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June 2004 Archives

June 2, 2004


No, I don't think I'm really recovered, not yet, hence the days off from this particular site. I also kinda wanted to leave the piece about Dad up there so it could stand on its own. It struck a chord with a lot of people, so I'm glad I did. Figures, though, that I did my best P.R. work for Dad after the fact. I wish I'd done that years ago- you'd have liked him, really, you would have liked him a lot. I did.

But it's still strange to be in a state of mourning and confusion and exhaustion while the rest of the world goes about its business. Everything around you appears to be sped up while you're moving in slow motion, much as it is when you have the flu and have to go out to the drug store in a haze of weakness and phlegm. I've been working and trying to get the practical stuff done, but there are still those moments when the big wave hits and knocks me over. When that happens, all I can do is hold my breath and wait for low tide. I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, though, thanks for bearing with me. The outpouring of condolences from all over the world has been amazing and has helped Fran and me a lot. I have no idea how to respond or thank everyone who needs to be thanked, but I'll figure something out. While I do that, though, I hope a simple word of thanks will suffice for now. The first thing that suffers from an emotional tsunami is eloquence (hence the use of a term like "emotional tsunami," which is very Weather Channel of me), or maybe coherence. Either way, if I just say thanks and shut up, I hope you'll understand.


June 3, 2004


After a day full of lawyers and bankers, I could use some diversion. But the NBA playoffs don't resume until Sunday, everything else is in reruns, and the Phillies lost early, so there wasn't anything on. What? Hockey? The Cup? Ah... hmmm... maybe the Fairly OddParents are on NickToons. Or something.

Really, has there ever been less interest in a major sporting event than the Stanley Cup Playoffs right now? This doesn't, of course, apply if you happen to live in Calgary or Tampa, but anywhere else, nothing. This hit home a few minutes ago when I realized I've watched exactly zero minutes of the finals- maybe I'd be watching if the Flyers had made it (yes, in fact, I WOULD have watched), but Calgary and Tampa Bay just aren't on my radar. And, yes, I know, there are some terrific players involved, Iginla and St. Louis are real stars, there's even a Simon out there (Chris), and the Flames are a great story, a blue collar team from a city often overlooked by everyone.

But I don't care. I just don't have the time or energy to care. And neither do most other fans, including hockey fans- you've seen the ratings, and they're not pretty. Hockey and me go way back- Bobby Hull and Brad Park and Walt Tkaczuk (when Marv Albert pronounced it "TAY-chuck") and Orr-Espo-Sanderson-Cheevers and the Broad Street Bullies scoring for a case of Tastykake, the WHA with Hull in Winnipeg and Sanderson for like 20 minutes on the cracked ice at the Philadelphia Civic Center and clear dashers in St. Paul. I've seen games in Philly, the Garden, Florida, Hartford, L.A. And by now, I just can't pay attention. What, they're still playing? It's June, you know. I know I'm not alone.

And yet the NHL persists in hurtling towards a lockout/walkout next season. Do these guys know there won't be anybody waiting for them when they return? Oh, sure, in Toronto, they'll still be lining up, but in Florida, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, places where it's an effort to sell those tickets, who's gonna be coming back? Who's gonna care?

The NHL is like the Erector sets and Strat-O-Matic and Sports Illustrated baseball games that were at the bottom of the closet when I went back one more time in the early 90's to my boyhood home- fun while they lasted, but you outgrow them, and they're never quite the same after that. I used to like hockey, but, then again, I used to like riding a Schwinn Sting-Ray and playing Pop-a-Matic Trouble. I don't need a labor stoppage to tell me it's time to move on.


June 4, 2004


You can forgive me for thinking that things are just going to get worse and worse- it's been a bad year so far, and every day has brought more bad news, or at least more irritation.

And then, the news came out that Creed is breaking up, and suddenly, the world just seemed like a better place. Even the skunk spray that's wafting through the neighborhood at this moment is, you know, not so bad.

OK, it's bad. But Creed is breaking up. That's a good sign.

(The best part is that the other guys- the two guys not named Scott Stapp, plus a former member also not named Scott Stapp- immediately announced that they'd form a new band, but they say it's NOT "just Creed with a different singer." Oh, no, of course not. Just because it's the EXACT SAME BAND except with a different singer shouldn't lead you to believe that it's "just Creed with a different singer." Now, if they manage to put out a GOOD album, we can accept that it's not "just Creed with a different singer." But that's far-fetched, I'll grant you. And what does this say about Scott Stapp that the rest of the band already had another band formed with a different singer and a new name, ready to go the moment Scott Stapp was outa there?)


June 5, 2004


We were supposed to hate Ronald Reagan. I was in college when he was elected, and there wasn't a single soul on campus that would have the temerity to suggest that he be given a chance to show what he could do. He was the antithesis of the people who populated that Quaker school- where they would rather switch than fight, he talked tough. Where they would play rope-a-dope with the enemy- no, actually, there WAS no enemy, just friends we hadn't met- he planned Star Wars. Everyone on campus was sure he'd lead us to Armageddon, sure he WANTED that, because he was not just a conservative Republican, he was Hitler, he was Satan, and anyone who liked him had to be Satan too.

A lot of the people with whom I went to school back then are probably still like that. They're the ones on the Democratic Underground and IndyMedia sites writing stuff like "good riddance" and "I don't feel bad for him at all." They're the ones likening Bush to Hitler these days, and wondering why we don't just abandon Israel and the Joooooos because THAT'S why everyone hates us and Sharia law isn't necessarily worse than our own corrupt decadent Western ways, only different.

They never learn. The rest of the country did. And that's why, today, there's a genuine sadness. While my classmates insisted that he was dumb, a puppet, a warmonger, evil to the core, he was doing pretty right by most folks. By the time he was through, the Soviet Union had spent itself into extinction, the wall was down, and millions upon millions tasted freedom for the first time. Not bad for a dumb warmonger. And that's a good example of why, when you're in an atmosphere where everyone is of a single mind about things, in college, in Hollywood, at DU or Free Republic or IndyMedia, you have to work extra hard to think for yourself. Listen to the prevailing wisdom and you'll miss the real story.


June 7, 2004


There's an article in today's New York Post- it's not online, for some reason- that notes the shrinking of Little League baseball:

    Rosters for Little League boys baseball and girls softball are down 10 percent nationmally in the last few years- from a peak of 2.99 million in 1997 to 2.68 million last year.

    Coaches around New York agree that fewer kids have baseball fever.

Well, yeah, of course. This has been going on for a while, and Major League Baseball's turned a blind eye to it, praying that it'll turn around all by itself. It won't.

I love baseball, but it really does have some problems. Take, for example...:

1. It's boring. A kid raised on video games and hip-hop doesn't want to know from "moves at its own leisurely pace" and "unfolds slowly and tantalizingly." He just wants action, offense, movement. You get that with basketball. You get more than that with video games. Here's a little bit of an Electronic Games Monthly review of an upcoming game: "25 to Life thrusts you onto the mean streets, where you'll wake up to barking dogs, car alarms, and plenty of gunfire over the sounds of old-school and new-school hip-hop." If you're a suburban teen, which would YOU choose?

2. It's dad's. Dad wants you to play ball. You and your friends want X-Box and skateboards. You choose.

3. It's late. Baseball, like other pro sports, is starting games later and later, arrogantly assuming that they don't need younger viewers on school nights. But if those kids can't stay up to watch, are they going to even care about the sport?

4. It's lame. The NBA projects a sense of danger- tats, bling, trash talk. That's not to say all that's desirable on a moral level, but if you're a kid, who are you gonna follow, an attractively "dangerous" Sheed or Derek Jeter?

But it's not a recent thing- really, this has been developing for decades. I remember when ball fields were ALWAYS taken, sun-up to sundown. You had to fight your way on. The exodus started in the city- I remember driving through an inner-city Paterson neighborhood about 30 years ago with my Dad, and I can still hear him marvel at how the baseball fields were empty in mid-afternoon. Soon enough, they were empty in leafy suburban Wayne, too. Today, other than the actual Little League games on the weekend, the baseball fields around here in Southern California are wide open, year round. It's kinda sad, actually.

On the other hand, there ARE plenty of baseball games for XBox, PS2, and GameCube. I saw one on ESPN, a critical and disapproving segment examining one game that involves players randomly fighting on the field for no apparent reason- you could have your player take a whack at someone as he goes around the bases. The narrator, the mother, the psychologist, the players all thought this was a terrible thing, and they're probably right. But I'm not sure baseball has a whole lot of options left to it. If it takes a video game that encourages fighting, well, that's what they'll do.

And if it's really popular, they'll do it for real. Hey, if hockey's on strike, there's an opening for it.


June 9, 2004


Benny Krass is dead.

Okay, you may need some schooling here. Fair enough. If you didn't live in Philadelphia over the past 30 years, you wouldn't really have any reason to know who Benny Krass was. Here's who he was: he was Crazy Eddie, Crazy Gideon, the Coronet Brothers. He was Cal Worthington and Joe Gegnas and the grown-up An-tho-neeeee! from the spaghetti commercials. He was Earl Scheib and Earl "Madman" Muntz. He was every late-night local pitchman you've ever seen, and less- at least 20 seconds less. And if you'd been in Philly, you'd be able to recite this with just the right intonation, the right nasal whine, the right level of shout:


Krass Bros. was, until a few years ago, an anomaly, an old-fashioned men's suit store on a stretch of South Street that was until fairly recently a no-man's land on the frontier between the gentrified, faux-hipster shopping blocks closer to the river and the shakier area closer to Broad Street. Nobody- nobody- you or I knew would have bought a suit from Krass Bros., especially when you saw the commercials- Benny, a little skinny guy with slicked hair and a big mouth, wearing a lapel-less suit in which nobody could ever look presentable (OK, maybe a pop combo circa 1962 in matching suits, but that's it), or in a diaper or a cowboy outfit, screaming a stupid joke sell line, followed by the address and the slogan "Store of the Stars." (Stars? Who? Fabian? Jimmy Roselli? The guy who hosted the dance show on channel 17?)

But those commercials... you couldn't escape them, you'd notice them, you remembered them. And as annoying as they were, you laughed, and they reminded you that you lived where you lived, shared something in common not with the entire country but with just the folks in your little area. It was another thing that kept you local, kept you aware that not every place in the country is identical, those TV and radio commercials that could only be from your town. In Philly, it was Benny, and Big Marty, who "really does... sell carpet... cheaper," and "the bosses' daughter for Atlantic Transmission," and Joe Gegnas, who sold Chryslers with "none of THAT stuff" (a picture of a bull). There was the pre-Scandal Patty Smyth singing "Is it Franks? Thanks," and Dave Cash sliding into third where Richie Ashburn popped up with a bottle of Triple Cola. There was (and is, I suppose) the mysterious Ideal, where you'd go "if you have a passion for fashion... and you have a craving for saving...." You knew the answer to "hey! Where did everybody go?" (and that it was Betson's Furniture, unless you were at the shore, where it was Jason's). You knew who "the world's smallest Chevrolet dealer" was, and could imitate Ruth Rosoff. And if you lived just a few miles northeast in New York, you had the Coronet Brothers selling kiddie furniture, and the hard-hatted union guy from JGE being cajoled with "hey, Jerry! What's the story?" And if you grew up in L.A., you had Cal Worthington and Spot, Ralph Williams, and, these days, Crazy Gideon and those weird Spanish language car dealer infomercials with mariachi music alternating with car pitches ("Bobby Colon presenta El Show de Keystone Ford," as opposed to "El Show de Downey Dodge"). Wherever you grew up, wherever you lived, there was something in those commercials to remind you where you were.

Some of this stuff still exists, of course, but it's not as it was. We get TV stations from Denver and Boston and New York and San Diego as well as from L.A., and it's mostly the same, even late at night, with all those "dating" ads and jewelry chain ads. And the cities themselves seem less distinct- if you've seen one gentrified upscale shopping district with The Gap and Banana Republic and Abercrombie, you've seen, um, most cities in America. That's why we need to hold onto the Benny Krasses of the world. As long as those guys are out there, local guys with local accents and local crappy production values and local corny senses of humor, there'll be something to remind us that Cleveland isn't Dallas, Minneapolis isn't Miami, Philly isn't San Francisco.

Just don't make anyone buy lapel-less suits. Nothing is worth THAT.


June 10, 2004


The funny thing about traveling too much from coast-to-coast is that at some point, you completely lose track of time and day. I reached that point on this round, abetted by the later and later daylight- it's still light and it's 7:45 pm? Geddoutahere- and different schedules. I just got back from a long day, and it's already past 9 eastern and I haven't written this yet and there's more work to do and- wait, is that John Mason introducing the starting lineups for the Lakers and Pistons?


Gotta go.


June 13, 2004


Blogging has been light lately because of my travels, which should end shortly, assuming everything that is supposed to happen happens in a timely manner. But patience will be rewarded, with some upcoming material that will be both iluminating and...

Oh, who the hell am I kidding? It'll be the same old stuff I always do. But newer. And more coherent, once I get back on L.A. time and get some rest. Until then, sorry, man....


June 15, 2004


    Bobby told Lucy, "The world ain't round...
    Drops off sharp at the edge of town
    Lucy, you know the world must be flat
    'Cause when people leave town, they never come back"
    They go ninety miles an hour to the city limits sign
    Put the pedal to the metal 'fore they change their mind
    -"Small Town Saturday Night," Hal Ketchum

Boca Raton is the dead heart of South Florida, the empty middle, heavily populated but without much life or soul. That's clear only when exploring the surrounding towns like Delray Beach, where the people are a little younger and the homes aren't all walled and gated off from the world. Sitting at a patio table at Boston's in Delray, reggae on the PA and groups of office workers and locals and tourists knocking back beers and conch fritters, you know you're not in Boca, where the early birds rule and everything's a bland chain.

What's striking about development in Boca is how the number of schools has exploded- there are schools practically next to other schools, high schools every mile or so- yet teens are rarely seen outside the mall. That may be because of the walls: virtually everyone west of 95 lives behind gates and high walls. If you don't live in those communities, you'll never see the people there. There's no driving through, only driving past. And even inside, the kids aren't around. I don't know where they are- probably inside with PlayStation 2- but there's no vibrancy, no socialization, no life.

That's not to say that Boca's good for nothing- it's actually a nice place, especially if you're older and you want a town where everyone's like you and there are activities for people like you and early bird specials at a lot of restaurants. But I can't imagine being a kid there. I imagine, though, that it's like growing up anywhere- kids grow up to fall into two categories, the ones who never leave and the ones who can't wait to get out. That was the case with my home town, a nice-enough, leafy, bland suburb, good schools, good library, safe, plenty of shopping, close to everything, and I couldn't wait to leave. Where I live now is a spectacular oceanside community, affluent, beautiful, and, to the kids who grow up here, prison. Someone even wrote a book about growing up here, and it isn't flattering. To us, adults when we arrived, it's wonderful.

I suppose Boca has some negative vibes for me these days because I've had to deal with my father's death and some legal entanglements there. And it was great for Dad there- tennis every day, people his own age, the mall and the tennis club and the JCC and a Publix store every few blocks. But after all these trips there this year, I'm feeling like I imagine the kids there do- nice place, can't wait to get out. I keep having to go back, but my pedal's definitely to the metal, heading for the city limits sign.


June 16, 2004


No surprise: the Philadelphia Daily News declares itself the first paper to endorse Kerry. No problem there- liberal paper, their right to do so, good for them. And then there's this part of the endorsement:

    On the next page, we outline a strategy to make sure Pennsylvania lands in the Kerry win column. We will further make the case for Kerry in future editorials.


Wait a minute.

Since when did newspapers cross over from endorsement to political activism? Support the candidate, fine, but setting forth strategies (mostly involving registering like-minded folks to vote) to get the candidate elected? Isn't that going from free speech to campaign donation?

At least, judging by the paper's circulation figures in the last few years, not too many people read the thing.


June 17, 2004


I suppose what we can learn from the 9/11 commission is that it's inexcusable not to be prepared for something you couldn't have reasonably foreseen coming at you.

That's pretty much the situation- the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, FAA, NORAD, the administration, the previous administration, everyone in Washington's at fault because they didn't put the intelligence together in a way that would have told them that not only would planes be hijacked, but that they would be used as missiles to take out several major buildings. This is like several different groups of people being given pieces to several diferent jigsaw puzzles and not assuming that they could put their puzzle together with other groups' puzzles to make one great big puzzle.

Meanwhile, there's also blame for the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, FAA, NORAD, the administration, the previous administration, everyone in Washington, the Detroit Tigers, Brittany Murphy, and Mrs. Olsen's math class at Bryson Elementary for not immediately reacting to the 9/11 crisis by shooting down planes and riding to the rescue on white horses and stuff. The report criticizes the confusion after the initial attack; it doesn't recognize that the situation was, is, inherently confusing. Quick, someone's using passenger jets to attack and kill Americans- DO SOMETHING!!! How are you gonna react to that?

The reaction, we now know thanks to the commission, was inadequate, yet they're not really saying how we can fix that for the future. That's not, apparently, their job- they're here to fix blame. It's just that they're blaming humans for being human, for not necessarily having the answers when things took a left turn. Sure, they're supposed to be experts, but sometimes there are no easy quick answers. I'm supposed to be a talk radio expert, and I guess I am, but if I was confronted with a unique crisis- say if I was running Premiere Radio Networks and someone ran in and told me Rush Limbaugh had exploded and the concussion destroyed a nearby elementary school- I don't know what I'd do. I'd like to think I'd get it right, but I'd also like to think that if I didn't, people would understand. Judging by the media frenzy over these reports, I'm not sure they would.

There's a lot to learn from what the commission uncovered, but I fear it'll be lost in the rush to point fingers. The worst part of it all is that no fingers on this commission are being pointed at the terrorists who actually did the deed. Can't blame them- doesn't make for as good a headline.


June 19, 2004


The Yankees showed up at Dodger Stadium at about ten minutes after eleven this morning, that for a noontime start. They must have assumed that everyone shows up late for Dodger games.

Not today. As it was last night and will be tomorrow, the place was pretty well packed by game time, and while a top-of-the-first Derek Jeter base hit was greeted with a few expatriate New York cheers, the chant of "Yankees suck!" appeared to represent the prevailing sentiment.

This is not to say that everyone in the 55,000-plus throng was a baseball die-hard. Yankees-Dodgers- first time since 1981, first regular season matchup ever- is bringing out the occasionals, the rarelys, the couldn't-name-a-Dodger-if-you-handed-them-a-roster fans. The familiar faces in the press box and the visiting New York and ESPN and Fox contingents were packed in with folks from who-knows-what outlets and more than usual from the Japanese media, all of whom had to get a charge when Hideki Matsui reached across the plate to flick at a Hideo Nomo beach ball and plonked it into the hands of a guy in the first row of the right field stands. (Dodger fans have to dread Nomo's turn in the rotation these days. There are few more striking signs that the dilution of major league pitching has reached crisis proportions than Hideo Nomo's presence in the Dodger rotation, or any rotation, for that matter. He gave up four runs in the first, then settled down and shut the Yankees out for five innings (and even hit an improbable homer), but that's not acceptable- there's always one disaster of an inning, and the team never recovers)

The greatest pleasure of the day was being able to witness Vin Scully handle six innings of the radio call. Vin's usually on TV and simulcasts three innings with radio, but because the game was on Fox today, he did the first through third and sixth through ninth on KFWB, and I watched and listened and learned. There are some great announcers in baseball, but when Vinnie gets on a roll, there's nobody better. He told stories about the Yankee-Dodger World Series appearances, he told jokes and described the action and kept an eye on the U.S. Open on the monitor above, he even kept up with the play despite one unbelievably distracting and hilarious event that I shall withhold to protect my access to the press box, and he was, as always, magnificent.

It was, in short, another fine day at the ballpark. It was the kind of day where I always like to grab the cell phone and call the guy I know would most appreciate hearing about it, but for the first time, I couldn't do that. And for the first time, I can't wish him a happy Father's Day, either. But I'm glad I shared the pleasures of a day at the ballpark as many times as I could, in New York and L.A., Philly and Miami, Baltimore and Vero Beach, Boston and Norfolk and anywhere we could go. If all I have now are memories, those are pretty great ones to have. Dad, you shoulda been there, but something tells me you were there after all....


June 21, 2004


The office furniture arrived today, all ten huge heavy crates' worth. All ten huge heavy UNASSEMBLED crates' worth.

Oh, yeah, this is gonna be some week, I tell you what.

This isn't, however, going to be one of those columns where the writer claims to have been born without the Bob Vila gene, where the home improvement project ends in hilarity with pipes busting and walls crumbling. (Actually, I DO have at least one wall crumbling, but that wasn't my fault) I'm a rarity, I suppose, a Jewish guy who can fix and build stuff. (Yes, it's a stereotype, but all the adult men at the Y when I was a kid were the kind of guys who'd rather pay someone to assemble stuff than do it themselves. I kinda doubt any of them are regular Ikea shoppers) For this project, I bought myself a brand new cordless drill, got the toolbox and drill/screwdriver bit sets out, and cleared the office.

And day one went OK, with one minor problem. The hutch part of the storage credenza- sort of adjustable cubby hole shelves above the main part- resolutely would not stay in its intended shape. I couldn't move it more than an inch before it would collapse, and, finally, pieces of some of the main upright slabs cracked right off. Disaster. And then, a brainstorm- use L brackets to stabilize the uprights. Eureka! And it worked!

Only it wasn't my idea.

Thanks, Fran.

(She got the brains. I handle the tools. I suspect she got the better of the deal; after all, she's in the living room watching TV while I'm in the office struggling with furniture kits and sweating like Michael Moore waiting for his Happy Meal on a humid Summer day)

Tomorrow: a "library" (glorified bookshelves) and the desk. This should be, er, interesting. If you hear a loud blue streak of cursing coming from the Southwest, you know it didn't go as planned.


June 22, 2004


The Los Angeles Times comics section has for the last few years become increasingly populated by political commentary, all from the left. Besides "Doonesbury," which pretty much stands alone even in its weakened, repetitive dotage, there's the politically correct but terribly unfunny "La Cucaracha," strident, angry, usually unfunny but occasionally amusing "The Boondocks," and some strips and panels ("Bizarro," for example) that take the occasional blatant shot at Bush. Okay, fine, but that can't be all there is, right? There has to be some passing attempt at balancing the humor there, doesn't there? Well, yes, the Times has decided to bring in a new strip to placate their non-left readers. Unfortunately, this week, readers were treated to a strip with static, unsightly artwork, heavy-handed writing, and a serious lack of comedy.

But enough about "The Boondocks." The new strip's worse.

That's right. The Times picked up "Mallard Fillmore."


"Mallard Fillmore," for the uninitiated, is quite possibly the worst of a bad lot of political comic strips out there. The title character is a mallard- geddit? "Mallard Fillmore!" Ha!- who works as a TV news reporter, which you know mostly because he's always carrying a microphone and wearing a fedora with a press pass in the brim, as if this is 1938. But that's more than you need to know, because the strip generally features static sub-carnival-artist close-up caricatures of political and media figures and the most obvious and simple-minded comments about their ridiculousness. It's the kind of straw-man line-em-up-and-knock-em-down political humor that is way too easy to do and way too shallow for words.

And that's the bone the Times is offering non-liberal readers. Gee, thanks, Mr. Carroll. Please, sir, another bowl of gruel.

In fairness, they plan on introducing another strip with what they term a "conservative" outlook by Birmingham News editorial cartoonist Scott Stantis, whose other strip "The Buckets" isn't much to look at, but maybe the new one ("Prickly City") will be better. I don't know. I DO know that they could have tried this- but, you know, it's a Web comic, can't have that.

Or they could have thrown the whole political thing out the window and tried this. But too many heads would have exploded, so maybe not.

But "Mallard Fillmore"?

At least they carry "Get Fuzzy." Maybe someone should send Bucky over to kick Mallard's feathered ass.



Today: one office bookshelf unit and three small two-shelf units for the living room. I'm on a roll, and no "incidents," either.

I might get this all done on schedule after all.


June 23, 2004


At some point, pro basketball ceased to be a sport and instead became a financial exercise. This is quite apparent by the run-up to the NBA Draft and Charlotte expansion draft. It's no longer about making your team better or getting rid of a recalcitrant joik, it's about whether a deal works within the salary cap for both teams.

Since when did you need a CPA to follow a sport?

I don't want to lapse into Old Fart mode here, but I'm feeling really out of it right about now. I'd rather not need to utilize a specialized web site to determine whether a deal is even capable of being consummated. And it's downright weird that so many proposed deals require mor than just two teams to be involved, and even weirder that an expansion team was being offered money and players if they'd TAKE a player (and contract) off another team's hands. The Nets, for example, seemed bitterly disappointed that they couldn't pawn Kerry Kittles or Lucious Harris off on the Bobcats- the new team took Tamar Slay instead, but left the older players with bigger salaries in New Jersey to take up cap room. Why do I have to know what "cap room" is? I shouldn't HAVE to know that! I WANT MY SPORT BACK!

Um, sorry about that. But I'm just plain frustrated. (I'm a Sixers fan- it comes with the territory. And I should be used to this, going way back to Chamberlain-for-three-warmish-bodies in 1968, or Barkley-for-Hornacek-Tim Perry-Andrew Lang (yikes) in '92) A Laker fan, not that I have any real sympathy for Laker fans in general, shouldn't be worrying about whether Shaq is a goner. A Celtics fan shouldn't have to worry that Ainge might pull the trigger on a Paul Pierce trade. It's not about whether players should have the right to move- they should- or whether GMs should do what's best for their teams- they must. But "what's best for the team" no longer involves winning. It's all about cost control, salary matching, getting guys in order to release them just for salary cap implications.

A few weeks ago, the Pistons were rolling, the Lakers were reeling, and basketball was fun again. Now, I've pretty much had that memory eclipsed by who's-going-where and how-much-does-he-make and how-many-years-left-on-that-contract. If you're Arn Tellem, it's interesting. If you're me, it's maddening. Maybe the league should just be a big pickup game- show up, pick sides, shirts vs. skins every night, winner takes the gate, every night. You'd watch it.

Until then, I wish this whole thing would get done fast so we can get back to worrying about strength in the middle and shooting percentage instead of dollars and years. It'll be nice to put the calculator away.


June 25, 2004


I get e-mail:

How are you going to spin it when it's the #1 movie in America on
Monday? That's the accepted definition of "mainstream" after all,
isn't? Better scrape together all the denial and excuses you can
muster over the weekend.

Uh, I didn't say it wouldn't be number one. I'd expect it to be huge, at least on a per-screen basis. So? "Dodgeball" was number one last week- what does that say about the nation?

Are you going to see it?

Maybe, probably, dunno. I tend to avoid popular movies, probably because I hate crowds and most movies suck, anyway. I still haven't seen "Titanic."

Besides, "F9/11" isn't playing at my closest theater, the one where I have coupons to see movies for $5.50 anytime. It IS playing down at the bottom of the hill, but a) I'm busy this weekend finishing the office furniture project (almost there- just the hutch for the computer credenza, then moving the computer there and moving a roomful of junk back in before I have to travel again), b) I hate opening-weekend crowds at theaters, and c) I can think of better ways to spend a couple of hours than watching what I already know, which is that Bush kept reading to the kids after the plane hit, he and his family have an uncomfortable relationship with the House of Saud (and some bin Ladens, but not Osama), and Moore thinks war is bad, Republicans are evil, and Ashcroft's embarrassing. I'll still probably see it at some point, but it's not at the top of my to-do list.

Although it HAS to be better than "White Chicks."


June 27, 2004


Final score: 9 pieces of furniture assembled. Injury report: two fingers
on right hand swollen and bruised, both thighs, one foot, and one shin
bruised (the latter paingfully so). Walls punched: one (not resulting in
injury). Mistakes: two (not really mistakes, more like design flaws).
Result: not bad at all.

I still don't know what possessed me to attempt to assemble nine heavy
pieces of furniture ("easy," says the catalog. Bite me, says me) in six
days, let alone six days on which I had to work as well, and dismantle the
old stuff, hauling it all to the curb. Call it hubris, call it foolhardy,
call it a delusion fueled by years of Ikea and a little too much HGTV and
DIY channel.

Call it a victory. I did it.

(celebratory T.O.-style end zone dance. Hand me a Sharpie and I'll
autograph the power drill)

It occurs to me that I really didn't read a newspaper this week. (Online
doesn't count- that's work). A week's worth of Timeses and Daily Breezes
are stacked up and waiting... for the recycling bin. No time. Well, maybe
the comics.


June 29, 2004


If the meaning of life was revealed to me in a Bank of America branch office, so be it.

I came back to Boca Raton to deal with my father's estate again. The details are unimportant, involving as they did lawyers and nasty and incomprehensible battles and, ultimately, resolution. And then I found myself at a teller's window, waiting to cash a check from the trust account to reimburse me after I'd cleared my wallet paying to handle another annoyance, and the teller asked for my ID and inspected it closely.

"You live in California?" she said, and she looked at the check.

"Yeah," I said, noting that she was peering at the address on the check, also California. "But the account's here, this branch. Florida," I added helpfully. I really wanted to just be done with it, done with the whole thing, done and back home. But then I noticed her expression changed.

"Harold Simon?" She looked at me, pale. "Harold Simon's dead?"

Yes, I told her, he died exactly a month ago.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, and in an instant everything about her softened, no longer the brusquely efficient bank employee but suddenly a real human. "I know he had that cancer, that asbestos thing..."

And then she began to tell me about my father, how he came in frequently over the years, starting back when it was still Barnett Bank, how he talked about playing tennis and how nice a man he was, and then she said "you must be... you're in radio, right?" and called another teller over to tell her that my Dad had died and what a very nice, decent man he was. We chatted for a little bit, and I left a little prouder of Dad than when I'd walked into the place.

It was in the bank that I realized what legacies are all about. We spend our lives trying to make a mark, trying to do something for which we'll really be remembered, honored, when the dirty secret is that with the possible exception of a handful of people in each generation (and that' being generous), none of us will be specifically remembered beyond just a few generations. We die, our family and friends mourn, then they die, and soon enough, there's nobody who remembers your existence. That's the way life works, and it can get depressing if that's all there is.

But there's another way to look at it. You touch lives you never know you're touching, day in and day out. My father didn't go to the bank to make friends or to affect people's lives, he went there to deposit and cash checks, and he didn't go there to put on an act, he went there playing himself. And in that mundane interaction, a few times a week, maybe less, he made an impression, an impression he never knew he made. A month after his passing, his son walked into that bank and discovered that his father had left some people happier to have known him.

And that, I suppose, is what we're doing here. Most of us will not change the world. Most of us are not capable of that- that's not meant pejoratively, it's just a fact. We'll never be in a position to change the world. And we can't really expect our names to live forever, either- beyond Presidents and Popes and, well, that's about it, really, the rest of us, even the Bob Hopes and Michael Jordans and Muhammad Alis will be relegated to footnotes in a few generations and completely forgotten some time after that. But we do affect the people around us, not by anything we TRY to do, but just by the way we are, the way we deal with others and the things we say and do on a regular, mundane basis. It's not about frantically building a legacy like Bill Clinton, not for most of us. It's about whether you're a good person or a nasty sort, and by being himself- a nice man, a good man- my father affected more people than he ever knew, whether it was merely a smile as he paid for the groceries at the Publix or by his idle let-me-tell-you-about-my-children chatter at the bank, by the kindnesses he extended to the children who attended the schools he ran or by being there to play friendly games of tennis with guys he barely knew. He made marks he didn't know he was making, and when I talked to the teller this morning, I found one of them.

I often think I've suffered by having a reputation as being a "nice guy," as in "finish last." But I've always had to remind myself that this is what I am, this is how I come. I can't change this. And, in that, I'm a lot like my Dad. That's why, walking away from the Bank of America, I felt a little relieved and a lot proud. I know now that there's a legacy, even if your name slips away into the ether and people eventually forget your existence. You make someone a little better off for having known you, they do the same for someone else, they pass it on. So they forget your name. You're dead, anyway. But you leave an important part of you behind, and that's a better monument than anything in concrete. Dad left me something way more valuable than the stuff I had to hire attorneys to fight about. I didn't know it, but I guess I'm passing it on.


June 30, 2004


I have returned. You may all genuflect in my general direction.

The flight back was uneventful, except for the presence of one child who insisted on alternately screaming at the top of her lungs and shouting "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" No what? No blood for oil? No need to raise interest rates? No, thanks, I don't want the blue potato chips? Or is she singing the hit song "Nobody But Me," as recorded by the Isley Brothers in 1962 and the Human Beinz in 1968, which had the immortal lyrics:

    No no no no no no no no no
    No no no no no no no no
    No no no no no no no no
    No no no no no

Let me tell you, at 6:30 am Eastern (3:30 am Pacific), that kind of action does not make for a happy flight.

But I got a few minutes of sleep between the "Nooooooooo!"s, and I watched some "SportsCenter" (in its early morning endless-loop mode, when "SportsCenter" is followed by, er, "SportsCenter," followed in turn by "SportsCenter"- you can't help but memorize every word Linda Cohn says) and some "Mike and Mike" on ESPNews (radio show on TV- since Stern was a success, now the cable networks figure any radio show can be a TV show, even ones where the hosts really don't do much except sit there and talk. Could be worse- MSNBC has Imus looking more and more disturbing by the day) and, most importantly, "The Flintstones."

Oh, but not ANY "Flintstones." This was one from the first season, the good one, before Pebbles was born and Bamm-Bamm was "found" and the show got all crappy. This was the one where Fred is "The Golden Smog," singing with Hot Lips Hannigan's band and driving the teenaged girls orgasmic at the sound of his voice sining "When the Saints Go Marching In" in Bobby Darin trad-jazz style. (Hey, it was 1960, part of the lull between the first flush of rock energy and the British Invasion, and it was perfectly reasonable to assume that a fat 40ish suburbanite in a loincloth and tie could be a hit with the girls singing standards with a jazz band) See, Fred bought a magic trick, a box to make people disappear, and he got Wilma and Betty to go in, and they sneaked out the back, and he thought they really disappeared, so he and Barney went out on the town and...

...And that's more than you needed to know about that particular episode. But it was good, trust me, good enough so that even the Wally Gator crap they use on Boomerang to fill the last 8 minutes of the half-hour (Boomerang is short on commercials- actually, I don't think I've ever seen a paid ad on that channel) wasn't as offensive as usual. The half hour flew by, and then there was another round of "No!," and then I was home.

Obviously, I need sleep. I think I'll go do that now.


About June 2004

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in June 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2004 is the previous archive.

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