Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Tim Horton. He was a very successful professional hockey player of the 1960's and 70's, most notably with the Toronto Maple Leafs [yes, it is "Leafs", not "Leaves". No one seems to know why], New York Rangers, and Buffalo Sabres. During his years in Toronto, he started the chain of shops, and opened others here-and-there when he played in other cities. After his untimely death in an automobile accident, his company was acquired by the owners of the Wendy's fast food restaurant chain. Under its ownership, the Horton's shops have gained an almost religious popularity for their coffee [which by company policy is never allowed to age more than 20 minutes on a burner before being discarded. I'm not a coffee drinker myself, but I can appreciate the desire for a fresh cup]; their donuts are enjoyed, but not as esteemed as the brew.
So let's summarise; Your Reporter, non-coffee drinker, diabetic, just finished with an all-night shift. What is This Person doing, sitting in front of the about-to-open Tim Horton's? Well, as noted above, such events are few and far between in my little birthplace [pathetic, isn't it?]. And yes, I wanted a donut! (I'm not proud of myself for that, but I was fully prepared to forgive myself afterwards...) Just at that moment, however, there was some question if I would be able to enjoy said pastry. Scheduled to open promptly at 6 AM, there was still the kind of confusion I'd come to expect from dress rehearsal night in my community theatre days [list of roles available upon request]. People were looking in, gesturing to be admitted, being ignored, and walking on. It was interesting, but needed something special to take on the air of Street Theatre the day almost called for.
Suddenly God provided [How often in our darkest hours does that happen? And how seldom do we acknowledge it?]. What God provided in this case was exactly what was needed; an older, infirm woman, loudly chatting to every passer-by how the shop's posted hours said it would be open at Six. "C'mon, open up", she half-screamed at the locked door, "I need to eat breakfast soon. Don't make me walk to your other branch [three or four blocks further; I think she could have managed it, but she didn't want to, and felt she shouldn't have to]". Clearly, God had outdone Himself! The crowd inside stopped putting up the "Grand Opening" signs and balloons; the growing crowd outside watched the unexpected show with obvious glee. (I was worried when she started using the rubber tip of her cane on the door, in a futile attempt to rush things along; I didn't want to see Our Star getting into trouble. But it did add to the festivities...)
Just then, the manager timidly approached the door [bad sign; if he wasn't ready for her, he may not have been ready for the collection of Unusual Types that populate any city's downtown district]. "I'm sorry", he began, "Our cash registers aren't ready yet. It's going to be another ten or fifteen minutes". I looked at the time. I couldn't wait; I had a bus to catch [neither could our entertainment; she started hoofing it to the other branch. But she wasn't happy...]. Then again, the show had been sweeter than any treat I might have snagged inside.
Unexpected moments are always the best. I hope your week isn't too scripted...
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Now consider the two gentlemen pictured above. Notice a resemblance? Well, the man on the right does. He, of course, is Robert Redford, and he wants to portray the gentleman on the left, Branch Rickey, who re-integrated American professional baseball after World War II by signing Jackie Robinson to a major-league contract.
The story, of course, is well worth telling. In the earliest days of Professional baseball, players of all races were welcome. Then, shortly before the beginning of the last century, a movement began to bar black players from the game. There is some debate over exactly how it started, but within a few years, every team in the professional ranks had banned blacks from their rosters. The "color line", as it was called, was never officially written into the league rules. But it was as mandatory as if it had been. Black players and fans started their own teams [Google The Negro League for the history of that era], but there was always a sense that the situation was fundamentally wrong. (Ironically, throughout this time, some players of color, notably Native Americans and Hispanics, were welcomed in the pro game.)
As the Second World War was ending, Branch Rickey was a long-time baseball executive, then working for the Brooklyn Dodgers.He had been scouting several Negro League players in secret. He was drawn to Jackie Robinson, playing for Kansas City. Robinson had served in the Army [at the time, also segregated], and had dealt with racism during his training in Texas. A white bus driver had ordered him to sit in the back of the vehicle, standard procedure for blacks at that time. Robinson refused, leading to court marshal proceedings. In the military trial that followed, he was acquitted by an all-white jury. Shortly thereafter, he was granted an honorable discharge.
Rickey met with Robinson, and told him that his on-field skills were not an issue. He was ready for the Major Leagues. But he was going to be a trail-blazer, which would call for other skills. Rickey wanted him to ignore the abuse that would inevitably come with being the first black player in almost eighty years. Robinson reportedly said, "Do you really want a player afraid to fight back?" Rickey said he needed a player "with the guts not to fight back". They agreed that Robinson would ignore the baiting for his first year in the Majors; after that, Rickey said he could deal with matters as he saw fit.
Following a spectacular season at Brooklyn's top minor-league club, in Montreal, PQ, Canada, Jackie Robinson played his first major-league game on April 15th, 1947. He faced abuse that would have crushed a lesser man, not only from fans and opposing teams, but, in a few cases, from his own teammates. He rose above the emotional turmoil to become the first-ever Rookie Of The Year, and go on to a career of exemplary play. He was named to his sport's Hall Of Fame after his retirement, and his patience against sometimes horrific abuse helped lead to the re-integration of baseball.
Getting back to the resemblance matter, I don't quite see it. But Redford knows from baseball. He scored a major triumph with The Natural [much of which was filmed in and around Buffalo] and, as noted above, has picked a story that still resonates in American life. He may just be the man to help tell it. Let's hope.
Posted by Mike Riley at 12:14 AM
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I guess I should start off by saying that this post has nothing to do with Chinese restaurants, except that many of them feature an item or two called a "house special". Usually, that's short for "whatever we have a lot of at the moment, mixed with items that we hope will be tasty with it". Yeah, it's a clever way to post another series of short items. But at least [I hope] it's clever. And so:
-the Internet is still NOT hooked up at home! First of all, the company in question [no names, but let's hope they can't hear me now] had an issue with the way The Woman I Love and I handled our long distance. After running up a large bill, and paying it off, we chose to just not reconnect the service, choosing to use a phone card for the rare times we called long distance. Well, they left the "block" on our phone line, making it impossible to connect DSL [why the two items are connected, I can't say]. Then, after resolving that, the company forgot to put the order in. Then, when they DID put it in, they didn't send everything we needed to connect it. And then...well, you get the idea [there are three or four complications I skipped, to give you an idea how involved this is]. Hopefully by this weekend. But somehow I doubt it.
-My taxes didn't go out until April 15th [today, as I write this]. But there's a good reason for that. For the first time in my life, I've actually got to pay Federal taxes. I can't believe it! Like many Americans, TWIL and I are struggling to get by, and now I'm actually paying Federal tax. What's the deal with that? All right, I'm done whining now. Thank you for your patience.
-The "Link Love" widget to your right is finally working. The problems came down to my total ineptitude in copying HTML code. But all problems are now solved, and any EntreCarders who drop here now get a link, as well as EC points. Want one for your very own? Click on the place where it says to, and, if your coding skills are better than mine, yours should be working shortly.
-Spring seems finally to be on the way [although it's snowing in the Rockies, and 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside as I write this], so that's something to be cheerful about. Hope things are cheerful where you are. Now, in lieu of a fortune cookie, check the "You Want Answers?" Magic 8 Ball further down on the right side. No, it's not a cookie. But it lasts longer...
Posted by Mike Riley at 3:06 AM
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Posted by Mike Riley at 12:13 AM
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Posted by Mike Riley at 1:50 AM