Elster's World

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wots, Uh...the Deal?

Besides the fact that this is simply a great song, I love the fact that it can be understood on many different level - including (i) a love story, (ii) a lost soul's search for peace and (iii) (at least for me) a plaintive cry to the Lord for a return of the Jewish Holy Land (yes I recognize that this last one is a major stretch, but it works for me).

Note: Wots, Uh...the Deal? by Pink Floyd can be found on the album Obscured by Clouds.

Heaven sent the promised land
Looks alright from where I stand
'Cause I'm the man on the outside looking in

Waiting on the first step
Show where the key is kept
Point me down the right line
because it's time

To let me in from the cold
Turn my lead into gold
Cause there's chill wind blowing in my soul
And I think I'm growing old

Flash the readies
Wot's...uh the deal?
Got to make to the next meal
Try to keep up with the turning of the wheel.

Mile after mile
Stone after stone
Turn to speak but you're alone
Million miles from home you're on your own

So let me in from the cold
Turn my lead into gold
Cause there's chill wind blowing in my soul
And I think I'm growing old

Fire bright by candlelight
With her by my side....
And if she prefers we will never stir again

Someone said the promised land
And I grabbed it with both hands
Now I'm the man on the inside looking out

Hear me shout "Come on in,
What's the news?
where you been?"
'Cause there's no wind left in my soul
And I've grown old

Sunday, February 26, 2006

We're Going Down

There are many themes which permeate the world of music - love, hate, death and life - to name just a few. These themes flutter in and out of almost every artist’s collection of music.

One such concept that I have recently stumbled across is a vertical one. Specifically, rock and roll artists’ fascination with going down.

Sometimes it’s simply directional. Jimi Hendrix tells us that Joe is going way down South, way down South to Mexico in order to flee the law after killing his woman. Dylan is goin’ to Acapulco, goin’ on the run. The Men at Work come from a land Down Under. And Creedence Clearwater Revival tells us that Willie and the Po' Boys are playing down on the corner. Let’s not forget Paul Simon and Julio down by the schoolyard. Zeppelin advises us that if you’re goin’ down South they go no work to do if you don’t know about Chicago. The Charlie Daniel’s Band even let us in on that time the Devil went down to Georgia. Zeppelin sings of being down by the seaside in a moving ode to nature. Alison Krausz is going down to the river to pray in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

“Take me down” is a very popular refrain in music as well. Take me down to the underground, why oh why, there is no light, asks Smashing Pumpkins. Take me down to the Paradise City where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, scream Guns N’ Roses. And dammit, you better do what they say. Take me down, take me down from the shelf above your head, pleads Pink Floyd at Ibza Bar. Phil Collins and Alabama both have songs called Take Me Down (at least according to Google they do).

Oh, going down can certainly be to the Bad Place - And I'm going down, all the way down…I'm on the highway to hell – is AC/DC’s message of the damned. It also can be a bad thing, like Talking Head’s burning down the house.

Sometimes we beg. Don’t let the sun go down on me (Elton John) and Don’t let me down (the Beatles). Sometimes it’s a state of mind. I’m down, I’m really down. How can you laugh, when you know I’m down (The Beatles). Sometimes we threaten. I won’t back down, warns Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

But it also is slang for what’s happening. Stop hey what’s that sound everyone look what’s going down (Buffalo Springfield gets props for this use).

It can also be part of a selfless act for another. Like a bridge over troubled waters, I will lay me down say Simon and Garfunkle.

And oh, the inspiration it gives us. I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down, exclaims Chumbawumba.

Sometimes you have to dig and dig until you hit the word, like in Arlo Guthrie’s classic, "Alice’s Restaurant” We didn't find one (a garbage dump) . Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pileis better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw ours down. But damn it’s so worth it when you finally get there.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Emasculation Proclamation

Emasculated. It’s no longer just an obscure, meaningless word for me. It now actually describes what I have become. Allow me to explain.

Within 24 hours of Isaiah Thomas turning the Knicks into an even bigger joke than they were prior to that, my wife made me “spend quality time” with her by flipping between Dancing with the Stars and Female Long Program Ice Skating tape delayed from Torino. When I already knew what happened. Is this grounds for divorce? Can I get a ruling here?

But just to show what a good guy I am, I didn’t tell her that Sasha Cohen fell on her first two jumps until the split second before she was going to actually jump – at which point I yelled “OH!” before anything actually happened. Hey, when you are being emasculated, you need to make your own good time.

And don’t even get me started on Dancing with the Stars. If you think I’m emasculated, what the Hell is up with Jerry Rice?

Well, I’m off to eat red meat and play football – and try to pick up the shattered remains of my masculinity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bloodbath in the Meadowlands

The New York Jets today announced that they have cut ties with several players including Ty Law, Jason Fabini, Jay Feidler and Jerald Sowell. They have also announced that they have re-structured the contract of Hall of Fame bound running back Curtis Martin. They also cut Barry Gardner, Giant disappointment Lance Legree and Hank Williams Jr., oops I mean Harry Williams Jr. Or whatever his name is.

All in all, these moves were not particularly surprising. Joe does not like the Sowell or Feidler moves. I don't understand why it was a given that Feidler had to be gone (he can certainly be a spot starter in this league) but I can live with Sowell's release. I think the Jets spent the second half of last season training second year player BJ Askew for this role. Askew can block and he can catch out of the backfield; both key components in the Jet offensive scheme. As for Law, the Patriots can have him and his penchant for taking huge illegal contact penalties in crunch time. I'll take Justin Miller and his learning curve. It's going to be a rough season anyway.

Negotiations continue with Chad Pennington and the staredown will probably continue until the very last minute. Perhaps the Jets rushed to cut their players to show Pennington how serious they are about shaping the future. I have a soft spot for Pennington. I hope he takes a cut and I hope he comes back and can start for the Jets at some point. I like his toughness (not to be confused with his fragility) and I think he is a good leader (though the fact that he got thrown under the bus by one of his linemen speaks against that).

In other sports news, the Knicks traded athletic but offensively challenged Trevor Ariza and the corpse of Penny Hardaway for Stevie Franchise. I have to think this through more carefully, but it strikes me that the Knicks now have unabashed gunners at the 1, 2, 3 and 5. All they need to do is trade for a ball hawking power forward, play the game with five balls at once and they will be jamming once again.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The President's Day Weekend Suite

I don’t want to work
I just wanna bang on the drum all day

I am a very big fan of long weekends. Not only does it allow me to actually enjoy my Sundays (as opposed to getting the pre-work jitters at 3:00 and letting that flush the rest of the day for me) but it shortens the following week. Now I’m walking in on a Tuesday and if I can fight my way through it, we are into the midway point already. Solid karma all around.

I’m so tired, I hardly slept a wink.
I’m so tired, my mind is on the blink.

Shabbos (Saturday for the uncircumcised) was very nice. We spent Friday night setting up the table for our lunch company. After we were through, I sat down with my Artscroll Baba Basra and learned for about an hour (I have committed to learning the first three Perakim of Baba Basra in the next 6 months so I need to get rolling). I got about a daf done (about half of what I set out to do) before tiredness washed over me like a wave. Suffice it to say, many hours of sleep followed.

Saturday, Saturday Saturday
Saturday (night’s) all right

The lunch company went well. We had some new people who moved into the neighborhood, some neighbors who just moved back into their home after a fire took it last year (no one was hurt thank the Lord) and some new friends from our shul (synagogue). In honor of McAryeh, the menu:

Mushroom and Romain salad
Garlic Chicken
Silver tip roast
Potato and squash kugel
Cholent
Cole Slaw
Spiced up cauliflower
Etc.

In short, there was a lot of food. It was nice and the crowd seemed to get along well. Of course, by the time all was said and done, it was too late for the shabbos afternoon nap. Needless to say, this made me tired all over again. Didn’t do much once shabbos was over but still managed to get to bed way too late for my own good.

It’s the sport of kings
Better than diamond rings
Football

Sunday morning football was cold. Very cold. Elster set a personal record by wearing four layers on his top half. As I have recent dropped about 12 pounds, I was still able to actually move around. The game was sucky but they can’t all be great. It’s tough to throw, catch or grab flags when your hands can barely move. Still, I love to run around and play football every Sunday. Makes me feel like a kid. By the way, did I mention that I will be 33 in under three weeks?


We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.

We took the kids and went to my parents for Sunday night dinner. My dad barbequed. My wife was very impressed until I reminded her that my father is impervious to cold. If he was ever sentenced to life in the Siberian Gulag, you would find him there coatless and sweating. My sister, brother in law and their 5 kids were there. I love the way my kids interact wit their cousins. At the end of the day, it’s all about family.

We got the kids home and tucked into bed. All was set for an early bedtime until I caught that The Missing was on some movie channel we were getting free for the weekend. Never one to pass up a free movie, I couldn’t resist. Fell asleep some time after one. Sensing a theme here?

Green is the colour of her kind
Quickness of the eye deceives the mind
Many is the bond between the hopefull and the damned

Except in Monday’s case, green is the color of money. And a lot of green was spilled. Damn, it was hemorrhaging. We all have out bad days. Among the damage: A new coffee table for our recently furnished living room, 2 new suits for yours truly (including one that was so hideously expensive – and therefore so out of character for me, that I still cannot believe that I bought it and three rides on the carousel at the mall for the young-uns. The way I look at it is, I work like an animal at a job that I cannot stand tok make the money. Is it so terrible if I splurge every once in a while? Exactly.

Sleep will not come to this tired body now
peace will not come to this lonely heart

Well, as it’s only 8:10 right now, the jury is still out. All I have to do is watch 24 and then I should be in a position to go right to sleep. I hold no such illusions. If anyone wants to come visit me I’m sure I’ll be right here at about midnight.

Later.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Literary Elster, Part II

In early January, I wrote out the first chapter of a crime caper novel I had commenced and then, as with most of my works, set aside in the dust bin. Well, people seemed to really like it. So I decided to post the rest of what I had originally jotted down in my notebook here. To find the original story, go to my January archives and click on the Literary Elster post. And yes, I really need to learn how to link things. It's kinda sad that I am so not computer literate. Anyway, here's the rest of what I wrote:


FOUR WEEKS EARLIER:

The bar was smoky and dingy, a true dive in every sense. Thorson moved through a crowd of unsavory looking characters, ready to make a break for the door at a moment’s notice. “I’m a thief, not a fighter” was his unofficial motto. He believed in creeping empty abodes, not fisticuffs. If that made him somewhat of a pansy, Thorson was willing to live with that. Live being the key word.

He scanned the faces in the crowd (without making eye contact with anyone, heaven forbid) until he found the man who fit the description he had for The Pole.

The Pole was sitting alone at a small, round table. His face was ageless; he could have been fifty or one hundred and fifty. He was drinking an amber, fizzles beverage out of a huge beer mug. “Your beer’s flat,” Thorson said. He must have been nursing it for a long time.

“It’s tequila,” the man replied, taking a man-sized swallow.

Thorson was impressed. “You The Pole?” he asked.

The man nodded his head affirmative. “You the thief?” he asked right back.

Thorson gave a quick nod and looked around to make sure no one was listening in. “Don’t worry,” the Pole continued, “every man in this room is a criminal. Even the bartender.”

“Comforting,” Thorson said, pulling up a chair to The Pole’s table. As if on cue, the bartender brought over a mug. This liquid had bubbles and Thorson assumed it was beer. “I didn’t order anything,” he told the bartender.

“It would be advisable for you to take it Mr. Thorson,” The Pole said.

Thorson didn’t like his name being mentioned in public, but he let it go. “How much?” He asked.

“Seven bucks,” said the bartender.

“Seven dollars? Jesus.” He took the money out of his wallet and passed it over. This had better be worth it, he thought.

The beer was warm and flat. “Antonelli tells me you’ve got something I can use.” Thorson looked at The Pole, taking him in. He was average height and build. His craggy face and jutting chin had three days’ stubble growing on them. His hair was an out of control mop of gray.

The Pole took another gulp of tequila before answering. “Maybe,” he said.

“Maybe? Look Mr….?” Thorson trailed off the question.

“Call me The Pole,” The Pole replied.

Thorson sighed. He knew it was going to be one of those days even before he had rolled out of bed. Whenever he got up lying on his right side, the day always took a nosedive straight to Hell. “Ok Mr. Pole.”

“Just The Pole please.”

Thorson pinched the bridge of his nose to cut off the headache that was trying to take hold. “Ok Pole, Antonelli tells me that you have procured certain information that would be beneficial to a person of my, ah, skill set.”

“You talk funny,” The Pole replied.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Will This Jet Fly?

The Daily News is reporting that the salary-cap strapped New York Jets are attempting to re-negotiate quarterback Chad Pennington's $9 million salary contract this year (which includes a March roster bonus of $3 million) to a base salary of $1 million with certain incentives which would bring that number up. Whenther an injured Pennington could reach the incentives is a discussion for another time.

Clearly, the Jets need to dump money to get under the salary cap and position themselves to sign free agents and their own draft picks. Ty Law is almost certainly a goner and I'm sure no one will be too surprised to see guys like Jason Fabini or even Curtis Martin cut if the cap math is right.

Pennington's case, though, is slightly different (though as I write this I admit that I don't really know the cap ramifications of the above mentioned moves). He actually has at least some leverage. If the Jets were to cut him, Pennington will count almost 10 million dollar against this coming year's cap. Thats a lot of dead money. And while a cut player doesn't get paid, Pennington already got his huge signing bonus so it is not like he needs the dough to feed his familiy. So he could play poker with an Ace high and see what happenes. At this point, he's playing with the house's money anyway.

Thing is, though, Pennington always has struck me as a team guy. I think he will do the right thing here and take the pay cut. After all, he has had two major surgeries on his throwing shoulder. Can he honestly expect the Jets to rely on him next season? Does he really think that the Jets aren't going to address the long-term quarterback situation as though he is not going to make it back? At best he's competing for a job in training camp. Whether that's the starting job or not, I think we all have serious doubts. And on top of that, a million bucks aint exactly peanuts. He has to know that no team in the league would touch his broken wing with a thirty-foot pole right now.

While others disagree, I think the Jets are a mess right now. I support and trust the Mangini/Tannenbaum brain trust and I think that they will be able to pull the Jets out of the cellar in relatively short order. But they will have some very difficult choices coming up. Among those will be who is actually going to scout the talent? Tannenbaum's specialty is numbers and Mangini is unproven at best. I am not familiar with the Jets scouting department but it's been well documented that not many of their picks have made the pro-bowl recently.

So this continues to be a very interesting developing story.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Because I Like To Post More Than Once A Week (It's the Principle Of It)

So the Vice-President of the United States shot a hunting buddy in the face over the weekend. It would simply be too easy to insert a joke here. Suffice it to say, the anti-gun lobby must be having a field day with this. Can you even put a price on this kind of unintentional entertainment? I think not.

In other news, it snowed alot this weekend. I had to shovel three times and clear my car twice. Even so, I had a pretty pleasant Sunday. The kids got a kick out of the snow and me and the Mrs. were able to chill out around the house. I made my patented eggs for brunch (on a slighty toasted bagel - let the good times roll) so we ate well too. So except for the slight backache which I got from pushing around approximately 500 pounds of snow, it was a good day.

I have some negative book news to report, but I will not dampen the fine karma I've created by posting it here. Maybe I'll follow up later.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Friday Musings

Well, another week has come and gone. It’s much colder than it was the week before. The winter’s first storm is crawling towards us, making it the perfect time to curl up in front of the computer, hot chocolate in hand, and catch up with Elster’s Friday Musings:

- First off, does anyone really care about the winter Olympics, coming at you live from Torino, Italy, starting this evening? To be honest, I’m not such a huge fan of the Olympics in general. But the winter Olympics are especially, how do I say this…boring.

All forms of ice skating (including ice dancing, ice skating and any race where the individuals wear skates)? Boring. Skiing? How many times can you watch people go down the mountain? The only thing that changes is the color of the skin-tight unis. Ditto for bobsled and sculling. Sure, hockey’s great, but I’d much rather watch the New York Rangers play than the United States team. And don’t even get me started on curling. How can this be an Olympic sport but Baseball and softball cannot? It’s played with brooms for pity’s sake. Can you say anti-America bias? I sure can.

- Enough has been written about the Denmark/Islam rift and I don’t have much to add except this: How can the Iranian reaction be to start a Holocaust cartoon contest to come up with the most offensive anti-Holocaust cartoon. Are we back in first grade? Then the world wonders why “radical Islam” is so difficult. These people are all certifiably insane. The sooner we start treating them as such the better it will be for everyone.

- The last three episodes of my favorite television show, Lost, have been extremely disappointing. Has the show Jumped the Shark” in season 2? Much soul searching is required.

- ESPN’s Mike and Mike reported this morning, in an interview yesterday explaining why NBC gave the rights to some “Oswald the Rabbit” cartoons to ESPN as part of the compensation package for Al Michaels, Dick Ebersol (uber-bigshot at NBC) stated that Michaels was more valuable as a broadcaster than Herman Edwards is as a coach, thus the compensation for Michaels was more significant than the fourth round pick the Jets received as compensation for Edwards jumping to Kansas City. Setting aside the truth of this statement, Mike Greenberg astutely mentioned that despite having nothing to do with Michaels of Oswald, somehow the Jets managed to get ripped in all this. Point being, the Jets organization is an absolute joke right now. I blame this on owner Woody Johnson, fired GM Terry Bradway and Edwards as well. I wish good luck and full steam ahead to new coach Eric Mangini and new GM Mike Tannenbaum. You guys are going to need it.

- Well, Shabbos is almost upon us. Personally I cannot wait. It is my time to relax, be with my family, go to sleep early and just generally be at peace. In other good news, the weekend snowstorm means that my weekly Sunday morning football game will be a Snow Bowl. Good times all around.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

What Does Your Heart Tell You?

In the third and final installment to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Return of the King, two of the main characters are discussing the quest of the hobbit Frodo as he attempts to destroy the ring of power. They debate whether or not he is even still alive. One of the characters asks the other “what does your heart tell you?” and they decide that Frodo is indeed still alive.

Too often in life, we are pressured to follow the crowd, to conform to the so-called “norms” of society. In Rush’s brilliant song Subdivisions, they write:

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out.


Such pressure begins early in life. Once a child is in school, they are immediately confronted with the choice of following the leads of the other children or being seen as an outcast. As most of us know, the problem is exacerbated in high school. For some, it will leave everlasting scars that will never heal.

When I was younger, I found myself constantly concerned with what everyone else thought about me. Was I too short? Was my nose too big? Did girls think I was a loser? Profound concerns all.

Yet as I grew older (and more confident in who I was), I began to realize that pleasing others was a surefire way of never achieving any sort of self-peace or happiness. That the key to happiness was simply to be who you were and to let all other be damned. In other words, I listened to what my heart was telling me, instead of trying to follow the “in” ideal, the flavor of the month.

Even Bloggerville is not immune to the peer pressure that affects our real world society as well. To wit:

- How many bloggers over think what they are posting in order to insure maximum hits/comments over actual content? How many intentionally write about controversial topics such as sex or religion in order to make sure the hit counter keeps running? Who would rather write an absolute crappy post to see the comment line hits 100. I admit to not being entirely immune to this practice, though I would never write a post simply to stir up debate. In fact, the vast majority of my posts are the simple ramblings of my warped mind.

- Another example: There is a line of thinking that one should never post more than once a week and to attempt to make that one post as perfect as possible. Hey, it’s a way of blogging. While I disagree with it (it certainly aint for me ), I don’t necessarily think there is anything wrong with it per se. But I did recently read a post where the blogger in question showed a level of frustration at being limited to the once a week rule. So I commented thusly (and to paraphrase) – “So write more often”. Duh. Why do you feel locked in to this form of rigid posting schedule? Do, instead, what your heart tells you.

Truth be told, as I grow older I get sicker and sicker of the herd mentality. If the Good Lord wanted us to be sheep, he would have made us sheep. Why isn’t individuality embraced over the Cool Du Jour? This I will never understand.

But at the end of the day, the message remains simple. You must follow your own path in this world if you ever hope to amount to being more than just a follower. Great deeds are done by the individual, while the group tends towards mediocrity.

In other words, what does your heart tell you?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Ramblings of a Fool

- The fact that the Jets fired Terry Bradway is not surprising. The timing, however, is. Why now? Why not when head coach Eric Mangini was hired? Of course, I have theories:

1. Owner Woody Johnson simply bowed to public opinion. There has been a serious backlash against Bradway, especially now that the fans don't have Herman Edwards to kick around anymore.

2. Simply put, Bradway lost his power struggle with Mangini. Mike Tannenbaum, the new general manager, is very close with Mangini. Could be that Woody Johnson is just trying to keep his new coach happy.

- Isaiah Thomas has basically put the world on notice that the Knicks are sellers in the market. Any player can be had, just name your price. Here's the question. Didn't Thomas already fire-sale the team last year? He already re-did the entire roster, now he gets to do it again? And if you are going to be a trade partner, why put yourself at a disadvantage by letting everyone know you are a seller? Can't you at least try and play poker with opposing GM's? And yes, I realize that was four questions.

The Knicks, already in cap hell, recently traded Antonio Davis' expiring contract for Jalen Rose's 16 million dollars next year. Now they will do the same thing with Penny Hardaway's expiring contract. I don't get it. Thomas is simply firing in the well in an attempt to save his job. In doing so, he is mucking up the cap situation even worse than it is now. Why is he allowed to do this? Does James Dolan have a brain? He should put a moratorium on Isaiah making trades at this point.

The Knicks were not going to make the playoffs anyway this year. Why not let Davis and Hardaway finish with the team this season, effectively clearing almost 30 million dollars off the cap for next year? Doesn't this make sense? While the KNicks would still be in trouble, at least they will be in les trouble.

- I just found out that my best friend in my department at work is going to leave. This is devastating on many levels. For starters, he is the only person in my department I even talk to. Even worse, he is the hardest worker in the department. His vacancy will create a giant work void that I will (at least partially) be asked to fill. Not good times. I hate doing my own work, I have no real interest in taking on any more.

Truthfully though, I have started looking for another job. There are even a couple of things on the radar. One of which I might actually be interested in. So, I cross my fingers and begin the process of hoping for the best. Or at least a quick exit out of my current hell.

- Interestingly, Sitemeter tells me that I have recently been getting more traffic at Elster's World. However, I have been getting significantly less comments. I wonder if that means that my new admirers are simply coming here accidentally, or if what I wrote about does not inspire comment. I must give this more thought.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Post Super Thoughts

Some random thoughts on the Day After - Including a rebuttle to Josh from Why Josh Can't Be Left Alone:

- Boring Super Bowl. It's always interesting watching a game when you have no rooting interest. I went into the game rooting for the Steelers (and expecting them to win), but quickly remembered that the Steelers were the team that beta the Jets last year in the playoffs. needless to say, I switched allegiances quickly. Alas, the Steelers still won.

But in doing so, I realzed something; While Seattle totally got jobbed by the officials (some of the worst calls I've ever seen in a Super Bowl game including the silly pass interference call on the touchdown pass and the incomprehensible penatly on Matt Hasselback for making a tackle), they played terribly and did not deserve to win. Their clock management at the end of the first half cost them at least three point and their clock management in the fourth quarter made it almost mathematically impossible for them to make a comeback - minutes wise. So even though the officiating was terrible, stunningly terrible, Seattle must look to themsleves as reason Number 1 that they lost. They dominated the game and continually shot themselves in the foot.

- Ben Roethlisburgergrte#@ played about as poorly as one can and still allow for huis team to win. He scores major points for the nifty, run to the line, pull up, ballet dance and throw a total chuck to Hines Ward, but other than that (and the Phantom Touchdown) he stunk.

- Jerome Bettis is fat. Most of the offensive linemen are fat. I love that you can have a giant beer gut in the NFL and still be considered an elite athelete. It gives us regualr guys something to strive for.

- Josh was saying the other day that sports is bad because people waste so much time on it and it contributes nothing to society (and yes, I am shorthanding his argument for the sake of time. Feel free to check out the post straight from the horse's mouth). A number of rebuttals:

* We humans are, well, just human. We aren't any of us on a level where we don't waste time. In my opinion, sports is a much better time waster than most other things we can be wasting our time with. Would you rather your son be able to rattle off the ERA of ever starter on the Yankees or do drugs? Or have premarital relations? That's what I thought.

** Sport does contribute to society on many levels - When we play we are exercising. When we root, we are sharing a common goal with our brothers and sisters. It also allows us to get rid of pent up emotions in a relatively healthy way. Note, this does not apply to European soccer hooligans.

*** A true sports fan is a thinker. He sees what is happening on the field beyond the touchdown. He sees the block that opened up a lane for the running back who scored the touchdown. He sees the scheme which opened up one on one coverage on the receiver. There is a beauty in sports beyond the simple grace of the atheletes themselves for those who open their eyes to it.

So to reiterate - Super Bowl = crappy, but sports = good.

Amen.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Day the Music Died

Right after I graduated college, I had the pleasure of being a Madrich (counselor) on a six-week summer tour of Israel with teenage boys and girls. In many ways, it was my last hurrah before law school and the “real world” that lay beyond Education’s End.

Long story short (as it’s not the point of the story anyway and maybe the subject of an entirely different post altogether), I had a total blast. The kids were really good kids, I had a few really good friends with me serving as Madrichim as well, I was popular (for the first time in my life) with the campers and heck, it was Israel and it was summer and what could be bad? Well, some things could be bad.

Back home, my grandfather (my mother’s father), who had been suffering from lung cancer for many, many years, was not doing very well. When I had left, he was in a state barely better than a coma. He couldn’t eat. He was, quite literally, wasting away in front of the family that had loved and cared for him all the time that he was sick. I visited him almost every day while I was still home.

My grandfather was neither a great man nor a wealthy man. He had served as a cook in the United States Army during the Second World War and worked as a chef/owned a kosher deli in his working years. Despite never really being successful, he loved to dress well (all of his suits were from Brooks Brothers) and he was always quick with a joke. Unfortunately, he also loved to smoke.

As with all great smokers of the 20th Century, he developed lung cancer. Doctors were forced to cut something like 70% of his lungs out. He was given six months to live. He took another ten years.

He died when I was 6,000 miles away, having the absolute time of my life. I will never forget how I found out. We had just finished a tour of an outdoor museum of some kind in the middle of absolute nowhere, when the Israeli director came over to me, his pager in his hand. Showed me the message. I was to call my grandparents house. It was urgent, the message read. In the daze that was already descending on me, I noticed that the message was over two days old.

I walked into the lounge and asked for a pay phone. As I dialed calling card codes and numbers, I already knew. My grandfather was gone. He had no more fight left, no more jokes to make. My father picked up. We spoke, I held it together. He put my mother on. I lost it. We cried and cried. We talked it through with my dad and decided it no longer made sense to come home. The funeral was over and by the time I would be able to get anything done, shiva would be over too. I remember bawling and the man waiting on line for the pay phone behind me asking “Ma kara, ma kara? (what happened, what happened?)”, probably assuming there had been a terrorist attack or something. I shook him off and hung up, made it back to the bus before starting to cry again. I cried all day. I grieved for my grandfather.

The last time I saw him at the hospital before I left, when I had said goodbye, I knew it might be the last time I saw him.. My recent prayers for him had changed from “he should get better” to “Hashem (g-d) should do what was best”, even if that meant taking him from us. I felt guilty that when I was having the time of my life, my mother and grandmother were going through pain.

I’ve never been much of a crier. I have lost three grandparents (my mother’s mother is still alive and doing very well, thank you very much and Baruch Hashem) but only completely lost it that one time. I recognize that some of the emotion came from the fact that I had been so “high” all summer. The news was like someone literally kicking the legs out from under me.

Well, being the person I am, I moved on. We spent that very afternoon working with Ethiopian immigrant children. They were dirt poor, living in cruddy conditions. But still, the looks on their faces. It was one of hope. Uniformly and collectively of hope. It inspired me. I jumped right in. What better way to honor a man that I loved? As is it's way (most of the time, at least), eventually, the pain went away.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Looking Forward, Looking Back - The Days of the Week

Sunday afternoon comes and quiet dread descends on me. “Work tomorrow,” I think, and let it ruin my evening. I will not sleep well that night.

Monday morning, I wake up depressed. I check my Blackberry on the train. How did I get so many messages over the damn weekend? “Just five days to the weekend,” I tell myself. “You can do this.” I will worry the whole day that some huge project is about to be dropped on my lap.

Tuesday comes. “You made it past Monday, Big Boy. You are made in the shade. Just keep your head down till Friday and you will be fine.”

Now it’s Wednesday afternoon. “Halfway through. Just two and a half days to go and one of em’s a short Friday. I am the man!”

Thursday, I’m a little happier. The weekend is in sight. Last full working day. “One day? I can do that standing on my head. With my socks on fire.”

Friday. Half a day. I’m cruising. It’s 2:30. I am gone like the wind. I smile. I made it. Another week of Hell in the books.

Friday night. Looking back. Did I just really wish another week of my life away? Am I really happy that it is over? Another week, another period where I have contributed nothing. Why am I rushing through my life, just hoping for weekends, then upset that nothing has changed?

Shabbos comes and I forget.