The Great Adventure

photophoto My friend called me the other day and remarked how my life was boring. Always blogging about things in the past, riding the same trails, skiing the same areas, and working. He was trying to get me to come out to the west and do an epic mountain bike trip with him. He has the good fortune of being retired, kids raised and doing well, and has time to be adventurous in a most excellent environment. He means well and we like to get together but at the moment, my structured life is ok until further notice. I will still get together with him and my other friends but there are pressing things now that preclude spur of the moment adventure trips.

But what is adventure anyhow? Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. In many ways I was and still am adventurous compared to most people but then again, I do not take motorcycle trips to the Arctic Circle or climb Mt. Everest. The real purpose of my blog is to tell people the funny stories about my past adventures and share some thoughts of encouragement to those who might want to give the outdoors a try. From the couch to a 5K? Maybe pitch a tent with their son or daughter in the back yard and look at the stars. Or perhaps, take up a winter sport and enjoy another season. Adventure and excitement is relative. Most people have to take advantage of their own local environment and if they plan, they can take that adventurous trip of a lifetime.

So in that spirit of perceived adventure, I will recount a tale with which many of you can surely relate, including my friend from out west. It is perhaps the most rewarding, perplexing, mystifying, aggravating, worrysome and loving adventure that I have ever experienced. I have had a lot of adventures but none as interesting as nurturing the most narcissistic of the homo sapien clan………….the teenager. It all begins with the driving lesson. The wide eyed nervous but thrilled demeanor is on stage with the first step on the gas pedal, the first hard braking, and oversteering. Through it all, dad is patiently in the passenger seat calmly giving directions in the pool parking lot. After a series of turns and three point turns, the route expands on the park roads until that unexpected remark,” Can I drive to see my friend Jackie?” Imagine the bravado on the first day? But, the 59 year old kid, seeing confidence and some ability allows the adventure to continue to see the girl so that the brand new driver can impress. The teenage fascination with the opposite sex is on display with the window down and the cool look to the girl with the big smile.

Fast forward to inner city, AAU basketball and the land of hip hop( see picture above). Dad and his Rolling Stones and Byrds can’t quite relate but neither did his parents at the sight of long hair and Elton John glasses back in the day. The 59 year old kid and his spirit of adventure is amazed at learning about Wiz Khalifa, Dr. Dre and the world of social media. Nobody talks- they text. Communication is reduced to the I-Phone and the infernal X Box live. Life expands for the teenager in the man cave of the house where video games reign supreme. Remember from past blogs that Janet and I taught the teenager how to ski, swim, hit a baseball, throw a football, shoot a basketball, and now it is all put aside for the fair sex and shooting aliens in the virtual world. When the teenager comes up out of his cave, he is hungry. He eats, doesn’t say much and back to the virtual world and texting his friends. Fortunately this creature has a job at the local beer distributor thanks to some dear friends and has learned the value of making a buck.

Moving on, the high school adventure is at an end and graduation, college orientation, and eventually the college experience awaits this being who mom and dad hope can make it on its own. Tonight, I stop to see the number one son and he tells me he is hungry. I say,” How about a pizza or a hoagie to hold you over until after work?” He says,” Great” in a very teen like vernacular which I will not expose. He says,” I only have a one hundred dollar bill so you will have to pay for it.” I pull out my last 20 and buy the food and am down to 10 bucks. What is wrong with this picture? I laugh and say to myself,” he has a 100 and I have 10 bucks and am out a pizza and a root beer.” That is life with the being we all know and love……….the teenager. Oh he is polite and shakes hands, and charms his teachers, and the ladies, and enjoys his life. But we see the beast waking up in the morning, grumpy, until he is fed and comes alive in the living room. We see the teenager at his best and at his worst, but the unconditional love of this being is always present even in the most heated battles of mom and dad versus sonny boy. A boring existence? I think not. It is always adventurous to stay one step ahead of the cunning beast until the day when we release him to mid America and the campus of Ohio U in Athens. We then will see the real growth, education, and maturity that awaits us when he returns and we say……” what happened to that young boy, who turned into the teenager, and is now…… a man?” Life moves on and the adventure continues. My friend from out west always told me,” Pat- it gets better and better every day.” His son is now married, with his own son and another child on the way. ” It only gets better.” The teen years were a challenge but again, adventure is in the eye of the beholder. Most of you had that adventure and those who have not, your time is coming with the texting, burping,flattulating, “I got this covered” species we know and love as…………the teenager. Hey Jack- clean up that room and put those clothes away will ya?” Thanks for reading.

The Good Old Fashioned Work Ethic

photo I have a friend, Jeff Mihalsky who laughs at me and says,” McCloskey, sometimes when you are on a roll, you remind me of an old man coming out on his stoop in his bathrobe and yelling at the kids to get off his lawn.” Now at the risk of such accusations and probable half truth, I will temper what I have to say with that image in mind. Yes, I am taking a little breather from the skiing, cycling, and hiking commentary and giving a little social commentary on this post. I hope you don’t mind and for most of you, it will ring a little truth bell inside you.

One of the more interesting, zany, stories and experiences of the 58 year old kid has been raising a teenager. A lot of you who follow this blog have been down this rocky path and there a a lot who will face it in the near future but teenagers today can be challenging to say the least. My son Jack decided that his competitive basketball days are over and much to my chagrin, I have been fretting over this decision but realize that it is his life and no matter what time, effort, money,coaching and instruction his mother and I have put into this activity over the last 7 years, we must move on because this is no longer his passion. However…………we have insisted that if this is the case, he must look for employment over the summer to learn about earning a buck and not just getting $20.00 leaves from the proverbial endless money tree. To Jack’s credit, he got a job at Shenot’s Farm Market in Wexford and also moonlights as a sitter for the two young boys down the street. He is learning what it is like to work and that is very important to us as he marches his way towards college and life in the next year and a half.

I have always appreciated what work experience as a young guy has brought me in later life. I will never forget my first bonus from our backyard neighbor who presented me with a very professional letter at Christmas time with a $5.00 bill in it. He said that in the working world, great effort is rewarded at the end of the year by way of a bonus. I was thrilled and so were my parents that he would do this for mowing his lawn. I had 11 lawns in the neighborhood when I was 12. I also shoveled their driveways when it would snow. Not to sound like the old guy on the stoop but do you ever see that type of effort today in any of your neighborhood kids? We live in an entitled society, I am afraid, and a lot of what is given to young people today is expected and not really appreciated. That is it for the social commentary.

I went on to caddy and park cars at my dad’s golf club and also did stints in the kitchen. I learned a lot about people in the club setting and became real worldly when I caddied for a group of real good golfers who drank hard at the turn and told some pretty sordid stories out on the course. Needless to say, if I wanted a good tip I laughed and always made sure their balls were never out of bounds if you know what I mean. “Wow Mr. Sutherland, that ball is barely in bounds and you have a good lie!” My summers in college were spend as a laborer at St. Joe Paper Company in McKees Rocks and working all three shifts you saw all kinds of people and faced a lot of interesting situations in the labor environment. My son who is starting to pontificate about his working experience cannot match the times I spent with a long wire brush routing out boiler tubes in 120 degree heat. All of this was good for me in later life as I was comfortable in labor situations and making my way around manufacturing plants and mills. I like to think that working as a young guy prepared me to deal with all kinds of people from labor to management with respect and a good work ethic. This is the experience I hope that Jack enjoys as he makes his way through the working world of summer and after school employment. There is so much to learn if you pay attention.( I am still in the bathrobe a little bit.)

Take a look at the sign above. Shenot’s Farm Market- since 1854. This establishment was in business before the Civil War. I pointed this out to Jack on the first day of his employment and said to him that these are the types of people who work hard and are really successful. They could probably buy and sell most of the posers in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and most places for that matter. They presented him with a manual that said among other things that he was to treat the produce like eggs. The Shenots value each and every piece of fruit and vegetable that they sell and they count on the workers there to engage the customer with respect, befitting the ethic that they wish to project. I told Jack he will learn a lot if he keeps his eyes open and works hard. This is his first job seeing that sports have taken up most of his time up until now.

I have seen a change in Jack where he is becoming a little more responsible. When he has berry picking duty before 7:00 AM, he goes to bed early and makes sure we leave in time for him to begin bright and early. He seems enthused when he tells me that he learned something new that day. Whether it is running the cash register, bringing in the kale( his name badge says,”Jack- King of Kale”), or running with the truck to get watermelons and place them in the bins for the day. He seems to like it and it is a new adventure for him and getting that first paycheck was a proud moment for him. I am a firm believer in kids working. They have to learn like we all did that money doesn’t grow on trees and that you have to save some for a rainy day. Have I missed any popular sayings of the time? I don’t tell him that in my day I walked up hill to school both ways but I do tell him stories of my past that included summer jobs and college employment. Teenagers need direction and sometimes a summer job with responsibility is just the ticket.

My dad was a child of the Great Depression. The stories he told were amazing and life during the great war was never easy. I always admired my dad for his work ethic. His generation was extremely exemplary and I make sure that Jack knows the history of his Pop Pop and why he was such a good man. My Uncle Jack( my dad’s brother) was a B-24 pilot in WWII and flew 52 missions over the Anzio Beach head. He used to tell us that every day, the mechanics would patch up the flak holes in the body of his aircraft and send him back out again the next day. He was shot down over Burma,and spent a year in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp. The British bombed the camp, he escaped and made it back to Bellevue,Pa. alive. When I was his age, I was looking for my next cheeseburger. Read Tom Brokaw’s book,” The Greatest Generation” to see what our parents and grandparents went through and how hard work honed their amazing successes in life. We all have or will raise teenagers. We were a teenager once and understand. But it is so important in my mind to make sure that our young people appreciate the value of hard work. We can’t support some of the current ideas of entitlement in this country. We are not built that way and our country was not founded that way. Help your kids and tell them of your experiences. They will relate when they have to ………..bring in the kale. Thanks for reading and time for me to get off the stoop.