doesn't change that.

Like any friendship, ours has traditions. We think it's important to pass these along to our sons. So, for many years, we've taken an annual father-son weekend somewhere. A boy had to be at least four years old to get invited and the first trip has been a rite of passage.

Most often it's been a lake cabin, a place we could teach the kids how to spit and swear and set things on fire. Once we went to the Field of Dreams, once to a water park. Every year, though, it's been somewhere, two dads and six boys.

The last few years it's been harder to schedule. The kids are involved in sports and that chews up a lot of the summer. Last year we moved it to spring. My middle son was with me for the last part of my yearly jaunt around the countryside, R. picked up my other two, and all of us met at a lodge not too far from the last stop of my trip.

The weather was cold and rainy but the place had a bar and an arcade. When your parenting style is based on threats and bribery, that's all you really need.

This year we decided to give it another go. My middle son was with me again and before I left I reminded my oldest to help his younger brother pack.

"I'm not going," he said.


"I'm not going."

"Yes you are."

"No, I can't."

"This isn't open for discussion," I told him.

"Dad, you can't make me. Please."

"What are you talking about? We already have the reservations. This is the annual trip. You're going."

"Our new tennis coach said we had to be at every practice if we want to make varsity," he said. "I can't miss two days."

Finally the nub of the issue. Not that it made me any happier, with my kid or his coach.

"That's stupid," I said. "It's spring break. Lots of kids will miss practice."

The boy glared at me and stormed upstairs. His brothers took one look at my expression and scattered. A fairly typical evening around our house.

I was angrier than usual, though, and that's saying something for a person inclined to volcanic rage. So angry I left. Drove down to the park and stared at the lake for an hour.

When I returned home I found my oldest downstairs.

"How important is this to you?" I asked him.

"Extremely," he said.

"Alright," I said.


"Yes. Your grades are good, you've been helping out at home, and this means a lot to you. You can stay home."

And he did. This year it was two dads and five boys. We had fun, looked for rocks on the beach when it was nice, hung out in the bar and arcade when it wasn't, did the kind of things we do every year. It was plenty noisy. Still, I missed the oldest one.

The younger two boys and I got home last night. After dinner, when things settled down, the oldest gave his mother a copy of his tennis schedule.

"What's the deal?" I asked. "Did you make the varsity squad?"

He grinned. "Yep."

"Good man," I told him.

Which is what he is.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

First Kiss

I was reminded by Blue Girl's story.

Friday night and I waited to meet a friend for dinner. It was early and the bar was quiet.

Across the room a man and woman shared a table. Coworkers maybe, out at the end of a work week, young, not long out of school. Comfortable with each other, friends. I watched them while I read my book. She told a joke, he laughed. Their drinks came and he raised his and smiled.

My friend was late and I kept watching. Not staring, just watching. They were still laughing, more quietly now. Their right hands on the table, not touching, but close. He leaned in to tell her something. She leaned in to hear. There was a pause, almost unnoticeable. She kissed him.

Quickly, softly, just a brush of the lips. They froze for a moment as the air around them changed forever. He sat back and so did she and then they began talking again, shyly, about something that didn't matter the same way anymore.

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 14

Where am I?

A. On one side of the Laurentian Divide

B. On the shores of a lake half the size of Rhode Island

C. Near the end of the road

D. Near the end of my rope

E. _____?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 13

Where am I?

A. The clouds of Venus

B. Moose hunting

C. A back alley of Majorca

D. God only knows

E. _____?

Where In The World Was Snag 2008 - Day 12

Where was I?

A. In desperate need of a drink

B. At the intersection of Rage and Resentment

C. In a world with a strange golden orb in the sky

D. On the way to a hotel without working internet access

E. _____?