Monday, March 31, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 11

Where am I (filthbot edition)?

A. Nowhere near here

B. At the funeral for Irony

C. Just leaving Intercourse

D. The middle of adolescence

E. _____?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 10

Where am I?

A. Caesars Palace

B. The land of my fathers

C. A gulag

D. The mountains of Pakistan

E. _____?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Ascent of the West

Many years ago, back before we had kids, before we were married, the Lovely Bride and I were invited to a commitment ceremony. This was early, before this sort of thing happened very often, at least around here.

The Lovely Bride grew up in a small conservative city. Blue collar. White. Reagan Democrats for the most part. It wasn't until he got away from home that her friend began to talk about being gay, much less discuss it with the people he knew from high school. Not to mention his family.

He moved here, though, and fell in love. He and his boyfriend found an apartment and after a while they decided to make it permanent.

The ceremony was at a hotel downtown. Maybe a hundred guests. Friends from work. A few, like my Lovely Bride, high school classmates who'd moved here after graduation. And her friend's parents.

There was a minister and the grooms exchanged vows and rings and walked beaming down the aisle. Then there was a dinner. Not too much different than the wedding the Lovely Bride and I had not long after.

Like most wedding dinners, toasts were made. To life. To health. To the couple. Finally the father of my wife's friend stood up. He was a union guy, a high school graduate, maybe, busted ass every day to raise his son. He looked down at his wife. Not exactly what they'd had in mind all these years.

He raised his glass. "The only thing we ever wanted was for you to be happy. Congratulations, son. We love you."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Time For A Break

When each of my boys reached a certain age, I took them on a trip. Just the two of us. The oldest, he and I went to Yellowstone. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

Toward the end of the trip I didn't feel well. Dizzy. Disoriented. I chalked it up to altitude.

A couple weeks later, back at home, I was getting ready for bed. Brushing my teeth. The room began to spin. I fell.

My Lovely Bride heard it and came to check. I was on the floor, trying to pull myself up. She called 911.

I managed to get to our room and lie down on the bed. Pretty soon the police were there and the firefighters and an ambulance crew.

"I'm fine," I said.

"I don't think so," said a firefighter.

"Really, I'm just tired."

"Your vital signs are stable. Do you want us to take you to the emergency room or can your wife drive you?" asked an EMT.

"I'm okay. I don't need to go to the hospital."

"Look at me," said a firefighter. "Now look at your wife. You're going to the hospital. The only question is how you're getting there."

I went to the hospital. The next day I went to my doctor. They gave me EKGs and EEGs and MRIs and blood tests and everything else. "I'm almost certain I know what the problem is," my doctor told me. "But, you're a young professional with three small children. You're getting the full boat."

My doctor's hunch was right. A viral ear infection. Not much to do except ride it out. I didn't collapse again, but for a while vertigo would hit me out of nowhere. My secretary at the time lived nearby and I convinced her to carpool with me. I didn't tell her it was so she could grab the steering wheel if need be.

Eventually the infection got better. The symptoms gradually went away, although occasionally I'd find myself dizzy and shaking without warning, usually when I was tired or dehydrated. Not unusual, the doctor told me. As the weeks and months and years went by, it happened less and less. It seems like forever since it last occurred and I rarely think about it.

This morning I was giving one of my standard presentations. The room was full, too full really, two hundred people jammed into a space without much ventilation.

And the room began to spin, a little, enough to throw me off. I stopped pacing, took the microphone and put it back in its stand. I finished a joke about hitting someone with a chair, paused and took a drink of water while the audience laughed. I grasped the lectern and focused on a spot in the back. It took me a minute to get my bearings, long enough that people began to look at me curiously, but I've given the talk enough times that I can do it by rote, and I continued, just loosening my tie a bit.

It was lunchtime when I was done and most of the crowd filed out. A few approached me with questions and I talked with them, after finding a chair and sitting down and closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths. I'm tired when I have one of these times, the adrenaline I suppose, and for a little while afterward I worry that it will happen again even though it rarely does. I'm looking forward to being home this weekend with my family, instead of in a hot room full of strangers. I want to rest.

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 9

Where am I?

A. The Hotel California

B. South Bronx

C. A cornucopia of topography

D. One toke over the line sweet Jesus

E. _____?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm A Rocketman

I call home today. I talk to the Lovely Bride for a bit, she tells me what a wonderful person I am and how much I'm missed. She gives the phone to my oldest.

"Hi buddy, how's it going?"

"What do you want?"

"Just called to see how you're all doing while I'm traveling. You studying?"


"Hey, are you willing to give me a hand with something this weekend?"

"That would be great. There's nothing I'd like better than helping you, dad."

"Okay. What else is going on?"

"I didn't even want to talk to you. Mom stuck the phone in my face. Here's my youngest brother."

"Hi kiddo."

[Five minutes of extremely detailed retelling of recess. New show comes on TV. Phone handed to middle brother.]

"Hey guy, it's dad. What's new?"

"Are you still a jerk?"

"Probably. Anything going on?"


"Getting ready to come traveling with me next week?"

"If I have to."

"Have a good night son. I love you."

Dial tone.

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 8

Where am I?

A. The banks of the River Styx

B. Downtown Canadia

C. Kingston, Jamaica

D. About to go on a bender

E. _____?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 7

Where am I?

A. The Philadelphia Museum of Art

B. Adelaide

C. Ice Station Zebra

D. It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

E. _____?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 6

Where am I?

A. Switzerland

B. Swaziland

C. A shining city on the hill

D. Gaius' inn

E. _____?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Holiday Tradition

Before I left today for week two of the great American road trip my oldest son decided we should have a family dinner. We don't really celebrate Easter, just as we don't celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Ramadan or much of anything else, but if it's an excuse to eat, we'll take it.

After my suggestion of hasenpfeffer was voted down, the boy decided on a nice balsamic-mustard glazed ham, roasted pearl onions, broccoli, and homemade au gratin potatoes. While he cooked, the Lovely Bride studied and his brothers watched basketball. I contributed by downloading music in the study and occasionally remarking on how good everything smelled.

Sunday is my mother's day to visit anyway, and an invitation to a meal prepared by her grandson sounded fine to her. After we finished eating and the younger ones returned to the basketball game, the conversation turned, as it so often does in our house, to death.

"I've decided I'd like memorials sent to an African wildlife fund when I die," said my mother.

"Oh God, here we go," I said.

"I'm serious," she said sternly. "I have very much enjoyed my visits there and would like to help preserve it for future generations."

"Why don't you have people give me the money?" I asked. "I'll make sure it gets put to good use."

"It wouldn't be that much," said my mother. "If I win the lottery, however, I'll make sure you get something. Then I'll set up a foundation with the rest."

"Typical liberal nonsense," I said. "Why wouldn't you give it all to me? Do you dislike your grandchildren? Not that I'd blame you."

"Shut up, dad," said my oldest, coming to grandma's defense.

"Besides, I need all the money I can get," I added. "The boys won't let me live with them when I get old."

"Mom can," the youngest piped up from downstairs.

"That's because you're so unpleasant," my mother told me. "I can't imagine what you'll be like when you're old and sick." Turning to the Lovely Bride she added, "You should make plans for how you're going to deal with him."

"I hope by smothering me with a pillow," I muttered. "Soon."

"People should discuss these issues. You already know what I'd like done with my remains," she continued.

"We're going to have you stuffed and keep you in the entry way," I said.

"What will you do with him when he dies?" she asked the Lovely Bride.

"He'll outlive us all," said the Lovely Bride. "He's stubborn."

"More like cursed," I said. "Do we really need to have this conversation right now?"

"Your family needs to know your wishes," said my mother.

"My wishes never seem to have any impact on my family's behavior," I said. "If I have a choice, though, I'd like to be tied to a pontoon, set on fire, and pushed into the marsh in our backyard."

"You should see if a medical school would take his brain," she told the Lovely Bride. "That's what I'm doing with mine."

"I'm sure his brain would be a gold mine for researchers," said the Lovely Bride.

"Good, that's settled then," said my mother, gathering up her things. Nodding at me she said, "He'll be gone all week. That should help."

My oldest rolled his eyes in agreement. "Thanks for coming Grandma," he said.

"Thank you for inviting me. It was a lovely meal."

It was something, alright, I thought.

Friday, March 21, 2008

All Work And No Play

makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy. All work and no play makes Snag a dull boy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Starting To Feel A Little Cooped Up Here

At lunch today I was singing, to myself I thought.

I am so beautiful
To me
I am so beautiful
To me
Can't I see
I'm everything I hoped for
I'm everything I need
I am so beautiful
To me.

Midway through the second chorus I realized the people on both sides of me had stopped eating and begun staring.

This winter can end any time now.

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 4

Where am I?

A. Squaw Valley

B. Denial

C. Shangri-La

D. A place with trees at least, so that's progress

E. _____?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We're Having Some Fun Now

"Where do you want to eat?"

"I don't care."

"Neither do I. You decide."

"What are the choices?"

"A steakhouse or a different steakhouse."

"Do they both serve liquor?"


"Then I don't care."

"Neither do I. Pick one."

"The one that's further away."


"More chance to get hit by a truck."


Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 3

Where am I?

A. K2

B. A shallow grave

C. Key Largo

D. The Bates Motel

E. _____?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Parent Of The Year, Part 7

Life goes on while I'm visiting the Seven Wonders of the World. In my case, life includes school conferences I'm not there to attend.

"How did the meeting go with the youngest's teacher?" I asked my Lovely Bride.

"Okay. I guess."

A ringing endorsement.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. Exactly."

"His test scores are fine? He's doing his homework?"

"Yes, yes," she said, "that's all good."

"He's not causing trouble in class is he?" I asked. "I'll be happy to kill him if he is."

"No, that's not a problem."

"So what's going on?" I demanded.

The Lovely Bride took a breath and said, "About a month ago he told his teacher you were sick. She was horrified and asked what was wrong. He rattled off a list of bizarre symptoms and after watching her struggle to figure out what was going on, he laughed and said, 'Ha, you believed it.''"

"Oh," I said.

"Now do you understand why it was a bad idea to tell him his limbs were going to fall off?" she asked.

"But that was funny," I said.

"Hilarious," she replied.

"What else did his teacher say?" I asked.

"She said he was 'special.'"

"'Special' good or 'special' needs help?"

"I think she meant it in the way people think you're 'special,'" she said.

"In a good way, then," I said.

"Sure," said the Lovely Bride resignedly.

"Should I follow up with the teacher when I get home?" I asked.

"Please don't," she said.

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 2

Where am I?

A. Crete

B. Despair

C. The Isle of Man

D. The butt of a particularly cruel practical joke

E. _____?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Where In The World Is Snag 2008 - Day 1

Where am I?

A. Midtown Manhattan

B. Ibiza

C. Machu Picchu

D. Neptune

E. _____?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Very Nice

My middle son plays basketball in addition to the soccer that's the real focus of his efforts. He's pretty good, even though he's not really built for the game.

This season's been tough for a lot of reasons. Not many games won, but also head coach who isn't overly concerned with playing time. It hasn't been an issue for my kid, but some of the other parents have gotten frustrated.

It came to a head this weekend. The team was a low seed in the state tournament and in the first game two of the players may have played a combined total of four minutes. Even though we won, barely, in overtime, one boy's parents, friends of mine, said they weren't coming back for the rest of the games if things weren't going to change. When I left the gym on Saturday night they were engaged in a long discussion with the head coach that didn't seem to be going well.

This morning my son told me the two under-utilized kids weren't coming to the last day of the tournament. I might not have reacted the same way as a parent but I understood. Sports is competitive at this age, but still.

I was leaving on a business trip today and my Lovely Bride was studying so my boy got a ride from an assistant coach. Frankly, we didn't think too much about it. They'd made it past the first round and that in itself was a miracle.

He called shortly after his first game ended and said in a rush, "We won the game, I scored fourteen points, everybody was there, we all played, it was our best game all year, and now we're playing for the state championship!"

Studying or not, his mother needed to be there for that. She finished the paper she was working on, scooped up my youngest, and drove across the city to watch.

As I left town, I got text message updates from her.

"We're down 15-4."

"16-6 at the half."

"Everyone's playing. They look good."

Finally, unexpectedly and out of character, "Holy fuck, we won."

So they did. The state championship. Granted, it's the championship of a piece of a piece of a larger pie, but hey, it's a state championship. After months of struggling, of kids not getting a chance, these last two games everyone played and together they pulled it off.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Can't Hear You

I got my new pair of headphones yesterday. The timing wasn't great; I'm due to leave on my annual extended slog around the countryside tomorrow and the ability to block out my immediate environment is not as important when I'm hundreds of miles from my family.

My oldest hates them. "You look dumber than usual," he said when I put them on.

"I do not. I look like Quincy Jones."

"If you wear those in public I'll kill you," he told me.

"I'd have bought them years ago if I'd known you'd put me out of my misery," I replied.

He went to get my Lovely Bride. She stood at the top of the stairs looking down at me.

"What were you thinking?" she asked. I think. I couldn't hear her over the music.

Later, when the kids were in bed, she asked me the same question. "Why did you need new headphones?"

"It's like running away from home. Except I don't have to pay child support."

She studied me for a moment and then returned to her book. "Fair enough," she said.

Which is why I'll never run away for real.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Music In The Morning

My youngest likes to pretend to be a kitten cleaning his whiskers. He also enjoys being a lowrider. When his best friend got here this morning I combined the two and taught them a bass-rich set of dance moves. We hopped and sang and glided around the kitchen until my Lovely Bride arrived to take them to school.

"What's he doing?" she asked my son, pointing at me.

"The Hydraulic Cat," said my youngest.

She didn't blink. "Get your backpacks, we have to go," she told them.

"Meow," said my son's friend, undulating toward the door.

"Boom chucka, boom chucka," I said.

"See you tonight," she said to me.

"Bye sweetie," I said.

He Rubbed The Pot Roast All Over His Chest

I'm excited just thinking about all that meat I have coming.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

City Mouse, Country Mouse

"How much for the quarter beef?"

"Two hundred when it's slaughtered. Another two when it's delivered."

"Do I get a discount if I slaughter it myself?"


"Can I slaughter it myself if I pay extra?"


"What comes with it?"

"Steaks. Roasts. Burgers. Short ribs, soup bones. We can make jerky if you want."

"What do you do with the organs?"

"We can deliver the liver, heart, and tongue."

"Can I get the gall bladder?"




"What do you do with them?"

"People can't eat them."

"Can't or don't?"

"Nobody does."

"I might."

"Doesn't matter. You can't have them."

"Okay. Got any chickens?"





"For milk or meat?"



"Let's say a quarter beef and ten chickens. Can I get the chickens live?"


"Okay, a quarter beef and ten dead chickens."


"Done and done."

"Good enough."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Slouching Towards Opening Day

Tonight Coach P. and I met with the other minor league coaches in our role as league representatives. This is what we told them.

"We don't keep standings, we don't track statistics, there's no trophy at the end of the season. The only prize you'll win is knowing the kids had fun and learned something."

I hope they believed it.

The Return Of The Skittles

The candy may be lousy but the ad's pretty good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Oblivious, Ungrateful Child And The Hungry Coyote.*

This morning my youngest and his best friend were sitting on the couch listening to "music" before they left for school. I poured myself coffee and cereal and opened the paper.

After a few minutes, I called up to them, "What was that?"

"What?" they asked.

"That noise. It sounded like coyotes."

"Shut up," said my youngest.

"Seriously," I said. "I think I heard them. You'll need to be careful on your walk to school."

"What's he talking about?" said my son's friend.

"He's just weird," said my son.

I walked upstairs to where they were sitting. "You know how coyotes attack, don't you?"

"How?" asked his friend.

"They like to cull the herd. They'll find the slowest child, cut him off from the pack, and take him down. Like this," I said, squeezing the back of his leg. He shrieked and rolled away from me.

"So if the coyotes get one of you, the other one needs to run for help," I said. "In fact, if you hear anything unfamiliar at all today, start running and screaming 'coyote' as loud as you can."

"I'd just leave him to die," said my son, nodding at his friend.

"That's not what we did for you in Yellowstone," I reminded him.

When he was quite small, my friend's family and mine went on an extended joint family vacation that included Yellowstone. The trip was what one would expect with six boys and four adults sharing twelve days on the road, but the potential coyote attack still holds a special place in my heart.

Along the shores of Lake Yellowstone, my friend and I cast for fish, without luck of course, given the enormous rocks being thrown into the lake by the kids while our wives did their best to pretend they weren't with us. All of a sudden there was a commotion as geese floating just offshore scattered to the four winds.

Sure enough, a coyote had made a run at them. Disappointed, he began to retreat back up the hill until he spied my youngest, who was standing not too far from his mother. Then the animal stopped and the wheels began to turn.

My friend and I watched the coyote as my son wandered obliviously on the beach. In turn, the coyote watched my son. Finally he began creeping toward the boy.

"Hey!" we yelled at our wives. "HEY!!"

They continued to ignore us. The coyote continued to creep forward. My friend and I quickly reeled in and started charging down the beach waving our fishing rods.

"HEY!! we screamed.

Our wives and the coyote looked up at about the same time. Unlike the women, he reacted, beating a quick retreat across the road. I scooped up my son, who still unaware of the threat, simply looked at me with a puzzled expression.

The story of how I saved his life has since become legend around our household and I was happy to share it today with his friend. When I finished, he was in awe.

"My dad never saved my life," he said.

"He would if he had to," I said. "You're dad's a good man."

"My mom says she knew where I was the whole time," he told his friend. "She says Dad's just exaggerating, like he always does."

I pinned him on the couch and squeezed his leg like I had his friend's. He howled and struggled without success. Finally I let him up.

"Every day's a gift," I said.

*Title courtesy of Brando.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Things Are More Complicated Than They Seem

Tonight I take my stand against affordable housing. Funny how life turns out.

UPDATE: So far the comments are a pretty good prediction of how tonight should go, although I'm not sure I'll hear from the pro-cupcake crowd. Here's the deal.

Several years ago, a developer proposed a mixed-use development with a variety of housing and retail options. The development was intended in part to eliminate severely blighted and unsafe transient housing in the community. Public subsidies for the development were approved in the face of substantial neighborhood concern about density and after significant redesigns were required to address these issues.

In the latest in a series of business misjudgments, the developer claims he can't lease the retail space. Instead, he wants to convert the retail space to small efficiency apartments to be rented at rates that would qualify for low income tax credits. In a building immediately adjacent to a single family residential neighborhood, the conversion will increase the number of residential units by 50% over the original proposal and are proposed to have doors opening directly onto a parking lot.

The developer was told that the increased density was not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and risked overwhelming the existing infrastructure. He was also asked for evidence that he continues to need public subsidies for the restructured development. He refused to open his books and accused a skeptic of the new proposal of hating renters.

During initial design phase, said skeptic took many hours of abuse for efforts to create additional and affordable life cycle housing options. Said skeptic is not a happy camper.

ANOTHER UPDATE: When the meeting opened I politely inquired, "Are you all on crack?" before disemboweling several baby rabbits and tossing them on a pile of burning kittens. When this passive approach failed, I got angry.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Mother's Love

My mother was over today for her weekly visit. She's still wheezing a bit from whatever tropical disease is trying to exact revenge for her imperialist tour of the developing world but I opened the door after spraying her with Lysol and making her don a plastic garbage bag.

I'm joking, of course. She brought me magnets so I'm down with the whole grandma thing. My kids, they think she's the bee's knees, or some other grandma type saying she'd sooner die than use. She shows up and doesn't just pretend to be interested in what they've been up to. She actually is interested. I think she's on meth.

"What have you been doing?" she asked the youngest.

He went on at length about something involving sports. Why should I listen? I lived it. Basketball. Baseball. My money going down a rat hole.

In the meantime my oldest barked at me. He was cleaning the house in preparation for the annual father/son fantasy baseball league draft to be held tonight.

"Get out of my way," he snarled.

I was out late last night for a dinner hosted by my company's largest vendor. That good wine, the stuff you never spring for? Boy, that tastes even better when someone else is paying. Not so good the next day, though, not when one has to get up to drive the middle kid across town so he can take a soccer referee clinic entitling him to get paid for handing out red cards in a crazed power grab that's bound to turn this whole summer into a teachable moment. Anyway, it improved the experience of being bossed around by my oldest kid.

"Leave me alone," I snarled back.

"I won't clean," he said.

"You win," I told him.

Much of my willingness to concede is driven by the fact I'll soon be taking leave of my loving family for three weeks. I do this every year, giving fascinating presentations that on their own could kill a man at fifty yards. By the end of this year's trip I'll have given one of them sixty times.




Pause for laughter.

Pray for death.


It's a living. But, with the Lovely Bride in school, there's simply no way the family can survive, even grubbing for worms, without the help of my oldest. When he tells me to move, I move.

Grandma smiled upon him, as she does upon all her grandchildren. "How did your father get so lucky to have a son like you?" she asked.

He grinned. "Don't know."

She turned to my youngest and whispered conspiratorially, glancing at me. "When he was in high school your dad was a terrible student."

"I was disinterested. There's a difference. You'd know that if you were any good at English."

My mother speaks in sentences that would do King James proud if he'd spent his time on something besides the Bible. I got the evil eye.

"Whether he was disinterested or merely a bad student, his grades did not reflect his ability," she continued to a rapt audience consisting of children eager for proof of my inadequacy.

"We had to read the 'Mayor of Casterbridge,'" I said. "Half the class dropped out."

"Did you ever skip school?" asked my youngest.

"Skipping school's is Satan's curriculum," I told him.

"You did not always make good choices," said my mother. Thanks for getting my back, Mom.

"Having kids, for example. There's a bad choice," I offered.

"Getting married and having children were the best decisions you ever made," said Grandma.

"That's not what the Lovely Bride thinks," I said.

My mother paused for a moment. "We're aware of that."

I reconsidered my comment while my kids looked at me with pity.

"Mom's cool," said my youngest.

"Yes she is. Your father's a lucky man," said my mother.

My youngest danced across the floor while my oldest vacuumed. I suppose I am.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday I Don't Feel Like Working Blogging

There's a Radiolab segment coming up in a couple weeks about earworms.

This is the one that's burrowing around in my head right now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New World Order

When my youngest son was still quite little we signed him up for Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classes. By "we" I mean the Lovely Bride. I'm a modern dad and all, mostly in the sense I don't use the belt on my kids when they lip off (which might explain why they lip off so much). Still, special daddy time has always run more toward staying up late watching movies with a lot of explosions.

"Boom, daddy!" they'd yell.

"Boom, indeed," I'd reply. "Now be quiet so I can hear Samuel L. Jackson."

Such is the yin and yang of a two-parent household. And it worked just fine until the Lovely Bride had a conflict on the night of the second to last class.

"You need to take him," she told me.

"Oh come on," I whined. "I never took the two older ones and they turned out just fine."

"Really?" she asked. "That's not what you said when they put a hole in the wall playing football in the basement. Besides, the only reason you never took them is because I did."

"How about if I watch two movies with him instead?" I asked.

"You're going," she answered.

Yes I was. When class time neared I got him dressed, packed him in the car, and headed off to do my fatherly duties. I knew the head teacher from elsewhere and we made small talk while the boy toddled off to play.

After twenty minutes or so one of the teachers led the children into another room, apparently to play some extremely rudimentary version of a sport that nobody besides a child psychologist considers a sport. The parents, who had remained behind, gathered into a circle and I started to panic. I'm the only father here, I thought. What if they start discussing lactation or something?

They didn't, of course. People described what their kids were doing, how they were developing, how things were going at home. I knew better than to describe my son's fondness for the Terminator franchise and contented myself with nodding sympathetically while the other parents talked.

Soon enough the children returned and I learned it was small group time. Hell, I thought, I made it this far. I'm golden.

Six of us retreated to a corner of the room and gathered in a circle, our children in our laps. Our particular group was being led by the teacher I knew.

"Let's go around the circle and introduce ourselves. Your name, your child's name, and your child's age."

Piece of cake, I thought. I know my name. I know his name. And he was born on . . . . Uh oh.

As the introductions worked their way around the circle I was dying inside. One simple task and I was going to screw it up. The Lovely Bride would certainly hear about it at the next class. She wouldn't say anything when she got home. I'd just get that increasingly familiar look of pity mixed with disgust.

How old is he? I asked myself. It can't be that hard. Do the math.

I was last one up. In a group of six, that's not very long.

"My name is Snag. This is Snag Jr.," I said. "He's five," I said, taking a stab at it and looking hopefully at the teacher.

She closed her eyes for a long moment and shook her head almost imperceptibly.

"Six?" I guessed. By now I was the object of intense focus by the rest of the parents, all moms, all of whom knew my son's age far better than I appeared to. Even my kid was staring at me with a strange expression.

The teacher shook her head again, eyes still closed.

"Four." I said this with certainty. I knew he wasn't three and if he was seven we'd be at baseball, not some stupid ECFE class.

The teacher gave me the smile I imagine she usually reserved for a toddler who'd recently learned the first six letters of the alphabet. "That's right," she said. "He's four."

"Sorry," I muttered.

"Is there anything else you'd like to share?" she asked.

My kid might have been only four but he was already looking at me apprehensively.

"No, I'm good," I said, grinning like a lunatic.

Mercifully, the class ended before I could do any more damage. I got home and put the kids to bed and opened a bottle of wine. The Lovely Bride arrived not long after.

"What did you do?" she asked suspiciously when I poured her a glass and started giving her a back rub.

"I don't tell you often enough how much I love you," I said.

She sighed. "It's going in his permanent record, isn't it?"


"Well, you tried," she said.

"That's because I'm a modern dad."

"Lucky us," said my Lovely Bride.

Cruella Snag

By 5:20 p.m. I had bought my middle kid a new set of shin guards for soccer. They'll go nicely with the new shoes he gets in a few weeks.

By 5:50 p.m. he was complaining that my failure to buy him a second snack from the vending machine at my oldest son's tennis lesson proved I didn't love him.

By 7:30 p.m. I'd been to the grocery to spend the equivalent of a weekend away with the Lovely Bride on Pop-Tarts and Oreos. No substitutions allowed.

By 8:30 p.m. the youngest was griping because he didn't get McDonald's for dinner with this brothers. The reason he didn't is because he was playing basketball at the gym with his best friend. After his best friend's dad bought him dinner at McDonald's.

By 10:00 p.m. they were in bed and I was arranging a trip for them over spring break.

By tomorrow they will have a whole new set of grievances. They got nothing on me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

And We're Off

It's baseball season again. Besides coaching together, P. and I have been named league representatives, a sure sign of the coming Apocalypse. In that hallowed role we are responsible for paperwork and getting yelled at by angry parents.

The draft was held the other night. P. and I were nominally in charge, our primary goal to ensure some semblance of actual and perceived fairness. We spent hours, days actually, reading player evaluations, revising spreadsheets, gaming possible outcomes. In the end, the draft went pretty well; no outbursts, no accusations of cheating. So far.

P. and I did our best, even though our position as league reps left us drawing last for draft order. Besides our own we were able to get a few of the players from last year's team.

Two of them are brothers, the children of friends we made last year when their oldest played for us. When I coached him in soccer this fall I told him not to kick the ball too hard if he had leprosy, what with potential limb loss and all. He ignored me. Smart kid.

Another was on our brief extended season team a couple years ago, a sweet child who got his first hit after P. spent most of a weekend afternoon working with him. Someone told us his mother's been talking about how happy she was we'd picked him up. We're happy too.

The last is is a quiet boy who played for us last year, a little shy. He's a good catcher and a decent hitter and we both think he's likely to blossom this year. When he walked into the workout room Sunday for our first team practice and saw some buddies from last year he grinned and settled in like he belonged. He does.

We have new kids too. Some younger ones, the age my kid was last year. They look at P.'s son and mine as veterans, and I suppose they are. P. worked with them on pitching and fielding and I took them into the batting cage. They all caught, they all threw, they all hit. It wasn't all pretty, but it was something we could work into a team.

At the end of the practice, we gathered the kids and told them how well they'd done and gathered the parents and had the first of any number of conversations about priorities, which for us include having some fun and learning some things and making some friends and not much else. We got a couple skeptical looks but we can live with that.

It's baseball season.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Another Year

Tonight, after basketball, baseball, tennis, my oldest son and I went out for dinner to celebrate his birthday. We had carpaccio and farfalle alla gorgonzola and pollo alla diavolo and ordered some gnocchi to bring home for the Lovely Bride, who was studying. We told some stories and made some plans and I was reminded, not that I ever forget, how much I love him and how proud I am to be his father.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March Madness


10:10 - Youngest son's basketball game
11:00 - Oldest son's tennis
12:00 - Eat hot dog for lunch
12:30 - Youngest son's basketball game
1:40 - Middle son's basketball game (different location)
4:00 - Youngest son's basketball game (thank God for neighbors)
4:00 - Middle son's basketball game
5:45 - Eat hot dog for dinner
6:20 - Middle son's basketball game

10:10 - Youngest son's basketball game
12:00 - Eat hot dog for lunch
1:40 - Middle son's basketball game (different location)
3:00 - Oldest son's tennis
5:00 - Youngest son's baseball practice


After losing his first game of the day in a sudden death double overtime, my middle son blinked hard, then walked across the court, thanked the refs for calling a good game, and congratulated the other team's coaches. I caught him in the hall and said I was prouder of him for that than any game he's ever won. And I was.