Outer Banks: Baseball Observations (Part 3 of 3)

Baseball, right? Can’t forget about baseball. Sure we’re in the Outer Banks, but there was a minor league team 45 minutes away (Norfolk Tides).

Shani and Alex both said no way. Plus, since we’d cut the kids off from screen time, I couldn’t very well watch baseball on TV. But it occurred to me: what team to they root for in the Outer Banks? Hell, there’s not any baseball in either of the Carolinas. There’s barely a football team – I mean, sure they have the Carolina Panthers, but how boring can you get? The only interesting thing to ever happen with the Panthers was 5 years ago when those two cheerleaders got arrested for having sex in a bar bathroom.

My point being – who do you root for in the Outer Banks? Washington Nationals? Atlanta Braves?

Well there were a lot of Yankees jerseys and hats. Not to mention, at any given moment either Jack or I are wearing some type of Yankee gear. This brings about a lot of stranger comments. Mostly negative.

“You guys Yankees fans? Heh-heh. They don’t look so good this year.”

And lots of people want to talk about A-Rod. After one conversation, Shani admitted that she had hidden Jack’s A-Rod jersey because she didn’t want him to draw any controversy. Jack – smart boy – was in full agreement with her decision. He treasures his baseball shirts, but told Shani she should burn that one.

Sorry, remedial baseball note: A-Rod is Alex Rodriguez. He is the Yankees 3rd baseman and the highest paid player in the game (10 years, $275 million). He has just been busted for taking steroids –second offense. He’s currently facing a 2-year ban from baseball because he tried to obstruct the steroid investigation. It also looks as though he leaked the names of other players who were under investigation for steroids to the press so he could take attention away from himself. And finally, he has an orange face. Jack (wisely) cannot stand A-Rod. Me either.

But the team we saw the most hats, shirts, and flags for: The Pittsburgh Pirates. This fills me with happiness. This is a team that has sucked for 20 years and they finally have a good team. It’s a fanbase that has been dying to re-surface and re-surface they have. One day at the beach I started counting how many Pirates fans I could see. I saw 3 hats. 2 coolers. 2 twin kids wearing Pirates swim shirts.

Then out of nowhere one of the guys in a Pirate hat came over to Shani and me.

“You guys want a hot dog?”

“What?”

“I made way too many. I make ‘em a special way and I made 50. No way we can eat any more. You guys want one?”

Shani looked a little uncertain about what to do. I had no such hesitation.

“Hell yeah! Thanks.”

The guy came over. Asked me if I wanted mustard or ketchup, then hurried back and gave me a squirt of spicy brown mustard. Tremendous. Go Pirates, right? Hell yeah.

Oh — here’s a shot of the lesbian cheerleaders (cheerleader portraits and mugshots). No relevance to the blog post, but they’re hot, right?  I bet it’ll make people more likely to click the Facebook link for this post.

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Outer Banks: Kid Observations (Part 2 of 3)

If you’re driving through Philly and heading for the Ben Franklin Bridge, there is a light that always has a few panhandlers shuffling around asking for change.

My kids would be great at that.

Spending a week in a beach house is about my boys begging me for sweets and for screen time.

“Can we have a fruit bar? Pleeeeese?”

“I want to watch another Jessie!”

“But I’m hungry!”

“I started watching one and I have to finish it!”

“It’s vacation! Can we get ice cream?”

Christ with a crutch it was annoying. Until finally at the end of 2 days, Shani got smart and cut it out completely.

“No more sweets. No more screen time. We’ve got the beach. We have a pool. No more. Done.”

And it worked like a charm. Take away the obvious, easy route to entertainment and the boys will find all kinds of things to do.

Jack and I played Stratomatic. It’s like baseball cards on steroids and you roll dice to determine the outcomes of each batter/pitcher matchup. We re-played the 2012 World Series over the course of days and in this case, Detroit won it in 5. It was a blast.

The other big thing Jack did was write his first draft of his minor league baseball article.

Now look, I’m his dad, but I’m also a creative director of an entire team of writers. I will report to you that in my expert opinion, my son is a very strong writer. His first draft had a point of view, a great tone…the first draft was literally better than I expected the final product to be after I’d worked with him through several revisions. If I’m being honest, I did not really think we’d get this into Sports Illustrated for Kids. I figured we’d find some online publication to publish it. But now I genuinely think there is a shot the article gets in SI for Kids. I think it’s that good. I’ll post it when he’s done revising. I’m excited to share.

Alex broke out his Rainbow Loom. For those of you who don’t know, this is a huge thing with kids right now. They weave tiny dime-sized rubber bands into patterned bracelets and rings. It is also a tremendous case to allow child labor. Alex can weave tiny, complex marvels together at an astonishing rate. Check this out

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He even invented his own pattern (the Double Decker), and we filmed a demonstration video which we’ve posted on YouTube. (1238 hits and counting)

We returned to the beach daily and the boys spend countless hours out in the waves. Here is a short list of some of our wave-related activities:

  • Wave worship: Boys throw both hands in the air in some form of rapture and let the wave smash over them. Repeat this for 30 minutes.
  • Fosberry: Boys run at wave and try and jump over it without the wave hitting them. Rate of success: 0%.
  • Epic battle: Boys (and I) face off and wrestle. The object is trick your opponent into turning their back on a big wave so they are unsuspectingly slammed. In spite of the obvious object of the deception, they both fall for each other’s tricks quite often.
  • Rhino charge: One or both boys climb onto Dad’s back and try to hold on as Dad charges head first into a monster wave.

We bought flashlights and hit the beach at 10 PM to search for ghost crabs. Finding these crabs takes seconds – the beach is teaming with them. The crabs are a translucent yellowish white and they skitter at terrifying speeds around the beach. They range in size from smaller than a quarter to bigger than your hand. The boys whooped and fled and chased crabs down. We had 9 in our bucket at one point. Although none of the big ones were allowed in because the boys didn’t want the big crabs to hurt the little ones. (It certainly wasn’t because they were scared of the big crabs.)

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And on the final day, Jack could go no longer without his fix. He pulled a wiffle ball bat from the trunk. I was doing dishes and saw him out the window. He was on the front lawn in the midst of his own imaginary baseball game (complete with announcers: “And Jack swings…connects…that ball is…it’s out of here!”).

I watched him. He’s so little but he’s gotten so damn fast. I saw him fly around the “bases” and it felt like my chest was suddenly filling with beach sand. He’s 10. 10 years have gone by so impossibly fast. I’m more than halfway through my time with this boy. In less than 10 years he will be gone from my home. He will live where I am not. It felt like an aperture opening wider and wider right in my damn heart. That space where my boy, my son…just the thought that he’ll keep running faster and faster and someday literally be gone.

I had to wipe my eyes and I got soap in them, which burned like a mother. And in all honesty I was pretty appreciative for the change of sensation.

Scripts from Jack Nuckols, Announcer

As the Voice of the baseball team playing the front yard

“And Jack Nuckols is up. This pitcher has been unhittable tonight, but Jack Nuckols is known for making adjustments. Here’s the pitch…swing…he gets it. The ball is going. Jack Nuckols is heading for first…that ball is…out of here!”

As the Voice of the gold glove fielding in his bedroom (accompanied by much thumping as he dives and rolls for the imaginary ball)

“That ball is hit hard, Jack Nuckols dives…gets it! Throws from his knees…in time! The runner is out – what a play by Jack Nuckols!”

As the Voice of the waves in the Outer Banks

“Here comes the next wave…and this one is a monster. It’s rising…rising…holy cow that thing is huge! And here it comes! POW! That wave has slammed down and smashed everyone!”

Returning from the Outer Banks (Part 1 of 3)

Once again, sorry for the lack of blog posts. We’ve been on vacation. This year we spent a week in the Outer Banks, a beach area in North Carolina. We rented a house.

Please note that this is different from our normal vacation. We usually do road trips, and a week at the beach made me a little uncertain. I mean, why rent a house for a week? I already have a house. And besides, we’re not beach people. I like to be on the move. I like the road.

Getting there was really bad – and it’s basically unavoidable when you go to the Outer Banks. It’s a long, thin island with one bridge to get there. And once you’re on the island, there is one road going the length of it. Every Saturday roughly one-bajillion people arrive at the exact same time to get to their rented houses. We inched down the road. At one point we let the kids get out and they walked to the next corner and waited for the car to finally arrive. It was like my skull had been put in a giant pepper grinder and crushed into powder. I seriously wondered if this was all going to be worth it. But it got better quickly.

Day 1 we hit the beach and it was amazing. A terrific beach with great big waves for the boys to play in and shockingly un-crowded. But problems quickly arose.

“Dad! My…I’m all…” Jack shouted, tugging at his bathing suit.

“Me too!” Alex shouted. He  looked like he was about to cry.

And come to think of it…I was feeling pretty raw myself.

“Quick! Let’s get to the showers!”

Here’s the deal: Outer Banks sand is incredibly fine. It had worked its way into all of our bathing suits and was now held painfully in place by our bathing suit liners. Our crotches were under assault. We showered in the outside shower, but it did nothing. We rushed into the bathroom, tore off our suits and I tried to rinse them out in the sink. No good.

“Hold on!” I told them and ran out to the snack shack (with pants on). The guy there loaned me a pair of scissors. I rushed back to the bathroom and proceeded to cut the liners out of all three of our suits.

“Right!” I crowed. “Now all that sands will shoot right on out! Now we’re free!” We were back in the waves in no time.

We settled in well from there. The next day we went to a state park with huge sand dunes that we climbed over, and then rolled down. In between the dunes were pools of warm swampy water that we paced through, feeling the thousands of tadpoles flee away against our toes and feet.

The boys and I took a surfing lesson. Alex (my diver/gymnast) got up on the first try. Jack was having doubts, but by the third time he was up and riding waves.

“At first I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to do it. But then I decided to have confidence and say that I could do it and then I did it.” He actually said that to me afterwards.

We signed up for a Ravenchase Adventure, which is a team scavenger hunt where you race around the island solving clues and searching for landmarks. And we WON the damn thing. Shani solved this crazy word puzzle that led us down a long dead end road in the swamp to a graveyard – and we were about to give up when Alex spotted the gravestones through the bush, which was the key to a 300 point answer in the hunt.

But still…6 days. It’s the curse of vacation. It’s that feeling you get Sunday afternoon at that moment you realize you need to go back to work the next day. Except on a vacation it’s 100 times stronger.

I found myself counting down the days. Today is Tuesday. So we’ve still got Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Plenty of time. It’s like a bowl of gorgeous, deliciously ripe fruit and each day they’re getting closer to rotting away. Or better yet, vacation is a 6-pack of great beer in your fridge. You’ve got a friend over from out of town and you’re hanging out having a great time drinking those beers, when suddenly you realize you’re on the 4th one and 2 left is not nearly enough.

Friday night we took a Hummer tour in the rain through the dunes on the north part of the island searching for the wild horses that live there. It was raining and the sharp drops were needling into my face as we whipped along the beach at thrilling speeds.

Then we got back to the house, had dinner, and then we were packing, organizing, consolidating, cleaning.

Saturday we got the kids up at 6 AM and hauled ass out of there. I wasn’t getting caught in that goddam traffic this time. We slowly got to the main road and shot down it as more and more cars appeared. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is chasing them in the jeep. They can see it charging after them in the mirror. But then they build up speed and the T-Rex is fading away, and then it’s gone. We made it out and free before the T-Rex could get us again.

And Sunday back home? I got up at 5:15 and went for a bike ride, then I painted the hall ceiling, read work emails, mowed the lawn, went to the pool for an hour, picked kale from the garden and made kale chips with Alex, and then Shani and I made dinner. A busy damn day.

Know what? It was relaxing as hell to me.

OK…part 2 is kid observations from OBX. Part 3 is baseball observations on OBX. Good stuff.