Sunday, June 10, 2018

Say Something Smart About That

You've been surfacing more regularly over the last week or so. In my dreams and occasionally when I am awake.  Yesterday I was driving and I remembered something from a seder, probably in the 70s. It was the second night and you invited friends from work.

The seders typically impressed our guests. You made sense out of them as opposed to the ceremonies that people often attend.  I've been at seders that ranged from very religious affairs that I could barely follow, to what amounted to a dinner that only nominally referenced the holiday. Yours made sense. We followed a hagadah in English.  We finished up after the meal.  Your buddy Larry once sighed when you said we were going to finish up, but when it was over he was grateful.

On this one occasion that floated up yesterday, we were talking during the seder about some current event. One of the guests said, "Say something smart about that Meyer."  He wasn't being sarcastic. You had not been holding court and pontificating.  It was just that you regularly had insightful things to say. So the guest was interested in your thoughts.

Father's Day is coming up. I don't think the Hallmark holiday is what has brought you to my consciousness.  But since we are approaching the day, and since I have been thinking about you, and since mail may take a long time to get to where you are at even with the internet,  I might as well write this now.

The most apt father's day gift I ever got for you--far better than shirts or ties or tennis racquets--was a compass.  I think this was in the early 90s.  It was most apt because the best thing you ever did for me was be someone who knew where you were, and travelled in the right moral direction as best as you could figure it out.  Quite an irony since you had such a terrible sense of direction as a motorist. As a person, though, you went the right way--not right in terms of pragmatic--right in terms of right.  And you defaulted to it.  Whenever I feel as if I am losing my way, I have a sense that I am doing so--I might not stop and get back on track--but I feel a tug like a voice saying, "Uh look where you are going, boychik." It can be annoying.  Nevertheless I am grateful. In nature versus nurture, this is nurture.  

Without a moral compass, it becomes more difficult to avoid faustian bargains.  One can zoom along what seems like a smooth road, then find out way down the highway that you took a route that leads to a hell of some sort.

Happy father's day.  thanks for the travel guide.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A coupla meshugenehs walked into a...

It is raining cats and dogs.

I went to the office today. Gorgeous for most of the day.  Sunny, maybe a little too humid.

The forecast was for some severe weather from 4-8.  That weather included the possibility of hail. We have had hail here before and it can do a number on the hood of your car.  I was parked in an indoor lot on campus and I figured I would wait out the storm.

At 430 I looked out the window. It had not started to rain yet. I figured maybe I could beat the storm home. There were predictions that power could be lost and trees could be coming down. I did not want to come home and be surprised by a tree on my deck. The wizards thought the chances of hail in my locale were only 5 %.

So I left the office. When I stepped outside it was just starting to drip a bit.  My car was parked in a lot that is a 4-5 minute walk from my office. Still not teeming when I get to the lot.  I come out and am on the road that will take me to either Storrow Drive, a winding river road, or the Mass Pike--a straight shot to my town.

It is pretty congested on the approaches to the highways.  At one point, 5:26, I say to myself.  "This could take a while." Traffic is not moving real well.

And it is around this time when kaboom, it really starts to come down. I actually consider going back to my office. There is a tiny road that branches off near the Fenway and if I take that I can return.  I try to brave it.

It takes a good stretch of time before I can get to Storrow Drive.  I turn on the radio to the station that gives you traffic on the threes. I get to hear, on three occasions, how fakakt the traffic is. I heard this, traffic on the threes, report three times before I get onto Storrow Drive.

Sometime along Storrow Drive it gets worse. It looks like the day the earth stood still. Now 90 minutes later it still looks that way, but I am behind a computer not a driving wheel at this juncture. Thundering, lightening. Bad visibility.

I get out of Boston and cross a street called Galen Street in Watertown. It is still coming down heavy but at least I can see.  I am driving now on Route 16. It is definitely the long way home, but I do not want to get on the Mass Pike.  The traffic on the three guy has described the congestion on the Mass Pike in a way that is not enticing.

I know Route 16.  There used to be a very good Chinese restaurant there that was good enough to pass other Chinese restaurants to get to. When I first started getting take out from it, the very friendly proprietor would remind me that his place was right across from a Dunkin Donuts. I get to the Dunkin Donuts. Still pouring.

Meshugeneh number 1 is exiting from Dunkin Donuts. He has one of those carriers where there appears to be some coffee and a bag presumably of donuts.  Mishuguneh number one is strolling. Not moving with any kind of speed. It is pouring. He is carrying his donuts and coffee and begins to diagonally cross route 16.  I think of Wimpy, the Popeye character. This fellow with the tray has not passed up many donuts. I would put him at 5' 6 ". He is wearing shorts and he is taking his time crossing route 16. By the time he gets to wherever he is going he will have one wet donut bag. Does not seem to be troubled by this.

I keep driving. Still pouring. I see Meshugeneh number 2. He has running shorts on, no shirt. He is running. Getting in his daily jog.  Thundering and lightning. Putting his feet down in puddles that come up to his ankles. Not an issue.  I was once a runner and I ran in some bad weather. My thinking is that maybe this guy started out some time ago when it was not raining and is now far from the starting point. Otherwise, if he started when the thunder and lightning started, he is certifiable.

It takes me over an hour to get home. Crazy scared drivers, puddles on the highway making me think I would have been better off in a canoe. Barely visible in certain places.  Today going in, well after rush hour, I was parked at the U in 15 minutes.  Going home 60 tense minutes. Still pouring. It is 7 04 pm. Looks like 9 04.

Hope that guy is enjoying his donut. I, myself, had a shot of scotch as soon as I walked through the door.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

[Our] Back Pages

The Waltham Steampunk festival was held today.  This is the fifth year or so when our town has hosted this event. Waltham is a blue collar town surrounded by genuine affluence. We are nestled between Concord, Newton, Lexington, Lincoln, Belmont and Weston.  Each of these other towns is hoo-hah.  We are barely hoo.  Because of our proximity to Boston and since our real estate costs and taxes are a fraction of our neighbors', many aspiring rich people have moved here and are mingling with those who are middle class at best. In addition to our relatively sweet real estate costs, there must be incentives for restauranteurs and businesses of various ilks. Our major roadway, Moody Street, is now filled with a dozen high end eating establishments and several pricey watering holes.  I noticed the other day that a very snooty grocery store has opened near where high end condos have been built. I went in there today and the fare was impressive and pricey.  The good news is that there must be people in our town now who can afford the fare. The bad news is I have to think some of our neighbors will be forced out because of rents.

I imagine something about our relative affordability is what brings events like the Steampunk festival to town. It is a gas. People dressed up from another era parade through the streets. It is not unusual at all to see someone pedaling a unicycle or people who look like they just came out of a Victorian novel. I don't think there are strict guidelines regarding what era or culture people should represent. I noticed today on the front lawn of our library there were several civil war looking soldiers standing under a tent that one could imagine Ulysses S. Grant emerging from.  Sad for the participants today that it was pouring rain. But it was an interesting sight, even if those adorned from an era before autos, were scrambling into ubers to avoid being drenched by the downpour.

I thought of the Faulkner line, "The past is never dead. It's not even the past." Maybe these words surfaced because of the movie I saw last night.

I was in the mood for a flick last evening so I walked to town. My plan was to stop after the movie into a local imbibing emporium.  My ability to drive and drink these days is not great. So I walked the mile to the film and planned to walk the mile back with a stop for a beer to watch the last innings of the Red Sox tilt.

The movie I saw was Tully. It will be a challenge to describe it without giving away the key message.  Let me just write that as Faulkner contended and what the Steampunk enthusiasts reflect comes across clearly once you exit the theatre. I do not, do not, recommend that you read a review of the film before you go see it. I only look at how many stars a movie receives before I go and don't read reviews. If I had read a review and it gave away what I will not, it would have made going to see the film far less valuable than it turned out to be.  If you are over 40 and not dead in your head, I recommend the film. If you are dead in the head you probably won't get it.

I left the movie theatre and could go right down Moody Street or left as I had my choice of where to watch the Red Sox and drink beer.  I went right and about three quarters of a mile later on Main Street I stopped in a place I go to periodically but not regularly.  When I go there it is usually late, but last night it was only about 945 when I parked myself at a table.  I noticed something that looked odd, at least initially. The place seemed to be populated with people five to ten years older than me. This is unusual these days when I tend to feel that each person in a joint is a grandchild of someone I went to high school with.  But not last night. These were geezers and I was startled to realize that I fit right in. There was a band playing and I took a glance in its direction and, again, the group looked like a bunch of old guys who were going to sing songs from the 40s and sound like Lawrence Welk.

Well I got my beer and I was surprised to hear the band play "All My Loving".  This, those of my vintage will know, is a Beatles song and the first number that the Beatles played in their famous Ed Sullivan appearance in 1965. Well one Beatles song followed another. Then I heard Run Around Sue and My Little Runaway.  Throughout it all a guy who looked to be 75 but may have been my age was at an adjacent table, tapping his foot, and mouthing the words. A fellow at the bar who was, I do not exaggerate, a dead ringer for Fred Mertz was crooning into a beer bottle.  He had a host of others who leaned into him at the choruses. It was so incongruous. Who were these old guys singing my songs, knowing all the lyrics?

They were me. I am he as you are me as we are all together.

What is time anyway?  Are we any different now than we were. Have we just accrued the crud from travelling around the track multiple times.  The steampunks are pretending it is another century. Except for the technological advances, what is the difference between then and now. Are we just, stripped of our good and bad decisions, who we were-- and would we be to wise to get in touch with who we were if we have lost our bearings.

Ah but we were not much different then, we're just like we were now.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Killing Time

Last Saturday night we had a wedding. One of Donna's former colleagues' sons was to be wed. I've known this boy since he was a teen, and now he was getting hitched.  The colleague is someone I have gotten to be friendly with on my own.  She lost her husband a few years back and he too had become a friend.  So, this was to be a joyful occasion only diluted because Ken would not be there to share the joy.

The wedding was in a town that is South of the city.  We live due west.  The distance between the burghs is not far at all--maybe 20 miles tops--but Monday through Friday the route can be a headache.  You would easily have to plan for an hour's drive if you needed to arrive somewhere punctually.  The wedding invitation said the event would begin at 545. My experience with weddings is not all that substantive.  Usually, however, when you are told to get someplace at 545, the hosts have planned for tardiness and the dance does not begin for at least an hour afterwards.

Just to be sure to be on time we left at 5 giving ourselves only 45 minutes instead of an hour since it was a Saturday.  We got there in 20 minutes.  Since we did not think the event would begin until 615 at the earliest and we had arrived at 520 or so, I said "We've got to kill some time."

And immediately my head rocketed to an event that happened in 1959 or earlier.  My folks were visiting friends of theirs who lived on Staten Island. In 1959, while it may be difficult for anyone to believe who is not eligible for social security, there was no bridge that linked Brooklyn to Staten Island. You had to take a ferry boat to get to one of the boroughs of New York.

The thing with the ferry boat was that you could never tell how long you might have to wait on line to get on the thing if you were driving.  There were just so many cars the boat could handle.  We would always turn into the ferry line with trepidation not knowing if we were going to have to wait forever to get on.  This time, for some reason, there was no back up at all and we got on right away.

That was the good news. The bad news was that having anticipated a long wait we were in Staten Island way ahead of when we were supposed to meet the friends.  And I heard dad say to mom, "We have to kill some time."

I was at most 9 pushing 10. Could have been as young as 8 or 7.  The guy we were visiting actually died suddenly in December of 59 and I am nearly certain our visit was in the spring. I mention my age because I remember then that the expression "Kill some time" was new to me.  "Kill some time."  What did that mean?

(An aside here is that the phrase is apt right now because having checked the website before I got to the airport, and seeing that my flight to Boston was "on time" I am now parked in the august Pittsburgh international airport for three hours and have two more to wait, but that is a rant I will save for another date).

Kill time. What a concept.  I get its application of course in certain situations, but removing it out of such contexts, it is nonplussing.

A buddy of mine and I were discussing baseball strategy several years back. He asked me what was the most valuable element of a baseball game. I thought for a while and then got the right answer. "An out" I said.  They are the most valuable because you only have 27 of them in a game.  Once you are out of outs, you're out.  And there is a finite number of them.  The conversation was about the virtue of sacrifice bunts. His contention was that it was foolish to sacrifice because then you were losing a precious out.

Same with time.  We don't know the finite number of hours we have, but we know it is finite, or at least not infinite.  So killing time is the act of sacrificing, and exhausting, our most precious commodity.

This is an uncomfortable notion sitting here in the Pittsburgh airport at 9 having arrived at 528 and having been told that the plane we will be flying on, has still not left the runway at the airport it is coming from--but hey it's not like I had a choice.  If I had a choice, though, would I park myself someplace and not use the precious time I have?

Meanwhile we did a good job of killing time last Saturday. Drove down a long road. Came back. Parked in front of a synagogue to kill some more time.  Finally got back to the event venue at about 555. We walked in, and the place was packed. Everyone was seated.

They were not kidding saying to be there at 545.  We found seats way in the back in the last row that had any vacant ones. Within a few moments the ceremony began.

 I guess the wed couple to be didn't want to kill any time.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


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


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


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


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


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


Monday, February 19, 2018


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


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. 


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.