Eyesight to the Blind

 

 

 

You talk about your woman, I wish you could see mine,

Every time she starts to lovin’ she brings eyesight to the blind.

-The Who

 

I just spent another weekend in New York, and, as usual, I partied.  I went to a Mavericks concert at the Beacon Theater with my friend Maria, who must be the band’s #1 fan.  I went to a Country Dance with my friend Joan.  I didn’t do any dancing, as I just enjoyed the music and kept Anna, the barmaid, very busy.

I did do something completely different this weekend, though.  I was an umpire at a Beeper Softball Game.  I never heard of Beeper Ball before, but Brother X schooled me on the finer points of the game.  He also informed me that our Dad helped invent the game.  My Dad was legally blind the last few years of his life, and he used his telephone company contacts to get some people at Western Electric to develop a beeping ball, so that blind people could play ball sports.  They made the first beeper ball out of a softball and some parts from a Princess phone.

Brother X and his wife are both former presidents of their local Lions Club.  I knew that the Lions were involved in charity work, but, now, I found out that they are really all about charity work, especially helping the blind.  Last year my brother’s chapter was able to purchase a seeing-eye dog for one of their town’s residents.  Thanks to owning the dog, he was able to participate more fully in life, and even joined a Beeper Ball team.

The ball beeps so that the blind batters and fielders know where it is.  The bases also emit signals so that the batters know where to run when they hit the ball.  There are only two bases, which are both in foul territory to avoid collisions with runners and fielders.  They are located 90 feet from home plate, about 10 feet outside the foul line.  There is no second base, because there is no need for one, and the batter can run to either of the two bases after hitting the ball, so there is no advantage for left-handed batters.  If the batter gets to the base before a fielder comes up with the ball, it is the equivalent of a home run.  If a fielder comes up with the ball before the batter reaches a base, it is an out.

As a base umpire, it was my job to raise my hand when the runner reached the base.  The field umpire raised his hand when a fielder came up with the ball.  So, if my hand went up first, the team scored a run.  If the field umpire’s hand went up first, it was an out.  The players all wear blindfolds so that the “legally blind” and the 100% blind are all 100% blind.  The only ones who don’t wear blindfolds ate the pitchers and catchers, who are sighted.  The pitchers are on the same side as the team at bat, so they’re not trying to strike anyone out.  They’re trying to serve up good pitches, and they yell “Ball” when they release the ball so that the batter knows the ball is on the way.  Then they listen for the beeping and swing at it.

There were officials keeping track of everything, but I don’t know the final score.  It didn’t matter to me.  The players were all winners.  It showed in all their faces.  They were happy to finally be able to participate in a game they loved.

My Dad’s little idea to help the blind participate in ball sports has really taken off and there are now beeper softball, basketball, and soccer leagues.  My brother and sister-in-law’s efforts with the Lions Club has also done much to help the blind.  Now, I had a little chance to help the cause, too, by waiting at first base and raising my hand when the runners got there.  Like John Milton said in his poem, On His Blindness, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

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FREE-bird

Freebird

Last week there was a concert at Clipper Magazine Stadium.  Since the stadium is only 2 blocks from my house, I figured I might be able to hear it from my backyard.  When I heard them tuning up in the afternoon, I knew that I figured correctly.

I called Debbie to see if she was interested.  She was, so I set up the Scrabble board in the backyard and put some beers in a cooler.  I really should have grilled some “tailgate” food, but I settled for just snacks.

The opening act was Jack Broadbent.  I never heard of him.  I went on YouTube and listened to one of his songs.  I wasn’t crazy about it.  When he came on he played relatively quiet music and we couldn’t hear it too well.  I didn’t care.  Not only was I not interested in his set, but Debbie was beating me at Scrabble.  It was a chilly night, but I was breaking out in a sweat.  Debbie never beats me at Scrabble.  It’s not that I’m so good.  It’s because she is so bad.  She can’t spell worth a damn and would probably lose to a competitive eight-year old, but she was beating me.  I had all consonants, and I could only make short words where I could find a loose vowel.

Then Frampton came on and the volume increased.  We heard everything except that funky low-volume guitar stuff he does with that joystick in his mouth during “Do You Feel Like I Do.”  I grabbed my cell phone and went to YouTube for the “live” video.  We watched him play.

Debbie, super impressed, asked me if the signal was coming directly from the Stadium.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I went to the stadium earlier today and put a satellite dish on the roof.  How many beers have you had?”

It took her a few minutes to realize that I was joking.  I knew then that I didn’t have to sweat the outcome of the Scrabble game anymore.

You may be wondering why I was worried about a stupid game.  Let me give you some background.  Debbie usually loses by 100-200 points, and I am so confident that she will lose, that I once made her a standing bet.  If she ever beats me, I will do ANYTHING she asks me to do.  ANYTHING!!!  If she asks me to go to the ballgame wearing a tutu, I will do it.  Of course, I won’t do it, because I don’t plan to ever lose to her, but when Frampton came on she was still winning.  Fortunately, by the time he finished his set, I was way ahead and drawing away.  Waa Waa Waa Waa Waa Waaaaaaa.

Then the closers came out – Lynyrd Skynyrd, and by this time the Scrabble game was over, so we just sat back and enjoyed the music.  Well, I sat back and enjoyed the music.  Debbie got up to dance.  Well, maybe I should have placed the word dance inside quotes.  Her dancing is worse than her Scrabble playing, but better than her singing.  When she sang along on “What’s Your Name?” I wished that she would “Gimme Three Steps” towards the door.

They closed the show with Freebird.  I didn’t have any fireworks, but I lit a few tiki torches and we waved them in the air.  Then we polished off the beers.  The first backyard concert of 2016 was a big success.  Sweet home, Pennsylvania.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Greatest

Ali_Me

Many have been called “The Greatest,” but very few actually lived up to the hype.  Muhammad Ali did.  The Mashed Potatoes didn’t.

Sure, there was a time back in the early 60’s when Dee Dee Sharp extolled the virtues of the Mashed Potatoes:

It’s the latest.

It’s the greatest.

Mashed Potatoes, yeah, yeah, yeah.

We danced and sang along gleefully, but we all knew that the Mashed Potatoes wasn’t the Greatest Dance of all time.  It wasn’t even the greatest dance of the 60’s.  The Twist completely dominated that era.  Chubby Checker’s recording was the #1 song in two different years (1960 and 1962).

Audrey Meadows was terrific as Alice Kramden, and each episode of the Honeymooners ended with Ralph telling her, “Baby, you’re the greatest.”  For him, she was, but for the rest of us she was just plain great, not the greatest.

William Katt played Ralph Hinkley.  He was billed as The Greatest American Hero.  The show was entertaining, but a truly great hero wouldn’t have lost the instructions to his super suit on the very first day he got it.  Plus, there are a great number of Americans who would compete for the title of The Greatest American Hero.  George Washington, for one.  There are many more.

Those born between 1900 and 1924 are often called The Greatest Generation.  You know what?  My parents came from that generation, so I won’t argue that it wasn’t the greatest generation.  Not everyone born between 1900 and 1924 qualifies, though, and as great as they were, they weren’t perfect.  Many were not very accepting of minorities back then.  Even some Brooklynites booed Jackie Robinson for breaking Baseball’s color barrier.

Ringo Starr proudly sang “I am the Greatest.”  He was a member of one of the greatest Rock N Roll bands ever, but I think he had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek when he sang that song.

Muhammed Ali told everyone that he was “The Greatest,” and then he went out and proved it.  He proved it in the boxing ring, winning the Olympic Gold, and also the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship three times.  He proved it when he had the courage of his convictions to stand up against the draft, even though it cost him dearly.  He proved it when speaking out for the Civil Rights of African Americans.  He proved it to me when I saw him at the Vista International Hotel.  I humbly asked him if I could take his picture.  In a voice already weakened by Parkinson’s Disease, he replied, “Why don’t you hand your camera to my manager, so we can take a picture together.”  That was back in the 80’s, long before “selfies” became the order of the day.  He proved his greatness after the terrorists razed the Twin Towers on 9/11.  He spoke of peace and represented the peaceful Muslims of the world.  He even proved it in his death, when he courageously battled Parkinson’s Disease for more than three decades.

For most of his 74 years, the world knew Muhammad Ali as “The Greatest.”  I’m glad I got to meet him in person.  Now the final bell has rung, and his fight is over.  He lost a few rounds along the way, and he did make some enemies, but he won many more rounds and was an inspiration to people all around the world.  Rest in peace, my friend.  You earned it.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

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