December 16, 2012 - December 9, 2012
. No long decline and fall, no conspicuous
humiliation and degradation. Just the end of everything. Kewl.
Funny how it plays so seamlessly into the uber-rational, atheist, anti-western, anti-capitalist, anti-American, leftist Global Warming, er, climate change paranoia. Almost as if the Hopi Indians had something in common with Occupy Wall Street. All those evil old white dudes are going to get what's coming to them. And everyone else too as, well, collateral damage. Bummer kinda. Especially if you're an atheist and know to a certainty there's no afterlife. Oh well. Omelets, breaking eggs, and all that.
I can't wait to see how it all works itself out.
. He needs cheering up. He lives in
Connecticut surrounded by liberals. Who can blame him if there's one
arena in which he feels no need to be the sore thumb? He's a
Patriots fan, even though by birth he's got Eagles blood. I could
claim I'm throwing him a bone with this post, but I'm not really.
I'm just being honest.
I'd like to announce that I'm officially done with hating Tom Brady. I'm still not fond of the Patriots, but I'm done with hating them too. There is precedent. I used to hate John Elway with a passion. That grin. God, he made me mad. Then, late in his career, I finally realized he was just really really good, and why shouldn't he win the big games? Over a long career with consistent results, it can't all be luck and favorable calls from referees, etc. I rooted for him in his final Super Bowl appearances. I stopped grimacing at the grin. He was having a good time. Why shouldn't he grin?
So it is with Tom Brady. In the endless debate over Peyton, Brady, Peyton, Brady, Peyton, Brady ad nauseam, I always sided 100 percent with Peyton. Peyton was cool and smart, Brady was a lucky pretty boy swimming in Bellichick's bottomless well of talent. When you've had more success and praise than most who have ever played the game, why are you still smoldering over the slight of not having been drafted higher? You were never a starter at Michigan. Why would you have been drafted higher? And, yeah, Michigan. My Buckeye mother never liked Tom Brady. Michigan.
But I was wrong. Cracks have been forming in my assessment of Brady for several years now. I've seen him furious on the sidelines. He has nothing left to prove by any measure. He'll be first ballot Hall of Fame even if his throwing arm falls clean off his shoulder today or several years ago. Yet his hatred of losing is white hot, probably not more or less than it was when I wasn't noticing. Why he's one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.
The Peyton-Brady debate is a waste of time. They're both stupendous superstars. We're privileged to watch them play. Neither is responsible for the league's determination to protect them from injury. The only NFL games I've ever seen were the Patriots when they played Sundays at Harvard stadium. I remember the incredible gentleness with which opposing teams sacked Joe Namath. More than anyone else, he was responsible for the consolidated NFL and the prosperity it brought all professional players. No one wanted to be responsible for putting the finishing touch on Namath's two glass knees. The notorious tuck rule is not Brady's fault. He's every bit as game as the Manning who plays with a broken neck. (Hardly surprising that he gets sacked as tenderly as Namath. They're not quite so kind to Brady? His hair, you think?)
I've known this for longer than I care to admit, but last night's game has finally pushed me to quit pretending. The Texans bought the cliche that the way to beat Brady was to get in his face, make him nervous with constant pressure, sacks, and knockdowns. They were wrong. My favorite image from that game was J.J. Watt's baffled face on the sideline. He kept knocking Brady on his ass, and it didn't change a thing. Brady killed the Texans anyway, drilling merciless holes in a vaunted defense that can stop everything but genius.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are getting old in NFL terms. I'm getting old in absolute terms. Too old to pretend that incredible talent, fortitude, and unrelenting hard work are dismissible as luck. Michigan aside, I'm prepared to admit that I've become a Brady fan at last. I think they'll win the Super Bowl this year.
My reasoning? They'll win the AFC championship because Roethlisberger won't be fully healed before the playoffs, and the Broncos, as Peyton keeps telling us in every interview, don't have 10+ years of common experience with their recuperating ace. They'll win the Super Bowl because Brady is still better than Eli Manning is inspired (and lucky) and better than Aaron Rodgers is, period.
Not that we won't be watching anyway. All I'm saying is that I won't be surprised, mad, or anything but admiring if Brady ups his Super Bowl record to 4 and 2.
This isn't an admission. It's -- as I said above -- a privilege.
Give us a smile, Josh.
We've talked about serendicity
before. Here's the chronology. I did a piece the other day about the
ordinary losses associated with time. You get older and certain
things go away. I mixed the topics of Jersey tomatoes and snack
foods. I was attempting to cheer people up in my odd way. Some of
that sense of ongoing loss is reminiscence, nostalgia, and some of
it is pique -- good things done in for no reason that just might be
I was moved by those who chose to respond. They tilted heavily toward nostalgia, even in some cases toward nostalgia for times not even experienced. Joe kind of pierced my heart.
He doesn't remember these times. He just longs for them, the way
future generations will long for a great America they've heard about
but never known. Others, just as affectingly, knew precisely what they could never get back.
I grew up in the 1950's in a very
small town in northeast Kansas (population about 400). In the
summertime they would put on a weekly band concert. The band was
made up of adults in the community as well as high school
musicians. My best friend's dad played trumpet. They put on these
concerts right in the middle of the main street and all the stores
stayed open late. In those days the railroad had a depot in the
town. The railroad employed a fellow to deliver freight which he
delivered by putting it on a cart when he pulled by hand. He had a
helper at times to help push the cart and make the deliveries.
Neither of them were educated and were probably quite limited
intellectually. Nonetheless, I considered them my friends. When it
was time for a band concert, they would pull their cart down to
the city auditorium. In the basement of the auditorium was the
railing and the chairs for the concert. They would haul the
railing and the chairs and the music
My mother was from Ohio, and I lived in Ohio. I know something about
the band thing. I felt like I had taken too shallow a cut at the
"What Do You Miss" question. So I set about correcting the error and
I still live in the country. Much of what is only a memory to most is still alive here. I can get real tomatoes, for example. People grow them in private plots and sell them at roadside stands where the honor system remains in force. There's a tackle box with a slot in the top and you put the money in for the tomatoes, beans, and canteloupes because the proprietors aren't there. Multiple customers are a luxury because they make change with each other.
We have a Market Day once a week on the main street of my town in summer. The farmers come to sell their produce, and people wander back and forth across the street visiting and gossiping. We have Cowtown Rodeo, written about here before, where people bring their kids and actually police their behavior in consideration of other folks, and everyone helps out with making sure no kid wanders too far from his parents.
We have a real annual county fair with all the lost trimmings: Four-H competitions, kids standing proudly by their healthy heifers, rabbits, pigs, and goats. Innocently boastful posters too. A music tent featuring local talent. Dog agility contests, funnel cake entrepreneurs, antique tractor exhibitions. Young hellions without tattoos compete in equestrian events.
Our asparagus, sweet corn, and pole lima produce remains the best in the country.
A lot of what others miss I don't have to. Why I felt guilty. So I dug deeper. Truth is, I miss all kinds of things that will never come back. I've written about a huge whole bunch of them here. But there was one, well, multimedia sensory experience that will be no more I wanted to cop to in honor of the commenters. I wanted to share the experience of August in South Jersey tomato country, a mile long line of tomato trucks, like a train riding on muddy tires, chugging sonorously as it inched toward toward the three tomato factories in town -- Heinz, Ritters, and Hunts. A city boy would probably call it a reek. A town of 30,000 (then) overpowered by the intense. rich. earthy but sweetish smell of tomatoes loaded by the millions in palisaded trucks stewing in the late summer heat. And, yes, it was hot back then too, long before rumors of global warming. Definitely and absolutely something lost that can't be brought back again.
I was going to link it to my own youth by tracking down the first tomato canning plant in Greenwich, New Jersey. You know. The place where it all began. Where I began.
Searched YouTube, because the physics of posting make YouTubes easier than jpg's anymore. When I stumbled on my own home address. Yeah, it's still less than 20 miles away, but I've avoided it for years because I didn't want to know. Now I do.
Good God. The YouTube up top really is a current rendering of the house I grew up in. But it's not the house I grew up in. It's a grotesque fake, a pretentious fraud, an inflated museum monstrosity that makes me physically ill even to see.
We didn't have a numbered street address when I lived there. We were just RD#3, meaning part of the third rural delivery route. I recognized it first from the outside view (huh? What? Can't be...) and then, definitively, from that wide fireplace with the dutch oven.
I spent the first 14 years of my life in that house. It wasn't a fake then. It was part of the great American story, one generation giving way to the next, sometimes for good, sometimes for ill. It was a living body of American history, good and bad. I played my own part in it. My part was a small part, now erased, my father's larger, now camouflaged and turned fraudulent, and I am compelled to say that what I miss most is ordinary human history.
If you want, I'll tell the story. The difference between the house in the video and what I remember. If you don't we can talk about all the other stuff you miss. I'm laying no special claim. Just offering a serendicitous moment.
Otherwise, I'll proceed as before.
. Definition of missing. No pictures. No provable
But the YouTube in the prior post was MY house. How I know. The centerpiece of the mansion was the wide fireplace, restored within an inch of its life. Antiques everywhere, blah blah -- only problem? The actual mantelpiece was the exact same 2 x 6 my dad installed when he discovered the fireplace had no mantel. I recognize his handiwork, which is just like mine. He'd be thrilled to hear that it's been taken for antique.
He wasn't trying to fake anyone out. He was putting up a mantelpiece. Because a fireplace should have a mantelpiece. He used walnut stain to make it match other parts of the room. Didn't really. But when you have no money, you do your best.
I could give you a guided tour. The doors with thumb latches our German Shepherd Mattie knew how to open unless someone was watching.
The front door -- I suspect you can find it -- that bowed inwards during Hurricane Hazel and my dad dreamed about afterward: Harry Truman wanted in and was denied.
The snug den where we listened on Fridays and Sundays to... well, as I've already told you.
Let me back up a bit. I don't have the pictures. Things you lose as you get old. The house my dad bought wasn't a stand-in for the House of the Seven Gables. It cost $1500 in 1946. He and his young wife hacked it out of the wilderness. Trees were growing through the windows. Ivy was consuming the mortar from the bricks. I don't have the pictures but I've seen the pictures.
He spent the next quarter century turning it into a lovely home. He was an ambitious guy. It had been a farmhouse for a long time. Farmers in the area didn't believe in lawns. My dad did. He mowed all three of the six and a half acres that weren't fields. He didn't believe in fertilizer or seed. His conviction was that if you treat weeds like grass, they'll eventually become grass.
The house itself was a disaster with a history. The middle part dated to 1730, the big left hand part to 1815, and the one-story right hand frame part to the Civil War. The brickwork was all different, there was lots of ivy covering both, and there were structural problems with both parts. The 1730 part had no real floor; it was crumbling into mud. The 1815 part had been sabotaged by farmers who ripped out a supporting wall so that the two principal first floor rooms were on the verge of collapse.
Hardly a mansion. Oh, I forgot. The Civil War part, our kitchen, was subject to rats, because it had no foundation whatsoever.
I'm sorry if this isn't as funny as promised. But it kind of was. It only took 25 years, but by the end the place looked better than the YouTube video. My dad never had any vacations. Neither did I. When I got old enough to mow, the lawn grew, out into the attached fields that came with the property. Cut the weeds, watch the grass grow. Mostly true. It wasn't till I became corporate that I started seeing the USA.
When I was nearly ten, we turned a field out back into a tennis court. I held the posts while he slammed the post hole digger into the ground. I held the chicken wire while he closed the copper closing rings. And I rolled the court and rolled the court while he raked and smoothed and ran the liming machine. Then we played, tennis on our tennis court.
Later he fixed the broken things in our historic house. He added a kitchen you can still see parading as original in the video. (We all scrubbed the adjoining brick wall with wire brushes to remove ivy remnants. Imagine our surprise that those bricks are now river rocks.) He poured a concrete foundation in the empty hole of a room where the big fireplace is, which no doubt sustains the phony brick floor the video shows.
I don't mind people making things look better. I do mind esthetic trumpery. The frame structure to the right is nonsense. It was never two stories, and the siding is pure forgery, designed to look two hundred years older than it could possibly have been. Worse, the uniformity of the brick facade spanning the 1730 and 1815 parts looks new. As if some car dealer wanted an old house to look like a suburban deluxe McMansion.
Good luck with that.
Well, not really. I want you to go to hell. You interlopers spent a fortune destroying my home. I miss the days when people would have known what fools you were and what the hell I'm talking about.