Friday, April 28, 2006

How I’ll Spend My Summer Vacation

So I’m taking a little time off from these e-mail things.

I’ve done about 80 or so of them, pretty much every week since August of 2004 and, quite frankly, I’m a little tired of doing them. Oh sure, they can be fun to write some weeks and sometimes they don’t even suck all that much but they’ve started to become more of a chore than a pleasure.

So I’m taking a little time off from these e-mail things.

Or maybe a little more than a little time off. I may try to write something other than a two page humor column just to be a little different (I’ve always had a weak spot for haiku) or maybe I’ll just catch up on the xbox. Maybe I’ll take a class, maybe I’ll get in shape, or maybe I’ll start watching America Idol. That’s the great thing about summer vacations – you’re free to do pretty much whatever you want.

Oh, I may not take off the entire summer. I’m definitely taking off May – I’ll be out of town for part of it (a cruise on the Carnival Poseidon) and Memphis in Maying for the rest of it – but I may come back in June or July. Or November. Not really sure yet, sort of an open ended thing, just going come back when (and if) it feels right.

Before I put on my swim trunks and hit the beach, however, I want to thank all of y’all for continuing to read these things. Thanks for the encouragement, thanks for the e-mails, thanks for the feedback, both good and bad, and thanks for making me think that I can actually write, or at least write well enough for the internet.

The website will stay up so you can keep checking that out and I may occasionally post something new to it. The podcasts will stay up too and there may occasionally be a few more of those coming out.

Sorry so short, sorry so sudden, but to paraphrase a great saying by a great man (I believe it was Ronald McDonald) I deserve a break. Today.

See ya’ soon or at least sooner or later.

Get back to . . .

You know what, you take a break too.


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Friday, April 21, 2006

Something Fishy . . .

At 32 stories tall, the Memphis Pyramid is the third largest pyramid in the world, behind that famous tomb in Egypt and that not quite as famous hotel in Las Vegas. It’s taller than both the Statue of Liberty and the Taj Mahal and its base is the size of six football fields. Oh, and it’s real shiny because it’s made out of stainless steel.

And it looks like Memphis is about to make it into a Bass Pro Shop.

That’s right, a Bass Pro Shop. A Bass Pro Shop. A Bass Pro Shop. Let me repeat, Memphis is about to make its 32 story stainless steel pyramid, a half million square feet mind you, into a Bass Pro Shop.

This really shouldn’t surprise me I guess. Memphis’ most famous landmark is the home of a musician who died almost thirty years ago, which unfortunately means that he died in the ‘70s, which unfortunately means that his home still has shag carpet. You can buy all kinds of neat things near said house of said musician - plastic gold sunglasses, “Love Me Tender” key chains, commemorative spoons, etc. - but as nifty as such items may be, none of them will help you catch a crappie. Unfortunately.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the Bass Pro Shops. God knows it would be great to have one downtown just in case I need to go out over lunch and buy a pair of waders or a 32 foot party barge. (They’ve got just about every outdoorsy thing you need - they’re like the Lowes of live ammo.) And God knows they’re popular – the Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri is Missouri’s number one tourist attraction, which says a lot about Bass Pro Shops and even more about Missouri.

But 500,000 square feet? 32 stories? An outside elevator shaped like a fishing lure?

Memphis already has a Bass Pro Shop actually, out east off I-40. (If you’re having trouble locating it, according to the Bass Pro Shop website its GPS coordinates are 35 09.922ºN, 089 51.469ºW, which is good to know if you find your way around town using a GPS receiver or a globe.) But this store is rather average, I’m afraid – it basically just sells stuff. The Las Vegas Bass Pro Shop, all 165,000 square feet of it, features a 40,000 gallon freshwater fish tank fed by a canyon waterfall and stocked with fish native to Nevada. It also features a rock climbing wall, an indoor archery range, a live duck habitat, and a trout stream that meanders through the store. By comparison the Las Vegas pyramid just features Carrot Top.

Imagine what they’ll be able to do in the Pyramid with three times the size. Naval battle reenactments, helicopter rides, live bear hunting – the 32 story sky’s the limit. Maybe they’ll finally put a restaurant in the top of the Pyramid, I’m guessing one that specializes in wild game or NASCAR. Or they could chop off the tip of the Pyramid to make it look like a giant stainless steel hollow-point bullet.

And it’s such a perfect location. Just imagine, you’re in the middle of a North Memphis gang war and you just ran out of ammo. You’re just five minutes from an arsenal bigger than the Tennessee National Guard – so much more convenient than the West Memphis Wall-Mart. “That’ll be twenty boxes of shells to go. Just put it on the Gangster Disciple account.” You may not have to even leave your car - hopefully they’ll have drive-by drive-through.

Of course the simple truth of the matter is that Memphis has three coliseums, four if you count that one down in DeSoto County, and it really can’t afford more than one. So if something has to be done with the Pyramid, and something definitely has to be done with the Pyramid, I suppose a Bass Pro Shop won’t be too bad.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if we could have had a 32 story Victoria’s Secret instead.

Get back to work,


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Friday, April 14, 2006

Talking Baseball

Baseball is not America’s most popular sport - that distinction has long since been claimed by the NFL. There are no baseball players that rap, act, or have their own clothing lines - such matters are better left to the NBA. And yet, there is no other sport like baseball, reaching back a century and a half through American history, no other legends of sport quite as large, no records in sport quite as great, no palaces of sport quite as magnificent.

It’s baseball season again - we’re on about game number 10 with only 152 or so to go. Baseball may be less popular than football but every summer it is still America’s pastime in one real sense. It’s how we measure how the summer passes. Every morning of every day there are more scores, more stats, more standings, constantly changing, constantly flowing, like clouds across the summer sky. There are no once a week Sunday extravaganzas, 16 chunks of marble being blasted off to reveal a rough statue that is the NFL season. Instead the marble is worn off smoothly, bit by bit by the wind that pushes the clouds to reveal by October the beautiful figure beneath. Today, when we’re on about game number 10 with only 152 or so to go, our statue is still a formless monolith and we have no idea what it will eventually look like, except, of course, that Tampa Bay won’t make the playoffs.

Some say that the marathon season makes baseball boring, each game meaning so little when there are 161 more games to play. There may be some truth to this – if you’re at a mid-June game between the Diamondbacks and Rockies you’re probably as excited by the growing of the infield grass as by the playing of the on-field game. Nonetheless, in late September, when the Rockies and Diamondbacks are tied for first with five games to go, that mid-June game starts to look pretty important.

And in that mid-June game even if the baseball game is not all that exciting, baseball itself still provides plenty of drama. You’ve got your good guy losers (the Cubs) and you’ve got your bad guys winners (the Yankees). You’ve got your heroes (like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa back in ’98) and you’ve got your villains (like Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa today).

This year in particular will be particularly exciting as we see one of the greatest milestones in sports surpassed. Over the course of his epic career, Babe Ruth, the man who more than anyone has defined the sport of baseball, hit 714 home runs. Within the next month or so, another man will hit 715. Again. The last time this happened was in April 1974 when Brave (how appropriate) Hank Aaron survived racist death threats to break the Babe’s record and go on to lay claim to a total of 755 dingers. This time, in April 2006, Giant (how appropriate) Barry Bonds will have to survive charges of cheating, perjury and drug use to break the Babe’s record and go on to lay claim to a total of God knows how many dingers, an asterisk and possible jail time. Aaron has become one of the all time great legends of the game, Bonds will become one of the all time great cautionary tales.

So baseball, although wonderful, is not perfect. Its history is in part one of racism, greed and arrogance, which may be why the United States so closely identifies with it. Its history is also one of beauty, grace and great accomplishment, which may be why the United States so closely identifies with it.

Spring turns to summer turns to October - and baseball turns to terror. The games of March Madness are the most exciting events in sports, non-stop action and last second finishes. The games of the MLB playoffs, when the games actually matter, are the most terrifying events in sports, a pitch, a swing and a strike out. Or a home run. Or another pitch. The quiet between the pitches is like the dark of the night – in the silence and darkness there are no distractions. You have nothing to focus on but your fears, that the next pitch will be a strike out, a home run, or another, fear-extending pitch.

Maybe in today’s attention deficit world it is too slow, the way we pass the summer. Maybe we no longer have the time to keep up with the morning box scores for 162 mornings. Maybe we no longer have the time to watch the clouds flow across the pale blue sky.

But what other sport could produce Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the ’86 Series, Jack Morris in Game 7 of the ’91 Series, the Red Sox collapse of ’03 and the Yankees collapse of ’04? What other sport could produce a both a Hank Aaron and a Barry Bonds?

There is simply no sport better than baseball – nothing more enduring, nothing more engrossing, nothing more beautiful.

At least not until after October.

Get back to work,


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