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*** Wisdom From A Typewriter #62 ***

Marianne Williamson is the only presidential candidate that has made it to a national TeeVee debate stage that I ever had lunch with.

That was back about 1990, when she was just getting started on the lecture circuit, talking about A Course in Miracles.  Long before “A Return to Love,” Oprah, or the 2020 Democratic Party primaries.

At the time I met her, I was in Los Angeles training for my brief career (1990-1991) as a Series 7 securities peddler.  I heard Marianne at one of her lectures at a church in West Los Angeles,  talking about how she was financially insecure, so I approached her after the lecture and we arranged a lunch meeting.  Nothing came of it beyond that, other than the recollection that that was one of the most intense lunch meetings I ever had.

If nothing else, she and I are both Truman Babies (she 1952, me 1950).

This quote above is lifted from a profile in a recent edition of the New York Times. 

How Is This Even Possible?

(Reflections on a Numerical Milestone)

by Paul Schatzkin
November 15, 2020

For the past few months, I have been looking at this photo and thinking I should have something to say about it pertinent to the occasion of my 70th birthday.

These are “the Schatzkin men.” In the center, my father, Harvey; on the left, my brother, Arthur; on the right, yours truly. The photo was taken in our backyard in Rumson, New Jersey in March, 1954 (note the white picket fence in the background). I was 3. Arthur was 6, and Harvey… well, we didn’t know it at the time, but Harvey had only a few years left on the planet: multiple myeloma dispatched him in 1958 at the age of 37.

Arthur died in 2011, just a month shy of his 63rd birthday. Glioblastoma – the same kind of brain cancer that nicked Ted Kennedy and John McCain.”Heart disease runs in some families,” my brother’s widow said at the time. “In your family it’s cancer.”

So here I am, having outlived them all, the only one of “the Schatzkin men” with a first-person need to learn how to spell “septuagenarian.”

How is this even possible? Read More

America: It’s Still A Good Idea

This country is an idea, and one that’s lit the world for two centuries…

––Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn in The West Wing – S2 E16

I am writing this post mostly because it’s the ‘4th of July Weekend’ and I want to encourage anybody who is reading this to listen to this:

The Thomas Jefferson Hour
Episode 1501 – 4th of July 2022

Anybody who has known me very long knows I’m a huge fan of this podcast.  I have listened to almost every episode since I first learned of it more than 20 years ago.

In a typical episode, the creator of the show, Clay Jenkinson, is interviewed as Thomas Jefferson, speaking from a 21st century perspective on both historical and contemporary events and issues; at the end of each hour Clay returns as himself to speak about what he has just said as Jefferson.

This episode is a departure from that format. To discuss Independence Day, Clay speaks with three people.  The first is a listener, Brad Crisler – from Nashville, no less;  second is Lindsay Chervinsky, an accomplished young historian; third is the venerable Joseph Ellis, one of the country’s most renowned authorities on the Early National Period (side note: it was Ellis’s American Sphinx that sparked my interest in Jefferson to begin with).

With Clay and his ‘semi-permanent guest host’ David Swenson, these three individuals offer a useful perspective on why, despite the challenges of any given moment, we shouldn’t give up on the idea that took shape in Philadelphia  two-and-half-centuries ago: that all men (and women!) are created equal, are entitled to equal justice under the law, and can effectively govern themselves through compromise and majority rule.

Murica!  It really is the best idea anybody’s ever come up with for a country – even if its origins are steeped in contradictions, and even as the institutions that were formed to implement those ideas have outlived the compromises that were necessary accommodate those contradictions.

The simple fact of the current moment is that we are no longer ‘majority ruled.’  With the non-proportional representation of the Senate (and its very unconstitutional filibuster rules), the persistence of the antiquated Electoral College, and a Supreme Court super-majority that was appointed by presidents who (mostly) failed to win the popular vote, our political environment has taken a dark turn from the actual will of the majority.

We are a more enlightened people than our current governance wants to let us be.  It has taken 200-plus years, but now our institutions have morphed from declaring our independence from a tyrannical monarch to a tyranny of our own minority.

The irony in our current predicament is that this ruling minority labels itself as ‘conservative.’ In my recollection, the essence of ‘conservative’ was ‘limited government that stayed out of individual lives.’  This newer brand of conservatives is precisely the opposite.  They seem determined to tell the rest of us how to live our lives and what we can do – from who we can love or marry to what goes on inside our own bodies.  Well, excuuuse me, but in truly free state, your right to enforce your religiously-defined values stops at my epidermis, and your capacity to be a fascist stops at yours.

Still, as Joseph Ellis says near the end of his segment, “when we are at or near the solution to the human problem, we would be insane to turn away from it.”

I hope some of you reading this will find the time over this weekend to listen to the podcast offered above.

If Clay Jenkinson and his erudite friends are not enough to restore your optimism, then I also suggest you read this op-ed in today (July 3)’s NYTimes by another Nashvillian, Margaret Renkyl:

Money quote:

It should not be so unbearably hard for justice to prevail, and justice finally gained should never again be at risk. But this is the country we live in. The fight for freedom will never be over. And, God help me, I will not be one who gives up. This is my country, too, and I will not surrender it to a vocal minority of undemocratic tyrants.

OK, enough with the pontificating.  Let’s go to the ballpark, root-root-root for the home team, gobble hotdogs and blow some shit up:

What Is It About Baseballs?

I keep a baseball by my desk.  I’m not sure where it came from.  Beneath the Rawlings logo there’s a stamp that says it’s an “Official Ball” from the Pacific Coast league, so I must have picked up at one of the many Nashville Sounds games I go to.

I keep it by my desk and when I’m proofreading something I’ve written, I pick it up to give my fingers something to do when they’re not flapping away at the keys.

My ‘fidget spinner’

I like the way a baseball feels in my hand.  I like the smooth texture of the leather surface, the tight precision of the laces, the hardness of the thing.

Mind you, I could never do much with an actual baseball. I never could judge the flight of a fly ball off the bat; I’d set myself where I thought it was gonna come down and … it always went over my head.   And it scared the living daylights out of me when Donnie Cohn pitched hardball in summer camp.

They say the the hardest thing in all of sports is “swing the round bat at the round ball – and hit it squarely.”  The doesn’t even take into account that the ball is coming at your head at 90 miles an hour.  Before you can even think about swinging, the first thing you have to do is not duck.

Still, I just like the way a baseball feels in my hand. It’s much more organic than one of those ‘fidget spinner” gizmos.

*

Have I mentioned yet that I’ve got a ‘part time summer job’ at the ballpark?

I’m a ‘fan host.’  Most nights I’m on the periphery of First Horizon Park, scanning tickets and telling people where to find the funnel cake.  Some nights I’m ‘inside the arena’ – actually getting paid to watch the games and chat with fans about the team and the players’ prospects to make it up to ‘the show‘.

One night during the Sounds last home stand, I was stationed in the Vandy Picnic Zone – the area in right/center field that is set a side for large gatherings.  That night  the team hosted a group  from PPG Paints.

My job was mostly putting wrist bands on the fans as they come in so they can pass freely between the stands and the buffet (it’s tough work but somebody’s gotta do it).

Before each game, while the Fan Hosts are all sitting in the stands behind home plate getting our instructions for the evening, I watch the batting practice and see if any balls get knocked into the seats.  This particular night I saw a ball go into the left field stands and ran out to retrieve it before taking my post.

Once I’ve got a ball, I keep an eye out for somebody to give it to.

At some point in the evening, I found a prospect.  A couple came in with two kids, their son about ten and an adorable little girl, I’m guessing seven or eight years old.  She had dark hair, was wearing an Atlanta Braves T-shirt and, most importantly, she brought her baseball glove to the game.

I always wonder why fans bring their glove to the game. It can only mean one thing: they hope to leave with a souvenir.

Later in the evening, this same adorable child came up and addressed me by my name, which she could read from the name tag hanging from a lanyard around my neck.

“Excuse me, Paul.  Do you have a Sharpie?”

“What’s your name?”

“Avery.”

“Well, Avery, I’m sorry, but I don’t have a Sharpie.  I’ve thought about bringing one, and now that you’ve asked me, I’m going to bring a Sharpie tomorrow and every night after that, and I’ll think of you if anybody ever asks me for a Sharpie again.”

She said “OK,” and then I spied one of the group sales people and he found a Sharpie for her.

Later in the game, I noticed that Avery’s brother had some how gotten his hands on a baseball and was showing it off to people.

An inning later, I decided it was time to make a gift of my batting practice ball, and went down to the seats on the front row of the section where Avery was sitting with her mother.

To my surprise, Avery was in tears.  Her mother quickly volunteered that one of the outfielders had tossed a ball their way at the end of the inning, but her mother had reached for it bobbled it back on to the field, leaving poor Avery with nothing in her hand but that glove.

“Avery,” I said, “tell me, what’s that glove for?”

“I was hoping somebody would toss me a baseball” she said, quivering through her tears.

“Has anybody tossed you a ball yet?”

“Yes, but my mother dropped it,” she said, burying her head in her mother’s shoulder.

“OK then, get your glove ready…”

She looked at me, a little confused, and with some encouragement from her mother finally put her gloved hand out in front of me.

And I dropped the ball into her glove.

And jeezus if that adorable little face didn’t just light up like it was Christmas and I was Santa Claus.  Her mother’s face lit up, too, and as I walked away there was applause and fist bumps from others seated nearby.

Is that all it takes to make somebody happy? Toss them slightly beat up batting practice baseball?

When the game was over, Avery came up and thanked me again and gave me big hug.

Yeah, the job pays peanuts, but a moment like that?

Priceless.

Epilogue: Termination / Vindication

I suppose by now most who read this know that I got fired from my job at the Apple store in Green Hills back in January.  Don’t cry for me, Argentina. If they hadn’t pushed me I never would have jumped, and it was well past time to fly.

That job got me through several life-changing years, starting with Ann’s decision to move to Oregon back in 2016.  I think I can safely say now I’ve survived that transition and everything that came with and after it.

Time to ‘face the front of the bus’ (as my friend Philo Farnsworth III liked to say).

I’m still sorting out exactly how I will sustain my new-found freedom.   I got that ‘part time summer job’ working at the ball park (more on that here).

And I figured, hell, let’s see if I can collect some unemployment insurance.

Well, umm…. no.  Not so fast.

I started filing for weekly benefits (it’s not a lot, but it is a non-zero sum) within a couple weeks of my termination.  Each week I’d go into the Jobs4TN.gov website and fill out a form and each week it said that my benefits were ‘in progress’ while the department determined my eligibility 

On April 12, I finally received an email from the Department informing me that my benefits had been denied because – according to my former employer – I was discharged for a ‘policy violation.’  Never mind that the policy makes no allowance for the mutual exchange of personal information, the Company had decided I had violated the privacy policy and the Department concurred.  Benefits denied. 

Conveniently, that notice arrived  about an hour before I was to have lunch with Adam, a lawyer friend who had previously offered a bit of counsel on my plight. While we waited for slices of pizza at the Arcade I told him of this latest development and he offered to help me file an appeal.

The first thing Adam did was compose a letter to Apple requesting a copy of my employment record.  He and others have suggested that this is something I’m entitled to, so it seemed reasonable to ask for a copy that might shed some light on exactly what their case against me was.  We sent that request to four different email addresses at Apple. None bounced.  We are still waiting for the file.

Meanwhile, Adam looked up the case law and highlighted all the clauses that showed that the policy was sufficiently vague in this instance, and my record was sufficiently clean after five-plus years of employment that the termination was unjustified.  We filed the appeal on April 15 and a telephone hearing was scheduled for May 4.

Apple has some liability here. I don’t know how much of the benefit they have to pay but it’s not nothing,  so they have the right to make their case for why I was justifiably terminated.  But somebody has to show up to the ‘hearing’ and make that case.

At 8:00 AM on May 4 Adam and I got on the phone with the hearing officer, a cordial-but-crisp woman named April that Adam kept deferring to as ‘your honor.’   We waited a few minutes for a representative from Apple to come on the line.  Then we all went on hold and waited another 15 minutes.

When we all got back on the call, it was still just three of us.

Adam then staged a virtual courtroom scene, effectively putting me on a virtual witness stand and asking me some questions about my employment history,  my understanding of the Company’s privacy policy and the circumstances with The Woman In Question.  The appeal officer listened and asked a few questions of her own.  Fifteen minutes later she said she would make her decision by the end of the week.

It didn’t take a week.  By the end of the day I received an email informing me that the prior decision had been reversed:

The employer has not proven by the weight of the credible evidence that the claimant committed work-related misconduct, as meant by Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-7-303(a)(2). Therefore, the claimant is eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits

Two days later two grand showed up in my bank account.

Another funny thing: the day of the hearing and decision, I needed to go to the Green Hills Mall to order some new eye glasses – the first time I’d been to the Mall since I was fired.  I confess, I felt a little bit like gloating.  I looked over the second floor balcony in to the store where I’d worked for the past five years and watched the familiar activity within.

Nope, not missing it.

I am grateful for the time I had there.

I am more grateful that it is over.

Now then, time to ride the bus in the direction that it is going

Old Folks Night At The Bluebird

Under the Neon Bluebird: On the left, Don Henry;
hiding under hats L-R: Tom Kimmel, Dana Cooper and Michael Lille

The Bluebird Cafe figured pretty prominently in my early days/years in Nashville.  I went there a lot.  I don’t go there as much as I used to.  Since the venue was a featured location in the TeeVee show Nashville for several seasons, it is near the top of most visitors’ ‘must see/do’ list when they come to Music City – which means reservations are very hard to come by unless you jump on the website within minutes of tickets going on sale.

It’s kinda like Yogi Berra once said of a popular club in New York,

Nobody goes there any more – it’s too crowded.

I don’t monitor the Bluebird schedule like I used to, and if Dana Cooper hadn’t called me and let me know this show was happening, I would have been kicking myself if I heard about it after the fact.

Because all of these guys – especially Michael Lille and Tom Kimmel – played a pivotal role in those early years.

I think I first heard Michael Lille at the Commodore Club on West End in 1994.  The first thing I noticed about Michael was his approach to the guitar, it had a very ‘Michael Hedges/New Age’ quality to it – very unlike the shredding metal sound I heard from most plugged-in acoustic guitars (I still hate that sound).   Then he performed a song called ‘Life On the Run’. The song describes a trip Michael took to Indonesia, and waking up to the sound of “laughing children at the edge of the sea” – and contrasts that to his (our) lives in Western what–we–call ‘Civilization.’   I’ll put the only recording of the song in a playlist below, here’s the chorus:

They kneel on the ground
And raise their heads up to the sky
And thank the lord for another day begun
The wheel goes around
Far away on the other side
You and I live life on the run

To this day I cite that as the moment I realized that there was more to Nashville than the popular perception (think Hee Haw) that most people outside the 440 beltway have of the city – that there is a deep well of talent that flourishes just beneath the thin crust of mainstream country music business.  That was one of the two primary motivations at work when I started to ask the people I was meeting ‘what would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet?’ This was 1995, so a common answer was ‘what’s the Internet?’

Similarly, I met Tom Kimmel at the Bluebird,  in roughly the same time frame that I met Michael Lille. I was still on a bit of a ‘spiritual’ quest at the time – I had worked ‘A Course in Miracles’ while I was living in Los Angeles before coming to Nashville.  I heard Tom perform a song called Angels.  That chorus also resonated with me:

We’re lifted up by Angels
Higher than the world
Strong enough to leave it
Bound to learn the secrets
Angels never heard
We’re lifted up by Angels

I was still playing a bit myself in those days, covers mostly. When the show was over, I introduced myself to Tom and asked if he had a recording of Angels that I could learn the song from. Tom said it was not recorded on any of his CDs but kindly offered to send me a cassette and lead sheet and I learned the song from that.

Fast forward to the spring of 1995: Tom was one of the first people I approached with the idea of selling CDs on the Internet.  Unlike most of the people I spoke with, Tom had some idea what I was talking about because he had participated in the “Internet Quartets” – a traveling series of Bluebird-style ‘in the round’ shows promoted by folk-on-the-web pioneer Alan Rowoth.

“That’s a great idea!” Tom said, “I’ve been thinking I need a home page of my own.”  He not only needed a home page, he volunteered to help with the enterprise.  He introduced me to Michael Camp singer/songwriter with some tech experience.  The three of us talked it over, we each pitched in ~$300 to secure some server space and a domain – which turned out to be ‘songs.com‘ – and the rest is history.  Ancient history by now.

Dana Cooper, the Hardest Working Road Warrior in All of Show Business, was one of the first people we signed on to the service.

And Don Henry… well, I started talking to Don in the early days but never quite managed to get him on the site.  I’m glad to see he’s finally got a website.

So, I go waaaaay back with all these guys, and it was just heart warming to hear them all again for one night.

As he was introducing his first song, Tom told a story about the first time he ever played at the Bluebird, “for a room full of little old ladies…”  And I could not restrain myself from blurting out from my seat,

Tom, those old ladies are our age now!

So, yeah: Old Folks Night at The Bluebird 🤣.

I had the presence of mind to bring my camera:

 

And I’ve compiled a playlist of my favorites of their recordings.  Not all of these songs were performed that night, but some of them were.  I have included two tracks from Dana Cooper’s latest CD, I Can Face The Truth – which Dana said that night is his 30th album!  I’ll will have more to say about that one in a future post.

In the meantime…

 

Our National Dilemma…

…as neatly crystalized in the title of a podcast that showed up in my RSS feed last week.

Commentary Magazine is a tolerable source of conservative perspective on current affairs – which is to say, a useful alternative to the MAGA/QAnon/Tucker Looney Tunes that passes for ‘conservative’ in some circles these days.  This episode offered a recap of the recent primary elections in Ohio and Nebraska and a preview of the primary in Pennsylvania.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

I  keep sources like ‘Commentary’ and Andrew Sullivan in my daily infostream – along with the usual left-leaning sources like the NYTimes and Wonkette – just to keep the Fitzgerald Quadrant of my cerebral cortex in reasonable working order.

This Just In:
Why Ya Gotta Love Baseball

In the 1980s, when I was living in Hawaii, Ted Turner’s WTBS cable superstation was our only live TeeVee and I started watching Atlanta Braves games My new-found fandom was eventually rewarded with tickets to the first World Series game ever played in the former Confederacy, Game 3 of the 1991 Series between Atlanta and the Minnesota Twins.

Sometime during those years I went to San Diego to see the Braves play the Padres.  I was rooting for the visiting team.  What surprised me was the derision and verbal abuse directed at me (and my then first future ex-wife Georja) just because we had come to San Diego to root for the Braves.

How absurd, I thought.  Show some respect for the opposition: If there was no opposing team there would be no game for fucksake*.

I think that’s why I found this story so heartwarming:

Watch Blue Jays fan’s gesture after Aaron Judge
 home run bring young Yankees fan to tears

(I originally saw this story in an online publication called The Athletic, but that site is behind paywall so I found another source with similar footage)

I hope to read in tomorrow’s sportsball news that Aaron Judge found Derek Rodriquez before today’s game and signed that ball for him.

Baseball: possible evidence that there is a loving God.  Even in San Diego.

–––

*This rule does not apply in Boston.  If you go to a Yankees/Red Sox game at Fenway Park, you root for the Red Sox, I don’t care what team you grew up with.

 

A Word About This Month’s ‘Buster’

Back in May of 2020 – during the pandemic –  I got a kitten.

The woman who gave me the kitten told it was a male, and for some reason now lost to posterity I started calling him “Buster.”

When I took Buster to the vet, they informed me that the kitten was actually female.  I was relieved because snuggling a male cat seemed oddly gay to me (yeah, I know, #homophobic).

However, In the interest of gender neutrality I kept the name (does that mean I have to declare her pronouns?).

Buster is now a full grown cat,  but for the sake of those who are new to the list or missed the original posts, I think I’ll go back and use photos from the first year in the banner for the weekly(ish) ‘Buster Sez Hey!’ emails.

The one that I’m using this month (May, 2022) is from the first weekend I had her.  She’s pretty much ‘fresh outta the box’ I brought her home with in this one.

Buster Comes Home, May 28, 2020
*

Signs of the Season 5
The Elusive “Green Fringe”

Fall is my favorite season, but the middle of April is my favorite time of the year.

That’s  when the foliage begins to return, when the grey landscape of winter takes on a fringe of green.

I see it everywhere – on my morning walks,  when I’m driving around and see a hill in the distance that has begun to show hints of the green to come.

It’s the fringe, and its suggestion of renewal (another winter survived!) that appeals to me.

But, boy, is that fringe hard to capture in a photo.

Here are a few attempts.

Not my best work ever, but, well… you get the idea.

In another week or two, the foliage will be filled in, summer will near, and the scene won’t change much util October.

These photos were shot with an iPhone 13 Pro and edited in Adobe Lightroom and Luminar Neo.

And if you have any doubt as to the fleeting quality of the weeks just past, well, this is what my neighborhood looks like now (May 2, 2022):