Sunday Morning Coffee Love (Evening Edition)

I miss church.

Okay, I’m just kidding. But I do miss the softball games that would happen their way into being once the sun came out to play and sneakers replaced galoshes. Once I started lapsing, I always made my way back to church for the spring and summer seasons. The terms of my short term, condition laden contract make me think the pastor was trying to tell me something, because I oftentimes ended up manning the hot corner.

This morning felt like a softball game had come calling. The sun was a classic rock song and the wind was an agreeable push of positive thinking and the air was busy collapsing under aromatic slivers of lavender and grass looking to escape the clutches of its too long prison time. The panorama was a fleeting weep of a Van Gogh spill gone mad to the dark corners.

And it was just an idea- best served on mornings such as this particular one- that got better and smarter with each passing moment. The idea became a run, and it quickly morphed into Zen. The time went still, the movements fluid and easy; fat with the peace of mind a spring day can present . . . even right smack dab in the middle of winter. It was the kind of feeling that helped bring a word like sublime to term.

Church? Yeah, it was in session alright.

 

Black diamonds are forever

You wake up one day and it occurs to you how incredibly routine you have become.

It happens in much the same way as water sips at a compromised point of entry; in the deep and cumbersome sleep of gravity’s lonesome push. And then one day, the breaking news is crashing down on your head. All those days of before, the ones that would sunshine themselves into a disco melody, have lost some of the boogie and some of the flash and most of that midnight funk.

Listen, shit happens. You get older and then Father Time gets together with Mother Nature and they start tinkering around under the hood and before you know it, you’re hearing one fucking noise after another. And all those noises come with bills. So you grab routine, because routine is predictable and predictable is better than noises and bills.

So it was that I had my day all planned out: Coffee, breakfast and the papers. Some meditation, a run. Do some writing and then get to some work stuff. Routine? Sure. Chill? Absolutely. Hey, I didn’t say routine was painful, I just said it was . . . well, routine.

Wat up homie?

This particular pal of mine (We’ll call him Brian since that’s his name) begins every single text to me the same way. I could bitch about it, but he’s part of my attempt to ditch the routine and get back to some modicum of unpredictability. The dude is the Ted Bundy of grammar, but he’s also inspired the return of poker nights and a St Patrick’s Day game plan, so Imma give him his props for getting the band back together; even if he wasn’t an original member. It still counts.

Getting ready to do some meth.  I replied.

Haha! Wana go ski? 

When? I replied.

Now. 

As in RIGHT now? I replied.

Yes. 

At this point, I felt like telling him that I really had a date with some crystal meth. What in the hell gave him the idea I was ready to launch my ass off the side of a mountain without an oxycodone/bourbon drip at the ready? Oh yeah . . . I did. Because I’d been talking about carving up some white powder for the last month as if I was Tony Montana after a wholesale jaunt to Bolivia.

Sure I replied, because I really had no choice.

Wel be there in 20

Nah, I’ll drive up and meet you. I replied. Because breaking from the routine doesn’t mean I’m squeezing my ass into a quarter of a seat and listening to music I ain’t tuning up. No, it don’t mean that. Predictability has its privileges.

Back in the day, my pre-game for a day on the slopes used to consist of a donut stop, a fresh pack of smokes and a speeding ticket. It was the kind of clockwork that has allowed Switzerland to remain neutral in perpetuity. But that was back when I had my own ski gear and season passes and . . . oh you know what? Fuck Father Time and Mother Nature.

My piss poor New Years resolution was to go skiing three times this winter season. And just when it looked like I would have to mark it zero, I got a reprieve from the routine. And from the meth too. I’m not gonna lie, I still miss the shit out of the donuts and the smokes. But that’s what hitting 70 is gonna be all about. Because I’ll be damned if I’m gonna waste my golden years on applesauce and blood thinners.

So I did the black diamonds and it really was just like riding a bike. And falling off the bike, in gruesome fashion. Again after again after mind numbing again. And you know what? It was wonderful, to pick myself up out of those ugly bits of mayhem and to be thankful that all my parts were still attached to all the right places. And so I did it again until the again was director cut worthy, as if I was imploring that hill to give me its best Conor McGregor because if there’s one thing I know how to do plenty well, it’s take a punch. Mind you, I’m not nearly as pretty about the whole thing as I used to be, but that’s where routine is a Mother Nature’s helper- because it humbles you sufficiently, and it allows you to be grateful for the try.

I came to own that particular moment in time and it was a righteous bit of disco, tell you what. And the next day proved no big deal to me, because . . . as it turns out I’m more limber than I’ve been in ages thanks to a routine of running and meditation.

Funny how that works.

 

 

 

 

Bullies, Free Coffee and Verbal Judo

 

wp-1486502257883.jpgBullies piss me off.

I was bullied when I was younger and lemme tell you, it’s no cupcake party. The fifth grade was a mostly forgettable year for me. I was my own person, even from the time I was a kid. Unwilling to fit in just because it was everybody else’s way of doing business. As it was, there were a couple boys who let me know this kind of independent thinking wasn’t cool with them. We were kind of schizophrenic because there were times when the three of us were pretty tight and then there were times when they’d put their bully caps on and have at it. Larry was in my class and Peter was a grade higher than us, not to mention built like a fire hydrant. It was with great relief that Peter stopped coming to school one day, after which we found out he’d been picked up by the cops trying to steal a car.

It was closing in on the end of the school year, and right smack dab in the middle of peace time when Larry decided he was gonna challenge me to a fight after school. Nothing like a 3 o’clock high appointment with a bully to fuck up your entire school day.

No Peter meant no chance for Larry. After a brief wrestling match in which we took turns calling our respective families every kind of swear word we could muster up, I ended the intrigue with a single punch to his face. He stepped back to reveal a bloody nose, and then he started crying. All the kids started laughing as he picked up his books and ran home, but I didn’t feel especially good about kicking his ass. So I picked up my books and parted the crowd of kids and walked home. Truth be told I was more afraid that Larry’s mother was going to show up at my door than I was about Peter or anything else. But that, became that. It would be the last time I ever let a bully tell me the what’s what.

Fast forward to forever and a day later, and it’s early morning and all I was asking was for an iced coffee and a few minutes worth of alone time with it. And that’s when Larry and Peter came along; well, it wasn’t actually Larry and Peter in front of me, because not even yours truly is that lucky. It was just a couple of douchebags with nothing better to do than nothing better. The conversation taking place between these two sock puppets and the barista had been serving as background noise, until it became apparent this wasn’t playful banter going on.

When I tuned in to the conversation, they were giving the girl shit about her nose ring and insisting they should be getting their coffees for free. The look on her face told me everything I needed to know.

“We have a problem here fellas?”

“Huh?” The one dude said, doing a half turn to check me out.

“Do. You two guys? Have a problem?”

“No.”

“Do you know this girl?” I asked.

“No.”

“Okay well . . I do. And if you guys ain’t ordering, you’re holding up the line. This isn’t the free coffee Starbucks, I’m not sure what gave you that idea.”

I call it Verbal Judo, and I use it . . . yeah, judiciously. It’s like you’re karate chopping someone without having to go to jail, so there’s that. It’s the tone that settles the matter, and this one? Done got settled, as they ordered their drinks and got to stepping. They never looked my way again, and as with Larry on the playground, I wasn’t looking to embarrass them. They’d done a fine job of that on their own.

The barista thanked me for saving her job, because she had been holding a couple NSFW adjectives for the two stooges and was dangerously close to launching them. And then, as I went to pay for my drink, the lady in back of me let the barista know she was taking care of that.

Call it playground justice, Imma go with instant karma. It’s free and it’s delicious.

 

My Advice for New Writers by John W. Howell

The following is a post written by the inimitable John Howell, so don’t be thinking I brain stormed this puppy into existence. And you may be asking, why did I decide to post it here? Well, I would looove to say it was all my idea to post it here. So I will. Even if it really kinda wasn’t. What matters is the end result, and in John Howell’s advice for new writers, you’re gonna find that whole process thing I was talking about a couple months ago. Done up by a man who knows his business. New writers can cull, and old ones can dig. I? Dig.

I was at a book signing the other day, and a person asked me a question that caused me to have to think a little before blurting out an answer. The question was, “What should every new write…

Source: My Advice for New Writers by John W. Howell

Lost and found playbooks, Brett Favre-less adventures and Elvis watching.

It’s nice to see a story that didn’t end in “worst case scenario” for a sports town that has seen its fair share.

You have to think it was a good sign for the Falcons when Kyle Shanahan’s backpack was returned to him forty five minutes after he lost it, with the contents undisturbed. All he had in that backpack were some personal effects, game tickets and . . oh yeah . . . the Falcons Super Bowl playbook. And maybe it’s a good sign that Bill Belichick didn’t get to play like Mr Potter to Kyle Shanahan’s George Bailey. And so maybe there are signs, and good ones, to be had for a sports town that is seeking sports title number two, that their quarterback’s number happens to be two.

Unlike most of the football public, I don’t hate the Patriots, I just happen to be rooting for the Falcons in this one. And not because of the “Rise Up” theme or because their uniforms are way cool, or even because Julio Jones is my newest gridiron crush. Nope, I’m with ’em because I want to see Georgia’s capital city win a day. As it stands, the Braves are the only team to have brought a championship to Atlanta.

Lots of peeps don’t remember the old Atlanta Flames hockey team, which is perfectly understandable seeing as how they played mostly forgettable hockey for the eight years they called Atlanta home. But they did sport some of the coolest sweaters in the business and the hell’s fire “A” just added to the exotic nature of a Southern based ice hockey team.

The Hawks will always be Dominique Wilkins’ team as far as I’m concerned. The “Human Highlight Film” was disco on the hardwood in the ’80’s. I had never been to space until I saw him play at the old Spectrum. It didn’t seem possible that a human being could jump that high without rocket boosters. The dude could have dunked a basketball from the top of the key with a full glass of water atop his head and not lost a drop of it. He was a controlled fire in high tops. His teams were solid if unspectacular; perennial contenders who were one star shy of serious title contention.

It seemed as if the Braves owned the deed to the National League for most of the ’90’s. They were stapled to October like Michael Myers, and their starting rotation serves as a Hall of Fame quiz. It was as impressive a run as the modern era has seen, and it was only surpassed by the team that cost them a couple more championships- the New York Yankees.

The Falcons have had their moments over the last fifty one years but many fans tend to remember them as the team that traded Brett Favre before he was Brett Favre. The Steve Bartkowski days provided a brief remedy for all the losing that preceded it, but the Dallas Cowboys always stood in the way of bigger play dates. The Jerry Glanville Edition- with Neon Deion and “Bad Moon” Rison and the head coach leaving a ticket for Elvis at Will Call- was about as much fun as a team could be without actually winning a title. And the ’99 squad surprised everyone by making it to the Super Bowl. Well, everyone except John Elway.

So now the Falcons are back again. Ready to try this whole thing on for size again. With a different Sheriff and a different posse and the kind of firepower that would’ve made Glanville blush. And they’ve got a ring leader who has never gotten the due he deserves in Matt Ryan. All that blather about his struggles in the postseason is a convenient way of dismissing his big numbers in the 2013 postseason, when his club was a play away from making it to the Super Bowl.

And not a blessed stitch of all that sports history matters right now. Because the Falcons have their game plan, safe and sound; and it doesn’t read of Patriotism in the least bit. And they have a bunch of fellas who probably wanted to see the Patriots here, because that’s how hungry prize fighters think. And they have a coach who ain’t just happy to be in the big game and a GM who worked this whole dream into being and an owner who actually gives a shit about his team and his town. Something tells me they don’t give a damn about signs, even if it is a pretty cool thing that they’ll be spending their fifty first year of existence playing in Super Bowl 51.

I’d like to think Brett Favre will be watching the game with Elvis.

 

 

 

 

Where peace gets its chance

When the end comes, I would like to think there will be a welcoming committee. The people I’ve lost will be there waiting for me with smiles and hugs and lots of really bad jokes. They won’t behave like angels because I wouldn’t recognize them if they did. In lieu of the harps and melancholic rituals I was always told to look for on the other side, they’ll have the snarky adjectives going strong; behaving as if it was just another rainy Monday morning in the middle of all that living. They’ll bitch about having all the time in the world and we will laugh our asses off, because that kind of thing will be a punchline from the ever after. The stuff that mattered before will keep on mattering, but it won’t come with a baggage check.

I hope there’s a makeshift ballgame going on in the backyard, with seat cushions for bases, a picnic table serving as the pitcher’s mound and a semi-circle of trimmed hedges playing the role of an outfield wall. I will move through the kitchen and stand at the back door watching; my finger nails scratching a clumsy guitar song along the screen. I’ll breathe in the freshly cut grass and shuffle my feet to the piping hot music coming through the transistor radio on top of the refrigerator. Outside, the laughs will paint colors into the air and the smiles will go frozen inside the life of a snow globe.

The clock that hangs on the kitchen wall might be a Van Gogh masterpiece, with the hours hand a sunflower and the minutes hand the petals and the tick will speak to me in French and the tock in Italian and the roam of five minutes time will feel like the most romantic thing. Dragonflies will write sonnets in the blue sky and the breeze will sound like Carole King. And deep inside the learning of all these many things, I’ll see the truth.

You have faith in the people you surround yourself with, but you don’t really know faith until it’s time to say goodbye.

The powers and perils of the press

Having an adversarial relationship with the Commander in Chief is nothing new for members of the press corps. Their obligation is to uncover the truth, no matter who it offends. Oftentimes their jobs put them in direct conflict with the top levels of government because let’s face it, power needs to be filtered for impurities. Constantly. The seats of power in this country may be democratic in name, but their desire to rule can blur the lines, which is where the power of the press comes in.

The press is a middleman to the masses, an arbiter of the documented evidence, their presentation is subjected to incredible scrutiny by all corners simply because it’s that important. It used to be that getting it right was the priority in the news business, and then came the big moneyed buy-in of news agencies and this was followed by the explosion of social media; where anyone with a laptop, or even a phone, could make the news. Before long, ratings dollars and breaking the news supplanted all other concerns.

This isn’t to say that the journalism business has effectively sold out. Quite simply, it’s important to remember that journalism has become a business, and as such the readers bear a responsibility to filter out the what’s what to a story. As end users, they must differentiate between the talking head news personalities that dominate the news and legit journalists who actually, yanno, cover it.

There is a vilification of the press going on these days, led by an administration that was built on the free press it received over the last sixteen months. Trump has long shown an allergic reaction to transparency, which is why he trashes all inquiries that don’t jibe with his master plan. This isn’t a liberal point of view, I’m just someone who respects the power of the press and understand the perils they assume each and every day.

Maybe it’s just coincidence that Election Day happened to fall on the 51st anniversary of the death of Dorothy Kilgallen. The renowned journalist for the New York Journal-American was one of the few voices to publicly challenge the Warren Commission findings in the Kennedy assassination. She was the only reporter to interview Jack Ruby. She chased, she sourced and she reported her findings; and in so doing she made enemies at the highest levels. Her life, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her untimely death are covered in the new book by Mark Shaw The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. 

It’s a sad title, and an ominous reminder.