Superman Can Wait


Mother Nature might not agree with what it says on the calendar, but according to her school and Six Flags New England it was Spring Vacation this week. On Wednesday we loaded the truck up with snacks and headed north, determined to take advantage of the only nice day forecast this week in the pursuit of thrills, adventure, and Dipping Dots.

We did, and apparently every other person with children not required to attend school that day within a five state radius did also.

There were a few thrills. Since last summer she’s gained that last inch needed to meet the height requirement for the Thunderbolt, Catwoman’s Whip remains one of her favorites and the short line and incessant pleading were enough to coerce me into the massive mistake that was the Blizzard River.


stay little
she stayed dry


There was adventure. An epic quest to find an open beer stand, swarms of people hindering our progress and a suddenly soaked rear end slowly turning to ice crystals as the last of the rapids made their way down my ass crack.

Of course there were Dipping Dots, an amusement park staple and at least 30% of the reason that she enjoys going.


staying little
gotta have them


There was also a surprising amount of time spent on “little kid rides” with no lines. Tea Cups and Krazy Kars and even an old fashioned carousel,  the types of rides that we usually would bypass, opting instead to take our place waiting for higher speeds and free falls. A surprising amount of time that I spent just standing around, watching her laugh and wondering why I’m in such a rush for her to gain those last few inches she needs for the twenty story drop on Superman or get over her fear of loop-de-loops.

I love how brave she is, totally up for anything that doesn’t have a loop-de-loop, but it occurred to me that we have a lot of years ahead of us for all that, a decade or more if she’s still willing to hang out with her old man into her teenage years.

It wasn’t the day that I had planned, but it was a damn good one. She got her special ice cream, I eventually found a Sam Adams, and I was almost dry by the time we got back home.


life lessons from the tea cups
going for a swing




The Perfect Comeback


The first couple of times I blew it off, not wanting to add weight to cruel words by acknowledging their effect. A few platitudes repeated about how we don’t say mean things, even if others do. Advice given to just stay away from the three little boys that seem to think it’s funny to call her “fat.”

After the fourth time I took a different approach. A few hours were spent working the heavy bag in the basement. I told her about how no matter how big or tough somebody was, a quick jab to the base of the nose would blacken their vision for several seconds, a knee to the solar plexus leaving them unable to catch their breath. I dusted off some of my old DVDs, starting with Bloodsport, Kickboxer and several other of the early Jean-Claude Van Damme films.



That’s obviously not what I really did. There may be a time when some boy on the playground deserves to be knocked on his ass, and I’ll support her if that happens, but there needs to be more justification for a physical response than just words said. ( There probably needs to be more justification for a physical response than just words said, we’ll make that determination at the time. )

No, instead I taught her the art of shit talking, how to identify attributes or insecurities that could be exploited in retaliation for mean things said against her. We You-Tubed old episodes of Wild N Out, watched all the Comedy Central Roasts other than the one where Donald Trump announced he was running for President and meticulously studied the rap battles in 8-Mile. It might not be OK to teach her to break noses, but I was convinced she was ready to break somebody’s spirit.


dont mess with this kid


OK, I didn’t do that either.

I actually didn’t know what to tell her. The truth is that she is going to face situations like this for the rest of her life. Not because she actually is fat, but because that’s how some people are. Some of them are show offs, trying to be funny in front of their friends. Some have their own insecurities that they are attempting to deal with by trying to bring down others. I’ve become convinced that there are some people that are just filled with sadness, a hole somewhere inside of them that they need to find others to blame for, a cruelty that they just can’t shake.

Instead I taught her the perfect comeback, the one that I always used as a kid when teased about my glasses, my braces, or any of the many other ways that I found to present myself as the biggest dork possible : “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”

If that doesn’t work, there is always tattling.




Dad’s Night Out


At right around this time a few weeks ago I was preparing to spend about an hour driving in order to spend some time playing pool with a group of guys that I didn’t know. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound much like something that I would do, you’re right.

Last summer I wrote a post titled The Loneliness of the Modern Father, one in which I talked about how hard it can be, particularly for dads, to make new friends or to keep in touch with old ones. I also talked about how important it was to make that effort, about a study that claimed that half of all men say that they rarely talk about personal issues or feelings with their friends but that of those, one in three admitted to wishing that they could.

I wrote it, meant it, and then did nothing. I had my old buddies that I talked to every few months on the phone, a group of dad bloggers on the internet to shoot the shit with and a couple guys at work that I met every now and again for beers. I felt fortunate to have that and thought it was good enough.

I thought that right up until last fall when I had a bit of a personal crisis and realized that instead of “keeping my circle small” I had instead been steadily pushing people away. My friend Brandon, the guy from the aforementioned story, really stepped up and a few of those on-line dad blogger friends offered their support but I came to realize that I needed a bit more.


One of those on-line dads was a guy named Ryan, known in those circles as The Home Field Dad but more relevantly to this story, the man behind organizing a Hartford chapter of the City Dads Group.


Hartford Dads Group


For those that aren’t familiar, the City Dads Group was founded in New York in 2008 by Lance Somerfeld and Matt Schneider, dads tired of the feelings of isolation they were facing as the primary caregivers to their children in a world that still considered that to be the mom’s job. What started as a handful of guys grew to over 900 and in 2013 the concept was expanded nationwide. There are now chapters in over thirty different cities, from Anchorage to Miami, with three major goals:

  • Support each other’s efforts to be the best father and parenting partner he can be
  • Share parenting perspectives, knowledge and experiences – good and bad – with each other and those who care about them
  • Demonstrate that the new reality of parenting includes caring and capable fathers who are actively involved in the upbringing of their children

One of the ways the group encourages this is through “meet-ups” organized activities for dads and their kids and sometimes just to have a dad’s night out.


Hartford Dads Group


So I drove an hour, made a few new friends and had a much better time than I would have anticipated. We’re talking about a potential golf outing next, maybe a minor league baseball game. If it ever gets warmer here in New England there will be trips to museums and parks.

I have no idea when I might see these guys again or what may come of it. I’ve also recently rejoined my 9-Ball team and reached out to some other guys that I haven’t seen in a while. At 9:00 most nights I’m still most often to be found at home, wondering what my daughter is going to try to wear to school the following morning or if I have the energy to watch a DVR’d television show with my wife.

I do know that every now and again you need a friend, somebody to talk to. Perhaps just as important is the knowledge that should that day come, there’s somebody to call.


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DIY Daddy

Growing Old Together


The first time I saw Aaron Lewis sing live was in 2001, a small venue in Hartford with the post-grunge metal band Staind. I was there to see the opening band, a weird, somewhat goth alternative band called Cold that has since descended into obscurity.

Not long after that show the songs “It’s Been Awhile” and “Outside” turned Staind into one of the biggest rock bands in the world and I’ve seen them play countless times since, Aaron Lewis becoming one of my favorite rock singers as the band’s sound and lyrics matured, marriages and kids mellowing them and mirroring my own life. After leaving the band to pursue a solo career he became one of my favorite country music artists. At a recent concert I remarked to one of the people that I was with that he and I “were growing old together.”


growing old together


I’ve never cared much for “celebrity culture.” I don’t care who’s dating who, who’s feuding with who, what anybody famous is doing in their spare time. I have some athletes that I refuse to cheer for, others that I do. Sometimes the reasons make sense, other times they don’t.

Sometimes there are just people who’s careers seem to be on similar timelines with us.  Ice Cube has gone from angry young rapper to cuddly curmudgeon, Will Smith from novelty act to Oscar nominee, Sylvester Stallone from action hero to grizzled mentor.

This weekend Tiger Woods will continue his attempt at another comeback from multiple back surgeries, playing a Masters tournament that he first won in 1997.  He’s 42, has a fused back that will never allow him to hit the ball as far as he did when he was dominating the tour, hasn’t won in five years, and has had some pretty well documented personal struggles. Vegas odds makers currently have him as the favorite to win.

Should he be? Probably not, but wagers are what move that line, and there are a lot of people my age with more dollars than sense, those of us that picked up a club because of Tiger and now have a hard time swinging it. Golf is still considered an old man’s sport, but I think that the reasons for that are often overlooked. You can play  with your friends, three if you are lucky, or you can play alone as I usually do, competing against nothing but your usual score. Its great if you can do better than your buddy, but more than that a good day golfing is about improvement. I no longer need to be better than anybody else, just a little bit better than I used to be.

I’ve never met Tiger, never met Aaron Lewis, but I want them to succeed, to overcome their demons and their ages, to reinvent themselves and maybe to think for a minute that I can do the same.




I’ll Always be a Toys R Us Kid


toys r us


I’ve been working for my present employer for twenty four years now, but prior to that I had a pretty varied work history. I unloaded trucks for a landscaping company, spent a lot of nights bagging groceries, and spent about a month each at Caldor and Ames, large regional department store chains that fell victim to the Wal Mart juggernaut in the late 90’s.

The last non-medical entry on that long discarded resume was some time spent at Kids R Us, the clothing arm of one of the most magical places in the world.

Toys R Us was more than just the store your parents took you to redeem your birthday and Christmas gift cards. It was enormous, a vast building holding more cool stuff than a young child had ever seen in one place before. More than that, it had different stuff, toys that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. Not just three or four aisles of what some grown up thought was going to be the most popular, this was an entire store, entire rows dedicated to Transformers or GI Joe. This was where you came to find the lesser known character action figures, the vehicles and play sets that would take up too much shelf space anywhere else. This is where you got the toys and games that your friends didn’t have yet.

It was those types of toys that I shopped for this week, the ones not available at Target or Wal Mart. It was a bittersweet trip, everything in the store 10-30% off after the company announced on March 15th that they were going out of business, all stores scheduled to close. What I had intended to be a short trip instead turning into several hours and more money spent than I can reasonably defend. An expensive walk down memory lane and hopes that come Christmas time my daughter still likes the same things that she does now.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that my grandchildren will never hold a book in their hands, never walk over to a shelf to search for a movie to watch or music to listen to, never turn the pages of a photo album to reminisce about a particular day or vacation. Will they also never walk into an actual store? Never browse the aisles, nothing particular in mind, waiting for something to catch their attention?

That seems a shame. Some of my favorite books I picked up based on the cover, some of my favorite albums bought on a whim. As I wandered around Toys R Us I filled my cart with things that I didn’t remember seeing anywhere else and I have a feeling those are going to be the ones that my daughter likes the most. Of the things that I’m only pretending are actually for her, these will be my new favorites.

Book and record stores have been disappearing for a while now, joining video rental places and Fotomat film kiosks as nostalgic reminders of a time when people actually had to leave their house for stuff. Somehow I just didn’t think that toy stores would ever join them.



Adventures with girls, from preschool to proms