Sunday, March 29, 2020

Coronavirus Blues, or Between a Rock and a Hard Place

***Chad on line in the grocery story. Person on line in front of Chad wearing a surgical mask and surgical gloves. Many customers wearing surgical masks and gloves. Line moving slowly. A man comes up to Chad, not wearing a surgical mask, not wearing gloves.***

"Is this where the line starts?" the man asks.

"Yes, here," Chad says.

"Thanks," the man says, and gets on line behind Chad.

A few moments go by.

"You know..." the man says, "they say that the masks aren't safe, that they might even be worse for you, because you're constantly breathing in the same air."

"Ah, OK, right, I see," Chad says.

"Crazy times..." the man says.

"Yeah," Chad says.

"But it's times like these we could all use a little comedy," the man says.  "You wanna hear a joke?

Chad thinks: You have to be fucking kidding me. The other day on the way to the airport, the cab driver who took Chad would not stop telling jokes -- the entire damn ride, just would not stop telling jokes. Though that guy and his jokes did offer a bit of comic relief, not a-fucking-gen, Chad thinks. Not one of these "comedians" again. 

Still, Chad says yes.

"OK," the man says, a man who Chad notices is about Chad's height, which means that if spittle from this man goes flying, there's a good chance it will land on Chad's mouth.

The man begins his joke: "So my daughter, she was saying that she likes Cinderella and she wants a Cinderella birthday party."

"OK..." Chad says, solely to show that he's paying attention.

"I told her she can have a Cinderella party if she likes; in fact, I told her to invite all her friends. And you know what I did when all her friend got there?"

"No, what?"

"I said, 'OK, sweetie, now we're all going to go out and you can stay home and clean!'"

Chad laughs, because the joke is funny; however, at the same time, Chad notices that the woman in front of him in the surgical mask is eyeing him down. Chad thinks that she must be thinking, "Why the fuck are these two men, both of whom aren't wearing protective masks, laughing?'" The woman does not look friendly. You can hardly see her face because one half of it is mask, the other, bifocals.

The lines moves forward a little bit. Chad is happy about that, very happy. You see, everything else notwithstanding, joke-man has this little idiosyncrasy. When he tells his jokes, he unconsciously moves toward Chad and Chad, remember, really does not want the man's spittle on him.

The line moves a little more.

"Hey," the man says, "since we have a minute or two, can I tell you another joke?" The man sounds so nice when he asks. His tone is almost like one might imagine Oliver Twist's to have been when he uttered that "s' more" line. How could you say no?

Chad doesn't. Stupid Chad, but he doesn't.

"Well, OK, one more," Chad says. But Chad now has his back nearly completely to the man, hoping the man will take a hint and not move too close.

The man begins to tell the joke, and again he begins to get closer and closer to Chad. But this time, as Chad tries to move away, surgical mask woman looks at Chad and then makes a gesture with her hand, one that is universally understood to mean "halt."

"Six feet..." surgical mask woman says.

Chad can't believe it. How fucking rude, he thinks. Dude behind Chad is still telling the joke, something about a Victoria Secret model and lingerie, but all Chad can think about now is how he's got this woman and this man to worry about, and what the fuck is he going to do?

The lines moves. The man continues to tell the joke and Chad laughs, thinking that the man has arrived at the punchline, but Chad just laughed at something that wasn't even the punchline. The man doesn't even care, though. He just keeps telling the joke with the same gusto.

"Cash or credit?" the supermarket guy asks, interrupting Chad out of his now mild state of panic.

Chad says cash. The supermarket guy immediately routes Chad over to Checkout 1. Yes, yes, Checkout 1, Chad thinks, away from this fucking man and away from this fucking woman...Thank God. 

As Chad leaves the store, he think's of a figure of speech, "to be between a rock and a hard place."

Wow, Chad thinks, that really was like being between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Still Finding a Way!


Yesterday, Martina and I went to a local park to play basketball. However, when we got there, we were super disappointed. The local government had hung up a sign at the park's entrance saying that the park's basketball courts were closed due to the coronavirus. If this sign wasn't warning enough, there was yellow caution tape blocking off the courts.

What a bummer, Martina and I thought. Basketball had been a refuge from all the craziness, and to have it taken away, too, was very frustrating.

However, today, around 10:30 a.m., Martina said that she wanted to go for a walk. It was still kind of early for me, so I teased her: "Oh," I said, "you want to get some exercise, do you? Sure, we can do that. We can actually go running!"

Martina wasn't too keen on the idea -- she really just wanted to walk -- so I thought we could split the difference. I figured we could take a basketball with us and walk one town over, to New Hyde Park. I thought that this was a good idea because we would get to walk and perhaps play basketball, so long as the courts in this town were still open.

Well, about three-fourths of the way to New Hyde Park, Martina and I were passing my old middle school. As we were walking, I noticed that the fence around the school was open. After seeing this, I looked to the tennis courts and the basketball courts. I noticed that the wire-mesh door leading to the tennis courts was open and, from the tennis courts, the door leading to the basketball courts was open, too.

"Holy shit, Martina," I said. "Do you see that? The basketball courts are open! Do you see that? Look past the tennis courts."

"Holy shit hey," Martina said.

We then entered the school grounds and walked onto four pristine basketball courts -- courts that I used to play on in middle school but had since been refurbished. Martina and I couldn't believe it. We spent about an hour and a half playing on these beautiful courts.

Friggin' score!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Renew

Sometimes when I play chess, I go on losing streaks, and when I do, I hate the game. It just seems so frustrating. After all, I have been playing chess for nearly two decades now, shouldn't I be winning-- and winning a lot?

Suffice to say, losing streaks suck. But every now and then I play a game so good I forget all about the losing streaks . . .  I play a game so good, it renews my love for chess and reminds me why it is I play. The following is such a game. I have the white pieces. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Lights Out

Your love is bright as ever... 

When I was growing up, we would learn about JFK, and I remember seeing that famous black-and-white photo of Jacky O. after the assassination, the one in which she’s standing beside Linden Johnson as he’s being sworn in.

Even in the shadows... 

I remember how that picture of her, grief stricken, mouth turned down, stood in such contrast with other pictures I had seen of her.

Baby, kiss me... 

In the other pictures, she had been happy, full of life, smiling—smiling with her family and the man she loved.

Before they turn the lights out... 

I was reminded of Jacky O. and just how different we, as people, can actually look depending on the circumstances, while watching the memorial service for Kobe Bryant yesterday. 

Your heart is glowing... 

There Vanessa was, dark hair partially shielding her face, a little like how Jacky’s hair was shielding her face as she stood next to Lyndon Johnson.

And I'm crashing into you...  

How could I not be reminded of seeing the smiling face of Vanessa, of seeing her in happy moments on the floor of the Staples Center, during one of Kobe’s many triumphs?

Baby, kiss me... 

Vanessa, with that pearly white smile, too . . .  a smile that, as she even said during the memorial, took up her whole face.

Before they turn the lights out... 

But yesterday was different. Yesterday, her mouth was turned down and her face was heavy with grief.

Before they turn the lights out... 

And seeing Vanessa like that and comparing what I was seeing with how I had seen her in the past, I couldn’t help but think to myself: this is what it must have been like, in one way or another, when JFK died.

Baby, love me lights out... 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Chess Win

Here's just a nice win using some of the things I recently learned about the King's Indian Defense. I have the black pieces. My favorite move is 13...e4. Enjoy.
 

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Chess Game

I finally got to play that tricky sacrifice on d5 as White in the Sicilian Defense. I had had this sacrifice done  to me several times in the past and had always wondered about it. This time I was the one doing the slaying. The move I'm referring to is 16. Nd5. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

No Man Is an Island

So the famous English poet John Donne has this poem about how one man's death is never really just one death. Instead, Donne believes, one death is a death for all mankind. The logic is that we on this earth are all humans, are all brothers of sorts, so when one person dies, we should lament the death, not take it for granted, as the loss represents a diminishing of humankind, something of which we are all a part.

The poem, "For Whom The Bell Tolls," goes like this:
No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.
Yeah, the poem is old, but it’s powerful, and even if you don’t know all the words, I think you catch the author’s drift.

I mention this poem because in the wake of Kobe Bryant's death, I can relate to it more than ever. Somehow I feel as though some part of me died that day, too. Perhaps all that died was my ability to live a little bit vicariously through Kobe, perhaps what died was my ability to see all the creative and interesting things Kobe had in store . . . I don’t know. All I can say is that in these times, I can relate to the John Donne poem very well.

I’ll close with another another set of words, but these ones from someone more contemporary—LeBron James.

At Kobe’s memorial at the Staples Center on January 31st, LeBron was asked to give a speech. LeBron and Kobe had been friends for many years and, LeBron, to be fair, was Kobe's successor to the title "the best player in the NBA."

I thought that what Lebron said at the memorial was exceptionally moving. My favorite part of the speech, though, is at the end, at the part that starts, "So in the words of Kobe Bryant . . ."

Here is what LeBron said:
Before I get started with this speech that I have, I want to acknowledge all the lives that were lost Sunday morning. Alyssa Altobelli. John Altobelli. Keri Altobelli. Payton Chester. Sarah Chester. Christina Mauser. Ara Zobayan. Gianna Bryant and Kobe Bryant.
Now, I’ve got something written down. They asked me to stay on course or whatever the case may be, but Laker nation, I would be selling y’all short if I read off this shit. I’m going to go straight from the heart.
The first thing that came to mind, man, is all about family. As I look around this arena, we’re all grieving. We’re all hurt. We’re all heartbroken. But when we’re going through things like this, the best thing you can do is lean on the shoulders of your family. And from Sunday morning all the way to this point — and I’ve heard about Laker Nation before I got here last year, about how much of a family it is — and that’s absolutely what I’ve seen this whole week. Not only from the players, not only from the coaching staff, not only from the organization, but from everybody. Everybody that’s here, this is really, truly, truly a family. And I know Kobe, Gianna, Vanessa and everybody thank you guys from the bottom of their hearts as Kobe said.
Now I know at some point, we will have a memorial for Kobe. But I look at this, I look at this as a celebration tonight. This is a celebration of the 20 years of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the broken-down body, the getting up, the sitting down, the everything. The countless hours, the determination to be as great as he could be. Tonight, we celebrate the kid that came here at 18 years of age, retired at 38 and became probably the best dad we’ve seen over the past three years, man.
Tonight is a celebration.
Before we get to play (yelling). Love ya’ll, man. Kobe’s a brother to me. From the time I was in high school, watching him from afar to getting in this league at 18, watching him up close. All the battles we had throughout my career. The one thing that we always shared was that determination to just always want to win and just want to be great. The fact that I’m here now means so much to me. I want to continue along with my teammates, to continue his legacy, not only for this year, but for as long as we can play the game of basketball that we love because that’s what Kobe Bryant would want.
So in the words of Kobe Bryant, ‘Mamba out.’ But in the words of us, ‘Not forgotten.’ Live on, brother.