Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Woman Upstairs

The Woman Upstairs is a book by Claire Messud the author of The Emperor's Children and other novels.   I had read the Emperor's Children and thought it was good, but not great.  Similarly, I think The Woman Upstairs was good, but not great.

There is a yiddish expression that when translated means: Everyone has their own brand of craziness.  The message in this book is not quite the same, yet the expression is still applicable.

The book is about a relatively normal woman who has her pains and regrets--as we all do.  Someone who is not strange or ill or exceptional either positively or negatively.  She is the "woman upstairs."  The, in this case, single woman who lives upstairs who nobody seems to know much about.  Every person is the woman upstairs with their own potentially debilitating story.  And everyone, I believe, has had their bruises that could make them very angry and consequently, in terms of self actualization, dysfunctional.

You only have to read page one to know that Nora is angry.  I finished the book last night living with Nora and her tale for a week.  It was not until this morning that I recalled that the main character in Ibsen's A Doll's House was also named Nora.  This is no coincidence.  A Doll's House is one of the plays we had to read in high school and one that I drew to write a paper on.  Still, my recollection of it is vague, but not so vague that I can't see the relationship between that Nora and this one. That Nora is trapped in a conventional relationship where she is treated like a fragile doll and ironically, because of this treatment, is about to explode.

Nora Eldredge in this novel is not treated like a fragile doll, but she is fragile.  She takes care of her dad and took care of her dying mother.  She is an elementary school teacher but beyond her work her interactions are limited. She has had lovers and has a few dear friends. She was engaged to a kind man but did not think that would be for her and left him as well as the lucrative power job she then had.

But something happens to Nora which fills her up and thrills her such that she feels alive and excited to be.  One of Nora's young students is so dear that Nora feels especially attached to him.  Nora meets the mother of Reza and then the father.  The mother is an artist as Nora had always wanted to be.  Sirena, the mother, suggests that the two share a studio and do their work together there.

What happens is that Nora becomes nourished by her relationships with the child, the mother, and her husband.  She is able to work creating essentially dolls' houses of women artists.  One, for example, of Emily Dickinson.  At the same time Nora is creating her dolls' houses Sirena--a more accomplished artist--is creating Wonderland and videotaping her creation as well as others who come to the studio to interact with Wonderland.  Nora is so attached to Sirena that she thinks she is in love with her. Meanwhile she has a physical attraction to Sirena's accomplished professor husband. And she is so fond of the sweet boy who is their son and is in her class.  The evolving relationships makes her feel enriched and in love and happy or at least much happier.

But some things happen that dilute the intensity of the relationships. Then one thing happens that devastates Nora and destroys the bonds that had evolved. Nora at the end has explained why she is furious. How furious. Go read page one of the novel on Amazon and see what Nora wants to tell the world.

I think the book takes too long to make the point.  It is not a long book, but it is not a long point.  There are sections and sentences however that are just brilliant and almost worth the read in and of themselves.  At one point Nora is speaking about how one can get so accustomed to a concocted persona, that one can't change back from what isn't to what is.

"It doesn't ever occur to you, as you fashion your mask so carefully, that it will grow into your skin and graft itself, come to seem irremovable."

Very true.

I do believe that some pain is more difficult to eradicate than others. For many we become the person upstairs--someone whose pain is not lethal, but becomes infuriating and debilitating nonetheless.

If you like to read, it's not a bad way to spend a week, but the book can be depressing and it seemed to me that some sections could have been edited out.

Friday, June 24, 2016


As a postscript to my earlier blog this morning, I just read this excerpt this morning about Donald Trump's speech in Scotland. Really.  Not a lampoon as far as I can tell. This is a report of what he actually said.  Donald Trump is one of the U.S. choices.

Trump takes surreal victory lap in Scotland
In what has to be one of the more surreal press conferences in U.S. presidential-campaign history, Donald Trump praised the British vote to leave the European Union in a place -- Scotland -- that overwhelming voted to remain; he said the falling British pound would be good for business; and he touted the opening of his new golf course in Scotland. "I love to see people to take their country back," he said. Referring to Brexit backers' opposition to immigration, Trump added that "people who you don't want … you are not going to have take." He said that Britain's declining currency was good for business, including at his new golf course. "If the pound goes down, they're going to do more business." But before he answered reporters' questions, Trump trumpeted the opening of his new golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. 

Hold Onto Your Hat

The Dow is down 450 points as of this typing.

Let's see this was fueled because the UK decided to withdraw from the European Union and become independent.  Hmm. Does it make sense to anyone on planet earth that one can become independent in the 21st century.  Is there really any such thing as a country's economic independence any longer? If there was, how come the global markets went down overnight like a boulder in a bath tub.  Here I live in Boston, MA and because of voters in say Bath, UK, my net worth has gone down.  And I am hardly a high roller.  Folks who really have shekels, have certainly taken a hit.

The idea of independence, as I have written in previous blogs, is really an illusion. We are all connected and in the 21st century even more so.  Trump's absurd Put America First mantra is either a reflection of a lobotomy or his venality.  And I am betting the latter. That is, he thinks he--personally-can prosper in a down global economy. Because, guess what folks, the days of independence are gone. Every thing is connected. Every thing.   Metaphorically, a guy sneezes in Peru and you will catch a cold.

Isolation does not work for individuals any better.  I am more of a loner and independent than the average bear, but I know that I am connected whether I like it or not.  I am connected to people I haven't seen in years and I am connected to people I have never seen.  I read this morning that some goofball running for Congress has a campaign motto Make America White Again. First of all. Fuck him.  We really need idiots like this to poison our lives?  Second of all, besides the fact that he is an inconsiderate stupid bigot, he does not get it. There is no white. There is no black.  There is no Haiti and there is no Finland. There is no New Zealand and there is no Rwanda.  Those are political ersatz constructions. We are all together.  We are one.


On Wednesday I turned 66.6666666.

On Thursday I turned 6 and went to a Red Sox day game with an old high school buddy.

I remember the first game I went to with my dad six plus decades ago.  I wonder if I have matured any.  I still checked when I sat down to see if I had any chance of catching a foul ball. (Had a great seat for that, but no balls came our way).  I still cheered when there was a good play in the field.  It was uplifting to see the Red Sox come back in the fifth and deflating to see them blow the lead in the top of the sixth.  I stood up to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch. I wished we could stay to see the entire game (my buddy had to catch a flight back to New York and I was the driver).  I loved the feeling of being in the ballpark, hearing the vendors squawk for the peanuts, ice cream, cold beer.  (Prices have changed some for the various products).  Had to listen to four close to inebriated morons behind us who pontificated about every and anything one can imagine, but still that was part of it.

I loved seeing the little kids scurrying with their gloves.  (Gary, poked me when a foul ball came three sections over and said: "How come you didn't bring your glove?").  The fans of all shapes, ages, and sizes wearing all variations of Red Sox paraphernalia. A guy two rows in front of us must have been in his mid 80s maybe pushing 90.  A few seats over was a kid whose tush was so small he could barely stay on the seat.  Fenway park was packed at 2 pm on a bright sunny Thursday afternoon.

Not sure, thank God, that I will ever outgrow the rush of being at a ball game.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Time to Make Hay

In Sports when a team X plays poorly in the beginning of a game and the opponent Y does not take advantage of the miscues--announcers--appropriately, say that Team Y needs to take advantage of the weaknesses or rue the lost opportunities.

I am concerned about the upcoming election.  I think Donald Trump would be an economic and safety disaster for the country.  It is not that I don't like him--I don't, but that is not why I write this. And I don't think he will be a disaster because of the, almost daily, absurd things he has said. Calling John McCain out because he was caught; referring to two of his Republican challengers as "those two morons"; suggesting that we should build a wall and force our peaceful neighbor Mexico to pay for it--attributing a judge's decisions on matters unrelated to Mexico, on the judge's Mexican born parents--even though the judge was born in Indiana.  These are all outrageous.  The most recent mind boggling comment--that people who go drinking in clubs ought to have guns strapped to them for protection--well, there are no words.

But all these lumped together is not what has me concerned. What has me concerned is the man's complete lack of humility and his born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-his-mouth sense, that he can and has done no wrong.

I am concerned that Trump might win.  I just saw two of Hilary Clinton's ads on youtube. They are very powerful--to me. Then I read comments by viewers.  There were as many people who said that the ads solidified their support for Trump than otherwise.  I read the poll numbers today. Clinton is creeping up--but not by that much.  This guy is a lunatic and he is still not getting blown out in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida.

This is the time to make hay.  This is the time when Clinton must make the lead insurmountable.  As is the case in sports contests, if you let a team hang around they can come back to beat you.

Trump reminds me of the egomaniac husband in the old joke about a husband who can't understand why his wife cannot climax.  The husband goes to the doctor and explains the problem.  The doctor scratches his chin. He suggests that the couple hire a stud and have the stud come into the bedroom when the married couple is about to engage. The doctor suggests that during the intimacy the stud vigorously wave a towel.  So, the egomaniac tries it. He has sex with his wife while a stud waves a towel. Of course his wife still does not climax. The egomaniac husband goes back to the doctor and says that the doctor's great idea did not work. The doctor scratches his chin again and makes a related suggestion.  He says that they should go back to the room with the stud. But this time have the stud have sex with the wife while the husband waves the towel.  They go back to the bedroom with the stud. The stud and the egomaniac's wife engage while the husband waves the towel.  Within a few moments the woman starts to moan and then gives out with a long suppressed wild scream as she climaxes. The stud collapses onto the woman as the two of them are spent.  The egomaniac smirks.  He walks over to where the couple is entwined and pokes the naked shoulder of the stud and then his wife.  They turn sideways to see him. The husband, still smirking, is nodding his head up and down. "See" he says as he puts a finger in the air and arches his eyebrows, "That's the way you wave a towel."

This is Trump. Whatever happens he takes credit for. Whatever failures exist are the doings of someone else. He loses a primary and it is because of Lying Ted Cruz.  The polls go down, it is the damn media.  He has millions of dollars due in large part to daddy starting him off with a boatload of shekels--Trump claims success.  Trump University is being sued, it's the goddamn Mexican judge's fault. Everything he owns has his name on it.  I'm surprised he doesn't ask his maid to hand him the Trump fork and Trump spoon when he is about to dine, or to fetch him a Trump glass of water.

As president he would drive us to disaster. And Clinton and the Democrats have to make that point not primarily to people like me,  but to those who have not yet made up their mind.


Maybe I noticed this because I just came back from the dentist and my mouth is numb.  Regardless...

I had to go to the post office and local CVS after my dental appointment.  I dropped off the prescription at the CVS and walked to the post office.  On the way back I spotted another dentist's office.  I spotted the office because before I did I saw something in the backyard of a home.  It was a boat. And the boat was named NOVACAINE.  I thought that a strange name for a boat, and then saw that the boat sat in the backyard of a dentist's home/office as there was a sign advertising the driller hanging from the shingles.

"Novacaine" is the name of a boat?  I often like to read the names of boats when I go to a pier.   My favorite was a boat, more like a yacht, I saw anchored at Montauk Point a few years ago. It was called Freilach.  A freilach is a happy merry dance or song.  It's a word my father and mother used to describe a joyous occasion or a particular uplifting song.

Maybe Novacaine is a bit of dental humor or perhaps the owner was making an allusion--as some boat owners do--to the provenance of the wealth that allowed for the boat.  Still, it seems like an odd name.  I could be, no pun desired, sensitive to this today as my mouth remains numb.  But Novacaine for your boat?

Too many people live their lives dulling themselves to the world's possibilities.  I count myself among this grouping on occasion and--when I feel this way--remind myself that time is a-wasting.   We have this one shot on the seas to stretch the metaphor, and we can either find a way to medicate ourselves against the inevitable pain that time on the planet can send our way, or find a way to dance a freilach.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Live By Night

Dennis Lehane has written several books that I have liked--most recently The Drop which I reviewed in my blog a few weeks back.  Some of his early books are similarly good.  I can't actually remember the plot line from A Drink Before the War, but I recall that it was about race relations and I thought it was excellent.

So, I saw Live By Night at my local library book sale and scooped it up.  I see, now that I have finished it, that it was well received by many, that it is the second book of a three novel series about the character Joe Coughlin, and it has been made into a movie starring Ben Affleck which is scheduled to be released in 2017.

However, while I am a fan of Lehane, this book did not do it for me at all.  It was all I could to get through this and if Lehane wasn't an author that otherwise has not disappointed, I would have quit--something I very rarely do.  The man can write, but geez, there were so many nearly independent episodes in this book.  Also, with all the killing that Coughlin is part of and the many times he comes close to getting axed, it is difficult to believe that he could have evaded death himself.

What is it about? Well...

During prohibition, a gangster (Joe Coughlin) robs a speakeasy with two friends. In so doing he meets a woman, Emma, who one would think is central to the story--and in a way she is though she does not get much ink.  Joe is smitten by the woman, but sadly she is the moll of another gangster.  This other gangster is similarly smitten by Emma. This triangle is the backdrop to the entire tale during which we read about the relationship Joe has with his father--a police big shot; Joe's relationship with an accomplice who had double crossed Joe; Joe's experience with and subsequent business association with another inmate when they are both imprisoned;  and how Joe moves from Boston to take over Tampa bootlegging.   Also, Joe falls in love with another woman in Tampa and this is again an entire story in and of itself. Joe robs the US navy.   He deals with a police chief in Tampa whose daughter is a heroine addict turned preacher. He goes to Cuba.

Too much disconnected stories.  And oh, we find out early on that Emma is dead but anyone who has progressed beyond Dick and Jane knows she is still lurking somewhere and not just metaphorically.

Meanwhile throughout all this Joe is in position to get axed about ten times and ridicakulusly he escapes each time.  The way Joe extricates himself from Albert White's attempt to drown him would not even make a Superman comic.

Bottom line is I can't recommend this even though I typically like Lehane.   Maybe if I had read the first in the Couglin series before this one it would have made a difference.  I will be interested in the movie because my sense is that the screenplay will synthesize and weed out some stories and highlight some others. For example, I noticed that one of the actors listed as a main character in the movie plays only a small part at the end of the novel.  It appears as if he will be more central in the movie.

An interesting and underplayed dimension of this novel is that in the late 1920s and 30s, Joe's involved in an interracial relationship.  Even sixty years later this would have given both parties more grief than it does in the novel. I like it when authors attempt to dissolve the absurd stigma attached to interracial relationships, so that is a positive--but I did not think it was realistic given the prejudices of the era.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shocked and surprised.

This is why it is a good thing I do not live in Nevada.

I was sure that the Warriors would win this series. The Warriors had not lost three games in a row all season. And they just did. Steph Curry played a very bad game for an MVP--turnovers and missed shots. Klay Thompson could not get open. And Steve Kerr was out coached by a rookie coach.

The only player who came up like a stud for the Warriors was Draymond Green.  Otherwise a team stinker.

On the other side, King James, was King James when it mattered. And a tip of the hat to Kyrie Irving who hit a dagger of a three point goal in the last minute.

Congratulations to Cleveland. And while I was seriously pulling for the Warriors, the saving grace is that LeBron James was able to do what he promised. Return to Cleveland--the town he dissed when he went to Miami-- and immediately take his teams to the championship finals, this year prevailing. James blocked at least three shots that I can recall and one in the tight fourth quarter.  He made big baskets down the stretch.  I think he played the entire second half.

Anybody think that maybe the Warriors should have gone for two with that last possession? Cleveland was out of timeouts and the Warriors only real chance was to score twice anyway.  So if they were given a two, why not take it, then maybe try to steal.

Throughout the series Lue called timeouts whenever Golden State was about to go on a run. Really Lue did a good job with his thin bench. Kerr on the other hand made some bonehead substitutions sticking in a really worthless Ezeeli on a number of occasions.

I hope my cat comes back, I was screaming so loud when Curry threw a behind the back pass out of bounds, he must have thought that there was a risk in returning to the premises.


The Warriors are up by seven which is, sort of, the good news if you cheer for the Warriors. But the bad news is that Draymond Green has been on fire and if he was not so remarkable the Warriors would be losing.

Nobody on Cleveland has gotten hot yet so the Warriors have to be concerned that should Kyrie Irving or Smith get hot--assuming that LeBron will be his usual stunning self--the Cavaliers can go ahead.

Not one of these games has been close so it will be interesting to see who has the stronger backbone down the stretch if it gets close.

The key to the Warriors success will be to go on a run like they have all season. If they do not--and if Curry and Thompson do not have one of their shooting sprees, this could be Cleveland's game. The question is will anyone on Cleveland get hot besides James.

end of first quarter

This does not bode well for the Warriors. Curry has hit two threes, but he has also turned the ball over once, did not get back on defense after he missed a three,  and let a steal go right through his hands. James has not gotten untracked.

The Warriors had an opportunity to get a big lead in the beginning but Ezeli missed two easy shots and then allowed Love to steal the ball from him to get an easy layup.

Iguodala looks better than he did in game 6, but still does not have the kind of mobility that he typically does and apparently is slowed by the injury.

Green is playing well and Thompson has hit some important baskets, but Curry will have to play like the mvp he is.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Game 7 on the horizon

LeBron James is the best player on the planet.  Again, he showed that tonight after doing the same thing in Oakland a few nights ago.  His life was made easier because Andre Iguodola could not move and Andrew Bogut is out with an injury, but still James seized the moment.  Kyrie Irving was not nearly as effective as he had been on Monday so James had to do it essentially alone. And he did.

Stephen Curry, on the other hand, had a stinker of a game. Yes, he had thirty points, but he threw the ball away so many times and made at least two bonehead fouls which cost the Warriors. Not smart and not focussed.

I still believe that the Warriors will prevail. I, of course, have been wrong about the victory coming in five games.  If Iguodola cannot play it will be tougher.  Harrison Barnes, a really good player, has got to get out of his shooting slump as does Shaun Livingston--but if Green plays something like Green and Irving plays like a human being as opposed to how he played in game 5, I don't see Cleveland prevailing. Curry cannot play like a donkey and Thompson has to hit in both halves.

James has surely made the case that he should have gotten at least some votes for MVP.  He has been more consistent than Curry and he just does not have the supporting cast that Curry does.

In sum, Iguodola's health is a factor, as he typically guards James.  But Barnes will get off the Shnide, Thompson will have a good game, and the crowd will help the Warriors be the Warriors.

P.S. Contrary to my prediction about the Warriors' superiority (I WAS accurate through the first four games) the total points for each team after six games is exactly even.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hero Ball

Throughout the playoffs when stars on teams decided to take over and score, the pundits derided the stars as playing "hero ball" and not team ball.

Today the Cleveland Cavaliers are alive because LeBron James and Kyrie Irving played hero ball and were heroes.  James is James, he can play like that eight days a week. Irving is, I have come to find out, a very good player--but last night he was beyond very good.

James and Irving scored 82 of Cleveland's 112 points. If either of them missed a shot or two, and if Harrison Barnes did not have an atypically bad game, the pundits would still be disparaging the Cavaliers for playing hero ball because the Warriors would have prevailed.

If you have only two horses, you have to ride them.  Sometimes you have to play hero ball. I will write again what I've written in previous blogs: Had the Thunder not played hero ball with their consistently other worldly studs Durant and Westbrook--the Warriors would have taken that series sooner.

Another note, I am crazy about Draymond Green.  He is a great player. However, his suspension last night for multiple flagrant fouls was deserved and an indication of counterproductive team behavior.  The Warriors need Green; he can't keep getting technical fouls and flagrant fouls such that he is disqualified.  If I were a Warrior I would be less upset at the officials for disqualifying Green than I would be at Green for behaving in a way that resulted in a suspension.

Monday, June 13, 2016

mea culpa

Well, I got this one wrong.  I am glad I do not live in Nevada and hope the people I saw in the locker room did not call their bookies. I announced to all my gym cronies that I all but guaranteed that Golden State would prevail tonight.  I did, accurately, predict that James would have a great game. And that Love is a stiff. But I did not think that Kyrie Irving would come up so big or that Curry, Barnes, and Iguodala would have pedestrian games.

So, first my apologies to Kyrie Irving. He shot the lights out and scored 41 points. He could not miss. I will comment in my forecasting defense that Irving was other worldly.  And of the 112 total points that Cleveland scored, James and Irving scored 82.  I don't think that is sustainable.

 James is James. He is the best player of the 21st century.  Just stunning. But Irving--he was shooting like Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and John Havlicek rolled into one.

I think I will skip the gym tomorrow.  I might take some heat from anyone who bet dough on the game on the basis of my, er, certainty.

Maybe I should buy a new car with the money I saved by not being in Las Vegas and betting the farm on the Warriors tonight.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sobriety Checkpoint

Last night I went to dinner with my cousins in Cambridge.  My cousin Marcia is wonderful in many ways and one of these is picking out interesting places to eat--not to mention making the arrangements.  She is as good a planner as anyone I have ever met.

Our dinner reservations were for 845 and I got there about 830, sat at the bar and asked for a beer. My cousins arrived promptly at 845. We shmoozed some at the bar and then were seated.  It was a nice long dinner and we caught up on several fronts.  The waiters did not rush us and we lingered at our table until about 1130.  I had had the lone beer which I nursed the whole night.  Typically, I might have a second beer or if drinking cocktails a second during dinner, but last night just the one.

There are one of several ways to get back to Waltham from the part of Cambridge where the restaurant was located.  Boston roads are not like New York or cities set up like a grid.  They are paved cowpaths--not kidding.  My first years here I was driving around in circles and hoped I would somehow find some location that looked familiar. But now three plus decades later I sort of have it. I decided on taking a circuitous route that would take me onto Soldiers Field Road, and then get on the Mass Pike in Brighton--a section of Boston.

One thing that can infuriate and frustrate drivers in Boston is how roads change names when there is no reason for the names to be changed.  For example, a main road parallel to our home is south street. You can be on it for three minutes when the street becomes River Road and South Street disappears until a few minutes later when it is called South Avenue.  This can drive those who are following a GPS system mad.  You really have to know where you are.  Similarly, a major highway in Boston is Storrow Drive.  I have lived here for a long time and am still not sure where and how or why the road changes to Soldiers Field Road. On the other side of the river it is even worse.  A road that circles the city is called 95 until they call it 128 and then call it 95 again apparently on a whim. I digress.  Point is you have to know where you are.

I knew where I was.  I was on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton at about midnight when traffic on the highway stopped.  I thought there might be an accident but as I inched forward I did not see one. What I did see was a very large police presence.  Adjacent to this section of Soldiers Field Road is a large parking lot where I've parked my vehicle on many occasions as it provides access to the river for walking, picnicking, running, biking or just sitting on a bench.  I noticed last night at midnight that there must have been twenty police officers in slickers parked in the lot with some other vehicles.

I did not know what this was about until I got about thirty to fifty yards from two police officers who were stopping traffic.  At that point I saw a sign on the side of Soldiers Field Road that I had never seen before. The sign read "Sobriety Checkpoint."

Well, that was a first for me.  A routine stopping of cars on the highway to see if the drivers were loaded.  Had I had a second drink that night, or had the lone beer I had consumed closer to when we departed I could have gotten nervous, but I was stone sober and comforted to know that this stop was just going to delay my getting home til well after my bedtime.

When it was my turn to be questioned an officer shined a light into the vehicle and told me this was a sobriety check. I said okay. He used the flashlight to see if there was any evidence of consumption and there was not. I did wonder if he might arrest me for the array of junk all over and the peculiar placement of a basketball where the coffee cups are usually located. He apparently has seen worse.  He asked me where I'd been and where I was going.  I told him. He asked if I had anything to drink. I told him about the beer I had nursed.  And boy was I glad I had had only one, because it sure seemed that the slightest slur-even one brought on by anxiety would have had him telling me to pull into the parking lot where the officers were giving, I assume, more rigorous testing.  He asked me if I had had anything else to drink.  I was going to be a wiseguy and say I had a decaf and a glass of water which could have had been colder for a restaurant that was not really on the cheap side.  But I figured this was not the time. He paused considering whether one beer was enough to warrant more scrutiny or perhaps thinking that if I told him I had one I really had more than one.  But eventually he told me I could move on.

My reaction to the sobriety checkpoint might have been different had I been more seriously scrutinized or if I had been in a hurry. The whole thing of creeping along the highway and interrogation took at least 15 minutes and maybe longer. But given my sobriety and the fact that I was not in a hurry, I thought that this was probably a good thing.  The next time I am out and have to drive I might keep in the back of my head that I could get stopped by an army out to stop impaired drivers.  So I might stop at one as I did last night.  This practice could put a damper on parties and the collective taverns' bottom lines, but it will make for safer highways.

And then I thought of the sobriety check metaphorically.  Isn't it a good thing--or wouldn't it be a good thing if now and again we were stopped on our highways and some officer were to ask if we were thinking straight, acting in society's best interest, acting in our own self interest.

"Okay sir just a regular sobriety check.  

  • Are you following your heart?  
  • Paying attention to your kids? 
  • Working at a job that gives you joy instead of following the shekel?
  • How about sex? Are you taking care of your needs there? 
  • Do you have a decent hobby or are you just passing time doing things to keep busy before you kick?
Hmm. Sorry sir.  You have not convinced me you are acting soberly. You'll have to pull into the parking lot.  We'll have to check you out more thoroughly."

That would be a valuable sobriety check, no?

Breaking News

This just in five hours after my blog post Game 5 in which I wrote that if Green were to be suspended the Warriors would still win: Draymond Green has been suspended for Game 5.  Consequently, the point spread has been reduced to 6 from 6.5.

If I was in Las Vegas I would bet the farm that Golden State will cover the spread.  I am cautious by nature and only bet small amounts when I am in Las Vegas.  But I would be a large chunk on this game. There is only one player on Cleveland with both courage and skill--that is LeBron James. The rest of the guys are not prime time players who could stand up to the crazy noise that will be in Oakland on Monday night.

The only thing that might retard a ferocious effort by Golden State is knowing that Green cannot even be in the building for the game.  I wonder if Green can come to the building after the game to celebrate with his teammates.   He should be allowed to do so.

Curry and Thompson will have a game for the ages on Monday, and Barnes, Livingston, Barbosa, Iguodala will all also be strong.

Golden State will win by double digits.

Game 5 Forecast

Even if Draymond Green is suspended for Game 5 on Monday, the Cavaliers will be shellacked. LeBron will be great, but Kyrie Irving is due for a stinker of a game,  Kevin Love is not a game changer, and Richard Jefferson and Tristan Thompson have played their best games in the series.

If Green is out, the Warriors would start Iguodala who is brilliant.  While the team will certainly miss Green, they will win easily with Iguodala playing more minutes.   Also, keep in mind that Curry and Thompson have not yet had one of their ridickalus games as a tandem when they are raining threes from all over the orbit.  In addition, Barbosa is due and Marreese Speights can get hot and he has hardly played in the series. Never mind that Harrison  Barnes would be the stud on most teams in the league.  Likewise Shaun Livingston.

As we said in Brooklyn when the teams on one of our playground matches seemed uneven--"Slaughter Sides."   Warriors by double digits maybe twenty.

It might be time to pause to acknowledge just how amazing the Golden State Warriors are as a team.  It also might be time to acknowledge how great Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder are.  The Thunder took the Warriors to 7 games in the west championship.  And it was on Durant's and Westbrook's backs.

LeBron James should shoot a bit more and may have lost a tiny step, but geez his greatness is made all the more apparent when you think that before he came to Cleveland, the Cavaliers were from hunger, yet as soon as he got on the team they went to the finals twice in a row.  But he cannot do it all.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


For anyone of my vintage the passing of Muhammad Ali brought back memories.  I can think of several.

--I am in junior high school and Ali was about to fight a guy named Doug Jones.  It was a big non championship fight in part because Ali, then Cassius Clay, was-go figure-bragging before the bout and Jones was a formidable foe.  Jones actually staggered Clay in the fight, but Clay prevailed with a disputed split decision.  Who knows where Clay goes if he loses that fight which launched him as a contender.

--I am watching the Jack Paar show with my folks. This was in Paar's first revival during the mid 60s. Paar had been Johnny Carson before Johnny Carson. Then he returned to do a show on Friday nights only.  (He did another tour in 1973). In this particular Friday night show, Clay was a guest.  He was making the, er, rounds before his first fight with Sonny Liston and was--go figure--bragging about how he would win--even though he was a very heavy underdog.  At the end of his stint with Paar Clay recited one of his poems about his predicted upcoming victory. The poem ended with the following verse.

"And noone knew//
when they put down their money//
that they would see//
 a total e-clipse//
of the Sonny."  

I remember my mother laughed and thought he was a joy but said something like, "Too bad he is going to lose."

It's late on the night that Liston and Clay are engaged in their first fight.  It is past our bedtime, but my brother and I are listening clandestinely to the fight on a transistor radio.  When Clay prevailed we thought we would take the heat for violating the lights out--go to bed--edict. We went downstairs to tell our folks that Clay was the new heavyweight champion.  They were so stunned by the victory that their complaints about our violating the bed time rule were muted.

It is ten or so years later.  The Thrilla in Manilla. I am living in Buffalo and I have bought tickets to see the fight in a downtown Buffalo theater.  This was an extravagance as I was a graduate student then living on a grand total of 3,000 a year from a university stipend.  Still, this was the Thrilla in Manilla.  I went with a professor of mine and a roommate.  The theater was jammed.  I was actually rooting for Frazier as I thought, and still feel, that one thing that diluted Ali's greatness was how he derided Frazier in the weeks before the fight.  It did not seem right. Frazier wanted to be respected also and he was made out to be stupid by Ali.  Ali called him a gorilla. The fight, from my perspective, was boring until the end when Ali came out swinging and knocked Frazier's mouthpiece out in the 14th round.

My father commented on how Ali was a remarkable man well before it was popular to do so. Remarkable because Ali stood up for what he thought was important and this courage cost him his livelihood during the prime of his career. Also dad thought Ali was remarkable because of the smart way he boxed.  The way he beat George Foreman with the rope a dope strategy was brilliant. Nobody had done that before. Foreman all punched out did not, literally, know what hit him when Ali came off the ropes and knocked him out.

Monday, June 6, 2016

62 Mets

A New York buddy of mine likes to sign his e-mails with the name of someone famous or infamous.  He's coming up in June to see a Red Sox game.  I wrote to him earlier today telling him that I had secured the tickets.  He responded with a thank you and signed it Choo Choo Coleman.  This made me laugh.

When the Giants and Dodgers left New York, National League fans were starved for baseball for four years.  We would go reluctantly to the hated Yankee games. Some would travel to Philadelphia to watch the Dodgers or Giants when they were nearby.  Many would stay up late at night and listen to recreated broadcasts of the Giant games on the radio.

Then, in 1962, the Mets started playing baseball--or something equivalent to it.  The Mets were really terrible. The first year they won only 40 games losing 122, which might still be a record of some sort. Nevertheless the Mets were fan favorites in New York because New Yorkers liked national league baseball. So despite the fact that the Mets were, as my father would say, "from hunger" we would go all the way into Manhattan to watch the Mets in the Polo Grounds.

I did not realize until a moment ago that Coleman actually played on the original 62 Mets.  I remember him playing later when the Mets moved to Queens and played in Shea Stadium.  Regardless I remember him.  He was billed as a catcher who was good at catching pitchers who had sinkers and an unusually fast player for a catcher that, as a group, tend to be slowpokes.  But like the rest of the Mets he really wasn't that good. I just read a quote from the original manager of the Mets Casey Stengel.  About Coleman's speed he said that he'd never seen a catcher so fast at retrieving passed balls.  

How do I remember an obscure catcher from fifty five years ago?  I just do.  There was a story going around about how one of my little kid cronies had bumped into him on the subway after a game.  We thought that was cool.  

I remember where I was when the Mets won its first game after nine consecutive losses.  The headline over the Daily News box score, I'm not making this up, was Mets win. Mazel Tov. The winning pitcher was an Engineering student turned professional baseball player named Jay Hook. Since he was an engineer, and since Hook really was not that good despite his getting the first win, some sports scribe commented that Hook could explain how a curveball works better than he could throw one.  

The 62 Mets had old timers who were on their way out plus babies who couldn't throw or hit. Gil Hodges, Bob Cerv, Roger Craig, Richie Ashburn--all good players in their prime--were collecting social security by the time they got to the Mets. Then you had the likes of Choo Choo Coleman and a jack of all trades named Rod Kanehl who one day would be at short and the next day at first and maybe the next day selling hot dogs.

Still, I remember the Mets so fondly.  My brother and I would watch and listen to the games despite the fact that they nearly always lost and found remarkable ways to do so.  Once Casey Stengel, after a difficult loss was asked if he believed what had just happened. Stengel's response, "Do I believe that? No I do not."

Brings a smile to my face.

Sunday, June 5, 2016


So far I am looking like a sage as Golden State defeated the Cavaliers in game one and is in the process of annihilating the Cavaliers in game two. As I write these words Cleveland is losing by 32 points.  The things I wrote in my prediction blogs have come to pass.  Golden State has a bench that is terrific and Cleveland just doesn't have the horses.

That written, and despite the shellacking the Cavaliers are getting, I am a little concerned about the Warriors chances of sweeping.  Golden State has defended as good as a team can defend. Draymond Green shot three pointers like Curry. Iguodala played a second consecutive great game.  Bogut was blocking shots like he was Bill Russell. And Leandro Barbosa performed like a scoring champ. However, in the first half Curry was pedestrian and threw the ball away many times. Had it not been for Green bombing threes and Barbosa playing so well, I think the game would have been close.

Cleveland will play better in Cleveland.  Iguodala, Green, Barbosa, Bogut, and Livingston cannot continue to play so well. Cleveland will be mega motivated after having been embarrassed. Still, the Warriors are just too good for the Cavaliers. Cleveland has the best player but after him there is nobody else.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Gray Panthers

Two years ago I wrote a blog called, "Am I a Kid or What?"  It was about a 37 and older baseball league that plays near the park where I live.  I just reread it.  I did so because last night as I took some laps around the park, I saw a game with guys who looked like 37 was way back in the rear view mirror.  I'd not recalled the entirety of the earlier blog, but as I just was reminded, a fellow with whom I'd conversed two years ago told me about a 55 year and older league as well.

It was indeed this 55 and older league that I saw last night.  I think there were some fellows out there who, like me, have not seen 55 in a spell.  Lots of gray, some very serious beer guts.  Every one of these guys looked like their wives told them one thing before they left for the park, "I don't want to hear it when you come back aching."

The thing is, these guys in their prime had to be good.   The pitcher for the visiting Winchester team had a gut that would have required a periscope for him to see his toes, but let me tell you he could throw. He had a fastball that came in pretty quick and a change up curve that was fooling the hitters. As I wrote in the earlier blog, the throw from third to first and short to first on a baseball diamond is long.  Go try it if it has been a while since you have been on a diamond.  Long throw. The shortstop for the Waltham team had a gun from short.  Of course, given the speed of the runners, you did not need a gun, but still the guy could throw.

A player from Winchester--another fellow who has not passed on the Budweisers-tagged a fastball that hit the very distant fence in two bounces.  It was a rocket.  When the ball left the bat, one of his teammates yelled--seriously--"don't let that be only a single."  A major leaguer would have circled the basis with that shot. The hitter last night did get to second but just by a smidgen. The first base coach who was kibitzing with me told me that the hitter was one of the best athletes in Winchester in his prime. "Course he's put on a pound or two recently."

This league allows stealing.  The catcher for Winchester was laboring so. Yet he made accurate throws to second base on steals, and caught the entire game without missing pitches.  The poor fellows who were playing first base on the respective teams each had difficult moments because--as I now know--leaping or even stretching for off the mark throws can be difficult once you start getting mailers from AARP. One of the first basemen made a sensational catch, but afterwards took a header which did not win style points.

I know I can play with these guys and I may go out there next Wednesday and ask if they could use an extra player.  I have not swung a bat in many years, can not throw far, and have not run a lick since the surgery, but still I have good hands and can catch a fly if I do not have to run too far.

What I took away from last night was how much fun these guys were having. Here they were--and if you saw them moving around you would not have thought this was fun--each one was moving really slowly--especially the catchers.  But they were out there, having a good time playing a sport that at one time they could play well. The league is very official. An umpire calling balls and strikes, another on the bases, 90 feet between bases, 60 feet 6 inches from the mound to home plate, uniforms with numbers on the back.  I will bet each of these players had to toss in 200 dollars to play for the season--at least--for the right to use the fields, pay the umps, and buy the uniforms. (Not to mention the cost of the grief they must get at home or, if they are still employed, at work the next day as they hobble about).

The park is no more than a three minute walk from my house.  I can literally hear the chatter and see the lights from my deck. Maybe the Waltham team can use a second baseman.

Golden State in 5 or 4.

I went to a site a few moments ago where 29 experts weighed in--predicting the outcome to the NBA championship series.  All 29 predicted the series will go at least six games.  Most predicted the Warriors will prevail.

The Warriors will prevail, but not in 6 or 7.   I've been mega wrong before, so if I have to eat my hat after the series, I've had some practice consuming the sombrero, but I do not see how Cleveland will compete.

LeBron James is the best player on the planet. Steph Curry deserved the MVP because he is sensational, but you take Draymond Green off of Golden State, and Steph Curry would not shine as he does, because the Warriors would not win as much as they do.  LeBron could play with me as his right hand man and still win on a regular basis.  However, after LeBron the horses Cleveland has are not that extra.  JR Smith can shoot, but he has had bouts as a fruitcake. This is the guy who, twice, was penalized because he tied the shoe laces of opponents together while they were on the foul line. The NBA championship setting is not grade 3.  Kevin Love has talent, but I don't think he has "it". Kyrie Irving I have not seen play much, but even if he is very good I don't see him to be enough of a difference maker.

The Warriors on the other hand won, in case you forgot, 73 games out of 82 this year.  They lost only nine times before the playoffs and showed their grit not only in this last series with the Thunder, but also when playing all out at the end of the season to earn the record for most wins in a season.  In addition, the Warriors have a player, Iguodala, who does not even start and was the MVP of the playoffs last year. He is a difference maker on the defensive end and, now and again, offensively.  Throw in Barbosa who is wild but a streaky scorer, Shaun Livingston who started when Curry was injured, the guy they call Mo Buckets, and two bona fide back up centers--I don't see how the Warriors lose even a single game.  I also think the Warriors have the edge with coaching.  Lue is a rookie coach and by all indications a good one, but this is year one--at any level.

Now watch Cleveland win by thirty tonight. But unless Green gets himself tossed out of a game or two for some of his shenanigans, I don't see it. I think the Warriors will win the series and do so relatively easily.