Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Correction

Hi All --

Hey something's been bothering me since my last post, and I thought I'd get it out in the open. Every now and then, I write something not so optimistic, or not so understanding, and, well, that's not my blog's purpose, nor its inspiration, nor how we, as a people, ought to be treating--or writing about--each other.

It was the reference to dwarfs--how the car in front of mine happened to be driven by a person of short stature--I said that I found it upsetting. It was a rather obscure reference, also, to a Stephen Sondheim lyric from "Into The Woods," during the two Princes' song "Agony" -- one of them sings an aside - "dwarves are very upsetting." I included it in the blog because 1) it happened, but 2) also as a bit of cheap humor. -- as in, ha-ha--there's a dwarf in a Mazda 3. But that's not funny, really. Just uncommon.

When we get uncomfortable around people who are different from us in some way -- race, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicaps, it is ostensibly because we are unsure of ourselves--out own capacities, our own bodies, our own strengths and weaknesses: We worry that we might be seeing the worst in ourselves if we are near something, or someone, that we do not perceive to be "right."  (Hey, there's something wrong with that guy!) and we edge away, or pretend we do not see someone. It's not nice. They deserve better, and we owe it to ourselves to fight against that urge.

I did a little research today. There appear to be well over 200 syndromes and conditions that contribute to or result in dwarfism. Some present no adverse affects as the afflicted child grows up. Others, however, can result in a lot of complications and hardships during childhood, including many surgeries and hospital time.

In other words, the woman who arrived on crutches on W. 56 street the other day to get into her (illegally parked) Mazda 3, may have had some pretty severe hardships to face, through no fault of her own. Everyone has a backstory, and hers is just as valid as someone's who's six feet tall (or five-eleven and three-quarters, who tells everyone he's 6 feet). Here's one I found you might want to read.

I also found out on the Little People of America site that some misguided legislative brother in Florida is trying to repeal a ban on dwarf tossing apparently--a head-scratcher of a priority, given the thousand or so pressing issues our congressional leaders ought to be turning their attentions to.

And I found out there's some reality show called Little People, Big World, on TLC (no cable since 1997, you see.)

So there you have it -- All people have the same right to park illegally in New York (just don't take a handicap spot if you're able-bodied. That's particularly not nice. I've always felt that way), and to enjoy a modicum of dignity as they go about their day.

 Thanks for reading, and please remember to expect the unexpected -- and in fact, be OK with it. You may not hit the lottery, but your life will be all the richer for it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Blaiser's Live-Blogging Event Of The Season!!

5:15 AND WE'RE LIVE!!!! 

Phew - things were getting desperate there for a sec -- thought I might have to mug someone for their wireless access (you can do that, right? body check a Hipster for his iProduct, and while he's groping on the sidewalk for the flip-flops you just knocked off of him--like a blind guy searching for a dropped blind-guy poking-stick-antenna-thingy--and "hack" some serious "bandwidth?" I mean what's the guy gonna do, chase you? Not in those flip-flops, assuming he even retrieves them…. I don't know what, in fact, he can do while wearing flip-flops on a surface other than sand, except perhaps look ineffectual....

Fortunately, no violence was resorted to,* and here I sit, reclined in my driver's seat, coffee secured in coffee-cup-holder thingy, bravely scamming Internet access from some router nearby that calls itself by the Unusually Intriguing Name of "Delores Netgear." Well, Ms. Netgear, you really ought to be more careful about your hardware - you never know when some douchebag is going to randomly drive by in a station wagon and muscle in all up in your digital business. Don't mess with me, I've laid claim to an illegal parking spot in New York. I'm a baaaaaad man (please read with Muhammad-Ali-like inflection)

And now, please pull up a "chair," and prepare to be enthralled as I live-blog the incredibly daring act of sitting in my station wagon on West 56th street for 45 minutes while I wait for my parking to become legal at 6 o'clock!!! It's GUARANTEED to be the meh-ta live-blog Event Of The Season: the ACTUAL experience of sitting in a station wagon in Midtown, ever vigilant for the appearance of the evilest arm of oppression known to man (outside of the Syrian government): The NYC Meter Maid….




5:20 -- Double Phew!™  

It took so long to write that opening post that I burned through 5 minutes. If I were a smart Meter Maid, I'd time a stealth assault on 56th street at, like, now. There are a whole bunch of cars sitting here, illegally, in broad daylight. The city'd clean up, and then the police wouldn't have had to confiscate the generators from Occupy Wall Street in order to power their flat-screens during long stake-outs.
5:25 -- 
Still recovering from the first update...




5:26 --  

I need to pee.




5:30 -- 

Finally taking a good look around. When I look in my side-view mirrors, I'll be able to see Meter Maids sneaking up from either side of the car. Hopefully, I'd catch her writing a ticket on the guy behind me:



a new, black Toyota, and I'd have time to A) engage the Stealth settings on my gunmetal grey Taurus, or execute the 9-point turn necessary to extract myself from this parking spot 




5:34  -- 

Wow, I think maybe 1/32 of an inch, although not touching, isn't exactly neighborly posturing to that Mazda 3. 



Although I will tell you I made it into this spot on the first try. I rule. Still, an adjustment may be necessary. One needs those options in life. A meh-ta-phorical Fordian rolling back of an inch, or so, speaks Volumes about who I am, what my Personal Code is, and why I don't wear flip-flops. Skye Masterson wouldn't be caught dead in them, and that's good enough for me.




5:34:30  -- 

Yeah, that's much better:



























5:38 --

 I really need to pee...























5:38:43 -- 

I know what you're thinking: You're thinking, "Hey Blaiser… what if the Meter Maid catches up to you as you're making your 9-point escape? With rush-hour traffic, you'll be a dead duck, and while you're waiting for the light to turn on 8th Avenue, WHAMMO! You get nailed. She's not wearing flip-flops!" Well, calm down, Everyone -- I have a backup. If the light's red, I simply peel out and sprint through the adjacent underground parking lot--the entrance through which I can see the clear daylight of 57th Street. Here, let me "uplink' a digital facsimile of what I'm seeing so that you, the faithful Blaiserblogudilian can "see" what I mean. 


Only one possible downside -- when a grouse flushes near the house where I grew up, something similar happens, but occasionally with deadly results: the grouse peels out very much like an '03 Taurus, flies toward the house, looks through the front door window--through the kitchen--sees daylight (and subsequent woods through the kitchen window {just like I'm seeing the warm glow of 57th Street} and thinks he's home-free, just before smashing into the reinforced front-door window at about 40 knots, thereby breaking every bone in his body, and landing in a heap on the porch, like an appetizer dropped from the heavens.** Seriously, we ate a grouse who met that exact end on my dad's birthday once. Think there's no God? Think again.
5:43 --
OK, a dwarf (forgive the nomenclature -- is this acceptable? Small Person with Different Proportions?) just stumped up, on forearm crutches, and got into the Mazda 3. That was upsetting. The space was immediately taken up by a Porsche Boxster. Dude better not hit my '03 Taurus Wagon.
5:45 



They just switched the lights on the perimeter of a striking high-rise built over the Deco building of a particular publishing company where I used to work. 


5:46 --

Porsche Guy can't parallel park to save his life. He's having trouble in a two-seater with a space roughly the size of Weehawken. I suspect flip-flops.

5:50 




AND he's got a vanity plate. Awesome.

Vanity Plate intentionally blurred for Boxster Guy's Protection...
5:50:25 


Maybe I should pee on the Boxster.
5:52 

OK, if a dwarf gets out of the Boxster, I'm totally peeing on something, dammit.
5:53 

Two white, puffy lapdogs have snuck up, on leashes, on my passenger side. I can hear them, but can't determine what they're doing because they're too close for the side-view now. There's a gaggle of kids with them, and they're laughing (the kids, not the dogs.) I have a sinking feeling the dogs are peeing on my Taurus. Or hitching me to a tiny tow-truck.

5:55 
No Meter Maid sightings at all. How much money is the City losing by allowing all this lawless parking on West 56th Street? I may have to A) write a letter 2) stop driving in protest. That'll show 'em.
5:56 
Am I the only douchebag sitting in his car in case of unlikely Meter Maid Materialization? I'd get out to look, but then I'd get NAILED for sure. Less than five minutes now….. I need to be strong. My bladder needs to be especially strong.


5:57 
Well, there's the douchebag in the vanity-plated Boxster…

5:58 
A hansom cab passes slowly, the horse patiently clip-clopping down the Left Lane. He could pee any time he wants--not even stopping if he didn't want to. Strangely, he doesn't.

5:59 
Almost there……. almost theeeeeeerrrrre…… !










6:00 
Huzzah! My hands are sweating, but I have not 1) been ticketed by a Meter Maid or B) peed in or near my Taurus. At the stroke of 6, an elderly gent in business clothes got out of the Boxster and wandered down the South Side of the Street. Rich Guy. Total douchebag. I gotta find a bathroom. I'm betting, also, the Meter Maids were on a pee break. 








* Please feel free to nominate this for the 2011 Pro-Am Bloggers' Association Worst-Opening-Phrase Award.

It's important to note that liberal use of the word "douchebag" does not, in fact, violate my blogistic raison-d'etre of so-called Zany Optimism. It merely means I live in Jersey.

** In this meh-ta-phor, I'm not sure what the parking-garage equivalent of the front-door window is. Hopefully not a nun pushing a baby carriage on her way to volunteer at the soup kitchen.


6:01
Thanks for reading, and please remember: one should always make unexplained allusions to "stealth" settings on their beat-up Fords. It not only helps to expose the patent absurdity of the whole flip-flop miasma, but also reinforces the coolness of Spock Ears, which I'm totally wearing right now. 'Cause chicks dig that.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

RIGHT!!

So --- Like I said about 20 minutes ago, HUGE!

So, without further ado, Here We Go:

I'm about to set the blogosphere on fire with the live-blogging Event Of The Season, and you, dear faithful Blaiserblogarians, are about to get in on the ground floor:

The first fifteen commenters on this post will get VIP all-access preferred seating to my live-blogging Event Of The Season, which happens TOMORROW, at 5:15 p.m. (weather permitting*)


Hang on to your shoe size, 'cause Here It Is, and No One Has Thought Of It Before!!! 




For a brief, brief window of 45 minutes, I will live-blog the experience of sitting in my 2003 Ford Taurus station wagon, in an illegal New York City parking spot, while I wait for the ... WAIT FOR IT!..... 

parking space to become a legal parking space at 6 p.m!

Brilliant, right? I know, I know--- please hold your applause until the end of the blog post. 

That's it --- tomorrow, Friday the whateveritis of November, I, Blaiser, will live-blog the must-read event of the season. Be There. And tell Kim Kardashian to stop calling my cell phone.

Thanks for reading, and please remember that even though a bunch of people can get up in front of a bunch of other people and say things to each other, it doesn't mean you're watching a play......

* Weather-permitting = if I can find free Internet access from the parking spot. Hey -- if there's nothing at stake, no one's going to care, right?


HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

It gives me great personal pride to announce that I will make an announcement later this evening, at 8:15 p.m. local time., some 20 minutes from Right Now.

This announcement will be at once profound and provocative, astonishing and alliterative, courageous and courageous. Also, it'll be pretty cool.

Bring your friends and your neighbors, and See You Then.

As always, thanks for reading, and please keep in mind that even though you heard it first in The New Yorker's recent cartoon issue, it's in fact statistically possible that Newt Gingrinch is indeed a flock of Shetland Ponies.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Complicated

I'm on a First Date with my new laptop from an unnamed company that may or may not be connected to the treacherous edible icon that brought down the Garden of Eden. (I don't blame Eve, by the way. She was hungry. Besides, it's not cricket.)
Things have been going OK, but, you know, how best to dispel the awkwardness of a First Date, when it's ostensibly happening in one's living room?  I don't know if I'm talking too much and not asking about its life, its preferences, its family, whether it's more Chicago Hope or Grey's Anatomy. It shouldn't be all about me, should it? One good sign: as soon as I powered her on, she somehow automatically re-arranged my sock drawer. But, you know, I don't know if I'm ready for that level of intimacy with a slice of plastic and electronics that's, in fact, not as thick as several wheels of cheese I've known. And you should have seen how they rolled...
Lest I'm bringing some kind of International Business Machine-themed, backslashed chauvinism to this new relationship, my actual girlfriend tells me my laptop is a she, and that her name is Twiggy. Antecedent warning! Antecedent warning! Does a supermodel-thin computer encourage positive body image in its owner? Will I have to put in at least 20 minutes of cardio before she'll allow me to check e-mail? And the questions only get thornier after that--for example, should I even be dating something I own? (the laptop, not the girlfriend. Again, not very cricket.)
Is it just me? Should I mourn that I no longer have C-colon in my life? Suspiciously, this is also the year I'm supposed to get a colonoscopy. How can these two events not be connected? Have powers greater than I ordained that one kind of computing platform is a cancer upon society that needs to be excised, while wearing hip, un-self-concious clothing? And will the surgeon be wearing flip-flops like all the male employees at one of my laptop's company's recent team-building field-trips
The blogger reserves the right to dedicate an entire post on the subject of men wearing flip-flops on any surface other than sand... this phenomenon outstrips the laminate on my personal computing mores...
In other technology news, File under Continuing Breakdown of Civility: When I call my voicemail--idling on some computer in the ether that's no-doubt not named for a piece of fruit--it's been cutting off the very beginning of the prompt tree. As a result, the first thing I hear is, "asscode..."
Shouldn't my asscode be different from my passcode? Don't I have an obligation to keep my ass safe and secure? Now that this First Date is going on with me unshaven in my sweatpants, will my hot, newlaptop turn off her encryption to spite my ass? Wouldn't there be unimaginable problems if someone were to steal my ass, and would I be responsible for my ass if it were brainwashed by persuasive captors and committed illegal acts, not unlike Patty Hearst's unfortunate time with the Symbionese Liberation Army?
Look, the more these things turn over in my head, the confuseder I get. If this First Date ends up in a makeout session between me and my laptop, as my actual girlfriend assures me it will, I'm going to have to re-evaluate a lot of stuff on the neutrino level. They're so sexy, neutrinos....
Thanks for reading. And please remember that just because it's possible that by the end of this post, I may end up like this guy, it doesn't mean that my secret plan for unheard-of riches won't come true: designing a computer that uses Ones, Zeroes, and.... wait for it..... TWOS! Keep it under your iHat, ok?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wonder Of It All...

Couple of things I've learned this week:

In Canada, if you pay an extra $1.25, you get sweet-potato fries.

One would do well to spend a portion of each day unsubscribing from e-mail lists.

My kid's former elementary school's PTA has been the hardest list from which to unsubscribe. Way harder than Buy!Buy!Buy!.com

In the 1600s, they lived half as long, but their lives were twice as uncomplicated. (I'll wait.....) And if they were English, they could attend a world premier of Shakespeare's and spend an evening laughing at four near-medieval yuppies dithering about in the woods. Meanwhile, we have Charlie Sheen, who's both a tragedy and a comedy, wrapped up in a stripper  enigma.

I pretty much love it when the Yankees' radio announcers are reduced to making jokes about clichés. It shows humility.

Post-Season baseball is like when a team shows up at the Pearly Gates, and St. Peter doesn't quite believe them yet.

If you're reading this, you weren't blown up in Somalia, executed in China, or drowned in the East River yesterday.

People might get over their unresolved issues faster if they handed their shrink fistfuls of cash at the end of every session.

Check out Star Trek VI again. You could do a lot worse.

The immunologist who died from cancer days before his Nobel Prize was announced--after applying his life's work to his own body in the form of experimental treatment--seems to have spent an exemplary time on this planet. He happened to be Canadian. I wonder if he went for the sweet-potato fries. I'm hoping he did.

The Blaiser Blog Post-Season Dream Team:

Starting Pitcher

Catcher

First Base Coach

General Manager 

Outfield

Infield

Manager

Third Base Coach

Pinch Runner

Designated Hitter

Closer

Bat Boy

Bat Girl

Relief Pitcher


Thanks for indulging me. Please also try to remember that the only thing that keeps us from floating off into space, and certain death, is gravity.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Summer Meltdowns and You


My pen's been dry for too long, collecting dust on the shelf while I lived the subterranean life of a stagehand with back-to-back megajobs. The first was Fashion Week in New York, in which Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park sprouts a tent city populated with Smart Cars and Dumb Models. And some clothes. And a lot of lights. And the second was the P-5, yo. No, not West Coast old-school rappers of a certain age, but rather the coalescing of a squad of homogenous, yet motley hopefuls just compared, mere moments ago on NPR, to the denizens of the Star Wars cantina. This gathering took me out of town for 10 days, and also required a lot of lights.

Meanwhile, there was epic chokage with my beloved Boston Red Sox. Like Old-Testament, Zombie Apocolypse, Cormac McCarthy "The Road" style chokage. It made the 2007 Mets look like winners. It made the ending of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," make sense. It made a lot of Yankee fans happy.

And if we're talking proportions on the scale of rhino-choking, then the question becomes, Where do you find a guy who can give a rhino the Heimlich Maneuver? I'm going with this guy:



Last night, Ryan Lavarnway, a September call-up from the Sox farm system, provided his team with an injection of life-saving juice. (Seriously--think Uma getting stabbed with a hypo in "Pulp Fiction." In this case, the Red Sox have been snorting the heroin, and Ryan Lavarnway is Travolta, and he may or may not have been arguing with, say, Jed Lowrie about who would plunge the needle into the boss's girlfriend.)


But it was Lavarnway who rose to the occasion, belting his first two Major League home runs, and helping the Sox limp into the final game of the season with the AL Wild Card up for grabs. I'd prefer Game 7 of the Championship Series against the Yankees to our current scenario. Our pitching staff has splintered like a cheap deli toothpick and injuries have hobbled a once-fearsome offense. Kevin Youkilis was last seen peddling Amway products in an effort to recoup lost value from the Bedard acquisition, and Carl Crawford's been looking into installing an assisted-living efficiency behind the Green Monster in Fenway. But for the moment, a philosophy major from Yale is the man. So let's be philosophcal.

We've been here before. Only the present matters. One game at a time. And so....  If the Rays win their game against the Yankees tonight at Trop Field, and no one goes to watch it, does it matter? Unfortunately, Yes.

There's been a lot of e-chatter about how funny it is for Red Sox fans to find themselves rooting for these guys tonight, but I have a different take. We go to the postseason on our own merits. We need to win. What happens to the other guys is beyond our ken. If a winner-takes-all game is birthed for Thursday night, well we'll just have to go out and win that one too, maybe even behind this guy, who will flutter once more into the breach in the way only a 45-year-old knuckler can: with more experience than you. Or pretty much anyone else.


And if not, then it's back to the drawing board for the Red Sox. Let the better team win the Wild Card. Pretty sure they usually do. Let us all earn, in a certain sense, our own victories.

Thanks for reading, and please remember---it's not for nothing that Eric Stoltz was the set-up man for the West Hollywood fast-pitch softball league. Honest!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

YOU SHOULD SEE THE OTHER GUY






And it's August ! If it were ever going to be high, The Cotton need wait no more, and if it were ever going to be easy, The Living is looking at its best chance in recent months. Not everyone, however, seems to realize the importance of making the most of August 3, sadly.

In Manhattan today, some people were mightily inconvenienced when a derailed train complicated their morning commute. "Someone isn't doing their job right," said Curtis Weaver,who was waiting for the 6 train uptown on 33rd Street on his way to his security guard job on Park Avenue. "They shoud improve the trains."


(DNAinfo.com clearly shoud
improve their proofreaders…)

In Hama, Syria, today, security personnel fared much better in their morning commute, arriving for work in the center of town via tank and armored vehicle, where they continued to put down a popular uprising. One hundred had been reportedly killed during a weekend of heavy shelling and bombing. Casualty reports from today are not yet available, although corpses are reported to be strewn in the streets.

It’s safe to say that getting to work in Hama for any non-security personnel was just as bad as Mr. Weaver’s experience traveling in Manhattan: helicopters patrolled the skies, snipers had taken up positions on the tops of buildings, and people were being killed for protesting against the Assad regime.

Caroline D. had similar complaints today about encountering hostilities during a return trip from her weekend in the Hamptons. It seems a Jitney bus attendant victimized her with some heinous atrocities. She had…

Called ahead to reserve a seat on the 3:30pm bus 08/02/11. Got there at 2:50pm when the Ambassador was pulling away, it had one seat but someone stand-by took it. When I called, no one gave me this option. Went inside to buy a ticket, unsmiling, unhappy workers that barely made eye contact. Went outside to wait because the Omni smells of sweat and mildew, the coffee shop was gated shut at 3:00pm…. A bus pulled up at 3:20 so I got up and the attendant said no, this is not your bus, it's going East so I sat back down.
The next thing I know, another attendant shows up and tells me to " get in line!!!" I stand up and see he is taking names so I pull out my ticket and ask him if he will take my name but he says " I will take your name when you get in line!!!" and then I see at least 20 people have lined up but I tell him I was the first person waiting so I stand behind the person he has just taken their name. Do then he yells at me " Oh so you are just going to cut in front of all these people now???!!!" I have never been so humiliated and a guy next to me said he was waiting after me too. We sat on the bench at the front! This attendant has ZERO people skills and was incredibly rude and condescending! I told him he should give his customers the benefit of the doubt before he goes ahead and decides I am trying to cheat! He told me " to get over it!!!" If I didn't have to get back to the city, I would not have let it go. …Once I got on the bus, it was pretty full so I had to sit at the back near the toilet and someone went inane took a stinking dump!!! Seriously, you can't wait to do that at home??? -- thanks to Yelp.com ...

At home in Hama, where water, electrical and phone lines had been cut, and food supplies were dwindling, residents also had to “get over it,” or else find other arrangements to not only take a stinking dump, but also to bury their dead, who as mentioned before, are apparently still lying in the streets.

Nearly all middle-class Americans ought to take a deep breath today (or at least my New Yorker brothers and sisters) and drink from the overflowing fountain of perspective. Most of us do not have high-powered scopes covering our front doors, nor have 120mm tank guns trained on our places of employment. 


Photo: Evan Blumenstein

Most of us have lives of relative ease. I just scheduled a canoe trip with my son for later in the week. I woke up to sunshine. I have people in my life whom I love and who love me. Nothing’s perfect, but I’ve never had a day like the freedom fighters had in Hama today. For far too many, it was their last day. Think on that.

Back to the comedy. I think Louis CK covers a version of this sentiment the best, so I’ll let him to the talking.




Thanks for reading, and please always remember that in the road of life, it's best to avoid New Jersey jug handles....


Friday, July 8, 2011

T-Minus 2 Minutes

STS - 135. . . Sounds like a concept car at the Javits Center.


The final launch of the Space Shuttle program is scheduled to light up the Cape Canaveral sky in a little less than an hour and a half. I'll aim to post by that time, and then watch it live via laptop. I'm looking at footage now--a bunch of guys in faux space suits, harnesses and baseball hats working through their checklists in the White Room, an "environmentally controlled" compartment from which the astronauts enter their rocket ship. The prep crew are periodically looking up at the camera and offering grins and showing off pieces of equipment, used for the last time, for the viewers back home. It's all a victory lap, but Atlantis has to safely launch and return before such a celebration is earned. Over their shoulders one can see the exposed hatch of Atlantis, with a caution-tape-lettered arrow pointing to a latch near a tiny porthole, that says "RESCUE." Still, around the launch area, this pre-liftoff limbodance, performed by hundreds of technicians for the last 30 years, has a few deviations this morning. They stop for photo ops with their colleagues and friends, imminently a former fraternity of space professionals...



They're working to ensure the safety of the four souls as they rocket into low-Earth Final Frontier. They are Chris, Doug, Sandy and Rex. You can see their photos on the NASA site, their faces and profiles coming up like Marvel superhero dossiers, Fantastic Four style:







I was lucky enough to witness a Shuttle launch in February and posted some thoughts while they were in their landing approach.

Back to pre-lauch coverage. A comlink computer needs to be re-booted and the technician informs the Flight Controller with just a tiny, tiny note of hesitation in his description. They hold the countdown. Their computers crash just like this laptop... it's unsettling for the lay-watcher, for someone whose generational Kennedy moment came in the middle of 11th Grade English class on a January morning in 1986.

Now, the software's been re-uplinked, the countdown resumed, and then stopped for a built-in hold at T-Minus 9:00. The play-by-play is thrown to Houston's Mission Control, where a very reassuring, informed voice tells America the controllers have been at their desks since 4:30 this morning. Bet they drank their coffee. Atlantis has flown some 115 million miles to date. That's one hell of a lot of oil changes.

The Shuttle, nested in its Floridian launchpad is an elegant modern-art installation, seen in this way


Take the wider view, however, and its reality is also a bleak and lonely thing, a metaphor for some aspects of This Human Journey that we are all destined to take, indeed that we're taking right now.

This is also Atlantis, some 30 minutes from launch this morning

All we can do is hope for the best. They're professionals. No one on the planet is better at changing the Shuttle's oil, after all. And it's not a Marvel comic book. It's very, very real.

The Flight Director now polls all the departments, a flurry of acronyms and abbreiviations. One guy says, "Flight, I'd appreciate it if you'd come back to me and poll me last," like a not-quite-decided diner in a party of 12 might say to a waiter. Mere moments later, he's decided he'll have the salmon after all, and we're all agreed upon "Showing No Constraints." The complexity depth is dizzying, what leads up to a rocket launch. And yet it boils down to "Go/No Go," and of course, Alan Shepard's prayer, uttered 50 years ago from the launchpad of Freedom 7, and paraphrased here as, Oh Lord... please don't let me fuck this thing up.

Crew Orbiter Access Arm is being retracted. T-Minus Nine. All the announcers are invoking 30-year salutes and up-to-the-moment well wishes to the crew and everyone listening. What do I have to do today? Shave and then go watch my kid in his musical theatre day-camp performance of "SchoolHouse Rock, LIVE!"

Godspeed indeed to the bravest among us. We can only move forward. Thanks for reading and please remember: In the event of an existential engine failure, your closest RESCUE hatch may not be the one through which you entered.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Bream

"I have never used steroids, human growth hormone, or any other type of illegal performance-enhancing drugs" —Roger Clemens, in a congressional hearing, 2008.

Except maybe for the 20 times your trainer claims he injected you with the junk? Or was he was the one doing the "using" or otherwise "employing," it, or in this case, "deploying" it into your fat ass, because you just weren't a big enough arrogant bully without it.

Sorry. That wasn't necessarily a classy comment by a classy writer. I do let my emotions take hold from time to time, hopefully in service of the irreverance I pathetically attempt strive to achieve for my scanty yet plucky readership.

Want a class act? Me, too, and for the Fenway fortunate, one is available for close observation every time Tim Wakefield picks up a baseball, or otherwise walks into a place.



Wakefield, one of the last remaining sporting heroes. Wakefield, who was nominated 8 times for the Roberto Clemente good-guy award and won through his consistent, quiet action, unlike Jerkweed Supreme Roger Clemens, who had the audacity to call himself "the gooddest guy around," when he's not pitching. No, that would be the Other Guy, actually—a soon-to-be 45-year-old who still bakes a richly seasoned humble pie, and slings irregular slices of it at men who were swinging nothing more fearsome than Sippy Cups during Wake's Rookie Year.
 

He's on the mound again, tonight, in pursuit of Win # 198, versus some guys from Toronto. The progeny and I will tune in, witness the carnival cannonshot that is a knuckleball, and the ironic surprise of a sub-80 mph "heater." I'll also attempt to throw a weak-ass dinner pitch past my suspicious kid: some whole, deep-sea bounty that was swimming off the coast of Massachusetts recently, courtesy of my landlord. Haven't yet had the ichthyic pleasure of meeting this particular species before. Pretty sure a bunch of garlic and olive oil will be involved, so everyone hope for the best.
That's not a bad approach to life. Don't hand power over to the bullies, throw knuckleballs of great humility well into one's 40's, and periodically try a new fish.

Thanks for reading, and please remember: Even if you say Porgy and I say Sparidae, we should not, in fact, call the whole thing off.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Poem For Early Summer

The end of an era is a heartbroken promise
But celebrate the good and great things from that time
Didn't your life expand like a baloon, fat and beaming?
Accept the speed limit. Obey local laws.
Ride the tectonic trucks for what they were,
     not what they weren't.
Vacuum your father's barn
Turn your diesel engine into a catamaran
Observe the surf

Then, what better time for spiritual deck-swabbing and sail-hoisting?
Maybe you balance standards, alternating the pirate flag with the snowy egret
Maybe you haul everything in, ass-over-tea-kettle style, laughing even
      (laughing, definitely—you love to laugh), clumsy but effective
So that the horizon offers—to the clear eye—The Next Thing
     when it chooses to float by.
And who knows—you might already be swimming in it, so look around...
Perhaps the flail of sudden water-treading will self-organize into
     a tight stroke, an origami of the water.

The blue sky reminds: there is both calm beauty
     and certain impermanence—it might cloud over by afternoon.
While sunshine pours down upon your sleeping lover's long, brown hair,
     so are the Days of Our Lives (or so they say!)
Yes, there's the daytime soapdish. Use it for hands, often.
Or washing away the drama of a dirty dish.
Clean the drain.
Revel in the pleasure of grilled fish.
If you reach out, the hand next to you brushes with affection
Let the skin squeal with delight
Dance  Stop fighting the sweaty ballroom
Let the simplicity of desire take over, and notice
     what had been obscured, perhaps, by the fine layer
     of sawdust you made when you insisted
     on running the hack saw against the grain.
And there you were, sawing away, with a kind of specialized envy
     reserved for hedge-fund managers and pentacostal snake handlers.
Now there's an audacity you can't quite summon
But you can set down the wrong tools and begin anew.
Start with a film festival.

Feed the birds and what do you have?
Happy birds, actually.
And they don't want your poetry—they'd rather have your crusts.
Divide the loaf sparingly, or with great slabs of garlic gusto.
Mix it up with salad greens and a cold Chablis.
I know the French are a pain in the ass, but gambling on a grape,
     you gotta admire that.
Move South for the panache of grenache.
Reserve a clay court. What a racket!
These people know how to live and that's why we're jealous
     of flower pots on interstates,
     a nouvelle novel,
     an église.
Arousal by the sauté pan    (a romance begins with accent marks)
You plan on fewer mistakes, so why not a pen? An inkwell?
Put on some gifted vinyl and respect when you have to stop
     every 20 minutes—the end of a side.
     The end of a chapter.
Your library is living large.
There will always, always be another good book.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Repertory Re-Ticklings, and the Pleasures of the Dirt

Hello World,


Sorry I've been out of touch for over a month—the longest hiatus from this tiny slice of the Great Blogberry Pie—but Spring deluged me with its swollen clouds and shredded my sails with its spirited winds. When tempests disperse, however, and the heavens sparkle once again, and the sun rises over refreshed earth, and the birds punch the dawn time clock, here's what remains for me:

Bach and baseball (Hit Play and read on.)



I took piano lessons for 7 years as a kid and quit when my teacher wanted me to play Bach and I wanted to play Billy Joel. So lately, with some time on my hands and a new keyboard installed where the Christmas Tree had left an inviting strech of apartmental wall, I liberated my sheet music from the anonymity of mini storage and started playing. And I got better.

It's one of the most basic lessons we learn and yet so easily forgotten: practice pays off. Over the years I winnowed my piano playing goals to just a few songs, and of course over time, large sections of those pieces drained out of my fingers—musical blades gone dull from a profound lack of sharpening. But they're still in there: Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, which made my father weep just a little when a 12-year-old me played it without error one Pennsylvanian summer evening; my favorite rag, Solace, by the incomparable Scott Joplin; and now, also, the elegant musical expression of a strand of human DNA—a few of J.S. Bach's divine preludes, as inevitable as a spider's spun web, and a gift to myself to learn.



Meanwhile, the Red Sox turned their backs on an inglorious start and scaled the craggy backside of the American League East. At this writing, they're on a 9-game winning streak, including two ought-to-be-illegal beat-downs of the Toronto Blue Jays, whom they outscored 30-5, and a gorgeous dismantling of the hapless Yankees, swept back-to-back at home, and who haven't dropped six straight to the Sox since 1912.



My son was pressed into some relief pitching in his 10/11-year-old league. Not his first choice, but when handed the ball, he went about his business with workmanlike resolve, fixing hitters with a flinty stare and a no-nonsense delivery. Struck out one. Despite a winless season for his team, he hasn't lost interest and we focused on discrete victories: excellent at-bats and successful defensive plays. We also picked up some great tips from his coach this year and if he so chooses, I'll be squatting in the dirt with a catcher's mitt any time he wants. Practice yields results. Important for an 11-year-old to learn, on the cusp of the two words most feared in the parental lexicon: Middle School.

Practice for his Dad, who still learns lessons at 41: How best to keep his mouth shut at critical times, how to play winning softball with just a dash of motivational trash talk (again, with the catching), how to filter the beautiful opportunities he's lucky enough to encounter in life, through a Baroque sieve, one note at a time.

Here's to a nice summer, readers, wherever you are, and to taking thoughtful, nurturing steps with the opportunities that matter the most. I'll be trying to do that the best way I know how—a promise to myself, as well as to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sometimes It Rains

April is the cruellest month. And it doesn't take a brick-company boss's son from the Midwest with a fake erudite accent to tell us that. April surprises, every year, dealing frosty, miserable days that encourages us to throw good money after bad. It brings equal parts promise and uncertainty; all is called into question. Will the buds remember their birthright? Will the pastel green deepen? Will Keven Youkilis's bat start devouring fastballs like they were cocktail weiners off the sample table at Wegman's?





My baseball team, like a bunch of sullen teenagers, has refused to live up to its potential. It's ok, though, 'cause it's all part of the Master Plan. The Red Sox do not respond to hype. The Red Sox, like an interested yet somewhat ambivalent lover, have to marinate for a while before gelling. And you can't rush richness.



I'm thinking yesterday's rain delay is the beginning of a turn-around. It might be a slow-burn, but our coal scuttle overfloweth, and the haze of a wet season is about to evaporate. Compare it to a pot of boiling water. Well, everyone's been watching, and you know what that does. It SEEMS like the boil will never achieve; actually it's inevitable--as reliable as applied heat pushing the mercury to 212 degrees Farenheit. Jon Lester will solve the corners, the left-handed flea that the Leading Player knows you want to be. Matsuzaka will compartmentalize the after-shocks and will at least break even on quality starts. John Lackey will seek as many audiences as it takes with the Dalai Lama until he amasses the necessary chi to shrug off not only Salty's first-year skittishness, but also his unfortunate surname. Tim Wakefield, a Prospero on the mound, will lead his dear friends once more unto the breach, with wow and flutter, and surpass Roger Turncoat Clemens for the most wins at Fenway. Clay Buchholz will reject the Psalms and inherit the earth via intimidation and ungodly breaking balls.


It's the same with my kid. He's on unfamiliar ground, too--10- and 11-year-olds grouped together for the first time; the ball's coming in appreciably harder than last year. He's braver than he realizes, though. There was a defining moment in last-week's scrimmage, his team down a fistful of runs, when he dug in against a gnarly looking older kid. After taking a ball, he fouled off the next pitch and his bench erupted, "YEAH! THAT'S RIGHT!! HE AIN'T SO BAD!!" That at-bat ended in a hit. His squad was annihilated at the end of 6 innings, but the take-away was that It Could Be Done, this baseball business. His swing is so sweet and he doesn't even really know it. And his team is just starting to gel. Like Spring. Like New Love. And like the 2011 Red Sox.

We know what we're doing, actually, but we forget. In the Spring we learn to trust again, and May rewards us, lush and gorgeous. May urges us to use the word "redolent," in a sentence, and to worship the brevity of the fiddlehead fern, and the shortening nights. Don't miss the crescent moon--how many more will wink at you?

Thanks for reading, and always keep in mind that what's inevitable will reveal itself, in time. Meanwhile, bring an umbrella

Friday, April 8, 2011

Game On!!!



YEAH!! Sorry I'm late. Boston v. Yankees coming up -- I'm pumped.

Currently 45 degrees and near zero humidity in Boston. Home Opener v. the Yankees is a little more than an hour away. Spirits high, and visibility at 10 miles, which is about what they'll need to clock the ball when David Ortiz hits the snot out of Phil Hugh's alleged starting pitching.


Even though we no longer have Curt Schilling, we still have Jesus on our side, because John Lackey kinda looks like Schilling. From a distance. Of more than 10 miles. (Uncoincidentally the distance to which the search teams also need must fan out, in order to recover the ball stuffings after an utterly nonplussed Adrian Gonzales fouls off 12 pitches only to casually swat the 13th out, like a fifth grader might disinterestedly pull the wings off a fly.)

I figure Jesus is watching the game from more than 10 miles away, so I'm cautiously optimistic. Not that the Red Sox have to fool Jesus in order to win a game in the 2011 season, but as any Red Sox fan--or true literary man, as famously observed by John Cheever--will tell you, we win games the old-fashioned way: any friggin' way possible.

The faith of Red Sox fans is unswerving and universal. Pretty sure Ganesha is a Red Sox fan, and I defy anyone to find a more Confucian ball club than the one populated by the honorable sons of Fenway. Even though he shaved his beard recently to throw folks off the trail, it's no coincidence that you won't catch Dustin Pedroia and the Greek demigod Pan in the same dugout. Brother Jacoby Ellsbury has the entire Native American pantheon at his back, and now that Boston's divested themselves of Adrian "I BBQ the ribs of my own Outfielders" Beltre, I'm liking the fleet-footed Oregonian's chances. Only divinely-powered guys run that fast. I may even start calling him Princess Jacoby Oregonia. So I pay no attention to the fact he's batting 34th against the Yankees today--in act, I embrace it, because I Believe. I believe Kevin Youkilis's beguiling stance will snake-charm his way past mentally weak middle relief. I believe Jason Varitek will hang up his cleats after this season and start a critically acclaimed career starring in Jack Ryan spy thrillers. I Believe that Tim Wakefield is not actually 44 years old, but is actually the biblically referenced Wandering Knuckleball Pitcher and is actually 4400 years old. And, I Believe in all that stuff Crash Davis says in "Bull Durham"

1:52 p.m. The screen at MLB TV says "warming up" so I imagine it's a pretty exciting atmosphere at Fenway. My MLB TV media player thingy is trying to talk to the 1933 inter-war-period mother board that "powers" my portable computing device, and so I'll grab a cup while a "link" is "established."

As promised, Comment Moderation has been disabled.

1:58 p.m. Well, there's a TV within spitting distance from me, but I can't watch it, so I'm waiting for MLB to get its act together. Coming back from grabbing a cuppa joe I saw four F-16's  buzzing Fenway and a bunch of proud Americans in the most beautiful ballpark in the land. Good Stuff. Opening pitch mere moments away. We got John Lackey. They got Some Other Guy

2:05 p.m. The definition of irony, perhaps. I spend a pile of money for MLB TV and I can't seem to get a video feed on the game I've been looking forward to since the end of last fall, and STRIKE ONE BY LACKEY!!!!!! 0-2 ALREADY!! I do have a radio feed, however, and that's.... a Good Thing. Unbe-freakin'-lievable. Perhaps Jesus, Ganesha, Confucius, Pan, and more than 275 North American Native gods were not amused.....

First Inning: Gardner gets one for free, Jeter pops-up the bunt, Mark TaxiDermiaria fizzles, Lackey nearly nails Gardner at First before he eventually steals, A-Rod gets on somehow, probably in an enhanced fashion, Cano hits one out past Ellsbury and one of the F-16s circles back to drop a JBU-38 JDAM on the Yankee team bus.

2:22  Carl Crawford, Ladies and Gentlemen. Feel the fury of his .174 batting average for 2011!!!

homerun Dustin Pedroia!! Guy plays so hard his shin guard falls off while he's running out a homer!

End of the First  Hughes can walk a guy, too. Of course it was Youk's cobra cunning. Go figure. Papi gets a good swing. Only a matter of time.

Top of Second Curtis Grandstanderson takes advantage of Crawford's green play on the Green Monster. Lackey and Salty are not that into each other.. Lackey's given up 3 doubles. That's six bases, the same number as the Red Sox losses thus far -- further Numerology evidence that all things are related and I have nothing to fear.

111th Home Opener, live-blog "coverage," from my blacked-out laptop in NYC (thanks, MLB.TV! As if Boston fans in New York didn't have it hard enough...)

Feel free, both of you who are reading this, to post a comment just to make sure the damn thing's working...

2:45 A-Rod's apparently angling his body in the direction of Second... ooh... I'm oddly aroused. BASES LOADED BOSTON, BABY!

2:47 Improbably Scutaro drives in JD Nancy Drew. Hughes not out of the woods yet.

PAN PEDROIA DRIVES IN THREE ALREADY!!!! 5-3 Sox

Here comes Big Papi. Hughes can't get the third out. Maybe he should look behind the couch.
PAPI SINGLES!
aaaaaaaaaaand they finally get the third out in a rundown but not before we go up 6-4. I told me so.

3:00 Top of the Third Mark Tissue-iaria strikes out, A-Rod gets plunked and Lackey gives up a customary double to Cano

3:08 -- Sorry, I got like five things happening at once and since the Red Sox seem to be pretty efficient at getting outs, it all happened quickly. Some guy got thrown out by Scutaro, but another guy scored. 6-4 Red Sox, and Hughes is GONE JOHNSON! The other guy strikes out JD Nancy Drew to start the bottom of he third...

3:12 The other guy is Bartolo Colon who's dealing strikes like he was fencing a bunch of plasmas off the back of a truck.... at least Ellbury made some contact...

Top of the Fourth  Carl Crawford earns his keep with a sliding catch!

3:21 p.m. Researching meeting halls for inaugural meeting of the International Fraternal Order of "I Greatly Dislike Brett Gardner." Jeter drives in another one, but it's still 6-5 Red Sox.

3:27 p.m.  Lackey squeaks through the inning and heads to the dugout and asks Francona to send in relief so he can concentrate on weaving more human hairs into his Robinson Cano voodoo doll.

Bottom of the Fourth Colon retires the fourth and fifth guy in a row he's seen. If New York had just started him in the first place, they wouldn't be losing right. Typical Yankee Arrogance...

But here come's Pan Pedroia, a career .325 hitter at Fenway...... strikes out. S'ok. He's already contributed big time, not only to score, but also morale. Wonder who's gonna take the mound next for Boston.

AND... WHY IS IT JOHN LACKEY?! crap. Even I knew not to do that.... Homerun A-Scrod.  Tie game. Hm.

The Yankees' Third-String Catcher goes 0-2 before popping WAY up to Ellsbury. Colon due back.

3:43 Bottom of Fifth Yo Adrian clips one to Cano, and is thrown out. Youk snake-charms Colon for a walk. Ortiz is back, smelling blood with a reduced defensive shift...

PAPI CATCHES MARK TAXI-DERMIARIA SLEEPING! Youk to Third. JD Nancy Drew then pops up, like an anxious schoolgirl......

Salty KNOCKS ONE OFF THE GREEN MONSTER!!!!!! TRY THESE ON FOR SIZE, CONNIE CHUNG!!!!! 7-6, Red Sox. Swishy and Grandstanderson collide and nearly give up a two-run pop fly, but Curtis holds on, and we go to the Sixth.

3:55 Red Sox back on Defense. Lackey out, and Acheves-iss in relief. I have special respect for relief pitchers whose names I cannot spell. Alfredo I got, though. Almost like Alfred, the perfect gentleman butler for Bruce Wayne. So I'm calling this guy The Butler for the rest of the season.

4:00 Some guy named Russell Martin gets a base hit. Apparently he was very LA, hanging with celebs when he played on the Wrong Coast. The Butler is facing the Brett the Unpleasant. Goes to a full count. Walks. Martin leaves the bag at Second and calls in his publicist as a pinch runner.

4:07 Apparently every time Derek Jeter steps to the plate, we get to hear how many hits he has, again. Nauseating. He hits into a double-play. Muchos Better.

Bottom of the Sixth Carl Crawford strikes out. What I wouldn't give for Mikey Lowell right about now. Colon, who didn't pitch at all last year, retires the side. Again. With all this retirement, Dude's gonna start collecting a goddamn pension....Still 7-6 Red Sox

Top of Seventh With life, and all its responsibility calling, I'll need to sign off in order to take care of domestic issues. Hoping to make the 7th inning stretch before I head out the door. If there were anyone reading this, they might like the little surprise I've cooked up.....

New pitcher for the Sox --- Bobby Jenks BLOWS AWAY A-ROD AFTER PITCHING COACH VISITS THE MOUND. Yeah, Daddy.

Newsflash --- Manny Ramirez takes his ball and bat and goes home..... Apparently Manny needs to be Manny..... in a Barco-Lounger. Whatev. Guy deserves a nice stud retirement. Without so much Creatine.

Seventh Inning Stretch, and I Gots A Train To Catch --- Have a great baseball season! Thanks for reading, and remember: If you're reading, then I have a reader!!