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.

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?”



Billy Joel in the rain

In hindsight, my wife and I should have taken a canoe last night. If we had, our field trip to Washington, D.C. probably would have gone smoother.

Instead, we took my car and hydroplaned our way through strong storms to see Billy Joel at Nationals Park.

The storms made for difficult driving. We left our house at around 4pm. It was after 6pm by the time we arrived at the Metro station where we planned to take a train into the city. By the time we got to Nationals Park, it was after 7pm.

We needn’t have worried about being late, though. The rain delayed the concert for nearly an hour-and-a-half. And we needed that time just to make it our seats. The crush of people in the concourse seeking shelter was overwhelming.

It was still raining when I took this picture shortly after Joel finally sat down in front of his piano.


Can’t see him?

And here I thought I was being helpful by circling Joel’s location on the stage.

Just pretend the rain somehow ruined what would have been an awesome view, rather than judging me for not buying better seats.

The weather had one last inconvenience for us. Since the concert started late, we had to leave early to catch the last Metro train back to our car.

We missed some of Joel’s biggest hits. In fact, my wife and I exchanged a pained looked when he started playing “Piano Man” as we left through the center field gate.

But missing the last portion of the show was just that – an inconvenience.

The rain caused real trouble in the D.C. suburb of Ellicott City, Maryland. Flash floods ripped through the city’s downtown while Joel was on stage.

A state of emergency is in effect there.

We just got a little wet and missed a few songs.

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.