Friday, October 31, 2014

The FGR's Ode to the Pumpkin Farm

Being a parent presents a never-ending dilemma where you spend half your time wishing that your kids would never grow-up and the other half counting the days until they outgrow certain aspects of childhood. First it's diapers which is followed by teething, the terrible twos, car seats, homework, puberty, boyfriends/girlfriends, college applications and finally that awkward conversation that begins with "we're selling the house so you're going to have to find somewhere else to live."* Along the way, you have more direct kicks to the parental nether regions like trips to the emergency room, car accidents, arrests, etc. (For the record, I was never technically arrested though I often seemed to find myself around people who were . . . note to self: stop hanging-out with criminals).

And then you have the subtle self-inflicted annoyances that we foist upon ourselves in an effort to create Facebook moments. The most obvious example would probably be the attempt to take your too young kids to a sporting event and then spending three hours plying them with food and soda to keep them interested. One of the greatest testaments to my own obliviousness and stupidity was thinking that my kids could sit through an entire football game when I can't even sit through an entire football game. Inevitably in that situation, you start rooting for a moving clock more than you root for the home team and every timeout feels like an eternity. At least when you take your kids to a baseball game, you can just wait for the end of an inning when the players run off the field and tell them the game's over. (I would never do that as far as you know). 

I'm not talking about a place like this, I'm 
talking about this actual place as I have 
bathed in those sweaty Hungarian waters. 
But that's not the experience I want to discuss today for there is a much more worthy target this time of year and it is the blunt force trauma to the head that is the Halloween trip to the pumpkin farm. If you have yet to experience this, allow me to explain and, if you've been through it already, prepare to commiserate. Allow me to paint the scene and I will preface this by saying that, of all the settings this world has to offer, the farm ranks near the bottom for me along with some more random scenes in which I have found myself like a public bathhouse in Budapest and a sightseeing boat in Mexico.**

So first you find yourself a farm. If you're lucky, you find one owned by a rich stock broker who always wanted to be a farmer but then realized how much work it really is so he compensates by bringing in some borderline carnies once a year to run a little Halloween gig. If that's the case, your kids might get to pet farm animals that don't look like they've been mauled by coyotes and the corn maze might actually be made of real live growing corn. In this scenario, your greatest fears are mad cow disease, your kid getting impaled on some kind of Chuck Norris style protruding corn stalk death trap or your wife deciding she wants to decorate the entire goddamn porch with gourds at ten bucks a pop. If we call this Scenario One, let's just say that the worst case version of Scenario One is still better than the best case version of Scenario Two.

In Scenario Two you find yourself at a farm in the middle of a more populated area. (I don't know that these exist outside of Baltimore but I'm going to assume they do anywhere urban sprawl has encroached on what used to be farmland). Here you'll find a maze made of two foot high hay bales and you'll pay three bucks for your kid to make one left turn and then climb over them because, you know, your kid's not an idiot. With the exception of your departure, that will be the highlight of your visit because it's a steady decline from there.

Next you'll wander over to the petting zoo to spend ten minutes waiting for the goat who looks like he's been living off of crabgrass and Marlboro Lights for the last six months to snap your kids left index finger off. After briefly interacting with something that is either a really grungy sheep or a really ugly poodle, you take the whole family for a lengthy Purell decontamination shower (if you've seen Silkwood,*** this will seem familiar). And finally, just when you're high as a kite on Halloween spirit, it's time to stand in line for half an hour waiting your turn to get towed around by a John Deere tractor because nothing says the sweet aroma of fall like the smell of diesel fumes being pumped into your lungs from three feet away. Forty-five minutes later and you're a broken man pulling a wagon full of pumpkins through a checkout line. You get suckered into a nine dollar jug of apple cider at the register and then you get the fuck out of there before someone sees the sign for the gift shop and decides that they want to try some pumpkin jerky and buy a t-shirt to commemorate the occasion.  

Depending on how many kids you have, this experience can repeat itself anywhere from about five to ten times. Then one day you wake-up wait for the announcement that it's time to go the pumpkin farm but that announcement never comes and it is at that moment that you know your debt to the pagan gods has been paid in full . . . and you are thankful.


* My personal version of this is slightly different in that it involved my dad waking me up at 11:00 a.m. on a Tuesday to tell me he was selling "my" car. In a rare moment of 22 year old restraint, I did not say what immediately came to mind which was "then how in the hell am I supposed to get to the golf course?" I called his bluff by stretching my unemployment deep into the fall and then it turned-out he wasn't bluffing, just slow-playing it because one morning I looked out the window and someone else was driving away in "my" car.

** We actually narrowly escaped this one as, just when the boat was about to cast-off, I told the guy at the gangplank that the FGW was about to toss her tacos (literally) and he was more than happy to excuse us from the tour and give us our money back. So now when she tells the FGK's that they should never lie, I always chime-in with, "unless you're fleeing a Mexican tour boat!" 

Ah the 80's. Twas a much simpler time.
*** Silkwood is a movie about people who are contaminated with nuclear stuff. It's actually less uplifting than it sounds. Here is one of the shower scenes but I will warn you that it makes the shower scene from Psycho look like the shower scene from Flashdance.