Writing. For me writing serves as a form of therapy to a degree. Writing allows me to take some thoughts that have been clanging around in my head like a pinball in a pinball machine being played by Tommy, it just keeps going and going never able to pass the flippers at the bottom of the machine (for those either too young or too old or my sister Elaine, that is a reference to the rock opera "TOMMY" recorded by The Who and in particular a song named "Pinball Wizard"). Usually if I have a thought such as that, if I write it down it clears from my mind. Sometimes, however, I find my head with too many of these kind of thoughts bouncing around and into each other. This is one of those situations. Too many thoughts, to many ideas that when I sit to write, I can't decide on which topic to take on. So I sit and stare at the screen with my mind jumping all over the place and not writing anything even though it is obvious that I have a desperate need to write something.... anything.
Usually when I get into a situation like this I end up writing a long rant that hits on several issues and is totally unconnected from beginning to end and there is not one reader who can follow it all the way through. Even myself as a reader can't decipher it but I write it down and then decide whether to post it or not followed by forgetting all about it. Hopefully after this excersize my head will clear out a bit. Let's see where this takes us and I say "us" because this will be a journey through a messed up mind for all of us.
I trimmed my beard last night. Trivial though that might seem it is a major accomplishment for me. I have been sporting a beard for several years now. While everyone else was going through the mustache era followed by the goatee era I had a beard. There is a reason for this. Actually there are two reasons. The first reason is that I am lazy when it comes to personal grooming. Well, I do take a daily shower and try to wear clean clothes and be presentable, but haircuts and shaving do not interest me at all. I have several ball caps at the ready to cover my unruly and balding head. A few Mizzou caps, a couple of Alabama caps, along with some Dit-MCO caps and others that have been picked up here and there. My hair has a natural wave to it. It isn't curly but at the right length the wave grows to be a flip before turning inward once again. Personally I think it looks pretty good when I put on a cap and these curls slip out from under the cap on the sides. Others don't agree with me though and I usually give in to the request to cut my hair eventually. Once the hair is cut, I find it rather refreshing. I tell myself that I am going to keep it cut but then the time comes for when it should be cut, I just don't seem to want to make the time to have it done. Before long those curls are peeking out from the under the caps once again. It is the same story with the beard. I first grew the beard because I didn't want to shave every morning before heading out to the office. After a while though it would grow wild and unruly and become uncomfortable. When my coworkers started referring to me as "mountain man" it wasn't because I was rugged, it was because my beard looked like Ted Kaczynski when they arrested him in a cabin in the woods of rural Montana. Sure, Kaczynski was a freaking genius, but that wasn't what my cohorts were referring to. One day someone asked me why I kept the beard and so the excuse came to light in my brain. I was not going to shave until Russell retires and that was the position I took for not shaving it. This was the second reason for growing the beard and it seemed to be an acceptable reason to the work crowd. They knew that although Russell and I had to work fairly closely together, we did not agree on many things and sometimes tempers would flair. It would be several years before Russell would retire and I kept the beard all the while. During this time of waiting on the retirement, Russell and I began to understand each other and actually worked pretty well together, but I stuck firmly to the precipice of not shaving until he retired. As the days went on and the beard stayed, Russell's retirement began to loom on the horizon. It was getting closer and closer and then, what appeared to be suddenly to me, Russell retired and went away. That night, with trembling hands and shortness of breath I shaved the beard that had, in a way, began to define part of who I was, much as my spectacles do. I don't look like "Bill" without my glasses and I didn't look like "Bill" without a beard. And so when I awoke the next morning without hair upon my chin, I began to grow the beard again and have had it since the day after Russell retired. Now it grows long but just long enough to be uncomfortable but not long enough to be a mountain man before I trim it down again. I think I am going to go to my grave with a beard, unless someone decides to have it shaved before I am buried. That won't bother me though. I won't know if it is shaved or not because, well let's face it, I'll be dead. It also doesn't bother me because even after I am dead, I hear that it will grow back or seem to at any rate. Either way, I won't be aware of it so they can shave it or not. Does not matter to me.
Yogi Berra passed away this week. I know that all of us will die at sometime and that no one is immune from it, but hearing of the passing of Yogi made me sad. He was 90 years old so it wasn't like a John Lennon death that came out of nowhere, as a matter of fact his death wasn't even that surprising. I thought that it was to be expected to receive that news at his age. The thing about Yogi was that he personified baseball and America as a whole. He loved what he did and wanted to share it with the world. He developed his own language of sorts that became known as "Yogi-ism". The language often did not make any sense at all but everyone that heard it understood it. He was a very good ball player. Not a great ball player, at least compared to who his team mates were for most of his career. Good enough to be a legitimate Hall of Famer though. Yes, he was good at baseball. He was a catcher for the Yankees and quite a good one at that and he was pretty well versed in how to use a bat at the plate. But his glove and his bat was not what made Yogi special. What made Yogi special was, simply put, that he was Yogi. It is hard to explain why that was so special in and of itself if you didn't grow up during his years of playing or managing. Yogi was Yogi. He was always himself and never put up a front it didn't seem. You never knew when one of his Yogi-isms would come out during an interview. Yogi was why baseball was America's pastime. Yogi exemplified how to be proud to be an American, no matter what your heritage was or no matter where your family came from. It really is hard to explain, but losing Yogi Berra is huge and when you ask why the only answer seems to be "well, Yogi was Yogi."
Speaking of baseball, how in the world can my beloved Chicago Cubs win 90 ball games and still be in third place in their division???? That's the way it looks like it will end up as. The National League Central Division will have three teams with 90 wins or more. You have St. Louis. These guys have been playing out of their minds the whole season. They should get around 104 maybe 105 wins this year. In second place, and I am still not sure how the Pirates did it, but Pittsburgh will wind up right at the 100 win mark, maybe a couple of wins under or over that and the Cubs, my dear dear Cubs, I see as winning 93 or 94 games this year and finishing in third place. At best, they could wind up playing that one game playoff to get into the real post season. It just isn't right. This is the kind of thing that could only happen to the Chicago Cubs. All I can do is shake my head and sigh. I do that every time I look at the standings for the National League Central. Just a deep sigh released from way down deep inside me somewhere.
On a more positive note, my Kansas City Royals became the first team this year to clinch their division last night. It has been 30 years since my Royals have won a division title and it was 30 years ago that they won their only World Championship. Back in 1985 the Royals played cross state rivals St. Louis Cardinals that saw the Royals make a miraculous comeback in game 6 to tie the Series at 3 games a piece and then destroyed the Cardinals in game 7 that year. Remember what I wrote about the Cardinals in the preceding paragraph? There is a very good chance that 30 years after the Royals put the Cardinals down, the two teams very possibly could meet in the Series once again. If it isn't the Cubs and the Royals in the Series then I want to see the Cardinals and the Royals playing in the Fall Classic. Every year I begin the season looking forward to the Royals playing the Cubs in the Series and every year my cousins in St. Louis giggle at me. It is possible my fantasy could come true this year. Either way, whether it be the Cardinals or the Cubs against the Royals, I would be a happy baseball fan.
Next month my classmates who I graduated with way back in 1975 will get together to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that achievement. Forty years. Not all of us have made it through life long enough to see this mark in our personal histories. Several have sadly died. The first one that I remember finding out that he had died was Hugh Tigner. Hugh was a friend, as was his little brother Marvin. There was only a years difference between the two and they were so different physically. Hugh was tall, about 6-2 or 6-3 and was stocky. Not plump stocky, but muscular stocky. He played football and basketball for Ruskin. Hugh was smart and he was a very easy going young man. Marvin, on the other hand stood about 5-9 and maybe on a day after a big BBQ he might weigh in at 110 pounds or so. While Hugh was smart. Marvin was brilliant. Knowing and interacting with these two friends made it clear that their parents had done a very good job of raising them. They were very nice, very honest, very easy going and always had time to listen. Like so many of my other classmates, I lost contact with Hugh and Marvin after leaving school. I had my career starting and was married the following fall after graduation and so I let that part of my life slip away from me for the most part. One Saturday, the wife and I were out shopping and to my delight ran into Marvin in one of the stores. He had that same smile and shook my hand and we started catching up a little. I asked him how Hugh was doing and Marvin's face dropped. His eyelids drooped a little and his smile fell into a somber line as his lips locked together. He said "You didn't hear? Hugh died in a car wreck last year" and Marvin tilted his head a bit as he looked deep into my eyes to make sure I understood. Hugh was gone and I did not have a clue that it had happened. I apologized to Marvin and told him how sorry I was that Hugh was gone. I told him what a great person I thought Hugh was and he nodded his head silently, still locking his eyes with mine. He told me it was okay. He said that yes, he knew Hugh was a good person and that his big brother was the main person he had looked up to his whole life. We talked a bit more before we parted going our separate ways. I never saw Marvin again after that but there are times when that moment in my life does revisit me. It was the kind of moment that you don't forget, when you realize that at anytime, anywhere anything could happen, even to one as young as Hugh was. There are other classmates that I have learned that have passed on, some that I felt fairly close to, but none of it hit me like the news that Marvin gave me on that day.
You know, I think I will close this entry on that note. It seems fitting. I do hope that when my classmates get together next month that they take just a moment to remember those that are not there because life did not allow them to be.