Category Archives: dad blog

Life with Sister: Tales from the Great Texas Blizzard & Blackout of ’21 – Part 7

It’s been, as the kids say, a minute.

I’m on a plane. I paid for the WiFi. I’m taking advantage of it and writing another installment. I think we left off with a priest showing up through a priest hole in my closet, like Narnia but in reverse. And without the goat-man.

We emerged into the dining room to find a folding table set up against the front window of the house. Our house faces north of that means anything. I never did tell you Fr.‘s name. And I cannot remember it now. We’ll call him Fr. Chad. Upon Fr.’s request my wife produced alter linens ala table cloths. But linens alone do not an altar make. “Fr.,” I asked, “I’m no expert but I sort of am but don’t you need like a chalice or some other things for mass?” At this moment Sister walked past me with a crate of “mass supplies”, set them down, and silently returned to a chair at the back of the room.

“I gotch-u, baby,” said Fr. with all the air and confidence of a 1970’s street pimp.

Yes, it was at this precise moment that I gave up and decided simply to go along with all that almighty God had planned for me. Clearly I have no clue.

“Introibo ad altare Dei.” *”I will go unto the altar of God.”

With these words, Fr. began the holy sacrifice of the mass. As he continued on through the Confiteor, I glanced beyond him and out the large picture window over the “altar”. The snow was now coming down heavily. It really was a beautiful sight. Reminded me so much of my childhood growing up in New Jersey. the only difference here is that elm and split leaf maples are swapped with crepe myrtles. But the fresh-fallen powder on the barren branches is still magnificent.I

I have always loved the snow. I think it has something to do with the peacefulness of it all. Even the noises of the atmosphere are dampened by a blanket of snow. Everything is almost silent when it falls. People can’t venture far past their streets. Families “huddle” together. And then there’s the child-like sense of wonder in me. As a kid, I loved seeing something fall from the sky that was so beautiful. As a man, I can’t help but think back to my boyhood and the true happiness I felt when we’d get a significant snowfall. Imagine if you will the combination of a picturesque scene out the window and the eternal, super-beautiful reality taking place just below it.

“Ite, missa est.” *”Go, the mass is over.”

We prayed the Leonine prayers, took a few moments to offer our thanks to God, and headed to the kitchen for lunch. Even Sister looked pious while kneeling to pray.

By now (after our meal) it was getting to be later in the afternoon. I stepped onto the porch to see how much had fallen. It was 12 degrees. I know this is Texas and the weather is schizophrenic but this is truly crazy. I noticed about six inches on the ground. The little kid in me got real giddy. I can’t help it. I’ve been in Texas almost a decade. We never see this. I went back inside to find that Fr. had vanished. I asked him to use the door but I think he went back through the priest hole. In fact I know he did due to the presence of a draft in my house. The re-pointing of hose bricks won’t be cheap. But Sister was at least still with us. And she had set up a board game at our kitchen counter.

We rounded out our afternoon in the typical fashion. We played Yahtzee and I shotgunned a gin and tonic. Sister played the oboe (did I neglect that detail?) and the children danced. It was “Flight of the Bumblebees”. Stupendous.

Home altar. Take that, Notre Dame!”

We all drifted off to sleep this peaceful night with no clue of what lie/lay/lain ahead of us. Yeah, I couldn’t figure the correct form. Whatevs, shuge.

In our next installment we enter the darkness. Hope you’re ready.

Life with Sister: Tales from the Great Texas Blizzard & Blackout of ’21 – Part 5

When last we met, Sister (the ex-nun) and sister (my actual sibling) had finally crossed paths. Sibling sister had arrived for her first visit in Texas with her favorite brother while International woman of mystery Sister was rounding out her fourth day in the Lone Star State. The initial meeting seemed to go well. And now it was time for the nun to take a temporary leave. You know, kind of like she’s doing with convent.

Friday February 12, 2011

I let my sister sleep in today, figuring that she had a long, late-night flight and that she’s a grown-ass woman and she can set her own sleep schedule. Sister and I made our way to the oratory for mass. As soon as mass was over, Sister said goodbye. In addition to her trip to Texas, Sister had arranged to attend a conference in nearby Kansas. True, Kansas is not exactly the most proximate state to Texas. Still, finding herself only 450 miles from a conference like this one, Sister could not turn up the opportunity. She had rented a car and would drive north for the weekend, returning to us on Sunday to round out her vacation. Her plan was to spend one final overnight with us and fly home on Monday the 15th. Oh, I almost forgot. The conference which she could not miss? It was a two day seminar entitled: “Cold Wind A-blowin’: Energy Reliability and Variable Rates in the Age of Monolithic Windmills”. Sister has long been known among her closest friends as an amateur energy industry buff and a huge fan of medieval Dutch power supplies. As she sat down in the driver seat of her car, I waved goodbye. “Fare well, Sister,” I said. “God be with you!” Sister froze. She had barely put her finger on the push-button starter. She looked up at me with a mix of indignation and fear. Pointing toward the sky with her right index ringer and to herself with her left thumb, she said, “He. Always. Is.” Sister also has the most disarming smile. It seems to say at one and the same time, “I’ve been told I should pray for your soul and yet you bore me.” This smile was on full display as she slammed her door, backed out of the driveway, and sped off. From her car as it rolled quickly out of sight one could hear the faint sounds of Jay Z’s Hard Knock Life.

I returned to the house to find my sister had woken up. She was in the kitchen, sipping her coffee. Assuming she might want more than coffee, I asked her what she’d like. “I’d like my husband back,” she said. We’re cut from the same cloth, she and I. I knew this statement of hers, though completely true, was also meant to invoke laughter. And so we laughed. “Seriously lady, tell me where you want to go and we’ll go there.” My sister is one of those guests who says that she’ll be truly happy doing whatever and literally means it. So off to the JFK 6th Floor School Book Depository Museum and Commemorative Gun Range we went. As we drove downtown I wondered if any of the displays would have changed since I last visited two days ago. Then I remembered that the entire museum has remained exactly the same the entire time I’ve lived here.

This tour of the museum, as you might have imagined, was a fairly “normal” one. Again, though, the sky looked very ominous. From the sixth floor of the Book Depository Building, the south side of the building, one has the privilege of gazing through very large windows with an almost unobstructed view of the plaza below and, since Texas is flat, of everything clear to the Gulf. Something just wasn’t right about this sky. We left the museum after about an hour. I asked my sister if she wanted to explore downtown Dallas. It was now about 35 degrees. She preferred the warmth of a car ride home where we could watch a movie or have a drink. Just prior to leaving the museum I received a text from my wife. It said (essentially):

“OMG OMG OMG. Son just threw up all over bathroom. I literally cannot deal with this. Leaving for you. Please stop for Chlorox wipes on your way. And get yourself something pretty.”

This was followed with:

“No, I mean it’s everywhere. I tried to clean it and then I got sick. Sorry, you’ll have to clean it all.”

God has blessed me with an iron stomach in these situations. After stopping for bleach wipes (and bridge mix), I entered my casa. I told my sister and my children to avoid the area around the bathroom door. I, for once, donned a face mask (for the smell was wretched), I opened a door that may as well have had yellow caution tape on it… and I stepped in to a horror show. I closed the door behind me and set to work. Within 20 minutes I had accomplished my job. As a reward, I was allowed to eat dinner this night. And that’s what we did. We ordered take-out, watched a movie, and rested.

Saturday February 13, 2021

This morning the weather outside was neither frightful nor delightful but a basic understanding of bipolar disorder and Texas climate can help to understand what I mean. I am in the habit of going to daily mass. I learned this from my dad who went literally almost every single day of his life. In the four years since his death I have been blessed to grasp more and more just what he was trying to teach me. Fortunately I live in a place where I can go to mass every day without much difficulty. Being locked out of the sacraments for a time this past year (thank you, pandemic), I definitely took note of the need to go whenever I can. And I determined that I can go whenever God gives me the grace AND I will to go. That being said, Saturdays are the worst. Every other day of the week my parish offers a mass in the noon hour or later. On Saturday, the only mass is at 9AM. I struggle since this is the one day of the week I feel that it’s OK to sleep in a little, and that says a lot since I’m a homeschooling dad. But struggle I do. Last night I asked my guardian angel to push me out of bed in time to get to mass. In fact, I asked him to do it a bit earlier since a friend had invited me to a men’s prayer/study group at 7:30. Guardian Angel tapped me on the shoulder at 5:45. I love him, truly I do.

At 7 I stepped out of my house to discover the black ice from a few days earlier had returned. It was now in the 20’s and the air was bitter. I started out for the prayer group, made it a mile, turned around, and gave up on both that meeting and mass. A note on that prayer group. I have lived in the same house and neighborhood for close to a decade. For most of that time, unbeknownst to me, many of the men I have considered to be friends have all been meeting at this prayer group monthly. The man who hosts is someone I have only recently met. About a year and a half ago, another friend moved to town. He quickly became friends with all the same people. He started going to these group meetings and eventually asked me why I was never there. It’s hard to go to something you didn’t even know was taking place. Pity party aside, I do not now feel the obligation to attend something I’ve been left out of for years. So there, I win (said with burning interior self-loathing). Look, no one ever said that comedy doesn’t come from a dark, dark place. My mind? Let’s say I haven’t paid the electric bill for years.

Having opted out of my spiritual exercises for the morning, I prepared breakfast for my sister and my wife and our kids. Then my wife, sister, and I went out to do a little grocery shopping. By now, the forecast – usually completely unreliable – was as tight as my daughter’s wallet. The girl knows how to save a dime. In fact, every forecaster was predicting the same thing to where the 9 inches of snow the following day really seemed believable, despite this being Dallas. Don’t get me wrong. Texas, being enormous beyond belief – shut up, Alaska – has plenty of places that get significant snowfall each year. I’m thinking of the Panhandle and just about anywhere within a few miles of the Red River. But Dallas? No. That’s a usual NO. This? This was different. Snow was coming. My wife still insisted that it would come but not be as much as they were saying. I wasn’t sure but I know this much. Texas with even a trace of snow is bad. Roads would become impassable almost immediately. And although no one wanted to think about it, there was a possibility that power lines might freeze and come down. My sister made the decision, much to our dismay, that she should cut her trip short and fly out Sunday morning. The snow was predicted to start around 3PM on Sunday. This could only mean one thing. We should maximize our last day together.

So we hit the liquor store after stocking up on groceries. Texans are funny in that they don’t know to clean out the supermarkets of bread, milk, and eggs when snow is coming like us Yankees do. That being said, I could not find a single tortilla at the Kroger. After afternoon cocktails and a movie at home we made a decision that would change our lives forever. We decided to hit the bingo hall.

The first thing to know is that my sister has an affinity for pari-mutual games of chance. Chinese auctions, scratch-off lottery tickets, you name it. There is a bingo hall not far from our house. We’re talking an honest-to-goodness, step-back-in-time, smoke-filled bingo hall. Who doesn’t like to trash things up once in a while? And besides, it could be fun and we might even win some cash! We were under several misguided opinions as we entered the doors. First, we thought they sold beer and wine in this place. They don’t. Second, we thought it would be relaxing. It wasn’t. We immediately walked past six tables where every seat was taken by women and men who had died many years prior and were now simply zombies with dabbers in their hands. On the tables spread out before the undead were many multi-colored sheets with jumbled numbers from 1-75 printed on them. Surrounding these sheets were ashtrays with burning Misty lights, Marlboro Menthols, and unfiltered Camels. Protecting each ashtray and each sheet were multiple good luck talismans ranging from troll dolls to more troll dolls. Necks did not move. They simple stayed craned over the sheets while arms mechanically raced at a speed that did not belong with the bodies attached to those limbs, the hands rapidly dotting out numbers almost before they were called.

What can I say?

To say I was frightened, despite all the death I’ve seen in my life, is an understatement.

“Come on, sis’,” I said. “Let’s figure out how to join this freak show and then get the hell out of here.”

My wife, my sister, and I tiptoed to the back of the hall like a trio of Bob Fosse dancers, lithe and easy. When we reached the counter, my wife noticed a sign that said:

If your birthday falls in the month of Feb. your boards only cost 1¢

Buying bingo cards is hard, yo. I am convinced they use some kind of black magic in order to confuse the hell out of everyone standing at that counter. Either that or I just can’t do maths. Regardless, we asked the following questions .

“What’s the deal with the birthday special?” and,

“What’s the deal with the electronic boards?”

To these questions we got the following responses.

“Is any of y’alls birthday this month? The month of February? Then your board costs a penny. And I’ll spot y’all the penny,” and,

“The electronic boards are $20 per unit and y’all can pick one up over on that table yonder.”

OK, maybe she didn’t say “yonder” but you get the point. I was intrigued by the electronic boards so I purchased one. Also, it happens that my dear sister who is eternally not 60 years-old was about to turn 60 years-old just five days hence. It also turns out that when you buy the birthday special it comes with a piece of cake! There’s nothing I love more than a supermarket sheetcake cut into millionths and served on a paper plate by a toothless drug addict.

Could it get any easier?

We gathered our sheets and my electronic board, a device resembling a heavy-duty iPad, and took a seat near the door. I immediately discovered that one could “BYOB” but that they did not serve alcohol at this joint. My sister and I each lit cigarettes as I texted my niece who was home watching the kids. “Go to my bar cart and bring me the gin, three glasses, a few bottles of tonic, and a bucket filled with ice. Oh and limes.” Then I texted, “Scratch that. Bring me some beers and some White Claws for the ladies.” The world of a bingo hall is a confusing mess of bizarre bullshit. In other words, this was the one place on earth most resembling my daily life. I turned to the man at the end of our table. He seemed to know what he was doing. “Sir,” I asked even though he hardly looked like he deserved the title. “What’s the deal with this electronic board? Do I have to do anything special?” Came his reply, “Look man, you put your code in. That’s on y’alls receipt from the lady at the window. Then you just watch that bitch go to town.” Keep in mind he had four of these boards resting behind his eight paper boards and 22 trolls. What’s with the trolls? “Oh and y’all don’t do nothin’ with that board. Keep an eye on it like a woman you expect to cheat on y’all. You know, watch it real sultry, see? Then prepare to slap her when she steps outta’ line.” He said “line” like this: “laaaaaaaahhhhnn”. “One last thing, brother,” he said. I fought the urge to explain genetics to him. “When that bitch says ‘YELL BINGO’, y’all yell BINGO.”

Got it.

My niece showed up with the hooch and texted me from just outside the door. I retrieved the booze like it was a back alley drug deal. We played 8 games of bingo – straight bingo, four corner bingo, postage stamp bingo, blackout bingo, and something called ball buster bingo. We didn’t win any of them. And yet I think I discovered my new preferred method of playing this crazy game. Next time, I’m going with six electronic boards. I literally sat there drinking and smoking with an eye on a screen hoping to see “YELL BINGO”.

We left the bingo hall never having received our birthday cake. My sister even forgot to wear her “60 never looked so good” glitter sash and ball cap so it truly would have been wasted. Truth is, she could be turning 160. She’s my sister. I love her to death. She saved my life. The least I can do is show her a glimpse into the strange world of Texas bingo.

We made it home just in time to get a text from Sister.

Lving conference now. Don’t want to get stuck snow. Lv dr unlocked. If you are up, will watch the first two seasons of Dallas when I arrive. ETA 2AM. Confrnce was unmitigated success.

She abbreviated “leaving” yet found room for “unmitigated”.

Tomorrow promises to be a blast.

Life with Sister: Tales from the Great Texas Blizzard & Blackout of ’21 – Part 4

I received a message today from a friend who informed me that her mother was “on the edge of her seat” awaiting the next installment. I will take that as high praise from a reader and offer to you now the fourth installment. NB: These “parts” might cover more than one day at a time as we go forward.

Thursday February 11, 2021

Sister came out of her room this morning and poured her morning coffee. Mercifully for her, the convent had not taken that simple ritual away from her. She lifted the mug to her lips, took a long draw, and then slammed the coffee cup onto the counter. “Hooooly Mutha! That’s some damn good java,” she said. I believe Sister had found her voice. Sister then picked up her small, black copy of the 1962 Roman Missal and stepped out onto the front porch to pray her morning prayers. I mean, I do have heat in my house but whatever. Meanwhile I mulled over our options for the day. I needed to be back at the homestead by 9 PM to pick up my sister from the airport. “Perhaps,” I thought, “I can one day make a movie and I’ll call it When Sister Meets Sister.” I had gotten as far as making them detectives and pairing them with a quadriplegic man servant (comedy gold right there) when I remembered that Sister had wanted to travel to Waco. If you thought she had a JFK obsession, you should ask her about the Branch Davidians.

Sadly for Sister, neither a trip to the Branch nor to Magnolia nor to the Dr. Pepper Museum (a very real place in Waco) were in the cards today. You see, an ominous weather event had swept through overnight. No, it’s not the fabled blizzard you tuned in to read all about. Patience. Rather this was that blizzard’s harbinger. And what a tragedy this brought with it. I started to look at news on my phone and was stunned at what I was seeing. Apparently every school district in North Texas had closed for the day due to weather. I looked out my window assuming that Sister might have gotten buried in a drift. Instead of a blanket of white I saw a white woman in a white habit under a literal blanket of white. Sister had grabbed a fleece on her way out the door. But not a flake in sight. I went back to my phone. Turns out this system had produced patches of lethal black ice. Here I must state with love that Texas drivers are not good drivers in decent weather. Also, the local governments lack the equipment to treat the roads as they would have been treated where I grew up. Rather, towns will send out police in squad cars to park at the bottom of highway entrance ramps in a blocking fashion. This does not work, though, when someone is already on the road when it gets closed. Sadly, that morning 135 vehicles were involved in one of the worst mass accidents ever just to our west in Fort Worth. Several people died. Please say a pray for them.

Sister and I drove to mass at a local oratory that had been kind enough to host us all week. Normally we would have gone to our parish but Sister knew some of the members of this particular community. I noticed that the roads were indeed slick but I wasn’t too concerned. I wasn’t getting on any highways. We arrived and went in for mass. In the quiet of the chapel I attempted to meditate on the Passion. The door swung open. The door slammed into a crucifix on the wall. That crucifix fell and hit me on the head. Meditation complete. Our Lord ALWAYS hears our prayers. The door had been flung open by the children of a mutual friend to Sister and me. The family had come to join us for mass. Afterward we all went out to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Sitting at the table I asked Sister if she wanted a drink. It was lunchtime and we were at a place known for their margaritas. Sister locked eyes with the waiter and spewed something at him in flawless Spanish. I picked up something about a drink, a chimichanga, the Argentine Dirty War of the 1970’s, and bull castration. My Spanish is a little non-existent. Juan, our waiter, turned pale. He fumbled with his pad and pen. In his eyes, a glaze of sheer terror. Sister lifted her head back up (for she had dipped her eyes back to the menu) and said calmly, “¡Andale!… or should I say… Raus?” Juan backed away swiftly from the table, never turning his back to Sister, and then ducked into the kitchen. I had no idea she was a polyglot! What fun! Before I could say burrito Juan had returned to our table. He was now dressed in finery. Deep red velvet bolero jacket with tassels. Golden embroidered sombrero. His hair was now white so there was that. He was attended by three similarly dressed servers carrying trays of the finest selections of chips and queso. I honestly thought it all came from a food services truck. Each of the servers had hair blonder than mine and the bluest eyes. The last of Juan’s assistants handed Sister an envelope. “Third Secret of Fatima,” she said. “Can’t reveal until the year 2000”, as she tucked the envelope into her sock clearly having buried the Millennium in her subconscious.

Not quite what my trees looked like this morning.
Photo by Simon Berger on

I think something happened to Sister when she put that new hat on yesterday. I think it unlocked something of her youth. I think it tripped something within her personality as if her brain suddenly said, “Sister, it’s OK. You don’t have to be scared anymore. You can come out and play. You do you!” Or maybe it was the Yankee Candles.

I returned home to get my daughter ready for choir practice. Sister remained with friends a while. She may have had Juan arrested for some old Nazi war crime. Perhaps she just got more queso. Some things are better left unthought. Unfortunately for my daughter, choir practice was canceled due to ice that had already melted away. She and I had our own choir practice at the piano. A few scales for warm up and then we rehearsed the song “Dance Ten, Looks Three” from A Chorus Line. I don’t know if it will ever make it into the Latin mass rotation but it sure is fun to play on the keyboard. Don’t worry, I had her hum over any “colorful” lyrics.

I looked around my house and noticed it didn’t like quite as “fresh” as it had a few days ago. Should I call Alma again? No, not enough time. Instead I went around and swept, mopped, cleaned toilets, etc. It’s kind of what I do. I gravitate to my own kind. That’s why I spend time cleaning toilets and taking out the trash. Because I am garbage. After I finished I put together another gift basket to place in one of the bedrooms. This one was very special to me. It was a basket of Texas goodies and other treats for a very special person who was coming to Texas for the first time. In fact, if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be in Texas to make this gift basket. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be anywhere but in the ground. When I was a young boy of 4, my older sister saved my life by tossing me from the second floor of a burning building. This part is 1000% true in case you were wondering. I’ve always been close with this sister and I was so happy she could make the trip to see us. Sadly, her husband died a few short months ago. He was one of the absolute best human beings you would ever want to know and we have all been saddened by his loss. I hoped that in bringing my sister for a visit, she might be able to see that there is fun in life still and share some of that fun with us.

I headed out to the airport and waited at baggage claim with a sign that said “Welcome back from rehab!” She slapped the back of my head when we met. We drove home. Out came the cheeseboard, crackers, and bar cart. We were celebrating life. Sister asked my sister if she wanted a Yankee Candle. I explained that whole mess to her. She stuck to her rum and coke. After a while my sister began to regale us with a tale of her children who are champion Irish dancers. They frequently attend competitions that take place in hotel ballrooms and the like. “Sister,” said my sister, “You don’t know what this shitshow is like. You got these older, I don’t know what you’d call ’em, ‘dance moms’, right, Sister? These ladies use these dance things as their night out on the town, ya’ know, Sis? Know what I’m sayin’?” Sister was intrigued. I could see her attempting to formulate into hand symbols my sister’s flawless Jersey. Then came the phrase that pays. “Sister, nah, Sister… listen to me. We’re talkin’ hoes on heels here.” Sister couldn’t find the right symbols for that one.

And then we all went to bed.

In tomorrow’s installment we’ll get my sister’s take on JFK and we’ll venture into a genuine Texas bingo hall. B-I-N-G-O, friends, Bingo was his name-o.

Something BIG is Coming…

Miss me?

I kind of did as well. I just checked and it seems that my last entry on this blog was posted March 1st, 2020. That’s “pre-COVID” if you hadn’t figured it out. I guess, like a lot of people, I was just focused on other things for the past few months. It’s the height of irony for someone who loves to document life. Think about it. The most bizarre year of any of our lifetimes comes along and I can’t bring myself to write a solitary word about any of it.

I believe in the silence, we sometimes find answers to the big questions in life.

These past five months have been a blessing for me. They have been filled with many wonderful memories – memories that, for now, will remain untold on these pages and bound up only in the collective mind of my family. You all know by now that this blog has been a way to document the life of my family as my kids have been growing up. Don’t worry, they’re not quite grown yet. There are many more stories to record and to share.

But I think these times God gives us – times like a national lockdown – force us to confront the question of what is most important in our lives. For me it has always been God. It MUST be God. He is at the center of all that I hope to do and be – “my first beginning and last end,” to quote the daily missal. To love is to sacrifice, to give oneself to God, whole and entire. We do this in giving ourselves to our spouses, our children, the Church, society. I have always harbored a desire to be loved. It is a desire with which I have struggled in many ways. And yet I know that it is far greater to love. I hope that my love for my wife and kids has shown through in the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve committed to this space over the years. But to love them means to sacrifice myself for them. Now I am preparing to embark, for them, on what is perhaps my greatest task in life fully realized. Let me tell you.

Christ, the Great Teacher. “Suffer the little children to come unto Me.” (stained glass, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic church, Newark, NJ)

Two things in particular have happened in the past few months to spur this realization. First, there were the hours and days and weeks spent with the kids. My wife works from home in a cozy office off the back of the house. We try not to disturb her during the work day. But yours truly is a school administrator/teacher. We got shut down. Just like every other parent in America I found myself suddenly teaching my own kids. My situation was a bit different. For starters, I had always wanted to teach my kids in a formal setting. It’s why I went to work at the school were I did – so the kids would be with me and one day I would have them in class. I know, I’m that dad. Although they say they think that’s a “cool” idea now, I’m not sure how they’d feel in high school. And I have even reached “Master Dad Joke” level within the International Society of Dad Humorists so I was just waiting to lay puns and set snares with an intellectual bent that would make anyone’s head explode. Yet here we were, unexpectedly getting that chance; while I was simultaneously teaching other kids online and helping to run a K-12 school.

Three months. We did this for three months. We got creative and got plenty of exercise walking around the neighborhood or riding our bikes. We laughed. We cried. We struggled. But it was sooooo worth it.

Another thing happened recently. This one affected me more than the kids. Two weeks ago one of my older brothers committed suicide. He had a wife of 27 years and two grown kids. I will never understand why he did such a thing. Please pray for his soul and for his family. Something shook me about this. Did the lockdown mess with him? He was one of the most social creatures I’ve ever known? There’s no sense trying to find an answer, though. It is over. It is final. Pray for him. When I say something shook me, I mean that the fragility of life came to the fore of my own life once again. We’ve lost so many over the years. We cannot go forward as though all is doom and gloom. Yet at the same time we have to use these moments to focus on what is truly important, just like we might see good in the lockdown if we understand that we got more time together as a family. Don’t get me wrong. I think the lockdowns were useless and politically motivated and you can call me a nut but the curve was flattened a long time ago. Nonetheless, it gave me time and his death gave me pause to reflect.

I have one solemn charge in life and that is to get my wife and kids to heaven. I need to teach them their faith and about the world around them. I need to pray with them every day, go to mass with them every day like my dad taught me. I need to give them everything I have. And I’m the one to do it. Just look at me! Every moment of my life prepared me for this. And right now you’re asking what I’m talking about…

Wait for it…

After fifteen years in education as a teacher and administrator, after more than a decade of documentary blogging, after years of working in broadcast media, having served varied school communities, television networks, and a brief stint driving live lab mice to the airport; I am leaving it all behind. Starting in a few weeks, I will be the principal of my home. Since I was only ever vice principal, I guess I just gave myself a promotion. My two kids will be getting up with me every morning to do what is most important – praise God and live out our family life together – while I teach them the “Three R’s” and try to keep them away from Mommy’s office. I’m excited beyond belief. I know I can do this. I hope they’ll be cooperative when the going gets tough. And you my dear readers, both of you, already know that there’s no way I’m starting this new chapter in my life without chronicling all the gory details. Look for a new blog to start soon (either right here or under a new domain). And if you have any friends (like the million or so Americans who are also crazy enough to try this same stunt) who want to follow and read along, send them my way. The adventures of a now-former vice principal who quits his job to be a homeschooling dad might just be anybody’s cup of tea in these insane times.

The Other Flight: Planespotting AA’s Heritage Fleet

In my last post I mentioned catching a glimpse of an American Airlines plane that had been painted in the livery of Allegheny Airlines. Thanks to a little research I can tell you more about this interesting situation.

Allegheny had at one point changed its name to US Air (later USAirways) which eventually merged with American to form the world’s largest airline. Other “heritage” planes in American’s fleet include planes painted in the liveries of TWA, Piedmont, PSA, America West, Air Cal, and Reno Air. Seven distinct planes. Seven. Out of tens of thousands of aircraft in the world there are just seven that fall into this category.

I mentioned being an aviation buff. I have also written about my time working as a medical courier and the many trips I would take every day through the sometimes mysterious world of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. It was on one such courier drive about two years ago that I first encountered these heritage planes. While cruising the service road past Terminal C one afternoon, a mere stone’s throw from dozens of aircraft, I crested a slight hill and was met with the sight of the TWA/American – a B737 with the iconic red “TWA” painted on the tail. I went home and quickly looked up what this could mean and that’s when I first learned that there were others. So seeing the Allegheny/American A319 today at Reagan National Airport was a treat for me indeed. I feel as though I need to spot the other five now.

But back to my research from earlier today. Enlarging the picture on my laptop I plugged the tail number into and up popped our Allegheny. It showed that it had just touched down in Boston inbound from Charlotte-Douglas. Going back to that flight’s inbound segment I found this…

For the record, my own flight – on Southwest – took off moments later.

For the guy who just has to know everything about how the world around him works – especially when airports and airplanes are concerned – this was like uncovering a gold mine, except without the gold. As a kid I used to look up and wonder where each plane was going, what kind of people were on them, and where they came from. Today I spotted a plane from my youth and, through the magic of modern world, was able to find out where it was flying. I suppose I can live without knowing much more about the folks on board.

I Just Need to Write Something

I entered the year with high hopes of getting back to the hobby I love – writing.  Well, God saw fit to stick me on a plane with a laptop and not much else to do.  So here we are.

I am returning from a convention in the nation’s capital. I had tons of fun. I met many people that (at least) I consider famous – mostly YouTube celebs but some other true, famous folks. The reason I want to write is because my son wants me to write. Remember how I told you that I had been reading old posts to him? Well, after several months of this I’m almost running out of posts! So he admonished me to write more. Coming right up, son.

A nice treat for an aviation buff like me… American Airlines has painted several of their planes in the liveries of airlines they’ve acquired or merged with over the years. This one is an old Allegheny jet on the tarmac at DCA.

But the question is, as the title says, what do I write about?

I could write about coronavirus.

Wow, great going Harvey.  Stoke the panic.  In reality, I do not know what this is all about.  I am sure that when I read my grandchildren these posts years from now; we will scratch our heads and say, “What’s coronavirus, Grandpappy?”  I have determined they will call me ‘grandpappy’ because it sounds fun.  I will say that my flight is half-full which is odd for a Saturday afternoon direct flight.  Nothing more to write about on this Wuhan one.

I could write about how much I love and miss my kids.

The past few days I’ve been away I have enjoyed visiting with the good friends I’ve missed seeing in this part of the country.  I’ve loved hearing talks by people I admire.  I’ve really been thrilled by the availability of the speakers in the hotel lobby and their down-to-earth-ness.  But nothing to me will ever come close to being with my kids.  They’re growing up too fast.  Every minute passes too quickly.  And three days away from them is an eternity.  I’m really looking forward to walking in the door and shouting “Daddy’s home!” and being greeted by silence because they’re fixated on anything else.  Perhaps they missed me too?

I could write about the kid kicking the back of my seat.

Nope.  I’m sure my children did the same once upon a time and it’s a hardship I will lovingly endure.

I could write about this…  I’m watching live TV in-flight.  This service carries the New York local stations and I’m watching my old favorite, WNBC.  When I was a kid, the production value, the talent, just everything about this local station drew me in and made me want to be a news anchor.  We know how that turned out.  But the weird thing is that in the few years I’ve been gone from the New York area things have changed.  The studio is smaller, the music isn’t as driving, and the male anchors… I almost can’t bring myself to say it… they have no ties.  This is disturbing to me on so many levels.  A man presenting the news on television should always have a tie neatly tied around his neck.  I can’t say any more about this; but I will.  It is truly sad.  I do not want casual.  I want you to let me know you care about me.  And it wasn’t just the main anchor.  It was the sports and weather guy too.  Shout out to Al Roker and Len Berman who used to fill these roles waaaaay back in the day.  And you KNOW that my favorite broadcasters ever – Chuck Scarborough and Sue Simmons – would never let this happen.  Perhaps it’s an appeal to millennials?  No, that’s not right.  Not everyone born between certain years lacks intelligence.  Although…  Two nights ago I stood outside a public house in Washington as a young woman approached me to borrow a cigarette.  My lighter had been absconded at a security checkpoint so I offered her a small book of matches.  She actually said to me “Um, I don’t… I just don’t know how to use those; or even what they are…”  Matches, sister, matches.  Close cover, strike.  It’s not that complicated.

I think they’re trying to land the plane now so I kind of have to go.  Shame I never came up with a topic or four about which to write.

New York 1901: A Family Game Night Review

Last night my wife, the kids, and I decided a family game night was in order. It’s been a while. Most of the time when we can agree to play a game we never seem to come to any consensus of which game to play. You see, Daddy (that’s me) would love to play his favorite game, Trivial Pursuit, but everyone else in this equation always claims to be stupid and so Daddy is outvoted 3-1 and never gets to play his favorite game. It’s not his fault that he has a fantastic memory and can whoop your fannies with his stellar knowledge skilz. Then there’s son’s favorite game, Monopoly or as he calls it “Capitalism 101”. The problem with this one is that it takes forever to play. It especially takes forever to play when an 11 year-old boy and his 10 year-old sister decided to take every opportunity to make “deals” with each other and Mommy and Daddy. No, son, I will not sell you Boardwalk for $50. Sorry, that’s life. Daddy grew up in Jersey and he knows exactly how much those properties in Atlantic City are worth. My daughter really couldn’t care less as most of the time she gets bored and walks away. And my wife? Well, she’s the most adventurous among us. She usually “researches” games online before buying them. Most of the time her choices are spot on. Sometimes it’s a miss; like the time she made us play something called “5 Minute Rule”. That’s a game where each contestant is asked to name one thing in five minutes. It’s infernal.

For Christmas my wife gave me a new boardgame – from the online researched division – called “New York 1901”. The object of this game is to acquire land, build skyscrapers, and then demolish and build more skyscrapers. Take a look at the pictures below…

As you can see, the box is beautiful. Artwork is phenomenal. The game pieces – little Empire State Buildings – exhibit exceptional craftsmanship. The cards… Ah, you noticed that. Yes, there seem to be 800 playing cards broken into 30 different categories. Well, it is a real estate game. I suppose it’s not supposed to be “easy”. I mean, building New York City into the metropolis it is didn’t happen overnight. I was assigned a character named Robert Fletcher. I like his mustache. I even gave him a backstory. He was rich, shredded, loved by all. It’s good to assign qualities of oneself to a fictional character every now and then. But those cards…

I spent the first thirty minutes reading and then decoding the instructions. Then I dealt the cards. No joke, there were at least six different piles in front of each player. After a rough start where we came to realize that the colors of our game tokens did not and would not necessarily match the colors of our initial properties we seemed to get the hang of it. Good thing my wife is part German or we never would have figured out how to keep our tracts of land at right angles straight. In fact, my daughter actually played for a good half-hour before storming away angry that she just did not understand this “nonsense”. Fortunately, she continued to mix cocktails for her old man so he didn’t have to get up.

The rest of us, however, got the hang of it and enjoyed playing this game for the hour or so it took us to build up the lower end of the island of Manhattan.

Bottom line: if you’ve got patience, a sense of history, a fascination with architecture, and depth perception then a career in archeology is in your future. If you simply have patience and are looking for a good time with your family then take a stab at this game. If nothing else, you’ll become familiar with the street grid of Manhattan south of Pearl Street. Also, if you have a ten year-old daughter you might want to pop a movie on in the other room for her because she’s not going to have any of this “nonsense”.

My son won last night’s game. Obviously we had to have a rematch this morning. This time, Daddy snagged the Metropolitan Life Building and won. I will always be victorious… until I’m not. And when that day comes I think I will suddenly lose interest in boardgames.