I’d go see ‘Star Trek’ but I’m too shook up

All things being equal, this should be a nerdy weekend for me, just not in the way you’d expect.

“Star Trek: Beyond,” the latest movie set in the rebooted universe, is in theaters.

But it’s opening the same weekend that my kids are appearing in the annual summer show at the Apollo Theater in our hometown – Martinsburg, West Virginia.

They are participating in the Apollo’s Youth Summer Theatre Workshop staging of the Elvis musical “All Shook Up.”

The show opens tonight with performances scheduled through the weekend.

I never thought I’d be faced with a choice between “Star Trek” and a musical.

Good thing I’m more nerdy about my kids.

Otherwise, the lure of “Star Trek” might be too much to resist.



I rediscovered my Crocs and now my daughter can’t unsee them

Found these long-lost babies in the bottom of the closet yesterday.

My teenage daughter gave me the side-eye when she saw me sporting them.

Then she asked, “Whyyyyyyyyyyyy”?

I told her comfortable shoes are a must for a man with as busy a nap schedule as mine.


Two things this week – high school graduation and air conditioning

This week started out promising enough.

The cool temperatures and rain on Monday offered perfect weather for a nap. I even had the day off from work, so I should have had more than enough time to slink off for a snooze while no one was looking.

The thing is, though, the opportunity never, ever, presented itself. I was knocked off my busy nap schedule because Monday was one of the most important days of the year at our house.

Our son and more than 250 of his best friends draped themselves in caps and gowns, waited for their names to be called and accepted their high school diplomas. As members of the Class of 2016, they are now part of their school’s history and face the task of figuring out their next moves.

But while they’ve got choices to make, the wet weather Monday evening didn’t give school officials very many options.

Rain has consequences.

In this case, the weather washed away plans for an outdoor commencement. The exercises had to be moved indoors, into the school’s gym. The bleachers were packed to overflowing with parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and everyone else who wanted to watch those kids begin a new phase in their lives. There was even an indoor overflow area where you could watch the whole thing unfold on a big screen.

Truth be told, I was never going to work in a nap on such a day. Through it all, I was too busy alternating between being proud that our son successfully navigated high school and sentimental about all the milestones that got him to Monday evening.

Our son graduated the same week heat and humidity pushed out the rain and pleasantly cool temperatures that made napping such a pleasure.

Not only did the weather over the past couple of months provide the perfect conditions to catch up on sleep, but it also gave our rickety old heat pump a break. In fact, when I went to get my hair cut this week, my barber was marveling at how long he’d gone without turning on the AC in his shop.

He has now.

And when I finally flipped the switch on our ancient heat pump this week, it seemed pleased to have had a vacation. Instead of collapsing in on itself like a jalopy in an old movie, it’s running much more smoothly than usual.

Some things in life are inevitable. Spring turns to summer-like weather and the AC comes on. Kids grow up and they graduate high school.

I wasn’t necessarily prepared for either this week, but it was time for both.

On our son’s high school graduation and Starfleet Academy

The first teaser trailer for the new “Star Trek” TV series that’s supposed to come out next year was released this week. It didn’t reveal much – just the new logo and beauty shots of space – but it did remind me that I haven’t made a “Star Trek” reference lately.

And, since that’s an eye-rolling part of my shtick, you’re just going to have to bear with me as I engage in it.

Our kids are now at the age when the milestones are coming so fast it’s as if their lives have kicked into warp drive.

For example, our daughter is now a confirmed member of our church.

I took last Sunday off from work so I could be there as she stood in front of the congregation with a couple other church kids. They were confirmed on Pentecost, so they all wore red, matching the pastor’s vestments and the flowers behind the alter.


The kids participated in the service. One was responsible for the processional cross, another read the day’s Bible verses, and our daughter helped serve communion.

I was happily enjoying the moment when our pastor brought me up short. He told the congregation that, at least in the eyes of the church, our daughter is now an adult.


The church may consider her grown up, but she hasn’t yet turned 15. I’m allowed to  indulge in a few more years of denial where she is concerned.

Her older brother’s progress, however, is harder to stave off. He turned 18 this spring and voted for the first time last month.

He also had his first car accident. He backed his mother’s car into our driveway basketball pole a couple of weeks ago.

The car wasn’t damaged, but shooting hoops at our house is no longer an option – the pole isn’t there anymore. Apparently (here comes another “Star Trek” reference), the base of it was so eaten up by rust a starship gently traveling at nothing more than impulse speed could have knocked it over.


It’s probably just as well that it’s been put out of commission. Playing driveway basketball was never much of a priority at our house. For more than ten years, that pole had nothing better to do than preside unnoticed and unappreciated over our comings and goings. It was a vestige of the previous owners. Now, it exists only in memory and in the background of family pictures.

At some family gathering years from now, I can see us going through our old pics and somebody will say, “Man, I forgot all about that basketball pole. What happened to it?” At which point I will merely give our son the sort of disapproving look that says “you still haven’t lived that down.”

But that’s in a future glimpsed only in my mind’s eye. Right now, a more immediate milestone is nearly upon us.

Our son is graduating from high school. Commencement ceremonies are scheduled for Monday evening, and it won’t be long before we pack him off to college.

I’d send to him Starfleet Academy (another “Star Trek” reference!) but since it doesn’t exist (yet) a more practical post-secondary education seems more appropriate to our timeline.

College brings with it its own set of hurdles. And while our son is likely to remain true to form and give his mother and me heartburn, he will likely clear them and move on with his life.

Otherwise, I might have to get Enterprise’s captain to start opening the bar in Ten-Forward a little early.

Snowzilla: What would Jack Burton do?

Last weekend’s massive snowstorm is giving me an excuse to quote from one of my favorite movies.

Before you stop reading, it’s not “Star Wars” this time. Nor is it “Star Trek.” It’s the classic Kurt Russell martial arts flick “Big Trouble in Little China.”

Russell’s character is Jack Burton, a hapless but full-of-himself trucker whose catchphrase is “it’s all in the reflexes.” When he gets caught up in San Francisco’s Chinese underworld, his antics, inexplicably, help the good guys defeat an evil sorcerer.

In fact, the way the sorcerer dies seems to prove Burton’s “reflexes” mantra, but the audience knows better. We’re in on the running joke that is Jack Burton. He’s a bumbler who gets away with a lucky throw of a knife.

The films ends the same way it opens: Burton is behind the wheel of his truck on a dark and stormy night holding forth on his CB radio before no one in particular:

“Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

What did I do when the poison arrows fell and the pillars shook like they did last weekend?

I abandon my family faster than Burton’s reflexes, that’s what.

You might think me a cad, but I left my home early Friday afternoon because duty called. I work in a radio newsroom in Washington, D.C. And newsroom people don’t let a little weather stop them. At least, not the ones who stay in nearby hotels.

However, I still plead guilty to leaving my wife and kids with nothing but a couple of shovels to see them through to the other side of the storm.

They started shoveling Friday night while I was enjoying warm food in the hotel bar, sleeping in my cozy hotel room and being chauffeured to work in a big SUV. And they still had shovels in their hands when I arrived back home from my winter vacation Monday afternoon.

Our driveway was clear when I pulled up to our house. When I got out of the car, I saw our son helping a neighbor clear snow. My wife was happily chatting with another neighbor and her son while the three of them walked up the street in front of our house. She had just finished uncovering the fire hydrant in our yard.

Seeing them made me feel like I missed the kind of shared experience that pulls a neighborhood together. So when my wife handed me the shovel she was carrying, I went to help my son and my other neighbor. I was just in time to get my shovel wet. Only a small mound of snow remained in my neighbor’s driveway.

As I stood there with nothing better to do than to complain about how terrible it was to spend the storm in a comfortable hotel room in downtown D.C., I had a shocking thought. This winter is likely the last one during which I can rely on my son to help his mother clear snow. He’ll be away at college next year.

Time to buy a snowblower.

Even clueless heroes like Jack Burton would do that much.

I worked “Star Wars” into my latest newspaper column for Halloween

I don’t know how I’ve managed to make it this far without knowing there is an actual word for what I’ve spent years trying to avoid.

But at least this Halloween, I finally have a simple adjective to describe the turbulence that regularly sweeps through my house as if it were haunted by a ghost who needs anger management therapy.

Our teenage daughter brought it to my attention. She told me the other day she gets really “hangry” when I fail to keep the cupboards stocked.

I may be an out-of-touch, middle-aged, nerdy dad who needs his kids to keep him up-to-date on the finer points of pop culture, but, for once, I didn’t have to ask what she meant.

We had, after all, just averted what could have amounted to a prolonged meltdown.

Our daughter is usually borderline hangry when she comes home from school. That day, we had to make do with what we had on hand because I had yet to go the grocery store.

But even without context, the mash-up of “hungry” and “angry,” seems to define itself.

In any case, I know a hangry person when I see one. I live with enough of them.

To adapt a line from one of the trailers for the new “Star Wars” movie coming out next month: “Hanger runs strong in my family. My wife has it. Our daughter has it. And our cats have it, too!”

Earlier this week, a text message from my wife jolted me out of bed while I was trying to catch up on sleep after having worked an overnight shift in the newsroom. She warned that our cats were out of food. She didn’t have time to go to the store herself before leaving for work, but she urged me to go immediately.

And she left me with this disturbing thought as a motivator to wake up and get moving. She said if our truly ornery cat Skitty didn’t get something to eat soon, she may commit  … BLOODY MURDER!

My wife was exaggerating, but when I investigated the food situation, Skitty WAS sharpening her claws.

And when I peered into the kitchen, I saw that our other cat was hangry, too. She expresses frustration in a less threatening but more messy way –  by leaping on top of the fridge and hurling cereal boxes to the floor.

At least she kept her claws to herself while I swept up the rainbow of fruity colors and grabbed my car keys for an emergency trip to the grocery store.

It was only after I picked up food for the cats that I realized that I had neglected to rustle up snacks for our daughter. But I worked out a strategy to satisfy us both.

Our daughter doesn’t need a whole lot on her stomach to keep her happy, just a nibble here and there usually does the trick. And while she prefers to snack on healthy fruits and veggies, I went big and unhealthy.

I got her a massive bucket of fresh, hot french fries because … plenty of leftovers for Dad.

And because the cats just seemed too hangry to share.

Presidential politics is keeping me up at night

Call me lazy if you want. You wouldn’t be the first.

But if there is anything I take more seriously than “Star Trek,” it’s naptime.

Just ask my wife. She’ll tell you I have a talent for being able to nod off anytime, anywhere.

Her assessment of my ability to doze at will may (or may not) be an exaggeration, but I acknowledge being opportunistic about sleep. If our big dog Rodney isn’t barking, our cats aren’t demanding food, the kids aren’t home and there’s nothing on my wife’s “honey-do” list, my first thought is to slink off to bed.

I may have a penchant for lethargy, but I come by it honestly. In fact, it’s really a skill honed over years of working as a radio journalist. We are expected to work at all hours of the day and night, so you either learn to sleep when you can or end up bumping into walls like “The Walking Dead” zombies.

And, when you tack on the commute to and from the newsroom in Washington, D.C., all I can say is “stick a fork in me.”

Despite my best efforts to drift off whenever the opportunity presents itself, there are times when events conspire against me.

For instance, I was just climbing into the bed this past Sunday night when my wife informed me of a leak beneath the kitchen sink.

I got up long enough to determine that (a) there was indeed a leak, and (b) it was coming from the garbage disposer. Since there was nothing I could immediately do, I soaked the moisture up as best I could, grabbed a bowl to catch the drip and left the cabinet doors open so the space would dry as fast as possible.

I spent the next day considering whether to replace the disposer myself. Believe it or not, I’ve done it before. Several years ago, I installed the one that had sprung a leak. But on my way to work the overnight shift Monday evening, my altruistic side conveniently got me out of it.

Who am I to deprive someone else the pleasure of a job well done?

Upon arriving in the newsroom, I texted my wife and suggested she get in touch with her plumber friend.

When I got back home the next morning, I was looking forward to going horizontal for as long as possible.

The conditions were perfect. Our dog Rodney was in a quiet mood, the cats seemed well-fed, my wife was at work and the kids were at school.

But my talent for sleeping failed me.

I stared at the ceiling for hours.

I tossed and I turned.

And then my wife called to tell me the plumber was on his way over.

It didn’t take him long to replace our garbage disposer, but getting any sleep after he left was wishful thinking. It wasn’t long before the kids came home from school, my wife arrived back from work, Rodney started barking and the cats started whining to be fed.

Before I knew it, I was back on the road wondering how I was going to stay alert for another overnight shift.

But I needn’t have.

That was the night of the first debate among the 2016 Democratic presidential candidates.

Politics these days is enough to keep anyone awake – even me.