Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Touch it, dude!"

In 91º of central Indiana heat, Dario Franchitti prevailed to win the Indy 500, termed the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.  With his good looks, great Scottish accent, intelligence, his appreciation of his fans, and his thoughtful words, the now three-time winner is a favorite among those aficionados of fast cars on a track.

Quite a few months back, I expressed how I feel about Nascar and Formula One racing, i.e. I don't get it.  Guess what?  I still don't get it.  I watched "CBS Sunday Morning" today including a story about a NASCAR driver.  One of the facts:  NASCAR is the most popular of all American sports and is now considered the most American of sports.

It's people in cars going fast around a track.  Open wheel cars or stock cars, it's cars going fast.  Yes, they have to be in good shape to remain in control of their vehicles and be aware of everything around them while going a zillion miles an hour with no air conditioning, but what about a guy running on a track who has to be in control of himself and be aware of the same stuff and no a/c either?  Or people running back and forth passing a ball with just their feet in intense heat?  Or guys trying to stop the 280-pound linemen from advancing with a ball when it's snowing and 10ºF?  Or runners in an ultra marathon or a triathlon?  Those are athletes, that is sport, and nope, I just don't get it.

I am a curious person and would like to go to almost any venue to experience it but I don't get NASCAR so much that I would probably have to say no thanks should the opportunity ever arise.  Yeah, maybe I don't want to get it either, but what's to get?  People in cars going fast around a track.  Explain it to me.

"Touch it, dude!"    Photo courtesy of Pete Souza/ The White House
Meanwhile, the election is not until November but the Democrats and the Republicans are gearing up for the greatest spectacle in world politics, the election of the American president.

On the left is a now-famous picture of President Barack Obama's head being touched by a little boy.   Carlton Philadelphia had been on the National Security Council in the White House for two years and one of the perks when you leave (and if you wish) is having a picture taken of you, your family, and the President.  Mr. Carlton brought his wife, Roseanne, and sons, Isaac and Todd.  Five-year-old Todd Philadelphia asked if the President's hair felt like his.  Barack Obama, a/k/a the Leader of the Free World, bent over and told him to touch it.  When Todd hesitated, Obama said, "Touch it, dude!" which Todd then did.

Would any other leader on the planet or throughout history be so humble, so easygoing, so gentle, so generous as to just bend over and let a kid touch his hair?  I have to go with no, I don't think so.  I have issue with many things Obama and his administration have done, but the man is, to use a Yiddish word, a mensch.  Is Mitt Romney that kind of guy?  Mitt had a reputation for being an elitist bully at his private high school.  When you go on to be the head of a venture capital company, you are more than likely an elitist bully still.  I'm just sayin'.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden addressed a group of survivors of slain service personnel, organized by the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).  Surviving immeasurable grief and moving forward is something Mr. Biden knows about.  Right after he was elected U.S. Senator of Delaware, his wife and three children were coming home from shopping and their car was hit by a tractor-trailer.  His two sons survived but his wife, Neilia, and one-year-old daughter, Naomi, were killed.  (This is why he thereafter commuted from Delaware to Washington by train every day.  His kids had a period of convalescence and it was easier for them to stay home and get better with their solid network of friends and family in place and for him to commute to DC, than for the kids to get dragged around.  When they were better he continued the practice.)

Mr. Biden is a guy who often can't shut it but in this video, everything is just right and perfectly heartfelt for this Memorial Day.  Remember those who fell for the country, y'all, and their families who have lost so much.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yes, yes, another please on the road to maybe

I'll Have Another came from that same place he came from last time (not my ass; that is for trivia answers, airport codes, and the names of airports in other lands)  and won the Preakness in Baltimore, Maryland, by a nose, literally.

 The oddsmakers were so in love with Bodemeister this time.  "Looking good," they said, "Looking GREAT!"  They thought he looked so good that they gave Bodemeister 2-1 odds to win the Preakness at Pimlico.  Bodemeister had a couple of weeks to get to know the new track and get used to it and the climate and the smells, etc.   Whatever it was that horses have to get accustomed to before hitting the turf, Bodemeister was kind of spanking I'll Have Another.

I'll Have Another and his stable pony, Lava Man (who won over $5 million in his own racing career), strolled quietly out to the starting line and then they were off.  (Once they get all the thoroughbreds into their starting gates, they start the race before any further insanity resurfaces.)

Bodemeister was in the lead and it was very exciting but then it became thrilling as I'll Have Another came from the pack and moved and moved and moved and then was neck and neck with Bodemeister and then he pulled a little ahead and he won by a nose.  I was very pleased.  I had not a nickel bet on the race -- parimutuel wagering is best done in person so you can assess the horseflesh and still get it wrong -- but I am loving trainer Doug O'Neill and his happy kids.  And I also adore owner Paul Reddam whose investment has earned him back over $2 million in two weeks.

There are no sure things in sports but especially in horse racing as there are simply too many variables.  What I want is for I'll Have Another to WIN the Belmont Stakes which means he will have WON the triple crown of racing.  Unfortunately, I am one of those for whom things don't work out if I just have hope to go on.  I also want it, making it undoable for me and the universe.  Maybe the universe already knows but isn't talking (as the universe rarely does blab).  Regardless, winning the triple crown of racing will capture the imagination of every horse sperm bank owner everywhere.  Let's agree -- when you win the triple crown, you are super special and they will hook you up with some fine filly so you can impregnate her.  Wow, I know men who'd turn into a horse just to get that kind of action.  And get paid for it?  The ones I'm thinking of have saved every nickel they ever made except for vacations they take featuring hooking up with Working Gals so getting paid to do it is just up their alley (except for the impregnation thing as these fellows are boneheads you wouldn't want to be siring anything).  If it made them stop talking about Vacation Monetary Hookups from their pasts then I'd be indescribably delighted. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Conditional Love

On Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 5, an episode called "The Outcast," features Commander Riker falling for a member of a member of a race of nonsexual aliens.  First, Riker falls for someone on many episodes.   Second, it is amazing that Deanna Troi didn't just chop off his Trekticles.  Third, on this particular world, if you are too male or too female you are sent for brainwashing where you come out clean as a whistle, with no sexual/gender tendencies being shown.  I never forgot it because it was such a statement about life as we know it and because dang, Riker really would screw anything that moved with even a soupçon of femininity.  Riker was appalled that his paramour was brainwashed to be less girly and Picard had to remind him of the Prime Directive and butt the hell out.

Last Sunday, Vice President Biden dropped the bomb that he supported gay marriage.  A couple of days later, President Obama revealed that he was, of course, in favor of gay marriage.  "Welcome to awareness, guys," said my coworkers with some disdain.  The speakers were gay men who are all in committed relationships. 

NC Gov. Beverly Perdue (D), courtesy AP
What came after the Obama and Biden admissions was the backchat about marriage between two people of the opposite sex is not a marriage and North Carolina making gay marriage unconstitutional (it was on the ballot, y'all, because elections take time to put together).   The latter is ghastly because people who thought themselves happy and unthreatened could move from there while other people will refuse to spend their vacation dollars there, straight and gay.  Their governor, Democrat Beverly Perdue, was against the ban and said it made North Carolina look like Mississippi.  (I am guessing Mississippi is displeased.)  The former is merely bullshit.

I was in theatre for many years (and if I could control my work schedule better,  I would audition for some community theatre project or other).  In theatre there are many gay men.  In my present line of work, there are many gay men.  Basically, I know a lot of gay men.  I am also friends with two women whom I met through the course of my life who happen to be lesbians.  What the gay men and the lesbians have in common is they want to meet someone special with whom they can share their lives and build a future together.  None of them wants to turn a straight person gay.  Like most sane people with open hearts, they just want companionship, togetherness, maybe raise a family, take vacations, grow old with one another, and experience a richness that comes only with true love and not being judged.

When all the backchatting from various conservatives hit the airwaves -- marriage is between and man and a woman, marriage is so you can have a family together -- I was startled by how pissed off I was because it is all so very conditional.

What the conservatives are saying boils down to this:  you can only have love if you are straight.  You can't experience the nuance of different levels of love between two people; forget about the joy of raising children or even a pet together; you shouldn't own property nor grow a garden;  you mustn't share a bank account; you're not allowed to nurse each other back to health when you are sick.  None of these if you are a gay couple.  It is the conservatives' own version of the Prime Directive.

It has been grinding through my head over and over that these rightwing nutjobs want love to be for straight people only, hoping that members of the gay, lesbian, and transgender community will remain at the edges of society, hidden from view and out of the mainstream consciousness.  They need to see that it is crazy and hateful to believe or even espouse those beliefs because one day they will have to admit they are wrong and that sexuality is not a choice and you like what you like and that love is something between two adults who love each other with no conditions attached.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

From behind

Yesterday, the Kentucky Derby a/k/a the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs featured a whole mess of horses running, running, running to win dungpiles of dough for people putting down wagers, small to huge, and get honor for the owner, trainer, jockey, and the horse itself.  I'll Have Another came from somewhere -- when I answer a trivia question that I didn't know I knew I say the answer came out of my ass but I don't think I'll Have Another was in anyone's ass, well maybe he was, but that's another story -- and won by not very much over Bodemeister.  I'll Have Another won the Santa Anita Derby by a nose.  This is a horse who was bought for $11,000, a freaking bargain in the bank of horse racing.

The Kentucky Derby is a very weird spectacle.  In the stands, the men and women with money sit in their hats and gowns and coats and ties, respectively, having a good time in the way that people with money have a good time.   In the center of the course are the normal citizens wearing what they want to wear also having a good time.  It's the same good time observed two different ways and then they all sing, "My Old Kentucky Home."  The derby is a pure slice of Americana no matter how you look at it.

When the race is over, a blanket of roses is put over the winning horse's neck.  Then the owner or the trainer or both are very excited and proclaim their excitement about going to Baltimore, Maryland, for the running of the Preakness at Pimlico, the second race in the Triple Crown of horse racing.  If they win there, they are even more excited and salivate about New York and the Belmont Stakes and if they win, the horse will be worth not a dungpile of money but a national-debt-pile of money and will be the first Triple Crown winner since Secretariat won in 1973.  It was 25 years of no Triple Crown winner before Secretariat won -- taking the Belmont Stakes by 39 lengths -- and for all you math majors out there, it's been 39 years since Secretariat galloped to glory.

Dan O'Neill, the trainer, picks horses to train in a very unusual manner.  His brother, Dave, goes and picks the horse, then turns it over to Dan to train.  Dan gave I'll Have Another a stable pony -- a horse that escorts the racing animal on the track as a calming influence -- who happens to be an 11-year-old ex-racehorse named Lava Man who won $5 million in his racing career.  (Lava Man is a gelding so "man" is an honorific in "his" case.)  Dave picks the flesh, Dan trains the flesh, and as Dan said after the Kentucky Derby, "Maryland, here we come, baby!"

How the horse got its name has nothing to do with anything but a sweet tooth.  Owner J. Paul Reddam's wife asks him this question every night:  "Do you want any more cookies?"

So what if a football player got concussion after concussion and banged his head repeatedly and his noggin got bumped around a lot but he never complained about it?  And what if he thought of himself as a warrior and the game as his battlefield and warriors on the field of battle don't complain, they get up and continue the fight?  And what if he not only never complained but only mentioned it in passing a few times?  And then committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest, much like Dave Duerson committed suicide, so that his brain could be studied by the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy?

This past week, Junior Seau, ex-NFL linebacker, took his own life with a gunshot wound to the chest.  He left no note.

Join me in condolences to his family, his friends, and his many fans.  Details on autopsy results will follow.