The (kind of) complete mountain essentials guide

To buy a first aid kit, or not to buy a first aid kit? That is the question. The eternal question.

I mean, what would it say about me?

No longer will I be the kind of dad who when faced with a child sporting a bleeding wound tears off a sheet of paper and says, “Here! Hold this on it until the bleeding stops.”

That’s fatherhood at its best right there. (Forget whether it’s hygienic.)
But if I buy this travel first aid kit, I will suddenly be prepared and ready for all calamity in a smart, reasonable and remarkably mature way. Is that who I am?

My family is heading to Colorado soon. The mountains! We plan to do a lot of hiking and outdoorsy stuff, which has me thinking about all the essentials to bring. The things I could potentially need. And the things I just want an excuse to buy: Like the knife that Indiana Jones had. Imagine explaining that one to airport security!

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Mining for Minecraft Mods

Excuse me if I seem a little tired. I was up late again last night, desperately trying to load a new Mod into Minecraft.

What’s a “Mod?” Well, I’m glad you asked … because I have no earthly idea. Could stand for “modification.” Possibly. Or “my obedient dad,” as in, “My obedient dad is going to stay up all night pulling his hair out while trying to load this thing onto my computer game.” It’s anyone’s guess.

My daughter has become a maniac for Minecraft, that video game that lets players construct whole worlds and travel through them while whaw, whaw-whaw, whaw, whaw. (I don’t actually know what Minecraft is all about, as I tend to tune out when she explains it.)

What I do know is that everything looks like it’s made of square blocks — the land, the people, the animals, the buildings.

“Oh, look how cute,” my daughter will say. “It’s an ant!”

I strain my pixel-challenged eyes and say: “No, it isn’t! It’s six black squares walking around. These graphics are terrible!”

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Ye olde creaky bones

What are you trying to tell me universe? I’m not understanding the mixed signals? Because a little over a week ago I went out and ran 12 miles. Twelve miles! And it felt great. Like a young man. And then yesterday, unloading groceries at the store I bent over to pick up something and pinched a nerve down near my … ahem … buttocks. Nearly doubled over from the pain. Considered calling 911. Considered calling for one of those motorized scooters. Felt NOT like a young man.

What’s the message here? I’m not getting it.

Maybe it was just a fluke. I pushed my cart into an empty cashier aisle. I hate empty aisles. You feel so rushed — panicked even — to get your food out of the cart. You don’t want the cashier to stare at you like you’re the reason she can’t go on break or win the lottery or something that doesn’t involve waiting on you.

I was throwing things on the fast-moving conveyor as fast as I could when I dropped one of my reusable shopping bags. To make matters worse, the shopping cart rolled over the bag and I had to lift it up to free it when …

SHAZAM!

A bolt of lightning bit me somewhere between my hip and the aforementioned buttock.

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Thompson a finalist in NSNC Column Contest

I just learned my weekly column in The St. Augustine Record is one of three finalists in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ 2016 Column Contest. It is in the Humor Category for circulations under 50,000.

Ain’t that sumthin’? I’ll learn what place I got in June. See kids: Writing really ridiculous stuff can pay off!

Read the three award-winning columns here (boy, that sounded cool!):
• A letter to Little Joe, the cat

• A TRUE Disney dream come true

• Light bulb insanity

Learn more about the National Society of Newspaper Columnists at http://www.columnists.com/

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And the dog met the pine needles

There must be something about freshly laid pine needles that makes a dog think they are expressly for her. There must be something in their chemical composition that causes her to lose a good chunk of her marbles. There must be something that says, “Hey, my owner just got the yard looking so nice it could be the cover of a magazine. So, why don’t I go completely berserk and make it look like NASCAR ran a race?”

Goodbye, pretty yard. Why did I even try?

Let me say this, for legal reasons: I love my dog. Sweet, adorable, precious mutt. Brings so much love and joy to the family. A faithful companion. A family protector. A wonderful compatriot to my daughter. Hasn’t given any of us worms. (Bonus!)

But there are times when I think about trading her for a guinea pig, or a stick of gum.

Like the other day, when I thought I heard a troop of wild elephants barreling through the yard. “Is there an earthquake?!?” I screamed, running around the house, peering out windows, expecting to see trees shaking. “Are we being invaded? Have aliens finally come to steal our ice cream?”

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To our aspiring presidential candidates: A little advice

I’m going to take a shot at something here. I know, I’m not the most serious guy. This column is better known for stories about my daughter or how a neighbor’s cat threw up on my car and it resembled Elvis. But I feel like with a titanic presidential election shaking our country, I can’t just sit here and waste this opportunity to share my own unique insight. So this week I want to use this space to speak directly to our candidates and offer them some much-needed advice:

• Stop promising little things, like walls across the Mexican border or minimum wage increases to $135 an hour. Americans don’t like small. We don’t want practical and realistic. We want ginormous! We want promises so big that you sit back and think a 5-year-old must be running the campaign. Like a proposal to start printing all U.S. currency on Mars. Or a promise to make the next U.S. Supreme Court nominee a character from “Game of Thrones.” Or better yet: That we will end global warming by requiring all houses and offices to open their windows during the summer so the air conditioning collectively cools the planet. You want the country to embrace you? Start thinking big!

• From polls I’ve read, these are some of the most unpopular candidates in a very long time. Their favorability ratings are so low — on both sides — that we all have to wonder, “Do their mommas even like them?” Which is a great opportunity for enterprising candidates to seize the opportunity, recognize their own weaknesses and pronounce that if elected, they won’t run the country themselves. Rather, they’ll turn it over to people we actually DO like … perhaps Pat Sajak or Kareem Abdul Jabbar or that really cute kid from “The Jungle Book.” Boy was he good at running around with computer-generated animals!

• This year’s campaign slogans — things like “Make America Great Again” and “Hillary for America” — just don’t resonate with us. How about something more positive and inspirational. Something like: “Meatballs for every man, woman and child,” “Hey, at least I’m not the other guy” or “In a field of mediocrity, don’t forget I’m pretty OK.”

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A newswoman in the family

“You’re going to be a newscaster!” I blurted out, beaming with pride. I had just been told something that will warm the heart of any former journalist: My daughter had earned a spot on her elementary school’s crack morning news crew.

She gave me the kind of 10-year-old look that screams: “Why do I tell you ANYTHING?”

But I just can’t help it. It’s so exciting!

I’ve never actually seen the show. I think it comes on for morning announcements and is broadcasted to TV sets in the classrooms throughout her school. There’s an anchor and a camerakid and cue cards and the whole lot. I picture a “60 Minutes” format with exposés on why the hand-dryers in the bathroom don’t dry your hands quicker. Or maybe tough interviews with the physical ed teacher about why Medieval torture techniques like sit-ups are still being inflicted on children.

“Now, in our research, we found a child in Nebraska who snapped in half while doing these archaic exercises. How do you respond to this?”

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Full-on vacation planning … like the old days

When I was little, my father, brother and I used to trek off to the Rockies for long, extended vacations during the summer. We spent most of our time camping, hiking, eating questionable stuff out of tin cans, listening to questionable comedians on cassette tapes, chasing chipmunks and generally being awed by the monstrous beauty of a range of mountains that had erupted from the earth.

As Florida boys — where elevation was measured by how high your front porch was — it was a dizzying sight to behold. Behemoths topping out at 13,000 feet, or more.

In Durango, we two little kids and our bearded father would board the narrow-gauge Durango & Silverton Railroad with nothing but hiking packs and a couple of hiking sticks. We would sit amongst the sightseers as smoke-stack ashes rained down on us and the train crept deeper and deeper into the mountains. At some point it would come to an abrupt stop in the middle of a lonely gorge.

Off we would hop, grabbing our packs and sticks from the freight car as puzzled tourists hung out the windows watching us, saying things to each other like, “Look Martha, that strange man is leading his two children off to be eaten by bears. We’re going to read about this in the newspaper!”

Then we would disappear up the pass as the sounds of the huffing train echoed through mountains and slowly chugged away. We would camp near a beaver den and spend the next few days exploring the more navigable peaks with names like Vestal and Arrowhead, up almost three miles into the sky.

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Ballad of a spring break sad dad

“Dad, I’ve got to show you this video,” said the child to her poor, worn-out father who had just returned from work. He collapsed in a heap upon the couch and was pounced upon immediately by the 10-year-old. She shoved an iPhone in his face and hit play.

“Another spring break video?” he questioned. “Don’t you realize I’m a working stiff and the sight of so much unbridled fun could cause your poor father’s heart to squeeze itself to death?”

“I’ll chance it,” she said, “because you’ve got to see THIS!”

“This” involved two kids twirling each other in a chair while a classic song from the 80s played in the background. Oh, and there was a pillow with a smiley face. (It had something to do with the plot.)

“Child,” this father said, “this is nothing more than two kids twirling each other in a chair.”

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Eighteen years of marriage, and still going

Eighteen years! How did I pull that one off?

There are profound questions we often ask the universe: Why are pickle jars so hard to open? How come the pollen falls the worst right after you wash your cars? Why would a relatively normal looking cat run into the street like it was going to attack me? Pro-FOUND questions. Earth-shaking questions.

Like this one: How did I convince such a wonderful woman to marry me? And how did I get her to stick around for 18 years? (Maybe it’s my smile! I brush at least twice a day.)

My wife and I celebrated our 18th anniversary this past weekend. We went out to dinner. We had cocktails on the bayfront. We ate a decadent piece of flour-less chocolate torte. (Torte stands for “so damn good you can keep your flour!”) We stayed out well past our bedtime.

It was a fantastic night, and a microcosm of our time together — incredibly enjoyable and something you hope will never end.

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