Monday, January 9, 2017

The New Regime

I know I haven’t written much of anything about our new… gulp... President, which is weird because there is so much going on.

But it’s one of those things that’s so bizarre; you don’t even know where to start.  Plus, EVERYONE has been writing and broadcasting about it.  It’s hard to find something new.  I doubt I’ll succeed here myself.

The main thing I learned during this presidential campaign is that people are immune to facts they don’t want to believe.  They vote with their emotions and there is no way to use facts to bludgeon your way through an emotionally made up mind.  (Or corrections, analogies or any other logical instrument.)

That’s a tough pill to swallow because that’s the only weapon I care to wield.  I need things to make sense, I seek to disparage hypocrisy, I call a spade a spade and a lie a lie.

But right now, up is down, down is up, the sky is green and the Commies are our friends.  All it took was someone in power to use that old saw, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lyin’ eyes?

I think I was the rightest I’ve been in a long time, back in November when I said we shouldn’t worry about Trump being a racist Nazi, we should worry about him being a typical pro-business Republican.

And what was the first thing he did?  He packed his cabinet nominations with other filthy-rich billionaires and military generals.  He picked people to run departments that they’d spent the latter parts of their lives trying to undermine or eliminate. I mean, look at some of these guys:

·        Jeff Sessions, nominee for attorney general, enemy of civil rights and women's rights. He was considered too racist to confirm as a federal judge by fellow Republicans in 1986. He’d be responsible for enforcing the country’s civil rights laws.

·        Steve Mnuchin, the nominee for treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs executive who got rich at the expense of working Americans. He ran a bank called a "foreclosure machine" that kicked people out of their houses, using techniques so coldblooded a federal judge called them “harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive.”  Not to mention, his name looks like a typo.

·        Scott Pruitt, nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator, climate science denier. As Oklahoma Attorney General, he has repeatedly sued the EPA to attack the Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Rule, even took credit for a letter criticizing the EPA, which was actually written and delivered to him by a big oil company’s top lobbyist.  The EPA would become functionally irrelevant under his watch, which is exactly how he wants it.  Clean air and water would become collateral damage in pursuit of the fossil fuel industry’s profits.

And now that the new Congress is convened, what was their first order of business?  To neuter the independent Ethics Committee.  And just because they backed off shouldn’t keep us from questioning why they thought it was a good idea in the first place.  In what possible way would killing the Ethics Committee serve the American People?  There is none.  People eliminate oversight when they don’t want anyone to know what they’re up to. 

Same reason they passed a bill to ban legislators from filming themselves on the Senate floor.  They want to make sure the only things coming out of the chamber is those which serve the Republican Party.

They are not interested in governing; they are interested in the maintenance of their own power and that of their benefactors.

Last I heard, Congress was going to repeal Obamacare but not have it go into effect until after the next election, to insulate themselves from the fallout.  So I have to ask; if the backlash is going to be that powerful that they fear for their re-election, isn’t that a strong message to heed the will of the people and leave the ACA alone?  Whose interests are they serving here?  Who benefits when this insurance disappears from the grasp of people who need it?

And they still have no idea how to replace it.  Sure, they like all the fun parts, like no pre-existing conditions and keeping the kids on a family plan until they’re 26.  But that only works if healthy people also have the insurance, hence the dreaded purchase mandate.  The Republicans are like a pushover daddy who tells the kids they don’t have to eat a well-balanced meal, they can just have candy for dinner.

Then there’s the whole Russian election influencing issue.  First, they claim the Russians did nothing because Putin said so and the entire intelligence apparatus of the United States is wrong about it.  Now they’ve moved onto “Well, maybe they did, but it didn’t have any effect.”

Seriously?  The Russians did exactly what the GOP has been doing for the last eight years.  They created a scandal through a constant drip-drip-drip of email leaks and manufactured fake news stories that made Hillary look like a crooked scandal monkey. 

If Republicans didn’t think it would have an effect, why the 11 Benghazi investigations?  Why the cottage industry of fake news stories to push on social media?  They know that keeping “Hillary” and “scandal” in the same sentence for years would take a toll on the public’s psyche.  People who only half pay attention to the news, (and they are legion); that’s all they know.  That’s why Hillary got stuck with the “crooked” label, while Trump, who is actually documented as having done these various atrocities, got away clean.

Did you see where they officially wrapped up the last Benghazi investigation? Why do you think it’s ending now?  Because maybe Hillary Clinton is no longer a political threat, so now they can put the charade to bed?  Bet the house on it.  Funny how there are still no charges.

There is no mountain of hypocrisy too high for these jaggoffs to climb.  Did you see Mitch McConnell’s statement about how the American People don’t want to see any nominations stalled?  Seriously?

After the 10-month shit show of stalling Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, he’s going to decry the Democrats doing the same thing?  Of course he is. 

And what’s this talk about a mandate?  For chrissakes, when Obama won two elections by more than five million votes, they said it wasn’t a mandate.  But their guy losing the popular vote by almost three million votes IS?  Please…

I’m not a big backer of “tit-for-tat,” but I’m tired of the Democrats being played for saps, just because they try to do the responsible thing.  And I’m tired of rewarding the Republicans for engaging in filthy, dirty pool, like indefinite nomination stalling, aggressive gerrymandering, voter suppression and zillions in anonymous dark money.

So I say congressional Democrats should do every single thing the Republicans did.  Granted, with minorities in both houses, their power will be limited.  But they should do whatever they can to let the GOP face their own tactics.  Trust me, if Democrats play the “greater good” scenario, Republicans will just consolidate their power and laugh all the way to re-election.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Dessert Week

That’s what I call my annual vacation during the week after Christmas: Dessert Week. 

All year long I go to work like a good boy and take very little time off, compared to the amount I’m given.  By the end of the year, I start burning off vacations days by taking off Fridays or Mondays.  Then that last week off is like having a nice sweet dessert after a long slog through the year.  (Especially 2016, which was pretty much of a shit sandwich.*)

* Other than the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup!

So I’ve been off since 12/23 and it’s been great.  In theory, laying around for a week sounds fun, but I still feel like I have to accomplish something, which then allows me to slack off for the rest of the day.  So here’s what I did all week:

Friday, 12/23
Went to go see the movie “Passengers.”  (OK, sometimes all I accomplish is getting out of the house to see a movie… and make a liquor store run.)  Despite the bad reviews, I liked the movie. Nothing wrong with going to see two of the best looking young actors in Hollywood (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) put on a sci-fi/action love story.  I think the bad reviews are based on the reviewers wanting the movie to be something else.

I also started reading the new Bruce Springsteen autobiography, which I got for my birthday.  (Thanks, Mom!)  Good stuff!

Saturday, 12/24
Went to Jilly’s, my local sports bar, to watch the pre-Christmas slate of NFL games.  What do you want from me; it’s the weekend.

Sunday, 12/25 Christmas Day
Went to my brother’s house for Christmas dinner, gift exchange, and the Steelers/Ratbirds game.  (Not necessarily in that order.)

Monday, 12/26
I recently gave my bedroom TV to a friend who needed one, (and I wanted to upgrade), so my big project for the day was to replace it.  I found a deal on a Samsung 40” smart TV at BJ’s Wholesale and figured I’d best take advantage while my membership still stands.  (I didn’t use it much this year so I’ll probably let it lapse.) 

New TV in place.  And I can still see it from the can, via my specially mounted mirror.

I also got some lunch and went grocery shopping at the nearby Wegman’s, the existence of which is the primary reason I’ll let my BJ’s membership elapse.  After bring home my haul, I went out to happy hour at Jilly’s, mostly to be seen with my new Steelers shirt and huge victory grin.  (I prefer to gloat without really gloating.  I know the Steelers beat the Ratbirds, and they know it, so I don’t really need to say anything.  Usually, they just see me looking happy and go, “God dammit…”)

Tuesday, 12/27
This was my only total “veg” day.  Didn’t get dressed, didn’t even shower.  But I did bang out the previous blog post.  Watched the Penguins that night and continued to read my Bruce book during commercials and intermissions. That’s my version of multi-tasking.

Wednesday, 12/28
To me, this was the big day of the week, because my nephew Daniel was coming to visit me.  Now that he has his driver’s license, AND is off from school and work, AND doesn’t have some sporting event to participate in, I figured this was the week to do something.  I asked him back in October if he could set a day aside during break, to come visit.  He was agreeable.  And then over Christmas, I said, “Pick a day and time.”

He chose Wednesday at 2 and I told him I’d hold him to it. 

The reason I wanted him to come up is so we could talk music.  I referred to it as taking him to music school.  We talk music all the time when I visit, but this was a chance for me to play him some stuff and get instant feedback.

But music wasn’t the only subject I wanted to get into… I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but I’m writing what I call, “The Bachelor’s Guide to Living.”  It’s an idea the two of us have kicked around for years.  I’d been giving him all my best Uncle Advice about anything from living alone to how to fold a game jersey, and realized it would be a good idea to write it all down.

A year or so ago, I started putting ideas down on the notepad app in my iPhone.  Then we’d be talking and I’d say something and we’d be like, “That’s gotta go in the book.”

Earlier this year, I transcribed all my notes into something coherent, so now I have about 36 pages on Word.  OK, maybe not so much a book, as a pamphlet.

Anyway, the point is that I could show him some of the idea and systems I’ve created (and written about) first hand.  I believe it’s much better to show than tell.  Doing both together is optimal.

So just within the realm of showing him how to make pork chops, I could demonstrate how to arrange a kitchen so that everything is where you actually use it, how to try to only touch something once (rather than setting it aside and have to come back to it later), how to keep a short reference list of common seasoning combinations and cooking times, what he could buy for low-effort side dishes, as well as actually prepare and cook the pork chops.  (They were to die for, by the way.  I apologize for eating them before I thought to take pictures.

The day went amazingly.  He came at 2:00 and left at 7:00, well fed and all coached up.  It was the highlight of my week.  Next time I see him, I’ll hand over a thumb drive containing all the songs we sampled.  And my hope is that by the time he graduates high school this spring, I’ll have a printed copy of the book for him.

Thursday, 12/29
I’d previously bought a Jiffy Lube oil change from Groupon, and it wasn’t until after purchase I found that it was only good at select locations.  One of them was about 15 minutes away, but I’d originally intended to use it at the shop down the street.  So I went out bright and early, at the crack of 10 AM, to get my oil changed.  I knew there was a Mickey D’s down the block so I built an Egg McMuffin breakfast into my schedule.  All went well with the breakfast and the oil change, but when they did my tire rotation, they found I needed brake pads.  I suspected they would; when I got my new tires last year, the shop told me the pads were pretty low.  No biggie now; I’m glad the car is all fixed up for winter.

When I got home, I hit a couple more chores I had on my list of to-dos.  I did my semi-annual shredding of the paid bills and then bagged up some clothes to give away.  It was only four grocery bags full; not four garbage bags like a couple years back.  I just needed to free up some shelf space and a few hangars in my closet.

That evening I made a super swordfish and watched the last two Hunger Games movies (again).

Friday, 12/30
I fixed a nagging Outlook problem (the email processing app, not my attitude), did some more work on Daniel’s book, and assembled my annual ticket collage.

My largest assortment yet, although it probably has the least variety.  I should work on that.

What you see there are:
·        26 Orioles tickets (new personal record for one season)
·        18 movie tickets
·        1 ticket each to a Steelers, Penguins, Mudhens, and Buckeyes game
·        The parking pass to my Ratbird Company Suite game two weeks ago (because I lost the ticket stub)
·        1 fishing pass from my summer trip to Ohio
·        Not pictured: my pass to the Nation Aquarium, which I forgot to include and now everything’s put away.

Not a bad year’s worth of activities.

Saturday, 12/31 New Year’s Eve
Finally put on the new flannel penguin sheets I got a month ago.

Happiness is a fresh bed… with penguin sheets.

Also did some more work on the book and whipped up some red beans and rice, which should cover at least two more dinners.

Later I went down to Jilly’s to watch Ohio State play Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

This was pretty much the highlight of the game because Clemson couldn’t score on the coin flip.

I ended up leaving at halftime.  Not only were my Buckeyes getting crushed, I could see that I was basically alone in the bar.  All my friends and regulars were gone and there was no one in there but couples.  Senior citizen couples.  I believe it’s better to be home alone on New Year’s Eve than being alone in public on New Year’s Eve.  And I got to watch the end of the Penguins/Canadiens hockey game, in which the Pens tied the game with under a minute to go and then won in overtime.

Sunday, 1/1 New Year’s Day
Back to Jilly’s for a full slate of NFL football, featuring the Steelers JV team making a comeback win over the Cleveland Brahnies.  (The Steelers sat a number of their best players.)  Also, the Ratbirds looked terrible in their ho-hum loss to the Bengals.

I finished up the Springsteen book Sunday night.  It was a good read if you like The Boss.

Monday, 1/2
Last day before I have to go back to work.  Already I put up my new calendar, which due to its unexpectedly large size, meant I had to switch some other wall hangings around.  I had to use tools, too!  (Sadly, no power-screwdriver.  It wasn’t charged up.) 

I’d also been having trouble with my new TV because the picture would dim as soon as I turned out the bedroom lights.  Since those are the only conditions under which I use the bedroom TV, I had to look up how to turn off the auto-dimming.  Yesterday I tried just going through all the menu options but nothing appeared applicable.  The Google helped me today, though, so I’m good to go. 

All that’s left to do today is post this bad boy and then go make the steak I have thawing out.

Then tomorrow… Gah!  Back to the salt mines.  At least we open with a 4-day week.

Good luck to you on enjoying a healthy and prosperous 2017.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I’m fully aware that my list of “chores” is basically nothing compared to those who have a house, spouse, kids or even a pet.  So sue me for reaping the benefits of living alone.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Seven Alternate Uses for a Ravens Jersey

I’ve been sitting on this post since September and it’s finally time to let it out.

The Steelers/Ravens game was Christmas afternoon, so I watched it over at my brother’s house.  It was quite dramatic the way it ended.  The Steelers’ QB drove the team 75 yards in just over a minute to score the game-winning touchdown, with Antonio Brown reaching the ball over the goal line with nine seconds remaining.

The Immaculate Extension

Throughout that whole last drive, neither my brother, nephews nor I were sitting down.  We all just kind of stood around TV alternately pacing and wringing our hands.  I’m pretty sure the neighbors heard us when the Steelers finally scored.  I know we scared the shit out of the cats…

Now that the Steelers have beaten the hated rival Ratbirds and knocked them out of playoff contention, I needn’t worry about upsetting the Mojo Gods with this post.  I mean, if they lose against Cleveland next week, it’s OK because they’re locked into the third seed, regardless of the outcome.  And then if we lose in the playoffs, well at least we still stomped on the Ratbirds’ dreams.  I can live with that.

So the point of the post?

As you may know, I give those Chinese jersey sweatshops a lot of business.  I order baseball, football and hockey jerseys from them on the regular, so my friends down at the sports bar are always asking me where I get them.  Over the summer, two of my bar friends asked me to get particular jerseys for them the next time I placed an order.  One wanted a Washington Capitals hockey jersey; the other wanted a Ravens jersey. 

In August, I figured out what I wanted to add to my collection this year, (White Bud Dupree Steelers jersey and a Geno Malkin “new” white Penguins throwback jersey) and sent the order off, hoping to get it back in time for football’s opening weekend.

Well, the good news was that the order came in on time and the hockey jerseys were fine.  The bad news is that the jersey I got said “White” on the back, instead of Dupree.  Also, the Ravens jersey came in a youth large instead of a men’s large.  Mine, I wasn’t worried about; I’d have time to get that fixed.  But I felt pretty bad about the delay with my friend’s jersey.

Dealing with these overseas people can be troublesome.  They were willing to replace the Dupree jersey without issue, but they wanted me to send them another $10 to keep the youth jersey and then send me the correct one.

I was like, “You want me to send you MORE money to fix a mistake that YOU made?”  But they were adamant about it.  I might have continued the fight but I needed their help more than they needed me, and I was already into them for about $200.  I felt I had to do what I could to make sure I ended up with the goods I needed.

So eventually both replacement jerseys arrived and all was well.  And that’s how I came to have a Ratbird jersey in my place for a month… this being a house that’s so averse to Raven colors, I wouldn’t let Pinky even have purple towels for her bathroom.

It was unsettling, but it made me think: What would be the best way to put this jersey to some use?  And that, my friend, is the “real” subject of this post.  So I give you, without further delay:

Seven Alternate Uses for a Ratbird Jersey

 #1 Dishrag, for after you’ve eaten the Ratbirds’ lunch.

#2 Dust rag, for wiping down your Steelers collectible figurines.

#3 Shoe shine buffing rag.  Also good for removing clumps of turf from cleats and facemasks.

#4 Doormat, perfect for wiping the road grime and assorted debris from your shoes.

#5 Car cleaning rag.  Wax onside, wax offside.

#6 Toilet bowl scrubber.  Perfect for wiping the rim, or scraping off the cling-ons.

#7 Heavy-duty toilet paper for cleaning out the old end zone.

Am I missing anything?

Director’s DVD Commentary: No jerseys were actually harmed during the creation of this post.  In fact, I gave the jersey to my nephew Sammy, to give to one of his friends.  (Although I should have had Sam charge the kid $10, to recoup my loss.)

This will likely be my last post of 2016 so please have a happy New Year and a tremendous 2017.  And RIP Carrie Fisher.  No one will ever rock those cinnamon bun hairpieces like you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Suite It Is

Director’s DVD Commentary: I know I didn’t post last week, but I did post late the week before, but I knew I’d have a juicy one on deck for this week.  (And we had a company happy hour Monday night, which is why I didn’t post then.) So I’m sorry for the delay.  Now onto the day’s business…

I know I said I’d never set foot in that big purple toilet ever again, but Sunday I found myself back in the Ratbirds’ football stadium for a game.  All it took was access to a corporate suite.

I have a friend whose company has one of those fancy-schmancy corporate suites and earlier this fall, he offered me a pick of three games to go to with him.  And seriously, I almost turned him down flat.  I mean, I do not like that place at all, especially not after getting cheap-shotted in the upper deck, the last time I was there.  More importantly, I’d rather watch the Steelers game anyway, which was likely to be in conflict with the Ratbirds game.

First date: Redskins.  Directly opposite the Steelers game.  Nope.

Second date: The Steelers game itself.  He assumed I’d jump at this one, but I had no intention of spending 4 hours getting screamed at by 60,000 idiots.  Pass.

Third date: Eagles.  For this date, the Steelers were scheduled to play on Sunday night.  So once I confirmed this would be in an indoor suite, I accepted.  I’ve never been to one so the prospect was exciting.

Naturally, about two weeks ago, the NFL rescheduled the Steelers game out of Sunday night directly into competition with the Ravens game.  Gah!  Unfortunately, I felt it was too late to cancel so I figured I’d make the best of it.  I’d bring my ear buds and listen to the game from the Steelers app on my phone, and then catch the highlights later.

All week long, the weather reports suggested it would rain throughout the entire game.  But then by game day, the threat of rain was changed to around 40-50%, although the temps would drop sharply from the 50s into the low 40s during the course of the game.  I just obtained a new rain jacket and rain pants, but I opted to go with the jacket alone.

I decided to go “neutral,” by wearing Ohio State stuff… had and long-sleeve tee, although I did wear a Steelers tee shirt underneath.  I felt I had to do something with good mojo, even if only I knew it was there. 

I had the tickets in hand; my friend mailed them to me earlier in the week.  They were actually quite nice looking.  I figured I’d wear the ticket around my neck on a lanyard.  It would be nice to have a proper ticket in my year-end ticket collage for a change.  I much prefer the cardboard tickets over the home-printed ones.  This one was full color, with nice embossing and gold leaf.  I know they ask to see your tickets every 15 feet in the hoity-toity sections, so I wanted to keep them crisp.  I had a big-sleeved lanyard from 2006 when I went to my first and only NASCAR race, so I thought it would do nicely.  The tickets fit in, which was the important part.

I got there right at 11:00 when they started letting people in.  I was to meet up with my friend later; he was coming from the train station on the way home from New York.  I went directly up to the suite to check it out.  At that hour, there were not yet any food, drinks or people around, so I had the place to myself.  It gave me a chance to take some video and shoot some pictures, without looking like a rube.

 Our suite.

The view from our “balcony.”  They had really nice reclining desk chairs out there.  Too bad I never got to sit in them.

The outdoor viewing deck.

The next activity was to make use of our ONFIELD PASSES! 

"That's right... this P. is V.I."  
My field pass; safely protected in my lanyard sleeve.  The game ticket is on the other side.

I had to go back downstairs and register, (meaning sign a waiver holding the team harmless in case I get tackled or trampled or something).  I was kind of hoping I’d get the chance to go out to midfield and defile their logo, but I wasn’t optimistic.  Plus, I promised my friend I wouldn’t misbehave.  So much for burying a Terrible Towel under the bench.

Anyway, after meeting up with my friend, we filed onto the sidelines around 12:10.  It was really a thrill to come out through the tunnel and onto the field; it was a lot like my “First Pitch” experience with the Orioles two summers ago.  Even in enemy territory, the thrill of going on the field conquers all.

We had to be careful where we stood, though.  The security team were real Yellow Line Nazis.  One toe over the line and you got scolded.

Here’s an officer yelling at a little kid who had his foot on the line.  Young Lives Matter!

But we got to stand along the sidelines and watch the players go through their warmups, from just a couple feet away.  Eagles fans, being Eagles, got to heckle the Ravens from close up.  I just shut my yap and took pictures.

Flacco throws one to Perriman.

By the time they shooed us off the field and we got back up to the suite, everyone seemed to have arrived.  But the food and beer did too, so I tucked into a nice assortment of submarine sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken fingers and whatnot.  (They brought out pit beef and pizza later.)

The “problem” was that everyone had already claimed their seats outside on the “balcony,” where they had two rows of desk chairs behind a table surface.

I didn’t really mind, because after all, I didn’t really have an emotional attachment to the game, other than desperately wanting the Ratbirds to lose.  And then we discovered that we could get any football game going on, on one of the three TV monitors.  A gaggle of New Yorkers put on the Giants/Lions game, and I got to see the Steelers/Bengals game, just like I originally wanted.

It was kind of like a normal Sunday for me at the sports bar… watching the Steelers game (without sound), watching the Ravens during commercial breaks, and eating tailgate food and drinking beer (only for free!)  I was living the dream!

It was just kind of funny because there I was watching the game on TV, and then every now and then, stand up to look out on the live game going on. 

Sometime in the 2nd quarter, that temperature drop hit.  You could see the dark clouds coming and the wind starting to whip things around and shake the outdoor TV monitors.  Next thing you know; everyone was back inside.  I had my pick of outdoor seats then, but I was content to watch the Black and Gold from my comfy high-top seat.

“Baby it’s cold outside…”

I’d told my friend, right off the bat, that I intended to leave about halfway through the 4th quarter.  I did NOT want to wait for the end and then spend 90 minutes trying to get out of the parking lot and stadium area.  Not being invested in the game made the decision to leave early a slam dunk.

The problem was that the Steelers game was a nail-biter and in addition, still had over six minutes left when the Ratbirds game was down to two minutes.  I was like, (looking at the live game), “Stall!  Stall!  Call all your timeouts!”  Then spinning to the TV and going, “For Pete’s sake, hurry up and DO something!

The Steelers, who had been down 20-6 at halftime, were driving for a go-ahead touchdown, amid another Bengals meltdown.  They committed 4 consecutive penalties on the Steelers last scoring drive.  Thanks, guys!  Anyway, as soon as the Steelers scored to take the lead, I shot out of there.  Got out of the lot and across town with minimal delay.  I was back at my regular sports bar by 4:30.

Then as I took off my coat, what did I see?  No ticket.  GAHHH!

I’d noticed a tear in the lanyard sleeve starting, during the game, but I took pains not to tug on it from then on.  Apparently, it tore completely between the suite and my car.  I retraced my steps from the car to the bar, but it was nowhere to be found.

So much for my classed-up ticket collage.

At least I still have the parking pass.  (Lot N.)  Note the gold leaf embossing!  Those Suite People really get all the perks.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever miscellaneous Pagan ritual you care to celebrate.  See you on the other side.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Of Sickness and Hockey

It’s been a rough week and a half.

I started coming down with my annual cold on Cyber Monday, with a tickle in my throat.  That begat the dreaded post-sinus drip, which means I had to sleep in my easy chair if I wanted to keep from choking myself awake every ten minutes. 

More throat crud Tuesday.  Wednesday and Thursday I worked from home, so at least I wasn’t bothering anyone with my sneezing and honking.  I was already scheduled off on Friday and Monday, so I knew I had time to get back on my feet.

The thing was, the reason I took the days off is because I had plans to go to Pittsburgh for the weekend, with my brother and his sons.  So all week I was worried about not being able to go, or even worse, going and getting everyone sick.

Our original purpose of the trip was to see the Penguins play the Red Wings on Saturday night and then the Steelers/Giants game on Sunday.  We’d stay downtown for two nights and come home Monday.

The problem was the tickets.  My brother picked up some Pens tickets easily, but the Steelers tickets proved to be too expensive, due to the popularity of the visiting New York Giants team.  As a comparison, for the next two home games against the Ratbirds and Bengals, two division rivals, secondary market tickets started around $80.  For the Giants game, they started around $200… and that’s for nosebleed seats.  Then factor in the second night’s stay, with pumped up football prices and you have quite a chunk of change.  (Especially for my brother, who has to cover the boys.)

So we dialed our plans back to just the hockey game.

By Saturday, I felt tolerable and I was pretty sure I wasn’t contagious any longer. The contagious part is usually early in an illness.  As long as I didn’t cough globs on anyone, I figured they should be fine.  I packed myself a travel bag for the car, with cough drops, Kleenex and hand sanitizer.  I also made sure I coughed into my sleeve and blew my nose away from everyone.  Sadly, I had to refrain from my customary hugs for the boys.  I just hope my precautions worked.

Before checking in, we went straight to the west side to see the Aunts and Uncle, and met up for lunch, featuring a classic Pittsburgh massive fish sandwich.  (Sorry, no picture this time.)  But it was memorable because that was the last food I’ve been able to taste.

We checked into our rooms with enough time for me to grab a nap before the game. 

We ended up in the 5th row in the corner, at the end where the Penguins shot twice.  The seats were great, as long as the action was in our end.  At the other end, it was hard to look through the glass at an angle.  Everything looked like a funhouse mirror.  Luckily, there was the overhead scoreboard with a live video feed.

It’s funny; I’d be watching the game up on the board when the action was at the other end, but then forget to look back to the ice when it came down to our end, leaving me craning my neck up to watch a feed of the game that was happening 10 feet in front of me.  I got the hang of it eventually. 
 My brother and the boys decked out in battle jerseys.

The game was great.  The Pens came back from a 3-1 deficit by scoring 4 in the 3rd period to win 5-3.  Very exciting.  Daniel and I found ourselves in one of the press shots too.
We’re in the upper left corner.  There’s my brother’s elbow and Sam’s elbow right above the rail, then Daniel and me.

We took off early Sunday morning and were home by 11.  I had plans to go to the sports bar to watch the Ratbirds game at 1:00 and the Steelers at 4:30, but I only made it to halftime of the first game.  Only had two beers but I suppose it was the combination with all the cold medicine I’d been taking that made me just want to go right to sleep on the bar.  So I went home and slept straight through the second half before waking up for the Steeler game.

I just laid around on Monday, trying to summon the strength to go back to work on Tuesday.  The cold has pretty much moved to my chest now, so we’re at the disgusting part, where I have to hack great chunks of lung butter into the toilet, just to breathe again.  So much fun.  I’m sure the neighbors just wish I’d hurry up and die already.

But the worst part is that I haven’t been able to taste anything since Saturday, aside from very spicy or very salty.  I expect that when I can’t breathe through my nose, but even when I can, I still can’t taste anything.  I wonder if it’s from the cold medicine or all the gunk. 

All I can say is that it better be temporary, or else I might not have much reason to live. 

Or maybe this could be an opportunity to eat a bunch of stuff that I hate, but is good for me… (Nahhh)

Both Tuesday and Wednesday, I went into work, went as long as I could, and came home early.  No sense killing myself.  But I did want to get in and clean up some stuff.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Sorry, there are no big idea or caustic rants today; I’m not up to forming complex thoughts just yet.  So let me just drop a few more pictures from the game…

Our view, from section 110.

Everyone looking up.

Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury

I don’t know how goalies even move with all that stuff on.

Penguins TV analyst Bob Errey and Radio analyst Phil Bourque, between the benches. Both are wearing jerseys celebrating the Stanley Cup Championship teams of 1991 and 1992, of which they were both members.

Now I need another nap…

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Political Stew, with a Side of Anxiety

I was really hoping this was all just a dream, but according to the news, the president-elect is still a thin-skinned, silver-spooned Cheeto with horrible impulse control.

As I watched him rise through the primaries and overcome a series of gaffes that would bury any other candidate imaginable, it was clear that he was onto something.

Where many people saw him as the next Hitler, I saw someone who was a master at playing the game.  (Granted, I had considerable help from the Scott Adams blog and his posts about the presidential race in terms of persuasion.)  See, I don’t think that he, himself is a racist fascist.  I think he plays one on TV.

I know that seems like a big difference, but where some see a raging racist, I see someone using the ocean of racism embedded in this country, to further his own agenda.  (Get elected, make the world a better place for the 1%.)  He positioned himself, with his Brooklyn accent and elementary school vocabulary, as the champion of the common man. 

Just wait and see what kind of dry screwing the common man gets in the next four years.  And if he provides a steady stream of “Others” for the common man to crap on, it’ll be another four.  When people get preoccupied with building walls, monitoring bathrooms, and creating more hoops for people to jump through just to keep from starving, it will be a breeze to slide legislation through that opens the trough for the filthy rich.

You’ll see it; there will be a big hoopla about deficit reduction when they cut services that provide a lifeline to the poor, yet amounts to a fraction of a percent of the federal budget.  And then you’ll see tax breaks and loopholes created that quietly add billions back to the deficit.

Under all the xenophobic and homophobic bluster, Trump is still just a big business Republican.  Look at all the big promises he’s already rolled back.  The wall?  Maybe.  Prosecuting Clinton?  Gone.  Deporting millions?  Not as such.

But they’re already licking their chops at the prospect of neutering the EPA, disregarding climate change, closing or defunding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and tanking all the financial regulations enacted after the Bush Recession.  All of those actions are the result of the same goal: enriching the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us.

And we just greased up and bent over for them, didn’t we?  We made it so easy.

Now some other stray thoughts…

I’m not sure how my theory that Trump is not some rich, racist fuck jibes with his appointment of Steve Bannon to his circle of advisors.  This guy is a cancer on a free America.  He was the leader of the Breitbart website (after Breitbart himself croaked), which is a top purveyor of conservative fake news.  If Breitbart says it’s going to rain, you might as well plan a day at the beach.  Breitbart feeds the alt-right with conspiracy theories and outlandish assertions that they are only too eager to lap up.  Having this guy in the White House is a national embarrassment. 

Maybe Trump keeps him around for his zero sum zeal and take-no-prisoners strategy.  Someone is going to have to wrangle those alt-right, all white yahoos when they find out Trump can’t do all those things he said he was going to do.

Fake News
We’re hearing a lot about fake news now, aren’t we?  Fake news is big business and may have swayed this election.  Why do you think so many people thought Hillary was untrustworthy?  If you believed even a fraction of the Big News about Clinton, coming from Facebook and other sites and aggregators that promote sizzle over substance, it was inevitable.

And while conservatives weren’t the only ones pushing BS stories, they supplied an overwhelming majority.  The Russians had a whole cottage industry behind producing fake stories about Hillary.  Plus, they single-handedly kept Democratic scandals alive by hacking emails and leaking them every day for weeks prior to the election.

I seriously wonder if anyone really thinks we wouldn’t find the same things or worse if the Republicans’ emails had been hacked and released.  You don’t think those guys were steaming mad at Trump down at the RNC?  I guarantee you there were some salty emails flying around.  But those were the guys the Russians wanted in office. 

Doesn’t anyone wonder why?

I think all the college protests were a giant waste of time.  If they’re really so upset, that time would be better spent preparing and organizing for the midterm election in 2018.  That’s the only way to change anything.  Destructive hissy fits don’t help.

Of course, listening to the Republicans tell it, it’s an affront to the presidency and America herself.  I guess you’re only allowed to badmouth the president when he’s a black guy.

The Tea Party was borne of public protests, weren’t they?  Of course, those were middle-aged white guys, so it’s cool, right?

Republicans don’t get to mount their high horses about the protesters; not after they spent eight years obstructing everything our legally and overwhelmingly elected president wanted to do.  I’ve probably said it a dozen times here and I’ll say it again: They spent eight years blocking any bill that could help the country, put people back to work, or repair the infrastructure.  They ensured… they GUARANTEED that nothing would get done.  And then they turned around and ran on the assertion that the Democrats didn’t make anyone’s lives any better.

And this country was dumb enough to fall for it.

These cabinet appointments are scary… not because they’re a bunch of racists, but that they’re Republicans.  Well, future AG Jeff Sessions may be racist, or at least have a dangerous imbalance in his values system.  I mean, he’s been quoted as saying that the Klan was OK, up until he heard they smoked marijuana.  That’s what put them on his shit list.  With this guy in charge, say goodbye to the burgeoning marijuana laws being passed in the states.

Trump’s new Secretary of Education is a billionaire and crusader for private school vouchers.  (Heaven forbid her little angels have to mix with any undesirables at a public school.)  Say goodbye to our system of education and say hello to the reintegration of church and state.  Intelligent Design 101, here we come.

Trump’s domestic policy advisor thinks gay conversion therapy can be used to “reform” gay people.  I say, when it works on turning heterosexuals gay, it will work the other way around.  Oh yeah, and every respected psychological professional in the business says that too.  (Well, they say it doesn’t work and it’s downright cruel.)  But don’t mind the scientific community; we need politicians to tell us what we are.

One might think I’d be eager to see Trump impeached or otherwise thrown out of office immediately.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I think Trump is a pragmatist and will never do anything that’s bad for business.  (Mostly HIS business, but still.)  I think he uses these other thumpers as cover.  They keep the rabble roused while he can tend to business.

That changes if Mike Pence becomes president.  He’s a True Believer; religious zealot who actually believes all this shit about homosexuality being a sin and birth control is murder and so on. 

He’s crusaded against abortion access, including trying to redefine “rape” as a means to do so, signed laws allowing businesses to discriminate against gays, tried to redefine rape as a way to limit abortion, diverted 3.5 million dollars from Indiana’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program into a Pennsylvania anti-abortion organization, and probably most scary, co-sponsored “Personhood” legislation, which provided full human rights to an embryo the moment the two cells intersect.

Putting that guy in charge is the next step in turning this into the United States of Iran. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

One Time I... Wait... Was That Me?

First, let me apologize for the long layoff.  Because I had two posts just days apart, I was going to let the second one count as last Monday’s post, and come back with new material last night.  The flaw in the plan (when I formulated it) was that I forgot I was having an old friend for dinner.

Whoops, maybe I should say “an old friend was passing through town and we were meeting for dinner.” Glad I cleared that up.

I had planned to unload the mélange of political stew that had been simmering in my brain for the last week and a half, but then the dinner changed my mind.  (And there’s always next week.  Trump will still be President-Elect and there will still be unease and discomfort throughout the land.)

I hadn’t seen my friend “Clark” since late in the summer of 1979.  He went away to college and never came back.  Five years later, I also hit the road to seek my destiny (working in record stores for shitty pay).  We never crossed paths again.

I know I’ve mentioned my small group of close friends here many times here over the years, and our little band of neighborhood misfits who hung out in our barn, but Clark was never part of that crowd.  He was a guy in my class who was always friendly enough, but we didn’t really mix with the same people. 

But late in our senior year, he was dating a friend of mine, who was a close friend of the girl I took to prom.  We all went out on a double date to a fancy restaurant shortly after, to celebrate our mutual friend’s birthday and seemed to hit it off nicely.  (I mean he and I… the girls kind of drifted away from the group.)

Director’s DVD Commentary: I’m calling him “Clark,” not as a tribute to the Grizwald family patriarch, but because when my mom wanted to know who I was going to hang out with, I showed her his yearbook picture and she said, “That’s not (his name), that’s Clark Kent.”

Anyway, I realized he was a quality dude and a genuinely good guy, so we hung out a couple more times during the summer before he left for college Down South. 

One night, we went out to see the original “Alien” movie and got hammered up in the second row.  All I could remember about the movie were a couple of brief impressions: “Wow, that spaceship landing is pretty wild,” and “Hmm. This is probably really scary.”  (When I finally saw the movie on VHS, it was literally like seeing it for the first time.)

Another time I had mentioned something about having a harmonica, and he had me come over to his house to play some music.  He spent 20 minutes looking for some piano sheet music in the key my harmonica was in, but I was like, “Dude, it really won’t matter; I can’t play this thing for shit.”  I think I fumbled through one song before we decided to find something else to do.

We hadn’t really gotten The Barn up and running as a miscreant HQ yet, or else I’d have had him come out.  So like I said, once he left town, our paths diverged.

But now there’s Facebook, so we friended up several years ago.  And then a couple weeks back, he said he’d be traveling from North Carolina up to visit his daughter in Massachusetts, and what do you know, Baltimore is right on the way, about halfway there.  It would be a convenient pit stop and a chance to catch up.

So we met last night at my regular sports bar to just sit, have a few beers, some hamburgers and catch up.  (Not ketchup; not for me, anyway.)

Now tell me, have you ever tried to catch up on 37 years?  It’s not easy.  I mean, how do you summarize that much time, without putting on a 3-hour One Man Show?  If you’ve been with me for very long, you know the circuitous path I’ve taken to get where I am now.

(Luckily, he’s read this blog before so there were some adventures he’d already heard about.)

It came down to describing college, jobs, relocations, relationships, and various story tangents that I hoped proved entertaining.  I mean, how could I talk about my college years without the various pranks we pulled?  How could I talk about my experience working in record stores without talking about some of the bands I got to meet?  Sometimes repeatedly.  How could I talk about getting my first store without mentioning the Legend of the Felonious Lesbian, or talk about the ex-wife without mentioning how she became the Belle of the Firehouse?  There were some serious tangents I had to cover.

And it was in telling The Big Story all at once that I realized how weird some of it sounds to me now.  It’s like someone else did all that stuff in another lifetime.

And the thing was, he had so many of the same experiences I did, with college, jobs, relocations, and relationships.  Of course, my realm was merely national; I rarely left the Midwest, Northeast or Mid-Atlantic.  Clark’s path took him all over the globe.  The man lived in Poland, Indonesia, Switzerland, and a number of other places. 

It was funny; every time I thought I had a really good Facebook post from an Orioles game in Camden Yards, I’d see one of his posts while he was hiking through the freakin’ Swiss Alps.

But wherever we were, we still had the same kind of shit happen to us.  We both majored in disciplines that probably weren’t the most helpful to us.  We both ended up in jobs far from our majors, and kind of Forrest Gumped ourselves through our professional careers. Both of us had the same or similar problems with wives and girlfriends.  Both of us have had generally lousy luck with online dating.  We’ve both been impacted and influenced by lost friends.  We both played sandlot football against the same group of jagoffs and came to the same conclusions (that they were jagoffs).  (Come to think of it, I really need to tell that story here.  I’ll put it on the list.)  Both of us have considered running for elected office but figured we could just stay home and bash our heads against the wall, and save time. 

It was kind of cool, though, looking back on our shared high school experience.  Out of the blue, he brought up an old mutual friend, about whom I once wrote extensively; the auburn-haired beauty from my post about redheads I've known.  They were pretty good friends back then and in fact, she lives near him right now, back in North Carolina. 

When I mentioned my first college girlfriend, who also went to high school with the both of us, he was like, “Man, she was smokin’ hot!” 

It was funny because he saw the potential long before I did.  I didn’t see it until college when she changed her hair.  To me, she went from kind of mousey to “Ka-Boom!” 

It’s interesting to kind of “deconstruct” your high school experience with someone who was there, but not necessarily in your closest circle.  You can get a whole different take on things.

Anyway, we spent more than five hours at the bar, just talking and drinking beer.  And whoever wasn’t telling a story got to eat his dinner. 

It’s a good thing we quit when we did.  I’d cut myself off on beer and my throat was starting to get sore from all the yapping.  So we called it a night… I had to go to work in the morning and he had the rest of his drive.

See?  With thicker frames, he really would look like Clark Kent.  Whereas I look like Donkey from Shrek.  Stupid selfies...

So… Fun night.  Thank you, “Clark” for coming up with the great idea to stop by.

They really ought to market Baltimore this way… as a rest stop on the east coast highways.  “Charm City: A great town to stop temporarily before passing through.”