Many of us are experiencing extreme ups and downs during this pandemic --- understandably. Today's graphics attempt to capture those feelings in four panels.
Stay home. Stay safe. Enjoy the ride.
"The Future Ain't What It Used to Be"
Today would have been Yogi Berra's 95th birthday and it's hard to believe Yogi passed away almost five full years ago (Sept. 22, 2015). The quote above is one of his famous "Yogi-isms" and, while those quotes often lead people to believe Yogi was not the brightest guy in the world, I'd argue the contrary. Like his mentor, Casey Stengel, Berra had a brilliant mind for baseball and the Yogi-isms (like "Stengelese," Casey's obfuscated dialect for news reporters) distracted people from Berra's astute mind for the game. Aside from winning 10 World Series rings and three Most Valuable Player awards, Berra took both the Yankees (1964) and the Mets (1973) to the Series as a Manager. A Hall of Famer, Yogi was a character, to be certain, but also one of the greats in New York Yankees history.
The Tuesday BLAST is not about Yogi Berra. It is about "the future ain't what it used to be," though. As we continue the Siege of Covid-19, the Tales of the Pandemic move on, too. Today's examines how living in proximity for extended periods of time --- without breaks for art classes, tennis matches, interacting with children and grandchildren --- can lead to "interesting" interactions. None of these Tales are autobiographical, of course. The graphic content is based on watching TV, talking to friends, and stories overheard during Senior Hours at the grocery store.
Stay home, stay safe, and enjoy the Tales of the Pandemic.
Tales of the Pandemic
On Friday, May 8th I began Tales of the Pandemic, in cartoon form. Over the weekend I wandered into other territory (Willie Mays and Racism in Georgia/America) but the Tales are back! Here is installment #2 and, barring other "Breaking News," these graphic stories will continue throughout the week. Enjoy.
Stay home and stay safe.
In What World?
In what seems a script from FX’s Justified, we have just now, in May, learned of a murder committed in February! If, somehow, you have missed the details of this case, here’s a summary from the May 9th NY Times:
Ahmaud Arbery loved to run. A former high school football standout, he had been jogging near his home on the outskirts of Brunswick, Ga., when he was shot and killed after being pursued by two white men with guns, according to the authorities.
The men, Travis McMichael, 34, and his father, Gregory McMichael, 64, were charged on Thursday with murder and aggravated assault — two days after a graphic video of the shooting of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old black man, became public, and more than two months after the killing itself.
For anyone left in this nation who doesn’t believe that the deep-seated malevolent racism sprouted in 1619 does not still exist, take note. We surely know that if two armed Black Men had hunted down a White jogger and shot him in the middle of a suburban neighborhood street (in Georgia!) it would not have taken almost three months for a video to surface to prove that such a heinous killing occurred. Yet in a world where we have a President who has preyed upon the soft underbelly of white resentment and a misplaced sense of white victimization, we have a videotape that shows a 21st century lynching!
In what world does this happen:
Gregory McMichael (one of the assailants) told the police that he thought Mr. Arbery looked like a man suspected in several break-ins in the area.
In fact, only one burglary had occurred in that neighborhood since January but, more to the point, in what world does your average citizen pick up his guns and follow someone he believes looks like a suspect??? Is this commonplace in Georgia? Do citizens, on some kind of regular basis, patrol their own neighborhoods, armed and ready to assassinate anyone they believe LOOKS LIKE someone suspected of committing crimes there? This is wrong on so many levels --- and speaks directly to the legacy of white skepticism about Black claims of racism, discrimination, and unspeakable violence throughout our history.
We have seen, over the past decade in particular, video after video of white violence (sometimes exacted by law enforcement officers) against black citizens. This is in keeping with the violence that began with the ownership of Black humans by white people and has continued, unabated over 400 years (1619-2020). As anyone familiar with United States history knows, the Civil War may have ended slavery but it replaced with a vicious apartheid system that has been maintained, at least to some degree, right up to the present day (please note housing patterns, urban public/private school attendance, the Confederate statue & battle flag “debate,” etc.). The Arbery case is just the latest example of why Black people have to give their children “The Talk.”
It took years for me to begin to understand the full weight of the stress, uncertainty, and concern Black citizens have lived with throughout the history of this country --- and I will not claim that I’m even close to deeply understanding what that weight feels like. It does not take a brilliant critical mind to see that much of the support for Donald Trump was based in a backlash against the Presidency of Barack Obama. Rather than smoothing the way to a “post-racial” future, Obama’s election and two terms (Remember Mitch McConnell dedicating himself --- in 2008 --- to making Obama a “one term President?”) incited a segment of the white population of this nation to rally behind an aggrieved malignant narcissist seeking revenge against Obama for being made a laughingstock at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2011. The conspiracy addicted reality show host tapped into a dark and sinister vein of our body politic and continues to ride its wave --- decrying “enemies” and “fakes” when, in fact, he has proven himself to be an enemy of the public good and entirely a fake as a “deal-making” executive. As he watches two thousand citizens die each day, all he cares about is his re-election. And would we be surprised if, at some point in the coming weeks, this “President” declares that the McMichaels are “good people?”
The Arbery case highlights, once again, how awful the stain of institutional racism is but also how empowered this “President” has made “aggrieved” (?) white people feel. The armed “patriots” who stormed the Michigan legislature (“good people”), the Nazi’s who demonstrated in Charlottesville (“good people on both sides”), the sycophant Republicans in the House and Senate who swear their fealty to this dangerous and corrupt fraud, all contribute to not only increasing division in this country but also to perpetuating the now-blatant racism that exists in our nation.
I’m sorry I couldn’t muster a light and cheery Mother’s Day BLAST on this Sunday but, as we shelter-in-place amid a grotesque pandemic and receive more and more information about a murder that occurred more than two months ago I can only feel sad for the situation we find ourselves in. I can’t help thinking about Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother today --- and the loss visited upon her by hateful racism. November cannot come soon enough but I honestly dread seeing how many more of our fellow citizens will succumb to this deadly virus by then, as well as how many more innocent people of color (let’s not forget all the people in cages along our southern border) will also fall victim to the plague of racism that inhabits far too much of our world.
In the meantime, stay home, stay safe, and Happy Mother’s Day.
It’s early May 2020 and the only baseball that’s being played is in Taiwan and South Korea. Major League Baseball is shut down --- maybe until July, if baseball fans are lucky. That’s sad but it’s the reality of our pandemic world. This past week, on May 6th, Willie Mays celebrated his 89th birthday. Younger readers may only know Willie Mays as one of those “old” Hall of Fame ballplayers, like Mickey Mantle, or Sandy Koufax (his contemporaries). Those of us who are old enough to remember Willie in his prime will recall a man who was a sheer joy to watch --- and who may have enjoyed playing baseball more than anyone who ever stepped on the field (see Mike Lupica: https://www.mlb.com/news/willie-mays-goat-baseball). An enduring image of Willie is him dashing around the bases, or after a deep drive to centerfield with his cap flying off!
Before the Giants and Dodgers fled New York City in 1958, one of the great debates each 1950s summer was: who was the best center fielder. The New York Giants had Willie, the New York Yankees had Mickey Mantle, and the Brooklyn Dodgers had Duke Snider. All three players made it into the Hall of Fame and Mays’s statistics eclipse the other two by significant margins (Mantle might have challenged Mays more if he hadn’t been punked by Joe DiMaggio during his rookie year and destroyed his knee on a sprinkler in right-center field --- but that’s a story for another time). If you look at Willie’s final statistics (.302 average, 660 HR’s, 1903 RBIs, 338 stolen bases, 12 Gold Gloves, one batting championship, 4 HR championships, 4 stolen base ltitles, Rookie of the Year 1951, 4 HR’s one game, 2-time MVP and 3283 hits) you only get a glimpse at how great the man was. Henry Aaron’s statistics rival Mays (more hits, more home runs – fewer stolen bases & far fewer Golden Gloves --- however, Aaron played Right Field, competing with Roberto Clemente!) but there is a factor that, to me, makes Mays far and away the most impressive player.
Technically, Willie Mays currently sits 5th on the All-Time Home Run leaders list with 660 (only 4 ahead of Albert Pujols who, given a chance this year, will probably pass him) BUT, I would contend, two of those ahead of him on the list (Barry Bonds with 762 and Alex Rodriguez at 696 are cheaters. In fact, SIX of the top 15 All-Time HR leaders were PED-users. Aside from Bonds & Rodriguez, #9 Sammy Sosa with 609, #11 Mark McGwire with 583, #13 Rafael Palmeiro with 569, and #15 Manny Ramirez with 555 are all known or seriously suspect players. I would also contend that #17, David Ortiz, with 541 HRs, is someone I have serious suspicions about.) As significant, though, is where Willie Mays played baseball throughout his career. From 1951 through 1957 he played in the Polo Grounds in New York City. The original Polo Grounds was an outdoor stadium built for POLO in 1876 in Upper Manhattan (Coogan’s Bluff). The ballpark that Willie Mays played in was the 3rd incarnation of the Grounds (renovated in 1911 and located on West 155th Street in Washington Heights, Manhattan)and served as the home field for not only the New York Giants baseball team but also the New York Football Giants (1925 to 1955), the New York Jets football team (1960-1963) and the New York Mets baseball team (1962-63), the team Mays finished his career with. The Polo Grounds, as a baseball field had the following dimensions:
Left Field: 279 ft (85 m)
Left-Center: 450 ft (137 m)
Center Field: 483 ft (147 m)
Right-Center: 449 ft (136 m)
Right Field: 258 ft (78 m)
Unless a player could manage to consistently pull a baseball right down the line in left or right field (as Mel Ott did for the Giants where 63% of his 511 homers came at the Polo Grounds --- down that 258 foot right field line), you can see that hitting a home run in the Polo Grounds was a Herculean challenge! As bad, when the Giants moved to San Francisco they occupied Candlestick Park. Here’s what you should know about that ball field, according to Wikipedia:
As a baseball field, the stadium was infamous for the windy conditions, damp air and dew from fog, and chilly temperatures. The wind often made it difficult for outfielders trying to catch fly balls, as well as for fans, while the damp grass further complicated play for outfielders who had to play in cold, wet shoes. Architect John Bolles designed the park with a boomerang-shaped concrete baffle in the upper tier in order to protect the park from wind. Unfortunately, it never worked properly. For Candlestick's first 10 seasons, the wind blew in from left-center and out toward right-center. When the park was expanded to accommodate the 49ers in 1971, it was thought that fully enclosing the park would cut down on the wind significantly. Instead, the wind swirled from all directions, and was as strong and cold as before. Giants Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays claimed the wind cost him over 100 home runs. (It may be noted that in the 12 years he played at Candlestick Park, from 1960 through 1971, Mays hit 396 home runs, 203 at Candlestick and 193 on the road.) Nonetheless, he had less difficulty fielding balls in the windy conditions. Mays was used to playing in difficult conditions. He'd begun his career at the Polo Grounds in New York, which featured an enormous outfield.
Despite playing in two ballparks that were horrendous for hitting home runs, Mays spent HALF his playing career on those fields --- and still hit 660 Home Runs.
Mays finished his career in New York, playing for the Mets, and actually had his last Major League at-bat in the 1973 World Series (he grounded into a force play) and hit his 660th home run at Shea Stadium. But anyone who saw Willie in those last two years in New York --- and knew the ballplayer he had been --- was aware they were seeing the shadow of his former self. It reminded me of the opening of W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe (the book behind the movie Field of Dreams). That book opens with the following statement about the ballplayer Shoeless Joe Jackson:
My father said he saw him years later . . . “He’d put on 50 pounds and the spring was gone from his step in the outfield, but he could still hit. Oh, how that man could hit.” (p.3)
On October 15, 1973 Phil Pepe, writing about the World Series in the New York Daily News, noted:
What you can say is that he (Mays) looked every bit of his 42 years and had people feeling sorry for him as he floundered around under two fly balls in the sun. And you can say that he battled back to drive in the go ahead run off Rollie Fingers as the Mets scored four runs and punched out a 10-7 victory over the A's in game No. 2 here Sunday.
Indeed, the “spring was gone from his step” but he could still hit. Despite a somewhat ignominious exit, Willie was, nonetheless, in my mind, the Greatest.
Mickey was a hero with the Yankees, “the Duke” was a hero with Dodgers. The Mick won 7 World Series, Duke won 2, Willie only won once. But he represented everything that is great about baseball --- his fielding, his hitting, his running the bases were second to none and he never gave less than 100%, every time out.
So, in these days without baseball, where we can only see past/old games on ESPN or the YES network or SNY here in the New York Metro area, it doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce and appreciate a player like Willie Mays who may not have gotten the recognition he deserved in his time. Playing on the West Coast (like today’s best player, Mike Trout), he was not Center Stage the way a Mickey Mantle or Derek Jeter or Alex (A-Fraud) Rodriguez --- and that’s a shame. Celebrating Willie’s 89th birthday, I simply want to remember what a great player he was and how he made all of us who saw him play appreciate what a great game baseball can be.
Stay home. Stay safe.
TALES of the PANDEMIC
Fluffy and Flossy are taking a break (until some new material comes along) BUT we've got humans who are also "adapting" to the New World the Pandemic has introduced. Starting today (and continuing next week) we will take a look at some of the "Tales of the Pandemic." None of this material is based on my actual life here in Norwalk with the Lovely Carol Marie, of course, but I think it may strike some responsive chords for at least some folks out there. Here's the first, then, of the new Tales of the Pandemic. The first two panels are about the "Thermostat Wars" and the second two are "The Remote Control Wars." Enjoy.
Thanks for reading. Stay home. Stay safe.
Back to Fluffy and Flossy! This may be the final installment --- or the last installment for a while. If readers have suggestions for other "situations" F & F might find themselves in, please leave a comment here or on FB or send an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it might get turned into a new F/F "adventure" (and, of course, you will be credited with the idea!). Today's pictures show, once again, what a patient dog Jack was. The one on the left was taken in Fairbanks, Alaska (2004) and the one on the right (sporting a "Blind Willie's Blues Club" logo) was taken in Brooklyn, NY (2008).
Stay Home. Stay Safe. Thanks for reading.
It's Cinco de Mayo and we're still "sheltering-in-place." Yup. It's definitely getting to all of us but until there is extensive testing, contact tracing, etc. we have to adapt. Just as Fluffy and Flossy are learning. Today's Dog Photos are our favorite West Coast pups --- Badger, on the left, and Wallace and Gromit on the right. They all live together in Fairfax, CA (Marin County) with their pet humans, Bill Meyer and Stori Oates, two of our favorite humans, too (Wallace and Gromit are brothers --- and Gromit is deaf, which only makes him cuter and more endearing. Badger happens to only have three legs, which doesn't seem to faze him at all). Basically, we're ALL figuring out how to deal with the situation we find ourselves in, humans, canines, felines, et al.
Stay home. Stay safe.
BACK TO THE DOGS
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings/killings and we should, of course, remember that. But Friday's BLAST discussed the MayDay weekend from 1970 so I thought I'd return to the ongoing Quarantine Adventures of Fluffy and Flossy, everybody's favorite cartoon dogs.
Stay Home. Stay Safe.
(The photos are the ever-patient Jack the Dog who always allowed me to "dress him up" for pictures!)
Losing a Year
As we begin a new month sheltering-in-place I began to reflect on what it will mean to lose a year of our lives --- and how one’s age will affect your perspective on this pandemic. While it is clear that Covid-19 has hit older people, Black people, and men the hardest, it is taking its toll on everyone. Even if you are lucky enough to avoid contracting this disease, the trade-off may be losing a year of your life. I know, it’s only been about two months, and there are those who think the Federal retreat from “stay-at-home” orders means there’s “light at the end of the tunnel.” I am going to err on the side of safety and project that, even if we emerge from our enforced “hibernation” by the end of the summer (and re-start schools in September, say), our world will probably not be anything like what it was until after (and may be well after) New Year’s Day, 2021. (Which causes me to wonder how many infected people were in Times Square this past New Year’s Eve and did that contribute to NYC becoming our epicenter?).
As someone about to turn 71, losing a year is significant. After all, how many have I got left, realistically? I’m not trying to be fatalistic here, but realistic. Even if I’m lucky enough to have 20 more years, one of those years is 5%!! But it’s also losing a season of playing tennis with my friends (who are also mostly “seniors”), it’s a year of not going to Yankee Stadium (and wondering if I/we ever will go again), it’s a year of missing all those Little League and Junior League baseball games Carol’s grandsons would be playing this summer. It’s a year of, possibly, not seeing a granddaughter start Kindergarten! And what about all the high school and college seniors who don’t get their proms and graduation ceremonies? Even though we Seniors are hardest hit regarding this virus, the ramifications for every age group is significant and deep.
The Center for Disease Control (C.D.C.) divides its analytical categories thusly: under 20, 20 to 45, 45 to 54, 54 to 64, 65 to 74, and over 75. I would contend that “under 20” has sub-categories, based on school-age (pre-school, elementary, middle, high) because those categories are highly significant social groups. Let’s look at what this pandemic --- and its potential to steal a year --- means to each of these groups, starting with the oldest and working backwards.
For the sake of brevity, I’m going to combine the “65 to 74” and “over 75” groups, generalizing this as those who are retired. As I noted, losing a year for this group becomes significant because you don’t know how many years you have left. And you don’t know how many years your friends and relatives in this age group have left. But it also means losing out on some of those “benefits” that come with retirement. Just before the country shut down, I was beginning to plan a West Coast trip for the Lovely Carol Marie and myself. This means not traveling and visiting friends (many of whom are younger than we are) and places we love. I’ve already mentioned the sports events we’d miss but there’s also those “landmarks” in younger relative’s lives that will be missed by grandparents (we’ve already had one “online” birthday party and anticipate more to come). CBS Sunday morning interviewed Henry Winkler this a.m. and when he talked about how much it pained him not to be able to hug his grandchildren, the Lovely Carol Marie filled up with tears and agreed wholeheartedly. Not being able to “check-in” with my Mother, who resides in an Assisted Living facility in Stroudsburg, PA is another loss --- and will she survive this pandemic? All those “what if’s?” haunt people in the 65 and over group.
If we consider those 45 to 64 as one group what price will they pay if they lose a year? Many of these people are in the prime of their lives and careers, with families full of vibrant children. Even if they are “working from home,” their lives are altered significantly. If they have to assume “home schooling” as part of their responsibilities, that’s another huge challenge. The simple routines of daily life have been radically altered --- and what will the long-term consequences of those shifts be? How many businesses will begin to expect their personnel to work from home from this point on? What about the 45 to 64 group who are small business owners? Will they receive the government support they need to withstand this pandemic? And what of their employees? We have lived through more than a decade long “Boom” period but, typically of the U.S. economy, we are now staring a massive “Bust” in the face --- and what will the effect be on the 45 to 64 year old’s?
Then we have the 20 to 44 year old cohort. This, of course, covers a wide range of folks. We have those who are just finishing (or approaching the end of) college, as well as those who are in “starter” career and those who are just starting to “hit their stride” in a profession. There are also those who are now “established” in their chosen field. This group is our future. These people are just embarking on their lives (marriage, children, etc.) or just “finding their groove” (as parents, professionals, etc.). What happens to them if they lose a year? It may change their personal lives (possibly for the better --- spending more time at home with spouses and kids) --- and it may have consequential results on the professional lives of many of this age group. And, as with all the age groups: what will the psychological impact be on these people and their families?
In the “under 20” cohort, losing a year has a wide range of consequences, of course. Consider first that most of this group (age 5 through age 20) has not gone to school since mid-March and may not return in September (we can hope it is otherwise, of course, but we can’t be sure). What will the long-term effects of this be? What of those students who may not have the technology or broadband to effectively receive “home schooling?” What will it mean if children don’t start Kindergarten in September? Or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th grade? What becomes of all those middle schoolers who have had to complete this academic year at home --- what if they don’t return to classrooms in September? High Schoolers? The high school athletes, musicians, actors, dancers, et al? The rising Seniors? The “all important” Junior year? How soon will Sophomores be able to make up for missed time? What of “entering” Freshman? And then there are all those who are supposed to start --- or continue --- their college careers!
I’m truly hoping I’m wrong about all of this. I’m hoping that somehow a vaccine miraculously appears sooner rather than later--- and we head back to “normal” lives by the Fall (or late Fall). I hope the economic consequences will be less devastating than some of the current projections. I hope that younger people are not damaged or scarred deeply by this experience and come out healthier and stronger for surviving the ordeal. But I have to say that in my darker moments, I consider what it might be like to lose a year of our collective life. However, even in those dark moments, I never believe that losing a year of our collective life will at all cause us to lose a year of our souls --- and that’s what I believe will ultimately carry us through, together.
Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands.