Holidays and Baseball
Future’s Ramblings – Issue 23 – September 18, 2006
As most of you know I have just returned from being in the United States for two week where I was watching my son play baseball and visiting friends and family, if you have any expectations that this version of Future’s Ramblings will be about workplace or business issues you should stop reading now. Other than chatting with friends in the industry, and a quick sojourn to Minneapolis to visit the Medtronic’s campus, it may shock you to learn I did very little thinking about work. So as advised when I first started writing these newsletters, there could be times when Ramblings gets reduced to a bit of fluff and this is one of those times.
My return to the office coincided with the monthly Geyer ‘Show and Tell’ lunch, which I attended. As I was going up to get my third helping of food Matt Sheargold made the comment that sitting between an American and a buffet table was an unfortunate place. Pretty cheeky don’t you think? Matt is lucky I am thick skinned, besides if I had gotten upset about that comment it may have spoiled my digestion and I would have had to skip desert. Never the less, I have given this some thought because this is the second time in a matter of weeks an Australian has made comment about American eating habits. Prior to leaving Australia my son’s baseball coach gave the boys this bit of advice “Those Americans all eat way more than they should, and you will need to exercise self control when you’re around them to remain in peak physical condition”.
Sadly after spending time in suburban New Jersey I did wonder whether there was some truth to these slanderous comments. I began to notice that every meal was excessively large and generally deep fried. If the size of the typical beer gut was any indication, the fried food gets helped down with a few cold ones, particularly if you happened to be dining in a sports bar which I rarely go, but in suburban New Jersey there was little choice. Sports, beer and fried food kind of go together like Larry, Moe and Curly Joe. And Allen, I was wrong, you can watch both baseball and football at the same time because they have extended the seasons and if you got to a sports bar to do it you can have lots of beer and fried food too.
You will think that I am making this up, but at the ball park in New Jersey they actually served deep fried Oreo cookies. This guy in the stands told the woman sitting next to him, who was stuffing them in her mouth that it was giving him adult onset diabetes just watching her. What a great comment, they didn’t know each other. I miss the brutal honesty and obnoxious candor of Americans and that one made me feel warm and cozy. As another example, at the ballgame the parents were yelling “Hey umpire, how about you watch the game with your good eye” you don’t hear that at Aussie baseball games. Perhaps it is an unfair assumption because I have never been to one, but I just can’t see anyone yelling anything like that at a cricket game. Heck at a cricket match I figure you would need to go around with a mirror to see if anyone in the stands or the field is alive let alone spirited enough to yell rude comments.
I would have been quite disturbed about my birth land and what it had come to if I hadn’t spent a few days in Manhattan after the baseball tournament. At least there people there are normal! There was the woman I saw walking her dog that had shoes on – not the woman the dog. After a week of fried food and beer drinking I felt the need to do a bit of Bikram yoga. At the studio in Chelsea there was a tall black man next to me in class with waist long dread locks, he must have been working on them since he was five years old. When it started to get hot he tied them in knots at either side of his head which impacted my ability to meditate, he looked like Princess Leigha. That aside, I felt more alignment with this guy and the other yogis with their tattoos and body piercing than I did with the woman taking up a pair of seats in the bleachers eating fried Oreo cookies.
So it is with a heavy heart that I must admit that in that region of the country the stereotype of Americans eating habits are accurate. Another change I noticed was more religion. While I have always been aware that parts of the US were more God fearing than others, my theory was that the closer you got to major metropolitan areas the less R& R you get (religion and republicans). This is why I advise sticking to the East and West coasts if you’re visiting just to be safe. That being said, Chicago is an exception, what a coincidence I am from Chicago. Chicago is a city firmly divided along the supporters of the two baseball teams: Sox fans and Cubs fans. Despite the deep divide, both ball parks – Wrigley Field and ComiskeyPark mark the top of the 7th inning with the tradition of the ‘Seventh Inning Stretch’. This is a chance to take a bit of a break, stand up and stretch your legs and if you’re not too drunk and join the other fans in singing “Take me Out to the Ballgame”. Guess what they sang in New Jersey? God Bless America.
To my surprise, the kids from the US teams would have a group prayer prior to the start of a game. You will be happy to know the Australian kids did what baseball players are supposed to do: a few stretches, eat a hot dog, and adjust and readjust and adjust and readjust their cup (or box as you call it here).
Mixing sports and religion is bad, but not nearly as bad as mixing religion and politics. In the US there is meant to be a clear distinction between church and state, one progressively blurred by the current administration. If you think I am wrong go stand out in front of the white house with a sign that says US out of Iraq, or Show me the weapons and see how long it takes them to relinquish your right to free speech.
Unfortunately, like Australia, many parts of the United States are suffering from drought conditions. I read a story in the Chicago Tribune about some politician; I can’t remember whether he was the governor, in the house or senate of South Dakota requesting his constituents “pray for rain”. He was not suggesting a silent personal prayer, but a formal moment of silence where everyone in the state would stop to pray for rain. This is the country where we stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance when I hit the 8th grade because of the “one nation under God” part. Now people in government are encourage all to formally pray for rain.
To be honest, I did succumb to the power of prayer. After having my laptop nicked somewhere between Sydney and New York, my luggage lost from LA to New York, my luggage lost from New York to Chicago and both me and my luggage caught in the security line while my flight from Chicago to Phoenix departed, I too turned to the power of prayer. It paid off, both my luggage and me got on the flight from Phoenix to Seattle without a hitch. To top that, I was not arrested for telling the woman feeling me up for weapons in the security “a little to the right, up a bit more”. In fact she even laughed when I asked her if it was as good for her as it was for me, and if she would be sure to call me.
I will admit I lied, I did think about work when visiting the new Apple store on 5th Ave. which is entirely underground and open 24/7. The purpose of an all night computer store is beyond me; perhaps it is a geek mecca that your geek genes draw you to when you hear the calling? Further up 5th Ave I visited the new Abercrombie and Fitch store with the appearance of a nightclub rather than a clothing store, including two ‘bouncers’ at the entry. Both of these boys were clones of the larger than life photos of male beefcake on the walls of store (the photos were clearly not of models from New Jersey). A friend told me the store was involved in a law suit when it first opened over a request that the boys out front be half naked, blond haired and white. After being slapped with a discrimination lawsuit they wear A&F button down shirts and are of mixed ethnicity.
While visiting these places I asked myself as I often do what would Peter Geyer do in this instance? The answer came to me – obnoxiously take photos of everything whether your allowed to or not. Sadly, I have learned nothing about clandestine photography from hanging out with Peter because I was immediately caught and asked to leave.
MoMA had and exciting exhibit by Herzog and De Meuron, it was the Artist’s Choice where artists are invited to organize exhibits from MoMA’s collection, so unfortunately not a representation of their architectural work. The exhibit titled Perception Restrained consisted of thirty plus plasma screens attached to the ceiling of the gallery. Each ran a two or three minute segment of a scene from a movie, some I recognized and some I did not, each with explicit reference to violence, drama and sex. Under the plasmas were benches with small mirrors enabling you to watch the ceiling without straining your neck. I appreciated this because after viewing the explicit sex scenes for two or three hours I would have gotten quite a kink in my neck. I got kicked out of there too.
Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz I agree there is no place like home. I also live in hope that the republicans get kicked out of office, and then I might even consider living there again. For the time being visits like this one will have to do and they are good because they enable you to close chapters of your life out. There are a few issues I have put to bed, such as feeling like I’m fat. I also felt a sick sense of justice in learning that the ballet teacher who told me I was too fat for the boys to lift me now must relying on an oxygen tank to breath. Or the joy in letting those close to you know the impact they made – I got to remind my brothers that I will forever be messed up as a result of their farting into their cupped hands and releasing the smell in my face. For these reasons trips home are priceless.
As a last thought, I want to share with you the questions about Australia I was most often asked.
- The obligatory and horribly boring – does the toilet whirl go clockwise or counter clockwise?
- What’s with your e mail, when are you going to get rid of all of that blatant promotional material and PLEASE tell the mail marshal to lighten up we can’t use any of our favorite words.
- Is that Steve Irwin guy for real?