Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waiting for the Third Strike

The count is 0 and 2.

I was informed about the first strike a couple of days ago, when I informed Mr. S. Moosebutt that money had flowed from my daughter, through my bank account, and into the coffers of an organization selling Yankees memorabilia (specifically, a brick from the now no-longer-among-us Yankee Stadium, or whatever they call it back there). This tangential and probably fairly hygienic association with the Yankees was enough to cast a cloud of doubt over my general character. Thank heavens I didn't tell him the offending brick actually passed through my mailbox, and probably even spent some time on my kitchen table (I pretty much let my wife handle that part of the transaction). Honest, I cleaned the table off with bleach. What more does he expect from me?

The second strike will probably come later today, when I will likely be accused of "having lunch" with a certain Senior Senator from Utah, whose name I will not mention except to say that it rhymes with "foreign match." In reality, he was in the same big room with me, but at a different table. And we did eat the same roast beef and potatoes. I'm not sure if he had the kiwi dessert or the chocolate (mine was chocolate). But that's all. The trouble is that this nameless senior senator is not on Mr. Moosebutt's "A" list. He's more like on the "S" list, if you take my meaning. Thus anything that involves breathing the same air as this senior senator will once again be viewed as reason to question my character.

I'm assuming I get three strikes. I'm waiting to see what the third one might be. It will probably involve the Republican Party in some way. Or noodles. Moosebutt really likes noodles. But I'm scared that I might get left out of the malt-ball runs if I cross the line again. I guess I'll lay low for a while, until the Yankee Brick scandal blows over.

P.S. I got no problem with noodles. Noodles are great. Really.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fall Classic

Well, it's that time again. Pennant races, playoffs, the roar of the bats, the crack of the crowd.

What's different this year is that the good ol' Dodgers are actually in the race. This, together with the Yankees (Booo!) and the Angels (Yay!) being there too, pulls me into the baseball world after a comfortable multi-year hiatus of not really caring much. Because my friend is an Angels fan (and much to his credit, introduced me to the Power of the Rally Monkey), and because my son-in-law and nephew are both Yankees fans (it can happen in good families, folks), I feel like I have to stand up and be counted as a true-blue Dodger fan.

Now the trouble is that although I'm a Dodger fan, I'm a Dodger fan more in principle than in practice. I'm a lapsed Dodger fan, an inactive Dodger fan. A Jack-Dodgerfan. I grew up as a believer, but drifted away. Haven't been to church for years. Actually, I've been to a Cubs game and an Angels game since I've been to a Dodgers game. If I went to Dodger Stadium, it would fall in on me. That sort of thing.

So the unhappy reality of the matter is that I really don't lose much sleep over baseball, even Dodger baseball, these days. I can name exactly one player on the current roster, and that's because Manny Ramirez was suspended. So I can't really say I follow the Dodgers anymore. (Of course, I can name off the top of my head a number of players from the 1975 roster: Steve Yeager, Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith. I'm not a complete infidel.)

Nevertheless, something in me has to stand up and state boldly and unequivocally that, despite wins and losses, despite payrolls and steroids, despite that fact that pretty much all of them are paid way more than they should be in any rational world, the Dodgers are basically Good. . . .

(Steve Finley pausing in a game to pray)

and the Yankees are basically Evil:

'Nuff said.

It is true that I've learned to sleep at night by accepting the presence of evil --like you accept the presence of cockroaches without necessarily liking it -- but I still feel obliged to stand up and weigh in on the issue.

So: Go Dodger Blue! Go Angels! Defeat the forces of evil! I probably won't be watching, but I'm sure Jacob will keep me posted, and that's about as much baseball excitement as I really need these days.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Letting Off Some Steam

I was listening to a local radio talk show a few nights ago. The topic was drug addiction and treatment, and they had as guests both some recovering addicts and some people who ran treatment programs. One of the program's hosts mentioned that the stories of addiction they were listening to that night could be used as "cautionary tales," so that, presumably, people could see where things went wrong for these recovering addicts and escape their fate.

One of the guests both ran a recovery program and was himself a recovering addict. During their interview with him one of the hosts the guest asked whether he could identify some moment in time he'd like to go back to and somehow change -- maybe make a different decision. When he asked this, the host even acknowledged that the guest had become addicted by taking a legally prescribed drug for a real medical condition. But somehow the host still assumed that there was some point where things went bad, some decision to regret. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time, but something about that question seemed to show both an ignorance about addiction and an underlying attitude that bothered me.

The guest's response brought it into focus for me. Basically, his answer was: "No, I can't identify any moment in time like that, because I don't believe addiction is a moral decision." He simply took the morphine he was prescribed because he didn't want to be in pain anymore. There wasn't any moral lapse involved.

Wow. To see the world in that way is kind of refreshing. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of times that people make immoral choices and royally screw up their lives, and the lives of innocent people as well. I've made bad choices before, and I've seen basically good people brought down by decisions both stupid and morally wrong. I do believe in good and bad, right and wrong. That's not the point.

The point is that sometimes, even things that look like they must be the result of character flaws or moral weakness probably just happen to people without their ever making a consious decision to do something bad. Maybe some addicts never purposely take a wrong turn. Maybe some people file for bankruptcy because they are unlucky and not because they lack integrity. Maybe, on occasion, people get in trouble because they're naive or ignorant instead of evil. And on the whole, I'd rather hang out with folks who see things that way, instead of folks who are always pointing out the moral of the story.

Why? Because it seems like a less stressful way to live when you don't have to figure out which moral principles have been violated, and instead just try to help and understand a little more. In my experience, "I told you so" doesn't help as much as you'd think. It's less burdensome when you don't have to figure out how each episode of human misery grew from some violation of moral law. Instead, you can just see people in trouble and try to help. There's plenty of time to root out the causes later.

I really think I'd be happier living and thinking that way. And it would be fun to find some like-minded people. I think I'd enjoy talking and working with them. Of course I've run across a few. A certain family of canoe lovers comes to mind, for example. But they are a long ways away, in a mystical land of cheese and waterways. If only there were some people like that in Utah. If only. . . .

Ah, but wait. I can hear the voice of my good friend S.M, telling me about just such a group of people. He claims they walk among us. I'm not sure whether to believe him or not. It seems like the stuff of legends, almost, and yet there he is, himself a living example of a person in Utah who actually thinks that way. I suppose there could be more. He claims they are organized and even have a name. At least here in Utah, he says, they are usually called Democrats.