Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Help me interpret this dream...

This is from last night. The only background you need to know about me is that I became engaged two days ago to The Fiancee (formerly The Girlfriend), that I used to be a softball umpire (hated it), am still a basketball referee (love it), and that except for historically egregious errors, almost always side with the umpire in umpire/coach confrontations.

So, the dream:

I'm attending a minor league baseball game with The Fiancee and her parents. The home plate umpire makes a controversial "strike three" call on the blue team's catcher. The catcher changes into his catcher's gear in the dugout and heads out to confront the umpire. They jaw at each other, take off their masks, turn their caps around backward, and bark at each other in fairly typical heated fashion. I say to The Fiancee and her parents: "Oooh! This'll be interesting." Just then, the umpire starts beating the crap out of the blue team's catcher. First a shove, then two big roundhouse rights to the face. The catcher drops to the ground, cold-cocked, unconscious. I turn to my in-laws-to-be and say "Geez! He's never umpiring again. He's done. Enjoy this, because you'll never see him out here again."

The base umpire then gets on the scene, but instead of trying to restrain his violent partner or separate the umpire from the now-converging blue team's teammates, he picks up the blue hat of the fallen catcher, puts it on, and starts dancing.

Okay, armchair analysts. I have my own ideas what this means, but the floor is yours.

Monday, August 30, 2004

And while I'm at it...

Very stirring 9/11 stories tonight at the convention. If I vote for Kerry, does that mean that I don't feel these people's pain?

Very stirring stories about the horrors of Saddam's Iraq tonight. If I vote for Kerry, does that mean I think Saddam is a nice guy?

Very stirring looks at our military tonight. If I vote for Kerry, does that mean I don't like the people laying their butts on the line for me?

Man, I HATE the discourse in this country. I'm trying to picture a way out of this morass. It'll take an awesome, civil candidate who will be immune to the mud-slinging of the Lee Atwater Republicans and the malicious do-gooderness of my least favorite Democrats.

I think Jesus Christ would work as a candidate. The Dems would like his social policy (meek inherit the earty). The Republicans would be forced to look past this clear Marxism and vote for him anyway because...well...he fits with their religious beliefs.

Any ideas who JC's running mate could be? Maybe Joe Lieberman?

Let's try being a political blog for a second.

I mean, this blog doesn't yet have a personality, so like the new kid in your high school, I'm going to try a few different personalities out before easing into who I really am...

John McCain. I'm a liberal. And I'd vote for him.

I hate what our President has done to our country. I honestly believe that he is the 43rd best of our 43 presidents. Who'd beat him? Buchanan? The country was already long gone at that point. Hoover? Again, the problems pre-dated him to a large extent. Bush has singlehandedly ruined our relationships with the rest of the world and has brought us from surpluses (remember how we were going to retire the debt???) to incredible deficits. I do give him credit (and not everyone does, I know) for there being no attacks since 9/11, and I grant that the war on terror costs money that may have made surpluses impossible...but cutting taxes??? And this doesn't even get into the 1000 of our guys (and many, many more of theirs) who have died over either a breathtaking failure of intelligence or a deliberate reception.

But that's not what I'm blogging about today.

Here's what I want to talk about: in spite of my punctuated-with-italics rant, in spite of how historically awful I think his presidency has been, I am okay with people disagreeing with me. I recognize that there is a severe problem with discourse in this country. And I want to know how to get that back. Bush has his Swift Boat henchmen...but Democrats play the game too, and I get pissed off even more with them (I think because I'm one of them.)


Republicans call Democrats unpatriotic. Democrats call Republicans stupid.
Republicans call Democrats wimpy. Democrats call Republicans racist.
Republicans call Democrats elitist. Democrats call Republicans trailer trash.
When we look at tactics, is there a discernible difference between Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore?

Worst of all came from Janeane Garafolo on the Daily Show a few months ago: "At this point, a vote for Bush is a character flaw." I can't believe it's come to that. This is a manifestation of the whole damn problem, and every bit as bad as the Clinton-hating that made me so sick and sad through the '90s. How is this indictment of someone's soul on the basis of his/her vote any different from Catholics refusing Communion to politicians who vote pro-choice? It ain't.

For a year, I've been predicting this will be the ugliest campaign since (and possibly including) 1884. (That'd be Blaine vs. Cleveland. "Continental Liar from the State of Maine" vs. "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa?") It's turning out that way, mostly due to Bush's henchmen. The question I have is whether Garafolo, Moore and other Democrats need to sink to that level to win an election. I hope to God it isn't true. But where I go haywire is here: I think resorting to incivility to win an election is wrong even for my guy. And I hope it doesn't happen. Let's let Lee Atwater's ideas and tactics stay buried with him. We as a country (and especially we as a Democratic party) MUST be better than that.

I'm voting for Kerry, but it's in spite of the name-calling by some of the louder members of my party.


TeacherRefPoet made a change this weekend. The Woman Formerly Known as The Girlfriend is now known as The Fiancee. Yep, after nearly three years total of dating (three months on, four years off, then two and a half years on), I popped the question. Didn't do it at a baseball game...if I had, The Girlfriend would have become The Ex-Girlfriend. Nope. Took her to the restaurant where we had our first date. I told her that this table (I called ahead and had the host set aside the table where I met her on our personal-ad-set-up date) was where it all started seven years ago, and that tonight, I wanted to start something else. I reached into my pocket for the ring...

and at that moment, a highly unfortunate waitress stepped in to put The Girlfriend's Diet Coke on the table, simultaneous to me saying "Will you marry me?" Let me tell you, you've never seen a waitress run so quickly away from a table in your life.

Anyway, my cheeks actually are in pain from smiling for the past day and a half.

My parents are on a cruise and I can't reach them! Everyone I know knows except for them. Weird!!!

One other note...The Fiancee is one of the most brilliant women I've ever known (she's considered law school in the past, and was studying for the LSATs hard...not to get a good score, but because she thought she could get a PERFECT score). And the last day and a half, she can't compose a sentence except for "Look at how it sparkles!!! It sparkles!!!" I picked a good ring out for a teacher's salary, I guess...

Okey-dokey...we now return to our regularly scheduled blog...if you want to talk about marriage and stuff, talk amongst yourselves here in the ol' reply area...I'll just listen...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Laminated List

I'm watching yesterday's women's basketball semifinal. (Like an idiot, I forgot to TiVo the final...but it's okay, our women have taken it all, beating Lauren Jackson, who has the best inside game since Kevin McHale, and Australia.). Sue Bird is getting very little playing time--Van Chancellor is going with Dawn Staley and Diana Taurasi. But that's okay. She's still my girlfriend.

To clarify: Sue Bird is my pretend girlfriend. The real girlfriend has set up the rules: if Sue Bird is in Seattle Storm uniform or at an official Seattle Storm function, she's my girlfriend. If not, she's not. So when we pass a Storm billboard or see a highlight, The Real Girlfriend will say "Look! It's your girlfriend!" The Real Girlfriend and I actually had a discussion about whether Sue Bird would be my girlfriend while competing for the USA. She originally said no, but I pointed out that since the WNBA is taking a month off for the Olympics, that Sue is sanctioned by the WNBA as she plays ball. So right now, as she rides the pine in Athens, she is my girlfriend.

I was originally attracted to her game, and only then did I notice, well, the rest of her. But the game came first. I've had similar relationships before, always with point guards--most notably with Seattle Reign star Christy Hedgpeth. I'd stand up at those wonderful games and shout "She's my WIIIIIFFFEEE!!!!" after Christy would have a sweet assist. The women around me would look at me with confused stares or angry glares--all justified. But Sue Bird...different. They just did a piece where My Pretend Girlfriend and Tamika Catchings were making wine at a Greek winery. My Pretend Girlfriend picked grapes. Sue stomped on them in her cute bare feet. Sue announced that the grapes felt like "a giant pile of boogers." She stated "I've never been to a vineyard in the US...I'm from New York. But look at that. That's Greece." Hmmmm. Not the sharpest remarks, in spite of her UConn communications degree. Well, it's her game and her, um, other qualities that I like.

Incidentally, The Real Girlfriend has a pretend boyfriend as well. We were on vacation last month when David Bowie appeared on our hotel TV screen. The Real Girlfriend announced: "Teacherrefpoet, if David Bowie ever asked me to have sex with him, I'd have to say yes." I was actually relieved to hear that...it evens out the relationship...if I have a Pretend Girlfriend, she needs a Pretend Boyfriend. This led me to wonder, however, what The Girlfriend found attractive in men. I'd never asked her. She thought, and gave a bizarre answer: "Knobby knees." I know I've got knobby knees. Woo-hoo! Does David Bowie? I'll need to find a picture of the man in shorts.

So we each have a Laminated List of one, but our rules are a little different from Ross's and Rachel's. Sue Bird is only my girlfriend while she's at work, and the same is true of David Bowie. To be honest, I think my baby has a better chance with David Bowie than I do with Sue Bird. I'd have to seduce Sue while she's on the court or at a Storm Function--tough to do. Indeed, my best chance may have been in Athens...her status as third-stringer meant she played only 17 seconds of the gold-medal game. I could have taken her away from the bench for a quick tete-a-tete and Van Chancellor never would have missed her. I think that The Real Girlfriend could easily track down David Bowie backstage at intermission, though, thus meeting the requirement that he's only her boyfriend during official David Bowie functions. Well, since this is the Laminated List, I'd have to let that happen. But if she pulled it off, I'd definitely get Storm season tickets. Front row. Behind the bench. And start working my charm...


Conversation I had with my mom once:

ME: "I never believe in conspiracy theories. JFK, OJ, aliens, whatever...I have never believed in a conspiracy."

MOM: "Not even surprise birthday parties?"

This crosses my mind because today I am the key cog in a friend's surprise birthday party. I'm taking him to a baseball game while his wife sets up about 40 friends in a tent in the guy's backyard. Now, my friend should be suspicious, as I am actually going to leave the ballpark early--due to a rainout last week, the game was changed to a doubleheader, but due to the pre-planned surprise party, I have to miss the second game. It bums me out a little, since there are so few doubleheaders scheduled anymore, but hey, I'm the key cog, and it's the man's 40th birthday. He doesn't suspect a thing, which is amazing because (a) I'm leaving a baseball game I have tickets to, which is just short of Fidel Castro renouncing Communism in likelihood, and (b) I'm possibly the worst liar in the history of the universe. But I told him I can't stay because my nephew is having a birthday party. It's all true, except for the "nephew" part.

I feel so devious, so naughty. I just gotta make it through the game without cracking, then take him home and drop him off at his party. Kick butt.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

This blog's title

It occurred to me today that the former title of this blog, "Instant Eternity," sure sounded pompous. It wasn't intended to be that...it's just a nod to my man Emerson...but all at once I started hating it as a title.

So I have changed the title to the interim title above. I'm open to suggestions for a fresh new one.


Aimee Mann

Last night, I saw Aimee Mann in concert at the zoo.

I love Aimee Mann. I put her poetry up there with anyone writing songs, today or ever. Paul Simon might give her a run; although he gets a tad whiny at times, he still can make me gasp with that combination of complete surprise but complete recognition that any poet should produce. Emily Saliers is another--she's one of the very best...but she went through a preachy phase in the late 1990s. Even when I agree with a singer or poet, I don't want to feel like I'm being preached to. She's snapped out of it of late. But Aimee Mann's "I Know There's A Word" has to be on the short list of most beautiful, heartbreaking, recognizable songs ever written. It's sadder than sad, and yet I still can listen to it even when I'm happy, like a good tragic play.

But geez, something has happened to me in the 11 or years since I discovered Ms. Mann ("Voices Carry" doesn't count). I have changed, and that's interesting to me (isn't that always a surprise?). I still list Whatever, her first solo album, as a desert island disc, but it's different now.

Whatever came out during the aftermath of the first heart-rending breakup of my life. (Yeah, there'd been others, but this one is the one breakup, you know? I mean, you get past it, but if I asked anyone over the age of 28 to list that one big big breakup, watch their face when they get back that memory. We've all got one.) My mind was on that sad, self-pitying continuous loop that we all have for a while after the breakup. I was driving to school one morning when Aimee was interviewed on NPR. I sure wish I could find a copy of that Morning Edition piece. It captivated me. Not so much Aimee's words, which, as I recall, were about how songs that seem to be about lost love are often about record companies instead. But those lyrics. Man. The killer moment was the first verse of "I Know There's a Word." Perfect, and especially perfect at that nadir in my life. I bought the album that night, and listened to it about a zillion times over the next few years, adding all the 'Til Tuesday albums and I'm With Stupid within three years, and I've bought all the rest on the days they've come out. But Whatever was always the most important album for me. It replaced the sad transcripts of my post-breakup mind with sad songs...and that, indeed is saying something.

Last night was my third Aimee Mann concert, and I was honestly a little disappointed. The first one, in 2000, was a near-religious experience for me. Two years ago was also good. This one...eh. It could be that I was outdoors in the cold and rain. It could be that I was back sort of far away due to my inability to wait in line all day. I was surrounded by people who I'm not sure knew Aimee Mann very well. I wanted to sing along, but there was such silence around me. I felt like saying that these folks didn't deserve to be there as much as I did, but it's not like this was a competition.

But I think I may simply have outgrown Aimee Mann, the "queen of kiss-and-tell-off," as one critic called her. Last night's concert, I think, proved that. I was there with The Girlfriend, snuggling with her. She likes it when I sing into her ear. At Indigo Girls concerts, that's a cool thing to do..."Power of Two," for instance, is what I would nominate to be "our song." But Aimee is hardly a sing-to-your-date concert. Here are some of the lyrics I was singing to The Girlfriend: "Oh you stupid thing/It wasn't me that you outsmarted." "But now here I am and the world's gotten colder/And she's got the river down which I sold her." "It's not going to stop/so just give up." "I was hoping that/You'd know better than that/I was hoping but/You're an amateur."

Poet? Yes. Romantic? Hardly.

And while I was generally unhappy in the year or two when I discovered Aimee Mann, I'm generally happy now. I've gone from being romantically unattached and generally groundless to being in an excellent relationship and pretty much settled in life. So while I still love those old songs, they don't hit me the same. I've often wondered what a happy Aimee Mann love song would sound like (the only one I can think of, "Mr. Harris," just bugged me back when I was listening to Whatever...that one sweet song in the midst of all that anger...I frequently skipped it). She's been married (to Michael Penn) for quite a while now, but the happy songs haven't followed, although her songs are now less often anger at ex-lovers and more often anger and exasperation at people she loves who are making stupid mistakes. Those I still love. But the old stuff...well...it fits me about as well as the jeans I wore back then. And I don't want to go back to the way things used to be. (Except for those jeans. I'd love to be that skinny again.)

Monday, August 23, 2004

Best Olympic Athlete name...

is Aina Andriamanjatoarimanana.

13-year-old swimmer from Madagascar. Finished second in her heat, but did not qualify for semis. Her time was 55th best.

Olympic musings

I love the Olympics. I basically shut down every two years and it's hard to get work done while they're on. Although I'm annoyed at NBC's apparent lack of awareness that there are other countries in the world, this year's expanded coverage has been much welcome to me. I love the minor sports. To wit:

Has anybody watched team handball on Bravo? This is a fun sport. Sometimes it can become a little slow, with the six-person defensive team backed up in a zone-like line in front of the no-trespassing six-meter goalie box. But then somebody sneaks through a between-the-legs pass, or lobs one back to the wingman in the corner, or there's a steal and a fast break, and next thing you know, somebody's jumping over the goalie box, ready to throw the volleyball-sized ball as hard as they can at goal, hanging in the air so long to get as close as they can to goal before they land, sometimes doing a belly flop in front of the goalie just to sustain their time in the air. I like that. I've got last night's TiVoed women's match on the tube now...South Korea and France. Yesterday, the men--Croatia crushed Spain. They had this play where they'd lob the ball down to the right corner and this stud named Mirza Dzomba would leap out, sweeping his left arm around with a hard shot. When the goalie would come out on him, the Dzombanator would lob a little rainbow under his head, that'd settle softly in the back of the net. Seriously--it rocks! Set your Tivo now!

--Things you can get away with on Bravo at 4AM: Today, studio host Mary Carillo played a little table tennis with a teenaged female American player while reenacting a scene from All About Eve. She gave this huge soliloquy, then would tell the kid her line (Now you say "What of it?"). The kid played gamely along. This went on for like two minutes, all while they were playing table tennis, netless, on Carillo's anchor desk. At the end, Carillo said "Bravo fans will appreciate that." Funny.

--It's not a minor sport, but I have to admit--I'm one of those who are actually hoping the US will lose its quarterfinal match in men's basketball. As of now, we'll play either Argentina or Spain, and frankly, they're both better than we are. Now, I'm not some anti-patriotic freak. I do tend to root for our guys, as long as they're not jerks. But I grew up an incredibly dyed-in-the-wool NBA freak, and that's not true anymore...I didn't watch a single NBA game this year until the finals, and then just because I wanted the team that plays the proper basketball, Detroit, to beat the team that plays dull, boring, stupid, you-four-guys-go-down-there-and-stand-still-while-I-try-to-take-my-guy-off-the-dribble baskeball, the Lakers. My former Nuggets coach, Larry Brown, got it done. Now we've lost two games, and it's not because our best guys stayed home, no matter what the sport's apologists will tell you. It's because these players haven't been brought up playing proper basketball...you know, the kind where you move away from the ball and have a mid-range jumper. Alex English, the best scorer of the 1980s, would not have a place in today's NBA, for shit's sake. Something's dreadfully wrong when that's true. So I want to lose the quarterfinal. I want the smooth-shooting Spanish/Argentines to beat us by about twenty. I want our confused players to be forced to take midrange jumpers, shots that English made his living burying, but that our guys will hit only about a third of the time. Then, I want NBA teams to take notice. I want them to respond by playing more zone, realizing that next to nobody in the NBA can actually shoot anymore. From this, players will start working on mid-range jumpers. We'll get over our hypererotic fascination with the dunk. It's too late for current NBA-ers, maybe, who were raised playing our inferior brand of basketball--basketball we used to be able to get away with internationally. This, combined with the Pistons' victory this year, will lead the NBA back to proper basketball and away from the boredom of the past decade or so. Hey, I can dream, right? Meanwhile, there are always the women, who play superior ball.

Whoa. This blog thing is making me late for work. I've gotta get in and make copies of the first few weeks' of stuff the little urchins will be doing. Tomorrow's the first day teachers are required to be there. So long, summer--been good to know you.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

And so it begins...

but what is "it," exactly?

I never thought I'd start a blog. Indeed, I may still not be starting a blog...this may always be the only entry I have. But I grew tired of posting anonymously onto The Girlfriend's and other friends' blogs, so here I am. And, for whatever different reasons, here you are.

A few problems come to mind--the deck is stacked against this blog lasting. Here they are, in the order I think of them:

--I'm a teacher. I will write wondering if students will ever discover this blog. There's a reason for this. I have a website out there in the world where I had posted some of my poetry, including one poem that's fairly steamy. Next thing you know, I had about 15 hits on a Sunday night after having next to none previously. The Girlfriend was away at a wedding, so I thought maybe her friends had discovered the site at a party and were checking out my sex poem, making fun of her...nope. My students were reading it. I pulled it off the site that night, but learned my lesson...don't put up anything I don't want my students (or their parents, including the nosy malicious do-gooders that pop up every now and again) to read. As a result, I plan on being hyper-anal about avoiding discovery. I don't have my name on here, my hometown, my school, any ties to my website, or ANY identifying information...and yet I'm not fully comfortable. Whatever. Maybe I'll get over it.

--I'm a referee. I know, just know, that if I write about my ballgames, some coach or parent with anger management issues will stumble upon this, and nothing good has ever come from a ref conversing with any coach or parent outside of very specific parameters--parameters outside this blog. Again, with my name and hometown absent here, this seems to be a very, very unlikely worry...but it's there, sitting in the back of my head like a sniper or a public urinator or something equally unwelcome. (Shit, is THAT the first metaphor of my blog???) Nonetheless, I endure.

--I'm a poet. But I've been suffering from horrible poetic constipation for some time now. Is any of that is because I've been posting to my silly website instead of writing poetry? Will having this blog reduce or increase the chances I have of writing? Plus, writing about my own poetry about feels silly and highly pompous to me. I hardly think the world needs another pretentious windbag blog.

But I've liked reading my friends' blogs, so hell, here goes.

I mostly feel like I'll put little things I've noticed that aren't necessarily important or germane to my life. This won't be a journal, per se, in that I doubt you'll truly be able to follow important aspects of my life in here. They might inevitably pop up every now and then. What the hell will this look like? ("I saw a fascinating bumper sticker today on my way home from winning the Nobel Prize." "Aren't those large print Readers' Digests fascinating? I think so. I was just noticing them at the doctors' office right before he told me my tumor was inoperable.") I don't know. So we'll see. Will I be the careful blog-gardener or the apathetic blog slum-lord? We'll know soon enough.

Welcome aboard.