Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Parkland survivors offer hope that something might finally change

A lot can change in a week.

Seven days ago, 17 lives were needlessly lost in the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fla. My first awareness of it came via Twitter, before any details were available. Another school shooting. The all-too-familiar depression and hopelessness that washes over me during these incidents struck me harder and harder as information was reported. Many injured ... multiple fatalities ... more than 10 deaths ... then, finally, 17 dead. And eventually a grim sense of relief that the count had finally stopped going up.

Happy Valentine's Day.

I had taken the afternoon off to buy and prep a steak for our traditional Valentine's cookout. But by the time my wife got home from work I didn't feel much like celebrating anything. It felt wrong to be grilling--to be doing anything I enjoyed--with such a tragedy for all intents still unfolding, knowing so many families were being irrevocably torn apart. I felt more like crying than anything else. But I put my best face on, partially because I still don't want to talk about things like this in front of my son. He's 8. He shouldn't have to know these kinds of things happen.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The muddy fence

Every morning during the week, I wait for the school bus with my son out in front of our house. Yesterday morning something looked different. It took my brain half a second or so to process it, because it was so unexpected. An entire panel of my neighbor's fence had been turned from white to black.

Theirs is a corner house, and over the years they've been victims of a number of lawn jobs, which sadly seem to happen on a semi-regular basis here in Suburbia. This time, however, it appears to have been an inside job.

Those tracks in the snow come from the driveway, where I'm guessing someone was blocked in. There are five driver-age occupants there, requiring quite a bit of car shuffling at times. My working hypothesis is someone was parked in, decided it would be quicker to pull across the lawn than get the blocking vehicle moved, got stuck, and spun their tires until the sky rained mud.

I only wish I could have seen it, because it must have been spectacular. I mean, if you look close enough, you can see mud on the fence surrounding their pool in the backyard. How high must have it been arching through the air? I bet it was beautiful. In a dirty, muddy sort of way. And in the way that things like this are always more spectacular when it's not your fence.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A little bit of everything on my 2017 reading list

For a few years, earlier this decade, I read baseball books almost exclusively. I reviewed them both for my own blog and for Baseball America. I cranked through baseball biographies, season recaps, offbeat observations, novels, and minor-league-chasing-the-dream tales. Some of them were quite good; most, in the grand scheme of things, were somewhat forgettable. Inevitably, I got burned out on baseball books. In looking back on my reading list for 2017, there's not a single one in the bunch.

There's not really much of a theme to this year's list at all. I had a few re-reads, especially early, a couple of which were prompted by the political dystopia we were plunged into after the catastrophic 2016 election. Others I plucked off the shelf on a whim, some of which had been sitting for years, never read, waiting for the moment I would finally get to them. Here they are, roughly in chronological reading order.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Christmas is the time to say Billy Squier rocks

We are now officially into December, which means Christmas music is fair game. Go ahead and tune in that station on your radio that plays Christmas tunes 24/7. We started the Christmas dance party at our house this afternoon. It will continue, Christmas ale willing, for the next 3 1/2 weeks.

And the song we were all jonesing for was ... "Christmas Is the Time To Say I Love You," by Billy Squier. Why? Because it's the best Christmas song. Ever. No debate. Sorry. If you disagree, it's because you're wrong. It rocks, it's sentimental, it's Billy Fucking Squier. Enough. Why are we still talking about this?

And in case you were curious, here are the top 10 Christmas songs, ever.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Why I hate Dude Perfect

Back in the middle ages, when I was in elementary school, word of mouth was how we learned of new TV shows we *had* to watch. Of course, there were only three channels back then, or at least only three with any shows we would have been discussing on the playground. I'm pretty sure we didn't waste much breath on PBS programming. In our house, at least, we were already plenty familiar with the lineup: Sesame Street, Electric Company, Mister Rogers, ZOOM. It was time to move beyond that. I remember feeling particularly rebellious about wanting to watch CHIPS. I had to see what all the talk was about. Who was this Ponch guy, anyway?

My son doesn't come home talking about TV shows. It's YouTube videos these days. I'm not sure which of his pals I can thank for turning him on to Dude Perfect (though I have a guess). If you're so fortunate as to not be on first name terms with Coby, Cody, Cory, Stinky, and Clyde (okay, I can't remember the last two at the moment, but give me a minute and they'll come to me), let me ruin it for you. Dude Perfect isn't one guy, it's five. Five human cartoon characters who spend all day filming trick shots and bottle flips, and screaming like ninnies when they pull one off. Which is every shot in the videos they post, because why bother showing the 999 fuckups that came beforehand?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Heartbroken: A near-miss Tom Petty experience

On any other day, the news about Tom Petty would have hit me like a punch in the gut. By yesterday afternoon, however, I was already doubled over by the Las Vegas shooting. The initial conflicting reports on Petty's status left me more dazed and confused than anything. Sadly, his death was eventually confirmed, sealing Oct. 2 as a day to live in infamy. With so many mass shootings in an America unwilling to do anything to risk irking gun fanatics, the calendar is quickly filling with haunting anniversaries.

Amidst the flurry of Las Vegas tweets, I saw a number from Petty fans, sharing remembrances or links to favorite songs. I have more of a near-miss story to share, about his 40th Anniversary tour this summer. My son, 7, became quite the Tom Petty fan this spring, tapping into my CD collection from Into the Great Wide Open all the way back to Damn the Torpedoes. We listened and listened, in the house and car. And when my wife let slip that Tom Petty was coming to town (or near enough), he went insane. We tried to put him off by telling him the show was sold out (it wasn't), and he melted down. Being suckers, we went online and bought tickets, on the lawn at CMAC in Canandaigua.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Radio Wales loses a top man, DJ Alan Thompson

In a parallel universe, I live in Wales. I haven't pinned the city down, but it looks a bit like Barry. Which makes sense, given my vision of Wales comes mainly from Gavin & Stacey, and later Stella, which were both filmed in and around Barry. The pace of life suits me, at least as I imagine it. Which again may not match reality. Never been, though we are planning a UK trip for 2019, to include plenty of time in Wales*.

I spend a chunk of most workdays in Wales, via BBC stream. I got into the habit a few years ago of tuning in to BBC Wales every morning as I work. It's not the music so much as the people, which is ironic, because my major beef with U.S. radio is they talk too much and don't play enough music. But there's just something about the discussion on BBC Wales, particularly during Eleri Sion's afternoon show, which is on for me during the morning as we're five hours behind here in Rochester, N.Y. Listening is an escape, which I need more than ever given how awful most of the news is these days. I try my hand at the daily 2:45 Teaser (at 9:45 my time) and listen to Eleri's regular guests provide veterinarian and general practitioner advice, tips on allotment gardening, TV hits and misses on Mondays, and movie reviews on Fridays. And every Wednesday, DJ Alan Thompson stops by to talk music, presenting something new, something old, and something gold. And to wind Eleri up like an older brother might.