Friday, April 28, 2006

Dinosaurs, Living Room Basketball, And The Pre-History Of Television

I'm afraid this might end up being one of the strangest bits of writing you'll ever see here. When you take into consideration some of the things I've written, that’s a mighty tall order to fill, isn’t it? Well, you know me; I’ll do my best to deliver. Here goes.

Today, I’m going to tell you about my love of test patterns.

I hear everybody under the age of 30 saying, “Huh? What the heck is a test pattern?”

I hear everybody over the age of 80 saying, “Are you daft, boy? What can you possibly have to say about test patterns that might be even vaguely interesting?”

I hear everybody between the ages of 31 and 79 saying, “How do you know how old I am?”

Nevertheless, less get on with it. The quicker we get this over with the less it will hurt.

To begin, you’ve got to understand something about people my age, AKA old farts with nothing better to do than reminisce about ephemera that nobody in their right mind cared about even when it was current. We grew up in an age when there was no TV programming between 1am and 5am.

(A collective gasp from the 30-and-under crowd.)

Wait! It gets even better. Even when there was programming, there were only four channels to choose from. And one of those was public broadcasting.

(I think we’ll have to wait for them to get up off the floor. They’ve fainted.)

Yes, I grew up in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I could hardly walk to school, the streets were so thick with Allosauruses. If you wandered away from your friends during recess, you stood a good chance of being dive-bombed by a Pterodactyl and taken back to its nest as a snack for its young. As a matter of fact, that’s why I’m bald now. One of them had me in its claws, but I managed to escape. However, in the process it ripped off my scalp. But in those days, we didn’t pay no nevermind to such baby stuff as that. I just scooped up a pile of dodo feathers and shoved ‘em on top of my head and tweren’t hardly nobody what knew the difference.

(That’s the way we talked in those days. We were ignorant and bloody-headed and we ate rocks for lunch because we were too poor to afford dirt, but my! Didn’t we have a gay old time! And gay old times were illegal back then, too, even in Massachusetts.)

Be that as it may - and it usually is - there were only four channels to choose from in Boston when I was a kid. You had channels 2, 4, 5, and 7. And that was it. And all of them went off the air overnight, so if you turned on the television at, say, 3am? All you were doing was wasting the electricity. And the electricity was produced by 20 hamsters running in wheels in the basement. None of that uppity power company electricity for us! No, sir! And the tyrannosauruses and diplodocuses and wooly saber-toothed porcupines stood outside just salivatin’ to beat the band because these was gigantic prehistorical hamsters the size of giant prehistorical Buicks and they was good eatin’, let me tell you! 23 skidoo and up the cat’s pajamas with your bee’s knees! Nothin’ quite like a twice-baked giant hamster gizzard. Sticks to your bones on a cold winter morning. And to your shoes, too, if you don’t watch where you’re walkin’.

The thing was - and probably still is if you look real close - a kid like me, with a bedtime of about 8pm, would be up at 4:30 in the morning. Since there were no television programs on at that time, I would do something nice and quiet like play basketball in the living room.

(Here we have glimpsed an actual example of truth in this… thing I’m writing. I would actually get up at 4:30 and bounce a damn basketball on the carpet and pretend I was John Havlicek. I would drive for a game-winning lay-up, with the space of the wall between the top of the hall closet and the ceiling as my basket. I’m surprised I lived past the age of eight. If it was my kid, I would have fed him to the Triceratops that the paperboy rode on to deliver the Globe each morning.)

(*sound of crickets chirping*)


FOUR channels, people! NOTHING ON! Well, nothing except…

Test patterns.

On those mornings when I wasn’t bouncing a basketball off the walls, I would fix myself a bowl of cornflakes and plop myself down on the carpet, turn on the TV, and stare at the test pattern until an actual program came on. If you’re about my age, chances are you did the same thing at least once or twice, although if you’re more intelligent than me you aren’t going to admit it in public.

For those of you underage slackers who have nothing better to do at work than read the sort of crap I’m foisting upon you today, I have included a helpful visual aid at the top of the page. THAT was a test pattern. It did nothing. It didn’t change one bit for the entire time it was on the screen. And I sat there and stared at it, trying to figure out just what in hell it was for, for fifteen minutes at a time. I mean, I knew it was for testing of some sort, since it was a test pattern, but what sort of tests did they have to run on a picture of an old Indian chief? And what did all of those lines and numbers mean? To this day, I still have no idea.

However, it was the only thing on TV, so I watched it. And watched it. And watched it some more. Finally, when even an extremely easily amused five-year-old like myself was getting bored, the screen would change to a graphic displaying the station call letters and a deep baritone would tell you that you were watching WNAC-TV in Boston, broadcasting at 83.7 jigahertz and licensed by the Federal Authority Of Bureaucrats Who Couldn’t Find Any Other Public Teat To Suck On and a whole bunch of other junk no kid could understand, but at least it wasn’t the test pattern and there was actually sound. Then they’d play the national anthem.

Yup. Every day, just like at the start of a ballgame; the national anthem. Then there would be the reading of a morning prayer (which was accompanied on channel 4 by, for some unknown reason, scenes of a T bus driving down a hill in what looked like it might be Charlestown.) After the prayer, you got a farm and market report, because who the hell else would be up at that hour watching the TV besides farmers? Finally, there were a handful of public service announcements before the first exciting show of the day, which was likely as not Sunrise Semester.

Sunrise Semester was a show you could actually earn college credits by watching. I’m not kidding; you really could. And I’d sit there, eating my by-now soggy cornflakes, listening to some dry-as-dust bow-tie-wearing professor drone on about ancient Egyptian hydraulics during the reign of King Hottotrot. It was either that or switch to the test pattern on one of the other stations that hadn’t begun its broadcast day. Or I could stick my head out the door to see if the paper had arrived. Of course, if I did that, I might get it bitten off by a passing Stegosaurus.

(OK, I’ve run the dinosaur bit into the ground and stomped it dead with both feet. Sorry.)

Somewhere in the 1970’s, Channel 5 was the first station in Boston to deliver programming all night long. The show was called 5 All Night. It was considered a daring experiment by some and outright lunacy by others. Who in hell was going to watch TV at that time of night?

I can tell you who Channel 5 thought would watch TV at that time of night: stoned-out freaks and kids on acid trips. Half the programming was a “light show” comprised of sitar music accompanied by wavy shape-shifting bars of color. And they knew their audience. My friends and I spent many a night sitting in front of the TV saying, “Far out, man!” like some Cheech & Chong wannabes.

(By the way, the host of 5 All Night was Matt Siegel, now of Matty In The Morning on KISS-108. He’s even older than me. And I had my hair ripped off by a Pterodactyl, remember?)

Anywho, once the other stations saw that Channel 5 actually found an audience for overnight programming, they followed suit and that was the end of test patterns. It was also the end of morning prayers, as well as farm and market reports, though they probably still played the national anthem for the first month or so following 9/11.

Now, if you have any brains whatsoever, you should know better than to show up here again on Monday, but I’ll be here with a whole new bunch of nothing if you do and God bless you.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


(The artwork is from this website:
which is well worth a visit and much more meaningful than anything I have to say.)

I don't kill bugs. I don't step on ants, swat flies, crush beetles, burn spiders, or spray wasps. At least, I try not to. Some people think this is strange.

If you kill a bug or two, here or there, I'm not going to call out some sort of PETA-style group of insect lovers to come to your home and hold a protest. I am not a Jain. I can understand where killing bugs is sometimes useful or even necessary. I have killed quite a few of them in my day. I'm not proud of it, though.

The thing is that I never kill a bug just because the bug is there. If a bug is doing something to harm me, I will act appropriately. A mosquito, for instance, may be drilling into my arm. I feel no compunction about killing that mosquito. She started it. Some folks, however, go out of their way to squash anything they see moving. An ant is walking around somewhere, not doing anyone any harm, just thinking whatever an ant thinks ("I'm an ant. There's a leaf. I'm gonna pick up that leaf and drag it home. It'll make a nice end table.") and one of these folks will actually take two or three steps to the left in order to end that ant's life.

A person just snuffs another living creature for no reason? That, my friends, is not a nice person. As soon as I see someone do something like that, I know that person is not to be completely trusted. Where does that person draw the line? At what point will he or she decide that a life is important enough to not be arbitrarily ended at his or her whim? I'm not sticking around to find out.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, "Hey, Jim, lighten up. It's just an ant." Maybe so. Maybe some creatures are less significant than others in the larger scheme of things. I'm certainly not entirely innocent of killing things for my own pleasure. I'm not a vegetarian. Maybe there is, in the long run, nothing morally wrong with stomping an anthill. I eat cows and chickens and pigs and fish, among other things. However, I don't see a chicken and automatically think about bringing a boot down on it's head. So, I'm willing to cut you some slack if you eat the bugs you kill, OK?

Where do you draw the line? Where is your line of demarcation between insignificant enough to squish and significant enough to show some respect as a living thing?

I think most people - at least, those willing to entertain such thoughts and not limited in their mental capabilities - sooner or later realize that the small size of the creature is their main rationale for killing it. A bug finds it's way into your home and is crawling across your living room floor, so *STOMP* and no more bug. What if a sparrow finds it's way into your living room? You gonna step on it? Or are you going to try to somehow get it back outside? How about a frog? Pretty messy to stomp on a frog. How about a stray cat? Got a catswatter handy? You draw the line somewhere. Where is it?

I make every effort to remove an unwanted living thing from my home and place it outside. If it's not harming me - or someone I love - I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture it and relocate it. At those moments, I like to think of myself as an extremely small game hunter. Some of them aren't easy. Centipedes (ugh) move pretty damned fast. Flies have to be snuck up on very slowly, almost as though you were a cat pouncing on a mouse. Beetles, on the other hand, offer little challenge at all. I would say that they lay there like slugs, but thankfully I've never had to remove any slugs from my living room and I hope to hell you haven't had to, either.

(I bet you don't step on slugs; way too squishy. Ooog.)

Speaking of slugs reminds me of a particularly nasty sort of person. I'm talking about the folks who not only think nothing of killing small creatures, but who delight in finding "entertaining" ways to destroy them; the sort of person who pours salt on a slug. This is the same type who enjoys pulling wings off of flies or plucking the legs off of a daddy-long-legs spider. While I would rather not see bugs killed for no reason, as I said earlier I won't shun you for it - if you have a reasonable excuse. However, I believe these people have a special spot reserved for them in Hell. There is no moral defense for making a creature suffer needlessly.

(I also suspect there is a special place in heaven for those who go out of their way to do something nice for creatures that are seemingly unlovable or gross or downright scary. I sure hope so. I've done an awful lot of things in my life that mark up heavily on the bad side of the karma scoreboard. I can use the help.)

There's not a heck of a lot else to say here, I suppose. Either you agree with me or not. I'll finish up by telling you about a gift my Mom bought me a couple of birthdays back.

My Mom knows how I feel about bugs, of course. I think she basically agrees, although she also may not be averse to destroying, say, a cockroach here or there. However, respecting my feelings about this, she bought me a very cool tool called a Bug Buddy. It is one of the most marvelous gifts I've ever received and one of the most useful.

The great thing about this tool is that you can catch the bugs easily, without harming them, and then release them at your leisure. I used to catch bugs in all sorts of improvised contraptions and the problem was that they usually took both hands to hold the bug in (an index card over the top of a glass, for instance) so I had to not only release the bug ASAP, so as to regain the use of my hands, but I also had to find some way to keep the bug in captivity using only one hand while I maneuvered the door open, and then the screen door, and so on. With the Bug Buddy, it's a one-handed operation to catch the bug and if I want to study it for a while (which I don't normally want to do, but I'm just saying) I can. When I go to bring the creepy-crawly outside, I can open the door with no worries about doing a buggy balancing act. Just a marvelous thing to have around if you are in the habit of relocating insects (or you've been so moved by my prose that you're going to start today.)

"He wouldn't even harm a fly." I could think of worse things to have as my epithet.

Monday, April 24, 2006


My work, as most of you know by now, involves doing voices for advertisements and telephone applications. If that were all that was involved, I'd be a very happy man indeed. I'm a big ham at heart. Give me a script to read and then let me imagine that thousands of people will hear me? I'm in heaven.

However, that isn't all that I do. My actual workday usually includes much more of the stuff I don't like to do than the stuff I enjoy. I suspect that's how it is for most of you, and some of you most certainly have jobs that are one hell of a lot more gnarly than mine, so my bitching about how some of what I do sucks probably isn't going to endear me to you. Oh, well. I'm going to bitch about it anyway.

My actual job title at my main source of income is "Music Director". So, aside from doing voice work - and handling production chores on the recording sessions for other talents - I am in charge of choosing which music will be included in our production library, and thus available for use as background in our productions.

Unfortunately, this does NOT mean that I buy everything ever recorded by my favorite recording artists and then sit back grooving on righteous tunes all day. All of our production music has been recorded expressly for use as production music. The licensing fees involved in acquiring the rights to music you might actually know, for use in our relatively small-scale productions, would be enormous; most definitely not cost-effective for our clients or for us.

Another factor is that, since most of our work is for on-hold telephone applications, the music has to be instrumental. The majority of what I do ends up being heard while someone is on-hold, waiting for an actual live person to pick up the phone. While they wait, they hear a mix of our music and, intermittently, one of our voice talents extolling the virtues (and/or pitching the latest products/bargains) of the company they are calling. It can't include vocals because those vocals would be a confusion to the caller listening to our work. Listening to one person singing while another is talking isn't conducive to... well, anything, except a headache.

Now, if you go to the website linked above, and click on "select music", you can hear samples of the various types of music we have available. Some of it is decent enough for me to listen to outside of the job. To be honest, though, not much of it. Most of our clients prefer music that is non-threatening, non-jarring, easy-listening, and other hyphenated terms not usually associated with the types of music that I like to generally listen to when not working. However, if you look around there a bit, you'll find that we have a fairly large selection of styles to choose from and, within those styles, quite a few samples.

I mention all this as background to the bitching which follows.


Another part of my job is to recommend music to clients. For example, if they have a mortuary, and they ask my opinion concerning what music of ours to use in their production, I might suggest some medium-tempo classical piece, nothing too somber but definitely not upbeat, either. Or perhaps some sort of light new age stuff. I would NOT recommend that they use a Doobie Brothers sound-alike or anything in the style of Fats Waller.

Usually, I try to get them to go to the website and pick out exactly what they'd like from the many choices available. In that way, there will never be a production coming back to me with a request for different background music, which is what occasionally happens when they ask me to choose the music. I can usually gauge what's appropriate, but I can't always be sure of someone's tastes in music, so sometimes they'll request a change. Just because I think a Van Halen knockoff isn't right for a nursing home commercial doesn't mean that some dope in PR won't think that "Hot For Teacher" would be perfect.

We guarantee satisfaction with the finished product, so if they didn't choose the music to begin with, we will change it, no charge. So, obviously, if they choose the music, it's best for all concerned. Especially me.

Now, here's an e-mail I received Friday from a client:

"I am particularly interested in religious or faith-based music. Do you have a catalog of music that you could send me?"

So far, so good. He has stated his preference and then asked a simple question.

My reply:

"We don't have a great deal of religious music in our on-hand catalog. There are a number of Christmas Carols, of course, but not so much of the non-seasonal variety. I can do a search to come up with something, but it would be helpful to know exactly what you'd like. For instance, I can specifically try to locate Gregorian Chants or even Buddhist Temple Music. So, what sort of religious music are you looking for? If you could give me some instrumentation desired, that would also be helpful. Thanks!"

His reply:

"Generic Christian and Judaism (separate, of course) and I would also be interested in holiday music."

Ooooookay. That tells me not much of anything. We've eliminated the Buddhist Temple Music, I suppose, but that's about it.

My reply:

"For the holiday music, your best bet would be to go to our website and give a listen."

(Understand, this is a client who has been with us for many years now. He knows about the website. He's been to the website. He knows that he can find most of what he wants at the website. He's just too damned lazy to actually go to the website.)

I continued:

"As far as the other selections go, are you interested in classical, i.e., aves, requiems, etc., by Mozart, Bach, Handel? I have a few of those. Otherwise, I come up with some fairly generic organ pieces and a few chants for the Christian side of things.

As far as Judaica goes, I find a fair selection of horas, Eastern European violin pieces, a few klezmer-inspired wedding songs...

Anything strike your fancy? Something to narrow the search parameters for me?"

His reply:

"Whatever sounds good."


(That's the sound of me taking a bite out of the corner of my desk, chewing it up, and spitting it out.)

They all sound good, you dope. I wouldn't have them in my library if I didn't think they sounded good. If I send this guy an upbeat klezmer piece, and it turns out he wants something less joyful, then he's going to come back and ask for a reworking of his production, which will mean another hour or two of work for me which could easily have been avoided if he'd just been specific in the first place. And what if I give him a generic "Amazing Grace" type piece, for the Christian side of things, and he actually wants something more folky? Or perhaps Gospel would be more to his liking? And does he want piano, trumpets, guitar, clarinet, organ, tuba, sitar, accordion, vibraphone, kazoo?

What I feel like writing back to him is the following:


However, I can't write to a client and tell him that. So, I told you that. And I thank you for letting me get it off of my chest. One more day of sanity, thanks to you. I'll return the favor some day.

But only if you're extremely specific about what you want.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Two Retrospectives

Harry Browne passed away.

It happened in March. He succumbed to complications arising from Lou Gehrig's disease. Harry was the Libertarian candidate for president in 1996 and 2000. Damned fine man and it was my honor to have had the opportunity to introduce him at the Massachusetts state convention during one of his runs.

At that time, I said something - for a small laugh - which was actually quite truthful. During my introduction, I rattled off a number of good things that Harry would do if elected, and then I said, “But forget about that. For goodness’ sakes, all you have to do is just look at him. Harry Browne looks more like a president than anyone else on the ballot.”

It was true. He looked like a statesman and, by the dictionary definition, he most definitely was. He always carried himself with a gentle dignity that commanded respect and he was always a true gentleman.

President? Statesman? Considering the bozos who were actually elected, in retrospect he looks like a god.

Rest in peace, Harry. You didn’t lose; the country did.


I’ve been listening to School’s Out by The Alice Cooper Group in my car recently. That album becomes more and more impressive as time goes by. The title cut was always fun - and will perennially get airplay when June rolls around each year, guaranteeing royalties – but the rest of the album is chock full of rock ‘n roll goodness and stands up to the passing years better than many recordings from the same time period.

For one thing, the arrangements are about as intricate as glam metal ever got. Producer Bob Ezrin had a lot to do with that. He gets a songwriting credit on half the tunes and he plays piano or synthesizer on most of them. If you strip away those keyboards, and/or the string and horn sections he charted, it would be a somewhat sparse landscape. However, this guy knew what he was doing. He took the somewhat limited musical talents of these guys and made them sound damned good. The trick was writing the charts around what the guys had done, rather than writing the guys into the charts.

(If a member of the group wrote the charts, my apologies for being condescending. I’m basing my assumption that it’s Ezrin on the fact that none of the records before Ezrin or after Ezrin sound anything like this. Seems logical to assume it was Ezrin.)

Not to belittle the group completely, of course. Alice Cooper was a clever lyricist and his nasally gravelly screeches fit the subject matter well. Dennis Dunaway was a very underrated bass player; still one of my favorites, as a matter of fact. Listen to his playing on Gutter Cats Vs. The Jets. Rock bass doesn't get any better than that. But Ezrin’s arrangements on this record are amazingly good and that’s the main strength.


So, what can I say to tie these two seemingly disparate bits of writing together? Let's try this.

From the vantage point of 2006, some 30+ years after the fact, doesn’t all the fuss about Alice Cooper in the 1970’s seem tremendously silly? I mean, some people actually believed that this guy worshipped Satan and that he skewered babies on stage. The group's appearance on the ABC television show In Concert was censored, or not even allowed to air, in a number of major American cities for fear of... well, your guess is as good as mine.

From the vantage point of 2036, some 30+ years after the fact, I suspect that most of what Harry Browne espoused will be commonplace and not seen as the least bit radical.

Either that or we're in for one hideous future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Day At The Marathon

MY WIFE and I talked about it Sunday night. Since she was still on vacation, and I had the day off, we would probably go to watch the Boston Marathon on Monday.

We had done so before and had a lot of fun. That was maybe 10 years ago. We had taken the T to Coolidge Corner in Brookline, about two miles or so from the finish line, and stood on Beacon Street cheering the runners as they passed.

We gave hearty applause to the leaders, of course, but the best part was cheering for the guys who had no chance whatsoever of winning, but who ran just to be able to say they completed Boston. We took along the sports section from the Herald and looked up the numbers of all the runners named Sullivan, of which there were about 8 or 9. Whenever we spotted one, we’d yell, "Go, Sully! Just two more miles! You can do it, Sully!"

One runner from New York, named Sullivan, came into view. We started yelling, "Go, Sully! You’re almost home, Sully!" and when he got maybe three or four steps past us, he turned around and came back. His nipples were bleeding.

Struggling for breath, he said, “How do you (*gasp*) know my name?”

I said, “It’s in the paper, for goodness' sakes! Get back in the race!”

He turned around and started running again. I like to believe it gave him that extra bit of strength to finish, anonymous people knowing who he was and rooting him on. Or maybe he enjoyed being an anonymous runner and the fact that some strangers knew who he was spooked him so much that he dropped out at Kenmore Square and took the T back to his hotel, wondering for the rest of his life just which Boston newspaper had done a story on him and why. He could have had any number of strange thoughts. I admire their dedication, but people who run marathons are an odd lot, so who knows what he thought?


Since we were going to the marathon, I decided to get a really good night’s sleep. I didn’t want to be standing around for three or four hours without the proper rest. So, whereas I usually get up around 7 am on a Monday, I slept until 8:30.

You need the proper nutrition on race day. So, when I got up, I fixed myself a proper breakfast. There was leftover ham from Easter dinner, so I fried up two slices of it. Ham for breakfast isn’t any good without eggs, so I scrambled two. And what good are scrambled eggs if you don’t have toast? I popped two slices into the toaster. Of course, you want to make sure you have something healthy to drink, so I had a big glass of apple juice. And some coffee, of course; you’ve got to stay awake. I wanted to be healthy about things, though, so I only put half a teaspoon of sugar in it, along with my cream.

After breakfast, I joined MY WIFE in the living room. We had some time before we would have to leave, so we watched a bit of TV. There’s this excellent cartoon on Disney, called Charlie & Lola, and since its usual audience is 4 or 5 year-olds, we don’t often get a chance to see it at its usual time. We tape it, then watch a whole bunch of episodes at once.

(Really. It’s an excellent cartoon. The episode that was on yesterday was But I AM An Alligator! We had seen it at least three times before, but we watched it again.)

After the show was over, I decided to shave and take a shower. Even though I hate shaving, one should look his best when one will be a representative of one’s home state cheering on visitors from Kenya and Korea and the like who will be whipping the butts of the American runners as usual.

After scraping the hair off of my face and violently jamming Q-tips into my ears in an effort to get out the water that always finds its way into my skull when showering, I got back into my pajamas and lay on the couch. It was still a good hour or so before we had to leave to watch the race, so why not be comfortable?

I asked MY WIFE, "So, WIFE, do you still want to go to the race?"

She said, "I was just about to ask you if you still wanted to go. Do you?"

I said, "Well, I could just watch the Red Sox game and then we could watch the marathon on TV. Do you really want to go, or would you rather just hang around?"

She said, "I’d probably rather do nothing."

That was the answer I was looking for, so I was fine with that. She decided to take a nap. She had been up since before I was; perhaps 7:00 or so. While she went off to the bedroom to lie down, I put on the Sox game.

For those of you unfamiliar with what happens on Patriot’s Day in Boston – which is a legal holiday around here, by the way – aside from the marathon, the Red Sox always have a game at 11am. That’s right; eleven o’clock in the morning. They were playing Seattle. This means that, for the folks back in Seattle who might wish to see the game, it was beginning at 8am. Certainly the television folks in Seattle would have no trouble selling the usual beer and automobile ads for a telecast at that time of day…

Here in Boston, the game finishes at approximately the time the lead runners in the marathon are passing through Kenmore Square, so you get the marathon crowd, the runners, and the 37,000 or so who just saw the Red Sox game, all converging on Kenmore Square at the same time. Therefore, I congratulated myself on the wisdom of not being in the middle of that mob by enjoying a bowl of Golden Crisp cereal as I sat on the couch.

I watched the first three innings and then decided that MY WIFE had had a lovely idea, so I decided to take a nap, also. I put the game on the radio (which is actually my favorite way to enjoy a baseball broadcast, not TV) and lay down.


When I woke up, it was almost two o’clock and the Red Sox were down to their final out in the 9th inning, trailing by a run. I groggily went out to the living room and switched on the television in time to see Kevin Youkilis beat out an infield single and then Mark Loretta (Mark Loretta!) hit a walk-off home run over the wall. I celebrated with a piece of chocolate.

I switched the TV over to the marathon coverage on channel 4, just in time to see a Kenyan cross the finish line. It turned out he had broken the course record by one second! Yay! I had another piece of chocolate.

MY WIFE joined me in watching the trailers cross the finish line. She had started baking some white-chocolate-macadamia-nut cookies while I was finishing up my nap and the first of them were just about ready to come out of the oven.

The TV cameras were showing some folks further back on the course, not even through Natick yet. They said that some folks wouldn’t be finishing the race until 5:30 or 6:00. MY WIFE handed me a cookie and she had one herself.

"5:30!" I said, as I took a bite of my cookie.

"That’s awfully slow", she said.

She took another bite of her cookie and I took another bite of mine.

"Hell, I could walk the route in less time than that!" I said, as I wiped some crumbs from the front of my pajamas.

I finished my cookie and went in the other room to have a cigarette.

After I finished my smoke, I returned to the couch and looked at the program guide. Davey And Goliath was coming on in a couple of minutes, and after that Leave It To Beaver. We watched a few more runners drag themselves across the finish line. By this time, they were showing guys wearing viking horns and running the race backwards and wearing chicken suits, and telling us their stories. I changed the channel.

I mean, geez, who wants to hear about people so childish and unconnected to reality as that?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Shish-Kebob Incident, Part Two

Despite the title, this is actually the third part of a series. You can read the first part here. Or you can read the second part here. Or you can remain blissfully ignorant, which is an option I often choose. Or you might be a regular reader of Suldog-O-Rama, in which case you already know what's going on and you just want me to get on with it. Well, alrighty then.

I prepared for my date with MFW by showering, shaving, dressing up in my best suit and tie, and using enough mouthwash to drown a small cat. I knew she didn't smoke and, since I did, I wanted to give myself at least half a chance of not grossing her out if and when we had a smooch. I then drove on over to her place on Beacon Hill.

When I say that she lived on Beacon Hill, many of you no doubt picture some lah-de-dah mansion populated by Boston Brahmins, noses in the air, speaking in condescending tones to the servants. Not quite. There are two sides to Beacon Hill. The Boston Common side, and then on up to the top, is the ritzy part. MFW lived on the other side in a one-room fourth-floor walk-up, and it's not easy to get that many hyphens into a place that small. Not that it wasn't nice being there with her; it was. I have many fond memories of that place. However, it wasn't opulent and she wasn't rich.

(The same type of misunderstanding occurs when she tells people that she grew up in Duxbury. If you're from Massachusetts, when you think Duxbury you think "rich". Not always so. Her folks were hard workers, and they didn't live in a dump, but they weren't even in the same area code as "rich". However, it is kind of hard to say "Beacon Hill" and "Duxbury" in reference to one person's living quarters and not think about big bucks, I'll grant that.)

Anyway, I drive up her street and there she is waiting for me in front of her building. She's dressed nicely, still smiling and still has a heckuva rack. She gets into the car (if I was a real gentleman, I would have parked the car and walked around to open the door for her, but there's no place to park on Beacon Hill, you know) and we drive off towards...

Well, the thing is, we had only the vaguest of plans. Movie, dinner, whatever.

After a bit of discussion, I asked her if she liked Italian food since I knew a decent place over in Roslindale called the Pleasant Cafe that had really good pizza and spaghetti. She said, sure, she liked Italian OK, so off we went.

(The Pleasant Cafe, by the way, has the best pizza in Boston. They also serve a fine spaghetti with meat sauce. As to whatever else they have on the menu, I can't give an opinion. As MY WIFE will tell you, once I've gone someplace and gotten something good to eat, I very rarely deviate from that menu choice at that particular restaurant. I've been going to the Pleasant for some 40 years now and I have never had anything other than their pizza and their spaghetti. The rest of their food might be putrid. However, I've heard no complaints from anyone I've taken there.)

(Another thing about the Pleasant. They seem to have an inexhaustible supply of a certain type of waitress. I don't think I've had the same waitress more than three or four times in the forty years I've been going there, but they're all cut from the same cloth, so it's hard to tell. Very homey; always calls you "dear" or "hon"; and looks as though she'd enjoy a glass of beer and a Pall Mall.)

(One more thing: The photo above is the cover of a CD by a group called Is This Bob. I've never heard of them before, but if they have a picture of the Pleasant Cafe on their CD cover, they must be alright. I'm going to buy that CD next time I see it for sale. Just for the cover. If the music is any good, that'll be a plus. As a matter of fact, I could buy it here, and so could you!)

Now, I have one idiosyncrasy.

(SHUT UP! I know I've got more than one. It's just a good figure of speech to start a paragraph, OK?)

I only know how to get to a place by feel. Streets? Directions? Maps? Those are for girly men! If I've been there once, I can find my way again. However, if I begin from a different starting point? I'm utterly lost. When we set out for the Pleasant, it was from downtown Boston. The only way I knew how to get there was from Dorchester. So, I drove us back to Dorchester and then over to Roslindale. If you're unfamiliar with Boston, I'll tell you that I made what should have been about a fifteen minute drive into one that took about forty minutes. MFW was bemused by the whole thing - another point in her favor.

We finally got to the restaurant and went inside. One of the waitresses seated us in a booth and gave us menus. Giving me a menu at the Pleasant, as I've already mentioned, is a waste of time. However, so I wouldn't look like some weirdsmobile, I pretended to look it over before deciding on the spaghetti with meat sauce and a pizza. The waitress came to take our orders. MFW ordered shish-kebob.

WTF? Shish-kebob? I ask her if she likes Italian food; she says yes, and we go to someplace I know has decent Italian food; and she orders... shish-kebob. Ooooookay.

We sip our drinks and get to know each other better while waiting for the food. I tell her that I knew about this place because my grandfather lived in the Beech Street projects just up the block and I'd come here with my parents ever since I was a little kid. She tells me that she actually grew up in some projects in Roslindale off of Hyde Park Avenue - her family moved to Duxbury when she was about 12 - so it turns out she probably knew a much better route to take here but she was too polite to say anything. I tell her that my grandparents and a couple of aunts and uncles used to live on Hyde Park Avenue just a block or so from those projects. She tells me that she used to take the Mattapan trolley to visit an aunt in Milton, just a couple of blocks from where I grew up. Then we find out that her father and my father both grew up in Forest Hills, not too far from each other. And they were both born on September 30th of 1931.

As we keep talking, we realize that our paths must have crossed many times in our lives; on playgrounds, in neighborhood stores, on public transportation, and many other places. She had independently become friends with my mother years before I knew her. You add all of this up and it seems like we were meant to run into each other at some point, but not until we were both ready to like the other one. For instance, if we had met at my mother's wedding eight years ago, which we had both attended, we never would have gotten along. She wasn't what I was looking for (I was looking for drunken sluts) and I wasn't what she was looking for (I was a drunken slut.) The same applied to the (possibly) hundreds of times our paths had crossed throughout the years; we would have dismissed each other out of hand. But here we were now, enjoying the hell out of each other. Kismet!

The food arrived. The pizza and spaghetti were as they always are - yummy. Her shish-kebob came on a skewer resting on a bed of rice pilaf. I dug into the pizza and spaghetti while she struggled to remove the shish-kebob from its skewer. I saw a chance to score points as a gentleman.

I said, "Here, let me help you with that."

I took the skewer in one hand and a fork in the other, with the point of the skewer resting on her plate in the middle of the rice. I placed the fork at the top of the skewer against the meat and vegetables. I pushed down on the fork, to slide the shish-kebob off. It didn't want to budge. I pushed a little harder. Still no go. I leaned into it and pushed really hard.

(What is the sound of shish-kebob flying off of a skewer at the speed of light, thus propelling upward and onto your date's dress a spray of warm, wet rice? If I knew, that's the sound effect I'd put here, because that's exactly what happened.)

I was what you might call a tiny bit embarrassed.

(OK, I was mortified.)

"Oh my God! I'm so sorry! Shit! Shit!"

And then, with a smile, she said, "Well, I've always wanted to have rice thrown at me, but I expected the circumstances to be different."

It was at this point that I knew I had struck gold. There was no way in hell I was ever going to let this woman get away. It was all I could do to keep from proposing on the spot.


And that's how I met, and fell in love with, MY WIFE.

We still go to the Pleasant Cafe every so often, even though we now live in Watertown and I had to learn how to get there a whole new way. As a matter of fact, we were there this past Sunday along with my sister-in-law Luann, brother-in-law Charlie, and my Godson, Joseph. I had the pizza and spaghetti. MY WIFE did NOT have the shish-kebob. She never has had the shish-kebob since that first date. I can't imagine why not.

The Shish-Kebob Incident

If you were with me yesterday, you heard all about how I met MY WIFE, who was then MY (future) WIFE, or MFW for short. If you weren't with me yesterday, you can travel back in time by going here. Go ahead. You can catch up with me down at the second paragraph.

OK. So, I dropped MFW off at her place on Beacon Hill and I drove back to Dorchester. On the ride back, I was pretty excited. I liked her a lot. I was pretty sure she liked me, too. She hadn't said as much - we hadn'’t even had a kiss or anything - but we definitely laughed a lot and I was pretty sure we'd’ enjoy a date outside of the confines of the Adams Heights Mens Club where we had enjoyed not dancing together.


The next day was Sunday and I had planned a day out with my friend Rich Dahlquist. He was a great guy, and would give you the shirt off his back, but he was also the most viciously sarcastic man I have ever known. If you could take what he dished out, he was one funny bastard. Some folks didn't see the humor. He was kind of like House, but without the medical degree. If you act like that, but you don't save lives? A lot of folks won't dig you.

We were both ex-addicts, if that's a correct term. His problem had mostly been drinking, while mine had mostly been everything else. We enjoyed each other's company - high or sober - so after we both cleaned up, we spent time together doing things other than ingesting deadly substances. We were going to drive out to Springfield and visit the Basketball Hall Of Fame. And so we did. It was an enjoyable time - great place to see, by the way - and after grabbing a bite to eat we headed back to his place in Medford. I remember that night for two reasons.

1) It was the first time I ever saw The Simpsons. Dahlquist was going on and on about how great a cartoon it was and he said that I absolutely had to see it, so that's why I stopped back at his place instead of just dropping him off.

2) While driving to Springfield and while at the Hall and while driving back from Springfield and then throughout dinner, I had been going on and on about this woman I met at a dance last night. Finally, when we reached his house, Dahlquist had had enough. He said, "Sully, you've been going on and on about Miss America all day. If she's so frickin' hot, give her a call, for Chrissakes. But watch this show first. It's the best thing I've ever seen on television."

Well, we watched The Simpsons and I laughed my ass off, so he was right about that. After it ended, I asked Dahlquist if I could use his phone.

"No, I'm waiting for a call from the frickin' president. Of course you can use my phone, you dope. Give her a call."

"Well, I would, but I don't have her number."

"You don't have her number? Smoooooth, Sully. So who are you calling?"

"My mother."

"Your mother?!? Jesus! Why? Do you have to ask her permission to go out on a date?"

"No, you asshole, it's just that she probably has the number."

"Why don't you just look it up in the phone book?"

"I don't know her last name."

"You spent the whole night talking to her and you don't even know her name? Man, you are a stud."

"Her last name, dickweed. It was something completely weird, like yours."

By that time my mother answered her phone. I asked for MFW's phone number and her address, while Dahlquist snickered in the background. Then I told her that I never got MFW's last name. She said it. I asked her to repeat it. She said it again. Then I asked her to spell it for me. That was enough to send Dahlquist into the next room, laughing.

(I would tell you her last name, but the one thing I have promised her about this blog is that I will not reveal her actual identity. She is and will remain MY WIFE. I tell her that she'll be really sorry when this stuff gets made into a major motion picture and nobody knows that it's her up there on the big screen being played by Angelina Jolie, but no go.)

After I hung up, I told Dahlquist that I had had a really good time, considering what a jerkoff he was. He gave me a similar warm farewell and then I drove home, planning to call MFW the next day.


Well, between the time I dropped her off at her house and Monday evening, 48 hours had passed. That was enough time for me to begin believing that maybe I was seeing things that might not be there. Did she really have as good a time as I had? Was her laughter real? Or was she just being nice to me out of deference to my mother? All that illogical crap started swimming around in my head. So, instead of calling her and risking immediate rejection, I decided to take the coward's way out. I wrote her a letter.

(I told you. My ex dumped me, by writing a "Dear John", and I said I might have done the same thing if the situation was reversed. You didn't believe me, did you? You thought I was just being magnanimous. Nope.)

A major reason why I wrote a letter is because I've always hated the telephone. This comes from a guy who largely makes his living by supplying his voice for use on the telephone - and I would send you to the blog I wrote about that, except that Blogger seems to have eaten it for breakfast. In any case, I've always been more comfortable writing than telephoning. So I wrote the letter.

If I were the type of guy to go through MY WIFE's things while she wasn't here, I'd reproduce the letter in its entirety. I'd bet my left... well, I'd bet she still has it. However, I'm not the type of guy to do that. At least, I'm not the type of guy willing to admit to doing that in a public forum, which she could be reading at this very moment, so I'll try to reconstruct the letter from memory. As I recall, it went something like this...

"Dear MFW:

I had a great time not dancing with you the other night. I think you had just as good a time not dancing with me. I'd really like to not dance with you again sometime. If you think not dancing with me is something you'd like to do again, why don't you give me a call? My number is..."

Yeah, I put the ball into her court.


I am, without a doubt, one of the most blessed people on the face of God's green earth. Do you have any idea how many people would have made that phone call to me? Would you have made that phone call? Maybe you would have, because you're a nice person - you're reading me, after all, so you must be nice - but the average woman would have crumpled up that letter and tossed it into the trash while cursing me out. MFW isn't the average woman. She called.

Problem was, by the time she got the letter and made the call, I had a toothache. It was a hideous toothache, such as I have been prone to all my life. It's the one pain that can reduce me to a quivering mass of Jell-O. I've broken my finger, broken my thumb, broken my hand, torn cartilage in my knee - there was pain in those things, to be sure, but I could work with it. A toothache? Forget it. I'm useless. Until I get the thing taken out, I can't function. And I was wracked with pain. It was all I could do not to cry as I spoke to her on the phone.

"Oh, hi. Gee, I'm glad you called, but I have this horrible toothache right now. I'll call you back in a day or two, OK?"

Later, she told me that she thought I was giving her the brush off then. Can't say that I blame her; sure sounds like a brush off. She screws up enough courage to call me and then I give her the short shrift like that? Well, sure, I'd still want to go out with me, but who else would?

The next day, I had the tooth pulled. Then I called her back. After apologizing profusely, I made an actual honest-to-goodness date to meet at her place and then go see a movie or have dinner or maybe both. The shish-kebob incident was just around the corner.

Unfortunately, you won'’t get to find out about it until part two. The real world beckons. Sorry! See you tomorrow.

Go to (really) The Shish-Kebob Incident!!!

Monday, April 10, 2006

It's The Bachelor's Life For Me!

MY WIFE is going out of town for three days. She's going to visit her brother in New York. I am now a bachelor again, at least until Friday afternoon.

Whoopee. It's not like I was planning on bringing in dancing girls every night. Maybe one night.

Nah, not really. I'm just going to read a lot. Maybe I'll watch a few Three Stooges videos. Beyond that, I'm going to spend a whole bunch of time wishing she was home instead of in New York. I'm hopelessly in love with her.

MY WIFE is the only person to whom I can even imagine being married. And I use my imagination a lot. I can imagine myself doing a lot of things with a lot of different women, and some pretty interesting things, too, but living with them? There's only one woman I've ever met who can put up with me on a full-time basis.


I met MY WIFE in the time-honored sitcom tradition. I was set up on a blind date with her. The blind date was set up by my mother.

There's a whole bunch more backstory than I'm going to give you here, but in the interest of saving time (and preserving my sanity) I'm only going to give you the bare bones.

I had been in a hideous on-again off-again relationship, for some ten years, with a woman who might have made someone a marvelous wife but certainly not me. I look back on things now and I realize that I was certainly as much to blame for the relationship not working as she was. We were both pretty horrible to each other at times. We had so many differences in tastes, culture, religion, upbringing, and on and on, that a blind man could have seen that we weren't meant for each other. We had both been together so long, though, that we didn't know what else to do.

That's basically true. We did a lot of things together that we really liked, but when we had nothing else to do, we spent hours arguing over tremendously petty things. You don't do that if you really love someone. We had some good times because you don't stay together ten years or so without having some good times. Most of the time, though, she was unhappy that I wasn't willing to make our arrangement more permanent and I was unhappy that it was as permanent as it was. Getting married to her was something I did not want to do, and it seemed to me that was all she wanted to do, at least for a while there. And I felt more and more trapped as time went on.

As a result of my feeling trapped, I indulged in a whole bunch of stupid behavior. I took boatloads of drugs and drank like a fish. Not that I wouldn't have done some drugs, anyway, but I pretty much didn't care if I offed myself for a while there. I put so much coke up my nose, it's a wonder I still have one.

I'll tell this story at length some other day. The thing you need to know right now is that a whole bunch of my ex's childhood friends had moved to Florida a few years previously. She went down there for a visit at the beginning of December. She was supposed to return in time for Christmas.

I got a "Dear John" letter three days before Christmas.


The funny thing is that I had cleaned up my act some six months previous. I had gone cold turkey off of cocaine. I stopped drinking completely. The only vice I still had was cigarettes and she smoked, too, so that wasn't a problem. I was completely sober and acting like a responsible adult for the first time in years. And that's when she decided to dump me. Maybe being sober was the problem. I know I'm a totally different person sober as compared to wasted. Maybe she fell in love with the wasted Jim and the sober one wasn't as much fun. Or maybe she needed someone who could share getting wasted with her, since she wasn't averse to getting lit up like a Christmas tree, either. Could be.

Anyway, she did what I didn't have sense enough to do myself and I thank her for that. She could have done it in a nicer fashion, but it was what we both needed. Hell, I probably would have sent her a letter, too, if I had hooked up with someone else.

To say that it was a shock would be an understatement of enormous proportion. I had already completed my Christmas shopping for her. I was expecting her home any day. When I got the letter, I assumed it would be telling me her travel plans. In a way, I guess it was.

I went through the holidays in a daze. As much as I knew our relationship wasn't headed anywhere good, we had been together for a looooong time. It was not unlike going cold turkey from a hard drug. I know because I had experienced that just a few months back.

I felt real sorry for myself and entered into a pretty deep depression. I was overweight and had already lost much of my hair, so I had serious doubts concerning my ability to attract another woman. I became fairly unstable mentally.

One side effect of the depression I entered into was that I got into the best shape of my life. I ate nothing, and I mean nothing. I subsisted on coffee, milk and vitamins. I had no appetite at all, but I was smart enough to know I needed nutrients of some sort, so I took the vitamins. And I walked miles and miles every day, just trudging along through the streets of Milton, Mattapan and Dorchester - probably looking like a lunatic to other folks, since I was talking to myself half the time.

After about three weeks of no eating and much walking, I had dropped 20 pounds and I started to come out of my funk. I went on a couple of dates with women from the office I worked in at the time. It was fun, and they were nice, but they weren't what I was looking for. What was I looking for? I didn't really know, but I knew I'd know it when I saw it.

And this is where my mother comes in.


My Mom knew the tough time I had had of it. She also knew me. Moms know you; that's the way it is. So, she said that she had someone in mind who might be just right for me. I was up for another date, if nothing else, so I said sure. So she set up a blind date with a friend of hers from church.

I should explain that my mother's friend was over 20 years younger than she was, lest you think MY WIFE is as old as my mother. Not that my mother is ancient, it's just, um, er ...

(Man, they'll both be reading this and there is just no way out of that sentence. I'll be getting it from someone.)

There was a Valentine's Day dance at my step-father's club. My Mom invited MY (future) WIFE. And then she invited me. I knew it was supposed to be a blind date, but I had seen pictures and I knew what was coming and I was looking forward to it. However, my mother hadn't told MY (future) WIFE that it was a blind date, per se. She had just invited her to the dance, expecting nature to take its course. And then she sent me to pick her up at the T station and bring her to the club.

MY (future) WIFE - who I think we'll just call MFW from now on to save time - had seen me before. We had both attended my mother's wedding to my step-father. That had been about eight years back. At that time, I had red hair down to my shoulders and I was in a band and looked it. According to MFW, she and her friends had said, "That's Connie's son? Doesn't he realize it's the 1980's?" or something to that effect. She wasn't overly impressed, in any case.

Now, however, I was in great shape and I had shorter hair along with a Van Dyke beard. I had less hair, too, and I was in the habit of wearing a Greek fisherman's cap in those days, so I looked not unlike Nikolai Lenin when I drove up to meet her at Braintree station. Well, I was wearing a suit and tie, and I didn't squint as much, but just go along with it, OK?

She looked exactly as she had looked in the pictures my mother had shown me. She was petite, smiling, well-dressed, and had a heckuva nice rack. She looked nothing at all like Nikolai Lenin.

We made some small talk on the drive back and got along alright. I apologized for looking like Nikolai Lenin and she laughed. She had a sense of humor; that was good.


We got to the club and helped my mother and step-father set up some decorations. That was one pretext they had gotten MFW there on, to help them set up. We exchanged a few more little jokes and polite conversation. As the dance began in earnest, we both sat down and listened to the music.

Turns out this was a big part of our success together. Neither one of us dances. Well, to be honest, I don't dance more than she doesn't dance. She can do it if the need arises. Me? I'm coordinated; I'm somewhat athletic; I have loads of rhythm - I'm a musician, after all; but I can't dance any better than a drunken gorilla, and that's probably an insult to drunken gorillas the world over. So, we sat and talked. We really enjoyed each other's company. We found out we could make each other laugh, a lot.

Early on, while discussing one thing or another, I had told her that I didn't drink. After a while, I started getting a bit nervous because I really wanted this woman to like me, since I liked her so much. I asked her if she wanted something at the bar. She wanted a white wine. I went to get it and got a beer for myself, to steady my nerves a bit. She gave me a bit of an odd look when I came back with the beer and started drinking it. She reminds me of that every so often now. Her memory for those types of things is much better than mine. She reminds me of things like that. And I do the same with her. The important thing is we laugh about them. Some couples get into knock-down-drag-out fights over silly shit like that. We tend to enjoy each other's contradictions.

(One time we were riding the trolley from Ashmont. It was her first time coming to my house in Dorchester. When we were nearing the Central Avenue stop, she suggested I pull the cord to let the driver know we wanted to get off. I said, "Nah, you don't have to pull the cord. Somebody always gets off at Central Avenue." Of course, I always got off at Central Avenue, so of course someone always got off at Central Avenue. It was a totally ludicrous statement. She laughed like hell and still gets a big kick out of that.)

(She said she especially likes it when otherwise really smart people say something that's totally dumb and then don't realize it. I think she was being kind.)

Anyway, the rest of the night went smoothly. I offered to drive her home. She accepted. On the way to her house, I decided to see if we had some more things in common. I asked her if she liked The Three Stooges. Her reply was somewhat less than affirmative. I started to have some doubts about us. I'm the all-time Three Stooges fanatic. I couldn't see how I could get serious about someone who didn't like The Three Stooges. Well, there's some good trivial stuff to base a relationship on. My ex had adored The Three Stooges, so what did that tell me? In any case, that turned out to be just about the last doubt I've ever had about us.

Our first real date, after the dance, has come to be known as the shish-kebob incident. However, that will have to wait. Work to do. Back tomorrow with more mushy stuff.

Go to The Shish-Kebob Incident!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Curlers Have Big Stones

Last night, MY WIFE and I went to the 2006 World Men's Curling Championship at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts.

I'll give you a chance to let that sink in, and then to crack a few jokes about watching paint dry. Go ahead. I'll wait.

(*taps foot, while whistling tunelessly*)

Ready to go on now? Good.

We really like this sport. Really. Yes, it's a bit like shuffleboard on ice (actually, I'd say billiards on ice is a more apt comparison) but there is athletic skill involved, as well as deep strategy. You need a keen eye, flexibility, strong nerves, coordination and, above all, you can't be susceptible to chilblains.

(*rim shot*)

Thank you. I'll be here through Sunday, eh?


It's almost impossible not to make curling jokes. Even someone who really - really! - likes the sport, and admires the athletes involved, can see the absurdity of sliding big hunks of granite down a sheet of ice while two guys run along in front of the rock feverishly pushing brooms.

(I wonder if janitors would make really good curlers?)

There actually is a point to that sweeping, you know. If you sweep hard enough, it accomplishes two things. First, the stone will travel farther. Second, it will continue toward the target in a straighter line than if you didn't sweep.

And it keeps the ice tidy.


We arrived at the venue a couple of hours before the start of the matches. We wanted to grab something to eat and then take a look around. This was the first time either of us had ever seen a live curling match, so we wanted a chance to soak in whatever atmosphere might have been available.

(It was mostly the smell of Molson's. Ha-CHAH!)

Just outside of the arena, there was a hospitality tent set up. It was called "The Rock Garden" and inside there were a number of food vendors, as well as folks selling curling-related merchandise. Aside from the usual souvenir-type items (coffee mugs, hats, pins, etc.) there was one vendor selling curling jewelry.

Yup. Curling jewelry. The stuff was actually quite pretty. Stick pins, earrings, necklaces and all the rest, in the shape of brooms. There was an 18ct. gold and diamond brooch in the shape of a curling stone. Goes for about $4,000.

You think I'm kidding? Check it out.

You could also buy all sorts of curling apparel, from casual wear for the fan - turtlenecks, polo shirts and t-shirts, emblazoned in your country's colors - to things meant to be worn in competition, such as special sliding shoes and rubber pads to put on your shoes so that they won't slide. About the only thing you couldn't buy was an actual competition stone, but that's probably only because the damned things weigh 42 pounds, so how in hell would you carry it around with you all night and then get it home to Finland after the matches?

Yes, the stones weigh 42 pounds. Not so much like shuffleboard-on-ice now, is it, tough guy? More like tenpin-bowling-on-ice. So there!


I'm being way too snotty for someone who really (really) likes this sport. It's not at all fair to the people involved. And from what I saw last night, this sport is followed by some of the nicest people on the planet. Everybody roots hard for their team, but everybody also gives a nice round of applause to the opposition and nobody taunts anyone, except in a good-natured way. For example, during last night's USA vs. Canada match, there was one woman holding up a pro-USA sign. You know what it said? "U.S. - Eh?" It got a big laugh from both the Canadian and American fans.

There is also no "in your face" crap from the athletes themselves. As a matter of fact, they are the least demonstrative bunch of competitors I've ever seen. And the fans never boo anybody.

Well, almost never. Last night, during a particularly tense point in the Sweden - Denmark match, one of the Swedish players slammed his broom on the concrete behind the rink, upset at his team having basically lost any shot at making the medals round. The sharp sound made by the handle of the broom striking the hard surface was followed by the sound of a gasp - a sharp intake of breath by many in the crowd - and then there was one lone "Booooooo!" from somewhere behind us. As many people turned to look at the fellow who was booing as were now looking at the Swedish kid who had slammed down his broom.


If you have any interest at all in the sport, I'd highly recommend getting out to see a match. As sports go, it's one of the easiest to watch. No matter where you're sitting in the arena, you can clearly see everything that's going on. The folks who follow it closely are very nice and will not belittle you in any way if you ask them a stupid question. They're more than willing to teach you about their passion, and will do so with a smile. All in all, it's a very agreeable night out.

And I guess that's it. I could rack my brain for something clever and snarky to end with, but I won't. It was fun and we enjoyed it. Bravo to the curlers. See you Monday.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Weight Loss Wednesday, III

Well, here we are. At the weigh in.



That's down one pound from last week. I still have six pounds to go. By April 16th.

I need some inspiration. Who wants to bet me that I won't make it? If there's some money on the line, I might actually drag my ass out of bed to walk on more than one or two mornings in the coming ten days. If I can smell the cash, I might be able to walk by those chocolate Easter eggs in the break room.

Ahhhh, I'll make it without the monetary incentive. I just set myself too long of a deadline at the beginning. When something has to get done, I do it. I just need to feel the pressure a bit more before I self-motivate.

Wow! What an interesting, informative, entertaining blog entry this was!

Thursday or Friday, with an actual story or something. Old Fat Fart out.

(The illustration is from this place. If I could play softball on Uranus, I wouldn't have to worry about losing any more weight.)

(Yes, there's a hideous joke in there somewhere, but I'm not in the mood.)