Monday, March 31, 2008

Asparagus with a side of horsehide

There are three things that say "spring" to me: fresh asparagus, baseball's opening day, and the sound of wind machines running in the vineyards. And getting in nine holes after work. Ok, that's four things that say "spring" to me. Actually, big fat robins out in the yard, that says "spring" too, so let's say there are five things. Or more. Who's counting?

The point is, springtime is here, the asparagus is jumping and the robins are high - the baseball players are rich, and their girlfriends are good looking. So excuse me if I rise up singing, ok?

Of course, it is a little bittersweet this baseball season's start. The Giants opened their season today by getting skunked by the hated Dodgers (who are now coached by Joe Torre, who is a guy I've always liked, so I'm stuck liking a guy wearing a Dodger uniform, which is -- uncomfortable, let's say.) Some people are saying the Giants just need to have a realistic goal for these year, like not losing all 162 games. And then there are my beloved Cardinals. They have four rookies on their roster, Fat Albert Pujols may need elbow surgery, and their only two pitchers who have recognizable names are on the DL. All the same, the season has started and hope springs eternal. A formerly young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of doubles in the gap and the properly executed hit and run. That and asparagus.

When I was a kid I had a complete mental block on asparagus. I had eaten it once and it was probably cooked to death, which made it both mushy and stringy, and afterwards just the thought of it made me want to chowder. One day in the lunch room at Stapleton Elementary they served it, and I left it on my plate. One of the teachers said I had to at least try it. I replied that I would most assuredly barf if I put the asparagus in my mouth. She forced the issue, and I proved that I was a boy of my word by upchucking it directly. That teacher learned a lesson that day. Kids that age barf a lot, for no apparent reason, so if a kid tells you they're going to barf, they probably will. Asparagus and I went our separate ways for many years after that, but in returning to it as a grown up boy I have learned it is one of the best things there is, and completely barf-free at this stage.

So for all these reasons I cast my vote in favor of spring. I think we should have it every single year.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fool me once, shame on you...

This just in: turns out that not only did Hilary Clinton not "land under sniper fire" in Bosnia in 1996, but contrary to her suggestions, she also did NOT lead a platoon onshore at Omaha Beach - did NOT rally the troops and turn the tide at Pork Chop Hill - did NOT shoot down seven MIGs during black ops in southeast Asia. Has she ever got some explaining to do.

There's nothing more mortifying that getting caught in a lie. Bad enough when it's something like calling in sick, then running into your boss at lunch, or turning down a party invitation only to have your friends find out you went to somebody else's party instead of visiting your grandma at the nursing home like you said you would. But imagine how it feels to get exposed telling a big whopper to the whole world? As a politician, of course, you never admit that you exaggerated, embellished, or just plain made something up - the worst you have done is to have "misspoken" or perhaps to have "misremembered." To me, misspeaking is saying something like "hand me the jack blacket," not making up a story about something that never happened and telling the story several times, selling it as the truth, to thousands of people. There's a word for that, and it's not "misspeaking."

So Clinton's attempt to show how battle-hardened she is and how ready for the role of commander in chief backfires. Instead, she proves herself to be a liar, and drives an even larger wedge between herself and the pro-military voter, where exaggerating your combat exploits is considered an insult to people who've really risked their lives. And for me, it's a flashback to see the words "Clinton caught in a lie." What's the deal, we're reliving the 1990s now? And if we are, what will you give me for these Beanie Babies?...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Give this a listen

I'm not the kind of guy who gets all bandwagon-y, but I have to admit I may be coming down with Obamania.

Yesterday I turned on the radio as I was getting ready to shave, and Obama was making his major speech on race. We all know the man is a great speechmaker, but within a minute or two, I was transfixed not just by his technique but by his words. In my 30+ years of paying attention to politics, I have never heard a candidate tell it like it is the way this guy does.

Most amazingly, even though some pundits want to say this controversy will sink BO's campaign, he refuses to throw the sometimes-angry Rev. Wright under the bus. How many politicians have you experienced who would stand up and deal with these issues head on? How can a guy expect to get elected when he's running around being so straightforward?

Some commentators say the Rev. Wright issues and this speech to address it will unify the conservative base against Obama. So what? Did somebody think BO was going to get a lot of conservative votes if he becomes the Democratic nominee? After all the speechmaking, his policies will be liberal, and people will tend to fall into their familiar ideological positions. What this speech may really do is to unify the left wing in a way that hasn't been seen in at least 40 years.

And by the way, when was the last time you heard a politician quote Faulkner?...catch me, I may swoon....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The ultimate buzzkill

I think I will skip over the entire Spitzer scandal (since you can get your fill of that just about anywhere today) except to say that no matter what some people want to tell you, irony is never out of fashion. And I will also say I have an inverse proportion of not-sadness for him offset with sadness for this 22 year old girl who will now always be known as a high-priced call girl. Drudge today has a link to her MySpace page, which presents her as a singer, and has a passel of photos, and it all adds up to a story that probably plays out thousands of times a year all over the world - pretty young thing wants to be a star, tries to make it in the big city, doesn't have the talent or doesn't want to pay the dues, and ends up selling her body. It's really all too sad and tawdry.

So instead, let's talk about the end of the world as we know it.

I have been immersed in the end of the world in the last week. During a spectacularly enjoyable 3-day vacation, I read The Road, Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer-winning novel - watched I am Legend in the hotel room - and then caught up on some DVRed episodes of Jericho, my "nighttime soap" style guilty pleasure. Kind of an odd pileup of depressing fare for a week when everything's blooming, the baseball season's starting, and I have seventy-eleven reasons to be cheerful.

As post-apocalyptic fiction goes, The Road is two things most efforts are not - tremendously well-written and touching, and tremendously bleak. Most of these stories give you something to rally around, with a core sentiment that there's no plague, asteroid, nuclear bomb or space goblin that can wipe out good ol' humankind. We will always rise above it, will always make a comeback. The Road is different. The redemption is of a different kind. I'd read it if I were you (but maybe take an extra Xanax.)

Why do we dwell on these kinds of stories anyway? It's not a new thing - Mary Shelley is credited with writing the first modern story in this genre in 1826, and if you count the Book of Revelation, I guess we've been entertaining ourselves with this dismal prospect for a few thousand years. Lots of modern versions show our love-hate relationship with technology - the robots, or the computers, or the weapons, or the microbes, will be our downfall - but it hasn't always been that way. Maybe there' s something larger to it, like basic species self-loathing? Like we're not suffering enough? Like we don't deserve all we've got and ought to be wiped out?

I think I have depressed myself now. Does anyone have a puppy I can play with for awhile...?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In the end, it's the dog year of the beard

You know how one year for a human is the same as seven years for a dog? So that makes a dog year about seven and half human weeks. Turns out the Year of the Beard was a Dog Year of the Beard, and that puppy is all gone.

I was continually amazed by the level of interest people showed in the beard, wanting me to stand there in front of them while they took it all in and pronounced whether they liked it or not, or made some comment about how it's "coming in well." As if I was producing some kind of object of art. It's just hair, people. For my part, I knew it had to go when it reached the stage where all the time I was saving not shaving had become time I was spending trimming. That, and the fact that it just starts to feel nasty after awhile.

Here's the payoff. There was general agreement that the beard made me look a lot older. No argument from me. Last night I stopped at Whole Foods after work, and my basket included a couple of bottles of wine. At the checkout this young feller carded me. "You're kidding, right?" chortled I. He mumbled back "We're supposed to card anybody who looks even close..." as I handed him my ID. He checked the DOB there and said "Well, maybe not you!" and we all had a good laugh. He said "You look really young," and I kissed him right on the lips for that, and bought drinks for the house. I think they do something with the lighting in there at WF - takes 30 years off your age.