Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Emotion Runs the Show

"One out, last of the ninth, Branca pitches. Bobby Thomson takes a strike call on the inside corner. Bobby hitting at .292. He's had a single and a double and he drove in the Giants first run with a long fly to center. Brooklyn leads it 4-2. Hartung down the line at third not taking any chances. Lockman without too big of a lead at second but he'll be running like the wind if Thomson hits one. Branca throws. THERE'S A LONG FLY. IT'S GONNA BE I BELIEVE... THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT. THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT. THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT.THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT. BOBBY THOMSON HITS INTO THE LOWER DECK OF THE LEFT FIELD STANDS.THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT AND THEY'RE GOING CRAZY. THEY'RE GOING CRAZY. AHHHHHOHHHH."

"Forty three seconds remaining. Morrow checked into the boards. It comes back to center ice. Thirty-eight, thirty seven seconds left in the game. Petrov with it, the Americans on top 4-3. Long shot. Craig able to get a piece of it to sweep it away. Twenty-eight seconds. The crowd goin' insane. Kharlamov shooting it into the American end again. Morrow is back there. Now Johnson. Nineteen seconds. Johnson over to Ramsey. Bilyaletdinov gets checked by Ramsey. McClanahan is there. The puck is still loose. Eleven seconds. You've got ten seconds. The countdown goin' on right now. Morrow up to Schultz. Five seconds left in the game. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? YES!!!!!!"

"There's a ball hit to the outfield.......Swoboda makes the dive.................


My friend Leslie says that in twenty years our whole life will be run by computers.

"What do you mean Leslie? Our whole life will be run by computers. What about emotion?"

"They're saying that soon they will be able to program computers to have human qualities--like emotion."

"They'll never successfully do it."

"Sure they will," she says "Computers are already dehumanizing our experience and emotion is becoming less and less important."

"I don't think so. Emotion is not becoming any less important or less of a factor in our daily lives. In fact, emotion runs the whole show--the whole shebang."

"Give me a good reason why computers can't run the show."

"Okay. The reaction to Bobby Thomson's home run off of Ralph Branca in the 1951 playoffs."

"What? Who?"

"Bobby Thomson. The reaction to his home run off Ralph Branca.  That's a good reason. And I'll give you a couple more. One, the US Olympic hockey team's victory over the then Soviet Union in 1980 and two, Ron Swoboda's catch off Brooks Robinson in the 1969 World Series. Yeah. Those ought to do. Bobby Thomson, the US '80 hockey team, and Ron Swoboda.  There are many more but those will do."

"What are you talking about?"

"Those three sporting events explain why computers can't run the show."

"You want to explain in a little more detail?"

"Sure. When Bobby Thomson hit his home run off Ralph Branca in 1951 the whole city of New York went bonkers.  Why did that happen? A fellow named Thomas Kiernan wrote a whole book about the home run.  An entire book about a home run. He wrote that 'strong men wept and embraced total strangers, people danced in the streets and booze flowed like water.' He said it was 'the Armistice, Lindbergh's homecoming, and the repeal of prohibition all wrapped up in one crazy unbelievable event.'

"Go figure that. What propels people to scream deliriously over a home run, over a pennant race, when there's nothing tangible in it for them.  Nobody in the stands goes crazy because they won some money on a bet. Russ Hodges doesn't scream THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT five times because he gets a bonus if the Giants goes to the Series. It doesn't make a nickel's worth of difference to the fans who watched the 'shot heard round the world.' Why do they go crazy?

"How do you figure the US hockey team, playing with college kids, beat the Russians in Lake Placid. The Russians were essentially a professional team. It was like Boston College beating the Boston Bruins. How do you figure the kids did that?  Why do you think the players pounced on goalie Jim Craig after the game?  Why do you think one of the players kept banging his hands on the ice after it was over? Why did announcer Al Michael's shout, as the last seconds ticked away, 'DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES----YES.'

"I figure it's because emotion runs the show--pure and simple. We are emotional beings with brains that act as dependent variables for our hearts. Even for those who have decided to lead with the brain and not with the heart that decision somewhere along the line was not cerebral but the residual of something emotional. The crooner in Simon and Garfunkel's 'I am a Rock' decides to be an island not because of anything logical but rather because if he never loved he "never would have cried.'  Those who seem staid, stoic, objective, rational, and logical have devolved into that persona not because they're unemotional, but because sometime in the past their emotions surfaced and it hurt. Their hearts told their brains to cut it out--or try to.  Emotion.  Emotion runs the show.

"Tell me. Why does Swoboda try to catch that ball in the World Series. Think about it. Why does Swoboda dive to catch that ball? The situation didn't logically call for it. The Orioles had runners on first and third and there was one out. Swoboda's Mets were winning 1-0 in the top of the ninth. It was the fourth game of the World Series and Brooks Robinson hit a ferocious line drive to the right of right fielder Ron Swoboda.  Any rational individual could see he did not have a chance for the ball.  If he dives for the ball and the ball gets past him, two runs score easy, maybe even three and the Mets would be behind.  Even if he were somehow to catch the ball the runner on third would tag up and score to tie the game.

"Why did Swoboda try for that ball? Whatever propelled him, Whatever it was, that's what we have to harness. That 's the real energy crisis in my opinion. It's channeling that. Tapping that. Thinking about how to utilize that. That's the secret.

"Go ask Siri if Swoboda should make a try for that ball. Imagine seeing Robinson's blast go off the bat and you can stop all time for a minute and check in with Siri.

Question. Should an outfielder dive for a line drive hit thirty feet away from him in a one run ball game in the ninth inning of the fourth game of the World Series with runners on first and third.

Siri--Who is the outfielder.

Answer--Ron Swoboda

Siri--Don't make me laugh.

Swug, Swug Swoboda. Casey Stengel's myth of a right fielder for the Amazin' Mets. Swug who used to lose the ball in the lights during day games. Swug who made routine catches, adventures. Swug, who often was lifted for a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

"'Ron Swoboda" Siri snorts derisively, "Ron Swoboda should let the ball drop, throw to third base. ALLOW THE ONE RUN TO SCORE TYING THE GAME BUT STOP THE RUNNER ON FIRST FROM GETTING TO THIRD.'

"But Swoboda does not let the ball drop. He attempts a ridiculous catch, an impossible catch for even a skilled outfielder let alone iron fingers Swoboda.  And he makes it. He makes it. And if you have never seen it on youtube, go see it because it is absolutely unbelievable. Sports Center top ten number 1 material. It looks like some video trick.  Nobody could have caught that ball.  Not Willie Mays. No one makes that catch.  But Swoboda caught it.

"But what is more important is that he went for it. What possessed him to go for that ball. What urging what source of energy propelled him to dive headlong at a ball that was practically in a different time zone. What incredible element of our human-ness served as the catalyst for that attempt.

"It is the same source which drives us to yell for Bobby Thomson or aspire to be Bobby Thomson. The same source which had Americans screaming for the US hockey team, or cry at a movie, or bear hug our mothers. It is the same source that accounted for Beatlemania, Elvis hysteria, and nearly world wide mourning when Prince died last year.  It is the source which explains why Communism never worked and why there's no business like show business.

"It is the source which serves as director and producer and star of our movie, our play, our life. It is our emotional energy which directs our life. It is that source which is stockpiled in our guts and which we invest in our lives and loves. It is that source which all too often subconsciously decides our careers, chooses our lovers, selects our fantasies.

"And it is so unrefined, so raw, and so ready to come abursting out that we often don't think about how we will channel it, how we will invest it. We just want to use it and get it out, even if we don't realize we want to use it and get it out.

"Where should we invest our emotional energy, into what bank, into what stock. We should make sure we invest it wisely. We should make sure it accrues genuine and not artificial interest. We should make sure the investment is in something that is for real, not spurious; in something that is lasting, not ephemeral; because if that stock goes down we really crash.

"Should we buy into monogamy, the dollar, the game, the orgasm? Should we buy into politics, or education, or philanthropy, or music? Should we buy into Scientology, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism. How shall we invest our energy?

"If it was a bunch of dough we all would think about it. It is our essence and our guts. We ought to think very carefully about it.

"And no computer, no Siri or Echo or Google gizmo, will ever do a satisfactory job of doing that for us."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

new car

I picked up my new car today.  I talked to my Element on the way to the dealership saying goodbye and I had ample time for the conversation. Tonight I found myself in one of the worst traffic jams in my thirty six years living in Boston.  In a way this was a good thing. My left foot, still in the boot, had to hit the clutch maybe forty times in the seven mile ride.  I will miss the standard--but on the way out to the dealership I felt relieved that my bum foot will not have to depress the clutch on the new vehicle.

When in the past I have picked up a new car the handover has taken five minutes. Not today. About an hour.  I am feeling like an old timer in spades this week and the introduction to the new car did nothing to dilute that sense.  Before we even got in the car, the explanation of how to get in the car was other worldly.  As long as the "key" is in your pocket you can open and lock the car (don't ask me how--I will have to read the manual to review).

The tutorial in the car was out of the Jetsons.  I would have really preferred a simple--"press this to get heat" but noooo.  Nothing is that straightforward. God forbid you want to blow air thisaway at 65 degrees and your passenger wants air thataway at 63 degrees.

I can put on the emergency brake with a flip of the button which I just realized now in the house on a rainy night and my new car parked in a sloped driveway, that I did not do.  Also if you get within a short distance of another car you get a beep beep beep.  If you have the sonuvabitch on cruise control the sucker will stop itself if you get too close to a car.  I will not use the cruise control ever.

The thing that floored me, that really made me feel like Methuselah--after a litany of explanations which made me ready for the Home--was the salesperson's answer to a simple question.  The fellow who could be thirty years if not forty years my junior, showed me the manual and added that the book comes with a CD.  "Great" I said. "And as long as you are talking about CDs, where is the CD player?"

"There is no CD player."

Say what.

This car can do everything except bring the driver to orgasm, and this guy is telling me there is no CD player. He chuckled, when he saw my reaction-- the kind of chuckle a salesperson manufactures to try to win the favor of a customer.  What he really was saying was, "Nobody plays CDs any more old man."

One of the things I did over the weekend to ready myself for the transfer was put all my cds in a couple of carriers and place these vessels in the old car.  When I got to the dealership, I just moved the cds from one car to the other.  Now, I might as well throw them in the garbage.

The salesperson proceeded to tell me how, on my phone, I could replicate nearly anything I could listen to on a CD.  In a dizzying speech he explained the method and in no time signed me up for Spotify.

When I was in my 20s and 30s I collected records that now sit in the basement because I cannot imagine throwing them out.  Now I have a boatload of souvenirs that I might as well place near the records.

I have Sirius radio in this car.  They give you x months free, because they know you will sign up for more.  It will take me one month to figure out how to use it.  I pulled over on the short ride home and could locate only Sinatra, Gospel, and several baseball games.

jeans 425

I just read on facebook that a department store is selling jeans with fake mud on them for 425.00.  I am glad I read this as it reminded me of an event that made me laugh on this rainy day.

My grandfather was a no-nonsense guy.  He had immigrated from Poland to the US and, like many other immigrants, had next to nothing when he arrived.  He married, raised both my uncle and my dad, and lived through the depression.  He was, truly, a jack of all trades. He could wallpaper, paint, put cuffs on your pants, sew your drapes, build a bookcase--a remarkably talented man.

 If he had more of an entrepreneurial nature he would have been a successful inventor. One day in the seventies he asked me to drive him to the airport. He was going on a trip by himself (my grandmother had predeceased him years prior).  He had seen some travel agent's advertisement, signed up, and needed to get to JFK.

When I grabbed his suitcase from his apartment I saw something that I'd never seen before.  He had put wheels on the bottom of the bag so he could roll it.  This I thought was typical grandpa. He had found a way to do something more intelligently. I would love to know when the first suitcase company came out with a rolling bag because I know he and I got all sorts of stares as we travelled through the airport rolling his valise that day.  I asked him about the novel approach and he said that he spotted someone's discarded roller skates in the trash and it gave him an idea.  So he took the roller skates, removed the wheels and placed them on his suitcase.

My grandfather made his own suits and was often asked by family members to darn slacks or a dress that had somehow been damaged.  And this is what made me smile today when I read about the 425 dollar jeans with the fake mud.  We were in a shopping mall one day in the late 60s and he spotted something in Macy's which made him make a face for the ages.  On the jeans rack he saw that there were pants for sale that, new, were being peddled with holes in them.  And they were as, or more, expensive than the jeans that had no holes in them.  I break out in a smile every time I see that look on his face.  A man who struggled through the depression, survived in the US barely knowing any English, a man who could do wonders with a sewing machine--seeing new merchandise being sold for not small sums--with holes in them.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

how terribly strange to be 70

When I was in my early 30s a woman friend of mine, a few years older--maybe 37--asked me what I thought about her going out with a guy who was 50.   She said she was looking for a man and belonged to a matching agency (before the web). They had turned up some fellows in their 50s.  She thought that was awfully old.  I wasn't sure but was leaning to her way of thinking. Fifty seemed ossified. Now I would, of course, trade in many so-called valuables to be transported immediately to 50.

 I played regularly in tennis tournaments when I was in my early 50s--four matches in two days.  I just took an experimental walk to and into a park adjacent to our house.  Probably there and back was less than a 1/4 of a mile. Took fifteen minutes.

I find myself reading the section of the newspaper that lists the birthdays of the day. There was a time when the old guys were strangers.  Now the only people I have heard of are the very very famous or the old guys.  I like to go to "where are they now" sites, but lately the "celebrities" that are mentioned are people that I did not even know then.  I figure the next time I go to a wedding I will be seated at the old people's table.

What brought this up is that a crony of mine from college and I say we will get together every month.  The last time we met was in October.  This year we were to rendezvous for her birthday.  Her birthday was January.  So, we probably average getting together two or three times a year.  We tried to find a day last week.  We thought we had a date, but then she realized the night we'd considered was the night of her friend's 70th birthday party. I, too, have a couple of 70th birthday parties to go to this spring. If we are about to celebrate 70th birthdays we remember the Simon and Garfunkel lyric (penned while they were likely in their 20s) "how terribly strange to be 70."

Doesn't seem that strange. Actually the people I know who are 70 are rather spry. One party I am going to in May is for a former tennis partner who is still playing singles.  Another is for a crony who looks terrific and is, knock on wood, as healthy as he was when we were in our forties. Not sure 70 now is really equivalent to what 70 was then. Still while it is always time to seize the day, for we boomers the time has never been more ripe for the seizing.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


During Thanksgiving weekend of 2006 I was in a self inflicted automobile accident.  I had attempted to exit a parking lot which I saw, as I got closer to the exit, was barricaded. I had not gone too far when I saw that the exit was blocked off, so instead of doing a three point turn, I attempted to back out.  Bad decision. It was nighttime and I did not see a cement staircase with a metal hand rail.  I clocked the handrail and staircase. Glass came flying into the vehicle and the back side was damaged.

The car was a black Element that I think was only 1 1/2 years old at the time. When I went to check out the cost to repair the damage I was stunned.  I decided not to have the car repaired, but to trade it in. I figured that it would cost a dealership a lot less to fix it, dealers are always looking to sell cars, so I might get a good deal.  And I did.  They accepted essentially the value of the car even with the damage since it would cost them peanuts to fix it.  Then they sold me a brand new spanking 2007 red Element, at a very good price that I have been driving ever since.

I am crazy about this SUV.  It maneuvers like a car, parks like a car, has enough space to carry nearly anything you can imagine, and has been fun to drive.  I have been a Honda owner since my thirtieth birthday when, while driving back from the Buffalo airport, I pulled into a dealership and decided to buy myself a new car for my day.  Since then, I have had one of the tiny civics, a civic sedan, a civic station wagon, a CRV, the Element that was in the accident, and this guy pictured here.

I like Hondas because they are reliable.  While I am mad about this car, it was-by Honda standards-a lemon.  I never once had to change my brakes or clutch in any of the other Hondas I'd purchased and drove each over 100,000 miles. I've replaced the brakes in this guy three times, and the clutch once. If you have a standard and know how to drive, you should not have to change your brakes. The baby had 125,000 miles on it which by Honda standards is not much.  And I should not have had little things go wrong that may typically erode on other vehicles but not Hondas.

Still I love/d the car.  Last year when I clearly needed brakes I vacillated about buying a new car. Honda no longer makes Elements, and I was not crazy about the CRV.  One reason I was not crazy about it was you could no longer buy a CRV with a standard transmission.  Also, until this year I just did not think they were that much different from a Fit.  So last year I paid for the brakes and kept driving the Element.

But my guy was showing some age.  I could no longer tell how many miles per hour I was going. The dial just broke off and it would have cost an astounding amount to replace it because it meant the entire front dashboard had to come out (or so they said). There was a rattle in the back that was not due to anything loose. A tire was persnickety, I replaced a battery with a fresh one but before that if I left the interior light on for any sort of duration the car would not start subsequently.   I found myself renting cars with new gizmos that made my 2006 feel like a jalopy.  My radio was from hunger, the disc player on its last legs, the mileage only good for gas stations. Another factor was that I will be getting my boot off next Friday if my heel continues to heal.  And then, I am not sure I will be able to depress the clutch with the bum heal--or at least may not be expediting recovery using the clutch in bumper to bumper traffic.

So I gave in. Today I went and paid an appendage or two for a new CRV. This year's models are way cooler. There is a sun roof, heated seats, remote starting which in January will be one sweet treat--the sound system is supposed to be remarkable.  The seats fold down effortlessly (Element's seats were a chore to get down) there's a bunch of room, and plenty of places to store this and that.  I'll be able to take the new car on long trips which I have not done with the old fellow in years.

It makes sense but still I will miss my 10.3 year old Element.  I pick up the new car on Monday night. Two more days to drive my baby.

Bruins, Rangers, and Caps.

I have written this before but each April I feel like the comment is worth restating.  There is nothing more exciting than Stanley Cup hockey particularly in overtime games.

The most exciting event I have ever watched I describe in the Epilogue to the Madness of March.  It was a 2-1 double overtime in a seventh game of a Stanley Cup playoff series.  I recall thinking then of an expression that I've often used, but had never meant previously--"I don't know how much more of this I can take."

The last two nights have provided similar levels of thrill.  On Thursday night the Rangers won in overtime defeating the Montreal Canadiens.  Last night the Bruins, down 3-1 in its series, won in double overtime beating the Ottawa Senators.  For those into nationalism it was a tough two nights for those north of the border, as the Washington Capitals also won last night in overtime defeating Toronto. (The prig in me wants to know why the Capitals, who play in the Capitol, spell their nickname with an a not an o).

The thing about overtime playoff hockey is that within, literally, seconds a team can be in a position to win or immediately lose.  The rapid nature of the game is difficult to appreciate if you are only a casual spectator. During the regular season the intensity is not the same, the method for deciding winners in tied games different, and the ramifications of losing not nearly as great.

Even a minor error by a player can create an open shot for an opponent. A pass off by an inch, zigging this way instead of that, not getting off the ice fast enough for a substitution, letting the puck careen off your skate to your right or left--it is remarkable how many variables can immediately and suddenly change the outcome of a game.

Last night if the Bruins did not score the first goal in overtime its season was over. Tuukka Rask had made several incredible saves in the overtimes which kept the Bruins alive until a rookie put in the deciding goal.  What made this game even more dramatic is that twice previously in the game the Bruins had appeared to win only to have a replay disqualify the goal.

The description of the 2-1 game in the book is one of my better writing efforts. (I will opine that it was better still before the editor took the knife to several pages which I believe depicted the tension at Madison Square Garden more completely).  So, if you want to get a sense of what that event was like and a more detailed understanding of the excitement of playoff copy, go find your Madness of March and reread the Epilogue.

But if you would rather not dust it off, go watch the end of the third period of any of the hockey playoff games that are being broadcast during the next few weeks. If the game goes into overtime sit tight and hang on.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Acid Test

I've always dreaded the injury I now have.  I have seen athletes go down with achilles tears and thought it would be hell to have an injury where one could not exercise for an extended period of time.  Since the summer of 1975 I have religiously exercised 5-7 times a week. Most of that time I was a runner. Occasionally when I had relatively minor foot injuries I would swim. Tennis and racketball were very regular activities in my late forties and fifties. Then the past few years I have spent 45 minutes to an hour and a half on the elliptical machine.   I played racquet sports for fun, ran and did the elliptical for the catharsis the activities gave me as well as the caloric expenditure which allowed me to consume calories without expanding my girth.

Since St. Patty's Day I have not been expending many calories.  I am now in week five of wearing a boot, and there will be a week six.  Then two or three more !@#$%&!@ months before I can resume full activity.  Not being able to exercise not only keeps the tensions within, but my innards seem to be expanding. I am not a happy camper.

Of course I could be more disciplined and cut down on what I consume. I decided that today I would have to start doing this.

And today happened to provide the acid test.

I arrived at work for a three hour meeting.  To nourish we conveners someone went to Paneras and brought in an assortment of pastries that were to kill for. Nothing plain in the box.  All sorts of sweets the kinds which I do not typically reject. I made it through the meeting eating just the pineapple chunks that were going begging because everyone else glommed on the pastries.  One credit for me.

Then at noon to celebrate the end of classes our office sponsored a pizza party for the students who are either completing final projects or preparing for exams which begin tomorrow.  At the last minute the decision was made to invite additional members of the community to enjoy our largesse.  The problem was that these additional invitees did not attend.  I am not exaggerating when I write that there were thirty pizzas left over.  One well meaning assistant asked if I wanted to take a pizza home. When I returned to my office there was a pizza sitting on a table.  I had a slice.  It was a veggie pizza. Still, no credit.

In late afternoon we had our college honors presentations. God forbid we should have an event without food. There, to nourish the attendees, there were an assortment of cookies and brownies plus lemonade.  I did not succumb. One credit for me.

Once in 1971 I went on a diet and decided to go to a tavern.  I requested a beer and figured it would be good will power to just sit and stare at it for an hour.  I did this and felt good about myself and subsequently had a successful fortnight of dieting.

The old will power is not what it once was.

Oscar the Grouch has nothing on me.