Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
"Put me in coach, I'm ready to play!"
My softball team had their second game last night. For a while, I thought it was going to be my last.
Playing the game, any game, is supposed to be fun. That three letter word last night was replaced by many four letter ones (none by me, okay one by me) by a team being beaten badly. We didn't do anything wrong, just not a lot right.
The game ended with a controversial play, which set off a load of fireworks. One of our big hitters slammed a ball into left field, which the opponent's left fielder dove towards to make the catch. Except he didn't make it. You wouldn't have known this if you were in the field, as the umpire may or may not have called an out. When a ball is caught in the air, all the runners have to go back to their bases. Our runners had left, so, with no call, they kept running, then ran back when the umpire softly said catch. The game ended with two outs in the last inning. The umpire ended the game right there.
The reason was the players on my team decided to argue the call. The score was such that it would not have made any difference if it was an out or not, but there they were, yelling at the umpire.
As the manager, it's my job to control my team, and I had lost control of them. Our team was known as the most fun team to play as we always were good for a laugh and rarely argued. For some reason (the moon was not full) last night was different.
I said to two members of the team "be quiet!," to which the umpire (who had a lot of attitude himself) said "you don't tell me to be quiet." It was that kind of scene.
The most competitive member of our team had walked off the field, saying to my wife as she left, "I am just in this for fun. I don't need this."
She was right. We didn't need this. Softball is supposed to be fun. It's a game, with no ramifications on real life. No prize waits the best team. Nothing is to be gained by the winners, or lost by the losers. It's just a game.
It's about 24 hours later, and I still am saddened by the scene. I contemplated leaving it all behind, except my company name is on all the jerseys. The idea is to play a game, enjoy it, and move on with life. It was my approach before the game, it will remain so now.
So for all you softball superstars whose life is defined by if you win in a rec league, my pity goes towards you. It's just a game, and nothing more. It's not like you make money playing the sport, but of you feel the need for validation, I will bring my Monopoly money and pay you your prize next time.
Good night, I'm out, as apparently the people on second and third were.
#21 on your scorecard.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Day two started simply enough. We looked for a simple breakfast. Instead, it was the breakfast buffet. Eggs, fruit, cereal, bacon, sausages, these things that looked like flipped over eggs with stuff in ‘em. That should be enough. What’s this? French toast, 10 different kinds of sweet rolls, pancakes, two kinds of syrup? “I’ll take some of all of it,” he said grabbing a small plate instead of the large ones made for the large servings. I am not sure how much he ate, but the idea was bigger than his stomach.
First adventure on our adventure was a trip to Hollywood. Why not Disneyland or Universal? It’s a long story, but the real purpose of the trip was a pair of sporting events, and I wanted to make it as cool as possible.
Before the adventure could begin… the mother in me said we needed to put on our sunscreen. It was more than 90 outside, and we knew it would be a good idea. We were spraying away when a lady asked us where we got it. I told her it came from home. She looked a little sad and I said, here – use ours. She said it wasn’t for her, but for her two little ones. I said, spray away… we have plenty. She could not believe it and was very grateful. The best part of this chapter came as we strolled away, when my son grabbed my hand and simply stated, “Dad, that was nice.” Lesson taught, lesson learned.
Our first stop in the land of stars, or at least people with maps to the star’s homes, was Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Outside this landmark are seemingly dozens of wannabe actors in various costumes, all looking for money in exchange for a photo op. But through the eyes of nine… “there’s Superman… there’s Batman… there’s Jack Sparrow!”
Before I could say, um, be caref… there was Jack Sparrow handing my son a walking stick and making him part of his act. The street performer in his best Johnny Depp attempt (admittedly, he was pretty good) confided that it was his first day trying this. Gullible me believed him for a moment, but when he and my son could not get anyone to perform with him in the show, I actually think it might have been the case. He handed my son a balloon sword and said, “your Dad can give me money for it if he wants, but really, you could have it anyway. Come back in a few minutes and we can try again if you want. This is tougher than I thought.” Two photos later, I did give Jack a buck. The experience for the boy of nine was worth much more.
We entered the theater grounds, landscaped with the hand and footprints of Hollywood’s best known actors and actresses. “Who’s Jack Benny?” “Who’s this Clark Gabilliee?” The meaning was lost on him. Dad was excited. There was Groucho, Bob Hope, Van Heflin (Van Heflin?? – Another long story.) We were looking for Arnold! Christopher Walken! No, no idea for him. We never found Arnold, but we did find a great photo op for us.
Attack of the street performers. Asian woman in some sort of pirate meets hooker outfit tells the nine year old to grab her sword. Quick picture just to get away from her, and then the explanation about everyone wanting money. He got the idea immediately, and just enjoyed the walk.
We saw stars alright… on the sidewalk. The new Dodgers star was there. “Hey Dad, we’re gonna see them tomorrow! Take a picture. Oh, Jackie Chan! Here, Dad, take a picture. Vince McMahon – he’s John Cena’s boss. You want a picture.”
Then we crossed the street to the land of tourist traps. We passed by the Ripley’s Museum, then the World Record Museum. Only 20 bucks gets you in. “Dad, I wanna go to Ripley’s!” My son loves all things Ripley’s. He has checked out every Ripley’s book from the school library.
At that moment, it struck me. This was not about me. This was about a boy of nine. He didn’t care about a tourist trap. He wanted to see the museum of his dreams (and my nightmares – I’m very squeamish) So in we went, and his eyes lit up. Can you roll your tongue? “Look, Dad! I can roll, Hey, it’s a dead guy! Look, this guy has a tree through his head! Cool! Take my picture.”
Frozen shadows. A cool light trick with glow in the dark walls and a flash. One simple trick, one great bonding moment for Dad and Son. We improvised a lot of different scenes on the wall. I wish I could take pictures to capture the moments frozen in time… however, the flash took away the shadow. The memory is still just as vivid though.
After the two headed sheep and five legged cow, there was a man hanging over an alligator. To see him clearly, one has to step on a platform. The trick was that the platform moved like it was breaking and the alligator moved forward. My son laughed in delight and just had to stay and watch the next three groups fall for the trick.
We looked over the last few exhibits, and it was done. The countenance of his face was more important than the accountant’s summation of expenses.
It was not about me. It was about a boy of nine.
We went back to Hollywood and Highland, and to the vista that allowed for a great view of the Hollywood sign. A Kodak moment for the two of us. Finally… something we could share, and it was very good.
Panic struck moments later. I had lost our parking ticket. We were at the booth and I could not find it. The family who had benefited from our sunscreen was there, and they insisted on paying for our 2 dollar parking. I still couldn’t find the ticket, but thanked them anyway. Turned out the lost ticket was 10 bucks… not a heartbreaking sum, made more tolerable by the kindness of others. “Dad, that was nice of them, and it’s okay you lost the ticket… people lose things. We’re okay,” Lesson taught, lesson learned.
Back to the hotel we went for a wonderful dip in the pool. Just what we needed, but we also needed to get ready to head south for our first sporting event – to see David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy. We met a friend for dinner and caught up with him (he had given us the tickets and the inspiration for this adventure.) We had a little time before the game so, on the advice of our friend, went to a local sports store to get geared up.
Okay, I’ll admit, I went overboard here. My son and I outfitted ourselves in genuine David Beckham jerseys – not replicas. We paid for them, more than we needed to, but I wanted him to have the best. And I wanted one too. So there we were, father and son in matching Beckham jerseys.
The Home Depot Center was as beautiful a place as I have ever seen to hold a soccer field. Not a bad seat in the house, and everywhere you looked, pictures of Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Galaxy logos. Lots of photo ops, many taken.
The moment was at hand. David Beckham arrived for warm-ups. “There he is Dad! There’s David Beckham!”
For a man who was brought up that Football was the sport and soccer just a sport for people who didn’t play football, the moment was not lost on me. Here is the world’s most popular athlete, and here he was, making my son do a bit of hero worship.
The game began… fireworks exploded and within minutes, Becks to Donovan and a GOAL! You would have thought my son had won a million dollars.
The game ended in a 3-3 tie, when Becks just missed putting in the game winner in the final minute. It would have been a fairy tale ending for this game’s story. “That was the greatest game I have ever seen! Thanks, Dad!”
Following the game, we were invited (okay – helped to sneak in) to the post game VIP party where the boy of nine went searching for autographs. (Thanks Rogo!) He got a few, the highlight being Cobi Jones, former US National player and Galaxy star. The son asked, “Who’s he again?” So much for being a star.
The evening ended with a trip back to the hotel, with an attempt to find a beach, which got us lost. We backtracked and got back to the hotel where we pretty much were ready to call it a day. The son slept in his Beckham jersey.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
After spending four days in the company of my nine year old son on a sports adventure weekend in California, I have found the answer I have been seeking for many a year. I no longer need to capture the party days of college. Gone are the days where I seek to be a teenager again. Goodbye to the present day with its responsibilities and worries.
I want to be nine again.
The age seems to be magical and full of wonder. Life is not about the next appointment or the next dollar to be made. It is about what has just happened and what will happen next.
Our journey began on Friday when we stepped on the plane. He had flown before, but not at a time where he could remember the occaision. At security, it was interesting how the metal detector worked. Once on the plane, no beach blanket novel was needed to entertain, just the pictogram card explaining the safety procedures. No DVD player. No newspaper. Think nothing of the two magazines I just bought him to keep him occupied. No, just the safety card.
Once we landed, it was off to get the rent-a-car. We were on the bus and he wanted to pick up a map. “Where are we” he asked. “Hey, can we get a Hummer” he asked. In LA, I said no… but the lady at Hertz gave us a sporty G6. Cool car, Dad.
Californians will tell you that life can begin and end with an In and Out Burger. For us, LA life began with one. After a long wait, the food finally arrived. “This is the best burger I have ever had in my whole life!”
To the hotel, we went, through the labyrinth of roads called the California freeway system. In the dark, we moved, for a while. At 10 PM, on a Friday night, traffic halted on the 110.
“Dad, is it always like this?” I recalled that it usually was and remembered when I got stuck in it trying to catch a plane or get to a TV shoot. But for him, the novelty of traffic at 10 PM was just that… a novelty.
At the hotel, the glass towers beamed skyward. We were met by the valets to take our car. “Is everyone this nice” he wondered. Then we saw movie posters lining the walls of the entrance, as the hotel had played a starring role in many movies. We passed by one poster in particular that grabbed his attention. Dad, ARNOLD!
Checking in was not a slam dunk. We entered the room using the cool key. He wanted to do it so I let him go first. As we went in, he noticed something was awry. “Dad, is there supposed to be a towel on the floor?” I said it probably fell off the bar. “Dad, why do the beds look slept in?” Okay… now this was weird.
We called down and they changed our room to one in the Circle Tower. That meant an unexpected surprise. We stepped onto the glass elevator, and there it was. “This elevator was used in the filming of ‘True Lies” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.” He was in movie heaven.
The news was on as we prepared to go to bed. We heard it was “all time record heat for Los Angeles.” Oh, joys for me. “Dad, what is the hottest I have ever been?” He was about to find out.
Warn out from the trip, he could not get to sleep. Too excited. What were we going to do the next day? When does the pool open? What time does the soccer game start? Are they going to give our car back to us, or will they keep it? And at 2 in the morning, I heard him.
“Dad, you’re snoring too loud. Could you keep it down? I am trying to sleep!”
... to be continued.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Today, I leave for a totally new experience. My son and I embark on our first father/son trip. Just the kid and me.
For those who don't know me, my son is a mini-me. He is nearly an exact incarnation of me at age 9. He sings, cracks jokes and loves sports. He'd rather watch TV than read. He knows what a pretty girl looks like but is embarrassed to acknowledge it. He is kind, gentle, caring and loves life when it isn't crammed with the stress of everyday life.
Our trip will include lots of sports including seeing David Beckham and the LA Galaxy, which the soccer playing son is really looking forward to seeing. Even if Becks can't play, seeing the game played in a quality manner in a sold out stadium will be an experience. Then on Sunday, it's a day under the sun at Chavez Ravine watching the Dodgers, eating a Dodger dog, and wearing Dodger blue. I don't expect him to become a Dodger fan, but there is something about that atmosphere that makes one like them.
We plan on going to the beach, seeing Arnold's handprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and our very first stop in LA - In and Out Burger! We're staying at a fancy, shiny, LARGE, hotel in Downtown.
Yes, he can be a kid and enjoy "stuff," but I hope spending time with his "old man" will be the thing he might end up remembering most. Maybe not tomorrow, but in 20 years. And that... is quality time.
Internet access will be sketchy in LA, so I may not be able to update until Monday night when we return... if that is the case, expect a mega-blog on Monday with entries kept on the road.
Until then, good night Drew, hope you are having fun.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Summer finally started today here in Seattle.