Sunday, June 27, 2010

That Other Football

Making friends with a man from Bristol (England, of course) means you really must watch World Cup football, and I did.  Good show, United States.  I enjoyed that bit, really.

But you would think ESPN, which hails from Bristol (Connecticut), could find an American crew fluent in football, all the better to ignite the sport here.  Nope.  The best it could do was to prop up cardboard analyst Mike Tirico, whose sole task was to inquire of knowledgeable Englishmen their opinion of things.

Don't get me wrong, Paul, I love the English accent, I truly do.  Never mind, "What accent?"  You know the one.  And that fabled reserve, which certainly got England through the war in unruffled fashion, that's a swell thing, too.  What Americans, for instance, would call "unparalleled triumph," or "division championship," or "survive and advance," the English are content to call, "going through."  Bit of an understatement, that.

So when England's catch-up goal against Germany was waved off by some blind, syphilitic, idiot referee who should have been made to buy a ticket into the stadium, I rather expected the English play-by-play man to become agitated enough to exclaim, "Bloody 'ell!" which is the only English swear-word I know. (I think "Blimey" has lost much of its impact in today's world, don't you?)

Bloody 'ell, what a classy way to send someone off.  So much better that "blind, syphilitic idiot #$%^&-ing referee $ %^&-hole."  But that's football.

So anyway, the record to date stands thusly.  The US whupped England in 1776 and again in 1950, and it happens that the two teams have not met since.  (Let's not get into that bit of bother in 1812.)   And in this year's World Cup they tied their first-round match, whereupon the US team won the round by means of some devious arithmetic that only Englanders understand.  Thereafter, both teams were dispatched in the second round by Ghana and Germany, respectively.  As I see it, the US continues to enjoy the advantage in this great rivalry going back 234 years.

If that doesn't draw a "Bloody 'ell," nothing will.



Monday, June 21, 2010

A Moment of Pride and Reflection

Beneath my lighthearted pretense, the stuff I write here usually matters to me a great deal.  Ordinarily, I don't feel any pressing need to whack folks on the head.  Well, maybe that piece on the Gulf oil got away from me.  Get over it.

But this one matters to me a great deal.  Next month, my son comes home from Kuwait, where he has given a year of his life - this time - to supporting the war in Iraq.  Last time was in Iraq itself, the time before that and before that and before that, in South Korea supporting a 60-year-old truce.  He wears more ribbons than the Maypole at Miss Porter's School.

Erik will come to Fort Sill in Oklahoma as part of an advance team to welcome home the rest of his unit, some of whom hail from Connecticut as he does, and some of whom hail from right here in Clearwater.  Small world, this.  His duties will include teaching soldiers who have been at war how to return to a society that does not always speak in the same gerunds that the soldiers do.  Good idea, that.

I'm somewhat accustomed to Erik's homecomings, so why the hoo-hah now?

I had occasion yesterday to view a Facebook entry from Erik's friend, Jay, also known as Charles M. Beyer, Captain, Connecticut Army National Guard.  Jay climbs into the pilot's seat of a helicopter every day and flies over some of the most deadly real estate on Earth.

When Jay lands safely back in Kuwait, he is also Erik's CO.  (Blackhawk photo credit: David J. Mercado, Clearwater FL & Kuwait City)

Jay did some training in Germany earlier this month and, on the 66th anniversary of D-Day, took pictures at the concentration camp at Dachau.  Here's one he took of the "shower facility" that still stands as a reminder of what can happen when good people don't act.

Erik's grandfather, nearly 90, is Bill Flaherty, featured here.  Pop rarely speaks of it, and he'll be a little embarrassed if he reads it here, but he spent his years in the army slogging through the Ardennes and the Battle of the Bulge, pushing into Germany in 1945 to bring an end to the nightmare that was Nazism.

The way I see it, fanaticism - whether ideological like the Nazis, religious like Al Qaida and the Taliban, or dictatorial like Kim Jong-Il  - is a present and continuing threat to us all.  Only dedicated effort by Jay and Erik and their peers in uniform can prevent another Dachau or 9/11.  Freedom is no more free today that it was 66 years ago.

So this homecoming will again be one of joy, tempered with admiration for the world's most important job, done well.  Thank you, Erik and Jay and all who have served with you.  Welcome home.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Grim Reaper Wears Prada

This is Florida.  Around here, folks take "God's waiting room" seriously.  The classified ads in the local newspaper include a separate section for "Cemeteries, Mausoleums & Crypts."  It's a sizable section at that, where bargains can be had, presumably from owners who have decided not to go.  This morning, for instance, an ad offered, "Double crypt in desirable section of Fester's Mausoleum.  Excellent views."

Desirable?  Views?  What is this person thinking?

When you live in a 55+ mobile home community, you quickly discover that the "+" means "pushing 90."  Here, all the amenities that Florida offers to the eternity-bound are concentrated, refined and polished.  At times, an air of expectancy wafts around the park like a spring zephyr.  Forest Lawn with shuffleboard.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, ambulances cruise slowly around the park.  One enterprising driver recently added a set of bells, like a cross between Monte Python and the Good Humor man.  "Ding-a-ling, bring out yer dead!"  Honestly, you don't want to be caught dozing on a lawn chair in the front yard.

One might think the immediacy of mortality would cast a pall (if you will) over the park, but one would be wrong.  The place is more like a train station: everyone is cheered when the train finally arrives.  "Now departing for the pearly gates on track 9 . . . "  If you don't think this can be true, stop by one of the monthly community breakfasts at the rec hall.  "Damn shame about Sophie Carson.  Pass the maple syrup, would you.  Has anyone claimed her seat at bingo yet?"

If you ever doubted that death is just another part of life, start watching Florida's classifieds.  Down here, the hereafter is just another piece of real estate.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Maybes, Sweet Maybes

Maybe the oil will bypass Tampa Bay, go visit itself on the east coast. Maybe when the panhandle and east coasts are destroyed, the rest of us in Florida will be not be affected.  Maybe Key West will survive -- you don't need clean white sand to drink a Margarita and sing Buffett tunes off key

Maybe the economic recovery that never really ignited in Tampa will somehow flare up when the oil obliterates stretches of the Gulf shores.  Our stretches.  Maybe the housing market will skyrocket as ghouls buy front-row seats for the worst environmental disaster in history.  Something to tell the grandkids: I was there when the world ended for a billion living things.  Maybe people will stop leaping from the Skyway Bridge, put off by the slime they will be diving into.

I have been a Floridian for 21 months.  For the first time, I feel like one.  It feels bad.

Maybe we've seen the worst of this.  Maybe this season, for the first time in memory, no hurricane will enter the Gulf to fling oil everywhere.

I stood on Indian Rocks Beach tonight with tourists and natives and transplants like myself to watch the sun set.  Not a drop of oil in sight.  Maybe I'll stop by the beach more often now to watch a miracle that may not happen again for a long time after this summer.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Brains of the Outfit - An Appreciation

You might think that retiring means you just stop working and start sitting around doing nothing.  Actually, I have been not-exactly-retired for 21 months and have been sitting happily around doing pretty damn little.  But now that I need to really-really retire, I find myself too frequently inadequate to the complications of the task.  My brain, which once was an object of personal pride and could cope with the Rule Against Perpetuities while idling, now is bowled over by puzzles like, "Which line do I sign?" and "Where did I leave my pen?"

I'm faced with two potential explanations.  One, maybe my brain is poaching in the Florida heat and has lost its fizz, like a glass of beer left in the sun while I search for another bag of nuts.  Or two, maybe my former mental effervescence was an illusion in the first place.

Here's what happened.  I had to update all kinds of estate-planning documents to cover the unlikely possibility that I can't spend everything I own before I am cast adrift on the proverbial ice flow. Oh, wait, wrong climate.  Tar pits seem more appropriate right now.  Anyway, you get the idea - the kids would like some of the proceeds if I'm not using them.  (They hasten to deny this, but if they're not lying now, they will be eventually.)

It wasn't the technical complexities of the Living Will and Last Will and Testament that unhinged me.  It was the typing and assembly of what turned out to be a staggering pile of paper that did me in.  Activities that I once tossed off as "ministerial" suddenly grew fangs and claws.  Paper jammed.  Ink ran low.  Staples punctured flesh.  Two dozen finished documents deviated from standard English in ways that I would not like to be remembered for into perpetuity.  That word again, perpetuity.  Like me, it takes on weight as it ages.

Truth be known, I deviated from standard English while shredding useless Powers of Atorney [sic], lapsing frequently into Anglo-Saxon and middle French, heavy on gerunds.  I am multi-lingual, to a point.

Why did this never happen to me when I was practicing law with the Big Guns in Hartford?  I have one word for you - Nancy.  For 20-plus years Nancy apparently dealt with all these issues in background, well below my puny threshold of attention.  So when I directed (no less) that Motions to Dismiss and Certificates of Service appear on my desk, they did.  Properly typed, proofread, copied, collated, stapled and some other things that I probably still am missing.  With envelopes.  Was I impressed?  Nah.  Piece of cake, right?  Um, no.

I have fretted more in the past week than I did in 20 years in Nancy's uncomplaining care.  Well - mostly uncomplaining.  Turns out she was the brains of the outfit, and I didn't even know it.  Thanks, Nancy.  I hope my replacement knows how lucky he of she or they are.  But more likely they won't get it until they need to type their own retirement papers.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Friends of Friends of Friends

I am a somewhat reluctant denizen of Facebook, mostly because people who I know or knew or who know who I know or knew (and so on) keep inviting me to be their Friend, and I haven't the heart to say, "No," or even sometimes, "Who?"  So when I check into FB from time to time to see if my children are still out there, perhaps even having children - or more children - of their own, I get to see what everyone I know and everyone who they know (etc) are doing.  (I know this is hard to read, but work it out somehow; it's a complicated story line.)  Mostly what all these not-really-related people are doing is mundane.  Going to Mickey D's for dinner - check.  Sun rose again in the east today - check. 

But then, there are the outliers, renegades whose purpose in life is to perplex and befuddle.  I especially like pictures that Friends and Friends of Friends (etc) post, usually in some misguided effort to convey to the cosmos WHO THEY ARE.  For instance, here is a guy who knows a gal I know - or at least knew - who is shock absorbers:

And a guy I know and sometimes love (because he makes great gumbo and sells great beer) who also just happens to be of the breakfast persuasion:

Yup - bacon & eggs, tomatoes, sausage and other stuff - and beer.  Your basic Full English Breakfast.  Speaking of beer, here's a guy who is a beer:

After that it gets - um - odder and more personal.  Got muscles?

Folks, I am related to this person by accident of blood.

Here's someone I am not related to but love dearly, with friend:

Here's a lady who knows someone who I know, in the process of discovering that babies are not born; they just fall out of the sky:

Finally, I know someone who lives - if you want to call it that - in the desert.  He has smelly friends:

You might think these pix were culled from months of peculiar Facebook postings, but - I tremble to observe - these are all current pictures.  Inevitably - ineluctably even - more like them will arrive on tomorrow's Facebook page.  I am going to have to ask my friends to start hanging around with a better class of Friends.