Without getting into a lot of rather gory detail, it’s been a tough week. Almost died. Recovered. Came home. Now I’m typing these words.
In a nutshell- last Wednesday, an undiscovered ulcer went suddenly and completely awry at the same time, coincidentally, a little case of pneumonia set in. You haven’t lived until you‘ve tried to breath with pneumonia in your lungs and a bunch of staples in your abdominal muscles. There were machines doing stuff I never imagined possible in strangely, seemingly disconnected places like nasal cavities and stomachs.
Who says antibiotics don’t work? I’d like to thank three specific kinds of antibiotics very, very much. You know who you are.
Spent seven days at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington. I am not the most gracious hospital guest in the universe. My immediate goal on these sorts of occasions, is to get out and fast, which was not possible this time. But they put up with me, saved me, fixed me, put me back together again. Every single one of them has a heart of gold, as far as I’m concerned.
So, a week later, I walked into the faintly crisp, cool autumn air and took what seemed impossible a few days ago- a deep breath. And I felt newly alive and grateful for it. What an amazing gift; to be given a new life right in the middle of my favorite season- which just happens to completely represent what is now the autumn of my life.
See, that was the part in the old Sinatra song where I started getting bummed out about those damned seasons of our lives. But, no damn it! It is a beautiful season. It’s pumpkins, and fresh, cold mornings. It’s scary ghosts and little kids in ridiculous little costumes. It’s apple cider and scare crows and romance and straw and the Wizard of Oz. It’s not the harbinger of a fast on-rushing winter. It’s the precursor to snow and Christmas and laughter and hot chocolate and fire places and the stinging feel of fresh cold air against the tiny little patches of skin you’ve accidently left exposed.
So thank you Commander of Fate; Oh Great, Holy Handler of the Cosmic Tumblers. Whoever puts together these strange combinations of challenges seemingly designed to break us- but don’t. Thank you for the joy and the utter gift of a second shot this late in life.
Thanks also to painkillers. Winkin’ at ya.
Exhausted by political rhetoric and posturing, saddened by the violent nature of our world, and stressed over the course of day-to-day living, I am seeking the soothing, calm anticipation of the coming baseball season.
This time of year, one used to look out a window at the snowy landscape and know that with pitchers and catchers reporting to training camps in Florida and Arizona, Spring would soon be rounding the corner.
Of course, now that we no longer have the season known as Winter and with February temperatures not dissimilar to what they are in Florida- it’s even easier to imagine how soon we will be hearing the crack of the bat, the sound of the ball pounding the catcher’s mitt, the splendor of the manicured, green grass fields, the echoes of the hot dog vendors and the feel of an ice cold beer going down smooth as the first pitch flies toward the plate. Yes, I do take perverse pride in knowing I have just set the modern standard for baseball clichés in one paragraph.
Baseball Distraction #1- the Real Thing
My own, personal baseball anticipation process has manifested in two ways. I read everything there is to read about the Washington Nationals. Here in the nation’s capital where a baseball team has not won a World Series since 1924, it so happens that some savvy trades and signings along with great misfortune and many pathetic losing seasons- have bestowed upon our little team, a wealth of young draft choices and talent that have made for possibly the best pitching staff in the whole sport.
Oh, there’s optimism in every town in the Spring, but deep down, fans of, say, the Baltimore Orioles, for example, know that while there will be games played soon in their beautiful ballpark, it will just be a matter of a few weeks before the inevitable reality sets in that winning is not much part of the equation, even if Boog Powell’s barbeque ribs will be. It’s a bitch to have to go up against the New York Yankees.
Baseball Distraction #2- the Fantasy Thing
The second way my baseball anticipation has been fed, is through a mere $12 investment in an imaginary baseball team as part of a sports fantasy website called What If Sports. I was given $80 million of fake money to invest in any 25 players from the entire history of the sport, from last year all the way back to just a couple of decades after the American Civil War.
The prices of the players matched against the budget you are given, are cleverly constructed so that you can’t load a team with only superstars. There is value and an art in choosing the right kind of mediocrity and averageness with which to meld with some of the great players you can actually afford.
What draws me to the game- is what draws many people to the real sport of baseball itself- its timelessness. My team reflects just about all the phases of my life. From my childhood, a small contingent of my team that used to play for the Washington Senators of old; pitchers like Joe Coleman and Dick Bosman. I have added a few new Washington players like Ryan and Jordan Zimmerman, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard.
But the real fun is watching the epic old-timers perform. I have an outfield of a young Detroit Tiger, Kirk Gibson, the 1961 Mickey Mantle and an aging but still productive, Fred Lynn. I have a few Orioles sprinkling the infield diamond in Eddie Murray at 1st, Davey Johnson (the 43-homer Davey Johnson) at 2nd and Rick Dempsey behind the plate; the Bird’s catcher who used to entertain the crowds during rain delays at old Memorial Stadium by splashing belly-first over home plate in a pretend mad scramble from 3rd base.
The games are simulated and you get box scores and play-by-play of the results and they’re as fresh and interesting as it used to be picking up the morning newspaper to comb through the box scores (newspapers: a form of communication from the past in which words were printed on parchment and delivered to your front door).
I am Earl Weaver- Who Knew?
As a manager and team-designer, it turns out that I am Earl Weaver, the plucky, cigarette-smoking, former skipper of the Baltimore Orioles who led the Birds to several American League pennants and World Series titles with a philosophy of decent pitching and the three-run homer.
My team strikes out a lot. They hardly ever steal bases. But they do pound the crap out of the ball and currently lead our little pretend league in homeruns and slugging percentage. Algorithms and speedy calculations contribute to the computer-generated results so there are no umpires to argue with, sadly. That was the other claim to fame of the great Earl Weaver. Always led the league in getting kicked out of games.
But there are no arguments in this league, just the temporary satisfaction of being tied for the lead in my division in a season that is young and as full of promise as the real one the big leaguers are preparing for in Florida and Arizona right now.
Thank you, baseball, for taking my mind off other, less pleasant things.
I guess these are three main news stories we’re all talking about this week but try as I might, there’s just no way to connect them all.
I saw the first commentary today stating that Barack Obama will be remembered as the American President who lost Egypt. I never knew we owned them. And if so, he’s had plenty of help from his predecessors. U.S. foreign policy has always been only partly about the protection of human rights and democracy. There’s that pesky thing known as “national security considerations.” Hosni Mubarak is not the first “strongman” we’ve backed in the name of stability.
And while democracy is always a worthwhile goal, the world is more complicated than that. Sometimes nations (or entities) elect leaders who go directly against our national security interests (see Palestine and Lebanon). But in the case of Egypt it does appear that there is a reasonable alternative to Mubarak in the form of pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei. He told ABC News over the weekend that the U.S. imploring Mubarak to suddenly implement democratic reforms after three decades of dictatorship did not exactly win the U.S. any friends last week.
Nor have the tear-gas canisters marked “Made in the USA.” Who knew the only thing not made in China these days were tear-gas canisters?
I am apparently the only resident of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area last week that did not a) lose power or b) get stuck in a traffic jam. But that’s only because I live a block from the Verizon Center and I think I’m on their electrical grid. And I don’t own a car, which makes me happy each and every day.
I kept track of the craziness though. I clearly remember the tweet some poor woman sent to the Washington Post around 11:35pm the night of the snow/ice storm as she sat helpless on the GW Parkway: “Help. Pregnant and STARVING.”
I have numerous friends who just got their power back this past weekend, leading me to wonder if PEPCO might also be the main power company in Iraq because the parallels are eerie. Except here there’s no active combat and no one’s bombed our infrastructure.
Parking passes for the NFL title game in Dallas this weekend are selling on E-bay for $1,000. They’re contemplating putting in 15,000 new seats to an already new stadium so the NFL can stuff as many humans as possible into the venue. In some of those additional seats, you can’t see the giant scoreboard which is quite an accomplishment since that scoreboard is described as being half the size of North America. From the other extra seats you can see the scoreboard but can’t see the field.
And there’s reportedly a stripper shortage in Dallas right now—the city is short of the preferred 5-1 visitor-to-stripper ratio. Super Bowl veterans point out that the out-of-state strippers don’t usually get into town until Thursday when the rest of the bigwigs arrive so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
I finally ventured out of the apartment today. I saw people. I interacted with some of them- interesting species. Hit the Safeway supermarket at 5th and K. Not very many humans there, however. But the cashier was really, really nice. Positive attitude, all smiles and light banter. She packed my five-cent plastic bags strategically after asking me if I was walking or driving (DC now charges for plastic if you don’t come in with your own hip canvass bags).
Clearly, no one likes potato bread. That’s about all that’s left. This is a brand new supermarket in my neighborhood so they do that thing at the produce department where you hear fake thunder and automated sprinklers spritz the vegetables every 20 seconds. Wasn’t working. Not worth the effort for the few of us scavengers who were there this afternoon. Or not worth the water to spray week-old wilted lettuce.
By the way, does anyone know the name of my Safeway? Does it even have a name yet? Here in D.C., all the Safeway supermarkets have nicknames that suit their surrounding neighborhoods. The one in Georgetown is called “Social Safeway.” The one in my old Northeast neighborhood near RFK stadium where I last lived here in DC, is “Scary Safeway.” Today, I would have to call my new grocery store, “Sad Safeway.”
The 8-block round-trip walk to Sad Safeway was challenging but much easier than, say, climbing Mt. McKinley. The sidewalks are basically packed snow. There’s a lot of standing water at intersections now because of all the snow-dams that are being created by the plow-piles. Wow. Plow-piles. Not only is that not a word, but it’s non-word I never even imagined I’d be using two weeks ago.
There have been a few cars parked in front of my building since last week. Today, I saw the two competing approaches to dealing with snowed-in, blizzard-covered motorized vehicles. One guy obviously took ownership of the situation and was out there shoveling his little heart out, clearing his path of exit. Directly across the street is a car that has not been touched. It is submerged. Its owner, I imagine, is in denial. Or hoping that now that it’s nearly 40 degrees, Mother Nature will take care of it all.
Nanook is back in his cave now. Tomorrow- a real adventure: Bed, Bath and Beyond.
What I am seeing outside my window in Washington, D.C. right now is not normal. Something is just not right about two blizzards in one week. I don’t think it’s chance or random. I think we’re seeing the effects of global climate change.
Yes, I know, a lot of people see record snow amounts and scoff at global “warming” theories. But it’s not as simple as “oh it’s cold and snowy, therefore global warming does not exist.”
See the map up top? That’s a recent temperature change analysis of the planet that came out two days ago. Accu-weather writes about it here. We are in the swath of the blue that is cooler. The rest of the globe is warming. Check out Canada. Did you know they’re having to truck in snow to Vancouver for the Winter Games that start this week?
It is indisputable fact that the ice cover at the North Pole has been significantly reduced. There are satellite photos of it. See here. When the ice melts, where does that moisture go? Into the atmosphere. What feeds storms? Moisture. Global warming does not suddenly repeal the seasons. Winters are still winters. But with more moisture in the air, storms get fed, and I theorize, create things like the unprecedented ferocity and number of blizzards we’re seeing right now.
Forget the politics of all this. I don’t know if humans have caused this to happen. This could very well be cyclical. We’ve had dozens of ice ages and warming trends over millions and millions of years. This could be another one of them. I don’t even know if there’s anything we can do about it or, given the current state of the global economy, can even afford to.
But as the winds blow at 40 mph and snow drifts of three, four and five feet start building across the mid-Atlantic states; as I see white-out conditions below the Mason-Dixon line and meteorologists beside themselves watching something that’s never been seen in recorded history, it sure makes me wonder what’s really going on.
There are days like this when the line between the paranoid and the well-prepared gets very, very blurry. Some observations after a winter that includes three blizzards.
People who rush to stores to buy out toilet paper, milk, water and bread:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Silly & paranoid.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it- Brilliant people with great foresight.
Neighbors who bought snow blowers last December:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Desperate and sad.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it- Your Bestest Friend Ever.
People who regularly stock up on batteries, transistor radios, candles, and blankets:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Scary survivalists.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it and the power’s out for a week: The only warm, well-informed people in the neighborhood.
People who bought their own snow plow and park it in the garage as the second car:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Certifiably insane.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it and no one’s cleared the street for five days: Neighbor of the Year.
People who live in rental apartments:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Lowlifes
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it and there’s six tons of snow on your driveway: Humble, smart minimalists who don’t have to shovel.
People who buy their own electrical generator:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Weirdos
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it and PEPCO is nowhere to be found: The only folks in the neighborhood with the lights on.
People who don’t drive or own cars:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Suspicious, quirky, non-conformists.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it, your car is buried in a snow drift and even if it was cleared you can’t leave the block to hit a main road: Sages ahead of their time.
People who stay indoors all the time and never see the light of day:
– When there’s four inches of snow coming- Psychotic loners.
– When there’s five feet of snow coming and it’s the end of the world as we know it- The residents of Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
Ok. Here he is. This is Old Man Winter. He has an icy grip on us all. If I hear one more reference to “Old Man Winter’s icy grip” from a news anchor reading over a winter visual, my head will explode.
I know we’re not supposed to trust Wikipedia but the site says Old Man Winter is a personification of winter who has several cousins including the Old English god, Woden and in Russian folklore, some guy named Morozko.
How cool would it be to hear, “Residents of the Midwest are under the spell of Woden’s icy grip.” Now, that, I would respect. Just ’cause it’s quirky.