Saturday, January 9, 2016

Looking Down at the Ball is Overrated

"Golf is not just an exercise; it's an adventure, a romance... a Shakespeare play in which disaster and comedy are intertwined." ~ Harold Segall

In the spirit of Charles Dickens...

The game was dead from the first tee, to begin with.

Truthfully, it was supposed to be a time of relaxation and re-creation.  Two hours.  Nine holes -- a good way to cap off the week.  'Twas a breezy, slightly cool afternoon, just enough to warrant a second layer of clothing.  The course was sparse with players, as Friday is typically the day saved for happy hours galore, family outings for dinner, or emergency visits to the local doc-in-a-box.

Esteban, my host, and I rushed from our business obligations to the Lake Arlington Golf Course.  I had never  played with Esteban, though we'd talked about it for a while.  The usual golf pleasantries were exchanged, which for us were affirmations of our less-than-desirable abilities for this beautiful game.  But, that's the best part.  It's supposed to be two hours of fun out in the elements.

As we stretched ye old bones and muscles, as we grabbed that first tool, or club, ball and tee, we made our way to that first launching pad, which in many ways is a symbol of our freedom, manhood, athleticism and any other accolade you wish to add (sorry, this sentence breaks all kinds of rules) -- it was our walk to golf heaven.

Esteban gave me the first shot.  The usual position for your comrades, as you swing, is behind you, at a distance and looking at your ball, lest you cannot figure out where it went after the first majestic swing.  

Esteban was doing just that, except he saw something, which resembled a hawk, raptor, owl, eagle, F-16 -- he couldn't tell!  But, its flight path was right at me and approaching fast and furious!  He started to yell, "Javi, Javi, watch out!"

I was numb to his request.  I was so enthralled in that first swing, I could care less if I was the target of Patriot Missile with coordinates fixed on my spot on earth!

Esteban ran to me.  He was determined to push me out of the way, but it was too late for that.  The only thing he could do was take his driver, and swing at whatever was coming my way!  He figured the evil creature was aiming at my head, and where he should aim his swing!! 

He swung, and in that moment realized that the evil flying creature, which looked menacing seconds before, was really just a dragonfly.  In its flight path, the dragonfly had the advantage and perfect timing of just the right shading from the setting sun making it look like a archaic bird of death.  Ooopsy...

For me, it was really too late.  The driver hit me just above my left eye.  However, I didn't lose concentration.  I was still fixated on the ball.  I did feel a warm liquid running down my face.  I figured it wasn't sweat. 

Esteban went into ER mode.  He took one look at my face, which at that point resembled something from the Rocky franchise, "Yo Adrian!"

"Need to get you to the ER, now!" he said. 

I grabbed one of my golf towels, pressed it over the area, removed it and could clearly see that I was sprinkling a good amount of the liquid of life.

Cool stuff, right?  

The truth is, there was no evil bird launching me.  Esteban was looking at my ball during my swing.  

The ball innocently sat on the plastic tee, waiting for it's launch from my 3-wood.  

I swung, alright.  I hit the ball so precisely, so accurately on that 3-wood aimed for the spot above my left eye.  The laws of physics cannot not explain this one! 

Esteban heard the contact.  Looked around for the ball, but only saw my shades, cap and hands fly around in despair.  

He came around to see my face, and then declared the words above.  To the ER it was.  

A exam and concussion protocol later, I was treated and released.  Damage is minimal, simply my soft tissues lacerated slightly.  I have a little swelling today, maybe a little bruising, but my eye is intact and there is no pain.  I'm fine.

I can't thank Esteban enough for really stepping up and taking care of me.  He even sat with me in the exam room and filled out my papers, while the exam was taking place. 

However, for the balance of my life, I will not be able to live this one down.  This is the story of stories, nyth of myths, laughter of laughers.

If the game of golf decides to name a new rule in my honor, or force manufactures to update their products, I'd like for this to be called, "The Javi Rule".  It shall state that a player, with no warm-up or true stretching shall face away from the ball on the first swing, regardless of the outcome, lest you want to bust your face. 

Play on, golfers.  It's still just a little ball against mankind. 




Sunday, January 4, 2015

QuinceaƱera at 19:42, Says Aytana

At 19:42 hours this day 15 years ago, you made your debut in this world.  Aytana corrected us last night, saying it was not your 15th until that hour today.  I thought of waiting.  But, I can't.

You changed our lives at 19:42.  The joy and love, that filled us that instant, was the likes of which  Mami and I had never known, nevermind I simultaneously cut the very cord sustaining your life from Mami.  And, nevermind you cried bloody murder when you felt strangers hands pulling you out of what is the safest place on earth: a mother's womb. 

You are millennial baby.  You were born four days into an era, that was not only a new year, but a new decade, new century and new millennium.  They warned us the world was spiraling into magnanimous chaos, uttering "Y2K" over and over and over.  We didn't care.  We were so anxious to meet you.   

As rookie parents, you prepared us for your sister, Aytana.  One of the most vivid memories of that training was when you took your first steps.  We were so excited, fumbling for cameras, we didn't catch you as you toppled and fell forward on that dresser -- sorry for that one.  The evidence of that first official walking fall still marks your forehead -- dead center.  And though a simple drop of blood came from that wound, we were so worried and felt so guilty, a rush to the ER was not far away from our minds.

You've had a lot of firsts for us.  First day of school (ever), which warranted a twelve-member family committee to drop you off and make sure you were "OK".  You most certainly were, and became a very successful graduate of Pope Elementary.  You paved the way for your sister to accomplish the same feats at Pope.

Shackelford Junior High?  Breezed through it, earning awards and distinction from faculty and administration.

Enter Lamar High School.

You have to know Lamar High School was -- to me (when I was your age) -- a legendary school back in Socorro, TX.  We thought Lamar was pretty spectacular, certainly as far as sports were concerned in West Texas.  I never dreamed, "back in the day," I'd have a child, not only achieving academically, but a member of its orchestra and outstanding player for her freshman volleyball team.

You have Mami's beauty, think like me, but have proven to us every step of the way you are maturing into an exceptional woman.  You opted out of the traditional QuinceaƱera party in favor of a trip, but the significance of this day -- for us -- is not lessened. 

I usually can't remember a grocery list, or what I need to do tomorrow, but I will never forget 19:42 and 05:03 (Aytana's hour) and the first time I saw you.  You and your sister are the biggest proof of the love and power of God for Mami and I.

You'll never know how much we love you until the day you hold your own children.  Until then, all we can do is constantly say it to you.

Happy 15th, Nana.  We love you so much.

Mami and Papi   

Friday, June 6, 2014

All Our Chips to the Middle in 2005

Let's take it back to January 4, 2000.  That's when our first Pope Panther was born.  On October 20, 2001, our second Pope Panther was born.  And tonight, at 6th grade graduation, the course we set with full vigor on August of 2005, will be complete.

Kindergarten Sneak-A-Peak, August 2005

Then, in January of 2000, we lived in a different area of Arlington.  In fact, in our girls' first 5 years we relocated across the state -- twice.  We lived in Fort Worth a while, and a most crucial part of the girls rearing was imminent: education.

We heard of Pope Elementary.

We visited the school, and there was an immediate confirmation we wanted our girls to enter those hallways we know so well (now), and begin their formal education.

Problem, though, we lived in Fort Worth...

To use a sports euphemism lightly, Idaly and I put ALL our chips in the middle, and even many chips we didn't have.  As I was explaining to my brother the other day, we were looking for a zip code, not a walk-in-closet.  And, with the Lord's help and our unrelenting pursuit to be the best parents we can be, many things fell in place.

There was a home on Ravinia Circle, which we got for $5,000 less than a cash offer from a man in California.  The catch? We appealed to its one and only owner, saying we had two ballerinas, who needed to go to Pope.

There was a realtor, who showed up in a motorcycle, cut-off shirt and looked and smelled like he'd been digging ditches all day.  Well, he had, as it were.  He remodels homes, too.  We did a quick walk-through and said, "we want it."

There was a loan officer who pulled all strings available to give us a second mortgage.  Remember, we still had our home in Fort Worth.

There were our parents, who supported us financially, emotionally and every which way.

All this happened in June of 2005.  All at once, all for Pope.

Thinking back on it, I cringe at the thought of all that was risked.  I remember sleepless nights, when we weren't sure how we would handle it all.

Today, as Aytana walks across that stage to finish sixth grade, none of the above matters, and yet it all matters incredibly.  It's done.  Our girls have thrived as students, musicians, athletes, citizens of Pope, and if there is ever a more perfect opportunity to risk it all, I can't imagine what it will be.

Pope Elementary change our lives.  It has given our girls one of the most solid foundations as they move on to junior high and high school.  Idaly and I have given a lot of our time and resources to Pope, and we'd do it again and again and again.

Pope family, thank you.  Thank you faculty.  Thank you staff.

Simply, than you.

I'm not a fan of long good-byes, and, well, Idaly is a Pope staff member now.  We, she and I, "ain't" going no where.  But, I cannot forget to take a moment to thank our Pope family for what you have done for us, for our girls.

"What is once well done is done forever."
 ~ Henry David Thoreau

All of our love,

Javier and Idaly Najera
May 2014


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Winner, Winner, Winner, Loser, Chicken Dinner. Wait, What?

It's not unusual for local sports fans to jump on the proverbial bandwagon when teams are winning, and especially when they make playoff tournaments.  Nobody likes to mull through the grind of losing teams, unless, of course, you are a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Jerry Jones has mastered the art of making the Dallas Cowboys an exception to all conventional sports wisdom.  It's been said by me that winning, certainly winning another Super Bowl, is really not a priority for Mr. Jones.  Why would it be?  The Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in the NFL.  The house they play in includes a $14 million mirror, Victoria Secret retail shop, endless private suites, a gigantic HD TV, and, oh yeah, a football field.  Most of the above is why I miss this place so much.  Old, smelly and way out of date, it was nothing else but a football field.  So, I thought I'd make the case -- again.

Last night I was enjoying the birthday celebration of Laura Parades at a local establishment.  The band, which played anthems of decades past (the decades that included long hair), introduced a song this way (and I'm taking paraphrase-ical liberties with it):

"You all know last Wednesday the Dallas Stars won, tying the Series at 2.  The Dallas Mavericks won, tying the Series at 1.  And, the Texas Rangers completed a sweep of the Oakland A's."

     (that should have been enough of an intro, but...)

"Aren't you glad it's not football season?  Here's this song for Mr. Jones' Dallas Cowboys.!!"

I can't begin to tell you what song they played.  I didn't recognize it.  My mind had long ventured in to this thought I'm writing about today.  But, I am positive there was no need to mention the Cowboys.

The Dallas Stars, our local NHL team, is in the hunt for Lord Stanley's Cup.  I'm not a hockey fan, but will keep up with the Stars during their run.  That makes me a bandwagon-rider of sorts, but I have never been able to learn to appreciate hockey.  However, they won Game Three, 3-0, and Game Four, 4-2, last Wednesday.  Both very convincing wins, on their run to greatness.  Most importantly, though, they tied the Series, 2-all.

The Dallas Mavericks tied the Series at 1-all.  They didn't just tie the Series against the hated San Antonio Spurs, they beat them up, 113-92!  This is a Series in which no one thought the Mavericks would win one, certainly not an away-game.  I'm more of a basketball fan, and this was definitely and exciting result.      

I am a baseball fan, and Martin Perez hurled a gem on Wednesday.  He pitched 9 scoreless innings, on his way to a Texas Rangers sweep of the Oakland A's, to give the Rangers first place in the West and best record in the AL.  This is the beginning of baseball, but this sweep and Martin's performance will be huge at the end of baseball.   

So, if you want to know -- again -- why the Dallas Cowboys continue to dominate the Chicken Fried Nation, i.e., "North Texas" sports scene, all you have to do is notice the little things.  In spite of heroics happening on ice, hardwood floors and baseball diamonds, the punch line to the drummer's pitch last night was about Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys.

Love him or hate him, he is always there, and so is the silver and blue.

That, and Texas sports fans are rabid, madly passionate football fans.

The party was great, with great friends.

Viva la sports!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Phones Blew Up

The initial intention was a simple re-animation of Game Six of the 2011 World Series.  So, I tagged my some of my fellow compadres regarding that day in a group text message.  I included my brother in El Paso.  This was right before first pitch this Friday last, as the Texas Rangers visited Busch Stadium for the first time since the 2011 Fall Classic.

Well, the thread continued for the hours that netted a W for the Rangers -- yes -- at the hands of Nelly Cruz, who drove in the decisive two runs in the 9th.  In short, my brother and I "blew up" this thread with animated (at times too colorful) conversation reminiscing what we felt in Game 6.

October 27, 2011

There was a place called, Woody's.  There was a scheduled meeting at Woody's, but mostly there was a Game 6.  All the superstition and lore regarding baseball was in place by Yours Truly.  When the meeting adjourned, we focused all attention to the flat screen. 

Just a year before, Game Six of the 2010 ALCS was completed by Neftali Feliz.  A-Rod was caught looking at the last strike, which sent the Texas Rangers to their first World Series in franchise history.  I cannot deny I stormed to a nearby corner of the ballpark.  With one of my flags in hand, I was able to be part of the celebration, as fans were slowly making their way out.  Arlington was electric that night.    

Fast forward to our evening at Woody's.  Ear buds broadcasting Nadel's radio call in my ears (I always have the radio on for baseball). 

I won't relive the entire grueling, but fascinating game.  That's plastered all over the Internet.  But, after Beltre and Cruz hit back-to-back HRs, to give Feliz a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the 9th, and with one strike away from winning the 2011 Fall Classic, Freese, like Aaron "Bleeping" Boone did the Red Sox in 2003, put a ball out of Cruz's reach in RF.  The commentary of why and how he missed that ball has been discussed ad nauseum.  Nelly was compared to Buckner.  Yes, Knight turned third and scored in 1986 for the Mets from a routine ground ball missed by Bucker at first.  Yes, Freese turned this ball into a triple and tied the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Extra innings.  When Josh "This Isn't a Baseball Town" Hamilton put a different ball in the RF bleachers in the very next inning, I left the contingency at Woody's, and went home to my ladies.  We were sure the ghosts of baseball had left the Rangers dugout.  This.  Had.  To.  Be.  The.  Moment.

Feldman replaced Feliz, and also had one strike left for all the marbles.  Freese, however, had other ideas.  The St. Louis area native put that pitch in the center field grassy area over the wall, and Joe Buck in a very timely manner said, "We will see you...tomorrow."  I'm not a fan of Buck, but he nailed that call for baseball fans.

I knew it was over.  I didn't even watch Game 7.  I know, "What kind of fan are you?" 

The emotional toil from Game 6 was enough for me.  I couldn't watch Game 7. 

So, today, on this beautiful Sunday in Arlington, the Rangers find themselves at the cusp of sweeping the top-ranked Cardinals at Busch stadium.  Nelly's RBI on Friday made us feel a lot better about that fly ball. 

What this series means this season, who knows?  There's still a lot of baseball to play. 

Ooooh, but if feels so good! 

Where were you in Game Six?



Monday, June 17, 2013

The Case of the Tooth Fairy

**On advise of counsel, and because part of my sentence did include a probationary period to abstain from speaking of this event, I caution you of this:  If the Tooth Fairy still visits your home, please be weary of who reads this story...

 Aytana Najera, plaintiff


Javier E. Najera, defendant

Ordinarily, a Tooth Fairy visit is mostly a private family matter.  It brings joy in the way of money to the loser of the tooth, and memories for parents who see their children grow and mature, unless of course the Tooth Fairy failed to leave the ransom under the pillow.

I was served with a lawsuit from my youngest, Aytana, when such an oversight occurred.  I was accused of usurping the Tooth Fairy on two different counts, 1. By placing the money under the pillow myself to cover for Tooth Fairy, who seemingly had better things to do, or 2. By actually being the Tooth Fairy myself and flat out lying of its existence.

Exhibit A.  Aytana is questioning her first witness, which actually should be the other way around, 'cause if memory serves, Itzayana  was her attorney.  The Honorable Lizbeth Moreno presided, while the court decorum did not mind Antonio wearing shorts.  The doggy?  Well, it is after all family court, and if one can wear shorts to court, then surely a canine spectator is OK.

Yes, mom and grandma were sworn-in witnesses to the case at hand.  Don't mind the casual dress of the court bailiff.

Preparedness was key to this case. 

Judge Lizbeth on the bench.

Straight out of court reporting school.
Evidence presented was very weak on my behalf, and technology was not cooperating. 

Though the judge found in favor of the plaintiff Aytana, mock family court was a lot of fun!

So, you see, on hot summer afternoon in 2010, on the way to the first Rangers pennant, the case of the Tooth Fairy was resolved in the eyes of justice.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

El Gato, 1930 - 2013

Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico -- Don Pedro "El Gato" Aguirre, 82, died peacefully at his home.  He loved three things: Baseball, his family and baseball.  Don Pedro “El Gato” Aguirre, a most outstanding citizen, a longtime veteran of his city’s police force passed away the 13th day of March, 2013, shortly after the white smoked was seen in Rome.

Mass of Christian Burial  was held at 7 a.m. last Friday at Casa de Jesus de Cuidad Juarez, where he was also in state on Thursday.  Interment followed on Friday at Recinto de la Oracion.  Family and the Sisters offered several rosaries and prayers for him.

What we never know about death is the day or the hour.  The faith of the Christian believer should give us – his survivors – peace that our loved one is now in the presence of God, free of imperfection, free of suffering and free of mortality.

If it could only be that simple.

For some, this fateful day comes only as the result of many, many years of suffering and pain.  For El Gato, it came with Alzhiemer’s and more than 12 years of steady decline, until the illness took with it every ounce of his being.

They are years and years my grandmother, mother and aunts toiled with day after day, giving him the care he needed. 

He is my maternal grandfather, but he made it clear he never wanted to be called, “grandpa” or “abuelo”.  He didn’t like the sound of that word, and in many ways, my childhood is filled with countless memories with him -- more as a friend -- than a grandson. 

Most importantly, he was a prominent member of the city’s baseball lore, inducted into Ciudad Juarez Hall of Fame some years ago.  He played when “peloteros” kept their athletic build with hot dogs and beer.  He played when salaries in baseball were nothing, and being part of the magical game was truly for love of the game.  The likes of Mickey Mantle and Jackie Robinson covered the airwaves in Major League Baseball in that era, but in his world the name "El Gato" made constant headlines as the city’s best catcher and clean-up hitter.

El Gato suffered a career ending injury during his playing years as a catcher, which led him to a 30-year career as a police officer.  However, during that time, baseball was never far away.  As he was enfrocing the law on the streets, he was also making his name known as an umpire on the weekends.  The blue uniform suited him well.  He was part of the umpire corps, who protected themselves from pitches with a large foam shield behind home plate.  God help those who disputed a call with El Gato!  He would become the president of the umpires association for the city.

He gave us many memories, memories riding in that brown four-door Ford LTD always on the way to a bullfight or a ballgame with the 1911 .45 under the seat.  His influence in the city was such that we never paid at any gate.  We always had choice seats, and it seemed everybody in town knew, El Gato.

He is one of the last from The Greatest Generation in my life.  He exemplified dedication, character, and a no-nonsense way of doing things, which has left a permanent impression to those of us who remain behind. 

The last time he recognized us was in 2001.  I can’t say when he stopped understanding baseball, but I sincerely hope it has come back to life for him in some way, somewhere.

He will be able to enjoy Opening Day in 2013 from the best seats in the house.  

He was preceded in death by his daughter, Martha Aguirre Felix in 1983.

He is survived by his wife, Amalia Aguirre Guevara; daughters, Agustina Aguirre Najera and husband Jose, Sister Aurora Aguirre and Dora Aguirre; grandchildren, Javier E. Najera and wife, Idaly, Jorge L. Najera and wife, Minerva and Monica Najera-Tellez and husband, Andy; great-grandchildren, Itzayana and Aytana Najera, Israel and Galilea Najera, and Ilianna Hernandez; and a host of extended family and friends.