Category Archives: Super Dad

Of Cars and Critters

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, recently lamented how his personal SUV parked back in his Wisconsin hometown had been “eaten by animals.”

He said woodchucks chewed the wiring out from his Chevrolet Suburban. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead,” he said, according to a story in The New York Times.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you ain’t got nothin’ on AMR’s Richard Rodriguez who has his own tales (tails?) of woe involving critters and cars.

Fasten your safety belt and read Rich’s stories: 

Being born in raised in the Bronx, I had little opportunity for encounters with wildlife.

My wife and I moved out to rural Sussex County, N.J., and it was culture shock.

It was pitch black dark at night, and so quiet I couldn’t sleep. I missed being lulled to sleep by Cross Bronx Expressway traffic.

Over the years we have had numerous encounters with animals and our vehicles.

On a snowy evening, I was following my wife driving home when a deer ran out in front of her car and she hit the brakes but she slid and hit it.

The deer slammed down on the hood and bounced off onto the roadway.  I pulled over and checked on the deer and it was alive but surely had broken legs.

I had no idea what to do.

A truck pulled up behind us and a guy got out and said he could take care of this.

I thought he had a knife and would be able to put this poor animal out of its misery.

Then he went back to his truck and came back with a small sledge hammer and to our horror he proceeded to beat the poor animal’s head in.

Unfortunately, the first hit did not do the job and he continued to slam the hammer down until I finally heard the skull give way and the deer was finally done.

I then helped him pick up and throw it to the side of the road.

We were in shock as to what we just participated in, pristine clean white snow now marred with blood and brains.

Welcome to Sussex County.

This was just the beginning of our vehicle encounters with animals.

My wife proceeded to hit a number of deer in the years to follow, including a scary high-speed encounter on the way to work one morning.

The front of the van was smashed but only the top of the radiator cracked and she was able to drive back home.  It was close to being totaled but the insurance company fixed it.

This van became the Red Baron of the road.  I should have placed stamps on the side to represent all of its kills over the years.

I hit a deer with it, or actually the deer ran into me, almost came through the driver’s side window.

I also ran over a poor cat with all the kids in the van as I brought them home from daycare. Nice job, Dad. Now I was known as the cat-killer to my kids.

Last year the car I used for commuting to work started smelling like a small animal nest.

I checked under the hood by the air intake, and inside the car where the air comes through the vents.  Nothing there but some leaves and debris.

Not a good sign.

I hoped a mouse was not using my car as a nest.

The nest smell turned into the smell of death and decay and I was still unable to locate the culprit.

I used car fresheners that I attached to all the vents and it only masked the smell as the underlying stench still came through.

No one wanted to drive in my car with me.

I started to use my truck to avoid dealing with the dead animal smell.

I wondered how long it would take for it to decompose to nothing so it would stop stinking up my vehicle.

Winter came and I think whatever was in there froze and provided some olfactory relief.

I am now happy to report that after almost a year I am able to drive around without death in the air.

Glad I did not have to set the car on fire.

A Rat Meets the Business End of a Bowling Pin

I heard this story from my parents:

They had my oldest brother Ralph as a baby and lived in an apartment on Simpson Street in the South Bronx.

Rich’s grandparents in the foreground and his parents in the background.

There was a hole in the wall where the baby slept and there were rats in the building.

My parents complained time and time again to the landlord to repair the hole but it was never done.

Rich’s parents

They heard the rats moving around in the walls and feared one would come into the room and bite the baby.

My dad took it upon himself to try filling the hole with steel wool and stuff but one night they found the rat had chewed through and come into the room and was trying to get to my brother in the crib.

This was no regular rodent.

It was huge.

They screamed and beat the rat away from the crib with a broom.

My dad held off the creature with the broom but the crazy animal refused to flee.

My mom ran down to her parents’ apartment to get help.

My grandfather came up and into the room carrying a bowling pin —  a real bowling pin!

The rat stood no chance against Rich’s grandfather.

He went after the rat and started beating it with the bowling pin.

The rat went crazy and charged at him and grandpa kept beating him.

The vicious rodent just kept attacking and it was beat down by grandpa until it was a bloody mess.

It kept coming.

It wouldn’t give up or die.

It must have been rabid.

My grandpa finally beat it to death, a gore-fest right there in the baby’s room.

A dead bloody rat, my grandpa with a blood-soaked bowling pin, my mom screaming, my dad in his boxers.

What a picture! ?!#@$%!


Oh Rats! A Subway Stare-Down That I Lost


Needless to say my parents started looking for a new place to live.

A Mother’s Day Tribute by Rich Rodriguez

It has been many years since you’ve been gone mom but you live with me every day.

Not sure if you knew this when you were alive but you were my best friend as I was growing up.

You spent your life raising your boys and making sure we had everything we needed.

Even when Dad was working two jobs to save for a house and we didn’t get to see him very much, maybe sometimes on weekends, you made it a point to take us places, zoos, museums, the beach.

If you could take a bus to it, we were there, especially when Dad was working for transit and you got free bus rides.

That was the best getting on buses and never paying!

During the summers we would always end up at Orchard Beach in the Bronx and she would not only take us but some neighborhood kids too.

Always fun times. I can still taste the sand in the cheese sandwiches.

Anyone who knew my mom knew she was not a quiet person.  I surely get my yelling skills from her.

My kids don’t like it when I yell, neither do our dogs, but we are doomed to become our parents and that was an everyday part of life in our house.

I know that’s not the best way to communicate but it does get attention especially when no one is listening to you and you need to get your point heard.

My mom was 4 feet 11 inches, but when she used that strong voice, she was 8 feet tall and then some.

She was a force to be reckoned with. Ask the neighbors, I’m sure they heard her.

As a young adult we sat and talked a lot about life and I wish she was still alive and could meet my kids and hang with them.

I think they would have gotten along great.  My son was born on her birthday and I see some of her in him, especially that loud voice.

He has no volume control, no inside voice, I do not think he knows how to whisper.

Good for him, I hope he makes himself heard in this world.

I miss you Mom, wish you were still here.

Hopefully I can keep you alive in stories about you and memories that I share.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Life as a Super Fan of My Kids and Their Sports

There is nothing more exciting in parenthood than cheering on your kids in the things they do — sports, music, dance, etc. — and seeing them have fun.

Through the years I have worn many hats from Soccer Dad, Baseball Dad, Swim Dad, Cheer Dad, Marching Band Dad, Gymnastics Dad…the list goes on.

Of course you also show support by participating and helping out the teams and organizations.

I have painted soccer field lines, timed swimmers, worked concession stands, provided video of marching band performances, washed many cars in fundraisers and produced end-of-season cheer team and gymnastic videos.

All my kids started with soccer, and I cheered them on when they were kindergarten age.

At that age, it is more like mob ball, with the majority of the kids chasing the ball with no regard to positions and passing.

It’s all fun and gets the kids moving around.

Of course there were always some kids who would rather pick through the grass or stare at the clouds.

My youngest daughter during a soccer practice drill got bored and started doing cartwheels at the back of the line. Soon a bunch of the other kids wanted to try and then she was holding a cartwheel clinic  much to the chagrin of the coaches.

During my son’s first soccer season, his team of 4-to-5-year-olds faced a skilled team that proceeded to run the score up to embarrassing levels as the opposing coach kept playing his best players and taking advantage of our team’s inexperience.

I went home that day with no voice, as I and my fellow team parents turned up the volume in cheering and shouting for our team and giving the other coaches an earful of how unsportsmanlike they were.

I am surprised we were not banned from future games.

Baseball brought new challenges to cheering for your kid especially when you have younger siblings to take care of at the game. I love baseball but it can be very boring, especially for my son’s sisters. While trying to watch and cheer for my son, we also had to keep the girls busy with snacks and activities.

I had never experienced cheerleading before and competition cheer meets were mind-blowing.

Just imagine a packed gymnasium of crazy passionate cheer teams and their families and friends cheering them on.

The enthusiasm and fervor of these kids was amazing and infectious. I was immediately hooked and I became a Cheer Dad Extraordinaire.

I wore my team shirt, shouted and cheered along and was
team videographer.

The stunts and choreography of all the teams was incredible. I have total respect for these kids and coaches. My daughter’s high school varsity team went on to win a national championship.

If cheerleading competitions were loud, swim meets were deafening! The cheering and shouting in the confines of an indoor swimming pool were crazy.

These meets were a true challenge.

The larger ones usually lasted for hours — sometimes all day — and you typically got to see your kid in the water for seconds to minutes, depending on how many events they were in.

When my son wasn’t wearing swim trunks, he was wearing a marching band uniform and playing drums.

It’s amazing how talented these kids are. I loved seeing them perform at the different stadiums, especially Met Life stadium, home of the Giants and Jets.

Gymnastics is my latest sport and two of my daughters have competed over the years. We have been able to travel to tournaments near and far, including a recent one at Disney World.

There is some real camaraderie among the parents as we cheer the team on at each meet, wear the team apparel and colors.

I continue to shoot video and have run the audio at some of the home meets and been the DJ and presented the end-of-season slide show.

I even got to meet Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez when she visited the gym for a fundraiser.

Rich with Laurie Hernandez, gymnastics Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars winner.

I was humbled when they presented me with the team parent volunteer of the year last season.

It was totally unexpected.

I do all this for my kids and the rest of the team or group they belong to.

Time goes by too fast to miss any of it, and I am so glad I am able to be involved in whatever way I can.


Black Ice and Faith

My daughter volunteers as an altar server at our church and we were headed there one cold and rainy Sunday morning.

The weather report was predicting dropping temps and freezing rain and my daughter was apprehensive about going.

I was hellbent on going because she had this obligation and we left, disregarding her protests.

I had a front-wheel drive manual shift car with snow tires and I felt unstoppable.

There was a light rain falling and I noticed the temp dropping to freezing on the car thermometer.

The route to church is along a winding hilly road.

I was driving slowly and being cautious around the turns when up ahead an SUV came rambling around a bend going too fast for the conditions.

As the driver maneuvered the curve, the SUV skidded and crossed into my oncoming lane.

With my heart in my throat, I prepared to take evasive action but at the last second the other vehicle gained some control and whipped back into their lane and flew by us.

Yikes! That was close.

I immediately downshifted and avoided hitting the brakes and slowed down considerably.

So that was black ice up ahead and the rain was turning the road to ice as it hit the ground.

I made it through the next curve and went down a hill and we decided we were not making it to church that day.

I made a right at the next intersection and turned around.

I had to decide if I was going to head back home or just wait in the car until the temperature went back up or a salt spreader came by.

I chose the latter and headed back.

The first hill was not too bad but then the next downward dip in the road was scary and we began to slide moving up the next incline.

My tires were spinning trying to gain traction but we were sliding sideways but I knew if we stopped we would be stuck in the middle of the road.

You could actually smell the rubber burning as my tires spun and my daughter was freaking out.

We ended up by someone’s driveway and I hoped we could gain some traction on the shoulder if there was some gravel or dirt on the ground.

The car continued to move forward as I worked the gears but I refused to let off the gas.  We gained some traction and made it slowly up the incline, slipping and sliding along the way.

Good thing we encountered no other traffic as other people were surely wiser than me and decided not to go out in these poor conditions.

We made it home slowly but safely and I don’t think my heart rate slowed down for quite a while.


“Remember, Thou Art Mortal”

When Our Dog Ate the Thanksgiving Turkey Thermometer


Thanksgiving is a time for gathering of loved ones and sharing what we are thankful for.

In my family it also includes being thankful for our pets. That brings to mind something that happened to our special dog, Smokey.

He was part of our family for 14 years, helped raise four kids and was always ready for a treat.

During one particular Thanksgiving, our feast was done and the clean-up was in full swing.

As I finished stripping the turkey carcass of all the remnants of meat, I removed the used pop-up thermometer from the bird.

Smokey was right there in the kitchen, waiting for any stray morsels to drop on the floor, even though he already had some turkey leftovers.

I casually tossed the thermometer toward the open garbage can in the middle of the kitchen.

At that moment, everything switched to slow motion just like in the movies when something crazy is about to happen.

The garbage can was only arm’s length away but as I watched the thermometer go end over end toward the huge opening of the can, Smokey was also watching it with great intensity.

I noticed the trajectory was not headed to the center of the can.

It happened so fast, I was frozen and couldn’t move as it hit the top edge of the can and bounced and missed going in.

The thermometer landed on the floor and before I could grab it, Smokey was on top of it.

He swallowed it in one gulp.

Holy crap!

I could not believe he just ate that thing.

It has a sharp point on one end that could puncture his intestines or get lodged in his gut.

What the hell was I going to do on the evening of Thanksgiving with my crazy dog?

Of course Smokey looked at me funny as I was shouting. Now all he was doing was just waiting for me to drop something else.

I got out the phone book and started calling the nearby veterinary offices and I found one with after-hours service.

I left a message and I was astonished when someone called back in a few minutes.

I told him what happened and we had a little laugh but he calmed me down and said just to keep an eye on him, keep him well fed and watered, and hopefully it would pass in a few days.

The doctor said if he seemed sick or in pain then I would need to bring him in to be checked.

I thanked him for his time and advice and went back to cleaning up, but this time I kicked the dog out of the kitchen, much to his disappointment and protest.

In the following days I had the job of checking Smokey’s bowel movements — what a joy!

But this all came to an end when he puked up the thermometer a few days later.

I was so glad it never left his stomach and he was able to bring it back up.

After this experience, I try not to use pop-up thermometers and I’ve been practicing my garbage tosses.


A Very Good Dog

French Fry Rage

I recently faced a dilemma of character and reprisal at a fast- food restaurant while traveling with my daughter to her college after a holiday.

I am typically an easy-going person who doesn’t look for conflict but this situation got under my skin and I had to really hold back and put my impulse aside.

We were traveling south and had made it through a very rough leg of our journey involving ice-covered roads.

Tired and hungry, we pulled into the burger place and placed our order. My daughter went to find a table as I waited for the food.

The cashier placed a tray for our order on the counter, and then another family came in behind us and placed their order.

A tray for their order was placed on the counter next to mine and then things got dicey.

The girl filling the order began to load our tray.

She placed our orders of French fries on our tray and the dad from the other family proceeded to pick a few fries from my order!

And before I could say anything, one of his kids followed suit!

I was flabbergasted!

I stepped forward and said, “Hey that’s my order.”

The dad was caught off guard and he kind of chuckled and half-heartedly apologized.

I am sure he was a bit uncomfortable but he blew it off like it was not a big deal.

The rest of my order was filled and I quickly picked it up and found my daughter.

I was sort of fuming inside and not happy with my low-key reaction and how I handled the situation.

I’m unsure if I relayed what happened to my daughter, but by this time the French fry-stealing family had gotten their food and were sitting at a table near us.

They owed me.

They owed me a few fries, and then some.

I sat there and wondered if I should do something. Say something else. Get the last word in.

I got up and walked over to their table and reached in and took some fries from their tray and stuck them in my mouth.

They all looked at me in shock, and then the dad got up and said, “What the hell is that about?! I said I was sorry. It was an honest mistake!”

I took few more fries for good measure. I waited for a blow to my face but nothing happened.

Actually none of it happened.

These were some thoughts and images running through my mind as I sat there letting my food get cold.

I looked over to their table and it was a nice family and if I did what I was thinking, it would only make everyone miserable and ruin our meals.

There were also more of them than just my daughter and I.

So I put a cork in my rage and let it go, and I ate my lunch.

I still had many hours of driving ahead and we didn’t want anything stupid like a fight over a few French fries to ruin our trip.

But maybe I should have taken one fry — just one — to make a point.

Celebrating a Christmas Tree Ritual

Waking up to a coating of fresh snow this morning has me thinking more of the upcoming holiday and everything I still need to get done by Dec. 25.

I am actually a little ahead of schedule this year, as I went out with some of the kids and cut down a fresh Christmas tree at a local farm that is donating some of the proceeds to our high school.  

Growing up in New York City and living in an apartment for many years, we always had an artificial tree that my parents took down from the closet and painstakingly put together, added lights and decorated.

I always loved placing the ornaments on the tree. I still do.  

Year after year we went through this ritual. A more realistic artificial tree replaced that original one, and we used this for years even when we moved into our own house.

We did eventually have some real trees to celebrate the season. It was more mess to clean up but it made the house smell festive.

After we were married and in a new place, our first Christmas together we did not have a lot to fill our house.  We had a bed and a few pieces of furniture.  

Our dining table consisted of a closet door propped up on paint cans.

Our dining room “table.”

 I had a small 13-inch TV, no cable, a VCR and some VHS tapes for entertainment, and some pillows to sit on, or a paint can if you preferred.

For our first Christmas, our new neighbors took us to a tree farm that seemed to be on the side of a mountain. Of course this was a new experience for us as we were both city people. We were way out of our element in the wilds of northern New Jersey.

It was snowing and cold, and being the perfectionist that I am, I had to choose the perfect tree.

My wife was ready to kill me as we trudged through the hundreds of trees, blowing snow, feet numb with the cold. Finally I settled on one after being threatened with divorce and death

I had to lay down on the snow and cut the trunk with a hand saw. There is a first time for everything; trust me, this was not as easy as it looked.

Then we dragged that heavy tree down the mountain and the tree farm helpers wrapped and loaded it into the trunk of our car. Note to self: A pick-up truck works better.

 So we set up our first tree in an empty living room with just a few ornaments and a new tradition was born.

Since then we have had many different trees, of various shapes and sizes, so many more ornaments and decorations than the first one, especially all the hand-made ones done by our kids over the years

We have also had some memorable trees.

One year we had a new dog in the house, Smokey. He had never experienced a Christmas tree before. The tree was up and Smokey went over to sniff it and up went his leg.  That year the tree spent most of its time behind a child fence to prevent another unauthorized watering.

The best one yet was after we brought home our fresh-cut tree and as we started to put lights and decorations on, one of the kids screamed that there was a mouse in the bathroom!

We were able to capture it alive and we let it go outside. 

When I put the lights on the tree, I found a nest in the middle of the tree near the trunk.  I just can’t imagine how scared this mouse was as I cut down this tree and dragged it to the truck, wrapped it up, drove it home, carried it into the house and mounted it on the stand.

This poor little guy stayed put, terrified in its nest and survived all the way into the house, only to get chased and trapped. I hope it found shelter and survived after that incredible journey.

Our journey continues now too as the most recent tree sits in the garage waiting for us to clear the living room and move the couch so we can set up and decorate this year’s Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Why the Fuck Is “Fuck” So Overused Today?

WTF dudeI saw this cartoon shared on Facebook recently and it really made me laugh.

It is so the truth in how we as parents end up teaching our children curse words and phrases that in a perfect world we try to protect them from and set a better example.

Way before I was even married and had kids, I was instrumental in teaching my very young nephew the “s” word and exactly how to use it.

I remember that I was dressed for an interview and making some eggs for breakfast and I almost spilled everything in the frying pan on myself. My clothes escaped ruin but my reaction was quick and loud.

“OH SHIT!” I shouted and stomped my foot.

Of course, my 2-year-old nephew was right there and took it all in and immediately started stomping his foot around the kitchen and shouting “OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT!”

All I wanted to do was laugh, which of course was not the right thing to do because it would only encourage him.

So began my start teaching children how to curse.

I have four children, and for most of their young lives my wife and I tried our best to keep our language curbed around them. But we all know that situations with kids can get heated and we lose our cool and words slip.

For the record, I do not take full responsibility for teaching my kids how to cuss, since they are exposed to it elsewhere, such as on the school bus and at school with their friends.

But anytime you use that language within their earshot, it gives them a permission to use it around you and at home. You hope that they also learn judgment about when not to use this colorful language.

Here is where I am at odds with the current generation and its use of the F bomb, compared with how I was raised.

Listening to the music of today and how my kids communicate with each other, I notice that the word “fuck” is used casually and often — much more so than when I was younger.

Back then, “fuck” was a powerful word. It demanded respect and was used selectively and sparingly.

I remember listening to songs just to hear that one utterance of the F bomb because it had so much power. The music of today uses it like any other word, which dilutes its impact.

I would really like to think that in exposing my kids to the F word I instilled in them that the power and responsibility of using it properly has been passed into their hands.

For related blogs on cursing and swearing, be sure to check out Chris Mele’s ode to his old man, a first-class swearing champion, and listen to the podcast of when Chris visited a haunted Halloween attraction and screamed a blue streak that would make a sailor blush.

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My Travel Travails With a Teenage Daughter

Traveling with a teenage daughter is an experience.

Traveling with me is no picnic either.

I am no world-class traveler by any measure, and I get so nervous and anxious going through TSA security at the airports that on a recent trip I was stressing over my belt, shoes, jacket and my quart bag of three ounces of liquids, that I forgot to remove my laptop from my backpack.

Consequently, my bag was placed to the side after being scanned and then it had to go through a complete bag check.

At least we were early for this flight.

But now I had to wait for security to empty my bag and swipe test the contents since I was obviously trying to hide something in my aging laptop.

This was all very embarrassing but the TSA agent was quick and did not judge.

I did not have to submit to a body search, although I did have clean underwear on.

My daughter handles this much better than me, but dealing with all the items and paraphernalia that she packs for her hair and hygiene is astounding. She avoids the carry-on 3 ounce rule by checking her suitcase with all that stuff in it.

Speaking of that, our hotel bathroom sink and shower was strewn with all of her stuff.

My black bag of personal bathroom items was neatly confined to one corner of the sink and I used the soap and shampoo provided by the hotel to save on what I needed to bring.

Maybe I should book my own room next time, even on a different floor maybe?

The rest of the room also belonged to her: suitcase open on the floor, clothes flopping out, desk covered with her stuff, etc.

I felt sorry for the maid service.

I, in turn, hung my shirts, and kept the rest of my clothes in drawers or in my closed suitcase on a table.

Catching our flight home was an adventure.

It was an early flight, but it took her so long to pack that I blame her for missing our flight by one minute.

She blames me.

Here’s how it went.

Drive to airport.

Dad misses drop-off sign and takes the car rental into the employee only area.

Daughter did point this out (to her credit) but you know how Dads are — don’t question us!

Had to turn around and head back to drop-off.

Five minutes lost.

Check her bag, then onto crowded security check, 15 minutes until last call for flight.

Get through that, run to the gate while holding my pants up, as I did not have time to put my damn belt back on.

I can see the plane through the windows.

My daughter literally got there a minute after the posted gate close time.  Door was closed and we were not allowed through.

Missed the flight.

At least her bag will get there on time.

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How I Survived My Daughter’s First Concert (and Mosh Pit)

My daughter turned 20 today.

So many feelings and memories surround the writing of that sentence.

I had to stop a second because my eyes started sweating a little.


I have many wonderful thoughts of being able to be that larger-than-life presence in her life. I was, and still am, the daddy.

Although my role as protector has evolved as the years have passed, I recall a particular event where I almost had to go full pit bull as her guardian.

My daughter had turned 14 and was developing her own taste in music.

Of course, as parents we went full bore on all the sappy Disnified music and songs from when she was just a wee girl.

But now she had reached teenagerdom, and the cutesy posters in her room were slowly being replaced with celebrity posters and music idols.

With her birthday approaching, my daughter asked for tickets to see the band We The Kings, who were going to be playing at the House of Blues in Orlando.

I agreed to get the tickets but she could not go alone and I would not simply drop her off — not yet. Not at 14. Not my little girl.

So we had a date night. I was going with her. We headed off.

D&M Now

I decided to eat at the House of Blues. It was a nice outing. We had burgers and talked.

She answered my questions about who these guys we were about to see, where they came from, their style of music, were they cute, etc.

My daughter obliged me my silly daddy questions.

She then informed me that the main band would play after four opening acts.

FOUR!?!? I thought. This is gonna be torture.

I had no idea.

Having patronized the House of Blues restaurant, we were given early-entry passes to the show.

We could pile in before the rest of the Kingers or Kingheads, or whatever they called themselves, could gain access to the hallowed halls of Blues.

We walked and there were only enough people standing to fill about three rows.

Uh-oh. No seats.

I had forgotten that this was a general admission event and there would be no seats. My first alarm went off, but I used to go to heavy metal concerts at small and large venues.

“I got this!” I figured.

As the rest of the patrons started to stroll in, I noticed a few things.

First, I was the oldest thing there. I was even older than the building I was in.

Second, everyone looked at me as if I were a narc.

Third, I was crowding in on my daughter’s first musical fan experience. So I quickly surveyed the room and found some steps that led up to a ledge only a few feet off the main floor where there was a bar.

I had no interest in drinking that night (hard to believe but true), only in the small nook with a railing that overlooked the floor.

I didn’t care about the view of the show, I just wanted to find a place where I could see Marina and I had found it.

silvio and daughter

I leaned over and told Marina where I would be. She nodded, still sporting this wonderful smile and soaking in this new experience.

I trotted up to my perch and stood watch like a medieval sentry through the first two bands.

They were local, unknown bands and they didn’t draw a large reception.

I could still see the curly mop of my happy daughter. And she would look up to my position and flash me a smile and return my thumbs-up each time.

I had forgotten from my concert-going days that true fans and followers pile in as the night gets longer.

And then they came.

By the middle of the third band, I started to see a wave forward and to the side of Marina’s head. The crowd was growing and moving as one large organic being.

My daughter was now in this sea of bodies.

I was starting to sweat.

The fourth band was obviously a favorite as the crowd moved violently in every direction.

I could see Marina still enjoying herself, swaying with the crowd, still pretty much in the same area I had left her when I noticed a new configuration.

A mosh pit was developing!

Oh God, no!!

My little girl was right in the area where the crowd was parting to allow this abomination to take shape.

She was right along the edge of this pit. And I remembered, again from my metal days, what could happen to those unsuspecting individuals around the edge of a pit.

While I scanned, searching for curly hair, I saw him enter the circle: an experienced mosher, all 7-foot-9 of him.

He was a perfect sculpted specimen.

I know because he pulled his shirt off, threw it over his shoulder and proceeded to mosh, throwing arms and fists in every direction.

My eyes were focused on this monstrosity and willing that he not come anywhere near Marina.

I knew in that moment that if this man-child of Greek-proportioned musculature and probably 2 percent body fat came anywhere near my daughter that my 5-foot-10, soft-bodied dad self would fly down in a heartbeat to kill him.

I even saw it played out in my head: Me swooping down and beating this pseudo -Adonis to death with his own leg that I had just ripped off of him.

I didn’t have to though. He stayed at the other outer edge, making contact with more than one bystander. I looked over to the safe edge and scanned for curly hair.

I didn’t see any.

I lost her!

I know I must have displayed that on my face because I felt a hand  over my mine, which was death-gripping the metal rail.

I looked up and saw what was definitely a mom.

She looked right at me and said, “Did you lose your daughter in there?”

Holy crap. She knew.

Yes, I nodded vigorously.

She told me to calm down and that she would be OK. I didn’t believe her but I did settle down and refocused.

I scanned closer to the stage and there she was, almost at the stage level with a great view of the show and away from that idiot in the pit.

I breathed again and mouthed “thank you” to that mom.

The last opening act left and the lights came up a bit more as we waited for the main act.

Marina turned around and had an easier time of spotting me. She flashed a wide smile and a thumbs up.

I actually got to watch the main act and enjoyed the show.

After the show ended, I managed to get back to my little girl, who was beaming.

I hugged her, more for my benefit, and then we left.

I asked her how she enjoyed it, and the words came out at teenage speed.

On the trip home, she told me how she took advantage of the mosh pit forming and creating new space to get to a better location to enjoy the upcoming band.

And when the crowd surfers came by, she just ducked a bit to avoid them.

She took a glancing blow from some Keds sneaker but that was it.

She loved her first concert.

She thanked me and said she would never forget it.

Me too. And somehow, I survived it.

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Shoe Fight!

When my daughters were in grade school we had an incident at the bus stop one morning.

It seemed that one of them took it upon themselves to wear her sister’s shoes and when her sister saw them on her feet, a knock- down drag-out fight ensued at the bus stop.

They were screaming and rolling around on the ground before the bus got there.

My wife had to pull them apart and settle them down but we still talk about this epic fight over shoes to this day.

Was this just a preliminary round as to what we had to look forward to in the coming years as they became teenagers with fights over clothing, shoes, etc.?!

Much to our surprise, we haven’t had any more violent outbreaks between the sisters over their wardrobes.

But the oldest typically will take and use many items from her sister and does not face the wrath from her sibling that was unleashed that infamous day at the bus stop.

Oh Baby! The Miracle in the Bathroom

On Aug. 25, 2002, one of my daughters, Emily, came into this world in a hurry, and she has been running nonstop ever since.

My wife and I were blessed with three children, a first-born son and two daughters, and then we had No. 4 on the way.

The pregnancy was going smoothly and as we approached the due date, my wife’s grandmother came from Puerto Rico to help Millie with the kids.

Let me say something about my wife’s labors: My son took two days while the third one was out an hour after we arrived at the hospital.

Each kid’s arrival got exponentially faster, which should’ve warned me about what we were in for with this fourth child.

It’s late August, the due date approaching and the kids are playing around the house.

Zach is 7, Rebecca not quite 5 and Audrey is barely 2.

Great-grandma is speaking Spanish to them, and then my wife comes out of the bedroom and informs me that her water broke.

I figure we have plenty of time since the hospital is only seven minutes away.

Bad move.

I’m finally ready to get to the car and my wife tells me we are not going anywhere: This baby is crowning!

What?! My head explodes.

My wife knows the mess this is going to be and she settles herself on the toilet in the hallway bathroom.


I can actually see the head of the baby coming out! She is not going to wait.

Meanwhile, the kids and great-grandma are all looking in and my wife is telling me to call 911.

There is no way I have time to even talk to a 911 operator, so I call my neighbor across the street to make the call for me.

Logical, right?

My poor neighbor had just gotten out of the shower and had a house full of his own kids and his neighbor’s kids.

He came over with no shoes and had the 911 dispatcher on the phone.

By then, that baby was out. Her head came out easily but she got stuck at the shoulders.

The umbilical cord was up over one of her shoulders and I had to gently move it and then the rest of her came out quickly.

She was beautiful, with thick dark hair but not making a sound. I opened her mouth and swept the mucus out with my finger and she began to stir and breathe.

Thank God!

We laid mom and baby down on the bathroom floor on some towels.

We wrapped up the baby and mom held her tight.

Audrey came back with her own baby doll and stayed with mom and her new sister until the ambulance arrived.

I was finally able to call the doctor and let him in on the delivery. He would meet us at the hospital where they would cut the cord and finish up.

I actually had to sign the birth certificate since I delivered the baby. That was cool.

Some days later, after all that excitement at home, we busted my son charging neighborhood kids money to see the bathroom where the baby was born. (He’s going to be a successful person someday.)

I am thankful that there were no complications and it all went well. It was an amazing experience that we will always remember, especially for Emily and I, and that bathroom.

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MegaCon: The Family That CosPlays Together…

As I stroll down a hallway, an 8-foot mechanized cyborg passes by me.

Resting in a semi-seated position and staring into a smartphone is a unicorn-headed half human.

Further down I see a line of droids ambling away.

And wait! Was that Stan Lee?!

Did I just bring you into one of my alcohol-induced dreams?

Nope, that was just a small part of MegaCon 2015 in Orlando, Fla.

MegaCon is the annual younger cousin to the now-famous ComicCon of San Diego. But not that much smaller.

This year over 70,000 super-heroes, monsters, robots, geeks and freaks passed through its doors.


For me, a lover of all things comics from the early 70s, a giant comic book convention should have been an annual event from way, way back.

But it wasn’t. Early on I viewed all conventions, comic, Star Trek, scifi and horror as the domain of not just geeks, but rather stuck-up, solitary, scary collector-type geeks.

And in a convention they found the one event where they could congregate and be all geeky about their collections together.

I was not a collector. I was a reader.

I devoured comics and pulp mags, scifi, super-heroes and horror. But I never kept my comics and mags in pristine, collectible condition.

I read the hell out of them. I rolled them over, shoved them into bags, creasing pages that reduced their monetary value but with every reading, they increased in spiritual value to me.

Many were lost or traded over time. Some were even damaged by Silly Putty overuse. But they were never forgotten.

Fast forward many, many, many years to my family that now includes some teenagers, who grew up reading fantasy book series, anime and comics.

Three years ago they convinced me to take them to our first MegaCon.

I thought I knew what I was in for.

I prepared myself to spend the day letting my kids explore and I would limit myself to looking through comics, mags and memorabilia that interested me, whiling away the time.

What I got was completely different.

Yes the exhibitors were there with the comics and accessories, and many of them looked and acted like the comic book collector geek from “The Simpsons.” But there was so much more.

Full booths dedicated to the likes of the Southern R2 Builders Group, the Greater Florida LEGO® Users Group and the 501st Legion or as they are better known, “Vader’s Fist”.

Sure these were middle-aged folks spending thousands of dollars on building the most incredible replica of a fully functioning R2D2 droid.

But it felt right and not geeky.

Maybe it felt that way because these full-sized, fully functioning and moving droids are definitely the ones I was looking for.

It was my childhood brought to life. And the storm troopers, mercenaries, Wookies and Jedis of the well-known galactic fantasy tale were all there.

That was just the Star Wars stuff. There were exhibits from “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Glactica,” “RoboCop” and… “Plan Nine From Outer Space.”

Yes, there was the well-known and the obscure.

But what about comic book characters? If I were to guess I would say they were all well represented by the thousands of cosplayers.

From the bizarre, to the sublime, from the expensive and elaborate to the cheap and last-minute creation.

Wolverine, Supergirl, Thor, Spiderman, Rick Grimes…and Powdered Toast Man.

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There were so many anime characters I did not recognize that I had to constantly stop and ask my kids, “Who’s that?”

But the most interesting part was seeing that this was not a culture of geek exclusivity or freak elitism.

From what I saw in a day, every cosplayer was very gracious to every request for a picture or to engage in conversation. And so many poses — from heroic to horrific to hysterical.

Did I mention Powdered Toast Man?


Some cosplayers were surrounded by fans of all ages. And everyone wanted a picture.

I saw an 8-foot Groot, splendidly re-created, down to the slow difficult walk in that costume.

He wouldn’t have walked fast even if his tree-stumped legs allowed, because every half a step there was another photo request.

And when a fantastically accurate Star-Lord crossed his path, it was a true Kodak moment.


MegaCon has now become an annual thing in our family. My kids take it to an extreme and I love it.

This year my oldest daughter went to all three days and dressed as two different characters.

In fact, we have started a budget for MegaCon 2016 for all of us, including my wife, to attend all three days and we will all be costumed.

The family that cosplays together stays together.

May the Force be with you.

“Hey, Coach…”

“You got a second, Coach?”

Ughhh. The most hated sentence a volunteer parent coach can ever hear.


Because nothing good ever follows it. It is always some sort of complaint (my daughter didn’t play enough time), unreasonable request (my daughter should play the whole game) or unsolicited “technical” advice (my daughter should play center forward to beef up your weak 4-3-3 formation).

The only thing I can hope for as the coach is that at least the tone is civil.

I have been a sports coach, mostly soccer, since before I had kids of my own. Having been born in Argentina and with a dad who played some professional soccer in his youth, it was a matter of time before I started chasing and kicking “la redonda” (the round one).

I cut my teeth as a coach while as a young adult serving in the Argentine army. Yep, military conscription was still a thing when I was 20. I filled my off hours by volunteering at the Catholic parish youth soccer league.

In Argentina, soccer is an ingrained part of the culture. Children learn to play even before they are able to walk.

Parents rarely are present during formal coaching sessions and many times absent from games entirely. So I had the great opportunity to learn from experienced coaches and to freely coach a team of 9- and 10-year-old boys, all very talented and skillful little players.

After returning to the U.S. and getting married, it wasn’t until we had our own kids that I returned to coaching. It had been 16 years since I had last run a practice, so I signed up as an assistant coach because I wanted to see how things were done in the U.S., now my naturalized home.

By week No. 2 into that, my rookie season, the head coach suddenly had an out-of-town project to work on, and just like the plot of a bad sitcom, I inherited a team of uncoordinated, uninterested first graders to play a game I had learned to play structurally and properly. After setting up some drills to run, it did not take long for bedlam to ensue.

After a few weeks I started to get into the rhythm of the players (know thy audience) and scaled down the drills to more fun games that happened to involve a soccer ball.

Kids were having fun and I managed to sneak in some soccer drills disguised as fun. During their matches the team scored some goals and won some games.



My first encounter with an upset parent. Fortunately for me, this one didn’t go as it was playing out in my head. I had just finished getting the kids set up for a soccer drill when I saw out of the corner of my eye a mom dragging a red-headed boy by the hand and in my direction with a very determined look on her face.

The boy was one of my talented players but not good at following directions. I was expecting the worst from his mom. What occurred was unexpected but very welcome. After dragging her son, who was struggling against her, in my direction, she stopped short of coming straight up to me.

Instead she dropped to a knee, grabbed her son by the cheeks, pointed at me and without breaking her gaze into his eyes said: “This is your coach and you will listen to and do as he says. Do you understand me?!”

Then she shook my hand without saying anything else and walked away.

In the following years I became very adept at coaching a recreational team of players.

“Recreational” meant that you always had at least four players who were more interested in playing in the dirt, viewing cloud forms or chasing a passing butterfly than in the ball being kicked toward them.

As their coach, my hands were raw from clapping and my throat hoarse from yelling encouragement to a player running in circles far from where that ball was being played.

It is a part of the mantra of recreational sports. All children play regardless of skill, and they should all be encouraged enthusiastically and equally. It can be very tiring for a volunteer coach, but very satisfying as well.

And then it started. “Coach, you got a second?”

Sure, I thought, as I turned with a big smile. What would follow would always be, my kid isn’t receiving enough playing time, etc. etc. In my head I would reply, “How could he? He is too busy digging up ants as the opposing team barrel through your kid’s area on the field!”

Instead, I would smile and think back on that first parental encounter.

Movies of Yesteryear Are Family Viewing Time of Today

“Get to the choppa!”

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.”

“Game over man, game over!”

Classic movie quotes. Together with my good friends from About Men Radio, we quote our favorites frequently. We are all of the same era, most of us the same age, hitting the mid-century milepost in the same year.

We love these movies. We watch them over and over, but we unknowingly view them with the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia. With these specs on, our heroes and our movies can do no wrong. They are perfection. And boy, do we love to quote them.

“You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

But the true test of time for our beloved classics is the scrutiny of today’s teenagers. In the La Frossia household, I put up my classics to the viscious, modern critical eye of my kids.

All three of them teenagers, ranging from 13 to 18. Will they revel in the satirical violence of “RoboCop”? Or will they cut it down to size for the terrible sins of cheesy dialogue, phony sets or non-convincing FX?

“Your move, creep.”

What ends up being the most fun for each movie viewing is delighting in the reactions of my kids.

If the time is right, I will announce to the family that it is “Retro Movie Night.” It is sometimes received with a groan.

For them, they have to be in the “right mood” for a Dad classic. I usually win and I present a title for the evening.

I typically get bombarded with questions, especially when I mention a title and tell them to trust me and I do not give them a preview description.

Sometimes I get the most genuine reaction because they never heard of the movie, such as the original “The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.” My kids have never visited the Big Apple, so they have never experienced a subway, much less one from the 1970s.

And they didn’t need to. The expertly crafted movie that is TToP123 quickly engrossed them and they bought into the suspense and drama.

“We had a bomb scare in the Bronx yesterday, but it turned out to be a cantaloupe.”

But that was an easy one because it is considered by many movie experts as a timeless classic. How will they react to a Dad classic such as “Westworld”? With its ’70s special effects, ’60s computers and Yul Brynner?

“Your move. Draw!”

They overall liked the movie. Of course, the snickering at the hovercraft effects, the comments about the computer command control — they informed me that they held more power in their iPhone than was in that control center — and the comments about Yul’s accent for a western U S of A gunslinger were intense.

The banter though added another layer of fun to my classics and gives me a chance to enjoy them all over again, almost as if seeing it for the first time as I live it through their eyes and join in their commenting.

“Get your stinkin’ hands off of me you damn, dirty ape!”

Thanks to an extensive VHS and DVD collection as well as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon I have a wealth of classics to unleash on them. If they are to enjoy today’s future classics like “The Hobbit,” “Lord of the Rings” or the Harry Potter franchise, they need to see “Jason and the Argonauts” and “The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.”

To love “Pacific Rim” they have to experience “Destroy All Monsters.”

It’s my duty as a dad that they get that.

“I’ll be back.”


Thanksgiving Travel: It’s In the Bag

Thanksgiving Day, the whole family is together.

My son is home from college, my daughter is making cookies and we just finished preparing the candied yams to bring to the family feast at my brother’s house.

Running late as usual, I think we can finally start heading to the van.

Wait. My oldest daughter is still not dressed after running the hair dryer for what seems like the past hour in the bathroom.

“C’mon! Let’s go!” I can’t believe this. We have a two-hour drive and we needed to leave an hour ago.

Van packed and ready: yams, cookies, and a bottle of Fireball to share with my bro’.

Finally on the road, the two youngest girls in the back, college boy and oldest daughter in the middle row, all with their respective devices and ear-buds, and the lovely wife riding shotgun.

Running late and moving along quickly, my son scarfs down a couple of snack bags of chips since he didn’t have any breakfast.

That’s when things started to leave the rails.

I am not sure how the chips hit his stomach — maybe with the bouncing of the van — but I hear a cough behind me, a wet gurgling cough that erupts with a force of expulsion (can you just hear that?) that prompts me to ask if he is OK.

He says he is OK. He caught the up-chuck into the empty bag of chips.

Ugghh!! Oh! And then the smell!

His sister next to him starts dry heaving and we need to crack the windows open.

Before we can find a place to dump the puke, my youngest in the back starts to heave.

Here I am, driving and looking in the rear view. I see her cover her mouth with her hands, and as everyone knows, that never works.

The next thing I hear is “blarghhh!” and my other daughter screaming and, oh, that smell again!

Oh my God! Open the windows!

Now I’m seriously looking for a place to stop. Luckily, we find a convenience store and pull in. Everyone jumped out, except for the puker.

I didn’t even check the damage and went right into the store and bought lemon-scented cleaner, wipes, air freshener, garbage bags and a roll of paper towels.

Got back to the van and opened the door. I wanted to scream.

Actually, I did scream.

I didn’t know where to start: The back seat, the floor, her pants, her jacket, even her ear-buds! I started spraying, wiping and tossing it all into a garbage bag.

Repeat, repeat, repeat, and repeat some more.

Finally made it to my brother’s house just in time for the Thanksgiving meal. I can’t believe what I just went through but I am thankful for surviving it and still being able to spend time with my family.

And yes, I think I’ll need to trade that van in a lot sooner than I first thought.