Welcome to the D-List

There’s this new show on Bravo called Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Griffin has made most of her fame as a standup comic, telling stories about her experiences with famous A-Listers. She played a similar role in a classic episode of Seinfeld and it’s fun to watch her new routines, since now everyone knows who she is and what she does. She has to maintain relationships with people like Oprah Winfrey, but if she doesn’t get nasty, her act loses its edge.

The show is one of those celebrity follow-arounds and isn’t as funny as her stand-up, but she’s got such charisma and wit that it’s tough not to be engaged. I count myself a fan.

So, I mentioned some time ago that since R came back from her trip with Mr. HBA, she had been strangely friendly, actually returning calls. She still wasn’t calling me to talk, and she certainly wasn’t calling out of any kind of interest in my life, but at least she was calling me to answer whatever question I’d left on her phone. A couple of times, she actually answered the phone when I called. That was bizarre.

That seems to have worn off. I called her a little more than a week ago to tell her about this mutual friend of ours who’s having a problem. I was basically telling her because I thought she’d want to know, and because I thought there was a small, small chance there might be something she could do for him. She called me back while I was in a meeting, saying in my voicemail that she was furious about this person’s problem. That . . . was suprising. I guess since she seems not to care much about me anymore, I assumed she doesn’t care much about anyone, but when I called her back, we had a really good conversation about what we might do for this friend.

I called her a couple of days later — last Saturday — to get an update from her about one of the things we talked about that might have something to do with this friend. Basically, it was, “Hey, let me know how things went yesterday with ______________.”

This is how pathetic I am. I thought she’d call me Sunday, and when she didn’t, I thought for sure it would be Monday. When it was clear she wasn’t calling Monday, I began to take a strange pleasure in knowing how unimportant my call was. I mean, I’d carry my phone everywhere, checking it all the time, just to prove to myself that she wasn’t going to call me. Then I tried to figure out how many days I could wait before calling her again to (a) ask her about how things went because I really want to know and (b) make her aware that I totally know where I’ve sunk to in her life.

I mean, this is someone who, just a few months ago, would at least call me to tell me she couldn’t talk. I’m not saying I expect her to call and say goodnight before she goes to bed, as she might have done a couple of years ago, but now I don’t even get a callback about something important five days later! You know, there’s just nothing to think about this except that either she’s sick or injured, or that she’s willfully hurting me. Does she so want me to get over her that she’s willing to just drop any pretense of friendship and force me to find someone else to talk to? Or is she just that certain that our friendship, which has withstood similar treatment in the past, will survive this? I think that if what she’s doing is for what she considers my own good, the least she could do is tell me.

I guess the other possibility is that she needs to focus on this relationship with Mr. HBA and our friendship gets in the way of that, but she could tell me that, too.

I’m depressed. I can live with the fact that she will never love me again the way she did, and as anyone who reads this knows, I’m struggling with figuring out what to do about that, but not being her friend anymore does not figure into that equation. That I cannot handle.

You know what I wonder? I wonder if she’s even thinking about me. Does she ever, ever, ever wonder what I’m up to, or what I’m doing, or how my new school year is going? Or are my occasional phone messages the only memory prompts reminding her that I’m still out here, still thinking about her? Does she just say, “Hm. Mitchell called again?” or does she say, “Oh, man. When am I going to find time to return this call? I’m so busy?”

When I get really, really miserable, as I am right now, I allow myself to think this: I wonder if they’re laughing at me. That loser. Can’t he take a hint? Why does he think he’s still any kind of part of our lives anymore?

And when I get really, really, really miserable, I wonder if my friends, too, are thinking that. Hey. Mr. HBA won. Mitchell lost. Why does he keep insisting on trying to be part of our lives? He doesn’t teach with us, he doesn’t hang out with us, and none of us returns his calls. He lost. Why doesn’t he just find someone else to bother?

Are they laughing at me, too? Or, worse, are they pitying me, that poor slob who’s up at four in the morning, miserable because of one lousy unanswered phone call that R probably doesn’t even remember getting?

You know, even if all that were going on, I could handle it if she’d just keep being my friend.

Then again, why would she want to be my friend? I dislike the most important person in her life and vocally disapprove of her relationship with him. Is my dislike for him causing her to dislike me? If so, the least she could do is tell me. I told her, after all.

“Up and At ‘Em, Atom Ant!”

For the first time in what must be months, I’m awake at 5:45 in the morning not because I haven’t yet put myself to bed, but because I’ve just awakened. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the corresponding evening switch in my schedule and now must go to work as tired as a Don Rickles joke. Lying my weary head down at a reasonable hour is always the most difficult part of the return to school and something I have too much difficulty developing the discipline to do.

You would think that something so supremely in my power, something that would put an end to my endless self-loathing, would be something I’d be extra-motivated to do, but I have always been a night owl and just prefer those late-night hours. There should be schools that operate nocturnally; surely I’m not the only teacher who does better keeping vampire hours, and I’ll bet a lot of students are the same way.

Back. To the grind.

Two-shoes, two-shoes,
Goody-goody two-shoes:
Don’t drink, don’t smoke–
What do you do?
Don’t drink, don’t smoke–
What do you do?

Someone Really Does Want to Beat Me Up

Every so often, a friend will approach me and say, “Hey. I met someone who wants to beat you up.” It occurs to me that I should pause here and say that yesterday’s tale was made up (sort of), but this story is totally true. “I met someone who wants to beat you up,” says the person, and I say, “___________,” because I know exactly who he or she is talking about.

Near the end of 1994, I was just over a semester away from graduating from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. My primary social circle hung out at the headquarters of the campus ministry I was involved in, and we were raising money for missions trips to Samoa. We went with the old standby: a spaghetti dinner. It’s cheap, it’s filling, and it’s not difficult to do a decent job with.

We did things by the book, so although the campus ministry buiding had a kitchen, we took the show on the road and prepared the noodles and sauce in the only space we had ready access to that had a Department of Health food-prep license: a slaughterhouse a few miles away. One of our members was related to the owners of one of Hilo’s slaughterhouses, and we got permission to use it after hours.

I know. It’s freaky. We all tried not to think about what normally went on in that large room with huge stainless steel sinks and several floor-drains. We brought a few large propane stoves and cooked several large pots of spaghetti and sauce and I think we were done past midnight. We packed everything up and took it back to the student center. The next afternoon, we heated up the sauce, and poured it over the cool noodles and it wasn’t Mario Batali, but it wasn’t bad. I’d put myself in charge of the meat sauce and I think we did pretty well with it.

It was a very successful fundraiser, and there was quite a bit of leftover food, so those of us who’d worked hard to get it prepared and served sat down for a bit and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. I was at a long folding table with my roommate Dave, his future wife Tasha, my future short-term steamy fling Rosanne, and a few others. I don’t know how we got on the topic, but I was saying some unkind things about a former elected official on Oahu. He had been the Republican state-representative from Hawaii Kai (I guess that was a redundancy right there) when I was in high school, and his four kids all went to my school. I say my words were unkind, but the truth is that they were normal words by a political observer about a public figure who’d displeased me. This guy was also one of the people who brought a major campus-ministry organization (not the one I was in) to Hawaii from the mainland, once upon a time, long before I arrived in college. I bring this up to emphasize how public a figure this public figure was.

I suppose if I’d stopped there, just at critcism of the man’s politics and the organization he’d brought to Hawaii, there’d be no story to tell, but I didn’t stop there. I had a few opinions about the way he’d raised his kids, too. His eldest son was in the class after mine, his eldest daughter was in my sister’s class, two years after me, and there were another son and another daughter, whom I’d never really known because they were considerably younger than me.

Now, I want to say before I continue that I love that older son and older daughter. Especially the daughter. She was fine, and I didn’t normally think that about my sister’s girlfriends ’cause that was kinda gross. I’d had my differences with the son, but I genuinely liked him, and we’d worked together at the Boy Scout camp the summer before my senior year (yes, the camp I wrote about in last year’s NaNo), and had even spent one night praying together when we found out that two of his friends had died in a stupid, terrible car-crash in Aina Haina. Still, I had some problems with the way this former elected official had raised his kids. The son was probably going to be okay no matter what, but the daughter, my sister’s friend, had some problems, and I believe they were largely the result of ridiculously strict parenting. I won’t go into details here because if the person who wants to beat me up ever sees this, he’ll want to take me to that slaughterhouse in Hilo if I restate the stuff I said that night.

Okay. So Dave, Tasha, Rosanne, and I moved on to other topics. Our time together was running out, as Rosanne was only in Hilo on a semester’s exchange from CalState Hayward, and Dave and Tasha were both graduating in December, and we were spending as much time together as we could. Tasha’d been having problems with her mom, and had been staying at Rosanne’s apartment, and we all felt quite close to each other.

In the middle of one of these conversations, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I put my fork down and turned.

“You got something you want to say to me?” said a guy I didn’t recognize.

“Um, no. I don’t think I know you.”

“Oh, I think you do.”

“Well, I think I don’t.”

“I’m ______________.”

Holy crap. It was the younger son of that former elected official I’d been bad-mouthing. What the heck was he doing in Hilo? And how did he expect me to know him? It made sense for him to know me, because he had been in seventh grade during my senior year, and, well, it was a small school and everyone knew me. I had a way of getting noticed.

“You wanna step outside?” he asked me.

Geez. Only if you’re staying inside, buddy, is what I wanted to say, but what I said instead was, “Look. I’m not going to fight you. I apologize if something I said upset you, and I certainly don’t blame you for being upset, but I can’t apologize for my feelings about your father. He was an elected official.”

“What about that stuff about my brother and sister?” he asked.

Yep. He had a good beef. I tried to calm the guy down, telling him that if I’d known he was in the room, I’d never have said any of the things I’d said, but that my opinions were based on stuff I didn’t think he could argue with. He actually conceded that point, saying he wasn’t particularly fond of his brother, but he added that I still shouldn’t have been talking about them.

We talked about it for quite some time. The friend he’d come to the dinner with (who, it turned out, was the guy who’d been my room-mate in my first semester in Hilo) spoke some calming words and the two of them left. Dave, Tasha, and Rosanne said they thought I’d done quite well, for someone who’d said some awful things about a man’s family while the man was in the room.

Anyway. That was nearly eleven years ago, and apparently, the guy hasn’t gotten over it. I still don’t blame the guy for being mad, but he seems to take every opportunity he gets to tell people he still wants to beat me up. This is how it usually happens: someone will meet the guy, and in the course of conversation will find out he went to HBA. So then they play the “do you know so-and-so” game, and my name always comes up because I never shut up about my alma mater, and then the guy tells whoever’s just met him that he wants to beat me up.

“I met someone this weekend who says he wants to beat you up,” I’ll hear the next Monday. I explain what happened all those years ago, and almost each time, my friend will say, “He’s right to be upset, but he should get over it already.”

He’s not. I must have said some really unkind things!

My Hero!

It wasn’t in the news for some reason, but someone died last month in an attempt to save my life. See, there was this guy out on the leeward side of the island who, according to sources, kept a pistol under the front seat of the Ford Explorer he drove every day from Waipahu to town and had been bragging to his friends that he was going to “take out” some person in Kalihi. Someone who claimed to have been watching him said that he was going to be driving down my street one morning very soon at about the time I normally walk to the bus stop.

The someone warned me, but I said that I wasn’t going to alter my morning routine just because someone might be out to get me. I acknowledged the threat, but decided that until my life was more directly threatened, I wasn’t going to be bothered. “Thanks for looking out for me,” I said, “but there are a lot of other people who need your attention.”

He didn’t listen. He asked a guy who worked for him, a young man about eighteen years old who planned to study to be an engineer if he could save up enough money for tuition, to stop the Ford Explorer guy from endangering me. So the other night, the young man took up a rifle and took a position right on the freeway, near the Waimalu off-ramp (perhaps ten miles away from my street), and when he spotted the Ford Explorer, he took aim and fired. He missed. The Explorer swerved, but that caused someone else to swerve, and the second vehicle ran right over the future engineer. He died immediately.

Wouldn’t you know? It turns out the Ford Explorer guy didn’t own a pistol. He wasn’t a very nice guy and not a very good driver, but there was no evidence that he’d ever even used a firearm. It turns out, too, that the guy who ordered the future engineer to stop the Ford Explorer guy from killing me had been planning to do something about the Ford Explorer guy for years, for reasons I still can’t figure out. And even though the Ford Explorer guy turned out not to have a gun, the guy who says he’s trying to save me still orders young men in his employ out to the freeway to prevent the Explorer guy from killing me in the future. Every day, at least one of these young men dies.

The would-be engineer’s friends and family say he’s a hero. They say he was protecting me.

I appreciate the sentiment, but you know, I just don’t see it that way.

Talking Bubbles

I feel a little weird. Not especially stressed about anything, not particularly miserable, not very happy, not typically angst-ridden. Just mellow, I guess. I’m feeling a little bit of the usual end-of-summer regret, yes, but I think there’s something I can do about it this week, and I’m going to get on that. I think I have an odd sense of having done most of what I need to do in these last few weeks, and now that I’ve got another full week to go before teachers report, I’m in a sorta holding pattern.

Most of my thinking comes in small spurts with very little continuity. I’m on one topic for a few moments and them I’m quickly on to something else. It’s difficult to work through difficult problems, because I seem to be having trouble attending to anything for very long. I wonder if my brain is enjoying the last week of freedom and therefore allowing itself to ignore any pretense I might try to give it about structure and discipline.

“But you’re not dumb. I’m not dumb. We just learn differently, man”
“Whoa, whoa. I’m not different. I’m just like every. Body. Else.”

This is some dialogue from an episode of The Cosby Show that’s on right now. The first speaker is Theo. The second is a student he works with in an after-school program as part of his internship. Did you know Bill Cosby has a son who’s dyslexic? That’s why Cliff Huxtable has a son who’s dyslexic, and this is the truest dialogue about dyslexia I’ve ever heard on a prime-time television show. One of the most difficult things I and my colleagues have to deal with on a daily basis is breaking through this feeling that so many of our students have. At my school, we celebrate differences, but so many of my students’ differences have alienated them from their classmates at other schools in negative ways that what many of them want — especially the younger ones, or the ones most recently in other schools — is to be just like everyone else. That doesn’t sound right to most of us who are adults, right? We love the idea that we’re not just like everyone else. Do you know how difficult it is to change the minds of kids who’ve been convinced by teachers, parents, and classmates (at other schools) that their differences mean that they’re stupid?

What I have to deal with on a daily basis is not only the learning difference, but the layers of damage that these students carry around with them every day. There’s a lot of talk in the news nowadays about these statewide and national standards for learning, but those standards only work either when everyone learns the same way or when schools differentiate teaching strategies to suit each student’s learning style. I’ve got students who can’t — and maybe never will — read above a sixth-grade level, but these students are perfectly capable of understanding ionic bonding, the quadratic formula, and themes of lost innocence in the literature of William Shakespeare. They just need someone who’ll help them learn it in a way that allows them to process the info. For some of them, it’s verbal instruction and verbal assessment. For others it’s just providing them with enough time — sometimes double what other students need — for reading and writing assignments.

Now. I have two points to make. The first: If the test is administered one way, no matter how brilliantly the questions are worded, does it effectively measure the learning of an entire nation’s student population? That’s not even asking the real question, which is if the material is taught one way, does it effectively teach an entire nation’s student population? Let’s just assume everyone has learned the same stuff. Assessing the learning with one assessment tool, such as a standardized test, proves almost nothing.

The second point: Which is more important: That American high-school graduates know by heart what the Declaration of Independence says, or that they’ve learned how to access, process, and report the information when they need it? What’s more important for our graduates: That they possess a shopping-list full of facts and can spit them out on command, or that they possess the problem-solving skills and self-awareness necessary for pursuing the lives and careers they deserve? School should be primarily about affective and social development, especially at the K-8 level, and the way these tests are written, there’s no way to tell from the results if a student has learned any of that.

You know what else? Children develop at different rates. We all know that. We don’t measure a child’s height as a means of determing whether or not he or she is ready to move from fourth to fifth grade. I’ve seen students not understand how to form a thesis statement as sophomores in high school, despite years of excellent instruction by terrific teachers. You know what? Most of them got it — and got it quite well — by the time they graduated. I’m convinced that a lot of the things we teach are just held, waiting for students to mature. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen students who were basically screw-ups turn into decent, intelligent, responsible learners in just a few years. It happens all the time. How does standardized testing play along with that? I certainly don’t know.

Well. What do you know? I’ve managed to hold one line of thinking for this long. Actually, it just appears that way. I began this entry ninety minutes ago and hit it a few paragraphs at a time between laughing at Theo and laughing at Vanessa. No Lisa Bonet in tonight’s episodes.

Cute Animals

In ascending order, the cutest animals (not counting baby animals, almost all of which are cute):

  • Bunnies. Quiet thoughtfulness. I wonder if this impression I have of them is influenced by Watership Down.
  • Platypi. I think I relate to their unique, difficult-to-categorize place in the animal kingdom.
  • Aardvarks. Did you know that aardvarks are anteaters, but not all anteaters are aardvarks?
  • Polar bears. I could spend hours just watching polar bears. They were my favorite thing at the San Diego Zoo when I went in 1984.
  • Cats. I’m a recent convert, but one thing I love about them is the way they are often the only animate thing in cityscapes. Meowing is pretty cute, too.
  • Sheep. I don’t know what it is, but I am drawn to them. Their mild-manneredness and gentle demeanors? Not sure, but I want to own sheep someday.
  • Penguins. In that summer of 1984, I also went to Sea World, and if I’d been there alone, I’d have spent hours in the Penguin Encounter.
  • Dogs. Oh, my goodness. Man’s best friend, indeed.
  • Sea otters. I really want to plan my next trip around seeing some otters in California sometime in the next year. They’re so cute!

I Thig I Hab a Code

I felt it the moment the cold hit me. It was about 12:30 Friday night. At 12:25, I was fine. At 12:30, I was sniffling and my nose was running. I did the podcast anyway and then Saturday I did Cathy’s good-bye picnic at Kailua Beach. Spent all day Sunday in bed and then more of the same Monday.

Actually, Sunday night I got a little crazy (too much sleep and bad dreams to boot), so I walked down the hill, picked up some groceries, and had dinner at McD’s. Monday night I did the same thing. It’s not a lot, but it’s fresh air, it’s getting my body moving, it’s getting out of the house. Made a big difference both nights, too, but then I got home sorta amped and I’m worried about getting my body clock back in sync with the rest of the world in time for the start of school.

The best thing this week is the phone call I got from the director of the M.Ed. program I’m trying to get enrolled in for the fall. She worked the phones as if it were her own son’s education at stake, and finally convinced the business office at UH-Hilo to release my transcripts, meaning I’m pretty much good to go, once I secure the tuition money. Whew.

I ordered a couple of books last week and one of them, the new Boondocks anthology, has kept me pretty busy between naps. The first collection, Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper, was the funniest thing I’d read in ages. Subversive, creative, unpredictable, and just hilarious. Aaron McGruder has moved almost completely away from the cultural stuff and totally into the political stuff, which he explains in the intro to A Right to Be Hostile, which I didn’t purchase because it was made up of the first two collections, plus some new strips. I appreciate his convictions and his willingness to walk where other artists don’t go, but he sacrifices humor in order to go there. A lot of humor. I’ve chuckled a few times, but mostly my response is just a quick nod. The first collection had me howling. It’s kinda sad, but as I’ve said, I totally understand why McGruder feels he has to go there.

R has come home from her trip and has been strangely friendly. It’s still not what it was — I mean, if I don’t call her first, we don’t talk at all — but she’s actually picked the phone up when I’ve called a couple of times, and when I called last night because of my bad dreams, she at least called me back the next afternoon. I don’t know if that’s progress or what. She and Mr. HBA have come back from their trip apparently still close. I was kinda hoping they’d come back hating each other. I’m terrible, I know.

My latest cooking project has been whole-wheat biscuits. I started with the most basic of recipes (whole-wheat flour, water, oil, baking powder, and salt) with the intention of working with one or two more ingredients at a time. The trouble is the whole-wheat flour. Most of the recipes I’ve seen call for half whole-wheat, half all-purpose. It’s not the easiest of ingredients to work with, this whole-wheat flour. You can see why flour became what it did — I mean, who doesn’t prefer light and fluffy to dense and hard? Then, it seems that all the things that make biscuits good are on the bad list: eggs, shortening, milk, and butter. What’s the point of making something with whole-wheat flour if you’re going to mix it with an equal amount of all-purpose flour and then add all that other stuff? There’d better be some point, or I’ve got four and a half pounds of whole-wheat flour that’ll just go to waist.

The best thing about the picnic at Kailua (a beach I have never liked) was Harry Potter talk with Anto. I’m playing with the idea of planning a talk-about-Harry get-together for grownups. Some decently priced restaurant with a party room, like the Wisteria (r.i.p.) used to have would be cool.

Sonya Thomas Needs a New Nickname

By now you already know who Sonya Thomas is — she’s that amazingly petite and slender Korean-American woman (I’m assuming the American part, actually) who finished second at this year’s Nathans Famous hot-dog eating championship at Coney Island on the fourth of July. I first saw her on Jimmy Kimmel and was really impressed. She’s pleasantly nice and silly, like a lot of my friends, and seemed like someone I could hang out with.

It doesn’t hurt that she’s kinda cute, too. Well, maybe it hurts a little, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Sonya’s really good at what she does, obviously, and routinely beats up on men twice or three times her size in the competitive eating arena. I really like her attitude — she seems to understand that in order to be seriously competitive, you’ve got to take the competition aspect seriously, but she also seems to understand that this is competitive eating we’re talking about, not Olympic swimming.

I root for Sonya whenever I get the chance to see her in action, despite my moral objection to competitive eating itself. I’m only mildly opposed to competitive eating anyway, and even less opposed to competitive eating when its participants are cute, slender, Korean-American women.

However, what I really hate is this nickname she’s got. “The Black Widow.” It’s in her URL, even. Every freakin’ time she’s spoken about or spoken to, it’s Black Widow this, and Black Widow that, and the name just doesn’t fit! Plus, it’s a name she chose for herself. A good nickname needs to be something someone else hangs on you, unless you’re a professional wrestler, and while competitive eating as a sport is only a step ahead of pro wrestling, the outcome at least is not predetermined, so it is more contest than show, and in this arena, you’ve got to let the nicknames come however they come.

So that’s my first problem. She chose the name for herself. Another thing that bugs me is she doesn’t look like someone you’d call “The Black Widow,” does she? Heck no. She’s too cute. Too girly. Her appearance doesn’t strike any kind of fear into anyone. She’s more like a little kitty than a black widow.

This is a smaller objection, but the Black Widow name is also undoubtedly racial. I don’t mean racist-racial; I just mean race-related racial. I don’t mind that by itself, but because she doesn’t look anything like what a Black Widow should look like, everyone’s ready acceptance of this nickname seems to be related to the fact that she’s an Asian woman. She’s got that exotic, mysterious look that Asian women have when surrounded by Caucasians and Africans. Of course, she’s only got it in its minimal amount, because as I say, there’s nothing spooky about this look. She doesn’t look like she could trap you in her web, or deceive you until it’s too late, or lure you into submitting to her will, or any of these mysterious, exotic ideas men get when they see lovely Asian women. Again, I don’t have a problem with wanting to call an Asian woman “The Black Widow,” but if the only reason you’re calling her that is that she’s Asian, when the name doesn’t match her for a second, well, that’s wrong. A little.

My biggest problem with Sonya Thomas taking this name for herself, though, is that the name was already in use by someone else for ten years before Sonya burst upon the scene in 2003. Yes. There’s already a Black Widow, and she didn’t name herself — in fact, she was reluctant to allow people to call her that, but someone pinned the name on her, someone asked her about it, someone published it, and that was that. She was the Black Widow.

Jeanette Lee, one of the best professional billiards players in the world and certainly the most celebrated, is the only Black Widow I will acknowledge. Look at her! She’s got that look. She looks like someone who, even if someone else had the name before her, would easily wrest that title away because here’s your prototypical Black Widow. When she first tried to make a living shooting stick, she’d appear in pool halls and when the guys tried to hustle her for her money, she’d kick their butts, outhustling them (“I only took money from guys who were out to take my money,” she has said). That’s why a guy who ran a pool hall began to call her that! So not only is it a name someone else gave her, there was a good reason for it. The name fit.

Plus, it’s billiards, which I’ll admit is only a few ladder rungs above competitive eating in the sports world (I love pool, but it’s no sport!), but it is much more suited to having a star named The Black Widow. Look at the nicknames in competitive eating: “Cookie” Jarvis, “Hungry” Hardy, “Yellowcake” Subich. Sonya needs a name like that. How about Blackberry? Sonya “Blackberry” Thomas. See? She looks more like a blackberry than a black widow, that’s for sure.

And it’s not like nobody knew about Jeanette Lee. She had a pinball machine named after her, which was in all the arcades in the country back in the mid-nineties, called Black Widow. And lots of people from all over play pool and would therefore have seen Jeanette’s posters on the walls of billiards halls. Jeanette has endorsed Cuetec cues (one of which I am the proud owner!) for a decade, and Cuetec has done its best to make sure everyone sees and knows Jeanette.

So. Sonya “Blackberry” Thomas, if you’re out there vanity-surfing someday and stumble upon this humble online journal, take it from an admirer. You’re no Black Widow. Do yourself a favor and get a different name. I’ll even pay for the domain name. And set up your website. Whoever’s doing your site now is doing you no favors!

And Jeanette, if you’re vanity-surfing someday and stumble upon this humble online journal, give me a call sometime if things don’t work out with you and your husband. I’ll let you play with my cue stick.

Going . . . Going . . .

It’s a good thing Jesus got me first, else baseball would be my religion, and these broadcasters would be my pastors.

In ascending order, the best baseball broadcasters I’ve heard:

  • Vin Scully
    He’s the old master, the consensus Lord of Baseball Broadcasting, and he deserves it. Ask anyone–and I don’t mean just baseball fans–to close his or her eyes and imagine the sound of a baseball broadcaster, and everyone imagines the voice of Vin Scully, whether he or she knows it or not. Everything Vin says is poetry, school-lesson, sentimental journey, and sermon, all at the same time. The only reason he’s not higher up on my list is that I haven’t seen very many Dodgers games.
  • Jon Miller
    The dean of ESPN baseball, Miller could make his living on the talk-show circuit if he wanted to. He’s absolutely hilarious on talk shows. He does this impression of Japanese baseball broadcasters doing their best Vin Scully that has me holding my stomach from laughing so hard. I heard him on a national radio talk-show once, and he had the crew laughing so hard you could hear it. He’s great with Joe Morgan, his ESPN broadcasting partner, and he’s even better solo.
  • Joe Buck
    His father is a broadcasting immortal (in the Hall of Fame), but I honestly remember only a handful of games called by Jack Buck–all of them playoff games or World Series games. Joe is the absolute best of the new-wave, second- and third-generation broadcasters. He’s obviously smarter than anyone else in the stadium, and he manages to be cooler and funnier without alienating his audience. He holds the game at armslength, understanding (and making you understand, too) that it’s just a game, but at the same time believing (and making you believe, too) that baseball’s also something sacred and profound. I love what I do, but if I could trade lives with anyone in the world, I’d choose Joe Buck. Or Julia Stiles, ’cause then I could see myself in my underwear. (stole that joke from yesterday’s Frazz!)
  • Skip Carey
    The oft-parodied stalwart of the Atlanta Braves’ broadcasts for longer than I can remember, Skip is the son of broadcasting legend Harry Carey and the father of Chip Carey. The entire Braves’ broadcasting team is terrific, but Skip has been the cornerstone and heart of these broadcasts, and he’s terrific. I love it when, in games that are pretty boring because one team is ahead by clearly insurmountable numbers, Carey doesn’t pretend the game’s at all interesting anymore. “Well, it’s better than mowing the lawn,” he’ll say, “so don’t go anywhere!”
  • Hank Greenwald
    One of the reasons baseball is adrenaline-rush, brain-massage, and lullaby all in one is guys like Hank Greenwald. One of my favorite things to do with a baseball game is just turn it on (on the radio or tv) and take a nap. I did this a lot in college at UH-Hilo, where a local radio station carried the Giants’ games, when Greenwald was the play-by-play guy. The guy could call a game like nobody’s business, could relate a story like your grandpa, and could wax poetic about all the seemingly meaningless things baseball fanatics love to wax poetic about. I wish I had some of those games on tape, just for days when I have time to get in a good forty-minute afternoon snooze.
  • Bob Uecker
    Baseball fans know better than to fooled by his idiot persona or by those hilarious Lite Beer commercials. It’s true that Uecker batted an even .200 for his career, but he was a catcher, and he caught some of the greatest pitchers the game’s ever seen. There’s a reason you keep a guy out there for all those years even though he’s a lousy hitter; the catcher is the quarterback of the team and usually the smartest guy out there. One of my huge regrets in life is that I don’t live somewhere that broadcasts Brewers games. I’d listen to Uecker broadcast paint drying. Oh, if you don’t know who this guy is, yes you do. He was the guy in Major League who took swigs of whiskey between pitches while broadcasting the games: “Juuuuuuust a bit outside!” In the Lite Beer commercials, he was the “I must be in the FRONT ROW!” guy. He was also on Mr. Belvedere, but you probably don’t remember that.
  • Bob Costas
    He does a million things, including an HBO show, NBC’s Olympics coverage, and, once upon a time, the original Later show, but everyone knows that what he will eventually do, when he decides to slow down a little, is chuck everything and find a team who’ll take him, and just broadcast Major League Baseball, his first love. Better than anyone else I can think of, Costas understands why I love baseball. His reasons are my reasons. If these guys are the pastors of this religion, Bob Costas is the Pope. Costas and Joe Buck are both from St. Louis and both Cardinals fans (‘though Buck won’t admit it publicly), so it would be just lovely if they’d both settle down there and do games together. I know they’re both play-by-play guys, but that’s okay. The guys in Atlanta take turns doing play-by-play and color commentary, and it works for them.

Cosby and Effect

I’m up late working on George’s project. It’s looking much better now. I have one more plug-in to install and play with, and if that goes smoothly (HA!) I won’t have much more to do with it except just check it regularly and make sure it’s humming along.

They’ve been showing a lot of The Cosby Show on Nick at Night and I’ve pretty much never watched the show in its rerun syndication. I seldom watched it when it aired originally (wasn’t it up against that powerhouse NBC Thursday night lineup that included Cheers, Night Court, and Hill Street Blues? Or was it itself part of that lineup? I can’t remember!), but I knew it to be entertaining and funny, and I knew I loved Lisa Bonet.

I guess I forgot how funny and clever it really was, since we tend to remember stuff in its most recent form, whether positive or negative, unless we were big fans to begin with. I think, too, that all the funny SNL parodies of Bill Cosby himself have replaced in my mind the actual Bill Cosby, who is one of the funniest comedians ever. I have three of his LPs from the sixties and seventies to prove it. Someday, when I have a turntable.

But what I really forgot was how heart-breakingly beautiful Lisa Bonet was. I suppose that has something to do with what she did after Cosby and A Different World, and that’s a shame, because holy cow. Those eyes and that smile and that great skin are doing it to me all over again. I don’t really know what kind of an actress she is, but she should only have had to be decent in order to be today what Halle Berry is, which is a goddess.

I’ve seen a lot of Little House on the Prairie this summer, too. A little-known secret about me is that I have fifty-six one-hour episodes of Little House on VHS. When I was in college, I became a huge fan and thought I should tape them on TBS late, late at night in case it wasn’t on TV anymore for my own future kids to love. That was 1989 and 1990, and I thought kids were perhaps in my near future and I had no way of anticipating the whole DVD thing. So I haven’t forgotten a thing about Little House, but it has been nice to spend some time with Melissa Sue Anderson again. That’s Mary, the eldest Ingalls daughter, in case you get them confused.

Yay. A third episode of Cosby tonight. Look at that skin! Look at those eyes! I mean, Phylicia Rashad and Tempest Bledsoe are gorgeous, but when Lisa Bonet’s in the room, they’re practically invisible. Oh. The eighties.

There’s a show premiering soon on Nick at Night where parents pull pranks on their kids. Is that brilliant, or what?