parenthood

Conversations That Did And Did Not Happen During My Son’s First Major League Baseball Game

The Pittsburgh Pirates games that I (Ben) attended with my dad back in the 1980s have taken on mythical status in my memory. Every summer, starting when I was around seven, we drove to Pittsburgh on the first weekend of August and caught the Saturday night and Sunday matinee games at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates of the mid-to-late 80s (think Tony Pena, Johnny Ray, Bill Madlock and Jose DeLeon, who had a 2-19 record in 1985) were abysmal, a far cry from the “We Are Family” champs of 1979 (and this indelible picture of Dave Parker from 1980) and years away from the Killer B’s (Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, though Jay Bell and Sid Bream were honorary members) and the great 1990-1992 teams. But that didn’t matter. I was going to baseball games with my dad. They remain some of my best memories with him.

On Sunday, I took Sam (a few months shy of five) to his first major league game at Great American Ballpark, where the Reds hosted the Giants. The following are conversations that did and did not happen during our father-son outing. See if you can guess which is which!

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BEN: “Son, you may not realize this now, but in thirty years time you may very well look back on this afternoon and think to yourself, ‘That was maybe the best day of my life.'”

SAM: “Father, I have no doubt as to your wisdom or the veracity of that statement. [looks up admiringly] You’re the best dad. Ever.”

—–

BEN: “No, we are not paying six dollars for a hot dog when you didn’t eat the lunch I made you before we left.”

SAM: “But I really want a hot dog!”

BEN: “Oh, ok. One hot dog, please.”

SAM: “And a popcorn!”

BEN [sighs]: “And a popcorn. Also a bottled water please.”

ATTENDANT: “That will be eighty-six dollars.”

—–

BEN: “Son, look at these seats! What a great view! And take a deep breath. Do you smell that? The fresh cut grass. Summer just around the corner. That distinct whiff of ozone right before a thunderstorm that will entail a thirty minute rain delay which sends us running under the bleachers and during which you will not comment repeatedly on how boring this is.”

SAM: “Yes, I can smell that too. You are wise, father.”

—–

BEN: “You see the players in the red uniforms? We’re rooting for them. They’re the Cincinnati Reds.”

SAM: “Who are the other players?”

BEN: “Those are the Giants.”

SAM: “They’re not very big.”

BEN: “No they’re not.”

—–

BEN: “Now, son, in this situation I don’t think Heston will give Billy Hamilton much to hit because first base is open and the pitcher is due up next.”

SAM: “True, father, except that DeSclafani is definitely coming out after this inning since his slider hasn’t been working for him and the Giants have already lit him up for six runs. So I’m sure Bryan Price is going to pinch hit for him.”

BEN: “An astute point, son. I have raised you well.”

—–

BEN: “See those smokestacks out there in center field? When a Reds player hits a home run, they shoot fireworks out of them!”

SAM: “But you said someone just hit a home run. Why weren’t there any fireworks?”

BEN: “Because that was Hunter Pence. He plays for the Giants.”

SAM: “Oh. Why does that man over there keep yelling?”

BEN: “Well, he really wants the Reds to win.”

SAM: “But why does he keep yelling?”

BEN: “I guess he’s just an angry person.”

SAM: “Who’s he yelling at?”

BEN: “Bryan Price. Isn’t this fun? What a great day for a baseball game!”

SAM: “Can I have more popcorn?”

—–

BEN: “Son, rooting for the hometown baseball team is part of what it means to be a Vore man. Your mother may not understand this — she prefers those effete European sports like soccer — and she will probably never take you to a baseball stadium, as she would rather, given the choice, be tormented by an eagle tearing at her liver each and every night whilst she is tied to a rock by adamanite chains than sit through nine innings of a baseball game. Now whether you become a Reds fan or follow in the footsteps of your father and cheer on the Pirates, I leave that up to you. Do you understand what I am saying, son? This is a rite of passage, and you are in that liminal state between youth and adulthood — between being a boy and becoming a man. What is transpiring now, as the Reds come to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning down six runs to five and Yusmeiro Petit faces the top of the Reds lineup, is something that transcends the temporal and reaches for the eternal. Do you grasp this son?”

SAM: “Yes, father. Does this also mean I’m old enough to drink a Miller Lite from that passing vendor?”

BEN: “Not when it’s eight-fifty a pop, absolutely not.”

—–

BEN: “Well, this is fun. Who’s having fun?”

SAM: “I need to go to the bathroom.”

BEN: “You’ve gone twice in the last twenty minutes!”

SAM: “But I need to GO.”

BEN: “Can you hold it until the end of the inning?”

SAM: “Is that when the game’s over?”

BEN: “No, that’s when the fourth inning is over.”

SAM: “I’m ready to go home.”

BEN: “If we hang around you might get to see some fireworks!”

SAM: “Home.”

BEN: “You don’t want to stay a little longer?”

SAM: “Can I have another hot dog?”

BEN: “All right, we’re leaving.”

reds

music

Thoughts On Growing Old, Attending Music Concerts, And Three Years of Silence.

“When is the last time we saw Wilco?” Erin asked on our drive downtown last week. We were going to the Taft to see Jeff Tweedy and crew. It had been nine years.

“I think it’s been nine years,” Ben said.

“It has not been nine years,” Erin replied.

“I’m afraid it has.”

Nine years ago, Wilco played Tall Stacks in Cincinnati. That fall show — October the 7th, 2006 — was two years after A Ghost is Born had been released, and less than a year before Sky Blue Sky would come out. Wilco has since released two more full-length albums, while Jeff Tweedy and his son, Spencer, collaborated on a project (under the moniker “Tweedy”) called Sukierae. Nine years.

And just like that, we felt old. The last concert we attended was also at the Taft, when Ryan Adams played three years ago. THREE. YEARS. AGO. (That was so long ago it was when we were still blogging on a regular basis.) When did we get old? When did we stop going to concerts? Why did we stop blogging? (There are multiple answers to that one, life being the primary reason.) And, perhaps the question that sums up all of the other ones: When had we secretly entered middle age?

These thoughts played through our heads as we sat in the nose bleed seats (another sign we’re not in our twenties: we were relieved it was a sit-down concert) while Wilco revisited a catalog spanning twenty years now. We sang along with “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I Got You (At The End Of The Century),” thinking of what those songs meant to us when we first heard them in college or just-out-of-it. Our first meeting was helped, in part, by a Wilco sticker on Ben’s Nalgene bottle … a bottle Erin spotted at camp, thirteen years ago, before she connected it to the owner; before a certain inconvenient boyfriend was out of the picture; and before we both settled in Nashville and decided, sure, let’s get engaged and figure this thing out as we go.

The more recent songs — “Art of Almost,” or “Born Alone” (notably, the band played nothing off of “Wilco (The Album)” — “not many of these songs seem destined for the Wilco canon” we wrote back in 2009) — we listened to politely, enjoying them respectfully if not with the same ardor as we did the early stuff. It was during these songs that our attention drifted and we looked around at the audience, wondering how much the people in the seats around us — mostly white, mostly adult, vaguely hipster-ish (or post-hipsterish) — were a reflection on us. How does a rock band age gracefully? How does anyone age gracefully?

We promise not to return with much navel-gazing and chin-stroking. We blogged what seems like forever ago because we loved it, and that’s why we want to restart now. But we’re returning a little simpler. The whiff of pretentiousness behind our former title (the Raymond Carver-inspired “What We Blog About When We Blog About Love”) has been replaced with just “Voreblog.” Posts may not be quite as frequent, and there may be less to say now about, oh, what we’ve been reading (since pleasure reading has diminished of late), or what the Utah Jazz should be doing this offseason (answer: acquiring a veteran point guard). But plenty else has happened, and we’ll unspool those things in the coming days and weeks. (And yes, Scooter Thomas is still alive.)

When Wilco launched into “It Dawned On Me,” toward the end of the show, Ben pulled out his smartphone (yes, we own them now!) and recorded it for Sam. On our vacation to South Carolina last year, Sam requested that we listen to this song roughly one hundred and eighty-seven consecutive times. Being parents on an eleven hour road trip, we obliged. He knows it only as “the Wilco song.” (We’ve tried explaining to him that Wilco is a band with many songs; this concept still eludes him.) The day after the concert, I (Ben) showed Sam the video, and he watched it with joy, piecing together that this song he loves could also be performed, in real life, in a dark auditorium where he does not yet have access to go (“Were there kids there?” he asked), and which his parents could now capture on a phone and play for him (or, more accurately, he could play himself, as the four-year-old mind seems perfectly assembled to intuit how smart phone navigation works). He listened to it over and over. When I tucked him in that night, he asked if he could listen one more time. I said sure. He took the phone and huddled up in a ball, his red blankie draped over him as he made a secret fort. The sound of a band I loved played faintly from below the covers. I pictured myself, listening to Wilco for the first time back in 1996, seeing this moment from afar, and wondering, as with so many things in life, how we got here from there.

movies, Nic Cage, television

Nic Cage In The Cage

Regular readers of this blog know that we have a bit of a Nic Cage fixation. “But he does so many bad movies,” our friends say. We readily acknowledge that yes, he does in fact make a lot of bad movies. (Ghost Rider 2 opens this Friday.) But he also makes lots of good movies. He also — and this is what sets him apart in our minds — has the rare ability to make some really good bad movies. (He also makes some really bad bad movies. Like Knowing. And Season of the Witch. And The Wicker Man. But we digress.) The National Treasure movies, just to name two, are terrible, but we will gladly sit down and watch them whenever TNT happens to air them, which seems to be every other weekend.

What we find so compelling about Nic Cage is this tension of opposites. Is he a good actor who chooses bad movies? A bad actor who occasionally makes good ones? A bad actor making bad movies that, like double negatives, somehow turn out good?

We tried to articulate this several years ago in a Nic Cage Cage Match post. Then, last night, “Saturday Night Live” provided this inspired bit of comedy which pretty much summarizes everything we tried to say then:

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These four and a half minutes are a testament to everything we find endearing about Nicolas Cage. May he one day fulfill his dream to appear in every movie ever released and restore honor to his dojo. Clone Nic Cage!

Sam, Scooter Thomas

We Moved.

Being introduced to a new habitat can be a harrowing experience for animals. Take cats, for example. Paws.org notes what a traumatic ordeal moving can be for a feline:

Adjusting to a new home can be a tense and frightening experience for a cat.

Consider your companion’s past experiences. Your kitten may have been recently separated from his mother and litter mates. The kitten or cat has had to cope with the transition of a shelter and the stress of surgery. The adult cat may have been separated from a familiar home and forced to break a bond with human companions or other animals. Now he must adjust again to totally new surroundings.

Not exactly a walk in the park. Our cat, Scooter Thomas, has moved at least four times in his life. We adopted Scooter Thomas when we moved to Cincinnati six years ago. Being the well-adjusted creature that he is, though, we felt certain he would weather our latest move with trademark aplomb.

We were more concerned about how Sam, now eighteen months, would handle the transition. New bedroom. New play area. New bathtub. Friends recommended we keep as many routines in place as possible.

As it turns out, we needn’t have worried about Sam. Any angst over a change in surroundings has been taken out on Scooter Thomas, as evidenced by the photos below.

This is MY HOUSE, Cat. MINE.

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I will crush you with love!

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CRUSHING WITH LOVE.

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Paws.org would not be pleased with this situation.

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Infant-pet tension aside, we’re getting settled in our new place and hope to resume somewhat more routine blogging in the days and weeks to come.

music

Things That We Recommend The Owners Of The Taft Theatre Do The Next Time Ryan Adams Plays Cincinnati

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Dear Owners of the Taft Theatre,

You have a great venue! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at Saturday night’s Ryan Adams show. Well, mostly. The thing about the Taft is that it has seats, so the shows you put on (often acoustic, as this one was) require people to, you know, sit in them. This has its advantages. Being old and crotchety (especially after nine o’clock), we like that we don’t have to stand for two hours. Seats help maintain that chill vibe us thirtysomethings strive for these days.

The disadvantage of seats is that you cannot get away from the annoying people sitting next to you. And there were a lot of annoying people at Saturday night’s show. (We’ll leave aside the question of what this may or may not say about Ryan Adams’ fans.) Perhaps all of them were simply seated directly behind, next to and everywhere around us. Regardless, we want to recommend a couple changes in your admittance policy for future shows that we might attend.

These are in no particular order.

1. Do not admit anyone with an iPhone who will obviously only be using it to check her Facebook status during the show. These people should be obvious to spot.

2. Do not admit anyone who will clap along to the songs. They are morons.

3. If someone looks like a hummer, ask how loud and off-key. Don’t let them in regardless of how they answer.

4. Perhaps screen people by asking if they plan to shout idiotic things like, “Delicious!,” “I’m just misunderstood” and “Come pick me up” eight dozen times. If they say “yes,” you know what to do.

5. Don’t just reprimand people who use their phones/cameras to take pictures. Take a cue from the polar bears of Svalbard and smash them.

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Of course, we realize that you’re in the business of turning a profit, and it may be in your best interests to allow the people who comprise groups #1 through #5 to attend and instead turn away us, the outnumbered, meekly obedient, quietly appreciative concertgoers that we are. If this be your decision, we will rue it, but we will understand.

We will then honor it by crushing your rib cage like a scorned Svalbardian polar bear.

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Sincerely,

The Vores

Friday Recommends, movies

Friday Recommends: The Trip

Come, come, Mr. Bond, you derive as much pleasure from killing as I do.

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In the annals of buddy road trip movies, none feature as many Wordsworth references, Michael Caine impressions or scallops as The Trip. Steve Coogan plays himself, or a version of himself, setting off for a week-long tour of northern England’s finest restaurants. His original companion, his girlfriend Mischa, has not only backed out — she’s gone to the States. Steve calls up his friend Rob Brydon, playing himself, or a version of himself, and — after making a point of telling his friend how many people he asked before settling on Rob — asks Rob to join him.

So begins The Trip, a meandering, hilarious expedition that’s surprisingly moving for a film in which not much happens. While the brooding Coogan and overbearing Brydon only occasionally amuse the other, their constant stream of impressions — which run the gamut from Al Pacino to Roger Moore to Stephen Hawking, and seem to comprise over half the movie — are a riot for the viewer. This game of seemingly meaningless one-upmanship works on two levels. For anyone who’s ever spent a week-long road trip with someone, this is exactly what the conversation devolves into: running gags, sophomoric humor and inside jokes that are bewildering to outside company (as when Coogan’s assistant Emma and a photographer join Steve and Rob for lunch).

But the weight of the film, and its occasional wistful tone, come from the unspoken competition between Steve and Rob to convince the other of his own contentment. Whereas Steve is always calling his agent for reports on more artistic roles (he dreams that Ben Stiller tells him all of Hollywood’s “auteurs” want to work with him), Rob spends his nights calling his wife, doing a Hugh Grant impression in a mock attempt to arouse her. One is restless, bitter, searching; the other settled, happy, content.

Director Michael Winterbottom, adapting his TV series of the same name, gives both men a fair shake. The film is Coogan’s, but the last scenes we see are of him alone in his London apartment, while Brydon is sharing dinner with his wife, cozy in domestic warmth. The Trip also features gorgeous scenery, making England look like the Rocky Mountains.

It’s hard to pick our favorite scene, but if pressed, it’d be this one: