For me Rockies is a baseball team. Not a place to ski.
For the A to Z Challenge today, R is for Rockies. My beloved baseball team, yes, who got off to a rip-roaring start this season (7-2!) only to lose three straight (they’re losing 5-0 in the first inning as I type this and try to ignore it). My Colorado Rockies cap is well-worn and well-loved. But also the western foreground to the most spectacular sunsets I ever saw as a kid. A nod to the majestic mountains that never let me forget which way was home.
Corporal Max Klinger would fist-fight with a dude who dared insult his Toledo Mud Hens.
I’m not that kind of fan. I can’t really, because 93% of insults to my baseball team come from my kids.
Elise handed me a sticky pad sheet and a blue pen and direct instructions.
“Give me some songs to get, dad.”
I took the assignment seriously. At age 15, there’s about as much Eagles coming from her iPod as One Direction. A Bon Jovi song for every Bruno Mars. This was important stuff.
I can’t imagine there were fewer than 17,000 songs (give or take) that spun through the digital jukebox between my ears. This had to be more precise than a Peyton Manning touchdown pass, more exclusive than a Colorado Rockies playoff ticket.
These would be songs we’d listen to on the way to school together. To soccer practice. On tortilla and chocolate-chip grocery-store runs.
Here are the 10 I chose, and why:
I’ve always placed this song on the level with Ode to Joy, the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony. The stark lyrics, the transitions between that almost 70s rock intro to the driving precision of the middle to the angry solos … this one is as complex and beautiful as it is dark.
Let it Be
As a kid, I had no concept of the acrimony surrounding the Beatles at the time. Then, it (wrongly) stood for a transcendent spirituality I didn’t fully understand. I hope this hymn brings comfort to Elise, in times of trouble, even in those times I cannot be there.
It’s a hymn in disguise, wrapped in grungy guitar. I’d just begun college when I heard it, cut my shoulder-length hair to a buzz, and had a world of learning ahead of me. “Teach me how to speak/teach me how to share/tell me where to go/tell me, will love be there?” Will Elise ask this too?
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Another one from my collegiate soundtrack, this one probably better represented what I understood about the world around me: Misunderstanding at best, chaos at worst. Elise, welcome to the brand of creative genius of Kurt Cobain. He was also a dad, with a daughter 5 years older than you.
I Feel Fine
Marie once made a happy beeline in Old Navy to a color-splashed tee with the faces of four lads on it, but it wasn’t One Direction. The Beatles of shorter, shaggy hair and turtlenecks had that effect in their early days, and this song – built around a simple John Lennon riff – represents that well.
Mumford and Sons
I Will Wait
Dad’s not only about the Oldies. Structurally, I love the folksy feel and proud brass, and effective use of repetition (hear me, Maroon5?) Interpret the lyrics how you’d like, but for me, I want Elise to know that no matter what life brings, dad will go anywhere, do anything, wait or hurry, whatever it takes.
Take Me Out
Sad lyrics, driving beat. If I ran, this’d be on my run playlist. It’s one of those you want to kick ass after you hear it. The beat will conjure that. In a lyrical sense, it’s a bustling metaphor for those awkward moments of attraction and self-doubt from our teens that follow us way into adulthood.
Lyrics speak to us. I followed my heart on all these, to include the dark (One) the mysterious (Teen Spirit) and even the spiritual (Let it Be.) This one reinforces the notion of what a dad will do for his children. No, we can’t fix everything. But no matter what, we will always try.
You Raise Me Up
This will move you, Elise. There’s a power in stillness and in the quiet that means spirituality at its core. Who raises us up? Our faith does in a spiritual sense, but that one who “sits awhile with me” can be anyone with faith in you – me, your mom, your sisters or friends … or someone in your future.
She’s So High
Know when we boys seem so clueless? We act when we shouldn’t, we sit idle when action is best. We get it wrong. We give space when we should draw you near, hold you close rather than grant freedom. Sometimes, we’re smart enough to revere you, and navigation isn’t easy for us.
To be appointed Pizza Czar for the state of North Carolina by Governor Pat McCrory.
Let me tell you about a little dream of mine I’ve revived.
This dream is about a pair of jeans. Size 32 jeans.
I’m not the gazelle I was in my youth. Let’s be honest, a gazelle in my youth I was not. I wasn’t swine-like, or of hippo proportions. My animal match: A bulldog. A fleet-footed, quick-witted, sharp-worded bulldog, but a bulldog, nonetheless. All barrel-chested and not at all svelte.
As I reel in the years and my pant size drags along behind, the changes have been subtle. Buttons and zippers require more … concentration. It’s a human phenomenon. In maturing age, the river of life flows over our once jagged lines and adds a smoothness to it. We’re rounded out, softened.
All right. Cut the poetry; this is a dude’s post about pants, let’s not forget. Target brand Blue jeans, with a loop for a hammer and side pockets for a ruler and pencils, like a carpenter would wear. Circa 2000. I might have worn them once. They’re dark. They’re good looking, albeit grossly out of style.
They’re probably the nicest pants I have. I rediscovered them while taking inventory of every article of clothing I own.
(I really did this. I have 86 baseball caps, 47 T-shirts, 18 pairs of underwear. I could go on).
The outdated jeans represent something to me, something I’d forgotten as roomier pants covered these fly jeans in my drawer like sentiment over the skeleton of an anklosaurus. Hidden, preserved, but just waiting to be excavated.
I’ve said goodbye to many pants over the years. Some to charity, some to the great khaki hunting ground in the sky, after I’ve scuffed the cuffs severely or wrecked them with Polynesian dressing all over the left leg. But these – these I’ve hung onto.
They shed light where there is darkness. Not unlike what St. Francis of Assisi implored us to do in his signature prayer, to sow faith where there is doubt.
I’m not saying my pants are holy, but they stand for this ambition I have, the same ambition that can see my daughters on college soccer rosters someday.
The same ambition that makes me want to write like a champ for my champ of a boss.
The same ambition that just knows the Colorado Rockies will get back into the World Series sometime between this season and mankind’s colonization of Mars.
It’s the gumption that I’ll turn these jeans from fossil to colossal if I can just moderate my beloved pizza and stay faithful to yoga class and never stop moving and improving, on the disc golf course and the sideline and even casting lines with Grace into a lake of a sleepy Saturday morning.
And by colossal, I mean that I’ll give youngsters a reason to laugh at the old dude in carpenter jeans from Target. I’ll just smile, because I know if a bulldog plays quarterback in the NFL or fits back in his size 32 jeans, it ain’t by accident. And it’s worth the journey.
“Too much, daddy,” Elise would say as I grated it on top of her spaghetti or stuffed it in her burrito or slapped slices of it on her sandwich when she was little.
Translation: “heap it on, pop!”
These kids are the cheesiest. Cheese goes on cheese, even.
I mean, it’s dairy. It’s good for you. I love it too.
“That’s too much cheese.”
Nope, it just doesn’t feel natural coming off the fingers. Feels like a Rockies fan rooting for the dodgers. Un.natural.
It goes by quickly, a block of cheese. As I prepared a spaghetti dinner for my three cheeseavores, they surfaced constantly at the stove top, mouths agape, eyes googly, and the only way to fend them off was to drop another chunk of cheese in their hungry beaks, and watch your fingers.
By the time I’d grated the rest of the block to pile on their seashell noodles, I noticed something odd about the cheese wrapper: It was kid-ravaged empty.
“Girls,” I declared, holding the cheese carcass up to the light for inspection. “We just polished off an entire block of cheese.”
Cheers went up.
Not polite cheers, mind you. But the big, bad headlines kind of cheers. The Dewey beats Truman kind. Giants win the pennant. Stock market falls. Again.