Reader’s Notebook + Friday Playlist

A slightly different format this week. All because I took the girls to the library yesterday, as I always try to do on the first day of a school break. I want them loaded up with books and videos for even just a long weekend so that there’s no complaining about not having anything to do and being bored. I checked for some books on my list and saw that [Runnin’ With the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen] was available, so I grabbed it. I began reading it at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I took a break for dinner and some work around the house then sat back down and didn’t stop until I had finished the book at about 12:45.

Obviously this was an entertaining book!

It’s written by Noel Monk, the tour manager of the band’s first tour in 1977, when the headlining act was Journey, who were touring with Steve Perry for the first time. After that tour, Van Halen asked Monk to take over as their band manager, a role he filled until he was dismissed in 1985.

This fits the classic “rock ’n’ roll tell all” format. He details all the craziness of being on tour, from the girls and drugs to beating the crap out of t-shirt bootleggers; the whirlwind ride the band was on from ’77-84, when the pretty much toured-recorded-toured-recorded endlessly; how the band handled fame and how their success caused rifts within the band early on; how they dealt with the first disappointing selling album of their career (Fair Warning) by paying radio stations across the country to play it; and then a deep dive in the last 18 months of the David Lee Roth era, when the band reached its highest level of commercial success but was literally falling apart because of insane drug usage and a huge rift between DLR and Edward.

Why write this book now? Good question! Turns out when Monk was fired, he sued the band. Part of their settlement was a long blackout period in which he couldn’t write, talk, or film anything about his relationship with the band. Apparently that prohibition lasted for roughly 30 years.

Knowing that, you have to take most of what he writes with a huge grain of salt. Is he still bitter and trying to make them look bad? Other than Michael Anthony, everyone in the band comes off looking pretty shitty, although Eddie less so than Alex and DLR.(fn) He shares some pretty staggeringly bad stories about the band. But, come on, they were a rock band in the 1970s and 80s. Even if he stretches the truth a bit, or tweaks facts to make the guys look bad, I’m pretty sure his story isn’t that far from the truth. I doubt the band has too much room to argue, regardless of what really happened back then.

If you’ve ever been a fan of Van Halen, or just enjoy insider books about bands, this is a must read. Just be warned, you might not move for roughly eight hours until you’ve completed it.

With that in mind, today’s playlist consists of some of my favorite DLR era Van Halen songs.

“Runnin’ With the Devil” – One of the all-time great side one, track ones on a debut album. Musical memory can be funny, but I’ve always sworn that I remembered hearing this song around the neighborhood we lived in when it first came out. I was only 7, so I surely wasn’t listening to Van Halen. But there were teenagers around, including high school sisters that often watched me after school. So it’s not unreasonable to think I heard this often back in 1978.

“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” – Lotta’ commas in that title. Some folks have suggested that Van Halen was a mid-point between heavy metal and punk. I’ve always thought that was a stretch; they certainly had metal roots, but were too firmly rooted in the mainstream to be punk. You hear some of the menace of the punk world in this song, though.

“Dance the Night Away” – DLR asserts his preferences here, on a song that was made for the Top 40, but still rocked.

“Everybody Wants Some!” – Great song, made greater by its use in [Better Off Dead].

“(Oh) Pretty Woman” – I remind you all every summer how I love Diver Down. For a band that released a lot of covers early in their career, this is the finest. A roaring beast of a song that sounds nothing like what Roy Orbison had written nearly 30 years earlier.

“Panama” – The greatest Van Halen song ever. No arguments allowed. Everything they ever tried to do is perfected in this song. Cars, girls, big drums, caterwauling vocals. Well, there was one notable exception: there’s no massive EVH guitar solo to anchor the song down. They get away with that, though, because his romping riff that kicks off the song, and carries all the way through, is as big and recognizable as any of his legendary solos.

“Hot For Teacher” – 1984 is pretty clearly their best album, although I really can’t stand Jump. Where “Panama” was their best song, this one was not too far behind. It added that DLR sense of humor and shtick. Even 30+ years later, DLR yelling, “OH MY GOD!” at the song’s close makes me laugh. Pretty solid video, too, especially if you were 13 when it was released.

Reader’s Notebook, 10/19/17

The Outlaw Album – Daniel Woodrell
It had been awhile since I read a Woodrell book, so I glanced at the library’s offerings and grabbed this. I didn’t know it was a short story collection and may have skipped it had I known. In fact, calling it a short story collection might be giving it too much credit. It feels more like Woodrell unloading his notebook of half-fleshed out ideas and packaging them for the benefit of his publisher. There are a couple decent nuggets in here, but many of the pieces feel more like writing exercises that full-blown ideas.

Night Heron – Adam Brookes
I follow a few politics and national security folks on Twitter who, occasionally, like to throw out ideas for good spy novels. I had never heard of Brookes before but his name recently came up in one of those conversations as an author who really gets the tradecraft side of the genre right. Throw in that this is the first in a trilogy, and it went right onto my To Read list.

Night Heron begins with a prisoner, called Peanut because of his physical shape, at a labor camp in remote western China breaking free and returning to Beijing. He slowly works his way back into society as we learn about his past life: he worked in the missile technology section of the Chinese military but was imprisoned after attacking a soldier during the 1989 student protests. He has another secret as well: he and several of his colleagues had passed top secret information on to the British. His contact in the 1980s was a British agent who posed as a journalist, so he seeks out a British journalist to reopen his connection with London.

That journalist is Philip Mangan, a free lancer who has spent years in China and occasionally run afoul of the government for his coverage of religious and ethnic minorities they persecute. Mangan has no experience with espionage and blanches when first contacted by Peanut. When he mentions this contact to a friend at the British embassy, alarms go off all over the British intelligence service and Mangan is quickly forced to serve as chief contact with Peanut.

Like many spy novels, there is a good deal of setup and placing of pieces before the final 150 or so pages bring everything together and roar by at a quick pace. Things get rather dark over those pages and Mangan and Peanut feel the hands of the Chinese security service slowly closing around them. There are a couple rather unlikely escapes, but given the genre they seem appropriate.

Brookes was a journalist in China for much of his career, so he writes of the country and its government from a place of familiarity. And given how well the spy stuff flows, you wonder what his personal history is beyond just chasing stories for newspapers and TV. I’m very interested to see where he takes me in the next two books in the series.

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows – Richard Cahan and Michael Williams
I don’t usually write about the photography books I flip through. But this one is special. I imagine some of you have heard the story of Vivian Maier. She served as a nanny and caretaker in the Chicago area for nearly 50 years, almost always carrying a camera with her. She was constantly taking pictures, but never shared them with anyone. In 2007, after she failed to pay her rent on a storage facility where many of her photos were stored, they went up for auction. They were split among several buyers who purchased them having no idea what they were getting. It turned out Maier was one of the most interesting photographers of her age, capturing the details of life in the American suburbs and city from the late 1950s through the 1990s.

Following her death in 2009, when more of her photos were discovered, it became apparent how important a find her work was. Showings were arranged at some of the most important galleries in the US. To date five books of her work have been published. Most famously, the documentary Finding Vivian Maier was released in 2013.

Her story is fascinating not just because of her work, but also because she was such a reclusive and mysterious woman. As she never published her work during her life, there are no deep, contemporary biographies of her. The people that purchased her photos have had to dig through public records to learn of her childhood in New York and France, talk to the families she worked for over the years (including, briefly, Phil Donahue), and seek hints in the captions she only occasionally wrote on the pictures she had printed. The portrait we have of her is of a lonely, hard woman with an eye for the areas in which modern society lets down its citizens. She had a passion for the underprivileged. She generally worked for rather well-to-do families, and would often take the children she cared for into poor, run down sections of Chicago to both take pictures and show those kids that there were people with very different lives a short bus ride away from their homes.

While much of Maier’s story is sad – especially her final years – I find a lot of inspiration in her story. There was the way she lived her life, with no apologies to anyone for her behavior, appearance, or beliefs. There was her empathy for others, something I believe is sorely lacking these days. And there is the impact she has had on so many others. It doesn’t matter that she died nearly penniless and didn’t enjoy any of the critical approval of her work. Her photos make people stop and think. They show how even if the results don’t come until well after you have passed, you can still have a profound emotional effect on people if you do something that you love.

Weekend Notes

A quick (and late) rundown on our weekend. Which had a little cray-cray in it.

Saturday was a freaking perfect day. Low 80s, breezy. One of those mid-October days that you wish you could hang onto for the next five months. So of course we spent it blowing leaves at the lake house and then hauling the boat out for the winter.

There was a wrinkle to our winter boat plans this year. The place where our boat was originally purchased, and where we’ve stored it the four winters we’ve had it, went out of business at the end of the summer. We used it not just because it was where the boat came from and because they were an authorized dealer for our brand, but because it was about the easiest major boat place to get to. Once we got it off the rickety, country roads near the lake, it was a straight shot up a county highway. Only two lanes until you hit the city, top speed limit 55. As long as I kept it straight, I was good. And things got much easier two years ago when we upped the size of our vehicle that pulled it.

But now I would have to get on the interstate for at least part of the jaunt to the boat place. I don’t know why, but hauling a trailer and a 3000 pound boat at 65–70 miles per hour stressed me out way more than driving those curving, hilly roads that have nowhere to bail out if you get into trouble. I guess it was because I don’t really know much about trailers and was concerned maybe something was wrong with either our trailer itself, or how we hook it up, that would present itself at 65 on a four-lane interstate but not at 35 on a rural, two-land road.

Everything turned out just fine. Those 10–12 minutes on I–465 were a little white-knuckley, but we made it to the shop without losing the trailer or boat or causing any accidents. She’ll sit there for six months before we get to make the trip back south for the summer of ’18.

BTW, it was in the mid–30s down near the lake this morning, so we got it out right in time.

Sunday was supposed to be L’s last soccer game of the year. The weather turned cold, blustery, and rainy that day, though, so we rescheduled it for tonight.

Our wackiness kicked in Sunday night. Or Monday morning, rather. I heard something kind of bang around that was loud enough to wake me up. Moments later I heard a car door slam and pull away. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was just after 2:00.

We have a Nest camera at our front door, but at night I silence the notifications so I don’t get woken by every moth that flies by. Or spider that builds a web right on the lens, which happened a couple weeks ago.[1] I picked up my phone and there were two new notifications from the camera. I swiped, watched the clips, and ran downstairs. The video showed a couple kids running up to our front door, grabbing some of our Halloween stake lights and the pumpkin L had carved the night before, and then running back to a car parked in front of the house. The banging around I heard was because the dumbass who was harvesting our lights didn’t unplug them from the extension they were on, and a large, plastic pumpkin “chased” him until the cords finally decoupled.

When I got downstairs, they were already gone. I looked around and made sure there was no damage or graffiti or other nonsense, and all appeared fine. I watched the video again. One kid had a hoodie on, but the other kid’s face was partially visible. Unfortunately the headlights from their vehicle kept me from being able to identify the make/model.

I tried to go back to bed but I was a little wound up. It was close to 4:00 before I was out again.

After I got the kids to school I checked with my neighbor, who also has a Nest cam, to see if his video showed anything. On his we could see a couple more kids walking around, that they were driving a Jeep, and that there appeared to be other pumpkins thrown in the back.[2] But the taillights blinded the night vision camera and we couldn’t grab a license number.

Since there was no damage and we were only out about $10, I didn’t file a police report. I just let our HOA know and then sent the videos over to the police in case there were other reports of theft/vandalism at the same general time.

Now what the hell were teenagers doing out at 2-something AM on a Monday morning? Because it was freaking fall break in the district we live in.

I loathe fall break. I think it’s a useless interruption in the academic calendar for schools that remain on the traditional August-May school year. Why the hell do we need two days (or more) off this time of year? It’s not like spring break, when we’ve been suffering through 2–5 months of brutal weather. And it totally screws up youth sports, as different schools being on different break schedules means you go through a three-week period where at least one kid is going to be gone.

You’d think with our kids going to Catholic schools things would be regulated, but they’re not. A few schools in the Archdiocese had their break two weeks ago. Ours is this Thursday and Friday. So while we’re not in any CYO sports right now, plenty of our friends have had to deal with reschedulings because St. Whoever is on break and none of their girls can play basketball on a given weekend.


I have two ideas to fix fall break:

1) As most schools give 2–3 days for fall break, let’s move those to November and give everyone the entire week of Thanksgiving off. That’s when kids need a break, and every year it seems like more families duck out a day or two early anyway.

2) Or even better, GET RID OF THE FUCKING BREAK. It’s useless. Take those added days to bump the beginning of the school year back. Our girls have been starting on a Wednesday or Thursday for several years. Push that back to the following Monday and we have one more weekend of true summer.

I think I’ve found a new cause…

  1. No shit, I had 60 notifications the next morning. In each one you could see the spider slowly moving back-and-forth across the face of the camera and its slowly building web.  ↩
  2. My first thought was that these were all going to be placed in one person’s yard, likely a friend or rival from school. Not that I did anything like that with election signs back in the fall of 1988.  ↩

Good Information To Have

Men are idiots.

I say that with shame as a man, and with fear as a father.

I’m honestly not sure why people are shocked and surprised about the Harvey Weinstein news. We should be disgusted and horrified, but surprised? Hell naw. His years of sexual harassment and abuse of women going public is kind of like Louisville getting hammered for paying high school basketball players: you damn well know this isn’t some isolated case. CEOs, regional directors, and store managers have been using sex as a weapon against the women who work for them as long as women have been in the workforce.[1]

Fortunately for all the guys out there who can’t seem to understand that women who work for and with them are not their personal sex toys, Anne Victoria Clark put together this informative primer on how to deal with women in business and social situations.

The Rock Test: A Hack for Men Who Don’t Want To Be Accused of Sexual Harassment

It shouldn’t be that difficult, fellas.

  1. Some, not all, I should make clear.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Dark On Us” – Lucas Oswald. A Shearwater member’s solo effort. Not too shabby.

“Offa My Hands” – Jessica Lea Mayfield. Mayfield’s new album, Sorry Is Gone, is focused on an abusive relationship she recently escaped. She left the relationship with a broken shoulder following a physical encounter. Heavy stuff. And while the lyrics of this song are heavy as well, I do enjoy the little bit of whimsy she sings them with and the confident sway of the music behind her. 

“Back In Your Head” – Tegan and Sara, Ryan Adams. The sister duo of Tegan and Sara chose to honor the 10th anniversary of their breakthrough album, The Con, by having some of their favorite artists join them to cover the entire disk. So of course Ryan Adams is involved. This is a fine update of the original, which was bouncy and light. Now it is loud and crunchy, fitting perfectly into what Adams has been doing over his last few albums.

“Man On The Moon” – R.E.M. It took me a long, long time to get into R.E.M. At first I was too young for them. Then too pop. Then too R&B/hip hop. But by 1992 my tastes had drifted their way. Automatic For The People was the first R.E.M. album I ever bought shortly after it came out. We just hit the 25th anniversary of its release, so I’ve been skimming some retrospectives for it over the past few days. And I spun the disk last night. It’s such a beautiful, sad, and perfect album. I could have picked any song to include here, but I’ve always been amazed at how they wrote such a compelling song about Andy Kaufman. 

“Brilliant Disguise” – Bruce Springsteen. Why not one more album anniversary this week? Tunnel of Love came out 30 years ago Tuesday. Wow! I’ve long expressed my love for that album, so no need to reiterate it again. I loved this piece I read over the week on the album. And I couldn’t agree more with the author’s comments about “Brilliant Disguise.” Every single word is stunning and perfect. And this is a highly underrated video. Gorgeous cinematography and an amazing, live vocal track. I still remember seeing it for the first time with a group of people and someone saying, “He just looks so sad,” during the extreme closeup at the end. 

Big Night

Some night Tuesday night.

L was attending her first ever Pacers game – a preseason game against a team from Israel – with a buddy from school. Their family gets tickets from a family friend, so several times a year they get to sit on the floor, right next to the basket on the visitor’s end of the court. She was super excited.

So that she was attired properly, I ran out to find her a Pacers shirt. Now I know it was only October 10, we’re in the midst of football season, and the Pacers are kind of a hot mess right now. But I was only able to find one kid-sized shirt in nearly two hours of searching. Basketball capital of America my… Clearly the basketball gods were mocking me, because that shirt was a Victor Oladipo shirsey. You know, the IU alum and general good guy who was the centerpiece of the return for Paul George, but is dramatically overpaid for what he does and drew my ire when the trade went down last July. I presented it to her after school and her reaction was, “Ola-what?!?!” I helped her to pronounce it properly, explained who she was, and she seemed cool with it.

I would have been cooler with a Myles Turner shirsey, but whatevs, it’s not my shirt.

She popped up on TV just seconds into the broadcast. As the teams were walking to mid-court to do the international ball exchange of gifts, we saw her head between two players, tilted up to look at the scoreboard above. We could also tell she and her friend had been playing before the left for the game because her hair was all jacked up. Par for the course with that kid.

All night they were right on the edge of the camera view when the ball was on their end of the court. They were a little hard to see because the two floor cameramen for TV were right in front of them. Three times the ball rolled to them and they got to flip it back to the ref. We also saw the Pacers mascot, Boomer, messing with them a few times. He gave them a sign to hold up, but it was pointed to the crowd rather than the screen. And he gave them the big cat paw gloves he wears and we saw them waving them to the fans around them. They got some pics with Boomer and made the scoreboard screen dancing before the night was over. They were also just feet from Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Kevin Pritchard. I thought about texting the dad to send Lia over to Pritchard to give him some shit about losing the Paul George trade, but figured that wouldn’t work well for anyone.

She got home pretty late, but was so wound up it took her nearly two hours to relax and get to sleep. She had a great time and wants to go back. Hope she’s not disappointed when we are not sitting in the front row next time.

While watching the Pacers game, I was also following the final night of World Cup qualifying on Twitter and the ESPN app. As most of you know, it turned out to be an utter shitshow of a night. The US men’s national team went down 2–0 to lowly Trinidad & Tobago in the first half. But, because both Honduras and Panama were also losing, the US was still in the World Cup at that point. When Christian Pulisic pulled one back early in the second half, it looked like the US would find a way to salvage a tie and move through by the narrowest of margins. But they continued the theme of this qualifying campaign, and sleep walked through the next 40-plus minutes and fell 2–1.

Meanwhile Honduras tied Mexico, then put a ball off the crossbar that ricocheted off the Mexican goalkeeper’s back into the goal to take the lead. And Panama got a very controversial winning goal. The soccer gods were saying, “Yeah, you don’t belong in the World Cup,” to the US.

First time the US won’t play in the World Cup since 1986.

It was both a disaster and a completely deserved fate for this team. Whether the fault of the players, the two coaches who have guided them through this 18-month process, or the folks who run US Soccer, this team looked terrible throughout the qualifying games. They played with disinterest, got pummeled far too often, and never found the spark they needed to beat teams they should have beaten. They didn’t deserve to go to Russia. I guess this saves them the embarrassment of being the worst team in the tournament as they were in France ’98.

Not only do they miss the next World Cup, but if they somehow get their shit together and qualify for the 2022 World Cup, that one will be played in the fall, when most of the US is focused on football and the baseball playoffs. The USMNT is going to have a very hard time moving the needle in the US again until 2026. Along the way they may waste the prime of Pulisic, the first “Savior of American Soccer” who appears deserving of that title.

Oh well. I root for the USMNT because I’m an American, and I hope someday they can consistently go deep into international tournaments. But I’m generally rooting for Italy in the World Cup, and whatever other teams are joys to watch in that particular year. Or against the countries I don’t like. The US not being in Russia doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch the World Cup.

Getting the Shot

The photo of Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair in game six of the 1975 World Series is iconic. I had no idea there was such a deep story behind it and the man who captured those frames. Harry Cabluck not only caught Fisk dancing down the first base line. He also shot Franco Harris’ Immaculate Reception in 1972. And he was just behind John F. Kennedy’s car in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Quite a life.

Here is a rundown of both Cabluck’s career and what went into catching Fisk deep into that Boston night.

The Legendary Baseball Photo That Almost Didn’t Come Out Because The Stadium Was Shaking Too Hard

Winding Down the Seasons

The last big, kid sports weekend of the fall is in our rearview mirror.

C ran at the City championships on Saturday. That’s where she ran the best race of her life a year ago to finish 6th in the 3rd/4th grade race. This year it was much warmer and very windy, so not ideal running conditions. But coming off the 5th/6th grade girls winning the biggest meet of the regular season three weeks ago, we were hoping they could add a City title.

The course is great for runners in that it’s very flat. It’s great for spectators because you can see the runners several times as they wind back-and-forth if you’re willing to move around. We caught them near the 1K mark and our girls were doing great. The sixth grader who has won every race this year was well out in front. Our two other fast sixth graders were together in the low teens. And C and her fifth grade buddy were in the high teens. We yelled at C that she was doing great then cut back across the field to catch her again.

When they came through this time, our leader was still way out in front, but one of her classmates had fallen back. And C and moved up. She was 11th with just under half the race to go. More yelling of encouragement then over to the finishing stretch.

Our sixth grader cruised to another win, finishing her perfect season. A reminder that she never ran competitively before this year. She’s incredible. Our next sixth grader came over the rise at #9. Then the waiting and counting. C appeared in the 14th spot, but she looked like she was struggling. We yelled and then I ran with her, yelling from the side, for the last 200 yards. “COME ON, C! KEEP GOING, C! YOU’VE GOT IT, C! STRIDE OUT, BABE!” A girl passed her with about 100 yards left and another was closing. I ran faster and yelled louder, but she was clearly on fumes. That girl caught her right at the line, putting her in 16th place.

She didn’t set a PR – she was 11 seconds slower than her City time from a year ago – but it was still her fastest race of the year by nearly 30 seconds.

She was the third St. P’s finisher.

She was the fifth fifth grader to finish.

She beat 112 other girls.

A pretty good day for her!

We had three more races to wait through before we got official results. During that 90-minute stretch all the St. P’s parents were walking around asking where everyone finished, and seeing if anyone was counting for other schools. Our top four, who score for the team competition, were all in the top 19. We just weren’t sure if anyone else squeezed in four runners in front of them.

Turns out a school we hadn’t run against all year had four in the top 15, which was good enough to edge our girls by five points for the team title. That girl that nosed out C? Yep, she was on the winning team. Fortunately those points were not the difference, as that would have only cut it to a three point difference.

Still a great day for our girls. They got another trophy and got recognized at school this morning. Football has another month left, but so far that group of girls are the only St. P’s athletes to add any trophies to the school lobby. And each time C has been one of the girls earning points for her team.

For the year C placed in every race she ran, had one top–10 finish, and twice was the #3 finisher from St. P’s. Not bad for being in the younger half of the age group.

L had two soccer games this weekend. We missed Saturday’s game while we were at the XC meet. She scored three goals in a 12–0 win. Sunday she scored three more in a 13–1 win. She’s so humble. When she scored her third goal yesterday, she turned and looked at me and said, “That’s a hat trick!” She has 13 goals on the year with one game to play. As good of a weekend as that was for L, our best player scored nine on Saturday and six on Sunday.

Since I was at Sunday’s game I can claim a very proud coaching moment. We have a kid that is huge; he looks more like a sixth or seventh grader. He’s both tall and wide, so he’s not the most mobile or graceful kid in the world. He really struggles to control the ball. We’ve been working with him all year to not worry about taking the perfect shot. If the ball’s on your foot, hit it. What we don’t tell him is that everyone is afraid of him and they’re going to get out of the way when he winds up. He scored a goal a couple weeks back, but remained reluctant to shoot. Partially because he hits the ball so hard that it often sails well over the crossbar.

This week we put him up front and told him to stay there. Don’t chase on defense and waste your energy. Sit up front and when the ball goes forward, get into the box. He scored our first goal on an absolutely beautiful kick. He took his time, got the ball lined up, and ripped it past the goalie from outside the box. It was 1–0 for a long time before L put us up 2–0. Then the big kid scored two quick goals to break the game open. When we subbed him out we were high fiving him and telling him how awesome he was playing. I high fived our head coach and jokingly told him he had tapped into the potential coaches had been trying to get out that kid for the past two years.

On the other hand, we have a couple kids who have no idea what’s going on. Worse, one of them whines all the time, tries to score on our goalie, or gets stuck way out of position. Yesterday we had him playing defense. At first he was drifting forward and we told him to get back in his position. He gave us his usual response, a whiny “WHY?” She he shuffles his feet back to position, head down, pouting. We yell at him to watch the game and he finally picks his head up to see the ball slowly rolling toward him.

Does he run up and kick it forward, like he’s supposed to? No.

Does he trip and fall and let the other team get a clean shot on goal? No.

Does he settle the ball then turn and shoot it on his own goal, as he’s done multiple times this year? No.

Nope, instead he kneels down, puts his hands out, and waits to pick the ball up as if he’s the goalie.

The best thing about this play was the the ball was rolling very slowly, no one from the other team was chasing it, and he was on the opposite end of the field of us. It was like it was all happening in slow motion. The head coach and I were screaming at him not to touch the ball. But, sure enough, he picks the ball up and hugs it close. Free kick for the other team.

The referee told him what he did wrong and he put his head down, stood in the middle of the penalty box, and pouted while the game continued. He’s lucky his head and assistant coaches are pretty laid back dudes. We just looked at each other and muttered, “What the hell is he doing?”[1]

Later in the game this kid asked to play goalie. When we said no his response was, “But I’m one of the best defenders on the team!” Before you say, “Well he did make a good goalie play there,” I’ll let you know the two times we’ve put him in goal this season he’s literally run away from the ball when he had a chance to pick it up. One time he made an amazing save as he fled. He had his back to the ball, was running away, and the ball pinned between his legs. He tripped and fell, but he saved the shot!

We have a group of about four knucklehead boys on the team, that kid included. They never pay attention, at practice they’re always pushing each other, kicking each other’s balls across the field when we’re trying to do drills, etc. I spend about 35% of practice yelling at them to shut up and listen to what the head coach is trying to teach them. Last week I got sick of telling them the same thing over-and-over and told them the next time someone kicked a ball when they weren’t supposed to, they were going to have to run laps.

Mr. Best Defender on the Team raised his hand and said, “What’s a lap? I want to run one! Coach, what’s a lap?”

I just walked away. Later I told the head coach and he muttered, “Make him fucking run it if he wants to run one.”

Youth sports!

  1. Also fun is apparently S yelled the same thing from where she was sitting, not knowing the kid’s mom was right in front of her. I think the mom is kind of used to it, though, and may have said the same thing.  ↩

Friday Playlist: Petty

So I kind of missed out on Tom Petty.

I always loved “Refugee,” “You Got Lucky,” and his epic duet with Stevie Nicks, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” But when he really hit his stride, both artistically and commercially, in the mid/late 80s, I was off listening to other stuff. Hip hop and R&B. When I got to college I shifted to alt rock. All genres that stood in stark contrast to what Petty was doing. Even then, his songs were so big you couldn’t miss them – “Free Fallin’” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream” are two notable examples – and I enjoyed them. But I just never counted myself as a huge fan.

That began to change a few years back. First, I realized that “American Girl” was written and recorded in 1976, which fucking blew me away. Released in the magical music year of 1977, there wasn’t anything else that sounded like that song. It was at least five years ahead of its time.

WTTS, the radio station down in Bloomington that is our lake soundtrack, plays tons of Petty in their regular rotation.[1] Two summers ago I heard one of the secondary tracks from Damn the Torpedoes, either “Here Comes My Girl” or “Even The Losers,” and made a mental note to listen to that whole album when I had a chance. God damn that album is a beast. The first six songs are all classics, an entire career for 90% of artists. I was mad at myself for not getting beyond the album’s two biggest hits for nearly 30 years.

Then there was the modern music I’ve been drawn to in recent years that has been influenced by Petty. Ryan Adams’ last three albums have a ton of Petty in them. The War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel has been likened to The Heartbreakers Mike Campbell in his guitar playing style and prowess.

For a few months I’ve been thinking, “Man, I should really dive into Petty’s music some day.” I’ve finally been doing that the past couple days, sadly because of his passing rather than me finally pushing aside other music and devoting some time to his work.

Here’s what strikes me most about his music. It’s timeless. Those 1970s songs sounded ahead of their time. His most recent music doesn’t sound all that different. His songs never sounded of a specific era; they just sounded right. His genius was finding some sweet spot between Top 40 and rock, 60s jangle pop and Southern Rock, Florida and California, that sounds perfect no matter what kind of music you normally like. He wrote these amazingly simply pop songs full of hooks and riffs that got stuck inside your head forever. His lyrics lend themselves to multiple interpretations, sometimes optimistic, sometimes pessimistic, depending on your mood.

Some music will be played on the radio forever because they were massive hits and wove themselves into our cultural fabric. Tom Petty’s music will be played forever – big hits and small – because it is just so perfect. I’ve focused on his bigger songs and albums the past few days. But when a song I’ve never heard before, a deep cut off a lesser known album pops up, it sounds just as great as the hits.

One more thing: no one I know who has ever gone to a Tom Petty concert has ever complained after. I know folks who saw him this summer, or even over the past 10 years, and while my first thought was “You paid how much to see a guy who hasn’t had a huge hit in 20 years?” their first comment is always, “Man it was a great show!” There’s something to be said for touring deep into life not just to make money, but to also put on a hell of a show.

Petty’s death didn’t hit me as hard as Chris Cornell’s, or certainly Prince’s. I was never a big enough fan to be unsettled by his passing. But this week has driven home the point that he was one of the finest artists of his generation. His legacy is a catalog of songs that will be delighting listeners until we stop listening to music. Here are a few of my favorites.

“American Girl” – So far ahead of its time it didn’t become a hit for years after its release. What a perfect pop song.
“Refugee” – As I said, I could include any of the first six songs from Damn the Torpedoes. But the first track remains the best. Like many of his best songs, there’s just a hint of disgust in Petty’s delivery.
“Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – Written by Petty and Campbell for the Heartbreakers, producer Jimmy Iovine convinced them to share it with Stevie Nicks. It was an incredible way to begin her solo career. Again we hear disdain in Petty’s delivery.
“Runnin’ Down a Dream” – One of the greatest road trip songs ever. That acoustic guitar in the chorus will never get out of your head. And the solo at the end may be the best of Campbell’s career.
“You Wreck Me” – Another song I’ve fallen in love thanks to WTTS. It was just this summer that I heard it at just the right time of day and I thought, “Damn, that’s a great freaking song.”

“You Got Lucky” – I’m kind of proud of myself for always liking this song. A lot of folks weren’t so sure about it when it was released back in 1982. The lack of guitar and reliance on synths didn’t please many people. But I was just 11 and enjoyed its very 80s sound. And while some found the video cheesy, I thought it was cool as hell. And another great kiss-off line from Petty, “You got lucky, babe, when I found you.”

  1. I’m guessing he’s second only to Mellencamp in terms of breadth of songs by one artist they spin.  ↩


Our contractor put the last touches on our guest bathroom renovation project last night. After eight weeks, we finally kicked the girls down the hall and have a bathroom to ourselves. Two toothbrushes! A clear countertop! No piles of ponytail holders scattered all over the place! Now if we can just keep them from ruining the new bathroom…

We had hoped to be done several weeks back. But we had a big snafu with one custom-ordered piece that set us back three weeks. And our contractor just has one plumber, one drywall guy, etc. and each of them added in a few extra days as they worked our project into their schedules.

But the good news is we’re done, right on budget, and it looks fantastic.

Bigger for me is that now fall can finally begin. I’ve had to hang around the house during this whole process to let folks in, hand out checks, approve materials,[1] etc. It’s been tough to get into a routine while I stick around and wait for a plumber to show up, not knowing if he’ll be here at 11 on Monday morning, or 4 on Tuesday afternoon.

I’m looking forward to finally getting out with the camera again, something I’ve not been able to do much since the school year began.

I actually started running again a couple weeks back, as I realized all my time on the bike and elliptical might be saving my joints from pounding, but were also killing my hips in the process. I’m sticking to the cross country course nearby, but no issues so far.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but today is cool and rainy, the first day we’ve had like this all season. The forecast shows a few more warmer-than-normal days, but then beginning to feel a lot more fall-like next week. Part of me is still in mid-August, but I think I’m going to get pulled into fall pretty quick.

We’ve not been down to the lake since Labor Day weekend, which has been a damn shame given how many hot weekends we’ve had since then. But we’re headed down in a week to grab the boat and haul it back for the winter. Always a bittersweet day. Especially when we’ve only used it twice in the past two months!

  1. Who am I kidding? I would text S and she would make the approvals.  ↩