Sunday, July 15, 2012

They Say It's Just a Game

On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, I posted the following (now slightly edited) on my Facebook page. It sets the scene for one of those remarkable days when many things converge. In this case it is sport, history, family, and much, much more. My sons Jeff and Brian and daughter-in-law Lyda (the involvement of my two year old and four year old granddaughters as co-conspirators is suspected by me but not confirmed) joined together to make something remarkable happen. I just had to write about it. There was an outpouring of comments by friends and family and once we got to the game we felt like we were accompanied by many folks we've known from many places across the years. 

I have, of course, some reflections to offer, although it's pretty hard to write anything fresh about an All-Star game. Baseball lends itself to some of the best writing in sport, often lyrical, even poetic. But this experience is personal and I guess that's kind of the point. So here are the words that framed the experience. I'll save the rest for another day.


Wow! I can't believe what this day will bring. Last night my two sons, both of them well-bred lads, presented me with two tickets to tonight's MLB All-Star game right here in Kansas City. I was stunned.

Jeff and Grant McMurray, Baseball Geeks
I imagine that those who know me are aware that I am a pretty avid baseball fan. This is probably the last such game I will ever have opportunity to see in my town. (I could bring up the possibility of a World Series, but that gets into a whole different level of discussion.) If I am still occupying space on this earth the next time such an event comes to KC I will undoubtably be living at the Home, rocking on the porch, and drooling onto a strategically placed bib.
So this is the time. I do not know how this ticket acquisition was made. Jeff lives in Chicago now so I'm not ruling out Mob connections.

Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
Home of the Royals, Host of the 2012 All-Star Game
But here's the thing. My family knows what a thrill it will be for me to attend this game and they also know I am a tad frugal. They have other terms to describe it. This is masked as a combination Fathers Day and birthday gift, but it is neither of those. It is an act of love from my sons and daughter-in-law that I will remember all my days. So Brian, Lyda, and Jeff, please know how much it means to me. I love you all in so many ways, some that you cannot even imagine. Thank you for this gift that transcends the gift.

No, it isn't JUST a game
Oh, and can you believe the pitching choices on the National League team? And what a rip that Billy Butler got bumped from the Home Run Derby? And did you hear that Bo Jackson and Reggie Jackson and Amos Otis and Bret Saberhagen are in town? And what about Jeter and..... Wow! This is cool!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

(A review in brief, first published in

A Prayer for Owen MeanyA Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had a wonderful experience with this book, but it took a circuitous journey to get me there. John Irving is among my favorite writers and A Prayer for Owen Meany is often considered his most popular and accessible book. It is also a profoundly religious book, although some might say (wrongly, in my view) sacrilegious. It's John Irving after all, so prepare yourself for a dazzling ride into the far corners of Irving's imaginative universe.

Nonetheless, I have tried three or four times to read this book and always got derailed. It just didn't grab me. I loved Garp, Son of the Circus, Cider House Rules and others, but Meany eluded me.

The first sentence of the book is this:
I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice – not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.
Irving says he always writes the last sentence first and once written it never changes. The first sentence, however, changes many times, right up to the final manuscript. He says that the first sentence in Meany is his favorite first sentence in all his books. It is also a sentence that says everything you need to know about the book. Don't worry, however, it is not a spoiler.

I think it is the "wrecked voice" that was the problem. In the book Owen Meany's dialogue is always formatted in all caps. That seemed off-putting to me for some reason. Then I read where someone had listened to the book in audio format (on and the narrator used a high pitched voice when reading Meany's spoken words. It was screechy and annoying, but that is the point, after all. It seemed just perfect.

I now have read A Prayer for Owen Meany with my ears. There are scenes in this book that I will never forget. I don't know yet if I will hear them or see them. More important is whether I will FEEL them, and I am confident I will.

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