19 July 2010


Here in America, one of the things we are really good at is limiting our liability. We're very well schooled in dodging the blame, passing the buck and sticking our heads in the sand. (How do we breathe in there?)

I do it, too. Sometimes you just have to. There are times when it doesn't make a lot of sense to take the rap for something beyond your control. And pretty much all the time it does make sense to take the shot for the things you've caused to happen.

Last Sunday, gave me pause to ponder these matters.

I went to a minor league ballgame with some friends. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of Ari Yoshida, the 18-year-old, Japanese woman knuckleballer who recently became just the second woman to ever play professional baseball. After a year in the pros in Japan, she was signed by the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League - an independent minor league.

Of the six dates that the Outlaws were going to be nearby - playing the Orange County Flyers - my friends and I were able to attend four of them. So we formulated a plan. We would buy tickets to all four games - the best seats in the house were only eleven bucks - and each morning we'd check to see if she was going to pitch that evening.

The plan sounded good on paper. Last Saturday we discovered that she was not scheduled to pitch any of the games we had tickets for. But we decided to go the next day anyhow - maybe they'd bring her in in relief.

For a variety of reasons, the five of us drove down to Orange County in three cars. I drove alone, leaving early in anticipation of bad traffic on Interstate 5. Oddly enough, there wasn't any traffic. I got there an hour early. There was a sign pointing the way to the nearby Richard M. Nixon Library, Birthplace and Grave, and I thought to myself, 'I'd like to go make sure for myself that he really is dead.' So I went.Unfortunately, by the time I got there the place was closed. It does seem unlikely that I could have ascertained whether or not he was dead, anyhow. For guys like Nixon, they ought to put video cameras in the grave with them so that people can reassure themselves that the stake hasn't come out of their heart and they really are moldering in their graves. (Kind of like the video feed from the well head at the BP oil leak.)

They did have, however, what I think might be the helicopter that took him away from the White House for the last time. You know the picture -- him on the steps, a big confused grin on his face, both hands raised inexplicably giving the V for Victory sign with his fingers.As I drove away, I thought to myself, 'Hey, wait a minute, they let him keep the helicopter. What the hell's with that?'

They let him keep a whole lot of other stuff, too. He should have been tossed in jail. Any one of the rest of us would have been if we'd pulled a tenth of the same crap that he did. But he wasn't. He should have lost his pension. He didn't. He should have lived out the rest of his wretched, despicable life in absolute disgrace. Instead, he was largely rehabilitated, future presidents and other world leaders took him seriously, listened to him, took counsel from him. When he died, they attended his funeral and said nice things about him.

Talk about limited liability! That's the sort of limited liability that shouldn't be limited. The President of the United States, more than maybe anybody else, ought to be held responsible for his (so far it's only been "his" so I'm not going to bother being politically correct here - but it goes for you, too, any future female president) actions.

So then I drove to the ballpark. I could suck back a brew, dine on a dog and enjoy a ballgame and forget about Richard Nixon.

We were soon annoyed by the discovery that we were not destined to see our 18-year-old Japanese knuckleballing, second woman ever in professional baseball. Not only did the Outlaws not bring Ari Yoshida in as a relief pitcher, they didn't even bring her with them on their road trip. We caught not so much as a glimpse of her in the dugout. She was home in Chico, presumably listening to her iPod, which is what she said she likes to do in an interview I read with her.

Well, it was a nice night and it was baseball. Things could be worse. Minor league baseball is almost always fun. The Flyers’ mascot was named Coal Train and though he looked like a rat, we were told he was a coyote. In spite of being a coyote, the public address system regularly let loose loud wolf howls that no doubt terrorized neighboring children in bed, interspersed with Homer Simpson exclaiming, “Beeeerr!” and odder yet, canned applause. There was a “Beverage Batter of the Game.” A hapless opposing team player who whenever he came to bat, if he struck out there’d be two dollar beers for the rest of that inning.

Early in the game, my friend Stephanie read the back of her ticket - she hasn't been to a lot of ballgames - and was somewhat amused to read:

Disclaimer Warning – The holder assumes all risk and danger incidental to the game of baseball and promotional events associated therewith, whether occuring prior to, during, or subsequent to the actual playing of the game including, without limitation, the danger of being injured by thrown bats, thrown or batted balls or other objects or promotional items entering the stands or other areas. Additionally, upon entering the stadium, the ticket holder assumes all risk and danger associated with any act of God or terrorism, which may occur while in the stadium. The holder specifically agrees that the Golden Baseball League, the Participating Clubs, their respective owners, officers, directors, employees, agents, players, and other related individuals, are not liable for injuries or loss resulting from such causes.

It seemed vaguely funny at the time. Maybe there's a disclaimer like that on the back of the bible on which the President takes the oath of office.

At the end of the game - the Outlaws won. The baseball highlight was the very odd pitching motion of the Chico team's relief pitcher.

14 July 2010


I once shook the hand of, and had about 30 seconds of conversation with, Prince Charles. It was at a reception in Hong Kong. He had the perfect handshake; trained, no doubt, from birth. I have never seen a suit fit anyone so perfectly, or hair so expertly coiffed. One of his retainers? footmen? aides? whispered in his ear as he shook my hand and he asked about the magazine I was publishing. In his oh so correctly modulated voice he commiserated with me: "Magazine publishing is a frightfully difficult business, don't you find?"

Well, I did find. My magazine went bust about a year after that. Not that he'd know. If he ever decided to publish anything, turning a profit wouldn't be one of his concerns.

Now don't get me wrong, His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Great Master and First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Honorary Member of the Saskatchewan Order of Merit, Chief Grand Commander of the Order of Logohu, Member of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Canadian Forces Decoration, Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, seemed a nice enough fellow. And he was nothing, if not polite.


And I say that with regard to all royals, everywhere, every last one of them no matter how well mannered or well intentioned or how beloved or how involved in pomp and circumstance and uninvolved in the daily affairs of their realm.

That would set the right example. So, a belated Happy Bastille Day to you all.