Monday, April 29, 2019


I am sitting in a Starbucks restaurant that, until a year ago, was a gas station.  The station often seemed empty.  Not empty anymore.

The Starbucks sits across the street from a Dunkin Donuts that itself is very popular. The Starbucks is more popular. I have rarely come here when there was more than one open spot in the ample parking lot.  And empty seats are at a premium.

On the other side of town, at the junction of Main Street and Moody Street, there is an Independent coffee shop. If one were to drive west on Main street, in less than a half mile you'd find an all night Dunkin Donuts that is always busy.  In addition there are a couple of convenient stores that have coffee for takeout. Keep going west on route 117 and in short time you could go into a Panera's that is well attended. Drive about half mile further and you can pull into an outdoor shopping plaza that has a Market Basket, liquor store, Marshalls, Verizon, and three relatively high end restaurants.  Very busy plaza.  Tough to get a parking spot in this plaza.

But the place in the shopping area that is more crowded than any of the other popular establishments in the plaza or any of the coffee shops en route to the plaza, is a Starbucks that sits in the middle of the parking lot.  It has a drive through. I have never, ever, ever, been in the shopping plaza when there was not a line at the drive through.  I sometimes go to the Market Basket at 7 am.  Never ever has nobody been on line waiting for a cup of coffee. Donna went to meet someone for coffee at this Starbucks and the two could not get close to a table.  I once got a seat at 6 am on a Sunday.  But now I don't bother even trying.  So if I feel like Starbucks I drive to this other side of town where I have a fighting chance of getting a seat.

What is it with Starbucks?  Why is it that in New York City in particular you can't walk two blocks without seeing one.  Why are they so successful?  The one where I sit now is really kind of a pain in the neck to get to. Which is, I suppose, why the gas station--a Mobile--left Dodge.  The site was no problem for Starbucks. It is 308 in the afternoon.

One thing that puzzles me is how the clientele are encouraged, or at least not discouraged, from loitering. I bought the smallest size coffee they have (called a "tall"--the smallest is a tall) and I am sitting here with my laptop. To my left are four tables of people who are on their computers.  How can they make the loot to pay for the rent,when the occupants buy 5 dollars worth of whatever and park themselves for hours at a table.  It's not like a bar where a waiter comes by and asks if you want something else and if you say no, you are essentially given the heave ho.  Here I can stay til my laptop runs out of juice.

I go to Starbucks for two reasons. The first is that there must be more of a jolt in their coffee because after two cups of this I can do the Mexican hat dance--and I need a hip replacement for hip two--and I already have a pipe holding hip #1 together.

The second reason is that I like hanging out and using my laptop.  I could do without the two kids in front of me right now, playing with straws, blowing the paper wrapper off, watching it fly for a few seconds.  But these kids are aberrations. Usually, the place is more quiet and I can do work or whatever I want to on the laptop. Their moms,--the straw blowers' moms--are meeting and have kid duty apparently, so they are discussing some business issue while letting their kids run around.

My theory about why Starbucks is popular relates more to my first reason than my second, but the second reason counts too. I think primarily it is the drug.  This is a legal drug.  Like speed with a nice hat.   But Starbucks is also a place where someone who wants to get out of the house and be among people--even the occasional obnoxious kid straw blower--can be among people and do solitarily whatever they would have done in a an actual solitary setting.

P.S.  I drove past the Starbucks in the plaza at a little past 7 am the morning after I first posted this blog. There were more than five cars on line at the drive through. However, I did glance through the windows, and you could easily have gotten a seat inside at that time.

Saturday, April 27, 2019


I had an idea for tonight. The FAU Owls men's baseball team and women's softball team were playing games at the same time. I looked at a map before I came down south and saw that the stadiums were not far from one another.  I figured I would watch some of the men's game, a single game against Old Dominion University. And also watch some of the women's game, a double header, against UNC Charlotte.

Some observations.

  • It was hot.  In both stadia or stadiums.  Not much shade in either. The games started at 4, which I thought might provide some reduction in temperature.  It did not seem that way.
  • I started at the men's game.  It seemed very slow probably because it was so uncomfortably warm. I walked the 3/4 of a mile to the women's game after a little less than one inning.
  • The men's ticket cost 10. The women's 7.  The men's stadium had regular individual seats. The women's had metal bleacher type seating. Right behind homeplate there were backs to the bleacher seats. But in the sections to the right and left no backs to the seats.
  • By the time I arrived at the women's game, UNC was up 5-0. I asked a woman to my left who told me that the pitcher had been wild and then gave up a grand slam. UNC did not score another run all game. The final was 5-2.
  • The women's game was much faster and much more fun to watch than the men's game. I returned to the men's stadium after the women's first game was over.  It was not as enjoyable to watch.
  • Nobody but nobody on either women's team throws "like a girl."  Let me tell you the players on both squads could throw rockets. On one play a UNC player attempted to score from second on a single to left. The left fielder threw a strike home and nailed the runner.  When I was in college we had a women's softball team that would have lost to either UNC or FAU by 30 runs.  Not exaggerating. Maybe 50 runs. These were serious athletes. The third baseman for FAU made one great play after another. I did notice the UNC centerfielder hugging the left fielder after she made an especially nice catch. 
  • Both fields were in similarly good shape.
  • The women's team had little ball girls and several groups of elementary school looking girl fans.
  • There were a few more fans at the women's game than the men's. This was a special day for seniors so that could have accounted for it.
  • The slogan for FAU for both teams is "winning in paradise."  Maybe paradise, but the men lost their game as well. The women did win the second game which I did not see.
  • Lots of kibbitzers at the men's game. One guy was holding court, not obnoxiously, but you could tell he was a regular.
  • In the women's game there is a 5th inning not a 7th inning stretch. I was at the men's game for its 7th inning stretch and the women's 5th inning stretch. The women fans sing take me out to the ball game with more enthusiasm.
  • A host of fans were sitting on top of cars beyond the left field wall in the women's game, beating the 7 buck admissions fee.
  • Beer was sold at both stadiums. I did not see too many folks knocking them back.
  • The defense for the men's game, like the women's game was impressive.
  • FAU men got within one run in the bottom of the 7th, but then all hell broke loose in the top of the 8th. Several pitchers came in to try and stop the bleeding.  Final was 12-6
  • Bottom line, if this tiny sample experience is anything close to typical,  title ix is a tremendous success. The women's game was engaging and exciting, more-so than the men's. The women on both teams were serious players.  They obviously had had an opportunity to play since they were little. If I had an opportunity to choose going to another game when both women and men were playing at the same time, I would definitely go to the women's.

pops and hondo

I don't recall when it was, but I remember being taken aback one day when a young 'un called me "sir" and he meant it to be deferential, a sign of respect, as in "respect your elders."  And I can't remember exactly when it was, but it was not long ago, when I was on a subway or some public transportation and some young person got up to offer me a seat. 

I do remember the morning in Albany, a few years back, when my buddy Kenny--four days my elder--came back to our motel where we had stayed after a fraternity reunion. Despondently, he walked through the door holding a bag from Dunkin Donuts. He dropped the bag on a bureau.  "What's up", I said. "They gave me the senior discount and I did not ask for it."

There is a supermarket near where we inherited my folks' condo. They make excellent subs.  Probably toxic, but they taste good.  So a couple nights ago I went there to get my fix.  I asked for an Italian sub. I did not want to know how many calories or what poison cold cuts were there.

The sandwich maker was a pro. This man had made an Italian sub or two in his day. Quick with the meat and cheese, chopped up the tomatoes like he had done it a hundred times and enjoyed having others admire his prowess. Put the various items I wanted on top of the tomatoes with a bit of showmanship.  Then he went to wrap. Not the first time he had wrapped up an Italian sub.  Zip zip.  All tucked away neatly, he put the footlong sandwich in a bag, stapled the price of the item to the outside wrapper and handed it over while wishing me well.

"Have a good night, Pops" he said.

Pops, eh?

Do I look like a Pops?  I don't feel like a Pops. I don't think like a Pops. I was not wearing the kind of duds that Pops wear--I don't think.  I had a baseball cap on and the only give-away perhaps was that my sideburns now are gray--but gee, Pops, kind of stunned me.

Then I got back to the condo and watched some tv. The Bruins were on.  At one point when there was a break on the ice, the camera went to the rafters and focused on a banner hanging from the Boston Garden. It was a banner commemorating number 17 John Havlicek, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  The announcer commented that we had lost Havlicek earlier that evening.

Now I started to think like Pops.  I remember Havlicek from when I was a kid in Plainview. My dad and brother would watch the great Celtic-76er games in what we called the playroom of our house.  I was not a fan of the Celtics then, but I grudgingly had to admire Havlicek.  A perpetual motion machine, who took clutch shots night after night.  A tremendous leader and someone who made me angry on a regular basis when I rooted against him because of how he would, sometime single handedly, defeat a team I was cheering for.  Aside from Bill Russell, nobody had more of an influence on the great Boston dynasties of the 60s than Havlicek.  While I am crazy about Larry Bird, Havlicek belongs every bit in the conversation with Bird and Jordan and Magic. Every bit as good. 

I start reading on line and I find out that Havlicek was only 79, just a decade my senior. And that he had been in bad health for a few years.

Brought me down a bit, but then the next day I went out and walked 5 miles without much of an effort.  Not Pops.

Felt like going to the sandwich guy and asking if he wanted to take on "Pops" in a basketball game of one on one. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

rain out

When I was a kid, and we had tickets for a ball game, and the game was rained out, a patron could exchange the rain check for any game on the schedule for which there were seats.

What the Red Sox top brass does when it has a rain out is just wrong.  I do not have tickets in this case, so this does not affect me personally, but that does not affect my sense that this is unfair.

The Sox will be playing a day night double header tomorrow because tonight's game is soaked out. Raining cats and dogs here, since about 2. 

What the Sox require is that the people who had tickets for the 7 pm game tonight, use the same tickets for tomorrow's 1 pm game. So let's say you have a real job that requires you be there from 9-5. And let's say you have real kids that have to go to school say from 9-3.  And let's say you were taking yourself and your two kids to tonight's game.  You are out, easy, 180 bucks.  You cant go tomorrow, your kids can't go.  The Sox do not care, because they have your shekels. Try to sell those tickets on stub hub, my guess is you will take a bath.

Just wrong.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

still the same

On Sundays, the Boston Globe prints a column that lists authors who will be reading during the upcoming week from their recently published books.   There is no shortage of these readings. This past Sunday nearly thirty events were listed.

I read the column weekly and often think that it would be good to go to a particular one.  Occasionally, I actually do go to these readings, but far less frequently than I consider doing so.  Almost always when I go, I enjoy the hour with the author even if, after I read the book they are essentially peddling, I am not so keen on the product.

Usually the attendance at these gatherings is small--maybe twenty to thirty interested persons. Often the readings are held in a small section of a bookstore. The proprietors hope that those who come to the talk, might subsequently pay for a copy.  Other times the readings are held in libraries in the area-- of which they are dozens. Big names draw bigger crowds of course. Joseph Heller, way back, filled a room in the Boston Public Library. Richard Price got a smaller but still healthy turnout when he read from his then just published excellent book, Clockers at the Cambridge Public LibraryMost of the time though, you can easily count the house.

One listing I spotted this past Sunday was for a book entitled You Say You Want a Revolution.  It seemed to be about the student protests of the 1960s.  I was there then, and it looked interesting. So I went last night.

When I arrived I saw what I sort of anticipated: a crowd of aging hippies who I could only imagine shouted "Free Bobby Seale" and "Power to the People" back in the day.  I started to speak with a woman to my right and I realized that while I was in the right ballpark, I was in the wrong section.

These folks were no ordinary student protestors. These were people from the far left who, in a number of instances were leaders of student movements. We are talking very far left. The book is a collection of memoirs from those who were active during the era on the far left.  Several of the memoirists were present.  About seven of them spoke reading parts from their sections in the book and interspersing comments about their experiences.

Initially I was intrigued, engaged, and sometimes amused.  Here were aging activists who had not relinquished their idealism, or so it seemed.   Yesterday, I discovered, was an anniversary of a student protest at Harvard. Nearly all those who spoke were active in that protest. Many people in the audience were also at the protest. The two men seated directly in front of me appeared to be strangers but then one leaned over to the other and they realized that they were acquaintances from then. They  had not seen each other in decades but discovered joyfully that they had been then as they were last night, shoulder to shoulder together.

The second speaker I found to be the most effective. She spoke about all the things the people in the vanguard of the movement did wrong.  She spoke of how subjugating leadership was to women, and how they did not tolerate disagreement among the rank and file. An irony this; how a group screaming for democracy did not practice it within its ranks.   Other speakers were similarly self effacing and often cited the group's unwillingness to accept philosophical diversity within the movement.  Yet, despite the self-criticism I did not get the sense that to this day the ideology of the far left was any more flexible.  The speakers talked of how change could not take place unless they embraced the working class. There was talk about how capitalism is evil and the root of the subjugation. They referred, only half in jest, to their colleagues as Comrades, and the women in the group as Sisters.

Well, nothing wrong with the word comrades, I guess, except if it conjures up an autocratic system that is left leaning as opposed to an autocratic system that is right leaning. And the reference to "Sisters"from men, beyond being outdated, struck me as paternalistic rather than egalitarian.

Some of the speakers intimated that with dedication, the left could still fuel an uprising and it was important to keep the faith. At one point I thought that this rhetoric was the same stuff I heard when I was 20 and knew then that it was myopic.  I recall being in classrooms filled with smoke and puffing pontificators who condemned the "system" and the oppression of the working class. Yet at the end of the rambling and self serving speeches and speakers, the classroom was littered with cigarette butts and empty paper coffee cups and desks askew, while the "working class" janitors were waiting outside to clean the room, now filthy.  Occasionally one of the speakers would see a janitor and in a forced effort to enact their philosophy, attempt to engage the cleaners with conversation that reeked of paternalism and noblesse oblige.

This was a well attended event, much more heavily attended than those I typically go to.  Maybe as many as 100 people there.  So, there is some support.

But we were in Cambridge, MA.  We were in the only state that McGovern carried in 1972.  All you have to do would be to go North into New Hampshire or the northern suburbs of Boston and these guys would be seen as fringe folks at best. Even in Cambridge these folks would not be persuasive to the majority.

If you want to change the world, you have to see the world as it is, not like you would like it to be.  You don't like capitalism, fine. Given the impulses of most people, not to mention the history of the world, describe a system that works better.

Irony 1 they were really pushing their books. Why not give them away?

Irony 2, the bookstore wanted the program to end because customers could not get to the section of the store where the talk was being held. The group kept going beyond their time limit.  Power to the people. Hmm. I guess power to the people who have similar ideologies.

When I left the bookstore I was no longer amused.  While I admire the philosophy and ideological commitment, there was not enough recognition of how short sighted the far left movement was and is. I once mused (and thought myself clever) that utopia is the stuff of myopia.  It is.  You say you want a revolution? Well, as Lennon (not Lenin) crooned, "we'd like to see the plans."   And the plans need to account for our own human tendencies.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Some thoughts after Saturday night games

I have never seen a team play defense like Texas Tech.  It is like they have more players on the court than their opponents.

Sean Payton should take some lessons from Bruce Pearl. Payton is still whining about a non call in the NFC championship game which, he claims, cost the Saints a trip to the superbowl. Yes, had the call been made they would probably have gone. But after the call was not made, the Saints had a number of opportunities to win and choked with a capital C.  The coach of Auburn, on the other hand, is apparently a different sort of cat.  With 1.5 seconds left his Auburn team was ahead by two points against Virginia. A player from Virginia attempted a three point shot and was fouled. The Virginia player made all three foul shots and Virginia won by one.

Replays showed that the foul was not a bad call, but it was the type of call that sometimes is not made at that time. More significantly, prior to that foul a player from Virginia committed a violation which would have forced Virginia to relinquish the ball. If the violation was called, you could say Kaddish for the Cavaliers. But the officials missed the call.  So, two calls at the very end of the game. Either one would have handed the game to Auburn. After the  loss Pearl was asked about the calls. He said, "Auburn will handle this with class. Give credit to Virginia. We will look at the film and see where we might have done better throughout the game."  Sean Payton, not.

The coach for Texas Tech will be able to write his own ticket when his contract expires.  Whatever happens on Monday he will be a rich man.

I went 1-1 tonight against the spread.  Both my teams won, but Virginia did not cover. Texas Tech was getting two points so of course I won there.

Record after Saturday night. 25-36-1.  Still alive for second place in the brackets.  Texas Tech would have to win against Virginia on Monday for me to take away the second place prize. Could they win?  Well, the way they play defense yes.  Tonight, however, if it wasn't for a guy named Mooney they had nobody else who could put the ball in the basket.  I do think they will win though.

However, Virginia has karma on its side. After its embarrassing exit in the first round in 2018, it could seem that predestination will make them the winners on Monday.  The omega of the humiliating loss to a 16 seed, to the alpha of winning the 2019 tournament.

Still, I am going with Texas Tech. Virginia is now, moments after the end of play on Saturday night, a one point favorite.  I like Texas Tech to win outright and therefore cover. The over under is 120.  Mighty low, but I think the Under is the way to bet on this one.

You Know You Want This

I read a review of You Know You Want This--a collection of short stories by Kristen Roupenian. I thought the review was in the New York Times, but I just read the review a week or so ago and, after having finished the book, went to read that Times review again.  However, I discovered, the review in the Times was in January not March. Same for the Globe.  I get a quarterly book magazine and see a review of the collection in there, but that is not the review I read.  So I don't know what review I read, but whoever wrote it, made me want to take the book out. Which I did.

Here is what I think.

This book is both engaging and very strange. I was sure to include the name of the author in this blog, because if a man had written these stories he would be hanging from his toes somewhere.  All the stories (except for one) deal in some peripheral way with sex and love, and I think that is the order.  One woman meets up with a fellow on Tinder and informs him that he must punch her in the face and kick her in the stomach before they have sex.  Another woman likes to bite.  Not gender specific, but at the end there is a particular male she has her eyes, her teeth, set on.  In another, a princess marries a man, but prefers in the end to cuddle with an inanimate object that is not a conventional sex toy. 

The author writes very well. What she writes about may not be your cup of tea, but she can string words together in an engaging way.  She is best known for her story, "Cat Person." The subtitle of You Know You Want This, (not the title of any of the short stories) is "Cat Person and Other Stories."

"Cat Person" was first published in The New Yorker magazine. I am, I guess, some sort of philistine since I typically only read the cartoons in The New Yorker when I look through the magazine at all. Also, apparently, everyone on planet earth had read "Cat Person" when it went viral.  I did not notice it in the sports pages.

But now I have read it.  I liked it, if you can like such a story. The author describes characters and situations so well. (If you want to know nothing about this story stop here.  I won't give away much, but some in the next paragraphs).

Margot meets Robert where she works and somehow an unlikely relationship evolves.  The relationship is unlikely, but that it becomes the kind of relationship it becomes is not only not unlikely, but what I believe made this story go viral.

What is sad and, I believe, appealing about this story beyond the writing is not that the tale of Margot and Robert is so unusual, it is that it is a story that almost anyone who reads it can say, "This happened to me." or "This happened to my best friend." or "This happened to my best friend" (when it really happened to "me").

The key point in "Cat Person" is the same point that is in nearly all the stories in the collection. The cat person in "Cat Person"--it turns out--may well not be a cat person at all.  Who are we when we have sex, court--to use an old fashioned term-- hope to fall in love.  Are we who we claim to be or some rendition that maybe we don't even know we are pretending to be.  The fellow in "Good Guy" is aware of his ploy, yet like so many of the other characters in the collection he is engaging by being someone other than who he is.

 No wonder there is anguish in relationships periodically.  You are not who I thought you were and I am not who I pretended to be, so guess what, we need to see a therapist.

My favorite line from You Know You Want This: "This is the worst life decision I have ever made."  It is so apt for the moment in the "Cat Person" story.

But maybe it is apt for the entire collection. When we adopt a persona to audition to be a lover, and we engage with someone who is doing the same thing, it is not a great life decision.

Do I recommend the collection? Yes. "Good Guy" is a long short story, but a good one. (if you can get through the first paragraph/sentence).  And "Cat Person" will hang out in your head.

Final Four

I did not check in after Sunday's games.  One might infer from the absence that I was suffering from the ignominy of losing both games on that day. Not the case. 

Not the case that that was the reason for not writing. Certainly I had an ignominious performance predicting games. Both Duke lost as did Kentucky, and I was "certain" of the latter and felt good about Duke as well.

To make matters worse on the forecasting front, I had been doing quite well in my brackets pool before last Sunday. If Kentucky had won, and certainly if Duke and Kentucky both won, I would have likely taken home the number one prize among the thirty or so fools who pay the ante each March in anticipation of a payday. Alas, now not only did I lose both games last week and not win the pool, but no matter what happens tonight or on Monday I will (a) be a loser in my  blogging predictions, and (b) can finish no higher than 2nd in the bracket pool.  The latter is still better than I have ever done before. No doubt, however, I have just given the chances of any sort of payday, an ahora. 

So, don't pay attention to my predictions.

I like Virginia to cover the 6 points against Auburn.  Betting against Auburn last week was my demise, but I think they just played over their heads.  I think Virginia prevails. Six points in a final four game is a lot of lumber, but I think Virginia will win.

I have bet against Texas Tech for two games now.  I will not do it again.  Take the two points in its game against Michigan State.

Some serious comments now.  I cannot figure out how Texas Tech is playing defense in such a way as to completely stymie its opponents.  Buffalo, a team that had been lighting it up all season, could barely get a shot off. Similarly Gonzaga looked like they had sniffed Kryptonite against Texas Tech.  This coach is going to be worth many shekels in the off season. I've watched basketball my whole life and seen many different quirky defenses. These guys are not just quick with their hands, they are putting themselves in position so that they can be quick with their hands.  Now watch, MSU will light them up. Izzo is no slouch in the coaching department. Ordinarily I would go with Izzo, but Texas Tech is playing defense as if they have six guys out there. And I believe, seriously, whatever they are doing will be studied and copied. They have revolutionized the game in a way I do not understand, but others soon will.

My record is 24-35-1 for the tournament against the spread.  And I know what I am talking about.

Reminds me of an old Buddy Hackett joke. A couple is arguing in an elevator in Las Vegas. The wife has just dropped 100 bucks playing blackjack. The husband is furious. The wife says, "Well hey, you lost 300."  The husband still furious, shouts back, "Yeah, but I know how to gamble."

I know basketball. Against the spread, 24-35-1. (But still alive in the brackets).