Archive for June, 2008


Faith Affirmed

Last October, while I was in California on vacation, I was going through a crisis of faith, as many believers occasionally do. Maybe it was all that time I spent debating the atheists, but for whatever reason, I began to question my own beliefs. And so, on a chilly October night, while I was standing on a beach contemplating the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean,  I prayed, like many millions of believers before me. I asked God to give me a sign, a small sign, any sign at all, that He exists.

A few nights later, the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the American League Championship series to beat the Cleveland Indians, and went on to steamroll the Colorodo Rockies and win their second World Series in four years. Later, the New England Patriots ran off a perfect, first-in-history, 16-0 perfect season. Two Red Sox rookie pitchers have thrown no-hitters, one in just his second major league start, and another after battling back from cancer. And last night, after 22 years in the wilderness, the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship.

God is not only going out of his way to show me He exists, but He is clearly revealing himself to be a big Boston fan.

“But wait a minute”, you object, “the Patriots LOST the Super Bowl, remember? Where was your God then?”

Like all men of faith, I never let an inconvenient fact get in the way of my dearly held beliefs. To my mind, the fact that they lost simply validates the theology of Manichaeism.

“Hold on, not so fast”, you say. “What about the Bruins? They haven’t won anything in years! What’s your God doing for them?”

Oh, that’s easy, I scoff, secure in my faith: God, like all sentient beings with an IQ higher than the room temperature, doesn’t give a shit about hockey.

Finally you trot out your last, and seemingly most devastating argument: “Surely Lakers fans were praying for their team. Wasn’t God listening to them?”

The True Believer will already know the answer to this question:



Ok, moving off this rather dubious metaphysical plane, I realize it may be difficult for some to realize just how big this is for the Boston sports fan. Bostonians, in all frankness, have suffered from a collective inferiority complex for a long, long time. The Patriots (or as they were formerly known, the Patsies) were, for years, the doormats of the NFL.

The Red Sox were like that girl in college who teased the hell out of you, but always ultimately left you high and dry. The Sox always played second fiddle to the New York Yankees. New York got Joe DiMaggio, Boston got Dom DiMaggio. New York got Babe Ruth. Boston got “No, No, Nanette”. The Yankees won 26 World Series. The Red Sox won two pennants.

And on top of all that, New York and L. A. are just bigger, glitzier, and occupy a more prominent place on the world stage. The really, really rich and famous don’t live in Boston. They live in New York or L. A.

But the one thing we Bostonians always had was the Celtics. “Celtics Pride” translated into Boston Pride. They perennially gave us a reason to hold our heads up. In 13 seasons between 1957 and 1969, the Celtics won the NBA Championship an astounding 11 times, including a mind boggling 8 consecutive championships between 1959 and 1966. They beat the Lakers in the finals seven times (eight, if you count the 1959 finals when the Lakers were still in Minneapolis). It was an unparalleled record of success that even the Yankees couldn’t match. No matter how bad the Patsies were, no matter how many times the Red Sox disappointed us, no matter how out of control our collective inferiority complex got, we always had the Celtics.

The Celtics remained a force to be reckoned with and a source of regional pride throughout the ’70’s and ’80’s, winning four more championships, including one more over the Lakers. But after their 1986 Championship over the Houston Rockets, the famous Celtics “luck of the Irish” began to run out.

The first ominous sign that the Leprechaun had deserted them was the unexpected death of their first round draft pick, Len Bias. Touted as the successor to Larry Bird, he died of a cocaine induced heart attack, ironically while at a party celebrating his being drafted by the Celtics.

A few years later, in July of 1993, Reggie Lewis, another rising young star, died of a heart attack brought on by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy at the age of 27.

What followed from then on were years in which the Celtics occasionally enjoyed periods of mediocrity, but more often just plain stunk. The glory years of the past seemed like the stuff of mythology. The Celtics were just one more basketball team, nothing special.

But today, that’s all changed. Boston is now home to arguably the best baseball, football, and basketball teams in the world. Boston is second best to no one. Sometimes God does answer prayers.

Sometimes He even says “yes”.



life is good in california

I’ve probably drunk more rum and tequila in the last week than I have in the previous ten years. Must be something in the California air that makes me crave strange, fruity drinks. I remember one rum soaked afternoon where I told the waiter that I didn’t care what he brought me as long as it was blue. I have a vague memory of it tasting like banana. Blue Banana? Who knows?

I have made one hell of a lot of candles.

Haven’t been near a computer much. Right now I’m stealing time on my little sister’s office computer (naughty, naughty Smith) to write this. I know I have quite a few comments to respond to, and I will get to them, but right now the candles are calling.

I’ll be home on Wednesday. It occurred to me that writing a post about my fear of flying might have been bad Karma, but what’s done is done. If you never see another post from me, you can draw your own conclusions.



Fear of Flying

It’s not really a fear of flying.  It’s a fear of crashing.  At maximum takeoff weight, a jetliner can weigh up to 750,000 pounds, and the only things keeping it in the air are two thin pieces of aluminum and the theory of aerodynamics.  Somehow the idea of ending my life in a ball of fire and twisted metal with my arms and legs and entrails spewed all over the side of a mountain gets into my already over active imagination and does its worst. 

Of course, the worst part wouldn’t be the crash itself.  Chances are I wouldn’t even feel a thing.  It’s the anticipation that would be so awful.  The airlplane hurtling out of control.  The engines screaming.  The passengers sreaming.  G forces crushing you against your seat.  And worst of all, you have several long seconds, maybe even minutes, to be truly, truly terrified at the horrible death that you will soon be experiencing.

Yup, that’s me.  Steve Smith: afraid–no, make that terrified–to fly. 

By now my family has gotten used to the unpleasant change in my personality the day before I have to fly and they just stay the hell away from me.  The night before I fly I always have one of two recurring nightmares.  One is where the plane is jockeying down the highway, dodging cars and trying to find an opportune time to take off.  Once it does, it always attempts to fly under a bridge, but I always wake up just before the plane hits the bridge.  In the other dream, I am sitting on TOP of the plane as it’s cruising at 37,000 feet, desperately looking for something to hang on to.  It’s always one or the other, and to this day I have no way of knowing which one it will be, or why.

But I do not let my fear of flying prevent me from flying.  I would simply miss out on too much.  And, if the truth be told, I’ve gotten better about this as I’ve gotten older.  Now I’m only afraid of the takeoffs and landings.  The bit in between I’ve more or less learned to be ok with.  Usually.

Not this time.  For some reason, the plane hit an unusual amount of turbulence soon after takeoff and for the next hour I sat clutching the arms of my seat.  I did notice that none of the other passengers seemed terribly concerned about the extreme danger they were in, but I attributed this to the fact that they were simply too stupid to realize that they were all about to die the aforementioned fiery death.  As the plane bounced around the airpockets like a ping pong ball in a lottery machine, my mind was simply singing with fear.

Then a happy thought found its way into my terror stricken brain: alcohol.  They don’t serve Bushmill’s on Jet Blue, sadly.  But desperate situations call for drastic measures, so I settled for Glenlivet.  The flight attendant also seemed blissfully ignorant of our shared peril.  He beamed a perfect toothpaste commercial smile at me as he brought my drink.  “Does this happen a lot?”, I asked.  “Oh, sure, just some turbulence.  Nothing to worry about.  Happens all the time”.  Another megawatt smile, followed by a curiously knowing look. “I’ll keep your tab open.  We’ll settle up just before we land.” 

By the fifth Glenlivet, I noticed that the pilot’s flying skills had improved considerably, and the airplane was cruising along quite nicely now, thank you very much.  I had Thomas Tallis on the headphones, and Arthur Conan Doyle in my hands, and a newfound serenity about flying.  I think I’m on to something here.

While Googling for pictures for this post, I came upon this rather interesting article, which in fact puts the whole fear of flying thing into perspective.  I agree with almost everything the author writes. 

Except for the part about alcohol.  Maybe they’ll even serve Bushmill’s on the next flight.



California redux

I’m off to California for ten days. I may or may not blog, depending on my mood, and whether or not I can browbeat my little sister into letting me use her computer.

I will probably make a lot of candles by day, and party my ass off by night.

For those of you who care, I have responded to just about everyone’s comments. As always, please know that I am always thrilled when someone leaves one, even if I am at times slow to respond.

One notable exception is the Be Afraid post. This is mainly because I honestly and respectfully differ with some of the comments. This is not to say they’re not valid or well put; they are. Nor is this to say that I don’t welcome differing opinions, I certainly do. As many of you know, I love debate.

But I do feel as though I need to think this issue through a little more before I respond. The comments were obviously well thought out, so I feel I owe it to those who commented to leave equally well thought out responses. So I’m going to ponder this issue a bit more, probably while lounging on some California beach, before I return and run logical circles around all of you. 😉

Assuming, of course, I ever return at all. 8)


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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