My grandson just turned 8, and he never seems to run out of things to do or to think about. Part of this comes from his parents, both of whom know a lot of different things that they love to pass along to him. So he is already a bigger expert on all sorts of subjects than is his old grandpa. I tried to remember what I was like when I was 8, and what my parents passed along to me. And no wonder I don't know anything. We learned a love of music from our parents, and my dad introduced us to sports simply by being interested in them himself. Once in a while he'd come out on the front lawn to throw a ball around. But that's it. I mean, my mom taught us how to play the piano, but that didn't really stick. I'm not saying I had bad parents, but they were a lot different than my grandson's parents.
I was left to my own devices a lot of the time. One thing I looked forward to every year was the annual release of new rosters for the Negamco baseball game. I'm pretty sure I played this when I was 8.
Each year, you would get rosters with all of the players from the previous year, rated so they would perform in the game as they did in real life. While it seemed pretty complicated, once you got the hang of it, there was nothing to it. The box looked like this:
There were classier (i.e. more expensive) games ... among other things, they used dice to determine outcomes. Negamco used a spinner:
The box, the spinner, everything was pretty cheap, so after about a week, the spinner dial would get bent and the spinner board would get warped, so you'd get 17 all the time, which kinda destroyed the notion that you were using random variation.
It all seemed so real when I was 8. In 2020, games are a bit more complicated. That game I had, it had very few player ratings. A batter would be rated on how many hits he got, and how many of those hits were home runs. Pitchers were ranked from 1-7. No pitchers experienced fatigue, and there was nothing like lefty-righty matchups. So the results would resemble real life a little bit, but not too close, and of course that #17 would screw things up. Now, simulation games like this are computer games, with every possible detail built into the program. Negamco is a thing of the past. (A few of the better board games are still being made, although as I understand it, many of them have moved to computers.)
I'm sure I've written about radio many times. I could search for relevant posts. But what I'm thinking about today is the category I assigned to Radio. Categories on this blog are there to help you find things. There's a category for Baseball and Bruce Springsteen, for Film and Film Fatales and Geezer Cinema, for Music and Pink and Sleater-Kinney. Recently, I added a category for African-American Directors ... haven't yet turned it into something "official" like my Film Fatales posts, but I tagged a lot of appropriate movies from past entries.
Well, the first time I tagged a post with "Radio" (and thus, the time I invented it as a category for the blog) wasn't as long ago as I might have thought. The post was called "Serial Radio", and it drifted from the Serial podcast to some thoughts about Old Time Radio, with examples. The date was November 13, 2014. Like I say, I know I've talked about radio before, especially FM "Underground" Radio in the 60s. I may have to go back and tag a few posts, make the Radio category relevant. Because after that first post, I wrote one Radio post a year for three years, with the last one being in 2017, when I talked about William Conrad and Gunsmoke.
The other two posts were tied to my life with radio. One came when longtime Bay Area sports announcer Lon Simmons died. Baseball fans develop close, interesting relationships with the people on the radio who describe the action for six months out of the year.
The other Radio post was the most personal of them all: "Al Collins, Grasshopper Pie, and Me". I think it's a good one, so I won't quote it here ... check out the link. Al Collins was a legend, but a good half of that post is about the grasshopper cocktail and grasshopper pies.
What would I write about radio today? The main place I listen to the radio is in the car, and guess what? There's a quarantine, and we never drive anywhere. Spotify playlists are what pass for music radio in 2020, and I will still listen to Giants games when I'm not watching them on TV.
But perhaps what I'm saying is there's a reason why I have so few radio posts. Radio just isn't as important to me any more.
One way we are privileged is that we paid off the mortgage on our house. Retirement is thus a lot easier than it would be otherwise. I have my wife to thank for this, as for so many other things.
I feel like I've gotten to know our house especially well over the past months, because I never leave it. OK, my hermit-like tendencies have always meant I'm home a lot, but since March 11, when we went out to see Emma. as part of Geezer Cinema, the quarantine has kept me almost entirely indoors. I have more warning signs than my wife, so she is in charge of actually going out, although it's limited. Once a week we order take-out breakfast from Homemade Cafe ... I drive, she picks up. One morning, my sister and brother-in-law joined us at a nearby park for half and hour or so. A week ago I left the house on my own for about an hour to have some blood tests. And then, finally, we drove up to Sacramento Friday for the grandson's 8th birthday ... their home is part of our "pod".
Other than that, I've been in this house for almost all of 135 days and counting.
Have I learned anything about our house in that time? Not really ... we've lived here in 1987. We have friends staying in the basement, although the virus means we rarely even see each other. My wife did buy an air conditioner for the attic, which was about 30 years overdue. That is probably the main difference between our house now and what it used to be like.
I may have posted this before ... here is my wife, the first time we did breakfast take-out:
I spent several weeks during Xmas season in 1972 in Indiana, where I had lived in 1971-2. My friends and I would stay up until all hours, drinking wine and smoking weed, going on “adventures” like a trip to the supermarket to count the number of items containing garlic. One night, we were sitting around, probably high on some combination of things. I started talking about Camus’ Sisyphus, how he was condemned by the gods to push a rock up a mountain. When he got to the top, the rock rolled back down the mountain, followed by Sisyphus, who, when he reached the bottom, would once again push the rock up the mountain. This punishment was eternal. Sisyphus would perform his task forever, and would know as he performed it that he would be pushing that rock into eternity.
Something about the telling of that story got to me. I had a flash of insight, perhaps the only one I have ever experienced. I didn’t understand Camus intellectually. Rather, I connected in some visceral way. In that instant, I thought I understood the meaning of life in a deeper way than I ever had, before or since. We are all Sisyphus … this is the message that filled me with emotion far more than it filled me with an intelligent recognition of the facts.
I started to laugh.
I was always prone to giggle fits in those days (I’m still susceptible; perhaps we all are.) But this was not that; I was not giggling. No, I was laughing with awe and sadness at the wonderful absurdity of human life. We push the rock up the mountain, it rolls back down, we push it back up, indefinitely.
I am very suspicious when people say something changed their life. It seems to me that life-change is a process, that if we change at all, it takes a lot more than a moment, that it must be spurred on by more than just one event. And, in any case, I have no idea what was actually occurring as I rolled on the floor in uncontrollable laughter. But I do know that to this day, I think of my life in terms of what happened before that night, and what has happened since.
Of course, at the time, I wasn’t really thinking about what would happen down the road, or what the implications were for my laughter. But something happened that night, and whether I knew it then or not, part of that something was my spiritualism flying out the door.
There's a news story about a guy who has just awoken from a coma that began on July 13, 1984. Apparently, the guy is talking a blue streak, and he still thinks Ronald Reagan is president. This made me decide to play a game, "What If I Was In A Coma?" The idea here is that everything is still 1984 to me ... the Reagan thingie is the example of what I mean. What needs to be explained to me, to get me up to speed?
I thought to do this again. In this case, I went into a coma in July of 2003, and woke up today. What needs to be explained?
When I went into a coma, George W was president. Since then, we elected our first African-American president. After him, we elected a real-estate mogul who by that time was known in part for his reality TV show, The Apprentice.
Harvey Pekar is dead. But Betty White and Olivia de Havilland are still alive.
When I went into a coma, the Giants had lost the World Series the previous season. Among the team leaders were Barry Bonds, Ray Durham, Marquis Grissom, and Jerome Williams, all African-Americans. While I was in a coma, the Giants miraculously won three World Series. There were no African-Americans on the list of top players on those teams. When I woke up from a coma, I was informed that there was no baseball yet, because of a virus.
Ah yes, the virus. For almost a year, now, the world is living through a pandemic. Lives have changed. When/if I go outside, I'll find that I have to wear a mask and stay at least six feet away from people. Many things will be closed ... shopping is a dangerous thing to do.
The most important political movement is now Black Lives Matter, which covers a lot of ground but which focuses on police brutality against African-Americans. In June of 2020 alone there were several dozen killings by law enforcement officials, including Rayshard Brooks, an African-American murdered in a Wendy's parking lot in Atlanta.
In football, the 49ers were mostly awful for nearly a decade, but they returned to the Super Bowl behind QB Colin Kaepernick. During the 2016 season, Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem as a protest against treatment of black people and people of color. After the season, he was released by the 49ers. He has never been given a job in the NFL since.
You know that American soccer league, MLS? It had 10 teams when I went into a coma. Soon afterwards, the Earthquakes won their second MLS Cup. A couple of years after that, they moved to Houston. A couple of years after that, San Jose was awarded an expansion team. A couple of years ago, the Earthquakes opened their new, soccer-only stadium. You'll notice that MLS is still around, now with 26 teams. Oh yeah, my nephew Sean works for the Toronto team.
When I went into a coma, the #1 song in the country was "Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé with Jay-Z. When I woke up, Beyoncé was the biggest music act in the country. The current #1 song is "Rockstar" by DaBaby. Prince died in 2016. While I was in a coma, Bruce Springsteen released 7 new studio albums, went on 7 world tours, had a show on Broadway that ran more than a year, and turned 70. Along the way, he won a few Grammies and a Tony. Danny Federici died in 2008, Clarence Clemons died in 2011. My beloved Sleater-Kinney released one of their greatest albums, went on a "hiatus", and came back a decade later. Before their most recent tour, Janet Weiss (sigh) quit.
Those Oscars you watched a coupla months before you went into a coma? The ones hosted by Steve Martin, where Chicago won Best Picture? The Best Picture at the most recent Oscars was Parasite, the first non-English language film to win the award.
The #1 broadcast TV series was CSI, which ran until 2015. Not sure you knew it back then, but we were entering the time of Peak TV. People "binge" series now. May I recommend the following shows to you, most of which you haven't heard of: The Wire, Mad Men, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, Justified, Terriers, The Americans, Broad City, Fargo, Game of Thrones, Girls, The Leftovers, Mr. Robot, Orange Is the New Black, Rectify, Halt and Catch Fire, Jane the Virgin, The Comeback, The Knick, Rubicon, Tremé, Outlander, GLOW, Vida, The 100, Agents of SHIELD, Better Things, Insecure, Atlanta.
Your family is fine, Steven. Robin is as terrific as you remember. Neal and Sonia are still a great couple, Sara married Ray and had your grandson, Félix, who is about to turn 8. Welcome back.
Oh, and it's possible to become famous via something called YouTube, which was created a couple of years after my coma began. Here's a YouTube show you should binge:
You won't recognize most of those people, but they are all big stars today. And yes, that's Scarlett Johansson, the girl from Ghost World. She is one of the biggest stars in the movie world.
After ten years of working in a factory, I was 31 years old. I had more muscles than I ever had before, or ever had again. I don't want to exaggerate ... the muscles weren't that big, and the job usually wasn't very physically demanding. But still.
It didn't take long for all of that to go away. Once I no longer had to lift heavy shit and run around all day, I settled into the person I am today.
Funny thing is, it took much longer for my mental state to change. Even though I'd escaped, my mind still took me back to those days. Finally I got to where I can barely remember what that job was like.
The last time I taught a face-to-face class was 2002. I taught online classes for a long time after that. But when those "temp" adjunct jobs died out, I happily retired, thanks mostly to my lovely wife, who had a job that paid actual money.
Given my hermit tendencies, and the lack of reasons to go out among people on a regular basis, my real-world actions gradually shrunk to a few close friends, family gatherings, and trips to the grocery store. And sports events, where I could be surrounded by tens of thousands of people while being anonymous to all of them except the people I attended with.
When the quarantine began, I figured to be good at it, and I know there are a lot of people out there suffering far more than I am. But after awhile, I feel the social part of my being shrinking just the way my physical self shrunk when I quit working in a factory. Use it or lose it, I guess.
A couple of weeks ago, our daughter and grandson came to visit. It wasn't my idea ... I don't think we should chance it. But they have been very careful at their home, and my wife and I are careful at ours, so the visit happened.
Now the dam is busted. Yesterday, my wife went to the dentist (I had already cancelled my appointment ... no way I'm going there under the current conditions). And last weekend, my sister and brother-in-law came to breakfast. We picked up food at our local cafe (we've been doing that every Saturday since this started ... you order on the phone and do a curbside pickup ... I drive, my wife picks up, since I have more existing health conditions than she does). We met at a park near our house, and maintained social distance while eating and visiting.
I had lost count long ago, but my wife pointed out that it was the first time in three months that I had gone out to be with people (when the grandson visited, we stayed home). Let me repeat that: three months.
I don't know which is more depressing. Is it that I could go without people for three months and not even notice? Or is it that I am so fucked up, my psyche works overtime to convince myself I don't miss people. Either way, it is disturbing.
Today is my 67th birthday. And I don't know any more than I did when I was 7, or 17, or 27, or you get the idea.
After a few months, our daughter and grandson came to visit. He's 7 1/2, and I can't say he's gotten smarter since we last visited, but he is definitely still smart. Probably smarter, to be honest.
I had an odd icon on my phone. Somehow I knew who to ask. I showed him my phone, which looked like this:
I didn't know what that circle in the icons at the top right was. He pulled down from the top of the phone to show a few icons in detail. Then he pulled down again, showing a full array of icons, including that circle, which was labeled "Data Saver". I must have turned it on by accident. I turned it off. Mystery solved, by the 7-year-old.
Then there's this. I was showing him old photos and asked him if he remembered this:
I don't often get blatantly personal around here. As the motto for the blog says, I want you to read what I thought of Irma Vep and from that learn what I am like as a person. But something happened this weekend that is worth passing along, even though I'm the butt of whatever joke might exist. I'll be vague about names.
Yesterday afternoon, I get a notification on a social media site that a young musician I like has begun following me. There is absolutely no reason for this, but 1) I am gullible, 2) I am starstruck, and 3) I didn't have anything else to do. So I followed the person in return.
I get a request to take the discussion private, and I do. Over the next half-hour plus, we have a long private chat. They thanked me for my support, and asked how long I'd been a fan. Not long, I said, just a few months. They thanked me again, and asked how they could pay me back. I replied that they should just keep making music, and they said they were working on something.
I figured that was that, and told my wife I'd had a brush with fame.
But a couple of minutes later, they started the chat up again by asking how my family was doing during the pandemic. I wasn't sure why they asked, but mostly I just thought even famous people are bored during the quarantine, and this person isn't as famous as, say, Miranda Lambert. So I answered, and to be polite, I asked how they and their family were doing.
They said things were fine in their city (naming the correct city for the artist in question). And again I assume the chat is over. Until they say they are sure I have an amazing family. I mention a friend of mine who lives in that city, and they replied "Nice".
I could go on ... the chat certainly did, for another ten minutes. Finally they said we could be friends, but better to do it in private, because they couldn't spend all their time in public with their fans. OK, I said.
Then they gave me their cell number so I could text them. And yes, I am dumb enough that I gave them my number.
Sure enough, I get a text from them right away. The conversation moves to the phone, where it continued for another ten minutes or so. They asked for a photo, I sent one (yes, I am that dumb), they said I looked "handsome", and finally it was time for my wife and I to have dinner. So I said thanks for the chat ... earlier they had asked if my wife would mind that we were chatting, and as our conversation ended, they said they hoped after the pandemic we might meet, and they would like to meet my wife, if she'd want to.
I told my wife all of the above, and we laughed and tried to figure out why the person had followed me in the first place. Later, I began to tell the story in an email to a friend, and it was then that I finally got a clue. I went back to the original follow ... it wasn't from a verified account, but the artist had another account that was verified. I then looked up the cell number, and the area code was in an entirely differently place then they supposedly lived.
And friends, it was only then that I realized I'd been chatting to some anonymous person and not the musician.
I blocked them on social media and on my phone, and decided whatever, it was kinda fun. I also contacted the real artist to let them know someone was impersonating them online.