Monthly Archives: October 2015

A Pocket of Resistance: Lightening Bugs

i should be writing my column for next Tuesday’s edition of The Lebanon Democrat. As usual, especially in the last year, everything i think about writing i find i have already written there, or i cannot think of anything until sometime late Sunday, so i can start Sunday evening, get tired, go to bed, wake up in the middle of the night, cannot sleep thinking of the column, and get up and get to it, completing the column and the article before the midday Monday deadline, way too late to make Jared Felkins, the editor, feel comfortable even though he’s never complained. But with all of that going on in my mind, i had the urge to write about an event, actually two, that occurred to me today.

As i get closer to seventy-two, yet another milestone of no particular real significance except for it meaning i am older, i have recommitted to some physical well-being. In the last month or so, i have slackened off of my already light workouts and disregarded dietary discipline in the best state of disregarding. i love to eat and love to drink. i can no longer afford to do that at the same consumption rate of my past, but i forget and still try. Someone my age who has my history needs to be a bit more circumspect unless they are ready to go, and i may be a lot of things, but i am not ready to go.

So when the blood pressure monitor suggested i was imbibing and digesting too much, i decided (Again and again; why do i feel like i’m in that movie “Groundhog Day?”) to recommit to physical excellence, or at least what remnants of physical respectability i might attain and maintain.

i vowed to cut back on the booze and the victuals: very moderate success so far, but i am pretty well off because my gourmet chef wife cooks healthy even though i wander off that path whenever i am on my own.

i joined Maureen’s gym where she does yoga four times a week nearly every week. i ain’t into yoga because i discovered early on, there are a whole lot of poses i cannot do and a whole lot more that make me feel stupid. So i went to use all the apparatuses (can someone please tell me why the plural is not “apparati?”) and the weights and especially the rowing machine.

In addition, i decided to resume my early morning sort of aerobic workout. i began running regularly in the final year at Texas A&M NROTC. i had run at several other commands, especially the USS Anchorage, but never kept it up. After i began running almost daily, i was never fast, but from 1979 until the early 1990’s, i would run at least six miles almost every day when not at sea. After work while the Okinawa was in overhaul, in 1982-83, i would frequently run a fourteen-mile course to the Coronado Bridge and back to JD Waits and my condo in the Coronado Cays.

But those days are gone. Sporadically, i do a fartlek, power walk, or some kind of run/walk up our hill to the Catholic Church and up a gradual hill to a convenient turnaround, a distance about 3.2 miles. This practice had fallen into disuse for the last several months.

This morning i resumed the event. Waking at my usual pre-5:00 a.m., i performed my morning ablutions, took the necessary stretching, about quintuple the amount i used to perform before a run, and took off. i decided i would only do a power walk as i knew i needed to build up to running again.

It was dark when i started, giving me the sensation of a morning watch (0400-0800) on the bridge. It was quiet. i was surprised to see a couple of other walkers or runners. The most dedicated of this type go down to Rohr Park at the bottom of our hill and run the perimeter.

Mostly, except for the occasional headlights of a car headed to someone’s work, i was alone in the night. When i reached the apex and turnaround of my journey, this mariner’s eye and soul detected first light, one of the most peaceful times of any day.

Then, as i headed down the hill, i caught sight of something to my right. It looked like a lighting bug flashing once in the middle of the road. i turned my head but saw no more light and no flying bug. i discarded it as a reflection and returned to my task.

About a quarter of a mile further down the hill,  the light flashed again on the periphery of my vision. This time i stopped to look: Nothing.

i have never heard of lightening bugs in California, especially the Southwest corner. Yes, it was most likely two similar reflections. They could have been reflections in my brain.

Lightening bugs are not as plentiful, even scarce back home nowadays. The mosquito spray does not only minimize those nasty critters. i was always disappointed when i could not share one of my Lebanon childhood joys of lightening bugs with my daughters.

But there still were a few back home in the summer but none, none in the Southwest corner.

I am now convinced those two bug lights were an illusion or a reflection, a refraction of light of the moment or in my mind.

Still the remainder of the walk was easy. i thought of the jars with the holes we poked in the top; of running and jumping around that backyard, barefoot in the summer nights, catching bunches of those lightening bugs in the jar and covering with the cap; watching them for what seemed endlessly but was truly only until we had to go in and get ready for bed…and how we would awake to find the lightening bugs in the jar pretty much wiped out.

It was a long time ago, but i still remember the lesson those lightening bugs taught me.

A Pocket of Resistance: A Family Bit of Lebanon History

lhs-pre-1936

This is the north side of Lebanon High School on East High before it burned down in 1937 (i’m pretty sure it’s the north side, and i think it was 1937 as my uncle, Bill Prichard, the youngest of the Prichard children began school going to multiple shops and homes because of the school had been destroyed and i believe he was a freshman in 1937). The high school was located on the site where Highland Heights Elementary stood for many years. This photo is from  a post card in my parents’ memorabilia.

Other than my uncle not going there, the old building has some family history.

After my grandfather,  Culley Jewell lost part of his hand in the portable sawmill he and my Uncle Jesse constructed from a steam engine they bought in 1918, he became the custodian for Lebanon High School and McClain Elementary. In the 1920’s and 30’s, my father was my grandfather’s primary helper, cleaning the schools after classes each weekday and firing up the boilers for heat early each morning in the colder months.

After one afternoon cleaning the high school in the early 1930’s, Jimmy Jewell was walking home down North Cumberland on the way to his home on West Spring. Estelle Prichard was visiting her mother in a home on North Cumberland where Granny was a 24-7 caregiver. My mother urged my grandmother to the porch to show her the lean young man with a fine mane of hair walking down the street in the bib jeans he wore while cleaning the schools.

Estelle announced to her mother, she was going to marry that young man.

My grandfather was involved with providing a gym for that high school (i do not know where the high school had played basketball previously). He installed the wood floor for the gym in the basement of that high school building. It was where my mother played when she set the season and single game scoring records which stood for a quarter of a century before they were broken by Ann Lucas (1960?) i regret not asking how high the gym’s ceiling was because i always had a hard time understanding how a gym could be in the basement.

But the high school was an impressive structure.

A Pocket of Resistance: A Coffee Table

i have not made many entries this past week: been a little down; still haven’t figured out this not-working thing, but i’m getting better. And this made me feel good. 

Sometime around 1942, Jimmy and Estelle Jewell bought a coffee table to go in the living room of the house they had just bought on Castle Heights Avenue. It was one of two adjacent homes just recently built. They were the last two houses on the block between West Main and West Spring. There was no other homes to the south until one reached a farm house or two past Leeville Pike (as i remember my father telling me).

The table was not a very large piece of furniture with an oval top twenty-eight inches in length, eighteen inches wide, and eighteen inches high. The top was glass, rimmed with a wood frame. The bottom had carved legs. It wasn’t very ornate, but it was pretty, and more importantly, it was serviceable.

It was replaced sometime in the 1950’s i believe. Mother had a local carpenter make her a much larger table with matching end tables. They had marble inlaid tops and were much more elegant and more serviceable.

i am trying to recall where they moved the old table, and they may have moved it into the attic off the upstairs bedrooms. i can no longer call my mother and researcher extraordinaire to set me straight. Now, i call Martha and Joe, my younger sister and brother because they may not have the incredible memory our mother had, but they remember a lot more than me. But it’s late here in the Southwest Corner, and it’s three hours later in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Queechee, Vermont, so i will have to rely on my faulty recall.

Regardless, when Mother died sixteen months ago, the three siblings and their families closed down the Jewell estate accumulated over more than three-quarters of a century. Somehow, i ended up with that small coffee table.

The cane which had held the glass top in place in the frame had broken into pieces, and the wood (i am not a furniture guy, so it’s a guess, but i think it might be cherry) had gathered some scratches and quite a bit of dirt.

i considered stripping it by getting someone to dip it. i have refinished several pieces of furniture in my past, but the stripping agents now are not as powerful, thank you, EPA, and my latest attempts to strip something myself has not turned out well. Finally this weekend, i went out in the workshop side of the garage, pulled out the table, did a jury rig on the cane to hold the glass in place, did a thorough cleaning, and finally used a furniture restorer.

The table will eventually need a more professional makeover. i decided i wanted to try and get it back to its original state as closely as i could.

Prior to this weekend, my chair in the family room had a glass and metal stand about ten-inches square. This was to hold the television remote control, my glass, my phone, my reading glasses, my book or magazine currently being read, and any snacks, cookies, etc.

Now, my parents’ coffee table is sitting by my chair. As it once was, it is serviceable.

i kind of like it.

IMG_0553

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Potpourri and the weather

As i noted on FaceBook, i am still working on getting this new website working the way i want it to work. This column was written last Tuesday, October 13, when it should have had a link to the Democrat’s publishing it, not today, as was done a bit earlier.

Oh, this is so confusing. i do plan to get better at it, but sometimes golf gets in the way.

SAN DIEGO  – I spent last week wondering what to write here.
No idea seemed suited for a complete column. When I became The Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times sports editor in 1972, I announced there would not be a daily column, as my predecessor, Jack Case (who gave Raymond Robinson his nickname of “Sugar Ray”) had written for more than 40 years).  I believed there would be times (there were) when I would just be making up stuff.

Writing here for eight years has changed my opinion. There is always something to write about. Yet sometimes, there is nothing requiring a full column. If I were in Lebanon, I could certainly pursue a couple of topics included here, but alas, I’m not. So I must channel Fred Russell again and devote this column to potpourri, specifically weather-related potpourri.

Southwest Corner

We really do spend a lot of time talking about the weather.

I have spent the last quarter of a century boasting about Southwest corner weather, and now, I’m going to have to rein in such bragging.

It’s been almost two months of Tennessee August out here. High temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees, and the humidity has been higher than I can remember. Maureen and I are aware of this because we never put air-conditioning in our home of 25 years. Didn’t need it. Oh, there were a couple of days every year or so when a Santa Ana would come rolling through and it was a little bit warm. But the weather patterns have changed, and these past few months are different from the norm.

Surprisingly, we coped, confirming I prefer fresh air if at all possible.

Heights Homecomings

Meanwhile, it appears this weekend’s Castle Heights homecoming weather was like what I remember from mine as a cadet. I wish I could have been there this year. Autumn is only a charade in the Southwest corner. CHMA Homecoming autumn remains a pleasant memory.

The bordering trees on the drive up the hill were splendiferous in rust, red, and yellow. The football field was decked out fully. Cadet dates were splendid in their fall suits with the mums pinned on their jackets. The maroon and gold uniforms matched the autumn colors perfectly. I could smell autumn.

It was a special time in a special place. Sometimes I think my faulty memory has erred. It just couldn’t have been that wonderful.

homecoming 1
Homecoming, Castle Heights Military Academy, 1961: Alan McClellan, Sandy Colley, Sharry Baird, Mary Hugh Evans, and an unidentified cadet and his date. Sandy, from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, was my date for the weekend.

Inchon

During this weekend’s evenings, I watched the PGA President’s Cup golf tournament in Inchon, South Korea. The Americans won a nail biter, 15½ to 14½, great drama. Bill Haas needed to tie the hole for a USA win. If Bae Sang-moon won the hole, the Cup would be shared. Bae, a South Korean, was playing in his last PGA event for two years. The 29-year old will begin his required military service next month. The drama turned to sadness when he chunked his third shot, a chip, assuring the U.S. victory. I wanted the American team to win. I did not want the Internationals to lose…if that makes sense.

Equally impressive was the new Inchon in the backdrop. The last time I was in Inchon was 1975. It was a different place. The city was dirty and, in some places, squalid. I recall lots of small, dark and musty casinos. But of course, sailors migrated toward such environments on overseas liberty. The positive change to an amazingly modern and beautiful city was shocking.

Over the four-day, 30-match tournament when the cameras panned out to the Yellow Sea with commercial ships at anchorage, recollection of South Korea weather came flooding back. The tournament experienced 30-knot wind several days. Rain pelted everyone for almost the entire proceedings on day two. The announcers noted the apparent temperature was hovering around 40 degrees.

I’ve been there. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a colder, windier, wetter place than when entering Korean waters beyond the summer months, even October.

Not much to do about it

The unusual heat in the Southwest corner is dissipating. In a week, we should be back to our normal winter averages of mid-70 highs and mid-50 lows. But El Niño is predicted to bring lots of much needed rain soon. There’s not a great deal we can do about the weather.

But it would be nice to be at an October homecoming at Castle Heights.

A Pocket of Resistance: Chicken (a poem, sort of)

Sometimes in the strangest of places and the strangest of times, i start thinking of a moment many years before, something sticking in my mind suddenly coming to the fore on its own, and i marvel at how it surfaced in my mind unprovoked.

Two nights ago as i just sat and watched a baseball game, this thought about my grandmother wringing a chicken’s neck came unannounced into my head. Oh, my sister and i have talked about the event several times in the past, but it just popped up with the score tied, two men on base, and a 1-1 count, and i was amazed.

When Maureen read this poem at breakfast this morning, she said she remembered her dad wringing the neck of a chicken in their home in Lemon Grove, a suburban neighborhood east of downtown San Diego. i wondered how many days in jail my grandmother and father-in-law would have spent had PETA been around back then. Probably some children protection agency would have gone after them too.

Crazy.

Chicken

i suppose it happened several times,
perhaps many,
certainly many times in the years before
the beginning of me;
but in the only time i remember
was when i was wanting to be seven,
the event was vivid to me,
can see it in my mind today
when Granny was fixin’ chicken for dinner.

i do not know where Granny got that chicken
but
suspect her brother-in-law
brought it in from his farm’s henhouse
where his wife gathered the eggs each morning around sunrise
for fixin’ breakfast of
eggs and bacon and grits and biscuits and buttermilk
from the early morning henhouse gathering,
the larder where they kept the cured bacon from their hogs,
the goods under the white linen cloths on the screened-in porch table,
and the churn;
and him a carrying that ill-fated chicken
in the former rumble seat of his Model A
which he used to haul his produce to the farmer’s market
and
where his carried his fox hounds to the hunts in the woods around the county,
where his cadre of “hunters”
would loose the hounds, calling them with their horns,
literally horns of their former cows,
and
sipped whiskey by the fire while they listened to their hounds on the trail;

but
the one time i saw this oft-repeated event of yore
Granny weighed in just shy of ninety pounds
but
it was a feisty, no-nonsense, loving with all of her heart, kind of ninety pounds;
and
she took that chicken, tucked firmly under her arm
where it could not get loose and run away,
down the back porch steps into the yard;
it was a task for her,
fixin’ dinner,
that’s all;

and
we kids out there playing barefoot in shorts
gathered round with curiosity,
before
Granny grabbed that chicken by the neck
and
snapped its head off
like Lash Larue snapping his whip for the good of western folks,
or
the fly fisherman whipping his rod to soar the fly into the shallows,
or
the Ninja slashing his enemy’s throat with his fine-honed blade,
but then,
we children watched in amazement
as the decapitated chicken ran around the yard,
flipping and flopping,
a body’s unfeeling response to a violent death;
being children we laughed in amazement;

later,
i helped pluck the dead bird,
and may, though thankfully i don’t remember,
have dug in and tossed out the gizzard and guts,
and
that night for dinner,
we had some of the best fried chicken, i’ve ever eaten:

sometimes i feel like i’m much like that decapitated chicken
from seventy years ago,
running around flipping and flopping,
a response with no thought,
yeah, no head, no brains;
i know a lot of people who act like that.

 

Notes from the Southwest Corner: Barber Shops – The Beginning of a Hairy Tale

i wrote this column in December 2007. i no longer go to a barber shop. There’s no real need. i bought an electric razor, put on a number 2 blade, zip, zap, and Maureen cleans the results as best she can. It’s easier, cheaper, and nothing is really going to make me look better anymore. Still, i miss the camaraderie that exists in a barber shop.

SAN DIEGO, CA – When I started writing for The Democrat, I planned to write from ideas saved over the years with a focus on connecting and comparing my Southwest corner to Middle Tennessee.

Then events seem to keep popping up, demanding I write about them. This week, nothing has interrupted my original intentions.

Barber shops are an interesting study of human nature. I am not referring to the franchise stores but the locally owned shops which have been existence since the barber gave up doing dental work out here when the West was young and dentists were in short supply.

For about a dozen years after I moved to this neck of the woods south of San Diego, I got my hair cut at Alberto’s, located in a strip mall across from Southwest College on a mesa, about four miles from the Mexican border as the crow flies.

In many ways, Alberto’s reminds me of the Modern Barber Shop where I received my first haircut just off the square on West Main Street in Lebanon. Growing up, my haircuts were mostly administered by “Pop” at the Modern Barber Shop and later his own place in the Dick’s Food Mart mall.

As I moved into my teenage years, my father and I went to Edwards Barbershop, located across from the end of University Avenue on South Maple. It was a one-chair shop.

Alberto’s looks very similar to both and even smells the same, a pleasant, somewhat musty aroma. There is a clock running backwards so it will read correctly if you are looking at it through the mirrors back of the chairs. It would have fit in the Modern Barber Shop, Pop’s, or Edward’s.

I first started going to Alberto’s in the mid-1980’s after spotting John Sweatt in a chair. John was commissioned as a Navy officer about three or four years before me. He had been a strong supporter for me on the Castle Heights football team when he was a senior and I was a sophomore. Later, he gave me some hope I might actually complete Navy Officer Candidate School when he visited me in my barracks, resplendent and fearful (to my senior officer candidate tormentors) in his lieutenant junior grade (LTJG) dress blues.

I decided Alberto’s would be good for me as well.

Alberto is a small man with salt and pepper hair and a thin, neatly trimmed mustache. Although his five children are spread from Alaska to San Diego, he still lives in Tijuana and remains a Mexican citizen. His English and my Southern don’t always mix well, but we communicate adequately. He always cuts my hair the way I ask and trims my mustache at no charge.

Alberto reminds me of Pop, although I probably would have been banned from the city limits had I tried to grow a mustache in Lebanon in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The strongest tie is not their barber skills. Alberto’s ethics growing up in a middle class Mexican neighborhood are very much akin to Pop’s. Giving a great service for a reasonable price; they were proud of their work, enjoyed their customers; and in turn, their customers enjoyed them.

Bob is the second in command at Alberto’s. He knows everyone by name. Curiously, Bob always looked like he needs a haircut with a long, untamed mane.

Still he gave me one of my favorite barber shop stories:

A couple of years ago, a recently retired man came into the shop while I was waiting.

Bob stated, rather than asked, “Been retired about six months, haven’t you, George?”

George affirmed and Bob followed, “How’s it going at home with you and the little lady?”

George replied “It’s going great.”

“You and your missus don’t get in each other’s way?” Bob prodded.

George, pleased with himself, turned eloquent, “Nah, she’s very precise and keeps a weekly calendar on the refrigerator.

“So on Sunday, I check her calendar. When she is scheduled to be out, I stay at home and work on my projects.

“Then when she is scheduled to be at home, I go play golf.

“It’s working just fine.”

When this occurred, I thought, “At the core, there is not much difference between barber shops in the Southwest corner and in Middle Tennessee.”

And there is an unlimited supply of barbershop stories in both places.

A Pocket of Resistance: tired

i wrote this at the end of my degree chasing at Middle Tennessee. It was certainly inspired by, if not homage to e.e. cummings.

tired.
shot all to hell
like a riddled card
against the tree
attacked
by Wild Bill’s six-shooter;
weather abates:
sultry heat,
hazy skies
demand rain.
but when will it fall
down
in pellets,
which riddle
the lawn like that gunshot
penetrated
pasteboard?

A Pocket of Resistance: e.e. cummings

Yesterday was e.e. cummings’ 101st birthday. i learned that from yesterday’s “Writer’s Almanac” and checked a quote from him on the “Brooklyn Arden” website. i discovered his poem “Buffalo Bill” in a literature class at Middle Tennessee. i have admired his work ever since and read his poems frequently for inspiration. The quote i checked is below. i think i like him even more having read this:

The poems to come are for you and for me and are not for mostpeople—it’s no use trying to pretend that mostpeople and ourselves are alike. . . . You and I are human beings; mostpeople are snobs. – e.e. cummings

…and that poem:

Buffalo Bill ’s
defunct
               who used to
               ride a watersmooth-silver
                                                                  stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                                                                     Jesus

 

he was a handsome man
                                                  and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

 

A Pocket of Resistance: Sports Commentary II

This is a continuation of my lead up to a sports commentary, which i may never finish. My time at The Watertown (NY) Daily Times was a wonderful snapshot of my strengths. I was a very good sports editor and writer. I think i can still be good, but very, very different from what is mostly out there now when it comes to sports commentary. That job interviewee in 1972 solidified my belief in what i thought sports journalism should and shouldn’t be.

I should add that my decision to return to the Navy was mostly financial, but i loved my 15 years at sea, and the shore tours, NROTC Unit at Texas &M and Director of leadership, management and equal opportunity programs for the West Coast and Pacific Rim (with offices at the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado) were pretty good as well.

I love both the sea and sports writing. I made my decisions based on what i thought was right for my family and me at the time. I do not regret those decisions at all.

The background information continues:

As the sports pages at The Watertown Daily Times were beginning to take the shape i envisioned, my friend and the assistant publisher (i think that was his title; “Yanch,” as we called him in college, was the publisher in waiting) John Johnson approached me with the idea of going “cold type,” the initial computer publishing system. We agreed to publish the national sports news in the new cold type and the local news in the old “hot type” system.

The advertising sections of the paper had already migrated to cold type. The old guard in the newsroom were wary and reluctant to change. i readily agreed to give it a try.

It began well. i laid out the first sports page for cold type, inserting the AP news stories from the wires, editing, and writing the headlines. The second page was in hot type for the local news. The following pages would be extra hot type for local sports overflow and cold type for whatever space was available for national sports and commentary.

There was one problem. That new fangled computer driven system could kick out more sports news in one day than i had ever experienced. This was not so evident the first couple of days. I got the AP’s big news and the photographs, laid it out, and produced about three pages of newsprint on national sports; i laid out and filled up the second and third pages with local sports and ads, and it looked like it was going to work out just fine.

The size of the sports section then varied depending on the ads and the newsprint required to allow them to fit well into that edition. The sports section had been about one and one-half pages of newsprint. By the time i left, the section averaged over four-pages of newsprint daily.

Then came the first Thursday with the new system. For those who have not worked in the newspaper business, Thursday is grocery day. That’s the day all of the grocery ads are put in the paper. That means you have to have more newsprint, so the paper looks like a newspaper instead of four or five grocery ads. The new cold type system gave me the ability to fill up the space around ads. On the first Thursday of the new sports pages, the sports department, aka me, was overwhelmed. The paper that Thursday ended up with nine pages of sports section, something never even approached before. But there was only one of me to gather the sports articles and photos, lay out the nine pages, write the headlines, edit the articles (because even the giant wire services make mistakes), and get it to the printing press.

The deadline was 10:00. Somewhere around 9:15, i realized there was no way i was going to get my nine pages to the printing press by deadline. I ran to the general manager’s office and told him the paper was going to be at least a half-hour late because of the new system. He thanked me and said my alerting him would allow him to get the pressmen, the trucking staff, and the delivery boys ready to work faster than usual. I remember feeling good i had alerted him but bad i had missed deadline.

We got the paper out a little bit late but with not a great deal of disruption to the delivery system.

At the daily post-production meeting, the general manager stood at the front and addressed the editors and key personnel. “I want you to know Jim averted a potential disaster today by alerting me he was not going to make his deadline. This was understandable considering the amount of newsprint he had to manage for today, but him notifying me allow our delivery process to adjust and minimize the damage.

“I have been working here for over twenty years. I want all of you to know this is the first time I’ve ever experienced a staffer letting me know of a problem he caused in advance.

“I hope all of you learn from Jim’s example. He saved us a lot of money and anguish today by giving us a heads up, even though he was admitting to missing the deadline.”

As you can see, i’m still proud of that.

After a couple of months, it was apparent i needed full time help, and we advertised for hiring a sports reporter. I screened a couple of résumés and rejected them. Then one with some potential came pass by desk. I called the guy and set up an appointment. The next afternoon after the paper had been put to bed, the young man was escorted to the little area of the newsroom we had set up as the “sports department.”

I began to ask him about his experience. He began to spew out statistics like a slot machine that had hit the jackpot. He was Billy Beane’s and Bill Gate’s predecessor. Back then, we called them “geeks,” or “nerds.” And that wasn’t a compliment. I kept trying to get him to talk about athletes, how they played, and what were great moments in sports from him. I got batting averages, ERA’s, touchdowns, rushing yards, sacks, home runs, points, rebounds, and not one word about what he thought.

I didn’t hire him even though it could have meant i would be pulling another week or so of long hours by myself. But to me sports journalism was all of the things he didn’t mention. It’s become all of the things he thought was important. For the last two weeks, i’ve been sporadically watching the major league too-long playoffs (money, money, money). The airwaves are full of self-righteous former ball-players and announcers slobbering over every useless tidbit these idiots put out:

“The Royals are 36-2 when they are ahead going into the ninth inning.” Duh.

“He throws his changeup a lot after he’s gotten ahead with his fastball.” Duh.

I still believe there is a beauty in the game itself, in athletes overcoming odds and rising to the challenge. This is one reason i’m a terrible bettor: i always root for the underdog. I still think announcers need to let the game speak for itself. I don’t want to hear what these “experts” think i should know before every pitch or play from scrimmage. i have come to enjoy my television being on mute. I think all of these playoffs and “sudden death” playoffs in every sport are moneymakers for pro team owners and college coaches, and really don’t prove very much. If Ohio State beats Alabama in one game, they could get beaten in the next. The drama of last year’s college answer to the superbowl was exquisite, but such drama used to be in four bowl games on New Year’s day.

I believe the MLB season should be 154 games and there should be no wild card teams. Playoffs up the World Series should be best of three games.

If they are serious about shortening the games, then go back to not having the game time controlled by commercial time outs in baseball and football.

But i am old and out of date. I watch all of the descendants of that man who wanted to work for me in the stands, acting like complete idiots. Sports contests should be watched, not be a backdrop for maniacs. Andy Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame” has diminished to five seconds of dressing like a clown and doing something stupid (with a “cute” sign of course). i see my wanna-be-hire’s progeny on tweets and other social media making useless comments about something they inaccurately think they know something about. I listen to radio sports talk shows (why?) to hear rants and observations from unqualified yahoos, both those being paid and those who call in.

I think there are some worthwhile and entertaining things about today’s sports. And i’m tired of ranting about all of the imbecilic money-based things and the pampered overpaid athletes acting like goons instead of showing respect and responsibility (we used to call it good sportsmanship).

So i am stopping with the rants. I plan for this “Sports Commentary” on my blog to be pleasant observations and sometimes humorous observation about the sports. I will be honest in telling you my sources and suspect a great number of them will come from the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A sample will be forthcoming here soon.

I hope you enjoy them.

A Pocket of Resistance: Too Long

i wrote “Too Long” in 1966. It was most likely the period of my life when i was at the height of my literary prowess (and that ain’t too high up the ladder, folks). i was midway through my second go-round of college after flunking out of Vanderbilt, one “F” keeping me from being the first to flunk out of that wonderful university without failing a course, 14 “D’s” in four semesters, which also might be a record. But that is another story.

i had spent nine months working for Fred Russell at The Nashville Banner and was planning to become a sports writer. But when i enrolled at Middle Tennessee, i quickly met Dr. Scott Peck, the Dean of English, and Dr. Bill Holland with whom i became a close friend and he created the good student in me, or at least as good as i could be.

Dr. Peck, who got his doctorate alongside Robert Penn Warren and the other Agrarians at Vanderbilt, was simply brilliant and obviously loved his work as a professor. In one Shakespeare class, i had turned in a paper critiquing a play of another dramatist in the Bard’s era. i compared the play to an oater. When it was returned, a red A+ was at the top and below was scrawled, “See me immediately after class.”

Thinking he was going to praise my work, i walked up to his desk as the other students filed out of the room. Looking up at me from his desk, Dr. Peck said, “That was an innovative approach to the assignment, and you did an extremely good job. However, if  you had turned that in to several other professors here, you might be hanging from that big oak tree just outside this building.”

Dr. Holland received his doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. His doctorate traced the themes of Chaucer through the lions of British literature and assessed those themes in the Romantics, primarily Wordsworth. He gave me the opportunity to learn to love Wordsworth. We spent many hours together, mostly in his office, discussing many off the wall connections such as symbolism in Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,”  and Bobby Vinton’s “Butterfly of Love.” We discussed how Plato’s account of Atlantis could have been miscalculated by a decimal point, and instead of being in the Atlantic could have actually in the Adriatic Sea. In 1966, this was not a well known theory, but has since been championed as most likely.

But these two professors certainly rivaled, equalled, if not surpassed the English professors at Vanderbilt, and they allowed me freedom of expression and challenged me to succeed.

In those seven semesters. i was finally getting my act together, but it was also a dark period. i was often despondent about losing my scholarship at Vanderbilt. i was working two jobs, deejay and Banner correspondent, which amounted to about 50 hours a week, taking a full load of courses straight through, living at home with my parents and commuting to the Murfreesboro college.

It was in this period, i wrote some of my best poetry…i think. Here’s one:

Too Long

The world is a beautiful thing;
if not in it,
i could sit,
watch it
go by for hours;
but the seat is hard;
it’s a pain in the ass
to sit on the cold concrete
too long.