Around Christmastime, my wife and I discovered our son had experienced a sudden growth spurt and was too big for most of his hockey pads. About two weeks ago, we discovered he was outgrowing the family car.
The hockey and garment bag, sticks and various other gear, the water bottles, cooler, thermal blanket for the really cold rinks and etc. consumed the entire cargo area of our compact station wagon. Additionally, our son had taken an interest in playing the bass - the stand-up, acoustic, double bass. Our week went as follows: Saturday, hockey games; Sunday, hockey games; Monday, bass practice; Tuesday, hockey practice; Wednesday, hockey practice. Thursday usually saw a school or work function demanding our time, and Friday was a futile attempt at catching up on laundry. The hockey crap was too big for the car. The double bass was too big for the car. My 10-year-old had outgrown an $18,000 automobile. Why, Lord, why couldn"t the boy have picked soccer and the clarinet? Handball and the violin? The piccolo and track? Some kind of sport and music combination that didn"t require biweekly trips to the chiropractor on my part? I imagined a world where all of our kid"s extra-curricular activities fit into a tiny corner of the trunk, saving all of that room and cash we"d blown on pads and bass rental. I imagined filling that space with gourmet food and craft beers - but hockey season dictated otherwise. We were too cramped and too broke. Ahh, Spaghetti-O"s and Bud Ö On the other hand, who the hell had time to actually heat up a can of Chef Boyardee anything? Hockey, bass, the school play all precluded the idea of a sit-down meal. Microwave pizza was a struggle. I found myself eating larger and larger lunches so I wouldn"t keel over with hunger by the time hockey practice wrapped on a Wednesday. Of course, most rinks had their own concession stands, but the damn things never seemed to be open when anyone was hungry. Our home venue had a terrible time staffing the joint, and when they could find a semi-conscious teen-ager to man the counter, the kid always seemed to commit some pretty egregious culinary errors. One could expect a gastronomic experience that included the unique flavors of the Nacho Donut and the Coffee Dog. As a result, a lot of parents wound up pumping quarters into one of the giant vending machines that sat in the basement of the rink. The machines were packed with some of the greatest junk food that American society has ever concocted. Combos and Fritos and Chex Mix - oh my! Cool Ranch Doritos! Andy Capp"s Hot Fries! The fluffy styrofoam packing material called Funyuns! A glance at the nutrition information on any package told the story: 4,000 ingredients adding up to 57 percent of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. I ate this crap on a regular basis. I was convinced my blood pressure was high enough to launch a rocket to the moon. You could tell what was really horrible for you by simply checking the name of the product. There has never been a vegetable with the word "fun" in it, so "Funyuns" probably weren"t bursting with vitamins. Skate-punk adjectives were another big tip: Anything calling itself "Extreme!" meant "extra salt." If the word was spelled "X-Treme," you were looking at extra-extra salt and colors never, ever found in nature. "Bold" and "zesty" also indicated that you were buying a yummy sack of hypertension. Here I was, week after week, watching my son and the rest of his travel team condition themselves into young men and women with power and endurance while I shoveled salted fat into my face on the sidelines. The kids were growing up while three-quarters of the adults seemed to be growing out. How in the hell were we supposed to keep these kids in line? In order to punish "em, we"d have to catch "em first. Our race of adult masters was doomed. Our kind would soon be obsolete. The kids were molding themselves into stick-waving, puck-slapping athletes, and we were sitting in the bleachers eating X-Treme Zesty Nacho Donuts. Wank & O"Brien shovel salted fat each weekday morning on RadioNow, 93.1.