Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fortunato

On Tuesday I went into a local bank where I have had, up to that day, only positive interactions with persons who work there.  As opposed to other, larger, banks there is almost never any line to reach a teller. When there is any sort of queue someone from the back offices will come out.  Always efficient and polite.  Typically I actually enjoy going in there because it is a place of efficiency and normalcy.

I had a small check.  I inherited from a grandfather who died before I was born a few shares of Kraft. He'd been employed by Kraft and somehow bequeathed shares to grandchildren yet unborn.  We all, eleven of us, received two shares. In the late 80s Kraft sold or was absorbed or something.  In the transaction instead of Kraft I somehow received a couple of shares of another stock. This company, to this day, sends me quarterly checks for amounts that are likely not worth much more than the postage and human power that is required to mail them out.  Earlier this week I got a whopper in my post office box--a check for six dollars and twenty four cents.

I walked to the bank near the post office.  I had fished out of my wallet and pants pocket, three dollars and seventy six cents. With my windfall and the 3.76 I had unearthed I would be able to get a ten dollar bill at the bank. I have done this many times when I have received these tiny checks.   I try to find the change that would give me an even dollar amount and walk to the bank. Never had any problem.

I go to the bank where I have both a savings and checking account. The teller, a woman I had never seen previously, takes my check, my driver's license, and my bank card.  She seems a bit puzzled and I figure I may be working with a newcomer.  She starts to write down my driver's license number on the check, crosses it out, writes another number.  She sees that I have put 3.76 on the table.

"What's the cash for?" she says--not truculently--but as if I am some sort of difficult customer.  I tell her, without any sort of edge, that when this amount is added to the amount of the check, I would like a ten dollar bill.

She says "The computer does not like that."

"Say again?" I respond.

"The computer does not like that." she repeats flatly.

"I'm not asking the computer to do anything.  If you add this to the amount of the check it equals ten dollars."

She sighs.  "Fine. How do you want your money, singles or a five?"

"I am just going to give it back to you. I don't care how you give it to me."

Again she says, "how do you want your money, singles or a five?"

"Whatever is easier for you. A five; fine." I say, still more incredulous than rancorous.

She puts on the counter a five dollar bill and twenty six cents in change.

I say, "The check is for 6.26"  Now I have an edge.

She looks at the check. Sees I am correct but says matter of factly "The computer read it as 5, not 6."

Now she has to call in a manager.  Before she does so, a woman to her right with whom I have interacted effortlessly for well over a year, offers to handle my case.  I am delighted to make this change but the rookie bristles and says that she has it.

The manager comes over. Does something with the computer.  The rookie says, "Okay now" and places 6.24 cents on the counter.

"Good" I say. "Now take the 6.24 and add it to the 3.76 and give me a ten dollar bill."

"Okay" she says "That is much better."

It was all I could do to refrain from asking her when she had the lobotomy.

But I leave and feel as if I did not need that. I am on my way to work, all was well, I have a simple transaction and I have to deal with someone--who has the fingers on my accounts in a bank--who can't handle a simple transaction involving a tiny check.

Not a big deal, but immediately the words that begin the Poe short story "The Cask of Amontillado" rush to my head. "The thousand insults of Fortunato I had endured."

I read the story in high school--no doubt because we had to read a short story and it was the shortest one I could find.  But apparently I remembered it, at this moment.

I thought of it because while what happened at the bank was not a major insult, it was a bump--the kind of bump we all endure. Sometimes we are at 100% bump capacity and in order to move along calmly we have to purge the bumps; otherwise we can get tense or focus on something relatively insignificant. Sure, she was a dolt, and sure she acted as if the simple transaction--counting to ten; someone who worked in a bank--was an imposition, but it still was only a bump.

All day long we endure bumps. The question I thought of as I rode into work is this: what do we do with the bumps? Can we just "forget about them" or when they accrue do they somehow skew our consciousness. If you are lugging around hundreds of bumps can you start becoming irrational with others and make inane decisions not because you are inherently irrational, but because the bumps have jostled you and you're not in balance?

Remember when we were kids and would play on a pin ball machine. If you moved the machine in your eagerness to score points, the machine would read TILT.  And the game ended. If we endure the thousand insults of Fortunato, do we not tilt, and then not function--or not function as well?

If you remember the story, the narrator decides to revenge the insults by walling Fortunato up in a wine cellar. Not advocating that here of course.  We have to endure the bumps--certainly those as minor as dealing with a lunkhead in a bank.  But we all have to be careful that as we haul these bumps around-- the thousand insults we endure--we don't let it interfere with our ability to behave considerately with others, and be kind to ourselves as well.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Marathon Monday

In 1979 I trained for, and then ran, the Skylon International marathon.  The race was, like any other marathon, 26 miles 385 yards. We started that October day from an area near an art museum in Buffalo and finished up in Niagara Falls, Canada.

I remember the event clearly. It was chilly and yet most of us wore shorts.  I finished in 3 hours and 44 minutes--and it could have been better had not the first minute or so been essentially walking as all of the runners were jammed in a very tight spot. I hypo-thermated at the end and, I was told, looked a bit blue in a tent before I could get warmed up.  But besides that short-lived setback it was a wonderful day and I'm happy to have that accomplishment on my resume.  The preceding summer and all through September I ran close to 60 miles a week in order to prepare. Toward the end of the training period I upped my regular jaunt to 15 miles a day on the weekend, and then one day--as prescribed in a book that I had--did a 20 mile run. The thinking was that if you could run a 20, with the adrenaline of the actual day you could run a 26.

And I did. I hit the wall around mile 20, but just kept plodding until I got through and then it was not all that difficult to finish. I was beat, no doubt about it, but I remember talking normally when I was done and walking around unimpeded until I turned blue.

So, every year in Boston when it is marathon Monday I think, at least for a fleeting moment or two, of how excited, more like a three year old than an almost thirty year old, I had been.

And today, all I could think of was how disappointed I would have been to wake up and see what is doing outside.

Certainly, today is better than five years ago when two unconscionable bastards suffering from hate in the brain syndrome that turned potentially constructive gray matter into manure, decided to bomb the finish line.  However, that horrible day aside, today had to be a disappointment.

Let me paint the picture for you.  It is pouring.  Now worse than it was at the start, but for a lot of plodders like I was, they were finishing around the time that it really started to rain cats and dogs, as opposed to just cats that had been the case almost all day.  And it is not rain on a warm easy day. It is a cold nasty day appropriate for say early March or even February.  Last night I decided to walk to the library to return a book. I had not exercised all day so I thought I'd walk. It is only a mile point two to the library--over two round trip.  I was an icicle by the time I returned, and last night it was not raining. Nasty. Raw. Stay at home and put the cover over your head rain.

If you ran today you ran soaked and shivering.  The fast folks are done in two hours and change.  The guys like me took nearly four hours.  When was the last time you were outside in your shorts for four hours in a cold rain. This wasn't a football stadium when you brought layers and a flask.  You are in your shorts, your shoes are soaked, your hat probably worthless after the first mile, and your shirt ready for a wet tee shirt contest. In the warmth of my house, I felt for the runners.

Add to the miserable conditions, the fact that your group of cheering supporters must have, even if they love you, decided to go someplace warm periodically and easily could have missed you at what would have been their natural viewing spots. The thing about the Boston marathon is that typically for the entire race there are people cheering you on. Today, I am sure the crowds were one deep when there were folks lining the roads at all. And your buddies were probably holed up someplace drinking brandy.

Momma get out that chicken soup for your daughters and sons that ran today. Cold and nasty and, I am sure, a bit sad for those who prepped all year for the day.

Friday, March 30, 2018

plumber's pants

Yesterday on my way to work, taking a route that I rarely use, I saw a fellow doing some work to the front of his house.  The house was set back from the road by a good thirty yards, could have been closer to forty or even fifty.  He was a large man, not large as in strong, large as in more than a little bit of extra weight on him.

What was noticeable more than anything was his plumber's pants.  Driving way away from where he was toiling I could see how low the jeans were riding in the back.  Not for the first time I wondered how it is possible that someone with plumber's pants is unaware. You have to think they would be aware.  There must be a breeze that can be felt.

Another time several years ago I was in a bar watching a football game. It was a sports bar. There, much closer to me than the worker was yesterday, was a woman cheering hard for one team or another.  Her back was to me.  Her plumber's pants were remarkable. How could she not know what everyone behind her could plainly see?

Beyond plumber's pants I have wondered what it is that we can't see about ourselves that is so plainly obvious to others.  There is a yiddish expression that when translated means: Noone can see their own hump.  It is true I guess. But plumber's pants are not subtle.  When the shirt comes out of my pants I can feel the air against my shirtless stomach.  Plumber's pants folks have to feel the air.  How could they miss it?

So, today I had to renew my passport. I fished it out the other day more to make sure I knew where it was than for any other reason.  I flipped through the pages and saw that it expired two weeks ago. Fortunately I am not planning to go to Timbuktu this weekend, but I did have to renew it. I went on line and read about the procedure.  I printed out the form, filled it out, went to my local post office where they facilitate the renewals, and will also take your passport photo.

Now, it was early. Only about 820 am.  I wanted to beat any crowd and, as it turned out, there was a gentleman in front of me.  In short order though the clerk was able to attend to me.  I had done my homework so all he needed to do was take the picture.  I walked over to the stool by the white screen- akin to ones they used to show films on in high school.  He took a picture, glanced at it, made a face as if to say the shot came out, and we walked back over to the counter.  He was able, thank you 21st century, to almost instantly make copies of the photos. He stapled one to the application and gave me the other.

The truth is that the photo made me look like a convict. An old convict. A gangster that perhaps has been living on the down low for years and finally, thirty years after hijacking trucks, has been caught.  Some sort of minor league thug from the Goodfellahs movie.

If I had not been sitting on the stool and centrally involved with the photography I might have told the postal clerk that he had taken the wrong photo from a bunch. "You are wrong sir. Yes, this person looks like me, actually more like some relative twenty years my senior. Ha Ha. But that is not me."

But I knew it was me. I was there. He had just taken the picture. He hadn't slipped a photo of say, Johnny, Two Hats, Patchagaloo onto my application.  That was me. "I don't look like that" I heard myself say.

But I do. Obviously.

Kind of like plumber's pants.  What is discernible to everyone, may not be obvious to ourselves.



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Almost Heaven

I had no intention of actually buying a ticket.  I decided last night to take the Orange Line down to North Station and feel the energy around the Garden.

Thursday began the Sweet Sixteen portion of the tournament. One of the regionals is here in Boston. So last night players and fans of West Virginia, Villanova, Purdue, and Texas Tech are hereabouts. I wanted to see if Causeway Street--the street by the arena--was buzzing.

It was. Causeway Street was populated with garbed fans identifying their loyalties with sweatshirts, hats, and windbreakers. At 650 pm it was mostly West Virginia and Villanova folks since that game was the first of the doubleheader that would begin at 730.  Amidst the fans were dozens of scalpers peddling tickets they hoped would fetch a fortune.

I walked into a tavern that in the Fall is the home of Buffalo Bills loyalists. It was jammed as in you had to turn sideways to get anywhere through Villanova rooters.  It was fun to hear the buzz but uncomfortable to get around without jostling a beer and those who were toting them.  So, I left that place and went around the corner. In this place, one where I have rooted for the Patriots on occasion, it was a madhouse of West Virginia fans. In fact, as I walked in they were crooning--many of whom not looking as if they would pass a sobriety test--the John Denver song, Almost Heaven West Virginia. It was fun to hear the place rock with the fans.

I figured that in a few minutes both the first and second place would empty out as the denizens therein would be going to the game.  Very wrong.  These people live in the Boston area and are alums or otherwise followers of West Virginia and Villanova. Not going to the game. Congregating to watch the game.  It was wild, and the publicans were not shedding any tears. This was like they had a double shot at St. Patty's Day.  Two weeks in a row the joints were jammed.

I only stayed for the first half.  The game was exciting but for me the more engaging phenomenon was observing those engaged and how, a sport, can bring together community in a way that few other causes can.

On a related note, I wanted to stay up to see the Syracuse Duke game that was on late coming from Nebraska.  As exciting as Syracuse's last game was, this one was a soporific. Both teams played stifling zones and the offense for each possession was the same.  I kept nodding off.  The announcers were saying intermittently what a great game it was.  Not for me.  If all contests during this tournament were similarly played they would not refer to this period as March Madness.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tournament

I have watched a high percentage of the fifty-six games played thus far. There may be only three or four that I've missed entirely, and there are a few that were on late at night when the snooze button in my head was repetitively activated. And then, like last night, there are times when games are concurrently played so, if at home like last night, there is only one game I can see at a time.

But I have watched a bunch. Some comments.

Several teams are playing with little guys. Little guys, in college basketball are about six four.  And sometimes these teams are prevailing. Last night Kansas State somehow beat the University of Kentucky and it was like the little guys against the big guys out there. The winning layup was made by a relative midget driving against a tall Kentucky player.  In an earlier game, Loyola and Vermont were scoring often by driving to the hoop with no shot blocker there to swat the ball away.

Three of the four teams already in the Elite Eight are nine seeds or higher. This is remarkable and an indication of either poor seeding or parity or just some bizarre games. Speaking of bizarre games...

UMBC lost to my alma mater by forty points early this year. And then they beat the number one seed in the tournament, Virginia, by 20. By 20.  And because of this the coach of UMBC is now hot stuff. When he lost to Albany by 40 I imagine he was considering taking the head coaching job at PS 194 in Brooklyn, my elementary school where the gym smelled, every single day, like tomato soup.  And now, no tomato soup gym for this coach, he is likely to make over a million dollars next year because of one FLUKE win.  For those not following the tournament, UMBC got into March Madness only because a player hit a long shot at the buzzer of his preliminary tournament. When I played every once in a while I would get so hot that everything I tossed up went down. UMBC had a night like that against Virginia.  It was a FLUKE.  A million dollar FLUKE.

I loved the way Syracuse beat Michigan State. That was as gritty a win as I have ever seen. Syracuse's zone is unpredictable. Sometimes they look like five old guys playing a 2-1-2 at the Y. And other times you simply cannot penetrate the zone.  My favorite part of the game was when some Syracuse players fouled out and the Orange had to put in a player for six very meaningful minutes who had played a grand total of 11 meaningless minutes the entire year. 

Too bad for Gonzaga. Mark Few is supposed to be one of the good guys.

Route and destination

Yesterday I had the experience that any reader who regularly drove to the same work place for years has had.  I pulled into the lot, parked the car, and realized that I could not recall how I got there.

I knew of course that I'd left the house, but after leaving Auburndale, a spot on my route, I had only a fuzzy recollection of making the left on Moody, then right on whatever the name of that road is that I have made a right on for twenty years, made the next right, made the right at the Ribs place that I have to go back to, made a left onto the ramp to the Pike, got on the Pike, got off the Pike, swung around Copley passing the Cheesecake factory, made the left on Mass Ave, waited at the sometimes interminable light, dodged the bicyclists who are forever thinking that there is a bonafide lane when there is not, made the right on Columbus, and pulled into the garage where the attendant squinted her eyes to make sure I had a parking decal.  Couldn't remember much of anything after Auburndale.

I sat there for a moment and wondered how I could have gotten to this spot without remembering anything about the drive.  It was as if I was two individuals.  One: the conscious person who was thinking about my classes, a writing project, whether it is worth it to keep paying for satellite radio, the condo in Florida, the snow that was predicted and did not come, the parents of school aged kids who must be livid that they cancelled snow on the basis of a forecast of snow when there was not a flake on the ground. Two: the autopilot me who made all the correct turns without registering them.

There I was in the parking garage and could not remember much of anything about how I got here.

And then the metaphor surfaced.

How did I get here? How did we get wherever we are?  How conscious have I been of the turns in the road when I have taken them such that I wound up where I am. I would imagine for people with children and particularly large families this sensation is even more pronounced.  What with taking kids to soccer games, planning for overnights, getting ready for holidays, deciding who is going to pick up the dry cleaning and who is responsible for remembering that we need paper towels--a day can be packed with so many chores that twenty years of such days later you find yourself somewhere and ask how the hell that happened.

But you don't need to have multiple tasks to find yourself in a spot and say whoa, how did this happen?  There is a scene in About Schmidt with Jack Nicholson, where he wakes up and asks himself how did he wind up in this bed, in this city, sleeping with this old person on the other side of the bed (and his wife when she awakens probably thought the same thing).  The healthiest among us are those who are aware of our routes and desired destinations.  But it is inevitable that even the most self actualized of us will have an awakening periodically and ask with some discomfort, "how did I get here?"

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Go

Yesterday I saw parts of nearly all the games.  It was not like being in Las Vegas for a number of reasons. 

I did not hear the incessant ringing of one armed bandits while I watched, either downstairs or when I decided to recline in the bedroom.  I did not consume a single malt beverage yesterday-very non Las Vegas like.  When I went out for a short drive, the street where I live was not filled with people holding cards on which pictures of very scantily clad stormy daniels wannabes could be seen. For  dinner I did not sit at a buffet and devour more calories than the entire population of say, Guam, consume in a year. And I did not lose my shirt betting on games that are essentially a flip of the coin. 

But otherwise there were similarities. I kept a chart of the spreads and the over unders.  I did not pick teams because what is the point. Nobody in my household would be paying out if I had a winner.  Still I looked at the odds and followed the games.

An interesting thing occurred. If you read the book you know I argue that betting on college basketball games can be fun, but it is not going to bring anyone any real money except in very rare instances. All the games are presented as even propositions. That is, if you wanted to bet on Duke today you have to give up 9.5 points to Rhode Island. At last glance this should not be a problem, but going into the contest it is tossup. 

To prove that point, yesterday the favorites won 7 games by beating the spread, and the dogs won 7 games by getting within the spread. One was a push (a tie) and one game was a pick-em.  And, guess what--8 games made the over, and 8 games came in with the under. 

Now it doesn't always work this way. I can remember one time in Las Vegas--relayed in the Madness of March--where a well oiled gambler opined, "the dogs, the dogs, the dogs, the dogs," and this night he was right as nearly every dog beat the spread.  But typically it is even.

And that is why the lights are on in Las Vegas, and in some casinos they give free beer.  The casinos are raking it in.

I make the point in the book that when people go to Las Vegas this week, they do so for a lark. It is fun, a vacation. Earlier this year I was contacted by someone who heads a facebook group of people who travel out. He wanted me to send him a couple of autographed books that he raffled off to his buddies. I did so delightfully (and am now an august member of the group).  I am not there as I have written, but I can just imagine the fun.  The amateur bettors are hunkering down now because in ten minutes or so the six night games to be played in the next 7 hours are about to begin. 

The reason I went to Las Vegas during March Madness the first time in 2001 is because it was billed as one of the 100 things to do before you die. If you are a fan, trust me. It is. Go. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Falling

I read this morning that a Congresswoman has passed after she fell in her home. She was 88.  I recall that when my dad and mom were alive they would refer to friends who were hospitalized after falling. I could not get my arm around it as a relatively young man.  And this is to my discredit. Obviously it happens that what I once considered a simple fall can have disastrous consequences.

The point was driven home to me as I read the article today because last night-- I fell. I was walking in downtown Waltham which has become a rather busy place with more than a dozen restaurants and taverns, a movie theatre, ice cream shop, Indian grocery store the size of Kansas that people come from all over to frequent, and other enterprises of this and that. 

We have had some weather hereabouts. Three times in three weeks--no exaggeration--we have  been hit with storms. I was away for storm two but was back for storm three. Often in New England what passes for a blizzard would not be considered much of anything by those in Buffalo where I resided for the better part of a decade in the seventies and early eighties. But the third one here was a snowfall. Lots of wind and lots of snow.

A fellow who moved to San Diego left me a primitive snowblower when he departed.  I don't use it much because I don't mind shoveling snow and it is such a primitive device that it takes some energy to push the guy along. Also for certain kinds of snow--wet snow--it is not that helpful.  On Tuesday I went out twice during the day with my shovel. I should not have bothered. By the time I went out at 8 pm everything I had done was undone by the snow that had come by in the interval.  So, I took out the blower. It was great, but even with it, I was out there for close to 90 minutes.

Much of it melted in the past days, but last night it got cold again. So as I was walking home I watched my step for black ice.  Missed a spot and came kerplunking down half on the sidewalk and half in the street as I recollect it.  I knew or at least thought I had not broken anything and felt fortunate for that. But I could have. I was wearing my specs and could have come crashing down face forward. But did not.

Nevertheless today I woke up, and all day long, I cannot lift my left arm over my head. Very painful. I'm not a wuss, but if someone put a gun to my head I do not think I could stick em up with my left arm.

I wonder at myself often, as I approach three and a half score, of how foolish I was when I was even ten years younger, and how many of the things I assumed had to be true for everyone--like someone in good shape would not be hobbled by a simple fall.  I also recall my folks talking about people they'd lost and how that was depressing.  I knew it was not easy to lose friends, but I did not realize how much it could bring you down and, whether you liked it or not, thrust your mortality right in front of you.


Fire and Fury

I finished Fire and Fury this afternoon.  If half the things in the book are true, we are in greater jeopardy than I thought, and I thought--prior to reading the book--that we were cooked.

In parts very funny, but the prevailing reaction is concern.  And occasionally wonder at how strong our country must be to be able to function with such a strange duck nominally leading the nation.

Trump is described as someone who does not read or listen, and is not particularly knowledgeable. He has surrounded himself with people he can tolerate until he cannot--and then jettisons them, sometimes for good reasons but those reasons are the reasons they should not have been hired in the first place. Steve Bannon actually comes out as one of the more sane people who worked in the white house.  That is not comforting.

If you are an anti Trump liberal, I am not sure this book will do anything other than make you feel even stronger that the man is unfit. If you are a Trump fan you are likely to dismiss the contents as bogus. If you are neutral you will not be so when you are done.

The author has been criticized as playing loose with the facts in the past. Even if some incidents have been mischaracterized, too much must be so. 

Where are the responsible Republicans and responsible Democrats?  Neither population gets any credit for behaving as they have. The Republicans don't criticize sufficiently. The Democrats appear to be cowards.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

spring training

I drove up to Jupiter this afternoon to watch the Florida Marlins play the St. Louis Cardinals.

Spring Training is an interesting scene. The games mean nothing but the fans are there rooting for wins regardless.  The Marlins and Cardinals share the same stadium. In a strange reversal, whereas all northern teams go south for Spring Training, the Marlins actually travel north.  And despite the proximity to what I assume is the Marlins fan base in Miami, the stadium was packed with Cardinals fans. Real ones too. Bonafide serious Cardinal fans wearing the jerseys of their favorite players.

I sat next to three delightful guys from Springfield Illinois--serious Cardinal fans. The fellow immediately to my left was the genuine article.  He knew more about baseball than I do and I know my fair share. He was relaying terrific anecdotes about Bob Gibson and Augie Busch and even the midget Bill Veeck sent up the plate (number 1/8th) as a stunt. He told stories about Earl Weaver--the Orioles long time manager--that were priceless. We both exchanged memories about the 64 and 67 Cardinal world series.  Terrific game watching partner.

I was sitting next to these guys by luck. They had sold their extra ticket to a fellow who then sold it to me.  The trio had travelled to Jupiter from Fort Myers where they had watched games over on the west coast and were going to see two games in Jupiter and then at least one other in West Palm Beach.

In addition to these two, there were some real fans in front of us who, it seemed to me, wished we behind them would shut up so they could focus on the game.  It is Spring Training, the games mean zero, many of the players have as much a chance of making the team as I do--yet when a pitcher started to falter one said to the other in all seriousness--better get someone warmed up.

The atmosphere in Spring Training is far more laid back than during the regular season.  The stadium is like a miniature with an appropriately miniature (but substantive in terms of offerings) concession area.  A fellow in a golf cart takes you from where you park your car to the stadium.  The drivers are not into making a shekel, they are retirees just having fun doing something fun on a beautiful afternoon.

Worse ways to spend time, than watching a Spring Training baseball game.

Pickleball day 2

Okay, now I have the scoring down.

Played for the second consecutive day.  I am almost to the stage where I know the rules and have become adjusted to the racket.  Not quite aware of all strategy of course.

The players with whom I have been learning are seniors. So am I for that matter. I may, however, be a better athlete than many of the others and of those who are gifted, I am a few years younger.  I am not sure what this game is like with people who are young and naturally athletic.  There is a lot of hand eye coordination and instinctive reactions.  I can do that well enough but I imagine there is more to it for those who take this seriously.

Today was chilly by Florida standards so even though I played several consecutive games I did not break much of a sweat.  The leader of the group told me that there is a website which will identify where in Boston there are courts and players. I'll explore this.

The best part of today was the same as the best part of yesterday.  I had no pain moving and twisting my torso.  Now 12 hours later I am a bit stiff from not having done much in the way of twisting for the past four years, but my hip does not hurt and my achilles tendon seems just fine.

Probably the best player on the court is 84.  He told me today that he used to play paddle ball with my father nearly fifty years ago. I can recall substituting for some of Dad's regulars on at least one occasion.  I am not certain, but I believe the one occasion that I can recall clearly, I was subbing for the fellow I met today.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pickle Ball

About five years ago a buddy of mine tore my ear off talking about a game I'd never heard of. The fellow is prone to exaggeration, so I listened, more amused at what I assumed was hyperbole than intrigued. Then two years back someone else mentioned pickle ball and how it was becoming a popular sport.  Then last year, March of 2017, I came to the condo in Florida and two of the tennis courts had been converted to pickle ball courts.  I thought to give it a try sometime down the road. Today I found myself at that place on the road.  While the folks up north are getting walloped with yet another storm, I arrived yesterday to see some spring training games and, apparently, learn how to play pickle ball.

I had not planned on playing when I did. I drove toward my breakfast spot early this morning and saw the courts were occupied. I gave a look. Next thing I knew I was recruited.

If you read the book, The Accidental Tourist, you remember how quirky the main character's family was and how they played a bizarre card game. Only the family members knew the rules and whenever an in-law tried to get it, the outsider became confused initially, and then exasperated.  Well, I did not become exasperated today, but the scoring and rules are unfamiliar.  By the third match (games go to nine) I think I got the scoring. (1-4-2 is a score. It refers to the score of the server, the opponent, and the person serving).  The rules I am less certain about. Here is an example of a strange one. You must serve into a box and while typically you can hit the ball on a fly, you cannot hit it on a fly after the serve has been returned, and you cannot get into "the kitchen" (essentially close to the net) unless the ball bounces.  Double partners switch sides sometimes but not others.

Really, I was just playing simon sez out there--following the regulars.  I know I will get the rules, but it seemed like the card game in the Accidental Tourist in this my first outing.

You play with a paddle that is not as big as a paddle racket, but bigger than a ping pong racket. The ball is something akin to a whiffle ball. It does not bounce. Couple that fact with the size of the racket and someone, like me, who always was good on half volleys, will whiff on more than one humbling occasion.

Can you break a sweat?

Just by learning the scoring you can break a sweat.  But seriously I did and only played three games. Each game lasted less than 20 minutes.  Of course I am in Florida not in Boston where I hear there will be much snow for me to shovel when I return.  So perhaps I would not have perspired so much in the northeast, but I can see how you can get a workout. Also, we played doubles. Singles I could definitely see making you sweat. Not a lot of running, but quick movements are key. The whiffle balls do not go far so there are nearly no breaks between points except when someone is contesting the score.

The best news of the day is that my bionic hip which has not been tested really in anything approaching a competition since 2014, and my achilles tendon ripped exactly 51 weeks ago on St. Patty's Day 2017, both held up.  I'm looking forward to going out tomorrow and giving the whiffle ball a whack.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

CAA

My plane was an hour late taking off for Charleston, but I still arrived at the North Charleston Coliseum in time on Sunday to see the entire second game of the first doubleheader.

Last weekend, running into last night, the CAA played its end of season tournament to decide which school would be invited to the big dance that begins in earnest on Thursday.  I had followed Northeastern's basketball all season, and was there both as a scribe/researcher and also as a fan to see the games. I'd bought the package of tickets that would give me entrance to nine basketball games in a four day period.  Had it not been for some miscommunication with my hotel's shuttle service, and the flight delay,  I would have been able to see four games on Sunday alone. As it was I saw three. Lots of basketball. Very good seats.

The CAA is a mid major conference.  As it relates to the big dance,--the moniker for the NCAA Division I basketball tournament-- being a mid major means that only one team from that conference will be invited to participate.  Therefore the energy at these conference tournaments can be significant.  In the SEC the tournament will be exciting, but the consequences not especially significant. A team like Kentucky will be invited to the big dance, even if they get shellacked in the first round.  Not so in the CAA. You lose, you are out.  Also, in the mid majors it is not unheard of for a team that stunk up the court all year to suddenly get hot and win the tournament. A team can be stellar all season, and have an off night, and then are not invited to the dance.

So for a fan and a scribe the CAA could provide--and in fact this year did provide--a good deal of excitement.  The problem for my university and, by extension really the whole league, is that the venue for the tournament happened to be a short distance from one of the participating schools' campus.  And this year, that school was a team that advanced to the finals.  So last night, Northeastern played what amounted to an away game in the championship, and while leading almost the entire game succumbed at the end and lost in overtime.

I saw the three games on Sunday and two on Monday. Then on my flight on Tuesday I take my window seat and overhear the fellow on the aisle speaking about how he is getting people to go to the championship game.  We talked  basketball all the way from take off to landing. For those engaged, March Madness can be all engaging.

One of the announcers last night claimed that these moments can affect us for life.  I think they can. Nobody who played in the championship game last night will forget what took place. I feel for our Northeastern players. The headlines today will read that they squandered a lead. This is so, but the reason they had a lead to squander is that they played brilliantly in the first thirty minutes. I have watched many games this season and that is as good as we play.  So, maybe give credit to the team for being up by so many in the first place.




Friday, March 2, 2018

Garbage Day

Bad day for garbage day in the Northeast.

About fifteen minutes ago I returned from some errands--dry cleaner, post office, library, grocery store.  Driving today in my neighborhood is an olympic event.  Today is garbage day and it is also a day when the rain and wind have come with force.

They call storms nor'easter's in these parts. It is not always accurate. This storm for example has headed our way from the midwest and it seems often to me that we get hit after those to the west have already been pummeled. If I studied meteorology or watched the weather channel regularly I might get the name.

I am not someone who spends a good deal of time on the weather channel or weather sites. I figure I can step outside to see how cold it is, and look out the window to check if I need a raincoat.  But yesterday I took a look and we are in for some real wind and rain.  We live adjacent to a wooded area, so when storms like this hit, we are regularly waiting for one of these huge trees to fall. Thus far, and I will find some wood to tap, we just have to pick up debris after these storms. Once we did have a tree take out part of a fence.   You would have to see how close we are to the woods to get a sense of how precarious it could seem when it is windy.

So since it is garbage day, and since our garbage trucks usually visit this street and those in the vicinity about 1 pm, and since it is now only 10:34, all over the streets are garbage cans and the garbage that had been in them. Driving to the various spots on my itinerary was a test of my steering capabilities particularly given that some items were rolling.

The metaphor here is not lost on me.  Aren't we often dodging garbage as we navigate time.  I think our maneuverability is being put to a greater test in 2018 than it has in previous times, because our country is being led by a bonafide solipsist. The decision yesterday to raise tariffs was certainly not a Republican standard idea.  The Wall Street Journal of all pubs gave Trump some heat this morning. But it is not just economics. We have the NRA intransigently blocking laws that would protect us hiding behind transparently illogical arguments.  The Russian investigation gets more frightening the more that is revealed.  Is our democracy an illusion?  Then of course there is our personal trash that we generate and leave out there because it is often too stinky to deal with.

Lots of garbage to dodge, today. Tomorrow too.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Me too, too important, to dilute.

I read a few days ago that Monica Lewinsky is now musing over the possibility that she too should join the metoo movement. The gist of what I read is that now, in retrospect, while she once characterized her relationship with President Clinton as consensual, she is rethinking.  She is reconsidering because now she wonders if the power dynamics were such that inherently any relationship she had with the president would have been a flavor of harassment.

If reports of what occurred at that time are accurate, then, uh, I don't think so.  I recall one such report that Monica Lewinsky, at a time when she and the president were alone but in a public space, decided it was fine time to bend over, yank up her dress, and expose herself.  Also, as I recall, she kept a diary or correspondence in which she revealed that she had a healthily robust sex life--nothing wrong with this in my opinion--but that she enjoyed partners regardless of how familiar she might have been with the other.  Again, nothing wrong in my opinion with such promiscuity.  It is a double standard to claim her shenanigans are bad when people admire men who are similarly active. I have no problem nor do I have a right to have any problem with how frequently individuals engage consensually.

However, claiming now that she can join the genuine outrage of those who have been harassed without consent, is irresponsible. Sexual harassment is a big deal. People should not feel as if they are compelled to engage because of political or work pressure.  And it is good that delinquents are now being held accountable. To attenuate the righteous indignation of those who have been treated indignantly, by claiming that you are among the abused when you have not been, is irresponsible.

If you've been around the track as long as I have or even ten or so laps less, you know that there are moments when a person makes it known that they are interested in engaging.  Personally, I have never met a woman who decided to let me know this by bending over in a public place at work and exposing her ass, but if someone did, I might get a notion that there was an interest.  And if one were to get such a notion and discover, by following up in some way, that the notion was on target--that would not be harassment--assuming that the person who sent the signal was no longer a teen. Lewinsky was 22 at the time.  If you are pushing 60 or have pushed 60, reflect back on when you were 22--you may not have known much, but you likely knew what it meant to suggest a dance.

Metoo is important. If anyone who ever had consensual sex, twenty years later, can join the army, and say, "you know what, I didn't really want to" when they initiated the engagement, then the power of the movement will be diluted. And it should not be.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Guess What

GOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rematch

For those of you interested in Olympic hockey and the fortunes of our women's hockey team, you may recall the heartbreaking defeat the United States team experienced in the 2014 Olympics against Canada.  The US was up by two goals in the third period.  The Canadians stormed back and tied the game, winning eventually in overtime.

I don't subscribe much to luck being a factor in an outcome. In that game, however, when the Canadians pulled their goalie, a US player sent the puck the length of the ice. It hit the post. Had it been a fraction of an inch towards the goal it would have skidded in. Instead it kicked away.  That puck goes in, the Canadians cannot tie the game.

I wondered at the time if the women on the US team could ever recover from such a heartbreaking loss.  Two goals up in a Gold medal game, and seeing the lead evaporate in a matter of minutes.

But the team has. Many of the same players from the 2014 squad are back.  And on Wednesday night here, Thursday afternoon in Korea, the United States will play Canada in a rematch for the Gold medal.

A Northeastern alum who took a course with me is on the US team.  So, I am especially biased as I cheer for the United States. She, Kendall Coyne, is a starter for the United States and scored the go-ahead goal in the team's first match in this year's competition, and then the lone goal in the preliminary game against Canada which the Canadians won, 2-1.  That game meant next to nothing as both teams were likely to meet again in the medal round and, in fact, will.  Kendall looks like the fastest player on the ice. She gets to the puck extremely quickly and makes excellent decisions.  She is also a team player regularly giving up a shot to pass to an open teammate. Number 26 in your program.

If you are on the East Coast turn in at 11 pm on Wednesday night, 8 pm near the Pacific Ocean, 10 in Chicago, 9 in the Rockies.  It is going to be exciting.

No matter who wins, both teams are winners and all athletes who have worked for years to compete in the game are winners as well, regardless of the outcome.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bruises

When I played basketball I was one of those pesky guys who would dive for loose balls and often come up with them.  I remember my dad, in his half joking way, telling me that I spent half the time on the floor.  This tendency served me well particularly when I was a junior as I, with one other player on the team, got a reputation as players who would more often than not get what are now called 50-50 balls. 

To encourage the other players to be similarly aggressive the coach ran a drill where he put a ball on the floor and two players had to jump at it and wrestle the competitor to get the ball. After my comrade and I did this twice, he thought we would kill each other so we were exempt from future repetitions. Point is that I spent some time diving onto hard floors.  Also, for the short time I was a skiier, I was a good faller. That is, when I was going to fall I knew how to do it, so that I would not lose life or limb. 

I bring this up because as I approach three score and ten, I find that somethings are happening to my body that never happened before. On Tuesday I was bringing up some laundry when I did what everybody does now and again. I had the bin in front of me and took a step that did not give me complete purchase. So, I had to scramble downstairs for a few steps. No big deal. I did bump my big toe at the base of the bottom step when I went to right myself, but was proud of how I danced backwards as gracefully as one can with underwear, jeans, and assorted tee shirts blowing back in my kisser.  I went to work, stopped at the bank, had to go to the post office, sat in my office doing this and that.  And then at about 6 pm I got up and saw stars.  My big toe felt like I had taken a hammer, tried to slam a nail--but missed hitting the nail and instead hit the toe right smack at 12 o'clock. 

It was my night for the elliptical and I could barely put my sneaker on.  It was agony. If I was still driving a shift I would have been dangerous as I could not really depress my left foot.  Meanwhile my toe is not broken. It is still sore now on Thursday, but it is getting better.  Point is I bruised so easily.  It really was not much of a stub, and I am telling you I wish the pain only on those who believe that Hitler did some good things.

Yesterday, I went to see my buddy Ken who has been in a play. I got a free ticket and went to see a really terrific rendition of Shakespeare in Love. My colleague Scott at Northeastern directed it at one of the professional theatres in Boston and yet another Northeastern instructor was in it.

The play was just great, much better than the movie that won the academy award. What a hoot.  Afterwards, I waited for Ken outside the dressing room. We, of course, stopped to discuss the super bowl game which we had watched together just two nights before.  After dissecting the loss, he went one way and I another as we were parked on different sides of Tremont Street. It was a miserably rainy icy day and he warned me to be careful walking particularly on the bricks which could be slippery.  I walked fine for about a block and then did a comical fall. Legs came out from under me and kaboom I landed on my left side.  It was fine. I was wet but not hurt. Today my left elbow feels like my left toe felt on Tuesday. I can barely bend it.

How come someone who would lurch and dive onto hard floors like a possessed person--and kept on going at 16, becomes so easily bruised.  Simple, add half a century and a couple of additional revolutions around the sun and you have the answer. 

Is there a metaphor? Are we, as we go around the track, more easily bruised when an emotional blow comes our way.

A colleague at work says something that bruises us which would have seemed innocent and benign before college. 

A relative says something that you take offense at, which is really not much.

Remember the movie, Avalon? Remember when the brother comes to Thanksgiving--the brother who was the elder and always cut the turkey to mark the beginning of the holiday.  This time the brother, now in his later years, is late to the festivities, so someone else cuts the turkey.  The brother goes postal when informed, "You cut the turkey/ You cut the turkey?"  He storms out of the house and there are years when the siblings do not speak. 

I get along great with my brother, so nothing personal here, but the point is that the more we accrue as we go around the track, the more vulnerable to bruising we can be. 

Toxic

Now that the stock market has plummeted 2500 points in the last few days, and while we are hearing about the white house chief of staff ignoring a sexual predator in the Trump administration (how could that be?), and an Alaskan airline pilot has pled guilty to flying drunk--let's discuss the outrage over Josh McDaniels decision not to move to Indianapolis.

Tony Dungy, a former Indianapolis Colt coach and current broadcaster called the decision indefensible.  McDaniels's former agent ended his professional relationship with the coach saying that McDaniels had committed professional suicide.  And Charlie Weis, a former college head coach called the decision "unbelievable" and suggested McDaniels's reputation now was toxic--such that McDaniels will never get another head coaching offer.

For those not keeping tabs on this saga, Josh McDaniels, had two interviews with the Indianapolis Colts. The parties had discussed terms and had agreed to them.  On Wednesday, McDaniels was going to be named head coach of the Colts. On Tuesday night, McDaniels decided not to sign on. This left the Colts in a lurch. More significantly, assistant coaches had decided to leave their current jobs and come to work with McDaniels.

Do I think what McDaniels did was wrong? Well, assuming he did orally commit to taking the job, and assuming that he did in fact tell assistant coaches to leave their jobs to come to Indianapolis--and those coaches did just that on the basis of such an understanding--then yes absolutely what McDaniels did was unethical.

Do I think he is now a pariah and will never get another job again.  Well, I don't think he is going to get a bottle of champagne from anyone in the Colts organization for a spell, but no he will not be a pariah for long and his ability to get another job is based solely on whether a team, down the road, believes he will be a good coach. 

Here's a scenario.  Let's say Bill Belichick is under contract.  A month from now he decides to break his contract.  He leaves the Patriots.  Will he be a pariah for breaking the contract?  Not really. Some may speak negatively of him, but Belichick would get a job in no time if he wanted one.

Gee, that's not a scenario. That is exactly what happened once.  Belichick was the coach for the New York Jets. For a few hours. He was under contract to be the Jets coach when Bill Parcells stopped coaching. Parcells stopped coaching. Parcells announced that Belichick would be the coach.  Belichick decided to break his contract.  Within a few days he was the coach of the Patriots.

I don't know if Josh McDaniels will be a good head coach. But if someone thinks he will be, the fact that he broke the oral contract he had with the Colts in 2018 will not be a factor in a decision to hire him. There may be a desire for him to sign at the same time he orally accepts the offer, but this 2018 incident will mean nothing.

An analogy.  You and your sweetheart pledge unwavering love and fidelity forever.  Two weeks later she decides to dump you for the college quarterback at the university of wherever.

Do such sweethearts become pariahs?  Not if they're hot.  Some folks might be wary but if the lover is sweet enough, there will be pursuers.

I don't think it is to one's credit to dump someone on Wednesday when you've professed love and loyalty on Monday--but that is not going to make you persona non grata.

Similarly with McDaniels--I don't think what he did was ethical, if he indeed committed to the Colts, but it is not professional suicide.  What is professional suicide in this business is not being able to perform. If someone thinks McDaniels can be the one, his phone will ring.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

my life

I was looking up a colleague on Google and found an entry for her on MYLIFE.  I wondered if it was accurate and authorized, so I typed my name into Mylife

This is my life according to Mylife



Alan Zaremba is 68 years old and was born on 10/22/1949. Currently, he lives in Waltham, MA; and previously lived in Brookline, MA and Hull, MA. Sometimes Alan goes by various nicknames including Alan J Zaremba. He currently works as a professor at Northeastern University. His ethnicity is Caucasian, whose political affiliation is currently a registered Democrat Party; and religious views are listed as Christian. Alan is now single. Other family members and associates include Robert Zaremba, Meyer Zaremba, Helen Zaremba, Helen Zaremba, and Donna Zaremba. He has a reported annual income of 70,000 to 79,999 and a current net worth of 100,000 to 249,999.




Very interesting. My nickname is apparently Alan J Zaremba. What a clever nickname for a fellow named Alan Zaremba whose middle name is Jay. All my buddies call me Alan J Zaremba when we are hanging out drinking beer.  Also very interesting, I am a Christian.  It is listed apparently somewhere.  My mother, dead now nearly five years, just did a somersault in her casket and is scrambling to remove the lid.. Uh, not accurate. Yid here.  I am single, eh? This will come as big news to several people including the woman who is now downstairs reading the newspaper. I have, it seems, associates. My brother. My dead father. My mother still plotzing to read of my religious affiliation. Apparently there are two Helen Zarembas as associates. This will be startling news to individuals familiar with my background. And there is a Donna Zaremba. I will have to inform her that I am both single, and that she has changed her name. My employers will be delighted to hear of my income. Alas my creditors will not.  My current net worth--hmmm.  Well, I am not loaded and I know the stock market took a dive yesterday, but still--uh--not accurate.

However, Mylife does have my birthday right and I did live in Brookline and Hull and I do tend to vote Democratic and I do work at Northeastern. Wow, what sleuths.

Do yourself a favor. Check out your life on Mylife. Then call your mother.



Friday, February 2, 2018

Musings as the stock market crashes

Moments ago I noticed that the stock market is down 557 points. Just swell.  Of course we all knew there would be a correction, but 557 points (and there still are 35 minutes to go).

My grandfather would say that the whole world is built on a mound of bull shit. He did not say it to me, but must have said it to my dad, who--when I was an adult--relayed the wisdom.

I think in large part my grandfather's theory is true. And it is at its truest when it comes to finances.

You have x and I have y.  Right?

Guess what? You really don't have x and I really don't have y.  Sure, you go the liquor store and can give the owner some green stuff in exchange for a six pack. And if you want to buy a couch you can put it on a credit card, and then later write a check or do a dance with your computer and draw the funds from an account.

But what account?

It is all a shell game.  The bank says you have x. You keep putting in your salary in the bank. And you get a slip of paper with your balance.  That money is not in the bank. You want some money sure, they open a drawer and give you money and adjust your balance. But your money is not there.  If someone decides to say ooops, you have no money.

Because of what happened in 1929 the federal government guaranteed your balance up to 100K. And then Obama because of the Bush negligence upped it to 300K.  Sounds good.  It's really meaningless.  If the bottom falls out on the economy, there is not enough dough around.

There are people who relied on pensions who can vouch for this.  The money there is not there. We have all agreed that it is there, and as long as the economy does not fall like it did in 1929, we will keep pretending so if you have more money on a balance sheet than I do, you can live in a swankier house, but we are just pretending. The whole financial system is built on a mound of bullshit.

Why is the stock market down (now 618 points dropping 60 points in nine short paragraphs) today and was up last Friday.  Smoke and mirrors.

We will be fine in all likelihood.  But don't let anybody kid you, the economy teeters on less than terra firma.

Final bell 665.

Super bowl

I've been silent this past month on the subject of the playoffs.  I am still an enthusiastic fan of the sport, and was a nervous fellow two weeks ago when the Patriots pulled yet another comeback to advance to the super bowl. 

I had a thought about flying to Minneapolis to go to the game.  This was shortly after the victory against the Jaguars. I went on Stubhub to see what the prices were like, figuring that maybe I would splurge.  A buddy of mine told me he once bought a ticket for 1,000 for his daughter who was a fanatic follower of the Patriots.  That seemed a bit rich for my blood, but my friend had bought the ticket from a scalper so I thought maybe the prices from legal scalpers like Stubhub would be less.

The cheapest ticket two weeks ago for a ticket was, get ready for it, 4000.00.  That is for one ticket.  Not for you and your main squeeze.  You want to make a date out of it, you are back 8 and that is if you sit in the cheap seats.  I knew the tickets would have to come down, but by how much?  I checked again a moment ago. They are down. The cheapest ticket now is 2900.  By game time you might be able to sit on the moon for less than 2K. The 2k is before you buy a beer and a hot dog, and a flight, and a hotel room.

Who has this kind of money?

I see the rabid fans for the Eagles and Patriots on tv shots from Minneapolis.  What do they do for a living?

Has it gone too far?  Well, sure.  People who I know cannot go to that game.  Even people I know who have done well cannot go to the game.  I have to think that the people who are going to the Super Bowl are people who do not pay a dime for a seat, but are attending because of the largesse of their companies. And if that is the case, then I am paying for their ticket, since my taxes go to subsidize many organizations that can afford to send their executives, because the companies pay less in taxes than the average fan.

The game itself?

I am a rabid Patriot fan, but I wonder if our luck has run out.  We have gotten a lot of calls this year and pulled out games from the base of the alimentary canal.  I'm not sure how many times that can happen.  We are due to get a call that is 50-50 going the other way.

Yes, I think we are better coached and our players know where they need to be, but I have a queasy feeling.  I see Amendola dropping a punt on a fair catch and Brady fumbling on a sack.  However, I also think Philadelphia might not be able to overcome the jitters and their back up qb is good for throwing at least one pick.  In addition Ajayi will put the ball down once. If I was in Vegas I would bet on that.  So the errors might offset.

The spread is 4 1/2 right now.  I think the Pats are in for a tougher game than the people around here think.  I like us to beat the spread, but not by a whole lot.  I see us ahead by three at the end, and then get another easy score on some last minute Eagle prayer that goes awry.  So we win by 10, but not an easy ten.

Hope I am wrong. I hate to think of Patriot fans who paid 10K to wow their partners having to get nervous. You figure for 10K you shouldn't need to buy an extra box of Maalox.



Saturday, January 20, 2018

News from Spain


 
I thought this book by Joan Wickersham was a novel, but it is not.  It is a string of thematically related, but not plot related, short stories. 

I’d seen the author's name on a site that listed writers with whom readers of a certain vintage should be familiar. I can't recall now the age bracket, but remember knowing that I was in the ballpark. So, I found the book in our library system.

About four of the seven stories are outstanding. Each has its moments of excellence. They are   thematically linked because all deal with love, often extramarital love affairs, and often love that has been thrilling but ultimately problematic.

All of the stories have the same name: "The News from Spain."  Those four words appear not only in the title, but somehow in each story.  On the surface when the words appear they do not mean the same thing.  In one story, a biographer asks an interviewee "how did you feel when you heard "the news from Spain."  In another there is a reference to a woman watching CNN or something of that ilk and "the news from Spain" on the report is not good. In a third a friend of a lothario is explaining to a distraught lover how many paramours this lothario has had throughout Europe.  The woman tells her lover's friend to stop.  He responds half in jest, "but you haven't yet heard 'the news from Spain'".

Until the end I thought the title of the collection, the same title for each story in the collection, and particularly the insertion of the same words into each story was a sort of literary gimmick which, while clever, did not work.    But in the last story, again about a woman in love in an extramarital romance, the "news from Spain" line comes at the end and makes the point.

In this story a woman falls in love with an office mate who appears to feel similarly but is unwilling to reciprocate.  It's a complex story but the gist is that the woman is distraught because she cannot connect with this co-worker.  She says that her experience reminds her of the line from the early days of Saturday night live. In a recurring SNL skit a character says "the news from Spain this week is that General Francisco Franco is still dead." 

With this I got it. The story of love and passion recurs. We fall in love often outside of marriage, and the pain of the experience--however exhilarating it had been, and worth it on balance it had been--will inevitably linger.  

While four of these stories are just great, there are a couple of dead spots in some of the longer ones so, I can't strongly recommend the collection. However, some of these are very well written and I am glad I read the book.