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In which I become a hustler

13 Jul

Big surprise, huh!?!?

Growing up I had a tournament size pool table in my basement.  I learned how to play when I was 9 or 10 years old.  I learned to hustle pool at 11.  We always had family friends, bible studies, high school kids, etc hanging out at our house.  People were always playing pool at our house.  It did not take long for me to realize that high school students are dumb and usually have cash on them.  It was very easy to get them to bet me a quarter or fifty cents that I could not make a shot.  Usually I did.  I raked in a good bit of dough playing pool.  To a 11-12 year old kid this was awesome.  Even more awesome was that a CVS just opened up a quick bike ride away.  I bought so much candy it’s a wonder I have a single good tooth left in my head…

Fast forward a couple of years:

So now I’m 16 and have just gotten my license and have to figure out someway to pay for gas.  I worked all summer to pay for my insurance and to have some spending money throughout the year, but this was quickly drying up.  What’s a guy and his best friend to do….  Why not hang out at the local bowling alley / pool hall?!?  It was very easy for us to drive over (even though it was right next to the CVS which a few years ago I was riding my bike to), grab a table, and pretend we didn’t know anything.  Eventually one of the guys playing at the other tables would challenge us to a game.  We would of course say yes, but only if we could put money on it.  Not a problem for those guys, they were going to beat us hands down, we didn’t know what the heck we were doing.  We’d usually let them do pretty good for a while.  Then we’d start getting them to bet on our shots.  That’s when we would switch from no-nothing shlubs to pool hall junkies.

I can’t count how many times we got kicked out of pool halls.  I was even banned from the one around the corner from my house.  I would show up, and the guy on duty would kick me right out.  Still, I managed to keep gas in my car, and a smile on my face as some dupe would take our bait.

In which I break dad’s camera

8 Jun

Picture this:  You are 13.  You are dressed in a white shirt, black pants, and a tie.  You have on pretty nice dress shoes.  Your euphonium is in the back of the van.  You are on your way to your first “real” concert.  None of this sissy 6th grade stuff.  You’re in 7th grade.  Band is cool (ok, so it really wasn’t cool, but go with it).  You ARE the low brass section.  You will knock this one out of the park.  Everyone piles into the van, the engine starts, dad puts it in R for race (or reverse, it was a 1980’s Chevy van after all).  Dad pulls out of the garage, puts the door down.  We’re on our way.  We are not on our way.  We stop just outside the garage.  The van is in P for STAYING PUT.  Dad has forgotten his camera.  Boys, go get my camera.  We fight.  I lose.  I open the door-from-Hell (seriously, the side door on this van was the door-from-Hell), and hop out.

I run to the front door, fling it open and run down the hall.  Screeching to a stop, I turn left and run down the second hall to the bedrooms.  Dad’s camera is in the guest bedroom.  Forget the bag.  He doesn’t need it.  Just grab the camera, throw on the flash, and get the heck out of there!  We’ll be late if I don’t run like mad!!!  I race down the hallway.  I step onto the very edge of one of the runner rug things.  It slips.  My feet slide out from under me.  I go down.  HARD.  The camera goes flying.  Crash, smash, boom.  Oh.  Oh no.  Dad’s going to kill me!  I sit on the floor of the hallway, scrunched up rug in front of me holding the camera in one hand and part of the flash in the other.  I’ve broken dads flash!  He’s going to kill me!  He. Is. Going. To. KIIIIILL. Me.  Slowly.  Painfully.  Maybe I should just go out without it and say I couldn’t find it.  No, that won’t work.  He’ll just come in and get it himself.  Well, I’ve lived a good life.  Not particularly long, but good.  The only option is to face the music and the wrath of dad.  Maybe he’ll let me play in the concert then kill me.

I trudge slowly down the rest of the hall and out the door.  Shoulders slumped; I make my way down the walk to the van waiting in the driveway.  Dad instantly knows something is wrong.  He always knows when something is wrong.  He asks what’s up and I hold up the two camera parts.  Dad starts yelling.  And yelling.  And yelling.  I just stand there and take it.  Then I explain how my shoes are super slippery and I slipped on one of moms rugs (yeah, that was a great idea, blame mom).  Dad calms down and tells me to get in; we’ll deal with this later.  Mom calms him down and takes a look at the camera.  Turns out I just broke off the hotshoe on his flash.  The camera itself is fine.  I may yet live to see another day.  We head out to the concert and I play my heart out.  Who knows, this may be my last.  Dad never said a word about his camera and/or flash after that.  He simply picked up another flash and we went on our merry way.

Cameras are very important for my family.  As far as I know, it started with my grandfather.  He was very big on photography.  My dad caught the bug and gave it to both my brother and me.  Currently, I’m the photographer of the family.  My kids have also caught the bug.  They are always bugging me about using my gear.  Every time I hand over my camera to them, I think back to that fateful day when I was 13.  I don’t know what I would do if they broke something.  I don’t think it would be very pretty.  Or nice.  I think they know this.  They handle my camera(s) with more care than they give fine china, babies, and/or priceless sculptures poised on very thin, unsteady pedestals.

Have you ever broken something priceless to your mom or dad?  What was the result?  Comment below:

Replacement Words

31 May

The joy of having kids is that we get to use replacement words.  Such words have a double meaning, or even a triple meaning.  I’ve used many such words in my 11+ years of parenthood.  My grandma is famous for also using such words.  My grandma uses “sugar” as her favorite replacement word.  Got a hang nail?  Oh sugar.  Just cut yourself?  SUGAR!  Sugar is also shortened to “Sug” a term of endearment.

My newest and most favorite replacement word is Bandersnatch.  I first heard the term from the 2010 Disney film Alice in Wonderland.  In the movie it’s a large hairy creature with sharp-pointy teeth.  In my replacement word usage, it has replaced everything from S#!t, the f-bomb, to any other word(s) that I don’t necessarily want my kids to hear.  “Awe Bandersnatch” is a common phrase to spout from my filthy sailor’s mouth.  At a cook-out on Saturday, we were discussing replacement words.  When I told the group of assembled party-goers my favorite word, they were a bit taken back.  “It still sounds filthy” said one.  I replied in my usual snarky manner that it was because the last half of the word is snatch.  That’s what I like about Bandersnatch.  It’s clean enough that Disney (and Lewis Carroll, though he was NOT that clean) used it, yet dirty enough to be successful in delivering the desired effect. 

Past favorites have been:  sugar (Thanks Gram!), blast, what in the world, and fork for obvious reasons…  Replacement words don’t tend to stick around too long.  Soon enough the kids will find out what word you are replacing and give you that look.  All parents (dads especially) know that look.  The look that says, “I’m telling mom!”  The look that let’s you know that your little girl isn’t that young anymore.  That she knows what’s going on.  It’s the same look you receive when you’re driving in the car and that one inappropriate song in your current playlist comes on.  As soon as they hear that f-bomb or s-word, you know.  You’re screwed.  The Boss’s going to find out.  She’s going to wring your neck.  “Mom!  Dad was swearing!”  “What’d he say THIS time?”  “Well, he said Bandersnatch, but what he meant to say was….”  This usually results in a verbal reaming for both me and The Thing which has figured out what word I was replacing.

Parenting is hard.  If it weren’t for the fun moments, I think we’d all eat our young.

Do you use replacement words?  Which are your favorites?

I will always love you. I just don’t like you right now.

19 May

Let’s face it:  Kids can be annoying.  Kids can drive you right up the wall, and right down the other side.  I think they look at torturing parents as a game.  The madder mom gets, the redder her face gets, the funnier it is.  The madder dad gets, the louder he yells.  Let’s see if he can shake stuff on the walls!  I must be just a big kid because I tend the laugh when the kids are getting into trouble.  My dad was the same way.  I can’t tell you how many times he would have to turn a laugh into a cough, or leave the room because my mom was yelling at us over some stupid thing my brother and I just did.  I’d like to think it’s an inherited trait; however, maybe it’s all males who do this.  Do other dads laugh at the expense of their children?  I have sat in the kitchen waiting for the timer to go off choking with laughter at The Boy as he sits in time-out sticking his tongue out at me so many times I’ve lost count.  It’s funny!  He is our constant source of entertainment.  He comes up with the best facial expressions, the best come backs, the best creative pronunciations of words.  He’s a sarcastic little bugger too.  Most kids don’t understand sarcasm.  With my family that is completely untrue.  My kids get sarcasm.  My kids are almost as sarcastic as I am.  I find this hysterical.  I also find that they’ll probably get themselves into some sort of trouble because of their sarcastic nature.  The Boy most definitely will, and probably already has.  I know we’ve had notes home about him rolling his eyes at some comment the teacher made.  (On side note:  How appropriate is it that while writing this post, Vampire Weekend’s The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance comes on?)  Isn’t rolling one’s eyes a sign of appropriateness while being yelled at?  I know I did that with my parents when I was younger.  I also remember my butt breaking many wooden spoons…  I wonder if there is any correlation between the two.

In order to curb the kid’s crappy behavior, I’ve started a new trend.  I simply tell them the following, “You know, I will always love you.  I just really don’t like you right now.”  This seems to have the desired effect.  The kids know I’m going to punish them if they don’t knock it off.  They knock it off, and I don’t have to stop what I’m doing.  Win-win.  I have a feeling that I will be using this statement more and more as my kids get older.  Next year The Girl goes to middle school.  I don’t know how I feel about this.  With middle school comes hormones, crying, boyfriends, acne, crying, break-ups, crying, attitudes, a new school, crying, etc (did I mention crying?).  I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand it.  The Girl knows that I don’t deal with emotional stuff well.  I’ve always been the bottle up your feelings and let them burst out in a rush at the person you’re not really mad at kind of guy.  Lord, give me strength.  She might make it to 13 if she straightens up, flies right, and doesn’t annoy the crap out of me.

Have you ever laughed at your child?  Are your kids successfully sarcastic?  Leave a comment below.

The funny things we say and do

17 May

The following are just some of the funny short stories and sayings from my family:

“Do… Do I poop on the law?”  – The Boy when told that it was the law that he be completely potty trained by age 4 (yes, he’s a late bloomer).

“Damn it!  Damn it!  Damn it!”  – The Girl when she was 2 or 3 and told to put 6 or so stuffed animals onto her bed.  She instead tossed them from her room adding a “Damn it!” to each throw.

“I didn’t want an Ian.  I wanted a Court-a-knee!”  – Me, age 3, when we brought my brother home from the hospital.

“You bought WHAT!”  – Usually Mom.  Occasionally The Wife.  Never from me, or my dad, unless directed at a purchase my dad had foolishly made.

“I’ll just light one more match.  Then I’ll stop.”  – My brother, to be featured in an upcoming blog post entitled, “Playing with Fire.  Part 2”.

“Mom will never find out.”  – Either me or my brother.  She always does….

“BOYS!!!”  – Mom.  See, I told you she always finds out.

“No dad!  Not the knife!  Not the Knife!”  – See yesterdays post

“Mom, we’re play fighting.  We really do love each other!”  – Usually me, as I was beating the crap out of my brother.

“Yeah, you can make it.  No problem.”  – Usually me encouraging my brother to do something stupid.

When my brother was little, he had a terrible temper.  I swear I saw his eyes go blood red on many occasions.  On one of our ski trips, he wasn’t having a great day.  He had fallen and his boot had come off, he had been kicked off the bunny hill for being awesome, etc.  My dad was filming most of these things.  So my dad, being his oh so supportive self, decides to poke the bear.  He taunts my brother about his day, about his falls, etc all while filming my bro.  Funny thing about bears, they poke back.  I think we all almost wet ourselves when my brother grabbed his ski pole and jabbed my dad in the gut.  Watching my dad double over, then fall in the snow was hilarious.  We should have sent it into “America’s Funniest Home Videos”.  We would have won for sure.

Let’s here some of your family’s crazy stories, quotes, and/or sayings.  Leave a comment below:

My dad attempts to knife me

16 May

When I was 6 or 7 we were building our new house in an up and coming subdivision.  When I say we, I of course mean my dad and friends of ours.  I was busy being a kid, trying to learn something useful at school I guess.  My dad was the general contractor for the house and had friends do the framing, etc.  We used to visit the house to see all the stages of the build.  We saw the basement as it was formed up, poured, then the frames removed giving us our first glance at our new home’s shape.  Then the rough framing began.  When the first floor was rough framed and the second well on its way we made a very important visit.  We went to check out where our rooms would be, what of our furniture would go where, etc.

Right around the corner from our new house was a Fisher’s Big Wheel.  I can still remember we bought little blue plastic bowls, plastic spoons, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch!  Coming from a family where eating an exciting cereal consisted of either Honey Nut Cherios or Life, CTC was a dream come true.  Finally!  I was going to eat the same sugar laden cereals my classmates enjoyed on a daily basis!  Building a house is awesome!  Maybe we’d have CTC all the time now!

Disaster hits (big surprise, huh?)

Somehow over the course of me and my little brother running around the rough framed house barefoot, I got a sliver.  Imagine that, a sliver from rough plywood and Douglas Pine joists.  As I recall it, this sliver was huge.  I had an entire tree stuck in my toe.  It hurt like hell, being 6 I of course knew everything there was to know about hellish pain.  I’d fallen off my bike and skinned my knees before.  I knew pain.  This. Was.  It.  My mom, in all her nurse-y wisdom tried her best to remove the giant hellish invader from my tiny little toe.  She tried to no avail.  That thing was staying put.  I had no choice.  The guys at school were going to call me Tree-foot from here on out.  I’d have to learn to see around the branches as it sprouted and grew a trunk right from my toe.  I’d have to learn to kick a soccer ball with my new trunk.

What?  Dad knows how to get splinters out?  Awesome!  Bring it on dad!  Why are you getting your knife out?  Why are you opening it?  Don’t come near me!  What’s wrong with you?  You’re going to kill me just because I’m going to have a tree growing from my toe?  Or worse!  You’re going to cut off my toe, aren’t you?  You’re sick you know that?

I remember (and am reminded of by my mom every chance she gets to embarrass me) screaming, “No dad!  Not the knife!  Not the knife!”  Here we are the new people in a prominent subdivision, and I’m screaming my head off as my dad advances on me with a knife.  It’s a miracle that there weren’t cops swarming the neighborhood cuffing and stuffing my dad for attempted murder or toe-icide.

Is it just my family that has these kinds of stories?  Do you have a story of a similar experience?  Share it in the comments below.

In which I pull a prank at summer camp.

12 May

For 6 summers I worked at Camp-of-the-Woods in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  I, along with many others, pulled countless pranks during the long summer months.  Mom, if you’re reading, you may want to stop doing so by the end of this paragraph.  Some were innocent, some not so innocent, all where hilarious.  Some I got caught, most I didn’t.

Working at Camp is always a trip.  You’re away from home, in a new environment, and you’re meeting new people all the time.  Some of my best friends I met while working at Camp.  We still keep in touch, sharing stories of the stupid stuff we did as kids.  We did the usual stupid stuff, like streaking, pouring cold water in the head of the dude in the shower, and sneaking out after lights out.  This is not one of those usual stupid things.  This is MONUMENTALLY stupid.

I lived in a small cinderblock room with three other guys.  We all got along well enough.  Sure we pulled pranks on each other, but they usually weren’t too bad.  There was a time when we made the smallest roommate we had sleep on the floor (which was gross, btw) because we turned his bed into a sculpture.  Then there was the time we did something that was really bad.  Once again, involving our poor smallest roommate, we first duct-taped him to his mattress.  “Big deal” you’re probably thinking.  Well, I’m not done yet.  After he was duct taped to his mattress, we duct taped his mouth.  Couldn’t have him screaming, could we?  Then we dragged him down from our hillside room to my boat at the docks.  Once we had him on the boat, we took off to the swim dock, a little floating platform at the end of the swim area.  Making sure he couldn’t get out of his sleeping bag, we un-duct taped his mouth and took off.  All of the campers were already at breakfast, and then they would head directly to chapel, so no one was around to hear him scream.  I think he was found close to lunch time.  We never did get caught, and he never told.  He was a good guy, and very smart.  The retaliation would have been awful.

Did you ever work at a summer camp?  Have you ever pulled a stupid prank?  Share your stories in the comments below.

Playing with Fire: part 1

10 May

Ah fire.  Giver of warmth, charred hotdogs, and toasted marshmallows.  Fire has always been a problem for my family.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying that we’re pyromaniacs, yet fire has been the prominent figure in many of our stories.  I would like to share one such story with you.

When I was in JR High, I loved to set things on fire, build camp fires, experiment with fire, etc.  I think this stems from a failed attempt at being a Boy Scout.  I did manage to get my fire chit when I was a Boy Scout.  It was pouring and our leader told us he’d give us our chits if we could keep a fire going.  One partially ruined London Fog raincoat later…..

This story, however, is about paper airplanes, balloons, and a bit of my hair.  Yes, I did set a bit of my hair on fire while burning a balloon.  Lighting a balloon on fire is pretty cool.  Because it’s rubber, it flames for just a second (dripping molten hot lava-rubber all over you), then is out.  Unfortunately, the air inside the balloon sometimes makes the flame pop, which is how I set a bit of my hair on fire…

What?  Where do the airplanes come in?  Well, right about here I guess.  As I said earlier, I loved to set stuff on fire.  Somehow I got this great idea that setting paper airplanes on fire and throwing them out my window would be cool.  Nothing like seeing a flaming jet hurl from an open window to the grass below (please remember that this was WAY before 9/11 and I was young and VERY stupid).  Eventually, my brother joined in (yes this one was all on me).  Every now and again, we’d accidentally set the grass on fire.  Just a little bit.  I wonder if my parents figured out what we were doing when we would go careening down the stairs and rush out the front door to put out a little grass fire….  Regardless, we kept this up until moms friend came over.  Remember yesterday how I told you she was the one who spotted all the toys all over the yard?  Yeah.  She nailed us again.  I think the conversation went something like: “What are the boys doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“There are bits of fire coming from the upstairs window.”


Ah crap…  Caught again….

 I can’t remember what our punishment was, but I’d bet it was a doosy.  This was probably one of the many times my brother and I had to stand in opposite corners with our arms out straight without touching the walls.  I’d bet this stunt got us 10 minutes, plus a grounding, plus a surrender of all fire starting materials we might have possessed.  I will say that I never played with fire again.  My brother on the other hand….