WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A DISCONNECT…

April 26, 2015

cans (2)As a writer, I would think the worst thing that could happen is for there to be a disconnect between the writer and his readers.  It’s the same as the old phrase, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”  I sense that is what happened with my last posting—the one titled Spitting and Baseball.

I’m coming up on my 300th posting since I started this gig and I has gathered up close to 600 followers.  That’s a good number of people, certainly more than I can fit in my living room if I were to invite everyone over.  But that doesn’t mean the blog is pumping away on all cylinders every time there’s a new posting.  Spitting and Baseball, the posting just before this one, for example, ended up pretty much down there with the bottom feeders.  It gathered hardly any response at all which means most of you weren’t interested or simply didn’t like it.  The problem is, it’s a posting that I liked better than most and thought would get good response—hence, the disconnect.

By now I should have a pretty good handle on all this. I should know what you like and don’t like and especially know the far ends of each.  But that’s part of the fun of all this too—figuring out where the sweet spot is and seeing how often I can hit it.

So you and I have to keep at it.  I have to work harder to write things that float your boat, tickle your fancy and maybe even knock your socks off.  Your part?  Well, all you have to do is keep coming back and leaving a “like” if indeed that’s how you felt after reading a posting.   We’ll get this all figured out eventually I’m sure.  I know I’m gonna keep at it even if it takes until DDUP (death do us part).

Still, I was a little hesitant to commit to a subject for today’s posting.  I’m a little squeamish at this point.  I’m inclined to select a topic like sex, or dogs and cats, or maybe a diatribe dealing with various religions.  Those kinds of subjects seem to always draw attention.  Maybe I should combine them and do one grand slam about dogs and cats having sex in church.

I suppose my dilemma is no different from that of a professional columnist.  I have to assume they go through the same process given the amount of “postings” they have to write.  They can’t hit the mark every time.  In my day, guys like Art Buchwald, Andy Rooney and Paul Harvey among others, always seemed to be on target, but I am sure they had their fair share of duds along the way.  I hasten to say that I am certainly not comparing myself to any of these superstar journalists.  But I do feel somewhat akin since our chemical mix shares a lot of the same elements.

So you and I will keep on keep’n on until we get it right most of the time and for that, well, for that I will be forever grateful.  Which reminds me, I am going to begin a new procedure with this posting.  Many times I cannot figure out the mechanics of WordPressville and I am unable to return a “thank you” to a fellow blogger who either left me a “like” or signed up as a follower.  Then too, since my postings appear on many venues beside just WordPress, I receive various feedback from those sources that you never see here.  So, I’ve decided that periodically I will collect all the current responses and do one “collective thanks” to everyone.

That is a bit clinical to do it this way, but I would not want anyone to feel as though I ignored them.  That is one thing I am sensitive about.  So we will see how it gloes beginning here and now.  That said here are the folks who have stopped by marc’s blog lately and left a comment or a “like.”  If I could send each of you a bowl of ice cream I definitely would, but I hope a big THANK YOU will suffice:

Mike Fuller, SimpleLivingOver50, Branded Carolina Girl, Hear Me Out (Ria not Reeyah), Teri Griffin, Ron Carmean and Chris Nicholas

*****


SPITTING & BASEBALL…YES, SPITTING!

April 22, 2015

Professional baseball grand arena in sunlight

Today’s topic is spitting and baseball.   Now I sense even this soon some of you may be getting an itchy forefinger on your mouse.  Well, hang with me for a sec because I had an epiphany last night and it shot up out of me like a July 4th fireworks display.  As some of you know, I thought I needed something “new” to do to keep my senses stimulated, so I decided I would follow one baseball team this season and attempt to become an ardent and loyal fan. I have never done this before.

I asked my friend Ron C, who happens to also be my official baseball consultant, to select a team that would be a good one for me to follow.  I gave him my criteria for the kind of team I could wrap a glove around and in short time he assigned me the Chicago Cubs.  It is incredible what has happened.  I have already seen more baseball games this month than I have seen probably in the past ten years.  Baseball is just not something I’ve spent a lot of time on.  One genuine reason why I never watched baseball—and this was part of the epiphany because I forgot all about it until last night—is that I could not stand all the disgusting spitting that went on during the game.  It seemed that every baseball player spit and not just a little pah-tewy, but really chucked-out humongous expectorating modules of saliva.  It was, it was–well, like I said: it was disgusting …major league disgusting.

Spitting in baseball became such an issue with me that I even wrote an article about it 10-15 years ago.  No one would publish it.   I mean I couldn’t wet any editor’s appetite with this story.  They probably thought I was being ridiculous.  Well, if you google “spitting in baseball” today you will see there are a good number of other ridiculous people besides me. In fact, I understand Bryant Gumbel featured the topic the other night.

So why did I have this epiphany?  Because it did not dawn on me until last night that I have watched a good half-dozen or more baseball games this month and I don’t remember seeing any of the players spitting.  It is as if there was as new rule laid down that banned spitting in baseball. But after a little research, I found that is not the case.  There has been a pretty convincing movement to stop players from chewing tobacco—or at least not be seen chewing tobacco.  Tobacco is a huge saliva generator and “dipping” it (putting a pinch of it inside your lower lip) has been a part of baseball dating all the way back to the 1800s.  Some players chose things like sunflower seeds or bubble gum instead.  Regardless, all this stuff in one’s mouth kept it moist out in those hot summer baseball fields in addition to influencing a calming effect in a sometimes nerve-racking environment.  Consequently, spitting literally became an accepted part of the game.  It was baseball culture.  Not no more.

Back in the days of the article I wrote, I questioned why other sports never picked up on spitting.  Why just baseball?  True, you see football players spit every now and then, but never to the bucket loads that filled baseball parks.  If any players were to spit a lot you would think it would be basketball or soccer players who spend almost 100% of their time running back and forth with no break.  But can you imagine all that juice on a basketball court?  It would bring a whole new meaning to dribbling.

Given that baseball is such a statistics-occupied sport, I am surprised no one has kept stats on which players spit the most, the farthest, or produce the most volume.   That’s the kind of stuff they could add to the back of baseball cards. Can you imagine little leaguers going through their decks of cards…“Wow! Did you see Johnson’s ERA? says Tommy to his friend Peter.  “That’s nothing,” responds Peter, “Take a look at McClosky’s SD (spitting distance).  Now that’s a baseball player!”

So, in case you haven’t noticed, the game of baseball has really dried up.  I did see one of the Pittsburgh Pirates spit in the dugout the other night, but I have never seen one of my Cubbies spit.  It’s amazing.  Why did it take so many games for me to notice?  Now I’m going to be sidetracked watching the games to see who and how many are still hocking a loogie in the outfield.  If what I’ve seen so far this season is typical, then maybe my biggest criticism of baseball has disappeared.  Hey, that would be a home run!  Kinda makes my mouth water.

*****


NEWS YOU CAN’T USE…

April 20, 2015

NewsUpdate copy


I thought I would give you some updates on things I’ve discussed in previous postings…actually they are more like guilt confessions.

First, the diet.  I was good for about 5-6 weeks straight and I did lose about ten pounds.  The problem was, I didn’t lose enough where I needed to lose it: in my stomach.  In fact, my face was getting so thin it was even scarier than usual.  I did not reach my goal of being able to place my chin on my throat and be able to look down and see the floor between my feet.

I started small cheats at first.  My granddaughter (who lives with us) works for Panera Bread and one night she came home with enough rolls, loaves and bagels to feed a small army.  What was I to do?  I had to help wrap it all up and find room in the freezer for it.  Along the way, I snagged a slice of honey wheat…then a slice of sour dough….then half a bagel…then this apple/cinnamon thingy…then a slice of rye…it went on and on. Oh the humanity!  Before you know it, within two days I was back up 5 pounds.  It may have been the peanut butter I put on some of the bread.

Anyway, I am still going to the gym every other day and I have expanded my cardio workout and I continue to follow most of the diet.  It will simply have to be a long-term project.  I still have not bought myself any ice cream…other than one pint two weeks ago.  Okay, there, I confessed it all…well most of it.  My stomach is flatter…I just hope it continues shrinking and I eventually reach my goal.  At least now I can see my toes.

And…how ‘bout dem Cubs!  I proclaimed last month that I would become an official baseball fan this season and I adopted the Chicago Cubs as my team.  I also explained that this would be a challenging commitment because I have a hard time setting aside the excessive time that is necessary to follow a team all the way through the season.  Apparently that was not a false prediction since I have missed the past three games entirely either because I just plain forgot or I was busy doing something else.  So, does this mean I am no longer qualified to be an official fan of the Cubs?  I’m not sure; I am not up on the rules and regs of fandomhood.  Regardless, I still intend to make a go of it and continue watching the Cubs play…if I remember.  God, it is so hard to remember certain things now that I just remembered I’m getting old.  Oooo, I just remembered this too: the team did bring back that upstart Bryant guy from their farm team—the one who was out-hitting everyone in the pre-season.  Well so far he has earned his keep, having pulled off some impressive defensive plays at third base and for getting two hits, one in a critical 11th inning of a game the Cubs won with a walk-off run.  Holy crap, I actually sound baseballish!

And finally, an update and plea for help regarding my next book which I hope to have published in the fall (see http://readanchor.com).  I am nine chapters in and currently at a part in the story that takes place on a cruise ship in 1982.  I need to do some minor fact-checking about cruise ships in the 80s and I am having an impossible time getting anyone who is an authority to talk to me.  I have figured out why–it is a no-brainer:  the cruise ship industry is very skittish talking about anything negative and, therefore, it will ignore any of my requests to talk to someone.  There is nothing negative lodged against cruising in my book, I just have some procedural questions about someone going overboard…but they don’t want to discuss things like that.  If you worked in the industry back in the 80s or know someone who did and who might spend five minutes with me on the phone or via e-mail, I would definitely appreciate hearing from you.  Send me a note at info@marckuhn.com …and thanks for your help!

That’s it from the update desk; no film at 11 (do they even make film anymore?)

*****

 


MY “BEST SELLER” KEEPS SURPRISING ME!

April 18, 2015

PSCovCropTweet

I do not sell many books and if I were a girl scout I would most certainly stick to peddling cookies.  But I did not start out publishing books with the intent of making a gazillion dollars and seeing my name on movie credits.  I began writing because I have always done it in one fashion or another, but never as an author of books.  Retirement provided the time and mindset to give it a try.

What is interesting is that the one book that seems to have the most appeal is the one that I consider my “baby.”  It was the first novel I ever wrote and I spent an inordinate amount of time and effort making sure everything in it that wasn’t fiction was spot-on accurate.  It’s an historical novel that takes place in two time periods: one just after the end of the Civil War and the other just after the Vietnam War.  The book’s title is THE POPE’S STONE.  Since it was my first attempt at writing an adult book it was a learning experience for me as my skills were developing.  Yet, this is the book that generates more interest than the other four I have written.

The story, in brief, is about two descendants of a Virginia family.  They share an uncanny number of similarities in their life’s story, including the keeping of a journal.  What is fascinating about their mirror-like experiences and relationships is that the two of them live 100 years apart.  The more current character in the book winds up with his distant relative’s journals and upon reading them…well, this is when the drama begins.

The story is a good one, I think, and I have often thought I might attempt to rewrite the book and improve its structure and literary aspects.  But then, perhaps it is best left alone since it seems to have some magical appeal and maybe I should not mess with it.  I think it’s a good read for young adults and I second guess myself all the time whether or not I should have categorized it as such.

If I have stimulated your interest, you can learn more about the book at www.thepopesstone.com.  It is also available via amazon.com.  In any event, I thought I would present an excerpt here.  It is from early in the book and it is a journal entry written by Nicholas, our contemporary young man, in September of 1982.  He had just been to the library with two friends working on homework assignments…

“…something a little weird happened yesterday.  Jack and Jennifer and I went to the library.  We all have to do some research on a school project.  Jack and I are studying the Civil War and I have to write a report on Robert E. Lee’s army.  So I got this book about the Confederate Army and sat down next to Jennifer. There were lots of pictures in this book.  Jennifer happened to look over when I was looking at a picture of some soldiers.  She said the one soldier looked like me.  He was in a picture sitting with two other soldiers, all sort of proud and showing off their uniforms.  It looked like they were sitting in someone’s living room, or I guess they’d call it a parlor back then. 

I looked at the guy she was pointing to and I have to admit his face looked a lot like mine.  Then I read the description at the bottom of the picture and I almost fell out of my chair.  The solider that looked like me was a Corporal in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and his name was Louis Henry Barrington!  He just has to be a relative of mine, maybe some great, great cousin or something.  It was too much of a coincidence that we both looked similar, but then to boot, his middle and last name are the same as mine. 

Well, I couldn’t wait to take the book home and show the picture to Mom. That is when things really got spooky.  She looked at the picture and agreed that the soldier looked like me, but as she studied the photograph some more, she suddenly sat down and looked very bewildered.  It was even hard for her to speak.  Then she pointed to this object in the background of the picture.  It looked like a rock of some sort with letters on it.  It was sitting on the floor.

‘It’s the stone,’ she said. ‘I can’t believe it’s the stone.’

 I had no idea what she was talking about.  But she was really freaked out.  She told me to follow her upstairs to the storage space. There’s a small door in the one upstairs room and behind it is a small space that runs the length of the house.  You can see the underside of the roof and lots of the wood beams.  Part of the floor is covered with plywood sheets and my mother stores stuff up there. 

She told me to crawl in and bring out this heavy lump that was all wrapped in burlap and tied together with twine.  I had seen this before but I never paid much attention to it.  I handed it to her and after she untied the twine and unwrapped the burlap, there it was—the same rock with the same letters that was in the picture with the soldiers!  It was amazing and just unbelievable.  I was so excited my heart was pumping like crazy.”

*****

There are three more excerpts from the book on its website.  THE POPE’S STONE comes in paperback or Kindle at amazon.com…or paperback at barnesandnoble.com.


BACK TO TIME & PLACE

April 16, 2015

T&P

My usual “uniform of the day” is a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and that’s about it.  This is Florida—ain’t it nice!  Socks are optional and I rarely wear them anymore.  But I am out of uniform today.  I’m in my old dress-up clothes—the whole enchilada:  Slacks that go all the way down my legs; a long-sleeve white shirt and tie; a jacket and polished black shoes that I had to dust off.  I don’t get dressed up much anymore except for special occasions like weddings and funerals.  Today it’s the latter.  She was my best friend’s close aunt.  We do not know how long she had been ill, but it had been concealed until only recently.  After it became known it did not take but a few weeks to do its nasty deed.  She was a young, spry 80, at least when we last saw her.

I know it’s a cliché, but life is fragile and we are too often reminded of that, as we all have been recently by the deaths of several black men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and at those junctures they met up with the wrong person.  An entire family, meanwhile, had a huge concrete slab come loose and fall on them.  Still others took a seat on an airplane that would not have a normal flight.  Death is an everyday occurrence but it manages, for obvious reasons, to cause us survivors more reason to pause that any other event we witness.

I am a big believer in a theory of “time and place” whatever that means. I’ve thought a lot about it, discussed it before in this blog and even wrestled with the concept in my book, THE POPE’S STONE.  I guess it is similar to the concept of “your number is up when your number is up.”  My wife, for one, believes the day you are born you are assigned an end date.  I don’t go that far, but I do believe there are two points that come together at a certain time and place and it is there, at their juncture, that fate will deal with you.

Take an automobile accident involving two cars, for example.  Any number of elements dealing with time and place could have—note: COULD HAVE—interfered with the specific perameters of exactly when and where the two cars met.  One driver could have forgotten his keys and had to go back into the house to get them.  Now, did this contribute to, or prohibit the actual time and place that the two cars were to meet?  If the other driver hadn’t run the yellow light two blocks back, that would have delayed him enough from running into the other car…or is it precisely that situation that caused him to run into the other car when he did?

I know it all sounds a little tentative, actually a lot tentative, that time and place control almost everything that we are involved with as we go through life.  The meeting or missing of these various points of togetherness go and come every which way and we have no control over them…hence, when your number’s up, your number’s up.  The TV show TWILIGHT ZONE was often based on time and place which is maybe why I always hear its theme song rattling in my mind when I  find myself in this kind of thinking mode.

But it all comes full circle to my original statement—that life is fragile.  Indeed, life’s end–whether caused by a good cell turning cancerous, or a bolt coming loose on an amusement park ride—all has to do with the fragile timing of specific elements meeting at a specific place.

Our lady friend lived a full life for 80 years until something inside her lung started a deadly process just within recent months.  Or, if  you believe my wife, it was simply sitting there dormant all those 80 years until it was time to “come alive” and eventually cause her death.  Medical science is just now getting into learning whether or not these “markers” in us can be identified early on and either be removed or otherwise altered to change course. That would certainly be beneficial for many of us.  But still, I’m not sure we’ll ever control or predetermine when another “thing” or another human being will be at a precise place at the precise time at which we are present and our death results.  Makes you sort of want to permanently hide under the bed…but who knows what’s under there with you and when it may cause you harm.  So come out, come out and live your life to the fullest because it’s too fragile not to.

*****


BECOMING A BASEBALL FAN…ONE PITCH AT A TIME!

April 12, 2015

chicago_cubs_logo-1024x640
Some of my faithful followers may recall my proclaiming that I would become a baseball fan this summer.  That may not sound like a big deal to you, but it’s a major challenge for me. With the exception of football, I have never really followed one particular sport.  I am not known for my sports expertise or enthusiasm.  In fact, one of my favorite T-shirts I wear is one my son gave me for father’s day years ago.  It features a picture of Snoopy defining me as “Unathletic Dad.”

I decided that I would follow one team this summer and become a “devoted fan.”  Why?  Well, I just wanted to get my brain involved in something new and different; something I had a basic understanding of so it would present a short learning curve.  The trouble with most sports for me is that they take a good amount of devotion if you are to become a true fan.  I’ve been a devoted football fan in the past, but even that got too difficult for me to handle.  I’m too antsy.  I’ve always been impatient and a bit hyper and I have a hard time sitting still through anything that takes up a lot of time.  I basically need a snow plow to clear my calendar for an entire season of baseball.

I asked my friend, Ron, who is a calm and collected kind of baseball fanatic to pick a team for me to follow this year.  I did not want to go with the Marlins, the Phillies or the Nationals—all of which represent places where I have lived for long periods of time.  Nope, I wanted a clean slate with no pre-knowledge of the team or any of its players, plus I added on a few more qualifications.  In short, Ron selected the Chicago Cubs as the team that met my criteria, the one  I should adopt and root for.  So the Cubs are it.

I went to their website last month and read all about them.  Already they upset their fans (and me!) by sending some hotshot hitter back to the minors to “simmer”  and mature a little more despite he hit more home runs in pre-season than anyone else on the team.  Oh-oh, sounds like the Marlins all over again.  Oh well, I will have to wait and see.  Rumor has it they will bring him back later on.  Besides, this guy played 3rd base and the team already has a good player at that position. Hey, check me out—already I’m talk’n baseball.

Last week I stopped at the “Lid” store at the mall and looked at some baseball gear.  Wow! Prices on this stuff sure have changed.  I thought I’d get a simple Cubs cap and it cost $45!!!  I passed.  I’ll wait another month to see if I really follow through with all this.  Otherwise I can think of half a zillion things better I can spend $45 on.   Then too, if I want an official Cubs baseball shirt that’ll be over $100.  I don’t think they sell those triangular pennants anymore which were about a buck when I was a kid.  Guess I’m a cheap fan right now…maybe later in the season I’ll loosen up a little.  I did plop down the bucks to be able to watch some games on mlb.tv on the Internet. I thought that was important to be able to actually watch the games, especially if I wanted to learn the team and be a fan.

Chicago’s opening game was last Sunday night.  Opening Day is a big deal in baseball and if you are a true fan YOU ARE THERE!  That’s the day my computer crashed and half died on me.  I got a little distracted.  By the time I had gotten it half way back to life I realized I missed the game!  So already I’m not a very good fan.  I forgot most of the next game too, but it got rained out so I got lucky.  I saw my first entire game last night.  Chicago lost.  And I’m watching tonight’s game right now as I’m writing this posting.  That’s one thing that is good about baseball—you can multi-task while the game is going on.  In fact, as I watch people in the stands, many of them aren’t paying much attention to the game either.  Tons of people are doing other things and if something half-eventful happens in the game they all-of-a-sudden get involved.  Me too.

So far I’ve learned the names of a few of the Cubs but I still don’t recognize them if they didn’t have their names written across the back of their uniforms.   But it’s early in the season.  Who knows how far I’ll go with this?  It’s only my second game I’m watching and so far all that comes to mind is a song by Meatloaf about getting past 2nd base with the girl he’s got in the car with him…”Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” is the title…check it out if you can; it’s a great song…a little long, 9 minutes if I remember.  Meanwhile, the game just ended and my Cubbies–MY Cubbies–won 9-3.  Tah-dah-dah-daaahhhh…CHARGE!

*****

 Breaking Sports News…the Cubs have won their last two games with come-from-behind rallies in the 8th inning…this team has spunk!  Hmmm, is “spunk” a baseball term?  Anyway, it was exciting baseball and my Cubbies taught the other two teams not to take them for granted!  I shall have some popcorn to celebrate their spunkness! 


ROAD TRIP…SOME OBSERVATIONS ALONG THE WAY

April 7, 2015

 

dq

I think I have mentioned before that my father had three simple words to describe the aging process.  He said, “Growing Old Stinks!”  Not a particularly profound statement, but it fit his pragmatic personality and his succinct way of saying and doing things.  Of course, I was always young at the times when he said it.  Hence, I would always sympathize but never empathize.  Nowadays the latter term has become more relevant and I do feel his pain since I’ve caught up and even passed the distance he traveled.  Fact is, I am only a mere month and a few days away from a birthday he never reached. I have thought about this a lot lately; it is hard not to.  I am going to be the age I always perceived grandparents to be.  And, dammit, here I am a grandparent of a brood ranging from eight to twenty-two.

Now, let me hasten to say this is not some pessimistic, feel-sorry-for-myself quagmire that I’m trudging through here.  I’m just making some observations that I have discovered along the way.  For example…It’s true, old folks do read the obits in the newspaper more than any other demographic.  Now I suppose it’s also true that old folks are the only ones left these days who still read newspapers.  I find that when I do, l always stop on that obituary page for a scan of the day’s “harvest.”   It’s here that I have noticed another new quirk about myself.  In the past, when I heard or read about someone’s death my usual first question was always “how?”  How did the person die?  I’ve noticed that is no longer my first question of interest.  Now it’s…”How old was the person?”

Meanwhile, I swore that I was not going to be one of those elderly folks who devote most of their conversation talking about all their aches and pains.  Which reminds me, you should see how my fingers are growing in all kinds of grotesque directions as the effects of arthritis take hold.  It is so freaky to look at my hands that one cannot help but mention it.  Then, once I’m done discussing my hands I have an elbow to tell you about.

I have given thought to one more observation as my birthday—my 70th—approaches in mid-May…and that is how bazaar it will be to have people singing Happy Birthday to me.  Trust me, this is NOT going to be a happy birthday.  It would make more sense if the chorus went something like this….”

                Sad birthday to you, Sad birthday to you.

               Sad birthday Dear Marc, Sad birthday to you.

 Now that sounds a lot more appropriate to me than the traditional happy crap.  When you are young, birthdays are meant to be happy events and you look forward to them every year. They mark your advancement in life not only in maturity, but in accomplishments made and those yet to be made.  But at my age, I have accomplished about as much as I am going to.  Yes, I still have a few more things I’d like to achieve, but at this stage my glory days have pretty much been glorified.

So where to from here?  Well, there’s really only one place.  It’s simply a matter of how rough the trip will be getting there and how much further down the road it is.  One thing’s for sure–there are no signs along this highway telling you the speed limit or how many more miles you have to go.  I just hope there’s a Dairy Queen when I get there.

*****

 

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 585 other followers

%d bloggers like this: