Visiting Colleges

It’s always an exciting weekend with our family, but you know that already. Days are always filled with plans and obligations that take us somewhere for a family event, a game, or some other type of outing.

Wife and I found ourselves doing something we had never done before on one particular weekend. We visited a college. Lovie got into college some time ago and we got to see the campus she’ll be calling home when she finishes high school.

Back to College

It’s been a while since Wife and I have been to a college. We both graduated some time ago. It was interesting to go back to a campus and see what college is like in the days of Wi-fi and Uber Eats delivery. Some things have changed. Some things haven’t changed so much.

College campus. We looked around on our own before starting the activities.

We arrived on campus on a beautiful spring afternoon. We negotiated our way through campus to an available parking lot and continued to find our way through the campus to where the activities were. I looked around the campus and tried to take it all in. Wife and I explained to her what college was like for us when we were students. We didn’t live on campus, but we felt our time in college, no matter how long ago, could help her as she spoke to different students and faculty members. We asked questions to get more information for her about life on campus and how they could help her prepare for that big, scary place they call the real world. If you have teenagers, you know what I’m talking about.

I told Wife how I wished I was wearing a tweed jacket. Nothing too flashy, just a little something with nice arm patches. Something that said “Academia” while we leisurely walked around campus. Wife just gave me that weird look she always gives when I have a great idea. I love her, but sometimes she has a difficult time understanding my vision. I think it’s a common problem visionaries share.

Lovie is undeclared for now. We spent some time in the hall where the different majors offered by the college were set up to discuss their major and the benefits they offer to the incoming freshmen and transfer students.

Prize Wheel and a nice Surprise

While we walk around seeing what fields of study are available, I notice a prize wheel on the table of the Communications Studies Department. I stop to take a picture to send to a friend of mine, who was my boss at a radio station I worked at in my days before I became a daddy. I take a picture and send it to my friend. A lady who is working behind the table sees me and we begin a conversation about the communications industry. I explain to her about my brief stint in radio promotions and how I had forgotten about our gargantuan prize wheel until just now.

While we are speaking, I mention my daughter and how she is looking for an academic home during her time in college. She is excited to hear this and would love the chance to speak to Lovie about the things her department can offer her. I am also introduced to two gentlemen who are professors in the department. It was a nice little homecoming for me. I was able to talk shop with people who work in the field. It was nice to discuss things I had studied in school and methods employed in writing serious news stories before the days of the Homework Wars and serving meals you were sure would be a hit, only to find out it was no good and you should have resorted to chicken nuggets and mac n cheese. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until you just happen to run into someone with the same interests.

I thank “J” and “Y” for their time and reconnect with Wife and Lovie. We listen to a talk put on by staff and current students. From there, we go to the dining area where we sample some of the delicious fare Lovie will enjoy as she studies and prepares to make the world a better place. We get in line for me the buffet. I have to say everything looks good except for the cheeseburger pizza.

Cheeseburger pizza. The only blemish on the day.

Wife and I continue to talk about our time in college as we ask Lovie for her thoughts on the school. I talk about the nice people I met during my venturing alone. We get into the car and head home. There is a house full of children waiting for us, and we need to make sure everything, and everyone, is still intact and standing.

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Throw a ball. Catch a Ball.

“Better teach this kid some control before he kills somebody.”

Major League

Trees are budding. The snow has melted. The calendar has turned another page. It is now April, and that means it’s time for baseball season.

I have made the transition from player to coach, and, in my humble, unsolicited opinion, I think I’ve made a rather successful transition from student to teacher. There are a number of players who have been under my tutelage, and I would like to think they have honed their skills, developed new ones, and found a new appreciation for the game I love. Of course, none of these children who have found a new love for the game are living in the same house as me, but there are children out there who appreciate my efforts.

Slugger has found an appreciation for our National Pastime. He played a year for his school, and he likes watching baseball games on television. The family has gone to a couple of Red Sox games. He told us at the very beginning he is a New York Yankees fan, but we still love him.

Both Slugger and Slick can be found in the backyard playing catch in the spring and summer. It does my heart good to see the boys out there during the day. Of course, they’re teenage boys, and they really don’t have much regard for form or easing into things. Baseball novices and sages alike know that when you get ready for a game or practice, you loosen up like you do in all sports. My last baseball manager, Coach Donahue, called it, “Loosening up the soup bones”.

For these boys, showing their strength and superiority is more important than getting loose and avoiding an injury. Instead of easing into a friendly game of long-toss, Dizzy and Daffy would rather pump their arms, rear back, and see how hard they can throw and how fast the ball can reach the other. This usually results in a bit of “Olé” on the part of the boy who is supposed to catch the ball.

I haven’t played baseball in a while. Actually, it’s been decades since I last played organized baseball. However, I do know a few things about the game, things I knew even before I started coaching kids. These are things that are considered to be basic and fundamental, like not needing to throw a ball as hard as you can if the person is only a few feet away from you. Or keeping your glove in front of you to protect you from the oncoming throw. Things you learn in the backyard when you start playing catch, let alone play an actual game of baseball.

But, hey! What do I know? Not much, obviously. Jackie Bradley, Jr. and J.D. Martinez have everything figured out and they don’t need any advice on what they’re doing or should be doing. The boys continue to throw as hard as they can. One of the baseball brainiacs throws the ball and the other gets out of the way.

Olé!

The baseball hits the fence and takes out a piece of the panel. They look at each other, then one leaves the yard and goes next door to retrieve the ball that ended up on the other side of the fence. He returns to the yard, and they continue their game of catch. I refrain from any further advice and let the boys proceed as they were.

The result of an errant throw.

Costco, Target, and Doritos

Target doesn’t have all of the things we need. This displeases The Gaggle and they let me know of their disappointment when we are at checkout.

I had a productive day with The Gaggle recently. They needed some things to decorate their room and I needed to drive them to the store. The list requires two stops. For me, this was nothing. I often need to go to one or two, sometimes three stores for groceries, prescriptions, or some other necessity. This was just another day for me. For the gaggle, however, the experiences they endured that day were unlike any other.

Costco

Our first stop of the day was Costco. We needed things for The Gaggle’s room and Wife asked if I could pick up some things from the grocery section. We went into the store.

Exterior photo of Costco
Preparing to enter Costco.

“Oh my god!” the gaggle exclaimed. “This place is so big! And why do they have all this stuff?”

“It’s a warehouse,” I explain to them.

I ask if I can offer them some Doritos during this trying time. They are not amused.

We walk around the store seeking and finding what we need. It doesn’t take long. I’ve been shopping at Costco long enough to know my way around. The Gaggle is amazed at the size of the store, the bulk of the merchandise, and the crowd of people there in the middle of the day. The crowd annoys The Gaggle. They take up space and they’re in the way. I see someone giving out samples of Doritos. I ask if I can offer The Gaggle Doritos during this trying time. They just look at me. They are not amused.

A bag of Doritos.
I offered The Gaggle Doritos. They declined.

Target

Our next stop is Target. The Gaggle finds Target (or “Tarjay”, as I like to call it when I’m with them) to be bougie (or boujee. I have no idea which word to use). I use the word “Tarjay” just to get an extra rise out of them.

The trip to Target is a little less productive than we had hoped for. They don’t have everything we need. We are able to find some of the things, but not all. This displeases The Gaggle and they let me know of their disappointment when we are at checkout.

A Bed skirt. One of our finds at “Tar-jay”.

Overall, I would say we had a relatively productive day. The Gaggle doesn’t share my opinion of our efforts and accomplishments, but I would put this in the “Win” column. We went to two stores. We got some of what we needed. Not all, but some things for The Gaggle to set up their room. To show my appreciation, I got some stickers from the nice lady at checkout. I present them to The Gaggle when we get out of Target. She just looks at me. It’s not a happy face most children have when they get stickers. It’s a kind of annoyed face. I remind them of what we got done and the fun we had being together. Their face never changed, and I don’t think the stickers left my car.

Target stickers depicting "Spot", Target's mascot.
Stickers from our visit at Target. I was smiling, Spot was smiling. The Gaggle wasn’t smiling.

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Pizza Bagels, Video Games, and Batteries

I needed to drop one of my children at their friend’s house last week. I know the father, so I stayed for a bit and talked over a beer. We were in the living room, where one of his kids was playing video games.

I’ve met a lot of kids over the course of parenthood, foster parenting, coaching, school pickup and drop-off, and a variety of other circumstances and duties. I think teens are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school was no exception. Loyal daddies and mommies are familiar with our friend Wilt. Wilt was a child of another friend who seemed to know everything about life, especially basketball. Check out the link I so generously provided. If you have teenagers, you’ll understand what I’m telling you.

I think teenagers are the funniest, and this encounter with another life expert who is still in high school is no exception.

My child and I arrive at the house and the younger children quickly disappear upstairs. I remain downstairs, where “15” is dealing with one of the many challenges you face when trying to assemble a team on a video game. Dad is also in the living room finishing up work before getting ready to go out for the evening. It’s not an easy time for “15”. He’s playing a soccer game on his console, and he’s trying to assemble a national team. Apparently American soccer players are few and far between, and the good ones are even harder to find. I would like to help him, but I know nothing about who plays soccer, let alone where they hail from.

My friend and I watch “15” scroll through lists of players and their attributes. I offer whatever advice I can, but nothing works. The game works in a certain way, and you can’t just create a player and place him on your team. I literally haven’t played a soccer video game since last century, so I’m pretty much useless.

The Smoke Alarm

It gets harder for “15”. Not only does the field of available players lack what he needs, but the battery in the living room’s smoke alarm died, and there is an annoying “chirp” signaling the need for a new one. Each shrill call for a new battery is grating on the virtual general manager, who is having enough headaches with his lacking roster. He’s finally had enough, and he marches to the smoke detector, pulls it from the wall, and then the real struggle begins.

“15” has the smoke detector in his hands. The battery needs to be replaced, but first the old battery needs to be extracted. The Chinese water torture is getting to be too much for the lad, who can get the compartment open, but can’t get the battery out. Dad is enjoying this and so am I, to be honest with you. Finally, I show mercy to the poor child and take the battery out for them. After said extraction, I hold up the 9-volt nemesis and sing, “Ta-daa!” Now it’s time for a new battery, but there is no 9-volt battery in the house. So, the smoke detector sits on the end table sans battery for the time being.

Pizza Bagel (and a new battery)

I return home to take care of some chores and duties while my child is away at her friends. My friend has plans that evening, so I am sure to be there promptly to take my child home. I arrive at the house with a gift for “15”. A brand new 9-volt battery. To this day, I am mad at myself for not putting a bow on it.

Loaded and ready

I proudly present the lad with the gift and the life lesson. He installs the battery and places the smoke detector back in its proper place. Dad and I are proud of the child for doing his part to keep the house and his family safe and secure. Now, it’s back to video games where he has moved on from soccer to basketball. Dad and I are watching him scroll through teams and players. “15” makes some comments about Larry Bird, causing Dad to educate his child about Bird and Bill Russell. Meanwhile, we continue to watch him play.

“Hey, Auerbach,” I say.

“What?”

“I called you ‘Auerbach’.” Dad laughs. The child has no idea what I’m talking about, nor does he understand the reference to his basketball personnel moves.

It’s time for a break in the action. “15” needs food. His dad follows him to the kitchen for a beer. “15” wants to make a pizza bagel. Dad and I watch the child struggle to slice a pre-sliced bagel. We remind the child it’s already pre-sliced, but this doesn’t matter to him because it’s not, “pre-sliced enough”. He gets the bagel sliced and prepares with sauce and toasts it. When it’s done, he has enough grated parmesan cheese for a dozen pizza bagels.

“Hey, Fieri,” I say after a sip of my beer, “Do you want some bagel to go with that cheese?”

One of the beers I received.

He tells me he has a solution and carefully shakes some cheese from one slice of the bagel onto the other slice. He then proceeds to eat the bagel while standing up, back turned to the counter. Crumbs fall to the floor. I tell him I’m willing to bet Dad has invested in some plates for the house. Dad tells me he needs to constantly remind him to use a plate when eating. I had no idea it was so chronic.

I drive home with my child, asking how things went for them. I get home and enjoy one of the beers my friend sent home with me. I sip on my beer while watching some important, informative video on Harry Potter with The Oppressed and I wonder if parents of teenagers were really meant to survive.

My new book, “A Collection of Short Stories” is now available on Apple Books.