Down on the farm

My sister lives in an upscale Glendale, Ariz., neighborhood. In fact, you could say it borders on “snooty.” The biggest house in the ‘hood features big white pillars out front, a new Boxer Porsche in the drive-thru driveway and, right there in the front yard, a gaudy fountain/statue deal that depicts a life-size woman carrying a basket. The sculptor has either captured her in the middle of a swirling motion or else she’s standing in a gale-force wind because her skirt is flying out and up around her shapely legs. Next to that house is a big two-story brick abode that is home to former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, elected to office in 1987 and impeached in 1988. Mecham made his mark during his short term by uttering amazingly stupid and racist statements—even by Arizona standards. He once said Arizona had golf courses that were so impressive they would make Japanese tourists’ eyes “go round.” Mecham’s mansion, by the way, is up for sale, and I think my sister’s presence in the neighborhood may have something to do with that.

She’s lived in the house for 20 years, and I visit once a year or so. Over the years, I’ve seen the decorating scheme of the home change from typical Phoenix suburban—big swimming pool and appropriate landscaping—to more of an Iowa barnyard motif. My sister’s back yard is now home to about a dozen chickens, three roosters, a duck, a goose, a lamb, an African gray parrot and a tortoise named Mortis. There are four large dogs as well, but they, for the most part, live indoors. Everyone seems to get along fairly well. It’s a big back yard. Still, there are certain rules and routines you have to follow that involve keeping little gates closed and partitions in place to keep certain animals apart, lest we have bloody carnage on the farm.

Now roosters, as anyone who’s spent time on a farm or seen the movie Babe knows, like to crow at the crack of dawn to announce, I suppose, that the new day has arrived. With my sister’s roosters, however, it’s a hit-and-miss proposition. I know this because I am a light sleeper, and I’ve heard them crowing as early as 2 a.m. They seem to go by the philosophy that it is better to crow and miss than to never crow at all. And I think this off-hour crowing may be playing a part in why ex-Gov. Mecham has planted a For Sale sign in his front yard. I think he’s being put off by the smells and sounds of my sister’s little barnyard. At least I like to think so.

I know it’s old news and we should just get on with life, but the Kings’ loss to the Lakers was a bitter pill for me. I’ve followed and supported certain sports teams since I was a little kid growing up in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. My first love was the Browns, and when I was only 8 years old I watched them beat the Baltimore Colts for the NFL championship. This was a few years before the Super Bowl was invented. Since that day in December 1964, no team I’ve followed has ever repeated with a championship. I’ve seen the Browns get no closer than two AFC championship losses (a long drive and a fumble on the goal line) to the Denver Broncos on the late 1980s; I’ve witnessed Michael Jordan deflate the Cavaliers with a last-second shot over Craig Elho around the same time. I saw the once-hapless Indians get into the World Series twice in the 1990s, the second time actually going into the ninth inning of the seventh game with a lead. In both cases, they came away losers. I’m convinced someone, somewhere cast a curse on Cleveland fans, and today pessimism dies hard in that city by the lake.

I’ve lived in San Diego, Phoenix and Denver but never paid allegiance to the respective local sports teams—at least not until I moved to Chico and the Kings came to Sacramento the following year. Since then my attention and affections have drifted from the Cavs to the Kings until in the last three years I’ve become a full-fledged fan, complete with sweaty palms, can’t-sit-down-during-close-games nervousness, illogical yelling at the TV and actually feeling a bit depressed after a loss. But when they got down to the seventh game against the Lakers this year, I knew they were going to win. Alas, they didn’t, and I could only conclude that I’ve carried this awful Cleveland curse with me and now have infected the good fans of the Kings. I’m really sorry.