The King

On Sunday afternoon, Felix Hernandez​ had perhaps his finest outing as a major leaguer. Remember, this is a guy who once threw a perfect game. He gave up four hits, one walk … and struck out 15. His stuff was so good that he had a shot at striking out 20, maybe even 21, but he was pulled after seven innings because he was at 100 pitches.

Well, this is the new normal in baseball. Managers are less likely to risk injury, even when history is on the line, once the pitch count ticks to 100.

They call him King Felix. This got me thinking about the famous kings in sports. It seems like we throw around the title too liberally.

The most famous King i​s ​LeBron James. Some people speculate that he gave himself the King nickname. I don’t doubt it. I mean, the guy’s twitter handle is @KingJames. He has THE CHOSEN ONE tattooed on his back. But, if any athlete is deserving of the name, it’s LeBron. He is the best player in the game of basketball, the best since Jordan, and he has transcended the sports world as a national icon.

There was Charlie Keller, who played for the Yankees in the 1940’s and smashed 30+ homers in 1941, 1943, and 1946. His career OPS+ was 152, higher than Honus Wagner and Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson, but most people just remember the nickname. They called him King Kong because he was an insanely strong man who hit massive fly balls. Keller never liked the nickname and rarely answered to it.

Fifty years later, the Yankees had another king – Jim Leyritz. Leyritz was a big guy, but he wasn’t nicknamed The King for his stature. Apparently, his Yankee teammates gave him the nickname because of his large ego. He also had a knack for big hits. There was the game-winning home run in Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS, one that put the Yankees up 2-0 in a series they would eventually lose. Most people remember him for the game-tying home run in Game 4 of the 1996 World Series, one that changed the momentum of the series. This time, the Yankees came back to win from a 2-0 series deficit.

There was George Steinbrenner, who many called King George. Well, not to his face. Steinbrenner fired anyone that made a fool of him. Except for that one scene in Seinfeld.

George Steinbrenner: “Nice to meet you.”

George Costanza: “Well, I wish I could say the same, but I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past 20 years you have caused myself, and the city of New York, a good deal of distress, as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduced them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego.”

Steinbrenner: “Hire this man!”

They called Richard Petty the King. He won the NASCAR Championship seven times and won a record 200 races in his career.

Pelé was known as The King, O Rei Pelé.​

​Henrik Lundqvist has had a fine career as the Rangers’ goalie. ​His dominating play during his rookie season resulted in the New York media and Rangers fans giving him the nickname King Henrik. And as I write this, the Rangers are looking for their first Stanley Cup win in 20 years. In order to do it, they’ll have to beat … the LA Kings.

Those are just examples in sports. Pop culture is even worse. There’s Elvis Presley, the King of Rock n Roll. They called Benny Goodman the King of Swing. Michael Jackson ​was ​the King of Pop. Everyone called Johnny Carson the King of Late Night. Heck, even the Burger King mascot is simply known as The King.

My favorite king might be King Curtis of Wife Swap, the greatest character in the history of reality television. I think this is the only episode of Wife Swap I ever watched, and boy did I luck out. Among other things, King Curtis gave us the classic lines: Bacon is good for me! and Chicken nuggets is like my family.

And then there are … actual kings! King George III, well, yes, he was a famous one. There was Louis XIV, the Sun King,* who reigned as King of France for 72 years. There was King Tut. King Arthur. King Solomon. King Henry VIII.

*Not to be confused with the Beatles song.

And then, there are the many other ​figures with the last name of King.​ Martin Luther King. Billie Jean King. Stephen King.​ The Kansas City Royals once had an infielder named Jeff King. There’s Larry Kin​g ​and ​​Don King and BB King​ and John King and Carole King and … jesus, did you ever realize how many Kings there were?

Kings are neat.

On knowing things

I think there has been a major shift in how we remember. Until recently, humans relied on each other to distribute and share memory. But now, you don’t HAVE to know things, because the internet serves as a kind of external hard drive for memories. There is no reason for anyone to remember anything, because all of our collective knowledge is available within seconds – assuming, of course, that your wireless isn’t down.

No, in 2014, we don’t need to remember things. Instead, we need to remember where and how to access them.

But sometimes, I get annoyed when people act like not knowing something is normal. As if knowing something makes you strange. Joe Posnanski wrote about this a few weeks ago, and this particular paragraph stuck with me:

I have a lifelong aversion to people who don’t know things acting like not knowing is the default position. In high school, I once had someone make me feel really dumb because I had read Moby Dick (it was a fluke, I admit; I had not read any other classics as a kid) … and it affected me. It really did. It made me think it was uncool to know things. It made me embarrassed to raise my hand and say something because not knowing was cooler. That sort of downward pressure drives me nuts.

One time in second grade, my teacher asked which President was on the dime and I answered, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” And, OK, maybe it was unnecessary to say Franklin’s middle name, but I did anyway, and everyone in the class gasped and looked at me like I had two heads, including my teacher. Well, yes, maybe it was strange to know his middle name. I was seven. But I have to say, it was very embarrassing. For the rest of the year I was the kid who knew Franklin Roosevelt’s middle name.

Over the years, little moments like this have popped up, where I’ll mention something offhandedly and the person I’m talking to will be like, “How do you even know that?” Sometimes they even TAKE PRIDE in not knowing something, as if only the biggest nerd-geek of all time could know that. And they’ll make me feel weird for knowing something. Well, that really grinds my gears. Because then I feel like I can’t contribute meaningfully to a conversation. I have to censor myself.  It’s not fun.

​This isn’t a humblebrag, by the way. It can be a burden. I know a lot of inane things, and I sometimes wonder if the space in my brain reserved to the Presidents (#23 – Benjamin Harrison!) or state capitals (Carson City!) or World Series winners (1973 – Oakland A’s!) would be better served in, I don’t know, philosophy or programming or thoughts on saving the world.

There is a difference between knowing things and being a know-it-all. It is not a good idea to shove things down people’s throat for the sake of it. It is not a good idea to belittle someone if they don’t know something. But, I think, it IS wrong to act like knowing something makes you weird, or means you “have no life,” or means you’re a nerd, not that there is anything wrong with being a nerd.

Here is something I wish someone had told me. It is OK to know things. It is OK to be thoughtful. It is OK to be unironically enthusiastic about a thing, or many things, and to know these things deeply and without embarrassment. It is OK to be curious and to read and to be absolutely astonished at being alive and aware in this crazy, sprawling world. I think these are things that make us human.

23

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I am 23 years old today. It feels good to be the age of a LOST number again. I’ve gone through all of them except 42, which I should get to in 2033.

Anyway, I would like to share some thoughts on growing up.

When I was 12 years old, I really wanted to write a book*. I just needed a topic and some inspiration. At the time, I was going through a crisis where I felt like my childhood was ending. I was about to turn 13 and I was maybe a month away from my Bar Mitzvah. And – I remember this so clearly – I was out to eat with my family one night at Legal Sea Food, and there was a framed article outside the restaurant titled Beyond Chicken Fingers. And I thought to myself, well, that’s just about the greatest metaphor of all time. You see, I was becoming a man, and men didn’t eat chicken fingers. I was, quite literally, moving beyond chicken fingers. I had a topic.

*This is a desire that has never really gone away.

That night I sat down on my computer and started to write my book, Beyond Chicken Fingers. I wrote about my childhood and growing up and things I was looking forward to and things I would miss and I typed out all of three pages on Microsoft Word before I gave up.

Here is an excerpt from it, and please try to contain your laughter.

I recently went to a restaurant and discovered that I was too old to order off the “Children’s Menu.” I was beyond these childhood meals, such as chicken fingers and grilled cheese, and yet I somehow missed them. I realized that as I look back on my childhood, I remember the good and bad times both with tears of joy and remembrance. Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out what I should order. I went with a meal from the “Appetizers” list, and discovered that the size of the meal was not proportionately different. I did not adapt to the new meals because I did not have to – the food tasted almost the same, and the sizes were equal to that of the children’s menu. However, I still felt a sense of maturity; a sense of growing up and adapting to the world around me. I discovered that the small aspects of life, such as an Appetizer, could change a person for the rest of their life. As I sat there, I knew something was different; I knew I had changed. My sister, father, and mother continued to talk about the normal daily issues, yet I sat there pondering about the possibilities of manhood; the possibilities and the new experiences I would soon go through; and I how I would look at them differently, more as a teenager, and as a man.

Jesus, that was unnecessarily deep. A few thoughts on this:

– Semi-colons. Big fan at the time.

– Why did I write that I would miss grilled cheese? I’ve had maybe one or two in my life. I hate cheese.

– Once again, for emphasis, I was twelve.

Anyway, with all due respect to my 2004-self, the premise of Beyond Chicken Fingers is all wrong. I’m paraphrasing something I once read, but we pretend like we live in a world with harsh edges, but there are no harsh edges, there are no borders. Those hard lines are all imaginary. They’re created for convenience. You don’t know when you become an adult and you don’t know when you change because it doesn’t happen in a moment or a day or a month.

I always thought that I would feel like a different person when I reached certain milestones, as if they were gold coins waiting to be unlocked. But, no, I didn’t feel different the day after I got my driver’s license, or got into college, or got my first internship. I was happy, sure, but I didn’t fundamentally change as a person.

Milestones are arbitrary. It’s like how we celebrate 500 home runs or 3,000 hits in baseball. It’s a big accomplishment, sure, but the actual number isn’t significant. They just happen to be pretty, base-ten numbers.

I hope, as I get older, to never take myself too seriously. I hope this comes across on the blog. Because silliness isn’t excluded by adulthood. What’s excluded by adulthood is thoughtlessness. I try to be thoughtful and silly.

For what it’s worth, I still eat chicken fingers.

The gas sign

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On Saturday a few of us drove up to Lowell, Massachusetts to watch BC hockey take on UMass-Lowell. Lowell is an odd little town, filled with old buildings and small shops and people who have clearly lived there for their entire lives. The New England accent is strong in this town.

We were trying to find a place to eat, but every place was packed. Who said Lowell wasn’t a hoppin’ town? We finally found a semi-empty restaurant, and out in front stood this big, menacing guy who asked to see our ID’s. We obliged. He took one look at them and then accused us of being underage. We stood there awkwardly for a few moments. Then he laughed. Naw I actually don’t work here. And then he walked away.

In retrospect, yes, maybe we should have been suspicious. It was 6pm. We weren’t planning on ordering drinks. The place wasn’t even a bar. But rational thought doesn’t always enter the mind when you’re talking to a guy who could pummel you in three seconds. We ended up eating at Subway.

But, no, it wasn’t the random guy or the hockey game or even my awful Subway sandwich that struck me most about Lowell. Instead it was a gas sign that stood right across the street from the arena. It read Haffner’s Gasoline. It kicks.

OK, let’s break this down. First of all – Haffner’s Gasoline is a great name. In a world of Mobil’s and Sunoco’s and Shell’s, it is refreshing to see something so unique and bizarre as a gas station named ‘Haffner’s’.  It rolls off the tongue. Haffner’s Gas.

Second, let’s talk about those neon lights. Sure, most gas stations have lights to attract weary travelers when it is dark. But these were no ordinary lights. They flashed and jolted and lit up a huge arrow so that everyone knew exactly where the gas station was. It was like we were in Las Vegas. Except there were no casinos. Just a gas station.

And third, and most importantly, there’s the slogan. It kicks. Usually, slogans have something to do with the product or service you are selling. 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance. Eat fresh. Save money, live better. I don’t see any purpose to the slogan ‘It kicks’ unless you are selling sneakers or soccer balls or hot sauce. What does ‘It kicks’ have anything to do with a gas station? I’m trying to connect the dots here but I just don’t see it.

There’s also that light-up dog. You can’t see it in the picture above (which I was compelled to take on Instagram while we were stopped at a red light), but the lights were moving back and forth from the lower legs to the upper legs. Clearly they were signaling a ‘kicking’ motion. Again, this still doesn’t make any sense to me. What was the conversation like among the people who designed this? The slogan isn’t enough, we need a light-up dog to drive the point home!

I hope the place lasts for many years to come.

Two years of the blog

I did something today that I have never done before – I linked to the blog on Facebook.

For the last two years, I haven’t advertised the blog much. I’ve linked to it on Twitter here and there, but for the most part I just write and hope a few people read it. If not, I’m totally cool with it – in fact, I like the low profile. I don’t know what I would do if this blog went, like, mainstream.

There was one day back in April where the blog had a record number of visitors. It was the day after the Boston Marathon, and a bunch of people linked to my post. I was honored that people liked it, heck I was just happy to be alive, but it was strange to see outsiders visit the site. I liked the attention, and I thought about advertising the site more often. I decided not to. I thought it would be cooler if people discovered it on their own (no one did). Which was fine – I was content to just keep writing.

Anyway, today is the two year anniversary of the blog. Despite the low readership, this has been a great outlet for me (by the way, the blog is still nameless if you haven’t noticed. Suggestions are welcome). I enjoy creating things, and I like that I have a place to write freely – in two years, I’ve written 156 posts and over 100,000 words here.

If you are one of the three regular readers over the last two years – thanks! You’re great. If this is your first time here, I would love it if you would stay awhile. If you’re reading this, chances are that we share a lot of the same interests. Here are a few posts to get you started (some of my favorites over the last 731 days):

My time as a sports broadcaster

The Red Bandanna Race – and why I run

An interview with my grandmother

Heartbreak

How to make a year

My 50 favorite songs

The 100 best moves I’ve ever seen

Hi there Mr. Spider

A collection of train stories

And, of course, my road trip vlogs

Spare change paper

Every morning I walk by the same homeless man who sells a newspaper written by the homeless. I can hear him from a block away – spare change paper, get your spare change paper to help the homeless. He sounds like a vendor at a baseball game. This guy also has an uncanny resemblance to Bubba Gump, with a pronounced underbite and deep Southern accent. I’m not sure what he’s doing in Boston. I half-expect him to start talking about shrimp.

Few acknowledge this man. I’ve never seen anyone buy the paper.

I’ve walked past him about 100 times now, maybe more, so I thought in the spirit of the photoholiday season I would purchase a copy. As I’ve since learned, the man I walk by isn’t homeless – maybe he once was, but now he’s a member of the Homeless Empowerment Project. Their goal is “to present, by our own example, that homeless and economically disadvantaged people, with the proper resources, empowerment, opportunity, and encouragement are capable of creating change for ourselves in society.” There are about 100 vendors across the state of Massachusetts who work with the organization to sell the paper. Each vendor pays 35 cents for each copy, then sells it for $1.

The organization undoubtedly does great work. They not only raise money to feed and house the homeless, but they give them an outlet to express and create, to be a part of a community. But, well, if you think this is a blog post about how wonderful the paper is, then you’re wrong. The paper is terrible. Some of the articles are outrageously biased and mean-spirited. One article compared JFK and Barack Obama to criminals, calling them propaganda artists who undermine democracy.

Here was a correction on Page 2: “In our last issue, James Shearer’s column on the n-word disapprovingly quoted several people using the word. Shearer had intended for those quotes to be printed with the n-word in hyphens or asterisks. However, due to a serious copyediting error, the word was printed in full.”

Yikes.

There was, however, one column that stood out positively. It was called another year to be thankful, and it was written by a homeless man who had nearly died two years earlier. He was addicted to painkillers and had severe health problems – on Thanksgiving night, he was rushed to a hospital after one of his lungs collapsed. He has since recovered and is now a member of the board of directors at the Homeless Empowerment Project.

So, yeah, the paper wasn’t great, as I pretty much expected. But I like the guy who stands at the same corner every morning. It’s comforting to know that he’ll be there tomorrow.

Autographs

It’s always weird when you approach a famous person and request their signature on a piece of paper. Sure, they’re used to it, they’ve done it a million times, but for us those few seconds are terrifying. I have, somehow, procured some interesting autographs over the years – athletes and musicians and the President, but we’ll get to that later. I have also doodled my own autograph in countless notebooks over the years.*

*When I was in high school, I was a compulsive doodler. I would spend hours signing my name (you know, in case I suddenly became famous), and I would also draw cubes and brackets and shapes and that S thing. I have a theory that doodling is actually a really good habit – I think it contributed to some semblance of concentration during school hours. It’s a meditative practice. I also think back to that Larry David quote: ‘You know what I find very interesting? I can’t draw to save my life, but yet I’m a very good doodler. Don’t you think that’s ironic?’

The first time I remember approaching anyone for their autograph was in February of 2001. We were in Florida on a family vacation, and we went to visit the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers. The 2001 Red Sox were an interesting crew – they had Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez in their prime, but they also had David Cone and Hideo Nomo and Izzy Alcantara and two hefty relievers named Rod Beck and Rich Garces. The curse was in full force. But even as a Yankee fan, I wanted some autographs because, well, I was 10.

I set myself as close to the action as I could, and when the players were done with their workouts, they came out to sign autographs. The first one I got was Tim Wakefield, then Carl Everett, then Nomar (who only signed about 5 balls, but I was one of the lucky few), and then finally Dante Bichette and manager Jimy Williams.

Everett, you’ll remember, was known as one of the bigger jerks in the game. He had famously headbutted an umpire the year before, which led to a 10-game suspension. He also denied the existence of dinosaurs, which led to one of my favorite nicknames – Jurassic Carl. But, he was one of the few players that signed every single autograph that day. He took his time, talked and laughed with fans, and made sure no one was left hanging. It was one of the odder sights that I have seen.

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There have been other autographs through the years. I approached John Flaherty at a Yankee game in 2006 and he signed my scorecard.* I used to be a ballboy and got John McEnroe’s autograph in 2008. A year later I met Wynton Marsalis after a concert, and he signed my program.

*This was back when I kept score at baseball games – his signature was so big that I had no more room to keep score. This did not sit well with me.

My old baseball camp, Summer Trails, used to bring in athletes and ex-athletes to give demos and sign autographs. Clay Bellinger came once – that was really cool (for the year 2000). So did Joe Pepitone and his horrible hairpiece. So did Tommy Holmes, who played for the Boston Braves in the 1940’s.

At one point I went through a phase that we in the baseball card community like to call TTM (through-the-mail) autograph collecting. It was an old-school method – you would send a letter to a player and enclose a baseball card with a return envelope.  I would peruse the online baseball card blogs to see which players were the most receptive, and I actually did ok for myself (except for Yogi Berra, who wanted money).

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Up to this week, my most prized autograph was the one I got from Angel Berroa at an Independent League baseball game last summer. And no, I’m not joking – I wrote a whole blog post about it back in July. It was the only time I had actively traveled somewhere to get an autograph.

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Well, it was going to take a lot to top that one, but I think I did. Granted, I wasn’t there when he signed it, but Alex was able to get me one from the leader of the free world.

photo (5)I mean, yeah, this is about the coolest thing ever. Could you imagine owning a JFK autograph? Or an FDR one? Getting an autograph from the President, while he is still the President, is a great thrill, even though I am sure it took at most 3 seconds.

But, hey, that’s 3 seconds out of a historic Presidency that Barack Obama took to sign my book. He’s the President of the United States, and I’m just this guy – but, for one moment, our paths kinda-sorta crossed. I don’t know, I just think that’s really neat.

An interview with my grandmother

Back in 2011, I took a class called Aging and Society, a sociology elective. One of our assignments was to conduct a life history interview with an elderly relative or professor. I chose to interview my grandmother, my dad’s mom, who was born in Nazi Germany and has seen enough events in her lifetime to justify an interview or three.

I bring this up because next week marks the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass. German authorities pillaged Jewish businesses and households for two November nights – this marked a transition to a more intense Nazi regime, right before millions were brought to concentration camps and the world exploded into the Second World War. This was also the beginning of my grandmother’s escape to America.

I’ve never shared the paper I wrote, but I have re-printed it below if you would like to read it.

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My grandmother was born in Germany in 1933. She stands at just over five feet tall, resides in West Hartford, Connecticut, and has three children. An only child, she was raised Jewish, and though she could not control her circumstances, she was born into a country about to turn against her religion. Adolf Hitler had just come to power, instilling the seed of Jewish hatred into German culture. Her early years gave her a unique and challenging life course, one that has shaped her adult life dramatically. My grandmother has lived a well-rounded and introspective life due to personal and societal events.

Growing up in Germany was difficult. Hitler took to power the year she was born, and soon most non-Jews hated her family. When she was four years old, she could not go outside to play because the nearby children would throw stones at her and call her a Jew. Her parents had to walk her to friends’ houses where they usually played indoors. Her early-life situation demonstrates the significance of social movements on a birth cohort. However, my grandmother’s father believed that it was not dangerous to live in Germany at the time, since his haberdashery was doing quite well, and non-Jews still did business with him and liked him. He felt that Hitler’s rule and the wave of anti-Semitism would pass. Jews in Germany had historically been treated rather well, and Jews did not have to face a cumulative disadvantage. Prior to the Holocaust the opportunity structures and mechanisms of allocation had affected social class rather than religious preference.

This changed on November 9th, 1938, when there was an incident in Germany called Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass. On Kristallnacht, young teenagers and soldiers throughout Germany went on a rampage and started throwing stones and bricks into houses. Synagogues were set on fire throughout the country, and my great grandfather ran to the local synagogue to save a Torah from being burned. The morning after Kristallnacht, the Nazis took over his store, and he was arrested and forced to a detention camp that later became a concentration camp. The camps were so overcrowded that after two weeks he was released, and that is when he started making plans to leave Germany. In late 1939, my grandmother and her family escaped to England. They could only take clothing and a few pots and pans (and my great grandfather also took the Torah he recovered). They could not take any silver or jewelry, since the Nazi’s had already pocketed their valuables.

From 1939 through 1940, my grandmother lived right outside of London, and it was at this time that the German air raids began. She was just starting school, and on the first day she was fitted for a gas mask. “Just like you carried your lunch to school, I carried my gas mask,” she says. “Fortunately, while I was there, there was no bombing.” In 1940, she left England with her parents and came over to the United States. Her boat was behind a minesweeper, a special boat that was trained to look out for mines in the Atlantic. When she arrived in the U.S., she started first grade while her father found a job in a Connecticut factory. She did not know a word of English, but she soon learned the language. My grandmother was only a young girl at this time, but she remembers feeling comfortable that her parents would find a way to survive. Her parents taught her the importance of honesty, kindness, and religion. “They led by example,” she says. She saw how they lived and how they interacted with others, and even though she witnessed pure evil at a young age, she did not become jaded.

The early part of my grandmother’s life was defined by an uncontrollable and atypical social circumstance, but she began to take control of her life and anticipate changes after adapting to American society. She met my grandfather in high school, but even though she went to the senior prom with him, she did not think that he was going to be her future husband. “He wasn’t a BS artist like most guys at the time were,” she says while laughing. After high school, she attended a small women’s college in Connecticut. “College was different in those days because it wasn’t co-ed living,” she says. “I think friendships were closer because we bonded more readily.” After two years, she went to a specialized medical technology school at Hartford Hospital, where she became a licensed medical technologist. My grandfather studied pharmacology at UConn, and many years later they would build their own pharmacy business together. The two continued seeing each other during college and were married in their early twenties; the age norm for marriage was much younger in those days.  My grandmother defied the female gender role when she graduated college and began to work, since the feminine culture at that time discouraged working

My grandmother continues to defy age norms by engaging in physical exercise and intellectual conversation at an older age. She plays tennis several times per week, cooks her own meals, cleans her house, listens to country music for its narrative value, and generally challenges the stereotype of old women. I have witnessed her capture a snake in her garden with her bare hands. She also hosts major holiday dinners on Thanksgiving, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover. She disobeys the modernization theory of aging, which states that industrialization leads to less contact between the family, since she regularly sees her three children and six grandchildren.

As the course of history has passed, my grandmother has witnessed some of the most significant social movements and cultural changes, some of which impacted her directly while others she has viewed through a distant lens. The Holocaust was the most important historical event for my grandmother because it fundamentally changed her country’s philosophy and made her an outsider in her hometown. The choices of individuals are limited by the environment in which they live in, and the Holocaust limited my family to two choices: attempt to survive in Nazi Germany or escape to an unfamiliar country. Her life course was a product of timing and the ‘linked lives’ perspective, since the choices of the Nazi’s inextricably affected my grandmother’s childhood. The Holocaust also caused a structural lag in Germany due to disconnect between freedom and society.

My grandmother believes American society has changed for the worse over the last several decades, which upholds the stereotype that the elderly tend to be more conservative and less accepting of new social trends. She laments the rising crime rates and the larger disparity between classes. She believes that the cohort of the technology era has made society more disengaged and impersonal. The U.S. also has the highest rate of inequality for income among developed countries, resulting in low social mobility. My grandmother adds that even though the south was not integrated when she was younger, the northeast was, and her high school had a Jewish valedictorian and a black president. The disparity of race in Connecticut was not there, and it was a gentler time.  She sums up the changes in six words: “We could leave our cars unlocked.”

After living in the United States for 71 years, she is pleased with the many social movements that have made our country more equal and more just. The Torah stresses equality through the sanctity of life and the dignity of human person, and she has always believed in civil rights, equality for all, and social responsibility. The sit-ins and march-ins that were part of the south were important to change the country’s focus to equality, and she was proud to witness the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964.

When asked about major political moments, she quickly stated that she has had two where were you when moments. The first moment was John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and she thought it was a loss of innocence. She was very young at the time, and my father was only four years old. “I felt crushed and saddened,” she says, and even though it has been nearly fifty years since the assassination, I can still hear desolation in her voice. The second moment was September 11th. After 9/11, my grandmother felt a sense of doom. She thought it might be the beginning of a war. There was a sense of foreboding that life would never be the same. She had witnessed religious hatred during her early years in Germany, but this was the first time she had seen ethnic hatred. She was afraid of other attacks, and she was worried that I would have to grow up in a world where terrorism and violence would become prevalent in society.

Growing up in Germany during the dawn of the Holocaust shaped my grandmother’s life significantly. She learned from a young age to appreciate freedom, which has given her a unique perspective on life. “I was a child of unrest in Nazi Germany,” my grandmother says. “So I try to tell people: hey, don’t sweat the small stuff.” She wants people to know her story so that they can value the freedoms that many were forced to surrender over the course of history. “But most importantly,” she adds, “I want people to know that I have lived my life as honestly as possible, and as kindly as possible.” She exhibits a cohort effect that is shared by many Holocaust survivors by looking at the world reflectively and quietly.

My grandmother is proud of her marriage, since it taught her some of the most important values in life. Marriage taught her how to live with someone else and the values of kindness and sympathy. This didn’t happen all at once; it was an accumulation of many years of living together. During the early part of her marriage, she was focused on making a living, and then later she had to raise children while my grandfather was working. After raising three well-adjusted children, she feels like she has lived a good life with no regrets. “I think the feeling of being loved is what I am most proud of,” my grandmother says, and I can almost hear her smile over the phone.  Her children, her parents, and her whole extended family have given her a wealth of pride. Her high level of satisfaction upholds the activity theory of aging, which states that those that remain physically and mentally engaged have the greatest sense of satisfaction.

As my grandmother ponders advice she could give to a college student, she realizes that the key to a good life is to keep it simple. “Be true to yourself, and be honest,” she says. “You don’t want to do anything that would cause anyone harm or bring disgrace to your name.” She also hopes students today appreciate the value of hard work and are able to be empathetic with others. However, she also understands that students today live in a much different world than she did. She graduated college during a time of economic prosperity and American optimism, but today the economy is struggling and jobs are more difficult to come by. She is glad that more students today have a broader view of the world through study abroad and community outreach, and she hopes this trend continues. But overall, my grandmother believes that today’s college students have a very hard road ahead of them, more so than she did.

The future of the blog

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I want this blog to be going forward.

Most of my posts are long-form (over 1,000 words), and while I enjoy writing them, they take awhile to complete. And as a result, I can only publish a few posts per month.

Most of you don’t know this, because I don’t advertise it heavily, but I spend a lot of time on my posts. You only see the end product, but I try to be as thoughtful as possible before I publish something on here. This means that I scrap a lot of the stuff that I write. I have dozens of posts that didn’t make it to publication because I just didn’t like them when they were done. There aren’t many of you out there, but I take my posts very seriously, and I do my best to write something that interests me and, hopefully, interests you too.

Since I started the blog 20 months ago, I have written almost 100,000 words on here. It’s been a great outlet for me, and I have no intention of ever stopping.

And so, going forward, I am going to try to post here more often, but with a different flavor. I’d like to post something every weekday, but focus on more short-form posts than long-form posts. Each day, I will write about a game, or a song, or a movie, or a book that I really like. It will be just a few sentences on why it’s important to me, or why I remember it. I am going to start this on Monday.

As always, thanks for reading.

Starbucks

Right now I’m sitting in the Cleveland Circle Starbucks, enjoying a nice respite from the record-setting heat in Boston.

I’ll always have fond memories of this Starbucks. I wrote pretty much my whole senior thesis here. I’d spend long afternoons doing research, coming up with these crazy ideas for the paper, and drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee.

I was also here when the new pope was announced.

Anyway, I don’t have any more theses (thesises?) to write. A new pope won’t be announced any time soon. I don’t have as many people to hang out here with. But it’s still a good way to spend an afternoon, especially when the heat index is 110.

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