Saturday, April 16, 2005

Some updates and thoughts

BROTHER-IN-LAW UPDATE: First off, an update on the situation with my brother-in-law (see last post): He's recently started working with a friend of his doing home construction work. Not the most glamourous of jobs, of course, but it's bringing in some money. And my brother-in-law and sister have been talking to a lawyer and are, according to my mom, "assessing their options."

More details as they become available.

I-L-L...: Wasn't that just an amazing run by the Illinois basketball team to the national championship game a few weeks ago?

Where I am is only an hour away from Champaign-Urbana, where the U of I is located. It wasn't difficult to get caught up in their season, especially the way they played together.

And after coach Bruce Weber's mom died while going to her son's first game in the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago, it seemed like the entire country was pulling for the Illini.

Give North Carolina credit, they played well and Illinois could have played better. But the way they fought back in the final (not to mention their amazing comeback againsr Arizona in the regional final), I'd have to say this season is going to be remembered as long as Illinois has a basketball team.

Thanks for the run, Illini.

More later...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Welcome to Bush's America

I know I haven't posted here for awhile. That's because I've been trying to sort out how I wanted to put this latest entry here.

I finally figured out the best way to do it is just be as honest as I can and let the chips fall where they may.

This has to do with my family - specifcially, one of my two sisters and her husband. Except for my brother, all of them live on the Illinois side of St. Louis - in Collinsville, though we all grew up in Granite City. The reasons for the move are many and varied and I don't think I'm at liberty to talk about it all here. I can say for certain part of it is how badly Granite City has fallen apart. It's basically a shell of what it used to be - but that's another topic for another day.

My brother-in-law (also named Brent, believe it or not) had been working for some 30 years at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown St. Louis. Had a good job there, in fact. Never caused a problem at all.

A few weeks ago, he was fired from his job.

The details are still somewhat sketchy - I've tried to talk to my mom about it but she hasn't said much - but from what I can gather, my brother-in-law was ousted in just a couple of months by someone who had a vendetta against him.

He was written up for (from I can tell) minor stuff three times in two months and basically forced out the door. I wish I knew all the details but no one wants to talk about it.

Now, from what I know, my brother-in-law and sister are thisclose to losing EVERYTHING - the house, cars, the whole shootin' match - because of petty politics.

My brother-in-law was a year away from being able to claim full pension, health benefits, everything. The health insurance is especially important because he's had some heart trouble recently. He passed out because of a heart stoppage a couple of years ago and cracked his skull, causing some serious problems (he's recovered from that). He also had a pacemaker installed in him recently too.

Now they have no health insurance as well. My sister looked into getting private health insurance for him and found out it was something like $800 a month - precisely what she brings home each month from the Head Start center she works at in Edwardsville, IL.

Tell me that's not screwed up.

And don't even bring politics into this, according to my mom. The title of this post is "Welcome to Bush's America," and I said that to her when I found out what happened.

Problem: The women in my family have all embraced what I believe to be the poison of right-wing Christian fundamentalism, as practiced by the Southern Baptist Convention. They go to a SBC "community" church in Edwardsville, where the far-right doctrine is preached and practiced on a daily basis.

Wouldn't surprise me if they all voted for Bush in November - even though it's obvious he will NEVER represent their best interests.

A headline in a London tabloid put it best in November - How can 59,000,000 (can't rememer the exact number) be so DUMB?

I don't think it's a stretch to think my brother and I aren't thought of too fondly by my mom and sisters when it comes to poltiics. We're both the type of guys who listen to "Democracy Now!", support anti-war efforts and think big-ass corporations need to think about people first rather than how much more profit they can squeeze out.

I could be wrong, of course, but I don't think so.

I'm just tired of garbage. My brother-in-law deserved FAR better than he got by Your United States Government.

Hope maybe this will be the wake-up call the women in my family get to see how screwed up their poltiical stances are. But I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Another Day Closer to Rollerball

For those of you unfamiliar with the title of this particular post, it comes from Keith Olbermann, currently the host of "Countdown" on MSNBC and a veteran of CNN (twice), ESPN and Fos Sports Net.

When he was on FSN, he did a Sunday night sports news show called "The Keith Obermann Report," or something like that, in which one of the segments was the latest corporate intrusions into the world of sport.

It was almost like the original 1974 version of the film "Rollerball," in which James Caan starred as a top player named Jonathan E in a violent, futuristic sport called rollerball. In this Norman Jewison-directed vision of the future, corporations had taken over the world and outlawed many things like sex, drugs, war and poverty and imposed a top-down world dictatorship. To give the people a way to release their hostility, they invented this game.

It was a pretty chilling film - unlike the remake - but that film, and "Network," seem to be almost prophetic today.

The reason I mention this is because of something that could affect me indirectly and my brother directly.

My brother works as a suit salesman at the downtown St. Louis Famous-Barr department store, which is owned by May Department Stores, who has world headquarters in downtown - in fact, in the same building Famous has operated in for something like more than 90 years.

Sunday night, May announced it was being acquired for $11 BILLION by Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, who owns two of the most well-known department stores in the nation - Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Everyone at the downtown store is worried their jobs are going to be gone after the sale closes out - especially the rank-and-file. I don't blame them.

This, and the recent $1.5 BILLION purchase of Pulitzer by Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa (Disclaimer: I work for Lee through the newspapers in the town I live in) almost seems to be, well, I don't know - almost criminal perhaps?

So many big-ass corporations are swallowing up anything and everything in thier path - and no one can stop them. In fact, I'd go as far as to say Fearless Leader (aka BushCorp) is ENCOURAGING this. The money being thrown around for many of these mergers is so staggering, it's almost like they're playing with Monopoly money.

Why? It certainly can't be for Joe Working Class.

Everytime there's some sort of major (or even mid-major) merger, there's all sorts of job cuts made. And who winds up taking the brunt of these cuts?

It sure ain't the lap-of-luxury guys at the top, that's for sure.

No wonder my brother's worried. He's been with Famous for more than seven years now, just scraping by, getting something like $250 a week after taxes if he's lucky or has had a good week selling commissioned items.

I've tried to tell him to find a better job, but it seems as though he prefers being screwed over by corporate America, even though he knows it deep down.

Now this takes place, and he may not even have a job to go to in a few months. And if he does lose his job, what kind of severance package will he get?

Not a very good one, I think. Meantime, the bigwigs have all sorts of multi-million dollar perks, stock options and golden parachutes to cushion themselves.

I read somewhere that American executives at big-ass corporations are making thousands of times more than their lowest-paid workers are getting.

Something's wrong with this picture. Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to companies making money, but there has to be some sort of moral responsibility that goes with it as well.

Some sites I go to think we may be heading for a new Gilded Age, when corporate bigwigs lived in luxury and forced the working class to live in near-squalor while being blissfully ignorant of the realities surrounding them.

To me, we already got screwed big-time when the Bush Cartel was re-elected(?), not that John Kerry would have made much difference either. I voted for him but rather reluctantly - I would have rather seen a real reformer or someone like a Dennis Kuchinich, say, on the ballot.

I just hope someday, the people finally wake up and see what's really going on instead of beliving the lies being fed to them by corporate media and worrying not about which celebrity is sleeping with who, but about the bullshit "war" in Iraq and Bush's apparent plans to expand it into other countries and how the average guy and girl out there has to struggle just to make ends meet.

I fear it may already be too late though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Beavis and Butt-head Do (In) Hockey (and other thoughts on the state of sports in the USA)

I've been more than a little pissed lately, and not because of the lack of romance or other things in my life.

It's because my favorite wintertime sport - hockey - is literally on ice, thanks to a couple of chumps named Gary Bettman (Beavis) and Bob Goodenow (Butt-Head).

Bettman, the National Hockey League commissioner, and Goodenow, the NHL Players Association chief, both managed to torpedo an entire season because of their single-minded devotion to making the other blink, say "uncle" and ultimately destroy one another.

Bettman insisted on a salary cap. Goodenow insisted there wouldn't be one. Both went back and forth for a long time. Bettman and the NHL owners then locked the players out in September. Last week, even after some movement came from both sides - finally - Bettman called off the entire season.

And what did we devoted puckheads get for our troubles?

The business end of a goalie's stick rammed up our collective asses - with no lube at all. (For those readers with more sensitive feelings, my apologies.)

The more I think about it though, it's just a symbol of how corporate many pro sports - and even big-time college sports - have gotten. Leagues, owners and players suck up to the big corporate dollars, thanks to mega-luxury boxes, suites and other things Joe Fans like myself will never get close to - unless we hit the lottery, know someone or are already rich beyond reproach.

Look at the typical crowd behind the plate at a Cardinals game, for instance. They've got cell phones and they're talking on them during the game and waving at the cameras (hey, I'm on teee veee!!). If someone does something good, it's a quick cheer (oh good, we did something - what happened anyway?) and then back to the schmoozing or the closing of another big-bucks deal.

I've sat in seats like that and acted like a normal fan would - cheering, yelling, screaming. When that happens (and I've heard similar stories), people have looked at me like I'm nuts, as if I just ruined their latest huge deal or tryst or something.

A couple have even told me to go to the bleachers at Busch. But even the bleachers at Busch are so freakin' expensive these days - $11 during peak times during the summer.

Regular fans like myself have been priced out of the park and the arenas when we're the ones who REALLY keep the games going.

Too bad we're the last ones anybody thinks about when it comes to what happens with out teams. No wonder I'm so disillusioned by sports these days - even at the high school level.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Lots of things going on lately

There's quite a bit of things that have been going on with me since my last entry into this journal (or blog...or therapy outlet- call it what you will!! *LOL*).

About a couple of weeks ago, I traveled back to St. Louis to join some friends of mine for a trivia competition. For those who don't live in St. Louis, Trivia Nights are a popular fund-raising activity for many groups and organizations. The format is simple: Get together a few friends and buy a table for about $10-12 a head (teams of 8-10 people).

A crack committee or researcher comes up with 10 questions each in 10 different categories. Being St. Louis, you know there's going to be a category or two that's uniquely St. Louis, such as "Where Did They Go To High School" or "They Made it Big" or something along those lines.

A celebrity moderator asks the questions on the big night, and the team with the most correct answers is the winner.

Be that as it may, I hadn't seen these folks in quite a long time - like since I left home to take the job I've got right now. It was great seeing everyone again, believe me.

The best part - we took second place, and we had an shot to win it right down to the finish. It was just one bad category that tripped us up.

Even more important, though, is the fact that several of my friends/teammates told me they probably would have finished lower in the standings if I hadn't been there.

To say that made me feel wonderful would be an understatement.

I miss my friends back home, I really do. One of the things I'm planning on doing this year is trying to find a way to get back home - preferably with a decent-paying job with fairly normal hours.

Which is where this next part comes in: At the start of the month, the company that owns the papers I work for - Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa - bought out Pulitzer, Inc. (the former Pulitzer Publishing Company), owners of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis (the chain I had been working for, in St. Clair County, IL) and other daily papers across the nation.

While it's said another St. Louis institution is being bought out by out-of-town interests, I'm also looking at it this way...

Once the dust settles, this could be a ticket back home for me.

Nothing for certain but we'll see.

Damn, do I miss home. Do I miss my friends. Do I miss the things I did back home.

Maybe soon....

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Remembering a friend...and mourning a lost love...and wondering what's going to happen next?

I'd like to say that things have changed in the time since my last post - I'd like to say that - but sadly, they haven't.

A lot of really infuriating things have been going on with my the last week or so. Some of it is work-related, and as Peoria Pundit Bill Dennis says in his guide to good blogging, you should never blog about work.

What the hell does Bill know? But I'll save those thoughts for another post. Suffice it to say for now, I'm not happy with what's be going on at the office lately.

But I've been thinking about a series of things that happened to me three years ago lately. It started with the death of a friend, then a shocking move by a girlfriend of mine, and finally ended with the loss of a romance.

Some of you reading this may remember Peter E. Parisi, the host, star, creator, editor and all-around mastermind of the St. Louis public-access program World Wide Magazine, which ran for some 15 years on public-access channels throughout the St. Louis metro area.

I was a part of the show, along with my brother Colin, for a brief time in 1997. We taped a couple of segments for the show but things never worked out after that for more appearances.

Pete had a case of insulin-dependent diabetes. He knew it, but he refused to take care of himself, for whatever reason - stuffing down doughnuts or smoking a pack of two a day.

It took its' toll on him, and he couldn't keep the show going. He finally fell into a diabetic coma in November 2001, the details of which still remain murky to some folks.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, 2002, in a hospital in south Florida, Pete died.

I still miss him to this day. His show was one of the funniest, yet outlandish, yet controversial shows I've ever seen. He never gained the respect he truly deserved from the St. Louis media, especially those in the blow-dried world of STL television, where ability isn't as important as how hot you look (and I'll admit, there are some FINE-looking women on TV in the Lou, but I doubt any of them would touch me with a 37-and-a-half-foot pole. Too bad.).

Pete was treated by some as a pariah, worse than scum. Their loss. They couldn't see the genius behind his shows and his skits to save their suburban-addled asses.

Little did I know that it was the start of yet another downward skid in my life. It always seems that when something bad happens, it's like a car on a sheet of ice - it's all but impossible to stop the skid until something gets into the way, like a ditch or worse.

I had gotten a new phone number at the place I was sharing with my brother in the Carondelet nabe at that time. I'd know this girl - her name was Jeannie - for many, many years and had come to love her very much.

I gave her a call to say hello, but got her voice mail. Nothing unusual about that - I'd gotten her voice mail all the time. But then I called her mom (I'd known her for the same length of time), and she delivered the shocking news.

Jeannie had gotten married that day.

Needless to say, I was speechless. Shocked. Floored. It was like someone had taken a stick to me and knocked me in the stomach with it, and then for good measure, face-planted me into the floor.

She couldn't talk long, but when I hung up, I felt like I hadn't felt in ages.

My legs went numb. My mind was racing in millions of directions at once.

Jeannie? MARRIED?

I laid down on the floor and damn near cried my eyes out.

I was still in a state of shock the next day. I met up with some friends of mine in downtown St. Louis for the civic group Metropolis' weekly pub crawl, known as The Walk. One of my friends talked with me for a few minutes, then showed me a pair of Blues tickets he got from a friend.

We were going to see the Blues play Vancouver. He thought it might be a good way to get my mind off what had happened for a few hours. He was right - especially since the Blues won that night.

A few days later, still reeling from what had happened, I met another woman named Cindy on one of those telephone chat lines. She liked me a lot, apparently, and we made arrangements to meet on the following Thursday's Walk.

We met, ate, talked, had a great time - and then wound up going back to her place in St. Peters. I won't get into what happened, but suffice it to say, we both had a lot of fun.

We saw each other for three weeks. But there were problems. I was having one of my usual spate of financial problems at the time, I didn't have a car and she had been coming off a pair of divorces. She'd been taking care of the men in her life and didn't want to do that anymore (not that I particularly blame her).

Eventually, after three weeks, she broke it off. I couldn't afford to date her - I couldn't afford her, period.

Several months later, I found out she was seeing someone else and had moved in with him.

So now, as another Valentine's Day approaches, I ask myself...

Where is Miss Right? Or should I just settle for a romp or two with Miss Right Now?

At my advanced age (44), it's getting harder and harder. I'm doing some things for myself - I'm a member of eHarmony and have tried (without much luck) other Internet personal sites. But it's not easy meeting folks, especially being so far from home and being in a small college town where the nightlife is geared to the students (I've posted on that before).

But I'm wondering if I'm never destined to marry, have kids, or even have any sort of sexual relationship with a female (the last time I slept with someone was during the time I was seeing Cindy three years ago).

Yeah, I've seen people be stuck and unhappy in relationships but stay with them for whatever reason (the sex is good, he makes tons of money, insert your own bogus excuse in this spot), yet overlook yours truly for whatever other reason (I'm too nice, no attraction - even the old suckwad standby, you're too fat or any variation thereof).

I've given up trying to figure it out - I don't think it's even possible.

Bitter, party of one - your table's ready. Bitter, party of one.

Monday, January 03, 2005

And a new year begins...

Goodbye 2004, welcome 2005. Turn the page on the old and begin the new.

It's just amazing to me how fast time goes these days, especially the older I get. Seems like it was just a few days ago we were beginning 2004 - an Olympic year, a presidential election year and - maybe - the year I finally get my life settled into what I think it should be.

Took some good steps in that direction in 2004 - got involved with a Unitarian Universalist church in Urbana, IL, about an hour away from where I live in Charleston. Did some good things with a community radio station in Champaign, WEFT-FM, which is a lot like KDHX-FM in St. Louis.

Other steps didn't turn out so well. I met a minister who lives across the state, thanks to an Internet dating site, and we talked for a bit. Got along really well. Then came a fateful September Friday in Springfield.

We got together, saw a movie ("Wimbledon," with the always-cute-and-sassy Kirsten Dunst) and had dinner. I thought maybe there might be a connection there, despite some small differences in religious approach (she was a minister in the Christian Church [Disciples of Christ], a pretty progressive group.

Two days later, an e-mail - she didn't "feel" anything for me and was breaking it off before both of us got hurt. She apologized for hurting me but knew it couldn't continue.

It stung. It stung badly. I felt a lot like Charlie Brown - I can't even get a woman of the cloth to be a girlfriend.

I got over it fairly quickly - I'm used to romantic disappointments like that - but it still reminded me that even, in my mid-40s, the game of love is still something I can't figure out the rules for. (Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, where are you when I need you!!)

Romantic entanglements aside, I do have a few goals I've set for myself in 2005. Chief among them is to find a good-paying job so I can go back home to St. Louis. Failing that, I wouldn't mind moving up to Champaign-Urbana - a progressive college town where I feel a lot more comfortable anyway. Nothing against Charleston, but I think it's just too small a place for me, a place where a lot of the available females are students at Eastern Illinois University.

Maybe Champaign-Urbana would be a better fit for me if I couldn't get home. But we'll see how it goes.

New Year's Eve was a real bummer. The biggest thing I did was wait for an AP story from the Illinois-Cincinnati basketball game - I had to work. There was nothing I could do about it.

Finally got done and got home by 11:30. So what did I do? Went to the web site timeanddate.com and saw a countdown clock bring in the new year. They had a clock for all the world's time zones n a simultaneous countdown to 2005.

Checked it out today and guess what - they're already counting down to 2006!!! Must be nice to avoid the rush!!

Counted down the last 10 seconds and then welcomed 2005 with a can of Diet Coke with Lime in my hand. Really exciting, huh? No kiss, no hug, no nothing - just a guy in his apartment staring at a computer welcoming another year in.

How pathetic is that, I ask?

Monday, December 06, 2004

I'm baaaack!

To all those who have been clamoring for new posts and information...sorry for the long delay between posts. A special shout-out to the guy who wanted to see new stuff and has been asking for more.

As my friend Gordon pointed out, I've been having computer problems - I've also been having financial problems, which forced me to give up my computer for awhile.

Good news folks - I've dug out of the hole and I'll have everything back hopefully by next weekend, certainly by early Christmas week!!

I have much to talk about, some good, some not-so-good - but to both of my readers *LOL* - watch this space. Good things are going to happen (hopefully) for The Feeney Files in 2005.

I do hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and will have a great holiday season. Talk to everyone soon!!

Friday, July 30, 2004

The brother is coming...

Tomorrow is going to be an interested day. I'm going to be heading back to St. Louis to pick up my brother so he can spend a week and a half with me up here in Charleston while he's on vacation from his job.

Good thing he's picking up the most of the gas going to and from!

It should be an interesting visit though. I don't think he's been here before, and the only other time he came to visit me when I lived away from home was a week in eastern North Carolina when I lived in Rocky Mount, NC, in 1994. People there couldn't get over the face we were twins and stuff like that.

We'll probably head up to Champaign at least once or twice while he's here, depending on work schedules for me and stuff. Still, it should be a very interesting visit. We'll see how it goes.

More later....

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

You get some unusual colors in a tornado...

We had a pretty big storm pass through town last week - tornadoes, heavy rain, lightning, thunder - everything the weather can pound on central Illinois in the summer.
 
I had some inkling something was up listening to the radio on my to work last Tuesday. There were reports of tornadoes on the ground, large hail, high winds, things like that. I figured if it was in Bloomington and Champaign, it'd soon make its' way to Charleston-Mattoon.
 
Boy, was I right.
 
As the storm clouds gathered, all the folks I work with went outside to check things out. I joined them - man, what a sight! All sorts of strange colors in the sky, dark rotating clouds right over us (with some very good rotation, I might add), even the sounds of a funnel cloud (the familiar fright train sound) in the distance.
 
Frightening, yet fascinating at the same time. I'd NEVER seen anything like this before. I've had a childhood phobia about tornadoes that must have continued on into adulthood, yet at the same time, it's so fascinating to watch.
 
I remember an article in Playboy about 20-some odd years ago about storm chasers. I think the premise for the story was that tornadoes are Mother Nature's way of saying "up yours!"
 
I don't know if I'd go THAT far, but it was fascinating to watch.