My Backup Plan Failed…

and it’s not the one that involved throwing the jeep into reverse and getting out of the way.

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Scott and I were involved in a head on collision yesterday.  Fortunately, thanks to airbags, and my theory of “yield to tonnage”, which is the lighter object should always yield to the heavier one, no one was seriously hurt.

I saw it coming.

I knew it was going to be bad.

My reaction, instead of getting right with my Lord and Saviour this one last time (my backup plan – covering my bases)?

“OH, SHIT!”

Not “Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me of my sins, and should I die from this, accept me into your heavenly kingdom.  I’ve tried hard to obey you, to love you, and to live by your Son’s teachings, but just in case we’re not quite right…”

Too many words for those milliseconds when the white Scion, traveling west on Perry Creek Road at Soccer Center, clipped the teenager using the “ For Entrance Only” as an exit, and came speeding at my jeep, which was quietly awaiting its opportunity to turn into WRAL Soccer Center.

Rather than dwell on the Christian learning experience that this should lead to, I’d rather propose something else.

I’d like to see the phrase “Oh, Shit!” come to mean the very same thing as my prayer above.

It’s shorter.

It’s much easier to say.

It would then cover all the bases.

Call me St. Jimmy.

The Best And The Worst In 48 Hours

For Foodies, the wife and I don’t get out much.  When dining with the family, we lean to the inexpensive, family friendly:

Wow, that list depresses me, but when you’re feeding 5, including a 12 year old that eats like he’s 16, it really needs to be inexpensive.

We generally try and stay away from “corporate” eating, despite the list above being more chain than small local.  The Rogers family will never darken the door of a Red Lobster or Olive Garden.  EVER.  Not as long as there is a Kemp’s Seafood or any small mom and pop Italian restaurant.

This past weekend, however, clearly shows the paradox being a food snob can present.  Friday night, we made a return to the Magnolia Grill for the wife’s birthday.  I will not do a repeat of that magnificent review from last year’s visit, but suffice it to say that it was a wonderful sacrifice to the culinary gods.  We need to solve the world hunger problem, and then we must figure out how to replace those round, red things in the grocery store with heirloom tomatoes.  Oh my lord!

Then there was our Sunday road trip.  When on the road to anywhere but the beach, we will eat at Cracker Barrel, a clear exception to our chain, corporate restaurant embargo.  I do despise the fact that there is as much gift shop as there is restaurant, but the food isn’t bad.  It’s actually pretty good.  It’s somewhat reassuring that within 5 exits on any interstate, there will be somewhere we can sit down and have a decent “meat and two”.  The Cracker Barrel has found a niche in that it is impossible to know of a mom and pop hole in the wall restaurant everywhere, and that’s why, when going to the beach, we only eat at Wilbur’s, McCalls, and the Meadow Village Restaurant – not Cracker Barrel.

We visited the depths of hell, however, Sunday night for dinner.  This trip was to take the oldest to Camp Cheerio Extreme (“Just 30 minutes past the middle of nowhere!”).  For the 2nd year, we’ve let our middle child choose where we ate dinner, and both years we’ve ended up at Streets of Southpoint, or the home of the corporate restaurant.  Last year it was Maggianos, but their fried cheese was “weird”, so it didn’t make the cut.  He chose the Cheesecake Factory.

What a god-awful attempt at mediocrity.  Their website claims “something for everyone”, which is the whole problem.  The 15-20 page menu has mexican, italian, american, chinese, and thai food.  PICK SOMETHING AND TRY AND DO IT WELL, instead of everything with mediocrity.

I would have been happier if the fish tacos had been bad, but they weren’t.  They were completely tasteless, even when covered in guacamole and salsa. Salt and Pepper didn’t help.  There was no saving them.

Of course, the place was packed the whole time we were there.  At least the cheesecake was good.

It’s Prom Season

A good friend of mine is a high school teacher, and he and his wife have recently blogged about their experiences chaperoning the Prom.  It took me back to one of my Prom experiences.

I was asked to escort a young lady to the St. Mary’s Prom “back in the day” – we were friends from church, and she needed a date. I, being the young stud that I was, was certainly willing to oblige.

Back then, I did a pretty good job of transcending the cliques.  I could run with the nerds and the cool kids equally well.  I’ve never been much of a partier (not that I have ever had any problem with it at all, but it’s the rare occasion that I have more than one beer, even to this day), but I was usually handy to have around to transport the rowdier folks

We went in the front door of the Prom, had our picture made, and went out the back door, to the parties. We dined at the City of Oaks Diner (R.I.P.), and settled in at the Ramada Crabtree. Once there, I departed hastily, as my “date” had accomplished her end goal, and no longer had any need for me. I felt so used.  I would have been happier at the prom. Confident that she was with friends, I went home.

The next morning, everyone in the family had gone to church, and I was awakened by the phone ringing.

“Mr. Rogers, this is Officer Smith of the Raleigh Police Department, and we need to inquire as to the whereabouts of your date of last evening.” I explained that I had left her with her friends at the Ramada. The officer asked me to come down to the Ramada, where he was, so I could “answer a few questions”. I hung up the phone, rushed to get dressed, and the phone rang again – it was Mom, calling from church to make sure I was awake.  I gave her the details and she asked if I needed her to meet me at the Ramada.  I indicated no, hung up, and the phone rang almost immediately.  It was my date of evening last.  She was at the Ramada, and had fessed up to everything.

Turns out, she had told St. Mary’s staff that she was spending the night at home, and she told home that she was staying in her dorm room on campus. Someone had caught wind of this and called the police (she was a little rowdy).

By this time, my mom was walking into the Ramada.  I climbed back into bed.

I was the only good guy in the whole transaction. Shoulda just stayed at the prom.

The Maltese Candidate

I was sitting at my desk, the neon “O T E L” sign flashing like a bug zapper on a hot summer night when the phone rang.

It was a dame, and she was bent out of shape like an old paperclip.

“Johnny, I’ve got a big problem on my hands.”  Not knowing who Johnny was, I listened intently. “Anyway Johnny, I’ve gotten mixed up in a dangerous world, and I’m worried”

Guns? Imports/Exports? Murder?

“No worse, Johnny, much worse – Politics”

I took a shot, and poured myself another.

“I’m running for President, and I’ve gotten myself into quite a mess.  Seems I misspoke, and they had video, and Johnny, I just don’t know what to do.”

I was on my last handkerchief, and I wasn’t gonna waste it on this blubbering dame.  Time for another shot.

“Johnny, I need you to find me some snipers.  I’ve got campaign stops all this week – surely you can do something for me?  Firecrackers, then?  Please?  I’m desperate, Johnny.  I owe my supporters some snipers.”

I told the dame to hit the bricks as I poured my last shot of the morning – murder’s not my game.  Not today anyway, and not for this broad.  It was time for lunch.

Reporting From Hell….

It’s your senior correspondent.

(That’s me after Scott’s run…)

Because we’re cool parents, we surprised the kids with a trip to the Great Wolf lodge in Williamsburg, VA, land of a pancake house on every corner in honor of our great presidents Washington and Lincoln.

Let me preface by saying that I am a kid at heart.  I love Disney, and I love the things that my children have reintroduced me to.

1720 The Great Wolf Lodge is amazing.  The hotel room we are in is as nice as we’ve stayed in as a family, and the water park is a blast – an exhausting, crowded blast.

All in all, I can recommend the experience, if you’re willing to part with some serious coin.

 

That said, there’s a lot to hate here.  The check-in process is a disaster, with rooms available “as they are ready”.  Sure, check in time is 4:00 p.m., but if your room is not ready, well, you’re welcome to hit the water park.  We’ll be glad to rent you a locker for $5.00 for the stuff you can’t put in your room you can’t have, because we’re not ready.

The dining here leaves much to be desired.  They have a somewhat captive audience, with hopping in the car straight from the water park to get some dinner inconvenient at best.  That leaves the buffet restaurant or the Pizza Hut take out.

In the evolutionary chain of restaurant servers and cooks, the starting point is here.  We were warned, but convenience dictated that dinner last night and breakfast this morning was done here at the hotel.  Bad food and worse service.

UPDATE! – I’ve had some time and distance to rethink things.  What bothered me so much about the Great Wolf Lodge was that it wasn’t Disney.  I love the ways that Disney tries to take money from me – there is a cleverness and an element of appreciation that I get from Disney that the Great Wolf Lodge lacks.  It seems that they have you captive, and therefore it doesn’t matter that the food is average at best, and the wait staff service is perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen.  In a buffet restaurant, your job is to get me a drink, make sure it stays close to full, and bring me the check when I’m done.  When you cannot do this, you don’t care. 

The Failure To Be Disney is magnified in the Country Bear Jamboree wannabe show in the lobby, where the tree, squirrel, and bear sing a song that is a very clear rip off of Circle of Life from the Lion King.  I wanted to wear cinderblocks into the wave pool.

The bottom line is this:

Room – A+
Waterpark – A+
Everything else – BLECH!

Go, take your wallet and outside food, and you’ll have a great time.

Christmas Music, part One

I love Christmas Music.  Since I joined the choir at church several years ago, I’ve really been enjoying the Classical Christmas channel on XM 106 and Directv Channel 866.

But That’s not what this is about.  I love a lot of different types of Christmas music, and some of my favorites are sort of odd or obscure.

This one comes from last years Christmas episode of Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip (a show that deserved better – Aaron Sorkin can do no wrong when he is on his game).  It is by the the Tipitina’s Foundation, a group whose mission is to restore Louisina’s music community.

The runs at the end are just glorious.

Check back between now and Christmas for other “favorites” of mine.  Hopefully, there’ll be stuff you’ve never heard, or an old favorite.

Making Room…For the Little one

I present to you, my first “commissioned” gig. A friend at Church called in a panic – they had come up one essay short for the Advent devotional booklet. After clarifying why she didn’t ask in the first place (she believed she already was in my debt for something else – she didn’t want to ask again). Unfortunately, it was a rush. The only thing was it needed to follow a theme of “Making Room…For The Little One”

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The nursery was set. Anne and a friend had painted the room a really pretty shade of blue (“It’s not Carolina Blue, I promise”) with a circus theme – there were elephants on one wall, a giraffe on the other one, balloons on the third, and a train on the last.

Our first son was on the way, and the arrangements had begun. It was the Christmas season of 1995, and after six years of wedded bliss, we were getting ready for what would be, in hindsight, a defining moment of our lives.

Our friends:

“You cannot imagine how things are going to change”

“Your world is going to be turned upside down”

“Get ready – your lives are never going to be the same”

“Ha ha! You’re going to get peed on!” (that was an unmarried friend)

We’d read all the baby bibles: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, “Baby’s First Year” – I’d even bought a copy of “When We Were Very Young” by A.A. Milne. Some traditions must be kept, and I was ready to read the bedtime poetry that was read to me.

We had cleared out our extra bedroom, and our lives, for our first son. We were ready.

And then Brad was born.

We weren’t ready.

Some days, we’re still not ready.

All the reading we had done went out the window. Everything our friends had warned us came true – every last thing.

We had prepared in every way possible, and yet, we still came up short. We had made room for our little one, but until we truly experienced it, we had no idea; no frame of reference.

Advent is the same way. All the excitement. The anticipation. A time of preparation, and yet we’re never really ready for the fullness the coming little one brings. Despite the fact that we do this every year, the thrill of this season builds in us again and again.

Making Room… For The Little One. Let’s celebrate His arrival as we would our own child. Get ready – your life will never be the same.

Parenting 101

As my children reach the age of more and more privileges, the calendar is marked, not by days and months, but by the next privilege to be taken away. “If you don’t act right, you won’t (insert next thing the child most looks forward to)”

– James R. Rogers IV
November 1, 2007
“Ruining Future Generations Since 1996”

It’s parenting by incentive and disincentive.  A friend of mine has an Iphone, and my boys are drooling all over it.  I told them, in all sincerity, that if they could behave in a manner I expect, and completed their chores, I’d buy them Iphones.  I meant it.  They got excited, until they were made to realize that a promise was not sufficient, and it was going to be based on performance.  They were told that if they would meet the standards being set, two iphones would be delivered on October 28, 2008 and as further incentive, an Xbox 360 would be delivered before Christmas.

They made it a day and a half.

2007 NC State Fair

Back when I was a published writer (OK, it was the high school newspaper, but I did win 2nd in a statewide competition) I wrote a column (sort of a Blog 1.0 before the internet for you whippersnappers – now get off my lawn!) about the NC State fair.  Now that I am a middle aged father of three, I thought it might be interesting to re-visit what the horny 18 year old Jimmy wrote back in the day.

It was originally my intent to transcribe parts of the column here, and then rip myself to shreds for the hack writing and triteness.  I cannot even bear to do so, as it is really that painful.  I started with a list of the sights and sounds from the fair.  I then go on to profess my love of the fair and how it’s a ripoff, both facts that remain true, twenty three years later.  Then through a series of too short sentences (a style I still employ, but to better effect now I hope), I tell of our visit to the fair and seeing Momba the gorilla girl – a fiction, if my memory serves, to fill column inches and an attempt to be clever.

The 2007 State Fair had many of the same sights and smells I remembered from the 1984 version.  We overheard outside the World’s largest Horse (I think there were three different booths claiming this this year) the announcer invite all comers to “see the giant horseshoe… smell the odor – you’ll know this is a live horse”.  We were obliged to tour the animal exhibits, and were disturbed by the banners hanging over the prize winning cattle as to who the purchaser was – it seems Harris Teeter is a big sponsor of the competition, as they purchased most of the cows.  I am a little concerned as to what the NC Farm Bureau Insurance will be doing the cow they bought.

I guess, in looking back on the 2007 Fair versus the 1984 Fair, I’m a little sad.  The years of smoky room politics that led to Strates Shows fairs for so many years meant that the fair was dirtier.  The element of danger as you rode the rides was palpable, and the fair was just sleazier.  I miss that.  During one of my visits to the 1984 fair, the guys I was with decided that we needed to visit the girly show.  Just down the midway from the freakshow tent, every 30 minutes the barker would attract a huge crowd in front of the huge stage where six or eight reasonably attractive women would come out and strut in whatever little clothing they could get away with.  You would then approach said barker, purchase a ticket, and then cross the stage to enter the tent.

I was at the end of the line of friends to purchase, and as I was making the move to enter the tent, the “beauties” came out for the strut, and I was pinned.  I’m stuck on the steps as the crowd behind me builds.  I’m 18, doing something I CAN do but shouldn’t, and I’ve just realized that my parents were coming to the fair with a bunch of friends that night. I was convinced that I would be busted for sure.

I wasn’t, and soon discovered that they women outside on stage must have had a break coming, as the women inside taking off their clothes were not the caliber of the ones I had seen moments earlier.  I do remember a woman approximately my grandmother’s age doing a dance with a hand puppet to the tune of “What’s New Pussycat”.

The 2007 Fair had hand sanitizers every 30 feet, and the 1984 Fair had shows that required them.