It Won’t Be Like This For Long

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I awakened in the dead of night in a cold sweat. I dreamed that I could not find my daughter. It felt so real. So much so that I was, momentarily and, quite literally, panic stricken.

Once I had convinced myself that it was just a bad dream I made a few vain attempts at getting back to sleep, but the images from the dream continued to haunt me every time I closed my eyes.

I finally fell asleep. It was a very deep sleep. When I woke up this morning I had only a vague recollection of the frightening middle-of-the-night events and, thankfully, a sense of relief.

In the light of day I laid there for a time and tried to sort out the message that my subconscious had been sending me. Upon reflection, the message was not scary at all.

Why my dreams, and this one was no exception, often have the feel of a 1920’s speakeasy — illicit, hazy, and filled with shady characters — I will never understand.

Regardless of its overall mood and the strangeness of its setting, images of my daughter, not as she is today, but as she was as a child, were a large part of the dream and, upon conscious reflection, its overriding theme. They were not only memories, these images; they were also actual snapshots; photographs — happy photographs for the most part — taken by me or by someone else; real, tangible items that I have held in my hands.

Her on a swing in the park. Her, with her father’s assistance, putting the angel atop the Christmas tree. Her at an ice cream shop on a long ago vacation. Her dressed as a Pilgrim. Her playing field hockey. Her, in her prom dress, with her head thrown back and her arms akimbo, laughing. Her face on a baseball card. Her, as an infant, sleeping in her father’s arms.

Mostly, though, there was the one of her in her purple hat and matching coat. She was six years old. It was late Autumn. The Halloween decorations on the front lawn can be seen in the background. I must have had film left in the camera. Likely there were pictures of her, dressed as Tinkerbell, on that roll. I remember taking that picture.

That little girl that I was relentlessly (and unsuccessfully) searching for in my dream no longer exists. I have to let her go. I know this. Of course I know this. It is not easy, though.

On some level I blame Hootie for the dream. Yes, Hootie, from “Hootie and the Blowfish”. To be fair, he goes by his real name now — Darius Rucker. Last night, which was, incidentally, my daughter’s first night back at school since mid-December, I was watching a PBS program which featured Mr. Rucker.

As I was laying there, missing her, thinking about the fact that I may not see her until April, he began to tell the story of one of his most popular songs, “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”. While I have heard that song countless times, I guess that I never really listened to the words. Last night, I listened to the words. And I burst into tears.

Thankfully my husband had already fallen asleep. While he has developed a taste for “Downton Abbey”, “Mercy Street” may not have been his cup of tea. So, there I was, feeling alone and vulnerable, trying to decide whether or not “Mercy Street” had been my cup of tea either, when this music program came on.

I like Darius Rucker. I figured that listening to him sing would be a nice way to end what had been an angst-filled week.

The last week before she returns to school is always bittersweet. That, combined with the fact that I hit the bad job jackpot — I now have two jobs that I hate, aren’t I a lucky gal? — and an ill-timed decision to paint my kitchen (don’t ask!), left me longing for some mindless entertainment. Enter Hootie.

And THAT song.

Yeah. It won’t be like this for long. I know. Still, I would give just about anything if today I was posing her in front of the pumpkins in her little purple hat and asking her to smile and to say, “Cheese” instead of sitting here thinking about how she is 300 miles away.

On the other hand, it won’t be like this for long.


 

To hear “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”, copy and paste this link:

http://www.vevo.com/watch/darius-rucker/It-Wont-Be-Like-This-For-Long/USCN20800069

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shuddering At the Thought

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Joe’s Crab Shack announced yesterday that it is instituting a “no tipping” policy in its restaurants. Instead, they announced, they will be paying their wait staff a wage of $14/hour. One might think that I, a lifelong server, would applaud this move. I am going to reserve my ovation for the moment.

While this may well be a step in the right direction, I am concerned about the hourly rate. How, I would like to know, did the folks at Joe’s Crab Shack arrive at this figure? (To be fair, they did indicate that some servers — based on merit — would be paid more.)

I think a pre-tax hourly rate of $14/hour is low. I think that the majority of the staff at Joe’s Crab Shack will be taking a pay cut. Actually, at least here in the northeast, I know that they will be. I took a look at my most recent pay stub and discovered that, for me, and I would guarantee for most of my co-workers, this would be true. The pay cut that we would be taking if our company were to go in this same direction? Approximately 50%.

Does anyone think we do this because we LOVE our jobs? We do this for the money — and for the flexible hours. I would hazard a guess that servers at Joe’s Crab Shack are going to lose both money and flexibility, particularly in terms of the number of hours they will be allowed to work on a given day. Many States have laws on the books that require a person be paid time-and-a-half for any time worked over 8 hours/day. Typically, tipped employees are exempt from these rules.

Generally, I work an 11-hour shift at least one day/week, sometimes more often than that. It allows me to maximize my hourly wage and to work fewer days.

I would also like to monitor the prices at Joe’s Crab Shack — for the past year and for the coming year — for increases. I am willing to bet that the consumer will still be paying the service staff, only in a different way; in a way that will now be controlled by Joe’s Crab Shack, rather than by its patrons.

It will also be interesting to see whether or not the level of service will decline once the service staff is no longer incentivized. Think about it. If a server has three tables in an hour and their sales in that time period add up to $300, they have a built in incentive to service these guests well. Why? $45/hour, that’s why.

While I understand that a person will not net $45 in that hour (one must take out taxes and tip-outs). Still, 15% of this $300 in sales would, at a minimum, translate, after taxes and tip-outs, to about $30 in the server’s pocket, which is still more than double the $14/hour that Joe’s Crab Shack has decided is a fair wage for its service staff. (No, we do not make $30/hour ALL the time, but during peak dinner hours we can earn that.)

I watch servers now — servers who have every reason to provide excellent service — who do not do their jobs. These are people who, in my opinion, will be content with a flat rate wage. Will their customers be content without a water refill? Will their tables be full of dirty dishes? Will they have ketchup? Time, I suppose, will tell.

If this trend takes hold, I would not be surprised if most good servers, professional servers, leave the industry altogether. If people think servers are stupid (or lazy, or lack menu knowledge, or…. insert your own preconceived, but likely wrong, notion here) now, just wait until they see what they get when the person waiting on them is only taking home about eleven bucks an hour. Trying to find your server will be like trying to find the person wearing the orange apron at the home improvement store. Good luck with that!

I understand that there are restaurants where tipping is not allowed. I understand that it works for them. Frankly, I don’t know how — not when these same workers can go down the road and make twice what they are making in an establishment where tipping is the norm.

Where a “no tipping” policy works may have something to do with workers who are comfortable with this custom. For example, there is a Japanese restaurant in NYC where tipping is not allowed — because tipping is not allowed in Japan. I am not sure how this translates to the US economy, but it seems to work for them. (So they say.)

There may be isolated cases where a worker simply can not go “down the road” to another establishment and make more money. I would imagine that a restaurant located in a lightly populated area — an area where the hourly wage vs. being tipped evens out. This sort of establishment might draw a decent pool of workers who are happy to work for a flat rate. This is not the case in my corner of the world.

Do not even get me started on what the expectation from employers — once they are paying their front-of-house staff $14 an hour — will be. I guarantee you that cleaning bathrooms, removing garbage, and spit-shining fixtures will be in the future of service staff members nationwide. That will not be a good thing, not for servers, but especially not for the folks who currently do these jobs. I would bet that quite a few of these workers will find themselves out of jobs — jobs that they sorely need.

Currently our “side work” can be back-breaking. There are considerations, though, about how much of it we can have and how long we can reasonably be expected to complete our tasks. The law says that we must be able to finish this work while we still have tables — while we still have the opportunity to make at least minimum wage. Once we are being paid $14/hour, all bets, where “side work” is concerned, will be off.

Where I live, bringing home $11/hour will not cut it. Working for $440 a week would bankrupt me. (This is assuming that a restaurant is willing to give me — or anyone else — a full 40-hour a week schedule.) I would have to have two jobs — two full-time jobs — to earn what I currently take home working one. I am, quite literally, shuddering at the thought.

As consumers, you should be shuddering at the thought, too.

#shutupaboutthecupsalreadyandbegrateful

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Like many other people in the country — so many that there is a trending Twitter hashtag (#starbuckschristmas) devoted to this extremely important issue — I feel the need to weigh in on the whole “Starbuck’s changed its Christmas cup to appeal to the complainers in the world who want to take Christ out of Christmas!” brouhaha. Like many other people in the country, I honestly cannot remember what the old Christmas cup looked like, but not knowing about a thing ever stopped me from expressing my opinion about it before. Unlike the folks up at Starbuck’s, I will just go ahead and stick with tradition, dammit!

I am assuming that there was some nod to Christmas on the Starbuck’s holiday cup. I seriously doubt that there was a nativity scene emblazoned on the old cups. But, what do I know? Maybe there was. I never noticed.

Frankly, I don’t notice much when I am in Starbuck’s. Except maybe how many people are standing between me and my ability to get my French vanilla latte, made breve, with an extra shot of espresso. Depending on the season, I may replace French vanilla with Pumpkin Spice or Crème Brulee. Yeah. I’m flexible like that.

I am also flexible about a company changing the design of its cup. Actually, I don’t really care about the design of the cup, so long as they don’t screw with what they put inside of it. I love Starbuck’s coffee. I am not ashamed to admit it. Some people have gone so far as to suggest that I may need a 12-step meeting to deal with my addiction. To this I say, mainly to my husband and daughter, “Stop talking to me. I am trying to decide between the French vanilla and the Pumpkin spice.” , as I wonder if there is a 12-step program for nagging that I could direct them towards.

To the people complaining about the cup design I say, “Be grateful you have a cup to put your $6 coffee into; be grateful you have the six bucks for the coffee at all.” I have a suggestion for them, those who are so offended by the audacity of a corporation to change the design on their cups: stop drinking it.

They won’t though. They won’t suddenly become Dunkin’ Donuts customers. Would you like to know why? Because, if they did, then they would have to drink Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. No Starbuck’s coffee drinker in their right mind is going to voluntarily switch to DD. No way. No how.

In a world where there is much to be grateful for (truly, there is), the existence of Dunkin’ Donuts is not something a Starbuck’s coffee drinker could ever be grateful for. It will serve in a pinch, but as an every day substitute? No way. No how.

This idea of what we should be grateful for reminded me of many scenes from my childhood, most of them involving my father. My father began a lot of sentences (from the front porch, with coffee cup in hand) with  “You’re lucky….” . And, we were.

We were “lucky”, to his way of thinking, to have arms with which to rake leaves for hours, fingers with which to pull weeds from between the sidewalk cracks all day (likely a punishment for saying we were “bored”!), and legs with which to get our asses to the store for a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk. Before you get the idea that my father was the 1970s version of Simon Legre, let me just paint a picture for you.

In that picture you will see a man that worked all night and stayed up with us during the day. (Hence the porch sitting and the coffee drinking.) You will see a man that often helped us with the leaf raking (he wasn’t a big fan of the weed pulling) and always (and I mean “always”, as in every single time) joined us as we jumped (or, very often were thrown — by him) into the giant piles of leaves that wound up in the cement pond that had long ago ceased to contain fish or frogs, but made an excellent place for growing mint in the summertime and for depositing leaves in the Fall. He didn’t really work us, no matter what we told our mother, all that hard.

Depending on the season, there was always cocoa or lemonade at the end of whichever mindless task we had been assigned. If we had to run down to the store to fetch milk or bread, the change was always ours to spend — on whatever struck our fancy. I, usually, spent mine on magazines or comic books, my sister spent hers on snacks. Unless it was Summer; it was nearly impossible to resist the lure of the “bomb pop” on a hot day — even if Donny Osmond or David Cassidy were gracing the cover of the latest “Tiger Beat”.

I can remember walking home covered in “bomb pop” remnants. The stickiness of the red and blue dye that were the hallmarks of having eaten a bomb pop made me, I am sure, look like an urchin. Still, I was a happy urchin. On a sugar high. Now, I am a happy adult. On a caffeine high. Thank you, Starbuck’s. Thank you, Dad.

I was lucky. I know that now. I knew it then, too. I think it is high time that other people recognize how lucky they are. And, they are very lucky indeed, lucky enough to have the time to fret over coffee cup designs. To that end, I would like to suggest a new Twitter hashtag, #shutupaboutthecupsalreadyandbegrateful.

Tales From “The Annoying Bar & Grill”: If You See Something, Say Something!

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Last night I overheard a customer who was sitting at the bar ask my bar partner what my name was. I had no idea why this guy wanted this information; I had had absolutely no interaction with this customer at all. “Great!”, I thought to myself, “What the hell did I do NOW?” Because, yeah, I always think the worst. I’m Irish: it is, alas, in my nature to be a pessimist. Also, it has been my experience that the sole reason someone wants to know your name is so that they can complain about you.

I went over to him and introduced myself. “Hi, I’m Jackie. How are you tonight?” This was a tactical move on my part. I figured that maybe I could “make my case”, nip the whole complaining about me thing in the bud by being straightforward with, by ingratiating myself to, “the guy”. I was wracking my brain, trying to think what the hell I could have done wrong.

I quickly scrolled through the possibilities. Did “the guy” witness me committing some heinous error related to personal hygiene? Did I touch my hair? My mouth? Did I pick up a glass by the rim? I didn’t think so. I am careful about those things. Still, anyone can make a mistake.

Did we ignore him in favor of someone who walked in .05 seconds after him? That happens sometimes. It is not intentional. It is, more often than not, a result of someone standing in a more convenient spot than another person. Eventually we get to everyone. We try to be fair. People don’t always see it that way. I have been at this long enough to know that.

“The guy” had nearly finished his meal. From what I could tell my bar partner had adequately attended to this man’s needs. Or had he? Did this gentleman think me “in charge” because I was the elder stateswoman behind the bar? Was he going to lodge a complaint about my young co-worker? That happens sometimes, too. Actually, that happens a lot.

I am, by the way, not “in charge” of anything or anybody. People don’t know that, though. They often grab me, thinking that I, by virtue, I suppose, of my gray hair and conscientious manner, also possess the magical ability to solve their problems, which, of course, I do not.

Did I bash into his barstool, causing his knife to slip? Did a morsel of food go sailing off of his plate as a result of my clumsiness? Perhaps. I am not known far and wide for my gracefulness.

I do not see well in the dark, either. The manager on duty last night likes to keep the lights low. I can barely see a thing. I have no time to fool with lighting. Sure, I’ve bitched about it. The manager’s answer? He likes it that way. Okay. I am a woman who has learned to pick her battles. I am not going to engage in lighting warfare with a manager who, outside of his penchant for striking a romantic atmosphere, does his job well. Life is too short for that kind of nonsense.

He, the manager, finds it hysterical when I bring up the flashlight on my phone to find things in the dark — and by “things” I mean the cash register. Yeah. I would love to get one of those miner’s helmets and strap it on the next time we work together. That, too, would amuse him. He and I have a few laughs, mostly at my expense. Because he is a good egg, I am willing to move past our lighting issues. In the spirit of congeniality, he is willing to overlook some of my more idiosyncratic behaviors. (Like my trademark eye-rolling, for example.) It is what it is.

Did “the guy” think he knew me from somewhere? That happens. I know a lot of people. I have worked locally in bars and restaurants for the past thirty years. A lot of people know me. It is slightly embarrassing when I don’t remember them, but what are you going to do? I can’t be expected to remember every person I have ever come into contact with in my life, can I?

I was hoping our conversation was not going to be a trip down Memory Lane. I was busy. Far too busy to take a jaunt back in time with a guy that I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that I had never seen before.

All of this was rolling around my head as I was standing in front of “the guy”. He politely explained that he wanted to know my name because he wanted to commend me. When he wants to compliment a person, he said, he likes to know their name. What?!?!?!

This hardly ever happens. This was not a scenario that had played out in my head as I approached “the guy”, particularly because, like I said, I had had no interaction with him whatsoever.

I did not see this coming. I did not even know he was aware of my existence before he asked my bar partner for my name. He told me that I was the hardest worker he had ever seen, compared me to the “Energizer Bunny”, and told me that he was exhausted just watching me. I apologized for tuckering him out, explained that my bar partner made my success possible (“couldn’t do it without him!” “we make a great team!”), and thanked the customer for noticing.

As I was speaking with him, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that I was being summoned by a woman who was seated at one of the bar top tables. I excused myself, but was planning to make my way back to “the guy”, to get HIS name, to thank him again. (To beg him to return!) Once I had attended to the woman’s demand for, I kid you not, “a dozen” lemons, (yes, that’s what she wanted, a “dozen” lemons — for her steak!) I looked for him, but he was gone.

I wanted him to know that he made my week! It had been a bit of a rough week, to tell you the truth. Many of us worker bees had wondered, aloud and with head-shaking seriousness, what had gotten into people this week? Seriously. Every shift was chock full of the nasty and the weird. We all felt slightly outnumbered.

This guy, “the guy”, softened the edges of what had been an angst-filled week. The lesson here, my friends, is this: if you see something, say something, especially if that something is nice. It may just mean the world to someone. I am lucky that last night that “someone” was me.

Exceeding Expectations

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I was listening to Jackson Browne’s seminal album, Late for the Sky (1974), today. One of my favorite songs from that album is entitled “Farther On”. It felt appropriate today to listen to this particular song. The New York Mets players and their fans — of which I am one — awakened this morning to the sad reality that this season is over. Like this song says, our “dreams have come up torn and empty”.

Last year, following a below .500 season, I published some musings on my team in a post entitled “Here’s To Hoping!”. The Mets gave us more than hope this year; they brought us to The World Series. They gave us October baseball. Hell, they gave us a little bit of November baseball. We went to The World Series. The World Series!

I have decided that rather than be saddened by the loss we experienced last night, that I am going to be grateful for the season we, the fans, were given. And, of course, I will remain hopeful for next year. (Hopefulness and a certain amount of cock-eyed optimism regarding “next year” are hallmarks of all New York Mets’ fans; it is in our DNA.)

So, they did not win this year. So, what? They got there, which is far more than any of us, individually or collectively, could have reasonably expected from this team only one short year ago! Actually, never mind a year ago, things looked bleak as late as this past July! And then, BOOM!

It happened. The unthinkable happened. Some trades were made at the deadline which shored up both our offense and our defense. The Washington Nationals imploded. We began to hit.

The long ball became our deadliest weapon. Yoenis Cespedes, who was acquired just minutes before the trade deadline, came to New York on what looked like a mission — a mission to tear the leather off of every baseball that was thrown his way. Boy, oh boy, was that exciting!

Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed added depth to the bullpen — depth we sorely needed. They formed the bridge from our young, but stellar, starting pitchers to our closer, Jeurys Familia — himself a young man with little experience who, stunningly and, yes, surprisingly, emerged as one of the most reliable closers in baseball. Yeah. Hell, yeah!

We battled the Dodgers and the Cubs, teams with the most effective starting pitchers in all of baseball. Nearly unhittable, these guys are. Tell that to Daniel Murphy, our second baseman. He got hot in the playoffs — so hot that he tied a record for post-season home runs, a record which was set by — wait for it — some guy named Babe Ruth. And he hit them off of the most unhittable pitchers in the game. Yeah. Pretty impressive.

Alas, The Kansas City Royals were impressive, too. They played their game, capitalized on our weaknesses, waited out our starting pitching, got to the bullpen. This year was their year. That’s okay. Our journey took us farther than we or anyone else expected us to travel this year. It was a long and often strange trip. It was a great time to be a Mets’ fan throughout this pleasantly surprising season.

At the end of the day this should be everyone’s goal, shouldn’t it? To exceed expectations? To achieve the unthinkable? To be pleasantly surprised? Yeah. Who wouldn’t be happy with that? I would be happy with that.

I have set my own goals for this month. I would like to take a page out of the Mets’ book and exceed my own expectations. I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month. I have no idea if I have a novel in me, but I am going to start writing one — or something else — every day in the month of November. I have set a goal of 1,500 words a day. Who knows? Perhaps, like my Mets, I will surprise not only myself, but everyone else, too. Maybe, just maybe, I will look like this at the end of November:

Sep 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) reacts after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets third baseman David Wright (5) reacts after scoring a run in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

When I think of this season, this is the image that will stick with me. If I become discouraged by my own arduous task, I will close my eyes, summon that moment right there, and remember that obstacles can be overcome. That guy? That’s David Wright. He’s our third baseman, our captain. He missed most of the season because he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which could have ended his career. (Its onset has ended many a promising baseball career.) That it will likely shorten his career, that it has already stolen much of his power and agility, saddens me beyond measure. Undoubtedly he, too, is disappointed in the cards he has been dealt.

You wouldn’t know it, though. Not only did he NOT give up, he continued to be a credit to the game. AND he went to The World Series. The damn World Series. Yeah. So, what am I worried about? Typing? Thinking? Pshaw!


Here, for your listening pleasure (and mine), I give you the song that inspired this post, Jackson Browne’s “Farther On” (from the album Late for the Sky, 1974).

I have a sneaking suspicion that if you asked him, Jackson would admit that he, too, exceeded his own expectations. I wonder if he wakes up some days thinking, “Wow, I can’t believe I wrote THAT!”


Committing to Baseball

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Committing to doing a thing — and then actually doing that thing — is, oddly enough, what not doing a certain thing taught me. (Don’t worry, that sentence will make complete sense in a minute.)

Several years ago I committed to living an alcohol-free life. And then I thought, “Okay. What now?” Literally, “what now?” How does one fill the time in the absence of the thing that had taken up so much time and energy in her life? First there was writing, which as anyone who does it will attest, can certainly suck up a great deal of time and energy.

Writing filled the “active” time. How, though, to fill the “passive” time?

I am not much for mindless television viewing. While I love to read, it, too, requires a degree of activity that by the end of the day I often do not have the energy for. Some nights holding a book and moving my eyes across a page is, honestly, more than I want to do. And turning those pages? Ugh!

I tried my hand at crocheting and knitting. I even have a few afghans, scarves, and ponchos to show for it. And then I got bored. Plus, making stuff with yarn and needles is not exactly mindless — not if you want the thing to turn out right, anyway. I have more than a few “unfinished” projects with, let’s just call them, “interesting” borders. I suppose that I could pass them off as “abstract art”, but I would not be fooling anyone.

And then I rediscovered baseball. I had long been a casual fan. I certainly understood the game. As a kid I spent a few years really following the sport; so much so that I, during my misspent youth, knew all of the batting averages of all the Yankee players. Aside from learning the game, I also learned that knowing about sports impressed the boys — nothing is more impressive to teenage boys than a girl who knows about sports.

For those of you who know me and are reading this, I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself, “What is this? She’s not a Yankee fan.” You would be correct. I am a New York Mets fan. And, I have the closets filled with blue and orange team gear to prove it. At one time, though, even I succumbed to the allure of The New York Yankees.

Hey, it was the ’70s. There was no team more exciting than The Yankees in the 1970’s — Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, Reggie Jackson. Mainly though, it was Bucky Dent’s presence in the line-up — the poster boy and object of every adolescent girl’s fantasies — who kept me interested. He was handsome and sexy. Once in a while he could also play the game pretty well. (Remember that home run he hit over The Green Monster at Fenway Park in 1978? I do.)

While I remained a casual baseball fan throughout my life, I became a Mets fan in ’86. I had to, really. My husband was the “real” baseball fan of the two of us. And, come on, if there was a year to be (or to become) a New York Mets fan, 1986 was that year.

At some point, though, life got in the way of baseball. I had things to do. I had a child, a job. I had friends and was active in the community. And, of course, later I would have the drinking to fill what little free time I managed to carve out for myself. Baseball took a back seat to all of that.

As time passed, my kid needed me less and less. My job is nothing but mindless drudgery. While I still have friends, I no longer have the community involvement that one has when her child is growing up. And, I stopped drinking.

And so it came to pass that as I sat on the couch doing other things (reading, crocheting, constructing essays), I began to envy my husband’s 162 game a year commitment to his team. I would hear him as he made noises of disgust. I could see him out of the corner of my eye shaking his head in disbelief. Once in a while, in a rare burst of excitement — on his part and on the part of The New York Mets — he would nearly rise from his chair, put his fist in the air, and shout “YES!”

I, too, wanted to be disgusted — at something or someone other than myself. Over the last few years being disheartened by The New York Mets has been easy. They could barely hit the side of a barn. Their inability to turn a double play was legendary. There were some flashes of brilliance, mostly that came in the form of their young pitching talent. While pitching can keep a team in games, it must be complemented by hitting and the ability to field a batted ball. Still, there seemed to be hope on the horizon.

With a complete understanding of what I was in for, just as I had made a commitment to not drinking, I made a commitment to root for this pretty hapless team. I went into both things with my eyes fully open.

At the start of this season not a single “expert” chose the Mets to get to the post-season. Who could blame them? Even their most die-hard fans had to agree. At best, this Met fan thought that maybe, just maybe, if a couple of things broke our way and a couple of things went wrong for a couple of other teams, we might have a shot at the wild card. Might. Have a shot. That was the most that any of us could hope for, or so I thought.

And then they began the season by winning eleven straight games. They hit a few bumps along the way. There were injuries, as there always are, to some key players; our left-handed relief pitcher had his arm broken by a batted ball and we lost our captain, David Wright, back in April to spinal stenosis. We took some blows. Things were beginning to look like “business as usual” for the New York Mets. In other words, bleak.

The return of our best pitcher, Matt Harvey, following a long rehabilitation from Tommy John Surgery, had everyone holding their breath. Would he be as good as he was before the surgery? Barring a couple of rocky innings for “The Dark Knight” (as the press has dubbed him, a result of his intensity on the mound), he was pretty damn good.

There were other questions, too. Like, would Jacob deGrom, our young, long-haired pitcher and reigning “Rookie of the Year” be able to repeat his success of last season or would the batters adjust to him now that they had faced him any number of times? Would the club promote another big gun, Noah Syndergaard, the hard throwing giant, fittingly nicknamed “Thor”,  whose luscious blonde locks could give deGrom’s prodigious mane a run for its money? (Seriously, these guys could do shampoo commercials!) What about Steven Matz, the kid from Long Island? Would he take the mound at Citi Field this season? Was he ready? Would he, too, have to grow his hair?

What were they going to do about the infield? Would they leave Wilmer Flores at shortstop? Would they live with his less than stellar defensive skills to keep his bat in the line-up? Could they afford to do that without DWright at third base?

And then, of course, there was the question of who would close out games. The guy who was slated to do so had been caught in a PED scandal, which resulted in a suspension. So, without Mejia, who would the Mets turn to? Would they go out and get a guy or use someone “in-house”?

Thankfully, we had Jeurys Familia in the bullpen. He was given the opportunity and he ran with it. He closed out games like it was his job, which it was, and only blew two saves all season. He also managed to master the split-finger slider in the midst of the season, rendering him both (more) formidable and nearly unhittable.

In lieu of hitting the ball, we, instead, hit the skids following the All-Star break. We simply stopped hitting. It was like someone turned on the losing switch. Well, I thought, they had a good run, better than I or anyone else could have expected when the season began. In true Met fan fashion I told myself, “There’s always next year” as I counted the days until the end of the season.

And then the Mets did the unthinkable. They made a few key trades at the deadline — trades that proved to bring us the help that we so desperately needed in the batter’s box and on the pitcher’s mound. Most notably, we got a couple of proven relief pitchers in Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed. Mainly for their offense, we handed out contracts and uniforms to Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Yoenis Cespedes. The combination made all the difference.

For all the trades the Mets made to bolster our team, the most important trade may have been the one that did not happen. In a strange turn of events, the media got hold of some information and reported that Wilmer Flores was being traded. The fans in the stadium knew something that neither the manager nor the player knew. When, as a result of folks rising from their seats to give Wilmer a “goodbye” ovation, Wilmer realized what was happening, he began to wipe tears from his eyes on the field of play.

Apparently, for this young man — a young man who had spent his entire professional career as a New York Met — there was crying in baseball. What he didn’t know was that he was being traded to The Minnesota Twins. Had Mr. Flores known that he may have begun to sob. The deal, as it turned out, would never be finalized. Wilmer Flores would remain a New York Met. He would also become something of a national sensation. A baseball player with emotion. A kid who wanted to stay with the team that drafted him.

Soon after this incident the Mets caught fire and the Washington Nationals imploded. Wilmer even hit a walk-off home run to beat the Nats in what would be the last close game we would play against them. We had, suddenly and magically, gained momentum. We took over first place in the NL East and never looked back. Who needs the stinking wild card when you can win your division? No one. That’s who.

Facing two guys who are arguably the best pitchers in baseball, my Mets took the division series from The Los Angeles Dodgers. Daniel Murphy, a guy not known for hitting home-runs, has been on something of a home-run tear. He has continued to terrorize good pitching as we lead the league championship 2–0. Tonight the boys will be at Wrigley Field to face The Chicago Cubs. It’s a hitters park. Our best pitcher will be on the mound, too. I have a good feeling about this series.

If we beat the Cubs, which I think that we will, the Mets will have done what no one thought they could do: they will play in The World Series. How ever any of this ends, whether they win or they lose, they have proven what most of us inherently know, but which often takes a lifetime to sink in, derailed as this lesson is by losing seasons and, sometimes, just plain bad luck.

You have to believe in yourself, even when no one else does. You have to honor your commitments.

Let’s Go Mets!

She Won’t Be Needing Hair Mousse For a While!

A fiend and alert reader posted this to my Facebook page today. The photo, taken in a hospital waiting area, depicts a woman who, supposedly, confused a can of builder’s foam with a can of hair mousse.

buildersfoamhairmousse

My first thought was, “What an idiot!” (The victim of the incident, not my friend!) My second thought was, “Oh, wait a minute. I once did something like that myself! (“What an idiot!”) Of course my friend remembered this, which is why she posted the photo and accompanying article to my Facebook page with the comment, “Does this bring back memories, JD?”

Yeah. It did. Ha-ha. Good times!

Still, what I did wasn’t AS idiotic as what this woman did. (In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I have rated this example of idiocy using the underappreciated “Jackie Scale of Idiocy”.) To begin with, my run-in with builder’s foam occurred as a result of my having occasion to USE builder’s foam; I didn’t mistake it for hair mousse, for heaven’s sakes. (Even I am not that much of an idiot!) I got covered it in AFTER I took the gloves off—the ones that I knew enough to use while working with this sticky substance.

What happened to me was this: After removing the gloves I realized that the goo was coming loose from the hole that it was intended to fill. (I think that my husband, who was standing behind me while I was jammed into a very tiny space, said “Jack, it looks like that stuff is coming OUT of the hole!” Thank God he was there!)

The goo was, in fact, oozing out of the damn hole, effectively rendering all of the time I had just spent wedged underneath my kitchen sink both wasteful and useless. I could not allow THAT to happen, now could I?

No. I could not. In what was, in hindsight, an idiotic and not well thought out maneuver, I used my bare hands (and a sizeable portion of my forearms) to push the foam back into the hole. I may have proudly and, as it would turn out, prematurely looked at the husband and said, “Problem solved!” (It is highly likely that I uttered these words with the same attitude and in the same tone that one would imagine a kid on the schoolyard would shout “So there!”)

Seconds later I realized (possibly because the husband was smirking and pointing at my hands) that while I had solved one problem I had developed another. I was now covered in builder’s foam.

I immediately made valiant and unsuccessful attempts to remove this crap from my skin. Following much fruitless washing with soap and water, I tried a sugar scrub and other exfoliating agents, and, finally, even nail polish remover. The results of these treatments were neither pretty nor successful. The builder’s foam was still stuck to my now very swollen and inflamed skin.

I then did what any idiot in my position should have done in the first place: I got my husband to conduct a Google search. While it did not turn up any miracle cure for my stupidity, we did uncover any number of stories where folks related their own experiences with removing this stuff from some very odd places. Very odd places indeed. Mostly these stories involved how not one, but quite a large percentage of the builder’s foam-using population (a far higher percentage than one would expect), have managed to cover their genitalia in this caustic chemical. (And lived to tell the tale!)

As I was poring over these very pathetic, yet highly amusing, stories, I realized that I had the sudden urge to urinate. Not one of the reports that I had read through my tears of laughter had any advice for how to avoid such a thing, which would have been helpful advice for those of us who had found ourselves in a similar and unenviable position.

I cannot tell a lie. I decided to “air-dry”. It seemed the best solution to the sticky situation that I had found myself in.

While my own unfortunate run-in with builder’s foam was the result of a silly mistake, I still contend that at least I was in the act of using builder’s foam when it happened. What was going on with this woman, the woman in the article, the woman who mistook a can of builder’s foam for a can of hair mousse?

The whole sorry incident begs a few questions, doesn’t it? The first one that springs to mind is how, given the fact that containers of builders foam are large and have a thin straw attached to their nozzles (for “ease of use” and “pinpoint accuracy”, LOL!), mousse cans are much thinner and, at least the brands that are available at my grocery store, do not have straw-like protuberances dangling from their nozzles.

Even if, say, I couldn’t make out the writing on the can, even without my glasses on, I would think that I would question whether or not I was holding a can of hair mousse in my hand. Also, why would a can of builder’s foam be stored anywhere near a can of hair mousse? Even if one were sealing up holes in the bathroom, why would they then decide to store a used jar of builder’s foam (which would be of little use, as it dries up in the opened can rather quickly) in the same area with the hair products? This happened in Eastern Europe. Perhaps they have different organizing principles than we do here.

Still, regardless of where it happened, the whole thing just defies logic. Something is not adding up here. I am more than a little suspicious of the leaves and the twigs that can be seen stuck to the builder’s foam.

My guess is that she was under the influence of something (my guess is that that “something” was not fumes from the builder’s foam) or that someone else sprayed her with it. As to the foliage? Perhaps the builder’s foam-wielding miscreants found her “sleeping it off” under a tree.

How ever this woman managed to wind up with a head full of builder’s foam, one thing is for sure: she won’t have much use for hair mousse for a while.


Thanks to my friend and alert reader, Vina, for sending me the story that prompted this post!