I don’t read most books more than once. Maybe I should, but I tend to instead remind myself that there are so many others out there that I want to read that I cannot afford to take the time to go back and re-read any personal favorites.
Of course, that did not apply to the “required classics” I covered in my Hannibal High School English classes for 33 years. If my students were reading Huck Finn, Cuckoo’s Nest,
or Lord of the Flies
, I was pretty faithful about re-reading the novel each year. Occasionally I’d try to wing it and rely on my memory and the study guides, but I usually regretted it sooner or later; more often than not I re-read everything every time.
“Don’t you get bored?” my students would ask.
“Never,” I’d answer. The beauty of teaching high school English was that – for the most part – we picked our own literature, and by selecting the novels I loved, I got to re-read them year after year, and never found it tedious or dull.
Since retirement, I have enjoyed the luxury of reading the books I
want to read. In the past few months, I’ve finished reading an assortment of books either recommended by friends or just ones that caught my attention – Stephen King’s Sleeping Beauties
, Erik Larsen’s The Devil in the White City
, Tom Rinaldi’s The Man in the Red Bandanna
, and Pete Hamill’s Forever
But about a month ago, I decided to treat myself; I said it was time to make an exception to my own stifling rule and re-read a favorite. So I picked up a copy of John Irving’s The World According to Garp
Published in 1978, ‘Garp
has been a long-time favorite of mine. I read it while I was in college, and I re-read it several times in the early ‘80s. I found myself recommending it to anyone who would listen to me, and often gave away copies as presents. Every once in a while, when I thought I knew one of my students well enough, I’d risk suggesting they read ‘Garp
if they wanted to read something “grown-up.” Most of the time that student would walk into my classroom a few weeks later, smile, and say thanks.
Yes, there was a movie made of the novel, but critics hated it. My love for the book over-ruled their opinions, however, and I liked the movie (featuring Robin Williams, Glenn Close, and John Lithgow). Lots of Irving’s novels were turned into movies (Hotel New Hampshire
with Rob Lowe and Jody Foster, The Door in the Floor
, which is based on Irving’s A Widow for One Year
, with Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger, and even A Prayer for Owen Meany
, which somehow got twisted around and was released as Simon Birch
, featuring Jim Carrey, Ashley Judd, Oliver Platt, and Jan Hooks). Most of the films ultimately met with bad reviews, with The Cider House Rules
, starring Michael Caine, Toby Maguire and Charlize Theron, being the one Academy Award-winning exception.
Going back to visit ‘Garp
was everything I hoped it would be. I was amazed at the relevance of many of the book’s themes – gender roles, gender identity, and feminism; parenthood and marital relations; the writing profession (and process); and so much more.
I just finished the novel this week, so it was stuck in my head when I sat down to write this week’s RTD. I thought about Saturday’s Tully Cornfield Classic as a topic, but then I thought of – why, yes – of course… The World According to Road Trip Dad.
Corny, perhaps, but bear with me.
In the World According to RTD, there are certain untenable rules; the constitution of the RTD Constitution, if you will. Inalienable rights. Or, as Polonius lectured his daughter about her relationship with Hamlet, “… and these few precepts in thy memory look thou character.” I’m already over 700 words, so I won’t chisel ten commandments into the tablet; how about we all settle for these seven:
1. Do more than one thing; diversify your lacrosse portfolio. Are you primarily a lacrosse player? Try coaching – or better yet, give officiating a go. Are you a fan, maybe a lacrosse mom or dad? Pick up a stick and try playing (or ref, or coach). Offer to keep the scorebook. Try writing about lacrosse – heck, it’s easy! Anyone can do it! Offer to serve on a youth league board. I didn’t get certified as an official because I was ready to give up coaching; I just figured I’d do what I can to help with the shortage of lacrosse officials. Broaden your horizons!
2. Honor the Game. Please. Read up on the unique history of our sport, and celebrate it. No other sport has the heritage, the spirituality, and the history of lacrosse. The origins of baseball, football, and basketball date back to the late 1800s; lacrosse goes back centuries. Read Tom Vennum’s book, American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War
, or simply read The Great Ball Game
, a children’s book by Joseph Bruchac. Then read Ten Bears
, by Miles Harrison, Jr. and Chip Silverman. And then try Dom Starsia’s new release, I Hope You Will Be Very Happy
. Or go watch a box game at the Onondaga Nation; you’ll be talking about it for weeks.
3. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem (TV’s funniest dad, Phil Dunphy of Modern Family
, once said, “People say you’re either part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution, but I believe I can be both”). But seriously, help the game. Be a responsible fan, player, or coach. Lacrosse has earned a terrible reputation over the years, and we all owe it to the game to do everything we can do make amends. Do community service projects. Give a free clinic, or better yet, give an old stick to a younger neighbor. Raise money for a good charity. Help those in need. Shine a new light on today’s lacrosse players. If you’re not helping the game, you could be hurting it.
4. Celebrate the success of others. Go to any Hall of Fame ceremony you can. You’ll learn so much, meet some great people, and support the accomplishments of some of this sport’s legends. Just go; you can thank me later.
5. Appreciate the rituals. Take in the Lake Placid Tournament if you’ve never witnessed it. Go to a Final Four Weekend some Memorial Day Weekend. Attend a national convention, but also go to a local or regional coaches’ clinic. Go to Tully HS the first Saturday of November. Go to the North American Invitational at the Onondaga Nation in the fall, or maybe the Wooden Sticks Festival. Play in – or at least go watch – a Shootout for Soldiers 24-hour lacrosse marathon. Watch a Hobart game at Boswell Field, a Cornell Game at Schoellkopf, and an SU game in the Dome (or C-NS Stadium, if you have to). Upstate New York is the epicenter of all things lacrosse – become first-hand familiar with its many, many offerings!
6. Beware the Under Toad (read 'Garp
; then you’ll understand). Yes, danger lurks. Shameless money-grabbers are preying on kids and their parents. Be discerning; do your homework. Be an educated consumer. Know the reality about NCAA scholarships, college rosters, and the growing demands on today’s D-I, D-II, and yes, D-III student-athletes. Keep your eyes wide open! Understand club lacrosse, consider box lacrosse, and explore post-collegiate opportunities – abroad, as well as all across this great country. You just might be surprised by what you find.
7. Finally, travel – at any hour, go any distance. I’ve driven my son to the Rochester Airport at 2:30 in the morning. My longest excursions have been to Australia, Israel, and the Czech Republic, just to see my kids play lacrosse. I’ve driven to Colorado and back, three times, doing more of the same, and my drive to Halifax, Nova Scotia was almost just as far. I give a lot of credence to the title of Warren Zevon’s memoir, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead
, and I’ve never
made a road trip I’ve truly regretted.
Since finishing ‘Garp
this week, I’ve tried to think about what standards I’ve set for myself, what rules I play by. If someone were to write a book entitled The World According to RTD
, what would its main message be?
Maybe you can take a minute to think about your
relationship with the game – what do you
hold near and dear to? What are your rules?
And while you’re giving that a few moments of thought, please remember to always drive carefully!
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of two books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.