Commentary: Simple Pleasures

By Louis A. Zona

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – This morning on the way to work I looked up and beyond the trees was the most incredible full moon. Big and beautiful, it literally took my breath away and made me realize once again the truth in the lyrics of the old song, “The Best Things in Life Are Free.”

And when you think about it, the best things so often are little things like a beautiful full moon or reflections on the water.

The simple pleasure that I feel in watching a favorite program on television always ranks among my favorite things to do. Nothing, for example, pleases me more than sitting in front of my television on my most comfortable chair, seeing an old episode of “Gunsmoke” or discovering if Andy Taylor is going to get his sidekick, Barney, out of trouble for the umpteenth time in the little town of Mayberry.

Let’s add to this cozy picture a nice piece of chocolate cake in front of me with a fresh cup of coffee that goes perfectly with either show.

Where my perfect picture falls apart lays in the realization that my cable company, which brings these wonderful old programs into my home, asks a hefty price to do so. So I guess that not all of the best things in life are free.

While we’re thinking of inspirational lyrics or quotes, how about “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Yep. So often reality hits us in the face that it’s hard to check out the no-cost beauty of a full moon.

Probably someday the moon itself will become commercialized, becoming like so many billboards along America’s highways. That certainly would be a long way off. But can’t you see a green cheese manufacturer advertising green cheese products on the moon (as the children’s storybooks claim)? And I want to see that cow with the athletic ability to jump over the moon.

My late brother, Jerry, was truly appreciative of the small things in life that also happened to be free. One of his students asked him why he had tacked a picture of a bird on his office wall.

“I don’t know,” Jerry, replied, “I just like it.” That was my brother, always letting his students know that our senses are gifts that we must treasure.

The beautiful song of a bird rivals and surpasses, of course, anything created by man, including the works of the greatest composers.

The Bible makes reference to the wondrous beauty that abounds within nature. “Consider the lilies … they do not labor nor do they spin. But I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these.”

I am a big admirer of the late comedian, musician and talk show host Steve Allen. It is said that Allen wrote more songs than anyone except Irving Berlin. In fact, when he was young, a department store in Chicago hired him to sit at a piano in the store’s display window and simply crank out songs. Not all of them were momentous. But some have become classics like “This Could Be the Start of Something Great” and the theme from the movie “Picnic.” Steve Allen brought so much joy to the Zona family back in the early days of late-night television with his genius for making laughter happen at every turn.

One of Allen’s most memorable stunts was diving into a gigantic bowl of Jello. It’s too bad that videotape was not in use at that time to be reminded of Steve yelling “Yuck” as his body descended into the Jello!

But how can I possibly discuss those little things that make us happy without the mention of sports? Living in New Castle, it’s interesting to drive down a street on the day that the Browns meet the Steelers and dare to find another car driving by.

Frankly, I take that opportunity to do a little grocery shopping since the stores are virtually empty. But I’m one in a very small minority of sports watchers who enjoys baseball so much more than football.

Heck, I remember when teachers allowed watching or listening to the World Series in school. There was that level of reverence for baseball back then. Of course, that’s all gone and baseball lags behind the NFL, and even hockey in some markets.

But I still love baseball with its beautifully manicured fields and incredibly talented athletes. They still say that the hardest feat in all of sports is hitting a Major League curve ball.

I enjoy the tranquility of the sport and those magical dimensions of the field that make it impossible for the fastest runner to reach first base if an infielder cleanly fields a ground ball and tosses it over to first base.

Whoever laid out the infield for this sport back in the 19th century could not have realized that these dimensions would still be in play a century later with faster and stronger athletes. To me, baseball is what made that picture of a bird in my brother’s office so appealing. Baseball is something that I liked as a kid and still enjoy with the same level of fervor. I don’t know. I just like it!