About Tucker MacClaren

Tucker MacClaren is a professional expat, vocational ne'er-do-well, and avocational Red Sox fan. His wheelhouse oscillates among baseball, drinking, and language, and he exults in their overlap. He's equal part Scottish, Canadian, Litvak, and Iberian, so basically hates the English in every way possible, but indulges their efforts because everyone needs a hobby.

I’m For Jackie

My granda had a only few truly prized possessions. An artist friend once gave him an ornate mug she’d thrown, a narrow wee thing with delicate Biblical images on. He treasured the programme from Inauguration Day, 1961, which President Kennedy signed to thank him for helping during the campaign. He had a baseball signed by just about the entire 1946 Red Sox, and another with only Ted Williams’s signature.

And then he had a dirty lapel pin. A faded button, really, but quite small, like an old campaign pin. In a manner of speaking, it was a campaign button. A friend gave it to him, and he never lost track of it. I regret not knowing where it’s gone; I think my aunt probably has it. It’s this tiny little thing, just a plain white button with painted blue stitches like the seams on a baseball and a slogan, a slogan I grew up hearing and still repeat to this day.

“I’M FOR JACKIE.”

And he was.

And I am.

I’m for Jackie.

I wish I could believe that Douglas Adams had been a baseball fan…

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Happy Valentimes Day!

Valentine’s Day used to perplex me. I understood the sentiment and the greeting-card connections and the chocolate lobby and the rose-peddlers’ union, and all of that. I got that; I really did. I even almost kenned the dongle goblins. But I didn’t grok the sensual appeal of R. Kelly. Yet.

When I was young, I often heard mid-February grumblings of “Valentines are for the birds.”  For us, “bird” was (and remains) slang for “woman.” So as a child, I considered that quip a semi-clever pun using a cliché to express Valentine’s Day’s predominant appeal to women. When I was seven, that made sense.  Hearts and roses and wistfulness, it all seemed rather feminine. Then again, I didn’t have many masculine influences in my life (mainly raised by sisters and female relatives and babysitters and my mother and a father who worked to much to spend more than about half an hour a work-day with his family), so at seven I didn’t really know the difference between “feminine” and “masculine.”

So I did what any burgeoning geek would do: I went to the library to research Valentine’s Day. Obviously, my mind drifted towards Valentine Wiggin, Ender‘s sister. A character in Ender’s Game mentions that the Wiggin children were named after saints because their father was a not-quite-lapsed Catholic. Peter, Valentine, Andrew; that made sense. So I wondered who she was, this sainted Valentine.

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The Strife is O’er, the Trucks Have Come

Like Annie Savoy before me, I believe in the Church of Baseball. It’s a nigh-Qabalistic game of holy threes and earthy fours, of departing and returning home, of the graceful difficulty of life’s struggle and the frank acceptance of human imperfection. Baseball is the sport that best replicates human experience, from squalid emergence to the unknowable beyond. I love hockey, but I worship at baseball’s altar. I’ve explored dozens of religions, and the only one that truly, constantly, eternally nourishes my soul is baseball.

Remember the Chronicles of Narnia?  The evil White Witch overtakes the fabled Narnia, unseating its rightful Lord Aslan (a bludgeoning Jesus metaphor). Her regime affects Narnia in many ways, none more cruel or salient than the perpetual winter’s pall cast over the land, a winter with no Christmas. When our heroes (SPOILERS) defeat her, heralding Aslan’s impending Paschal return through death and resurrection, our first sign of victory is the return of Father Christmas, signalling the midpoint— and therefore the foreseeable end— of winter. More challenges remain, of course, but springtime approaches. Continue reading

How to Lose Friends and Alienate Diners

Not always, but every once in a while, I miss my home. I’ve lived in a fair few places, and each has served as a temporary residence, but my dear Scotland is where my heart soars. That’s my home. The accent I’ve never fully relinquished, the pride in our accomplishments, my surreal tolerance of Mike Myers… To my mind, being an expat is a wee bit like exile, with Alba in some ways so close and in others so very far away.

In preparation for the coming holiday weekend, I’ve begun laying in supplies. I’ve visited several shops to place orders that would normally make the shopkeeps’ eyes roll back in exasperated disgust, but given the impending holiday, they’ve been rather kind about my unusual requests.  Because I’m evidently not from ’round here, the suppliers have been especially patient and kind, and I have appreciated their ability not to tell me just to piss off.

I’m obviously not talking about the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl, with its bizarre culture of chips, dips, and fried foods and loathsome absence of Patriots.

I mean Burns Night, the most erudite holiday of the year.

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You Can’t Misspell National Day of Service without the NHL

(Editor’s Note: This piece was originally written on Saturday, January 19th, both the National Day of Service and NHL’s much-delayed opening day)

Priests often read off the litany of important church dates during the Epiphany service.“If Easter is [when], then Ash Wednesday is [then],” and so on. My priestly family always include sport in the list: “If Opening Day is March 31st, then pitchers and catchers report on February 10th.” This year, some added a line like “If the NHL lockout truly ends on January 6th, the shortened season begins January 19th.”

This weekend was big. Important. Significant in all the right ways.

National Day of Service?  Piffle.

Inauguration Day? Pshaw.

The good Dr. King’s birthday? Okay, that’s quite lovely, all respect there.

But each of those pales in comparison to what’s truly important: NHL hockey is back.

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