The Day We Were Americans

Six days before one of the most infamous elections in US history, in a time when there had never been a wider trench between Democrats and Republicans, when an unspoken cold war breathed its icy breath down each of our red, white, and blue spines…the curse of the billy-goat was broken.  And without our realizing it, a nation came together, if only for a fleeting moment that tasted like cracker jacks, and smelled like cotton candy.

Let’s roll back the clock to 1945.  Come with me…Sinatra on the radio, Pin-ups on the walls, and Wrigley Stadium pregnant with the roars of the fans.  William Sianis rolls into the stadium on the north side of Chicago with his smelly pet goat.  After many complaints about the odorous beast, he is asked to leave.  At which time he declares, “Them cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”  And they didn’t.  Not a World Series.

Flash forward 71 years.  Rihanna on the radio and the walls, Wrigley Stadium still pregnant with the roars of the fans…it’s 2016.  A new war, one that has nothing to do with Nazis or surprise attacks, fills our lives.  Bitter diatribes are at every turn.  Our smart phones in hand, we peruse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….any platform we can, to find a supporting argument for our passion or our venom.  We all worry about the future of our nation with different moral compasses, different lifestyles, and different core beliefs.  How will any of us ever feel patriotic again in these unsettling times where we all, regardless of our affiliations, seem to know this year will define a new future?  We all sit under the curse of the elephant and the donkey.

However, Wrigley Field is unchanged.  Criticized for not updating, that emblematic red marquee still ushers the fans inside.  The ivy-covered walls stand proudly as elders of the National League.  The hand-turned score board reminds us of a time when technology wasn’t king, though few of us have enough candles on the birthday cake to remember such a time. I certainly don’t.  I’ve experienced it only as folklore.  However, the outdated field reminds us of the great AMERICAN pastime.  It is one of the last remaining simple things we have…and man, don’t we need a little simplicity?

On November 2, 2016 all men and women, of all races, religions, and political parties held their breaths collectively.  Could the Cubs, still under the billy-goat’s spell, get that last out in the 10th inning?  Could they win the game, so long and painstaking, that it had now carried over into November 3rd?  Could the billy-goat be wrestled to the ground in the wee hours of that Fall night?

Indeed he could, and with one swift throw, and a man out at first, it happened.  The players stormed the field, pairing laughter with tears.  They were boys again, jumping up and down, for the love of the game.  The crowd thundered with praise and all men stood together, singing the song of the full-grown bear.

I don’t know the outcome of the election yet.  I don’t know what our country will look like just months from now.  However, I have the tiniest hope that we are all still Americans.  I hope that when we take off our baseball caps and put on our suits, or uniforms, or badges, that we remember who we were.  It took the Cubs 71 years to tackle that goat, but they broke the curse.  I now have but a shard of faith that as a nation we can wrangle a donkey and an elephant.  I’ve seen it now, in my own lifetime, with my own weary eyes.  There was a night at Wrigley field, where we were all Americans…and it was sweet.

wewere

Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

 

 

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Flowers and Sunshine

I used to wonder why I always want to write when I’m angry.  Why do those things that twist around like metal from a ravaged junkyard find a way of spilling out of the fingertips?  What is it about the angst, anxiety, worry, and fret that makes creative juices leave the safety of simmer and start to boil?

I used to think maybe it was romance…writer’s tend to be the worst kinds of romantics.  The chicken or the egg theory applies here.  Did our love of writing make us romantic, or did our romanticism make us write?  For the kind of writers that have to write…that need it to cure the ulcer that comes from too much pleasure or pain–they are the latter.  Romanticism came first.  Then, we found a way to express it.  We found a way to find the words that evade us when trying to strum our vocal chords at once.  These rare feelings come at times when it’s hard to walk and chew gum at the same time. As eloquent of speakers as we may be, willing the throat is one request too many.  We write.

The hardest emotions that roll around deep, enjoying the bowels of the mind, and relishing in the moments when the tedious tight rope shakes–those are the one that tickle the keyboard.

I’m pissed.  That sounds simple, but it’s the right word.  I’m pissed off to the uttermost.  It’s not so much important what it is about, than it is I have to say it. I have to convey it, unleash it.  I want the kinesthetic feeling, exercising those fine motor skills, that makes me feel every ounce of it.  Then maybe I can shower that feeling away–but for one splendid moment it robs from me all of my innovation, all of my passion, and all of my words.  Maybe it robs me of nothing.  Maybe that’s why anger makes for the best writing,  The verve it creates, the synergy with the written language lets something ugly become beautiful for a moment.  Maybe this isn’t my dark side, but the optimist in me, forcing shit into art.  Perhaps I’m giving some dead thing a pulse again…the part of me that departed while I was so pissed off.  I feel just a little more flowers and sunshine already.

Taste Buds

Nothing is more irksome to me than someone telling me, when they see I don’t like my food touching, that “it all goes to the same place anyway.”  First I will state the obvious; if this were true, that it doesn’t matter that all food gets mixed together, then that would be the way we eat it.  There would be no room for likes or dislikes, or separation of food at any level.  There would be no recipes, no taste buds unique to the individual.  We wouldn’t be built to differentiate.  The saying is just a way for people to disdainfully comment on someone else’s personal tastes.  It’s a chance to call a decisive person neurotic.

People who use the fore mentioned statement also tend to spout the “children should be seen and not heard” cliche`.  This one is even more maddening to me than the first.  Do people really want to raise 100% quiet and compliant children?  Do they really want to take their voices away from them, so that they grow up to be crippled by lack of individualism and principle?

I pray that I one day have a child that argues with me.  I want them to ask me why things are wrong, and why rules exist.  When they get in trouble I want to give them an account of why it happened.  I will refuse to buy them paint-by-number coloring books, or dolls that come already named.  I’m not an extremist…I don’t want to raise a nation of brats who have no respect for their elders or certain traditions, but I hope I can raise an individual, and teach that individual to think if nothing else. Like the wheel, some things don’t need to reinvented, but we have to explore to know what those things are.  There’s just a shortage of people now who ask before they are spoon fed; who or what filled that spoon?

I will again quote my beloved Fitzgerald who said, “Either think, or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.”  So often we are condemned for being heard, or fighting the majority.  We are crucified for being unpleasant, whatever the real definition of that is.  The worst part is that these ideas, always being cool with the status quo, are molded into our malleable heads as children when we are taught over and over to blend in.  We are taught to be silent, not to disrupt, and above all to deny our taste buds, never to fuss over our mashed potatoes touching our green beans.

I love my taste buds, and I love my parent’s for letting me use them.