Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Forecast at midnight

I love Lebron James. I think he is the best player thus far in the 21st century.

However, about an hour after the Warriors defeated the Thunder in game 7, I'll predict that the Cavaliers will be shellacked in the Finals. James has "it", but Kevin Love does not. Not sure about Irving--and then who else is there.  If James can be kept human--and without a supporting cast, he should be kept relatively quiet--who is going to make a positive difference for the Cavaliers.

Golden State in 5, maybe 4.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller is better as a color man than he was as a three point shooter. And that is saying something.

Miller was great tonight in his analyses of the game. My favorite comment was when he alluded to Westbrook's not so subtle criticism of Curry's defense.  After Curry took the ball right to the hoop Miller said something akin to "snicker at my defense, take that."

Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson are the two best color commentators in the booth today.

Stephen A. redux

Just ten minutes into the first quarter. How could Stephen A. even consider saying that Durant and Westbrook are chokers. They are great.

Stephen A. Goof.

As Reggie Miller remarked during the first quarter--very accurately--that had Thompson not gone ballistic and shot out of his or anybody else's mind--Oklahoma City would have won.  Golden State won game six,  OKC did not lose it.

I like Golden State in this game--currently down by five--but if they win, you could not even consider that Durant and Westbrook were the reasons.

Everybody's Fool

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo is the sequel to his earlier novel, Nobody's Fool.  Both books take place in the fictional town of North Bath.  North Bath is a blue collar poor cousin to its neighbor Schuyler Springs.  Schuyler Springs sure seems to me to be Saratoga Springs because of various references. I am not sure what town North Bath is in real life, but Russo depicts it clearly as a classic upstate new york burg.  I've lived in many places in New York and have three great friends who live in three separate but similar small towns in upstate New York.  So, I sort of know North Bath.

But in a million years I could not describe it as well as Russo does.  Richard Russo is one of my favorite authors. His most famous book is probably Empire Falls because a made-for-tv movie was made based on it.  Nobody's Fool was also made into a film (both movies featured Paul Newman). Empire Falls does not take place in New York, rather in a small town in Maine.  I enjoyed reading it, but not as much as The Risk Pool, Nobody's Fool, Bridge of Sighs, and now Everybody's Fool--all of which take place in small towns near Albany.

Russo's ability to write dialogue, and funny dialogue, is just terrific.  You laugh out loud when reading how his characters go back and forth.  While the books have their serious parts, the books are fun to read if, for no other reason, that you find yourself laughing.

Everybody's Fool specifically?  Well, the first two hundred pages are like a "Where are they now" update from Nobody's Fool?  What's up with Sully and Ruth? What happened to Sully's landlady, kids, and first wife.   And, centrally, what happened with Doug Raymer, who I did not remember from the first book but, I found out, was in it.  The book does evolve into more than just an update. The following probably does not give away much, but if you want to read the book, and don't like any information about it--you might want to skip the next paragraph.

Raymer is now the police chief (we learn this in the first few pages).  He feels like everybody's fool. His wife was having an affair before she died curiously.  His second in command in the police department takes verbal shots at him regularly. Her twin brother also pokes fun.  The mayor does not seem to respect him.  Raymer loved his wife and cannot purge his feeling of inadequacy because his wife was passionate with someone else.  Meanwhile Ruth and Sully are no longer a tandem despite the fact that they are.  That is, Ruth and Sully's hearts are tethered as they always have been, but for reasons have decided to interrupt their loving and love making.  Enter a real bona fide bastard named Roy Purdy; a snake salesperson; the wife of the mayor who is suffering from dementia; a construction owner who could not build a teepee, and a dog.  The plot does thicken and the point is there for the taking.

Are we all everybody's fool if we allow ourselves to think so. That is, could we all conjure up enough negative things about ourselves to think of ourselves as foolish.  I know I have felt that way many times.  Does everyone?  How significant is love as a factor--either not having it or having it--that makes us feel foolish?

I think seeing the movie or reading the book Nobody's Fool before reading Everybody's Fool would be helpful.  But if you like to read, and like to laugh, Everybody's Fool is worth the time it will take you to finish the novel.  My opinion is that it is not as good as The Risk Pool but still it's an enjoyable ride.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Stephen A.

Stephen A. Smith is not one of my favorite sportscasters.  Actually, I think he is weak. He speaks pompously and often says things that are not profound as if they are so.  Also, his opinions often clash with mine.

Yesterday Stephen A. opined that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook "flat out choked" in game 6 of the NBA playoffs.

Nonsense.  Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are outstanding players. Each one made plays last night that were incredible while playing forty plus minutes.  The reason the Golden State Warriors prevailed was not because OKC choked, but because Klay Thompson made outrageous shots and, at the end of the game, so did Steph Curry.

Stephen A. could not carry Russell Westbrook's jockstrap.  I am pulling for Golden State in this series but I recognize greatness when I see it.  Take away Westbrook and Durant and Oklahoma City would be nowhere.  Durant and Westbrook are great players who together essentially beat the San Antonio Spurs and have taken the best NBA team in history (73-9 during the regular season) to a 7th game.  Let's put it another way.  In six games, Oklahoma City won 1/3 as many games as all 82 opponents did during the regular season.  And OKC has been competitive because nobody can guard Westbrook and Durant is a 7 foot wonder who can shoot from anywhere, defend anyone, and drive to the hoop.

Stephen A. is way off target with his criticism here.  He has company as others have been similarly critical. I do not know what games they are watching.  You go ask the Golden State Warriors if Durant and Westbrook are chokers.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Does it Get Better than This

Golden State's come back in Oklahoma City tonight is one of the guttiest victories I have ever seen.

I listen to the pundits talk about how Durant and Westbrook played poorly, but I do not agree. Westbrook and Durant were terrific; the Warriors' Thompson and Curry just made shots that are difficult to believe.

This is why sports is lucrative and why advertisers spend a fortune to peddle their products during contests. This game will keep fans up in Oklahoma City and the Bay area until the early hours.

So, I bought a basketball

Yesterday on an impulse I walked over to the basketball court in the park and fed a shooter who was practicing.  It felt great. So, today encouraged by the activity yesterday and Sports Authority going out of business and selling the store for what they claim to be peanuts, I bought a ball.  I still have the ball I played with in 2006, but it is deflated and, besides, I probably would puncture the thing and my hand if I tried to stick a needle into it.  So, I bought a ball.

This evening instead of speed walking around the park I grabbed the ball on this very hot muggy night and slow dribbled to the courts.  My intention was to shoot for a spell, see if I could jump to make some shots, and try to run dribbling the ball.

I did all that and while I was not shooting that well--coming up short on most of my shots, an indication of not really being able to jump as well as mighty thick rust on my skill sets--I felt pretty good. Especially for a guy who could collect social security, has a pipe instead of a bone in his hip, and hasn't done a whole lot of anything since new year 2014 arrived.

I was about to quit my "workout" when three teenagers came onto the court shooting at the other basket. One looked about 16, the others about 14. They were dribbling through their legs and jawing with each other.  They started playing a game I recalled playing when I was playing.  It's essentially two against one, where the one and the two keep alternating. It's not necessary to explain it here, but it is a decent game if you have only three players.

The ball was under my armpit and I was walking towards the house when I said to myself, "you aren't serious about asking these kids to play 2 on 2."  Then I said aloud, "Do you want to play 2 on 2?"  And we did.

Now, in my prime and not bragging, I could have beaten each of these kids 15-5 in a game of one on one.  But I am not in my prime and haven't run a lick in a long time.  They decided on the sides figuring the old guy was not any good and they put me with the best player of the three of them.  Again, not bragging, but that really meant that the two better players were playing against the weaker ones.  We shellacked them 15-1.  

One problem with this foolish participation was that my instincts took over and occasionally I tried to box out the opponent and jump for rebounds.  Most of the time I just let my teammate shoot and score, but I held my own and hit three decent shots.

A second problem was that my body is not in shape to take a hit.  At one point I got a rebound and an opponent tried to swat it away and in so doing hit my forearm. It was not a ferocious hit or a dirty hit, at all. It was just a basketball play.  His arm came across my forearm as arms have come across forearms of basketball players forever.  Except when his arm hit mine I thought I would see stars.  My forearms are just not strong and my bones must be more fragile. If that kid had hit me harder I would be in a sling. As it is, it is not easy for me to type now and tomorrow my arm will be very sore. In sum, my body is not ready for competition.

Moral of the story is that you can't take the boy out of the senior citizen.  Wisdom should accrue to those who have been around the track several times.  Playing two on two with teenagers who could be my grandchildren was not wise, but it was fun.

Mark Jackson

I, of course, do not know former NBA player and coach Mark Jackson personally.  I saw him play in college, then with the Knicks, and was impressed with how when he became coach he took the Golden State Warriors from horrible to respectable in a few short years.

I was surprised when Jackson was fired amidst claims that there were powerful egos at war on the Golden State team, and even more surprised that now that the Warriors are reigning champions and vying for this year's championship as well, nobody seems to give the guy credit for being the architect that laid the foundation for the team's successes.

In one way I am glad that Jackson is no longer a coach.  Jackson, now a pro ball sportscaster, is an excellent and insightful commentator.  He is teamed up with his ex Knick coach, Jeff Van Gundy, on broadcasts that have Mike Breen doing the play by play. The three of them are excellent.  Breen is outstanding describing the action, Van Gundy on target with his analysis, and Jackson every bit as good with his insights.  Last night the Cleveland-Toronto game was another blowout, yet I was interested in watching the broadcast in part to hear the comments from the booth.  Often I will mute the sound on sporting events if I am reading at the same time or have some music playing in the background that I prefer to the jock chatter.  But Jackson in particular is worth listening to for what he adds to the experience for the spectator.  He probably wishes he would get another shot at coaching, but the viewing audience might hope that he stays where he is.

Friday, May 27, 2016

New (Ab)Normal

I have not picked up a tennis racquet in over two years.    If it is two years since I picked up a tennis racquet, it's probably close to ten since I touched a basketball--nearly a decade since I played a game that, at one time, was my primary sport.

What I have been able to do, in terms of exercise, is the elliptical and walk.  I've become a pretty fast walker, no doubt creating a sight as I move along pedestrian stroll ways as if I am late for a meeting.  We live next to a park that has several baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and a basketball court.  There is a walk path around the baseball fields that is probably four tenths of a mile, so when I feel like exercising and don't want to drive to the health club, I fast walk usually around the park.

Today, a colleague and I took another colleague out to lunch. She is leaving the university for greener pastures so Scott and I who enjoyed working with Kate decided to celebrate her departure.  I rarely go out to lunch.  I'll grab something to eat at my desk when I am at work or forego lunch altogether on many days.  So, when I do go out for lunch my gut when I'm done usually feels like I swallowed a watermelon. No exception at today's luncheon. It wasn't that the portions were that enormous: just a regular sized sandwich with no sides, but we indulged in a glass of wine in honor of the occasion and then did something I almost never ever do at lunchtime--had dessert.  So, when we finished eating I felt like a pachyderm.

 The restaurant was near my gym but I couldn't move enough afterwards to exercise, so I drove home.  An hour or so later I decided to walk.  Walk I did. I bolted around the park path ten times working up a good sweat. Around the 8th time around I noticed that a number of twenty somethings were shooting hoops at the court.  I mused about how it had been years since I touched a basketball and, two years since I had done anything but walk--maybe an occasional swim.  That had become my new normal-- what I have become used to. And, it is not so bad.  I feel good after the long walks and healthily spent after an hour on the elliptical.

But today as I rounded the path for the ninth time I felt like I wanted to see if I could at least shoot a couple of baskets.  It would be crazy for me to play. I really cannot run yet more than twenty or thirty steps, but I thought when I finished my tenth lap, I'd walk on over and see if a twenty something would let me join him.

And that is what I did.  There was a fellow from Bentley College who was shooting around.  I walked onto the court and told him I would feed him. He was agreeable and appreciative.  The first time I touched the ball it felt like maybe it was one of those medicine balls in the gym.  Or a warped basketball.  It had been so long that the ball itself, which was perfectly fine, felt odd.  After a while I got a handle on it and was really enjoying passing it to the kid shooting around.  I took a few shots myself and that felt even better. Finally, the kid had to go.  I took one foul shot (nothing but net, fyi) and then we shook hands and said goodbye.

I loved the fifteen minutes or so that I was out there passing the ball to the kid and taking a few jump shots. My hip might kill me tomorrow, but I don't think it will.  I didn't play one on one or even HORSE.  Mostly was just passing the ball.

I got to thinking as I walked back to the house, that I have gotten so used to walking and the elliptical and being content to call that exercise, that I had forgotten what it felt like to bounce a basketball and take a shot now and again.  For those who have never gotten the basketball or tennis bug, this may seem odd, but I think there are other applications.

We can get used to what's normal; it can become our new normal, such that we become content doing what we have become accustomed to doing.  And we can forget what it is like to be thrilled by something that we have not done in a long time.  Just bouncing a basketball, passing it to a kid practicing his jumper, taking a few short jump shots myself reminded me of what fun playing can be. It made me think of how we can live following an abnormal life path without acknowledging that this new normal is abnormal because we have just gotten accustomed to it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Drop

This is a very good short novel (206 pages) by Dennis Lehane.  In an interview I heard after I finished reading, Lehane said that the book was originally a short story. He must have expanded the story for the book or the short story was a long one. 

The book is about a bartender, Bob, from South Boston and his cousin. The cousin, Cousin Marv “owns” a bar called, appropriately, Cousin Marv’s.  Problem is that  Cousin Marv does not actually own the bar as he once did because some east European tough guys pushed him out, now own it, and use it as a place to drop their illegal proceeds during the wee hours of the morning, and then pick up the money the next day.  Bob the bartender is a lonely loser who gets the picture but seems essentially innocent.   

The novel is a mystery as well as a story about character.  It is well written with very good hints dropped here and there that you have to remember or else you will have to go back and flip pages as the plot, well, thickens.  In addition to Bob and Cousin Marv, there are interesting other characters who are important to the story.  These folks do not exist in my orbit but seem to be real enough to be in someone’s.  I believe these people exist, and I believe the events in this book could have taken place, even though I have never personally known people like this.  

I read when I finished the book that the movie version of the book was set in Brooklyn not in Boston.  The trailers from that movie are very consistent otherwise with the book, although the guy who plays Bob is far more good looking than the way he is depicted in the novel as is the love interest. Even the dog that is central to the story seems more benign. James Gandofini plays Cousin Marv and that look for Marv is what I imagined when I read the story.

Easy to read, short but nuanced.  Unless you are offended by language--because it is there aplenty, I recommend the book.  If you have a day or two off and have nothing much else to do, you can knock this off in no time and have it hang around in your head for a few more days.  I took the movie out of the library and look forward to seeing if the rest of the movie, like the trailers, stay true to the story. 


There are events that are very funny unless you are involved in the event, and your involvement is unpleasant.

That is, an observer can watch something and bust a gut, while the person central to the spectacle will not see the humor in the event for years, and maybe forever.  Such is the case with something that took place with my dad maybe a dozen years ago.  When I heard what had happened I thought it was hysterical, but he--a man with an otherwise terrific sense of humor--did not think it was even a tiny bit funny.

Something occurred last week which I'd like to think would have made him think differently about the episode, or at least get him to smile--but he is gone now for two years, so the potential for laughter and joy regarding the incident will never be his.

Here is what happened.  My parents had purchased a sophisticated set of hearing aids for my mother.  I guess she had previously bought some that were not the state of the art, so my folks decided to spring for the expensive ones.  I don't know how much they cost, but it was not chump change.

I'm thinking that my parents had ongoing arguments that, for the most part, they kept hidden from me.  On balance, they were the model for a loving relationship. They could and did argue, but beneath whatever disagreements they had was a solid foundation the likes of which are to be sought and preserved when you have them.  I did notice later in years dad getting steamed about events that must have had precedent or else he--someone who generally did not make a big deal about another's minor transgressions--would not have gotten so steamed. I recall once coming out of a movie theatre when I had to be close to 50. As we emerged my mother said something like she thought she left her pocketbook at the seat.  Smoke started coming from Dad's head, and again, this was not the way he reacted to something UNLESS, this was the umpteenth time it had happened.  Then there was another event when my parents got to the airport for a flight and could not get through security because my mother had not taken her driver's license thinking she did not plan to drive anywhere when they got where they were going. That too was an incident that Dad had trouble discussing without his jaw bones working.  It made matters worse when my mother claimed she saw nothing wrong about leaving the license home.

Getting back to the humorous event that occurred. My folks bought this expensive set of hearing aids for my mother.  Within a week or two she had lost one.  This did not sit well with either of them, but particularly with dad who was the major contributor to the treasury and who, I think, might have had had it with losses borne from carelessness.  I know now that the loss was not really the result of carelessness, but at the time after shelling out some serious shekels for the hoo hah hearing aids, that is what it must have felt like to dad.

The two of them went about unearthing the entire condo trying to find this tiny hearing aid.  There are essentially only three rooms in the place though it seems like there are more. There are two bedrooms, and a large living room that has walls to create space for a kitchen, a den, a patio, and a laundry room.  My folks were tearing every space apart and could not find the hearing aid.

At one point, my mother went into the master bedroom and dad was in the den where there is a couch used typically for watching television. It is a long couch that has in its middle sections a pull out bed.  This bed was rarely used.  I bet in the 25 or so years they were living there, they opened up the bed no more than 10 times.

Nevertheless it was possible that while sitting on the couch watching tv, my mother could have inadvertently knocked one of the aids out and it, then, could have become lodged in the bed portion of the couch. So, while mom was in the master bedroom, dad opened up the couch, crawled on the mattress up to where the mattress met the back of the couch, and bent over to see if he could find the expensive hearing aid.

What happened was that dad must have put weight on the portion of the pullout that allowed for the bed to roll back up. So while bent over looking for the hearing aid, the bed began to, and then did, close on him so that he was stuck head nearly completely covered in the bed portion of the couch.

A humorous sight that must have been, but the thing that made me and my mom laugh about it--while dad could not find the laughter--was that when the bed closed up, dad started shouting for my mother to come help her. Thing is, since she did not have the hearing aid in, she couldn't hear my father yelping from within the couch.

Eventually having given up her own sleuthing in the master bedroom, she came out into the living room and did not see my father right away, since he was essentially inside the couch with whatever bulge was there because of his presence, not especially evident.  His wailing for help was a bit muffled, and without her hearing aid, my mother could not hear much unless it was a roar.  At one point my mother saw the couch move, went to explore, found dad, and tried to help my father out, but (a) she was laughing some (b) she was not the one who typically opened the couch so didn't really know how to open it particularly when it contained a person and (c) she couldn't really hear my father's instructions.

They eventually managed to get him out, but dad was not happy.  Mom was stifling laughter.  Meanwhile they had not found the aid and dad had to fork out the heavy cost of replacing it which compounded the embarrassment of the incident.

Dad was never able to really laugh about what happened. He was typically a good sport, but I think the combination of the money lost, my mother's apparent tendency to misplace things, and having got caught in the couch was a little too much to overcome.

Last week I was down in Florida trying to finally get everything out.  We have, my brother and I, done a very good job of cleaning and excavating.  One thing we had not done is pulled out the bed in the master bedroom to dust and take away whatever has accrued.  I pulled away the heavy ceramic back of the bed, and boy was it dirty.  My mother has been gone for three years and dad, no doubt did not do much housecleaning in the 9 months before he succumbed.  I bet it had been a few years before my mother died before anyone swept behind the bed. It took a long unpleasant while for me to sweep the dust up.

And then I saw it.  Among the thick dirt and dust was the hearing aid. It must have fallen out when my mother was asleep, somehow found a tiny crack in the base of the heavy ceramic headboard, rolled under the headboard, and gotten lodged behind the bed where they never thought to look.  I picked it up, washed it off, and started to laugh.

I thought of my dad and wished he was there so that he might, now many years later, get a laugh at what had transpired.  I think he would have at least smiled.  Now dead, he would have realized that life is when you can laugh and share joy.  Afterwards, even aids, cannot allow you to experience the potential joys available in life.  Must be a message in there for those on this side of the horizon.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Take the Points and Run

Tonight, May 19th, Toronto is getting 11 1/2 points in its second game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I am not in Nevada, but if I was, I would put some shekels down on Toronto.  I might even take Toronto on the money line.

Here's why

  • Cleveland has won nine games in a row in the playoffs.  And have done so impressively. They are just due for a stinker. Everyone has an off night now and again.  I think that the successful run may have given the Cavaliers a sense of invincibility even if they are wise enough not to say so.  So, I think they might not come into the game with a strong sense of urgency.
  • Toronto was shellacked in its first game against Cleveland. It was embarrassing. Afterwards they had to endure the pundits talking about the Raptors as not belonging in the same strata with the Cavaliers, Warriors, and Thunder--the other three remaining teams.
    • I don't think the Raptors are as good as the other three, but they will feel as if it is time to shut some experts up.  Not sure they have the horses. They have two very good players but not enough to really battle the cream of the crop on a regular basis. But tonight, after having been fed a basket of garbage about their weaknesses, I think the Raptors over achieve. And the Cavaliers underachieve.
So, I like the Raptors to get within 11 if not win.  They could keep it close and then succumb down the stretch so if I was in Las Vegas I probably would keep some dough in the bank to pay the cable bill, but I don't think Cleveland shows up tonight.  

P.S. I thought that Donald Trump did not have one chance in a million to be the Republican nominee.

P.P.S.  Several hours later: I see that nobody yet has read this blog. This is a good thing as there is now additional evidence that my prowess as a predictor is less than magnificent. The Cavaliers, it turned out, shellacked the Raptors and covered the spread.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

the many lives of ursula todd

How to describe Life after Life a novel written by Kate Atkinson?

Well, it is very well written, and you have to wonder--at least I did--about how someone could have even conceived of the story.  The author's command of language is impressive--not just English--as there are passages in French and German (not translated by the way for we philistine readers).  I have a decent vocabulary but would have had to stop every five pages to look up the meanings of words if I stopped every time I did not know a word's definition.   And the novel is beyond ambitious. Just stunning in its range and a brilliant example of how to describe characters multi dimensionally.

 But I cannot recommend this book.  It is just too wild.

The book is about Ursula Todd born on February 11, 1910.  It takes place in 1910, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1923, 1926, 1930, 1941, 1943, 1945, and in 1967--but not sequentially.  And not always the same time in the various years.  There is a February, May, and August 1926 entry.  You can be in 1930 and then back in 1910, and 1926 with a rapist named Howie, and then in 1930 --there never was a Howie.

Ursula lives several lives. She is raped at 16 and is impregnated, but then she is a virgin later in life, she marries a crazy man named Oliphant who claims to be writing a book which he is not, but then Ursula later in life is a woman who has never married.  She is an acquaintance of Eva Braun and meets Hitler in the late 30s, but we find out early on that she has murdered a Nazi in 1930 who appears later with Ursula in the late 30s.

I guess the point is that we can veer one way or the other depending on fate and choices we take and if that happened we would have different lives.  For a long time while reading I would go back in the book to find out which life was happening at a particular point, but after a while I just gave up.  It was not that important to me to know which life she was in.  Also, the not infrequent passages and sentences in German and French while impressive, assumes a readership that is unlikely.  Maybe all readers should be multilingual, and I know smatterings of a few languages, but I am not fluent in all languages if any.  Another problem with the book was that much too much time was spent dealing with the post bombings during the blitz in the early forties.

I'd read a mystery by Atkinson previously and will read another of her mysteries--and maybe another book, but this one just was not worth the time taken to read a long book that essentially argues a simple point: events can alter our courses.

On the positive side, some of the characters are so well depicted.  Ursula's Aunt Izzy is almost worth reading the book to get to know. Also Ursula's sister Pammy and obnoxious brother Maurice.  Her mother Sylvie and Dad Hugh are multidimensional and so well described. The section with Oliphant was difficult to read because it was such a smack on depiction of a tyrannical husband and how bastards like that could subjugate their kind spouses.

So--many good things, but it is too all over the place.  I am not an ignoramus because I did not get it. I think I got it, and am appreciative of the author's ambition and skill.  I will think about Ursula and her dealings with Howie, Eva, Hitler himself, and Izzy.  But the book's many switchbacks diluted its value from my perspective.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Taking Steps

In the late 80s I saw the movie The Accidental Tourist.  At the time I am sure that I was at least mildly disappointed in it.  I'd read the Anne Tyler novel of the same name a few years earlier. Those who have read my blog know that I am wild about Anne Tyler. The Accidental Tourist is my favorite among her books and I like nearly all of them. I'm sure I was disappointed in the movie because I must have remembered then the details of the book that the movie could only have touched.

Yesterday I was lying down in the mid afternoon ready for a snooze and idly flipping channels.  I was on one of the movie channels when I saw that The Accidental Tourist was just about to begin. So instead of going to nap like an old man in the middle of the afternoon I watched a movie in the middle of the afternoon like an old man.

This time I loved it. Now, almost thirty years later, I had forgotten many of the details of the book so the movie did not have to compete with my memory. I had remembered the story of course and my favorite line from the book which is also in the movie.  That line has stayed lodged securely in my head and will be there for the duration.

I promise that I will not give too much away in what follows. It is just the gist of the story, but if you want to know nothing about a movie before you see it you might want to skip this paragraph and the next. A man, Macon, from Baltimore writes books about how to travel without feeling as if you are leaving home. So, the books explain--for example--where to find a Burger King in Paris, what hotels abroad approximate the lodging experience in the United States, what to pack to ensure you will have all you will need.  These books are called The Accidental Tourist in France, The Accidental Tourist in Canada, etc.

Macon and his wife experienced something horrific a year prior to the beginning of the book/movie. Because of this event and its residue, Sarah--Macon's wife--decides that she must leave.  Macon is distraught and is left to live alone with just a difficult dog for companionship.  At one point Macon needs to board the dog. Sarah's apartment does not allow for pets and Macon has to travel to do research for one of his books. So Macon takes the dog to a kennel and meets the owner and dog trainer, Muriel, who becomes central to the story.

The movie this time around was not at all disappointing.  William Hurt is just perfect as Macon and Geena Davis outstanding as the quirky Muriel.  The movie does an exceptional job of bringing out the beautiful story line and theme of the book.  

It is not, or should not be, our goal in life to be accidental tourists. This is our one shot at the voyage. We don't want to travel through time without enjoying the ride and seeing what is different and getting out of our routine.  When you go to Paris why would you want to eat at Burger King? You'd want to experience it all to maybe enjoy a ride that you had not even known could exist.

I had not recalled the scene with the drug at the end, but it is so apt and just right on the symbolism. Drugs that can dull our senses are those to which we should just say no.  My favorite line from the film--the one that is lodged in my consciousness forever--is uttered by the ex wife Sarah. She tells Macon, actually scolds him, by saying that he could have done something he could have "taken steps."

Yes, indeed. We all could take steps, or have taken steps, to experience what is our world.  Our mothers gave us the opportunity to tour this life. Our challenge is to take steps so that we can enjoy the ride.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Unnecessary, Unwarranted, and Inexcusable May 4th, 1970.

We flew yesterday to Cleveland and then drove to Kent, Ohio so that we could participate in the memorial services for the Kent State shootings. The photo above is taken at the marked site of Jeff Miller's death.  Last night there was a candlelight vigil and Jeff's brother Russ stood inside the marker.  At each of the other markers for Bill Schroeder, Allison Krause, and Sandy Scheuer someone was standing inside the sites.

It was a very powerful two days. Last night there was a candlelight march around the campus that ended in the Prentice Hall parking lot where all four of the students were slain.  We met Dean Kahler one of the nine students wounded on that day. Dean was so gracious talking to all of those who wanted to speak with him.  He has been in a wheel chair since that day 46 years ago. On that day he was standing just to the left of where I stand in this photo. He was up on the grass no more than 20 feet from where Jeff Miller was shot. I asked him if he had known Jeff and he said he had not. In fact, Dean had just started studying at Kent State in the spring quarter of 1970, and had only been on campus for five weeks.

At the ceremony today, at 12:24 Eastern time, the victory bell on the commons was sounded for each of the 13 victims of Kent State as well as the 2 students shot at Jackson State eleven days later. There was a beautiful introductory address by the president of Kent State as well as a number of other appropriate remarks. The most powerful were from four people representing the four dead students.  The woman representing Allison Krause was a cousin who spoke the longest and most powerfully of the four very effective tributes.  Very moving. There were other addresses some pertaining to the people of color who have been killed by police officers in recent years who had, like the National Guardsmen on May 4th, 1970, inadequate and impeachable motivation.

The president's commission on campus unrest concluded that the killings at Kent State were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable. They were.  We took a tour of the May 4th visitors center which included a documentary about what happened that day.

I asked a number of people last night why they attended the vigil.  Several responded that they come every year, but none--I found interesting--were at Kent State then.  Three people had been in fifth grade, one in high school, others I spoke with were local people who felt the insult of soldiers shooting for 13 seconds at defenseless students--two of whom were not even protesting, just happened to be in the parking lot, in one case walking to a class, and in the other case walking from a class.

We should all be insulted.  I have now been to Kent State three times. Each time I am more and more convinced that this act--an act for which the Guardsmen have never been found culpable--was nothing more than irresponsible and reckless murder.