Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Year to Remember

I was dithering about the Internet last night looking, actually, for a picture for my website. I thought an action shot of José Reyes would be good. I couldn’t find a picture of Jose, but what I did find was vastly better.

Clips from the documentary “A Year to Remember” about the 1986 Mets!!
It was stunning for me to realize that 1986, a.k.a. Jack Lesniewski’s sports awakening year, was 20 years ago. But then I watched the documentary, and I realized how dated everything seems. No one molded or adjusted their hats in those days, just kinda slapped them on, with the goofy hat nipple sticking up and everything. Weird facial hair. Strange Atari-style bands across the uniforms of teams like the Astros. Skin tight uniform pants revealing more than you wanted to know about Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson. Doc Gooden pitching 10 innings in Game One of the NLCS. Ron Darling and Bruce Hurst pitching 3 games during the World Series.

Watching gave me chills. 1984 was the year I began to be a sports fan. My father first took me to a game that year. It was a surprise. Dad packed me into the car with beach towels, a cooler full of beverages and healthy snacks and we took off west on the Southern State parkway. I was totally befuddled because everything pointed to a beach day, so why go west towards the city. I don’t remember exactly how excited I was when I found out we were going to Shea to see the Mets, but I think it ranked somewhere in the top 2 cool events of my life to that point.

There are vistas and sights in my life that are permanently burned under my eyelids, sights that I can call up in full HDTV clarity. Some of these eyelid photos relate to Hannah, Sarah, scenes from Guatemala or faces of long lost friends. One of those sights is coming out of the tunnel that first time at Shea Stadium. The Mets were playing the pre-John Rocker/Bobby Cox Braves in some dark blue monstrosity uniforms. I don’t remember who won that game or what when on, probably because I was too dazed and excited to take it all in (I could make up stuff, but that’d be too Million Little Pieces, I guess).

All of that nostalgic memorializing is to say that no matter what hat I wear these days, I was sports-weaned on the NY Metropolitans. Which is why 1986 was such a pivotal year. The 1986 Mets were an amazing bunch. You had some of the most exciting young players in the game in Strawberry and Gooden, a colorful manager, superstars like Keith Hernandez, gutsy guys like Backman and Mookie, a young pre-HGH Lenny Dykstra, and apparently as we’ve found later, a team whose locker room resembled Animal House. Good times all around. They were an intense bunch of guys who played hard, partied hard, and really only had one chance to win before they inevitably flamed out as a consequence of too much intensity for too long.

Watching the video reminded me again of how intense the 1986 playoffs were. In the NLCS, you had the villainry of Mike Scott’s unhittable split finger (the Mets had to win Game 6 or they’d face Scott again and probably lose), Nolan Ryan throwing heat and most memorable to me, Lenny Dykstra’s walk-off home run in Game 2. I was there. I can still hear the chants of “Lenny, Lenny” as we filed out with 40,000 jubilant fans. You had multiple extra inning games and none of the games w ere decided early. You have Mets rallies based on bloop hits and fly balls that get away from Astros outfielders. You had a game 6 that was played with a game 7 must win intensity.

It was fun, too to watch the celebrations between the NLCS and the World Series. This was pre-1990s Yankees bandwagon explosion, when New York’s loyalties were up for grabs. Can you imagine a celebrity of Glen Close’s stature pimping a Mets game now? Bill Murray was in the front row. Shea Stadium that much maligned oval by the bay was rocking.

The 1986 World Series has been written about ad nauseum, but I’ll just note here that it’s even more dramatic than I remembered. The Mets were done in Game 6, done like K-Fed’s rapping career or New Coke. Two outs nobody on. And then, little by little, the wheels start coming off. Buckner’s error was, despite what conventional wisdom says, was the nail in the coffin, not the start of the rally. The game was already tied by that point. Regardless, it’s every bit as dramatic 20 years later as it was then.

Twenty years later, are the Mets back? More on that and more 1986 memories later.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What has he got in his pockesses???

Let me relate to a story of a bad day and why the CTA's "technology" fits largely into it.

I came home one day from work at a rehabilitation hospital on the West Side by my usual pre-pinko line madness: blue line to green line. Walking off the el at 63rd and Cottage Grove, I noticed that people were running (literally) inside their homes as I passed by. Never one to miss cues to "something might be up" as I walk through the Grove Parc project.. wait, have you noticed how many CHA projects took their cue from Ludacris when they were named: Lake Parc, Grove Parc, others. Hmmm, maybe someone should have taken that as an omen about the CHA's management ablility. Anyhow, as I walk past a group of young fellas, I hear the words every white male walking through the 'jects longs to here: "get the f out of here, cop!" Whoowhee! So I haul myself to my house, relieved to be home, only to realize I've left my keys "out west." Whoops.
Now I have three options. One, walk back through Grove Parc to the el. Two, walk 8 blocks to the Metra train station and ride south to my in-laws, where Sarah and Hannah are. Three, take the bus and meet my boss halfway to collect my keys. Option one is out, for perhaps understandable reasons. Option Two: I don't have any cash and Metra conductors are notorious for not letting people ride free. Jerks...

So on to option 3. Which means rolling up to Cottage Grove to catch the #4 or 4X or something... anything.

In the span of 30 minutes, 6 buses cruise by heading south. Not one north...

On to plan d... run up to 55th to catch the bus to the green line... which I do. Only now, my CTA Chicago card decides not to work and the CTA bus driver has no compassion for me... so I have to empty my pockets of change, probably stuffing about 6 dollars into the damned machine.

As the evening progresses, it becomes apparent that my Chicago Card is kaput. According to the lovely CTA person I talk to on the phone, this happened because of credit cards, etc. in my wallet. So they'll send me a new one, and since its May, they'll wave the fee for a new card.

As Mike Doyle would say... WHAT??? are you kidding me? Your card is so fussy that it can't reside in the same pleather space as my Discover card and had it not been the month of May, you would have charged me for assuming the CTA had made a card that could actually be used for more than one month? I hate to be a snide New Yorker, but no ones card in NYC suffers such trauma from plastic mixing.

So now my wallet is one pocket and my Chicago Card in another one. I feel like a woodsman with all these things in my pocket.

Just no nail clippers or I'll be taken down by Homeland Security.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

El Potentate and Wal Mart

There's a campaign in Chi-Town to force big box retailers to pay a living wage. El Potentate Richard Jr. Daley came out against it, warning that such an ordinance would cause these big box bullies to flee the city. Two points:
1. El Potentate is spouting theorectical economic wisdom that hasn't been empircally tested. As Harolod Pollack of U of Chicago says: let's test it out. Economic theory points to a number of cases where wage floors do not affect employment. (it has something to do with elasticities of supply and demand, don't ask). Why not do the risky thing and try it out?
2. Is it really that bad to not have big box stores selling China-breaking toys throughout the city of Chicago? Again, we don't know what would happen: would local business districts (63rd Street, 79th street, etc.) revitalize? Maybe they would, which wouldn't be so bad. At any rate, not trying a living wage law is just another example of El Potentate's fascination with bigness (skyscrapers, condo towers, stadiums) at the expense of the so-called city of neighborhoods.

Check out this little ditty on Wal-Mart:


Friday, June 23, 2006

The Revolution will NOT be blogged has a fairly interesting article a bout the blogosphere's beat down on Joe Lieberman and War Room discusses the recent "liberal blog conspiracy" surrounding secret email lists and Mr. Kos's dictator-like tendencies. What struck me the most was Kos's statement about the blogosphere working to create a people center political movement for change in this country. (or something to that effect).

Count me as skeptical. As this blog shows, I'm new to the blogosphere, sucked in by the success of a co-worker, who is able to use his blog to manipulate events and public figures. (see his blog at Yes he will bring down the ho dentist, the Marina City Condo Board, Suburban Tourists, the Metra Administration and annoying tourists).

But will the blogosphere give voice to the voiceless and overcome the race and class barriers to political power and create a just economic and social order in the United States? I don't have any stats on the demographics of the blogosphere, but I'm pretty sure that I'm quite representative. I don't see many blogs from the truly voiceless in American society: the immigrant laborer, the inner city welfare recipient, the migrant farm worker, struggling farmer or rural wage laborer. While Mr. Kos and his denizens may claim that their work is necessary to represent those voices, all their efforts smack of anti-democratic, elitist "vanguard" theories that intellectuals cherish.

The revolution will not be blogged. The revolution will come from sustained, face to face organizing efforts that begin at the local level: finding where the oppressed are and giving them the tools to speak and fight. It is a long, hard struggle that requires more than banging away at a keyboard.

To Paraphrase:
The revolution will not be blogged brother,
The revolution will be no witty post
The revolution will be LIVE!!


Circle Line First Impressions

I went to the CTA's website to read about the mythical Circle Line, a plan to create transportation corridors that are not "loop-o-centric." Fine idea, considering how the economic geography of the Chicagoland region has changed. Before reading the plan, what I feared was another manifestation of the infamous "Plan 21." For all you non-conspiracy theory readers, Plan 21 was the 1st Daley Adminsitration's plan to transform Chicago into a European city: dense, wealthy core surrounded by upscale residential neighborhoods, with poverty, crime, and "inner city" issues pushed out beyond, to the city outskirts and the suburbs.

Well, after reading the documentation on the Circle Line, it pretty much fits the "outta of the city they want us gone" (Common) or "ethnic cleansing" (Jonathan Peck of SYOC) critique of the 2nd Daley Adminstration's "development" plans. The corridors contemplated are close in West and North Side neighborhoods. The West Side neighborhoods included only extend to Western. In other words, they are the old Italian, Jewish, Greek, etc. neighborhoods close into downtown, not the Little Villages, North Lawndales or Austins. Not to mention that the entire southside, south of Pershing (or Ogden depending on the version of the plan) is excluded. It's only ironic if you have no sense of race and class in this city to note that the Green and Red Lines, both of which serve predominantly black, working to lower class neighborhoods, are the only ones that do not extend to the city's boundaries or into nearby suburbs.

Is it enough that the CTA steadfastly refuses to improve service on South Side bus routes at the same time it refuses to extend the Red Line to city boundaries rather than its arbitrary end at 95th street? It unfortunately seems that the CTA's Circle Line plan is another example of Mayor/Gran Potentate Richard Jr. Daley's shortsighted vision of urban development.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I read a fantastic article in Harper's called: Stabbed in the Back! The past and future of a right-wing myth by Kevin Baker. It is a fascinating exploration of how the conservative movement in the US has adopted a myth of betrayal as their main weapon in the continuous culture war they have to wage in order to get elected and retain power. Its basic gist is that Democrats and liberals betray our troops and our country by their criticisms of war efforts and willingness to engage in diplomacy. Its most current manifestation is the characterization of Democrats as wanting to "cut and run" from Iraq. It's the old "soft on defense, who lost China" argument. Baker's article is extremely illuminating because of the historical perspective he takes, showing the contradictions and inanities of the argument.

So why bring this up now? George Bush just visited Hungary and toasted the anniversary of the 1956 uprising there, without (as the AP article says) mentioning the US's failure to help out. What the AP article fails to mention is that one of the reasons for not mentioning the US's failure to help out is that it was a Republican administration, one that won victory based on a campaign that pounded the Democrats on their betrayal of the Koreans and the troops who fought in the Korean War. Eisenhower was elected to office on a wave of accusations of appeasement of communism, treason, and betrayal, with pledges to fight communism everywhere... and then promptly did much of the same. The US's failure to act in 1956 to help Hungary is inconvenient for Bush, because unlike Yalta or Vietnam or whatever other bogeyman conservatives prop up, it was conservative Republicans that "betrayed" Hungary.

The moral of the story? Don't believe the hype. It's not betrayal or somehow being less supportive of our troops to demand that their sacrifices be for something more than national economic interest or in the service of some ideological mission. Supporting our troops does not mean blindly supporting those who send them to die. Betrayal is an easy accusation to throw around, but it does nothing but choke off reasoned, impassioned debate that makes democracy work.

Fireworks rang out like a bell

My first night in Guatemala City way back in the more innocent pre 9-11 century, I drifted off to sleep to the subtle rat-a-tat-tat of what I assumed was small arms fire. In the morning, I was informed that what I actually heard was someone's birthday being celebrated at 2:30AM by lighting fireworks outside their door. Since fireworks were and still are illegal for New Yorkers without the surname Gotti, distinguishing fireworks from bullets was not one of my acquired socialization skills. But after living in Guatemala for four years, I eventually got it.

So now I live on the South Side of Chicago. I have the beautiful blinking light of a police camera creating a disco in my living room. I live a block away from one of the most poorly managed private low income housing developments in the city. And it's summer time. And I hear...


Birthday celebrations?

Long live strange sounds in the night! Without it, urban life, rural life, jungle life would be too easy.