Remember The Alamo

The following is the third installment in a recap of a recent road trip I took with my two sons. For part 1, Click Here. For part 2, Click Here. To not read any of them, click on the X in the upper right hand corner.

When I was little, at least once a week (generally Fridays) my family and I would spend the evening at my grandparents’ house. These visits were in the days before television remote controls, and so what would often happen is that we would come in, greet each other, and then settle in to watch whatever it was my grandparents had been watching on TV before we arrived. I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t we just turn it off, or…turn it off? In answer to that I would say…I don’t know. I was between three and six years old and held very little sway in the world of Rapier family dynamics. And why would I have argued for that anyway? So I could listen to adults blather on regarding topics I cared nothing about? I think not. But regardless, my Granny loved TV, and if we wanted to visit her and my Grandad, we were gonna watch TV. End of discussion. And so, over the course these visits, I saw many an episode of Dukes of Hazzard, Love Boat, Dallas, and One Day At A Time. I also saw a lot movies.

And it was because of one movie in particular I remember watching in my grandparents’ living room that I was so taken aback when my boys and I came around a street corner in downtown San Antonio and I laid eyes on the Alamo for the first time. It was so…small. As a child, I had sat mesmerized as I watched John Wayne fight for the survival of Texas in The Alamo. And it was in those moments that the church where these men had fought the Mexican army back in 18whatever had been forever immortalized in my young brain as being huge. How could it not be? The fate of Texas had rested on the outcome of what happened there. It was larger than life.

Now, seeing the actual building in person, I was faced with the reality that it was anything but. In contrast, the Ripley’s Believe it Not complex across the street was ten times the size. I don’t know what that says about American culture and its approach to history, but I’m sure there’s some kind of message there somewhere.

But anyway, small or not, it was still cool. This was the place where a handful of legendary American heroes had fought and died at the hands of a Mexican army led by General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón, or as he was more commonly know, Santa Anna.  I was in historical heaven.

Unfortunately, my two boys do not share my fascination with history. Also, they had not had the youthful experience of watching John Wayne swagger around in a coon skin cap to inspire them. I suppose that’s my bad. To them, the Alamo was a courtesy they were granting their father. Not that they were obnoxious about it, they just weren’t that interested. They didn’t understand the significance. To them it was the site of a battle in a war between Mexico and the United States over Texas. People had died. Very sad. Let’s move on.

So we did.

Alamo

However, before we left, we did stop in at the Alamo gift shop. I’m not sure if there is a store that is more stereotypical Texas than the Alamo gift shop. I’m not going to elaborate, I’m just going to leave that thought out there and let it be my final word on the subject.

Once we stepped away from the Alamo, I asked the boys what we were going to do next. Braden immediately pointed to a space needle looking building off in the distance.

“I want to go there.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, I just do.”

I can act like I was mystified, but the truth is, I knew why. Braden is drawn to any and all tall buildings that he can go to the top of. I don’t know why, but he is. Of all the places we could have gone in Las Vegas, he wanted to go to the top of the Stratosphere. The problem with this tower in San Antonio is that it was not really all that close to our current location and we had limited time. I personally wanted to explore the Riverwalk, but…this wasn’t necessarily my trip so we set off for the as of yet unnamed tower in the distance.

Did I mention it was humid? The other downside of walking to the tower was that the entire distance was outside. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for my nice bald head to develop a sheen that quickly evolved into a miniature planet of waterfalls. Good gosh it was hot. Except it wasn’t that hot, it just was so…wet. I hate humidity! Good thing New Orleans wouldn’t be anything like this. (Sarcasm intended.)

Finally, we arrived at the tower. By this time I was half praying it was a community shower tower, because in a place like this those had to be common right? Sadly, it was not. But we did discover it was the Tower of the Americas, built in 1968 for the World’s Fair, and yes, we could go to the top. For a price.

Great, I could pay for the opportunity to ride an elevator with a bunch of other people who were perspiring as violently as we were up to the top of a tall building and then look down at all the air conditioning units of every other building in town for miles in any direction. Fortunately, an older couple walked up to us in the ticket line and handed us there tickets/wrist bands. They had decided not to go, but didn’t want to go through the hassle of turning the wrist bands back in.

Sold! Best deal of the day. Well, except for the Alamo which was free. So…that was actually the best deal of the day, but this one was pretty good.

At the top of the tower, I learned a few things. 1. From over 700 feet in the air, Las Vegas and San Antonio looked remarkably similar. 2. In the 1800s, the Mexican government was constantly trying to pass laws that would keep United States citizens from immigrating to Mexico, (Ok, specifically Texas, but it was Mexico at the time.) As anyone can imagine, I found this fact incredibly ironic. 3. Oh look, the home of the San Antonio Spurs! I had no idea we were so close. Or that Kawhi Leonard was so far away. (Spurs joke there, ha ha.)

tower-top.jpg

Anyway, there’s only so much you can do at the top of a tall tower, so after about 15 minutes we headed back down. I truly have a much greater appreciation for the hardships Rapunzel experienced. That can’t have been an easy gig.

Tower Bottom

With the tower behind us, quite literally a this point, it was time to find something to eat and then probably head back to our hotel. As much as we may have wanted to explore more, the truth was, we had to be back on the road at 6:00 a.m. local time (4:00 a.m. internal clock time.) I needed to go to bed fairly soon.

Our food search, and my insistence, led us to the Riverwalk, and I gotta say, that place is pretty cool. Before long, we came upon a restaurant named Casa Rio. Once I verified that it was in no way affiliated with Cafe Rio we took a vote. We agreed it looked good, smelled good and appeared highly unlikely to force anything on us that would resemble Utah Mexican cuisine. It was unanimous. We put our name on the list and parked it.

My risk taker son, Braden (cough, splutter, choke) predictably had a bean burrito with rice and beans. Thankfully, Logan was feeling more adventurous and ordered the most amazing shrimp tacos. In fact, once we were served, I suddenly wished I had ordered what he had instead of my own dish, although the stuffed poblano chili was also very good.

Food

By dinner’s end, dark had fallen and we had missed the last shuttle to our hotel. So after I did the required souvenir shopping (magnet for Shannon and a license plate for our family room wall) we set off on the walk back to our hotel. Unfortunately, much like Phoenix, it doesn’t get cooler with nightfall. Also unfortunately, the humidity didn’t slacken under the cover of darkness either. By the time we arrived back at our hotel, it was safe to say that certain portions of the day’s wardrobe would require an immediate quarantine.

Following some quick showers, we grudgingly set our alarms, turned out the lights, and for the first time in years, I fell instantly asleep in a hotel bed. And I only had to pee in the middle of the night once. Is it sad that I remember that fact as one the great highlights of the day? On second thought, don’t answer that.

Part 4 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip will appear later this week.

On The Road Again

This is the second installment of a series recounting a recent road trip I took with my two sons. To read the first installment, click here

I knew exactly what I was hearing the second it pierced my subconscious. It wasn’t loud, but since I’d been dreading it from the moment I’d allowed my finger to press the SET button on my phone the night before, it didn’t take much for the soft sonar-like dinging of my alarm to cut through the haze of my horrified brain and bring me to full consciousness.

And yet I still didn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t. It would just be too painful.

I mean, who in their right mind would voluntarily open their eyes at 3 o’clock in the morning? Now admittedly, there might be the occasional (or with each passing year, more than occasional) late night/early morning trip to the bathroom, or the living nightmare that accompanies the soft whisper from your small child, “Daddy, I puked,” but this was different. I was making a conscious choice here to wake up on my own. It felt like I was violating nature at its very core.

Finally, as the gentle pulsing started to increase in volume and insistence, I cracked an eyelid and reached down to shut the phone off.

Crap! I was awake…and I was doing this.

I got up, slipped into a tee shirt and basketball shorts that I had designated as my official traveling clothes and slipped quietly through my dark house to wake up my boys. We’d packed and said goodbye to our other family members the night before so it didn’t take long before we were all firmly seated in our family mini-van and ready to go. Following a quick stop at a convenience store where I picked up a Diet Dr. Pepper and multiple packages of mini-donuts that would serve as our pre-breakfast snack, we were officially on our way by 3:25 in the morning. Unofficially, we kicked off our, “Don’t you dare tell your mother how crappy I’m feeding you” portion of the adventure as well.

As we left the lights of Safford behind, I encouraged both boys to try and get some sleep while it was still dark. We’ve all driven the road to Duncan before and I assured them it wasn’t going to get any more interesting this time around just because we’d decided to leave at a time even Downton Abbey housemaids would consider aggregious. In response, Braden plugged in his iPad and started a tradition that would play out every time we pulled back onto the road following a stop. He played Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again. Let me be clear. After Every Stop! EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!

We all sang along.

Unfortunately, that didn’t get us very far so we had to have something else. I had downloaded a couple of books on tape and I had my iPod for music, but to begin with, we opted to try a podcast suggested by a friend called This American Life. Each episode is an hour long and focuses on a topic specific to that episode. It was a life saver. All three of us were instantly mesmerized by the stories being told and it really did make the time fly.

A story about a progressive socialist fighting against the Democratic machine in an effort to get on the primary Congressional ballot in New York got us to Lordsburg. The story of a Somali refugee in Kenya trying to get to America after winning our country’s visa lottery carried us to Las Cruces. Somewhere just outside of Deming, NM, the sun broke over the hills just as we were about to learn the fate of Abdi, the Somali refugee. In the moment, it kinda felt symbolic. Anyway, for me, it was totally cool. We were almost to Texas and neither one of my boys had retreated to their headphones or earbuds to escape the prevaling activity of the car. We were legitimately enjoying a guys road trip together.

(As an aside, throughout most of my youth and early adult years, I had always believed Lordsburg to be, without doubt, the most depressing place in the entire United States. Having seen it again after more than a decade or two, I realize now that I was right.)

About 8 a.m. (we’d been on the road for about 3 1/2 hours, but we’d already lost one additional hour to that cursed Daylight Savings Time when we crossed into New Mexico) we hit the outskirts of El Paso and pulled off for gas and a proper breakfast at McDonalds, or to be quite frank, a different kind of gas. Just 20 minutes later (a Rapier family record for a gas tank fill-up and a meal, such as it is) we were back on the road. Braden started up On The Road Aga…no wait, we hit a traffic jam and so he turned it off. It just didn’t quite feel right to be singing On The Road Again while not actually moving. Instead, I made them listen to the classic Marty Robbins’ song El Paso. Losing about half an hour in stand still traffic with approximately 9 hours of driving still in front of us, it seemed only fitting that we listen to a song about a guy bleeding out in his lover’s arms due to a mess of his own making.

Finally, we made it through the traffic snag, got our Willie Nelson fix and continued down the road. Suddenly, off to our right we saw a vast number of buildings painted in colors you just don’t see…anywhere. And that’s when we realized we were right next to the Mexican border and what we were seeing was Juarez. It was humbling. That we could see such a stark difference in the way people lived just a couple hundred yards away from our freeway overpass was extremely sobering. And what had those of us in our little van done to earn such a clear advantage in life over those just down the way? We happened to get born on the right side of a meandering little river that looked significantly more like a stream. We talked about it. I hope my boys appreciate what they’ve been blessed with. I hope I do. Because in that moment, “blessed” hardly seemed an adequate description.

The night before left, Braden (our family’s personal map and weather guru) had printed up an itinerary that broke our trip up into digestible pieces. The first day’s trek consisted of eight legs. The first four were designed to make us really feel like we were making progress. Safford to Lordsburg, 90 miles. Lordsburg to Deming, 60 miles. (I should point out for Braden’s sake that I am rounding/estimating on the distances while his itinerary did not. It was very specific. I’m just too lazy to do the same research he did, for a blog entry.) Deming to Las Cruces, 60 miles. Las Cruces to El Paso, 40 miles. See how you could get caught up in how quickly the trip is going. I mean, there are only eight legs and we’ve knocked out four of them in three and a half hours. Then came leg 5…El Paso to Van Horn.

It’s not like Braden was going out of his way to throw our distance expectations into shock, it’s just that…well, West Texas is not proportionally populated in comparison to the rest of the world. Antarctica? Maybe. But anywhere else? Not even close. Nevertheless, we were men on a mission and we met the challenge head on. Two and a half hours after leaving El Paso, we finally happened upon civilization once again in the form of Van Horn, TX. And by the way, I believe Van Horn is the Texan translation for Lordsburg.

As we came upon the first exit to Van Horn we made several decisions. We each decided we were men. And as men, we decided we each had bladders of steel. And finally, we each decided that too much of Willie Nelson is not a good thing. I pressed on the gas and we kept on driving.

One hundred and twenty miles or so later, we descended on a poor unsuspecting convenience store bathroom in Ft. Stockton, TX like it was a fire hydrant accidentally placed in the middle of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Of course, after using the bathroom, I bought a Diet Dr. Pepper and we continued on our way, Mr. Nelson providing our theme music as we picked up speed.

In Ft. Stockton, I forced my boys to switch seats. Now my younger son, Logan was up front with me and Braden was relegated to the back. Logan had finally reached his limit on continuous podcasts and asked if we could listen to a book. I agreed. He chose an Agatha Christie novel. We started it up and I immediately realized this was going to be rough. The reader had a pretty strong English accent that didn’t mix well with the hum of our tires rolling along at 80 mph. At best I was catching every third word and if you’re trying to solve a murder mystery, being partially deaf is not ideal. Apparently Logan was having the same struggles because rather than try to decipher the silly natterings of Ms. Abigail Chatterly Smythe, or whatever the main woman’s name was, he fell asleep. A few more miles later, I gave up.

I switched over to the other book I had downloaded which, coincidentally, also had a male reader with a British accent (although much more understandable to an American ear). One of my favorite memories of the entire trip was seeing Logan wake up, tune back into the story, and then sit silently with a seriously confused look on his face as he tried to figure out how an American businessman ripping off four English blokes to the tune of $1 million played into the story he’d been listening to earlier about a murder of a wealthy English noblewoman. He gave it his best effort for about 10 minutes before he finally gave up and asked me what the heck he’d missed. It was awesome!

One more stop in Ozona, TX for lunch at a Subway, one more rendition of On The Road Again, several more uneventful hours of driving and suddenly we were in the outskirts of San Antonio. I’m not certain if my butt had ever been happier. Thanks to almost flawless navigation by my elder son, we pulled into our hotel near downtown and practically leapt from our van in anticipation of our trip’s first official adventure. What met us was an oppressive curtain of humidity that stopped us almost dead in our tracks. And that’s when it hit us. We, a bunch of “it’s a dry heat” Arizona boys had headed toward the Gulf of Mexico in the dead of summer. Maybe it was possible we hadn’t completely thought this adventure of ours all the way through.

Look for the next installment of The Rapier Guys Road Trip to be posted later this week.

The Very Definition of Crazy

For my Mormon friends, please understand that I am not comparing myself to Nephi. I get it. He and I do not belong in the same sentence. No, all I am suggesting is that in this one moment, I believe I can relate to this scriptural icon in a way I never have before. He claimed at one point, that he felt inspired to record certain things that he didn’t see much purpose in writing down. The following events I describe happened three weeks ago. On their own, there is nothing all that exciting about them. Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of things happen to me. I’ve created many memories in my life, many of which I have never chronicled in written form. But for reasons that I admittedly don’t understand, since the day we arrived home, I have felt an overwhelming need to record the experiences I shared with my sons on a recent road trip. There is nothing awe inspiring or momentous about our trip. In many ways, I can’t see how the entire experience will mean anything to anyone beyond the three of us. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe someday, what I share will mean a great deal to one or more of us who experienced it, and as I don’t keep a journal, it’s possible this electronic record will be all there is. Regardless, if you feel so inclined, you are welcome to read on and learn about what happened to the men of the Ryan and Shannon Rapier family during the week of July 2-6. If  you don’t feel so inclined…I get it. If it weren’t about me, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t either.

What is crazy?

The older I get, I realize how difficult it is to define that word. Crazy is all around us. We use it to describe behavior we don’t understand. We apply it to people who have fewer inhibitions than we possess ourselves. We bestow it upon anyone with a differing world view from our own. The truth is, I think everyone is crazy in their own way. What makes us crazy are the very things that makes us unique.

However, it seems that we rarely see craziness in ourselves. It generally doesn’t happen until we veer dramatically from whatever patterns we’ve established for ourselves that make us comfortable. You are most likely to hear someone say, “This is crazy!” when they take that plunge and step out of their comfort zone.

And on the morning of July 2nd, 2018, at three o’clock in the morning, I think I muttered to myself, “This is crazy” at least 50 times.

But before we get to that point in our story, let me go back two days to the morning of June 30th, because that is where this story truly begins.

Every summer, my wife forces my children by any means necessary to go through every item in their respective rooms and get rid of those things that are no longer used. Following this exercise, we host a yard sale. Yard sale day is one of my least favorite days of the year. Why? Because pretty much any day that isn’t standard, typical, or…well…ordinary, is one of my least favorite days of the year.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy family vacations or days where fun things are planned. They just have to be excruciatingly planned. And by planned, I pretty much mean planned by me. It’s one of my own personal brands of craziness. I don’t like what I can’t control. And when hordes of complete strangers are wandering around my driveway looking at items that used to be somewhat personal to me, I feel the very opposite of in control.

Anyway, during the course of this year’s annual community judgement of my former belongings, my son, Braden (16 years old and preparing to start his junior year of high school) came to me and informed me that Tulane University in New Orleans had sent him a personal invitation to come and visit their campus in the coming week.

Now please understand, he and I were both under no illusion. We knew the email wasn’t personal and that the same invitation had been sent out to at least 25,000 kids just like him, if not thousands more. But at the same time, they were one of the first American institutions of higher learning to personally reach out to him. He was excited. I understood. I had experienced the same feelings of exultation when similar correspondences had arrived for me. Admittedly, mine came in 1989 and required a trip to an actual mail box at the end of the driveway of my home out in the middle of the desert where more than once a rattle snake had been curled up waiting to greet me. I hate snakes. Hold on, I’m digressing. Where was I? Oh, yeah. He was excited, I understood.

Anyway, the one thing animating him more than any other was that if we were to up and go the following Monday, we could spend the 4th of July in New Orleans. And if we did that, we could view (as the invitation enticingly pointed out) the 4th of July fireworks in a way that only New Orleans could truly provide – from dueling barges in the middle of the Mississippi River.

So that the reader will understand, I should mention that Braden is always suggesting crazy scenarios like this. We could do this, we could do that, we could do this and that, all of which are things we would never do and he knows it. We both understood this as he stood there in my driveway describing this latest scenario of lunacy when he should have been setting out clothes in a way that future shoppers would find enticing. We both knew what he was suggesting was insane. And we both knew it was never going to happen.

Except for some reason, I never gave him an outright no.

Even today, I’m not sure why. I was thinking it. All through his initial sales pitch, I knew in my heart that we both understood he was just filling the air with words that ultimately would die and fall to the earth having failed to achieve a single purpose. But instead of saying no, which is what my brain…and my wife, would have undoubtedly expected me to do, I told him to figure out the logistics of the trip and we’d talk later.

Needless to say, he did.

Now what he could not have known was that Tulane was the very first university to send me an invitation to visit their campus and apply. And although he knows that I have this special affinity for New Orleans, he couldn’t possibly have known that in high school, I had dreams of driving across the country and visiting Tulane right after I graduated high school. I had talked about that possibility several times with my own mother. Who surprisingly, never told me no either. But it never happened. And I wouldn’t end up seeing the one city I wanted to visit more than any other until I was over 40 years old. It was one of those dreams I had clung to desperately for months in my youth, but eventually had let go of in the face of pragmatism and good sense.

But as my son made his case for us to go, those fanciful teenage dreams returned with a vengeance. And the truth was, as the day went along, I found myself wanting to go as badly as he did. Plus, this was my 16 year old son…let me repeat that…my teenage son, wanting to spend an entire week with me. Nobody else, just me. Well, one other person. His little brother. That’s right, his dad and his little brother. Mind boggling isn’t it? Which is why I had to take into consideration: how often does a father get that kind of opportunity? But, event then, the idea was stupid. And completely irresponsible. In short, it was crazy.

Which is how I still can’t quite piece together how I found myself that very night staring at a computer screen, my index finger hovering over the mouse, fighting an inner battle over whether I had completely taken leave of my faculties as I prepared to click and finalize our hotel reservations. I felt like a gunslinger in the old west, my trigger finger twitching expectantly knowing there was no return from that one slight little movement I was contemplating. Okay, I get it. I would have only been out about $200 as opposed to lying dead in the middle of dusty street. But seriously, thanks to my frugal upbringing, there are times when I think I would rather lie dead in the street than throw away two hundred bucks.

Nevertheless, I pulled the trigger and the plans were set. Within 30 hours we would be waking up in what basically amounted to the dead of night and setting off for San Antonio with plans to complete our journey to New Orleans the following day.

Right after I did it, I panicked. What was I thinking? I’d never in my life done anything like this without meticulously planning it out months in advance. I had gone completely insane. And when my beautiful 4 year old daughter begged me not to go, I almost kissed off the $200 without a second thought. But by this point, I was committed. I was nearing folk hero status in the eyes of my two boys and if I backed out? Well, in the paraphrased words of the immortal Muse from Hercules, I would have gone from “Hero to Zero, just like that.” The die was cast. There was no stopping our upcoming drive of…how many miles was that again, son?

WHAT?!?!?! Are you kidding??? Holy $*%#&@!!! What on earth have I agreed to?

Part 2 of The Rapier Guys Road Trip 2018 will appear later this week.

When Being a Dad ROCKS!

I remember like it was yesterday the very first three-pointer I ever made in a competitive basketball game.

It was my sophomore year. It also happened to be the first year that the three-point shot was introduced into the high school game. It was our team’s first game of the season and we were on the road in Clifton, AZ decked out in our bright red road jerseys. Mid first quarter, I found myself all alone at the three-point line, my defender five feet away in a defensive crouch waiting for me to make my move toward the basket. And why wouldn’t he? That’s what high school basketball had been all about up until that moment-keeping people from driving to the hoop. No one ever shot that far outside. There had never been a reason to.

Anyway, I looked around, realized no one else was all that open and so I decided to let it fly. It swished through the net with a pop you only hear on the basketball court, and just that quickly my life changed. I felt invigorated because I had just scored three points instead of two. I don’t know why that mattered, but boy in that moment, it was all that mattered. From that moment on, much to the chagrin of my high school coaches, I never wanted to shoot any other shot ever again. Two games into my junior season, my coach nicknamed me The Mad Bomber, which got shortened to Bomber as the season went along. And it was a name I wore with pride.

It’s crazy how those moments stick with you. I don’t know what role that shot played in some aspects of my later life decisions, but I do know that a belief of, “let’s let it fly and see what happens” is something I have internalized. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always go that route. My wife will tell you I am one of the most non-spontaneous people she knows. But I don’t mind taking on a challenge, or something new that I have never done before, if for no other reason than to see if I can do it. And I think the positive reinforcement I received from that shot at that point in my life is at least a small part of the reason why.

However, despite all the glowing memories I have associated with that moment, I have since soured somewhat on youth athletics over the years. I don’t like the aggrandizement of the individual that has seeped down from above into high school level sports. I don’t like the financial strain imposed upon parents if they want their child to be involved in certain sports (See: Club sports). And (bias alert) as a parent of some children who have no interest in sports, it is frustrating to me the level of support athletics receives in some of our schools in relation to academics.

Nevertheless, all my frustrations momentarily flew out the window this last Saturday morning.

My daughter, Kate, is a fourth-grader, and she LOVES basketball. Not kinda loves, I mean REALLY loves basketball. I suppose that’s how I ended up coaching her basketball team this year. Our town runs a league for 5th and 6th graders, but they will allow 4th graders to play if a parent coaches.

Let’s be very clear here. I do not aspire to be a basketball coach. I do not aspire to get up twice a week at 5:30 in the morning in order to be at practice with nine little girls who after six weeks are still struggling with the concept of a lay-up. I don’t aspire to any of it. But she’s cute and I love her so…whatcha gonna do.

For almost two months we’ve been practicing. As you can probably imagine, Kate is not the best player on a team with girls where she is the youngest player by far. But she works hard and I’m proud of her. However, as a dad, I’ve really wanted her to at least have a moment of success and get the chance to score.

Well, Saturday, that chance came. All the planets aligned and the ball fell into her hands on the right side of the basket and her defender was about…five feet away. She dribbled it twice toward the basket, as I recall, and then…let it fly. It went through the hoop and it gave our team the lead. For as long as I live, the memory of what happened next will hold a special place in my heart. She looked stunned, but she still managed to throw her fist into the air in triumph. And smile? I’ve never seen her smile bigger. She was so excited I had to remind her to run back down the court to get set on defense.

It was awesome!!!

It was worth every ridiculous pre-dawn practice. It was worth every lost Saturday morning for two months. It was worth everything. For the next two days, if anyone mentioned her shot, that same beaming smile would appear on her face just as broad as it had been when it happened. It was a good moment for her. Hopefully one that will give her the confidence to work harder and do more.

And I’m so glad I got to be there to see it. Because in that moment, it made me fall in love with youth sports all over again. I haven’t forgotten all the things I don’t care for, but suddenly they didn’t bother me quite so bad. For a fleeting second, all the emotions I experienced as a kid came flooding back and I was reminded again why it is we do this sort of thing. It was good.

So thank you, Kate. Thank you for letting me relive the memory of one of my life’s great moments. Thank you for letting me be a part of one of yours. More than anything, thank you for being a fabulous daughter. And God, thank You for letting me be her dad. It’s been a pleasure that even manages to surpass the joy of scoring a first basket. Which trust me, is pretty hard to top.

Mail Bag Rip Off

As I have posted before, one of my favorite on-line columns was Bill Simmons’ mail bag where he would answer actual questions sent in by his actual readers. It ran on ESPN for a number of years and always was a must-read for me when it came out.

Now, since I don’t have that many readers and none of them actually ask me questions, for me to do a similar blog post, I have to make up the questions. Which is fine because then I get answer questions of my own choosing and I can cover several topics that I might have a thought or two on, but that don’t warrant a full blog post.

So, to be clear, all questions and questioners below are products of my own making. And further, this is not my original idea. It has been completely ripped off from Bill Simmons. Nevertheless, off we go.

Should they fire the radio host who called Tom Brady’s five-year-old daughter an “annoying little pissant?” – helicopterparent@waytoosensitive.com

I’ll admit that when I first heard the basics of this story, I was on the side of Tom Brady. If a radio host decided out of the blue to call my kid an annoying little pissant, I’d be cutting ties with the radio station that employed him as well. However, as I learned more details of the story, my feelings have shifted.

Tom Brady has allowed cameras, and thus the world, into his personal life to film a new “docuseries” called Tom vs. Time. This “docuseries” explores the personal life and sacrifices of Tom Brady has he…lives his life while going to work at a job that just happens to be playing football.

Docuseries!

That is what we are apparently calling reality television shows now. Docuseries. What a crock! In my humble opinion, Tom Brady’s latest media endeavor could just as easily have been called, Keeping Up With the Caucasian Kardashians, or Mama Giselle: From Hot to…Still Hot, I Guess.

It’s a flippin’ reality show. And if you have the gall to cash-in (for reasons purely related to vanity, because heaven knows the family Brady does not need the money) on your fame by letting America into your home via the medium of non-(if you say so) scripted reality (massive eye-roll) entertainment, guess what? You own whatever criticism comes your way regardless of how rough it might be. And sadly, through your own choices, that includes your children…whom you are exploiting…for no logical reason that makes any sense to a person with even the slightest connection to reality.

So sorry, Tom. That radio host may have been wrong, but you were so much more wrong first.

Do you intend to perform your civic duty and watch the State of the Union tonight? – trumprulz@breitbartdedicatedpatriot.com

No. I much prefer to spend my Tuesday evenings in pursuit of happier, more joyful entertainment…like watching Jack Pearson die in a house fire on This Is Us.

Are you going to throw your Crock Pot away in solidarity with those of us who are so distraught over Jack Pearson’s death in This Is Us that we now believe this household appliance to be an immediate danger to our family? – IluvMiloV@televisionismylife.com

When I saw that the CEO of Sunbeam had to issue not one, but three statements in support of their extremely well made Crock Pot appliances, I wanted to shed many a tear for and in behalf of all humanity. The PR problem for Sunbeam got so bad that they had to find a way to share empathy with all of the This Is Us viewers while still pointing out that “…for nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.” They further had to call upon NBC to help them spread “factual information” about Crock Pot safety. To point out that This Is Us is simply a television show and not real was of course never a rational course of action for Sunbeam.

HOLY CRAP!!! Is this really where we’ve arrived in 2018? The whole concept is mind-boggling. But in answer to the question, if we threw out our, not one, but two crock pots there is a slight chance our family would never eat again. We live off those things and they’re great. So no, we will instead continue to put our safety, and the safety of our children at risk and keep those flaming death traps in the house. And I, for one, will not lose one wink of sleep over it.

Have you purchased the new iPhone X yet? – appleownsmyhouseand2ofmy3kids@ImanATM.com

Let me see, one thousand dollars for a phone that let’s me morph my face and voice into a talking pile of crap? Nope, I think I’ll be giving that one a pass for the time being at least. When the day finally arrives that I see the light and understand how truly vital it is that I exist as a virtual talking pile of crap, I suppose we can revisit this question.

What do you think about Rep. Gosar (R) from Arizona demanding that any illegal aliens attending the State of the Union be arrested and deported? – endthedream@immigrationtrumpsdecency.com

Yet another stellar Arizona politician to represent our state to the rest of the world.

If a person thinks that someone who came to this country as a child, through no choice of their own, should be thrown out of the country and sent back to a place they don’t know or understand, then I don’t know how to talk to them on this issue. There’s no funny retort, no witty quip, no…nothing that makes this okay. We should be humans first and Americans second. If anyone disagrees, then we probably have a basic differing world view and there’s not really not much more to talk about here.

Are you outraged that Ed Sheeran won Best Solo Performance at the Grammy’s instead of any one of the four capable women nominated in his category? – #metoo#timesup#pleasedontletmebenext@itsuckstobeamanin2018.com

With all due respect to the many women who have been mistreated in any way since, well, quite literally the beginning of time, this one bit of irony that played out at the Grammy’s actually made me laugh.

Just a little bit.

And certainly not a full belly laugh that could possibly be construed as insensitive to the actual plight of thousands, if not millions of women who have faced actual mistreatment at the hands of a man.

I mean, c’mon. If we can’t find a little humor in the fact that the music industry awarded a Grammy to a man (a white man at that) who sings about lusting over a girl’s body contours in a club…in a category whose other nominees were all women…in 2018, with the backdrop of the #metoo and #timesup movements raging all around…then I think we’ve truly gotten to the point where we take ourselves too seriously.

See here’s the problem. For heterosexual men, attraction is largely based on appearance. For heterosexual women, it frankly does not seem to be as important. I’m not a heterosexual woman, so I can’t speak to this personally, but based on observation, I think my deduction has merit. So with that understanding, it’s not outrageous that a male performer wrote and performed a song about a woman’s appearance. It’s been happening for centuries. And no matter how our culture changes in the coming years,  (unless of course we ban all heterosexual male performers from the marketplace of artistic expression) they will continue to do so.

But no one forced the industry to nominate that song. Certainly not Ed Sheeran. (As an aside, is Ed Sheeran becoming the male version of Anne Hathaway? The guy everyone seems to hate for no discernible reason that can be articulated?) And certainly no one forced voters to vote for the song. That it won is not Ed Sheeran’s fault. So…lay off the dude. Were the other songs more deserving? I don’t know. Does it really matter? No. They are awards that mean nothing. No Kesha fan has deserted her for Ed Sheeran based on that Grammy vote. I guarantee it. Don’t get me wrong, I think her message is one that should be heard. The movement is one that has merit. But shaming everyone who happened to like Ed Sheeran’s performance better? Sorry, to me it hits the wrong note.

But to a bigger issue, my worry is that we might be getting to the point where every vote for every artistic award is going to be required to take into account the cultural sensitivity of the “movement of the moment” rather than focusing solely on the value of the performance or the material? I hope that’s not true. For one, I believe that flies in the face of what artistic expression is all about.

But even more worrisome is that it plays into the notion of a politically correct police state where all thought and belief must be universal. That only those of a similar mind are allowed, and that those who cannot comply must be shunned. It lumps true villains and harmless bores together and demands they be viewed the same. That kind of thinking is dangerous. Plus, at it’s worst, it can create a severe backlash which can undermine and threaten not only all the gains achieved by any movement in the first place, but also the basic tenets of goodness and decency in our society.

Think I’m overstating it just a tad? Do me a favor. Take a moment and think back to just two years ago and what we as a culture considered moral and decent behavior by those who would desire to lead us. Now, check the White House twitter feed and think long and hard about where we are now.

—–And thus concludes the first, and maybe last, mail bag of 2018.

Honestly, Is It That Hard To Be Honest?

You know what would be awesome? Just once, I wish I could turn on the television and have talking heads, whether they be media members or politicians, be honest.

Not kind of honest. Not “I didn’t actually lie” honest. I mean brutally honest.

Take for instance the constant mistreatment of the military. I’m not talking about the current crop of Democrats who are “hurting America’s military families in favor of people who are here illegally.” I am referring to current Republicans who have the nerve to act like they give a crud about America’s military families. They don’t.

Don’t believe me, let’s rewind the clock to a time when Republicans had no qualms about “hurting America’s military families” in an effort to defund Obamacare. Getting rid of a law Republicans didn’t like, regardless that it was completely unrelated to the funding of the Federal Government was a completely justified move, even if it meant death benefit checks would be delayed to families of soldiers killed in action. But now that the issue is DACA instead of Obamacare, such action is nigh unto treasonous in the words of talking head Republican lawmakers.

That’s fundamentally dishonest.

But let’s not let Democrats off the hook. In 2013, Senator Harry Reid, Democrat Majority leader, had plenty to say about Republican lawmakers refusing to sign a bill that would avoid a government shutdown. In reference to a woman who had a federal job that would be on furlough as long as the shutdown lasted, he said, “She’s struggling because she doesn’t make that much money, and now to have her job gone. It’s that way all over America. And why? To extract political concessions through hostage taking of one issue, one issue: Obamacare.”

Not fine then. Fine now. Fundamental dishonesty!

Let’s look at another issue that is of much less importance but seems to get people equally up in arms. Presidential Golf!

A 2012 Tweet from Sean Hannity: “Here’s what Obama learned as Commander-In-Chief – That he should use a sand wedge when stuck in a sand trap on a golf course!

A 2014 Tweet from Sean Spicer: “177 rounds of golf by @BarackObama — Obama’s political bogey on the golf course @washingtonpost @Milbank”

And of course a 2014 Tweet from Donald J. Trump: “Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter”

Here are similar quotes from conservative pundits regarding President Trump’s frequent tax payer funded golf outings.

What’s that? There aren’t any? Wow, that’s shocking! 

Dishonesty!

Meanwhile, publications like Vanity Fair and Newsweek, which had very little (as in, nothing) to say about President Obama’s regular golf outings suddenly are very concerned with President Trump’s regular golf outings. And Shaun King, from the Daily News, even went so far as to suggest that Republicans’ main problem with Obama golfing wasn’t that they had a problem with golfing presidents. They just had a problem with, (HIS WORDS) an “uppity Negro golfing President.”

C’mon. That’s blatantly dishonest. Hypocrites? You bet. Of the highest order. But racists offended by black people playing a white man’s game? That’s a stupid accusation and insanely dishonest.

So why all the dishonesty? Because frankly, it’s what you the American people want. You practically beg them to be dishonest. Ratings of cable news sources and voting trends suggest you are the driving force demanding to be fed a big ol’ pile of dishonest bull crap on a daily basis.

You don’t want to hear the truth that it really has no impact on world or national events when the president golfs, regardless of his party affiliation. And you also don’t want to hear that military families and government workers are no where near the top of politician’s minds when they shut the government down. They don’t care because they are pretty sure you don’t actually care. They are only concerned in making sure that 51% of you, the American people, think the other guy is responsible for all the “suffering” that is occurring due to the government not operating.

Our politicians and our news sources lying to us makes us feel better. Just like lying to ourselves makes us feel better. If it didn’t, we’d hear the truth a lot more about a lot of things. Like:

  • The reason Republicans are so against illegal immigration, want no deal on DACA and nearly wet themselves over any move that can be defined as amnesty is because Hispanic and Latino voters tend to vote Democrat. That’s it. They don’t care about the rule of law, they don’t care about criminals flooding across our borders, they don’t care about hordes of illegals sending all their money home without paying taxes, and they don’t care about hordes of illegals sucking up all of our tax welfare dollars. They just don’t want more Democrat voters. (I’m sure there are many who would like to argue one or more of the points I’ve just listed, but be ready. I have plenty of examples to back up my arguments. Factually based examples that contain real statistics. So bring it on.) Meanwhile, Democrats are for any and all immigration, legal or otherwise because traditionally, immigrants: Latino, Hispanic or otherwise, tend to vote Democrat. That’s it. If voting trends changed, you would suddenly see a wave of Democrats making the exact same arguments against illegal immigration listed above that the Republicans are currently making.
  • Democrats advocate for a larger minimum wage because it benefits labor unions. They are not concerned about a “living wage”. They want labor union dollars to keep filling their election coffers and so they will say whatever they have to in the face of overwhelming evidence that a higher minimum wage brings down overall job numbers and causes inflation because unions pay them to do so. Conversely, Republicans can cry and moan all day long about how important it is to defend the second amendment, but the truth is, they don’t care about maintaining a strong militia. They are not worried about hunters losing their rights. They are concerned with the contributions that flow from the NRA. That’s it.

So let’s talk a little honesty for a moment. The government is shut down because of you. You, me, all of us. We keep telling our politicians that we don’t want to see an ounce of compromise on their part. We demand that they make the other side give in. So that’s what they do. Then we light them up for being do-nothing politicians. On the other hand, if they do their job and compromise, we beat them up for being spineless untrustworthy politicians.

But it’s all so stupid. We could end this government shutdown right now and everyone could get most of what they want.

Democrats: give Trump the money for his wall in exchange for DACA. Done!

But, but…we can’t give in on the wall. Our side HATES the wall.

I know they hate the wall. They should. It’s stupid. And it will be a colossal waste of money. But…it is what a majority of the people in enough states voted for to elect this guy. So…let them have it. Meanwhile, you get DACA.

Republicans: give the Democrats DACA in exchange for the wall.

But, but…our side will see that as giving in to amnesty.

Maybe, but I hope for the sake of our nation, that the people who feel that way are a small minority. If the GOP has really become the party that wants to be the face of debacles like the deportation of Jorge Garcia, then we as a nation have bigger problems.

Garcia is a 39-year-old landscaper, has lived in America since he was 10, has a wife and two teenage children who are all American citizens, and has tried for years to get legal status, legally. He tried doing it the “right way” and what did it get him? It got him ripped away from his family and sent to Mexico with a very real chance he won’t be able to return for over 10 years. His 15 and 12-year-old children are now without a father. Why? Because, the “right way” couldn’t allow for a man who was brought here as a child to remain with his family and help raise his kids. Is that really a standard the Republicans want to rally behind as the best way forward? I hope not.

So give the Democrats DACA, and you can have your wall. A wall that every sane person knows will do very little to stop the flow of drugs and human trafficking. But you will have your symbol. And then we can get out of this ridiculous mess of finger-pointing and name-calling known as the 2018 government shutdown.

Now I know Republicans will have to defend extending DACA, but if framed right, that shouldn’t be too hard. And again, you get to point to a physical manifestation of what you have gained. The Wall!!!

And Democrats, I know you will have to defend allowing The Wall to proceed. But think through this. You can argue that if allowing Mr. Trump to build his wall was the price you had to pay in order to show compassion to thousands of Dreamers and to keep families together, it was ultimately a price you were willing to pay. And keep this in mind. Once you have that wall that even most sensible Republicans admit will do nothing, think of the optics you’ve gained.

Sitting in New York harbor, facing Europe, is a symbol that represents liberty and our American way of life. At the base of that statue is a plaque that reads:

Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And if you give Mr. Trump and all his faithful what they want, you will have another symbol that sends an entirely different message. It will be a wall that faces south. South towards every Latino country in existence.

I don’t believe all Republicans are racist. I don’t believe everyone who voted for Trump hates people of color. But let’s have a moment of pure honesty, shall we? If I were a Republican serving in a national office once Trump fever has subsided, and for the foreseeable future I had to defend the symbolic optics of a welcoming Statue of Liberty facing traditionally white Europe while a giant wall (Republican president Donald Trump’s wall) greets a decidedly non-white Latin America…I think it would be enough to make me quit politics altogether.

 

The Morning After The Greatest Showman

So I’ve finally seen it. After weeks of seeing it lauded as “Amazing” and “My New Favorite” on Facebook, I finally got the family together and we went to see The Greatest Showman.

My reaction?

Well first, can I just say that Hugh Jackman might be the closest thing we ever get to another Dick Van Dyke, only maybe better. He’s almost 50 years old and he is flat out amazing as a dancer. And he can sing. Quite well. But beyond that, name three other actors who can convincingly portray Jean Val Jean, Wolverine and P.T. Barnum without having the viewer constantly referring in their minds to his other roles. Lastly, the man is half way to an EGOT (he is a Tony and Emmy award winner) and he has been nominated for an Oscar. Dude is something!

And, I believe he picked this movie up and carried it on his back through any and all of its weaknesses.

What has been interesting about this movie is that critics, by and large, have been underwhelmed while audiences have almost unanimously loved it. At least that’s what the 90% positive audience score on Rotten Tomatoes would suggest. The irony is of course that the movie is all about a man who creates a spectacle that is roundly dismissed by the elite and critical circles while the common man eats it up.

And just that quickly it is funny how allegorical this movie is both in its telling and in its reception from the public on so many levels that I will not address.

As the credits rolled, my initial reaction was…FANTASTIC!!! It was the same for each of my kids and for my wife. For the purposes of going to a movie, it hit all the right emotional spots. The last song we heard as we watched the credits was Rewrite the Stars and even now, 15 hours later, I am still humming that tune in my head.

However, for those who think this is the best movie ever, I must disagree. It is a great movie for what it is, but only when properly compared to movies of a similar construct. Bottom line, I believe The Greatest Showman is a better budgeted, better acted film in the vein of High School Musical. Now before everybody starts sending me hate messages and pooh emojis on my Facebook feed, understand this. I liked High School Musical. And get this: I liked High School Musical 2 even more. Admittedly, by the time High School Musical 3 came out, my daughter was no longer interested in the franchise and I never ended up seeing it, but the first two movies are really pretty good.

For what they are.

And by that I mean, are the songs in The Greatest Showman on par with the music written for Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera? No. BUT they are catchier. And I like listening to From Now On or This Is Me at loud volumes in my truck a whole lot more than Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.

As far as story goes, The Greatest Showman is not a complex story. And it also happens to be entirely untrue if you are looking at it from a true historical perspective.
But it is very uplifting and provides a positive moral that literally had the audience applauding when the credits began to roll last night. Caught up in the moment, I even applauded myself.

Unfortunately, I had to go and ruin it when I got home. I looked up the actual history of PT Barnum and it kind of dampened the movie for me. Particularly with regard to the character of Jenny Lind.

By all accounts, Jenny Lind was one of the most charitable and good people around. She was paid $350,000 (almost $10 million in today’s currency) for the tour she did with PT Barnum and donated the entire amount to fund Swedish schools. She did not just quit the tour, but actually broke her agreement with Barnum (which was her right per the contract they had both agreed upon) after 60 shows because she was uncomfortable with the way he was promoting her, but went on to perform 33 more shows without his involvement. There is no known history of a romantic connection between the two and to me that is the greatest weakness of this film. It’s a work of fiction that unfortunately disparages a real person, who by all accounts was a truly giving and good individual.

So, with that knowledge, I have decided that The Greatest Showman is a really good FICTIONAL movie that uses real characters while totally downplaying actual history. Which is fine. I’m not being critical. I mean, the Von Trapp children were Do Re Miing and yodeling in The Sound of Music all through the Nazi occupation of Austria, which by all accounts was not a “let’s all break into song” kind of moment in history. But it’s still a good movie. Mostly. Except for Friedrich. Man, I hate every second that kid is on screen. Ugh!

Sorry, I digress.

Bottom line, I’ve downloaded several songs from the soundtrack. We will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out and I can’t wait to see the Rewrite The Stars segment in high definition. I will (already have) change my opinion of both Zac Efron and Zendaya as actors. They were pretty good. And compared to their previous work, they are getting significantly better. I will be excited to see where they go from here.

Mostly though, I will try to internalize the message that was taught. It’s a good one. So good in fact, I will give a shout out to a friend of mine who stated in a Facebook post that while watching it, he couldn’t help thinking that these were the kind of values he wanted his kids exposed to. I agree. Wholeheartedly!

But I won’t be upset when it isn’t nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It shouldn’t be.

Now best Soundtrack? That may be a different story.