Monday, May 25, 2009

In Remembrance of My Father

Today is Memorial Day and I'm thinking of my father. Dad served in both the Korean War and World War II. During his time in the service he not only survived the sinking of a ship, he survived when a gun mount he was in blew up - in fact, of all the men that were in the gun mount at the time only my father and 1 other man survived. When his ship was sinking, after he made sure all his men were safely aboard the life boats Dad went, against everyone's wishes, back onto the sinking ship so that he could retrieve a photograph of my mother as he was determined that said photo would not sink with the ship. Dad was a Navy man and retired as an officer when I was in the first grade, having served 20 years active duty. He then spent another 5 years in the reserves. After that he had a full civilian career from which he retired.

My father and I were always on different sides of the political fence but I still respect how he served his country. One doesn't have to support a war but one can support the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country. I put my life on the picket lines and carry those scars while my dad put his on the battlefield and carried his scars.

My father was proud of his time in the service and, as he neared his death, he shared with me stories that were beyond the pale. When I was young he told me stories but they were stories that were innocuous. Hearing the more damaged situations broke my heart, knowing that he carried those experiences deep within him. Knowing the horrific experiences he endured gave me some insight into why he had certain outlooks. We can never know what a person truly is until we walk a mile in their moccasins. My father had an extremely difficult life growing up - his mother was not a nuturing person and he suffered the effects of her "issues". He also had some adventures though - he actually ran away to join the circus when he was young and he also played minor league baseball - in fact, he was due to be called up to the "majors" when he joined the Navy.

My father died in late Februray of 2003. On March 3, 2003 I gave a eulogy at his funeral. My eulogy is shared below:

"(name deleted for privacy) was my father and I loved him. When I think of Dad a myriad of thoughts come to mind and I'd like to share just a few. He played semi-pro baseball as a young man. He had quite a varied life and he was a survivor. He survided a ship that was torpedoed, a gun mount explosion and 2 open-heart surgeries.

Dad was a collector of watches. He had more than 15 and wanted each one of us to have one - as if he knew the importance of marking the time we have on earth and how truly short life is.

Memories of Dad - waking up to the smell of a freshly cut lawn on a summer morning. The smell of chlorine and the sound of water as Dad filled the swimming pool for the first time each summer. Sitting on an old-fashioned ice-cream maker while Dad made ice cream (he always got the "paddle" in the middle with the most concentration of the ice cream because "he did all the work"). How when Dad made pancakes on Saturday mornings he always gave the first one to our dog "Laddie". How he was so sentimental and always cried at television shows like Bonanza and at weddings when Mom would sing. How he always wanted to make sure there was plenty of food for the ducks, geese, squirrels and birds at his and Mom's home. How he liked to decorate the front yard at Christmastime with Christmas lights. How he made several trips to the desert in El Centro to retrieve the Pegasus Horse wood sculpture you've all seen in Mom and Dad's front yard (by the way, he was so concerned about it not incurring any damage during the trip from the West Coast to the East Coast that it was placed in its own crate, wrapped by more packing that any piece of artwork hanging in the Louvre, when he and Mom moved back here to Delaware). Dad wasn't perfect - none of us are - we're all human - but he had his ways and he had a big heart. Above all, he was always worried about the safety of his family.

Those are just some of my menories of Dad. There are so many more I could share but time doesn't allow and my heart needs to keep those memories private. I'd now like to share a poem that I think is germane to this occasion. It's called "The Dash" and reads as follows:

I read of a reverend who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the the end. He noted that first came the date of his birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that he spent alive on earth...and now only those who loved him know what that little line is worth. For it matters not how much we own; the cars...the house...the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash. So think about this long and hard...are there things you'd like to change? For you never know how much time is left. (You could be at "dash mid-range"). If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real and always try to understand how other people feel. And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we've never loved before. If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special "dash" might only last a little while. So when your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say when people recall how you spent your "dash"?

I hope you all know how truly big Dad's life was. He was so very excited every time he spoke of his grandchildren Paul, Christine, Alexander, Channing, Chandler and Dylan. His eyes shone with the love that only comes from a grandfather when he talks about the "babies". Randall and Keith, Dad loved each of us very much and was proud of us. He took joy in the beautiful and gracious adults we've become. Mom, what can I say? You were the love of Dad's life. He was always concerned for your well being and was looking forward to spending many more years with you. You were always in his thoughts.

The best way everyone here today can honor Dad is to live life to the fullest, love to our heart's capacity, and laugh - laugh often.

As for me, I'd like to leave you, the audience, as well as Mom, Randall, Keith, Paul and, most importantly, my father with the following thought. In Shakespeare's play "Hamlet", Horatio, after his friend Hamlet has died, bids him audieu with the following epitaph:
"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest".

So, Dad, though your physical body "cracked", I too bid you farewell and good night. May flights of angels also sing you to your rest."

Happy Memorial Day, Dad - I love you.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Santana talks about playing Woodstock and about his new residency at the Hard Rock

Below is a link to an interview Santana did with Tavis Smiley wherein he talks about his residency at the Hard Rock. Do yourself a favor - click on the link and listen to the whole interview - it will definitely be worth your time.

Saturday Afternoon Santana

A few Santana videos for a little mellow (well, except for the last one - it'll make you get up off your posterior and move) Saturday music - don't bother reading the comments from the masses - while some are enlightened, some are just pontificating idiots parading their stupidity. Just turn up your speakers and enjoy! (This is actually the end of Santana's Supernatural Live DVD - with guest performers - stats with a quick photo shoot - then starts playing in a mellowish vibe with the guest line-up Carlos makes a few comments that are the true and the heart of it all - then transcends in jamming, riffing and rocking - quite cool). (Samba Pa Ti - from Sacred Live - Live in Mexico. Interspersed location shots) ] (Somewhere in Heaven - abslutely beautiful - has some interspersed images of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis - soothing) (Live version of the previous cut - played at the 25th anniversary of Woodstock in 1994 - twice as long at 10 minutes and it gets the second part the previous cut doesn't have. There is some technically difficuly at the end of the cut so be forewarned. Again, will sooth and rock your soul while you watch an amazing performance by the master - he also does some riffing which is cool and the joy on his face is why music speaks to the soul) (Africa Bamba - 2006 - ad will pop up during this video- just close the ad and go on enjoying Carlos) (Samba Pa Ti - Live in Crotia - another version - stripped down stage and great closeups of Carlos - very nice) (first time I saw him play and though a mere lass I was instantly hooked ... and remain so)

Monday, May 18, 2009


'Tis the end of the semester and I've got a billion papers to grade. I don't want to grade one, much less a billion. If I grade them at home I can always find ten billion other things to distract me. So, what to do, what to do...? I've got it - my car is due for a service visit so I'll have that service done as well get the car completely detailed AND wait at the dealership while said work is done. Yep, that's right - 7 hours sitting in a controlled environment with no distractions. The chair was comfy, I had food and drink (and the detailing was spectacular). Finished grading papers for 2 full classes - woo hoo! Now I only have 3 more classes to go... Looks like I'll be burning the midnight oil this entire week so sleep doesn't seem to be on the horizon. Oh well, everyone knows what Warren Zevon said about sleeping.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

'Twas the Filly versus the Boys

Leg 2 of the Triple Crown - billed as the battle of the sexes.

As expected, Rachel Alexandra won (last filly to win the Preakness was Nellie Morse in 1924). And yes, I did make money on the race.

However, her connections are being totally non-comittal about the 3rd leg of the Triple Crown - the Belmont. The Belmont is the oldest and, at 1 1/2 miles, the longest of the 3 legs (the Preakness is the shortest of the three races). The Belmont is also deservedly called the "Test of the Champions". If they wuss out and don't run her they'll give all kinds of excuses like "we want to do what's best for the filly" or "she deserves a rest"... blah blah blah. However, I'm not a fan of Jess Jackson and feel he'll just be afraid to run her because she might actually have to run a champion race. I'm not knocking RA - she's a marvelous horse. It's just that Jackson wanted to run her in the Preakness because he didn't think Mine That Bird's Derby win was anything but a fluke win and didn't think any other horse in the Preakness field would give her any competition.

However, Mine That Bird proved his Derby win was for real and he lost by only 3/4ths of a length (not a full length as it's been said again and again). Anyone with a brain knew that the Preakness, at 1 3/16ths fo a mile, had the potential for being problematic for MTB as it was going to be too short of a race for his running style. He's a stalker, a "come from behind" runner and he would have surely beat RA if he hadn't been forced to run seven-wide at the quarter pole before being able to move into contention. RA not only didn't grab the surface well she was tiring noticeably at the end and was fortunate that the race ended when it did - if not, it would have been MTB in the winner's circle rather than RA.

Mark my words and bet all the money in your entire financial portfolio - Jackson WILL NOT run her in the Belmont - he doesn't have "the stones" to do so. Jackson will also not race her for many more years (in fact, I'll be surprised if he races her much beyond her 3-year old campaign), opting instead to get her in the breeding shed - for God's sake, he's said repeatedly that his goal is to breed RA to Curlin after her racing career is over.

Jackson isn't fooling anyone - it's not about the sport or about the filly, as he would have everyone believe. Just as is the case with his Kendall-Jackson winery (although I do admit the winery makes a marvelous chardonnay, particularily the Vintner's Reserve), it's all about money(for heaven's sake, he's already got his winemakers creating RA limited edition wines... good lord) - for - him.

At the end of the day, if she doesn't run in the Belmont she'll still be a exquisite filly but not a true champion.

And, as a side thought, when Jackson announces he won't run RA in the Belmont (and he WILL) the connections of Mine that Bird will let Calvin Borel get the mount back because Borel was aboard MTB when he won the Derby. I personally think Borel, no matter what he says about prior comittments, etc., shit on MTB's connections by riding RA in the Preakness instead of trying to ride MTB to a Triple Crown but that's life.

Anyway, it's on to the Belmont on June 6th - who will show up? (definitely not RA). Will Mine That Bird run another great race and win or will a freshened horse take the honors? We'll find out in 3 weeks. However, no matter what the results will be Mine That Bird has thus far run his heart out during the Triple Crown campaign and he deserves more "props" - from everyone and everywhere - than any other horse so far this Triple Crown season.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spirits, Ghosts, Forgiveness

When walking through the gates shown above physical chills ran up and down my entire body. It was if the ghosts and spirits of those who had come before were welcoming me. Lately I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot and I literally had to sit as I was overcome with the tears and emotions that spilled onto the ground. It was if my entire being was taken over by the letting loose of hurt and pain. I'd not noticed the young lad on the right when this image was created and perhaps he wasn't truly there - perhaps his image is one that speaks to the child in all of us - the child that our hearts need to remember as it peeks out looking for the love we all need to sustain us. Perhaps he is that pure, innocent child we all were and need to carry within our hearts.

In any event, this image takes me to the end of Jimmy Santiago Baca's memoir: A Place to Stand. Baca's memoir is gut wretching, especially if one reads it with a heart. Writer/poet Sandra Cisnerous said,“I put it down on paper and the ghost did not ache so much…”. And the following passage of the book absolutely encapsulates what this image seems to be saying - it's as if Baca's words give voice to the lad's message so that his (and our) ghosts don't ache so much. Enjoy said passage and image taken together:

"… I found myself one evening in Santa Fe, standing before Saint Francis cathedral. It was where I was baptized. I went in to see what it looked like. I didn’t know what the event was, but a lot of people were in the pews. On one side were the Indios, on the other side parishioners. A young priest was shaking the hands of the Indios. The Archbishop and scores of other priests milled around, talking to the people. Everyone seemed in good spirits. I asked this lady next to me what the special event was and she said the pope had proclaimed that this evening every Catholic church was formally to ask for forgiveness from the indigenous people, the Indios, for the atrocities perpetrated on them in the name of God by Catholics. In essence, the church was apologizing for its acts of genocide.

I was okay with that and decided to stay for the whole service. Then I saw this young couple approach the altar and stand in the center. He looked just like my father and she looked just like my mother when they were both young, in their late teens. They were holding a brown baby that looked just like me in the photographs my sister had shown me. They were my parents and I was the baby they were preparing to baptize. I saw them exactly as I must have been here once with my parents, innocent, my whole life ahead of me, they with their dreams still intact.

And suddenly I began to forgive them for what they had done or had not done. I forgave myself for all my mistakes and for all I had done to hurt others. I forgave the world for how it had treated us. As the priest stepped up to the fountain to begin the baptism, I had so much emotion welling up in me, with such violent force, that I knew I was going to cry and cry and cry. As the ceremonies began, I left the pew, genuflected, and walked out.

Outside, tourists were laughing in candlelit restaurants, others were drinking and carousing loudly in open-door bars, and the streets were wet from a light rain. I walked down a deserted street, wrapped in my coat, my head down, feeling an overwhelming relief from giving and accepting forgiveness. I felt it was a new beginning. That little baby was me, before my mother left and was murdered by Richard, before I was taken to the orphanage and the D-Home and then jail and then prison, before Theresa overdosed, before my brother was murdered. I was innocent and pure. I was that child, free to begin life over and to make my life one they would all bless and be proud of. I was truly free at last. And as I thought this, it began to rain harder and the cathedral bells started ringing."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I Am Offering This Poem

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat,
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in the winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure it as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or a hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe,

I love you,

It's all I have to give,
and it's all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

I love you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Yes, I DID bet that 50-1 longshot in the Kentucky Derby

I'm a longshot bettor and this year's Kentucky Derby rewarded my faith in longshots.

On a sloppy track and with a full field of 20 horses, Mine That Bird came from last place at the 3/4 pole to win by over 6 lengths under a heart stopping rail ride by Calvin Borel (who is a complete ass but I was nicely rewardly with the win).

With his win Mine That Bird became the second biggest underdog of all time to win the Kentucky Derby (the biggest upset was Donerail's famous 91-1 shocker in 1913 and while I may be old I wasn't alive to make THAT bet).

For all those people who gave me grief (and you know who you are....) when I made my bets on Derby Day I say "naner naner naner".

Now it's on to the Preakness (the second leg of the Triple Crown) at Pimilico in Maryland this Saturday. It's being billed as a battle of the sexes since the filly Rachel Alexandra will be running. The post positions are being drawn today and we'll see who gets installed as the morning line favorite (I'll bet it's Rachel Alexandra - after all, she did win the Kentucky Oaks, which is the "girl's version" of the Kentucky Derby and was run the day before the Derby, by 20 3/4 lengths). Can Mine that Bird repeat his Derby run? Will the filly beat the boys? Will there be another longshot that'll give us a thrilling ride? Only time will tell...

Official Derby Payoffs (would love to see these sort of payoffs at the Preakness but I doubt it'll happen - of the 3 legs of the Triple Crown the Preakness usually has the lowest payoffs. But hey, anything is possible...):
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show
8 Mine That Bird Borel 103.20 54.00 25.80
16 Pioneerof the Nile Gomez 8.40 6.40
2 Musket Man Coa 12.00
$2 Exacta 8-16 2,074.80
$2 Trifecta 8-16-2 41,500.60
$2 Superfecta 8-16-2-7 557,006.40
Winning Time: 2:02.66

This video shows the race and the post race. One warning - Borel acts like an ass in the post race:

Here's the Derby from an overhead position: