31 October 2008

"As the Titanic went down, I came up...

Studs Terkel died today at ninety-six. I discovered his work rather late in his career, only about ten years ago, but since then I've read him as often as I could. As a nonfiction writer, Studs was an icon. He had the ability to take people's words and turn them into inspiration. He was an oral historian. He recorded people's words and put them on the page in a way that made his subjects sing.

My favorite Studs' work is Will the Circle be Unbroken? It's full of people talking about death. While it might not seem like a feel-good topic, it's a fascinating look at how different cultures and faiths deal with the inevitable. I've read it several times and feel the need to read it again soon. Other books to read are Working, Hope Dies Last, Division Street, and his memoir Touch and Go, which was published in 2007.

Throughout Touch and Go Terkel mentions that he has been fortunate to have lived so long, that he has outlived almost all of his friends. "At 94," he says "I've come to the realization that I am 99 and 44/100ths dead"
(that's a play on a popular ad campaign by Ivory Soap from a long time ago), and it's my favorite line of the book.

I was surprised to read in that book that Terkel did not publish his first oral history until he was 55. Before then he had a long career in broadcasting and public service. He had an interesting life.

It feels weird to be so seriously bummed out about the death of someone who missed living to be a century by four years, but I feel like Terkel still had some words left in him that will never make it out now. It's a selfish feeling; I loved his work, and I wish there was more forthcoming.

19 October 2008

Zephyr in the sky at night I wonder

Well bust my flange and call me Joe the Plumber. It's the end of just about a perfect weekend here-beautiful fall weather, some house hunting, and a curious almost-ten month old baby boy continuing to discover all the different things about life.

What could be better? Heck, even the Chicago Tribune endorsed Barack Obama today. The Trib never endorses Democratic presidential candidates. I was glancing over some news sites before this and saw the list of papers (which the minions in the McPalin camp will remind us tomorrow have become completely irrelevant) that have endorsed Obama. Houston? The LA Times? Idaho? I guess anything can happen these days.

What the...? It's almost 11 PM here, and the doorbell just rang. Back in a sec.

(Hey-Desmond here. This remote controlled doorbell I wired from my crib finally comes in handy. Look, I know everyone is tired of this, but I just wanted to warn that Dad is about to mention the Cubs again. Here he comes...I gotta scoot.)

No one there. We don't live in an area with a heck of a lot of kids, so I don't know what is going on. Anyway, it's been a good weekend. Kristen and Desmond are asleep, and I'm just goofing around before I call it a night. Maybe I'll see what's on TV here...

And the cabin explosively decompresses. The Tampa Bay Rays are going to the World Series! Wonderful! Thank God that the long nightmare for the folks of Tampa/ St. Pete is finally over.

Really, it's bad enough that I have to endure being a Cubs fan. It's excruciating. I was walking around a pumpkin farm with my family today and every time I saw a carved jack-o-lantern I knew exactly how it felt. Think about it: a pumpkin grows rich and plump through the summer, spending its day wondering what is to become of it, and then at the height of its excitement and anticipation, it gets cut open and completely gutted-like that it isn't enough-and then it gets carved into some bewildering characterization.

Watching the Cubs roll over and play dead to the Dodgers a few weeks ago was like having someone cut a circle off the top of my skull and then reach in, pulling everything out. Watching Tampa celebrate going to the World Series is the final straw, the slim serrated knife carving an image of Sarah Palin into my torso.

There's the damn door bell again. I'm going to squash whomever is out there...

(Hey, Desmond again. Look, I can hear him hyperventilating over this, and the best thing for him is to vent. He's gotta get it out. It's pathetic that I have more perspective on this then he does, but then he's been around a lot longer.)

No one there. Maybe I'm hearing things; on the way back up here I swore I could hear little feet running away. How much am I supposed to endure? Do you know how awful it has been being a Cubs fan since 2003? The implosion they pulled off that year was enough to kill most of my brain cells, but what has conspired since is ridiculous. And it's not just the team's performance (though that has been spectacular as well-a last-week collapse in 2004 to miss the playoffs, then two pathetic seasons back-to-back in '05 and '06, and the three-and-out playoff performances of '07 and '08); it's been just as hard watching who gets to end up celebrating at the end of those seasons.

Now the phone, the phone is ringing. There might be an animal in trouble. Be right back.

(Des, yet again. This is worse than I thought. I'm afraid he's about to break out into a list. I don't know what to do. Maybe I'll go make him a bottle. That always makes everything better for me.)

Where was I? Right, October suffering. Here's what I've had to deal with since the Cubs flame-out of 2003:

2003: The Florida Marlins (who were the beneficiaries of said flame-out) win the World Series over the Yankees. This is the second championship for the Marlins, who also won in 1997. They didn't join the league until 1993, or 85 freakin' years after the Cubs last championship. People in Miami love their baseball, as the Marlins average around 10,000 fans per game.

2004: Up until this point, most scholars of the game would suggest that fans of the Boston Red Sox have been subject to more cruelty than Cubs fans, and since the Sox have managed to lose a few playoff series in spectacular fashion (paging: 1986) there is some truth to this. This all changed in 2004. Boston became the first team ever to win a seven-game playoff series after falling behind three games to none. Undeserved extra oomph #1: they did it against the Yankees, their most hated rival. Undeserved extra oomph #2: they went on the win four straight in the WS, thereby eliminating any drama as to whether they would finally win. It was the first championship since 1918.

2005: If you think envy was a healthy presence in '04, '05 gave it a pandemic-force presence. The White Sox hadn't won a championship since 1917. They went 11-1 in the playoffs. It was never in doubt, my friends. I ripped my heart out of my chest and ate it so many times during the World Series that my ribs walked out on me. I must point though that despite popular theory, a Cubs fan does not consider the White Sox to be his team's greatest rival. Any true Cubs fan keeps all his vitriol for...

2006: ...the St. Louis Cardinals! The Cards barely made the playoffs (and in fact set a record for the fewest regular season wins by a World Series winning team-83) and then drove the stake further into my heart by winning it all. Seriously, who writes this stuff? Boston, Chicago and St. Louis back to back to back?

2007: So I figure this has to be the year that the Cubs are finally vanquished. I mean, what else is left? Everyone has won the World Series by now it seems...so let's let the long suffering fans of Boston win a second series in three years! And let's make it even better by letting the Colorado freakin' Rockies (established the same year as the traditional Florida Marlins-1993) get to the World Series too. Thank God those fans in Denver had this, because they have nothing else to celebrate out there *cough-John Elway-cough* And let's have this happen after the Cubs roll over and die to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who by the way won the World Series in 2001, thereby ending the prolonged suffering of their loyal fans who saw them enter the major leagues in 1998. When I think about all those Phoenix-area first graders who had yet to see the D'Backs win it all, I can barely stand it.

The phone is ringing again!

(Desmond again. OK, he's officially out of control, and I'm starting to get a little peeved. If I don't get fourteen hours of sleep per night I am a mess the entire next day. I am asking anyone who might have access to a tranquilizing gun to come over immediately. I can pay handsomely-apples, pears, sweet potatoes, etc.; all pureed, all chock full of YUMMY! Please help.)

2008: Two teams won 97 games this year: the Cubs and the Rays. One pulled the ultimate Mr. Bungles and was eliminated quicker than AIG spends bailout money on "massages" while the other beat two good teams and made it to the World Series. Their opponent? The Phillies, another team that has brought much woe to their loyal fans (and I'm actualy serious here-next to the Cubs, the worst team to be enslaved to has to be the Phillies, though they did win a World Series in 1980). So either Tampa or Philly wins it this year. I'm sure Tampa will win. It's about time that a team that has been in existence less than every sixth grader on the planet has been alive purges the demons of its past. Did I mention Tampa had never won more than 70 games in any of their nine prior seasons? Of course they did!

What's going to happen next year? Will the roster of the 1927 Yankees regenerate in late August and make a final addition to their legacy? Will Steve Garvey come out of retirement for the Washington Nationals post-season run? Will Will Clark hit a three-mile long grand slam?

Who just thinks I spontaneously combusted? Oh, and Desmond, you are so grounded when you turn twelve.

I promise here and now that these are my last words about the Cubs for at least the rest of 2008, and more than likely until the first pitch of 2008, of which by then I will have completely done my best Men In Black impersonation and forgot all about this.

When I sat down to write this, I grabbed my i-pod. The first song it played randomly?

Madonna's "Ray of Light."

Of course it did.

15 October 2008

Holy Schnikies

Yes, I'm watching the debate (I've done such a good job at avoiding politics here lately, just because the process has been going on for what seems like forever), and I actually feel sorry for John McCain. He reminds me of the kid in school who blew his top every time he was teased and thus was teased all the time because everyone knew they could get a rise out of him.

Why would anyone want this man to be President of the United States? Red, blue, democrat, republican...this dude is (Mel Brooks shout out here) "N-V-T-S."

And who the hell is Joe the Plumber?

09 October 2008

This is Desmond.

Yes, I know that I'm only nine months old and that I should be in bed, but I've been sleeping all day today, and it's boring. Baby stuff gets boring sometimes. There's only so many times I can pretend to be amazed by "Brahms' Lullaby" and watch a mobile spin above my head.

So when I wake up in the middle of the night when everyone else is asleep? I'm so out of that crib. I gotta do my own thing. You'll understand if I don't describe my activities. I don't want to jeopardize my independence.

Of course, I realize that hijacking Dad's blog isn't exactly the way to remain anonymous, but odds are he'll never read this anyway, or if he does, he'll forget that he didn't write it. He's always thinking about writing in my perspective, but that "Yeah I'm a baby but I'm sooo intelligent" bit has been overdone.

By the way, should anyone be curious, I look like this.

Amazingly, Dad seems to be over the demise of the Cubs. It's weird; we spent all summer watching games and getting excited about how well they were doing. Dad spent a good deal of time telling me about baseball, and while I did the best I could, I still don't get everything about it.

One thing I did get (man, did I get it) though was how much Dad likes the Cubs. It's more than just entertainment. He's devoted. Dad is 41. He's been watching the Cubs since he was five. He can name 99% of the men who have played for the team since 1972. He remembers just about every single one of the hundred or so games he has been to in person.

When I sneeze, this strange gooey stuff comes out of my nose and they use a white cloth to wipe it away. I hate it. Hate, hate, hate it! But I digress. When Dad sneezes, baseballs with Cubs logos on them come flying out of his nose, and we have to make sure that we duck.

You get the idea. My Dad is a little excessive when it comes to the Cubs. (HA! I just sneezed but no one else is awake to wipe my nose! VICTORY IS MINE!) So imagine my surprise when I have noticed that he isn't moping around the house since the Cubs so brilliantly flamed out of the playoffs. I give him credit. I barely know anything about the Cubs and how the playoffs work and I wanted to pound my head against the side of my crib for a while after those two games at Wrigley Field last week. How can a team that played so well all season long suddenly channel their inner t-ball player? They were awful-walks, errors, a total lack of hitting. What the heck happened?

Can you give me a sec? I just noticed a small decorative pillow on the couch next to me, and it has a tag, so I must play with it immediately. Talk amongst yourselves...OK, I'm done.

History is an amazing thing. History tells us that anyone who is a Cubs fan should know better than to get excited in October. I think Dad had this idea that now that I was here that the Cubs would win, that I was the thing missing since 1908 (yeah, no pressure there pops, thanks). I may only be 293 days old but I already know that no one person can fix what ails the Cubs in the post-season.

I did some research for a few minutes before starting to write this, and it's no wonder that Dad is half-insane. He was born in 1967 and suffered through some truly awful Cubs teams until 1984, when they finally went to the playoffs. They've been to the playoffs five times since then: 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008. They've never made it to the World Series any of those years.

What's amazing about that is how they've accomplished it: in all six playoff appearances they have lost the final three games. In '84 they needed to only win one of three possible games in San Diego after winning the first two at home; they lost all three and the best-of-five series 3-2. In '89 they went to San Francisco at one game apiece and lost three straight (and the series 4-1). In '98, '07 and '08 they lost the only three games they played.

And then there is 2003. This is the only time in my Dad's lifetime that the Cubs won a playoff series. The beat Atlanta in a best of five 3-2. They won the first, third and fifth games. Next was Florida, a best-of seven for the right to go to the World Series, and after losing the first game, they won the next three. Up 3-1 in a best of seven, they had three chances to win one game. They lost all three. You might remember what happened in one of them.

Geez, I'm sorry I put that picture in there. That poor guy. Ihad to look up "scapegoat" to make sure I understood how to use it properly. That guy is the ultimate scapegoat. He is as much to blame for the Cubs demise in 2003 as I was, and in 2003 I was cruising the Andromeda Galaxy (I will deny that if you tell anyone). I can only imagine what he feels each year when the Cubs season ends, and he continues to be a man without a country.

It's uncanny: when the Cubs lose a second game in a row in the playoffs, it's over. Why did the bother going to LA after game 2 last week? You could see the forks sticking out of them as they walked off the field.

I'd like to think that maybe I'm the reason Dad isn't taking this year's demise as badly as we thought he would. After all, there is more to life than baseball now. There are things like pacifiers and teething rings and strained carrots (and TAGS!), etc. The sun has come up five days in a row now. He sits there and says that he's not going to get caught up in the hype anymore, that from now on he will get excited about them winning during the regular season but ignore the playoffs, and I know he is full of 100% USDA Grade A BS. I know two things for sure in my young life: one, that there is nothing like a warm bottle just as one reaches the point of exhaustion, and two, you don't spend 7/8ths of your life in utter devotion to something and just punt it away in frustration. Dad will let go of his devotion to the Cubs just as soon as he saws off all his limbs.

I do believe him when he says that he is done thinking and talking about them until April though. Good thing. It scares me when I see those giant veins sticking out of his forehead.

05 October 2008

A very short statement about the Cubs

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me five billion times, shame on me.

01 October 2008

And we move on...

I've been writing here for a little less than five years.  I've had two instances where I had a sudden increase in readers.  The first was one I was a guest editor two November's ago.  A few days later the ads hit, and people left all over the place.  I did too, for a spell, bouncing over to the UK version until they put ads up and then I beat the drums of hypocrisy all the way back to here.  Then last month Mary was kind enough to mention this journal in something she wrote, and people came by to see what was going on.  I've enjoyed getting to know some new people since then.

But as we found out today, this is all going "POOF!" at the end of the month.  So it happens again.  I don't pretend to know the business world very well anymore, but it seems like every time AOL makes a decision, they stick it to the few people who are left.  The only reason a decision like this gets made is financial.

This will force me to do what I should have done a while ago and move over to Blogger, so I am not concerned about myself.  I hope folks who have been kind enough to stop by here will do so there.

It's inevitable that some people who had an AOL journal will stop writing.  I can think of at least ten people that I lost touch with after the ads mess.  Losing this space doesn't really bother me since there is an alternative, but the idea of seeing people disappear again depresses me.