Monthly Archives: February 2019

Ridin’ the Bus

Before we get to the bus…

I think my favorite “Peanuts” cartoon featured Linus asking Charlie Brown; “Didn’t you ever get into any fights at school?”
Charlie replied after cogitating for a panel or two; “No, I formed discussion groups.”

Now, to the bus.

I rode a lot of buses in junior high and high school.
I rode school buses. I had to be at the corner of our street on time, rain or shine, or left behind. If I missed the bus, I had to race two blocks to the next nearest stop and try to catch it. If I missed it there, the Taliban (not yet invented) was summoned to slice my head off in front of 23,403 people in Rupp Arena (not yet invented) and my remaining limbs would be shrink-wrapped (not yet invented) and shipped to Hogwarts (not yet…) for wand-blasting experiments. There was no parental ride to school.

I never missed the bus.

If I had, in my parents’ eyes I would be to blame; a worse alternative than anything in the last paragraph. Not the driver, not the weather, not the roads……me.

I never missed the bus.

There were students on the bus who were bigger than me. I devised strategies to deal with them. In my parents’ eyes, if there was a problem, it was mine.

There were students who were smaller than me. Ditto.

There were girls. Ditto.

There were students whose skin was a different hue than mine. Ditto.

No one got shot. No one got pregnant. The driver drove and looked straight ahead.

We all got along until we could arrive at our destination…every day…for years……what other choice did we have?

There were no fatalities.

But there was learning of a sort.

Today, we live in gated communities, drive our children to school, pick them up after, and schedule play dates.

We decry the current tribalism tearing our country apart; “Why can’t we get along with each other? Why are we so divided?”

Perhaps we have not learned to get along with each other. Perhaps some of our rolling classrooms devoted to getting along with each other have vanished.

“…I formed discussion groups.”

Yes, I most certainly did.

I had to.
And it has served me just fine.

Son of Hankerin’ for Horsehide

I’m sittin’ here in the gloom…
… and the wetness that is this Kentucky night.
The color palette outside my window ranges from slate to indigo to gray to charcoal to stygian abandon-all-hope black.

What could possibly redeem this evening?

My dog is bouncing off the walls; “Is it spring yet? Can I go out? Can I come in? Can I go out and then come in…three times?”
The cat languidly blinks at me; “Deal with it, fool.”
There’s joy for me in these critters, but no succor for this murk.

But lo!

The first baseball spring training game is on the tube, like an oasis shimmering in a desert-ordeal flick.

My first glimpse of this game in Arizona features short-sleeved, sunglasses-bedecked fans enjoying the sun.

The sun; whatta concept!

Palm trees peeking over the outfield fences.
Green.
Dry.
Bright.
Gulp!

The game is apparently between the Cincinnati Reds (masters of last place for the last 5-6 years) and the Cleveland Indians (legitimate contenders).

Apparently.

Actually, the game is between unknown strangers wearing uniforms that say; “Cincinnati” or “Cleveland.” That’s how it is in the early days of spring training.
This being so, one of the charming traits of these pre-season games is the uniform numbers.

I just watched #62 of the Indians walk #78 of the Reds, filling the bases (#’s 80 and 68 were already on second and third). #63 of the Reds then flied out to #72 in center field and #84 struck out to end the inning. These stratospheric numbers are issued to the players who are “just glad to be here” and have no chance of making the opening day rosters. In a few days, they will be dispersed back to the camps of Asheville, Louisville, Akron, Missoula, and Waddy-Peytona; towns that will not appear in your newspaper’s daily “Major League Standings.”

Another less-than-charming trait of spring training is the absence of extra-innings. The teams are only playin’ nine and settlin’ for ties. The teams are there to practice and get in shape…not win. This jars me to my genomes. It’s a violation of all things baseball. I need some president to blame.

I also notice there’s a “pitch clock” counting down in the background. Good luck with that.

Wait a minute! #105 just caught a stinging line drive in the left field corner! I hope, if he ever makes it to the big leagues, his number is maintained at #105 for at least a year so I can connect today with that day. Maybe, by then, I’ll also have learned his name.

But forget all that.
Cling to what’s important;
– Green
– Dry
– Bright
– Players chasing and throwing and batting and catching spheres……

Tell me again why I enjoyed Harry Potter books so.

Hankerin’ for Horsehide & Hope

Whatta day!

Epstein and sex with 14-year-olds, R. Kelly and sex with 14-year-olds, Kraft and sex for pay, human-trafficking implications, videos…

A president unqualified (or too qualified) to address any of these issues…

A president going to Vietnam as his staff worries that he may cede advantages to North Korea and thus to China and Russia in his deluded quest for the Nobel Peace Prize…

A president under 5-8 investigations for a dismaying litany of transgressions…

A Kentucky legislature that celebrates the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting by expanding concealed-carry rights, and persists with the “War on Coal” myth by hamstringing Kentucky’s successful solar industry…

More rain on the way and that damn ark is still not practical…

Good grief!

Where’s the solace?
What’s the solution?

Well…
…if I may humbly point out that the first baseball Spring Training game is scheduled for tomorrow.

What this world needs is baseball.

Baseball!

Epstein, Kelly, Kraft, Trump, Bevin, Thayer haven’t screwed that up……yet.

Tanner Roark, a man I never heard of till he was traded to the Reds in December, will take the mound for the Reds and pitch one inning and be followed by eight more pitchers of which I’ve never heard. I will be sitting in Lexington, in the rain I’m told, while these strangers gambol in the Florida sun on geometrically-structured fields of green and play THE game. Dank, drenched, and cold as I may be…I will feel a glimmer of promise that all can be okay.

We can fix anything if, somewhere, baseball is being played.

A foolish notion? Yes, of course.

About ten years ago, our Lexington minor league team gave out baseballs as a promotion. These were baseballs bound in basketball material instead of horsehide.

This afternoon I found myself reaching for that relic as I listened to the tawdry details of today’s headlines. I spun the ball through the various grips of the pitches I once threw when I played the game.

– Two-seamer – My best control pitch; when I needed a strike, this was the call.
– Four-seamer – An early-in-the-count temptation against an intimidating batter.
– Curve – My best pitch; if I hit my release point, you’re dead.
– Circle Change – Might be good if the batter and the umpire were blind.
– Screwball – Might be a strike if it didn’t hit the batter.
– Knuckleball – Mystical, unhittable, in a fantasy and strong headwind.

I felt a little better after the exercise. It was like yoga for my right hand.

Then I meditated on the Reds’ off-season roster changes.

– If Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray, and Alex Wood ALL return to their best forms,
– If Nick Senzel becomes the answer in center field,
– If Joey Votto finds another ten home runs,
– If Matt Kemp can squeeze out one more productive year,
– If Yasiel Puig can explode into a superstar,
– If the spirit of Johnny Bench invades Tucker Barnhart,
– If Britain can possibly figure out Brexit.

If all that happens, maybe…just maybe my beloved Reds can climb out of last place. It would be nice to finish ahead of SOMEBODY.

In baseball, we live for hopeful tomorrows. There’s always another game.
The ball may bounce our way tomorrow.
I might get that screwball over the plate tomorrow without braining someone.
It’s possible.
It’s always possible as long as there’s another game tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

Tanner Roark, whoever he is, on the mound, in the sun.

For a couple of hours, forget Epstein, Kelly, Kraft, Trump, Bevin, and Thayer.

Tanner Roark, whoever he is, on the mound, in the sun.

I need to start lining up World Series tix.

MAGA Hats and Tweeds

It was in the halcyon days of the mid-70’s. I was working in the wine department of a Shoppers Village Liquors (later to become Liquor Barn). I was wearing blue jeans, an army surplus shirt, Dingo boots, and my hair hung down to between my shoulder blades. I was a certifiable hippie-type who knew his wines. There were plenty of certifiable hippie-types in Lexington in those days, but most of them knew more about Pabst Blue Ribbon than Mumm’s Cordon Rouge.

One afternoon, I approached a middle-aged gentleman in the French aisle with my best; “May I help you?” He continued to gaze at the Beaujolais Villages selection for a moment (lost in the Fleury and the Brouilly) and murmured; “Are these all Beaujolais? What’s the diff-f-f-f…?”

Along about “diff-f-f-f…” he had glanced up at me, assessed the likelihood of any credible assistance from such a creature, and reached the conclusion of zero, zip, goose egg, and bupkiss. I caught a fleeting glimpse of despair in his eyes.
“No…I’m just looking.”

I’d seen this play before.

<< Let’s take a little reference side trip shall we? >>

In acting, an actor should quickly learn the difference between what they do and what others see, or they’ll never progress and they’ll never know why.

  • I go on stage and do my piece, tell my story.
  • When I finish, I step off the stage and the watchers tell me what they saw.
  • If there are differences between what I did and they saw…I change.
  • My story is paramount.

If my hearers/watchers/audience don’t get my story, it doesn’t matter what I thought I was doing. If I want to succeed, I change and change and change until my story gets through the way I want it to be heard and understood.

I’m an actor and a storyteller. I’m foolish a goodly bit of the time, but I’m not often stupid.
And I wasn’t in the mid-70’s.

<< End of little reference side trip. >>

I pondered hard after my exchange with the fellow struggling with Moulin-au-Vent, and realized I was tilting with a few windmills of my own.

I really liked selling wine. I wanted to do more of it. But the signals I was sending were inhibiting me. I knew my hair and my fashion choices spoke nothing my quality, but others were making instant negative evaluations. Their prejudices were obstructing me. I was paying a price I no longer wished to pay.

I scheduled a haircut.
I called my professor from UK and asked him to teach me about tweed coats.
I had learned to tie a double Windsor a few years before from my friend Chuck Pogue.
I had an eye exam (previously scheduled) and when the doctor suggested contacts, I opted for glasses.

Voila!
“Perfesser Lesser” was born.

I was amazed and delighted and a little bit disgusted by the change in fortune.

People respond to the signals we send. We may ridicule them for their response, but we choose the signals. We are in control of the signals we send and thus are in control of the response we elicit.

I was not my hair.
I was not my boots.
I was not my army shirt.

Nor was I my tweed jacket and my glasses.

These were simply signals I chose at different times of my life.

Similarly, the young man from Covington Catholic standing in front of the Native American drummer was not his hat.

But the hat was his signal.
The signal was his choice.
He was in control of the response.

It took me until my mid-20’s to decide I no longer wanted to pay that particular price.

I had the Côte d’Or to explore.

And yes, the choice has been golden.