Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Anomie--"Personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals."

Thirty years or so ago a friend called me out of the blue.  She was all over the place in the conversation.  I hadn't spoken with her for about ten years.  While it was and almost always is good to reconnect, I was puzzled by the call.  We ended the conversation and I still was not sure what we were talking about.

A few days later she called back to apologize.  She said she had been out of sorts and was grasping at old acquaintances to become tethered to something. I remember clearly that at one point while explaining the incoherent conversation she paused and, in an exaggerated way, said "I mean it was, A NO MIE."

This is a time of year when anomie can come front and center and gobsmack one leaving a sensation that is something, I imagine, like the after effects of being shot with a stun gun.

One of the positive things about work is that there is something to do, some place to go. At a wedding last April we sat at the old people's table.  I got to chatting with a couple to my left.  He had been conversing with another person across the table who'd asked if he was still working for a rental car company.  He had replied that he was.  His job, it came out, was to take a car from one location to another.  A renter takes a car from one airport and drops it off at another site.  My table neighbor's job was to take the car back to where it belonged.  "Do you like the job" I asked. He said something like, "it gives me something to do in the morning."

The advantage of having something to do in the morning is that you can't spend a whole lot of time thinking about how disconnected you might be from children, spouses, friends, siblings, old lovers, and neighbors whom you were fond of, instructors who made a difference in your life, the rare mensch who you once had the great fortune to run into at this place or that.  The advantage of going to work is that you can get so busy moving a car from point A to point B, such that you don't have time to realize you aren't, yourself, traveling in a meaningful direction. That your time on this planet is limited, and you seem to be driving cars from point A to B metaphorically and have not covered a good deal of substantive distance.

At holiday time the moratorium on work can bring on a sense of anomie. Because it is a holiday the expectation and imagined nirvana of reuniting with happy family members, can compound the sense of isolation when the time--while nourishing to some extent--highlights to an introspective sort that the event is, at best, nirvana light and maybe nirvana not.   Thanksgiving can be a wonderful holiday, but the deflating realization of anomie can ramrod your head into a wall.

Someone once told me that the secret to happy marriages was soccer practice. I asked what he meant. He said parents who were forever shlepping their kids here and there, and going themselves from one meeting to another, had no time to sit down and realize that the person they had said I do to was someone with whom they had become estranged even when they share the same bed and occasionally might even exchange bodily fluids.

I think Thanksgiving is a good time for all those for whom anomie is a dreaded condition, to touch those whom they have touched genuinely during the course of their lives and respect that this touching is the antidote to anomie.  We have a purpose and are not alienated when we remember that there are those who are or were in our lives who have been as nourishing to our health as a vitamin.  Even when you can not actually connect because of distance, or even death, it is a time to remember how you have been genuinely connected.

Chiefs and Rams

I am not particularly adept at picking political races.  And while I have gone on streaks of predicting the outcomes of sporting events, I would not bet a great deal on most of my predictions.

However, I am not bad at judging talent.  If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you may remember that I regularly disparaged Lonzo Ball and predicted he would not be an especially effective player in the NBA.  This has turned out to be the case.  Nothing more than a hyped up point guard who can make some sweet passes, but will never be a game changer. He is not your go-to guy and not someone an opponent has to worry about more than they would be concerned with any ordinary player.  Similarly I predicted Jameis Winston would not be that special as a pro.  He is hot and cold, but will never really be the elite quarterback all swore he would be. As a general rule quarterbacks who are great runners in college, have limited value in the professional ranks since, if they run regularly, they will be injured. So, remove that asset and their passing is not as singular since defenders do not have to worry about the run.

All this as preface. Last night the Chiefs played the Rams in what was billed as a game for the ages. And the announcers certainly spoke during and at the end of the game as if the teams were the cream of the crop. The Rams prevailed 54-51.

News flash. If you give up 50 points in a regular season game, you are not such a swell team.  Sure both of these teams have super stars and clever offensive plays.  But you rarely win championships by outscoring other teams.  You win championships by being able to score, yes, but being able to defend now and again. The way the rules in the NFL are now, it is true that it is tough to defend. Still, you can't let a team score every time they have the ball. Or, as was the case last night, turn the ball over so many times.

My prediction is that neither of these teams will win the championship and I do not think either will get to the super bowls. I see the Chiefs dropping another game and may not even earn a first round bye. The Rams may get to the NFC championship game, but I do not think they will be victorious there. If they are, they will be defeated in the super bowl. 

The superbowl teams: The Saints from the NFC and either the Steelers or Patriots in the AFC.

Just saying.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Home and Home

On Friday November 9th I attended a Boston Celtics Utah Jazz game in Salt Lake City. Last night, the Jazz came to Boston.  I decided to juxtapose last week's experience with what I would encounter in Boston.  So,with the help of my stub hub app, and patience, I was able to do just that.

It is difficult for persons not aware of sports costs (and that would include me up until a week ago) to get their heads around what a ticket to an NBA game can run.  When I was in Utah, I figured the cost was affected by the numbers who wanted to boo Gordon Hayward, a former Utah player who had left the team to play for the Celtics.  But in Boston, with so many events going on during any one day in the city, I was surprised to see what it sets you back to attend a game live, when the games are--every single one of them--on television.

In Boston yesterday at Fenway Park was THE GAME, Harvard vs. Yale which I did not attend. Today in Fenway is an Irish Curling game that has been hyped since the summer. The theaters and museums all had their aficionados and attendees.  How much could a ticket to a basketball game during the regular season fetch with all the competition for spectator dollars?

When I first went on line I was aghast because to sit on the moon, it cost over 100 dollars.  These prices had to come down, no?  We are talking top of the arena, closer to heaven than the court.  So I waited it out.  It got to 5 pm for a 730 start, still about 100 clams to sit not only on the moon but behind the basket.  I decided to drive to school, and then check out the costs. If it came down I would buy a ticket and then take the subway to North Station.  At 615, still a bunch of dough.  I took the subway down without a ticket.  I arrived in a madhouse of an arena and walked up to the ticket window.  He had some single tickets for 300 bucks a piece. I love sports, but that was not going to happen even for the journalistic value and research potential of juxtaposing going to a game against Utah in a home and home series.

I took out my phone. Ah, technology. I played with my stubhub app. Someone who was holding a ticket for 80 bucks and could not go to the game, had to be thinking it was better to reduce the price than eat the ticket. And so it was, twenty minutes before game time, I spotted a seat that dropped a bunch in price--it was in the heavens but close to center court.  There were five seats in a row. I grabbed one.  A steal. With the stubhub cut, 80 dollars.  I thought I had a bargain until I thought about it some more.

But hey enjoy it, I figured.  Sure, that could feed a family of 6 for several days, but push that out of your mind.

I take the elevator to the heavens.  The scene in Boston was like the scene with Utah except at 45 as opposed 33 rpm.  The fans in Utah were, well, Jazzed--but in Boston they were jazzed maybe after three cups of coffee.  Longer to get through security in Boston. Security is more of a sham I have found at sporting events than a reality.  In London at Wimbledon, at the US OPEN, at Utah, in Boston, at Fenway, at a couple of NCAA venues, years back in Miami, I have gone through security without a peep and I have a six inch prosthetic in my hip that sets off the alarm at airports.  No problem.  Seems like it is for show.

I climb to my seat. Climb is the verb.  I am one row from the top.  I was high up in Utah as well; I think I am a little higher at Boston, and not quite at center court.  So the 79 dollar ticket I paid in Utah was just a bit better than the 80 plus dollar ticket I bought off stubhub for the Boston game. 

The fans are akin in terms of enthusiasm although here it seemed like more were into the beer than in Utah. Serendipitously, the two fans to my left were Utah Jazz followers. Each had their own Jazz jersey and cheered for their squad in a sea of Celtics admirers. Last week in Utah there were many more Boston fans among the majority Jazz fans, but I did have these two Utah folks adjacent to me.

The music, noise, intermission nonsense was about the same in Boston as it was in Utah. The pregame honor America which is a staple now of games, and particularly prevalent around Veterans day was what it was last week.  The pregame introductions-- blandly introducing the opponents and then a light show worthy of a rock music concert--introducing the home team was about the same. The players, all making millions of dollars, jumping and chest bumping seemed more choreographed than genuine. Gee, these guys play 82 games, are they really, "up" for a game in November when the season stretches to March?

Both the Celtics and Jazz had played other teams the night before. The Celtics winning a thriller against Toronto, and the Jazz losing to Philadelphia.  Well, the Celtics played soporifically and the Jazz played with intensity.  Just like the previous week, the Celtics could not drop a bar of soap in a bathtub, while the Jazz players could not miss. Gordon Hayward was booed incessantly in Utah, and by the end of the game last night he could have been booed by Celtic fans because of another stinkaroo. The guy behind me was really giving Hayward a hard time. However, given how high up we were, the guy would lose his voice box before Hayward could hear a syllable from this particular zealot.

So just like last week, the Celtics disappointed its fans, while the Jazz fans went home happy.  Post game was different though. First, I went to pick up my wool hat that I had placed below my seat and found it was soaked by beer that had been toppled over by someone. Just great. 40 degrees out and I have a wet hat that smells like a Budweiser.  I leave the arena and figure I would stop somewhere to get a beer and dry off my hat.  There must be a dozen taverns around the Garden that I have frequented on one occasion or another. Every single one of them was packed and in some cases there were lines to get in. Now, I know this was a Saturday night in downtown Boston and not all the revelers were there from the game, but regardless it was hopeless to think I would get in before my hat would dry. 

So, I popped back on the subway to get my car.

On balance, I think if you had not told me where I was on both occasions, and had removed all direct indications of the location like the announcer shouting for Utah versus Boston, I still would have been able to tell you that I was in one place as opposed to the other. However, the distinctions were not that great. And, I will opine as a sports fan my entire life, the experience was not worth the dough.  Highly overpriced to sit on the moon, and I imagine to pay 300 to sit closer even more of an absurd cost.  Stay at home. Drink a beer as opposed to have someone fill your chapeau with one. Not listen to inane music and bogusly choreographed introductions.  For a regular season game, here or there, it was not worth it.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Very icy drive home last night.

On Tuesday I was in the driveway of the condo my brother and I inherited. I was on the phone wearing a pair of cargo shorts, and no shirt.  Had flip flops on as I walked back and forth while shmoozing.  Thought if the conversation went on much longer I'd have to go back inside for the air conditioning.

Now, as I write this in Boston the wind is howling and there is a sheet of snow/ice on the ground. When I arrived at the gym last night for my evening dance with the elliptical machine, a thin shower of snow had begun to fall.  When I left two hours later, it was--even for a fellow who lived in Buffalo for eight years and Albany for five--icy and treacherous.

The problem with first snows of the year is people aren't used to them.  In March if we had one of these, motorists would have gotten the hang of it.  In November, it is two hands gripping the steering wheel and cars sliding back and forth.  I took my normal route home which involves negotiating a steep swerving road.  That probably wasn't the smartest decision as on two occasions I had to do the snow mambo once to avoid a skidding car going down while I went up, and another time when I was on the way down.  The mass pike was not plowed and there were two kinds of motorists. Type A, going as fast as always, Type B moving cautiously like snails.  On South Street, the road that leads to our house, there were blue lights all over the place marking accidents and skidded cars. Very glad to pull into the driveway.

Inside a home on a snowy night when all are home safely, is the comforting antithesis of driving home on ice.  I wondered last night about the wisdom of having left Florida on Tuesday night.  I remembered how my dad was sold on Florida the minute he stepped off a plane in February the first time.  He said something about having shoveled his last snow flake. (Meanwhile, as I recall it, my brother and I did most of the shoveling, but a story for another day).

So, here I am. Cozy at home. No classes today.  The weather is warming up, so the snow will likely melt before I have to go anywhere.  Maybe I will start a fire. My university has a men's basketball game in Charleston at 11 am which will be broadcast on ESPN 2.  I have some chapters to edit and a book to read.  The plumber came yesterday to replace the water heater.  Hot showers are available. All seems well. No doubt some aggravation will surface during the course of the day, but having arrived safely after ice skating home I feel content.

Not everything is a metaphor I know, but doesn't this seem to be one (at least when you are inside and can muse about it).  Our days are trips on sometimes dicy highways.  If you aren't careful, make bad decisions, have bad luck, you wind up derailed. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Salt Lake

Last week the annual National Communication Association meetings were held in Salt Lake City.  This was the second time I'd been to Salt Lake. The first was in 1974 during the obligatory hitch hiking across the country journey that was not uncharacteristic of the 70s.  At that time I blew into Salt Lake at night, and after a spell got picked up by a fellow on a motorcycle who took me to his mother's house where I slept in their family room. A different time but really not uncharacteristic of that era.

Well, forty four years later I arrive in Salt Lake by airplane.  A taxi driver from Pakistan who moved to Utah because, while in Pakistan, he had become a Mormon--took me from the airport to the Radisson.

My cabdriver had pointed out that the place where the Utah Jazz play was right around the corner from my hotel.  I went on line and saw that the Jazz had a home game the next night and, to my happy surprise, the game was against the Boston Celtics.  So I went the next day and bought a ticket for the game.  Academic conference in the day. National Basketball Association at night.

Lots of people wearing Jazz jerseys in the stadium as could be expected. In my section though there were plenty of folks in Celtic garb. I had no Celtic gear but had brought a Patriots wool hat in case the weather in Salt Lake was frigid. It wasn't but to show my allegiance to New England I wore the cap to the game.

The Celtics stunk up the joint but it was fun to attend the game anyway. I sat high up but at mid court and had a very good view of the game. Former Jazz and now Celtic player Gordon Hayward was booed every time he touched the ball. The fans delighted when he missed shots or turned the ball over. A player for the Jazz who had been a Celtic, Jae Crowder, had a terrific game. I recalled during the game that when the Celtics had spoken with excitement about getting Hayward, Crowder felt dissed as the two play the same position. Well, Crowder played as if he wanted to show the Celtics something, and did.  The fans were delighted.

The arena was very modern. Huge screen showing the action in case you wanted to follow on screen as opposed to watching the action live.  Expensive ticket and I had not bought it from a scalper. Way at the top and still an expensive ticket. Who can afford to attend many basketball games?

Some non sports related observations about Salt Lake City.

  • The city is far more racially diverse than I thought it would be.
  • The Salt Palace where our conference was held was as good a venue as any that the National Communication Association has selected for their meetings. Large, accommodating, friendly staff.
  • A restaurant where there was a reception of sorts was quite good.
  • When I first started going to these conferences I was a young guy. Now I am one of the old guys. But I think I am a young guy even though I am an old guy until I see myself in the mirror.
  • The exhibition hall was less populated with vendors than the halls have been in the past.  Used to have forty or fifty book salespersons peddling their products. Now probably twenty at most.
  • For a city of Mormons the hotel bar was hopping on Friday night. 
  • The mountains in the distance are impressive.
  • My uber driver on the way back to the airport told me that a new airport was being built and it would be the ninth biggest airport in the United States when the job was completed.
  • The woman who sold me my ticket could have been a ticket salesperson anywhere in the US.