Imagine all the people, sharing all the world

From the first time I ever heard this song, I don’t even know how many years ago, I’ve hoped that people would take its message to heart. It’s a message of hope and love and peace, which are things that everybody should want, for themselves and everyone they come into contact with.

But the rush to war–like we saw a bit more than a decade ago in this country–drowns all that out. It makes people who oppose war seem like the ones who are in the wrong. But the fact is that war kills people. Benjamin Franklin once said there was no such thing as a just war, and he was right about that.

Pearl Jam has carried the anti-war banner for many years now, and I’m happy to hear them–or at least their frontman–step out in this way. I hope some day more will join him, and the world will live as one.

Baseball’s hold on me


Over the past 24 hours, three baseball-themed pieces that I wrote have appeared online. The deal between Pearl Jam and Fox Sports for the upcoming World Series was discussed in a piece on ThroughTheFenceBaseball, a memory from the 2003 Cubs season appeared on FiveWideSports, and a vision of how 2003 might have ended differently appeared on ChicagoSideSports. Writing about baseball is something of an elixir for me, even when the subjects are difficult to relive sometimes.

There were also two amazing, 1-0 games in the playoffs yesterday. My TV-less ways meant that I didn’t see either one, but I’m still aglow this morning with the power this game has to captivate us. And rather than get it to it any more than that, I’ll just sit back and wait for the next game to begin. What a great time of year this is.

New to the zine


One of the highlights of last summer for me was the Pearl Jam concert in Wrigley Field on July 19th. I wrote about it here, and wrote about it on TTFB, but I still had some bigger point to make. I was happy to be able to share this point with the baseball aficionados at Zisk magazine.

The results arrived in my mailbox today, and it looks great. It’s nestled on a two-page spread, among some other very good baseball stuff. Having first come into contact with Zisk through their recent book, Fan Interference, I was beyond impressed with the topics and the quality of the writing involved. It was like baseball candy for me, and I wanted to be a part of it.

It’s always a thrill to see your words in print. Even if print isn’t what it once was–thanks to the internet–there’s something about seeing a thought that was in my head, translated into a form where others can encounter it. That happens on this blog and elsewhere online, too, but for a kid who delivered newspapers for six years of his life, it’s sweet knowing that ink on a page is the result of my ideas, and my expression of those ideas.

If that feeling ever goes away, I don’t know what I would do. But fortunately, it’s still just as strong as ever. And I honor that in the only way I can, and that’s to keep writing and looking for publishing opportunities. Whenever they come along, they will be celebrated, at least in this space.

Some days it rains


The Pearl Jam show at Wrigley Field was a unique and special experience. I’ve not yet had the time to digest it all, but I wanted to get a thought or two out there for public consumption. I’m sure that more will follow in the days ahead.

The concert was Eddie Vedder’s emotional homecoming, and it showed throughout. Eddie grew up around Chicago, and went to a Cubs game for the first time at five years old. A story he told about seeing the green field at Wrigley Field for the first time rang so true for me. And he brought Ernie Banks out onto the stage, which was an emotional moment for all Cubs fans in attendance.

But what I’ll remember the most will be the rain delay. At an outdoor show, in a baseball stadium, it was almost inevitable for the rains to come. And they sure did come, too. But rather than play on through the rain, as with the second Springsteen show at Wrigley last summer, the band asked all the fans to take cover and ride out the storm. The way he phrased it was “getting through the weather together.” And that turned out to be exactly what happened, too.

After two storms came through the area, the band went on shortly before midnight and played all the way until 2 AM. And if what Eddie Vedder said from the stage comes to pass, they’ll be back again next year, too. Maybe next time the weather will cooperate a little more. But then again, there’s something about hearing live rock in the early morning hours, too. And if the neighbors can’t get any sleep, that’s a small price to pay for living in such a vibrant part of a city like Chicago.

All in all, it reminded me of the great things that can happen when good people come together with a shared appreciation for rock and roll. Eddie Vedder called it “something beautiful” and I wholeheartedly agree with him. Many thanks to the band, their fans, the city, and the weather for helping to make it happen.

You’re gonna hear the angels sing

The days that I commute out to the suburbs for work can be trying. The traffic usually isn’t that bad, and by now I’m used to the 45 minutes to an hour that I have to sacrifice each way in order to make a living. It certainly beats the alternative.

The challenge doesn’t come from other drivers, or construction sites, or some guy who’s waiting to turn left as a row of cars backs up behind him. No, the challenge for me is finding something to listen to on the radio. I haven’t  invested in satellite radio, and my narrowly defined music genre of choice (classic rock, dating from about 1964 until the second or third Pearl Jam album) has pretty much played itself out, to my ears. I love Sweet Home Alabama as much as the next fortyish guy or girl does, but after hundreds of listens over the years, I have to say that the thrill is gone.

But today was a bit different. I had pulled a couple of selections from my ancient CD rack, which once was worthy of some interest but now seems like a relic by itself. The two CDs I chose at random were both classic Van Halen, and it wasn’t planned that way, but Dave, Eddie, Alex, and Mike drove me to work with Fair Warning and drove me home with Women and Children First. It was a lively commute, that’s for sure.

The best part of this came toward the end of the drive. I was past the songs that everyone knows from the radio (And the Cradle Will Rock, Take your Whiskey Home) or the movies (Everybody Wants Some!), and had come to the final song on the CD, In a Simple Rhyme. After the first few notes, it occurred to me that, as the last song on side 2 of the cassette tape that I owned back in high school, I had never heard the song before. So after three decades of inadvertently avoiding the song, I listened to it for the first time. And it led to a feeling of discovery that trumped anything Won’t Get Fooled Again has to offer, at least at this point in my life.

It’s a Van Halen song, like any other on the CD, but the decision to have it be the final track on the album relegated it to obscurity, at least for me. The title of this post was one of the lyrics that stuck with me, from the bridge part leading into the obligatory Eddie VH solo. It was a nice find, and one that made me wonder how many other songs I’ve missed like this over the years. I know what I’ll be doing with some other of my other CDs, while commuting to work again tomorrow.

LaTroy Hawkins and my basement elliptical

Yesterday morning, I had the house to myself and some time before I needed to work, so I heeded the typically-ignored elliptical machine in the basement. I put on some Pearl Jam (Vs., if it matters) and began to work out. It actually felt good to be working up a sweat. And as it sometimes does, my mind began to wander.

I thought about when I first assembled it in our basement “workout” room (it’s more of a camping equipment storage room than anything else). It was sometime in September of 2004, which means it’s now seven years old and–paradoxically–not too far from being in “like new” condition.

I remember this date for two reasons: it was a month after we purchased the house, and it was also the month that the Cubs failed to follow up the 2003 season with another playoff berth in 2004.

Yes, I know Theo’s in charge now, and we’re building a World Series champion, and what’s in the past doesn’t count anymore. But one particular memory from that year has attached itself to the elliptical machine, and it came flooding back to me as I began to work up a sweat.

After an evening of assembling parts, I had finished the machine up and went to try it out the next afternoon. It was a Saturday in September, and the Cubs were playing a series against the Mets in New York. We had a radio downstairs, and I turned it on to help the workout go better. Music always helps this way, but the Cubs were in the lead of the NL Wild Card chase (St. Louis, as usual, was far ahead in the division race).

I turned on the Cubs game, and was pleased to hear that they were ahead going into the ninth inning. One more game in New York, and then they were coming back to Chicago for the final week of the regular season. The Cubs were looking good in their bid to make the playoffs. Too good, as it turned out.

Ryan Dempster, the Cubs’ starting pitcher, got the first out in the ninth, and the Cub’s Win Probability stood at 98%. As if to toy with the opposition,  Dempster then issued a walk, and then a second walk. The game clearly wasn’t over yet.

The Cubs turned to their closer, LaTroy Hawkins. He had come over from Minnesota, where he had been a set-up man for Eddie Guardado, and Chicago was his chance to be the closer. He saved 25 games that season, so he couldn’t have been terrible at closing. But a closer’s job is to close, and that’s what he was coming in to do.

Hawkins retired the first batter he faced, and the Cubs’ Win Probability stood at 95%. And then a rookie outfielder named Victor Diaz came to the plate. Diaz was a product of Chicago’s Clemente Community Academy, located a couple of miles from Wrigley Field. He had come to the Mets in a midseason trade with the Dodgers, and was trying to make it in the big leagues as a September call-up. This was his 25th plate appearance in a big league uniform.

On a 2-2 count, Diaz hit an unexpected home run to tie the game. My workout was nearly over, and I couldn’t believe what had just happened. The Cubs didn’t lose the game when Diaz homered, but they ultimately did lose it in 11 innings. They lost again in New York the next day, and came home and lost five of their last seven games, to lose the wild-card spot to the Houston Astros.

An 89-win Cubs team, which is normally very good by Cubs standards, failed to make the post-season, and the freefall collapse of the Dusty Baker years was officially on. And one of its first victims was Sammy Sosa, who bolted from the park early on the last day of the regular season, never to be seen at Wrigley Field again.

I wish I could say that this bad memory is the reason I don’t work out enough, instead of the laziness and inertia that are really to blame. But things can change, and hopefully that process is beginning on the North side of Chicago. Victor Diaz is out of baseball, but LaTroy Hawkins pitches on, most recently for the Milwaukee Brewers. My elliptical machine is still around too, and I’m looking forward to having some more positive memories of my workouts on it in the very near future.