29 December 2007

Random thoughts from a week of fatherhood

Please excuse me as the blog continues to be all baby, all the time.

Des has been with us for a week now.  We brought him home on Christmas Eve and enjoyed a constant stream of visits from both of our families.  Everyone says he looks like me, but truthfully I don't see it, at least not yet.  To me, he just looks like Desmond.  Nothing could make me happier.

Some thoughts I've had in the last week:

1. Feed first, change diapers later.  A empty belly demands attention over a full diaper anytime.  It's all about the stomach, and when it's empty, it doesn't matter what else is going on.  Fill it.

2. I hope whoever invented the pacifier won a Nobel Prize.  Or was canonized.  Or both.

3. Waking up every three hours or so in the middle of the night isn't fun, but it could be a whole lot worse.  So far, our boy likes to sleep.  Let's hope that continues, though I'm thinking that is mostly wishful thinking.

4. I never realized how much newborn boys look like old men until I stared at my son for twelve hours straight after he was born.

5. I was adequately under-prepared for the emotional level of a child's birth, which stuns me because I knew going in it was going to be the most intense experience of my life.  I felt like I was being tasered from the moment we left for the hospital until the time we came home with Des.  it comes now in waves.  I can be sitting here doing next to nothing when it hits me again that there is a new life in the house and that it is ALL OURS!!! and the process starts over again.  It's very liberating, like I just emerged from a mine after a year or something. 

6. If there is a feeling better than having an infant fall asleep on your chest, I don't want to know what it is.

7. I hope whoever invented the pacifier owns at least a home on every inhabitable continent, for they deserve it.

8. I've always felt that I've been someone who has given women their due as a gender, but now more than ever, it's clear to me that men are the inferior sex.  There's no way any man could have put up with eight hours of labor, two hours of pushing, and then a c-section without punching someone or declaring war.  I was ready to invade China.  Toss in being on call 24/7 for the maniacal feeding desires of a wrinkly-yet-supremely lovable baby boy and I am more convinced that if it were men who were responsible for giving birth, this would be an empty planet.

9. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my wife?  How I will never be able to doubt anything she does ever again (not that I did much before this), how I know for sure that she tolerates pain better than I do, is braver than I am, etc.?  I am several rungs below her on the ladder of impressibility.

10. I remember five years ago when my father died how surprised I was when people who had lost their fathers too commiserated with me.  Any time someone said "I've been there" or "I had my turn X years ago" I was floored by the idea that someone else was going through what I was.  Eventually I realized that the feeling of surprise was due to the fact that while other people lost their fathers, they didn't lose my father.  When it happened, I felt like I was the only person ever to lose a dad.  Building up to the birth of our son, it was the opposite.  It seemed like everyone had been through this before and were happy to offer advice and tips, so much so that I expected certain things.  It was only after Desmond was born that I realized he was more than just a baby, he was my baby.  And now that he is here, he puts me in the middle of something.  I was and always will be a son to my father.  Now, I am and always will be a father to my son.  I see another facet of Dad's life that I knew existed but had no idea how it felt.  We never talked about what it was like to be a father, mostly because I never asked but also I think he felt, like I did, that I would not be one.  The conversations I have now with my father about being a dad come from my memories of the things that he did.  While I don't remember what he was like when I was first born, I see myself doing things with Desmond that I know he did with me.  It is quite a comforting feeling, one that gives me a sense of my father's presence, stronger than I have ever felt since he died.  I am in the middle of a circle, looking back while I am moving forward, and it has never felt so right to be alive.

21 December 2007

We have baby

Our son Desmond James was born tonight 12/21.  He wasn't as big as "feared" but still came in at a hefty 8 lbs 3 oz.  All is right with the world.

Big thanks to those who expressed well wishes.  And for once in my life, I'm pretty much left speechless.

To the other side of the fence

The minutes tick away on the last day of my life where I will not be a father.  It's all amazingly surreal.  Tuesday and Wednesday I was a nervous wreck to the point where I was having physical reactions, but today I have been calm, as if I almost expect that I know what I am doing.  My wife is upstairs asleep, which is good, since she has to do most of the heavy work tomorrow.  She's more nervous than I, but then I would be too if I had to push out what she's been carrying for the last nine months.

I went in to this with no real idea of what it would be like.  She has been wonderfully pregnant, blessed to not have any issues and to have felt like herself for most of the time.  She told me tonight that she will miss being pregnant.  I've been envious of her since the baby started moving around, because no matter how many times I feel him kick, I can't possibly realize what it feels for her, to feel a living thing moving around inside.

She's been a joy to experience this with.  I am luckier than I ever dreamed I would be.

I'm not much of a person of faith, but I do feel some type of spirit within me, keeping me under control, not letting me get too out of my own self.  I also feel my father all around me.  This is going to be intense.

So I suppose I should try to sleep, since I have to be up by five and get us to the hospital by six.  There's no telling how long it will take; it might be over by noon, it might go on into Saturday.

No matter what, it will make Tuesday just a little anti-climatic,
yet no less of a reason to be thankful for the blessings of this world.  Let's hope the next time I come this way that I haven't turned into a babbling moron.

18 December 2007

Holding steady

Nope.  He's not here yet.

We had a doctor appt. today.  According to our esteemed medical professional, whom we like very much, our son is somewhere in between 8.5 and 9.5 pounds.  He's a big kid (he certainly did not get this from me), and my wife doesn't like her doctor as much today as she did yesterday.

Given his size, we've been advised to take proper action, so baring his arrival before, we'll be going to the hospital Friday morning at 6, where they will induce my wife.  Sometime that day (hopefully-I am not letting her read this) we will officially become parents.

I can't really put together how I feel right now.  I suppose I am nervous.  Mentally I do not feel nervous.  Physically I feel like the most nervous person ever.  I feel like a low electrical current is going through my body.  I tell myself that I am not nervous.  It doesn't seem to be working.

About fifteen minutes ago both of us sort of looked at each other and said "is this really happening?"  We've been looking at baby stuff strewn around the house for the last month or so, and it has had the effect on us as if we were only playing house.  What does it take to get the realization of this?  Do we have to wait until we can physically see him?  That's the only thing I haven't been able to figure out about this, why I have this "no, this isn't really happening" feeling.  Not that I don't want it to, more like someone telling us "oops, sorry, we made a mistake."

It's completely irrational.  I guess I thought maybe that I'd never have an irrational thought again.

For the last time, a fatherless random eleven:

1. "The Man's Too Strong"-Dire Straits.  Of course it's possible to make baby connotations about everything that comes up here, but this makes me laugh.  This is one of those songs that make me want to learn the acoustic guitar.

2. "To Go Beyond"-Enya.  My grandmother died on July 14, 1995.  It was during one of the hottest stretches of weather in Chicago history (she was not a victim of the heat) and that night, when I went to sleep in my roasting apartment, I left the CD player on.  I woke up at three AM to this song, and had one of those "I get it, she's OK" moments.  Changes the song forever, obviously, and makes me think fondly of the only grandparent I got to spend any meaningful time with.  Man, she was fun; everything a grandma is supposed to be.

3. "Rocket"-Smashing Pumpkins.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat for the rest of the day.

4. "Miss Halfway"-Anya Marina.  I heard this on NPR (I think it was "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me") one day and downloaded it shortly afterwards.  Imagine my horror when I found out it had been featured earlier on "Grey's Anatomy."

5. "White City Fighting"-Pete Townshend.  I'm sure that I have mentioned it before but the "White City" album is my favorite album ever, and always will be.  It's not possible that any piece of music released in the future will ever top it.  Had this album not come out in the summer of 1985 (so I could play it to death in the fall of '85), I might not be the person I am today.  Suffice to say it played a big part and getting me through one of the hardest moments of my life.

6. "Lazy Days"-Enya.  I have no dead person story to tell with this one.  Make a joke here about how all my lazy days are about to end forever-actually I'm not worried about that.  I am looking forward to days of exploration with my little boy.  I can't wait for the first time he discovers airplanes, cars, trains, etc.  I could make a list of one thousand things.  The first twenty-five seconds of this song are as strong as any intro I've ever heard.  I can listen to it over and over again.  In fact, I just did.  Seven times.

7. "It's Money That Matters"-Randy Newman.  With a strong assist from Mark Knoppfler on guitar (which with # 1 gives him two appearances a la Miss Enya.  Of all of the people that I used to know/Most never adjusted to the great big world.  This is the only Randy Newman song that doesn't make me want to break something and then impale myself on a spike.  All of these people/are much brighter than I/In any fair system they would flourish and thrive/But they barely survive/they eke out a living/they barely survive.

8. "Oceanside"-Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.  I saw this band in '89 opening for REM in Iowa City and had no idea who they were for about five years until I went into a used CD shop next to my apartment and the owner gave me this.  I'd love to know if they played this song.  Wish I'd paid closer attention.  Stick around for the hum at the end.

9. "Miss Sarajevo"-Passengers.  Better known as U2.  Pavarotti (I know I spelled that wrong-oops, maybe not.  Why is he in spell check?) has a solo at the end of this of which I have no clue what he is actually singing.  This makes me think of a documentary I saw a long time ago about Sarajevo during the war, when they had the Miss Sarajevo Beauty Pageant.  At the end, the dozen or so ladies in competition came out on stage dressed in one-piece bathing suits and high heels, posed for a moment or two, and then unfurled a banner that said "Please don't let them kill us."  It's impossible to ever forget that.

10. "Me and Sarah Jane"-Genesis.  I've known one Sara in my life, I think, and one Jane.  I have never met anyone named Sarah Jane. 

11. "Crazy Love Vol. II"-Paul Simon.  I don't know where Vol. I is.  I always think of Fat Charlie as someone else when I hear this song, someone who was not an architect but had the same bevy of problems he seems to have in this song.

Keep the car running

08 December 2007

Hurry up and wait

That is what our life is like now: wait.  Wait some more.  Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.  It has been this way for about two weeks, and will continue to be so until our son decides he wants to join the human race.

It's driving me nuts.

And yes, of course it is harder on my wife, since she's caring the little bugger.  She gets bigger everyday.  I can't imagine how any of it feels.  She has this thing living inside her; it likes to move all the time, and it is particularly fond of poking her in the ribs.  But she's not blogging this.

Waiting for our son to be born is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  I've been nervous before.  I don't feel like I am now, however, maybe I am so perpetually nervous that I don't understand it.  For the length of the pregnancy I have been waiting for all of this to "hit me."   I remember when I bought my wife's engagement ring was when it "hit me" that I was getting married.  We've bought a crib.  A dresser.  A car seat.  A stroller.  Lots and lots of clothes (OK, some of these things have been bought by others, obviously), etc. etc. etc.  Everything is ready.  We just need a baby.  So when will this "hit me"?

This baby boy is going to be here within a few weeks (he's due the 22nd, but if he waits that long his mother may never speak to him).  From the middle of summer I have said December 14th, which is six days away.  Six days.  Holy schnikies.  We are about to become parents.

Every time I see the empty crib, when I see all the clothes in the closet, the bottles in the pantry I find myself wondering how much longer?  I haven't been in a position like this in a long time, where I have to wait and wait for something and I have no control over it.  I can't remember how long it has been since I've had to deal with something like this.  It certainly has returned the anticipatory feeling of Christmas that I used to have as a kid.  But this is the birth of my first child, one of those "never again" events.  I might have more kids, but only one gets born first.  This is an event, man.  Why aren't I going more insane?

I was on the train a week or so ago heading into the city when a woman with a baby boy got on and sat a few seats in front of me.  The kid was maybe six months old, and once he saw my face, he never stopped staring at me.  At first I thought his smile was cute, then I thought it sinister, like he knew what was coming soon and was saying "Ha!  You have no idea what you are in for!"  God, he was adorable.  And for the rest of the afternoon I kept telling myself that I get to have one of these soon.

If he ever decides to get here.  He can take his time.  My fingernails will grow back.

Time for a hurry-up-and-wait random eleven:

1. "Some Days Are Better Than Others"-U2.  Great.  Cryptic messages right off the bat.

2. "When the Levee Breaks"-Led Zeppelin.  I couldn't make this up.  Maybe I should change the lyrics: "If he keeps on pushing the water's going to break..."

3. "Promenade"-U2.  I have a cousin who is a U2 freak.  She once tried to scale the giant fence outside his home in Killeney (I was there-she didn't get a foot off the ground).  Her name is Teri.  This song has a moment where Bono sings "Oh, tell me, tell me that you will dance with me" except it sounds like he says "Teri will you dance with me?"  I'll never forget her reaction when I finally got her to understand this.  We had to listen to it fifty-seven times.

4. "Ain't So Easy"-David + David.  More parental advice from a group that disappeared faster tham Amelia Earhart.

5. "Readymade"-Beck.  Hmm.  At the beginning some is singing through one of those voice things that make you sound like a robot. It sounds like "baby boy."  Let's see if I get the truth when I google the lyrics: nope. Nobody knows.

6. "Is It Any Wonder?"-Keane.  I suppose you can twist the title of any song to fit a baby scenario, but this is starting to freak me out just a bit.  I swear I am not altering anything.  This is all random.  I always think about Barcelona, Spain when I hear this song because of the line "nothing left in this old cathedral/just these sad lonely spires."  Makes me think of the Sagrada Familia (it's a fascinating building, and the Wikipedia page has a video tout towards the end).

7. "Come Talk To Me"-Peter Gabriel.  The first and only song that I have seen sung in a telephone booth live in concert.  There's a great story about a hobo giving my the eye later that night, but I ain't telling that here.

8. "The Rebels"-The Cranberries.  No group has more songs with lyrics that I can't decipher than the Cranberries.  Dolores O'Riordan wails like a Banshee.  There's a part here when she sings "it wasn't often/that we fought at all."  I didn't get it until the ten-thousandth time I listened to it.  That reminds me of another story (which I can tell here): when I was six I bought a cartoon book at a garage sale, and in one of them, a mother buffalo was admonishing her young buffalo, looking down at him and saying"did I just hear a discouraging word?"  I didn't get it.  More than twenty years later I was at work when all of the sudden it hit me, it's because of the lyric from "Home on the Range."  I wasn't even thinking about it, it just decided to pop up into my head.  I was so excited that I told the story to my boss.  She thought I was nuts.

9. "When I Want You"-Del Amitri.  This band is vacationing with David + David somewhere.  And I just did this again: I misspelled a word early within it, and instead of clicking the cursor over the error I deleted everything back to the error.  What a colossal waste of time.

10. "The Heart of the Matter"-Don Henley.  Probably a good candidate to delete from the 'pod since I always skip over it.  The Eagles have turned into Wal-Mart whores anyway.

11. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."-Tears for Fears.  Yes they do.  Mitt Romney even gives religious speeches about it.  I've done so well to avoid politics here, because both sides make me insane (tell me who is more qualified among the candidates then Bill Richardson?  He's been a successful governor, an ambassador to the UN (hello, foreign policy) and an energy secretary.  He also has a distinguished record in diplomacy, which will be the most important thing that the next president of the US will need).  I'll have to address this eventually, of course, but for now it makes my head spin.  It's bad enough my son has to be born under GW, but he might have to live his first four years under Guiliani, Clinton or Romney?  Whoa.

23 November 2007

Enjoy that turkey!

I know I should lay off my poor mother and not re-post this, but it continues to be the best Thanksgiving story I have ever heard.  Mom, you know that I love you and that we are all laughing with you, not at you.  And yes, I laughed again when I saw the turkey for the first time this year.

(This is from November, 2004)

Is that a neck in your turkey, or are you just glad to see me?

I would like to apologize to my mother in advance, for being unable to resist the urge to tell this story.

My fiance and I had Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's home this year, with the rest of my family.  My mother is an excellent cook and has prepared many wonderful holiday dinners throughout the years.  This year was no exception.

Wednesday afternoon I was home as Mom placed the frozen turkey in the sink to began preparations to cook it.  At one point as I was walking through the kitchen, I heard her say that something was missing.

I don't know anything about cooking turkeys.

I looked at the turkey in the sink.  Mom had removed two packages from inside, which I assumed to be giblets and something else, a liver maybe, since it was dark.  My mother and I then had the following exchange:

Mom:  Doesn't it look like it is missing something?

Me:  Um, the head?  I hear they usually get rid of it before they sell them.

Mom:  I mean from the inside.  There should be something else.

Me:  I don't know what's normally inside a turkey.

Mom:  It's male parts, it's missing it's male parts.

Me:  WHAT?

Mom:  The male parts of the turkey aren't inside like they usually are.

Me:  (Just now understanding what she is talking about)  I'm never eating turkey again...

As I said before, I know nothing about cooking turkeys.  I can identify the parts of the turkey after it is cooked, but I have no idea how it is packaged.  So I did a little research and found that when you buy a turkey, there is supposed to be a package inside it that contains the giblets and the liver, and also the turkey neck.  For all I knew before, I thought the neck was still attached and you just cut it off when you prepared the bird.  I don't even know what the point of including the neck is.

Then it hit me.

My mother, who later told me that she has been cooking turkeys for over 40 years, thought that the neck that is normally included inside the turkey was instead, um, "something else."

That something else being what puts the "Tom" in turkey. 

Upon further questioning, my mother, being the sport that she is, freely admitted that she has always thought that the turkey neck was not a neck.

This explains why the neck has never been part of a holiday meal in her house.

And why I will never not laugh at the sight of a turkey, live or dead, cooked or uncooked, again.



08 November 2007

Relax, this will solve everything

So how about that World Series prediction?  I guess the Rockies swept the Red Sox in the bizarro World Series.  Moving on...

Apparently, there is a huge water shortage in the Deep South.  If it doesn't start raining soon, Atlanta is going to run out of water.  The idea of a major metropolitan American city not having any water strikes me as a failure of planning.  Surely someone saw this coming, right?  Anyone?  Hello?

Here he comes to save the day!  Georgia Governor Sonny "Mighty Mouse" Perdue has an idea: invite a whole bunch of folks to gather next week outside the state capital and pray for rain.

Bat. Shit. Crazy.

Well, I guess it can't hurt.  It's not like praying for rain will take the remaining supply away, but even for the Deep South, this seems a little nutty.  What if it doesn't work?  Does everyone come back the following week for a mass two-steppin'?

Ted Turner lives in Atlanta and has a bajillion dollars.  Can't he just buy a lake or two from Minnesota (which can certainly spare it) and move it down there?

I forget the name, but there is apparently a rural town in Georgia that has water restrictions for all but three hours of the day.  Try doing everything you need water for in three hours-shower, wash clothes, dishes, flushing toilets.  I bet folks fill up whatever containers they can find for three hours.

I have heard it said more than once that the net big conflict in the Middle East isn't going to be about land.  Instead, it'll be about water.  There's not nearly enough for everyone over there.  Here, Florida and Alabama are starting to battle with Georgia over who is entitled to what water remains in the area.  Maybe this is the beginning of the next Civil War.  We'll have dry states vs. wet states.

It doesn't matter.  It's all going to end next week.  I'm sure that a torrent of rain is being conjured up as I write this somewhere off the coast of Africa, ready to arrive and soak the great evangelical state of Georgia.  All they had to do was ask for it.

I can't help but imagine the outrage we'd be hearing from conservatives about this water shortage if a Democrat held the Governor's Mansion in Atlanta (what, you didn't know Perdue was a Republican?).  They be getting all frothy about mismanagement, how the governor dropped the ball.  They'd be clamoring for Jeb Bush to come in and solve everything, just as soon as he brings Terry Schiavo back to life.

There's a Republican governor in Georgia, so it's no one's fault that there's soon to be no water, because things like this happen so damn quick. 

Time's not for wasting.  Y'all got some praying to do.

24 October 2007

And the winner shall be...

I've been to Boston.  I've been to Denver.

I've been to Fenway Park.  I've been to Coors Field.

So far, it's a draw.

For the Colorado Rockies: how can you not get completely behind a team that has gone 21-1 since mid-September?  In the first fifteen games of the streak, they went 14-1.  If they had gone 13-2 they wouldn't have even made the playoffs.  We'd be getting ready for a Boston-San Diego World Series, and given the current conditions in Southern California, there could have been the first-ever neutral site game in a WS.  How can you not root for a guy like Todd Helton?  The guy went three-for-four and the day he was born.  He's been a Rockie his entire career, mostly filled with losses, and he could have demanded a trade to a contender anytime since 2000.  Instead, he stuck around and never complained.

Against the Rockies: they been in existence only since 1993.  Give me an 'effin break.  One hundred divided by fifteen is almost seven.  Jealousy is so unbecoming, so I'll just call it envy.

For Boston: It's Boston.  Love the city, love the ballpark.  Plus the Red Sox play the game right.  They are the anti-Yankees.  Sure, they won in 2004, after not winning since 1918, but they've suffered enough to get it twice in four years.

Against Boston: They won in 2004.  For a franchise that suffered as much as the Red Sox did, they ought to not get greedy; let everyone share the wealth.  You wait 86 years and then get two in four?  I don't think so.  Plus, Boston sports fans are on the verge of being absolutely insufferable right now: the Red Sox in the Series; the Patriots are 7-0, beating teams with one hand tied behind their back, and look like they might be the best team ever in NFL history; and the Celtics went out and grabbed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and are one of the favorites to win the NBA title.  No town deserves such a run.

God, sometimes I absolutely hate being a Chicago sports fan.

I'm calling it: Colorado in four; they complete the greatest run in history, waking up in mid-September as an also-ran, then going 25-1 on their way to a championship.  If that indeed does happen, we will never see the likes of that again.

(Sound of me ripping my heart out and eating it for the eightieth time since the Cubs were swept by Arizona)

Haven't done a Random 11 for a while:

1. "The World Spins"-Julee Cruise.  This album ("Floating Into the Night") was the de facto soundtrack to "Twin Peaks."  In hindsight, the music was better than the show.  It's lasted longer, anyway.

2. "Fade Into You"-Mazzy Star.  A one-hit wonder from '95 or so.  This song reminds me of a huge apartment that I used to live in above an educational store in Oak Park.  I could look out the thee front windows at so much going on, all hours of the day.  Oak Park is a completely under rated suburb.

3. "Rain in the Summertime"-The Alarm.  This song brings out a pet peeve of mine-singers that ruin a good musical intro by making some odd noises.  I love The Cranberries but Deloros O'Riordan wrote the book on this.  See also "Elevation" by U2 and "Born of Frustration" by James.  Go yodel in the Alps, boys.

4. "Fire Woman"-The Cult.  OK, if there's no one around, I usually dance around the house to this song.  I wish we had a balcony.

5. "Raspberry Beret"-Warren Zevon.  Yes, Warren Zevon.  His version is much better than anything Prince could do.  Who would you rather have sing "I think I, I think I love her!"?

6. "Caring is Creepy"-The Shins.  I wonder if Zack Braff gets any of the firstborn from the folks in this group (this is the song that plays when he rides the cycle with the sidecar in Garden State)?

7. "Trip Through Your Wires"-U2.  It's been a while since I sat in the dark and listened to The Joshua Tree from beginning to end.  Did it quite a bit in college.  I had a rough first year.  SNIFF

8. "What's the Frequency Kenneth?"-REM.  A good example of a song that I did not like for a while after it came out, and then one time I listened to it and really dug it.  Not too long after that I saw Dan Rather sing it at a soundcheck at MSG.  If you don't know why that's hysterical, I can't help you.

9. "Warakurna"-Midnight Oil.  I've found this band to be incredibly divisive; people either really like them (like me, obviously, since it's on the 'pod) or really, really, really hate them (Hello, Shecky.  Haven't heard from you since the demise of the Cubs.  Hope you didn't do something stupid).  Still have to get to Australia.

10. "Sweetwater, Texas"-Fastball.  A rare accomplishment-a ballad that a band seems to insist including on a rockin' CD that is actually good.  Not long ago I was driving in downtown Springfield when I heard this song, and now when I hear it I think of Abe Lincoln.

11. "Wild Honey"-U2.  Another song I wasn't nuts about when it first came out.  Now, I need to find a place that has it on Karaoke.  And a decent singing partner.



21 October 2007

Might be time to relocate...

Seems like there is a lot going on in the world today:

1. Raging fires in Malibu
2. Dick Cheney seems to be ready to take out Iran all by himself
3. Louisiana just elected the first Indian-American governor in the US

and in Chicago: for what seems like the 3212th time this year, a school aged child has been killed by gunfire while walking down the street.

So as I turned on the news at 10 tonight, which one of these stories do you think was the lead story?

How about none?

Bears 19, Eagles 16.  Gotta have priorities.

07 October 2007

It's not gonna happen

If I may quote Robert Frost: 

This is the way the season ends; not with a bang, but a whimper.

I've been through too much to ever say that I'm embarrassed to be a Cubs fan, and I'm not about to say it now.  Well, that was quick.  Wednesday night, 9 PM, I was giddy with excitement.  Seventy-two hours or so later, it's gone.

The Diamondbacks didn't just sweep the Cubs, they obliterated them.  I think if the teams played twenty more times, Arizona would win 'em all.  So it's kind of hard to feel that bad about a team that got dominated.  I've felt this type of feeling before.

(See: Atlanta Braves, NLDS 1998)

The only thing I struggle with is the decision that Lou Piniella made in Game 1.  His stud starting pitcher was cruising, dominating the Arizona hitters.  Unfortunately the Cubs weren't doing much on offense, and the game was tied 1-1.  Piniella pulled Carlos Zambrano before the 7th inning, and the D'Backs scored two runs right away, winning that game 3-1, and essentially ending the series, since the Cubs never recovered.  After the game Piniella said that he pulled Z because he was bringing him back for Sunday's Game 4 on short rest.

Tomorrow is Sunday.  There's no Game four.  How's that decision going for you Lou?

Of course, there is no guarantee that if Zambrano had remained in the game that the result would have been any different.  We'll never know.

Forgive me if I am repeating myself, but I never expected this, not in 2007.  This year was all about getting rid of the stench of the Dusty Baker years.  The Cubs over-achieved this year.  I am not making excuses.  They rolled over and died in the playoffs.  Faced with the chance to do something that it seems half of the world is waiting for, they collectively wet themselves.  Ugh.

I anticipate next year already.  Perhaps the world is supposed to wait for the Cubs to end their long championship drought so that my to-be born son is around to see it.

(Of course, should the Cubs win it next year, he won't remember it, much like anyone born in December of 1907 doesn't remember the last time the Cubs won the World Series)

I have discovered something about the Cubs in the playoffs: as soon as they lose consecutive games, they are toast.  They've made the playoffs five times in my life now, and every single time, as soon as hey have lost two games in a row, they go on to lose the series:

1984: Up 2-0 against San Diego, lost the next three to lose the series 3-2

1989: Lost first game in Chicago to San Francisco, won the next, then lost three in  row in SF, losing the series 4-1

1998: Swept 3-0 by Atlanta in first round

2003: Beat Atlanta 3-2 in the first round (won, lost, won, lost, won); then lost first game of NLCS to Florida, won the next three to go up 3-1 and need just one more win in three possible games to go to the World Series, but lost the next three, and the series 4-3 to the Marlins.

2007: Swept 3-0 by Arizona in the first round.

That's unbelievable.  Every time the Cubs have made the playoffs in my life, they managed to get knocked out by losing three in a row. 

(I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit)

That's life.  I'll be back next year.  In the meantime, I am pulling for a Cleveland-Colorado World Series.

01 October 2007

Hey look! October baseball

I am trying not to get too excited.  I've been this way before.  1984.  1989.  1998.  2003.  All ended badly.  Gut-wrenchingly badly.

Geez, for as long as I have been following this team you'd think they would have made the playoffs more than five times.  I've invested a lot of my time in this team.  I'm due.  But see, I'm not going to get sucked into this.

The Cubs are in the playoffs, and I'm thrilled, because they don't belong.  If they were in any of the other five divisions, they would have been an also-ran.  They have the blessing this season of being in the worst division in the game, by far.

This is a team that lost 96 games last year.  They won 85 (and lost 77) this year.  A Nineteen game improvement in a single season is a fairly dubious accomplishment-no one else accomplished that this year.  The Cub also finished first in their division one year after finishing last.

Zip-a-dee Do-dah.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy as hell.  There's nothing like playoff baseball when the Cubs are involved.  It's like a solar eclipse-better to see it now because you don't really know when it will happen again.  Perhaps that's a little dramatic.

For me, this season was all about scrubbing away the residue from the Dusty Baker years.  Last year was the worst year ever for being a Cubs fan because they had a manager that didn't give a damn.  He knew he was going to get paid, and he let his team lay down and die after one of their best players suffered a long-term injury in May.  They should have fired him in June and started the rebuilding process then, but for whatever reason, they waited.  And I hated every second of it.

Putting this in a Mr. Retail perspective, there were plenty of stores that I was transferred into that were dumps, where people just didn't care and the prior managers were either lousy, lazy or both.  On that first day, I'd get the urge to just walk out, because I knew it was going to take a lot of unpleasant work to get things into shape.  I hated that feeling, but I always stuckit out, and eventually things turned out all right.  Sometimes it took more than six months, but it was always worth it.

I expected the 2007 Cubs to be around a .500 team, finish ten games or so out of the lead, and get my hopes peaked for 2008.  I would have been happy with that.  I was happy just seeing someone else besides Baker in that dugout.

The trap is this: no matter what happens in the playoffs, this Cubs team is one that should be built to last.  There are no major free agents to worry about losing, no old, broken down players on their last legs, no albatrosses of any kind.  They should win consistently for the next few season at least.

And I'm going to get sucked in, of course, because I always do.  I'd hate to ever not feel the anticipation that I always feel towards the end of March, when baseball season is starting up again.

There is this moment that comes along every season, the moment where I realize that again, the Cubs are not going to win the World Series, and that I have to wait at least another year to see if it will happen, and that I might die an old man having never seen the Cubs win it all, etc. etc. etc.

Last year that moment came in May.  The earlier it comes makes it worse.  Last year I had to resign myself that it would be a minimum of seventeen months to see if they could do it.  On average, I'd say that feeling comes every year just before July 4th.

Obviously, I haven't had it yet this year.  The clock just went past midnight.  It's October 1st, and I still think that the Cubs have a chance to win the World Series THIS SEASON.

The games start Wednesday in Arizona, against a team that has only been around for ten years and has already won a World Series.  If they get past them either the Phillies, Padres or Rockies await.  The Mets?  The were eliminated today, in a meltdown greater than the Cubs meltdown of 1969.  Serves 'em right.

If the boys make it to the World Series they'd face either Boston, Cleveland, the Yankees or the Angels--all teams that posted much better records this season.  I'll worry about that if they get this far.

It's impossible to convey what all this means to me.  If you're not the type to follow sports I probably sound insane, but the Cubs are as much a part of my life as my family.  They are the only thing that have been around as much.

I close my eyes and I can imagine bringing home my newborn son in a Cubs championship sleeper in December.

19 September 2007

A Thousand Napkins a Day Keeps the Brewers Away

I went to the Cubs-Reds game Monday night, tickets I got after the Sunday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals were rained out in August.  Meaningful baseball in September-not something I am particularly used to around here.  It was probably my last trip to Wrigley Field this season.  If it was, I picked a great game to end with.

The Reds are the last team I want to see playing the Cubs towards the conclusion of the pennant race, because they seem to play well come September.  They killed the Cubs Wild Card hopes in 2004, and almost knocked them out in 1998 as well.  Monday was the start of six games in two weeks between the Reds and the Cubs, and going into Monday, the Cubs held a one game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee, playing in Houston, were crushing the Astros early and by the second inning we knew that to stay in first, the Cubs would have to win.

We were sitting in the upper deck boxes, all the way down the right field line, fourth row.  There was a strong wind, blowing from the south/southeast; the breeze blew in from right beside us, through the opening between the bleachers and the right field line.  Every once in a while we'd see a load of smoke from the bbq's on the Sheffield rooftops wander into the park.

The crowd around us was pretty rowdy and by the third inning, when the Reds scored the first run of the game, the guys in front of us were looking for ways to turn the tide.  I'm not sure how it came about, but one of them decided that if he could drop a napkin off the upper deck and get it to blow onto the field, it would be a good omen.  He crouched down at the rail and dropped a napkin.  We watched it float down and up, being carried by the breeze, before it made it over the red brick wall and ended up a few feet in fair territory in right field, just as the Reds were making the last out of the third.

In the bottom of the third, the Cubs scored three runs to take the lead.  After the end of that inning, a security guard walked out onto the field and picked the napkin up.  The Reds re-took the lead.  More napkins were dropped, but none made it onto the field.

With the score 6-4 Reds in the bottom of the eighth, I left to go to the bathroom, and on my way out of the men's room, I noticed a hot dog stand off to the side of the pedestrian ramp, closed for the night, a dispenser of napkins visible in the corner.  I grabbed as many as I could and shoved them in my pocket.  And then I really got busy.

I walked over to the concession area underneath the press box, but all the napkin dispensers were empty.  I headed down to the patio that looks west with a lot of individual vending stands and found the same-no napkins.  Finally, I managed to spot two that still had napkins, all the way over to the right, where the park overlooks the players' parking lot.  I took as many as I could fit into my pockets.

When I got back to my seat, everyone roared as I took hundreds of napkins out and gave them to the designated dropper.  By this time it was the top of the ninth, Cubs still trailing by two.  He held all the napkins in his hands in front of me and said "Pick a napkin, any napkin."  I chose one from the middle of the pack.  He had all of us rub it, and then he dropped it over the side.  We watched as it fell, and about ten feet before it would have landed in the stands it turned up, caught by a breeze, and danced for about thirty seconds, before it slipped over the wall and landed in right field, about ten feet from the corner and only a foot or so in front of the warning track.

The Reds made the final out of the ninth at about the same time.  The bottom of the ninth went like this: Theriot leads off with a walk; Lee singles him to second; Ramirez hits a gapper to right-center that Reds center fielder Nick Hopper just missed making a great diving catch on (would have been a double play at least-earlier he had gone into the vines to take a hit away from Ramirez, going in so hard he left an impression of himself on the vines), the ball going to the wall and tying the game-he ended up with a triple; after an intentional walk to Ward, the Reds brought in Hopper from center to be a fifth infielder, but it didn't matter, DeRosa singled and the game was over.  Cubs win 7-6, and stay in first place for at least one more day.

We hung around for a few minutes and celebrated before all of us in 438 went our separate ways.  Just before we started down the ramp to leave the upper deck, I turned back.  The napkin was still on the field.

Fear the magic that is the napkin.  Do not taunt the napkin.

10 September 2007

How to be a nuisance

Walk in the middle of the street.  Talk to the actors while sitting in a crowded movie theater.  Smoke 'em if you got 'em.  Spit in a drinking fountain.  Sing along with your i-pod on the train.  Say "it is what it is." Answer your  cell phone in the library.   Tell a friend you'll give them a ride to the airport and forget to show up.  Leave the copy machine out of paper.  Sit on someone's eyeglasses.  Say "baby needs a new pair of shoes" at a craps table.  Yell "bingo" when you get blackjack.  Eat the last Twinkie and leave the box in the cabinet.  Root for the Cardinals.  Poke holes in bicycle tires.  Tell your nephews that there is no Santa Claus.  Wear baseball caps sideways.  Answer "What?" to every question asked you.  Swipe your neighbor's Sunday paper.  Talk about your bowels. Turn the bass way up.  Yodel.  Don't replace your divots.  Drink milk from the carton.  Buy the wrong flavor ice cream.  Pick your toenails.  Be that person in the group that never makes a decision.  Write in library books.   Leave your clothes in the washing machine.  Belch in church.  Take pennies out of fountains.  Burn the toast.  Hide the remote.  Carve obscenities into pumpkins.  Don't squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom.  Never use turn signals.  Be late for everything.  Lick envelopes right after finishing an Oreo.  Cite Oprah.  Scoff at the idea of global warming.  Sell products door-to-door.  Forget to pay the electric bill.  Talk down to waiters.   Call yourself a rebel.  Ask people how much they weigh.  Don't use coasters.  Interrupt.  Sneeze on the neck of the person in front of you.  Throw snowballs at moving cars.  Leave the windows open when it rains.  Vote Republican.

05 September 2007

Holy Toledo

In honor of our friends' new son, who I shall refer to as "Klinger," I present a random eleven:

1. "Follow Your Bliss"-The B-52s.  Sage advice, even for those less than two days old.  Unfortunately the Weather Channel used this for background music for its local updates one summer when I was in Iowa and I can't help but see radar images of huge thunderstorms whenever I hear it.

2. "Departure"-REM.  Certainly it would be better if this song were called "arrival" (which is what it's about, so go figure), but you'll be departing a hospital for home soon, so there you go.

3. "Bargain"-The Who.  It wouldn't be a shame if this were the first song you ever heard (though I'm guessing in reality it's going to be something by The Replacements, ZZ Top or Elvis-TCBY).  And as Mr. Townsend says: "In life, one and one don't make two.  One and one make one."

4. "Wake Up and Smell the Coffee"-The Cranberries.  Well, almost.  For the next few years I'm sure your folks will wake up and smell something...

5. "So Alive"-Love and Rockets.  I am not altering the playlist, I swear.  This is random.  Besides, whenever I hear this song I think about dropping someone on their face the night before they had a job interview.

6. "More Than This"-Roxy Music.  Hmm, if this is taken as a question then you've got a good fifteen years or so before this makes any sense.  I don't have"Teen Angst" by Cracker on my 'pod, but if I did, it would make a heck of a segue.  Go for a Bryan Ferry hairstyle someday.  The ladies love it.

7. "Out of My Head"-Fastball.  Forget the title and let's focus on the group name here.  You're destined to be encaptivated by a certain baseball team (though not for a second do I believe it will be forced upon you) and take it from me, go for it.  Don't pay attention to anything anyone says about it.  Deep, deep down, they are all just jealous.  Follow your destiny.  Just look for the ivy.

8. "Inside Out"-Phil Collins.  Hmm, I'm thinking of an event that occurred at a house on Hale a long time ago that could fit in here, but we'll just move past that.  As it turns out, I don't have a song in my collection called "Don't Be So Tight."  I certainly wish that I did.

9. "Arc of a Diver"-Steve Winwood.  He seems to come up in every one of these.  I am patiently listening to the lyrics trying to find something that fits here, but so far no good.

10. "When You Dream"-The Barenaked Ladies.  I've got 560 songs on my 'pod, and this is the one that fits best, since it's a song about a guy watching his newborn son sleep.  A little less than a 2% chance that it would come up.  This might bold well for future trips to Vegas.  I'm just saying.  Plus you've already won the Parent Lottery.

11. "Into the Mystic"-Van Morrison.  And we end perfectly.  I couldn't come up with a better list for when my own son comes along in December.  Maybe we'll call him "Hawkeye."

04 September 2007

Summer o' death, part 2

Back in June I christened this season to be the "summer of death."  Morbid, yes, but I think I had other things affecting my thought process at the time.  Looking back, I should have referred to it as "the summer which I feel like I am surrounded by death."

I wonder if it was this hard for Ecclesiastes?

There have been no further swarms of insects dying off or rotting rodent carcasses behind my air conditioning unit.  Still, I find myself wandering all over my mortal landscape.  I can't help it.  I spend just about every second of every day waiting for December, when our son will be born.  We're bringing this new life into the world, and it makes me question the point of mine.

(And yours.)

This has nothing to do with religion.  Rather, it's all about destiny.  Why am I here?  What am I supposed to be doing?  There's a song by Poi Dog Pondering called "God's Gallipoli" and one of the final lyrics goes like this:

"it's hard to think, that this is how it ends/stretched out on a bedsheet, sorting through a wreckage of regrets." 

I really don't want to be that guy.

Circumstances in my life have rendered me as someone who is highly aware of their mortality.  I assume there are many others like me, but no one likes to talk about these types of things.  I don't think that it is ever going to change.  There isn't going to be this moment where everything suddenly makes sense and the prospects of my extremely long-term future brighten.  Perhaps I am wrong.  I'd rather be surprised than disappointed.

And any time that I think I am deflecting this process, a few things happen that place me back in the focus.  Two weekends go, I was in Minneapolis on a short golfing trip with some friends.  One afternoon after we finished our round, we found ourselves on a highway heading right into downtown.  Eventually we drove past the site of the I-35W bridge collapse.  We didn't gawk; we never stopped, we just drove down the road that leads to it.  You couldn't see much but you could see enough.  I imagined it looked like what several bridges over the Thames River in London did after World War II.  The pieces of the bridge that collapsed but did not separate from the rest of the bridge are still in place, making the road looking like a frozen roller coaster.

Shortly after that, we found ourselves on a different bridge going over the Mississippi, and to our left were piles and heaps of twisted metal.  This is where they will eventually reconstruct the bridge as they attempt to figure out what caused it to collapse.  Together, these were awesome sights, not in a "wow that's cool" sense but in an "I had no idea it was this level of devastation" sense.  I knew it was prolific, but I had no idea the destruction was so complete.  I can't believe that only thirteen people died on that bridge. 

Shortly after that, I found out that my hometown was blitzed by a huge thunderstorm and that there was significant damage-trees mostly-but for a while it seemed like they had been hit by a tornado. 

It wasn't, but when I got a look at the neighborhood where I grew up in a few days later, I was stunned.  There were trees down all over the place, some older than me.  It's odd looking at a tree that you once wished you could climb thirty years ago, when it seemed like a seventy story building, and now you can step over it because it's been split down the middle by eighty mile an hour winds.

Just something more that always seemed to be "around" since the day that I was born that isn't anymore.  That, in a nutshell, is what this summer seems to be telling me, not to get too comfortable.  You never know what's around that next bend.

Perhaps this is all impending baby stuff, these thoughts of destiny, the idea of making the time that I have worth it.  I am pretty sure that it is.  This is a huge step, a life-changing event.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

This too shall pass.  Which is sort of the point I am making anyway.




21 August 2007

Shaking, baking and leaking

August has been, shall we say, challenging.  Not all bad, not all good.  Lots and lots of challenges.

First, it's raining perpetually.  Chicago's rainiest month is August, has been for a while, apparently, and August 2007 isn't going to do anything to change that.  When it's not raining, it feels like it's just about to or has just stopped.  Since August 1 I've felt like I've always just stepped out of the shower.

Vanity, thy name is humidity.

I bought tickets to this past weekend's Cubs-Cardinals games at Wrigley back in February, visualizing two teams battling in a pennant race under a blazing hot August sun.  Fortunately, I got the part about the pennant race right.  Saturday's game felt like it was being played in Dublin-low, dark clouds coming in off the lake, a chilling wind best described as "raw" and a steady drizzle; the type of day that I got married.  In April.

I wore shorts (to the game, not my wedding) and spent four hours in denial (there were two rain delays).  I don't think I have ever shivered before in August.

But it was worth it.  The Cubs won 5-3, and they stayed in first place.  And yes, that is sort of a big deal.  I know I'm 40; humor me.

Sunday was a lot worse.  It rained all day but for some (ahem, it was scheduled to be televised on ESPN) reason the game (starting at 7 PM) was not postponed.  Every more surprising was that it stopped raining long enough for the game to start on time.  And of course we went, because well, why not?  It would be too sensible to just stay home.

It started raining in the bottom of the third inning.  And I think it still is.  Yeah, I know it's been raining a lot more in a lot of other places, but this is all about vanity remember?  So what I thought six months ago would be a memorable summer weekend was mostly a buzz kill.  Except for Saturday's result.  Did I mention that the Cubs beat the Cardinals?  That the Cubs are in first?  That the Cardinals are in third?

Another challenge came in trying to get the heck out of here for a spell.  My wife had a couple of weeks off before starting a new job and we came up with an exceptionally bold plan: go to Hawaii.  She has a friend who moved to the Big Island last summer and has been dying to have company ever since.  My brother works for a major airline and has the ability to provide us with reduced airfare with one caveat-flying standby-and after looking at the projected cost of such a trip, we decided that we could go and not feel like we were blowing the baby's first few months of essentials.

We knew the risk going in that we could get bumped from the flight, but we never got that far.  The major airline has a policy restricting our type of travel to Hawaii in August because it's "high season."  Yep, everyone goes to Hawaii in August it seems. 

Except that the flight we were supposed to leave on (we found out three hours prior that we could not go) might have had a few empty seats.  One would think that a business that is struggling to make money would do anything possible to ensure that it was making money by putting rear ends in as many seats as possible.  That's Mr. Retail talking there, sorry. Been a while since we heard from him.

So going to Hawaii?  A-No-ha.  A perfect storm of complications.  Speaking of which, about a billion people let me know that right after we were supposed to be there, a hurricane skirted the Big Island.  Seems there was an earthquake too.

We thought about going to LA instead, but those flights didn't look so hot either.  Hot?  We decided to drive to Kansas City for a few days to visit close friends.  It was 300 degrees.  We had a good time, though.  I lost about fifty pounds.

There's more going on this month, stuff that gunks up the gears of my life, but that is life, isn't it?  We move on.

Eleven days until September.  I am counting the seconds.

04 August 2007

Writing from high atop the stratosphere

You'll excuse me if I'm a little too up today.  Today is D-Day, or FOIWAHABOAG-Day: "Find Out If We Are Having a Boy or a Girl." 

And indeed, we have found.  In a little over four months, we are having a son!

I would have been fine waiting until the birth to know if we had a son or daughter, but Kristen wanted to know, and she's carrying the little bugger, so why not?  So now we know: a boy it is, and we couldn't be happier. 

And now that the revelation has been made, I have to admit that I really, really, really, really wanted a boy.  I would have been absolutely fine with a girl, of course.  I like girls.  I know a lot of outstanding females and I am confident that if we were having a daughter that she would be so as well.  I would not be disappointed if there had been "nothing" where instead there was "something" this morning.

I was on top of the world before.  Now I am above even that.

I wanted a boy because now I can look upon my life and say that I have (and will) shared the same experiences as my father.  I think if he were still alive I would not be as caught up in the gender of our baby, but since his death I tend to examine my life in terms of his.  It's not that I want to be him; it's that I want the chance to have what he had, so that I can be what he taught me to be.  I learned from my father how to be everything: a student, an adult, a friend, career-oriented (fell of fthat track, yes, but I'm in the process of getting back on), a husband, etc.; all that is missing is a father.  And since I am his son, I only know the father-son experience from that perspective, and that is what I want to experience now from the opposite view.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I will know what my son is experiencing as we go through his life, at least from what I remember.  I know things change and it is much more different being a child than it was three decades ago, but I had a bond with my father that through everything, good and bad, only grew stronger, and it is as strong today as it has ever been.  Death cannot break what is meant to last forever.  My son and my father have a bond now through me.

I am my father's son, and I get to be my son's father.  I feel the circle beginning to complete.  This is what I had hoped for. 

Of course, I make this sound like it is me and only me who will go through this.  My son is lucky because he has a great mother.  He's not even born and he's already won the mommy lottery (would they call that winning the "mother lode"?  BA-ZING!).  I don't mean to sound selfish, like the gender of the baby affects only me.

The oddest thing about this whole pregnancy experience has been wondering when that feeling would hit, that "oh-wow-we-are-really-going-to-be-parents" shot across the bow.  Well, it took four and one-half months for it to arrive.

It's here now.  Oh boy, is it ever.  It was a direct hit that has sent us flying higher than we ever thought was possible.  And I'm pretty sure we will never come down.


31 July 2007

And he had his appendix removed through his nose!

I guess the James Frey-Oprah story will never fully go away.

I can't help but be interested by this because I am a nonfiction writer-it's what my thesis is and what I feel like I write best.  Fiction is hard, man.  Actually, it's not.  Coming up with ideas for fiction is what I find impossible.  I find it a lot easier to write about personal experience.  Hence, nonfiction.

I'm sure I've written about this before, so I will keep my opinions short.  Frey is an idiot for thinking no one would check his "facts," especially when he reaped the benefits of an Oprah recommendation.

Oprah is a superficial blowhard.  I have no respect for what she did to James Frey or to the publishing industry in general, all to save the "purity" of her empire.  My dream would be to one day publish a great book, have her want to select it for her "club," and tell her to go scratch.

(And a note to the tools at AOL-if you are going to have a feature on the blogs that claim you can search previous entries just by entering a few words, you might want it to actually work.  I put "James", "Frey" and "Oprah" into the search and was told nothing was found.  I know I wrote about this before. I've used the search about ten times, and it never brings up anything.)

Here's the thing I have found about writing memoir: it's amazing at how often a detail that you swore happened one way actually turned out to be something completely different.  It's impossible to remember everything exactly the way it happened.  And it's not a big deal, as long as it's not a boldfaced lie.

Here's how not to do it:

1. You have to have root canal on four teeth after you've had the crap beaten out of you, but since you are a "drug addict" you "can't have Novocain."  Not a problem!  You say you just grasp the sides of the chair tightly, and the procedure passes quicker than you thought.  What, you can't take a little severing of nerves?

2. You spend three hours in jail once but it felt like it was so much longer, so you say it was really 90 days.

So yeah, James Frey was an idiot, embellishing things that are impossible to believe (I've had root canals, drugged to the max, and it still hurt like instead of a drill it was a school of piranha eating through my gums) or easily disproved over something called the "Freedom of Information Act" (hmm, had Frey been a friend of George W. Bush . . .) but he is also a phenomenal writer.  A Million Little Pieces was a great book, whether it was all true, all fake, or a healthy mix.  It's a shame that the legacy of the book is tarnished by Oprah's ego.  I'm wondering how many people who could have been helped by it are now struggling with addiction.

Usually, I don't really care about what others think of me, but I feel I must say here that I read A Million Little Pieces almost a full year before Oprah got her filthy mitts on it.  I'd never read any book based solely upon her recommendation.

My thesis is a series of essays about my life mostly since my father died.  I've written about places I have been to, people I've met and things that I've done.  I have done my best to recall things accurately, but I'm sure that at some point, I've messed something up.  Or I've attributed a quote to someone other than the person who said, or combined two people into one, etc.

I wrote about going to the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and watching in amazement at the thrill ride there that dangles you over the edge of the building, almost a thousand feet above the ground, and spins you around.  I'm sure it would have been much more interesting to write that I actually rode it, and I'm sure that I could have convinced readers of it.  But there are a lot of people who know me who would read it and say "I know you.  There's NO WAY you go on that thing."

And then I am nothing but a fiction writer, which is not a bad thing, mind you, but if I claim to be writing nonfiction I just lost my credibility.

I'm not a published nonfiction writer.  I hope to be some day, but even then I will wonder if I lost readers way back in 2006, thanks to Frey and Oprah.  Go away.  Please.

19 July 2007

I'm in the mood for hypocrites, simply because it's Thursday

In my opinion, the dog days of summer have arrived early this year.  I blame the cicadas.  They are all dead now, so they can't refute me.  It's quiet here.  They took the "Summer of Death" moniker with them too.

Now it's the summer of boredom. 

I'm not complaining.  Usually my life is a bit of a cluster-fudge (I hate being noble) because there is always something else to distract me (Hey! Fudgesicles!) and I spend way too much time on things that exemplify my ADD.  But lately I've been much better about keeping track of what I am doing and finishing it before I move on to the next.  I've been writing a lot, and my thesis is coming together, even though I am starting to feel like I will never finish it (irrational, I know, because I will finish it, or I'm going to get every bone in my body broken...) but it is almost oppressive, just because I am writing the same things over and over.  My advisor tells me that an essay (my thesis is a series of nonfiction pieces) is not thesis-worthy until it has been revised more than ten times.  I do not believe her, but I have been revising.  A lot. 

All the work that I have been doing on my writing has made me stop checking the billion web sites or so that I used to every day.  I'm hopelessly behind in a lot of blogs that I used to read.  I don't really miss it, actually, which tells me that I should have simplified this whole Internet thing a long time ago.  I still run across some interesting stuff though.

I love pointing out hypocrites.  It's one of my most favorite things to do.  I don't follow a lot of Washington scandals, but I love the one that broke earlier this year, about a supposed Madame busted for running a prostitution ring, because you know that her client list has to include a selection of Holier-than-thou public servants.

Now batting: Louisiana Senator David VitterThis article has the details of what his last week has been like.  Eh.  He's going to spin it like anyone else would, I guess.  But I remember Sen. Vitter for something he said in 2006, well before the mid-term elections, when people actually still cared about W's agenda.  Two really pointless parts of his agenda were creating Constitutional amendments that would ban burning an American flag and gay marriage.

(What if two burning, gay American flags wanted to get married?  That might be the dumbest question I've ever asked.)

I'm not sure what Vitter's point of view was on the flag thing (he is a Republican, so he probably wanted it) but I know what his POV was on the gay marriage issue.  Now remember that he represents Louisiana, which includes New Orleans, which was devastated by a Hurricane Katrina in 2005, because in the discussion of whether gay marriage should be banned constitutionally, David Vitter stood in front of the camera and said that the issue of gay marriage was by far the most important issue to the people that he represents. 

I for one can picture the thousands of people displaced from Katrina sitting in their FEMA trailers waiting for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the rest of the levees so that they might make it back into their homes by, say, 2020 look skyward and praise the Lord because David Vitter is looking out for their best interests. 

Ah, the smell of hypocrisy.  There's nothing like it.  Here's a guy championing good ol' fashioned heterosexual marriage who tears down his own like it was a Category 5 moving over the bayou.

Which leads me to my next feature: I'm late in reporting this, but apparently on Sunday July 8th the San Diego Padres had the audacity to sponsor a Gay Pride Day at Petco Park for their game with the Atlanta Braves.  Predictably, several "Christian" organizations had full blown aneurysms. 

My favorite part of that rant:

"Not even an afternoon at a baseball game apparently is going to be safe for parents who want to protect their children from advocates for homosexuality, with the San Diego Padres' confirmation their July 8 game will simultaneously offer free caps to attract children, and a formal recognition of the area's homosexual organization."

Because, as anyone well knows, you recruit kids to become homosexuals by first offering them floppy hats.  Once the kids see how absolutely FABULOUS they look, they're hooked.

Forgive me, I can't resist including more:

"This action by the San Diego Padres management has greatly tarnished their record as being a family friendly organization. They have truly offended the moral and religious sensibilities of literally thousands of fans. I will never look at the Padres the same way that I have over the past 40 plus years here in San Diego, enjoying its image as being pro family. It is really sad," said Phil Magnan, the director for Biblical Family Advocates."

Hmm, Phil says that he's never going to look at the Padres the same way again.  Sounds like he's already coming around.  Hope he got a floppy hat.  Have any of these "outraged citizens" ever been to San Diego?  If so, they don't pay much attention.  There's more in the article about a certain group of vendors threatening to walk off the job during the game, and I will make the obligatory crack about them being uncomfortable placing a whole lot of foot-long hot dogs in buns...thank you very much.

Actually, I have it from sources that what really honked off these wonks is that they heard that the Padres were going to recreate the infamous "Sausage Race" that the Milwaukee Brewers feature at every home game,and well, when they heard "sausage," they panicked. 

It wasn't that kind of race, folks!

And a random 11 for those who made it this far:

1. "Ride My See Saw"-The Moody Blues.  I couldn't make this up, could I?  I hear this was sung before the Padres game on 7/8 in place of the National Anthem.

2. "Amnesia"-Chumbawamba.  Whenever I hear a Chumbawamba song I am reminded of a tale told to me shortly after Christmas lo a few years ago.  My nephew wanted this CD for Christmas and my mother (his grandmother) decided to buy it but when she went to the store she had difficulty locating it.  Finally she had to ask for help.  The idea of Mom asking someone "Where's the Chumbawamba?" is a gift from the Heavens.  I love this band because of it.

3. "Monty Got a Raw Deal"-REM.  I'm not chummy with the band, but if I were I'd demand to know that the guy's name being Monty is not just a coincidence, right?  Monty Hall, Let's Make a Deal, c'mon, it's a clever ruse, no?

4. "Pets"-Porno for Pyros.  Some songs are forever altered by a situation where you find yourself listening to it.  This is an example: last August I drove all the way from Chicago to LA to visit some good friends and as I was getting off the Freeway at twilight trying to navigate the directions I was given, this song came on.  If I live to be 123, I will always think about looking for the Monrovia Fire Station and then making a right turn whenever I hear this song.

5. "Bass Trap"-U2.  An obscure B-sides composition that, like above, will always resonate with me because of coincidental opportunity.  It's too long of a story to hash here but I was once in an airplane listening to this song when we flew over a Wind Farm, and the tempo of the song fit the movement of the turbines perfectly.  I had what I can only describe as a harmonic moment.  Sounds moronic, yes, but it was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

6. "Ain't So Easy"-David + David.  These guys put out a killer CD in the mid-80s and then absolutely disappeared.  Boggles my mind, like it was a remake of "Eddie and The Cruisers" or something.

7. "Wake Me Up On Judgement Day"-Steve Winwood.  In the fall of 1987 I was a newly arrived freshman at the University of Iowa, placed randomly into a bizarre living situation.  This CD ("Back in the High Life") saved me from going insane about fifteen thousand times over.

8. "Buffalo River Home"-John Hiatt.  I had never heard this song until last summer (on the same trip where I had the "Pets" moment) when I was driving through the Santa Fe area and heard it on a radio station which played two straight hours of great music (something sorely lacking in Chicago).  It was 98.7 KBAC "Radio Free Santa Fe" and when I got home I became a religious listener via their Internet streaming.  Alas, they stopped the streaming in the spring.  They won't respond to my e-mails begging them to start it up again.  My life may never recover.  This song makes me sob now, endlessly.

9. "What's My Scene?"-The Hoo Doo Gurus.  Don't have much to say here, other than it's fun to type Hoo Doo at 2 AM.

10. "Rafters"-Moby.  As far as I can tell, the woman who hums throughout this song is eating a big ol' chocolate cake.  Perhaps it was her birthday.

11. "Down In the Bottom"-Walter Becker.  The less-cool half of Steely Dan, but this song has some of the best lyrics ever.  I'm glad he saved it for himself, because Donald Fagan would sound foolish singing this song.

04 July 2007

Maybe it's the pondering that causes the headaches

Last Friday I woke up shortly before ten o'clock, had a little breakfast, watched some news, and made my way back to my bedroom by eleven, felled by a headache.  I pretty much spent the rest of the day sleeping and trying to sleep.  The headache would not go away.  It was not on the level of a migraine (something I have experienced only twice in my life and have no desire to revisit) but it was dominant.  I even dreamt about it while I was asleep.

Whenever a day is wasted like that, I can't help but wonder what I missed.  If nothing else, the weather was beautiful, and at the very least I could have sat outside somewhere and read.  But no; while most of the world was going on about their day, I was in bed.  And of course, a few days later, it has me thinking.  I don't remember the last time I literally spent twenty-three hours of one day in bed.

But then I recall what Friday's date was: June 29.

I had major surgery on June 29, 1976 to fix a kidney problem that I had been born with (I was nine).  I went into the hospital the night before, so when June 29 arrived, I was asleep.  I was woken up at six and in the operating room by 7.  I remember waking up around 5 that evening back in my hospital room, getting sick, and trying to watch a baseball game (the Cubs gave up eight runs in the first inning to the Pirates) before sleeping the rest of the day.

Thirty-one years later I had the same type of day, except without the anesthesia, scalpels and such...spending most of it in bed.

It's purely coincidental, I realize, but it makes me wonder about what has happened to me on days that now mean something to me, before the event that occurred.  My wedding anniversary is April 22, 2005.  I wonder if anything of significance ever happened to me on the 36 April 22 I lived through before 2005?  Or June 29 from 1967 thru 1975?  June 8 (my father's death) before 2002? 

I have no way of knowing.  I wish I had taken better notes of this life as it was happening to me.

(In the three-plus years that I have been writing here, this is the first time I have gone back and immediately thought that this would have been something Neil Patrick Harris would have written at the end of "Doogie Howser, MD.")

Independent Random 11:

1. "Little Bird"-Annie Lennox.  Like the song, but I think more of the video with all of the men running around dressed like her.

2. "Oliver's Army"-Elvis Costello.  London is full of Arabs.  Now more than ever.

3. "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town"-Pearl Jam.  Definitely the longest title I have.  Every time I hear this song, I am left dumbfounded why Eddie Vedder avoided some rhymes that would have made more sense to the story that this song tries to tell.

4. "Split Decision"-Steve Winwood.  That's Joe Walsh on the guitar.  This song reminds me of "Miami Vice"; no particular episode, just the show in general.  I have no idea why.

5. "Show Me"-The Pretenders.  Not sure why this is here.  I usually skip over it.  Preachy Chrissy Hynde is not good Chrissy Hynde.

6. "Porcelain"-Moby.  I was able to get over the fact that I heard this in the trailer for every movie released in 2000.  And that it was in 75 commercials.  I could listen to the intro 80 times.  I just did.

7. "Heartbeat"-Psychedelic Furs.  First memory that pops up in my head when I hear this is listening to this album (I believe this was the last song on side 1) as I was trying to fall asleep the night before I had knee surgery in February of 1985.  I am pretty sure that this is the only song on here that would remind me of surgery; freaky that it shows up tonight.

8. "Gone"-U2.  Nails on a chalkboard at the beginning, but Bono saves it with some of the coolest lyrics he's ever written.

9. "Just a Job to Do"-Genesis.  Phil Collins singing about being a hit-man.  It seemed plausible at the time.

10. "Slow Emotion Replay"-The The.  Makes me want to learn the harmonica.  Perhaps my all-time favorite refrain: "Everybody knows what's going wrong with the world/but I don't even know what's going on in myself."

11. "Human"-The Pretenders.  Ms. Hynde gets the chance to redeem herself.  I love the guitar riff that ends this song.  And the damage is done...


02 July 2007

Psst, Hey, King George...

Really, what took you so long?

It never bothered me that anyone of importance in the Bush White House escaped involvement in the whole Valerie Palme thing, because if Karl Rove had been nailed, he would have pardoned as soon as his conviction was announced.  So Libby will spend no time in jail (and I would say he probably deserves at least a weekend in the Big House simply for being an adult going by the nickname "Scooter" in public) but will still be a convicted felon (which means he loses his law license) and still is on the hook for a $250,000 fine (which will, like his legal fees, be paid for by Republican groups in DC).

I still think that right before January 20, 2009, Libby will receive a full pardon.

Look, Bush is a joke.  Three-fourths of the country and nine-tenths of the world feel that way now, and we are all just biding our time until the Constitution kicks in and kicks him back to Crawford.  There's no reason to be outraged by this, because if you didn't see it coming, you weren't paying very close attention.  George does what he wants.  Laws don't apply to George, and therefore, laws don't apply to people George likes.

You know who George does not like?  People convicted of murder (even those done so questionably).  In fact, George hates those people so much, he did everything he could when he was governor of Texas to se that they died as swiftly as possible.  Who cares if a few "might" have been innocent?  A few worthy sacrifices for the good of Texas, it seems.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 43rd President in a nutshell: he wouldn't consider putting off an execution even if there were a 99% chance that the person about to die was going to do so in error, and he certainly doesn't do anything to make sure American soldiers stay alive, but if you are a Republican crony who committed perjury (as long as it wasn't about sex, mind you) he'll make sure that you're off the hook.

And I continue to wish that somehow I could be around in one hundred years just so I could read history textbooks about the years 2001-2009.

On to other things: not long ago, I was ready to declare the 2007 baseball season over.  As a Cubs fan, there is a point every season where the official call is made: the team isn't going to win the World Series for the (insert rapidly approaching three digit number here) and once again, I have to wait another freakin' year.

Last year, the time of death was the first week of May.  And I almost called it at the end of this May, when they were 22-31, but for some reason I waited.  I think it was because I didn't want to give up until they played the White Sox for the last time.  Turns out that series seems to be the point where the season has turned around.  Since the 22-31 mark, they have gone 19-9.  They still have a lot of room to make up if they want to make the playoffs, and even if they did they wouldn't be favored over any other team I think, but at least as we spiral into July there is still a reason for me to watch (and be excited) about baseball.

Mock me; pity me; commit me; fail-to-understand me (Hi Honey!); there's just no way for me to convey how this team drives me.  I have a few friends who might read this and nod their heads in complete, absolute understanding.

It can still happen, boys.  And I will be here following.

If it takes forever.

20 June 2007

I amend, because, well, just because

The opossum remains.  I was told Monday that it would be gone by today, but no dice.  It's been cool enough the last two days to turn off the AC but I can't open the windows along the back of the house without it smelling like we live on a landfill.  I'm grateful that I don't have to deal with the collection of this ex-opossum and think that fact alone should keep me from complaining anymore about it.  He doesn't have anymore company back there, which is nice, because that aspect of the situation was really starting to nauseate me.

Oddly enough, I can sit on the deck and not be aware of its presence, a benefit of gentle breezes, I suppose.  So today I sat outside and read in the middle of the afternoon.  It's been much quieter lately and I think the cicadas are on their last legs.  Apparently when it's their time, it's their time.  They go suddenly.

I had five fall out of the trees and onto me in an hour.  Only one of them was alive at the time of plummet, and he didn't last much longer when I escorted him off my body (carefully, of course).  Ah, soon, very soon, I shan't be writing about cicadas anymore. 

I wonder if I shall still be doing this in 2024?

I was thinking about how I labeled this as "the summer of death" a few days ago and I would like to amend that to "the summer where it seems an awful lot of things that are not human are passing on" before something really unfortunate happens and I get blamed.  I happened to be thinking about this as I sat in bed reading last night, and shortly afterward Kristen noticed a bug flying around the ceiling.  It was too small (and quiet) to be a cicada, and it moved too fast to be a moth.  I think it was a box-elder bug (which seems to be a type of insect 'round these parts that no one has heard of, at least no one I have spoken to today, which pretty much means that my wife has never heard of it before) and just as I was getting ready to get up and try to get rid of it (three gets in less than half a sentence!  Genius.  Super Genius.) it flew into the ceiling fan and quite stunned itself.  After a short rest, it did it again, making a very large "thwack"ing sound that told me that there was no need to worry about getting rid of this bug because it had succeeded quite well in getting rid of itself.  Thus I renamed my summer.

No death allowed in the Random 11:

1. "Push"-The Cure.  Great.  I proclaim no death and the first song that comes up is a song by The Cure, featuring the happiest lead singer in the history of mankind, Robert Smith.  This song does mention strawberries and cream, though.  It's the only way to beeeeeeee, yeah.

2. "Harvest Moon"-Neil Young.  Songs like this make me hope that I am still around when my 50th wedding anniversary arrives.  My wife, too, of course.

3. "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes"-Paul Simon.  I don't think anyone does lyrical metaphor better than Paul Simon does all through Graceland.  And he was a decent senator to boot.

4. "Untitled"-The Cure.  This is the last song on the Disintegration CD.  Do not listen to this song without the maximum amount of endorphins flowing through your brain, or it will whack you good.  I'm bemoaning lost loves listening to this and I don't even have any.

5. "Flight Test"-The Flaming Lips.  Love, love, love this song.  "I don't know where the sunbeam ends and the starlight begins/it's all a mystery/and I don't know how a man decides what's right for his own life/it's all a mystery.  Have I mentioned that I love this song?

6. "5:15"-The Who.  I suppose this calls for some type of "why should I care" joke, but I'm blanking.  The slogan for their current tour maybe?  Jam Records presents 50% of The Who.  But hey, it's the better half.  Eh.  Start again.

7. "Keep the Car Running"-Arcade Fire.  How did I get through forty years of life without this band?  Of course, when I listen to the lyrics of this song closely, I decide that it's about death.  But it's such a pick-me-up, plus there is a hurdy-gurdy being played in the background.  "We don't know how and we don't know when its coming/keep the car running"

8. "A Murder of One"-Counting Crows.  I like this song even though I think the leader singer of this band has one of the more annoying voices ever created.  That reminds me, do you say "larynx" or "larnyx"?

9. "Black Books"-Nils Lofgren.  Quite possibly the best song ever used as a closing to The Sopranos.  And I would sincerely like to thank David Chase for using "Don't Stop Believing" for the final-ever scene of that show.  Now I no longer have to think about the 2005 White Sox whenever I hear it.

10. "Catch My Fall"-Billy Idol.  I am 16 again for three minutes and forty-three seconds.  It could happen to you/so think for yourself.

11. "God's Gallipoli"-Poi Dog Pondering.  We say no death, yet we start with death and end with death.  I blame the cicadas.  I'm glad that they will be gone soon.  I think that I want this song played at my funeral and everyone in attendance will beforced to participate in a musical number, which I will have choreographed beforehand.  And I will be watching.  Five, six, seven, eight...