The neighborhood deer didn’t have anything to do with election day but I still have a fence to mend because of one

I gave some serious thought to attempting to write something smart about this week’s election, to setting something down that might ring true across both sides of the divide the presidential campaign exposed.

And I suppose I could have started with my experience in a crowded newsroom.

I’m used to busy newsrooms. However, on Tuesday night, I was surrounded by many more people than usual. They ranged from interns who were experiencing the excitement of their first election night, to the more seasoned reporters and editors, many of whom have probably run out of fingers and toes to count for all the election nights they’ve covered.

So many people were around, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see my wife walking our dog Rodney through the newsroom.

She didn’t, of course. At least, I didn’t see her. But while there is nothing like a busy newsroom to pump up the adrenaline, you couldn’t turn around without bumping into somebody.

The crowd was jarring, but whining about it is hardly what I set out to write this week. I was going to write something smart about the election.

The problem is, you don’t have to look far for informed opinions on the outcome. For example, my Twitter feed is full of election news and analysis from the pros on both sides. And for more of an armchair reaction, all I have to do is open Facebook and scroll through what my friends are posting.

In any case, I’m not so enamored by my own powers of observation to think that I have anything fresh to add, so I’m probably better off sticking to my usual silliness.

And that brings me to why I’ve got a fence to mend.

A couple of days after the election, a neighbor whose driveway parallels our backyard showed up at my front door asking what happened to the chain link fence that keeps Rodney from roaming around town with his canine pal from across the street.

I didn’t know what he was talking about until we went to have a look. Sure enough, a portion of it was torn down.

At first, we thought somebody rammed it with a car, but then my neighbor pointed out that his flower bed would have been damaged, too.

As we set about putting the fence back into some semblance of order in lieu of a more permanent fix, the most likely explanation occurred to me.

Earlier that afternoon, there had been a big commotion in the backyard. I’m used to Rodney barking out there, but this was different. He was growling and putting up such a fuss that I sprang from my favorite chair to see what in the world was going on.

While I was shooing Rodney back indoors, I saw one of the neighborhood deer, a big buck scampering down my neighbor’s driveway.

We figure Rodney must have surprised it while it was making an afternoon snack of my neighbor’s flower bed, gotten its antlers caught in the chain link and tore down the fence as it escaped in a panic.

I was so focused on Rodney and the deer, that the damaged fence escaped my notice until my neighbor stopped by.

As far as what I planned to write this weekend, the obvious thing would have been to draw an analogy between the backyard fence mending I have to do and this week’s election protests in major cities across the country.

But that would be too easy, even though fence mending seems to be the order of the day.

Catching up on presidential politics

The morning after this year’s final presidential debate, I rolled out of bed looking forward to catching up on the post-debate analysis. Keeping up with politics is part of my newsroom job, but I had a few things to do before I could settle in for some required reading.

First, I brewed a pot of coffee and then treated our daughter to a trip to the donut shop before school.

On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a fresh gallon of milk, a package of english muffins, a box of bran cereal, some romaine lettuce, a heavy bag of salt for the water softener, cleaning supplies and other items necessary to keep our home running smoothly and on a full stomach.

After putting everything away, I fired up my laptop to see what was being said about the debate, but then my wife called from work. One of the tires on her car had developed a slow-leak.

I took a deep breath, got back in my car, drove down to her office, swapped cars and took hers to the tire store to seek a fix.

While there, the guy who greeted me noticed the Washington Nationals patch on my ball cap. I don’t know if he was necessarily a Nats fan – maybe he just was trying to sell me new tires – but he was thoughtful enough to express sympathy for the Nationals exit from baseball’s post-season at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We talked baseball for a while and, to steal a line from Dodgers lore, agreed there’s always next year.

By the time I arrived back home it was midday, and I was once again ready to do a deep dive into the debate.

I was wrong.

Our dog Rodney was a basket case. He was barking and turning circles and wouldn’t leave me alone long enough to browse the internet for some thoughtful debate analysis, much less turn on a cable news channel.

Rodney clearly had some energy to burn off. And considering he had his annual appointment with the dog doctor that afternoon, I thought better of trying to ignore him. Instead, I took him out back to play his favorite game – “keep away” with the soccer ball that he’s nearly torn to shreds.

Running around the back yard did the trick. For an excitable dog, Rodney was about as calm as he ever gets when I piled him in the car and took him to the veterinarian’s office. He was so calm, he didn’t even flinch when the doc gave him his annual shot.

With Rodney’s appointment behind me, I thought I finally had a few moments to learn what others were saying about the debate. Just as I settled into my favorite chair, though, our daughter emerged from her room to inform me that her show choir practice was starting a half-hour early. I glanced at the time, shut down my laptop again and got back in the car.

Since my wife was still at work, I had to stay for a parent meeting while the kids were rehearsing. We didn’t get back home until after 8pm.

By that time, I was done. All I wanted to do was watch a little mindless television with my wife and go to bed.

Catching up on politics was just going to have to wait.

Sometimes life gets in the way, even for those of us whose job depends on staying up-to-date.

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.

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.

Stalking our college son

Our son hasn’t really been in touch with us since I dropped him off for band camp at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

Not surprising. He’s a fairly independent kid.

Thanks to social media, though, at least we know he made it to rehearsals on Wednesday.

My wife found this picture posted by @WVUMarchingBand on Twitter. She helpfully circled our son, marching with nearly 400 of his new best friends. He’s just left of the 40 yard line, part of the “V” in WVU.img_1406.jpg

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.