parenting

Get It Wherever and Whenever You Can.

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I am Super Dad.  This is the view that Super Dad took in whilst squeezing in an hour-long trail run before one of his son’s lacrosse games yesterday afternoon.   Can’t you hear the angels singing in the background?  The welcome scent of the pungent, local flora approaching springtime bloom?  Crystal mental clarity, all the senses running on all cylinders?  One with nature? I am Super Dad.

Plfft.  Hardly. 

A more realistic depiction of what squeezing training sessions into a busy schedule actually looks like would be a photo of a car trunk in which someone or something appears to be living.  Mismatched socks, the heels rubbed thin or missing in at least one.  A beach towel wide and long enough to give me cover for a tasteful change into shorts to run in.  Never mind if it’s a towel stretching Lightning McQueen’s toothy grin across my behind.  While standing in the parking lot, hopping on one leg, trying desperately to avoid attracting unwanted attention from other parents or children nearby.  “Mommy, what is that man doing??”  “Tommy, don’t look at him, DON’T LOOK AT HIM!”  And never mind if I grabbed the wrong towel from the linen closet at home, in a rush.  I can make do with a bath towel if need be.  It just means that I’ll need to clutch the corners at my hip with a vice grip, barely avoiding violating at least one local ordinance regarding public indecency.  And I’m not above using one of the dog’s pink, purple, or lime towels for this gaudy exercise in modesty, no matter how much dog hair and dog slobber resides on the towel.  

I’ve fallen in love with a new kind of shoe, too, and I think I’ve finally managed to find the perfect pair.  That also means that I wear the shoes every day, and for every run.  I’m told I should rotate shoes as a farmer rotate crops.  I refuse to let these shoes air out, to lie fallow.  The scent of long-expired roadkill emanating from the soles is a small price to pay for comfort.  My family doesn’t have any positives to associate with this particular negative since they don’t run in these fantastic shoes.  They associate the fantastic shoes only with a not-so-fantastic scent.  Collateral damage.  Super Dad has to get his run in, wherever and whenever he can. 

I know I’m pushing my luck with that last Super Dad reference, now that I’ve planted in your mind the image of the man in the parking lot clutching the Lightning McQueen towel at his waist and hopping around madly, the full length of his porcelain-white thigh flashing the nice families and perhaps scarring the younger children for life. 

I have my first triathlon in about ten years coming up, and my body is ten years older than it was then.  So I have to squeeze in these training sessions wherever and whenever I can. Hence the hopping  and flashing yesterday afternoon.

I had envisioned an hour-long romp in the rolling trails I spied on a crest overlooking my son Max’s lacrosse field in Terra Linda.  I had just enough time to dole myself out some meaningful punishment up there, I calculated.  I found a challenging loop marked off in one of the half-dozen running or hiking or biking apps cluttering one of my iPhone folders.  I’d managed to change into my running gear without incident.  Then I looked down now and saw that I’d hopped my way into a pair of bright, royal blue shorts.  The most ridiculous pair I own, handed to me with a smirk by my brother-in-law a year ago who used to work at Reebok.  I am reminded why this particular pair was given to him as a “sample.”  Because no one in their right mind would buy and wear these shorts in public.  But at this point, I’m in too deep and my remaining window until game time is running out.   

So I run. 

Easy at first, stumbling on a curb or two as I try to navigate my way to the trail head marked on the iPhone app with a green circle.  Of course it’s a bad idea to run while burying your face in your iPhone, trying to focus on the triangle GPS tells the app is where you are and trying to figure out if your triangle is getting closer or farther away from where the trail head begins.  I somehow find my way to the trail head, feeling pretty damn good about myself, despite the shorts. 

Within 90 seconds, however, my legs are cement, my back is hunched over, and my loud breathing is all I can hear.  It’s a little bit desolate up here, so the usual thought about keeling over from a massive coronary on the trail darts into my mind.  But I resolve not to stop running (never mind that this pace probably doesn’t qualify as “running.”)  Thinking on my feet (literally), I start zig-zagging up the ridiculously steep trail.  Somehow this allows my heart and lungs to keep working rather reduce me to a cursing full stop.  The trail is narrow, so my zigs are probably only two or three steps to the right before I zag the same number the other direction.  This must look ridiculous, but fortunately I’m all alone up here.

Except for the friendly Park Ranger woman marching down from just above me on the trail.  I say “friendly” because she had a big smile on her face as we made eye contact.  I say “eye contact” because the drool and inaudible “hellpooffft” I managed in response to her “hello” fell far short of any other kind of normal human interaction.  And now I’m beginning to think that her smile wasn’t really a sign of being friendly, but instead amusement at seeing this guy shuffling serpentine up the hill, with ridiculous bright blue shorts on.  But I’m in too deep, and can’t get caught up in that kind of thinking.  I have to get this in wherever and whenever I can. 

My imagined hour-long jaunt through these magical hills was cut short.  I couldn’t bear the taste of all that acid in my mouth any longer, and I was concerned that I’d be sore for a week if I kept following the seductive bends of this particular trail system.  So I cut it short, peg-legging my way back down the steep trail on quivering quads, and I made it back to the field in time for the game.  

I mean, just in time for the game.  As in, the referee’s whistle blew before I expected, robbing me of the 60 seconds I needed to change back into different, more appropriate shorts.  Super Dad does not miss a second of his kids’ games, however.  And a touch of self-consciousness, brought on by the game’s other spectators pointing and giggling at the sweaty guy in the royal blue shorts?  Collateral damage.  I have to get it wherever and whenever I can.

Thanks for reading.

 

Fly the Friendly Skies (Part II)

Good morning, fine fine people.  I’m going to break from years and years of tradition with this morning’s post.  OK, maybe it’s really just ten blog entries’ worth of tradition.  But tradition is tradition, and rules are made to be broken.  In this case, my and Everett’s epic trip yesterday from San Francisco to Syracuse merits a “Part II.”  And so this is it, and may the Airline Gods spare us from a “Part III.”

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Fly the Friendly Skies, the day started off before morning’s first light full of promise.  I had managed to coast along feeding on Everett’s enthusiasm for the early wake up and a cup of SFO’s Dogpatch Bakehouse & Caffe.  I stocked up on a number of key bribery items, chief of which was an entire pack of tropical fruit-flavored Dentyne gum.  Things were still looking good at “wheels up” from SFO, as can be seen in this pic (featuring Ev clutching said Dentyne gum, with every intention of devouring all 357 pieces in that pack, whether I liked it or not) —

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Things got dicey after we touched down in Chicago.  Our planned 50-minute layover dragged on for nearly 4 extra hours, and came within a terrifying mlimeter of stretching into 24 hours.  And Cleveland.  Airline gate agents apparently have a name for this phenomenon.  They called it “Delay Creep.”  I was so relieved five seconds after I heard that nice gate agent woman utter this phrase the first time.  In the midst of my interrogation of her (again, the litigation stuff comes in handy), I thought she said, “delay, creep.”  I felt my face flush hot, then glanced over at Everett across the waiting area to confirm he wasn’t watching me as I feared I was about to turn into Bill Bixby’s alter ego.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.  As I was forming my lips to make the “w” of an angry “What did you just call me?,” the gate agent saved me.  “Gate Creep. That’s what we call it.”  What a relief.  (And what a difference a comma makes, by the way.)  That could have been disastrous, Everett looking up from his iPod to see me carted off in ziptied cuffs by some aggravated Air Marshals in crisp blue blazers and moustaches.

Disaster averted.

The weather started to worsen outside our United terminal at O’Hare, and the gate agents began to spin a narrative about “mechanical trouble with equipment involved with de-icing.”  Now as anyone who has grown up on the east coast or midwest, or otherwise suffered through icy winter flying, don’t nobody mess around with the “de-icing.”  So this was a brilliant stroke on the part of the gate agents to quell the murmuring, imminent passenger uprising.  It’s like invoking “He whose name shall not be spoken.”  Queued up grandmas in handknit sweaters and hoodie-wearing college students, all of us, immediately “de-queued” at the gate counter, casting our eyes downward as the only appropriate response to the “de-icing” invocation.  Don’t nobody mess with “de-icing.”  And it was pretty outside, what with fat snowflakes falling on the tarmac, unlike anything Ev had seen for at least a couple years.  His “Oh, Wow!” exuberance responding to the scene captured below bought me roughly, oh, 112 seconds of calm.

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That’s OK, I figured at this point I could placate my 8 year-old with some really high-quality father-son time.  In other words, I sheepishly handed over his iPod so he could play an hour of anti-brain development video games while I took to the Twittersphere.  Fortunately, I was able to document how our O’Hare visit devolved from “My Three Sons” to something dangerously close to “Dexter.”

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At this point, I’d like to think that I was still being pretty sweet, a good passenger, a good citizen.  Look at me, I’m so cute and stuff.  What an amazing Dad.

Welp, I got a little antsy since we had to find an open electrical outlet to charge Everett’s iPod and my iPhone.  The “Delay Creep” tethered us to our Gate, and we were told not to wander far.  With Everett’s attention fully-charged for at least awhile going forward now, my thoughts wandered to how far behind I had fallen on my Fitbit Leaderboard.  People I had grown accustomed to “taunting” for their weaksauce “step counts” (including my wife), had managed to wrack up ten thousand steps more than I, and counting.  I could just picture them all, cranking out steps like boot camp soldiers, while I stagnated at our gate.  My fragile ego strained under the weight of having to see them look down on me from the top of the Fitbit “Totem Pole.”  I got itchy, but couldn’t manufacture any steps in this predicament, stuck as I was right next to my plugged-in son.  My frustration began to bubble over a bit —

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Still, at this point, I was managing to keep up a good front.  Right? Witty, learned, and still a model father, by any reasonable measure.  Nothing too terribly shameful, or beyond the bounds of Grandma’s Lemonade, right? Right?

Then lunch at the terminal’s Chili’s mini-restaurant.

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It is possible that the libation in the foreground played a causative role in my worsening mood and the degraded tweeting that followed….

By this point, that “extra large sounds like a great idea, thanks!” Sam Adams had worn me down, and Everett graciously allowed me to conserve my energy a bit.

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What looked like cute father-son horseplay was really me manufacturing a 30-minute power nap.  But in my increasingly frustrated state, I couldn’t resist the urge to lash out once more at United.  Besides, no one would ever even see these tweets, right?

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And…there we have it.  Any semblance of “good dad,” observing social mores, being a good role model and an upstanding digital citizen went completely. Out. The. Window.  I had only a small little asterisk to cover myself, naked and profane, from being revealed as a stark raving madman.  Cue the mustached, blue-blazered Marshals, reaching for their service revolvers.

But just as all was nearly lost; when overnighting at a Holiday Inn Express and huffing on Greyhound exhaust fumes seemed the logical conclusion of our predicament; just as I started to warm — “it’s not that bad” — to the notion of flying from ORD to Cleveland in the morning, finally landing in Syracuse a full day later; the United social media marketing manager entrusted with the United Twitter keys came to my rescue. At precisely the same time as the United maintenance workers pulled a miraculous fix on the, gulp, “de-icing” equipment.

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Mercifully, Everett and I buckled up once more, endured a wind-buffeted flying sideways landing in Syracuse, and arrived at our final destination.  All’s well that ends well.  Except for the fact that my mother, the woman who carried me in her womb for 9 months and raised me to be a “good man,” and how to raise my own “good men,” well, she took full advantage of my vulnerable, sleep-deprived state.  I walked into her home–sanctuary after our 14-hour ordeal–and was slapped in the face by this sign.  But more on that in tomorrow’s blog post.

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Thanks for reading.