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Archive for November, 2011

So I just read that a legislator from Chicago wants to have that city declared America’s 51st state.  I like Chicago.  I ran the marathon there last year and look for any opportunity to point out that I did.  I like Chicago but this feels more like a New York City move.

There is no city in the world more narcissistic than New York.  Every TV show has to be set there, every movie has to be set there.  Jeter is “the best shortstop ever” because he plays there whereas he would be “the most okay shortstop ever” if he was on the Brewers.  Yet you can’t piss on the sidewalk in New York without hitting some resident (also pissing on the sidewalk) assuring you that you are both pissing on the sidewalks of the “best city in the world!”.

Yes, New York is the best city in the world…provided you’ve never been to London.  Or Barcelona.  Or Dubai.  or San Francisco.  Or any number of other cities that are equal to or better than New York.  Besides, is this purely an American affliction?  The constant declaration of one land mass to be superior to another?  I mean, if one place is really cool eventually what made it cool get watered down with a bunch of posers showing up to bask in that reflected light (I’m looking at you, NYC.  Maybe you were cool in the ’70’s but now you’re just a bunch of dudes in Yankee hats who really wish they lived in Jersey).  It isn’t the capital of the world, it isn’t the capital of America and I’m pretty sure it’s not even the capital of New York state.

But I digress, my point is that this lobbying for statehood seems like something directly out of the New York City playbook.  ‘Hey, we’re the best city in the world, we should be a state.  Red Sox suck!’ and I for one expect better of my midwestern states/cities.  I live on the East Coast, these types of things are expected of us.  We are the A-hole first born of the nation; entitled, lazy, declining in actual power.  But, Chicago, you are the capital of our middle siblings; reliable, steady and genuinely nice (I bet you say hi to Iowa every time you see them, right?), you are expected to just be decent and not rock the boat.  Or at least not rock the boat for an idea so foolish that New Yorkers haven’t even come up with it yet.

Just to finish the analogy, the West Coast is like the younger sibling that nobody really knows who is off “doing something with computers” who shows up for a family dinner last night with a spouse no one knew about and a million dollars that no one can account for.

Anyway, Chicago, surely you know that you are free to do what ever you want but proceed with the knowledge that should you pursue this is will be at the risk of losing the silent respect of anonymous blogger and ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice that.

Besides, would the map then have Illinois, like wrapped around the state of Chicago?  Ridiculous!

 

 

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The accusations flying around about Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky are horrifying and upsetting.  I think most people would agree that there is pretty much nothing more heinous than the violation of sexual assault on a child (or anyone, really, but to do that to a child is particularly reprehensible).  The whole story is so unbelievably sordid – it’s like a watching a movie, and it’s no big surprise that the media have attached themselves to it.

Today I caught this article on the Huffington Post about similar accusations against a Syracuse University basketball coach.  This may seem contrary to what I just wrote, but it actually made me feel a bit concerned.  In the article, Jim Bonheim claims that the accusations against Bernie Fine were fully investigated back in 2005 when they were first made, and were determined to be “unfounded.”  Now, there are only a handful of people on earth who know what really, truly happened here.  But what if those claims were completely unfounded? And Fine didn’t do anything wrong? And the alleged victims, seeing an opportunity in the media, decided to bring this back up knowing it would get a lot of attention?

We live in a society that is generally sympathetic toward the underdog or the victim.  That makes sense on a lot of levels, but I think we get carried away sometimes with people who claim to be victims – and the media doesn’t help this.  These stories have a very obvious “bad guy,” someone to root against. In the case of Penn State, it becomes even more sensationalized because of Joe Paterno’s fame and the supposed conspiracy of a large organization covering up something terrible. The notion of “innocent until proven guilty” goes out the window when we’re talking about a crime this egregious.  And, while the visual that comes to mind when I hear about Sandusky raping a 10-year old boy in the shower makes me, literally, sick to my stomach, I fear that emotions get the better of people until a certain hysteria takes hold, and then all of a sudden any coach who has ever slapped someone on the back is getting accused of inappropriate touching.  I have no interest or desire in defending a pedophile, but I strongly feel that,  accusations of this magnitude should be weighed and taken very seriously, with a grain of salt if necessary.  Unfortunately, in the world we live in today, nothing can be taken at face value.

I say all of this because, when I was in college, several oft the guys in my circle of friends played on the hockey team. We were the champions of our division (D3, but it meant a lot to us), so the players were a bit of the jock-celebrities on campus.  One night, in one of their dorm apartments, they partied with a girl who lived near them. Debauchery ensued, and the next day, she went to the police and claimed that five of the players had raped her.  Cue a media firestorm and lots of court time for our friends.  It was awful.  We were outraged, because we were all good friends with these guys – and some of us had actually dated a few of them.  We found it hard to believe that any of this was true. The alleged victim was a recovering alcoholic who had claimed she had been raped several times before. However, her rights were fully protected, so none of that ever came out in the news.  From what we could gather, she got completely wasted with them, put on some sort of strip show, and then had sex with one of the guys.    It was our belief at the time that she pointed her remorse outward and put the blame on others.  However, there were only a small group of us at the school who were abreast of all of these details.  The local media (and even CNN) reported the story and made these guys look like monsters. They further sensationalized it by constantly referring to them as “championship hockey players,” so their supposed fall from grace seemed even more pathetic.    I can’t count the number of emails or phone calls I got from friends and family asking, “You don’t know those guys, do you?”  It was so upsetting that someone so ill-intentioned could have such a negative and lasting effect on people who were innocent of any wrongdoing.    Ultimately, the case was dismissed for a ridiculous lack of evidence.  The media never ran that follow up.   One of the guys left school after that.  In one fell swoop, this woman ruined peoples’ lives.  No one ever even knew her name.

With all of these awful events and epic media coverage, I would always encourage people to read between the lines and discern fact from hysteria. It’s easy to get carried away in the tidal wave of outrage, but things are not always what they seem, and they are certainly not always fairly portrayed in the news.

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At the beginning of this year, my grandfather passed away.  He was one week shy of his 97th birthday, so it seems absurd to say it was “sudden.”  However, he looked and acted FAR younger than his years, so we often forgot how old he really was and took for granted that he would be around forever.  A little over a year before his death, he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, and had all sorts of issues after that. In the end, while in the hospital, he had a massive stroke from which he never awoke, and that was it.

There is so much to say about that man.  He was amazing and inspirational – and, I maintain that you could not have had a more perfect grandfather if you had gone to the Grandparents Store and invented him yourself with equal parts, love, compassion, humor, sage advice, and awesome hugs.  He was just the best.  Needless to say, it was a huge blow to the entire family to lose him. He was my Mom’s father, and she had an especially hard time dealing.  I made it my job, from the moment I landed at Logan, to try to distract her and help take care of her and do any of the logistical things I could to help take some of the planning off her plate.  Really, I just didn’t know what else to do. Words are so meaningless at that point, and I had my own grief to deal with, so maybe I needed the distraction as well.  He passed away in January, so it was freezing in Boston and we were in the midst of massive snow storms every few days. We actually waited longer than the traditional 3 days to have the wake and funeral so that we could get on the other side of a big blizzard, so that my grandfather’s relatives who live south of the city could make it up.  When I first arrived, my mother was in a bit of a fog trying to sort out details, and I didn’t have any appropriate winter funeral wear, so we had to go to the mall.  I think this probably helped keep her busy, but at one point, I could tell she was about to get weepy on me.  She is the youngest of five, and was especially close with her parents (my grandmother passed away when I was in college) and older sister (who died a few years ago).  So when I said (duh) “What’s wrong?” I was almost sort of prepared for this response: “It sucks being the youngest because everyone dies before you and then you’re all alone!”  Imagine this, coming from a woman who is almost 60, said with the fervor of a child pissed that they can’t have more cookies.  I disparage, but I felt her pain.  Being the smart ass that I am, the only thing I could think to say was, “Well, maybe you’ll get lucky and die before Uncle Johnny.”  She shot me a dirty look and said, “I knew you would say something like that.” But, I considered it a successful conversation because she didn’t end up crying in the middle of the mall.  Yay!

The night of the wake was a busy one. We got there at 4 PM and it didn’t end until after 8. I think. It was a blur.  The room was filled with pretty much anyone I’ve ever known in my life.  It is such a sad reason to see them all, but so comforting to have them all there.  Still, by the end, we were exhausted, hungry, and in need of a stiff drink.  I was kicking around with my Mom and Dad, so we went to a nearby restaurant for some food.  We each ordered a cocktail – not wine or beer, but the hard stuff.  Then we had another. Then our food came and my Mom’s drink was empty and she said, “I think I need a third.” So, in an effort to be helpful, I said, “Let’s all get thirds!”  The upshot of this was that by the time we got home, I was kind of drunk.

The next morning was the funeral. My Mom was on serious edge and I could tell that any little thing would have caused her to freak out. So I was treading carefully. Despite my evil hangover, I pulled it together to get ready as quickly as possible, because I could only imagine that if was even 30 seconds late, she would have gone postal. My Dad had the same strategy, although we never communicated about it. Fleeting eye contact as we silently passed each other in the kitchen told me we were on the same page.  I panicked at one point as I got dressed and put on my new funeral dress and tights. The tights were defective and had a massive hole on the back of one of my legs, under my ass.  It was covered by my dress, but definitely was in danger of spreading. I went downstairs and showed my mom, and she whipped out some hairspray to stop it from running more, and then a hair dryer to dry the hairspray on my ass.  The entire scene was pretty comical, so I said, “Hey, when you feel really sad at any point today, you should just try to remember this morning when you had to blow dry my ass!”  It got a chuckle, but she was still pretty tense.

We left for the funeral home early, just about the time that parents are dropping their children off at school. We’d just had another snow storm the day before, and with the massive amount of snow that winter, all of the side roads were totally narrowed by snow banks. On many streets, only one car could travel at a time, and you’d have to pull over to let opposing traffic pass.  Since we were going from one suburban town to another, taking surface roads, this was not an ideal situation. Every time we turned a corner, we’d be at a dead stop, battling to move with school buses and minivans. From the back seat, I could see my mother’s shoulders up around her ears from the tension of it all.  My Dad, as he usually does, had on the local AM news radio station, which no one was really listening to except me because I needed a distraction from the inevitable volcanic eruption that was about to come out of the front seat every time my dad would say, “Wait, I’ll go this way!” in an effort to get around traffic, only to turn a corner and get even more stuck than we were before.  My Mom reminded me of a cartoon tea kettle about to blow.  On the radio station was one of those ridiculous, hardly-newsworthy local interest stories. The newscaster’s lead in was something like, “Bostonians deal with the fall out of even more snow!”, which was followed by a quote from the interview they did for the subsequent story. The interview was with some kid in Southie who was shoveling for cash (presumably the only fool they could find outside to interview). He was probably no more than 13, but for some reason his voice was that of an old woman, and he had the worst Boston accent I’ve ever heard. So the lead in came, “Bostonians deal with the fall out of even more snow!”, followed by this gem: “My aaahms kinda hurt.”  It was amazing and hilariously funny.  Clearly, the producers of the segment also thought the quote was funny, because they played it about 15 times.  I wanted more than anything to burst out laughing, but just looking at the back of my parents’ heads told me that would be a bad idea.  So, I kept it in.  The more tense it got in that car, the more they played that quote, and the more I wanted to laugh.

I think the whole experience left me with some sort of PTSD, rolled into the fact that I never did get a chance to truly, properly grieve because I was so worried about my mother. When I think about my grandfather, I still feel horrifically sad that he’s not here anymore. And still, to this day, I will think of that morning and hear that weird kid’s voice in my head and want to burst out laughing no matter where I am.  My grandfather would totally appreciate that.

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I actually feel bad for Kim Kardashian.

I hate reality television.  The most I can stand is a competition show, every once in a blue moon. Watching the drama (or worse – mundane details) of other people’s lives holds no entertainment value for me.  If my TV accidentally ends up on a Kardashian show, I immediately change the channel as a matter of principal. I would have lit myself on fire before I would have watched Kim’s wedding to Kris Humphries.

Maybe it’s because I’ve gone through the shame of a divorce myself that I actually feel very sympathetic towards her right now. Granted, she invited the mass public scrutiny by having her wedding be such a public spectacle in the first place. But, having been married for just over four years, I remember the shame and embarrassment of having to tell my family and friends that it didn’t work out.  Just about everyone supported me and validated my decision.  I’m sure Kim’s close family and friends are supporting her as best they can, but I can’t even begin to imagine the humiliation of having the world media point a finger at you for having something fail so spectacularly in such a short amount of time.  Again, when you make your living as a “reality star”, you sort of open yourself up the world to judge every minor move that you make, so she’s probably not surprised at the amount of attention this is getting (the fame-whore part of her probably even likes it).  I’m just saying that, having gone through a divorce, it’s hard enough to not feel like a loser and failure without everyone making fun of you and judging you.  She’s probably just trying to show a brave face by keeping up her public persona and appearances these past few days, but I just want for her to go into hiding for a few weeks.

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I’ve noticed a recurring theme in my own posts lately, in that they much have to do with being sick and/or getting older. I’m trying to avoid becoming either, but, clearly, both issues are on my mind a lot lately.

One way I think you can keep yourself young is with music, and to keep tabs on what the kids are listening to.  I don’t much like Top 40 radio, but within the genres I do like, I try to keep up with what is new and up and coming.  I also try to listen the radio in general (even though stations in LA mostly suck) so I’m aware of what’s popular.

The inevitability of my advancing years is rearing its ugly head, however, no matter how much I try to ignore it.  Last week while getting ready for work, I was listening to KROQ (rock/alternative rock) and they were playing  a song by 30 Seconds to Mars.  This is the band fronted by Jared Leto, who played the alterna-heart throb Jordan Catalano on My So Called Life. I’m generally not that excited about men who embrace guy-liner, but most of the time, I find this band’s songs to be decent – or I at least don’t feel compelled to change the station when they come on.  But last week I noticed that Jared Leto screams in the middle of the new song (I forget the name). And then it occurred to me that he screams in pretty much all of their songs. This seems entirely unnecessary to me because his voice is actually pretty good, so he doesn’t need to overdo the theatrics by screaming.  Last week was also when I realized that I was completely turned off by someone screaming in a song. I felt like my father for a minute, which was pretty depressing (why wouldn’t it make me feel like my mother? Perhaps best explored in an entirely different post…or therapy).  I could just hear in my head, the voice of the older, crotchety generation, who just doesn’t “get it” anymore…”What is he screaming for?”  But really, I just don’t understand what he’s screaming for. Maybe old people have a point 99.9% of the time, but just need better delivery and better PR.

The other thing I noticed as a new pet peeve is music that is too loud in public venues.  I was out to dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were in a restaurant where the music was so loud, we couldn’t hear our own conversation.  Unable to deal, we mentioned it to the hostess, whose response was, “It’s just because they all like this song (presumably referring to the staff).  They’ll turn it down when the song is over.”  I found this to be a really  unacceptable response, for multiple reasons.  But, she was young and very matter of fact about it, which made me wonder if I am just getting older and clueless about what passes for socially acceptable in the world today.  Similarly, a week or so later, I was out shopping and went into an H&M, which is kind of an overwhelming experience to begin with because your eyes are assaulted by legions of cheap, bright clothing. But the music was so loud you would have to shout to be heard over it.  I was very happy to leave and may never go back there, ever.

So, it seems my method of keeping older age at bay – which is just about equal parts denial and delusion – will crack under the strain of reality in no time. It’s difficult to maintain the pretense that you’re young and “with it” when you’re shaking your fist and yelling at people to turn down the music.

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