That's Emma in the Santa hat shaking her little butt for her holiday dance showcase piece!
It's 11 years since cowards took advantage of the open, free society that we enjoy and flew airplanes filled of innocent people into buildings filled with still more innocents. Nearly 3,000 people died. America had been attacked on her home soil and we reacted like the proud, wounded nation we are.
For all of my daughter Emma's life and 90% of my son John's life, America has been at war. But it's not a war that has really affected them in any way. Or me either. Or most folks.
Emma's my supersweetheart, a great daughter who always keeps me laughing and on my toes. Tonight was the last session of summer dance and there was a little show for the parents. Turn down the music, while it's the great "Lovecats" from The Cure, the combination of abused dance studio boombox and my phone's recording ability don't do it justice. Just check out the happy little girl all the way to the right!
Thanks to Miss Mea for a great summer class and to Miss Rachael at Dance Xperience in Mount Laurel. Rach - we'll miss you!
We all get them from time to time I guess. The night so filled with dreams, vivid in imagery and intensity that we sit straight up trying to force them from our heads. Last night was one such night for me.
I'm a bit groggy today, having roused myself at something like 5 AM after a few cycles of trying to clear away the dreams and find inky dark sleep. I dream a good bit, sometimes about things form my past, sometimes the dreams seem to be a bit predictive. I've never written them down, or really tried hard to remember them. Usually they just fade away like the darkness running from dawn.
Last night's were full of color and energy, burning candles blown out in a darkened room that forced me awake, thinking I smelled smoke. A large white cat that I tripped over in a in a shiny, hardwood-floored hallway which clawed gently at my bare foot. A half-closed door beyond which I am certain my parents slept. A window, filled with a deep blue sky, luminous with millions of hard, cold stars, the ground below suffused oddly with reddish moonlight. The window image was strong enough that it seemed to stay there on the far wall of the bedroom even after I opened my eyes and shook my head.
Finally, fitfully back to sleep, the sound of a plastic cup clattering in the sink, loud enough to wake me again and force me to wander the dark house looking for the offending item.
There was nothing.
At that point I had had enough and roused myself to peruse the overnight news, review medal counts and read a library book.
Where did it all come from? I have no idea really. White cats seem to represent all kinds of things, some good and some not so good. Candles, as well, seem to mean all kinds of things as well. In the end I guess they could mean anything I want them to mean. Or they could just the the idle workings of a mind trying to create things for me to write about. If so, it worked!
If you have tried to drive around The City of Brotherly Love anytime in the last 6 weeks, you know there is a movie being filmed in town. Paranoia is currently shooting right outside my window at the Kimmel Center. In the 1400 block of Spruce St, there is a row of trailers which I am told house the cast while the shooting is going on. Over on Broad Street, the entire block from Spruce to Pine is lined with equipment trailers stuffed full of rack of lights, colored plastic sheeting for the lights, scaffolding, and all kids of other cool equipment.
Paranoia will star Harrison Ford, Liam Hemsworth (who has brought skanky Miley Cyrus to town to entertain him) and Amber Heard. Sadly I have not run into Amber Heard yet. Harrison Ford won't regularly be in town during this part of the shoot but will be here in December when shooting resumes.
In other News, The Atlantic Building at Broad and Spruce, formerly site of Ted's Montana Grill and before that Avenue B by Neil Stein, has sold. Apartment developers the Post Brothers bought the mostly-empty but still-stately property for a cool $33 million. Apartments are sure to follow.
On our way up, the kids and I stopped on what I consider hallowed ground, the Battle Green in Lexington and the North Bridge in Concord. Along the Battle Road between these towns and back down to Boston, the first blood was shed in the defense of American freedom.
While I have been there before, it was the first visit for John and Emma. Emma is a kid who loves history and was very excited for her opportunity to better understand what happened at the beginning moments of our country's fight for independence. John was uhh ... tolerant ... of the stop on the way to Maine.
It's a bit rainy and gray here on the 4th in Maine, but the rest of the week has been pretty glorious so far. I hope that you and yours are enjoying your day together loving life, exercising liberty, and pursuing happiness.
Happy Independence Day America!
Being a father is at the center of who I am today. Most of us will not leave this life having made significant contributions to the arts and humanity, or have invented a major scientific or technological breakthrough. Darn few of us will leave behind the kind of wealth to make an important impact on society.
But those of us who are lucky enough to be parents will, if all goes well, leave our children behind to make their impacts. Like ripples on a still pond after you throw a stone in, their effects will be far broader than our small efforts.
Being a father is more important that anything I can thank of. Teaching discipline without being harsh. Encoraging success without work or activites becoming all-consuming. Helping the little ones learn that respect for everyone is important. Developing a balanced sense of self, family and community.
Having great kids helps. I sure know it helped my dad! I have been gifted with two young people who humble me. I am a dance dad and a baseball dad and I love every minute of it! They have no idea how happy I am when family friends and even strangers tell me that John and Emma are smart, happy, children who value fairness and enjoy life. They've made my journey as a father far easier than I know it is for others.
I've spent the weekend in the company of some of the best fathers I know at Tabernacle's 17th Annual Pinelands Classic. Whether it's coaching the young men (and women), dragging and lining fields, or working the concession stand grills, these men have it figured out. I am lucky to have so many friends who put parenting first.
After we get moving a bit, we are headed back to Delco to celebrate our annual Father's Day Crab Fest. There, I will again be surrounded by some of the best fathers I know. People who have taught me that blood is thicker than water and that family comes first in all things. It will be a lot of work, but a lot of fun and that's why we have done some form of Crab Fest for four generations now.
A special thank you to the fathers who are serving our country both at home and abroad. The sacrifices that you and your families have endured for the benfit of the many do not go unnoticed. The police offices, fire fighters and first responders who leave the comfort of their homes each day not knowing if they will kiss their children again also deserve 'most-favored father' status today. I can't imagine doing it and all I can say is thank you.
My youngest aunt left us this morning. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever known. My mom's baby sister, Marianne was dedicated to her family, and was lucky enough to meet her grandson in her final months. She was the person in the world who most reminded me of my grandmother and in some ways I am feeling a double loss this morning, remembering a cold January morning as well.
While she lived most of her life in Atlanta, Marianne grew up in Essington, Delaware County. She visited often enough that my children knew her and her children well. She has been to our house at Christmas, baked cookies with them, laughed over a glass of Pinot Grigio after they were tucked away.
I will always remember her in Cape May Point last summer, clearly weakened, but still strong enough to enjoy being with everyone. She was planning her recovery, trying to find way to help people, and talking about visiting us again this summer.
You'll be missed Marianne. I am happy for you that the fight is over but so sad for your children, Mason and the rest of us that your kind heart has left us for somewhere easier. Say hi to the rest of the gang from Saude Avenue. I am sure they are happy to see you again.
This isn't my standard Memorial Day post. I waited until the end of the long weekend to re-work my thoughts to make them a bit more personal than my standard patriotic thank you on the final Monday in May.
This was a wonderful weekend for me. I was able to coach my final games with my son's baseball team, and despite some hard losses (and bad calls) I enjoyed every second. I was able to enjoy my daughter's sweet personality and the love and companionship of good friends, new and old. While baseball made it impossible to see my any family except my kids, I know that they gathered and enjoyed time together as well. It was an All-American weekend and I hope that yours was as well.
Today we walked a block or so to our town's Main Street and honored veterans and first responders for the sacrifices they have given to keep us free and safe. Later we watched humbly as those who gave everything they had were honored with a final reading of poetry, a 21 gun salute, and a quiet rendition of 'Taps.'
I honor the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who have served our country with the pledge that our freedom is more important than their lives. It shames me that it generally takes national holidays for us to remember their work, their blood, the pain of their families, the tears of their children.
There is another group I honor today, the nations's first responders. The police officers, the fire fighters, and the emergency medical personnel who help us live safely under the freedom our military service persons provide. Without these millions of people, both paid and volunteer, we would be a sad nation indeed. It is time they have their own day of recognition.
So for all who have given so much and for those who continue to do so, I thank you with all of the energy I can muster. My wonderful weekend, and indeed, life, are lived under your protection and I appreciate it very much.
Happy Memorial Day!
It's been a while ...
Things are busy, so I can't say the site has been at the top of my list of priorities. May is deposit season, so work is as busy as it gets. It's also the heart of youth baseball season, so the weekends (including Mother's Day) have been full of games and time with friends. My daughter's social butterfly stage is in full bloom and I even understand she may have a boyfriend. Sigh.
I've been a bit better on the eye health front, but there are still some mornings where getting the lenses in is darn near impossible. The crazy days of greenish yellow tree pollen coating everything seem to be waning, but who knows what will come next.
I haven't read much lately, but did finish the audio versions of the Dragon Tattoo series. I'm working on reviews and looking forward to listening to the new John Sandford 'Prey' novel that is out. I've also become acquainted with 'Mad Men,' and it's as good as everyone says.
I'm eating better, getting some exercise in and have found some new things to interest me and make me happy. I'm still here and will be checking in more as baseball winds down.
It's kind of a gray morning here in the Philly area. The color palette is subdued and quiet, almost drained of energy. It's my least favorite light. That got me thinking ...
What are your four favorite kinds of light?
Anyway - kind of deep for the day before Cinco de Mayo, but let's hear what you think. Have a great weekend and enjoy safely!
I went for a lunchtime walk today and saw these signs. I did not see any elephants though. I was quite disappointed. I suspect that they have something to do with the Occupy Philly May Day Protests, but I am not sure. Anyone know?
Hello, my name is Chris and I coach youth baseball.
There. It's out in the open. Though if you have spent more than 10 minutes with me in the last 5 years you probably already knew this.
There are crazy dance moms, obsessed theatre dads, grandmoms who take their charges to Makin' Music 5 times a week to encourage the slobbering 3 year old to channel her inner Taylor Swift and grandpops who dress the youngest of kids in camo, hand them a shotgun and drag them into the woods every morning.
And then there are the baseball coaches. I freely admit that during the season (March to June, August to November, January to March) I have very few conversations that don't have youth baseball mixed in some how. I looked last year at the percentage of my income I spent on baseball teams, travel, fees, training, equipment and lessons. It scared me.
I had intended to step away from coaching this year. I have been coaching my son for 6 years now, from T-ball to travel and over the winter I decided I had done enough. There were better coaches available I reasoned. I wanted to sit with my daughter and watch. Like they always do, things happen, and here I am again, shouting repetitive instructions at 11 year olds, desperately hoping something sinks in.
It's an obsession. It dramatically affects our relationships with our significant others. Our other children have baseball day packs, filled with art supplies, snacks, water bottles, blankets, sunscreen and electronic diversions. Lunch hours are spent calling other coaches looking for games, staring at cell phone videos of pitchers and batters or fielding calls from parents concerned (inevitably) about their son's playing time.
I've watched other dads give it up. It's not pretty. They shout instructions though the fence at their sons. They tremble and shake in the bleachers when an umpire blows a call. They grumble and groan and hold parking lot meetings with their son's coach after the games. All of the symptoms of withdrawal are there. (One note: the guy pictured does none of these things. He's a model ex-coach.)
I'm not alone in my coaching obsession. Nearly all of the friends I see reguarly anymore I have met through youth sports. We talk briefly about a new restaurant in town, our daughter's dance recital or taxes, but things move quickly to 'Did you see what so-and-so's kid did the other night? or 'Did you see so-and-so's email about whatever tragedy is confronting the team?' We compare the latest catalogs from JustBats or Baseball Express and swap coupons to Dick's and Sports Authority.
We borrow each other's kids to fill out our lineups, throw countless batting practice sessions and show up at random rec league games to check how other coaches are using our travel team players. We spend hundreds on gear and apparel and look for every advantage for our kids and our teams. I recognize this is probably some form of insanity, but when everyone you know is doing the same thing, it all feels pretty normal.
We practiced last night until 8:45. On a school night. We've got tournament games for the next 3 weekends. Including Mother's Day. Today is an off-day and I am going to resist the temptation (I think) to hit a rec game to see which kids are throwing tonight.
It's just what we do. And every year I swear this will be the last year I coach, and every spring I am right back out there.
Emma dresses herself most days. It takes about 35 minutes on a good day. An hour on a bad day. This morning she came out of her room wearing the dress and boots outfit pictured here. I raised my eyebrows a bit. It's not her usual look for school, but she switches it up now and then.
So when we got home tonight I asked her why she wore the dress today. She said 'I know it is getting too small and that it's a winter dress. I wanted to wear it one more time. My doll has a dress just like it.'
She wasn't sad, just matter-of-fact. She's growing up. A little more every day.
'Let's go take a picture,' I said. And we did and she went back to memorizing her poem for school. My little one is getting so grown up.
Yesterday was a day where nothing went the way it was planned to go, but the result was still a surprisingly pleasant day in the end.
I was running a bit later than I wanted to be to get John and Emma picked up and over to John's game, but just as it was time to get moving to the fields, the game was canceled due to rain. We were able to have a leisurely morning and not race around like crazy people. We also avoided having to play and watch baseball in the rain! We headed home ahead of the forecast nor'easter and decided to do some long-delayed chores around the house.
Alas, I had not remembered to pick up John's bookbag the night before (why is that my job?) so we haded over to the Duff's to retrieve it. What I had expected to be a 15 minute trip there and back (I had told Emma we were not staying) turned into an impromptu Flyers Eliminate the Pens and The Phillies Really Suck party as Emma and John got to catch up on the goings on back in Mount Laurel, we cheered on the Flyers to victory, met a new friend and generally had a good time.
I meant to do a load of laundry when we got back, but it just seemed like a far better idea to watch some Don Draper and catch up with some friends on Facebook. Thanks to those who introduced me to Mad Men, I am now out of clean socks.
No baseball was played and not a bit of housework got done, but it was a really great Sunday. I hope everyone else enjoyed the rainy day as much as we all did!
I have spent the last few weeks in an allergy-induced haze. Not a mental haze, mind you, but a visual haze. Itchy, watering eyes, abraded corneas, general unhappiness. It's generally an annual thing for me, coinciding to the arriva l of tree pollen in my area. Given the mild winter and warm spring, this has been my worst episode ever.
I've had to spend a couple of days being driven around, skip some baseball and work, and the laundry basket is full of washcloths used as cold compresses. The variety of drops, sprays and pills I have needed in the last few weeks is astounding. Good docs, friends and drivers have been very helpful too!
Being able to see is a pretty important thing, but I have been amazed at how much I can do despite my uncorrected vision being somewhere around 20/2000. Yup. That's the right number of zeros. I can't see very well without contacts. Still, I have been able to get around.
Part of that is because the brain is so remarkable. What I can do by feel, general memory, scent, and with fuzzy sight has been pretty amazing. I have been able to work, take care of my kids, cook, write and even read a bit.
The rain last night and soon today has helped settle the pollen down a bit and my vision is pretty normal today. I think that I've turned the corner, but the experience of the last two weeks has really given me new appreciation for both my vision as well as the quality of the health care I am able to afford.
So the next time you get something in your eye and tear up, consider for a moment how lucky we are to be able to see anything at all and how difficult life would be if we alwasy ahd to walk though life in a fuzzy haze.l of tree pollen in my area. Given the mild winter and warm spring, this has been my worst episode ever.
This week I had the unsual opportunity to have dinner back in Delco with my dad. After reviewing the State Street options, I selected Stephen's over Iron Hill on the basis of better steak offerings for him and a lower potential for noise pollution from Flyers fans.
Stephen's was a good choice overall, but unspectacular. The decor is clean and neat, but nothing special. The old-fashioned I enjoyed at the bar (while I waited for Pop to slide the Camry into a primo parking spot out front) had never heard of bitters and suffered from a few too many maraschino cherries.
My cold appetizer of rare tuna seemed to have been pre-prepared and was a touch dry. The sesame oil infused bed of greens was quite tasty and the overall effort was refreshing. The bread course was very good, with crusty, yet soft, recently sliced bread accompanied by herbed olive oil. It was actually a highlight of the meal.
My crab and scallop broiled tilapia special was flavorful, but poorly cooked. One side was very over done and the flip side was barely cooked, leading to an overly dry crunchy mouth feel. The scallops were excellent however and the crab meat was a nice, if sparse addition.
My father had mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat as an appetizer. SInce there were only 5, I passed on his offer to share, but he enjoyed them immensely from what I could tell. He also filled up on the crab in his entree, choosing a filet oscar while skipping the bearnaise sauce. He subbed out the asparagus for Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and was very happy with both the main course and his side.
I passed on a pretty pedestrian dessert menu, but Pop tried the cheesecake. Obviously recently liberated from a cardboard box, the texture and flavor were pretty below average. The service was very good, with our local waitress keeping the tea glass filled and endured my father's usual line of questioning about her educational background and future plans.
All in all Stephen's on State was a nice Wednesday night out for two guys without much else to do on a spring evening. The Food was good, if a notch below the pricetag. The service and ambiance were enjoyable and unobtrusive. I recommend hitting restaurant.com for discount certificates if you go. Ours cut $15 off the $100. bill, which included tip.
There are better restaurants in Delco, but Stephen's is worth a shot if you're a carnivore out looking for a meal in Media. My dad is a steak guy, so this worked well for him. We ate, talked about family and friends, upcoming vacations and sport. It was a good night for both of us and the food was a big part.
I have not been writing much. It's that time of year, where, despite the ingestion of 4 different medications daily, I am still often unable to get my contacts to stay in my eyes for more than a few hours because of allergies. I try to save those times for driving and kid time, since driving without the contacts not recommended and the kids are pretty darn cute.
So the blog takes a back seat since it it pretty hard to write when you can't see what you are writing!
The kids were on Spring Break last week, so I took a few days off from work and spent a lot of time with them. It was filled up with trips to the park for Emma, baseball (and braces) for John and a bit of family time for egg hunts and the like. The park at the end of our street isn't much, but Emma loves the slides and swings and keeps trying harder and harder on the monkey bars each time. John has had a solid start to baseball, nothing spectacular, but he's hitting the ball and playing with enthusiasm, which is all a dad could want.
Despite my allergies, I have been trying to get outside a lot. Saturday I coached some basebell and got some sunburn and a new look for spring. Yesterday, only half-blind for the day, I had to forgo Sadie and Gretl's birthday party, but I did manage to spend some glorious time outside in the sun and got a little (too little) exercise in.
It was a quiet, fun week with a lot of downtime for everyone to enjoy each other. the funniest moment of the week though, came while coaching baseball, when this little gem transpired:
Coach: Ok. So that's what we do on a bunt. Now everyone understands. Any questions?
Kid: Coach, I have a question.
Coach: Ok, go ahead.
Kid: Did you know that all three of you coaches are wearing New Balance sneakers?
Coach: Umm, no, but that's a good observation. Anyone else have any BASEBALL questions?
So if you've ever wondering what the kids talk about when there is a discussion on the field, it likely has NOTHING to do with baseball.
Have a good week!
By now many of you have probably had the chance to get down to Xfinity Live, the new party venue in South Philly sports complex. Crowds have been huge, filling the place to capacity when there is an event at any venue. The opening night, when Third Eye Blind did a free concert, was seriously packed with the crowd overflowing long before showtime.
I had a chance to check things out last weekend as the place was opening and was pleasantly surprised at how much they have packed into what is a pretty small footprint. For a place that isn't quite done yet, there is certainly a lot going on!
The music stage out back is pretty sweet for the local band scene, offering a nice raised stage flanked by a short turf football field and a back bar faced with bricks from the original Spectrum. Even on a cold early April evening last Saturday, several local bands were able to generate some warmth as fans came out for long-time favorites Burnt Sienna, Mr. Greengenes, The Flamin' Caucausians, a Strange as Angels reunion and Kristen and the Noise all rocked for the Flyers fans and later the 76ers faithful.
One musical off-note from opening weekend - whoever the idiot was that booked Crazy in Stereo needs his head examined. They were so bad I thought that some drunken wait staffers had stolen instruments and stormed the stage.
Inside there is the main space, the NBC Sports Arena, with it's MASSIVE 32 foot HDTV towering over bars, tables and banquettes. Each time I have been to Xfinity Live, this space has been packed. It's a great place to watch the game if you don't a ticket and the food is certainly on par with sports complex places like Chickies and Pete's and McFaddens. You will have to deal with some jostling around and it's hard to hear over the thunderous sound system and crowd noise, but you really aren't taking a date here for the conversation, right?
I was pretty impressed with the Victory Beer Hall, which was was packed with beer lovers sucking down pints of Downingtown's best brews. While there is certainly some learning curve on the staff beer knowledge (No beautiful, the Storm King Stout is NOTHING like a Guinness, but you sure are cute in that outfit!) the place was electric. The outside bar and fire pit were also a really nice addition to the space.
PBR (no idea what that stands for) is an odd duck of a bar. It's got a mechanical bull in the middle of the bar, women in backless chaps, some very pretty margaritas and some solid smoked BBQ ribs. So you can watch your drunk buddy last .8 seconds on the bull while your suck down a few big drinks served to you by someone who looks like she should be at Hooters. This place seems to be a staff favorite after they get cut from other spots. Broad Street Bullies Pub is your basic sports bar, replete with Flyers memorbilia and a quieter vibe than the other bars in the complex.
Finally, there's the Spectrum Grille, a quiet, high-end steakhouse featuring soft lighting and sleek, dark wood decor and my friend Noelle making great drinks at the bar. The tuna carpaccio was very good and other bar customers had high marks for the steaks. In the time my guest and I were there, we saw several former Flyers slip in the back entrance and order up some massive steaks. It looks like the Flyers Alumni has a new clubhouse!
XL certainly answers the question 'Where should we meet before the game?' It is now THE destination for pre-gaming in South Philly. McFaddens will still have its crowd for Phillies nights, but my guess is the C&P crowds will take a hit as folks realize they don't need to take a bus from the bar to the game. Groups will be able to meet here easily, have a few drinks before game time and then head off. Folks without tickets won't be out of luck either, given the plethora of TVs and the mega giant HDTV screen in the main hall.
I think XL also has a lot of potential on non-game nights. The music venue will be a fun addition to the local rotation of spots you can see your favorite cover bands. There is also room inside for smaller acoustic sets at Victory, PBR and Broad St., something that I think will make for and interesting evening, as you can walk from venue to venue as long as you are willing to carry your drink in a plastic cup.
I'll be headed back down soon to see how the place looks as it works out its growing pains. XL was obviously overstaffed and overcrowded for opening weekend, so it will be interesting to see how the place looks on a 'normal' weekend. So far though, Xfinity Live looks like a winner!
Hello all -
It's been a great week in the Region of Brotherly Love, with the Phils beating the Pirates yesterday, 1-0 to open the season, The Masters underway, the Flyers clinching a playoff date with the Pens and doughnuts in the office to celebrate a birthday!
But it's also Easter weekend for the Christians or bunny lovers among us. We have not finished the Halloween candy at my house yet, but it's time to hunt for eggs and check out what the Easter bunny left in the baskets this year.
What are your four favorite Easter Candies?
Have a great weekend of family, sports, observations and food!
Last night the Prince of Darkness and his minions smashed the forces of All That Is Good and Holy and took the national championship for NCAA Men's Division I Basketball. There was a score, but the score was not really indicative of how much The Prince's (John Calipari) forces dominated the boys from Kansas. This was as thorough a destruction as I have seen of one team in a championship game and despite a late attempt by Kansas to make things look respectable, the game was really never in doubt.
This was the predicted outcome. The gifted recruiter Coach Cal would finally get his national championship ring and his players would disperse to the winds to prepare for the NBA draft, possibly never having seen a UK classroom this semester. Bill Self's KU squad, already a loser to Kentucky back in November didn't have the firepower then and it didn't last night. Kentucky may not either next year, as they are set to lose freshmen superstars Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for certain and probably also Marquis Teague.
But Kentucky will reload with new talent, the recruiting of top prospects fueled by Coach Cal's first ring and the likelihood that the NCAA is still a few years away from catching up to him at Kentucky. I don't really have a problem with the players to spend a year 'at school' and then head to the NBA draft. For me, an educated, suburban, white guy to tell these kids who generally have so little academic preparation for college that they need a college degree to be successful while the NBA beckons with guaranteed millions is just stupid.
However, I do think that this is just another example of how college sports are nothing like what we pretend them to be. There is very little honorable or noble about universities making millions off the labor of athletes who will never graduate. Similarly, the athletes participating in this sham are little more than mercenaries, serving their term of enlistment for the bonus at the end of the line.
And it's not going to change. The NCAA tournament TV contract is an $11 BILLION deal. Anyone who has been to a Final Four has seen the obscene amount of money that gets thrown around in bars, restaurants and clubs wherever the games land each year. Then there is the merchandise. People who can't find Kentucky on a map are bedecked in school color, wearing foam fingers and painting their faces. It's a virtual orgy of consumerism around a few games played by kids, who for the most part are not even able to drink yet.
It's a giant mess and it isn't going to get better. I've always been a huge fan of March Madness, but this year may have been the beginning of the end for my enjoyment. The Madness isn't in Lehigh beating Duke (ouch that hurt) or in Butler making it all the way to the final game. It's in the masses believing that this is really amateur athletics and that the experience is somehow important to what colleges and universities are supposed to be about - namely education.
I'm enjoying the D1 national championship game tonight where I am hoping Bill Self and the KU Jayhawks win another national title over the Prince of Darkness and his band of minions who will be playing in the NBA Rookie Game next year.
Tomorrow, a TV staple of my teenage years returns to the airwaves as WPHL-TV 17 revives 'Dancin' on Air' at 10 am. The original show, much like its predecessor 'American Bandstand,' featured local kids dancing to the latest 80s dance and pop hits. While I never appeared on the show due to my hereditary inability to dance, I do know several folks who appeared on the show.
The show helped make Madonna, Kelly Ripa, Duran Duran and others big stars and later went national as 'Dance Party USA,'. I was working as DJ at the time and it was always great to see how crowds reacted to new music on the show. While I will be busy tomorrow night for the new show's premier, I will definitely DVR it.
All this got me to thanking about other things that I would bring back from my teenage years ...
What are the top four things you would bring back from your teenage years?
If you are a Supreme Court junkie, as I am, it's been a pretty interesting week. three days of oral arguments before the court over The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has had NPR's Nina Totenberg breathless since Monday. I followed closely the radio and print accounts of the arguments and all of the analysis that came afterwards.
There were three basic areas of dispute. The first, seemingly dismissed by the Court, is that the an obscure federal tax law from 1867 called the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) essentially bars bringing a case against Obamacare. The law prohibits tax protesters from filing suit against a tax until the tax has actually been paid. The Supremes seems dubious that there was even a tax involved here, even given that when the act is in force those who do not have health insurance will have to pay a penalty, which the IRS will collect. It's a fine point I guess, but that's why lawyers are involved.
The second day was really where the fireworks were, with Obamacare opponents making the argument that the law is unconstitutional because it forces everyone in America to purchase health insurance. Their essential argument was that the constitution does not permit the government to compel a citizen to purchase anything and that if the government could do this, it could compel people to buy anything at all, including broccoli.
The government's counter to this argument was that broccoli, no matter how much you like it, does not provide for a basic human need like access to health care does and that the government certainly has the right to regulate trade in such a huge area of the economy. The government also argued that the only wa for health insurance to work was to have everyone in it all the time or else only sick people would buy it, making the whole system a horrendously expensive mess.
The final day's arguments were based around the complaint to the states governed by Republicans that the regulations that the act placed on Medicare were an unconstitutional violation of states rights by the federal government. The states also made the argument that the entire act must be struck down if any portion of it were deemed unconstitutional.
In the end, despite favoring universal care on a human rights basis, I found the arguments presented against Obamacare to be compelling. I specifically agreed with the idea that individuals can't be told to buy a product, no matter how useful the product is or how much the product is needed to provide for the common good. While we all agree that everyone should have access to comprehensive, affordable healthcare, we can't provide it by requiring everyone to buy personal coverage. It's not who we are as a nation. We don't solve our problems by mandating behavior.
So a government-funded, single-payer insurance system like Canada's must be the answer, right?
I will surprise my libertarian and conservative friends (and my liberal friends too, I guess) by saying no, I think that government control of the healthcare system is not the answer either. I work in higher education, where I have seen first-hand how the government can take over programs that have some problems but are working and regulate them into a costly, inefficient mess in a matter of years. Government can't even figure out how to collect trash efficiently and we want to entrust 1/6 of the economy and our health to its organizational ability? I think not.
The real answer is that the solution is a lot harder than a health care bill. It will added efficiency such as a realization that not every hospital needs every new device. It will take philanthropy. One of the reasons that health care has gotten so much more expensive is that non-profits and religious groups have been driven out as healthcare mega corps have been able to outbid them for top docs, leaving only charity care for the NPOs to provide.
America has to invest in itself to get though what I consider a health care crisis. That means those who have resources making a concerted effort to voluntarily provide for the less fortunate though philanthropy. It's not good enough to buy proton guns for major research hospitals. Someone has to be willing to subsidize mammograms and and infant care for folks who can't afford it on their own.
It also has to start with individual responsibility. One of the reasons that health care is so expensive is that we are so out of shape. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are epidemics in the country, starting with toddlers. You don't have to join an expensive gym or hire a personal trainer, but it's time to get off our butts and go for a walk, to volunteer to clean up a park, or to coach a youth team. We're lucky enough to live in a country with abundant access to clean, fresh water. We should be drinking more of that and a lot less soda and juice.
I know I sound a lot like a small government conservative here, but I think that a regulated private healthcare system with significant philanthropic care is the best way to solve this problem. People also have to realize that their choices affect the community at large. The Supreme Court is going to gut Obamacare when the justices rule in June. But that's not a bad thing. It was a bad compromise on a grand idea. Now it's time to more forward with a better plan.
I spent two days last week in Atlantic City for a conference. I tend to get there every year or so for one meeting or another. Of all the vices I have, gambling is not among them, so it's not a place I generally go out of my way to get to.
Lured by $55 room rates (plus $10 per night fees) the conference this year was at the Tropicana, the Boardwalk casino complex best known for its addition of 'The Quarter,' a zone of restaurants, nightclubs,and boutiques as well as the hotel's problem with bedbugs. It was a nice place ot stay for a night or two, but the constant need to walk though the smoky casino to get anywhere and the uncomfortable accommodations for a meeting make it unlikely I will head back there for a meeting.
The breakfasts were good, but the dinner left me scampering to Red Square, where the food was better, the company was excellent and the TVs were showing March Madness. People watching at Tango's, a lobby bar, was fascinating but the Boardwalk was really the place to be on the first few days of spring. Day time highs were in the upper 70s, with mild evenings under a canopy of stars accompanied by crashing waves.
And as long as you don't stray from the boards and your hotel, AC doesn't seem so bad. There are clearly corridors designed to get you safely from the Expressway to your destination, with giant signs pointing the way. Even the Revel, set to open next week, already has its own giant 6 lanes of lighted safety to get even the drunkest gambler past the badlands and headed home.
It's a surreal town, with the wind turbines and downtown outlet mall, old and new convention centers, sprawling casinos bracketing vast stretches of poverty all set along a grand stretch of white sand. As much potential fun as AC seems to hold out as a possibility, I leave somewhat sad every time I am there. I'm not good with being told what to do, and sometimes stray outside the guided tour of the city to see things that the casino folks would prefer we didn't realize were there.
Things like the closed baseball complex that has never been able to make a go of it, the eerily disused golf course, the rows and rows of empty houses, the massage parlors, and head shops. The vacant lots though aren't the part that bothers me the most. It's the slack-jawed vacant looks of those legions who sit tethered to a blinking machine, pressing a button all day and all night, silently watching their Social Security checks disappear.
Maybe it's not quite as gritty over at the Borgata, but the giant room size, gilt paint and high-gloss wax wasn't able to hide the uneven floors, raucously drunk herds of kids and vomit in the fake plants. Boarwalk Empire this ain't! I didn't see a tuxedo or even a tie on a guest in 2 days. Many folks are wearing thier best yoga pants and sweat shirts, casino loyalty cards ringing each wrist and neck.The younger crowd makes Snooki and The Situation look modest, staggering from club to casino in the most mini of skirts and the barest of chests.
I like to have a good time as much as anyone, but I can think of about a million places I would rather be than down in AC. If they connected you better with the ocean and the Boardwalk, I might be swayed, but instead the casinos ignore their location once you are there, forcing you to wander the floor looking for an escape hatch.
REM's 1991 hit 'Shiny, Happy People' was playing as I soldiered to the conference Friday morning. As I looked around at the rows and rows of slot machines, table games and security guards, seniors and slackers, bar maids and porters, I could not think of a more inappropriate song for the beginning of the day at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City.
These folks may be rushing beach season just a bit, but it IS spring and there are plenty of people enjoying the warm temperatures here in Atlantic City. With the high headed to near 80 degrees today and clear blue skies above the boardwalk, it's a great day for a walk by the ocean.
Everyone have a great weekend!
I am back home after a long weekend of basketball in Salem, Virginia and baseball here in South Jersey. I'd love to do a full post tonight about my alma mater's run to the brink of a national championship and all of the great people I saw at the Final Four. I could also post a bit about the highs and lows of coaching youth baseball, but alas I cannot.
With the warm temperatures and nice weather comes my nemesis, pollen. I'm having some pretty tough days right now with my contacts not wanting to stay in my eyes, so my thoughts and photos from this weekend will have to wait. Sue Serio on Fx29 tells me the pollen counts will be lower later in the week, so hopefully I will get back to posting then!
I am down in Salem, Virginia covering the NCAA DIvision III Men's Basketball Championship weekend, so we have a Final Four edition of the Fantastic Four:
What Four Things Do You Love About the Final Four?
Later today, as the whole nation is glued to March Madness, I will be headed south along I-81 to the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball championship weekend in Salem, Virginia. It's my seventh Final Four and fourth as a member of the media covering the biggest weekend in small college basketball. And I already know it will be a special time.
Improbably, my alma mater, Cabrini College is making its first appearance in the national semi finals. The carry the nation's best record into the weekend, entering play at 31-1. Led by senior guard Cory Lemons, the Cavs score 82 points a game and stormed through conference play undefeated. Lemons is everything you could want in a point guard, strong with the ball, a dangerous outside shooter and quick enough to blow by nearly every defender around. He's a lock for several post-season All-America honors.
The Cavs are coached by 4th year head coach Marcus Kahn, the Middle Atlantic region's coach of the year. He's got just over 100 wins in his 4 years and has restored a storied program that had fallen on hard times when he arrived. Freshman sensation Aaron Walton-Moss's fortuitous recruitment has been the difference between this squad and a team that had a lot of weapons but fell short last year.
I am too much of a realist to think that the Cavs will win a national championship this weekend. Their opponent tomorrow night is the bracket's true Cinderella, Illinois Wesleyan, an unranked, at-large selection to the D3 tournament who had to beat #1 Hope College to even get this far. They are fast and tall and deep, well-coached with experience in the CCIW, the toughest conference at this level. They'll be the best team that the Cavs have seen all season and are certainly good enough to send the boys back to Radnor without the hardware.
On the other side of the bracket, things don't get any easier on the quest for the Walnut and Bronze as the MIT Engineers lead the nation in scoring margin, giving up only 57 points a game. They take on another stingy defense in the University of Wisconsin Whitewater Warhawks, who only allow opponents 59 points per game.
Regardless of the outcomes, it will be a great weekend of basketball and fellowship. For the first time in seven years, Cabrini coaching legend John Dzik will be in Salem (and at Corned Beef), supporting the current version of the program he built into a national power. Super fans Paul and Darnelle Engle will also be down south along with hundreds of others making the trek.
I'll see you in Salem! Go Cavs!!!!
I like cop books. I read a lot of them, Sandford and Connelly and even Cornwell. At it's most simple, Jim Harrison's 'The Great Leader' is a cop book. A retired state police detective from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the hunt for a cult leader who takes advantage of his young female followers.
But the pursuit of the criminal is only a single thread in the cloth of this novel, which weaves together sex, fishing, history, alcohol, reading, aging, family, longing, nature and travel in a compelling 288 pages. Author of 'Legends of the Fall' and 'The English Major,' Harrison certainly knows how to build characters who resonate.
The protagonist in this book, Simon Sunderson, seems more than a bit autobiographical and as a reader I wondered throughout the story how much of what Sunderson was thinking and feeling was actually coming directly from Harrison's life experience and how much of it was part of the character creation. The emotions seem so deeply considered, so strongly felt and vividly conveyed that it seems almost impossible to believe that they could be constructs and not drawn from real life.
Sunderson is a horny old dog, staggering though the early days of his retirement, often in a drunken stupor, lusting after virtually every woman he meets and reading history until he passes out every night. Trailing the suspect to the desert Southwest, he gradually falls under the spell of the harsh and unfamiliar landscape. His interactions with the other minor characters of the novel are well-scripted but the supporting cast is pretty one-dimensional.
A 16 year old next-door Lolita is the best-developed of the characters, but we never really find out what makes her tick. Sunderson's ex-wife, sisters, love interest and best friend all seem to be merely creations to further the plot incrementally and give things for Sunderson to think about. None really develop into someone memorable after the book is put down.
The outdoors scenes are particularly well-described. The cold, wet piney scent of the Upper Peninsula practically leaps off the page when you read the passages. I even imagined what it would be like to have the patience to actually fish. Harrison's imagery of Arizona and New Mexico easily called to mind my visits to that area. The descriptions of Sunderson healing from an injury were sharp enough to make me wince a few times.
Ultimately the book gives us a peek into the mind of a man at a crossroads. His professional life complete and his family life a shambles, what is there to live for at 65 years old? Harrison gives us a long look at our own mortality while also creating a solid cop story.
Walking from one meeting on campus to another can sometime be a bit of a drag. I pretty gladly walked up and down Broad Street for my midday meeting today. 72 degrees, slightly hazy sunshine and the promise of more to come this week had everyone out and about at lunch time.
There were the usual lunch truck crowds, smokers and homeless people. But today they were joined by thousands of people who seemed enlivened by the simple act of getting outside and walking around on a beautiful (nearly) Spring day. I was among them, taking a few extra loops around blocks to extend my walk for a scant few minutes and enjoy all that mid-March in a mild Philadelphia winter has to offer.
And the best part is that tomorrow will be even better!
Robert Sherman, who, with his brother Richard, created dozens of songs for Disney over the years, died yesterday at 86. Today's Wordless Wednesday is pre-empted for a Wordful Wednesday to note his passing.
The Sherman's songs mean a lot to me as the father of an 8 year old girl, who, despite her recent interest in the more daring rides at Disneyworld, still loves the 'It's A Small World' ride with the heart of a little girl. We've been on the ride dozens of times in our visits to the park, and this image is from our December, 2010 trip.. It's with a bright gleam in her eye that she joyfully claps her hands and sings the lyrics even today, when she is just as likely to shoot you a doleful look if you ask her to sing for you.
The man who gave her just a bit of that joy passed away yesterday. He also had a hand in many other Disney classics, notably 'Mary Poppins,' which won him an Oscar, and "Winnie the Pooh.' While you can debate the musical merits of 'Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang,' you've got no heart if you don't love 'It's A Small World!'