Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"How Old Would You Be, If You Didn't Know How Old You Was?"

My best friend from high school just sent me a last e-mail from work. Ever. We are 56 (each), and he is retiring. From a job with the government, where he has worked since his twenties.

Apparently, you can do that (retire), working for the government. A lot of my life I worked for myself, and retirement seems like a far-off thing, if not a complete fantasy.

Financially, to be sure, but also physically and mentally. I told my friend Chris, good for you, but ain't you too young to be laying down?

I think maybe, as people are living longer these days, the word "retirement" itself should in some cases, like his, be retired. Chris, I said, maybe it's more like "graduation" for you.

In my case, the word "retirement" will equal the word "funeral." But that's okay with me. I don't have anything more to graduate from. I want to work till I drop, like John Henry, Pete Seeger, or Satchel Paige.

Let's talk about Satchel Paige, who once said (and always showed) something great about age.

Satchel Paige was the greatest baseball pitcher of all time. He was a star in the professional Negro Leagues, from the 1920's into the 40's. He was kept from the major leagues until the color line was broken, in 1947. He was signed soon after, despite his advanced age. He was at least a decade older than most players. He was great yet. But the age difference was obvious, a guy in his mid- or late forties in a game where 35 was old. Despite entreaties, he would never discuss nor disclose his age.

The story goes that, one night in a bar, a reporter friend asked Paige to please, please do what he had never done: specify his age. Tell it. Can it be true, in a game where you're done well before 40, you're still in here, maybe 45? 46? 47? How old are you? Really?

Paige looked at the guy (goes the tale). He said he would answer as a friend. But he would answer the question with a question.

"How old would you be," said Satchel Paige, "if you didn't know how old you was?" That's how old Satchel Paige was. Me, too. You, too, I hope.

A Lot Of Our Stuff Is Now In The Ithaca Times, Bi-Weekly

Check it, beloved Ithaca Blog fans: our local weekly newspaper, the Ithaca Times, now prints our Ithaca Blog-type stuff twice a month, a couple of items at a time. So we are writing a lot less here now.

Please give a look at the paper for it. If you are out of town, the paper has a wonderfully nice website name, Unfortunately, right now, the format of the online edition is not as tight as the name. Our stuff, particularly, is not easy to find. "I type in your name and get nothing," we are told often, and it is true. You have to hit the menu for "Opinion" and then for "Columnists" to find us.

We're grateful if you look us up. We're glad that you read us, and we hope we please you as much as you do us.

Friday, August 15, 2014

B-Mets Make the Post-season

Here's our column from this week's Ithaca Times, about the Binghamton Mets. The B-Mets qualify for post-season play this year for the Eastern League championship.

Take Me Out to the B-Mets - Ithaca Times : Opinion

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Message To A Friend Who Once Worked With Robin Williams

This is a message I sent last night to my friend Lori Balton, a macher in the movies, who got a big break early, in 1988 or so, scouting locations on the east coast for a pretty big Hollywood picture called Dead Poets Society.

Lori, I remember the DPS wrap party, in Wilmington DE, which you so kindly invited me to, when I was living in near-by Maryland, and you & I were not too long out of Cornell, you starting your career in the movies. It was a great, fun night. I remember you telling me, "These kids will be stars some day," and how great this one star, Robin Williams, was to work with, generous and fun, a mensch and pro. You had the idea the film might be a hit.

Tonight must be very sad for you. Of course, it is sad for the whole world. I was working tonight when the word spread. People cried. It is, at least, a reminder - or a lesson - about mental illness. That is the cause of his death. Mental illness is not a choice, any more than physical illness. Our misunderstanding of it actually makes it the more painful of the two. - Rest in peace, funnyman, great artist, giver, beautiful guy, Robin Williams.