Category Archives: Random Thoughts

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.

 

 

 

Olympic Ambivalence

 

The 2018  Winter Olympics are now officially underway, the opening ceremonies from Pyeongchang, South Korea were visually stunning, the commentary from Mike Tirico and Katie Couric more restrained and intelligent than is sometimes the case at these events. Other than the awkwardness of Vice President Mike Pence refusing to stand for the united Korean team while sitting next to Kim Jong Un’s sister the spirit of international competition and sportsmanship seems off to a good start.

I’ll confess to having a hard time summoning interest, to finding others that seem interested.

I used to be, used to look forward to these games as much as any other sporting event on the calendar.

1984 was the year that I really first started paying attention. The summer games were held in Los Angeles meaning that all the good stuff happened at times where we could watch it live. I was at my grandparent’s house and that was all we watched the entire week. Carl Lewis and Edwin Moses were setting records, Mary Lou Retton became a house hold name long before just about anybody was able to be and Bobby Knight coached some up and coming basketball players  named Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing to a gold medal eight years before the formation of the first Dream Team.

It was the winter games though, held in Sarejevo, where I first realized how important these were to some people. In those days we got a whole week off from school for February vacation and once again I was spending the week with my grandparents, once again we watched from the opening ceremony on. The star power wasn’t the same, Scott Hamilton and Torvill and Dean the only names that I’d recognize now, but what these games had that the summer didn’t was participation by the Soviet Union, a country hated by my Lithuanian grandparents with a vitriol I was too young to fully understand.

What I understood was that they were the bad guys and the United States were the good guys. I kept a small notebook and studiously kept track of the medal counts, updating it with the results from the previous night every morning. It was years later before we found out that the Easts Germans and Soviet athletes were all artificially enhanced but I remember our disappointment at the American poor showing.

I try to get my daughter interested but other than to ask if I can take her ice skating, skiing or bobsledding some time she just wants to know when we are going to put “her shows” back on. After my promises that there wouldn’t be any more football on Sundays I think she feels tricked. She understands team sports, needs to know which color jersey to root for. Friday night was spent learning about other countries and cultures at a Girl Scout event called “World Thinking Day.” It seems off somehow to follow that up with a weekend of hyper-nationalism.

She’s still a few years too young to appreciate the years of hard work and dedication of these athletes, to marvel at what they are accomplishing, but that doesn’t explain my ambivalence.

I’m as patriotic as the next guy. We said the Pledge of Allegiance before her scouting event, stand for the Anthem and have a flag waving in our front yard. Its fun to hate the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers but don’t need an artificial “bad guy” to appreciate sports or feats of athletic excellence.

The truth is that I don’t know, a somewhat anticlimactic end to this post, I know. Maybe it’s the lack of NHL players in the hockey tournament or any other names that I recognize. Maybe the Korean setting reminds me of the jingoism of our leaders and the apocalyptic consequences that could result from too much national pride. Maybe I’m just sick of this damn winter and don’t feel like watching other people have more fun in the snow than I’ve had.

Anybody else feeling this way?

 

 

Not Everybody Sucks

 

I don’t usually get overly excited about the start of a new year, the idea that the flipping of a calendar is going to lead to any sort of renewal or change in fortunes one that seems a bit silly to me. That being said, I’ll admit to hoping that the beginning of 2018 would be a happier time than the last few months of 2017. I’ve been a bit down lately Thirsty Nation. I’ve been a bit down and the main reason why is people, specifically grown up people. Too many of them just seem to really suck.

Many of you currently reading are “real life” friends with my wife and I and may have recently seen a Facebook posting about a leaky pipe in our basement. You also probably know that my skills in fixing problems of this nature are only moderately more helpful than those of our six year old. If it can’t be fixed with massive amounts of duct tape, chances are that I’m not going to be able to fix it.

With the previous person that would have been called for assistance now falling into the category of “people that really, really suck”, a call for recommendations was issued.

It was answered quickly, a friend of the missus messaging her with the name and number of a guy that worked with pipes for a living and would more than happy to come over and take a look at the situation.

This, it turns out, was a surprise to the guy, his actual profession as some sort of nuclear engineer at the power plant only marginally “pipe” related. I can’t say with certainty what his thoughts may have been about a random woman calling and asking if he’d be willing to come over and help her with her plumbing, but if he’d seen any of the same “movies” that I have over the years, I can venture a guess. Obviously, some sort of secret spy mission.

The other obvious scenario was that he was being lured to our house, naturally located in the woods at the end of a dead end street, so that his organs could be harvested and sold on the black market, something that he admitted to thinking as he drove up our darkened hill. He thought that but continued anyway. A complete stranger, with no actual plumbing background, taking time out of his day to journey across town to see if he could help, then returning the following day with the necessary parts and refusing any monetary compensation for his trouble. For those of you that thought I was referring to a different type of movie earlier, he received no other compensation either and you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I’m not usually a fan of unknown men coming to my house while I’m at work at night and hope that this doesn’t become a regular occurrence, but in this instance I’m grateful. My basement is dry, everybody involved still has their organs intact and in the following days enough people reached out to us that if the problem recurs we have a few other numbers to call.

It was also a good reminder that not everybody sucks. I won’t be overly dramatic and say that my faith in humanity has been restored, but it’s good to be reminded of that every once in a while.

 

 

 

Early Morning Lessons in Political Correctness

 

In my last post I opened with a bit of a humble brag about my daughter’s ability to amuse herself for a time on weekend mornings, a few words about how I’d come to appreciate the ability to sleep past the first rays of sunshine a few days a week. Naturally this immediately came back to bite me in the ass, as only a few days after hitting publish I came downstairs to be greeted by this early morning surprise:

 

the trouble with books?
the face you make when you realize thats permanent marker

 

Was she trying out a new superhero look, emulating her favorite professional wrestler, or adding some camouflage before another attempt at scaring the crap out of me by hiding behind the computer desk?

Unfortunately, all no. She was trying to look like an “Indian Chief.”

Uh, oh.

The culprit for this episode of crass cultural appropriation was identified quickly, a Peter Pan book that we had read a few nights earlier. I had cringed at the time, set it aside for future “recycling” alongside a Skippyjon Jones book that I still can’t figure out if it is racist or not, and thought nothing more of it. Another reminder that not everything in the huge collection of hand me down and tag sale books that we have accumulated has aged particularly well.

I’ve always tried to be somewhat cautious in the degree of political correctness that I embrace. I think most of us will agree that it was a good idea that Speedy Gonzalez and the skunk running around Paris trying to rape the painted kitty were retired but I have a hard time taking seriously the idea that G I Joe furthered  the agenda of the military industrial complex perpetuated by Reagan’s obsession with winning the Cold War. If the worst thing that our children are subjected to on a typical Saturday morning is the fat shaming of Daddy Pig by his family then I think that is progress that should be celebrated.

It made for an oddly difficult conversation, my attempts at explaining why we shouldn’t color our faces with permanent marker more successful than those trying to convince her that actual Native Americans might become upset about her pretending to be one of them or seeing the manner in which they were depicted in her book.

How much good I did is debatable but it was a good reminder that teachable moments can be upon us at any time. Also that I should probably spend some time going through all these old books we have lying around and hide the markers.