When you are a kid, there is nothing in the known universe greater than summer vacation. And for me, and probably you, too, summer vacation was like a three-month long shore leave.
From that moment that school got out in June until the start of the next school year in September, all my friends and I did was hang out, watch TV, go to movies, eat bad food, ride bikes and do stupid things like blow up ant hills with firecrackers. God bless the Puyallup, Wash. Indian Reservation. The Puyallups’ summertime fireworks selection was every pyrotechnic kid’s Valhalla. And there was something for the parents there, too, in the form of tax-free cigarettes and booze.
[Once my buddies and I got into high school, we added big talk about the girls we wanted to make out with to our summer repertoire. But, we were usually too dumb or lame to attempt to get lucky with any of our female classmates. There was a lot of frustrated horniness running around Puyallup, Wash. between 1983 and 1986, in particular.]
But now, the tables have not only been turned on me, they have been completely upended, broken into kindling and set ablaze in a conflagration of lost sanity and shattered nerves. This is because I am spending this summer at home with my four-and-six-year-old daughters. President Obama hasn’t had as much stress in six-and-a-half years in office as I have in barely a month at home with my adorable little hellions. And if I have one hair left on my head that isn’t grey by the time they go back to school in late August, I will consider myself luckier that Waylon Jennings when he missed out on that flight that took down Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper.
[Yes. Timely reference, I know.]
Our girls’ preschool and kindergarten wrapped up in mid-June, right at the same time my wife went began her five-week summer “vacation”. My wife teaches at a year-round school and gets a five-week break during the summer. However, anyone who has ever had kids knows that there is no such thing as a vacation when they are stuck at home with you for longer than one afternoon. From the moment the girls get up in the morning until they finally get to bed, it is a non-stop cyclone of craziness, wild emotion swings and destruction. By the time it’s over, we sometimes ask ourselves if it’s too late to anonymously drop our kids off at the local firehouse.
To top it off, I work from home, and I often have to get started before anyone else in the house is awake. Thus, I can’t really give my wife a hand with the girls for several hours. Of course, my need to provide for my family via gainful employment doesn’t stop any of them from barging in on me and creating a racket matched only in its intensity by the noise coming from the Brickyard at the Indy 500.
And now that my wife’s school has started up again, I am flying solo at home, trying to work while keeping the girls entertained and maintaining a least a sliver of my shattered psyche. Because of the nature of my work, I am able to take the occasional day off during the week and devote myself to doing something with my daughters that doesn’t involve them tearing our house down to the studs. And recently, I decided to take the girls out and do something that we could all enjoy together and would take up most of an afternoon.
I took them to a baseball game.
Now, regarding this game, I need to say up front that I really didn’t have a dog in that day’s fight. Yeah, I like the A’s and I think it’s great when they win. But they are not winning much this year. And the A’s opponent was the Toronto Blue Jays, a team I haven’t really thought about since Joe Carter won the World Series for them back in 1993 on a walkoff home run against the Phillies. For me, the most-interesting thing about this game would be if Rush bassist and singer Geddy Lee showed up, as he was playing in San Jose that night and is known as a huge Blue Jays fan.
But, as a baseball fan, I love the experience of going to a ballgame. And few games are better than the classic Businessman’s Special, the workday afternoon game.
Where I live, in Oakland, the A’s have a couple of these every month on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And whenever my Beloved Hometown Seattle Mariners are in town for one of these weekday, daytime contests, I make it a point to take the day off and spend it at the Coliseum, usually with as good a seat as I can get, regardless of the price. Let there be no doubt: day drinking at a ballgame is one of the true, great pleasures in life. Few things beat relaxing in the afternoon sun with a ballgame going on and no one to bother or worry you as you double-fist $11.25 Kona Longboard Lagers.
It’s too bad that such a pleasure is impossible when you have your four-and-six-year-old daughters with you. Someone has to
Still, the thought of taking my girls to an afternoon ballgame seemed like a fun idea. At least on paper, anyway. I have probably taken my daughters to a couple of dozen games. Sometimes, I have taken one of them by myself. Usually, my wife comes with me and there are two of us to deal with keeping the kids entertained while we try to watch the game.
But, this was the first time I had ever taken both girls to a game myself.
If you’ve ever seen “Apocalypse Now” [And if you haven’t, get on Netflix and stream it right now], you certainly know the opening scenes where Capt. Willard, played by Martin Sheen, is in his hotel room in Saigon. In voiceover, he lets us know what’s in store for him, and for us:
“I asked for a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one…And when it was over, I knew I’d never want another.”
Now, I won’t say taking my daughters by myself to an afternoon baseball game by myself was like fighting the Vietnam War, but it did meet this description: The best of intentions and the worst of results.
Things started off on a high note. Since I live within spitting distance of the O.co Coliseum, I always go to the box office ahead of gameday to buy my tickets. I refuse to pay the service charges and “convenience fees” that come with purchasing tickets online and which would cause Jesus to throw those unholy usurers out of the Internet were He around today. And for the section I wanted—middle level, on the aisle, just inside the shade—it was a great deal: $16 for me, 8 bucks for each of my daughters.
Ah, but I am not a rookie when it comes to ballgames, and I knew the Coliseum would get back at me for scoring such a bargain. And it began with the parking:
Me: Man…$20 for parking.
Six-year-old: Did you say “Two dollars?”
Me [Handing twenty to the parking attendant]: No, sweetie…It is definitely NOT two dollars.
Parking Lot Attendant [Laughs and shakes her head at the glory of it all.]
We parked, got out of my truck, and made our way past a surprising amount of tailgaters for a workday afternoon. Half of Oakland seemed to be taking the day off and using the O.co Coliseum parking lot as their personal barbecue grill/drinking station. It was Throwback Thursday at the ballpark. And our Throwback Gift was a pin featuring one-time A’s great Bert Campaneris, the shortstop for the A’s three World Series championship teams of 1972, ’73 and ’74. At least something at this game wasn’t going to cost me anything. Go Campy!
One thing that having kids has taught me is that you must add extra time for everything when you want to do anything with the little whelps. This is why, with the ball game slated for 12:35 p.m., we strolled into the ballpark at about 11:15 a.m. I had no idea how long it would take us to find our seats and then load up on our first round of food and I wanted to make sure we would be set with plenty of time before the first pitch.
And I needed every one of those pregame minutes. Because, since my daughters are 4 and 6, they, naturally, wanted different things from different vendors. Little Sis had to have French Fries. Maddo wanted a hot dog. They both reminded me a minimum of 137 times that they wanted popcorn and nachos cheese. And me being me, I insisted on taking up the Kona Brewing Co. station on its two-beers-at-a-time limit.
Making your way through the the Coliseum’s crowded concourses with nothing in your hands is a tricky proposition. And here I was, holding a cardboard carrier loaded up with two hot dogs and two large beers, while Maddo handled the nachos and popcorn and Little Sis controlled a tray overflowing with chicken strips and popcorn. I put the odds of one of us dropping everything we held at about 1 million percent.
Amazingly, no one spilled or dropped anything and we made our way to our seats in one piece. We sat down, I began washing down my hot dog with one of my Longboard Lagers, and the girls immediately began tearing into the mountain of junk food in front of them and threatening to kick apart the seats of the three poor souls sitting in front of us.
So, here we were, a good half hour before the game was even set to start with enough food to satiate not only ourselves, but those three poor souls sitting in front of us and whose seats Maddo and Little Sis were constantly threatening to kick apart. You might think that with all that grub it would have been enough to keep the girls satisfied. I know I did.
And lo, how foolish I was.
Before the national anthems were even played, both girls caught sight of the cotton candy and ice cream Nibs sellers. And they didn’t disappoint…
Maddo: DADDY! You SAID we could get those chocolate ice cream drop things.
Little Sis: YEAH, DADDY! ICE CREAM! IWANNAHAVESOMECOTTONCANDY, TOOOOOOOOO!
Me: This is why they need beer sellers in the stands like when I was a kid.
I implored upon them to eat at least some of what they already had and wait a bit. I think we made it until the middle of the first inning before I gave up. The begging, whining and all-around mayhem was too much for me to bear. I flagged down the Nibs seller and then got the cotton candy guy to come over just a few minutes later. The Nibs were good, but the cotton candy tasted like legitimate cotton. That didn’t stop my daughters from sampling every one of the four different colors that came in the bag. I think they ended up liking the red one the best. They called it “strawberry”. I called it “Empty Of All Flavor And Hope”.
I’d like to say that the game was exciting, but I don’t think I saw any of it besides a Blue Jays home run. I spent more time dealing with Maddo losing her her fourth tooth the second inning. Maybe her hot dog bun wasn’t as fresh as I originally thought? Most of my time was spent telling Maddo to get back in her seat and Little Sis to stop kicking apart the seats of the three poor souls sitting in front of us.
By the time the third inning started, both girls were whining about wanting to go home. By the time the third inning ended, I was taking them toward the exit. I think the Blue Jays ended up winning the game. I don’t really know. The game was barely a week ago and the final score is already lost to history and the forest of cobwebs that exist in my brain where my short-term memory used to be before my daughters sucked it all away.
What I do know for certain was our financial tally for the day. And what a score it was:
Kona Longboard Lagers (2): $22.50
Hot Dogs (2): $11
Chicken Strips and Fries: $9.50
Nachos with Cheese: $6:50
Cotton Candy: $5.50
Final Total: $118. Yeah, but you can’t put a price on Quality Time with you children, can you?
Well, yes you can. It’s approximately $40 an inning.