Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Meaning of Youth Hockey

It's hockey season again for the village recreation youth league, which means strapping on pads, tying up those inline skate laces, and giggling about the idea of two twelve-year-old boys wearing athletic supporters.

It means hauling some of the foulest smelling bags of rancid equipment ever created by man or God to and from the outdoor rink in the hopes that no rain falls (or in the case of this year, no snow) to cancel practice.

It means praying someone from the village Parks & Rec office has finally gotten the lights under control so the kids don't end up in blackout conditions before their hour is up.

It means freezing your butt off sitting on ice-cold bleachers and craning your neck to see around all those people who like to stand at the glass completely oblivious to the fact that they themselves are not transparent.

It means hollering when you see the other team getting away with what you think is a clearly visible infraction and cheering when your kids' team gets away with an infraction that you prefer to think of as a high-quality aggressive play, even though in reality you barely understand the rules of the game.

It means yelling at some kid on your sons' team for standing still as a statue while the puck slips away only to realize he's one of your sons.

It means keeping an eye on your dog on those occasions you happen to bring her to the rink to keep her from eating all the loose strips of fat tape and discarded mouth guards she finds under the bleachers.

It means shifting in an instant from casual banter with your friends to screaming like a crazed psychopath when your kid scores, drives down the rink with the puck, makes an amazing pass, blocks an attempt on goal with a swat of his lightening fast reflexes, or robs the other team of a scoring opportunity by smothering the puck with his body.

It means celebrating when your kids' team ties that one team in the league that's stacked with taller, faster kids and led by an aggressive coach who's more interested in winning than teaching sportsmanship.

It means hearing through long-distance phone conversations about how one of your sons scored in the very first game of the season and your other son held the opposing team to a tie with amazing saves through three periods of play.

It means fighting back the tears when you're sitting in a hotel room three-hundred miles from home and your son says "I wish you could have been there, Dad" after their first game of the season.

2014 Mark Feggeler

Friday, March 14, 2014

So Bad It's Good For You

China’s air is so polluted that some people don’t leave their homes for weeks, or months, at a time.

A picture of a sunny day in Beijing looks like the legendary London fog, only the Chinese are dealing with acid-laced death thick enough to chew instead of suspended droplets of harmless water. One makes you wet, the other burns your eyes, restricts your airway, plugs up your lungs and makes you dead.

But this is a good thing, according to Chinese officials. It might be unhealthy pollution caused by a country willing to work its people to death in order to please those of us living in the richest 10% of the world with the fruits of cheaply-produced sweatshop labor, yet it also serves as a safety net against potential enemies and spies.

It’s like a cloaking device, hiding the bustling cities of Beijing and Shanghai from the prying eyes of all the evil non-Communist countries that might otherwise learn the ancient Chinese secret of how to use caustic chemicals to turn recyclable cardboard into faux-meat dumplings to sell to unsuspecting pedestrians from sidewalk food carts. The citizenry of China shouldn’t fear air pollution, they should run outside and embrace it – but only in ten minutes intervals followed by a full body scrub and sinus flush.

And over in France, the smog in Paris is so bad you can’t see the horizon, let alone the intricate details of the Eiffel Tower from only a mile away. Google it right now and whatever picture you’re seeing of the Paris skyline will look like it was taken by someone who smeared flan all over his camera lens. Actually, that’s probably a better use for flan than eating it. Nasty stuff…

And, while the French aren’t quite as enthusiastic about their pollutants as the Chinese are about theirs, they do at the very least have the good sense to blame it not on themselves and their slack environmental laws but, instead, on Mother Nature herself. It seems that uncharacteristically warm days and cold nights are causing the air at ground level to remain dormant, which means Paris has been left eyeballs deep in its own smog rather than watching the city’s pollutants rise into the upper atmosphere and become someone else’s problem.

Here in the United States, we need to do a better job with these kinds of phony-balony PR tactics employed by our European and Asian friends. We too easily feel the weight of responsibility for our environmental abuses. That doesn’t mean we stop abusing the environment. We just feel really bad about it when we’re done. Heck, if we feel really guilty we might even do something symbolic.

Wipe out 95% of the West Coast sequoia forests? 

Launch a campaign to get elementary school kids around the country to plant thousands of mass-produced, sickly pine sapplings.

Poison our lakes and oceans with trash and microscopic bits of degraded plastic? 
Launch a national PR campaign to discourage people from buying bottled water.

Instead of this kind of bleeding-heart, Johnny-come-lately do-goodery, what we really need to do is shift blame to implausible causes while lauding the fictional benefits of the devastation we have created.

Take the recent poisoning of watersheds in West Virginia and North Carolina, for example. Sure, what those companies did was disgracefully awful and preventable, but why not turn those frowns upside down with some positive spin? Maybe they have compromised the natural water resources for thousands of people and destroyed immeasurable quantities and varieties of wildlife, but those poisons might also be targeting the dreaded Asian jumping silver carp.

See? It isn’t so hard once you put a little thought to it.

© 2014 Mark Feggeler

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Vominator

There's no way to ease in to this topic, so I'm going to leap in with both feet -- VOMIT!

Actually, leaping in with both feet is more than just the cliched use of a literary device, it's a literal fact. In order to deal with the Italian's vomit situation early Sunday morning, I truly had to walk through approximately twenty square feet of vomit-covered hardwoods and carpeting. And why? Because the Italian was in the living room and needed a clean shirt and a blanket from his bedroom. When your kid is sick and shivering, you walk through vomit to help him.

I was in bed when it started, having finally fallen asleep around midnight. The Italian woke me up at one-thirty by poking me in the back.

"Dad?" Poke, poke. "Dad?" Poke, poke, poke. "Dad, I threw up."

It doesn't matter how soundly asleep you are, those words wake you up in a hurry. For starters, your son is sick and needs to be cared for. Secondly, somewhere in the house is a mess that needs to be cleaned, and the sooner the better.

We've enjoyed our share of award-winning vomits during our parenting years. There was the time the German puked up Cheetos all over the back of the driver's seat in the van. There was the time Our Daughter projectile-vomited goldfish crackers four feet across the room, smack into the middle of her Mother's chest and deep into the piles of a shag carpet. There was the time Our Daughter, having finally had the chance to try RavioliOs after years of resistance from My Lovely Wife and I, permanently stained the carpet around her bed. The Italian's Sunday morning vomit easily qualifies for nomination in several categories.

Let's begin with coverage. I walked over to the kids' bathroom to survey the damage only to find myself caught in that fragile mental state between uncontrollable weeping and giddy laughter. There are days when the horizon doesn't stretch out as far ahead of me as that field of vomit did on Sunday morning.

God bless him, the boy tried to make it to the bathroom once he realized what was coming. He jumped out of bed and ran to the door, but never got it open before Vesuvius erupted. It hit the carpet with such force that the door and nearby wall were splattered more than a foot high. Knowing there was more to come, he pulled open the door, stepped into the small hallway, and let loose with another ricochet trick shot on the hardwood floor. It took me fifteen minutes just to make a safe path -- not clean, mind you -- to his bedroom closet.

For more than three hours, I wiped up the hardwoods, wiped down the walls and baseboards, depukified the doors, and scrubbed the carpet. Amazingly, the only other person awake in the house was the Italian, and only because he threw up five or six more times, albeit under controlled conditions. Even the German remained unconscious, despite the fact I was scrubbing for over an hour just feet from his bed. After the sun came up and all eyes were open, we broke out the carpet cleaner and attempted a proper deep clean.

The end result is yet another permanent stain, although perhaps not as noticeable as some others. Years from now, if we try selling the house, I might have to come up with a new name for the carpet color. How about "Nutty Brown," or "Dark Chocolate?"

Would you believe they have a carpet color called "Outback Rib Sauce and Chunky Mashed Potatoe?"

© 2014 Mark Feggeler