Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Essay week 38: Football

 

Jane Coaston hosts the podcast “The Argument,” and recently she was discussing football, as in, is it ethical to be a football fan? She had two guests, one a sportswriter who covers the NFL, the other a former pro football fan who’s written “Against Football.” They all became football fans as children, watching games with their fathers (it was always the father). But as grownups, they began to wonder why they liked this game, which can be brutal and violent, and takes a huge toll on the bodies of the players.

            All of which got me thinking about when I was a football fan.

            No one in my family was a sports fan of any sort. So I didn’t grow up watching games with my father or my brother. I went to high school in Pennsylvania, however, and I think Pennsylvania rivals Texas in its devotion to football, especially high school football. As it happened, my high school had a powerful football team. Neshaminy High School was Lower Bucks County champion for most of the 1950s. In 1958, we even played the state champion, Allentown, and beat them, 18-0! I was on one of the buses that traveled from Langhorne to Allentown for the Friday night game, nervous after the hour ride to the strange city, and ecstatic on the ride home.

            Football at Neshaminy attracted everyone. There was no split between the college prep kids and the business or general track kids. Many of the college prep boys were on the team, and others were in the band that played at games. And everyone went to the games. We all bought an activity pass so we could take the school buses to home or away games. And some games were even broadcast on a local radio station; for some reason I couldn’t go to the game on Thanksgiving weekend, but while shopping with my mother that Saturday afternoon, I listened to part of the game on the car radio.

            Rooting for Neshaminy’s football team taught me the truth of Yogi Berra’s saying: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” In one game, we were behind by 10 points, with maybe three minutes left. I decided I might as well get a seat on the bus. I was past the bleachers and behind the scoreboard when a roar came from the crowd. Something was happened. I ran back in time to watch the miraculous plays that gave us a victory. I never left a game before the end again.

            Then we moved after my junior year. Still in Pennsylvania, but at a new school, new not just to me, it was only two years old, and its football team was pathetic. Harriton High School’s first year, 1958, its team won one game, lost 5, and tied one. The fall of 1959, my senior year, was worse, Harriton losing all nine of its games. I lost all interest, not only because the team never won, but I knew none of the players, though a couple were in some of my classes. Worst of all, the football coach, Mr. Wilcox, was my Social Problems teacher — and he seemed one of the stupidest adults I’d ever known. One of our weekly assignments was to read Norman Vincent Peale’s newspaper column in the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer to discuss on Mondays. (Peale was the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” and positive thinking wasn’t helping Harriton’s football team.) Mr. Wilcox also believed in abstaining from alcohol. When someone in class mentioned that wine is in the Bible, Mr. Wilcox assured us that the Bible used “wine” to refer to “grape juice” — it was the same thing.

            I went to a college with no intercollegiate sports, and no football of any sort. I had no more interest in that sport.

            Then came 1968 and the 1969 Super Bowl. We had just bought a TV, which my husband had decided he needed as a new reporter at the New York Post; he was often assigned to interview the latest TV sit-com or drama star, and without a TV, he had no idea who these people were. In the runup to the third Super Bowl, there were plenty of interviews with the New York Jets quarterback, Joe Namath, and he was gorgeous. The Jets were also distinct underdogs, and having been a Philadelphia Phillies fan in the 1950s, I had learned the moral courage of rooting for the underdog.

            One day Jack came home from the Post to announce that the pressmen at the paper were taking bets on the Super Bowl, and was I interested? Why not? Put $5 on the Jets, I said, and we watched the game, exhilarated as Namath and the Jets overcame the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. That clicked my football attraction back into place, and for the next several years, we followed the Jets closely, even as they slipped down in the standings. Along the way we finally bought a color TV with what then counted as a big screen, 19 inches.

            Then came 1986. The New York Mets won the World Series, and I was fully back in baseball territory (that's a whole other story), reading the sports pages in the off-season for the first time. For a few more years, I watched baseball games between February and November, and football between September and February. That overlap in the fall was a bit difficult to navigate. Did I really want to keep doing this?

            One day I was watching pro football, probably a playoff game. It had snowed earlier, but warmed up enough to leave the field frosty and muddy at the same time. Players were slipping and sliding, getting hit and falling into mud. I was enjoying this — and caught myself. Was this why I liked football, to watch grown men who must feel cold and miserable running and banging into each other? Was this game bringing out the sadist in me? It was time for me to stop. 

          (The stories about concussions and brain injury came out later, and sealed my decision.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

September Golden Shovel #15

I’ve never been old before. This new old body could be floating

Through ether in another universe, but it is not so far away.

Does it tether me or loosen ties? Does it rely on

Gravity or defy it? What is the name of an internal pinch, an

Ache in my back, my leg, my foot? Does rain age as it flows from island

Sea to cloud to stream? I test each body part in a ferment of

Anxiety, try to return to the time when all I would do is dance.

 

source: Floating Away on an Island of Dance

September Golden Shovel #14

My aging body is new to me. How like prisons

Are the body templates women must match, built

On fantasies of a male hive mind, cultivated by

Women who slip under the door, themselves matched to the

Template and spending money for makeup, clothes, procedures, needs

Not self-created. What template forces my aging body, that

Material container, to fit an imaginary dream? Whose rule

Says sagging, wrinkles, unsteadiness, randomness is not us.

 

source: Prisons Built by the Needs That Rule Us

Monday, September 13, 2021

September Golden Shovel #4

I read about rural women in Afghanistan, how

They feared the Taliban, relied on the Taliban, feared the

Taliban again. They did not understand the myth

Of urban women wanting education. Women of

The countryside wanted food, peace. What did digital

Pictures mean to them? Did they have cellphones on a platform

Of mountains blocking signals, but not bombs, drones. Magic

Could explain the craziness of liberators hiring enemies. It goes

Without saying that normal life, in these times, goes poof.

 

source: How the Myth of Digital Platform Magic Goes Poof

Sunday, August 22, 2021

August Golden Shovel #20

The writer stares at a blank white window, a

Reminder that she must write 1,000 words today. She’s a novelist

With five books, each one starting as empty screen. Who

Knows if this one will finally coalesce. She turns

To another window, sees gray clouds bunch on the

Horizon. The air vibrates, anticipating a feast from tables

Of nimbostratus. Raindrops spell words on

The glass, jolting her fingers to keyboard and a new history.

 

source: A Novelist Who Turns the Tables on History

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

July Golden Shovel #18

Science speaks, but who listens? Crossroads are where

Two sides meet, to yell, perchance to talk. Few

Are comfortable with the uncertainty of a new disease that got

From somewhere to here. We waited anxiously for a vaccine,

But when it came, only half took it. There were many

Who thought the vaccine was a Trojan horse. They have

Refused vaccines until they got sick, then wish they’d gotten

It. They beg for it in the ICU, but now they are too sick.

 

source: Where Few Got Vaccine, Many Have Gotten Sick

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

August Golden Shovel #15

She lunges for the iron door, hoping to escape, but she’s

Just too late. She’s drowning in sparkles of dust that rise in a

Tidal wave. Destiny rings a torrent, echoing the shape-shifting

Stars, who beckon a tease. She reverses the artist,

Sloughs off history, whips coins into a froth. Who

Will drink the potion of morning, glory in the plays

That star her lovers? She’s locked in an iron box where all

Her fears braid chains in crimson, cobalt, waiting for the

Moment that ties her in knots, yet unravels all her parts.

 

source: She’s a Shape-shifting Artist Who Plays All the Parts

August Golden Shovel #2

She feels her arms too long, her legs too short

To reach the stars, her desired goal for answers on

The questions that wake her at midnight. How many doses

Of moonlight will awaken her dead mother and

How many sprigs of belladonna will feed the dreams struggling

To strangle her? Will Orion hunt down her demons to

Feed his hounds? Is it Virgo or Hydra who will deliver

Her from Nature’s womb? She submits to the universe, to them.

 

source: Short on Doses and Struggling to Deliver Them


July Golden Shovel #19

Her arms and legs are the wrong size to fit the rules

For swimming in Hades’ lake. She’s told to trim for

Form, but where to begin. Everyone is watching, audiences

Of one or a thousand, hoping she glues herself shut. She can

Blur hopes, but whose desires strangle the night, spin

Her needs to suit the ruling class way over our heads.

 

source: Rules for Audiences Can Spin Heads

July Golden Shovel #14

Her spirit rallies while she sleeps under trees, with

No limits. Reality jimmies the lock to her dreams, 

Glaze of light bursts borders, crashes onshore, making sport

Of wishes that juggle for attention, nowhere near

Satisfaction. She’s reprieved for a moment, huddles in a

Corner, gathering allies and strategy and tactics, critical

To overcoming reality. No gods rescue her at the crossroads

Of hope and despair, yet she holds close a nostalgia

For the time before birth, when all possibility reigns.

 

source: With the Sport Near a Critical Crossroads, Nostalgia Reigns

July Golden Shovel #11

Her hold on power is stronger than gravity. She’s not sorry

She rules. It is her right. We bow before her, we

Bring tribute: sunflowers, mica chips, hummingbirds that aren’t

Quite adult. We crawl before her, caress her feet, going

Back to our cabins refreshed. We return at dawn, back

To groveling, but now she’s impatient, daring to

Demand equality. We do not understand her words. Their

Sound rocks our innards, twisting us into images of movies.

 

source: Sorry, We Aren’t Going Back to the Movies

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

SOLTuesday: Masks

I ran into an old friend on the street today. He’s about my age, 70s, more my husband’s friend than mine. I was masked, he was not, so I recognized him before he recognized me. 

            I commented that it was easier to recognize people by their eyes than I had expected. He commented that I was wearing a mask. 

            Well, I said, I’m wearing a mask on the street where there are lots of people. He said, we’re outside, you don’t need a mask. 

            I said, how does it hurt you if I’m wearing a mask? I’m not judging you for not wearing one. (I felt he was judging me for wearing one.) 

            He said, there’s a little space around your nose where the mask doesn’t fit tightly. I pressed the mask closer to my nose. 

            I feel safer with the mask. He feels safe without it. We agreed to disagree.

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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

 

Monday, July 26, 2021

July Golden Shovel #23

You haven’t been home for years. It’s time to revisit

The homestead. Except you have no homestead or a

Single home where you grew up. The past

Is a patchwork of city, country, suburb, an experience

Of all schoolgirls named Judy Linda, Nancy, Joyce, or

All boys named John, Bill, Mike, Spike. Perhaps

You have lived many lives coded with a tap

On a tab of memory that mixes the kaleidoscope of your

Past life or lives that cannot connect your heart to your feet.

 

source: Revisit a Past Experience or Perhaps Tap Your Feet

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

July Golden Shovel #20.1

Fire meets Fire aloft, introduced by lightning, a

Cousin to cumulus. Sere redwoods bloom with fire.

Orange flames lick dry leaves, wrapping a necklace so

Tight on the trees, they shatter in overwhelming

Heat. Fire skims tender caresses over the forest. It

Melts into a gale where Fire nestles on sequoias, controls

All wind, sun, air, jilts water left steaming in the

Streams. Fire scripts love letters to Fire in the weather.

 

source: A Fire So Overwhelming It Controls the Weather.

 

a revision of what I posted earlier.


July Golden Shovel #20

Father lightning shoots down a sharp jolt and a

Dry tree welcomes his jab, leaping into fire

That creeps gingerly among dry leaves so

Slowly she’s unnoticed until a burst of overwhelming

Flame takes charge, leading fire’s advance. It

Revs up, gobbling all tinder handy. Fire controls

The earth, the air, all becomes nourishment for the

Fire, announcing her dominance to power the weather.

 

source: A Fire So Overwhelming It Controls the Weather

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I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

 

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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SOL Tuesday: A Train Tale

Yesterday, I had to go to White Plains to see my dermatologist. He has not been coming to his Manhattan office since covid arrived, and I haven’t had a body scan for almost two years. (Since I’ve had two noninvasive melanomas, I want to be checked out regularly.)

 

I got on the train at Grand Central. At 125th Street, a young man got on, with backpack and two folded-up walking sticks, and sat across from me. When the conductor came around, the young man said he only had a receipt, said the ticket never got spit out of the machine. “Someone got a free ride,” the conductor said. “Show me the credit card you used.” The young man gave him a credit card, but the conductor said it didn’t match the receipt. “Find the transaction on your phone,” he said, and continued down the car.

 

I wondered if the young man was trying to use a receipt he’d found to get his own free ride. When the conductor came back later, he inspected what the young man had brought up on his phone, and was satisfied.

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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

SOLTuesday: In the Heights for an “In the Heights” Walking Tour

A couple of weeks ago I went to a movie theater for the first time in a year and a half, to see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights.” The city street scenes were great, but I don’t know that neighborhood so well, and mentioned to a friend who lives in Washington Heights that there should be walking tours of sites associated with the film. She immediately volunteered to take me on one, and that’s what we did yesterday.

 


            If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I won’t say too much about the plot. But here are three scenes. The first is in the J. Hood Wright Park (a rich man who had a mansion on this site) where Benny and Nina, the secondary couple, sing a duet. This part is set on top of Manhattan’s bedrock and looks toward the George Washington Bridge, which BTW is the world’s busiest bridge: it carried more than 103 million vehicles, many trucks, in 2016 (latest figure on wikipedia). On the New York side it connects to the Cross Bronx Expressway, which I have heard long-haul truck drivers call the worst highway in the country; having driven it myself, I would agree.

 

           

            Next is a row of three-story houses on West 176th Street, very much like private homes in Greenwich Village much further downtown. Judging from the mailboxes, it looks like they have been converted to one apartment per floor. In the movie, people are sitting outside on the steps and Nina dances down the street, singing of her love for her neighborhood.

 

            This location I didn’t think really existed. It’s part of Usnavi’s song and dance to honor his Abuela Claudia (Usnavi is the Lin-Manuel character). But it is real: the tunnel leads from Broadway under the hills of Washington Heights (it’s called “the Heights” for a reason) to the #1 subway train. The graffiti is still being worked on — one man was adding finishing touches of red to one part — and from all the paper and cardboard near the walls, I suspect that people sleep there at night.

            I will definitely watch the movie again — it’s available on Hulu — now that I can see outside the frame of the camera. 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. Add one of your own.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

May Golden Shovel #24

source: The Podcast 70 over 70 Puts a Forward Spin on Older People

 

Some think old people are unfamiliar with the

Internet. They think we don’t know what a podcast

Is. Now there is a podcast called 70 

Over 

70,

The mirror-image of 30 Under 30 lists. 70 Over 70 puts

The focus on we old folks and could be a

Positive, reversing the stigma on old people. Moving forward

On this rethinking requires we stop the spin

Of “age is just a number,” “you’re only as old as you feel,” “I’m 79 years young,” and on

And on. Age is real, we will all die sometime, and older

People are closer to the end than young people.


May Golden Shovel #23

source: World Is Facing First Long Slide in Its Population

 

She retreats to a distant cave in desert hills, feeling the world

Recede to a pinpoint. An alien force circles the Earth, is

Nearing her refuge, blocking the entrance, until it is facing

Her, a phantom filling her cave, the first

Visitor from another universe. It’s come a long

Distance away in space and time, but the phantom can slide

Past wormholes and black stars. The phantom senses her in

Her refuge. It haunts her dreams in an unknown language, but its

Intention is unknown to any population.

Monday, June 7, 2021

May Golden Shovel #22

So it's been a while since I wrote a golden shovel poem, but I've been saving source headlines to work on. Even though it's now June 7, here's one for May 22.

source: Rural Oregon Votes to Quit Its Own State and Secede to Idaho

They don’t want to start a war, the rural

Citizens of Oregon.

They only want to not be overruled by the votes

Of city citizens, to

Escape values that rural citizens dislike. Country folk quit

Empathy, its

Apparent weakness intolerable for people who carry their own

Guns wherever they go. They state

Their need for more compatible associates and

Demand to secede.

City folk escort them to the border, to

Their own private Idaho.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

May Golden Shovel #21

source: Summer Is Coming. Let the Words Flow

 

Words line up neatly in dictionaries, until summer

Heats the pages. Pages curl restlessly until one is

Tempted to fling itself from the binding, coming

To dance in sunlight. Sunlight rinses words loose to let

Them alchemize in any order: meaning the

Existence burnt into is new. New sentences of words

Revolutionize my mind as language takes on original flow.

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I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

·        

 


Friday, May 21, 2021

May Golden Shovel #20

source: Transforming a Fake Reality into Real Drama

 

Fireflies light up the meadows, transforming

Fields into a galaxy hugging the earth, where a

Constellation mirrors Orion, luring owls in their hunt to fake

Nests where sleeping mice feel safe in reality.

Ferrets, sloths, pangolins wander lighted grass streets into

A confusing dreamland where prey hide in real

Time, welcoming an escape from life or death drama.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

 


Thursday, May 20, 2021

May Golden Shovel #19

source: What This Town Needs Is a Concrete Whale

 

He hitches up damp denim overalls in the morning after what

He feels is a call from unknown forces to bring this

Vision of trash turned into beauty to his town.

He cannot know how wants turn into needs

Desires into demands, peace into war. What is

The elusive route away from days drowning in a

Maelstrom, tsunamis of jeweled seas battering concrete

Dikes, planting seeds of the invasive whale.

---------------------------------------------------------

 

I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

May Golden Shovel #18

source: Finding a Sailor Lost to Ice and Time

 

She joins the exploration team in hopes of finding

Answers to all questions. She believes certainty is a

Requirement for wisdom. An alien sailor

From a galaxy far away whispers in her ear a lost

Knowledge of only question after question. She splits to

A shady world, leaving a closet full of known ice

And fire, opening up to unknowns, uncertainty, and

So many questions that overdoses on time.

 

---------------------------------------------------------

I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

 

Monday, May 17, 2021

May Golden Shovel #17

 source: Three Ways of Looking at a Performance


Auditions for summer start in three

Weeks. The summer months search for ways

To make themselves the hottest by the obvious of

Too much sun. June throws her pearls before swine, looking

For a salty advantage. July throws red-white-blue-green-orange fireworks at

A dumbfounded sky. August breaks all heat records as a

Hurricane floods Earth for 40 days, in a total performance.

---------------------------------------------------------

I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.

 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

May Golden Shovel #16

source: In a Renamed Town a Legacy of Violence Continues to Play Out

 

She remembers a time when her town in

The new country was a haven from memories, a

Balm to help her build a new family. She is renamed

Shiloh in hopes she will bring peace to her town.

Golden granite lines the path leadingv visitors to her home, a

Large room roofed in azure slate tiles, with no walls,  a legacy

Of the ancient tents of her people. Visitors seek her guidance of

Insights, for she has a way of speaking that averts violence.

Yet the battle between old residents and those who claim ancient rights continues.

Her visions alarm banshees, whose cries alert to

Dangers minute and huge, dangers of scarlet sweet that play

To greed and fear, dangers pretending to be thrown out. 

 

---------------------------------------------------------

I’m continuing to use Terrance Hayes’s Golden Shovel poem format, as proposed by the Sunday New York Times "At Home" section, for 30 Poems in 30 Days during National Poetry Month.

 

Take a newspaper headline that attracts you.

Use each word in the line as the end word for each line in your poem.

Keep the end words in order.

Describe the story that the headline is for.

The poem does not have to be about the same subject as the headline that creates the end words.