Sunday, August 30, 2009

Living On Aspinwall Road

Every now and then I run across an article in the Boston Globe or the Providence Journal about people who live near an airport who are unhappy about the noise created by the jets flying overhead. Almost inevitably I find myself thinking "Who was there first, you are the airport?" While I can understand that the sound of jets landing and taking off could get a little old, I have to admit to having little sympathy for these folks as they knew what they were getting into when they moved near the damn airport....

On the other hand...I have a great deal of sympathy for those folks who moved into a well established neighborhood and over the years their neighborhood changes on them. The infamous Route 18 is a major north/south route running through Plymouth and Bristol Counties in Massachusetts. Every day I drive on a heavily traveled portion of this secondary road that has undergone a transformation over the past twenty years, moving from a primarily residential area to one dominated by commercial influences.

From time to time, as I sit in traffic in front of the few remaining homes on my section of Route 18, I find myself wondering about the people living inside. Were they happy living alongside a steady stream of traffic. Could they smell the exhaust from passing cars in their living rooms? Did they want to move?

I did not move next to an airport, but my neighborhood changed sometime ago. I do not know when Aspinwall Road became a one way street but it certainly is one now. Traffic goes down it but it never comes back the other way. Maybe it does not matter when it became a one way street. Whats important is that for some time I have not liked the flow of traffic. Its time to move.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Men...rejoice! Football season is upon us.

Actually...I never really got our fascination with football. I mean...I watch it. I follow the New England Patriots, and my alma mater, Boston College but unlike many men, the Earth does not stop for me when they play. In fact, as I told someone over the weekend, I think I watched only two Patriot games in their entirety last year. An opportunity to do this or that always seemed to open up and I rose to the occasion and took advantage....such were my Sundays last fall.

However, it was on the Saturdays of last Fall when I gained a new appreciation for the game. My boys played organized football last year and again this year they are already attending preseason practices. Aside from the daily two and a half hour practices, it was a positive experience for the boys and me.

I learned that youth football has a different rhythm and tenor than Little League. Whereas in the Little League the players are treated like big boys, in football they are treated like young men. And more often than not, the boys responded well to being treated as such.

While I believe that baseball is our finest game and is a superior sport, football teaches things to young boys and men that baseball cannot. Football stresses the importance of preparation and it teaches the importance of responsibility. Football, by its very nature, teaches the virtues of teamwork and instills in the boys a sense of camaraderie.

Parents today find themselves in the untenable position of having to fend off elements of our culture that erode and undermine the values we try to instill in our kids. Exhibitionism, self indulgent excess, and unrestrained selfishness are celebrated whilst quiet preparation, sacrifice, and teamwork or either ignored or dismissed as values from a bygone age. Its a relief to me that we still have activities like sports, dance, and Scouts where our efforts are reinforced and enhanced. season is upon us...and while the Patriots and Boston College will get some of my attention, the Earth will stop when my boys play. My oldest has his first scrimmage tonight. I can't wait.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting Ready For School

With August more than two thirds over my ex wife and I have started to prepare for the beginning of school. We have divided up the list of items we need to purchase by September 1st, these include paper, notebooks, lunchboxes, backpacks, and uniforms. She has purchased most of her items. I will probably wait until the last day of August to purchase mine.

It is also during this time of year when we discuss our goals and expectations for the kids for the coming year. We talk about schedules and activities and routines that we will agree to adhere to in our respective homes during the school year. This, fortunately, is when my ex and I work well together. We agree that the kids need to have a consistent bed time and that both households should have certain rules in common. To be sure, there is much that we disagree on....for an ex wife cannot understand why a roast chicken requires a quarter pound of butter before its put into the oven....disagreements such as these makes it obvious as to why we are no longer together.

Fortunately, as my kids attend a parochial school, so aside from the usual school supplies (pens, pencils, paper, markers etc...) back to school shopping is very easy and entails a trip to Old Navy and purchasing several light blue oxfords and several pairs of trousers...thank God I never have to hear in the morning "I am not wearing THAT!"

I have to admit however, that I am feeling no small amount of regret at the prospect of summer vacation ending. I enjoy the loose schedules, that lazy evenings, and the late nights with my kids that characterize our summers. Besides, making lunches, ironing uniforms, and checking homework is not my idea of a good time.

So this, the last week of summer vacation, I have imposed a bit of a schedule on myself and the kids. Bedtime is now 9:30 instead of whenever and and I am poised to get up my kids at 7:30 instead of 11:00....and we have to be at the beach by noon....or 1:30....or sometime....I am going to miss summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Be Yourself

I am off the parenting hook this week as my ex wife has taken the kids on a short camping vacation in northern Massachusetts. Free from the day to day routine, I have been able to win for myself a little time to think and mentally prepare for the upcoming school year. As my oldest enters into his teens and my twins hit the bit one 0 I have realized that now, more than ever, I need to reinforce one two word sentence over and over again. "Be yourself. "

Two things happened on Monday that brought home to me the need to have "Be Yourself" the theme for the year.

Suffering from another bout of insomnia I found myself watching The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. In it, Williams and Lane play a gay couple who, at the behest of their son, attempt to pretend they are straight in order to impress a conservative politician to whose daughter their son is engaged. While the movie was very over the top, it did bludgeon home the point that if you try to be something you are not that you are only fooling yourself (and Gene Hackman).

The other thing happened at the beach where I saw two Muslim women, each wearing a full chador, enjoying the sun and surf. My first thought was "gosh...that must be terribly uncomfortable." The second was "this is what they wear so why shouldn't they have their time in the sun like the rest of us." Amidst a sea literally full of bared flesh, these two woman adhered to their culture's imperative that they retain their modesty and cover themselves in public...even at the beach....they have not caved in to our cultural expectations, instead they were being true to themselves (I hope).

As parents we ought to be in the business of raising individuals so one of the basic lessons we should be teaching our kids is to be themselves. To do so is to struggle against innumerable cultural imperatives that pressure our kids and ourselves, to conform, to cover up, and to act like everyone else. Failure to resist these cultural pressures results in us and our children being less than who we are. Success means that we have raised strong individuals, albeit at the possible loss of popularity. However, I try to teach my kids that anyone who does not want you to be yourself is someone not worthy of being your friend. Anyone who cares about you would want and demand that you be yourself.

While we all have to make compromises in order to get along and function in life is a series of compromises...the trick is to avoid becoming compromised. After all, we all deserve to be ourselves and have our time in the sun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jump Starting My Brain

Its 11:00 in the morning and I have been up since 5:30. Today's major accomplishment has been taking Joey out before he did numbers 1 and 2 on the hardwood floor. Writing on my blog is the obvious next step.

As I wait for my second pot of coffee to kick in I decided to spend a few minutes emptying out a few of my brain's junk drawers.

  • Why is it that Facebook continually suggests that I add as a friend one woman I emailed five times I met once ages ago? Is Facebook trying to tell me something about this girl?
  • Conversely, why is not Facebook recommending someone I have emailed hundreds of times and seen dozens of times?
  • How come every half gallon of milk I buy goes bad for the expiration date. I keep my refrigerator at almost Arctic temperatures. I am also not the only person who has this problem.
  • That you can now buy eggs that come from chickens fed on a vegetarian diet makes you wonder what the other chickens are being fed.
  • I am very concerned that there are only 36 days left of summer.
  • Can you go through serotonin and dopamine withdrawal? I think you can...
  • I have more than 300 channels on my cable TV and I still end up watching Andy Griffith Show re-runs every night.
  • My fourteen and a half year relationship with my dog represents the longest unbroken adult relationship I have ever had.
  • My morning coffee is more important to me than my evening cocktail. Thank God.
There is more emptying to do....but the coffee has kicked in so its time to ride that caffeine induced wave of ambition for as long as I can.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Corn On The Cob

A Special Note: Pending Federal Trade Commission guidelines will require bloggers to indicate whether they receive compensation for mentioning products in their wanting to run afoul of Big Brother I want preemptively get into the habit of disclaiming any compensation for any product, event, or service I mention in my jottings....

For the first time this summer I indulged in one of the seasons true pleasures, corn on the cob. No, make that farm fresh corn on the cob.

I also indulged in another summertime pleasure...I cooked out on my hibachi. Yes, admit that I would have little trouble becoming addicted to the smell of charcoal and lighter fluid but there are certain seasonal indulgences that cannot be missed.

For some reason this summer has felt lacking. I have been to the beach (albeit not nearly often enough). I have been on vacation...ok camping...but its the same idea. I have played many innings of whiffle ball with my kids. I enjoyed an outdoor drink at the Bayside Restaurant in Westport and I have taken my kids to the Washington County Fair. Perhaps because June was a washout it has felt like that the summer has really never got underway.

And with only one month feels as though summer time has arrived....and all it took was one piece of corn on the cob...and some lighter fluid fumes...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Washington County Fair

I visited my parents yesterday. They happen to live in the same house where I grew up and on my way to their home we passed the fairgrounds for the Washington County fair. My hopes that my kids would not notice the fair were dashed when Aidan shouted "Ferris wheel" as I drove by.

So...after visiting with my folks Aidan, Fiona, and I went to the fair. Run by the local grange, the fair has been an August staple in southern Rhode Island since before I was born. Aside from the carnival section (where my kids wanted to spend all of our time), the fair is primarily an agricultural event. Farmers from Washington County (better known as South County) and from across the region bring their livestock to the fair to compete in a variety of competitions. Yes...the smells from the lower end of the fairgrounds can be a bit strong.

Horseback riding competitions, oxen and tractor pulls, and a number of other activities are conducted in the main ring. My favorite one is the dung throwing contest where contestants throw dried manure for distance and accuracy. I am not making this up.

Along with the local granges and 4-H organizations, local fire departments and ambulance companies, many of whom are volunteer organizations, act as food and beverage vendors at the fair. By doing so they are able to do an impressive amount of fund raising. The food is pretty good and ranges from hot dogs and hamburgers to clam cakes and fried chicken.

Local gardeners also show off their produce. I won a blue ribbon one year for my string kids were completely unimpressed by this as were they uninterested in the livestock...they were all about the carnival...thank God they were unable to talk me into going on the Tilt A Hurl...I mean Tilt A Whirl. I would have surely hurled as I dinned on the Carolina Fire Department's johnny cakes (johnny cakes are pancakes made from cornmeal) and french fries from the Hope Valley Fire Department.

While I am not a big fan of carnivals...I love fairs...despite my initial hesitation about going. My kids had a great time, they were able to experience a wholesome bit of Americana, I was able to relive some very nice childhood memories...and I was able to avoid the Tilt A Hurl.

I never do this....but the fair is really a great thing and represents a piece of rural American culture that is fast disappearing Go to your local fair.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New Wine In New Skins

I have gotten used to quiet Sundays. With the exception of a a two month interlude, I have had Sundays to myself for the better part of a year. No kids, no demands, no expectations, just me and 24 whole hours to myself. What will I do...

I have spent these Sunday's in a variety of ways...for the last few months my Sundays have more or less involved the Boston Globe, hanging out with my dog and cat, and a traditional breakfast of tacos and eggs....(I did not say traditional to where).

This morning is a little different as I spent this morning with my resume. I hate my resume especially now as I have found that my profession has evaporated out from under me and that I need to do something different...what I am not exactly sure of but seeing as how homelessness is not an option I had better come up with something.

It is at around this time of year I make peace with the year I am having and surrender to whatever message the Universe is trying to send me. Today, at 4:20 in the morning, I believe I have figured out what the Universe is trying to tell me...New Wine In New Skins...which more or less something new, take new approaches, and give up on what isn't working. This, as I am sure you know, it easier said than done.

I think that a lot of us would rather hang on to what we know, even if it isn't working, rather than move on and try something new. I certainly am guilty of I find that I can barely see straight after banging my head against the same wall for the past....hmmmmm...I have forgotten how long I have been banging my head against this wall but I have given up trying to break it down with my skull. I am with my resume...considering starting a new career...and contemplating life behind a desk in a cubical somewhere...frankly the thought is depressing the hell out of me but it is clearly time to do something different...which is going to be a challenge. However, I I know the hardest part will be giving up on what does not old habits die hard.

New wine in new skins.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Post Vacation Hangover

Our little expedition is over and everyone is where they are supposed to be. The kids are with their mom and Joey, Spot, and I are here. There are many things left to unpack and clean up around here though. And I am not just talking about from the camping trip.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am not a big fan of vacations. While I enjoyed being away and having my kids all to myself (although I will admit that there was a lot of coping happening on day one of the trip), I prefer the ebb and flow of my daily routine to "events" like vacations or holidays. I also dread the post vacation hangover.

Vacations provide an escape from the everyday...and as wedded as I am to the everyday I admit to finding it as something of a relief to not have to hustle after business or search for for a job. Now I have to jump right back into the reality pool. Something tells me that the water is cold.

Just as cold and just as jarring is that my kids are not here. Whether they have their kids or not, all parents are on duty all of the time. However, I suspect many divorced parents feel this way, that there is something amiss when the kids are not around. When I moved I had set up my life to be the full time parent. In April, when their mom got better, I had re-arranged my life be able to take care of my kids during the week and have the weekends to myself. Having the weekend to myself really never happened as I had to play chauffeur for my kids because my ex wife had not been driving. But she is now driving again so for this weekend my chauffeur's hat can remain on its hook.

So I am in the midst of a seventy two hour stretch that belongs to me and me alone. I have no idea what I am going to do.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Feels like Cape Cod. Sounds like Quebec

I was awake at 6:10 this morning. As I dozed in my sleeping bag I took stock of what needed to be done this morning to prepare for the trek home. About twenty five minutes later the people camping next to us started to stir…husband and wife were going about the business of making breakfast…and they were speaking French. Actually…of the four sites within earshot of mine…three of them are occupied by Quebecois. In fact, from a casual conversation from one of the park rangers I gleaned that most of the people presently staying at our camp grounds are from Quebec.

Our vacation was originally going to be spent in Montreal but because our government wishes to strip away our liberty under the guise of keeping us safe we now need passports to return from Canada (yes…I would rather be left alone than be “safe”). I let my passport lapse and could not get it renewed on time to go to Canada. So it is sort of neat that Quebec came to us this summer.
As I started my day I could not help but hear the couple next to me. Unfortunately my French is very limited but from what I could hear they were talking about eggs and how their kids won’t like breakfast….it’s comforting to know that picky kids are not unique to Anglophone cultures. As for the rest of the conversation that I did not understand...I am sure that it involved hockey, Molson beer, and cigarettes.

Yes cigarettes. If North Carolina tobacco farmers are concerned that declining numbers of smokers in the United States will cut into their business they need not be concerned. The Province of Quebec stands ready to support them. These people know how to smoke. At their camp sites, waiting for the shower, on the beach, and in their cars, our French speaking neighbors to the north are able to smoke for speed, distance, and accuracy.

Beach side smoking is something that always fascinated me as the beach struck me as the last place I would want to smoke. As an occasional cigar smoker and reformed social smoker, there are places where it seems appropriate to light up and places that aren't. It never occurred to me to smoke at the beach. Apparently, the beach is the perfect venue to smoke for our northern neighbors. See a middle aged man at a Cape Cod beach with his stomach draped over his Speedo holding a smoke….yup…you got it…he is from Quebec (or from Revere).

Actually…I am being a little unfair….ok…very unfair…the people from Quebec that I met on our little vacation were very nice, my neighbors particularly so. Endearing were their enthusiastic attempts to get by on their limited English (as an aside…I hope we as hosts were more tolerant of their limited English than the natives were of my limited French when I last visited Quebec). My kids found very amusing the conversation I had with the husband who wanted to know what the weather was going to be like today. He struggled with his English and I with my French…I think I told him to expect a blizzard today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cape Cod On $40.00 A Day

Yes…the Pierces are on something of a budget this vacation…actually its not all that bad but I did decide to make a game of how little I can spend on this trip. It is a little twisted but a guy has to keep himself entertained.

Here are my ground rules;
  • That what I spent to get ready for the trip does not count. This includes groceries, camping supplies (a cooler, propane canisters for the camp stove, flashlights, bug spray, lots and lots of bug spray), as well as the reservation for the camp grounds.
  • That I have to average $40.00 a day. Some days are going to cost more than others…I just need to plan accordingly
  • We have to have fun. I could spend the day at the camp grounds reading and sipping coffee…I would enjoy myself but my kids would not. Besides…my daughter would try to tattle on me to her mother (where she gets the idea that that would work is beyond me).
So…with day four of the trip finished we are actually coming in below the $40.00 spending limit. Today we built a campfire, went to the Sandwich library, went mini golfing, visited a fish hatchery, went to the beach, had dinner at a clam shack, attended a Wareham Gatemen Cape Cod League baseball game, and went out for ice cream. All of this for a total cost of $48.00.

Tuesday we spent $12.00.

Prior vacations, whether they were to Nova Scotia or to Washington D.C. or to California were all about the destination. This trip is more about the four of us being together. We had great times on those trips but like a lot of people, I had to scale back on what I could do this summer….and in the process I think the four of us learned a great lesson; that what you do matters less that who you do it with.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On Vacation

I am going on vacation....or as much of a vacation one can have while managing work obligations and a job search. Yes...I am seeking a new vocation so if you know of anyone looking to hire a frustrated mortgage broker with a PhD in European History point them in my direction. I also make great home fries.

But about the vacation...I have to admit that I am not a big fan of vacations. I prefer the ebb and flow of my everyday routine to picking up my little dog and pony show and moving it 40 miles down the road to Cape Cod. However, the kids want to go and a dad has to do what a dad has to do.

I can back off on the job hunt for a few days and work....well...some work is unavoidable. Hopefully the weather will be nice and the kids will behave. If they don't, well....I could always leave them to their vacation and I could go home. Would that be wrong?

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I AM OUT OF COFFEE...was my first thought when I sat up bolt upright at 2:15 this morning. I AM OUT OF COFFEE....what am I going to do in the morning? Oh my G*d...I AM OUT OF COFFEE. I am so screwed because I AM OUT OF COFFEE.

There are certain things I always keep in the house. They are; Pepsi, peanut butter, sourdough bread, cheese, milk, grapes, vodka, light cream, and coffee. Of these light cream and coffee are the most important because its the first thing I have in the morning and I really cannot start without it. I can go for a day without eating but heaven help me if I have to go without my morning cup of joe. I used to keep a can of hash in stock as well as there once was a time when that was a vital supply (heaven help me if there wasn't a ready source of protein in the house in the morning)...while some things change the need for my morning coffee remains.

I took myself out to dinner last night (Central Kitchen, Cambridge MA, mussels, fries, salad, two beers, $25.00 including have to go) and I found myself craving the this morning's cup of coffee. It did strike me as odd that after such a great meal I found myself jonesing for my morning coffee. So I was truly disappointed this morning when I realized I was out of coffee.

At 6:45 I got up and drove to the grocery down the street that opens at 7:00. As I found myself waiting outside for the doors to be unlocked I could not help but think of the guys I used to see on my way to work lined up waiting for the liquor store in Chinatown to open. Could it be that my coffee "issue" is as bad as their drinking problem? Don't know. Don't care. I am riding a wave of caffinated euphoria and I am not about to over think this. Time for another cup. Oh crap! I AM OUT OF CREAM!