What would Frank do?

FrankUSMain

Alert: minor spoilers ahead. 

Our latest TV binge has been Shamelessthe american version of the dark British comedy, starring William Macy as Frank Gallagher. The series is perfectly named because Frank, a serial substance abuser, is truly shameless. He shamelessly lies, cheats and connives to support his habits without lifting a finger to work. I guess if he’d been born in a better neighborhood, he would have made a great CEO.

Shameless behavior isn’t limited to Frank, Steve/Jimmy steals cars and lies to his family and his lover. Sons Ian and Lip steal, swindle and deal to bring cash to their strapped family, the list goes on. But Frank is the most blatant and narcissistic. He’s a perfect role model.

We love the show. The producers shamelessly break every taboo of TV. Sometimes it’s so gross I have to look away. And then there are times when I can’t stop watching. If you’re disturbed by the human anatomy, don’t watch. The acting is stellar. Macy; Emmy Rossum as the oldest daughter valiantly trying to hold the family together; Joan Cusack gives a comedic performance for the ages as Frank’s sometime girlfriend; Emma Kenney as prepubescent daughter Debbie, leaves you wondering how such a young actor can be that good. There are no weak links in the cast.

Lately I started to think about adopting the motto, “What would Frank do?” I’ve been kind of drifting in life and I feel like having a guiding principle like that would be just what I need to straighten myself out.

For example, I was on a conference call the other day with some of my college classmates, planning our 45th reunion. We were brainstorming of ways to get more people to show up. Our school is kind of the NCAA champ of reunion attendance and people really get in the spirit, so the pressure is on if you’re a committee member. Most of the committee consists of the kind of achievement oriented, serious folks that you would expect from a school like ours. And then there’s me. Kind of a slacker by comparison, then and now.

One of the ideas we were tossing around was how to attract class athletes that might not come because of the class itself, but to the feelings they had for their team and the experience they had playing sports.

The idea, doubtlessly inspired by Frank, came into my head to get a list of all the athletes and send them notifications that they would be inducted into the Class of ’71 Sports Hall of Fame. Never mind that you rode the bench your entire career, it was your inspirational contribution to practices. Who could resist?

But, you say, we’d have to put together an award ceremony and have trophies and gimcrack of some kind. Stop being so negative! Frank wouldn’t even consider that a problem. After you get them to sign up and they arrive on campus expecting their moment of glory, just tell them, “Oh, yeah… We had to cancel that. Lack of interest. Sorry.”

But, alas, I don’t have the steadfast dedication to shamelessness that Frank displays. Too many times I’ve experienced the icy silence that follows the blurting of a brilliant, if out of box, idea. I held my tongue.

I can only dream of achieving Frank’s level of shamelessness.

Keeping a journal, what’s the point?

typewriter vintageWhy do I keep a journal? Good question. I’ve done it off and on for most of my life. I’m sure I started when I was still in elementary school. I wish I had some of those still!

That’s one good reason, it gives you the chance to look back on your life and remember what you were thinking at a given point. A way to measure how you’ve changed and developed over time. Or perhaps how you’ve degenerated. How you were feeling at important milestones in your life. Unfortunately, I don’t think I really chronicled the big events, like getting married, the birth of my children, my experiences in college. Maybe I should go back and try to remember those events. Good subjects for future posts.

And there’s another reason, it gets you thinking. Putting something down in writing helps you confront your feelings about what’s going on. “Confronting feelings” might be a little too much of a touchy feely phrase for me. Maybe explore the aspects of an event or concept.

It helps you build an argument for something you believe. Actually committing your thoughts to paper forces you to lay them out in some kind of logical manner. Or at least realize that what you’re saying is the ranting of a bat-shit crazy crank. Or maybe not.

As I’ve said before, creative activity feeds on itself. As I’m writing, I’m flipping back to a list of blog ideas that I keep. I keep the list but most mornings I sit down to write without a clue of what to write about. And do I ever go look at that list. No.

I just searched Twitter for writing prompt feeds, there are a lot of them. Even one that throws out a one word suggestion every hour.

Another reason is I just like to challenge myself.

Be careful what you wish for

snow-blower---1Last Tuesday I lamented the lack of snow here. Well we got almost 9 inches yesterday. I’m sitting here drinking coffee pondering the task of blowing out the driveway. It’s really not much effort because I have a big ass snowblower. I bought it from a guy who was moving to California. He’d gotten it the year before and never really had the chance to use it. It didn’t really snow much that year. So I got a virtually new snowblower for less than half price.

I used to think shoveling a big pile of snow from my driveway was good exercise. Screw that. If I need exercise, I’ll go to the gym. I wonder what the stats are for people having heart attacks while shoveling. At least if I keel over on the treadmill at the Y, they have defibrillators and presumably people who are trained in first aid. I heard a story about a guy who was delivering papers who, when pulling into a snow covered driveway felt a strange bump, as if he’d run over something. It turned out he’d gone over the snow covered body of the homeowner, who dropped dead shoveling. Not a good way to go.

So I’ve whimped out on shoveling, capitulated to the aging process. Or have I just wised up?

Not that snow blowing is effortless. Sometimes when the snow is deep and heavy and the plow has passed, leaving a compacted berm of dirty snow and ice at the end of the driveway, the wheels of the machine just spin, unable to push through. You really have to lean into it. And there’s also some discomfort. Sometimes you just can’t avoid shooting the snow into to wind. If it’s fine and powdery, it blows back a mist of ice crystals that finds it’s way into the smallest chink in your winter armor, making it’s way to your skin. It also freezes on your face, which makes for some great Old Man Winter looks.

Not to mention the possibility of injury. Think about pairing an accident prone person like me with a set of spinning blades attached to a self propelled platform. I know there’s a deadman’s switch, but if anyone can figure out how to take advantage of a formula for disaster, it’s me.

Wish me luck.

Super Bowl, bah humbug.

footballersIt’s Super Bowl Week. I don’t give a shit. My sports fan quotient has dropped like a rock over the last few years. I think it started when Gary Anderson missed the field goal against the Falcons in ’98. Damn, was it that long ago? That was the kind of crushing disappointment that only the Vikes can dish up. We haven’t had cable TV for awhile now and around here you just can’t watch sports without cable. The Vikings are on broadcast, but football has become an interminable slog for me.

I have a real hard time getting into watching a game if I have no dog in the fight, I’m not a fan of either team. And local teams just haven’t inspired much enthusiasm of late. Being a Minnesota sports fan these days is enough to get you reaching for the SSRI’s. Damn the Gopher Men’s Hockey team is the fifth best college hockey team in the state! Men’s basketball at the U is redefining the word pathetic. The Gopher Women are doing ok, the hockey team is a dynasty, volleyball went to the final four and the basketball team has two of the most dynamic high scoring players they’ve seen.

The Gopher WBB team is the best sports entertainment bargain in town. I get two season tickets for $400 and get to watch sixteen competitive games at Williams Arena. I love the atmosphere at Williams Arena.

Going to a baseball game at Target Field is fun, but expensive.

But football? Watching steroid crazed behemoths stand around for three hours, interspersed with a hundred commercials, is perhaps the very essence of boredom. Oh, there is eleven minutes of actual action going on in that three hours. I guess if you’re a sadist you might get some enjoyment out of the fact that you’re watching young men doom themselves a downward spiral of dementia by repeatedly smashing their heads together it might be entertaining. And of course there are probably some who enjoy the grunting.  But I guess I just don’t get it.

So while almost 200 million folks are watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, we will probably be at Costco avoiding the crowd.

 

Ball dropped

The streak is broken. I didn’t get my 300 words yesterday. Probably because I didn’t do them in the morning as I have been. Break the routine and the day just gets away from you. I did take over 4,000 steps though. It’s all about the numbers baby.

I’ve heard that 10,000 steps is the number one should shoot for. I summoned the ghost of algebra past and figured out that’s about 4.5 miles. I think I heard that one should have realistic goals. Maybe I should shoot for 5,000.

Trying to write 300 words a day didn’t seem like that much of a challenge. At first my biggest problem was keeping it under 900. But in an effort to be more concise I started watching the word count at the bottom of the WordPress editing window. And suddenly I found myself trying to pad my posts to get to 300. Things just weren’t jumping out of my mind and onto the keyboard.

I think 300 words is a good goal, but I also think I need to worry more about just writing every day instead of the number. I keep thinking by writing every day I’ll start producing some good material, which if I’m honest with myself, just isn’t happening right now. Have I lost my sense of humor. Is it because I’m aging? George Burns managed to keep it going way past where I’m at now.

On another front, we’re producing a special six page insert for the paper this week. In honor of Black History Month. I’m in charge of design and layout, so it’s a lot of extra work for me. Not that I’m concerned. It shouldn’t be a problem getting it out and I’d rather be busy than not while I’m at the office.

Monday and Tuesday mornings I usually have some butterflies in the gut when I head into work, even though I know that we’ve gotten to the point where we finish up well before the deadline on Tuesdays. But usually when I get in, they go away. Mostly because of the people I work with, nobody gets panicky and things seem to go pretty smoothly.

But now I have to get ready to head down to the city and start wrangling type.

The end of an era

My wife  has been working for the same company for longer than we’ve been married. And we’ve been married a long time. That is until last Wednesday when they laid her off. Thirty-nine years at the same company. Thirty-nine years at the same ad agency, no less, where people don’t usually stay for four years, no less forty.

It wasn’t unexpected and it’s not really a bad thing. We’re more than OK financially, although health insurance will suddenly get a lot more expensive. Becky has worked full-time since high school, this will be a nice opportunity for her to kick back and think about what she wants to do with the rest of her life. I should note that I learned a long time ago to never assume to speak for what she’s feeling or thinking. Maybe in a future post I should interview her. But one thing I know for sure, it’s going to be different around here.

I’m out of the house for the better part of four days a  week, I work three days at the newspaper and go to Coco to hang out with my WordPress buds on Wednesdays. But this does mean we’ll be spending considerably more time together. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing. I know I can be a pretty irritating person to be around for long periods of time. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

I get a headache every time I start to think about what we’re going to do about health insurance and how I’m going to figure out the Medicare alphabet puzzle. A B C D it looks kind of impenetrable at first glance. I promise that I won’t write any advice posts about the process, there’s enough confusion out there already, I don’t need to add to it.

Unless of course I come up with some very specific nugget of knowledge that every old duffer should know.

 

Pickled

You know when you’re over the hill when your mind makes a promise  that your body can’t fill

Old Folks Boogie, Little Feat

pickleball
Photo provided by Dabruins07 under a creative commons license.

Today was my first experience with pickleball. It was also Becky’s second day of being unemployed, but more about that later. Pickleball is a racquet sport played with a low net on a badminton court. The ball is similar to a wiffle ball, hollow, plastic and full of holes. If you’ve ever played the great American pastime, wiffle baseball, you know you can hit the snot out of a wiffle ball and it won’t go very far. You also know that they do really weird things when spin is applied.

We played at the local YMCA, they have pickleball on the schedule three times a week. It’s part of their AOA program. Active Older Adults. I’m definitely older. But I’m not very active, and I guess it depends on how you define “adult.”

About 20 players showed up, ranging in age from, hell I don’t know to I’m not sure. As you get older you lose your ability to judge people’s ages. Any way, from old to older. But it was a fit crew and some of them could move around pretty well. There were two courts, so playing doubles we had eight players going at a time and everyone rotated in and out.

I haven’t really tried to play any kind of sport since the year of the knee, so I was a little apprehensive about actually having to move quickly and even more scary, stop quickly. After one of my stumbling forays after a shot, I heard, “Remember the first rule, no point is worth a trip to the emergency room.” No one ever said that when I was playing pickup basketball.

It went pretty well, Becky, of course, picked it up faster than I did. If you’ve played tennis, it takes awhile to get used to the fact that the ball just doesn’t bounce. I swung over the top of it so many times it was insane. And I kept going all the way to the net to volley, which isn’t permitted.

Now I’m suffering for my efforts. I hurt all over. It used to just be my knees now it’s my hips and ankles and back and shoulder. It sucks to get old.

The dreaded Wintry Mix

blizzardVariable precipitation consisting of rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow.

I can take a nice fluffy snowfall. It’s light and pristine, easy to shovel and get off the roads. It’s not usually hard to drive on.

What I  hate is this. First it rains for an hour and then the rain starts to freeze, and then it turns to sleet, whatever that is, and then heavy, clumpy snow than seems to come down in pellets rather than flakes. If you are driving through this you find that you are getting more miles to the gallon of gas than you are of windshield washing fluid.

And then it turns cold. The layer of sodden slush freezes as hard as a rock. The roads become skating rinks and the commute becomes a destruction derby. If you are unfortunate enough to have left your car outside, it’s covered with heavy snow that, once removed, reveals a layer of ice encasing the entire vehicle. You can’t scrape it, it has to be chipped off. And then if you’re really lucky, your locks are frozen shut, which is a good thing, because now you don’t have to drive in it.

The real fun happens when the temperature drops fast and deep, into single digits or less, before the plows can get all of the muck removed. The surface of the roads are like a skating rink on the surface of the moon. Deep ruts and sharp ridges cause you wheels to spin and your car to bounce like a bizarre carnival ride.

If you’re really lucky, the temperature stays below freezing for a couple of months, just to extend the fun. If you happen to get a dusting of snow on top of that ice, it becomes almost impossible to move. Any Minnesotan is familiar with the scream of spinning wheels as frustrated drivers race their engines while going nowhere.

We haven’t had a really good wintry mix disaster yet this year, but cheer up, there’s lots of winter left.

Rachel to the Rescue.

Yesterday I said that today I would write about the dreaded “wintery mix,” but that will have to wait for another day, because last night I saw one of the greatest displays of basketball wizardry ever last night.

The Gopher Women were playing Illinois, who they’d beaten 106-75 earlier in Champaign. I was looking for another easy victory, but the Illini were fired up and out for revenge. They came out nailing threes and playing great defense, plus they were getting a big contribution from Alex Wittinger, a freshman forward from Delano, MN.

Their point guard, Kylie Simmons, was shooting the lights out as well as doing a great job of frustrating our super-star shooting guard Rachel Banham. Unfortunately for Kylie, she was forced to foul Rachel 3 times in the first half to keep her from blowing by her. But the home team was struggling and the visitors were thriving and that resulted in the Gophers being down by 16 at the half. Banham, who averages 24, had only 2 points at the break.

I really wasn’t particularly worried, I’ve seen this team make a lot of comebacks and when my nephew Scott, who was with me mentioned Banham’s lack of scoring I told him I’d seen her have poor first halves before and still score in the twenties.

They had a 13 run at the end of the third quarter to pull within one. And then Banham absolutely torched them in the fourth. She scored 18 in the quarter going 5 for 6 from the three point line. It was just an unbelievable display of shooting talent. She was hitting off screens, off the step-back move, creating her own opportunities. You could see it in her eyes, she was not going to let them lose. She finished up the game with three consecutive triples, the last of which put them ahead 80-77. The fans were on their feet for the last three minutes of the game.

If you love basketball and you haven’t seen this kid play, you owe it to yourself to get down to the barn for a game this year.

Snow time like the present

snow - 1 (1)
Not much snow

The East Coast got nailed by a huge snow storm this week and the internet is saturated with pictures and stories of white disaster. It’s snowing here, just a few flakes, nothing special. It’s been snowing lightly since late yesterday. I can sympathize with the easterners, nobody likes to be completely buried in it, and they aren’t as prepared as we are to deal with it. It sucks to be snowed in. I just would like to see some balance. Minnesota in the winter without snow is no fun, send some our way.

We have snow, but not much. And it’s come in tiny doses. I’ve only had to use my snow blower once. In the morning I go out and look at the driveway and it’s covered with snow, but only thin coating, less than an inch. I just can’t justify firing up the beast for that. It would be a declaration of weakness that even I couldn’t tolerate. But it takes longer to shovel a dusting that it does to clear off six inches. (I originally wrote “blow six inches,” but I that would make Rache just a little too gleeful.) There are also hazards involved in shovelling, besides the classics like slipped disks and heart attacks, I’ve had fluke accidents with unpleasant consequences.

There are cracks in my driveway that can be invisible after a light snowfall. When the snow is fluffy I use a wide shovel with a long handle that’s designed to push the snow and not really scoop it up and throw it. I get kind of nonchalant when I’m in that shoveling mode, holding the handle low and moving fast. More than once I’ve hit a crack in the concrete, bringing the shovel to a sudden stop while my body keeps going. There have been times when the position of the handle results in it being driven into that most sensitive area of a man’s anatomy.

So really, if it’s going to snow, at least give me enough to fire up the beast.

Fable has it that the Eskimos (that’s probably not the PC term anymore) have fifty, or however many, words for snow. We have “wintery mix.” Tomorrow I’m going to talk about that kind of snowstorm and why it’s the worst.