With Barbarians at Gates, Pols Need Your Money Now!

If you’re the kinda plugged-in guy I am, the kinda guy in regular contact with bigwigs and middlewigs from D. C.,  right now your e-mail is bulging with pleas and cajolings and apocalyptic warnings from both political parties, all howling about the post-Halloween nightmare to come IF YOU DON’T SEND MONEY NOW. A few excerpts from today’s pleaders with my insider replies:

Barack Obama: [He always calls me “Charles.”]

Charles, this may be our toughest fight yet. So next week, just days before the elections, I want to meet three supporters like you backstage at a rally in Las Vegas — one of the last big rallies of this campaign.

Please make a $3 donation now to be automatically entered to win a trip to be at my side at the rally in Vegas.

Cheap at half the price.

Paul Begala: If we lose November 2, we’ll be pining for the good old days, when Sarah Palin was the most extreme figure on the right. Seriously, these candidates make Sarah Palin look like Mary Poppins. The Tea Partiers and their right-wing third-party donors have been pummeling our candidates with their million-dollar ad buys. But we’ve not only managed to survive, we’ve been coming back with a vengeance. And it’s all because of you.

Backatcha, Paulie!

Michelle Obama: [Again with the “Charles.” Nice touch; doesn’t presume too much familiarity.]

Charles –When Barack got back from a recent campaign swing, he couldn’t stop talking about how every supporter he met was fired up. From amazing crowds at his rallies with great candidates like Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer to meeting some of the volunteers who are part of this effort, he couldn’t be prouder of what you’re doing.

Well, Jeez, Michelle, I gotta admit it: I’ve got Harry Reid Fever! Yep, burning with it! On fire!

J. B. Poersch [You know J. B., right? No? Oh. . .]

We have a real shot at winning Alaska with polls showing we’re now ahead of the Tea Party candidate. This would be a major blow to Sarah Palin (I’m told you can see Russia from her house) and the Tea Party, who expected to waltz to victory. But because it’s such a late-breaking opportunity, it wasn’t in our budget. Although we can pull this off if we get $175,000 in the door today. We’ve got the ads on the air and the turnout operation on the ground. This win would be huge.

J. B. –is  there a money-back guarantee?

Mike Huckabee:

When you wake up on November 3rd, will you be able to say that you did everything you could to stop the Obama Democrats’ leftist agenda and return American government to the American people?

Not sure, Mike. We’ve got all this World Series stuff that’s keeping me up late at night. I may only be able to do “a few things” or “one or two things” to stop the Obama Democrats’ leftish agenda and return American government to the American people. But I love it when you play bass with the Little Rockers!


How to Be Happy, #10 in a Series



A note of happiness rings through Updike’s prose, and draws us to it, makes us happy when we read it. It is not a fatuous happiness, or a happiness unaware of death (a preoccupation with death and dying was a steady feature of his work), but neither does it cede too much to mere mortality. One has a sense of someone who—as much as, though with more wit than, Andy Warhol—has spent a good deal of his life liking things. Women’s clothes, their hair, the hybridization of American accents; the way that the hyper-cold of the airline baggage compartment can be felt like a secret in the bag as you unpack—all these images and moments, recalled at random from his work, are not just reported but quietly rhapsodized, registered with love. It is his affections that rise, and that we recall.

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

Mortal-Lee: Rangers Face Steep Climb

That’s the headline that should have run in the Dallas Morning News today, not the too-oblique and pun-ishing  “Sour Blow.” (Get it? Sour Blow=Sourdough=famous SF bread.)

Oh, well. Did some guy mention a possible 4-game sweep by the Rangers? Get him out of here. That’s what happens when you shoot off your mouth after not watching a single Giants game all year.

Seriously, I sure didn’t expect this kind of start. I had chalked that W up for the Rangers, salted it away and taken it to the bank. And while we’re dishing the cliches: That’s why they play the games.

One more: With Lee proving mortal, all bets are off. (I’ve always loved that one–as if you could ring up the bookie and call off a bet you’ve already made.)

Well, not all bets. I still think the Rangers can win this and should, though the hills just got a bit steeper, kind of like the ones those little cable cars climb on their way to the stars. But take this to the bank: The Rangers win tonight and head home 1-1.

World Series Special: SF Vs. Dallas–I Mean, Arlington

As we await tonight’s first pitch from Tim Lincecum to Elvis Andrus, both The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times feature that ancient pre-World Series ritual in which journalists compare  and contrast the two teams’ cities in an effort to plumb the True Sociological Meaning and Essence of the locales.

The Morning News’ traditional in-your-face-off between metro columnists is here and here, while  the NY Times‘ front-pager–which predictably pits conservative Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert  vs. liberal SF Mayor Gavin Newsom– is here. (Apologies for the maddening pop-up political ads.)

Of course, all this Big D vs. The City stuff ignores a central fact which many around the country may not know:  The Texas Rangers don’t play in Dallas. Never have.  At least with the “Dallas” Cowboys, Dallas is part of the original name, and the Boyz did once play in Dallas’s Cotton Bowl, though they decamped to Irving more than 30 years ago and now play in that Mid-Cities funplex known as Arlington.

But the Strangers–sorry, that is oldthink; the Rangers–have been Arlingtonians all the way, and Arlington has long seen itself as an up-and-coming burg.  Writing for a Dallas magazine two decades ago, I referred to Arlington as a suburb of Dallas and received a hotly worded letter from Arlington’s mayor: “We are nobody’s suburb,” he snapped.

Okay, okay.  But who would read a “San Francisco vs. Arlington” piece?

As for the Series,  my heart still lies bleeding in Yankee Stadium,  there among the mourning ghosts of Monument Valley, but I do like (not yet love) the Rangers and I think they’ll win handily. Still, in the city vs. city breakdown, you have to give San Fran (never “Frisco”) some major points, and I’m not just talking about the absence of 110-degree summer days.

I’ve had wonderful times there–Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park, Treasure Island, Sausalito,  the Muir Woods, the nearby wine country and my favorite area, North Beach, home to City Lights Books and the now-vanished Little City Bar and Grill, where Ann and I spent many a happy Happy Hour. And I can’t forget the  treasured Molinari, the deli of the gods, whose sopressata and Genovese would make a carnivore of Gandhi.

“Where little cable cars. . . climb halfway to the stars.” Too bad such a lovely place must go at least another year without a World Series title.

World’s Greatest Interviews–Now Online

Here’s something a bit different  during this brief interregnum between the Yankees’ demise and the Rangers’ almost-certain dismantling of the Giants.

If you love great literature and great writers, and love to find out just how great writers do what they do every day, you’re in luck: The Paris Review has just put its entire archives online, for free, nothing but a link-click required.

Here you’ll find long, thoughtful, probing, usually candid, occasionally combative interviews with the great writers of the past 50 years, including, to name only a few, Hemingway, Faulkner, T. S. Eliot, William Styron, Saul Bellow, Robert Frost, Aldous Huxley, Norman Mailer, John Updike, James Dickey, Joseph Heller, Gore Vidal, Doris Lessing, Philip Roth, Joan Didion, Mary Karr, and Jonathan Franzen.

All these and dozens more wait at http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews.

And what does this cavalcade of genius have to do with baseball, our subject of late? Remember the poignant words of Bart Giamatti, former Yale president, about the game:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

Alas, it’s true. In perhaps one week, certainly two, baseball will be gone for another year. And on those cold, rainy Sundays, I plan to read my way through the Paris Review interviews.

Sunday Morning Postmortem

Before we close the book on the Yankees-Rangers series, it’s worth noting once more just how dominant the Rangers were. From today’s NY Times:

The series was not close. However you dissect it, the Rangers annihilated the Yankees in October like no team had before. The Rangers hit .304, the Yankees .201. The Rangers had a 3.06 earned run average, the Yankees 6.58. If that seems like an unprecedented split, it is.

In the 22 postseason series the Yankees have lost, this was the only one in which they hit 100 points lower than their opponent while pitching to twice the E.R.A. They were not this futile against the Reds of Johnny Bench, the Dodgers of Sandy Koufax, or the Cardinals ofRogers Hornsby. Only the Rangers of Cliff Lee.

“Like no team had before.”

Think about that. As one who has watched Rangers baseball–often rooting for the other team–since the old pressed-aluminum park of the 70s; as one who felt the faint  fluttering of optimism when they had players like Buddy Bell, Al Oliver, and Nolan Ryan; as one who actually watched the whole game from the bleachers that day in 1980 when it hit 113 degrees, all I can say is: Wow.

And this: If the Rangers play the way they did against the Yankees, we could be looking at a 4-game sweep of the Giants. One fear: After finally overcoming the fabled Yankees, the Rangers must not be lulled into thinking the job is done. If they stay loose and hungry, they should rack up their first. . . World Series title.

Rangers. . . World Series. . . I have to practice saying that:  Rangers. . . World Series. Rangers. . . World Series. . . Rangers. . . World Series.