Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Irascible Poet MLB Preview

It is Holy Week when Roman Catholics commemorate the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is also Passover when Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt. But more importantly we are in the last week of Spring Training and so it is time for the 2010 Irascible Poet Baseball Preview;

Baseball is the most contemplative sport. It follows the seasons and most resembles daily life since it goes on for months and months. I think the thing that I like best about Baseball is that it is every day. During the season you can watch the game and just when you need it it comes through for you.

Last year I was unemployed and depressed. I was sitting at home stewing in my own self pity and I had the White Sox game on and what do you know Mark Buehrle throws a perfect game. Baseball coming through for you.... I have been reading a new biography of Willie Mays by James Hirsch and he talks about the idea of Willie Mays catching a ball in center field-- sheer perfection in the face of the ordinary. Baseball is like being allowed to watch an artist paint or sculpt. It is sheer perfection but also failure and doubt and if you are a Cub fan like my dear friend Mark Tardi it is agony punctuated by numbness. I of course am a White Sox fan and so my life is filled with agony and deformity rather than numbness.

Everyone is making their picks and so here are mine;


National League East

The NL East is an interesting division. The Phillies are a great team and they have a great ball park but I do not think that this is their year. The New York Mets should be a great team but the combination of their ball park which is too big and David Wright's weight gain does not bode well for them and then there is the fact that this is Bobby Cox's last year in Atlanta. I think that this is the difference and that Atlanta wins this division and gives them a storybook ending for Cox's career.






National League Central

It is well known that the Cubs give me hives and their fans make me want to vomit but I think that this might just be a good year for our bastard cousins on the North Side. This is Lou Piniella's last year with the Cubs and even the most vitriolic Cub hater has to like Lou (Just like we liked Ernie Banks only an idiot did not like Ernie Banks). The Milwaukee Brewers look good as well and the Cardinals have Albert Pujols which makes them a good team. Look for Dusty Baker to be fired by Cincinnati in May. So my pick is the Cubs by one game over the Cardinals who will win the NL Wild Card







National League West

This is the weakest division in baseball. The Dodgers are going no where fast and the divorce drama will get worse before it gets better. The Padres are an empty shell. The Rockies are a good team but the team to watch is the San Francisco Giants. This is their year with great pitching they win the west.







Now we move on to the real league, The American League.

American League East

The Yankees/Red Sox division is dominated by that rivalry and it produced a World Champion for only 200 million dollars last year. The Yankees are a great team but how long can this chemistry last? The Red Sox have one of the best pitching staff's and they also have the advantage of being an underdog. I would watch this division you will have a three way race between the Ray's, Red Sox and Yankees but the team that is most interesting are the Orioles. They have a good core of young players and could finish fourth and be over .500 if that happens this division tightens and the Yankees/Red Sox do not win 95 games. Having said that this is how they finish.


Red Sox*



Blue Jays

American League Central

This is my home division. Filled with evil teams like the Twins and Tigers. Actually I like to call the AL Central the old jeans division it is so comfortable and the rivalries are fierce but no where near the meanness of Yankees Red Sox and that is because there are no assholes in the Midwest they have all migrated to the area between Philadelphia and Boston. Having said that this division will be the most competitive of the entire MLB. The Twins are a good team, my White Sox have the best rotation and do not forget the Indians who are young but have Grady Sizemore who is a great player. Watch for the Tigers to fall apart trading Curtis Granderson was a stupid move. So here is my call...

White Sox*





oh and it will be another year of a one game playoff between two 88 win teams....

American League West

Is this baseball's most boring division? The Angels are about as exciting as a visit to a State Farm office. The A's could be a great team if someone would just show up to their games, the Mariners play in a great ball park and the Rangers could be great if it were not so damn hot in Texas. Having said that I think this is the year that that Rangers finally win the division. The cocaine problems of their manager will be resolved in May when he is fired and the Angels will be weakened.






National League





NL Pennant


American League

Yankees/White Sox

Red Sox/Rangers


Yankees/Red Sox

AL Pennant

Red Sox

I am not going to pick a World Series Winner mostly because I do not really care.


I remember once when I was travelling in Europe in the late 1980's that I read an article by David Halberstam in the International Herald Tribune about what it is like to be away from Baseball in an alien land on opening day. I felt this six times in my life when I lived outside the USA and I have to say that opening day and the baseball season is one of the only things I truly missed while living abroad. There are allot of great places to live in the world and i have lived in two of them but there is always an emptiness because of the lack of baseball. There is something cleansing about baseball something reassuring.

You can become immersed in it's minutiae and remove yourself from reality which makes all the difference in a world of pain. Other sports are great I enjoy College Football and the World Cup but there is just something about the crack of the bat that I cherish and in the end cannot live without. Roger Angell one of baseball's great writers said once that baseball is like a religion and once you are inducted you need it the way a Catholic needs the Eucharist or a Buddhist meditation.

That seems right to me so only a few days left to the crack of the bat....

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Special Place in Hell for Cardinal Ratzinger

I write this blogpost as an angry, disappointed, faithful Roman Catholic.

I am not some wild eyed Catholic hater who wants to destroy the Church.

But any faithful Catholic who has not seen the fertile field that our Church has become for Sexual Predators is not seeing reality. I grew up in a great parish in suburban Chicago a place where I was nurtured and supported but even in that environment two priests were removed for the sexual abuse of boys. In our safe place these things happened and the evil was not dealt with properly. The Church chose to protect pedophiles and to allow the abuse of Children....

We as faithful Catholics have seen our institutions destroyed, Hospitals, Parishes, Schools, Universities, that WE paid for with our hard earned dollars have been sold to pay for the evil decisions of Bishops to protect sexual criminals. Our money has been taken to pay for the sexual violence that was perpetrated on our Children.

After college I worked as a Catholic Lay Missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It was the greatest experience of my life and I met Priests and Sisters who were the "real deal". I think about those people, people like Sister Fulvia a Franciscan Sister who worked with prostitutes, Fr Ignacio Harding OFM who embodied St Francis and Fr Oscar DeWulf who really lived and worked to educate the poor and my heart is filled with what is possible. These people reaffirmed my Faith but they are in many ways the exception- not the rule.

I also knew other priests and sisters who were not so saintly. I knew Bishops who had mistresses and Children. I knew Catholic sisters who had affairs with priests and when they got pregnant they were expelled from their orders while the Priests were sent to better postings. I heard rumors about other evils done by priests and brothers to young boys and how nothing was really done about those evils. I also experienced the strong misogyny of a clergy made up of so many sexually underdeveloped men. Men who obviously were not comfortable with women and who had odd proclivities.

I was not surprised by Sexual Crimes that were exposed. What has surprised me is the fact that Bishops chose to ignore or avoid these problems. They chose to protect priests who committed crimes.

  • Pope John Paul II gets lauded by Conservative Catholics as a Saint. He is in fact guilty of allowing thousands of Children's abuse
  • Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Ratzinger, is also guilty of allowing Children to be abused.
  • The Sexual Culture of My Church is sick and needs reforming.
  • Women in our Church are abused and ignored everyday.
  • When Women Religious dare to challenge the Church they get investigated as they are now.

In the end I remain a practicing Catholic because I believe in the Eucharist. I believe that the Church has produced so much good. Just in our own country we have produced Catholics like Cesar Chavez, Flannery O' Connor, Dorothy Day, Cardinal Spelman, Thomas Merton, John Courtney Murray, Fr. Jacque Marquette, St Francesca Cabrini, Bishop John Ireland, Robert and John Kennedy and so many more. I believe in the Catholic people who struggled to build Churches and Schools in a nation that hated them because they were Catholics and my heart breaks when I see our Bishops and our Popes violating that trust.

If Pope Benedict were a CEO and he did what he did he would be indicted or fired. Perhaps that is what he should do? Maybe we are in need of Reform? Pope Benedict deserves all the derision he is receiving. He allowed a priest in Milwaukee to abuse hundreds of young Deaf boys. There is a special place in hell for someone who allows that kind of evil to continue.

Where is our St Teresa of Avila?

Where is our St Francis?

Where is our Cluny?

Where is our St John XXIII?

Deo Gratia +

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My President, My Alma Mater, Prairie Lights--- what more can you ask for?

President Obama was in Iowa City today.
What more can you ask for? He not only went to my Alma Mater to talk about health care victory but he went shopping at Prairie Lights Bookstore-- where I learned to love to read. President Obama is missed here at home in Chicago but he went to Iowa City and that is okay by this Hawkeye.
You know I am just tired of the Goebbelsque tactics. I can see why Germans believed in Hitler though if you listen to bad things enough they sound like the truth. My parents watch Fox News and sometimes I feel like I am talking to Sean Hannity. My parents are smart and somewhere down there I know they must be embarrassed?
Healthcare reform was not perfect but I would not trade it for the Patriot Act or Tax Cuts for Rich folks. Obama showed some balls. The Word in Italian is Palloni ....
So give them hell Barack and it is a good day when you can say you spent it in Iowa City.... the Athens of the Midwest and home to the best burger (at the Hamburg Inn) anywhere...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brazilian Sun, American Darkness

I first moved to South America in 1993. I can still remember the first day I spent in
Bolivia where I went to be a volunteer after college. There were smells and tastes and
odd foods and also there was a sense that I as an American had come from a place very
far away. Over time I learned the nuances of Bolivian culture and I learned that it was me
as an American who was the odd one and that the norm for Bolivians was more normal world-wide
then my own coddled upbringing. I learned to speak Spanish and learn how to read new expressions and it was the adventure of my life.
I spent most of the next 10 years either living or working in South America. After time in Bolivia I found a job in Brazil. In of all paces Blumenau in Brazil's south. Santa Catarina is one of the those places that no one knows about but is so great, kind of like the Carolinas.
In the process I met my wife, learned Portuguese and got to know Brazilian poets. I used that knowledge to work for many more years with Latin America and in the end I have either lived or worked in every nation on the continent except Canada,Cuba and the Guyanas. I loved working South America but I never doubted that life is easier in the USA and that one has more opportunity here.
Every time I visited South America, until last week, I had the feeling that the U.S. was a dynamic place that . That "The Future" was somewhere in Texas or New York but never in Sao Paulo, Blumenau or Buenos Aires. That feeling is no longer part of my thinking.
We arrived in Sao Paulo on a Friday. Sao Paulo is the largest economic engine in all of Latin America it is larger than the rest of Latin America combined in GDP and it produces more things than the country of Mexico and it is just one state in Brazil. You see it all over the city, factories, malls and restaurants this is a place that is moving and growing. The feeling I got upon arriving was that unlike Chicago or New York there was no pall of depression or fear. In the USA right now many people are living lives of fear and doubt we see a false credit driven reality that made many of us feel secure when we were not and today many are wondering how to get out of the dead end? It seems evident why the International Olympic Committee Picked Rio over Chicago the energy and the hope is obvious.
In Brazil, for all its poverty and violence you can see a society that is emerging and growing. We spent time in Sao Paulo and the restaurants were full, the factories were humming and the people seemed confident in the future- perhaps Brazil has finally lived up to it's moniker "the country of the future"? For the entire 10 days in Brazil you could see the "Future" around you with growth and change even my Father in law saying that it is hard to get someone to do manual work because their are other jobs to be had. If that were only true in Chicago. So as the week progressed things became hopeful for me. For the first time in a year I felt that maybe things would get better and that there were possibilities.
I read in Florianopolis at the Centro Cultural Arquipelago a wonderful space where a young artist opens her home and studio to readings. The reading was a delight and poet Sergio Medieros did a great job of helping me to present my work to an audience- along with some great translations from Paulo Henriques Britto. In the end the day was a great, albeit a little hot and so humid it was like wearing a wet wool sweater. The whole trip was a joy and returning to the place where my life began as an adult was a sure way to begin again...
I left Brazil hope full... upon my return to Chicago my hopefulness lasted a day.
I turned on the TV news and watched the fighting and the insults, spoke to my many friends who are unemployed or underemployed, learned that another set of relatives have declared bankruptcy-- and for the first time in my life wished that I was not living here in the 'land of opportunity' but instead in the 'country of the future' . Things are not perfect in Brazil- but the pall that sits over everything I know here in the US remains like a dark rainstorm blocking out the sun.