Category: social commentary

When The World Falls Apart, Put It Back Together

About a week before all Hell broke loose and everything started shutting down, I got a new wheelchair which I promptly dubbed “the company vehicle.” I fully intended to be all over town in my chair spreading the word about my business. I fully intended to be too busy for my own good by Memorial Day. Before my state locked down due to COVID-19 I had three different companies that had expressed interest in my work.

Then everything went silent. And rightly so. No one could confidently put a freelance writer in their immediate budget. I don’t know if I adjusted with a great deal of grace, but I’ve kept writing at least.

The events of 2020 have reinforced for all of us the importance of preparation for the unexpected. Actually it has made clear that there is no preparing for the unexpected.

Because it’s unexpected.

That’s kind of its jam.

You don’t see it coming.

So “preparation” may be a misnomer in this case. The only thing even resembling “preparation” for it is to maintain a state in which you are able to respond even when events unfold that are unlike anything in your experience. It is safe to say 2020 fits that description.

Full disclosure: I have a job apart from my freelance work. I would not be broken were Dailey Freelance to disappear tomorrow. But though I have not had any leads or clients in months, I have not stopped posting on my company Facebook page. And with a few exceptions, I have kept this blog the “weekly” that its name says it is. Because, simply put, it means something to me.

I’ll never be in the shoes of a person who has built a business for 30 years only to see it crash because of the COVID-19 fallout. But I have listened to people who are in that position, and I feel that what they have to lose means infinitely more to them. Because they believed in it enough to make it their one and only source of income. That speaks volumes, I’d say. I am only working my way toward that, right now.

I know we are a nation of people who will hold fast to what we have worked for. Now that we are able to – or soon will be able to – begin rebuilding, we will do so with the same heart and soul we put into our businesses when we first started out.

With a renewed vigor.

With a renewed sense of why we ever opened up shop in the first place.

We don’t agree on how or when or how quickly we should return commerce in America back to “normal” and mistakes will inevitably be made. But one thing is clear:

People are responding to the on-going lock down the way they are because getting back at it matters. The foundations they’ve built their lives upon matter to them. And I have to respect that.

So as we try to bring back some semblance of linear motion in our lives, please, take care of yourselves and your family, but also please, please….you know what? Because it feels extremely appropriate right now I’m just going to leave one of my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics for whatever it’s worth:

One, two, buckle my shoe / take care of me ’cause I might be you

Happy Quarentine’s Day

I spelled it wrong on purpose. That’s “Quarentine’s” which rhymes with “Valentine’s.”

You see, over the last few weeks, couples have learned a lot about their relationships, it seems. For these couples, being at home together all day, every day has brought to the forefront an assortment of minor annoyances that maybe aren’t so minor when you are suddenly forced to confront them all day, every day.

Full disclosure, my wife and I have just as many squabbles as any average couple, I’m sure. And we’re not even shut in together as I am still working my day job Monday to Friday. But it straight-up shocked me when I started hearing all of the talk about how divorce was going to skyrocket in America as a result of this ordeal. Then I started hearing actual couples after actually being shut in together for just a couple of weeks talking about how impatient they were getting with each other. It’s mostly a nation-wide running joke at this point, but all jokes, no matter how exaggerated, have at least a morsel of truth in them.

Not that I don’t think my wife an I might be at each other’s throats from time to time if we were together all day every day, but this whole situation has got me thinking about why we get married in the first place.

Why we choose to spend our lives with the one person that we choose.

Why we refer to it as “spending our lives together” at all.

I think for most of us it’s because she or he is the one person with whom we feel like we really could do just that. With that in mind, I want to tell you the story of the night I met my wife.

We met on an MSN chat room (remember those?) in the fall of 1999 and our first conversation was an argument. You see, that night, I was just in their killing time, as was she. Neither of us were “looking for love”. My wife’s very first impression of me was that I was a jerk.

She was not wrong.

At the moment I was publicly roasting some guy for the way he was openly flirting with women. My wife told me off, I defended my actions and we went back and forth. We ended up talking privately and eventually I made her laugh and convinced her I wasn’t really a jerk.

I mean, not really.

We talked for a while but left it at that not really thinking anything of it. Fast forward a few nights later, and I saw her in the chat room again. She was using the same name as the night we’d met but I had changed mine. So when I asked her if she remembered me, she said she didn’t. Though I gave her a few details of our conversation, she is a cautious type. Even if she did remember me, she said she didn’t.

I had actually changed my MSN chat room handle a few times since we’d met. So I had to rattle off a few different, increasingly embarrassing monikers until I finally said the one she remembered, at which point she conceded that she did, in fact remember me and the rest is history. We spend the first four years of our relationship going months on end without actually being together.

Had I not been able to come up with that name before she got tired of dealing with me, she may have put me on ignore if that was an option. We would never have spent those four years mostly apart learning how much we did not want to be apart anymore. She would never have become my wife.

We don’t know if at some point we will also be experiencing this current hyper-togetherness, and for how long. For you, if nothing else comes of it, may you at least be reminded of what it was about your significant other that made you want to actually and really “spend your life” with them.

Happy Quarentine’s Day!

The Company Vehicle

I got my new wheelchair last week. It came with significant improvements, which I specifically ordered. I originally told them I basically wanted the Batmobile of wheelchairs, but it seems my insurance wasn’t real keen on that concept. So this will do.

  • I hardly ever use the brakes but when I do need them it is good to have a dependable and easy to use mechanism. This chair’s brakes are a spring activated situation, so a flip of the thumb is all that is needed to lock them.
  • The front wheels are wider than I’ve ever had before. So the many potholes in the sidewalks and roads will be much less of a hazard.
  • The footplate is tucked underneath significantly in comparison to my old chair, making me much more mobile in tight spaces.
  • The frame of the chair itself is minimal, making it much easier to keep clean. Though the existing bars are beefier than the ones on my old chair, the minimalism makes it much lighter.

I’ll be able to move very well in it once I master driving the thing. It is going to take some getting used to. I had my old chair for over 11 years. So though it was getting a bit creaky, I had driving it down to a science. I knew how flicking a finger against a spoke, or pressing a palm against the side of a wheel to slow one side down just so, could help navigate certain types of terrain.

With a new cushion and new tires, I’m pretty well set to take on the world this spring and summer. I plan to put on a lot of miles, as I do every year once the weather gets warmer. Especially this year as on evenings and weekends I’ll be pursuing my side project ever more seriously. You see, by day I am a mild-mannered insurance marketing agent. Outside the office, I am a freelance writer.

I ordered my chair painted dark purple to match the logo for my freelance writing business. I call it “the company vehicle” because I plan to put on some significant mileage rolling around my home town, getting to know my fellow business owners and offering my service, throwing some business cards around. You know.

In my work as a writer, I am driven by three things:

  • I am a writer. And writer’s write. So I write. Not only do I have a love for communicating in writing, for crafting a phrase that reaches people, but it is an inexorable part of me. It must be done.
  • A great and ancient lineage of poets and story tellers is represented by my family name, Dailey. That is why I called the company simply, Dailey Freelance.
  • Today is National Wheelchair Day. And though I don’t try to make it the headline, I never shy away from the fact that I am a disabled business owner. It is important to me to represent that because the kind of world I’d like to see, that I’d like to help create, is one in which disabled people are putting their talents and contributions on full display.

So I write. Because I’m a writer. And writer’s write.

Stealing Signs – A Baseball Fan’s Lament

This year marks 100 years since eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from Major League Baseball for life. They allegedly accepted money from gamblers in exchange for intentionally losing the 1919 World Series. At least one of them, “Shoeless Joe” Jackson, had been a sure Hall of Famer, until then.

In the fallout of the scandal, MLB’s first Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw M. Landis was appointed, and swiftly moved to clean up the various methods of chicanery that had existed in baseball, under the radar and out in the open, for decades.

Now we are engaged in a another great scandal, one that threatens to defile our national game. See, to some of us, baseball is still our national game. It, in fact, belongs to the world, but the point is, to some of us, in the words of Terrence Mann in “Field of Dreams”, “it reminds us of all that once was good and could be again.”

But I don’t want to sound naïve about the sanctity of the game. Baseball was tainted by cheating before 1919, it has been since, and will probably continue to be in one way or another.

When the Houston Astros cheating story first broke I was of the mind that:

1. The rule book does not say anything about using electronic devices to steal signs (my 2017 version doesn’t anyway).
2. Every team could do the same thing the Astros did if they felt like it. 3. On the subject of “unwritten rules” I argued to a friend that “the rule book doesn’t ban the use of flamethrowers to retire a baserunner but I’m pretty sure you can’t do it.”

When I really let it sink in what was going on with the Astros, I realized I did not want the game to be allowed to become “the Digital Pastime.” I already can’t stand the idea of robot umpires, and I don’t want every batter of every game knowing what pitch is coming. There are already too many home runs, and many baseball lovers have not fully moved past the steroids scandal of the 1990s and early 2000s.

We found out not too long ago that one of the most sacred moments in baseball history – Bobby Thomson’s home run that won the 1951 National League pennant, known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World” – was a result of the use of an electronic device similar to the one the Astros are suspected of using. So again, there has been shady activity down the ages in baseball. But the Houston Astros, though unprecedentedly orchestrated in their efforts to cheat, also chose to do it at a time when social media made it impossible for some evidence to go unnoticed by the watchful eyes of fans taking it upon themselves to sound the alarm. A video blogger/podcaster called Jomboy, for one, was pointing out suspicious incidents months ago. Different teams had apparently been trying to bring certain incidents to the attention of Commissioner Rob Manfred for a while already before the story blew up last week.

In a video by another such watchdog an idea was proposed which blew my mind:

What if ONLY the pitcher and the catcher are allowed to use buzzers? The catcher would send his sign to the pitcher by pressing a button on a device he has, and the pitcher would receive one or two or three buzzes depending on the pitch the catcher wants served up.

Could work, but it is troublesome for two reasons:

1. A catcher’s pitch-calling can be complex when you consider not only is he calling what pitch but he is calling for slow or fast pitches, as well as high, low, inside and outside pitches.

2. It would totally eliminate a part of the game which is not only totally legal, but one of the most cerebral part of the game. Base runners stealing signs from second base without the use of electronics or cameras, but with the player’s own eyes.

When a baserunner reaches second base, it is perfectly legal for him to watch the catcher’s signs and match them up with what pitch is then thrown. He can then signal to his teammate at bat about what pitch is coming. He can go back to his dugout after the inning and tell the whole team what signs the opponents are using.

Of course nothing can be done with that information unless you have a runner on second to relay the signs. But there are a ton of other ways to tell what pitch is coming which are also perfectly legal. All that is required is a team of ballplayers using their brains. If you’re a batter and there are no baserunners, the opposing infielders know their catcher’s signs. They know what pitch is coming. They know they need to move either to the left or right depending on whether the pitch is going to be inside or outside. They know to move back or in depending on whether the pitch is going to be low or high. That generally will predict to which side the batter will hit, and whether he’ll hit a ground ball or a fly ball.

It is not a perfect science but it is fairly predictable and it is legal. Nobody has to risk million dollar contracts to do it. Nobody has to put the integrity of the game at risk to do it.

All of this is very sad to me, as a fan. I could go on and on about my feelings about it. I’ve been counting down to Opening Day since well before Christmas. I look forward to warm day in the sun at the ballpark with my wife. You go through the turnstile and head inside, up the ramp, among the crowds of fans wearing the same hat as you. You get to your section and as you turn to take your seat, you suddenly see that wide expanse of green grass in the outfield, contrasting with the brown dirt. You see the towering levels of grandstands in the outfield. You settle in and all your cares seem to go away as you wait for the National Anthem, and the umpire yelling “Play ball!”

I still look forward to a day at the ballpark. I still love our game.

Flag-Wavin’ Joe

If you live in Rochester, you’ve probably heard of “the flag-waving guy.” You’ve driven past him on your way to work, or you’ve seen him in the local news. The man’s gotten some press over the years.

Yeah. Years. He’s been at it as long as I can remember, and probably much longer. His name is Joe Johnson, and people call him the flag-waving guy because on almost any day of the year he can be found on the sidewalk outside his apartment on Second Street, usually waving a United States flag. He has others, like his Mexican flag for Cinco de Mayo, for example. But the red, white and blue is his trademark.

If not a flag, he might be spotted just waving Pepsi cans at passing traffic, with equal gusto, though the Stars and Stripes are clearly closer to his heart. He is a patriot in the most sincere, pure, and non-partisan kind of way. He is also almost always barefoot, and often shirtless even in the dead of winter. He appears to be totally immune to the cold. He claims he’s just warm-blooded.

People are either amused, puzzled, or inspired by Joe. Some people do not approach him. Some people are missing out. Because in stopping and talking with Joe on many occasions, my wife and I have found him to be a very talkative, fun-loving and sweet man. He’s retired, and he does what he does, seemingly for the absolute hell of it, but you get the sense that he takes it as his responsibility – his civic duty even, and that it means the world to him.

Apparently the feeling is mutual. His recent absence from his post on Second Street raised enough question that he’s made the news again. Turns out he had his gall bladder removed and has since been hospitalized with high blood pressure and non-stop headaches.

Maybe by the time this post is published he’ll be home recuperating. For all I know, by then he’ll already be back at it with the star-spangled banner waving. And I certainly hope so.

Every town should have a Joe. I mean only Rochester, Minnesota has our Flag-Wavin’ Joe, but my sincere wish is that every town has someone like him who you can scarcely imagine driving through the neighborhood without seeing, someone so dependable that if he’s not there, the alarm is raised and someone calls the radio station about it. I wish we could all look out for each other that way. But not every one stands out as much as Joe.

Every town should have a Joe, if only to provide a splash of color, whether it be the red, white, and blue, or any other colors Joe feels like throwing on, on any given morning. We need people like him for the same reason we need our music to have different notes. And really what’s the point of anything if you can’t, every now and then, see a guy waving a U.S. flag, wearing a giant sombrero, a tie-dyed sweatshirt, and Las Vegas-themed shorts, and only think “Oh good, Joe’s here”? Serious question.

Dear reader, if you are reading this and wondering who your town’s Joe is, maybe it is you. If so, please be that. Be the hell out of it. We need you.

If you see this, Joe, we hope you’re well. Thank you for making our city a little bit more fun. We look forward to stopping by for another chat the next time we get the chance.

“Lenny”: A Film Review and Social Commentary

I do have a bedtime. Normally. Normally I’ll watch a late night talk show monologue and call it a night by 11 pm. Last night being Sunday, I was flipping through the channels looking for something else to cap off my weekend.

I happened upon “Lenny”, the Dustin Hoffman biopic of controversial 1950’s-60’s comic Lenny Bruce. For one reason or another his name had just come up the day before in conversation with my wife. I put the clicker down and was glued to the TV until the film ended at exactly midnight.

I am a proponent of free speech in all media. Granted, there are things that, just like anyone, I wish certain folks wouldn’t say. But they’ve got a right to say it. So free speech pioneers like Lenny Bruce are important to me.

You could say Bruce was a beat journalist of sorts. He was also a bit of a sociologist. To my knowledge Lenny Bruce did not tell “dirty jokes” for the sake of being “dirty.” If what he said bothered his audience he wanted them to think about why that was. Part of Bruce’s thing was that what makes dirty words dirty words was in the eye of the beholder.

In one scene in the movie, Hoffman as Bruce was on stage the night after being arrested for saying a certain word. He began this post-bail performance by greeting the many police officers in attendance, then conducted a focus group with audience members wherein he repeatedly used the word “blah” in place of what he was obviously talking about. And the police could not do a thing about it. At one point he remarked that this was “the filthiest show [he’d] ever done” demonstrating that it was not the word, but what was in the minds of the audience that was filthy.

And how do you censor that?

But it went deeper than that.

A second prominent theme in Bruce’s most controversial bits pointed out that we censor words, meanwhile our kids are watching people kill each other on TV and nobody says anything. This sentiment was echoed years later by John Lennon, another great pop-sociologist who noted “we live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.”

Lenny Bruce went so far as to say that if it came down to a choice between a stag film and a dramatization of The Old Testament, he’d rather allow his kids to watch the stag film. The reason being that the first portrayed consenting adults, and the latter involved so much violence and bloodshed.

As I watched the film last night, the anniversary of Lennon’s death passed. I made a mental note that both of these men died at age forty, and that both were provocateurs in their own way to make people think about what was offensive. In 1967, a year after the comic died, Lennon chose Bruce as a member of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” collage, linking the two forever.