RULES OF THE GAME ~
True — they have to hit their free throws, and they're a great free throwing team — the Oklahoma City Thunder are — but they're missing their free throws, and they're missing them when it really counts, like an NBA Finals Championship against the Miami Heat. Just ask clutch players like Larry Bird and Reggie Miller about what a free throw can do in a tight game.
But there's something else going on. Games two and three, one in Oklahoma City and one in Miami, have been very close down the stretch in both games, and in both games the officials have done what I call the Strange Days Phenomenon (SDP) right before our eyes. The Strange Days Phenomenon can be anything from war criminals like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld being let off the hook for their crimes by the Justice Department of the Obama Administration; to Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan — the latest crook in the long and disgusting legacy from Wall Street coming to Washington, D.C. and sitting before Congress in a soft and cuddly catbird seat and actually being praised. Do keep in mind, these men and women in Congress are being elected into office by the people amongst ourselves. It isn't finger-pointing time, it's Strange Days Phenomenon time. You go and have another drink with this stuff, or another puff, or throw the tv out for good, or look across the mainly empty restaurant from your table at the early bird special hour and see a family of four dressed in summer-relax, three adults and an older teenage girl, waiting for a meal (like I am) that isn't coming anytime soon because the restaurant is "under staffed," and we adults are waiting and talking and waiting and finally complaining and waiting with Strange Days Phenomenon, while the teenager is plugged the entire time into ear plugs and a cell phone held up to her face. Texting. Never utters a word. For well over a half hour of waiting the cell phone is never lowered from her gaze. It could have been a book. It isn't a book.
Strange Days Phenomenon has the world economy by the short hairs. It has your paycheck (if you have one), your plumber, carpenter, electrician, auto mechanic, even health food store, fruit stand, crummy tag sale event by those same short hairs: it's all unaffordable.
I just went to a lumberyard to look over new window prices — casements or lone sashes, even double-hung windows with or without the full unit, it didn't matter, just to find something possibly affordable. I'll take a unit, or windows loose, and I'll build my own frames. Can I get out of there with my shirt on. My pants. My boots? Will I be able to buy gas to get home afterwards? Will I be able to afford my pickup truck, 23 years old and still running (thanks to Japan), parked out in a mainly empty business lot? I can sense in my bones why the lot is almost empty and the big building houses lots of good stuff. The windows I want could cost up to $600, insulated glass, each. I want three windows, maybe four. I have opened up a side exterior wall back home just begging for three windows, maybe four. I'm still allowed to dream, right?
Wrong. The three windows can cost you upwards to $2000. Don't even think of a fourth window. The sales clerk is a nice enough fellow but he gets SDP when you veer your dream talk into the land of buying the windows out of their package (unit) to save money; and he'll admit to you that if you even dare to think of buying separate sashes, uninsulated glass, and you'll build your own storm windows to complete the job, well the sashes may say $95 per but because it's such "trouble" (meaning you are too), it'll cost you over $200 for that one sash. Meaning don't buy the sash. Forget that road of dreams and making-do, and come along with us and pay through the nose. It's good for you.
My dream partner and I leave the place on very good terms. We even take all the pertinent information, prices and email addresses to write our friendly sales clerk back and forth a few times — just to see even away from the diamond-studded lumberyard, the email information is just as frightening. Screw up a 3/8 sheet of plywood over the hole in the house wall for the time being since it's going to rain and you have to pull down tighter that dreamer cap you insist on wearing. Call around all the lumberyards still alive in your region. It's all the same. SDP. Prices are out of this world.
It's nighttime, sit down with the basketball game. Everyone, except maybe a speck of person here or there, is either in blue (if were in Oklahoma), or white (Miami). I mean 10s-of-thousands, all dressed in the same color, cheering madly. What's wrong with team-spirit and cheering? Nothing. Except it now looks and feels Orwellian.
Thank goodness for the mute button.
In game one Oklahoma beats Miami in Oklahoma City, and it puts the media glitz favorite Miami team back on their heels. What in the world is going on here with this whipper-snapper young Oklahoma dream-along-with-me squad? They've won everything and everywhere and brought down giants, like a very disciplined and talented San Antonio Spurs team. I hated to see that and I love San Antonio, but I'm loving, like the good dreamer that I am, the Oklahoma City Thunder even more. We've won game one.
By game two, SDP will hit us right between the eyes, when at the close of a very tight game, and the Thunder are roaring from behind from a deficit only kids and dreamers will play at, and they're doing it well: a minute left, two points down, and our dreamer of dreamers Kevin Durant runs the baseline against star power LeBron James for Miami, and is clearly fouled, deserves two shots at the free throw line to even the score and possibly pushing the game into OT with a zillion blue jersey fans going bonkers. And the foul isn't called!? The windows cost what?! The ref is standing right there; the announcers are standing right there; the New York Times is standing right there; the UK Guardian is standing right there; I'm standing right there, and we can all see the clear foul to be called and properly register the flow of the game, and it isn't called. Stop your whining, it's SDP. Don't you know SDP when you see it?
You don't? Well, wait for game three because it showed up again even more blatantly for that game on Sunday night. We're now in Miami, white jersey crowd, remaining Orwellian, though not as cheerful and hopeful as the blue jersey folks back in Oklahoma City. Don't ask me what it is, I just hear something promising and less moneyed and less entitled about the OKC folks. We probably aren't ever going to see them again (but prove me wrong, please) if SDP is allowed to take full effect. In the third quarter (better known as OKC's quarter) with Kevin Durant coming on with superman powers — I don't think I've ever seen anyone ever throw in a three pointer with such ease, nonchalance, or Taoist charm — not Bird, not Miller, not Ray Allen, not Jordan, or Kobe. SDP sees that, sees a comeback roaring into focus, sees a young team about to take command, hears a crowd raising high the roof beams carpenter, senses way way way too much natural phenomenon and we've got zillions of dollars invested by all sorts of creepy crawlers into this thing, and SDP refs charge Durant with another foul (the guy looks like a gazelle, plays like a gazelle, may touch you like a gazelle) and this sits him down on the bench and so goodbye OKC rhythm, captain, and heart. This never would have happened to Michael Jordan, trust me, not in a playoff game.
In times like these, go back to your window job. Luckily you live in Vermont, luckily there are scrappers like yourself everywhere, you see each other, you nod to each other. I found a salvage lumberyard after writing my last email to nowhere (new lumberyard) about window prices and possibilities. Since I grew up in a lumberyard in the Berkshire hills with five lumberyards to the family name, I feel at home walking through this salvage yard's side gate and not the front door, which really looks like the lumberyards of old, my style. Open racks of pine lumber, spruce lumber, stacks of framed screens, old storm windows, someone's left off a huge stack of pine clapboards painted on one side and all still pretty much in fine shape. Out back are two or three buildings stuffed with stuff, think dreams. In the main building are enough old windows, old doors and old hardware and trim and accessories to build a Trump Tower. My kind of Trump Tower — built like a wood haven castle, windows fluent through all the rooms, floors laid down like a Viking ship, four coats of paint on the woodwork. Affordable. Doable. My windows have got to be hidden here. I can feel it. They are. And Sweetheart finds them, while I'm up in the rafters digging through barn sashes and thinking it's still the 1970s, I hear my name called (and that's sweet enough in these times) and right on the floor, waiting for me, Sweetheart looks befuddled and overwhelmed because what I asked her to keep an eye out for seems to be right before her eyes. The exact windows. The exact size. Insulated glass. Out of their old units. Just the casements. All primed. Some silly hardware to remove, so what, the three windows side by side will match right down to the inch what I have planned back home and the hole in the wall. Plus there is some room left over for the transom (7 lights) I find leaning by the door we entered. Bought new, all of this would cost around $2500.
Hang onto your blue and white jerseys because the manager of the place I found looks like Steve Earle and he isn't at all against talking prices for things and being fair. So we're taking the three windows you bet, the transom, and let's go out into the yard and dig around for awhile and fill the rest of the pickup truck with T & G pine (a small pallet in short lengths) and while we're at it, all the beaded pine boards we can find, even the ones with the nails still in them, doesn't matter, and we don't want the beaded side, so we'll flip it over and use the flat stock pine and this will go perfectly for any trim work and fill. Go ahead, fill the truck: insulated glass windows, old style transom, all the pine lumber, toss in the extra panel of luan, and what did you say the price was? don't gloat because SDP is watching with a sneer right over yonder, it would be a little higher but with the 40% off sale (O lucky days!) the whole truckload comes to something like $100.
Back at the lumberyard, the two gallons of paint you'll need to finish the job up will cost you more than that whole truckload of pure and beautiful and practical gimme.
What's "gimme"? Go ask SDP. He doesn't know.