Friday, November 28, 2014

Nothing to kick about

The Iron Bowl is the annual football game pitting the clearly superior University of Alabama and the woeful, makeshift team from some college called Auburn.  In all honesty, I can't even tell you how I became an Alabama fan, but there is something about college football, and when you connect with one team and go for the ride, it's a thrill a minute all through the fall.

This year's installment will be played tomorrow night at 8 on ESPN and I will be sure to watch and will also be sure to have dinner first.

Here's why:

Griffith (99)
Last year, the game came down to the final second in regulation play.  The score was tied 28-28 and Alabama asked freshman placekicker Adam Griffith to boot a 57-yard field goal and win the game.  We all know how that turned out.   You can watch the CBS coverage here if you really want to.  The kick fell just a bit short, and Chris Davis from Auburn ran it back for a winning touchdown and while I stood in the kitchen at home, staring at the TV in dumbstruck disbelief, the cream of mushroom soup I was heating for dinner boiled up and out of the saucepan, resulting in a mess that took quite some time to clean up.  It was awful. I don't think I've had mushroom soup at home since.
They showed this guy on TV and he symbolizes the despair of 'Bama fans everywhere

But here's something about that kick, and that kicker.  Seven years before that game, there was a young man then known as Andrzej Debowski, living in a sad Polish orphanage.   Life there was miserable, to put it mildly.  But in Calhoun, Georgia, a married couple of math teachers, Tom and Michelle Griffith, figured that 2 + 1 would = a good 3, so they adopted Andrzej and brought him to America, where he chose the first name "Adam" to go with his new surname.  He kicked for his high school team, won the state championship with them, and walked onto the Alabama team and kicks for them, wearing number 99.

When you read about the young man's earlier days, and how the love of his new parents changed everything for him, you'll see that losing a football game is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Still, I hope he is much happier this time Sunday morning!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ivy League for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows....

In the middle of the sprawling campus of Towson University just outside Baltimore there lies a twelve-acre glen called "The Glen" by literal-minded students.  Within the glen are 94 of the 120 tree species native to Maryland.

These are everywhere!
You know that one of those tree types thriving in Towson would be the Ailanthus altissima, the tree originally from China that some people call the "Tree of Heaven" and some call the "stink tree." Ailanthus would grow in a paved schoolyard or a crack in a sidewalk. Or in a sidewalk without a crack, I don't know.  They're everywhere around here.

And so is English ivy (Hedera helixwhich has been threatening to take over The Glen.  This rampant green invader can show up out of nowhere and, in no time at all, take over everything in sight, like your uncle from Cincinnati who showed up that time and just stayed and stayed, and ate all the scrapple and almond bark that Nora gave you for Christmas. 

English Ivy sounds very nice, like a nice tower at a college where people wear tweed suits and read Wordsworth and sip Darjeeling, or the other way around.  But once it takes over a garden or glen, it's curtains for the other will take over and choke everything in a curtain of green.  Even the ailanthus!

Getting your goat
So, bring in some fauna, figured the University brass, and they did, in the form of a herd of 18 goats from Harford County, who arrived by truck, entered the woods and commenced to chowing down on the ivy and I don't know what-all else...leaves, tree bark, probably some empty beer cans. This is a trial, but if the goats eliminate the ivy from this part of the campus, they will get to dine on all the overgrown sections.

It's more earth-friendly than herbicides and cheaper than hiring people.  And there is one other benefit...people get stung by bees and suffer reactions to poison ivy.  In my Opie-like childhood, when my parents moved to our long-time home outside Towson, the front yard had been allowed to run riot, and was full of poison ivy.  A friendly neighbor brought over his goat, who made a brunch of the problem, no problem.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We (finally) Gather Together

It's Thanksgiving Week, and what better time to watch "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," the 1987 movie starring John Candy and Steve Martin that shows how much fun it is to travel this week.

"Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother's house we go, the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow..." was the opening line in a song we always sang in elementary school as Turkey Day approached.  Maybe a horse and sleigh would have been an easier way to get around; certainly it would be a preferable mode of transport to the methods Candy (as Del Griffith) and Martin (as Neil Page) tried.

And of course, following a Monday that saw near-record setting temperatures in our part of the world, the forecast for T'Giving Eve tomorrow is for a coastal storm, bringing rain or snow to the Eastern United States, and the airline industry to its knees, or whatever an airplane has.  The TV news will show people sleeping in airports, or getting off a plane that sat for 27 hours on the tarmac with only a bag of Corn Nuts and a 3-liter Diet Sprite for the passengers, and those of us already where we are supposed to be will shake our shaggy heads and say, "You ain't gonna get ME up in one of those things!"

Good luck to all who take to the highways, the rails or the roads! Have a great trip and a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

How about Jonas, brothers?

Even if you don't watch NFL football, you probably know the visage, and maybe the name, of Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots.

You know, the guy stomping along the sidelines as a late Sunday game ends and you're waiting for "60 Minutes" to start tick tick ticking...and he's wearing the same ratty hoodie, the one that looks like he's going to patch the shingle on the roof as soon as the game is over.

He's not an enjoyable personality, not a happy-go-lucky fellow, but what he is, is a very successful coach.  And part of that is that he has rules, and they are to be followed, or this non-happy-go-lucky guy will be happy to tell you where to go.

Take running back Jonas Gray, a Notre Dame product who made the Patriots this year after kicking around with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins in 2012 and 2013. The Sunday before last, he became the first NFL running back since 1921 to score four rushing touchdowns in a game, when he had never scored at all before that game.  Gray and the Patriots beat the stupid Colts that day, he ran for those touchdowns and for a total of 201 yards, and he made the cover of last week's Sports Illustrated.*

Looking for the
hot dog guy
Four days later, last Friday, as his team had one of their final practices before playing the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Gray failed to show up on time, using the "my cellphone battery died so my alarm failed to wake me up" defense.  When he did finally stroll in to work that day, Belichick sent him home, and then when his team took the field against the Lions, Gray took a seat on the bench, and we hope he got a good view of the game from where he was, because he didn't play in that game any more than you or I did, and that's "not a bit" in my case.

Reporters asked later why Gray did not play, and coach Belichick gave one of his standard terse replies: "We do what we think is best. That's what we did today."

One assumes that Mr Gray stopped at Try 'N' Save on his way home to purchase three alarm clocks and a rooster.  And as a longtime punctuality fanatic, I applaud Bill Belichick.

Maybe that sort of discipline explains why his team wins so often!

*Gray is only the latest in a long line of victims of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday rerun: Thanks for writing!

Free advice:  You can have a diary, and you can have a habit of breaking into other peoples' houses (until you get arrested), but it's probably not a great idea to write about the latter in the former.

Case in point:  Meet Emily Kearns.  This mugshot probably doesn't show her at her best, but according to the local Patch, Baltimore County Police like her for a string of residential burglaries occurring in the north County area recently.

As Patch reports, police were watching her as she broke into a house in Phoenix (note: in Baltimore County, we have towns named Phoenix, Jacksonville, Texas...and Boring!) and after she was arrested, they found a journal she kept which detailed her other capers, for which she was promptly, additionally, charged.

Here's your chance to play Mr or Ms Defense Attorney!

"Your honor, my client is an aspiring fiction writer who hopes to join the likes of John Grisham in the field of poorly-written crappy legal novels.  She merely concocted these fantastic scenarios in an attempt to familiarize herself with the modus operandi of the demimonde of burglars and the police who chase after, and catch, them.  I move for a complete dismissal, and also for Natasha Lyonne to portray my client in the inevitable Lifetime movie."

Lookit, I don't know Ms Kearns, and I don't know a thing about this whole deal except for what I read.  She might well be innocent or the victim of some terrible injustice or frame-up.  But I do know that you do want to be careful with what you write in a journal, or a blog, or a note you passed to the girl two rows over in Spanish, or on a grocery list.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, November 22, 2014

So this time of year as the fields lie fallow and await a spring planting - it's my favorite time of year!
I'll tell you, I couldn't pick Tom Hiddleston out of a police lineup...not that I think I'll be called upon to do so.  He's an actor, and he is shooting a picture now called "I Saw The Light," in which he plays Hank Williams, Sr. And just from the way they have him dressed and wearing that Stetson, it's clear he's got the moves like Hank. I can't wait to see this movie.  But for all I know, Hiddleston will be the guy standing in the lobby and I will walk right past him because I don't know him from Hank.
Because I watched Jackie Gleason all the time, I can never meet someone named Norton without hollering "NAWTON!" right back, to their complete surprise.  And because I read "The Catcher In The Rye" all the time, I can never see a picture of The Rockettes without saying, "You know what that is?  That's precision!"
Some time ago, we shared a picture of a NASCAR fan with his baseball cap on backwards, using his hand as an eye visor to shield himself from the hot sun of Talledega.  Now we see a kid who wants to bowl, at a bowling alley, playing a bowling video game. It's a wonder he's not wearing a backwards baseball cap.
It was 51 years ago today...
This nice stack o'logs won't do anyone any good this year, being unseasoned and fresh, but this time next year, someone will hear it snappin' and cracklin' on the hearth.
"When there's no future
How can there be sin
We're the flowers in the dustbin
We're the poison in your human machine
We're the future, your future"
What a powerful metaphor for a disaffected generation - flowers tossed into the trash by unappreciative old men and women. Remember being 17 and thinking you knew it all?  Some people at that age are closer to knowing it all then many of us will ever be. So why not listen to them?
Hey, you Buffalo hooligans!  You can't steal those chips!  They don't belong to you!  They're nacho chips!"