Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Field is once again just dirt, and the Dream has flown.

          "Tinker to Evers to Chance." 
For some of us old guys, those words still bring a chill to the spine, a thrill to our hearts, and maybe a tear to our eyes.  There was a time when those words evoked more than just what the names represented.  There was a time when those words stood for a game that was indeed our national pastime.  There was even a time when most boys spent their entire summer, playing the game of summer, on sandlots, and pastures, in back yards, and even on real diamonds in parks and schools across the land.  And, we did play from sun to sun, everything from 'Three Flies Up,' to 'Work-Up' to Little League, all summer long.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance." 
          And, in the evening, we'd listen to whatever game we could get, all across this once great nation, on the radio.  That's right.  The radio.  There is no way to describe for someone who has never experienced it, just how awesome, just how special, a radio broadcast of a live baseball game could be.  Even, if you can believe this, a game that was being played in, say, New York City, involving the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers vs. the hated New York Yankees, but what we were hearing was the voice of a local sports announcer, who was getting the game information over either a telegraph, or a ticker tape or teletype machine.  You see, he had to try to visualize the ball park, the crowd, the weather, the players, and all the action, based on the scanty words that were sent to him, and then try to tell us what was happening, all the while trying to instill in us that sense of a "live" baseball game.  And, what we heard, besides his voice, was the sound of the teletype or the telegraph.  We could only imagine the roar of the crowd.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          My first baseball glove had the autograph (stamped into the leather, of course) of the great Pee Wee Reese, who played shortstop for the beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, and later, the LA Dodgers, after they moved to the West Coast.  I knew of him mostly later on, when he was an announcer on radio and television, first with Dizzy Dean, and later, with Curt Gowdy.  Like many of the greats from that era (1940's - 1950's), Reese lost a few years while he served in the U. S. Navy during WWII.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          I played mostly 2nd Base during my childhood, first in Little League, and later, on a Softball team.  I will never forget the thrill of having to win the position over all challengers, on one softball team.  I mean, in order to be on some teams, you actually had to show your stuff against others who wanted to play the same position, especially if you were trying to be an infielder.  (They called it competition, and they told us that it was good for us.  I know that is a bad word today, which explains why we have so many monopolies running things.  Oh, and another thing?  I never did get a trophy for anything).  I do not remember any particular big leaguer who I may have tried to emulate, but I learned to play the position, well to the right of the actual base, and way back, almost on the outfield grass.  But, before I played on any organized team, there were the pick-up games, the pitch and catch, the playing in the pasture with all the kids in the neighborhood.  And, I'm sorry, it was boys only, however misogynistic you might think that makes me. 
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          And, yes, we actually played in a pasture.  We used cow patties for the bases.  Our bat was so old, the wood was gray, and splitting.  Any label was long gone, and only a memory.  The handle, where it was supposed to have a nice, smooth ridge all the way around, was like the cogs of a wheel, with most of the cogs missing.  Our baseballs were held together with friction tape, which was the duct tape of the 1950's.  This stuff was black, made of cloth, and sticky as hell, for at least one inning.  Then, it would start to unravel, so we'd wrap more tape around our ball.  We rarely saw a new baseball, and most of ours were hand me downs, or cast-offs, from bigger kids.  And, when someone miraculously cracked the bat one day, we held it together with that same black friction tape, too.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          Usually, there were only two or three of us, so we'd play something we called "Three Flies Up."  This consisted of one guy hitting fly balls to the others, who tried to catch them.  Once you had caught three total fly balls, then you went up to bat.  And so on.  When we had more guys, then we'd play "Work-Up."  This usually meant three guys were batters, and the rest took the positions of Pitcher, maybe First Base, and one or two other infield positions, then as many outfielders as we could fill.  Each batter was allowed to continue to be "up" until he had struck out (never happened), flied out, or was otherwise tagged out.  Then, everybody moved up one position.   This was actually a great way to experience the different positions, while playing the game we all loved so much.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          My organized playing only lasted a year or two, and then came to an abrupt end when I crossed my coach one day.  I was up to bat, in a very tight game, and he yelled to me to 'take' the pitch.  I thought he meant I could go ahead and take it for all I had by swinging at the ball, and he meant take it, as in let it go, and do NOT swing!  So, naturally, I hit a weak grounder that went into the hands of an infielder, who threw me out, and the coach was so mad at me for not following orders, he kicked me off the team.  I was, of course, devastated.  That may have been just because I was kicked off the team, but part of it had to be because I did not know what it meant to say to "take" the pitch.
          "Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          So, you ask, who were, or what is, Tinker to Evers to Chance?  Well, they were, or rather, "They are, arguably, the best-known Chicago Cubs of all time."  (from a 2010 Chicago Tribune article).
They were Joe Tinker (shortstop), Johnny Evers (second base) and Frank Chance (first base), and they last played together in 1912.  The phrase, "Tinker to Evers to Chance" refers to their smooth turning of double plays, back when the Cubbies were actually a dominant Major League team., we remember these three all because of an eight-line poem, called "Baseball's Sad Lexicon."  This poem first appeared in print more than 100 years ago. It was written by Franklin P. Adams, a New York Evening Mail columnist who had been born in Chicago (and was a Cubs fan).  The poem was written in a hurry because he wanted to get to the ballpark to see his beloved Cubs play their arch-rival New York Giants.  His editor told him he needed just a few more lines for the next edition of the newspaper before he could leave for the ballpark, and that led to the poem:
These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double—
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
          I have to admit that I have misstated the key words for more years than I can remember by reciting, just as if I knew what I was talking about, "Evans to Tinker to Chance!"  Not only did I get the second baseman's name wrong, but I put him out of order!  Oh, well, I hereby stand corrected, and I apologize for this most grievous of errors.  No matter, because baseball has lost, at least for me, most of its charm, and I have not followed it much since maybe the days of Reggie Jackson, when he was Mr. October.  Just like basketball, I don't like the changes that have come to pass, and I hate the changes to the uniforms.  Imagine long pants to play baseball!  And, a cap with a flat bill?!  Really?!  Oh, and plastic helmets, instead of caps.  Aluminum bats?  Please!   Designated hitters because everybody knows that pitchers can't bat, and designated runners?  No, thanks.

The article I mentioned about the old time Cubbies can be found here: 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

         The America where I grew up taught me a lot, and I am the proud product of a public school education.  One thing I recall is that we were taught that friends should never discuss politics or religion, especially if they wanted to stay friends.

          More than that, however, is that we were taught that government and religion must and should always be totally and completely separate.  When we recited the pledge of allegiance, or when we always bowed our heads for an invocation or prayer at every public gathering, we never thought of that being contrary to the law (but, I suppose it is, in the strictest sense).  We just took it for granted that this was part of the package.

          Of course, some of that has changed - by law - since those days.  But, one thing that remains inviolate in my mind is that no governmental entity should ever pass a law that interferes with or represents any particular religion.  Therefore, whatever my religious beliefs may be, I am free to pursue them, as long as I do no harm to others.  Likewise, no religion should ever make any effort to get any laws passed that tend to support that religion's beliefs over any other.

          Now, today we seem to have a very sharp division between certain people who want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone, and by using the law to do so, and others who simply want to be free to pursue happiness in their own way.  This attempt to get the law to support your belief over mine is simply wrong.  It is a blatant disregard for what our Constitution represents, and what we were taught as kids.

          Compounding our errors, we also seem to have grown a generation or two of people who are so narrow minded that they cannot realize, or refuse to see, that times have changed, and the world that created our Constitution no longer exists.  That is not to say that the document itself is no longer pertinent.  It is, very much so.

          But, consider that even the most sacred of religious texts have undergone change since they were first written.  I submit to you that the King James version of the Bible was very different from the original Greek versions.  And, of course, there has been a more recent update of the Bible, as well.  I believe that most so-called Christians are aware of this, and accepting of it.  In short, the changes that the Bible has undergone as times change, as thinking has evolved, were indeed necessary.

          So, too, is it necessary to update some portions of the Constitution, since certain people seem to want to take it too literally (just as some want to take too much of the Bible too literally).  In particular, I am thinking of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

          Actually, and realistically, I will agree that anyone who wants to own a firearm has the right to do so.  I totally reject any suggestion that the firearm in question needs to be some kind of automatic weapon, or machine gun.  And, I do not believe anyone needs more than one firearm.  I do not believe there is any need for anyone to openly carry a firearm, unless we're talking about a trip to and from a shooting range for the purpose of practicing with that firearm.  There is no need for anyone to "hunt" any living creature for the purpose of simply killing it.  And, no one needs to go out and shoot any animal for food, unless we're talking about a farmer, who has no money to go to the local store for food, and then, he only needs to kill what he will eat himself.

          I'm not going to dissect the 2nd Amendment here, but I will say that we no longer have need of any militia, and if we do, the U. S. Armed Forces meet that need.  A bunch of idiots getting together to get drunk and shoot up whatever is in sight does not constitute a militia, and certainly does not represent a necessary activity.

          Just today, June 18, we learned about yet another pointless, hateful mass shooting, this time with hate crime written all over it.  I'm talking about the shooting at a landmark AME church in South Carolina, of nine innocent people, including the pastor, who also happened to be a State Senator.  And, my Facebook was full of memes against the violence, against the widespread ease with which whackos can still get their hands on guns.  Sadly, early on, most of the posts were from one person.

          Later, during the day, as the President weighed in, the comments got nastier, until I couldn't stand it anymore.  There are still people out there trying to use the false claim about criminals and guns, and clinging to the mis-interpretation of the Second Amendment where they overlook the reality of then (when the Constitution was written) versus now.  Here's a little hint for y'all:  We have no need for a citizens' militia, well regulated or not, since we have the Armed Forces.  OK?  So, no citizen has need to own a firearm.

          Now, a very vocal portion of our population also wants to block any efforts to legalize any sort of union between two consenting adults who just happen to be of the same sex.  They cite religious reasons for this.  And, I have to ask, why?  Why should the government be involved in anything to do with religion, when religion is prevented from being involved in government?  Under the laws of more places than just the U. S., marriage is not necessarily a "sacred" anything, and no state in the union allows for only a religious marriage.  As a matter of fact, every state requires a marriage license to be obtained, and every state has government representatives who perform marriages.  Furthermore, for those who insist on a religious meaning for marriage, it is important to point out to them that not even the most holy of Priests, or Rabbis, or Pastors, or Preachers, or ministers can perform a marriage ceremony, without being sanctioned by the state!  So, let's be clear.  Your opposition to gay marriage has no basis in any religion simply because it is not your church which legalizes marriage.  Beyond that, show me exactly where in the Bible does it specifically say that two men cannot marry, or two women.

          Another big issue has to do with women and their (female) health, and, of course, for those extremists out there, that means abortion.  Speaking as a catholic, who has been condemned by other catholics, I must say that while my church teaches that abortion is a sin, my church does not speak for the entire world.  For the record, let's remember that there are many more people in this world who are NOT catholic, than there are who are catholic.  And, since that is true, and being an American, I believe that it is not my place to dictate to anyone else what is right, wrong, good, bad, or otherwise.  If I am free to believe what I choose, than I have to allow you the same freedom.

          The republican party has taken the words of FDR, the words that used to bring comfort to so many, to heart, and twisted them so that now their major platform is built on all kinds of vague and not particularly important fears.  It worked so well for W that he got elected twice, and took us into two disastrous wars.  Now, they are successfully using an unfounded fear of gay marriage, and another of the thought that some women might choose abortion, and another having to do with a non-existent effort to take away the guns from the 2nd Amendment freaks, to drive their campaigns, and to distract voters from what is really important.

          All of this fear mongering is designed to take our minds off the important issues that we really need for Congress to address.  Instead of focusing on repairing our infrastructure, controlling defense spending, or ending our involvement in wasteful wars, we are busy arguing about these other issues that should not even be connected with politics.  Abortion is not a political issue!  It is religious in nature!  Gay marriage is NOT a political issue, and it is not a particularly religious issue!  It is strictly a legal issue, and if the laws get changed to allow it, there will be NO effect on anybody's religion, and NO effect on anyone else's marriage!  Gun ownership is legal and political only because we need to reword that portion of the Second Amendment that is out of date, to make it fit the times we live in today.

          We need a Congress that will work on regulating and controlling Wall Street's crooks, to end corporate welfare and tax breaks, and to fairly tax the very richest.  We need to see our middle class restored to what it was sixty and more years ago.  And, a big part of what would do this is to pass real jobs bills that would people to work rebuilding and repairing our infrastructure.  We need to force big corporations to retool to making machines that can serve a peaceful purpose, instead of all the weapons and war machines we now make.  We need to control Big Pharma and the Healthcare Insurance industry.  Regulate communications giants, like Time-Warner and ATT, and all the other cell phone and internet providers, please!  We need, in short, a Teddy Roosevelt, who can come out and open a great big can of whoop-ass on these monopolies and crooked monsters.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

We are indeed a nation in crisis, and nobody seems to care.

We just took a road trip from El Paso, to San Antonio and then, to Austin, Texas.  That means we traveled on two major Interstate highways, I-10 & I-35, plus a number of other roads.  I know that there have been many reports over the last few years about our nation's crumbling infrastructure, but apparently nobody gets out on the highways, far enough from any cities, to see for themselves.  There are many miles of bad road along both of the freeways we just traveled, and no sign of any efforts to maintain or repair any of the damage to the roadways.

I used to travel Texas a lot as part of my work, back in the 90's, into the early 2000's, and I was accustomed to seeing long stretches of road devoted to "road work ahead," where the roads were being repaired, repaved, and maintained.  One famous sign had to do with guardrail damage warnings, and then, the sight of a TxDOT work crew repairing guardrails was a part of every road trip that I made.

We saw a large number of warning signs this trip, but not one single crew was out actually repairing any of frequent damaged areas we saw.  The many damaged areas are clearly marked with traffic cones and orange barrels, but no work crews were seen.

I lost count of the pot holes very early in our first day on the road.  And, I found myself constantly changing lanes, seeking a relatively smooth path.  I have to wonder just how long the trucking industry, which is so vital to this nation, can continue to accept this situation.  I have never seen so many alligators (the strips of rubber and tire that line the freeway, from truck tires that have literally shredded off the big rigs) as I saw these last few days.

I also wonder where all the money has gone.  You know, the significant portion of the price we pay for fuel at the pump, that supposedly goes to the federal highway system, and the fees and taxes and surcharges put on the big rigs for operation in every state?  Maybe we have thrown away entirely too much money for pointless wars, and wasteful foreign aid, and for horrendously expensive airplanes that don't even work?  Maybe just a bit too much in corporate welfare?  Tax breaks for the rich, anybody?

Don't the rich people realize that without transportation there can be no more income for them?  Don't they need good roads, too?  So, why isn't anybody stepping up to fix our roads!?

Monday, April 27, 2015

I got a Two-fer.

Well, I ate lunch twice today.  First, my son called and said that his co-workers have been urging him to give Chuco Burger another chance.  You may (or not) recall that my wife and my son and I tried this place last May, and found it did not meet the standards of the bragging that I had heard and read about it at all.
          With no other plans on our plate, we decided to go for it, and we were not disappointed!  The little hole-in-the-wall is improving!  The owner has recently had a large window added to the front wall, and this alone has brightened the place up a lot.  The front door is now glass, instead of a solid, old heavy thing.  There is more seating now, and there were actually customers inside, some already eating, others waiting.
          The menu has been printed up, and offers more variety than before.  Prices have gone up, but are still comparable to his competition.  The recommended burger is called a "Dabble-Dabble," pronounced double-double, and features two patties ("almost a full pound") and double cheese.  Specialty fries are now available, but the regular fries are worth a try.  He actually offers fresh cut, large, old-fashioned fries that are cooked to a golden brown, instead of the pale and skinny under done look most places offer these days.  That's right.  The fries are not frozen!
          Milk shakes are now available in more than just the standard three flavors.  As a matter of fact, Chuco himself recommends the piƱa colada flavor.  Sodas are still just in a can, and there is also bottled water available for the same price ($1.25).  My son went for the specialty burger, I ordered my regular burger, without cheese and no mustard, but with mayo.  My wife got a cheeseburger.
          John ordered a chorizo/cheese fries basket for the table, and Chuco brought us a sample of the regular fries, which are likely the best you can find in El Paso.  Here's the bottom line:  Chuco Burger has got it right!  The buns are toasted just enough to ensure that they will hold together until you're done, and this, to me, is a big deal.  My burger was juicy, and crunchy, with lots of pickles, tomato, lettuce, and just the right amount of mayo.
          John reported that his "Dabble-Dabble" was great, and he agrees that this place is way better than the last time we tried it.  And, more important, my wife was happy this time.  We all agreed that we will be back for sure.
          Oh, bring cash, because no cards are accepted, and there is no ATM.  As for how it is that I ate twice today, that burger was my first meal, and my second one is right now, as I eat my words from my last post about Chuco Burger, which does indeed now serve El Paso's best burger.  Try it; you'll like it.