It’s time for Dodger anxiety!

I cannot remember when I first became a Dodger fan because I was too young to remember such a thing.  I simply grew up loving the Dodgers through the decades as a boy during the 1960’s. 

Some of my all-time favorite Dodgers include:   Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Ron Fairly, Wes Parker, Willie Davis, Don Sutton, Jim Brewer, Steve Garvey, Claude Osteen, Davey Lopes, Tommy John, Reggie Smith, Manny Mota, Al Downing, Dusty Baker, Orel Hershiser, Pedro Guerrero, Mike Scioscia, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Yeager, Rick Monday, Kirk Gibson, Mike Piazza, Bob Welch, Eric Karros, Brett Butler, Paul Mondesi, Ramon Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Hideo Nomo, Shawn Green, Jeff Kent, Chan Ho Park, Eric Gagne, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Adrian Gonzalez, Manny Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Zach Greinke, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Mookie Betts.

My favorite Dodger of all time, of course, is Vin Scully.

As of this writing, the Dodgers will be playing in their 21st World Series, third in the last four years.  In their history, they have won 6 titles out of 20—a 30% winning percentage.

Here are the top all-time World Series champions in baseball.  The first number is titles won over the total trips with the winning percentage.

Yankees:  27/40, 67.5%

Cardinals:  11/19, 61%

Red Sox:  9/13, 69%

Athletics:  9/14, 64%

Giants:  8/20, 40%

Dodgers: 6/20, 30%

If you are a lifetime Dodger fan, then you know a lifetime of heartache.  The Dodgers have lost the World Series more times, 14, than any other ball club in history.  That is why it is tough to root for them when they make it that far.  Imagine if you are a Yankee, Cardinal, Red Sox or Athletic fan:  about two-thirds of the time those teams win it all.

What’s extra frustrating about the current group of Dodgers is that they have won 8 straight division titles, second only to the 14 straight won by the Atlanta Braves.  However, the Braves did win one title; the Dodgers nada.

The Dodgers should have won the title in 2017 against the Astros since everyone now knows they cheated; even with that dishonest advantage, the Dodgers pushed them to seven games.

In 2018, most people viewed the Boston Red Sox as the superior team so, no surprise, they lost that series 4-1.

This year, however, most pundits favor the Dodgers to win it all.  Imagine how heartbreaking it would be for them if they don’t. If baseball gods exist, L.A. will win its first championship in 32 years.

Back in 1988, I was studying to become a teacher.  Both the Lakers and Dodgers won championships that year.

This past June, I retired after 31 years.  From 1989 to 2019, the Lakers won 6 championships; the Dodgers not a one.

Laker fans know how long it felt before they won a title, longer than the actual 10 years it took.  Dodger fans have been waiting three times as long for the drought to end.

And that is why whenever there is a Dodger playoff game day, I get the DPA’s:  Dodger Playoff Anxiety.  My mind obsesses about DODGER BASEBALL.  I can’t keep focused on anything.

I read all the stories online, hear all the sports talk shows on the radio, watch the pre-game show on the Dodger cable channel.

And when they start playing ball, I will go from watching it on TV to hearing it on the radio depending upon what is happening on the field.

For example, in last Sunday’s Game Seven against the Atlanta Braves for the pennant, in the later innings, I hid in my bedroom with the radio on when the Braves were batting, then come out to the living room to watch the Dodgers bat.

When the situation is extremely intense, I can’t be still so I drive aimlessly. listening to the game on the radio.

Everyone has a Kirk Gibson story where they were when he hit his famous home run to win Game One against the A’s in 1988.  Here is mine.  I was in my car driving west on the 134 Freeway going from Pasadena to Glendale.  I heard Don Drysdale’s call, not Vin Scully’s or Jack Buck’s.  And, if you have never heard it, do yourself a favor and listen to it:

It will put goosebumps on your arms.

So, Dodger fans, keep your fingers crossed, light some candles and keep your radios handy.

Go Dodgers!

Seven-Day Horror-cast

There’s nothing more depressing than the seven-day weather forecast.  Do you look at it often?

I keep fooling myself that I will look at it and see comfortable temperatures in the horizon.  Maybe it won’t be 90 in 2 days or 4 days from now.

I’m always disappointed when the coolest day forecast keeps getting pushed back to 10 days or 14 days from now.

Anytime we are in the midst of a heatwave, why does it always seem that when meteorologists predict it will end, it ultimately continues two to three days longer than expected?  However, if the forecast is for cool temperatures or rain, those days never materialize.

Even though I have lived in the Los Angeles area all of my life, the San Fernando Valley to be exact, I have never enjoyed the heat.

We have three seasons.  The shortest one last 20 days.  That’s when the temperatures are below 70 degrees.  Then we have the middle one that lasts 160 days.  That’s when the temperature ranges between 75-85.  The longest season is, let’s call it, HOT, half the year where temperatures barely dip below 86, but often rage out of control like a California forest fire into the mid-90s and, more often in recent years, Death Valley-like triple digits past 110 degrees.

I read somewhere that we just lived through a six-month period of record high temperatures in 125 years.  Great.

Remember, there is no climate change to explain this.

Summer-like weather starts on July 1 and continues until Nov. 1—at least.

My favorite months of the year—November and December—have to do with 3 traits:  cooler weather, shorter days, and holidays.

Whenever there is a heat wave during those two months, I feel cheated.  There should be a law that no day reach 80 degrees or higher for those 61 days.  A few Thanksgivings ago we had a record 93 degrees.  That was awful.

You try to wear the few sweaters you have, you try to have some fires in the living room (if for no other reason than for atmosphere), but it doesn’t feel right when the thermostat in your house never dips below 72 degrees throughout the night.

Going to school in Burbank meant two things:  one, airplane noise would interfere with the lessons on a regular basis, and, two, when you returned to school in September there were bound to be days when the non-air conditioned schools would close early due to excessive heat.

Up until my late 30’s, I suffered the hot weather at home since I had no air conditioning.  But even when I’m home with the air conditioning on, the sweltering blast from outside still gets under my skin.  I feel lethargic, whereas when it’s 65 degrees outside, I feel invigorated.

I keep telling myself that one day I will move out of this area to a cooler climate, say, Santa Barbara, or Morro Bay.  However, it is difficult when you have family, friends and favorite restaurants to pack up your tent and leave it all behind. 

In the meantime, I’m going to ensconce myself watching “Holiday Inn” and sipping hot cocoa—all with the curtains drawn.

Prince Prospero AKA Donald J. Trump

One of the short stories I used to teach was Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death.”

Prince Prospero decides to hold a masquerade party in his castle high on a hill and away from the town which is experiencing a plague, the Red Death.   The Prince invites special wealthy guests to be safe in his abode and enjoy themselves while the paeans below them die mercilessly.  He locks the doors to ensure that the pestilence does not come in and harm him or his guests, similar an idea that building a wall will prevent illegal immigration.

So what happens at the party?

Everyone dies.

The morale of the story is that no one, not even the wealthiest denizens, are immune to disease.  One can’t lock one’s doors to the plague.  A virus does not know the bank account or pedigree of its hosts.  It’s just contagious.

And now we turn from 1842 when the story was published to present day where we have a President who does not believe the scientists or doctors.  He feels he is immune, above reproach from a disease, from dying even.  Just as he runs away from paying his fair share of federal income tax, he fools the American people not to do anything that could protect them from getting sick from the worst pandemic in 102 years.

Call it karma, schadenfreude, or a simple comeuppance, Trump has the coronavirus.  Is anyone surprised?  What is surprising is that it took this long for him to catch it. 

Just a few days earlier at the presidential debate, he mocked Joe Biden for wearing “the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”  For months he mocked Biden for being too old and feeble.  Well, who looks too old and feeble now?

What will be interesting to see is how Trump comes out of this episode.  Will he restart his anti-mask campaign?  Or will he admit he was wrong about Covid?

Don’t expect an epiphany from a family (all of them shunned masks at Tuesday’s debate even when a doctor in attendance was passing them out) who, like Prince Prospero, feel that they are better than us, richer, more privileged, who don’t have to contribute part of their earnings for the good of the country.  How can regular people feel good about that?

To quote another piece of literature, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Roman senator Caius Cassius is manipulating fellow senator Marcus Brutus to kill Caesar.  While faulting the leader for having physical maladies such as epilepsy or the falling sickness, he tells Brutus that “we have the falling sickness” when it comes to doing nothing to rid Rome of a dictator.

In a month, the people will have their once-every-four-year moment to decide not only the outcome of the election, but the direction of this tattered country.  It is in the hands of its citizens, just as the Founding Fathers wrote it in the Constitution.   The question from a 400-year-old play remains:  how many of us have the falling sickness?

Thank You Very Much, McConnell

“Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me.”

This song, written by Leslie Bricusse for the movie “Scrooge” (1970), is sung when Dickens’ character sees a vision from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come of the people who owe Scrooge money celebrating at the sight of his coffin.

A fictional scene, this was played out for real just this past week when the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and within hours U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that a new nominee for the high court would be voted on before the important November presidential election.

As a voter who is not affiliated with any political party, I wish to express my deepest disdain for McConnell and his ilk for not waiting until her body was cold—or at least until the first night of Rosh Hashanah concluded.

It is also hypocritical that back in 2016 when former Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, 9 months ahead of that election, Republicans refused to hold hearings for a new nominee to fill his empty seat even though President Obama chose Merrick Garland, a judge who normally Republicans would have supported. 

With less than 7 weeks ahead of this year’s election, why the flip-flop?  Because their “guy” is in the Oval Office.  That is what the whole thing is about.  Politics.  Playground bullying done by old white men who are supposed to serve the American people no matter which party they belong to.

Unfortunately, Americans should not be surprised at the lack of civility in Washington, D.C.  I’m not sure when bipartisanship disappeared, but for those of you younger than 50, take a look at some YouTube videos of President Ronald Reagan.

Watch his self-deprecating humor at a 1984 debate with Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.  When running for re-election, Reagan’s age (73) was being used against him, and so he was asked to respond to the criticism.   He quipped, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”  

This generated a huge laugh even from Mondale.   When can you remember two politicians from different parties sharing a hearty laugh together like this in the past 40 years?

The acrimony that political leaders exhibit these days is reflected in the general population.  Again, YouTube has plenty of evidence showing regular folks acting very badly in public.

There is a feeling in America that people lack common ground, that differences far outweigh similarities.  Our neighbors have become strangers.

Here’s hoping sooner than later that this country finds its footing again, and that no matter one’s politics, ethnicity or Netflix preferences, we can stand together as a united nation.

Otherwise, Russia, China and other foes will be dancing on the coffin of the United States singing, “Thank you very much” to the Americans who helped its demise.

Back to School Night (well, sort of)

My wife and I just had Back to School Night (BTSN) for our 17-year-old son who is a junior.   The schedule was the same as in the past where parents follow their child’s daily schedule from Pers. 1 through 6 spending 10 minutes in each class.

Unlike in the past, it was a virtual BTSN from the comfort of our den.  Teachers had the option of holding a live Zoom meeting or posting a video.  Two of our son’s teachers had live sessions while the others videotaped their presentations.  Either way was fine with me.  A parent can easily get a glimpse of a teacher’s personality on tape or live. 

I found the live sessions stranger due to parents who chose to show themselves on camera with attention-diverting backgrounds distracting the rest of us.  The videos had more information allowing teachers to use more visuals economically, though one teacher displayed long blocks of text which she then proceeded to read each word out loud, not a good practice.

As a parent, I have always enjoyed BTSN, finding it exciting to meet the educators who will temporarily spend time with my child and help mold him into a more learned individual.

As a now former teacher, I can’t help but judge which teachers I think will connect with my son and which will not.  Not every teacher can connect with every child.

However, having done 11 weeks of distance learning, I recognize the challenges all teachers face in this anxious period of time in which we live.  We all have to be patient and have faith that in due time things will return to normal and children will return to school.  In the meantime, support your child’s teachers as much as you can.  Emailing a quick “thank you for teaching my child during these difficult times” can brighten a teacher’s day.

There Goes the Neighborhood

I am not a fan of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

He lost my respect years ago when as San Francisco mayor he had an affair with his campaign manager’s wife.  Any earlier time in history, and such brazen adultery would have finished his future aspirations.

But standards and morals not what they used to be, he was elected governor two years ago with plans on moving on to the presidency.  God help us.

His political views are to the left of former Gov. Jerry Brown.  Many bills that Brown vetoed in 2018, Newsom signed in 2019.  “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” should be the theme song for Sacramento Democrats.

He signed a law for schools which emboldens bad kids to misbehave without consequences.  He continues supporting legislation that will destroy single-family neighborhoods.

Right now, if you live in California and own a house, beware.  Senate Bill 1120 is in the state assembly which, according to the Los Angeles Times, would allow “property owners [to] convert their single-family house into a duplex or demolish the house and in its place build two new single-family homes or a duplex.  Property owners could also split a single-family lot into two and then build two additional units, thus placing four homes where there previously was one.”

In other words, one household turns into 4 households.  Think of the additional cars, air and noise pollution that would impact neighbors’ standard of living.

What is driving this insanity is the wrong-headed thinking that if only more housing would be available, the homeless population would decrease.  Are they serious?

That is assuming 2 large illogical beliefs.  One, that many of the homeless are mentally normal people who are on the streets because they can’t afford the rent.  Don’t buy it.

Two, that by destroying the American Dream and making each street un-uniform in appearance, two duplexes here, one duplex there, one house, etc., those homeless people will be able to move into that neighborhood.  Wrong again.

Unless the government subsidizes the cost of the new duplexes below market value, those on limited incomes will still not be able to afford a duplex in a nice neighborhood.  Instead, developers will bid on homes, knock them down, erect duplexes, and come away richer than before, leaving in their dust a permanently damaged landscape for people who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades.  Unbelievable.

To add insult to injury, he has botched this state’s management of the coronavirus pandemic.  Back in March, his reviews were glowing as he was the first governor in America to mandate a quarantine.   This did work for a while, until in May when instead of reopening the economy gradually, he opened the floodgates, leading to a surge in the summer worse than the spring’s number of cases and deaths.

If you live in California and believe as I do, run don’t walk to your laptop, find out who your local Assembly member is, and fill out the “contact” form imploring them not to vote for 1120.

And when the next gubernatorial election happens in 2022, don’t forget what is happening now.

Otherwise, the theme song for many of will be “California, Here I Go.”

 

A Glimmer of Decency 3,000 Miles Away

The other day I was feeling terrible.

Terrible about the 5 ½ months of staying at home.

Terrible about not having to eat out at my favorite restaurants.

Terrible that I can’t go out of town and have a vacation.

Terrible about another video of police shooting an unarmed black man.

Terrible about a viral video showing a white mob bullying a white lady at a restaurant eating at an outside table, confronting her to raise her arm (she did not cave in to such intimidation—good for her).

Terrible that a 17-year-old has parents who would allow him to roam his community at night with a semi-automatic assault rifle that he had illegally, dangling around his neck like a piece of jewelry, calmly walking past police without being halted.  Do you think if that kid were  black he would still be alive today?

Terrible that the President of the United States ignores what most Americans have been going through for half of this year:  unable to send children to school, some unable to keep a job, unable to see family members, some even losing family members.  Doesn’t he get it?

Then, the next day, while on the phone with a Microsoft technical support representative, I met Francisco.

While waiting for the installation to fully download, I had a choice:  remain silent until the program was finished, or talk to Francisco.

So I asked Francisco how he was doing.  He told me that it was raining heavily where he was in Nicaragua.  I told him it was triple digits out in L.A.

I asked him how his country was managing the coronavirus.   He said that their president did not mandate quarantine which is why so many people he knows, including his father and himself, have had the virus.

I asked him if he knew how bad it was in the U.S. and he said yes.  He was also aware of the racial issues suffocating America.

I shared with him my recent retirement from teaching.  He told me that I am lucky to have the opportunity to positively influence young people.  He shares with me that he wants to push himself to speak better English.

“You speak English well,” I said.

“Yes, but I only use English at work, and at work only use computer-type language.”

“That’s quite admirable of you to be ambitious.”

I mentioned that he must have a lot of patience doing the job he has dealing with people’s software issues.   He told me it isn’t a problem.  The other day he spent two hours helping his father figure out how to access email on his phone.

“My father needed to know how to do this when he was sick from Covid.”

And as the download completed, I couldn’t help but think how serendipitous it was that of all the Microsoft tech support employees on that particular day, I connected with Francisco.  He not only solved my computer program, he temporarily restored my faith in decent people.

 

How Hard is it to be Quiet to Others?

 

I have never attended the Indy 500 to hear the roar of the engines.   But if you live in Burbank, you have an inkling what it might be like with the morons who abound with modified mufflers that make their cars backfire as if they are traveling 100 mph with fireballs trailing behind them.

I don’t know how concerned the Burbank police are about this nuisance that began less than a year ago, but I wish they would do something about it.

Surely, such modifications are illegal.  Of course, so is tinting the driver’s side of a car, not having a license plate mounted on the front of one’s car, or even not mounting a back license plate and driving around for 2 years with the temporary paper one to give the impression that one just bought a new car.

These anti-law individuals seem to increase in numbers as I get older.  Why can’t people just behave themselves for the good of others?

One main reason why this goes on is the same reason the mask controversy continues unresolved.   We have among us citizens who want the freedoms of America without the responsibilities.

If Joe Biden becomes the next president, I hope that he will bring back the concept of citizenship.

Schools used to teach civics classes as well as behaviors that exhibit the consideration of others, known succinctly as the Golden Rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That stuff hasn’t been taught in decades.  Which wouldn’t be such a problem if parents did their job of teaching their own children these concepts.  Too many don’t.  The evidence is all around us. The decrease in people who describe themselves as religious also plays a role in the decline of selflessness.

Once in a while, I will see an example of how we all should behave.  During the months-long stay-at-home time, there is a family up the block from me with young children.  Daily the parents have their kids outside playing in their front yard.  I’ve never seen a cell phone or other electronic device in these kids’ hands.  The parents are interacting with them, flying kites, playing hide and go seek, often having a picnic.  And the parents as well as the children wear masks.  I wish I could give them an award.   The sad thing about this is, such behavior should not stand out, it should be the rule.

I want to believe that people I observe walking without masks, blowing through “stop” signs whether driving or riding bicycles, and shopping without social distancing are the minority.

But let’s face it—law-abiding, considerate people are in the minority.

The irony of this is that those who drive without stopping are counting on you to do it so that you don’t hit them.  That bicyclist going by in a blur at a 4-way stop is counting on up to four strangers in cars to make complete stops so his exercise is not paused.

Selfishness is rampant and I wish leaders in government would make it a priority to teach people through signs, public service announcements and social media how to behave as a normal, decent person.

“Gentlemen, quiet your engines!”

 

 

 

Regis Philbin–an Icon who was anything but

There is an old wives’ tale that famous people die in threes.   My sister and I will often text one another whenever an old movie or TV star passes away, then comment like “two more to go!”

Just this weekend Olivia de Havilland died at 104 along with John Saxon at age 84.  But when I heard about Regis Philbin dying at 88, it bothered me.  He is one of the few celebrities which I hoped would never die.

It’s incredible to think that when his morning show with Kathie Lee Gifford went into syndication in 1988, I was doing my student teaching.  Through the years of his show I got married, had two sons, and my mother died.  No wonder I felt attached to him—he was on the air nearly half of my life.

My favorite part of the show (I’m sure many of you would concur) was the opening chat between the hosts.  I liked it primarily for its spontaneity.  The unscripted segment was refreshing compared to all other TV talk shows which are meticulously pre-written and rehearsed.  It felt more real, more authentic.

What also made is pleasurable was Regis himself who never came across as a big shot, a host with a big ego.  He was natural not pretentious, someone you could imagine talking to at a coffee shop for 30 minutes in an easy way.

I saw Regis twice in my life, both times from afar.  One time he was at a Barnes & Noble signing his book.  The line was too long; otherwise, I would have done it.

The other time was at the 2002 Rose Parade when he was Grand Marshal.  Coincidentally, I was in that parade riding in a vintage automobile.  I was one of two teachers chosen from Glendale Unified School District for the honor.

As all the floats, cars and horses lined up in the dark on Orange Grove Boulevard at six in the morning, I walked around and saw him leave the Rose Parade Tournament House after eating breakfast.  I was so excited that I videotaped it.

Because I was embarking on my new career as a teacher, I was unable to watch many episodes of “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.”  However, whenever I was home during a week day, I would make sure to watch the opening segment to see what Broadway show he and his wife Joy went to see or which restaurant they ate at because there would always be a story about some mishap that occurred in their evening out that would put a smile on your face.

So many famous people are phonies, but Regis was the real deal.

 

 

 

 

Dependence Day–What We Need on this July 4th

It is July 4, 2020.   Independence Day.

But what’s there to celebrate?

In terms of instant gratification, restaurants are closed, firework displays canceled, family gatherings shunned.

Covid-19 does not look at a calendar, sees a holiday and takes a day off.  In America yesterday, 53,000 people tested positive for it and close to 600 people died.  This virus remains untamed not so much in the whole world, but mainly in America.

Remember America?  The greatest country on earth.  The one place where people from all backgrounds can plant their flag and have opportunities nowhere else to be found.   Geographically, it is a land mass of 50 different states.  Kansas is not Hawaii is not Florida is not California.  Yet the name of the country has been the UNITED states for 244 years.

At no time in my lifetime has the United States seemed so divided.  The coronavirus has given a test to Americans:  can they roll up their collective sleeves and tame this malicious malady?  Can they follow basic ways to protect themselves and others by wearing masks, keeping apart and washing their hands?

After four months, the answer is “No.”   The 2020 version of the U.S. is not the 1941 version or the 1929 version where most Americans worked together for a common foe be it a financial collapse or a threat to democracy.  What happened to those type of people that used to be plentiful?

As a nation, we don’t all trust science.  We challenge scientists and doctors.  These aren’t politicians who have agendas.  These are intelligent people who study evidence and come to conclusions.  Too many people think they are wrong.

That’s a problem.  Because if we all can’t agree that Covid-19 is highly contagious, that if you contract it you will be very sick and depending on your biology could die from it, then we can’t agree that the sun is in the sky during the day and the moon appears at night.  Facts don’t exist.

But the most important fact about Covid is that the majority of people who contract it are asymptomatic.  They feel fine, no signs of illness.

That aspect of the virus is the cruelest because it gives people a false sense of security that they can beat this thing or, worse, that it is a big hoax.

When people think of the word “pandemic” they picture millions upon millions around the globe dying.   Thank goodness most people who have it won’t die.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t out there.

Think of a serial criminal that has broken into several homes in your community.  Have you seen the criminal yet?  No.  Do you know anyone who has?  No.  So logic leads you to a wrong conclusion—the criminal does not exist for only one reason—he hasn’t reached your house yet.

Why do people allow themselves to be fooled in believing that if something bad hasn’t happened to them that means it doesn’t exist?

There is a worst disease out there.  It is selfishness.  That seems to be a trait common among many.  Is that how we define “united” these days?   Live one’s life any way you want, to hell with everyone else?   Because that describes many today.

Journalist Damon Linker who writes for TheWeek.com explains what is happening this way:  “It amounts to a refusal on the part of lots of Americans to think in terms of the social whole—of what’s best for the community, of the common or public good.”

Two trends over the past decades have contributed to the decline in people thinking of others:  one, the decline in parents teaching values, two, the elimination in schools teaching citizenship.

The old saying of reaping what one sows is happening in front of our eyes right now.   It has taken years for this to grow and it will take years for Americans to reset and learn not only what it means to be American, but what it means to be human.