Saturday, December 19, 2015


I got out of the house for the first time in a while today.  A friend drove me to the city where my school, Northeastern, was playing against the number 1 team in the nation Michigan State University.

This was a big game for us.  We typically play the likes of James Madison University, William and Mary, and Hofstra.  This year we did in fact play and defeat the University of Miami, but that was an aberration and besides Michigan State is the best team in the country.

Usually you can buy a seat at our arena and then sit anywhere you would like.  Our team does not draw that many fans. This game was sold out. Just packed. I knew someone in the athletic department and because I am, temporarily, disabled was able to get two tickets in the disabilities section despite the fact that there were armies of people who could not get into the game.

For the first ten minutes we hung with Michigan State, but then the talent disparity became very apparent.  Our studs looked like benchwarmers compared to their players.  And in the second half we just looked exhausted, having expended all energy at the start. We tried to press and they went through the defense like we were standing nailed to the floor.

Lots of people sporting Michigan State tee shirts and jerseys in the stands.  Right near us there was a pack of MSU supporters. Our fans outnumbered theirs, but they had a loyal following coming a thousand miles or so to Boston.  A healthy bunch of people (prior to noon) banging them back in the alcohol section of the arena.

The take away for me from the game is the unevenness in talent. Northeastern has some excellent players.  They looked like the JV compared to MSU in the second half.  The players we recruited and thought were finds when they accepted our scholarships would not have been considered by Michigan State.

Probably the same way in all types of work. You think you are an excellent writer, then you read someone who truly is an excellent writer.  I guess the trick is to find a vocation in which you are the MSU of that particular activity.  So, you decide to be a teacher and you are the cat's meow as a teacher. You become a plumber, and nobody can fix pipes like you.  You play the piano and you are among the piano players piano players.

If MSU is not playing in the final four this year, I want to see the players who can defeat them. They are now 12-0.  And boy did they look good.

For me today was a grand contrast to the days that have preceded it.  Just felt so energized and alive at the arena. What a buzz. The choreography of the game. Fans yelling. Cheerleaders screaming whatever they scream.  Coaches exhorting their players. Our athletic director, a great AD and fellow, walking around and shaking hands with alums and well wishers.  Just a joy.

And since I have not been out much in a spell, it was a rude awakening to wait on the corner for my buddy to come by and pick me up after the game.  It felt like Alaska out in Boston today.  I hear it has been warm mostly, but today as the wind whistled through my coat and pickled my gizzards, the tropics seemed particularly attractive.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Children Act

The Children Act by Ian McEwan is about a family court judge. Fiona listens to cases dealing with child custody, safety, and assorted other family issues.  We are introduced to several of her cases but one in particular is central to the novel.  A seventeen year old boy needs a blood transfusion to stay alive.  His parents are born again Jehovah's Witnesses and believe that transfusions are not permissible in the eyes of God.  The boy has been reared in the church and is also adamant about adhering to the word of God even though, without a transfusion, he knows he will die.  Since the boy is months short of 18, he cannot make the decision himself.  The hospital is arguing that there is a procedure that will save the boy--the transfusion. The church and parents are adamantly against it. Fiona will make this life or death decision.

Fiona is experiencing a disorienting event at home. Her husband for many years has announced that he would like to have an affair and, essentially, would like her permission.  Fiona is stunned. Jack asserts his love for Fiona but says he needs to be intimate in a way they have not been. Fiona thinks the affair may be a fait accompli, but Jack will not confirm that.  Fiona does not support his wish, so he packs a suitcase and leaves their home.

Bruised, of course, Fiona staggers to work and decides to change the locks on the doors.  She calls a locksmith and then immerses herself in the various cases including the one with Adam Henry, the 17 year old boy with leukemia.

If you want to read this book, stop after this paragraph.  It is a short book and, while a bit disjointed, i will attribute that assessment to my being not in the best place while reading it.  I am glad I read it, as it is as sweet and soft as young Adam Henry the 17 year old Jehovah's Witness.  And, ultimately, it is about our foundational need for love.

Fiona decides she must meet with Adam in the hospital before she renders her decision.  The boy is smart, funny, creative but certain that the word of God compels him to reject the transfusion. She reminds him that she has the power to allow the hospital to administer the transfusion. He says he knows that and says that if she does so, it would make her an "interfering busybody." He then reads some poetry he has written and plays the violin for her.

Fiona leaves and decides to find for the hospital. The boy receives the transfusion.

Meanwhile, one day shortly after he left, Fiona finds Jack at the door to their home sitting on top of his suitcase. She lets him in, but he is relegated to a spare bedroom.

The book evolves from there and what transpires is meaningful and substantive.  It comes down to this. We need love. We seek love. It is our foundation. And whatever we do, whatever decisions we make, should be made with that awareness.