1953

1953 was quite a year when you think about it. Truman announced that the US had developed the HBomb & Peter Pan was the top grossing film of the year. Nikita Khruschev became head of the Soviet Central Committee and Ian Fleming published the first Bond Novel Casino Royale. French paratroopers took  Dien Bien Phu & Albert Switzer won the Nobel Peace Prize. The CIA helped to overthrow the government in Iran and the Philippines’ DZAQ-TV3 aired the first Asian TV broadcast.  The duality of man marched on. But there is a bigger story in my life than any of these, I discovered baseball in 1953.

 

 I was the new Kid on the block in my little home town and knew very little about the game. I didn’t have a dad to teach me and didn’t even have a glove or bat or ball.

But I managed to prevail on Mom to provide one of each and so began my life long love and passion for the game. Those summer days of learning were like a drug; once discovered the genie was forever out of the bottle. 

 

 

“Americans have played baseball for more than 200 years, while they conquered a continent, warred with one another and with enemies abroad, struggled over labor and civil rights and the meaning of freedom. At the games heart lie mythic contradictions: a pastoral game, born in crowded cities; an exhilarating democratic sport that tolerates cheating and has excluded as many  as it has included; a profoundly conservative game that sometimes manages to be years ahead of its time.” Ken Burns Baseball an Illustrated History  http://www.powells.com/biblio/0679765417?&PID=31879

 

 

Of course in the summer of 1953 I didn’t know any of this, all I knew was I was going to be like Roy Hobbs I was going to be the “best there ever was.”

 

My New Year

 

Ken Burns on the Making of JAZZ

“In a filmed interview for a documentary history of our national pastime we made several years ago, the writer and essayist Gerald Early told us that “when they study our civilization two thousand years from now, there will only be three things that Americans will be known for: the Constitution, baseball and jazz music. They’re the three most beautiful things Americans have ever created.”

I agree totally with this marvelous American trinity; so much so that I now plan to spend many more hours during my daily relaxations enjoying them more.

I can do so because I have decided to retire from active employment. The primary reason to do so is very simple, it is because I can. Although not as lavishly as I had hoped I have enough left after the debacle of 2008 to manage my obligations and to provide adequately. I sat down and looked at the numbers and developed the analysis of income and expenses and said ok, “good night and good luck” to associates and now I am a man of leisure. Lol kinda/sorta/maybe.

These are the three things I am most knowledgeable about anyway so I plan to start regular blogging about them. I find that many have conceptions about each of these that restrict the full appreciation, beauty and subsequent understanding of how they define the “American Character.”

The one I know most about is baseball, having played, coached, taught and studied the most. It came to me first at age 7. Then Jazz and American Government came in Jr. High school. I have been intimately involved with them since those early years and hope to be able to share without being a total bore, and to learn more in the process.

I will work on my Blog Page a bit to bring some relevance to the imagery. The current header is from Jekyll Island Georgia on the morning of December 25, 2007. It was a glorious sunrise and a fantastic week but I have celebrated it enough I think.

 

 

 

 

Popcorn Syndrome

Movies have been a major factor in my life. I love them as I do novels. It is very hard to rank them as my friend Anarchist plans to do soon. Each period in my life I liked different ones. I seemed always to be able to scrape up enough time and enough money to find a way to enjoy them. 

 

The first movie I can remember seeing scared me so bad I made my mother leave the car at the drive in and walk me home because no one else in the car would leave after having paid the entry fee. It was Abbot & Costello Meet The Wolfman. I was about 4.

 

The next movie I remember was a jungle movie in 3D (lol remember 3D?)  I remember it because my mother (who I share a fear of snakes with) shrieked when my uncle reached and touched her shoulder just as a snake came out of the screen, she ran from the theater as did many of the rest of the patrons to see my uncle across the hood of the 49 Ford laughing hysterically.

 

I loved monster movies early on despite my first experience. I was intrigued to see how they got killed. I remember walking home down the railroad tracks looking over my shoulders after first seeing Them.  I was 7 I think and pretty sure I might not see 8.

 

Then Television came along in my life and movies from the 30’s were the rage, mysteries and westerns were on a lot, Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry. And of course war movies that were totally unrealistic about the horrors of war. Folks died but they didn’t really bleed and stuff and if they lost a buddy they always got the bad guy who died much worse than the guys in the white hats. But ya had to love John Wayne. I don’t know how many Alamo Movies have been made but I am pretty sure I have seen them all at least twice.

 

In those years in my small town in the Florida Panhandle, movies were a weekend and summer escape from heat. We didn’t yet have air conditioning (didn’t get it till I was 22) so .10 for the movies was a cool deal, and you could sit there as long as you wanted unless it was a rare sellout. I could usually come up with some redeemable coke bottles (every bottled drink sold we called coke in the south) to cover my movie and popcorn expenses. Yes I admit it I am afflicted with the popcorn syndrome. To this day, a movie just isn’t a movie without popcorn. Only now I will have a martini before the event to prepare for the sticker shock and the sound which is always overwhelming It was particularly so in The Dark Knight which I saw alone as my wife is not a fan of loud chases and 10 hour movies. Despite which I highly recommend it just to watch Heath Ledger’s Joker.

 

Today we enjoy Netflix which if managed properly can offer 24 movies a month for $15. Now that’s value!

 

Since I have jumped forward to today sparing you my adolescent forays with Marylyn Monroe and Bridget Bardot, and my dating days with Drive In Submarine Races. I will share my favorites a bit but I can’t rank them after the first one it is just too subjective.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird is totally my number one all time favorite movie, it reminds me of all the good things about growing up in the South in a time very different than the world we live in today. It has redemption, integrity, pathos and a great plot. Greg Peck is also my favorite male Actor, his choice of roles is a major factor, if anyone can really claim to have brought integrity to the movies it is he. I don’t think he was ever in a bad movie (Except maybe Moby Dick). Ingrid Bergman ranks as my favorite female actress thus Casablanca ranks near the top for me. What can you not like about this great romance/adventure/pure Hollywood tear jerker?

 

There are many many lists already made of  the greatest movies of all time which are readily available with a quick google here are a few of mine.

 

Shawshank Redemption

Gettysburg

Lawrence of Arabia

Seabiscuit

Rocky

Godfather I & II

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid

Silence of the Lambs

2001

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Gone With the Wind

Out of Africa

Sophie’s Choice

The Right Stuff

Apollo 13

Cold Mountain

Gandhi

Giant

Westside Story

Magnificent 7

The Great Gatsby (Redford version)

 

I don’t know about you but as I relook at this list I see a dominant theme. Can you see it?

 

What does your list look like?

 

Clarence

Clarence came around to see me quite often for a time. He was not someone you would notice much, didn’t care to be I guess. He dressed country, like his folks before him, white tee shirt, tan pants, black shoes. He had been a tall man in his prime but age took its toll. Cartilage and bone went to the places they go and he was shorter now. Gave up the old crow and seven and hunting with his dawgs, hell “there just ain’t no more huntin around here anyway.” Long gone were the days he would take the long climb up the narrow ladder to the enclosed cabin were he built tall things. Clarence lived in his memories I thought, but was always interested in what was happening in my life. Always had a lively smiling question in our visits.  I thought he was just lonely or bored and I suffered his visits with an enforced tolerance while I did shit slowy and we talked.  I didn’t understand the deal, finally I do. Clarence knew shit and was just waiting for me to ask the right question. I never did. Clarence knew about a kid, specifically one of mine, and about her mother.

Now that all the old folks are gone I have to wonder why they kept paper that told some of the story, why not just burn that one pager that clouds the parentage of my ex. If the paper was to be kept, the story should have been told; cause we found the paper and now there is no one to ask. Clarence knew it all, he was more than just a casual observer, there is more to it than just the one deal, his brother was married to the sister of the………well let’s just say, he knew it all.

I never really understood why he and Ruby took us out to eat at a very special place the night before my daughter was born. They were 30 years older than us, a generational difference for sure. They had none of their own so maybe that was part of it, and we always really liked them so it was fun.

Ruby would’t let him tell the story see, god knows southern women can keep secrets like the fate of the free world depends on it.  Thing is, now that all the players are gone (except one who “can’t remember”) I want to know why it was even a secret. Now there is no one left to ask.

Clarence knew shit. He knew why the faces in the pictures didn’t look all the same. And why there was a silent wall between Father and Daughter that I could never quite put my finger on.

So he came around, waiting for the light bulb to go on and for me to ask the right questions and I never did.

Happy Poo Year

Well here it is 2009. Cool, it is a year filled with uncertainty for the nation and the world. As always I reflect back on history for  perspective that gives some comforting frame of reference and I found it.

Historically many cultures place great emphasis on New Years Day food I have done so in the past making all kinds of gourmet and/or traditional regional concoctions that take hours and keep  life interesting. This year I have taken a very different approach to enjoying the new year, the meal is simple chicken noodle soup and salad with homemade thousand island dressing BUT the drink is exotic and incredibly good for for the palate and for the system. It is green tea.

Specifically it is Puerh green tree. (Poo/ er) It is pronounced differently in the US mainly because it is largely undiscovered by the general population. It is not found in the usual stores but only at a speciality shop. I advise ordering it on line actually unless one lives on the west coast. Websites to follow.

I discovered Puerh through a business contact in Eastern Europe. I was told it tastes like dirt (translation leans more towards “earthy”). So I was intrigued enough to ask around. People looked at me as if I was actually speaking in tongues but I finally had a return call from a wholesaler that recommend a site in Portland that he had bought from as having a solid selection of Puerh teas. SO I sat about educating myself on what was what.

Seems tea has been around for hundreds of years having been a valuable trading commodity on the silk road of Marco Polo’s time and before. There are many varieties, red, green, white, black, oolong, darjeeling. There are many processes to make and distribute tea and it is quite fascinating to learn about, website to follow.

Puerh tea is a green tea that is made form old growth trees in southern China where the climate and old growth forest blend to supply a very unique flavor. It is harvested by families in small villages that have their own unique ways of “manufacturing.” All processes are centuries old and some are closely kept. It was not available in the US until the 90’s, but throughout the rest of the world it is highly prized. One of the reasons is that it can be aged, and it improves greatly with proper aging. Like fine wine it can be aged for decades and is collected and stored just like wine. The young puerh can be a bit harsh but the aged is Divine.

I had to discover for myself if the taste  justifies the price. I first bought 5 year old then 10 year old and each time I read carefully and made an informed selection I was not disappointed. The better Puerh comes in cakes (Bing Cha) about the size of a small plate and tapering from 1 1/2 inches in the center to 1/2 inch at the rim. They retail from $50 to $1,000 a cake depending on the age. Some are much more expensive.

Finally I dug deep and ordered a few ounces of 1970 harvested Puerh for $120. Today is the first taste day, Jan1 2009. OMG it is worth every penny to the palate. What a way to start the Poo Year!

I have ordered many times from these sites and can state I have seldom been disappointed. Happy tasting!

http://www.taooftea.com/index1.php3

http://www.mightyleaf.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea