Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Showing Up

This piece was published a couple of days ago at the M Street Softball League website. Since I can't expect you to be as much of a mens fast-pitch softball nut as I am, I'm assuming you may not have seen it there. I think it makes a good point, and I've been told by many of my fellow players that they agree with the sentiments expressed. So, here it is and I hope you enjoy it.

Me, 2004, when I played for Sidewalk Cafe in the M Street Softball League [photo: Mark Senna]

With the accumulated wisdom that comes from having been on this planet for 57 years, I decided to play in three mens fast-pitch softball leagues this year. I think I mentioned that I'm 57 years old? What I haven't told you yet is that I'm a catcher. My knees write nasty letters to my brain after each game. They say, "What were you thinking? Next time, use yourself!" My brain ignores them, of course, because it's just a knee-jerk reaction.

Anyway, these aren't "over 50" leagues I'm in. They're mostly populated by guys in their twenties and thirties; folks who are at least relatively in shape and, unlike me, don't need a calendar to time them when they run the bases. The interesting thing is two of my teams are in their first year of existence and I was actually recruited to play on those two teams (I've been a member of the other team for 20 years.)

Obviously, 57-year-old catchers with balky knees are not usually in high demand. I also have a torn rotator cuff, so my arm stinks. In addition, my batting average drops closer to my weight with each passing year. So, why did the guys who run those two teams ask me to be a part of them (I mean, aside from my sparkling personality?) It's because I show up.

Showing up is the most important thing you can do in some of life's endeavors. If you can be relied upon, that makes up for many a sin. No matter what other problems a coach may have, he knows he can always count on me being there. That's important. Lots of better players in these leagues don't always show up. Sure, if you put me up against some of those guys, both of us available to play, you'd put the other guy on the field and I'd (rightly) take a seat on the pine. But I'm always there. When that other guy doesn't show up, I'm ready to go. That's why coaches still consider me valuable at my ancient-for-ball age. I show up.

There are folks in every walk of life who do the same. They show up, every day, ready to give it their best shot. Most of them do so in much tougher circumstances than being a softball bum like me. They push a broom, lug stuff, clean floors and do the dirty work. They flip burgers, drive deliveries, dig ditches and haul crates from one end of the warehouse to another. They show up and do the job. Ask any employer how highly they value that trait. It might be the first thing on the list. Hell, if you don't show up, what value do you bring to the table? None. You aren't even at the table.

If you're one of those folks who does the tough jobs, keep that in mind. Showing up will pay off. It might not reward you immediately, but it will earn you respect sooner or later. I've never been the best player on any team for which I've played, but of all my teammates from thirty years ago I'm the only one still playing - and still being asked to play. It's because I show up.

And I'll be showing up here again, soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Common Usage

Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a-changin'”. For my money, the times are a-changin' a lot more now than when Dylan sang his song. For the better? Maybe.

I brought my car to a mechanic to have the transmission fluid changed. While I sat in the waiting room, watching TV, another guy, 30-something, came in and sat down. We struck up a conversation, during which he mentioned he was new to the area. I asked if he moved here for business reasons. He said, "Yes, my HUSBAND is the new librarian at such-and-such college."

I didn't jump out of my seat aghast, red-faced and sputtering, quoting bible verses and condemning him to hell. On the other hand, my brain twisted a bit. It was the first time I had ever heard a member of my own sex refer to his wedded partner as “husband”.

I'm not cloistered. I have gay friends. I have gay relatives. I've been part of the wedding party at a gay marriage. This was the first time, however, that I'd ever heard that usage in casual conversation. I'd heard "spouse" many times, and the ubiquitous “partner”, but never "husband" from another guy.

I posted about it on Facebook. Some younger (and obviously hipper) folks told me it's fairly common usage now. I opined, half-jokingly, that it certainly makes the situation clear. Not only have you been told the person you're with is gay, but also that he's happily married and won't be hitting on you.

(I say that not because I expect gay men to be inexplicably attracted to my semi-ancient self, but because it truly makes life easier to know such things. I now realize I could have done the same sort of favor for him by saying something along the lines of “My WIFE has always wanted to be a librarian, too!”, but in reality she hasn't. She says she's always wanted to be dead – at least since we've been married - and saying that probably would have confused matters rather than clarifying them.)

Seriously, though, the first thought for me was pride that I didn't automatically go gape-mouthed and slack-jawed. Then, after leaving the garage, I reflected further. What a condescending son of a bitch I am. Even if I wasn't visibly fazed, who am I to be proud of that? I'm far from perfect. I smoke cigarettes, I admit to owning the entire recorded output of Grand Funk Railroad and I vote for Libertarians. These days, many people consider all of those things to be psychological aberrations more than they do homosexuality. Meanwhile, this guy was just casually stating, during the course of friendly conversation, that he was in a committed monogamous relationship with another human being. Does he need me to sanctify that in some way? Hell, no.

I'm a Christian, and something of a fundamentalist at that, so religiously I'm not comfortable with it. But the libertarian part of me doesn't believe in forcing my beliefs on others. And there's that whole “love thy neighbor” thing, too. Live and let live. And, oh yeah, same sex marriage is legal in my state, so, uh... I think next time maybe I'll change my own transmission fluid. It requires less thought.

Soon, with more better halves.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dazed In Future Past

As is my ridiculous wont these days, I took an internet quiz. This one purported to tell me how old I would live to be. The result – no joke – was 128.

First, given my personal habits both past and present, the odds of my living that long are about the same as my becoming Queen of England. Second, and more important, God forbid. As MY WIFE said, taking into account our financial prospects for the next 70 years, “I guess welly cheese must be extremely good for you.”

Getting to the real point here: You may be searching your memory banks for “welly cheese” (unless you actually grew up having to eat it, in which case you might be cursing me out for reminding you of your unhappy childhood.) In any case, “welly cheese” was cheap American cheese handed out by the government to poor folk. The certainty that many people under a certain age (and over a certain income bracket) wouldn't have the slightest idea what MY WIFE was talking about got me to wondering what other things we'll probably throw into conversations when we're in our 120's and which the staff at the nursing home won't understand while waiting for us to croak. Here's a short list I came up with...

Wite-Out (and its cousin, Ko-Rec-Type). Speaking of which, typewriters, carbon paper and mimeographs. When we try to explain the joys of sniffing purple ink, they'll probably sedate us.

Walkie-Talkies. Pay Phones, as well as phone booths, party lines and any reference to 'dialing'. We'll talk about having called a recording of a lady for the correct time and they'll probably wrap us in wet sheets.

Astroturf, which in a roundabout way brings to mind, “Rut-Roh!” and “Jane! Stop this crazy thing!” When we elucidate further, with “Bang! Zoom!”, “Up your nose with a rubber hose!” and “Aaaaaayyyyyyyyyy!”, we'll become candidates for lobotomies (except nobody will know what those are and we'll quote Latka Gravas: “Thank you very much!”)

Record stores, phonographs, jukeboxes, VHS and Beta, which will remind us of 8-tracks, cassette recorders and reel-to-reels. “Catch you on the flip side!”, we'll say with big smiles while they tighten the straps on our straitjackets.

Pay Toilets (I still find it hard to believe there was actually a time when some people charged other people a dime to poop, so I won't blame the staff when they up our meds again.) And when our nurses ask, “What in heck is a five-and-ten?”, we'll tell them - and they'll give us the maximum dosage, to which we'll gratefully say, “Sock it to me!”

I'm sure you can come up with many more stupid things I'll say in the future, but I guess that's enough for today. In the meantime, since I have no desire to become a superannuated freak, I'm going to double my bad habits and take that test again. Wish me rotsa ruck.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Continuing Saga Of... Oh, To Hell With It...

I'm in the Boston Herald again. If you like me, you should go there and make appropriate commentary.

I think this makes four times in the past eight days I've sent you someplace else to read my stuff. I apologize for being so successful that I've become a royal pain in the ass.

(I am such a tool. Now that I've bragged about what a big damn deal I am, I'll no doubt immediately sink back into total obscurity.)

(Unless, of course, you really like me and go to the Herald website and say very complimentary things about me, thus convincing them to keep buying my stuff, which means I'll keep sending you there. Eventually, I'll win a Pulitzer, then I'll have all of you over to my place for waffles the day after!)

OK, I guess that takes care of whatever that was. If not, let me know.

Soon, with more batter stuff.

(See what I did there? Waffles!)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Continuing Saga Of Jim Sullivan, Clown

As in funny ha-ha.

There I am, mentioned on the cover, only 7 spots below Dave Barry (still my contemporary) and just 5 spots below Bruce Cameron (whoever in hell he is.)

(That's a cheap joke, unbecoming of such a laugh riot as myself. Bruce Cameron is a very funny fellow and writes circles around me. I wish he'd stop. It's very annoying.)

(Hey, if you want real laughs, you have to buy the issue. Sorry.)

You could go here...


... and subscribe. That way you'll get every issue, whether I'm in it or not. Of course, that means you'll be stuck reading Barry and Cameron every month.

OK, I'll stop before I completely alienate those two superbly funny guys. But, before I do, imagine how Andy Borowitz feels being four spots underneath me. If I was him, I'd probably take off the top of my head and run a cheese grater over my brain.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Continuing Saga Of Jim Sullivan, Superstar

I have been published again.

This time, the venue is Discover magazine. You can see part of what I wrote HERE. I say "part of what I wrote" because you'll have to buy the issue - or, better yet, subscribe - to get all of my wordy goodness.

(No, when you click over to the website that's not a photo of me, although it is a fair approximation of what I looked like some 30 years back.)

I'm expecting to have another piece of mine hit the stands, in a different national publication, sometime in the next couple of days. I'll be back to bore... I mean, delight you, with further news, in a day or two. After that, I promise I'll have something here, right in this very blog, that you can actually read and consider literature (if you're willing to grade on a curve, which I know you are from past experience and I thank you.)

Soon, with more better stuff (after the next self-promotion.)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Massachusetts Driving Lesson

That's what I called the piece I submitted to the Boston Herald. It may still be called that; I don't know. Why don't we both go to the Herald website and find out, eh?

See you there?

(Hope so. And thanks!)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Sterling & Silver

The following is a piece I submitted to the Boston Herald several weeks ago. Since I say I submitted it, rather than they published it, you know what they thought of it. The general point of it still sticks in my craw, however, so I decided I'd spit it up here.

Before I do, though, I'd like to be sure you know that I don't think of you as just an audience for my rejects. I love you, and think highly of you, because you were here before my meteoric rise to journalistic fame and fortune.

(And you don't deserve sarcasm, either, so I apologize for that. I've been blessed with what I've accomplished so far and you've been a big part of that. I thank you.)

Anyway, here's some second-rate stuff. If you end up with the same opinion as my editors at the Herald, I won't scream and cuss.


Can we agree on one concrete reality? Donald Sterling is a jerk. Now let's talk theory.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who fined Sterling the $2.5 million maximum and banned him from the league for life, did pretty much what he had to do given the evidence, right? In a league where African-Americans comprise some 80% of the players, as well as about half of coaches, Silver had little choice but to hand out the most draconian punishment at his disposal. Doing otherwise would have led to league-wide player discontent, even the possibility of a wildcat strike destroying the current playoffs and costing the league hundreds of times what Sterling had to pay. There would have been an avalanche of bad publicity, from which the league might never have recovered. The message to the sporting public, as well as the world at-large (the NBA is very much the most global of our major North American sports), would have been one that said, in effect, the players are chattel; extremely well-paid, to be sure, but still working under executives whose opinions and actions are not far-removed from the plantation. Any black man who chose to take the court, if less punishment had been meted out, would probably have been seen, by his peers, as a coward and a sell-out.

Probably all true, but here's another scenario. I'm not saying it's what I would have done if I wore Silver's shoes, but it's interesting to consider.

What if Adam Silver issued a statement to this effect: “While we, as a league, deplore Donald Sterling's overtly racist comments, and we feel he should be condemned for such, there is a greater principle at stake here. One of the foundations of our American way of life is freedom of speech; the freedom to speak one's mind. Even if the words spoken are patently offensive to the majority, we hold sacrosanct the right of our citizens to speak such words. While all in an official capacity with the NBA would prefer that Mr. Sterling not speak such ugly and reprehensible words, we feel it is not in the best interests of society as a whole to make censorship our official business policy. Therefore, while we want it known, without equivocation, that we condemn such sentiments, and feel that the expression of same are a sure sign of little or no moral compass, we feel it is more important, in the long run, to support the greater underlying principle of free speech.”

Is it realistic to have expected such from Mr. Silver? Of course not. Given his fiduciary responsibilities – and, to give him an easy benefit of the doubt, his own good moral compass – he said, and did, exactly what we should have expected (and, I think, what most of us would have done.) I'm not arguing that Silver was wrong. I'm just saying it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had he decided to defend a principle instead of his principal. Is it too much to believe that some people in far-flung despotic nations might have taken notice and understood we truly believe in one of the major freedoms we espouse? Maybe. But, as much as I understand and appreciate what Silver did, and as much as I deplore what Sterling said, the experiment would have been interesting.
And that's that. Feel free to tell me I'm an idiot, if you so desire.
Soon, with more better stuff (in all likelihood.)


Friday, July 04, 2014

If One Decade Equaled One Year...

That's the premise of my July 4th piece in the Boston Herald. That is, one decade = one year, if you're a country. The United States is 23 going on 24.

Confused? So am I. But you get to go to the Herald website and get less confused. Look for "Sullivan". I should be around there somewhere. Meanwhile, have a Happy Independence Day!


(That was the world's cheapest fireworks display, in case you were wondering.)

Soon, with more better stuff.