So that happened….

Road Trip!

Around this time last year, Riley announced plans for a road trip with his band. Not a set of gigs or anything. The group was going to pile into a van and drive to North Caroline to see my brother Buddha, stopping along the way to camp.

Five teens load up a van and take a trip into the Deep South. I have seen this movie. It does not end well.

I’m not a camper by nature, nor am I especially comfortable in the south. Or the outdoors, to be honest. I’m not even sure I like vans. Wisely, Riley waited until all other members of the band got their parents’ OK before springing this waiting, bloody disaster on me.

Surely to most people – George, for instance – a summer road trip with buddies seems like the most natural and fun thing to do with some free time. See the world! Bond with friends! Camp! So again, wisely, Riley told us together.

What is it these humans don’t understand? Have they not seen Cabin in the Woods? Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Wrong Turn? The Hills Have Eyes? These films offer the kind of education I believe we should all take into account before planning any adventure.

I wasn’t thrilled.

Lucky for me, Riley would be the handsome leading man, meaning he’d likely survive to tell the tale. I’d hate to be the comic relief sidekick, and God help the underage girls!

They mapped out their destination, got the car tuned up, carried a AAA card for emergencies. All they needed was camping equipment, which my friend Christie kindly supplied. She lent them tents, chairs, a lantern and other recreational whatnot. What she did not provide was the know-how to use the equipment.

Unlike his mother, Riley is not afraid of the woods or strangers or animals or the dark or the south. He would realize, though, that like his mother, he does not care for camping. Terror aside, camping totally blows. You work really hard to provide all you need for a good night’s sleep, only to find that tents don’t suit anyone over 5 foot 5, they leak if you don’t know how to properly set them up, and a sleeping bag on a tent floor over ground is exactly as comfortable as it sounds.

Plus, bugs.

He also learned that getting lost at night on country roads that offer no streetlights, no helpful gas station attendants, and no cell phone reception really is scary – even if there are no inbred cannibals in the vicinity. (Not that you’d know until it was too late!)

Eventually they made it to my brother’s house and spent a day with Buddha and his son in what amounts to my version of a nightmare. 

He has several acres about a mile from any road, about 30 miles from any town. There are woods, fields and swamps on his land, which lend themselves to bears, gators, backwoodsmen, and naturally, bugs. I’m not sure how many of those creatures actually infest the property, but my nephew did once hit a bear with his car, so at least we’re sure one manner of carnivore lives there.

Still, Riley and crew had a lovely time in Ivanhoe, North Caroline. They fished, went to the beach, visited a creepy store (like the one in the Chuck Connors flick Tourist Trap, I assume), ate a lovely meal, did not die, and headed back toward Ohio.

They made it home safely – tired and slightly sunburned, but healthy enough. The only casualty turned out to be Riley’s driving record: he got a speeding ticket somewhere around West Virginia.

The one thing I forgot to worry about.

So that happened…

 

Honestly Officer, my dad did it!

My next door neighbors in Tiffin were the sainted Celinda and her two smashing sons, Michael and Timothy. My extended family – aunts, cousins, whatnot – literally refer to her as Saint Celinda. This is perhaps due to her unreasonably calm response to the theft of her sons’ bicycles at the hands of two of my visiting cousins, but really, there are countless other reasons.

Had Celinda been a true-born Madden girl, she’d be situated between my brother Buddha and sister Ellen. But this small, olive-skinned Italian girl in the middle of giant, pasty-faced Irishmen was never going to pass as a Madden. I suspect this disappointed my parents.

Long after the genetic Madden kids had split town, Celinda and the boys were looking after our dad. Timothy and Michael shoveled his walk, mowed his lawn, and put up his Christmas tree. Celinda popped in every few days to make sure the man was still alive. 

I know this makes him seem like a decrepit and ancient fellow, but indeed, he was in his sixties at the time and capable of surviving if not thriving on his own. He was just too lazy and too fond of being looked after to do it.

So how did he return the favor? He stole her newspaper, dropped in unannounced for dinner, burned down her kitchen, and on at least one occasion he snuck a peek at her in her underwear. Yet he was surprisingly endearing through it all. 

Though Celinda has long been one of my dearest friends, I started off as her babysitter. Sure, there were “better” babysitters. Some “quality” caregivers learn CPR, read aloud, plan craft projects, prepare the occasional vegetable. But that’s not my bag.

About once a month I’d spend my full week’s wages to take the boys to Pizza Hut and a movie – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or the sequel, Big Top Pee Wee, for example. You know – the classics. Otherwise, our schedule was pretty consistent: all morning we watched cartoons; most afternoons we watched bad, syndicated sit-coms; all evening we watched movies. 

Some afternoons we’d take a break from Charles In Charge to play. Playtime is important in the development of the youth. We generally developed by pretending we were Transformers or Ghostbusters or Thundercats.

The latter often stirred up controversy because Timothy thought I should be Cheetara, the sole female Thundercat, but I insisted on being mighty Lion-O. I think, secretly, Tim hoped to be Lion-O rather than always getting stuck playing Snarf.

Characteristically, Michael settled on playing the wise, soft spoken Panthro. If they were smarter, the Thundercats would have made Panthro their leader instead of that showboat Lion-O. I believe it was just that weakness that always gave evil Mum-Ra the upper hand, my friends.

Back to the story. It was, indeed, while I was “babysitting” that my dad set Celinda’s kitchen on fire.

I had a hand in it. I had turned on the wrong burner on the stove. Rather than heating up the canned ravioli I’d planned for the boys’ lunch, I heated up last night’s hamburger grease on the skillet on the back burner, which caught fire. 

It was quite spectacular, but entirely controllable. I turned off the back burner and went to the cupboard to find something to douse the flame – baking soda, flour, something like that. In the meantime, I sent the boys to my house next door, just to be safe. Naturally, they told my parents about the fire.

In burst my dad. Cursing under his breath at my clear, perhaps criminal incompetence, he rushed to the sink and began filling a pot with water.

“It’s a grease fire, Dad,” I called from the pantry.

Nothing.

“It’s a grease fire, Dad!”

He continued filling the pot. Then he turned off the faucet and moved, pot in hand, toward the flame.

“DAD! It’s a GREASE FIRE!!” 

No good. My dad’s deaf. 

So, water hit the flame, which rolled up the wall behind the oven, taking out the curtain over the adjacent sink then fanning about a third of the way across the ceiling before burning itself out.

 And still they mowed his lawn.

So, you see, Saint Celinda.

So that happened…

Oh my God, what’s your name? My name’s Lyle…

A few years ago, George and I were staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Cleveland. Why were we staying there? Because somebody else was paying for it. 

We knew Lyle Lovett was playing in Cleveland that night, but because of the work-related purpose of our visit, we would not get to see the show. Bummer.

We would, however, manage to see Lyle.

We’d already run into Julian Lennon in the hotel bar, so if that Cleveland evening wasn’t already star studded, it was at least bedazzled. Late the night of the concert, after a long evening of adult beverages, George and I and several likeminded revelers found ourselves standing in the Ritz-Carlton lobby, laughing loudly at one thing or another when Lyle Lovett entered the premises.

George, in the middle of a story, noticed the imminently noticeable singer/songwriter out of the corner of his eye and announced, “There’s Lyle!”

He really only said it to the four or five of us who’d been chatting. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but George’s voice carries. It’s a radio thing, I guess. Regardless, Lovett heard him, and he’d said it with such familiarity that Lyle apparently, for just a minute, looked over expecting to know who’d said it.

Still warm from the cocktails, George and I decided to pretend we knew him.

We strolled nonchalantly toward Lyle, George smiling with his hand extended. He shook the hand of the now visibly confused Lovett and told him how much we liked the new album.

I insisted that my brain tell my hand to stay away from Lovett’s hair, because I was overcome with the desire to touch it. It’s just such fantastic hair! I wanted to touch it!

I did not.

I did, however, smile like a speechless moron and turned what many have labeled “Hope Madden Red.” (Crayola copyright to follow.)

Lyle smiled politely, thanked us for our kind words, and headed hurriedly toward the elevator.

We trailed him, smiling like a couple of drunken maniacs who might just follow him right up to his room.

As Lovett stood in the elevator and waited for the doors to close, George and I stood facing him, just outside the elevator, waving.

The moment lasted a weirdly long time.

Lovett pushed and pushed at the button for his desperately wanted floor, but nothing happened. The door remained open, the smiling possible stalkers remained just outside the elevator.

Lyle did not realize that, at this late hour, he had to insert his room card into the elevator panel to get the doors to close.

We chose not to tell him.

Scary movie blog

Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

Sure, we all hate Nicolas Cage. He’s a whore, a has-been, and his wigs embarrass us. But back before Con Air (the film that turned him), Cage was always willing to behave in a weirdly effeminate manner, and perhaps even eat a bug. He made some great movies.

Among those works ranks this bizarre horror comedy, which would make an excellent back to back viewing with Christian Bale’s American Psycho. Both films loathe the soulless, white collar white man in a suit. One portrays him as a serial killer, while this one sees him as a blood sucker. Either way, he’s a sociopath who preys on the rest of us.

Both films boast fascinating, savage turns from male leads who would go on to dominate acting for years after these unhinged performances. We have yet to see whether Christian Bale will eventually whore himself out to the highest bidder, wearing ridiculous hair pieces while driving his motorcycle from the depths of hell to find the missing Constitution. Let us hope not.

In keeping with a theme I appear to be building, Christian Bale ate worms in the film Rescue Dawn. Vampire’s Kiss is best known for the scene in which Cage eats a cockroach. (Putting both actors to shame is Divine, who ate actual dog shit for John Waters’s Pink Flamingos.)

Dietary hijinks aside, Cage gives a masterful comic performance as a narcissistic literary editor who descends into madness. The actor is hilarious, demented, his physical performance outstanding. The way he uses his gangly mess of limbs and hulking shoulders inspires darkly, campy comic awe. And the plastic teeth are awesome. 

Peter Lowe (pronounced with such relish by Cage) believes he’s been bitten by a vampire (Jennifer Beals) during a one night stand. It turns out, he’s actually just insane. The bite becomes his excuse to indulge his self-obsessed, soulless, predatory nature for the balance of the running time.

The object of most of Lowe’s deviance is his secretary, poor, hard working Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso). Her wholesome life, though humble, carries with it a happiness and fulfillment that Lowe’s seemingly enviable high rolling lifestyle lacks. When the natural order of superiority is disrupted – when Alva snickers at Peter’s sockless ankle – his world and mind finally crumble. He may think he abuses her with sinister panache because he’s slowly turning into a demon, but we know better.

If the news of National Treasure 3 is too much to bear, maybe give this one a shot.

So that happened…

Cot Troubles

We drove to the Land of Cleve Tuesday to watch a 62-year-old make dozens of thousands of Ohioans look like anemic, easily exhausted old people. Bruce Springsteen puts on an impressive show, that’s all I’m saying.

We were lucky to get tickets, but it appears we were luckier to get a room.

We had splurged a bit on our scalped and excellent seats, and we fully intended to drop some cash on souvenirs (one tee apiece, plus a shirt and set of guitar picks for The Boy, who couldn’t come because, well, we didn’t get him a ticket). Plus there’d be food and, let’s be honest, beverages aplenty. We decided there was no need to pay up for an expensive room as well, so we booked at the Red Roof Inn by the airport.

So, apparently, did about a million middle aged softball players.

We hadn’t been aware of what appeared to be a tournament of every all-male fiftysomething team in the state, so it’s just blind luck that we check in prior to the show. When we saw the hand written sign taped to the door post-concert, we were glad we had.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, your reservation may not guarantee a room.

It makes you wonder how they define “reservation.”

But we didn’t care because we’d already check in, so unless they’d decided to share our room against our will with a couple of balding shortstops and a pot bellied catcher, we were fine. Except that somehow we’d lost our room key and needed a replacement.

I mentioned the beverages?

The late night line at the check in counter was lengthy and unpleasant. Another handwritten sign reminded would-be guests that “reserved” means something totally different under the Red Roof, but by now the grumbling sleepyheads understood they weren’t getting a room.

One guy, though, who was lucky enough to have a room, wanted more. He wanted a cot, and the clerk was running out of different ways to say “we don’t have any.”  

“But I just need a cot.”

“Yeah, we don’t have any.”

Repeat six times.

Finally, after the clerk had resulted to puppet show and interpretive dance, the man slinked away, still cotless.

The clerk turned his attention to George.

Their eyes met. The air grew thick with anticipation as each man knew what was to come.  Fate had given George a gift, and he could not refuse it. The moment was so perfect that future generations of hotel clerks will speak of it with grudging respect.

“Can I help you?”

“Do you have any cots?”

And that, kids, is how one room almost became suddenly available!

So that happened…

Bearded Ladies and Drunks in Bars

As far as I can tell, there are three undeniable truths in life.

  1. Kids are stupid.
  2. Boys smell bad.
  3. Weird things happen when you sit near the restroom in bars.

Here’s a tale to exemplify Point 3.

George and I were out recently, minding our bees wax and drinking a beer at a neighborhood establishment when a fellow imbiber stumbled toward the ladies room. Sure that was not the spot he wanted, George hollered after him: “Hey, that’s the ladies’.”

The fully bearded human turned around to respond, “I am a woman,” and then entered the ladies room.

We sat in astonished silence for a minute, and then commenced drinking.

Soon enough, Beardy McClearlyaman emerged from the restroom and meandered over to our table.

“A hole’s a hole, right?” he said.

“Just keep walking,” George responded.

“But I wasn’t walking,” Beardy said, clearly baffled.

“Then please do,” I piped up.

The guy stood there, confused and staring, then laughed, “Oh, right,” and stumbled off.

I swear to God this happened.

I don’t even want to talk about the guy who kicked the door open and shouted, still standing in the bar, “It’s shittin’ time, fellas!”

Although maybe that was like a public service announcement, I don’t know.

Scary movie blog

Happy Friday the 13th!

To celebrate, I sat down to a marathon event of all twelve episodes of the summer camp slashers because I have a tragic and time consuming weakness.

This iconic villain has been whored out so many times since he burst from the lake in the last moments of the 1980 flick that the real task over the years has been finding new and interesting ways to exploit him.

For instance:

Friday the 13th (1980): The first installment boasted the quirky, over-the-top Tom Savini FX that gave you something to look at beyond the revolving door of shrieking, dying knuckleheads. It gets points for almost engineering a genre on its own. Although it lifted entire scenes from Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, and there were several slashers prior to this film, its epic popularity dialed the slasher genre up to eleven. Also, of course, is the outstanding Kevin Bacon death scene. (Kevin Bacon Death Scene – I love them! I think I saw them open for Skinny Puppy in ’88.)

Friday the 13th Part II (1981): Gone is the novelty of the grief crazed mother, replaced by the far more potent (franchise-wise) image of an unstoppable killer in Jason Voorhees. Wearing a burlap sack over his deformed face, the now fully grown Jason finishes off the last survivor of the original, shows a loving affection for his mother’s disembodied head, and kills everyone at the reopened camp except for Ginny, who – in huge cop out fashion – awakens in an ambulance without explanation as to how she made it out of that barn alive. Lame.

Friday the 13th Part III (1982): The first of the series’ many “final installments,” Episode 3 is mostly famous for introducing the iconic hockey mask. An annoying young woman is trying to recover from an earlier attack; meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, Jason is recovering from Part II’s injuries in her barn. Jason smooshes a guy’s head so his eye pops out – in 3D! The film ends with an unsatisfying dream sequence followed by the sighting of Jason’s dead body. So, clearly, he’s gone for good. Whew!

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984): Would that it were. This second attempt to end the franchise inadvertently begins what I like to call the Tommy Trilogy. Part 4 also sees Crispin Glover (professional oddball and Back to the Future’s George McFly) get laid (and, then, of course, get a meat cleaver to the face). Later, Eighties icon Corey Feldman chops Jason Voorhees to pieces. Feldman plays Tommy, and Tommy just chops and chops and chops. Chop him up good, Tommy! Not that it will help.

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985): A profitable franchise, like an unstoppable murdering machine, is hard to kill. Since that last installment left little possibility for Jason’s survival, but so much more money to be made, the unavoidable 5th installment had to come up with something novel. So, we open on a dream sequence that has Jason’s killer Tommy witness Jason’s graveyard resurrection. But that’s too nutty – surely that didn’t happen! No, instead we get a copycat Jason slaughtering teens in a halfway house. Yawn.

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986): Tommy – remember him, he chopped Jason to bits in episode 4 then went to a halfway house in episode 5 after dreaming that Jason could be brought back from the grave? He does the unimaginably stupid and brings Jason back from the grave. The local sheriff deems Tommy nuts, tries to jail him, tries to run him out of town, then is bent in two by Jason as he realizes he’d perhaps judged Tommy too harshly. Dumb as it sounds, this one actually feels smarter than all previous films – self referential, even comical.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988): By the late Eighties it was impossible to keep each one straight, and yet the most famous Jason doesn’t enter the picture until this 7th installment: fan favorite Kane Hodder. Hodder’s Jason is released from his lake prison by a confused telekinetic. Think of it overall as a kind of Carrie vs Jason. Terry Kiser (Bernie from Weekend At .. fame) plays a total dick of a doctor. A lot of weird shit happens in this one.

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989): We were all so tired of Jason by 1989. So tired. So writer/director Rob Hedden decided to freshen things up by leaving Crystal Lake behind and spending an interminable amount of time on a row boat, a big boat, on docks and in sewers in an attempt to make a comment on the ugly modern times in New York. Except that we see almost no NYC, Jason barely comes into contact with New Yorkers, and the end sees him melt down into a frightened little boy. What the hell?

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993): Speaking of hell. So Jason’s a demon by this point, killed in an FBI sting – blown to bits, regardless of what happened to him in the last installment. Unfortunately his black heart keeps beating, and he slides from one poorly drawn character into another while some nonsense about his bloodline and a mystical dagger is bandied about. Things get nutty in this one, I won’t lie to you. And it ends with Freddy Krueger laughing.

Jason X (2002): He’s been to hell. Where to now? How about deep space? Well, there is a difference between quality bad and worthless crap, and this movie plain old sucks. The great David Cronenberg plays the mad scientist who cryogenically freezes Jason Voorhees. Flash forward 453 years, and the frozen carcass is found, brought aboard New Earth’s space craft, and Jason Meets Aliens unspools.

Freddy vs Jason (2003): At long last! Here’s the skinny: Freddy can’t hurt anyone if he’s forgotten, so he (somehow) brings Jason back from the dead and sends him to Elm St. to carve up some youngsters, knowing that the carnage will revive the town’s memory of the old nightmare killer. The memories make Freddy strong enough to kill again, but now Jason won’t get off his turf, so they have to duke it out. Some highly augmented and imaginative teens piece this puzzle together and hope to find a way to finish both monsters off for good. Will they succeed? Does it matter? And who will win this battle between the iconic bloodletters? With a little fresh blood spilling from these tired old veins, don’t we all win, really? 

Friday the 13th (2009): Unfortunately, Freddy V Jason wasn’t the capper. Not a remake at all, 2009’s Friday the 13th is just another sequel. For the most part, you get what you should, by now, expect: drinkers, sluts, jocks and drug users die; quirky, eternally single ethnic friends brought along for comic relief die; disposable youth mostly fall victim to hatchets to the back, machetes to the skull. There’s also a return to the old “boobs a’bouncing” school of slashers. (This bouncing usually takes place just prior to a hatchet to the back or a machete to the skull.) In fact, there seem to be no tired formulas the film is wary to trot out. It’s as if Jason pulled out the Way Back Machine to revisit the land of 80s horror film cliches. Too bad he didn’t stay there.

So that happened…

Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants

It’s 11:45 pm on Monday night. I’m dozing off. Then, I’m awake! Why? Because someone is apparently having a traumatic, extremely loud telephone breakup underneath my bedroom window.

I assume, as is my way, that it’s some hyperdramatic teenage girl bawling into her iPhone about some imagined slight. Because, as you know, kids are stupid. But my prediction is off. The ruckus comes from a fully grown woman, pacing up and down the alley behind my house, yelling loudly enough into her phone to keep me wide awake. 

And she doesn’t even have the courtesy to be articulate. I can’t understand a damn word she’s sobbing into her phone. If you’re going to keep me awake, at least be eaves droppable!

It would be one thing if she would move in a single direction. Sure, my neighbors and I would all be roused, but we could quickly drift back to sleep were it not for her circle back approach. It’s loud, it’s loud, it’s less loud, it’s even less loud, it’s quiet, it’s growing louder again, she’s screaming shaky voiced and weeping under my bedroom window again.

I hate to kick a sobbing woman when she’s down, but honestly, enough is efuckingnough. My next door neighbor has three kids under the age of 5. There’s a 4-year-old on the other side of the alley, a 4th grader next to him. Basically, her stomping and screaming ground runs back and forth outside the bedrooms of many, many sleeping kids and working parents.

Which has nothing to do with anything because, let’s be honest, I like my sleepytime and she is disrupting it.

So, I muster up my energy and send George out to deal with her.

“Hey, be quiet!” George hollers with noticeable sympathy out the window toward the pacing wailer.

“Fuck you! Oh, great! Fuck you!” she elegantly answers.

“Shut your mouth or I’ll call the cops,” he responds. Nice! That’s my honey bunch!

So two great things are accomplished this Monday night. One: I finally go to sleep. Two: we are officially the neighborhood’s “Hey you kids, get off my Goddamn lawn!” couple.

 

 

 

So that happened…

Heist

I am planning a heist.

I uncovered valuables at lunch yesterday, valuables that are kept unguarded in my very home. My husband George has more than 900 points on his Subway card.

George and I appreciate a little Subway at lunchtime on Saturdays. The branch we visit sits right across Northwest Boulevard from the Chipotle where we eat dinner about three days a week. Our house has no kitchen at all.

Well, it does, but you’ll find a lot of cobwebs there. And pop tarts.

How lucky for us all that Columbus is the fast food capital of the world!

Two weeks ago we stopped by our favorite Subway location, and a new guy was working. Our new favorite Subway guy. Sure, we love Ben, the Cavs fan who looks like Brad Paisley. But this new guy, he made subs that looked like the advertisements. Delicious, filling subs overflowing with meat and vegetables, toasted perfectly. Big. 

And then, like a dream, he vanished. We haven’t seen him since. George lunches at Subway sometimes on weekdays, but since the dream Sandwich Artist hasn’t returned, I’d lost interest until I realized how many points George’s lunchtime visits had accrued. Yesterday I overheard the cashier remark with amazement about George’s collection of Subway points. How exciting!

“Did we just get lunch for free, then?” I inquired.

“No,” he answered. “I just paid cash.”

I was confused. What was the purpose of collecting enough Subway points to make a cashier gasp – and of denying me my beloved beans and rice – if not to save money on toasted cold cut sandwiches?

“I just like collecting them,” George explained.

It’s like he’s George Clooney in Up in the Air, hoarding those frequent flier miles: “Let’s just say I have a number in mind.”

“But you have so many,” I said, dismayed.

“Yeah, we could probably eat free for a month!” he said excitedly. “But I’d rather collect more.” He said this as if it were in any way sensible.

It was like the time he and our son Riley began collecting Star Wars cans. 

Back around the time George Lucas was ruining memories from my childhood by releasing the craptastic Episodes 1 – 3, Pepsi began issuing collectible cans with character faces on them. I alone put away more than enough Diet Pepsi to quickly seize Queen Amidala and C3PO, but what then? How were we to gather the coveted Jar Jar, Darth Maul or Chancellor Valorum – and why do I let people who care live in my house? Surely we’re not going to start buying Pepsi and Mountain Dew just to fill out this collection of empty cans, right?

Correct. Instead, both my boys rummaged through gas station trash cans to bring home the precious, discarded Mountain Dew and Pepsi cans that would complete their set, which still sits proudly in our basement. Well, some people are proud of it.

We won’t even talk about how I’d have to empty my pockets daily while they searched for missing states to fulfill their quarter collection. How, exactly, was I supposed to pay for the pop to satisfy their can collection if they kept taking all my quarters?

 But here’s the difference between this Subway point collection and those others: I want something out of it.

 Sure, sure. I love my chicken burritos, but let’s be clear: my favorite flavor is free.

 Plus, I can’t eat meat on Fridays and meatless Chipotle is just bean dip.

 No, obviously I must steal George’s Subway card and fill my belly with free processed meat deliciousness.

All I need now is a tiny Chinese acrobat, a bomb specialist, and Brad Pitt.

Oh, and I also need a plan to get that Subway card.

So that happened…

 

Baseball

Last night George ran past Pierce Field, the big park less than a block from our house where we spent hundreds of hours over the years watching and coaching baseball. A high school JV game was finishing up. Someone got a little teary with nostalgia. It wasn’t me.

It’s true that, although our little slugger Riley is now a college freshman, we still find ourselves drawn to that diamond. Seeing the kids out again this spring in their still-clean uniforms stirs something sentimental in George.

It reminded me of that entire season that Riley neglected to bring home his baseball socks for laundering, wearing the same nasty pair again and again until they ran off on their own to raise an army of filthy boy clothes dedicated to evil.

George assistant coached with his friends Bill and Dan for little league in spring, a summer league at Ohio State, and a fall travel team. For years on end, about 11 boys and their families committed to seeing each other basically every single day from spring thaw to winter’s first snow. Luckily, they’re all very nice – or at least entirely tolerable – people.

Except this one dad who drove us insane year after year.

But aside from that guy, we became a unit.

I can’t define for sure their opinion of me. They’re tolerant, anyway.

I accidentally took the entire team to a mildly inappropriate film on one occasion (that their parents know of), and I never once volunteered to work the concession stand. That second thing, friends, is the mark of a bad baseball parent.

We had a few catastrophes over the years. There was that game George was nearly tossed for his sass mouth, for example.

And the time Riley took a pitch to the hand, breaking his finger. I had to restrain my oldest sister from rushing the field to aid her suffering nephew.

She did blow kisses to my pre-teen hitter, sitting in the dugout, though. I kid you not. Whether or not Riley was kidded is another matter.

We earned a handful of championships over the years to offset the traumas, though, and shared a lot of sun block, bug spray, and juice boxes. And thanks to Kyle’s mom Beth, we always knew the inning, score, and whereabouts of the next game.

It often felt like there would always be a next game, as little league turned into middle school turned into high school. Riley even umped for a few summers.

George really misses it. How can I tell? Because he just bought wiffle balls and bats for our nieces, ages 4 and 7, who’ll come for a visit this summer. No doubt he’ll have them set up with uniforms, cleats and gloves by the time they actually get here in July. “Vivian’s a lefty!” you can hear him exclaim from time to time.

I miss it, too. But to be honest, this whole meandering down memory lane has done more to fill me with dread over the potentially filthy situation with Riley’s socks than anything.

Hope Madden and George Wolf … get it?