Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Importance of Laughter

When I was in acting class at Syracuse University, just a few years ago (ahem), one of the activities we were assigned was to invent a game. I don’t remember the exact requirements, but I’m sure it had to have rules, a way to win and a way to lose. I ended up doing something with an egg, I think. You had to roll it from one point to another, or something like that. It was vaguely amusing and got an unenthusiastic shrug from instructor Larry Tackett, as if to say, “You phoned it in, Dan.”

What got me thinking on the topic of games was a compliment I received at work recently for my “radio voice,” after doing the narration for a recorded webinar. What’s the connection, you might be wondering? Stay with me. You see, I attribute my ability to read well to a game I co-invented with my brother back in 1979, at our home in Purchase, New York.

It was the middle of summer and hot. Because we had just moved into the neighborhood, we had no one to hang out with besides each other, and we were forced to make our own fun. Somewhat spontaneously, we came up with a game. (Yes, here is where it connects with the previous bit about my drama class, as I’ve so often kicked myself about doing the lame-ass egg-rolling thing. Why hadn’t I shared the game Mike and I invented? It would have brought the house down, sure as you’re born.)

So here’s how it worked: Two players face off, one seated in front of the other, knees nearly touching. Each player has a prop – player one the daily paper, player two a water spritzer, set on “STREAM.” Object of the Game: Stay dry by reading aloud clearly and without hesitation or laughter. How to win: Be the last player not to surrender and/or drown.

I may just teach this one to my sons, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was a hell of a lot of fun; I still recall laughing until I couldn’t breathe. Also, it was an excellent lesson in staying focused under extreme conditions. The gun was literally pointing right in my face, and I knew I’d be shot if I slurred, stammered, hesitated or laughed.

It was also great practice. We were two teenage American boys who willingly sat down to READ – already an unusual sight back in 1979.

More than anything, though, it was a great bonding experience for my brother and me. Few things bring people together as powerfully as laughter. When I think about all my best friends, I can immediately bring out-of-control , snorting moments of laughter to mind. (See photo above, with Ken Weinstein and Susan Dreyer-Leon in Big Indian, NY, during the summer of 1994 as evidence.)

I’ve been asked to record more webinars, so I can’t help but think that the silly, soaking wet summer days spent laughing with my little brother somehow contributed to my current success. I suppose the moral is this: Before scolding your kids for doing something that seems irrational and/or absurd, consider my simple, somewhat ridiculous story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Remembering "Crazy Legs"

Ally is roaming our backyard, nose to the ground, as I sit under the floodlight at 5:30 a.m. I decided to bring the journal book out here while she “does her business,” as the euphemism goes. I’ll ride my bike when she’s done, rather than walk her this morning. She’ll miss all the sniffing, I know…

I took her to her first vet visit yesterday, dropping a cool $155 in the process. Learned she has an ear infection which I have to treat, with J’s help, as it involves pouring medicine into Ally’s ears and squishing it around for 45 seconds in each. The vet demonstrated the process, even shoving cotton balls down there and digging out some pretty nasty black “gunk,” as he called it. (Love that medical jargon.)

I am not looking forward to that bit.

Thankfully I won’t have to do the other thing he did, which involved a digital exam and expressing a scent gland. No thanks. Any dream I may have had of becoming a vet at any point in my life was dashed when he explained that one.

They remarked on how good Ally was the entire time, which made me proud. She was a good sport – even when they were probing her various orifices. She did have something to say (a quick “YIP!”) when the vet clipped a claw too close. Otherwise, she was a model patient, and I was very pleased with the care she received at the Manor Veterinary Hospital. The fact that it’s a half mile from my house is icing on the cake.

Being there reminded me of the vet in White Plains where we used to take our pets growing up. The handler there was a burly Scott named Jack who amused my mother to no end. When we’d take our dog Bo in for an appointment, he’d see him and say, in a thick highland brogue, “Acch, here he comes. Here comes ‘Crazy Legs’!” Unlike Ally, Bo did not stand idly by while they prodded and probed. He never bit; I think he knew they were there to help him, but he wasn’t going to make it easy for them.

END NOTE: By the way, Ally ended up charming me into giving her a walk before I left for work. How can I say no to those eyes, I ask you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Genetic Disorder

In a rare occurrence, I actually got to bed at a reasonable hour recently -- about 10:15 or so. Gettting up at my usual time would give me about seven hours of sleep, a good, reasonable number.

As I pondered this, I realized that I suffer from a genetic disorder; I'm not sure what it's called, and maybe I'll name it and somehow make money off its study and treatment. It's hard to believe there's anything in this world that is undiscovered anymore, however, so perhaps I should google this condition first.

I'm afraid my genetic makeup is such that I don't generally get much sleep. My father was an early bird -- up by 5:30, asleep by 9:30 or 10. My mother slept late when she could, and was always the last one to go to sleep, due to her habit of staying up until the wee hours, either reading or writing or both, I suppose, smoking her high-tar Tareyton cigarettes, with the two red racing stripes on the white package, as distinctive a brand in my childhood memory as there is.

Mom slept in at every opportunity. On those days, it was my dad who got us fedand ready for school. He made us good breakfasts and always woke us up with a very cold glass of orange juice.

Somehow I've managed to inherit both sets of genes from them. So my inclination is to stay up late and to get up early. It's a struggle for me to get into bed by ten, and itt's difficult to get up after seven-thirty -- even on the weekend.

In a word . . . I'm screwy. And I'm sleepy. Okay, two words. This is my new (school) year resolution -- to get to bed by 10 or 10:30 every weeknight, and to wake up refreshed and ready to go the next morning. (Why, then, do I feel so exhausted?)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Sameness of Days

Every once in a while it occurs to me that my time on Earth is finite. It’s the thought that keeps me, and all of us, up at night. The planet is spinning on its axis, revolving around the sun – its motion terrifying in its ceaseless consistency.

Bill Murray’s work in the movie Groundhog Day is underrated: he walks a razor line between comedy and horror, waking up to the exact same day each and every day. Strangely, the premise of this film – that a man must re-live the same day again and again for eternity isn’t a story about immortality. Ultimately, it’s a parable about aging – a “cautionary tale” urging the viewer not to let his life fall into a numbing sameness of days. Instead, change things up. Take risks. Have fun. Do the thing you’re afraid you might not be able to do. Even if you fail at it, you’ll be able to say you gave it a shot. At least you’ll have done battle with the sameness of your days. It won’t slow down time, or stop the Earth’s rotation and revolution, but you’ll feel less like a hamster (or a groundhog) on a wheel.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Day of School, Same As It Ever Was

In about one hour from now I'll pack my children into the car to cart them off to their first day of the new school year. Of course it brings back a whole boatload of strong memories.

I wonder if any of my friends from that era, or my brother Mike, would recall the little briefcases our mothers bought us at Sears. They were made of imitation leather and had metal clasps. I think mine was brown. There were metal runners on them like four stationary wheels, which made them really fun to slide down the street on our way to and from the bus stop. We used to have competitions to see who could slide their book-bag the farthest.

I remember wearing crisp shirts, also from Sears, along with jeans whose denim was dark blue and stiff in its newness.

There was the nervous quiet in the classroom on that first day, as we met our new teacher, hoping they would be nice, that they would be patient, understanding and tolerant of our shortcomings.

As I prepare to rouse my family from their sleep this morning, I find that I am wishing the very same things for my boys as I wished for myself back in 1971.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now That We're a Pack

Our dog Ally has a lot of behaviors I enjoy, and one of my favorites is how she sleeps with the boys in their room. If she was allowed to, she would join them in bed. Apparently her previous owners permitted her to sleep in bed with them, which, according to one of the Town Lake adoption counselors, sent Ally mixed signals and can cause a dog like her to be anxious.

We have, indeed, caught her sleeping on beds and sofas on a few occasions (see photo), spreading her fur and odor in rather unpleasant fashion. We shoo her off and inform her she is a bad dog. She lowers her head and wags her tail close to the ground, as if to say, "I know I'm bad....but you still love me, don't you?"

My theories about why she sleeps in the room with the kids are the following:

She sees herself as their equal in the pack hierarchy. They are her brothers. She is one of the kids.

She likes the sound of their breathing and, like Jackson, she's comforted by the knowledge she's not alone.

She has somehow recognized that Diego and Jackson are the smallest and most vulnerable members of our pack and it is her job to serve as their protector. Cesar Millan would like two of the three, but he'd school me on the truth, I'm sure.

Any way you look at it, I think it's the cutest thing I've seen in a while -- the image of this animal, who just one week ago was one of four hundred other dogs, barking and baking in 100+-degree heat, now lying on the carpeted floor between my sons' beds, sleeping in the air-conditioned comfort of my home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recently, Yet Long Ago

My subconscious has been busy lately, churning out dreams almost every night. I’m not one of those people who generally finds dreams particularly interesting to talk about, and my conscious mind is good at blocking them out once I get up in the morning. They don’t amount to much more than a vague itch – an unmistakable sensation of having taken a trip somewhere recently, yet long ago.

It reminds me of when I look at my photographs from my travels in Europe back in 1987 and ’88, and I try to put myself back into that time. Can I recall the sights, sounds and smells of that particular place?

There are several moments that have stayed vividly with me over the course of all these years. One happened on the Greek island of Paros, where we stayed for a few days with our friend Sally Wattles. On a sunny morning I sat down at a café table with a cup of coffee and the Guardian newspaper. The restaurant sat right in the middle of the docks where the fishing boats moored. Old men with dried-apple faces smoked cigarettes, mended fishing nets and cleaned octopus, the rigging of the boats jingling in the gentle, steady rise and fall of the tide.

The coffee was a good, strong Mediterranean blend – the kind of coffee to which I became accustomed while living in Spain and which I still drink to this day. When I licked my lips, the salt from the sea breeze played off the bitter-sweetness of the coffee. The smell of seaweed and the morning’s catch hung heavy in the heat of that morning on August 2, 1988.

I know the date because of what came next. There in the midst of all those intense sensations I opened the paper and read the words “America’s Chekhov Dead at 50,” and there was a photo of a familiar face – my literary mentor, Raymond Carver, had died of lung cancer, his wife, Tess Gallagher by his side.

I read the article which recalled Ray’s difficult life and how writing had given him a second chance. Finishing my coffee, I thought about how sad it was that I would never again experience the thrill of opening the New Yorker magazine and reading a new Carver story.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Can You Change Something by Doing the Same Thing You've Always Done?

An interesting thing is happening on the Satellite Academy High School NYC Facebook page. Graduates are posting their dates of attendance and which of the four sites they went to.

Some do it matter-of-factly – years, then site. But many take the opportunity to shout out their advisory group or “Strat,” as the “best ever.” Some single out their advisory teachers, or list a group of favorite teachers.

Not only do I remember many of these people well, but I even recall some of them in the intake interviews before they became Satellite students. Invariably they were nervous at this high-stakes moment in their young lives, and that anxiety took a variety of forms. The kids who became incommunicative or belligerent were sometimes the ones who didn’t pass the interviews, usually because one of the students on the panel insisted they would be a bad fit for the school.

As the teacher representative on those committees, I would then ask them to remember when they were in that chair. “Were you nervous? How did it make you feel, answering questions from four strangers, three of whom were your age?”

Sometimes they’d cut the kid a break, or I would, and sometimes they wouldn’t, or I wouldn’t. When we did, sometimes the kid worked out well, and sometimes they didn’t.

There’s a powerful book to be written on my experience as a teacher. I really am humbled by how blessed I was to teach where I taught, and to do it for so many years.

As I read the posts of my former students, now adults with children of their own, I wonder how different, if at all, their lives would have turned out had they never found our school. Perhaps it’s hubris to think we “saved” them. The thing to remember about young people growing up in poverty, as many of our students did, is that it creates an extremely thick skin. My students were, and are, resilient people. I am certain many would have landed on their feet, with or without me/us.

As I work with school after school, trying to help them help their students, my stories of Satellite Academy, advisory class, skills-based teaching, and portfolio assessment sound like extravagant tales from a distant land. It’s as if I’m describing a dragon I slayed, or a Holy Grail I discovered.

Testing has its place – as a way to help a student know what he has learned and what he still needs to master. I do thank NCLB for “outing” the achievement gap in this country. Being who I am (a firm believer in the “positive pre-supposition”), I have to believe the original intent of the legislation was to help public schools and the children in them. What seems to be happening instead is a full-on attack, with the suggestion that schools, and the teachers in them, are to blame for the very inequities, instead of a society that has denied its caste system and institutional racism since its beginnings. The testing and textbook industries have created a round hole into which they are trying to shove “pegs” of all shapes and sizes. We do the same things semester after semester, year after year, forgetting the old dictum about insanity (the expectation that you’ll get a different result by doing the same thing) and wondering all the while why nothing changes.

Ask a former Satellite Academy student; they might surprise you with their answers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Every Dog Has His Day: For Once, I Was RIGHT!

Okay, I wasn’t going to write this one. Really. I was going to honor my wife’s request not to devote a blog post to her feelings about the new dog. But, for reasons that will become obvious once you’ve read this, I just couldn’t resist. If you’re reading this, honey, please know that it comes purely from a place of love.

Yesterday morning J. looked at me with a serious expression on her face – the kind you don’t want to see on your spouse. She then said the words you don’t want to hear your spouse say: “There’s something I need to tell you.”

As my heart sank, I tried to think of what I might be in trouble for. I came up empty.

“What is it?” I asked, bracing myself.

Her face changed then, as an ironic smile appeared, and she declared, “I think I’m in love with the dog.”

I’m thrilled with this, of course. The responsibility of finding a dog that would be a good fit with our family and the variety of personality types the four of us represent fell squarely on my shoulders. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak, but it hasn’t happened yet. She hasn’t given us any reason to pause. (No pun intended.)

It was a rare moment when I got J. to admit that I was right: I had predicted, during our first conversation about dog ownership, or the prospect of it, that the dog would seek her out, and become her dog and that she would fall in love.

Sure enough, Ally follows her everywhere, and J. speaks to her in a sing-song voice, rivaled only by her Spanish baby-talk that still melts Jackson’s rebel heart.

She says things like, “I love her eyes. She has such pretty eyes. And Ally just sits there, back end wiggling, tail wagging, basking in all the love.

“There’s something about the unconditional love of a dog,” I say, never passing up a platitude, “that’s very disarming.”

As I mentioned, I wasn’t going to write this post. However I realized I really had to when Jeanette came by my job at lunchtime today, talking about how she’d been discussing Ally with some friends at her former office. “I showed them a picture of her,” she said, taking out her iPhone.

“You didn’t make it your home screen picture, did you?” I asked.

She paused, and then smiled. “I did,” she admitted.

And with that, my decision was made. Honey, this blog’s for you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Casualty of Drought

The other day, while driving southwest on Springdale Road to work, I spotted something that was not immediately unusual to see on that stretch – roadkill. As I got closer, however, I could tell it wasn’t the usual. Normally, fatalities include skunks, squirrels, possums, cats, frogs, snakes and the occasional armadillo. I thought it might be a small dog.

Just as I drove past, I could make out the unmistakable pointed nose and ears and cinnamon coat. It was a red fox, lying peacefully on its side, as if sleeping.

Ein Fuchs.

As I’ve discussed in a previous fox post, I’m a believer in “magical thinking,” as the late author/actor/ monologist Spalding Gray called it. I knocked on my steering wheel as if it were made of wood.

It was disturbing to see my namesake animal laid out like that. I’ve been hearing stories lately of how the extreme heat and drought conditions have been causing discrete and nocturnal animals to venture out into the sunlight in urban locales like Northeast Austin. Specifically, I heard a story on KUT, our local NPR affiliate, about a surge of coyote sightings. I wondered if maybe I’d mistaken a coyote for a fox, but by the time I passed the carnage the next morning, it had been so decimated as to be an indistinguishable and vaguely ginger-colored stain on the road. “Street pizza,” as they say.

As for me and my magical thinking, I’ll be particularly careful when crossing the street. I don’t want to be the next Fuchs to be laminated.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Blog Won't Become "Marley and Me," I Promise...

... but that being said...

It's official: we are now a family of five. Our newest member, Ally, joined us yesterday evening when I signed the adoption papers at the Town Lake Animal Center.

This morning has gone pretty much as I predicted it would, with a walk, and now with me sitting at my writing table in my home office, Ally lying down at my feet.

I went back to the shelter yesterday after work and filled out Ally's paperwork, before they walked her slowly out to me. I had the Corolla cooling and she calmly hopped right in and got comfortable as I made my way onto I35 for the trafficky ride northeast to Manor.

I've been watching her closely ever since, and she's a bit groggy -- not quite the same animal she was before her spay surgery earlier in the day. On medication, she's a little bit out of it and low energy. What I see so far is a loyal, friendly dog who is highly obedient and in need of love.

Every once in a while yesterday evening I would catch J. grinning at me. "You're so happy," she said more than once. And the fact is she's right. I'm right there with Jackson, overjoyed that Ally is with us.

J. also pointed out that Ally knew me, or seemed to, and that she perked up and wagged her tail whenever she saw me. This is obviously flattering for me, despite all that's been said about being loved by dogs who are, by nature, "love machines," as opposed to being loved by cats, say, who are much more selective.

It may be that she associates me with her newly found freedom, or perhaps I'm an animal person and she can sense it. Whatever the case may be, Ally has clearly decided she's my dog, which is just fine by me.

I'm a little concerned about leaving her alone today and she'll need to be in her crate. Otherwise, I'm afraid we may come home to a chewed-up house. Also, I'm a little worried that she'll chew at her surgery site while left alone in her cage.

Last night, Ally sought out the comforting sound of Diego's snoring, and I found her sleeping in between the two boys' beds when I got up this morning at around five. I took her out in the back yard, then for a short walk over to the trails. Her walks need to be short these first ten days after her surgery. I really enjoyed walking her, and it's going to be a nice new routine for me. I'll miss riding my bike, but I can maybe do that at other times of the day, especially now that the weather is going to start cooling down. (Please, oh please.) Maybe I could find time to do my bike ride, and walk Ally.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dog Daze Part II: Welcome Ally

Yesterday was a big day, because, true to our word, I drove Jackson down to the Town Lake Animal Shelter, where we saw many dogs who lolled in their cages in the 100-degree heat, some of them perking up as we approached. Others just lay there, looking like deflated balloons in the shade of their pens.

We walked several dogs, large and small, deciding finally on a 50-pound female shepherd mix named Allison, or “Ally” for short. She has a sweet demeanor, and I fell in love with her immediately. Jackson was a bit reticent due to her size at first, but quickly warmed up to her, saying, “I think she likes us, Daddy.”

We were ready to take her home with us on the spot, but she was not yet spayed, so they needed to that the next morning.

We’ll be picking her up after I get off work today. And then our lives will change for the better.

Getting a dog is equivalent to adding a new member to the family. I’ve written already about the various dogs I’ve had in my life – really only two to speak of. This is my first pet since Gnarly, my antisocial cat, passed away back in the late 1990’s, so it’s a big step for me too.

I haven’t mentioned Diego because like his mother he is ambivalent about having a dog in his house. He’s never really dealt with one much, unlike his brother who has always approached animals without any fear or hesitation. It will be interesting to see how dog ownership changes Diego and my wife.

My sleep was a little fitful last night, as I lay there imagining how my life will change as a result of taking Ally on as our fifth family member. It’s probably an exercise in futility, but here goes:

My 5:30 a.m. morning bike ride will become a morning walk, with Ally. My morning pages will likely move indoors, to the office, with Ally at my feet.

Jackson will be very excited and want for Ally to sleep with him in his bed, and this will be our first dog-related conflict. The counselor at the TLAC informed me that allowing your dog to sleep in the bed sends confusing signals to them about their place in the family and can cause anxiety for the dog – especially a herder breed like a German Shepherd, who like to make sure everyone is where they should be.

Walks will be fun, but she’s a large dog and Jackson will want to hold the leash on his own. I’ll need to be firm about this one, to keep everyone safe.

Okay, Dan. Enough. You can’t predict life. Ally is going to be great and she will be loved.

‘Nuff said.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Hotels Then and Now

We're here in San Antonio, our little family, staying at the Doubletree Downtown Hotel, sleeping in two queen-size beds and having a good time of it. The kids get so excited by the novelty of staying in a hotel room and swimming in the hotel pool. It brings back nice memories for me, probably from when Mike and I were their age and younger.

It's humbling to think that we're making memories today that will still be in their heads 40 years from now. More importantly, we're forming the people they're going to be in the way we respond to their behavior. By setting limits for them, we're helping them set limits for themselves later. They understand that actions have consequences, and that this is a part of life. As a parent, this is one of the most important duties we perform.

I'm currently sitting outside at a table beside the little pool, where there's a nice breeze blowing in. Someone's cigarette smoke is wafting over, and the dreamy sound of a train's horn comes into my consciousness from somewhere in the distance. Just in case James Lipton never asks me, I'll say that a sound or noise I love is the distant wail of a train, cutting across the landscape.

So I'm trying to recall some good hotel memories from my youth. As a young boy there was Little Rock, where I remember the pool and my dad meeting a childhood hero -- Brooklyn Dodger Joe "Ducky" Medwick. I also remember delicious deep-fried glazed donuts oozing with scrumptious fat and sugar. My mother waters as I think back on them.

I remember the Hotel Santo Domingo and being blown away by the omelets there. They made them so quickly and so perfectly. And of course, as always, I remember enjoying the pool. I got to return to the Santo Domingo for my brother-in-law's wedding in 2003 and then in '07, when we took our own kids to that very same pool where I swam years earlier.

I don't recall which hotel it was, but we had an amazing stay in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, where my father had some kind of work retreat. The hotel was right on the beach, and we spent a lot of time there. This is the hotel where the infamous Myers's Rum incident occurred.

As an adult I've had some great hotel experiences, as well. Monasterio de Piedra in Spain was special -- an old converted monastery with four-star dining. The St. Regis, our wedding night, complete with butler service and a view overlooking Central Park -- an incentive after 911. (We'd never have been able to afford such luxury otherwise.)

Perhaps my favorite hotel was one of the more rustic ones -- the little raised hut we stayed at on Arawak Beach in Anguilla, Virgin Islands. That was an unbelievable trip. Sunset at Smitty's where you get "a whale of a deal for your meal."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Two Brothers, The Yin and the Yang

I got home from a three-day business trip last night, right around dinner time, and Jackson greeted me at the door with his usual level of excitement, yelling, “DADDY!” and throwing himself into my arms. Diego, on the other hand, sat at the dinner table, munching on a snack, and did not move a muscle, despite Jackson telling him, over and over, “Diego, Daddy’s home!” Diego just sat there, staring straight ahead.

“I was pretending to be a statue,” he explained. He smiled then; it had been a joke in his mind, but it had visibly shaken Jackson, and it troubled me a little as well.

Thinking on it now, it’s the difference between them in microcosm – a perfect laboratory specimen of their emotional profiles. On the one hand there’s Jackson, who wears every emotion on his sleeve, as they say. He feels his feelings to the extreme. When he’s happy his daddy is home, he lets anyone and everyone know it, smothering me in hugs and kisses, and when he’s upset at having to sleep alone in his bed (for example) he is screaming and crying almost to the point of hyperventilation. There is never any mystery as to what’s going on with Jackson.

Diego is no less sensitive; in fact, he’s probably more sensitive than his little brother. It will take a trained and careful eye to be aware of what he’s going through at any given time. We are usually pretty good at reading him, because we’ve known him for as long as we have, and he probably shows us more than he shows others. In other settings, like school, for example, he is already flying under the radar. His teachers give us comments like “Diego’s such a good kid. He never causes any trouble.”

Jackson is more of a celebrity in the hallways of Manor Elementary. People say things like, “Oh, you’re Jackson’s dad. Yeah, I know him. Funny kid!” From the moment he set foot in the school, Jackson was determined to know (and be known by) every person there. They’ve already decided that he and his best friend Travis must never be in class together again.

According to J., Diego is just like her when she was a child. She too was an emotionally guarded kid with a lot going on under the quiet surface. As a result, she’s very careful to check in with Diego periodically and to make sure he’s doing all right.

I’d like to say I was just like Jackson when I was six, but I was never as confident as he is. Any “swagger” I may have developed came later – like in college, maybe, and it was a forced, false swagger, masking a great deal of insecurity I’d always carried around with me.

Jackson’s swagger is real and comes completely naturally to him. It’s quite something to see. As his parent, my job is to make sure he uses his extreme confidence for the purposes of good and not evil.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Watching Baseball With the President

It was my third time at Rangers Ballpark and despite a game-time temperature of 97 degrees, there was a breeze that made for a comfortable evening. Good baseball weather. Certainly it was much better than the last time I was there, when the stadium had to be evacuated due to nearby tornadoes.

I stayed for the entire game, and it was a good one, with plenty of offense and a few defensive gems. Josh Hamilton provided one of each, with a screaming line-drive home run over the right field fence, and an inning-ending, sliding catch in center field. His was one of three round-trippers, so the game provided plenty of drama.

At one point, early on in the game, I became aware of the fact that directly below and in front of me sat former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura. They were seated in the owner’s box, one row behind the Rangers on-deck circle, along with Nolan Ryan and his wife. The sight of Bush there, 50 yards or so away, was jarring somehow, giving rise to a whole variety of notions.

My first inclination was to see if I could spot the Secret Service agents that surely must be all around him. Apart from one guy, dressed just like the rest of us, in Rangers regalia, who was visibly watching the crowd and not the game, I couldn’t spot anyone. I then thought back to my entry into the stadium. There were two lines – one for people with bags and one for people without. Those who went in the former were carefully searched, including a pat-down. I, on the other hand, walked straight to the ticket taker, who welcomed me in as she scanned my ticket.

Again, there may have been people of whom I was unaware watching me as I came in. But as I sat there in my perch I thought about how easy it would have been for me, had I had any bad intentions toward the former POTUS. I also considered whether or not I and everyone else sitting behind the president, had been thoroughly checked out the moment our credit cards went into the Texas Rangers system. I wonder if this very post might show up as a red flag the next time I buy a Rangers ticket.

Okay, I’m slipping into paranoia now. The stuff of movies. Mainly what I thought of as I looked down at the back of their heads was money. They exuded wealth and comfort. I could smell it from where I sat. These were people who didn’t have to do much for themselves. Somewhere in the bowels of this building was a driver smoking a cigarette outside an unassuming Chevy Suburban, waiting for the 7th or 8th inning, when the Bushes would make their way inconspicuously down the VIP tunnel.

I’m not sure where Crawford, Texas is, but that’s where they drive to their Home on the Range. Maybe they discuss the highlights and lowlights of the game. Maybe they watch the rest of it on satellite television. Maybe they discuss an upcoming speaking engagement, or maybe they sit in silence, watching the scenery rush past.