The "New Normal"
I've already written about my concerns with referring to "the new normal." Nonetheless, here's a graphic depiction of how I'm seeing it.
Stay home. Stay Safe.
First, I want to thank everyone who sent Birthday wishes yesterday --- each and every one was greatly appreciated. I only wish I had the time to correspond at length with each person who sent a birthday greeting. Maybe, over the course of this year I'll find a way to touch base with all the lovely and considerate souls who reached out. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.
As for today's BLAST, we're looking at how sheltering-in-place has resulted in a variety Unintended Consequences. Here are just a few.
Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands!
One of the unique shifts in our daily lives during this pandemic has been the creation of "Senior Hours" by local grocery stores. Because we Seniors are among the "most vulnerable," the thought is that by providing "special hours" in the store, it will help protect Seniors from contamination. No doubt a good idea. However, Stop and Shop, our personal (nearby and favorite) grocery store, used to open at 7:00 a.m. now, in consideration of "Seniors," they have instituted "special hours" for those 60 years old and above: from 6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
For about 6 weeks now I have going to the Wilton and Norwalk Stop and Shops, starting at 6:00 a..m. on Monday or Tuesday mornings, availing myself of the "Senior Hours." As the pandemic isolation has dragged on, I have found that I'm in the store with fewer and fewerSeniors. AND, recently, I believe I have observed some, at best, borderline "Seniors" shopping in the Norwalk store! Have they no shame?
Having gotten used to a "relaxed" rise-and-shine schedule since retiring (sleeping until 8 or even 9:00 a.m.), this shift back to the 5:30 a.m. alarm has been a little unsettling, to be sure, but having relatively free rein in the grocery store has been (almost) fun and, except for the shortage of certain products (disinfectants, paper products, etc.), I realize that what used to be a daily routine (picking up groceries) can be done once a week and, aside from the "sticker shock," is actually quite practical. Not being able to run to the store for an impulse buy or to pick up something you may not really need has provided some new insights into my own behavior --- and probably for the better.
Stay home. Stay safe. Enjoy the weekend.
p.s. - for those Billy Joel fans, I apologize but please note: aside from "New York State of Mind," I am distinctly not a fan of America's Paul McCartney" (who I am also not a big fan of!).....
The 1969-70 academic year was 50years ago --- a half century. And we have been celebrating various “landmark” days this Spring (Earth Day, the Kent State killings, etc.). I have already chronicled the May Day weekend in New Haven, but what I would like to do today is selectively revisit my 1969-1970 year at Yale. As members of Morse residential College, most of my friends and I had single rooms --- a unique situation for college students in that era. Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges were mirror images of one another, designed by the brilliant Eero Saarinen (The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Dulles Airport in D.C., theTWA Terminal at JFK Airport in NYC, as well as Ingalls Rink --- the “Yale Whale” --- in New Haven). Saarinen’s take was Modernist (sometimes called "Brutalist") and unique. Yale architecture requires BLAST of its own to do Saarinen and his creations justice. For today, in order to introduce the Tales of the Pandemic graphic art, I am only going to share a few memories of that year in Morse College.
The Fall of 1969 saw an epochal change at Yale University: women were now members of the undergraduate student body. 250 “transfers” had been admitted from colleges all around the nation to join the Classes of 1971 and 1972 and the incoming Class of 1973 admitted 250 women among their 1200+ Freshmen (creating a ratio of about 4000 to 500! These were not only smart but also very tough young women). The Freshmen women were all housed in Vanderbilt Hall on the Old Campus (a building that had been the Freshmen dorm for me and some of my closest friends --- all members of Morse and Stiles Colleges). The archway into Vanderbilt (above right) was “retro-fitted” with glass walls and doorways to “protect” the young women, with a Security Guard sitting there to admit visitors (the Upper Class women were assigned to “entryways” in the various Residential Colleges). Needless to say, there was a steady stream of upper-class men/boys to Vanderbilt Hall, causing my close friend, future house-mate, and philosophy major Karl Pavlovic, to note: “I’ll wait until the dust clears” before acquainting himself with any of our new school-mates.
As significant for me that Fall was finding an abandoned brindle mutt on York Street, just outside Hungry Charlie’s, our burger-joint hang-out. I “adopted” the puppy, thinking if his owner saw me walking him around New Haven he would reclaim the dog. No one did. I was now faced with naming the pup. It happened that early-on in my ownership of the stray, a group of us were summoned to John Lissauer’s room because he had, magically, acquired a pre-release reel-to-reel tape recording of what would become The Beatles White album (John, of course, would go on to produce Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, as well as many other artists). Several of us jammed into John’s room and listened as the new Beatle creations emanated from his speakers and, suddenly, there was Maxwell’s Silver Hammer --- and my new dog had his name! We all agreed: Maxwell it was --- and he continued to be my dog until his untimely passing (on the Hutchinson River Parkway) in 1974.
It was also in the Spring of 1970, as the politics in New Haven were heating up, that a group of us were sitting around, “shooting the breeze” (as my Dad used to call it), when I opined: “Maybe I’ll get into politics after we graduate.” The room fell silent. Then, Jim Moyer (“Moyers,” as we referred to him), looked at me and, in his wonderfully measured tones --- which I’m sure he used more than once as a Federal Magistrate years later ---said: “Your life wouldn’t stand scrutiny.” Moyers had briefly been my roommate during our sophomore year (as we waited to be assigned single rooms) and was well aware of my sketchy “dating” life and my excursions into psychedelia. He was, of course, quite correct. And that leads to today’s BLAST. In these days of “sheltering-in-place,” where we are living in 24/7 close quarters with each other, we are under closer scrutiny than ever before --- with some comic results.
Hope you enjoy this take on scrutiny. Stay home, stay safe.
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.