Friday, August 14, 2009

Finally, a post

I set up this blog several months ago, relieved to find that was still available. Although it would have been sort of cool to have something simply called or But I'm not an angry enough person to own those domains.

And if I'd been smarter, I'd have set it up four years ago. In 2005, Lyons Press published my book "Keeping the Faith: In the trenches with college football's worst team." It's the true-life story of the Trinity Bible College football team, which is located in Ellendale, N.D., a tiny town nestled in southern North Dakota. I wish I would have created this blog four years ago because this would be a great place to talk about the book, the story, the characters, what people liked about it, didn't like, etc. And I'd love to still do that here.

But now this will also be a place for much more.

I'm still not sure what the blog will be all about, but it will certainly focus on writing, reading, sports, and life in New York City.

A few words on all of those things.

* I'm putting together a possible book proposal that I hope to send out in the next week. Not sure if anything will come of it - the pessimism I inherited from my dad says nothing will - but it's been fun thinking about another book. I'm also pitching a travel story idea on South Africa. I'll be traveling there with my wife in January, and hope to write a magazine article on some aspect of Cape Town, whether it's the beaches, the hellacious 24-hour plane ride there or the 2010 World Cup.

* I hope to use this blog to highlight any great stories I read, whether they're in newspapers, magazines, books or online. Last week I bought the 2000 book "Life Stories: Profiles from The New Yorker." There's - obviously - many fascinating stories in it, from a feature on Hemingway to one on Roseanne. The longest is a 25,000-word opus from Kenneth Tynan on Johnny Carson, which was published in 1978. I'm not sure when the last time was a mainstream publication ran a 25,000-word story. Perhaps when the New York Times published the Unabomber's Manifesto. But Tynan's story is fascinating. Tynan was pretty fascinating himself. He was a British critic who died two years after his Carson story appeared in the New Yorker. He was just 53. The New Yorker has the Carson profile online. If you have a few hours - or access to your company's printer - give it a read.

* I was a sportswriter at newspapers for a decade, wrote a book about football, and would love to write a dozen more sports books. I follow the NBA the way most Americans follow the NFL, and worship it the way a poet worships baseball. This blog will eventually be home to countless words on the Los Angeles Lakers, the current edition and the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. If I get really motivated, I'll even write about the Cedric Ceballos Era.

And I still like to stay active, whether it's hoops, or thinking about playing tennis again. A week ago I ventured to our local NYC playground for an afternoon of pickup basketball. At 34, I was the oldest guy there by about 10 years. My lack of gray hair hid this fact from the other players. My lack of conditioning helped give it away. Even though I'm 6-3, I've always played guard. But whenever I play with strangers, they see me as the "big guy," which means they expect you to be a player of below-average skills who will set screens, grab some boards, and guard the other terrible big - which sometimes means fat - guys. It was the same thing last week. I'm fine with the defensive part of that. Chasing small guards was never my strength, so I'll gladly guard the 6-4 slugs in Rec Specs who pass for big guys in most pickup games. On offense, it's a different story. I like to launch threes. I like to dribble. Little guys don't like big guys to do that, so it puts pressure on your first few shots. Make them and they respect you. Miss them and they hate you. And, worse, stop passing the ball. I made a few, missed some, made some nice passes and earned some grudging respect. It was fun to be back out there. Most importantly, my legs, lungs, and heart survived.

* Life in New York, Part 4,567. Our building's deli - it's at the bottom of our apartment complex - has had five or six owners in the five years we've lived here. First there was Ali, a delightful, funny, angry, bitter, charming man who loved us but insulted many of his customers. The man who owns it now is very nice, if not as entertaining. But two months ago a grocery store opened up 50 feet away, surely cutting into his business. So our deli has come up with a new way to make money: For a buck, the owner will take your blood pressure. Is it legal? I don't know. Is it sanitary? I suppose, since there aren't any fluids involved. Is it insane? Undoubtedly. Are the readings accurate? I actually hope not. Because our building superintendent was in there today, getting his pressure checked. If the deli owner starts offering physicals, either the police or health department will surely step in. He took the super's reading and gave him the bad news, that it was quite high. Unfortunately, our superintendent does not have insurance so who knows what he's going to do. Cut down on salt? My wife was concerned that the deli owner was telling all of his customers about the super's high blood pressure. My response? If you agree to get your blood pressure taken in a deli in Manhattan at two in the afternoon, you're giving up your rights to privacy. And I've never heard of deli-patient confidentiality.

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