Tuesday, September 21, 2010


As you might imagine, I’ve been watching Cincinnati Reds baseball religiously every game of late. As the regular season draws to a close with the local team in good shape to make it to the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, I hate to miss anything. Those of us in southwest Ohio who root for Cinci sports teams know to enjoy success as it happens. You never how many years it might be until you make it back to the big money games. Carpe diem, don’t you know. Seize the day.

It’s been especially fun because Cindy Lou has caught the Reds’ bug anew and watches every game with me. She gets nervous as heck when Coco Cordero comes into the game late, but so do we all. I keep telling her, Yes, even though he’s blown 8 save opportunities, he’s also nailed down 37 or 38 games at this point. Ain’t bad. After all, all teams have good hitters who want nothing more than getting a big hit for a walk-off win in the ninth inning off of somebody’s closer. Coco’s cape may be tattered, but on most nights he still has what it takes to hold the victory.

Which brings me to today’s blog topic: legacy. The other day on the Reds’ television broadcast, the play-by-play guys told a story about the newest Red, Willie Bloomquist, who was picked up from Kansas City last week. The Reds were terribly shallow in the outfield with injuries so they picked up Bloomquist to help get them through the season. He won’t be going to the playoffs with them since he was added to the roster too late. Still, as a veteran on a team with lots of kids, he has an valuable job to do in the two weeks he’ll spend with the team.

The story goes that Bloomquist was standing in the dugout next to Chris Valaika, young reserve infielder and former Dayton Dragon. The Reds had baserunners at the time. Bloomquist pops this question to Valaika: ‘Tell me about your lead with bases loaded.’ Valaika thinks, then replies that he would take a normal lead, then after the pitch to the plate, move into his secondary (longer) lead, ready to take off if the ball is hit fair.

‘Wrong,’ says Willie, who then explains that with bases loaded, a runner could get doubled up if an infielder catches a hard line drive and snaps off a throw to an occupied base. ‘Stay close to the bag with bases loaded and one or two outs,’ he finishes. ‘Don’t take your team out of a possible rally.’ Reds announcer Chris Welsh, who talks playing technique a lot during games, said that base running tip one was a new one for him.

After hearing that story, I could imagine the conversation Bloomquist had with Reds’ manager Dusty Baker when he first got into the clubhouse: You’re the veteran. Talk to the kids. Keep their heads in the game. Teach them what you know. Lead by example. I’ll get you some playing time.

And, of course, that’s the beauty of this Reds’ team: a rich blend of young talent with savvy veterans, some who have been to the playoffs and all who know how to play the game. Bloomquist said he was happy to join the Reds, leaving a Royals team almost 30 games out of first. True, he won’t make it to the playoffs, but I thought about how good it must feel to at least be with a winner. And like so many of the team’s veterans in the final seasons of their careers, he gets to share what he has learned with the kids. And the kids are eager to listen. How much of a legacy is that?

Which makes me reflect on my own life experiences. I wonder from time to time if there is something I said about living or writing or thinking on which some former student out there still ruminates. I found out just last week that my new next door neighbor is a former student of mine. Sophomore English years ago at Wayne. First thing I said to him was that I hoped I hadn’t ruined him in the process. He laughed.

And what about the grandkids? I sure hope my love of birds and poetry and the Reds and life sticks with them as they grow through their teen years into adulthood. One can only hope.

One final thought on legacy from the man pictured above: Leo Cardenas, Reds’ shortstop when I was a kid. Five time All-Star. Gold Glove 1965. Batted .333 in the 1961 World Series against the Yankees. Led the NL in fielding twice. Voted into the Reds’ Hall of Fame in 1981. Lucky enough to meet him at the entrance to the Reds’ Hall of Fame last week when Cindy and I went down for a game.

Leo’s thoughts that day? More Reds’ Hall of Famers need to come down to the ballpark and Hall more often to encourage fans to come see games and support this great new team. Seems like we’re all in this together.

Today’s elder idea: When you play this game 20 years, go to bat 10,000 times, and get 3,000 hits, you know what that means? You’ve gone 0 for 7,000.

Peter Edward Rose

image: Photo of Leo ‘Chico’ Cardenas picked up at the Reds' Hall of Fame. You could go.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Muslim sisters

This is really an entry about sisters. Sorority. Women working together for the larger family good. A story told close to the anniversary of 9/11, an event in 2010 that seemed to focus more on burning a Quran in Florida and preventing a Muslim community center from being built two blocks from Ground Zero than the annual remembrance of that epic 2001 event that changed the landscape of New York City and apparently the hearts of many Americans.

I realize I’m a gender-outsider telling this story, but I am nonetheless an interested observer. My lovely Cindy Lou is one of those sisters involved in this story.

It all began in November 1995, I suppose, when the world turned its attention to the Hope Hotel at Wright Patterson AF Base for what would be known as the Dayton Peace Accords. A three+ year ethnic bloodbath was put to an end after leaders from all sides of the Bosnian conflict came to Dayton to talk and work out a peace agreement.

In the spring of 1996, my downtown church decided one of the things we could do to make the world a better place was to take on a refugee family from Bosnia and get them resettled in our fair city. Church World Services approved our request and we were told we would have three to four weeks to prepare to receive our guests.

One week later we got word that a Muslim refugee family was in flight and was expected to reach us within twenty-four hours. A housing arrangement was in the works, but not yet confirmed. Cindy Lou and I decided the best thing to do was welcome this family into our home for the short term until permanent arrangements could be made, a decision that changed our lives.

Not knowing what to expect -- except that our Muslim guests numbered five: mom and dad with three kids -- I shopped at the Halal Meats & Grocery store on Wayne Avenue so we could have some food when they arrived that would not offend. As it turned out, our guest family wasn’t rigid in their eating habits, and besides their being stunned at the variety of food at the local Kroger, all worked out well for the week+ they stayed with us. By that time housing had been arranged through another church family and lots of local trips to doctors, dentists, and government offices were shared with still other church folk. I still think sponsoring a refugee family was one of the best things our congregation has ever done.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since our relationship with our once-refugee friends began that spring. In the summer of 1998 Cindy Lou accompanied the mom back to Bosnia to visit her own ailing mother. The kids have grown up, the older boy a Wayne High School graduate now serving in the US Navy. The younger twins are currently high schoolers with one recently invited to a call-back with the Dayton Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. All family members have become US citizens and, unfortunately, mom and dad have since divorced. Stress has its fallout, I suppose.

The kernel of this blog today, though, is what I saw in Cindy Lou’s face last Friday evening after she came back from the mom’s house following a tutoring session. Besides working a couple of minimal-paying jobs to keep food on the table and clothes on her kids’ backs, the mom has determined it necessary to take some classes at Sinclair Community College to get prepared for better paying work. And since she has to take language and writing classes, Cindy -- a retired English teacher par excellence -- was asked if she could help not only her, but a couple other English-as-a-second-language girlfriends from the old country also back in school.

The language and writing classes these women are taking aren’t easy. Cindy is amazed at how hard the assignments are. Still, on occasion when she returns from her tutoring Fridays, Cindy tells me about how these women didn’t get that much school work done, but instead sat around the dining room table drinking coffee and talking about how hard life is in America. One of the women wept on Friday saying how the office manager at her job is impatient and flat out mean to her.

Such insecurity talk stops Cindy Lou in her tracks. Here she is conversing with Muslim women who were uprooted from their lives in another land, transplanted into this wonderful but business-brutal US of A, and continually struggle with language, culture, family, and customs. Cindy stands in awe of these women and tells them so. She often tells them that she could not have done what they have already accomplished.

It is plain to me that Cindy and her cadre of new American girlfriends are becoming soul sisters. They share life as they experience it and in so doing build bridges among each other. They laugh, they cry, they swear in Bosnian on occasion, they drink coffee in sorority. As a guy, I’m left to hear Cindy’s stories and encourage her to continue this valuable work.

At a time when so many Americans are wary of our Muslim brethren, it is refreshing to see real women helping each other build stronger relationships, enriching community, enriching America. God, or Allah, bless those girls.

Today’s elder idea: I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero.

I want it built on Ground Zero.

Why? Because I believe in an America that protects those who are the victims of hate and prejudice. I believe in an America that says you have the right to worship whatever God you have, wherever you want to worship. And I believe in an America that says to the world that we are a loving and generous people and if a bunch of murderers steal your religion from you and use it as their excuse to kill 3,000 souls, then I want to help you get your religion back. And I want to put it at the spot where it was stolen from you.

Michael Moore

for the rest of Michael’s blog entry, see:


image: from michaelmoore.com

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liberation theology

I’m afraid I don’t have much patience with modern conservatism. I remember learning long ago in a history class that the essence of conservatism is to handle problems traditionally. Wikipedia confirms that by saying it promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports minimal and gradual change in society.

Liberal folk, on the other hand, don’t mind trying something new -- a bit out of the box -- to fix a problem. To be fair and balanced, Wikipedia defines liberalism as the belief in the importance of liberty and equality. While different liberals might look at problems differently, the Wiki writer concludes that most liberals support such fundamental ideas as free and fair elections, human rights, free trade, and separation of church and state among other things.

I’ve considered myself a liberal, or progressive, my whole adult life. Based on what I just read, I’m still pretty okay with that.

So at this tenuous time in American life and economics, what are conservatives like Ohio’s own illustrious Speaker-of-the-House wanna’ be John Boehner up to? As far as I can tell, obstruction. I mean, after eight years of George W. Bush, Americans decided they wanted a change. They elected not only Barack Obama president, but gave enough seats to Democrats to control both houses of Congress. Sure seemed like a mandate for change to me.

The conservative response? Do not cooperate. Look like you are in negotiations with the Majority for improvements in health care, the environment, and Wall Street reform, but after you get concessions and when push comes to shove, don’t give a single vote for passage of any change. Stand tight. Wait out this tough time and then blame the ones who are trying to do something for screwing things up even worse. Complain loud and long how current problems are exclusive property of the Majority and hope voting Americans have short memories. We’ve learned time after time that, indeed, Americans do have short memories.

So why the rant against conservatives today? Well, it has to do mainly with one of their chief mouthpieces, Glenn Beck, who so many Americans listen to and watch on a daily basis. He stirs the political pot by making comments that my side of the aisle has a hard time stomaching. Like Obama is a racist. Like Obama hates all things white. Like Obama isn’t even American and thus all he attempts to do is not even Constitutional. Heavens. Oh, yeah: and everybody who agrees with Beck, Limbaugh, and Fox News are real American patriots and those currently working for change and improvement for small business and the middle class most certainly are the real problem.

Then the day or so after his Restoring Honor rally in the nation’s capital a few weeks ago, Beck came out on a Sunday news show to say he wanted to refine his accusation that Obama is a racist. I misunderstood Obama’s motivation, he said. Obama isn’t so much a racist as a leader motivated by liberation theology. That’s the President’s problem.

Odd, because when I attended Catholic high school back in the day, I learned that liberation theology was a proud guiding light for social justice. As I recall, it was centered in Latin American politics where a small group of rich landowners controlled the lives of the masses. Making life better for the poor and landless was the stuff of getting it right.

Now, however, in this topsy turvy world of the 21st century, finding fault with those who want to make life better for the disadvantaged is the political sport of the day. Refuse to help homeowners trying to stay afloat while supporting a financial bailout of banks that got so many of us into this mess in the first place. And by all means, when conservatives become the Majority this fall, tell Americans you will gut the new health care plan and repeal the last two years of liberal legislation. Heaven forbid, conservatives would hate to see anybody get something they didn’t earn. Unless, of course, it means going to bat for BP or extending tax cuts for the very richest Americans. It is now deemed socialistic, communistic, fascist, a product of Hitler, even demonic, to dedicate a chunk of our collective wealth to help the less fortunate and level the playing field for all.

Yipes. What’s happened to us? And yet we say we’re a Christian nation?

Today’s elder idea: Real Christian love is founded on commitment to a more just society and action to bring it about.

Gustavo Gutierrez

Peruvian theologian recognized as the Father of liberation theology


Elder Idea #2: Liberation Theology Practiced Here.

Message board at Christ Episcopal Church, Dayton OH

image: ‘The Flower Carrier’ by Diego Rivera (1935)