Observations from the Road (Or the “While I Was Out of the Country” Edition)

Dolci Cafe

Dolci Cafe – a taste of Italy in Takoma Park

It turns out that the world continued while I was on sabbatical for six weeks.  We returned on Monday afternoon and caught up with chores on Tuesday, while simultaneously trying to keep our Italian buzz alive.  Pacci’s Pizzeria here in Silver Spring and Takoma Park’s Dolci Gelati Cafe certainly helped in that regard!

In checking the news here in the states, I also discovered a few things that caught my eye.

Baseball season has begun – When I left the country, spring training was underway.  As we returned, our Washington Nationals were jumping off to a 12-4 start and are currently in first place in the National League East.  I know, I know:  it is early.  I also know they have feasted on the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.  But a win in April is as good as a win in September, and if they expect to do anything this year, the Nats will need to feast on the teams in their division who aren’t very good.  I have tickets for Sunday afternoon’s game, and can’t wait.

On the plane ride home from Rome, I was also able to catch my own personal spring training viewing of the movie Bull DurhamBest Baseball Movie. Ever.  I’ve watched it dozens of times, and the story of Crash, Nuke, and Annie never gets old.  Yes, I did laugh out loud at the quotes, including one of my favorite lines that Annie uses in describing the talented but clueless Nuke (which has the added advantage of being true):  “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self awareness.”

And this little piece is among my favorite scenes:

[Larry – the coach – jogs out to the mound to break up a players’ conference] Excuse me, but what the hell’s going on out here?

Crash Davis:  Well, Nuke’s scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man’s here. We need a live… is it a live rooster?  [Jose nods]

Crash:  We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present.  [to the players]

Crash: Is that about right?  [the players nod]

Crash:  We’re dealing with a lot of shit.

Larry:  Okay, well, uh… candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two! Go get ’em.

Priceless!  Play ball!

My home state is in the running for the “What are These Guys Thinking?” award – Tennessee, which has NINE state songs, had a group of legislators pushing to name the Bible as the State book.  Jeez.  What, were they worried that Mississippi was going to run away with this year’s award?  Before the Governor vetoed this bill, Gail Collins wrote a classic column:

Amid all the truly awful things state legislatures do, one of the rare bright spots has been the naming of official symbols. Who was ever made unhappy by the designation of a state rock?

Tennessee, alas, is screwing up the record. The governor is currently trying to decide whether to sign a piece of legislation that would put the Bible on the list of State Things, alongside the salamander (amphibian), milk (beverage), honeybee (agricultural insect), raccoon (wild animal), several variations on the theme of state tree and flower, and nine — nine! — official state songs. The last of which, adopted in 2011, was “Tennessee.”

The next question you’re probably asking is why it took nine tries for Tennessee to get a song named “Tennessee,” and the answer is that it actually has two. You have to admit that’s pretty inclusive. On the other hand, picking the Christian holy book as a state symbol seems simultaneously divisive and unnecessary. Not to mention sort of disrespectful to the Bible, which doesn’t usually get included on the same list as the salamander and the smallmouth bass.

My father’s work on earth is not yet done.  He needs to fire off another of his classic letters to the editor to the local newspaper reminding his fellow citizens that Baptists (and they are all some type of Baptist in Tennessee) practically invented the separation of church and state (before they decided in the 1980s that they kind of liked bossing around other people who perhaps had different religious beliefs from them).

The endless Presidential campaign continues – No, the election didn’t magically end while we were gone.  They are talking about the same things they were when we left.  I could write a lot about the campaign, but I’ll just quote from one of my favorite websites:  Margaret and Helen – Best Friends for 60 years and counting.

I saw an interview with a gay, black Republican congressman from Georgia who is supporting Rubio. I think that makes him a unicorn.  But anyway…  The reporter pointed out that Rubio doesn’t recognize the congressman’s relationship with his same-sex partner. The congressman responded by saying that was ok because neither did his mother.  Now if that ain’t the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.  Well it was, at least until I watched that debate.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Roots music is alive and well, if a bit quirky – I really missed playing guitar when I was in Rome, but I was glad to at least see a couple of articles about roots music while I was there.  Upon my return, the New York Times had a nice appreciation for singer/songrwriter John Prine that I recommend.  Prine – who turns 70 this year – has an amazing facility for finding just the right words, on topics serious and not-so-serious.  Such as “Jesus:  The Missing Years.”

It was raining, it was cold, West Bethlehem was no place for a 12-year-old…”

The world is a strange place, and we depend on writers like Prine to help us through.

More to come…

DJB

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