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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

30 years later

Beer and pretzel games are a new discovery for my family. We’ve always had a few board games here, but we never played them on a regular basis. I call them beer and pretzel games because when I was in college we had hard core games such as SPI’s War in Europe and we had simpler games like Risk and Diplomacy that we’d play in the course of a night. The lighter fare was for fun, the games we tacked to a wall and studied all semester, they were for blood.

Catan has entered our blood. And it was baptized on Friday night, a glass of cola stood in for holy water. Then, after we’d tried to dry it, we froze the damaged pieces. They’re sitting near the fan of the freezer: a tray of Catan pieces.

We’re using common physics here, the colder air of the freezer is supposed to be drier. That will draw the moisture from the game, and we may be able to resume playing again, soon.
I discovered another accident that will require freezer intervention too. Somehow, in a flood caused by a severe storm last fall, many of the high school and college yearbooks I’d stored since the 1970’s became damaged.

I remember the storm. Several boxes of books and games had been lost, as well as clothes and some electronics. A camera had gone underwater. We’d been taken by surprise.

I’d looked in the box for the yearbooks then, but not noticed the damage. The books had been off the floor in an area that had not drawn any water, or so I thought. In addition, I’d wrapped them in plastic.

Not enough.

Among the books to survive was my senior year high school yearbook. There was the terrible bio teacher who’d nailed the coffin shut on any interest I’d had in pursuing science in college. There was a colleague at another company. I worked with him daily until very recently. It was a small high school, but we’d never known each other then.

A friend from grammar school starred at me from the pages. We’d grown apart in high school and ended the four years disliking each other immensely.

There was Chuck, seven foot tall as a freshman. He lacked some motor skills, as so many of us do in high school, and proved a disappointing prospect for the basketball team. Why didn’t the coaches work with him? He grew to hate anyone who pointed out his height…

Doesn’t it seem as though my high school years were a series of wasted opportunities and frustrations?

Meanwhile, somewhere on xanga, my 16 year-old daughter is blogging about her high school experience. She had wanted to switch teachers in a class. Although she’d expressed interest in college art last year, this year she is unsure what she wants to do. She’s done well in math classes in the past. Scored well on the math portion of standardized exams. Maybe she’ll take science or math in college.

She’s in Buffalo Grove High. I’ve searched the net. There doesn’t seem to be a site called BGHS.sucks or any such individual or group. I’d join. The current problem is that her counselor couldn’t imaginatively create a way for her to switch classes to a teacher she liked. The math department head imagines that if she keeps a journal of all her work efforts, he may consider the request "later." In other words, she must prove she isn’t responsible for the problems. Later, I discovered when I pressed for a complete answer, could be in two, four weeks or even later. The semester is a week old today. She is expressing problems now. I’ve grown to accept her intuition. This is going to be a failure.

Now, BG has a good reputation. It’s received some federal recognition. Its graduates score well in the standardized exams and seem well prepared to go to college.

In general, when I’ve talked to her teachers, they seem knowledgeable and willing to help. I can’t say the same thing about the schools staff. I believe it has to do with the least common denominator. These schools do well in preparing you for the basic journey, but not for the odd ball kid, for the kid who may need some extra services. Their services are aimed at satisfying the LCD, not the exception.

My daughter told me she plans to drop her current math class. That would leave her with only two years of math, going into college. She may need to take additional math classes in college. Worse, she may decide never to pursue those dreams of a life of math…

Thirty years allows some perspective on these things. What will she think in 2035?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Fleury of news from Ireland

Theo Fleury has signed with the Belfast, Northern Ireland Giants. It’s the type of news that is big, in a splashy sort of way. Sports writers eat it up. Okay, not Irish sports writers, where hockey is about as well known as Nascar, but it’s splashy nonetheless.

‘‘I am really looking forward to coaching Theo,’’ Giants coach Ed Courtenay said.

Words to die by. I remember when the Chicago Blackhawks signed Fleury. I don’t think he ever played a game here (wrong, according to the NHL player database. It seems I just remember what the newspapers said about Fleury). Most of his headlines were due to run-ins with his substance abuse problems. What is the 37-year-old to do when he wins his first Man of the Month award—a case of beer?

What will happen to the Giants clubhouse as it battles Fleury’s demons? It’s a peculiar sport, hockey. Sure there are super stars, but does anyone remember the fate of the 2004-5 Motor City Mechanics? Hockey is a sport of teams, not individuals. No matter how talented, the addition of Red Wings stars Chris Chelios (hock and spit!) and Derian Hatcher couldn’t lift the Mechanics last year. What happens in the clubhouse is nearly as important as what happens on the ice.

Good luck Giants, and you too Mr. Fleury.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's the Move

It must be the Move. The Move, as any true Chicago Wolves fan knows, is the dancing guy who has dominated the dance competition at Wolves games since he was first noticed dancing the YMCA about two years ago. Only the cutest and best moving young woman can beat the Move when the time comes to dance for your supper, a competition in which two fans try to earn the approval of the crowd.

My wife and I pondered the picture on our television screen. It has to be the Move we agreed. There were other candidates. There was Sockboy, Chickenman, Hockey Hank and others. But we agreed, we believe it is the Move. What was the Move doing on our television set?

He was there for about six frames in the opening credits of HBO’s summer hit "The Entourage." Watch for him. He’s the guy with the blow-up hockey helmet on, standing on a Los Angeles street corner. What is the Move doing in LA and in the opening credits of the Entourage?

Probably even more disturbing is the thought of two sane people dissecting a television show frame by frame in order to verify that someone in LA is wearing a minor league hockey sweater from our favorite team. (Actually, far more will be pondering this question once my wife gets onto the fan boards.)

Hockey isn’t watched by normal people. Unless you’re visiting this blog from a reference in a post at Wolfkeeper, you may not know that. We, and by that I mean hockey fans, are slightly insane. How else can you explain the fascination of Americans for a game populated by Franco-phonic and bacon loving people?

We may appear normal during the summer, but come winter and we are hockey people. Did you see "Fever Pitch"? Drew Barrymore falls for Jimmy Fallon during the off season. But when baseball season starts, he becomes Mr. Red Sox. He’s completely different.

That’s the way hockey fans are. We’ve spent the summer debating the future of the NHL. The only sport more obscure is, well European team handball and curling, another Canadian dominated sport.

How else can you explain the intimate dissection of the opening credits and the creation of a list of suspects? How else to explain the calendar, populated by notes "V. Milw"?
My wife, who is the real hockey fan in the house, compared to the ersatz fan—me, has told people we can’t visit due to a game being scheduled on a particular date. She went so far as to take her 89 year-old mother to her first hockey game on Mother’s Day. And, when she learned that there was hockey in Ireland, well, she is the first among Americans on the fan site for the Belfast Giants.

This has all been great for my social life, in a limiting way.

We know the Canadian national anthem by heart. That’s weird. Most Americans, including the new US ambassador to Canada, have only a passing idea that Canada is somewhere north of here.

Anyway, there he is, some guy, right now I think it’s the Move, standing on an LA corner and singing into a mike during the opening credits of Entourage. It’s about as nuts as Woo-Woo walking down Clark during the baseball playoffs pumping his fist in the air: "Go Cubs."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hello World

Do I really need to write a Hello World post? Two days ago, my 16 year-old daughter was mugged. She was walking to Blockbuster with a friend at about 10 PM when two guys approached them. The two guys had a gun. The two guys took five bucks.

My daughter and her friend came home immediately. We called the police and talked. I thought...

I've worked a midnight shift for about 16 years, since about the time she was born. Driving around the city at night, through Cabrini-Green and the West Side, I've seen some things that I wish I could forget. I never wanted my daughter exposed to that. As the police asked about the two men, what they took, $5.00, I thought about the times I've had guns pulled on me. I thought about the time a parole officer didn't like the fact that I was white and he was black and by GOD! he was going to provoke a fight to right centuries of injustice. I didn't know he was armed. About other times when I wondered "why am I working at this hour in this neighborhood?"

You listen to your daughter, as she tells how two men about her age or maybe a bit older approached her and her friend. "Did they touch you?" No. Okay, that's good. Just $5, not a trip to the ER tonight.

I wanted to get in the car and look for these two bastards. I can say that about them here, can't I? I'm thinking now of the bloodless answer of Governor Dukakis when he was put on the spot in his run against George Bush. You're angry. You want to kill. Your daughter's safety, maybe her life, was jeopardized for $5. I'm nearing 50. I don't have guns in the house. There is only anger and pain in a future of vigilante justice.

There are signs on the highway to Bloomington, Illinois promoting gun use for home defense. Me, several gun experiences. Now my daughter, one. How many for that farmer?

Hello World. Tonight I'm thinking about my daughter. And five bucks. And two punks and their gun. Tomorrow, let's talk about something else. Hello World.