Saturday, October 30, 2010

I Pledge Allegiance to The Pledge of Allegiance

I realize it’s been 48 hours since I pledged I would refrain from all political writings until 2012. 
So sue me for flip-floppery. Strip me of my blogging license. Forbid me from updating my Facebook status until all the votes are counted.
There’s been a spontaneous eruption of hysteria across the country and right here in my congressional district and now I raise what is tantamount to a cry for help.
I need someone to stop me from becoming a concerned citizen.
I’m thinking of taking an evening away from my beloved family and/or sudsy bar time to attend a meaningless candidate forum.
I’m thinking of doing this so I can set a record for the most consecutive recitations of The Pledge of Allegiance.
Thanks to -- and wouldn’t you know it? -- Glenn Beck, enthusiastically reciting The Pledge of Allegiance has become another hot button issue and a way for Beck devotees to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they love America more than those the rest of us who merely mumble along.
It’s become vogue at candidate debates sponsored by the League of Women Voters to ask that The Pledge of Allegiance be recited prior to the forum. It happened the other night right here in my district.
And it happened in Evanston, Illinois, where suspiciously hyphenated moderator Kathy Tate-Bradish said, no, that’s not part of the agenda, thus labeling herself in the eyes of refined Beck followers a communist who must secretly worship Allah.
So they stood up and recited it anyway. Someone, hallelujah, filmed the patriotic outburst. 
Beck showed the whole silly kerfuffle, did a little research and here’s what he said on his Monday program. I’d italicize the phrases where he sneers sarcastically, but I fear the passage would be so italicized readers would get see-sick:
“We wanted to look at the moderator, Kathy Tate-Bradish, from the League of Women Voters. Oh, she sounds so neutral and everything. I mean, she’s even neutral on the Pledge, apparently — just a typical woman voter trying to get the truth out. No, not so much — not so much.
“She is on fire for Obama. She is a big-time Obama supporter. In fact, so much so, she’s part of his Organizing for America arm. Hmm. She’s even hosted campaign event in her home in 2007, part of her post on OFA’s, Organizing for America Web site, ‘Hope Action Change.’”
So now she’s getting death threats. The FBI is investigating.
See what happens when you stick your neck out and dare to become a concerned citizen?
This is exactly the kind of thing that could happen to me. Were I the moderator, I’d do everything in my power to keep the meeting moving along crisply so I could rush back and bask in the bosom of my beloved family and/or buddies at the bar.
In fact, if I were hosting the meeting, I’d begin the proceedings by saying, “Look, we’re not going to recite any pledges, neither of these guys will be allowed to make any speeches because we know by their party affiliations just where they stand. So let’s all congratulate ourselves for caring more than your average bear and head home to watch Game 3 of the World Series. I say Giants in six. Meeting adjourned!”
But as I’m opposed to any violence, especially when it’s directed at me, I’m feeling the need to attend a League of Women Voters forum so I can be heard reciting The Pledge of Allegiance.
Over and over again.
I think that would be the best way to inoculate myself against charges I’m squishy on the latest touchstone issue.
So when the spontaneous pledge is recited by fervent patriots and every one sat down satisfied, I’d raise my hand.
“Point of order! I believe The Pledge is so magnificent, I want to say it again. Others can join me or they can sit there in seditious silence while I recite this beautiful oath, this time sung to the tune of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic.’ Anna one! Anna two! Anna . . .”
Then I’d say it again. Because if saying something once proves you’re a patriot then saying that same thing 50 times must really prove it.
The furor reminds me of all those years not too long ago when everyone boarding a plane had to say, no, I don’t have a bomb next to my underwear and, no, I didn’t let a swarthy guy named Sayyid pack my suitcase.
Because no one who’d want to blow up an airplane would ever tell a little white lie to an airline clerk.
Really, I’m surprised anyone these days would even want to hold The Pledge of Allegiance in any regard. Its conception is tainted.
Had Beck or his minions bothered to do any research, they would have learned The Pledge was written in 1892 by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931), a man who devoted his life to a philosophy he described as “Christian Socialism.”
It’s true. The Pledge was conceived by a renown leftist (feel free to sneer) who believed in the liberal (sneer) dispersal of community property to benefit even the neediest (sneer) among us.
And what kind of man does that?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Election thoughts from a non-angry voter

(As noted in comment below, observant reader Emily Suess remarks how the picture I selected makes it look like Beck and I are both staring at the same thing. It's true, I say, it is a deity and He/She is smiling at me and is glaring at Glenn . . . I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog).

We’re nearing the end of the most heated and bitter election cycle since the last one and I’m proud to say I barely care.
The headlines say the electorate is enraged. They hate Obama. They hate Muslims. They hate the media.
Me, I’m mostly at peace because my hatreds are few and many of the things I most hate are getting the absolute crap kicked out of them.
Sure, I wish the Taliban were performing as poorly as the 1-5 Dallas Cowboys, but these things take time. And it’s impossible to diminish just how heartwarming the decline of the Cowboys is to me.
I’ve somehow managed to skate through this entire tumultuous election cycle without engaging in one political argument; any time someone’s tried to goad me into one, I’ve dismissed them with sound reasoning. 
I say, “Look, moron, there’s nothing you can say to change my opinion and as you seem so resistant to logic it would be a waste of my time to even bother trying to change yours. So let’s just sip our beers and discuss the endearing mysteries of women and the happy things we do that make them hate us so.”
I haven’t even stooped to political blogging although part of that is for strategic reasons. I know if my readership is anything like the general public then 50 percent of them will be infuriated if I write something kindly about the Democrats and 50 percent of them will be enraged if I say a Republican surprised me by doing something sensible.
That means I’d risk losing half my readers and that would leave me with, I think, just 4.5 of them.
The polls say the Republicans are going to sweep to power in the House and stand of chance of seizing the Senate.
This should make me, a man so liberal he even loves conservatives, as weepy as Glenn Beck when he considers things like apple pie.
But even if that happens, it won’t bother me one bit. Maybe because I believe the loonier elements of the right wing fringe will be exposed by having to govern and that will doom the Republicans for 2012.
Or maybe I spent all my anger during the Bush/Cheney years. I swear, I woke up every day swearing.
I swore it was a tragic mistake to invade Iraq (I was correct).
I swore cutting taxes to score cheap political points while waging two expensive wars would lead to financial ruin (I was correct).
I swore using wedge issues like gay marriage, stem cell research and Terri Schiavo to rally your conservative base and demonize your opponents would lay waste to decent political discourse for years to come (I was correct).
Right-leaning friends ask if I regret my support for President Obama.
Not for a minute.
The most sensible thing Bush ever did in office was betray his every conservative and capitalist instinct and launch the TARP program. I believe the experts who say that helped us dodge an historic bullet.
Obama continued the drastic steps needed to stave off chaos. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t popular. It had to be done. Dubya thought so.
Obama’s accomplished much in a hysterical political climate where a powerful arm of the mainstream media still hints he’s a Muslim tourist pallin’ ‘round with terrorists bent on overturning the U.S. Constitution.
Even when G.W. Bush was shredding the actual constitution, I never considered him anything as sinister as what Fox News daily asserts Obama is.
I didn’t think he was evil. I just thought he was stupid (I was correct).
Anyone who thought the historic mess the previous administration left behind could be cleaned up in two jiffy years was crazy.
The news today is pessimistic economists are surprised by a sharp drop in the number of unemployment claims. It is the second straight drop and a clear sign the dreadful job market is recovering.
So come Tuesday I’ll vote the straight Democratic ticket. I’ll do it twice if I can get away with it.
I do this to counter those who’ll be voting the straight Republican ticket to counter guys like me who vote the straight Democratic ticket to counter them, etc.
But I’m convinced the momentous measures taken the past two years have pulled us from the brink. 
And now it’ll be months before I feel compelled to write another political post.
Unless I’m afforded an opportunity to gloat.
I swear.

Tweet of the week from "Many political races are incredibly tight. They are neck and redneck."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When Sprawl-o-ween eats October

Only four more shopping days to Halloween. That means our Halloween tree has been up for three weeks.
As Halloween trees go, ours is modest. It’s about 4-feet tall, is decorated with tiny rubber bats, some Jack-O-Lantern tinsel and has funereal black boughs to match my mood as we enter the Halloween home stretch.
Growing up, I never knew Halloween was anything but a single day, B-list holiday. It didn’t mean as much to me as Christmas, Easter or any of the other candy-plus-vacation holidays.
I’d dress up like a cowboy or an astronaut and go out and haul candy home in an old pillow case.
I dressed up purely for the candy. I didn’t harbor any childish ambitions to actually become a cowboy or astronaut. Back then, my only ambition was to become a boy who didn’t have to go to school.
Times change. Today, Halloween has become a month-long Caligulian candy fest. It has me wondering if the American Dental Association isn’t behind the whole spread.
Of course, the kids love it. Sprawl-o-ween means all of October is studded with adults handing out cheap candy at banks, drive-thrus and at parties in grocery stores and even church basements where you’d think a pagan holiday that tips its hat to Satan would be tsk-tsked by the holy folk.
No sign of that. Halloween is harmless to all but the dour fundamentalists who view it as another unholy assault on all that’s decent in America.
So I’m all for that.
But I just don’t get how this of all holidays became so super-sized. How in this age of childhood obesity, wanton candy distribution has yet to be demonized is a mystery.
I suspect many adults revel in the holiday for escapist opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with that. Life can be such a slog.
Me, I need less escape and more normal. With the glaring exception of near-zero income, man, I’ve got it made. I enjoy ample bar time, have a wonderful and understanding wife, and the kids are still at a tender age where a single glare will cease their sass.
That’s hardly all. The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1, author Keith Richards and I are now colleagues, and no matter what happens on election day, not a single vote for Bush/Cheney will be tallied.
Given the way my life is turning out, I’m surprised I don’t see kids shuffling up my sidewalk dressed as me. You’d think being me would be more aspirational to many aimless youth than, say, dressing up as a fireman.
My seasonal grouchiness is in direct contrast to that of my ‘weenie lovin’ wife -- and that’s as dangerous a line as you’ll find in a family-friendly blog.
She loves Halloween. The tree was her idea.
I guess much of my pique has to do with bats.
Not the rodent kind, mind you.
The Louisville Slugger kind.
For the past few years the monster that has become Halloween has devoured my precious post-season.
There are just too many Halloween-related events when baseball is at its most sublime. And with each passing game, I’m one day closer to the baseball Siberia that coincides with the cruelest months of the year.
Take last Halloween. Val was invited one of those over-the-top theatrical Halloweens where every room is decorated and all the guests look like extras from a movie where everyone gets slain.
It sure killed me because it was held during Game 4 of the World Series between the Phillies and Yankees.
Val -- and I told you she was understanding -- knew my aversion to dressing up as anything but an underemployed blogger and went easy on me.
She got out some old cat whiskers, tail, ears and the like.
While she was a come-hither kitty, and I wound up being a real sour puss.
I tried to be nice, but was furrious, er, furious to learn people who are into Halloween are cruelly judgmental of people who are not.
They looked at us like we didn’t belong. They made us feel inferior. They wondered who’d let us in.
For the first time in my life, me, a white man with cat whiskers, knew what it was like to be oppressed.
The sting of discrimination stuck in my paw, er, craw.
Sort of like the Halloween that ate October.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Namby pambies, jack wagons and the NFL

My suggested slogan for the new NFL: “Now With More Ticklin’ than Tacklin’!”

The NFL spent the week neatly dividing itself into the two roles of the Geico commercial about the drill instructor and the weepy therapy patient who gets sad about things like the color yellow.
On one side, you had the drill instructors calling the jack wagons on the other side a bunch of namby pambies.
And playing both roles was James Harrison of my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers. He started out last Sunday as one of the most ferocious linebackers in the game and by Wednesday he was fretting about retiring because he felt misunderstood.
Talk about being a jack wagon.
The color yellow makes me sad, too. Every time I see it on the football field. And we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it now as the league leans on referees to call more penalties for the hits it once deemed legal.
This has been an outstanding week for connoisseurs of hypocrisy such as myself.
First of all, they fined Harrison $75,000 for his vicious hits -- neither were flagged for on-field penalties -- and later on its official website sold snazzy pictures of the hit for $250 dollars.
Who can blame Harrison for being confused?
The league which is now preaching player safety reiterated its interest in extending meaningful games from 16 to 18, something the battered players adamantly oppose.
It’s all alot like the beer titan commercials that dominate NFL games. They want you to consume massive quantities of beer as long as nobody gets hurt.
And this all happened during the month when the manliest sport not played on ice ordered its players and coaches to accessorize in pink to demonstrate its sensitivities toward breast cancer awareness. 
I believe it’s all part of the grand scheme to cultivate the nearly 50 percent of the population that doesn’t reflexively reach for the remote every Sunday at 1 p.m. Plus, every time they release a new jersey, they know many of their loyal fans will shell out money to buy the trendy new color schemes.
Now commissioner Roger Goodell is getting squeamish over the thought of all these new pink fans seeing so much hi-def black ‘n’ blue. The day before the high profile hits, a collegiate player at Rutgers suffered a devastating spinal cord injury and may never walk again.
The NFL knows its behemoths are capable of such mayhem on every single down. It knows emerging head trauma studies and autopsies of its dead-too-young players show massive brain damage.
It knows it’s on a collision course with a massive court-ordered settlement for not doing enough to take care of its players.
It knows that the little warning label on the back of every weaponized helmet that reads the product doesn’t prevent head, neck or spine injuries is meaningless.
And it knows that by tinkering with any aspect of the nation’s most popular game it risks jeopardizing millions of fans so loyal they build their entire identities around the home team.
The most sensible solution came from one of the toughest and most revered men to ever play the game. That’s hall of famer Mike Ditka. He said the way to cease dangerous helmet-to-helmet hitting to is to strip the equipment of face masks sturdy enough to serve as interstate truck grills.
That would force players to tackle with their arms the way one of my favorite players, Hall of Famer Jack Ham, used to. The old Steeler’s tackles weren’t spectacular. They were just efficient.
He brought ball carriers to the ground the way NFL coaches used to teach players before the league began elevating spectacular hits as touchdown worthy plays.
Football’s always been a brutal game and that’s a big part of its appeal, even for a natural pacifist like myself.
So, like me, the NFL is both shouting drill instructor and jack wagon therapy couch critter.
We love the violence as long as nobody gets hurt.
That means this little sideline debate will rage all season long and it’s going to be as fun to watch as anything that takes place in bounds.
So let’s all just sit back and enjoy all the games. 
And please drink responsibly.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

School friendship breakfast for unfriendly Dad

The only thing I really dislike about being a parent is being with other parents. They’re uptight. They mind their manners. They act like my parents did when I was a kid.
Who the hell needs that?
Sure, with enough alcoholic reinforcement, I can tolerate even the most crushing bores. But most situations involving parents -- people who really need a stiff drink -- are held in places where alcoholic consumption is frowned upon.
Like breakfast at our fourth grader’s elementary school. Not a whiskey bottle in sight.
I guess I should have looked in the teacher’s lounge.
We dressed up and took our trombone-toting daughter (today’s band class) to school this morning for what they were calling the Friendship Breakfast.
As soon as I was informed my attendance was mandatory, I vowed to be the least friendly parent in the whole place.
It’s just an uncomfortable social situation where the small talk is busted clear down to microscopic levels. Everybody is busy judging everybody else.
Half the parents there dress like they think they’re better than me and half look at the way I’m dressed and think I think I’m better than them.
I always try and dress like a dandy for these functions because I want the other parents to know I think I’m better than them.
I believe this because I’m the only one who doesn’t take any of this education stuff seriously.
Never have. Can you believe it?
I’ve never been in an enforced education setting where getting an education was a priority.
For me, it’s always been about having fun, giggling, skipping class, meeting girls and doing things that made the teachers want to ditch their cushy union jobs and skedaddle back to stocking shelves down at the department store.
This is rich with irony because the only real non-pajama job I’ve had since 1992 involves -- you guessed it -- teaching!
But let’s set that fertile field aside for future self-psychoanalysis.
Let’s talk about how I start to twitch whenever I step into a school, as I did this morning. It’s an electric feeling knowing at any second I could do something spontaneous that will cause my darling daughter years of enduring embarrassment.
Let the games begin!
“All right, Josie,” I said, “you pick: should I try and impress your classmates by playing your trombone for everyone? Challenge your principal to a cafeteria wrestling match? Or take my shirt off when we sit down for breakfast?”
“No!” she shrieked. “Daddy, don’t you dare do any of that stuff. I’d die!”
I told her she’d misunderstood. I wasn’t asking her to pick which one I should do. I  was asking her which one I should do first.
Of course, I didn’t have the guts to do any of that stuff. Mostly I just nodded politely and engaged the other adults in safe, profanity-free subjects conversations. I didn’t start a spitball battle, fake sneeze on a prissy girl or do any of the fun stuff that would have led to getting hauled down Memory Lane to the principal’s office.
I acted like, groan, a grown-up.
I couldn’t embarrass our daughter. And, really, I wouldn’t want to do anything that would show any disrespect to the many fine teachers who’re educating our children.
I mean it. We’ve been really lucky. All of Josie’s teachers have been great and I respect the difficult job they’re daily doing.
Maybe I’m feeling a little latent remorse for being such a class clown all those years ago.
See, I’ve gotten to know many of her teachers personally. In fact, many of our district's teachers come to the bar beneath my office to drink and blow off steam. They’re good people. 
Strange though, don’t you think? They can come to get loaded at the building where I work, but if I did the same thing at the building where they work I’d no doubt get in big trouble.
Doesn’t seem fair.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When I'm mayor of Pittsburgh

I was reminded again this weekend that one of these days I really should get around to running for mayor of Pittsburgh.
Really, I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of showing off the city. 
I do it all the time, but this past weekend’s always my Pittsburghpalooza. It’s when I have about a dozen buddies come to town to watch a Steeler game.
They’re true New Yorkers. They love the Big Apple, as do I. But to a man (and a woman or two), they rave about Pittsburgh, its restaurants, its views, its teams and all it has to offer.
One of them, a New York limo driver to A-list stars, says if he ever wins the lottery, he’s not moving to the Caribbean. He’s moving to Pittsburgh.
He means it.
And, ahem, that’s mostly because of me. I know the city well enough to entertain them by taking them places only the most convivial locals know. 
Over the past 10 years, they’ve made friends with bartenders at Penn Brewery, Roland’s, Jack’s, the Original Oyster House and dozens of dives too notorious for decent folk to visit.
We’ve dined at LeMont, Monterrey Bay, Vincent’s Pizza, Jo-Jo’s, Sonoma Grill and on Saturday had a wonderful meal at Six Penn Kitchen, one of the city’s best.
They’ve relaxed by the out-of-the-way shower fountain that runs beneath the convention center, enjoyed river jaunts on the Gateway Clipper and drank in the magnificent view of the Golden Triangle from atop Mt. Washington.
As mayor, I’d have key to the city advantages and a wider reach to promote the city I love.
I’m sure in one term, I could have people around the world talking about Pittsburgh like they do Paris.
First off, I’d need to get Pittsburghers as excited about the city as I am. Right now, they are not. They take it for granted.
Here’s what I’d do to change that and get everyone on the same page. I understand some of this might be extreme, but it would benefit city business establishments, tax revenues and city psyches. Alas, even Pittsburgh has its share of fun-resistant people. They need to be dragged into the party for their own good.
Feel free to apply these to your own home cities. Most of them can work anywhere.
  • Randomly close the bridges and city exits for 48 hours every couple of months. This is what corporate types call team building. It did wonders for the Chilean miners and none of them had access to great restaurants, taverns, entertainment and lodging. Lock people in the city for 48 hours and employees who flee for the suburbs every night would be forced to take advantage of the recreational opportunities available downtown.
  • Turn the West End Bridge into the famous “Coathanger” bridge over Sydney Harbor. No pedestrians ever go near the most scenic bridge in the city. Crossing the Ohio River and looking directly back at the Golden Triangle, the soaring West End Bridge resembles the famous Australian landmark that’s a magnet for BridgeClimb tourists. It would be an easy engineering feat to construct stairs over the arch and would provide one of the most dynamic tourist vistas in all America. Heck, put a restaurant on top of the bridge while you’re at it.
  • Mandatory 35 hour work weeks. This isn’t to ensure underemployed people work more. It’s to ensure over-employed big shots work less. People who work 60 or more hours a week are often our most affluent. We don’t need these people working late and going home exhausted. We need them in the bars buying drinks for underemployed guys like me.
  • Declare eminent domain on Bob Nutting’s office and throw him the hell out of it. There is no greater civic shame than the sad and enduring state of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The city’s crown jewel is lovely PNC Park, a baseball diamond so luscious it’s become a top spot for picky brides seeking elegant wedding venues. A competitive Pirate team and sell out crowds televised nationwide would do more for the city’s image than four dozen conventions.
  • Student discounts at every restaurant every Friday. Pittsburgh’s home to many great university’s, including Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne and Point Park (where I’ve been flattered to teach kids about commas). Students from all over the country come to these schools. We need to ensure they graduate and stay.
  • Mandatory shifts at Primanti’s for everyone. It’s our landmark restaurant, the one with the sandwiches with the fries and slaw right on the bun. It’s perfectly Pittsburgh. If everyone had to work at least one shift there, they’d understand the essence of the city and people who call it home. Plus, guaranteed, it’d be a lot of fun.
  • Trash collection contests. Every city could benefit from a program that required residents to pick up the trash they stumble over on the sidewalks. Have attendants at handy collection sites dispense restaurant coupons for people who pick up the most trash.
  • Balance the budget by auctioning off the opportunity to do chores for Mario Lemieux. Guaranteed, there a lot of guys in town who’d be willing to pay $100 to brag they got to take Mario’s trash out to the curb.
  • Homeless guy “Survivor.” Every single office of big shots must adopt a homeless person and make a project of turning their lives around with the goal of finding him or her a job and place to live. The office squad that succeeds in conducting the most remarkable transformation in six months gets free weekends at one of our city’s fine hotels.
  • Anyone taking public transportation must take turns leading the other passengers in song. City buses and subways are unnecessarily grim. It wouldn’t be so if everyone had to sing a couple of stanzas of their favorite tunes. 
  • When he’s not running the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Tomlin runs everything else. There’s no more charismatic motivator than Coach Tomlin. I’d like to see how PennDOT construction workers fared after one weekend of exposure to the carrot and stick Tomlin so deftly applies to the Steelers.
Plus, with Tomlin running Pittsburgh, I’d be free to do what I do best.
Go out and just enjoy it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lazy day hybrid blog + tweets

There can be no dispute that the instinct I’m most likely to abide is the one that suggests utter laziness.
The ample evidence can be found in my skimpy list of professional accomplishments and certainly in my bank account.
Yet it is irresistible.
Take this morning. It’s a magnificent fall day here in western Pennsylvania. My wife and I are heading into Pittsburgh tonight to meet about 10 friends who visit every year to attend a Steeler game.
So I’m looking forward to two raucous nights of bourbon, cigars and laughter in the town I love more than any other.
Holding all my liquor won’t be a problem because I’m sure I’ll never set it down for even a moment.
So, clearly, my lazy sirens are all flashing red. 
Yet I’m in conflict because it’s been two days since I’ve blogged and unlikely I’ll write anything until my hangover abates round about Wednesday.
But I’m aware of a number of people who actually look forward to reading my posts. I hear from these people and am without fail flattered by the attention.
And these are people with salaries, nice vehicles and clean-cut families -- things to which I aspire.
This delights me and I wouldn’t want to disappointing a single one of them.
And, to be clear, I’d feel the same about my readers if they were exclusively convicts bored with porn -- a captive demographic I really should recruit.
So today I’ll split the difference. That means this is a hybrid blog -- and we all know how fashionable hybrids are these days. 
I’m going to give readers a taste of my tweets -- and I’m so new to Twitter that still sounds somehow provocative. I’ve tried not to duplicate what I’ve posted in the blog previously.
I have 55 followers @8days2amish. Feel free to tag along. Or just wait until the lazy siren wails again and I’ll do another twitter dump here on the blog.
It’ll probably be another week or so.
My lazy siren is employed more often than I ever am. 

Have a wonderful weekend! Be sure to do something lazy!
• How would we go about promoting a national No-Hype Week without contradicting the importance of our message?
• I still contend a day spent eating doughnuts, cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza should be considered a well-rounded diet.
• “Confanity” is the boring, inoffensive over-dubbed words actors must mouth to make shows like The Sopranos acceptable to networks like A&E.
• The older I get the more convinced I am life's nothing but a cruel practical joke. It's amazing anyone ever bothers to wear pants.
• N. Korean children taught Kim Jung Il is so divine he neither poops nor pees. Yet, his palaces are abundant with toilets. How considerate.
• Friendly stranger asked daughter, 4, her age the other day. She said, "I'm 4 except when we go to the movies."
• Just heard Gladys & the boys singin' "Leavin on a Midnight Train to Georgia." Man, a day without sunshine is like a Knight without Pips.
• The most dedicated entomologists can't help but be anything but bug-eyed.
• Oversexed infidelity has left most American family trees all forked up
• Roger Waters brings The Wall to the 'burgh. Don't care. Never been a Pink Floyd fan. I prefer White Floyd, Andy's barber down in Mayberry
• I'm constantly striving to do things that would be feathers in my cap, but I wouldn't be caught dead in a cap with a feathers.
• I've had some delicious horseradish, yet I've never seen a horse gardening. What an amazing, multi-talented animal. Take that, cows!
• If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, how come the world doesn't smell like one gigantic fart?
• Too many people enjoy life in dainty little sips. Sip wine. Guzzle life.
• Clusterf*** sounds like it should be more fun than it is, like something you'd want to be invited to if you said you'd bring a covered dish
• Who was Nellie and what about her was so rapid that people had to keep telling her "Whoa!" If I ever meet Nellie, I'm gonna hang on to her.
• Kill Devil Hills, N.C., sounds like a great place to host a religious revival.
• Does anyone think all the other kids picked on Jeremiah because he was a bullfrog?
• Rhode Island isn't even Rhode Isthmus
• Ernie Borgnine to be given SAG lifetime achievement award. The man's a classic. When he goes, we're going to need to find an Ernie Borgten
• I wish no harm to any of my fellow man but for the sake of comedic irony, it will be funny if Sarah Palin gets mauled by a mama grizzly
• Not sure, but CNN reporter said "a police horse will be telling us." May have been "police source," but I'm hanging in hoping it's a pony.

• Anytime you hear of someone dying suddenly it should reinforce the need to ensure you're always living suddenly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The man Maz made a Communist

I’m friends with a man who became a Communist because of Bill Mazeroski.
It’s true. My buddy Paul and I were sitting in a Pittsburgh bar after a Pirate game about 15 years ago when we struck up a friendly conversation with another baseball fan.
And with the exception of some addle-brained Cub fans, friendly is about the only kind of conversation you can have with a fellow baseball fan.
Unlike professional football, a game played exclusively by and for mental meatheads, baseball has a charming civility about it. The lax rhythms of the game lend themselves to sunny chats.
His name is Tom Zanot. He was about 60 years old, but maintained an animated demeanor about baseball like a junior high spaz on a six Pepsi sugar high.
He talked about all the great games he’d seen, the players he’d cheered and the recollections of more than 50 years of great Pirate baseball.
That was until we asked the one question every Pirate fan asks every other Pirate fan who was conscious during the magical 1960 season.
“Where were you when Maz homered?”
ESPN voted it the most sensational home run in World Series history. His walk off dinger led the scrappy underdog Pirates to Game 7 victory over Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and the rest of the swaggering New York Yankees. 
Tom winced and said, “I don’t like to talk about that.”
But talk he did.
“You have to understand, I came of age in the 1950s,” he said. “I was raised to be respectful of the country. I was in ROTC at Penn State during the World Series. A friend of mine had tickets to Game 7. Great seats.”
His friend wanted Tom to skip marching drills and attend the game.
“‘Just blow it off,’ he said. ‘C’mon, it’s Game 7!’ But I felt it was my duty. So there I was on that beautiful Thursday afternoon.”
Right, left, right, left, right . . .
He told how he marched the whole afternoon while the rest of the baseball world fixated on what would become one of the greatest games ever played.
“Then right at 3:36 -- I remember looking at my watch -- I heard these cheers erupting from all over.”
As every Pirate fan knows, that’s the precise moment Maz homered. Pittsburgh fans everywhere went crazy.
Tom went right, left, right, left, right . . .
“To have missed it left me profoundly depressed. My life changed. I’d missed out on one of the greatest moments of my generation. Really, it broke my heart.”
Not thinking clearly, Tom decided to he needed to shake things up.
“I volunteered to serve in Vietnam. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I came to hate the war and my government for conducting it. That’s when I became a Communist.”
So, we asked, you became a Communist because of Bill Mazeroski?
“I never thought about it like that, but I guess so.”
The three of us ended up becoming great friends and he remains the only Communist who’s ever bought me beer, something that factors into my visceral disdain for Bolsheviks.
He moved to Florida and we haven’t seen him in years. I thought of our old comrade yesterday as I was attending what may be the world’s greatest pseudo sporting event.
It was begun by one man, Saul Finkelstein, on Oct. 13, 1985. All alone, he went to sit at the base of the lone remaining wall of old Forbes Field. It’s a 50-foot stretch of ivy covered brick in a small, shady park on the University of Pittsburgh campus. 
With a cassette recording of the original NBC broadcast he listened to the game, commercials and all, in real time so when broadcaster Chuck Thompson calls Maz’s home run ball leaving the old park it’s precisely 3:36 p.m.
What started with one man has grown to thousands, including Maz and every surviving Pirate from the 1960 championship team.
It’s Pittsburgh’s most magical gathering. Fans picnic, drink beer and sing off-key renditions of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch. They bring mitts as if they expect haunted foul balls to start dropping out of the sky.
It’s difficult to convey the eeriness of listening to a broadcast of a game from 50 years ago and still feeling tense about the outcome.
I took it all in standing in what used to be centerfield.
Had it been 1960, I could have whispered pep talks to Pirate centerfielder Bill Virdon, Heck, I could have pantsed Mantle.
And at 3:36 when Maz’s homer leaves the park, the crowd erupts as if it was happening right before our very eyes. It’s as if the lousy, stinking Pirates of the last 18 years never happened.
That one city, one people can from one man preserve and nurture a memory like that makes me proud to be a Pittsburgher.
Mazeroski, a rugged son of a West Virginia coal miner, made a moment immortal, something to be forever savored.
That one good man lost his soul to a corrupt belief system in the bargain seems a small sacrifice.