What NOT to do at the Macy’s Parade

If there is one thing I learned following our Thanksgiving trip to New York City for the Macy’s Parade, it’s this – don’t abandon your wife for a hot cup of coffee.

I made that mistake.

I will never make it, again – not that I’ll necessarily have the opportunity. My wife will likely see to that. And in any case, we probably won’t ever have as good an excuse to join the huge Macy’s crowd as we did this year.

My wife and I gave up the traditional turkey dinner for the bright lights of Manhattan to see our son, the college freshman, march in the Macy’s Parade with his crew – the nearly 400 other members of the West Virginia University Mountaineer Marching Band, more popularly known as The Pride of West Virginia.

The Pride had the honor of kicking off the parade, leading a long line of other bands from around the country, plus the floats carrying celebrities we were barely familiar with, and giant balloons of cartoon characters we generally recognized. And of course, Santa and his reindeer brought up the rear to herald the Christmas season.

But I almost mucked up the whole thing because – coffee.

I’m actually a latecomer to the joys of coffee. Despite the round-the-clock work schedule of a radio journalist, I didn’t really start brewing it regularly as part of my daily wake-up routine until several years ago.

Now, I’m a zealot – a convert who can’t do without a steaming mug, or in this case, a sturdy take-out cup.

Which is why I developed coffee envy shortly after we found the parents of another WVU band member. My wife had made plans to meet them along the parade route..

After greeting each other and enthusing about having kids in the Macy’s Parade, I zeroed in on a woman making her way through the press of people that lined our side of the street. She was using one of those handy carriers to deliver several take-out cups of coffee to a group standing near us.

The temptation was too much to overcome.

I sidled over to her and conspiratorially asked, as one coffee enthusiast to another, for directions to the nearest coffee shop.

I then did the polite thing and asked if anyone in our group wanted a cup before setting off with our daughter, who is never one to refuse a warm, cozy drink.

The walk to the coffee shop passed without incident. The only thing that briefly troubled me was having to cross the parade route in order to get where we were going.

I should have been more than briefly troubled. I should have been downright alarmed.

On our way back with a well-stocked coffee carrier of my own, I joked with our daughter about the possibility that we wouldn’t be allowed to cross back over to her mom’s side of the street.

But the joke was on me. New York’s finest really weren’t allowing anyone to cross the parade route.

My daughter and I weren’t the only ones stuck on the wrong side of the street. There were other stranded coffee addicts, too. And, no amount of pleading with the police helped. They remained unmoved, even when I tried to appeal to the married officers among them by whining that I couldn’t just leave my wife to watch the parade without us.

I was just starting to resign myself to a difficult drive home when I overheard one helpful officer say he believed his colleagues a few blocks away may be more sympathetic.

He was right.

We had to go well out of our way, but after what seemed like an eternity, we finally broke through and made it across the street.

And, not long after we rejoined my wife, The Pride marched by playing their signature tune, “Country Roads.” .

I was never happier to hear that song. And thankful to be standing near my wife as we yelled at our son as he marched by.

And I learned an important lesson.

If you are compelled to cross the street for a stupid cup of coffee just before a parade watched by millions kicks off, make your wife go with you.

Rogue Text: A Star Wars Post

My wife thought she’d have a little fun with me this morning.

She posted to Twitter our text conversation about the new “Star Wars” movie that’s due in theaters in a couple of weeks.

It’s amusing.

And it was necessary.

She has a long history of ruining movies that bore her.

I half expect the neighborhood deer to show up trick-or-treating

I make my living on the radio, but the other day I was on the other side of the dial when the newscaster on the station I was listening to warned about the dangers of deer.

He offered tips to drivers about how to avoid colliding with them. They amount to slowing down and remaining vigilant, especially in the early morning and evening hours.

He also offered advice about what to do if such a collision seems imminent: resign yourself to crashing, brake if you can but do NOT swerve to avoid making a bad situation worse by crashing into other cars on the road.

This warning wasn’t the first I’ve run across over the past few weeks. I’ve already seen several media stories about the potential for deer crashes because IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR – deer are on the move looking for mates and wandering into traffic more often as a result.

The insurance giant State Farm makes it easy to report on the potential for deer crashes. Each year, it ranks the states where drivers are most likely to hit a deer or some other large animal such as an elk or a moose.

This year’s rankings came out about a month ago, with West Virginia occupying its usual place AT. THE. TOP.

According to State Farm, one out of every 41 West Virginia drivers will likely file a claim involving deer this year.

I’m already hyper-aware of the potential. Several years ago, I filed a claim when I hit a deer so hard it made my car spin around on the interstate, and I regularly have close calls on my commute to Washington, D.C.

Just this week, I was driving home from work when a young buck almost wandered into my path. It appeared distracted, as if it were playing Pokémon Go on a smartphone.

I don’t know if honking was the right thing to do, but if that buck really was looking for Pokémon by the side of the road, the sudden sound of my car’s horn snapped him back into reality. The deer turned on a dime and darted for the safety of the tree line.

Deer get bold this time of year, and that includes the family that lives in our neighborhood. They’ve been so brazen lately, I wouldn’t be surprised if mom and dad send their fawns trick-or-treating this Halloween.

Dressing them up as some sort of Pokémon character seems like a good bet. Many of them already have four-legs and hooves.

The more politically aware deer could simply wear Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton masks, but with such a contentious election, that might be more dangerous than wandering into traffic.

If I were them, I would skip Halloween, stay off the roads, and stick to grazing in my wife’s garden.

This week’s newspaper column – Autumn, Coffee and … pumpkin spice

Note: If this seems familiar, it is. I jazzed up last week’s post for the newspaper this weekend.

Autumn is finally in the air.

The crisp mornings mean I can actually sit outside with a hot mug of coffee and watch our neighborhood come to life instead of retreating to the air-conditioned comfort of my home.

Simply put, coffee is much more satisfying when it’s cooler outside.

Fall is my favorite season. The coffee is better, the leaves put on a colorful show, football is back and baseball’s World Series is not far off.

I should be dancing a jig, but autumn arrived last week 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 official change of seasons until I returned home from the morning rush to 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 don’t get noticeably shorter until now, 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 cargo shorts and Crocs for jeans and boots.

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.

A few days after the official start of autumn, temperatures cooled, and the rain this week seems to have sealed the deal.

Coffee is much better now. And the seasonal clothes switch has begun.

All things remaining equal, my wife and daughter no longer have to live with the threat of being seen with me in public wearing my cargos and Crocs getup. At least, not until next summer.

It’s just as well. I’m tired of them, too. I’m ready for flannel shirts and boots, although I might be willing to continue offending the fashion police and tolerate hot, humid weather for a while longer if it meant one thing – staving off the pumpkin spice juggernaut.

I’m not necessarily opposed to pumpkin spice. After all, I’ve been known to enjoy an extra slice or two of pumpkin pie. However, there is a reason why I don’t live at the beach. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

That hasn’t stopped grocery stores from stocking everything from pumpkin spice cookie, muffin, bread and cupcake mixes to pumpkin spice cheesecakes, pies and bagels.. A search of the internet turns up pumpkin spice potato chips, hummus, ice cream, cream cheese and yogurt.

And then there’s the pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice beer.

The sign at my grocery store says “Try Them All!”

I probably won’t. Nor will I try pumpkin spice pasta sauce.

Some things are just not suitable for any season.

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.