Real-estate shaming: The newest trend in pre-adolescent douchebaggery

Take a look at this screen capture and tell me what you see:

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Chances are you see the homepage of Zillow.com, a site where one can go and look up the supposed value of any given home. That’s what I used to see, too.

Now? Now I see this:

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Allow me to explain.

Back when I was a kid, maybe the shittiest thing we’d do is give some nerd a wedgie … and by “we,” I mean the little assholes I went to school with, and by “some nerd,” I mean me … but that’s beside the point.

Anyway … I recently discovered that technology has rendered obsolete the good ol’-fashioned wedgie.

A few weeks ago, Zan was goofing around with some friends and acquaintances on a baseball diamond when one of his classmates — whose identity I shall protect here by referring to him with the more anonymous and yet simultaneously more accurate name of Rotten Little Fucker — announced to Zan and the other boys the following:

“Hey, Zan, I looked up everybody’s house on Zillow last night to see how much they’re worth, and yours was the cheapest. Did you know your house isn’t even worth as much as a Lamborghini? How does that make you feel?”

Well, I don’t want to speak for Zan, but I can tell you how it made ME feel when I learned that Rotten Little Fucker intentionally went out of his way to make my son feel less-than and purposely tried to embarrass him in front of his friends based solely upon my financial resources: It made me feel like going to his expensive house, tying him down in his expensive front yard and using him as a fucking lawn-dart target.

See, here’s the thing: When we moved here from the Boston area about five years ago, we could have bought a McMansion for less money than we ended up spending on the much older and far more modest house in which we now live … but the McMansions were all located in shitty school districts, while the much older and far more modest house in which we now live is located in what recently was ranked as one of the Top 5 school districts in the entire country.

Unfortunately, “I live in one of the Top 5 school districts in the entire country” isn’t something about which an 11-year-old boy can reasonably be expected to get super excited … especially when that 11-year-old boy’s peer group is largely comprised of millionaires’ offspring, all of whose homes are worth at least two to three times more than ours.

Of course, I also am well aware that “We live in an exclusive hamlet, surrounded by affluence” is a first-world problem, so I hope this doesn’t come off like me whining about being low man on the upper-middle-class totem pole. I’m merely explaining that it is a unique kind of parenting challenge to raise one’s children in an environment where one’s resources are far surpassed by those of the other children’s parents.

True story: This past winter, Zan attended a birthday party that took place at a country club where the birthday boy’s parents rented out the banquet room and converted it into a miniature golf course. We can’t really compete with that.

Fortunately, we a.) don’t really want to compete with that, and b.) have so far done what I would describe as a more than respectable job of teaching our children to accept the fact that there will always be people with more than us, and there will always be people with less than us, and instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to appreciate what we do have and how lucky we are to have it.

“So Mom told me what Rotten Little Fucker said to you about our house yesterday,” I said to Zan when I picked him up from school the following day. “That was a pretty lousy move on his part.”

“Yeah,” he said without much interest.

“You know, usually, when someone does something like that, it’s because they don’t feel so great about themselves, so they try to make themselves feel better by putting other people down.”

“I know,” he said, still unfazed.

“And we really don’t have anything to be embarrassed about. I know we live in a place where a lot of people have more than us, but we have a nice house and everything we need, so you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.”

“I know, Dad. I really don’t care about what Rotten Little Fucker said. It didn’t bother me.”

And I realized with equal parts relief and pride that he meant it.

Also? I realized I’m raising a kid whom I know would take absolutely no pleasure in making one of his peers feel shitty about themselves. You can’t really put a price tag on that … but I can assure you that it’s worth far more to me than the fair-market value of my house.

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Posted in Life, Parenthood, Zan | 15 Responses

Hey, remember that Red Sox story I was telling you? Of course you don’t … but I’m going to finish telling it anyway.

[Click here for Part 1]

By now, you’ve almost surely forgotten what we were talking about … so for those of you who don’t feel like going back and re-reading the first part of this story, let me refresh your memory:

I booked for my family a vacation that partly revolved around seeing the Red Sox at their spring-training facility … and, being the well-thought-out genius that I am, I failed to first confirm that, during the time of our vacation, we’d actually be allowed inside the Red Sox spring-training facility. This proved to be a major oversight on my part, as I discovered shortly before our trip that, no, dumb-ass, you won’t actually be allowed inside the Red Sox’s spring-training facility during that time period. So, you know … boo, me.

But then I threw a Hail Mary pass in the form of a shamefully desperate email in which I pleaded for someone within the Red Sox’s organization to allow my family and me inside the ballpark during our visit to Florida. The Hail-Mary-ish-ness of this email was amplified by the fact that I had no idea if the email address to which I had sent it was even valid, and no idea if the person to whom I’d directed it was in any position to help me even if they did receive it.

Which is why I was beyond thrilled when, only minutes after having sent that email, I received a reply from a Person In Power at the Red Sox spring-training facility (whose name I’m omitting here because, seriously, the last thing he/she needs is some psychotic asshole emailing him/her to beg for entry into the Red Sox’s spring-training facility) :

Hi, Jon. I must say…that was quite an email you sent! It was forwarded to me…

All kidding aside … I’ll be happy to see what I can do for you. At this point tho, I’m not positive of what will be going on during that time. There is a remote possibility that there may be some players here early, and they could be working out on the practice fields or maybe on the main field … we’ll just have to play it by ear.

Hey, I’ll take “We’ll just have to play it by ear” over “Don’t ever email me again, you psychotic asshole” any day, am I right?

And so, on the agreed-upon morning of our visit, I loaded my family into the car and prepared the kids with my usual Daddy Downer talk: “I have no idea what’s going to happen when we get there, guys, OK? Person In Power might just let us in for a couple of minutes to see the field, but that could be it. I know that doesn’t sound very fun, but it’s much better for me to crush your hopes and dreams right now than to let your youthful spirit and joyful innocence encourage you to believe that something great might happen … but, you see, that’s only because I believe that setting the bar abysmally low and then being pleasantly surprised when things go well is far better than getting one’s hopes up only to have them mercilessly annihilated by this cruel, cruel world in which we live. Also, I’ve started a savings account to fund your inevitable psychotherapy. You’re welcome.”

And, yes, while I readily admit that my “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” approach to life can be both a drag and a burden, it also makes it 10 times more awesome when, instead of just getting a glimpse of the field for a few minutes, you instead get a private, hour-long, guided tour of JetBlue Park, during which all of this awesomeness happens:

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Zan envisioning one day playing on this very field.

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Wonder Woman envisioning a much-needed baseball scholarship.

Pretty awesome, right? But still … let’s not get our hopes up about going through the private, on-field entrance and seeing the custom-painted hallways leading to and from the clubhouse areas, OK kids? Because that’s not likely to hap—

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Wow. That was pretty awesome, wasn’t it? But, seriously, this already has been more than we could have hoped for, so let’s not entertain any notions of … I don’t know, like … sitting in the broadcast booth …

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… or taking in the view from Red Sox principal-owner John Henry’s private suite …

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OK, this is just getting ridiculous. Thankfully, though, Person In Power already tempered our expectations about the likelihood of actually seeing any Red Sox players while we’re here, so hopefully you didn’t let yourself think for even a second that you’d be seeing Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez taking batting practice …

Christian Vasquez

… or fellow catcher Blake Swihart …

Blake Swihart

… or center-fielder Mookie Betts and left-fielder Hanley Ramirez …

Mookie Betts & Hanley Ramirez

… or utility-player extraordinaire Brock Holt …

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… or General Manager Ben Cherrington and Manager John Farrell …

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And please, whatever you do, you definitely should not expect to watch shortstop Xander Bogaerts make an awesome play during infield drills …

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… because the odds of that happening are roughly equal to the odds of us being so close to right-fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. that he walks over to the fence and tosses each of you a souvenir baseball.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

Well. This all seems to have far surpassed everyone’s purposely lowered expectations, don’t you think?

You know what, guys? I take it back: You go ahead and get your hopes up … because Daddy seems to have done a rather kick-ass job of salvaging this vacation.

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[View the complete photo album on Flickr]

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Posted in Baseball, Family, Life, Red Sox | 11 Responses

Who’s ready for another fun tale about me fucking up a long-awaited vacation?

Sanibel Island, Florida - February 2013

The Scratches Family at Red Sox Spring Training Camp in 2013. We were looking forward to recreating this moment in 2015 … but then I fucked it all up as only I can.

Remember that time I almost ruined a dream vacation to Mexico? No? Well, I sure do … and I was reminded of that colossal fuck up last month, just days before my family and I were due to take our second trip down to Sanibel Island.

As some of you may recall, we traveled to Southwest Florida for the first time a couple of years ago … a vacation that included our first-ever visit to the Red Sox’s spring-training facility, which was all kinds of awesome. So awesome, in fact, that a return visit to spring training was one of the things we’d been most looking forward to since finding out several months ago that Super Generous Mother-in-Law was again hosting us at an ocean-side condo in Sanibel this February. So imagine my dismay when, just days before our departure, we discovered that public access to the Red Sox’s spring-training complex wouldn’t begin until two days after our vacation ended.

Wha-wha-WHAT?!? How could this be? We booked this year’s trip during the same calendar week as our previous visit. Surely there must have been some mistake.

Oh, there was a mistake, alright … and it was mine. Turns out the Sox, who opened public workouts on Feb. 13 in 2013, weren’t opening public workouts until Feb. 21 this year. And I could have found that out in about .6 seconds if I had bothered to look it up in advance … but I had foolishly assumed everything would be the same. And you know what happens when you assume, right? Yes, that’s right: You ruin your family’s vacation. Nice work, dickhead.

“Alright,” I told myself, “I can fix this. There’s gotta be a way. Hmmmm. Hey, I know! I can change our return flight and extend our trip by a couple of days! Because I’m sure that’ll be super affordable! Alright, let’s look up what it will cost us to change the plane tickets …”

I shall now share with you the text exchange in which I notify my wife of the cost to change our return flight and she responds with a spot-on assessment of the situation.

That'll be HOW MUCH??

Suffice it to say that we could no more afford to extend our trip than we could to pay Big Papi to come to our house and play Wiffle ball with the kids.

Since I couldn’t solve the problem by throwing money at it, I did what I normally end up doing to solve all of my problems: I turned to the Internet.

First, I emailed the proprietor of SpringTrainingConnection.com, a website that is dedicated to all things spring training

SUBJECT: Red Sox Spring Training

Hello. I am writing out of sheer desperation and would appreciate any input you might have in response to the following:

The Red Sox’s public workouts begin on 2/21 this year … and our upcoming trip to Florida ends 2/19. Yes, we blew it. Is there anything you know of that we can do to get into the park to see whomever is already there working out prior to 2/21?

My 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter (not to mention my wife) are likely to kill me in my sleep if I don’t figure something out. Any suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

-Jon

I felt confident that whomever received that email would reply with some special, inside information that would have us kicking it with the Red Sox in no time. Yes, surely I was on the verge of fixing my embarrassing mistake.

Jon,

Nope, there’s no fix for that. The complex and JetBlue Park opens to the public on February 21 this year. Any date before that and the facilities are considered “closed” as far as the public is concerned.

I wish I had better news for you, but there’s really nothing you can do.

Nothing I can do? NOTHING I CAN DO? Clearly, the author of that email didn’t know he was corresponding with a mentally ill lunatic who has a history of becoming maniacally possessed and singularly focused on accomplishing things with which a sane person wouldn’t bother wasting their precious time. (Anyone remember that whole Howard Stern’s Birthday Bash thing? I rest my case.)

Using my super-Internet-sleuthing skills, I located a webpage that listed all Red Sox employees … including the facilities manager at the Red Sox’s spring-training complex. And so, with the aplomb of a skilled stalker, I took a stab at guessing what that person’s email address most likely was and fired off a missive that I hoped and prayed would strike the recipient as humorously persuasive rather than creepily inappropriate. Either way, I figured I had nothing to lose … other than my spotless record of never having been on the receiving end of a restraining order, that is.

SUBJECT: Desperate plea from a die-hard Red Sox fan

Hello. My name is Jon and I am a super-famous blogger (minus the “super-famous” part), as well as the man behind the once-popular, now mostly defunct Sox Nation website. My wife, 9-year-old daughter, 11-year-old son and I are Boston-area natives and die-hard Red Sox fans.

I am writing to you out of sheer desperation after discovering this week that I committed one of the biggest blunders of my entire life.

[Hi, blog readers. Jon here. This portion of the email originally comprised a couple of paragraphs in which I explained to the recipient how I fucked up the dates for our trip, which you already know about, so this is me saving you the trouble of reading it all over again. You’re welcome.]

If there is any chance at all that you could arrange for us to visit the park one morning between 2/15 & 2/19 to watch a workout, I can’t begin to tell you how truly grateful we would be. And, hey, if you’re not able to facilitate this request, no worries! I’m sure my kids will eventually stop crying … and, with any luck, they may even speak to me again someday. Probably on my deathbed, I’m guessing. So, you know … no pressure!

In a cheap ploy designed to further tug on your heartstrings, I have attached a picture of me and my children, taken on the night that the Sox won the 2013 World Series.

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And just in case you’re not the sentimental type: It is worth noting that the Sox won the World Series the year that my family and I first visited during spring training … and then finished in last place the following year, when we did NOT visit during spring training. Coincidence? I think not!

In all seriousness: Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I am hopeful that you will consider my request, as I feel awful about messing up my family’s vacation plans so badly. If you are able to help, or can point me in the direction of someone who can, I would be eternally grateful.

Sincerely,

-Jon

I know what you’re thinking: You’re thinking, “Did it work??” (Actually, you’re thinking, “Oh my god, you are such a pathetic douche for sending someone an email like that.” And since I can’t argue with you on that one, let’s instead pretend that you’re thinking “Did it work??”)

And the answer IS … coming in my next post.

To be continued …

[Click here for Part 2]

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Posted in Embarrassing, Life, Red Sox | 9 Responses

So about that neurosis-inducing crystal-breaking incident…

Hey, remember this?

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Well, I know you’ve all been lying awake at night fretting over the outcome of that tragedy, so I decided it was time to put some closure on the broken-crystal story.

When last I updated you, my plan was to return to Crow Haven Corner, the bona fide “witch shop” in Salem, Massachusetts, from which I bought my now-broken crystal more than 20 years ago. The only problem with that plan was the fact that, back then, I was attending college in Salem. Nowadays, I live about 370 miles away. So, you know … slightly less convenient.

A few weeks after I broke the crystal, however, my mother turned 65, and I decided to make a solo run up to Massachusetts in order to surprise her at her birthday dinner. The journey marked my first-ever road trip in my new car (which, yes, was seven months old at the time, but when you own a car for 15 years, its replacement can still reasonably be referred to as “new” at the seven-month mark), and I was pleased to find that I was able to get all the way from Philly to Boston without making a single stop.

Even though the car was not yet out of fuel when it reached Beantown, its driver most definitely was. In fact, I spent the last hour of the drive fantasizing about filling my growling stomach with a pie from the greatest pizza joint in the history of flat, round, cheese-and-sauce-covered dough: Regina Pizza … or just “Regina’s,” if you prefer (and I do). It was like a pizzeria Death Star, locking me in its tractor beam and pulling me towards its brick-oven goodness. There was nothing I could do to escape. Plus, also, I didn’t want to escape; I wanted to eat.

Unfortunately, the North End of Boston at 10 o’clock on a warm Friday night in October is a zoo … which is why it took me more than half an hour to find a parking spot. I didn’t mind, though. Driving around my old stomping ground was part of the fun.

After parallel parking like a goddamn champion on the busiest street in Little Italy — no small feat when you’re doing so in front of an audience that looks like the cast of “Goodfellas,” one of whose members almost surely owns that jet-black Escalade you’re trying very hard not to back into — I donned my Red Sox cap and beat feet towards my favorite neon sign (a much better, highly-doctored version of which I posted years ago).

Just drove 6 hours for a pizza. Totally worth it.

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

Word of my imminent arrival had apparently leaked, because there was one stool left at the bar just for me, and seconds after planting my ass on it, the two ladies to my left offered me the rest of their half-full pitcher of Samuel Adams Octoberfest, which I was all too happy to help them finish. Within moments, I was eating the greatest pizza known to humankind, drinking free beer and watching Game 3 of the World Series. This is what you call “a good night.”

The following day, I had some time to kill — my surprise appearance at my Mom’s festivities wasn’t taking place until 4 o’clock — so I hung with my Dad for the first half of the day, all the while toying with the idea of heading up to Salem in search of a new crystal. And because I am a piss-poor judge of time, I waited until almost 2 o’clock to drive into what, on a normal day, is a frustratingly inaccessible city, and on an unseasonably warm and lovely final weekend in October is the single most congested square mile this side of New Delhi.

Why so congested, you ask? Because the “Witch City” is Ground Zero for every Halloween-loving freak from around the globe. (And, lest you think I’m casting aspersions on those freaks, allow me to remind you that I most surely am one of them.)

Traffic was backed up for miles, and I was still about a klick away when it became painfully clear to me that I had two choices if I wanted to make it to my mother’s dinner on time: Bail on this mission, or park the car and set out on foot. Guess which option our obsessive-compulsive ex-soldier chose?

After power-walking into the heart of the city, I reached my destination:

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When I arrived, the place was so busy that I had to stand in a line on the sidewalk and wait for the head witch in charge to allow me in. Based on how little time I had left to complete my mission, I thought about cutting the line, but seeing as how I was surrounded by, you know, actual fucking witches, and seeing as how I didn’t know if toads were welcome at the restaurant where my Mom was having dinner, I tried to wait as patiently as I could.

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OK, so maybe I wasn’t all that concerned about someone turning me into a toad … but you gotta figure anyone dressed like this in broad daylight who believes she’s an actual witch might be capable of going batshit crazy on your ass if you cut her in a line for a famous witch shop. Just sayin’.

When I finally entered the shop, I made a beeline for the case in which the crystals are kept and asked the goth girl behind the counter if she might have a suitable replacement for the damaged one I was wearing. But, whereas the long-haired warlock dude who stood behind that counter 21 years ago was only too eager to help a long-haired college dude/potential fellow warlock find the perfect crystal, the present-day goth chick seemed less enthusiastic about aiding the short-haired, wrinkle-faced senior citizen standing in front of her.

After perusing what was available, I reinforced my senior-citizen-like image by telling goth girl that they apparently don’t make ’em like they used to … because I saw nothing that was worthy of being tied around my neck for the next several decades. This was a bummer, because I really liked the idea of replacing my old crystal with a new one that came from the same place of origin.

Fortunately — or at least seemingly so at the time — a number of other witch shops had sprung up in the vicinity during the years since last I was there, so I set out on a frantic, door-to-door search … a process made significantly less fun and substantially more time-consuming thanks to the capacity crowds crammed into every store.

A half hour later, I was still empty-handed, so I asked a store clerk with a face full of metal if she could suggest a place where I might find something comparable to my old crystal.

“Try Hex,” she said.

“Hex?” I said.

“Yes, Hex,” she said. “It’s about a half-mile that way.”

Oh good! More speed-walking! This fits perfectly into my plan to arrive late to dinner, drenched in sweat!

A half mile later …

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Based on the sign alone, I felt like I had as good a chance of finding a crystal here as I did of becoming the main attraction in a blood sacrifice … and I was right (about the not-finding-a-crystal thing, that is; thankfully, I managed to avoid the blood-sacrifice part).

It was with no small amount of difficulty that I overcame the obsessive-compulsive, hyper-focused, never-say-die forces that rage within me, aborted the mission, and fled on foot back to my car … but seeing as how I had driven 400 miles to attend my mother’s birthday dinner, I felt like I should probably be there on time, so I folded.

And thus, the really cool story I’d envisioned about going back to Salem and replacing my crystal instead became a really lame story about how I wasted an afternoon conducting a fruitless, one-man forced road march through a sea of tourists and witches for no apparent reason.

I consoled myself with a back-up plan that involved finding a worthy replacement online — you know, the way I’ve bought every other item in my life for the past decade or so … specifically because doing so allows me to entirely avoid frustrating bullshit like the afternoon I’ve just described. (I’m tellin’ you guys, this Internet thing is gonna be big!)

Four months later, however, I’ve realized that the Krazy-Glue with which I “temporarily” repaired my broken crystal seems to be doing a more-than-respectable job of serving as a “permanent” solution … and tragedy has not yet befallen me, so one can assume that the crystal’s magical protective properties are still in full force (if one is a little touched in one’s head, that is) … so I now have no desire to replace it.

Which means it just took me more 1,000 words to tell you that I’m just gonna keep wearing my old crystal. You’re welcome.

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That thing where I post a photograph and then write some stuff underneath it

That thing where I post a photograph and then write some stuff underneath it
Click the image above to view full-size photo.

One of the things I used to enjoy doing when I blogged more often was dabbling in photography … and by “photography,” I mean “taking lots of really shitty pictures and then trying to salvage some of them in Photoshop.”… [read the rest]

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