Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Perfect Game

While I’m writing this, I’m also watching my beloved San Francisco Giants play the second game of the 2010 World Series in my favourite American city. Unlike any other major league professional sports, baseball is a game where a person can sit at his laptop and spew forth musings and still enjoy every minute of the game. Some sports like football are likened to war while baseball is more often compared to life; long periods of calm interrupted by short spurts of chaos. It is these bits of chaos are from which lifelong memories are made. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the call of Bobby Thompson’s home run in 1950 (aka – “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World”); radio announcer, Russ Hodges screaming “The Giants win the pennant!... The Giants win the pennant!!” There are iconic photographs of great baseball moments; the one burned most in mind of my all-time sports hero, Willie Mays making the famous bucket catch against the outfield wall with his back turned to home plate. – The photo shown here hangs in the lobby of AT&T Park.
Baseball is part of North American pop culture. The classic American narrative poem “Casey At The Bat” is a perfect example of baseball reflecting life because not everything has a storybook finish; the Mighty Casey struck out. Baseball has been the back drop of so many movies including my favourite “A League of Their Own” about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. “There is no crying in baseball.” Presidents traditionally start off the season by throwing out the first pitch. Point of Pride – A largely disproportionate number of American presidents and Canadian prime ministers were southpaws.
Why am I a Giants fan? Good question. Every young sports fan chooses his/her team and it remains their team for the rest of their lives. Quite often it’s chosen geographically, either the city they live in or near or a city they have visited. Sometimes we inherit our team from our fathers. In my case it was neither. My dad and older brother were Dodger fans. My dad still is to this day. I did not even come close to visiting San Francisco until I was twenty-one. My love for the team came because my favourite all-time ballplayer is #24 Willie Mays; he always seemed to play with child like enthusiasm. As a boy I knew all the Giants; Willie, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Bobby Bonds and the Alou brothers: Matti, Phillipe and Jesus. I cheered for all the orange and black over the years, from Vida Blue, to Matt Clark to today’s Giants, Tim Lincecum, Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, Buster Posey et al. And yes, I even cheered for Barry Bonds as he slugged away to the all-time home run record.  I’ve even almost forgiven Jeff Kent for non-performance in the 2002 World Series.
I finally got to see my Giants play live in 2006 at AT&T Park when my wife, Lorraine, and I took a trip to San Francisco to celebrate our landmark birthdays that year. Lorraine was not necessarily a big sports fan but she loved the tour we took of the park and attending the game that same night. Sadly, this was the last trip we took together but she did leave this world a Giants fan. :-)
As far as sports goes baseball has always been my first love. From the first day I could pick up a bat and glove, I enjoyed playing the game although I was never all that good. However, I was a star at forcing an HP (Hit by Pitched Ball). It’s simple; just turn your shoulder into an inside pitch and get the elbow up. It stings a bit but the hurt is gone by the time you reach first base.
As kids we played baseball all summer. When we weren’t playing organized Little League ball at Hastings Park we played pickup games on a bizarre makeshift diamond outside Callister Park. The field was sloped  sideways; first base was the tree across the sidewalk, second was the steel support strut holding up the hydro pole; third was the dirt patch at the bottom of the hill. (Note: sliding into second wasn’t recommended.)
I took great pride when our old Little League, Hastings, won the Canadian championship in 2009 and went on to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and even greater pride in my nephew, Sean, and his team that went on to represent Canada at the Cal Ripken World Series that same summer.
I have remained somewhat active in baseball’s sibling game, softball as a player, coach and administrator for the past thirty years. I don’t play anymore I because suffer for Three Too Syndrome: Too old, too fat, too slow. Hmm, now if I can only convince those young bucks to carry weights in their pockets and wear bowling shoes on the bases...
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)
Post Note - Giants won the game 9-0, up 2-0 in the series heading to Dallas!
Post Post Note - November 1 - The Giants are the 2010 World Series Champions!!
Another Update - August 2012 - Hastings Little League All Stars are representing Canada once again in Williamsort :-)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Habana*...Dos Mojitos Por Favor!

I fell in love with Cuba and the Cuban people when I visited this beautiful but sad tropical paradise in November 2009. In particular, I fell in love with Habana. Habana rivals many European cities for its charm, beauty and diverse architecture. In a few square miles you will see 16th century battlements, 18th century apartment buildings and post-modern buildings such as the Russian embassy. I rode through Habana in a horse drawn carriage with saucer-sized eyes and a silly perpetual grin; looking everywhere in childlike amazement.
The sad part comes when you look a little closer. Everything is deteriorating and many balconies are collapsing because no one is able to maintain them properly due to lack of resources. My guide aptly stated “everything in Habana is under repair but nothing ever gets finished”. At the same time he told me that he doesn’t like to walk on the sidewalks in many parts of Habana for fear of falling cement chunks.
In many ways Cubanos have a much higher comparative standard of living than most Latin Americans including Mexicans especially when it comes to housing, healthcare and education. In fact, their availability of universal healthcare and literacy rates far exceed those of their neighbours 90 miles to the north. The Cubanos’ standard of living is affected more because they are cash poor and cannot survive on their official government salaries and need to supplement their income with black market currency via tourists to put better quality food on their table. Some like my guide, a high school teacher, will take time off from their regular job to show tourists around the city for a little as ten tourist pesos ($13 Canadian) for the day. Some will make extra money selling gray market cigars and unfortunately some sell themselves.
What really makes the Cubanos poor is not what they don’t have but that which they cannot get. The reason tourists bring things like school supplies, toiletries and candies to donate is not because the Cubanos cannot afford these items; they are simply not available. Across the street from my hotel in Miramar, a suburb of Habana, is the largest and best stocked super market in Cuba, chiefly because it serves all the embassies’ staffs. (Miramar was the wealthy district before the revolution and all the mansions are now either embassies or government organizations.) When I went in, I was shocked to see how bare the shelves were and how little selection there was. Each day, there were a few different items and everyone that went in bought all they could of these basics.
I still believe that the revolution was necessary but like many other “good ideas” something went wrong along the way. To fault just Fidel would be wrong. Leaders like Khrushchev, Kennedy, Reagan and the Bushes helped to damage this beautiful paradise. Basically the Castro Regime, the Americans and the Russians were involved in a global pissing contest; and guess who the unwilling recipients of a golden shower were? Ironically, if the embargo had never existed or even lifted forty years ago the Castros would have long been in exile. American and other foreign interests would have continued to invest heavily in Cuba and with the advent of money comes power. This does not mean they would necessarily had a better or even less restrictive government because we have seen this happen in many other Latin American countries.  
Luckily, all is not lost and hopefully both the restrictions on Americans and Cubanos will be eased soon and we will see a new revitalized Cuba although it would nice if they kept the Golden Arches and the Green Mermaid out for a little while longer.
With all that said I would still encourage people with a social conscience and love art and architecture to visit Cuba and in particular, Habana. (Varadero is not Cuba!)

* Note: I have intentionally used the Cuban spelling of the capital’s name because the only place you see it spelled as Havana is on the logo of Havana Club rum which you will see there as frequently as you see Coca-Cola logos at home; but I must add Havana Club is much more enjoyable!!
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Other N*** Word

Before anyone takes offense the “N” word I’m referring is not a racial slur in fact many people would call it a compliment. My “N” word is only four letters long. Men like me are everywhere. Women refer to the as being n***. I am one of those n*** men. It’s time I spoke up for this downtrodden majority.
We are that guy in the movie that every one of you women thinks is sweet and brings that cute little smile to your face but bypass the feelings in other of your body parts. In the high school coming of age movies, I was the nerdy best friend of the dickhead high school quarterback with whom you were madly in love. You shared all your lustful thoughts and your frustrations about Mr. Wonderful with me meanwhile I was the one who was hopelessly devoted to you.
Your grandmother loves me and wants to pinch my cheeks and feed me pasta even if she isn’t Italian. Your mother asks me for my opinion on the floral arrangements for your wedding. Hey, even your dad likes me! Of course, I’m not the one who gets to deflower his little girl.
My favourite N*** Guy phrases
“You’re such a n*** guy!” – This basically means “You are reasonably attractive, you are considerate and you witty. You remind me of my first puppy. But there’s not a chance, I’ll even sleep with you”.
“You’re a nice guy but” – To all us n*** guys this is very clear. In womenspeak this means “I wouldn’t sleep with you even if you were the last man on earth and I was out of ‘D’ batteries!”
“You’re too n*** of a guy” – Okay, ladies enlighten me?!! This makes no sense at all! It rates right up there with “I don’t date friends.” Please, I am a simple man; I don’t understand.

Which brings to mind the worst quote of all even if it doesn't contain the n*** word "I just want to be friends". I don't want to be your friend! I don't even really like you! I just want to **** you!
That being said, in all truth, I enjoy being a n*** guy and I enjoy being your friend. But ladies remember even N*** Guys want some once in awhile!
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park! ;-)

Running with Safety Scissors

Welcome to my blog. “Yeah, right” you say “another guy who a worthless opinion who thinks his drivel is important.” And you would be right except I don’t really think my drivel is important. Hopefully, I will be able to once in awhile make you smile and once in awhile make you think and even less often perhaps both.
I plan to share with you my likes, my dislikes, my praises and my rants. I want to make you laugh; I want to make you cry; I want to make you cry laughing.
Hey! If everyone else can spew nonsense on the internet; why can’t I?
Why “Running with Safety Scissors”? It’s a metaphor, silly! I believe in living my life to the fullest, taking risks and acting spontaneously but only to a point.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day here in the Magic Kingdom. Oh crap, wrong theme park!;-)