Monday, July 27, 2009

Moo Cow

"Are those cows?" asked R.'s son pointing to a group of animals on the far side of the field we were passing.

"Cows say 'moo'," I told him. "Those are horses. Horsies say 'neigh.'"

"I'm not stupid," he said.

"Of course you're not, buddy," said his father in a soothing tone.

"Shut up," he muttered, slinking down next to my oldest in the backseat.

We were on the first leg of college visits for my oldest. R. and I have been best friends since seventh grade. His three boys are about the same ages as mine and we've traveled plenty together. Sometimes our wives come too, on the longer trips, but lots of times it's been the boys and R. and me, to cabins and parks and lodges and resorts.

As the boys have grown, though, it's gotten harder. Sports are more demanding, school friends are more important, and life just got busy. R. lives on the other side of town and there are entire months that go by now that we don't even see each other.

Which is why a month or two ago, when R. found about the college visits, he asked if he and his oldest could join us.

"Our boy's a year younger than Snag's," said R.'s wife. "It's kind of early for him to be thinking about college, isn't it?"

"I want him to see there's an alternative to prison," said R. "Besides, it'll be fun."

Our first visit was a big land-grant university in a small city a few hundred miles from home. Nice enough campus, nice enough people, nice enough all around.

"What did you think?" I asked as we got back in the car that afternoon.

"I'd rather be dead than live here," he said.

"When you're my age you'd rather be dead, period," I said.

"I'd rather be dead than be you," he replied.

"They grow up so fast," said R., wiping away an imaginary tear.

The next morning we toured a medium sized private school in a big city a few hundred miles further down the road. It was a beautiful campus in a lovely part of town. The admissions presentation included an engaging, witty engineering professor and an articulate, self-deprecating student from Italy.

"I wish I could go to school here," R. whispered ten minutes into it.

"Tell me about it," I whispered back.

"How much is tuition?" he asked.

I told him.

"Jesus Christ!" he blurted, prompting a scathing look from his son.

"Yeah, but with some of this, some of that, we can probably find a way to make it work."

"What's his GPA?" he asked.

I told him.

"Jesus Christ!" he blurted again, prompting another look from his son. "I guess we know one thing he got from the Lovely Bride," he continued.

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"Because we spent high school smoking and reading Kafka."

"And playing foosball," I reminded him. "We played a lot of foosball."

"Foosball too," he agreed. "I still can't figure out why that didn't attract more girls."

"They were probably scared away by our coolness."

"Be quiet," his son hissed.

The presentation ended and we wandered over to the bookstore to buy t-shirts and magnets.

"What did you think?" I asked my son.

"I liked it," he said.

We spent another day in the city, eating barbecue and Italian food and sightseeing. On the way home we stopped at Field of Dreams, where we'd been years before.

"Do we have to do this?" my son asked, reluctantly taking his baseball glove out of the trunk.

"Humor me," I said.

R. and I played catch with our sons for a while, until they were bored and our arms hurt. We bought some more t-shirts and magnets and got back in the car.

"Cats in the Cradle," said R., wiping away just a little bit of a real tear this time.

"Cats say 'meow,'" I said.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Say Hello To My Little Friends

Been doing the college visit thing with my oldest this week, but we still had time to stop by and see two of our favorite animals.




Monday, July 20, 2009

Overthrow

"What are you going to bring me as a souvenir?" I demanded.

"What would you like?" asked my mother. She'd just finished describing her upcoming trip, a jaunt through Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria.

"A Gypsy," I said. "And some Vienna sausages."

She blinked several times without speaking.

"I could have asked for a bounced Czech," I offered.

My mother turned to the Lovely Bride and said, "He's in fine form."

"It's better than yesterday," said the Lovely Bride.

"Oh Lord, what did he do?" asked my mother.

Saturday wasn't that bad. We were at the baseball game, watching my youngest play shortstop, when he threw a ball over the third baseman's head.

"Aargh!" I choked out, pounding my leg.

"He's doing his best," the Lovely Bride said.

"I'm doing my best not to scream."

"Leave him alone."

"He's on an all star team. He can play better than that."

"Stop it."

I turned to a couple of dads sitting nearby. "If women ruled the world, we'd all feel good about being failures."

Silence, amplified by the look I was getting from the Lovely Bride and several other women.

"I think I'm going to stay out of this one," said one father.

"Me too," said another.

"Thanks," I told them.
My mother took a moment to digest the story. "Did he really say that?" she finally asked.

"Yes he did," the Lovely Bride told her.

"I certainly hope you set him straight."

"Yes I did," said the Lovely Bride.

"Thank you," said my mother. "I obviously failed at raising him and I don't feel good at all about that."

"You did your best," said the Lovely Bride.

"Yes I did," said my mother.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Songs I Never Hated - Part 9

And neither, I suspect, did Zombie.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

No Rest

"If you don't behave, we'll kill you," I said.

"If you do behave, you'll get dessert," said my friend R.

We were at a table at the Lake Yellowstone Lodge. My three boys were with us, as were his three. Their ages at the time were 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

Our wives had somehow maneuvered things so they were sitting alone at a table next to ours and enjoying a quiet glass of wine. They glanced up at our comments and frowned.

"Want to trade seats?" R. asked them.

The women went back to pretending they didn't know us.

"Let's play a game," I suggested.

"How about 'How Much Can Snag and I Drink?'" said R.

"That one, of course," I said. "Something the boys might like too, though." I nodded at his two oldest boys, who were giving each other the evil eye.

"You're going to die," he whispered to them.

"So are you," I snapped at my middle kid, who was about to steal his younger brother's crayons.

The waiter arrived. "Would you gentlemen like anything before dinner?" he asked.

"A new life," said R.

"A lot of liquor," I said.

"I'll bring a wine list," he said, backing away nervously.

"A couple of martinis with it," I called after him.

"Shhh," my Lovely Bride hissed from her table.

"I'm sorry if we're bothering you, ma'am," I said. "It's hard being a single father."

She glared at me for a moment, then went back to talking with R.'s wife. I was going to pay for that one later.

"What game are we going to play?" asked R.'s youngest.

"Guess Why God Hates Me," suggested R.

"How about the Quiet Game," I said. "We'll see who can be quiet the longest."

"I lose," said my middle son. The rest of them started yelling at him for cheating. So much for that idea.

"Let's guess how many zeros a number has," I said. "It'll be a team effort. If you're wrong, you all get punched."

"That's too easy," said my oldest.

"Four hundred and two quintillion, thirty one quadrillion, seven hundred seventy trillion, nine hundred forty one billion, six hundred and seven million, three hundred and six," said R.

The boys put their heads down and started calculating. R. and I stuffed some bread in our mouths and chugged greedily at the martinis that finally arrived.

"Five zeros," the kids finally concluded.

"Right," said R., who, like me, had completely forgotten the point of the game.

The waiter had returned again. "May I take your dinner order?" he asked.

"I'll have the bison," I said.

"I'll have the trout," said R.

"They'll all have cheeseburgers," we said, pointing at the boys.

"I want macaroni and cheese," one of them demanded.

"Fine," I said. "Macaroni and cheese. And a big bottle of Pinot Noir."

"Would you like the wine with your dinner?" the waiter asked.

"No, it's a medical emergency," said R. "Right away, along with a couple extra martinis. The pain is starting to return."

R.'s wife glared at him from the other table. He was going to pay later too.

"Let's play another game," the kids demanded.

So we did, alternating games and alcohol for the better part of an hour. Finally, dinner done, promised desserts delivered, we stood to leave.

"Excuse me," said an elderly woman who was sitting with her husband at a table next to ours.

"Yes?" R. asked, flinching in anticipation.

"I just want to tell you we'd been looking forward to this special dinner for quite some time and were very worried when you sat down next to us. You have lovely children, however. They behaved splendidly and you did a marvelous job of keeping them entertained."

"Thank you," I said. "That's very nice to hear."

R. and I turned to our wives, who were listening while they enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee at their own table. We smirked.

"You'd best catch up to your lovely children," said R.'s wife.

"Yes," said mine. "They're in the lobby and it looks as though they've found a new game."

We looked up in time to see a punch about to be thrown.

"I'm going to kill them," said R.

"Lovely funerals for lovely children," I said.

Thursday, July 2, 2009