Saturday, April 29, 2006

Operation Perish Hilton

And now, I give you a reason to hate Hilton Hotels other than the existence of Paris Hilton. But first, a story. Once upon a time, there was a restaurant in Washington D.C., not to far from Walter Reed Army Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital, that decided to do a nice thing for the seriously wounded Iraq veterans who were recuperating at the medical facilities. This restaurant, called Fran O'Brien's, made a plan to hold free steak dinners for the wounded soldiers every Friday night, giving them a place to have a good meal with all of the trimmings, to enjoy bottomless drinks and, hopefully, to have a welcome respite from the pain of rehab and tests, and from the harsh adjustment process that comes with losing one or more limbs in a combat zone. The proprietors of Fran O'Brien's pulled out all the stop to make their special clientele comfortable, even going so far as to purée steaks for those who could no longer chew - you know, 'cause part of their jaws were gone - and to purée them in a way that they could still tell they were consuming steak. In other words, Fran O'Brien's gave a damn about these men and women and what they had given up for the sake of their country.

All of this is now in the past tense, 'cause Fran O'Brien's held its last Friday night dinner a few days ago. You see, the restaurant was located in the basement of the Capitol Hilton Hotel in D.C., and the folks at Hilton have seen to evict the restaurant from the space. May 1 is their last day of business. The folks at Hilton, if you ask them - and many have in the weeks since this story first went down - will tell you that this is only business, that it had nothing to do with the weekly sight of wheelchair-bound people regularly appearing on their property. They say that negotiations for a lease renewal broke down, and just recently pulled out the old "late rent" chestnut. Hilton even offered to continue the tradition elsewhere in the facility - just not at Fran O'Brien's, and not with the staff who was catered to the veterans' needs for the past two-and-a-half years.

There's the likelihood that the Friday night dinners aren't done yet. The owners of Fran O'Brien's say they are looking for new permanent space, and several D.C. locations, including the Italian embassy (!) have offered temporary refuge. But that's almost not the point. The bigger point is how Hilton Hotels, a major international corporation, could have made such a boneheaded P.R. choice - and, worse, how they seem hellbound not to submit to pressure - pressure coming from all political stripes and from all opinions about the Iraq war itself - to change its mind and do the right thing.

So I ask everyone who reads this blog to make it a bit clearer to the Hilton folks about what's going on here - by never, ever staying at a Hilton property again. Ever. If you have a Hilton account, cancel it. If you're a member of Hilton's HHonors program, cancel that. If they ask you why you're canceling, tell them why. (I would have posted some direct e-mail addresses to Hilton executives, but it seems that most of these have been disabled, making the fat cats something the wounded vets aren't - cowards.)

Click the subject line (which I didn't think of, by the way) to read the Washington Post article about the last Friday night dinner at Fran O'Brien's.

P.S. Hilton Hotels would have never pulled this stuff during World War II. Just something to think about.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Memories ...

Today is Barbra Streisand's 64th birthday. Say what you will about her politics (or, maybe more precisely, how she talks about them) or her quirks or her obsession with her legs and nails. (Well, she does have great legs.) But it's safe to say that there are few individuals who have had the life or career she has had. (Or, according to a recent unauthorized biography, the sex life. Both Princess Di's ex-husband and one-time lover? Yowza!) And she's still going strong, with her box-office success in Meet the Fockers and word of yet another "farewell" concert tour to take place later this year. Though Ms. Streisand would be well advised not to go crazy with the ticket prices, as there are already reports that they could be as high as $1500. You're great, Babs, but unless you're going to shoot golden eggs out of your bum and distribute them to the audience, all while singing "The Way We Were," that's not cool. Especially when people will have to spend that much money just to drive to the arena.

BTW, who sings "Happy Birthday" to Barbra Streisand? Does she record herself doing it and then play it back to herself?

Primal primates!

Click on the subject line for a horrible story about a pack of maraduing chimpanzees who are wanted by the law in Sierra Leone - literally - for killing one man and injuring at least four. Seems that the chimps broke out of the preserve they were living in and then ripped a taxi driver to bits while injuring the Americans who were in the car with him. Yeah, they look cute and all, but apparently they also can be total badasses when crossed or onery or something. Let's just hope that al Qaeda or the CIA doesn't hire them.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Keith Hernandez - former MLB player, current Neanderthal hairdo ...

So I haven't blogged in a few weeks, partly because of a possible business project that has dominated my existence (and hopefully will for the next two months - and no, I can't tell you what it is), and partly because I haven't had anything to say (though I did have plenty to say about Derrek Lee breaking his wrist on Wednesday night, none of it printable on a family-friendly blog). But, alas, something has come up, and it also involves the world of baseball.

Seems that Keith Hernandez, a former Major League first basement of reasonable skills who has now become a TV broadcaster for the New York Metropolitans, was doing the Mets-Padres game in San Diego the other night when, early on, he noticed a woman in the Padres' dugout congratulating catcher Mike Piazza after he homered. To which he made the enlightened comment:

"Who is the girl in the dugout, with the long hair? What's going on here? You have got to be kidding me? Only player personnel in the dugout."

What Hernandez didn't know, or didn't care to find out before he opened his trap, was that the girl with the "long hair" was fully authorized to be there. She was Kelly Calabrese, the massage therapist for the San Diego Padres. In short, she had more business being in the dugout that Hernandez now has. Upon hearing that Calabrese was indeed street legal, he came around - not.

"I won't say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don't belong in the dugout."

Now, I guess Hernandez can be forgiven for his thought process concerning this issue. After all, he cut his teeth in the '70s and '80s, when women were much more likely to be carrying out their baseball duties in the hotel rooms of traveling players than in the clubhouses or front offices. And, true, that's probably still the case in many cases. But in 2006, women are deeply involved in most aspects of the game with full legitimacy. There are female co-owners. A woman came very close to becoming the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers last winter. Oh, and by the way, Keith, women are also in Congress, in the president's cabinet, in CEO offices and currently are in harm's way, and sometimes beyond, on the front lines of Iraq. And I will tell Hernandez and everyone else something - there will come a day when a woman will be in uniform for a Major League Baseball team. And she will most likely be 6 feet tall and a left-handed pitcher, 'cause when you find a southpaw hurler with good mechanics and a wicked change-up, it won't matter much what chromosomes are in play.

And if Keith Hernandez doesn't like that prospect - well, I'm sure he'll tell us about it. Or he can just lock himself in a room and put his Seinfeldepisode on a loop on his DVD player and remember the "good ol' days," when women knew their place.

Three strikes, you're out.

Read the article describing this by clicking the subject line.

UPDATE: Hernandez "apologized" for his comments during Sunday's broadcast - while pointing out, without actually saying it, that Calabrese's presence in the Padres' dugout may have been against MLB regulations anyway because teams are only allowed to have the "head" and "assistant" trainers there during a game. Wow, Keith, good job there at being contrite. He'd be great as a politician. (The New York Daily News reports that his sorry act was kind of forced on him by his bosses at the SNY sports network, which further waters down its validity.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

Life ...

... is fleeting. No one really has to be told that these days, what with the growing casualty list out of the Middle East dominating the current news cycle. God knows no one has to tell me that, as I have a sobering reminder of that each morning when, after my shower, I look in the mirror and see that very long scar on my belly, under which somebody else's liver has resided for the past 16-plus years. Yeah, life isn't a permanent condition, but that doesn't mean that you can't still get royally pissed off when it's swiped away from someone for what seems to be no good reason.

Three weeks ago Maggie Dixon was on top of her world. The 28-year-old has become one of the fuzzy feel-good moments of the college basketball world. In her first year as the head coach of Army's women's basketball team - a job she had taken just 10 days before the season began - she had taken her young squad to the NCAA tournament, an impressive accomplishment considering the Lady Black Knights had been a nondescript program beforehand. What's more, Dixon had made history as half of the first brother-sister tandem to ever coach their teams into the NCAAs in the same season, as her beloved older brother Dixon had led the University of Pittsburgh's men's squad to the Big Dance. The biggest dilemma the Dixons' parents had was how to watch both games in the same weekend. The fact that both Jamie and Maggie lost their respective first-round games didn't dampen the ebullient occasion for the family. After all, the future was bright for both of them.

That was three weeks ago. This morning, Maggie Dixon is dead, struck down in the prime of her life by what at this point remains a mysterious cardiac arrhythmia suffered while at West Point, hours after having breakfast with her brother.

One can only imagine what the siblings talked about over their last meal together - I would guess their conversation was filled with the excitement both Maggie and Jamie had to still be feeling over their own fortunes, and each other's. Maggie definitely was a rising star among her ranks, a talented and energetic young woman who had charmed her players and peers with her magnetic charm. One photo that sticks in my head centered on Maggie Dixon giving one of her players a chest bump following a thrilling win. It was a moment of pure joy.

Yeah, the future was bright for Maggie Dixon. Now, she has no future.

I am not a religious person for reasons I will not get into at this juncture. But I believe in God wholeheartedly. The fact that I am still alive is for me proof that God exists. But there are times when I don't get God, when I'm even angry at God for the stuff that sometimes occurs on this mortal plane. This is one of those times. They always say that there is a purpose for everything. But why this young, vital woman lies dead less than a month after such a huge personal and professional triumph, with everything ahead of her - I don't get that, and I really don't want to get that. Even if it inspires her brother, her players, total strangers who never met Maggie Dixon in some way, I'm not sure it justifies her abrupt passing.

It's just not fair. But no one said life is fair, I guess.

It definitely is fleeting, though.

Read more about Maggie Dixon by clicking the subject line above.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lose Her ... Again

Word has broken that Marshall Mathers, the artist currently known as Eninem, has filed for divorce from his wife Kim - three months after marrying her for the second time. You will recall, true believers, that the Mathers had given the matrimony thing a go the first time around in 1999, after meeting in high school and dating for several years. That marriage ended in 2000 and resulted in much acrimony, a vicious custody battle for their daughter (who is now 10) and mucho material for Eninem's top-selling CDs about how he'd like to, you know, kill his wife and all. So now it's Round Two and maybe more stuff for Eninem to rant about on his next album - if there is a next album, as there have been hints about him retiring from performing. But to Marshall and Kim, a word of advice: One way or another, make up your damn minds already! It was kind of cute with Liz and Dick, but this is ridiculous.

Read all about it by clicking the subject line above.

Note: Not to get terribly political, but for those who crow about how same-sex marriage would marginalize and weaken the institution overall, I present to you the preceding story as Exhibit B. (Exhibit A being the legendary 55-hour union between Britney Spears and Jason "I'm not George Costanza" Alexander.)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Opening Day 2006: Cubs 16, Reds 7

Yeah! The season's over, Cubs finish year undefeated, World Series bound!

If only ...

Still, a good start. Let's go for 162-0! (Might as well ...)