Friday, November 30, 2018

Weekend Athletes

This week's topic was suggested by Ramana. It is something that in September of 1970 I willingly became - a weekend athlete. That is when my school sports days came to an end because of a disagreement with a football  coach. Weekend athletes are the natural progression for those of us who love sports, want to stay active and grow our previous sport legends in our own minds.

At the time I was a PE major planning on eventually becoming a football coach. I was taking a soccer teaching lab  and became fast friends with a Dutch student named Walther. Whenever I played goalkeeper in our class activities I  did fairly well and Walther convinced me to join him and his team on a Saturday as they had lost their goalie. Thus began my 2-season career as goalkeeper for Hayward United in the East Bay Soccer league. Talk about a fish (whale?) out of water - LOL. Plus, the season was in progress and I  could not register as a new player so I assumed the identity of the previous goalkeeper and before every game when the referees were checking the player passes (photo ids) I was always warming up at the opposite end of the pitch. The mostly English players on the team got a kick out of the giant keeper who played angles like a hockey goalie and tried to be helpful. One game got completely out of hand and multiple fights broke out. The opposing keeper - a large Dutch gent named Hans  sprinted my way and when he got close enough to swing started laughing and said "No frickin way are we going to fight. I'm Hans" and stuck his hand out. We shook hands and watched the officials sort things out. After the game we went for beers - a necessary component of weekend sports - and realized he attended the same JC as I.

The makeup of the team was fairly similar to every weekend sports team of which I was a member - several older (40s) players, mostly 30s players that formed the core of the team and a few younger players.

I was working at Sears at the time and there was a softball team made up of players from the store. I talked to the guy that ran the team and he was frankly not interested in a 290 lb first baseman so his team was  always without an opening. As luck would have it there was a weekend when several players were unavailable (also a regular component of weekend sports) and I got a shot to play. The field had a left field fence with tall, full trees along the fence and across the street was a 4 or 5 story apartment complex. The fence was 275 or so feet away from home plate, really a bit short. The first 4 times I batted I hit 2 balls against the apartment and all 4 over the fence and trees. Jack - the guy that ran the team just kept shaking his head and laughing. I should interject that consistently hitting a slow-pitch softball a long way is tougher than it sounds as the balls are pitched with very high arch. I'm tall enough that the arc does not effect me much. Long story short - I was the regular first baseman for that team until 1976 when Lynn and I moved to Connecticut when she was offered a job transfer. As luck - or fate - would have it, we were not having much luck meeting other young couples until after a discussion with the local(liquor store) package store owner lamenting the need for a first baseman
on his softball team. Our social lives improved greatly when my teammates realized I could hit a softball over 300 feet fairly regularly. Suddenly being from California did not mean quite so much in conservative Rocky Hill CT.

We moved back to California in 1977 but it was southern California. I did not  participate in sports there although my bonafides were confirme inadvertently when once during a lunchtime conversation one of the salesmen was bragging about his softball team. They were exceptional and included an ex NFL player who hit monster home runs. He told me the fellows name -  Ed Galigher - and I smiled and said to tell Ed hi for me. Les was somewhat incredulous as he knew I was from Northjern California and Ed (6'5, 275 or so) was a UCLA alum. Turns out Ed and I had been friends since  Little League as we were both from Hayward, we played JC ball together at Chabot. We had been friends and competitors since he was 11 and I was 12. Ed is the best football player I ever played with or against. I may still have the bruises to prove it. The next day Les - the salesman - had a different opinion of me - LOL and relayed Ed's greetings back to me.

At the end of 1977 we made our way back to Northern California and I continued to play softball util my late 40s.  I also regularly played raquetball and handball as well as the odd weekend football game. For several consecutive Thanksgivings a large group of us played a game on Thanksgiving Day aptly named the Turkey Bowl.

Unfortunately, the weekend athlete typically does not have access to medical care and eventually that takes its toll. I am now paying for those decades of fun by living in constant pain. Both knees are shot and I gimp around on crutches. While suggested several times I have a thing about knee surgery and refuse to have it. Knee surgery ranks right up there with flying as shackman no way in hell things. My right shoulder hurts so much I occasionally cannot hang my shirts in the closet. That said, I would do it all again. Someone once called sports the opioid of the masses.

They certainly were that for me. No matter what happened during the week, Saturday or Sunday game time found me with a big grin on my face. Just playing the game was good enough to perk us up.

One of my last job assignments at RadioShack was copywriter for web content. My boss was a former tight end at TCU who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. Brian and I had seveal conversations about sports in general and he asked me why I quit playing. I said that while I enjoyed playing I realized that after two years playing JC football, the second on a nationally ranked team, I simply did npot love the game enpough to keep up with the effort it would take to continue playing. He smiled and said that when the 49ers drafted him they wanted him to play for Barcelona in the World league to rehab his injured ankle. He came to the same realization - he simply could not give the level of effort required to continue playing.

Perhaps if we'd known how much money would be involved down the line we'd have felt different, alas we made our decisions.  Weekend athletes encompass a broad swath of personalities and are simmply a cross section of any culture. There are some competent athletes, some who were never particularly successful athletes and a myriad other reasons but they all share a desire to play. In many ways weekend athletics offer the fun of a sport with much less pressure. The exercise is good for you and the camaraderie is great. Game days are easily turned into family fun days with picnics, parties and more. I'd definitely do it all again.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings for his take on the subject.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Favorite Time of the Year

This weeks topic was my choice. What is your favorite time of the year? Mine is the last quarter of the year -m October, November and December.

Why? .Summer is gone, it is much cooler and Fall has begun. Fall is my favorite season - leaves change and the scenery is spectacular if you do not live in an urban environment. I have very distinct memories of my time in Colorado when we would pile into the car and head off to Aspen to see the changing colors. Gotta admit though - it would be kinda cool if the buildings changed color like the leaves during the fall. Maybe in an alternate universe.

Fall transitions into winter. Now remember - I do not live in a place where winter buries you up to your rear end in snow. I have not seen that since 1976 in Connecticut. I enjoyed it back them butr I was not even 30. The thought of that now is not pleasant. This is more like it....

North Carolina snow

Ft. Worth snow

 And then there are the holidays in the last quarter of the year, beginning with Halloween - my absolute fave as a child. Yes - I liked Halloween even more than Christmas. Back them it was common to receive  home made treats like candy and caramel coated apples, popcorn balls, cookies and the like.It was most definitely a more innocent time. The cinnamon candy coated apples on a stick were my faves -  bright red and oh so cinnamony.

Next up on the holiday parade is Thanksgiving - the American holiday known most for serious over eating and watching football with family and friends Turkeys begin  to get nervous about their fate around September I suspect. In fact mine is in the oven right now, under the watchful eye of my oldest granddaughter Jazz.
December has several holidays - Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing day and Omisoka.There are more that apply to other parts of the world.

The plethora of holidays has had people through the years saying Happy Holidays. Recently that has caused the evangelical right to claim there is a war on Christmas which has led to other people complaining about religious icons and displays being incorporated in civic holiday displays. Personally I usually wish people a Merry Christmas and have yet to run into someone who is offended. Sometimes a person will indicate they are not Christian. I usually ask if they celebrate any of the other December holidays and depending on their response wish them a happy Hanukka Kwanzaa or whichever is appropriate.

Personally I think those offended by someone wishing them a Merry Christmas or a Happy Holidays need to take a chill pill. Anything that silly that contributes to our divided society is ridiculous.

And finally there is that annual reset button known as New Year's Eve. Now I freely admit it is rare these days for me to stay up until that silly ball falls in Time Square but it is refreshing to know you get to begin a new year the very next morning.

One thing interesting great to speculate on is would my favorite time be the same if I lived say in Oz - like my HS classmate Jerry. Because of the weather I cannot be sure.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to see what Ramana has to say

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Ramana's choice for a topic this week is Secrets.  We live in a world filled with secrets. Everybody has secrets and every institution has secrets. And - pretty much everyone wants to know those secrets.

Politics and secrets certainly make strange bedfellows. It seems today's secrets in the political realm are merely tomorrow's leaks, designed to keep that "secret" in the news cycle longer than the typical 24-hour news cycle. That has - to my mind - increased significantly since 45 was elected. Our amoral sociopath POTUS is a master manipulator and liar. Who knows what secrets he is hiding under his sad looking comb-over. One thing is certain - the Presidential Book of Secrets  will never be the same after 45 is finished with it.

Like many things in life, secrets can be benign or harmful. Some are up for debate as far as I am concerned. I am not convinced it is ultimately harmless to kids to jeep up the existing Easter (bunny), Christmas (Santa, the Tooth Fairy and other similar mythologies for kids - we are lying to them. How can that be good when we are essentially telling kids it is okay to lie long before they are old enough to comprehend.

Keeping a secret like a surprise celebratory party is perfectly acceptable. I certainly enjoyed the party arranged for my 17th birthday unbeknownst to me.

Secret societies have been with us for centuries. Arguably, the most famous (infamous?) in western society is the Masons. The Masons have been accused of  and the subject of the most prevalent conspiracy theories in recent memory, from covering up the fact that Jesus has a bloodline (fictionalized in the DaVinci Code to devil worship along with the Templars. For a look at Masonic conspiracies, check. All of this is due to the secretive nature of the Freemasons.  Check here here to read about freemasonry  in Wikipedia.

Secret societies are by no means limited to western culture. Have you ever heard of a thug? That term comes from a Hindu cult called Thuggees in India - robbers and murderers responsible for upwards of 2 million deaths per  the Guinness book of records. Perhaps Ramana has one in his family woodpile - LOL. I have Freemasons  in mine.

The Ivy League - arguably the most prestigious group of colleges/universities in the U.S.A. is home to a vast list of secret societies, the most famous being Yale's Skull and Bones Society.  Read about  The Skull and Bones in Wikipedia.

Read about the Skulls - it is fascinating to see how many powerful men - including Presidents - are or have been  members. A central conspiracy theory to the Skulls and to an extent the Freemasons is their so-called desire to control the world.

There are religious secret-societies. They have been mentioned in several popular movies - the Illuminati and the Knights Templar, there are the Rosicrucians and more.

Clearly secrets play a huge part in society - from the benign kid stuff to some  allegedly very powerful groups. Some of it makes for very enjoyable reading.

As usual, be sure to check Ramana's Musings to see what his take on secrets is.

For you curious types there is a newsletter that you can sign up for to be kept up to date on the world domination desires of secret societies here  Secret Societies.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Do you believe in magic?

When I sent this topic to Ramana for our weekly blog, I neglected to mention what its inspiration was. John Sebastian, a superb artist, songwriter and musician, was playing with the band in a club in New York when he noticed a young lady  dancing. This was early in the bands history and he said it was like magic watching how she reacted to the music. Now, considering the time frame there could possibly have been some chemicals involved, but this song was the result. 

Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart

How the music can free her whenever it starts 
And it's magic, if the music is groovy 
It makes you feel lovely like an old time movie 
I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul 
But it's like tryin' to tell a stranger 'bout rock and

My readers know how important music is to me. Do I believe in the magic of music? Absolutely.

Image result for last supper

Artists have been painting and drawing throughout recorded history. In fact cave drawings are the earliest form of recorded history available. From cave paintings to Dali and all others, art is purely magical.I suspect most people have an artist or two that cast a spell over them with their work.Here are a couple of my faves.There are art styles and artists sufficient to appeal to almost anyone.

Image result for van gogh

You say you like to read about magic? J.K. Rowling's best selling Harry Potter series of books inspired millions of kids to read a fairly complex series of books. But you re an adult you say? Might I suggest  Jim Fishers Harry Dresden series which I was inspired to read thanks to an email from best selling author Dana Stabenow - author of one of my favorite mystery series featuring Alaskan investigator Kate Shugak.

Image result for harry dresden

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I'd say that qualifies as a sort of magic on the printed page.

Have you ever listened to radio dramas? Stepped back in time to those thrilling days of yesteryear? Give this a listen - and   while listening imagine stumbling across this on the radio dial one day in the 1930s and missing the intro.             

Magic? Considering the wide spread panic this broadcast caused, I would say this qualifies as magic.

Movie magic shows itself in many forms. There is the story - a well thought out story can enchant an audience, Then there is the most obvious form of movie magic - special effects. That form of  magic has grown in leaps and bounds since the early days and frankly often the effects detract from a film. Not this one though.

When special effects are combined with a fun story the resulting movie itself is magical - like Jurassic Park, my choice for the greatest popcorn movie (my term for a movie that is just plain fun to watch) of all time,  although Jaws will always be right up there.

Magicians have been around for centuries, These days they typically call themselves illusionists,, although those purveyors of close up tricks call themselves magicians. I prefer Penn and Teller for magic.

Penn and Teller have a summer TV show called Fool Us where magicians try to fool Penn and Teller with techniques and tricks - in other words, How did you do that? If you enjoy magic, coin and  card tricks, mentalism and even some classic magician stuff.  Here is a sample.

Magic. It takes many shapes and forms, and is not necessarily the same for everybody.. There are the wonders of nature, numerology,tarot, ouija boards, and what a good friend says is the magical way life unfolds before us. So when asked "Do you believe in magic? My answer is a resounding yes.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings for his take on today's subject. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The politics of blogging

Blogging can be extremely frustrating for myriad reasons. In every blogging group I have participated there are times that it feels like a 13-year old gossip session with people ganging up on a single blogger to complain about what or how that blogger says things on their blog.

If a particular blogger offends your sensibilities I say make an attempt to work it out with that blogger one on one. Problem solved? Everyone lives to blog another day in a civil manner. Problem not resolved? Try ignoring  that bloggers blog and comments on blogs you both read. Both parties live to blog another day and skip the frustration of dealing with each other. 

If you simply cannot ignore that blogger's writing then deal with it and quit complaining.- clearly you relish the disagreement more than you are willing to admit and like a good fight. That is fair/fine. Just be honest  about it. Dunno about all y'all, but I loved debate class- put me on either side of the topic  and let the fun begin. I enjoy the battle.

The single caveat I suggest is be civil. It isn't that hard. If you cannot be civil, stay away from here. If the civility of any comment is in question, when you engage on my blog you follow my rules. If that us a problem there are lots of places to read blogs that I am sure you will find more rewarding than Shackman speaks. And, if you feel you cannot participate here because someone who regularly does so offends your sensibility then Happy Trails.

Like the Vaughn Meter line in his old JFK comedy album goes, "When you play with my ball you play by my rules.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Reason for Being

When I first saw Ramana's choice for this weeks topic I immediately thought great - I will just find  a tube of lipstick, slap some on this pig and be done with it. Then I thought what the hell - I will just be honest and let it all hang out. Please know that I am in no way feeling sorry for myself - I accept full responsibility for everything that has gone on in my 69 years here on the third rock from the sun - good, bad and indifferent.

Truth be told life has not been particularly pleasant for several years. In fact I'd have to say it has sucked. Nothing leaps to mind that qualifies as a reason for being. I have discussed the tale of Lynn's passing and we are now dealing with my daughter Jamie's HD diagnosis. Then of course there is the 50/50 chance each of her three kids has HD. And Sean, my middle thirties aged son refuses to have the diagnostic test as he is afraid it will ruin his attitude for life. And, of course he has two children who may well inherit the disease if he does in fact have it. I can understand his reticence - we all saw  Lynn essentially give up and sit around and wait until she  as died. Of course there were the bouts of violence directed at Jamie and I - Sean not so much because he was rarely around because of the strained relationship with his sister and girl friend and the fact that Jamie and I do not get along at all for reasons I will not get into here. And the relationship has grown more strained since Jamie's diagnosis as she blames me for everything. Why did we have kids? Why do I not have a large insurance policy to take care of her? Who is going to take care of her? Dysfunction junction - otherwise known as my family - is never a dull moment.  The mountains of stress it heaps upon one are immeasurable. 

The simple fact of the matter is that a reliable HD test was not devised until the early 1990s. When the entire topic of HD was revealed to us by Lynn's mother, there was nothing reliable. Lynn went through the protocol and was judged HD free. Her mother lied and never mentioned Lynn's father had HD until his brother died from HD many years after Lynn's father passed. It was not until we had been in Texas several years when circumstances arose that led to Lynn's being tested again and this time testing positive for HD. To this day I remember the call from the Dr's office passing on the fact that Lynn's remaining time was limited and a good percentage of it would not be pleasant.

So now Jamie has essentially seen what her life will be like and she resents it. Can't say that I blame her, She appears to be on a similar trajectory to Lynn's - time wise. It is too early to tell if she will have the exact same symptoms as Lynn. That not only stamps Jamie's sell by date on her forehead it does the same with mine - with the caveat I live that long. That is something I highly doubt will happen as I have health issues that will likely prevent my lasting that long. 

Then there was the pipe dream, that was a reason to hope for a better outcome. An old friend and I agreed to play the lottery and if one of us won, we'd establish a base in a place called Nevada City, CA and use it as a base for an extended road trip, just hanging out and having a good time. We are great friends, we have known each other about 50 years and thought that would be a great end to things. Silly - I know but like I said, it was something to hope for and laugh about. She has been diagnosed with cancer - a dream crusher. Another reason life sucks.

I cannot count the number of times some well meaning Christian friend posts feel good little sayings about how when god closes a door he opens another one or some such nonsense. My experience shows that god waits until my hand is on the door and then she slams it on me. There must be something about me that just pisses her off but that is fine. It is what it is. And now my favorite baseball player of all time has died. A soul  crusher for me. RIP Willie McCovey.

So, you will forgive me if I say at the moment I do not see a reason for being nor will I waste my time looking. I am just gonna lay low and see what happens. The country is in jeopardy because the person we elected President is a self-serving  liar, narcissist and amoral sociopath. None of that bodes well for our future. The hatred that permeates our politics shows no hope of letting up. 45 continues to insult our allies and cozy up to authoritarian figures around the world. He is strapping future generations with unmanageable debt. 

So, my friends,  that is my take on  A Reason for Being. Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to see whet he has to say.