Monday, May 30, 2005

Hammons Field Posted by Hello

Baseball Downtown

I know this site is dedicated to whining and complaining about life in Springfield, but the obvious fact remains that we're still here, so there must be something good to say about this place (despite the fact that it's heavily populated by super-conservative, judgemental, right-wing, pro-lifer Christian Republican types) . . . and now, I have the definitive answer.

It's baseball.

I took my daughter to a Springfield Cardinals baseball game at Hammons Field last week, and I realized that my town has finally come of age. Firmly planted in the center of town, we now have a beautiful jewel of a baseball field that lights up the summer nights - and we have a real team, the Springfield Cardinals.

The food was great, the game was exciting, the fans cared about the outcome, the field was perfect as only a well-manicured baseball field can be . . . and I had to pinch myself. Am I really in Springfield?

I almost have to choke to get this out, but thanks John Q.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Middle School Mind

A student in a middle school Exploratory class asked a provocative question last week. It was newspaper day, a day to catch up on current events. The teacher limits them to the "A" section, which is mostly national and international news. There was, of course, a headline about the war in Iraq, something about how the carnage was getting worse.

Nobody knew the word carnage, so it became the word of the day. On the blackboard in big letters, carnage. One of the students grabbed a dictionary and read to the class, "Carnage, the slaughter of many people." Ew, slaughter.

"So, exactly why is our army in Iraq?" That was the question. And the teacher, who had always prided himself in being open and honest with this inquisitive group of middle school anarchists, was on the spot.

He took them back to the year many of them were born. In 1991, the United States, under the leadership of George Bush the elder, sent some 140,000 American trooops to Kuwait to push back an Iraqi force that had invaded that oil-rich country. This was the war called Desert Storm, and it placed Iraqi's dictator, Saddam Hussein, firmly on stage as America's enemy, a really bad guy.

The cause for war was a story the kids seemed to like:
Saddam was convinced that the Kuwaitis were drilling lateral lines under the Iraqi border and sucking up some of his black gold that the Americans and others coveted so dearly. Oil had made Saddam Hussein, along with several other Arab dictators, a very wealthy man. Since he already had a huge active military from a recent war with Iran (in which the Americans sided with Saddam and provided military intelligence), it was relatively easy to march his army through Kuwait, a country that really had no viable military.

The short version has the American army, which had the complete backing of the United Nations, defeating the Iraqi forces in short order, sending them scurrying back to Baghdad in disarray. What's disarray? They were all messed up and confused.

At this time, George Bush the elder had an important decision to make. Does he follow the advice of some of his generals and advisors and push the American military into Baghdad and bring down Saddam? Or does he follow the advice of other generals and advisors who say pull out and let the United Nations impose laws and restrictions on this bad guy, Saddam Hussein.

The generals who opposed invading Baghdad warned of a long, bloody fight that could go on for years - a fight that would alienate the world of Islam and cause instability in an already volatile part of the world, not to mention possibly leave thousands of American soldiers dead. George Bush, the elder, decided to play it safe and bring the troops home.

From that point the United Nations, with a lot of help from the U. S., imposed all kinds of restrictions on Saddam Hussein. He was in a big "time out" - couldn't fly military jets around, couldn't trade oil freely, and inspectors were sent in to make sure he wasn't up to more mischief with "weapons of mass destruction" and the like.

Things went along like this for ten years or so with a few little flair ups. Saddam would bluster against the U. S., and of course, he tried to cheat on all the rules - something middle schoolers understand well.

At this point, the teacher asked the class what big event occurred in 2001 that changed everything. A couple of hands went up immediately. 9/11. Yup.

"So, Saddam Hussein got his revenge on us with 9/11," a student commented. The teacher asked for a show of hands. How many believe this to be the case? Twenty hands shot up - about 2/3 of the class. A couple of kids were sleeping.

From this point the discussion took a sudden turn, and the teacher had to be more careful about how the story was presented. Don't want these little young Republicans thinking there is indoctrination goin' on in the classroom. Or worse yet, having junior spouting off at home.

"Mr. Smith says the invasion of Iraq was planned before 9/11 and that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and that George Bush and his buddies knew how angry the American people were after 9/11 and took advantage of the timing to get support for invading Iraq."

No, the teacher didn't want that kind of talk around suburban dinner tables.

The discussion continued, a few facts disseminated, and the class came to the conclusion that Osama bin Laden, operating out of bases in Afghanistan, was responsible for 9/11. Didn't we catch him? No, he's still free. This seemed to bother a few of them. One student insisted he had been caught.

It occurred to the teacher that this is exactly how the war in Iraq has gone down with the American people - or at least enough of them to get Bush re-elected. News blurbs here and there, confusion over who's who and what's where. Our lives aren't really touched by this war, and most Bush supporters are disturbed when the media tries to tell us about it in any detail. No bodies please. It makes us uncomfortable.

So, based on the newspaper day discussion in Exploratory class, one could conclude that we are at war in Iraq more out of ignorance than duty and that our busy lives won't allow us the time nor the inclination to find the truth behind the spin. This is how history is made more often than not. Lessons learned, lessons unlearned.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Faith & Finances

The Ozarks Angel ran across an interesting piece of promotional material from one of Springfield's most influential and affluent businesses the other day. The slick new publication, only in its second year, is entitled Faith and Finances, Directing God-Given Resources to God-Given Goals.

The Assemblies of God puts this thing out and sends it to ministers and churches in an effort "to be the preferred provider of superior integrated financial services to Assemblies of God churches, affiliated ministries, ministers, and laity distinguished by a commitment to biblical stewardship."

Shew. Somebody worked hard on that one - and my, how the language of the church has changed over the years, and note the lower case 'b' in biblical. That's new. But it all makes sense. The more money the faithful make as faithful stewards, the more tax free income the church gets. And you can forget about the image of the collection plate - now tithes are automatically deducted from checking accounts. Someone told me recently that you now must pay a healthy fee ($3,000) to become a full-fledged member of certain mega churches like James River Assembly. Sort of like joining the country club, I guess. I wonder if they check your credit report first.

Anyway, the lead article in this bit of righteous propaganda is cleverly entitled "Social Insecurity". The piece is written by Randall K. Barton, who is president and CEO (yes, CEO) of Assemblies of God Financial, but it reads like a Karl Rove-approved position paper, copied and pasted directly from Bush's script on Social Security "reform". Right wing Christians have become so politicized they apparently feel the need to tout their official positions on domestic policy as though they were drawn from the scriptures. Lots of people find that scary.

Were you one of those people who thought that the religious right was just going to be a flash in the pan? That they would dry up and go away after the initial rush of putting their man in the White House and controlling the U. S. Congress? Think again, brethren and cistern.

The line that once separated church and state in this country is not just blurred, it's in the process of being obliterated altogether. This is the single biggest threat, in my opinion, to the existence of the good old U. S. of A. It's being loved to death, prayed to death, preached to death and pro-lifed to death by a self-righteous Christian minority, who despite all their faults, do get out the vote. (Of course, their man lost in 2000, but the Lord, who often works in mysterious ways, somehow prevailed.)

Another interesting point about AG Financial. Remember how the Christian right got all worked up over Terry Schiavo? Remember Frist's speech? Tom Delay? Remember Bush cutting his vacation short (Gasp!) in order to underscore the importance that Congress should step in to keep this renegade judge from "legislating from the bench"? All this acting out to stroke the righteous pro-lifers out there . . . and then, here's a nice full-color ad on the back of Faith and Finances that says:

As the nation has been focused on the Terry Schiavo case, did you know . . . that an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 adults in the U. S. are in a vegetative state? That an estimated 165,000,000 American adults do not have a living will?

The ad then directs the reader to contact a Faith and Finances website that will help them set up their own Living Will, as a gift to your family.

Is this not an admission that even these self-proclaimed pro-lifers would just as soon have their own feeding tubes yanked if they were in the same straits as Ms. Schiavo? So what was all the protesting about? After dragging Terry Schiavo's husband through the third level of hell, they admit that he was right all along? More evidence that there is very little conviction behind the noise.

At the bottom of the ad, there is a nice little Bible verse from Ecclesiastes 3:1.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."

I read that in an entirely different context than they intended, and I find it comforting.

Ashcroft Estates

There is a new subdivision in North Springfield. Ashcroft Estates - named after Springfield's favorite son.

That's right. If you would like the comforts of Ozarks living along with repressed sexuality, imagined persecution and trumped up paranoia, Ashcroft Estates is the place for you.

Located North on Grant past I-44 and Hillcrest High School, Turn Right (of course) on Farm Road 96 and follow to Farm Road 159.

You can't miss it. Look for the fully-clothed, flag draped statues! Starting at $144,000.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Police Ethics, an Oxymoron?

There was an interesting article in the News-Leader this week about how Springfield police chief Lynn Rowe felt it necessary to bring in an outside consultant as "a second pair of eyes" to watch over a rather sticky internal affairs matter at SPD. Internal affairs is investigating how the routine drug bust of Mayor Carlson's son, Thomas, was put on a fast track so that the results from the state crime lab would beat the April election deadline. There was no apparent reason why a routine investigation like this would warrant fast track status.

Mayor Carlson, who had opposed a police pay increase in recent months, has not been a favorite over at headquarters, and county prosecutor Darrell Moore smelled something fishy when he received a probable cause statement the day before the mayoral election. He elected to withhold charges for a couple of weeks, and Carson easily won re-election.

Chief Rowe was clearly rankled by Moore's insinuation that somebody over at SPD headquarters rushed the lab results in order to sway the April mayoral election. An internal affair investigation ensued, but apparently Rowe felt his own department was incapable of producing an impartial report. So, enter Steve Rothlein, number two man with the Miami-Dade County department.

Let's get this straight. SPD is having an internal investigation that may involve improprieties and unethical acts within the SPD, and we're bringing in somebody from Miami to make sure everything smells right? Pardon me while I guffaw. I don't know which is worse, the obvious intention to sway an election or Chief Rowe's ridiculous attempt to bring credibility to the investigation by adding another layer of bullshit.

Of course, the guy from Miami won't be involved in the actual investigation. Rowe isn't trying to suggest that his own Internal Affairs office is too corrupted to issue an honest report on this matter. "The fact that we're bringing someone in from the outside does not speak at all to my confidence in our own staff's ability to do this," he reassures.

No, Rowe just doesn't want to appear as "judge, juror and executioner", which translates to "I just want to make sure my own rosy ass is well-covered." And what does this guy make a year?

Rothlein, for his part, assures us that he will not be a "rubber stamp" in this investigation. "I'm not going to risk my reputation for that."

Shew! What a relief. This complete stranger from Miami will not be risking his reputation while visiting our fair city. But then, why risk anything for a measly $7,100, which is the maximum payment provided for his non-rubber stamp of approval?

Yup, like every other blue-clad individual involved in this matter, his reputation remains intact.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Epididymiserable, Part II

I stepped into the ultrasound room and was instructed by Brunhilda to change out of my clothes into one of those tacky hospital gowns. "The opening is in the back. Just put your arms through the holes and tie it in back," she said. Great, another humorless nurse, this one with man hands that look like they could crush walnuts into fine dust.

The bathroom was frigid. I left my socks on in hopes that a tiny bit of insulation against the cold floor would be just enough to keep my rapidly contracting scrotum from displacing my genitals into the intestinal tract. What had I done to deserve this? I asked myself.

I opened the door slowly and saw the hulking image of my nurse slumping on a stool while gazing intently into a monitor. She tapped at a keyboard, adjusting the ultrasound device. The blue glow cast her face in a particularly sinister light. I suddenly felt as though I were in a Mel Brooks movie. "Just lay down on the table and place this towel under your scrotum so that it's propped up," she directed without taking her eyes from the screen.

Then, without looking, she handed me a small white wash rag and instructed me to raise my penis up and hold the rag tight across it, presumably to keep it from dangling down into the image area. Given the temperature in the room, this would not be a factor, but I withheld any comment. My hands were cold, and I had a bit of trouble holding the edges of the washrag. After a couple of tries, I had everything in place, penis firmly held at bay, testicles propped up on towel.

At this point, I felt a slight tingle or itch on the side of my dick but resisted the urge to scratch. The itch persisted, and since the nurse seemed intent on adjusting her readings, I deftly reached down with my left hand to scratch it. I don't know how she even heard the fabric move, but in an instant she jerked her head and looked me directly in the eye. I promptly withdrew my hand. Whoa! Did she think I was playing with myself? I wanted to say something, but wisely kept silent.

I hate to punish the reader with more details of this experience, but I feel I must go on for the sake of closure. After a couple of minor adjustments to the towel beneath my nutsack, the nurse began spreading a cool, clear slimy substance over the aforementioned area and proceeded to slowly move the ultrasound camera, or whatever its called, over the entire surface. This took several minutes. She tapped at the keyboard a regular intervals and actually handled things quite well. After a few minutes, I felt relieved. This woman knew what she was doing. I was in good hands, so to speak.

We didn't speak, but I began to feel secure in her care. However, about halfway through the procedure I raised my head up and caught a blurred glimpse of the monitor. "Look, it's a boy," I quipped. Before she could catch herself, she let out a little snort, and then resumed her stolid bent toward the monitor. I felt proud. It was perhaps the high moment of my six hour stay at the Urgent Care Center. Swollen testicle and all, I had made Brunhilda emit a mirthful snort while dutifully performing an ultrasound. Ha!

The ultrasound was over and after wiping the slime off my swollen nutsack, I dressed and returned to my original waiting room for the results to be read by the doctor. A few minutes later, I was called back and told that I didn't have any tumors, which I have to admit was a great relief. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and told me the nurse would be in soon to give a shot. "I'm sorry to say, this one will hurt," she said. I wasn't scared. A man with testicles the size of avacados fears nothing.

A new nurse, this one cute and energetic, entered the room. "I'm sorry, bud, but I have to give you this bad boy in your hip," she said. She had me lean up against the counter and lower my pants. "You're going to have to relax that cute little butt," she said while patting the targeted spot. It occurred to me that a male would never get away with such talk to a female patient, but I found it pleasing to finally meet somebody in this place with a personality. "You're too tight, gotta loosen up," she said. We argued about this for a minute, and then, as if tired of messing with me, she jammed the thing into my butt like a long distance dart thrower.

The shot was every bit as bad as advertised. I could feel the antibiotic spread through my ass and down my leg like thick molasses, and they were right, it hurt like hell. The shot required me to sit for thirty minutes as a precaution for any reaction. Finally, after six hours on the Medical Mile, I had overcome swollen testicles and now an incredibly sore ass, to slowly limp my way out to the comfort of my truck. I sat there for a while watching traffic zoom up and down National, thinking about how, like everything else, pain was relative.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


The epididymis is a long, tightly coiled tube that lies behind each testicle. It mainly collects sperm made by the testicles, which seems simple enough. However, when the epididymis becomes infected - this can happen for no good reason or can be sexually transmitted - there is severe pain, swelling of the scrotum, fever and general malaise due to the fact that your balls ache and you can't have sex for a good long while.

Today, I sit listing slightly to the left as I type out these notes. What a predicament! The doctor, a woman, says, "If you were a younger man, I'd have you tested for chlimydia." Well, I took that as an afront. What did she mean? If I were a younger man . . . did she mean that since I'm 54 I couldn't possibly be sexually active? I could get climydia, damn it! Anyway, I don't have climydia (can't spell it either). Been with the same lovely woman for quite a while, and although she may now find my oversized nut a bit of a putoff, I think we'll be okay.

So, I sit atop an icepack that rests just under my right testicle, sipping water, waiting for the antibiotic to work its magic. This after yesterday's six hour stay at the Urgent Care center down on Medical Mile. Medical Mile - that's what the locals call a stretch of building on Springfield's south side that house a plethora of clinics, hospitals and health insurance companies, many housed in shiny new-age looking architectural wonders.

When you step in one of these structures, you have entered into a world that many people find comforting and reaffirming . . . a clean inner-world of doctors, nurses, clinicians, gleaming medical technology, and of course, the obligatory drug salespeople who prance about pulling wheeled travel bags full of tempting new samples. "Ask your doctor about Lipitor." These are the real drug pushers in American society. Clean, neat, snappily dressed. Where would we be without them?

Not having been to the doctor in several years, I had to marvel at the pace and activity. I mean, this was just one little clinic along the Mile and there were literally hundreds of people seeking medical attention just minutes after the doors opened. These people had been through this so often, they were trance-like in their obedience and purpose . . . take a number, sit . . . and they would sit for hours waiting to be called for this test or that, this exam or that consultation. I was there for six hours resting uncomfortably on my swollen nut.

Since cancer and the fear of cancer is all-pervasive in our world, I was directed to the Radiology wing for an ultrasound. One can't be too careful with bumps and swollen nodules these days. I sat with a small multitude of women awaiting their turn for breast x-rays. A lone swollen testicle in a room full of anxious boobies. While waiting, I checked out the abundance of breasts that surrounded me, not in a lascivious way, but more as a curiosity. There were no fewer than thirty-four breasts about to be pressed and zapped in the next few minutes, all shapes and sizes. I resisted the urge to think about the variety of nipple types. The nurses routinely called out names with tired voices, and the women rose one at a time, some with great difficulty, and walked back into the recesses of the X-Ray wing. I wondered about the nurses . . . they seemed bored with breasts. They knew very well that most of these women were fine, were just there as a precaution, perhaps out of boredom themselves.

I started wondering about quality of life issues. An extremely large woman waddled in and sat next to me. I tried to adjust myself to allow more room, but the flab on the back of her arms overflowed into my space. I was stricken by how cool her arm felt. Bad circulation, I thought to myself. The woman was called just minutes later as the breast exam assembly line seemed to be geared up a little better than the ultrasound group. She pushed herself up with her arms and with no small effort reached behind to release her mammoth khakis from her crack, and proceeded to make way toward the calling nurse. I could see the cellulite ebbing and flowing beneath her pants, but she was here to have her breasts examined, nothing wrong with her ass apparently. She would be exhausted afterwards, I could tell.

My name was finally called out by a stocky, rural looking nurse. She looked as though she had perhaps handled the testicles of farm animals at some point in her life, which made me feel just a bit uneasy.

Emergencies, Evangelicals & Saluting the Troops

A child was kidnapped in St. Charles, Missouri last week. St. Charles is 200 miles away, but my phone went off like a damn fire alarm. S...