Friday, September 29, 2006

Once Upon a Time...

There was a boy. A nice boy.

One Christmas, he found a big present underneath the Christmas tree. It was a trombone. He didn't ask for a trombone for Christmas, but since he got it, he figured he might as well learn how to play it.

Well, he got pretty good at it. He played it in bands in high school. He played it in more bands in college. After graduation, he couldn't find much in his chosen field, but he was making money in the bands, so he kept playing.

And then one Christmas Eve, when the boy was a middle-aged man, he sat up in bed in a cold sweat. "Oh my God," he said, "I'm a trombone player."

I'm good at my job. Very good. I'm the 'go-to guy' for difficult projects. I'm always being complimented and lauded for my creativity and problem-solving. I get requested on projects more than all of the rest of my colleagues combined. I'm often asked to help others when they're having problems, and in fact, I've taught aspects of my job at the local community college.

Which is pretty amazing, since I don't know what I'm doing.

That's not really true. But it's how I feel. I've never had any real training on my job. Because it's not what I want to do.

The problem is, I'm not sure what I want to do.

Oh, my God. I'm a trombone player.

So now, in my middle age, as the sole provider for my two children, I'm tasked with finding out how best to use my skills.

I guess the first thing to do is figure out what they are.

  • I'm funny. Both in print and in person
  • I have a way with words
  • I have no problem talking to large groups
  • I can improvise
  • I've got good visual sense
  • I can grasp concepts quickly, and offer reasonably intelligent insights
  • I'm a quick learner
  • I know my way around cameras and editing equipment
What else? What more do any of you think I have to offer? And what do you think would be a good career for someone with these skills?

One of the things I'm not very good at is asking for help. I'm working on that.

Help, please. I'm tired of playing trombone.*


*no offense to the truly talented players who want to be in the back row.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Holding Sway

Got This in my in box today:

I just found your Who's The Boss?-related blog entry: and I think you may be of some help to me. I'm reaching out to you on behalf of M80 & Anchor Bay Entertainment regarding Three's Company: Season 8 on DVD, the final season on television. Since you blogged about Who's The Boss?, I thought that you might be interested in posting the press release or a review of the DVD on your blog? You seem like a reputable influencer, so I think you'd be a big help to us. For your help orreview, I would be happy to send you a copy of Three's Company: Season 8 on DVD.
Please let me know if you're interested!
Jorge, M80 /

Wow. A little TonyDanza goes a long way.

I considered altering the website and email address, but I figure an unsolicited promotional email such as this doesn't need to be shielded. If any of you out there want in on this booty, go ahead.

And since they want my review, I'll give it to them for free: I think Three's Company is like lemon soup: Even if you like it, you only want a little bit at any one time.

You gotta give them credit, though. It is an interesting new development in marketing. And it shows the growing power of the blogosphere. When someone goes to the effort to try to exploit something, it's a good indicator of two things: The endeavor is successful, and the endeavor's Golden Age is just about over.

For those of you who haven't heard my definition of the phrase 'Golden Age,' it is this: The time between the mastery of the medium by its users, and the replacement of those users by those who wish only to exploit the medium for its maximum financial gain.

In other words: between when folks really figure out how to use something, and when the money folks take it over. It's otherwise known as "Nothing Fails Like Success."

So, for example, television's Golden Age began when people like Sid Ceasar, Ernie Kovacs, Paddy Chayefsky and Rod Serling began doing truly interesting work, and ended about when Ceasar was forced out because he did too many 'highbrow' jokes.

As far as I know, no one else has defined the modern 'Golden Age' like this. It's these sorts of insights that have made me a 'reputable influencer.'

It really is kind of cool that I can just mention something on my blog, and someone, somewhere, wants to send me things just because I talked about it. On the other hand, it was just this one time, and it certainly isn't going to change the way I write, just because someone might send me something I mention.

So, what else is going on in my life?

Well, there was something funny that happened just yesterday:

I was taking some of my gold bullion for a drive in my BMW 760 Li. We were going over to Jennifer Aniston's house, when I saw my old friend Inground Swimming Pool.

"Hey, Inground!" I called out to him, "When are you going to send me those season tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers that you promised me?"

Inground put down his snifter of Talisker Skye 25-year old single malt whiskey and shouted back: "Right after you finish working on that new Steven Speilberg movie!"

That ol' Inground's so funny. Good times.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Questions, Questions...

Terry had these up on her blog. I liked them. I took them. Is that wrong?

1)What's your opinion on sex without emotional commitment?

So many women want me for my body…who am I to deny them?

Okay you can stop laughing now. It wasn’t that funny.

I’ve never been a casual sex person. Have I fantasized about it? Not since my teens, probably. I’m much more into sex as a physical expression of love, rather than a standalone experience. However, it doesn’t offend me when others wish to engage in it. It just doesn’t really interest me.

2) Do you bite your toenails?
Why would I want to?

3) Are you a jealous person?
Sometimes. But I never act upon my jealousy. I just wait for it to leave.

4) What are you allergic to?
Insects and idiocy—especially of the right-wing sort.

5) What books, if any, have made you cry?
None that I can think of off the top of my head.

6) Does it get annoying when somebody says they'll call you, but doesn't?
Depends on what the call is about. If it’s something that will impact how I spend my time and I can’t move forward without the information, yeah, I’ll get slightly peeved.

7) What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. Mmmmmmm…..

8) If someone you had no interest in dating expressed interest what would you say to them?
Expressed interest in what? Rock climbing? Herpetology? Philately?* I don’t know. It’s never happened. I’d probably go out with them just to see if there’s something there that I was missing. If there wasn’t I’d probably say thanks but no thanks.

9) What would you rather be doing right now?
Writing a killer script for a client. But it’s not coming right now…

10) What song lyrics, if any, are stuck in your head at the moment, if any?
I drink good coffee in the morning
Comes from a place that’s far away.

And when it’s done I feel like talking

Without you here there is less to say.

I don’t want you thinking I’m unhappy

But what is closer to the truth

Is if I live ‘til I was one hundred and two
I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.

I’m no longer moved to drink strong whiskey
I shook the hand of time and I knew

That if I lived ‘til I could no longer climb my stairs

I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.

Your face dances and it haunts me

Laughter still ringing in my ears
I still find pieces of your presence here

Even, even after all these years.

Don’t want you thinking I don’t get asked to dinner

‘Cause I’m here to say that I sometimes do.

Even though I may soon feel the touch of love

I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.

And even if I live ‘til I was a hundred and two

I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.

11) What did you dress up as for your first Halloween?
The first one I remember I was Top Cat.

12)What's your favorite TV show, now or in the past?
Taxi. Judd Hirsh. Danny DeVito. Andy Kauffman. Christopher Lloyd. And yes…Tony Danza. What’s not to love? My favorite episode is the one where the cabbies get Reverend Jim a job as a driver. They take him to the DMV for his test:

Jim (reading the form he’s filling out)
: Eyes…

Elaine: No, don’t put two!

Oh. They mean color, don’t they?

And when he’s taking the written part of the test:

Jim (loud whisper): Pssssttt... what does the yellow light mean?

Bobby: "Slow down."

Okay. What... does... the... yellow... light... mean?

"Slow down"!

Okay! Whaaaat... dooooeeees... theeeee... yeeeel-looowwww... (checks the test again) liiiiight... meeeeaaan?

13) Do you get along better with the same or opposite sex?
Same, I guess.

14) Can others make you cry easily?
No. And neither can I.

15) Who was the last person to piss you off?
Sunday afternoon, I was driving down one of the busier streets. Some schmuck on a mobile phone comes up from a side street (with a stop sign) and pulls out almost completely into the intersection before looking to see if there was anyone coming. Yeah. Me. I swerve around him and continue on. I don’t honk or cuss him out, just avoid him and continue. At the next stop light, he pulls up on my right, puts down his phone long enough to shout “You’re a lousy driver!” and then zooms off around the corner. Asshole.

16) Are you picky about spelling and grammar?
Yes. Very much so.

17) Do you pay attention to calories on the back of packages?
No, not really. I just try to eat sensibly-sized portions.

18) If you could be any type of fruit what would you be?
A tomato. Most people have me pegged as one thing, when I’m actually something else.

19) Were you a "planned" child?
My conception: probably not. My life, however, was. Unfortunately, I was not consulted in the planning. It’s been a rough fit.

20) How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I have my black sneakers (Which go so well with my white crew socks) and a pair of waterproof hiking boots. I might have a pair of dress shoes in a box somewhere.

21) How many hours of sleep do you need to function?

I get six. I want eight.

22) What is your favorite alcoholic drink?
Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale.

23) When was the last time you saw a rainbow?
Mid August, driving across the state from my brother’s house. The last time I saw a double rainbow was July 4th, 2005.

24) Have you ever been attracted to someone physically unattractive?
Terry (from whom I took this here questionnaire) wrote: If I was attracted to them, then they weren't unattractive, now were they? At least, not to me. So how can I possibly answer this stupid question?
I can’t say it any better.

25) Would you ever date someone covered in tattoos?
If she’s head-to-toe ink, probably not. But then again, someone like that would most likely be uninterested in me, so it doesn’t matter.

26) Do you believe that the guy should pay on the first date?
I believe that the first date should be paid for by whomever does the asking.

27) Are you currently wanting any piercings or tattoos?


28) Which do you make: wishes or plans?
The short answer here would be plans. The long answer is a post unto itself, so I’ll save that ‘til later.

29) Can you speak any languages other than English?
I can now say ‘I am going downstairs’ in eight different languages, including Svenska (thanks Åsa!). Nine if you count English. In Spanish, I can also say “Mi fonografia es quebrada” (My record player is broken), “¡Que lasima! ¡Este es dos chicas en la cosina!” (What a pity! There are two women in the kitchen!), and “Me llamo Hootie, y estes son mi Blowfish” (My name is Hootie, and these are my Blowfish).

30) What is your favorite salad dressing?

Bleu Cheese.

31) Have you ever fooled around with someone and not remembered?


32) Have you ever dated one of your best friends?

My best friends are Phil and Rick. No.

33) Has anyone told you a secret this week?

No. Don't tell anyone about that, OK?

34) When was the last time someone hit on you?

I don’t know if I’ve ever been ‘hit on’

35) Have you ever given up using or doing something to benefit your health?

I gave up cigarettes June 1, 2005. (The original question was ‘Did you notice there was no question #11?’ There were also two other numbers missing in the questionnaire. I thought this was a really silly question, so I changed it. Deal.)

*...which will get you nowhere.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Cats and Dogs

I've been lying to myself.

Well, maybe not lying. Deluding, certainly.

If someone had asked me: 'Which are you, a cat person or a dog person?' I would have chosen dog.

I'm a dog person. Of course I am. When I was a kid, the highlight of my weekend was watching 'Lassie' on Sundays. One of my first picture books was, and I'm not making this up, the AKC dog breeders' guide. I could tell the cockers from the springers, the corgis from the shelties. I'm telling you, I really had my shih tzu together.

The only reason we didn't actually have a dog was because my brother was allergic.

It didn't matter allergic to what, he was allergic. To everything. Especially fur. In all its variations. Real fur, fake fur, fir trees, furniture polish...if it had the phoneme 'fur' in it, he was allergic.

So it was a big surprise to me last night when I realized that over the course of my life, I've only had two dogs, and I only had them for a little over two years combined.

On the other hand,I have had six cats, and I've had them for the last twenty-seven years.

It started out with two: Sam and Scarface. They were littermates, Sam was a big orange Tom, and Scarface was a female tortoiseshell, who had a white stripe running diagonally across her snout--hence the name. I got them when I was a senior in high school. I convinced my mother they would be the best way to control the chipmunks who were living large on our property, and beginning to make bold forays into our garage and house.

My mother, who said she didn't want them, said the following: "They can't come in the house. I'll put a box in the garage for them, and that will be it. Okay, they can come in the house, but just the family room and the basement, that's it. And the kitchen. They can be in the living room, but not the dining room. Okay, they can be anyplace downstairs, but not on the furniture. Except the couch in the family room. Or the recliner. I'll put a sheet on the good furniture, but they're not allowed upstairs. Unless I'm upstairs with them. But not on the beds. Except my bed."

It took a little longer than that, but not much. In the end, when I went to get an apartment, I couldn't take them with me. Not only that, but it turned out that I had new relatives. My mother never told me to feed the cats. She'd look at Sam or Scarf (her abbreviation of what I now freely admit was possibly the Worst Cat Name Ever), and say 'Tell your brother to feed you.'

At least she didn't make me include them in my wedding.

They were pretty amazing cats, though. One time I saw them work a dog off our property. We had about a half-acre lot, with lots of trees. A lab-shepard mutt came sniffing through one afternoon, and Sam, who was quite large for a cat, came running up to it, hissing, his fur puffed out, making him even larger. The dog stood there nose-to-nose with him, growling. Out of nowhere, Scarf streaked by, swiped the dog in the ass, and ran up a tree. The dog turned and chased Scarf to the tree. Sam chased the dog and started hissing again. The dog turned around to face him, and Scarf climbed down from the tree, swipes his ass again and runs up the next tree, and the process repeated itself, until the dog gave up and ran away.

My cats now don't do yardwork, although Wendy, who's a tortoiseshell cat just like Scarf, is one hell of a mouser. This house had been vacant for two years when we moved into it. It had a few mice. For about ten minutes. Even at seventeen, she's ruthless. And when they're gone, she acts like they were never even here. All she cares about is being brushed. Being brushed is the thing she loves more than anything in the world. It's also the thing she hates more than anything in the world. And you never know which way it will go.

And Popper (who was named by my second son in honor of his favorite book, so don't blame me) is a very rare breed, indeed: the American chrono-cat. He has the uncanny ability to wake me up to feed him exactly one-half hour before my alarm is to go off--regardless of what time I've set.

Listen to me--prattling on about my cats. After all, I'm a dog person. I only had cats because I don't have room for dogs.

So why six of them? Why the multiples of cats? Portia, and Abby, and Wendy and Popper?

And why tortoishell cats? I have never, in twenty-seven years not had at least one tortoiseshell cat (actually, I called them brindle for the longest time, until I was told that, no, brindle is what you call a dog. Cats are tortoiseshell).

Who knows? I guess it's because I'm a cat person.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I was seconds away from an accident this weekend.

Not mine, someone else's. One of the main highways in our town is under construction. A new bridge is half-built, and there's a fairly sharp curve in the road where two lanes of traffic get squeezed together and are moved over two lanes in a rather short space. The posted speed limit's 40. Most folks take it considerably faster than that.

Including me.

Late Saturday afternoon, I'm in the van with my kids, STBEW, and the guy who I thought was my ex-wife's ex-boyfriend but apparently is once again her current boyfriend,* ** and a trunkfull of frozen foods. As I came up to the construction area, there were three cars in front of me. Two were stopping. One was on its roof, spinning slowly.

The first responders were there within minutes. There was only the driver in the car, and although they put him on the backboard and took him off to the Emergency Department, I'm guessing he's pretty much ok. He had his seatbelt on, and climbed out of his car unaided before anyone could get to him.

While we were waiting for the police/fire/ambulance folks, we got the guy to sit down off to the side and wait. He told us what happened.

"I blew out a tire earlier today," he said. The 'thirty miler,' the undersized spare tire cars carry, was on the left rear wheel. "There was a wasp in the car. It landed on my arm." He waved his hands in despair. "I only looked down for a second..."

Yup. That's all it takes. His car wasn't handling well because of the small tire. He was probably going a bit too fast, and he looked down for just a second. We could see where his car struck the concrete barrier on the right side of the lanes, caromed off the barrier on the left, and flipped him up and over.

We heard a fire fighter on his radio: "A run-of-the-mill rollover."

Not to this guy it wasn't. To him, his life sucked ass just then. What a horrible Saturday he must have thought he was having. Blew a tire, then flipped a car, a trip to the ED, probably at least a speeding ticket, car repairs, insurance hassles, all of that was on his plate.

I sat there looking at what happened, and at the river just a few hundred feet away (and about fifty feet down), at the two lanes of traffic coming the other way, the growing lines of traffic behind us, and thought 'this is the luckiest man on the face of the earth.'

But because he was distracted, just for that one second, things got out of hand, and now he's got a lot of unpleasant stuff to deal with.

And that's all it takes. Just a momentary lapse.

Sometimes we get away with it. Most times we do. I once rode with a woman who drove eighty miles an hour while negotiating a deal for her honeymoon on her mobile phone, who reached into the back seat to grab her notebook and started taking notes. While driving. At 80 mph. On a surface road. She got away with it.

We get away with a lot. And that's not always a good thing. Sometimes it takes a rollover to get you back to reality.

I'm not just talking about driving here. I had a rollover of my own this week with my kids. Specifically, my 10-year-old son.

I grew up with a temper. A fierce one. Ever heard the expression 'seeing red' do describe anger? That was me. I can get so angry that I do see red.

It is the worst, worst, worst feeling in my life.

I have, through a lot of hard work, gotten myself to a place where I don't act out on the anger I sometimes feel. I'm able to get angry, but not act inappropriately. In other words, I've been able to not see red, express my anger without yelling or getting physical, and move forward with my life.

It's getting easier to do this, but it's still not easy. It takes awareness on my part.

Thursday morning, my son was moving a bit ahead of schedule, and my daughter (who's 8) was running a bit behind, for reasons beyond her control. I asked my son to help by packing his sister's lunch for her. He responded by getting her lunch bag out of her backpack, and dropping it into her cereal bowl.

Boom. Red. My son has a blind spot the exact size and shape of his sister. He criticizes her constantly, and casually makes her life hard in so many ways. This is his biggest failing, and he's lost a lot of privileges because of this behavior. I usually deal with it appropriately, but not this time. I screamed. He cried.

Good morning.

So what do I do? What can I do? I get myself under control. I talk to him. I tell him that what he did was wrong, but it in no way changes the fact that what I did was wrong, too.

And I resume my life.

The episode was bad, but it turns out it was just the flat tire.

Because on Saturday morning...

He didn't want to do chores. He made it clear. He knew exactly which buttons to push with me, and he did it perfectly. I saw red. I yelled.

I spanked.

I laid my hands on my son. I struck him. I was furious. I screamed some more. I sent him to his room, yelling at him all the way.

Right past my daughter, standing, paralyzed with fear, in the kitchen.

The worst, worst, worst feeling in my life.

It was my rollover.

And that's what I was thinking as I watched the firefighters at their jobs.

I screwed up. I screwed up bigtime. I've made my job as a parent that much harder. But it's not the end of the world. There's some damage. I need to repair it. And I will, in time. AndI'll learn from this, and slow down, and pay attention. To them, their needs, and to myself.

I had a rollover this weekend.

I'm the luckiest guy in the world.


*I was just about to go to the grocery store when I get a call from the store. STBEW was there shopping, and wanted to know if I could give her a ride home. I said sure. When I show up, she's with her current previous ex.
**I don't like him. Not because he's dating my ex-wife, and not because he views me as competition. I'm not. I don't like him because he's the sort of guy who won't admit that he views me as competition, even though he clearly does. As long as it doesn't adversely affect my kids in some tangible way, I really don't care what--or who--my ex does.

PS: It's Talk like a Pirate day. Go ahead--you know you want to.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Great Ones*

This post is not aboout baseball. Okay, not entirely about baseball. Even if you're not a sports fan, please read.

I believe I have mentioned that one of the heroes of my childhood was Roberto Clemente, the right fielder for my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates. My ex-sister-in-law gave me his biography for a birthday present this past summer, which gave me a book to read during jury duty.

Reading the book made me marvel again at the way the man played baseball. It's difficult to realize how special a player he was. There were so many impressive things about him:
  • The way he held his bat: straight up, hands close to his chest, the tip of that big piece of lumber so still that my dad said you could put a glass of water up there and it wouldn't move until he swung the bat. "Then he'll be halfway to first base before it hits the ground," he'd say.
  • The way he ran. "Like he was chased by demons," was the way one sportswriter put it. And it really did look that way. For all his grace in so many other areas, when he was rounding the bases, he literally looked like he was about to run out of his own skin. And he was fast. Only 26 players in the history of Major League Baseball hit more triples than him.
  • The way he stopped. In baseball, if you overrun second or third base, you can be tagged 'out,' but you can run past first base without penalty.** Most runners, especially if they're trying to beat out an infield single, will run the ninety feet so fast that they need an additional ninety to slow down. Not Clemente. He could go from full speed to a dead stop in two steps. Try that sometime. Afterwards, crawl back to pick up your ankles.
  • The way he fielded. His speed gave him incredible range in right field. His glove really was the place where doubles went to die*** And his arm was legendary. He could--and did--regularly throw out runners at home from deep right field. On the fly. We're talking about throws of 360 feet (112 metres).
  • His consistency. In September of 1972, Major League Baseball had been around for more than a century. In that time, only ten players had ever gotten three thousand hits in their career. He was the eleventh. I saw the game on TV--we had cable (even back then), and WOR carried the Mets games. On the second pitch of his second at-bat against Jon Matlak, he smoked a fastball into the right-center gap for a double. It was the final regular-season hit of his career.
  • His humanitarianism. Roberto Clemente worked tirelessly to help others. In late December of 1972, a huge earthquake destroyed much of Nicaragua. Clemente immediately began a drive to collect food, clothing, medicine, and whatever else was needed to aid the victims of the temblor. When word got back to him that most of the aid from him, as well as other agencies, was being held up by the Somozan government, he decided to fly there from his home in Puerto Rico to see what he could do. His chartered aircraft crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff on December 31, 1972.
This post is not about baseball. It's about women.


Yup. Specifically it's about women and their place in the board room.

Late last week, Åsa, a thirty-something female Chief Financial Officer of a Stockholm-based multinational corporation, wrote in her blog about an incident that made her angry and uncomfortable in her own board room. These feelings were brought on by a relatively insensitive line of conversation taken by the rest of the people in the room--all men.

What's this have to do with Roberto Clemente?

Reading his biography also opened my eyes to some things about Clemente that I was not aware of. He started his Major League career in 1955. This was eight years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. Baseball was integrated on the field, but there were still issues. There was little of the open hostility that greeted Robinson, Larry Doby, Curt Roberts (first black Pirates player) and others. But there were still race-related issues. In Florida, during spring training, the team hotels would not accept the teams black players. So, while the whites were lying by the pool and sleeping in air-conditioned rooms, the black players were taken in by the families of the groundskeepers and their neighbors, sometimes sleeping in shacks. This went on for the Pirates until sometime in the mid-1960's, nearly a decade into Clemente's career.

In addition to being black, he was from Puerto Rico, and spoke English with a thick accent. The writers of the day saw nothing wrong with writing his quotes to accentuate it. If he talked about slugger Bob Skinner, it was written thusly: We have the best heeter in the clutch, none better than Bob Skeener. I tell him they bring in southpaw lefty, and that they lefty mean him trouble. Skeener merely wave hand, then step in and hit line drive for extra bases.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's accent is just as thick as Clemente's was, but here's how his quotes are written: "Look at the year last year, when Podsednik was leading off, what kind of job he was doing," Guillen said of Podsednik, who hit .290 with 59 steals in '05. "Now he's not doing his job."

My point is this: women like Åsa are in the same position today in the boardroom that players like Clemente were in baseball in the 1960's. Even though the barriers are being broken, and it has been well established that competence or incompetence knows no sexual boundaries, they still have to put up with a lot of shit.

It's not fair, it's not right, but it is so.

For now.

In time things change. They have to. Talent will reveal itself, and the smartest organizations will adapt--partly without notice--to the people inside it.

Roberto Clemente was a proud man, yet he ws forced to endure many indignities, merely for the color of his skin and the tone of his voice. And whenever he would complain (and he did--a lot), he would be branded as a 'Crazy Puerto Rican,' and dismissed. But he did put up with it, and dealt with it with quiet dignity and an iron will to succeed. It's been said before, but he truly needed to be better than everyone else just to be treated as an equal.

For a while, at least.

Almost one year to the day before Clemente's three thousandth hit, there was another milestone. In a game against the Philadelphia Phillies, here was the Pirate's lineup:
  • Al Oliver, 1b
  • Rennie Stennett, 2b
  • Jackie Hernandez, ss
  • Dave Cash, 3b
  • Roberto Clemente, rf
  • Gene Clines, cf
  • Willie Stargell, rf
  • Manny Sanguillen, c
  • Dock Ellis, p
Nearly twenty-four seasons**** from when Jackie Robinson first took the field for the Dodgers, Major League Baseball had its first all-black/hispanic lineup.

And no one noticed.**** And they shouldn't have.

That year, the Pirates won the World Series.

Things change. Sometimes for the better.

Shit happens, and then it doesn't.


*I tried to get the stupid YouTube video to play in my stupid blog, but my stupid computer wouldn't let it. Stupid stupid. So, since it didn't work, I entreat you to view the video by clicking the link.
**This is for my readers from other, less baseball-savvy parts of the world. You know who you are.
***I know, I know. That was originally written about Pie Traynor, but I never saw him play, OK?
****Does that sound like a long time? Consider this: the Mets' Julio Franco is completing his twenty-third season this year. Yes, his is an exceptionally long career, but still--when you hit your forties, a quarter-century doesn't seem as long a time as it once did.
*****Well, some people noticed. I noticed. I was nuts about that team. They also played the first night game in World Series history that year. So not everything was good.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How Was Your Weekend?

Mine was pretty good, thanks.

I only had one evening of freelance work. That was Saturday night. There was something brewing for Friday night, but it never materialized. Actually, it did. On Friday afternoon. After I had called to find out what the deal was on Wednesday, and then again on Thursday, telling them that I had to know to arrange a sitter for my kids. Thursday afternoon I was told the Friday gig wasn't happening.

Friday afternoon it was back on, and could I please work that night?

Sorry. I had plans with my kids.

Except for the Saturday evening gig, I spent the whole weekend with them. We went out to dinner Friday night. I'll say this about my kids, they aren't picky eaters. They love to explore a new restaurant as much as they love to explore a new forest. We went here:
It's a little Japanese restaurant just around the corner from us. Unlike most of the Japanese restaurants in the area, it doesn't try to be a 'traditional' Japanese restaurant. Its the restaurant that most of the Japanese population of our town go to when they want to eat Japanese food.

Our appetizers were cheese tempura and sushi; My daughter had chicken teryaki, i had beef negimaki, and my son had a bowl of ramen with a piece of unagi, with bottles of ramune all around.

My kids love to eat out. So much so that I had to get some sort of control over the situation. So, I promised them we would go out to eat once a month, as long as certain requirements were met, such as keeping up with homework, helping out around the house, and a certain level of table manners had to be maintained.*

We sat down and wrote down every restaurant they wanted to visit, which turned into a list of twenty-seven places. We managed to whittle it down to 12. I wrote their names on slips of paper, and then wrote the months of the year on 12 more papers. One kid picked the restaurants, the other picked the months. Next month, we're eating mediterranean.

I was pretty impressed with the dining choices we came up with. Four of the restaurants serve what could be termed 'American' fare, with only two national chains (this and this), four are oriental food (including a Japanese steak house, a noodle restaurant, and a sushi bar), two Mexican or Tex-Mex, one Mediterranean, and one Indian. And half of them are within walking distance.

We did a lot of walking this weekend, too. We went up to the reservoir and walked around it. I like to take the kids up there every week in autumn. It's the second-highest point in the city, and there's one spot where we can look over all the trees of the city right into downtown. We notice the colors of the leaves on the trees. Right now, they're what my son calls 'old' green; they're about to turn, but it's still summer. We also walked through an area called Washington Grove. It's just a bit of wild northeastern forest, completely undeveloped, with whatever footpaths fellow travelers put there. It's so neat having this little spot of wilderness in the middle of the city. I knew that if we walked more than a quarter-mile in any one direction we'd hit civilization; but it was fun to pretend.

Washington Grove opens up into this beatiful meadow, where we played frisbee, climbed trees, and laid on our backs and watched clouds. This was how we spent most of the weekend. The only intrusion of civilization in the meadow was two small piles of gravel and dirt that had been dumped in one corner of the grove. From the amount of weeds that had gown up on them, they had been there for at least two years.

It was amazing watching how much fun and adventure two young minds could wring out of those piles of dirt. They were mountain goats, exploring the high country. They were Robin Hood and Little John, dueling with staves. They were rock stars, performing in an outdoor amphitheater.

And I was their audience. The best shows ever.

Tonight, after dinner and showers, we sat down and watched All of Me, and ate ice cream, before it was bedtime.

Not a bad moment this weekend. Hope yours went well too.


*actually, it's going to increase from month to month. I'm hoping by this time next year to have children who will be able to tell there sherbert spoons from their oyster forks.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Corps Values

I spent the weekend watching halftime shows.

Fourteen-plus hours of halftime shows. OK, so it wasn't halftime shows. But it was Drum Corps. Close enough to halftime shows that they both share the same fields. I was hired to work an international Drum Corps competition, held here in Smugtown. It was supposed to be a big feather in the cap (or, perhaps more appropriately, the shako) of our new stadium. A way to show how versatile it really is. A chance to show off the big high-def screen, and prove that we can cover anything. My job was just to roll tape and burn DVD's. A real cushy job.

Yeah, right.

I spent most of the weekend running around fixing problems. I'm not an engineer, but I've been around video and multi-camera productions enough that I've learned quite a few tricks.

They're all quick and dirty, and they usually make maintenance engineers cringe, but a maintenance engineer would fix a camera's backfocus problem by taking it into the shop and setting it up to a registration chart. They certainly would never attempt to do such a thing while standing on a ledge thirty feet in the air while the camera's attatched to a jib arm.* In a storm.

I did.


Needless to say, I didn't actually watch much Drum and Bugle Competition this weekend. But I did spend a lot of time running around the stadium. So, what I missed in pageantry was made up by watching the watchers: The hard-core Drum and Bugle corps fans. And I came to the following conclusion:

Drum Corps fans are conservative Deadheads.

I'm serious. The stadium was packed, completely sold out, and I'd guess that the vast majority of the people in the stadium were from out of town. From St. Catherines, Ontario, to San Diego, California, from Houston, Texas, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, and everywhere in between they came, following the bands. Instead of tie dye and 'Steal your face' they wore satin jackets emblazoned with the logos of their favorite Corps. And there were drugs. Beer and cigarettes replaced dope and...well, more dope.** And they had the same respect for the law. The stadium--in fact the entire county--has very strict anti-smoking laws. Not that you'd know it this weekend. And there were side industries that traveled along with the competition. Photographers, vendors, instrument repairmen--hell, even the folks that hired me.***

You get the idea.

And then it occurred to me that, really, there was very little difference between these Drum Corps fans and fans of just about any other event.

Take football, for instance. There's thousands of fans who will travel to see their teams all over the country. They wear their team colors, they know the players, and they have arcane knowledge of the minutiae of the game so much that they will cheer wildly over things that someone who's not as committed would never understand.

I know that feeling. At the end of the competition, the winning Corps got to do an encore (encorp?), and I sat in the stands and watched. It was beautiful. They marched in intricate patterns, while simultaneously playing some challenging music near-flawlessly. At the same time, dancers, flag- rifle- and saber-twirlers snaked around them, moving to the music. Down at the sideline (the pit), a phalanx of percussionists ran around playing xylophones, marimbas, bells and cymbals, all coordinated by a drum-major and two captains, who kept time and directed traffic.

It was incredible, and incredibly difficult. I was, for a very brief time, a lead soprano bugler in a drum corps. I left because of the commitment, both financial and time, and also because I thought I could get more chicks playing in a fusion (jazz-funk-rock) band****

So, I knew a little bit about what was going on. But not enough. It was evident to all the people in the stands when something extraordinary happened. To me, it was just one really neat thing after another. I tried asking a person next to me what had just happened.

She looked at me like I was from another planet. She said something that sounded like "A syncopated ten-by-four reverse cross," but I wasn't sure. I knew that if I asked her to explain it, I'd be there all evening.

I considered telling her about setting a backfocus on a camera on a thirty-foot jib, but I realized we didn't speak the same language.

*Actually, it was thirty feet above the jib-arm base, which itself was on the second landing of the stadium, about forty feet above the ground.
**There was pot there, too. But mostly it stayed in the trumpet section. That, at least has never changed. The horn section always has the best dope. Stay in school, kids!
***The guy had a bunch of DVD burners and duplicators set up. He directed a multi cam production and burned it directly to DVD's, which were then put into duplicators, and burned onto pre-labeled DVD's. The bands could get multiple broadcast-quality copies of their performances 45 minutes after they were off the field.
****I was wrong.