American anticipation

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I took the picture above on July 3, on Central Steet in Evanston, Illinois. There’s an annual parade down Central on the 4th of July, and people set out chairs to reserve their spots along the parade route the day before.

Whoever sits in these chairs today, we can be sure that they love this country and want to celebrate its birth. Their ancestors, whoever they may be, once came to this country in the hope of finding a better life for themselves and their descendants.

I want to say something about how ugly Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans coming to this country are. Such a man has a profound misunderstanding of what America has always been, and is in no way qualified to lead it.

America will endure as it always has, because it will be collectively wise enough to reject Trump and his foolish thought patterns.

Happy birthday, America. May your parades down Central Street never stop taking place, and may the chairs always be filled with people who love and understand you.

A win for progress and love

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Whenever I discuss gay marriage with somebody, particularly a male, I say something along the lines of “I don’t want to marry you, but I should have the right to do it, anyway.” I’ve been married to the same woman for 23 years this summer, so the chances I’d ever carry through with that are very slim. But the Supreme Court gave me–and every other American–that right today. And it feels great.

The news is creating a buzz here in the public library in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where I find myself as I’m typing this out. A decade ago, Massachusetts set the trend that the rest of the country caught up to today.

The problem with being ahead of the curve, as I’ve discovered myself on occasion, is that the rest of society is generally unwilling to understand or embrace something new. John Kerry was branded a “Massachusetts Liberal” back in 2004, and that term didn’t apply to issues like independence from Britain or universal schooling for children or abolition of slavery, all of which Massachusetts led the way on once upon a time. No, a “Massachusetts liberal” was code for “he’s from that state where gay people can get married.” We had another four years of George W. Bush as president because that line of attack on John Kerry was so effective.

But that’s all over now. Today I can marry a man or a woman, in any state in this country, and that marriage must be recognized as valid. It doesn’t directly affect me, but it affects my children as they grow up, and it affects everyone in this country, whether they like the idea or not.

Progress and love won today. God Bless America always sounds good, but it sounds especially sweet today.

The wonders of a blog

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I wish everyone had a place to go with their thoughts and ideas, before they disappeared into the ocean of life. Some place where one moment or one sensation could be left behind for posterity.

I’m in such a moment right now, on a cold, wind-swept beach in Evanston, Illinois. Waves are crashing, birds are doing what they always have, and the smell of Lake Michigan is invigorating. It’s bad news for those wanting a summer’s day at the beach, but those days will come in time. For now, leaving an image and a few words behind to remember this moment seems fitting.

Life is filled with beauty, when we open our minds and our hearts to look for it.

Step right up and sweep the Mets

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A couple of weeks ago, I was checking into a hotel in Brooklyn. The woman working at the front desk was a Mets fan, and I congratulated her on her team’s recent ten-game winning streak.

Without missing a beat–and in true New York style–she said “Eleven.” I promptly stood corrected.

As I’m now waiting to take off on a flight for the other coast, I’m thinking of her and that exchange. The Cubs just finished off a series sweep of three games over her Mets. Four games, actually. I believe that’s pronounced¬†touch√©.

I surely do love baseball and, as a Cubs fan, this year is shaping up to be a one like I haven’t seen before. Talking smack to the Mets fans out there is a new one for me, but I could get used to it in a hurry.

Stevie Ray and the Grammies

I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited about visiting the Grammy museum in Los Angeles. But since it was my daughter’s 16th birthday, off we went. As often happens in life, there was more to it than I expected.

I found an exhibit of Stevie Ray Vaughan items on the third floor, between exhibits for Tupac Shakur and Donna Summer. Seeing the guitars he played, and personal items like a handwritten note or a hat he wore onstage, was a fascinating experience.

The 25th anniversary of his death is coming up this summer, and I hope something is being planned to commemorate it. As the exhibit said, nobody’s been able to fill the void since he left us.

The best experience, though, was putting on a pair of headphones and listening to Texas Flood live. There were teenagers flittering about, and a few others stopped to look at the display, but there I was, a middle-aged man in full air guitar mode. The music was spectacular, and I was thrilled to be able to be immersed in it for a few moments.

It took a long time before I could appreciate the role of the blues in birthing rock and roll. Stevie Ray Vaughan put that linkage front and center in his music, and we’re all better off for it. I humbly offer my thanks to him, and those who inspired him, and the Grammy people for mounting the exhibit, and to my daughter–my Pride and Joy–for suggesting we go in the first place.

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There’s baseball in the air

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With less than two weeks left until Opening Night in Chicago, it’s time to start thinking about the return of baseball. There will be new story lines every day, for the next seven months. And winter will disappear at the same time. How can anybody not love that?

Here’s my 2015 Cubs preview on ThroughTheFenceBaseball, and here’s my White Sox preview for the same website. Yes, I worked both sides of Madison Street this year.

And the NCAA tournament will help get us all through the last full weekend before the season starts. I can’t ask for much more than that.

Got a condo made a’ stona

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If comedy were like baseball–and perhaps it is, in some ways–its Babe Ruth is named Steve Martin. Watching him on the 40-year special for Saturday Night Live last night transported me back to the days of King Tut and the Festrunk Brothers and the “Wild and Crazy Guy” shtick.

Carlin and Pryor and many others have made me laugh, even when I didn’t fully understand the things they were talking about, but for me Steve Martin did it first, did it best, and left a standard that all others will be measured against. And his guest hosting spots on Saturday Night Live were the perfect vehicle for it.

 

2015 and the vortex of Death

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Any way you look at it, 2015 has been a rough year so far. The recent deaths of Bob Simon of 60 Minutes and David Carr of the New York Times have come on the heels (no pun intended) of the death of Dean Smith–a renown basketball coach–Ernie Banks, Stuart Scott, and others. The last piece I wrote in this space, a few days ago, was about the passing of Anne Moody, an important figure in the Civil Rights movement. So I’m aware of the toll this year has already taken.

I wanted to write this post in response to a tweet sent out by Jake Tapper in response to David Carr’s death. He asked “What the hell are we going to do now?” and the answer to that is very clear. It’s what we always do, as a society. It’s what we will always do, in the face of loss and adversity. We will carry on, inspired by the contributions made by the departed. But we can’t stop, ever, no matter who it is that has fallen.

David Carr, like every person who has gone before him, left a legacy behind. Thanks to the internet, anyone who wants to read his legacy can do exactly that. The stories he told, and the engrossing way he told them, are quite remarkable. Anyone who doubts the power of the written word needs to check out some of his stories. His “Me and My Girls” should be required reading for all parents, everywhere.

But the point of this piece, which is being written at a time when I should be getting some sleep instead, is to say that we the living need to keep on going. Carr, and the others who have passed, left their mark on us, and we would do well to remember this always. But we must carry on, and strive to create whatever legacy we can for those who will follow in our wake. Not all of us will leave 1,776 pieces for The New York Times behind. But each of us can leave something. What that looks like is up to each of us. So let’s do it.