Having a Field Day

My fourth grade son’s school held its annual Field Day last Thursday. He’s a little jock – currently playing organized flag football and ice hockey – so naturally, he was very excited to spend a school day doing something other than classwork demonstrating his athletic prowess. Or actually, half a school day. Rumor has it that the principal of his school turned Field Day into “Field Half-Day” and she eliminated all the “fun” activities (they used to have lots of games that involved water). The poor thing had less than two hours of what is, for him, the funnest day of the year, and he was bitter.

But me? Had my principal similarly reduced Field Day, I would have been thrilled beyond words, because you say “Field Day,” I still want to lock myself inside a stall in the girls’ bathroom.

Way back when I was my son’s age (kids, this was when the Bicentennial two-dollar bills were reissued, giving aunts everywhere something to tuck into birthday cards), my school’s Field Day was an interminable entire school day, held during last week of school. Invariably, it was hot and humid and at least half of my very small class would ingest gnats (or have to dig ’em out of our eyes) from the swarms that surrounded our heads. We were all made to participate in the traditional track & field activities, and it was a full-on competition. No concern for damaging anyone’s self-esteem. You either won, or you didn’t. (Ricky Bobby: “If you ain’t first, you’re last!”) You got a ribbon for placing, or you watched everyone else get ribbons.

I was never much of an athlete, and it was obvious even at that young age that I would be better off focusing on cultivating my other gifts. I was always among the last few kids picked when two team captains chose sides. I always got tagged first in tag. I never won races. I sucked on the monkey bars. I never could do the splits or a nice cartwheel. I just wasn’t good at sports, and I didn’t much like participating in them, either. So you can just imagine how much I loooooved Field Day.

While my overriding recollection is one of general disdain, one memory stands out as particularly scarring. I was told that I had to run a race and jump a hurdle.

Me: You mean jump, as in OVER the top of that… very tall… hurdle?

Teacher: Yes, you know – like a hurdler.

Me: Um, there’s no way I am getting over that hurdle. It’s as tall as my belly.

Teacher: Sure you can.

Me: No, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to do it.

Teacher: You have to try.

Me: I don’t want to.

Teacher: Well, you have to try!

Me: [near tears] FINE, but I know I can’t do it!

So, I ran at the hurdle, attempted something that may have vaguely resembled a hurdler’s form, and, as if in slow motion, fell over the damn thing and onto the itchy grass in a humiliated heap, the hurdle landing on top of me.

Me: [crying now!] SEE??? I TOLD YOU I COULDN’T DO IT!

I don’t know why they made me try. I’m sure they could sense my dread and apprehension. Maybe my “I can’t” didn’t sit well with them. Of course, my ego was bruised more seriously than my body. I was sure all the cute, athletic girls were laughing at my ineptitude, and the boys whose “girlfriend list” I was on had made mental notes to drop my rank below my more athletically-gifted classmates.

As an adult, I have dabbled in amateur sports, playing volleyball here and softball there. I probably don’t suck as bad as I think I do, but I just don’t find participating to be all that much fun. I much prefer individual activities, such as personal fitness or Bikram Yoga, where I can control how far I push my body and no one else is depending on me to do my part. I also enjoy being a spectator, watching truly gifted individuals push their bodies to a level I could only imagine.

I have said all along that, despite the fact that my three boys look exactly like me, the fact that they clearly all have athletic talent is proof that my husband is most definitely their father. Because there is no way they got that from me.

I’m not sure what my point is here, or how to end this. So, I’ll throw the question to both of all six of my readers. Please, leave a comment to share with me your tales of childhood humiliation, athletic or otherwise. Or, include a link to some other blog post that illustrates something similar. Don’t worry; we’re all friends here. You’ll make me feel so much better about how vividly I remember this particular sting, even 30-some years after the fact.

Gin & Tonic people of the world, unite!

Someone ended up on my blog yesterday by using these 3 search terms:

how to mix a gin and tonic 1
gin and tonic drinking glass 1
gin as a healing drink 1

Well. I suppose it could have been more than one person, but coincidence? I think not.

Just in case you missed it, keep this handy clip ‘n’ save guide to the perfect gin and tonic handy. Maybe attach it to your bottle of gin with a rubber band or something.

Hey you – yes, you with the gin & tonic in your hand – make yourself known! Leave a comment! We’re all friends here.

Rick Springfield: Now Playing to Teenie Boppers-turned-Mommies

So, last weekend I, like, went to see Rick Springfield in concert! And no, you did not accidentally stumble upon an ancient link to my blog from the early 1980s, because one, there were no blogs then? duh? and two? Rick Springfield is touring, like NOW, and he played a free outdoor concert in Rockville, MD.

When I learned he was coming to town, I knew I had to be there. Rick Springfield was one of the very first concerts I saw, waaay back in like 1983. (Kids, this was when all the telephones had curly cords and no one was sure whether the now-obsolete VHS technology was going to trump Betamax.) My friend Richelle** and I cried like the moody teens we were when, mid-show, he took center stage, just “Dr. Noah Drake” and his guitar, and sang “April 24, 1981”. This was a ballad about his father’s recent death, and since mine had just died and hers had just split, we were sure that He! Was! Singing! Directly! To! US! Oh! Mah! Got!

Fast-forward your cassettes and VCRs 25 years. Other than “Jessie’s Girl,” I had kind of kind of forgotten about the onetime heartthrob. But hey, the weather was perfect, and nothin’ says Memorial Day Weekend like a free outdoor concert in the next town. I figured it’d be a fun way to bond with my 12-year-old son, who is big into music.

When we arrived, it was more of a family scene than anything. (That’s not how I remember the concert being 25 years ago!) Wagons and strollers and canvas folding chairs encircled blankets marking off sacred front-and-center territory near the stage. Dads were toting coolers and moms were lugging diaper bags. If it was 25 years ago that I saw Rick in concert, at the height of his popularity, then I must be sharing this experience with many others of a similar age. And hoo boy, was I. All of us 40-something moms were there with our collective memories of Tiger Beat and General Hospital and LPs and cassettes. (Kids: Dated reference alert! Ask your parents!)

But if all his teeny-bopper fans have aged, then of course, so has our rock ‘n’ roll idol. I had to look it up: Rick Springfield is now 58 years old! And while I came to see this…

…. what I actually saw was more like this:

Rick Springfield 2004

…. and, like this:

Anyway, from where I stood, Springfield was movin’ & groovin’ as if he still had the body of a younger man. That Rick is quite the rocker, and an entertainer, too. He played all the hits we remembered, and even teased us with the first riff from “Jessie’s Girl” a few times. Oh, we couldn’t wait to hear his biggest hit! We know all the words, Rick! Sing it to us! (Because, no offense, but you know that’s pretty much the only reason we’re here.) Sure, we sang along to “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and knew the words to “What Kind of Fool Am I” when he included it in a medley. But, that clever performer knew he needed to save the best for last, because it’s getting late and the kids are getting cranky and we really need to leave, honey, to beat the traffic, and did you remember to let the dog out? So we need to go, but right after he sings “Jessie’s Girl.”

But here, readers, is where it gets stale. Rick had this gimmick where he would toss his guitar to his “guitar roadie” off to the side, and trade it for another one for the next song. He did it to much applause the first couple of times. The third time, however, just as I was thinking, is he going to that well again? his “guitar roadie” botched the catch and the neck of the guitar slashed his eye. BAD. So, roadies were running from one side of the stage to the other, which brought to mind that scene from “This is Spinal Tap,” where Derek gets trapped in the coccoon that wouldn’t open. Rick was preoccupied with what was going on in the wings. He kept looking over and asking if the roadie was OK. And, while his concern was touching, it did leave a less than professional impression to the show.

Then, some junior-apprentice-roadie-in-training brought out a guitar. Rick checked it and immediately handed it back, then asked for a mike, and sang the next song without a guitar. Then, he yelled off stage: “Rob: Tune it to an E. That’s tuned to an F,” but his tone was all, “Hey, stupid! That’s Guitar 101! Find someone who can tune a freakin’ guitar in the middle of my show, would ya??” That’s right, apparently the Cool Guitar Toss took out the only roadie on staff who was capable of correctly tuning a guitar. (Note to Rick Springfield: You should really add some depth to your bench at the next draft.)

But here was the really big disappointment. Springfield was down front with the riff-raff, working the crowd, when it was (finally!) time to sing “Jessie’s Girl.” Since he apparently couldn’t BUY a correctly-tuned guitar at this point, he yells up to the lead/rhythm guitarist in the band: “Georgie! ‘Jessie’s Girl!’ Take it!” And Georgie began playing the song, and Rick was down in front singing, and what I really wanted was to see Rick Springfield playing “Jessie’s Girl” on the stage, but instead he just sang it, sans guitar, amid the crowd, which I’m sure was a really big rush for those folks in the standing section up front, but definitely not so much for us moms and our kids in the back, because we couldn’t see for shit.

Still and all, I’m glad I went. My son really liked the show, and today he loaded is iPod with a bunch of Rick Springfield’s hits. The legend lives on! And this particular legend is in good company, for many of his cohorts from the 1980s are thriving on nostalgia these days, with concert tours and new albums. I suppose this makes me part of a highly desirable target demographic. (That’s marketing speak for, people dig this stuff.) Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this topic.

** EDITED MAY 28: My sister reminded me that she was at the same concert with us. I had totally forgotten about this. That must be because she admitted to having been in the bathroom, with my friend’s mom, because she was like so excited at the whole scene that she got sick to her tummy. Such a 7th grader move. She also reminded me that the April 24, 1981 song, was probably because it was April of 1983, maybe even April 24, the anniversary of Rick’s father’s death. So, that just made it all the more poignant. But we were still moody teens.