Friday, September 6, 2019

Carrying On, My Wayward Son

I am standing on a street corner, the Sun shining in blue skies, waiting for the walk sign. From behind me I hear, "Sir, the signals aren't working." Turning, I put a face to this ethereal warning. She is an older woman, a slight waddle to her cadence. Thanking her, I mention that the signal down the road also seemed to not work. Having stood through a cycle without the proper signal, it had necessitated crossing during a lull in traffic.

A friendly conversation ensues - our respective Irish heritages, growing up in St. Louis, whether aliens exist (yes!), religion and spirituality. In the course of this rapidly condensed discussion, I notice out of the corner of my eye that the walk signal, in fact, does work; I pay it no attention, allowing another cycle to pass to continue speaking with this woman. Retired, she lives on a frustratingly modest government pension after twenty years of service. An exhaustive complaint, but one that delivers a hearty, albeit exasperated, laugh.

At this moment, I had been feeling distraught, if not slightly apathetic, about my own career prospects - whether continuing as a writer or otherwise - and financial circumstances because of it. Over the course of several years, this has been a perpetual struggle and nothing unique; every writer has their relentless doubts, their discouraging failures. What is astounding is the sense of purpose renewed, rather than dismayed, by this random encounter. As Monty Python would counter, I am not one typically to look on the bright side of life.

Watching after her as she blissfully continued on her way down the street, a waddle once again in her cadence, I could only smile. I recalled the numerous conversations I had with my late mom during my years working as an opinion columnist, discussing a multitude of topics in order to clarify and orient my ideas and thoughts. Was this one of those moments? From one Irish woman to another, I can only speculate perhaps.

©2019 Steve Sagarra

Friday, June 21, 2019

Of Milestones and Miracles

Several milestone anniversaries either already have or will occur this year. Among them are the 100th anniversary of Prohibition going into effect throughout the United States with the ratification of the 18th Amendment - in this writer's heady opinion, favorably corrected with its nullification by the 21st Amendment in 1933. After that failed experiment comes triumph with the 75th anniversary of "Operation Overlord" that initiated the Battle of Normandy - generally regarded as the Normandy landings or “D-Day,” separately codenamed “Operation Neptune” - and heralded the downfall of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Lastly, one of the pinnacles of human achievement is celebrated with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing - the American flag eternally planted in its surface by the first humans ever to walk on it.

Coinciding with the latter, there is a lesser milestone of local St. Louis concern. Beginning the 1969-70 hockey season, the St. Louis Blues again campaigned to reach the Stanley Cup final for a third time in just their third year of existence. Achieving that goal, the Blues would face the Boston Bruins - lamentably, with the exact same outcome as their previous two attempts against the Montreal Canadiens. Swept in four games, the Blues would not reach the final again until the most recent season - to again face the Bruins, their last opponent in it. This time around, there would be no quick sweep for either team.

In a previous post several years ago, I predicted another Blues team would contend for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, it did not come to fruition, but certainly worth the wait to witness the current roster do it with their astounding and exhilarating quest toward that end result. What truly makes this championship special is not simply what the team did on the ice to accomplish it, but what they do away from the rink in the community. With their willing accessibility, the connection between players and fans is unmistakable and encouraging.

Nowhere was this on display more than during the parade and rally following their victory over Boston. Typically, parades and rallies are meant to honor the team. Blues players, however, took the opportunity to acknowledge and pay respect to the city and its fans for keeping faith and supporting them not only this season but since the team's inception. Among the alumni ranks, including Bobby Plager, Bernie Federko, and, yes, a highly “enthusiastic” Brett Hull, this was not simply a team victory to be celebrated but one for all who bleed blue to be showcased.

Many question when we will return to the Moon. I ask, how soon do the St. Louis Blues win another Stanley Cup, now that their first has been forever engraved? Given the character and fortitude of this team, it is not such a moonshot to consider expectations of immediate future glory. Long live the Bluenote, Jon Hamm’s scarf collection, and the legend that is the Golden Brett…for indeed, we went Blues!

©2019 Steve Sagarra

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Acquainted Strangers on Digital Playgrounds

When I was in junior high school, I received a phone call every few weeks in the evening from an unknown female classmate - before standardized caller ID, and when people answered the telephone without hesitation. I recall my parents being suspicious, especially my typically overprotective dad who disliked me talking to her but, obviously, not concerned enough to stop it. I, on the other hand, relished the challenge of identifying her; in the spirit of my detective heroes Batman and Sherlock Holmes, I would discover the nature of the peculiar correspondence! With this in mind, I let her do most of the talking and never offered much in response other than required - easily, a natural trait. When I did inquire of her, I made certain to be subtle in my pointed commentary, disguised as idle chitchat, to elicit significant information to identity my mysterious paramour.

Oddly, she would refer to me as “Sam,” because, as she informed, I reminded her of someone else by that name. Although not religiously devout, it brought to mind the biblical story of Samson and Delilah. A man determined in his will but susceptible to vices, a woman intriguing yet deceptive in her wily manner. At the time, it seemed very much corresponding, if not perhaps a beneficial lesson for later in life.

Through subsequent communication and my extracurricular covert investigation at school, I eventually deduced my benevolent admirer’s identity. Nevertheless, I did not immediately reveal this knowledge to her or disclose it to anyone else. On yet another evening when she called, we conversed as usual for several minutes; at an appropriate point in our exchange, I sprung my trap! Addressing her by name, she was stunned but not surprised.

All these years later, our friendship remains intact as she truly only sought mutual companionship. Someone who wanted, maybe even needed, to converse with me, and someone to whom I enjoyably obliged despite my parents’ reservations. In the current activist environment addressing gender norms and heralding societal change, the scenario probably would be considered toxic. While I appreciate the sentiment, the simplicity of that bygone era seems far away. Despite social media and the intertwined connections it has ushered, Elvis is wrong - the world could use more, not less, substantive conversation beyond our fleetingly superficial, and oftentimes virulent, interactions on the digital playground.

©2019 Steve Sagarra