The Great American Ballpark Tour – Any Man’s Dream

It all started four weeks ago as I watched it pour rain here in Connecticut and track the storms on the radar. I had a Friday night without the kids and desperately wanted to go to Yankee Stadium to see my Tigers take on the Yankees. It’s a trek down to the city, especially Friday rush hour. But some great tickets came through and I realized that I was on the brink of man greatness – four ballparks in four weeks! When I told some of my married friends they claimed that married men across America were building statues of me.   2:30 rolled around that Friday and I looked at my friend, Jason, at work and told him “you have 10 minutes to decide whether or not you want to go to Yankee Stadium with me or not”. He jumped at the opportunity and off we went on week… Read More…

If You Meet Your Father On The Road…(Hanky Alert)

There is an old Buddhist proverb that goes something like this: if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. If you meet your father on the road, kill him.  I’m sure I got that wrong.  It’s been a long time since my “Eastern Religions” course in college.  The first part of the proverb reads like some vague comment a prophet might have screamed on a street corner, but that second part…kill my father?  I think I know what it means, or at least it has meaning for me which may in no way relate to its intended meaning, but as it turns out, I didn’t kill my Dad. Cancer did. My sister reminded me on Facebook that yesterday, 8/25, was my father’s birthday, but it’s not a day I’ve had cause to celebrate since that date in 1992. I don’t recall the celebration that year. Either it was… Read More…

“Go! Go Fast! Hide Them!” – My Father’s Guns

About eight months ago, my granddaughter, Mara, was quite interested in family history and asked for more details. I said I would write but just couldn’t seem to do it. Fast forward to two weeks ago and I go to a poetry reading–mostly new writers, talking about their lives, easy to understand and with no rhyming. At the reception, I ask how they do it. “It just comes,” they say.  Hard for me to imagine. Then one woman suggests I make it like I’m writing a letter to someone. I think of my granddaughter. The next morning I wake up thinking in poetry phrases about my father’s guns.  Later in the day it all came out, fully-formed. ******************* My father had three guns. Cold, hard revolvers all. Passed from his grandfather, a policeman. They were always around, teamed with ammunition. We brothers learned to shoot them all. It was no big deal,… Read More…

The 5-Cent Anti-Parent

I’d ruined years of my wife’s child-rearing–for only a nickle.  My two-year old son and I  were heading into the local K-Mart.  I can’t even remember what I was buying, probably something for my beat-up boat, but I’d brought Aidan along.  We were heading in to the store’s entrance when he saw the merry-go-round, one of those three-seaters. I put him on the donkey and congratulated myself on my parenting skills.  Aidan rocked back and forth, having a wonderful time.  I smiled at the joy that was about to happen.  I put the nickel in the box,; he lurched forward with the music and grabbed those painted ears tight.  His eyes widened, then a large grin came over his face as he rode the 4.5 laps around the little circle.  When it abruptly stopped he tried doing what we all do with a broken car or a stalled fairground pony; he rocked back and… Read More…

The Ring Around the Rosie: Nursery Rhymes & Nightmares

    Have you ever wondered why every child under the age of 10 is a sociopath? OK, age 20. Psychologists talk about the years kids spend consumed with themselves, the years spent acknowledging only their own needs. I’ve developed a theory about this after about two hours of moderate research. Here it is: consider what we’re putting in our kid’s heads? When we force them to turn off the television to protect them from stories like Sandy Hook, Zimmerman, and from crazy people like Adam Lanza and Antonin Scalia, what are we using to replace these disturbing images? Here are a couple examples from my own experience.  Like every other kid ever, I frequently heard the singsong rhyme, “Jack and Jill.”  When Jack fell down and broke his crown, my brother told me, “You know, that means Jack died.”  What?  I couldn’t sleep that night.  Years later, driving home with… Read More…

Year 6: Outlasting the 100 Year Old Tree

I was out working in the yard today and looked at the massive maple tree that sits in my front yard that must be 100 years old. The poor fella..it’s rotting and falling apart. And since the Main Street in front of me is a state highway, I’m at the mercy of waiting for the State of CT to come cut it down. Later in the day, a massive branch fell and nearly hit someone walking. I sent my swat team of boys out to clean up the mess. But that damn tree…I wasn’t supposed to see it die and rot. I was supposed to be out here in Connecticut 3 years and then back to Detroit. That was the plan. That was 2007. As we all know life often throws curve balls at us. Fast and furious sometimes. On June 29, 2009 I had a huge curveball thrown at… Read More…

No Surprises: Raising a Son with Asperger’s–and Training His Dad

A trip to Disney Land–what could be a better gift for your small child? Certainly Parent-of-the-Year awards were likely–if not for originality at least the East German judge would most likely hold up a “7.8” for enthusiasm. My wife and I had been giggling to ourselves for over a month as we prepared for the look on our four year-old’s face when we pulled into the parking lot. We knew he’d see Mickey Mouse on some billboard and it would be magic time. Wrong. Again. Aidan didn’t see a mouse; he smelled a rat. As my wife unpacked the video camera during a supposed routine morning drive while in Los Angeles visiting friends, he looked suspiciously at her. It was third day of our visit to the coast and both kids were pretty numb after going in and out of seat belts in various cars, airplanes and strollers. We watch… Read More…

The Four Ignored Elephants of Quality in the Classroom & Teacher Retention

I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh and his hallucinogenic-trip, envisioning heffalumps and woozles, the other day… My priest was giving me an update on contract talks with his elementary teachers. “I tell them, ‘You only work 3/4 of the day and 3/4 of the year, why should you expect full-pay anyway?’” I wanted to say “Yeah, Padre, and you only work three hours on Sundays and get free clothing, room and board.” But then I’d have to escort him to the confessional right afterwards for absolution of the sin of sarcasm. *** I gave up my calling last summer and quit public school teaching after 25 years. That was never my plan; I was going to go 40 years. It wasn’t “kids today,” parental apathy or even standardized testing. Frankly, we were going broke. After my state and city imposed four years of pay-cuts–including a 9% six-month retroactive cut… Read More…

Kid-with-Fish Picture: Leon, Jerry and a Free Ticket

There’s something very romantic and nostalgic about a kid holding a fish–especially if it’s a first-catch. There’s that mix of pride, fear and joy that is far different than you find with most any other kid-meets-creature encounter.  Far different than the parent holding a camera shouting: “Nope.  Go back to where you just ran over that worm with your bike.  Get down on your hands and knees and smile!” It’s nothing like stepping on a spider or worm-steamrolling–both instances are necessary for sanity or unavoidable just after a rainy day…or one of my more vivid bits of cruelty as a child–Ray-of-Death with a magnifying glass and a pedestrian ant. And I’ve been that parent.  When we’re on the dock and accidentally actually catch something, it’s a big deal!  “Go get mom,” I would holler to the other kid.  “Have her bring her camera or phone or something!”  And there we… Read More…

Never Seeing No one Nice Again.

 I was a kid in man clothes. I was out at an expensive restaurant with a girlfriend and her parents. The night was long, the conversation dull, and I felt like a frat pledge at a debutante’s ball. When we were done, just while I walked out the door, I took off my coat, balled in in my fists and hurled it into the grass…in front of my girlfriend and her parents. (I did say “kid in man clothes.”)  Her parents, in no uncertain (and not particularly polite) terms, explained to me that my maturity level was not impressing them. They were right. I was a child throwing a tantrum. Kids need to be told when they’re acting badly, and this was no way to spend my 42nd birthday. If I were famous, if I were absurdly rich, my acting up would surprise no one. The difference, though, would be… Read More…

Father’s Day Legacy: Jim’s Love of “Now”

I was doing some vital, long-forgotten yard-work in 1995 when my neighbor Beth yelled across the street, “Happy Father’s Day!” It took me a minute to realize she was talking to me.  Aidan was already a day or two over-due, so officially the greeting was premature.  But I smiled and realized that she was right.  I was in the club.  And someday, if I did things right, my kids would dread that holiday, as much as I did.  Jim Walsh was impossible to buy for and it didn’t help that his birthday fell on June 28th, so we needed to double our futile efforts as soon as school got out. I have taxing memories of Saturday odysseys through the sporting goods and office-supply aisles of  K-Mart trying to find something, anything, for my dad.  And when I  was wrapping up the golf-score clicker, the “World’s Greatest Dad” trophy,  the back-scratcher,… Read More…

“The Meanest Mom on the Block” – Misdiagnosis of a Four Year-Old

You wouldn’t know she would win the award to look at her–the picture of innocence at 22 years.  She even took pains to perpetuate the illusion, showering me with exotic presents like wooden mallets and fancy ribbons, my favorite chocolate cake, even my cousins Pat, Sharon and Susie standing by as witnesses on my second birthday. I can see it so clearly now; I was already on my way out–like the crooked candle on the right.  Somewhere out of frame, lurked my upgrade–the 1966 Katie. And in two years it would be official; the election results would be in. Ann Walsh, by unanimous decision, would be voted the “Meanest Mom on the Block.”  Apparently, when she was informed of the official tally she was reduced to tears.  My misdiagnosis of my mother’s parenting style came back to haunt me in a tattered album that I’d pretty much ignored most of… Read More…

“Want to help me hide the eggs?” Farewell to the Easter Bunny…and Childhood

Please excuse this rerun from 2013, in honor of Easter today… It was already a big night.  I was able to stay up a little later than my three younger sisters.  I was a cocky 8 year-old sitting on the vinyl couch in the lower floor of our tri-level watching “The Ten Commandments.”  Of all the scenes, I’m not sure why Edward G. Robinson’s unlikely casting stays with me even to this day, but it was this scene… The door-wall slid open, and my dad’s face appeared, “Want to help me hide the eggs?” It took a moment for the shift away from my childhood to sink in as I looked back to Edward G. as I considered my father’s words. “What eggs?” “The Easter eggs.” “Oh.” Then I must have given the cartoon double-take as my wide-eyed expression made my dad laugh. “You’re the Easter bunny?” He laughed and… Read More…

Ann and Jim’s Wedding

My parents were married at Precious Blood parish in Detroit on June 22, 1963. For years, on their anniversary, we’d haul out the 8mm projector and watch the film, hoping that the burning bulb wouldn’t choose that moment to set the precious footage in flame. We’d gather in the dining room and were unable to stop the film due to the dangerous bulb. Instead, we’d crouch near the screen and point out blurry faces quickly–many of them passed. With the advent of video I was thrilled to move the footage to VHS, then to DVD and finally to YouTube. The fear of the bulb was gone and now you can just hit “pause” or even use a screen-shot to make a quick photo like below. I have no memory of this day and wasn’t due to be baptised for another 18 months, but I feel that I was there–even if… Read More…