Friday, April 27, 2007

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Every time for the past few days, I've visited a news site and been hit by the images and the sheer number of stories about the tragic, disgusting, disheartening events that happened on the Virginia Tech campus less than a week ago. As with most stories that seem to embroil the entire nation, whether it's Don Imus's nappy-headed commentary or Terri Schiavo's right to die, these stories -- whether as dictated by the people or the media, or some sort of combination thereof -- refuse to go away...on many occasions, with good reason. Yet I do often finding myself in the position of avoiding news sites once it's clear the site in question, whether CNN or The New York Times or what have you, has saturated and exceeded the point of the return.

The formula, in essence, is "Does my need/desire for information about this particular topic outweigh the sad, unfortunate, tragic images and information I will undoubtedly confront upon visiting said site?" Soon after the event(s) are first reported, I've had my fill.

So when it came time to read about Cho Seung-Hui's actions -- both the shootings on the campus at Virginia Tech and the contents of the package he mailed -- between the shootings -- to NBC, I had, for the most part, reached that point where enough was enough.

And then I saw the photos of him posing with handguns, some of which depict him pointing said guns at the camera and some of which depict him pointing a gun at his own head. What strikes me as most noticeable about these photographs, and the embedded photo (courtesy of NBC and CNN) is how angry this guy looked. These photos were not taken between the shootings; the package thereof was mailed between them. These were taken at some point while Seung-Hui was preparing this attack. So this series wasn't his way of making an "in-the-moment" documentary of his actions.

Still, aside from the sheer number of fatalities, not to mention injuries, it amazes me that he was perceived by his classmates as well as faculty and staff at the University as having some sort of behavioral and/or mental deficiency. He was clearly angry, anti-social and all of his interaction with the other people on campus, before Monday, hinted -- strongly -- that his thoughts and his outward emotions were tinged with anger and violence.

So why was this guy not anyone's priority?

Let us, for the time being, forget the notion that it seems more people in modern society are "snapping." Even if that weren't true, let's simply assume that this individual was referred for mental health treatment and underwent some sort of exam over the past 18 months. Let's also, for the time being, forget the notion that pressure, drugs (anti-depressants and the sudden lack thereof), even food additives, chemicals, etc., play a part in modern society's seeming increase of these types of anti-social explosions by lone, paranoid, depressed or disgruntled individuals. Can't we simply accept that these types of incidents are happening on a frequent enough basis that people need to be vigilant about those people they suspect may have mental or societal difficulties?

We've all, at one time or another, encountered someone we clearly believe is "not all there." Whether that means the guy whose OCD precludes him from shaking peoples' hands, to another guy who mutters loudly to himself on the subway whilst wearing a scarf and a winter hat in the middle of July, to someone who always seems outwardly angry, to the quiet, withdrawn members of an office staff or a school class whose only outward expression is anger, violence and something that doesn't quite seem normal.

Who are we to judge others? That argument is legitimate, of course, in that no one is truly "normal." What you or I might suspect is strange, odd behavior might be perfectly reasonable to another. Moreover, whether it's my neighbor who waters her lawn at 3AM wearing a fright wig and a pink tutu, or the guy who goes jogging at midnight wearing ladies clothing, clearly each and every one of us has our own way of living daily life.

However, Cho Seung-Hui clearly had mental problems. His on-campus behavior, outside of class, was marked with discord and with females reporting his behavior as stalkerish. In class, his work -- particular, two plays he presented to an entire drama class -- was marked with anger, profanity, a non-sensical hostility and a clear penchant for retribution and vitriol. His professor had him removed from her class for these reasons and reported his behavior to the administration. Subsequently, the police department was alerted to his behavior. So why did Monday happen?

As we attempt to move past this tragedy, and those who lost friends and loved ones in this episode somehow try to come to grips with what happened, I'm not advocating a litigious revenge on the school administration, the police, or anyone in particular. I am, in its stead, advocating some sort of progress as to how we should address these situations, not only by questioning how one can buy a handgun with this sort of mental history, but how to prevent these things from happening as well as training security to handle these situations should -- if not when -- they happen.

There's far too much minutae embedded in the life of Cho Seung-Hui and his behavior to be addressed here. Further, his actions don't merit any attention. What merits attention is the lives he took or impacted with his actions. But most importantly, this incident -- and similar incidents that will undoubtedly happen in the future -- should and must be examined so we can, perhaps, find a way to prevent these things from happening again.

If nothing else, that would be a tribute to the people who lost their lives in this senseless, awful episode in America's modern, and violent, history.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Defending The Indefensible

Since my last visit to these pages, during which I addressed the controversy surrounding Don Imus and his characterization of the Rutgers Womens Basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's," MSNBC opted to alter their suspension of their weekday simulcast of Mr. Imus's show to permanent status. It's possible they will reinstate the simulcast but, at this point, it's doubtful.

This morning I had occasion to listen to Imus's show, which was the start of the annual two-day Radiothon dedicated to research fighting Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Tomorrow's Children. During the first five hours the Radiothon -- which runs 'round the clock even when Mr. Imus signed off this morning and tomorrow as well -- raised $1 million.

At some point this morning, when not directly calling attention to the goal of the Radiothon, ie to raise monies for charity, Mr. Imus did address the situation and last night's announced cancellation of the simulcast by MSNBC. Basically, he said he'd spoken to several of his friends -- many of whom happen to be regular guests on his program -- and they all suggested he'd apologized enough and that he should move on and move forward, which is what he did. Although he hopes, I would imagine, this situation will calm down somewhat, perhaps once he has met in person with the Rutgers Womens Basketball team, he also acknowledged that this Radiothon could be his last.

I think why this situation, which has clearly snowballed, is so troubling depends on one's perspective thereon. On the surface, I would think that most black people reacting to this story would concur that his comments were repulsive, deplorable and demand his dismissal. The sole exception, I would think, would be those black people who know him personally (ie colleagues of his at WFAN) and those who listen to his show somewhat regularly. Even among those people, I'm sure none of them are supportive or enthused by the comments that fomented this trouble in the first place; however, knowing the context and the style in which Mr. Imus operates makes these comments less a matter of racism and more simple bad judgment.

With respect to White America, the only people who have no issue whatsoever with his comments are people who indeed are racist, bigoted, misogynistic imbeciles. Every person with whom I've spoken or heard from think he said something terrible, stupid and repulsive -- and as he has admitted himself, they are correct.

However, I'm -- fortunately or otherwise -- in a somewhat interesting place vis-a-vis this whole situation. Despite not having been a regular Imus listener for at least a year or two, when I heard these comments and the context in which they were spoken, my first thought wasn't "How could he have said something so disgusting about black women?" Instead, it was "How could he have said something so stupid?"

Obviously his comments denigrated these women on the basis of their ethnicity. Obviously his comments denigrated them as women. And obviously, his comments -- as a result of these facts -- have no place in public speech.

Without invoking the Bill of Rights, our Freedom of Speech and Expression and lamenting -- over a violin creaking out a sad tune -- the death of life as we know it in the face of political correctness, it's clear that he said something really, really stupid. We could also discuss the fact that he didn't refer to these women by using the "n-word" -- a word so horrible, so awful, so terrible, that we can't even fucking include it -- even to exemplify how horrible, how awful, how terrible a word it is in some shitty blog, let alone on the public fucking airwaves -- but the fact is his intent was not to denigrate these women or black people in general. Taken in or out of context, however, it sure sounds like it -- which is why said comments are so stupid.

However, to anyone who has any experience listening to Mr. Imus's show, he/she knows that Mr. Imus -- like other participants on his show -- do impersonations of people. Many of these impersonations -- of a sarcastic Irish cardinal, Rush Limbaugh, Janet Reno, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, et al -- are meant to be humorous in their ridiculous extremism. Rush Limbaugh, via the Imus show, has -- in the past -- sung "The Lady Is A Tramp" (dedicated to Hilary Clinton); the aforementioned Irish cardinal talks about drinking and pedophilia; Janet Reno is portrayed with a gruff-voiced man who talks as if he's the sheriff of a Wyatt Earp-era frontier town; and Al Sharpton is portrayed as a caricature that makes Jerry Springer and his show seem sophisticated.

Of these people he has lambasted with regularity, all but one are white.

Further, in his show's impersonation of Al Sharpton, he tries to emphasize that Mr. Sharpton spends more time yelling and screaming and pointing a finger than at making any valid or worthwhile points. Moreover, he does so by portraying him to be a joke -- at least, in my estimation, he's done so since Mr. Sharpton accused white policemen in the Tawana Brawley incident of being racist, even though his claims were proven summarily false (and he was forced to pay damages and restitution to the officers thereafter).

It's also interesting to note that Mr. Sharpton's reaction to Mr. Imus's comments caome well after Mr. Imus's show had been poking fun at Mr. Sharpton for years.

The point being, Imus -- in the course of saying something stupid -- was not being racist or bigoted. His crime, if you will, was of using terminology that -- coming from a white person -- is, essentially, despicable. Of course, had he been a black person referring to the team in that particular manner, none of this uproar would have taken place, especially at the hands of a hypocrite like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

But he's not black, so it's meaningless.

However, it seems to me -- whether stupid or racist -- these comments deserve and merit reaction. The question, however, remains as to whether his comments were intended in humor that simply went too far or if they were/are evidence of his racial/bigoted prejudices. If I haven't made same clear, I believe wholeheartedly that the guy said something stupid "in character" -- that is, two homies rappin' with one another -- rather than his genuine views on black women.

Still, since we're debating whether he genuinely is a racist and a misogynist, it seems to me that if he was a racist he would denigrate black people with more regularity and would have been dismissed years ago. Why? Because most of his interviews are with political candidates and/or people, like Tim Russert, who could and cannot afford to be associated with someone who is identified -- properly or otherwise -- as a racist. That doesn't mean he's not a racist; it simply means that he has spent much of his career talking and sharing his views over a four-hour clip on a daily basis and has less than a handful of racial controversy on his resume. If he was a genuine racist, I believe he would have been "outed" long ago. Granted, he takes liberties in describing and/or impersonating some guests who are of a different ethnicity than him -- but he lampoons white people to whom he is very similar ethnically. So if he is a racist because he lampoons black people, than he is a self-hating white man because he rips into every- and anyone that does, says, thinks or portrays something stupid, different or interesting.

Essentially, if we're to brand him a racist, than we should also aim our bile at comedians who attack people at live performances (Michael Richards aside). People who are overweight, short, bald and just plain ugly are all targets of stand-up comedians. Does that mean that if a comic fires off a fat joke in the direction of someone who's overweight that said comic hates fat people? Similarly...short people? The point isn't whether the comments are shared, but the intent behind them.

As far as him being a misogynist, Mr. Imus's agent, Esther Newburgh, is a lesbian. He refers to her as "Lobster" ("Lobster Newburgh"). Does that mean he hates women, hates lesbians, or has some deep-seated resentment of females in general? Or is it merely, perhaps, evidence that he enjoys attacking women in general?

Or perhaps it could also mean that despite the fact he takes liberties with Ms. Newburgh's name, he trusts and respects her enough to represent his interests in his publishing endeavors. Does that sound like someone who is a misogynist?

He referred, at one point, to the media critic for the Washington Post (Eric Kurtz, I believe) as a boner-nosed, beanie-wearing Jewboy. The gentleman to which he was referring is Jewish.

That must mean, certainly, that Imus is a raging anti-Semite. Regular readers of this space, I'm confident, know that I am quick to respond to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel commentary when it is done in ignorance rather than factual debate. And yet, somehow, I can overlook Mr. Imus's characterization of the aforementioned Mr. Kurtz. Why? Because despite poking fun at Mr. Kurtz, he also treats him -- when the conversation turns serious -- with respect and admiration, clarifying the fact that a silly spewing of nicknames and/or labels is done in jest. If I believed Mr. Imus went after Mr. Kurtz or another Jewish person for their ethnicity, I'd be standing next to Mr. Sharpton bitching and moaning.

It's very easy to take shots at a man who said something stupid in a public setting as Imus did. It's also very easy to ignore the fact that, despite his being a target, he today raised $1 million for a charity dedicated to children. What sometimes amazes me is that a man who does so much good for so many people -- ask any of the families who have been involved in the Imus Ranch -- is even questioned as he has been.

Certainly, he said something stupid and hurtful -- but it's clear, at least to me, that his goal was to be funny, not hurtful. Had he gone after these women endlessly, and insulted other teams simply due to the fact that they were composed of mostly black women, I guess I would wonder about his intentions. But he didn't. I wonder what would have happened had the team been composed of mostly hispanic women, and instead of referring to them as "nappy-headed hos" he referred to them as "hubcap-stealin' hos" or "guacamole-eatin' hos." What would the fallout been thereafter? How about if he referred to McAbee (an Israeli basketball team) as a bunch of "yamulkah-wearing freaks" or the University of Nebraska Mens Basketball Team as a bunch of "White-Bread Corn-Holing Farmer Idiots." Who would be on the picket line chanting for justice and out for blood?

The answer is, likely, no one.

The reason why, whether we want to admit same or not, is that despite saying something incredibly stupid, which he did, his intent was not to hurt or offend anyone. However, this country has become so hyper-sensitive to anything remotely negative vis-a-vis the black community, as represented by Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson, that all non-black people -- even other minorities -- are forbidden from approach. To wit, is the word "kike" referred to as the "k-word?" Is the word "mick" referred to as the "m-word?" Do people think of the word "chink" when the "c-word" is invoked? No. So why, in our daily discourse, are we so intrinsically repulsed by the word "nigger" that we can't even repeat it to exemplify that word which repulses us so without fearing an appearance by Betelguese, Satan, Candyman or something far more sinister? The word is repulsive and connotes a disgusting period in our history, so we avoid it. Yet many black people refer to one another in that manner.

Hypocrisy. Plain and simple.

I'm not suggesting we as Americans, black or white, start using the "n-word" in our regular discourse. I'm suggesting, rather, that we as Americans -- black AND white -- should ask why we've been brainwashed into being so afraid of speaking frankly about race and about the differences that divide us -- in an interest of bridging these divisions. Hearing some rapper or some random imbecile use the "n-word" casually is an especially repulsive experience, if only because I've never heard a Jewish person refer to another Jew as a kike, and I've never heard Irish people refer to themselves as micks, and I've certainly never heard an Asian person refer to other Asians as chinks. In fact, I bristle whenever I hear the genuine use of one of these slurs because it is repulsive to me; however, when it is used in context -- regardless of the recipient of the insult or slur is black, jewish, asian, or arab -- it's different. Hearing someone refer to me as a boner-nosed, beanie-wearing jewboy wouldn't be acceptable, except if I knew the person's intent wasn't to insult but to go so far beyond the bounds that the insult was an attempt at humor.

I'm not defending Mr. Imus nor do I condone his comments. But I think this uproar, this controversy, this witch hunt, is a sham. I think it's a hoax. I think it's retribution and I think Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson are hypocritical pulpit-pounders who need to go find a legitimate cause in which to involve themselves. Imus did something stupid -- and he knows and admits he did -- and not simply because he said something shitty about people who really didn't deserve to be insulted, even in jest. What he did was cross the line and allow hypocrites like Sharpton and Jackson to judge him.

At least that's how I, a honky resident of Hymietown, see it.

Or, I think we have a long way to go in this country before speech really is free and protected, on both side of the gray.


Since I wrote the above, it was widely reported that Mr. Imus was fired by CBS. I remain shocked and amazed that his mistake has cost him his job. I further am shocked and amazed that CBS caved to pressure from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Bruce Gordon and opted to remove Mr. Imus in the middle of a multi-day Radiothon dedicated to helping sick children. As I wrote above, in its first four hours, Mr. Imus raised over $1 million. Assuming tomorrow's donations approached those he achieved today, I was curious as to why CBS -- and any of the people calling for Imus's removal -- would ignore what he was doing today and what he was aiming to do tomorrow and remove him. The only logical conclusion I have been able to reach is that they were under so much pressure from the black community that they basically had no choice. What bothers me about all of this is that the Black Community -- from the parents of the Rutgers players to Mr. Sharpton, who is supposedly a minister, to Oprah, to any of the other prominent critics of Mr. Imus -- has repeatedly suggested that Imus's attack insulted these proud, articulate, promising women. And yet CBS -- with pressure from the concerned, protective black community -- still went ahead and prevented him from continuing to raise money for charities dedicated to helping children.

It seems to me that if the Black Community -- Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Gordon, et al -- really wanted to change the way we see race in this country, they would have at least recognized that Imus should have been permitted to finish the Radiothon. I guess it's really not about helping one another or protecting and nurturing the children -- it's about helping out black people, and protecting and nurturing the black children.

Way to go, CBS. Your callow, pandering release valve demonstrated to me that you care more about the black minority than operating within a modicum of common sense.

I hope CBS has plenty of good, pro-black community programming in the near future. It better be good -- Al Sharpton's watching and waiting.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Cost of Free Speech

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard something -- on some level -- about last week's comments by Don Imus, the morning "shock jock" DJ for WFAN in New York City. His program addresses a variety of topics; last Wednesday, however, his focus was on the Tuesday night Womens' Final Four Final game, which featured the Rutgers Womens Basketball team. Mr. Imus, in his discourse, referred to the team as a bunch of "nappy-headed ho's."

Had that phrase been uttered by Rush Limbaugh or any other conservative political radio pundit, the axe would have swiftly come down. However, because Mr. Imus is an "entertainer" rather than a serious political commentator, there's question over whether his remarks were really racially-motivated by bigotry and/or racism.

However, the uproar that has resulted from these comments is interesting. Al Sharpton, a frequent target of Imus insults, led the charge, calling for Imus's dismissal. In addition, Jesse Jackson also called for Mr. Imus to be fired by WFAN. The latter led a protest held at NBC in Chicago which saw 50 people picket the NBC affiliate there, while the former continued calling for Imus to step down. Imus offered to have Mr. Sharpton appear on his show, which Mr. Sharpton denied; however, Sharpton invited Imus to appear on his show, which Imus accepted.

While a transcript of the interchange isn't yet available, I watched some of the conversation between the two. First, I genuinely believe Al Sharpton thinks Imus is a bigot and a racist. Second, I think Mr. Imus genuinely was trying to be funny, not racist. Third, I think that the disparity of opinion over what actually transpired is too great to be successfully bridged. And fourth, I think that any time a white person makes any disparaging comment about a black person or black people in general, he or she will be branded a racist.

To expound on these points, we live in a tight-lipped, tight-ass culture. We speak in politically-correct terms, even when those terms are ridiculous. Several Presidents refer to black Americans as African-Americans, yet if a white person of African heritage became a citizen of the United States, that person would also be regarded as an African American. We're so careful not to insult or offend or step on anyone's toes that we walk on eggshells any time we even approach the topic of race, and while I understand the defensive nature of a minority against broad, stereotypical criticism, I cannot understand the overzealous need to apologize for years of systematic bigotry in modern contexts.

Essentially, in recent retrospect, what Michael Richards did onstage was fairly repulsive. So was what Mel Gibson did in the back of a police cruiser after being arrested for DUI. Each of those two individuals displayed, perhaps, how they felt at that particular moment without regard for the people or the ethnic group which they attacked. What Imus did, however, was a silly, foolish attempt at humor.

Part of the problem in the Imus situation is that Al Sharpton not only focused on the "nappy-headed ho's" comment but also another of the radio show's participants using the terms "wanna-be's" and "jigaboos." Those terms were taken from the context of a Spike Lee film; however, being that Spike Lee is black, his use of those terms, obviously, has far different meaning and consequence.

In this particular situation, Mr. Imus jabbed at the Rutgers' Womens' Basketball Team but didn't do so out of malice or racism, at least not in my opinion. If one listens to his show for a week -- or has done so in the past -- it's fairly clear that he uses base, foolish, silly humor to attack any and all members of the public. He, in the past, has referred to Janet Reno as a man, and he's poked fun at Al Sharpton -- the same man leading the charge calling for his dismissal -- by depicting him as a fool who shouts out his thoughts like a circus ringmaster.

When all is said and done, Mr. Imus isn't going to lose his job as a DJ, and I think within a month all of this will disappear from society's front pages. I think black people will continue to despise him and brand him a bigot and a racist, and I doubt that characterization will ever disappear. However, I think it's convenient that many people -- especially those calling for him to be fired -- ignore the fact that he's spent countless millions building hospitals and the Imus Ranch, which is dedicated to putting smiles on the faces of critically ill children and their families. He also hosts an annual telethon on WFAN which is dedicated to research for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. For a bigoted piece of shit, the guy seems to be awfully generous.

Was what he said racist? I'm not sure. If he said "I wouldn't give a job to a black person because they're all lazy," that's racist. If he said "I wouldn't give a job to a jewish person because they're all greedy and cheap," that's racist. If he said "The New York Knicks are a bunch of carjackers in shorts," that's not racist. Why? First of all, he HAS said it on his program -- a number of times. Second, because he's not being serious in his suggestion that the Knicks are a bunch of guys who actually go steal cars. He is trying to be funny; whether or not he's successful is another story. When he referred to the women on Rutgers Women's Team, I doubt he was referring to them in that way in truth; I think it was his way of attempting to be funny and characterize them as a bunch of tough women. His use of the word "ho" wasn't suggesting they were prostitutes, nor was he suggesting they were low-end human beings or somehow to be regarded in a lower light because they're female.

He was simply trying to be funny, and his attempt at humor failed miserably. He has admitted same numerous times, so there's no point in regurgitating that fact.

However, what all this shows is that any disparaging commentary aimed at black people in this country must be given with a disclaimer, or not be given at all. And the truth is, I think his attack on these women -- even in jest -- was way off base. And again, he'll agree. The bottom line is that he said something stupid and is being attacked for doing so. But what he did was use bad judgement, not reveal some bigoted, racist side to his character.

I only wish we lived in a culture that didn't spend so much time poring over the minutae of some dumb comment from a comedian and more time digging into the actual problems we face as a culture.

It's easier to chastise and brand Mr. Imus as a racist and a bigot than actually try and make some progress in any meaningful way.

I guess, however, that's why Reverend Al has his radio show; if things actually improved, he could actually go home, get a regular job, stay off the front page (and the 6 O'Clock News) and we could actually move forward as a culture.

Guess not.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

All The Way Back...

Sitting on a speeding 4 train heading back to Manhattan from Yankee Stadium is no place to compose a worthwhile post about this particular afternoon. However, thanks to Blackberry and a bitchin' game, I've decided to go ahead and do so anyway.

First of all, about two weeks ago we decided to use our season tickets, which we share in a consortium, to hit today's Yankee game against the Baltimore Orioles. My parents invited my cousin, who's about 14, to the game, and asked my sister and I which of us would like to be the fourth. My sister, having figured that Mikey, my cousin, has never been to the Stadium, would be better-suited to have me explaining everything that was happening rather than her, so I agreed to go.

Now having said all that, today was my first trip back to Yankee Stadium since my father got sick in August, 2004. It's not a matter of loving the Yankees any less -- I'm still a Yankee diehard and always will be. Same for him. It's just that getting over to the Stadium and doing as much walking as is necessary in this "post-9/11" world -- meaning with the newish Stadium security policies -- makes it a bit more difficult to navigate the throngs milling around after a game.

Yet we made it, and for the better part of the afternoon we wondered why we bothered. The Yankees debuted a new Japanese pitcher named Kei Igawa who basically had a horrid afternoon. He allowed seven runs in five innings and looked awful; so not only were the Yankees losing big, but by the time he left the game with the score 7-3, many in the crowd opined that his signing was a Yankee mistake.

Despite this, and the fact that the forecast had called for flurries and 40-ish degree weather, we (and most everyone else) stayed. It was cold all afternoon -- in fact, when I got to my seat, my parents and Mikey were already seated, covered in blankets and freezing. The first thing I said to them was "What a day for a ballgame...a football game." The weather cooperated, although it was cold all afternoon and I wore a puffy coat and gloves throughout the game. And once the Yankees shitted up the first half of the game, it was a cold, crappy day at the park.

And then it happened.

They began inching back and managed to get the score to 7-6. Finally, the bottom of the ninth approached and they were able to load the bases. The last Yankee hope -- Mr. Non-Clutch -- Alex Rodriguez approached the plate with most everyone in the Stadium cheering, hoping supporting A-Rod, who has a proclivity (as a Yankee) for not coming through under pressure, would help. He got into a 2-2 count, and with the Yankees one strike away from a long, cold loss, A-Rod connected and blasted a grand slam, walk-off home run into the seats. The Stadium erupted and in an instant, as my Dad, who gets weepy and emotional every time he visits the Stadium, I remembered why I love not just the Yankees but coming to Yankee Stadium.

As we departed, as promised, I got Mikey (and myself) a Yankee hat; his was an adjustable replica of the traditional Yankee hat, while mine is a mesh Yankee batting practice hat (they just came out with them this year and I'd been meaning to pick one up). On top of that, I scored him a pretzel (we didn't have much to eat during the game due to Passover observance) though he had broken it already so a warm pretzel on a cold day was a good way to wrap up the afternoon.

Despite the fact that, between the tickets, the parking, the food and all the other crap topped out at over $450, it was really a great afternoon, and definitely will be one for the long-term memory. And I can only assume that I'll get as weepy and emotional as I get older and return to the Stadium, and hope that it's my wife and my kid(s) with me watching the game and making fun of me, but smiling and treasuring the moment nonetheless.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Back From The Living

Despite it being obvious, I'm appalled at the fact I've let this space get so run down, so infrequently updated and dilapidated, and, frankly, I'll be practicing self-mutilation later. In the meantime, my apologies for the boredom that's remained behind where laughter, exultation, enjoyment and self-fulfillment once reigned.

Now that I've gotten that bullshit out of the way, I do apologize for not stopping by sooner. I think that this most recent delay has been a product of a number of factors: first and foremost, Kaia going to San Fran threw me a bit. No more than usual, perhaps, but since we had spent two great weeks together -- including my birthday -- I had gotten used to her, even under pressure, smiling as I came through the door or making sure I was out of bed early enough to open the office, or even -- and most importantly -- being there even when nothing needed to be said aloud. Overall we are in a difficult place -- or places: we know that there's nothing better for the other out there, but when 3,000 miles and three hours separate us, it's difficult returning back to phone calls and e-mails when the last couple weeks had been anything but. We've conquered this territory before and I'm sure we will continue to do so, but it's frustrating for us both, as I am sure she's as unhappy to be packing and flying back to San Fran as I am in watching her leave. We'll get it right sometime soon -- sometime, perhaps, during her next visit in June, if not my next visit to SF (perhaps even sooner).

Meanwhile, on top of all that, work has been a steamroller rather than a roller-coaster. There are few ups and downs, but since March 15 ended a filing period (with a bang), there's still so much to handle, address and/or juggle it's been like running around in a circle until Boogie drops. Every time I contemplate a five- or seven-day period to head out to San Fran, something -- a client, something missing from a City agency I need to re-produce, etc. -- pops up like a gopher in a Boardwalk arcade. Things are never difficult, per se -- just overloading. Hence the steamroller versus the roller-coaster analogy.

On a positive note, I decided against joining a gym and instead -- finally -- purchased a folding treadmill. I bought one from Smooth Fitness -- the 5.25 -- and while I'm looking forward to getting that bad boy set up in my place, I'm not quite sure, with a Manhattan apartment, it's going to coexist with the rest of my crap. I've been and continue to extricate some of the various collectibles I've retained from the 80's -- like VHS tapes I no longer have the capacity to watch -- and without Kaia's involvement, I've been slowly but surely introducing these useless space-wasting goodies to the garbage chute. While she was here, Kaia was helpful and supportive but stopped short of forcing me to toss anything out; basically, as space increasingly is at a premium -- especially now, with the treadmill on the way, moreso than ever -- I've basically got to revamp everything in the bedroom before I can't fit into my own place.

As for why I didn't join a gym, I figured I would be lazy like the 85% of the population that joins a gym, pays monthly dues and then never bothers using it. I actually had been a member of a gym but things always managed to get in the way, so I finally decided that I wasn't going to be able to wake up in the morning or go to bed at night without seeing the treadmill, knowing it was draining my wallet as well as my bedroom space, so that would insure my guilt would translate into a daily hourly workout. The fact that it folds is sort of a plus (then again, if it didn't, I wouldn't be able to fit it through the door -- in or out -- or myself into my bedroom).

Overall I'm looking forward to getting back to daily workouts and -- with the summer upcoming -- skating on a regular basis. I've actually got a few invites to play hockey in a summer league or two, and since the summer leagues are outdoors, they don't have the negative aspect of the ice hockey game, which is the opportunity for frozen rubber pucks careening towards one's head or chest at 75+ mph. So we shall see.

On top of all that, I'm now a full-on, unabashed Crackberry addict. I started using a Blackberry device through Cingular but returned it due to lousy service, and as of late I've been using a Verizon Wireless Blackberry and more and more I find myself tethered to clients, the office and to the Internet. Remember when you, as an uber-geek, were stuck in the house and one or both members of your parental unit shouted at you to go out and play in the sun? Well now you can, without missing phone calls, e-mails, news or anything else. Blackberry has become an increasingly ubiquitous tool for navigating work and real life: it has a map feature that gives you directions (from one address to another or via GPS, if the Blackberry you're using is so equipped) and basically insures you are never lost, neither geographically nor informationally. Basically, in essence, the thing rocks. And by "the thing," I mean Blackberry service, not the device itself. Back when cell phones were first introduced as portables (as opposed to in-car handsets), cellular service was sorta sketchy. Now, however, you can be sitting on a beach in San Juan, on an air tarmac in Guadalajara, the third-base side of Yankee Stadium and/or a traffic jam on the LIE in mid-July and still be connected. While not all of those situations has the same effect on each of us, keep in mind that always being connected is a double-edged sword. There is no down time -- you are always tied into what's happening around you. That means that if you need to advise a client you need some paperwork, instead of calling them and shmoozing for twenty minutes, you can fire off a quick e-mail and save yourself 15 of those minutes. However, on the other side of the coin, if you somehow don't get around to e-mailing or speaking with a client, there's no excuse; no dog ate your homework, your cell battery didn't die (I've had phones that crap out like cheap Puerto Rican hookers, but the Blackberry battery lasts longer than a Tom Clancy novel), and you either ante up or you crap out. Translation: it's a blessing and a curse, but considering that my production has increased, my cell-phone call usage has dropped and my sanity is, for better or worse, about the same, I have no complaints. As I see more and more people -- regular people, not just suits and celebrities -- whipping out their Blackberries on buses, in City buildings and everywhere else, I am hopeful that one day Blackberry service is the norm rather than the exception.

Finally, I wanted to make sure to wish all my hebe friends a happy Passover, and my non-hebe friends a happy Easter. And to all of those who don't enjoy Matzah or Eggs, tough noogies.

My apologies again for such a delayed return to these pages; I'll do my best to keep the lawn mowed, the plants watered and the interesting commentary -- or what I normally include herein in place thereof -- rolling along.

And one final note: in celebration of the recently-commenced baseball season, these two words should, and shall, suffice: