Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bowling--You're Not Worthy!?

I got mad at a friend yesterday for saying bowling doesn’t get good media coverage because it isn’t “worthy” of it. What I found especially maddening about this was that he and I subscribe to FloBowling and regularly and enthusiastically follow professional male and female bowling and chat about it virtually every day. Watch some televised PWBA stepladders from early in the 2016 season, and you will see him sitting in the stands watching and texting me about what’s happening. And although you can’t see him in the audience of the televised PBA Masters stepladder recently that Jacob Buturff won, he was there.

I confess that I felt his remark like a slap in the face. And when he defended it against my protests and then said I needed to stop being so “emotional” and "honestly" face up to the truth, I didn’t exactly feel more favorably disposed to his point of view. Because what I understood him to mean, which he did not dispute, by his “not worthy” remark is not that bowling simply isn’t popular enough to garner more media coverage, but that it isn’t GOOD enough to deserve greater popularity and coverage. And while I realize that many people believe this, to the extent that they ever even give elite bowling a thought, it shocked me that HE would believe and say this to ME.

And because I felt my temperature rising as this discussion unfolded, I quickly made it very clear that I didn’t see any point in continuing along that line because it seemed that we had made our respective views plenty clear and that there was nothing to be gained (and, by implication) much to possibly be lost by chatting any more about it at the time.

Was I being too “emotional”? In hindsight, I’m willing to consider that possibility. In fact, I concede that a wiser or more mature response would have been to dispassionately take note of my friend’s opinion and then just let it go like I would a similar remark from a child or adult who knew nothing about bowling and was just talking out of his ass or trolling.

But my friend knew a lot more than nothing about bowling and he knew full well whom he was talking to, and he still said bowling wasn’t “worthy” of more popularity than it enjoyed or coverage than it received and that he had the right to hold this opinion and to express it. Well, I disagree with his opinion of bowling’s worthiness, but I agree with him that he has a right to that opinion and to express it. By the same token, I could say that I had a right to disagree with him and to express my emotional antipathy to his holding and expressing his opinion so long as I didn’t didn’t do it any more disagreeably than I did. But I’m not sure our asserting our respective rights in this regard gets us anywhere we want to go. I don’t know how he feels in the aftermath of our disagreement, although his uncharacteristic silence may well provide a clue, but I do know that I don’t feel particularly good about it.

And it’s not only because I don’t like having angry confrontations with people whose friendship I value and then having, with unpleasant awkwardness, to try to reconcile, but I also wonder if I don’t deep down agree with his opinion of bowling and am angry over the fact that he forced me to confront and examine it. Is elite bowling NOT worthy of the greater popularity and media coverage that other sports including football, basketball, baseball, boxing, soccer, tennis, and golf enjoy and receive? And am I foolish to be working, as I now am, to produce a podcast devoted to covering elite bowling?

I don’t have any solid answers. Just unsettling questions. I guess I’ll mull on them a while.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Another Year Around the Sun

Yesterday was my 66th birthday. And I once again find myself wondering whether I'll be here a year from now to reflect on yet another birthday.

For the longest time, I've had reasons to think that the birthday I was writing about then could very well be my last. Maybe they weren't such good reasons. Or maybe they were. The fact that I'm still here and seemingly in decent health would seem to suggest the former. But what do I know for sure about such matters?

The fact is, I'm still here and grateful to be here without being in misery. And I still have a headful of dreams and goals that, even if I make no significant effort to achieve them and no significant progress toward achieving them, still give me more reason to want to go on living than to die. I have eternity, maybe, to be dead, but only a few short more years at most to live and, perhaps, to leave this world feeling like my life wasn't a complete waste or worse.

And that's really about all there is to say on the matter of my birthdays and of longevity. Despite the fact that writing is probably what I do best, I'm increasingly disinclined to do it because, in the final analysis, I believe I have so little to say that's worth saying or that would sufficiently interest anyone including myself.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Eternal King of the Suburban Jungle

My Tao-Tao died on October 15. But for some reason, I didn’t blog about it then. Maybe it just hurt so much that writing about it while it was still raw would have been like rubbing salt in a wound. And maybe I was thinking so many thoughts and feeling so many powerful emotions that I couldn’t separate out what I needed to say from what I didn’t, and so I didn’t say anything.

But now I’m feeling more at peace with something I was initially told would happen much, much sooner. I wrote on October 7, 2017 that Tao-Tao had been diagnosed with high-grade lymphoma of the liver and intestines two days before and that without prohibitively expensive treatment with a still bleak prognosis, he probably had only a few days to live, maybe up to a couple of weeks if I fed him a nutrient-dense prescription food and gave him prednisolone every day.

I declined the intensive radiotherapy and chemo and opted for only the special food and medication, and, to my surprise and then growing astonishment, Tao-Tao’s few days extended to a few weeks and then a few months and finally passed the year mark ten days ago.

His vets began calling him a “miracle cat,” and I cherished the miraculous prolongation of his precious life as he kept on going with an irrepressible brightness in his big, beautiful eyes. But one of his vets, a leading diagnostic specialist in the Sacramento area, told me that someday the prescription food and medication would stop working and that Tao-Tao’s decline would change from slow and steady to extremely fast and unstoppably fatal.

So every day I got up praying that this would not be THAT day I’d been warned about. And then one day it was.

On an early Monday morning, I got up to see that Tao-Tao was not in the kitchen waiting if not crying for his food that he normally proceeded to gobble as though he were starving to death, which, in a sense, he was from his impaired ability to adequately absorb and process even the most nutritious food on the market. Instead, I found him in a dark closet, the kind of secluded indoor place where cats might go to die when they can’t disappear outside. And when I picked up his emaciated body, brought him out into the light and saw his strangely dull eyes and then, with hopeless hope, carried him into the kitchen and set food down for him that he not only didn’t eat but seemed completely indifferent to, I knew without question that his time had come.

I told my wife, and she was clearly very sad about it. She and I don’t treat pets like pets so much as like vital parts of the family. We love our cats almost as though they were our human children that we never had. But she knew, as I knew, that this day was long overdue, and she did her best to resign herself to it as she prepared to go to work and said to me just before she left that I should do what I thought was best.

I certainly wasn’t going to let him suffer needlessly until he died in the house. So, I made an appointment at the vet for that afternoon. An hour or so before it was time to leave, my wife came home early. She said she’d been crying so much at work that her coworkers advised her to take off early and just go home. She took some pictures of Tao-Tao, including one in his carrier just before I left with him, and spent a few final moments stroking, hugging, and kissing him before it was time for me to leave. She couldn’t bring herself to accompany us, and I didn’t blame her one bit. My grief over seeing through what needed to be done was enough for both of us.

Tao-Tao’s vet that day was one I hadn’t seen before. She had only recently started working there. But I liked her immediately. She, like all the vets there, was not only female but also a graduate of the local vet school which happens to be widely acknowledged as the leading vet school in the world.

I liked the way she handled and examined Tao-Tao with well-practiced skill and genuine tenderness and affection for her patient. And I loved how she seemed very empathic to my distress and didn’t rush me to come to a decision about how to proceed until I had been informed of and able to weigh all my options regarding testing and palliative care.

I decided not to prolong Tao-Tao’s suffering just so I could spend a few more hours or days with him and authorized them to euthanize him then and there. When she asked if I wanted to be present during the procedure, I said I did. She explained how the procedure would be carried out and then took TaoTao out of the examination room to insert a catheter into one of his front legs to facilitate injection of the chemicals that would end his life.

While they were out of the room, I tried to steel myself for what was coming. She brought Tao-Tao back in wrapped in a blanket and gently put him on my lap while I held him.

He didn’t seem fearful or distressed as she gave him the first of, as I recall, four injections of different substances. The final one stopped his heart, which she confirmed a minute later with her stethoscope. She then said I could be alone with him if I wanted for as long as I wanted and left the room. I began sobbing as she left the room. But as I looked at Tao-Tao, he seemed so at peace in his eternal rest, like he had fallen into a deep and blessed sleep.

I stroked him, told him how much I loved him, kissed him, and then tenderly placed him, still wrapped in his blanket, on the examining table, gathered my cat carrier, and quietly left the room. The receptionist out front said, “I’m so sorry” as I fought back my tears, croaked “Thank you,” and headed for the car.

Later that evening I walked to the grocery store, and, while I was shopping, I heard Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” for the first time in over a decade playing over the store’s speakers.

It had been quite a year, indeed, for our two cats. Neither of them had ever been seriously ill and taken to the vet since we acquired Tao-Tao from an animal rescue society over ten years ago and Jaidee from the same organization about two years later.

And then, just a little over a year ago, Tao-Tao began losing weight and acting listless. I finally took him to the vet, and, after a series of tests and consultation with a renowned veterinary diagnostician, eventually received the terminal diagnosis, and soon afterwards, Jaidee became deathly ill with a virus that almost killed him but was saved by intensive and very costly treatment.

Tao-Tao was a beautiful Russian Blue mix with gorgeously large green eyes that almost never registered anything but an almost Buddha-like equanimity and gentleness, and he had the most compliant disposition of any cat I’d ever had or seen. He was like a warm, silky-haired toy you could handle almost any way you wanted and he wouldn’t complain. And dosing him every night for a year with prednisolone tablets was incredibly easy every time as I would just gently push open his mouth, drop in the tablet, and he’d obligingly chew it a little and swallow it and then eat his last of many servings of canned food for the day before I went to bed.

There will never be another Tao-Tao. Rest in eternal peace, my sweet and lovely Buddha-boy.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Saying No Thanks to Religious Proselytizers

A young woman, probably still in high school, just knocked on my door. She was accompanied by an older lady using a walker. When I answered, the young woman, holding an electronic tablet and some literature in her hands, asked me if I was much of a "Bible-reader" and if I'd like to talk with her for a moment about the Bible. I gave her an almost rote response honed by countless similar turnings-away of religious proselytizers at my door by saying something like, "I'm really not interested in discussing it, but thank you anyway," at which point, she and the older lady politely took their leave.

I felt uncomfortable about the robotic delivery of my refusal and, as I always do in such circumstances, about declining to talk with this sweet young woman. I'm one of those hapless individuals who hates to say "No" to people and who will often go to considerable lengths to avoid it and invariably feels vaguely guilty about it afterward, as though I have some moral obligation to say "Yes" even to unreasonable requests.

As they walked away en route to the next front porch, I also contemplated the effect decades of arguing my non-belief face-to-face and online with theists has had on me. I used to relish confronting believers with probing questions about and passionate counterarguments to their beliefs, but that thrill is pretty much gone. Not only have I become bored with such pursuits, but given the sad state of America and the world today in so many respects, I find myself increasingly sympathetic to those who argue that they need to believe in divine goodness and posthumous release into everlasting bliss from the travails and chaos of this earthly life to make this life tolerably "meaningful."

Still, I wonder if the best way to make this life better is to believe in what I regard as patent nonsense and to go door-to-door trying to lure others into the fold of embracing fairy tales dressed up as momentous facts. And I wonder if I might and should have said something to that young woman that might, just might have set her to thinking and questioning and maybe someday have helped lead to her abandoning her foolish "faith" for something truer and potentially more fulfilling.

But then I thought, "Leave the poor girl be." My decades of fruitlessly arguing religion with believers has largely convinced me that such activity is pointlessly ineffectual. I couldn't persuade her to abandon her faith even if I really wanted to and truly had something better to offer in its place, and I'm not even sure that I do on either count.

Yes, I think I did the right thing firmly but respectfully turning her and her mentor away.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Goodbye, Dearest Aretha

August 16 was not a fortuitous day for American "royalty." I refer to the "Sultan of Swat" Babe Ruth, the original "King of Rock and Roll" Elvis Presley," and the one and only "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin. All three died on August 16. And when they did, the nation grieved.

I grieve now for Aretha. I knew she was dying, but when she finally passed Thursday from pancreatic cancer, I read the effusive tributes to her greatness while listening to some of her finest performances, and tears welled in my eyes. Was I really crying for her, or was I crying for the loss of a dazzling force of nature's vibrant constancy throughout most of my life?

It's not that, as a young white boy growing up in the suburbs and as a young and not-so-young man fixated on instrumental jazz and jazz-rock fusion for decades, I always appreciated Aretha's greatness as much as it richly deserved to be. I heard and liked many of her songs on the radio over the years, but I didn't attend any of her concerts or buy any of her albums. I knew she was revered and believed she deserved to be, but my reverence for her was superficially felt. Still, she was always a vital part of my culture and, therefore, a part of me.

Yet, around ten or so years ago after I began watching "American Idol" with my wife, I started paying more attention to male and female vocals and vocalists. And only after I'd been doing that a while did my appreciation of the greatest of the great vocalists swell to unadorned adoration of the singer Rolling Stone magazine ranked in 2010 as the greatest singer of all time. I'm no music expert, but I've never heard anyone who could convey so much powerful emotion with such heartfelt mastery, or seen anyone do it with such sublime regality as Aretha did. This astonishing performance when she was 73 years old says everything more that needs to be said about Aretha Franklin and will remain indelibly etched in my mind forever.

Thank you, Aretha Frankin, for being such an enduring part of the soundtrack of my life and for doing it your way!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Unfree Will and CBT

My wife sent me to the store this morning for a cucumber. She needed it for a dish she cooked for the Thai temple.

When I got to the checkout counter, there was a young guy ahead of me with a basket full of groceries. He looked at me and my single cucumber but went ahead and checked out first.

If I had been the one with the basket full of groceries and he had been the one with the single cucumber, I would have let him go ahead of me. I always do. And most people do the same with me. But this guy was not me or most people. At least not this morning.

I confess that I felt some resentment. And I'm pretty sure I could have silently talked myself into more of it. But I didn't want to do this. So, I did the opposite.

People with whom I discuss my belief in unfree will often ask me what good could come of such a belief. Today's incident is one place where my nonbelief in free will can be beneficial. When people do things we don't like but we don't think they could have done otherwise given their nature and circumstances, it's hard to feel or stay angry with them.

And if we subscribe to the principles of CBT or REBT, it's hard to feel or stay angry with someone who does things we don't like even if we believe they freely chose to do it. Why? Because it can be reasonably argued that most things people do that we don't like don't violate any demonstrable divine edict or societal or natural law.

Theists and some philosophers might disagree, but I'm neither a theist nor philosopher who believes in divine edicts or natural law. So, when people do things I don't like, in most cases I tell myself something such as: "I don't like the fact that this person did this, but there was no divine or natural law I know of that said they MUST or SHOULD do it, and so it's an inconvenience but not an awful or terrible thing that I have good reason to upset myself over." And when I do this, I generally don't feel angry with someone or hold on to anger I'm already feeling.

Unfree will and CBT are potent antidotes to needless emotional upset when I have the self-discipline to exercise them skillfully. May I continue to exercise and refine my ability to do this.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Air Conditioner Woes

My air conditioner finally broke and doesn't appear to be repairable, and it happened in the middle of an extended heatwave. A friend of the family had been nursing our ancient system along through frigid winters and scorching summers over the past several years. But the compressor finally gave up the ghost, and it's unlikely it can be replaced. This means paying a godawful amount of money we can ill afford to have a new system installed. Yet, if it comes down to it, afford it we must.

In the meantime, I'm researching our options for which kind of system we want and how we can best finance it, and I'm soliciting advice and estimates from various sources. I wish I knew a lot more about these things than I do and were better and more confident at making decisions involving home and car repairs than I am, but I'm largely at the mercy of other people whom I have to trust.

I hope I make the right decisions and that we get a new system that works well and for as long as we need it. Whatever I do, I need to act quickly, because it's supposed to stay hot for a long time, and I'm no spring chicken at tolerating the heat. And even though my wife is considerably younger than me, she's no fan of interior evening temperatures in the high 80's or low 90's either. Ceiling and floor fans can provide only limited relief by themselves.