Friday, October 31, 2008


You don't need to tell Darth Vader that black is slimming. He knows. I wore his helmet, cape and gauntlets along with my black turtleneck and jeans for our school's annual Halloween Parade and lost nearly seven pounds in those six blocks. When we got back inside, I pulled off the mask and breathed a deep lungful of the air that I had taken for granted just half an hour previous. And to think that all of this might not have happened at all, except for a break in the clouds.
For the past twelve years, and certainly for many years before, the kids at my school have made a tradition of dressing up and meandering around the neighborhood in a long, roughly grade-by-grade line that eventually snakes for more than a quarter mile before the fifth graders even make it out of the gate. It takes less than half an hour to make the trip, but this does not include the hour of preparation that begins right after lunch. In some cases, parents appear at the cafeteria door, whisking their kids off to the bathroom to paint and primp them for their big moment. And every year before this one, the sun has beat down and the last day of October. The sweat has ruined many a pale vampire, and drenched countless pretty princesses. But this year, a dark cloud was hanging over the parade like, well, a dark cloud.
And then, just before lunch, the skies parted, and the school emptied out onto the playground. Class by class we walked down the stairs and out onto the street. It's the lowest impact field trip imaginable, but the kids love it, and the parents can't seem to live without it. When we finally made our way back to the school, there were cupcakes and paper cups full of Tampico punch. The "no candy at school" rule took a day off, and we sent the kids home on a sugar high that was certain to last at least another twelve hours. On Monday, it's back to business as usual, and if it rains it means indoor recess, but it won't keep us from our grand masquerade.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Adios, Clayton

Sometimes I give my mother grief because she forgets to pass along news from home in a timely fashion. But last night, she got straight to the point: "Clayt died." I suppose I had that coming. My whole "skip to the chase" attitude put me in a position of having to swallow that pill. Clayt died. Clayton Orton. The guy who lived across the street from us for all those years. Gone.
It wasn't a shock, necessarily. He had been sick for some time, and his family had been preparing for this for months. He was eighty-six. He was in the Army Air Corps in World War Two. He played hard and worked hard. As Doctor Hunter S. Thompson would have said, "He stomped on the terra."
And yet, it's still a little confounding to imagine a world without Clayt in it. The guy was a force of nature. He built his own bar. He had four kids, eight grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. He worked harder and longer than most guys half his age. He was all those things, but that's not what I will remember him for most. Clayton Orton was the most unrepentant curser I ever had the good fortune to encounter.
Clayt, as previously mentioned, was an airman not a sailor, but he swore like one. It came out in such a casual, effortless way that after a while it seemed more like a local dialect instead of the occasional blue streak. To say that it was part of his charm may be overstating things, since it is probably more appropriate to say that he was so charming that the words he chose didn't tend to reflect poorly on him. The thing is, if I ever tried to repeat back some of the stuff he said, I would sound like a complete clown. No, Clayt was an artist. And a father. And a husband. And a good friend and neighbor. He stomped on the goll-durn terra.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


He won the lottery by being born
Big hand slapped a white male 'merican
Do no wrong, so clean cut...
Dirty his hands, it comes right off
- "W.M.A." by Pearl Jam
These words came blasting through my head as I read this: Republican presidential candidate John McCain says racism exists in America, but will be trumped by the nation's economic problems and play virtually no role when voters head to the polls next week. He said "ninety-nine and forty-one one-hundredths percent" of people will vote based on who they want to lead the country. Sadly ironic in the way he chose to appropriate the slogan of the whitest of all things, Ivory soap to cement his assertion.
It should be further noted that Senator McCain made these remarks to one of the whitest people on Earth: Larry King. And so here's the deal: This is yet another subject upon which the Senator is unqualified to speak. This is a man who repeatedly voted against a state and then a federal holiday to celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. It would be far too simple to label him a racist, but his ability to discern racism would seem to be extremely suspect.
Instead, why don't we take a look at what "the Real Americans" are thinking. Last Friday, National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" assembled a group of fifteen voters from York, Pennsylvania, to talk about race and the presidential contest. For example: "No matter how this election turns out, I don't think this country will ever be the same again," said Blanche Hake, a retired school teacher who is white and is voting for Obama. Leah Moreland, a McCain supporter said,"I don't want to sound racist, and I'm not racist, but I feel if we put Obama in the White House, there will be chaos. I feel a lot of black people are going to feel it's payback time. And I made the statement, I said, 'You know, at one time the black man had to step off the sidewalk when a white person came down the sidewalk.' And I feel it's going to be somewhat reversed. I really feel it's going to get somewhat nasty."
Hear that John? I guess that's the fifty-six one hundredth talking. Keep your eyes and ears open, kids. It's going to be an interesting week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No On Eight

I've just finished looking at the calendar, and it appears as though we are just one short week away from a major election. Okay, maybe that's not the big news, but maybe this will grab your attention: There will be more than one issue on our ballots next Tuesday. I know that if you have been reading this blog for the past twenty months, you might have come to the conclusion that it's all about electing a new Commander In Chief. Just like the Ginsu Knife offer on television, there's more. Much more.
For example: Here in California, we are being asked to decide whether or not we should have a constitutional amendment that will ban gay marriage. First off, let me say that I have pretty much taken Dolly Parton's stand: "I'm all for gay marriage, why shouldn't they suffer like the rest of us?" This, along with Jon Stewart's awakening that he was fine with the whole gay marriage thing once he figured out that it wasn't a requirement.
That's my opinion, and thank you for listening to it, but the friendly-fear-filled-folks at the "Yes On Eight" camp want us to believe that a constitutional ban on gay marriage will protect our children. At issue is educating our children about marriage. If gay men and women were allowed to get married, then we would be forced to teach our children about gay men and women. And if we were teaching them about gay men and women, that would essentially be condoning being gay. Our schools would become recruiting stations and breeding grounds for a wave of militant gay youth.
Okay, now they've got my attention. Let me start by saying that even if I did spend any time in my classroom teaching children about gay marriage, it would take place in a classroom that includes discussion of Martin Luther King, the Holocaust, and Algebra. I won't lie to you. Sometimes my own feelings get mixed into the curriculum. I do love teaching how to balance equations. The other reality that is being carefully avoided is this: Would that any of us had the time to teach about marriage, or health, or much else beyond what will appear on this Spring's standardized test. But what about poor Robb and Robin Wirthlin? The Wirthlins related how their seven year old son, Joey, came home from second grade public school one day to tell them his teacher had read the class a book about a prince who married another prince and the two men went on to become, King and King. The book includes a scene of the two male princes kissing each other and the prince rejecting other female princesses who were either too short, had long arms and one who had dark colored skin.
First of all, bravo to any school teacher who actually brings in literature beyond the basal reader we inflict on most students. Secondly, don't get me started on all the horrible stories of sex and violence found in "The Good Book," or how potentially damaging and disturbing "Snow White" is for most seven-year-olds. It's not the marriage that creeps us out. It's the sex that bugs people, and we just haven't found a way to constitutionally ban that.
Florida also has a gay marriage initiative on its ballot. John Stemberger who is chairman of said that while homosexual-identified men and women “should be afforded every single dignity and respect and right … they do not have the right, and by God’s grace they will not have the right, to fundamentally redefine this basic, human institution that has served us since the beginning of time.” To which I can only scratch my head and wonder what happened to the separation between church and state, that basic human institution that has served us since the beginning of our great nation? Maybe they don't teach that in Florida anymore, since they're too busy reading "Heather Has Two Mommies."

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Wish They Would Have Gone Bowling Instead

Sometimes you have to look hard to find tinier brains than the ones presently running the country, but that's why we have the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Federal authorities detailed a plot hatched by two white supremacists who were allegedly planning to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Court documents say the two men met about a month ago on the Internet and found common ground in their shared "white power" and "skinhead" philosophy. I suppose if a caveman can buy car insurance, skinheads can use a chat room to find one another.
They can find one another and create amusing ways to kill people: "Both individuals stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt," the court complaint states. I suppose that's what they mean by "white power." Daniel Cowart, twenty years old, of Bells, Tennessee lived with his grandparents and apparently never graduated from high school. Really? What do you suppose the chances of that were? If you guessed one hundred percent, you've got a whole lot more going on between your ears than these two goons. Zippy the Skinhead and his pal told investigators the day they were arrested they had shot at a glass window at Beech Grove Church of Christ, a congregation of about sixty black members in Brownsville, Tennessee. That, apparently, was the beginning of their master plan to go on a frenzied rampage.
And so this one ends with a whimper, not a bang. The court documents maintain, "Both individuals further stated they knew they would and were willing to die during this attempt." Sorry guys. Do not pass Go. Go directly to jail where you can work on that GED.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Homestretch time, kiddies. Even though virtually every poll in the nation has him trailing by a significant margin, John McCain said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he can “guarantee” a win on election day in a squeaker victory that won’t be clear until late that night. What else could he say? Recent history tells us that that Republicans have been winning late night squeaker elections for a while now. The suggestion that the results would be clear before bedtime seems like a dream of a distant era.
And what could he have told Tom Brokaw this morning? "You know, my friend, I've been doing a lot of thinking this past week, and I don't really like the way my campaign has been handling things. We've gotten away from the things we do best, and worst of all, I haven't been completely straight with the American people. Let's face it: I'm seventy-two years old, and if I'm going to make it to the Oval Office as something other than a visitor, this is my last chance. I'm desperate, but that's no excuse." And as Tom shifts uneasily in his chair, Senator John McCain concludes, "I believe that Barack Obama is precisely the kind of maverick that I hoped that I could be, but I've sold my soul so many times in the past eight years, I wouldn't know straight talk now if it came up to me on the street and licked me in the face. That's why I am suspending my campaign and putting all of my support behind the Senator from Illinois. I want you all to go out there and make Barack Obama the first consensus choice for President of the United States." At which point, a stunned Tom Brokaw would crawl back up on his chair.
But that's not what happened. Instead we will all live through the next nine days, waiting to see if "Broadway John" can deliver on his boast. Or perhaps, since John's background is less sports-centered and more about military history, maybe a boast from the annals of U.S. history would be more appropriate: "There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry." -- George Armstrong Custer.
See you at the polls, John.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It Says "Sprocket," Not "Socket"

Another crisp Autumn morning, and I found myself in the yard of an Oakland public school. While I have effectively sworn off any further PTA meetings, I still feel connected to the place where my son spends many of his waking hours. In a perfect world, there would be sufficient custodial services as well as a crack team of Buildings and Grounds specialists on hand to keep the facilities at my son's school in peak operating condition. This is not a perfect world.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a few familiar faces, and was offered the seemingly cherry job of repairing the planter boxes that line one side of the "upper yard." By showing up with my Snap-on work gloves, I appeared as the can-do guy, the one with the know-how, and other hyphenated-phrases. I was given free rein of my good friend and confidante's toolbox, as well as a big picture idea of what needed to be done. These boxes needed to be repaired, and there was some lumber and a great many machines, both simple and complex, to help me in this endeavor. And then I was cut loose. It was up to me to recreate the once sturdy and stately planter boxes. I set about assessing the situation, and imagining how I could best accomplish this task.
The truth is, I had done something very similar just a year ago, back on the yard of my son's elementary school. I imagined that I could eventually replicate that experience, given a certain amount of time and forgiveness. That's when another degree of difficulty was added: Another father arrived, eager to pitch in and be every bit as big a part of his son's school environment as I was. We shook hands, and I admired his relatively fresh knee surgery scar. We commiserated briefly about physical therapy and the changes in orthopedics over the past twenty years, then set about our task.
My confident exterior was based solely on the fact that I had been introduced to this project ten minutes ahead of my partner. I hoped that my skill set would remain sufficient for all the steps required. I flashed back briefly to my years spent installing modular office furniture, and the very steep learning curve I faced with my degree in Creative Writing and a limited vocabulary of tools. I learned fast, but always felt like an outsider in discussions of three-quarters this and seven-eighths that. I hoped that I wouldn't be asked to hand somebody a left-handed oval head-cutter.
But we hammered and braced and sawed and drilled, and after a few hours, we were done. We took a step back and admired our work. The planter boxes were repaired. We shook hands, and my partner went to find a place to rest his newly reconstructed knee. I swept up the debris and put my borrowed tools away. "Dads know how to use tools," I had said to the kid who stopped by to help us for a few minutes. Just don't ask me what they're called.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lattice Of Coincidence

It strikes me every time I spread mayonnaise on a piece of bread. I have a completely visceral reaction as I move the knife across the surface, moving to fill every crack and crevice. It's the way Darren did it. Sometimes I actively work to subvert it, choosing instead to make a lazy smear in some more devil-may-care fashion. Just to prove that I don't have to do it just the way Darren did it.
This is the guy my dad first christened "the Tupperware kid," due to the high volume of resealable plastic food storage containers he unloaded into the dorm room across the hall from me in my freshman year. Much of that same Tupperware moved in with me the following year as we shared an apartment across the street from the University of Colorado. One of the big plastic tumblers is still the home of Peter Parker, the amazing Spider-Plant.
I don't think I would ever have bought a Prince album if I hadn't first heard Darren play his music. I might never have experienced the ease and relative freedom of the Curb Party, or the batfish submarine, or the joy of cruising Muskogee in the bigger-than-a-Humvee-Dynobuick. Darren brought me flavors that I might have otherwise missed. He was an E-ticket attraction. That's why I miss him today.
When I forgot to check the oil in my Volkswagen bug before we drove east to visit Darren's home in Oklahoma, the engine threw a rod, and we rolled to a stop some thirty miles outside of Tulsa. I went around to inspect the damage, and was greeted by smoke, and a small flame when I lifted the hood. Darren's assessment: "Hmm. Fire. Bad sign." I blew it out like a birthday candle without hesitating to think about what additional oxygen might do to an engine that was on fire. Darren and our good friend Matt hiked down the hill, where they were attacked by a goat, to call for help.
Darren's dad came to the rescue, and drove us the rest of the way into Muskogee. We missed the football game that night that had been our main reason for making the interstate trek, but the hospitality we experience more than made up for it. Later that weekend, he made arrangements for the remains of my car to be towed back the next week and took the three of us back to Colorado where we all belonged.
Darren's the guy who first gave me the idea of "Hungry Drunk Boy Pizza." He and a buddy spent a summer researching every five-star review Rolling Stone ever wrote, and then went out and bought those albums. Darren was what Reader's Digest would call my most unforgettable character. I miss him today.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Frontier In Finality

Many years ago I paid to see William Shatner read poetry and recite bits from "Cyrano de Bergerac." That wasn't my intent, exactly. I did go expecting to William Shatner, but I pretty much expected to see and hear Captain Kirk, not some self-important Canadian windbag. I wasn't alone, either. There were a great many others who shared my disappointment when we realized that we were in for an evening of "serious theater" instead of an extended trip down memory lane with one of the guy who ran the Enterprise.
Historically this makes sense, since the first "Star Trek" movie hadn't been made yet, and the cast and crew were all busy pursuing life after that initial five year mission. At that time, it was fashionable to diminish that experience as tacky and very much past tense. They were boldly going where no man had gone before: into endless syndication. Most of the principals, especially Bill, had no interest in being reminded of their Star Fleet credentials.
Thirty years later, an older and wider William Shatner is fully immersed in his Kirk persona. With yet another permutation of the Star Trek beaming into theaters in December, he could scarcely contain his disappointment over being passed over for yet another hitch: "I couldn't believe it. I'm not in the movie at all. Leonard, God bless his heart, is in, but not me." This may have something to do with the fact that his character was killed off when Captain Picard went back in time to find someone who knew how to fist-fight Malcolm McDowell. It may also have something to do with the fact that William Shatner is an incredible twit.
When helmsman Sulu, George Takei, tied the knot with his longtime partner, Brad Altman, last month, Shatner was outraged that he wasn't invited. That may be because when Takei made his decision to come out of the closet later in life, it was his Captain saying, "Who cares? Be gay. Don't be gay. That's up to you, George."
And now he's on the outside, looking in. Why is that so easy to understand? And for the record, when William Shatner, master thespian, had finished regaling the crowd with his poetry and prose, the lights dimmed yet again, a screen dropped from above and we were treated to twelve minutes of "Star Trek" bloopers. I guess he wanted to have his quadrotriticale and eat it, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

As Real As It Gets

I'm not guessing that I could put it any better than Jon Stewart, who devoted most of his October 20th show to the inflammatory ramblings of Republicans about "the real America." The general consensus of these rabid talking heads has been that the portions of the country that aren't falling into the Republican line are not part of that special place. Those of us not fortunate enough to find ourselves living in that "real America" will most certainly feel the wrath of "real Americans" soon.
Just as soon as we finish bailing out the financial institutions that aren't exactly based in those bucolic small towns that Sarah Palin has been rhapsodizing about in the past few weeks: "We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom."
I felt a brief surge of patriotism as I found myself, a teacher of kids, in her soliloquy, but then I realized that just being a part of a state that would even debate the issue of gay marriage pretty much puts me in league with Stalin or Satan or both. I don't live in one of those pro-America pockets. I live in one of those big socialist cesspools, one of those big cities. I don't have a flag pin in my lapel.
You can be sure that the reason that Sarah Palin charged Alaska's taxpayers for her children's commercial airline tickets was not just because they represent the state wherever they go with her, but also for the vital need they must have to reconnect with that "real America" energy. More than twenty-one thousand dollars worth of flights from Juneau to Anchorage seems like a small price to pay to get that "big city stink" off those poor girls. No doubt there are a few isolated spots of liberal thought spoiling the otherwise Unspoiled American Wilderness of Alaska. Sarah is just doing what any good mother would do. If that mother happened to be governor of a state and had access to twenty-thousand dollars.
Hey Sarah: Get Real.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Pity my son. Imagine that he could come home with a report card full of A's and one B, and we would all still be scratching our heads about where we went wrong. My wife and I agreed, later when we were alone, that we might have expected a B in gym. He is, after all, our genetic fault. And yet, Physical Education was an A. The B came in Math. How could this be?
On this there are many competing theories. The first and most obvious one is that middle school math and math teachers are at least a notch harder than that he experienced just one short year ago. This is the stuff that eventually shows up on your PSAT. This is also the first time that he's had letter grades to negotiate. It's a bigger pond with a lot more fish. What exactly does it take to get an A? How is that different from getting the plus or the check in the box that he had spent the past six years cultivating? What if elementary math smart doesn't quite prepare you for middle school math smart?
So many questions, so little time. If I think back to my own middle school odyssey, way back when it was called "junior high," I recall that it was during this period that I began to care what other people thought about me. It might be simple enough to call it puberty, but it went deeper than simple peer pressure and pimples for me. It was the time that I actively began to determine what sort of person I was going to be. How did I fit into the complex social fabric that was Centennial Junior High School. Did I want to be popular, and even if I did, would I have the stomach to remain that way? Could I imagine spending the rest of my life with my friends from band?
With all that fretting about my place in the hierarchy of adolescence, much of my previously experienced academic excellence began to fade. I was now simply "one of the smartest." I was beginning to get a sense of what that bright light could do to a person, especially a newly formed and evolving pre-teen person. I could take being a band geek, but I drew the line at the math lab.
More's the pity, really. I really loved math. I still do, but I saw what it meant to be one of those guys. Combining math with band would all but seal my social death warrant. I made a series of decisions that, by the time I was a senior in high school, had all but ended my affection for arithmetic. It wasn't until decades later when I took a math class for my teaching credential that I put myself back in touch with the part of me that loves to balance equations. It made me think of all my possible pasts. What could have been.
And then I think of my son's report card, and I know that I will be happy to help him in any way that I can, even if it isn't math.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Thirty-nine years ago, it was easy enough to know when your team was playing. Friday nights were for high school. Saturday afternoon was for the colleges. Sundays were the days the big boys played. This was the loose structure that I gave my wife when we started living together. This helped explain my absence on any given weekend in the Fall.
What I forgot to tell her was that in 1970, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle made a deal with the ABC television network to air one game of professional football in prime time. Enough people tuned in to watch the Browns beat the Jets that it became a regular phenomenon. Those same people started taking off early on Monday afternoons and inviting their friends over to watch what many saw as "an extra game."
I can remember feeling personally slighted as Howard Cosell blithely ignored my team, the Denver Broncos, during his halftime highlights segment. It took three years before they let the Broncos play on Monday Night. When they did, the best they could manage was a tie against their hated enemy: The Oakland Raiders.
And that was pretty much that. The Broncos have had at least one Monday Night appearance in every season since. Then, I was watching on Monday Nights even when the Broncos weren't playing. I watched games that no one, not even Howard Cosell, cared about. These days, living on the left coast, I don't find myself in front of the TV as often, since it's dinner time just about the time they kick off, but I can still feel it. It's that last vestige of the weekend, hanging over into the first day of the week, like a promise of more to come. Until Thanksgiving, when they start to play on Thursday nights too. Did I mention that, honey?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Does Humor Belong In Politics?

This week we will be treated with countless video replays of Tina Fey's latest appearance on Saturday Night Live. Or rather, we will be treated to countless video replays of her doppelganger, Sarah Palin. She showed up on the late night comedy show to prove what a good sport she is, and how funny she is. The good news is that she may have a career in show business when this is all over, since she looked a whole lot more comfortable than Mark Wahlberg.
That being said, I am sure that there are plenty of die-hard Democrats wondering when their candidate would get the same treatment. What about equal time on the airwaves and all that good stuff? First of all, Palin's appearance was just another in a long and storied tradition of Republicans showing up on comedy shows to prove that they have a sense of humor. Remember Dick Nixon asking the musical question, "Sock it to me?" on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In?" How about getting Gerald Ford to tape the intro, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!" for the show his press secretary Ron Nessen's hosting gig? And even though one could debate the comedy of a very special episode of "Diff'rent Strokes," Nancy Reagan showed up in all her "just say no" glory to set Arnold straight on the importance of trickle-down economics.
Earlier this week, both of the Senators showed up at annual the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a charity event organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York for the benefit of needy children. Both men had some very funny things to say about themselves and each other, and they helped raise a lot of money. The next day, they went back to work. John McCain showed up on David Letterman, looking much less at ease. Barack Obama took his act on the road. I hear he's going to be working the big room in D.C. in a few weeks.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Program Improvement

Fall is truly upon us. I know this not because of the changing colors of the foliage around me. I know this because the excitement and enthusiasm of the first month of school has ended, and has been replaced by the day-to-day concerns of keeping a our school and district up and running for the long haul. Now we begin to discuss test scores and budgets. Now we start to figure out how we turn those expectations into realities.
During the last presidential debate, both candidates expressed their support for charter schools. One of the reasons why our school has had trouble maintaining a steady enrollment over the past few years has been charter schools. Initially we lost a great many students to the various charter schools that popped up, seemingly overnight. This impacted our funding, as well as the district as a whole. When those charter schools started to close, almost as quickly as they opened, those students came streaming back. Now we struggle to use our resources and staff to accommodate the children that are coming back to their neighborhood school. As a parent, I can definitely see the appeal, but as an educator I have yet to see a coordinated vision of the ideal of charter schools in action.
And these guys both want to "get rid" of "bad teachers." A nice sentiment, and one that the parent part of me is integrally connected. I want the best teachers for my son. The teacher part of me is still curious just what makes a "good teacher." The currency of education presently is the almighty test score. If teachers are to be rewarded for their test scores, why would anyone in their right mind want to take a job in a low-performing school? Since these teaching positions are generally held by new teachers or veteran teachers who have been involuntarily transferred, what sort of expectations are we putting on their performance? Who doesn't love a challenge? Who wouldn't rather have the satisfaction of a job well done and a sure thing? Working at a Program Improvement school is no sure thing.
Then there's John McCain's support of the Troops To Teachers Act. This program allows our returning service personnel a chance to start a second career in education. Hard for me to argue with, since I benefited from a similar internship program when I left my hitch as warehouse manager. But here's the troubling part: In the same breath that John was crowing about "getting rid of bad teachers," he went on to promote the idea of getting our veterans into classrooms: "We need to encourage programs such as Teach for America and Troops to Teachers where people, after having served in the military, can go right to teaching and not have to take these examinations which -- or have the certification that some are required in some states." For the record, Troops To Teachers doesn't advocate side-stepping the requirements for teacher credentialing, but it is unfortunate that Senator McCain chose to suggest that at the same time that he was promoting the idea of getting more qualified teachers into the classroom.
Yes, Fall is upon us.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe the What?

My very good friend's father had a dream: He wanted to be in the movies. He was prepared with his own character, Joe the Pimp, and he even offered to "bring his own stable of ladies." He didn't really care what the movie was about, he just wanted Joe the Pimp to hit the big screen. This is what I thought about as I listened to the senators from Arizona and Illinois toss around the enigmatic presence of "Joe the Plumber."
Now that the mainstream media has its hooks in Joe, I'm guessing that he's wishing that he had skipped that meet and greet with Barack Obama. Joe Wurzelbacher, of Holland, Ohio asked the Democrat about his tax plan. And then the McCain campaign picked up on his misgivings and it all ended up on prime-time television.
Joe the Plumber's fifteen minutes of fame didn't run out before his lack of a plumbing license came to light, as well as outstanding tax bill of just under twelve hundred dollars. Welcome to big-time presidential politics, Joe. After a fairly pleasant interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America," where he didn't give up who he was voting for, but did suggest that Obama's plan to redistribute America's wealth "sounds a lot like Socialism to me."
Now, for a few more days, Joe the Plumber will be a political hackey sack to be kicked from one side of the country to the next until a new "real-live-person" can be located for further embarrassment or vilification to the service of the democratic process. If we're lucky, maybe this time it will be Joe the Pimp. I can't wait to hear how he wants to redistribute the wealth.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ramblin' Guy

For some reason, this bit came into my head: "I'd like to talk about politics but first a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown." It's from a Steve Martin routine that begins by suggesting that you just can't sing a sad song while you're playing the banjo. And that's why I'm guessing that Barack Obama will be bringing his along when he comes to Fox Television in prime time, delaying the start of game six of the World Series by eight minutes.
Yes, sports fans, you read that right. Major League Baseball has agreed to push back the start time of a potential World Series Game six by eight minutes to allow Democrat Barack Obama to purchase a half-hour of air time on the Fox network. Please understand, I'm a huge Obama fan, but I know that brevity is not our man's strength. Like many big league pitchers, it takes him a few batters to really start to loosen up. He should be settling into his rhythm just about the time the little red light they've been using at the debates turns to red. The good new is , he's got the full half hour. The game is being pushed back to allow for all the attendant pre-game discussion and pageantry. Eight minutes.
Still, not to worry. This is a guy who who received his party's nomination in a football stadium. What better stage for him to make his last big play for fence sitters across this great land of ours. I do wonder if this won't put off the hard-core undecided baseball fans, but I think he'll be fine as long as he remembers his banjo.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Tonight my son came in to the dinner table with something in his hand. It was the "Bush's Last Day" keychain that I received oh-so-many-days ago. Hundreds of days ago. Now, he said with glee, "We're down to two digits!"
Very true. We are down to just ninety-six days of the Pinhead Regime. I noticed this myself just a few days ago when the counter ticked down below one hundred. It gave me pause. It made me think of the last mile of a marathon. It made me think of the last week of school before summer vacation. It made me think of the night before Christmas.
But what if it was the night before Christmas, and then Christmas never came? What if you had run twenty-five miles, and then some joker jumped out in front of you and told you that you would have to run another twenty-five. What if you were cleaning out your desk and found a letter that told you that you had to come back for summer school?
I don't want another four years of war and trickle-down economics. I don't want the war in Iraq to linger for another month, let alone another decade. I don't want to have to explain our country's energy policy with the words, "Drill Baby, Drill." I don't want to have to sell my house to pay for my son to go to college, or to have his wisdom teeth out. I don't want to have to reset the clock.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

On his official web site, Ringo Starr made this announcement: "I want to tell you after the twentieth of October please do not send fan mail to any address you have. If that is the date on the envelope, it's gonna be tossed. I'm warning you with peace and love I have too much to do. So no more fan mail. Thank you." And this is coming from "the funny Beatle."
I got to wondering just what, with peace and love, would keep Ringo so very busy that he could no longer accept fan mail. I was also curious, again with the requisite amount of peace and love, just what kind of volume this torrent of letters, notes, packages and postcards would be. This isn't 1964 anymore. Are we talking about saving trees here, or has Mister Starr just become a cranky old man, with peace and love? "Hey you kids! Get off of my palatial estate!"
Plenty of celebrities would just allow the mail to stack up at the post office box until it was carted off to a recycling center somewhere. Ringo is letting us all know that we will all just be wasting our time, since he will be tossing it without a second look. But if we all really wanted to make things difficult for him, we would do whatever we could to inundate him with mail in the next five days. Whatever the previous method he had for dealing with the sundry requests for autographed photos and the like, he should have to take on a dozen more assistants to push through the mountains of various dispatches from enthusiastic fans. This is a limited time offer, after all.
And unfortunately, this leaves us with just one Beatle we can pester now. Peace and love.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Scalp Treatment

This morning I noticed that Autumn was finally in the air. That is to say that I felt a cool breeze rushing past my ears on my ride into work. This was accentuated by the lack of hair on my head, and the aerodynamically designed vents on the top of my helmet. I was not afforded the same comfort that other fur-bearing mammals enjoy. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the news item that read: "New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered."
For years I have lived with the obvious truth to the question as to whether you can be genetically predisposed to hair loss, either from your mother's side of the family or your father's. The answer is simple: It doesn't matter. I had plenty of people telling me in my youth that you get your hairline from your mother's father. To be sure, I never actually met my mother's father, but all the photos I have seen show a very healthy crop of hair on the top of his skull. No, I found myself sporting the forehead-advantaged look of my father pretty early on in my youth. Genetic researcher Felix F. Brockschmidt has recently determined a connection to hair loss in men and women."The first gene known until now is on the X chromosome," Brockschmidt said. "It is the most important for alopecia [hair loss]. We are sure that this new locus we found is the second most important." He continues, "Screening for the X chromosome locus and also for this new one can possibly show the risk of male pattern baldness."
And now I've reached the end of my patience with Herr Brockshmidt. I have been follically challenged for most of my life, but I never really thought about it being a "risk." I find this a little like suggesting that one might be "at risk" for growing up with green eyes. What is the point, with the possible exception of providing postdoctoral students with a relatively harmless subject to while away their hours, of determining the genetic cause of baldness? Brockschmidt stressed that any preventive treatment is far in the future. "As soon as we know the gene and how it functions, we can do something," he said. "Right now, we have identified the locus but not the gene." Nice work, doc. Call me when you isolate that unibrow chromosome.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


"They tell her that she's uncool
But she's still preoccupied
With 1985"
- Bowling for Soup
My son was brokenhearted to learn that this song was not recorded in 1985, but nineteen years later as a nostalgic ode to all things eighties. Or at least the things that we remember from watching MTV. With all the hushed reverence for Ronald Reagan in the past few months, it seems that even the world of politics has been consumed by this blast from the past.
Last night I went to a fortieth birthday party. It was billed as "an eighties dance party." That appealed to me, since a good portion of that decade was spent by me in sweaty clubs dancing to New Wave hits. Part of the appeal at that time were the dollar pitchers of 3.2 beer that not only drew me to their establishments because of their price point, but the lowered inhibition level that drinking this swill allowed me. If I had been sitting in a poorly ventilated room illuminated by a few flashing lights with Talking Heads music blaring at me without quarts of beer to consume, I might never have reached the dance floor.
But that's exactly what I did. I went to clubs, drank for a while, and then when I was sufficiently "limbered up," I would shake my booty. And that's the way my weekends were spent during most of the Reagan administration and into the reign of "Poppy" Bush. Then, when my drinking days ended, I retired from the dance floor.
I don't twist the night away very often anymore. It takes a very safe environment and just the right set of circumstances for me to get my groove thing on, but once I get started, it's hard to get me to sit down. It helps if the music comes from that quirky period of self-indulgence, and it helps if they play it real loud., but last night I had just the right number of cola beverages and a nice safe place to hop and bop. It was a magical night. For me, anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Late Late Show

Not far from my house is a Taco Bell that proudly announces the existence of a "Fourth Meal." This enticing news comes directly adjacent to another sign that alerts passersby to their extended hours: They are open until three in the morning Sunday through Thursday, and until four on Friday and Saturday. All the better to fit in that extra meal. Dreakfast? Brinner?
In my mind, I began to imagine the demographic for that particular feast. I encourage you, the reader to take a moment and consider this notion as well. Just who wanders in off the street at three or four in the morning, with a hankering for a Chalupa Supreme? I tried to create that special niche of a customer who has just finished his shift at the local hospital, or the long-haul truck driver who has just finished delivering vital supplies to the orphanage across the bay. These are the folks who deserve a Gordita Baja, and shouldn't have to wait until the sun comes up to get it.
Then there's the people who would really come in during those wee hours: The hungry drunk boys. These were the young fellows that I served in my tenure as closing manager at Arby's, just across the parking lot from a Taco Bell franchise. Back in those days, we closed at one in the morning on Fridays and Saturdays, but still had more than our share of late night fun. Most of the customer interactions after ten o'clock were field sobriety tests, and we spent as much time entertaining our inebriated guests as we did serving them food. My crew and I took special pride in the fact that we were able to sell more Holly Days glasses during our shift than the lunch and dinner crew combined. I like to think that it had to do with our special gift for sales, or maybe it was just easier to buy the glasses than to listen to us continue to badger these already befuddled creatures of the night with claims that in the event of nuclear war these gold-rimmed chalices could be used as currency.
I have no idea what they're selling at Taco Bell at three in the morning, but to keep me up past three in the morning, I better get something besides a bag full of soft tacos and a Pepsi.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Power Abuse

I take back all those mean things I said about Sarah Palin not being qualified to be vice president. Now that we've seen that she unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, it would seem that she has at least some notion about how the game is played. Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report to a bipartisan panel that looked into the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. Sarah may indeed be ready for the big time.
Meanwhile, her boss is trying to figure out just how he can get the genie back in the bottle. "If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said. "But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." When people booed, he cut them off. "I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity," he said. "I just mean to say you have to be respectful." Ferocious respect? Shouts of "traitor," "terrorist," "treason," "liar," and even "off with his head" have rung from the crowd at McCain and Sarah Palin rallies, and gone unchallenged by them. Now the Senator from Arizona is forced to reconcile his drive to be the President of the United States with the fear and bile that is spilling over in the Republican rank and file. "I don't trust Obama," a woman said at a rally today. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."
McCain shook his head in disagreement, and said: "No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with (him) on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."
For him, maybe, but not for her. The Secret Service confirmed Friday that it had investigated an episode reported in The Washington Post in which someone in Palin's crowd in Clearwater, Florida, shouted "kill him," on Monday, meaning Obama. Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren downplayed the threat. "We looked into it because we always operate in an atmosphere of an abundance of caution."
Meanwhile, back in the hate factory, a new McCain TV ad accused Obama of lying about his links to Vietnam War era radical William Ayers, a member of the radical Weather Underground Group, whom Obama met in his formative years in Chicago politics. "When convenient, he worked with terrorist Bill Ayers," the ad script said. "When discovered, he lied. Obama. Blind ambition. Bad judgment."
Then later in the day, the McCain campaign took aim at Obama's links with a non-profit housing counselling group called Acorn, which on Friday was at the center of a storm amid investigations into alleged voter fraud. The ad ends with the words: "Barack Obama. Bad judgment. Blind ambition. Too risky for America."
Desperate times, my friends, require desperate measures. Even if that means abusing power.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Disc Recovery System

My wife, the consummate kidder, suggested that I must have stepped on one too many cracks in my youth. Why else, she mused, would my mother be laying in a hospital bed with all sorts of pending medical excitement and procedures pointed directly at her back? If the truth were known, I probably did my share of hopping up and down on any number of cracks, with the specific intent of thumbing my nose at such a ridiculous superstition.
Now don't I feel dumb.
But only a little bit, since I imagine that if I took personal responsibility for all the various maladies and health challenges that my mother has faced over the years, I don't think I could live with myself. She has asthma and allergies. As a result she claims that she hasn't smelled anything since the Carter administration. She has Multiple Sclerosis. She's got diabetes. She likes to point out that she was "perfectly healthy" before she gave up smoking back in the seventies.
It is with this prior experience that I go cautiously into the next few days, not wanting to appear too cavalier, since this "tough old bird" (words she might use to describe herself) has dodged any number of the previous bullets that have zinged past her in the past thirty years or so. Way back when my mother's health first began to become a concern, when I was still in elementary school, I used to draw her "get well soon" cards. Most of these featured an elephant and a chimpanzee with a crew-cut. I drew a lot of those jungle scenes, and I fretted over every one. As the years passed, she surprised us all with her resiliency and I confess that I grew just a little blase about the way my mother kept herself going. Like her mother before her, she won't be kept down long. There's still too much to do. Get well soon, mom.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Moving On

In the Fall there are more of them: visitors from the past. On Wednesdays, our minimum day for students, we get a steady stream of students from previous years, coming back to poke around the old school to see what changes have been made. New paint. New computers. New teachers. For many the shock of entering a new phase of their own education, middle or high school, sends them running back to where it all began.
Sometimes they are shocked by what they see. It's always much smaller than they remember, even if they've only been away for three months. And there's always a good deal of whining about what they never got to do while they were there. "We never had computer class." "We never had a salad bar." "We never had tile on the floor." All good observations, but the truth is that elementary school was a safe haven, a port in the storm. It just gets harder from there.
The hard part for me is trying to put names with faces that have lost their baby fat, or voices that have dropped an octave or two. I've got three hundred and fifty new names to keep in my head, and the ones who have matriculated on out of my sphere of influence often leave me just as quickly as they did on promotion day.
But there is one kid that I still look for. He wouldn't be a kid so much anymore, more of a young man of twenty-one. If Denny ever came back, I would know him. He's the one who first came into the computer lab back when it was full of Apple II's and stood quietly by me while I tried to install a program from a set of poorly marked floppy disks. "Whatcha doin?" he asked.
"Trying to figure out what order these disks go in," consumed with my task, I didn't look up at first. When I finally turned around, he was still standing there, watching intently as I clicked and ejected and started again.
"Is that how you get programs on a computer?" Good question for a nine-year-old.
"What's your name?"
It didn't occur to me for a few more minutes that Denny should probably be on his way back to class, or to the office, or anyplace other than hanging around the computer lab. "Shouldn't you be," I tried to remember my bell schedule, "at recess?"
"Oh, yeah. I just stopped by here 'cause it looked interesting."
That was back in my first year of teaching. The next year I instituted an informal chess club in the mornings before school. I told the kids that anyone who beat me got to keep the board. "And the pieces?" asked Denny, always a stickler for accuracy.
"And the pieces, Denny."
A lot of kids came and went, but Denny was the only regular I had. Sometimes he brought his friends with him, and they would stay long enough to learn the rules, a few easy strategies, and then they were gone. Denny came all the way through fourth grade, and into the fifth. Sometime in the autumn of that year, I found a copy of Bobby Fischer's book and loaned it to him, mostly so he could look at the diagrams of various moves and mates.
When April rolled around, I started thinking about Denny moving on to middle school, and I asked him if he still had the chess book. "I haven't finished reading it yet," he told me, and I knew that he wasn't just looking at the pictures. It was later that month that he finally beat me. He use one of the easy mates right out of the book. I made a big show of giving him the board and every one of the pieces.
Denny never did come back for a visit. I heard that he and his family had moved away. I've had a few more kids who showed some interest in chess, but none of them had the tenacity Denny did. Maybe someday he'll come back. Wednesday is our minimum day.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


This morning there was a lot of talk about how we were all faring in the aftermath, or at least the current aftermath, of the financial meltdown of 2008. Americans' retirement plans have lost as much as two trillion dollar in the past fifteen months. That's about twenty percent of their value, or even more succinctly, you're not retiring as soon as you thought you were. Unless you're one of those clever types with wads of cash buried in mayonnaise jars scattered around your back yard. And since "golden parachutes" are going over like "lead balloons" these days, let's hope you're down here suffering with the rest of us.
But be glad you're not in Iceland. They are watching their highest per capita incomes implode as their currency has lost almost half its value, and their heavily exposed banks collapse under the weight of debts incurred by lending in the boom times. Sound familiar? Imagine our problem being spread over just three hundred and twenty thousand people instead of our three hundred million. Iceland, as a nation, is close to being bankrupt, and not just morally like some other countries we could mention.
Given the heavy investment by Icelandic banks and companies across the continent, a full-blown collapse of Iceland's financial system would send shock waves across Europe. This pleasant little island, the size of Kentucky, was named the U.N.'s "best country to live in" just last year. Or perhaps it's all just part of that continuing Viking ruse to put people off the secretly pleasant and lush Iceland and get them heading for the desolate glaciers of Greenland. That makes as much sense as any of the rest of this. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Slinging It

So much for "Straight Talk." So much for "Hope" and "Change." With election day less than a month away, we are apparently in for another three weeks of mudslinging and character assassination. "Who is the real Barack Obama?" McCain said to a cheering crowd in Albuquerque. "Ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults."
And who is the real John McCain? A thirteen-minute web video Obama's campaign released Monday revisits McCain's ties to Charles Keating, a former friend, campaign contributor and savings and loan owner who was convicted of securities fraud in 1991. This is the "new" Democratic Party. The one that won't get caught on a Swiftboat with Willie Horton. "We don't throw the first punch, but we'll throw the last," Obama said Monday on Tom Joyner's syndicated radio show.
Oh joy. And when the morning of November the fourth rolls around, who is going to be around to clean up the mess? One of these guys is headed back to the Senate, and the other will be leader of the free world. If any one of these claims were sufficient to keep them from holding higher office, wouldn't they have been kicked loose from public service long ago?
Which brings us to everyone's favorite Alaskan Lipstick Pitbull: Sarah "The Maverick" Palin says Barack Obama was "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country." She is referring to Obama's relationship with former 1960s radical Bill Ayers. Ayers helped found the violent Weather Underground group, whose members were blamed for several bombings when Obama was eight. Obama has denounced Ayers' radical views and activities. But the fact that the two men live near each other in Chicago, and once worked on the same charity board in addition to Ayers hosting a small, meet-the-candidate event for Obama in 1995, keeps Ms. Moosekiller on the attack.
And now I've gone and done it myself, haven't I? Maybe someday we'll all be sitting around watching our regularly scheduled NFL game and be greeted by the smiling faces of John McCain and Barack Obama, reminding us to give, in the spirit of former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush's Katrina Fund. Maybe only then will we finally get the mud off the walls.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Promised Land

"I want my America back, I want my country back."
Leave it to Bruce Springsteen to put my feelings into words. Nice, precise, understandable words. He said this from the stage at a voter registration drive in Philadelphia on Saturday. He said a great many other things that I agree with, but this was the sentiment that has been buzzing in my head for the past eight years. The Pinhead Doctrine has made me embarrassed and ashamed of my country. Again, I defer to the Boss: "...we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down."
We have lived through the terrible times when we told people in foreign countries that we were Canadian to avoid being harassed or worse. We have lived through the horror of Katrina, when we had to remind our government that the people clinging to trees as the levees gave way were not the victims of some foreign catastrophe. They were Americans. We are Americans.
It is truly amazing, in hindsight, to imagine that we maintain our relative standing in the world even though this administration has done so much to undermine it. The country that Bruce Springsteen sings about, that land of hope and dreams, still exists. At times those dreams seem like they are just a cruel hoax, but where else could they exist but here in the United States of America?
There's diamonds in the sidewalk the's gutters lined in song
Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long
There's treasure for the taking, for any hard working man
Who will make his home in the American Land

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Personal Conviciton

Thirteen really is an unlucky number. I think O.J. Simpson would agree with me on that. Thirteen years to the day after being acquitted of killing his wife and her friend in Los Angeles, he was found guilty of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room. This one, to quote the late Johnny Cochran, did fit.
It is doubtful that, short of Johnny rising from the grave to defend the Heisman Trophy winner, no Dream Team could have saved him this time. The Hall of Fame football star was convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery and ten other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at a hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said Simpson asked him to bring a gun. If any portion of that story is true, why shouldn't he go to jail? What part of "stay out of trouble" does Mister Simpson not understand?
That would include steering clear of people and situations that would lead him back to a courtroom for any reason. Simpson and his lawyers argued the incident was not a robbery, but an attempt to reclaim mementos that had been stolen from him. Ironically, those items included a photo of Simpson with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Here's a suggestion for you, O.J.: When somebody steals from you, instead of taking the law into your own hands, call the police, or maybe even Judge Wapner.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What Happens In A Vacuum

As in Vegas, what happens in a vacuum stays in a vacuum. At least this was the theory I set out to prove last night as I sat down on the couch with my son to watch "Iron Man" (available now on DVD!). The pizza was ready just before six o'clock, and he had done me the favor of preparing the home theater ahead of time: disc in the player, big movie sound turned on, all remotes neatly lined up on the coffee table. We ate our pepperoni, watched deleted scenes first, then plunged directly into the evening's feature presentation.
For two hours, we sat and savored Tony Stark's journey from billionaire playboy weapons manufacturer to super hero with a conscience. We also shared a box of Junior Mints (available now in 4.75 Theater Box!) We took turns taking trash to the kitchen, feeding the dog and letting her out the front door, but mostly we savored our time in front of the TV until it was bed time. That's about the time mom came home.
She had been out watching the vice-presidential debate with her mother. She came in, bursting with ideas and connections from her evening of TV. I busied myself with my laptop computer, peeking at the Cubs score and noting that Oregon State couldn't hold off those plucky BCS-busters, the Utah Utes. But I couldn't avoid the reality of what had taken place. The seal had been broken and all that news was starting to rush back in to our little cocoon. The Joe and Sarah Show was the topic, and like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" (available now on Collector's Edition DVD!), it would not be ignored. So I listened to some of the sound bites, and watched a little of the staged theatrics. I tried, briefly, to imagine how any of this would affect the decision that I have already made about the upcoming election. When I was done, I knew that I had made the right choice.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


And so it begins, not with a roar, but with a whimper. The Chicago Cubs began their attempt to reach the top of baseball's Mount Olympus once again, one hundred years since they last looked down on every other team as World Series Champions. they lost the first game of a five-game series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It should be noted that baseball had not been discovered west of the Mississippi a hundred years ago. It took a group of clever pioneers with buckets of money and an eye for new time zones to make that happen.
But now back to the dilemma: The Chicago Cubs continue to deal with their sad fate, and wonder how a team from Florida that has only existed for ten years could find themselves playing in the post-season. Florida? Where do these guys hold spring training? Indiana? Maybe the fact that they don't have to carry around a century of history with them makes the job just a little easier. There are plenty of folks, myself included, who have never seen the Cubs play in a World Series, let alone win one. I've seen them get close. They win their division. They make the playoffs. Then some horrible twist of fate comes sweeping in to keep the era of futility intact.
Joe Mantegna, star of one of those forensic TV shows and co-author of the play “Bleacher Bums" recently had this to say about the Cubs winning the World Series: "If that happens, as a nation we should give up baseball and enjoy soccer, like the rest of the world. I mean, wouldn’t it be right? And make a big statement about it. Go to the UN and say, ‘You know, we made this decision. The Cubs have won the world championship. What’s the point of going on? We’d just be rehashing old ground. We’ve got a lot of world problems here, and part of it may stem from the fact we’re the only guys who haven’t embraced the game with the ball and the foot. So we’re just gonna show you how magnanimous we are as a country by just dumping this sport and playing soccer.’ I think that will be good. I think it would help world peace. That’s it. Cubs winning the World Series, that could be our ticket to world peace.”
And wouldn't you know it? He said "if."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


A few nights back, my wife came to the dinner table giddy with excitement. She proceeded to relate a story from her day in which she was "hit on" by a stranger as she was on her way home after walking our son to school. Her eleven-year-old son. To middle school. The guy said he wondered if she would be offended if he asked her out. She let him down easily, and later she explained to us at home that she was thrilled to find out that she was "still viable."
First of all, I am pleased and happy to live in a relationship in which we can periodically have dinnertime discussions about the various and sundry personal interactions that flavor our day. I suppose I would rather hear about that sort of thing than not.
Secondly, it reminded me of a time when I was desperate to try out my sure-fire pickup line: "I really want to ask you out, but I'm afraid of what your boyfriend would say." This appealed to me as a completely non-threatening, no-risk method of being turned down. I kept my expectations very low when I was a bachelor. If you fly very low to the ground, you don't do as much damage when you crash.
Finally, there was this notion of "viable." I honestly don't know what I would do if I suddenly found myself in the position of diving back into the dating pool. The idea that I would have to broaden my appeal for a wider audience seems like an impossible task. I have spent too many years getting just this comfortable. I guess that 's the other thing about having a mate who remains "viable." It keeps me from getting too comfortable.