Eclipse 2017: A Wish For My Kids

I was just four years old the last time the moon passed across the sun casting a shadow over such a wide section of the United States. It was wintertime in New England and I remember making one of those homemade shoebox view finders to watch the shadow of eclipse. I remember it being rainy and cloudy too. At least that’s what my memories are. Memories have a way of playing tricks on you.

But I didn’t remember until just recently when I saw the video posted online, the words uttered by ABC news anchor Frank Reynolds when he talked about the next total solar eclipse which would take place in 2017. He said, “May the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace.”

Boy did we mess this one up.

We sit here today looking at one of the most awe inspiring moments in humanity. It is time to take stock of who we are, and who we can become. Truth is, it doesn’t take a rocket scientists to figure out humanity has a long way to go. We made sure to buy the kids eclipse glasses hoping they’ll get at least a peek of the 60% of the sun which will be blocked in the Los Angeles area. It’s better than nothing.

Like Frank Reynolds in 1979, I have a few words for the next total solar eclipse.

May the kids be in a good place in their lives, strong, confident, and on a good path forward.

May we be enjoying what life has given us and not always chasing what we don’t have.

May the nations of the world find a way to come together instead of always finding a way to tear apart.

Too idealistic? Maybe.
Too simplistic? Maybe.

For me the total solar eclipse will be viewed from the back row of a television control room as we bring our news coverage to the viewers. For a couple of hours, partisan bickering, Washington nonsense, divisive rhetoric, and hate, will be set aside so we can all focus on an incredible moment of wonder, a phenomenon you only get to see a couple of times in your lifetime if you’re lucky.

Consider Eclipse 2017 to be a giant cosmic wishing fountain. Go ahead, throw a coin in, make a wish, and let’s hope for the best. When the next total solar eclipse casts a shadow on the United States, may the shadow of the moon fall on a world in peace.

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Lessons Learned From A Family Road Trip

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
And we walked off
To look for America.

Gloria and I long ago married our fortunes together. We had about a buck-fifty between us when we met nearly 25 years ago at Boston University. It seems like a different lifetime. So much has happened. Cross country moves. Job changes. Living. Two children growing up in a blink. It’s all going so fast. For one week, we decided to slow it down. So we packed up the car to go see America.  Just like the Simon and Garfunkel song which has been playing on a loop in my head. We drove. The majestic stone caverns of Zion. The peaks of Grand Teton still dotted with snow on the first of August. The beauty of Old Faithful and the sulphur pools of Yellowstone. We put hundreds of miles on the car on side roads and backstreets through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming… looking for America.

Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces,
She said the man in the gabardine suit
Was a spy. I said, “Be careful,
His bow tie is really a camera.”

On our last big road trip the kids played the license plate game for money. Spot a different state we hadn’t seen and earn a quarter. Find a full house of numbers or letters and earn more. The kids are a couple of years older already and that didn’t have the same attraction. This time around the kids played name that tune with the radio. And we watched episodes of Glee they’ve been binge watching on their iPad at night. We bought a couple of board games Sushi Go and Celestia. Apologies for the one hotel where we moved all the hotel furniture to turn the desk into a game table as the heated Celestia game went for at least an hour. One kid played solitaire. The other clutched her new plush bison we bought. Busy planning the next day. What would we do. Where were we headed… as we looked for America.

And the moon rose over an open field.
“Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
Though I knew she was sleeping.
“I’m empty and aching and
I don’t know why.”

Sitting in front of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. It’s 820 AM and I’m clutching my coffee on a chilly morning while watching the mountains. How many other people have sat right here while the mountains watched back. Morning is my mirror. It’s reflecting time. Time to think. Time to look back. And on this trip so much to think and look back on. I left the room this morning and the wife had snuck into the kids’ bed. How many more times will she be able to do that. How many more road trips will we take as a family. We’re packing up for our next destination this morning. We’ll never have this moment again. THIS moment.

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come
To look for America,

Somewhere on the road it finally just clicked in my head. Thousands of miles in the car, beautiful landscape shots on many people’s bucket list of destinations, it clicked. I wasn’t out here looking for America at all. That was nice. That was memorable. But that wasn’t it. I was out here looking for my family. And they’d been here all along.

All come to look for America,
All come to look for America.

I sat listening to nature, watching the mountains, and finishing my morning coffee, while the wife and kids slept. We hit the road in a couple of hours.

 

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To The Man Who Saluted, When No One Else Did

It’s been nagging at me ever since the 4th of July. We went to the Rose Bowl for one of the largest fireworks shows in the country as we’ve done several years in the past. There’s food, motorcycle stunt, a Beatles tribute band- because what says celebrating our independence from Britain more than a bunch of Beatles singers. We were there with the kids, and our friends, and their friends.

There were thousands of people there. Among them, an older man in suit pants and pressed shirt, and black polished shoes. He was there sitting by himself in the row reserved for people with disabilities. Some people were singing to the Beatles. My kid was playing games with her friend and laughing. Vendors were selling their food and patriotic wares. The older man in the suit pants and polished shoes sat quietly against the railing. Just sitting. He’d caught my eye earlier. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t seem to be there with anyone. He certainly wasn’t watching the motorcycle tricks. He just sat there.

Now if you’ve ever been to the Rose Bowl celebration on the 4th of July, it’s basically a patriotic assault on the senses. Stars and Stripes and beer and hot dogs and motorcycle wheelies and anthems and music and finally fireworks. Lots of fireworks. But while the stadium is still filling up and half the seats are empty there’s something else as well. Each year, the Jumbotron flashes the pictures of local military members who gave their all for our freedom and independence. It’s a blip. It’s a gloss over during the evening of fireworks and music and streamers and bouncy red white and blue super balls being tossed in the air. It happens when everyone is getting nachos and finding the bathroom and looking for their friends while trying to Instagram cool pics. And so it was on this night. As we sat with friends. As my kids laughed with their friends. The names of local soldiers who had died in battle flashed on the Jumbotron while it seemed everyone wasn’t paying attention.

Well, not everyone.

The man in the dress pants and pressed shirt and polished black shoes caught my eye. He stood at the railing now. He stood. Just standing. Then I saw him raise his hand, slowly, slowly, and he brought it to his brow, and saluted. One specific photo popped up on the screen and he saluted. It took me a moment to process what I was seeing. I watched him. My wife must have seen the same thing. About the same time we both asked our kids to quiet down and be respectful while the pictures flashed. People still streamed into the stadium. Vendors still sold their ice cold lemonade and seven dollar waters. The man stood and saluted. We sat quietly. The faces flashed for several minutes. The man with the weathered face sat back down in his folding chair. The night went on. The Beatles band played. He sat there. He just sat for a few minutes. Quiet contemplation I guess. I thought about going up to him. I don’t know why. I wanted to say hello. I wanted to ask WHO he was saluting. I wanted to say thank you. I chickened out. He left before the Beatles band hit the third song. He never returned for the fireworks.

Now I’m left only to think about why he was there, who he was saluting, and how 25,000 of us could have been so selfish. If I had to do it all over again, I’d stand respectfully, honor those served, and thank that man, for standing and saluting when we all were too busy eating our stadium food and posting status updates.

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Honey, Your Husband Is A Centerfold!

I’m a centerfold!  Sort of.  I’m one of the many dads featured in a new book: “Dadly Dads, Parents of the 21st Century”.

It’s a first of its kind coffee table book featuring dads from around the world and it’s a companion book to one on moms coming out later this summer.

The book debuts in June and features a total of 115 dads from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Netherlands, France, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa. The dads also represent a variety of family dynamics.

I’m page 58.  They call me the moon walking dad because of an incident of excessive parental participation at one of the kids’ class parties which has become legendary (in elementary school circles).

In the book, I also talk about the biggest challenges of being a parent, the lessons I’ve learned from OTHER parents, and what I do best as a parent (that section is verrryyyy short).  And I found ways to stick in references to Ferris Bueller and comedian Ray Romano too.

As the authors put it, the book is a chance to prove that fatherhood is alive and well all over the world in many different forms!  We’re working dads.  Stay at home dads.  Straight dads.  Gay dads.  Just dads. No labels needed.

I hope you’ll check out the book or even consider buying it, as well as, the companion book on moms coming soon.

Happy Father’s Day!

Thanks to Hogan Hilling and Austin Dowd for the chance to be part of this project!

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Billy Joel At Dodger Stadium: A Reviewpreciation

Billy Joel was the first big concert I ever went to. He was touring his Storm Front album and Todd Abrams’ mom took Todd and I to the show. She loved Billy Joel. He loved Billy Joel. I loved Billy Joel.  So we headed to Worcester outside of Boston.  The Worcester Centrum seated around 15,000 and it was loud and raucous as Billy hit the piano keys and bounced around the stage. “We Didn’t Start The Fire” was just reaching number ONE on the charts, the same chart dominated today by Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and others. Back then it was Billy.

I’d see Billy Joel a couple of more times over the years. Once was a birthday gift from a friend at Boston University. She got us floor seats. It was pretty awesome. Once was with my future wife when we went to see Billy Joel and Elton John at Foxboro Stadium when they were dueling pianos. Awesome again.

But then Billy and I started to drift apart. He wasn’t recording much new music and didn’t do these huge stadium tours. I was getting married and then raising little kids.  My wife and I just didn’t get out that much anymore. The years went by and Billy took one of the places on the shelf of memories of my youth.  All these years later, I heard Billy was set to play Dodger Stadium, a place he had never played before.  And on a Friday afternoon impulse buy I got tickets for the family.

We both have less hair than the last time around. Heck, it’s been years. Still when Billy Joel hit the stage and sat down at the baby grand it was like time rewound. He was introspective, talking about his growing up, and his years spent in LA. I was introspective too. It all came back.

Billy made his way through a set list of classics and stories, taking in the moment as he talked about this being his first ever show at Dodger stadium. “So this is where the Dodgers ended up?” he asked the crowd.  He said he became a Yankees fan and then a Mets fan when the Dodgers moved and the crowd booed. But not for long. Billy ripped into more songs “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant”, “The Ballad of Billy The Kid”, “The Entertainer”. Billy said he was so full of s*** when he wrote that song and sings it now only to remind himself of what an a**hole he was back then. There were multiple choice concert songs: on this night the crowd picked “The Longest Time” over “An Innocent Man”. The singers warmed up and then the entire stadium did a near acapella doo-wop. I could still hear my mother humming that song as we made our way to Malden to visit my nana Ruth on Sunday mornings.

Being that this is Hollywood, Billy Joel had some surprises for the crowd too. The place went crazy when he introduced his friend Pink for a blistering duet of “New York State of Mind” and when she rocked her own song “Try” with Billy on the piano. Now it was MY kid sitting in the same row rocking out with HER friends. And then it happened. Billy Joel grabbed the guitar and introduced Axl Rose. The two tore the roof off an open air stadium with a breakneck version of “Highway To Hell”. Axl would come on once more for “Big Shot”. And he was. They both were. And the place went crazy again when Billy strapped on the harmonica for “Piano Man” as cell phone lights swayed in the air.

It indeed was a pretty good crowd for a Saturday. Billy and I had come a long way since Todd Abrams’ mom took us to the Worcester Centrum. This was a sitting crowd more than a standing crowd. But not by the encores. We all had mustered up the energy of twenty or thirty years ago. The night wrapped with a series of encores including “Only The Good Die Young” and a final bow from Billy after “You May Be Right.” We left the show as my older kid clutched her new Billy Joel concert shirt. A new fan born.

 

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Her Final Mother’s Day

We knew deep down it would be mom’s last Mother’s Day. After a long battle with a lung disease called Pulmonary Fibrosis which slowly robs your ability to breathe, we knew she was close to the end of her journey in 2006. The plan was for one final Mother’s Day brunch at the nursing home where mom was being cared for. I’d fly back from Los Angeles to surprise my mom for a Mother’s Day brunch in Boston with family and friends. Only one problem.  I am petrified of flying.  I have panic attacks over flying. And I knew it was very stormy weather across the country.v I was set to leave on Friday after work to take the red-eye. I was set to fly alone.  I wanted to back out.  My wife wouldn’t let me.  I wanted to delay the trip.  My wife wouldn’t let me.  I wanted to just crawl under the covers.  My wife wouldn’t let me.  I boarded the flight.

It was one of the bumpiest flights ever. When I landed in Boston it was pouring rain, flooding rain, and it would be that way for the weekend. The city was draped in grey.  I took a cab right to the nursing home.  It was early morning in Boston on Saturday and guests would be arriving for our brunch soon. Mom was thrilled to see me.  She couldn’t believe it.  Guests arrived.  Mom wasn’t well enough to leave her room so we all met in a function room at the nursing home and then a few people at a time went up to enjoy time with mom.  It was a classic deli lunch with some of my mom’s favorites.  So many people came to share this special brunch from family, to old friends, to my sister and I.  It was a long day but a great one. Mom was happy.  I was happy.  I met my sister for Chinese food that night and we had some good conversation about all sorts of things.  We snuck an egg roll back into the nursing home for mom.  It was bed time.  I was exhausted.  I didn’t want to stay with relatives.  I didn’t want to stay in a hotel.  I knew I had an early flight out.  So I stayed in the nursing home chair.  It was just me and my mom.  There were no dramatic conversations or revelations that night.  It was just us.  I’ve often thought about the hours there and what wasn’t said.  But I think mom and I had both made our peace with things long ago.  The night passed with ease.

The next morning it was Mother’s Day.  I was happy I got to give my mom a Mother’s Day wakeup. I got up and got dressed so I could grab my cab for the airport. The plan was to make a return trip to Boston with the entire family in just a few weeks once summer hit.  I kissed mom goodbye and left with an “I’ll see you soon”.   It was still pouring rain.  THIS now became the bumpiest flight ever as we bounced all around and the flight crew stayed strapped in.  I remember tearing up in the back of the plane and just clutching the arm rests waiting for the flight to end. Six hours later we finally landed in LA.  I was so happy to be home.  I was so relieved to be getting off the plane.  I turned on my phone as we taxied and saw that I had missed a call.  I went to call my wife to tell her I landed safely.  Her voice cracked on the other end.  I asked her what was wrong.  She told me.  Mom had died that morning while I made my flight home.  How could that be. I had just seen her. We were just sitting together.  I couldn’t believe it.

A long illness, an expected ending, and still it came like an unexpected sucker punch.

I remember crying on the phone with my wife while people unloaded their luggage in front of me. I remember my seatmate on the plane realizing I must have gotten some terrible news and trying to console me. I remember the wait to get off that plane being the longest of my entire life.

I grabbed my bag and headed home to my wife and little girl Alicia. Gloria and I made plans. We packed our bags. We grabbed Alicia and our things. In just a couple of hours, instead of a Mother’s Day celebration with my wife, we headed back to the airport this time to prepare for my mom’s funeral.  All the while I was so grateful that my wife wouldn’t let me back out of my initial trip, grateful that my sister was there for my mom, grateful I had the chance to give mom a final Mother’s Day kiss.

At some point my wife admitted to me that mom had known the secret for weeks.  Mom KNEW I was coming to that Mother’s Day brunch.  Mom kept the secret and pretended to be surprised when I showed up anyway.

Mom couldn’t wait to see me.

It was her final Mother’s Day.

 

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Our Day In The 16th Century: At The Renaissance Pleasure Faire

On a sunny and hot Saturday afternoon in the middle of southern California we stepped back into the 16th century to the world of ladies and lourdes, wenches and whatever guy wenches are called.

This is the part of the blog where I say that dadmissions was given admission for the family to check out the Renaissance Pleasure Faire and to write about our experience for dadmissions.

I grew up in New England and loved the fall when the Renaissance Faire would come to town. We’ve been to THIS one several times in the past when the kids were little, but this was by far the most immersive and enjoyable experience yet. The kids went right for the crafts.

One made a rag doll.

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One dipped candles.

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There was the dragon braid.

Then there were the rides. Picture what a faire used to look like BEFORE electricity. The hand cranked dragon boat took them high. The man powered giant swing took ’em even higher. Even the tween let out a huge smile and we saluted with a Huzzah!

We ate all sorts of food including my first foray with a scotch egg. It was described to me as an all-in-one sausage and egg McMuffin. And it sort of was. Delicious.

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Then there were the shows-
13 stages in all.

This time yours truly became part of the routine with Broon.. a walk the line slightly not PG humorist (and totally Ok with it) and illusionist who ate fire and entertained everyone with card tricks and humor that went over the heads of those who were too young for it. Broon trusted me to throw him an apple while he was juggling a bowling ball and fire sticks. My kids don’t trust me to brush their hair. I nailed it.

We saw the washing well wenches- wicked good risqué business with a side of black teeth, dirty laundry, and even dirtier thoughts. These ladies tour the country making moves on guys in the crowd. It’s funny and flirty and dangerous. Watch out in the first few rows if you dare not cheer too loud- you will be soaked.

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Leaving the wenches is when disaster almost struck. We realized our rag doll was missing. Somewhere in the 20 acres of renfair activities we lost the doll our little girl had made. We walked towards the exit and spotted a lost and found. One last hope to prevent tears and tragedy. And unbelievably there are good people in the 16th century because someone turned in her little rag doll and crisis was avoided.

We walked out and snapped a few more pics with the fairies and the many people in costume. I went almost the entire day without checking my emails, without thinking about work, just immersing myself in family and this Renaissance getaway.

Maybe that’s why it’s such a good escape. The Renaissance Pleasure Faire isn’t cheap. It’s around $100 for a family of four to get in.  But there are specials.  Think of it as wayyy cheaper than amusement park prices for a day at a park unlike any other you’ve ever seen. My wife and I did the kids version. But there is plenty of beer and wine and reason to get a babysitter to come alone.

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is open Saturdays and Sundays, April 8 through May 21, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. For more info go to: renfair.com

Kid tested. Dadmissions approved.

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