Archive for July, 2010

Not in my backyard…

I’m ashamed.

What started out as a nice day quickly changed into one I could have done without.  And it’s the fault of the NY Times.  Well, not directly.  It was merely the messenger.

Jewish Group Opposes Muslim Center Near Ground Zero the headline exclaimed.  Another one of those wacko ultra-orthodox Jewish organizations, I figured.  Led by the same people who want to purify Israel and push some folks into the sea or worse.  I read on.

Turns out that the Anti-Defamation League is the wacko group objecting to the location.  Now I know that both the ADL and its national director, Abraham Foxman, couldn’t be further from wacko than you are.  Nor could they, before today, be called bigots.  Yet here was Mr. Foxman saying that the location of the center was offensive to families of 9/11 victims and that supporters should look for another site “a mile away.”

When asked why the opposition of September 11 families was so pivotal, Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, offered…”Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational. Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”  He might have added…and therefore, religious discrimination is justified.  But he didn’t.

Other pundits have weighed in.  Tablet’s Mark Tracy  said…”Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words,  fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.  Except when it does the precise opposite.”

Like the much heralded feel-good Arizona immigration law, most people haven’t a clue as to what the Muslim Center is all about.  Nor do they know that its board will include Christians and Jews.  Yet they oppose it.  Many, perhaps a majority, think it is to be located right in the middle of 9/11 ground zero.

Others, who should know better, have joined the battle as another means of furthering their political objectives.  Sarah Palin has urged “peace-seeking Muslims” to reject the center, branding it an “unnecessary provocation.”  That paragon of virtue, Newt Gingrich decried the center  and said “The average American just thinks this is a political statement. It’s not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.”  The two Republican candidates for NY Governor have added the issue to their campaigns and have accused their Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, now the state’s attorney general, of not aggressively investigating the center’s finances.

The Huffington Post’s  James Lamond had this observation about Mr. Gingrich.  “Gingrich has latched onto this “Islamophobic” rhetoric in the past couple weeks. First, his speech on the building of a Muslim Community Center at Ground Zero, where he warned that “America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” In the same speech he argued that we should look to Saudi Arabia as a standard bearer on religious freedoms saying, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”

Now I understand fully why some politicians are jumping on the bandwagon.  If there are any uncommitted souls out there, it’s just possible that rattling their cages with forecasts of doom and destruction will swing their votes to a champion dedicated to saving their bacon.

What I don’t understand is how we Jews can buy into this.  But maybe we’re just like everyone else.  Until reminded otherwise.

Libbey Bowl Slide Show-July 11-15, 2010

Thought you might like to see a slide show of the bowl activity from July 11 thru July 15.  Patience is a virtue as the show loads into your browser…especially if you pick the hi rez version.

Click here…

Libbey Bowl-A Work in Progress

Thanks to many of you, the construction of the new Libbey Bowl is underway.  But before we forget, here’s the old bowl…

Sweetie and I have volunteered to chronicle the building of the new bowl.  We spent $14 on two hard hats at Ace, so we plan to get our money’s worth.

We’ll be taking photos at various stages of its construction and plan to periodically post them so you can keep up with the project.  For those of you who may need to get close up and personal, we will occasionally put hard copies of some of the photos in Rains Department store windows.  You may have already seen the above photo (the Bowl, not Sweetie) as you strolled by the store.

McGillivray Construction began their work on July 11.  On July 15 we took a 360 degree panorama of the site.  If you click on the photo shown below, you will be taken to the Photosynth website.  You may be prompted to install a Microsoft utility application (Silverlight) in order to view the pano in all its gloriousness.  That done, use your mouse and scroll around as though you were standing in the middle of the construction zone.  We know it looks like the London Blitz.  But we expect that things will improve shortly.

We’ll keep you posted!

My Heroes

I’ve been a Cub fan ever since my cousin Leonard got me hooked on them in the fourth grade.

I guess calling myself a Cub “fan” is a bit of a stretch.  I discovered that yesterday when Sweetie and I went to our first Dodger game in twenty years, courtesy of Mikey and our daughter Nancy.  The first sign of my baseball ignorance was when I couldn’t find the infamous Manny Ramirez listed in the Dodgers’ starting line-up.  Turning to Nancy I said “where’s Ramirez?”  Looking at me with that “where have you been” expression, she said “you gotta keep up.”  It got worse.

The Cubs’ lineup, glaringly displayed on the three-mile-wide super electrified scoreboard, proclaimed the names of those who were about to take the field.  I recognized only one.  The rest were strangers.  I didn’t expect the likes of Stan Hack, but where was Ernie Banks when I needed him?  Had Hank Sauer gone the way of the Dodo?  Surely Roy Smalley was still flinging the ball from short-stop onto Addison Street.  Nope.  These guys were all strangers.  Except for one familiar thing.  They were losers…just like my old Cub heroes.

The next clue to my extended absence from the national pastime came when I dragged myself up the stairs to buy some eats.  Twelve dollars for a beer.  Not a six-pack.  One beer.  I skipped the brewski and headed for the Dodger Dogs.

Fifteen minutes in the “express line.”  Three dogs, two french fries, one Coke and a bottle of water.  Thirty-six dollars and seventy-five cents.  And I couldn’t get the mustard out of the machine.  I shuddered at the thought of dropping the load on my way back.

By the time I got to my seat, my faux-son-in-law Kevin had stripped most of the skin from his bleeding thumb scrambling for a two-dollar foul ball which he proudly displayed with his one good hand.  I had also missed a two-run Cub homer by some guy named Geovany Soto.  My heroes were ahead by three runs.   Only seven innings to go.  A Greek chorus ran through my head intoning “it ain’t over til the fat lady sings.”

Turning to Sweetie, who had nearly dehydrated from the sun and a stadium into which no fresh air is allowed, I said “seems to me there are a lot more foul balls than I remember.”  My most astute comment of the day generated a look that has been known to turn fools into pillars of salt.

I stared at the clock as the third inning mercifully ended.  One hour had passed.  How could that be?  I’ve been here for weeks.  Six innings to go.  Thirty-six outs.  My calculations led to an exit time of 4:15.  But what about extra innings.  I’ll expire in this seat and they’ll never notice.

The innings passed while the music blared from a center field mountain of the largest speakers I have ever seen.  Music that had no more place in the national pastime than a parade of Nazi storm troopers.  Beach balls bounced up and down in the stands while I waited for some clod to fall over the second deck railing.  The right field fans insisted on promoting the “wave” while a guy in a Captain Morgan Rum pirate suit threw dollar t-shirts to hysterical people who you woulda thought had nothing to wear other than the clothes on their backs.  The game went on in spite of the entertainment.

My Cubs did their best to let the Dodgers back into the game.  A couple of errors by some guy named Aramis Ramirez and an Alphonse and Gaston act by two other strangers contributed to my feeling of deja vu.  All the while, the Greek chorus sang on.

Sixth, seventh, eighth…finally, the ninth.  Ahead by five runs.  Ooops, make that four with two outs, men at the corners, heavy hitter up.  Am I doomed to reside in Hades forever more?  God, let there be light.  A little pop-up and it was over.  The fat lady had sung and I was happy.

Walking up the stadium stairs with my Cub hat perched high on my head, a guy looked at me and said “you musta brung those guys some luck.”   Sure did.  They’re my heroes.

Save your old shoes

Headed down the hill today to visit John Long at Ojai Valley Imports.  Time for an oil change.  John was a bit scruffier looking than usual but, in his happy way, greeted me with “Hi Fred, how you been?”  For whatever reason, I still think an oil change costs $39.  And I’m always surprised to discover that’s only the half of it.  Must be an age thing.

Sort of like my view of buying shoes.  I remember when Florsheim meant something.  Spend $35 on a pair of Florsheims forty years ago and they were an investment that kept on giving until your wife ripped them off your feet and threw them in the garbage.  I always get wide-eyed at the cost of any kind of shoe, regardless of price.  Must be my upbringing.

I waited under that old fir tree on the corner of Summer and Ojai Avenue, trying to twist old, dead needles into a useful survival tool.  Mercifully, Don arrived and we drove to the Ojai Cafe Emporium for our usual coffee and half a sweet roll.  Like Florsheims, I think their cinnamon rolls have suffered a bit over time.  But their muffins are the best, especially pumpkin.  I could probably eat a whole one but I feel psychologically fitter if I only get a half ration of white flour and sugar.  Besides, I usually bring two home for Sweetie and help her with the eating part.

The place was nearly deserted at 8:15, an unusual event.  I asked the lovely lady behind the counter where everyone was.  No clue.  I joked “maybe they’re all staking claim to prime spots on the avenue for the July 4th parade.”  And then I remembered that the parade is on July 3 because the 4th is a Sunday.

I admit to a certain amount of bristling about the parade being moved to Saturday.  And I remember the brooha that ensued when the parade sponsors made the same decision a few years ago in order to let folks attend church.  Back then I almost wrote a letter to the Ojai Valley News to remind the sponsors that Saturday was a holy day for us desert wanderers.  But then I haven’t been to a temple Saturday service in a long time.  So why should I bitch.  Even so, a July Third parade seems all wrong.

Don and I began with an organ recital (how’s your health), a less than argumentative discussion of who’s really at fault for the state of the economy, Joe Barton’s whole-hearted but bonehead apology to BP, and a review of our latest literary explorations.  I was proud to announce that I was actually reading a piece of non-fiction.  Nothing to Fear by Adam Cohen (who probably would also be ticked at the thought of a July 3rd parade) recounts FDR’s first hundred days in office in 1933.  In the depths of the depression, here comes a guy who had an easy act to follow, Herbert Hoover.  Some would argue that Obama had the same advantage.

As I read the book, I found myself comparing then and now.  Killer unemployment, a banking system on life support, stocks in the toilet, a media that thrives on bad news, and conflicting views on the role of government in an economic holocaust.  FDR and the Democrats win the election in a landslide.  A lock on both houses of congress and the key to the Oval Office.  On Day One, FDR plops himself behind the desk and hasn’t a clue as to what specific steps should be taken.  All he knows is that the banks need oxygen and people need jobs.  And the rest is history.

The only difference between then and now is the sense of urgency.  Not enough people selling apples.  No army of the unemployed on the steps of Congress.  Too few market manipulators leaping from the fifth floor.  And an election cycle that has no beginning and no end.

Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and things will get worse.  Meanwhile, save your old shoes.



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