Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Remember When...

"Remember when' is the lowest form of conversation".

So says Tony Soprano during an episode of "The Sopranos" the other night. 

Some shows never get old.  I find myself watching reruns of shows like "The Sopranos," "King of Queens" or movies like "Caddyshack" over and over.  I've seen "Goodfellas" so many times that I am prepared to perform it live for birthdays, Bat Mitvahs and Shriner dinners. 

Guy thing. 

The quote struck me, but "remember when" requires context.  In Tony Soprano's case, he said it to a group over dinner as he left the table.  The group included one of his captains, Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri.  Paulie had been holding court, telling tales of life in the mob to a couple of buxom blondes.  As in, "Remember when our friend disappeared off Long Island?" 

So yes, Tony is right.  It's best not to reminisce about capital crimes in public. 

But is "remember when" the lowest form of conversation?  Lower than gossip? 

And isn't "remember when" important not only for linking ourselves to our past but also our family and friends?

Our family has had a challenging year.  Harassment, the death of my father-in-law, work stress. 

As they say, a crisis doesn't change people, it just exposes them. 

We have also had some wonderful moments. 

I got to watch my middle daughter perfect her latest dance moves. 

I watched my son grow like a weed.  I still beat him at arm wrestling, but it's getting close. 

I held my oldest daughter's hand as we merrily jumped off a raft while on vacation.

And I chased my youngest daughter, everywhere.  At 15 months, think of her as a top being pulled with a rip cord.

I had a chance to attend my 25th high school reunion, the ultimate "remember when." Those touchdown runs only get longer with time, especially for brutes like me who never carried the ball. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? 

We also had a family member diagnosed with dementia.   So painful, watching a vibrant, successful woman slowly lose touch with her surroundings.  And yet there still is a twinkle in her eye, a glimpse of what once was. 

So no, Mr. Soprano, I think you have it wrong.

"Remember when" might seem mundane.  Until you can't. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Money Can't Buy Me Love, or Wins

Dateline Miami.

Nevin Shapiro, a University of Miami booster, came forward this week alleging he paid thousands, and thousands, of dollars to Miami Hurricane jocks for the past eight years.  72 athletes are named as recipients of Shapiro's alleged largess.

What's not "alleged" is that Shapiro is squealing from the federal pen, where he is serving a 20-year sentence for running a billion dollar ponzi scheme.  He's got an ax to grind since all of his newly bought friends bailed on him when he was sent away. 

Shapiro says he paid cash to jocks, took them on his yacht, gave them NBA tickets and threw wild parties with women who weren't brownie scouts.

Yada yada yada. 

One of the athletes named is former Cane and current Chicago Bear Devin Hester, who when initally asked about Shapiro said he never met him, then when shown pictures of him and Shapiro frollicking around town clammed up faster than a frog in a bee hive.

The NCAA can't touch Hester, or any other athletes no longer in school.  But it's serious stuff, especially if coaches were in the know. 

It's not the first time Miami has been in the penalty box.  In the 80s Miami Hurricanes footballers were brash, dominant and well paid. 

They won three national champinships. 

Which is what struck me most about the Shapiro story. 

Boosters waving cash is here to stay, but the money tossed around in this scandal went to bad teams. The Canes were mediocre in the years Shapiro alleges he paid players, which means either he continued with bad investments or other schools were paying more. 

It's not the worlds oldest profession, but using money to buy influence is nothing new.  The roll call of busted schools this year alone is extensive:  Ohio State, USC, LSU, Georgia Tech. 

And probably Miami. 

I'm proposing yet another bowl game.  The Lawyers.com Probation Bowl will pair the two ineligible teams with the highest year end rankings.  Pay per view of course, with the money going directly towards sports cars for the winners. 

Tickets are available, but only on street corners from men in dark shades and rain coats.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Camp Getmeottahere

There are three "young child activities" every adult should witness at least once:

1.  Watching a child eat an ice cream cone
2.  Watching a child dance
3.  Watching a child head off to summer camp

I have experienced all three in the past month through the eyes of my 4 year old daughter. 

We signed her up for summer camp three days a week. 

Could have done five days, or seven, or ten.  The kid has not had a moment of separation anxiety since birth.  I am confident if we dropped her off in Paris for a week we would return to find her in a beret sipping cafe au lait, surrounded by her new native friends.

On the first day of camp it's hard to tell who is more excited, the kids or the newly sprung parents, who suddenly has time to sip coffee without dodging toys and vomit.

But you get used to it. 

It has been a few years since my older kids started summer camp.  Now it's as routine for them as waking up in time for lunch.  In fact, I'm planning to found "Camp Wanderteen" next year, where the sole activity will be aimlessly roaming parks while plugged in to an ipod. 

The camp experience has me thinking, what would happen if adults were loaded up on buses, with backpacks and baseball hats, for four weeks of summer fun?

Here are a few activities for "Camp Getmeottahere:"

"Sweet Dreams" - Campers sit in circle time and hear stories about strenuous exercise and evenings that end after 9pm.  Those who fall asleep the fastest get a special prize. 

"Organ recital" - Campers line up to discuss their various ailments, with points awarded based on degree of acceptance.  Bald spots and pouches get top billing.

"Connect me not" - Campers troll the mall with a blackberry connecting all day while ignoring those in their immediate presence.
"Remote duel" - Campers sit in front of flat screens and are timed to see how many shows they can fully recall over a single hour of channel hopping.  Sporting events excluded, and women are given a five show lead.   

How have your camp experiences been?  I invite you to comment and would enjoy hearing from you.