Author Archive for Andrew Garda

04
Jan
19

Greece is the word – part 2

Crete countryside

We saw a lot of spectacular countryside in Greece. This island (on the island of Crete) helped defend Crete

For part one of this series, click here.

So, the clan is back from Greece, but I’m still catching up on posts.

While in Greece, aside from the general discomfort with being uncomfortable, the other challenging thing was about trying to avoid cultural missteps.

We went into the trip I think, as a family, with the assumption we’d fuck up somewhere. It doesn’t matter how careful you are or how well prepared you are, unless you’re a robot you’re going to mess up.

I’m actually sure there are cultural issues for robots to step in as well but luckily, I don’t have to worry about those.

I think it’s important to acknowledge both that you can and should try to adhere to the mores and expectations of another culture as a visitor, as well as understand you will also fail at times because you just don’t know any better and give yourself a little break.

When we left for Greece, I was worried about simple things like driving rules and tipping – which is much different overseas, since waiters and other people Americans tip are paid better. As that’s the case, expectations for tips (when they are there at all) are much different.

What I learned while traveling is that there are much more subtle cultural things to be aware of.

Cheese Tour

Even after a tour at this cheese factory, they broke out the raki.

For example, when we visited Crete, at the end of every meal – and ore than a few tours and stops on those tours – we were given small shot-glasses filled with what is called raki (pronounced rocky as in Balboa), an alcoholic drink usually given after a meal.

What I learned not soon after arriving on Crete is that it’s impolite to not accept the raki or not drink it.

Now, not doing so isn’t the end of the world (and a few times, after multiple stops and six or seven shots, I was pretty sure I’d have to refuse the next one) but it’s one of those little things that, knowing it going in, gives you the opportunity to figure out how to deal with it ahead of time without insulting someone.

Also, and this circles back to something I said in the last post, I also felt (self-imposed) pressure to learn a little Greek. It seemed like a polite thing to do, to at least be able to say basic things like yes, thanks, you’re welcome, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and so on.

raki empties

We saw a lot of these after meals on the island of Crete.

You don’t have to – and I was surprised how many people spoke English – but it doesn’t take much effort, especially with a smartphone that can look things up any time you need it to.

I’m sure we messed up, though I’m not sure I know of a specific time, but nobody was unkind or harsh if we did. A lot of that was probably because we were dealing with folks who deal with tourists every day, but even regular folks we met while out and about were very nice.

As I said in the last post, as an American abroad I – and several others in my group – were keenly aware of the sometimes-poor reputation of Americans traveling abroad and didn’t want to be “those guys.” On top of that, I had the chance to show my kids how to be respectful of other cultures, especially when traveling.

Hopefully that will a lesson they carry going forward wherever they go, because whether you’re traveling across the Atlantic to Greece, just hopping the border to Mexico or Canada, or just visiting another part of the USA, people live different lives in different ways.

Appreciating and acknowledging that seems like the least you can do when you’re away from home and visiting someone else’s.

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31
Dec
18

Greece is the Word – Part 1

Simon, me and Bas with a lovely view of the Akropolis

As I drove through the streets of Chania on Crete in the wonderful country of Greece, I felt like I was in a Jason Bourne movie. The alleys and streets – in this case the waterfront – were barely wide enough for a car and teaming with people.

While nobody shook a fist or shouted angrily at the American driving on the cobblestone wharf, I felt the same way I did when I watched Jason Bourne drive cars down stairways and alleys in European cities.

You’re probably not supposed to drive your car here.

As it turned out, I wasn’t not supposed to drive there but I wasn’t exactly supposed to drive there.

Especially in smaller cities in Greece, there are lots of places you can or have to drive which don’t seem like places you should drive.

But the whole time, tired from a long drive to Chania, I felt tremendous discomfort.

Which is how I have felt for large portions of this trip. I’ll dig into some more fun trip stuff over the rest of the week (it’ll wrap up when I’m already back in the states in a few days), but I wanted to talk about how traveling in the world has felt for an American who has never been off the North American continent and only barely dipped his toes into other countries (Mexico and Canada).

Walking through most of Greece, it’s really uncomfortable to not be able to read…. well, almost anything. There’s actually a surprising amount of English around, but most of everything is in Greek.

Shocking, right?

It’s not like I didn’t expect it, but what I didn’t see coming was just how weird it made me feel. First, I just felt kind of stupid. I’ve never tried to learn Greek, so why my brain should expect me to be able to read it or feel dumb when I can’t, that’s a matter to take up with my therapist I guess.

But I felt dumb, or perhaps more gently to my self-worth, ignorant. Having to ask everyone if they knew any English is awkward. And it just felt kind of insulting? Like I couldn’t be bothered to know how to speak the language?

Which, again, nobody expects. Nobody here has given me the side-eye when I said I didn’t speak Greek.

It’s interesting though. In our country, there has always been an overarching feeling that people should speak English and while I’ve rarely heard anyone say it, I wonder if that assumption bleeds into tourists.

Silly, right? And yet it’s pervasive in many parts of our country and it followed me to Greece where I expected to be treated the way I assume and have seen immigrants treated back home.

It really is a reflection of how broken I feel the character of our country is in many ways and – here’s the word again – uncomfortable to sit with.

And once I did, once I got accustomed to that, I realized nobody was judging me for not knowing Greek. I also decided I would work hard to learn some simple Greek greetings (good morning, good afternoon, good night) and polite phrases (thank you and you’re welcome).

But I am never totally comfortable because I’m always at a slight disadvantage. I walked into a museum today and after the first room or so, nothing was in any language but Greek. I picked up a menu a few nights ago and it was totally in Greek.

My map GPS was acting up, so I tried to follow street signs but they were all – wait for it – in Greek.

Luckily people are nice here and I am with a group of folks so we manage. But it makes one feel uneasy.

More than anything, being out of one’s element – in this case out of one’s country – has been a reminder of how much the world does not revolve around myself and America in general.

While a few times I have talked to locals about US politics, and they are very concerned with the direction our country has taken, what we do in the US is an abstract.

The Greeks – and you can insert most other nations here – have their own issues and day to day problems. It’s not that they give zero craps because they know that big mistakes by America will often result in disaster elsewhere (hello economic crises!), and US companies and entertainment still resonate here (Coca-Cola is a big deal).

Even the International version of the NY Times is less interested in us than we are.

But we aren’t nearly as important as we think we are. The world doesn’t cater to us.

And considering a lot of folks in the US seem to think it does, or should, this has been a good reminder for me, that it does not.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. 

While Mark Twain is correct, travel is also a privilege in multiple ways. You have to have the opportunity – the time, the money – to do it. And you have to want to.

We live in a country which doesn’t even take the time to visit itself, so expecting people to head to another continent…. it’s a nice idea, but unlikely.

For me, though, being in a new place, outside my comfort zone, has been great. I’m a fairly liberal, open minded guy. I like to think I embrace new ideas and opportunities, but I don’t push my limits the way I should.

This has been a great opportunity to put myself in situations where I have to grapple with things I don’t understand, people I don’t understand and situations I cannot control.

That’s a good thing. It’s a good thing my son’s and nephews are here and experiencing it as well. I didn’t travel like this when I was young, and this has been an opportunity to really show them a world they don’t get to see.

I’ll touch on some of that tomorrow (or the day after – it’s New Years and hangovers might ensue) as well as a few other things.

In the meantime, I hope you and the people special to you have a wonderful New Year and I’ll see you in 2019.

Or as they say here in Greece: Eftychisméno to néo étos!

 

19
Nov
18

I’m not ready for this – Part 1

Bas Senior Day

Senior Day with Sebastian, Melina and me.

So it begins.

Or rather, so it begins to end.

This past weekend — Saturday November 17, to be exact — marked the end of my eldest son’s football season and, unless something really crazy happens (hey the University of Southern California football team could need a scholarship athlete to pull up their GPA!), the end of his football career.

And with that it hit me that Sebastian, my first-born child, is really wrapping things up a and hurtling towards graduation, college and full on adulthood.

I’m not ready for this.

I mean, who is?

I guess some of you are, but if the experiences of friends are anything to judge by, it’s a very few.

Complicating this is football, something which has been a massive part of this family’s life for a decade. Our younger son, Simon, isn’t a football dude. He may be in the Marching Band when he heads to high school next year, so we may still be at occasional games.

And I’ll be there almost every Saturday, covering the game for the town paper as long as it’s around.

But neither of those things are the same experience as actively having a stake in what’s happening and a connection to the team as exists when you have a kid on it.

It doesn’t help that the game ended badly for Bas’ team, as they lost in the State Sectional final, on their home field. It also doesn’t help that for the fourth year in a row he was hurt, which probably cost him a starting job, so he didn’t play quite as much at the end of the season as he may have wanted.

It doesn’t help that football was a place he and I have connected for a long time. Less so as he has moved to high school and become interested in other things, I stopped coaching and we both had other things to occupy our time.

So it’s bittersweet to see the end of football.

Mind you, there is a small, guilty bit of me that is a little relieved. I can’t tell you how hard it was to divest myself of emotion for the team – a team with a significant number of kids I coached plus my son on it – during the seasons. I would imagine my editor probably could tell you stories where he rolled his eyes.

It’s easier to manage that when I don’t have a son there. I still know the kids and have a connection but it’s easier to shove that aside when it’s not your kid.

What makes it seem a little better are the things I saw from my son as the season progressed. He became more confident and invested. He also cared a great deal about his teammates.

He would defend the quarterback when we talked about that kid’s struggles.  He felt sympathy when two of his team were lost for the season right before the playoffs. Bas was supportive of players who earned spots over him, no matter how much he might have wished to have won the job himself.

And while he was hurting because he had just lost his final game ever, he was expressing concern for the future of the team, and hoping the two offensive linemen who won’t be graduating this spring would have a good last season when they were seniors themselves next year.

Football seemed to bring out some of the best in him. He was never one for the limelight – each week a senior is asked to lead the team onto the field with the Mountie flag, and Bas said he declined it when asked if he wanted to do it – but he was always the kid who had his teammate’s back.

Last season, when the Mounties won the State Championship – undefeated, I might add – Sebastian’s role was pretty limited. Some of that was due to injury, some of that was due to the team being ridiculously talented and deep.

So when the game was over and Montclair was celebrating, he admitted to me it was a bit bittersweet – he felt like he didn’t do a ton to help, and wished he had had a chance.

I tried to point out to him that what he did each week as a member of the scout team — a group of guys who run the plays the coaches think the next opponent will use — and when he got on the field to give another player a breather, was very important.

Every day at practice, the coaches knew they could rely on Bas to make sure he gave his all, did what he was supposed to and help the starters get prepared for the upcoming game. If the scout team isn’t focused and working as hard as they can, the starters won’t be as prepared.

It’s kind of an important lesson to learn, one I hope he will take as he moves through life. You don’t always get the limelight, and you don’t always get the accolades. That doesn’t make your role or value less.

Most of the time, the people around you notice. I think his coaches and fellow teammates did, and I think  his future coworkers and friends will as well.

A chapter in our lives is ending, one of many as we move towards his high school graduation. It only just hit me as we all sat eating dinner Saturday night, that we are at the beginning of the end of Sebastian as a kid.

And at the end of the beginning of the rest of his life.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m not sure if I will for a long time.

I know I’ll revisit this feeling, whatever it is, a lot this year, hence the “Part 1.” At some point, maybe we’ll reach the end of it.

02
Nov
18

Nerd Multiverse: Netflix’s Haunting of Hill House

So, we’re back. Only took a couple years.

I’m firing this back up, and it’s going to be a place covering a wide variety of things, from the kids, to society to, yes, nerd stuff.

We’re starting off with that last thing because I happen to have ready-made content and 1) I’m lazy and 2) excited about it.

So here is my podcast review of the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House.”

You can download it here because I can never get the Podbean player to embed in an article on WordPress.

Feel free to subscribe via Itunes, Podbean or Stitcher.

The many “look there are ghosts you don’t see” articles I have not seen mention which really got me geeked out. It’s a small thing but really hearkened back to the 1963 movie “The Haunting” which was also based on Shirley Jackson’s excellent novel, “The Haunting of Hill House.”

Get ready for creepy.

So Hugh and Olivia are trying to find young Nell, who has disappeared in Hill House during a storm (this takes part in a flashback in back in the 1990s).

They search upstairs and, at one point, Hugh decides he’s going to look elsewhere.

Statue 1

I’ve lightened this so the whole thing is clearer.

Also, sidenote, Hugh says “I’ll be right back” and for goodness’ sake you never say that in a haunted house.

As you can see, the statue over Hugh’s right shoulder (camera left) is looking intently at its a bowl in its hand. What is in the bowl? What is so interesting? We can only speculate, but my guess, mold.

Olivia, the flighty, somewhat possessed mom, walks into a room near the statue, checks out some broken glass and then heads back out into the hallway to keep looking for her daughter.

But wait, something has changed.

Statue 2

Whatever was captivating about that bowl isn’t as interesting as Olivia.

One can only imagine the statue is wondering where Olivia bought that dress.

Olivia heads down the hallway where things happen but Nell still doesn’t show up, and then she walks back towards the statues.

Statue 3

OOOOOOOHHHHH SPOOOOOOKY.

It’s a small, subtle thing and yes, I spoiled it, but I wanted to use it as a great example of how well and thoughtfully made this show is – including set design.

And consider that even though I was looking for crap like this, because it is something I loved in the original movie (The Haunting 1963 not the crapfest from 1999), I still missed a ton of stuff.

Watch the show, it’s fantastic.

And yeah-

14
Mar
17

Technically speaking, my son is technically challenged

So a while back my eldest decided he wanted to get back into learning to design graphics, edit and other things like that on a computer. He also wanted to play more advanced video games. His laptop (which I have currently stolen because mine died) doesn’t have the power for any of it, and he also wanted to be able to upgrade things if a new computer became obsolete.

He asked for cash from his grandparents and my wife and I for his birthday and Christmas in lieu of other gifts.

So this week he finally ordered his computer, and it arrived yesterday. I was at the office, trying to get my work done since nobody was making it in during this blizzard. He texted me that he couldn’t get the computer to turn on. He had set it up, but it wouldn’t power on. I gave him a few suggestions, which he had already done, and then told him I couldn’t really help anymore as I was not there to see what was going on.

A short time later I got this text (which also contains my reaction). His texts are the ‘red’ ones.

dumbass2

In his defense there were two switches to hit for reasons I cannot understand.

That said, damn, son. I understand teen brain but wow.

 

10
Mar
17

JAILBREAK

There are perils in being a work from home dad. Constant snacking of everything in the house. Forgetting to shower. Having a dog come and attack your lunch.

For parents who work from home and have young children, there’s the added bonus of the sneaky little buggers showing up when you’re trying to do a television interview.

 

This makes me glad my children were in school for most of the videos and radio interviews I did when they were younger.

There’s so much to unpack here.

I would imagine this gentleman doesn’t work from home much as the very first thing you learn when doing live interviews from home is you have to lock your door, especially when you are doing a TV shot.

Of course, getting the dogs out of the room is a close second, but I see someone forgot to lock their door.

I love how the little girl in yellow bops into the room. She just wants to be a star, right? And then Baby Wheels comes in and everything goes off the rails with the panicked woman – mom? very much updating her resume nanny? – flies in to try and rescue the situation, but only really makes it worse.

Or better, at least for those of us watching at home.

Hopefully there wasn’t a ton of yelling after the segment, because kids are going to be kids and they’ll get away and find you if they know you’re home. I’m not going to criticize the guy much for not just rolling with it and plopping his kid on his lap during what appeared to be a fairly dry and serious topic. He was trying and failing to keep it straight, I respect that. He had spent a ton of time dolling up his bedroom to look more serious – the map, the books oh so carefully laid out on the bed, the suit and tie (Was he wearing just shorts? We can only guess.).

How hard was the host laughing off-camera?

I can’t blame the kids – they just wanted to be on the BBC.

A wise man (maybe George Patton, Maybe Dwight Eisenhower) once said “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Let me amend that to read “No home office survives any contact with a toddler.”

PS – when my kids were home and I had to shoot a video, I usually kept them quiet by making them my camera crew. They were still older than this lot, but it worked.

So glad my kids are past this. As my good friend (and PackersNews.com writer) Aaron Nagler remarked on Twitter, “I now expect kids to crash every one of these.”

Of course, Aaron has had his own issues.

08
Mar
17

Back in the NJ Groove

After way too long, Dad Moon Rising is back! Exciting!

It’s been a crazy period of time, and one which made me really have to consider work-life balance. Seriously – and I am sure you guys all have similar experiences – its easy to get caught up on the hamster wheel until you drop dead.

So, after banging my head against the wall doing nothing but freelance, and being busy with nowhere near as much income, I decided to find a regular gig with little things like regular pay.

This past football season was especially hard, given I had one gig basically disappear and another fall apart mid-season.

So after one too many hair-yanking seasons doing that, I decided two things: 1) to work in the places and with the people I enjoy being with and 2) start writing other things.

The first is easy enough in many ways – I adore working with the folks at Footballguys.com and have really enjoyed working with Pro Football Weekly this past season doing film-breakdowns. I may add one or two things to that, but most of the rest of it may fall by the wayside.

Coupled with that, I have begun working on an exciting venture here at home in Montclair, New Jersey. In the middle of last November, The Montclair Times – at the time our main local paper – was bought by Gannett and basically stopped doing local stuff. Some great folks decided to step in and replace the Times and I’m doing high school and local sports with them. The paper is called The Montclair Local and it has a great group of people on staff. It’s been a blast covering high school so far, and I love going into an office again.

You can check out the website, or if you’re local, get a subscription.

This blog is part of the answer for the second point. I love doing it and so here we are. As before I’ll talk about my kids, my family and my coaching experiences, but I’m also going to tackle more and more social issues as well.

I’ll try and be balanced, but this is my blog through my lens, so expect it to lean largely left.

But it won’t all be that stuff, so if that’s not your brand of vodka, do drop by for everything else.

I’m also working on some copywriting type stuff and – *drum roll* – a book! More on that later.

So I’m back!

Let’s have some fun, shall we?

 

Now I have to figure out how I embed videos and whatnot.




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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages
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