Jack & Diane

First, let me start off by saying, I’ve never gotten high in my life.  I have asthma so the idea of messing with my lungs makes me nervous.  I’ve seen people suck the whatever-it-is out of whipped cream cans, but I didn’t quite take that step myself.  I’m no goody-two-shoes, either; I’ve had my share of drinks.  Sometimes more than my share.  But I know where to draw the line.  I will never, EVER go into a casino and tap the ATM so I can keep playing.

I swear on my wool, I wasn’t drinking tonight, I wasn’t smoking anything funny (or anything period), and I’m not pregnant, but “Jack & Diane” came on the radio tonight and I started bawling.  That bridge section, “So let it rock, let it roll/Let the Bible belt come and save my soul/Hold on to sixteen as long as you can/Changes come around real soon, make us women and men.”  I lost it. 

I still have clear memories of being fifteen (since I was younger than most of my friends in high school), dancing at Sweet Sixteen parties, looking like frogs in a blender but having a wicked great time.  That song would come on, and we’d all get That Look.  You know the one.  You look at the other person and you each know what the other is thinking.  Yeah; this is It; this is The Meaning.  (We were all quite sure we’d found the meaning of life back in high school.)  I even remember a picture of my friend Mary Brouder, dancing beside Donna Mulcahy, and sorry to say, guys, but it was one awful picture.  You both looked like you were on the tail end of a 3-day bender.  I love that picture.  And I know you hated when I brought the camera around—I specialized in candid shots—but I’d like to believe you appreciated that someone was there to freeze that moment in time.

Unfortunately, I left my photo albums at my friend Stephan Ann Santoro’s house, when we were there for Shabeena’s going away party, and I never went to get them back.  But the pictures are still frozen in my mind, and hopefully, they’re dusty in Steph’s attic somewhere. 

Anyway, back then, hearing that bridge, it served as a regular reminder (because the song came on the radio at least 3 times a day) to grab onto the moment and appreciate our youth because it doesn’t last.

Flash forward to me now, 42 years old, married with 2 kids, a house, a mortgage, 2 cats, and more yarn than any human has a right to own.  Yeah, these are happy times.  I went to get the boys their Friday night special, McDonalds for dinner, and I thought about how Ryan’s high school is playing their arch rival tonight.  John said he heard there could be fights, it’s that tight a game.  They’ll be playing less than a mile from here; chances are good we’ll hear the band, the cheering, the whistles.  I’ve got to go one of these days.  I’ve never seen a high school football game, and I’ve grown fond of the Eagles.

Then “Jack & Diane” comes on the radio, and the bridge plays, and I think, “Holy hopping snot, I sang this song when I was 16 and being ‘women and men’ was MILES away.  Now I’m 42 and I’m buying dinner for my kids who’re teenagers, and one’s playing on the computer and the other is watching television.  I have bills and responsibilities.  I am women and men.  What the eff happened?” 

John Cougar Mellencamp (as he was known at the time) was dead on.  Hold on to sixteen as long as you can.  Changes DO come around real soon, and they make us women and men.  The funny thing is, at the time I was kind of scared of the idea.  42 is OLD to someone who’s 16.  But I’m 42 now, and…it’s not that bad.  I’m not scared of it.  I mourn for all the time I wasted, taking the wrong path here and there, but in the grand scheme, it’s not such a bad thing.  I learned a lot.  I’m still here, and at the moment, it’s more than a lot of people can say. 

“A little ditty about Jack and Diane,

Two American kids doing the best they can.”

Mr. Webster

Ever hear the joke, “What’s the Webster’s definition of mixed emotions?  Watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Mercedes.” 

That’s how I feel this morning after watching the World Series last night.  I grew up a Yankee fan but I couldn’t root for them in the Series this year because they played against the team from my adopted home town, the Phillies.  Call ’em what you will:  the Frillies, the Sillies, the Fillies.  I don’t care.  They were the only game in town and I came to know and love these guys.  I still carried around my Yankee heritage like my maiden name, but when I came to Philly, I got to know the home team and I adopted them much the way they adopted me. 

I’ve seen the Yankees play the Phillies before.  They had a 3-game series in Philly in 2007, so I wore a Yankee cap and a Phillies t-shirt.  Someone in the parking lot yelled at me to “Make up your mind!” but at the time, there was just no way for me to divide my loyalties.  As I told someone else, I can’t lose, but I can’t win; either way, one of my teams is going to lose this game.   (The Phillies lost that series, 2 games to 1.)

As the last few years have gone on, I cheered my heart out for the Phillies and got to know more about the players as individuals.  I don’t know them personally but I feel like I know who they are as people.  They’re just like us:  guys with jobs.  Granted, no one will ever buy a ticket to watch me reconcile invoices or even write stories, and I sure don’t get paid what ballplayers do, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re not that far removed from each other.  We’re all just people, doing the best we can with the skills and talents God gave each of us.

I had a bad feeling, when the ’09 Series began, that the Phillies were going to get outplayed.  The Yankees are a tough team, even if it looked like they phoned in their appearance in game 1.  (I think they seriously underestimated Phillies talent, but they corrected that in game 2.)  As the game 5 sign read, “The Yankees have $ but the Phillies have <heart>.”  The guy holding it was standing in front of us, section 210, row 9.  And they still have heart.

So this morning I’m kinda happy for the Yankees—even if the rest of the world may hate them even more—but more than anything else, I’m proud of my Phillies for giving it everything they had.  They’re still World Champions in my book, and they’re officially the 2009 National League champions.  In baseball, just like in life, there’s always next time.  Go get ’em, Fightins!!

Just to be a good sport about the whole thing:  my congrats to the Yankees.  They played a good game, but they better be prepared to defend that title in 2010. 

For those conspiracy theorists out there:  Did anyone else notice that all week long, Fox aired commercials saying “All new ‘Bones’ and ‘Fringe’ on Thursday night!”  If you do the math, had the series gone to 7 games, game 7 would’ve been played on Thursday night.  It’s as if Fox knew well in advance that there would only be 6 games played in this series.  Methinks something smells fishy…  (After last year’s World Series, I still don’t trust or have any love or respect for Bud Selig, so if this was all pre-planned, I’m not the slightest bit surprised.)