Friday, December 10, 2010

I Survived Chuck E. Cheese's (Again)

Mention Chuck E. Cheese's and I get apoplectic. The thought of the noise, confusion and the challenge of keeping up with two wildly energetic kids makes me wish for a long vacation on a deserted island.

Don't get me wrong. I like kids. I like fun. I spend a lot of time entertaining kids. And while it seems that going somewhere that features built-in entertainment, food, and a safe, clean environment should be a welcome chance to entertain and relax at the same time, I've found it a quite different experience.

First there's the noise. When it comes to ear-piercing, mind-numbing sound, two hundred kids (a conservative count, I'm sure) can rival Times Square at Midnight on New Year's Eve. After five minutes, I'm looking for my Bose noise-canceling earphones!

Then there's the frustration of all those entertainment attractions that don't work. My eye caught a terrific one - an electric train that sent me back remembering afternoons in my childhood watching my American Flyer circle the track in my bedroom. I put in a token and grabbed the throttle, and... nothing. The train sat lamely on its track. No playing with the train, and no tickets won. We moved on to the next exciting distraction, a horse that went slowly in a little circle. Another 20-cent token and Payton went on the ride, which lasted about two minutes. Oh well, it could have been worse.

Of course Luc figured out how to get tickets to pour out of one of the machines. Soon, he had gathered 600 points, which I thought would make him relatively rich, as things go at Chuck E. Cheese's. Satisfied with that assurance, I decided it was time to go sit down and do what we came for in the first place: wish Cole a happy birthday. So for a few minutes I got to sit down and do something truly Grandpa-like - watch a little boy opening presents. Eating cheap pizza and birthday cake, I enjoyed the incongruity of the moment. Then it was over, all too soon.
Time to go. Kind of. First it was time to get in line and wait an eternity to get the chance to cash in on those abundant tickets we'd won! Forty-five minutes later we actually left, with a handful of really cheap toys that barely survived the ride home. But as we arrived at the house, I walked from the car proudly, strong in the knowledge that I had made it through another of life's more demanding and challenging trials, the experience known as Chuck E. Cheese's.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Photos of Benjy

I stole these pictures from Amie's album in Facebook. There are a few more, but I thought I'd just throw several of them together. It was quite an ordeal for all of us. (I shared my own thoughts on my other blog, Scribito Ergo Sum)

A Bad Year for Birthdays

Maybe it's age, maybe it's stress, but this year has been disappointing for a couple of reasons: first, I never seem to write any posts on this blog. That's a shame, but it's not a particularly devastating problem. The tragedy is that I've been forgetting birthdays. Even when I do remember, it's too late to get a message to anyone in time. So I'm writing this by way of apology to everyone I've missed.
Last year (and in years past) I had the advantage of software that tracked important dates for me. I never missed an important occasion. But then my PC crashed, and with it, my special never-forget-a-birthday program. Month after month, I remember that I've forgotten - something, but I can't recall what it is.
I need a vacation, a simpler life, or another date-tracking program. Until then, I'm at the mercy of my own aging brain. So I guess I should just admit that I need a little, no - a lot of help staying ahead of these things. Either that, or I'll keep writing posts like this one. Not because I like doing it, but because I'll forget that I already wrote about forgetting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Getting in Shape

Fiauna and Mindy are runners. (They might not think so, but their example has been inspiring to me, a not-so-objective onlooker). Their efforts have made me introspective, so much so that I've started my own fitness program. Here I am at the latest marathon, looking sleek and slim. Won't they be proud of me?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Childhood Dreams

Yes, I once aspired to be a great Major League pitcher (that's me on the left, with my brother Craig). I would spend hours throwing a tennis ball against the backyard wall. All I got for it was a sore shoulder, but I had my dreams of fame and glory.
The truth was, I never got anywhere playing baseball. In fact, my poor parents watched for two long little league seasons, waiting for me to hit - or catch - the ball even once. That's right. I struggled for two years trying to get somewhere other than the bench and the deep, deep outer darkness of center field.
One day, the law of probabilities caught up with me in the batter's box. Down to my last strike, I did the usual thing, swinging half-blindly at yet another pitch. Somehow, the bat made contact, sending the ball sharply past the second baseman, into deep center. I stood there, watching like an awe-struck spectator. Suddenly a voice - maybe the coach or maybe my dad, or maybe my own inner voice - told me to do the sensible thing, "RUN!"
Rounding first, I glanced at the outfield but couldn't see where the ball was. The first base coach signalled me to take second, where I arrived standing up. The third base coach held both arms up, indicating that I should stop there, having just safely made my first-ever real-life hit. A DOUBLE, no less!
I stood there proudly for five or six seconds as the dust settled, then I heard the desperate second basemen yelling "Throw the ball! Throw the ball!" He not only sounded desperate, he looked desperate, wildly waving his glove at the center fielder. Another voice, this one definitely originating in my head, seemed to say, "You dummy, run to third!"
Which I did.
As I stepped off second base, I felt the unmistakable touch of the second baseman's leather glove sweeping quickly across my back. As the third base coach glared at me, I could only ask myself, "how did the ball get here so fast, all the way from center field?" Dumb, naive kid that I was, I had trusted a little too much in the second baseman's now questionable sense of honesty and fair play. I had been the unwitting victim of one of baseball's oldest tricks. I soon realized that the ball had arrived at second base only a second after I did, at which point the crafty second baseman deftly hid it in his waving glove.
So much for my baseball career. As it turned out, that was the only time I was ever to run the bases, an opportunity quickly ended by the heads-up instincts of an experienced opponent. So when I see an old picture like this one, I wonder what might have been. Probably not much, as baseball goes, but it was sure fun to dream.