Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Thursday, March 13, 2003

Those boneheads who direct television coverage of college basketball games need someone to tell them to bag reaction shots of the bench and/or fans after crucial late-game baskets.

I realize television people aren’t very smart, but even those lowest-common-denominator morons should be able to understand that NO ONE watches a ball game to see benchwarmers or other fans. I guess the directors are straining for event “ambiance” when they show a third-string forward jumping up and down in his sweatsuit or a freshman dufus with his school’s name painted on his forehead screaming into the camera from the third row of the bleachers, but the fact is viewers want game action, not irrelevant “color.” I don’t know how many times I have watched a basketball game in which a go-ahead or tying basket was scored with ten seconds left, the director cut to benchwarmers high-fiving and the other team scored the real, actual deciding shot before the camera returned to the court. It almost happened again today in the Big Ten Tournament game between Ohio State and Iowa on ESPN.

Every sports fan should e-mail ESPN and other networks about this. Maybe the basketball directors would get the point. There is precedent, after all. Feminism killed the decades-old television tradition of the “honey shot,” featuring good-looking and/or skimpily dressed women preening during slow moments of ball games. Now directors are careful to show ugly women, too. And even a few fat, beer-bellied guys (preferably shirtless).

If sports television can master political correctness, maybe it can master coverage correctness, too.

(Next rant: Basketball commentators who talk as if college games are actually played by two 55-year-old coaches with hair comb-overs instead of ten giant 19-year-olds.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

I am a lover of hollyhocks, those tall flowers with the spindly stems, soft colors and sweet smell.

When I was a small boy in Nebraska (I left at age five), hollyhocks sprouted all over the town of Falls City, where I lived with my grandmother. They grew in gardens, in curbside dirt, in vacant lots. I liked their delicate colors and their distinctive smell, although I usually had to be lifted by one of my uncles to rise high enough to poke my nose near a blossom.

I lived a nomadic childhood after I left Falls City (by the time I finished high school, I had lived in ten towns in eight states), so that little village in the lower right corner of Nebraska became important to me. After years of living eight months here, six months there, ten months another place, you begin to doubt you belong ANYwhere. I fought that feeling by identifying Falls City as home. My head might have been in Georgia or California, but my heart was in Nebraska. And when I thought of Nebraska, I thought of those hollyhocks. They were a symbol of home.

I was startled, therefore, to discover a few years ago that my mother doesn’t care for hollyhocks. She grew up in Falls City, so I assumed she shared my fondness for them. But one day as we walked past a big patch of hollyhocks near the house where she now lives in Bend, Oregon, I made a nostalgic remark. She responded: “Oh, I don’t like hollyhocks! They make me sad.”

“Sad?” I said. “How could they make you sad?”

“They’re so stubborn,” she said. “They grow all over the place in Nebraska. Once they take root, you can’t get rid of them. They outlast the houses, even. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back there to visit and driven past an old farm I remember from when I was a girl and it’s abandoned now with the house all fallen down, maybe just some old concrete steps sticking up out of the dirt, but there are those flowers just a-dancing in the breeze. They make me sad.”

That’s the backstory to the poem below. I mixed my mother’s ideas about hollyhocks with details borrowed from the lives of Nebraska relatives in an attempt to give readers a bit of feeling for contemporary life in that predominately agricultural state. The poem originally appeared in a magazine called California Quarterly, also known as CQ.


The farmwife plants hollyhocks
under her kitchen window, a small
splash of spindly color to lighten
the raw, dark mud of the yard.
Over the years they bloom and die,
bloom and die. The boys grow up
and move off to Beatrice and Grand
Island and Omaha, emphysema
takes the old man prisoner -- she
never could get him to quit
those Lucky Strikes -- and she
puts him in a Hastings nursing home
and rents a tiny apartment nearby
and the boys sell the farm
to that rich Morris bunch up the road
and they send hired hands down
to work it and the house falls
into disrepair, windows broken,
stovepipe rusted out. One night
the house catches fire and burns
to the ground, nothing left
but the stone foundations. She
drives by with her eldest son
the day of the old man's funeral,
just taking a look around, and there,
in the May mud, next to gray
concrete blocks, sway hollyhocks,
bright colors on green legs,
waltzing to the evening breeze.

--By David Jordan

Monday, March 10, 2003

This has not been the best 24 hours of my life, healthwise.

About ten o’clock Sunday night, I barfed up the shrimp vindaloo my wife served for dinner. Then I made approximately 37 diarrhea dashes to the bathroom in the space of four hours. About two a.m., my system calmed down enough to give me hope I’d be able to sleep, so I went to bed. I woke up at 4:30 feeling sweaty and twitchy. I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I got up at 5:30, went downstairs and sat around alternately shivering and sweating.

My problems were compounded by the fact that I was supposed to visit my doctor at 10:30 a.m. Monday for a cholesterol blood test, so I was under orders to fast for ten hours before the appoinment. I wasn’t exactly lusting to stick something in my stomach so I could spew it back up, but I kept experiencing belly pangs that may or may not have been hunger. I broke down at 8 a.m. and ate a piece of dry toast, which the nurse had said I could do if I grew desperate. I also drank a cup of black coffee.

“I can’t drink coffee when I’m sick,” my wife said encouragingly. “It makes me throw up.” Thank you for that input, Cookie Jean.

I eventually trundled down to Dr. Kurz’s office, where the receptionist greeted me with a two-foot-long information form she wanted filled out. I couldn’t recall my high school gym teacher’s Social Security number even if I was healthy, and wading through that form with a brain fuzzed by illness was nigh impossible. I left a lot of blanks. What IS my oldest son’s name, anyway?

I was still laboring over the information form when the nurse summoned me into the inner sanctum, one of those cubby holes where you actually lay eyes on the doctor, if you’re lucky. I finished, or -- more precisely -- abandoned the form just as he walked in.

Yes, indeed, he assured me, there are lots of bugs going around that cause gastro-intestinal distress (doctorese for barfing and crapping your guts out). Too bad about that.

He reviewed the cholesterol situation quickly, then moved on to bigger, better things.

First, he says, it’s time for a prostate exam. Hand me that Vaseline, Dave, then drop your pants and put your hands on your knees. That sort of thing. Hell, I didn’t even know we were dating.

Then he tells me I need a colonoscopy. You know what that is, right? They shove a camera up your butt to see if you have cancer of the gut. Yes, yes! I love it! Just what I want to contemplate on top of barfing, diarrhea, shakes, fever, chills. Oh, well. Dr. Kurz, in an attempt to cheer me up, did point out that getting a colonoscopy appointment takes months, so I can dodge the posterior paparazzi for a while.

Finally, the doctor turned me over to a medical technician who stabbed a hole in my arm and removed some of my blood. It only hurt a little, but in my condition, I could have lived without the experience. My blood in the technician’s vial looked purple, by the way. Is that normal? I thought blood was supposed to be red. Or maybe blue, if you’re rich. Purple looked wrong. Sort of like seeing shrimp vindaloo floating in a toilet.

Escaping the doctor’s office, I fled to a grocery store and bought a can of chicken noodle soup to break my fast. Chicken soup for the sick soul. Before I could heat it up after I got home, though, the phone rang and my wife informed me she was stranded with a flat tire on her VW bug en route to pick up my son for HIS doctor’s appointment. I drove my car to the rescue, but told her I was too sick to change the tire. We left the bug at the curb and she took me home before continuing on to pick up Andy.

I ate the chicken soup. With saltine crackers. I haven’t barfed it up yet. That’s a step in the right direction.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

The magnificent Sunday Seven ride into your town again, sans Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson.

1) What are you wearing?

A red, green and yellow plaid fleece sweatshirt with a broken zipper; Levi’s jeans; a plain white t-shirt left over from going out to dinner and a play last night; white Nike socks (go, Phil!), sweat boots.

2) What are you reading?

“The Horned Man,” a novel by James Lasdun.

3) What’s for dinner?

“Shrimp vindaloo,” which my wife says is “some kind of curry thing.” She got the recipe out of a Weight Watchers magazine.

4) What’s the best thing that happened this week?

I saw a Cleveland High School production of “Grease.” The play is funny, the music is catchy, the kids -- some from my neighborhood -- were talented and energetic, and there was no Olivia Newton-John.

5) What’s bugging you?

I went out of town Tuesday to attend a funeral. When I returned and checked my mail, I found four story rejections delivered in the four days I was gone. Just what I needed to cheer me up.

6) Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Kent Furnace, Connecticut.

7) What’s it all about, Dave?

Rejection dejection.

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