A new word for these times

trump

Portmanteau is a concept that we all live with everyday. It’s taking two–or sometimes more–words and combining them to form a new word. My dog, for example, is a schnoodle, or a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle. Other portmanteu words include jeggings, listicle, and threepeat. The malleability of English guarantees that new words of this sort will always be created.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president, a wave of aberrant behavior swept across this country. One of the more publicized acts–because it occurred in New York and had to do with well-known artists–was painting swastikas and the words “Go Trump” in Adam Yauch Park, which is named for a member of the Beastie Boys, the late Adam “MCA” Yauch.

Yauch was Jewish by birth, but he was a practicing Buddhist from 1996 until his death. With this in mind, the swastikas don’t make any sense–there or anywhere else–other than to identify religious animus in the hearts of whoever committed this act.

In trying to cope with this stupid act, a gathering was held in Adam Yauch Park on November 20. Adam “AdRock” Horovitz addressed the crowd, and advised them to fight back in any way that they could. “If you’re a writer, write” was one of the bits of advice he gave. So consider this an attempt to live up to AdRock’s advice and speak out against the Trump-inspired acts of hate that are taking place in this country.

“Antipathy” is a word that someone who isn’t a writer doesn’t normally use. If you don’t like somebody, it is usually enough to call them a name and be done with it. The saltier and more profane the terms used are, the more it gets the speaker or writer’s sense of antipathy toward that person across.

In thinking about my feelings toward Donald Trump, and the divisions and fears he exploited in order to appeal to millions of voters across this country, I realized that “antipathy” is a fitting word to describe them. But I also realized that the word “Trump” can be dropped into the middle of the word, and the general feeling of both words would still make sense. Thus, antipathy directed toward Donald Trump will be forever known–at least by me–as “antrumpathy.”

Whether I’m the only person who ever uses this word, or it spreads like wildfire and gets added to a dictionary someday, is secondary to the idea that Trump’s election will lead–and already has led–this country into places I’ve never seen go before. Hate crimes are on the rise, and this is before Trump even takes office. Trump’s never going to explicitly call for any attacks, of course, but some who look on his election approvingly are now acting in ways that they would not have done just two months ago. So fight back we must, and I’m using creativity and my humble blog to do exactly that.

So please use this new word in whatever setting works best. Don’t try making any money from it, though, because I’m not and I don’t want anyone else to, either. This word hopefully won’t be needed in four years, when Trump leaves the White House after a single term in office. But for now, consider it a nonviolent addition to the language of our protest. And the Beastie Boys would certainly approve of that turn of events.

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Getting autographs

Thanks to reader Jeff, who indicated that he wanted to hear something about Billy Williams. As a White Sox fan, I doubt he wants one of the Cubs mini helmets I referenced in an earlier post. But I’ll send some Sox-related swag his way, instead.

When I was a kid, I had no problems asking baseball players for their autographs. I thought that’s what every kid was supposed to do. It was the reason I went to games, sometimes.

I remember getting future big leaguers Leon Durham and Tito Landrum’s autographs on a foul ball I had procured at a Springfield Redbirds game in 1980. I also remember playing hotbox with the ball the next day.

I also remember getting Satchel Paige’s autograph on a scorecard at a baseball game in 1978. His picture was on the cover of the scorecard, and that was all I knew about him. I wish I had known more about how great he was as a player, but I was ten years old at the time, and had not yet learned half of what I would know about the game later in life.

My wife read this post and told me of a time when she waited in line at a department store in Cleveland to get an autograph from Mickey Mantle. She also reported that Mantle was in a state that you might expect Mickey Mantle to be in, too.

The idea behind getting an autograph wasn’t to hold on to any of them for monetary value, although some people do exactly that. For me, it was more of a way to demonstrate that I was once in a famous person’s space long enough to get a signature on whatever item I was able to hand to him.

Early in the 2002 baseball season, I was watching a Cubs game on TV when the announcers indicated that Billy Williams was going to sign autographs somewhere at a particular time. It turned out that I was available at this time (although I have no idea why), and so I went with my then-three year old daughter. We waited in a line, and when we made it to the front, I asked him to sign a baseball I had with me, and a card that my daughter had with her (given to her by me, of course). He graciously did so, and we left the line so that the next person could get their chance. The card is shown above.

As a player, Billy Williams means nothing to me. True, he was a longtime Cub, but by the time I began following baseball in the 1970s, he had been traded away to the Oakland A’s. He does have a nice statue outside of Wrigley Field, though, near the corner of Addison and Sheffield.

The life of a ballplayer is something that I don’t know anything about. The life of a hall of famer is something I know even less about. But I can tell, from the crowd of people that were waiting in line that day, that signing autographs comes with the territory. It must be an ego boost for the players, and it’s certainly a revenue stream for them as well. I think Pete Rose went to prison for not reporting income from that, if I remember correctly.

Does having an autograph make an item more valuable than it might otherwise be? Maybe for some it does. And I’m not disparaging that at all. But the bigger picture, I think, is that this is honoring a tradition with athletes, and movie stars, and authors, and really anybody who can be called a “celebrity.”

I went to New York City last summer, and one of the places I saw was Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston Street. It’s exactly what you would imagine a deli to be, right down to the signed pictures of famous people hanging on the walls. Anyone who signs a picture for someone else must feel like they’ve made it in whatever it is that they do.

Baseball players, by virtue of the fact that they play baseball for a living, fit into this category, as well. Not many of them will make it to the majors, let alone become inducted into the Hall of Fame, but they all have kids (and maybe some grownups, too) asking them to sign autographs before or after a game. And that’s not such a bad feeling, I would imagine.

Life, Death, Alcohol and New Jersey

I met up with a friend recently when I was visiting New York. It was the day after Clarence Clemons had died, and since my friend lives in New Jersey I offered him my condolences. He told me that if you don’t live in New Jersey, you can’t appreciate how much Springsteen and his band mean to the people who do. And I take him at his word on that.

As I often do when I consider matters of life and death, I shared with him a bit of wisdom taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In Act 5, Scene 2, Hamlet says that “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.” I wish I could say that I’m well-versed on Shakespeare, but unfortunately I’m not. I only learned of the quote because it was often cited by both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. These two men represent, in my mind, the truism that overarching brilliance can take a person far beyond their original station in life. If Shakespeare’s words had an impact on these two great men, who am I to question it?

I’m not a religious person, in the least. All of those many years of Catholic school just didn’t take root with me. But the beauty of Shakespeare’s words is that I don’t have to be religious in order to believe them. If a person falls out of an open window, and an awning breaks that person’s fall and they walk away without a scratch, well it just wasn’t their time yet. But if somebody else gets run over by a sightseeing bus, as recently happened in the city where I live, it just meant that that person’s time had come around. And there’s nothing that either person could have done to change that. I believe that as much as I believe anything in life.

Since my friend and I hadn’t seen each other in 25 years, we had a lot of catching up to do. And with all that catching up came lots of drinks. Pitcher after pitcher of beer, topped off by a concoction of Hawaiian Punch and too many types of hard alcohol added in (makes the karaoke sound better, I was told). So when we left the bar at 2 AM, the story here began to take shape.

I had stopped drinking, by and large, late last year. I hadn’t had a beer in almost seven months, which probably hasn’t happened since about 1983. I had grown tired of battering my liver, and decided on my own to see if I could live without it. And it turns out I could. But being out with a friend–and one who I hadn’t seen in so long, at that–made everything else go out the window. I reverted to my old habits, and drank with reckless abandon. By all rights, I should have been falling down drunk, due to a lowered tolerance for alcohol. But, as it turned out, the opposite was true.

I found myself on Canal Street in New York with my drunken friend, and realized that I had to take control of the situation. With just a few dollars in my pocket, and no idea where I was, I knew this was not the time to be staggering about. I told my friend I was going to get him home, no matter what it took, and that was the end of it. The problem was that he lives in God-knows-where, New Jersey. Which it might actually be called, because I had no idea what the town’s name was, let alone what the street address in this unknown town might be. And good luck getting into a cab with that.

I made the decision to get my friend back the hotel I was staying in, which was a few blocks away on Canal. Maybe I could stash him in the hotel lobby (they would love that one, I’m sure) or maybe I could get him into the fitness center or the laundry room or something. Anyplace would be better than where we were.

We made it down one block on Canal, and he’s alternating between calling me a dick and threatening to fight me. Thanks for nothing, right?  But he was my charge, and I had a mission to get him off the street safely, so he could say whatever he wanted to.

At the first intersection, my friend stepped off the curb and into the street. That was when his knees gave way, and he fell down and hit his head. But he didn’t just hit his head, he cut it open, too. So now there’s blood everywhere, and I’m really thinking that something needs to happen, and fast. Cabs wouldn’t pick us up because of the blood, and I wouldn’t know where to have them take us if they did.

Fortunately, I had my friend’s cellphone, and so I called 911. The ambulance came after what seemed like a very long time (magnified by the situation, I’m sure) and they loaded my friend in and sped away. I saw a spot of his blood in the street, and realized that he might not come out of this alive. Shakespeare’s words weren’t quite so comforting to me then.

After an extended cry–thinking that I had let my friend down and failed in my self-appointed mission–I got up and walked back to the hotel. As I walked,  I began hoping that Shakespeare had been wrong. Maybe, if my friend was in the hands of paramedics and doctors and technicians who all knew what they were doing, my friend would still be OK. I wouldn’t call what I was doing prayer, but I’m sure that more religious people than me would call it just that. I was hoping against hope, and pleading with the ‘divinity” that Shakespeare spoke of to give my friend a break. It was all I could do at that moment, and if I had really believed Shakespeare’s words I would have thought it was a waste of time. So my faith in the wisdom of  Shakespeare/Lincoln/Douglass was tested that night.

The next morning, I got a text  from my friend saying that all was well. But in the meantime, I learned about what had happened to Ryan Dunn of Jackass and his friend. (FWIW, I’m completely of the thinking that Ebert said what needed to be said, and Bam Margera should STFU about it). No Porsches were involved with my friend and I, fortunately, but a night of drinking had turned out bad for them, and I went back to worrying that maybe something bad had happened to my friend. It wasn’t until I got a Facebook message from him the next day that I knew everything would be OK. And I can’t describe how grateful I am for that.

It was a harrowing night, and one which I probably won’t forget anytime soon. For one thing, I am going to cut out drinking for good. I don’t need it, and if nothing else I realized that drinking can have some bad consequences, even where no driving is involved. But, more importantly, I realized that life can be subject to tragic turns at any moment. We can’t be afraid of them, but we can’t pretend that they don’t exist, either. Every day is a gift, meant to be enjoyed to the fullest extent possible. Plan for the future, yes, but don’t be fooled into thinking that life will last forever. It never has, and it never will.