Sunday, April 24, 2011

My Easter Feeling

I talked to Laura on Holy Thursday.  This will be the first Easter without Hugh.  The plan is for she and the girls to go to Jonesboro, Arkansas for Easter.  Hugh's brother Barry lives there.  At least that's the plan.  She admits to getting overtaken by events at times.  If she can't do Easter in Jonesboro,well, she just won't. 

As for me, there is very little that I can tolerate about Jonesboro.  I can't imagine Easter Sunday making it any better.  I can imagine the discharge of a thermonuclear device within the city limits improving things a good bit.  But not even Easter can fix Craighead County.  I kept these thoughts to myself.

What we did talk about was the first year after the death of a major significant other being a year of "markers."  Now, there is a difference between the loss of an aged parent and the loss of a spouse.  There is nothing particularly tragic about the departure of a gravely ill elderly person.  It's quite another to lose a spouse at a relatively young age to a bizarre medical condition that most of us had never heard of before now.

Still, I don't really count my first Christmas without Mother as much of a marker for the reason that I can pretty much do without Christmas.  I guess my first one would be Mother's Day.  Or realizing in court last summer that we were in a trial on her birthday.  I was sitting there at counsel table when it hit me: "Damn.  Today's Mother's birthday."

It takes about a year to get those markers out of the way.  And Laura gets her first one right off the bat.  Still, if you gotta lead off with a marker, Easter is as good as any.  Way better than Christmas.

My own Father died @ 2 weeks before Christmas.  Even as a young man in college I didn't have much use for Christmas.  Never thought much of the near-mania to be happy or to find "meaning" in buying and receiving stuff.  Under the tragic circumstances of earlier in the month Christmas of 1977 was downright surreal. 

Easter, with its transcendant messages of love and hope, will meet Laura halfway.  Easter will let her be quiet and still. 

Easter will let her have some measure of peace.  And we can all use a dose of that from time to time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Gotta Nikon Camera. I Love To Take Photographs.

Here are some images of the storm damage from what has now been confirmed as a tornado that touched down @ 5 milesWest of my house.  The first image is that of a house on Lee Ave about 2 blocks from here.

This house is on Leawood Blvd across the street from my friend Rick's house.  Rick's house didn't appear to have been damaged.

This image and the one above it are Northeast of Leawood Blvd.  This is pretty much the path that the last tornado took when it came roaring through here 4 or 5 years ago.  The rest of the images are East of Mississippi Ave in the Hall High neighborhood.  This are is probably a mile and a half West of Hillcrest.  The tornado when Northeast from here toward the Arkansas River.  Many people over there are still without power judging from all of the Entergy vehicles I saw.

My Sunday Feeling

I guess the first sirens went off around 1:30 on Friday morning.  The first one that went off was the one to my East and behind me around War Memorial Golf Course.  I have to guess at this because I noticed that the alarm clock was flickering.  So the power had gone off at least at some time in the night. 

Springtime can be exceptionally deadly in Arkansas.  Friday morning was no exception.  The storm struck when most folks were in their beds.  Sirens or no sirens, a bad storm can get on top of you in a hurry.  Last time I looked 8 people had died.  2 children.  Most likely the toll will be worse before it is all said and done. 

I raised up in the bed.  The light from the wet bar that I had forgot to turn off before turning in was streaming into the living room.  I noticed that the ceiling fan was chugging away.  So I had power.  So far so good. 

The siren had no sooner gone silent than it cranked back up again only to be answered by the one that sounded like it was coming from Leawood over where Rick and Sharon live.  4 years ago a tornado touched down over there.  I found out about it from Don over in North Carolina who was watching the Weather Channel.  For some reason he remembered that I lived not too far from Mississippi Avenue which was being traversed at the time by a twister.  Small world.

Then a third siren.  This one sounded like it was coming from around Catholic High.  The mournful call and response of the three sentinels coming as they were from 3 different areas was kind of extraordinary.  But then again, I had nothing better to do at the time than lay there and listen. 

I next heard the unmistakable crack and ping of hail on the roof and against the wall.  I decided to get up and take a look outside if only to make sure that my little house was not en route to Kansas.  I walked into the kitchen.  Trees bent.  Stuff hitting the windows.  Hail and sirens.  It occurred to me that this must have been what London might have been like during the Battle of London.  Very little light and lots of noise.  And the call and response of the sirens. 

Eventually, they die down and I returned to bed.  The next morning I noticed that my cable and Internet were dead.  So I made a call to Comcast.  The disembodied voice said that they were aware of the problem and technicians were hard at work.  I checked Facebook.  Messages from all over.  Trees down.  Power outages.  Wrecks.  Which schools were open?

I checked the Internet on my Blackberry.  18,000 without power in Pulaski County alone.  Wow.  Some storm.

As I walked to the car on my way to work I had a sense that something was amiss.  I turned around and noticed that the gate to my privacy fence was wide open.  Upon further inspection I saw that the force of the wind put such torque on the gate that the latch sheared completely away from the wood.  If you need a lock for your fence I can recommend Masters.  It may have caused the latch to fail but I have to say the lock didn't break. 

The aftermath:  Called handyman to fix the gate.  E-mail to insurance company to send somebody to inspect the roof.  Calls and texts to and from friends to make sure everybody's OK.  E-mails from out of state folks who were just seeing the news. 

Another Springtime in Arkansas where Mother Nature tries to kill us about 3 times before giving it up for Summer.  Such is life in these here parts.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Dumb Sense Of Vast Loss

Mark Twain wrote the following upon receiving the news of the death of his daughter Susy Clemens.  It captures perfectly the feeling I had upon learning of the death of my friend Hugh.

"It is one of the mysteries of our nature that a man, all unprepared, can receive a thunderstroke like that and live.  There is but one reasonable explanation of it.  The intellect is stunned by the shock and but gropingly gathers the meaning of the words.The power to realize their full import is mercifully wanting.  The mind has a dumb sense of vast lost-that is all.  It will take mind and memory months, and possibly years, to gather together the details and thus learn and know the full extent of the loss...It will be years before the tale of lost essentials is complete,and not till then can he truly know the magnitude of his disaster."

Or as the old hymn puts it, "I scarce can take it in."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

"Manny Ramirez showed this Spring that he can still hit a fastball. He showed he can still use the whole field. Now he has to show that he can regain his power. The other question with Manny, as always, is how long he can stay interested."

This sentence appeared in Sports Illustrated's pre-season baseball edition that hit the newstands April 4th. Of course, the writer could not have known that, even as the publication went out, Major League Baseball knew that Tampa Bay Rays slugger Manny Ramirez had tested positive a second time for performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Well, to be accurate, Major League Baseball announced only that an issue arose with ManRam under baseball's Joint Testing and Treatment program. And that Ramirez opted to retire rather than serve a proposed 100 day suspension while cooperating with the program. 100 days. Seems clear to me that he didn't test positive for Ben-Gay.

On the one hand, I am surprised that Ramirez was such an idiot. On the other hand, I am not. Manny Ramirez was a head case in a sport that is full of them. His career was punctuated with numerous examples of dogging it in the field and failing to hustle on the bases. These were described invariably as "Manny being Manny." You are given some leeway when you have 500 some odd home runs to your credit. He had and David Ortiz formed the nucleus of the most combustable lineup in baseball when he played for the Red Sox.

And yet, his approach to the craft of hitting was beyond reproach. After the news of his retirement came out many of his former teammates were asked about what it was like to have played with him. Every one that I heard talked about Manny's hard work in the batting cage and all of the extra film study. They talked of his willingness to help young players with their hitting.

And, indeed, virtually nobody attributed Manny's prowess at the plate with steroid use. By way of comparison, nobody believed that Barry Bonds was clean when he was launching them into San Francisco Bay. Manny Ramirez's body stayed about the same during his career. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa came into the league built like wide receivers. They left built like linebackers.

Still, you would have to think that the prudent man would only have to see the prosecutions of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons to realize that using PEDs is not without almost prohibitive risks. Use of PEDs seems especially senseless in the twilight of your career.

Or maybe that's when the risk calculation says to err on the side of using the needle. Manny Ramirez has more money than he can possibly spend. He obviously could afford to walk away. Maybe using again was the ultimate example of "Manny being Manny." It has always been about him during his career. His retirement leaves a huge hole in the Rays lineup. Obviously the potential consequences to his teammates did not concern Ramirez overly much.

But in any event, the question is no longer whether Manny Ramirez can remain interested. "Manny being Manny" cost him the remainder of his career. And he probably doesn't much care.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Stand By Your Man

As some of you may recall, about a year ago, a man named Huff was arrested in a neighborhood not too far from here. He was charged with the home invasion and attempted abduction of a young woman.

The story that was alleged is pretty creepy even by the low standards of sex offenses. Huff allegedly coaxed the victim out of her house under the pretense of asking her about a dog he had found. Once she stepped out he hit her in the head and dragged her back in. He then proceeded tied her up. But not before allegedly getting her to pick out items of her underwear and get some high heels for God only knows what reason.

As he was taking her and her wardrobe back to her car she resisted. She screamed. A neighbor who was taking a walk confronted Huff who allegedly told the neighbor that he was doing an intervention on the girl. When the neighbor expressed misgivings, probably because the Bridgeway typically does not bind the folks it does interventions with, Huff allegedly dropped the girl and hit the trail.

A couple of days after that, the cops raided Huff's house where he was having a quiet evening at home with his wife and popped him. They also did a search of the premises which unearthed the practical tools of the do-it-yourself home pervert. Ropes, knives, box cutters, twist ties, sterile gloves, a camera and a bandana. You know, stuff that was on the prop table on the set of "Silence of the Lambs." These items of evidence were the subject of the suppression hearing that was held earlier in the week.

The defense attempted to establish that the search was the product of an impermissable search. The witness claimed that she was never served with a search warrant. The witness? Why, Mrs. Huff, of course.

Now I will be the first to tell you that I am not the best expert on the dynamics of relationships. I have been cashiered by women for no reason other than they didn't like the look on my face at a particular given moment. And yet I know a woman who stayed with her husband after he pleaded guilty to public servant bribery and lost his license to practice law. None of the women I know would put up with me if I had screwed up so royally. Indeed, I have been jettisoned on flimsier evidence of misconduct.

But I can't imagine testifying on your husband's behalf when he is charged with being a major league sex offender. I also imagine that the prosecutors didn't initially see that one coming either. And it's not like she could provide an alibi or other exculpatory evidence. She testified that she didn't get served with a warrant. She said that in order to keep her husband's toys that he kept in the house they shared out of evidence.

Well, it didn't work. As is the case in 90% of suppression hearings, the search was upheld. The toys will come in at Huff's trial at the end of the month.

Sex offenders are different from you and I. We might be capable of larceny. But some people got way out there itches that they got to scratch. Special people get charged with attempting to abduct a young girl.

And I guess it takes a special person to testify in in his behalf.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

As I type this, it is the Saturday of the Final Four of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. This year's final weekend has Butler against Virginia Commonwealth. While the other side pits UConn against Kentucky. Butler and Virginia Commonwealth are the Cinderellas of the field despite the fact that Butler made to last year's final against the despised Duke Blue Devils. Neither Butler or VCU were very good as late as February. Not only is VCU an 11th seed, but they had to prevail in a so-called "play-in" game to make the tournament. Accordingly brackets over on that side got completely blown up. The only people who have Butler and VCU in the semis on that side are people like your great Aunt who picked those two because she has a friend in Richmond who has a dog named Butler. You know. The scientific method. In any event, this is not likely to happen again.

By comparison, and perhaps to restore a feeling of normalcy to the proceedings, we have UConn going against Kentucky in what Tony Kornheiser refers to as the "Elliot Ness Division" of the tournament. UConn's coach Jim Calhoun, having taken the Bruce Pearl route in contacting prospective Huskies, will get to sit out for a portion of next season. Well known recidivist Kentucky is merely the Whore of Babylon. And they are coached by John Calipari who had 2 programs go on probation while he stayed one step ahead of the NCAA sheriff. And if that weren't sufficient intrigue, both coaches despise each other. Well, I think EVERYBODY hates Calipari.

I say it's Butler against Kentucky Monday night in a refreshing morality play in that folks can play the "good vs. evil" game in a contest that doesn't involve Duke for once. And then we'll see if UK goes on probation again.

While we're on the subject of sports, let us turn briefly to the NFL lockout. Talk about finding it hard to root for somebody. Millionaires versus Gazillionaires. As I understand the issues, the owners want to add to the 1.3 billion-yes, billion-that they take off the top of the niagara of income the league makes so that they can maintain stadiums and the like. Nobody is saying they are going broke. It's just that the profit margin is less obscene. On top of that they want to extend the season by two games.

The union is balking at less money for more games and has demanded to take a peek at the books. The owners refused. The union decertified so they could go to court and the owners locked the players out.

My thoughts are two-fold. First of all, the owner's position is basically one of "stop me before I kill again." Who told Jerry Jones he had to build that Taj Mahal of a stadium down there? Nobody told Al Davis to sign his long snapper for 1.5 million and not many people advised Dan Snyder to go anywhere near Albert Haynesworth. If the owners aren't making a sufficient killing they have only themselves to blame.

Secondly, this case is gonna settle and it will settle well before training camp for a very simple reason that as far as I can tell, noone has mentioned yet. And the reason is this: the NFL owners can't stand up to discovery. You don't want to show us the books? Fine. We go to court and subpoena the books. And we put in the public record the fact that the NFL not only did not bargain in good faith but that it lied about the finances.

Trust me. The owners do not want this. The case will settle.

But first, we have to ring out college basketball. Duke didn't make the Final Four and the bookies lost their pinky rings and gold chains on this year's tournament.

What's not to like about it?