People don’t remember that twenty years ago the first minivans had two bench seats. And just one sliding door. And no TV screens. Worse yet, the speed limits were slower. Road trips, coast-to-coast family vacations took longer. It was quite miserable having to spend time with your family.
Only then came bucket seats. And CD players. And space. And younger brothers. Soon, everyone sat in their own seat.
But there were occasionally short moments, usually right after a sack lunch at a rest area, when the trip would become bearable. And in those moments, the family played car games that involved talking to each other. Single words became phrases and phrases became conversations. Conversations, of course, became love. And love blossomed into memories.
A simple, yet fun, way to prolong the sugar high was a game where players had to name cities which began with the last letter of the previous city. Bismark, led to Kansas City, which led to Yorkshire, to Edmonton and so on and so forth.
Anyone who has played this game can remember that after a few rounds, everyone seemed always to get stuck on cities that ended in “y”. Not the youngest brother. Receiving New York City, he quickly returned Yukon. Oklahoma City became Yonkers, and Sioux City led to Yorba Linda. Wait, what? Yorba Linda? How did Sam know Yorba Linda?
As one, father, mother, sister, and brother all turned back to see how he was doing it.
Looking up towards the silence, young Sam feigned ignorance to the rules of the game as he closed the giant road atlas and its alphabetical index.
That reminds me. The first minivans didn’t have GPS either.
“I just don’t want to do the sock hop. I want to skate,” the boy declared.
The minivan door opened wide. Rushing to the plain brown building simply labeled “Skateland”, the children realized their hurry was wasted as they needed their mom’s money to make it past the gatekeeper.
Blue and red slushy mix marked the snack bar as a the smell of un-buttered popcorn and warm feet invaded their nostrils. Looking to see if pizza was an option, he nearly ran into a girl struggling to roll on the carpet.
“Yes! They have it.”
Pretending not to notice it, he was glad the couple’s skate was happening now. That meant he had time to focus on getting the right fit, and also time enough to check out the newest ABEC bearings for sale.
As I’ll Make Love to You faded into Thriller, his body drifted towards the rink. Almost falling, he cursed the carpet. Almost falling, he cursed the silky floor. Almost falling, he cursed his skates.
First stop, the DJ.
“What’s up kid?”
“Um. Could you play Hanging Tough, by New Kids on the Block?”
“We just played it a little bit ago.”
“I’ll see what I can do, though. Anything else?”
“Um. Ice Ice Baby, by Vanilla Ice?”
“Just played that too.”
“Okay. Never mind.”
Undeterred, he zoomed along the far wall, scanning the rink for his friends. A tap on the right shoulder warned him they were passing on his left. Catching up, he hoped that his speed and skill impressed any interested girls as the still air became a pleasant breeze.
Being told “five more minutes!” earlier than desired, he skated out his remaining time just fast enough to not get yelled at by the dude in the zebra stripes. Returning to the benches, he was amazed–just like every visit–how light his tennis shoes were.
“Feel’s like I’m still skating, only lighter,” he professed to the others.
As the they walked out the door, the boys chattered excitedly that they just saw the cutest girl of the day walking in.
“Man! That always happens.”
For all the information, misinformation, and controversy surrounding the origin of the game of baseball, one piece of trivia is rarely mentioned. Whether Abner Doubleday or Alexander Cartwright should be credited as the father of America’s pastime, it seems to me that the more pressing question–the question that nobody is asking–is, “Where would the game of baseball be without second base?”
What you have to understand is baseball began as a competition, similar to cricket, which involved balls and bats and home plate and base. Initially, there were not four bases, mind you, just one. The player would hit the ball and run back and forth between two points in space–home plate and base. What most people don’t bother wondering about is how home plate and this single base (just called ‘base’ as there wasn’t, at that time, another base which necessitated the distinctions “first” and “second”) multiplied into the modern baseball diamond comprised of home plate, first base, second base and third base.
As you are no doubt realizing, the addition of a second base was no trivial matter. Without adding a second base, there would have never been a reason to add a third base, and without third base, there is no baseball diamond. So, we must ask how second base came to be. More to the point, we should want to know who to credit for the addition of a second base. As fate would have it, it was none other than than “father of American music” himself–Stephen Foster.
Having recently penned such classics as “Oh, Susanna” and “Camptown Races”, Foster was a veritable celebrity. He was the man of the hour in the mid-1800s. And he happened to be a bit of a sports nut. No one knows for certain how it happened, but after some light reflection it should be no surprise to anyone that Foster, who became known for writing songs with special emphasis on the refrain, was the man who suggested adding another base to the playing field. After all, it was the addition of second base that gave baseball what some might call musicality.
Think about it. A game where men simply run back and forth between two designated spots offers no real distinguishing excitement, no real flow. But, as we all know and love, if a player makes it to second base on the diamond of today, he is in “scoring” position. Reaching scoring position, then, is similar to the unique characteristic of Foster’s own music. That being, the emphasis on the refrain. As a verse of Foster’s music concludes, everyone knows the refrain is coming, and still everyone can’t wait for it to happen. Regardless the amount of listeners singing the verses, everyone in earshot contributes their own voice to “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me!” Is it not the same when the runner reaches second base? Maybe the inning is dragging on, maybe it seems all hope is lost, maybe you are lost in thought trying to remember when they stop serving beer–it doesn’t matter. The minute the runner makes it to second, he might score a run. And if he does, his crossing home plate triggers another batter and extends the offensive strike; in other words, it acts as a refrain. Is there anyone who would attempt to argue that there is any quantifiable difference between crowds cheering upon their team scoring a run and crowds singing “Oh, Susanna, oh don’t you cry for me. Well I come from Alabama with my banjo on my knee”?
I don’t know why I feel its important to bring this to your attention. Not forgetting the little man is just in my nature. Blame my dad. The point is, next time you’re feeling a profound love of the game, toss some of it to Stephen Foster; for who knows where America’s pastime would be if it wasn’t for the “father of American music.”
Happy Birthday Dad. Thanks for the memories.
Terrified, he found himself surrounded by his familiar bedding. He had made it out alive. He was convinced that with each nightmare he was coming closer and closer to not waking up. But each nightmare revealed a truth, so he knew he must persevere. Upon wake-up, the truth was never immediately clear, and this morning was no different. He remembered bits and pieces. He remembered an enormous building. He remembered doors twice a man’s size. He remembered enormous symmetrical staircases.
The lighting was particularly notable. From the outside of the castle, he believed he must have been in the dark ages, but the interior was lit up like a Christmas tree. Oddly, there were no light fixtures, just floating candles emanating tremendous amounts of purifying light. Nearly blinded, he had to hold his hand up to look toward the flames.
“What is this place?” he thoughtlessly wondered aloud.
“Right this way, Peter,” said a voice, startling him out of rationality. He followed a women whose appearance was that of a nurse, though her genuine warmness caused him to doubt his senses. She led him down a corridor. He followed her silent lead and soon began noticing the muffled sounds of whimpering. He was so focused on not losing sight of his guide that he failed to perceive that along either side of the corridor were doors. The whimpering was coming from behind those doors.
“Hey, do you think you can slow down?” he questioned. She only turned her head slightly, letting him know she heard him. “Fine,” he thought to himself. He resolved to jog a bit to catch up and then pause to open one of the doors. The jog took longer than he expected, but he finally was nearly to her, when he again heard a whimper. Twisting the door handle, he braced for anything. It was a couple. They looked at him with an uncommon determination. He could tell they were there by choice, and that the whimpering was simply their conviction manifested.
A loud cry caused him to look back to the corridor and realize the nurse was barely visible any more. It sounded like a child. He ran and he ran to catch her. The faster he ran, the louder the cry became. Soon, he heard many cries. Soon, the cries became familiar. Soon, he made sense of the scene and could guess where he was. Until this moment, he had only heard about the practice he believed he was witnessing. As he finally caught up to the nurse, she slowed to a stop and pointed overhead. The sign read, “Parents, thank you for your courage. You’ve done great so far, and we’re here to help with the rest of the process. Please leave your baby here and find yourself a comfortable room to wait in. When the process is complete, we’ll bring your baby back to you.”
Recalling the delightful smile she gave as she told him the inside joke, he finally stumbled upon this nightmare’s truth. She said, “Don’t tell anyone, but among the staff, we call this corridor the ‘Hall o’ Wean.’ Tee-hee!” In that instant it all became clear. Today’s witches were clearly descended from the nursing staff. The rarely seen doctors come to us, surely, as ghosts. But most certain was the development of trick-or-treating. A smirk formed as he pictured all those poor babies being carried from door to door in search of their parents.
In the end, with medical science’s resounding defense of weaning, he could finally see that this holiday, which he previously thought to be ridiculous, was well-founded and rightly deserved memorialization.
The sound of the car door closing should have woken them. In any case, he was too excited to care. Up the stairs he went. Listening first for what he hoped to never hear, he finally knocked on their door.
“What?” his mother asked.
“I’m home.” he replied opening the door.
“Good…” she acknowledged.
“‘THE MATRIX’ IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER!!!” he burst.
“That’s great. Tell me about it in the morning.”
“No, you don’t understand, I have to go see it again. You have to see it. Dad, what are you doing tomorrow night? I mean, I could feel my jeans shaking from the bass it was so loud.”
That was me. April 1999.
In the fall of 1999 I learned that the ancient Greek’s had mused that we could all really just be brains in jars being stimulated to believe life as we know it is happening. Wow. I cannot tell you how powerful that one fact was. That begged the question, “What else did people thousands of years ago think about that is being presented as new today?”
Around the same time, this knowledge became slightly depressing. If “The Matrix” was actually thousands of years old, what hope did we have for ever thinking something new?
A decade later, I stumbled upon Heidegger. Intense. Taken together, Heidegger and a plagiarized Matrix have revealed how wrong the famous “to remain ignorant of history is to remain forever a child” saying is.
Love history, study history, worship history; just don’t believe that you’re somehow better for it. More and more it is becoming clear to me that “life” is perfectly synonymous with “now.” Simply acknowledging this gives me all the hope I need. Anxiety disappears.
For the doubtful reader, the best argument I can muster is the following personal story.
I attended college from 1999-2003. I am back in college for kicks right now. If you’ll allow my other writings to qualify me to make an observation, it seems US universities are really only interested in one thing: “How to Prevent the Holocaust.” The Stanford Prison Experiment. The Milgram Experiment. Professors and students alike stand in awe of their revelations. Somehow they miss the elephant in the room. They miss that humans are totally capable of taking part in another holocaust. This direct attempt to prevent the holocaust will not work. To accomplish the goal, universities would be better served if they backed up a step and challenged students to accept responsibility for the present. As I’ve written before, this idea of building a [fill in the blank] future is fundamentally flawed.
The only way I see to prevent another holocaust is to live for right now. I’m not talking about “immediate gratification.” I’m talking about an idea I first heard from Peter Drucker. In his book “Management,” he discusses that the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t apply only to the medical field. In his book, he makes the case that managers in any business have to live by it as well. I’d go a step further and say everyone should use it as a guide. Drucker paraphrases the oath down to, “Do no knowing harm.” Implied is you can’t “do” the future. You can only “do” the present.
By way of example, while deployed I hung on my wall some of the Samurai’s Bushido-type sayings. One was, “Courage is living when it is right to live, and dying when it is right to die.” I can tell you I have put a lot of though into it, and if the situation presents the “my life or me taking another’s life” dichotomy, I’m choosing the bullet. The German people chose poorly. They seem to have thought, “Even though this is wrong, if I do it now, at least I’ll make it to the future.” Wrong. No way am I making the same choice. Only someone avoiding “the now” could murder on command. Personal story turned rant over.
To recap, (“The Matrix” + Ancient Greek Philosophy + Martin Heidegger – Cicero + (Two x College) + Peter Drucker + Bushido) x Me^Infinity = Philosophy or interpreting existence is fascinating to me. What’s your story?