Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hut, hut

Finally, we're here again. Time to fasten that chinstrap and dust off all those welcome clichés:
-"When these two teams get together, you can throw the records right out the window. They just plain don't like each other."
-"I know I can count on every one of those guys to watch my back as we go to battle. If I got caught in a war in a dark alley, I know they'd all be behind me."
-"We're just gonna leave it all out there on the field today...110 percent for sixty minutes, which is actually 66 minutes."
-"I just want to thank my personal savior, Jesus Christ, for allowing me to rush for 107 yards and three touchdowns, and secure a two-year deal with Gatorade."
I love football, I really do. But when you examine the true nature of the sport and the ultra-serious demeanors of the coaches, players and fans, it seems a little absurd. The players look like real-life superheroes, their shoulder widths exaggerated by padding, their bare biceps rippling for all to see, their tight pants leaving little to the imagination. It all comes across as a little homoerotic. I once heard someone say that the only reason they wear face masks is to be able to bump heads without kissing each other.
The coaches look like they're ready to jump out of their skin, they're so stressed about what's going on out there on the gridiron. They tuck their clipboards into their spandex waist bands as they secure their headsets, looking like they're about to command an Apollo mission. They scream orders at someone, but no one is sure who it is. And it's all as serious as the mean look on the face of the San Diego Chicken.
I realize this is a fairly cynical assessment of the game, but it allows me to see it for what it is: a really fun source of entertainment. And a reason to paint my face.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Farewell, XLVI

Sentences I enjoyed hearing at age 6:
1)" Let's get ice cream."
2) "Your brother is staying with Grandma for the weekend."
3) "Okay, we're all done. No cavities. Go ahead and pick something out of the toy box."
4) "I saw your sister pinch your ear with her fingernails. She's been spanked."
5) "Hey, kids. Get in the car. We're going to Shakey's."
6) "Class, this year we won't be climbing the rope in P.E."

Sentences I enjoyed hearing at age 46:
1) "Let's get ice cream."
2) "Dad, if I don't have a date to the prom when I'm in high school, will you be my date?"
3) "NBC News projects that Barrack Obama will be the 44th President of the United States."
4) "I got the job teaching 5th grade."
5) "Dad, your bald spot looks smaller today."
6) "And there goes the helicopter, taking one final pass over the White House."

It's been a good year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Aw, heck, you little goof

Tonight, my kids popped in one of the DVDs from our Season One box set of Leave It To Beaver. I used to love watching reruns (no, not original episodes) of the Beav, and back then, it didn't really register what an odd and anachronistic world those Cleavers inhabited. 
The show might as well have been named Beaver and Wally's Adventures in Caucasia. Seriously, everything on the show was white. All the people were white; one of Beaver's friends was even named Whitey. June's dress, pearls and valiums were white, or maybe an off-white, and I'm sure the local Mayfield Soda Fountain had every type of white ice cream: vanilla bean, French vanilla and, well, vanilla.
It was a man's world. Ward spent his days doing some mystery job at the office with the other guys, and came home to the lovely June, already stationed inside the door with the newspaper and a welcoming peck on his grizzled cheek . The boys referred to him as "sir." After June ratted out Wally and the Beav for whatever transgression they had committed that day, Ward served up the perfect solution/punishment, leaving June to marvel at his parental prowess. I'm sure he was equally talented in other, more mature arenas, but we weren't privy to any of that unwholesomeness. 
When the parents wanted to kick back on the weekends, June would sport some shorter heels, and Ward would slip on one of his many cardigans and some casual slacks. I'm thinking that maybe the underwear they wore on weekends wasn't starched and ironed, either.
But in spite of all the uptight, Cold-War-era propriety, the kids on the show kept things real. I'm sure that even in our current society, kids are still getting their heads stuck between iron railings, or giving their little brothers beastly haircuts, or developing knee-buckling crushes on their first grade teachers. And I think that's why I've watched that show over twelve thousand times.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't forget the sunscreen

I believe it's about time to stick a big, four-pronged fork in the 2009 Tim/Terri/Zoe/Lauryn family summer vacation season. It really did end with a bang, rather than a whimper, as we headed down to Cannon Beach, Oregon, for a three-day extravaganza. 
I've already touched upon the zeitgeist of the long-distance car trip, and the fragile ecological balance that must be maintained over a four-plus-hour drive, the four of us confined to an area the size of a large convection oven. The kids weighed themselves down with every manner of amusement, from portable DVD player to iTouch to cell phone to trashy teen magazines. However, no matter how enrapt they appeared to be in their various diversions, the second Terri and I engaged in any kind of adult conversation, the girls were all over it. 
"Who are you guys talking about? Why is she so annoying?" That was an average query from Lauryn.
Zoe could've had her iPod turned up to 11, and the minute she heard her name mentioned, it was, "Why are you talking about me? Can't you leave me alone? Why don't you just talk about yourselves? You've both been around five times as long as I have, which gives you plenty of material." She's always making really good points. 
After a while, we forced the girls to disengage their various forms of media, and tried to plan out a loose agenda for our brief time in the cool, little beach town. "What do you guys want to do down there?" I asked. "We've brought our kites, our sand castle supplies, our football and maybe we can rent out some of those low-rider tricycles for cruising around on the wet sand."
I could see the excitement on Lauryn's face. "Dad, since we don't have cable at home, I want to watch Jon and Kate Plus Eight and Hannah Montana and maybe What Not to Wear." I hadn't realized this was a Comcast-sponsored event.
I changed the subject. "Okay, so what kind of food should we get down there? They've got pizza, and  a really good burger place and Osburn's Ice Cream is awesome." 
"You know what I want for dessert?" proclaimed Lauryn. "I'm getting gilletto."
"You mean gelato, Lauryn?"
"No dad, I mean gilletto. Come on. You've had it a lot."
I gave up the fight, as usual. And no, I've never eaten anything that has shaving cream as it's main ingredient.
When we finally arrived in Cannon Beach, it was easy to start having fun in that incredible setting. The kids were allowed to watch TV in the mornings and a little at night, but the rest of the time, we reveled in wholesome family events, like the fourteen-year-old wrestling the nine-year-old on the beach for all to see. Terri and I sat in chairs and watched them wearing our black, hooded sweatshirts, the hoods pulled up over our heads. I mentioned to Terri that we looked like a couple of satanic parents training their daughters in all ways violent. After a while, it creeped me out a little too much and I got out the football and sand shovel.
We're all back in Seattle now, basking in the afterglow of a successful family vacation. And since I have a little spare time tonight, I think I'll whip up some gilletto with my extra can of Edge.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Behind the cubicle

I've been on vacation for a few days now, and I have to admit I've been thinking about work...a little. Every so often, I reflect upon some of the odd customs and behaviors in my workplace, which I'm sure doesn't deviate too far from just about every other office environment in America. 
I've narrowed down the main areas of human interaction to: the elevator, the hallway and the meeting room.
The elevator presents quite a set of challenges. Etiquette dictates that you don't want to line up in front of someone who's already waiting, so what ensues is a single file line all the way back to the lobby. Once inside the elevator, it's more about what you shouldn't do than what you should. Do not face another person, face the door. Do not breathe through you mouth, breathe through your nose. Do not cough unless there's someone in there who you don't mind exposing to your bacteria-laden particulates. And by all means, do not take the elevator up or down one floor. It makes you appear rude and out of shape.
Then there's the hallway. The only real comment I've got about this is that when you spot someone walking toward you from the opposite end, you both go to extremes to avoid eye contact until you approach each other. Do not make the mistake of greeting someone too early, because then you have to follow it up with, "How's it going?" or just a prolonged, forced closed-mouth smile. Also, I'm fairly convinced that on one occasion, a guy fell in right behind me as we were both heading to the restroom, but took a detour route to avoid the dreaded "two guys at the urinal silent time."
The mother of all work interaction takes place in the meeting room, which is ground zero for overly polite behavior and workspeak. "Let's take that conversion offline," or "We had some great learnings and takeaways from that campaign," or "What you said really spoke to me." Yes, I have heard that one. Once the meeting is finally over, it's never, "Talk to you later," or "See ya," or "Bye!" Nope, everyone simultaneously says, "Thanks!" I'm not sure who's being thanked or why, but that's how it always goes. One of these times, I'm going to say a loud "You're welcome," just to give the whole thing some closure. 
Just to set the record straight, I do love my workplace. Thanks.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The colors of coaching

Whenever August rolls around, I ask my daughters what types of physical activities they're planning to fill up their time with in the Fall. Usually, their response is "I don't know," followed by "I'm going to school. Isn't that enough?"
Then I'm forced to clarify. "No, walking around at school isn't enough. Do you guys want to play soccer, or maybe brush up on some swim lessons, or how about a dance class or something?" That's usually met with a thick silence, like I've asked them to deliver calves out back.
I've learned that if I throw something out there and then shut up, the girls will actually mull over what I suggested. A couple of times, Lauryn has said she wanted to play soccer, and it would be really great if I coached her team. That was usually followed by the familiar pang of family/community obligation in my fatherly gut, and before you can say "over-sized shin guards," I'd signed up yet again to coach YMCA co-ed kids' soccer.
Coaching can be really fun, as long as it's soccer, and not a sport that utilizes lethal weaponry, like T-ball. I won't expound on my lone T-ball coaching escapade; I'll just say the combination of a four-year-old with an aluminum bat is like, well, a four-year-old with an aluminum bat. By the time the season ended, one of my kids had been hit in the face by the ball so many times, he didn't even cry anymore. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not.
With kids' soccer, there really isn't a lot a kid has to know. You just instruct them to stay on the field (not run to the bathroom when they see one of their friends do it), and think about soccer the whole time. One kid walked over to me while he was supposed to be playing and said, "My brother punched me in the junk this morning." I remember saying, "So are you okay now?" He replied, "Yep," and then ran back onto the field. It would be pretty funny if adults were that blunt, but also a little creepy.
I've found that these kids prefer really accurate names for their teams. When I told one team that their uniforms were going to be red, they became the Red Flames. On another team, Purple shirts meant it was Purple Panther time. We've also been the Green Limes (like there's another color of lime) and the Yankees (not sure how that happened). Lauryn was once on a team where they couldn't agree on which yellow thing they wanted to be, so they became the Banana Lemon Lightning.
We'll see what my daughters choose this Fall. I've finally reached the point where more knowledgeable people are coaching my kids, so my sports mentoring days are probably behind me. I guess I could always try coaching that dance class.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My emerald home

A few stereotypes of those of us who live in Seattle:
1) We don't own televisions, but if we did, they would have rabbit ears, be made of compost and only show PBS fundraising pitches.
2) We bike everywhere, even inside our houses.
3) Our kids are named Water or MossAnne or Hummus. No middle name.
4) We all live down the street from Eddie Vedder.
5) Give us your pet's old fur and we'll recycle it into kayak lining.
6) Grey hair is a sign of enlightenment. Silver hair is a sign of divinity. Silver hair with a ponytail is a sign that you've just moved from Portland.
7) We'll be really nice to you until you leave, then we might say a few things about your dog's outfit.
8) We possess recycling containers for food waste, yard waste, non-food waste, non-yard waste and part-food-part-yard-part-not-food yard waste.
9) We really want to eat a Quarter Pounder With Cheese.
10) The high schools don't keep score in any sports, and everyone gets cheez-its and a juice box, after running through the parent tunnel.
Those are just a few of our perceived traits. It really is a great place to live, as long as don't drive in the hybrid-only lane with your smart car.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thinking ahead a little

It's August. The mornings are just a little bit darker, a little cooler (actually, a lot, compared to last week). Autumnal thoughts have been creeping into my head on these mornings—thoughts of football, Halloween, and of course, back to school. 
For those returning for another year of academia, it's an exciting and anxious time, and it often boils down to that first-day-of-school fashion choice. You and the majority of your classmates haven't seen each for three months, so the opening day of school season is like the show without the runway.
I clearly remember returning for my second grade year. My goal was to look like a combination of Greg Brady and Keith Partridge. My parents had finally let me abandon my military-style haircut, and I was ready to step out. I tried on the new flare-stye pants at the Auburn JC Penney, but, apparently, my height hadn't been keeping up with my weight. My mom would've had to cut off the entire flare part, and so, being person she was, she drove the two of us to the downtown Seattle Bon Marché, where they had a larger selection. We came home with two pairs of the "husky"-sized flare pants, in bright colors with stripes, and a bunch of other cool, neo-hippy stuff for slightly overweight young dudes. Naturally, we then went out for lunch.
Whenever I returned home from school shopping with my mom, she always asked me to thank my dad for what I'd received that day. I hope I thanked her too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Kamping in Koncrete

I'm sitting home writing this as Terri, Zoe and Lauryn settle in up north in Concrete, Washington, at one of the word-renowned KOAs, or Kampgrounds of America. Terri refers to this as "kamping." Camping (with a "c") tends to require a little more prep work and tent-pitching than kamping. This place has a mini-golf course, a swimming pool and a "super pillow."
Lauryn called with the list of events for tonight. "Dad, we just had really good tortellini, and now we're going swimming, and then we're coming back to roast s'mores and watch a movie with Jennifer Anniston, and tomorrow we're going to mini-golf, but I'm not going to bounce on the super pillow because it's boring." I asked her what the super pillow was. "It's just a bouncy, boring thing." Okay, that makes things clearer.
Terri and the kids will be adhering to the tenets of "kamping" by roasting marshmallows for s'mores over a Bunson-burner-type "s'more kit," which, I suppose, is the "kampfire."
Then it's everyone into the Yert, for a little movie on the portable, electric DVD player. 
Far be it from me to judge Terri's decision to take her two daughters for two nights to "Campground Light." It's an incredibly kool thing to do.