Category Archives: Lexington-Today

This is Our Time

That’s what Governor Andy Beshear told me today.

What a blessing he has been in this season when America learned to its dismay that “corona” was not something you could drive or smoke, but something that could truncate your season basketball tickets, or hose down your spring beach hormones, or free up your Sunday mornings (but not to play golf), ……or kill you……or kill those you love……or kill what you love.

I do not want to disappoint Governor Andy…or endanger my mom, or Janie, or my friends, or total strangers for that matter. I will stay healthy at home.

But I do miss baseball.

I’m loving the free streaming from the Metropolitan Opera and looking forward to the National Theatre’s stream of “One Man Two Guvnors” this Thursday evening.

Continuing my dubious literary journey though the tawdry Edgar Wallace canon is amusing.

Walking the dog 18 times a day is fulfilling.

Janie’s cooking is jes’ fine.

But I do miss baseball.

That explains the giddiness I’m feeling over the “Baseball’s Greatest Games” series on the MLB Network. Bob Costa zips though highlights of the greatest baseball games in the last 50 years with commentary from participating players. Then the network shows practically the entire game with the original play-by-play.

So…

Tonight I’m watching the first game of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers (formerly of Brooklyn) and the Oakland Athletics (formerly of Kansas City and Philadelphia). This is the Kirk Gibson game; a cherished moment for any baseball fan. Mr. Gibson’s one-legged homerun in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off (hop-off?) victory for the Dodgers. I know it sounds like a Monte Python routine but it’s actually quite thrilling.

The play-by-play is by Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, similarly cherish-able; “He was about three minutes late on that fast ball” or “The ball didn’t get up. It didn’t get down. It just got out.”

I got yer analytics right here. Vin and Joe didn’t need no stinkin’ stats.

Also cherish-able for this baseball nerd is getting to watch Lexingtonian John Shelby play center field for Los Angeles.

An interesting aspect of the rebroadcast is the elimination of 90% of the replays and 100% of the strolling time between pitches. It turns baseball into a rhythmic action sport. It’s gripping. You can’t take your eyes off of it.

“You can’t take your eyes off of it.”

Not even for a second.

Not even to take a bite outta yer hotdog, or turn to the friend (or stranger) next to you to discuss in complete sentences and grunts what shoulda been done on that last play or what should be done on the next, or who’s a bum and who’s not, or whether the so-called poetry of Rod McKuen was simply a long-range pre-publicity campaign for Clint Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me (that’s a close call).

In these re-broadcasts, as much as I’m enjoying them, time has been extracted from the timeless game.

Time for important stuff.

And it’s our time.

Our time for important stuff…

…like staying home…

…being healthy…

…being together…

…protecting what we love…

…protecting ourselves…

…not being part of the problem……

……waiting for the next real pitch.

I do miss baseball.

Quarantine Casserole

I’m a lucky guy.

If you’ve spent more than a half an hour with me, you’ve probably heard that phrase and you know I’m talkin’ ‘bout Janie. The eye doctors in Central Kentucky owe me a moiety of their prosperity for all of the eye-rolling I’ve inspired with that phrase, but it’s undeniable. The day I tricked her into thinking she tricked me into marriage was the best day of my life.

First of all, she’s a pole dancer…for real. We even have a pole installed at the house…for real. How many guys do you know that live in a house with a library (with thousands of books, movies, and music discs), and a pole (with a resident dancer)?

I rest my case right there. I’m a lucky guy.

But wait! There’s more!! And it has nuthin’ to do with Ginsu knives.

Said pole dancer is also one sharp cookie.

Janie went hunting and gathering today at Kroger. She slapped on her pith helmet and sallied forth, sans grocery list (that means “without” – apologies to Groucho Marx). She was spurred to action after hearing about lockdowns in Italy and Spain, and Walter Tunis’ trophy-hunter selfie with the last can of tuna from Kroger.

She returned, sporting a grimly triumphal look.

“I hunted. I gathered. You bring ‘em in.”

“What’cha get?”

“Bags of random crap.”

That’s BORC to the I-can’t-be-bothered-to-spell generation (ICBBTS’s).

She was off to wash her hands while I toted in the nine BORC.

What a treasure hunt! What a jumble sale!

There was evaporated milk, clam strips, blueberry muffins, calamari, two cans of tuna (take that Mr. Tunis), a bag of oddly curled pasta (the last in the free world I’m told), one can of spam, and one tiny tin of anchovies. That last sentence was un-exaggerated and unexpurgated.

There was more, of course, but these were the items that dazzled me.

Anchovies.

I have never owned an anchovy in my life. I’m not sure I even know what one is. We are truly living in historic times.

I asked the Great Red-Headed Hunter, gently mind you, about the anchovies.

“I think I have a recipe.”

I surveyed the expanse of the BORC and pondered.

What kind of casserole could involve clam strips, calamari, tuna, spam, and anchovies? Do I wanna know?

The pondering swirled away (as pondering often will) into a stray remembrance of when I collected baseball cards as a child. I recall one summer when every pack of baseball cards I bought had a Marv Throneberry card in it. I didn’t know Marvelous Marv personally. He may have been a charming fellow, but I hated him that summer. What I really wanted that year was Pete Rose’s rookie card. I never got one. At one point, I offered to trade six Marv Throneberry cards for one Pete Rose. No takers.

Today, as I move the grocery piles to the pantry under the avaricious eyes of the dog (hoping for droppage), I am offering one tiny tin of anchovies for six Marv Throneberry cards…plus a few Ginsu knives thrown in.

Thus far, no takers.

I’m gonna go wash my hands.

Quicksand Fever

I fret.

It’s my medium.

I work with fret like potters work with clay.

It’s my gift.

I can fret about anything. If you give me a stack of $100 bills, I will fret about which way the bills are turned. What if they stick together? What if a strong wind blows? How am I gonna get change?

I’ve learned to live with it and laugh at it…and that’s good because I’ve fretted since my childhood. I was a fret savant.

I was raised on 50’s and 60’s TV. I fretted when Spin and Marty went to summer camp. I fretted when skinny Frankie Avalon tried to keep up with all those big surfers when it was clear that Annette coulda taken him two falls outta three. I even fretted about Mr. Peabody’s “Way-Back Machine.” That thing didn’t look safe.

As I grew older, such “objets du angst” proved silly.

Quicksand, for example, has not proven to be near the ubiquitous hazard that TV westerns predicted it would be. It’s good to know Chloe the Pup and I can wander the neighborhood with impunity.

One of the most worrisome fears of my youth was falling into the hands of the Communists. I had read accounts of how the Soviet government snatched their innocent citizens off the streets, held sham investigations and trials, and whisked the hapless victims off to insane asylums or Siberia…or both. My dad and my teachers and Walter Cronkite assured me it was so.

Gulp!

I was also assured by those same people that it couldn’t happen in America. Any nascent wanderlust in me was subdued a bit. But as long as I maintained my citizenship, voted like a banshee, and kept my feet in the Land-Where-We-Do-What’s-Right, there was no need to fret.

Whew!

But wait.

Wait……

…………………………………………………………………..…wait…………

Now we have a president who asks a former Soviet country to investigate American citizens.

I think I’ll be asking my grass-cutting guy to survey the back yard for quicksand next spring.

Steinbeck and Screens

When people I meet learn;

  • That at my mom’s urging, I was reading before I started school;
  • My first job was as a clerk in the Children’s Department of the Lexington Public Library;
  • I’ve collected books since I was fifteen;
  • With Janie’s permission, a loan from a friend, a thoughtful and caring set of plans from another friend, and a year of formidable building skills from yet another friend, I built a library. I built a library…pht-t-t-t. I wrote checks, said “GO,” kept out of the way, and admired the work – that’s what I did;

They get the point that books are uber-important to me.

Often, I will then get the question; “What’s your favorite book?”

Often I will cheat on the answer; “Today, my favorite book is actually two books by John Steinbeck; CANNERY ROW and SWEET THURSDAY.” It’s not really cheating. The two books tell one story about Steinbeck’s friend, Doc Ricketts. The books have all the basic food groups; Monterey, homeless men living a mostly gleeful life in abandoned corrugated tubes, a whorehouse, a frog hunt, a seer who inspires sunsets instead of the other way around, a Chinese storekeeper who cheats at chess, beer milk shakes, octopi, and Suzy driving a stick shift.

It also has a classic Steinbeck line that, to me, goes far to explain the current toxicity of our political life.

“Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him…”

I wonder if our current addiction to screens and our hunger and demand for complete access to all things at all times for no sacrifice of effort and treasure, is simply a path to distraction…and perhaps eventual destruction. We distract ourselves constantly to keep from acknowledging our debt to our species and other species for that matter. We substitute knowing things quickly for knowing things well…and then we do the same for the people we meet.

I’m gonna do better…

…and perhaps slower.

I’m certainly gonna vote…

…and I’m gonna vote in a way that pays at least a little of that debt I owe to all species.

Now, if tomorrow I’m asked about my favorite book, my answer might be THE STORY OF DR. DOLITTLE by Hugh Lofting.

I can’t explain it.

It’s the way I roll.

An Imperial Visitor

A hawk came to our house today.

We’ve been in our house for 30+ years. We’ve tried to encourage most critters that drift in and we’ve deliberately brought others into our outdoor space. Our dogs and cats have thrived. Our fish teem and our frogs sing. We’ve been briefly visited by raccoons, opossums, owls, and herons. An ancient and wavering coyote was once cornered by the authorities under our hollies. The hedge of trumpet vine under which we live has become a condo for about a dozen tiny chittering birds that are a source of endless entertainment for our cat. Of course we have the usual horde of squirrels who screech their disapproval of every move the dog makes…critics! We have a plethora of rabbits and an occasional terrifying, but non-lethal serpent.

Our little space has become a lively, noisy little jungle. I believe Henri Rousseau would smile upon our efforts.

But today…

…today…

…it was a hawk.

Janie was heading out the door to her yoga session. There was a wo-o-osh of wings. She stopped; “I think we had a hawk in our garden!”

It was gone and so was she. I grabbed another cup of coffee and headed for the library.

The windows in the library overlook a small brick-lined pool with a birdbath fountain. I can stand in those windows and watch the frogs and fish and fountain, all of which are less than ten feet away.

I fired up the desktop and got the music ready for a’shufflin’.

I stepped up to the window with my cuppa and there he was.

“The stuff that dreams are made of…”

More like nightmares…feathered and beaked nightmares.

Squatting in the fountain, wings drooping happily over the edges of the basin, water bubbling up beneath his regal bird butt, his cruel Sam Waterston/Morris Ankrum countenance darting challenges to the world.

He flapped and flung water, enjoying his morning ablutions.

Our garden went silent.

Teeming and singing ceased. The frogs and the fish discreetly and immediately plunged to bottom of the pool. The chittering condo birds chittered not. The squirrels kept their vulgar opinions to themselves. Dogs on the street stopped barking. Sirens and cars all instantly became hybrids and made no sounds.

I held my breath.

Death was bathing…

…and like the gods of Lovecraft, nothing good for any living creature would come from attracting his attention.

This stricken silence went on for about ten minutes.

It was thrilling.

It was magnificent.

It was kinda scary.

I understood a little better the silence of Republicans in the presence of Trump.

The hawk, in his own time, flew to the garden gate, flapped and flung water to dry. He then cocked his head and flung a dismissive Chuck Pogue sneer to the silent garden.

He flew away, taking the silence with him.

I breathed again.

I looked down at the cat.

She sauntered away, wide-eyed, her tail huge, murmuring; “…goddam neighborhood’s goin’ to hell…”

Pottersville?

I fear we are living in Pottersville.

The aspiring angel Clarence failed and did not get his wings. George Bailey leaped from the snowy bridge to his death.

Messieurs Potter, Trump, McConnell, Bevin, Kushner, Carson, Mnuchin, Ross, Nunes, DeVoss and fellow ravagers with their toolkits of greed, grift, groping, grabbing…and coarseness are reshaping and renaming our country.

Pottersville.
It’s cold.
It’s venal.
It’s violent.
It’s coarse.
It’s wrong.
It’s inevitable……no, wait……I don’t believe that.

But tonight I need some reminders of hope and honest goodness and competence.

I need to hear Greg Turay sing “Anthem” from the musical Chess. I need to hear Michael Preacely sing anything at all. I need to see Dr. Everett McCorvey conduct 22,000 basketball fans singing our national anthem. I need to see the Texas softball player sink to her knees in tears when her soldier brother appears at her Senior Night game after three years of service overseas. I need to read some more Paul Prather. I need to remember my friend Becky Johnson’s noble attempts to learn how many children every cab driver in San Miguel has, in her high school Spanish that seemed to improve with every cab ride.

These reminders have nothing to do with generating a monetary profit exploiting other humans, or driving another species to extinction, or further wounding our planet.
They are the antithesis of Pottersville.

I’ll work on all that.

I’ll also vote, as early and as often as the law allows, to get us out of Pottersville.

But for tonight I’ll have to settle for watching Governor Andy motivate an entire state to do the next right thing, and admiring Col. Virginia’s silent bellow; “We go together.”

They are both better and far more interesting than Pottersville.

The Oddness Continues…

I watched the Kentucky Derby…at least I thought I did.

I saw the horse cross the finish line first and his jockey give the first congratulatory interview. Then I switched to an event of far more importance; a titanic early-season baseball contest between my revered Reds and the despised Giants from San Francisco.

The oddness continued from earlier in the week.

– The Reds are wearing uniforms from 1902. I actually like ‘em, but…odd.
– Cody Reed threw a strike…odd.

Then a banner scrolled across the bottom of the screen essentially quoting the Firesign Theater; “Everything you know is wrong” about the Kentucky Derby. The winner (the betting favorite) was disqualified and the second-place finisher (a 65-1 underdog) was been declared the winner. I flipped back to Derby broadcast to see;

– Our scruffy governor in his gimme hat and his five o’clock shadow booed by the vocal majority of a crowd of 150,000 on national TV…very odd.
– The Derby trophy presented to owners that seemed almost apologetic for winning…certainly odd.
– A quick network breakaway to…a hockey game?

Befuddled, I flipped back to the baseball game where I learned the Reds had won the game and scored a lot of runs and Trump was still president.
Odd, odder and oddest.

I sense a disturbance in the Force (or fourth if you must).

Odd Night

It is an odd night after an odd day in these odd times.

I’m watching a little baseball on the tube; my cherished Reds are playing the Mets in New York on a cold and drizzling night. You can see the players’ breath.

Odd and unsettling.

The Reds are facing a fierce and talented pitcher, hittin’ the ball hard, have just left the bases loaded…and have yet to get a hit.

Odd and unsettling.

Speaking of odd and unsettling…

Earlier today, I saw a bit of Attorney General Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I heard the Committee Chairman use the word “fuck” to open the hearing…a United States senator…on national TV…with the Attorney General of the United States sitting in front of him…in a Senate committee room…a room in the same building as the room where John Dean gave his astounding testimony to the Watergate Committee in June of 1974.

I was working nights in 1974. Thus, I got to watch and listen to some of Dean’s testimony in those pre-cable and pre-internet days.

I was struck by the difference between the hearings. In 1974;

– No one said “fuck.”
– Speeches were mostly absent.
– Questions were prevalent, prepared, and mostly to the point.
– Questions were expected to be answered, not dodged.
– Partisanship was present but not raw.
– No one seemed to regard participation in the proceedings as an opportunity to personally shine.
– Indeed, no one seemed to be happy to participate at all. It was serious bidness.

Today?

Well, aside from Kamala Harris, the senators and the Attorney General seemed clearly lesser lights than I remember from 1974.

Odd and unsettling.

I can’t say I know I want Ms. Harris to be my president yet. It’s too early for that.
But it’s not too early to know I don’t want the other participants in today’s exercise to be my public servants. I’m not stupid enough to not want my elected officials to be smarter than me. Otherwise, why would I need ‘em?

Surely we can do better.

Now, ‘bout that ball game…
It’s nuthin’ to nuthin’ and the beloved Reds have just replaced their 3-hit-shutout-throwin’ pitcher.

Odd.

Slouching Towards Hermitude

I find myself slouching towards hermitude these days. Every morning Janie and I sit on the sofa in our living room, with our coffees and muffins and digital newspapers and dog and cat. At some point I ask her; “And what is on your agenda today, young lady?” She usually has one or two things planned. If, between the two of us, we have more than two obligations, something inside of me dims a bit. If we have less, I thrill.

That probably sounds dull and sad.
I don’t care.

I’m grateful for Janie, the sofa, the coffee, the muffin, the dog and the cat… and the space and the time.

After 40+ years of fretting about getting stores open in bad weather and keeping them open in the face of employees’ and lawmakers’ whims and peccadilloes, I am genuinely surprised to learn I prefer fretting about which book I should read next, or which Puccini I should listen to, or whether Fellini should have made Amarcord before I Vitelloni and La Dolce Vita…or whether my beloved Reds could truly be a contender this year given their winter acquisitions.
Of course my fretting doesn’t affect any of those things, but they affect me and I believe I’m made better by them.

Oh yes, I now watch too much news and fret about that also. And no, my fretting doesn’t affect any of those happenings. And yes, they do affect me and I am not made better by them. All I can do is resist and await opportunities to act and vote and stay focused on what’s right and kind.

It’s tempting to burrow into our library and fret in solitude…as long as Janie and the critters aren’t too far away………and as long as my friends are within reach somehow, even if it’s by smoke signals (some of my friends nurture odd Urban Amish habits – one of them just started using email last year though the fake news didn’t report it).

What kind of ersatz hermit is that?

A couple of months ago I babysat with an old friend. He had just had a knee replacement, was recuperating and was challenging his wife with his recuperation. I surmised her sanity remained intact though her patience was exhausted. She needed a break and my friend needed some of Janie’s fine veggie/beef soup. I delivered the soup and a few hours respite.

It was just the two of us and the soup and a movie and the continuation of a conversation that has lasted for slightly over fifty years.

Most of the time it’s been civil.
Most of the time it’s been intelligent.
Occasionally it’s been clever.

100% of the time it has been continued in the blissful belief that this conversation is important to our health and the health of the planet. All problems are solved…even if it’s by disagreeing and going away to ponder a bit.

There’s no hate. There’s no name-calling.
There is some sneering, but that’s just because that’s the way my friend’s face is constructed when he gets excited.

It was a real good time.

I seek these opportunities with my friends, old and new, and grow from them. Janie and I thrive on the laughter and the foolishness and the wisdom of our friends.

What the hell kind of hermit is that?
I fear I’ll never earn my Hermit Union Card at this rate.

I guess that’s OK.

But…
…I slouch on…

Funeralville II

I’ve been watching parts of various stages of President Bush’s funeral over the last few days.

I have wept a bit for a man and a family I did not particularly admire.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why.

Maybe I was moved by the fact that he was my President. He was the President of my United States, duly and fairly elected by my US countrymen. He was not inserted in the White House by gangsters from another country. That’s a good reason, but not a particularly high standard.

Maybe I was moved by his family life and his faithful devotion to the singular partner of his life. That’s another good reason, but not a historically high standard.

Maybe I was moved by President Bush’s volunteering for military duty at the age of eighteen in defiance of his parents’ college plans for him, at a moment in history when the rightness of our country’s military activities seemed clear and the success of those activities were far from clear. It was no time for bone spurs.

Maybe I was moved by President Bush’s advocacy for the rights of, and his lack of mockery of the disabled. I mean, who would do that?

Maybe it was simply the passing of a man more competent, more dutiful, more loyal, and perhaps kinder than I will ever be…
…but then…
I’m not President.

<< snort! >>

Can you imagine?

Electing someone President who’s not more competent, more dutiful, more loyal, and kinder than you are yourself? What would be the point of that?

That would be enough to make you cry…
…or resist.