Archive for August, 2019

Where Have You Gone, Larry Bird?

August 23, 2019

Paul Simon slipped Joe Dimaggio into his song Mrs. Robinson, an idealic talisman of yesterday who slipped across the expanse of the outfield at Yankee Stadium and swung a gracefully heavy bat at the plate. He made baseball look easy, like water filling a glass. A natural. He might not have been the best hitter of his time (Hello, Ted Williams) or the most gifted outfielder to ever don the pinstripes (I think Mantle was a more dynamic player) but pure smoothness? A natural? That was Joltin’ Joe.

It’s also not something I can really feel any similarity to. I can’t relate to it. Who can? We have all had moments where everything slid into place and whatever we were doing just worked the way we envision it. But to seem so naturally gifted that this was the natural state?

This isn’t to say Larry Bird wasn’t crazily gifted.  Beyond the hours in the gym, the years playing, he just seemed to have an affinity for the sport of basketball.

At the same time, he was a big white guy with a two inch vertical. He was big, he was gifted at the sport, but he wasn’t necessarily physically gifted in the way of someone like Jordan or Dominique Wilkins or Lebron James. Where Bird was gifted was between the ears and in the heart.

Watch highlights of Bird playing, diving for loose balls, falling into the crowd, using his two inch vertical to pull down a rebound and you see someone who knew the game and knew where to go and when to be there, but who also just plain fought for everything. Larry Bird was determination given human form.

That’s the athlete I can identify with. I might not be as naturally gifted at anything as he was at basketball, but that need to have to scrap for everything? Yeah, I can get that. Having to work at something, to slog through the crap, and end up with a broken nose or smashed finger, yeah. That I understand.

It seems like there aren’t many Larry Bird’s any more. I see a lot of athletes who look very natural doing what they do, who look smooth and pretty and nearly effortless. Who go out and you can tell that there is a touch of separation from the person and the act, from the person playing the game and the game.

It’s a distance most of us can’t afford in our lives. If we allow ourselves to become detached we lose our edge, we lose our place, we lose. And in our lives it matters when we lose. It’s not just a game, it’s not just a tick in the win or loss column in the standings. It’s a house payment. It’s health insurance. It’s the well-being of our kids.

It’s a distance we didn’t see in Larry Bird. It’s a distance we don’t see in our mundane normal person lives.  I miss Larry Bird the basketball player. I miss athletes I can relate to. We need more Larry Birds.

Anthony Bourdain Is Still Missed

August 14, 2019

The Wife and I have always enjoyed Bourdain, originally on his Travel Channel show, his CNN show, then we saw the precursor A Cook’s Tour on Netflix. Since he died, The Wife has seemed to lose interest in watching the last couple of seasons that we hadn’t kept up with but I have been diving back into it a bit.

Watching Parts Unknown now, with the knowledge of his death, there is something else to all of the little looks Tony gives people, places, meals, little glasses of local liquor passed around the table. It’s not so much hard to pair these images with what happened, but understanding the appreciation of love behind the glances.

I think I always had a hard time humanizing Tony. He was bigger than my life. He lived in NYC. He’d seen the world. He’d experienced various chemicals that I likely never will. He seemed loved or at least liked by damn near everyone. He made people smile and he smiled himself, seemingly effortlessly. In the words of Hunter Thompson, Tony was a man who stomped on the terra, at least in my eyes.

Now, watching him smile and flatter a lady in West Virginia fixing him spaghetti pizza, the sparkle in his eye. Him going to a small town football game. Him riding around in an SUV mutated into some weird all-terrain Appalachian assault vehicle. He looks happy. he looks like he is savoring the moment. All of the moments. And he’s there. Fully. Life is receiving his full attention.

I don’t know how he does it. I can’t do it. I feel pulled and rarely fully, entirely here. He’s so gentle. Behind the swearing, the smoking, the drinking, the bravado, he’s so gentle.

I never knew Tony. Obviously. Only through the television. Through books. Through interviews. Through the mountain of ephemera he sprinkled throughout the world. But I miss him. I watch these last few episodes, savoring them. I can always go back and re-watch them.

He will always be there in that way. But there will be no new moments. No new looks. All of the drinks passed around the table will have been drunk long ago. All of the barbecues gone cold. The laughter slipped away on the winds. These last episodes are the final new moments. And I will miss not having new ones. Selfishly, perhaps. I will miss him. And his stomping on the terra. Gently.

yep, that’s a lot of horsepower

August 12, 2019

This is probably just a reflection upon why I don’t really fit in with a lot of guys but I don’t see the fuss over the new Mustang. The most horsepower ever! well, made by Ford as a street legal production car. But even if it was just the straight up most powerful Mustang…so what?

I’m not sure how other people drive, the roads they travel, but stop lights hate me. And they are everywhere. And even where there are no stop lights, out on the free way with the speed limit cranked up to 70 there are cops. I had to travel 30 minutes, one way, four times this weekend. I saw an average of two cops each way, with their little radar guns out. Looking for to chuck some money into the coffers, shoving us into a civic minded tithing.

So, what does it matter? The new Mustangs aren’t even exceptionally pretty or unique. For me, they just sort of bleed into the sea of cars surrounding me. I can get it if you just like Mustangs. If you collect them. If you know the history.

But the most horsepower ever. I don’t get the selling point outside of it just appealing to some dumb lizard part of the human (mostly male, but that’s only my opinion) composition.  On top of it just being a pointless number, it doesn’t saw how well that force is transferred to the wheels, how much wheel hop it suffers, etc. It has a 0-60 time around 3.5 seconds, I guess. So…you can get to the next red light really quickly.

This is just another thing that goes hand in hand with people only buying trucks and SUVs, the death of the American sedan and mini-van, etc.



Buying into this notion others have already bought into, whose validity comes only from its acceptance.

I think this is why I like the Cube, when it was being made. It was just odd. It’s why I appreciate VW bringing back its bus. And why weird little cars on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, like the Nissan Figaro has so much appeal for me.

And I shouldn’t throw stones. I know there are things that I buy into without really knowing why. There has to be. But the most horsepower ever. I just don’t get revved up by the fuel in that line.