New Year’s Day

Head­ing home from Indi­ana, we are on a long trip and a 70’s sta­tion is on and the kids are in the back all asleep. We’ve been on the road for hours and still have hours to go and the mrs is asleep. I’ve picked the 70’s sta­tion because you can feel that peo­ple were just try­ing to relax after those 60’s and some­how knew the 80’s were com­ing and so it’s son­i­cal­ly a warm, fuzzy place for me to hang out and relax and dri­ve and then I imag­ine for a moment I’m Every­man on that long ride. I have this expe­ri­ence of actu­al being—it’s tran­scen­dent: I know I’m not the only one who’s been here in this moment nor will I be the last and just for those few min­utes that the Eagle’s ‘Already Gone’ plays on radio, I am exact­ly where I want and was meant to be.

And ABBA, I play a lot of ABBA and hope that it soaks into every­one while they are asleep.

At Play in the Soccer Fields of Elkin


6 Oct 2012: 5pm est
Elkin, NC

It is ear­ly Sat­ur­day (5:30am) morn­ing and the fog can be described as Ore­go­ni­an­ly-coastal thick or—as I am learn­ing around here—opaquely smokey and Appalachi­an: moun­tain fog so thick that it wipes clean the world. Even in the pre-dawn dark, the fog is white and dis­places the night so entire­ly that it’s like look­ing at a neg­a­tive image of the night­time, every­thing white except for objects, now com­posed of just shad­ows, exist­ing dis­con­nect­ed from every­thing, just float­ing by you. I am slow­ly, very slow­ly jog­ging1 with the dog because I am try­ing to lose weight and you have to start some­where. The dog is out a few feet ahead of me but appears sus­pend­ed mid-fog.

We enter the city park and start slog­ging on the track. The dog weaves from side to side on the track, head down, smelling out the track’s pas­sages. The dog enjoys these ear­ly out­ings while I con­stant­ly reign in and play out the leash in order to give wide berth to the oncom­ing run­ners who have been up much ear­li­er than us, wear­ing their runner’s face with its hard inward gaze.

We final­ly cir­cle the kid­die-soc­cer field, bare­ly dis­cern­able from the rest of dark park except for the soc­cer goals, where lat­er it will be bright and noisy and some what packed with adults and kids and the voic­es of most­ly, adult men exhort­ing their kids to look at the ball or to get in there, to get into the scrum that kid­die soc­cer tends to devolve into and instead of inter­lock­ing heads and arms, they inter­lock legs and feet and if it lasts for more than a few sec­onds then at least two play­ers will top­ple and then be light­ly tram­pled by the rest of both teams still try­ing to get at the ball.

The kids on the team are with­out excep­tion all good kids; they will try to do their best at what­ev­er you are asking/​telling/​yelling them to, even if they have absolute­ly no idea what you are talk­ing about. They will nod and then run as instruct­ed, faith­ful­ly charg­ing the Mag­inot line. How­ev­er, it is get­ting clear­er from week to week that the kids are get­ting it and once in a while (maybe once a game) you will see a pass from one play­er to anoth­er, pre­med­i­tat­ed and then exe­cut­ed that ends up being a goal. It is also exceed­ing­ly clear that when you mix 4−−6 year olds on the same team, the five and old­er set will bounce the four-year olds off each oth­er, scat­ter­ing them like a remorse­less pool shark break­ing a racked set. Even the dif­fer­ence between a four and five-year old is like watch­ing Bam­bi play­ing rug­by with adult ele­phants.

It also shows just how fast these kids are grow­ing and learn­ing not just sea­son to sea­son but week to week: the incon­solable four-year old who can not under­stand why she can not score a goal will in the next sea­son be the appoint­ed tank that goes through the oth­er team with a mind­ful inten­si­ty of the best pros. Scar­lett2 right now is that four-year old and she does in fact mind every bit when she gets knocked down or pushed over, and has attempt­ed to stomp off the field in protest, yet the oth­er girl on our team (who is five) prob­a­bly gen­er­at­ed accu­sa­tions of being a ringer after she scored off a goal kick, that is she kicked the ball from one end of the field to the oth­er and scored; audi­ble gasps of sur­prise were heard from the side­lines of stunned par­ents and onlook­ers.

  1. slog­ging is what i am doing []
  2. Mac right now is not play­ing. He has a cold and has been explain­ing the germ the­o­ry of dis­ease to the oth­er kids so that they know he is not play­ing because he doesn’t want the kids to get germs off the soc­cer ball if he should kick it. []

updates on soccer and fishing

6:18pm april 22, 2012

My week­ends are free again but they are spent motor­ing kids to and fro between orga­nized sport­ing events that are only as orga­nized as 46 years kids will allow. There is the almost mil­i­tary-like prep time before match­es, putting on the uni­forms, strap­ping on shin guards that look like they are meant to stop pro­jec­tiles, pulling on long, thick­ly lux­u­ri­ant socks and final­ly the cleats, lac­ing them, pulling the them tight but even­ly and fin­ish­ing up with a dou­ble knot to pre­vent that cru­cial slip­page that pre­vents an errant shoe fly­ing and wack­ing some unsus­pect­ing par­ent.

The game itself usu­al­ly devolves quick­ly, depend­ing on how much the kids have been exposed to amer­i­can foot­ball, into maybe two to three kids still active­ly chas­ing the ball, the rest wan­der­ing the field, spin­ning cir­cles, pick­ing grass, chas­ing but­ter­flies or if they are younger than most of the play­ers then usu­al­ly they have already left the field in tears not yet pre­pared for the awesome—awesome in the way tor­na­does are awe­some to behold—field of kid sports. The emo­tion­al thresh­old will vary from par­ent to par­ent, but we all have some invest­ment in our kids and project these Sat­ur­day morn­ing pro­ceed­ing far into the future and pon­der whether that one kid who is shov­ing a bit too much will be man­ag­ing hedge funds or serv­ing prison-time or prob­a­bly both, and that one kid who is always behind the pack and not com­plete­ly aware that he is actu­al­ly in the mid­dle of soc­cer game and who instead will be look­ing at that pass­ing but­ter­fly or be bend­ing over look­ing at grass that has been tram­pled by the tiny hordes and you might wor­ry about this kid in par­tic­u­lar but then you see him hold­ing out some­thing: a four-leaf clover, and you decide he will be the next Steve Jobs or a fan­tas­tic, high-stakes pok­er play­er, either of whom will place you in ear­ly retire­ment on some beach in Tahi­ti and you will paint Gau­guin-esque pic­tures won­der­ing just what you were mis-think­ing all those many years ago.

Or as hap­pened to me today, I learned that although Mac doesn’t under­stand the intent of soc­cer, he can cast a fish­ing line shock­ing­ly well. With­in min­utes, he seemed to achieve a fisherman’s Zen, and so we spent an hour under an over­cast day sit­ting on a dock off the Yad­kin riv­er, before we decid­ed that his Cars™ toy-fish­ing reel would no longer suf­fice and called it a day.