Treatment Day 30: Saturday Autobiographical (on Monday).

May 23, 2011

A thing I like.

    The Saturday Autobiographical, back by popular demand. On Monday. To review: three likes, three dislikes, with links, explanation and commentary. The sweet tea has never materialized, but you never know.

     Same qualifications as always. It’s gimmicky. It’s hokey. It is fantastically self-indulgent.  It’s not particularly creative – I’ve seen ads for male enhancement with more subtlety: “Buy this, get any girl you want. Don’t, and die from cancer.”  However, as I indicated last week, my shareholders demand page-views – you know how advertisers can be – so I’m gonna do it anyway. Editor’s Note: I have neither shareholders nor advertisers.

Three things I like:

    1. The Beatles: In addition to having the best Wikipedia entry in history, the Beatles changed everything, forever.  The singer-songwriter band was practically non-existent, once upon a time. Bands were the product of their record label’s design (sadly, these things come full circle). Unlike movies, which went from being an organic creation of people who loved movies to vertically-integrated, formulaic creations of the studios (thank you for that, Star Wars), rock-and-roll bands kind of went the other direction.

    The Beatles changed everything. Before the Beatles, rock-and-roll pop “bands” were often creations of the record labels (real rock-and-roll, of course originated with the blues singer-song writers in the Southeastern United States, but that takes my neat little narrative here and makes it messy; so I am speaking in broad generalities here). After the Beatles, every record label was looking for the next singer-songwriter band playing in a garage. Without the Beatles, there is no Nirvana – likely no grunge at all, in fact.

    For crying out loud, there was a time when the Beatles were terrified to release an album, because people did all kinds of crazy things on the basis of Beatles lyrics. They had a monumental influence on fashion, practically created the music video, and one of them is a knight.  Other artists will get their due in this space, but none of them can claim to have had the influence on our culture, or on me, that the Beatles did.

        2.  The Atlanta Braves: They haven’t given me much to work with in a while, but for the last 20 years or so, I have lived and died with the Braves. And I lived more than I died: fourteen straight division titles spoiled me. The Braves treated me to more wonderful sports moments in person than the average Mets fan can even imagine. World Series. NLCS. Game six of the 1999 NLCS when Andruw Jones drew a walk-off walk to clinch the NLCS and go the Series. When the Mets came to town in ’98 tied with the Braves in the NL East and Chipper Jones hit four home runs in three games.

    During the early years of our (yes, our) success, the city of Atlanta would throw a parade at the end of the season. I was at the first one, the one after the Greatest World Series Ever Played, and the baby ‘Benz Tom Glavine was riding in ran over my foot. And I have great affection for the man at the helm for each of the fourteen division titles. Former manager Bobby Cox retired last year as one of the most successful managers of all time. Well, he was the very best at one thing.  And he bore at least a passing resemblance to…

    3. Ronald Reagan: Bear with me. I was a child of the 1980’s. In my household, the hierarchy was as follows: God, Dad, Reagan. And I had a suspicion that God looked a lot like Reagan. These are the conceptions of a child, of course. Still, President Reagan came at just the right moment in history. Generally wary of strong authority figures, and cynical over the Nixon-Ford-Carter years, America needed Reagan in 1980. People forget what was going on in the late 70’s. Stagflation had a firm grip on the American economy, and the Keynsian economists didn’t have an answer.  People were beginning to think that we had seen the best America had to offer. The Soviet Union was still the Soviet Union. And the majority of academia expected the U.S.S.R. to be the yen to our yang for the forseeable future.

    But here comes this guy with a sunny disposition (usually), a 1950’s sensibility that seemed out-of-place even then, and charms the American people right into the White House. Even the press, hardened, cynical and mostly leftist, had a hard time not liking him.

This is more or less how I supposed God looked, circa 1982.

    He publicly engaged the leaders of the Soviet Union more directly than anyone since Kennedy, standing at the Brandenburg Gate and telling Mikhail Gorbachev – against the advice of nearly every one on his staff – to tear down the Berlin Wall. And behind the scenes, we now know, he directed an arms race that he knew would bankrupt the Soviet Union. Of course it is possible to overstate his role in the fall of the Soviet Union, but it cannot be said that he had nothing to do with it; nor, in the opinion of many, even that he had little to do with it. And his optimism became our optimism. During the 1980’s the American economy started expanding at a rate that was unprecedented in human history. The rumors of our demise had been greatly exaggerated.

    Setting his politics aside – because reasonable minds may differ – the reason I have him in this space is his optimism. His view of America as a City Upon a Hill, a beacon for the world of all that is good. And the conviction of his belief in these things, even when the outcome was very much in doubt. His presidency was far from perfect, as they all are. But if you really want to understand the power of Reagan, ask someone who lived in East Berlin in 1980 what they think of him. Or Yugoslavia. Or Hungary. It is hard to imagine America today, or the world, without his presidency.

Three things I unlike:

    1. The Rolling Stones: The anti-Beatles. This is strictly a matter of opinion. The ‘Stones had (have) considerable commercial and critical success. They have sold to date something in the range of 200 million albums worldwide. But they are too commercial and over-exposed. And rock stars shouldn’t grow old on stage, with a few exceptions (see, e.g., Eric Clapton, and B.B. King). Plus there’s this. But mainly, for me, they haven’t stood the test of time. I just don’t like their music, with one big exception.

    2. The expression “Let me put a bug in your ear.” Gross. This is a concept better suited for a horror movie, not the board-room. Who first used this expression, the person who invented Garbage Pail Kids? What kind of response do you think it got? Exactly. How this caught on baffles me. I just think we can do better. This actually happened in a movie once, in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn. I saw it as a kid, and it was terrifying. I slept with my covers over my head for a week.

Illustration of the bug for the ol' bug in ear trick in Star Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.

    3. Lightning: Lightning combines two of my least favorite things: sudden loud noises and death. Like most phobias, this one – called astraphobia – originates during childhood. Mine developed during my illustrious little league career. At that time, I lived in the lightning strike capital of the world. During one game, I was playing center field when a thunderstorm came seemingly out of nowhere. At some point when my team was in the field, lightning struck a billboard directly behind me.

    The fastest animal on land is the cheetah, reaching speeds between 70 and 75 MPH. The fastest human beings run just under 30 MPH. I suspect, however, that no one has ever clocked a cheetah or a human being after lightning struck an object located 25 feet or so behind them. After the strike and instant “BOOM” I’m pretty sure I hit 96. In my memory, I just vaporized out of center field and reappeared in the dug out. My Dad was coaching third base at the time, and he likes to say that he hadn’t even gotten the first syllable of “EVERYBODY IN!!!” out of his mouth and I was past him – all knees and elbows – and into the dug-out.

    Lightning and I have hated each other ever since. It’s tried several more times to get me. Like the time my brother and I were brushing our teeth in the bathroom, getting ready for bed, and lightning struck the transformer behind our house. There was a flash, a crash and a boom, sparks flew out of our outlets, and then there was total darkness. I figured we were all dead. That’s just mean, lightning.

Trees: not a good shelter in the storm.

    A bolt of lightning is approximately 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or three times the temperature of the surface of the sun. From 1990 to 2003, 756 people died from lightning strikes in the United States, with Florida – site of the Notdisneyworld Sober Ranch – leading the way with 126. When people refer to God’s vengeance, they refer to “being struck by lightning.” I can’t think of a more direct illustration of the concept that “it is appointed unto man once to die” than a lightning strike. It’s God’s way of saying, “Hey you, out of the pool!”

    I have developed a specialized way of walking – during thunder storms, mainly – that my family calls the crab-walk. I get low to the ground and walk with my legs spread far apart, thereby resembling a crab. Hey, I’m 6’4″, I’m often the tallest object around. My brother, also tall, does the same thing. On that rare occasion when we are walking in a thunderstorm together, we look pretty ridiculous. And people laugh at us. That’s fine, when they get struck by lightning, I will stand over their charred remains and laugh at them. What one man calls astraphobia, I call good survival instincts.

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One Response to “Treatment Day 30: Saturday Autobiographical (on Monday).”

  1. Brother said

    Me vs. Lightning. I lose every time.

    Love u bro…

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