Thursday, May 10, 2007

Irreverent Insights From a Jock

This past weekend, Julie performed in the annual Archdiocesan competition for Catholic elementary school bands. Here are a couple of things that struck me as kind of funny about the whole band competition scene, from the perspective of someone whose competitive life has revolved around sporting events. I'm sure Desi can return the favor after I compete in my triathlon...

What's up with all the bowing? I discovered that band directors really like to bow. Walk out onto stage...bow. Finish first song...bow. Finish second song...bow. Before walking off stage...bow (maybe twice). Yes, that's us, the royal audience. Or are they bowing to the judges? Speaking of judges...

Why does it take so long to tabulate the results? OK...There are two judges. Each band plays two songs. Then there is a break of a few minutes while the chairs are rearranged on stage and the next band gets set up. So can't the judges use this interval to tally up the scores for the band that just finished? I ask this simple question because once the last band finished there was this ridiculously long delay before the scores were finally announced. I mean, how hard can this be? Rate 'em and add 'em up already! Or is all of this milling about and discussion just meant to ratchet up the tension in the room? "Will we get a Superior this year?" And speaking of Superiors...

Are so many bands really superior? The Archdiocese must have a killer music program, because the judges were handing out Superiors, one after the other, like they were going out of style. I sure hope this isn't part of the whole movement to make all of our kids feel special (you know what I'm talking about). Some bands are just better than others...what's wrong with that?

Oh yeah, Julie's band got a Superior rating. In fact, they received the highest score of any band that performed that day. Forget everything I just said...

~Steve

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Leave the Car at Home

Here's a picture of Desi outside our house, getting ready to head out on a bike ride to DC. This kind of outing is classic Balla, when the car never leaves its parking spot and we tool around the area under our own power (with an assist from Metro).

From our house, we head through the neighborhood about two miles west, to Rock Creek Trail. This is a very scenic path that runs from Lake Needwood down to Georgetown. It's when we get to the trail that Desi can begin to relax and enjoy. She's a mom, so riding on the street and through commercial areas is not her idea of family fun!

Once we get on the trail, Z spends a few minutes drafting off of a dad and daughter riding along at a good pace on a trail-a-bike. He reports back that the dad is trying to shake him...

For a little while, we jump off the trail and bike along Beach Drive. Upside? Smooth pavement, fast riding, kids learn the rules of the road. Downside? Share the pavement with cars, which you know makes Desi happy!

We stop at City Bikes, which is located along the Georgetown Branch Trail in Chevy Chase. Julie desperately needs a new helmet, so we oblige. I get a kick out of watching one of the bike shop workers dump Julie's old helmet into the trash just seconds after Desi has spoken about passing the helmet on to some little girl. In the meantime, Z was not happy with the whole experience, as he was suffering from a sudden case of "new helmet envy."

For lunch, we hit the Bethesda Mamma Lucia. It was us and all of the families picking up pizzas after their Saturday soccer games, judging by the outfits and cleats that every kid in Bethesda seemed to be wearing.

We venture back out into the damp chill for a ride down the Capital Crescent Trail, the last big leg of the ride. We make great time, aided by the downgrade terrain and the threat of rain...

We pedal past the Lincoln Memorial, reflecting pool, World War II Memorial, and Old Executive Office Building (my personal favorite), on our way to Cosi. Time to warm up! Two teas (Julie and me) and two hot chocolates (Desi and Z). Lots of GW students in there. Desi gets stressed out just watching them cram for finals...

Finally, we jump on the Metro, bikes and all, and head home. For some reason, just as Z and I are winging up Weller Road toward home, we decide that KU's "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" cheer is both awesome and in need of revision..."Rock, Chalk, Bluehawk." I don't really get it, but on a day like this, it's all about the company, not about making any sense or changing the (hoops) world!

~Steve

Monday, May 07, 2007

A 4th Grade View of Annapolis

Here are a couple things that were said when Z's 4th grade class took a field trip to Annapolis the other day.

You have to pay a dollar for every minute you are late. This was the law that Z laid down to me before the trip. He was referencing the fact that I have a history of showing up in the nick of time to chaperone field trips, causing Julie and him considerable stress.

He overcame a lot of difficulties. Z and his partner Cedric, talking about Alex Haley, the famous author and subject of a statue in the harbor at Annapolis. I had to convince them that the plaque was actually referring to Haley's ancestors, like Kunta Kinte, who arrived in America at that very spot.

They have leather chairs. Cedric's main insight into what is distinctive about the House of Delegates chamber inside the Maryland State House. For his part, Z noted the marble walls.

He has a lot of protection. This was a comment Z offered as we walked by the gated governor's mansion. Z also noted that there were security cameras hidden in the trees. Hidden so well, in fact, that he couldn't see any.

Z and Cedric were happy to point out that, two years ago, Desi chaperoned this trip and her pair was Julie and Cedric's sister Corrine. A nice parallel, for sure. Too bad, though, for Calixte, Cedric and Corrine's brother who will head to Annapolis next year. But cheer up Calixte. After my performance as a chaperone, you might be better off without me...you might actually learn something about Annapolis and its real history!

~Steve

PS: Ask Cedric about his brownie a la mode. (I think they're still talking about it at Chick and Ruth's Delly!) We may not learn what we're supposed to, but we sure do eat!