One of the Psalms saieth something or other about how “at least the honest man can get a good night’s rest.” Well friends, I’m tired. I’m not sure that speaks much to my honesty or not but it’s been a long day. The dog (pictured above, my schizophrenic Jack Russell) and I are headed to slumber town. As I tell the kids, “Don’t forget your night prayers and for heavens’ sake, BRUSH YOUR TEETH!”
Remember that new blog I mentioned last week? Well, it’s up and running! It’s still in its infancy but I would sure appreciate all the support I can get. So, if you’ve enjoyed reading my posts over here, could you kindly link over to the new one and subscribe? It’s would mean the world to me. Thanks!
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.
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.
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 flightaware.com 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 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 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.
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.
My mom is in town for a visit and to attend the upcoming wedding of my sister-in-law.
So I took her to get her nails done before the wedding. There’s a reason men shouldn’t be in these places. Mom picked out a color and then said “Maybe I’ll get one nail done up in something special,” while pointing to something with glitter. “Like a coke nail?” I asked with some incredulity. The woman has seen her share of Law & Order so I thought maybe it was a thing. “We call that an ‘accent nail’,” said the woman behind the counter.
You learn something new every day. Next it’s off to the hair place. Perhaps we’ll find some gin along the way.
Speaking of gin… In late November a big, beautiful, upscale liquor store opened nearby. Since I am a big, beautiful, upscale drunk this was a natural fit and made me very happy. Those of you who’ve ever known me know that I have a penchant for gin. Recently a friend shared an article with me that declared that those who drink gin and tonic are psychopaths. It didn’t say we were “likely to be” psychopaths. No, this hurtful group of words masquerading as a scientific journal said straight up that I’m a psycho. Sure, drinking gin has been likened to drinking a bottle of Chanel No. 5 and the British did attribute the collapse of their country’s middle class to gin a few hundred years ago. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, the liquor store…
I’ve made a resolution not to buy the same bottle twice until I’ve tried all the gins I haven’t tried. This place has a whole aisle devoted to my favorite spirit so it might take a while. Then again, I’m a psychopath so maybe not. Recently I tried Aviation which was nice but had notes of something I’m not quite sure of. In other words, it wasn’t great. Last night I picked up a bottle of Oregon Spirit. This made me think of the Oregon Trail. If I get dysentery and die from drinking this I will be quite peeved.
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.
Folks, I got off all that social media nonsense a while ago. Sorry but I'm not on Twitbook, Facepalm, YouHu, WingWang or any of the others. Maybe an event will happen to make me change my mind like Peter and Paul coming down with flaming swords and commanding it be so. Until then, read the blog and if you feel a comment is in order or you feel like sharing a tip or suggestion for a topic, email me at email@example.com.
Harvey is a funny, witty and interesting read. Want to know what's going on in the world of Harvey? Then make a point to subscribe to his blog! You just never know when those pesky Weebles will show up. Hmmm, speaking of Weebles - haven't heard from them in a while (wink). Seriously, you just never know what to expect and whatever you find, it never disappoints! -- Debbi Robertson @ Photos and Facets