Love, Actually


Last week I finally saw the movie Love Actually, this weird and quirky British indy film covering about ten different vignettes of love, lust, romance and all that comes with it. I liked it so much that I watched it straight through a second time, watched the deleted scenes and then went back to scenes that I needed to make more sense of, all in two-days.

I was already in a semi-romantic mood, thinking of V-Day (or VD Day as I used to call it in the 80s) and trying to do something with my wife and son. So I made dinner that day (of course, I almost always make dinner), one that I hoped would be at least a notch better than fried chicken, roasted chicken, spaghetti, pork chops, or any of about a dozen meals I make over and over again. I made NY strip steak, slow broiled at 235 degrees and coated with spices and a butter and oil combination. With the steak, I made four-cheese mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. I went to a local bakery called Cake Love for Raspberry-Chocolate and other cupcakes and Double Chocolate V-Day cookies for dessert. I even broke out the Beringer’s White Zinfandel and mixed it with our family spritzer of 85 percent Seagram’s Ginger Ale. I even made Noah a steak, one much smaller than ours.

It’s amazing how something as small as a sit-down dinner at the dining room table can make a family more relaxed. Noah ate most of his steak, amazing considering how finicky he is about almost everything. It was easily the best steak I’ve made since before Noah was born — at least four and a half years ago. The dinner was great, we were all in a good mood. The only snag was that Noah ate all of the icing off of the raspberry-chocolate cupcake that I had set aside for my wife. What can anyone do with a four-year-old when it comes to sweets? Still, even with Noah at the table, it’s the most romance I’ve experienced in a couple of years.

The fact that I have a romantic side at all is as amazing to me as it might be to anyone that knew me between seventh grade and my junior year at the University of Pittsburgh. It’s always been there — in some of the music I listened to, even in some of my writing — but the harsh realities of my life made it hard to express for a while. Plus, as a late Black Pittsburgh journalist said on numerous occasions, “romance without finance is a nuis-ant-ce”. I would’ve been hard pressed to do anything more romantic than take someone to a movie or Mickey D’s prior to ’90.

I think that one of the lingering effects of my unrequited “love” for my first crush was the inability to express myself in terms of romance for fear of failure, hurt, embarrassment, humiliation, not to mention the loss of emotional control that comes with being in love, or at least, head over heels over someone. My second crush-turned obsession, of course, made all of these emotions possible anyway. So many years later, I realize yet again that it’s sometimes the simple act of giving and trying that makes romance possible and actualizes our love for a spouse or a loved one.

On the flip side of things, I have to say some more about the loss of love I experienced with baseball, as illuminated by Congress, Clemens, and others last week. There were many incidents that led to me becoming an ex-baseball fan between ’87 and the early ’90s, some of which I discussed in a blog post in December. But more than anything else, the constant obsession with the purity of the game and its vainglorious records and neo-con columnist George Will’s insistence on the game complexity and genius pushed me away from the sport. As far as I’m concerned, there never was anything pure about baseball except for the fact that for 47 years, it was a professional sport that only allowed Whites to play, manage and own.

So when I read, watch and hear journalists and columnists belly-aching about how tainted major league baseball is as a result of the steroids/HGH era, it really grinds my beans. The sport’s hallowed records are now tainted? Yeah, right! I know some folks have said this before, but it needs to be said again. Given the fact that folks like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and “Cool Papa” Bell were never allowed to play — or at least not allowed to play in major league baseball until ’47 — the purity of any records up until then are pretty questionable.

Babe Ruth only faced pitchers like Paige during exhibition barn storming events in the ’30s. If Josh Gibson had been allowed to play out his career with the New York Giants, would he have more home runs than Ruth? Let me put it like this. Since the good folks running major league baseball and the Hall of Fame saw fit to allow the home run, pitching and other records to stand and have allowed folks like Ty Cobb into Cooperstown, why should we care about Clemens, Bonds or anyone else? Until major league baseball confronts this tainted past and officially acknowledges the fact that it’s tainted, it matters not what they nor the sports writers do in the present or near future.

So I guess I’m saying that while I’m a hopeful romantic in general, my romance for a game whose time has long passed will remain in estrangement.

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