Playing Games in Mother Nature
I have always maintained half facetiously—or
maybe even a third facetiously—that bad weather builds
character. And in addition to testing our ability to react
to adversity, it makes us appreciate the sunny days of life
even more—literally and figuratively. A POV when repeated
over time, has invariably elicited eye rolls from the kids.
But in having to work through, or overcome tough conditions,
one gets to learn something about oneself. Which suggests
that the folks of Fargo, might be geniuses in self knowledge.
All of that said, and while it has been sung
that “life is just a bowl of cherries,” it will
not be a Super Bowl of cherries this year. For the
first time ever, this one, XLVIII (“48” for the
Roman-numerically challenged), will be played outdoors in
winter weather. While not exactly North Dakota (a stunning
-1º there as I write), the “Christified”
state of New Jersey is no day at the beach either, unless
you’re a member of the Polar Bear Club.
Forecasts as of this writing, are for a night
low of 31º with a 60% chance of rain/snow showers, for
this game to be played on Groundhog’s Day. (Wonder if
Punxsutawney Phil will make an appearance at halftime?). And
for good measure, it will take place at one of the ugliest
sports venues I have ever been in, MetLife Stadium, at which
I found myself at Jets-Giants game on Christmas Eve two years
ago. It was a balmy 33º that afternoon.
Anyway, as Mike Lupica of the New York Daily
News has noted, “If this is such a great idea, how come
it took 48 Super Bowls to put this theory into play?”
It makes one wonder if this one should be called the Stupid
Bowl. We’ll see.
In another sport, the National Hockey League’s
“Winter Classic” played in Michigan on New Year’s
Day this year, 105,000 fans sat in a snowy 13º day, to
watch the Maple Leafs beat the Red Wings 3-2. It was the largest
crowd in history at a hockey game. NHL games are usually played
indoors in 18-20,000 seating capacity arenas (for those who
don’t follow the puck). But a few years ago, someone
thought it would be cool to take the game outside as a novelty,
and it has since caught on. And TV ratings have gone through
the roof….or the un-roof in this case. Given their growing
popularity, more outdoor hockey games have been added to the
schedule, with two recent ones being played at Yankee Stadium
late last month.
Overcoming adversity, in whatever form it
might come our way, is one thing. But to willingly
and passively subject ourselves to it? To sit there
in sub freezing temperatures and wind chill factors off the charts
for several hours, to watch grown men playing mini-war games?
Especially in those cases where the element of bad weather
could have been avoided altogether by playing them in warmer
climates or in domed stadia?
But the king of all bad weather games occurred
in what came to be called the Ice Bowl, played in Green Bay
in which the Packers defeated the Cowboys for the NFL title
on December 31, 1967.
It was -15 degrees at game time with a wind
chill of -48, a “Polar Vortex,” though no one
had ever heard of that term until about yesterday. Yet 50,861
fans were on hand that day.
What is our specie trying to prove? That we
are made of the right stuff? And perhaps trying to overcome
a latent insecurity that we really might not be? That even
though we can’t play the game, we are in the
game all the same, so to speak? That we’ve achieved
something by showing up in the face, not only of adversity,
but of absurdity? Are we there to root for our team…
or to root for ourselves? Just asking.
Quote of the Month
deeper sources of happiness usually involve a state of
going somewhere, becoming better at something, learning
more about something, overcoming difficulty and experiencing
a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment."
New York Times, January 3, 2014
Lads from Liverpool Arriving in Our
On Sunday February 9, 1964, 73 million viewers, one-third
of the U.S. population at the time, would tune in to the Ed
Sullivan Show to watch four lads from Liverpool kick off a
“British Invasion” of Rock ‘n Roll in America.
With the first line of “Close your eyes and I’ll
kiss you…” from “All My Loving,” and
through the four more songs they would sing that night, the
screaming was non-stop. Shades of the Bobby Soxers’
adulation of Sinatra at the Paramount, we were told by our
I would get to witness this phenomenon live
at the peak of “Beatlemania” a year and a half
later at Shea Stadium in August of ’65. The crowd noise
was so deafening, that none of the 55,000 of us there that
night, could hear anything for the entire 35 minutes The Beatles
were on stage. It was just about the being there, I realized,
one song in.
Later of course would come the dramatic metamorphosis
in their music and lifestyle, which as legend has it, actually
began when they met Bob Dylan and he introduced them to cannabis
six months after that first Sullivan appearance. Of course
we didn’t know where this would all go at the time,
as not even The Beatles themselves would have any idea where
their journey would take them.
Ah, but that Sunday night.
The tease had come about a month or so prior
when radio stations began to play “I Wanna’ Hold
Your Hand,” by these guys with long hair (they were
referred to as “mop tops,” so shockingly unstylish
were they to a previous crew-cut generation), who had taken
England by storm. They were due to land at the recently renamed
JFK airport on February 7th, with an unabashed intent to do
the same thing here. Yeah, right, we alpha male teens thought.
Yet, hearing that rather simple song for the
first time —while in a pool hall not far from where
the New York World Trade Center would come to be built—I
remember thinking it was unlike anything I’d heard before.
It had an “other-terrestrialness” about it, for
want of a better descriptive. What with their odd sounding
voices and harmonic blending, it could not be compared with
anything rock ‘n roll—only about ten years old
itself at that point—had produced. At least not to this
ear weaned on the testosterone driven sounds of Elvis, Bill
Haley and the Comets and various black and doo wop groups,
or on the other end the spectrum, even the falsettos of Frankie
Valle and the like.
the show that evening and seeing all these teenage girls screaming
(there were only about 700 people in the audience though it
seemed like thousands what with all the frenzy), a young man
dare not admit that he got caught up in any of that female
silliness. And in an Economics class that following Monday
morning, when the professor at this all male college opened
up a discussion on the Beatles’ performance of the previous
night, the roomful of twenty or so students, was unanimous
in its scoffing and dismissal of their talent.
The Beatles were a novelty that would quickly fade was the
unanimous consensus. Unanimous that is, save for one guy who
had the cojones to proclaim them “Great!”
Fifty years later, he lives in Virginia, we are still in touch,
and had dinner not all that long ago.
There are few things about which one can say:
“We will never see the likes of that again.” Though
we seem to say that very thing all the time. We say it whenever
we experience something new and astonishing often relating
to the various miracles of technology (only to see them get
trumped by “Miracles 2.0” soon after), we say
it in the face of some remarkable singular achievement in
some field of endeavor, or we say it when something or someone
so celebrated, passes from the scene. But I think it is safe
to say, we will never see, in its totality, and on that night
in particular, the likes of The Beatles again. And it’s
hard to imagine an American TV variety show with anything
approaching the magnitude and impact that Ed Sullivan had
on the culture back in the day. We are much too fragmented
in our tastes, lifestyles and media choices to sit around
a TV set as a family watching an allegedly “second coming”
from some entertainment act blowing in from somewhere around
The Rolling Stones who are still together
and going strong after 50 years, and who are often reference
points of comparison, in that pop psych question often posed:
“Are you a Beatles person or a Stones person?”
(akin to the question regarding cat vs. dog lovers), are still
essentially a rock band. Beginning on that February night
50 years ago, The Beatles were, and still continue to be,
something much more than that. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
Where is that thought
so searing with insight
that it burns a hole in the paper?
That causes some smoke alarm
to go off somewhere
in this place in which we live?
Where are the words
so exacting to describe it?
That start out so hot to the touch
then get crumpled and tossed
into some recycling bin?
That is if lucky enough to have reached
the nirvana of hard copy—
that ancient proof of existence.
Has anyone actually ever witnessed
something in the process of getting recycled?
take it on faith
that the tan coffee filter
through which I’m about to let water flow
has been here before.
A journey in Hinduism
that keeps coming back in one form or another
‘til it gets it right?
I live but once
compelled to go on in search of words
I never had in mind
to describe a mind for which there are no words.
Perhaps I should take to finger paints
to attempt what to make of this cup of time?
Let clocks drip as Dali did?
Or simply sit and smell the coffee
having run out of free verse
or reason to rhyme.
Editor’s note: It is very infrequent when something
by a guest writer or poet has been reproduced in this
Muse-Letter in its entirety. Poems by the likes of Seamus
Heaney and Pope John Paul II have appeared here before,
as well as an essay by a fellow writer. The following
piece was written by Almie Rose, and used with her permission,
it is taken from her current book “I Forgot to be
Famous,” which is available through Amazon, Kindle,
and her popular blog http://apocalypstick.com/
which is ranked within the top one half of one percent
of all blogs read in the U.S.
Once, I accidently went to a Malibu wedding.
Sort of. My friends and I decided to spend a day at the beach.
Living in Los Angeles, one gets spoiled and treats the beach
as though it were another Starbucks; a sort of “Oh,
yeah, it’s everywhere, it will always be there.”
At least my friends and I do, not being surfer types and not
having beach houses of our own. So one day we thought, right,
this exists, let’s hang out there. We sat on a Harry
Potter blanket and discreetly drank wine coolers while we
watched a fat man play volley ball with another fat man. They
seemed to be having a good time.
After that, we all got stuck on the idea that we simply had
to go to Moonshadows. Moonshadows is the restaurant where
Mel Gibson famously got arrested and let a beautifully horrendous
tirade spew forth. The infamous, “The Jews are responsible
for all the wars of the world” and “What are you
looking at, Sugar Tits—the greatest hits of Gibson all
happened just down the beach from us. We thought perhaps we’d
get a drink from their lounge, but be responsible about it,
because we are not Mel Gibson, and if you are around Mel Gibson
and he is around alcohol, you should just save everybody time
and call the police. By the time you hang up the phone he’s
going to be cursing Jews and stomping on house plants like
he’s King Kong, all the while panting and screaming.
We made it into Moonshadows, feeling very grown-up, which
is very different from feeling adult. We didn’t feel,
“Ugh I wonder how much valet is going to cost, and how
much these drinks are going to cost” or anything of
that nature. We felt, “Man we look so cool. Are we allowed
to even be in here? This is like being in a Bret Easton Ellis
And then it really went into Bret Easton Ellis territory.
We’re sitting at a small booth, and to the left of me
is a very cool old woman. Cool in a different cool than we
were. She was an established, kooky, Fuck it, I’m
old cool. I noticed the owl pendant hanging around her
neck. I told her how much I liked it. She seemed thrilled
by this. I really adored her.
Then it started. That beautiful pop, new wave sound with bittersweet
undertones, all in earnest, of “The Promise” by
When In Rome. And a bride and groom were dancing. It all happened
very suddenly. The song, perhaps a dimming of lights, the
swelling of joy—this was their moment, they must have
planned it. And they’re dancing in the middle of the
lounge, mouthing the words to each other, blissed out of their
minds. I stared at them, respectfully, slightly confused but
quietly enthusiastic. They saw me and smiled.
The groom looked into my eyes and said, with more joy in one
sentence than I’ve heard in hundreds, “I’m
marrying my best friend.” My cynicism halted. I smiled
back. I promise you, I promise you I will was all
I heard and saw.
Ever since that night, I’ve fallen in love with that
song. I hear it and even though I’ve forgotten what
the couple looks like, I see them dancing, laughing, holding
on to each other, having an occasional goofy moment, lip-synching,
I was so full of joy that I asked the kooky old woman next
to me if we could take a photo with her. She seemed shocked
and said, “Really?!” I said definitely. “Let’s
go outside,” she said. She had a friend with her. “Do
you know who that is?” she asked me. I paused. Yes,
I knew now. “Phyliss Diller?”
And yes she was.
“You made her night,” her friend told us.
“She made ours,” I said.
We took more photos, got into the car, and drove with the
windows down, back to where we once belonged. I looked out
at the ocean and in my head, over and over, If you need
a friend, don’t look to a stranger. You know in the
end. I’ll always be there…I promise you. I promise
you I will.
And that’s how I accidently went to a Malibu wedding.
Almie Rose and Phyliss Diller 2009