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Major League…Jake Taylor, Ricky Vaughn and Me…

major_league1Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen in Major League

Today after doing some work around the house and hanging around with Molly the dog as the Abbess has been away most of the week, I set about working on my first week of preparation for the comprehensive exams in my Masters is Military History program.  After having finished all course work with a 4.0 GPA I want to kick this thing in the ass and get a “Pass with Distinction” on the exam.  So as I sat down this afternoon without a baseball game in sight I switched to a college football game.  I don’t mind college football, in person I like it better than the NFL, but it is not baseball.  Football in all forms is a war and with the war comes a lot of noise and it seems to me that no matter how low I put the sound, with the exception of pushing the mute button, that I get a headache.  It happened last week too.  So as I collected my thoughts I decided to pick out one of my myriad of baseball movies Major League. This has been one of my favorite movies ever since it came out and I probably watch my DVD of it a couple of times a year.  If I see it as I’m channel surfing I will watch it.  Today was no different. With Molly at my side and Judy out I began to work on five separate thesis statements within my concentration area, which happens to be World War Two.  If you have noticed my site has a decent number of military history posts and this is because I never really stop studying, reading or writing.  A find lessons that are often applicable to the present when I do this type of research and analysis.

molly and daddyMolly Giving Me Advice on My Work

Anyway, back to the movie.  Having been on some really bad softball teams and having my share of emotional moments even before my encounter with PTSD I really appreciate the movie.  I really like the characters of Jake Taylor played by Tom Berenger and Ricky Vaughn played by Charlie Sheen. I kind of relate to both more like Ricky Vaughn in my younger days, though occasionally as people who know me well can attest I can be like “Wild Thing.”  Mind you I have been tossed from ball games and tossed from the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course. However, now I relate more to Jake Taylor, the old worn out catcher with bad knees.  Like the character Crash Davis in Bull Durham Taylor is the glue that helps keep the team together even though he is struggling with his own life, past failures and uncertain future I find myself wrestling with those things while still continuing to play the game to the best of my ability and eke out a few more seasons, in this case one last promotion so I can stay in a few more years and do what I love doing.  I have no aspirations for much more on the Navy side because I’ve had a great ride and have gotten to serve far longer that I thought that I would when I started.

Of course the movie ended just in time to watch the Dodgers sweep the Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series.  To say the least I did not expect a sweep.  The Dodgers played extremely well while the Cardinals hitters couldn’t hit water if they fell out of the boat.  The Phillies and Rockies were postponed due to winter weather conditions in Denver….of all the places that should have built a stadium with a retractable dome,  Hey Denver can you spell Dome? I knew you couldn’t.

So I watched as I wrote and looked at the baseball fields and felt peaceful.  The noise of the movie didn’t bother me, it wasn’t disruptive or intrusive.  There is a song in it that touches me because of how much time I have spent away from Judy over the years.  It is Most of all You by Bill Medley.

Woke up one day, what did I find Holes in my pocket, memories on my mind

So many things I lost on the way but most of all you

Pennies and dreams carelessly spent

Pieces of time and who knows where they went

Is there a chance to pick up the pieces and try for it all again

Sometimes you’re just so busy running, running round in circles

You never see you’re going nowhere.

Sometimes you get so tired of chasing, chasing after rainbows

You look around your life and find no one’s there

No one’s there, nooooooooo one’s there

If there’s a time everyone sees they may have missed the forest for the trees

How could I let the best things roll by and most of all you

You knew me better than I knew myself

Somehow you always knew there’d come a day I’d put my toys away

I was a fool traveling so far only to find that home is where you are

You are the way there, just let me stay there

I’ll have it all, if most of all there’s you……….

Now we do have a good marriage but I always have a tendency to get consumed by my work and when I let that get away from me as I often have in the past I miss really important things with Judy. Like Jake Taylor who is trying to recover a blown relationship with his one true love Lynn Wells played by Rene Russo I find that I have had to make up for lost time over the years spent on deployments, travel, exercises or duty.  So anyway with that said it is time for me to get my ass to sleep.

Harrisburg 1Judy and I in Harrisburg PA on our 23rd Wedding Anniversary in between trips and deployments

Peace, Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, marriage and relationships

Things I don’t get-Why do songs from my past get stuck in my head? Also Judge Sotomayor, Savior of Baseball

On Monday Friday of last week I went into work after two days of leave to hang out in the hospital with Judy and then after her release help her out a bit and ensure that she suffered no relapse.  I stopped by the little coffee shop called the Dancing Goat for my 24 ounce cup of Southern Pecan (this shop does not have French Vanilla) coffee with 4 French Vanilla Creamers and 4 packets of Splenda.  While I was there Pat, the lady who runs this shop and ensures that I get my free cups of coffee as I fill up my frequent flier card, had her boom box radio on.  She usually has a station that plays R&B or R&B-Pop crossover classics playing in the background  This particular morning as I was talking to Pat and fixing my coffee the radio station was playing a song from back in my high school days came on the radio.  As I fiddled with my creamers and Splenda I heard Play that Funky Music White Boy by the Ohio players.  I found myself flashing back to my days at Edison High School in Stockton California.  The song got into my head.  The whole day and night since I had the duty I found myself walking down the hallways singing and sometimes dancing to “And they were dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’ and just when it hit me, somebody turned around and started saying: Play that funky music white boy, play that funky music white, play that funky music white boy. Lay down and boogie and play that funky music ‘til you die, ‘til you die.  As I did this I would occasionally draw the attention of staff members or visitors.  I would kind of smile and say: “Sorry I hate it when that happens to me.”  Unfortunately it happens far too regularly and I don’t understand why.  Maybe one of my Psychciatry or Neurology colleagues can provide an answer.  Judy would just tell me that I’m nuts, however this is not a clinical diagnosis, unlike my PTSD.

I couldn’t help it.  I was consumed by this Ohio Player’s hit; every time I turned around I was singin’ “play that funky music white boy,,,”  It was wild.  Now I have had this happen with other hits from high school which once I hear them I can’t get them out of my head.  A month or so ago it was the Commodore’s She’s a Brick House, a week ago it was the Top Gun Anthem. A couple weeks before that it was Wild Thing from Major League. I can’t help it, these songs get in my brain and I can’t let go. It sometimes reaches the level absurdity when I find myself singing Mel Brooks movie songs like Blazing Saddles, The Inquisition, Springtime for Hitler and High Anxiety.  I don’t care what song it is, if I heard it back in high school or my first couple of years of college the song will stick and I won’t be able to rid myself of it.  If you haven’t has someone walk in an elevator or come around a corner unexpectedly when you are “movin’ and a groovin,” you really can’t understand.  The problem is it doesn’t have to be this song.  It can be any song.  It is scary and I just don’t get it.

When I was in high school my class was the first to go through high school under the “forced busing” program.  The white guys and gals from the North Side were bussed down to Edison High School on the South Side.  Over the years Edison’s demographics had become overwhelmingly Black, Hispanic and Asian.  When the whites, Hispanics and Asians from the North side showed up it was culture shock, but not in a bad way.  Our class was about 25% each of White, Black, Asian and Hispanic (Mexican.)  We became the “Soul Vikes” and enduring friendships between kids of different races were formed which remain to this day.  I think that our class was a prototype of the new America.  Our 30th reunion was great and I am honored to be a part of the 1978 Soul Vikes.  This experince helped me to come to love and appreciate R&B  and soul.  I may not have rythem or dance, but I love to be Movin’ and a groovin’.”

The fact that I am a proud member of the Soul Vikes of 1978 is not the issue.  The thing that I don’t understand is just how a song that I haven’t heard in years takes over my life, even if only for a day.  To me this is a mystery one of the things that I term: Things that I don’t get.  If you see  me doing this humor me.

Judge Sotomeyor: Savior of Baseball: Back in 1995 Baseball was faced with its most serious crisis.  A player’s walk out that lasted well over 200 days.  The MLB management was content to let things ride and it was getting close to the point of no return.  Americans were rapidly becoming fed up with both the players and the owners, especially the owners.  It was then Judge Sotomayor who stepped in and ended the crisis.  She has been credited by many writers and players with saving the game.  She has come under criticism by many and some like George Will, a baseball historian who I greatly admire take issue with this.  However at the time the players and owners were on a self destructive path that could have destroyed the game.  Baseball, it’s management at leadership among the owners and players union officials is far from perfect, but had they continued on the course that they were on in 1994-1995 it would have killed the game.  Judge Sotomayor’s ruling, which favored the players unions did save the game from itself.  As far as the rest of her record I have only superficially looked at it. She seems to be more liberal than some conservatives would like and more conservative than some liberals would like.  Time will tell what kind of justice she will be should she be approved.  Like any Justice she will be judged on her record.  I do pray if she is confirmed that she will be true to the Constitution, law and people.  Apart from that, as a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish, I will always be thankful for her actions in 1995.

Peace,

Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary, things I don't get

Let’s Not Do Dumb Things

Back in the day when I was a young Army Medical Service Corps Brigade Personnel Officer, I had a Brigade Commander whose moniker was “Let’s not do dumb things.” The man was a really good commanding officer.  He was down to earth and cared about the troops being trained at our command.  He was a common sense kind of commander and was not terribly difficult to work for.  One day however my C.O. came in with stitches on his head.  It turned out that my C.O. and broken his own rule.  He was out with the Undersecretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the Army Surgeon General, a couple of other American Generals as well as a host of Colonels, hosting a bunch of Chinese Generals for a diplomatic-military dinner.  My C.O. who was a beer drinker decided to do the hard stuff that night.  He got flat assed drunk, made vulgar and derogatory comments to the Chinese guests and then went to the head (latrine, bathroom, WC, or powder room  for non-Navy types) fell, hit his head on a urinal and knocked himself out.  That mornig he was fired.  Not by our Commanding General, not by the Major Command, or even by the Army Chief of Staff.  No he was fired by then SECDEF Casper Weinberger.  When fired he was 2 months short of completing his command tour.  His reputation was destroyed and he retired quietly and without fanfare a few months later.

Now I know that we all are inclined to do dumb things at one time or another.  This is due to my doctrine of “the Total Stupidity of Man.” Sometimes the dumb things that we do are simply minor infractions which Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light will darn us to Heck as punishment.   Other times they really get us into big time serious trouble. Sometimes we do dumb things and somehow get away with them either because no-one noticed or because someone was gracious enough not to blast us out of the water for them.  Sometimes being lucky is better than being good. The key here is not to keep doing them until they are noticed and when we get blasted out of the water.

This was the case for me when I was a young Army Chaplain.  Back when I got thrown out of the Army Chaplain Officer Advanced Course, I can honestly say that I did a number of dumb things.  The consequences were relatively minor although embarrassing and I am forever grateful to Chaplain Rich Whaley for bailing my sorry ass out of the bind which I found myself.  Damn, you say.  Padre Steve got thrown out of the Chaplain advanced course.  Yes he did and it was dumb.  You see I was selected to go to the advanced course when I was still an SS Officer.  No, no, no, not Waffen-SS, but the Army Staff Specialist branch.  It is a branch set up for officers training to be Chaplains or JAG Corps.  In seminary I had already done the Chaplain Officer Basic Course where I was the assistant course leader for 159 chaplains and seminarians.  I had not come off active duty too long before this and was still very undeveloped as a clergyman.  I was however not far from being a Company Commander and Brigade Staff Officer.  My emotions often overflowed as I saw chaplains do things that in the rest of the Army that you would be crucified for doing, much like Jesus without any salvific purpose.  Once in the Basic Course I had a young seminarian tell me that he didn’t have to obey orders from the student chain of command because his class adviser, a Major in the Chaplain Corps told him so.  He snottily told me that Chaplain so and so was a Major and that I was only a Captain.  Resiting the temptation to rip the young man’s throat from his neck, I said “We’ll see about that Lieutenant.  I then went up threw my cover across the milquetoast Chaplain’s office, blasted him on the chain of command and how it worked.  I told him in pretty rough language that he was going to get people killed. As I ranted he  tried to hide behind his desk and others in the outer office dove for cover I stopped and said: “Thanks so much sir, now I have to go to confession. ”  I then went and told Rich that “I cussed out so and so.”  Rich stammered, “You did what?”  I then explained the situation that Chaplain so and so had told a Lieutenant that he didn’t have to obey orders from the student chain of command.  Rich then said “He did what?” and told me that he would handle it.  He made the incident go away. That too was a dumb thing, I should have gone to Rich in the first place, but I was young and dumb.  Anyway, moving on there was also the time in a class that another seminarian had me so pissed that I stormed out of the classroom and was in the hallway ripping my pin on rank off my collar.  My dear friend Father Jim Bowman who commiserated with me the entire length of the course, and who I still stay in contact with grabbed me.  Father Bowman asked: “What the hell do you think that you are doing?”  I “Yelled back, I’m done, this isn’t the Army that I joined!”  Jim jammed my collar devices back into my collar and said, “You can’t leave.” I said “Why?”  Jim said “Because I can’t leave and you won’t either.”  It was like Stripes where Bill Murray tried to escape boot camp and Harold Ramis tacked him and kept him from leaving.  I think that they exchanged similar words.

Boy I chased a rabbit there…going back to the Advanced course.  I was still an SS Officer, not that kind of SS Officer but the Staff Specialist like I told you before.  So anyway, I showed up orders in hand as well as a letter from the previous Director of Training signed on behalf of the previous Commandant of the School authorizing me to be there.  Unfortunately for me there was a new sheriff in town.  The new Commandant denied me entrance into the course.  His reasoning was that though my Chaplain paperwork was sitting on a desk in DC awaiting the final stamp of approval that since there was a chance that my application could be denied that he didn’t want me there.  Who knows, maybe he got wind of my previous antics.  I was pissed.  Actually I think that most of of us who attended the  Chaplain School spent the better part of our time pissed about something.  However, instead of being smart,  I threw a Billy Martin type of home plate argument and was tossed.  Thankfully they didn’t stop me from becoming a Chaplain and they allowed me to come back for the course a couple of months later.  This was likely again due to the intervention of Rich Whaley.  Rich saw in me potential to do good.  I was like “Wild Thing” in Major League. Rich helped get me straightened out.  A couple of years later I was promoted to Major.  Then I took it off to come in the Navy in 1999.  The point is that I did a number of seriously dumb things that could have gotten me punished under the UCMJ and or thrown out of the Army.  I’m grateful as hell that Rich was there to save my ass.  A lot of people don’t get that kind of support and protection and do get hammered.  I was lucky beyond belief.  I lived to tell about it.  Many don’t.  My job now is to help young guys and gals not step on the same land mines that I did.

I’m not going to go through the list of idiotic things that I have seen other Chaplains do in the Army and Navy.  I could but that would that would be unseemly.  What I will mention, based on my experience is that I had to learn a lot the hard way that I hope to keep young Chaplains and other Officers from trying them out themselves.  I don’t like to see fellow chaplains and  officers do things that embarrass them, their service  or hurt their life and careers. In the case of chaplains, God and the Church, or God and whatever religious organization that they belong.  Heck I won’t even put a Jesus Fish on the back of my car for fear that God might get the blame for something that I do on the road.

However, doing dumb things is not limited to chaplains or the clergy, though we do such things quite well thank you.  Others do them too.  Politicians, sports stars, business leaders and others do them as well.  I’ve noted a number of ways that I have done dumb things.  At the same time I hope to have learned from them.  I will and I’m sure that you my readers know that we will all do dumb things.  I’m not a fan of Calvin’s “Total Depravity of man” theology but I am pretty sure that there is a “Total Stupidity of man”  which you can make a great case for from the triad of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.  In fact I am positive that the Deity Herself even tonight has kept me from writing some really dumb things.

So let’s not do dumb things.  Pray for me a sinner,

Peace,

Steve+

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