Monthly Archives: December 2019

Jammies at the coffee shop

A guy–and older guy, at least my age, just came into the coffee place I’m writing from, wearing sneakers, a t-shirt, and Captain America pajama bottoms.

For the record, I sleep in shorts and a t-shirt, so it’s no biggie for me to wear my pajama out. They don’t look like pajamas.

But over the last decade or so, I’ve seen a lot of people wearing pajamas to stores. Most the pajamas were respectful–there weren’t a lot of women wearing teddies to the store. And I shop at the closest Publix to a small army of nudist resorts.

It just bugged me. If you want to go outside, put on some damn clothes. It was a reasonable stance that felt good. I was speaking out against people too damn self-absorbed to wear actual daytime clothing in public.

I might not be a clothes horse, but I can damn well get dressed before going out.

And you know what? The guy in the Captain America jammies was very nice. He got a cup of coffee and clearly knew the server based on their pleasant conversation. Then he got his coffee and left.

Western civilization didn’t collapse. The grown didn’t open up–always a possibility in LA. God in his divine fury didn’t turn this corner of Los Angeles into a smouldering char pit.

So maybe I just need to get the hell over it on stuff like pajamas, tattoos, alternate hair colors and arrangements, and the wearing of jammies to the coffee shop.

The less-than-grand, historic LA Coliseum

The first time I remember watching something at the LA Coliseum was Super Bowl VII, when the Dolphins beat the Redskins to cap their perfect 1972 season.

It seemed enormous. Over all the Rams and Raiders games I’ve watched there through the years–the 1984 Summer Olympics–and anything else that happened to occur there, it still seemed massive, regal, monumental.

Yesterday, I actually went to see the last NFL game that will ever be played there. And to be honest, it’s not as grand and regal as it seemed. For a moment, I thought it was a smaller replica.

The inside was a disappointment, too. It’s a 90-year-old structure about to be abandoned as a professional venue. The amenities were lacking, with long lines at everything, from the pizza stand to the Rams team store, which was nothing more than a giant tent. There was a one-hour wait to check out.

It was the size of any other football stadium. And having seen the Cowboys and Falcons new stadiums from the outside, it’s probably smaller than some.

And yet, though it seemed a lot smaller in person, it’s still the only venue ever to host the Olympics, Super Bowl, and World Series (the Dodgers played there from 1958-1961). During that timeframe, it was host to the Rams, USC football, UCLA football, and the Dodgers. And in 1960, the Chargers played there for a year. It’s probably fair to say no other venue has seen as many games as the Colisuem did over a 4-year period.

Sandy Koufax. Carl Lewis. Marcus Allen. Bo Jackson. Eric Dickerson. Merlin Olsen. Jackie Robinson (football). Howie Long. Even NCIS star Mark Harmon. All of them played home games there.

Could you BLOCK someone, DiNozzo?

I still remember the 1984 Olympic opening ceremonies there, but I was too young to watch Super Bowl I, in which the NFL’s Green Bay Packers gave the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs the pasting almost everyone expected. The game wasn’t called the Super Bowl. It was the first AFL-NFL World Championship game. And it didn’t sell out.

So while the stadium itself seemed small and definitely strained against the crowd that was there, it wasn’t a disappointment. For a sports fan, it was still hallowed ground. It was still that magical place I remember from TV as a kid, just viewed with adult eyes.

I came away no less impressed and happy to have been there.

And yeah, this is a metaphor, about what you and I encounter in life. That person everyone raves about who left you cold. The leader who achieved great things and just seemed less imposing in person. That friend or relative who seemed heroic, who’s got the same flaws as everyone else. Maybe even more of them.

There’s a lot more emotional involvement in those cases than to a football palace seen on TV. But the metaphor works and I’ll do well to remember it.

I need to drop the chip that I wear

I have a chip on my shoulder.

I’m a moderate Republican. I believe in a principled application of conservative values–limited government, support for small business, and opportunity for all. That means white Christian dudes who dig women (and the women who dig them), gays and lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Christians (even, gasp!, Catholics) and atheists, people who identify as him, her, they, and pronouns I don’t even understand. In short, all means all.

I’m not progressive in any sense of the word, and maybe part of the issue is that guys like me make non-progressives look reasonable. I don’t know. But I’ve strained and lost relationship because of my political stances–because I don’t just accept what the people with superior thoughts and viewpoints tell me without question.

In fairness, it’s not just from the left. You can piss of as many people by disagreeing with Trump as with AOC. But the left seems more eager to cast people like me out of any serious discussions because of my obvious moral and political flaws. As annoying as the right can be, they aren’t implying that time has passed me by and it’s best to keep my big, stupid boomer mouth shut.

That, right there, is the chip. It makes me see condescension where it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t make such condescension false. Like most other damaging falsehoods, my chip starts with measurable truth.

But what would Jesus do?

For the record, Jesus is just all right with me–the Doobie Brothers said so. But like the evil, sadistic exercise bastard Shaun T, he also wants me to dig deeper.

Shaun T, Evil Sadistic Bastard

Leaning back on my chip and letting my irriration solidify into bitterness would be the easiest thing in the world. But it’s not what Jesus would prefer. And my status as the World’s Worst Christian still makes me a Christian. I need to care what he says.

So what’s a boomer to do? First, prayerfully submit my views and stances to Him. It’s the process that flip my thoughts on the death penalty. Second–and this is the really hard part–when someone hits me with the mighty hammer of progressive righteousness, I need to let it go. Drop the chip. Listen.

I still get to talk. I’m not Hitler, Pol Pot, Archie Bunker, or even Barney Stinson (though that guy’s awesome). AOC isn’t the greatest woman ever born of woman and you’re allowed to respectfully disagree.

In one of the Gospels, Jesus sends out his disciples to the cities. He says that if they don’t engage, to shake the dust from their sandals and move on. I think that means you aren’t an a-hole just because someone says so, and if they won’t listen, just go on to the next person.

Because of the way I’m built (internally, not the part built on donuts and beer), that’s difficult for me.

But that’s the only way to lose the chip that weighs me down and gets between me and others.

Because Jesus would want it that way.

The high privilege of a nine-mile run

A little more than five years ago, on my 51st birthday, I ran 17 miles. A mile for each three years. Less than six months later, I had to rest crossing a parking lot. A month after that, I had to rest crossing my living room. A few weeks after that, I worked from bed, flat on my back.

I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), more commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). When I talked to my rheumatologist (yeah, I had one of those), I asked what to do to foce my body to get better.

He chuckle was completely free of mirth. “You don’t get better. This–the way you feel–is as good as it gets. It’ll probably get worse.”

To be clear, a life where I couldn’t cross the living room or get out of bed, was probably the new normal.

Except it wasn’t. I didn’t have ME. Or I did but it went away. Or God in His mercy decided to take it easy on me. Or any combination thereof.

A little less than a year after my physical world crashed down on me, I was able to function again. And I wanted more than anything to get back in shape.

I got back to running–overdoing it and winding up with a stress fracture in my foot. Then overdoing it again and winding up with messed-up Achilles tendons in both of my feet. That came after an eight-mile run on a Saturday morning. It set me back about a year. Then I overdid it again and hurt my leg, and then hurt my leg again, then hurt my back. Then I went over the handlebars of my bike and bruised my ribs.

It’s been a long time and the nine miles I ran this morning along the beach in Santa Monica, California, is the most I’ve run since that day I got sick.

When I was doing bad-ass stuff–P90X, Insanity, Tough Mudder, running two-thirds of a marathon–I thought it made me bad ass. In a way, it did. The workouts I did were hard and I kept doing them anyway. My wife, who thought they were a little much at the time, credits them with helping me get through being sick.

If things go well, I’ll run a half-marathon the first weekend of February and a full marathon next winter.

If I complete them, I’ll feel deep satisfaction. You don’t complete a half marathon or a Tough Mudder or a full marathon without a lot of hard work. It’s special because most people can’t do it.

That last sentence didn’t used to be problematic to me. Now, it makes me pause. Those accomplishments are special–in part because most people can’t do them. It takes an awful lot of time and hard work. But it also takes opportunity.

God gave my health back and I’m doing what I can with the second opportunity. Having that opportunity is a privilege.

But there’s another aspect to the privilege. When you visit Los Angeles, you have to notice the homeless people. You can’t not notice them. They’re everywhere. A guy next to a shopping cart, wrapped in a blanket sleeping. Make-shift shelters in small groups. Tent cities under overpasses. And it’s not just in the poor neighborhoods.

Under different circumstances–with different choices and opportunities–some of those people could run nine miles, too. They could sit in a coffee shop, like I’m doing right now, and write a blog post on the tablet they bought because a laptop’s too big to lug around.

Recognizing those facts doesn’t make one a snowflake or a leftist. It means you understand that you’ve been put in a position to make good decisions and benefit from them. It means you’ve probably gotten a couple of breaks.

For me, it means I can take advantage of my health and run this morning. It means I can train for a half marathon.

What to do about the people who don’t have the opportunity is another discussion for a different time. It’s a discussion we should have internally and with others. It’s a discussion that requires humility and the ability to listen at least as well as we talk. It requires recognition that the causes and solutions are complex and difficult and no ideology has the market cornered on solutions and morality.

But for today, recognizing the high privilege of a nine-mile run is enough.