They’re all here – Cargos, Crocs and Pumpkin Spice

Fall has arrived.

It’s my favorite time of year, but the season breezed in Wednesday morning with little fanfare at my house.

My wife didn’t mention it before leaving for work. Neither did our daughter as she got ready for school.

As for me, I didn’t remember the change of seasons until I returned home from the morning rush and noticed a couple of Facebook posts welcoming autumn as a long lost friend. There was even one of those fall-themed “listicles” that are so ubiquitous on the internet. This one promised to answer five questions about the autumnal equinox.

I clicked on it.

Among other things, the post explained why days wait to get noticeably shorter in September, even though we’ve been losing daylight since the summer solstice.

It was interesting.

And scientific.

But the answers weren’t necessarily what I was looking for. All I really wanted to know is when I could trade my dorky cargo shorts and crocs for jeans and boots.

The seasons may have changed, but the days are still a bit too warm. The wardrobe switch has yet to happen.

It’s frustrating. No one wants temperatures to cool off more than me, except maybe my wife and daughter. They view cargos and crocs as fashion abominations.

But I would happily continue offending their sensibilities if it meant one thing – holding off the pumpkin spice juggernaut.

Grocery stores are already filled with everything from pumpkin spice cookie, muffin, bread and cupcake mixes to pumpkin spice cheesecakes, pies and bagels. A quick search of the internet turns up pumpkin spice potato chips, hummus, ice cream, cream cheese, breakfast cereal and yogurt.

I haven’t even mentioned pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice beer. And my grocery store actually stocks pumpkin spice pasta sauce.

A sign there urges shoppers to “Try Them All!”

Can that really be a good idea?

In any case, before I even consider going all in on pumpkin spice, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to at least have the chance to put up my cargos and crocs for the season.

The buzz of chainsaws in the morning

I may have gotten a little petulant when I first saw the “Men Working” sign in front of our house this week.img_20160914_151037606.jpg

I may have even stamped my foot once or twice while protesting (whining?) that “it’s my day off.”

Working was not on my “to do” list.

At first, I was sure my wife had put the sign there as a not-so-subtle nudge to get busy.

Then I heard the welcome buzz of chainsaws.

Turns out, the sign wasn’t for me. It was intended for drivers, advising them about the men trimming trees down the street.

I’ve actually been waiting for someone to break out chainsaws in our neighborhood for several months, ever since a guy working for the power company knocked on our door. He was identifying trees in our neighborhood that threatened overhead lines and advised me that the Bradford Pear in front of our house was problematic.

I readily agreed.

When we moved into our house more than a dozen years ago, there were four Bradford Pears lined up in our yard. Two of them came down in the freak October snowstorm that hit five years ago. At the time, I wrote that our yard “was a jumble of broken branches” and that “I hadn’t ever seen a bigger mess outside our teenage son’s room.”

If that doesn’t give you a good idea of the shambles our yard was in, consider this: even though our son has been away for his freshman year of college for nearly six weeks, my wife and I have yet to work up the nerve to crack open the door to his lair in the basement.

We haven’t talked about it, but I suspect she is just as fearful as I am about what might greet us. I actually think boarding it up and marking it with a skull and crossbones would be the best option.

Simply put, our son’s bedroom is the sort of problem that’s best put off until tomorrow.

But I’m tired of putting off our Bradford Pear tree problem. Ever since that October storm, I’ve worried about the two that remain. They both show scars from that storm and others. And even though they are still standing, I worry they are on borrowed time. The right storm at the right time could bring them crashing down like their siblings.

That’s why I welcomed the power company tree trimmer guy when he showed up at our front door. I may have even danced a jig when he offered to cut down the Bradford standing directly in front of our house. It didn’t hurt that it is to be cut down as part of the company’s trimming plan, instead of mine.

Those Bradford Pear trees have vexed me over the years. And while they have brilliant white springtime flowers and the one in front of our house offers shade, I’m just as happy that soon I  won’t have to worry about it crashing into the dining room as if it were an unwanted dinner guest.

We’ll still have one, though.

And with all the trouble those trees have been, one is enough.

Latest newspaper column – the top ten things we won’t miss now that our son is away at college

The day after West Virginia University’s Ginny Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, I was in Morgantown.

But I wasn’t there to help celebrate.

I was there to move our son into his dorm room.

Our eldest kid is no longer living in our basement. He’s out of our house and on his own, albeit still on his parents’ dime.

Our son started his WVU career a week early. He’s a trumpet playing member of the Mountaineer Marching Band, “The Pride of West Virginia.” The Pride requires members to show up a week early for band camp.

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive about turning him loose on Morgantown. And my eyes may have even welled up a little when I left him on his own. I’m not saying they did, just that they MIGHT have.

But now that it’s been nearly a week since the last time I saw our son, I’m starting to see the bright side of this college thing.

And so is my wife.

A couple of days after our son left she called me from her office. With sirens wailing in the background, she said “it’s nice not to have worry about him being in a car accident every time I hear an ambulance or fire engine.”

That got me thinking about several more things we won’t miss:

  1. Bellowing down the basement stairs each morning because we don’t trust him to set an alarm.
  2. Having to continue bellowing because he didn’t hear us the first time.
  3. The morning bathroom fight between him and his younger sister.
  4. Scrambling through a lukewarm shower before it turns frigid because he used most of the hot water.
  5. Being distracted when guests are over out of fear that he might wander into the family room wearing nothing but boxer shorts.
  6. Trying to pry information from him and only getting a series of grunts and a shrug for our trouble.
  7. Our weird relationship with the pizza delivery guy who, until last week, rang our doorbell on what seemed like a near daily basis.
  8. Having to buy frozen pizza in a misguided effort to satisfy his craving and keep the pizza bill within reason.
  9. Wrapping a pillow around our heads because he decided that 2am is the perfect time to practice his trumpet.
  10. Putting up with his sleeping until 2pm because he was up all night – PRACTICING HIS TRUMPET!

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it doesn’t mean we are gleeful that he’s gone and no longer interested in keeping tabs on him.

The fact is, we are getting sort of desperate. He’s been largely silent since he left. He hasn’t even been sending us many text messages, his preferred method of communication. My wife and I have been reduced to searching for him in the pictures the WVU band posts on social media.

That will likely change, though.

After all, his penchant for pizza means he’s bound to eventually run out of spending money.

Just an old clay pot

I was planning to say something deep and reflective about the old clay pot I found this week.

I discovered it beneath the snowball bush that my wife strongly suggested I trim earlier this summer.

But then she noticed it on the kitchen counter this morning and asked, “What’s this pot doing here?”

I told her where I found it and when I started to wonder out loud where it came from she deflated me.

“Your mom gave it to me,” she said. “I left it outside. Did you think you made some sort of big archaeological find?”



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.

Because misery loves company

The theme that plays while you’re walking here and there playing “Pokémon Go” is on a continuous loop in my head.

I can’t decide if it’s inspiring me to take a break from my busy nap schedule and get outside or if it’s simply driving me crazy.

Thought I’d attempt to get some relief by passing it on to you.

You’re welcome.


This weekend’s newspaper column -I’ve finally learned to just go with Pokemon

I’ve done it, again.

I’ve publicly shamed my wife for the umpteenth time.

A colleague of hers walked into her office Thursday morning and asked, “Was that YOUR husband walking around downtown playing Pokemon?”

Before you start judging, please note that I wasn’t home parked in my favorite chair and passively binge-watching “Star Trek” episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times.

I was actually out walking.

Around town.

Taking time away from my busy nap schedule and GETTING SOME EXERCISE.

On a certain level, my wife should be pleased that I showed enough initiative to get out of my chair this week, even if it was to hunt down cartoon monsters from a video game.

But I also suspect she would prefer I not be so obvious about “Pokemon Go,” the incredibly popular smartphone game that’s revived the Pokemon franchise and dominated pop culture since its release this month.

Anyone who is only dimly aware of the game instantly knows you’re playing it when you walk by them on the street. That’s part of its charm and a source of its ignominy. My wife’s colleague certainly figured it out when she saw me wandering around downtown phone-in-face, but she wasn’t the first.

After I initially downloaded “Pokemon Go” last weekend, I persuaded my teenage daughter to roam the neighborhood with me.

Teenagers are helpful. They are Pokemon literate. They grew up with the game and many are as nerdy about it as I am about “Star Trek.” She explained the finer points of capturing Pokemon and helped me catch my first one in an open field near our house.

That’s when I looked up from my phone long enough to notice a car slowing down and the driver giggling at us. Then her passenger bellowed “Pokemon Go!”

I should have felt at least slightly self-conscious. I’ve spent the past 20 years happily scoffing at Pokemon even as I opened my wallet so my kids could play each iteration of the game. But that shout-out felt like I was being welcomed into the club. Pokemon has finally found a way to suck me in.

I am probably more surprised by that than my wife is ashamed. I just wish “Pokemon Go’s” power to motivate people to get outside and explore the world around them extended to yard work.

My son and I usually share lawn mowing duties. This summer, however, I’ve let him slack a bit. It probably has something to do with him leaving for college in a few short weeks.

Rather than simply ordering him to help, I’ve tried to gently shame him, simply pointing out several times a week that “I mowed the lawn for you … AGAIN.” It hasn’t worked.

I tried a different tack earlier this week. I showed him a picture of a Pokemon I bagged while mowing. I thought it might motivate him, but he just shrugged it off.

It’s probably just as well. There are countless stories of “Pokemon Go” players becoming so distracted by the game that they bump into other people and walk into doors, poles and even into traffic.

If I actually let him play the game while mowing the lawn, he’d probably just end up mowing through his mom’s flower beds.

And that, without a doubt, would mean the end of anyone in our house playing “Pokemon Go” ever again.