The greatest summer ever, or, driving from New York to California in a motorhome when I was 8

 

A couple of weeks ago, something reminded me of the greatest trip I’ve ever been on, and I thought: Oh, I wonder if, when I blogged about it, I mentioned that.

Then I went back through eight years of this blog (that’s right, I’m term-limited out of blogging now) and was astonished, gobsmacked, amazed, to find out I’ve never written about it.

Truly, it had a huge impact on my life, I’ve written essays in actual newspapers about it, and yet, I’ve never told it here. Madness.

So, with summer just about over, here goes: I want to tell you about the summer of 1984, when a man, his wife, his 12-year-old daughter, and 8-year-old son (Me!) drove from Commack, N.Y., to California and back in a Winnebago motor home, over six glorious, occasionally foul-smelling weeks, and my entire world was opened up like a curtain at a Broadway show, revealing backstage.

It all started because my father was a schoolteacher, and in the 1983-84 school year he was granted a sabbatical. It was common for NYC teachers back then, and so for a whole school year my Dad planned a trip that sounded ridiculous on paper: The four of us, in a 26-foot Winnebago motor home, eating, sleeping, living in it all together, for six weeks.

We’d drive from our home on Long Island to Knox, Pa., on June 15, our first stop, and from memory, I want to say we arrived back home on July 28 or 29th. (There was a long, long period, I’d say at least 10 years afterwards, where my father, in front of friends, would ask me to recite the entire itinerary in order, and I could do it. If challenged right now, I could probably still get it 80 percent right.)

My mother and father had been counselors on summer teen tours in the late 1960s, but this was going to be a whole different thing.
We threw questions at my father all year, fast and furious:

— “We’re going to go to the bathroom in this thing, then emptying it all outside?”
— “Whaddaya mean, my bed turns into our kitchen table?”
— “I’ve got to be with my sister every minute of every day, for six weeks?”

There was skepticism everywhere. But my father’s enthusiasm was so overwhelming, so overpowering, that eventually I think I just gave up doubting him.

“We’re going to see America!” he’d shout, like a TV evangelist. “We’re going to look at incredible blue skies, and smell amazing air. It’s going to be great!”

Thirty-three years later, I can tell you: He undersold it. The trip was magical. Life-changing. Incredible.

We saw things my 8-year-old eyes had never seen. I can still remember so many details, huge and small: The huge ones? Seeing the Grand Canyon at sunrise, and sunset, still the most beautiful think in nature I’ve ever seen.

The elk and moose at Yellowstone National Park. The majesty of Mount Rushmore. The enormity of Hearst Castle. The coolness of the “Four Corners,” monument, where Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico meet.

The grandeur of Old Faithful, and Yosemite, and taking a walk with my Dad down some trail to a river, and sticking our feet in and it feeling just glorious.

And the small details, I remember just as much: The yellowed piece of paper that had our itinerary on it, so we always knew where we’d be going next.

The cabover mattress/sleeping compartment above the driving area where my parents slept, where I spent most of the time we drove, watching America from a unique perch. My “job” was to record every expense of the trip in a little spiral notebook, and I was very proud to have that job.

The flat tire we got near Yosemite. The time my friend Andrew, vacationing with his family in Colorado that summer, clogged our little toilet. The hole-in-one I got in mini-golf somewhere in South Dakota. The complete shock and joy we felt when we found Hebrew National hot dogs in, I think it was, Minnesota.

It was unlike any trip I’d ever taken, or probably ever will take again. Was it all sunshine and roses? Of course not. We were an American family, so we fought sometimes, got sick of each other, complained there was nothing to do (KOA campgrounds, where we usually parked overnight, were not exactly hotbeds of excitement, but they did offer warm showers.)

When it was finally over, and we returned back to our little slice of suburbia, I remember being thrilled to be back in a real bed.

And more than a little sad, that this wild and crazy adventure was over.

I’ve often said, and many people who I’ve talked to about this trip have said, that I was at the perfect age to enjoy the trip. Not too young that I didn’t know what was going on, but not too old that I thought I was too cool for all of this (My sister, of course, has different memories of the trip, nowhere near as positive as mine.)

It was the summer of my life, and a summer I’ll never forget. And if I can ever convince my wife and family to climb aboard a motorhome, I know they’ll have the journey of their lives.

 

 

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The pictures from Houston are just heartbreaking. A college football coach does his best MC Hammer impression, and it’s glorious. And the best newspaper correction I’ve seen this year

The photos run by, one after another, and it’s like an endless reel of misery and despair.

We’ve seen this with Katrina, with Sandy, with so many storms over the past decade, and it never gets easier to take.

This time it’s Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, and this looks as bad as Katrina.

Hurricane Harvey hit with a vengeance, pouring rain and flooding and disaster all over the city and its surrounding area, and you feel helpless all over again.

We do what we can in the rest of the country when something like this happens: we give money, we listen to anguished reports on TV and the radio, but it all feels useless.

So many roads impassable, homes destroyed, and even deaths from an act of Mother Nature that’s impossible to stop.

But through all of that, you see a picture like this, and it reminds you that in times of crisis, there’s still so many good people doing good.

**Next up today, after looking at those horrible photos and reading the heartbreaking stories of Hurricane Harvey, you need something fun. So here it is: A man named Alonzo Carter is an assistant football coach at San Jose State University, but in a past life, he was a choreographer and dancer with M.C. Hammer, the amazingly cool (or if as some people wrongly believe, overrated) rapper from the late 1980s and ’90s.

Well, a few months ago Alonzo decided to show his football players his moves, and they are still fantastic. Look at the players’ reaction about 30 seconds in; this is the greatest thing they’ve ever seen.

**And finally today, longtime readers of this space know how much I love a truly embarrassing newspaper correction. I haven’t seen a great one in a while, but the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel just ran this doozy last week.

Maybe the writer of the piece had been listening to the new SiriusXM Beatles channel?

 

Good News Friday: WWE’s John Cena has a beautiful meeting with those whose lives he changed. U.S. Open qualifying week is awesome. And R.I.P to Jay Thomas, who told the best talk show story ever

And a Happy Friday to all of you out there. I’m having a fabulous week (more on that in the second item of our post today) and hope you are too.

We begin today’s joy-fest with John Cena, who many of you may not have heard of, but who’s a pretty huge wrestling star in WWE. Cena is beloved and hated both by wrestling fans, but one thing no one can ever dispute is the dude does a TON of charity work as one of the main faces of the sport. He does so much that he’s known to even non-wrestling fans like me as a mensch.

One of Cena’s endorsements is for Cricket Wireless, and recently they filmed a beautiful ad starring Cena, and in a surprise to him, dozens of people who’d written him fan letters expressing how he’d changed their lives were waiting to meet him.

Watch Cena’s reaction when the fans read him the letters, really just beautiful stuff here. If this doesn’t make you tear up, you should drive to the nearest hospital and have them make sure you’re still alive.

**Next up today, I’ve been immersed in U.S. Open tennis qualifying week this week, watching tennis and interviewing up-and-comers and trying-to-get-back-to-the-top players alike. I’ve written about qualifying week before but it is just truly so awesome.
For those who don’t follow the sport, at Grand Slams like next week’s U.S. Open, the Top 100 or so men’s and women’s players get into the main draw automatically. But there are 16 spots on each side that are “won” by players ranked 120-300 or so. These players, who make very little money as pros, scraping by on tiny paychecks, spend four days the week before a Grand Slam event competing with each other. You need to win three matches to advance to the main draw, and it means so, so much to these men and women.

For one thing, just making the main draw of a Slam gives you a $50,000 paycheck, which means little to the Federers and Serenas, but SO much to the players on the lower rungs. Just making it out of qualifying and getting that first-round loser’s check could mean the difference between staying out on tour another year and following your dream, or packing it in. That money could pay for better hotels, having a coach or trainer with you which makes a huge difference, getting better travel and therefore better rest, etc.

For another, so many of these men and women have never been in a Slam, and especially for the American players this week, it would mean so much. That’s why I love qualies week, because these athletes are competing so damn hard, just to get in the tournament.

Selfishly I also love qualies week because the stadium is so much less crowded; you don’t have to wait 15 minutes on line for the bathroom, or for food. There’s room to breathe as you walk around, and the only fans that are there are real tennis fans, not the yahoos who come in at 3:30, have a couple of drinks while talking loudly during the points, then leave.

Also, the qualies are free. That’s right, free. Some of the best athletes you’ll ever see up close cost you nothing. I met Moms and Dads of players this week, ran into dedicated fans, and saw two amazing 15-year-olds on the court whose names you’ll be hearing in the future (remember the names Caty McNally and Amanda Anisimova, they’ll be competing for Grand Slams within a decade.)

Next week is, of course, the Open, and I love almost everything about it, too. But qualies still feels a little bit like a secret, like a hidden passageway to wonderful tennis.

Today’s the last day of qualies, and the emotion is always high. Somebody will fulfill a lifelong dream of making the U.S. Open, while somebody else will fall just short. It’s everything we love about sport, and yeah I’m waxing poetic but it’s deserved.

Game on.

**Finally today, the great character actor Jay Thomas died Thursday. You may remember him as Eddie LeBec from “Cheers,” or from “Murphy Brown,” or other shows.

But for many of us, he’ll always be the guy who told maybe the best talk-show story ever, every year on Letterman. It stars a young Jay, a stoner friend of his, and the man who played “The Lone Ranger” on TV. It’s pure joy. Enjoy.

I have mixed feelings about all these Confederate statues coming down, but ESPN’s move Tuesday is ridiculous. Rick Astley and Foo Fighters team up because, you know, sure.

**Next up today, I present the following, without comment. My beautiful Foo Fighters-loving wife told me about this;the Dave Grohl-led band did a concert over the weekend and at the end, they invited Rick Astley on stage, and then they proceeded to Rick Roll the audience by playing his awful 1980s hit “Never Gonna Give You Up,” but in a hard rock kind of way.

It’s quite the spectacle.

**Finally today, I think I’ve said this before but I think some articles are written in the New York Times just for me. Like this one, for example. Eddie Murphy’s hilarious 1983 stand-up comedy special “Delirious” was a huge staple of my childhood; I watched it, listened to it, repeated its best lines over and over with my friends. It was awesome.

Maybe the best part of the special his Eddie’s “Ice Cream Man,” bit, and if you’re already laughing, you’re like me. The New York Times broke down the brilliance of the 4-minute bit, and it’s actually really great.

Of course, the whole bit itself (above) is worth watching first. Definitely NSFW, in case you weren’t sure.

Tina Fey returns to “SNL” to eat cake, hilariously. The new app that tells you when is a good time to pee during a movie. And “Episodes” on Showtime is back and I’m super-excited.

We are in strange, strange times, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t think it’s possible for you to forget that, but just in case, I like to remind everyone of that every once in a while.

Before I get into today’s blog, just wanted to share two things with you. First, an amazing catch from the Junior League World Series (kids are aged 13-15) in Pennsylvania on Sunday. This is Jack Regenye of Kennett, Square, Pa., and this is 47 kinds of awesome.

Second, Axios.com, a news/politics website, has a story up on why senior Trump administration officials stay at their jobs when their boss is clearly mentally deficient and/or crazy. The whole story is fascinating, but this story ought to give you the warm and fuzzies on a Monday…

You have no how much crazy stuff we kill,” one of them said.

Well, I feel better now. OK, on with the show…

We begin today with Tina Fey, who always seems to pop up on “SNL” or somewhere else right when we need her. “SNL” is doing short “Weekend Update” shows during the summer, and last Thursday night, in the midst of all the Charlottesville neo-nazi madness, she appeared to be hilarious and eat some cake.

Take it away, Tina, and what she said about Trump as a developer at the 5:35 mark had me laughing out loud…

**Next up today, there are some apps that we all know are completely useless, and serve no purpose. This one I’m about to tell you about? Genius, and totally useful.

You know when you’re in a movie theater watching a flick, and you’ve really got to go to the bathroom but you’re afraid you’ll miss the best part? Of course you do, we’ve all had that happen.

But suffer no more, my friends. Let me introduce you to RunPee, an iPhone app that you start right when the movie begins, and then it buzzes in your pocket when a boring part is coming up, letting you know it’s safe to go do your business.

This article in The Guardian tested out RunPee and showed that, for example, the best time to pee during Casablanca is minute 59, just after Ilsa and Laszlo have failed to get a pair of exit visas from fez-sporting kingpin Ferrari.

The Shawshank Redemption? Right after Andy gives Red a harmonica. The Godfather? Right after “Take the cannoli” is uttered.

Seriously, this app is a fantastic idea. Sure, lots of movies you see you wouldn’t mind missing the whole thing. But with RunPee, you can be assured you won’t regret drinking that 32 ounce Coke during the previews.

What a time to be alive!

**Finally today, I’ve been waiting two darn years for one of my favorite TV shows to finally come back on the air, and Sunday night it actually did. “Episodes,” on Showtime, is a program I’ve raved about in this space before, and it’s one of the most underrated, consistently funny shows you will find.

It’s been so long since this hilarious show about Matt LeBlanc (playing himself) and two British sitcom writers navigating their way through network TV hell has been on, I’d almost forgotten how great it was.

Well, we watched the season premiere a few days ago and I’m thrilled to report it’s as funny as ever. LeBlanc’s deadpan expressions kill me, the Brits Bev and Sean have amazing chemistry, and Merc is still Merc and Carol is still Carol.

Here’s the trailer for Season 5 (the final season, sadly). Sunday nights, 10 pm, Showtime. Watch. This. Show.

Good News Friday: A town that used a neo-Nazi rally to raise money for a good cause. My girl Darci on “America’s Got Talent” continues to amaze. And the 9-year-old who asked NASA if he could fight aliens

Happy Friday to you all out in the Internets, hope you are having a kick-ass day. I turned 42 yesterday and despite thinking for a few minutes that I’m now two entire “people who can drink” old, it was a great day. The wife and I spent two days in Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, where you really never need to go outside, there are way too many restaurant choices, and there’s one solitary room where you can gamble in a non-smoking environment.

We ate, we slept, we doubled down on 11 in blackjack, and had a fabulous time. On with the show…

First today, there have been so much negativity in the news this week, involving neo-Nazis and white supremicists, that you would think it’d be pretty hard to find a good news story involving these hate groups.

But there’s a great one from a Bavarian town named Wunsiedel. From Heeb Magazine (that’s really what it’s called, but don’t worry, it’s run by Jews) in 2014:

In preparation for an upcoming neo-Nazi march in the small Bavarian town of Wunsiedel, local residents decided to fight back in a hilariously perfect way: by sponsoring each of the 250 fascist participants. Without the marchers’ knowledge, local residents and businesses sponsored the marchers in what was dubbed Germany’s “most involuntary walkathon”.

For every metre they walked, €10 went to a programme called EXIT Deutschland, which helps people escape extremist groups.

The anti-semitic walkers didn’t figure out the town’s scheme until they had already started their march, and by that time, it was too late to turn back. The neo-Nazis raised €12,000 for a cause they certainly did not believe in.

I love it! The video above is from the march, as the skinheads slowly tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

**Next up, it’s rare that I put the same person in “Good News Friday” twice in the span of a few weeks, but Darci Lynne, a 12-year-old girl from Oklahoma City, was so amazing again Tuesday night on “America’s Got Talent” that I feel compelled to include her again. This time the cute-as-a-button Darci brought out a different puppet to be part of her ventriloquist act, and together they belted out a classic Jackson 5 song.

This is so, so inspiring.

**And finally, if this doesn’t give you hope for the future, then man, nothing will! A 9-year-old boy submitted an application to NASA, trying to get a job as a “Planetary Protection Officer.”

Dear NASA,” Jack’s letter begins, my name is Jack Davis and I would like to apply for the Plenetary Protection Officer job. I may be 9 but I think I am fit for the job.  One of the reasons is my sister says I’m an alien and also I have seen almost all the space and alien movies I can see.”

Jack concludes with “I am young, so I can learn to think like an alien.” He signed it “Jack Davis, Guardian of the Galaxy, fourth grade.”

NASA, appropriately flattered, hired him immediately. No, they sent him a really nice letter back, which you can read here.

Love this kid.

 

Fallon on Charlottesville is his best moment as “Tonight Show” host. The tennis player who serves both lefty and righty. And remembering the great Jim Murray, as always, on Aug. 16

There was, as always, so much going on in the news on Tuesday. I don’t want to spend 1,000 words venting about our President’s remarkable ability to continually compound his own mistakes and make them worse. So I won’t. Instead, a few words about Jimmy Fallon, who took a lot of criticism for having Donald Trump on his show last year and basically “normalizing” him, giving him the softest of softball questions and goofing around with Trump like he was some reality TV star (oh wait, he was.)

I think Fallon deserved a little bit of the scorn but he got piled on quite a bit. He’s always struck me as an earnest, decent guy who does want to please everybody. Monday night he took to the airwaves at the start of “The Tonight Show” and gave this heartfelt opening. Very well done.

**Next up today, it’s mid-August which means you’re probably going to be reading way more tennis posts on here than usual because, well, the U.S. Open starts in a week and I’m going to be covering it every day and it consumes my life for three weeks.

Anyway, in a tennis mood today once I saw this, which I’ve never seen before. A Korean player named Kim Cheong-eui is on the minor-league Challenger circuit, and he does something I’ve never seen a pro do. He serves righthanded serves in the deuce court, and then left-handed serves into the ad court. He also hits forehands with both hands, on both sides.

This is incredible that he’s able to do this, and do it well. Check it out…

**And finally today, August 16 always makes me thing of a few things: One, it’s my Dad’s birthday (Happy birthday, Pops!) Two, my birthday is tomorrow (turning 42 and not too thrilled about it, but being associated with Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera for a year, I guess isn’t too bad) and three, I think of Jim Murray.

Every year on this blog on or around Aug. 16 I write about Murray, the greatest sportswriter who ever lived, who sadly left this Earth way too soon, in 1998. I love running excerpts of his columns because they remind me of how brilliant he was, how beautiful his writing was, and how much of a heart this man had.

As always, here’s some Jim Murray, to give you some beauty on a Wednesday…

Here are my two favorite columns of his: First, a touching tribute to his first wife Gerry who had just died. 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.

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. 

God, I miss that guy.

The hatred flowing in Charlottesville started at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. National Lefthanders Day is a thing? Hey, I’m a lefty. And a Little League coach who’s disgraced, rightfully

So many thoughts on this weekend’s atrocious activity in Charlottesville, Va., and I’m warning you up front I’m not sure how coherent this is all going to be. But here goes…

— This is 2017, and white nationalist/racist young men, who claim to be so oppressed and put upon, staged a rally in the open, with no masks or hoods covering their faces, and felt perfectly comfortable doing so.

They chanted offensive slogans about Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, and anybody else they didn’t like. In 2017, they felt no shame, no embarrassment, no reason not to feel emboldened.

And that’s because of the white man in the White House, a sexist, disgusting, prejudiced pig of a human being, and the white men who work for him.

From the fingers of the great Charlie Pierce in Esquire: “Anyone who followed the presidential campaign saw this coming. Frankly, I’m surprised there wasn’t more of it. Every Trump rally came with an implied promise of some kind of violence. Sometimes, the promise was fulfilled. Sometimes it wasn’t. But it was the dark energy behind that whole campaign. For all the relentless chin-stroking about the economically anxious and forgotten white working class, and for all the prayerful coverage of Donald Trump’s “populist” appeal, there was no question what was driving events on the Republican side.”

This is exactly what Trump was talking about the last two years. These are his people.

— And of course he didn’t repudiate them on Saturday, when news of this “rally” and the violence that ensued broke. These are his voters! It’s so much easier to “tsk tsk” at this gathering of hatred, and to blame “both sides.” Sorry Donnie, when you’ve got neo-Nazis involved, there is no “other side” to see. But our President refused to condemn or vilify these privileged white men who couldn’t bear to see a Confederate statue taken down in Virginia.

Quite a week for our President: As @GadyEpstein put it on Twitter: “Not many Presidents could make threatening nuclear war only the second-worst thing he did in a week.”

— This seems relevant today, a 1947 anti-fascist video put out by the U.S. military. Sound familiar:

— Funny how Trump was able to summon outrage at CNN, Nordstrom’s and so many others, condemning them, but when it comes to neo-Nazis, it’s “Ah, everyone’s to blame.”

— Keep Heather Heyer in your thoughts; she’s the 32-year-old woman mowed down and killed by a moving car driven by one of these Nazi sympathizers. I watched the video of it happening; absolutely disgusting.

— Thanks for coming, Fox News! So predictable.

— Finally, this whole weekend, I kept flashing back to this thought, articulated by writer Tommy Tomlinson: African-American kids were getting killed in the streets, and so Black Lives Matter was formed, and their protests were met with violence from law enforcement.
A Confederate statue was being taken down, and so a bunch of middle-class, privileged white dudes (these alt-right folks in Charlottesville were NOT southern hicks, that is clear) decided they couldn’t take it anymore.

We live in two different countries here in America. We really do.

**Next up today, mid-August always brings the Little League World Series into our lives, and for the past several years it’s frightening to see how much coverage ESPN gives all the regional tournaments and lead-ups. I’m sorry, but 11 and 12-year-old kids do NOT need to be on TV this much.

But with all this coverage of the LLWS playoffs we do get to see some examples, once again, of how grownups ruin kids sports.

May I introduce you to a man who should never, ever coach again, a man from Goffstown, N.H. named Jeff O’Connell.

Here’s what happened: There were two outs in the bottom of the sixth, and Goffstown was batting while trailing a team from South Portland, Me., 7-5. As Little League games are only six innings, and as there were two outs, the end of the game was pretty imminent.

One of the great rules of Little League is that every kid on a team must play, at least for one out. Well, a Goffstown player named Cole Bergeron had yet to play, and the umpires were aware of it and told O’Connell that if Bergeron wasn’t sent up to bat, the coach would be suspended for two games.

O’Connell still kept Bergeron on the bench, violating the rules. Goffstown lost, so O’Connell won’t get suspended until next year. Let’s hope he’s put on permanent suspension.

Let the kid play, for God’s sakes. It’s Little League!

**And finally today, a lighter story that made me smile: August 13 is apparently National Lefthander’s Day, in honor of all of us who, thanks to society’s righty bias, had to deal with impossible to use scissors, desks and notebooks as a child. (You know how many paper cuts I got from those metal 3-ring binders as a kid??? A lot, let me tell you.)

Yep, I’m a lefty, not just in politics but in dexterity, and ya know, life isn’t easy for us. We always end up with ink on our pinkies, we’re constantly having to do things backwards from the way they’re explained (because almost all demonstrations of stuff are done by righties), and we are almost always having to adjust to righty-dominated things like road signs.

I’ve always been proud to be a lefty; it’s always helped me in tennis because opponents aren’t used to seeing serves and forehands come off a racquet with a lefty spin. If I had any baseball ability at all, being a lefty would’ve helped tremendously.

As it is, I’m proud that so many famous, accomplished people throughout history have been lefties, people like Aristotle, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Barack Obama.

Given how much we lefties have accomplished, would it kill you scissors-makers to help us out when we’re young? Do me and the five other lefties in class always have to fight over the one lefty pair of scissors?

Thanks.

Good News Friday: Tim Tebow and an autistic boy share a “movie moment.” Yipee, airline passengers are getting bumped less often. And a Chicago Bears player’s beautiful bond with a cancer-stricken boy

And a Happy Friday to you all! I’m happy for all kinds of reasons today, among them: my wife’s 28-week sonogram Thursday showed a perfectly healthy fetus (the only body part I could confidently identify was the penis, so that was fun), my wife’s birthday was Thursday and so for the next six days, we’re the same age (then next Thursday I leap ahead of her, dammit), and, you know, the world didn’t blow up on Thursday thanks to two crazy madmen insulting each other.

So, you know, that was good.

We lead off Good News Friday this week with a story straight out of Damon Runyon (look him up, kids), or a Hollywood screenplay. It really does seem like these things always happen to Tim Tebow, but this one is absolutely true.

Tebow is playing for the Mets minor-league team in St. Lucie, Fla. these days, and the other night an autistic boy who’s a big fan of his decided, while Tebow was in the on-deck circle, to come down to the front row and try to give the former NFL QB a high-five.

Tebow saw the boy, Seth Bosch, and walked over and gave him a high-five. Seth was overwhelmed and return to his seat and his mom, Ileana, crying.

As she tried to console him, Tebow came to bat. And drilled a three-run home run. Leading Seth to jump up and down wildly.

Such a beautiful moment. Watch it here…

 

 

**Next up, it’s exceedingly rare we can praise airlines for anything, but thanks to some horrible incidents in the recent past, they are in for a bit of praise today. Happy news to report is that ever since the video of United Airlines flight attendants dragging 69-year-old David Dao off an airplane after an overbooking disaster, airlines are bumping fewer and fewer passengers.

According to this story, the Transportation Department said Tuesday that just 1 in every 19,000 passengers was kicked off an overbooked flight in the first six months of this year.

That’s the lowest rate since the government started keeping track in 1995.

The biggest decline took place between April and June, partly because airlines began paying many more passengers to give up their seats.

Hey, should ANY passengers ever be bumped because of an overbooked flight? No. Because airlines should NOT overbook flights. You have 200 seats on the plane? Sell 200 tickets, not 220 tickets.

I don’t understand why this concept doesn’t seem to work with airlines. But hey, the fact that so many horrible overbooking incidents were captured on video in the past year has made airlines stop bumping passengers is a silver lining.

Let’s hope it keeps up.

**And finally, a beautiful story by Dan Wiederer in the Chicago Tribune about an NFL player and a little boy who is surviving cancer.

NFL tight end Zach Miller befriended Ryan Creemens, a 9-year-old cancer survivor, after they first met when Miller handed Creemens his gloves after a game two years ago.

As Ryan underwent surgery after surgery and painful chemo, his buddy Zach was there, with FaceTime and phone calls, and words of encouragement.

But Miller went way, way beyond that. This is a really beautiful story; read it and appreciate how one person can make such a difference in the life of another.

 

North Korea’s a huge concern, but throwing people off the voting rolls? That’s just evil. Another incredible young lady on “America’s Got Talent.” And Australian dolphins are suddenly gay? Sure!

Tuesday was another day in Trump’s America, which meant insanely stupid bluster and threats on Twitter, another country with a madman as leader (North Korea) threatening to attack the U.S. (and maybe actually being capable of it), and many people on Twitter wondering if the world would end soon.

So, you know, a typical Tuesday.

Of course we are all correct to worry that one of these two hothead heads of state will start a war. But I’m not all that worried; for all his bluster and macho BS talk, it’s not like Trump can just start a nuclear war on his own. There are lots and lots of layers of protection and checks before the U.S. launches nuclear weapons.

What I am worried about, and this is what I’ve worried about all along, is the stuff he and his government departments are doing that doesn’t get all the publicity. The stuff that he doesn’t Tweet about, that’s often where the most insidious, and awful stuff is.

For example, how about this: The Justice Dept., led by Trump frenemy (does he like Sessions today or not? I can’t tell) Jeff Sessions, has recently strongly backed the state of Ohio in a court case that would throw eligible voters off the rolls just because they hadn’t voted in the last few elections.

Let me say that again: The state of Ohio, and the U.S. Justice Dept., thinks it should be perfectly legal to eliminate and invalidate valid voters’ registration because they missed voting in a few elections.

I’m sorry. BUT ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME????

The genesis of this issue stems from Ohio passing a law that allowed the state to drop voters from the rolls if they hadn’t voted in the past three elections. The courts struck down this law, saying it violated the National Voter Registration Act, and the case is now before the Supreme Court. The Justice Dept. filed a brief supporting the state’s position.

And oh yeah, Ohio is a hugely important state in Presidential elections, and according to this story Ohio has purged 2 million voters from 2011 to 2016more than any other state, including 1.2 million for infrequent voting. (Let me stop right there. More than ONE MILLION voters have illegally been removed from the rolls because they didn’t vote enough. Not because they moved, or were felons, or anything like that.)

At least 144,000 voters in Ohio’s three largest counties, home to Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, were purged since the 2012 election, with voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods twice as likely to be removed as those in Republican-leaning ones, according to a Reuters analysis.

Absolutely despicable. Disgusting. But not surprising. For many years the data has shown that when fewer people vote in elections, Republican candidates win. So voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering and laws like this help keep voter turnout as low as possible.

The Supreme Court now has this case. That’s the court Merrick Garland should be on, but Neil Gorsuch is instead.

Worry about North Korea, sure. But the trampling of American’s voting rights should concern you equally.

**And now, a much-needed palatte cleanser. Once again I am blown away by a young person I’d never heard of, after their performance on “America’s Got Talent.”

Darci Lynne is a 12-year-old girl from Oklahoma. Shy and having trouble making friends, Darci’s mother got her a doll for her birthday two years ago. Darci decided to learn to become a ventriloquist, and this amazing performance is the result. (Thanks to loyal reader Sanford for sending me this clip.)

My jaw was on the floor the whole time. What a talented, sweet kid. (The performance starts at the 2:15.)

**And finally, this story, heard by me on NPR’s always-hilarious “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” was just too good and weird to pass up.

From the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper:  Scientists in Western Australia have observed large groups of dolphins engaging in what they described as ‘homosexual behaviour’ after the mating season finishes.

The team at the Mandurah Dolphin Research Project noticed that after mating season was over, the male Bottlenose dolphins were ‘mounting’ and ‘having genital contact’ with each other.

‘These dolphins, all but three of them juveniles, organised themselves in four subgroups in which they were observed engaging in socio-sexual behavior that included mounting and genital contact between individuals,’ Murdoch University’s Krista Nicholson told the Mandurah Mail.

All righty then! So many jokes I want to make here, but I think you’d probably like to make your own.

Oh, and if you think this whole story is here in the blog just so I’d have an excuse to run a clip of my favorite “Glee” line ever, well,  you wouldn’t be wrong. Take us out, Brittany!