Let Me Be a Grouchy Old Man in Peace

October 05, 2010

Unlike when I was a student, today's kids set up tailgate parties out amongst the fans and families spread all over campus. It's a little ironic that the kids today don't have a good place to go drink without legal hassle, other than right out in the open next to traffic-directing policemen.

In years past, I might complain about the music. If it were me setting up the playlist, we would be a mix of current alt rock, some classic rock (goes well with the whiskey), with a smattering of hip hop and current pop music. If I were going to mix in country, it would be something kind of tough and ass-kicking. A little bit of Johnny Cash goes a long way.

For some reason, tailgaters love that "Calling Baton Rouge" song. How I wish they had written "Calling Knoxville" or "Calling Tuscaloosa" so that it could blare throughout their campuses on Saturdays instead of ours.

Blossom sweats it out during a hot first weekend tailgate.

In all honesty, the music blaring around us this year hasn't been too bad. But since I'm an old guy on a rocket-blast-screaming-full-tilt-shot toward grouchy old guy, they bug me by, well, bugging me.

One week, I forgot to bring a bottle opener. A nice kid offered me his, which is great, but then every time I tried to jury-rig a bottle opener, the dude would show up and chide me for not finding him and his handy opener. This didn't just happen a couple of times. It happened over and over through the afternoon. Finally, I just started bugging him for his opener, once causing a cute girl to get up from his lap so that he could fish out his keychain-bound opener.

That same week, we brought Blossom out for the afternoon. The one dog lover who didn't bother me was a kid who silently came to give her some attention. Over and over, he would come, pet the dog without a word to anyone, and then leave. My guess is that he wanted to talk to one of the girls at his tailgate party, and he couldn't work up the nerve. His subconscious directed him to the dog, knowing that he wouldn't face rejection from a Basset Hound. He probably told himself over and over, "Just one more visit to the dog, and then I'll go talk to her." In retrospect, I kind of feel for the kid.

On the other hand, lots of other people wanted to come talk to me about dogs. Is it a boy or a girl? How old is she? What's her name?

WHO CARES? You'll never see this dog again. Give her the piece of gristle that you got from your cheapo pre-made Piggly Wiggly hamburger patties and move along.

Cheapo chicken wings from Piggly Wiggly.

Even worse are the ones who want to tell me about their dogs. I heard about current dogs. I heard about dogs they had growing up. Labs, beagles, breeds I can't picture. And over and over, my brain was saying, "WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I GIVE TWO HAIRS FROM A SQUIRREL SCROTUM ABOUT YOUR DOG?" I really could not have cared any less about their dogs. I just wanted to eat my cheapo Piggly Wiggly meat and watch the football game that was on TV.

The day after our first tailgate, I had kids I don't know getting on my nerves again.

I took Vanya to the park. I got him to playing with some other kids out there, which is pretty easy.

"Hey kid, what's your name?"

Kid tells me his name. Say it's Larry.

"Well Larry, can you run fast?"


"Well he thinks he can run faster." I point at Vanya, and then they spend an hour or so sprinting all over the playground.

On this particular day, I got him playing, and then I put together my fly rod and went about practicing my casting. I was having a nice time, despite some odd looks. But eventually, a little kid who had been watching curiously got up the nerve to ask if he could have a try. Feeling like I should be an ambassador for the sport, I gave him a go. But then I was instantly surrounded by a line of kids who wanted a turn for themselves.

Vanya was involved in a dodge ball game, so I started giving quick tutorials, unconcerned about their actual technique (and I can barely cast the damn thing myself, so teaching technique wouldn't have been any good anyway).

One older fat kid was a terrible caster, but he really seemed to enjoy it. He told me, "I really like when my dad takes me fishing."

"That's great."

"But he's in jail now."

Jesus H. Christ kid, what the eff am I supposed to say to that?

Meanwhile, someone yelled to the dodge ball game, and the whole flock of kids sprinted away to one of the picnic tables. By the time I had gathered the stray fly line and walked over, I see that the table is surrounded by people singing Happy Birthday. Vanya is smack center in front of the cake, directly across from the birthday boy. He was easy to spot, being the only Caucasian at the table, and he was right were the back of his head would be in all of the pictures that his family was trying to take.

The family was nice about his intruder, and they fussed at me for not letting him stay to eat cake. But I had had enough of strange children for quite a while.