A fine season for the Tribe has come to a disappointing ending with a shutout loss in the winner-take-all wildcard game.  I worked out some angst by screaming at the TV at some of the strike calls by the home plate umpire and some of the missed opportunities.  At least I succeeded in scaring the dogs.

I’m sorry this season is over, but I’ll try not to forget what a pleasant surprise this team was.  It’s hard to get past this loss right now, though.

Tom Clancy

I was sad to see that Tom Clancy died today.  He was only 66.

Kish and I lived in Washington, D.C. when Clancy published The Hunt For Red October.  President Reagan raved about the book, and everybody in D.C. felt obligated to read it so you could say you did at the next cocktail party.  I picked it up reluctantly, because I was not a fan of spy novels.  I found the John le Carre books, for example, to be almost unreadable.

The Hunt For Red October was different.  It was fast-moving, technical, riveting, and seemed to portray an insider’s view of the intelligence community.  I couldn’t put it down, and others couldn’t either.  It was a huge best seller and helped to single-handedly reinvigorate the spy thriller genre.  I like to re-read books, and over the years I’ve re-read The Hunt For Red October multiple times.  It stands the test of time and remains a great read.

Clancy next wrote Red Storm Rising, which was another excellent book.  From the initial terrorist attack that provoked the Soviet Union to attack the West to a sprawling series of battles and incidents across the globe, Red Storm Rising was a massive page-turner that believably depicted a potential war between the Warsaw Pact and NATO.  You read it through, hoping that America would win in the end.

I continued to read Clancy books after that, following the exploits of Jack Ryan and other continuing characters that Clancy created, through Patriot Games and The Cardinal of the Kremlin and other books.  At some point, though — and it was probably about the time that planes crashed into the Capitol and Ryan unexpectedly became President — the believability that had made the initial books so gripping was gone.  I left the Clancy books behind, but that doesn’t change the extraordinary achievement of Clancy’s early work.  I could easily read The Hunt For Red October and Red Storm Rising right now and enjoy them immensely.

Good storytellers who can create plausible alternative universes have a special gift.  Tom Clancy had it, and he will be missed.

Thankful For The Porker

I am a huge fan of truth in advertising.  Tell me what you’ve got . . . really.  Don’t say you’re offering “luxury living,” for example, when you’re building apartments next to a gas station and a “gentlemen’s club.” 

IMG_1523So when Kish and I went to Dinin’ Hall today and I saw Kenny’s Meat Wagon, I was definitely hoping for some truth in advertising.  A meat wagon should either be a hearse or a culinary conveyance that offers lots and lots of savory, hearty, dripping on your chin protein.  I’m happy to report that Kenny’s Meat Wagon fell into the latter category — and how!

Kenny was behind the grill, so I asked him whether I should get the brisket special or the Porker.  He mentally flipped a coin and suggested the Porker.  It was an inspired choice — a roll stuffed to the gills with moist, succulent, piping hot pulled pork, topped with Carolina barbecue sauce, grilled onions and bacon.  That’s right . . . bacon.  No wonder it’s called the Porker.  I silently thanked the tasty swine that gave its all so that I could enjoy this fantastic sandwich.

Bab’s Down Home Cookin’ also was at Dinin’ Hall today.  Kish got the gumbo, and Bab’s graciously offered a side.  I prevailed on Kish to get the homemade macaroni and cheese, because it is the perfect complement to a pork feast.  It was excellent, buttery soft, cheesy, and hot.  My lunch consisted of alternating bites of the Porker and forkfuls of mac and cheese with a swig of water every now and then.  Kish swears I didn’t take a breath during the meal, which seemed to end much too soon.

“Knee Ticklers” In The Age Of Innocence

In 1971, our family moved from Akron to Columbus.  We left behind the world of Cleveland TV personalities, like Barnaby and Captain Penny, and moved into the orbit of Cincinnati TV shows that were carried on Columbus stations.  One of the Cincinnati shows was a silly daytime variety show called The Paul Dixon Show.

Paul Dixon was an older man who appeared to wear an obvious toupee.  I’m not sure whether he had any special talent, but he had been hosting his show for years and was a celebrity in the Cincinnati area.  One of his trademark segments was to attach a “knee tickler” — a kind of dangling ornament — to the hems of the dresses of the housewives who made up the studio audience for his show.  Campy music would play, Paul Dixon would make a few lascivious facial expressions at the camera, and then he would demurely attach the “knee tickler” to the one-piece, just above the knee mini-dress of a stocky middle-aged woman with a beehive hairdo.  This routine was viewed as “naughty,” edgy, just barely acceptable stuff in the world of daytime TV in the early ’70s.

It was a more innocent time then.  I thought of The Paul Dixon Show recently when I saw a grown man wearing a t-shirt that had a depiction of a hand giving the finger and used the “f”-word, spelled out in bold letters.  He was at a sporting event where lots of people, including kids, were in attendance.  He obviously thought it was hilarious stuff, but for me it epitomized the increasingly vulgarity and crassness of our popular culture.  We’ve gone from times where putting a “knee tickler” on a woman’s dress pushed the envelope to the point where the queen mother of curses is casually displayed on clothing worn at a public event.

I don’t yearn for a return to Victorian sensibilities, but I regret the direction in which we are heading.  If we’ve reached the point where obscene t-shirts are an accepted part of popular culture, what’s the next stop in our downward spiral?