Took this outside our front door half an hour ago.
I didn’t have to zoom in. It let me get practically nose to nose. There are a pair of them who have made our front yard their home since spring. They were pretty bold when they moved in and they’ve been growing bolder. Yesterday I had to wait five minutes for one of them to get out of the way before I could back the car out of the drive. Day before that, one of them was taking a siesta in the shade by the garage door. When the carrier delivering the paper this morning came up the walk, the rabbit didn’t budge. She bent down, thinking she might pet it and it didn’t flinch. I think it would have let her, but she pulled her hand back, worried it might bite her. Maybe it would have. These rabbits are inscrutable. You can’t tell what they’re thinking. At any rate, they seem pretty confident they have the run of the place. I fully expect that they’re going to find a way into the house and pretty soon they’ll be raiding the refrigerator.
Saturday night. Nine-forty and nearing closing time here at B&N. The littlest but most energetic barista is sweeping up and putting the chairs up on the empty tables. The only customers left in the cafe are me and a thirty-something guy and his mother leafing through magazines at two tables pushed together at the rail. The magazines are devoted to cars and racing. He's fairly nondescript, brown-haired in a blue t-shirt. She looks to be in her late seventies, heavy, with big rounded shoulders and a strong square jaw, white hair that still holds some pale yellow strands, kept back from her ears by a clip of five pink beads. Wears purple frame glasses, a man's gray windbreaker over a green and blue checked shirt, jeans, and bright yellow ankle socks with her canvass slipons. The son has just come back from a last browse through the store.
"They have that show you like," he says, picking up one of his magazines.
"Oh?" She doesn't look up from her reading but she sounds interested.
"Justified. Twenty-six dollars but I think they're having a sale."
She nods deliberatively. Thinks things over. Files away his news. Lets some silence build. Then says evenly, a change of subject, "Out of seventy dollars I have five dollars and some change left, and with that I was thinking of getting some tobacco on the way home, because there's a new smoke shop on 9W."
Mined from the notebooks, June 24, 2017. Posted Saturday morning, July 8.
So. Other day. Grocery store parking lot. I'm looking for a space. There's a bank of handicapped slots near the front doors. I have my choice, so it's really no skin off my nose that someone's parked almost crosswise in one of the spots. Angled in like one of those jerks who feel entitled to take two spaces so no one can park next to him and maybe ding his doors when they open theirs. This irks me and makes me suspect the driver of being a jerk in another way, too, parking in a handicapped spot he doesn't have the permit to use. So, when I've parked myself, I wander over to check to see if he has his handicapped tag hanging from his rearview mirror.
It's a Dodge Intrepid. Maroon. The color of blood. I'm surprised. Hardly an old man's car and if the trucker's cap on the shelf in the rear window is telling the truth, the owner must be at least eighty years old. Korea War Veteran, it says on the face of the cap. The cap is cloth but the other hats sharing the shelf with it are straw. There's a straw cowboy hat, a woman's straw sun hat, a straw bush hat, a straw pith helmet, and a Panama hat.
The trucker's cap increased the odds there'd be a handicap tag, and sure enough... But it wasn't hanging from the mirror. It was lying on the dashboard. There wasn't room on the mirror's stem, wrapped as it was in multiple rosaries and strings of Mardi Gras beads.
The car was ornamented on the outside with chrome gee-gaws---Oliver Mannion doesn't believe gee-gaws is a word. But it is and it's the right word for the chrome footprint on the door to the gas tank, the chrome pirate-hatted skull and crossbones just over the front bumper, the twin silhouetted naked women of the kind usually seen on the mud flaps of tractor trailers, and the chrome nude with eyes of pink glass body surfing the airstream flowing over the hood.
In the store, I kept an eye out for the likely owner, watching for an octogenarian in some sort of straw hat. Maybe a boater. But no one looked old enough or struck me as eccentric enough. The only suspect was a trim, quick-paced man in a regular billcap with a closely cropped white beard who looked to be in his sixties, walking a young service dog in training through the produce section.
Mined from the notebooks, Sunday morning, May 21, 2017. Posted Sunday morning, June 4.
Felt my mortality weighing heavily on me this morning. Tried to keep the demons at bay by telling myself I could be around for another 30 years. The demons laughed. What's the point of that? they asked mockingly. I had to grant them the point.
Thirty more years? Might be a pleasanter prospect if I and nobody I knew were going to age and things would continue on pretty much the way they are. Not a lot to look forward to as it is. Not much I'm going to contribute with my persistent presence. I'm done. It's somebody else's turn. Don't want to die but not excited about living. Lately I've caught myself having fantasies that are influenced by Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld novels except that instead of dying and being reborn down river I'm reborn back upstream and wake up as my twenty year old self, a young hero with prospects again.
These were pre-dawn thoughts. As soon as it got light I got in the car and headed for McDonald's. We're up at the old Mannion Homestead for the weekend so I drove down to the river and had my coffee on the riverbank, looking at this:
I don't see much point in living thirty more years. Or twenty. Or ten. But contemplating a view like this? With a good cup of coffee? Continuing on another day seems like a good idea.
Their characteristic “sagacity, wariness, strength, and fidelity” made Canada Geese “models for man,” in the eyes of a naturalist Francis H. Kortright. What they were in the eyes of Franklin Roosevelt were a species worth preserving and, once in a while, a target and a meal. Photo by Gidzy via Wikipedia.
Driving home from picking up Oliver from work last night, we had to stop to let a band of Canada Geese cross the road...
Why did the Canada Goose cross the road?
I don’t know. Tell me. Why did the Canada Goose cross the road?
To get to the lake on the other side.
Hee hee hee
Ok. Moving right along…
The real question is what were they doing on that side of the road before they crossed. Probably shopping for nest sites in the bushes over there. It's that time. Anyway. There were about six of them, taking their time waddling across, seemingly unconcerned that they'd stopped traffic in both directions, all adult sized, but the four of them in the middle were likely last year's brood, with the father in front and the mother in back. Canada Geese mate for life, after, as I just read, an "aggressive courtship". I watched them with mild interest. I have nothing against Canada Geese but I take them for granted and forget that they can be quite interesting, although I've never thought as highly of them as the naturalist Francis H. Kortright did:
Sagacity, wariness, strength, and fidelity are characteristics of the Canada goose which, collectively, are possessed in the same degree by no other bird. The Canada in many respects can serve as a model for man.
They are beautiful, though, especially when seen collectively. My heart skips when, rounding a bend in the road along the river, I come upon rafts of them spread out upon the water. Sometimes. Sometimes I'm just bored.
It’s not the case that when you've seen one you've seen them all. It's just that when you're seeing one, you're routinely seeing a hundred, and it's a sight you've seen as recently as this morning and can expect to see again tomorrow. Canada Geese are not a species of rara avis.
But here's the thing.
At one time not that long ago they were or almost were---they were on their way, at any rate. You might be surprised to learn, as I was surprised to read in Rightful Heritage, Douglas Brinkley's biography of FDR as a conservationist, that around about 1935 the Canada Goose was a "threatened species".
Hard to imagine, I know. It's like finding out starlings or sea gulls or pigeons were endangered. If you live anywhere in the United States except, going by the map in my field guide, one small desert patch of Arizona and, weirdly, Florida----too many snakes and gators down there, I guess, not to mention the occasional panther, endangered as it is, and the geese know to steer clear---it probably seems there are just too many of them---between 4.2 and 5.6 million in the United States and Canada as of a 2015 count, according to Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. Hunters in North America bag about 2.6 million a year "but this does not seem to affect its numbers."---for them to have ever been "threatened".
But apparently they were, critically enough that they needed special attention, which they got. From Franklin Roosevelt. Rebuilding waterfowl populations was a New Deal project as important to FDR as building dams and post offices.
Roosevelt's conservative opponents attacked his jobs programs, like the Civilian Conservation Corps, as wasteful and unnecessary make-work programs. To a degree they were make-work programs because of course they were! But the CCC had real work to do. It was right there in its name---Conservation. Wilderness conservation. Wildlife conservation. Forest conservation. Water conservation. Soil conservation. The CCC didn’t plant all those trees just to prettify the view. Prettifying the view was one of the goals. Roosevelt believed in the soul and mind restorative powers of natural beauty and he wanted all Americans to experience it which is why establishing and expanding national and state parks were high up on his To do-list. But along with their other functions, the trees were planted to hold down the soil. FDR was very serious about soil conservation. He had to be. The Dust Bowl was an ongoing national man-made catastrophe. And what hadn’t dried up and blown away in the Midwest and the High Plains was washing away elsewhere because for a couple hundred years and more farmers and loggers across the continent had been hell-bent on chopping down all the forests, and what the farmers and loggers had left standing, mining interests were intent on clear-cutting to expose the ground to their shovels, picks, bulldozers, and dynamite.
Roosevelt took special pride in the work of the CCC. Of all his New Deal programs, it was probably the one he identified with most, the one he felt was most expressive of himself. He assigned himself an active role in its running and planning and decision-making. He kept close track of what it was up to and was constantly offering suggestions---useful suggestions that grew out of experience and study. But then he was that way when it came to all his administration’s programs. He was not a micro-manager, Far from it. But he always knew what was going on and that meant knowing whether or not the problem was being addressed effectively and that meant understanding exactly what the problem was and how the work was designed to addressed it. Roosevelt never met a subject he didn’t make a point of learning as much about as he could. When he said farmers should plant more trees, he knew which trees would grow best where. When he talked about monetary policy with his economic advisers, he had not just an understanding of how money works but his own carefully thought-out ideas about how it should be put to work.
Amazing, ain't it? A President who knew things and understood them, who had ideas instead of passing fancies. Who interested himself in the workings and progress of policies and programs. Who could hold more than one thought in his head at a time. Who could hold onto a thought.
Roosevelt had firm ideas about soil management and land management in general that he’d been developing long before he became President. It was a practical preoccupation of his since he was young---FDR regarded himself as a farmer, with reason. The family’s Hyde Park estate was a working farm and Roosevelt took an active role in managing it.
He had firm ideas about wildlife management too.
He liked birds.
If soil conservation was a practical concern, ornithology was a passion. Birds were objects of delight and subjects for serious study his whole life. He was an amateur ornithologist only in that he never got paid.
The CCC’s jobs jar included reforestation and wetlands restoration with the expressed purpose of habitat restoration. The CCC helped create many wildlife refuges all over the country. One of them was Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan. It was established along with a number of other refuges in 1935, and that's where, according to Brinkley, the reinvigoration of the Canada Goose population began.
Brinkley doesn’t get into how the geese came to be threatened and I can’t find the answer in my bird books, but I imagine it was the same way most wildlife comes to be threatened, by human beings behaving in their naturally selfish, short-sighted, ignorant, and greedy fashion. Over-hunting and habitat destruction along the migratory flyways were taking a toll on all waterfowl populations.
Each [National Wildlife Refuge] established in 1935 saved entire ecosystems from corruption by humans. Most had a particular species of waterfowl as a focus. The reason Rice Lake NWR was situated in a bog area of northern Minnesota was to help ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) hatch. Then there was Medicine Lake NWR in Montana, where the white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) nested. In Arkansas, mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) wintering in the Mississippi Flyway had 160, 756-acre home at the White NWR.
And at Seney “biologists built a fenced-in pond area to contain a crop of goslings and then trained them to establish a migratory pattern.”
By the way, just because he was out to save waterfowl populations, doesn't mean FDR was opposed to hunting ducks and geese or at all averse to hunting them himself.
FDR always preferred fishing to hunting but he did enjoy hunting for ducks and he was an excellent shot, having trained his eye from boyhood shooting birds for collection and study.
Shortly after the 1932 election, Roosevelt had arranged a duck hunt in Dutchess County. Struggling with his heavy leg braces, he had himself hidden in a Hudson River blind to wait for waterfowl to arrive in the cold sunshine...The president-elect was more used to fishing---in saltwater, following the menhadden toward trophy fish---but now he listened for the discordant, ethereal sound of ducks that had inspired hunters for millennia. Instead, five Canada geese (Branta canadensis)---black-beaked, with brown bodies and long necks---headed directly toward the blind. He took aim [with his shotgun] and fired. "I hit the leading goose, swung left to try to get another with my left barrel," he wrote to [his friend and conservationist ally] Senator Henry Hawes of Missouri, "and at that moment the first goose hit me a glancing blow on my right shoulder."
Brinkley doesn't say whether the goose hit FDR as it fell or if it kept flying after Roosevelt wounded it and crashed into its attacker in a last, desperate kamikaze goose attempt at revenge. But what I really want to know is who let Roosevelt wade into the river in his leg braces? The whole New Deal might have been drowned on the spot. One wrong step and, glub!---Alf Landon's the next elected president of the United States..
Canada Geese are thriving these days. It's to the point that many people see them as pests. Ever walk across a yard after a flock has been browsing there? Which reminds me.
One of Pop Mannion's last and most frustrating adventures as town supervisor was trying unsuccessfully to negotiate a truce between a pair of neighbors who disagreed about the relative pestilential nature of the many Canada Geese who visited their riverside neighborhood. One of the neighbors loved the geese and liked to watch them feed on the birdseed she spread on her lawn for them. The other neighbor objected to the noise and the fact that the geese didn't respect property lines and wandered over into his yard to see what was on the menu there and to demonstrate that the phrase “like shit through a goose” wasn’t just a folksy expression, and he wanted Pop to make the goose-friendly neighbor cease and desist.
Pop could not bring about a mutually satisfying resolution. He couldn’t tell the first neighbor which species of wildlife to invite onto her property, and he couldn’t make the second neighbor see that when you build your house next to a river you can’t expect the birds who call that river home will naturally confine themselves to the areas not owned by human beings.
Mined from the notebooks, Monday, April 17, 2017. Posted Sunday afternoon, May 7.
King of Prussia. Have to tell you. The crew of baristas at our local B&N have got me spoiled. They know me and greet me by name. They smile and sound glad to see me. If they've spotted me entering the store, they'll have my coffee waiting for me when I reach the counter. Half of them have my membership number memorized. The others feel guilty that they don't and apologize for having to ask. They're friendly and generally genuinely cheerful. They're not chatty, and they're certainly not flirtatious, but they engage. And I think they appreciate it that I'm not chatty either. I know all their names and I ask how they are but I don't pry and I resist making Dad jokes and I almost never complain---because they almost never give me any reason to. When I do, when the coffee's a little cold or they've rushed and rung my order up wrong, I'm careful not to sound like I'm even a little annoyed or disappointed. Having them there to wait on me makes going there the best part of my day and I'm pretty sure having to wait on me isn't the worst part of theirs.
What this means is that I'm used to attractive young women being nice to me.
This isn't due to any special charm on my part. Mainly it's that they're just an exceptionally nice group of kids. And they're good to all their customers. But I think it's also the case that I remind them of someone's kindly grandfather.
And it's not just at the one Barnes and Noble. I usually get friendly and attentive service wherever I go. Again, I'm pretty sure it's the grandfather effect. They see the white hair and beard and my stiff and halting gait and they feel naturally solicitous and even a touch protective. I don't expect it, but like I said I'm spoiled, and I can't help feeling a bit disappointed and even a little hurt when a waitress, barista, cashier, or counter girl seems less than thrilled to have me as a customer. Like this morning, for instance.
The young woman who served me my coffee at McDonald's wasn't outwardly hostile or rude. She wasn't exactly indifferent either. She was worse than indifferent. She was cold, and cold in that way that is purposeful. It's not an attitude. More like a deliberate absence of attitude. She was letting me know that while she noticed me and had to acknowledge my presence, I wasn’t to think that I or my presence was of any importance to her. It felt as if she was saying, “It's not that your existence means nothing to me, it's that I am willing it to mean nothing to me. Whatever feeling you might under other circumstance have inspired---pleasant or unpleasant, positive or negative---I am choosing not to have. In effect, you are not a person to me. You are simply a phenomenon I am required by my job to deal with. I have the same reaction or rather lack of reaction to having to mop the floor or put together a Big Mac.”
Ok. Could be I was being over-sensitive. I get like that sometimes. I know I come across as a tough customer here. Hardboiled even. It's an act. Inside, I'm a marshmallow. And she might just have been in a bad mood or maybe she was tired---I don't know when her shift started. It was around nine o'clock. They open at five. She might very well have been up since four. Earlier even. Many of the workers here commute from downtown Philly and it can take an hour to get here from there. And of course, preternaturally observant and insightful as I usually am, I'm also prone to flights of fancy and I could have been reading her all wrong. Inventing her in fact. Turning her into a fictional character without thinking about it. Something I have a habit of doing and I'm normally careful about it. But whatever she was, she wasn't happy to see me and she wasn't friendly. Her eyes were without light. She didn't even try to smile. Her face was a mask. And her voice was cold. When she replied "Good Morning" to my "Good Morning," it was rote and without any sign that she agreed or disagreed that it was a good morning. When she said “What can I get for you?” I felt like the expected answer was “Nothing. Just browsing. Sorry I bothered you. I'll show myself out.”
Still, I should have shrugged it off. And in fact I pretty much did. It wasn't her unfriendliness I was thinking about. It was her hijab.
Not that she was wearing a hijab. Well, sort of. It was a long and flowing one that served as a shawl as well as a scarf and I thought it was impractical for working behind a counter at a McDonald's. I wondered how she kept the ends from getting in the way when she bent over the french fries station. But mainly I was thinking about the problem its color would cause me when I went to describe her in my notebook, because I was sketching her in words in my head as I was watching her just as I do just about everybody and everything that meets my eye and now aren't you hoping never to meet me? The problem was this. The hijab was black, which left me no easy word to describe her, because she was black. Black as in not white. I'm still dealing with that problem which you might not think is much of a problem. "A young black woman wearing a black hijab with long flowing ends." That's all there is to it. Or should be. But here's how it went in my head.
Forget the hijab for a moment. If it was a white girl behind the counter I wanted to describe for some reason I wouldn't use the word white. White is still my default, much as I know better. But I am getting practiced at not using the word black in a way that signals that I think of white as everybody’s default either. Sometimes race is implicit in descriptions that include hair color, eye color, or complexion. But if I was to write a young woman with light brown skin and dark brown eyes wearing a hijab, readers would reflexively picture her as Middle Eastern. You might think, as I did at first, that the thing to do would be to write “a young African American woman wearing a hijab” but you might not have had a conversation with one of my students who is black and explained to me the problem she has describing herself. She prefers black to African American because she isn't African American. She's Jamaican-American.
Her best friend is Haitian-American.
She grew up in a mixed neighborhood in New York City where most of her neighbors were black but only some were African American and many weren't American at all or at least not yet. They were African. Others who could technically call themselves American weren’t North American. In her experience the only neighborhoods that can be safely described as African American are found in the South. Which presents her with another problem. How to distinguish between her African American neighbors who are Southerners from those who are born and bred New Yorkers.
We had this conversation when I was helping her edit an essay about the lack supermarkets in inner city neighborhoods like hers and I suggested that for variety and clarity's sake in a paragraph in which she'd used the word black quite a number of times as an adjective and noun she change one of the blacks to African American.
Naturally I was a little embarrassed when she explained why she couldn't do that. Some of my embarrassment was that of a self-satisfied white guy caught being a white guy. Some of it was that of a self-important professor being corrected by a student. None of it was that of the Trump voter of song and story who infuriated by just being given the option to hear the voice mail instructions in Spanish hangs up in a fury, fuming about political correctness and taking our country back. I don't know about you but I actually get a kick out of being "embarrassed" by this sort of experience.
It reminds me how fun and interesting it can be to live in a diverse and pluralistic country or a part of it where diversity is a defining characteristic, at any rate. I've lived in the Midwest. This is why I've never had a strong desire to travel overseas. There's too much left to explore close to home. I’m going a long way around to saying that the young woman's hijab in itself was not what focused my attention. It was the questions it raised about her. I wondered about her background. I wondered how she got here. Here being behind the counter of this particular McDonald's, a trip that began for her the day she was born wherever that was, and I wondered where that was.
Mrs M's hometown has grown more diverse in the many, many, many, many---goddammit, I'm old---since we started dating. Mostly that's been due to families of Asian, Indian, and Pakistani descent moving in, along with a fewer number of black and Hispanic families, and the diversity is a matter of ethnicity not class. This is a suburb full of professionals. But the staff at this McDonald's is almost entirely black. But not all of them are African American. The manager is Jamaican, although I don't know if he's Jamaican-American. Most of the staff probably lives in nearby Norristown, but like I said some of them come in from Philly, which is a hike and a long way to go for a job at McDonald's, especially when you consider there are plenty of McDonalds in the city. Not enough to give jobs to everyone who wants one, apparently., a point to have in the chamber the next time someone says to you that THEY don't want to work. At any rate, I don't know if this woman was African American or any sort of American at all. I detected no particular accent inflecting the very few words she said. Her pronunciation sounded more formal than that of most Americans of any color from any region but there's nothing to be deduced from that. Hijabs aren't exotic but that doesn't mean she wasn't. But I'll never know and this is why we have fiction. To know things about people we can't really know. So, like I said, it wasn't the hijab itself that intrigued me. It was what else she was wearing along with it.
Pink fingernail polish.
Bright pink fingernail polish.
Barbie Pink fingernail polish.
It was so pink that it caught my eye at the same time as the hijab---and her height. I didn't mention she was taller than me. And very slender.
The pink fingernail polish struck me as incongruous with the hijab but that might just be ignorance on my part. I associate hijabs with modesty and bright pink fingernail polish with, well, not immodesty but not feeling shy and retiring at the time of application. I also don't associate it with working the counter at a fast food restaurant since it's work guaranteed to ruin a nail job in a matter of minutes. Which explains my initial reaction to what happened next.
I ordered my coffee, medium, two creams, two Splendas, my usual, to no reaction from her except telling me the price. A dollar six. Not only does McDonald's serve the best coffee in the world, you can't beat the price. And, yes, I have considered the probability that the price has a lot to do with my thinking it's the best coffee in the world.
Now here's something if you're a regular reader you probably already know since I've whined about it here often enough. I'm still not steady on my feet. Standing for any length of time puts a strain on my back. So when I'm in a store or a restaurant and it comes time to order or pay I have a habit of leaning with one hand on the counter. This means I have to do some things one-handed, like get out my money or credit card. I'll take out my wallet, set it on the counter, slide out the bills, then leave them on the counter while I dig for any required change. Which is what I did, setting the nickel and penny that I happened to have on the dollar on the counter.
"Would you pick that up and put it into my hand?"
I was startled. This was the first time she'd initiated an exchange of conversation. But I didn't think anything about it at first except that it was an effect of the pink nail polish. She couldn't pick up the money because her fingernails made that too tricky. So of course, gentleman that I am, I did what she asked while saying in a friendly way "Sure!" Then it registered. The absolute coldness in her voice.
She hadn't asked.
It wasn't a request. It was an instruction and one she thought she shouldn't have had to give. And it didn't have to do with her nails. She wasn't protecting a recent manicure. I took a quick glance at her nails and saw that they weren't that long and the polish wasn't new. And then I saw that while her face remained impassive there was now an expression in her eyes and it wasn't friendly. It was angry and resentful.
I'd insulted her.
And I had no idea how.
And that's what I've been wondering about and what I'm still wondering about now.
What did I do wrong?
There’s a good possibility that she’d put her hand out to take my money and I didn’t notice because I was concentrating on actually getting at my money. If that was the case she might very well have thought I was deliberately making her have to pick up the money either because I was disdaining contact or I was in some other way demeaning her, treating her the way I thought her initial coldness did me, as not worth notice or consideration. But I worked retail and I don’t remember there being an accepted rule about how customers forked over. Maybe the rules have changed. So was I being unconsciously rude to an overworked, underpaid counter girl and have I been accidentally insulting the baristas at B&N when I don’t think to put my money right in their hands? Like I said, they have me spoiled, but maybe I need to be more considerate. Being more considerate toward everyone is generally a good policy.
Or maybe she was just in a bad mood.
But I wonder. Did it have anything to do with her hijab?
That is, was there a culture clash I'm too white guy American obtuse to have known to avoid? If so, I’d like to know about it. Not just so I don’t make the same mistake in the future. I want to know because, like I said, it’s the sort of thing that makes living in these United States one great, long explore.
Valley Forge. Parked in the lot next to Von Steuben’s statue, finishing my coffee while making up my mind which direction I’ll be setting out for a walk. The lot seems full of joggers, power walkers, bikers packing it in. I’m here late, 8:30, and they’re all done with their runs, walks, rides, having been out here for a couple of hours, some of them. As far as I can see, I’m the only geezer near about. But also as far as I can see, none of the joggers, walkers, or bikers is young. It’s a middle-aged crowd. Early middle-aged but still, they’re not kids. There are several attractively fit women among them, but I’ve got my eye on a couple of guys a few spaces over to my right. I’m watching them out of the corner of my eye, with a smirk of satisfaction I’m trying to hide behind my coffee cup. Looks like they’ve just finished a run and are chatting a bit before they climb into their separate cars and head home. Both are tall. One is in pretty good shape. The other, well, if he runs regularly, he’s taken it up recently and the effects are only cardiovascular at this stage. He’s a few hundred miles from being as trim as his friend. That’s not why I’m smirking though. I’m smirking because I have more hair than both of them.
That’s how vain and shallow I am.
The world is filling up with all these bald, paunchy, jowly middle-aged men fighting off age---“Good luck with that!”---or giving into it---“C’mon! Make an effort!”---who are 15 or 20 years younger than me and it doesn’t stop me from thinking of them as the old guys---“Told you it would happen to you.” It’s as if I don’t know how old I am.
Maybe I don’t.
Done with my coffee. Time to push off. I’ve decided which way I’m headed. Looking down the hill and along the path that borders the field where Von Steuben drilled the troops, I can see a set of log cabins under a big old oak with an inviting bench beside them. I judge it to be about a quarter mile away. I can probably do it without collapsing. The hobble back’s going to be the real challenge though. Uphill the whole way. But I’m going to risk it.
Mined from the notebooks Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Driving home from the bus depot north on 300. Large man in a small car pulls up next to us at a light. He’s wearing a hard hat. Has one of those little clipboards suction cupped to the dash. A GPS too. Windows wide open. Music playing. Latin singer I don’t recognize crooning a ballad in a deep, sultry voice I imagine is the voice of the Most Interesting Man in the World when he sings, which, of course, he does better than anyone else. Driver floors it when the light changes. I think I catch sight of a Hillary sticker in his rear window but he speeds away and gets lost from view in the traffic up ahead.
Well, plan was we'd be down at Mother Blonde's cottage for Christmas eve, having dinner with her and Mrs M's brother and sister and their families. But Mrs M has the flu. She's buried under the covers in bed. So we're stuck here for tonight. Maybe tomorrow too. But no fear! Tonight I whipped up dinner for the Mannion guys and me. A whole turkey breast from the supermarket deli and sides from various cans, boxes, bags, and jars---mashed potatoes, stuffing, mixed vegetables, and cranberries. Turned out pretty good. For dessert we have apple pie. Store bought but it looks delicious.
Tomorrow afternoon, if Mrs M still isn't up for traveling, we're going to see Rogue One and then having dinner at Perkins.
A merry enough Christmas, all things considered. Hope yours is at least as merry! And Happy Hanukkah too!
“What are you doing Saturday night?” Considering what the Jackson Pollock painting they’re looking at says to her, her answer isn’t surprising. Woody Allen and Diane Davila in the scene that contains my second favorite joke in Play It Again, Sam.
Talking to Ken and Oliver about this and that the other night somehow led to us talking about Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam and me trying to tell them my favorite joke from that film. But I couldn’t. Just thinking about it, I got laughing so hard I couldn't get the words out. It was uncontrollable. I’d say I was laughing like an idiot except that I was actually laughing like a genius---Pop Mannion. Laughing fits like the one overcoming me have overcome him in the same way as far back as I can remember. I was even making the same comic strip Teeheeheeheehee laughing sound he’ll make. The guys got a real kick out of that. It was more evidence I'm turning into my father. I think they think it’s a necessary step for clearing the way for them to turn into me. Why they’d want that, though, I can’t imagine. At ay rate, I couldn’t tell the joke for the life of me, and not only did they miss out on the joke, they missed out on the story that explains why I find the line so funny. Here it is.
First the joke. Allen's character is telling his friends (played by Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts) why his wife left him for a guy he describes as a big blond Nazi. Guy's also a skier. Allen says:
She wants to laugh; she doesn't laugh enough. Insufficient laughter; that's grounds for divorce. Oh, and skiing! She wants to go skiing. She wants to ski down a mountain laughing like an idiot.
You had to be there. And there was with me in college just dumped by my high school girlfriend---the one who looked like Scarlett Johansson, not the one who looked like Elizabeth Montgomery---for a guy she was going skiing with weekends while I was away at school.
He was big and good looking but he wasn't a Nazi. Actually, he was Jewish. Also a nice guy. It's also the case that I was funnier and made her laugh, so she didn't need to go skiing down a mountain laughing like an idiot. Just go skiing. I did’t ski. So Woody’s and my situations weren’t quite parallel. Still it helped cheer me up to keep quoting the line whenever someone asked what happened with me and Chris. Still does, although no one’s asked me about her in a long time.
Post script. He dumped her before the next winter's ski season when he went away to college. Skiing and laughing together aren't enough to sustain a relationship, I guess.
From the Facebook TL. Monday morning, November 28, 2016.
So. Time to bring down the Christmas decorations. I'm feeling sufficiently recovered that I can do the job by myself. First time I've been up to the store room, which is more of a closet, actually, since before the operation in July. All this time, though, for four months, Mrs M has been putting things "away" up there.
Mrs M is what is clinically known as a "chronic over-stuffer."
I open the door...
You know the running gag from the old radio show Fibber McGee and Molly?
The friends of Tommy Two-Gun were back at McDonald's this morning. I learned they have another mutual friend. Big-Head Jimmy. Big-Head Jimmy doesn't seem to impress them as much as Tommy does. But then Tommy is "the eyes and ears" of the world.
Their conversation was, as it was last week, focused on their gambling. It being Monday, they were trading stories about yesterday's football games. None of them did all that well. One of them had a lot of money on the Eagles.
All of them have higher hopes for next week. One plans to bet heavily on the Steelers against the Cowboys. The guy who'd lost big on the Eagles was skeptical about that paying off. But the Steelers better was confident.
"They're playing Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh!"
"I don't care if they're playing God in heaven."
The talk turned briefly to the election which they still seem only interested in as a betting proposition. It wasn't even clear they planned to vote. Except for one. The eldest. He's pushing 90. And he's voting for Hillary. Enthusiastically. It's a vote for her. But he's also voting against Trump. Because Trump's a billionaire. He doesn't want a billionaire as President on principle. He didn't elucidate the principle. This billionaire, though, he's against on practical grounds too. "He's a crook!"
The others seemed a bit gloomy at the prospect of Hillary winning. Again, this was about gambling. You don't clean up by betting the favorite. Who was going to take Trump? The HRC supporter was gleeful at their gloom.
"You were in your glory when she was down! When she was down you were in your glory!"
Before you get gleeful along with him, he's not the luckiest of them. In fact, he admits to being unlucky.
“Want to know what my three main downfalls are? I’ll tell you. Horses. Horses. And…” He was talked over here by two others who were on to something else, but I’d bet his third downfall is horses. Might be baseball though.
"I had a horse at Aqueduct. The jockey fell off. I had the Yankees in the World Series. They lost four straight."
I think he meant the 2012 AL Championship Playoffs against the Tigers. But it chilled me to think about what he said are two if not three of his main downfalls as a gambler.
Let's hope the political media's wrong about presidential elections being horse races.
What was it Winston Churchill is supposed to have said?
“The strongest argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with an average voter”?
Monday, I’m lying on the table at physical therapy with a heating pad under my back, eyes closed, nearly dozing off, and I overhear two other clients, a man and a woman, talking about the election. They were cheerfully grumpy about it. The man asked that most dangerous question:
“Who are you voting for?”
She replied matter of factly, “I don’t vote.”
She didn’t add “it only encourages them.”
She did say, “They’re all terrible.” By all she meant all. Not just Clinton and Trump. Everyone running in every election, national, state, and local. Politicians of all stripes, all parties, she’s got no use for any of them. She offered no specific objection to politicians as a class nor did she express any particular complaints about specific politicians she hasn’t voted for in the past or won’t be voting for this time (except for Clinton and Trump. I’ll get to that). She didn’t say she thought they were all corrupt or liars or just plain stupid. Her feeling seemed to be that in general they’re all useless.
No politician, as far as she seemed to be concerned, has ever done anybody a lick of good. Politics, again as far as she seemed to be concerned, had pretty much no impact on her life and asking her to care about it enough to use up part of her day to go vote annoyed her, as if she was being told she had to take her car in for a maintenance checkup even though she’d had it in fairly recently and it was running fine and all that was likely to happen if she brought it in would be that the mechanics would find something wrong with it that had to be fixed right then and there or else the warranty agreement would be voided.
Politics and the doings of politicians were at best annoying distractions and, finally, none of her business. Taking time off from work to go vote for any candidate up for any office would be like doing it to go vote for the officers of club she didn’t belong to or the board members of a company she didn’t work for or have stock in. The outcomes wouldn’t affect her and so wouldn’t matter to her one way or another.
At this point I was tempted to jump off the table and walk over to quote our good twitter pal and virtual spiritual adviser Pastor Dan who tweeted just the other day:
If you don’t like politics, turn off your television. And your radio. And your internet. And your lights and water, and your sewer…
I know from having grown up watching Pop Mannion try to explain it to irate taxpayers back when he was town supervisor that the roads don’t plow themselves in the winter and the trucks don’t run on air and the drivers have to be paid and the gas has to be bought that most people don’t understand---or want to understand---that “politics” is just another word for our collective decision-making about how we’re going to live together politely and peacefully without recourse to battle axes and poison and the odd dragon. Few town residents wanted to hear it from Pop and this woman certainly didn’t want to hear it from me
I might have done it, anyway, if I hadn’t been so warm and comfortable on top of the heating pad and if she had actually said the things I wrote about her feelings about politics out loud and I wasn’t just making inferences and thinking I could read her mind.
But I didn’t have to read her mind to know her opinions of Clinton and Trump. She said what they were out loud and emphatically. She doesn’t like either of them, naturally, but her dislike for them goes beyond her usual contempt for politicians as a class. But if she was going to vote, she’d probably vote for Trump. Not with any enthusiasm or satisfaction, of course. She thinks he’s despicable. She can’t put up with all his lying. But Hillary just doesn’t care about people. Look at how she wouldn’t let us bring our troops home.
Which troops from where she and when this happened and how Hillary herself managed this on her own she didn’t say. She’s far from the only person who thinks that the Secretary of State is commander-in-chief of the armed forces or commands her own military units and that she decides foreign and military policy, the president and the joint chiefs taking orders from her. And it doesn’t mark her as a closet Republican or conservative or even a FoxNews watcher that she thinks so. An awful lot of Bernie People seemed to think so during the Democratic primaries. They also appeared to think she was President of the United States for fourteen years, starting in 1993, and that Bill worked for her and W. was only on hand for a few months after 9/11 to cheerlead her taking us into war in Iraq. There was some question as to whether they believed Barack Obama was president before 2015. Never mind. The point is this woman knows Trump is lying scum but Clinton’s heartless and cruel and that’s worse.
Besides, Trump is a businessman.
She figures that means he knows how to run things.
Ok. Before you get to feeling Churchillian about democracy as I did initially, this average non-voter wasn’t a fool. The rest of her conversation with her friend in the waiting area and then with the therapist when she started her session proved she wasn’t.
And the idea that a businessman being qualified to be president just on the grounds that he is a businessman and therefore knows how to run things isn’t...well, all right. It is foolish. But not as foolish as all that.
Let’s pretend that the businessman or woman we’re talking about here isn’t a lying, thieving, cheating, tax-dodging incompetent and fraud and does in fact know how to run things, things being his or her business. In what way does knowing how to run their own particular business make them competent to run the country, or a state or a city, or a town? For that matter, how does knowing how to run their own particular business make them competent to run some other sort of business (he asks innocently, calling into question the whole premise of MBA programs)?
Of course, lots of businesspeople run for public office. Really rich ones are particularly fond of running for governor. They seem to regard governor as an entry level position. But plenty run for other offices too. They run and they win. And as soon as that happens they stop being businesspeople and become politicians and then they have to prove on the job that they’re good at the business of politics. Some turn out to be. But on the whole their record is as mixed as those of politicians who got into politics from any other line of work. So why do people persist in believing that businesspeople are just what the country/state/city/town needs to get things running right? Why are they convinced that having run a business qualifies someone to run a political entity?
Because, to an extent, it does.
Insert banalities about meeting budgets, being able to judge whom to hire and fire, being able to negotiate a good deal, having to get along with all sorts and conditions of men and women, etc.
But those are skills you can pick up in other ways and not all businesspeople have them or cultivate them anyway.
I’m biased on this one because Pop Mannion was good at all those things and he was a physicist and a college professor whose one brief foray into being a businessman did not, let us say, make the family rich. He had been, however, the manager of the computer science department at General Electric’s Knolls Atomic Power Lab and GE’s a business and if you work for a business that sort of makes you a businessman, doesn’t it? He never thought of himself as one, though. He saw himself as a manager and a problem solver and those skills helped make him a successful town supervisor.
And when he was running the town, some of the biggest fools he had to deal with were local businessmen who’d gotten themselves elected to the town board or appointed to the zoning commission or who’d just show up at board meetings to sound off about how the town was being run into the ground, what’s the matter with you politicians, don’t you know what would happen if you tried to run a real business this way?
The issue with them was almost always money.
The town was spending too much of it.
And it was their money, after all.
That’s where the tax money came from. All of it, apparently, at least to hear them tell it. Nobody else worked or paid a dime in taxes.
Guess what party most of them belonged to?
But that’s it, isn’t it? Money. The reason people think businessmen and women make good political leaders is that they know all about money and that’s all politics is, in many voters minds, an organized effort to spend their money on things they don’t think they want or need.
And if politics is only about how the money gets spent, it makes sense that you’d want someone in charge who knows about money. And who knows more about money than people who have to make it first hand? People in business have to be smart about money.
That makes them smart, period.
Not in the way lawyers are smart or doctors are smart or college professors or scientists and engineers or great artists or even baseball managers and football coaches are smart. Smart in the way regular people are smart. Common sensically smart. Smart about practical things. Smart about how things work and how people think and feel. Smart in ways that don’t make regular folks feel dumb.
People think they know what it means to be smart about business. In fact, they’re pretty sure they could be smart themselves in that way, if they had to be and put their minds to it. They may not know how to draw up a contract or design a bridge or translate a poem from an archaic language---they don’t even know why anybody would think it was important or smart to do that---but they’re pretty sure they could run a business. Maybe not a multi-national corporation. But a bar or a restaurant or a corner grocery or a boutique or a small online business.
But even if they don’t trust themselves to run a lemonade stand let alone a car company or even a car wash, they probably know someone who does.
The main reason people feel they know how a business works and they don’t know how politics works---they just have a sense that it doesn’t, at least that it doesn’t work in the way it should, which is to their benefit---is they see businesses at work every day. They rely on their working. And, overall, they do.
Most people work in business or for a business of some kind. If they don’t think of themselves as business people, they know that somewhere in the place business people are hard at work making sure the money’s coming in so that the doors stay open and the payroll’s met---in short, that the place is doing a profitable business. And they know, perhaps only vaguely but possibly in detail, how they themselves contribute to the money making---to the profiting of the business. Meanwhile, most of their daily comings and goings outside their own workplaces take them in and out other businesses and they understand, again perhaps only vaguely but again possibly in detail, how they figure in the money making as customers or clients. They know what they need out of those businesses and they definitely know which of those businesses are providing what they need. The same is true of their friends and neighbors and relatives.
And if they aren’t business people themselves, it’s likely that there are business people among their neighbors and friends and relations. They’re far more likely to know a successful businessperson than, say, a former Secretary of State. Which, among other things, means their everyday conversations are far more likely to be about business and the making (and spending) of money than about foreign policy and statecraft. And money, its getting and spending, weighs heavily on the minds of everyone, including diplomats.
All of this is to say that business and the doings of businesspeople are familiar in ways politics and the doings of politicians are not. That familiarity might breed contempt. In fact, in a lot of people it does. There are people who think my description of a certain currently high-profile businessman above applies to all businessmen and women. They’re all lying, thieving, cheating, tax-dodging incompetents and frauds, in their experience. But it also breeds...comfort.
That’s how they stay in business, but understanding the concerns and serving the needs and interests of their clients and customers in very direct, practical, and immediately useful ways. That makes our concerns, needs, and interests, their concerns, needs, and interests, again in very direct, practical, and immediately useful ways.
So we assume.
But this leads to another thing.
Businesspeople are more in the habit of speaking in the style of us regular folks and about solving problems in the most practical and immediate ways. A thoughtful politician will talk carefully about the practicality of instituting single-payer health care at some do-able point in time. A businessman will happily bluster about fixing the problem right away, taking back the defective product and replacing it with something better immediately and, maddeningly, it will sound to most people like the politician is cold and uncaring and detached from ordinary people’s troubles and concerns and also like she’s lying or at least not telling the whole truth and like the businessman cares more about us and our problems and knows what’s wrong and how to fix it and honestly intends to set right to work fixing it.
What it comes down to is that it’s not really surprising that to the average voters the businessman sounds more like one of them than does the politician, even though he is a lying, thieving, cheating, tax-dodging incompetent and fraud.
And if this doesn’t make you feel Churchillian in your contempt for the average voter, then it probably at least has you sighing along Lincoln that you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but in your despair leaving off the completion of the quote because it doesn’t take fooling all the people any of the time to get elected. Did me, anyway.
But like I said, I don’t think the woman at the physical therapist was a fool or even that she was being fooled. I think she just has a lot on her mind, too much to be devoting a lot of thought to politics in general and the two politicians running for president in this election. I have no idea whether or not she thinks about business and businesspeople in the ways I laid out. Odds are she does because I think that’s how most people think. But from her conversations with her friend in the waiting room and with the therapist all I do know is that she was mainly thinking about what I was mainly thinking about while I was there and what all the other clients in the place were mainly thinking about, what we were doing at the moment to try to get better.
She’s gotten hurt in an accident and she was having a hard time doing her job because of it. She wasn’t complaining, just telling the therapist how things had been going since her last visit. It was also Halloween and that was part of her conversations with her friend and the therapist. I could have pointed out how politics affected her recovery and her long-term health care---I don’t know just how bad her injury was or how much it’s disabled her but if Trump’s elected and she changes jobs and she still needs physical therapy or surgery or routine cortisone shots to relieve her chronic pain after he and the Republicans repeal Obamacare and replace it with their “Suck it up or Just Go Die” plan, she’ll find how just in what way he knows how to run things for the better. I could also have pointed out how politics can even affect Halloween. Local politicians routinely have to decide whether or not to postpone trick or treating because of bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances. One year when he was supervisor, Pop Mannion rescheduled Halloween at the urging of parents and teachers in town that the kids shouldn’t be out trick or treating on Sunday night. When we lived in Fort Wayne, a nearby town almost cancelled Halloween altogether because a bloc of Right Wing Christians had gotten themselves elected of the town board and they wanted to put an end to the Satanic ritual of parents sorting through the candy the kids brought home to steal their Reese’s Pieces.
I could have pointed it all out, but I didn’t. I had other things foremost on my own mind. Mainly the same thing that was foremost on her mind, why I was in the place, which, of course, was a place of business, making the head physical therapist who owns it and manages it a businesswoman.
She’s also Oliver Mannion’s one-time soccer coach and the mother of kids Oliver and Ken Mannion went to school with.
Top photo courtesy of Imperial War Museums via Wikipedia.
At McDonald’s for a cup of the world’s best coffee (Good morning, Chris!) and listening to a group of old white guys talking about the election. Different McDonald’s, different group of old white guys. These guys’ conversation is refreshing. Their only interest in Clinton versus Trump is in which way to bet.
Right now their money’s on Clinton. Literally. These guys are gamblers. Most of their conversation’s been about actual horse races. They’ve been discussing which horses to bet on in which races today. One of them is also a high-stakes poker player.
High-stakes is relative. He wins or loses a thousand bucks, give or take, on any given night when he sits down to play. Right now he’s focused on a trip out to Vegas he’s planning. He’s been looking into air fares. He’s found some good deals but he’s complaining about how much various airlines charge for checking baggage. Twenty bucks a bag, one of them wants.
One of the other guys finds his irritation funny. “You'll fly out for a card game, probably blow a thousand bucks on poker, that’s on top of the plane tickets, hotel, and food, and you won't spend twenty bucks to check a bag?”
Poker player’s unfazed. These little things add up, he says. Save twenty bucks here and there, it ends up paying for the other things. Besides, he puts it all on the credit card, so he gets lots of rewards points and frequent flyer miles. These add up too.
That’s been their other main point of discussion. How to rack up rewards points and bonus cash on their credit cards. These guys must all have pretty good credit scores because they all have multiple cards. One of them says he puts everything on the card. Groceries, gas, the utility bills. Pays it all off at the end of the month and just watches the benefits pile up. He says his wife understands the logic of this but can’t bring herself to follow his lead.
The poker player is a bit of a contrarian. Likes to go his own way. He makes his decisions about which ponies to bet based on what he reads in the Daily News in the morning and not what they all talk about when they get together like this. One of the other guys is put out by this. He regards himself as the expert and thinks the poker player would do better listening to his advice.
“Who put you on the fucking races to begin with?”
“I put you on the races, right?”
“I’m just saying.”
What he’s just saying is that the other day, making his bets on his own, according to his own system, he won fifty-three dollars. Two of his horses came in.
Can’t argue with that.
The guys have a mutual friend named Tommy Two-Gun. They turn to talking about Tommy whom one of them doesn’t know. Tommy, it’s explained to him, is much to be admired for his broad breadth of knowledge and the way he’s always expanding it. Tommy is “the eyes and ears of the world.”
“Every fucking thing you want to know, you go to Tommy, he can tell you.”
Not all those bad drivers are Trump supporters. Not all Trump supporters are bad drivers. But I think it can be safely assumed that many Trump supporters, if they’re not menaces to traffic, go out of their way to make themselves obnoxious in some other way. They’re like Trump himself in that regard. Never happy unless they’re sticking it to someone else. Like this guy we saw yesterday, driving his not very bright, not very shiny, not very new pickup with a YUGE American flag flying from the bed, a TRUMP sticker on the rear window, and a Gadsden yellow and black DON’T TREAD ON ME sticker on the gate.
His obnoxiousness wasn’t in how he was driving or what he was driving but in where he was driving.
We were up on Ken’s new college campus, picking him up after class. SUNY New Paltz is one of the best and artsy-est and most diverse of New York state’s colleges. The village of New Paltz is decidedly Bernie Sanders’ kind of town. It’d be Jill Stein’s kind of town, if she wasn’t such a crank. It’s had a Green mayor who got himself in trouble by marrying same-sex couples years before that was legal here. The driver, a middle-aged character wearing a fatigue cap, knew he was in what he surely regards as enemy territory. I suppose he could have been a non-traditional student. He could have been what I was, just a dad with a kid enrolled there. He could have been a professor. He could have been on the staff. He could have just been lost.
He could have been.
But I doubt it.
He was looking for a fight.
At least one he could fight and win in his own head.
The country is full of guys like him, middle-aged and old men out looking for fights---young men too---not out of meanness or simple belligerence or because they’re full of restless, violent energies that need to be let loose.
They’re desperate to make a point. Not necessarily a political point. In fact, even the ones who think they’re making a political point are probably really making another point. I’m here. I’m alive. I matter. I have worth. I have strength. I have a right to be here. Here being the planet.
These guys are in an argument with a Fate that has decreed they’re to live lives less than they deserve, to be less than they feel they are.
I’ve written before how I think Trump is the candidate of these men. Angry, insecure, disappointed men, needing to feel like the heroes they believe they should have been, could have been, would have been, if only…
I imagine this guy driving through campus every day, hoping. Hoping someone will give him a reason to stop. Some student will mouth off from the crosswalk. Some professor on his---or her, maybe preferably her---bicycle will roll up next to him at a stop sign and sneer or sniff or scold. And he’ll have his chance. He knows what he’ll say. He knows how he’ll shut them up, make them squirm, leave them speechless and sputtering and embarrassed and beaten.
Then he''ll drive to his favorite bar or diner or coffee spot where he'll meet up with a friend or two, angry, insecure, disappointed men like himself, and tell them how he won the day on their behalf or would have won it. And for a little while they'll sit there enjoying the moment, feeling like the winners they know they’d have been, if only...
Hank Greenberg, Father Blonde’s baseball hero, parking one in the summer of 1945. This was taken at a game in Detroit, but it’s likely the next time the Tigers were in Philadelphia, the then 13 year old Father Blonde was in the stands hoping to see the Hammer belt one out of Shibe Park. Photo courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I got resoundingly booed yesterday when I started to give the toast to Father Blonde at the luncheon Mother Blonde hosted after the funeral. Maybe I shouldn't have led off with the fact that I'm a Mets fan. Probably shouldn't have added the score of Friday night's game either. But I just had to point out the happy irony that the Mets and the Phils are playing each other this weekend.
Don't worry, I won the crowd back right away when I told them how Joe never held my being a Mets fan against me. And this is true: there were years when he was happy the Mets were doing well, not just because he was happy for me (the way he was happy for Pop Mannion when the Dodgers were having a good year), but because he felt losing served the Phillies right. Joe grew up a Phillies fan when the Phils were busy losing most of the games that have added up to making them the losingest team in MLB history. In 1945, when he was 13, the Phils went 46-108. He never got over it. The Athletics weren’t much better---52 and 98---but he went to more of their games, partly because it hurt less to watch them lose, mainly because they were in the American League and that meant the Tigers to town regularly and Joe would go to see his hero, Hank Greenberg. (Greenberg was home from the war in ‘45. In ‘46 when Ted Williams was back, Joe went to see the Athletics play the Red Sox too. When the Cardinals were in town to play the Phillies, he’d go their games to see Stan Musial. Both the Phillies and the A’s played in Shibe Park, a half hour trolley ride from Joe’s parents’ house in Havertown.) So I don't think he'd have minded that the Mets won 9-4 Friday night and then clobbered Philadelphia again last night 12-1. In fact, he would have wanted to talk about it this morning more than I would have, because complaining about the Phillies is apparently more fun for their fans than cheering them on.
So, for Father Blonde's sake, I hope the Mets complete the sweep today. Because that's the kind of devoted son-in-law I am.