The Time Keeper

Father Time, cryogenic freezing, teenage hormones, and the Tower of Babel are all combined in Mitch Albom’s latest book The Time Keeper; a novel richly diverse as the aforementioned themes.  Timeless tales of romantic love which stretch from antiquity to modernity carry the bulk of the content, as the interpersonal relationships of three characters are developed.

When Dor creates the first instrument for measuring time, he unknowingly sets the scene for the eventual downfall of mankind.  He is punished by God and imprisoned in a cave to listen to the pleas of all the people of the world for thousands of years whose cries of desperation revolve around their having too little or too much time.  Soon he will encounter two such people, and will be charged with the task of aiding them in their struggle to manage the hours, minutes, and seconds leading up to the greatest challenge in their lives.

The worst thing I could do in this article is spoil the ending by giving away too many details.  The suspense of the story alone is worth the read.  So there will be no spoiler alert in the last couple of paragraphs that you read here.  Yet I can’t help but congratulate Mitch Albom for the way he highlights how social media continues to play such an integral role in how people communicate with each other every day.  Through tweets, Facebook posts and text messages, the meaning of our speech is either lost or found through the few keystrokes we use to speak with.  Often times the tone of what we want to say is incommunicable once the characters are visible on the screen of our intended reader.  So how do we bridge the gap?  I think we are all working on that solution as 21st century inhabitants.

And there is also the ugly side of social media:  bullying, iDisorder, identity theft and etcetera.  Perhaps that is why I am so fascinated with the blogosphere; a space where no limit is placed on the number of characters I am allowed to type or read in my quest to find understanding from shared experience.  Although blogs can be used to hurt, they also can be used to help in fighting against the dark-side of the digital universe.

The Time Keeper will remind you of how precious every second of your life is, how important those people you love are, and how consequential what you say and do will always be.  Those ideals we expect from a novel about the ramifications of the invention of time.  The surprise in the novel will come in between the pages where what’s expected meets what’s familiar, as you identify with each character in ways that you either did not suspect or refused to acknowledge.  And undoubtedly you will walk away from the book asking yourself the question: how am I using my time?

© 2012

A $2.50 Beer and a $0.27 Record: A Monday Night at Oldfield’s on 4th

Saturday, I arrived back in my hometown of Columbus, OH, after a 17 hour drive from West Palm Beach, FL.  After I got out of the car, I began to plan out my week of events to attend while in the Buckeye state.  I started with a burger and a couple of beers at Buffalo Wild Wings with my brother.  We were there long enough to see Raul Ibanez work his October magic once again for the New York Yankees in the bottom of the 9th inning.  But the Newcastle Brown Ale and Stone India Pale Ale draughts couldn’t ease the eventual heartbreak of Derek Jeter’s postseason ending ankle fracture.  Yet, the show must go on.

Sunday, I reserved, especially for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series.  And Monday I decided to visit Oldfield’s on 4th for Bring Your Own Record Night.  The moment I viewed the advertisement on Columbus Alive’s calendar of events for Bring Your Own Record Night, I knew this sort of get-together would be right up my alley.  But there was just one problem: I left all of my vinyl records in West Palm Beach.

So Monday afternoon I dropped by Half Priced Books and Records to look for a piece of vinyl to spin later that night at 8pm.  Amongst the sea of classic comic book flippers, dusty CD jewel case collectors, and used text book hawkers, I waded my way to the record crates and began to dig.  “Keep spinning!”  A man, neatly dressed in khakis and a plaid button down, sporting wire glasses and a waxy clean face interrupted my search.  “I’m sorry, what was that?” I replied.  “Keep spinning!”  He smiled and I smiled back, recognizing that same fiery spirit of technological rebellion in my own reflection within his spectacles.  His name was Rob, and for the next 15 minutes we talked about vinyl, needles, amplifiers, preamps and labels.  When we were done, we shook hands as if to solidify our pact to never stop spinning.

After 2 hours (yes 2 hours), I settled on a 45 (that’s the smaller record as opposed to the bigger 33 1/3rd revolutions per minute sized record for all you MP3 and iPod users) by Ray Charles with Unchain My Heart on one side and But On The Other Hand Baby on the flipside.  I was now ready for BYOR night.

When I arrived at Oldfield’s on 4th, I found a cozy bar decorated with Ohio sports team paraphernalia; the nooks and crannies accented with ghosts and ghouls for Halloween.  Two sharks were brandishing their cue sticks above a pool table and Monday Night Football was playing on the tube.  I met Joel, a fellow vinyl enthusiast and bartender, who poured a fresh IPA from the Columbus Brewing Company for me and then played my Ray Charles record on the turntable mounted on the bandstand.

The Night followed with records by Bob Dylan and Gorillaz featuring Snoop Lion, and bar chatter about baseball and Jazz.  By the time I left, I felt satisfied that I had not only chosen the right record but also the right venue to spend an Autumn Monday night.  The record cost me 27 cents and the beer was listed at $2.50.  With the best recession prices in town, Oldfield’s  on 4th has you covered!

© 2012

Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers

Ray Negron’s Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers, arrives just in time for Major League Baseball’s post season.  A former batboy who now serves as a community advisor for the New York Yankees, Negron narrates the story of how an unlikely set of circumstances led to his initial unfavorable meeting of George Steinbrenner (Owner of the New York Yankees) and his efforts to ingratiate himself with the Boss.  How these two individuals are able to forge a life-long lasting friendship is miraculous in and of itself, considering one was a multimillionaire businessman, and the other a teenager growing up on the hard streets of Brooklyn enduring poverty and crime.  Yet the miracles written about in this book are in no short supply after Negron’s first chapter.

Soon the reader finds themself on board of Negron’s journey of self discovery.  Along the way we experience the ups and downs of an aspiring baseball player as the author shares his experience of trying to break into the big leagues.  We also tune into the plight of so many youths in our society who were born, like Negron, into adverse situations involving abuse, neglect, single parent homes and communities where alcohol and drug addiction are rampant, as he likewise shares experiences from his own childhood.  We see how he is able to find common ground with the Yankee players we have come to recognize as legends of the game, based on troubled beginnings in life and opportunities to make a difference in their neighborhoods.

As a Yankee fan who admittedly only became loyal to the Bronx Bombers when my childhood heroes Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden joined them (up until then I was a Mets fan), I was fascinated by the stories written in this book about all the great Yankee legends that have worn the pinstripes over the years.  These were stories about Yankee greats like Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Catfish Hunter, Elston Howard, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and others.  Some of these players I had heard of and some I had not heard of before I read this book.  And, of course, there were great stories to read about of more familiar names to me like Reggie Jackson, Joe Girardi, Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter, and more.

If you’re a baseball fan, you will enjoy this book.  If you’re a Yankee fan, you will treasure this book.  And if you are a fan of the underdog, you will be inspired by this book.  In a world where second chances are sparse, it is refreshing to read a story about a kid who got the mother of all second chances and made the most out of that opportunity; to, in turn, serve his community and offer second chances to others.  And what better time to read it than in October, the month where baseball fans around the world are hoping for miracles both on and off the field.

© 2012