Saturday, October 4, 2014

Major League Soccer (Sort Of)

As the family Sports Czar, I decided to play J.P. up a division in the fall soccer league at First Presbyterian Church.  He wanted to play with one of his friends, Jack, who is 7.  At 6 1/2, J.P. is one of the younger players in the 7-8 year old league.  Overall, his team (the Yellow Bombs) is young, so they have struggled so far and are winless on the year.

Nonetheless, J.P. has had a blast.  Today was his second to last game for the fall soccer season.  Since Jude and I will miss the season finale next weekend, I took my camera to today's game and took some photos.

J.P. Meets His Hero

J.P. is a huge Vanderbilt fan, much to my chagrin.  When Vanderbilt's baseball team, led by coach extraordinaire Tim Corbin, won the College World Series J.P. was excited beyond belief.

One of the highlights of J.P.'s summer was attending Coach Corbin's baseball camp at Hawkins Field at Vanderbilt.  With 11 different fielding, hitting and pitching stations manned by Vanderbilt players, it was heaven on earth for J.P. and 250 other boys, ages 5-12.

Perhaps the best part of the day was after clinic, when J.P. got to meet his idol, freshman left fielder Brian Reynolds.  I've known Brian in passing since he was a boy, having played law league softball with his father, Greg, for several years.  When I re-introduced myself to Brian and introduced him to J.P., he smiled, kneeled down and put his arm around J.P. while he talked to him.  J.P. was awestruck.

J.P. and Vanderbilt left fielder and SEC All-Freshmen, Brian Reynolds, after Coach Tim Corbin's youth baseball clinic.

Friday, September 12, 2014

World Cup '14

Soccer was the first sport J.P. played.  As a 4 year old, we played in a league at the Brentwood YMCA, a mile or so from the house where I grew up.  We played in that league for a couple of seasons and it was fine, but it never really clicked for Jude and me.

Last fall, J.P. played in a soccer league at First Presbyterian Church on a team with one of his buddies, Jack McDaniel.  I helped Jack's dad and my friend, Thomas, coach the team.  We had a blast and agreed to play in the same league this fall.  A few of our boys (and parents) are back from last fall and we have some new boys whose parents Jude and I already knew.  It's been great so far, two games into the season.

Prior to this season, soccer hasn't really been J.P.'s sport, although he enjoyed playing.  During games, he mostly ran around the field, kicking the ball only if it came right to him.  He didn't like to "mix it up" at all and, generally, he managed to stay just out of the crowd of boys around the ball.

At our first practice this year, though, I immediately noticed something different about the way J.P. was playing.  He was more aggressive, had no problem trying hard to kick the ball in crowd of boys and played with more intensity and determination.  When he got knocked down, he popped right back up and chased after the ball.

At our second or third practice, during an intrasquad scrimmage, he hammered a ball toward the goal, hitting our goalie dead on in the face in the process.  I was ecstatic at the strength of his kick, because I'm always telling him to kick the ball hard.  I did feel bad, though, when our goalie, Logan, fell onto the ground crying.  A little bad, anyway, but mostly proud of J.P.

Last week, trailing 7-2 late in the game, J.P. got the ball and took off up the right side of the field.  He broke toward the middle of the field and goal, then stopped and kicked the shit out of the ball with his right foot.  It sailed past the goalie's head into the back of the net for his first career goal.

After he realized he had scored, J.P. threw back his head, roared, and raised his arms in triumph.  As a teammate hugged him, I laughed an beamed with pride.  I wasn't sure who to hug first.  It was just an awesome moment, one I had to write about before out next game, which is tomorrow.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Football Time in Tennessee

I'm sitting at Martin's BBQ Joint on Belmont Boulevard, drinking a Yazoo Hefewiezen and watching Alabama-West Virginia on the big screen above the bar.  College football season is finally, at long last, upon us and I am so ready for it.  There's just something about college football in the South that makes it really, really special.  Pro football is popular here, but college football just seems to be on a different level.

For me, the start of college football season means fall is just around the corner - my favorite season.  It also means summer is almost over - my least favortite season.

In the South, people plan their weekends around college football.  This week, I actually was able tos settle a case in large part because one party wanted to be able to watch their favorite SEC team's home opener with the children.  With Jude, J.P. and Joe in Neptune Beach with the Baines' clan, I've planned my entire weekend around watching UT-Utah State with my buddy, Mike Matteson (or "Mr. Mike," as J.P. calls him).

Yep, it's football time in Tennessee!

Monday, August 11, 2014

School Daze

Tomorrow, J.P. starts kindergarten at University School of Nashville, and I think my heart is breaking. 

I am so excited for him, as he embarks on his journey through school.  It is, after all, his journey, although Jude and I will be along for the ride. 

At the same time, I am a little bit sad and, I guess, nostalgic, as I think about times past.  Zero to 6 + in the blink of an eye, and tomorrow J.P. starts school.  Damn. 

Lately J.P. has started sleeping with his "loveys" (stuffed animals) again at night, which he'd gotten away from for a while.  I wonder if that's a byproduct of his being a little nervous about starting school.  If so, I hope Smokey, Gnash, Bruiser, Laker Lovey, Snowbird, T-Rex and Ozzie have brought him some reassurance that things will be okay.

I think, for me, it's the loss of control that troubles me as J.P. starts school.  There will be so much going on there with so many difference variables, all of which is totally and completely out of my control. 

Will J.P. make friends?  Will other kids accept him for who he is?  Will he do well in school?  Will he like his teacher?  Will he like USN?  Will he like school in general?  Will he be scared?  Will he smile enough?  Will he fit in?  Will he be a leader?  Will he be nice to other kids?  Will he succeed?  Is he ready?   

So many questions, banging around repeatedly inside my head like it's an echo chamber.  So few answers.

I remember Ronnie Henderson honking his horn at me as he drove past J.P. and me strolling down 10th Avenue.  It was our first walk together in the City Elite stroller.  Later, Ronnie told me I was literally beaming with pride as I waved back to him.

I remember holding J.P. on the front porch swing after dinner in the spring and summer evenings, swinging and singing to him when he was a tiny baby, glancing at Jude through the window as she ate dinner and watched television for few minutes in between feedings.

I remember breathlessly calling Jude on my cell phone from our front yard while she was napping upstairs, excited beyond belief because J.P. had crawled for the first time on a blanket I had thrown on the ground.

I remember J.P. walking for the first time on our small back deck, staggering like a drunken sailor from Jude to me and back to Jude again, wearing his "Basketball" t-shirt.

I remember strolling all over the neighborhood with J.P. on weekend afternoons while he napped in the stroller.  Bongo Java, 12South Tap Room (ah, Sweeney), Mafiozza's (ah, Doc), Frothy Monkey and others too numerous to name.

I remember so many Sunday mornings at Bongo Java, just J.P. and me, having a quiet breakfast at the middle table in the small back room, him sitting on the window seat beneath the large window that overlooks the back parking lot.

I remember listening to the Avett Brothers' "Left on Laura, Left on Lisa," the first song that J.P. and I really fell into love with together.  "Play that again, Dada," he said, over and over, as we drove around the neighborhood. 

I remember his first meal out with me flying solo, at Tabouli's on Belmont Boulevard, the predecessor to La Fiesta, then later, Chago's Cantina.

I remember running up and down the side of Belmont Boulevard one spring evening after a hard rain, the running water splashing over our shoes as we laughed and laughed.  People watching smiled as we splashed down the street.

I remember playing in the "doctor's office" (a stairwell) at Belmont U., playing college upstairs in the student center and many, many evenings spent on the soccer field there.  So many happy memories of time spent together at Belmont U.

I remember coming home from work one night and listening to Jude and J.P. playing and talking quietly in the nook upstairs, my favorite musical teddy bear playing its music softly in the background.

So many memories.  So many memories to be made.

Godspeed, J.P.  Know that on this night, the night before your first day of kindergarten, your daddy loved you and was so very proud of you.  You're everything I could ever want my firstborn son to be. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness

(originally posted on August 1, 2014)

I'm sitting in Chan's Wine Bar in Watercolor, FL, sipping a glass of a Henri Boillot white burgundy, Sleeping Joe beside me, on the last afternoon of our vacation.

As proof that the last day of  vacation is always the best, Jude just texted me from the beach to tell me that J.P. is playing touch football with Creighton (a local boy he met this morning) and a couple of other boys.  Sadly, endless summer it is not.

As per usual, below are some of my enduring memories from Santa Rosa Beach 2014, in no particular order.

  • Watching DVD's about John Ward and Condredge Holloway with J.P during lunch, encouraged as he inched ever so slightly toward being a Tennessee fan.  I'm not giving up hope yet.
  • On the beach one glorious evening, reenacting with J.P. a scene from the Condredge Holloway DVD where he leaves Neyland Stadium (then Shields-Watkins Field) for the hospital in the 1st quarter to have his injured shoulder x-rayed, then miraculously returns in the 3rd quarter.  As he enters the stadium and runs all the way around the field to get to the Tennessee sideline, the crowd erupts in a full throated roar.
  • Dusting off the "person are you ready?" routine with Joe, for the first time in 3-4 years, as Joe jumped off the side of the swimming pool into my arms.  It was funny 3-4 years ago, when J.P. would say it before he jumped into the pool and into my arms and it was just as funny when Joe said it.
  • Hanging out with Sleeping Joe at Grayt Coffeehouse and talking to barista Rick Burch.  To quote my friend, Hal Humphreys, "be more than just another customer."  I love Grayton Beach, by the way.
  • Playing football with J.P. (wearing his neon green swim goggles and looking like John Jefferson from the "Air Coryell" days with the San Diego Chargers) in the ocean, laughing as he squealed with delight every time he or I dove into the water to catch the football.  Yes, it's the little things.
  • Telling J.P., "I'm Mean Joe Green," as I ran toward him in the ocean, his eyes growing ever wider as I approached him, then sacking him as he clutched the football to his chest.  This, of course, led to 30 minutes of taking turns being Mean Joe Green and sacking the other in the ocean.  Laughter, lots of uproarious laughter, the whole time.
  • Discovering a 5-mile trail run on the Longleaf Pine Greenway Trail a half mile from our house in  Old Florida Village.  Seeing a bounding deer right in front of me the first day I ran the trail was pretty damn cool.
  • Seeing our friend, Jed, at Blue Mountain Beach Creamery and learning from him that the business is going great.  He looks so different from when we met him 5-6 years ago on our first trip to Santa Rosa Beach, after his family had just opened up the ice cream shop and he was trying to figure out how to run it.  In short, he's grown up.
  • Drinking a couple of beers at The Great Southern in Seaside, FL, with Sleeping Joe riding shotgun next to me at the outside bar.  The Great Southern might be my favorite bar on 30A.
  • Playing UNO (and losing, repeatedly) with Jude and J.P.  Playing Battleship (and winning, repeatedly) with Jude and J.P.  Sadly, J.P. has picked up the worst parts of Jude's and my competitive spirit - he hates to lose (Jude) and he is a poor winner (me). 
  • Dana McLendon's Youtube clip. 
  • Early morning swims with J.P. at the pool, after my morning run, always one of my favorite parts of our vacation to Santa Rosa Beach.
  • Making friends with Kyle, Gabby and their kids (from Tupelo by way of Thomas Street Coffee) and playing with them at the pool in the mornings.  As Jude, J.P. and Joe made the rounds before we left Saturday morning, J.P. got a little teary eyed when he realized they already had left for Mississippi.
  • Watching J.P. befriend Creighton at the beach on Friday, the last day of our vacation, then laughing as they caught dozens of jellyfish together and put them in buckets of ocean water and sand.
As always, it was a much needed vacations to Santa Rosa Beach.  I'm more than a little sad it went by so fast.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Home Away From Home

(originally posted on July 30, 2014)

I'm sitting at the outside bar at "The Great Southern" in Seaside, FL, reprising a splendid afternoon I visit I had last summer w/Sleeping Joe.  If further proof is needed that my visit this afternoon is indeed a sequel, Sleeping Joe is alongside once again, his stroller bellied up to the bar.  I love this place.

We're on vacation for the 6th consecutive year in Santa Rosa Beach this week, staying in the same house in Old Florida Village ("Cracker Jack") we stayed in last year.  Joe and I slipped over to Seaside this afternoon, so he could catch a nap and I could catch a cold beer or two.

I've been thinking, there are advantages and disadvantages to vacationing at the same place every year.

If you're a creature of habit, like I am, and averse to change, like I am, vacationing in the same place every year brings with it a certain allure.  Over the years, I've explored and discovered several running routes in and around Santa Rosa Beach, including most recently the Longleaf Pine Greenways Trail that is near our house and simply the perfect place for a 4-5 mile trail run.  I've discovered coffee houses I can sneak away to with Joe (or J.P. in the old days) while he naps and I catch upon e-mail, blog a bit or just read (Grayt Coffee House, Starbucks in Grayton Beach (gone now) and Ama Vida in Seaside.  The same holds true for bars/restaurants I like to slip into while Joe naps, places like The Great Southern, Crush in Seaside, Red Bar in Grayton Beach, etc.).  As a family, we've found restaurants we like to eat at every trip, places like Local Catch, Elmo's and the Pickle Factory.

And we always, always return to see our friend, Jed, at Blue Mountain Beach Creamery, an ice cream shop he and his family opened shortly before our first trip to Santa Rosa Beach 6 years ago.  We've stayed in touch with Jed and, as such, one of the highlights of our vacation every year is stopping by his shop for the first of several afternoon or evening visits and seeing him again.  The ice cream there is amazing.

Disadvantages?  Well, I'm not exactly exploring ne running routes, coffee houses, bars and restaurants.

Same old, same old?  Probably, but for me, that's just about right.