I would think that any non-Astro baseball fan would love that game last night.
Verlander pitches a complete game, only allows two hits, never pitches from the stretch (because there were no baserunners all game)…and still loses. This victory may have been our peak performance of the season; instead of being in the World Series, the Tigers beat a World Series contender. It was akin to last year’s Lions’ victory over the (eventual) NFL champion New England Patriots. Unexpected victories are often the most sweet. The Astros may end up winning it all, but last night, the Tigers put together the perfect equation of smart pitching, tremendous defensive plays, and just enough clutch hitting to win a memorable game.
We began the year talking about how terrible the Baltimore Orioles would be this year. Unfortunately, somewhere in the middle of the year, the Tigers became the story. I’ve watched many a Tiger game this year (even went to one) and this team is full of intriguing, talented players. They’re fun to watch. The announcers hype them quite well and a decent number of fans show up for most games.
If you haven’t checked lately, though, they currently have the worst record in major league baseball. The Tigers are playing .306 ball as of this morning — that’s 37 wins and 84 losses.
Let’s be clear. I love the Tigers. I grew up watching them at Tiger Stadium, I’ve come to enjoy the atmosphere at Comerica Park, and I’m not planning on switching my allegiance. It’s difficult these days to talk/write frankly about politics, race, religion, and death (teaser…those are the topics of upcoming posts); baseball is usually the safe, go-to subject (like the weather), but it’s time to start considering where this Tiger team will show up on the list of worst MLB records. It’s a distinct possibility.
Here’s the list that teams don’t want to be on (from Wikipedia):
And here’s what it comes down to: 17 of the Tigers’ final 41 games are against teams that are currently in first place. We’ll be playing Houston (4 games), Minnesota (10), New York (3) in this final stretch. It will be tough for this Tiger squad to get many wins out of those games. I was wondering how that compared to Baltimore and Kansas City’s final stretch. As it turns out, Baltimore only plays three games against first place teams and Kansas City will play 10 games. The Tigers have the more difficult final stretch.
What’s a fan to do? Well, here’s my suggestion. Let’s root for them to get at least 10 more wins in the final 41 games. That way, they will be only in the ballpark of the 2018 Orioles at .290. I did the Math and if they only win five more games, they will be worse than the 2003 Tigers (see chart above) at .265. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we don’t have to worry about being on the top of that ‘worst’ list; we would have to only win one more game this entire season to top the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics for first place. I feel confident in this team to win at least a few more games, so we don’t have to worry about that.
In a world without physical photo albums, I find I need a space to collect my thoughts and memories. I imagine that if everyone had a blog, the internet might break, but this is the space I have chosen. It’s ‘my space’ to use a reference from over a decade ago.
Continuing that analogy, I may use this space to jog my memory about events from life…you know, later on when my memory fades. I’ve been writing in physical journals for over 30 years and I use those journals in a similar way. The thing about this space is that since I don’t really have control over it, it could disappear at some point. After I stop paying an annual fee ($40 to be able to put youtube videos on the blog instead of just links, as well as for the option of people subscribing, and more), the people at edublogs might delete this blog one day due to inactivity or for some other random reason. Then, like many of my memories from years ago, my ideas will be gone. I suppose I could write a book…possibly from these blog entries…but assuming I don’t, let’s just say I am more and more aware of the fleeting quality of memories and life in general.
Every day on vacation in Seattle was precious. Every moment really. We spent most of our time in Edmonds, which is about 40 minutes north of downtown Seattle depending on traffic. Rachel and Robbie moved there almost a year ago; one reason was so Rachel only had to drive 10 minutes to work. Robbie is driving for Uber Eats so his work goes where he goes. They had lived in Seattle for around eight years in the same apartment and I think another reason they moved was for a new, larger, more economical space. We all shared one car for the 10 days (plus travel days) we were there — except for a day and a half when we wanted more space and options, so Rachel rented a van. It was fortunate that we were able to find an airbnb two short blocks away from their apartment.
We have never hiked as many different trails as we hiked this trip. In the past, we had been to several trails within the city — Discovery Park, Ravenna Park, Washington Park and Arboretum…there are dozens to choose from — but this time we found five or six new ones outside the city.
Pine Ridge Park was closest, so we hiked it a couple days
Our time in the Cascades was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Even though every park we hiked was a welcome retreat from life’s hectic pace, the Cascades trip was a journey, a destination (about 1 1/2 hours east), and an all-encompassing get-away. The several, bumpy miles up the dirt road to get to the trail was an event in itself; I couldn’t imagine anyone else would be up at the trailhead. There were about 10 other cars there though. After a delicious picnic, we walked the 2.2 meandering miles to Barclay Lake in lush peacefulness. We explored a few side paths and appreciated the tranquility of the lake when we found it; one family was fishing unsuccessfully and it seemed like most people brought their dog on the trail…but I bet we saw less than 20 people total. The way back went by faster somehow, but was just as gorgeous and serene. The journey was enhanced by a stop for dinner in Gold Bar, WA, at a local restaurant called Prospector’s Steak and Ale. I had a flashback to Bob’s Country Bunker in the Blues Brothers’ Rawhide scene but it turned out to be very good food and decent service. We even commiserated with the Seahawks’ fans during their first preseason game, having many years experience as disappointed Lions’ fans.
Judy and Aaron on our Cascade hike
Rachel and Robbie have a couple of cats that were kittens last time I saw them. This time they were a bit less playful and somewhat distrustful of these new people. It was still fun observing them, though. I wrote an untitled cat poem from my few days with them —
Cats can hear
well enough to be
Maybe we should domesticate
panthers to be
our attentive watchers.
The grace and style of cats
plus that lethal edge
of a Doberman Pinscher.
The way a cat’s ears
turn at the slightest
peep, crack, bump
In the next room
is impressive —
usually a waste of time
But check it out they do,
That they are —
wary of change
like old Republicans.
Another favorite event was our evening at the ACT Theater seeing The Year of Magical Thinking. I had read the book (and since then, have seen the Netflix biography about the author, Joan Didion) The one-woman play was similar to and different from the book: still a not-so-gentle warning that we will all have life-altering grief to deal with; still a distantly emotional, scattered-but-connected view of her grief; and and update regarding the levels of grief and brief clarity she’s had since the book. If you know me at all, you know I’m a book person. However, when a book is given life in play form with the author’s guidance — I’m always a fan. Theater spaces are sacred to me; magic happens there.
Many thanks to Rachel and Robbie for sharing their space and their time which led to many wonderful discussions and numerous, new, special memories.
P.S. I went to several Seattle area bookstores and bought as many (mostly used) books as I could fit into my backpack and luggage. That’s part of what makes each destination unique, I believe. One that I found at the Edmonds Public Library also intrigued me: Halal If You Hear Me: BreakBeat Poets Volume 3. I opened it to a poet from East Lansing, Leila — a sign and a gift. It’s a marvelous collection of young, Muslim poets expressing current, honest feelings and concerns. I bought two copies and had them delivered to our house (delivery was free if I bought two); if you want to borrow one, let me know.
P.P.S. If you want to subscribe to this blog, check out Subscribe By Email: if you are on a tablet or computer, it should be in the left sidebar; if you’re on your phone, you may need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page (sorry).
Most of the time, life is quite distracting. I have trouble deciding where to focus my time and energy. The circus in Washington is quite disconcerting and tragic; the fires in the Arctic are potentially even more troubling; and then, there are more personal issues like new career vs full retirement and self-actualization in general.
I wish I had written the following, but alas, Garrison Keillor beat me to it. I swear, I was working on something very close to it when I read this today.
My birthday is this week, which I mention by way of saying, “Please. No gifts.” My love and I went through major downsizing in January and we are pretty much done with Things now, even a picture of a wilderness lake taken by you or an inspirational book that could change our lives. My life is good enough. Every day is precious. When you reach 77, you’ll feel the same way. It’s a shame that a con man is in the White House as the Arctic is melting and white nationalists are shooting up our cities, but we’ll be okay, we just need a Trexit vote next year.
I reached my present age thanks to medical advances that didn’t exist for my uncles (than whom I am now somewhat older) nor for Dostoevsky (59) or Thoreau (44). Pharmaceuticals would’ve enabled Dostoevsky to retire from writing agonizing novels and switch over to light comedy in his old age and Thoreau to leave Concord and move to New York and find a girlfriend. He went out on a cold rainy night to look at trees and caught bronchitis, which agitated his TB and he went into a steep decline. As he lay dying, his aunt asked if he’d made his peace with God, and Henry said, “I was not aware that we had ever quarreled.” So he had a good last line, which many people don’t, but think what he and his girlfriend could’ve done with thirty more years. Go into the canoe business, buy a house with a lawn, beget kiddoes, enjoy evenings at home, Isabelle lying with her head in Henry’s lap, reading “Walden,” laughing at the funny parts.
Life is unbearably precious. Two heroes of mine died in car crashes when I was in college, and yet I myself, a couple years later, driving north on Highway 47 in my 1956 Ford, on a straight stretch in Isanti County, gunned it to 100 mph just to see what it felt like. It felt good. Then a pickup truck eased out of a driveway and onto the road. This was before seat belts. In a split second, I swerved to go behind him and it was a good choice — he didn’t back up — otherwise he and I would’ve been forever joined in a headline. I hope he has enjoyed his survival. Whenever I relive those fifteen seconds, all regrets vanish, all complaints evaporate.
I am now older than my older brother, who died ten years ago at 71. He slipped while skating and fell backward and hit his head. I think of him often. He was a scientist and engineer, a problem-solver, a sailor, a family man, and when faced with a personal dilemma, it’s good to ask, “What would Philip have said?” He tends to recommend patience, attention to detail, and taking a break for a few hours, perhaps on a boat, during which the answer may suddenly occur to you.
I don’t brood about death as the actual date approaches. My mother (97) enjoyed herself into her mid-nineties, flew places, saw her ancestral Scotland, cruised the coast of Alaska, and seemed, all in all, happier than when she had six little kids to worry about. We grew up near the Mississippi and she thought extensively about drowning. When cousin Roger (17) drowned, trying to impress his girlfriend Susan, Mother sent me to swimming lessons at the Y, but I couldn’t bear it, the instructor was such a bully, so I went to the library instead, a wise choice on my part, and I grew up to earn my way as a writer rather than as a professional swimmer.
Nature is not interested in my twilight years; past 30, semen develops problems, man becomes irrelevant in the furtherance of the species. God created erectile dysfunction because old men can’t be trusted to raise kids. Living past 70 is an artificial idea, a lovely idea, like flying or anesthesia, but still. So an old man needs to justify his continuance, taking up space and being a traffic hazard on the freeway by driving the speed limit. My reason for living is simply this: I am still working and my best work may be yet ahead of me.
I say, 77 is a fine age, way beyond 17 or 37 or 57, but take your time getting there, and remember to marry someone who is good company and can carry one end of the conversation and sometimes both. There’s the real message. That’s worth reading to the end of the column to find out.”
I won’t be posting on Facebook for awhile. I’ve decided to use this spot.
Facebook annoys me. I’m tired of a virtual life. I need more actual living. I want to…
…sit by a fountain and listen more
…read the Bible more
…help out more
…split wood more
…go fishing more often
…play my guitar more
…listen to music more
…watch fireflies more often
…drink more cold beer
…play more volleyball
…go for more bike rides
…walk along the beach more
…read the books on my shelves more
…go bowling more
…even clean my office more
…talk with flesh-and-blood friends more
(just a partial list)
Facebook has made me ADD-distracted (Gerry Brooks explains what it’s like, below)
Facebook is also too toxic lately. I need a cleanse. Garrison says that “Facebook is okay but if it went away, we could learn to sit with people over coffee and conduct conversations.” I agree with the second half, but I think “okay” is too strong of a descriptor. Facebook is “meh” to use the already-old hip jargon. I think Jerry Seinfeld has made a valiant effort to get people sitting with coffee and conducting conversations on his recent Netflix series (which I love). He’s subtly re-teaching us how to be with each other.
Regarding my non-virtual life and being with flesh-and-blood friends…
I was recently part of a committee that recommended a new head pastor for our church (She’s amazing by the way…come and visit us in a couple months when she starts). I take pride in my ability to listen and contribute when I’m on committees. And I made some new friends along the way; a fun way to volunteer my time for an important task.
I am part of a men’s group at our church that meets (most) every Tuesday morning at 7 am. to discuss a book and to connect. I have enjoyed getting to know each of these men as we walk on our faith journeys.
I’m in a gospel choir called the Earl Nelson Singers that meets on Monday nights to practice singing and to get to know each other better. We sing in concert sometimes too. All fun (and praise).
You can’t do these things on Facebook. And these are the things I want to do more.
I’m not saying I’ll never look at Facebook. Just look, not lurk (or post). What’s next for me is less and less screen time. Yes, I like to play a few games, and communicate via email and text some, but I am consciously disconnecting from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. I’ll see you here…or in person. Garrison goes on to say that “Comedy and compassion are what you need to make your way in the world.” Makes sense to me. Maybe I’ll go find Garrison and see if he wants to talk about comedy over a cup of coffee. Or I could start my own show: Armenians in Restaurants getting Meze (appetizers); or Kabodians in Bars drinking Beer; or Wanna-be Comedians in Nightclubs getting Booed.
P.S. If you’re continuing on Facebook, here’s a couple tips about talking with difficult people. First of all, good for you, for sticking with it. I jumped ship as my method. My friend, Troy Hicks, wrote a piece on Peer Review in Public that used four things to keep in mind when commenting on a peer’s text, which I believe is good advice for most any communication —
(Troy’s piece is worth reading and you can also annotate the book, Annotation, and feel a part of the larger project)
And I recently read The Faith Club in men’s group; it’s a welcome reminder that, while some conversations (for example, about religion) are difficult, we shouldn’t avoid them. It’s not necessarily advice I am following in my life right now, but I aspire to it.
Two thousand nineteen is about half over, and it has felt like ‘opposite day’ for that entire time, so here are two blog entries in one, to celebrate its half-ness and its oppositeness (as the math crowd knows, 1/2 multiplied by its opposite (2) is actually one, so yeah).
Here’s a draft of a poem that may have promise.
Instead, at 6 am
I need the cool breeze
Coming in through the screen
And that pervasive silence,
That welcome absence —
I need distant bird chatter
As the loudest sound
And an orange burst,
Pink spray, green leaved
Instead of physical activity
And its expectations.
I need this pen and my journal,
A few moments alone,
Time to contemplate the day
With a glass of water
In a soft recliner
That rocks when I say.
Stillness without sleep
Thought and observation without action
I began the next entry around graduation time. It’s incomplete, unfinished, lacking something…but then again, aren’t most graduates? Aren’t most of us?
Congratulations to the class of 2019 at every level.
Congratulations to those choosing retirement.
Congratulations to everyone who just breathed in and out.
Success is so hard to define. So, for everyone moving from one thing to another thing, I recommend the following podcast: How Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? (You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript by following that link). It’s a recent On Being discussion on that elusive thing called “success” involving Krista Tippett, Abraham Verghese, and Denise Pope.
Here are a few highlights designed to heighten your interest:
* “Follow your heart…within reason”
* The importance of friendships across generations (a type of mentoring) — “I think it’s really a calling for this century because the wisdom of young adulthood, I think, is actually an urgency and an impatience and this longing and this aspiration to see the world whole and make it better. We want that. But there’s something so relaxing about living for a while and knowing in your body that life is long and knowing that there will be another side to whatever is happening. And so that’s really the experience you have of failure.”
*“on a small scale, [resilience is about raising] your hand in class and risk ‘sounding stupid.’”
* “failure, what goes wrong, what you get through that you didn’t know how you’d get through, this is the breeding ground of becoming wise and mature.”
I liked the discussion, partly, because of the speakers’ collective awareness that there is no one path to success. And their understanding that one hurdle toward whatever success is most assuredly involves failure. Many of the seventh graders I taught in the final years of my career were downright afraid of failing. That leads to a lack of taking risks (in writing, in class participation, in leadership…) and that can be quite immobilizing.
Generations of Allium look like waves of students over time
I recently had the honor and privilege of participating in the East Lansing High School Commencement. Two graduates asked that I give them their diplomas. That allowed me to have a seat on the stage. I became a witness to the graduates’ pride. A co-celebrator in their joy. As a retired teacher, this was a rare and singular moment. Our district (like many, I would imagine) is not that adept at using the talents of retired teachers, paraprofessionals, and secretaries in an on-going, integral way. The occasional invitation to be included in commencement, however, excuses that educational faux pas just a bit.
Witnessing young person after young person hearing his, her, or their name spoken, finally, at Commencement felt like seeing sunrise after sunrise after glorious sunrise. Each one had a face that mixed exhilaration, expectation, and trepidation with a dose of amazed wonder. They were beacons of hope, one after another. Each a success, but not in a ‘final package’ way; they found a way to cross the stage and it will lead to many more successes —— laced with failures —— on their journeys.
A teacher friend suggested I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Intrigued, I found the TED Talk by the author and I share it here for its important messages; it is, in an odd way, a success story. Not the author’s story, per se, but her awareness that generalizing one experience to fit a whole group (stereotyping) is at the heart of what’s dangerous in our world today.
Danger of a Single Story
I found a wonderful reflection on Adichie’s video that includes a way to incorporate it into a meaningful lesson, for you teachers out there. Both breaking stereotypes and offering self-awareness, this lesson seems important at this time in history.
* Challenge Success is an organization that helps schools and communities re-think what they are asking of students. They offer a way to re-think what success means for each student.
* Success in a concentrated way is a version of flow, a concept I use with students to help them find balance and confidence. Here is Csikszentmihalyi’s TED Talk on the subject.
The same people that research
Family histories —
They still write physical letters
Besides that, letter writing is dead.
And I’m still grieving
I had with it.
Creating a letter
Was like writing a symphony.
It was mine
But I was gifting it
So someone else —
That I cared about —
Could have this message, this song,
This part of my mind and heart.
Letter writing was an opportunity to share
A bit of my creative soul
With a loved one.
(That old-person-thing where they can’t stand all the changes in the world — I’m feeling it)
Innovation is allegedly a sign of creativity
Creativity is a sign of blending heart and mind
I don’t miss changing the ribbon on
It was messy and often tricky to get right
Maybe this phone-focused life, world,
Need some messy time. Need to feel that
Relationships are tricky to get right
In ways emoticons
And textspeak lingo
We’ve come to expect our
Relationships to load quickly.
When the dreaded, perpetual spinning
Circle of waiting
In human form,
We are flustered, confused, stymied.
Can we go back
To simpler times?
Has too much changed?
Progress at ANY cost?
There are moments in
When we have time
To disconnect from our work at hand.
Instead of singing
Writing a letter
Calling a friend
We open our phones.
We suckle at
The techno breast
And it feeds us
And it’s not what we need.
It’s mind-numbing shit.
It’s not symphony writing.
When we need
Job requires weaving
the fibers of household matter
and daily routines into an examined life.
Must explain the dagger through the heart,
the nail piercing the skull,
memories triggered by the scent
of Mamas over-salted soup.
Applicant must define the life worth living,
identify ancestors stuck together
in that box of sepia photos,
be plain spoken, persistent,
willing to be misunderstood,
interpreted to death.
Here are two poems by poets who are new to me. The first was recommended by a poet friend and I had the honor of hearing the second poet read her poems recently (thanks for the book, Janine!). I’m sharing these poems — on this last day of Poetry Month — as a reminder to look for new poets, new perspectives, new expressions of life’s joys…even in sorrow. These poems touched my heart as I think back over loved ones who have died in recent years; somewhere between dreams, embraces, and memories I see them still. For more information about each poet, click on the poem’s title.
I study my father across the gallery
in his wheelchair, bald head angled up,
swaying under eight by eight feet
of psychedelic blues and living greens.
I once read that water lilies are always
hungry, and suddenly I picture them
voraciously pulling him into the pond,
his morphine pump loosened
and drifting away, his body turning,
nerves finally cooled. Blossoms
cover his skin, their petals cocoon him.
Then my father wheels his chair
around, his face shocked with light.
He’s searching for me, water in his eyes,
my red purse ridiculous on his lap.
Last week, I was part of a poetry reading at the East Lansing Public Library. I was encouraged by the audience’s reaction to a few of my new poems. I offer them here, as a April-is-Poetry-Month salute. The audience laughed all the right places (thank you to every single one of you) and that reaction was a wake up call to me to write more funny stuff. I’m not sure that you’ll see me doing stand up comedy in the future, but I have started reading Comedy Writing Secrets and aiming toward a more humorous tone in my poems. We’ll see where it leads.
A few, unrelated Haiku
Nuthatch speeds from branch
To feeder to branch and back —
Life’s rat race displayed
Life isn’t five-seven-five
Life rhymes sometimes
Most of my exercise
Is pulling myself out of bed
To write this
— — —
FYI: A dancing madrone (below)
How You Know You’re in the Northwest
First of all, you and your car
Are in line for a ferry.
You’ve been on an island
Where time is inconsequential
And you are temporarily
Giving up all that
To make the ferry
At a certain time
The air is crisp
Even early in the afternoon sun.
A Madrone’s sensuous bar
Catches your eye
As it dances out through the wood
A sporty, older couple
In their matching caps,
Chuckling at secret jokes
A human beauty
Madrone-like in her mystery
Walks by, not really
In your sideview mirror,
You watch her stop
Putting her hand in the window
Of a stranger’s car
To pet a dog
She doesn’t know.
This goes on for a time.
You can’t keep your eyes
Off her enjoyment.
As she walks on,
— — —
A better person —
The dad we wish
The one who stops
To help the stranger
And does actually help.
One of the
Pure of heart
One of the
Type A organizers,
As least where
My desk is concerned
One of the
People who never
Need to apologize
But I do.
For all of it.
That does feel better.
Was it good for you?
Let’s get on with
— — —
I can’t tell you
How many times
I’ve been enjoying
A poem, only to look down
Or flip the page
And the great Anonymous
Was the poet
Flying under the radar
With immense humility
Anon nearly always
And Anon’s versatility —
One minute rhyming
Like a master,
The next a short
Free verse picture of life.
And timeless, my goodness,
Anon never dies.
Anonymous has a self-appointed
So my dear Anonymous
Who could be listening now,
I salute you.
On so many levels —
You are classy
In your stealth.
I am in awe of
your prolific volumes.
Maybe it’s your humble
Nature that’s kept you
Alive so long,