Daily Archives: August 18, 2019

A plant in Pa. pays workers to attend a Trump speech, penalizes those who don’t. John Travolta and Jimmy Fallon play JT’s famous characters. And my annual tribute to the late, great Jim Murray, my favorite sportswriter ever

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my good friend Jeff often asks me how I can stay sane during the Trump administration, and not get so damn angry over every terrible, horrible, no-good very bad thing the Orange Grifter and his merry band of fools do.

And I tell him that it’s usually the seemingly little things that get me the most pissed, like the destruction of climate change rules, piece by piece.

Or stuff like this. Maybe you heard about it, but likely not. From NPR, under the headline ” Pa. Workers Forced To Choose Between Watching Trump, No Pay Or Using Paid Time Off.”

Workers at a petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania were given a choice ahead of President Trump’s visit to the site on Tuesday: attend the president’s speech, stay home without pay or use up part of their paid time off …

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company did not write the notice to workers. Broadbent said it was devised by a construction site contractor, which did not reply to a request for comment.

Missing a day of work could amount to $700 in pay, benefits and a per diem payment that out-of-town workers receive, a union leader told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.”

Just disgusting. You have a company telling its employees it either shows up to watch an egomaniac roar, or use up vacation time, or stay home and not get paid for the day.

Shit like this makes my blood boil. We are getting way too close for comfort to becoming an authoritarian kind of state, where the public is “compelled” to show up and support the Dear Leader.

And it makes me really mad.

**Next up, John Travolta has had a wide range of great roles in his career, and a wide range of terrible ones (“Perfect” with Jamie Lee Curtis, anyone?) He was on Jimmy Fallon the other night and he and the host played a “Travolt-off”, where they took turns impersonating Travolta’s movie roles.

I liked this a lot, though I really wish Vincent Vega had come up on the wheel; for my money that was the Scientologist’s best role.

**Finally, I’m a couple days late on this but I did not want to forget my annual tribute in this space to the late, great sportswriter Jim Murray, who died Aug. 16, 1998.

As I say every year here, Murray was the greatest, my absolute favorite writer ever. His typewriter dripped with brilliant prose, he had more great one-liners than anyone else (one favorite has always been “Elgin Baylor is as unstoppable as a woman’s tears.”)

He wrote for the Los Angeles Times for decades, despite having only one good eye. As always, I want to excerpt two of my favorite Murray columns here. First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died, in 1984. Here’s an excerpt:

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn’t have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today, they can’t believe their good luck.

I don’t mean to inflict my grief on you, but she deserves to be known by anyone who knows me. She has a right to this space more than any athlete who ever lived. I would not be here if it weren’t for her. I feel like half a person without Gerry. For once, I don’t exaggerate. No hyperbole. If there was a Hall of Fame for people, she would be No. 1. She was a champion at living.

And second, Murray’s elegy for his left eye, which finally gave out on him in 1979, rendering him mostly blind. The last four paragraphs are just perfect, but here’s another excerpt:

I lost an old friend the other day. He was blue-eyed, impish, he cried a lot with me, saw a great many things with me. I don’t know why he left me. Boredom, perhaps.

We read a lot of books together, we did a lot of crossword puzzles together, we saw films together. He had a pretty exciting life. He saw Babe Ruth hit a home run when we were both 12 years old. He saw Willie Mays steal second base, he saw Maury Wills steal his 104th base. He saw Rocky Marciano get up. I thought he led a pretty good life.

 One night a long time ago he saw this pretty girl who laughed a lot, played the piano and he couldn’t look away from her. Later he looked on as I married this pretty lady.

He saw her through 34 years. He loved to see her laugh, he loved to see her happy …  He recorded the happy moments, the miracle of children, the beauty of a Pacific sunset, snow-capped mountains, faces on Christmas morning. He allowed me to hit fly balls to young sons in uniforms two sizes too large, to see a pretty daughter march in halftime parades. He allowed me to see most of the major sports events of our time.

I suppose I should be grateful that he didn’t drift away when I was 12 or 15 or 29 but stuck around over 50 years until we had a vault of memories. 

Man, he was the best.