“I’m Feeling it Bounce off My Face”

1975, #660. My favorite picture on any baseball card featuring the true homerun king of any generation.

This isn’t a perfect card with sharp corners, red and yellow contrasts beyond reproach, and a face without blemishes. Imperfection and moderate use is apparent. We would say, “collected and enjoyed” in the hobby, perhaps … as most cards were before collecting as an investment took hold. Opening wax packs after a busy school day, or fun Saturday morning, were toyful, joyful events full of exciting what-ifs. What if I finally got my favorite player in the pack? What if I had enough cards to slip over to a buddy’s house for a game of flip? Preserving corners and colors were as far off as considering IRA investing, career choices, and first-born child names.

If I needed to consider names for anything at the time, however – my high handlebar bike or favorite stuffed bear – Hank or Aaron would have been tops on the list. Topps #660, to be more precise.

Magical, Hammerin’-Hank. Twenty-three seasons in the major leagues with 755 homeruns … the stat. A four-base record surpassed in 2007 by Barry Bonds, but not forgotten as the player who broke Babe Ruth’s record of 714. On April 18th, 1974, he caressed his 715th at the Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta where over 53,000 folks sat … witnessing a small 5 ounce ball carry the delight of history over a fence into the Brave’s bullpen in left-center field.

This is where the story gets interesting to me, especially. Tom House, a relief pitcher, caught the ball on the fly and was immediately asked to turn over the ball by Bill Buckner, the Dodger’s left fielder. Interesting to me. Buckner scaled the fence – with cleats – to prevent the homerun … to watch, perhaps, the most important ball in history fall into his mitt instead of the history books. Not to be, of course. Tom wound his way through players, coaches, and our wonders to personally hand that ball to Hank at home plate. In his words, “So, the ball was worth (almost) twice what I was making at the time,” House said. “But I’ll guarantee, if you asked anyone on the field that day, if they would have caught the home run they would have done exactly what I did.” Class. pure class.

“I remember thinking to myself, I’m not hearing the noise,” House said. “I’m feeling it bounce off of my face.” when asked about the craziness on the field in those moments after the homerun.

Vin Scully is quoted as saying, “What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world,”.

Indeed it was. When asked about his record, he replied, “I’m not trying to make anyone forget the Babe; but only to remember Hank Aaron”.

I believe we will. On January 22nd, we lost this American icon. There are better historians and sports writers .. well, let me digress. I’m neither. Suffice to say there are other folks imminently more qualified to write of his legacy than I. This part-time key-tapper remembers Hammerin’ Hank as a cardboard warrior. A player I never saw in person, met at a sport’s show … or had occasion to call. He was always a 2-dimensional man in a boy’s life and, at present, appears on baseball cards I see from 1954 to 1976.

This 1954 Gem Mint 10 PSA rookie – priced at over $350,000 – shows the respect and value collectors place on Aaron’s life and career. Granted, finding any 66-year old card in this condition would be tough and highly sought after, but his rookie card ranks easily in the top tier of values.

I don’t own one even close to this condition. My collecting years were later. Porch pirates were my friends and I … pitching, trading, throwing, twisting … beating the colors and corners out of every card we had. Not so much my sister, though. Taking great care … by boxing up her cards in neat little piles, she attempted to ward off the perils of time and temptation. Few times … very few, did we cardboard together. I was tempestuously drawn to the destruction of cardboard images. She wasn’t inclined to allow me the privilege. Unfortunately for her, however, in an effort to mark the cards as hers back then, she ran a red marker across the top edges of almost all the neatly sorted cards in the box. This long red line, over time, bled down into really cool half-moons on the front faces of all the cards. We laughed about it later – as adults. Well, laughed may not be the proper term here …

Years later, when going through boxes, she asked about her favorite card(s). I did find her Clemente #309 from 1972. A favorite of mine as well. I’m torn between the 1975 and 1972 Topps sets as to which one is my favorite. This 1972 Topps #299 isn’t a crowd favorite in my memory, but the overall set is beautiful. His head shots from 1954 and 1975 allow for more imagination and intrigue than this standard batting stance pose.

I don’t know how many of my childhood flipper friends still collect as I do. Most of them are within reach, I suppose. We don’t connect anymore. Motivations are different and life is 45 years removed from youthful exuberance. The simple act of getting up from the floor could be challenging – let alone finding wax packs for a dime. These days, the hobby isn’t about the gum or clothes-pinning ballplayers faces in the spokes of our bikes. It’s big money to those few who actually buy packs, boxes, and cases of cards searching for that rare autograph or short-printed card they can possibly sell on-line. “Flip-it” in the newest sense of the phrase, not like we used to do.

Not like the pre-teen who heard of a guy breaking the homerun record of a legend. A myth 50 years removed from any normal life I knew at the time. Babe Ruth was more a candy bar name than a person of interest in my everyday life. Seven-hundred fourteen? Irrelevant until that April day in 1974.

I became aware of Hank Aaron’s death as I looked down upon the following text from my brother that day: “I bet your Hank Aaron cards are worth more now?” … I felt the sorrow bounce off my face.

Our lives were worth more having this man at the plate. All of us should catch his legacy, run as as fast as we can toward home, and hand over the ball saying, “Keep on swinging … in a world of what-if’s … we’ve got this.”

Rest in peace, our true Homerun King.

I Berned My Toast

Yes … a bandwagon stopped by my house at 3:05 this morning and I jumped on it:

Did I want to? Absolutely! However, I wanted to be above the fray … not just plop the Bern into a movie scene or local watering hole. I thought through long and difficult evening hours. What to do …. what to do? Then by-crumb, it hit me!

The result? Above.

I’m not a photoshop professional. At 3 a.m. with little sleep the night before, my already lackluster editing skills at the lower end of any elementary entry point were being challenged … but I DID IT. After 4 tries of convoluted, contorted belt Sanders rough drafts, I did it!! The fifth edition was a success. Yeah me!🤪

I considered other options. Winding through mental mazes of what-if I do this and that? Upon every stumbled idea, there was another meme appearing before me on my Facebook page. One after another. Bernie on a bench with Gump, with Sharon Stone’s legs, on Sheldon’s sofa, captaining the Enterprise, molding clay with Demi, on.. and on he lived to this day as no other multi-presidential candidate runner-up has ever lived. Good for you, Bernie, good for you!

We need this in America right now. We need the levity. Boy do we need the soft, mended mittens to comfort us. Good for you!

Glad to see happy once again take over the internet and begin to scrape off the dry, burned scars from all the scorched attitudes we have left over from bread left in our overheated political toasters. Cooling off, calming down … a respite from a rough few weeks, anyway.

We are doing ok. A toast!🥂 …. and my slice of life in the form of toast as well to all of you … Berned, of course, because … well, I had to.

The Simple Act of Sitting

Rosa Parks. December 1st, 1955. James Blake. Browder vs. Gayle. Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Stay put, young man …”

It would take a pretty large, generational twist-tie to bind all those together. Together they are, however, in my mind as I sit here in my concession trailer one day after the inauguration of the century … arguably. A swearing in of not only a new President, but a new way of thinking about how things are in America, makes one stop, sit, and wonder where we were and where we’re headed.

A close decade before I was born, Rosa Parks was asked to move from her seat. She refused. As we know, this led to the Montgomery bus boycott, then on to a landmark ruling 11 months later. Bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and life changed for her after that. Her act of defiance became a symbol of the racial segregation movement and the likes of Martin Luther King and his contemporaries stood by her efforts. She worked tirelessly for the cause and, upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor at the Capitol.

In 2005, I started my business. One of many endeavors in my life. An experience that will never, ever, change the face of America like Rosa Park’s stand … while sitting. Here I sit, today, making a difference to some, I hope.

Growing up a white, middle income family male child, I didn’t get pushed around by racial inequality, poverty, or discrimination. Closest I can recall was a six-inch taller bully on the 6th grade playground – minutes later sitting across from me in the principal’s office. We shared a swift dose of discipline at the end of a wooden plank, by no fault of my own, explained away with the words, “I need to make sure I punish the right boy, so both of you are going to get spanked!”. For the record, I defended myself minutes earlier and make no excuses for the attempt. He was a bully and I rewarded him for his efforts.

At home? Different story. One can’t retaliate quite as easily and spanking at the behest of, “Stay put, young man!” had a different tone. Discipline was tough. I sat when told. As long as orders were obeyed … even if beyond my understanding … life seemed to be o.k. .

Seemed to be, anyway. I didn’t know what was going on with life in my dad’s adult world at the time. Only later – as I pathed my way through difficulty when mom died – did I even begin to understand. Yes, over three decades into adulthood, I started to “get it”. Too many push-throughs stack on one’s shoulders and when the stress of one more thing – like the disobedience of a child-imp tiptoeing up to the line – piles on, a dad can lose his cool. My intentions aside, he had his reasons for discipline. I couldn’t question them at the time. Now, I can … and the answers are easy to accept as long as there are deep mugs of warm chamomile tea available at my beckoning call.

That’s where I was, in a proverbial nutshell – without taking up too much of your time. Again, an uneventful beginning decade-point-five of life compared to Ms. Parks. My birth was 10 years removed from her beautiful 1955 sit, stay, and take a stand. Mom – and the universe – decided to pop me out the year after Martin Luther King’s “Dream” speech … in the year of a Beatles arrival at JFK airport, LBJ presidency, and … the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and public accommodations, and employment discrimination. A very large ink shadow of Rosa Park’s influence filled the pen of President Johnson on July 2nd when he signed it into law, I suspect. Months later, I was born.

Where we were back then, right? Where we are now, right? Where you are now compared to your early years? Where are we headed?

Certainly, if we compare ourselves to Rosa Parks, JFK, LBJ, or perhaps the Beatles, we’ll be disappointed. Can we change the world like they did? I doubt it. This isn’t to say we can’t try. Don’t give up on anything or anyone – especially yourself.

Yesterday, I noticed the picture of a young girl with the words, “There was a little girl in California who was bussed to school.”:

This is our Vice-President. You can argue about the process, but this is now. Kamala Harris is our black, female, 2nd in-charge behind the President of the United State of America. Tell me, 65 years later after Rosa Parks warmed that cold bus seat, this picture doesn’t send chills up your backbone. She stood on the steps of the Capitol and took the oath of office. I don’t agree with some of her policies – most assuredly don’t – but, I stand with the 200,000 flags firmly planted on the mall … supporting her and President Biden as an American.

She didn’t give up. Whatever the path was, she did it. Joe Biden, with faults galore, did it. They are really fault-filled humans, of course. They’re politicians to the core, admittedly. Oh, and Donald Trump was, too … I guess. He found a way to the presidency as well. Agree, disagree on policy – I understand.

We’ve a lot to do here in America. The Covid crisis isn’t going away. Economic recovery is months – if not a few years – away and the emotional strain on all of us has been draining. This is what has been on my mind as I sit here. Simply sitting here.

Rosa sat there. Her thoughts as a 40-year old woman being told to move? I want her resolve and determination to seep into all of our consciousnesses and help us to see this straightforward, uncomplicated act of sitting created a movement lasting well beyond her years. Change happened. She saw it coming through those glasses.

Activism is good and healthy .. in the right way. Storming the Capitol and/or burning down businesses isn’t the path forward and is why change happened January 20th, 2021. Election fraud, ballot discrepancy, 5 state voter mis-counting, … I don’t make any claims as to what was true or not because I don’t know what I don’t know. America was tired, worn out, and weary – tired of all the bickering and divisiveness over classless, leadership from both sides of the aisle. As usually happens from the swinging populous pendulum, we’re all-in Democratically led now. If it doesn’t work, in four years they’ll be voted out.

We have to trust ourselves. The system, well … continue to challenge it. But, do it responsibly. Park yourself on a bench and think things through before doing anything. Sometimes the simple act of sitting can change the world more than lighting a match under kindling soaked with fake tears.

Here I sit. Mildly uncomfortable. Inside this concession trailer is warm, however, compared to the 42-degree day outside. This metal chair under my posterior is getting aggravatingly annoying so I must conclude, hoping a customer saunters up to my window soon. One person trading money for my product and service at this point would make a difference.

I guess that’s the point of life. One person making a difference in the life of another. Just that some sit on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Inspired by Claudette Colvin who was arrested nine months prior for refusing to leave a bus under similar circumstances, Rosa Parks became one of many iconic images for change. Large, monumental change most of us will not facilitate by ourselves – one by one. We will make a difference in the lives of those we talk to about their kids, jobs, favorite sports teams, … and, of course, pets, food, & rainbows.

One at a time is wonderful. This is how we manage our way through the pile-ons. Like dad. Normal, day-at-a-time walkabouts we need to survive as Americans right now. We can do this. Rosa is right here with us, sitting by our side.

18 Letters

Today, January 18th is the day … in 2021. A Monday. A day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. M.L.K, for short. A man with 18 letters, side by side, forming his name. In his death, asking us to stand side by side in a dream against the backdrop of “withering injustice” and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years prior. 18 letters on the 18th day. Wonderful.

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”, Dr. King spoke on August 28, 1963 before an estimated 250,000 people at our nation’s capital.

Shameful as it is, I’ve never read his speech in its entirety. The soundbites provided by a well-rounded education and occasional nod throughout my adult life during the third Monday in January over the years have been my limited exposure. As I read his speech earlier today, there’s was phrase in the eighth paragraph that fully developed my attention: ” … remind America of the fierce urgency of now“. Maybe recent events – like January 6th on those very steps where Dr. King stood – have my antenna up higher. Possibly the struggles this past summer over George Floyd’s unfortunate death have my brain thinking differently? Whatever the cause, the effect was an increased urgency to read his words carefully and with purpose … especially that phrase.

It came after his statement above – the promise to all mankind … and the default of same. A default-default, in a sense, because he goes on to say the system wasn’t broken. Opportunity for freedom and the security of justice still remained. He saw a path toward justice for all people … ALL people … at his now. 1963. I was taken aback by this. In context, his words at this point are better understood, for me, than five soundbites for an eighth grade pop quiz before lunch period. Imagine being one of 250,000. Listening to “… Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time...” as you stood with your friends. So powerful, it must have been.

The next few paragraphs, although only 10 lines, express a heartfelt desire for peace in pursuit of reform. His respect for authority and the brotherhood of blacks and whites“as evidenced by their presence here today” – should be emphasized by all teachers wanting to provide their students a fair and accurate representation of Dr. King’s remarks. He wanted, in his words, “dignity and discipline” in pursuit of “their destiny (which is) is tied up with our destiny.”

Six injustices follow: Police brutality, inequity in travel/lodging, housing, “whites only” discrimination, voting, and justice reform. Summarizing, he vindicatingly remarks, “You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”. Never up to this point in the speech did he urge the individuals to violently protest the injustices that were certainly tearing apart their lives and communities. His words, carefully crafted, soothed rough edges of concern and distress. Restless, weary kin had enough and were tired. They marched for change. In the midst of fatigue, they stood and listened. Eyes half open. Exhaustion pulled heavy on their souls. Then it happened.

Then … Dr. King entered into their slumber. He had a vision. The sun broke free, people on that day tilted their heads upward, generations to come read words in history books, and the third Monday in January celebrates an 18 letter name:

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Less than 5 years later, he was gone. On April 4th, 1968 he was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. We know the story. A righteous man who never condoned violence died because of it. That isn’t an original observation, of course. I highly doubt that phrase wasn’t used days after the assassination. It’s just so appropriate, however. It rings true – as does this selection from his final remarks on that day in August of 1963:

“And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Allow me to finish with my own 18 letters: Today, read his speech.

… And, also give the final say, but never good-bye, to Dr. King himself: ” … And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”

Wonderful. Simply, Wonderful.

Mother Hubbard is Crackers

This morning’s breakfast fare started with two Full Circle Market Organic Classic Round crackers … and, as of this point in time, ended there. I’m out of options with my favorite hotel cafe closed on Saturdays and Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboards open, but as the poem goes, “the poor Doug has none”.

Anticipating no baker, fruiterer, alehouse, or undertaker in my future … no tailer, cobbler, sempstress, or hosier, the remaining three hours of my day before opening my business look to be quite cravingly mad. Throw me a bone here, please. I’ll take anything.

Sarah Catherine Martin, to whom that poem is attributed, could walk through my office doors at this moment. Unless she’s carrying a tray full of bacon, rye toast, … a chocolate Clif bar, two over-easy eggs, and two glasses of iced tea, I’m not interested in what a two-hundred and fifty-two year old woman has to say. Granted, it’d be nothing short of a Guinness World Record miracle to have such a bicentennial-plus moment here in my humble hovel, however, I need food in my groveling belly.

I’ll survive. As they say, “such a first world problem”. A small trip down the road to one of many grocery stores – full to the ceiling with food – would work all this out. My beat up Honda doesn’t have to disengage as I have the option to casually drift through a drive-thru as well. Both of these choices, unfortunately, require I step out. Step out of very comfortable material surroundings such as the cotton garments keeping my apologetically happy appendages warm at the moment. Twenty-five degrees with a slight breeze outside. Yes, I’m not one to step out into that weather at the moment.

There was a time when cold and hunger didn’t matter. Youth and inexperience colored in the pictures – between the lines drawn by warmth and the need for nutrition. Days without a nugget or morsel tapping around in my belly were common. By choice, mind you, I pushed forward motivated by the words of Zig Ziglar and Earl Nightingale. These men didn’t advocate starvation as a means to an end, of course. I was busy making sales calls, talking to prospects, enjoying my work … that’s all. Youthful exuberance shuffling along with a fantastic company environment. Ah, the late-twenties and mid-thirties in our lives, right?

Enter Old Mother Hubbard in the winter of 2021. Bifocal nose-sliding syndrome is upon me as we speak, the back tweak has returned after a two day respite, my arms are sore after yesterday’s 7-hour work day, and quite honestly, I’ve had just about enough of this year already … with 357 days to go. I’ve gained three pounds since January 1st and since unfollowed a lot of folks on Facebook. Engaging, enlightening political conversations with friends and family aren’t happening anymore and eggshells are strewn everywhere I trod. Looking down at the slight pudge below, my core may be labeled certifiably, organically classic round … just like the box says. “Perfect for Entertaining”?, well … don’t know about that.

The local and national world I live in is crackers. I’m just one of many varieties. Organic classic round as it turn out to be. Tomorrow? Who knows. Would love to be Ritz. Hey!! Speaking of that, I bought a Mega-Millions ticket last night. Better go check the numbers. Odds are pretty good I didn’t win and will be sitting here tomorrow, again, in my cotton clothes wondering if Sarah Catherine Martin ever considered a career in food service. She’d make a great cracker salesperson.

It Can Be So Simple

It could have been so simple. A private message from this now-unfollowed, blocked non-human person on Facebook would have settled the matter. Instead, she decided a personal attack was the best route toward understanding … a destination where she had no intention of meeting me. Adult, mature conversations, apparently, aren’t part of her world.

I was wrong. Posting an opinion, I guess. Sure, it was opposite her view. Yes, the issue at hand was – and still is – a rather hot potato still rapidly transfering between millions of satirists and social media warriors. Today, as thousands protested in Washington, was not the day for me to postulate. ‘My bad.

Emotions are high. Reason and logic? Way down on the list of to-do’s for those not only in our nation’s capital, but also the keyboard strokers who are, themselves, marching ahead toward justice through their words. In my haste, I joined in ever so briefly. One comment.

A mistake in timing … and also in fact. I meant to type in one thing, however, another ended up so unfortunately being posted. By the time I realized my error, that comment above meteorically flamed in. Adulting as one would, I quickly replied back to her my intentions assuming I had time to, then, go back and correct the errors. Her second reply solidified my future unfollowing: “I stand by my opinion!” …

See, here’s where we are. An attack on one’s character is so easy anymore. To consider an opposing point of view and respond in a mature way is so 2019 (skipping over 2020 for obvious reasons). I’m not so sure we were too together back then, but certainly closer than we are now. In an effort to bridge the gap between my over-expectations now and the reality back then, I posted the following this evening:

“I postulated an opinion that – as it turns out – was in error. My facts were wrong. Before having a chance to correct myself, this (insert above) was immediately placed under my comment. I replied in an adult manner, still thinking I was correct, of course. This person, in reply, stood by her comment. I lost my cool and sent additional words I immediately regretted then deleted. Giving her a pass I shouldn’t do by deleting her name, I sure hope your disagreeing with an opinion doesn’t also turn into a direct insult on someone’s character. Yes. Today is a tough day. This still doesn’t warrant any personal attacks – especially on a social media forum. Call them in person or take a stand in front of them face to face. Have an adult conversation. “I was wrong.” are the greatest words in our language. These six words below (you are actually so freakin stupid) get us nowhere. I choose the three now and always because they are most honest at times. The latter? … I don’t own.”

Do I believe I’m stupid? Nope. Not at all. The adverb, “actually” when used can mean something written that is surprising. Yes, I was surprised by the quickness in her so obvious knee-jerk reaction and callous regard for introspection and foresight. She didn’t even have the bravery to type (with my apologies ahead here) fucking – resorting to “freakin”, a lady like choice of appellation … so sarcastically uncharacteristic of her true, obvious classy self. Polishing off the retort with stupid. Really? THAT’S the chosen word? Not slow-witted, foolish, or ignorant?

Why did she stomp on my 3rd to last left over 2020 nerve tonight? Because she doesn’t care to know my back story … my life. Nobody really knows anyone’s real story anymore. In fairness to her that she doesn’t deserve, I don’t know hers either. If she, in some repentant form, shows up at my doorstep some calm evening, I will talk with her side by side. I will neither give her permission to talk down to me, nor insult my intelligence with six additional words of attempted humiliation. It could be adulting 101 – something 2021 may have in the curriculum.

These pages are usually reserved for puppies and rainbows. For two minutes tonight, as I found myself tossed among the newsfeed and poked-political commentary concerning the Electoral College voting in the Senate, my pages on Facebook distracted me away from happy colors and purring pets. Sadly. Fingers typed anxious thoughts – in error – into a small cellular device causing my stomach to swirl just as it did decades ago. Words spoken in haste and error from someone who loved me, yet continually told me I was … “stupid”.

Those resurrected feelings are lifetime deal-withs. Tastes and smells a man never forgets. A man older, now, than the man who said that word back then. This man who has a wonderful relationship with his dad because forgiveness is a tremendous attribute. That forgiveness is real. He knows it. I know it.

Just so happens, the Forrest Gump syndrome runs up my emotional lane and “stupid is as stupid does” irrationality deposits itself on my heart. When mistakes happen, I can’t correct them in time, and then am insulted … the person who abuses me with words can be unfriended.

This simple click vanishes them from my virtual life, for sure. It’ll take a few days for the dust to settle otherwise because I am who I am. Understanding myself – even over a goofy post – is huge in living a balanced life.

Know your backstory well. Also, if available, get to know someone else’s story before deciding to make a judgement call on their character. Sure, disagree with them based on their opinions (maybe stay away from politics right now …) and talk recipes, restaurants, or kangaroos. Really, this is loving your neighbor – not shouting out to the social warriors you’re convinced they’re “actually so freakin stupid”.

None of us are “in this together” as claimed if all we do is make the divides already here larger. It can be so simple.

Don’t be Ruth-less

See, here’s the thing. I’m not the luckiest guy in the world. Wherever that gold mine is – with riches untold – a scratched instant game card, or row of six numbers leading me to the state lottery office for a multi-million dollar check … I’m not there. One could argue “yet”, and be correct, but after years of haphazardly wishing my way toward that big red X on the map, I’m not holding out much hope. This is o.k. because millions of other treasure seekers are happily leading their destiny donkeys across the barren gambling desert with me. I’m certainly not alone.

“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” – so penned the famous American essayist, Ralph Emerson, who lived a good hundred years before Martin Handford asked, “Where’s Waldo?”. This 20th century British illustrator, I’m quite confident, knew all along Waldo was the loosely held middle nomenclature of the aforementioned prolific philosopher. Knowing that, however, didn’t stop Mr. Handford from searching for Waldo, or depositing over $20 million bones to date into his bank account over the years from sales, licensing, and royalty contracts. More to the point, ” … rise early, work late, and strike oil.”, as J. Paul Getty once spewed from his mouth. Martin Handford certainly did that, right? The work he put into creating and developing the character, making the contacts necessary to publish his work, and the long hours – all to his credit. We can’t set aside many others who did – and continue to do – the same, if not more, and have little to no credit with no bones. Yes, the the backbone and drive to continue forward, but no cashola or contracts, licenses or royalties. Still searching for their Waldo.

Luck is such a weird concept. It appears randomly without cause and effect. Unpredictable which, I guess, is the very definition of it. “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions”, is the pedantic, boring definition when googled. I’ve danced with her countless times and have so many bruised toes as slot machines, instant, and mega-millions tickets slammed down upon my already tired, wanting to be incredible, feet. It’s not wanting to be instantaneously rich that hugs me as we sway, more the process of satisfying my inner need to calm the waters at that moment. This is, as well, the excitement that drives those of us who get up every day to cut a rug with a new sales day – a time where we don’t really know who, or what, will take our hand. Who or what will try to take the lead. The dance, for sure.

If luck be the lady, Mr. Sinatra, I’ll dance. Oh, and I’d sure like to meet the lady who was lucky enough to find this gem in an attic a few months ago:

I’m a sports card collector. An amateur, but I know a bit more than the average Joe Jackson out there. Travel only a few short miles from my house and you’ll end up at the hospital where the woman works as a front line worker. She deserves every bone deposited because of the work done the past nine months. That card above came from Johnstown – a city about 40 minutes’ drive south of here. Rarity drove the price up from a starting bid of $25,000 to almost $350,000 in 16 days. According to the article, she kept 80% and the auction house retained 20%. Two-Hundred eighty thousand dollars for a little piece of cardboard attic find? Not a bad piece of luck … and slice of history either because a picture of the “Babe” – the Sultan of Swat – in a pitching stance is rare – rare, indeed.

She was lucky. Lucky her great-grandfather didn’t toss away that card (or some others in the box) when he could. Lucky they were stored away in a cold, dry place. Lucky that house didn’t burn down or be sold. Lucky, if sold, that the box wasn’t lost in a move. Lucky there wasn’t a water leak in the roof. But, not lucky that rarity drives prices up … and up … and up in the collectibles market. Luck, in the supply/demand curve here, does not have a dance card. Even in the midst of a pandemic, a miserable 2020 during which folks are scratching their collective heads, those who want, … want, and are willing to bone up close to 350G’s for a slab of cardboard with a guy’s picture on it.

Remarkable, but not surprising.

I wasn’t aware of this until it appeared in the local papers. Surprising since I, myself, appear frequently in the local card shop to converse with the locals. We know the vibe about town. There’s always scuttlebutt about the who’s and what’s when it comes down to these cardboard men and ladies in the sports world. To have a really rare, gradable, Ruth card like this around the area … in a collection with other cards from the same set … and none of us know? Hmmm. Or, perhaps, some did know and kept it pleasantly quiet which, by the way, I would have done as well. I certainly would have … most assuredly … without hesitation … wall-flowered the whole process!

This lady, again, was lucky. All of us are genuinely happy for her. To not be shows an out-of-touch reality and a, err … Ruth-less personality. How could anyone not marvel at the odds of someone shuffling through an old box in an attic only to find, months later, $280,000 in their bank account?

Lou Gehrig, a later contemporary of Babe, spoke these words in his “Farewell to Baseball” address: “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”. Quoted often, most omit the first word, “Yet”. The sentence before, he says, “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got.” … Then continues, “Yet …”.

So often there is heartbreak before luck. Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We know that, right? It is a disease that destroys the neurons that control voluntary muscles. Lou used “yet” as a conjunction between two worlds, saying, “I’ve been told I’m sick, yet life has been spectacular.” Bad luck, nah. No such thing. The “Iron Horse” died June 2nd, 1941, after 17 seasons with the New York Yankees.

Between 1925 and 1934, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth were teammates with the Yankees and were next to each other in the batting order. I would think that’s the best luck in the world, but I’m a simple man. One who has been though his – and his grandfather’s grandfather’s – attics many, many times searching for something – anything – that would bring in skeleton’s bones fortune. Alas, it has not panned out. My grandfather was young when these cards were new, crisp, and white. Not this one in particular, but cards of the same class. Cards he often told me were so expensive, even by today’s prices, if he bought even one, there’d be hell to pay. Besides, most were sold as promotions with cigar, or cigarette packs, so they were off limits to him, anyway. I’d argue the point with him to no end. Oh, there actually was an end. He walked away. If you’re thinking of my dad’s cards from the 50’s – like the ’51 Bowman or ’52 Topps Mantles? Uhm, grandma threw them out. Yeah. Luck be a lady there, too.

So, I didn’t write a best seller or find any real valuable cards around. Most of us won’t. See, here’s the thing. I’m not the luckiest guy in the world and my name isn’t George. Oh, and I have a brother, but his name isn’t Harry, so he can’t claim the quote, “A toast to … The richest man in town.” … Yet.

One day, he may be able to make that toast, however, I’m not changing my name. It is a “Wonderful Life” and our lives are a process whether we have a Clarence, a Ruth, or a Gehrig to remind us of such a fact. It’s not whether we have a remarkable find in our attic. It’s all the little bells that give the angels their wings, I suppose.

I wrote “I’m not holding out much hope” earlier, and that’s true. Nonetheless, I have to be truthful, real, and in that tiny space where our tires are on the road. Luck is rare in the sense that it appears as instant wealth, three cherries, or six numbers and a mega-ball. Luck isn’t so bad in good friends, health, a really cool job, food, family, and a little hope going forward. All of this is unpredictable. Even the friends, health, and jobs as 2020 so frighteningly brought to the plate. We struck out so much this year. With the final innings … yet … to go, we must hope for a grand slam here. Let’s stay in the game, at least, and give our teammates a chance:

Up to the plate steps the Babe, with a bat in hand. Points to the outfield. Here’s the pitch – from Charlie Root, the Cubs pitcher who would give up a three-run homer to Babe Ruth in the first inning and a solo shot to Lou Gehrig in the third. The famous “Called Shot”. October 1, 1932.

The Yankees won the World Series 4-0 over the Cubs that year.

If it happened then, it can happen now. Even in empty stadiums, I can hear the cheers of many over the doubts of the few. No bones about it.

You Know What To Do

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost their first game of the year yesterday evening. To be honest, it wasn’t pretty from what I understand. I spent no time viewing the black-and-gold eleven run up and down their empty stadium field as there were higher priority items on my to-do list. Mainly, supper. An evening meal from Cracker Barrel followed by errands necessary to prop up the week ahead: an ordinary six days before my next day off. One-hundred, forty-four hours of believing I’m doing the best I can with what I have.

As all activities wound down and my friends – dishes, ladles, and lids – began to dry in preparation for their duties, social media started to ping away on my phone. One final check of the score, 23-17, confirmed my suspicions from what I saw all over Facebook friends’ pages. Our beloved Steelers lost. They are longer holding hands with the magical ’72 Dolphins undefeated season. Worse yet, a no-name, no longer Redskin, ‘Washington Football Team” is responsible for that solitary “1” standing alone across from two “1”s in their, now, 11-1 record. So many reasons for the loss spattered all over the comments. None change my life. In nine hours and thirty minutes, I’ll lift a concession window and open my business to start six days of sales. No time in my life to figure out the hows and whys the Steelers came up six points short last night. I have to assume they did the best they could with what they had.

All this because I saw a simple statement at the end of a friend’s post on FB … “We should try to do things the best way we can”.

No surprise to anyone it was framed around the masking, Covid debate. There are too many information discrepancies floating around on droplets either too heavy to inhale, or too irrelevant they evaporate immediately after facing some heat. Her point was simple: Do your life thing the best way for you based on the information you have …. how you understand it to be. Well, at least this is how I think the statement should be interpreted, anyway.

However pleasing that statement is on the sidelines, this is the line of scrimmage where our opposing opinions seem to clash. We have our team of aggreable members wearing the same home jersey in the huddle. Across from us, there is a defensive team consisting of an equal number of 11 players opposing our 1 unified position. They, as well, are sweating this out … hoping to steal back an ironic, elusive, yet fungible, pigskin emblazoned with the initials N.F.L: Nobody Finds Life to be an absolute, yet this is what the game looks like from any casual observer sitting apart from covid-affected, no beer lines, empty stadiums.

Coaches on the sidelines – not so disguised as politicians, social media pundits, and in-person/on-line friends and family members all calling in plays to those in the game – are hoping their team will win the day. Celebrations muted, of course. as there is always another game to play in a week or so. Another team, another day.

See here’s the playbook, though. Each team is looking at a book of X’s and O’s deciding on a strategy … how to play the game. How to win the ultimate prize: the games of all games: surviving day by day until this pandemic is over and we can get back to life as normal…

It may not not look like it – glancing through all the dripping sweat and sardonic tiptoeing on the sidelines – but everyone is doing the best they can. Between unforeseen emotional and medical injuries and referees calling separation penalties, each huddler is doing his and her job as assigned by his or her individual life coach. That coach being the drive to be a good person. An individual who wants what’s best for everyone else even if it means that player across from them has a helmet on of a different color, race, gender, nationality, … or, may not have a mask firmly attached.

Yeah, so cool a team with no name at present broke up the Steeler’s bid to become the first complete undefeated 16 game season team in 48 years. A team we should celebrate today. Not only because they made it difficult for me to structure that first sentence, but also because we need to start thinking of ourselves being on the same team. All of us. Without a name.

Sure, I can get upset and rant about the far right-wing’s ridiculous position as noted a few days ago. We can, honestly, take a position we find offensive and scream from the upper tier. This is still an America where opinions do matter.

Overall, however, to be so divided over this pandemic is hurting our chances to shake hands at the end of the game – to be good sports and show our kids how to play a game as adults. With respect and kindness. To have them toss that football with us in the backyard – and not feel penalized by a burden of woes and regrets – is a wonderous unmasking of possibilities for them.

The Steelers were defeated. We don’t have to be. They lasted as long as they could before, well, fate stepped in and stopped them short by six points. Sure. Mike Tomlin is disappointed. I’m not, really. It’s only a game and I’d rather have them lose one now than go undefeated, 16/0, then lose a game in the playoffs. Will they win the Superbowl? Geesh, I don’t know. This year, who know anything, really.

Let’s keep on keeping on doing the best we can. Opposite opinions we can’t avoid. Wear your home Jersey with pride and just be nice to one another. Shake hands after each game, even if it gets a bit ugly at the scrimmage line for sixty minutes, follow the rules the best way you know how.

Oh, and for goodness sake, please take a shower afterwards.

God’s Apolitical Mess

… and it’s not His fault. If you believe in a higher power or not, this political sh*t storm is not it’s problem or a mysterious blob’s doing. “God’s a political mess.” or, “This is God’s apolitical mess.” Oh, how I love that wee little space in between.

I just closed Seth Andrew’s YouTube video, “The Evangelical Election Meltdown”. He so amusingly compiles snippets of extreme right-wing believers calling down the ever-knowing E.T. Powers (my made-up name for the all-denominational, divine minister), in the name of Jesus, God, and the holy spirit. Why? Well, to squelch the evils of Democratic leaning, pre-election voters to influence the results in favor of …. Trump. Shocker there, right?

I would encourage you to find that video in between trying to survive this pandemic. Survival defined by them as praying, of course – oh, and donating money … although not mentioned, but surely expected. Clearly, in the minds of these lunatics in the videos Seth features, it is far better for you to spend time in a group of like-far-edge-of the sane universe minded folk than, say, help out at a food bank or donate time to your local church. Kenneth Copland’s spaceship has room for one more. Price of boarding? Your willingness to appease the insanity of the extreme right-wing ideology of total Trumpism and the insertion of God into every. Single. Sentence.

Like He, it, or the blob really cares. If so, God’s a political mess.

Please, have your faith. Have your God, church, bible, holy book and religion. This isn’t a slight against most of us … believers and non-believers. It is an absolute basket of rotten tomatoes being thrown at the minority of shouters in the pulpit who claim to know a God who says, “I love all Republican politicians because they stand vehemently against abortions and gay marriage.” Oh, ok. Thanks for that insight. Speak to me from the mountain tops, thy bloviating buffoons, as you very likely stand behind a wizard’s curtain of hypocrisy.

Go ahead, give a God the Scarlett R. If so, God’s a political mess and you own that position bestowed upon the blob’s coat of, oh no … apparently, one color: Blue.

UH,OH!! It, she, or (?) didn’t help you out. E.T. Powers – with all the infinite wisdom and divine intercession – decided to wield the magic iron rod in favor of … wait for it … a Democrat! The anti-Trump. The pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, decent family guy. Sure, he’s a normal guy with normal problems who’s been saddled with 47 years of governmental horse sh*t most of his adult life. Yes, he’s old. Yes, he was #2 for eight years. All that and then some. Oh, and he’s not a “smart, brilliant business man”, either. Maybe these are the reasons why E.T. Powers clicked heels in favor of him.

Or, maybe God just didn’t care and left all this up to us? Maybe all the wrangling about by those sermon-spitters didn’t make one bit of difference to an Apolitical being. A blob looking at us, thinking, “What a bunch of goofy, think-they-know-it-alls. Wow. I see these few manipulators controlling the vulnerable, taking … err … robbing them of their time and precious resources for what? A moment of glory for themselves? Self-righteous bastards, they are. To think their interpretation of my will is absolute truth molded into their desired outcome? To say it is blasphemous is even giving them too much credit.”

Boy, am I uncomfortable mixing politics and religion? Sure … especially in a blog where puppies, guppies, and rainbows are easier words to type.

Just today, I’ve reached that point where the hot air balloon of political insanity is leaving Oz and I want to wake up in a comfortable, sane White House again. A house where religious far-right fanaticism has melted away into the floor of acceptable behavior. There has to be a base of normalcy – a bottom line where the Republican party stands for something other than this extreme anti-everything-that-seems-to-not-be-supported-in-the-bible platform. Granted, Kenneth Copland and his ilk are good for a laugh, but he is not widely condemned, nor are his contemporaries mentioned in Seth Andrew’s video. Throw in a healthy dose of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News? … there’s plenty of God waving in the crowd.

Is Joe Biden the answer to our woes in the midst of a pandemic? I don’t know. Is the 25th amendment in play? Geesh, I hate that stupid, politically baited argument. Get over yourself, election deniers. There may have been tampering … oh, and what makes you think it didn’t happen on the R side of the ballots? We’re gonna be ok, folks.

All this written from the fingers of a registered Republican, church pianist, and marginal believer in the existence of an E.T. who controls the destiny of all time and space. It’s a weird time, for sure, and that little space between the A and P still fascinates me. God’s a political mess, or this is God’s apolitical mess? Damned if I know.

There’s a place to find the answer, however. Sure wish I lived closer to Kenneth Copland’s church. Oh, wait! I’ll text him. Nah, not good enough. I want an in person meeting. Darn tootin’ he could probably send up one of his private planes to pick me up! Oh, wait. Shoot. That won’t work. I never sent him any money last time he asked, so I’m screwed.

Welp. So be it. The blob will need to sort it all out. After January 20th, 2021, though.

Heeeere’s to Life!

How wonderfully nostalgic it’s been for me … finding a 24/7 Johnny Carson channel on Pluto T.V.. Shows from the mid-70’s through 1992 appearing before my so-much-after teenage year’s eyes. Those times – when I would come home after a late evening shift at McDonald’s – were so relaxing. A comedic and timely monologue followed by a possible skit, then three guests: one promoting an upcoming movie, another first time (or returning) comic, and an odd-ball act, or musician. Star after star, couch sitting their way through life with cigarette in hand, year after year in fabrics too large and too noisy even by today’s standards. Bob Newhart, Joan Rivers, younger versions of Jay Leno, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Hopkins, Tony Randall, Victoria Principal, … most of the stars who are now, well, dead graced the deep green shag carpeted dias back then, as the master of all talk shows reigned supreme. Speaking of … , I believe Diana Ross did make an appearance.

These days, we need nostalgia. Boy, do we need these look-back moments. At least I do. Life is hard. I need to sit back in my sectional sofa these days and be comforted by the bits and pieces of my past. The Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford cut monologues and Doc Severinsen outfits I saw last night pulled me into a wood paneled room and a polyester brown outfit with big yellow M’s on the sleeves.

I could wait only a few seconds to toss off that plastered on, odorous hamburger uniform so unpleasant even by that time-dated standard. My job wasn’t too demanding. Front-end sales – reserved for, possibly, the nimblest or those who were safest away from equipment 🙋🏻‍♂️ – found their way into my heart as I thoroughly enjoyed customer interactions and money transactions. With all that, I still needed to be done when arriving home at 11:15 on school nights – twenty minutes before “Heeeere’s Johnny” rumbled forth from Ed McMahon’s oversized pipes.

So relaxing it was. So fun to watch over incomplete math homework, likely never to be done History assignments, and English sentence deconstructions that likely, to this day, still lie un-erected on the thin, red basement carpet in my dad’s house. Pajama bottoms and t-shirts for an hour. A comforting, peaceful end to another day until that 6:33 alarm bell went off. Homeroom at 7:50, classes, then back to the Arches … only to return, five evenings a week, to an hour of a really cool friendship with someone who didn’t even know I existed. Someone who I cared about in a deeply comedic way … and who brought me to tears when he died on January 23, 2005.

Fifteen years. A lot since then. So much more from the years spent wondering why Burt Reynolds had long sideburns or Don Rickles found it so necessary to scorch everyone with his words. Many nights without any silly solace from a reportedly shy man who retired, gracefully, in 1992. Twenty-eight years without a show. Fifteen years without the always well-dressed host-pitable man who meant so much to my late adolescent years.

“That was then. This is now” as the lights go on in my mind. Heeeere’s Johnny!! I’m on air. Literally.

The challenges. Aches and pains are in different places. I study life, not History, English, or Math. My pajamas bottoms are not Batman and the paneled walls have been replaced by mortgaged, egg-shelled colored covered walls of my own. McDonald’s is a memory when I pass on the way to either the pharmacy or grocery store to buy apples, snacks, or Clif bars. I still need to answer to my dad, however, because he’s older and requires my attention … that hasn’t changed. He’s in my life just as he was many years ago.

And, so is Johnny Carson once again. I’m so happy – at least for a few, uhm, hours each night. Yes, the subjects in his monologues and most of the guests are gone now. Mickey Rooney, Charlton Heston, the gas shortage, Iran-Contra, Billy Carter, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, “It’s so hot … how hot is it?” audience relays, and Tommy Newsom’s dry comebacks … all pretty much gone in today’s three-dimensional realities, though I’m so glad they’re here, now, in my two-dimensional t.v. box 24/7 … any freakin’ time I want.

And, let me tell ya, those times are so, so often the past two weeks.

Thankfully, polyester is gone. Some material possessions I don’t want to revisit. Johnny? I do. As often as necessary during these last few weeks of a quite challenging year. He didn’t know me. Writing honestly, I’m not sure I knew myself as I immaturely sat on edge waiting for “Johnny’s Theme” – composed in 1962 by a, then, young Paul Anka – to begin. Daah-dam-dam-da-da … da-dum-da-de-dah! It’s not a blur. As clear as a trumpet’s bell these many years later. I hum it in my head every time – on key, being the musician I am – while Ed begins …

“And now, heeeeere’s….” And now is 2020. And now, here’s a year none of us expected, right? I’d love to sit back at 11:35 just one more time to hear Johnny tell us what to think about all this. One more time.

It can’t be. He didn’t know me, but he knew us. He knew what made us laugh. Boy, do we need that now.

I have a piece of that in my life every night, again. It’s not real time, but it’s real to me and that is what’s important at the end … when the final curtain comes down as it did on May 22, 1992. Over 6,000 shows, 29 seasons, and a final message:

“And so it has come to this: I, uh… am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I want to thank the people who’ve shared this stage with me for thirty years. Mr. Ed McMahon, Mr. Doc Severinsen, and you people watching. I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you. And I hope when I find something that I want to do and I think you would like and come back, that you’ll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been. I bid you a very heartfelt good night.” May 22nd, 1992

Good night, Sir. I’ll see you in a few hours. Thank you so much. Heeeere’s to life!