Thursday, April 29, 2010

Setting Sail

"You need to pick a place for dinner in Little Rock," my assistant, H., told me.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because it's your job to entertain the board when you're out of town."

"Really?"

"Yes. If you leave it to T., you'll end up at a pub with good beer and adequate sandwiches."

"I like beer," I said.

"That's fine," she said. "You can have beer with dinner. But you've got to find a nice place to eat."

"Then I have to get dressed up," I whined.

"It doesn't have to be fancy," she said. "It just has to be nice."

So I spent much of last night researching Little Rock restaurants.

"I found one," I announced this morning.

"Good job," said H.

"Are you patronizing me?"

"I wouldn't do that."

"No doubt," I said."Can you make reservations?"

"Yes."

"Do I remind you of Julie from 'The Love Boat?'" I asked.

"What's 'The Love Boat?'" she replied.

"How old are you?" I asked. Then I sang the Love Boat theme song.

"Please don't do that again," she said.

"Aye-aye," I said.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At Bat
























I don't coach anymore. Not in the summer, at least. The kids are getting too good, the parents too competitive. I'm happy instead to be the team parent, buying socks and belts, sending emails, and creating spreadsheets.

My friend P., who I used to coached with, he's still at it. My youngest is playing for him again. There are two assistant coaches as well, both of them good baseball minds and good guys, and we've all had some fun teasing our own kids and cheering for the rest of the team.

The season began, as it always does, with a tournament named after a former local player, Scott Brainard. I'm told Scott was a hell of a ballplayer, and that he loved the game, and that he grew up and became a decent guy who got killed trying to break up a fight. His parents raised money to install scoreboards in his memory, and the league started the tournament to thank them, and now twenty-one years later his family comes to hand out trophies and remember their son, their brother. My kids know who Scott was and so do all the other players and parents and spectators who come to welcome a new year of baseball.

A couple of nights ago, we played a team from a neighboring community that always participates in the tournament. The other coach was a guy who Coach P. and I have known for years, we run into him in baseball and basketball. It was a close game, a couple of contested calls, but our guys won it for a chance to play for the championship.

Later, the other coach sent an email to Coach P. that said:
That was a nice game last night. I'm bummed (a little) that we didn't win, but your team won and showed great respect after the game. My son talked with one of your players after the game and they congratulated each other on their respective performances. It makes the game worth playing!
Coach P. responded.
I certainly agree. I saw a lot of true sportsmanship and that's what makes it worthwhile. I've really enjoyed coaching the last few years against your teams. You guys run a class organization. Good luck with the rest of the season.

I like to think Scott would be pleased.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Player

My friends and I were sitting on the retaining wall in center field of our local Little League ballpark when my youngest stomped to a halt in front of me. He'd gone straight from a game to a sleepover the previous night and was back at the park to watch his friends play. The circles under his eyes spoke to his exhaustion.

"Can I have some money?" he demanded.

"For what?" I asked.

"Mom's being a jerk."

"Are you going to use it to have her whacked?"

He rolled his eyes. "It's for concessions."

"No candy," I said.

"You're worse than mom," he snarled.

"Probably. No candy, though."

"How about a cheeseburger?"

"If you'll go away," I said, giving him a $10 bill. "Bring me some change."

"That's stupid," he said, stomping away. "I gave you change yesterday."

"You make me feel better about my own life," said one of my friends.

"We all have a role," I said.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Biker Chick

"Why is there a moped in the garage?" I asked.

"It's ours," said the Lovely Bride.

"What?"

"We talked about it," said the Lovely Bride.

"And I said, 'no.'"

"You bought an iPod."

"There's a reason the bumper stickers don't say, 'Start Seeing iPods.'"

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reeling In The Years

"Hey, it's great to see you," I said as she stepped off the elevator.

"It's great to see you too," W. replied.

We stood for a quick moment, awkwardly, unsure whether to hug or shake hands. It had been fifteen years or more since we'd seen each other. We shook hands.

"Show me around," she said and I did, a quick tour of my office.

"Where do you want to go for lunch?"

"Anywhere's fine," she said.

"Chinese?"

"Perfect."

We walked to my car.

"Pull a muscle?" I asked.

"Mmm," she said, limping a bit.

W. was my boss a long time ago, at a big company, an MBA who was being groomed for a race to the top. Smart, driven, and a lovely person. After I left the company we stayed in touch until we didn't.

"I'm glad you found me," I said at lunch.

"The internet's a wonderful thing," she said.

We talked about our families, our children. We'd both had toddlers when we'd last seen each other. Now we're scouting colleges.

"You're looking for a job?" I finally asked.

"I got one yesterday," she said.

"That's great. Congratulations. What are you going to be doing?"

"I'll be an analyst," she said. "For the company we used to work for. Doing pretty much what I did when we worked together. That's me, clawing my way down the corporate ladder."

"Are you happy?"

"Yes," she said. "I am."

"You like the job?"

"It's fine," she said. "I like spending time with my husband, my kids. My son skis, you know, he's very good. I hope he goes to my alma mater. I loved it there."

"Family's important," I said.

"It is," she said. "I worked really hard for a while. Then I had kids, and then I found out I had MS, and then I couldn't work as much."

"Oh, Christ," I said. "I'm sorry."

"So it goes," she said, shrugging.

"Vonnegut," I said, and she smiled.

We talked some more, about our families, and friends we used to share until time peeled them away.

Back at my office, I parked and offered my arm as she stepped over a curb.

She shook her head. "I like to pretend I'm independent," she said.

"It's been great to see you," I said.

"You too," she said.

We hugged.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Galloping Gourmet

"Can I go to Mexico this summer?" asked my middle son.

"Leave me alone, I'm busy," I told him.

"Seriously," he said.

"Yes, seriously, I'm busy. I'm working."

""Why didn't you finish it at the office?"

"Because I had too much to do," I said.

"Where'd you go for lunch?" he sneered.

"That's not the point," I said.

"What did you have?"

"Hủ Tiếu Mì."

"What does that mean?"

"It means 'delicious.'"

"So you weren't working."

"Knock it off," I said. "You sound like your mother."

"Anyway, can I go to Mexico?" he repeated.

"Don't be stupid."

"You're stupid," he said.

"This whole conversation is stupid," I said.

"Does that mean I can go?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" I asked, finally turning to look at him.

"My friend S. is going and his mom said I could come too if it's okay with you and mom."

"How much does it cost?"

"I don't know," he said. "You'd only have to pay for the plane ticket."

"Plus a passport," I said. "Unless I sneak you over the border late at night. You probably wouldn't make it back, then. That would be very sad."

"Be quiet."

"I love you, buddy."

"So can I?" he asked, again.

"You're going to Mexico, your older brother's going to Australia and New Zealand, and where am I going? Nowhere. That's where I always am, right?"

"Dad, you're getting agitated. Besides, you're going somewhere."

"Where?"

"Little Rock."

"For three days. For a conference."

"You can go out to eat."

"Where?" I demanded.

"I bet they have good barbecue," he said.

"You're probably right," I said, turning back to my computer and typing in 'restaurant' and 'little rock.'"

"I thought you had work to do," said the boy.

"I'm doing it," I said.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Road Rage

Why would this make someone think of me?

It must be the mustache.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Flying Blind

"Do you want an earlier flight or a later one?" my assistant asked.

I shrugged. "An earlier one, I guess. What time does that get me back?"

"Saturday night, about 7:40."

"7:40? Why so late?"

"You have to change planes in Chicago."

"What if I take the later flight?"

"Then you have to change planes in Dallas."

"I hate changing planes," I said.

"Why?"

"Because it means I have to take off and land again."

"So?"

"I hate that part of flying."

"Do you like the rest of it?"

"No, I hate that too."

"Why?"

"Because I don't want to die. At least not that way."

"The odds of a plane crash are so small it's not worth thinking about," she told me.

"Thank you, Little Miss Actuary."

"Seriously, why be afraid of something that unlikely to hurt you?"

"You were afraid of my lunch at the Chinese restaurant," I said.

"You ordered jellyfish," she said.

"I know," I said. "It was delicious."

"I wasn't afraid, I was repulsed," she said.

"Well, I'm repulsed by plane crashes," I replied.

She thought about my reasoning for a minute and then gave up.

"Anyway, you big baby, do you want the early or later flight?"

"Which one is T. on?" I asked. T.'s my colleague.

"He doesn't care," she said.

"Put us on the same one," I said.

"I can't."

"How come?"

"It's an organizational policy."

"What is?"

"You two can't be on the same plane."

"Why not?"

"In case it crashes."