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.
“And you are there.”
(Fluffy and Flossy have the long weekend off)
Older readers may remember a 1950s television program, You Are There. According to Wikipedia it “blended history with modern technology, taking an entire network newsroom on a figurative time warp each week reporting the great events of the past. “ Hosted by Walter Cronkite, it dramatically recreated historic events as if they were recorded “live” for television --- and each program ended with the host saying: "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... all things are as they were then, and you were there." I remember being fascinated by the show as a kid and maybe that explains my enduring fascination with history to this day --- this Mayday, 2020. As I flipped our calendar from April to May this morning, I noted that I had written “Parker 25th Anniversary Celebration” for this long weekend. Indeed, it was 25 years ago --- a quarter century --- that we started our Charter School in Devens, Massachusetts. While a quarter century is a good stretch of time, a half century is historic. And one half-century ago this weekend (and its following Monday) marks a time in U.S. history that has, indeed, made the high school textbooks.
In the Spring of 1970 the United States was in turmoil --- severely divided by big issues: the Vietnam War, Earth Day, Feminism, Gay Rights. Nixon’s Cambodian incursion starting on April 29th ignited a rash of protests and “strikes” on college campuses around the nation --- several of which brought incidents of government violence against peaceful protesters that went above and beyond the “police riot” at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August of 1968. Noted in most history books today is the Kent State Shooting, which occurred on Monday, May 4, 1970 --- 50 years ago Monday. And here’s where history and my life intersect in a big way.
If you are familiar with that period of time you will remember The Chicago Eight (later, The Chicago Seven) --- the group of left-wing “radicals” who were charged with conspiring to incite the riots at the Democratic Convention in August 1968. The seven Conspirators were: Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner. The 8th Conspirator, whose charges were dropped, was Bobby Seale --- the co-founder, with Huey Newton, of the Black Panthers in 1966. It was clear that the U.S. government, led by F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, was intent on eradicating the Panthers. Once the charges against Seale were dismissed in Chicago, the government hit him with a murder conspiracy charge in New Haven, Connecticut. It was obvious to the local New Haven Black Panther Chapter, as well as the college students in New Haven (particularly those at Yale), that the case against Seale was bogus --- and Yale went on “strike” by April 15th, in support of the Panthers and Seale. According to the New Haven Museum website:
the president of Yale, Kingman Brewster, and his staff decided that they would best avoid violence by opening the campus to all of the potential protesters. Local, non-local, Black, White, it didn’t matter. What mattered was a gathering that was peaceful, honest, open to all opinions and not allowed to be dragged into a violent conflict threatening the safety of the Elm City. (newhavenmuseum.org)
Brewster was brilliant throughout this crisis and, when asked at a Press Conference, how long he anticipated Yale being on “Strike” he said: The duration of this hiatus is intentionally ambiguous,” thanked the reporters and left the podium. Brilliant! As significant, in mid-April, was the decision by the Panthers, with strong support from the striking Yale students, to hold a “Free Bobby! Free the Panthers!” rally in New Haven over Mayday weekend (a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
The week prior to Mayday, many of us prepared for thousands of protestors arriving in New Haven by the weekend. The Chicago Seven committed to coming, along with Dr. Benjamin Spock and Jean Genet (if you don’t know them, use “the Google”). Brewster and Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin made statements in support of the student strikers and the Black Panthers (angering many Yale alumni!). According to Wikipedia:
As tensions mounted, Yale officials sought to avoid deeper unrest and to deflect the real possibility of riots or violent student demonstrations. Sam Chauncey has been credited with winning tactical management on behalf of the administration to quell anxiety among law enforcement and New Haven's citizens, while Kurt Schmoke, a future Rhodes Scholar, mayor of Baltimore, MD and Dean of Howard University School of Law, has received kudos as undergraduate spokesman to the faculty during some of the protest's tensest moments. Ralph Dawson, a classmate of Schmoke's, figured prominently as moderator of the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY).
Kurt and Ralph were members of the Class of 1971, reflecting the significant role our class played in organizing and facilitating the “strike” as well as the Mayday weekend protests. “We were there.” And so was the National Guard --- in full battle gear, including carbines. We never believed they would use those guns --- and then Kent State happened. It suddenly dawned on us: Those guns were loaded! Despite being tear-gassed and pepper-gassed, I never thought those National Guard troops would ever open fire on protesting students. But there it was --- on the 6 o’clock news Monday night, May 4, 1970 --- 4 dead. As shocking to us was: A Gallup Poll taken the day after the shootings reportedly showed that 58 percent of respondents blamed the students, 11 percent blamed the National Guard and 31 percent expressed no opinion. (Wikipedia) Such was the division in our country 50 years ago.
It was “interesting”(?), then, to see armed protestors charging into the Michigan legislature yesterday. Here’s a quote to reflect on from the Sacramento Bee (note the date):
May 2, 1967: Two dozen armed Negroes entered the state Capitol at noon today and 10 made their way to the back of the Assembly Chamber before they were disarmed and marched away by the state police.
None of the (white) armed citizens in Michigan were “disarmed and marched away by the state police” yesterday. And it doesn’t seem that the F.B.I. or any other federal agency is investigating who these agitators are (possibly because they were encouraged by the Chief Executive to “Liberate Michigan!”?). There are no campus protests, of course, in our current sheltering-in-place --- but we haven’t seen the kind of large-scale protesting against Trump’s administration like those we saw against Nixon --- and who is the more corrupt, more immoral person?
It’s 50 years since the Mayday strikes and protests. I’m about to turn 71 and realize I was only 21 then. We were aware of living in a significant historic period in the moment --- just as we are today. Extremely different circumstances, to be sure, but historic, nonetheless. Those of us who remember the Mayday weekend won’t be around in 50 years to discuss the pandemic --- but hopefully others will be around to relate some first-hand, primary source accounts of what happened --- and why.
Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands!
I may have mentioned in earlier BLASTs that my brother and I “grew up with dogs.”
Our father loved dogs (our mother, less so) and, from the time we were little, there was always at least one dog in the family (not necessarily “in the house,” as I’ll explain). The photo on the left shows me, maybe around age 3, with the first dog I remember, “Rusty.” There actually was an earlier dog, when I was born, named “Slipper,” but I have no recollection of her. My father always got female dogs --- he thought they tended to “stay home” more. His belief was that male dogs “took off” whenever they got the scent of a female in heat. However, Dad never got our dogs spayed --- resulting in two of them having litters of puppies. Rusty was the first and there’s a sad story attached to that.
Rusty got pregnant when I was in kindergarten at the South Bay School in Babylon, Long Island, New York. I remember being very excited when the puppies were born. Coming home after school, I rushed down into the basement to see the new pups, only to find pulpy, bloody carcasses strewn about the place! Rusty was cowering in a corner, snarling and emitting a guttural growl, baring her teeth. Our Mom, right behind me (my brother would have been about age 2 and couldn’t navigate the stairs), shrieked, grabbed me, and trundled back upstairs, sending me before her. I don’t remember much after that, except that Rusty was gone, the basement was cleaned up and we soon had a beautiful German Shepard named “Tara” (which means “Tower of Strength”--- and was also the name of Scarlett O’Hara’s mansion in Gone with the Wind). Tara didn’t last long because she reached up on the kitchen counter and ate a roast my mother had left out for dinner. After that we moved to Bay Shore (with a short layover in Bethpage as construction on our new home was completed) and acquired a new string of dogs. The first I remember was a mutt named “Gypsy,” like Rusty, she had a litter. Unlike Rusty, she didn’t kill her pups and we actually kept two --- the ones pictured on the right. And here’s where the story takes a bizarre turn. Those two puppies were named “Amos” and “Andy.” And that’s a story unto itself.
Most Baby Boomers probably recall the Amos’n’Andy television program that aired throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s --- and was finally taken off the air because of NAACP protests (they described the show as "a gross libel of the Negro and distortion of the truth" – wiki). In fact, the show had originated on radio in the late 1920’s with the dialogue of the main characters (as well as 168 others!) being voiced by two white men ---Freeman Gosden and Charles Correl. The Black characters followed stereotypes that had originated in the Minstrel shows of the 19th century. Basically, the show was about:
Naïve but honest Amos was hard-working, and, after his marriage to Ruby Taylor in 1935, also a dedicated family man. Andy was a gullible dreamer with overinflated self-confidence who tended to let Amos do most of the work. Their Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge leader, George "Kingfish" Stevens, would often lure them into get-rich-quick schemes or trick them into some kind of trouble. Algonquin J. Calhoun, was a somewhat crooked lawyer added to the series in 1949, six years after its conversion to a half-hour situation comedy. Also in the cast were William Lewis Taylor, Ruby's well-spoken, college-educated father and Willie "Lightning" Jefferson, a slow-moving Stepin Fetchit–type character. The Kingfish's catchphrase, "Holy mackerel!", entered the American lexicon. (wiki)
I remember watching Amos’n’Andy as a kid (early elementary age) but not at all once the 1960’s emerged. Our parents, on the other hand, had grown up with the radio program and did not see it at all as racist. Maybe that’s hard to believe, using our 2020 lens, but let me explain.
My parents were extremely apolitical people --- Mom being more liberal than Dad, a World War II veteran. They also grew up in a world that took segregation, especially the red-lined New York style segregation, as a kind of “natural way of the world.” We were raised to treat everyone equally and never heard the N-word” . . . therefore, they just thought it was funny to name these two puppies Amos and Andy, after one of their favorite programs. Before scoffing at the notion that this wasn’t, somehow, racist, let me relate a story. By the time I was in college I was already a member of the NAACP and had become a very active anti-war demonstrator, etc. Our Dad often called me “Crusader Rabbit” (after a cartoon show we watched as kids --- TV was very big in the Johnson household --- if you look closely at the Amos’n’Andy photo you’ll notice TWO television sets in the background!). Our parents were not particularly reflective people and this became most obvious to me when I had a conversation about movies with our Dad sometime during my sophomore year --- and it explains how their naming the puppies Amos and Andy was a pretty naïve action.
Our Dad and I were talking about “race relations” (it was probably 1968) and I was trying to explain how embedded racism was in the good ol’ U.S.A. As we discussed the topic we somehow got on to the subject of movies --- and, in what I now see as a “teachable moment” --- I latched on to two of what I knew were my Dad’s favorite movies: Tarzan and Gunga Din --- two very, very popular movies from the 1930s. I asked Dad if he found it at all strange that Tarzan, a White guy, was the “King of the Jungle” in Africa. And did he find it at all odd that the villains were very often the “Native Africans” --- Black people? I could see, as we were sitting there, that this was clearly the first time those thoughts had ever crossed his mind. In continuing, I brought up Gunga Din. If you are not familiar with the film (starring Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Sam Jaffe as “Din”), it is based on a Rudyard Kipling poem (Kipling, of course, also wrote “The White Man’s Burden” and was the poet laureate of White Imperialism). In it, the stars are British officers putting down a revolt in India, let by a cult, The Thugees (where our word “thug” comes from btw). Again, I asked Dad if he had ever thought about the fact that the “heroes” of the movie were imperialists who had taken over a country (India) and were imposing their laws and will on the Native inhabitants. Again, I could see that Dad had never even considered this. He thought it was a rollicking action adventure movie and just loved Cary Grant’s performance, in particular.
The point here is simple: White people in America have grown up (to this day!) believing there is a “certain order” to the world (with Whites on Top) that just “is” --- and shouldn’t be questioned. If one is taught to think critically and reflectively you can see through that false construct. But the U.S. of A. has institutional racism embedded in its bones. It’s been there since 1619 when the first slaves were brought to Virginia. Consider a world that was built to favor Whites at every turn, built to exclude non-White people (Blacks, of course, but Latinx, Native Americans, Asians, et al)whenever and wherever it could. That’s the world our parents --- neither reflective nor critically thinking --- grew up in. Even though Canarsie, where they grew up, had the admirable “Holmes family” (“good Blacks,” in my parent’s vernacular) they didn’t live in the Italian dominated neighborhood my parents grew up in. Even though our Father worked with “colored guys,” he certainly didn’t go out and have a beer with them! While my brother and I didn’t grow up in a household that was blatantly racist we did grow up with parents who simply accepted that the world was organized around White Supremacist principles --- and we were simply working-class people who couldn’t “rock the boat.” As a result, we had puppies named Amos and Andy --- something my brother and I didn’t really think (cringe) about until several years later --- long after those puppies were gone and we had lived through “Coby”( the beagle who lived outside ) and then “Coffee.”
That’s not to excuse the naming of those puppies. It’s simply an explanation. All that said, here’s today’s installment of Fluffy and Flossy. Tomorrow, all things working out, the BLAST will simply direct you to a Facebook page where a video of an original Blues song will be performed. In the meantime:
Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands.
The Story Continues . . .
Today's photos are woefully fuzzy. Sorry about that. They are digital pictures of old photographs. The one on the left was taken in Port Chester, NY around 1980, just after I had "acquired" not only Radar (whose back we see) but also had gotten Coffee, who was about 14 years old when this picture was taken. She had been the Johnson family dog starting around 1966, just before I left for college. When she was about 7, our Dad wanted a new pup (a phase-in as an older dog "phased out") --- and I procured Radar. By the time Mom and Dad moved to an apartment in Bay Shore, I had acquired Beau (picture at right, taken in Boston around 1985 or '86) --- a 120 pound Golden Retriever (sadly, this is the only photo I have been able to dig up of Beau and it's not his most flattering). Coffee died in 1983 (age 17) and Beau passed away in the spring of 1987 (age 12). Radar made the return to NYC with me in the summer of 1987 and lived to the age of 17, passing away in 1990. That said, here's today's installment of Fluffy and Flossy.
Such Good Dogs . . .
This is the continuing saga of Fluffy and Flossy, two canines caught in the new "sheltering-in-place" culture we now all share. Today's installment illustrates the "new world" that our two pups have to adjust to.
Stay home. Wash your hands! Stay safe.
A note on the dog photos: Yesterday's featured dogs were Jack, the greatest dog of all time (a 115 pound Black Labrador & my constant companion in Providence, Fairbanks, New Haven, and NYC for 12 years.) and Maxwell, the dumbest dog on God's green Earth (he was picked up as a stray in New Haven in the fall of 1969 and met his inevitable end on the Hutchinson River Parkway in 1975). Today's dogs are Radar (on the left) --- who it is believed was Maxwell's offspring, spawned in Hamilton, New York in the spring of 1973. I "inherited" Radar when my parents' sold the house my brother and I grew up in and moved to an apartment complex that didn't allow dogs. She lived to be 17, passing away in 1990 in New York City (having lived in Port Chester, NY, Boston, MA, and NYC). On the right today is the dearly departed Haley, who was "adopted" in August of 2012 when our Mom went into Assisted Living. She grew up in Stroudsburg, PA, lived in NYC, and passed away in Norwalk, CT.