30 January 2005
2. What was your favorite amusement park ride when you were young? Something called "The Scrambler" which was a ride that propelled you in a way that it was like drawing a star. It was fast with enough of a jerking motion to make you think it was a thrill ride, but avoiding the plummets and dips that I couldn't take. I was one wimpy kid when it came to amusement parks.
3. If you could change your name (first or middle but the name you go by), would you, and if so, what would you change it to? I wouldn't change it, but I would go back to my birth and ask my folks to never call me anything but "James"; I like that better than Jim. If I had to change my name, I'd go with Luke.
4. Go to http://kabalarians.com/ and take the "First Name Analysis" test. Do you agree with what the site comes up with? Wow. Am I being set up? That was a perfect description of me. I am sufficiently freaked out now.
5. Other than Johnny Carson, which former talk show host's tape archives would you most like to visit, and why? I'll twist the question to make it fit my goal and have all of Letterman's NBC tapes.
6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #44 from Jessie: If you were in good health, would you donate a kidney to a friend who's dying regardless of what your family's opinion are and if yes or no, why or why not? Absolutely. If I can get by with one kidney (and I probably couldn't, but that's another story) I couldn't possibly not give up one for someone else.
29 January 2005
There's going to be a stranger in right field next year at Wrigley.
To no one's surprise, Sammy Sosa is no longer a Cub. Unless he doesn't pass a physical in a day or so, he's going to play for Baltimore this year.
This one is tough to judge. Sosa began his stint with the Cubs in 1992 when he was still young and raw. He was traded from the White Sox to the Cubs for a slugger named George Bell, who was a former MVP candidate with Toronto in the mid to late 1980's. At the time, most experts thought that the Sox got the best of the deal. For a season or two it looked like they were right. Sosa had a wild swing, no patience, and didn't seem to understand much about the game. Every once in a while he'd hit the ball a mile, but he was a marginal player at best.
Then George Bell broke down, collected the rest of the millions on his contract and went to run a gas station in the Dominican Republic.
I'd wager that just about everyone in America is well aware of who Sosa is and what he's accomplished since 1996 or so.
We'll leave the "did or he didn't he" steroid question out of this forum for now. No matter what you might put into your body, it takes a tremendous amount of skill to hit major league pitching.
I will never forget the summer of '98. It started out somewhat uneventful but by June the Cubs were playing decent baseball and Sosa was hitting a ton of home runs. He set a MLB record with 20 home runs in a single month. Most of them were bombs. I saw him hit a house across the street from Wrigley that month. By the All-Star break in July, it was clear that both Sosa and Mark McGwire would challenge the all time record of 61 home runs in a season set by Roger Maris in 1961. McGwire would get there first, blasting his 62nd the night after Labor Day in a game in St. Louis against the Cubs. He'd finish the season with a then-record 70 home runs. But his team, the Cardinals, would not make the playoffs.
On the afternoon of September 13, 1998 I was sitting with my friend Don in the right field bleachers at Wrigley. We'd purchased the tickets for the game in February, one of about ten games we wound up going to that season. When we chose that game, we had no idea what we were going to witness that day. Forone of the few times in our lifetime, the Cubs were in contention, fighting for a spot in the playoffs. This game was against the Milwaukee Brewers. The day before, the Cubs had beaten Milwaukee 15-13, and Sosa had become just the fourth person in history to hit 60 home runs in one year.
I have a tape of the game from Sept. 13, and I am watching it now to make sure I get the facts right, but I remember it all like it was yesterday. It was the bottom of the fifth inning and the Cubs were leading the game 6-3. Sosa had flied out his first time up, and he was intentionally walked his next time up. In the fifth, he was due up second. Mark Grace led off the inning with a single.
The Brewers had a guy named Ben Patrick on the mound. His first pitch to Sosa was a curveball that was low and outside. His second pitch was a fastball down the dead center of the plate. If there had been no noise in the park, you would have heard this pitch screaming "Hit me! Hit me!" as it approached the plate.
Sosa hit it 900 miles.
I remember losing sight of the ball as it cleared the boundaries of Wrigley Field. Our angle from where we were sitting did not allow us to see the hundreds of people who had gathered on the street outside the park, hoping to catch a historic baseball. Unfortunately for them, Sosa hit the ball past them. The ball landed over the street, past the buildings that one sees looking past left field. Someone sitting on their front porch well away from the crowd wound up with the ball on Kenmore Avenue.
So there was #61, and a most exclusive club was now a trio: Maris, McGwire and Sosa. And the Cubs were well in front of a game they had to win.
Sosa led off the 7th inning and struck out, and it looked like that would be the last time he would bat that day. But, lest we forget, this was a game involving the Cubs. They managed to blow their lead, and by the time the bottom of the ninth inning arrived, it was 10-8 Brewers. Sosa was due up second. The lead-off man grounded out, bringing Sosa up with the bases empty. Again, I am watching the tape, but I remember it all. A guy named Eric Plunk was pitching for the Brewers. He threw two balls and a strike to Sosa, and on his fourth delivery, he did his best Ben Patrick impersonation: fastball, right down the middle, begging to be clobbered.
Sosa hit #62farther than he hit #61, and the game stopped for fifteen minutes. For that moment, both Sosa and Mark McGwire held the record for most home runs in a season.
My tape bleeds from this game into "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" (???!!!) after this, but the Cubs tied the game and sent it into extra innings. Mark Grace won it with a home run leading off the bottom of the tenth, with Sosa waiting on deck.
It was a good day.
Sosa won the MVP that year after he slammed 66 home runs and led the Cubs into the playoffs. The next season, he became the first person ever to hit at least 60 home runs in two seasons. Personally, I think his best year was 2001. That year he had a .324 batting average, he hit 64 home runs and he drove in 160 runs. It was one of the greatest offensive seasons ever for an individual player.
Many things have changed since then. The ticket stub I still have from that game is a light shade of yellow, and the tape of the game won't last more than five more years or so. Sosa is not the same player, both mentally and physically.
At the end of last season, he decided he had enough of Chicago. He didn't just burn his bridges, he fire-bombed them. There was no way that he could come back to the team for the 2005 season and not be a major distraction. The Cubs couldn't wait to trade him. If you twist my arm enough, I'll admit that I am relieved that he is no longer a part of the team.
I'm naive when I think about 1998. I remember the roars, the excitement, the amount of time I spent watching games standing on my feet instead of sitting down. I remember talking to people about that game on Sept. 13, 1998 who aren't alive anymore. I don't think about the egos, the millions of dollars, and the fact that ultimately baseball is nothing more than a business.
99% of the fans and the press in Chicago are going to spend the next year torching Sosa whenever they can. I can't say that he doesn't deserve it.
But I can say that these are the same people who praised him to no end for the better part of a decade.
It's been a spectacular divorce, and it's only going to get better.
28 January 2005
One wonders what Vice-President Dick Cheney was thinking this week when he was packing for his trip to Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp:
"Sure am glad I picked up that "take your skiing vacation this year in Poland" pamphlet at Camp David last week."
"I'm so gonna look like Brezhnev!"
"Never thought I'd live to see the drilling in the Arctic refuge! Better make sure I take my parka..."
Kudos, Dick, for making all of us look even more idiotic. I wasn't aware that this was possible.
26 January 2005
As mentioned previously, this has been a day of yuck here. When I get like this, I tend to remember that I have an extensive CD collection, which thankfully gets me through it. I've been diving into some of it today, and thought I'd share some lyrics from different songs (which shall remain uncredited) that I find tremendous:
Time is the train
That makes the future the past
Leaves you standing at the station
Your faced pressed up against the glass
I’m going to Detox Mansion
Way out on last breath farm
I been raking leaves with Liza
Me and Liz clean up the yard
Break it down again
No more sleepy dreaming
No more building up
It is time to dissolve
Break it down again
No more sleepy dreaming
Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all
The needle returns to the start of the song
And we all sing along like before
And we?ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow
I?ll be the rain falling on your fire escape
And I may not be the man you want me to
I can be myself, how about you?
What a day.
It's gray here, everywhere. The snow has that "we've been hanging around a few days past the big storm so we're covered in dirt, soot and exhaust" look. Remember when you were a kid at school and one day you felt under your desk, wondered why it was all lumpy, looked and saw a billion pieces of gum stuck there so long ago that they had turned gray? The world looks like the bottom of my third grade desk today.
I do have perspective though. My day started with me sitting down to watch a tape of last night's "Amazing Race" only to see that I somehow managed to tape an hour of VH1's "100 most metal mania moments" instead. I have no idea how I did this. I suppose this is what I deserve for actually taping a reality show. Oh well. A quick jaunt to the network website tells me what happened. And tells me that the episode was also filmed in Sri Lanka a few weeks before the tsunami hit in December.
We'll call that perspective item #1.
And they just keep rolling in as the day goes by. I'm whining about gray snow and no sun. In the meantime, the following happens:
-31 soldiers die in a copter crash in Western Iraq, part of the deadliest day there for American forces since the invasion. OK, here's a rant: when is it going to be enough, I wonder, before the minions of the society here get up and scream "ENOUGH!"? How many more people have to die in Iraq before we get a clue, declare victory and cut our losses by getting the heck out of there? I am not interested in political objectives here, I just want service people to stop dying. The elections in Iraq are this weekend. How long until we hand the keys over to the least intimidated group that is declared the winner and send everyone home while we wait for the inevitable civil war?
-10 people die in a brutal train crash in LA. As the day has progressed it has been discovered that the impetus of this disaster is a 26 year old man intent on committing suicide who pulled his vehicle onto the tracks to be sent to glory in a wreck of bone, metal and rail, only to change his mind shortly before the train came through. Of course, for reasons known only to him, he got out of the car and walked away instead of driving the car off the tracks. Train hits empty car, train derails, people die, all while Mr. Miserable watches safely from the sideline. I think he's going to spend the rest of his life wishing he had stayed in the car. Rant #2: I thought suicide was supposed to be an individual act? I can't imagine making the choice to end my own life, and I have great empathy towards those that are so despondent that they do, but if the way you choose to die ends up killing others, you couldn't be a bigger coward.
-Condi Rice gets approved as the next Sec. of State by an 85-13 margin. Huh? My compliments to the 13, but if I may inquire, (here comes rant #3) why didn't one of you filibuster the vote? If I may quote my buddy Bob Dole: where's the outrage? Take your pick, Rice is either a liar or an idiot. She's part of the conglomeration that has led the country into this mess. Why is she being rewarded with a skate-thru confirmation? What's wrong with a 24 hour siege of the Senate to convey to America that not everyone is happy about Iraq? It boggles my mind. There's a certain up and coming new Senator from Illinois who voted to confirm Ms. Rice, quietly. Hmm. Didn't take long for the bloom to come off that rose, did it?
I'd go to the sink to wash my hands, but when I turn on the faucet all that comes out is bile.
22 January 2005
1. Which of the following is your favorite store and why?
C) K Mart
Target, almost by default, as I'm not much for shopping. I loathe Wal-Mart. Ever notice how every Wal-Mart you go into looks like the one in Tupelo, Mississippi no matter where you are? K-mart and Sears are boring. Target has decent prices. My soon-to-be wife is addicted to Target as well.
2. How far does your closest friend who's not in the same town as you live, and when was the last time you saw them in person? Hmm, ambiguity. Do we mean "closest" in terms of distance, or "closest" in terms of overall chuminess? I'll go with my buddy Dwight who lives about twenty-five miles south of me, though we grew up in the same town together. I last saw him in early December when we went to a college basketball game together, but we talk frequently.
3. Have you ever gone on a date with someone you met online? Would you? Would I? I'll go even further and tell you that I'd marry someone I met that way (on April 22, 2005...) the whole story is here, and yeah, it gets a little mushy in the end, but so what? And while it's true it was as much as a newspaper meeting as anything, we did get to know each other on the Internet before we ever met in person.
4. What is your favorite novel and what makes it stand out for you? Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." I love the description of Spain during the Festivals. I love the dialogue. I love the story. It just fits me. I want to be Jake, except with all my "parts" working. I read this book once every year.
5. You get snowed in at your home for three days. You have power and telephone service, but no way to leave the house. How will you amuse yourself? Read. Sleep. Get caught up on the three thousand vieotapes of shows I have. Surf the Internet. Talk to people. Become really sad when the snow melts.
6. A fellow journaler you consider a friend disappears from J-land. Visitors leave comments in the journal but they get no response. You send the journaler an E-mail to make sure everything is okay, and despite the fact that you see that it has been read, you get no reply. What do you do? Hope he/she is doing well and that they eventually reconnect with the world. I think it's important to realize that in situations like this that there are very clear boundaries that have formed. It's normal to be curious but when something like this happens, there's so much more going on than one could ever realize by just being Internet pals.
20 January 2005
I swear, I can't make up stuff this good.
Today's New York Times (I'll link it, but the elites at the NYT make you register to read it. Trust me, I can explain it well enough without reading it.) gives an account on the new target of the homophobic right:
Dr. James Dobson, the president of "Focus on the Family" actually devoted time during an address at a black-tie event in Washington last night to attack SpongeBob as a weapon of the pro-gay groups.
Well, it's about time someone realized this.
The citizens of this fine, morally upstanding country are being bombarded constantly by this, this absorbent creature of the homosexual agenda.
Don't think so? Why just look at the lyrics to his theme song!
Captain: Are you ready kids?
Kids: Aye, aye Captain!
Captain: I can’t hear you!
Kids: Aye, aye, Captain!!!
Captain: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
(Aha! Here’s the first clue-anybody knows that “a pineapple under the sea” is code for “embraces and promotes the gay lifestyle!”)
Captain: Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
(There’s that word again, “absorbent”; filth! And yellow! What more gay color can you get for a sponge? And Porous? Doesn’t that mean one that easily dispenses fluid, hmm? Absorbent AND porous? Easily retaining and dispensing fluid? Don't think I don't see where this is heading! Those poor children!)
Captain: If nautical nonsense be something you wish…
Kids: SpongeBob SquarePants!
Captain: Then drop on the deck and flop like a fish!
Now, you may read that as "nautical nonsense," but I see it for what it obviously is: jumping into the water unclothed with members of your sex playing such games as "is that really an oyster?" and "let's see what Malcolm caught in his big net."
And it has also come to my attention that "flop like a fish" is code for "Hey kids, tonight around the campfire, burn your Bibles and embrace Satan!"
I do feel safer knowing that SpongeBob has been rightfully exposed as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who as we all know will show up and lead us into the pit fires of hell once the gay agenda has been embraced by all. Tinky-Winky of Teletubbies was the first, you recall, thanks to the glorious Rev. Falwell a few years ago.
Two down, two to go.
Anyone seen Popeye lately?
19 January 2005
TOMORROW'S THE BIG DAY!!!
You may think that I am referring to Inauguration Day as "The Big Day." Not really. I'm not particularly excited about that. No, tomorrow is, in fact, what I'd like to call:
Tomorrow is the day I come out of my hole in the ground and look East towards DC. If I see shadows of arrogance, lies and other assorted BS, then we'll have four more years of cynicism.
Early line? Bet on it, folks!
I've been so low key on politics since the election that I've had to check my pulse several times. I've let a lot of things slide since November 2. Originally I vowed to take a month long break immediately after the election, but I never got my mojo back once December came 'round. I just didn't have the heart to comment on anything mildly political.
You can just imagine what I might have said about:
-The Dept. of Education spending $240,000 in taxpayer money to have a political columnist rave about the No Child Left Behind Act.
-The GOP leaders in Congress changing the rules so that any member under indictment WOULD NOT have to resign, just in time for the pending indictment of Tom DeLay.
-The appointment of Condoleeza "I have the hairstyle of Lucy from the 'Peanuts' comic strip" Rice as the next Sec. of State.
-And my all time favorite, the announcement that the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had "ended," with the smaller resulting line of "there were none..."
So many missed opportunities...
I have no regrets, though. I needed the break. As I said immediately after the election, I have no intention of genuflecting in the direction of W, and I hope to high heaven that the democratic "leaders" in Congress don't either. The gloves went on for a while after November 2.
'Tis time they came off.
18 January 2005
I'm as timely as ever, getting to work on a piece about MLK Day just as the clock is about to strike midnight, and this day passes until 2006.
As a white male who grew up in middle class suburbia, I can now look back at my upbringing and say that it was privileged. I hate to say that, because I don't mean to convey that I was or am better than anyone else. I can't say lucky because I think that denigrates the sacrifices that my parents made in order for their children to have the opportunities that we did.
We were fortunate. We went to good schools and felt safe. We took so much for granted.
I read a lot when I was a kid, so I was introduced to the class struggles all over the world at a relatively early age. I found it amazing that certain groups of people would treat others poorly based on the amount of money that they had, or what religion they chose to follow. I am sure that the first example of this was the story of Thanksgiving, how we learned that the pilgrims decided to sail to the New World because they were being persecuted in England because they did not want to follow a certain faith. It wasn't until I was ten years old, I believe, that I truly understood that society had also created problems based solely upon the color of people's skin.
That was when I watched "Roots" on television. I'll never forgot watching the first episode, and seeing how the white men captured native Africans, put them in chains and forced them into ships that took them overseas to a lifetime of slavery, if they managed to survive the inhumane conditions on board. I couldn't believe that people could treat each other like that.
I know that "Roots" is ultimately a story of triumph and survival but I never got past the first episode, how cruel it was. As I watched the remainder of the series, I never forgot how it all began. As I said, I was ten, but I know that it had a profound affect on me, and made me want to treat all people better. Between that and the lessons of my upbringing, I think I did OK with how I felt about everyone, but my experiences with minorities were few until I graduated college and went to work in the retail field.
Fast forward almost twenty years after "Roots": I am now a general manager for a retail drug store chain in Chicago, working at a store near the lakefront on the North side. One afternoon I got a call from my boss, who wanted to see me at the corporate offices ASAP. I knew what that meant, they wanted to transfer me to a different location. So I was not all that surprised when I arrived there and he told me that I was being moved.
I was surprised at where I was being moved. There's a neighborhood on the West side of Chicago called Humboldt Park and we had a store located there. I had never stepped inside the place, but I had heard a whole bunch of horror stories about it: out of control shoplifting, drug dealing, looting after the Bulls won the championship, etc. This store was always on my short list of what I used to call "Please don't send me there" stores.
Guess I could cross that one off!
I went. I was definitely the "minority" at the store. There were days when I never saw another white person until I left the city. I spent a year running that store, and now that my retail management career is over, I can honestly say that this was the best year of my career. This is the only store I ever worked at where 100% of the staff lived in the neighborhood around the store; I was the only person who didn't live nearby. I never saw more smiles or heard more laughter than I did here. I never met more family members of staff than I did here. I never had more people bring me samples of food that they made at home here.
And I never had a better overall store performance pertaining to budgets, expenses and other "corporate stuff" than I did here.
I never felt more welcomed and respected than I did here. And all my other stores put together failed to have the sense of pride that this store did.
I wasn't happy when I was transferred to this store. I allowed myself to get caught up in all the rumors and innuendos about it. It sounded like a tremendous challenge, and quite frankly I had spent my entire career up until this point dealing with challenges. I wanted a store somewhere out in the burbs, with a veteran crew that was no-nonsense. I wanted a store that "ran itself."
I was lucky. I got one. I can't help but look back at my trepidation now with embarrassment. I allowed stereotyping to form an opinion when I should have waited until I had a chance to experience things first hand. When they transferred meout of this store, they almost had to drag me out of there. This is still the only place where people cried with sadness at news that I was leaving (trust me, at other locations many, many, many people cried in happiness when I left...); this store and I were a perfect fit.
If there is one thing I am thankful for concerning my former career, it is the lesson it taught me about diversity. It should be common knowledge that all people of all creeds and races are capable of brilliance and should be treated with respect. I can only imagine how I would have hurt the staff at Humboldt Park if I had gone in there with a chip on my shoulder and a demeaning attitude.
I'm happy and grateful that I live in a country that honors a man like Dr. King, who gave his life trying to get everyone to see that message, that all men are created equal, that we are all entitled to the same rights. There are points in our history that are shameful and it is important that we teach our kids about it, so that they recognize it and know that it cannot be tolerated again.
I know that I can never truly appreciate the minority experience in this country because of who I am and where I came from. I would never pretend that I do. It's just not possible. But I can remember one year where I was not like everyone else and I can remember that in a lot of ways, it may have been the best year of my life.
I hope I live to see a time when it is like that all around, everywhere you and I happen to go.
15 January 2005
In honor of just watching "Stuck On You" I will once again answer Patrick twice:
1. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #38: If you could live in a foreign country(or city) for one year, which would you choose and why? New Zealand. It's as far away from home as I can imagine, and a year would give me the time to explore both islands in full. If I had to choose someplace I've been to, I'd say Reykjavik, Iceland, because it's as different as anything I've seen.
2. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #39: Did you have a security blanket, stuffed animal or toy that you were attached to as a child? Do you still have it? No
3. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #40: Favorite alcoholic beverage? Guinness
4. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #41: What was your favorite cartoon as a child? Road Runner. My favorite noise ever is the sound Wily E. Coyote makes as he is plunging thousands of feet into the canyon.
5. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #42: Is there a chore you enjoy doing? No
6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #43: A time machine will let you travel 10 years into either the past or future. Which would you choose and why? The past. I could not resist the chance to make sure certain events did not happen. For example, I'd make sure that no one would be allowed to sit in the first few rows of the left field stands at Wrigley Field on October 14, 2003.
And now for this week:
1. You achieve a high level of fame in your chosen career. Calls begin coming in for interviews...if you could only appear on one of the following shows, which would you select?
B) Live! with Regis and Kelly
C) The Daily Show
E) David Letterman
F) Jay Leno
G) Jerry Springer
I've been watching David Letterman for twenty years. I'd love to be a guest on his show.
2. You have the opportunity tobriefly become another person in another body, then spend 48 hours alone with the real you. Would you do it? Absolutely. What's not to love about me? Seriously, it would be fascinating to spend time with "yourself" while not being "yourself."
3. You have the opportunity to briefly become another person in another body and live a normal life for 48 hours. Would you dare to spend two days as a member of the opposite gender? Again, absolutely. It's not going to last, so why not see how the other half lives?
And I would just like to say that it took a lot of will power to resist making crass responses to those last two questions...
4. Compared to previous years, did you spend more or less money on Christmas gifts? How soon do you think you'll have all of the bills for Christmas paid off? A tad less, I think everything is about paid off.
5. What is the first toy you remember playing with? One of those plastic toys filled with tiny balls that you watch run down into small holes, then flip over and do it again. My mother was about to give it to my brother and let me try it first. I think I was about three.
6. Have you ever downloaded a song or theme song for your cell phone? If so, which one amuses you most? If you haven't, but had to pick one, what would it be? No. To be honest, I find them incredibly annoying, so if I did it, it would have to be the most annoying sound possible. I'll go with the "most annoying sound ever" from "Dumb and Dumber."
12 January 2005
I received this from a friend a few days ago:
Inauguration Day, Silent Protest
Since our religious leaders will not speak out against the war in Iraq, since our political leaders don't have the moral courage to oppose it, Inauguration Day, Thursday, January 20th, 2005 is "Not One Damn Dime Day" in America.
On "Not One Damn Dime Day," those who oppose what is happening in our name in Iraq can speak up with a 24-hour national boycott of all forms of consumer spending. During "Not One Damn Dime Day" please don't spend money. Not one damn dime for gasoline. Not one damn dime for necessities or for impulse purchases. Not one damn dime for anything for 24 hours.
On "Not One Damn Dime Day," please boycott Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target. Please don't go to the mall or the local convenience store. Please don't buy any fast food (or any groceries at all for that matter). For 24 hours, please do what you can to shut the retail economy down. The object is simple. Remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal; that they are responsible for starting it and that it is their responsibility to stop it. "Not One Damn Dime Day" is to remind them, too, that they work for the people of the United States of America, not for the international corporations and K Street lobbyists who represent the corporations and funnel cash into American politics.
"Not One Damn Dime Day" is about supporting the troops. The politicians put the troops in harm's way. Now 1,200 brave young Americans and (some estimate) 100,000 Iraqis have died. The politicians owe our troops a plan -- a way to come home.
There's no rally to attend. No marching to do. No left or right wing agenda to rant about. On "Not One Damn Dime Day" you take action by doing nothing. You open your mouth by keeping your wallet closed. For 24 hours, nothing gets spent, not one damn dime, to
remind our religious leaders and our politicians of their moral responsibility to end the war in Iraq and give America back to the people.
Sounds like a good idea to me, a silent, non-violent way to tell King George that he doesn't have a mandate, and that not everyone agrees with his policies of arrogance. This isn't about protesting the results of the election. Bush won, I've dealt with it. But just because 3% more of the people who bothered to vote thought him the better man doesn't mean that we should all fall in line like the sheep that he expects us to be.
There continues to be no exit strategy for the war in Iraq, the number of American casualties continues to rise, and the upcoming elections will see an increase in insurgency. Yesterday the acting Iraqi leader acknowledged that there will not be voting in parts of the country because it will not be safe. Upon reading this, I would assume that perhaps the powers that be would elect to postpone the elections until it is guaranteed that every Iraqi citizen can safely cast a ballot. Of course, that will not happen, because this administration would look at a rescheduling as admitting to a mistake, and we all know how kindly Bush jumps at admitting error.
I will do my part next Thursday in letting the President know that I am disgusted at his callous disregard for life, his mind-numbing abuse of power, and his unfettering arrogance. And I don't care if this protest is deemed a success. I prefer to think of it as using a voice for the thousands of American service people who can no longer use theirs. I screamed as loudly as I could on November 2, and I will do the same on January 20.
I say this both figuratively and literally.
The latter first: apparently those of us in Chicago are going to see a lot of rain later today, a week after we saw a lot of snow. What ever happened to straight winter? It's almost mid-January. We are supposed to be in the middle of a deep freeze, yet I'm hearing of flood watches for later today. While driving earlier this morning, I saw patches of fog at ground level rolling off of snow piles from last week's storm.
And, if I may elevate myself to supreme grumpy status, why is the local news media hell bent on making the weather the lead story every night? I'm not talking about coverage of larger events like tsunamis or California, just the local forecast. Last week, we had ten inches of snow dumped on us. If you watched the nightly news, you'd have though it was 100 feet. Earlier this week, the lead story was an ice storm on its way into the city. One of the dime-a-dozen forecasters here actually said that it was "guaranteed" that we would have transformers popping and tree limbs falling, causing blackouts and great amounts of damage. It never happened (not that I am sad that it didn't. I couldn't have done justice describing an ice storm better than Jennifer did. The pictures alone were amazing. I felt guilty even turning on a light.), which is a good thing, but is asking too much to have charges brought up against an overly hysterical weather reporter now and then?
So buckets of rain are inching their way towards Chicago, which will melt the rest of the snow, and flood an already over saturated ground. Then we will fall into a deep freeze, as they say that the temperature will not be above freezing for the foreseeable future.
Which means that it will be 80 by Sunday.
Of greater concern to me is the approaching storm that I feel inside my head. Simply put, I hate this time of year, and I struggle with it every year. The sun never shines anymore. I'd move to the arctic for the months of January and February if I could be guaranteed 100% sunshine. Everything seems gray, from the sky to the sidewalks, to the paint job on every single home. It brings a perpetual feeling of lethargy that I can't seem to shake, no matter how hard I try. I have plenty of things to do and plenty of things to look forward to, yet sometimes it seems completely mundane. Every year, as soon as the hangover from the holidays subsides, I regret the fact that humans do not hibernate. I'd love to take a nap from now until around St. Patrick's Day.
The key to making it through these next two months is to immerse myself in things that I know I can do, like writing, reading, and research. It seems so easy just to say that I will do it, yet I cannot fathom how difficult it seems sometimes. There's not much I can say in terms of excuses. I hate it when people say "snap out of it!" but truthfully I know that that is all I can do. I have to attack these feelings. I know that there are many worse things I could be dealing with.
It could be worse. I could be living in Washington DC this week.
10 January 2005
09 January 2005
I'm not a big fan of winter, so when I'm asked to share a humorous story about it, I have to dig a little deeper than normal. Winter for me as a kid was watching out for all the different places that I could tell dogs had visited. I always feared that I would slip on a patch of ice and fall into something "yellow."
There's a reason for that fear that is not winter-related, and will NOT be shared here.
Anyway, I can recall two separate incidents when things froze, one painful, one humorous. The coldest night ever in Chicago was in January of 1985, I believe (I know that I was in high school). So of course on that night, with the temperature approaching -30 I decided to go to a concert with a couple of friends of mine at the Rosemont Horizon, about thirty minutes away from my house. I believe it was a double headliner, REO Speedwagon and another band that I can't remember now. What I can remember is offering to drop my friends off at the door while I parked the car, thinking that the walk across the lot to the arena wouldn't be a big deal. I was so wrong. I had a hat on, yet by the time I got inside, my ears were stiff. It was unbelievably cold crossing that lot, and then once the show started and my ears thawed, it felt like they were on fire. I spent the entire show in tremendous pain. And of course, after it was over, when we had to go back out to the car, I did it again.
That was painful, here's funny:
About ten years ago I was coming home from work in the middle of the night on a very cold winter night. I had bought a few things at the grocery store on the way home, and as I grabbed the bags out of the car, I did what I always do when I need both hands, I put the keys in my mouth and let the keychain dangle from my teeth.
Only this time I put the keys on my tongue.
I knew as soon as I did it that I had made a big mistake. They froze to it immediately. My first instinct was to rip them off, but thankfully I rejected it. I walked across the back yard to the house (I was still living at home) and found that everyone inside was asleep, which was good, because no one would see what I had done. Unfortunately this also meant that the door was locked, and my key to unlock it was on the chain that was currently dangling from my mouth.
Somehow, in the dark, with a key firmly attached to my tongue and a chain of other keys hanging out of my mouth, I was able to maneuver the right key to the door and unlock it. If you've never tried to unlock a door with a key frozen to your tongue, I suggest you try it. Once inside the house I went into the bathroom, filled a dixie cup with warm water, and slowly poured it onto my tongue until the key came loose. That hurt as well, but I was laughing too hard to feel much pain.
I have always been proud of myself for getting out of that jam without ripping half of the flesh off my tongue, and for keeping it a secret from the rest of my family, for if this had happened during normal waking hours I would still be hearing about from them. I will now anyway, since I have outed myself.
Now everyone knows why I don't laugh as hard as everyone else during that scene in "A Christmas Story" when the kid licks the metal.
Extra Credit: The non-Christmas song that reminds me most of winter is U2's "A Sort of Homecoming."
Aha! And the other band was Survivor.
04 January 2005
I may be ecstatic over Ryne Sandberg getting into the Hall of Fame, but the rest of the process for this year is a complete joke. Sandberg and Wade Boggs were the only men to be voted in, and while both deserve it, they should not have been the only two. Someone please explain to me how these men did not make it:
Bruce Sutter- Forget his stats (which are good enough to be in), he deserves to be in solely because he was the first to throw the split-finger fastball. That pitch has changed the way people pitch in the last twenty five years. He had an excellent run as a closer for several years, won a World Series with St. Louis, and was as reliable on the mound as anyone during his prime.
Rich Gossage- He was one of those pitchers that could blow you away. He could tell you that he was going to throw a fastball right down the middle and dare you to hit it, and you would still miss it. He was durable, reliable, and a winner. Plus, he had a really cool mustache.
Lee Smith- Anyone with 478 career saves deserves to be in the HOF. Smith got a majority of these before the era of the easy save that started in the 90's, when closers would come in to a game at the beginning of an inning with a two or three run lead. He, like Gossage, could blow you away with his fastball, but he also had a slider that crossed degrees of longitude when it was working.
(Side note here, all three of the closers played for the Cubs. Since it is common knowledge that I live and die for the Cubs, I'd like to publicly disaparage any thought that I am simply looking out for members of the fraternity. Sutter and Smith started the careers with the Cubs, but were just as effective elsewhere, while Gossage was well past his prime when he took up residence on the north side. All three of these closers are among the best in history. Active closers like Smoltz, Rivera and Gagne will one day be in the Hall, but if they get there via the benefit of "easier" saves than these guys (and Dennis Eckersley already has), then there is something wrong with the way the game regards its pitching pioneers.)
Bert Blyleven and Tommy John- I group these two together because their numbers are so similar. Bly won 287 games, John 284. Doesn't longevity count for anything? Blyleven threw the greatest curveball I've ever seen (if he threw it in Montreal, it would wind up in Pittsburgh) and John, who had a surgery named after him, for God's sake, had to rely on mastering breaking and off speed pitches to succeed. It's ridiculous that these two don't even come close to getting in. Next century, when pitchers who win 200 games in their career are considered great, the game will be embarrassed that it took so long to recognize these two. Jim Kaat belongs under this reasoning as well. Jack Morris too.
Andre Dawson- Yes, another ex-Cub, but let me ask you something: only three players in history have at least 2700 hits, 400 home runs, and 300 stolen bases. Two are Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and I'd be willing to wager that 99% of the population knows who they are. Who do ou thinl is the third? Dawson. He was dominant in the mid-80's, when he played in the baseball obscurity that was Montreal, before coming to Wrigley Field in 1987. He won the NL MVP his first year there. People bemoan the fact that he performed poorly in the two playoff series he played in. Big deal. He was constantly part of the "who is the best player in the game" debate in the late 80's and early 90's. If nothing else, baseball ought to spring for free knee replacements for the rest of his days since he toiled on the asphalt fields of Montreal for so many years. If his knees had not broken down, he would have reached 500 home runs, 3000 hits, and would have been a first ballot choice. His not being close to inclusion is perhaps the biggest transgression.
Oh well. I don't have a vote, and even if I did, one more vote for these players would not be enough to change anything. Baseball writers are a strange bunch. Unless you have Ruthian stats, they expect you to patiently wait a few years until you are deemed acceptable to belong, unless health robs you of your skills, as was the case of Kirby Puckett having to retire early due to glaucoma. Good thing Kirby didn't have knee problems instead.
I've been to the Hall of Fame, and it's a special building. Baseball may have lost its innocence in my eyes a while ago, but the Hall of Fame is different. It allows me to see the people that I grew up reading about, guys who were long dead by the time I knew who they were. It's as historic a place as I have ever seen, and if I could, I would remind those responsible that there is still plenty of space where they display theplaques of those enshrined for new members.
The veterans committee votes in March (if you are not voted in by the media in the first fifteen years of eligibility, only the members of the Hall can vote you in). If Ron Santo (ex-Cub warning, yes, but COME ON!) is not voted in, I may never give credence to the process again.
It's a dreary day here in Chicago. The sky is a deep gray, it's cold, and we are going to be hit soon by either an ice storm or a large amount of snow.
A perfect time to turn my thoughts to baseball.
Ryne Sandberg has made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame today, on his third try. If you aren't from Chicago and don't follow baseball, you might be asking "Ryne who?"
After a brief stint with Philadelphia, Sandberg played for the Cubs from 1982 through 1997, with a season and a half retirement in the mid-90's. Though he never won a World Series (mind you he was playing for the Cubs-sigh) he put up spectacular offensive and defensive statistics consistently during his career. He holds several team records, and I believe he still holds the major league record for consecutive errorless games played.
The best thing about Sandberg is that he kept his mouth shut and let his talent speak for him. He played everyday and always at his full effort. He was a model teammate and never once was engaged in any off field controversy. For some reason, it took three years of voting to get him into the HOF, despite having the best career numbers for a second baseman in the modern era. He wasn't one for self-promotion, and in reality, that probably delayed his being voted in. Not enough people out there knew who he was.
Sandberg wore uniform number 23. In Chicago, if you mention 23 you think of Michael Jordan (who had a few good years in this town himself). MJ arrived in the fall of 1984, two years after Sandberg. '84 was Ryne's greatest year. He won the National League MVP award while leading the Cubs to the playoffs for the first time since 1945 (recalling that year for this piece is giving me goose bumps), and cemented himself as a Wrigley Field legend. Everyone so often I will stumble across a game from that season on "ESPN Classic", Cubs vs. Cardinals, in which Sandberg homered twice in the late innings to tie a game that the Cubs eventually won in extra innings.
If you happen to see this game and you enjoy baseball, I implore you to stick around to the end. It's what "The Natural" should have been.
I suppose it is fitting that Sandberg will officially be enshrined into the Hall of Fame 23 years after he began playing for the Cubs. No offense to Michael Jordan, but he's not the first legend in this town to immortalize "23."
But don't get me started on Andre Dawson being snubbed...again.
02 January 2005
So it is that another year has come to pass. And I am sitting in a meadow with my one true love. She reads to me as the clouds filter over us and sweet drops of sunlight bathe our souls in heather...
Sorry, once I wrote that first sentence I thought I was writing a pastoral poem. Forgive me.
So 2005 is here. Each time I find myself looking at a calendar that says "January 1" I inevitably ask myself how one year could go by so quickly. 2004 went faster than any previous year of my life. It wasn't a bad year. It was rather good, actually. I didn't break any bones, my car is still running, and I wasn't arrested in a case of mistaken identity.
When I was a kid, I always thought about the year 2000 because it represented something, a different time, the future. When I was ten thinking about what it would be in 2000, all I knew was that I would be an adult. I had no idea what I would be doing.
We are four full years past 2000 now. I don't really think about the future in a way that I did twenty years ao. Now that it is 2005, I have become the sort of person who lives life one year at a time. I have plans, of course, that extend past this year, but I have no definite time table of which to accomplish things.
It's odd to feel this way, to know that the years are passing, that I am getting older, that my time on Earth is growing shorter. I can hear it in the background...tick...tick...tick...tick...
All I want to do in 2005 is make it to 2006.
Because twice is better than once:
(From last week)
1. Did you travel for the Christmas holidays? If so, how did you get where you were going and how was the trip? No traveling this year. In fact I think I have only travelled for Christmas once ever.
2. Did you get most of the gifts you were hoping for? I stopped "hoping" for gifts a long time ago. I appreciate the thought that goes into the process when someone gives me a gift and sort of feel like I shouldn't be hoping for anything. And, when you don't hope, you can't be disappointed!
3. If you were to check Santa's list, would your name appear to indicate that you had been good enough in 2004 to have DESERVED those gifts? I think so. I'm a pretty boring person, so I don't see why I wouldn't be on the good list.
4. If you HAD to make one New Year's Resolution next year, what would it be? Shed some meat from these bones.
5. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #36 from Mrs. L: What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie or dessert? Cherry pie
6. READER'S CHOICE QUESTION #37 from Promise: Who inspires you the most in your life? Hmm. This is a toughie. My father's memory inspires me to live this life as best I can, but since he died, my mother has shown me how one can triumph over adversity, so I'll go with her.
(And this week)
1. Where were you when the clock struck midnight? With whom did you ring in the new year? My fiance and I were watching television.
2. Do you have any foods you always eat on New Year's Day, and if so, what do the foods signify for your family? If my memory serves, we always used to eat prime rib for dinner on Jan. 1, though I don't now, so I guess the answer is no.
3. Do you believe that these "superstitious foods" work? Until this moment, I had never thought of the concept of "superstitious food. "
4. Did you make any New Year's Resolutions this year, and if so, which of them do you honestly expect to have kept by December 31, 2005? I resolve not to make any resolutions. I've never seen the point. It seems to me that I would only be setting myself up for disappointment.
5. What is the most enjoyable DVD you purchased in 2004? What's the most enjoyable DVD boxed set you purchased in 2004? I didn't buy any.
6. What would you most like to see change in AOL Journal-land in 2005? The rate of which the numbers of my hit counter increase!