Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bloggers of Extinction: A Tribute (Part IV)

Meet the new blog…same as the old blog
As I mentioned previously, in something that appeared for awhile to be a trend (that many hope will continue), another two of Blogland’s finest also left, but returned after a respective respites of a few weeks to a month’s time.

Sloth — Slow Adventures in Slothville
Left December 14, 2004, returned January 10, 2005.

Slothy/Slotherella/Slotherooni/Her Slothaciousness, you name the variation, is just a fun person with a great blog. Slothville has been for the most part, a lightening rod — of popularity as well as controversy. But whatever her topic (or the flavor of comments that follow), it is written with a sharp wit, and worldly élan vital unlike any other in our community.

She is quirky and classic, elusive and lyrical, boisterous and serene; she is the personification of naïveté and sophistication, all rolled up into one very interesting and engaging young woman.

As far as our respective blogs go, given in large part our difference in age, there aren’t a whole lot of subjects that we touch upon in common, which is what initially kept me from getting to know Sloth’s work. She is passionate about all things political, and I am not, particularly as far as my blog is concerned because of the very divisive nature of the subject. That’s why I don’t write about it and rarely, rarely will even comment on another person’s story on that subject.

Last summer, when the presidential campaigns were in full swing, Sloth’s blog was alive with politically based stories. Having seen her name in the comments of many other bloggers whom I was just beginning to discover, I went over to check her out. Seeing the nature of her stories, I looked but didn’t touch. That stuff’s just not my cup ‘o tea. But I kept returning nonetheless, because I saw a less impassioned, more relaxed and fun person in those other people’s comments who I was waiting to see emerge on her own site.

Allow me to interrupt myself here and say that I am well aware of how unfair I may have been at the outset for somewhat turning my nose up at something that was obviously important as those political posts obviously were to Sloth. But isn’t that what most of us do? First impressions, warranted or not, are the starting point for our opinions all of things. My point is, I didn’t dismiss what I saw on first blush. I wanted to see more, and soon I did.

In late June of last year, Sloth went on vacation to Australia, and even managed to get in a blog entry from down under. I found her from around that time to be cute, humorous and easy to read. In the weeks ahead she continued to regale us with posts about her trip, replete with her wonderfully artistic photography, which on its merit alone made every trip to Slothville a profitable one.

But then I was blown away.

Oh sure, it only makes sense that I would be drawn to an emotional epic, but what I saw revealed in the wake of a certainly devastating personal tragedy, instantly bonded me to this wonderfully complex and gifted writer.

On Monday July 19, 2004, Sloth wrote about The Ambassador’s Wife, a stirring tribute her beloved Grandmother, who had passed away the previous day. The fact that she could at that point write at all is a testament to her strength. The fact that she could write such a poignant and noble tribute is a testament to her genius.

From that point on I could no longer remain on the outskirts of Slothville. I was voluntarily obliged to become a citizen.

Slothy, if I was wearin’ a hat, I’d take it off to ya. You have my undying respect for being as close to all things to all people as anyone I’ve seen. Thank you for returning to us and continuing to make us think, as well as feel.

Michael — Make Mine Mike
Left December 31, 2004, returned February 1, 2005. Pffft...I knew he was just playin’ possum…

I dubbed him “The Honorable Mayor of Blogsville” sometime back because I don’t believe there is anyone else around who can touch him in over-all popularity. I mean what’s not to like? He’s smart, savvy, incredibly funny, an extremely gifted writer, AND…a cartoonist! If that’s not a slam-dunk of likability, then I don’t know what is!

Michael is the quintessential easy read. Not that he hasn’t or doesn’t tackle tough or heavy subject matter. It’s just that he always seems approach his stories in an easy-to-read, easy-to-digest manner. Always enjoyable; always refreshing; always leaving you anxious for his next post. He is the Holy PUNtif, the Mad Rapper, the Wizard of Witty Repartee.

As you’ve certainly noticed, his name appears on nearly every blogroll in our community — and with good reason. He makes every reader feel like family, from the way he crafts his stories to the way that he interacts with his readers.

Michael lives in Los Angeles, which is probably the first thing that caught my interest when I first encountered him in the comments boxes of Kevin’s, Jay’s and other bloggers I began frequenting in the early summer of 2004. Having spent my formative years and all of my young adulthood there, LA will always be home in my heart, and I will always feel a special bond to anyone who lives there. On one such occasion on seeing him make an allusion to where he lived, I went over to his site to look around, albeit briefly.

Soon thereafter I was at the site of another longtime favorite blogger, Leese. If you know her, you probably know that Leese lives in the Bay Area of Northern California and works in Silicon Valley. She’s a sports fan too, particularly one of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. I of course, grew up an LA Lakers fan. By requisite, all Sacramento Kings fans despise the Lakers. The Lakers are their tormentors, having knocked them off numerous times in the NBA playoffs. Now, please forgive me, because given the current state of both franchises, who really cares? But this was last season, when both teams were playoff-caliber and squarely in the hunt to go far, possibly all the way to the NBA finals.

Guess which team made it? Oh, oh…sorry Leese. I digress…

Anyway, during the playoffs last year, the exact date I don’t remember, but sometime either during the late Conference Semis or early Conference Finals, Leese wrote a post about the Lakers. It was on the first iteration of her blog (which unfortunately no longer exists) and she spoke about how much she as a Kings fan hated the Lakers and their rude and overly-boisterous fans. The Kings had but again been eliminated from the NBA playoff tournament in the second round while the Lakers had advanced, to the chagrin of all the purple-and-black faithful in Sac-Town.

As I recall I just happened to be Leese’s first commentor on this particular post, and as always I was my normal charming self, but…I just couldn’t keep from giving my team a few props in the face of such an assault.

I said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory since the post or comments are no longer available to cut-and-paste) something like, “I’m really sorry for ya Leese, but as a died-in-the-wool Lakers fan since 1969, I really can’t feel too bad… (with the requisite smileys to let her know that I was just teasing).

Leese took it in the spirit it was delivered in her response to my comment. But later when I went back again to see if someone else had commented, I saw that Michael had weighed in, in support of Leese’s lament. He said (again paraphrasing), “Yeah Leese, I know what you mean. I live in LA and I’m not into pro basketball, I’m a New York Yankees baseball fan, but I can’t stand listening to those smug Laker fans.”

Now I knew that Michael was a New Yorker from among what few posts I’d read on his blog to that point. And if you know anything about baseball, you also know that the Yankees owner is the biggest spender in pro sports. This, many say, is a big reason why the Yankees are consistently one of the most successful teams in baseball, having appeared in six of the last ten World Series, winning four. This has elevated the Yankees to the position of the most envied — and hated — franchise in baseball, the same position that the Lakers had occupied in pro basketball.

Not surprisingly, Yankee fans expect their team to win. They too have developed a reputation for being pretty smug about the success of their Yankees. So you can’t blame me for wanting to bring of this little bit of serendipity to Michael’s attention.

“Hey Michael,” I said, “excuse me for bringin’ it up, but isn’t that just a tiny bit like ‘the pot calling the kettle ‘black?’” and reminded him that Yankee fans were legendary for their smugness and assurance that their team would win the World series every year. Again, I provided smiley emoticons to hopefully communicate that it was a playful jab. Oh and I may have mentioned something about “The Evil Empire.” Oops…

His response later was one that I can’t exactly repeat — oh not because of that — but because I just don’t remember exactly how he worded it. It was something along the lines of, “Why, I oughtta…Put up yer dukes, Yankee hater” although I’m sure it was even more playful and less confrontational than that.

I responded doing my best to diffuse the situation, assuring Michael that I was just playin,’ adding that I admire Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner’s chutzpeh to do whatever he has to do to win.

The upshot of it all was that this encounter piqued my interest in this quirky fellow. I began visiting his blog and really began reading this time. It was great! His cartoons, stories about his funny friends, even a story about the Yankees, when they came to LA last June, which gave me a little insight as to why he was such a diehard fan of his Bronx Bombers.

But it wasn’t until the latter part of July, just prior to his vacation to St. Croix that I started commenting and complimenting him on his wonderfully entertaining blog. He returned the favor and soon we were an active part of each other’s daily roll through Blogland.

In late August last summer I traveled back to SoCal for my 30th high school reunion, so I took the opportunity to make plans to meet His Honor, the Mayor for dinner one evening. I came away from that meeting with a friend. I never did figure out what happened to Mike though…

Seriously, we hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since.

So to you Mikey, I say thank you for being willing to trust this Yankee hater long enough to learn how much he respects you for the brilliant writer, extraordinary humorist and all-around good soul that you truly are.

Thank you for all you mean to Blogland, and thank you for coming back. Although I always knew you would, I hear that Brian really missed you.

Oh and don’t worry about the Sawx beating the Yanks this season. My Angels ahh gonna kick botha youse asses!

Next: New kids on the blog
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