Category: Uncategorized

My Father’s Day With Mr. Tiger

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It was June 19, 1966. Father’s Day. We lived in Queens. That’s where the shiny new Shea Stadium was. It’s where the New York Mets played. Oh, the Met’s were OK, but we were Yankee fans. Shea Stadium was a 15-minute drive from our house. Yankee Stadium was a schlep at least three times that length of time. But it was Father’s Day and my father wanted to go to the game. You see the Tigers were in town. He wanted to see Mr. Tiger–Al Kaline.

We’d seen him before–in 1961. In that game Roger Maris hit two of his 61 homers. The Tigers lost. But my father kept telling me to watch right field when the Yankees were up. Mr. Al Kaline was playing there for the Tigers. I was 9 years old. Never heard of him. But before the game was over, I’d heard plenty. My father went on and on about how graceful Kaline was in the field, and man, what a great hitter.

So here it was, five years later and Mr. Tiger was in town again. For Father’s Day at Yankee Stadium it was also Bat Day. They gave out real bats back then. It was before the renovation that downsized the capacity at the stadium, so there were 72,000 of us in the sold out house banging our bats on the concrete decks shakin’ the place. I still have the program. Yeah…I wrote all over it.

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Poor Mickey Mantle was on his last legs back then. He hit one in the monuments in deep right center. Al Kaline, playing center that day, ran like hell to catch up with it but the monuments were in play and despite his grace, you can’t win against slabs of stone on the field of play. Still, he grabbed the horsehide as quickly as he could and fired it in. The combination of Kaline’s quick actions and Mantle’s lame knees held him to a triple. My father noted this and noted if Mantle was younger he would have had an inside the park homer, but then thought about it and added, “if the monuments weren’t there, Kaline might have thrown ’em out.”

Al didn’t have the best of days at the plate, however. You can see by my amateurish attempt to keep score. Hard to see. Kaline batted cleanup. He was 1-4, hitting into a double play, popping out twice (that’s what the PO’s mean. I was a kid) and salvaged a double at the end of the game. But the Tigers won on the back of Dick McAuliffe’s bat. The third bagger hit two homers.

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It’s OK. It was a great day at the House That Ruth Built. A ballgame with dad on Father’s Day, a free Bobby Richardson bat and a chance for my father to pay tribute to the guy on the opposing team he’d admired for years.

I had to ask him, though..

“I thought you were a Yankee fan” I said.

“I’m a baseball fan,” he answered. “And Al Kaline is a great baseball player.

RIP Mr. Tiger.

Coronavirus is Bad Enough–Don’t Let Cabin Fever Shut You Down

cabinfeverNo. I don’t have cabin fever. Thank goodness I don’t have any fever and neither do any of my immediate family members….now. One did a week or so ago. That’s done. Again. Very thankful. But cabin fever? Not at all. You shouldn’t have it either, or at least submit to it.

Think about what cabin fever really is. You’re tired of being stuck in the house and can’t go out because of some condition. Unless you’re sick, you shouldn’t have it and I hope you’re not.

You don’t need to succumb to cabin fever because if you’re not sick, there’s no excuse for staying in. You can go outside. Take a walk, take a ride, hop on your bike if you have one..or a boat of some sort. I have a kayak. It’s easy to be socially distant when you’re in the middle of a lake. I doubt I’d be in danger of infecting, or being infected by, a bluegill. Those are all safe things to do if you don’t do them in groups where people are close to each other.

lindenWe’ve started discovering and re-discovering parts of our state by taking rides from 1-3 hours buzzing through localities, cities and towns, sometimes getting out to walk a little if it’s not too crowded. Just yesterday we visited the tiny town of Linden, Mich. Seen it on the map but never in person. On our way into town we happened on a great little loop of a trail at park overlooking a lake. There were  a few people walking, maybe half a dozen. But the trail was long enough for us to space ourselves sufficiently.

In downtown Linden, such as it was, we were able to pull into a small lot close enough to see the water from the Shiawassee River flow over a little dam without getting out of the car.  lindendam

From there we headed east to Fenton. It’s larger than Linden with new restaurants and stores, and it also featured a small park and walkway with a view of Shiawassee River water flowing over a small dam, creating as much of a waterfall as we needed to justify a quick photo and this little video.

It was a little more popular than we thought comfortable so we found refuge in the car and began the 45 minute ride home, going through the historic burg of Holly and assorted scenic rural townships. Holly is best known for the Holly Hotel located in Battle Alley. According to legend, the hotel is haunted and that lore has many firm believers to this day.

HollyHotelProhibitionist Carrie Nation also called Holly home for about six years to wail on the evils of alcohol.

battlealleyantiquesWe visit Holly about once a year even during the best of times. We especially enjoy the Battle Alley antique arcade which is in a rambling old house with wonderful creaking wood floors, three levels of any kind of old stuff you either need, don’t need or just want. Oh, you can always count on a plate of fresh cookies sitting on a shelf along the main, cobblestone aisle..there for the grabbing. The windmill cookies are especially tasty.

We’ve done the route between Holly and home many times before only now we took closer notice since the ride wasn’t the route to an activity, but our activity. 

As you can see, or not see, I haven’t provided any photos of my own except for the Fenton dam. That’s because I was driving most of the time and snapping photos while driving with my knees would probably be more dangerous than the virus. You would think this predicament might spark faster development of autonomous cars. But the real deal is I just wanted to enjoy the ride and sights and talk about them with my family,  taking notice of places we might want to return when it’s safer to get out of the car and explore more thoroughly.

It doesn’t really matter how far you go. A little ride to some place that’s not your driveway or parking space is just the mental break you need to try to maintain some sort of sanity. Besides, gas is cheap right now. Go ahead…filler ‘er up, hit the road, and give your brain a little something more to chew on than a TV or computer screen. Yes..get out of your cabin…and break the fever.

The New “Have a Nice Day”

BATMANNICEDAY“Take it easy!,” “Take Care!,” “Take it Light!,” “Be Well!,” “Rock On!” We love to kind of wish people well at the end of a communication while at the same ordering them to do so. Sometimes people add these little phrases of mandatory good wishes about our health and general well being because they just nice, sincere people. Others just can’t think of more creative ways to end it. I guess it’s better than just stopping short, or writing, “shit, I’m outta bullets…later!”

Earlier today, just passing the time to socially distance myself from doing actual work, I watched an old George Carlin bit on the Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. During his short set Carlin ruminated about people telling him to “have a nice day!” It kind of pissed him off in only the way it could to Carlin. He suggested that perhaps he’d had enough nice days and would be selfish to have any more. Y’know..to leave some nice days for other people.

It got me thinking….

During this awful time we’re in right now almost every communication I’ve received–emails, texts, actual conversations–has ended with “stay safe!” No one bid me to have a nice day, or to take it easy or light or on the chin. One good person wished good health to me and my family…but couldn’t stop there. So..so hard to resist. Yes…the whole thing read, “Health to you and your family my friend……and STAY SAFE!” 

It’s actually an appreciated imperative because, I have to admit, I get careless at times and touch my face or forget to wash my hands as thoroughly as I should, or get tempted to sneeze on the person in the produce section of the supermarket who decided it would be a good thing to squeeze every freaking cantaloupe leaving his viral detritus for the rest of us to host…then die..or at least feel really crappy.

Of course, being a native neurotic New Yorker, 55 years removed from my Bar Mitzvah, I must, must think of the down side. Hmm..that well-meaning person bid me to stay safe. What if I wasn’t safe in the first place? That would make the whole thing irrelevant, or at least presumptuous. Should the proper order of safety admonition be, “Get safe!” then the next time you communicate with the person, you give him or her the benefit of the doubt that they did so, then offer some support with “Stay safe!” 

What if the person you choose to help survive the pandemic is a safety scofflaw? Ending things with “stay safe!” is a waste of effort since you know they’re gonna blow you off and act like a contagious schmuck. But realistically, you can’t get into a whole give-and-take about whether the person is, or wants to be, safe since you’re just trying to end the damn email so you can move on to binging Ozark.

Still, I like that we’re at least showing concern for our fellow human beings as we all try to avoid being infected with, or spreading, coronavirus.

Well..that’s all I have to say on subject, for now. Can’t think of a snappy ending. So..um…”Get Safe, Stay there… and then HAVE A NICE DAY!”

The Coronavirus Kick in the Ass

man in yellow protective suit holding a newspaper

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It may not seem so right now, but on the other side of this pandemic some things will have changed that perhaps should have happened long ago. I conveniently created a short list:

1-The necessity of “going to the office” has been severely challenged. I’ve always looked at offices as petri dishes of cultural bacteria, fomenting time-wasting meetings, gossip, jealousies, clock-watching and commutes that contribute to harmful emissions, wasteful and costly fuel consumption and misuse of valuable time.

Oh sure, there’s the notion of team camaraderie and collaboration, but that can be accomplished much more efficiently and conveniently without forcing employees to spend their days tied to an assigned workspace where they’re sitting ducks for all manner of productivity-sucking distractions. Scheduling regular in-person meet-ups may be sufficient to satisfy the need for a little person-to-person contact and relationship/team building. Working remotely doesn’t mean permanent exile!

Telecommuting isn’t new, of course, however, many companies offer this option as a favor or reward to precious few employees. The fact is, given today’s technology, you can perform almost any task, conduct meetings that include graphics and video and collaborate on projects from any place on Earth with decent web or mobile connectivity.

Now that so many office workers have been forced to do their jobs remotely, a lot of them are finding they’re more productive, less stressed, can manage their time better, saving money on gas and are enjoying a better quality of life. I’m betting that once this crisis is over, bosses should be ready to field a ton of requests to keep working from home, or Starbucks at least most of the time, and it’s about time more office inmates had that option.

Of course…some folks love going to the office to either get away from the house for awhile or just to be with other adults or for the free coffee or whatever. That’s great if it works for you. Here’s hoping businesses that did not previously offer the option of telecommuting will see positive outcomes during this time and make it more available to appreciative employees.

2-Car dealers that rely so much on showroom foot traffic have been forced to rethink its importance as we practice social distancing to help kill off the spread of coronavirus. Who doesn’t dread spending 2,3,4 hours at a dealership from the time you choose your new ride to sitting at the sales person’s little desk, haggling over the price, then pivoting to the finance person’s star chamber where they try to foist extended warrantees, safety and security plans or a dizzying number of finance options. My wife and I excel at this process. We walk in and tell the person, “we’ll make it easy on you. No to everything.” The last guy we did that too just sagged his shoulders while he surrendered saying, “it’s just not gonna be my day.” That was some time into our third or fourth hour.

But now dealers have learned that online vehicle marketplaces are catering to exactly what many consumers want. Do it all online, quickly. To deal with the need to socially distance, a lot of brick and mortar dealers are offering home or office vehicle deliveries, online document signing and even virtual test drives where a “concierge” will give you a tour of the vehicle via Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WebEx, etc. My friends at DriveShift.comwill even have the concierge start the engine so the customer can give it a listen. It’s true, nothing beats a physical test drive and the chance to literally kick the tires, but for some customers, expediency carries the day.

Yes, many dealers have had a long time online presence but not all have made it possible to complete the entire process without a showroom visit. As George Augustaitis, one of my trusted sources of prescient auto industry analysis at CarGurus.com told me the other day for my Forbes.com story, “To me, dealers should be thinking about relationship building, where if you’re online and you have a staff that can answer emails, text messages. I think a lot of this is about producing content. People can watch at home, answering questions online. When people feel like they’re ready to buy their car they’re going to reflect upon the fact that over these many weeks the dealer is always answering my questions, sending me videos, doing these things so I can do my research.”

So that’s just one example. The pandemic has spurred scores of other businesses that have never been involved in e-commerce to jump in and are offering the convenience of remote ordering and delivery which are especially helpful for shut-ins, disabled folks and others who are just really busy or don’t have personal transportation.

3-The whole concept of “social distancing” is one we should have been practicing to some extent anyway. Giving others some space–enough space so whatever nasty stuff is in your cough or sneeze is deprived a landing pad on someone else’s epidermis, is not only smart, but considerate. Honestly, I hate it when I’m in line at the supermarket checkout and the person behind me insists on getting close enough to read the fine print on the booze bottles in my cart to the point where they comment, “Oh yeah..Makers Mark..love the stuff. Just had it for breakfast!” Back off! That’s my lunch you’re talking about..achoo! Got ya.

4-Much of the world has given up on using cash for even the smallest transactions and because of the danger of touching bills that may have been handled by hundreds or thousands of others, the use of credit and debit cards for in-person purchases has increased. That way, you’re the only one who has to handle your method of payment. For those of us codgers who still carry folding money and change, that’s something going into the memory bank as we make the transition. I was dragging my feet. The virus helped me pick up the pace. Perhaps it will do the same for the more of us who still like the feel of cold cash but not the bacterial loot it harbors.

5-This final one is probably the most important. I see more concern between human beings about each other’s welfare. Not just friends and family, but co-workers, acquaintances, even those with whom you have casual contact asking how we’re feeling, and parting with the words, “be safe,” or “stay safe.” I see a degree of unselfishness that’s so heartening. If you browse posts on the Nextdoor app, you will see quite a number of posts where folks volunteer to go to the store, do a little yard work or perform other errands and services for those in tough spots…for free, in many cases. We’ve gotta keep this going even after the worst is over.

So those are just a very few examples of how this terrible time we’re in right now has kickstarted some positive actions and behaviors that should have been in wider practice all along. I bet you can think of others. I’d love to hear about them. 

Why You May Never Want To Return To The Office

eddesk0321It’s been almost four years since I walked out of my last full-time job a free man into what’s become semi-retirement and a life of doing what little work I do, in my home office.

I want to warn many of you who are now working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic…you may not want to return to your offices.

Before I retired in 2016 I worked from my own glass-enclosed, private office. I didn’t like it, but in the idiotic way some corporations operate, your workspace reflected your “band level” AKA, if you’re standing in the payroll/title hierarchy. When I got promoted to a level that “awarded” you an enclosed office, I asked to remain in my spacious, but open, workspace because such perks seemed stupid and also cut me off from my team. I asked if I had committed a felony, warranting my confinement to a 12×12 cell. HR said if I didn’t move it would “send the wrong message.” Company politics being what it is, several people were actually jealous of me and said nasty stuff about me, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I spent my final three years before retirement in that office and hated every minute of it. So I would constantly get up, walk around, touch base in person with my teammates. When another glass office denizen would pop by congratulating me on “finally getting the glass office you deserve,” I thanked them and expressed my anticipation of one day being paroled, which in all their shallowness, they did not understand at all.

Now that I’ve been working from home in my very comfortable workspace..I don’t call it an office..I get more done in a day than what I accomplished in my old office in a week. For one, there are none of the dreaded “got a minute” drop-bys. You know how that goes. “Got a minute,” really means I’m bored and I’d like to waste as much of your time as possible to avoid going back to my desk and doing actual work. Many minutes later your plan for the day is blown so you may as well get up, get some coffee, take a walk, or retreat into a zen state in order to purge yourself of thoughts of committing that felony.

One day, in answer to “got a minute?” I replied that I didn’t. No problem. The annoying inquirer had his rejoinder locked and loaded. “Oh..it’ll take less than that!” Bullshit. Sigh.

Other aspects of the office life I don’t miss are random comments you can’t unhear even  with a closed door. Examples include: “This fuckin’ printer doesn’t work!,” “This coffee tastes like burnt jerky!” “Bob sucks!” “Just like you,” “The boss has his head up his ass,” “I wish 5 o’clock came at noon.”

Then there are the endless meeting invites. When you work remotely, you can call in, put your phone on mute, do other, more productive, things while someone blathers and then chime in when appropriate or called upon. You can also make faces as an immature, but satisfying demonstration of your opinion of the proceedings.

I do enjoy popping into the office about once a week for an hour or two at one of my fun freelance gigs. Great people who are fun, smart and talented. We see enough of each other to cement our bonds, I appreciate the chance to get to know the staff on a more personal level and they quickly understand I have what I would describe as a “very limited” wardrobe with some items probably older than many of my colleagues. 

Then I hit the freeway for the 25 mile drive home, and retreat to my cozy, personal workspace where the only ambient conversations I may hear are “Dinner’s burning!” or “The Jones’s schnauzer shit on our lawn again!” It’s so suburban. So natural. Then I get back to work, unimpeded, un-interrupted until my wife ventures down to my subterranean refuge, stops at the door and asks, “got a minute?”

Parsing the Pandemic

Like billions of people around the world my family and I are trying our best to get through the coronavirus crisis, elbow-bumpin’, hand washin’, sanitizin’ and choking back sneezin’ so as not to get it or spread it.

Of course, this is a serious situation but I always find letting my mind wander a bit helps me cope with tough times, so here goes.

CORONAVIRUS_STOCKING_UP_CALG6K64Let me start with something that started with guilt and quickly morphed into a sick moment of entrepreneurial thought. Without getting too clinical, yeah, I was about to use a roll of Charmin the way it’s meant to be used. But as I tore off a few squares I suddenly felt guilty of using what’s become more or less contraband. Fear of long-term quarantine has people scooping up every roll of TP as if two-weeks at home means constant crapping.

Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 9.56.14 AMSpeaking of which, check out this listing on eBay hawking the stuff at 8 bucks…a roll! Some of the comments didn’t hold back on the human sphincter behind the listing.

Screen Shot 2020-03-14 at 9.56.59 AMMoving on..thankfully, I had a scary vision regarding all sports shutting down. We had planned to eat dinner at a popular sports bar. One with dozens of screens all around so you could normally watch hockey, basketball, baseball, golf, soccer, NASCAR, goat roping, ring toss or amateur cherry pit spitting…. all at the same time!  sportsbarWith none of those sports, except maybe the pit spitting, off the grid for now, I started shivering in fear I would look up at the walls to see repeats of “The View” and the “Murphy Brown” reboot on every screen. Thankfully, the screens were thoughtfully populated with ESPN sports casts, reruns of key sporting events, and yeah, I think one did have the live broadcast of cherry pit spitting…until one competitor breathed in at an inopportune time and shot the pit into his gullet and had to be given the Heimlich Maneuver. It was fairly exciting and actually have bereft sports bettors something to wager on. His survival was the “under.”

frittataMy wife reported to me that eggs were in short supply at the grocery store. Really? It’s not like bread or flour or canned goods. You can’t really stockpile eggs for long. Are people mass-cooking frittatas and freezing them? I dunno. Sounds like a rotten idea.

I know a lot of companies are having their folks work from home. Since I’m semi-retired and mostly freelance I work from home about 99% of the time. If I get sick I figure it’s because I didn’t clean my microwave often enough and whatever’s growing in there is more contagious than “Old Town Road,” but only half as infectious.

Yes, we must be very vigilant to take care we do our parts to stay healthy and considerate during this pandemic. But I don’t let it get me down. In the wise words of Wavy Gravy during Woodstock, “there’s always a bit of heaven in a disaster area.” And probably toilet paper too. 

Stay safe and healthy!

One Last Visit to Art Van

artvansale

Well…that was a shock the other day when the report blasted through my radio that the Art Van furniture store chain was going away…but not before a weeks-long liquidation sale.

If you’re not from around here or any of the other markets with Art Van stores, it’s not a big deal. But this is lousy for several reasons, the lousiest being 3,100 people are gonna lose their jobs. The distant second lousiest is it’s sad to lose another local brand and an organization that supported local causes including Detroit’s wonderful Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I got to thinking about why this happened. Of course brick and mortar retail has been taking hits for a long time as consumers decided they’d rather shop online or at discount stores. It’s why you see a number of shopping malls dying, downscaling or de-malling. Some retailers simply made bad decisions, either expanding too quickly, misread the market or couldn’t manage their finances.

Art Van was bought out by a private equity firm a couple of years ago after longtime family ownership. By all accounts that company was little more than a financial slumlord, leaving Art Van a future with no future.

The truth is, I always hated going to furniture stores. We did buy a couch from Art Van 10 years ago and haven’t been back. I haven’t been in any other furniture stores either, unless you include Ikea, which is like going to a hobby shop to buy a fun kit to construct, or a plate of Swedish meatballs with a cheap hot dog on the side.

The problem with your traditional furniture store is you’re either stalked from the moment you cross the threshold, browbeaten or ignored. Take for example the time we bought that couch a decade ago. My wife saw the one she wanted in an Art Van circular.  We went to the store, was immediately met by a guy who looked like he was having a very bad day and we told me we’d make his job easy. My wife showed him the circular, said, we’ll take that one. Easy sale, right? The guy would just have to write the order, we’d pay, set up delivery and go away. But no, our Willy Loman whined, “you only want the couch, not the whole grouping? It’s better when you buy the whole grouping.” It’s better for him, but it wasn’t what we wanted. We politely told him we’d just like the couch but if he couldn’t sell it to us by itself, we’d be happy to take a hike. “O…..K……..,” he sulked wrote up our order. What the hell! We were an easy sale but were made to feel like we were a couple of cheapskates or losers who couldn’t afford “the whole grouping.”

Then there was the time we just needed a room divider. One of those things that folds in three or four sections. We’re at Art Van again. This time we weren’t immediately attacked. We actually had to walk around the store and beg for help. We finally found a saleswoman who seemed friendly…until we told her what we needed. “Oh,” she said with a very disappointed look on her face. “Yes, I think we might have some. Let me look in the back.” Never saw her again. Room dividers cost less than 100 bucks and that apparently wasn’t worth her time.a

16997721_802087963263257_3720780266921991251_nArt Van also operated Pure Sleep stores. We went to our local Pure Sleep about a year ago to replace our bed. Easy, right? Not at Pure Sleep. The friendly salesman said we needed to “take the test.” Oh shit. He had my wife and I lay on a bed with a couple of monitors looming over us. The salesman gave us some mumbo jumbo about how sensors or something in the mattress could reveal how each of us sleep. I could have saved him the effort by responding, “generally soundly, when large TV monitors are now hovering overhead.” Anyway, he led us from mattress to mattress where we dutifully laid down and gave our impressions. We finally ended up at a newer version of the mattress we’d been happily using for more than a decade. That’s the one we bought. The whole process devoured almost two hours. We both needed a nap afterwards.

Finally, at another chain, my mother-in-law was looking for a small dresser. Small..because the room in her home built in the 1920’s…is small. The salesperson showed her one thing and that was too large. Think Smaller! She showed us another dresser….still too large. She just wasn’t getting it. When my mother-in-law said everything she was shown was just too big, instead of working a little harder to satisfy a prospective customer, the sales lady turned snotty, spitting out, “well why don’t you just buy a nightstand.”  Next stop…parking lot.

If we had these types of experiences, we couldn’t have been alone. I know there are hundreds of conscientious, hard working and caring sales people just trying to make a living, and they suffer when a few losers give their ilk a bad image. It all leaves a negative impression on customers who just want to find what they have in mind and be done with it. Believe me, I’d prefer to buy my furniture in a store where I can see the colors and feel the fabric or wood and sit in the chair to see if my short, stupid legs will reach the ground. You can’t do that buying on Wayfair.com. But when we bought a new kitchen set last spring, we did buy it online. It was smooth and easy and arrived when expected and no one whined at us, insulted us, or disappeared on us.

Well, we did decide to take one last walk around our local Art Van today to see if we could score a bargain on a living room table. Several hundred other bargain-hunters jammed the store, hovering over the liquidation sale offerings like vultures over carrion. We didn’t see anything we liked, although we did notice an odd piece there and there that were nice, but not necessary, so we kept walking. On our way towards the exit I saw a family test-sitting on a triple sofa and thought to myself, “Do the salesman one last favor… buy the whole grouping.”