In the here and now

tivoremoteThe conclusion of the football season has tabled a running debate in our family, at least until baseball season. It started when the Dude was worried that his basketball scrimmage would conflict with the Patriot’s playoff game. My husband (who could not care less about football) scoffed at the Dude’s dismay. “Just tape it,” he said. He might as well have suggested that the Dude hug him in public.

“It’s no fun watching a taped game. I already know what’s going to happen.”

“How would you know that?”

“Because I’d be checking the score on my IPhone.”

“So don’t.”

The Dude gave one of those long exhales that teens specialize in–the one that says you are so freaking stupid I can’t believe we’re related.

My husband asked me to back him up, but the thing is, I couldn’t.

What I love about watching baseball is the sense of the collective. I love knowing that  I’m on the edge of my seat just like everyone else. We all hang in that moment, the before of what is possible. There’s nothing like the thrill of a game-changing play, the throw down, or the clutch home run.

Like Schrödinger’s cat, we wait to see what’s under the box. When the box is lifted, we know the state is decided, whether we were there to see it or not. Before has become after and we can’t take it back. How we experience the moment it is as important as the moment itself.

We’ve lost much of that sense of the collective in our Tivo-able universe. We can pause and play bits an pieces of our lives, all in the name of convenience. I wonder what we’ve lost in the process.

When I was a kid, The Wizard of Oz was on once a year, as was Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer, and the various Charlie Brown specials.  Finales aired once, maybe twice if you count summer repeats. We planned, we anticipated, and our world stopped for that 30 minutes. The day after, we talked about it. It was an event. Now we DVR and binge-watch and Hulu and the statute of limitations on spoilers is endless.

When I go to events, I see more people watching through iPhones than through their eyes. While it’s nice to have a record of an event, just knowing it’s being captured dims its brilliance. If we know that it’s on our hard drive, do we etch it into our memory as strongly as we would otherwise?

While I’m glad the Dude knows that he must honor his commitments, I’m also glad that there is something in the now that he values, even if it’s just watching to see if Tom Brady gets a high five. (Sorry man, but that was an epic video) Because when it comes right down to it, you never really know which moments are going to matter until they are already over. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a shared memory is worth a million.

That, and our DVR is full with multiple seasons of Downton Abbey and Top Chef. I’ll get around to watching them some day.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph, “Tivo Remote” by Lynda Giddens ©2005 Creative Commons/Flickr

The Baseball Game

bleachersTop of the fourth. The score is 5-3. Maybe. No one in the stands is exactly sure except for the woman in the third row. It’s 4-3. Top of the fifth.

“We have more runs than that. I know we do.”

“I really think Dustin looked that guy back. He didn’t score.”

“It is the fourth isn’t it? Or is it the fifth?”

A cell phone rings and seven people reach for their pockets and purses. The six people without a ringing phone look disappointed. The seventh talks, oblivious to the setting.

“That was definitely a strike.”

“The ump is being generous.”

“How are Aunt Helen’s hemorrhoids?”

The batter sends a fly into shallow right field.

“Call it! Call it!”

They may be in high school, but they won’t call it, thinks the woman in the third row.

“Did you try giving her prunes?”

Three players stand in a circle and watch the ball drop. The crowd groans.

“Fundamentals Bobby,” a woman shouts. “You’ve got to remember fundamentals!” Bobby’s middle finger twitches.

“Mom! I’m hungry,” whines a teenager.

Her father sighs and pulls out his phone. “Siri, where is the nearest Chipotle?”

Another phone rings. Five people reach into their pockets and purses. The lucky winner answers. It’s a call from the office.

“Well you tell Lorton he’s full of shit if he thinks I’ll settle for that!”

“You can’t leave Aunt Helen in the bathroom alone.”

“And two cokes with that please.”

“Does anyone know what the score is?”

“5-2. Top of the fifth.”

“8-4. Top of the sixth.”

It’s still 5-3, top of the fifth, thinks the woman in the third row.

A man nudges his wife. “I don’t see Calvin. Are you sure this is the right game?”

She rolls her eyes. “He’s the tall blond kid.” That phrase describes half of the team.

“Cover the base, Bobby!”

A small child runs back and forth in front of the crowd. His mother tries to wrangle him in.

“If you don’t stop, we’re going to the car.”

“And some guacamole too.”

“Lorton can kiss my ass.”

The toddler’s mother shoots the man a disapproving look. He shrugs an apology. The little boy continues to run in front of the bleachers.

“Kiss my ass, kiss my ass, kiss my ass.”

We need a toddler whisperer, thinks the woman in the third row.

“Alright Calvin!” the Dad yells.

“That’s not Calvin, that’s Riley.” She rolls her eyes.

“Bobby, are you sleeping out there?”

Bobby yells from first base. “Mom, will you please shut up?”

“Don’t talk to me that way!”

Please shut up, thinks the woman in the third row.

“No biting. If you bite me again, we’re going back to the car.”

“She has one of those blow up doughnut thingees? Why doesn’t she use that?”

“What is the score?”

“11-1”

“8-4.”

“If you bite me one more time we’re going back to the car,” says the toddler’s mother. Again.

Please, please bite her, thinks the woman in the third row.

The teenager returns, Chipotle bags in hand. She knocks her coke over onto Bobby’s mother.

“Try epsom salts.”

“Fax it to my home office.”

“Kiss my ass. Kiss my ass.”

The boy at the plate hits a screaming line drive.

“Way to go, dude. Run! Run! Oh yeah!” The woman in the third row stands and pumps her fist. “Who’s your Daddy?!”

The crowd is silent.

The woman in the third row sits down.

“For the record, I know who his father is.”

Bobby’s mother turns to Aunt Martha’s niece. “Some people just don’t know how to behave at the ballpark.”

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph “Fall Bleachers” by Nick Weiler © 2008 Creative Commons

A Thousand Mile Markers

mile markerMy marriage almost collapsed during my honeymoon, and it was all because of Mille Bornes. My newly-minted husband and I played a quick game before dinner one evening. He is competitive. I am not. He whupped my ass. I didn’t take it well.

I find competition stressful, not fun. This has always been the case. When I was young, I didn’t play sports and since they don’t hold cage matches for orchestras, I was pretty safe. Now, I still don’t play team sports, and for the most part orchestras are still on the sedate side. I do, however, white-knuckle my way through my son’s games. See? I don’t even like watching other people compete.

The Fitbit has changed everything. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Fitbit is like a pedometer that tracks your activity level. My husband and I both got them for Christmas. You have a dashboard where you can view your progress, and they give you fun little badges as you accrue miles and flights of stairs. It’s great for grade mongers like me who need gold stars.

As a writer, much of my day is sedentary. My break is playing music or reading–not exactly calorie-burners. The Fitbit reminds me that I need to get up and move every so often. Sure, I could go to the gym or run because it’s good for me. Not going to happen. I’ll do it because it’s an easy way to get my 10,000 steps. Running is the optimum choice because our neighborhood has hills–I get credit for both steps and stairs.

The  dashboard not only gives you an overview of your performance, it allows you to connect with friends and see each others’ progress. They say it’s a way to support each other. For some reason, however, it’s not working that way for me. I’m determined to best my husband. Life is good as long as I’m ahead.

He went skiing last week. I was doing a clean food detox. He was all over the place. I was huddled with the cats on the sofa. When he got home he kept taunting me. “I’m 2000 steps ahead. Oh look! Now I’m 3500 steps ahead!”

I wasn’t amused. “You were eating protein and carbohydrates,” I countered.

“Yes, but I was at elevation. It’s more difficult. You know elevation? Oh right, you stayed horizontal the whole weekend.”

It was so on.

Friday, while ironing, I made myself run each shirt upstairs individually, and I was disappointed that we had to do so many squats in weight class. They don’t trigger the Fitbit to register a step. For a class that makes me sweat so much, it should be worth more. No dice. I was still behind. So yesterday, I ran in the cold. Normally, I don’t even leave the house if it’s below 30 degrees out. I put on long underwear and did a chilly, four-mile trek. Take that.

My husband was more than a little amused. “What happened to my non-competitive wife?” he asked. “Want to play some Mille Bornes?”

“Go right ahead. Say whatever you want,” I told him. He can laugh all he wants–I’m 12,226 steps ahead.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Mike McCollough © 2008 Creative Commons

Of luck and loss

fingerscrossedMy son is superstitious. He looks for omens everywhere, signs that his team will win their scrimmage, signals that portend a snow day, the tell-tale markers for a Pats win. He believes you can jinx things by being too confident or test fate by making any sort of provision based on an outcome.

He’ll even ask for them outright. He’ll stand roughly where the three-point line would lie on our driveway and say “If I make this shot, the Sox will win the series.” Never mind that the season is months away and the Sox were epically bad last season. I seem to recall his taking quite a few shots to determine the outcome of last season. Clearly he missed more shots than he made. If only it were so easy to do and undo some seemingly inevitable future with nothing more than a lucky long basket or a wad of paper actually reaching the garbage can across the room.

He had a cow two weeks ago when his father commented that the Pats had the lead going into the last two minutes. “Don’t say that! You’ll jinx it!” There were only two minutes left, although I suppose a lot can happen in two minutes. I find it hard to believe that one middle-aged dude in Virginia can sway the outcome by commenting on the score more than say, the entire state of Massachusetts.

I may be to blame for some of my son’s superstitious nature. When we moved to Virginia from Boston, my son was not happy. He felt we were leaving the town he loved for a sports wasteland. He remained loyal to his beloved Pats. We assuaged his homesickness by taking the flowered wallpaper out of the upstairs bathroom and making it a Patriots mecca. He could smile at Tom Brady while he stood before the toilet every morning.

When the Pats went to the Superbowl, I said I would throw a party. He helped me with the invitation. He chose a picture of an unhappy Eli Manning and declared it a victory celebration long before game day. He never thought they’d lose. Neither did I. Helmet catch anyone? He didn’t take it well. Most 9 year olds don’t take heartbreak well. Ever since, he’s refused to call a victory until the game is good and over. If anyone else does, it might unravel all of the protections he’s put in place.

My husband, the man of science, gave  the dude a lot of grief about his superstitions last week. He teased him about the lucky jersey, the no-chicken-counting rule, the finely tuned calculations that favor the Pats. Nothing lies better than well-chosen statistics.

Sunday was a rough day around here. The game was physical and nasty. The Ravens were out for blood and they got what they were looking for. The Pats went down. My son got increasingly upset as the night wore on.  He even tore the lucky jersey in a Hulkian fit of anger. Not much, he’s a skinny thing. I can fix it.  Any broken luck–I don’t have a patch for that.

I’ll give him some credit. He didn’t blame his father for jinxing the team. At least not out loud. Monday morning he slept in late, taking advantage of the holiday. He wasn’t too morose. He didn’t have to face the kids at school who know he’s a Pats fan–particularly the ones that have suddenly become Ravens fans. He has a particular disdain for bandwagon fans that jump on to root for the team of the moment. You have to have a connection to root for a team, he says. Someone has to live there, or have parents that lived there. Cousins, traded favorite players, or admiration aren’t enough.

“Anyhow,” he said, “it was all because of the refs. Those calls were ridiculous!”

“It’s it always?” I replied.

“Yeah. Like really!” He said it without any trace of irony, nor did he register my own. “Can you fix my jersey?”

I told him I could.

“Good. I’ll need it for the Superbowl. The 49ers have to win.” I gave him a raised eyebrow. “Hey–We lived in San Francisco for five years!”

At least he’s consistent. Better go fix that jersey.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by Jens Rost © 2012 Creative Commons