Saturday, May 30, 2009


We're going to get smarter.

I'll be back next week, with things to say about Christians and Muslims and Jews and modernity and friends and Ithaca and college and life without a car.

And, about weather and flora and travel and friends.

Til then......

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Nice Thing Happened Today

I just spoke to a wonderful young man. Wes is his name, and dispute resolution's his game. Say what you will about Kobe or LeBron, Wes is the best player at his position in America today.

If you've been following the saga of my computer from hell, you know that I wasn't asking for much. All I wanted was a device which would recognize the peripherals and not annoy me. A machine which promised reliability in the simplest of operations : turning on and off. A machine which didn't thwart my every attempt to cut-and-paste in a document (in fairness, this may have been a Vista issue) and which would allow me to download the driver for my printer from the manufacturer's website and to install that driver efficiently. Without 3 different downloads, each resulting in a different error message/help window. Without random demands to save a document I only wanted to print and then not letting me save it once I'd given up and decided to go along to get along with the damn thing.

This week, after a round of confusing emails, a gentle and intelligent technician visited the patient and replaced its guts. Kind of like buying a Ferrari and then, 7 weeks later, putting in a replacement engine. Even if it is another Ferrari engine, it's not the same. I didn't want to do it, but by the time they were able to diagnose the problem as the motherboard and not as a third-party-software-compatibility-issue my window of opportunity to return the thing had slammed shut.

Yes. All the time I spent believing their drivel didn't make me a good customer at all - it made me a schmuck. And I cried. Again. Over my birthday present.

OK, so stop whining and moaning and put the computer's not working and I hate it I hate it I hate it vibe back into its corner and do something, said I. I had disputed the charge when the first machine wouldn't turn on and that dispute was due to run out yesterday. Yesterday I thought I had a machine that worked. Today, I found out the truth and, rather than try the manufacturer once again, I called the credit card company and found Wes.

Actually, first I had to listen carefully to the prompts. They weren't too slow or too stupid as these things go and with little ado and hardly any waiting Wes's soothing voice said hello.

He asked questions and gave me answers and listened. Really and truly listened to every sad and sorry side of the tale. He made sure he understood what had happened, and didn't mind when I helped him to see it my way. He didn't think I was rambling, he was encouraging me to tell him what happened. He started out by telling me that I was hosed, but he said it in such a nice way that I felt totally comfortable when I began to explain to him why he was wrong and I was right. And he listened. Asked some more questions and thought a bit as (with a dramatic but heartfelt sigh) I said "I'm not asking for that much, am I?"

"No, you're really not."

Even if he had stopped right there, and left me to fend for myself in small claims court (hey, I've got nothing but time and I know I'm right!), I'd have been ok. He heard me, he agreed with me, but I was hosed. But he went on.

He understood my position and he would take over now. I didn't have to do anything. He would see if the company would talk to him. We agreed that all I want to do is return the thing and pretend it never happened. And he's going to deal with it. No forms for me to fill out. No calls to make. No statements to write. He'd been composing as I'd been speaking and he was going to take care of it.

Just like that, I was smiling.

I'd planned to switch to another credit card with different benefits, but after spending a while with Wes I'm staying put. He's made me a customer for life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Explaining Twitter to TBG today over lunch, I began to think about popularity. He'd asked me how people knew about your tweets. "Depends on how popular you are, I guess." But then I wondered, if you tweet and no one cares are you really anyplace at all?

Living in the fast lane, being off the grid, achieving your 15 minutes of fame -- these I understand. Assessing your social status based on the number of Facebook friends you've acquired is a little more difficult for me.

Some of it is generational, I know. In my age cohort it is still acceptable to eschew social networking sites. I think I am friends with everyone in my address book who's also on Facebook, but that is nowhere near the totality of people with whom I am in contact. I wish they all used it (the birthday reminders are especially lovely!) but they don't and I understand why. The idea that everyone else would care that you'd finished exams or gone to the dentist or (my favorite) were bored is an absurd construction to those of us who managed to grow to adulthood without pagers and cell-phones and RFID chips. It was possible to be truly alone, really out of contact, and somehow we survived.

Life can be lived without announcing it. And it probably should be, if only to avoid inadvertant humiliation.

Opening oneself up to the wonders of social networking merely increases the possibility for embarrassment. Everyone over a certain age has been on the receiving end of this admonition: "Don't do anything you wouldn't want printed on the front page of the NYTimes." Enough has been written about where that idea has gone - from the demise of print media to the rise of paparrazzi and the media whores who encourage them (Deanna from The Bachelor, for example) - that further explication is unnecessary. No need to repeat that drunken pictures and foul language may come back to haunt you, no matter how closely you monitor access to them. But it's worth noting that a lot has changed since G'ma's day when a lady appeared in the newspaper exactly 3 times - at her birth, her marriage, and her death. Notoriety, it seems, has never been as prized as it is today.

How can you achieve notoriety in an age where Newsweek has to justify its continued existence by having a personality transplant because waiting a week for information is sooo 20th Century and where the Evening News starts with "As you may have heard by now......." ? Cell phone pictures from Virginia Tech and the haunting 9/11 images from the Twin Towers are irrevocably connected to the experiences they document, and they were taken and shared immediately. "Be there or Be square" has never had more relevance. What better way to insure that there is a there there than by creating it yourself? Then share it with your 300 or so closest friends with the click of a pinkie and, presto! it's viral! you're popular!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Living Close to Fauna

There is a lot of wildlife where I live.

The quail eggs have hatched and the babies are little puffballs waddling across the road with mom in the front and dad in the middle of the street watching for traffic. Seriously - he looks both ways and squawks at the last one to hurry up and waits until they are all on the other side of the road before he flies - low to the ground, it's more skipping than actual flight - over to join them on the sand. I've seen at least 2 families - one has 6 or 7 chicks and the other parents are just tending to 2 - in our front yard today. There are other families along the street; one stopped traffic in 2 directions at the intersection this morning. Shades of Make Way for Ducklings.

A coyote just walked across the street. He's one of two who travel through our neighborhood. I've never had a nodding acquaintance with a wild animal before. It's very strange. The first few nights we slept here we were aggravated by the teenage boys hooting and hollering in the wash behind our house. We mentioned them to the neighbors, who laughed and pointed the finger at the true culprits - the coyotes. We can see them bonding and roughhousing and courting under the acacia tree at the far end of the arroyo; that's quite close enough, thank you.

The hummingbirds are perched with their noses in the lilies and the crape myrtles outside my window. They love the blossoms and the berries and the seed pods with equal fervor. I have a hummingbird feeder but when I found out that I needed to sterilize it between each filling it became art on a stick. It's not necessary, anyway. What I've planted seems to suit them just fine. The funnel shaped red flowers on the tall yucca (hesperaloe parviflora) stalks are providing a fine dining experience. The finches and other little birds come through on their migration between Canada and southern Mexico, too. Living in an avian flight path is an added bonus here in the Sonoran desert.

I think there's a nest of bees in my saguaro, but since it would be illegal to remove them from this (rightly) protected species, I'm pretending to ignore them.

The bunnies are adorable, except that they have eaten my hibiscus. It's my own fault; I should have put chicken wire around its tenderness. Desert plants are amazingly resilient once they are established. But until then, they need supervision and protection and nurturing on a daily basis. There's not a lot of room for error when you get 2.4 inches of rain in a good month, and when there are only 2 of those months a year. This year spring and 100 degree temperatures came much earlier than usual, and the plants and animals are feeling it. How can I really begrudge the bunnies a hibiscus treat? Most of the wildflowers have died an early death and the heat has slowed or denied growth on almost everything else they depend upon at this time of the year. And there was my purple hibiscus, like a glazed donut just sending "eat me" vibes to four-legged passersby. It's not a native plant, and I probably shouldn't have bought it. Still, I mourn its passing.

There are 3 types of ground squirrels native to our Sonoran Desert, and all three have an extensive presence in our yard. Playing tag requires avoiding their holes and the cactus blooms they've picked off and discarded at the openings. They're adorable and quick and they make a mess but they don't seem to bother the flora so I try not to worry about them. Watching one delicately munching on a lanata bush, holding the flowers in his front paws while he chooses the petals he likes the most and then moving on to the next blossom can hold me spellbound for an hour.

The banded lizards, the king snakes, the tarantulas - they've all surprised me. Up close and personal appearances of reptiles and arachnids tend to send me heading for the nearest doorway. I've only seen two rattlesnakes - one on a hike in the Chiracahua's and the other in the front yard. Actually, my limbic brain heard that one, and sent me running before I could form the thought "Rattles - Rattlesnake - Move Away." I found myself gasping in the garage before I realized I had taken flight.

Watching the sunset brings the circle of life to our backyard. First, the lizards and squirrels go back underground as the day cools down, having had their fill of the beetles (for just a couple of weeks) and crickets and ants. The few mosquitos in the area are now free to come out and feast on TBG, but the bats take care of them as soon as the sun's below the mesquite trees. Then the larger birds begin to swoop in and the sun sets and the coyotes howl with glee as they dine.

I love the desert.

Follow the links and listen to the noises.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why Do I Care?

Spent 3 hours of a beautiful holiday weekend setting myself up to be crushed. Wonderful. So glad to have invested the time and energy. Especially the energy.

Cornell Lacrosse was, improbably to some, in the finals of the NCAA Championship series. Playing Syracuse, their cross-lake rivals. The only place in NYState with worse weather than Ithaca.

I can't even type full sentences. I just have random bits of emotion floating from my fingers to the screen.

Cornell was leading until the last 4.5minutes of the game. Up a goal early, they capitalized on Syracuse's inability to play through the entire penalty period and scored 3 goals within 1 second of the end of 3 man-up possessions. Just as Herb Brooks admonished his Olympic Gold Medal team, Cornell played til the whistle blew. And they were rewarded for their efforts.

Up 3 goals with 5 minutes left to play. 3-0 when leading in the last 2 minutes of the game this season. And boom-boom-boom they fall apart, let Syracuse score, don't clear the ball, stand around watching and flub the perfectly played face-off to allow the final, winning goal.

Don't call it "Sudden Victory"....... it's truly "sudden Death".

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I used to march in the Memorial Day parade. I was dressed in my Brownie uniform, and then in my Girl Scout uniform - replete with those hated anklets. I wore them because they said you couldn't march without them and marching was too cool to pass up, but the shame............

All the school bands marched too, and Benjamin Road provided the materials and the labor to make the capes the high school kids wore. There must have been a military presence there, but I didn't pay enough attention to notice. I was marching and I knew that, all over America, other kids were being Americans and marching, too. It was great.

In Marin, the Memorial Day parade was always good for a controversy or two. Or three. Should the anti-war protesters walk alphabetically in the main march, or have their own march, or walk 50 yards behind the official march? I especially liked this discussion: should weaponry be allowed? That was fairly disingenuous even for Marin.

There were bands at this parade, too, and with Bobby Weir as the Grand Marshal you know the music was worth hearing, especially at the picnic in the park afterwards. Not exactly your typical VFW-sponsored event, but no one was complaining. It was Memorial Day; there had to be a parade.

I've got the flag G'ma bought us for a housewarming present, which replaced the one Dadooooo got us in Chicago. There are red and white roses in the big blue vase in the dining room. I wore the tie-dyed tank top the Cuters and I made early one July. Red/White/Blue -- it makes for great patterns. I've got the plastic flag on my bike handles - the same one I bought with the Cuters at the 5andDimeStore in New Buffalo in 1985. The neighbors have invited us over for a family bar-b-que and the sun is shining. Life is good.

And I am grateful to Kevin and Kyle and Amy and Cat and Sara, and to Courtney and her sister and the 41st Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron, and to Terry and Moose and Stroker and Uncles Chuck and Paul and Abby ...... and to all those who've served so that it can be so.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Old Friends

Today's Kevin's birthday. We've been friends for nearly 40 years. His parents were my "faux parents" at graduation. My favorite picture of that day is all of us sitting on and around his (very impressive) father's lap on the steps of the Mies van der Rohe building with the big glass windows and the broad concrete steps. We've lived through girlfriends from Minot and his exile to St. Louis and his absolute refusal to pay for parking (even in Chicago - in the winter - when the movie was about to start). I can't watch The Big Chill without remembering his mother's comment as our crowd left the theatre (of course she came - she was a part us, wasn't she?!) - "Why don't they just grow up?!?" And we laughed, because we knew, even if she didn't, that we were them and we weren't ready to be grown up. Not quite yet.

Board games and old movies at The Biograph and basketball on the hoop over the door between the kitchen and the living room gave way to Easter Egg hunts with blown eggs decorated with lace and hand paintings as we became parents, but the sense of ourselves as graduate students just on the cusp of life was always there.

There've been sorrows and tragedies and funerals along the way, too. After all, life goes on. But there has also been the constancy of a friendship forged on the edge of adulthood that has continued through middle age (when did that happen to us???) and into our dotage. I have no doubt about it.

I've moved around a lot in my life, but that old Girl Scout song still rings true : "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other -- GOLD".

"Squirrels..... 2 men... sitting on a bench..." with apologies to David Mamet, but this is how we remember it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Would You?

A question for my female readers over the age of 15:

Would you go back to being 12 again?

OK, you can stop screaming now. I am absolutely confident that the thought of living through that year or so makes you want to leave the room and begin drinking. Even if it is 6am. And you're underage. Or your medicines contraindicate it. I don't care how old you are, you still remember. It's a horrifying idea.

The year The Little Cuter turned 12, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing the 10 or so holiday cards I'd send to my close but far-flung friends. "I'm doing...... TBG is....... The Big Cuter's so...... and The Little Cuter is trying to survive being a 12 year old girl."

TBG, reading over my shoulder, was appalled. How dare I? It was pure projection. Just because being 12 was a nightmare for me didn't mean the the same was true for our darling daughter. It was inappropriate and unsuitable and I should stop writing it.

I let him finish, which surprised him. I was calm, which really made him wonder. I just asked him to go to work the next day and pose the question to the first 5 women he encountered.

The phone rang before I had breakfast on the table. It was the phone call wives dream about but seldom receive. "You were right. I was wrong. I'll never say it again." It seems that he'd nearly caused a riot merely by asking the 30-something muffin seller if she would go back to being 12 again. Women from the line converged around him to tell him their stories and to swear that it was the worst time of their lives.

And it certainly was in our house. One day, after we'd fought and argued and hugged and cried and screamed and were just at our wits end, I asked the Little Cuter if it was as confusing inside her as it was for me out here. "I'm just a confused youth," was what she sobbed back to me.

I remembered that I'd once been twelve and awful. G'ma's response to my email relaying another outrage proved it. It was one line : HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

As TBG explained it, the problem was that I was on the planet and breathing at the same time that she was. Like Cary Grant in Holiday, "Courage," was the best he could offer.

And it was enough, for the most part. Because even when my actual inhaling and exhaling drove her to distraction, she still liked me to give her a back rub to help her fall asleep at night. She always wanted me to drive for field trips and to away games. I knew she was proud of me and what I did because she told me - "I sooo love that you are President". And because Seret told me that I had an absolute right to expect politeness, I was able to hold on and hope that it was just a phase.

Like when she wouldn't wear anything that matched? When she was Cinderella and I had the cleanest kitchen cabinets from 3' to the floor? Not really. As I said, it was a hope.

By the time we saw the Women's World Cup in the Rose Bowl we were fine. We camped and took the Coast Starlight and went to Las Vegas and to Ukiah 2 weekends in a row to play soccer. The worst was over, but I wasn't ready to relax. Not quite yet.

Then, the summer after her sophomore year in college, she invited me to drive back to California across Route 80. "We always said we were gonna do it with the twins or DandK and we never did and don't you want to do it with me??????????" So we got in the Civic did it.

2358 miles. 7 states. 5 days. 0 arguments. None. Not a raised voice or eyebrow. No huffing or sneering or snide comments. We listened to each other's music and I wasn't too much of a side-seat driver, and we had the most fun ever. I missed taking pictures of more Welcome To Our State signs than I should have, but she laughed. We had the worst club sandwich and drove through hours of snow in the mountains in May and the Little Cuter got locked in a hotel bathroom and had to be battering-rammed out and we were just so glad to be with each other that none of it mattered.

No, I wouldn't go back to 12, again. Nor, I'm sure, would she. But if we needed to do that to get to this, then I guess I'm going to have to let it go.

Happy Birthday, Doodle. You're the best little girl in the whole wide world.

"Don't Worry. Be Happy."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Gift

G'ma wouldn't dance with me this afternoon. Not to the polka. Not to the waltz. And certainly not to the bebop. Yes, it was The Wednesday Social at the old folks home and the residents were out in full force. Free wine, free beer, free snacks --- almost like a fraternity party. Well, ok, not exactly, but as close as G'ma's likely to get these days.

There was a notice in the mailbox that a box had arrived, so we went to the desk and collected it and brought it back to the chairs where she'd been sitting with friends. We tried to open it. Was there a sale on tape? Were the contents so valuable that opening the box required 6 hands, 1 pen knife and 5 minutes of giggles? Suggestions were given, the box was turned over and over, the knife wasn't tough enough, and we finally just gave up and ripped it to shreds.

The ladies decided that it was the most fun they'd had all week.

Inside, an old friend had framed a picture of the African Violet she'd taken from G'ma's going away party. We had repotted them into nice pots and put them on the tables as centerpieces. When the guests left, G'ma handed each one a potted plant as a rememberance. We don't know how the rest of them are faring, but Arlene is doing a damn fine job with hers. Those blossoms were huge and the leaves were extraordinarily healthy looking.

G'ma says looking at the picture is enough gardening for her.

This, from a woman whose yard was filled with perfectly pruned bushes and shrubbery looming over narcissus and tulips and dusty miller and impatiens. A woman who had a vine creeping across the entire living room ceiling, hugging the corners as it wound its way to meet itself just like Katherine Hepburn's plant in Desk Set. A woman whose garden taught us all to eat fresh tomatoes and peppers and scallions. A woman who, as arthritis and old age crept up on her, still managed to get out into the yard and putter, even though she could barely bend. When the neighbor put up a fence, she chose, planted and cared for the plants in the new flower bed and the hanging pots and bird houses on the fence itself. The gardener may have mowed the lawn, but she was definitely in charge.

And now, she has no interest. Not in cacti, which require almost no help. Not in orchids, which, with a little care and nurturing would smile at her all year long. Not in lantana to attract birds to her porch nor a spathophyllum to green up the dull corner in her living room. I'll bring her fresh flowers and we'll vase them and place them but it's just not the same.

I want her to want to garden. I want her to be interested in the things which brought her such joy when she was younger. I want her to ask me if she can help me deadhead the morea lilies instead of asking to take a nap while I worked.

I want her back again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Happy Trails

Tony Kornheiser is off Monday Night Football. I agree with him - he did get better over the 3 years he tried to be entertaining and sometimes almost maybe well not really all that often got there. Now Chucky will be sitting in the booth, waiting until another slot in the revolving door that is NFL coaching opens up and lets him slip right back in.
Howard Cosell was sui generis; I can't think of MNF without Howard's face and voice lurking in a back corner. I never could hate him quite as much as it seemed that I ought to hate him. Maybe because he and Daddooooo weren't that different. There was something about men of that time and place and background that made them look for the slippery banana peel instead of smelling the roses.
Stephen A. Smith and Bill Walton are blessedly absent during these playoff broadcasts. Smith is just an idiot - yes, I know that's an easy out but he really doesn't deserve more finger movement on the keyboard. Walton's not an idiot, he's just waaaay more certain that he's right than I and my basketball lifelines think he is. And that voice. I love the Grateful Dead, too, but that's not enough to make me sorry he's gone.
And then there's the penetrating journalism of sideline reporter David Aldridge. His insightful questioning of Hedo Turkoglu (on being tall) and Phil Jackson (on winning the last 6 minutes) made me wonder : "Where is Phyllis George when we need her?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

And, It Was My Birthday Present

Computer problems put me in a place unlike any other. I whine. I can't concentrate on anything else. The angst permeates every piece of every day. I'm not exaggerating. The Cuters know to steer clear, but that only makes it worse. I ought to be the grown-up. I ought to be able to fix it.

It's not my fault that this new Dell won't recognize my Nikon or my Ipod or my GPS. How could it possibly be my fault? The machine was delivered. I unpacked it. I plugged in the cables and connectors correctly. It turned on (which was somewhat of a miracle since the unit it was replacing never did turn on -- even after I spent 2 hours dissassembling the green boards in the back of it with the tech guy urging me on from somewhere in southern Asia).

I uploaded the necessary software - the newest iterations, which came directly from the products' websites. When the first USB port didn't work, I tried another. And another. I plugged the keyboard into the offending ports and it worked just fine.

I chatted with tech support and they think I should pay Dell to help me with this problem since it's a "3rd party issue".

Bear in mind that I waited for 3 years and endured countless slurs regarding the state of our old computer before I finally broke down and bought a new one. I'm feeling like I should've waited a little longer.

I wouldn't put up with this behavior from a toaster. If it burned the bread or didn't accept the fat bagels it promised to crisp to perfection then I'd take it right back. And the store would accept it, as long as I had my receipt. But this machine has been recalcitrant since the day it arrived, and yet I still try to coax it along. It seems that I ought to be able to fix it or figure it out or work around it but I can't. Really. I can't.

And what makes me maddest is the memory of Princess Myrtle taking her cranky laptop into the Apple Store while she was here on vacation and, in the time it took her iphone to charge - right there in the store, on their chargers - she was presented with a repaired and polished computer. For no charge. In 10 minutes.

I think there may be a lesson here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Farm Teams

Bull Durham (20th Anniversary Edition)(Sorry, regular readers. Further notes on newspapers - which was promised on Friday - will have to await another post.)
Professional baseball has farm teams. Promising players can be drafted out of high school and sent to the minor leagues to hone their talents and become the emotionally mature adults that living away from home on $23/day while surrounded by tobacco chewing and spitting equally mature young adults will make them. More academically inclined (and, perhaps, less physically talented) high school seniors would go on to Arizona or USC or Stanford or LSU or Texas and graduate before being drafted and sent to the minor leagues where they could continue to hone their talents while being the emotionally mature adults that spending 4 years on a college campus as a pampered National Champion had made them.

(If I've gotten this far without your wondering where the Bull Durham link is lurking, then you're probably not going to be a regular reader......... are you?)

Professional basketball used to have the NCAA, until boys decided that they were ready to play with men and kids started going from high school straight to the pros. Some did better than others, and one is named LeBron, but listening to Patrick Ewing say that Dwight Howard had "to use his head in the second half" made me wonder why a professional had to be reminded to think. Maybe college would've taught him that particular skill.

High schoolers are now going to Europe to play professional ball. Being "1-and-done" - as perfected by Carmelo Anthony who led Syracuse to the NCAA Championship and then left after his freshman year - is no longer an anomaly. Although I've finally stopped feeling deserted by professionals jumping from team to team and have recognized the fact that I am, in fact, cheering for laundry, I liked watching college kids and teams grow together over several seasons. I liked watching the kids mature over 4 years, and I'm sorry that things have changed.

And I'm also sorry that our colleges and universities are being used as farm teams by the NBA. The revenues are huge and hugely out of proportion - and don't tell me that these wildly successful basketball programs are self-funding and that spill off from their revenue helps to fund other campus athletic priorities. When Jim Calhoun is the highest paid public employee in the state of Connecticut I don't care how many epees the UConn fencing team can buy with basketball excess. There's something seriously awry.

This has been a recurring theme for me, hasn't it. I'm not complaining - I'm trying not to become a crotchety old woman who knows that everything was better back in the day. In fact, I have a solution to propose. I know that some scholar/athletes are truly in school (Stanford basketball players are always studying for some exam or other on ESPN) but for most players in elite programs, academics must be a secondary concern. Travel schedules alone make it extraordinarily difficult for all but the most dedicated to graduate with their class, and the allure of an NBA salary or the exhaustion of their scholarship funds sends most others away from academia. Why not end the hypocrisy? Let coaches recruit high school kids who want to play on their teams. Let them have access to the classroom, but not require it of them. Don't call it a scholarship; call it a fellowship. For that's really what the athlete on campus is doing - he's creating a sense of community, a well-spring of fellow-feeling that is a big part of any campus that can create a big time sports program.

It's nice when those BMOC's can grow into the role over time. It's good for the student body, it's good for the school's tradition, and it's good for the kids themselves. Too bad........

"I just hope I can help the team......"

Friday, May 15, 2009

The News --- On Paper

I'm one of a dying breed, or so I've been told. I read newspapers. Lots and lots of newspapers. And I read them every day. I can't eat my oatmeal without the comics and Ann Landers (or whoever is writing that column now.... it'll always be Ann Landers to me). I read the local news to find out who's been robbed or crashed a car into a light pole or won a spelling bee or donated her house to the homeless coalition. High school sports are a big part of my morning, too. Softball, wrestling, track and field - I'll never go to watch them participate, but I keep up with the standings and know when CDO beats Salpointe.

Memories of Sunday morning on the living room floor with Newsday's comics still make me smile. Letters to the Editor were always good for a diversion - did I know anyone who'd been published? What was for sale in the want ads? Then, on to the Sam Goody ad in The New York Times; plotting where to invest my allowance based on whose albums were on sale took up a good chunk of the morning. The obituaries was one of my favorite sections, ever mindful of Daddoooo's definition of a good day (when the average age in the obits was older than he was). But the wedding announcements were my favorite. 27 Dresses may have portrayed the "commitments" beat as a sinkhole for talent, but I agree with Katherine Heigl's character -- it's the best part of the paper. How they met, what their parents thought, the ridiculous lengths they went to in order to be together, why they're marrying on a beach at midnight, how the antique dress was altered and on and on and on. Receptions at Tavern on the Green, ceremonies performed by newly ordained ministers of the Church of the Internet, bridesmaids who flew in from 17 different countries - I drank it all in.

I'd save the NYTimes Magazine for the afternoon. If we were going to the beach, that was all I needed to pack to keep me occupied. The articles were always just a little bit too long, and the bra ads just a little too ubiquitous (Daddoooo again: "There's more pornography on display in the NYT Sunday Magazine than in Times Square!!!!"), but that didn't matter. There was a comforting sequence to the information presented, with the Letters and William Safire at one end and the puzzle and the one page essay at the other. The world might be going to hell in a handbasket as reported in the front sections of the paper, but the magazine had a stability to it that anchored the unsettling news.

Moving to a new community, the local newspaper is my first glimpse of what I'm getting into. Local events, full page ads, small snippets at the bottom of page 3 - I read them all when I'm new. More than anything else, the local newspaper reflects the tenor of the town. How many times does the weather make the headlines? Here in Tucson, it's more often than you'd imagine. POLLEN, it screamed one day. And, although that was the headline that convinced TBG that, in fact, he did have allergies, was it really the most important thing in the world that day? For those of us living here, the answer was a resounding "YES". And the newspaper knew it. That headline was the talk of the bagel shop and the gym and the dry cleaner and the dinner table. The newspaper had captured us all and made us a community in a way that "new media" just can't match.

Without plugging in a cord or turning on a switch, the world is in my lap. I won't electrocute myself by reading it in the tub. I can fold it up and stick it in my purse for later. There's a friendly messiness to the whole experience - learning the trick of reading the NYTimes on the subway is as close to origami as I'll ever get - that is immediate and mediated and moves at my own personal pace.

Tomorrow, more on what I am reading now, and why.

G'ma, during a "mental status" exam: "And what's today's date?" "Do you have a newspaper? Let me look and I'll tell you. How else would I know that?"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Taking Credit

I like old movie credits. TCM's movies are run with the credits first, so I know in advance that I'm going to love the music since Leo Forbstein is the Music Director. Natalie Kalmus is listed as the color coordinator for almost all the Technicolor movies we watch; I remember this because I had a classmate in elementary school named Marlene Kalmus so Natalie's name jumps out at me from the credits every time. I note dresses by Adrienne and Irene and wonder why Edith Head used two names. Then, the movie starts and, having "read the introduction" through the credits, I'm well prepared to enjoy the show.

Occasionally, the credits are actually part of the film. Juno is a great example of this; video snippets allow all the characters to update their status (I especially like the track team) as the main characters sing and the credits roll at the end. Out-takes during the credits are often some of the best parts of the movie; watch Jamie Lee Curtis try to keep a straight face during the Trading Places credits and see if you don't agree.

Staying for the credits can also tell you about your audience. Waiting in line on a cold Chicago night in 1975, outside a huge and trendy theatre on Oak Street, we watched a small crowd of people leave the prior showing of Robert Altman's Nashville with trepidation. There weren't any smiles. There was a lot of head shaking. Grumbling was the main verbal motif. Had we frozen ourselves in vain? Was the movie going to disappoint us? And why were there so few people? For a big theatre, there hadn't been much of a crowd. All of a sudden, the mood changed. Hordes of giggling, singing, hugging and laughing people were sashaying out the doors. After we'd seen the movie, the discrepancy was clear. The first group hadn't stayed for the credits - they couldn't wait to get out the door. The ones who stayed til the end, as we did, found the stories connected and the warmth continued. Without the credits, the movie was unfinished. The viewers who liked Altman's style knew not to leave.

These days, though, staying for the credits is more of a test of endurance than anything else. They run forever, and most often too quickly to really read them. Living in Marin, there were often members of the audience who'd worked on the films, since ILM and LucasArts and Skywalker Ranch and Pixar are all right there. It was fun to watch small groups suddenly erupt into wild cheers; it must have been their names on the screen. But other than that, what possible joy can a viewer get from sitting through listings of the 1st Assistant Accountant, the 2nd Assistant Accountant, the 2nd 2nd Assistant Director and the Inflatable Crowd Supervisor?? All of those job titles were listed as members of the 1st Unit; the credits ran through the 2nd unit's listings but by then I had had it. (The movie will remain nameless to protect the guilty.) It's too hard to look for the connections that made the smaller lists such fun, and the oddities - director's family members, the dog handlers - are lost in the blur.

Is this an extension of "show up and get a trophy"? Does everyone who breathes in the general vicinity of a film production deserve to have her name immortalized forever? Isn't there something to be said for separating the wheat from the chaff?

Apparently, the answers are yes, yes and no.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thoughts on Weight

There's not a woman alive who can honestly say she's never thought about her weight. Positive thoughts, negative thoughts, disgusted thoughts, proud thoughts - we've all had them.
I remember how excited I was when I finally weighed 100 pounds. I was 15 or 16 years old. Daddoooo took me to Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor in Rockville Centre where we splurged on double banana splits (with extra whipped cream and nuts, please, and 3 cherries).
Seret introduced me to the concept of thoughtful eating. "Making wise choices" about what went into your mouth was a very nice way to explain healthy eating to a 4 year old.
The notion of obesity as a contagious disease was a funny story line in Boston Legal, but I think it has some merit. Listening to Max, the morbidly obese 16 year old brother and son of the equally unhealthy father/son team of Biggest Loser contestants, makes it clear. He liked being one of 3 "big guys". Neither he nor his brother were chubby young children, if their family photos are to be believed. But all kids want to emulate their parents, and this dad was huge.
My favorite jeans are more reliable than my scale. If they feel good, I feel good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tempting Fate

Maybe it's not "too easy for the Cavaliers this post-season". Maybe they are just that good. LeBron denies a basket, lopes down the court and stuffs it in for 2. Delonte West, faster than a speeding bullet and stuffs it.
I wrote that when Dick Stockton said it, about 2 minutes into the first quarter of the 4th game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals series. It was a "reminder post" - just there so that I'd remember to use it. I'd fix it up later.

Then I went back to watch the game. And the Cavaliers were suddenly behind. And LeBron couldn't make a lay-up. And the Hawks were stealing the ball. And I knew that it was my fault. I'd jinxed it by writing it down.

Anyone who's ever "had a team" knows what I'm talking about. Maybe you have your lucky shirt. Wearing that Frank Gore jersey focuses your energy, and Frank feels it. You know he does. Perhaps it's a towel you wring and un-wring and wring again during every Rangers' possession. They know you're watching. While you're in your special chair, with total control of the remote, you are a vital piece of the puzzle. Forget the 6th man; the crowd in the old Chicago Stadium may have been loud, but Michael knew you were watching and re-watching and noticing every subtley. You knew that he needed you as much as you needed him.

You need to control the environment when you have a team. I was banished from the family room one Xmas season because the 9'ers had been winning until I came into the room. It was too important. They had to win. If I wanted something from the kitchen I could holler and they would bring it to me, but my presence was not welcomed. And I didn't complain. I understood.

I understood how the Blue Demons would win every game all season long and then lose to Notre Dame on my birthday and then lose in the second round of the tournament. Three years in a row, they were out after the first weekend. And it was my fault. I'd bragged on them to everyone, and the sports gods were listening.

I learned my lesson and have tried really really hard to restrain myself as, year after year, the Cubbies come closer and closer to almost maybe could it really be oh yes oh yes .........oh, well. The Little Cuter got caught up in the excitement when she moved to Lincoln Park, and she rebuffed my efforts to warn her. "Mom, they have pitching/young talent/karma........." whatever she said I'd said before and been crushed by before. Because of hubris.

So, I stopped writing and we had dinner and the Cav's coasted to a win and that's all I'm going to say on the subject. No gloating. No outrageous comparisons to MJ. Nothing. Just quiet contemplation. And glee. Lots and lots of glee.

"What, do you want to tempt the wrath of the...whatever, from high atop the thing?" West Wing

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Disappointing Evening

I'm as big an NPR nerd as the next Ivy Leaguer. It's always the first button on my car radio. I cried when Susan Stamberg retired and smiled when Scott Simon married. I was as proud as his mother must have been when Jason Beaubien went from KQED to NPR's Foreign Desk.

I've inculcated the love into others, too. There's a generation of girls who played soccer in Northern California between 1992 and 2003 who will forever associate Car Talk with riding in my car to early Saturday and Sunday morning games. The Big Cuter and I still laugh about "driveway stories" - the ones that force you to stay in the car so you can hear the end, whether you're in the driveway at home or the parking lot at the Santa Cruz Beach/Boardwalk.

My email describing Middle Brother's "real lawn" lawn furniture - made on his lawn with grass seed over chicken wire - was the closing item read by Neal Conan on a Talk of the Nation program on Do-It-Yourself projects. My voice asking "Where did my dollars actually go?" on a post-dot-com-bust edition of All Things Considered caused fingers to be sliced and cars to swerve into other lanes in kitchens and on bridges all over America.

So, maybe I'm just a little bit more of an NPR-aholic than most. In any event, when I read that Ira Glass was coming to town I bought 4 tickets and invited a couple of Minnesotans to join us. This American Life has had more than its fair share of driveway stories - the flaming squirrel being, perhaps, my favorite all-time NPR experience. Ira Glass has a disarmingly boyish reticence in his voice which never intrudes into the pieces. He has an unerringly fine ear for chosing stories that deserve telling. He must be a great listener, because people talk beautifully when he and his microphone are around.

The interview in the paper that morning made me a little nervous. He was going to talk about how he puts together his program. I had been hoping for stories and reminiscences and behind the scenes insights. But, just as I would take any course that a good teacher was teaching, I was sure that just by his presence the night would be wonderful.

Not. Not even close.

On the radio (I've not watched the new tv show), Ira's voice provides the introduction, the interludes and the conclusion to the weekly topic. During the pieces themselves, the interviewer is rarely the dominant presence. I think that's the answer right there - know your limits.

He lacked the gravitas to have his pronouncements taken seriously. His delivery was stuck somewhere around the 10th grade. "Like..... um..... hmmm......(pause)........" just doesn't cut it for 90 minutes in the world's most uncomfortable seats (we were in the balcony; the seats are much nicer on the main floor). What allows you to stop and think on the radio - a pregnant pause, noticing the void - is annoying in an oration.

Every so often he'd touch on an interesting point, but it never went anywhere. The notion of telling small stories as a window into a larger issue was worthy of more than its use as a topic sentence. His theory of story-telling seemed to boil down to having each segment advance the plot. Really? I can't believe I never thought of that before.

He ended the evening by retelling the story of The 1001 Arabian Nights. Had I been the emperor and he Scheherazade, I'd have decapitated him by 10:15 the first night.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Mothers' Day Memory

G'ma and Daddoooooooo never fought on Mothers' Day. At least not in the morning.

We three kids would be dressed and waiting for Daddoooooooo as soon as the sun was up. First stop was the florist for a gardenia corsage. Wrapped in a big box with an even bigger white ribbon it had the longest pin through the foliage. You had to be very very careful not to touch the flower or it would turn brown. That's why the pin was so long; Mommy wouldn't have to worry about brushing the petals with a pin that big.

Then we went to the bakery for a prune danish. We never bought anything else that morning, though we usually had fresh rye bread and rolls and cookies on Sundays. But on Mothers' Day we were all about Mommy. And only about Mommy.

Home to the kitchen, where eggs and toast and coffee (instant with just enough milk and 1 sweetener in the blue packet) went on a tray decorated with whatever craft projects our teachers had helped us to create that year. Lilacs or forsythia from the garden went in the green glass vase and then we carried it upstairs. Very very carefully. Very very slowly.

She was always asleep when we opened her door. She was always surprised by the tray and the danish and the corsage. She always wore it on her nightgown and then her robe and then her jacket and then her blouse. She didn't save it hanging upside down in the attic nor crushed in the bottom of her lingerie drawer - she was never the sentimental type. But she wore it all day on Mothers' Day.

What I liked most about Mothers' Day was that it was always the same. We knew what to do, we knew when to do it, and we knew what would happen next. No room for arguing or discussion. No one had unfulfilled expectations. Disappointment wasn't an option. Nothing could improve upon the plan. And next year would be just as good.

Friday, May 8, 2009


TBG and I have acquired, without any forethought or planning, friends who are much younger than we are. Decades younger. Many many decades.

I'm not babysitting the Amster's sons when they are here playing Leggos. Just ask the 5 year old: "She's not a babysitter. It's a playdate." Having moved the Cuters' toys from Chicago to Marin to Arizona over the last quarter of a century, that is welcome news.

My role is strictly support staff. I find "the guys" and the kids create the world in which they destroy each other. We switch heads and weaponry and headgear and pennants. They fantasize moats and dragons and - as if by magic - out comes the dinosaur box and we have "real" monsters to attack our forts. When we needed "something way bigger" for protection, Construx provided just the pieces we required. (An aside: how sad is it that Construx are no longer available?)

The neighbors get into the act, too. A grandson visiting next door shared his special bag of treasures with us, and, since all the kids had attended Montessori schools, they knew the same rhymes and fell right into a rhythm that looked like they'd been friends for years. And they taught me all the songs.

Last year for Mothers' Day, I had them for the whole afternoon. With the Cuters thousands of miles away, my little friends were the perfect antidote to my hug-less-ness. In exchange for several hours of playgrounds and ice cream and hiking I had more hugs and kisses than I had room for (I had to put some in a special bag in the trunk of my car to save for next time).

TBG came to his playdates in a somewhat different manner. Brady Bunch was cycling next to him at the gym. With 4 girls under 13, she always has a story to share. The 13 year old had come with her to the gym, but was bummed. The big boys were playing basketball and she felt intimidated. TBG, ever gallant, went to the desk, grabbed a ball, and soon the 3 of them were playing horse. The kid had so much fun that Brady Bunch asked TBG for a rematch. Only this time it was 5 kids on the outdoor court at Manzanita Elementary. Elbows were thrown. Trash was talked - "You and Mom can be The Geezers". Shots were made and form was improved. But there were little ones there, and they wanted to play with him, too. So moats were dug and catch and hide and seek were played. After 4 hours, TBG returned and fell onto the couch, exhausted. This was definitely not babysitting; he'd been playing, and playing hard.

We are not wishing parenthood on The Cuters, not right now, anyway. But we are biologically ready for grandkids and Tucson has thrown them right in our faces. And we're loving every minute.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Last Sunday

There were some strange people at the gym on Sunday.

The Amster and I can usually count on welcoming smiles from the regulars as we lift and grunt and sweat and lift again. We've been at it together for almost two years, now, and it just keeps getting better. Not that we keep getting better. Like everyone else who's ever exercised on a regular basis, occasionally we have been derailed by life. But we're still having fun, with her Army mojo and me quoting Arnold between sets.

Most gyms have a demographic - 20-somethings on the prowl gyms, women who want to show their exercising selves only to other women gyms, 50+ retired Yuppies and their much younger trainers' gyms, serious 'roid gyms. Our gym defies categorization.

Tattoos are everywhere, and TBG and I were taken aback at first. Body art's not our thing (just ask my nieces) and we were about ready to dismiss the wearers. That is, until TBG watched the most heavily decorated young man gently and kindly demonstrate then teach a teetering older man how to use the cables.

There are 30-somethings who certainly looked healthy enough to be at work instead of lifting weights in the middle of the day. The Amster and I were commenting on this one December afternoon and the guy on the next bench leaned over and said, "Most of us have been laid off; I recognize half-a-dozen guys who should be working today."

Lots of fire department t-shirts are on lots of very buff bodies. High school wrestlers and basketball players and track stars wear t-shirts proclaiming their loyalty and superiority. Candidates for The Biggest Loser gamely breathe and roll and concentrate on their transverse abdominals between sorority girls from the UofA on one side and 78 year old grandmothers on the other. Ballroom dancers practice while 8 year olds shoot hoops with their moms.

No one judges. No one smirks. No one cares that the gym shorts I'm wearing were worn by the Big Cuter when he was in 5th grade or that my Sausalito Art Festival t-shirt is held together by a few tenuous strands of cotton.

We notice things, of course. There's the guy with what must be the world's largest collection of Jesus-themed t-shirts, the grey pony-tailed retired contractor who is invariably decked out in red/white/and blue to match the flag flying from his truck, the Haitian woman who can do 20 perfect pull-ups. The father-son pairs are our favorites; the boys are lucky to learn from men who are less interested in impressing one another than they are in using good form. For a while last spring and summer there was a dad and his daughter; we miss them.

So, Sunday. The first weird person was race walking around the gym, hitting himself in the chest with a 5 pound plate. Leaning on a pole in the middle of the gym floor, the second weird person was swinging a 10 pound dumbbell around and around in what looked like but couldn't possibly be ever widening circles. A trainer had a this-is-my-first-time-in-the-gym client doing one-handed push-ups with her feet on a giant ball. The juice bar was closed and the lights were off but there was someone sitting on the stool at the counter looking into the darkness.

And it wasn't a full moon.

"I loved the feeling of the gym, of working out, of having muscles all over" Aaaah-nold in Education of a Bodybuilder

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gardening in the Desert (vol. I, part 2)

The first summer we lived here I fell hard for Caesalpinia pulcherrima, the Mexican Bird of Paradise. Went to my favorite nursery and bought 3 gorgeous just about to but not quite in bloom 5 gallon plants the day before the yard guys were coming to spruce up our little piece of the desert for the first time.

I always liked working along side the garden guys. In Marin, Jose and his crew loved the plants as much as I did. They'd randomly stroke the tops of the agapanthus as we talked, slight grins on their faces as the leaves tickled their palms. You can't go wrong with landscapers who caress the plants they tend.

So, when Len and Linda drove up with their worker bees, I was there to meet them. Dressed in long sleeves (I do learn, and sometimes I remember, too) and my pants with the rubber pads in the knees and my yellow waterproof clogs and my wide-brimmed hiking hat, I was ready. Trowel in hand, I offered to dig the trench for the spaghetti tubing to the first Bird of Paradise.

They looked at one another. They looked at me. They looked at one another again and began to smile. I thought they were surprised that the homeowner would want to dirty her hands, so I pointed to my trowel and reassured them that, really, I loved it and it would make me happy to help. The smiles grew broader. Undaunted, I smiled back and bent to the task at hand - a trough 6" deep and a trowel's width across. I lifted the trowel. I plunged it to the earth. And it bounced right back up at me. By this time, the workers had given up trying to smother their laughter. They paused while unloading the jack hammer to show me their desert tools - sharp, scary, pointy metal forged to crack the sunbaked dirt. Then, they used the jack hammer to create the planting holes and the trenches for the tubing, while my poor trowel and I looked on and pouted.

Clearly, I was going to have to find a way to do this on my own. Without a jack hammer.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gardening in the Desert

Gardening in the desert is unlike anything I've ever done before. And I don't mean just unlike any gardening I've ever done before. This is the first time I've ever willingly put my body at risk because I was having fun - our yard is filled with prickers and glochids and spines on which I kneel or against which I brush with alarming regularity. I don't like getting up close and personal with wild creatures, and yet here they run rampant as I putter. I like doing what I want to do when I want to do it but here I seem perfectly content to wait for the air to cool down so the snakes will go back into their holes.

I love the feel of cool, dark soil with big, fat earthworms inching their way along. At least, that's what I remember that soil feels like. Here in the middle Sonoran Desert, 2350' above sea level, no matter what they say, this is dirt. I know what soil feels like, and this is definitely dirt. This ground laughs at trowels and demands the pickaxe and the pry bar. Digging a hole for a 5 gallon shrub (the same depth as the root ball, and twice as wide) can take an afternoon's labor. And don't get me started on drainage and caliche.

I love forgetting my gloves before digging in the ground or pinching off a spent bloom. Here, such foolishness leads to more than just a ruined manicure. Here, I find un-seen but not un-noticed bits of detritus embedded in my skin. Forever. And it's not only gloves which are necessary. Long sleeves and long pants are mandatory - the day I pruned in shorts and a tank top TBG wanted me to wear a sign absolving him of responsibility for the bleeding welts on my skin. I know that the prickers are defense against critters looking for a quick snack, but that doesn't make them hurt any less.

At first it didn't seem possible that I could learn to work with what I had. It didn't seem like that was very much to start with. But, as you'll see, while I haven't stopped yearning for gorgeous soil and tulips in the spring, desert horticulture is quite wonderful in its own, peculiar way.

Yes, I garden in the desert.

"This is probably the most spectacular desert in this country..." Pierre C. Fischer on Tucson's piece of the Sonoran Desert in 70 Common Cacti of the Southwest


Monday, May 4, 2009

Random Musings on a Weekend Watching Sports

SILVER LINING DEPARTMENT:  Because it took Mine That Bird's trainer so long to crutch to the winners' circle, the jockey got to trip around the track, high fiving his big smile red coated escort and bumping fists with the guys in the blue Visa logo jackets while the crowd roared its approval.  The announcers were silent as Calvin Borel shared his joy - a perfect tv moment.


Why was Pizza Hut (via Yum Brands) the lead advertiser for The Derby when Louisville is Papa John's corporate backyard?


Charles Barkley is becoming much less interesting as we both get older.


I liked Jack Kemp - he wasn't as annoying as most Republicans are.  RIP, Congressman.


TBG used the foliage surrounding the course at Quail Hollow to deduce that it wasn't in California and so couldn't be where we'd vacationed with The Cuters (that was Quail Lodge).  I learned football and basketball, he's learning plants. Cross-pollination..... one of the joys of a long marriage.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The First Saturday in May

I love the Kentucky Derby. I love the hats and the bugle and the colors and the mint juleps. Especially the mint juleps.

We used to host an Annual Kentucky Derby Party, with printed invitations and bow-tied bartenders. We had Kentucky Derby stirrers and napkins and betting tickets, which I bought directly from Churchill Downs. The race was on tv's in a couple of rooms and 60 or 70 of our closest friends and associates would yell and scream and laugh and hug. We always talked about having a live Dixie-land band, but we always decided that they'd just be one noise too many, so we stuck with some cd's on random repeat and no one seemed to care.

Today, the track was a mucky mess ("fast wet" pronounced the announcers who agreed that they each knew what the other meant, but neither of whom deigned to share with the class) and there were a lot of very well-dressed people tromping through it. So, I had to wonder aloud to TBG : Do those people HAVE TO or GET TO walk on that mucky track?

We'd never seen this particular piece of the festivities before, so I wondered and watched. There was a 75 year old trainer/owner who looks exactly like Daddooooo's father, and who has a one horse stable and whose one horse was right there behind him as he waved to the crowd and tried to be polite to the interviewer with the microphone when all he wanted to do was say "Thank You" to the cheering throng. Clearly, he was going to walk with that horse wherever they'd let him walk. The trainer in the Hermes tie? Vanity, perhaps, led him to threaten the long-term health of those silk pants and snazzy loafers. But when the New Mexico cowboy hat bolo tie 12 shattered foot bones guy loped through that goop on his crutches, the answer was clear -

they GET TO walk on that mucky track.

"And Mine That Bird" wins the 135th Kentucky Derby"

Shirts and Skins

I was watching a pick-up basketball game while doing my push-ups at the gym. 6 guys in their 20's, none of them particularly buff, all wearing shirts. So, I wondered, how do they know who their teammates are? Quickly recognizing the color of your side's jersey, looking for shirts or skins, these are pieces of information which I've always imagined to be critical while playing a team sport. Hmmmm.

I was doing 4 sets of 15, so there was lots of time to watch. And as I watched, I realized that they didn't need to recognize their teammates. They weren't passing. They weren't playing defense, except against the ball. It was run-and-gun, look-at-me shooting. Not basketball.

I've followed college basketball since the 1970's - it was either learn it or lose TBG to the NCAA for the semester. I came to love the flow and the pulse of the game. There were only 5 players to keep track of and I knew them not only by number but by their faces and their physiques and their styles. There weren't hordes of men in helmets hurtling their bodies at one another like in football. This was dancing, but in shorts with a ball. And when I think back to those days I don't remember specific players. I remember teams - Phi Slamma Jamma, NC State, UCLA (forever and ever and ever). I knew some players, of course. All the DePaul kids (we lived in the neighborhood, after all) had their individual personalities on display, but my memories are of them as a team, filling the holes in each other's games and getting to the Elite 8 with good players but no real superstar.

The era of celebrity in sports has been hashed to death, so I'll not say more than that watching Kobe and Shaq and LeBron and Carmelo and SportsCenter's Top 10 is the reason there could be 6 strangers playing basketball, all in shirts of different colors and nobody caring. It wasn't shirts and skins. It was a free throw contest with bodies on the court.

And for all their hooting and hollering as basket after basket plunked into the net, I'd have been more impressed if one of them had boxed out.

"He eyes it.... he tries it..... he buys it!"

Friday, May 1, 2009

On Language

"Are you going out in THAT???"

I feel that way, sometimes, reading grammatically incorrect newspaper articles or blogs, or listening to newscasters and sportscaster mangle the language. Doesn't anybody care anymore? Are we living our lives so publicly now (says she, blogging away) that the boundary between formal prose and conversation and the lapses we allow in private has disappeared?

TBG asked me last night if grammar had really changed so that "come to the mall with Jim and I" is now acceptable. Our local paper has a terrible time with it's and its, and so do some of my favorite correspondents and bloggers. The Little Cuter and I go around correcting people all the time, and yes, we accept their critiques right back. How else can we improve?

I always thought that speaking well was the cornerstone of broadcast news. Walter Cronkite, Jim McKay, Susan Stamberg - these people could think on their feet. Because it's not only reading the copy, it's improvising when the need arises and doing it well. I don't want bad grammar interfering with my understanding as JFK's assasination is reported. Walter was showing us his real self that afternoon, and I am forever grateful that he was able to do it in complete, perfectly parsed sentences.

It's not about race or age or gender. I'm not talking about Ebonics or slang or whatever phrase is au courant. I'm talking about the basic rules which make things intelligible, which don't distract from the point being made. Rules which make the language sing.

I understand that language is fungible over time and that change is not always a bad thing. But just like my mother wouldn't let me out the front door with a ripped shirt, I have a hard time putting bad grammar out in public. People are watching, after all.

On Language

"Are you going out in THAT???"

I feel that way, sometimes, reading grammatically incorrect newspaper articles or blogs, or listening to newscasters and sportscaster mangle the language. Doesn't anybody care anymore? Are we living our lives so publicly now (says she, blogging away) that the boundary between formal prose and conversation and the lapses we allow in private has disappeared?

TBG asked me last night if grammar had really changed so that "come to the mall with Jim and I" is now acceptable. Our local paper has a terrible time with it's and its, and so do some of my favorite correspondents and bloggers. The Little Cuter and I go around correcting people all the time, and yes, we accept their critiques right back. How else can we improve?

I always thought that speaking well was the cornerstone of broadcast news. Walter Cronkite, Jim McKay, Susan Stamberg - these people could think on their feet. Because it's not only reading the copy, it's improvising when the need arises and doing it well. I don't want bad grammar interfering with my understanding as JFK's assasination is reported. Walter was showing us his real self that afternoon, and I am forever grateful that he was able to do it in complete, perfectly parsed sentences.

It's not about race or age or gender. I'm not talking about Ebonics or slang or whatever phrase is au courant. I'm talking about the basic rules which make things intelligible, which don't distract from the point being made. Rules which make the language sing.

I understand that language is fungible over time and that change is not always a bad thing. But just like my mother wouldn't let me out the front door with a ripped shirt, I have a hard time putting bad grammar out in public. People are watching, after all.