31 May, 2009

North Country

I'm headed up to my dad's for five days of R and R. A blog entry is extremely unlikely, as (a) it's dial-up up there and (b) I'm shutting the world off...or at least turning it down.
Have a good week, everyone.

28 May, 2009

The Long Arm of the Law?

See, every now and again there appears a story that gives me gibberbrain.

Here's today's.

Briefly, Michael Mineo, 24, is suing the NYPD for $220 million after cops allegedly beat him and sodomized him with a baton in a subway station.

You can almost scratch the 'allegedly'...Mineo's DNA was found on the baton, and one of the cops faces charges of aggravated sexual abuse. Two others are charged with obstruction.

When I first heard mention of this on television, I joked to my wife that for $220 million, I'd pull my pants down and assist the police in their inquiries. She answered "yeah, but I don't think they offered him $220 million beforehand."
Then I researched it, because gibberbrain kept stuttering "ya g-g-gotta b-blog this!" Google's first link (and mine, above) is to the New York Post, which makes the Toronto Sun look staid. Despite their scandalous reputation, they tell this story straight. Beyond the actual incident--which, I really must say, isn't funny at all--the marginalia in the article left me speechless.

For instance, the third paragraph:

The claim is more than NYPD abuse victim Abner Louima asked for in his 2001 lawsuit.Louima demanded $155 million after cops brutalized him with a broom handle in a station house. He ultimately won $8.75 million.

This has happened before. Remind me, next time I'm in New York, not to piss off any cops...and if I do, to pack the K-Y.

So what did Mineo do to deserve this, you ask? Ask and the Post shall answer:

Mineo claims cops beat and sodomized him in the Prospect Park subway station last Oct. 15 after accusing him of smoking pot.

Jesus, overreact much?

If this is proven true, I'd like to see these cops sentenced to a week each in jail. In general population, no concessions. If they last the week they can go free.
They won't.

25 May, 2009

Hit list

If I had magical powers...

ONE PRODUCT I'D ELIMINATE:

Bottled water, in anything less than water-cooler-jug size.

Right off the bat, that'd make me mighty unpopular in these Tri-Cities: we consume more bottled water than any other area in Canada. One sip of our tap water will tell you why. But there are alternatives much more environmentally (and economically) friendly than those damned plastic bottles. I'm thinking Brita filters. Or water coolers.

ONE COMPANY I'D ELIMINATE:

Depends how selfish I'm feeling. On my do-the-world-a-favour days, it'd be Monsanto. On my do-myself-a-favour-days, it'd be a shady outfit called Universal Power. These guys come to my door at least every other week trying to sign me up for electricity at twice the rate I'm paying. No matter how many times they're rebuffed, they keep coming back. Sometimes they pretend they're from my legitimate energy supplier and ask to see my bill (at which point they'd get my account number and sign me over without my knowledge or consent.) If this practice isn't illegal, it should be.

ONE COMMERCIAL I'D ELIMINATE:

That effing Juicy Fruit jingle from my childhood's back, slightly cleaned up but as annoying as ever. The singsong used to go, in part,

take a sniff
pull it out
the taste is gonna move ya when ya pop it in your mouth...

...which is just sick, if you ask me.

Now...

it's a song
sing it loud
the taste is gonna move ya when ya pop it in your mouth...

The gum is a song? O....kay.

As usual with annoying commercials, this one's in heavy, heavy rotation. Personally, I think there oughta be a law: 100 showings of your commerical, that's it, you're done, back to the drawing board.

ONE TELEVISION SHOW I'D ELIMINATE:

Jon and Kate + 8.

Look, all so-called "reality" television nauseates me. This show is simply one I'm seizing on right now because it's in the news.

My parents had their family tree diagrammed out. It hung in our front hall for years. I distinctly remember different branches of that family producing parents with 12 and 14 children. Granted, never six at once, but still...I bet if you go back through your own family tree, you'll see this sort of thing was quite common only a century ago. Now, having eight kids makes you a celebrity. Not to mention every least whim those eight kids have is paid for at network expense.
Spare me.

ONE PHRASE I'D ELIMINATE:

"That's sick, man."

Ten years ago, if you wanted to say something was good, you said it was wicked. Now it's sick. I bet in another decade kids will be saying that's dead.

What's on your hit list?

22 May, 2009

The Name's Prufrock...

I am sooooo predictable.

Up in the morning at 5:13. Why the odd time? It gives me a minute to rouse myself enough to find the TV remote, switch on the television, and select channel 958 in time for 5:14, which is when 680 News recaps the top three things that dared to happen while I was asleep before launching into the sportscast at 5:15.
As soon as the sportscast is over, I roll out of bed, hop in the shower and set it to "parboil"...and then usually just stand there, bovine-like, for what always seems to be eleven minutes exactly. Then I'm out in time to catch the weather forecast and a little more in-depth reportage on those pesky news items while I get dressed. Then I'm downstairs for two cups of coffee (and I'm given to understand the unit of measure called a "cup" bears no resemblance whatsoever to an actual cup of coffee). And so on and so forth. I can even set my bowels by the freakin' clock.

My day proceeds as if on rails, and anything getting in the way of the routine is slightly (or not so slightly) resented. Oh, I don't have CDO...at least, I don't think I do.

(CDO...it's like OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order. As they SHOULD be.)

But what the hell is wrong with me?

I think it's just that I'm old before my time. I've been old since about age six, but it's getting ridiculous now. There is no hour too early at which to eat supper, for instance. I like having dinner out of the way by 5:00 or 5:30...more time to relax and let the food digest before bedtime. If circumstances force dinner at 6:30 or God forbid later, it's a sure bet I won't be having breakfast the next morning, on account of still being full.

Usually, this kind of thing doesn't bother me. As the sweet potato philosopher once expostulated, I yam who I yam. Sometimes, though, I wish I could inject some spontaneity into what I'm sure everyone around me thinks is boredom to the power of twiddledythumbs...but I don't know how. The best I seem to be capable of is to mix up the routine a bit--shuffling the deck chairs on the geriatric cruise ship. Shove something entirely new into life's equation and I'm apt to kack on the calculation.

That's when the rip in my mind surfaces...the child-rent. On one side of the tear, I'm happily adaptable, having learned very quickly under the tutelage of a squalling baby that the only constant in life is change. In that sense, I can understand what people mean when they say "children complete me". And I really do believe it could have turned out that way for me...kids would grant me a second chance at childhood, which I'd gladly take without trying to steal theirs.

On the other side, I never got over resenting the chaos and it turned me ugly. That's not something I like to contemplate for long, but if I'm honest with myself I have to admit it's just as likely to have turned out that way. My stomach churns every time I see a child misbehaving (which, given that I work where I do, is fairly often). I was nobody's perfect little angel when I was young, but the kind of tantrums I see today were nipped right in the bud thirty years ago, let me tell you. Those of us of a certain age can remember "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" That threat usually worked with me. I'd like to think it wasn't just because of the implied spanking, but also because what I was crying about wasn't really worth crying about. I'n not sure my reasoning was up to that level so young, but I wouldn't put it past myself.

Anyway, the old crotchety geezer in me does look back at growing up the seventies with a species of reverent nostalgia. Life was simpler then. Of course, life's always simpler for the child than it is for the adult. But life in general was simpler then, for everybody. The change curve was still fairly linear. These days change is almost beyond exponential, to the point where things I can't even imagine one month are commonplace a few months later. I think I've adopted my strict routine as a kind of defense against what I perceive to be revolutionary change in society.

I've heard all my life that change is good. All my life I've chafed against the implacable way people say that, and noticed the "good" change they go on and on about is, more often than not, change for change's sake alone. I'm not too keen on that. I'm of the firm opinion that if something ain't broke, why break it?

I sympathize with conservatives, because I can deeply understand their fear and distrust of change. I feel it myself, and often. It can be a hard thing to work through. But I like to think that in the working through, I grow a little.

But sometimes, oh, sometimes, I flash back to the poem I took every...single...year in high school, thanks to three moves and a curriculum change. I loved this poem more with each successive reading. Something in it resonated, and still does. An excerpt:

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot

17 May, 2009

Take Me Out To The...Shell Station?

That day did not go exactly as planned.
In related understatement news, a car with no transmission fluid doesn't travel very well.

So my friend Craig and I decided to attend the Jays-White Sox matinee today. He's a huge White Sox fan, there being no accounting for taste, and Roy Halladay was starting, and it was Alex Rios bobblehead day, and hey, I haven't seen the Jays live for something like twelve years. I was really looking forward to spending some time with Craig, and then rubbing in the Jays' inevitable victory all the way home.
Before we left, Eva gave me her cell phone "just in case." We hardly ever use the thing...in fact, it took some effort to find it.

JUST IN CASE

Things started out great. We got out of town in plenty of time to be two of the first ten thousand fans into the Rogers Center (can you say bobblehead, boys and girls? I knew you could!)

So could the car. Craig's car chose the moment we hit the 427 to enact its best bobblehead imitation, bucking ahead and slowing down, bucking ahead and slowing down, and forever refusing to find a gear. We managed to get off the highway and coast most of the way to


here...the Applewood Shaver House.

I didn't know what this place was at first, of course, and didn't care. In its parking lot, we diagnosed a slow leak in the transmission fluid line. It didn't look too bad...there wasn't a puddle or anything, just a spritz of droplets on the pavement. Get some transmission fluid in her, we'd be on our way, probably still getting there in time to catch the first pitch.
I walked a couple of blocks to a convenience store in search of said fluid. My hopes were not high. I worked at a 7-Eleven for years. We stocked tranny fluid, but I knew from serving a few distraught customers that most mom-and-pops don't.
"Do you have transmission fluid?", I asked the man behind the counter.
"Trans...mission?" He stared at me blankly, then waved a hand in the general direction of, well, most of his store. Seeing no help there, I sought a corner, where I found two jugs of windsheld washer fluid (good to -40) and a single bottle of 10w30.
Nope.
I went back to the man, who was staring at me as if I was too paleskinned for his store. "Do you know," I asked, enunciating carefully, "where the nearest gas station is?"
He waved right.
"How far?"
That was too much English for him. I went outside and peered off to the right, not seeing anything.
I trotted back to Craig. Lo and behold, there was another car in the parking lot of the Applewood-Shaver house. A pair of ladies who were old enough to have built the Applewood-Shaver house were inside. At Craig's urging, I asked them if they knew where the nearest gas station was. They did. Not only that, they offered to take Craig there.
En route with their captive audience, they gave Craig the kind of history lesson that only sesquicentennials can, making him swear he'd read the historical plaque on the Applewood-Shaver property.
Craig and his chaperones had to visit two gas stations before he managed to procure transmission fluid. Before he poured it in, he made a point of examining the historical plaque I'd read several times, there being nothing else in the parking lot to read.
The fluid poured in with a flourish, we got back into the car.
"Let it work through the system", he muttered as we circled around the parking lot, gradually building up confidence before exiting on to the West Mall.
The car balked and bucked and bobbled. A sharp stench that put me in mind of frying hair made itself known. Uh, Craig? You might want to get this off the road pretty quick.
As luck would have it, we managed to coast right into a Shell station/garage.
As our luck would have it, the garage was shut up tight. Sunday of a holiday weekend....a holiday weekend that was looking less and less like a Halladay weekend every minute.
The gas station lacked a few things. No bathroom, said the convenience store worker's twin brother. Which is against the law, but I wasn't about to argue the finer points of jurisprudence with a man whose vocabulary in English only slightly exceeded mine in Urdu. No phone, or indeed phone book, either. The man behind the counter knew his garage was closed, and he didn't know any that were open.

Better and better.

TOW TRUCK, TOW TRUCK, ANYONE SEEN A TOW TRUCK?

Across the road we went, hitting a No Frills for some blessed bladder relief (I was starting to wonder if piss would serve as transmission fluid) and a drugstore for its phone book. I, meanwhile, dragged out my wife's cell and attempted to call her.

The phone was completely out of transmission fluid. No power at all. Dead as a certain Chrysler Neon.

I borrowed Craig's cell and called Eva in some agitation. I could get myself back to Kitchener, no problem. But I wasn't about to abandon Craig, and he wasn't about to abandon his car.
Craig called a towing company and inquired how much it would cost to tow the car back to his home in London. Six hundred bucks, came the reply.
At that rate, we could stay in a hotel for a couple of nights and get the car fixed Tuesday.
"Do you know of any garages that are open?" Craig asked.
"Well, sure, Canadian Tire's open."
Finally! Some good news! We got the number out of the book and called.
They didn't pick up the phone. Craig let it ring and ring and ring...nothing.
The second picked up right away and said they were open until 5:00. They'd look at Craig's car if he could get it towed there.

So began the wait. We flipped on the radio and the White Sox starting scoring two runs immediately. Of course, I thought. THEY'VE got transmission fluid.

Time slowed. Baseballs and tow trucks chased each other behind my brow. Four innings later a giant baseball rolled to a stop in front of me and resolved itself into a tow truck, whereupon two men got out.
"They never told me there were two of you", the driver said. "Let me run this trainee back to base. I'll shoot right back and get you."
"How long will you be?" asked Craig.
"Ten, fifteen minutes", he said.
Half an hour later the truck was back and we were en route to Canadian Tire, hoping like hell it wasn't too busy and they'd get to see and attend to the car before they closed.

STEEEEEEEERIKE THREEE! YEEEEEEEERRRRR OUT!

The tow truck driver took us to Canadian Tire by the shortest route. He told us as we came into the lot that so long as there was an open bay, he was going to back us right in...and proceeded to do just that. Craig and I exchanged smiles.
"I like this guy," I said.
"Me, too."
"You can't do that!" I piped, mimicking the mechanics inside.
"I just did", Craig answered.

Craig had warned me he didn't have his credit card on him, and he'd exhausted most of his cash paying for the tow. Not to worry, he said, his girlfriend had her card--he'd call her and she could give them the number over the phone.
No can do, they said. We need an actual card to swipe.
He pleaded. They refused. He explained our situation. They refused.
Oh fuck we're fucked went the voice in my head. (I've cleaned it up for this family blog.)
Craig started calling around, hoping to track down family or friend that could bail us out. I, meanwhile, went across the lot in search of a pay phone and called Eva collect. "I can get home easily", I repeated. One bus to the subway, the subway downtown, a bus home, I even have a Grand River Transit ticket on me."
Nonsense, she said, she was coming to get me. And Craig, if need be, she'd take him home. The car, though...there wasn't much we could do about that.
I told Eva the address and let her Google Map it--I'd lost all track of exactly where I was as the tow truck twisted and turned.
"Okay," I said. "I'll go back across and talk to Craig. If you find both of us here when you get here, I guess we're going to London."
I then trudged back across the lot.
"Any news on your end?" I asked Craig.
"Yeah, it's all good. They're working on it now."

?????

I found a supervisor and put it to him. It took some convincing, but I told him I was pretty sure it was a cheap fix. It is. They let me use the card over the phone."
"Let me call Eva back. God, I hope I catch her in time."

Nope.

She's gonna kill me
, I thought.

The bill reads
Parts: $13.98
Labour: $90.00

I'm in the wrong friggin' line of work.

Craig stayed with me after the car was repaired, until Eva arrived to bring me home. We got some catching up done. So the day was far from a rainout. Actually, all things considered, it was a pretty good day. Some total strangers really came to our rescue, restoring a smidgen of my faith in humanity. And hey, it could have been a lot worse. We might, for instance, have been in an accident.

Oh, and the Jays? They came back to win, 8-2. So all's right with the world.

Thanks, Craig. It didn't turn out like we planned, but it turned out okay in the end.

11 May, 2009

So here's today's question

Is there, or ought there to be, a minimum standard of living to which everyone should be entitled, simply by being born?
I say yes. There are quite a few out there, it seems, who say no.

I got to debating this the other day. Probably shouldn't have bothered, but then, I'm a masochist. I set forth my position, which is that food, clean water, and some kind of shelter should be granted everyone and anything beyond that subsistence level should be earned. A man calling himself "ScottSA", with whom I've locked horns before, retorted

People's "birthright" is to be born, Ken. Nothing more. Everything else is situational.

On the issue of clean water, he expounded:

The people who don't have clean drinking water are acclimatized to not having clean drinking water for the most part, Ken, which explains why the terms "Delhi belly" and "Montezuma's revenge" came to describe the intestinal problems unacclimatized visitors have when visiting there, and NOT to the people who live there. Yes, there are occasionally cholera and other epidemics, usually during the monsoons when no water source is safe, no matter how many Starbucks bottles are sold to hempen clad latte sippers, and yes, down by the auld Yangzie River the chemical seeps are atrocious, but for the most part "clean water" is a function of relativity for all the difference it makes.

And he finished up with this:

But you know what makes it so funny and entertaining to argue with you Ken? Because inside the whirlwind of straw you insist on covering everything with is a black and white world in which one is either a scrooge or a mahatma and ne'er do the twain meet. If I object to paying for your "birthright," it suddenly becomes "greed" and is tantamount to me riding a gold plated elephant howda through the slums of Bombay, tossing pennies to the urchins. You make of yourself a laughing stock, sir.

Oh, by the way, why are you trying to force your opinion on my wallet as the "One true Way?"


That kind of set me on edge.

I responded:

I'm not trying to "force" anything, Scott, least of all my opinion. I'm looking to see if there's some minimum standard of living that you find acceptable. There isn't. That's okay. Just be aware it says a lot more about you than it does about me.

By the way, you might wish to compare infant mortality rates between Canada and a place like Sierra Leone. If indeed being born is one's birthright, it seems we have some work to do. It'll cost, though. Still think being born's okay? Or should we just sterilize the Third World? Wouldn't that solve some problems, eh?

Re dirty water: perhaps while you're checking out the infant mortality rates, you can also check out the life expectancies in such places. You can find them in the same place. You'll note that those life expectancies are consistently lower than ours, often by quite a large margin. Hmmm. Might be (in part) something or somethings in the water, do you think?

I know, any kind of life expectancy--any kind of LIFE--isn't part of the agreed-upon birthright. Just being born's okay, right? So...are you for infanticide, and if so, what methods do you prefer? Or are people perhaps entitled to a wee bit more than just being born?

It's been two days. He's posted a myriad of things since then, but hasn't addressed any of my questions. Perhaps he feels they're stupid questions.
Personally, I think it's stupid to grant someone life but not make any provisions whatsoever for that life after the instant of birth.

I'll be honest here...my ideal world includes a maximum, as well as a minimum, wage. The notion of a maximum wage absolutely infuriates many conservatives, who resent any ceiling on compensation for their hard work. My response: it is nothing short of immoral, in a world where many have next to nothing, to have a superabundance; to have such a superabundance and still require more is proof of a mental disorder.
(And again to clarify: my idea of a "superabundance" is arbitrary. If I was to pick a number out of a hat, it'd be five million dollars per annum, but I'm open to suggestions. The idea is a number sufficiently high so that anyone insisting they need more to live would be considered quite insane.)
But we have a long way to go and many paradigms to shift before we can even begin to address this rampant inequality of opportunity. Right now, we're at the stage where I say something like "everybody should have, at a bare minimum, x" and the immediate, and howling, response is "but x will cost me money!"
(This is yet another thing world government would...will...solve. Give us a few centuries. If we haven't blown ourselves up, we just might evolve to it.)

In the meantime, do you believe in a subsistence standard of living for all? If not, why not?

07 May, 2009

A Day at the Hospital

Please pardon the ick.

My wife, Eva, has been suffering for some time now from persistent, excessive menstrual bleeding. 
Since that comes with the usual array of symptoms, not to put too fine a point on it, but I've been suffering too. PMS is a real joy, particularly when the P stands for Permanent.
We've long suspected various hormonal imbalances a hysterectomy would correct, but it turns out there aren't any significant imbalances and a hysterectomy is horribly invasive, especially for women like Eva who have not had children. 

So today Eva had an endometrial ablation.

Her surgery was scheduled for 2:30. We were told it's a simple eight-minute procedure. So of course we were at the hospital from 10:30 until almost 5:00. 

There is so much about the world of health care I don't understand. I don't know why our health care system continues to swallow entire stimulus packages worth of money without any noticeable effect on wait times. I saw probably a dozen computer terminals sitting idle...and also couldn't help but notice patients still have "charts" written on dead tree that lack critical information, i.e. where the hell the patient is. Seriously, once Eva was wheeled out of the third waiting room, it was as if she'd fallen off the face of the earth. Two and a half hours passed--for those of you keeping score at home, that's nineteen eight minute procedures--before I got worried and frustrated enough to ask where she was. A deskbound nurse (who, in hindsight, was really quite nice to me) promised to find out. Fifteen minutes later (and let me tell you, that fifteen minutes felt like two hours), she came back to inform me "they were really backed up" in surgery. Really? I'd never have guessed.
"So...she hasn't gone in yet," I said. Thinking: I'm going to be here until midnight. I gotta get home soon and let Tux and Georgia out, but if I leave, sure as shit they'll let her out and I won't be here and THEN what?
(then you lose any and all husband points you've accumulated for the last decade)
"I don't know, I'm sorry. All I know is she's not back yet."
Really? I'd never have gu--oh, never mind.

By this time, totally irrational thoughts have begun to spin out of control. Eva had let it slip that she was concerned about the anaesthetic. For a girl her size, general anaesthetic can be dangerous. So of course that little nugget got stored away in my subconscious, only to start playing peek-a-boo as the minutes dragged on. Peek-a-boo, Eva's dead! Wonder which one of these old battleaxes is going to tell you?

(WHAMMO)

I slapped that mutinous thought down and buried my head in my book again. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy, probably the fifth time through, but the first in five years at least. I was just getting to the part where the matriarch of the family passes away. Fuck, I thought, and slammed the book shut, reaching for my iPod.

Music wasn't even helping. No matter what the music was. The slow stuff sounded like a dirge and the funny stuff sounded fake and the heavy stuff was too loud and--

"She's back", a nurse popped her head in to say.
"She's back?" I repeated, dazedly. Turns out that's the effect when you've been holding your breath for over an hour.
"She's back," she said, smiling.

She was. Eva and her doctors had decided against the general anaesthetic, and as I found out later, the "eight minute procedure" doesn't count *any* prepwork or recovery time. 
Which is just stupid, in my book. Look at this souffle recipe and ask yourself: how long does it take to make a souffle? It says "bake for 30-35 minutes" near the end, but if you think that's how long it takes to make a souffle, you'll find yourself sadly mistaken. If they had only said okay, the eight minutes is for the chisel and blowtorch routine, but before we can use the chisel or the blowtorch, we have to yadda yadda yadda, and then afterwards blabbledy blah blah, then I would have contentedly passed the time without a care in the world.
Oh, how you kid. Ken, you're a damn worrywort, and you know it, and nothing's gonna change at this late date.

I was so relieved to see Eva safe and relatively happy that I actually thought I was going to be sick. Meanwhile, she'd gotten through the whole thing much easier than she'd expected to. The hospital robe actually fit her. She was only moderately hot (and if you've been around my wife for any length of time at all, you know that's a medical miracle...seriously, while we were still waiting together, nurses kept coming in and offering warm blankets. Eva thanked each one and waved them away, saying "see my portable fan?" To one, I cracked, "now if you have a cold blanket, that we'll take."

We're home now, and my wife is safe and sound, and I'm very glad.

06 May, 2009

Gary Bettman can go puck himself.

In his five-hole

Full disclosure: Inasmuch as I can be said to hate anyone, I hate Gary Bettman. He embodies nearly every human trait I find detestable: colossal arrogance; pigheadedness; a marked inability to perceive reality; an equally marked inability to admit failure. Bettman's only saving grace is that he's the commissioner of the NHL and not, say, a former U.S. President.

Still...as a lifelong fan of the game of hockey, I despise Gary Bettman. So far as I can tell, every questionable development in the game, from the FOX puck to shootouts to teams where teams have no business existing and a host of others besides--every single questionable development can ultimately be laid at Bettman's feet. And the good that still exists in hockey can be said to be there despite Bettman's best efforts. 

Take Alex Ovechkin, for instance. This guy is a walking, talking (or perhaps more like jiving and high-fiving) billboard for the NHL. He's comparable in talent to Lemieux and Gretzky, in my eyes, anyway, and with the added bonus of 30 arenas full of personality. Any competent league would be marketing Ovie's ass off. But Bettman's Hockey League hardly bothers. They've pinned what little marketing they do on Sidney Crosby, who (while talented) has all the personality of a just-Zamboni'd sheet of ice.

But this business with Jim Balsillie, now. God forbid a billionaire hockey fanatic with a thriving business should be allowed to buy a team in dire financial straits and move it to a huge, almost untapped market. That would make an intolerable amount of SENSE. Such a move would be win-win for the NHL. It would dramatically increase revenues, which are tied to player salaries (thanks again to Bettman). It would create several instant and heated rivalries with geographically close teams like Toronto, Buffalo and Detroit. The only losers would be the fans in Phoenix...but perhaps Balsillie could be persuaded to put them all on a bus and move them north too.

But nonsense can't abide sense, and Mr. Nonsense himself can't abide Balsillie. The Research In Motion boss, twice before denied membership in a club he dearly wants to join, is now forcing Bettman to concede his incompetence. Such a tactic is infuriating to a man as divinely convinced of his omnipotence as Gary Bettman seems to be. 

The court clash between these two titans gets underway tomorrow. Trust me when I say it will rival anything seen on the ice this playoff. And you know who I'm rooting for...GO JIM GO!  




05 May, 2009

So THAT'S what I have...uh...wait a minute...

"The Essay" in today's Globe could have been written by me, if I was a mom, that is. In "Mom Without Wheels", Bonnie Goldberg describes what it's like to be a mother with a debilitating driving phobia. Awkward, it comes down to. Play dates for the kids are considerably more difficult to arrange. Questions abound, none of which are particularly easy to answer. Feelings of envy, bewilderment and inadequacy mix uneasily.

I can relate.

The envy and inadequacy are self-explanatory, when one lacks a skill the rest of the world takes for granted. The bewilderment is hard for people who take that skill for granted to appreciate. Do you driving people have any idea how complicated a simple commute actually is, how mindbogglingly insane you'd have to be to careen down the highway with thousands of strangers, most of whom aren't paying more than a smidgen of attention to the world around them? No, of course you don't. You just drive. And--here's what really vapor-locks my brain--most of you find the act of driving boring. It requires spicing up. Say, with iPods and phone conversations and glittering navigational screens embedded in your dashboard. Anything to take your mind off the ennui of potential death surrounding you on all four sides.

One sentence jumped out at me in this essay. "Unlike other phobics, the hodophobic mother must state and confront her fear every day, several times a day."

Bells rang, lights flashed. We have a word! See, ever since I realized I had this phobia--which, incidentally, was several years before I ever got behind the wheel of a car--I've searched in vain for a word to describe the fear of driving. There must be one, I thought. They've got a word for fear of everything else, even things that lack any rational foundation for the fear, like triskadekaphobia (fear of the number 13). How can there not be a word for something which any normal person would consider terrifying if they allowed themselves to really think about it?

 I've combed every phobia list out there.  There's something called motorphobia, which denotes fear of cars. I don't have that. I like cars. Cars are cool. Then there's ochophobia, fear of riding in cars. Still nope. Riding in cars is (usually) lots of fun. Places to go, things to see...riding in cars is only frightening, to me, if I happen to be riding with a maniac driver...which is something I'll only do once.

 I tried to coin "autophobia", only to discover that already had a meaning (the fear of being alone)...which I don't have at all. Now here's a woman saying she's hodophobic. Off to the phobia list I go

Hodophobia: the fear of travel. 

"The fear of travel is complex. Most people's fear of travel is associated with their fear of flying, some with a fear of trains, but still others with a fear of traveling in automobiles. Some are afraid of strange places, open places, or inevitable contact with strangers."

That ain't me. I love to travel. Admittedly, I'm not exactly calm on airplanes, at least until I'm airborne and flying level. But boats don't faze me and I love trains. Again, riding in cars presents absolutely no issues. Ask me to drive one, even to back it up if there's anything around I could conceivably hit, and I'll freeze and have to strive mightily to supress the urge to vomit.

How I wish there was a word that specifically covered the fear of driving. When I say driving scares me, people look at me funny. If I had a nice Greek prefix and the word phobia, people would still look at me funny, but with a glint of understanding in their eyes. Or so I'd like to think.

The search continues...