Archive for September, 2008

Some of you have read this story already, but it’s my favorite Yankee Stadium story.


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Some of you have read this story already, but it’s my favorite Yankee Stadium story.

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i miss him already


On the ride into work yesterday I was listening to Opie and Anthony. They were having a conversation about visiting sick or dying relatives, how a lot of people don’t do that kind of visiting because they want to remember their relatives in a happier state. The subject was timely for me; I planned to take the kids to the hospital later that day to visit our uncle (my father’s brother-in-law). I had gone back and forth on the idea of making them go. An uncle they were close to, an uncle that just a week ago was playing cards in my parent’s backyard. He was sick then, he’d been in ill health for a while. But even as his body was failing, even as he started using a motorized wheelchair to get around, he was vivacious, happy and full of life. Friday, he had trouble breathing and went to the hospital. Saturday, his body started to shut down.

My kids are not babies, they’re teenagers who are unfortunately well versed in the death phase of life. Still, I wanted them to have good, lasting memories of our uncle, not images of him laying in a hospital bed dying. Then I thought about the other times I have done this. My grandparents on my father’s side, for instance. Watching them die a little more day by day, seeing the tubes sticking out of them, seeing them wither away to nothing – not an easy thing to watch. But as time went on, the hospital memories faded and were replaced with the good memories. I no longer, when I think of my grandmother, think of her last moments in that hospital bed. I think of her making spaghetti, cursing at wheel of fortune or rocking my kids to sleep. Same for my grandfather; no longer do I focus on the say they took him out of the house on a stretcher and we knew that was the end, his face sunken, his eyes expressionless. Now when I think of him he’s drinking a gallon jug of wine and singing to Jimmy Roselli songs.

I’m glad I did spend those last few moments with them, that I made sure to say my goodbyes. Not a literal goodbye, of course. Nobody goes to a hospital to visit a dying relative and says “Just came to say goodbye before you leave us.” It’s more like, “I’m here. I came to keep you company and hold your hand for a bit. It’s not much, but it’s something.” You don’t visit them for yourself, you do it for them. To let them know you didn’t abandon them just because they look too small, too skinny, there’s too many tubes running out of them, they don’t look like grandma anymore, it’s too sad.” Yes, it’s sad for you. Imagine how it is for them. They know they’re dying. I believe that even when they are not responsive, when it looks like they’ve all but slipped away save for the slow, rhythmic heartbeat keeping time on the bedside monitor, they hear you. They know. They’re comforted by your presence, they’re happy you are there and even if they can’t acknowledge you, or maybe they cant’ even hear or see you, they can feel you.

At 10am yesterday, my mother called me at work. My uncle took a turn for the worse, maybe we (my sister and I work together) should go see him during our lunch break. They’ve called his wife up to the hospital, saying she should be there now. I know what this means, but I also know what it doesn’t necessarily mean. They called us to the hospital three different times when they thought my grandma was ready to go. Each time we went, stood by her bed – a whole crowd of us, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – and waited. It’s very weird waiting for someone to die. Not anticipating. Waiting.

At 11 I called my sister. Maybe we should go now, I tell her. Not wait til lunch. I pack up, we leave work and head to the hospital. My mother and father are there, my father’s brother, a cousin and my father’s sister, who is sitting, in a wheelchair, at her husband’s bedside, waiting. Back in January my aunt was diagnosed with lung cancer. They gave her six months to live. And there she is in September, standing by her husband’s deathbed. Life is strange.

My uncle was on a morphine drip. His arms and hands were various shades of red and black and blue and purple; his circulation was struggling. He was restless, uncomfortable and the morphine was the only thing that assured me he wasn’t in a lot of pain. His face looked like he had aged 20 years in the last five days. I’m sure he could hear us as we sat around the bed talking about the weather, the Mets, our kids. As he moved around in his drug induced sleep, I wondered what he was thinking, or if he was just dreaming.

At one point, he bolted upright, opened his eyes, and waved at us. Surprised, we waved back.

We left the hospital at 12:30. Soon after I got home my phone rang. My uncle had died. It must have happened shortly after we left. I was immediately glad I took that time to go see him. In the few short days he was in the hospital, most of the family got to say goodbye to him. He was a much loved man.

I lived with my aunt and uncle for about seven years before we bought this house. They lived upstairs, the kids and I downstairs. My uncle was a very animated, vocal kind of guy. When he would watch a Jets or Mets games, I could hear him yelling at the television. I always knew what was going on in the games by which curses he was shouting out. I didn’t even have to watch the game. Just by his voice, which carried down the stairs, I knew if the Jets fumbled the ball, if the Mets made another error. He was a man who loved life, who had a great sense of humor and was always fun to be around, but there were things he took very seriously; football, baseball and cards. He was the most competitive card player I ever knew, even in the nickel/dime games of May I we played, he was hell bent on winning. We were constantly amused by his reactions when someone made a bad play that messed up the hand.

He loved to cook, and was known for the Polish kielbasa and sauerkraut he brought to every family function, for his amazing apple pies. When we had dinner for my birthday last month, he made a cake that had mayonnaise as a main ingredient. I tasted it with trepidation, but it was incredible. We ate the whole thing.

When we were young, their house was that one house where all the kids hung out. They had five kids. At any given time there were about five friends of each kid over there, listening to music, lounging in the backyard, sleeping on the living room couch.

They moved to Florida when I was 12. I remember the day they left, how he cried as he was getting ready to go. And I remember the day they moved back to Long Island, how he cried with joy to be back with all of us. And we were so happy to have our uncle back.

I have so many good memories of times I shared with him while we lived together. Putting up Christmas lights, putting in new bird feeders even though my aunt hated birds, planting flowers every spring, the way he got so excited over the kids’ baseball games, the card games, sitting on the porch, cousins, aunts and uncles all around us, feeling lucky that we have such a close family. More recently, seeing the joy listening to him tell Todd stories about about being a minesweeper in WW2.

He was a wonderful, loving uncle, husband, father and grandfather. I can not tell you how much we will all miss him, how Todd will miss listening to his stories about about being a minesweeper in WW2, how my kids will miss his presence at family dinners, how everyone will miss his presence during May I games, how much I will miss the sight of him rolling across the street in his motorized wheelchair to join us for dinner at my parent’s house, how my nephews will miss getting rides in that wheelchair, how all his grandnephews will miss him coming to their games, how we will miss his apple pies, how my aunt will miss his companionship, how much I will miss his complaining about the Mets.

I’m so glad I took that time to go see him yesterday. That memory of him as an old, beaten man lying in that bed won’t last as long as all the other, wonderful memories I have of him.

I’ll miss you, unc.

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Lileks writes, in part: I don’t know if anyone’s stated the obvious yet, but this might be the first time people have become unhinged in advance over a vice-presidential candidate.

And finishes it with: I have to confess: I think Palin is an interesting politician, but the people she’s driving batty are much more fascinating.

I had composed – in my head, where I compose all my amazing, fabulous blog posts – at 3am a post on why this election cycle has become even more vitriolic than the last. But, as with all things composed on a mental notepad in the middle of the night, the thoughts had faded by morning into something like “We be crazy.”

Thanks to Lileks, I was reminded of just what I was thinking as the stupid crickets kept me awake.

A friend who leans to the left wrote me yesterday: How did we get so polarized? Polls show the fast majority of Americans are solidly in the middle, a little to the left on some issues, a little to the right on others.

The answer, in a word: Internet. It has shaped politics into a new form, something misshapen and ugly, for the most part. While there are many good things that have come out of the Internet as far as politics go – grassroots movements, large scale campaigning, more awareness – there are terrible things that have come of it also.

Everyone has an opinion and now the masses are able to get those opinions heard within seconds of forming them. For every blog that gets one hit a day and is basically ignored, there is a political blog with a mass audience. For every blog that’s dismissed as being too “out there” there is a blog that’s taken seriously by readers and politicians alike. That’s made it much easier to spread rumors, tell lies, exaggerate the truth and to get the readers riled up to the point of delirium. Then each of those readers goes to their own blog and retells the rumors, lies and exaggerations.

Then the side that is the subject of the rumors and lies will attempt to debunk all of it and there is this back and forth, a tennis match of name calling that not even John McEnroe would want a part of.

Of course, the smart people can dismiss all of this. They can see the forest for the trees, they can discern truth from fiction, they can turn off their computers and form their own opinions without the hyperbole coming from all sides.

Unfortunately, the mass of people do not do this. Read the comment section on any politics heavy blog. What you’ll see is a few dozen people saying the same things over and over again. They read what they want to read, see what they want to see, and your words will mean nothing to them. No matter how many times you say “No, this is what I was saying,” someone will completely ignore that and go on blustering, oblivious to the conversation going on around him. Rule of thumb: when someone leaves a comment longer than the blog post itself, don’t bother reading it.

So what is the difference between 2004 and now? Who in the world would have thought that this campaign would be meaner and more obnoxious than the last? The vitriol that was thrown out in the blog world – and let’s not let the mainstream media off the hook here – was ugly, harsh and loud (guilty as charged). But there was a clear subject matter involved: war. It was the election of “with us or against us.” It was clear cut, lines drawn, take no prisoners. You were either a terrorist appeaser or a bloodthirsty war mongerer. There was very little in between. In the world of the Internet, there were few other issues talked about. It made for an unruly game of tug-of-war, and whichever side had the better insults won that day’s battle.

Could you see this happening at any other time? Yes, the 60’s were like that, to an extent. And while masses of anti-war protesters were able to gather in large numbers and get their voices heard, they were lacking in the ability to mobilize in minutes, like we can do now. As soon as the a rumor leaves someone’s keyboard, it’s a very short time frame before the words appeare on blogs, on Facebook, in emails forwarded a thousand times over.

And for every time you say “That list of banned books is false,” there is someone else picking up the story and running with it as if it were verified truth. Because they read it on a blog, and that blog has thousands of readers, so it has to be true, right? Or do they just want it to be true? Three weeks after the fact, I’m still seeing stories that have debunked pop up again and again.

That’s what makes this election louder than the last. That’s what makes it meaner and dirtier. More people are reading and writing blogs than four years ago. More people are connected. More people are looking for a side to take and for someone to gang up on, because they need to belong.

The Bush presidency has lost a lot of followers since 2004. A lot of Democrats have lost faith in their party since 2004. So you would think this election would be more middle ground, less yelling and screaming and name calling? Right? Not quite.

Back to what Lileks said. Palin has completely unhinged some people. What some people who weren’t in the thick of things, as far as the Internet goes in 2004 will say is “Who pays attention to those people, anyhow?” These days, everyone. Believe it or not, they are taken seriously. You can find bloggers everywhere, being interviewed and given air time or print time in all your favorite newspapers, on all your favorite news channels. They are no longer the fringe. They are the voice of the people, and their words are given significant weight. So when I say “such and such blog is promoting this rumor,” don’t dismiss it as nothing. It’s something.

I have tried very hard to not become what I was in 2004; a raving, ranting player in the game of the unhinged. I have tried to stay somewhat in the middle, I have tried to find an even ground and give each side the benefit of the doubt.

But when I see things like this and this, I feel the old familiar need to seethe start to kick in. And even though I have my differences with Palin, I feel the need to rush to her defense. Never before have I seen a candidate – a vice presidential candidate – smeared and run through the mud to such an extent. It’s unnerving, it’s disturbing and yea, it’s fascinating. Train wreck fascinating.

I know that people who disagree with me will email or come in here and say “But the Republicans… But McCain….But the conservatives….” and that’s all well and good. But I’m not here to compare. I’m not writing this to do a side-by-side chart of which side spreads the most outlandish lies. I’m simply writing about my distaste for this whole campaign, and for the ugly campaign launched against Palin.

See, that’s the good thing about the Internet. I can have a thought, write it down, hit publish, and it’s out there for anyone in the world to read.

And that’s the bad thing about the Internet, too.

(This is part I, part II tomorrow)

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This is not so much about politics as it is about professionalism, integrity and blatant dishonesty.

What has become of journalistic integrity? As if it wasn’t already on its way to a slow death, its demise has been shoved forward a few steps thanks to the Atlantic and photographer Jill Greenberg.

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where did i go wrong?

where did i go wrong?

my daughter’s new plates.

she’s a…..hippie.

well, at least she has the good sense not to be a mets fan.

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Jim Treacher reminds me why I fell in love with him (in a blog kind of way) all those years ago.

Read everything from the past week while you’re there.

And then go watch this over at Ace.

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