5-2-2005 756?

I said to him the other day, 'George, if you really want to end tyranny in this world, you're going to have to stay up later. Nine o'clock and Mr. Excitement here is in bed, and I am watching 'Desperate Housewives' -- with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife.--Laura Bush

I clipped this from The Sunday Times Leader:

And there it is, kiddies. Proof positive that there really is a God.

When the Knight Ridder folks did whatever it was that they did to Allison Walzer, I was praying for this day to come about. And after reading the What happened to Walzer site put up by a Times Leader employee, I quickly learned that even the employees of that paper knew that SAYSO was an abhorent embarrassment for any group of people that prefer to be known as credible journalists and news gatherers. And that got me to thinking that maybe, just maybe, the SAYSO light might go out when Ms. Walzer's replacement finally came on board at the Leader. And now, thankfully, SAYSO is no more.

I have to admit to looking forward to the SAYSO nonsense each and every morning. And the Sunday version was outstanding being that it usually ran more than a full page. After settling at the computer desk with a mug of tea each morning, I'd devour the local news, skim through the box scores, and them head straight to the latest musings generated by the halfwits, the ill-informed, the factually challenged and proud of it, and the embittered folks still smarting after being trounced at the polls not so long ago. In a nutshell, I friggin' loved the SAYSO gibberish. I truly did. But, I suppose, for all the wrong reasons.

There are those among us who defended the existance of that mostly unchecked and almost entirely anonymous character assasination as being some random sampling of what the locals were thinking at any given time. I say that's total hogwash. I never read SAYSO to get a feel for what the most cowardly of my neighbors were thinking. I read that column so as to laugh at their complete lack of understanding of practically every issue they touched upon. SAYSO was home to the mealy-mouthed, factually bankrupt fools who were emboldened by the promise of anonymity. If they had to attach their names to their malicious and salacious attacks on the folks who chose to live their lives in the public eye, the SAYSO column would have been about as big as the head of a lawn dart on most mornings. I think our own forum page bares that claim out. Although, for the most part, the folks that have bothered to post anything on our forum page come off sounding like scholars when compared to the folks who drooled into the SAYSO line. I'll give them that.

I honestly believe the SAYSO garbage always had the potential to do as much damage to this area as any blighted downtowns, mine scarring or that polluted river ever did. Imagine yourself working at the Chamber of Commerce and being so low on the pecking order that you're not even trusted with fetching Steve Barrouk's coffee. And then one fine morning, one of the assistants to the assistants barges into your cubicle and announces that you've been picked to be the tour guide for the folks from EdibleButtPlugs.com scheduled to tour the area today. Now, if the lot of you found yourselves having a spot of breakfast at a local eatery and one of the visiting job creators wanted you to secure a copy of the local paper for them to peruse, would you grab a copy of the Voice and hand it over to them? Or would you make them aware of the fact that we had two local papers and risk having them find the SAYSO column?

When I'd stop laughing to myself for a moment and realize what SAYSO represented, I'd feel awfully sad for many of the folks that made that a regular stop of theirs. And I'd feel equally sad for our area. Only a hapless dimwit in a haplessly dimwitted county could so gleefully support such a complete abomination. And I'd get to wondering what the folks from outside of our area must have thought about all of us after reading that sort of debris in the most unlikely of places...in a freaking daily newspaper.

In my mind, the end of SAYSO is a very positive development for our area. In my mind, the new editor at the Leader done real, real good. Instead of encouraging the negative pricks with the least to say, the new boss at the Leader has forced them to attach their names to their comments, or forever stick to griping amongst themselves while on line at the lottery machine. Or perhaps, the liquor store.

We've got some real leaders with some real vision for the first time in my lifetime, and if you need to rip them to shreds in the future, you're gonna have to sign your name to your thoughts. In other words, the fraidy cats are gonna have to buck the f>ck up, or shut the f>ck up. Either way, it works for me.

No more SAYSO? Good riddance.

Is it just me, or has Tom Makar been on-duty every freaking time a structure fire has broken out this year?

We hooked Gage's trail bike to the Rock Stomper and pedaled away just before noon yesterday. We were off to the Busted Cherry Festival, er, The Cherry Blossum Festival at Kirby Park. But first, we had some very important business to attend to at Turkey Hill. And no sooner had I deposited three bags of Skittles into my front bike bag, the tone came over the scanner: Darling and Courtright for a working structure fire. Oh, jeez. The delapidated Murray Complex it was. So I asked the amazing grandson if he wanted to go see the fire, which was a very stupid question on my part. We got there just a few minutes after the hose dudes from headquarters did, but not before a request was made for three privates and a chief to be called in. This particular structure fire was gonna take a while to get under control.

Let's go

If I could have, I would have blocked all available paths to the fire ground, and relished in watching that entire complex go up in flames, while the fireman struggled to clear the barricades holding them back. This entire complex needs to be removed from the landscape, but the city is powerless to do too much about it right now. The owner no longer owns it. The bank doesn't own it. The bank owns the mortgage, but no liability. What's a city to do? How about some of us staging a sit-in the next time the fire trucks race towards it? That could work.

Fire away

And while Gage was guffawing over who he refers to as "The Fire Lady," I was approached by one of the local political wannabes with a "friendly" heads-up. According to him, The FBI out of Philadelphia is investigating me because of threats (or some such such sh*t) sent the district attorney's way. (???) Philly? Why drive all the way up here from Philly when the FBI has an office in Scranton? (???) He also claimed that they came to his house to discuss the case (?) with him. (???) And he went on to say that the FBI and a Luzerne County detective had been seen, by him, staking out my house. (???) And he said that they need to settle this thing before the DA seeks re-election. (???) I think this deranged episode clearly demonstrates that the fedrule govmint should increase the funding meant to help the mentally ill.

He also went on to say that the things I have typed in the past have finally caught up to me. (???) He also claimed that people like me "go away." (???) He said that "the law enforcement is all corrupt around here." (???) He went on to say that I should pressure the city's administration to remove this eyesore from the Nord End. (???) And then he asked me if I'd support his next run for elected office before scurrying away to the newspaper reporter hoping to get his name in the paper. And I'm f>cking crazy? Do our paramedics know how to operate a straight jacket?

Any-funking-way, I knew this fire was going to take quite a while to get under control, so I told the little guy we had to break off and head to Kirby Park.

When we arrived at the big park, I was a bit disappointed with the attendance. It rained during the first two days of the festival, so I figured the thing would be a mass of humanity on such a nice day. I bought $20 worth of amusement ride coupons only to learn that Gage "didn't feel" like riding on any of them. He's way too small to punch in the head, so we found ourselves parked next to a trailer that sold all three of the major food groups: Hoddogs-Fries-Cola. And while Gage was chomping away, I was trying to find the pheromone trail of the rather large carpenter ants wreaking havoc on the tree we were settled against. Some nice lady at a nearby booth gave us a balloon and I tied it to the handle bars of Gage's trail bike. Within a few minutes, it popped. So the nice lady supplied us with another one. And before very long, it popped, too. Hmmm.

And all of a sudden, this young couple waltzed by the tree with three very young kids in tow. They kinda reminded me of wifey and myself about twenty years ago. And for whatever reason, I remembered bringing my kids to these sorts of events way back when when our lack of earning potential always meant we had much less to spend on the kids than we would have liked. And I remember what it was like to say no to my kids only because I was just about broke. No, kiddies. We came, we saw, we had a little bit of fun. Now it's time to go home.

So I raced after this couple and when I caught up to them, the young mom almost looked concerned. I asked them if they intended to have their kids ride on the rides. The dad said no. Well then. Thanks to Gage's being a spoiled dork, those three kiddies would indeed be riding the rides. I told the dude how Gage had been and offered him the $20 worth of tickets. His oldest kid quickly approved of the idea and reluctantly at first, so did he. And that was cool by me. He thanked me and his entire brood was on it's way. So I doubled back to the Gagemeister and started stealing his wedge fires one-by-one.

Low and behold, the dude had followed me back to the carpenter ant Intermodel Tree and started in again with this "Thank you very much, sir!" bit again. I assured him it was no big deal, he was welcome, and with that...he disappeared from sight. I knew it! Just like me and wifey so many years before. Before we knew what had happened, we were barely the legal drinking age and already being followed around by a herd of "Please, Dad!" rodents. This is not a situation that allows for much of a jingle in your pocket on a regular basis. And it's not much fun saying no damn near all of the time.

So Gage Andrew dorked me, but some other smallish kids that probably wouldn't have ridden on the rides did, in fact, hit the rides. Before the young family happened upon us, I was of the mindset that I had wasted twenty bucks. But after we zipped the bags, mounted up and rode away...I no longer thought of that twenty bucks as having been wasted.

Nah. Turns out, it was well spent.

I watched John Smoltz dominate again yesterday, and I got to wondering about where all of those guys hitting 162 home runs every year had gotten to. Where are they?

Having grown up during those black-and-white years when you had to either go to the stadium or turn on an AM radio to catch a baseball game, I know how to follow how a game progressed without ever having heard it or seen it played. The box scores. I love the box scores. I can read an entire daily edition of the local newspaper in five minutes or less. And then I'll sit transfixed going over and over the box scores from the previous night's games for as long as it takes to learn what folks today can learn in seconds by watching Sportscenter. But still, I prefer reviewing the results the old-fashioned way. The only way we could not so long ago. Sometimes I think scouring every line of the box scores is a somewhat lost art these days. Whatever.

Anywho, now that steroids are anathema, what has happened to Sammy Sosa? Some say he's working at the soup kitchen, while still others say he's working for Don Sherwood as an ointment and towel boy. Barry Bonds? Is he still whining? Or has he dropped off the edge of the flat Earth? Palmiero? Giambi? Are any of the always hulking guys who were turning varying shades of green and shredding their uniforms just last season still playing baseball? Doesn't seem like it.

When a few of these guys started hitting two home runs for every at bat, you had to sense that something was afoot. Or amiss. I know I did. And now that steroids have been banned, they have been relegated to the dust heap of baseball history where they belonged all along.

I get some ribbing for being a Braves fan. The mistaken notion being that I'm a Braves fan simply because they always win. That couldn't be father from the truth. As a young boy growing up in very Western Connecticut, I and my step-dad were quite regular visitors to Yankee Stadium and I was a Yankees fan. What else did I know?

In those days, those Yankees were larger than life. Mickey Mantle, Horace Clarke, Joe Pepitone and Mel Stottlemyre were some of my absolute favorites. I was there when Mantle tipped his cap as a player for the last time. And I was there when he tried his hand at coaching for the first time. In my eyes, he was a God on a roster filled by other less powerful Gods.

Yet, somehow, despite living in the shadow of New York City, I became a Braves fan. I became a Braves fan because of one man and one man only. And that man was Hank Aaron. Here was a guy who always shunned the limelight and always seemed embarassed by the endless accolades coming his way. And I subscribed to the Sporting News only so that I could follow the Braves and Hank Aaron from far, far away.

This guy was humble. And quiet. And he believed in living a clean life. He got his eight hours of sleep, he ate sensibly, and he worked out. And he hit home runs at a very steady pace. He never hit 40. He never hit 50. He never hit 60. And he probably knew deep down that it was virtually impossible for anyone to hit 70 and beyond. And he kept on climbing up that list of career home run hitters.

As a kid, I knew that the number mentioned in reverent tones, 714, could never, ever be replaced by any other number. 714 was as set in stone as the Ten Commandements were. 714 would stand the test of time and then some. Babe Ruth and 714 were virtually untouchable. They might find the Titanic some day. And Adolf Hitler might be found out to selling used cars in Toledo. But 714 was well beyond the reach of mere mortals.

But there came a day when it became obvious to some of us that this unassuming steady-Eddy toiling away on a sorry team had a legitimate shot of going 715 on us. And when he hit the record breaker off of Al Downing into the Braves bullpen only to be caught by Tom House, I was simultaneously sad at the loss of 714 and thrilled with the arrival of 715. What we had that night was the greatest, most consistent home run hitter in the history of the game breaking the record that no one thought could ever be broken. Hammerin' Hank will always hold a special place within me and I remain a Braves fan to this very day.

And what of steroids? Am I to believe that what took thirty years for some of the greatest players in baseball history to compile in the olden days can be achieved in a mere ten years these days thanks to a BowFlex? Spare me. Hank Aaron's, Babe Ruth's, Willie Mays' and Harmon Killebrew's staggering accomplishments with a bat are being spat upon by players not worthy of being their bat boys. And spat upon by the fools entrusted with the games future as well as it's glorious past.

Where once 714 seemed unreachable, 755 now seems more vulnerable than a nine year-old girl walking alone in Florida. And I gotta tell ya, if 755 falls by the wayside anytime soon...a part of me, that little boy buried well inside of me, will be heartbroken. And I will likely spend the remainder of my days talking about asterisks and how they pertain to Cooperstown.

756? Home runs used to be about batting. Not needles.