339. Free Agency

The concept of free agency comes from the world of professional sports, as far as I know.

In professional sports, a free agent is a player who is eligible to sign with any club or franchise, i.e. not under contract to any specific team. The term is also used in reference to a player who is under contract at present, but who is allowed to solicit offers from other teams. In some circumstances, the free agent’s options are limited by league rules.Image result for Richmond Braves pictures

Before Curt Flood sued Major League Baseball for being a monopoly, pro teams simply drafted players and more or less owned that player exclusively. Players were traded with or without the players’ input. It was reminiscent of an enlightened plantation system. Players were paid but did not have any bargaining leverage.  Minor league teams are still called the farm system.plantation, cockspur island, georgia, slaves, slave life, black history

And what is farmed then harvested  there?  Pro players, human beings.  Sometime in the early 1970’s the Supreme Court agreed with Curt Flood and a system of free agency developed in baseball and then all pro sports. Salaries exploded and so did individual egos and prices for anything connected to the superheated frenzy of professional sports teams.

I often borrow the concept to instruct clients, who are sometimes players also, about transitioning from one relationship status to another. It’s not as simple as Facebook status changes where you merely click on a different label. For example, I often have angry seventeen year olds who are jacked up about getting out of their parents’ control and house. These kids think that on their 18th birthday some sort of mind meld magic will transform them into free agents. FREEDOM!!  Legally, yes, they are considered new adult citizens and they gain various rights like voting or signing contracts. They tend to overlook the responsibility load that is the counterweight to freedom. However, make no mistake about it:  they are not free agents in any other sense. Naturally the question is asked of me, “So what makes me a free agent and when?”

My answer is my own. It has not been researched or surveyed or subjected to statistical analyses. I say something like this… “When you have been paying your own bills without any help for five years. When your old bedroom is a den. When you are fully affiliated with a new team. When you make all of your own decisions and stick around for the consequences.”  All of these comments add up to this, “When you have grown out of financial, emotional, legal, and psychological dependence on your folks.” Breaking one link is just the beginning. It takes a long time and a powerful chisel to blast off the invisible handcuffs.

In broken romantic relationships this concept is painfully obvious to outsiders. The unhappy wife flirts with a paper hanger guy because her husband does not pay her any more attention than he does the furniture.  Shabang! Image result for wallpaper hanger guy pictures

Bob the wallpaper guy has all the time in the world for Sylvia as he teaches her how to soak the paper and book it over into a manageable size. It’s thrilling as he stands close behind her hardly whispering instructions to her on how to smooth out the bubbles and glide the wet paper into its proper alignment. Something tingles in Sylvia that has not tingled in years and she is smitten with his voice, his strong clever hands, his aftershave, even the Juicy Fruit gum he slowly chews as he squint winks at her from head to toe. “You are a mighty fine woman, Sylvia. I tell you what I’d like to do if you were mine…”

Of course, Bob leaves out the fact that he is between spouses himself. He fails to correct the small sample size that Sylvia is rushing to fall in love with. He owes back child support and his last divorce attorney a pile of money. And there is his current paramour Janet. But, hey, none of that is around right now.

Problem is that the ecstatic Sylvia is not a free agent, nor will she be for years. By then the wallpaper will have become so yesterday and very unsexy. No matter, she will have jumped ships, only to find out the rest of Bob’s story is so, so unsavory… A1 sauce on sunbaked road kill possum. 

No free lunch or free agents at that buffet. Oh, but the promises of Chateau Briand and Cabernet Sauvignon only make the available grub that much more nauseating.

No one wants to grieve or wait to love again. So men and women going through a divorce date others, who may be going through divorce themselves. No free agents here. Instead a compromise lives with or promises to marry another compromise, which makes for interesting introductions at gatherings.

“This is Sylvia, my, uh, friend, good friend. Buddy, partner, love of my life.”

“But Bob, you are still married to Stella, aren’t you?”

“Well, she just has to sign the papers and we’re done. I’ve moved on emotionally.”

“How convenient… you get to skip all the grief work and the transformation that suffering renders in a soul laid bare.”

“We are spiritual spouses,” adds Sylvia. “We are married in God’s eyes.”

“Did God tell you that?”

“No, but I’m sure He wants us to be happy. That’s what Jesus died for.”

“Um, not sure about that, Sylvia. I think he wanted us to be holy, honey.”

“Whatever!  When your husband quits desiring you, he’s basically breaking the contract, so you are free to go. That’s in the Bible, somewhere.”

“In the Book of Bob, I think. Look, you guys are driving a duct taped together rusted minivan  relationship off a cliff, and your kids and friends and other relatives are hanging on as you bounce into the spikey abyss.”

“Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

“Kind of bigamy, isn’t it?”

“You are so old fashioned, Dude. Let’s go Bob. Gun the Harley and jump the canyon. If it makes me happy, it can’t be that baaaaad.”

 

 

Advertisements

310. Tragic Muscle Head Cars

My blog post numbers are getting up near the high horsepower engine range. It is just a natural association for me to recall that 327 CID was a Chevy engine, though I am no motor head.  There was a Ford 302. Chevy also had a 350, 396, and 427.  I just know that they were powerful and fast, too fast for the teenagers who tried to drive them. Which is perhaps symbolic of how woefully unprepared some adolescent males are to maneuver through the twisting course of adult life.

Where to begin?  Charlie Young drove a Camaro Z28 when we were all teenagers. I have no idea where he got the money to even buy the gas, though it was cheap in the early 1970’s. It was a sweet car to be sure, green base with wide white racing stripes. A shrine to the young male ego, sporting  slotted mags, a Hurst shifter, slick spoiler on the back, and fat tires. Yeah. Charlie posed in it like Clint Eastwood on a racehorse. Cool squint and a John Travolta smile.

There was talk of races behind the high school and big talk about how fast this car was or how fast that guy shifted gears. I don’t recall how Charlie fared in these much heralded races. I just recall that the Z28 went away one day, and not into a museum. He got married early and moved into a travel trailer parked in his parents’ side yard. The last I heard about Charlie was that he was working for the sheriff’s department back home transporting prisoners. Someone told me that one of the prisoners persuaded Charlie to stop at a liquor store during the trip to jail for one last good time. Good Time Charlie obliged and got drunk too; the prisoner escaped; Charlie was fired. The funny part is that there is no surprise here. It just got away from him like the Z28 did years before.

Let’s go up a few cubic inches. I believe Glenn Barret’s Nova SS had a 307 or a 350. I used to know these things like baseball players’ batting averages. Glenn’s car was red and black, manual transmission. He was constantly cleaning or waxing it, posing with the door open. He had this cool rolling start he liked to pull where he’d start the car just by popping the clutch. Cool cubed, man. He’d silently cruise into a parking space with the engine off or drift down a grade noiselessly and then pop that clutch. VRRRoooom!!

One day he was parked on the incline in front of Bobby Doering’s house, door open, coolness spilling out of his car like chilled air conditioning. He was all set to do the silent back out, but this time he forgot to close his door. As he glided back down the hill, his driver side door caught the fire hydrant he had neglected to account for. The interaction ripped his door out away from the frame of the car like an airplane wing.  Now this would upset any driver of any car, but factor back in that Glenn worshipped this Nova SS. It was his first love, his status symbol, his everything. Like Barry White sang,

“I know there’s only, only one like you
There’s no way they could have made two
Girl, you’re my reality, but I’m lost in a dream
You’re the first, you’re the last, my everything ”

He married young and took up golf. Not sure how either of those endeavors turned out.

Then there is the king of foolishness, the late Bobby Doering. He moved from Oklahoma in his junior year of high school. He could talk and bluster and brag with a western cockiness that was infectious and charming. He was famous for sayings like, “That sounds like a cow pissing on a flat rock.”

Bobby had a couple of cute sisters, plus his dad had a Porsche that we drove around when we cut school. What more could a 17 year old need? He also played ice hockey when that was unheard of in our experience. What more? How about a  forest green Chevelle SS 396 with boss wheels and dual exhaust? One of the coolest cars ever.

 Bobby lacked common sense and a healthy fear of death or injury. He’d smoke the tires with no provocation whatsoever. I imagine there is great pressure to blow out the four barrel carburetor when you have one, just like the pressure to drive your dad’s Porsche 135 miles an hour on the Beltway while skipping school and listening to the Stones “Under My Thumb”.

Bobby was keen on my girlfriend’s girlfriend Lisa, who was 15 then, I think. Lisa’s parents weren’t too keen on Bobby being around Lisa, for obvious reasons.  However, on Halloween of that year Bobby was driving both girls around the neighborhood  in the SS 396 when he decided to gun the engine and smoke tires. He did and lost control of the green monster, dumping it into a deep ravine to his left. He and both girls fell forward as the Chevelle went 90 degrees into the concrete culvert. I forget the physical damage done. Everyone received injuries as no one wore their seatbelt. Bobby was bankrupted. The car was totaled but the loan against it was not. He had to get a job and work off the debts he’d accumulated while  worshipping at the shrine of the 396.

I don’t know when, but through the grapevine I learned that he died a couple of years later, maybe while playing hockey. Cardiac arrest. Rest in peace, bro, like Dick Clark– forever a teenager.

I don’t recall the CID of Mike Dean’s Charger or Challenger. It’s too far back there. It was a big muscle car, I do know. He hung out in the same neighborhood of Wilton Woods, where there were plenty of cute girls. Mike’s car was not the problem, though. The story is murky, but as I heard it he blew his brains out with a gun after this girlfriend dumped him. Too much power in the hands of boys wanting to be great.

Tragedies are poignant because they did not have to happen. Some character flaw or bizarre circumstance destroys a good manboy. Yeah, well let me finish by directing you to Tom Waits’ “Big Joe and Phantom 309”, a lovely old ballad with a tragic seed.

 

305. Narcissus Maximus Trumpus

I don’t like politics and politicians in general. Whether they are lefties who want to expand government and make the world politically correct at all times for all people or they are righties who need another tax cut while contracting the parts of government that don’t enrich them, I am generally disgusted by their self promotion. Plus, they can never answer a straight forward yes/no question.  It’s always an exercise in CYA. But on top of all these disgusting hacksters there is the supreme narcissist, the gopher pelted, angry, rude, hostile Donald Trump, who lacks a filter of any sort. He is like the diesel pick up truck that billows clouds of black smoke from an oversized exhaust pipe with a sexually suggestive bumper sticker on its tail gate. Essentially these overblown high maintenance idiots are compensating for some major deficit in their lives, but their egos are so inflated that they cannot face the possibility that they are responsible for their own problems. Nope, gotta find someone to blame– immigrants, gays, Islamists, Democrats, POWs, the Chambers of Commerce, the media, the Pope. The problem cannot be in the mirror. So they just keep on blowing smoke.

Which brings me to the Donald who would be king. I don’t believe he wants to be president any more than Robert Mugabe wanted to be president. At least not in the USA. Maybe there is room for him in an African nation. I get the sense that Sir Ronald the Mc Donald wants to be Dictator for Life and King of Scotland, like some Idi Amin fantasy.

You see, in an American style democracy there is a supposed to be a balance of power among the three branches of government. However, since the Donald has to be the smartest, richest, smuggest moron in the room, there is no oxygen left for anyone else to breathe. So in a Trump presidency we’d have to close Congress, shut down the press, and send the courts home till he died. Why?  Because the Donald will take care of all things all the time. Like a Roman emperor/dictator. “Believe me, I have negotiated with the toughest negotiators on the planet and I’ve won. Now they work for me. Do you know how rich I am?”

 So why are we bothering? No sane person could possibly consider the Donald for anything other than a circus, which maybe is what the bigger political picture is. If we are ready to blow up our fragile democracy, then let’s all vote for the Narcissus Maximus Trumpus. He can reinstitute the gladiator fights at RFK stadium, and when the tired ones fall, the Donald can hold his thumb up or down, “You’re fired!” the hordes can all shout as the defeated warrior is cut into shish kabob chunks for the lions to  snack upon.

Some obvious questions  arise when we consider electing Donald as our Emperor Divine for life. Who would be vice emperor?  Certainly we would not need one because the Donald is all powerful and eternal, just ask him. We would, however, need a new government Department of Admiration, which would essentially be a 1,000 woman harem who had graduated from the Trump University of Cosmetic Lobotomies and Idol Worship. They could be housed in the empty Congress building. Who would be able to tell the difference between these ladies and the ones currently “working” there?

The White House would have to be demolished since it is far too small for such a large man. Emperor Donald could move into the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, after a proper makeover, mostly triumphal arches wide enough for his chariot themed limos to drive through. At the same time the Secret Service would need to be grown by ten thousand percent because there is such an important man to protect now, a man who doesn’t sleep and never shuts up. A man who has alienated even retired nuns who have taken vows of silence and perpetual peace… who are buying guns at record levels. Who doesn’t want to shoot him?

With the Donald as our reigning Divine Emperor of All Things we could finally rename the Redskins to something more politically palatable. I mean, the Donald did own the defunct New Jersey Generals. Let’s see, the Washington Donalds, the Trumpettes, the Toupees, the Emperoritas, the Ignoramuses, the Blowhards, or the Pompous Asses. Maybe we should just ask Donald, since voting will be outlawed by then.

Image result for washington redskins pictures

Donald’s Divinity will be good for tourism also, once he has remodeled. The Washington Mall will need to be redone. The Trump Temple will rise above the Washington Monument, which will function like a speedometer needle pointing to the vortex of Donald’s inflated shrine to self. “Oh the humanity!”, cried the radio announcer when the Hindenburg exploded. Oh, if we could be so lucky and Emperor Donald could self combust from his own bombast blasts.

But I suspect that the Donald will do just that. He is the propane filled Mothra drawn to the flame of  public attention. His inflammatory rhetoric will be ignited by static electric shock from his frizzled coiffure and Boom!!

Image result for donald trump angry pictures

“Bye bye Don
Bye bye  crappiness, hello selflessness
I think I’m-a gonna cry
Bye bye Don
Bye bye crude impress, hello happiness
I feel like I could sigh
Bye bye bully boy, goodbye.

I’m-a through with ignorance, I’m a-through with self love
I’m through with polling this clown above
And here’s the reason that I’m so free
My arrogant Donald is gone, you see.”

 

 

 

 

265. Low octane blood sugar

Ever get that deflated state of mind and body when you haven’t eaten lunch and it’s 4 o’clock?  Your heart is thumping and your mind is jacked up about sumpthing or other and you wonder if you have a fever or a touch of mania. You feel Snoopid. Deep breathing and lots of water get drained off. You know better than to use caffeine.  Hooo baby! Bodily warning signals are going off all around, but you manage to postpone sitting down and eating. Finally you inhale a bowl of left over pasta with chicken and mushrooms without tasting a thing. A quart of water washes it down. Eyes closed as CNN anchors prattle on between commercials. “What these jihadists seem to want most is…” Mute. Darkness helps dissolve the inner staccato buzzing of flies playing soccer in a jar that is your brain. In an impossibly insective yet Hispanic falsetto, “Gooooooal!” My flies seem to be Guatemalan.

As late nutrition gets caught up with my blood sugar deficit, I wait. I recall pumping gas at the old Exxon station back in the early ’70s when leaded (yes, leaded) gas was 29 cents per gallon. Cars would hiss and clip clop into the station just off the D.C. beltway on mere fumes. “Ping-ping” went the sensor bell. “Filler up!” the customers would bark at us. Self serve was not common then. We’d get busy checking the fluids and washing the front and back windshields. Service was expected and sometimes demanded. Funny thing is that as gas prices increased, service disappeared. It became something only for the elite or was legislated to remain in New Jersey. Go figure:  the more a commodity costs, the less delivery service you get with it, unless you live in Jersey. So, the hangrier a person gets, the lower his/her expectations drop for service associated with meeting that need… thus no gas attendants and no wait staff in general. Remember when folks actually made careers out of selling clothing? Now it’s mostly point and shoot, self service unless you are at a high end haberdashery.

Let me consider this paradox. If true, then I should expect service at the most expensive restaurants to decline and eventually disappear. Thankfully that has not happened. Can you imagine make-your-own lobster bars and steak houses? And would you tip yourself for excellent self service? “My man, the calamari was superb!” “I know, Sir, for I am you.”

 Oh, that’s a cafeteria or a buffet. Doink!

So we are back to food and brain activity. I don’t really know much about either, just that the absence of the first leads to the absence of the second.

I did not plan it this way, but I was involved in an afternoon court case recently as a witness. Naturally I was anxious since attorneys tend to ask innocent sounding introductory questions that lead to bloody machete slaughter of little lambs a little later. In my case the thing to be slaughtered was my credibility for the presiding judge, no jury. As the afternoon wore on and my breakfast wore out, I began to sing to myself, “I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury. I’m all about the judge, ’bout the judge, no jury…” I tried not to sway and smile like Stevie Wonder in the witness box. But let’s be honest: Stevie can testify.

 I wish I could have seen the thought bubbles above the other folks’ heads.

“Did I let the dog out at lunch?”

“This medication really constipates me.”

“Boom! That woman is a bitch!”

“Why did I run for judge? It’s more like sludge.”

“My spanx are cutting off my circulation and my bladder signals.”

“This guy seems to be singing that bass song to himself… ‘I’m all about the bass, ’bout the bass, no treble.'”

Well, there is really no reliable way to prove what others are thinking if they are thinking at all. The other attorney, for instance, introduced herself by saying, “I tend to ramble on, so if you don’t understand one of my questions, just ask me to repeat it.” Now that is thin competition, if you ask me. She was the equivalent of the other brand that loses to Bounty Tough Towelettes every time. Not the quicker picker upper, i.e., useless.

Uh, I mean, she’d be an okay vice president, I suppose, as long as the president is very healthy and well guarded. Just think Joe Biden in a skirt.

So, a hangry mind cycles on the questions being asked and evaluates each one over and over, as if chewing on words were as fulfilling as chewing on venison jerky. Not so, my bloggoiters. If you don’t feed your brain in a timely manner, it goes spanky on you, and I’m not sure that’s a word, but if it is, then it means something negative and shady.

The hearing ended in real time but continued in my sugar depleted brain. I recalled again and again what the smart attorney asked. I evaluated my performance over and over. I needed to get out of the cycle. I was obsessing like an OCD client worried about a shark attack in Nebraska. Unlikely. It was just my unquelled mind. I needed some fuel and time to process it.

Fortunately for the me and the world I found leftover pasta with chicken and mushrooms in the fridge. Bingo. Direct hit on Hangry’s Hanger without a hangover. I can see how tempting it might be for lawyers to drink their lunches and dinners. That rocket fuel of alcohol goes right to the brain without much delay. And the good times roll as surely as Mustang Sally without a subpoena. But no, I don’t go there, friends. Alcohol works like Ambien for me. I’ve been called a Two Beer Queer because I get sleepy after two good beers. And I am not ashamed of this label. In fact, I embrace my low tolerance for all forms of alcohol and LGBT causes. That is to say, I embrace the LGBT community and have a high tolerance for, no, I uh, have a strong endorsement for them. I just need a nap. However, if nominated for vice president, I will serve.

 

 

 

204. Local navel dancing, live, tonight 6-8 p.m.

It’s not what you’re thinking, trust me.  Saturday afternoon Suzanne called for my wife, who is out of town. It may have been guilt induced, but she invited me to go along with her and her husband, Jerry, to the local Indian restaurant that was having live belly dancers in the flesh that night; plus she had a coupon for 25% off the total bill. All the stars were aligned for a famous evening in Turtle Town. “Oh it’ll be fun!!”  Now, this may say something significant about me:  though I do not like Indian or Tibetan food, I agreed to go along for the company and entertainment value. Heck, the previous week we’d gone to a rockin’ concert that wildly exceeded my humble expectations and made breaking into my own house seem like fun. Maybe that was peat and this  would be a repeat. In any event I agreed to meet them at 6ish.

I bought a bottle of sweet moscato wine to help detox the curry and tofu and peppers I anticipated. That was a prescient move. When we arrived at the smallish restaurant, one of the dancers was undulating with a tray that held three battery operated candles on it. She was in a costume that covered most of her anatomy but featured a bare strip for her belly to flutter and jiggle as she shook her hips and rocked her pelvis. It was about as sexy as a wobbly wheeled shopping cart with a bag of bagels in the child seat or watching laundry spin in a front loading washer. Are you feeling me? Undulating cottage cheese.

We shimmied on over to a table and decided to get the buffet, which I have had before, too many times before. It does nothing for me despite the interest that fellow diners seem to have in the same dishes. To me it’s like cat vomit on rice. I don’t care what the cat may have been eating, it’s just nasty once it’s on a plate in front of you. I may have been too graphic in the previous sentence. If you feel offended, please refer back to the waiver of damages agreement you did not sign in the earlier post about Pushing Jello uphill.

Oh the music. Who knew that Jamaican reggae could incite midriff sizzle? Or Mexican mariachi. Or some country western based tunes. But there it was– four middle age white women jiggling to all sorts of music from around the globe. Global navel warming was upon us. I felt the world’s sea levels rising as distant icebergs melted from the radiant heat generated by these four bulging bellies.

But the bigger belly issue is my own. I did not dance, shudder to think of this, Blogbuttons. Jerry offered to pop quarters out of his navel cavity, and he did so (brag, that is, not navel launch) with a strange sense of authority, as if he’d done it before. “Put a quarter in my navel and I’ll make change,” he joked. I was already uncomfortable when the first belly dancer stopped by our table and schmuddled with Jerry. Suzanne took a couple of pictures, blurry thank God. Later on the plump dancer came on with a curved sword balanced perilously on her head. This was the same lady who had the candle display when we entered. I began to wonder if she was trying to move the audience’s attention up away from the Hoover (Ab)Dam (en). If  that thing burst, it could be a mini-Johnstown Flood in the little strip mall where we were dining. Pompeii, even.

[My mind wandered… if the dam burst, what would the first responders meet? A blanket of rice and tofu interrupted by nan bread, candles, wine bottles, and seat cushions, suffocating the paralyzed patrons below.]

“It was too late”, says one EMT to a firefighter. “If we’d inspected that Dam, we could have saved many lives here, Bob.”

“It’s not your fault, Larry. It was a moving target. No one could have guessed the carnage that would result.”

“Still, I feel so guilty. If only we had insisted on abdominal pressure detectors or airbags, or maybe those oxygen masks that fall down in airplanes.”

“No, Buddy, nothing could have saved them. It was the perfect storm: spicy food, belly dancers, and 25% off coupons. No one saw this train wreck coming till it was too late.”

“Got a cigarette?”

“You don’t smoke.”

“I know, it’s just that cat vomit stench is killing me.”

“Here’s a cigar, man.”

We paid the modest bill and headed home. However, Suzanne had documented our visit with two pictures of the other belly dancer with me and promptly forwarded them to my wife, like I was the Hugh Hefner of Turtle Town. No good deed goes unpunished, Blogiums.

I went home thinking unpleasant thoughts about my girth. Never get on the scales when you think you are overweight, my Blogatons. Your bad mental juju will shoot the scale at least ten pounds higher. And that’s exactly what happened. I gained ten pounds by proxy. Oh my, my, my. Whose navel is laughing now? I had run two miles on my treadmill that Saturday, but I knew that was not going to help with this new blob of useless tapioca calories that was overtaking me. I felt like a man stuck inside a car tire, rolling wobbily along, hands and feet helplessly waggling above the ground. I had to do something.

The next day I decided to eat vegetables for the rest of my life and to run five miles a day. Well, three and a half, if I could manage, on the nice weekends ahead. And at least I’d eat veggies for lunch. So I did. A bowl of carrots, celery and radishes does not satisfy the belly of an overweight man. I supplemented with an early dinner of roasted eggplant with black olives and cheese dusted with corn meal.  Not bad.  I put on Adele’s 21 CD and began gyrating in the living room and kitchen. “Rumor has it… Rumor has it…” I was shaking things up!!  Then it hit me. I could burn calories and tone up by belly dancing. I put a candle on my head and schwingled about. Not bad. I found my tarnished machete in the garage and… well, I cut my foot when it fell off my head the second time. That’s not gonna work. But if I cut my Jimi Hendrix tee shirt right at my sternum, well look at that!

Bellydancing on top of glacier in Alaska