Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm: Day Two and My Favorite Political Ad

Tuesday morning dawns cold and miserable but under full power. Frankenstorm has lived up to it’s clever name in places like New York City, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and in the higher elevations of Appalachia. For those of us living in central Virginia, Frankenstorm has turned out to be an over-hyped frenzy of meteorological hysteria, resulting in an extended school holiday, and a sales bonanza for the grocery business.

The biggest beneficiaries of this storm have been the 9 million or so people in the northeast who are at this moment without power and consequently are temporarily receiving relief from paid political advertising. My television has become an HD, flat screen, full color bullshit dispenser for the past two months, and to be totally honest with you, it’s starting to chip away at my sanity. There is no escape, no broadcast island I can escape to. No matter what I might be watching, be it sports, the History channel, or even a cooking show, every 13 minutes I am bombarded with rapid-fire character assassination. Tim Kaine is a puppet, Eric Cantor is a corporate tool, no wait,… he’s actually a savior of small business. Mitt Romney is the Snidely Whiplash of American politics, busy tying the screaming blond virgin that is the middle class to the railroad of poverty, as he greedily counts his millions. Barack Obama is coming after our guns, indeed the very foundation of western civilization crumbles literally under our feet every second that he remains President. George Allen is either the champion of black secretaries everywhere, or single-handily responsible for every lost job over the past ten years. I know all of this because the TV ads that are approved by each candidate tell me so.

My personal favorite is the one that lists every failure of Obama’s first term in rapid fire bullet points while ominous music plays in the background. Mysteriously, lights flicker throughout the add suggesting that Tim Kaine favors electrical blackouts. Then, a 2 second clip of Tim Kaine being interviewed by an unidentified journalist flashes on the screen in grainy black and white. Tim Kaine is heard saying…”I’m just doing what the President has asked me to do.” What we don’t hear is what the question was. We don’t hear anything said before or after this sinister declaration. The glaring omission of context leaves it to the imagination. Here are a few possibilities…

Info-Babe: Governor Kaine, Is it true that you not only pray for President Obama every day, but the Republican leaders in Washington as well?

Kaine: Well, I’m just doing what the President has asked me to do.

-or-

Info-Babe: Is it true that you are working daily behind the scenes to obstruct the will of the people of the State of Virginia by issuing regulations that will lead to communism and Sharia law?

Kaine: Well, I’m just doing what the President has asked me to do.

 

See, context can make a huge difference. But providing such context would be like taking the sizzle out of the steak. Instead, the men and women who create these ads prefer to treat us all like idiots. And as long as we allow such adds to influence our votes…and they do…we should get used to our status as idiots. *

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I’m Doug Dunnevant. I’m not running for office. This blog costs me nothing to produce, and I approve of it’s content. If you’re a Kaine supporter, don’t get excited. I’m not voting for him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chronicaling The Devastation


The next 24-48 hours will be, no doubt, one of those events that I will one day tell my grand children about…God willing. Watched the last weather report last night around 11 o’clock, then settled in for a fitful night’s sleep. When I said my prayers I remembered to thank God for the wisdom on display over at the Henrico County School Board. That ever-vigilant bunch had the good sense to cancel school for today, adhering to the sage advice of generations of mothers and grandmothers that you would much rather be safe than sorry.

When I woke up, I fought back the rising panic and dread that began to overwhelm me as I lay there listening to the faint sound of soft rain on my windows, clearly the prelude to the torrents to come. Part of me just wanted to pull the covers tight and stay there, pretending that the horror that awaited me outside was all a dream. But, part of me really, really had to go to the bathroom…so, I screwed up all the courage I could muster and trudged downstairs.

I grabbed my cell phone to record everything for posterity. Luckily for me, no satellites had fallen from the sky during the night, and no damage had yet been done to cell phone towers on the beleaguered east coast, so I still had service. When I opened the garage door, I was greeted by this:

 
                                                                             
 


A mere 36 hours ago I had taken my leaf blower to this area and had it entirely free of leaves, pine needles, and other fall foliage. I can hardly imagine what the next 36 hours will visit upon us.

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of this Frankenstorm, I took the following video to help you appreciate the power of the winds that this mega-storm of the century has unleashed:

 

                                                                         

video


 After I got dressed, I headed for the office, praying for the best, expecting the worst. Thankfully, the power was still on. However, when I walked out onto the sidewalk that runs behind our office, I discovered the first signs of what is to come:

                                                                           

Obviously the first of many displaced planks that soon will be sailing through the air around here like sabers of death. I will do my best to faithfully chronicle the devastation as long as I am physically able.

Peace.

Stay strong.












Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bring It On, SOTC!!!

Never let it be said that I let my natural cynicism get in the way of being prepared when it comes to the STORM OF THE CENTURY, or SOTC for short. We have done the following things as of 7:47 Sunday morning the 28th day of October in the year of our Lord 2012:

# Cut the grass

# Moved the electric light up fake jack-o-lanterns into a corner on our front porch, and secured their chords to the iron railing to prevent them from being blown over by the 280 mph winds to come

# Went to Martins and filled our pantry with two weeks worth of staples, essential for the preservation of life without power. These include but are not limited to…canned soup, milk, peanut butter, fresh fruit, Snyder’s cheddar cheese flavored pretzel bites and one six pack each of Killian’s Irish Red and Samuel Adams Boston Lager

# Did an extra load of dark clothes before going to bed last night, since everyone knows that you should never wear white during a SOTC after October first

# Gave Molly a bath

# Took extra care in emptying the dish washer this morning

# Remembered to not wash either car yesterday, what with all the rain in the forecast, it would be pointless

 

Moving on to other topics…last night Pam and I sat down to prepare today’s lesson in the Art of Marriage class we are teaching. This one was about defining the proper roles for husband and wife. You know, the submission thing and who should be the leader etc… Once again, we discovered that we are totally unqualified to teach this class. We have done practically everything wrong! There was this one section entitled..”25 ways to spiritually lead your family” I read through the list and was only able to check off 14 out of 25 and that was because of a very optimistic scoring. The crazy thing is, Pam and I have always gotten along great, and have always been pretty proud of what we have put together here for the past 28 years. That is, until we started teaching this class, and discovered what terrible failures we have been! Actually, I exaggerate. But only a little.

Friday, October 26, 2012

STORM OF THE CENTURY

Today, for lunch, I picked up some Chick-Fil-A and brought it back to the house. I reached for my cell phone and turned on Pandora. It was set on shuffle. I was getting a nice mixture, a fairly representative sample of my eclectic musical taste. There was a rare live version of "I Saw Her Standing There" by the Beatles, a great R&B song by Duffy called “Mercy”, and then an Adele song I can’t remember, then “Tightrope” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. About the time I started to pound the cup of coleslaw my cell phone began blaring the Piano Sonata #8 in C-minor by Beethoven. Ok, I know what you’re thinking. What in the world is Beethoven doing in your mix?…to which I answer, because I think him to be the most interesting man in the world…THAT’S why. Anyway, this piece is over 8 minutes, and by the end of it, my lunch was eaten, and I was leaned back in my chair staring off into the distance. What an exquisitely brilliant lunatic! What kind of man could possibly have conceived and written such a work? As wild and scattered as is the first movement, the second contains quite possibly the most beautiful melody ever written. I hope and pray that old Ludwig was a believer, because when I get to heaven, he and I are going to talk!

When I got back to the office my computer screen was warning me in bold, red letters about the latest “storm of the century”. It’s official name is Sandy, but the headline writers at Drudge were trying out “Frankenstorm”. Breathless forecasters were using phrases like “damage of Biblical proportions” We’ll see. But I would be careful breaking out biblical references. That’s setting the bar quite high, for one thing. I mean, Noah’s Floods don’t come around too often. And, I can’t remember the last plague of locust. I don’t recall any rivers turning red with blood…although now that I think about it, didn’t the Cuyahoga River catch fire once? Near Cleveland, I think it was. Anyway, it just seems to me that every year there’s a “storm of the century”. Could be global warming. Might be global cooling. Or, it might be sweeps week over at The Weather Channel. Either way, Pam and I will be sure to have plenty of bread, milk, eggs and bacon so we can weather the storm. I hear that there might be 6 inches of rain, 40-50 mph winds and hyperventilating meteorologists starting Sunday and lasting through Tuesday. Just in time for my Son to get trapped in Nashville. He’s down there visiting his college buddies and girlfriend for fall break, and his return flight is Tuesday, I think.

I heard some whack-job on the radio wondering what impact this storm might have on the election, if any. Seriously? What, are the Obama people going to blame the Romney campaign for wind and rain? I suppose the Romney people could blame the President for failing to keep the promise in his 2008 acceptance speech that his election would result in the lowering of the sea levels. I can see the campaign commercial now…a violent storm surge lashes the New Jersey coast as an ominous voice intones..” Yet another empty Obama campaign promise. He told us he would fix this, but here we are 4 years later and there are still hurricanes…Vote for Sunny and 75. Vote Mitt Romney”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Night At Carnigie Hall

On the map it looked like an easy straight shot. We would walk from Penn Station down 8th all the way to our hotel on 56th street. Mapquest informed us that it was 1.2 miles, or 23 blocks. But when we emerged from Penn Station out onto 34th street we discovered that it was raining. I say to Pam, “Maybe we should take a cab”, to which she bravely replied, “No, I’m fine.”

Unlike me, she was prepared, her feet fitted with comfortable walking shoes, and her umbrella at the ready. So, we headed uptown.

Forty-five minutes later we stumbled into the lobby of the Wellington Hotel. We should have taken that cab. But, we made it, and now we could check into our spacious room, relax, and rest a little before going out to explore the city. I knew something wasn’t right when as I opened the door to our room it immediately slammed into the closet door. The door on the left opened to a bathroom roughly the size of the shower stalls on cruise ships. When sitting on the toilet, you couldn’t lean forward without slamming your head on the sink. For the first time in our 28 years of marriage we would be sleeping in a full size bed. The good thing was that I could adjust the thermostat on the air conditioner without getting out of bed. “ This room looked so much bigger on the website”, “I offered in way of explanation.

Then we went out and walked our little slice of Manhattan. Though designed and built for a race of pygmies, our hotel could not possibly have been more convenient. Carnegie Hall was literally across the street. We checked out several diners, cafes, and bars where we might meet Patrick for dinner before the show. We chose PJ Carney’s for the sole reason that a review of it appeared on Yelp that could have been written by Patrick himself. It turned out to be a perfect spot. Fish and chips, chicken fingers and ice water without ice, all for the reasonable price of $52.

When it was time for the show, Pam and I left our Lilliputian hotel and walked across the street to the entrance to the grand hall. Our tickets entitled us to the upper balcony view, which required us to walk up five flights of stairs, Pam in high heels. The friendly usher told us to keep walking up stairs until you couldn’t walk anymore and then we would be there. Sure enough, in section J seats 31 and 33, we settled in, and gazed down at the tiny ant like people filling the stage. I felt like I was in a blimp at the Rose Bowl. Patrick’s choir marched in and we could hear the shuffling of their feet. The acoustics in Carnegie are legendary, but you have to be in Balcony J to really appreciate the miracle.

Pam and I are not opera aficionados. Frankly, our exposure to most of classical music is a direct result of our son’s gifts. Add to that the fact that this entire piece is performed in Latin, and well, this had the potential of being a long night. But, as a parent, you discover that you learn to love the things that your kids love. I did my homework before hand. I Googled this Verdi guy, and researched the work, read reviews, so I was semi-educated on the subject. Listening to Patrick before the show at dinner and seeing the passion and excitement on his face helped prepare me.

There were parts of the piece that bored me, to be honest, mostly the parts where the soloists were singing. But whenever the conductor would coil up like a spring and turn the orchestra and the choir loose, well, it was as powerful and moving a thing as I have ever heard. Following along with the English score, the music crackled with emotion and passion. At times I honestly expected the floor to open up releasing the demons of hell into the hall. Watching that conductor was amazing. What a feeling of delicious power it must be to have all that musical energy and talent at your disposal, waiting for your skilled exploitation. An hour and a half later he held his hands up, then hesitated after the final note. They hung there in silence. The sold out crowd hushed in reference. Ten seconds, twenty seconds, an eternity of soundless appreciation. Finally, his hands dropped to his side and the house erupted. Good stuff.

We met Patrick after the show at the Europa Café for tea and cheese cake. He was spent, but thoroughly satisfied with the performance. We walked with him down to the 53rd street subway entrance, hugged him, then watched him disappear down the steps.

No parent can ask anything more from life than to see their kids doing what they were born to do. I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Introduction To Amtrak

I, Douglas Lee Dunnevant, being of reasonably sound mind and body, do here-by declare that I have placed my future in the hands of the government run passenger train system for the next six hours. This is my first ever ride with Amtrak. So far I like it. Feels a little Arlo Guthrie-ish. Feel like any minute some old hobo will walk down the aisle with a six-string singing folk songs.

Anyway, Pam and I are headed up to New York city today to see Patrick and the Westminster Symphony choir perform Verdi’s Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie-Freaking Hall. No big deal. I’m sure that’s exactly how it will be billed too…”Patrick Dunnevant and the Westminster Symphony Choir present…” Seriously, it’s an amazing honor for him to be a part of something this grand, and it isn’t lost on him. He’s on top of the world. This will be an extremely long day, starting at 5:30 this morning, a 6 hour train ride, walking the streets of Manhattan all afternoon, then the show at 8:00 PM, followed by a couple of hours with Patrick, dinner at some yet unnamed restaurant around 11:00, then finally back to our hotel around 1 or so.

Just pulled up to a charming station in Fredericksburg. There’s a place called The Bavarian Chef right beside the tracks. So cool. This train travel thing really does give you a different view of the world. It’s amazing how many apartment complexes and crappy neighborhoods back up to railroad tracks. But once you get into the countryside, the views are overwhelmingly beautiful. Wheat fields, rivers and streams, trees ablaze with fall color, punctuated by junkyards, piles of discarded tires and hideous graffiti slathered on the backs of old buildings. America…the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unlike air travel, I’m allowed to walk up and down the train. Right now, I’m sitting at a table in the café car with my laptop plugged in to an AC outlet with free internet service. Cool. On an airplane, I’m not allowed to use my cell-phone, but on the train, I’m free to receive a call and a text from Sherri Matthews who informs me that the book and DVD that I left under my seat at church Sunday have been partially recovered. If someone stole my Art of Marriage DVD, well, I hope they put it to good use.

More to come…

Friday, October 19, 2012

On A Scale Of One To Ten...

Pam and I were asked recently to help teach one of those “marriage enrichment” classes at my church, to a group of younger couples. I suppose that chief among our credentials for this job was the fact that we have been married for 28 years and display no signs of hostility towards each other in public. We accepted with great trepidation.

This week’s lesson concerns the tendency that each marriage encounters towards isolation, the natural bias that we humans have for drifting apart. Very good point and an important topic. The example is given about this one couple who was asked to rate the quality of their marriage on a scale of one to ten…one being something akin to Dante’s 9th circle of hell and ten being uninterrupted honey-moonal bliss. The husband quickly and confidently rates his marriage a 10, while the incredulous wife goes back and forth between .5 and 1. How can this be?

OK, before attempting an answer, I should simply say that I reject the question. It’s a ridiculous speculative exercise in score keeping. If I were asked such a question I would respond something like this…”Er. What?” See, for me to rate my marriage on a scale of one to ten, I would need more information. Marriage is a complicated, multi-faceted collaboration, that is divided into a series of relationships. There’s the parenting side, the financial side, daily operations, how the house is kept etc.., there’s the sex part, not to mention the quality of the meals. A guy might rate his marriage a 8.5 at the dinner table and a 3.5 for parenting. The woman might give the financial part a 7 while rating the daily operations at 2.5 because although her husband might be a good provider, he’s also a slob. As the kids like to say on Facebook…it’s complicated. But I suppose if a gun were held to my head and I was told to come up with a number, I would say that I think my marriage is a 7.875, give or take .075.

Then I get to the section at the end of each lesson called…”Date-Night Ideas”. This week I run across this gem…

“ Spend two hours on the couch together one evening

without TV, cell phones, computers, or the internet.

Spend time together talking, reading to each other,

or just sitting quietly together.”

I wouldn’t have any trouble talking with my wife for two hours. She is interesting, and beautiful to look at. I’m not sure how reading to each other would work. Maybe it would be fun actually, as long as I didn’t have to read or listen to anything by Danielle Steel or Nicholas Sparks. But the last one made me laugh out loud!! “Just sit together quietly”??? Are you kidding me? And do what…gaze into each other’s eyes, contemplate the time space continuum? I mean, is touching involved? Will there be snacks?

 

I can think of nothing worse than having to sit quietly in one place for two hours. For one thing, I’m not a very good sitter, and secondly, nature abhors a vacuum. Silence may be golden, but it also leads to madness. Walk the halls of nut-houses in this country and I bet you half of the occupants having spoken a word in years. If God intended us to be quiet, he never would have invented the cell phone.

Although I have a few minor quibbles, I’m actually liking this class. After 28 years, it’s refreshing to examine the fundamentals of my marriage. I already feel like the luckiest guy on earth to have found Pam, but there’s always room for improvement. Just don’t ask me to activate the cone of silence thing. That’s just crazy talk.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christmas in October

Ok, I’m going to make this quick. It’s not good form to dance on anyone’s grave and all, but I just can’t let the events of tonight pass without a comment or two. I mean, I could wait until the morning and the clarity that always comes after a good night’s sleep. But I can’t help myself. Something as thrilling as the Yankees getting swept out of the playoffs is just too good to wait until morning. To hell with perspective!!

The Dark Side of the Force has been vanquished. The pinstripes crashed and burned in fantastic futility to the Detroit Tigers. In four games, the mighty $200,000,000 dollar payroll managed to dent home plate a laughable 6 times. All that money, all the swagger and superstar egos combined for a .157 batting average with 36 strikeouts. If that wasn’t awesome enough, we got to see the complete and total humiliation of A-Roid, the $30 million a year self-confessed cheater who got pinch hit for and unceremoniously benched for the last two games of the series. The Evil Empire is in shambles, a hulking, slow-footed, ageing collection of overpaid choke-artists. Derek Jeter’s horrible ankle injury is the only thing about this series that has put the slightest bit of a damper on my raging schadenfreude.

But, fear not Yankee fans. Over the off season I’m sure Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys will go out a buy up all the best free agents. Next year old Josh Hamilton will be playing center field, maybe you guys can work out a swap of A-Roid and Pujols, and I’m sure you’ll land a couple of big time pitchers, which will make it even sweeter watching a $250,000,000 payroll implode.

For this baseball fan, Christmas just came early!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What a Sight!!

On the day after the second Presidential debate, you might expect me to offer my brilliant insights into who won and why. But the thing is, the debates have managed to suck all the brilliance out of me. The other thing is, I only watched it during the commercial breaks of the Yankees v. Tigers game so, there’s that. When I did tune in, it seemed to be all hand waving, platitudinous talking points and questions being asked by that most rare of electoral species...the undecided, disappointed, democratic voter from Long Island. Let’s call it a technical draw and let the media declare Obama the clear winner, and move on.

What I do want to talk about is the amazing thing I saw yesterday. I was driving on Dumbarton between Lakeside and Staples Mill when I was nearly blinded by the most hideous vision. At this point I must pose a question to the ladies in this audience….WHY??

What I saw walking down the side walk was a very large woman, what our parents used to call “big-boned”. I’m thinking this woman would weigh in somewhere between 275 and 300. Her girth was spread out over a not so nimble frame of 5 feet, 4 inches, so, if she were a running back, the announcers would refer to her “low center of gravity”. Anyway, this particular woman was wearing a pair of blaze orange spandex pants. Her ample backside looked like it consisted of two or three watermelons with a couple of cantaloupes thrown in for good measure. And, all of them somehow stuffed into those pants the color of brand new, never used traffic cones. To complete the ensemble, she chose a smart midriff cut sweatshirt that let all the world see a two inch sliver of flab protruding out all the way around. The color of this odd mini-top was some sort of electric, neon magenta. The combination of these two colors was enough to not only stop traffic, but make traffic do u-turns and speed away in the opposite direction.

In fairness and in the interest of full disclosure, the point should be made that I am not exactly a fashion plate myself. No one has ever mistaken me for a GQ model. I’m a Men’s Warehouse kind of guy. I buy clothes once every two years whether I need any or not. But, what the heck? Why do women allow themselves to be seen in public adorned in this way? Do people like this ever avail themselves of mirrors? Did anybody look at this poor woman before she stepped outside and say something like…” What...wait, Edna. You may want to rethink that look.”

As my car passed her, I tried not to stare. But after awhile, I glanced in the side mirror to check out the front view. Emblazoned across the magenta mini-top, swaying mightily were the words…”I’M HOTT”. Yes dear. Yes, you are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Missing My Mother

It’s been three and a half months since my mother passed away. In the week or so afterwards I was so caught up in the enormity of the thing, I never really had time to, for lack of a less hackneyed word, grieve. There were arrangements to be made with funeral homes and cemeteries. There was a funeral to plan. There wasn’t much time to devote to contemplating big issues of life, death, and loss. Then after all of that sound and fury had passed, our minds were fully occupied with the care of my Dad. To a large degree, the pass couple of months have consisted of hammering out a workable plan for what my father’s life would be like without Mom. Just recently, Dad’s life has begun to settle in to something close to a routine. Finally, last week I had some time to reflect on the fact that my mother is, in fact, gone.

Just before I traveled to Chicago, Pam was checking the messages on our old, seldom used land line. There she found a message from my mother. I listened to her words with a tightness in my throat. It was an uneventful message. She was calling to see of Pam could take her to a doctor’s appointment that she had forgotten about. It was not a good day for her. We could tell because she had that sadness in her voice that we had come to notice when she wasn’t feeling well. As I listened, I desperately wanted Pam to erase the message, but I said nothing. I preferred not to remember her this way.

When I was in Chicago, I had long portions of the day with very little to do. In my mind, I kept hearing her voice on that message, one I wished so much that I had never heard. During the Presidential debate I was texting back and forth with my son about the debate, but mostly we were enjoying talking with each other and catching up. When it was over, for an instant, I thought that I should call Mom and let her know how Patrick was doing. I always liked doing that with her. I’d call and tell her what the latest news was with Kaitlin or Patrick, and no matter how she was feeling or sounding when she took the call, within a few minutes she was on top of the world, so proud was she of her grandchildren. I wanted to talk with her about my kids. I wanted to ask her what she thought about things. I wanted to get her riled up about something since she always did her best talking when she was in a bit of an uproar. But the line was dead. She wouldn’t answer. She couldn’t answer. The full weight of the fact of her loss hit me on a treadmill in the workout room of the Michigan Avenue Marriott.

When I got back in town, I visited her grave for the first time since her funeral. Nothing. I felt nothing. She’s not there, for one thing. It brought back memories of caskets and funeral homes, and the slippery merchants of death that I had to deal with for 48 hours so that she could be placed in that spot. Instead of comforting memories of a wonderful, warm human being, I was thinking about people trying to sell me state of the art burial products and writing checks that would have appalled my mother. I could almost hear her voice saying…”That money should have been given to Lottie Moon, and I should have been buried in a pine box in the backyard!!”

Perhaps I’m a bad son for not spending the last three and a half months racked with sadness and longing. Or maybe I grieve differently than most people. I’ve never lost someone this important to me before so I have no prior experience on which to draw. All I know is…I miss my mother.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Collapse of the Nationals

The dream season of the Washington Nationals came to a nightmarish end last night. The youngest team in baseball…looked it. After exploding out of the gate with 6 runs in the first 3 innings, it was going to take a monumental collapse and an epic comeback to end the Nationals’ season. Unfortunately, the long suffering Washington fans got both.

There are a multitude of ways to lose a game, and no one player or one play is ever solely to blame. But it is possible, in hindsight, to find the reason. Here it is. One stat tells the tale. The St. Louis Cardinal pitching staff issued one walk the entire game. The Washington Nationals pitchers issued a maddening 8 free passes. While bases on balls are never a good thing, they are especially toxic when you have a 6 run lead. If you’re going to be the victim of a heroic comeback, at least make them put the ball in play. Gio Gonzales wasn’t up for the challenge of October baseball. The 21 game winner pitched 10 innings in this series and issued 11 walks. The poor guy couldn’t throw a strike when it mattered to save his life. Do the Nationals make the playoffs without him? No way. Did he perform like their ace when they needed him? No way. But the bull pen wasn’t much better under the pressure of an elimination game. Both Edwin Jackson and Drew Storen walked two of the batters they faced and each of them scored.

None of this is meant to diminish the incredibly clutch performance of the Cardinals. They deserve everything they got. Any rational baseball fan has to admire the amazing fortitude and grit with which they compete. I just wish they had been forced to hit their way to glory. But, that’s baseball, and sometimes baseball can be a little bit like hell.

So, thanks Nationals, for entertaining me for the past 6 months. You have been fun to watch, and even though last night was agony, there’s always…next year.


PS...My wife stayed up to watch this game with me. Pam hates sports, and especially hates watching sports on television. That she would stay with me until after 12:30 in the morning tells you all you need to know about her awesomeness. On the other hand, maybe she was just worried that I might have a heart attack and didn't want to leave me alone!! Either way, thanks sweetie!

Friday, October 12, 2012

VP Debate In Pictures!!

 

Moderator:  Vice-President Biden, Currently in this country there are over 14 million Americans unemployed. When you count the number of people who have simply given up looking for work, the total unemployment rate is over 11%. Your administration, when argueing for the 850 BILLION dollar stimulus bill three years ago, promised us that if passed the unemployment rate would be cut down to 7% almost immediately because of all of the shovel-ready jobs that were out there. What happened?


 
Vice-President Biden:    "Hhahahahahahah!!!!"

Moderator: Mr. Vice President, the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission along with many of our own intelligence services have estimated that Iran is within months of obtaining a nuclear weapon. Considering the hostile rhetoric coming out of Iran over the past 40 years about wanting to wipe Israel off the map, are you at all concerned about what this developement might mean for the region?

Vice-President Biden:

                                                                              

                                    BRUHAHHAAAA!! Martha, you're killing me here!! HAHAHAHAHA!!

Moderator: Mr. Vice-President, our nation has added almost 5 trillion dollars to the national debt  just in the 3 and a half yours of your administration, all the while, your administration hasn't even passed a budget in over one thousand days. What plan have you submitted to Congress that proposes to fix these disturbing trends?

Vice-President Biden:



                                      Stop it!! STOP IT!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!!

Moderator: Mr. Vice-President, what is your reaction to the news today that Medscape Inc., the largest hair replacement firm in the United States has filed for chapter 11 bankrupsy protection?

Vice-President Biden:


                                                                               


                                                                             






                                                                                                               

 
 
 
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Baseball Complaint

Regular readers of this space know just how far in the tank I am for the game of baseball. Many of you don’t get it because you’re football people and that’s fine. Some of you are charmed by my love of baseball, considering it part of my eccentricity that I would be so fond of a game that has fallen from being the national pass time 50 years ago to an October annoyance today. That’s fair. But even I, especially someone like me, has earned the right to air a complaint about the game I love. Watching night after night of playoff baseball has brought this issue to the table and it’s time for a public airing.

Ok, one of the charms of this game is the fact that there is no time clock. Some games that are well-pitched can be over in less than 2 hours. Others, with errors and lots of runs can last much longer. Plus, in baseball there’s always the possibility of extra innings since we never play for ties. I love this about baseball. You go to a game and for the first time all week time is finally on your side, no deadlines, no glancing at the clock on the wall. You can actually have a conversation at a baseball game. The pace of the game isn’t break neck like the rest of the world. If I want manic I’ll go to work. Two minute drill? I’m sorry, that sounds like something the dentist does to you when he is really pissed off. However, having said all of this, a relatively modern baseball invention is testing my patience…the batting glove.

95% of players today wear not one, but TWO batting gloves. These leather and nylon menaces have done more to slow down the pace of play than anything since the introduction of the commercial break. It goes something like this. Hitter approaches the batters box. Before entering the box he tugs on the wrist band of each glove and stretches it tight until the Velcro patch locks it at the desired level of security. Then and only then does he step into the box, ready to hit. The pitcher peers in for the sign, gets the one he wants and fires a first pitch fastball that misses the outside corner. The umpire calls out “ball one”. Then, inexplicably the batter steps out of the box. For what reason, you might ask? Well, he must now refasten both of his batting gloves. But, why?? How could they possibly have become any looser from the violent torque involved in TAKING A PITCH!!!! This maddening habit of modern players is starting to get under my skin. First of all, how could Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams have hit all of those home runs without batting gloves? Do guys like Mark Raynolds, Adam Dunn and Danny Espinosa need batting gloves so that can strike out over 200 times in a single season? I guess I should be thankful that Nomar Garciaparra has retired. Old Nomar raised batting glove adjustment to an art form with the Tourette Syndrome-esk nervous tick of a train wreck that he ran out there after every pitch. Before leaving Boston he corrupted an otherwise fine player, Dustin Pedroia, with the same affliction. Sadly, it has spread like wild fire to almost every player in the game. Now it’s…step in box, take pitch, adjust batting glove, repeat. ARRGGHHH!!!

While I’m at it. Modern pitchers need to get a hold of some game tape of guys like Jim Kaat and Mel Stottlemyer, or any pitcher who hung up his cleats before the incorporation of ESPN. Those guys would get the ball from the catcher, maybe rub it up for two seconds, then fire it back. Their view was, they preferred to rush the hitter, to set the tempo, THEIR tempo. Now, pitchers are like human rain delays with all of their walking around the mound, grounds keeping duties, and irritating multiple shake-offs of sign after sign. The other night when Ryan Voglesong was pitching for the Giants, I swear, I thought I would throw something at my flat screen. PITCH THE BALL ALREADY FOR GOD”S SAKE!!!! I mean, the calm, rational, pastoral nature of the game is wonderful and all but when it’s 11:30 at night and a 1-1 ballgame is only in the bottom of the fourth inning?

You know what would be fun? How about doing a little time travel back to the early sixties. I introduce Mickey Mantle to the modern batting glove and convince him that the wrist straps MUST be adjusted after every pitch, whether he swings the bat or not. Then I watch him step into the box against Bob Gibson. What would be the chances of Mickey getting beaned if he stepped out to readjust his batting glove after taking a pitch? I’d say 100%.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's Pam's World. I'm Just Living In It.

Like so many members of the human race, I am a creature of habit. In particular, my morning routine has taken on epic levels of monotony. I rise at 6:30. I walk down the stairs and let Molly out the back door. While she performs her own morning ritual, I begin a pot of coffee. After loading the machine, I reach into the middle jar on the counter and remove one dog biscuit. I open the back door where Molly is patiently, knowingly, waiting, slip the biscuit into her mouth as she comes back into the house. Then I sit on the love seat browsing the internet on my iPhone waiting for the coffee to brew. It’s the sort of rhythm that I have built into my life and it is oddly comforting.

I say all of this to demonstrate for you how dependable and reliable these routines are to me, and also so that you will then understand how remarkably pliable an attitude I have adopted when my wife chooses randomly to throw me a curveball.

Roughly 6 weeks ago I awoke one day and was effortlessly trudging through my morning rituals. I stepped into the shower and began shampooing my hair, then moved on, dreamlike, to shaving, then to rinsing off. I stepped out of the shower, grabbed my towel from the hook on the back of the door where it always hangs, as inflexible as the laws of physics. Then I reached for the blow dryer where it hangs from the suction cup hook on the large mirror. My hand grabbed air. Startled, I stepped back and noticed that the blow dryer along with the hook was gone. I must have stood there, mouth agape staring at the mirror for a minute or more. What could possibly have happened to it? I was at a total loss as to what to do next. Pam was still asleep and doesn’t do well when abruptly awakened. I searched the cabinets under both sinks. No blow dryer. We hadn’t just returned from a trip so she couldn’t have left it in a suitcase. It was just gone.

Then I remembered that two days ago, after Kaitlin had returned back to graduate school, I had found Pam in one of her scorched earth style cleaning jags. She had taken everything out of the kids bathroom down the hall and scrubbed the place within an inch of it’s life. The idea occurred to me that maybe she had taken the blow dryer into the kids bathroom and left it by mistake. I walked down the hall and around the corner and discovered that Pam hadn’t merely left the blow dryer there, she had found it a new home. There it was in all of it’s 2000 watt beauty, hanging smartly from my missing hook in it’s new spot on the mirror over Patrick’s sink.

That was 6 weeks ago. It’s still in there. Pam hasn’t said a word about it and even worse, I haven’t either. So each and every morning after toweling off, I walk naked down the upstairs hall past our giant palladium window hoping there’s nobody standing on the front porch with their hands cupped around their eyes peering inside to see if anyone’s at home. I should say at this point that I’m not a robe type of guy. I mean I’ve tried them but they’re not for me. So every morning I pause at my bedroom door, peer around the corner to make sure the coast is clear, then I walk down the hall to use the blow dryer.

How did this happen? How did I sit passively by and allow my wife to alter the physical reality of my daily routine without even a whisper of protest? Well, here’s the thing, this house belongs to Pam. Yes, I know, I had it built, and I’m the one basically paying for it, but this place is her domain. After 28 years of marriage I have learned a few things. First of all, if she decides to move the location of the blow dryer, then…well, there must be an awfully good reason for doing so. Asking her to explain her reasoning would be like asking your mother why the sky is blue, or why it is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and not the other way around. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter!

So, now I have a new routine. Honestly, I’ve already gotten used to it. If after a few months I wake up one day and she’s moved it to the mirror in the downstairs bathroom, then I’ll know that she’s just messing with me. For now, we’re good. It’s all good.

Let Us Celebrate a Season

It’s cold and wet outside. Acorns have browned my yard. It looks like someone dumped a box of marbles beneath every tree on the property. I can skate to the mailbox on a river of organic ball bearings.

 The leaves on the trees are beginning to glow around the edges with color, and now they fall with more urgency, in a hurry to be somewhere, preparing for something. The sun is starting to hang lower in the sky, and disappears a tick earlier each night. 

My house has taken on the smell of pumpkin spice. Touches of yellow, red, and burnt orange have appeared on end tables and around the fireplace. Soon, there will be hot biscuits and white chicken chili.

Long sleeves have made an appearance. I find myself searching the closets and drawers for thicker, warmer clothes. There’s a chill in the air every morning. Friday nights bring the distant rumble of Godwin’s marching band.

College GameDay. Cars and trucks begin sprouting tattered flags that flap in the breeze at stoplights. Virginia Tech, Virginia, and an occasional stubborn, weary Penn State.

 Meteorologists begin to speak darkly about the patterns or wind currents that might portend a harsh winter. We put such talk out of our minds. Winter will come soon enough. But now we have autumn, and that’s enough.

Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The House of Blues and Coming Home

The House of Blues was more like the House of Bluefish. Apparently, every other year at these things, the meeting is intentionally located in a Midwestern city so that on the final night’s extravaganza, throngs of home office folks can be bussed in for the big night. Therefore, a facility that can comfortably accommodate 500 revelers was packed sardine-like with 700. The buffet line took 30 minutes, and by the time I reached the food, the large dinner plates were gone replaced with cocktail plates the size of a 1966 Volkswagon Beetle hubcap. Demonstrating Olympian fine motor skills, I managed to balance three such hubcaps on my left forearm, making my way up to the Horizon suite overlooking the huge dance floor. From there it was a great view if one wanted to merely observe the proceedings. But tonight I was feeling especially claustrophobic. I decided to wander the building all night.

This place was an anthropologist’s dream. An open bar, combined with 700 people hundreds of miles away from home on the last night of a 4 day getaway is must see TV. Many of the home office folks helpfully wore yellow golf shirts and bright cheerful name tags. This came in handy at the end since these marks of identification made it much easier for the authorities to heard them all up. I exaggerate slightly of course, but suffice it to say they were not in Iowa anymore. The most hilariously uninhibited dancers?…the yellow shirts. The loudest screamers when the band exhorted the crowd to sing along to “ You Make Me Wanna Shout!”?…yellow shirts. The most appreciative of the open bar?…well, you get the picture.

The band was awesome. They were a party band called “Big Fun” and they lived up to their name. Four black vocalists and a rocking tight band, sort of like a cross between the Temptations, the Supremes, and Earth Wind and Fire. I had fun, but must admit to an odd ambivalence I always feel at such events when I am without my wife. I am of the opinion that there are places in this world where one should not be without one’s spouse. It was no sin to be there without her, but it felt like it was in the neighborhood. It’s probably just me.

So, this morning, I sit in the Marriott hotel café eating my $11 dollar bagel and killing time before my flight home. Nobody from Cambridge informed any of us that the Chicago marathon was being run today, with all 48,000 runners streaming down Michigan Avenue until 11 o’clock, blocking our exit from the hotel. On the street in front of me almost every runner I see is white, but as I glance up at the TV monitor at the live coverage, the camera is focused on a breakaway pack of 8 Kenyans. Where is Jesse Jackson lecturing us about the need for affirmative action when you need him? Oh, did I mention that it’s 39 degrees out?

All in all my four days in Chicago were nice. But, I am ready to be home, ready to see Pam, ready to sleep in my own bed. Actually, I was ready two days ago.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day Three. Jeff Baxter and a Godfather Reference

By 9:35 of Day three, my purpose for being in Chicago ended. I attended my fourth and final required firm element presentation. In a rational world, I would have then grabbed a snack in the lobby just before hailing a cab for the airport. I would have gotten home around 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon in time to take in a movie with my wife. But no, I don’t live in a rational world. You see, in my world, my Broker-Dealer, as a reward for my production, has graciously agreed to pay for three of the four nights I am in Chicago. In addition they have generously promised a daily stipend to help me with the cost of living in this fabulous city for four days and nights. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, and for you young people in my reading audience…there’s ALWAYS a catch. In order for me to actually collect these generous offerings from my fine Broker-Dealer, I must stay for the entire conference, all four nights. So if I leave a day early, I would save the $200 bill from the hotel, but give up roughly $750 in subsidies.

Now when I first learned of this arrangement, I figured there must have been a vitally important function on Saturday night that the big brass wanted to make sure everybody attended, thus the odd early departure penalty. Perhaps they would be announcing some grand new initiative that will transform the business. Maybe something darker was planned. Maybe they were planning to announce the sale of the Broker-Dealer to Solyndra or MySpace, achieving the ultimate synergy of combining irrelevant business models. But, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about. The crucial event planned for Saturday was a night at……The House Of Blues. Apparently, Cambridge has exclusive use of the facility. There will be dinner and I assume a headliner act to entertain us through the night. But, knowing these people like I do, a part of me is still worried. The headquarters of Cambridge is after all, in Fairfield, Iowa. Although possessed of bedrock values and impossibly friendly people, Fairfield isn’t exactly known for it’s cutting edge hipness. I still worry that what the brass have in mind is a lively evening of Karaoke.

So, after my 9:30 meeting yesterday I spent the day working out, walking the streets of Chicago and attending a spare presentation or two. Jeff, the skunk, Baxter redeemed the day. With his Stratocaster in tow, he gave a mind blowing talk about the similarities between the musical creative process, and the problem solving skills required of missile defense scientists…or something like that. He deftly mixed in smart jazz rifts of “My Old School” with vignettes of his work at the Pentagon working with four star generals and military intelligence officials struggling to write syllabuses for nuclear weapon protocols. Mind blown.

Last night we had dinner at an Italian restaurant that reminded me a little of the one in The Godfather where Michael murders Bazinni and McClousky. Great food, and nobody ended up sleeping with the fishes.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chicago. Day Two. Joe Gibbs is cool.

Day two was beautiful. The fog lifted and the mist was gone. The sun was out all day bringing a light wind and a warm 70 degrees. Once the veil was lifted I saw the beautiful city I remembered from 10 years ago. Unfortunately, yesterday was the busiest day of the week, so I didn’t get to enjoy the weather much. I heard four different speakers/presentations. They varied from pedestrian business drivel to positively terrifying.

The terrifying one came from a guy who I see all the time on Squawk Box, CNBC and Fox Business News, I forget his name, Greg something or other. Anyway, he’s a very well connected financial guy with lots of friends at the Fed and elsewhere in Washington. He touched on quite a few heavy subjects like Monetary policy, the pending fiscal cliff coming January one, the impact of the election on the stock market and vice versa, and he ended with Geo-politics, specifically the Iran v. Israel battle upcoming over Iran’s pending nuclear capabilities. After listening to this guy I was ready to pack up the family, head to Montana and start working on that bomb shelter I’ve been putting off. Then Joe Gibbs walked in.

This 70 year old man, three-time Super Bowl winning coach, and then three-time Nascar championship car owner was a delight. He’s no professional speaker to be sure, his delivery was halting and at times repetitive. But, his sunny disposition and beaming smile was infectious. I could have listened to his Redskins stories all night, even though I truly loathe that franchise and always have. But I can’t not love Joe Gibbs. After his speech my partner Bland, a lifelong and truly obnoxious Redskin fan, the kind who is insufferable when they win and even more insufferable when they lose, insisted that I help him track down Joe through the throng of autograph seekers who had descended on him as he walked off the stage. Bland didn’t have a camera, you see, so my iPhone would do nicely. For several intensely embarrassing moments I felt like an evil combination of paparazzi and groupie, but Bland would not be denied. Once we cornered the poor guy, who couldn’t possibly have been nicer or more accommodating, even offering to let Bland wear his Super Bowl ring for the picture. I snapped the picture, posted it on Facebook and now Bland can die a happy man. He owes me…..BIG TIME.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chicago. Day One

Giordano’s Pizza is famous in Chicago. I had some yesterday. Wow. Then I was forced to return to the hotel and hit the treadmill for 3 miles out of fear that had I not, I would have been dead by sundown. It’s the sort of food that you instinctively know is terribly bad for you, but it tastes so danged good, you can’t stop yourself. Our waiter reminded us that, “We deliver our pizza’s frozen anywhere in the world in 24 hours. Just pop it in the oven for an hour and it’s done.” I resisted the urge to join the “Pizza-A-Week” club.

So far I haven’t seen much of Chicago. I took a long walk down Michigan Avenue but the fog was so thick I could only see 10 stories or so of each 50 story building. The view from my 22nd floor window is of the lovely air-conditioners on the roof of the Chicago Harley Davidson building. Last night at the welcome cocktail party/dinner I stood in various long lines for ten minutes each to be treated to tiny plates full of appetizers. There was a Greek salad station, an egg roll station, a pasta station, and a station that featured tiny, half dollar sized pizzas. Giordano’s need not worry about the competition.

Then it was off to watch the Presidential debate. I spent the entire time texting back and forth with my son, no Romney fan he. According to the Twitter chatter from his decidedly liberal buddies, Obama got schooled. The best part was watching the pundit class afterwards. From their expressions you would have thought that all of their children had been abducted at the same exact moment that they received word that their mothers had all passed away. Over on PBS poor David Brooks was positively pail at the shock of having just seen the man with the best pants crease in history get mauled by someone named Mitt. George Stephanopoulos looked as though he was ten seconds away from the first live vomit in the history of television news. Chris Matthews was reduced to blaming Obama’s dismal performance on the fact that he doesn’t watch enough MSNBC. Haven’t seen the news this morning but I’m sure at some point today some liberal will remind us that the near unanimous conclusion that Romney won the debate is more proof of how irredeemably racist America remains.

OK, now it’s time to get down to business. From 8:30 to 12:30 I will listen to the wise men at Cambridge tell me how great it is to be in Chicago at a hotel that charges me $14.95 per day for internet. Which explains why I am typing this at 6:30 in the bar of the lobby. Free WiFi. Are you kidding, I could buy half of a medium Giordano’s pepperoni and sausage for that. Psshht!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Annual Compliance Meeting. Boredom On Stilts.

Early tomorrow morning I will fly to Chicago to attend the annual compliance meeting for my Broker-Dealer. Ahh, Chicago. The Windy City, Chi-Town, hog butcher for the world. Stormy, husky, brawling, city of the big shoulders, Frank Sinatra’s kind of town, Chicago is. The weather forecast seems straight out of central casting, windy with some rain, high temperature in the middle fifties by Friday.

The Cubs and the White Sox will have closed up shop by the time I arrive, another year without October baseball. There’s a big college football game at Soldier Field between Notre Dame and Miami Saturday, so maybe I’ll pick up a scalped ticket for that. There’s a dinner at the House of Blues one night. There’s the magnificent mile of Michigan Avenue and the incredible architecture along the Chicago River. But basically I’ll be there for four days and nights to punch my compliance ticket for 2012. I’ll sit through five or six mind-numbingly boring presentations by various BD functionaries, after which I will have my name tag swiped by some computer gizmo that proves to the FINRA crowd that I have completed my Firm Element. The fact that you can’t understand I word I just said, dear reader, tells you everything you need to know about what kind of trip this will be.

To pass the time and preserve my sanity, I will be aided immeasurably by the recently departed Steve Jobs, may he rest in peace. My iPhone will allow me to communicate to the outside world, and to record my quirky insights and pithy observations. I will then include them in a series of blog posts designed not only to make you laugh, but more importantly, to steer me away from the more dangerous outposts of my fevered imagination. I have found through the years that whenever I am forced to sit through long meetings, my mind tends to wander into the bad neighborhoods of the mind, the fever-swamps of boredom, where all of the residents are diseased and all of the buildings are government housing. Satire and sarcasm, for me, is a defense mechanism against boredom, and ladies and gentlemen, an annual compliance meeting with Cambridge Investment Resource is boredom on stilts.

So, tomorrow morning, wheels up at 8:05. You can read all about it right here, safely protected from the Chicago Marriot and speakers who use words like “new paradigm”.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My weekend in West Virginia

Pam and I spent the weekend in a cabin in West Virginia where the leaves were already bright orange and where the temperature forced us to wear long sleeves all day. Somebody else prepared all of our meals for us, and the entire three days didn’t cost us a penny. Oh, and we shared the cabin with 23 high school seniors from Burke Community Church, and Matt Watson was in charge.

Matt invited us to come along on his “senior retreat” weekend and to lead this group of kids in a Bible study. At first, I was hesitant. It’s been quite a while since I spent a weekend with teenagers. I’m so glad I agreed to go. A few observations:

I’m not sure what the cause is, whether it’s a result of so many of the students being from military families maybe, but these were 23 of the most well-mannered teenagers I have ever been around. I never heard one rude put down, never saw one example of the insensitivity that teenagers are so famous for. Indeed, there was almost an atmosphere of tenderness about these kids. Whatever the cause, it certainly speaks well of their parents, and for them as individual human beings. Very impressed. The Bible study went well. The kids seemed totally engaged with the topic ( grace ), and volunteered many amazing insights that had me half convinced that I could have learned a thing or two if one of them had taught the subject. Amazing.

The most gratifying aspect of the weekend was seeing Matt Watson interacting with his students. When Matt was part of the youth group here at Grove all those years ago, I could sense that there was something unique about him, that he was destined to do great things. Now, he’s the father of two little ones, and hip deep in teenagers at a vibrant church in northern Virginia. One would have to travel far and wide to find someone so happy in his work. Matt found his calling in youth ministry, and it radiates from his face. To see a young man so committed, so fulfilled in such vital work was an inexpressible blessing. He serves along side another equally impressive young man, Kenneth, who teaches the college kids at Burke, as well as an amazingly hard working volunteer, Doris, who was in charge of feeding us all. With that kind of quality help, even I could have pulled off such a weekend! To see one of my favorite kids of all time so happy, so effective, and so squarely in the center of God’s will was something to behold.

Thanks for the invite Matt!