Month: October 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Playlist

“Brand New Lover” – Dead or Alive. Perhaps you heard that DoA lead singer Pete Burns died this week. Here’s a reminder that the band had more than the one good song you probably think of first at the mention of their name.
“Dead Alive” – The Shins. Purely coincidental, but The Shins released a new song this week that name-checks Dead or Alive.
“Wanna” – BRONCHO. This doesn’t sound like a band from Norman, OK should sound, does it? I’ve heard their music before, but I discovered this song, which is a deep cut from their current Double Vanity album, when Frightened Rabbit dropped it into their Current Music Nuggets Spotify playlist. Once again FR leads me down a path of fine music.
“Tougher Than The Rest” – Bruce Springsteen. When the weather gets chilly and dreary in October and November, I enjoy spinning Springsteen’s starker albums like Nebraska and Tunnel of Love. This is one of my favorites from Tunnel, which bumps right up against cheesy thanks to its heavy synths and Bruce’s faux-country warble. But great lyrics and his honest delivery make it a classic. On an album full of songs about a marriage that is dissolving, this seems to be a declaration to a new lover that our narrator has learned from his past failures and is prepared to commit to her for the long haul. I’m sure it made Julianne Phillips all warm and fuzzy when she first heard it.

“In A Big Country” – Big Country. I’ve heard this song three times over the past week on the radio (both terrestrial and satellite). Which means I’ve then gotten home and listened to it another half dozen times. I’ve said this many times before, but despite all the baggage that comes with this being labelled a one-hit-wonder from the early ‘80s, it’s a freaking brilliant tune, especially that second verse. Play it loud five times in a row!

Top 5s

If you follow Joe Posnaski on either Twitter or his personal blog, you no doubt saw his recent piece that was based on Xavier basketball coach Chris Mack’s list of favorite Bruce Springsteen songs.

A Bruce Top Five

There is so much for me to love here. A) It’s Poz, so it’s almost automatically great. B) It’s about music lists, something I’m also a little obsessive about. C) I enjoy the thought process Poz went through from first being floored by Mack’s list, to coming to an understanding of how we all come to different conclusions about music, to the natural end: sharing his own list of favorite Springsteen songs.

Well, I loved it so much that it sent me down a predictable path. So here are some top five lists of my own.

First, my five favorite songs by my current favorite band, Frightened Rabbit. This list is probably the hardest for me because FR is still putting out new, great music. And I’ve been deep, deep into their catalog over the past couple months.
1) “The Modern Leper” I first heard this song the morning of June 20, 2008. It kind of changed my life. It’s probably their most popular song, and with good reason. It sums up pretty much everything the band is about. And this was track one on their first proper album. Talk about setting the bar high!
2) “FootShooter” I do struggle with whether this song is better than “Leper,” though. It’s not as bombastic or cathartic as many of their songs. But it’s pretty close to perfect. And, as I’ve always thought, it’s where Coldplay could have taken their music if they hadn’t decided to become the next U2.[1]
3) “Head Rolls Off” I was listening to this a lot in the weeks before L was born. The line about making “tiny changes to earth” resonated with me a lot then.
4) “Holy” The holy/holes angle has been explored many times in pop music. FR does it wonderfully here.
5) “Keep Yourself Warm” Many of FR’s songs border on the obscene and crass. But Scott Hutchison is so good at writing deeply personal lyrics and then delivering them in a manner that keeps them honest rather than cheesy. This song, about the perils of hoping a one-night-stand will erase your romantic woes, is a perfect example. The closing, instrumental segment, which sounds like the realization that all his problems are still there the morning after, is just brilliant.

Now, my favorite band of my generation, Pearl Jam. They still put out the occasional album, and sometimes there is a good song or two on them. But, as much as I love them, the old songs will never be matched.
1) “Corduroy” PJ almost always had lofty goals behind their music. The songs don’t always measure up to those ideals. Here, though, is everything great about the band.
2) “Release” I think even people that don’t like PJ like this song.
3) “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter In A Small Town” And this one, too.
4) “Leash” The best song where PJ brought together their hard, classic rock roots and their punk scene championing of “the youth.”
5) “Hail, Hail” They’ve done some pretty good songs in the second half of their career, but this might be the last truly great song they ever did.

Finally, my favorite band of all time, The Clash. I have a different relationship with the Clash than I do with Pearl Jam or Frightened Rabbit. Their final studio album, Combat Rock, was the only one that I heard in its time. Most of the rest of my experience with their music came much later. So my memories and feelings about their songs are almost always separated from the era in which they were released.
1) “Clampdown” Everything the Clash stood for perfectly distilled into one song.[2]
2) “London Calling” The Clash really have three songs that I think everyone knows, whether they like the band or not. This is the best of that group.
3) “Complete Control” When the record company pisses you off and gives you a chance to complain about “artistic freedom,” take that chance and run with it.
4) “Safe European Home” The Clash was obsessed with Jamaica and the West Indian music scene. They were in for a rather rude awakening when they first visited the island. The Only Band That Matters wasn’t afraid to make fun of themselves and their naivety.
5) “Capital Radio One” A song that is more and more relevant as terrestrial radio is increasingly run by a few companies that have homogenized playlists across the country.

Oh, what the hell. Since this all started with Springsteen, I should probably share my favorite songs by the Boss. I have a rather spotty grasp of his music. I’ve probably only listened, in full, to five of his albums. I know the other big songs from the early part of his career. But the rest is a mystery. That said, hopefully this list wouldn’t annoy Posnanski.
1) “Born To Run” This song is everything that Springsteen… Sorry. Greatest American rock song ever?
2) “Brilliant Disguise” Man, do I love Tunnel of Love. You can draw a straight line from this ultra-confessional song to Frightened Rabbit.
3) “Thunder Road” This HAS to be on any list of greatest side one, track ones ever.
4)”My City of Ruins” Written about a decaying hometown, it took on new meaning when released a year after 9/11. On an album full of powerful songs about that day and its aftermath, this song, and it’s “Come on, rise up!” coda was the perfect final track.
5) “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” I’m 45 now, and I feel everything about me changing. This is the perfect song for the middle-aged man.

  1. And suck.  ↩
  2. Hmm, I sense a theme.  ↩

Curse Breaking Season

Welp, here we go. In about a week, either the Chicago Cubs or the Cleveland Indians will be World Series champions. A week after that, Donald Trump could be the president-elect of the United States of America. Y’all know I’m not a religious man, but if you believe in signs, I think those could be the first two of the three that signal the world is coming to an end! Hopefully since #2 is looking increasingly unlikely, the World Series will stand on its own rather than a portent of doom.

I’m struggling with the plot lines for this Series. I have, over the years, generally dislikes both franchises. I’ve also, somewhat grudgingly, come to admire each team and have enjoyed their runs to this point.

Cleveland didn’t really matter to me when I was a kid. They were always terrible and played in the American League East. When they moved to the AL Central in 1995, the Royals were becoming awful and the Indians were kicking off their era of awesomeness. To the extent that I watched baseball in those first few years after the stoppage of 1994, I rooted against Cleveland. I’m not sure why. I ended up liking a lot of guys on those late–90s teams. Over the years, the Indians just became another team the Royals would have to get past if they were ever to be good again. I had no strong feelings about them, but hoped they would always be one game behind the Royals in the standings.

My dislike of the Cubs had clearer roots. As I’ve said before, when I first became baseball-crazy in the late 1970s, the only daily baseball on our TVs in southeast Missouri were the Cubs and Braves. Both teams were perennial losers. So I rooted for whoever they were playing when I watched games on WGN and WTBS.[1] Years later, when I got to college, it seemed like half of my dorm floor was from Chicago. Add in the year I lived in the Bay Area in high school, and when the Cubs played the Giants in the 1989 NLCS, I became a big Cubs hater.[2] Over the following years, I hated the Cubs for their fans’ lovable losers mentality, the franchise acting poor when they were rich, and because of their endless terrible off-season decisions. Here was a franchise that had every reason to be as consistently good as the Yankees and Red Sox, but could never get out of their own way. And many of their fans seemed to celebrate that fact.

But Cleveland hired Terry Francona a few years back, and the Cubs brought in Theo Epstein, who hired Joe Madden. That changed my thinking a little.

Francona is awesome. If I had to pick a current manager to run my favorite team, he would be one of the three or four I would try to get. He does a great job balancing traditional baseball thinking with newer ideas. He seems like a guy I would love to play for. He’s good with the media. He’s not afraid to take risks in games, but also makes smart decisions rather than rash ones. And his teams generally win.

I thoroughly buy into the Epstein mythology. And Madden is one of the other managers on my short list of best in the game. I still can’t get over how calm Madden was Saturday night, as the Cubs were on the verge of clinching their first pennant in 753 years. There was a close-up shot of him taking a drink of a beverage after the Cubs recorded the first out in the ninth inning. His hands were as steady as could be. My hands get jittery keeping score at youth kickball games. I think I might pass out if I was in his situation!

It’s hard to root against teams that are run by people you admire.

And this Cubs team…man do they have some talented and fun guys on their roster. I would have been just fine with the Dodgers winning the NLCS, but as the series progressed, I found myself wanting the Cubs to win more-and-more.

Dogs and cats living together, I guess.

As for the whole “haven’t won in X years” narrative, after what the Royals went through the past two years, I buy into that more than I used to. I know how much fun those Royals runs were for me and so many of my friends. I can’t begrudge anyone from another fanbase that is unloading demons the way we did in 2014 and 2015. I won’t differentiate between how much suffering Cubs fans have experienced versus Indians fans. I just know when this series is over, there are going to be a lot of very happy people supporting the winners. And that’s pretty cool.

Down to the series itself.

This feels like a relatively easy Cubs win at first glance. Cleveland is all beat up. I still don’t understand how they got by Toronto in just five games. Oh, that’s right, they did what you have to do in modern, postseason baseball: get generally excellent starting pitching, then run out relievers who never, ever allow their opponents any breathing room. You don’t have to have the best starting pitchers in the game. You just need your top three/four starters to all be locked in at that moment.[3] The whole key to the series to me is if the Indians’ starters can keep getting the game to the 5th or 6th inning with a lead so they can turn loose Andrew Miller and his pals in the pen. They must do that to have a shot. If they can’t, the Cubs are going to close this thing out quick.

Then again, the Cubs offense has been a little sputtery lately. Even on the nights they scored runs, there have been notable holes in their lineup. They can’t afford to keep doing that against Cleveland, because being down 3–1 in the 5th could mean game over.

The Cubs seem like a team of destiny because of how Epstein has slowly built this team toward this result. They’ve drafted and developed well. They’ve spent money smartly. They’ve put one of the best managers in the game in charge of things. This is just the next step in the process.

The Indians seem like a team of destiny because they keep overcoming obstacles. They lose most of their starting rotation? They plug in guys, stretch out their bullpen, and keep winning. They lose one of their best hitters? Other guys step up and fill in for his loss. They run into the Big Papi Retirement Tour? They sweep the Red Sox. They have to face a red-hot Toronto team smarting from coming close last year? They shut them down and win in five. This team won’t give a damn about momentum or history or anything else that the Cubs bring to the series.

Still, Cubs in 6.

  1. I later came to realize that, living in St. Louis Cardinals country, an adult probably told me I should hate the Cubs. I have no memory of that happening, but odds are high it did.  ↩
  2. I may or may not have run through the halls yelling “CUBS LOSE!” in my best Harry Caray voice after the Giants cliched.  ↩
  3. See Kansas City Royals, 2014, 2015.  ↩

Fall Break Wrap

It was a pretty laid back fall break for us. As I said last week, we had no travels on the agenda and hoped for good weather so we could do some fun stuff locally.

Things started off as well as I could ask: we had been home five minutes on Wednesday when I got a call from the mom of one of M’s friends, asking if she wanted to come over and spend the night. Ten minutes later I was dropping M off and we were down a kid. L had playdates both Thursday and Friday, and C had a friend over to spend the night Friday. Those four get togethers really made the first half of the weekend fly. We also squeezed in flu shots Thursday, which is the highlight of any good fall break!

Saturday we went down to the zoo for the first time since early July. We timed it to beat the afternoon rush, when the Zoo Boo event started. That was smart thinking. We had no trouble parking or walking around when we arrived. By the time we left, the parking lot was almost completely full and there were parts of the park that were hard to move around in because of all the people. We tried the new gondola ride for the first time, which the girls really enjoyed. I imagine it’s more awesome on warmer days when the orangutans are crawling on their walkways that are also 50 feet above the ground. They had no interest in coming out on a cool, fall day.

Sunday was L’s final soccer game of the year. She had been struggling with a bad cough for several days and did not play with her usual energy. I had just made a comment about her kind of dragging ass when she got the ball on the right wing, dribbled through a couple defenders, and sent a shot toward the goal from outside the box. She curled it around the defense and snuck it between the goalie and the far post for her ninth goal of the season. After the game she was crying, not because she was sad the season was over, but because she felt so bad.

Her team ended up going 2–5–1. Her nine goals led the team. The second leading scorer was the smallest boy on the team, so power to the little kids I guess. She still loves soccer, and did great for being one of the smallest kids in her first year in U10. She’ll play in the spring for sure, but next fall she’s already talking about wanting to run cross country and play kickball for St. P’s, so we’ll see if she takes a season off from soccer.

The only other highlight of our fall break was we spent some time planning our next trip, which will come in early 2017. But more about that later.

This is a weird week for us, too. Wednesday is teacher conference day. In the past St. P’s did two half days with conferences in the afternoon. This year the school takes Wednesday off and that entire day/evening is devoted to conferences. So school today and tomorrow, Wednesday off, then back on Thursday and Friday. That’s not going to throw anyone off.

Friday Playlist

We’re fall breaking it this weekend. No trips or super exciting and unique plans on the agenda. Just flu shots, playdates, sleepovers, and general chilling. Here are some songs that I’ve been listening to this week, and thus they feel fall break-y to me.

“Queens” – La Sera. La Sera put out an album earlier this year that got fine reviews, but which I did not like that much. Then they released an EP of extra tracks a couple weeks back, and I dug it the most. I love the little guitar runs in the back half of this track. And something about it makes me think of Juice Newton. Obviously the title recalls “Queen of Hearts.” But I think, at least on this track, Katy Goodman’s voice sounds a little like Juice’s.
“Ridiculous Thoughts” – The Cranberries. When the weather turns dark and dreary this time of year, I always spin the Cranberries’ No Need To Argue album a couple times. It’s the perfect mid-fall album, and this song fits the mood of the season to a T.
“Devil Inside” – INXS. Kick, INXS’ biggest album, was released 29 years ago this week. Jesus!
“Riding On Your Love” – J Churcher. A little lo-fi, a little chillwave, a little bedroom pop folded together to make this gorgeous, fall-ish song.

“Torture” – The Jacksons. I heard this song on SiriusXM’s 80s on 8 earlier this week and Nina Blackwood offered up a wonderful tidbit about its creation. Jackie Jackson wrote the song, and it was originally intended to be sung by him along with Michael. But, late in the process, Jermaine decided he was going to appear on the Victory album and he replaced Jackie on vocals.

I loved that and thought of how that went down in the studio.

Scene: recording studio, Los Angeles, CA, 1984. The Jacksons are gathered, preparing to lay down some tracks, buoyed by the presence of Jermaine, who just announced he would be joining his brothers on their upcoming album.

Jackie Jackson, out of breath, excited: Guys! I think I got it! I found our hit!
Tito: Sweet!
Randy: Let’s listen to it!
Marlon: Hey guys, I’m just happy to be here.
Michael and Jermaine sit quietly in separate corners. Jackie plays the rough version of “Torture.” His brothers, excepting Jermaine, all nod along with various levels of interest. Jermaine stares into the distance, face impenetrable.
Randy: Oh man, Jackie! That’s got top 10 written all over it! Let’s start recording it now!
Jackie: Thanks! Michael, I thought you and I could sing it together.
Michael, with a sad smile on his face, just nods, then looks Jermaine’s way.
Jermaine: Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen, Jackie. Michael and I will take this one. Nice job, though.
Jackie, confused: Why, Jermaine, why? After all I’ve done, all the work I’ve put in, why do you take this song away from me? You haven’t been here for any of our work. At least Michael shows up once a month or so and acts like he wants to be part of this group. Why are you being so unfair?
Jermaine waves his hand dismissively: Jackie, let me ask you a question: how many top 10 songs do you have to your name? What? None? That’s what I thought. Yeah, this one is Michael and me.

And scene…

I always thought this was a pretty good song. The video, in which neither Jermaine and Michael appeared, is thoroughly, mid–80s appropriate, ridiculousness, though.

Tuesday Notes

A few assorted tidbits for Tuesday.

Here’s the thing about Indian Summer: you never fully appreciate it. Sure, you can talk in wonder about it being in the mid–80s in the back-half of October. You can take a long lunch, leave work early, or just take the day off to get outside. But as good as these days feel, we are also craving those cool, autumn breezes. It looks like the weather here is going to shift dramatically in the next 36 hours. I’ll miss these warm, muggy, breezy days.

Sunday afternoon was kind of crappy around here. It rained pretty hard for about 90 minutes, which just happened to coincide with the time of L’s soccer game. I think the kids mostly enjoyed running around in the rain and mud. I was a little surprised there wasn’t more sliding around. L played probably her best game of the season, scoring two goals, and just missing three other chances. I think it helped being little, as the bigger kids were having more trouble cutting on the wet grass. Four times she brought the ball up the sideline, cut hard back into the penalty box, and then fired away. One went in. Another hit the post, the goalie, and then bounced away. And two others the goalie knocked away.

We took advantage of yesterday’s delightful weather by heading down to the lake after we dropped the girls off at school in the morning. S and I did some yard work, met with some contractors to talk about some winter projects, and then pulled the boat out of the water for the year. Our contractors showed up a little late, and our conversation took the better part of an hour, so I missed the chance to haul ass one, last time. I did get to take a quick spin as S was getting the trailer into the water at the marina. I think the boat knew this was her last chance to show off, because she jumped up and went fast quickly. Or maybe it was just having one person inside and not towing anything behind that made her go so fast. Regardless, I enjoyed the five minutes of racing around the dam-end of the lake while waiting for the trailer to be ready.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather that the Royals were playing in this year’s MLB playoffs. But I have really enjoyed this year’s games so far. I think it helps having no strong feelings about any series, other than wanting Toronto to lose.[1] It’s way less stressful to watch the games that have been close deep into the contest when I can be reading an article on Instapaper, or scrolling through Twitter as I watch. And I’m free to go to bed at 11:15 even if the game isn’t over yet.

That said, I’ve missed a couple excellent finishes by calling it a night before the final out has been recorded.

  1. Such a shame that team is on the verge of losing to a team from the AL Central for the second-straight October.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Shadrach” – Beastie Boys. None of this week’s new releases really piqued my interest, so after dropping the girls at school this morning I threw on Paul’s Boutique and have been reliving the first month of my freshman year of college. At least musically. I haven’t been skipping classes and puking in trashcans.
“Positron” – Palace Winter. Another very fine track – this one recorded live – from PW.
“Tiny Fires” – Kevin Morby. I’ve been digging this song – which sounds very fall-like – for a couple weeks and finally spun Morby’s most recent full-length album Wednesday. Turns out he is originally from Kansas City, which will pretty much always earn you a spot on a Friday playlist.
“Map On A Wall” – Lucy Dacus. I find myself digging the moody, atmospheric, semi-indie/semi-folk, female singer-songwriter a lot these days.[1] Dacus’ current album is fantastic, and this is another track that fits the season quite well.

“Halloweenhead” – Ryan Adams. I’m always interested in the between-shows music at concert. Who selects the tunes that get played between the opening act and the headliner? Is it the band with top billing? Or is it just a playlist that the venue throws on? When we saw the Revivalists last month, this was the first track after the openers left the stage, which brought appreciative nods from lots of folks in the crowd. While not really about the holiday at the end of the month, it still seems like a no-brainer for October. Also, we’re damn close to new DRA music. Supposedly his new album is set to be released Nov. 4.

  1. Angel Olsen, Lydia Loveless, Nadia Reid, Julia Jacklin, and Haley Bonar most notably these days.  ↩

Good Journalism Moment of the Day

I went through a stretch a few weeks back where I was watching a lot of Veep, the HBO comedy where Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Vice President Selina Meyer.[1] And this week I finally cracked the seal on our DVR’s collection of The Good Place, the new Michael Schur comedy starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson.

That combination means I can finally share this piece from a few weeks back in which Steven Hyden posits that Louis-Dreyfus and Danson are the two finest comedy actors of the modern age. Then he breaks it down. It’s pretty excellent and I can’t believe no one has done it before.

Louis-Dreyfus is an absolute treasure. She’s come a long way from those forgettable SNL days.[2] And Danson has put together an incredibly solid post-Cheers run. As I said last winter, of all the amazing elements of season two of Fargo, he may have been the best. He was totally, recognizably Danson while adding incredible layers that were new. Seriously, watch the clip Hyden embeds.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus And Ted Danson Are The Two Best TV Actors Of The Modern Era

  1. I’m still just on season two. And haven’t watched an episode in two weeks. Also, I was balancing Veep with re-watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Two shows that make me laugh out loud but which my wife totally does not get.  ↩
  2. Not ashamed to admit I’ve had a crush on her for nearly 25 years now.  ↩

Finishing Fast

Before I jump into the true topic of this post, a quick realization I just had. Lately many of the family stories I’ve been sharing in detail here have already been posted to Facebook in much more simplified form. Since the bulk of my regular readers are friends on Facebook, that means you’ve often had a sneak preview of the story about X or Y before I get around to putting a few hundred words about it up here. The rest of story, you might say.

Which instantly made me think of sitting in my grandfather’s or uncle’s pickup truck in a field or pasture in central Kansas while they ate their lunch and listened to Paul Harvey. If you listened to Paul Harvey at all as a kid, you remember one thing. “And now you know….the rest of the story…” Although I’m uncomfortable comparing myself to Paul Harvey for a number of reasons, saying that I’m sharing the rest of the story here did make me laugh a little.

Anyway, Saturday was the last cross country meet of the year, the big CYO city championship. She had a streak of four top 20s in four races going into Saturday’s race. I was a little concerned because she didn’t run last weekend since we were out-of-town and she had been fighting a nasty chest cold all week. I wasn’t sure she would be in top form for the biggest meet of the year. And, honestly, I was worried that with every one of the best teams competing, she might get knocked out of the top 20 for the first time this year.

Fortunately my worries were silly. She did just fine.

She’s never a great starter, but she broke out strong this week. We were probably 100 yards down from the start and she was in fourth place when the crush of 3rd/4th graders roared by us. We had friends scattered around the course who were texting us updates from different spots. She fell back a little, but we kept hearing that she was still in the top 10. She passed us right beyond the 2K mark and she was 8th, but looked to be struggling a little. The finish was directly behind us and we took off to claim a good spot before they came in.

We were probably 50 yards down from the finish. The winner, who is the youngest in a family that just dominates each of their age groups, came in right around 12:20. The second-place girl was another 20 seconds behind her. Then another 20 seconds before the third place girl. A few seconds later we saw a group of girls come over the rise together. First we saw the St. P’s 3rd grader who has just kicked ass all year, and is usually about 30 seconds ahead of C. Then, as the group resolved into individuals, there was C right behind her! I might have become psycho cross country dad as C passed us, shouting out encouragement as loudly as I could. There were three girls right on her ass, and again she appeared to me to be faltering a little.

I leaned out over the rail and watched them race toward the finish. It was a helpless feeling. I couldn’t encourage her, give her a boost of speed or strength, or do anything to keep the pack of three behind her from getting by. It was all on her. I kept waiting for one of her trailers to make a move, but they couldn’t do it. C held them off. She finished sixth! She was two seconds behind her schoolmate and two seconds in front of that group that tried to chase her down.

As soon as I saw her cross the finish line, I took off toward the holding pen. I heard S yell from behind me, “THIRTEEN TEN?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!” I stopped and looked back at her and said, “WHAT?!?!” I was so focused on the racing, I never looked at her time. I glanced back at the official clock, which by now was up to 13:30. She had just obliterated her personal best time by nearly 90 seconds! She was almost two minutes faster than her best time of last year! Homegirl put it all together and the perfect time.[1]

When we found her behind the finish line, she was kind of in a daze. I grabbed her and gave her a huge hug. I came damn close to saying, “Babe, you were fucking flying!” I thought it, that’s for sure. When I told her what place she finished in and how fast her time was, she got really happy. But she was more focused on finding her friends who were behind her and cheering them in.

Later another St. P’s family who was at the finish line pulled C aside and complimented her both on her run and how she reacted after she finished. They said she ran up to the St. P’s third grader, gave her a hug, and said, “K! We did it!” They told her how she really impressed them with how she was looking out for her teammate. I was even more proud of her, and happy that I had sunglasses on when they shared that story.

It turned out everyone was posting huge PR’s. It was an absolutely perfect day: sunny, dry, in the low 60s. A brisk wind, but one that was squarely behind the runners on the finishing stretch. This course is used for high school and college meets, so I don’t doubt it was measured correctly. Maybe it was just something in the air. Everyone we talked to said their kids dropped 30–60 seconds off their best times.

So it was a really good finish to a fine season. C ended up with three top ten finishes: a 5th, a 6th, and a 9th. She also had 14th and 16th place finishes. The best part about Saturday was a lot of the girls who beat her when she was 14th and 16th finished behind her. It’s one thing to improve your time. It’s another to improve more than your rivals do.

I think cross country fits her really well. She has a bit of a busy, unfocused mind. Sometimes she gets overwhelmed and emotional. I think running relaxes her. She doesn’t have to think about where to throw the ball, how many outs there are, or if a ball is going to land inbounds or not. She can just go.

I think we have enjoyed it even more than her. And not just because of her success. Cross country is a lot of fun because it brings the entire school together. We’ve made new friends through kickball and volleyball. But those teams are smaller and include, at most, two grades. At a cross country meet every grade from 3rd through 8th is represented. And all the parents go out and cheer for all the kids, whether they have a kid running in that age group or not.

It’s great for the kids, too. Our coaches really push the older kids to be vocal leaders. They design little games at practice that mix up kids by ages so that everyone gets to know everyone else. It’s really cool to see the 7th and 8th graders encourage the younger kids, or just to say hello to them at school. You can see the boost of confidence some of the younger kids get when an 8th grader walks by and tells them “good job” while saying their name. I enjoy the way the sports builds the feeling of community, both for the kids and the parents.

And then there was one fall sport left. L has just two weeks of soccer left. It’s going to be sooooo nice having just one night of practice this week.

  1. Her official time was 13:13.  ↩

Friday Vid

I’m having a fun morning. I’m searching on what movies are appropriate for a 12-year-old’s sleepover.

Up until now it’s been pretty easy to pick movies to show when our girls have friends over. But now that M is up on the verge of being a teenager, you can’t throw in a Barbie movie or even a good animated flick like Inside Out. She needs something that is a little more grown up for her and her friends who are sleeping over tonight to watch.

I’ve been reading the the Common Sense Media site, which has some good suggestions. It’s kind of funny how many of their recommendations are from the 80s. Think the girls will let me watch Footloose with them?

Speaking of being young, for this week’s video I’m repeating something I posted on Facebook earlier this week. Monday was the 10th anniversary of the release of The Hold Steady’s Boys and Girls In America album. Although I prefer their previous release, Separation Sunday slightly, Boys and Girls had a bigger impact on me when it was first released. That’s the fall that C was a baby and I was taking grad classes downtown. I’m pretty sure I discovered several songs off B&G thanks to the old, and when the album came out I grabbed a copy off of iTunes. It became my soundtrack for that October.

I remember feeling then how much the album made me wish I was 22 again. Not because I wanted to be young and free and poor, or because I wanted to relive all the things I went through back in 1993. But rather because I wanted this album to speak for my experiences. I could listen to it as a 35-year-old and appreciate how freaking great it was. But it wasn’t an album about what I was going through at that point in my life. What would the album mean to me if I was of the generation it was speaking for?[1]

Despite any barriers in age, experience, and use of pharmaceuticals, B&G remains a great album. And this song, “Stuck Between Stations,” remains one of my favorites not only of the ‘00s, but of all-time.[2] Crank it up, and have a great weekend!

  1. The irony is that Craig Finn, THS’ lead singer, is exactly my age. So although his characters were a little younger, he was writing/singing about them from the same point in his life I was. So, perhaps, I could have related more to his stories that I realized at the time.  ↩
  2. It looks like I’m two years away from needing to update my 20 favorite songs of all-time list.  ↩
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