Begging For Forgiveness

My brothers and I were rarely on the same page when it came to which sports franchises to root for. Growing up in the shadow of Philadelphia we were all pretty much Phillies fans, but not necessarily avid ones. When it came to the NFL my oldest was an Eagles fan and brother number two was a Cowboys fan. I was neither, although Buddy Ryan’s Eagles teams were exciting to watch. (Heck, some of the best defenses in league history and an offensive game plan of snapping the ball to Randall Cunningham and seeing what he does with it was pretty cool.) I was a Sixers fan but I don’t recall my brothers showing much enthusiasm for the NBA. As for hockey, c’mon this is America – who cares!

However, when the USFL came into being we were all in agreement – the Philadelphia Stars were the bomb! Here we found agreement and excitement about the same team once and for all. And those were good days; the Stars were the class of the league, appearing in all three championship games and winning two in the USFL’s short, three-season life. It was disappointing to see them move to Baltimore for that last season.

My oldest brother and his Philadelphia Stars cap were inseparable from the moment he placed it on his head until he graduated high school…probably even after that. He even wore that cap during curtain calls of the plays he performed in as a senior. I’m convinced he tried to get the director to add it to his character’s wardrobe. One cannot fail to notice that it was a prized possession of his.

Once, while on a family vacation through Tennessee and Kentucky, he had a moment of panic. We were driving along when he urgently asked, “Where’s my Stars cap? Where’s my Stars cap?” Upon turning around brother number two responded, “It’s on your head!” Needless to say, we’ve given him guff about this for over thirty years, even if only by sharing this story with others lately.

However, I must beg my brother’s forgiveness; for I, too, had a bone-headed moment with a prized possession.

We went for a walk yesterday morning before I had to go into work. As is her custom, my four-year-old asked me to carry her, but at forty-three years of age my arms can’t hold her for what I knew would be a long walk, so I let her climb on my back figuring this would help get my blood flowing. Mommy and the eight-year-old were pushing the boy in his stroller, and the two teenagers were taking the lead initially.

After heading down the hill we turned left. About a quarter mile (or a little more) down the road we made another left and began to ascend one of the many hills in our neighborhood. (Heck, one of the many hills in our city – there’s nary a flat yard to be found.) Shortly after making the turn, I began to look ahead at my family. There’s mommy and the eight-year-old pushing the boy in his stroller, there are the teenagers probably talking about boys…where’s the four-year-old. “Where is she? Where is she?”

“She’s on your back, Dad!” said the surprised eighteen-year-old before bursting into laughter, shortly followed by the fourteen-year-old and eight-year-old. Needless to say, giving her a piggy-back ride may have gotten my blood flowing, just apparently not to my brain. I have to give my brother credit; forgetting you’re wearing a cap which weighs only a few ounces is much less embarrassing than forgetting a forty-plus pound kid hanging on your back, especially when  BOTH of your arms are holding her up and you’re contorting your body trying to locate said forty-plus pound kid!

Actually, come to think of it, it’s even more embarrassing than that. Perhaps it wasn’t our other brother who noticed the Stars cap on his head, he may have just said, “Oh, I’m wearing it.” Yup, much more alert than I.

Well, at least the boy will not remember this little incident. And, in all likelihood, neither will the four-year-old who was the star of the whole show. Perhaps even the eight-year-old will forget. But, rest assured, my teenagers will NEVER let me forget this one.

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Epitome of Random – vol. 22

  • My son likes to swing around a little toy hammer every now and then. Either that, or a spoon. So he admires Thor and the Tick. Hmmm, not sure how to take that.
  • My son took his socks off and slipped his arm out of his shirt during dinner. If he plans on being a Chippendale he better hope for Thor’s physique.
  • I saw a bumper sticker that read HATE FREE ZONE. What kind of commie would hate free zones?
  • At my last physical I was seen by a Dr. Thor. I refused to let him test my reflexes for fear of shattering my patella!
  • The boy had picked up a card of some kind near the bathroom. Mommy told him, “Give it to Daddy.” He then proceeded to walk to the toilet and drop it in. Not entirely sure how to take that.

Rivalry

Rivalries can be very compelling things to follow. 70’s football fans had Steelers vs Cowboys; 80’s basketball fans had Celtics vs Lakers; Mac vs PC was always big and it’s moved on to Apple vs Android; foreign vs domestic; McDonald’s vs Burger King; Coke vs Pepsi; heck, soda vs pop is big in some parts of the country.

Today’s entertainment industry showcases another big rivalry. With the soaring popularity of superhero movies it’s only natural that the rivalry of Marvel vs DC is becoming more prominent within the mainstream culture instead of just nerds. My own personal experience with comic books is more Marvel, with a little DC, but even that’s limited. I’m much more in tune with the modern films of their characters. So, let’s take a closer look at this rivalry, specifically the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Cinematic Universe.

Before we get started, I’d like to admit that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is a favorite of mine even though it’s not part of the DCCU, thereby giving the MCU an advantage.

The Heroes: Well, superheroes don’t get much more iconic than Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. With the exception of Spiderman, Marvel’s later entry into the comic book world puts it at a disadvantage. Even though the MCU hit theaters first, you just have to factor in the history of the big three from DC. But, like I said, we’re focusing on the cinematic universes, and Marvel has more thanks to being in the game longer. They’re a bit more nuanced and cover everything from deeply dramatic to humorous better than their DCCU counterparts. Advantage: Marvel.

The Trailers: Let’s face it, when we’re talking about movies you just have to mention the trailers. Trailers get the audience hyped up for the movie. It’s the tool to help put butts in the seats on opening day. The strength of the story keeps them coming back for more, but it’s the trailer that gives it that first push. Man of Steel had one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. But, after that it’s almost all Marvel – Wonder Woman being the exception. All of the Avengers, Captain America: Civil War and all Guardians of the Galaxy trailers were fantastic. Yes, with more Marvel trailers to pick from it’s kind of unfair. But so is life. Advantage: Marvel.

The Movies: Okay, I really don’t understand the bad rap Man of Steel got from critics and movie-goers I’ve read on the internet. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I loved that Clark Kent didn’t really become “Superman” until after Zod and his forces showed up. It took a great threat to really draw him out…I absolutely loved it. Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad were entertaining, but what bothered me was the pacing of the battle sequences. I haven’t seen Wonder Woman yet, but I’ve heard nothing but good reviews from critics and friends alike. However, it’s very hard to beat the dialog, character development and interaction, and pacing of the MCU films. Whether you’re looking for gravitas or slapstick, you can find it in MCU. I didn’t care much for the Iron Man sequels, but the first was an amazing origin story; Captain America just keeps getting stronger; Thor and Guardians give us ample humor; and Dr. Strange was a visual feast and a very cool story. I’m looking forward to borrowing Spiderman: Homecoming from the library when I have the time (as are my teenage girls, who find Tom Holland hot). Advantage: Marvel.

The Studs: Henry Cavill, Will Smith, Ben Affleck vs Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans. Well, I’m heterosexual, so I’ll have to defer to my teenage daughters. The younger of the two saw Man of Steel and agrees with the captain at the end of the movie that Superman is hot. But they both just drool over the trio of Chris’s in Marvel. Okay, yeah, I’m hetero, but I will admit that Hemsworth is pretty hot. Advantage: Marvel.

The Cameos: Okay, I really can’t think of any in the DCCU, but how can anything compare to Stan Lee! Advantage: Marvel.

The Ladies: Okay, this one is much tougher. On the one hand you have a former sexiest woman alive, Scarlett Johansson, a potential sexiest woman alive, Elizabeth Olsen, and the sexiest green woman alive, Zoe Saldana; that’s a formidable trio of ladies to compete against, not to mention the non-supers of Marissa Tomei and Rachel McAdams. But, on the DC side we have international beauty Gal Gadot, truly a WONDER woman; Margot Robbie as a perfect fit for Harley Quinn, fitting perfectly in that outfit; and my Hollywood crush, Amy Adams. Although Lois Lane is not a superhero, her character is so central to the story that she must be included…and NOBODY ignores Amy Adams. Got it!  Advantage: DC.

The Verdict: DC wins!!! After all, I’m heterosexual and it’s all about the ladies.

Settling the Debate

Penn State sits pretty much smack in the middle of Pennsylvania. And, with over 30,000 undergrads from all over the state attending its hallowed halls, you can witness many great cultural clashes between the eastern half of PA and the western.

One such clash happened to be about whether or not you call it soda (eastern) or pop (western). It was particularly amusing to listen to my brother argue with his western-PA associates about the absurdity in calling it pop. As easterners we were both firm in the moniker of soda, but my brother especially so. And don’t even try to get him started on the, “if it’s from a fountain it’s soda, if it’s from a bottle it’s pop,” crap, either. You can’t have the same substance be two different things just because of its container. Heck, pee is pee whether it’s in the toilet or a cup, same with soda/pop. It’s one or the other at all times. Period.

So, which is it, soda or pop? As you can clearly see, I concur with my brother and fellow eastern-PA citizens that it’s soda. But, you may ask, how to you KNOW? Okay, until recently I couldn’t answer that question, but I’ve been thinking. (Yeah, hard to believe, I know.) It all boils down to flavored carbonated beverages…

Who in their right mind would walk around saying, “I can’t wait to have my cherry pop!”

Sister Act 2 – Minus the Whoopi

I find the similarities between my four daughters fascinating. A recent trip really showcased such similarities between the odd daughters and the even daughters (by birth order, that is…because all four are odd in their own, little way). But first, some history.

A long time ago, back when we only had two kids, our eldest was enrolled in school (this before the adventure of homeschooling). Her class held a field trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Mom, daughter number two and I followed along thinking it would be a great trip for all of us. We all had a good time until the end. You see, at the time the Philly zoo had a small petting zoo attached, which we went in. Here’s where a very big difference between the girls manifested itself with reckless abandon.

As soon as we entered the gate we came upon some chickens. At this time my oldest decided to climb up my back like a contestant from the old American Gladiators show competing at the wall. At first thought I assumed my child was a physics genius and was merely conducting a scientific experiment on the moment capacity of daddy’s spine, which I’m happy to report was greater than her weight at the time. I quickly came to the realization that this was not the case when she reached the top of my head and tried to continue to climb…surely a first-grade physics prodigy would understand that there was no way to overcome gravity and extend her climb beyond the highest point of contact. Her ascent was simply motivated by fear of being in the pen with live animals…the shrieking of “CHICKENS! CHICKENS! CHICKENS!” should have alerted me to the fact immediately, but as I was carrying her little sister in my arms at the time and didn’t want to drop her my focus was elsewhere. Although her older sister was chicken of the chickens, kid number two was enthralled and eager to play with them and the goats. Instead of shrieking like her sister, she simply proclaimed calmly, “I want to take that chicken home.” It was so cute at the time, but later when she began talking about being a chef perhaps it was a more utilitarian desire to save the money we had been spending on Banquet dinners.

That event stayed with me for quite some time, as almost being paralyzed by your child will do. Over a year later I went to visit my friend Brandon in prison. When you visit someone in jail you will be searched for drugs in one form or another. Years prior the guards used a modified vacuum cleaner with a filter to detect the presence of drugs, but on this visit they had switched to drug-sniffing dogs. In this case a black lab. While I sat and the guard had the dog sniff I couldn’t help but grin thinking of my girls and what their reactions would have been had they come along. My eldest would once again try to send me to a chiropractor while the younger would ask the guards if she could take the dog home.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when my wife and I took the family (with four daughters and one son) to a nearby community park at the lake. The park has a beach area and roped off swimming area in the lake. It is a beautiful area surrounded by trees. Let’s see, a wooded area and a lake make a great habitat for ducks. Sure enough two mallards, one male one female, swam in the lake with the people, including my wife, son and three younger daughters (the eldest and I just sat on the beach area, not being swim fans). The roped off area of the lake and the sand of the beach area form a football shaped area roughly the size of a football field. My wife pointed out the ducks to the kids. It came as no surprise that daughter number two tried swimming up to the ducks, closely followed by daughter number four (the two even kids). Daughter number three, much like number one in the petting zoo, was much more apprehensive, keeping all swimming sisters, her mother and baby brother between herself and them ferocious water fowl! Hmmm…I don’t remember her ever listening to Emilio Estevez’s warning about ducks.

However, I was further reminded of the similarities between the odd-birth-order and even-birth-order daughters when the ducks came to the beach to complete the land portion of their lap around the park. Daughters two and four came out of the water and followed the ducks for a closer look. Daughter number three stayed in the water, still keeping mommy and baby brother between herself and the ducks. Funniest of all was hearing my eldest mutter, “uh-oh,” as the ducks started getting closer to our seating area. Not only that, but she got out of her chair and walked to the water line to increase her distance from the ducks.

Yup, two pairs of sisters, odd-numbered and even-numbered, acting in a similar way. Like I said, it’s a sister act, part two, minus the Whoopi. The whoopie was behind the scenes…that’s why we have five kids.

A Slice of America

We’re approaching the two-year anniversary of a new Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opening just down the street from my house. The shopping center prior was completely run down: a shuttered pharmacy here, a closed laundromat there, more empty buildings than I care to remember and the “corporate headquarters” of a company whose potential business partners probably walked away if they judged by the outward appearance of the place. The whole area was unattractive and pretty much unproductive. It needed a makeover, and the presence of the market had the potential to provide the boost.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, it’s just the juggernaut’s version of a supermarket. It’s been convenient to have one so close, walking distance in fact. And a friend and I have been curious to see what else opens at the center. Even as the supermarket was being build we’d check the site plans and debate over what businesses the other proposed buildings would house. Well, there are more plots available, but two other new businesses have opened thus far…

A three-story storage unit and a car wash.

Yup, exciting – a little slice of America in our own back yard.

America’s love affair with the automobile has been long known. Ours is a car-centered culture. The citizens of the good old USA use their four-wheel friends for more out-of-house trips than any other industrialized nation; over eighty percent if memory serves from my readings. (I think powerhouse Germany ranked second with just at sixty.) Some European countries actually utilize the car less than other forms of transportation – I think the Dutch go by bike more than car, once again if memory serves. So, a car wash may not be such a big shocker.

But a three-story storage facility? Our countryside is littered with the darn things. Sure, the wife and I used one for a few months between living arrangements, but there are thousands of them out there. Why? Because another thing America is famous for is the accumulation of stuff! George Carlin had a great routine about that, saying a house is just a “big pile of stuff with a roof on top.”

That’s true, but why do we need extra space for our stuff? Depending on which sources you trust, the average house size has almost doubled over the past fifty years. You don’t have enough space for all your stuff in a house twice as big as your parents or grandparents? Not only that, but families are about twenty-five percent smaller so you should have even more room for stuff without kids.

It would make a lot more sense for the need to store more stuff if families were having more kids. After all, there’s more space in which to make kids in these bigger and bigger houses…not to mention the cars (come on, we all know what happens at make out point).

Of course, that’s probably what the car washes are for.

I’m hoping for a restaurant at my new shopping center, even if it’s just a simple fast-food joint. Maybe a bank, a gym, a mom and pop bookstore, or something other than just that little slice of America of a car wash, a storage place and the ever-present Wal-Mart name!

Overheard at Work

A few years back my employer held an all-hands meeting to discuss, …um, I can’t remember. Probably some corporate crud. One of the few things I remember from it was our store manager asking all employees to write down names of people who make work fun. I was one of three lucky winners. It felt pretty cool to be recognized by my peers, even if only for my overall goofiness. However, I’ve come to the realization that most people aren’t really entertained by me, but instead by listening to me talk on the phone to my family. I do this almost every day at work on my lunch break, and lately lots of co-workers have mentioned the enjoyment they get out of this. So, below is not exactly what people have heard any particular time at work, but I’d say a fair approximation of what it’s like to listen to me on the phone with the family.

(Eight-year-old answers phone)

“Hi, kiddo. How are you?”

“Awesome. Are you doing all of your schoolwork?”

“Well, make sure you get it all done. What else is going on today?”

“Sure, Red (imaginary friend) can come over to play.”

“Oh, I’m sorry Oh-No (imaginary husband) is in California, you must miss him.”

“Sure, Casper (imaginary friendly ghost) can sleep over. I love you.”

(Puts thirteen-year-old sister on phone)

“Hi, sweets. How’s it going?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon after unless I have to go shopping.”

“No, I’m not getting you a croissant today. How about we look up some croissant recipes, you’re a great cook.”

“I know you like the store-bought kind, but I can’t buy one every time. Maybe if you ate your vegetables I’d get them more often.”

“Yeah, I was a picky eater, too. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

(Hands phone off to seventeen-year-old sister)

“Hey, boo. How’s school?”

“I get off work at (insert clock-out time here). I should be home soon afterwards unless I go shopping.”

“I already have your tomato sauce in the cabinet.”

“We just made mac-n-cheese, I’ll get more cheddar next week.”

“No, I can’t bring Corey (Fogelmanis), he’s not here.”

“That meet-and-greet is six states away, but if he comes to town I’ll try to take you there.”

“No I can’t take off work and drive you there to see Corey. It costs money and you don’t have it.”

“Okay, I love you. Hold the phone up to your brother’s ear and let me say hi.”

(Holds phone up to seventeen-month-old)

“Hi, big boy. How are you? Daddy loves you. Can you say, ‘Daddy’?”

“No, not covfefe, Daddy!”

“I love you.”

(Big sister gets back on.)

“Okay, put the little girl on. I love you.”

(Four-year-old takes the phone.)

“Hi jewels, I love you.”

“You’re so sweet. Are you doing school?”

“Awesome. I’m very proud of you.”

“No, I’m not buying a cat.”

“Mommy’s allergic to cats.”

“You don’t want Mommy to sneeze, do you?”

“Well, I don’t want Mommy to sneeze!”

“Just play with your toy cats. Play with Marie and Scatts.”

“I love you, too, big girl.”

(Mommy takes the phone.)

“Hi, sweetie. How are you holding up?”

“I get off at (insert clock-out time here). I’ll call before I leave in case you need me to buy anything.”

“Hang in there, sweetie. I love you.”

There, that – in a nutshell – is what it’s like to listen in on one of my break time phone calls to the family. I hope I’ve offered you as much entertainment as my co-workers.