Heroes Of The Week- You Edition

This week is yours. When all the reading and the love you give to this spot comes hurtling back at you in the form of a well deserved hug. Pick up this hug, and know that you made it possible. Gracias.

Now for the Heroes you brought to Friday . . .

Image result for La La Land Kind Cafe hires foster kids

Mark over at markpaxson.com decided that Rand Paul probably isn’t going to be worthy of any humanitarian awards in the near or distant future, and he’s probably spot on in this assessment. So when I was doing my casting call, he left a comment in which he said he would get back to me. Erudite chap that he is, he got back to me in no time flat with, as he put it, “Somebody doing something about a frequently forgotten segment of our society…”

It’s a story about the La La Land Kind Cafe in Dallas Texas. The owner, Francois Reihani, hires young people who have aged out of the foster care system. So far, he’s employed nine of these kids. Because Reihani believes it’s about kindness every bit as much as it’s about coffee.

Those are some cool beans they’re brewing.

Monika at Tails Around The Ranch contributed a beauty from her neck of the woods. It’s about some local distillers (She’s quick to point out other states are doing it as well). who have retrofitted their equipment in order to . . . get this all you hand sanitizer hoarders and price gougers . . give the stuff away to firefighters and other first responders. And since I totally plagiarized her comment, I’ll let her tell you why it matters, because she does a wonderful job of bringing it all home.

The state fast tracked approval to make the switch on the equipment. This story really touched me since a few years ago the Town of Lyons flooded and resulting in being completely cut off from in-or-out access to any surrounding areas/towns. They lost their water/sewer plant. It took months for the state to rebuild roads in to repair/replace damaged homes/buildings. To be able to come back and give to their community makes them big-time heros in my book.

Could not have said it better myself, Monika.

Image result for cuban doctors go to Italy

Dale over at A Dalectable Life ain’t just a lovely connoisseur of photography and great eats. She dresses up the written word in sunshine on the regular as well. And she is a voracious hunter and gatherer of feel good news pieces, as evidenced by her many contributions to this Friday edition over the last year and change.

She chimed in with this story about how Cuba recently sent a 52 doctor brigade to Italy in response to the devastating wake of the virus. The communist country has already done the same in a half dozen other countries, as its emergency preparedness is proving to be a model of effectiveness- at home and abroad. According to Graciliano Díaz, the Cuban contingent is committed to this ‘honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity.

It would be nice if every country put its politics aside and followed suit.

John at Fiction Favorites sent me a video to share with you for this Friday edition. It’s Matthew McConaughey dishing up some much needed love for Austin, Texas . . and for all of us. It’s only a couple minutes long, but it’s a virtual hug and “We Got This” that is much appreciated inside these trying times. The dude is quirky, and you know that? That’s plenty fine with me, because underneath all that quirkiness resides a heart the size of the place he calls home.

Alls I gotta say is Alright! Alright! Alright!

Image result for Bay View Wisconsin Dino Parade

And for my last story, I paid a virtual visit to Bay View Wisconsin. It’s a throwback neighborhood sewn into the shores of Lake Michigan. The ancestral lineage of this town speaks to laborers and the community they dreamed for their children inside lifetimes so long removed from here.

That future love paradise came calling recently when the residents of Bay View got together for a parade. But not just any parade, since we’re . .  yanno, living inside the operative social precepts of a moment in time where keeping your distance has taken on a literal form.

So this parade, it took all of these things into consideration in a most prehistoric fashion sense. Their solution was to dress up like dinosaurs and march together, at six foot intervals, through the place they call home. As a way of saying that it’s okay not to be okay with all of this. But it’s never going to be okay to lose our sense of humor, or our ability to figure a way back.

Imma finish this episode off by saying thank you to all my contributors, and to let you know that this idea will become yet another new feature going forward. Because you guys are always telling me how much you look forward to this Friday post, and I ain’t gonna lie. I never saw it coming.

You did.

 

Casting Call For Heroes Fans

Image result for ted williams

If you’re a regular to this joint, then you’ve probably happened upon the Heroes episodes we dish up every Friday for your viewing feel good. You kept things going when I thought maybe it was just a phase. And by you, I mean anyone who looks forward to this little corner of the world when the end of the week comes calling.

You made Heroes a place worth coming to. I simply captained the thing into harbor thanks to your earnest chimes, which behave very much like gold on the dollar when it comes to the keeping on. So . . I don’t do this kind of thing but I figured maybe one or two or three of you might be down with it.

Send me a story that hits you in the feel good and I’ll post it on Friday. You can simply provide the link in your comment and I’ll make sure it gets pub love. Worst case scenario is nobody contributes and Heroes still shows up in the regularly scheduled programming. Best case scenario is I get all the stories I need through you for this week, and if it’s more than five? Well . . I ain’t presumptuous like that, but a boy is allowed to dream.

As for writing, I was practicing my short game this morning. I hope you like.

He remembered back to those nights inside the dusty wings of a very forgettable March. Back into the hopeless design of bad news gone caterwaul in episodic bonfires that left Caesar’s ghost to hemorrhage in its eternal playpen.  The days painted themselves in a haphazard chaste whose vicious prongs were sinking empires across the globe. And so he peddled elixirs in the recitations of Angelou, Wilde, Cummings, Morrison and his personal favorite, Kinsella.

The spoken verses were akin to candles in a church, sacred vows left behind by masters and mistresses of the written word for the sake of prayer. Each syllable a testimonial to the peaceful resistance of words inside a chaotic world. The stories were plush to his fractured brain, and the sound of each word tasted like fruit as it trespassed his lips. And he went on like this, plucking a snippet here and a paragraph there and joining them together in a brilliant quilt whose song redeemed the shadowy fates.

It went like this from March into April and then with May came the first idea that life would begin to take its traditional place setting back. Only now, he had ashes to confer to the winds of change. The world, his world, would prove to be extraordinarily different with each step into whatever came next. Oh sure, it was easy to promise such a thing when the end of the world had seemed an abject patent. All the same, he was aligned to a different star from here on out. And he knew it was impossibly difficult to comprehend, but he had seen the beginning inside the merciless clench of the end.

So it was that a June day found him tucked into a box seat along the third base line, holding to a foot long as his beer lost its froth. The sun shone down like a promise from Jay Gatsby, full of a million different promises. The field was a stained glass portrait of emerald fusing with ivory and caramel. How could he have ever taken such a beautiful thing as an early summer day at the ballpark for granted?

He cried at the thought.

Searching Paul Simon’s cutting room floor

Dogs are one of the few creatures on this earth capable of unconditional love. The rest of us are negotiating the terms daily . . . 

There are two types of romantic advice seekers: The ones who want you to talk them into something, and my friend Barry. I’ll call him Barry since that’s his name. I’ve probably mentioned the guy in a post at some point, seeing as how he sifts my brain for intel on the opposite sex. Which is akin to asking the captain of the Titanic for directions to New York City. But it’s not a paragon of valuable information Barry is looking for. He just wants someone to talk him out of his current situation. .

I refuse to be complicit in this crime of passionless. All I do is ask questions, make observations which have no basis in fact since I don’t know the woman, and supply witty banter, pro bono no less. So if you ask me, he is getting exactly what he paid for.

A top five most popular topics of conversation Barry has introduced regarding his rodeo partner? Sure why not . . . .

The Past- So it seems that Cersei Lannister (Not her real name, of course. Because I’m not crazy enough to use her real name. Barry’s one thing. He’s just a retired cop with an extensive gun collection) . . . anyway, sorry for the bloated parenthetical explanation. As I was saying, Cersei Lannister has a problem with Barry’s ex wife. To which I completely understand. I mean, if she didn’t have a problem with his ex wife, I wouldn’t trust her. That said, Cersei also has a problem with Barry’s daughter, whom he takes to dinner once a week. It’s their time and Cersei ain’t crazy about being left out.

In a word? I have a problem with this. She’s forty something and has never had kids, which only adds to the problemacy©, (My word, because I needed to amuse myself since their relationship ain’t amusing in the least). So my advice to Barry was to let Cersei know that his daughter is the only female she doesn’t get to negotiate out of his picture.

The Present- Their preferred method of communication is arguing. They argue over everything. What to eat, what movie to see, where to go on the weekend and oatmeal cookies. Oatmeal. Fucking. Cookies. (He’s Team Traditional, She’s Team Raisins). My advice was simple: When a relationship has devolved into oatmeal cookie arguments, you are Mariana Trenching© it. Sadly, the relationship has bypassed homicide as a solution.

The Future- Barry just moved into a new place, which Cersei really digs because it’s closer to her job. Barry has also been shopping homes outside of Jim Thorpe, which Cersei really doesn’t dig at all because it’s a LOT further away. And it would mean they have to argue about oatmeal cookies over the phone rather than face to face.

I told Barry this house hunting venture is lame. For one thing, even people who want to get away from it all realize they have gone too far if they arrive in Jim Thorpe. For another, he is implementing a passive/aggressive strategy in order to extricate himself from a miserable situation. Paul Simon ain’t need 51 ways to leave your lover and he’s way more interesting than Barry, so there’s that.

Imma stop at three because I’ve achieved a Christmas Carol vibe. Instead I’ll supply you with some of the particulars if you happen to be in the same boat as Barry.

1- Never discuss important shit while eating Captain Crunch. It’s impossible to be taken seriously when eating Captain Crunch.
2- If you argue whilst listening to Kenny Loggins Footloose, your relationship is doomed. Because it’s scientifically impossible to do so unless you are not meant to be.
3- Stop using the ‘forever’ template for love things. It’s why people stay in the wrong thing too long. Because they’re measuring it against forever.
4- Being “afraid” to be alone will lead to you being alone. Because as I’ve learned, the loneliest times of my life were spent in a relationship gone wrong.
5- Stop caring what others think about your situation. These are surface oriented concerns that contribute nothing to your relationship.

That last one counted most for me, and I doubt Barry will heed its meaning. He just wants to dance around the issue, and he’s looking for dance partners who will tell him what he wants to hear. But at the very least, he should give his relationship the Footloose test.

I’m convinced he would thank me for it.

 

The End Of Time

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic

-Van Morrison

I once wrote that as soon as you take your last breath, a million years will pass in the blink of an eye. The vacuum of time and space belies the tranquility those stars are painting for us inside this tent.

When you think about it, life manages itself just fine in spite of the effort so many of us put into wasting or stealing or borrowing its precious commodity. Its movement is effortless, like a parade inside the ether whose consequences are perpetuated inside one long string of granules whose beaches will eventually run to the other side of that thing called forever.

But where time is neutral, mortality is a locomotive on speed dial; a merciless fire that pulverizes everything in its wake. It does not discriminate the rich from the poor, the good from the awful, the old from the young. When it wants you, it will return you to the mystic from whence you came. Ready or not.

Each time I attempted to write about Kobe Bryant’s passing, I failed. Miserably. And I guess some of it had to do with the fact that I was never that much of a fan. My love for the Association was time stamped inside the halcyon days of Magic, Kareem, Dominique, Bird and Jordan. The last name on that list will always be first in my book. I always respected the generation that Kobe and Shaq carried into the new millennia, but I already had my mind made up when it came to the masters.

But the post was never about basketball in the first place. Oh sure, the tributes from players and arenas across the country were sporting life testimonials to the everlasting hold Bryant will always have on the game he knew and loved. For me it was different. As far as Kobe was concerned, I saw a man who always learned from his trials and tribulations- especially the self inflicted ones. This isn’t meant to sweep Colorado under the rug of idolatry that feeds much of society, because I will not. And I think it’s probably this complicated history that provided the most dubious hurdle for me when I got to writing about last Sunday.

So I remembered back to that line I once wrote about death and its timeless thrust. And this served to cancel out the narrative of a Renaissance man of the hardwood and a legendary college baseball coach. Because when you break this tragic event down to its saddest common denominator, you get nine souls whose forever got lost in the fog last Sunday morning. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. All of them, gone to the million years worth of mystic that began to unfurl much too soon.

Gigi was thirteen years worth of mighty, and she was going to play for the UConn Huskies someday. Her basketball sister, Alyssa Altobelli possessed that very same fire; she aspired to play ball at Oregon. Her mother Keri was the basketball super mama who fueled Alyssa’s dreams. Sarah and Payton Chester were the ultimate mother/daughter team; with mom coaching up her girl in all things basketball and life. Christina Mauser was the coach for the Mamba Academy team; the mother of three will not be there to celebrate her daughter’s fourth birthday this week. Because a Sikorsky S-76B piloted by Ara Zobayan crashed into a Calabasas hillside, stealing countless chapters from the stories that will forever be unwritten.

My heart breaks for the eighty years worth of living Gigi, Payton and Alyssa never get to have. And I mourn for Keri, Sarah and Christina, who never get to see their girls prom nights and wedding days. And John and Kobe . . . they never get to finish their most important jobs of all; as fathers to young girls who were their heroes.

Gone for a week now, a million years worth of it.

 

A Love Scenario For My Favorite Team

The following is a simple thank you to my beloved Miami Dolphins. For being the most relevant 5-11 squad in the history of the league. They somehow out-won the mighty Patriots down the stretch by going 5-4 after that 0-7 beginning; capped by an upset victory in the final week to knock New England off its perch. Last night may have been the end of the Patriots dynasty, and maybe I’m being a tad bit hyperbolic . . but I like to think this wonderful bunch of miscreants played a small part in the final breaths of a dynasty.

Thank you to Monika for suggesting Justin Herbert in the starring role as Miami QB. Not sure if it’ll work out this way, any of it. But who cares? All I know is that I found reason to believe inside this lost cause of a season. And while there is a long road ahead, there is a lot more hope involved than I had bargained for at the get. Sometimes, a season can be that way; it can give you something you never saw coming. Where one minute you’re throwing your arms up in disgust, and the next, you’re uttering that most magical of sporting refrains, and meaning it.

Wait till next year.

New Orleans 2024- Brian Flores sits in his makeshift office inside the New Orleans Superdome and scratches out an idea, whittling it into precise measurements as if a master carpenter. He is a craftsman of sorts, having built the foundation of a championship club from the rubble of obsolescence along with general manager Chris Grier.

It’s as if the moment Flores walked in the door, those couple decades of mediocrity that preceded him hitched a ride to someplace else. He paid scant attention to the collective shrug that accompanied his introduction as Miami’s field boss in February of 2019. And he paid little mind to the vitriol heaped on his club due to the clumsy maneuvering that led to a mass exodus of their most talented players in the name of draft capital. The overpaid suits said it was morally reprehensible that a football organization left its players in harm’s way by fielding a prohibitive skeleton crew.

Their criticism was temporarily vindicated when Flores’ Dolphins team lost his first game 59-10 to the Baltimore Ravens. It reached Chernobyl status when they began the season 0-7. The critics were only too delighted to break out their “Told You So” material, to which Flores responded with three simple words: We’re not tanking.

He was parodied for this, but he never minded that too. All he concerned himself with was drawing up a game plan that would give his fledgling outfit a fighting chance. And just as importantly, changing an organizational culture that was equal parts Caddyshack and Animal House.

Five years to the date when he was named head coach of the Miami Dolphins, he’s sixty minutes away from the Holy Grail of professional football. His opponent- the Arizona Cardinals- present myriad complications for Flores and his defense. But they’ve been up to the challenge all season, and on through January in wins over the Vegas Raiders and then, the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens.

There is irony in that Baltimore was the team Flores beat to get his squad to the Super Bowl for the first time since ’85. But he hasn’t got time to dwell on it with MVP Kyler Murray next up on the docket. Later today. About ten hours from now, to be exact, as evidenced by the bustle of doors and chatter that is making its way to his office now. His guys, come to keep their coach company.

“Hey coach,” Justin Herbert says as he sticks his head in the door whilst munching on a power bar.

“What’s up ten?” Flores says, referring to his quarterback’s number.

“We’re here to kick ass and chew bubblegum . . .” Herbert smiles.

“AND WE’RE ALL OUTTA PATIENCE!!!” The guys whoop and holler as Herbert leads them to the field. Flores grins as he moves out of his chair for the first time in several hours and stretches out before moving towards the tunnel of the North end zone. His Dolphins will be the ‘home team’ today- dressed in their dark aqua old school threads out of the time of Shula and Marino. And it’s appropriate, since the feeling is of yesterday once more.

“I can’t believe we’re actually here . .” Justyn Ross, their third year wide receiver out of Clemson says as he looks out over the field.

“Not yet JR . . .not yet,” Flores says.

The Remedy to “It’s Not You” Syndrome

I don’t tend to suffer peeps who dish up apathy as if it’s homemade mac and cheese. Because life is unforgiving enough, and I happen to think that if you’ve arrived at an age where you can legally rent a car, you’re doing better than you probably imagined you might. So yanno, quit blaming everything and everyone else.

So it was that I was asked for my opinion on someone else’s particulars recently, and the preamble had me wishing I’d called in sick. She’s a pleasant enough young lady, pushing thirty with a vengeance. By this I mean, she’s angry at the fates for not having prescribed her domestic patent replete with matrimony and motherhood. An annual trip to the Caribbean would be peach, but she’d settle for a showplace to staycation in because she ain’t greedy.

I learned all of this over the course of a ten minute conversation, and while it’s ten minutes I ain’t ever getting back, at least I collected a post out of the deal. So there’s that.

When she arrived at the gritty of the nitty, his name was Pete. And he was many things, none of them rhyming with Prince Charming. I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise as she recited the numerous offenses perpetrated by a guy whose crimes didn’t seem to warrant a trip to Nuremberg.

“So it was all him?”

“Huh?”

“This guy. The reason you guys didn’t work out was entirely his fault?”

“Well . . I mean . . I’m not saying I’m perfect . . ”

“Of course not, but that’s not what I’m asking. What I want to know is, did you take an inventory of your shit and his shit?”

“No,”

I proceeded to explain that it’s usually shared shit that sinks the ship. Unless he was beating on her (he wasn’t), in which case she would have had every right to take his ass out. And I’d have brought the shovels, lime and a bottle for the adjudication of the sonofabitch.

Short of that, I told her that the bogeyman application doesn’t work. Subconsciously, you’re burning your own bridge by manifesting this skewed portrait of a person who is no longer in your life. You’re actually questioning your own judgement without even knowing it, thereby stunting your emotional growth. And that kind of cycle only gets more vicious as time goes on.

“Own your shit. Be thankful for the experience and move on . . .”

It was all I could think to say, because it was evident she was going to choose option whatever else. Which is why I never understood why people ask for advice when what they’re really asking for is consensus.

I applied this same line of questioning to my friend Barry. His love thing is flickering into obsolescence on mortal coils whose romance done left the building long ago. And he suffers from the same affliction as most peeps who find themselves in the relationship checkout line. Shocked by the purchase of forever as if the individual they’re gonna Paul Simon out of their life came with a money back guarantee.

“You chose the drama you speak of, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be nearly as adorable once you had to share basically every fucking thing,” I said.

“Yeah but I thought things would change,” Was his response.

That’s the Vegas lock response, every time.

“Did you ever think that maybe it’s your fault as much as hers?”

“Yeah . . .” He chuckled, with not even a hint of believability to it.

“Hey man, if you’re getting off the pot . . just do it. There’s nothing sadder than a grown ass man crying about how unhappy he is. Move to the Poconos and become an outdoors man and start a YouTube channel and stop whining about how some woman did something to you that you really did to yourself,”

I would’ve gone on, but I was out of liquor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Little Thing

“You have to be comfortable in your own skin,”

I offered this thought to my pal Jen a while back after she got done throwing the hammer down on love and its many splintered qualities. Jen ain’t a whiner, so her vendetta had guile and tact and verity to it. It wasn’t a rant nor an idle threat, to which the woman is averse. The diatribe was her “going to the mattresses” moment after having been done wrong. 

The emotional bloodletting was obscenely endearing in its brutal honesty. She doesn’t live her life as if she scored the script from a movie or TV show, which means to say that her what’s what is totally unfiltered, always. Because she happens to believe that parables are for dreamers but truth is for keeps. 

We went for Thai last night and ended up in the tall grasses as we sipped on our mighty fines and shared our respective anecdotes. She told me her ex had finally stopped reaching out to her with apologetic ransoms via online florists and Etsy.

“I got a shit ton of Christmas re-gifting done thanks to him,” She toasted.

And then I told her about my Halloween costume party last week in which I parceled hours of awkward domestic intrigue into a pretty fun evening. I did so with tight circled chats, drink nursing and my roundabout take on Korean BBQ that worked to sate the uncomfortable silences. The intrigue was all about young lovers figuring things out, hopefully.

“I’m erring on the side of relationship on this one . .” I said, raising my drink into a clink as Jen gawked her response in mock exasperation as if to say “You?”.

“Because they’re a unit right now, and in spite of all the vicious rumors . . I respect the sanctity of that . . defend it even . .”

“Even if you choose not to abide to such constraints . . ” She smiled.

“In lieu of is the best I can do,”

And then Jen hit me with the accident report on her most recent love thing, which she had to pull the plug on when he started wanting more. She was more than willing to take on his handsome and his dashing and even most of the debonair, but the wife? That was a sticking point to which she couldn’t travail.

“I found the perfect marriage . . his.” She bemoaned.

And then he went and changed the rules on a gal too smart for her own heels. We relate to those extramarital involvements where the fine print works in sync with discretion and language matters, soundly. We could teach a class on how it’s not what a person says, but it is what they do on Instagram.

“I’ve never met a good cheater, but I’ve met plenty of damn fine liars,” I countered.

This segue led me to a recent piece of advice I gave to my pal Barry. He’s a retired cop who is clueless on matters of consequence, namely coupling. Evidenced by his two ex wives and current flame whose DNA fits their specs to a high tea. Because nothing says insanity like diving back in to the shallow part of the matrimonial pool for a third time.

“They had enough in common to try things on for size. But the things they don’t have in common are great big meatballs. So I told him that being single ain’t a crime,”

“Tell that to my parents,” Jen laughed.

“Long story short, he told her she could leave anytime she felt like leaving. And now he’s looking at real estate up in Jim Thorpe,”

“You homewrecker,”

“Not the first time . . ” I said.

We toasted to the incomprehensible fates, whose scatter is a wickedly fine arrangement of daggers and wings that make us grateful for the tender mercies . . .  Like peace of mind, and comfortable shoes.

Especially those.