Saturday, June 21, 2008

No Respect

Today was bike day. Usually it's Sunday, but it's supposed to rain and God forbid we get an entire weekend around here without rain. So today I took the bike to the gym and hurried to get back so I could catch the third round of the Wegman's LPGA tournament at 2:00.
The hurry was unnecessary, since it rained in Rochester and the lightning chased the players off the course. I took the bike down the road to get a chicken sandwich and the clerk spied my helmet and asked if I "had one of those baskets on the front like the Wicked Witch." I could have corrected him and told him that it wasn't actually the Wicked Witch, but her Kansas alter ego, Elmira Gulch who rode the bike in the tornado. Instead, I said, "No, I have bags on the side." They're called panniers, but I didn't dare say panniers. [Politeness Man strikes again] That didn't stop him from putting my sandwich in a bag.
Then, when I got home I found that the Red Sox were on the Fox Game of the Week for something like the tenth straight week. You'd think that the league consisted of the Red Sox and whomever the Red Sox are playing. Enough already with the stinking Red Sox.
During the game, an Auto Zone commercial ran where there's a kid peddling his bicycle down a dirt road and he sees an abandoned car with a note that says, "If you can fix her, you can have her" which ironically is the same note I pinned to my ex-wife.
Anyway, the kid peddles back and forth to the local Auto Zone until finally he fixes the car and the voice-over tells us that "I can go to Auto Zone and I don't have to take my bike," as though riding a bike was comparable to molesting a child. And why would anyone with a brain in their head ride a bicycle to a place that you could drive to? Sure kid, now you have a car. Ride your fat ass around and waste resources, making the rest of the world wealthy. What was wrong with riding a bicycle to begin with? In a country with skyrocketing gasoline prices, perhaps that isn't the best message to send.
Whatever happened to his bike?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Keep your eyes on the road.

On my drive home last night, I spied a bumper sticker on the car in front of me that said "Do Right: And Give the Consequences to God" and I immediately wondered what it meant. Like those ambiguous vanity license plates, I think a sticker on your car should be immediately identifiable and express something that the people driving behind you can understand. It shouldn't make you go into that puzzled expression where your nose scrunches and your eyes drift to the upper left and you suddenly find yourself dangerously near the curb.
The "Do Right" I understood almost immediately. It's the "consequences" and "God" that had me near the curb.
I suppose it means that we are supposed to do the right thing and when the result is something good we are supposed to credit God with guiding our decision making process and the good thing is his doing, but that's a guess. It's a guess because doing the right thing does not always lead to a good result. We can do the right thing and have it backfire on us or make us look bad, in which case am I supposed to blame God for that? Is He a vengeful God that will smite thee at His will?
I think it assumes that doing the right thing will always lead to a good result, but those of us who have been screwed in the past know that it ain't necessarily so. That's what a lot of Christians want us to buy into - that the goodness of our deeds will lead to a good afterlife. It's a gamble because I know a lot of good people who "did right" and either didn't live long enough to enjoy the consequences or had their lives ruined by some random event that (I suppose) we are supposed to say is God's responsibility.
It's way too much thinking to do over a sticker on a car, but I feel strangely put off by the idea that somebody believes in that idea enough to put a sticker on their car.
I think it will make the car harder to sell later and probably peel the paint off trying to remove it.
I'd blame God.
And in the night
my father came to me,
and held me to his chest.
He said, "There's not much more that you can do.
Go on and get some rest."
And I said, "Yeah,
maybe I think too much."
- Paul Simon "Think Too Much"

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Tiger and Tim

"Cemeteries and golf courses - the biggest wastes of prime real estate."
- Al Czervik "Caddyshack"

Now that Tiger Woods has decided to listen to his doctor and have knee surgery, the TV networks that are televising the next group of PGA championship events are cringing at a 29% drop in ratings, due to what is called "The Tiger Effect". It's the drop (or gain) in TV ratings that occurs when Tiger Woods is either involved or not involved in the tournament. There's a 29% swing that I am sure the sponsors of the British Open are really pissed about.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people showed up for Tim Russert's funeral and viewing over the past week.
Whenever I see a large turnout for a funeral, I think "You won't get ten people to show up for my funeral," partly because I'm not having one and partly because I don't think you could assemble a group of people who are of the opinion that I am a person who is universally loved, admired and respected enough for them to say, "How are we ever going to survive without him?"
The gang at NBC (who is probably televising the British Open) is thinking that right now. They're trying to figure out how they can replace Russert on Meet the Press and how they will handle his departure, the effects of which are reaching into the fourth day.
That's about three days more than I figure the effects of my departure would last. Partly because I don't think there's a universal opinion of my fellow man's love and partly because I think that the death ceremony (viewing, wake and funeral) is a giant waste of time and (most of all) money. They're made for the living and the profit of the people who make a living off of our guilt. You wouldn't want to disrespect the memory of your loved one would you? Maybe, if I thought that they weren't in a better place and they didn't care once they shoved off this mortal coil.
I might cremate my cat and keep his ashes in a little urn someplace. As for me, I'd prefer that my remains be scattered in the wind and left for birds nests or landfill.
A lot of energy is wasted trying to figure out who is going to "replace" someone, while they forget that the person they are replacing was a replacement to begin with. It's a giant cycle. One replaces another and life goes on. Tim will be missed and Tiger will stop playing eventually, but their replacements will come and the world will go on, just as it did before them.
It's called mortality, and while it seems harsh in the wake (pun intended) of a death, it's part of the cycle of life. We live and die. We shake a tree and 20 people fall out to replace us. None of us are irreplaceable, no matter how important we think we are, or how important our employers think we are.
Face it folks, they were here before us and there will be new ones after we're gone. We aren't all that important.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

They keep asking for money and I keep telling them the same thing.

Battling inane comments and rude behavior with a deflective retort, he works hard to keep society off balance by making them think that what they say and do is acceptable.
Politeness Man is purchasing one thing in a box small enough to fit inside his polite pocket. Cashier asks, "Would you like a bag?"
"No", Politeness Man replies with a gentle eye roll.
The cashier isn't finished. "Would you like to donate a dollar to Lou Gehrig's Disease?" she asks.
"Umm ... no," replies Politeness Man, when what he really wanted to say was, "No, it's a horrible disease and it's doing fine without any help from me." But Politeness Man knew what she meant, even though her phrasing was awkward.
I got my first request for money from the Barack Obama campaign today. He must have seen my sidebar button. Either that, or I'm on some kind of list. I'm guessing the list. They're looking a "generous contribution" of at least $50. The letter has my name on it and everything. Imagine Barack taking the time to type out a personal letter to me. I'm flattered. He's convinced he can "change America." The P.S. goes like this:
My faith in the decency and honesty and generosity of the American people is not based on false hope or blind optimism, but on what I've lived and what I've seen in this campaign.
Back in 2004 I gave some money to the Kerry campaign because I figured we had a shot. Now, I'm struggling to pay my bills and they're still asking for money and saying that they can change a country that doesn't seem to want to change. I like the guy but I'm not buying into this "change" deal. We like to do what we want when we want and if it costs us too much money or threatens to kill us we complain that it costs too much or tries to kill us, then sue the people who sold it to us. We're a fat, lazy country of convenience and we have a "me first" mentality that permeates our society like a marinated steak. Our lifestyles are embedded in us and it will take a lot more than a $4 a gallon fill-up to get us to change - apparently. The fifty bucks he's looking for is long gone and if I had it to give, I'm not all that sure it will make enough of a difference. He'll get what he needs from people who have a lot more than I have and still accomplish the same thing. It's an old joke:

Do you have change for a hundred?
OK, then you don't need the five bucks I was gonna give you.
I'm a skeptic and a cynic, and my lack of faith in the decency of the American people is not based on blind pessimism, but on what I've lived through and seen in my life, which is a Hell of a lot longer than his campaign. I'll defend his right to try, but I'll believe in change when I see it.
Ask somebody who has the money to spare. What I have is in constant use.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More people listen to Oprah than their doctor.

His doctors had told him not to play this week. They had said his left knee might not just wind up sore, but re-injured, perhaps for a long time, perhaps forever, perhaps making this wincing, limping Tiger Woods of Torrey Pines the norm. “I’m not really good at listening to doctor’s orders,” Woods said.
Who is? Certainly not most people, some of whom are told to stop smoking because it will kill them or to quit eating so much because they're bigger than a house. Sure, the guy won a major golf championship and some money, and I guess now we'll forever be forced to listen to the "legend" of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Gosh. Let's see, if his knee hurts and he can't play anymore what does he have? A zillion dollars, a beautiful wife and child. That's horrible. The rest of us will have to endure the wincing, limping Tiger Woods and the horrible circumstances that he withstood to win at golf, proving that you should never listen to your doctor.
I was at the Phillies game last night (against doctor's orders) and the guy next to me is ordering a beverage from a vendor who was carrying both water and Miller Lite beer.
"I'll take one!" he shouts, oblivious to his odd order.
"One what?" the vendor asks, clutching the situation.
"Beer," he said, horribly mistaking Lite beer for beer.
I was tempted to interject that he was probably better off with the water because, not only is it $2.50 cheaper than beer, but probably contains slightly more alcohol, and besides, doctors tell us to drink more water.
I never understood the fascination with the Lite beer. It tastes horrible and doesn't accomplish most of the reason people drink beer - to get drunk. I think it's partly the marketing of it and partly the idea that people think it's somehow better for you, even though most people I see drinking it look like they're carrying a basketball in their shirt.
Beer is a miserable beverage, and has little to do with quenching thirst (marketing to the contrary) or "great taste" as they say. Mostly, it's a less expensive alternative to mixed drinks and really easy to carry around, because you don't have to ... mix anything. That's why the flavored "malt beverages" like those Twisted Tea's are popular. By the way, they're practically beer, or just flavored malt, which is kind of like beer without the foamy head.
I learned that when I took the tour of the Jack Daniel's distillery and they told us that to make JD, they first have to make beer as it passes through the process. Then, a couple of years later they started selling those little bottles of what appears to be Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade, but is actually a malt beverage made up to taste like a mixed drink. They're good at what they do. Smirnoff and those other guys started doing it. The label says "flavored malt beverage" which is kind of like beer.
This has been a complete ramble and posted only to fulfill my need to take up space on the Internet.
My doctor says it's good for me. I don't know what Oprah says.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Sunday in paradise.

Sunday, a store clerk wished me a "Happy Father's Day." It had totally slipped my mind, since I am neither a father nor have I had one since his passing in 1967. Generally, Father's Day gets by me.
I would guess that it's a strange situation that finds a couple married for 6 years without children, yet that's how my ex and I ended up. Probably for the better, since the courts usually side with the mother and in her case, she couldn't be bothered - which is probably why we never had children.
My memories of my father are all good ones. He's the one who taught me how to tell a joke. We used to read jokes into his tape recorder and listen to it later. He's the one who taught me to play baseball, and allowed me to be a left-handed hitter, even though I do nothing else left-handed, unless you count drinking when I'm holding something in my right hand.
Sunday was the final round of the U.S. (men's) Open. The thing that struck me as I watched it on TV was the same difference I notice when I go to Philadelphia and think it's a big city - until I go to New York. The crowds at the Open are huge (golf-people call them galleries) and for my money, they're kind of stupid compared to the women's tournaments I've attended. Guys are shouting, "In the hole!" on lay-up's to the fairway and randomly waving at the camera so that they can text-message their friends, "Did you hear me shouting?" The hole is a hundred yards away, dumbass. Like a lot of things, the more popular it is, the more dumbasses show up.
I think I've had my fill of the "Tiger Woods knee pain" stories and the endless replays of him (supposedly) wincing in pain and limping up the fairway to hit another agonizing shot. It's practically all we heard about this weekend. Tiger, his knee and 50 other guys that are also playing.
That's what was so amazing about the TV coverage, though. NBC decided to put the thing on in Prime Time, since it was in San Diego and they had the leaders tee-off at 4:00 EDT and showed all 18 holes of their play, leading to the finish sometime around 9:00pm.
Sometimes the leader has a big lead and the last few holes are just played to see how much he'll win by and sometimes the leader is a guy who couldn't get arrested on most days, but yesterday NBC hit the jackpot.
Not only did Tiger have to fight the knee pain (did you hear anything about that?) he also coughed up the lead to a guy with a surname that is also an intransitive verb - Rocco Mediate.
So they're doing cartwheels at NBC when Tiger rolled in the agonizing birdie putt on 18 (in Prime Time) and Rocco has to keep his hotel room for another day. They'll play another painful 18 holes today and unemployed golf fans and retired homemakers will be able to watch it live starting at noon. NBC picks up ESPN's coverage at 2pm, when undoubtedly the daytime dramas are already over and they won't have to field the "Where's my soap?" phone calls.
Tune in for more excitement and endless replays of the painful knee that has hockey players and other athletes questioning whether they could walk 4 miles in 6 hours three months after having a small intrusive device stuck in their knee.