Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The word came up several times over this past weekend and the short part of this week. I had a profound conversation about expectations with mom during her visit to the Chicken Friend Nation from El Paso, and the thought sorta became an issue when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about Warren Buffet. The title read, "Even the Oracle Didn't Time It Perfectly."

The article does not trash Mr. Buffet -- totally --, but it does make an attempt to find fault in his hugely successful and well-documented investment shrewdness. If anyone deserves a "mulligan" as far as public investment decisions are concerned, he does. It's no wonder he just recently allowed anyone to write about his personal life (The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life), a book I hope to own soon.

That's the way it works, though. Expectations are a great tool for motivation and personal success, but at the same time, they seem to be the measuring stick people use to find fault. If you have always achieved others' perceived expectations (especially if they are high), God forbid you ever fall. If you do, you will fall hard.

The word also came up in conversation with my brother. Days after the Cowboys loss to Arizona, he finally admitted the reason he was so upset: his expectations for the 2008 Cowboys were very, very high. So, the slipping of their superb season crashed down hard. "It felt like a steel beam hitting the concrete from 20 stories up!" he said.

The idea circles in my head often, as I've been able to keep my nose clean my 35.5 years. I've done my best to do what is expected of me. So have my siblings and that brings a lot of undue pressure.

Is it worth it? Is it worth your time and energy to ALWAYS meet others' expectations for you?

According to a man I met recently, who was married to his wife for 72 years (yes, 72) before she died, NO.

I asked him directly, "Sir, how do you stay married for an age that is twice my life? To me, a man living in the post-Baby Boom Generation, 5 years is unheard, let alone 72!"

I love to listen to people who have lived well beyond the three score and ten. This man, was nearing 90 and very articulate. He didn't even pause to tell me his philosophy about, not only expectations, but how he managed a 72-year marriage.

The first thing he said is, "Do you know Roger Staubach?"

"Of course!" I said.

"Roger the Dodger said once of his comparison to the great Joe Namath (understand it's not an exact quote), 'I like to have sex just as much as Joe. I just have it with one woman instead of many.' That's your first lesson. Second, if you don't remember anything else about this conversation, remember this: Ignoring others' expectations was our biggest motivation for our determination. Think about that one for a while."

About 600 people attended his wife's funeral. It goes without saying this man and his wife had many, many people who were fond of them. It was a breath of fresh air to know that in spite of him ignoring other's expectations, life was long and prosperous.

It's hard to do, especially when you're on the giving end of expecting. It's hard when those you rely on fail. It's hard when your heroes don't produce, but the only thing they can do -- and should do -- is wake up the next day and like ourselves, try again.

Truly, that is all we can expect.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Never Try to Explain a Ballplayer's Constant Crotch Adjustments During a Critical Game 7


Close friends and family know that my life is full of women. I married one. I have two as daughters. I have a sister and a mother, two grandmothers (one a widow). So what? My wife has a mother, a sister, a close aunt, a close cousin and two grandmothers -- all single. So, the shtick of "my life with the women" really stems from stories of all the women on my wife's side of things when they visit. There is literally no men. And though in recent times a couple of men have the courage to play a role in the womanhood, when the ladies come to my house the men usually stay home. They need a break. So, I'm literally screwed.

It's not rare and very common to have as many as 12 women in my house at any given time. Not only are there the blood-related XX-ers, but with them come a myriad of roommates, friends and tag-alongs -- all female.

With that in mind, and even after 16 years of this lifestyle, I still forget that certain comments will instigate vile arguments. I get lambasted, as I got on Sunday night, during Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS. Oh boy, what was I thinking? I should have been drinking...

So, one thing I have been able to do is convert most of the women to Red Sox fans. Granted, the zeal and approach is not welcomed by all, but if we're all at home watching the game, it's Red Sox jerseys and caps all around. And, when the ladies are feeling really adventurous, it's long necks and wings to go with a good game.

We hosted a monster karaoke/sleepover party for my youngest daughter on Saturday (side note: a party like this requires the help of many, and when your life is mostly women, things go a lot smoother). I say monster because the party was complete with an 8x12 stage; 1000 watt fog machine; lights galore; four mikes; and a sound system that could manage 14 screaming 7-year-old girls. Only 7 slept over, and on Sunday morning, I was able to motivate the ladies into breaking down the stage and cleaning up the joint for a noon kick-off of the Dallas Cowboys, and more importantly, a decisive Game 7 between the Red Sox and Rays at the Beer Can (my term of endearment for Tropicana Field, which to me looks like a giant beer can crashed into the earth).

We made the noon deadline just fine, but of course, the Cowboys disappointed us greatly, which warranted a long nap. With eyes on 7 p.m. for a first pitch, we ate a good lunch and took a good nap, trying to recover lost energies from the monster party and the Cowboys disappointment.

A trip to Starbucks and showers for all gave way to a good, crisp group at home for Game 7. We paused the DVR, for my little girls had not finished homework. But, as soon as their last "T" was crossed, on to TBS for first pitch.

What better start than a first-inning HR from Dustin Pedroia? What a great feeling?! I was rather chatty this evening, and was giving the girls background stories on some of these players. They had questions about rules and things like, "batting streaks, ERA, bullpens, etc." Unlike the guy who asked, "How do you watch baseball?" I was answering all their questions gallantly.

Capt. Veritek came to bat at the top of the 7th with runners on first and third. The at-bat gave way to another pause and several potty breaks, as my girls (all of them) have come to appreciate the meaning of an at-bat like this, where you have runners in scoring position and a shot at taking the game back. At that point, the score was 2-1, Rays. Surely, like in Game 6, Tek would come through.

If you know baseball and are a fan of your team, you have a visual image of each player's batting stance and the quirks that come with it. Veritek is a switch hitter and one of the things he usually does after a pitch is tap his bat on his shoes. That, and every now and then, there is a crotch grab for cup re-adjusting. Usually nobody cares. We've become immune to this because, well, every body's used to it. Well, in spite of all the training and game watching we've done at my house, I've learned there are things my ladies are still unwilling to forgive.

I said, "In his defense, he's wearing a cup that needs re-adjusting to feel comfortable."

(Picture this: three grown girls sitting 'round the family room. The TV is 12 o'clock; one is ten o'clock; I'm 7 o'clock; another is dead center 6 o'clock; and the third is 4 o'clock.)

At the last breathe of my comment, all eyes fastened to 7 o'clock.

Let the firing line begin (for identity protection purposes, I'm not going to say who said what).

"WHY, WHY DO YOU GUYS DO THAT?" (as if I had just grabbed mine)


I made a futile attempt to salvage the situation, the male species and -- most importantly -- Veritek's at-bat, which quickly fell to 1-2.

"Ladies, it's not comfortable to wear that cup, and it needs readjusting so it's doesn't bother the players when batting."


I almost made a reference to this boob-grabbing comment and how it would fit very well with men, but decided against it.




I kept sinking into the sofa, and avoided direct eye contact. Just when I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, Veritek strikes out swinging, furthering my feeling that this game was slipping away.

The Rays hit a HR in the bottom of that inning. The crotch-grabbing comment took a full inning to die, and when we started the 8th, the Red Sox were now down two. J.D. Drew had bases loaded in that inning, and I really hoped he would erase the deficit and memories of the previous inning. I said, "If J.D. hits it out of the park, they can bring all the man-failure comments they want. We'll be going to the WS!"

Drew struck out on a check-swing, and the ballgame was over for all intents in purposes. They had one last shot in the ninth, but the gods of baseball had moved to the Rays dugout. It was evident.

So, the lesson is this: When you think your ladies are full-fledged fans of baseball (or any sport), beware! Like wolves in sheep skin, any little eccentricity in the male world can and will set them off. Red Sox lovers or not, ball grabbing, spitting and anything unbecoming in charm school is unacceptable. Never mind the fact that the Red Sox almost pulled off another stunning come-from-behind rally, after being 1-3 in the ALCS.

I guess my "How do you watch baseball?" friend could have benefited from being at home with us that night. If baseball was still unwatchable for him, the boob grabbing incident, coupled with the male disdain would have been enough to create a Fall Classic memory for him.

Rays in 6, by the way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Curse of Number 3

For a second...an instant...I thought about Manny Being Manny last night, when the Rays went for the Red Sox's jugular, up 7-0. The fate of Game 5 seemed to be exposed. As the bottom of the seventh got under way, the jugular seemed drained of any any life, until Dustin Pedroia came up to the plate with two outs.

ESPN posted Manny's stats with Cleveland, Boston and the Dodgers during Game 5 of the NLCS in efforts to sell his presence in each of those teams and how that affected their October magic. Needless to say, given the numbers, it's hard to deny having Manny Being Manny on your team in October is nothing short of essential.

The Dodgers went back to October baseball after 20 years, largely because of Manny. They could not close in on the Phillies, but it sure brought Mannywood in L.A. to life! If you saw Game 5 in L.A., the Dodgers' cathedral was overflowing with big entertainment names like Alyssa Milano, one of the Desperate Housewives and the host of Wheel of Fortune (sorry to lazy to Google their names).

So, starring at the box score of 7-0 in Game 5 of the ALCS -- I wondered. A painful thought came to my mind, as showing Manny the exit door at Fenway Park was -- until that moment -- a good thing in my Red Sox mind. Then, something happened to take me far away from MDS (Manny Detachment Syndrome).

Dustin Pedroia is listed as 5'9", 180 lbs. officially. That's my size, although I'm closer to 200. What that normally means is: no shot in HELL of playing any sport beyond high school, unless you have something, something special. If you are any kind of baseball fan, it's worth "Googling" this player. Hailing from Arizona in the 2004 draft, Pedroia has chiseled his place in Red Sox lore forever.

His swing alone is worth watching a Red Sox game. It's a combination of the Tasmanian Devil and Charlie Brown, with little of the Roadrunner. I don't know if anyone's swing looks anymore violent than his.

So, just as I was getting MDS in the 7th, the TBS cameras focused on the Red Sox, specifically the steps into the dugout. I wish I had a still of this. There, in all his 5'9" might, stood Pedroia in full batting armor starring angrily at the field, hoping for a shot at the bottom of the 7th. A shot he -- and we -- got.

You ever get in a rumble? You know, in the old days when it was just fists and bad words? Remember that small kid who was whooping butt on kids twice his size in a storm of grass and dirt? That's Pedroia.

With two outs, Pedroia hit a single that scored the first run of the game for the Sox. Big deal. It's 7-1 with two outs. But, guess who got a chance to come to bat with Pedroia's RBI? Big Papi. Mr. Clutch in 2004. The man who walked us off in Game 4 against the Yankees in the 12th. Walk off again? Not yet, but he put one in the right field bleachers to make it 7-4. You know the rest, or you should. The greatest comeback since 1929 took place, as the Red Sox found life.

Michael Irvin and Nate Newton, two former Dallas Cowboys during the Super Bowl years, were on the radio yesterday, trying to define the "privilege" it is to play in the NFL. Nate was advocating for Pacman Jones, saying the only reason the NFL is what it is, has to do with players like Pacman. He was defending Pacman, saying the NFL wants "kids" like him to keep the hype going. I can't argue with that. Mike was trying to be more neutral, acknowledging "God's gifts" to athletes like himself and others, but also saying the privilege is not the NFL having these players to exploit, but rather having the NFL. Period. Only in America do you have stages like the NFL, where a player's life changes completely.

To me the whole conversation was preposterous. Professional sports, after all, are only entertainment. The NFL stage being a privilege in America? I'll vote for that. Athletes given preferential treatment by God to one day make millions, while the rest of us are left aside to toil and waste ourselves in -- seemingly -- ordinary jobs? Not buying it. But, I'm biased. I'm always on the "little guy's" side. Teachers and nurses mean more to me than jock-strapped wide receivers any day.

Where is this going for Christ's sake?

Last night's game in Boston is the very essence of why sports is special. In the worst of any possible professional sporting scenarios, there is always hope. If you saw Dustin Pedroia on the street at your local shopping mall, you could NEVER define his possibilities in any reasonable way, as far as baseball is concerned. If you saw Kevin Youkilis, the man once called the "Greek God of Walks," you would be inclined to think the same. Kevin looks more like a burly contractor than a truly magnificent ballplayer.

But together on a team that will be notorious -- especially if they take this to Game 7 -- for comebacks, they are legends. They are Spartans. They are those two guys you wanna have on your team in a rumble. They are inspirational.

When a player makes the biggest skeptic forget that we are a marginal, ungifted participants in a multi-billion dollar business, they have done something special. They have lifted all that is wrong with professional sports and given you that hope you were looking for when you spent your valuable time and dollars to participate -- if only as an observer -- in the magic of sports. It brings all that is untangible to you and mixes a concoction of emotions in your soul that makes you come alive.

Today I chose to wear my #3 away Boston jersey to work. If the Red Sox come back from 1-3, again, they will have done it three times. All those three times, they were down by three games.

The curse of the Bambino was erased the first time the Red Sox came back from 0-3 deficit against the Yankees. The came back from 1-3 last year against the Indians.

The Babe wore the #3.

Will that be the magical number for this generation of Red Sox?

We'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mr. Foolproof

Stephen King published a book titled, "Everything's Eventual". It is a collection of 14 short stories, some of which have been made into motion pictures. Anyway, he gives a synopsis of the gist of the story and how it came to be. The story below -- fictitious, obviously -- came to me at about 3 a.m. one October night, after I got home from a call at the funeral home. Often times, when I get home in the middle of the night, I cannot go back to sleep. Many thoughts race my busy mind, and I have to find some way to channel them. I took the opportunity of a quiet home to pen this story. It was 2003, and at that time I e-mailed it to close friends and family. We had some fun with it, and in the spirit of five years past, here it is again.

PS - Any people or situations resembling real life are purely coicindental. This is a work of fiction.

My Dear Friends,

The sensationalism of my profession has always attracted much undue attention. At any give soiree, the “I've-always-wanted-to-ask-you-this-question” comment seems to surface. Usually I’m willing to oblige.

I have always satiated your curiosity by explaining that there are very few stories to tell of scary ghosts or moving bodies (postmortem). The scarier stories, and those that we should truly be scared of, have always come by way of the living! The gore and cruelty that we impose on one another fills news everyday. In other words, we must always be afraid of the living and not the dead, "…for they know nothing," says the Good Book.

Until tonight, I could not in good conscience speak of supernatural phenomenon. I have been thinking about the happenings of tonight, and for you, Sherlock Holmes Fans -- if any -- I have consulted with "Dr. Watson" about this matter. And, conclusively, Dr. Watson and I (Dr. Watson being my trained subconscious, you understand) decided to relate this tale for your consideration and or adulation.


The weekend was rough. The goings-on imposed great physical demands on me, at least I feel this way. I arrived home late on Sunday, only to catch the last part of Game 5, Marlins vs. Yankees in the World Series; but just in time to see our ex-Ranger Pudge brilliantly take out Mr. Posada at second base. Try that again, little Jorge! Shortly thereafter, I fell asleep.

I was in the beautiful state of slumber -- the REM portion -- in which the body is in its most unconscious state. You dream in this state and have rapid eye movement, thus the acronym. And, were it not for the splendor of the triage working together in your body: brain, heart and lungs, you are as good as dead. Amazingly, your brain, in addition to keeping you alive is also constantly monitoring for outside activity, specifically danger. Well, my brain this early morning, at about 2 a.m., gave my body the signal to get up, for the phone was ringing, surely a call to duty.

So it was.

I arrived at the parlor (a.k.a. funeral home) thirty minutes later in full suit and with a fresh scent, not that I took a shower. In tribute to the "old fashioned way," I splashed some water on my face and some cologne on my shirt. The night assistant (awaiting me at the parlor) and I headed to the hospital where our departed gentleman took his last breath. In the usual fashion, the night assistant and I exchanged pleasantries on the ride to the hospital in efforts to keep our eyes from shutting close and causing our own demise on I-30 somewhere.

We made our way to the staff elevators and headed to our destination. Through the intercom system, we heard the familiar code announcing to all hospital staff our presence. It's kind of like on the show "ER" when they scream, "Code Blue!" Except ours is not a scream, and it's not color-coded. It's simply a random numerical code privy to nurses and on-duty staff announcing morticians are in the house.

We were nearing our wing of the floor, and as we passed the first set of double doors, a man caught my attention. He was about 70 or 80 and looked frail. Being attentive, I asked if he needed help. He was clad in the usual hospital gown and wearing nothing else. He stopped his pace and looked at me straight in the eye with certain intent.

"No, I don't need help. I do have a question, though. Do you have minute?"

"Sure," I said, "What can I do? Can I get a nurse for you?"

My assistant had moved on forward to the designated nurse's station to retrieve the chart for me to fill-out and sign. Also, he would learn if there was any family waiting for us.

"What is your name, young man," he asked.

"Javier," I said.

"Are you Spanish"

"Well, yes, mostly Mexican," I said with a smile.

"Hmm. Tell me something?"


"When someone is cremated, how hot is the oven?"

Not really knowing where this conversation was headed, I evaded the question and asked, "What is your name sir? Maybe I can get you a nurse."

"My name is Mr. Foolproof. Now, are you going to answer my question or not? I don't have a lot of time, you know?"

The don't-have-enough-time comment threw me off. Here it was 2:30 a.m. in a big city hospital. This gentleman, obviously an inpatient, had nothing but time.

"Well, sir, crematory retorts get quite hot."

"Answer the question, young man!"

His voice, now raised and tired, gave an aura of suspicious intent. I was getting a bit frustrated with our man, as he refused help and/or guidance back to his room.

"Mr. Foolproof, it's about 1600 degrees, if I'm not mistaken."

"OK. Well, I guess that's the way it goes."

And with that, our curious bystander continued his path. I turned for moment to catch a glimpse of my assistant and see if he had learned anything, and not a few seconds passed when I turned back to Mr. Foolproof to see his progress. He was gone. I thought it rather odd, as he wasn't moving fast. I continued my path and found my assistant and our destined room.

When we went in the room, and a white sheet covered our dearly departed completely. I flipped through his medical chart, finding the mortician’s section. I signed it and closed the chart. And, just as I felt the slight wind on my face caused by the chart’s heavy plastic cover as I closed it, a cold chill ran through my body. I was awestruck! I was mortified! I opened it again hastily, and there, in bold black ink, the cover sheet read: John Foolproof.

I must have lost all the color in my face. Several seconds went by before my assistant asked, "Are you OK?"

I told my assistant everything and he too lost color.

We slid the white sheet off Mr. Foolproof. There he laid, the same soul who just minutes earlier asked about the temperature in a cremation retort! We transferred him to our stretcher and followed the same path we used to come in. Hands trembling and minds racing, we managed to find our vehicle and place Mr. Foolproof in our vehicle for transportation back to the parlor.

The ride back to the funeral home, needless to say, was eternal. Not a word spoken. Not a thought exchanged. All our energies and thoughts kept funneling to the man behind our seats, resting ever so peacefully on our stretcher.

It is truly and understatement to say that this was a weird experience!

Now, my friends, to you I pose the question: Is this fact or fiction?

I yearn for you response.

'Till next time

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dad, Golf, and The Meaning of 5-Over-Par

(This is a “ballsy” attempt at telling a story about dad and golf. We, my brother, dad and I, cannot be called "good golfers." The magic of this story is that playing the sport with dad is absolutely the most entertaining and fun we have ever had in the male bonding world. We are not a golfing family. As kids, we played little league baseball. Later, we played football. Golfing came as a great surprise to us in our adulthood, and the game has become one of our most wonderful memory-creating moments. I say ballsy because in this story our “dirty rags” are revealed regarding our golfing woes. It makes for a good laugh for years to come.)

The story was wordsmith-ed by my brother originally, and I tweaked it here and there...

If you have ever played golf or even attempted the game, you know it can go downhill very quickly. The darn sport is equally frustrating as it is addicting. You carry so much equipment and paraphernalia. It’s shameful to admit, but in spite thousands of dollars spent on that equipment and paraphernalia, the sport remains as simple as hitting a tiny ball a distance to a tiny hole marked by a flag. That’s it! Because we always look for the magic swing and the long straight drive, the sport becomes exponentially complicated, especially when your concentration is compromised by fun and life-long bonding moments.

Imagine this:

You're excited about another round o' golf, warmed up, and standing at the tee box on hole #1. It is 322 yards to the hole, a par-four. The figurative butterflies have invaded your stomach, and you are concentrating on everything else around you except the little golf ball on the tee. Golfers behind you are watching, and their stares are the straws the broke the camel’s back—regarding your nerves. I think that being held at gunpoint is not as nerve wracking as a golfer’s first swing to begin the 18-hole trek. It’s OK, though, you know you have practiced this shot a million times and there is no way it will fail.

You bring your driver back, swing at the shoulders and hip. WHAM! The golf ball rolls 15 yards slightly to the right. Unfortunately, while you swung that titanium driver your wife gave you for your birthday with all your might, you barely kissed the top, causing the ball to roll straight a miserable and embarrassing 15 yards. The sweat begins to run down in those dark, soft areas of your body.

Shot #1

You walk back to the cart voicing every excuse possible and promising the next shot will be perfect. Of course, you still have 307 yards to go, when you should only have about 180. An ideal situation (a good drive on the fairway) would warrant a 7 or 6-iron to the green, but “your driver is not working as you thought,” and you now have a decision to make to save par, at worst a bogey. “WWTD (What Would Tiger Do)?” you hear your innards say. So, with authority and confidence, you grab your 3-iron and walk up to the ball (though it should be a fairway wood to boost your ego).

You line up, measure the ball perfectly on the back of the club, bring the iron back, and WHAM! Again, you swing and hit that ball as hard as you can. This time, the golf ball rolls about 100 yards at a 45-degree angle from the green. So, not only did it not go straight, but also the ball is standing on some patch of El Paso dirt. You have brush and a very big tree in front of you to contend with. At least, the golfers staring at you are satisfied you absolutely suck and become pre-occupied with their own game. Voicing excuses out loud, in this case, is not yet warranted.

Shot #2

You walk back to the cart and open a brew. Drinking this early in the game is precarious and not recommendable, but you justify it by explaining your need to relax. You find the ball and now have a 207-yard shot to your left that needs to go through the brush and over the tree to get anywhere near the green. You get your 7-iron (a-la-Tin-Cup) because you realize your 3-iron must also be faulty. This is it! You have these visions of the ball elevating and landing softly on that green. Just thinking about it gives you goose bumps and a renewed sense of worth and confidences in your game. WHAM! The ball elevates about 100 ft., misses the tree (which is a good thing) and lands 80 yards right in front of the green. You are finally on the fairway. Oh boy! You want to kiss the 7-iron and praise the hands that designed such a fine instrument of golf.

Shot #3

You direct the cart to the ball and open another brew. Only then do you realize that the first one was consumed in two gulps. Anyhow, you know this is it: pitching wedge (a club my dad calls, “Pinche Way” for those Spanish speakers) to the green, one putt and this will be the perfect bogey. You grab it and take a nice, smooth swing. You hit the ball like you’ve never hit it before! Perfect height, perfect slope, perfect backspin, but unfortunately the darn thing went 130 yards—you only needed 80. This now means you are past the green and into tall grass. There are still hi-fives and congratulatory ovations from your fellow golfers, especially dad. You see, for the inexperienced golfer, a shot like this is always great, whether it was the right one for the occasion or not. The justification is this: next time, you can hit the ball “just like that” in an occasion when you need 130 yards, and not 80. It was a brilliant shot. “This is OK. I finally hit a nice shot like the great shots on television,” you tell yourself. Forget the fact that you may have added one or as many as two more shots to this hole.

Shot #4

You walk to the other side of the green. Without bickering too much your line-up, club selection and such, you hit the ball with a pitching wedge—again. The ball never leaves the ground, rolls fast on the green to the other side, and finally stops inside the bunker. Yeah, all the hoopla and excitement of the previous perfect shot is know a distant past. You have before you one of the most difficult challenges: hitting that f------ ball out of the sand trap.

Shot #5

As a golfer, you never want to be in a situation where you have to use your sand wedge because you never know what the darn thing is going to do. You might hit it so hard the ball flies fifty yards; you might hit it so soft, the ball never leaves the bunker. Knowing fully I don’t have a choice, I take my sand wedge and thrust it angrily out of the bag. I hit the ball just right. Another shot like the pros! The ball rolls onto the green and lands 20 ft. from the hole. I am finally on the green. The ovations come in the form of screams and smiles. Someone even has the courtesy to bring me a cold, open brew.

Shot #6

While this was a great shot, you have this sinking feeling that it’s futile. You’re already two shots over and still have to sink a 20-foot putt. You walk up to the green with a smile on your face, not allowing the other three players to notice your disgust and disappointment. You line up your putter without even measuring slope or speed. The ball stops 10 ft. short of the hole. Dad says, “Ijole, que lastima” (Oh man, that’s a shame).

Shot #7

You tap it again and the ball swirles the hole, and now you're 1 ½ ft. away from the hole.

Shot #8

You bend over, pick up the ball, and stare at it, as if there was something defective and or demonic about this particular ball. All the while you mumble out loud, “Ugly start but it will get better.”


First of all, this is fun and educational, but let’s keep it in perspective, lest we forget that we are only approaching hole #2.

Going back to the title and morale of this story…

What I just described above happened (circa 2006) at the first hole of Ascarate Park Golf Course. As I picked up my ball and walked back to the cart where Dad was waiting for me, comfortably sitting on a par for the first hole of play, he tapped my shoulder and said, “Hijo, muy bien nada mas cuida no tirar muchos tiros.” English translation: “Good job Son, just be careful not to get too many shots.” Very Yogi Berra, dad.

For those of you that know dad, this is typical. Dad has a magical way of making anyone and everybody calm down. I’m sure Jorge, my brother, wanted to clock someone in the face to release his frustrations, but the simplicity and zest with which our father reacts in the face of less-than-favorable moments will always be wonderful. And, that is why we love him. His simple statement to me that day made the whole game worthwhile. So who cares if didn’t break 100. Sharing and laughing with dad is and will always be the best part. He always makes us laugh no matter what.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How Do You Watch Baseball?

A sideline benefit of having kids in school is the friendships you make with said kids' parents. I call it "sideline" because that's what you are when you have children in school these days: a sideline observer, shuttling your kids to and from parties, games, and a myriad of events.

Anyhow, what I didn't expect is the many great things that would come from meeting parents. I have attended some 20 Dallas Cowboys games, largely in part of a friendship I made with my daughter's friends! I could go on, but the tale of this time is with a recent meeting of another set of parents.

The meeting came after a PTA soirée in which the local library system would offer an American Sign Language class at no charge. The girls got excited, as did this couple's daughter. But, then again, your easily excitable in the first grade. Either way, the girls (mine and theirs) began attending the Friday signing class.

The other day, when we dropped off their daughter, we expected to exchange shallow pleasantries at the door and not much more. After all, it was Friday and we had things to do, like the ALCS! Well, though I detected a heavy accent on our first meeting, I didn't pay much attention to it. "Up here," languages and accents are varied and mixed.

We came to learn -- just outside their front door -- that this family is Turkish. We exchanged more than shallow pleasantries and ended up staying for better then two hours, talking at the kitchen table.

Turkish people, it turns out, are as hospitable a group as my fellow Hispanics. Brief exchanges are not the norm, and they prefer you stay and chat a little. We drank tea, ate native pastries and talked about everything from the failing economy to sports. When we got to sports, the husband sheepishly asked me, "How do you watch baseball?"

I was wearing one of my Red Sox tees, and so the question -- he admits -- was begging to be asked since the beginning of the meeting. Though he knewnothing about baseball as a sport, he did know about Red Sox Nation. I showed him my membership card proudly.

Anyway, the question is pretty simple, but how do you answer that accurately? How do you begin to teach a 38-year-old the principles of baseball? As a kid your satisfied with knowing the defense has the ball and the offense hits. You know you have three strikes, three bases and a home plate.

I employed a George Carlin-ism (R.I.P.). I said, "I'll start by saying this: baseball is the only sport where you want to be as far away from the ball as possible to score. Baseball is the team sport with no time clock."

I'll tell you, trying to teach an adult really tests your knowledge of the game. This man is a software engineer, so his questions were not lacking in depth. ERA? Clutch? Pitch count? Tobacco chewing?


The questions fired faster than my answers. And, he was not all impressed with my basic definition of what the game is.

How do you begin to teach a guy the significance of the Rivera walk to Millar in Game 4? Buckner at Shea? Bill Mazeroski in Game 7? Kirk Gibson in Game 1?

I guess, I'll start at the beginning. Here we go...

"There was once a guy named Alexander Cartwright..."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Warning: The Wax Ring must be at 70°

On January 17, 2007, I sent this e-mail to close friends recounting my experience with replacing the two toilets in my house. Though I have done many home remodeling projects with my wife, none bring more grief than those related to plumbing. The story got some laughs, so here 'tis...

We are under snow here in the Chicken Friend Nation, and the events that led to this snow (for me) make up quite a story -- if nothing else -- for a good laugh at my expense. So, if you have 5 minutes and a cup of coffee, indulge me a bit.

Toilets: such a nasty subject.

Toilets, I have learned, are quite a magnificent invention. They are a magnum opus for whoever dreamed-up such a thing (from my vantage point last night). After all, we expect ours to always function properly, doing one of the most vile tasks known to man: the disposition of the human "man-seeing remnants!" All this, until they don't work, such as leaks from the tank that seem to stream from invisible cracks! The women in my life screamed the toilets in my home were in deplorable shape! They wasted so much water! They leaked! DEAR GOD THE WORLD IS GOING TO END! Deep down, though, I suspected the on-going remodeling was at the root of why the toilets needed changing. They didn't go with the design concept anymore.

So, yesterday, on my "day off," I was determined to fix anything they claimed was wrong with the toilets and teach them a lesson in salvaging what you have. One turn too many on one of the tank's bolts, and the leak turned into a gush. Yes, all four-letter bombs and their adverbs were employed. Onward remodeling soldiers to Home Depot we go.

I bought two of their all-in-one combos for $69.95. My buddy is a manager there (though he'll never read this due to lack of e-mail) and gave me the look probably thinking, "Are you going to install this?"

With all the people I asked about this toilet business, one thing became common. They all kept referring to the blessed wax ring, as if it was a shrine for homage. "Makesure it's new," they said. "Make sure and clean the old one off completely," they questioned. "Don't let them make you use the old one," they barked. When I opened the box and finally found the ring o' wax, I felt like I was in the presence of greatness. Finally, there it was! Who knew what I had to do with it? Nevertheless, there it was!

Insert >>>>> Scotch and water…

Here's comes the kicker.

I read "how to" manuals like I read history in school: very fast and with little interest. Something did catch my attention, and it was then I knew I was in for an adventure. With regard to the wax ring it read: "WARNING: THE WAX RING MUST BE AT 70°".

I thought, "Is there a kinky side to installing this thing? Should I drop off the kids at my sister's and call my wife?" Well, the wax ring is so adored by fellow amateur remodelers (and pros alike) because it is the bridge between the eternal flow of human feces and the porcelain throne. It is the very thing that keeps the foul juices on their flow to the pipe that takes the foulness away. No wonder it's treated with such reverence! The project continued, aided by the sweetness of a good drink!

After wrestling the throne to and fro, placing bolts in wrong several times, and pressing the wax to the pipe, we came to the first flush! I had the girls gather round and we let 'er rip! I'd never been so proud of a flush in my life. The empty throne, just in pieces moments before (and sans the wax ring of life), came to be a living part in our home. No more leaks. The women were in bliss. I don't think diamonds or roses would have made them happier. I still get teary-eyed...give me a moment…

My fellow house remodelers, keep up the good work. I took one for the team last night and came up a winner. Snow falleth in this part of Texas the next morning. Coincidence? I think not.


In The Beginning...

For an age, I've been contemplating a blog.

Many people are curious about my day job as a mortician. Some already know the adventures of living with mostly women, but blogging about it may add to the fun, not to mention ease the stress that lifestyle brings. Also, sports is a big part of my being, especially the Undertaker's Football League (UFL), a league I helped organize and serve as current commissioner.

And, there's that writing thing I keep tinkering with. I always joke that I am a part-time starving writer, 'cause at the moment, if I dived into writing full time, it wouldn't net any noticeable compensation for my family.

I've written some pieces that have attracted attention. Some have been related to sports (my beloved Red Sox, Dallas Cowboys, and the UFL leading the way). Some were pieces that came to me at 3 a.m., whilst serving my fellow man and removing deceased folks from their place of demise to the funeral home (heretofore referred to as "parlor"). See Mr. Foolproof which will be posted later. Also, there are the myriad of tales related to all the women in my life, which start with my wife, daughters, and long of line of women associated with the family. And, finally, there are those stories which have come from making "something out of nothing," which is a direct quote from a high school friend of mine (ring o' wax story to be posted later, too).

We'll see how it goes or where it goes. I do enjoy writing -- very much -- and hope I can entertain, disrupt and/or offer information that may/or may not be useful to you, the reader.

All the best,

Javier E. Najera
The Commish

"It requires very little ability to find fault. That's why there are so many critics."