Cool and dad are typically mutually exclusive. Guys who look like they dress in the dark and listen to Wilco while tending a grill after cutting a lawn in stripes like a baseball field are anything but hip. Is there any hope for fathers?
Dads know we’re doomed since the images of patriarchs via sitcoms have typically been incompetent, overweight and lame. Some believed the best dad look was Bill Cosby and his unfortunate sweaters – and, well, we all know how that worked out.
About 20 years ago, a pair of college friends, Tim and J.D., and I, all recent first-time fathers, discussed our potentially depressing second acts over a few pints. How to avoid the death of cool was bandied about until closing time.
Apparently, the minivan symbolized the epitome of dad disgrace. But for some reason, my friends thought I was impervious to driving the mom mobile. “Everybody gets a minivan when they have kids, but Ed will never get a minivan,” my pal J.D. said.
I’m not sure why J.D., who is a columnist on the other coast, believed that I would transcend the inevitability of driving such a drag of a vehicle. I’m also glad he didn’t put any money down, and who knows what the Las Vegas odds were?
At that time, I was behind the wheel of a powerful Audi that handled curves better than Michael Jordan during his brief, fruitless stint as a minor league baseball player. I avoided the minivan for a few years with an SUV after hanging up my Audi keys.
I didn’t think a pedestrian ride was in my future until three of my children played youth sports. Little was as depressing as when I visited the Toyota dealership and noticed that the minivan color choices ranged from sad to bleak. It didn’t help that I was trading in my sky-blue Highlander.
While persevering through a seemingly endless winter, I special ordered the SUV with a color that was so bright, it buoyed my spirits. Apparently, it was not an appropriate choice for a responsible dad. A neighbor addressed my mistake. “The color of your car is horrible,” she said. “The only car colors are black and gray.”
The woman, who would one day somehow become the mayor of our borough, actually believed that car paint should be the equivalent of what it must feel like in June gloom each day. I learned that she wasn’t joking since my boys played with the color-challenged mayor’s neighbor’s children.
Two blah-colored cars, a gray station wagon and a black sedan, that reminded of the Kinks’ “A Well Respected Man,” resided in her driveway. Black and gray were among the bland options as I selected my initial minivan.
However, something very strange happened after I drove the car home to my son Eddie’s first hockey game. The next chapter of my life could be dubbed, “The Minivan: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Being Cool and Loved the Practical Mode of Transportation.”
I had endless space for hockey equipment, tools and for, well, food for the grill and best of all pizza. When I visited my favorite pizza shop, Lorenzo’s, I was asked if I was aware how large their pizza boxes, which are the size of a coffin, are, and I said, ‘Yes, I have a minivan.”
The tattooed teen behind the counter smiled and said, “Cool.” Wow, cool and minivan in the same sentence! Did I have it all wrong? I thought that maybe there was going to be a minivan revolution. Maybe I could rebrand the vehicle! How about a “Man Van”?
The marketing campaign could be that you can transport all of your man cave items via your Man Van. How much would it cost to sign the Rock to a deal to drive behind a Man Van? I know that will never happen, but I don’t need the Rock to validate my love for the minivan.
I’m so secure in my manhood that I can drive my minivan to the bar and sip a strawberry daiquiri while knitting a sweater for my rearview-mirror covers. I’ve carpooled myriad of my children’s friends to games, practices and pool parties. The minivan has become family since it’s an integral part of everything.
My 2017 minivan, which has more than 122,000 miles on it, has been in every state in the continental U.S. save Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Aside from routine maintenance and brake work, the car has just rolled along.
It has some bruises, such as the bump on the passenger front roof since I failed to move the car from behind the plate during a baseball game I was coaching. But that adds to the car’s character, kind of like a hockey scar. It’s not easy to park, but I make it work.
At the Governor’s Ball, a music festival just off Harlem, I was running late, and there were, as usual, a dearth of parking spots in New York City. I found one, but my minivan was a bit too large for the spot.
But when in Rome, well, I resorted to New York behavior. I backed into the spot and proceeded to tap back and forth into the parked car in front of me and the big van behind me. I had no idea that the latter vehicle had an occupant. “Hey, you’re banging me so hard,” a New York City cop said.
“Can you move your van back a little since you can park anywhere?” I asked. The lady in blue complied. A minivan can fit it. It just takes a little bit of effort. Being a minivan guy isn’t so bad as long as you ignore surging gas prices and aren’t trying to pick up women.
One of my favorite basketball players, Georges Niang of the Philadelphia 76ers, is nicknamed “The Minivan” since the slow-moving, odd-shaped for a professional basketball player moves like my car. Go, Georges, watch out for those NBA potholes, they’re unforgiving!
I’ll never be cool, but what dad wants to be a hipster at midlife? It reminds me of the hilarious Kids in the Hall sketch “He’s Hip, He’s Cool, He’s 45.” I recall author John Irving revealing he gave up riding a motorcycle after the birth of his first child. It’s time to let your children be cool.
I never thought you could go too far with such a vehicle, so to speak. But my former neighbors actually owned two minivans, which was shocking and proved that truth is stranger than fiction. Their minivan monopoly almost made me cool by comparison. Almost.