27 April 2010
Skip ahead a few days to last night, the first baseball practice for #2 - I volunteered to be his coach. At the appropriate time I called all the boys in to start practice. Before practice began there were boys throwing as hard as they could, there were boys wearing their gloves on their heads, there were boys running around, and one boy attempting to knock out the other boys with his bat. It was an interesting evening. As they assembled around me I asked who had played ball before, I expected half to raise their hands, only two had. Uh-oh. These boys are lucky that this is an instructional league and that I am laid back dude. (For a side note, as I left practice I saw another team practicing - there were all kinds of dads drilling the kids with proper arm placement and motion, they had their own bases, measuring rope, a designated hitting area, and boys all wearing caps, correctly!)
I mention these two stories because it is amazing how human beings accept authority figures. How many times have you seen some yahoo in charge of an event and wonder why is everyone listening to this clown? Then you realize you are one of the clowns listening to the clown. I am amazed more folk do not protest or offer a better alternative. In the two instances above the kids simply assumed I knew what I was talking about, that I was some sort of expert, that I even knew what time practice ended. As much as I want my kids and other kids to be free and independent thinkers when it comes to coaching - let's keep that free-thinking stuff to ourselves. Or my football coach used to say when you made a mistake (naturally you would respond I thought... but before you could start) don't think Norvell, do!
26 April 2010
24 April 2010
Shortly after I moved from Providence, RI, to this great city in July
2009, a parishioner made the cautionary comment concerning the food here, “Watch out, this city will thicken you.” Man, was he spot-on. I thought I had this city whipped; I thought Lent would be my time to reclaim my physicality. I vowed to abstain from alcohol (yes, I’m that kind of Baptist) and to stay away from sweets.
But the dinner party invitations wouldn’t cease. Plus, how could I not celebrate in March the absence of bitter winds, piles of snow and the gloom they bring? So I adopted my wife’s Lenten pledge to stop yelling at the kids (we have three under the age of 9; you try not yelling for 40 days and 40 nights)!
We made it through Lent okay. In fact, it was the first Lent-Easter season that did not exhaust me. High holidays take their toll on religious professionals. I took up running on the streetcar tracks -- the daily near-collisions with the front ends of autos don’t even faze me anymore -- scaled back on my weekly testing of neighborhood po-boy shops and came to peace with the realization that I do not have to sample every variety of bread pudding by end of my first year here. I seemed to find a balance with the gastronomical offerings of this city and the limits of my wardrobe.
But there was one important -- no, necessary -- offering that I had to force myself to participate in: a crawfish boil.
Growing up in West Virginia I would pass idle hours overturning rocks in the creeks to catch “crawdads” (the WV equivalent of crawfish). After I amassed enough to fill my tin bucket, I would walk to the river or to the nearest pond and start fishing. Crawdads were bait. Never in a million years would I have dreamed of eating them. Largemouth bass, pike, and even channel cats ate them; humans didn’t. I’d eat a mountain oyster before I ate a crawdad.
So imagine my surprise when I saw large quantities of “mudbugs” at the grocery store, high-dollar restaurants with them on the menu, and locally made screen-printed T-shirts advising folk to pinch da tail and suck da head.
I knew, however, that if I am to officially call this place home I would have to suspend my better judgment and dig in.
Hearing and receiving no invitations, I formed my own crawfish boil under the disguise of a church picnic. The day came: 70s, light breeze and blue skies at The Fly. When I arrived, the chef was already boiling. I moseyed over, picked one of the critters up, stared at it, put it down, and started nursing an Abita. This wasn’t going to be easy.
Soon the piles of the small red crustaceans were poured on the table and into buckets. Folk grabbed a plastic pitcher and began piling gargantuan helpings onto humongous plastic trays. I watched in amazement; I could not believe folk were being so greedy and gluttonous.
Then came my turn. I smugly placed only four or five on my plate, thinking I would display proper manners. I twisted the tail, tore at the second vertebrae and popped the meat into my mouth: fantastic! In a matter of minutes I had cleared my plate and realized why folk had served themselves such heaping portions.
It wasn’t clam cakes at Point Judith, RI, with the waves of the upper Atlantic crashing against shore. Nope, it was better. Crawfish, corn on the cob, sausage, garlic on saltines, the Mississippi, and new friends. Spicy, messy, and thickening – a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I did not suck the head. I’ll need a few more amber beverages before that. Next time, perhaps.
When you see me running my now-necessary 7 miles on the streetcar tracks and I happen to run in front of your automobile, don’t honk or display your favorite number. Instead have a moment of sympathy for a citizen of this city who is enjoying it a little too much.