October 14, 2009

“And when the band you’re in starts playing different tunes, I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.” — Pink Floyd, “Brain Damage”, The Dark Side Of The Moon

Yesterday my wife and I had no choice but to institutionalize my sister-in-law. For how long, who knows? Things had been getting increasingly weird for the past week or so, but we were hoping it was just delayed reaction to the traumatic situation she had been rescued from in Florida two weeks ago. But yesterday things took a different direction, entirely.

I suppose the first sign of things going awry was when I was about to throw something away in the kitchen wastebasket and seeing one of her stuffed animals (a large white tiger with black stripes) staring up at me.

A short time later I was getting my coffee, and there was Tam, smiling at me with this weird look on her face and in her eyes, saying, “you know we’re all going to be together”.

“Who?”, I asked.

“All of us.”, she replied. “Together.”

Foolish me, I thought she was talking about her children back in Florida. So I cautioned her, stressing that our house wasn’t a boarding house, and that while she was welcome, the invite didn’t really extend beyond that. Not with three human and seven rabbits also sharing the same 1,734 sq. foot accommodations.

“You don’t understand”, she giggled. “We’re all going to be together. Forever.”

Now that sounded kind of ominous to me, and I had planned to mention this to Tracey after she awoke, but work intruded. An hour later, there’s a knock on my office door, and I see Tracey standing there ashen-faced, asking me to go out back and keep an eye on her sister because she had one of her rabbits with her and was talking a blue streak to God, telling him over and over how she was going to stand tall and wear white. Like, over and over. As in, over and over and over and over. So I go.

Sure enough, there’s Tam standing in the middle of the yard, telling God over and over how she was going to stand tall and wear white. Attempting to reason with her was pointless, and since it was quite warm her rabbit was both scared and hyperventilating in the heat. So I did what any rational-thinking guy would do: I fetched the World Wildlife Fund umbrella out of the closet and attempted to hold it over her and the rabbit to give the poor beast some shade, then proceeded to follow them around as she kept moving, attempting to evade my shady intentions.

“Floppy [the rabbit] needs to see the sun. Don’t you understand? I will stand tall, and I will wear white.”

Soon the sprinkers came on, and there we stood getting wet, me trying to hold the umbrella over her and Floppy, she repeating over and over how she was going to stand tall and wear white, and how Floppy needed the sun to live. Looking at the umbrella in my hand and my pants getting wet, I couldn’t help wondering who the real idiot was here.

Tracey came to the door. “Call 911 and get all her medical records together”, I told her. She didn’t need to be told twice.

Ten minutes later, this absurd Mexican standoff continued. We were both soaked, and the ground by now was pretty slippery, so I made my move. In one deft swoop I twisted Tam around and as she started sliding (in the back of my mind, I’m thinking “my new grass! my new grass!”) I got hold of her rabbit and headed in, Tam behind me unleashing a torrent of threats, both of us tracking mud and grass seed on my kitchen floor and carpet.

The first cops arrived less than five minutes later. Followed two minutes later by six firemen and EMTs. Followed five minutes after that by a female reporter and a cameraman from the local ABC station.

I had to move my car out of the garage to allow the ambulance people who were coming to do their work, so I ask camera guy and the reporter to move.

“Slow day for news?” I say. “I’m not gonna see this on some reality channel show next month, am I?”

“Naw”, camera guy says, “we’re just doing a series on community policing, and you happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

“Funny”, I says, “that’s not exactly how I see it.”

When I return to the house, I’m thinking of a scene out of that Marx Brothers movie with all the people crowding into a single hotel room. In this little 10 X 12 bedroom there’s Tam sitting on her bed, repeating over and over the full names of her children and telling them now is a good time for them to come and get her. Her two rabbits are hiding under the bed. Four EMTs are attempting to check her out physically and gently convince her she should come with them. Out in the tiny hallway are me and Tracey providing one of the EMTs with the necessary info, two cops, two paramedics, and one gurney. One of the EMTs tries to reason with Tam, asking her how her children could come and rescue her when they’re 2,000 miles away. When she replies that at 2:36 AM on Monday she saw the universe open and that they all would die the mood shifted, and all attempts at negotiation ended then and there.

The entire team sprang into action, and it was over pretty quickly. Two of the EMTs simply picked up the bedclothes Tam was sitting on and used them to pick her up and carry her onto the gurney, then strapped her in. Pretty ingenious, I thought, but I figure they have plenty of experience with this kind of thing, right?

And that’s how it ended. The last I saw Tam, she was being slid into the back of the ambulance, screaming for her children and Floppy to come and get her; once Tracey hopped in behind her the party broke up, first the ambulance, then the cops, then the fire engine. I figure camera guy and the reporter must have left long before.

I was pretty freaked out, and a quickly downed glass of chianti helped steady the nerves a bit. I mean, you think of madness as something like a Pink Floyd / Syd Barrett kind of thing and it all seems somehow strangely quaint, but until you see it up close and personal, in someone you care for, you can’t realize just how truly frightening and heart-wrenching it is.

Later yesterday, we would be asked to complete a whole bunch of paperwork so Tam could be transferred from the hospital to a psychiatric care place where she could be thoroughly examined. The universe she was convinced had been open to her at 2:36 AM on Monday had suddenly been reduced to a very small emergency department room in a local hospital protected by police guards.

An hour or so after things had quieted down, I was walking to the mailboxes to get the mail. Our next-door neighbor caught up with me.

“I saw the fire engine and ambulance at your house, I hope everything’s OK”, she said.

“My sister-in-law has psychological issues and things just got a little wigged out.”, I replied.

“Bummer”, she said cheerfully, and continued walking.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:31 | Comments (6)
October 12, 2009

closed After being unceremoniously dumped over the side of the good ship “American League Division Series” like some bloated, dead carp, the Boston Red Sox have some serious thinking to do over the long, cold dead-of-winter offseason.

I’m hoping that GM Theo Epstein stares long and hard into that cold glass of Sam Adams Winter Lager and realizes that the Boston Globe’s “Tony Mazz” is right – he’s got a team on the downswing, and if he’s not careful, the boys won’t come within a sniff of October post-season baseball in 2010. So he can’t just stand pat. And knowing Theo, he won’t.

Not that he’d listen to The Great White Shank for advice – after all, no one ever does – but if he did, here is what I would like to see:

1. Tell Captain Jason Varitek “thanks, but no thanks”, and plan on catching Victor Martinez three out of every five games (DH’ing or playing 1B the other two), with George Katteras or some other decent back-up catcher doing the other two. After all, you can’t very well have a team captain who rides the pine 80% of the time, and while we Sox fans can’t say enough for V-Tek’s contributions over the years, there does come a time…

2. Tell Daisuke Matsuzaka he better show up at spring training as a lean, mean pitching machine ready to kick some imperialist Yankee pig-dog a$$ from the git-go. Dice-K cost the Sox a lot of headaches and heartache this year, but I’m willing to give him a mulligan for 2009 if he’s willing to live up to both his promise and that huge contract of his in 2010. If he does, I really like that Lester-Beckett-Matsuzaka-Buchholz-Wakefield rotation. That’s something you can take into an October post-season.

3. Sign OF Jason Bay to a long-term contract.

4. Start sniffing around for a young, up-and-coming DH replacement for David Ortiz. I mean, no one loves “Big Papi” more than The Great White Shank, but you have to be ready to pull the plug if he gets off to another horrendous start next year. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

5. Think about dangling closer Jonathan Papelbon for some young, can’t miss prospect (see #4, above). After all, the Sox have potential replacement candidates in both Billy Wagner and Daniel Bard, and while I’m not crazy about dealing Papelbon, the Sox have to face the fact that they have no raw power in their farm system, and I’m just afraid if Papi gets even older next year we’ll have yet another year watching the Sox pound crappy pitching into smithereens while spitting the bit against anyone with decent talent.

6. Re-sign Alex Gonzalex as shortstop. Me, I’m not convinced of Jed Lowrie as a full-time, big-league shortstop. Besides, Lowrie has to prove he can stay healthy over an entire season, and 3B Mike Lowell is going to need a breather from time to time anyways (so will 2B Dustin Pedroia and Gonzalez). So the safe route would be to use Lowrie in a regular utility role and see how he holds up.

7. Groom Josh Reddick as J.D. Drew’s heir replacement in right field. I know the argument, you don’t bring a top-notch prospect up to sit and watch. But anyone who has followed Drew’s career knows that whoever serves as his back-up is gonna get plenty of playing time. After all, J.D. tweaks a hammy if he so much as reaches for the red-leaf lettuce the wrong way in the local supermarket’s produce section. Reddick looks to me to be a keeper, and he’ll get plenty of opportunites to show Terry Francona that he belongs in the bigs.

So there you have it – the recipe for Red Sox success in 2010. It was painfully predictable to watch the team flail away against rookies and good pitching this year, but their problems aren’t insurmountable if Theo Epstein is willing to get a little creative.

Only four months to Truck Day. Spring training can’t come soon enough.

…on second thought, well, yes it can – after all, this Sox fan needs a breather, and there’s still the Yankees to root against. Go Angels!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:28 | Comments Off on Thanks, Fellas
October 10, 2009

There’s really not much I can add to the news of President Barack Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. beyond the unusual consenus across the vast political spectrum: only his most die-hard disciples have no qualms about his receiving an award for doing nothing except being able to read off a TelePrompTer well. But there are a few things I’ll just add:

1. Who cares about the Nobel Peace Prize, anyways? It doesn’t do anything or mean anything, except to those who offer it up and those who receive it.

2. By giving it to someone for his words alone rather than one who has actually achieved something in advancing the cause of global peace (whatever that is), the Nobel committee has in their infinite wisdon diminished the very significance (whatever that might be) of their own award. Who gets it next? George Clooney?

3. Wonder what Jimmy Carter really thinks? Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat must be rolling in theiur graves. That, my friends, was a Nobel effort.

4. Were I President Obama, I would decline the award and show up to present it instead to one of the more worthy nominees. Now that would be classy. Unfortunately, this president has no class nor any sense of place and history. Besides, his massive ego wouldn’t allow it. The Ego needs to be fed once again on the worldwide stage. I wonder how many “I”s and “me”s will be contained in his speech?

5. Politically, I think this does The One further damage, for, like the ill-advised last-minute trip to Copenhagen to push for the Olympic Games, it simply reinforces the suspicions of many conservatives, Independents, and “Reagan Democrats” out there that Obama is nothing more than an image, an empty suit operating in an ever-widening gap between true substance and the ability to govern and lead, and a silly campaign mantra of “hope and change”.

Last words go to Doctor Zero over at Hot Air, for he nails the decision perfectly:

Obama was given the Nobel Prize, not because of anything he has done as President, but because of what the committee thinks he will do. His achievements are as non-existent now as they were on the day he was nominated. His agenda, however, is clear. He spelled it out in that insipid speech he gave to the United Nations a few weeks ago. Speaking as the leader of the indentured world, he made it clear that he plans to dim the lights on an America in decline, and humbly step aside as the post-American century begins. That’s why he won the Peace Prize. The Nobel committee has long seen the United States as the greatest threat to world peace, and the man who plans to bankrupt and disarm it has earned their admiration.

There are only two responses to tyranny: submission and resistance. Submission is easy. It can be negotiated. It is filled with nuance, and requires a large staff of diplomats and state functionaries to administer in style. Organizations like the United Nations make the first concessions to dictatorship by their very nature, as they allow thug states like Iran and Libya to take seats next to peaceful democracies. Obama’s dismal eulogy for America at the U.N. was followed by lunatic rants from the blood-splattered clowns who will be the new masters of the global future. Entertaining such creatures is easy, if you can just ignore the piles of faceless victims buried behind them. You may rest assured that the name Neda Agha-Soltan was not spoken during Obama’s Peace Prize deliberations, and it will not be spoken when the prize is placed into his hands.

Resistance is hard. It requires the courage to call evil by its name, and sacrifice universal adoration in the process. The Left likes to rail against intolerance. The defense of peace and freedom requires the absolute intolerance of evil. It requires leaders who don’t need a few days to decide whether to cancel the Fourth of July picnic invitations of a dictatorship that guns down peacefully protesting citizens. It relies upon a nation with the strength and resolve to project both humanitarian assistance and military power around the world.

Barack Obama’s America, mortgaged to the hilt and several trillion dollars beyond broke, with a stagnant economy trapped in government amber, will no longer be such a nation. The Nobel committee is pleased to reward him for that, because a muscular United States rocks a lot of boats. The “international community” has never forgiven George W. Bush for backing it into a corner over Iraq, and forcing the United Nations to enforce its own resolutions. “Resolution” is harmless and exciting when it’s a word spoken by important diplomats, and scribbled into strongly-worded letters. It’s scary when backed up by forceful leaders who take it seriously.

Read his whole post.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 11:00 | Comments (5)
October 9, 2009

tropical Ah, the weekend is almost here. Me, I plan on sleeping through it if at all possible. After the past month, I’m beyond fried.

But since it is, after all, the weekend, here’s a list of a dozen songs I would insist on having with me were I ever marooned on a post-atomic test atoll in the South Pacific.

…a prospect, BTW, that doesn’t sound all too bad to me right here, right now…

Here they are, in no particular order:

Theme From “The Endless Summer” – The Sandals

California Girls – The Beach Boys

Guantanamera – The Sandpipers

Banks Of The Ohio – Olivia Newton-John

Baby, I Love You – The Ronettes

Flamingo – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

‘Til I Die – The Beach Boys

It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere – Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett

Slow Dance With A Fast Girl – Aqua Velvets

He’ll Have To Go – Elvis Presley

Hey Jude – The Beatles

Zydeco Gris-Gris – Beausoleil

Enjoy the music, and have a great weekend everyone! Catch you on the flip-flop.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 09:29 | Comments (2)
October 8, 2009

Just completed reading both of Peter Guralnick’s excellent biographies of Elvis Presley: “Last Train To Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley”, and “Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley”. I found the first volume (covering his early years through his departure Germany in 1960) more interesting, if only because Elvis’ early years are not as well-known nor as well-chronicled as his later years.

I come away from reading about his life with both a sense of awe and sadness more than anything. I mean, no one was as talented as Presley – he singlehandedly (and effortlessly) crossed the bounds of almost every kind of pure American “root” music imaginable – R & B, blues, soul, rockabilly, country, pop, and what came to be known as AOR (adult-oriented radio), and never sounded like a fish out of water. He obviously had a keen sense of what he could and couldn’t do musically, and it showed throughout his career, even in the worst of times.

Outside of music, of course, things were a great deal murkier. If there was a common theme throughout Guralnick’s books it was the fact that Elvis lived a life without boundaries and without control. Many have written about the so-called “Memphis mafia” that he surrounded himself with, calling them a bunch of leeches who should never have been allowed to cater to every whim Presley conjured up, but the fact is that was how Elvis wanted it. He wanted, yea, needed, control over the people around him, and it was through his gang that he was able to live the kind of life he lived and do whatever he wanted to do.

I’m sure the amount of success and adulation he received at such an early age had much to do with this, as well as his ultimate downfall. After all, I wonder how many of us would be immune to the very pressures and temptations that wild, early success brought him. He might have been “The King of Rock and Roll”, but in the end, Elvis was just as incredibly flawed as he was talented. He lived a hard, fast life, but he also brought joy to millions upon millions of people. His life was a flame that burned larger and hotter than life itself, and maybe it was better he left us at such an early age. After all, can anyone imagine the same kind of legacy were Elvis a dottering 70-year old burnout? It was only through his untimely death that he was able to become even larger than he was in life, if that even seems possible.

One other comment about Guralnick’s books and Elvis: the story of Elvis Presley cannot be fully understood without also recognizing the heavy role played throughout his life by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Whether it was watching Elvis’ movies, his concerts, or listening to his music, there was always an underlying cheap and corny aspect. His records were, by and large, horribly produced. His movies, while somewhat enjoyable to watch, were increasingly a waste of talent, and his concerts were often more spectacle than anything else. For all that Colonel Parker has to share the blame as much as anyone, for, outside of making his client as much money as he possibly could, he rarely though of Elvis as anything more than an object to be hawked and exploited to the very last penny.

At any rate, I highly recommend both of Guralnick’s books. Both were page-turners right from the get-go, and well worth the buy.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:24 | Comments Off on Contemplating Elvis
October 6, 2009

This is what October baseball is all about. What a great freakin’ game! I think Jim Leyland managed a poor game for the Tigers, but they had their chances.

…Too bad the Twins (and everyone else) are about to be steamrolled by the Yankees. I just don’t see the Evil Empire losing this year.

That was a great Georgia/LSU football battle this past weekend. I typically don’t listen to football on the radio (or watch it on TV, for that matter!) But the crowd and the announcers were so into it that it became infectious. Rob must have been going crazy.

…And I agree with Rob on those “excessive celebration” penalties. I mean, as long as you’re not taunting another player in an unsportsmanlike fashion or delaying the proceedings, let the players enjoy their accomplishments. They’re not playing in a monastery, after all…

I hate McAfee Anti-Virus. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten more frequent Site Advisor pop-up boxes that freeze my sessions – evidently, it has determined in its own infinite wisdom that there might be a potential for (gasp!) harmful spyware on such pedestrian sites as Instapundit and Hot Air. And its background checking of scripts makes accessing complex sites like ESPN an absolute snoozer of an experience.

…Unfortunately, Site Advisor is tightly coupled with the rest of McAfee so its an all or nothing kind of deal, so I’m ditching it for an alternative. My company uses Malwarebytes and that seems to work well, but I’ll be checking out some good freeware or shareware as well. Suggestions, anyone?

And speaking of website technology, I’m sick of seeing those ads featuring sexy full-figured cartoon women dancing or strutting under the banner, “Obama Asks Moms To Return To School”. What kind of school, exactly, would the Prez like these “moms” to return to, stripper college?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:59 | Comments (3)
October 5, 2009

No offense to Norway, Australia, and Iceland (the top three countries on this list) – I’m sure they’re wonderful places to live – but for my money there’s nowhere else I’d rather live.

But lists like this are kinda stupid and make no sense, anyways. It’s all relative. I mean, everywhere is like everywhere, there are good and bad places in each, and it all depends who you are and the social and economic strata you are born in. In the grand scheme of things, the most important thing is your bloodline. If I were born in Borneo I’d be a different person with a different heritage and a different world view.

I’m sure Donald Trump has a different view of the U.S.A. than one of those homeless people I saw living under the I-75 overpass in downtown St. Petersburg. Does that mean anything? If I’m a Christian living in the Sudan or a Muslim living in Armenia or even Norway, what does it all mean? Or does it mean anything?

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter where you live – whether you’re in the so-called “top-rated” country or in #87 or whatever – but how you live where God has put you is what counts. Me, I came into the world and the world shrugged. The same will occur when I go out. You just try to make the best of it and try not to make the world a less-desirable place while you’re here.

And that’s good enough for me.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 18:14 | Comments Off on For Better Or For Worse
October 1, 2009

What a crazy past couple of weeks it has been. Since I last posted, summer here in the Valley of the Sun has come and gone, the heat pump turned off and this part of Arizona turned into why people live here year round. The pool has gone from an eminently swimmable 86 degrees to a barely tolerable 70. And this 1,750 square foot house now houses three carbon-based units and a whopping seven – count ’em, seven! – rabbits.

So what happened? Well, we finally put an end to the madness that was going on back in Florida (you know, that so-called “sun-shiney state for shady people”) with my wife’s twin sister. It took almost $4K in money, the last-minute cancellation of a long-awaited (and much-needed!) vacation, four missed Greyhound bus trips on her part, one robbery involving her and a private investigator/drifter who had befriended her, two 911 calls to the Citrus County sheriff’s office, a forced extraction of her from the seediest motel you could ever imagine, and a 40-hour drive from St. Petersburg to Phoenix with two male rabbits in heat, in tow.

All I’ll say at this point is: a) my sister-in-law is finally in a safe situation, b) mental illness in its various forms is both a frightening and frustrating thing to have to deal with, and c) the difference and distance between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” is not quite as vast as one might think. Especially when someone you care for isn’t raving and drooling lunatic, just completely incapable of making good decisions and seeing reality for what it is. Never has the phrase “denial is not just a river in Egypt” been more applicable than what we’ve had to deal with over the past two weeks.

One of these days I’ll post an entry about how it all went down. It’s actually pretty funny (in a sort of pathetic way) – especially when you’re not the one who has to deal directly with this kind of thing.

But it is good to be back. Tell your freinds The Great White Shank is back in the house. A little poorer (well, not just a little) perhaps, but maybe a little wiser and hopefully a little more appreciative of those basic things we all can’t help but too often take for granted.

More to follow.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:29 | Comment (1)

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