COURSE CORRECTION

Enough Is Enough – When was the last time you were ready to throw in the proverbial towel? Did you end up letting go, or decided to fight on anyway?


I had a job in Connecticut. My daily commute was 140 miles — each way. After a few months, I was exhausted. I could not go on. I quit and found another job that didn’t require so much commuting. It didn’t pay as well, but it was a saner choice. Because 280 miles of driving a day was crazy. Not only did it wear me down, it wore out my car, too.

I never thought of it as “throwing in the towel.” It was not giving up. More like acknowledging I shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place. What in the world made me believe I could spend five or six hours a day in the car and spend 8 to 10 hours at work?

Whenever I’ve given up on a project, job, relationship, recipe, or whatever? The problem was never being defeated by a foe. The foe was me. I made a bad choice. I should never have started whatever it was in the first place.

I knew I’d screwed up and corrected it. If you look at this kind of thing as a defeat, you will have a lot of trouble surviving. Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.

LET’S PLAY TWO: REMEMBERING ERNIE BANKS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

I was “off the grid” the last couple of days fighting a nasty cold that won’t say uncle. So I missed the news. Very sad news if you’re a baseball fan from the days when the grass was really green and there were only 16 teams in the Major Leagues.

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub aka Mr. Baseball, the REAL Mr. Baseball, passed away.

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Banks was 83. To his final days, he was an ambassador for baseball wherever he went. “Let’s play two,” was Ernie’s famous life long catch phrase. He meant it. He played baseball when a doubleheader was a normal, regularly scheduled event in “the bigs.”

Ernie Banks wore uniform number 14. He was the face of the Chicago Cubs for 19 years. But he was that rare star who was appreciated WHEREVER he played. Banks was a lanky, power hitting shortstop decades before Cal Ripken was credited for redefining that position. As an avid Brooklyn Dodgers’ fan, I appreciated the Cubs’ “gold-dust twins”. Ernie Banks at shortstop and Gene Baker at second base.

Most eyes were on Jackie Robinson in the early 50’s as baseball continued to grapple with integration. Quietly, with minimal fanfare, Ernie Banks was also leading the way while enduring racial epithets in many cities. He smiled while Jackie often raged. Some in the Civil Rights movement suggested Banks was an “Uncle Tom” because he wasn’t more outspoken. But there was nothing timid about Mr. Banks.

“I let my bat, glove and resolve do the talking,” Ernie Banks told me in a 1962 interview. We talked in the visitor’s dugout of the old Polo Grounds, the initial home of the fledgling New York Mets baseball team. Banks’ eyes scanned the ancient ball park, remembering his early days along with that of Robinson, young Willie Mays and others who broke baseball’s color line.

Ernie Banks told me the racial strife and discord took a back seat to his love for baseball and the opportunity to play in the major leagues. He smiled when reminded of the joke that he loved baseball so much that he would play for food and board. The smile rendered that joke obsolete for me.

Ernie Banks compiled 512 home runs in an era when pitchers were dominant. He was an 11 time all-star, inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and presented with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2013.

Banks Ernie Plaque 142_NBL_0I still remember Banks’ sparkling eyes as we sat in the Polo Grounds dugout and chatted about baseball and all the legends who’d played there for generations. I recall smiling to myself, thinking I was sitting next to a legend.

It’s nice to remember Mr. Baseball in this off-season when most of the chatter is about mega salaries and long-term contracts. It’s also appropriate as the Chicago Cubs seem to be on the verge of being relevant again. Cubbies — really ALL baseball fans — should celebrate the legacy of Ernie Banks. He shined during many frustrating seasons at Wrigley Field.

Let’s play two!

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HAVE ANY CHANGE YOU CAN SPARE? – RICH PASCHALL

Begging on the city streets, Rich Paschall

It was a particularly nice evening for this time of year. The temperature has been known to be brutal when the calendar reaches this point of winter, but this night was different. People walked as if the wind was not pushing them along. For a town known as “The Windy City,” there was barely any wind at all. A few people were standing about in front of sports bars, having a smoke or talking about this year’s football disaster. There was no reason to hurry inside.

A parking spot was waiting for me across the street from my destination. It was not the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar from the short story series from last year, but in my mind it was close enough. I was ready to order some food that I probably should not have, but I thought I would just forget the word “cholesterol” for a while.

72-homeless-analog-OnTheRoad_007As I crossed the street I noticed a man and woman walking down the sidewalk at a pace to intercept me at the corner. They passed up people smoking or chatting or both and headed straight for me. They were middle-aged, whatever that actually means, and rather poorly dressed. By that I mean, their clothes were worn and a bit dirty. They did not look grizzled as so many street people do, but rather just tired and run down.

“Do you have any change you can spare?” the man asked. The woman looked at me as if she was hopeful I would give a positive response.

“I don’t know,” I said honestly as I shoved my hands in my pockets to find out. At that the man launched into a story of their personal problems. He told me they had a streak of bad luck in recent years. They both had lost their jobs a few years back and eventually lost all they had.

Now they were living on the street and just trying to survive. He added a few details about their lives and capped it off by saying that his wife lost or had her identification stolen and that made their situation more difficult.

In my left pocket were a few coins which totaled just under a dollar. I handed it to the man but thought I could not let it go at that. In the past when I saw people begging at street corners, I thought they could turn things around for themselves if they just knew where to go and who to see.  A little information might be all they need, so I thought I would do my best to pass some along.

“Do you know the church with the big clock tower down the street? You can see it when you get to the top of the bridge?” I pointed down the road toward the big church. The impressive clock tower could be seen from a long distance down the road.

The man knew exactly what I was about to say. Yes, he knew the church and he did stop there on weekdays for lunch. If anyone came to the rectory during the week begging for food at lunch time (or much of the day), they provided some lunch. They were prepared and ready to give out something as begging had become a common occurrence in recent years.

The man then proceeded to tell me, in case I had a need to know, of other churches that would give them food. They knew where to go and on what days in order to get something. I guess it is nice to know the churches are responsive, as some of my Republican friends don’t feel this is the government’s job, but I was surprised to hear his list. The shocking part, in my opinion, is that we are not in a poor neighborhood.  In fact, the land around that big church is highly desirable and the property values are quite high.

How many of those upwardly mobile professionals know that so people are living on the streets and in the parks and under the viaducts nearby?

Undeterred in my efforts to hand out useful information, I asked the couple if they knew where the Salvation Army was located. I said they might be able to help them get back on their feet. They could certainly provide shelter in an emergency as the winter could get quite severe. They had a general idea where they were located, but they were skeptical that this was a good idea. So at that, I offered up information on The Night Ministry. This organization will go around in search of people needing help, especially on below freezing nights. They did not know it but said they would keep it in mind.

As they prepared to go, I told them to try to stay warm. They then told me they knew a few people who froze to death last year when we had many days of subzero weather. I encouraged them to remember the shelters when the weather gets worse. They said they would and moved on

I doubted they would use a shelter no matter how cold it got. How do people go from living a normal life to adapting to life on the street?  How is it they become so set in this lifestyle, they would not use the help to get off the streets, even when they have information on how to do it? Is the real world just so tough for some that living on the streets is a viable option? The thought lingered as I moved inside for chicken wings and sports.

EIGHT SHORT WEEKS

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One of our prominent local television weather meteorologists — Tom Chisolm — believes we are going to have a massive snow event starting tomorrow. He believes three storm systems will ultimately form a super storm to rival the blizzard of 1978. Or worse.

Everybody else is predicting two storms on Monday and Tuesday, each dropping 6 to 8 inches of snow, give or take a few. Plus an extra “little”  storm on Tuesday night which would add 1 to 3 to the total. Unless, of course, they get together and form a single super-storm.

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Regardless, that is a lot of snow, although not quite Armageddon. Personally, I respect Tom, but I would prefer he be wrong. Gigantic snowstorms make gigantic trouble. They bring down power lines. Cause roofs to cave in. Make highways unusable. When the snow melts, rivers and streams overflow, flooding cities and towns. And then, there’s the mud.

Meanwhile, the only detail on which everyone agrees on is that the temperature, unusually warm today, will be dropping. Depending on who you consult, it may be close to zero by Monday.

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With the thermometer that low, we can be sure however much precipitation we do get, it won’t merely wash away or melt into nothing. It will be with us for a while. At least until the temperature goes back up.

We are planning to so some serious shopping tomorrow. Lay in supplies. Because so often, the one forecaster to whom no one is listening, is the one who has it right.

Lest we forget — and it is very easy to forget this time of year — it’s only 8 weeks until spring.

Spring Will Come ... and Soon!