Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How Many Mantle Cards Does A Boy Need?

It's October...The World Series is around the corner...The White Sox are in...the last time they were involved, the heros of the day were Mantle, Mays, Ted Williams,Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Whitey Ford, Duke Snider....excuse me while I drift......................     

In 1960, this country was embroiled in a Cold War with an unrelenting Russia. It was still mending itself from two brutal back to back wars (W.W.II & The Korean War), and in suberbs everywhere,  frightened homeowners were building bomb shelters!
   Despite the political controversy, the biggest debate of the day was "who is better, Mantle or Mays?"
   Perhaps, the only real consolation of that time was the purchasing power of a nickel. Milkyway bars, A scoop of ice cream,a small bag of chips, all a nickel!
  For a ten year old boy, nothing could compare to the 5 cent pack of baseball cards with a slab of gum! Just the actual purchase, became part of ritual!
  I can recall those days after school, when my friends and I would converge on a luncheonette where the cards were sold. We would eyeball the the open box, and one at a time one of us would reach in, our fingers touching each pack and waiting for a divine signal to stop and select that magical pack of cards. We would each remove our only nickel from our pockets and hand them to the overweight cashier who would say "Hey! You messed up the box!"...
  We exited the luncheonette where the "ritual" continued. Bobby had a "lucky spot" that he would go to, which was up against the mailbox. David would place the pack on top of his head, close his eyes and silently meditate the names of players he wished would be in the pack. Me? I would hold the pack,oozing with the sweet odor the bubblegum, to my lips, "please...Mantle....Musial....Mays" I would pray. Then we bagan opening our packs. The silence broken with a shriek "Oh My God! I got Hank Aaron"..and another screeh from the mailbox, "Clemente! I got Clemente!"..."Oh man Berra and Ernie Banks!" There never was a dissapointment when opening up those packs!
  That was, til Ken joined our "buying ritual". Ken came from a wealthier backround, and alaways had a pocketful of quarters and dimes. While we were carefully selecting our packs, as if trying to sort out the finest diamond from a lot, Ken would just grab a fistful of packs and reach in his pocket to pay.Ken did not have a ritual, he simply tore the packs open, "got it, got it, need it, got it in triples" is all he said as he flashed through the cards. Bobby, David and I would watch in awe, "he got 3 kluzuskis, 2 Mantles, and his 4th Warren Spahn!" Once in a while we could strike a trade with Kenny, but he was never magnaminous despite having quintuplets of a certain player.
   I can still recall, coming home and adding my new cards to the ones I already had, and crossing their names off the checklist of the ones that I still needed.
   Each night, before going to bed, I would reveiw my rubberbanded deck. I would make a clearing on my bed, and create my own all-star team. "catching tonight will be Yogi Berra, Gil Hodges at First base, Bobby Richardson at second.."  As I laid out my "team" I realized that I did not really need 2 or 3 Mantles, the one I had looked real good with Mays in left and Hank Aaron in rightfield.
    The years quickly passed, adolesence ushered in new interests. Closets and drawers were emptied. The things that once meant all the world to me, lost their place on that list, and the cards were discarded.
    Some 30 years later, I found myself escorting my 10 year old son into a card store and had the priviledge of watching him dig his small hand into the bottom of a display of cards and walk outside to certain spot, and hold the pack to his lips.."Clemmens, McQuire, Ripkin" he would chant. I confess to fighting    
fighting back the tears as joy would overcome his face, "Look  Dad, Clemmens, Bonds and Nolan Ryan in the same pack!"
   Then at night, to walk into his room, he fast asleep, with a deck still tucked in his fist...I truely understood, its not how many Mantles you can have in your hand,but how much appreciation,imagination and love you can hold in your heart!

    ....We all surrender or lose the most precious elements we could ever imagine having.....while we can't bring back what is lost or surrendered, can be healed with imagination, hope and love! May your dreams take you there...one day at a time, one step at a time.....   Marc :)

Saturday, October 15, 2005

What's My Line?

It was one of the first "quiz"shows aired on TV.."What's My Line?"....  A guest would be invited on the stage and 3 ( TV Celebs) would  each have a turn to ask the guest a question....after accumulating the answers, they had the task of guessing what that guest was "famous" for. Many times the panel would be stumped....and incorrectly guessed what the guest was all about.

   It's not so easy to figure someone out, even when you have interrogated the person with 20 personal questions.

  This entry is prompted by several J-landers who have recently written in their journals about receiving wicked and biting comments left for them. This is for the J-landers who write with anger and sadness about the harsh judgement they receive from relatives ..co-workers...people in the supermarket...and spouses.

        It was 4 years ago that I went up to NY to attend a memorial service for a friend of mine who lost his brother in 9/11.  It had been awhile since being in that surburbian town, and not wanting to get completely lost, I drove slow, carefully reading the street signs. I came to a road that narrowed, barely enough room for two cars to pass. I felt I was close to the house, and so I slowed down to read the house numbers. It was then I noticed a car behind me, riding very close. He flashed his lights....there was really no room for me to pull over.....he tapped his horn....."any house now" I told myself.....Then came the HONKS!...."alright alright" I muttered....and looking into my rear view mirror I could see the look of rage writtin into his face.....and then....the FINGER!.....That's it...he crossed the line. I stopped my car, got out and quickly walked to his car. Just as he rolled down his window I said firmly..."Pardon me for holding you up, but I am looking for the home of Max. /////......Who is holding a memorial service for his brother,who was killed  in the attack on the World Trade Center!!.....The mans face dropped!  "Oh my...please forgive me" he said, barely able to speak the words..."I thought you were just another "Sunday driver" not giving a hoot who was behind you....but I am wrong..I apologize......what home are you looking for?"  I handed  him the directions I had....."Oh my, you are on the North side heading in the wrong direction...you need to be heading South....look, ...I'll take you to his place, its only a few minutes from here...we'll have to make U-turns...just follow me".

     As I followed the man, I mused.....here is a man that 60 seconds ago, was cursing me to hell, and now this same man, once he became aware of what I was about...is now my personal escort!....and without his help..I would have remained lost for quite some time!"

    Remember fellow j-landers....once people take the time to know who we are, and what we are about...once we let others know who we are....the honking, cursing, criticizing, the slander ceases, and then...the kindness and understanding can begin!

Wishing all..simple measures of both!  Marc :)



Saturday, October 8, 2005


   The common thread of success that connects Bill Gates (founder, Microsoft) Steve Jobs (Founder Apple Computer) and me, is the age at which they were hurled through the "door" of  fame and wealth. They were both in their twenties. Most of the worlds wealthiest and famous all had their destiny jump started while being "twenty something".  

    I have sometimes wondered..."what happened to me?"..."I was twenty something too...did I oversleep on the day that destiny had its door open to me?"  "At least, did I get a chance to turn the knob?"

    While unpacking a carton of momentos, the long lost answer to my question was answered in the form of two Eastern Airline Ticket stubs. (anyone here remember Eastern Airlines?). They were one way ticket stubs...from NY to Miami. My mind flew back.  

 We were newlywed...living and working in NYC.  Two young adults, trying to take on a world , make a place for ourselves. Everything seemed difficult. We worked extremely hard and the only thing we seemed to do was get on each others tense nerves.  One day, an offer came from a company based in Miami, we flew down on weekend for an interview and to scope out the town.   The warm tropical air, scented with suntan lotion, the sound of Jimmy Buffet music and soft jazz playing everywhere, the casual easy going manner of a sleepy town, Pina Coladas and iced Coronas being served everywhere..... it seemd like the perfect ticket out!  We returned back to NYC, gave notice to our bosses, landlord and packed up our tiny apt.

  All I could think about during the time we were packing up, was being able to get out of the "rat race". The warm climate, the soothing aromas of beach and warm breezes, being chilled with the sweet succulence of a frozen rum drink......one would cerainly lose their inhibitions easily!  Life was going to be easy. My wife would be relaxed. The door to pleasure would swing open, easy and often! Yes...I was giving up my business attire to become....An Apeman!  My wife, was to be my Aperess! We were to swing in this new jungle without a worry , indulging ourselves in what this balmy and enchanted town had to offer!

    Eastern Airlines brought us in....and the moment we landed, the sky burst with one of the worst rainstorms in the citys' history!  Our car (which we shipped down from NY) was waiting for us....had no A/C....after driving for 20 minutes, the steam forming on the windshield was from the 92 degree heat & 100% humidity!  During the next few days, we had to deal  with our belongings being lost....the frzziness of my wifes hair, the car overheated three times and we discovered that Miami had cockroaches (called Palmetto bugs) as big as any thumb! My wife began missing her family, we overdosed on Cuban Coffee (espresso), and no one spoke English!

   My romantic moves were soon dusted away..."Sorry honey, between  this heat and the croacking of the frogs, who can get in the mood!"  

   You can bring the aperess into the jungle, but you can't make her swing in it.

At twenty something.. I hoped to take a step back in time, an easier life....I opened the door that said "Apeman"..  Now, here I am, many years later, saying.."thank You Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for inventing the internet and the PC".....While I was trying to rendevous with the primitive spirit within, you guys were up to something more productive!   Aw..heck...who am I kidding....if I had invented the PC..you guys would be typing with a set of sticks and bones!

My Leopard skin tunic hangs nearby.........



Friday, October 7, 2005

The Babys Room

 Twenty Four years and two months......and the time came last week to bid  a fond farewell to our home. I walked down the halls of a completely vacant home and it felt so strange to be saying "goodbye".  I stopped in each room to muse upon a memory, smiling to myself, "if these walls could talk!"  My last stop was in, what I have called, the babys room. Now a baby has not been in this room for a long, long time, but this is where each of my 3 sons spent their first years, as they were born into this house. In this room, were some very tender moments, and  this is where I embraced one lifes most powerful lessons....as I close the door..allow me to share............    The Babys Room........

    Being the father of 3 boys, I can still recall their infant cries in the middle of night. Half awake, I would stumble down the hall and retrieve them from their crib.

    By the time my third son came along, I had the 3 A.M. drill down to a routine. Then, on one such night, I awoke, but there was no cry coming from his room. "Any moment now" I murmered to myself. Minutes passed, still no cry. "Is he alright?" I asked myself....as anxiety began to pour in. I waited a few minutes more, til my nervous imagination got the better part of me, and I moved quickly down the hall to his room.

    With my heartbeat racing, I aproached the crib, leaned over and observed.  I gently lifted him up and held his tiny face to my mouth..there they were..the tinest but sweetest breaths one could possibly imagine! As I held my precious son to my chest, I could not help but wonder about our Creator. Why doesn't he come to our cries in the middle of the night? What could possibly be preventing him from wanting to pick us up and hold us close? How could he resist such a pleasure in comforting us?

    I cannot speak for our Creator, but on that night I did realize that he has selected a wonderful nursemaid to attend to us. This nursemaid is is at our sides at all times, and never fails to pick us up during our darkest moments. The nursemaid that our Creator has selected is called HOPE.

   As my boys grew, I observed them carefully. Whether catching butterflies, baseballs or a fish. Whether they were blowing out candles on a birthday cake,loving their pets, or studying for a test, I have seen their nursemaid,HOPE, standing in their shadows, bringing their dreams a little closer to them!

    Now I know, when I step outside at night, and gaze into the night sky, musing upon the stars and moon, their beauty and precision.....that little spark of eternal energy that runs through my nerves, is merely a confirmation that my nuresemaid, HOPE is standing nearby!

  Peace and Blessings.....Marc :)