Monday, January 29, 2007

So I Bit Him

As hard as this may be to believe, I put a lot of thought into my writing.

(It would be just like me to insert a parenthetical exhortation here; something along the lines of “Stop laughing! It’s true!”, but since the whole point of what follows is that I work hard to get you to laugh, that would be contrary to my purpose.)

(So I won’t.)

Now, unless you were here yesterday, this dissertation will not make as much sense as it otherwise might. I suggest that before we go any further, you review the previous entry.

OK, that was a rather cursory review by some of you, but I guess it will have to do. Obviously, the whole thing was a pastiche of jokes and the set-ups to those jokes. I’m going to take one of those jokes and sacrifice it on the altar of knowledge. It will be dissected for your benefit.

(This aside is NOT a joke, so please pay attention. Once a joke is ripped apart, in an effort to find out what makes it tick, it can never be fully repaired. It dies, in most instances. In addition, the person witnessing the dissection will never again be able to look at that style of joke in the same innocent way he or she once did. From then on, knowing the inner workings of the joke, he or she is jaded and not so easily amused. So I’m basically screwing myself here by sabotaging my own audience. Fuck that noise! I’m outta here!)

(Ha! See what I did there? I told you there was no joke coming, relaxing you. Then I sprung a very aggressive joke on you, one that included an obscenity. If you laughed, the joke worked. If you didn’t laugh, hey, I already told you there was no joke there. A win-win situation.)

Here is the joke we will be observing in its death throes:

Rage against the machine, my brother!

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

Taken out of context, it is not as funny. This is why I suggested that a review be done of the entire piece. The set-up included two visuals. One was of a reader sitting at a computer wearing just underwear. This would be you, if you were just wearing underwear, but some other imaginary reader if you were dressed in any other fashion. The other visual was of me standing behind a podium and delivering a speech while not wearing pants.

The first part of the joke...

Rage against the machine, my brother!

... is simple enough. The idea of my showing solidarity with someone simply because we both happen to be underdressed is funny in and of itself. Adding an exhortation with political overtones makes it even more so. What a silly thing to base a political bond upon!

(It is near impossible to read a sentence like “Rage against the machine, my brother!” without conjuring an image of some white doofus giving the black power salute. This part of the joke really works only if that visual pops into the head upon reading it. Without that visual, it’s much weaker.

Trying to induce a mental picture is an extreme leap of faith. The person telling the joke is assuming that the audience is smart enough to form the picture without a true visual aid. Whenever someone makes a joke of that sort, he is complimenting your intelligence. You’re welcome and I apologize for the digression.)

The second part of the joke...

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

... is the part of the joke that I’ll truly deconstruct. Not that the line, as given, is all that and a bag of chips. It’s just that there were many different ways to end the joke, all with laugh potential. Here are the alternates that I decided not to use:

(Or my sister, if the floral pattern is any indication.)

(Or my sister. If so, what are you doing after the speech?)

(Or my sister. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my sister! Put some clothes on, Sis!)

(Or my sister. I’m not wearing my glasses, so it’s hard to tell.)

(Or my sister. And if so, you might want to consider a depilatory.)

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you look cold.)

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you were probably surfing for porn. Taking your looks into consideration, that’s probably your best bet.)

(Or my flat-chested, hairy sister.)

You may like one of these alternates more than the one I chose to use. De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say after he’d had a few stiff ones. But really, in this case, De Gustibus Is Very Much Disputadum. I’ll go through the thought process by which I came to use the ending I actually used.

(I didn’t necessarily write out all of these at the time, of course. I might have typed one, thought another, erased the initial attempt and replaced it with a slight variant, etc., but for purposes of illustration, we’re going to pretend that I have an orderly mind, when in fact what I need is an orderly.)

First, you have to understand why this second part of the joke could really and truly have been special. If you’re sitting at the computer and reading the piece while at work, it’s just a throwaway. It won’t ever be more than that. But for the person actually sitting in front of the computer, at home, in his or her underwear? It’s like I somehow singled you out for special treatment. In some magical way, I actually saw you in your underwear from wherever I was writing! THAT is a tremendously funny concept.

(Or my sister, if the floral pattern is any indication.)

This is funny. We start with the idea that I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman who I’m talking to. I lean towards it being a woman because of flowers on the person’s underwear, but I leave open the possibility of it being a guy wearing flowered underwear, which is a funny visual. It also has a subtler level, in that I can readily distinguish flowers on the underwear, but I’m unable to distinguish any sexual characteristics other than the flowers.

As a matter of fact, this was probably the funniest alternate - for everyone reading the piece who wasn't actually sitting at the computer in his or her underwear. I rejected it because I wanted to see if I could hit the magical humor target described above. The chances of someone actually sitting at the computer wearing flowered underwear was much slimmer than that of someone actually sitting at the computer wearing underwear, period, especially considering my limited readership.

(Or my sister. If so, what are you doing after the speech?)

Also funny. I assume that some female sitting in her underwear might be an easy hit for a pervert like me and I’m willing to deviate from my speech in order to BE a deviate. Problem is, I couldn’t come up with a clean segue into the next section. I could have gone back to the concept of the person actually being a guy and riffed about my not being homosexual but still so desperate for a date that I was willing to take my chances – or something along those lines - but I preferred to keep any possible scatology at bay early on since I would probably be doing a number of penis jokes later in the piece. I didn’t want to lose the bite then, you should pardon the expression.

So do I pretend to have gotten an answer from the female? Or do I just go on without getting an answer and let the bit die? The latter is probably the best choice, but I decided that I didn’t want to end the bit with a question, so I continued trying to come up with something else.

(Or my sister. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my sister! Put some clothes on, Sis!)

Again, it ruined the possibility of hitting a few of you with a direct shot. I also don’t really have a sister. I operate under a strange sort of moral code that won’t allow me to make a joke like that. If somehow the joke had been constructed so that the line could have been...

(Or my mother. Hey, wait a minute! You ARE my mother! Put some clothes on, Mom!)

... I might have considered it a keeper, since I actually have one of those.

(A mother, not a keeper.)

Just a quirk on my part. I sometimes make up stuff, but I never invent relatives.

(Or my sister. I’m not wearing my glasses, so it’s hard to tell.)

This was what I originally decided to be good enough. I then went on to write the rest of the piece. Upon reading what I had written, I saw that I had made a joke about glasses later on. In that joke, I didn’t call them glasses. I figured that using the word “glasses” in this earlier joke (or even a variant, such as “spectacles”) would render the later joke both less funny and less logical. So, I continued looking for a better ending.

(Or my sister. And if so, you might want to consider a depilatory.)

This was mostly just a matter of personal taste.

In this version I’m thinking it’s probably a guy, but maybe it’s just a hairy woman. Well, I first didn’t want to truly insult any woman I was lucky enough to make that magic direct hit with. I also don’t necessarily find hairiness in a woman a complete turn off, either – I mean, if she doesn’t look like freakin’ Sasquatch or something - so I wasn’t interested in perpetuating the idea that full Brazilian is what most guys want.

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you look cold.)

This kind of assumed that the person, male or female, would not be wearing a bra and would have their high beams on. I can imagine a woman sitting at the computer in her underwear, but not just in panties. In my experience - which may be limited - a woman at home either wears both or nothing. So, as amazing as this may seem, I rejected this one for not being realistic enough.

(Or my sister. Whichever it is, you were probably surfing for porn. Taking your looks into consideration, that’s probably your best bet.)

Too insulting. I didn’t want to make a direct hit and then immediately alienate that person.

(Or my flat-chested, hairy sister.)

Again, too insulting.

The general idea is that it is definitely a guy I see, but I’m hedging my bet. That’s funny. But, aside from the reasons given above concerning the “depilatories” joke, I never – and I mean NEVER – make jokes about flat-chested women.

I find it tremendously rude to make jokes concerning a physical feature of a person when that physical feature is something the person was born with. Anyway, a woman’s beauty isn’t limited by the size of her boobs. In fact, I think just about all boobs are lovely. A woman with smaller boobs can be just as sexy and good looking as anyone else.

(If a flat-chested woman wants to make a joke about herself, that’s her business and it most certainly can be funny. Someone else doing it is just rude and ignorant. Likewise, if your physical deformity is self-inflicted – a bad toupee or a beer gut, for example – that’s fair game for everybody. Calling someone without a right arm “Lefty”, isn’t.)

Now we come to the ending I chose.

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

It’s not as big a laugh as some of the others, but it’s still good. It allows the possibility of making that direct hit and for both sexes, too. It doesn’t insult anyone because what is lacking is my own visual acuity and I’m not taking a potshot at anyone else’s physicality. Taking into consideration everything we discussed above, I considered it the best line to use. Humor is about the most subjective thing there is, though, so your mileage may vary and I don’t have a problem with that, you tasteless bastard.

So there we have the dissection of a joke. It has been ripped apart so thoroughly and pedantically that even a tag team of Mel Brooks and Neil Simon would have a difficult time putting it together again. Or my sister, if she weren’t so flat-chested and hairy, using her one arm to surf for porn while sitting there in her flowered panties without a bra on.

The State Of The Suldog Address

Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
Welcome to The State Of The Suldog address.
If you want to be happy, take my advice
Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.

Hah-hah. Just a little poetic humor to break the tension. Since Suldog is approaching a hemi-centennial, I thought there might be some trepidation among you as to the particulars of this speech. I see now that you don’t really give a rat’s ass, so I’ll just continue on in the customary oblivious fashion.

Before we go on, though, I do want to say that I’m very pleased to see that most of you have dressed appropriately for the occasion. Only one of you is wearing just underwear. That’s OK. I’m behind a podium, so I didn’t see the need to wear pants, either. Rage against the machine, my brother!

(Or my sister. It’s hard to tell from this distance.)

I’ll kick things off with a general overview. Everything that Suldog is supposed to have two of, he still does. The same holds true for those things of which he should have either one or ten. No necessary parts are missing and it is hoped that this good trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

OK. For specifics, let’s start at the top and work our way down.

I hate to begin on a low note, but it’s no secret that the top of the skull is a problem. This area has been hit extremely hard by recession. I think it’s safe to say that the recession is over, but that hardly mitigates the fact that the entire region has already been declared a disaster area. I could put a positive spin on this by saying that there have been significant savings due to non-expenditure on hair sprays, pomades, gels, mousse, and all other things usually associated with such regions, but that would be disingenuous. I’m not here to kid you, ladies and gentlemen. I’m here to give you the bald truth.

Now, the area directly beneath the skullcap is another thing altogether. There is reason to believe that there might be significant growth here since I smell bacon at the oddest times. No, just kidding; nothing to worry about. Everything is the same in this area as it has always been. I can assure you that there has been no increase in gray matter.

As alluded to briefly earlier, there are still two eyes. However, we have had to invest in capital improvements in order to optimize function. At this time, the addition of constructions mostly made from glass has improved the outlook tremendously. I must be truthful with you and tell you that there is further degradation expected in the future. At that time, we may look into surgical strikes as an alternative or, barring that, a striped cane and a dog.

The ears are still one of the most outstanding features of Suldog. As a matter of fact, if they were any more outstanding, he wouldn’t be able to fit through doorways. Barump-bump!

No, no, the ears are just fine. As body parts go - and they’re all going to sometime - the ears have proven themselves to be a fine investment. They are an integral component of Suldog’s livelihood and I’m willing to go so far as to say that an increased expenditure for muffs is probably warranted.

(I said, “muffs”, plural. Get your mind out of the gutter. This is serious business here.)

Closely associated with the ears are the nose and throat. In earlier times, as you are probably all aware, the nose was not in good shape at all. This was due to the unnatural influx of snow during the 1980’s. As a result of the constant freezing of the area at that time, there remain major blockages and detours in the infrastructure. There has been full economic recovery, but that has not meant a return to previous levels of functionality. We have been able to achieve significant clearage through the use of oxymetazoline hydrochloride, but this remedy is always temporary and must be undertaken four or five times daily. Now, I realize that there are alarmists among you who contend that this is actually damaging the structure to a greater extent, rather than ensuring a long-term solution. To this I say, *snort*.

As for the throat, it is more than earning its keep. It is the one area of Suldog that consistently shows a surplus. This is despite the fact that it demands more and more cookies almost every day. Along with the tongue, it has shown an amazing ability to… well, let’s be honest. It basically supports the whole enterprise. Three cheers for the throat! I propose an expenditure for a scarf, along with the previously mentioned muffs allowance.

(Muffs. Plural. Please!)

As much as I’d like to quickly go on to other areas, I can’t leave the head without mentioning our dreaded enemies, the teeth. As you are well aware, we have been battling these white menaces for much of the past 50 years. After decades of attempts at pacifying them by building them canals and bridges – even offering them crowns - we finally came to the sad conclusion, a few years back, that total eradication was the only feasible solution to this problem. This was not an easy decision. We had attempted to show them, earlier, by removal of particularly troubling members of their sect one at a time, that we were prepared to wage all-out war if necessary. This strategy did not work. They became more and more calcified in their obstinance. The time had come for drastic action. We made a last ditch effort to impress upon some of them that they must either acquiesce or pay the supreme penalty. We forcibly removed 12 of their number and replaced them with allies from the land of Dentitia. This still did not produce the desired effect in the remaining teeth. They are as troubling as before, if not more so. Therefore, I am ordering that carpet bombings of caramel be initiated and let the chips fall where they may.

We will now move on to the body. Before we do, though, I need to acknowledge those of you who have been clamoring for the body to be re-named “The Big Tub Of Goo”. While this may seem like an appropriate appellation to you, I think it does a disservice to something which has served us quite well over the years. Granted, it has at times given us shitty results, while at other times it has pissed away our chances, but I think it should be noted that it takes a lot of guts to handle all of the crap we’ve sometimes asked it to digest and even though certain members of the body are nuts, you have to admit that, overall, a lot of heart has been shown - as well as the occasional pimple after one too many greasy meals, but let’s not dwell on that.

(I would also be remiss if I didn’t at this point acknowledge the intestines, who have suggested that the following be named our official anthem:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
Let’s eat beans at every meal!

This suggestion will be taken under advisement until the next meeting of the cabinet where we store the cans.)

There has been some talk lately concerning improvements for the lungs. Most notably, there has been seen a growing movement to have the lungs smokeproofed. While I consider this an interesting idea, and one that may well pay dividends over time, the immediate outlook is not favorable. In every instance whereupon this course of action has been attempted, the brain has gone on strike. Unless we can shut down the brain entirely, I see no way to accomplish this goal.

Speaking of shutting down the brain entirely, we now come to the penis. While this is definitely not a profit center, it has been a consistent performer. As you’ll recall, in the months prior to Suldog’s birth, a vote was taken upon the acquisition of genitals. At that time, the Y chromosome delegation carried the day and it was decided to go with a penis rather than a vagina. This was despite the strongly logical appeals of the X chromosome faction which stated that a vagina could, in fact, become a money maker at a later date if so desired, while all a penis would ever be good for was a few laughs. In a classic case of circuses over bread, the penis was acquired.

I think it is safe to say that this acquisition has turned out to be a mixed blessing. When the penis is in use, it certainly seems like the right choice was made. We have never been let down by it and our trading partners seem satisfied as well. However, the opportunities with which we have been presented to complete such interactions have not been as numerous as once hoped for. Of course, that may be because these opportunities are hoped for on a 24/7 basis and perhaps we are, in actuality, meeting worldwide averages. If so, that’s why there are so many wars.

Well, there’s nowhere to go from here but down, so let’s go there. The ass is doing its job and I daresay that none of us would want to, so that’s a good thing. There were reports that a team of astronomers had discovered a moon circling the ass, but it was later shown that it was Uranus, not mine. See the end of paragraph 10 above for further details.

The legs are in pretty good shape. They’re still strong enough to carry Suldog around the bases - and with a fair amount of speed for someone who eats so much cheese, I might add. As long as this is the case, no time or effort need be spent on improving their function via such ridiculous enterprises as jogging. Since the upcoming softball season will be Suldog’s last, there appears to be no reason to change the policy which has gotten us this far. When one considers that such great ballplayers as Yastrzemski, Williams, DiMaggio, Aaron and Mays were completely washed up before the age of 45, the accomplishment of Suldog playing into a 50th year may be seen in an entirely new and complimentary light. Pass the corn chips, please.

In conclusion, the past 50 years have seen tremendous growth - especially around the middle - and the state of Suldog is Massachusetts. As for the next 50 years, I’d estimate about 27, with the last 5 being utterly dreadful.

It is customary at this point to say, “I will now entertain questions from the floor”, but the floor can’t talk, so that would just be silly. Instead, I’ll say thank you for coming - but if you actually did, then maybe you should be thanking me. Good night.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Letter To Some Old Friends Going Through A Tough Time

To: The Boston Celtics

From: Jim

I just finished watching you lose to Washington in overtime. I don’t know exactly what to say to you, but I have to say something. I want to make sure that you know how some of us feel. I’m liable to ramble quite a bit, but I want you to know something really important right now. Here it is.

There is greatness within you.

I was born in March of 1957. In April of that year, The Boston Celtics won their first NBA championship. Knowing that, you know that I grew up during a time when your team was the best team in all of sports. In my first 13 years of life, the Celtics won 11 championships. When the Celtics lost, it was shocking.

Do you want to know something funny about that? I was the only basketball fan in my neighborhood. And I grew up in Dorchester. I know that sounds hard to believe now, but that’s the way it was then. All of my friends were Bruins fans. Basketball wasn’t even on their radar.

So I followed the Celtics by myself. I’d go to six or seven games a year, sitting up in the second balcony of the old Garden for something like $1.50 - when I could afford it. I learned to watch basketball from an angle that gave me a great view of the tops of the player’s heads. There wasn’t much depth perception from up there. Every shot looked like a line drive because I was so far above the arc. I still loved it.

When I couldn’t afford to go to the game, or the team was on the road, I religiously listened to Johnny Most. It’s possible that some of you guys don’t even know who Johnny was. He was the best radio announcer in the history of basketball.

(Games were rarely on TV in those days, so radio was it for most of the time.)

The thing about Johnny Most was that he absolutely adored you guys. He was easily the biggest homer in broadcasting. Every opposing player was a dirty no good cheating son of a bitch, according to Johnny. Listening to Johnny Most call a game, you’d swear the opposing team came to the game armed with switchblades and brass knuckles. Every foul sounded like there had been an axe murder at center court… AND THE REFS DIDN’T SEE IT! BILL RUSSELL IS DOWN ON HIS HANDS AND KNEES, FEELING AROUND FOR HIS HEAD THAT CHAMBERLAIN LOPPED OFF, AND THEY’RE CALLING THE FOUL ON RUSSELL!

(That’s only a slight exaggeration, believe me.)

But Johnny knew the game, inside and out, and that’s what made it so great to listen to him, really. He loved the Celtics, but he loved them because they were the best at what they did. And when another player tried to undercut that greatness with a shortcut or a questionable tactic, he was legitimately pissed off. And those of us, like me, who grew up hearing the Green Gospel According To Most, became rabid fans of the team.

Just a short history lesson for those of you who don’t know: Celtics games in those days were easy to get tickets to, even during the playoffs. The team won championship after championship, but they barely filled the seats. Boston was a hockey town.

So, that’s all just to establish my own cred. Guys like me have been there from the beginning. And we’ve stuck around through both the great and the not-so-great. Sometimes we’ve been laughed at for it.

Anyway, after Bill Russell and Sam Jones and K.C. Jones and Tommy Heinsohn and almost all the others from those great teams retired, it was even less of a basketball town. The Celtics had a couple of years of 45 or 50 losses. You’ve heard folks talk about the Russell Era and the Cowens Era and the Bird Era when they talk about your team? That was the Hank Finkel Era.

(Any real Celtics fan says that with love, not just as a joke. Hank Finkel never gave less than 100%.)

Some of us never wavered in our loyalty. We had enjoyed the greatness, so what kind of fans would we be if we deserted the team during a tough time? You had to have faith that good times would come again. And if you didn’t take the bad that was now, the good to come wouldn’t be nearly as sweet.

The good times came again. John Havlicek, part of the old greatness, was still plugging away, playing 45 or 48 minutes every night, win or lose. Dave Cowens and Jo Jo White came along and so did other wonderful players. And, God bless him, Tommy Heinsohn pulled it all together as coach and the C’s won another couple of championships.

(By the way, if Tommy talks to you, you should listen. You probably know that already, but it doesn’t hurt to say it just in case you don’t. He knows more about the game – about winning - than 90% of the coaches in the league right now. And I don’t think there’s anybody on the entire planet that wants to see you win as much as he does. Cut Tommy and he bleeds green.)

More history: The Celtics hit another rough patch. Ownership was the problem. Stupid trades were made, without Red’s consent. He almost quit. Thankfully, he didn’t and the bum owner sold his share.

I’m still a fan during all this time. Again, there was greatness ready to happen and a good fan takes the small pleasures available during the tough times, while waiting for the greatness to bloom. You endure because it will be worth it later.

It was worth it later. Bird – McHale – The Chief – DJ – Tiny Archibald – Ainge – Cedric Maxwell – Bill Walton. Amazing teams. Three more championships. And now, for the first time, Boston was a basketball town. Every faker and poser in the city came out of the woodwork and jumped on the bandwagon.

Guys like me had been there all along.

Well, every good time in life only lasts for so long, right? Bad luck and tragedy do sometimes occur. Len Bias. The wonderful and talented Reggie Lewis. Some questionable front office decisions. Big things and little things all added up to make a team that was stuck in neutral. There was a year in the playoffs with an early exit, followed by a year with no playoffs – back and forth. And guys like me, who had been following the team for years and years? We knew that playoffs or no playoffs, this team was never going to win a championship.

Well, I’ll skip over the more recent times. Some of you have been here a while, some of you haven’t, but you all probably know that stuff and don’t need me talking about it. So, let’s get back to the point of this letter.

There is greatness within you.

I’ve followed this team, and I’ve watched basketball, for longer than any of you have been alive. I’ve seen championship Celtics teams and I’ve seen Celtics teams that couldn’t have won a championship if they were spotted 10 points every night. I know a good team when I see one.

You are a good team.

Losses? Yeah, you’ve got more of those than you do wins. But you’re a good team. There is greatness within you. It just needs time to… well, to explode. That’s what’s going to happen sometime soon. The Boston Celtics are going to explode right in the faces of everybody else in the NBA. Lots of so-called experts are going to be very surprised. Guys like me won’t be surprised. We’ve seen greatness before and we know what it looks like before it shows itself to everybody else.

You have more heart than any Celtics team I’ve ever seen. I sincerely mean that. 10 years ago, 12 years ago, I’d watch those teams fall behind in a road game by 12 or 15 points and I knew, deep down in my heart, that there was no chance at all. There was no fire and it was just painful to watch. They didn’t have the big hearts that you guys do. I see you guys fall behind in a game by 21, like you did tonight against Washington, and I still have hope. You are the most persistent team in the entire league. You never go away. You keep hustling and running and moving the hands and somehow, some way, you keep yourselves in every damn game.

Guys like me love you for that.

The thing that makes this a good team, and a team verging on greatness, is that every one of you has that heart. That’s been proven during the past month. Every time some one of you goes down with an injury – Pierce, Perkins, Wally, Delonte - someone else steps up and drops 25 or 30, and usually it’s someone who never did it before. Tony Allen comes in and rips it up. Big Al blossoms into an almost automatic double-double guy. And then Tony Allen goes out for the season. Bang. Gerald pops for 20-something one night and Ryan gets 30 another night and Allen Ray has a 20 pointer. Scal throws in his three-pointers and hassles the other team to death. Leon comes in and plays like he’s 5 inches taller than he is.

The greatness starts to show.

(In many ways, these injuries have been the best thing to happen to you, you know? No, it didn’t help you to win these recent games, but it sure has set you up for the future. Now you’ve all been tested under fire. And you’ve all pretty much passed the test, even if it hasn’t added up to some W’s.)

Some guys have heart and never do anything special because they lack skills. Some guys have skills and never do anything special because they lack heart. Some guys even have both and never win a championship because they’re saddled with teammates who have neither. You guys are something out of the ordinary. You are a TEAM with both heart and skills. You just need a bit more time to pull it all together.

Can I say it again? There is greatness within you.

The point of this letter, really, is to let you know that there are some of us out here who are willing to cheer you on during the losses because we see that greatness ready to bloom. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep hustling. Keep learning. And don’t ever start believing that the losses are any sort of reflection of what you have a chance to be. They are in no way your true measure.

Guys like me keep bragging on you to the jump-on-and-off-the-bandwagon fans. We say to them, “This team is going to be competing for a championship someday soon. You watch. Someday soon it’s all going to come together and this team is going to be a terrifying sight for other teams to see.”

Those fair weather fans aren’t buying it. But I know. I’ve seen it before and you have it now. Like no other Celtics team in recent times, you have it.

You know what it is? It’s not just the uniform. It’s a state of mind. What you have is Celtic Pride.

There is greatness within you.

Friday, January 19, 2007

An Odd Little Scene From The Life Of Suldog

I don’t really have an introduction for this. That’s because I don’t really have a reason for writing about what follows. I’m going to write about it anyway, which – if you’ve been coming to this place for any decent length of time, you already know this - is about par for the course here.

What follows is just a strange little vignette. It’s a bit of a horror story, and may leave a picture in your head that you might not have chosen to have in there, so there’s your warning. Of course, a warning like that might make some people want to read it more. It would me.


When I was about 18, I had a job with Prudential Insurance. I worked in a warehouse of theirs, in Brighton, where they stockpiled the many forms used in the insurance business. In addition, records concerning claims and so forth, anywhere from a couple of years old to truly ancient history, were stored there.

(Apropos of absolutely nothing, so it fits in as a perfect digression in this story without a real plot or any moral, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith held my job previously. Since my sights were, at that time, set on becoming a rock star, I took that as a positive sign. However, whereas Joey Kramer went on to fame and, I assume, fortune, here I am, not that I don’t appreciate being here.)

In order to get to and from that job, I had to take three separate trips on the T; that is, Boston’s public transportation system. In the morning, I took a trolley to Ashmont station in Dorchester. At Ashmont, I transferred to the Red Line, which I rode 9 stops to Park Street. At Park Street, I transferred to the Boston College trolley, which I took to a stop just about directly at the warehouse. The trip took a bit more than an hour. In the evening, I reversed the route.

In the morning, I didn’t mind the ride too much. Eight o’clock was starting time, so I left the house fairly early and, as a result, somewhat in front of much of the mob that rides the T during rush hour. I usually didn’t run into any true crowds until Park Street. Thus, and this is the important part, I usually had a seat for at least two-thirds of the journey, sometimes all of it.

The ride home was another matter. I got out at 5pm, smack in the middle of the worst congestion in the system. I almost never got a seat on any part of the ride. So, after working fairly hard - at least some days – for nine hours, I then had to endure standing up for better than an hour on the way home. I mean, yeah, I was 18, so I could certainly take it, but it didn’t improve my mental condition any.

One night, after a pretty hard day in the warehouse, I boarded the trolley towards Park Street. No seat, so I stood and rocked back and forth while the car slowly made its way along Commonwealth Avenue. The trolley seemed to take a longer time than usual this night; I don’t know why. It entered the tunnel portal near Kenmore Square and being off of the street and into the subway helped matters a bit. Still, by the time we reached Park Street, I was ten minutes or so behind the usual.

At Park Street, I stood on the crowded platform and waited for an Ashmont train. Of course, as often happens when you want to get home and collapse, the other train, for Braintree, came first. So, I stepped back and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I have no idea what the tie up was, but when the Ashmont train finally came, I was now a good half-hour behind schedule.

I stood on the train, of course.

I mention all of the above just to set whatever mood might be set. Tired, late, a bit grimy from work, wedged into a metal canister with other tired, late, somewhat grimy people – that paints the scene.

Twenty minutes after Park Street, the train left Shawmut, which was the last station prior to the end of the line at Ashmont. About fifty feet outside of Ashmont station, our car still in the tunnel proper, the train comes to a dead halt. And sits there for ten minutes. Everybody is wondering what in the hell is holding things up. Of course, there is no announcement of any sort. We just sit there, except for those of us who were standing.

I’m cursing a bit, and not totally under my breath. Other people on the train are starting to steam, too. We have no idea why we’re stopped. Finally, after perhaps 15 minutes, the train starts moving again, slowly. We pull into Ashmont at a snail’s pace. Finally reaching the platform, the doors open and we begin to exit.

What I’m about to describe cannot adequately be described, but I’ll give you my best shot.

Wedged between the side of the train and the cement platform is a man. Just his upper body is visible. Legs and arms are not seen. His head is the color of a beet. His face is twisted in a grimacing rictus, as though he is undergoing the most severe of pain. However, there is no way he is feeling any pain. He is – God help us, please, he MUST be – dead.

T workers are surrounding him the best they can, and trying their hardest to shoo people towards the waiting Mattapan trolley, but everybody sees him. I sure see him. Women are gasping, some screaming. Those with children try to cover their eyes so that they won’t witness this gruesome sight and have it live in their memories forever.

Me? I’m tired. It’s a horrible enough sight, to be sure, but I don’t linger. One look was enough, thanks. I go directly to the trolley and, while most are standing and staring, I get a seat for the last part of my journey home.

I have many unanswered questions concerning this incident.

How did they move the train forward with this body wedged there? How was the decision reached to move the train forward rather than backward? Couldn’t they have freed the body by going backward? Was there no way to remove the body prior to everyone disembarking? Was he, indeed, dead? If so, why didn’t they cover the body somehow, with someone’s coat or a tarp or something? Could they not have covered his head because he was, God helps us all, alive? If he was alive, would they have moved the train into the station as they did? No, he couldn’t have been alive. Was it a suicide attempt? An accident? Was he in the pit, trying to climb out, when the train came, crushing him where he was?

Most troubling is that there was never anything, that I know of, in the newspapers or on television news reports concerning this incident. I have no idea, to this day, concerning the facts.

And that’s the story. As I said at the top, I didn’t have any real reason for putting it into writing, other than the weak one that it is interesting in a macabre sort of way. I’ve thought about the incident, intermittently, for 30+ years. Now it’s your turn and my apologies.

(I'm going to do some exploring on the web now, to see if I can finally come up with anything connected to this. If I do, I'll let you know. If you do, let me know, please.)

See you Monday.

P.S. There is a new Carnival Of Hijacked Holidays up at Bah! Humbug! There’s almost sure to be something cheerier than this, so why don’t you head on over?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cutting Into The Coughers

I smoke about a pack of cigarettes a day. I smoke too much.

(Some of you are probably saying to yourself that even ONE cigarette is too much. You know what, some of you? Shut up. I had to start this piece by saying something and we'll get to the point much more quickly if you'll just let me go on without comment. Thank you.)

I'm willing to quit. However, I need incentive.

(Oh, please, keep quiet! Yes, avoiding lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease and complications during pregnancy are quite the incentive, yes. Well, maybe not the last one so much. But everybody knows about that stuff already and it hasn't stopped a whole bunch of us from puffing away madly. Do you want to hear my radical new plan that will GUARANTEE a whole bunch of us quitting? Or do you just want to tread over the same old ground again and again?)

The reason I need incentive is because I actually do enjoy smoking.

(Yeah, yeah, it's filthy and disgusting, ashes, stink, smell, nicotine stains, brown loogies, hack hack cough cough, bad breath, etc., and blah blah blah. What can I say? I enjoy it. De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say when he wanted to annoy the hell out of the self-righteous.)

Speaking of the self-righteous, here's the deal and about time, too. According to MassPirg - as self-righteous a bunch of prigs as you'd ever want to meet - the Commonwealth of Massachusetts loses $3.54 Billion a year in smoking-related health costs. Don't believe me? Well, don't believe them, if anything. Here's their very own press release on the subject - MassPirg press release.

(You’ll find the figure on the right side of the page. On the wrong side of the page, there are a whole bunch of statistics and hand-wringing and other stuff, but as soon as my plan goes into effect, all of that will become irrelevant. And remember, irrelevent never forgets.)

I assume that MassPirg expects this to be an ongoing cost to the Commonwealth, at least for a while. They certainly don't expect everybody to quit smoking today and have the state be rolling in the saved bucks tomorrow. Let's say that we can expect to be paying this amount for 20 years. I think that's a fair estimate, don’t you? Good. That would be a bit less than $71 Billion.

Now, before we go any further (or farther, or mother) we need to know just how many smokers there are in Massachusetts. Well, there are about 6.5 million people altogether in this state. According to MassPirg, 18.1% of them smoke. That would give us 1.17 million unhealthy inconsiderate filthy dying bastards who are costing us money.

(Here comes my proposal, so please pay attention. If you're a state rep, get your hand out of your constituent’s pockets and cup your ear with it, so you can hear me better. Thank you.)

I propose offering $35 Billion to the 1.17 million smokers as incentive for them to quit.

(Yes, it is brilliant. Thank you.)

That would be a payment of about $30,000 to each smoker in the Commonwealth. That would be if every smoker quit. Of course, not everybody will quit. Some people have no price, the principled sonsabitches. I do, though, and $30,000 might be it, as long as it also affords me the sight of seeing all of the holier-than-thou types wringing their hands and exclaiming, "We can't reward people for being unhealthy! Why should smokers get paid a bonus while those of us who have spent our lives chugging soy milk and eating railroad cars full of alfalfa sprouts get nothing?"

Well, I'll tell you why. Because you're the ones who want us to quit, that’s why. At least that's what you say. So put your money where your mouth is. Show us the cash and I'll show you a whole bunch of very happy born again non-smokers. Do you want it or not?

I’ll now answer a few objections to this plan.

1 – What about the people who are now receiving medical care courtesy of the state? Do we just cut them loose?

No. What we do is fund their treatments for the coming year as usual. This is a cost already assumed, so no loss. The “smokers bonus” will be contingent upon proof of at least one year of being tobacco-free, so no payments on that until at least next year. In the meantime, the state will give fair warning to all current smokers that they either accept the offered bonus, and begin quitting smoking within six months time, or they will be responsible for every penny of their future smoking-related health care costs.

Anyone who does quit smoking under the program, but still has the bad luck to have a health crisis down the road, one that can be proven as directly related to smoking, will be eligible for current levels of state aid. All others? Too bad. Go to some other sucker state and see if they’ll take care of you.

2 – OK, but where does the $35 Billion come from if the state is still absorbing some smoker-related expenses? Wouldn’t the figure be less and the payments to ex-smokers less also?

There will be some adjustments needed as the real numbers become available. Inflation would knock the number for 20 years up to more than $95 Billion, when all is said and done. I figure this amount from MassPirg's own math. This MassPirg press release from 2002 pegs the costs of healthcare at $2.7 Billion, so inflation seems to be a bit more than 20% every five years. Meanwhile, the actual number of smokers who do NOT quit will knock the cost down since they won’t be collecting squat, either from the state as a bonus or in health costs.

The health savings for the second 10 years of the 20 will easily pay for the one-time depletion of the treasury. I expect that, in reality, this will result in an amazing surplus for the state, not a deficit.

Also, a proviso could be written in that anybody who collects the bonus, but subsequently starts smoking again, will be subject to paying back the bonus with interest. That should help.

3 – What’s to stop someone from taking up smoking so that they can cash in?

When the plan is announced, the state will outlaw tobacco, period. If the legislature were serious about wanting people to stop, they’d do that anyway.

(I'll forego the usual rhetoric about how taxes on smoking support the jobs of so many people and some of them don't really want smoking to cease. I'm willing to work on the assumption that every member of the state legislature would probably really truly like to see fewer people smoking. I'll give the same benefit of the doubt to all of the others whose livelihood depends upon unhealthy people remaining unhealthy. In return, I hope they'll SERIOUSLY consider putting the money that flows into the state coffers from tobacco - $658 million a year, according to MassPirg - to its best use. And that would be, seriously, some version of the one-time payment I have just proposed. However, I digress. Sorry.)

Back to answering objection #3 - In addition, there would be restrictions placed upon people moving to Massachusetts. Nobody who currently smokes would be allowed to take residence. Ex-smokers would only be allowed in after they sign an agreement absolving Massachusetts from any and all costs that might be incurred in future due to their past smoking in other states. Anyone caught smoking in Massachusetts would be extradited, after paying a severe fine.

4 – The math is cute, Jim, but does it really work? It’s an amusing idea, but why don’t you stop kidding?

I’m not kidding. I may be joking, but I'm serious. That's what I often do here - make serious jokes.

There are math problems, no doubt. I’m not privy to every line item that’s considered in the figures given out by MassPirg. However, I’m sure the math can be worked out if there are enough people willing to seriously consider this proposal. I might be willing to settle for $25,000 instead of $30,000.

This is the best shot you have, state. No better way to spend the money, MassPirg. You can really get a boatload of smokers to quit RIGHT NOW.

So, uh, why don’t you take a few minutes to think about it? I want a smoke now, anyway. You can give me your answer when I get back.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Dangers Of Sniffing Glue

“The time has come,” the walrus said
“To talk of many things
Of shoes and ships and sealing wax
And cabbages and kings.”

Nah, just shoes. Sorry, walrus.

A couple of months back, MY WIFE and I went to Doug Flutie’s retirement party. It took place on a weeknight, so I met MY WIFE downtown after work and then we made our way over to the venue, Symphony Hall. Since I came directly from work, I had no time to go home and change into appropriate dress clothing. I wore a suit and tie to work, which I don’t normally do. Dress shoes were also a part of the costume.

A problem arose about midday. A tack from the sole of the shoe poked through the leather and then had the temerity to poke through my sock as well. It wasn’t immediately a painful thing, just annoying. As the day wore on, however, and it continually poked at the same spot, it did become painful. I adjusted the way I walked to accommodate for the tack. I ended up walking as much as possible on the side of my foot to avoid having the tack repeatedly poke my now sore foot.

Without going into any great detail concerning how awkward it was to walk like that all night – and how silly it must have looked – I’ll tell you that walking that way made four or five stitches break and now the shoe needed a major repair instead of just a tack. This necessitated my considering whether or not I should buy another pair of shoes.

You should know that I only have one pair of shoes. These shoes are over 14 years old. I had bought them for my wedding in 1992. They have served me well through the weddings, funerals and vacations since then. A good solid pair of Johnston & Murphy black wingtips, I was loath to part with them - especially since the uppers still looked fine.

I have call for wearing actual shoes perhaps three or four times a year. I don’t wear shoes at work. SHOES at work? Heck, I don’t even wear what could be termed “dress” sneakers. I own two or three pairs of boat shoes, in various stages of disrepair. When they wear out beyond even MY loose definition of respectability, I purchase two or three more pair.

A good pair of shoes – and I will not buy cheap shoes since good ones last longer and cost less in the long run, as well as look better – would cost as much as at least six pairs of the sneakers I buy. I decided to first see if a repair to the shoe in question could be made inexpensively.


There are a few different places in Watertown to bring shoes for repair. I chose the one I did because it was the first one I found a phone number for online. I called to make sure this shop would be open at the time I planned to bring the shoe. It was, so I took my shoe down there to be looked at.

When I walked through the front door, I thought I had come to the right place. It certainly looked like a cobbler’s shop. Various single shoes were strewn about and the floor was littered with scraps of leather. There were shoeboxes lining the walls and small displays of laces and polish for sale. Smack dab in the middle of all this, a few feet behind the counter, was an older man working at a bench containing a piece of machinery of some sort; perhaps a stitching machine. He was talking to another older man.

I walked up to the counter and waited for one of these men to come over and look at my shoe. Neither one of them seemed in any hurry to do so. They were looking at a shoe on the machine, drinking coffee, and discussing, I suppose, some sort of shoe repair insider information. So I looked around the shop and, when that had taken up as much time as could possibly prove interesting – about two minutes - I looked at my own shoe on the counter, fingering the space between the upper and the sole, as though considering for the first time what could be done to fix the problem. I don’t know what I could have done to fill the time after that; perhaps started tying all of the shoelaces together or eating shoe polish. One of the men glanced up, though, and gave me a look as though I were a bug that had just wandered in the front door looking for food crumbs, so I didn’t have to resort to vandalism to amuse myself.

It became apparent that the man working the machine was the proprietor, as the other man walked out from behind the counter and took a seat by the door, watching me and sipping his coffee. I handed the wounded shoe to the fellow behind the counter. Rather than look at the shoe, he looked at me. I had figured he might know what needed to be done just by looking at the gaping hole in the side, but it seemed he didn’t, so I spoke first.

“A few stitches and a tack have come loose and I was wondering if you might be able to repair the shoe; maybe re-sole it?”

He shook his head sadly while regarding the shoe. I noticed that he was missing part of his index finger. As a matter of fact, I might have noticed his missing digit just a bit too much. When I looked up, he was staring me in the eye disdainfully.

He said, “I can not tack this.”

I hadn’t necessarily asked him to tack the shoe. So, I said, “Can you stitch it?”

“No. I can glue, but no guarantee.”

Well, what I know about repairing shoes is limited to what I had already said concerning re-soling. I didn’t care if it was tacked, stitched, glued or held together with fairy dust, so long as I wouldn’t have to buy a new pair. I said, “OK”.

He put my shoe on a table behind him and stared at me again. I waited for him to say something, as it was his turn. Finally, after I figured out that he was just going to continue staring at me, I said, “How much?”

“Eight dollars.”

That seemed reasonable enough. I again said, “OK”, and waited once more for him to keep up his end of the conversation. He didn’t, so I spoke again.

“Do you have a receipt of some sort?”

I seemed to have offended him with this question. He again regarded me like I was a particularly nasty vermin.

“What for you want receipt?”

“Well, so when I come in for the shoe, you’ll know I am who I am, the guy who the shoe belongs to.”

“I remember you.”

“You’ll remember me?”

He grunted and nodded. I supposed maybe he would remember me. I don’t have a non-descript face that blends into the crowd; long sideburns, goatee, reddish hair, OK, he’ll remember me.

“When will the shoe be ready?”

“I cannot do it now.”

“Well, I know that. What day will it be ready?”

He considered this question for a few moments. “Wednesday”, he said.

“OK, Wednesday. I’ll be in after work.”

I don’t know exactly why I did what I did next, but I then tried to see if I could get this guy to be a reasonable approximation of a friendly business owner.

I said, “My name is Jim. What’s your name?”

He eyed me suspiciously. “What for you want to know my name?”

“Well, I just want to know who I’m doing business with. I’m just trying to be friendly. I’m Jim. Who are you?”

“Jesus Of Nazareth.”

Well, I have to admit, that was a surprise.

I said, “Then I guess I can trust you, huh?”

Jesus Of Nazareth just grunted. I looked at the fellow who had been sitting quietly in the seat by the door sipping his coffee. He was utterly noncommittal.

I turned back to the counter and said, still smiling, “Come on, what’s your name, really?”

He said, “Is good Armenian name. Jesus Of Nazareth Sarkasian.”

After saying this, he smiled for the first time. I couldn’t read whether he was smiling because the joke was on me, or he liked his name a lot, or he was just plain goofy. However, having lived in a largely Armenian community for the past 12 years – Watertown has the highest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, no joke – I really didn’t want to offend. His name may well have been Jesus Of Nazareth as far as I knew. I let it go.

I said, “Alright, Jesus Of Nazareth Sarkasian. See you Wednesday evening.”


When I got home, I puzzled over this visit to the cobbler. Was this guy putting me on? Was Jesus Of Nazareth his real name? I assumed Sarkasian was his real last name, but who knew? The evasive and puzzling answers, the refusal to give me a receipt, the general way he regarded me – none of it added up to a pleasant visit and I got a bit steamed as I thought about it. Had I offended him by staring at his finger that wasn’t there? I thought I was pleasant enough, but… I tried to put it out of my mind until Wednesday, but thoughts about it kept returning like belches from a bad meal.

Well, there wasn’t anything I could do about it now aside from waiting for Wednesday. I mean, sure, I could have stormed back to the store and demanded my shoe, but what would that have accomplished? He only had one of my shoes, so he certainly couldn’t do anything with it except repair it. It’s not like I left him with something valuable. He couldn’t melt down my shoe and sell it. One shoe was only of use to me, so I’d wait and see on Wednesday if he did a good job or not.


Wednesday evening approached and I became somewhat apprehensive about returning to see Jesus Of Nazareth Sarkasian. What if, like cobblers from time immemorial, he hadn’t yet repaired the shoe and gave me another date for picking it up? I thought I might get nasty at that point, after the weirdness of my first visit to his shop. I really wanted to give the old geezer the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps he just huffed a bit too much glue the last time I was there, which is a hazard of the trade, no doubt.

I drove over to the shop, parked in front, got out of my car and walked in. Jesus Of Nazareth looked up from his workbench, no flicker of recognition lighting his eyes whatsoever.

“Hello, Mr. Sarkasian,” I said, “I’ve come to pick up my shoe.”

He looked at me with his faded eyes, perhaps a bit sadly. “Your shoe?” he said.

He has no idea, I thought. He doesn’t remember me, the shoe, or anything. Now I was starting to get pissed, but I held it in.

“Yes, my shoe. Black wingtip. You were going to glue it for me? You said you’d remember me. Do you?”

He got up from his bench, slowly shuffled towards the counter, and seemed to be trying to recall who I was. He breathed a bit laboriously. There was no recognition in his face yet, but no sense of malevolence, either. I started to worry about even being able to find my shoe in this shop, let alone trying to get him to remember who I was by running through the entire story of our first meeting. He seemed a sad figure today - beaten, confused. He ran the hand missing a finger through his thin hair, leaving a wisp of the hair standing slightly askew. The smell of glue in the shop was overwhelming.

Just as I was starting to believe that I would have to go behind the counter myself and start searching for my shoe, and then – if I found it - have to take the shoe to another shop and start the whole process again from the beginning, his eyes rested on the shoe itself. It sat on a shelf to the left. He went over and picked it up. It appeared to be repaired correctly and shined nicely as well.

“Is this one, right?”

I nodded. He held up the shoe for me to see, pointing out with his missing finger where he had glued it. Perfectly. He grabbed a rag from under the counter and gave my shoe a quick additional shine.

“Five dollars.”

He had told me eight dollars when I left the shoe.

I said, “No, no, you told me it would cost eight dollars, Mr. Sarkasian.”

He looked at me, puzzled. I counted out eight dollars and handed it to him. He looked blankly at the money in his hand and then blankly at me. He put the money in his shirt pocket. Then he put the shoe in a sack and handed it to me. As I took the sack from him, he said, “Thank you. You come back, right?”

Yes, Jesus Of Nazareth Sarkasian, probably so.

Friday, January 12, 2007

As Per Request

I received a number of requests (one) to show some of the drawings I did for MY WIFE's 2007 calendar. Since (one of) you asked for it, (all of) you got it. As with everything in life, you should be careful what you ask for.

Reproduced here are my drawings for February, March, April and November. I chose what I think are the best four, so imagine what the other eight are like.

Back on Tuesday with something more serious. In the meantime, enjoy (if you have extremely questionable taste.)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Las Vegas Primer

My co-worker, Heather, is going to Las Vegas on Friday. It will be her first time there. Since I have a well-earned reputation around the office as a degenerate gambler, she asked me to provide her with a few tips about what to see, where to eat, which shows are the best, and so forth.

(If I were just a degenerate gambler, I wouldn’t be the best person to ask. The true degenerate doesn’t see anything except the inside of the casino.

For instance, I remember one of my earliest trips to Las Vegas with my father. We were on a junket trip with some SERIOUSLY degenerate gamblers. Part of the package deal for all of us was a show featuring Bob Newhart. When it came time to go to the show, my father and I tried to round up a few of the other guys who were busy shooting craps.

My father said, “Come on, guys, wrap it up. It’s time to go see Bob Newhart.”

One of the degenerates replied, “Fuck Bob Newhart. Is he gonna come see me shoot craps? Why the fuck should I go see him?”

I like to think I’m slightly more well-rounded than that.)

Anyway, what follows are some basic tips for your first Las Vegas vacation. I could go on for many more pages than you’ll see here, but Heather’s only going for three days and I want to limit my comments to the true necessities.

(It’s possible that some of you have been to Las Vegas and have some interesting tips of your own to pass on to Heather. If so, please leave them in the comments section. I’m sure she’ll be appreciative of your help.)

First, some general stuff.


You’ll do more walking on a Las Vegas vacation than just about any other you could take. Therefore, it is imperative that you pack either sneakers or extremely comfortable walking shoes. If you wear dress shoes or heels or anything similar for the entire trip, you WILL end up with blisters and sore feet.

There are two reasons for all the walking. First, the hotels are enormous. If you’re staying in one of the larger ones, you might end up doing a half-mile or more between your room and the street. Also, since the hotels are enormous, the distances between them are totally deceiving. When you decide to walk from one casino to another that’s “just down the block”, you’ll be walking for twenty minutes. You can easily do ten miles in a day.

(I eat like a pig in Las Vegas, yet I still lose weight every trip. This is because of all the walking.)


Yes, Las Vegas is in the southwest and, yes, it’s in the desert. That doesn’t mean it’s warm all the time. If you don’t pack something for cooler weather, you’ll do some shivering. This is especially true at night.

(This applies to Heather, since she’s going in January. It’s still winter in Las Vegas and temps could drop below freezing at night. I’d expect mid-50’s to mid-60’s during the day. If you were to go in the summer, however, use some common sense and leave the sweaters at home. It hits 115 to 120 in the summer.)


Cabs are the best way to get around Las Vegas. They’re more expensive than busses, but the busses are truly horrible.

The monorail is a decent alternative, and cheaper, but it only goes to certain destinations and runs on a schedule. My thinking is that it may cost a couple more bucks to take a cab, but this is Las Vegas. You’re just as liable to drop that five bucks or ten bucks into a slot machine or at a blackjack table, so why be cheap when it comes to your time? Take the cab and enjoy yourself.

Having said that, here are a couple of tips concerning cabs.

At the airport, going to your hotel, tell the cabbie your destination and tell him to NOT take the tunnel. This applies if your hotel is on the main drag, The Strip. In Heather’s case, here is what she should (nicely) say to the cabbie:

“Aladdin, please, and please do not take the tunnel.”

The only time the tunnel is a bargain is if you’re going downtown or to the far north end of The Strip. Aladdin, in this instance, is Mid-Strip. Taking the tunnel will cost a couple of bucks more.

If going downtown from The Strip, you’ll generally want to take The Strip all the way. It’s a better ride for sights and is a bit lower in cost to the alternative. Your cabbie may ask if you want to take the highway, I-15. It can be a good option if The Strip is jammed with traffic, but otherwise, no. If you don’t feel confident enough with your lay of the land, you can leave it up to the cabbie and hope you got an honest one who’ll take you the quickest way. Most of them are honest.

Once you get to know the area, after a few trips, you’ll learn a few other tricks – being dropped on the street instead of at the door of the hotel, etc. – but on your first trip, take the ride to the door and pay the extra buck or so. It’ll be less hassle.


Tipping is the lifeblood of Las Vegas’s working class. This goes for dealers, drivers, doormen, wait staff, bellhops, just about everybody. You will be expected to tip for good service and most everybody will try to give you good service.

In most instances, the peripheral service people – doormen, the guy who calls you a cab, the waitress who brings you a drink while you’re sitting at the slot machines – will be satisfied with a buck or even some loose change. Bellhops should get a buck or two a bag, with five bucks being a decent minimum. Cabbies, wait staff, all of the usual folks you tip at home, should get what you’d tip at home – 15% or 20% or (if bad service) dick.

Dealers are another story altogether. I tip if I’m winning and only if I’m winning and only if the dealer is showing me a good time. There is no logical reason whatsoever to tip a blackjack dealer unless he/she is making your time at the table more pleasant. He can’t give you different cards because you gave him a tip. He has no effect on the outcome of your game, unless he’s giving you lessons while you play and that doesn’t apply to me. If you’re having a good time and you’re winning a decent amount, sure, throw the dealer a bit of your good fortune, too. But don’t feel obligated. If you lose, they aren’t going to tip YOU!


There is no need to pay for a drink in Las Vegas. If you’re gambling, the drinks are free. Waitresses circulate through the gaming area asking if you want a cocktail. Want a drink? Just wait for one of them to come by.

The casinos are more than happy to provide you with liquor. A drunken gambler is likely to leave more money behind than a sober one. I don’t drink when I’m gambling. If your main purpose is not gambling, drink up! It won’t cost you anything more than the tips to the waitresses.

(If you’re gambling at a high enough level, they’ll buy your cigarettes or cigars for you, too. When I first started going to Vegas, they had big piles of cigarettes on every table, free for anyone gambling to smoke. Now you have to ask for them. They’ll usually give you a pack, if you’re a nice person and spending a buck at the tables.

Also, you should be aware that Las Vegas is the most smoker-friendly city in the United States. Smoking is allowed almost everywhere. Non-smoking areas are the exception, not the rule. Don’t give smokers in Las Vegas the same dirty looks you’d give them back home if they were smoking in a restaurant, an elevator, on the street, in a club, etc. If you do, you’re the asshole, not them.

In most instances, civility still applies. If you truly have a breathing problem, ask nicely and most people will accommodate you by putting out their smoke. If you demand that they put it out, though, you’ll probably end up getting it blown in your face, and rightly so.)


First trip, limited budget? Look around at the casino in your home hotel and at all of the opulence on The Strip, but gamble Downtown or at one of the hotels off-Strip – Terrible’s and Orleans are fair choices. You’ll almost always find consistently better odds away from the main drag.

(This doesn’t apply if you know a bit about what you’re doing. If you know your stuff, you can find good gambling anywhere. If you’re a novice, though, and just looking to have a thrill by putting a few bucks into slot machines and hoping for a big jackpot, downtown will make your money go further.)

Downtown will stretch your gambling dollar by allowing you to gamble for lower denominations. You can still find nickel slot machines downtown, even pennies if you’re willing to go slumming. You’ll be lucky to find a good quarter machine on The Strip. Same applies for table games like blackjack, craps, roulette, etc., as Downtown minimums may be two dollars, with plenty of five dollar action, while on The Strip a $5 table is the lowest you’ll find and not too many of them.

(Be aware that Downtown is a bit grittier than The Strip. It’s still fairly over-the-top, but you’ll want to stay strictly within the main area and not go exploring. Going outside of the bright lights is a somewhat dangerous adventure.)

As far as advice about gambling itself? That’s a subject for a book – or twenty. I’ll limit my advice to this: Set a budget of what you’re willing to lose for the trip, divide it by the days you’ll be there, and then STICK TO THAT BUDGET. If you lose your daily allowance, then go have something to eat, see a show, take a walk, but don’t gamble again until tomorrow. And if you win? Be happy, celebrate, put half of it in your pocket and don’t touch that half again. You’ll never lose so much that you’ll ruin your vacation and you might even walk away with more than you started with.


There are bargains galore in Las Vegas, but some of them you’ll need a coupon for. When you first arrive in town, find the ubiquitous tourist magazines – you’ll see them in cabs or maybe even in your room - and skim through them for good coupons. You’re bound to find a freebie or a half-off that’s something you’d like to do anyway.


The best free sights in town are the hotels themselves. You’ll be stunned and amazed by your first sight of The Strip, especially at night. You’ve got Egyptian pyramids, medieval castles, dancing fountains, The Eiffel Tower, The New York Skyline, a volcano, and all sorts of other amazing things that you can feel free to stare at all night for free. Do it. Enjoy yourself.

My personal favorites are:

New York New York – A hotel built to resemble the New York skyline, complete with scale replicas of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. There is also a roller coaster that goes around and THROUGH the hotel. As a matter of fact, this whole complex may be my favorite piece of architecture in the entire world.

Bellagio Fountains – Water show on the “lake” in front of the Bellagio hotel. Every 15 minutes or so, music plays and the fountains dance in synch, shooting sprays 40, 50, 60 feet into the air, with colored lights. Great stuff. Depending upon if your room at Aladdin faces the street, you might see this show from your window. If not, no big deal. Just go down to the street and dig it.

The Volcano and The Tigers and The Fish Tank – All of these are at the Mirage. The Volcano is outside and blows every fifteen or twenty minutes. The Tigers are white and belong to Siegfried & Roy. They’re inside, behind glass. The Fish Tank is behind the registration desk. It’s not like one at home with guppies and goldfish. This one is big enough to hold sharks.

Downtown – Take a taxi downtown and see the canopy. It’s an awesome, if somewhat hokey, light show. Careful – when you’re looking up at the canopy, keep your valuables safe. Pickpockets have been known to work the crowd while the show is on. There are plenty of police downtown, but it doesn’t ever hurt to be cautious


I’m running out of time to write. I’m going to dash off a few more “bests” and “worsts”, without big explanations. Trust me.

BEST BUFFETS – Bellagio, Rio, Alladin. To avoid waiting in lines, eat early or late.

WORST BUFFET – The Surf. Do NOT even think about eating there. It’s the cheapest buffet in town for a good reason. The food isn’t fit for a sickly dog.

GREAT GOURMET MEAL – Michael’s, at The Barbary Coast. Will run you a few hundred. Worth it, if you've hit a big jackpot and feel like treating yourself to a dining experience you'll never forget.

EXCELLENT FUNNY INEXPENSIVE SHOW – Mac King. Comedian and Magician. Coupons can be found for half-off or possibly free (two drinks minimum, as I recall.)

BEST OLD-TIME VEGAS SHOW – Jubilee at Bally’s. Huge spectacular of a stage show, with singing, dancing, some nudity and they sink the Titanic on stage.

RIDES TO TAKE (IF NOT AFRAID OF HEIGHTS) – Stratosphere Space Shot, New York New York Roller Coaster.

BEST SLOT “TOURNAMENT” – Right at the Alladin they have a “tournament” every day. Pay $25 (at least it was that two years ago) and compete for daily prizes that can be quite large. Best part isn’t the competition, though. For your entry fee, you also get some coupons for free desserts, some free slot play in the regular casino, and – the best part – your pick of merchandise that is easily worth the price you paid to enter. I still have two very nice black jackets (one suede) I got as a result of this tournament and I didn’t win a damned thing.

I have so much more to say, but no time to write it. Not enough time for Heather to do it all in three days, anyway, so why bother?

When in doubt, consult the Las Vegas Advisor website. There is a paid members section and a free section. I once belonged to the paid section and it is well worth it if you go to Vegas with any regularity. The free section is still loaded with all sorts of great tips. For instance, any one of the “Top Ten Values” they list is truly a great bargain.

If YOU have any tips for Heather, please leave them in the comments. See you soon!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Tricks Of The Calendar Trade

I am horribly ill. I’ve had a headache, chills, congestion, blah blah freakin’ blah, since last Thursday. Just as MY WIFE got over her illness, I started mine. It has been a new year filled with small joys but tempered by the hideousness of not having a completely healthy household for even a single day yet. Flu is hardly the worst tragedy that can befall a couple, however, so we’ll carry on and be happy as larks in a few days.

(What in hell makes larks so happy? Or clams, for that matter? I can see the larks more than the clams.)

Anyway, since I’m sick - and since I only post when I’m at work – you may be reading these thoughts on Tuesday or Wednesday or later. Thanks for stopping by, faithful one. I know full well this trip will not have been worth your effort – you’ll know that yourself by the time you’re finished reading - so I appreciate it.


MY WIFE and I celebrated Christmas this weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with why we would be celebrating the holiday at such a late date, I’ll quickly explain that January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, also sometimes called Little Christmas, and for further detail you can refer to this entry from the past.

As always, MY WIFE gave me marvelously thoughtful gifts. Either she has a miraculous memory or she surreptitiously wrote down things I said throughout the course of the year. For instance, she bought me a little mechanical ear and nose hair trimmer. I think I once, and once only, mentioned on these pages that I had stuck a razor in my ear to trim some hair. So, not wanting me to do an inadvertent Van Gogh on myself, she bought me something much more sensible to do the job with.

There were other gifts, of course. I’m especially looking forward to listening to a collection of CDs featuring Jean Shepherd telling stories. Some of you may not immediately know the name. He’s the fellow who wrote A Christmas Story and he also supplied the voice of Ralphie, as an adult, in the film. The collection includes 8 CDs and I’ll enjoy savoring every one of them.

For my part, I made MY WIFE a calendar. This is something I used to do every year for my grandfather when I was a kid. I decided to do the same for MY WIFE last year and it was a big success.

Now, it was fairly easy to do when I was a kid. For one thing, I didn’t have even a trace of self-consciousness. I thought every picture I drew was the height of art and humor. I also had my mother to help draw the actual calendar portion of it and to assemble the whole thing when it was done. Last year, I found out how daunting a task it was to do this same thing as an adult.

Aside from the technical problems – drawing the grids, filling them in with numbers and writing so they looked like an actual grown-up had done them – I rediscovered something that I had known for quite a while, but which I had shuffled to the rear of my memory. I am a crummy artist. Senses of perspective, shading, color – that is to say, just about anything a good artist knows and uses – are utterly lacking in me.

In order to make up for my deficiencies, I rooted around on the internet for fairly simple artists depictions of the people or things which I felt would make good subjects for each month; a flag for July, flowers for May, a nativity scene for December. I then copied these things to the best of my ability. There was no hope whatsoever of my being able to copy them so well that they’d look exactly like the originals, but this was part of my plan. I knew that each drawing would positively look like I had done it from scratch because I don’t have enough skill to make them look like copies. And it worked. MY WIFE had a good-looking calendar and I appeared to be a much better artist than I am.

Much to my chagrin, though, this year she actually asked me to draw another calendar for her. Well, I had pretty much exhausted my slight repertoire of artistic tricks in doing the one from last year. I knew I couldn’t repeat the same scenes for each month this year and I had chosen those scenes last year because they were the only things I knew I could draw well enough so that the calendar wouldn’t look like it was done by an 8-year-old.

I figured I had to give it a go, since she asked, so I started out by getting a line drawing of Mount Rushmore from someplace on the internet. I thought that a depiction of this great sculpture would make a good subject for February since it contains Presidents Day. I attempted to copy it faithfully, but every time I drew George Washington he looked more like a skull from a bottle of poison than our first president. I never even got so far as Jefferson, let alone Roosevelt or Lincoln.

I gave up on that for the time being and pursued the copying of a portrait of Saint Patrick for March. It showed him driving the snakes out of Ireland. It was far too ambitious for my weak talents. Saint Patrick was all right, in a grade school sort of a way, but the snakes never looked menacing. Truth be told, they looked more like worms. I wrote a caption under the deficient drawing – “Saint Patrick Driving The Snakes Out Of Ireland, Except These Are Worms So They Don’t Understand Why He’s Talking To Them.”

The light dawned on Marblehead. I can’t draw well enough to make this year’s calendar even remotely as good as last year’s, so I’ll go for humor, instead. In that way, if a drawing is bad, it just adds to the funny! And so I drew truly abominable snowmen for January, the rarely seen rear view of Mount Rushmore for February, Saint Patrick talking to worms for March (while a real snake gives him a Bronx cheer behind his back), and other such silly things.

MY WIFE liked it and, as a result, she still has a much higher opinion of my art than it deserves. I’m afraid I’ve sucked myself into doing another calendar next year. Maybe I’ll be able to get away with abstract impressionism.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another little joy of the weekend. The lovely Isabelle, of Mondo Fruitcake, made good on her promise to send me the remnants of her holiday season. On Little Christmas, appropriately enough, there arrived a box in the mail containing enough fruitcake to satiate even MY hunger for the stuff.

MY WIFE and I sampled a few pieces just after exchanging our presents. Isabelle put a note in the package saying which brands she had included, but she did not label each brand separately. I think that this was intentional. I’m assuming that she wished me to pass judgment on them in a sort of blind taste test.

Isabelle, if you’re reading this? I’ll pass along some notes on the tasting in a few days. As much as I like fruitcake - and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who likes it more – this flu makes eating the stuff somewhat less enjoyable.

(That’s not wholly true. The eating of it is still as good as ever. Having it sit on my stomach right now, though, is another matter.)

Anyway, I’m saving at least one piece of each for sampling when I can more fully make a true appraisal.


And that’s about it for now. I’ll be back soon with more of the stultifyingly boring minutiae you’ve come to expect. See you then.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Too Many Parentheses? Hey, It's Called "Style", OK?

I was interviewed yesterday by Janet Fuller of the Chicago Sun-Times. Her specific area of enquiry concerned my predilection for fruitcake. Today, her article was published. The main thrust concerned the lovely and generous Isabelle of Mondo Fruitcake, and well it should have. I got a mention, but my sparkling wit must not have sparkled very much in the phone interview; no quotage of yours truly.

However, she did give out the address to this blog, so I'se gwynne be famous in de midwes'!

(I don't know why I suddenly shifted into a pattern of speech like Jim from Huckleberry Finn, but that's the sort of thing that will happen every so often here, so if this is your first time at Suldog-O-Rama - and God only knows why, but you plan on returning - get used to it.)

(Also, get used to many parenthetical sentences, most of them run-on and the others ending prepositions with.)

(And there will also be at least one totally unrelated digression per posting. For instance, I've been thinking about how most folks have their links to other bloggers listed in alphabetical order. Naturally, "Suldog-O-Rama" ends up somewhere near the bottom. I'm considering changing the name of this blog to "Aardvark-O-Rama" so I can get more hits.)

(And why not? As a title, it makes about as much sense as "Suldog-O-Rama" does. Of course, then I'd be wasting all of the goodwill I've built up around the brand name "Suldog-O-Rama".)

(Insert self-deprecating joke here.)

(As opposed to self-defecating.)

(I've completely hit rock bottom. Here I am with a chance to impress all sorts of new readers from Chicago - not to mention Rock Island! - and I've resorted to scatology this early on. God, Moline, even! You're blowing it, Jim! Come ON! Step it up and give them something to prove that you deserve the reputation you've got. Show 'em your chops!)

(Oh, No!!! Cheap visual puns?!? You have to be able to do better than that, you bozo! Think! Think!)

(The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides.)

(Oh, for goodness' sakes, you couldn't remember that in 7th grade when you needed it, but you're going to throw it in here now, when readers are leaving your site like so many lemmings over the side of a cliff?)

(Aaaaarrrggghhhh! Bad analogy! Bad analogy!)

(Did I just use "anal" twice in one sentence? Shit. Shit.)


I'm a nice guy. I give to the Salvation Army and the Jimmy Fund and I don't kick babies as much as I used to. I've never eaten a cat - alive. I... I...

(Well, now you're just begging. [I would have said "pandering", but that would call for the following photo...

...and that's too bad of a pun even for me.] You might as well wrap it up, pal. There's nowhere to go from here but downhill.)

I still say the Celtics can win the NBA Championship!

(Oh, God, help me! If you get me out of this, I'll go to mass every Sunday and give you 25% of everything I win on the lottery. I'll donate three hours every year to helping out at homes for unwed mothers - unless they recognize me - and I'll never again say a bad word about that bitch Hillary Clinton. Please help me, God! Please!)

Aaaarrrggghhh! It's a dead rat! That's what I get for praying? Hey, thanks a lot, God!

(Oh, wait a minute. It's a kitten. A very cute kitten. A kitten so cute that anything anybody saw or read just a minute earlier will be totally blocked from their minds and they'll go away from here utterly satisfied and happy. OK, Jim, play it cool. All you need to do now is wrap it up with something that will appease the folks you pissed off with your semi-blasphemous rantings. Don't blow it.)

Thanks, God! You're the bestest God there is!

(There! That ought to hold the miserable midwestern sonsabitches!)


Still The Worst Year EVER (But Getting Better)

2007, known at this address until further notice as The Worst Year EVER, has been upgraded to - in precise medical terms - not quite as bad as having your toes chewed off by a wolverine.

MY WIFE went to work today, although it probably had more to do with her sense of duty to her co-workers than her actually being well enough to leave the house. When she coughs, it still sounds like her lungs are full of small curd cottage cheese.

By the way, I bought her some Robitussin yesterday and we were both mystified as to how a cough suppressant and an expectorant can be included in the same bottle and both be effective. She told me this morning how it works. While you're sleeping, the cough is stifled somewhat but the expectorant forces great globs of mucus out through your nose and onto your pillow.

(This concludes the "Oh Sweet Jesus, why did you have to put that picture into my head?" portion of our program. Next up, however, is the "Oh Sweet Jesus, I'd rather have the other picture back again!" segment, so you've been warned.)

I'm doing fairly OK. It appears that my green curry cure worked. I carpet-bombed the miserable cold and flu germs with serious doses of hot peppers, before they could get any sort of a foothold, and I seem to have avoided the worst. That is, at least as far as head and lungs are concerned. The other end of things has now been the recipient of some serious searing heat. This year has now officially become a pain in the ass.


How about something less graphic and more cheery? OK, here you go.

My friend, Mandy Nelson, wife of my co-worker Dan, has a chance to make some serious scratch. She will be the participant in tonight's Foxwoods Take-A-Shot promotion during the Celtics game against Cleveland.

Here's how it works. She will first have a chance to shoot a three-pointer. If she makes it, she wins $7,777. She will then have a chance to make a shot from halfcourt for an additional $70,000.

Mandy is a young thirty-something mom, two ultra-cute pre-school daughters at home, so she wouldn't seem the type to have much hope at something like this. However, I have it on good authority that she played some b-ball in college, so she may have a real chance at making the money. I don't know how rusty her skills are these days, but I'll be watching and saying a prayer.

(Funny - Just as I finished writing the above, Mandy called here. She's also one of our voice talents and she needed some pronunciation help on a script. She said that Dan told her that there was no pressure, just have fun, but, gee, if you make the shot for $70,000 that's a life-changing sort of thing. Yup - no pressure whatsoever.)


That's all for today. I was going to deliver a rather maudlin observation concerning streets that are now lined with deornamented Christmas trees awaiting removal by the trash collectors, but you don't need that.
See you tomorrow or maybe the next day, possibly with something resembling an actual story! Wouldn't that be a nice change of pace? Yes, I believe it would be.