Posted tagged ‘good luck’

Feeling Special, If Not Free

March 14, 2010


Agh!  (Translation:  Ugh!)   A rainy weekend with lots of work-work (as distinguished from fun-work.)

There is something about working on both days of a week-end which makes one feel automatically deprived, even when also feeling extremely grateful to have the job.

We like to feel special, not, in other words, like drudges.  A week-end of work makes one long for the magical escape, that liberation that waits just around the corner.

Perhaps as a result of that longing, I actually opened and read the Nigerian email that I received this morning.  As a practicing attorney, I get one of these almost every day.  (They seem to be mainly generated from Nigeria, but come from other places as well.)   They involve millions of dollars or British pounds which are awaiting my pick-up if I will only co-operate in some scheme to help a widow, orphan, business partner, collect some mysteriously elusive inheritance, or lottery winnings.  Sometimes, as in today’s mail, it’s an inheritance or lottery winnings actually intended for me.  Today’s subject line  read “dead or alive!!!”  Its sender “Mr.Ron Mills” from “Standard International Bank PLC” warned me that someone named John K. Wheeler was claiming I was dead and trying to collect $2.5 million dollars held in my name.  Mr. Mills, though about to accede to Mr. John Wheeler’s claims, asked: “Did you sign any Deed of Assignment in favor of (MR JOHN WHEELER). Thereby making him the current beneficiary with this following account details….”

Who writes these emails?  What do they hope to gain by them?

On top of the fantastic  elements of the stories (Cinderella diving into Ocean’s Eleven), there are always telltale signs of the scam—awkward word usage, punctuation and grammar mistakes, generic addresses,  as in the email from “Timothy Geithner”, asking me to reply at a  “yahoo” address.  (You know how the Treasury Department always uses those for their high-level employees.)

The urge to feel lucky, singled out, is a deep one.  (An example that comes to a brain suffering from the renewed imprint of Robert Pattinson is the whole Twilight craze—certainly a huge part of that mania arises from the very ordinary-seeming heroine turning out to have special blood, a not-visible-on-the-surface quality which elevates her from the humdrum to the extraordinary.)

My mother calls me excitedly this morning, telling me of an offer received in the mail from her favorite credit card company–free airplane tickets.

I assure her that the tickets are probably not truly “free”.  She checks out the offer’s “details,” reading aloud some fine print about the continental United States.

My mom is a child of the Great Depression;  if something is free, it feels almost a sin to pass it up.  Accordingly, even though she and my father have not felt up to plane travel for the last several years, she immediately begins making plans (at least theoretical plans).

I tell her that there really is a probable catch here, something you need to buy, subscribe to.   She explains that they “have had that card for a long time.”  (I think this means that they are due a thank you from the company.)

“Yes, but—”

“Maybe they just want to get more people on the airplanes?” she answers.


“It says ‘free'” she tries again, “even on the envelope.”

Why should I cast a shadow over her sense of good luck?  Just because John K. Wheeler is trying to steal my 2.5 million?

“So then, maybe they are,” I sigh.

Yea Mariano! – Go Yankees!

October 19, 2009
Go Yankees!

Go Yankees!

Just got home to see Mariano pull Yankees out of tight spot, Angels everywhere.   I’m posting for good luck!  Sorry for the repetition (but if Yankees repeat winning….)

Baseball and Life – Yankees-Angels Game 2 – The Blink Factor/The Not-Blinking Factor-Boom Boom Boom

October 18, 2009

My good luck tricks seemed to have worked once more for the Yankees—i.e. last night during the second Yankees-Angels game, I posted my elephant baseball picture AND, at a certain critical juncture, stopped watching.   (See earlier post re good luck “Talismans” and my personal effect on Yankees’ baseball.)

I won’t take all the credit for the victory—there was also Jeter, Cano, and Mariano, Jerry Hairston, Jr., A-Rod, and Damon (who made some really terrific catches), Melky Cabrera, Phil Coke, and Joba (who still seems a little pudgy boy to me especially when he celebrates), and Molina, who had a really hard job as catcher for A.J. Burnett, who also, as starter, deserves some credit, despite the way in which his wild pitches can drive a fan crazy.  (The frustration he causes is frankly not completely redeemed by the whipped cream pies.)

Then, there was just the Yankee grit, that somehow, so frequently, manages to just hang on and on and on.

Watching the videos of the end of the game this morning made me think (yes, it’s a cliché) of baseball as a paradigm of life.  Yes, again, yes, it’s a cliché.  Still, it seems somehow a more appropriate paradigm than a lot of other big sports.  (Which I have to confess don’t interest me enough to know much about them.  Still, I hate to think of any sports in which (i) people are repeatedly tackled and concussed, or (ii) forced to chase around constantly with little chance of achieving many goals, as better paradigms.)
What is unusual about baseball is simply how fast everything moves when it does, finally, move at all.   The replays of the last moments of last night’s October 17th game against the Angels are particularly striking.  On the Yankees’ site, they show footage taken from nearly every angle, even one that simply shows Cabrera running, relatively quickly for a big guy, to first.

In case, you didn’t follow the game, in the thirteenth inning, with a man on first and second, Yankee Melky Cabrera hit a ball that bounced between first and second.  The Angels’ second baseman, Maicer Izturis, stopped the ball, then, trying for a double play, threw it hard and fast to Angels’ short stop Erik Aybar, who stood at second, and who frankly seems like a really a surly, cocky sort of guy (if you are a Yankee’s fan), who missed it.  The Angel’s third baseman, Chone Figgins, stopped Izturis’s throw, but bobbled the ball.  In the meantime, Hairston Jr., who’d been holding on third before Izturis’s error, dashed towards home. Hairston was immediately overrun by the rest of the Yankees’ team and quickly assumed a fetal position on the ground as they all energetically patted him.

The long and short of that detailed explanation is simply that, although it takes a long time to write it all down, the play actually happened in an incredibly short period of time:  boom (Cabrera connected with the ball), boom (Iztura stopped and immediately threw it), boom (it slid below Aymer’s glove), boom (Figgins bobbled it), boom (Hairston slid into home).  When the footage that just focuses on Cabrera is shown, you see from the way that he turns, delighted, that the run has already been scored even as he makes it to first base.

The speed of it all is especially amazing because most of baseball is so slow.  The pitcher stands and postures, eyes narrowing and re-narrowing, with little shakes or nods of the head to the catcher, the batter (if Jeter especially), re-tightens his gloves (two or three or four times), re-squares his shoulders, gently sways the bat,  everyone constantly repositions their stances (usually spitting or blowing a bubble at the same time in a sort of homage to old-time multi-tasking).  Everyone, pitcher, batter, catcher, batter, in and out fielders, both wait and prepares.  Even the audience waits, though it doesn’t prepare so much as eats and drinks, crosses its fingers and yells. So much waiting, so much preparation, so much eating and drinking, finger-crossing  and yelling.  And then, boom, boom, boom, boom.  The moment arrives and players are suddenly expect to act, react, not just to make decisions, but to carry them out – boom boom boom.

Okay, you get it.  This is where the paradigm part comes in. There are obvious parallels to situations in the marketplace–buying and selling on the stock market, buying and selling anything, anywhere.  And also to moving around a potentially dangerous world–driving a car, for example,  especially in, or around, an accident.  The way action unfolds in baseball parallels many emergency situations actually; an emergency, a threat, that can also turn into an opportunity (i.e. the near double-play that becomes a winning score for the opposite side.)

So many parallels:  the need to be able to act even in the midst of a mouthful! The need to keep a mouthful going in order to be able to act!  The blink factor!  Or, maybe it’s the not-blinking factor!  The waiting, the planning, the practice, and then the OMG moment, which never takes exactly the shape anticipated, and frequently involves both a solo effort AND team work, and if not exactly team work, at least the avoidance of collision.  (A-Rod and Mariano were a great example of that in the tenth inning when they both ran towards a flying bunt, which was then caught by Mariano.)

Ah, Mariano….

Talismans – Go Yankees!

October 10, 2009

Last night, I heard news of the first nine innings of the Yankees game only intermittently as various men in my family returned periodically to the dinner table to report, conversationally, “one-all”, or terribly, “down three to one,” or amazingly, “A-Rod tied it in the Ninth!”

I missed Mariano.  (Dishes.)  But sat through some of Aceves’ inning.  (He was the second Yankee closer, who also did an admirable, if nail-biting job.)

I am sometimes concerned that I’m not good luck for the Yankees.  This is probably just grandiosity on my part.  But I worry, when they are down and when I am watching, that my own insecurities pass in a reverse osmosis through the television screen, and endanger their efforts.

So after a few minutes  in which nothing good was happening, I left the TV room and helped the Yankees in the only way I could think of, that is, putting up a “Go Yankees” post, with a repeat elephant baseball picture, hoping for luck.

Silly, sure.  Except that a few minutes later (even with me watching), Teixera hit his wall-scraper home run!


I’m not taking any credit.   But I’m reminded of the man in South India who put salt around his porch to ward away tigers.  When told that no tigers had ever been sited in that part of India, he nodded at the salt, “effective, isn’t it?”

Few people know that I have protected New York City from further terrorist attack by wearing a certain silver-balled necklace every single day since 9/11.

My mother wards off car accidents among family members by wearing the color blue.   (This can be quite difficult when it is too hot in Florida for a certain favorite periwinkle jacket, and her cerulean short sleeve shirt is dirty.)

My husband keeps loved ones safe through three knocks on the vehicle that holds them.   (He sometime has to do this on the trunk of the cab to the airport since it’s pretty hard to get close enough to airplanes to knock on them these days.)

I can’t really speak for my mother and husband.  I can only say that I don’t just adopt any object or action—the talisman has to proven to work.   This means that I don’t pick a lucky object, rather the object presents itself to my notice after the magic has already started working.  In the case of my silver necklace, for example, I conveniently realized, after several weeks of just happening to wear it, that no further terrorist act had happened in NYC.   (In this sense, I am quite different from Charlie Chaplin, who seemed, at least in City Lights, to adopt talismans in a rather desperate ad hoc way that proved comically inefficient.   I’m thinking here of the scene before his boxing match, in which he sneaks a rabbit’s foot from a very brawny professional-looking boxer and rubs it all over himself only to see the boxer carried out on a stretcher.  Then Chaplin tries frantically to rub the rabbit aura off .)

Oddly, one reason that I like the Yankees is that their success does not seem to depend on luck.   (Yes, they have good luck, and their own little talismanic rituals to keep hold of it.)    But, of course what the Yankees really rely on (aside from Mariano) is skill.   (Yes, this skill was bought with multi-digit figures I don’t want to think of.)   But what impresses me even more than the Yankees’ skill, is their endurance–the way they just keep going– beyond bad luck, beyond bad odds, beyond even those times when their skills have failed them and their prior innings’ performances have been embarrassingly bad (especially considering their pay).  They just keep trying until the very last out.

Probably even without silver necklaces.

If you liked elephant baseball, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson at link above.