PAC 12 Gymnastics

Oh, God, not another gymnastics post.

(But, it’s really not.)

Isabella (she’s 9) and I are watching the PAC-12 Gymnastics Championships through the WiFi connection to the laptop and also through TWC Cable on the big screen TV. Reception is dubious, and there’s a delay between them. But, the crummy technology is adjacent-to what the Rep said it would be (yeah, I didn’t believe him then, and now I have been proven right. First-World Problems.)

UCLA (our team) is competing against 5 other teams at the University of Utah.

Competing are:

University of Utah. Utah State. Southern Utah. Illinois. U of Washington. and UCLA.

Isabella: Utah has a lot of teams. Is Utah even in the United States?

This was a direct question by a 9-year-old, and I gave a direct adult answer:

Me: Yes, Utah is part of the United States. Maybe not always part of this century, but definitely part of the United States.

This was a direct quote of mine.

[Editor’s note: The Fun Time has always tried to remain politics-free. But, the DDFT staff approved this particular snark, because Utah. Beautiful country. Absolutely. But… Legislation.]

Iz: I don’t get it.

Me: Well, you see… How old are you?

Iz: 9.

Me: Oh…. Look at that girl do that handspring, full tuck, back-walkover, layout, double-double.

Iz: Ummm. Dad… That’s a cheese-burger.

Me: Ok.

Iz: And, she’s a “Woman” not a “Girl.”

DDFT staff: You are on your own.

UCLA came in Second Place to… Wait for it: Utah.

Everyone’s a Winner!

I haven’t mentioned last week’s gymnastics competition in Las Vegas. Partially, because it took us 7 and a half hours to get there through the El Niño rain, and then 8 and a half hours(!) to get home. Normally, it’s about 4 hours, 5 tops. So, obviously, I’m not frustrated or scarred from fighting children in the back seat. And, the screaming adults from the front seat. Or, the “let me take a minute” while I walk off my anger on the shoulder of the I-15 outside of Barstow.

This was one of those Big Deal gymnastics meets for Isabella (she’s 9, by the way), where girls from several states get together.

Isabella, of course, took 3 golds and one silver in the individuals. Because she is awesome, and deserved them all. East German judge and all.

But, I have a problem.

The powers behind this meet have divided the contestants into many, many subgroups. So that everyone ends up with a medal. The 8-year-olds, 3-6 months: Gold. The 6-year-olds doing a somersault. Gold. The 10-year-olds wearing a blue leotard: Gold.

Everyone wins!

So, the awards ceremony takes almost as long as the competition itself. And, everyone gets a medal.

Now, I’m all for acknowledging all of the gymnasts who competed. And, I have sat through plenty of “tied for 18th place” celebrations. And, they are celebrated. With ribbons. Because, at this stage, the girls are trying their best, and should be acknowledged. Good Job, Honey!

But, in Vegas, Everyone’s a winner. Allegedly. Everyone. They all get medals. Top 6. Medals.

There was one girl who was the only one in her category (10-years-old, red-hair, Pisces, left-handed, favorite color: Magenta). They basically threw all of the Gold medals at her. And, she was like: What the hell? I thought this was an actual competition.

Everyone gets a medal.

Here’s why this is wrong. My daughter, who had one of the overall top scores, doesn’t know where she stands among her peers. (She crushes them, by the way).

I asked the coach:

Me: So, does everyone get a medal for showing up?

Coach: Yeah. This is one of the fun meets.

Bullshit. Because, after the entrance fee, the admission fee, the Vegas hotel room, the 15-hour round-trip drive/scream-fest, the gas, the meals, and all of the frivolity, I want to know how my daughter stacks up against the other girls. This meet alone was about a thousand dollars. Srsly?

Because, if she ties for 18th place, then maybe next year we won’t do this. But, there’s a lame Gold medal awaiting. So….

Oh, I see…. They have a business model.

Gymnasts…. Salute!

If it is February, then the next Gymnastics season must be upon us.

(Does it have to be? Because it can be expensive. Though, the Glendale YMCA is about a quarter what other gyms cost. Plus, my daughter (she’s 9) is not naturally talented. Wait… What?)

First meet. It’s a Practice meet, only one other team. It doesn’t count.

Crap, look. (I mean, Yay!) She’s Best all-around, Best in All Categories. ALL of them: Beam, Bars, Floor, Vault. Wiped the floor with her competitors. Gold.

Great job, Honey!

That was unofficial. Right? Of course, she’s the Best, I mean. But, it’s unofficial.

Let’s see how she does under real competitive pressure.

For the first sanctioned meet (last weekend, 50 or 60 girls):

Isabella scores a meet high Really Big Deal 9.750 on the Uneven Bars (would have been a 10.0, but there was an East German judge), on her way to securing the First Place Gold for her team.



Now, her coaches are saying: Yeah, we need to skip her up to the next level.

(Please don’t say it costs more. Please, please, please…)

“It costs more.”

Dammit. Why can’t she suck at this?

Next stop, Vegas. Jesus.

Grandfather Clause

So, it’s my 500th posting, and it goes about as well as I’ve grown to expect…

Overheard at the third grader’s school pickup gate, one little girl yells to some kid in the back of the pack, “Your grandfather is here.”

I look around, confused, because I am the only male-type person waiting. Then Isabella emerges.

Iz: No, Sam. That’s just my Dad.

Golden Gate

I’m going to do what I never wanted to do on this blog: A Travelogue. I hear you screaming Nooooooo! But, I’m closing in on 500 posts, and I need some filler material to reach my goal. But, this is mostly for Grandmothers…

San Francisco.

I’ve never been there. Lynn (the Mommy) has never been. The girls only briefly during a layover from Beijing. (I kid, of course. China doesn’t allow for US adoptions.) So, we had them the old fashioned way: Me, with a cigar in the waiting room. Everything else was easy. I am digressing in a major way. (If I am too funny, then just smack me a little. Owww!… You won’t be the first.)

So, Santa didn’t really bring many gifts. But, he left us a big-ass Recreational Vehicle in the driveway. The label read: San Francisco.

Oh, look.  Santa brought us a trip.  Who's driving... [crickets]

Oh, look. Santa brought us a trip. Who’s driving…? [crickets]

So, we loaded up the truck, and we moved from Beverly. Hills that is… (You get the reference, or am I that old?)

We took an unorthodox trip, because the voyage is about the journey, not the destination. Or some such Buddha/New Age jumbo. Also, Isabella (she’s 8) said that. Smart kid.

And, off the itinerary, we visited a Catholic mission. San Antonio de Padua. Lynn couldn’t be more excited. The priest didn’t expect to, but he held an actual mass for the four people in attendance. There was kneeling and praying and standing and sitting and kneeling.


We really did see things through the Los Padres National Forest that were breathtaking. (Hint, don’t try this drive in an RV. Unless you are manly-man driver like me. Or, stupid. Like me.)

At the top, there are extraordinary panoramic views of the Pacific. But, this picture pretty much sums it up:

Yay!  Daddy didn't drive off the cliff!

Yay! Daddy didn’t drive off the cliff!

And, we haven’t even gotten to San Francisco.

The RV park in ‘frisco (yeah, the locals hate that. It’s like people from Iowa referring to California as ‘Cali.’ No one here calls it that. So, stop that.)

Anyway, the RV park is nothing to write home about. It is across the street from what used to be Candlestick Park, home of the Giants and 49ers. Candlestick is now a pile of rubble, destined for yuppie condos and a mall.

Location Location...  There was a picnic table in our "preferred" spot.  Dude "upgraded" us.

Location Location… There was a picnic table in our “preferred” spot. Dude “upgraded” us.

But, now, we had a home base. And, thanks to Uber, we were ‘frisco bound. Yeah, I’ve got to stop doing that. (Am I right, Cali friends?)

So, of course, Chinatown for… Sushi! Wait, what? Ok, we walked past the “Floating Sushi Boat” restaurant, and the girls were transfixed. They didn’t care about the ethnic incongruity. Because there’s sushi. On boats!

Japanese food in Chinatown.  Why?

Japanese food in Chinatown. Why?

I’m a non-pescatarian (I don’t eat fish), so we also worked our way up to an actual Chinese restaurant. Funny enough, it’s hard to find good Chinese food. In Chinatown. But, I digress.

We also took a New Year’s Eve boat ride across the Bay to Sausalito, or as Julianna calls it: Sausage Island. It is not an island. And, sausage is served only during breakfast hours.

Not Sausage Island.  Because, it is not, in fact, an island.  Also, sausage is served only during regular breakfast hours.

Not Sausage Island. Because, it is not, in fact, an island. Also, sausage is served only during regular breakfast hours.

Oh look, Alcatraz.

The Rock.  With the Bay Bridge (to Oakland) behind it.

The Rock. With the Bay Bridge (to Oakland) behind it.

Julianna (she’s 11): Daddy, are there still prisoners there?

Me: No, Honey. It was closed years and years ago.

J: Good. Because, they would be sad to see us in the boat pass them by…

And, of course, there’s the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across it on New Year’s Eve. Making us among the last people to cross in 2015.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Isabella desperately wanted an “I walked across the bridge” button from the gift shop before we did the walk. After the walk, the gift store was closed.

Oh, look. Disappointment and crying and screaming. Also, Isabella was bummed.

Family vacations are fun!

Almost Arrested in Solvang

Daddy/Daughter Fun Time is feeling nostalgic.

Did I tell you about the time I almost got arrested for domestic abuse in Solvang? Funny story.

In 2009, we went on a camping expedition to Lake Cachuma in Santa Barbara County (two hours north of Los Angeles) with Julianna’s pre-school class. It was on a beautiful lake in the middle of nowhere.

In the pitch black darkness at 11 o’clock…

One of the mothers was escorting children to the bathrooms a quarter mile away. Holding both hands with the kids, she stumbled and fell face-first onto the roadway.

Patty (not her real name) needs to go to the hospital. Her face is a mess. Who can drive her? She’s bleeding!

Among the still-awake, word spread quickly. Around the fire-pit, no one offered. The bottles of Fireball Whiskey and Tequila and something smoke-able and God knows what else had made the rounds.

Who can drive her? Everyone looked at each other. (not me… not me… not me…) And, then,

I raise my hand.

When I am the most sober person at a campfire in the middle of nowhere after the smores and the tall tales and the bourbon, you know there’s going to be problems.

I volunteer to take Patty to a hospital 45 minutes away in Solvang, on uncharted roads. (The guard says, drive 20 miles that way, then 10 miles this way, then 8 miles. Then left. Don’t miss it because no U-turns for 15 miles on the totally deserted 2-lane road. Yeah, right.)

Angela (actually, her real name. Also a great name for a story like this) comes along cradling Patty’s head wrapped in a towel.

I haven’t even started telling this story, and look how enticed you are. And here is where it begins.

Act II:

Someone gave us a Garmin GPS device, because it was the Dark Ages before they were standard in-dash items. “In 12 miles, left turn ahead…”

We arrive at the hospital around 12:30.

Walking in are Patty, Angela, and me. Patty has a bloody towel covering her face.

Now, the Solvang Santa Ynez Hospital Emergency Room doesn’t get a lot of action, even on a Saturday night. Maybe a heart attack once in a while. The occasional weapons discharge.

But, one thing I’m sure they get a lot of cases are: Domestic Abuse.

We all walk in, Angela is holding Patty. I come in a few steps after.

The nurse/receptionist notices the bloody towel and asks what is the problem.

Patty says, matter of factly: I fell.

The nurse’s eyes dart at me like sabers.

The nurse calls the doctor.

Nurse: She fell.

Doctor: She fell?

His eyes dart at me.

And, I’m like… What the fuck. Yeah, she fell. And, I’m doing my civic duty, helping a friend in need. Angela is not the Sister Wife. If Vincent didn’t blast through half a bottle of Jaegermeister, he could have brought his own damn wife here. But, I did it instead. She simply fell.

I’m the hero.

The doctor insinuates: Well, we’ll see.

He nods to the nurse, who picks up the phone. I couldn’t see the number she called, but she only tapped three numbers. The first one may have been a 9.

The doctor takes Patty and Angela behind the screen. I am shown to the waiting room. I don’t know exactly what questions the doctor asked Patty. I’m sure some of them included: Did he hit you? Did he push you? Did he hurt you?

And, none of: Was he the soberist guy around the fire pit talking about William Mulholland and the waterways that get water to Los Angeles. (Yes the topic du jour before I was called away)

It takes quite a while for the ER doc to gently pull the gravel and dirt and schmutz out of Patty’s face, and stitch up.

Apparently, Patty and Angela answered true enough that the patrol car turned around and headed to its next meth lab.

When all was said and done, Patty thanked me vociferously for my help. At 2:30am. She said that the nearest ER plastic surgeon was 30 minutes away in Santa Barbara, because it was her face and all.

I volunteered to take her, because my night was already busted. But, “No,” she said, “you’ve already done enough.”

And, I’m like, Dude… I didn’t get arrested yet. Let’s go to Santa Barbara!

But, I was actually very sleepy.

We rolled back to the campground around 3:30 a.m. With a story to tell…

LA Snow Day (of sorts).

In Los Angeles today, nearly 700,000 students and tens of thousands of teachers and staff were sent home with no warning because of a terror threat. Even after some kids had already arrived at school and moms and dads were already into their obligatory weekly staff meetings, with the PowerPoints and the donuts and the Starbucks boxed coffee. Literally, millions of people were affected.

I know you are dying to know how this affected me. (I’ll try to not waste your time.)

For my non-LA, NY, Chicago friends, 700,000 people is probably many times the size of your city. And, I’m just talking about kids. Now, they are all (or at least 2 of them) making impossible demands in my kitchen: No! I hate peanut butter! She hit me first! She won’t help me! Daddy, you’re fat! I’m soooo bored! I want a waffle even though I know we don’t have any. Daddy, can I sing my new song to you? And can I play the violin? Can I have the iPad? Can I have the iPad? No Fair! Why does she…

Never mind Mommy and I have work to do.

When I was a kid back East, a snow day was a fun time when my mother would wrap me in way too many layers (like the little brother in A Christmas Story) and send me out with a sled for hours and hours of fun.

I’m not quite sure what to do with a “terror” day.

And, if you suggest going to the library… We tried that. Hipster dude in front was tripping on whatever the kids trip on nowadays. He was dancing and shouting and dancing some more. He ended up face down in the dirt. I told the librarian. She called 911. The girls saw it all.

Still, I guess it’s better that the girls are (reasonably) safe at home if there’s a credible, yet unverified threat. Because, Sandy Hook was not verifiable.

Now, if they’d just get off my back. (I mean that literally; One is climbing over me to get to the TV remote.)

Here Fishy, Fishy, Fishy

Our girls’ hippie school keeps asking open-ended, outside the box essay questions that I wish my teachers had asked me when I was in school. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

“Judging from behavior, how can you tell if a fish is male or female?”

I’m chomping at the bit with my sixth-grade, comic Gold answer: “They all must be a female. Because, none of them pee standing up.”

Punnily enough, Julianna (she’s 11) won’t take the bait. Though, I guarantee that’s the answer they’re looking for. I would have rocked at this school.

And, this Bird You Cannot Change

You can take the boy out of the South, but, … you know, The South can’t take the boy…

So, on the way to pick up the girls from school, the FM radio offers up…

“If I leave here tomorrow…
Would you still remember me?”

My hand instinctively reaches for the Volume knob. And turns it… Up.

“For I must be travelin’ on now
There’s too many places I got to see”

Rocking happens next. In a Prius. At 70 MPH.

Picking up Julianna (she’s 11): (Guitar Solo plays): Daddy, I am changing his radio station…

Me: If you do, I will BREAK your fingers… There are other


[Editor’s note. Sometimes, your resident Wordsmith intends to click the the Save Draft button, but instead, hits the Publish button. And, you can’t un-ring a bell. That’s what happened here. That’s why you saw this half-written, unproofed post.

And, at this point, I have no idea what “There are other…” alludes to. I’d love to know. I’m sure it was hilarious. Also, no one ended up with broken fingers.]

Teeny Tiny Houses

I was watching one of those “tiny house” shows tonight on HGTV. Because, Tiny Houses is the new hipster thing, I guess. Apparently, at under 200 square feet, having actual floor space is far too limiting to your freedom, bro.

I snark.

And, dammit, if the buyers don’t always complain that “the kitchen is a little tight.” Jesus. Really? Also, there are no granite counter tops or stainless steel appliances. Or, that you have to walk through the bedroom to get to the 3-foot wide x 6-foot long bathroom. And, there’s no oven and the bathroom sink is also the kitchen sink. Oh… And, they were hoping for a fireplace? Seriously. You know what you’re buying, right?

Also… You’re in Wyoming. Not Manhattan. Look out your 6-inch double-paned window… There are wide open spaces where you are. But, please squeeze yourself into a closet on the Plains, if you like. Just don’t complain about it.

Back to the show: That 200 square foot house is too luxurious for our buyers, so, lets look at a 96 square foot home (yes, literally).

But, “It’s kinda small”… Surprise!

The layout is really great, though. It has great flow. The bed/sofa/desk/craft table/dance room/workshop/dinner table/garage/play room/family room/chemistry lab/yoga room is perfect.

“With the loft ceilings, it doesn’t feel as cramped as it should.” As a party place, we could actually entertain someone here. And, by that, I mean one person. Elbow to elbow.

How much does it cost? Depends on how many banks you want to rob, Bonnie and Clyde. Because, it could be free. A prison cell is roomier. (Don’t ask me how I know.)

And yet, the buyers are sooo happy. Yay for them!

Wait… Oh, and now, suddenly they’re pregnant…. Good luck with that. With your 96 square feet.