Marching band dad

A day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal at the Rio Olympics, I’m in Morgantown.

Our son is starting his college career a week early. We’re here for band camp. He’s a freshman member of  the Mountaineer Marching Band, otherwise known as “The Pride of West Virginia.”

Today was registration day.

No more basement living for our oldest kid. Tomorrow, it’s sink or swim. We’re moving him into his dorm room and then I’m leaving him to it.

He probably won’t ever win Olympic gold, but I feel like there should be some sort of prize for parents who have gotten their kids this far.

Ghosts of Shepherdstown

I guess it’s fitting that the moment I sat down to write this, thunder boomed and lightening lit the sky.

The storm made our usually happy home feel as though it belonged in the establishing shot of an old horror movie. All that was missing was ominous organ music.

A more cautious man might have taken the storm as a sign to GO NO FURTHER because something REALLY SCARY was REALLY ANGRY.

But I’m not much of a believer in things that go BOO in the night. I generally don’t lose much sleep over the supernatural.

Lately, however, I’ve been drawn to the TV show “Ghosts of Shepherdstown.” You could even say it’s been keeping me from my busy nap schedule.

I have more than a passing interest.

For one thing, I consider Shepherdstown, West Virginia to be the seat of all Snyder power in the world.

I may not have grown up there (I was raised in Charleston, the state capital), but my Snyder forbears settled in Shepherdstown decades before the Civil War. Some family members still live there.

To steal a line from “Game of Thrones,” you could say there is always a Snyder in Shepherdstown, just as there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Otherwise, who knows what might happen?

In this case, the dead didn’t exactly rise, but an old family ghost story DID get dramatized in a TV show.

You can thank – at least in part – my late Uncle Jack for the show’s claim that Shepherdstown is the most haunted town in America. Decades ago, he coaxed the old family ghost stories from his Aunts, the three daughters of his grandfather, Harry Lambright Snyder, the editor of the defunct “Shepherdstown Register” newspaper.

“Ghosts of Shepherdstown” is on the Destination America channel, but I initially found the show online after my wife brought it to my attention. A friend told her about an episode based on an old Snyder story Jack preserved about my great-grandmother haunting the old family home.

The first time I saw it, I half expected to see bats take flight and Scooby-Doo and the gang roll into town in the Mystery Machine. Scooby and Shaggy bumbling their way through Shepherdstown to 1970s bubblegum pop songs would have been a pleasure to see.

Instead, I felt like the story of my great-grandmother’s untimely death in a horse-and-buggy accident was ginned up to benefit someone else.

It’s been a few weeks since I first watched “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” enough time for me to now see the humor. I can also take some pleasure that my Uncle Jack’s work to preserve family lore bore some fruit

Yet I also can’t help but think we’d all be better off if only those meddling kids had turned up to unmask the villain.

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.