Friday, September 23, 2011

Looking for Bill . . .

A few months ago, shortly after acquiring an iPhone, I was summoned by a call from an unfamiliar, and wrong, number. Short history here: I rarely answer these calls. If you don't know me, I have not given you my number; why are you calling?

Well, this day was wonderfully sunny and mild, for a February. I decided to answer Mr./Ms. Wrong Number.

Me: Hello . . .

(The perp was female, possibly 55-60, with a Pacific islander-type accent, which made Bill sound like Bee-elh.)

WN: Bee-elh?

Me: No Ma'am, this is not Bill. You have the wrong number.

WN: Oh-k-a-a-ay. [Click]

Now, under normal circumstances that is how a wrong number chinwag goes, right? Both parties speak, both parties realize it's an incorrect number, and both parties (usually) seek the best way to end the call.

It is rare the same mistake is repeated. Not on this day. Not with this tenacious bulldog.

A few minutes later, ring, ring goes the phone. It's the same number.

Me (becoming mildly perturbed): Hel-low . . .?

WN: Bee-elh? Ees thee-ce Bee-elh?

Me (morphing into Tommy Lee Jones' Ranger Roland Sharp character from the 2005 film, Man of the House: Nooo!, thee-ce ees not Bee-elh . . . [Click]

Being as the reading on my POM (Pissed Off Meter) was steadily accelerating, I decided to make this caller an address book entry. Do not ask me why, maybe the stars were aligned just right, maybe I should play a combination of the numbers in the lottery, I don't know. It just seemed the prudent thing to do.

Anyway, a few keystrokes later, and the number, (615) 884-6158, was officially in my Contacts as Wrong Number.

In short time, however, the phone rang once more. I snickered to myself while reading the name, Wrong Number, and answered . . . locked and loaded; bring on the bear.

Me: Heh-LOW-uh . . . .

WN: Bee-elh, ees thee-ce Bee-elh?

Me: Nooo!, thee-ce ees not Bee-elh . . . [Click]

So that shut up the Insidious Inquirer, right?

Uh-Uh! A few days later, the phone rings once more. It is another unfamiliar number.

Me: Hello.

WN: Beel-elh, Can I spee-ek to Bee-lh?

Me: No-o-o-o, you cay-en't spee-ek to Bee-elh . . . [Click]

Thus, Phone Number 2, (615) 275-9921, became part of the address book entry.

And that is the way the story drifted along, in the utopian dream world called Perfection.

Ah, the piece and quiet, the serenity from the everyday cacophony of life. Yeah right! Several months passed and the scenario was repeated once more.

I am sure Ms. Wrong Number, who is probably a sweet little lady with a husband, a lap dog, a compact car, and a white picket fence that guards her petunias and roses, is as exasperated in looking for Bill as I am in not being Bill. Maybe one day she will find him.

In the meantime, should I screw with her mind?

Me: Heh-LOW-uh, theece ees Bee-elh. Why have yoo naht cawl me . . . sweet-haht . . .

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Hey, Fatso! Yeah, You!

Obesity: No matter where you go in this country, especially in the Deep South, you are going to encounter what is fast becoming the most horrific health crisis in history. Yet, it seemingly marches along, steadily picking up steam; statistical numbers rapaciously skyrocketlng with each passing year. And no one seems to have a clue as to how to mount a counter-attack. If the great Chinese war strategist, Sun-Tzu, were to be summoned from the battlefields he now roams, one look at the enemy and he would turn in flight, screaming in fear as he sped past Saint Peter, escaping back into the safety of his present domain on the other side of the pearly gates. The enemy over there are probably a wee bit skinnier; perhaps even a tad emaciated. But they were slim pickings to begin with when they were alive; nothing drastically changing in the few hundred years their souls have roamed in eternity.

Obesity: Though a cousin to Fat, with more than a few like characteristics (enough to ensure the family connection), it cannot be confused as a fraternal twin, and passed off as easily dismissible. That is because one can be a tad pudgy and still maintain a fairly healthy lifestyle. Look back through history to the time when modestly nude paintings were high art and you find both men and women depicted with a tad more curves than 1960's model Twiggy ever dreamt of having shape her skeleton. Pudgy, yes; grotesque, decidely not.

And once one crosses the point of no return, the line in the sand, or any other designation of pop culture drivel that screams Major Fail, only a miracle of, no pun intended, gargantuan proportions can bring them back to life as most people enjoy. Few can make the turnaround like Jared Fogle of Subway fame.

Obesity: Socially, the person afflicted with the disease suffers a ostracization twice as devastating because obesity transcends gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic stratum or any other quantifier of modern life. Haters across the board can scream singular epithets at folks all day. But add obesity to the mix and you have a double-whammy for the victim of such demagogic slander.

Now those of you who have seen my slight frame might view me as a hater, or at the least, given my build, ignorantly unsympathetic. You need to know that I have first-hand experience on the subject.

The paternal heritage I have been blessed to have, comes from strong Scotch-Irish stock, mostly growing up on farms and having the residual diet of the lifestyle. We are talking hard-working, earthy people, on the go every day with pre-dawn chores being interrupted only for breakfast. Mid-morning chores would resume before taking off a bit of time for dinner, that being the moniker long ago for the mid-day meal. Then the afternoon chores would commence and they were capped off with a weary supper. The work was arduous and the meals were hearty. But the metabolism spikes offset any issues even though the cooking was laden with cholesterol favorites. Still, until this nation matriculated from the Agricultural and Industrial eras through to the Technological explosion, that was okay. People were hefty, maybe a bit pudgy; but not, by definition, obese.

My dad, once standing tall at 6' 2", on a sturdy 250 pound frame, has now been shackled with the illness of obesity. Does he share in any cause to the encroachment of the malady? Yes, he does. And I will not cut him any slack on the faults because he knew better than to allow the affliction to body slam him to the canvas of life and pin him down for the count.

Granted, he had to have the DNA, the uniqueness of cellular combinations, that would predestine him, potentially, for the disease. One day he's working like every other 24-hour period in his seventy-plus years, allowing for some gradual slow-down as the clock winds in an easy progression toward retirement. The next day, metaphorically, he starts picking up health issues quicker; slowing further as the metabolism gears down, he begins to pick up a few more unwanted riders on the journey.

The next thing he knows there is a life filled with taking twenty-eight (28) pills a day to combat high-blood pressure, diabetes, and now renal failure. Added to that are finger pricks to check sugar levels, followed by the requisite insulin injections and a new bestest buddy, the nitro cream patch.

He cannot easily, if at all, gather the strength, or balance, to rise from, or recline to, bed. The same goes for using a chair or couch in which to sit; they are not designed for people encroaching, and literally zooming past, 300 pounds to easily use. He cannot, as well, stand for long periods with his strength just not being there anymore. Let's not forget the recent indignity of hygiene matters.

But this diatribe is not about the giant of a man I grew up adoring, if wondering at times whether I measured up to his standards. This is about the collective body, again no pun intended, of a society scooting along like a train on a track approaching a seemingly eternally deep ravine . . . a chasm now sans a bridge to provide safe crossing.

We are no longer a fat nation . . . we are an obese nation. And it has to be curtailed, one body at a time.

It is not an easy task to undertake. How in the heck do you look at someone, who is on that ride, who is maybe 30-50 years old, and implore them to either lose weight or face consequences no one should be facing in this day and age? How do I, with my gaunt appearance, warn that someone of the impending dangers of obesity?

It is a quandary that I am powerless to answer. It is a conundrum that the masses of high intelligence will not be able to devise a plan to countermand the onslaught.

To paraphrase Galileo,"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only hope to direct him on the wisest course."

This course, folks, needs a helluva number of directors.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Hell of a Life

Walter Breuning died a few days ago. By all accounts he was a simple man who lived a simple life. But he did so for one hundred and fourteen years.

Before going further, look at the number once more: One Hundred and Fourteen.

He lived a hair over thirty of those years in an assisted living facility, and nearly another quarter century as a widower of the late Mrs. Agnes Breuning (with whom Walter is once again strolling along with in the valley of still waters after that 54-year separation). But he was apparently still very active, at least mentally, until the very end. Along the way he picked up a few insights that are worth expounding upon as careful consideration for how we all should live our lives.

On Change:
Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. "Every change is good . . . I think every change that we've ever made, ever since I was a child — 100 years — every change has been good for the people . . . My God, we used to have to write with pen and ink, you know, (for) everything. When the machines came, it just made life so much easier."

Keep in mind that Mr. Breuning was a 50-year employee of the railroad . . . as a clerk. We are not speaking of Walter Breuning, CEO, whose ground-breaking innovations during his tenure carried an industry from Point A to Point B.

Mr. Breuning, after his career had ended, saw the industry shunt along in a mindless limp, following the pathways forseen by Harvard economist, Professor Theodore Levitt, in his paper on Marketing Myopia. That is, when an industry fails to see its potential outside of a narrow scope, it eventually dies, whether theoretically or in the literal sense.

Mr. Breuning watched many friends lose their positions, and perhaps their pensions as well, because the industry failed to embrace change. The majority of those friends probably died embittered at the thanklessness of the corporate executives and their short-sightedness on making channge work for the industry. But Walter Breuning championed the concept around change. Look where it got him . . . health and happiness for 114 years.

Yet, how many people do we all know (some of us stare back at those people in the mirror) who wring their hands and tremble at the thought of trying something, anything, that is new or unfamiliar. I used to be that way about some foods, or social interaction. Some people are that way with computers or electronic technology of any kind. "Oh, that is too complicated. How do you play music on that tiny thing called an iPod?" "The same way generations went from vinyl discs to 8-Track tapes to cassette tapes to compact discs." Change is good!

And how many of those people who fret over change deny themselves of a long life? A helluva lot more than the one who lived to be 114 years old.

On Death:
"We're going to die. Some people are scared of dying. Never be afraid to die. Because you're born to die."

Here was a man who seemingly cheated the Grim Reaper for a long, long time, albeit in an unspectacular fashion . . . just going day-to-day, putting one pants leg on at a time, putting one step in front of the other. But he did it for 114 years.

Years ago when my Mother turned 40 I overheard her tell a cousin that it was "the darkest day of my life." I was 13, and remember thinking, "And the alternative to turning 40 is . . .?"

Mom, who for years has followed my Dad around like a lap dog, is now a mindless soul of 77. She has not excercised her brain for quite a few years and depends on my Dad to tell her what she cannot do, implying she is not smart, or capable, enough.

She is a Christian woman whose eternal destiny is secured by her faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, if asked about death, she would probably cringe and begin to harbor thoughts about dying as if she were one of only a few persons who will ever die.

On a Healthy Diet:
Eat two meals a day. Mr. Breuning said his good health was due to this strict diet.

"That's all you need. How many people in this country say that they can't take the weight off? I tell these people, . . . 'Get on a diet and stay on it. You'll find that you're in much better shape, feel good.'"

But here in America, especially in Beans-and-Cornbread Country, we shovel more food down our throats at one meal than Mr. Bruening did in two meals . . . then we add one more meal and usually a midnight snack.

How in the hell are we supposed to maintain a healthy weight and high energy for many years with that extreme gluttony--a characteristic that is highly frowned upon in the Bible.

And how many shortened life spans result from the grandiose gorging? One man lived to be a lucid, lively 114 years old by avoiding that demon. That man was Walter Breuning.

Work as long as you can:
"That money's going to come in handy. Don't retire until you're darn sure that you can't work anymore. Keep on working as long as you can work and you'll find that it's good for you."

With this nugget I take a half exception . . . but only one-half. I believe work is the life force that keeps the American ideals going strong. It pushes people to do their part, and a wee bit more. Then someone else picks up the baton and does the same.

But that doesn't mean we should, at some point, not consider backing off and exploring more options. I am not talking about quitting a career, retiring to a couch, and wait for the drooling to start.

Nothing says you have to slave 40 hours a week until the day you cannot slave any more. But you should continue meaningful living until the day you die.

There were two more ideals that he did not leave the interviewers with a quote: One was to maintain a simple life. Another was to eschew the myth that owning a home is part of the American Dream.

The two actually go together in a way, although I imagine for most of Mr. Breuning's working life the idea of home ownership was more palpable than the travesty created by the current financial products industry.

Still, considering that Mr. Breuning owned only a small parcel of land briefly around the onset of the Great Depression, being a renter did not stop him from a long and healthy life.

How many strokes or heart attacks or aneurysms are caused when people get too involved in keeping up with the Jones to keep up with their health? How many suicides can also be attributed to such fallacy. Let's not begin with the slow-death diseases that eat away at people silently for too many years until it is too late.

I'm not suggesting that Mr. Breuning had all of the answers, only 93.5 percent of them. And even if someone can live such a life on the fringes of austerity, there is no guarantee that Mr. Reaper won't push them out if front of a bus before they turn 40.

But what a great beacon Mr. Breuning gave us to use.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Too Late to SMiLE . . . It's Already Been Done . . .

Brian Wilson was SMiLE-ing in 1967. Then his SMiLE turned upside down . . . for over thirty years. Then he began SMiLE-ing again in 2004. Now the Beach Boys old record company, Capitol, wants to SMiLE as well.


The Summer of Love was upon us in America. The year was 1967. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were fresh off the mega-hit Good Vibrations, and all was well in the World of Wilson. Sort of . . .

Brian, long since retired from the rigors of touring, was busy at home exploring new ideas and concepts to take the Beach Boys to the heights of pop music, sharing the pedestal with a few Lads from Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the rest of the band, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and the younger Wilson brothers, Carl and Dennis, after doing live tour auditioning with a plethora of artists to take Brian's spot on the road (one of whom was Glen Campbell), had long since settled on Bruce Johnston. Bruce, formerly part of the duo, The Rip Chords (with Terry Melcher, better known as the former owner of the house at 10050 Cielo Drive), would remain off and on a Beach Boy for much of his performing career.

The band was raking in the big bucks and capturing the hearts of many; the young ladies were going gaga over the handsome hunks in Pendletone shirts, and the guys were jamming to the hopes of one day owning a real fine 409. The boys returned home, expecting to hear the masterpiece ensemble that Brian, now hailed by west coast music cognoscenti as a genius, had toiled over seemingly non-stop.

What they heard, to their ears, was a mass of gibberishly cacophonous garbage; bits here, pieces there, but nothing that sounded like a cohesive production, and certainly not Beach Boys material. As well, the Capitol suits were not so thrilled. Everyone had expected Brian to keep them rolling in sunny Southern California sounds designed to keep the masses happy, and the cash registers ringing.

But Brian had matriculated to a world deep into creative experimentation, heavily influenced by the chaotic anger that was swallowing the 1960's youth culture. Adding to that mix was the flowering drug landscape where many brain cells of the elucidated would vanish in the wispy clouds found on high-flying acid trips, leaving their owners with barely enough sense to even drool like bored bovines, as they slipped into their golden years. This was becoming Brian's World, and his creativity was steamrolling along.

In time, the 'masterpiece', which was to be called SMiLE, was scrapped. The final blow came near midnight on July 11. Brian led an entourage to a local radio station, KHJ-AM. In his hands was the followup single to 'Good Vibrations'; in his eyes was the expectation that the DJ would halt all playlists and give the single, 'Heroes and Villains', an entry into the pop music cosmos unrivaled to that point.

But the DJ on duty acted impersonably cold and shunned the opportunity being presented. Only after frantic begging by the ragged retinue to call his boss for permission to break platter-spinning protocol, did Jimmy the Jock acquiesce. Coupled with the 'SMiLE' debacle, that massive 'Failure to Launch' would send Brian into a shell he would not escape for over thirty years.

The band would suffer as well, never quite reaching the previously known halcyonic days of their early twenties. The revenues would continue, but eventually the band would splinter over and over again, yet not to the point of disbanding.

The years passed and the two younger Wilson's would perish; Dennis in a 1983 drowning accident, Carl succumbing to lung cancer in 1998. Mike, Al, and Bruce would keep the band afloat well enough to see chatter of a 50th anniversary in 2011. But eventually Brian would go his own way and not, at least technically, remain a Beach Boy.

Then, in the early part of the 21st Century, an amazing thing would happen. Brian, after years of struggling to regain some of the magic that had now been lost for three decades, resurfaced with a new band; clear-headed visionaries who saw him not as a saviour to their own meager aspirations, but as the icon of pop music who was not quite ready to give up the ghost.

The SMiLE project idea was rekindled and completed to mass critical acclaim in 2004. Touring resumed with the new band, and a new set of fans flocked to shows, watching their parents (and perhaps grandparents) rock out to a blissful experience.

Another project, That Lucky Old Sun, sprung forth in 2008 and was even better than SMiLE. Then while the iron was still glowing bright red, Brian added his touches to a project honoring the Gershwin's, George and Ira, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.

Brian Wilson's World was once more rotating on a properly angled axis.


Now, nearly four-and-a-half decades later, Capitol has decided that the long lost tapes they banished to LP Loser City are finally worthy to be released. The project, when it finally hits the streets later this year, will be called The SMiLE Sessions.

Really, now . . . the company wouldn't back the original when it could have set the pop music world on its ear. They panned it so badly in marketing and advertising support that one would have thought it was the initial release of a discombobulated bar band. And now they want to bring it out from the catacombs for the world to enjoy?

Sadly, music aficionados across the globe are making it known that this is a groundbreaking announcement, one that will finish the job on Brian Wilson's coronation as the pre-eminent pop music genius of the 1960's. Brian Wilson himself is in the throng of partiers hailing the news.

But I question why is it being released now, and not in 1967? Why, when Brian Wilson's star was equal to, or burning brighter than, that of McCartney and Lennon, was it not released to sink or swim on its own merit? And I question if it would be released had Brian Wilson permanently faded from the music scene in the 1970's? Would it be more than Geraldo Rivera fodder for a lost treasure music television production if Brian had not risen from the ashes like a great phoenix bird and once more stode the carpeted aisles of adoration and approbation?

Maybe . . . maybe not.

And while I don't necessarily agree with Brian's approach of embracing the release, I will give it a listen. Because it will be good. And because Brian Wilson deserves the right to rake in a portion of the proceeds before riding off into the sunset on the rock and roll horizon.

I am only saddened that three who gave it thumbs down will share in the receipts and that two will have to enjoy its success while living in Rock and Roll Heaven.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

HB 1007 and SB 1171

There is a new bill, HB1007 (and it's cousin, SB1171), ready to hit the floor in both the House and Senate chambers at the Tennessee State Capitol this week. This much-needed piece of legislation in front of the 107th General Assembly will finally begin to address more stringent penalties for folks who wish to drive their fossil-fuel fortresses with a haughty sense of impunity for the laws of highway safety followed by the rest of the state's motoring society.

To the untrained eye, this action may appear almost as an inconspicuous afterthought to more pressing matters in front of this assembly; issues such as health, education, or fiscal propriety. It is merely an amendment to several sections of existing law found in Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Title 55, Chapter 8. But the strength it potentially brings to the entire Act should be heeded by every motorist in the state.

As introduced, [it] broadens [the] requirement that drivers exercise due care to apply to bicyclists; enhances penalty for certain traffic violations that cause serious bodily injury or death.

One might be tempted to view the cycling community's endorsement of these bills as a bit self-serving. That is true, but only to a small degree. While it is encouraging to finally begin seeing some respect towards a cyclist's right to safe transit on the state's roadways, let us not forget one thing: Cyclists have always had the right to the road. But we have rarely had the respect of those rights by the law enforcement and justice communities.

This despite numerous incidents, cited in writing, that have rendered an untold number of cyclists battered and bruised; sometimes maimed and killed. As well, the clock would expire if you placed a year-long timer on someone to start counting the number of incidents that have gone unreported because cyclists have simply thrown up their hands in disgust with the justice system. When you throw in the numbers where a few Patrolman Billy Bob Bierbali's have refused to cite drivers, either due to ignorance of, or outright disdain for the law, those annual tallies might outnumber the straightline distance in miles from Memphis to Bristol . . . multiple times over.

This bill should go a long way toward changing the attitudes of policing agents and the honored folks who don the judicial robes in our state. But had these two bastions of public safety and welfare been doing their jobs to a greater degree of excellence, or perhaps without being bought off by cash-flashing perpetrators, we would not need to start seeing the word bicyclist in black and white legalese.

But take a wee closer look, my friends. This language does not only apply to a motorist's diligence in protecting the backsides of the Spandex Saddle Sodalists (though some more often refer to us as Sadists, and a few, quite unkindly I might add, consider us to be Spawns of Satan).

It says . . . no wait, why don't you take a click and read it for yourself.

And after you have seen just how far-reaching it goes to apply to everyone, so that more folks than a few cyclists may benefit, just remember to thank, rather than spank (as in with your front bumper), one of us for being on the frontlines of helping everyone have a safer experience on the roadways of Tennessee.

Happy Trails . . .

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Completing the Streets: A Simple Discourse

As gasoline prices continue to soar, Americans are beginning to feel the pinch enough to desire an understanding of the intricate nuances of multi-modal transportation options. One of the key concepts emerging at all levels across the nation is called Complete Streets.

Two simple words that on their own merit are innocuous:

Complete, having all necessary parts, elements, or steps.

Streets, thoroughfares, especially in a city, town, or village that are wider than an alley or lane and that usually include sidewalks.

However, paired together and people, especially folks who do not have engineering or planning backgrounds, begin to sweat. The heart rate soars, the throat becomes scratchy, the breath comes in short gasps. I know that first-hand. As a bicyclist who wants the rights of the road extended to me (and my breathren) I am in favor of policies that incorporate safe passage. But, the idea was daunting. After all, if it is a concept germinating in minds of educated people with far more time to consider it constituents parts, it has to be more complex than this dumb old country boy bicyclist can comprehend, right?

Not exactly . . .

The paradox stems from the fear being both easy and hard to see. It's easy to envision because any time talk starts about infrastruture changes in the road building and maintenance theatre, John Q. and Joan X. Public sees gargantuan dollar amounts and massive interruptions on the horizon, although usually in the opposite order. "Why are we doing this project?" questions first arise after the couple, and many more like them, begin falling prey to the traffic delays that seem to occur primarily when they are behind the wheel in the project area. If John and Joan are of the fiscal mindset, they will soon discover the project is costing tax dollars they fork over. If they cannot see where the project benefits them, and immediately I might add, they begin to voice objections.

Conversely, the fear is diffcult to understand because the idea is so simple, sometimes not as costly as one might think, and extremely beneficial in both the short- and long-term. The only groups who seemingly do not benefit from a Complete Streets initiative are the auto and fossil fuel industries and the associated child enterprises. I say seemingly because only the most myopic proponents of these transportation resource gluttons do not consider how all transportation components can operate more efficiently if all are allowed, and encouraged, to operate together.

In short, there will be better resource climates for all when all are allowed to operate in the same comparative climate. It is often, though, a tough battle to fend off the more powerful commercial sectors whose real catalyst is GREED.

The National Complete Streets Coalition is the place to find a greater understanding of the concept. But it is basically summed up as the official mandate to plan and engineer streets to include all facets of multi-modal transportation options within the body governed by the proposed area. That is, the federal government can have a policy, but the states don't have to follow it on their 'private' roads. Likewise, a state can enact a policy, but a city doesn't need to adhere to it on roads they govern.

One of the most misunderstand precepts is that the policy will be the same at all levels. That is a false idea, but highly favored as propaganda by the Bastardians of Avaritia set. Even within cities of a like size, whether or not they are in the same state, the policy should be what all people in that area need to see as viable transportation options.

  1. Complete Streets all begins with a vision . . . and a vision should be the property of the people, not the select few.

  2. Complete Streets specifies that a road covered by the policy includes all users. That means pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.

    (Sadly for operators of single-digit horsepower riding mowers who insist on taking their prized vehicle down to the local Bubba's Beers and Butts for noxious refills, it does not include you.)

  3. Complete Streets covers all road projects, including new and retrofit projects, provisioning for design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.

  4. Complete Streets does not say that a body must do these things today, in an otherwise tight public funds fiscal landscape (Again, be mindful that the B of A lobbyists will be shouting this falsehood from rooftops . . . and probably FOX News). It just says that when things are done, they must be done with all users in mind.

So the next time you hear the term Complete Streets being considered in your community, county, state, or even the nation, perk up your ears and get involved with the process. And even if you do not believe the action or idea benefits you today, think ahead to the future: It might benefit your children and grandchildren.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Here's the Pitch . . .

. . . There's a high fly ball . . . deep left field . . . back . . . back . . . and it's out of here . . .a game winning homerun for the Nashville Sounds at the Sulphur Dell.

Fact or Fiction?

Well, right now it is a wee bit of fiction . . . but soon, if some folks in Metropolitan Nashville decision making circles are making the right swings at the plate, then the Boys of Summer will once again be rounding the bags right where they ought to be . . . in the original home of Nashville baseball history.

Sulphur Dell, nee Athletic Park, long since gone from the local diamond scene, was where the Nashville Vols, the primary occupant, plied their trade for close to 60 years (officially the "Vols" mascot was adopted in 1908, the same year that legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice bestowed the Sulphur Dell name on the park). In its heyday, the grand ole gal saw the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Mickey Mantle play exhibition games in Nashville and take their whacks at the short porch in right field, a part of the Dell that was legendary on it on merit. Not only was the fence a mere 262 feet from home plate (Casey Stengel once bragged that he dragged a bunt for a round-tripper), it was also severely sloped upward to the fence, which made for many a defensive nightmare. Speaking of the fielding nine, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, and other Masters of the Mound whiffed more than a few baffled batsmen in similar exhibition games.

And while the Vols were more often miss than hit on having championship squads (although they did win Southern Association or Dixie World Series titles thirteen times in their history), many future stars of what Crash Davis would call 'The Show' in Bull Durham, had a few cups of coffee in the city while making sweet sounds on the sandlot, some even years before the city became famous for the real sounds of strummed strings in the Mother Church of Country Music.

It's location, bordered on the north by Jackson Street, the south by Harrison Street, and flanked by Fourth and Fifth Avenues was easy to arrive from almost any point in the Nashville vicinity. Of course, in those days much of what Nashville knows today as a business center still had many residences within a few blocks stroll. Many of those homes were owned by folks of prominence; none of today's gargantuan manses in suburbs far away existed back then. And investing a leisurely afternoon enjoying America's Pastime was as popular as taking a ride on the calliope, or having a picnic, at nearby Shelby Park in once trendy East Nashville.

Today, where the ballfield, once likened to Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, stood so proudly is nothing more than a parking lot for state employees, a state building known only as 'the data center', and a bike/ped aggregate path meandering over to Bicentennial Mall State Park and the Farmers Market. And often you have to share the path with some of the city's derelict populace.

In the 1970's professional baseball returned to Nashville after a hiatus of a baker's dozen years, but with a stadium farther away from the downtown area. In those days, the words urban revitalization would most likely be met with contempt and sneers. Few people thought downtown Nashville, in the buckle of the Bible Belt, populated by quasi-hayseeds, would once again be a vibrantly voguish mecca. Garish maybe, but certainly not populated by many in the style-setting crowd.

As that change has occurred though, and as a few more cultured pearls have begun to call Music City home, signs of life have sprung forth like the daffodils of Spring. And with that rebirth, folks have desired more options on ways to part with their hard-earned discretionary funds.

So now Nashvillians have the chance to do as many cities have done; to build a quaint little ballpark that will spur development along the Jefferson Street corridor, accentuating the progress found across the way in Germantown and Salemtown. One city councilman has gone on record as saying that Nashville can create another Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which is located in Baltimore. And while no one can easily forecast the day when Nashville will field a major-league baseball team, the city really would not need such a level for baseball to succeed on a large-scale.

Baseball, while long ago being eclipsed as the top spectator sport in America, is by far the sport where people gather as much for the overall entertainment factor as they do for the outcome of a favorite team. And with the playing season being mostly in the warmer months of the year, folks won't mind parking a few blocks away, walking to the game, and then to a favorite eatery, perhaps to dine al fresco.

As well, with a neighborhood park, you have lots of people living nearby. Coupled with the new emphasis on multi-modal transportation, game attendees arriving to the proposed destination by car will be fewer than at the current Greer Stadium in South Nashville.

Is this a done deal? No. Should it be a done deal? Yes. Probably it will be more palatable to the fiscal curmudgeons if as few public funds as possible are invested. Many of these myopic malcontents still think former Mayor (and a recent two-term Tennessee Governor), Phil Bredesen is the devil's spawn for having orchestrated the LP Field and Bridgestone Arena deals. But there should be something for the city to gain from it's primary tenant, the Nashville Sounds, having a first class joint to call home.

Still, even better would be guarantees that the investment will be a source of pride to the burgeoning North Nashville communities whose local councilmanic leaders have laboriously toiled in frustration waiting for their moment to bask in the spotlight.

Yes, the deal should be done . . . and soon!