Monday, October 16, 2023

Hayride to Hell

Time for the FGR fall tradition of recycling this post for the poor saps who still have to endure the October hellscape that I am about to describe. Inevitably it coincides with a multi-day fall bender and which results in me going AWOL from my tournament preview obligations. This is an enhanced version of the original made better by the passage of time and the added layers of angst, irritation and bitterness that go along with it.

Being a parent of young kids presents an ongoing dilemma that causes you to split your time between wishing that the low maintenance versions of them will never grow-up and counting the days when you no longer have to deal with the high maintenance bullshit that goes with the job. 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 also have the isolated parenting nut-shots like trips to the emergency room, car accidents, arrests, etc. (For the record, I was never technically arrested though I often found myself amongst people who were. The ability to portray innocence when obviously guilty would definitely be my mutant X-Men power).

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 toddlers to a sporting event and then spending three hours plying them with food and drinks to keep them interested. (Of course this is a Catch-22 as that means copious amounts of sugar which only serves to make them more distracted which means more food, more distraction, more food, more dist . . . fuck it let's just go). 

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 it's over.  

I'm not talking about just any  bathhouse 
in Budapest. I'm talking about the actual 
swill hole you see in this picture.  
But none of those experiences compare to the blunt force trauma to the head that is the Halloween trip to the pumpkin farm. If you have yet to experience this, brace yourself for hell on a hayride and, if you've been through it already, prepare to commiserate. Allow me to paint the picture and I will preface this by saying that, of all the settings this world has to offer, the traditional farm ranks near the bottom for me right next to a few other random venues in which I have found myself like a bathhouse in Budapest and a sightseeing boat in Mexico.**

So how do you get yourself into this predicament? Well, 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 that takes so he keeps the dream alive by bringing in some borderline carnies once a year to run a little Halloween gig. If that's the case, your kids will get to pet farm animals that don't look like they've been on a hunger strike in between being 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, impalement 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 ten times better than the best case version of Scenario Two. Write that down. 

In Scenario Two you find yourself at a farm in the middle of a more populated area. (I'm going to assume these exist anywhere urban sprawl has encroached on what used to be farmland - like the suburbs of Baltimore). 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 hopefully 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 mangy sheep or a really ugly poodle, you'll take the whole family for a lengthy Purell decontamination shower (if you've seen Silkwood,*** this will seem familiar). By now you've worked-up a healthy thirst so you grab some dixie cups full of apple cider and deep down you hope it's been over fermented enough to get you drunk or, in a perfect world, kill you instantly.   

And finally, just when you're high as a kite on apple moonshine and Halloween spirit, it's time for the main attraction - the hayride. This entails standing in line for half an hour waiting your turn to get towed around by a John Deere tractor because what's more fun than having your spine bounced out of alignment while diesel fumes are pumped into your lungs from three feet away? I'm pretty sure it's called a hayride because "Hey, this sucks!" 

Forty-five minutes later and you're pulling a wagon full of pumpkins and fucking gourds through a checkout line. At the register, you get suckered into buying a $9.00 jug of apple cider that the "farmer" bought at the grocery store that morning for $2.75 because you have no fight left in you at that point. By the time you load the pumpkins and the fucking gourds in the trunk, you are a broken, nauseous, shell of a man. The next day you will be hungover. Not so much from the apple moonshine but from the experience that will have drained you like a night of binge drinking without the benefit of erasing your memory of it. Not to mention, the fucking gourds will be all over the damn house to remind you.    

Depending on how many kids you have and your threshold for misery, this experience can repeat itself anywhere from about five to ten times. Then one day you wake-up on a Sunday in October feeling that familiar sense of dread as you 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 . . . and you weep with joy.


Looks like I'm taking the bus.
Wait, the bus is free right?
* 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 twenty-two 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 because one morning I looked out the window and someone else was driving away in "my" car. All I needed to complete the scene was a pizza and a dress in a dry-cleaning bag.

** Boarded that sucker for all of 30 seconds before saying "nope" and abandoning ship right back down the gangplank. 

*** Silkwood is a movie starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher about people who are contaminated with nuclear stuff. It's actually less uplifting than it sounds. Here is one of the naked shower scenes a/k/a the worst Pornhub clip ever.

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