Guess I picked the wrong month to brag about not being a snowbird, to revel in staying home in New York, with the glory of the seasons, which would include winter.
I was so proud of having all that culture and entertainment a few miles to the west. We have tickets to Symphony Space to see the film of the Bennett play from the National Theatre.
It’s around 10 degrees outside.
I don’t think we’re getting out of our driveway.
# # #
(My little riff on snowbirding the other day)
We read in the Times the other day that Florida is supplanting New York as the third most populous state.
I can exclusively reveal here that I am not joining the exodus. We tried snowbirding in Florida 20 years ago, and it didn’t take. My wife made a splendid discovery of a low-slung condo in Boca Raton with a gorgeous view of the blue-green ocean, on the theory that it was halfway between the Yankee spring camp in Fort Lauderdale and the Mets’ camp in that wasteland of Port St. Lucie.
I would get up in the morning, take a delightful jog and then have breakfast and read the paper and take a shower and notice it was 10 o’clock in the morning, and what the hell was I going to do with the rest of the day? I never did figure it out.
Maybe we were too young. Fifty. We found concerts in Miami and an Indian restaurant in Coral Gables and strong coffee on Calle Ocho and a Thai restaurant in Boca.
One night in a restaurant my son-in-law pointed out a well-known gangster, warily sitting with a view of the front door. I thought he was in hiding. Most people we met had a murky story – new name, new face, new fingerprints, new spouse. Everybody seemed to come from somewhere else.
Many of the people in our complex were from Ohio, Michigan and Ontario. I found myself hanging out at the guardhouse with a Cuban guard from Miami and an Italian guard from Brooklyn. We told stories and laughed. Sal the handyman had coached Craig Biggio in Little League back on Long Island. We talked baseball.
My wife and I kept the blinds open at night because of the direct view of the ocean. But I would be awakened by the reflection in the mirror of the blinking red lights of ambulances visiting the complex. Ask not for whom the light blinks.
Commuting from work in New York, I began to have vivid dreams of slush and sleet and snow and fog and drizzle. The plane home would emerge from the clouds and screech to a landing at dank gelid LaGuardia and I would go, Yessssss!
So we sold. I still love Florida to visit – the Vietnamese restaurant in Orlando, rice and beans in Ybor City, funky downtown St. Pete, looking for Casey Stengel. But I’m paying the horrendous taxes in New York. It’s home. Everybody needs to know where home is.
I know Florida for its election scandal of 2000 and its unsavory Gov. Scott and the Trayvon Martin tragedy. But I’m not worried if Florida gains a seat in the House and New York loses one.
I turn on the tube and I hear Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who sounds like all the girls in my junior high school in Rego Park, Queens -- and no wonder, she’s originally from Forest Hills -- and Rep. Alan Grayson, who reminds me of classmates at Jamaica High -- and no wonder, Grayson is from Bronx Science. Billy Donovan coaches at Florida. Donna Shalala runs the University of Miami. We are exporting clear-thinking strong personalities just to help our friends in Florida. Some of us are staying behind.
He performed one of my favorite movie lines, but it did not apply to him. Peter O’Toole, who died the other day, got to play a dissolute guest on an early television program in the 1982 film “My Favorite Year.” Through the haze, Alan Swann divines that he is about to appear live, a prospect that thoroughly terrifies him. As he is nudged onto the set, he protests: “I’m not an actor – I’m a movie star!”
The line speaks to the inner truth most of us know about ourselves: sometimes we are in over our heads.
O’Toole recently was seen in the 1987 Bertolucci film, “The Last Emperor,” in that wonderful series that New York’s Channel 13 runs all too infrequently on Saturday nights. As an English tutor brought into the Forbidden City, O’Toole proved my point. He was an actor.
Among my other favorites:
In the 1963 film “The Balcony,” Shelley Winters plays a madame whose office assistant, Lee Grant, is lobbying to change positions within the establishment. Winters keeps trying to put her off, and the writer, Genet, plants the madame’s line in our heads before it is actually uttered:
“The world is full of whores; what it really needs is a good bookkeeper.”
How many times have I used that line to advise people to stick with their chosen profession?
Then there is the Clint Eastwood film, “The Unforgiven.” (I love Clint, even though he now speaks to empty chairs.)
The movie has many good lines, including when the young man kills somebody for the first time and starts babbling.
Will Munny (Clint): It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvet): Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.
That’s pretty much the point of the movie. I love it when Clint calls somebody “kid.”
Then there’s the scene we all know is coming, when Clint doubles back to town to avenge the killing of his pal, Ned, played by Morgan Freeman.
Inside the bar, Clint asks: “Who’s the fellow owns this shithole?”
The poor dope named Skinny admits he does, and Clint commences to do what Clint does. I often revive that line when fate takes me to some miserable football stadium or over-priced restaurant where I emphatically do not want to be. Don’t we all have our inner Clint?
At the end, Clint rides off into the rainy night, his voice cutting through the empty street:
“You better bury Ned right!... Better not cut up, nor otherwise harm no whores... or I'll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches.” (I think he also mentions their children, even their dogs, but it’s just an echo by then.)
I know there’s a whole universe of favorite-movie-lines out there. What’s yours?
Haven't gotten around to decorating the outside.
May not, thanks to John and Mary, Mark and Marisa.
And whoever hung that glowing white ball.
Taking their cue from Jürgen Klinsmann’s evaluation of “the worst of the worst” for the American schedule, fans are assuming the U.S. will get ushered out of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil without winning or drawing or maybe even scoring.
Having covered the past eight World Cups, I would like to note that the matches have yet to be played – and that group play is always full of revelations.
Why not be one of those teams that upset the favorite? Why not make your own luck? Why not catch players before they are acclimated? Why not be better than anybody expected? It has happened. Every four years it has happened.
The first thing to remember about the World Cup is that the best teams come into the tournament with the most players chewed up by the insatiable club schedules, including the Champions League. Outsiders can have fresh legs and fresh attitudes – very often worth a victory in the first round.
Without even discussing the American team here, let’s look at a few weird and wonderful things that have happened in the first match of group play:
In Spain in 1982, Algeria stunned West Germany, 2-1 – still one of the great upsets in World Cup history. The West Germans used a disgraceful 1-0 waltz victory over their friends from Austria in the third match, so both teams could advance past Algeria. FIFA later tightened the rules against manipulation like that, but Algeria will always have the pride of that upset.
In Mexico in 1986, in the opening match in Azteca, Bulgaria tied the defending champions of Italy, 1-1, in the 85th minute. Then again, Italy almost always has a wretched first round – part of its charm.
In the very first match in Italy in 1990, Francois Omam-Biyik of Cameroon outjumped Roberto Sensini of Argentina for a header goal in the 67th minute for a 1-0 victory. (The Argentina coach yanked Sensini two minutes later.) Was this a huge upset? Not really. Ancient Roger Milla helped Cameroon become the first African team to reach the quarterfinals, and Argentina reached the finals.
In 1994, Ireland beat Italy, 1-0, in Giants Stadium in the first match. Once again, Italy had to stagger into the knockout round, eventually losing the final when two injured stars missed in the shootout.
In 1998, in France, talented Spain sauntered into a first match against Nigeria, and was out-run, 3-2, by Bora Milutinovic’s team. Spain did not reach the knockout round, its glory still a generation away.
In 2002 in South Korea, Zinedine Zidane pulled a thigh muscle in an exhibition against the aggressive Reds, and the lethargic defending champion, France, was stunned by its former colony, Senegal, 1-0, in the opening match, and did not survive the first round.
In 2006, Trinidad & Tobago, in its long-delayed World Cup debut, held Sweden to a 0-0 draw in the first round in Germany. When bonuses did not materialize, the Soca Warriors did not score in two straight losses.
In 2010, France, England and Italy all staggered to draws in their first matches in South Africa, and only England made it into the knockout round. All three were exposed as weary, disinterested or, in France’s case, mutinous.
From my eight World Cups, I have learned that national teams are all-star aggregations, thrown together a few weeks before the opening match. Very often, African teams have talent but struggle with financial and logistical issues. The U.S. cannot think about the losses to Ghana in 2006 and 2010 and must get 3 points from the first match. Then it will have to hold Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to a draw, somehow. After that comes Germany, always talented and never nonchalant.
The U.S. will have to hope the other teams chew each other up in the first round. In the most recent World Cup, four teams advanced with 4 points.
The great thing about having a former champion like Klinsmann as coach is that he can, without boring his players, remind them of disasters and upsets he has seen in the World Cup. The first match is vital. The schedule:
Now if the U.S. can arrange a transplant of its back line.
The way I see it, the same thing is wrong with both the Knicks and Nets – location.
They are competing with each other and everything else in the New York market, and that is a dangerous thing for a sports franchise.
The operative mentality for a New York team is that fans in Big Town will tolerate only a winner. (See: Steinbrenner, George, in Tyler Kepner’s excellent analysis of the Jacoby Ellsbury signing in Wednesday’s NY Times.)
While the Gene Michael vein of home-grown superstars has worn down, the Yankees keep trying to dominate with players who made their mark elsewhere. It’s a tricky formula for a baseball team, but much more problematical for a basketball team with a smaller roster, less margin for error, that decides it needs a quick fix to win a championship.
Yes, money can create a championship team, as Pat Riley did in Miami, but that involves brains and vision, all lacking in Madison Square Garden, and maybe in Brooklyn, too. But a team can also be built for the long haul, as the Spurs did.
The Knicks have been doomed since ownership blew up a nice team that was working in unison and brought in the empty calories of Carmelo Anthony. Anybody could see Anthony cannot be the core of a championship team because he lacks the leadership and teamwork skills. But James Dolan went for the points. His puppet regime then let Jeremy Lin get away because Anthony iced him out.
Now the Knicks are stuck with old players falling apart, Anthony gunning it up from anywhere, and a rebellious fan base paying insane money for the privilege to boo.
Dolan deserves it for his arrogance and his distance. He always seems to have a rehearsal for his rock band. What a dilettante. The Boss always backed up his moves, right or wrong, in person.
The Nets are also suffering from the quick fix syndrome. Owned by the Russian, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, they tried for a transplant of the Boston Celtics’ success, in a trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. What they missed was the Celtics’ coach, Doc Rivers, who was heading west. Instead, they got a Steinbrenner version of Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson – too expensive, and too late.
Now the Nets players are falling apart, and the coach, Jason Kidd is pulling a bush trick like spilling a soda on the court to force a timeout and pushing out his hand-picked assistant Lawrence Frank. Nothing worse than not being ready for prime time in New York.
There is good basketball news in New York, however. One of the New York teams will win a game Thursday night – inasmuch as they are playing each other.
Your take on why the two New York teams both stink?
Nobody likes getting a call at three in the morning. Too many bad options.
I heard my cell phone rattling on the nightstand, the night before Thanksgiving. My wife was next to me, but the question remained: What?
It’s one of those old clamshell phones. (I cannot figure out Mr. Jobs’ gizmos.)
I clawed it open.
The message was a photograph of a flower in the frost.
It was from Grandchild 3/5. Given the size of this great land of ours, I don’t see 3/5 that often. A message is welcome.
I pecked out a response: Where?
She has a much faster keyboard than I do.
Discovery Park, she replied.
You have a good eye, I typed.
By now I was actually awake. She had outlasted everybody in her household, residents and visitors, and besides, she is something of a night owl. I thought I would toss out a subtle reminder of the situation.
You know it’s 3 AM here.
This did not seem to faze her.
Yeah, she replied. It’s 12 o’clock here.
I liked her style. It reminded me of six years ago when I received a call around 4:30 in the morning from Sebastian Newbold Coe, Baron Coe, CH KBE, the great runner who was head of the London Olympic Committee for 2012. Lord Coe had come into the office bright and early and asked his assistant to get me on the phone, which she did. He had a lot on his mind. He was abashed, but we conducted business, no problem, and when we finally met in Beijing in 2008, he apologized again. I thought it was very cool to be able to joke with a lord about an early wake-up call.
Grandchild 3/5 did not apologize. Time zones or not, she can text me any time.
Plus, she has a good eye.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.