Friday, September 29, 2006

Shameless Cross-Pollenization!

My other blog (really, ONE of my other blogs, but why muddy the waters?) has new content.

Bah! Humbug! is the proud host of the first ever Carnival Of Hijacked Holidays. I came up with the concept to drive content creation by others, since I'm hopelessly lazy. It drove some, but not nearly what I had hoped for. However, the content it did drive is worth a look. So, go there and (I hope) enjoy.

By the way, if you have an essay, some musings, a polemical rant - that is to say, just about anything you'd like to say - concerning a holiday, submissions are now being accepted for the next edition, which I hope to publish sometime around October 20th. It may drive some of the many millions* who read this blog to visit your blog. Or, it may drive them to drink - which might not be an altogether hideous outcome, either.

Monday, with more better stuff.

* unabashed hyperbole (see note)

(note) that is to say, bullshit.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Coalie & Tigger

My family is made up of cat people. We've appeared in sideshows all over the world with our twitchy whiskers and big fluffy tails.

No, no, no. I mean, of course, that we primarily have cats for pets. I can remember only one dog from my childhood. That was the wonderful Tippy, my Uncle Jimmy's dog, whom I greatly enjoyed rolling around with on the floor of my grandparent's apartment in Roslindale. Otherwise, all cats.

(Well, except for Davy, who provided many hours of entertainment for a couple of those tabbies and who lived far longer than a goldfish in a house full of cats had any right to expect.)

As well as I can recall, I have been a roommate to 12 different cats. They were of various shapes, sizes, temperaments, sexes and the ability to create interesting stories worth blogging about.

MY WIFE is allergic to animal dander, so I have now been without a cat for the overwhelming majority of our time together. It's a fair trade, and one I'd make again, but I do sometimes miss a cat. Here are some stories about a couple of them.


Coalie would faint on cue.

A black-and-white tomcat of the "Sylvester" variety, he had longhaired ancestry of one sort or another. His tail was big and bushy, while the rest of him had more-or-less normal short hair. Anyway, Coalie really liked his catnip. We were rather simpatico in that regard. The odd thing was, he would do the same thing every time I gave him a bit of the stuff. He'd sniff at it greedily and then, at precisely the same instant every time, fall over as though he had been shot dead. After a few more seconds, he'd get back to his feet, walk a few wobbly steps, and then flop himself down into the remainder of the stuff and roll in it until he had made his entire coat a somewhat dusty green.

(I think it was his idea that he'd attract the females this way; sort of a feline Aqua Velva.)

After seeing him keel over a couple of times, I decided to clock him. He collapsed at the same second, every time. Armed with this knowledge, I would have Coalie do his "trick" whenever someone visited the house.

I'd say, "I am now going to make my cat die at the count of three."

I'd lay some catnip out on the floor. As Coalie sniffed it, I'd count out loud. "One... Two... Three..." and then snap my fingers. Coalie would fall over. The general reaction of my guests was amazement.

Then I'd say, "I can see that you're sad about Coalie passing away, but do not worry, kind people! Dry your tears! I can bring him back to life!"

I'd count three once more. "One... Two... Three..." and snap my fingers again. Whereupon Coalie would get up, take his wobbly steps, and then flop down into the catnip pile to coat himself with the residue of his kitty dope.

It was fun having a junkie cat.

Coalie met his end, as did a few of my cats, somewhere in that great unknown where unfixed tomcats go to die. He went out one day and never came back, which is what you have to be prepared for if you have a big old unfixed tomcat. It happens. I like to imagine that he died getting his rocks off. I suppose the possibility exists that he was ripped apart by a whole bunch of other dope-fiend cats after they smelled him, in an attempt to get all of the catnip out of him, having olfactorily mistaken him for an oversized catnip mouse.

However he met his demise, the spirit of Coalie lived on through his sexual exploits. For quite a few years afterward, there were scads of black-and-white bushy-tailed cats seen in that neighborhood. I guess he knew what he was doing with that rolling in catnip thing.

Be that as it may, after Coalie left for that big pile of catnip in the sky, I didn't have another cat for most of two years. Then came Tigger.


Tigger belonged to my neighbors from one house over in Dorchester. They moved and Tigger got left behind. I hesitate to go so far as to say that they purposefully left without him. I suspect that they let him out one day with a week or more to go before the move and then, being a big old tomcat, he didn't come back before they had gone. Tomcats will do that - stay out for a week or more and then come back, bedraggled, beaten, with a big hunk of fur missing and a spot of blood dried on them somewhere, and walk in the back door as though absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary, expecting a meal and a place to crash before they go off on another adventure.

Anyway, I was just looking out the window of my back door one day, about a week after these people had moved, and there was Tigger. He was stalking a pigeon, very slowly and deliberately moving up on it, getting ready to pounce.

I had petted Tigger once or twice as he made his way through my yard - we were what you might call casual acquaintances - and I could see that he was way down in weight. I put two and two together, figured out that he had been left behind somehow, and was just about to open my back door and call him in, to give him something to eat, when the pigeon took off. Or, tried to.

I had never seen a cat catch a pigeon before and had little doubt that this one would get away. However, with a most amazing display of agility, grace, and determination brought about by hunger, Tigger leapt a good six feet into the air, at an angle, and his front paws actually caught the bird's tailfeathers. The pigeon went down and flopped around on the ground a bit. Meanwhile, having jumped so high himself with his front paws extended to grab something, Tigger had not landed casually on his feet as cats are wont to do, but had instead sprawled out on his side and rolled a bit. They both then regained an upright posture at about the same moment.

It was amazing to watch the first performance, but I had no desire to see an encore. Tigger was clearly going to catch the bird this time. This cat was some kind of mad phat hunter and he was on a mission. I opened the door, the sound of which was enough to distract Tigger for a brief moment. The pigeon flew unsteadily away.

Tigger gave me a look that would have killed the pigeon if he had aimed it in that direction. I told him to wait there.

(I really did. I said, to this angry cat, "Oh, relax. I've got something better for you than a nasty pigeon. Wait right there.")

Tigger waited, probably because he was exhausted from not eating and from the loss of energy he had used in trying to catch his supper. I went inside to the refrigerator and got out a piece of roast beef left over from dinner the night before. I then went back out and tossed it in Tigger's general direction.

He pounced on it with alacrity and wolfed it down. I went over and patted him. I felt his ribs and backbone sticking way too far through from his dirty fur. He was literally going to starve to death if he didn't get a good meal into himself.

I picked him up and carried him inside, poured out a bowl of milk and put some more roast beef on a plate. He ate and drank and the deed was done. I had a cat again.


Tigger was somewhat more like a dog than a cat. He liked being petted and scratched as much as the next cat, but he preferred those things on his own terms. As soon as you gave any indication that you intended to be in charge of the situation, perhaps by picking him up and placing him on your lap, he would give you a dirty look and walk away. And his loyalty was to me alone. He only suffered others and not gladly, either. When I would go to sleep for the night, he would jump up on the bed and lay at my feet.

I soon learned to leave the door to my room open a crack, though. If I didn't, and Tigger wanted out, he would meow as loudly as possible until I woke up. Leaving it open a crack didn't bother me greatly. It afforded him the freedom to come and go as he pleased, and I got to sleep soundly, so it was all good.

He also made his very own cat door to the outside world. I'll explain.

Once upon a time, about a year before Tigger became a resident, I locked myself out of the house. I knew that the kitchen window, by the sink, wasn't usually locked. So, in order to get back in, I poked a couple of finger-sized holes in the screen for that kitchen window. This allowed me to pull back on the catches that held the screen shut from the inside. Once I got the screen up, I opened the window and crawled in via the sink. Ever since that time, and until Tigger moved in, there were still these two finger-sized holes in the screen.

The first night that Tigger stayed in the house, I went to bed and left the kitchen window open - with the screen down, of course. When I awoke the next morning, I dragged myself downstairs to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. I put the heat under the coffee and glanced to my left where the window was.

Where there had once been a small finger-sized hole in the screen, there was now a fur-fringed hole big enough for... well, for a cat to go through. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened but, when I did, I just stood there in awe. The son of a bitch had wanted out so badly, he kept pushing his snout against the hole, widening it more and more each time - and losing fur as he did - until it was big enough for him to go outside through.

Not wanting to let bugs or birds or some other animals in, I closed the window. I got my coffee and went to the living room. The newspaper had been delivered, so I got it from the porch. I had a smoke and read the sports section. I went back into the kitchen to get a refill. And then I heard muffled meowing. I turned around.

There, wedged between the screen and the window, was Tigger. He had come back through his hard-won cat-door, but didn't realize until it was too late that the window was down. So there he stood, a cat under glass, unable to turn around and extricate himself. I pushed the window up and he jumped down to the kitchen floor. With all of the dignity he could muster, he looked up at me and said, through his now somewhat sparsely-furred lips, "Rowrr?"

I said, "Well, of course!", and got him some milk.

I kept the window down from then on. Tigger was let out of the house in the usual way - through an actual door. Tigger still used the screen as an entrance, though, if he came home before I was up. I'd often come downstairs to the kitchen and find him between the screen and the window. It never failed to crack me up.


Tigger, like Coalie before him, ended his days in parts unknown. The odd thing about his going away, though, was his impeccable sense of timing.

As I mentioned earlier, MY WIFE is allergic to animal dander and, thus, to cats in general. We had recently made plans for her to move in with me in Dorchester. At the time of those plans, Tigger was still around. Well, he had been there first, so MY WIFE knew that he was going to stay. She didn't have a great problem with this. She would pop an extra allergy pill here or there; I would endeavour to keep Tigger off of beds and furniture. He spent a great deal of his time out of doors, anyway, and stayed away for a few days at a time on occasion, so we figured things would work out alright.

(He also had claimed one particular chair as his domain. In the picture accompanying this piece, that's him in it. When he was inside, he spent most of his time there.)

Anyway, a few days before MY WIFE moved in, I let Tigger out. He never came back.

I looked for him to show up every day, wedged between the screen and the window, but he never did. I called for him - "Tig-errrrrrrrrrr! Tig-errrrrrrrrr!" - but no cat showed up. I walked the neighborhood and looked for him - I was in the habit of taking a constitutional now and again in those days, anyway - but no sign of him anywhere. Meanwhile, MY WIFE moved in.

As sad a situation as it can be when a cat doesn't come home, it did work out for some good. Now MY WIFE didn't have to suffer with her allergies. We've both joked with each other since then about one or the other of us having had a diabolical plan to get rid of Tigger - that either I knocked him off so that I could have her live with me or she had a hit put out on him so that she wouldn't have a runny nose.

I like to think that Tigger was a gentleman; that he sensed his place in the household affections being usurped and that he left, gracefully and voluntarily, giving up his chair and moving on to another household, thankful for how I had fairly much saved his life.

After a couple of weeks, when it became apparent that Tigger was not coming back, I got a new screen for the kitchen window. All that remained was his fur and what's the use of having a screen with a big fur-fringed hole in it if someone you love isn't going to wedge themselves between the screen and the window every now or then for your enjoyment?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Answers To "The Other Guy"

I noticed, in reviewing the previous posting - wherein I asked the questions, to which the following are the answers - that I leaned heavily upon Red Sox lore. I wrote one entry about football and one entry about hockey. All the rest were about baseball.

That's OK, probably, since I think I might have more readers from outside of Boston than I actually do from within the city. Red Sox stories probably have more national currency than Bruins stories or Boston College stories.

(And, despite having just said that, I have to digress heavily into a Boston College rant. Did you see that game against North Carolina State on Saturday night? Pitiful. They should have won that game going away. They should still be undefeated. Instead, because we have a coach who, despite overwhelming evidence, doesn't know that his kicker can't kick and that he'd be better off letting just about anyone else on the team do the placekicking, the Eagles lost. Hell, I can kick better than Ryan Ohliger.

I don't blame Ohliger. He's trying. I blame Coach Tom O'Brien. O'Brien appears to be a nice guy. Too nice; that's the problem. He stuck with Quinton Porter as his starting QB for far too long last year and this year (as well as last) he's stuck with Ohliger as his kicker beyond the time when anyone else could have told him that it was only a matter of when he would cost them a game, not if he would. They would have won in regulation, rather than overtime, the previous two weeks, IF they had a real kicker. Now they've lost a chance - granted, an outside chance, but still - at an undefeated season and a national championship.

For all of the plaudits he receives - winningest coach in BC history; six straight bowl game victories; graduates a higher percentage of his players than any other coach with a comparable major college program - he just is NOT a cold-blooded enough head coach for the level of competition BC schedules. Compassion is not usually a detriment, but O'Brien is saving one guy some tears and, in so doing, is giving a screwjob to everyone else on his team.)

Sorry. I just had to get that off of my chest. Here are the answers you've been waiting for.

Who threw the pitch that Bucky Bleeping Dent hit for a home run?

That would be Mike Torrez.

You can pretty much count on one undeniable truth with the Red Sox. If they take someone away from the Yankees, or trade with the Yankees in any way, or sign someone who was once a star with the Yankees, that person will NOT match the success they had while with the Yankees. Off the top of my head, Danny Cater and David Wells come readily to mind as examples other than Torrez.

Don't get me wrong. Torrez had a pretty good game that day. The home run by Dent was little more than a windblown pop up and, prior to the home run, Torrez had thrown six shutout innings. Still, that's just the way it goes. Good Yankees do not make good Red Sox. Never have, never will.

Who threw the pitch that Aaron Bleeping Boone hit to win the ALCS for the Yankees?

The answer to this one is more painful than the last because the fellow who threw the pitch is one of the nicest guys to ever play for the Red Sox. He devotes many hours to charitable causes, most notably The Jimmy Fund. He loves playing for Boston and gave up the chance at a possible bigger payday to sign a "lifetime" contract with the Sox. And he may well have been the MVP of that series, had the Red Sox won that seventh game.

Tim Wakefield threw the pitch.

You want to know the kind of guy Tim Wakefield is? Once, a couple of years back, he and a few of his teammates went to visit some cancer-stricken children at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the home of The Jimmy Fund. Now, all of them were nice guys to go and visit sick children. However, there was one child who was receiving treatment during their visit and who didn't get to meet the Red Sox players. While his teammates all left after the appointed time, Wakefield stayed at the hospital for an additional 3 or 4 hours, until that one child came out of treatment.

In a game that sometimes seems to be overpopulated by bratty little kids in adult bodies, Wake is a real MAN.

Off of which California Angels pitcher did Dave Henderson hit his miracle home run?

The answer to this one is the ill-fated Donnie Moore.

Moore was a good pitcher, but a troubled man. I don't know that anybody can truly say what totality of demons haunted him, but he surely wasn't happy and he committed suicide a few years after giving up the hit. Though it's been latched onto by any number of amateur psychologists as the cause, it's doubtful that this incident alone pushed him over the edge. More insight into this tragedy may be found in this good article at

Carlton Fisk hit his game-winning home run off of...

Pat Darcy of the Cincinnati Reds. And the bonus answer - the hitter who slammed the game-tying home run in the 8th inning - is Bernie Carbo.

While Fisk's home run came at a particularly propitious moment for dramatic effect, and was enhanced by his marvelous arm-waving dance down the first base line, I think that Carbo's home run was the more magnificent achievement. If Fisk doesn't hit his, the game would have continued. Without Carbo's shot, the Sox more than likely lose the game in very unspectacular fashion.

Who caught Doug Flutie's Hail Mary?

The player who got behind the defense and caught the ball was Gerard Phelan.

Phelan was a good receiver who played a short career in the NFL. He probably deserves much more credit for that touchdown than he usually gets. You cannot find a bigger Doug Flutie fan than me - he deserved much better than the NFL ever gave him, and I firmly believe that he is the best quarterback, pound-for-pound, who ever played the damn game - but I wouldn't be averse to this play being referred to as "Phelan's Catch", rather than "Flutie's Pass", a bit more often.

Who was the goalie when Bobby Orr's shot won The Stanley Cup?

Glenn Hall.

It was said of Hall that he puked before every game. Can't say that I blame him. Notice anything interesting about the photo here? Yup, no mask. Glenn Hall played hockey when there were only SIX goaltenders good enough to play in the National Hockey League. Each team carried one goalkeeper, no backup, and NONE OF THEM wore face masks. You had to have more guts than brains to play goal in those days.

By the time Orr scored his goal, there were twelve teams with two goalies (or more) apiece and there were no more than one or two goaltenders remaining who didn't wear a mask. Even Hall had taken to wearing one by then. He retired not too long after that series and is a member of the NHL Hall Of Fame; deservedly so. Great goalie. He once played 552 consecutive games in goal, which is still the NHL record. If you ask me, that's easily a match for Cal Ripken's consecutive games played streak in baseball.

Hall-Of-Fame stats for Glenn Hall here.

Who threw the fastball that hit Tony Conigliaro?

Jack Hamilton of the Angels.

Interesting note: Hamilton tried to visit Conigliaro in the hospital, but they wouldn't let him. There has always been some conjecture about whether or not Hamilton had tried to hit Conigliaro or if it was just totally an accident.

I'd be willing to wager it was a bit of both. Conigliaro consistently crowded the plate and, in those days, it was common practice for a pitcher to throw hard and inside at a batter who did so. It was not looked upon as anything other than part of the game. However, there had always been an unwritten rule that you threw to claim your part of the plate but you didn't necessarily try to maim someone in doing so. Where did each pitcher draw that line? Only the pitcher knows what his real intentions are when he releases the ball, so...

Hamilton gained an unwillingness to pitch inside following the incident and his strikeouts declined precipitously. He himself was out of baseball within three years.

Who hit the ball that rolled through Bill Buckner's legs?

The delightfully-named Mookie Wilson. How can you NOT like someone named Mookie?

OK, if you're still pissed about that series, you're probably calling me a whole bunch of names that are less delightful than Mookie. What? Would you rather have been beaten by somebody named Rock or Brick or something more macho? It could have been worse you know. It could have been Ho Jo.

Which Red Sox pitcher gave up number 61 to Roger Maris?

The ill-fated Tracy Stallard.

Stallard's ill-fatedness was comical, as opposed to the afore-mentioned truly tragic Donnie Moore. After Stallard gained ignominy as the guy who gave up the record-breaking home run to Maris, he became a member of the New York Mets. In his two seasons with the Mets, he had a combined record of 16 - 37, leading the National League in losses with 20 in 1964.

And he had a girl's first name.

Which Seattle Mariner became Roger Clemens' 20th strike out in one game?

The thoroughly overmatched Phil Bradley. It was the fourth strikeout for Bradley, which means he accounted for 20% of the record all on his own.

And, having nothing else of interest to say about Phil Bradley, that's that. See you tomorrow.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Other Guy

Ecstatic highs and excruciating lows. If you're a Boston sports fan, you know that both come with the territory. Heroics abound, sometimes for the good guys and other times (when God is vacationing) for the bad guys.

If you are a Boston sports fan, you'll have a memory of most of the games or incidents I'm going to write about here. However, just how good is your memory? You remember the home run or the touchdown pass. You remember who threw the strikeout or who scored the goal. But, who else was involved in the play? Who was... THE OTHER GUY?

(Answers Tomorrow)


Let's begin with some events that are permanently etched in the memory of every true Boston sports fan. The memories of these should be so vivid, even years after the fact, that they'll actually be imparted in your DNA to the next generation. Your little Bostonian babies will come out of the womb saying...

Bucky Bleeping Dent! Aaron Bleeping Boone!

Might as well mention the two of them together. No two Yankees have caused so much instant misery - not Ruth, not Jackson, not Munson, not Jeter. Bucky Bleeping Dent and Aaron Bleeping Boone.

It's 1978. The Red Sox, after blowing a 14 game lead in the standings and falling behind the Yankees, have rallied over the last two weeks of the season, winning their final 8 games in a row to force a one game playoff, the first in American League history. They lead entering the 7th inning, 2 - 0. In the end, they lose 5 - 4. An amazing season wherein the two best teams in baseball battle it out through 163 games, with the final deciding factor being a one run victory with the other team having the winning runs on base in the 9th.

However painful it may be, let's go back to that 7th inning. Everyone from Woonsocket, Rhode Island to Barton, Vermont, knows that Bucky Bleeping Dent, a banjo hitting infielder, lofts a 3-run homer into the net to put the Yankees ahead to stay in the game. But, who was the other guy? Who gave up Dent's home run?

25 years later. 12th inning, game 7 of the ALCS. Boone hits his walk-off homer and, again, the two teams have fought an entire season with the final margin being one run. What Red Sox pitcher, who could well have ended up as series MVP with a Sox win, instead walks off the field saddened?


Enough misery. Let's get to the good stuff.

Look closely at the photo above. Who is the catcher? That's right; Aaron Boone's father. What goes around sometimes comes around. However, that's not the answer here, so keep your thinking cap on.

Two outs in the ninth. The Angels are leading the ALCS by a three games to one margin. Dave Henderson has taken two weak swings and the Angels are one strike away from going to the World Series. Then, magic. Hendu swings and puts the ball over the fence. The Red Sox go on to win the game and, eventually, the series.

Who threw the pitch that Henderson walloped?

"If it stays fair..."

Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Many - myself included - consider it the best World Series game they've ever seen. The Red Sox, trailing three games to two in the series, battle back from a 6 - 3 deficit in the 8th inning and win the game on Carlton Fisk's 12th inning shot that stays barely within the left field foul pole.

Off of which Cincinnati Reds pitcher did Fisk hit his historic home run? Extra credit if you can tell me which Red Sox batter hit the totally shocking three-run homer in the 8th inning to tie the game, without whom there would have been no Fisk heroics later.

Hail Mary

Are you ready for some football?

It's the day after Thanksgiving and the Boston College Eagles travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. It turns out to be an amazing battle of two virtually unstoppable offenses. A national TV audience is treated to Miami and BC battling back-and-forth, trading scores all day, until Miami takes a 45 - 41 lead with under a minute left.

Bernie Kosar has been magnificent for the Hurricanes. However, his Boston College counterpart has been equally magnificent and he is about to become certifiably miraculous. On what will be the last play of the game, Doug Flutie takes the snap from center and rolls out to his right. As time expires, he heaves the ball some 60+ yards towards the end zone.

Somehow, some improbable way, a BC receiver gets behind the defense and is able to come up with the ball thrown by Flutie. Touchdown! The Eagles win on the Hail Mary of all Hail Marys, 47 - 45.

Flutie wins the Heisman trophy that year and goes on to a long and distinguished career in professional football. But... who was the miraculous receiver?


The picture at the top of this post is permanently etched into the memory of every Boston sports fan of a certain age. It deserves to be. It's one of the best sports photos of all time. Bobby Orr, having scored the game-winning goal in overtime of game four, flies through the air like Superman - which he was, of course. The Bruins win the Stanley Cup!

Ah, but who was the Hall-Of-Fame goalie that Orr scored on?


There's a great little movie from the 70's called Phantom Of The Paradise. One of the main characters is Beef, a somewhat fey heavy metal vocalist. Beef takes a lot of drugs. The title character has been wreaking havoc backstage, including attacking Beef while he was showering. Beef tells someone about the attack and the person he tells, knowing Beef's proclivity for drug usage, says that Beef probably imagined the whole thing. In reply, Beef says, "I know real real from drug real!"

Similarly, there is real tragedy and sports tragedy. We should all know the difference.

Tony C

Tony Conigliaro was a local boy made good. From Revere, he was the A. L. Home Run Champ in 1965. He was the youngest player in the history of baseball to have hit 100 career home runs and he looked to have a decent shot at being the all-time leader in that category someday. He also had good looks that made a fair number of female Sox fans weak at the knees. In 1967, he was the rightfielder on the first Sox team in more than 15 years to find itself in the thick of a true pennant race.

One pitch changed everything. On a hot August night, he was struck square in the eye by a fastball. It crushed his eye socket. It would be 1969 - 21 months later - before Conigliaro stepped into the box to again face major league pitching. That he came back at all from such a horrific injury was heroic enough, but he also had a very good year in 1970, stroking 36 home runs. In 1971, he had to retire after suffering continual bouts of double vision. He came back AGAIN in 1975, making the team in spring training. He only played a handful of games, though, and that was that.

More true tragedy awaited him. Having been in Boston to interview for a sportscasting position in 1982, Tony was being driven to the airport by his brother, Billy, when he suffered a massive heart attack. A series of strokes followed. He was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 45.

Who threw the pitch that changed everything for Tony Conigliaro?

"There's a slow roller up the first base line..."

And then there is the tragedy we ourselves invent and then foster on others unfairly.

Bill Buckner was a great baseball player. He was a batting champion and had amassed close to 2,500 hits. He had great resolve and courage. His knees were horrible - his ankles may have been even worse - and he hobbled around the bases when he had to run. A lesser man would have retired from baseball already, but Buckner was willing to give up his body for the game he loved.

In 1986, the Red Sox don't make the World Series without Bill Buckner. It's that simple. He had 18 home runs and 102 RBI. And he played a good first base all year. The yahoos and dolts who only remember the one ground ball that went through his legs, and who would blame the Red Sox loss in that series on Buckner, are wholly unjustified. Reasonable baseball fans know this as surely as they know their own names, but still Buckner is vilified by the great idiotic masses. It is a tragedy for Buckner, but only because so many casual observers refuse to see the big picture. These self-blinded fools created their own hell and, not content to suffer alone, condemned Buckner to eternal damnation in it.

(Take this to the bank. Anyone who uses "Buckner" as a pejorative is a dilettante, not a true baseball fan. Ignore him or her with fearless and absolute impunity. They know nothing about the sport.)

Who hit the slow roller that went through Billy Buck's legs?


The electric moment when history is made!

(History is made in non-electric moments, also. As a matter of fact, to be precise, history isn't made at all. It just keeps on happening and, later on, we choose what part of it to tell future generations about. However, I digress, rather Calvinistically.)


Before Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and second basemen with warning track power from all over the world started bulking up on steroids and other assorted junk, making home runs a much cheaper commodity, there was Roger Maris. In 1961, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's single season home run record which had been set way back in 1927. Maris hit 61 home runs, dramatically getting the final one, the tiebreaker, in the last game of the season.

Some of you are saying, "Well, this is sports alright, but what does it have to do with Boston?"

Simple. The final game was against the Red Sox. Maris set the record by belting his home run off of a Red Sox pitcher. Which one?


Each team gets 27 outs in a regulation nine-inning baseball game. The difference between a good team and a bad team is often not how many hits they get, but how productive their outs are. The out with the least possibility for any sort of productivity is the strikeout. Even a double play grounder starts out dangerously. A strikeout doesn't start out at all.

Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in one game. That means that 20 out of a possible 27 outs didn't even leave the catcher's mitt. Stuff like this is always arguable, but I'll say that this was the most dominant one-game pitching performance ever. It certainly is the most dominant one I ever saw.

What unfortunate member of the unfortunate Mariners became Clemens' record-breaking 20th strikeout victim of the night?

Tomorrow, with the answers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The End

Background, if needed.

Toxicity: Alcohol & Cocaine.

My Aunt Marie wrote to me yesterday and she expressed what is probably the bottom line. When you strip away everything else, what Joey wanted was to be loved. That is the truth. He was constantly reaching out to people for love. The shame of this situation - the totally motherfucking horrendous shame of it, if you'll excuse my language one more time - is that he was loved, only he wasn't able (or willing) to believe it.

The wake will happen on Friday. There will be a large group of people crowded around his casket, all of whom loved him. I could get all trite and maudlin and say, "If only he could have seen all of these people gathered together to show him some love!", etc., etc., etc.

That would be bullshit of the purest kind. If Joe hadn't accepted by now that he was loved by many people, and that he had every reason to stay clean, then he was never going to come to that realization. At least, he wasn't ever going to be able to hang on to it long enough to keep from killing himself. Or, even if he did know it and was able to hang onto it, there was no amount of love big enough to keep him from loading his head with chemical love.

I just can't get over the fact that he was so amazingly calm, happy, optimistic and seemingly not in need of chemicals just one day before he did himself in. I understand that all it takes is a few seconds to make the wrong choice, but he seemed strong enough to fight the temptation. I guess not.


One thing Joe was really good at - maybe better than anyone I know - was not leaving you with any regrets. What I mean is that he unfailingly - when sober - left you with a goodbye that included the words "I love you". The only reasonable response to that is "I love you, too", if you do. So, if Joe loved you and you loved Joe, you probably aren't left with that nagging feeling about wishing you had said that to him. I know I'm not. Thanks for that, Joe.


I'm going to be busy cleaning things up here at work so that I can take a half-day Friday. I'll probably check e-mail and stuff, but otherwise will not be posting until Monday. See you then with something much lighter, I'm sure.

And thanks again for listening.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Thank You, Very Much

One of the nice things about having a blog is that it occasionally makes someone aware of your continuing existence. For instance, I was contacted by an elementary school classmate, which led to this posting concerning a class photo. And that posting prompted me to contact another classmate, who I found through her blog.

The blog also lets me stay in touch with relatives. My Mom reads the thing - she sometimes wishes she didn't - and so does my Uncle Jim, who resides in a different part of the country and thus gains more contact through my writings than we might otherwise have.

I mentioned yesterday that my Cousin Joe was also a reader.

Sometimes, when writing something with the type of anger/love of yesterday's piece, you fail to take into consideration someone else who has contacted you and you fail to think about how what you've written may affect that person.

I received this e-mail:


Sorry to hear about Joey. I wrote something for your blog, but it only accepts
less than 300 characters, so I cut and pasted it here:

I've been reading your blog ever since I stumbled upon it when checking out our
family crap. I haven't seen Joey since my sister Deb's wedding back in '91. At
the reception we reminisced about our common childhoods growing up in Hyde Park.
Joey was fun, but he was a bastard! My best friend Neil lived a few houses away
from Joey, so even tough our parents didn't have much contact due to my parents
divorce, we would see each other around the neighborhood on a regular basis. One
day Neil and I invited Joey down to the Pixie Cinema to see The Bad News Bears.
We spent the walk down Fairmount Ave. goofing around and giving each other shit.
By the time we got to the Neponset River bridge, Joey had enough of my crap and
decided that the best way to shut me up was to hang me over the Neponset River
bridge by my ankles! I was scared shitless, but being that we were ten all was
forgotten, until we were walking back home after the movie and he thought a
repeat performance would be hilarious. This time I fought him enough that he
only got me half way up the fence, but my jacket went over into the river. At
that point I started freaking out, because I knew my mother would be freaking
out over my loosing my jacket.

Joey had the idea to get a jacket from his house that kind of looked like my
jacket, so my mother wouldn't freak and that he wouldn't get beaten for dangling
me 50 feet in the air over a shopping carriage filled river. The ruse worked,
my mother didn't notice till a week later that it wasn't my jacket (I chalked it
up to getting it mixed up at recess) and he didn't get busted for almost killing

I have pictures of you, me, Joey and Joanie at Uncle Jimmy's and Auntie Pat's
house over on Hyde Park Ave. Me and Joey are about three or four and in every
picture he has this cute, devilish smile on..cute and devilish sums it up.


That's from my Cousin David, whom I haven't seen in years and years, but who contacted me a couple of weeks back after finding my blog. And, as I was writing this very piece about people finding me, I received this:

Hey Jim,

This is your cousin Christine from western mass, My brother David called me yesterday and told me he read on your blog that Joey died this week end. I am so sorry.

I am glad you got to spend some time with him on friday. I feel for his sons. Nathaniel is the same age as my youngest son. I felt I had to write to you and let you know you are in our thoughts and prayers. In this family you can't escape the drugs it is on every side of our lives as well [edited] has been stuggling for many years... I feel for every one involved. Auntie Bah will have her son with her now and I guess that is what was meant to happen. Doesn't feel right though.

I have been trying to find you and Joan Marie since Auntie Bah's death and didn't have much luck my brother David found you a few weeks ago and of course called and asked me if he had the right person I was like yeah that is Jimmy.

Sorry to be in touch at such a hard time just know you are in my thoughts.


When I got the news about Joe's death, I contacted my Mom and my Uncle Jim, via phone, but failed to take into account that such news might be a shock to some - like David or Christine - when encountered in this space. My apologies for that.

Also, my apologies for some of the language in yesterday's piece. Not that I've exactly been reticent about using strong language before, but I didn't like the way that it may have detracted from the overall sentiment.

The overall sentiment is that I love my Cousin Joe, however his end may have come about. The end itself is what I was angry and confused about.

I made a conscious decision to publish it as I wrote it. It was written in one fell swoop, just pouring what I felt onto the keyboard and deliberately not edited (except for errors in spelling found by spellcheck) and I was more comfortable with that decision yesterday than I am today when re-reading it.

In any case, I again want to thank you all for your sympathies and your concerns. I received private e-mails beyond those in the "comments" section and those are also being held dearly in my heart.

That's about all for today. Thanks again.

Monday, September 18, 2006


I saw him on Friday and he was clean. I swear he was clean. I've spent enough time doing drugs and hanging with people doing drugs to know. He was absolutely clean. And he wasn't jonesing. He was relaxed and happy. And clean.

This morning I got the call that he was dead.

They say he overdosed. Or, at least, that he was on something when he died. It doesn't make any sense.

For all of his adult life, Joe was in and out of jail. It was almost always drug related in some way. He had serious substance abuse issues. And if I had received the phone call at any other time during the previous 25 years, I wouldn't have been shocked. Today, I'm shocked. For the first time ever, I truly believed he might be beyond his problems; that he might have a true chance at making his life over. And now he's dead. And they say he overdosed.

I can't get my head around this at all. When we spoke on Friday, he was as upbeat as I'd ever seen him at any time during the past 25 years. He talked about his job and how much he liked it and how much money he was making. He talked about visiting his 13-year-old son and going back-to-school shopping with him, being able to buy him some nice things for the first time in years. He talked about coaching the softball team at the halfway house where he now lived, and how much he liked the responsibility of doing so, and how much fun he was having being the authority figure and a good example for the guys on the team.

And now he's fucking dead.



My cousin Joe was sweet and kind and generous and loving and beautiful, when he was sober. When he wasn't sober, he was an asshole. That's the bottom line and he knew it. I think the biggest difference between the two of us is that I was a happy high and he became depressed and violent. When we sat together in my living room on Friday night, talking, before MY WIFE got home and before my mom and stepfather arrived, he told me that he finally realized that he was a nice person. He said that he knew I'd been telling him that for years, but he had heard it from so many other people lately, he finally believed it. He said that knowledge had made all the difference recently. And he sounded like it really had made a difference.

Whenever he spoke in years past about cleaning up and finding religion and turning his life around, I always had the gut feeling - proven true in every instance - that it wasn't completely true. I always prayed that it WOULD be true, but I never fully believed. This time was different. It was the first time I had the feeling that he really was turning it around and that everything might be OK for him.

Motherfucking dead.


We sat together eating Chinese food on Friday night. My mom, my stepfather, MY WIFE, me and Joe. We had a really good time. We laughed a lot. Joe had just gotten a cell phone about a week earlier and it was one of those that took pictures. He took pictures of all of us and asked some other folks at the restaurant to take one of all of us together. I suppose those pictures are lost now.

He showed us all a picture he took of his son, Nathaniel, earlier that day. He's a big kid. He's 14 years old, I think, and going to be playing high school football this year. He's already an inch taller than Joe and wears a size 13 sneaker. He's playing, as you might expect, on the line. Joe was mighty proud of Nathaniel.

He has another son that he wasn't able to see because of his many problems. It ate him up. He had said that the judge in the case told him that once he cleaned up, he should come back and re-apply for visitation rights.

That was another reason for him to stay clean. It makes no sense at all. He had every reason to not fuck up. Aside from life reasons, he had to know that he was subject to testing at the halfway house and that he wouldn't be able to hide anything.

No sense at all.


The plans thus far are for no service and a cremation. I don't have a say in it. If I did, I'm not sure what I'd do, but I know that Joe talked at length about God's love for him. He was currently a member of something called The Church Of The Nazarene. I don't know anything about the organization, nor do I know where Joe may have attended services. It feels wrong, though. I understand the expediency, but I know that's not what he would have desired.

Did Joe have a right - does Joe have a right to what he desired? Did he forfeit that?

There is going to be an autopsy. No results yet. No definitive answer. If I hear that the results show he fucked himself up again, I'll accept that because what else is there to do other than to accept a stone cold truth? But he had other medical problems. He had diabetes and high blood pressure and hepatitis. He was taking meds for all of those things. Couldn't it be that he was clean and just died from a combination of bad circumstances and bad health? I'm hoping for that result. I want Joe to go out clean. I want for him to have been on the right track. I want to believe.

Joe fucked up a lot in his life. He was also fucked with a lot. According to his writings, which he did at length while in jail and in recovery programs, he was severely abused as a child. There is no corroborating evidence; no one else saying the things he says happened did happen. Lots of people who fuck up invent circumstances to explain why they fucked up, make excuses, embellish things. I don't think Joe did. I've read a good part of what he wrote. It has the ring of truth.

And he never compromised in telling me about what he had done to land himself in jail. I asked him about his latest stint, on Friday, and he laid out how he screwed up, in self-damning detail.

True or not, an abusive childhood was no excuse for the things he did. Lots of people have bad childhoods and they lead productive, honest lives. But, a couple of bad breaks here or there, and not as good a support system, and I'm where he was. Joe stole things and lied and got into violent situations. He did drugs in volume. I'd be a hideous hypocrite if I beat him up for it because I've been there and done that. But it's because I've been there and done that, that I saw him on Friday and I knew he was clean and I finally had real honest-to-God hope for him.

And whatever I felt on Friday means nothing. Dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead, dead.


When I ran for state rep, Joe held a sign for me and worked a polling place. He was a member of our wedding party. When I was in bands, Joe was my biggest fan. He had a tattoo - he did it himself - of one of my band's names. Quite a few years back, he played with me on the Bombers softball team for one year and he was a good player and a good teammate. We talked Friday about his playing again for the Bombers next year, after he finished his probation. I was looking forward to that.

He was a regular reader of this blog and he thought way too highly of my writing skills. When he left our house on Friday evening, he had a hard copy of one of my pieces to read on the train home. You'll find a couple of comments of his if you read the archives. He was more complimentary in person...

I wrote a song last month. When I wrote it, I was just talking about my experiences. I actually wrote it because someone else I know is having some problems and I wanted that person to know that I knew what they were going through. The day before I saw Joe for the last time, I was writing music to go with it and re-reading the lyric. I thought about showing it to him when he came over on Friday. As I said earlier, he was a fan of my music. I thought that he might find this hitting a place in his heart.

It's still a bit rough. It's best read as one continuous line, with the urgency and attention deficit of a rabid cocaine user. The title is "Dead End".

Line after line after line after line after line after line after line up my nose
Wash it down in the back of my throat with straight shots from the bottle of vodka I chose
When I went to the liquor store moments ago
It was just after scoring an 8-ball of blow
And I know it's no good and it gets me nowhere and I'm broke and a loser and nobody cares
If I die on the street just as long as they're paid and I don't leave a clue and I'm starting to fade
So I open the bag again pour out two piles and chop up a couple of powdery smiles
That I know I'll need more of that I can't afford
And I don't give a damn because I'm fucking bored
And I've traded my life for a chemical friend
And I'm running head on into a dead end.


OK, I've let out some of the anger I'm feeling about this. I feel like I should cry, but I haven't so far.

When I got the phone call this morning, from Joe's sister, MY WIFE gathered from the bits she heard on our end that Joe was dead. She came up to me and put her arms around me. I'm sure she expected me to cry then. I didn't. I came close at one point while writing this, but I still haven't. There's something inside of me that needs to hear the autopsy report, I think. Until then, it's too confusing. I still can't grasp the idea that Joe might have overdosed. I want to hear that he didn't. Then I'll cry.

I don't know what I'll do if I hear that there were illegal drugs in his system. I know I'll still be sad, but part of me will not want to validate Joe's choice to fuck up one last time.

I know that an addict's brain works in such a way as to look for excuses to fuck up. I've been there; I've done that. Being in a great place in your life can be seen as just as good an excuse to do stuff as being in a bad place. In a bad place, you figure you've got nothing to lose and fuck the world. In a good place, you figure you can afford to lose a little bit of it and it won't make a difference. You figure you can enjoy a bit and then get out with your life still in a good place.

You do not expect to not have your life, good or bad, at all.


My prayers... my hope is that Joe is in a better place. As he walked out the door Friday, he gave me a big strong hug and he kissed me on the neck and he said, "I love you, Cuz."

Me, too, Cuz.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Yes, really.

When my father retired, he bought a small house in New Hampshire. It was (and is, so far as I'm aware) a nice little place; four rooms - two up and two down - and a basement, sitting on about 6 acres of mostly undeveloped woodland. To get to the house from the main drag, one has to take an unpaved road of about a quarter-mile in length. A railroad - formerly a Boston & Maine right-of-way, but now usually used only once a day as a tourist attraction - runs along the eastern border of the yard.

When my father died, this property became mine. I liked the place, and the area, but couldn't really afford to keep it, since MY WIFE and I both worked in Boston and wouldn't be living there. We endeavored to sell it.

In the meantime, MY WIFE and I would take a weekend up there every couple of months. We did this to check on the place and make sure everything was OK, of course, but also because it was a nice quiet place to go, to get away from the Boston area. It was situated in a small town more-or-less at the beginnings of the White Mountains; very pretty area.

Well, very pretty area except for the fact that it sat behind what amounted to a junkyard.

On the main road, just before the turn-off to my dad's place, there was an auto repair shop called Smitty's. Smitty was a nice guy. While my dad was still living, Smitty would plow the dirt road, whenever there was a snowstorm, all the way down to my dad's place, free. When I needed to sell my dad's car after his passing, Smitty put it up on his frontage by the main drag with a "For Sale" sign and took care of all potential buyers. He charged me no commission when he sold it. However, he did keep a whole bunch of junkers and wrecks within sight of the house, which cut down on the scenery, and we could have complained to the town about that, since he wasn't zoned for a junkyard, so it was sort of a quid pro quo.

(Funny story, wholly unrelated to the main one: When my dad moved there, the little dirt road had no name. Whenever he needed to tell someone where he lived, he had to say, "Behind Smitty's". He got tired of that and finally petitioned the town to name the road. They okayed his request and he named it Sullivan Lane. He put up a nice hand-carved wooden street sign and was pretty proud of it. However, here's what happened. Someone would ask him where he lived. He'd say, "Sullivan Lane". Invariably, the other person would say, "Sullivan Lane? Where's that?" Then my dad would have to say, "Behind Smitty's".)

We were taking one of our mini-vacations up there, over Martin Luther King day weekend, when it snowed. And snowed, and snowed some more. By Monday afternoon, when we would normally have been on the road in order to be back at work on the Tuesday after the holiday, there was an accumulation of at least two feet, with drifts much higher. The driveway - that is, the dirt road - was totally impassable. We were stranded at the house and had been for the past two days.

We knew that sooner or later Smitty would come down and plow the road, since he still did that following my dad's death, but we had no idea when. He had no reason to plow out his own business, as the main road was only barely drivable itself - I found that out by taking a hike up there through the drifts up to my waist.

Monday evening came and went. It was now Tuesday and we both called work to tell them why we weren't there. Well, the only thing to do in that house was sleep or eat, basically. The TV and radio reception was horrendous. The house wasn't hooked up with cable. There was a satellite dish my dad had purchased some years back, but it was now fairly rusted out and the wires were no good. So, the only outside world we knew of came from WMUR-TV, channel 9 in Manchester, and a few weak radio signals once the sun went down. There wasn't much to read, either.

We're fairly good when it comes to self-amusement, but you can only find so much to stave off the boredom after four days together in a confined space. We were going stir-crazy. Cabin fever had set in.

MY WIFE was the first one to crack. She said she was going to strip naked and run around the outside of the house in the snow.

I said, "Oh, you're full of shit."

She was as good as her word, though, albeit with boots and a Burberry scarf. After making a circuit of the house - with me inside going from window to window, unbelievingly following her progress - she came back in and said it was invigorating and great and then started calling me a series of unmasculine names, in an attempt to goad me into doing it also. Well, I'm easily goaded, I guess. I stripped down, too.

As she jogged out the door the second time, I followed her. Of course, I didn't have boots or a Burberry scarf, so I wasn't nearly as dashing. And the one lasting impression I got from the whole thing - aside from the sight of my wife's lovely ass bobbing through the snow in front of me - is that the ancient Greeks, who supposedly did all of their athletic contests naked, must have been built entirely differently than I am. I was extremely uncomfortable running, what with things bouncing up and down and side to side.

(But this is all probably too much information, eh?)

When we did it, I was thinking that either the train would pick this inopportune time to come or, worse, some freakin' hungry bear with insomnia, just happening to amble around the other side of the house searching for food, would run us off onto the main road. There would have been no good explanation in either case. And what if we were running around, bollicky-bare-ass in the snow, when Smitty decided to start plowing? Luckily for us, none of those eventualities... eventuated.

When we got back inside, we were invigorated. I, personally, found a new desire to do many interesting things other than eating and sleeping. It certainly shook out the cobwebs.

That night, around 10pm, we heard this big rumble and at first we thought it might be some sort of avalanche nearby. However, it got closer and we soon saw the headlights on Smitty's plow. He cleared the driveway and, huzzah, there was much rejoicing! Even though the way was cleared, we stayed for the night, since it was so late to start traveling.

And that's the story of COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING. So far as I know, we're the only participants in this sport, either amateur or professional, so we're thinking of petitioning to have it included in the next Winter Olympics. Since we're the only ones with any experience, we should be good for the gold - as long as I can keep that bouncing thing under control.


Monday, September 11, 2006

The Last 22 Of The 74 Things I Did, Including...

COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING! But not until after you hear about the other 21 things, so here goes.

103 - Had plastic surgery.

True, but only a minor procedure. I had a mole on my face, just below the left side of my lower lip. At age 15 or so, I had it removed. I'm happy to report that my love life improved immediately. I mean, it was a mole on my face near my lip. Who wanted to exchange spit with that in the way?

That mole was a big part of my self-identity for a long time. I still find myself occasionally unconsciously touching the area where it used to be. I was doing it as I re-read this.

105 - Wrote articles for a large publication.

I wrote an entire stationery catalogue. It was over 150 pages. I guess that qualifies as a large publication.

I know - the intent was to find out if I had articles published in a publication with a large circulation. Too bad. I had some letters published in CREEM once, if that helps. The letters contained original jokes concerning rock and roll. Here's one of them.

Q: If Deep Purple and Lawrence Welk's Orchestra fell out of an airplane, which ones would hit the ground first?

A: Deep Purple. Lawrence Welk's Orchestra would have to wait for the sheet music.

See, the idea is that Deep Purple improvises a lot while the other guys aren't allowed to? Well, CREEM liked it. Here's another one.

Q: What do you get when you mix Coca-Cola, Sprite and Dr. Pepper?

A: Icky Pop.

110 - Broken someone's heart.

I haven't taken a survey or anything, but I assume so.

111 - Helped an animal give birth.

If standing there watching a cat give birth is helping it, then I did.

112 - Won money on a TV game show.

It wasn't cash, but it was a bunch of gift certificates. I appeared on the late highly-unlamented PBS (yes, PBS) game show Think Twice. I was the runner-up. The winner received a $5,000 portfolio. I got the gift certificates, about $500 in value. I was in the lead all the way until I failed at the last question.

Frickin' Kitty Wells. I never heard of her before then, but I'll never forget her now.

It was a fun experience, anyway. MY WIFE and I used the gift certificates to do a bunch of our Christmas shopping that year. The funny thing is that about a third of the value of the prize came as free software. Neither of us knew squat about computers - we didn't own one and had hardly ever used one except at work - so I gave that part of the prize away, considering it useless. If I knew then what I know now... it would still be fairly useless.

113 - Broken a bone.

A thumb, an index finger and my hand. The thumb and index finger came about as a result of separate softball incidents. The hand came about as a result of my being a stupid guy. I'm better now. Well, my hand is, anyway.

117 - Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild.

Not as food. They were mushrooms of the magic variety.

118 - Ridden a horse.

A couple of times. It was fun.

119 - Had major surgery.

I don't know if any of my surgeries count as major by themselves, but if you add them up maybe. I've had circumcision, tonsils removed, arthroscopic surgery on my right knee, and full upper-jaw dental implants.

(I was just thinking that there might be a very funny story, written in flashback style, concerning someone who had to have all four of those things done at the same time due to a very odd set of circumstances.)

127 - Eaten sushi.

Yes, and a very odd set of circumstances occurred!

I bit into a California Roll and there was a rock in it. I broke a tooth. It had to come out. When I went to the dentist, to have the tooth removed, I tripped over a loose rug and tore some cartilage in my knee. I stumbled into a shelf containing some dentures, one pair of which latched onto my - how should we say? - private area. It hurt like hell! I jerked backwards and knocked the dentist's drill off the hook, concurrent with my falling to the ground. The dentures were still attached to my groin and now the drill, buzzing away, fell into my throat. I tried to get up real quick and smashed my mouth on the spit sink. I then passed out from the pain.

When I woke up, I had new teeth and a limp, but no foreskin or tonsils.

128 - Had your picture in the newspaper.

Yeah, there was a reporter from The Weekly World News there at the same time as me, getting his teeth cleaned, and...

No, actually I had a semi-regular column on an op-ed page for a while. It was accompanied by a picture MY WIFE liked to call "Bucky Beaver" because it showed off my horrible pre-implant teeth so horrendously. No, I'm not including a picture here. Why do you think I had the implants?

129 - Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about.

I convinced my father, a lifelong Democrat, to re-register as a Libertarian. He died shortly thereafter, but I don't think it was cause and effect.

130 - Gone back to school.

To broadcasting school, at age 32. I graduated highest in my class.

(Too many easy jokes go with that line. You can make up your own. It will at least be as funny as anything I'd have to say.)

135 - Selected an important author who you missed in school and read something they wrote.

A lot of them, really, as I never attended college and paid as little attention as possible in high school. Let's go with Herman Melville. I dragged myself through Moby Dick. Call me bored.

136 - Killed and prepared an animal for eating.

A lobster. My father brought one home for me once. He hated seafood, but he knew that I liked it, so it was a very nice thing for him to have done.

However, I didn't want to kill the thing. It was either eat it or keep it as a pet, though, so I did. I felt extremely strange eating it. I felt somewhat honor bound to finish the lobster, having killed him and all, even though I wasn't enjoying it as much as I might have if somebody else had offed him. I've never cooked a lobster since then.

137 - Skipped all your school reunions.


138 - Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language.

More than once, on many trips abroad. Nothing worth writing home about.

139 - Been elected to public office.

Semi-public. It was a public election, listed on the actual state ballot and all, but for a specific political party's internal office. I won election to the Watertown town committee for the Libertarian Party. I think I got 12 votes. I was one of three elected. There were three of us on the ballot, so it wasn't that tough.

145 - Had a booth at a street fair.

We seem to veering into a lot of little Libertarian stories here. I worked the Libertarian booth a few times at the annual Freedom Rally (aka Hempfest) on the Boston Common. I suppose that counts.

146 - Dyed your hair.

When I was a kid, I had bright orange hair. One Halloween, I wanted to dress up as Dracula. Well, when was the last time you saw a vampire with bright orange hair? So my Mom bought some temporary dye and dyed my hair black. It washed out in a couple of days.

147 - Been a DJ.

Yes, although not in the strictest professional sense of the word. I've spun records at a couple of parties. No big deal.


OK. The salacious among you have been waiting for the details on...

141 - Coed Naked Snow Jogging.

And you will now be rewarded for your patience!

Once, while staying in New Hampshire, MY WIFE and I ran around the outside of the house, naked, following a blizzard.

There you go! See you soon!

Boy, what a gyp! Here's a little secret though... click onto this link and you will really, truly, honestly find... CO-ED NAKED SNOW JOGGING!!!

More Of The 74 Things I Did, Including...?

OK. I'm going to try to move things along so that we can get to what you've all been waiting for: COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING! Unless I have a decent story to tell, I'm just going to skip over some of the items. For instance...

54 - Visited Japan.

Yes. Nice trip, but nothing special to say about it, so...

57 - Pretended To Be A Superhero.

I was 6 or 7 years old. My Mom, being a good mom, had me in the habit of taking a vitamin pill every morning along with my breakfast. Well, in a case of severely misguided childhood logic, I figured that if one vitamin pill was good for me, then if I took more of them it would have to be better for me. Heck, if I took enough of them, I'd probably become like Superman or something, right?

So I did. I don't remember what I might have been doing as Superman at that moment, but when my mother discovered the vitamin bottle, empty, she immediately called our family doctor.

As it turned out, I guess it wasn't too bad for me. The doctor told my mother to give me a large glass of milk. I don't know what that was supposed to do, other than wash down the vitamins, but I liked milk, so no problem for me. I suffered no ill effects that I know of. I was kind of disappointed to find out that I hadn't gained x-ray vision or the ability to fly, though.

59 - Lounged Around In Bed All Day.

What interesting story could there possibly be in that? None, that's what, so let's move on.

60 - Posed Nude In Front Of Strangers.

This could be used as an opportunity to tell you about my stepbrother, Billy, the male stripper. This is about me, though. So I'll tell you the story about how, one time when we were both staying at my mother's house, he saw me come out of the shower, a towel wrapped around my waist, and he suggested that I might become a male stripper, also.

Don't laugh too hard. I was young and in shape at the time. Anyway, while I enjoyed the compliment, I can't dance worth a damn and I assumed that an audience of lusty women wouldn't be tremendously thrilled by me just standing there with a towel wrapped around my waist.

I haven't posed for an art class or anything like that, but I did kind of pose nude once. I was having a pre-examination for a vasectomy and the doctor doing the exam asked if he could have a colleague - an intern - join him to learn about the procedure. I said OK and he left the exam room to go get the intern.

When he came back, an attractive and petite young Asian woman, presumably a doctor, accompanied him. At least, that's what I kept telling myself - "She's a doctor. She's a doctor." - while I was poked and prodded in various sensitive areas. She had her face rather nearer to my genitals than any woman other than MY WIFE since the time I was married.

What made it worth remembering - and the self-serving reason I'm telling the story - is that, at one point, he said, "When the incision is made, there should be no problems. The genitals are perfectly formed." As I blushed, she nodded.

I don't know exactly what constitutes perfectly formed genitals, but I've lived on that ever since.

62 - Kissed In The Rain.
63 - Played In The Mud.
64 - Played In The Rain.

Who hasn't? I mean, aside from The Wicked Witch Of The West.

65 - Gone To A Drive-In Theater.

I was going to give another snide answer here, but then I realized that I'm from a generation that grew up with readily available drive-in theaters and a good many of you reading this may be much younger.

If you've never been to one, I'll give you the lowdown on drive-ins. Great place to go once, if you've never had the experience. Very bad food was served at most of them. Movies are uniformly better inside; that's where they were made to be seen. Good place to neck, of course. Little kids love the idea of driving to a movie dressed in their pajamas, so if you have kids it's a kick. Don't forget to unhook the speaker before you drive away! If you don't, it will end up being a much more expensive movie than you bargained for...

67 - Started A Business.

It depends upon what you call a business. If you're one of those stick-in-the-muds who don't consider it a business unless you file legal papers with the government and the main objective in starting it is to make money, then no. However, I've started a couple of bands and then there's this blog where I'm earning about 7 cents an hour.

Actually, I was part of a legitimate business start-up once. Well, "legitimate" in the sense that the idea was to make money, although not legitimate in the eyes of the law. I was part of a three-man team that dealt drugs in Dorchester. We made some fair cash for a little while and we dealt only in what we considered benign drugs - marijuana, hashish, magic mushrooms, righteous acid. We gave people a good deal and we had a very good rep. Everything we sold came with a money back guarantee and nobody ever asked for a refund.

We gave it up after a minor bust. You'll have to remember that, in some ways, the attitude towards drugs was not then as jackbooted as it is now. Some cops were willing to just give you a quick hassle and then go on their way to really important things. None of us was so much as actually arrested, but a couple of Boston cops threw us up against a fence and frisked us. They found a couple of nickel bags in my boot, opened them and dumped them on the street. They found my personal pipe in my pocket, took it apart and threw the pieces in four different directions, onto rooftops and into fields. I was sort of pissed, but knew that this was how the game was played and I had been lucky to not have anything more incriminating on my person and had fairly mellow cops find what there was.

68 - Fallen In Love And Not Had Your Heart Broken.

MY WIFE. Enough said.

69 - Toured Ancient Sites.

Sure. The Coliseum in Rome, for one. And before it was torn down, Boston Garden.

(That's a good joke for anyone around my age from Boston. The rest of you will just scratch your heads and go, "Huh?")

72 - Gotten Married.

See #68.

77 - Made Cookies From Scratch.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from being in the kitchen with my Mom, making peanut butter cookies.

(And bread pudding. That's not cookies, of course, but I just thought of how much I used to like that stuff. I haven't had it in years. I think I'll look for a recipe tonight.)

83 - Got Flowers For No Reason.

I'm proud to say "yes" to this one. MY WIFE has been known to send flowers to my office for no other reason than because she loves me. Not many guys can say that. Of course, not many guys have MY WIFE.

(Boy, that's one asinine sentence. Duh.)

84 - Performed On Stage.

Many times, as a musician and also pretending to be one.

85 - Been To Las Vegas.

More times than I can really count. Most trips have been fun. Some have been profitable. A couple have been neither, including (unfortunately) the last one.

86 - Recorded Music.

Yes, I've been in the studio with a couple of bands. Good experience to have had, but no great music came from it.

87 - Eaten Shark.

No big story here. I bought it at the fish counter of the Star Market in Dorchester, more than once, in steaks. When broiled, it's similar in texture and taste to swordfish, perhaps a tiny bit more pungent. I don't know exactly what sort of shark it was. I'd like to imagine that it was a Great White, but it was probably some poor nearsighted schlub of a sand shark who wandered into a lobster trap by mistake.

89 - Had A One-Night Stand.

Yes, certainly. Since I'm a gentleman, though, you get no details.

90 - Gone To Thailand.

On the same trip as Japan. It was fun and I saw very big Buddhas, had interesting meals and not much else worth talking about.

92 - Been In A Combat Zone.

Boy, is this one cheesy.

There used to be a section of downtown Boston filled with strip-joints, adult bookstores, peepshows, X-rated movie houses and every sort of female that military personnel on leave might find useful. It was known as The Combat Zone. Everyone in the city referred to it that way, even the politicians intent on cleaning it up. They did. Too bad.

93 - Buried One/Both Of Your Parents.

Just one. The other one is reading this and saying, "I'm reading this, so it's not me!"

I really hate to do this to you, but enough for now. There's a magnificent documentary film about 9/11 on CBS and it's far more compelling than any of my stupid stories - even to me - so I'm going to stop now and watch it. You've waited this long for COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING, I suppose you can wait one more day. Even if you can't, you'll have to. As Ric Flair used to say, "Whether you like it or you don't like it, you'd better learn to love it!"

See you tomorrow, patient people!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

The 74 Things I Did (Numbers 41 Through 141, Including 145, 146 & 147)

Wow! What a confusing title! But only if you haven't read this, and then, after that, this, so you probably should if you didn't. If you already have (or you're at least willing to make a pledge in good faith that you will) then pull on your boots and come along with me as we explore the murky swamp I call my past.

41 - Taken care of someone who was wasted.

Yes, often, but many of the instances were self-help.

42 - Had amazing friends.

I still do. All friends are amazing, really.

45 - Stolen a sign.

A few times. It's easiest if you're on second base and the catcher isn't being too clever.

Oh, wait a minute. I think maybe what was being asked here was if I had ever stolen, like, a street sign or a sign from in front of a business or something akin to that, right?

Eh. I'm still going with my original interpretation. Otherwise I'll have to re-title this whole thing with new numbers and it was already hard enough to get you through that first paragraph.

47 - Taken a road trip.

Sure. I've tripped on plenty of roads.

49 - Midnight walk on the beach.

The intent is probably to ask whether or not I'd ever had a romantic midnight walk on a beach, but let's go back to the wasted days of my wasted youth, instead.

It's 1975, I think, and six of us are piled into Killer's car.

("Killer" was not fond of that nickname. He was a nice guy, fairly non-threatening, and with a dandy sense of humor. However, I have no idea what he might be up to these days, so I don't want to embarrass him by using his real name.)

The other occupants of the car were Duck, Munch, Pel, Stublet and Tooch.

(If you're one of those people who knows how to count, you may have noticed that the total of nicknames is six. I had previously said that there were six people in Killer's car. Therefore, one of the nicknames was mine. No, I'm not telling you which one. I wasn't fond of my nickname, either. I don't think anybody liked their nicknames in this crowd. If we had all spoken up at once, we probably could have been six happy guys named Jim, Steve, Joe, Mike, Kevin, and another guy named Steve, though not necessarily in that order.)

Anyway, it was February and there we were in the car, driving through one of the most hellacious blizzards ever to hit Massachusetts. We were somewhere over by Nahant, driving along the seashore. And, to a man, we were absolutely blasted on angel dust.

(I make a lot of jokes about drugs, but angel dust is no laughing matter. I know of at least one friend who never really came back from an angel dust experience and I had another friend go through one of the nastiest withdrawal experiences I ever saw when he tried to quit the stuff after months of abuse. I wouldn't deny anybody their choice of psychotropic experiences, but I would strongly urge everybody to skip dust. End of short sidetrip into morality. It is important to know what we were on for the story, though.

Angel dust is basically the non-human-use anesthetic phencyclidine applied to oregano or parsley and then smoked. It has a distinctive plastic taste and smell, both of which linger long after you wish they'd go away. The main effect of angel dust is dissociation. Time, place, physical sensations and perceptions are all distorted or, in some cases, almost obliterated. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, but one of the most noticeable is a lack of sensitivity to temperature extremes.)

So, there we were fishtailing and so forth in the snow and wind. There were no other cars anywhere. We were the only fools out in this noreaster by the seashore. And it was a howler, too. There was perhaps a foot of snow drifting on the road and the winds were whipping at 20 or 25 mph.

We decided it would be really cool to take a walk on the beach.

(Despite what I said above about the use of angel dust, the experience was really cool. To this day, it's the most violent and powerful thing I've ever felt. Would I do angel dust again if given the opportunity to re-live the experience? No. Despite much evidence to the contrary in these pages, I am smarter than that. However, I'm glad I did it when I didn't know any better.)

Killer parked his car by the seawall and the six of us got out and walked towards the water. The snow falling and wind blasting and waves crashing were so loud, we could barely hear each other shouting. Salt spray from the ocean hit us hard in the face. We were walking in a foot of snow on the beach and had to lean into the wind to make forward progress. Some of us then took off our jackets to get even deeper into the power. And, because of the effects of the dust, none of us were feeling the cold. All we felt was the immense rush of nature at full force. We stood there, marveling at this fury, for a good ten minutes.

Soaking wet, we climbed back into the car, where I Believe In Miracles (by Hot Chocolate) was playing on the radio. I'm happy to report that we all made it home safely, we all came down without crashing, none of us caught pneumonia, and as far as I know all six of us are still alive and not missing any major faculties. A minor miracle.

So, no, not a romantic midnight walk on the beach, but a memorable one nonetheless.

51 - Visited Ireland.

I hate to go into yet another "Jim inebriated" story so soon, but, hey, it's about Ireland.

I was there with my parents. It was the last major trip we all took together before they were divorced, as I recall. I don't believe this trip was the deciding factor in that, but that's when the trip took place. So, make me about 15 or so.

On the last night of our trip, we went to an honest-to-goodness castle, somewhere a few miles outside of Dublin, to enjoy a medieval feast. Some of you have no doubt done the same sort of thing in your time or at least you have a basic knowledge of the deal. The joint is set up with huge oaken banquet tables, each with 15 or 20 guests. A bunch of local actors portray the king, the jester, minstrels, serving wenches and whatever else might hang around a castle. You're served big greasy platters of meats and vegetables, medieval family style, along with large loaves of coarse bread. You pretty much only have a knife to eat with, so you use your hands a lot. The king does various amusing things - choosing a queen from among the guests, throwing some folks into a dungeon, having someone sing a bawdy song, stuff like that - and everybody has a roaring good messy time.

In Ireland - at least then, if not now - there was no set legal drinking age (gee, who woulda thunk?) and as part of the service at this castle, they set out huge casks of cheap red wine on the tables, all you could drink along with your fatty slabs of beef and whatnot. I indulged myself a bit.

OK, more than a bit. I poured as much of the stuff down my gullet as I could get my hands on. I was one stultifyingly-blitzed 15-year-old. My parents caught on to the fact that I was sucking down the hooch at an alarming rate and shut me off. Too late. I was ginormously swacked.

I remember very little about the night, from that point on, other than my parents being initially amused at my drunkenness and then, on the ride back to our cottage, a bit less so. The next day, however, I remember with crystal clarity.

I had the mother of all hangovers. My head felt as though my brain went for a walk and, while it was out, a cat crawled into my skull and was now trying to claw his way out. No matter how much water I drank, I still had dry mouth. I couldn't eat anything and keep it down. And we flew home that day, so I had the dehydration and compression of an airplane ride to deal with, too.

Now, you'd think that something like that might have taken me down the road to future sobriety forevermore, wouldn't you? Well, as glimpsed throughout these pages, we see that the answer is a resounding "NO".

53 - In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them.

See above, and pity the strangers.

Oh, my. This is only #53, isn't it? I think we're looking at at least another day before we get to the COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING. Since I don't post on the weekend, that means Monday at the earliest. But, hey, it's COED NAKED SNOW JOGGING. You'll be back.

See you then.


The 74 Things I Did

Yesterday, I printed this list. Here are the stories behind the things I did.

1 - Bought everyone in the bar a drink.

I've done this a lot, actually. I was the only one in the bar most of the time, but it's still technically true.

3 - Climbed a mountain.

That would be Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire (pictured above) at an elevation of 3,165 feet. I climbed it when I was 15.

I was one of a party of folks from The Paulist Center in Boston, a somewhat radical Roman Catholic church that was always at odds with the Archdiocese for one reason or another. If the Archdiocese could have read my thoughts as I was climbing the mountain, it probably would have gotten the whole crew of us excommunicated.

I spent the entire climb directly behind a woman in a pair of tight-fitting jeans. As a result, being 15 and all, I spent the entire climb fantasizing about what I would have liked to do to what was in those jeans. You know how you get a donkey to pull a wagon by dangling a carrot in front of it? In this case, the ass was in front of the carrot and that's what got me up the mountain.

8 - Said "I love you" and meant it.

I've never said it without meaning it.

9 - Hugged a tree.

Just high in the woods one day with a bunch of friends. We all did it. I guess we all had an attack of latent druidism or something.

11 - Visited Paris.

If I was more adept at scanning, I'd show you the postcards.


13 - Stayed up all night long and saw the sunrise.

Most often with chemical help.

15 - Gone to a huge sports game.

I don't know exactly what qualifies as "huge", but I've been to Celtics and Bruins playoff games. On an international front, MY WIFE and I attended the World Curling Championships.

17 - Grown and eaten your own vegetables.

When I was a kid, I planted a small garden in the backyard. I know I grew more than one thing, but what I remember eating is the corn. The ears were somewhat small and had a wormhole here and there, but not too bad overall. We lived.

19 - Slept under the stars.

The first time was with the Boy Scouts. Since then it has been with various Girl Scouts. Be prepared!

22 - Watched a meteor shower.

In New Hampshire, my Dad's place was in a small town called Thornton and the night sky was amazingly sharp and clear due to lack of any other lights in the immediate vicinity. I just sat out on the back deck, having a smoke and enjoying the show.

24 - Given more than you can afford to charity.

Yeah, but it's way too self-serving to even bold this one, nevermind go into details.

25 - Looked up at the night sky through a telescope.

When I was a little kid, my Dad had a telescope in his closet. I took it out once or twice. My initial objective was to try and find windows with naked women in them, but then I actually took a look at the North Star and then the Dog Star. In other words, once I got tired of the Little Dipper, I got Sirius.

Hah! Ask me why I have butter on my pants.

(Why do you have butter on your pants?)

Because I'm on a roll, baby! (*rimshot*)

26 - Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment.

This one is actually funny.

My Aunt's Mother-In-Law - my cousin's grandmother - had died. The wake was one night, the funeral the next day. MY WIFE and I went to the church for the funeral and took a seat in a pew somewhat towards the back. We weren't immediate family, so we didn't feel like it would have been right to sit up front with my aunt, my cousins, etc.

The organ music played and the priest entered from the back of the church, along with the casket and funeral directors. We stood up along with everybody else as the casket rolled by. It reached the foot of the altar and the priest started the mass.

Everything was about as normal as a funeral mass gets, until the priest began speaking about the deceased.

"It's always hard to lose a loved one, but especially when he was beloved by so many. All who knew him, loved him. He..."

He? Him? Oh, God, we're at the wrong church.

OH... MY... GOD... We're at the wrong funeral!

We both looked at each other and that was that. I was biting my tongue so hard it almost bled. MY WIFE tried desperately to stifle her laughter. She was emitting these little gasps - "“huh...huh...huh..." - that, given the circumstances, sounded like crying. Folks were turning around from the front, wondering who this woman was who was so devastated by the death of... whoever the heck was in the box. She wasn't going to be able to hold it much longer and neither was I. We both got up and walked as quickly and graciously as possible to the back door of the church, my arm around her shoulders as though she were having a breakdown, with every ounce of our remaining strength going towards NOT ruining this innocent funeral.

As soon as we got outside and the door closed behind us, MY WIFE collapsed on the front steps of the church and let out her laughter in long, rasping breaths. Now she really was crying. I joined her in both. We couldn't speak for a good two or three minutes, we were laughing so hard. MY WIFE later told me that if she hadn't gotten outside at that very moment, she would have peed herself right where she sat in the church. I wouldn't have been far behind her.

We often wonder whose funeral it was that we attended and whether the deceased left behind a widow who, to this day, wonders if her late husband had a floozy on the side who was so broken up that she couldn't take it anymore and had to leave.

27 - Had a food fight.

Once, in a church basement, with about 6 or 7 other teenagers. It was a few minutes of fun, but considering that we all had to do about an hour of clean-up afterwards, it wasn't worth it.

28 - Bet on a winning horse.

Many times. On the non-winner, many more times.

30 - Had a snowball fight.

I grew up in Boston. That would be a big yes.

31 - Screamed as loudly as you possibly could.

One of the big stupid fads of the 70's was something called Primal Scream Therapy, wherein you were supposed to scream like all hell to release negative energy or maybe just to piss off your neighbors, I forget which. I did it a few times. It didn't help.

33 - Seen a total eclipse.

Sorry, no funny eclipse stories, but, yes, I've seen a couple.

34 - Ridden a roller coaster.

Considering my fear of heights, you'd think maybe I wouldn't have done this. I did, however, and enjoyed it, too. Looking back on what transpired, I might have been lucky that the only thrill I got was from the roller coaster.

I was on vacation with my parents in Copenhagen and we went to Tivoli, the great Danish amusement park. I was probably 13. While they were doing something else, I wandered off to see what rides I might like to take. There was this one ride that appeared to travel through tunnels and such. It looked like fun, so I got in line.

While I was in line, an older gentleman got in line behind me. He struck up a conversation with me. In Danish. At least, I assume it was Danish, since we were in Denmark. I said something in English and he got the idea.

Pointing at himself, he said, "Dane."

I pointed at me. "American."

"America! Ah! Like?", he said, pointing towards the ride.

"I don't know. I haven't been on it yet."

That didn't really register, so then I just said, "Yes", and smiled.

"Yes! Ah! Also Yes!", he said, pointing at himself again.” He then pulled a bunch of tickets for rides from his pocket and started handing some to me.

Excellent! I took them, as any dumb-ass but greedy teenager would. We got to the head of the line and we each handed tickets to the conductor or whatever he's called. He shuttled us both into the front car.

The ride turned out to be an indoor roller coaster, all in darkness. I had no ability to see, so no fear of heights. It was a lot of fun. Meanwhile, the Dane was laughing and putting his arm around my shoulder and leaning into me on the turns.

Look, I can be pretty thick sometimes. It wasn't until many years later that I considered the possibility that he might have had more on his mind than just being friendly to a foreigner. And that may have been all he DID have in mind. He was an older man, jolly-fat, well-dressed. He never made any outright gropes at me or anything and when I got off the ride (after our second time through) and went to find my parents, he just waved good-naturedly and smiled to beat the band. I still want to give him the benefit of the doubt. Not everybody who's kind to kids is a pervert.

35 - Hit a home run.

I'm not David Ortiz or Barry Bonds -– or even Mark Belanger - but I've hit enough of them that I don't need to go into detail. At this late point in my "career" I've got almost no power left. I don't know if I'll ever hit another one, but, yes, I have hit some before.

38 - Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment.

More often than not, for way more than a moment.

And I hope that's how you feel, too, especially since I'm going to drag this out to another day. But, if you come back, remember... Coed Naked Snow Jogging!

See you then.