Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I was still pretty young when Ernie Banks was at the height of his powers. But I have a vivid recollection of watching baseball with my grandfather over in Quitman one day.  The Cubs were on the Game of the Week that particular Saturday for some reason as they were their typically lousy selves.  

Anyway, I remember the broadcast starting with a smiling Ernie Banks facing the camera and saying, "It's a beautiful day for baseball.  Let's play two." I was probably all of 10 at the time.  I loved baseball.  I thought Ernie Banks was pretty cool. 

My father grew up in what is now called "Chicagoland."  Back then they were content to refer to it as Valporaiso, Indiana which is right across Lake Michigan.  When he was a kid he and a buddy used to hop the train when it would stop in Valpo and ride into Chicago to watch the Cubs and the Blackhawks.  Even then you couldn't get a ticket to see the Bears.  

And so my father was a Cub fan.  And like most Cub fans, and other veterans of combat, he had a sort of PTSD that prevented him from talking about it very much.  Being a Cub fan will do that to you.  Unlike my youngest brother, who named his son after the intersection upon which Wrigley Field sits, I have remained mostly agnostic about the Cubbies.  I refuse to permit hope to dwell in my heart given their record, writ large as it is upon history's immortal scroll and available for examination by the public.

Because the Cubs-and let's not put too fine a point on it- have stunk on ice for most of their existence.  They somehow even stunk with a lineup in those days that, off and on, featured Ron Santo, Don Kessinger, Ferguson Jenkins, Billy Williams and, yes, Ernie Banks, the universally beloved "Mr. Cub,"who died yesterday at 83.  

Yes child, Mr. Banks could certainly play.  He batted .274, had 2,583 hits and 512 home runs.  He twice led the league in homers.  He is rightfully in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  His number 14 is retired.  

But those are just numbers.  To me, and to legions of Cubs fans, he was the embodiment of "Cubdom"or, "Cubismo" if you will, in that he always projected an aura of sunny optimism in the face of almost certain merciless clockwork doom.  He was ready to "play two" while other Cub teammates were looking for ways to get traded if not outright looking for small handguns with which to end their misery. The true Cub fan understands this.  After all, the Cubs play in a Catholic town.  The true Cub fan is not one of the arriviste types that bought up the brownstones in the neighborhood so they could watch the games from the roof.  The true Cub fan is not a narcissist unlike these insufferable types.  He is also unlike Red Sox and Giants fans in this regard as I ponder this further.  

No. The true Cub fan is a guy who took the "El" in to Wrigley from some place. A guy who sits by his lonesome in the bleachers on a September day nursing an Old Style("Authentically Kraeusened")as the first hint of autumn wind rolls in from the lake, foreshadowing as it always does misery and futility. The Cubbies are apt to be comfortably 15 games out of contention in the effing division at this point in time. The true Cub fan, who prosecutes a close walk with grief, guilt and shame, is there.   And yet, and also in order to push the Catholic metaphor to the vanishing point, what passes for faith, a faith so far yet cruelly unrequited, compels him to yet believe in those things visible and invisible.   Well, mostly invisible. These are the Cubs after all. 

What passes for faith sustains him even when he witnesses legendary ineptitude -and I'm just picking one out of the air here-such as the night portly right hander Rick Reuschel injured himself FALLING OFF THE MOUND DURING WARMUPS. Which I actually saw on TV.  And Reuschel was pretty good.  

The true Cub fan believed in Ernie Banks and Mr. Banks understood him.  

Ernie Banks never had a bad day.  And you would think somebody who carried the grim mantle of "Mr. Cub" would have had plenty.  

Rest In Peace, Sir.  Boy, have you earned it.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

It is a remarkable thing that Alex Malarkey survived the car crash that occurred when he was 6 years old.  Indeed, the crash was so horrific that the responders called for the coroner to come to the scene. You note that I didn't use the word "lucky" to describe young Alex as the accident rendered him a quadriplegic.  I know other kids left in a similar state after accidents.  I wouldn't describe them as "lucky" either. Beloved, brave and inspirational maybe.  But "lucky" never.

As you might think, boy's condition was grave after extraction from the vehicle.  Indeed, he lapsed into a coma that lasted two months.  And when he woke up, he allegedly claimed that he had gone to Heaven and that he had communed with angels and met Jesus.  He and his father Kevin, who holds himself out as a "christian therapist," wrote a book about Alex's claimed experiences called "The boy who came back from heaven" which was touted by Tyndale Publishing company as "a true story." It became a #1 best seller in the category of inspirational books.  It got a 4.2 rating on Amazon.

Except it wasn't true.

Earlier last week Alex-now 16 or 17 by my math-recanted the testimony about his cameo appearance in the Hereafter.  In a letter to Christian bookstores posted to the "Pulpit and Pen" website, he plainly stated "I did not die.  I did not go to Heaven." Tyndale issued a statement in which it said it was "saddened" by this turn of events (I'll just bet) and that they were taking the book out of print.

Alex's parents are divorced.  Last April Gwen Malarkey posted on her blog that Alex's objections to the continued sale of the book had been "ignored and repressed." She also stated that Alex had not received any money from and that his medical needs-which must be staggering- had not been funded by it.

According to the Huffington Post, Kevin Malarkey, with whom Tyndal contracted to reduce Alex's story, or at least Kevin's version of it, to writing,  has not commented on his son's recantation and neither his blog nor his Facebook page have recent posts.

I am painfully aware that my profession is widely reviled in polite society.  But we are useful at times.  And Tyndale would have been well-served if it had run the manuscript past a lawyer before publishing it.

If Tyndale had brought it to me my first red flag would have been their idea to pedal Alex's testimony as a "true story."  Because, not to put too fine a point on it, in the first place,Alex didn't die. He may have been near death while in a coma.  But he didn't die.  Indeed, Alex has recently made the self-evident, if lugubrious claim, that he neither checked out nor visited the Far Shore after doing so.

"I did not die," he stated.  Of course he didn't.  And this would be, and I can't believe my sudden compulsion to type these words-the generally accepted condition precedent to joining the Choir Invisible.

Look, I'm not busting the kid out.  He was 6 at the time he was in the coma.  Who knows what a child under such dreadful circumstances and full of all kinds of medication is going to believe he thought he saw in such a state? I used to see ghosts when I was that age.  My claims of contact with the restless departed were met with skepticism and outright occasional annoyance by my father who usually would patiently explain that "there are no such things as ghosts."  Other times the explanation consisted of "Get back in bed."

But the literature of "near death experiences" or "NDEs" is a popular genre with all kinds of otherwise unreliable informants leaving us here on this vale of tears only to return to relate their unprovable tales in exchange for a fat paycheck..  Even Mitch Albom, who occasionally writes about sports when he is not cranking out "inspirational" and exceedingly lucrative potboilers, has written a recent book about "phone calls from Heaven" or some such foolishness.  Nobody is going to tell the paying customers to get back in bed.

I wonder how a phone call from Heaven would show up on Caller ID?  "Burning Bush?" "Fear Not?" But I ramble.

It sounds like to me-cynic that I may be- that fantasies related by a badly injured little boy-if they were related at all-got turned into a cash cow by somebody betting on the sustained gullibility of an reliable audience for this kind of hooey . I bet Tyndal Publishing gets lawyered up for real now in an attempt to get back the money they paid the Dad.  After all, it is only here in the temporal world that people part with hard earned money for-pardon me-complete and utter malarkey.  It is here that Tyndal will have to regain what passes for credibility in a genre that relies on that which is completely unverifiable.  And the I also bet the next time poor Alex tells this story it will be under oath.

I don't much know what I believe anymore.  But I don't believe in ghosts.  I don't believe that you go to Heaven while still a life-in-being as they say in probate law.  And I while I don't know for sure what happened here, I do believe that it is all going to come out in the wash both in the fullness of time and before the statute of limitations runs in any event.

And I also believe that there is a special place in Hell for somebody that tries to mine the commercial potential of a disabled child.

Just sayin'.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


No Sunday blog today.  Too much stuff going on.

Talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

A friend invited me to go with her to a folk music concert put on by the local folk club last night.  I confess that I was lukewarm about this as I am not much of a folkie.  But I like her and I had watched about all of the football that I could stand for one week.  So off we went.

My father was a big folk music person.  I remember listening to the Weavers-Buck owned the album inserted above-a lot when I was a kid.  I remember thinking at the time that Pete Seeger was funny and that he could really sing.  I was also fascinated by the fact that bass Lee Hayes (the big guy wearing glasses)was from Arkansas. After all, nobody was from Arkansas.  We also watched Hootenanny and some other folkie show that was on TV in those days.  And he was into early Simon and Garfunkel which was pretty much a folk act in their early incarnation.

As I have written before, my father was no leftist.  But folk music, with its themes of brotherhood and justice, obviously spoke to him on some level.  I wonder if his experiences in World War II, experiences that he rarely if ever talked about, lit this spark in him.

I don't know.  He died long before I had sufficient gumption to try to mine these thoughts.  After all, the Weavers were damn near Communists and my father tended to vote for Republicans.  At least Republicans as existed back in those days.  Way back before the GOP was taken over in these latter days by snake-handlers. 

But I ramble.

I forget the name of the act that performed last night.  Some husband and wife duo from Northwest Arkansas.  They were fine musicians.  But the performance, at least during the first set, was interspersed with highly tendentious and occasionally tedious disquisitions about Ozark culture and the environment and the imperative to preserve same.

At least it was tedious to me.  I was there to listen to music.  Not to attend a lecture.  

Look. My sister-in-law Judy does folk music for a living too.  She dresses up in period attire and plays at various county fairs and the like.  Judy gets on with it and spares her audience her insights into current events.  She preserves the culture by doing the culture and she pretty much lets it go at that from what I can tell.  It's not my cup of tea, and she knows that, but I have deep respect for her as an artist.  And I hope she knows that.

But you know what?  I'm not the target audience for these acts.  The crowd there last night-mostly older, older than me even-loved it.  They had a blast. They bought all the CDs the performers brought with them to sell at intermission.  I was in the distinct minority.  

And even though I thought the performers last night veered perilously near self-parody at times-one of their songs was actually entitled "Too Much Information" which almost put my friend and I on the floor given all the sermonizing-there was no denying the earnestness and sweetness-for lack of a better word- of the evening.  These qualities of the genre are perfectly captured by comedians Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Micheal McKean as "The Folksmen" which is a parody.  

But folk music is as American as American gets.  A lot of is meant to be political.  A lot of it is about preservation of culture.  And it continues to inform us today even if some of us aren't particularly aware of it.  I was fooling around on the guitar with Wilco's "California Stars" the other night.  At least I thought it was Wilco's. Turns out that it was written by Woody Guthrie.  I had no idea. Shows you what I know.

The local folk club puts on a show every month.  Maybe I will go back sometime. Maybe I won't.  I'm glad I went.  It was something different to do and I enjoyed being in the company of people-many of which were probably recovering hippies- that were having such a good time.  Like I said, it's not my cup of tea.  

But something about folk music obviously spoke to my father who voted for both Nixon and Ford.  I wish we had talked about it.  Maybe I would have learned more about both folk music and my dad.  

Thursday, January 01, 2015

My New Year's Day Feeling

I don't know how your New Year's Day started.  Mine started at 8 AM on the dot with a call from a voice translator calling for a deaf lady in Maryland about a Legal Services case I'm doing.  The translator asked me to call the lady tomorrow.  

This couldn't have waited?  Happy New Year!

I write these words as I contemplate the smoking rubble that is college football in Mississippi  Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State were in the top 10 at one time this season, which some convincingly claimed was a sign of the End Times as prophesied by John the Revelator.  And both got their doors completely blown off yesterday in their respective bowl games.  The Mississippi State game at least looked competitive on paper if you didn't actually see those boys from Georgia Tech getting their cardio in against the Bulldog defense.  However, the Rebels got thoroughly whacked by a riled up bunch of TCU Horned Frogs who were high pissed at a) not getting put in the Final Four by the College Football Selection Committee and b) having to put up with the likes of Ole Miss. 

By the way, a TCU alumna to whom I am related by marriage posted TCU's cheer on Facebook during the "game."  Here it is: " Riff,Ram,Bah, Zoo, Lickety, Lickety, Zoo, Zoo, Who, Wah,Wah, Who, Give 'em Hell, TCU!" 

My research (watch it) reveals that this cheer originated in the twenties which would have put Bard of Fort Worth Dan Jenkins at about 40 years of age at the time. Anyway, this was back when collegiate athletics in the old Southwest Conference was the exclusive province of white folks.  Black folks wouldn't have come up with something this stupid.

Anyway, Carolyn is not only a nice person but she is a minister of the Gospel over in Indiana last I heard.  It made her happy to share this foolishness and it is certainly harmless.  Besides reading her post was more interesting than watching the actual sportscast.  

But back to the new year. As many of you know, I don't actually make resolutions.  But there are some things that I would like to accomplish in the coming year.  I'm going to write more.  I'm going to play and sing more.  I'm going to play more golf and I am going to blow town with more frequency in order to do so. I have some projects around this damned old house that I would like to get done.  

And I'm going to do a better job of counting my blessings.  My boon companion Kerri and I were texting about just this subject last night before she and the Colonel ventured out into the Hell that is New Year's Eve.  We take so much for granted in this life.  We should all do a better job of not doing this.  Maybe that should be my resolution.  I could make worse ones. 

All in all 2014 was not so bad.  I made new friends.  I still cling tightly to my old.  I actually regressed as a golfer if that's possible.  But I don't much care anymore.  I got out and played and sang in front of a live audience and it didn't completely suck.  And believe me, not completely sucking was about all we were shooting for.  Unlike my golf game, this project has potential.  Then again I am under strict supervision. 

After all a man has to know his limitations.  And I am fully conversant with all of mine.  

As for today, I'm certain it will be spent watching football and receiving the usual erudite running commentary from fans both near and far.  My buddy Allen down the street is a Florida State alum.  It is my New Year's wish for him that Jameis Winston makes bail in time to suit up for the Seminoles today.

Happy 2015 to one and all.  I wish you all health, happiness and prosperity.

And to all the Mississippi State and Ole Miss fans in my life (and they seem to be Legion), who were unusually chirpy even for them in 2014, I have only this to say:

Riff, Ram, Bah, Zoo.