The So-Called Friendly Skies

I can’t say I was shocked to recently hear about the doctor who was dragged off of a United flight due to overbooking. I’ve only flown 11 times in my life, the last time was in 1999, more than two years before 9/11 changed everything. 

It’s not that I don’t like flying. One of my cousins is a very successful airline pilot for one of the major North American companies. I just always thought the companies in general tend to think their poop doesn’t stink, and this thinking began a few decades ago. 

In 1996, I flew from Las Vegas to Atlanta via Delta. I enjoyed my brief stay at McCarran airport, complete at the time with a Taco Bell open for breakfast, long before that became a normal thing. 

The Delta desk had something I’d never before seen to that point: a line monitor, actively inquiring as to what flight they were on, what time it was leaving, and the like. On the surface, it seemed superfluous, as I’d be giving this info when I reached the counter. 

But she had this look about her which I read as if she was saying, “Don’t mess with me, young man.” Probably a nun in another life, I guessed to myself. Considering I wanted to get to Atlanta that particular Friday in June, I did what I was asked and told.

I can only imagine what things are like now in the post 9/11 world, where all travelers seem guilty until proven innocent. 

When It Hit The Fan

Yesterday, I was talking about how I would deliberately miss school in the first semester of the 1988-89 school year, when I was a senior at Largo High School. I can’t mention how lucky I was to have skipped school and NOT mention what happened when my luck ran out. And take it for me, when you think you’re getting away with something, don’t push your luck, as the universe always seems to find ways to balance things out beyond what you think you can fathom.

My parents weren’t really all too concerned about my school progress. They briefly separated when I was in middle school, then did so again for a few months in 1987 before coming back together. My mother left and got an apartment in nearby Indian Rocks Beach, living with her brother (and my uncle) at the time. In the spring of 1989, my Dad had a heart attack, forcing him into retirement from working as a butcher at a small store in Redington Beach, another nearby town. I’d work with him in the summer part-time.

They really didn’t pay attention to when report cards got released, and several days would go by from the time I’d get them to the time I’d ask for them, and I’d only give it to them when they requested. I somehow learned that bad news traveled fast, so you keep it to yourself until it’s asked for.

When the second semester began in early 1989, I was doing just well enough to pass classes. When my parents asked me for my latest report card and probably saw the eight absences I had without their knowledge, I could see what was coming, and it was trouble in River City. After the ensuing lecture, I was told that from now on, when I did homework or had to study, I had to do it in public view and not in my bedroom as I had been doing.

Whatever they said worked. I made the honor roll (making all A’s and B’s, with the allowance of making a C in one class) all three grading periods in that semester. If I missed a class that half of the year, it was for something that really happened, but it happened rarely if at all. I don’t think I did as well on the end of semester exams, but by that point, I had done so well that it didn’t mathematically matter. I was going to graduate.

The lecture gave me the “shot of adrenaline” I needed to finish my scholastic career strong. It would have been a total embarrassment had I failed enough classes in my final semester not to have graduated, but I always did just well enough to squeak by up to then.

Again, I was lucky when luck was all I had. If there’s a moral of the story, it’s not to depend on luck all of the time, because if that’s all you have, it can run out on you.

What Is The Reason For Your Truancy?

Over the weekend, Facebook reminded me of a scan I posted on there back in 2009 of my senior class, gathered in a patio outside of the school gym in the fall of 1988.

I’m not in the pic, because that was one of eight school days I chose to miss in the first half of the school year. That year, they had changed the rules over absences. In prior years, even if you took a single day away from school, you had to have a note from a parent explaining why you weren’t at school. In the 1988-89 school year, you just came back without explanations being necessary. You could elect to take 9 days off without penalty. The 10th such day off meant you failed all you classes for that semester.

And so, I wound up playing a lot of hooky that fall. I didn’t have any sisters or brothers, and my mother and father each went to work before I had to leave for school, and I always got back home when I went to school before they did. I wouldn’t make a lot of noise in the house, finding ways to entertain myself watching TV or listening to the radio quietly. I didn’t dare go out those days, lest anyone else catch me playing hooky and reporting that around, leading to a chain reaction of events where this gets back to my parents.

There was one Friday that I played hooky in the late fall, and then went to school to watch some sporting events at night. I may have had some PA announcing duties that day (back then, I did the PA for JV football, boys basketball, and girls soccer), but I don’t remember. I just got curious (and a little stir crazy, probably) to see if anyone would catch on. A few of my classmates knew I wasn’t at school that day, but no one in authority seemed to notice or care.

I was lucky. I should have gotten busted somewhere along the way, but it never happened. It seems I’ve always been smart enough to con people, but never smart enough not to. 

Flashback: “Freeze-Frame” by The J. Geils Band

If you didn’t catch it during the week, John Warren Geils, founder and guitarist of the J. Geils Band, passed away during the week in Massachusetts at the age of 71.

The band was founded in Worcester in 1967, but 1982 was their biggest year by far, scoring four pop hits off of their Freeze Frame album. “Centerfold” was easily their biggest hit, going to number one on the Hot 100 in the spring of that year. “Flame Thrower” and “Angel in Blue” also hit the top 40, with “Freeze-Frame” being their second biggest hit, peaking at number four.

I picked “Freeze-Frame” to play because it seemed (to me, anyway) to endure longer. If you ever go out to watch a ballgame in recent years, they always seem to use this song on the TV screens (do they still call them Jumbotrons these days?) trying to catch fans off guard.

Pay Up, Or The Cable Box Gets It!

There’s a now familiar message that’s been scrolling on the bottom of the screen during Rays games. It reminds viewers that the games might not be airing on your cable system if that system is Spectrum Cable, which used to be Bright House here prior to the start of 2017.

This drama has been playing out in various regional outlets other than Tampa Bay, such as Cleveland, San Diego, and Atlanta. Deadlines pass, but yet the regional Fox Sports outlet has stayed on my Spectrum system after a few of these “deadlines” have come and gone.

I don’t know if I’ve said it on this blog before, but I know I’ve felt this way before. There ought to be a law that when circumstances like this come up, the viewer isn’t held hostage, or used as a pawn in a publicity battle like Fox has been encouraging. Matters like these should find a way to resolve themselves without the viewing public having to choose sides, or decipher who the “good guys” or “bad guys” are, because when stuff like this happens, EVERYBODY loses.

Out Of The Park, Again

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If it’s the baseball season, I can probably be found at night immersed in a little computer program called Out Of The Park Baseball. It is a baseball simulation of enormous depth created by German developer Markus Heinsohn, with the 18th version (known amongst fans as OOTP 18) just having been released a few weeks ago. The game is so popular, owners and players have been known to play it, and it’s even been used in schools to teach business economics.

With each new version comes new bells and whistles. When version 17 came out last year, it added a minor league historical database along with the major leaguers so you could get a more accurate account of what the baseball world looked like in a given year. This year’s improvement added the Negro Leagues, setting up what-if scenarios that now included baseball not having a color barrier prior to 1947. But that’s just ONE thing you can do. You can even play the standard game and manage or be a general manager of teams in the modern MLB, the minors, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, or beyond. Wherever you want to go, OOTP can likely take you there.

My personal favorite enterprise the last few seasons have been the ability to have players debut randomly. For instance, what if Evan Longoria played in the first decade of the 20th century as opposed to the 21st, or if Clayton Kershaw pitched back then, when starting pitchers usually went the full nine innings?

There’s a lot less you can do as oppose to what you can do, including the ability to create fictional leagues and structures within and play commissioner, proprietor, and God. It’s not just a sim but a baseball laboratory any fan would enjoy.