Friday, March 30, 2007
I'd like to solicit some opinions from you today. I'd really appreciate it if you'd leave a comment or two concerning the following items.
First, I'll ask you to give me your opinions and/or recollections concerning Fred Rogers. Some of you may know him better as Mister Rogers, the long-time host of Mister Roger's Neighborhood on PBS. If you've been a reader of mine for more than a few days, you probably have a good idea concerning my opinion of the man. However, I'd ask you to not let that color your own judgment. Please feel free to express whatever you'd like. If that is just a memory of the show - or of any personal meeting - rather than a flat-out opinion, that's fine. Good, bad, or indifferent; the more comments I receive, the better.
Second, I'll ask you to comment concerning children's television in general. What did you watch, when you were a kid, that you remember either with fondness or disgust? If you have kids, what do they like to watch and/or what do you encourage them to watch? If you're a little older, and did not grow up with TV, was there anything on radio that was particularly geared towards children and that you listened to? How did that affect you, whether in a positive or negative fashion? Ramble on, if you wish; no time limit here.
(I should add that this is not limited to American TV or radio or movies or whatever. I know that some of you are from other countries. I'd truly love hearing about your experiences, too. I think they may turn out to be the most interesting of all!)
Last, what do you believe best serves children in the media? How are the things children see and hear affecting them? What might be particularly damaging to children? I'll give you a question here that pretty much demands a definitive answer: Given the chance, what ONE media image would you wipe from the face of the earth? It can be one you'd get rid of because you feel that kids would be better off without it, or it can be one that just plain pisses you off. Vent!
As you may imagine, I have some opinions of my own concerning these topics. I will NOT join in on the commentary here, instead letting you all have your say, whatever that may be and whether I agree or not. I'm reserving some opinions of my own for a piece I'll be publishing in this space on Monday.
So, voice your opinions - with respect for the opinions of others, please - and I'll see you on the other side of the weekend. Thanks!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
A few days ago, I told you a little bit about a writer named Rick Johnson. Tremendously talented, woefully underappreciated, he passed away last year at the age of 56, having spent the greater part of the past 25 years managing a smoke shop and news stand in Macomb, Illinois, rather than raking in the mad bucks he should have been getting for his literary efforts.
I have an old issue of CREEM magazine in front of me. The cover date is October 1979. Rick Johnson is prominently featured in the issue. As a tribute to this man whose writing I so greatly enjoyed, I’m going to fill this space with a few bits and pieces of his stuff from that issue.
(I suspect that 28-year-old issues of now-defunct magazines are somewhat in the public domain. If this is not the case, I apologize to those who own the words and promise you that all proceeds arising from the publication of this piece will gladly be transferred into your hands upon notification of your displeasure. The money you’ll spend on postage to notify me will probably be more than you’ll get back, though, so you might want to weigh your options.)
CREEM was like most magazines, in that it had full-length pieces covering multiple pages as well as shorter bits of filler. Luckily for my purposes here, the filler was usually credited. Here’s one that Johnson wrote.
NEW YORK – In yet another move designed to keep rock writers from going overboard in their criticism of various artists, Scripps-Howard Newspapers have compiled a list of eighty-nine “red flag” words that “used innocently or truthfully, can lead to a libel suit.”
For example, if one were to refer to Carly Simon as a PROFITEERING STOOL PIGEON, Peter Frampton as a FASCIST MONEY GOUGER, Roy Thomas Baker as an INCOMPETENT ADULTERER OF PRODUCTS or Clive Davis as a SCANDAL-MONGERING, PRICE-CUTTING, ATHEISTIC KEEPER OF A DISORDERLY HOUSE, you could not only be sued for libel, but they’ll take away your black/red/yellow typewriter ribbon as well.
However, if you simply refer to these people as STUPID ASSHOLES, you’re in the clear!
From a review of PRIME TIME SUNDAY, a then-new show on NBC:
PRIME TIME SUNDAY, NBC’s latest vehicle for Tom “I-Leap-Through-The-Screen” Snyder and his Kama Sutra eyebrows, is without a doubt the worst new program to hit the screen since ALL STAR SECRETS. With all the flow of a local news show experiencing technical difficulties during the hog quotations, Snyder leads a bumbling crew of network second-stringers through a poky dodo maze of disconnected live interviews, features that bombed in PARADE four years ago and trademark Snyder ad-libs that carry the approximate humor value of comfortable driving weather.
A review of Queen’s latest album at the time, LIVE KILLERS:
The first thing people will want to know about Queen is: can they reproduce their “sound” in person? Well sure, just give that great moment in wiggle-voice, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a spin. Freddie starts it off by singing the opening lines and then the band leaves the stage and puts on the actual studio recording for the audience to figure out. The liner notes call this a “typically uncompromising” move on their part. My own notes call this “the biggest heap of bullshit since that truck full of moo overturned on the highway.”
The second thing folks want to know about Queen is: why does the rest of the band put up with Freddie and his pigeon-butt? Good question, candy ass, but hell, take a gander at co-boss Brian May. If Truman Capote were God, Freddie and Brian would be his salt and pepper shakers.
The third thing congressional fact-finding committees are currently investigating is: what are the words that are bleeped out of the intro to “Death On Two Legs?” Freddie goes, “This is about a (BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP) …” What do you think he said? This is about a CHICKEN-HAIRED MEMBER OF THE ROLLING STONES? This is about a MOVING EXPERIENCE I ONCE HAD IN A GARDEN HOSE SHOWROOM? Or possibly, this is about a MINUTE AND A HALF?
The last thing anybody should WANT to know about Queen is this: should I spend my hard-earned pimping money on this double album, or save it for something I can really use, like a dead weasel?
Have the weasel gift-wrapped.
Finally, I give you excerpts from the cover story written by Johnson, IS HEAVY METAL DEAD? (Subtitle: Last Drum Solo at the Power Chord Corral)
As hard as it may be to believe at this late date (check your calendar), some cricket dicks still don’t have the slightest clue as to what heavy metal is, much less what it’s ALL ABOUT. Like all other dumb labels for music (New Wave, Southern Rock, $7.98) it’s nearly impossible to define and none of the groups ever really fits the definition anyway. So the next time somebody stops you on the street and asks, “Hey, Bernice, what IS Heavy Metal?” it’s generally just best to say that Ted Nugent IS and Horslips ISN’T; “Whole Lotta Love” IS and “Mandy” – well, if it gets that far, just tell ‘em to go stick their ear to a lawn mower and LISTEN.
Heavy Metal is rock ‘n’ roll that gives your ears the urge to make voodoo dolls out of your stereo speakers. It’s as LOUD as having an eviction notice nailed to your forehead, as SCREECHY as a rusty craniotomy saw in the hands of Moe and so HEAVY that it can sometimes only be listened to while curled into a modified gagging dolphin position. Add some lyrics that are as memorable as your most unforgettable blackout and production values that vary between thin and asleep-at-the-wheel, and you achieve a certain transcendental cruddiness that can make grown men and women jump up on aluminum folding chairs and holler IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA!!
[He goes on to explain the form, and its charms, a bit more. Then he bemoans the fact that it’s becoming harder and harder to find the good stuff. We pick it up as he looks at individual performers or groups and calculates the chances of their being able to produce anything worth listening to in the future.]
... made the unfortunate mistake of releasing THE perfect HM album, numero II, which had more steaming chunks of white-hot metal than a burning stove dump. After this stigmatizing flash of dumdum genius, there truly was no place to go but downhill, a task they engaged upon with characteristic zeal. Lately, the lemon grower’s delight have made an effort at some basic home improvements, resulting in music nearly as stimulating as a tire fire. This is one hot air device that’s never gonna leave the ground again, particularly since old Crisco lungs sounds like he’s singing through a fish tank filter.
... they’re so damn pedestrian I’m surprised they don’t wear WALK/DON’T WALK signs around their necks. Catch ‘em live sometime and you too can experience the emotions of a white line on pavement.
... a rhythm section as heavy as a narcoleptic five-year-old tapping on a tenement banister with a chicken bone…
... have lately speeded up their unpartitioned mung heaps in a senseless effort to “get with it.” Forget it, chumps, you were always at least 40 m.p.h. BEHIND IT and that’s why you were great. Since their material is the very epitome of a Grave Disservice, I’d go along with the guy on FLASH GORDON who complained to the king of the Clay People, “I’m sick and tired of gettin’ pushed around by a bunch of mudpies.”
I think Paul Rodgers’ old band Free played the leading role in dead-ending the HM approach, with their slowed-down hay rotters that dribbled along like blood exiting the nose of an O.D.ing downer freak. BadCo seams intent on carrying on that tradition with all the imagination of a slipcover. Their latest LP, DESOLATION ANGELS, does show signs of life, but then so does my dead underwear pile.
Once a thundering pieplate full of swandive bass throbs and back-projected keyboards so cheesy that the Heep were named The Dairy Farmers’ Friend, this group has since been reduced to Ken Hensley’s plaything. I wish somebody’d get him some Colorforms or something before he breaks Rod Stewart's record for most consecutive indistinguishable LPs.
Is this now, or was it ever, an actual group? Ronnie M. has his hot dog in so many campfires you never know what to expect… I wish Mr. Montrose would either pick the crud out of his teeth or stop blocking the mirror.
… they make SLADE look like JEOPARDY champs…
… Plagued by personnel shake-ups, untimely illnesses and a disturbing trend toward allowing saxophone players near their studio, I’m not sure whether to go fluff up the pillow on their deathbed or hang in there and wait for Phil Lynott to bring the snakes BACK to Ireland.
… make Black Sabbath sound like nerf Heavy Metal. Great stuff, comparable to cleaning out a septic tank with a toothbrush.
Used up all their material on two fine early LPs (LOUD ‘N’ PROUD, HAIR OF THE DOG) and have been dragging Riff River ever since for new bodies.
Though originally labeled as the Canadian Led Zep (heaven forbid), Rush cranked out a couple goodies before they turned to mini-series about futuristic Alex Trebek types. It’s also hard to ignore the voice of Geddy Lee which sounds like snip ‘n’ fix time at the kennel.
One of the very few promising new practitioners of slash and burn agriculture… The Netherlands-bred Van Halen brothers somehow managed to avoid the Dutch national character (twerpyness) and singer David Roth howls like he left something stuck in a dike as well.
Sometimes referred to as the poor man’s Blue Oyster Cult, these limeheads gun their acid tractors faster and louder, but with all the imagination of Naval Jelly. Casper the Friendly Ghost in leatherette.
... both their albums sound like they were recorded in a fire hydrant.
Their vocals recapitulate the history of minor mouth pain…
Some of their earlier stuff briefly filled the Led Zep gap, but their last couple of albums packed all the wallop of a wet tea bag. Excellent background music for looking over wallpaper samples…
There will never be a collection of Rick Johnson’s stuff published – unless I hit some sort of mega-lottery. It’s a shame, really. He had a unique voice, and some more famous writers – most notably Dave Barry – cited him as a major influence.
Rest in peace, Rick. I think that, outside of Twain, you may have made me laugh out loud more often than any other writer during my teen years. Thanks, man.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
It’s Thursday and MY WIFE is going out of town, to visit my brother-in-law and help him move. He’s moving from Staten Island to Brooklyn. So far as I can figure out, her job is to sleep in his new place in Brooklyn on Thursday night and if she doesn’t get shot or stabbed, he moves in on Friday.
In any case, this means that I will be a semi-bachelor on Thursday night, all day Friday, and almost all day on Saturday. MY WIFE will be returning late Saturday evening – provided she wasn’t mangled during her Thursday sleepover. In other words, if you’re a hot leggy babe who’s had her eye on a bald 50-year-old for a one-night stand, Friday is your best shot. Bring Chinese food.
As a public service to those of you who would like to stalk me – and this includes hot leggy babes with Chinese food – here is my itinerary for when MY WIFE is away.
Thursday evening I will be visiting my good friend, and softball teammate for close to 20 years, Fred Goodman, who is originally from Brooklyn, so there’s a coincidence of a minor nature. We will spend the evening watching a concert video of Deep Purple live in Copenhagen from 1972. We will be having Chinese food, despite the fact that Fred is neither hot, leggy or a babe.
(As I understand it, Fred will also be dog-sitting for another friend. The dog’s name is Barney and he’s a cock-a-poo. Insert your own joke here. While corresponding via e-mail with Fred, to set up our play date, I whimsically inquired whether or not Barney might also like some Chinese food. Fred’s reply: “I hear he eats his own shit, so probably.”)
Fred and I became friends – and softball teammates – way back in 1987, as near as I can recall. I wasn’t totally there during those years, so it’s an estimate. We both worked for Blake & Rebhan, an office supply company based in South Boston. Fred was a salesman; still is, although now for W. B. Mason. I was manager of the company softball team, although they were paying me for warehouse work.
We bonded during a company Christmas party when we found out that we were both fanatical Deep Purple aficionados. The party was roaring and we were both well-greased, so we sang “Highway Star,” a capella, at the top of our lungs. We would have done “Smoke On The Water” for an encore, but for some reason the party came to an abrupt halt shortly after our first number.
We’ve been bosom buddies ever since then, actually SEEING Deep Purple in concert four or five times together, and Fred has been my rightfielder on most of the teams I’ve managed in the intervening years. Fred is, I think, nine years younger than me, but his tastes in music are similar – hard rock/heavy metal, with an emphasis on musicianship over flash.
As I said earlier, Fred is originally from Brooklyn. The following will give you some idea of what a nice friendship we have.
I sometimes call him “New York Jew Boy” without the slightest hint of concern or regret. And while I am “Suldog” to many, to Fred I am “Pooch” or “Poochie” or “Sulmutt” or “Sulhound” or any other permutation of my nickname he comes up with on the spot. We are utterly without embarrassment or pretense when together. Of course, Fred is utterly without embarrassment almost ALL of the time and that’s why he’s such a good salesman.
I expect that the rest of the time during MY WIFE’s absence will be decidedly downhill from my night with Fred. I’m not REALLY expecting any hot leggy babes bearing Chinese food, so Friday and Saturday will probably be spent in more mundane fashion.
The NCAA’s are still happening and the Celtics play Dallas on Friday, so basketball viewing will be my default if nothing better comes up. I still have a shot at winning a pool, if Butler beats Florida, North Carolina’s team plane is hijacked to Cuba, and the selection committee decides that Holy Cross should be reinstated as their replacement.
In other exciting news, I’ll be doing grocery shopping on Saturday morning and then going to the library to return some books. After that, I’ll spend the rest of the day worrying about MY WIFE’s safe return from Brooklyn.
(I like Brooklyn, actually. The little time I’ve spent there, mostly riding the elevated to and from Coney Island, has been fun. It’s just like any other metropolitan area – some places are safer than others. MY WIFE is no dummy and she knows how to handle herself in a city, so I don’t really expect any problems to occur. It’s just that, despite my blather about hot leggy babes with Chinese food, I would much rather she be in my sight. Given the choice of Moo Goo Gai Pan with Sandra Bullock or MY WIFE, I’d take MY WIFE. Of course, if it were Lobster Sauce with Pork Fried Rice and Britney Spears, it would be a tougher choice.
No, I’d still take MY WIFE. I don’t want an INSANE hot leggy babe, even if she DOES come with MSG.)
So there you go. That’s what I’ve got planned for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, we’ll be attending my two-year-old niece’s birthday party and then I’ll be taking Monday off since that will have worn me out. I’ll be back here on Tuesday - IF I have the strength.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
(Oh, that’s just lovely, Jim. Make the reader puke during your first paragraph. Is that what you were taught in journalism school? I mean, if you had gone? No, of course not! Too late now, though, so you may as well just move on and try to make the best of it.)
Let’s talk basketball.
(Wow. Good segue.)
It’s March Madness. Hmmm. Should “March Madness” be capitalized? I know “March” should, but what about “Madness?”
(Oh, who gives a damn, you idiot!)
Shouldn’t that be a question mark after “idiot” instead of an exclamation point?
(Nobody cares, Jim! You’re getting bogged down in minutiae. Get yourself out of this, quick, before you lose the readers who didn’t already puke following the first paragraph.)
Hah! That’s the second time “puke” has been mentioned, and this is the third! And snot! Well, actually, we didn’t say “snot” before, but now we have, twice!
(Get back on the subject NOW, you dimwit, before you turn your blog into a virtual ghost town!)
So, basketball. Yeah. Did you play any pools? How are your brackets doing?
[Mine are doing just fine, as you can see.]
(Typography jokes, Jim? Is that the best you could come up with? Give these people some meat to chew on or they’re going to be out of here faster than the sneak preview audience for Ishtar.)
Ishtar? OK, maybe, like, three people remember that movie. If you’re going to make topical references, at least make them somewhat current. Here, let me try one.
Who’s slimy and green and heals sick people?
Give up? Mucus Welby!
(You moron! Even fewer people will get that reference! AND you mentioned bodily fluids again! You may as well have asked them who was greenish yellow and won the gold medal for figure skating in 1968.)
Who was greenish yellow and won the gold medal for figure skating in 1968?
(Cripes, he did it.)
(Marvelous. The only reader you have left now is a six-year-old who is breathlessly waiting for you to trot out the poop jokes.)
What’s brown and smelly, comes from Massachusetts, and is running for president?
(What?!? That’s not even slightly clever. And now the six-year-old is gone, because he doesn’t know who Mitt Romney is, anyway. This is sad, Jim, just sad. Can you possibly sink any lower?)
Who won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and makes you pay for sex?
(Oh... My... God. You write a Boston blog and you make a crummy joke about Bobby Orr? You just committed regional sacrilege, you dope. You can’t joke about Bobby Orr; not even a little tiny bit. There’s no recovering now. You’re dead. Dead!)
Well, enough of that. Back to basketball, OK? My bracket will be in good shape if UNLV beats Oregon and a meteor hits the Ohio State team bus.
(Fair. It would have made a nice throwaway line near the beginning, but it’s far too late for it to do any good now.)
I never do well at these things. I pick way too many underdogs. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood. My grandfather picked Liechtenstein in World War Two.
(Now THAT’S a decent joke! Still too late to do you any good, but not bad. It’s somewhat in the style of that famous director… what’s his name again? He stands about six inches tall, writes excellent screenplays and loves it if you shake him until he pukes.)
(WOODY Allen! How do you like it, wise guy?)
Oh, man, I’m sicker than I thought. I’ve totally lost track. Am I the one in the parentheses or is that my conscience?
(Never mind. It doesn’t matter at this point. Just say good-bye. They’ll all go away and then you can start fresh again tomorrow.)
Yeah, you’re right. OK.
Soon, with more better stuff.
(Hey, now that they’re gone, I’ll be honest with you. The Bobby Orr joke wasn’t as horrible as I made it out to be. That Mitt Romney thing, though. Yuck! You couldn’t have come up with something better than that? I mean, really, you could have made it the past tense and said something like “Mike Do Cucka!” With a little bit of effort, you even could have said “John Kerry” without changing his name in the least and made it an Irish joke, to boot! THAT would have pleased the imbecilic cretins who read you.)
We’re still on.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Ah, Sweet Jayzis, ‘tis Saint Patty’s day tomorrow! Time for the wearin’ o’ the green!
I’ll be startin’ me day off wit’ a pint o’ Guinness, and then a big tub o’ corned beef an’ cabbage. After that - Tura Lura Loo! - I’ll slap ME WIFE upside her gob and t’row me 26 kiddos down the stairs, so they get ready for mass in a proper way. After the service, I’ll punch Father O’Malley in the mush and head on over to the pub and meet Murph, Mac, Murph, Quinn, Tommy Fitz, Timmy Fitz, Jimmy Fitz, Murph, Sweeney, Sully, Sully, Big Sully, Fahey, Sully, and O’Brien for a few quarts o’ whiskey. Faith and begorrah! Then we’ll have a grand time whalin’ the bejeezus out of each other until the blood runs in rivers, I tell ya! Toity toity toy! Then some more corned beef an’ cabbage an’ more whiskey an’ more Guinness while we tell each other tales o’ how, if we was still in the Auld Sod, we’d be beatin’ the snot out o’ whole armies o’ English arseholes. Ptooie!
O! Then the topper to the whole grand day! The parade, by Jayzis! Won’t it be a fine sight to see all the lads and lassies dressed in their finest and marchin’ down the street? Ah, where’s me shillelagh? Another pint o’ Guinness, O’Reilly, and póg mo thóin!
Ah, the barmaid is a fine homely lass, she is, but I’m a married man! Where’s ME WIFE? I want another 6 kids! Ah, ‘tis a fine day!
O’Toole, how are you? Go shit in your fist, you boghoppin' son of a bitch! Where’s your 42 kids? (*smash!*) Ah, Mullins! I thought that was you! Saints be praised, it’s good to see your face!
And I don’t suppose you were after forgettin’ the time you tripped me durin’ recess in the fifth grade, you bastard! Go n-ithe an cat thú, is go n-ithe an diabhal an cat!
Jayzis, Mary and Joseph! I’m so drunk I can’t find me own arsehole and it’s time for me to go meet me 32 brothers an’ sisters who’re on the police department and me 64 uncles on the fire department an’ me 487 cousins who work for the state because we’re all goin’ over to Seamus McCarthy’s house to play the harp, drink more whiskey, eat more corned beef and cabbage, and then fight all night until we collapse in the street in a drunken bloody stupor. Erin Go Bragh!
I’m partly Irish. You don’t get a name like Sullivan or a face like mine without some Irish blood, but - God help me – I sure do hate to admit it sometimes.
The Irish are just about the only ethnic group that you can defame with impunity. Nobody is holding rallies to change the name of the Notre Dame athletic teams. The Fighting Irish. Try calling some college team The Hotheaded Hispanics and see how far you get. Throw an Irish cop with a larcenous streak into a movie or a TV show and nobody blinks. Hell, make him a drunk who beats his wife and has 12 unkempt bratty children. You might as well go all the way. It’s not like anybody is going to complain, least of all the Irish themselves. The Irish are just about the only group that generally ignores most of the stereotypes people throw around about them. For that matter, many of us seem to take pride in our rotten image.
When I say “us,” I say it with some reservation. Yes, I have Irish blood, but unless I tell you, you wouldn’t know that I actually have a higher percentage of Hispanic, not to mention French. I also have Yankee, which is English in origin, of course. And some Scottish. The Irish is pretty much only pasty skin deep.
So, by the stereotypes, this is my make up:
I’m a red-headed Irish Hispanic, so I must have a hair-trigger temper. However, being French, as soon as you stand up to my temper, I’ll surrender. Since I’m also English, I’ll probably make a very wry joke while doing so. The Scot in me would like to make a buck out of the whole deal.
I like to eat potatoes at every meal, but I’ll have snails, greasy beef and haggis with them. Oh, yes, with jalapenos on the side. I’ll also have a heaping helping of spotted dick for dessert, but petit fours will do in a pinch.
I’m up for just about anything sexually, of course, but would you mind not shaving your armpits? I might slap you around a bit, but later you can tie up the English side of me and put a whip to my butt, so it’ll even out. Since I’m also a Scot, if you want me to wear a kilt while we’re doing it, I’m OK with that.
I think Jerry Lewis is a genius, but Monty Python, Cantinflas, Billy Connolly and the first half of this post also make me laugh. I drive a Jaguar low-rider powered by peat, but never on toll roads. I wear a beret on top of my sombrero, as well as a derby under it. I work for the government, I sponge off of the government, I am the government, and I want to overthrow the government.
Ah, that’s enough of that, I suppose.
(Just in case you’re really wondering, about 1/3 of the above is true. I’ll leave it to your imagination which 1/3.)
(Not the Jaguar, that’s for sure.)
So, I don’t really have much of a point here, but I’m glad you came along for the ride. If I’ve upset you in any way, just be thankful that it isn’t Bastille Day tomorrow. Or Cinco De Mayo, for that matter.
Soon, con mas (whatever the French word for “better” is) stuff, Bucko.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
So far, I’ve lost eleven pounds in two weeks on my annual Lenten spring training diet. I give up all flour products and dairy products for the 40+ days of Lent. I started at 195 and I hope to reach 180 (or less) by Easter. That will give me a little leeway to rise back to 185 by the time my final softball season begins. Once I start playing, I should be able to easily maintain that weight through September – or maybe drop back to 180 if I really hustle all year.
One of the problems with a diet like this is dealing with the inevitable cravings. I really, really, really like bread. And pizza, crackers, cookies, muffins, pie, and just about anything else that contains flour. I am also in the habit, the rest of the year, of having milk with almost all of my meals. As well as butter on my bread, which I really, really, really like.
In order to stay “on the wagon,” I eat some things during this time that I otherwise might not. For instance, I’ll occasionally grab a jar of peanut butter and just eat a couple of spoonfuls. That helps to stave off the felt need for something even worse, such as peanut butter AND CRACKERS. Another thing that has helped me get by is gefilte fish and schav.
You’re probably familiar with gefilte fish. I’ve found that most folks I come in contact with really don’t care for it. I think it’s wonderful and it absolutely cures any cravings I might be having.
(I know there’s a small amount of flour in most gefilte fish, but it’s negligible in the overall scheme of things, so I don’t sweat it.)
The other part of the combo, schav, you may not have heard of before. It’s a liquid concoction (“A French Delicacy” or so the jar proclaims) made from water, egg yolks and sorrel leaves. MY WIFE calls it “weed soup.”
Schav is a touch on the bitter side, but when eaten in combination with the gefilte fish, the two even out. That’s because gefilte is just a bit on the sweet side for cat food, um, I mean, fish. Anyway, I have two or three gefilte fish (Patties? What is the name for a serving of it?) along with a bowl of schav and it fills me, satisfies me, and only has about 300 calories. Schav is amazingly non-caloric – about 60 calories in a quart.
I assume that most of you would sit down to eat this and barf. Me? I like it. It does the job. And when I hit .500 this year, I’ll offer myself to schav manufacturers the world over as their new poster boy.
My brother-in-law, John - who is ten times the writer that I am, published for pay and all that, but who hasn’t written anything for publication in years (so far as I know) but he should – is moving from Staten Island to Brooklyn.
In the course of packing up his stuff, he had to make some decisions concerning what to keep and what to toss. His new place is a bit smaller than his current residence, so there was more tossing than he probably would have liked.
Anyway, he decided to get rid of a whole bunch of music magazines from the past 20 years. While he was going through them, he found an issue of CREEM, with my name on it, from 1979. He called and asked if I’d like to have it back, which tells you something about John. If you loan him something, it isn’t going to get lost – AND he’ll attempt to return it to you, even if the postage costs more than the thing is worth.
Are any of you, from my approximate age range, past fans of CREEM? It was easily the best rock magazine in existence, IMHO. Utterly unimpressed with its own existence, the mag poked fun at just about anybody and anything associated with rock, while still managing to maintain an attitude that let you know they might be goofing on this stuff, but they would go to the wall for most of the folks involved in it, too.
I used to laugh out loud at the photo captions. They never, ever put a straight caption under a photo. For instance, they might have had something like this to accompany a picture of Gene Simmons:
Little known fact: Gene’s father was an anteater!
My favorite writer on the magazine was a fellow by the name of Rick Johnson. If you are at all aware of his stuff, you know that I’ve stolen much of whatever style I have from him. He was like me, in that he loved good hard rock and heavy metal, but he knew damned well there was enough pretension in the practitioners to light up a city for ten years if it could somehow be converted into electricity.
(There were other writers of some note on the pages – Lester Bangs comes immediately to mind – but an issue without Rick Johnson was a major disappointment to me.)
I found out today that Rick Johnson is dead.
I was going to publish this as I had written it last night - that is, unaware of Johnson's death - but I decided to do a last-minute check to see if there was anything on-line about the man. He had, the last time I checked, not been published for many years and info about him was scarce. I checked and found the above article. Bummer.
I had written to him a few years back, after finding an address through a search. I wasn't sure if the person I was writing to was the same Rick Johnson, but a couple of things about the contact info I found led me to believe that it might be him. As it turned out, it was. He replied to my letter of glowing praise some eight months after I had sent it.
In his letter - typewritten on an actual typewriter, and with quite a few typos - he thanked me for the compliments and told me that he was working as the manager of some sort of shop, as I recall. He wondered if I was the same Jim Sullivan he knew from some publishing enterprise or other and if I might have a job offer for him.
I never answered his letter, although I intended to. I lost it and didn't have the time or inclination to once again do a search for his address. Now he's gone. Too bad. The man was a tremendous writer.
I can't do justice to him here, without more source material to quote from, but I can tell you that my favorite line of Rick's came in response to a letter to the editor. He had written a scathing piece on The Runaways, an all-girl group from which Joan Jett later escaped to some notoriety and success. Someone in the band had written a long involved letter, defending the group, and it was published, followed by Johnson’s concise six-word reply - “Go sit on a snow cone.”
Sadly, CREEM stopped publishing quite a while back. As brother-in-law John perceptively noted, it was too irreverent for its own good. There was no way it could have continued without it finally becoming ponderous and self-important.
(*cough* Rolling Stone *cough*)
I’m looking forward to reading the issue again. The cover story was by Rick Johnson. Perhaps I’ll throw a few quotes of his out here, after I’m done with it, so that you can get a better idea of the man’s huge talent.
(I suppose I should acknowledge that an on-line version of the magazine has sprung up. It doesn't seem to capture the same feeling, though. The archives contain a couple of handfuls of articles from days when it was on actual paper. It will give you some idea of the tone, but if you were there then, you'll readily see that now isn't quite the same - although the caption under the Keith Richards photo is about as good as it gets.)
Well, that’s about it for now. I could give you some bullshit or other about the Celtics, but you don’t want to hear that, do you? No, I didn’t think so.
How about a funny birthday card then? Courtesy of my Uncle Jim:Soon, with more better stuff.
Monday, March 12, 2007
I just went to turn on The Lawrence Welk Show, but New Hampshire Public Television is running an Englebert Humperdinck special instead. It’s fundraising time and Public TV is scheduling shows that they think will draw in new viewers. What they’re really doing is pissing off the viewers they already have. I wanted to watch Granite State Challenge this morning, as I always do on Saturday, and they were airing a show about menopausal women. I hardly think that’s an upgrade.
(You might think it strange that a person who professes a great love for heavy metal would watch Welk. I guess it is, but reruns of the Welk show have more camp value than just about anything else on TV. It’s like watching a really bad movie. Sometimes you want Citizen Kane, but every so often Glen Or Glenda is a hoot.)
Anyway, my Saturday evening now has a hole in it, so here I am typing. Sometimes, when I type, I write things that aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
I wrote a piece concerning my Uncle Ricky last week. I enjoyed writing it and everything I said in it was heartfelt and sincere. I don’t think anybody could have found anything to complain about in it. It was a nice and loving piece. I have to be truthful, however, and let you know that my Mom suggested that I write it. I might have written it of my own accord at some point, but I wasn’t planning on it until Mom said it would be a good thing. And so it was and so she was right. Mom often is.
However, after publishing the piece and writing to tell my Mom that it was up, she wrote back and wondered if I could give her some tips on how to print it out. This is because she was uncomfortable with sending grandchildren and relatives and friends to my blog. She felt that they might get the wrong impression, concerning her son, if they read some of the things I’ve written. In other words, she would be embarrassed because some of those folks might think that she was a horrible mother for raising a perverted drug-taking chicken-choking libertarian who often swears and has no compunction whatsoever about airing his idiosyncrasies in public.
I wrote back that, to the contrary, if anybody took the time to read everything that I’ve written since the inception of this thing, they would have a much more comprehensive picture of who I really am, where I really come from, where I’m really going (nowhere fast), what I really believe (the world of myself), and much more of the real me than they’d ever get in person. I suggested that she send everyone here and let the chips fall where they may, because I am what I am. If I were ashamed of myself, I wouldn’t have published this stuff in the first place.
My Mom and I have a very good relationship. She loves me and I love her. We’ve had very few problems with each other over the course of our time together, which pretty much covers all of my life. So we exchanged a couple more e-mails, we e-kissed and e-made up, and I still love her and she still loves me. The end.
I got to thinking about it and I can certainly understand where someone might get the wrong impression. Not everybody is going to read every word I’ve written. Heck, I could hardly stand to do it myself and I like me better than just about anyone I know. Let’s face it – if, after reading the nice piece about Uncle Ricky, the only other thing somebody clicked onto was this, you couldn’t really blame them for coming away with the wrong impression of how I spend all of my spare time.
So, in the interest of setting the record straight and making sure that my mother’s reputation for good motherhood remains intact, I am now going to tell you that my mother is absolutely and completely NOT RESPONSIBLE for the following things:
My mother had nothing to do with me stealing beer, hopping a freight train and then almost getting killed in the subway.
My mother was completely unaware that I fell through the ice on the Neponset River and then started smoking on the same day.
My mother, in no way, shape, or form, had anything to do with my cursing out an auditorium full of drunken louts and subsequently needing police protection to get out alive, for which effort I was entirely ungrateful. She taught me better than that.
Mom had no idea I punched a desk and broke my hand.
My mother would never have encouraged me to run naked through the snow. It was MY WIFE who did that.
(Come to think of it, my mother did introduce me to MY WIFE, so maybe she is partly to blame, but let’s not quibble.)
Do you think it was my mother who gave me the impetus to spend every cent I earned during a three-year period on cocaine? And to become a complete a-hole, treating the folks who kept me employed at that time so ungratefully in the end? She did not, nor would she even have considered such a thing.
It was not my mother’s idea for me to curse out the government and make extremely obscene suggestions concerning postage stamps.
I could go on citing specific examples, but I’ll just make this blanket statement, instead. My mother is a wonderful woman who has never encouraged me to drop acid, smoke dope, sell dope, listen to heavy metal, gamble compulsively, smoke cigarettes, run for office as a Libertarian, like fruitcake or anything else that might be seen as counterproductive, anti-social, disrespectful, impolite or deadly.
(To be honest, she did let me light a whole boxful of kitchen matches one time when I was about eight, but since I haven’t written about that here yet, it really isn’t fair to bring it up, so just pretend I never mentioned it. Also, letting me jump down almost an entire flight of stairs into a pile of sofa cushions.)
She did teach me that a person should never be afraid of telling the truth. Also, that life is worth respecting, that it never hurts to apologize, that being polite is a good thing, and that saying "I love you" is just fine for a boy. She taught me that what is considered "normal" in society is not always what is morally right. She instilled in me a healthy disrespect for unearned authority. She taught me how to read before I hit kindergarten. She taught me that a person's skin color is not automatically a bad thing or a good thing, but that each person needs to be taken on his or her own merits. Above all else, she hugged me, kissed me, changed my diapers, made my bed, fed me, dressed me warmly, shared her curiosity for fun and interesting people and places, taught me about God, and gave me a head start in life, both intellectually and emotionally, that very few kids are lucky enough to receive.
Sorry, Mom. I guess you are responsible for something.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
(Uncle Rick, in the middle of two of his daughters, Francine and Lauren)
I went out to eat on Friday night with MY WIFE, my Mom, my stepfather Bill and my Uncle Rick. As I may have mentioned a couple of hundred times, I turned 50 on Friday. The dinner was a double-birthday celebration, however. My Uncle, Rick Drown, had turned 70 just three days earlier.
I was dumbfounded when I heard that number. I had no idea. I assumed he was 63 or 64 at most - and he doesn’t even look that old. I mean, his age makes sense, as he’s my Mom’s younger brother and she’s a couple of years north of 70, but she doesn’t look her age, either. Everybody on that side of the family, with a large helping of my grandmother’s Barcello blood, looks great and lives forever.
(If I’ve inherited those genes, I could be here for another 60 or 70 years, so I should probably start taking some retirement planning into consideration. If I have more of the Sullivan genes, though, I might check out next week. In that case, it’s time to party and to hell with the bills, except for my stepfather, who’s a real nice guy.)
(See what I did there? Hah! My stepfather’s NAME is Bill, but I was talking about those things that come in the mail once a month. What a joke! That’s called “wit,” which rhymes with... well, you know.)
I never realized until this year that Uncle Rick is almost exactly twenty years older than I am. As I said earlier, he doesn’t look it. At the rate I'm aging, he’ll look younger than me in about five years - if I’m still around.
Uncle Ricky is an interesting guy. He’s a private detective. He used to be a commercial airline pilot. In his spare time, he’s a marvelous woodworker and carpenter - good enough to make his living that way, which he also did for a while. He’s easy-going and quiet, but he has an affable sarcasm going for him, too. I like him a lot.
The youngest of three children, he was born on February 27th of 1937, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. He still lives there, helping to take care of his mother - my grandmother - who was 101 last year.
(Damn, I like being a Sullivan, but I’ll change my name to Drown in a New York second if it will guarantee me those genes.)
Anyway, he takes care of the house and all of that. Since he’s so handy with tools, it’s a good set-up. I said he was 70, right? Just this past year he re-built the garage, constructing an entirely new roof, replacing the doors, and... well, considering how much of the old structure is left, let’s just say he built a garage. He also added an attached tool shed to the house. He did these things from scratch, by himself – no outside help whatsoever - one man with a hammer and a saw.
(Stuff like that amazes me. The best thing I ever made with my hands is a clay turtle I fashioned in the second grade. I’ve still got it. It still looks like a turtle to me, but not to anyone else. My Uncle Ricky makes actual buildings that you could live in, in his spare time. You could give me fifteen years and I couldn’t make a freakin’ birdhouse.)
(As a matter of fact, MY WIFE could attest to that very fact. She gave me a kit for one, plans included, back in the early 90’s. It still sits in our basement, unfinished. And if I was a bird, I’d be grateful for that, too.)
(Uncle Rick, Grandma, Mom - From the styles, I'd say late 1970's)When I say that Rick lives with his mother, I might be giving you the wrong impression. He’s been married, four children (one deceased) and six grandchildren, so he hasn’t lived with his mom his whole life. As a matter of fact, he left home quite early.
He joined the army at the age of 17. He was stationed in Germany and he loved being there. To this day, he has a great fondness for just about any movie about the army - especially those concerning World War Two – and he’s quite the amateur historian concerning that conflict.
When he got out of the army, at age 21, that’s when he became a carpenter.
(It’s in the blood, apparently, but somehow I missed my share of it. Not only is Uncle Rick a fine woodworker, so was my grandfather and so is my cousin, Scott. Me? The only wood I know how to work... no, let’s not go there.)
Not satisfied by being great at one thing, he decided to learn how to fly. He became a pilot, a captain for Air New England, a regional carrier based on Nantucket. He did that for quite a few years. Then, just so he could have something else EXTREMELY INTERESTING to talk about, he became an actual honest-to-goodness private investigator, which he has been for perhaps 16 or 17 years now, as I recall.
Oh, did I mention that he taught himself how to speak both Spanish and German? And that he’s a ham radio operator, with many contacts spanning the globe? And, while he had a few spare moments, he traced one side of our family tree back to colonial times and the other back to Spain?
(I think I said earlier that I like him a lot. I do, but the man sets the bar pretty damned high for the rest of us rapscallions and scullery maids. I might have to re-think my position if he takes up, say, brain surgery next.)
(Speaking of his genealogy work, that side of my family has some interesting bloodlines – Spanish, French and Yankee. One of our ancestors was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. Another was the fellow who crafted the grasshopper weathervane that sits atop Fanieul Hall in Boston to this day. His name was Shem Drowne. Somewhere along the way to us, the “e” was dropped from the end of the family name. Knowing my fondness for The Three Stooges, MY WIFE says that there must have been a “p” dropped from that fellow’s first name, but that’s purely conjecture on her part.)
(With Grandchildren Camille & Casey)With all that I’ve said concerning my uncle’s endeavors, it should come as no surprise that he likes to play games that challenge the mind – puzzles and the like – and he’s damned good at them. If you want to see the mental equivalent of a pitbull, just give my Uncle Rick a riddle to solve. He won’t set it aside until he’s figured it out.
I have a special fondness for another small hobby of his – magic. The first magic trick I remember being amazed at, and determined to learn, was often done by him to amuse me as a small child. What he did was to take a heavy object, say a can of vegetables, and make it appear to go through a table, leaving no indication behind of where it might have gone through. He’d take the can, along with a sheet of newspaper, and wrap the can in the newspaper. Once he had done so, BAM! He’d slam his fist down on the newspaper-wrapped can on the table. The newspaper was flattened, the can had hit the floor, and there was no hole in the table.
(I could tell you how that trick is done, because my Uncle Ricky is always willing to explain a trick – after he’s first amazed you with it a few hundred times. He wants to give you a chance to figure it out for yourself because that’s what he enjoys doing – figuring things out – and he’d like you to have the same pleasure. Once you say that you’ve had enough, he’ll take great delight in explaining the technique.
While we were at dinner Friday night, he showed me another one involving toothpicks and dinner napkins. I gave up and he revealed the secret. We then returned to my Mom’s house for some coffee and conversation. While there, he taught me two new card tricks – but only after I had partially figured them out myself during his repeated befuddlement of all gathered at the table.)
So, he’s a pretty smart guy and a nice fellow. In the best journalistic tradition of the modern age, now that I’ve built him up, it’s time to tell a few stories from his childhood and tear him down.
(Grandpa Francis Drown, with my Mom (Connie), Uncle Rick and my Aunt Jeanne)When Rick was about nine, his family moved to a new house in Weymouth. On the very first day in the new house, he was swinging on a water pipe in the cellar and broke it. My grandmother sent him outside to play while they tried to clean up the mess he had made. No sooner was he outside than he threw a ball and broke one of the windows.
(This is the same house he and my grandmother still live in, so all of the repair work he now does around the house seems to be delayed justice.)
Then there was the time he and my Aunt Jeanne (the oldest of the siblings) had a good little scam going - until they were found out. There had been a huge snowstorm and there were drifts a few feet high. They had neighborhood kids come into the house and they were charging them a nickel apiece for the pleasure of jumping out of the second-story bedroom window into the snow below.
(As legend has it, my grandmother had a paint stirrer she used to occasionally spank the three kids. I guess in Ricky’s case it was more than an occasional use. My Aunt Jeanne used her woodburning set to write “Ricky’s Paddle” on that paint stirrer. There has never been any indication given that my grandmother objected to this naming of the implement.)
And now, I’ll just plain embarrass him. My Mom tells me that he really, really liked Gene Autry. He would dress in cowboy shirt and hat, etc., and go around singing the following song, which I guess he had heard Gene Autry sing:
Wherever you are dear
On land or on sea
If you really love me
Be honest with me
Well, that sort of thing NEVER looks good on your resume.
I’ve got one last cute story, this one from a more recent date.
The first time Rick met MY WIFE (she was MY FUTURE WIFE at the time) we had had dinner and now we were gathered around a table and playing Monopoly. MY FUTURE WIFE volunteered to be the banker. Rick was sitting directly to her right. After a bit, Rick wasn’t doing too well. His cash reserves were low and he didn’t have any considerable holdings in real estate, either.
After taking a couple of surreptitious glances to either side, he tapped MY FUTURE WIFE on the leg and passed her a note under the table. She didn’t know what to make of this. She had just met him, after all. Was he making some sort of a pass at her, right in front of everybody? She read the note, with some trepidation, but then began laughing. It said, “This is a stick up!”
(On the occasion of Grandma's 100th birthday - Mom, Grandma, Uncle Rick)
I may have forgotten some instance during my childhood, but I can’t recall ever telling my Uncle Rick “I love you.” I guess this is as good a time as any to rectify that. I love you, Uncle Rick. So do a whole bunch of other folks who may not always put it into words. We all do. Just take it for granted.
Happy 70th Birthday, Uncle Rick. Many, many more.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I’ve been fifty years old for four days now. I can’t say that I notice any difference.
While I was approaching this milestone, a kind soul reminded me of Satchel Paige’s wonderful question: “If you didn’t know how old you was, how old would you be?” I’ve given that some thought. I think 42 or 43 would be about right.
Physically, not too much has changed for me in quite a while. I’m still 15 pounds overweight during the winter and right where I should be once I start back to playing ball in the spring. I’ve been bald since I was in my late 20’s, so nothing to worry about there. I’ve got no problems sexually; never have. I haven’t noticed any reduction in overall strength or stamina, although I do get winded a bit easier.
(That’s from the smoking, of course. You could probably set your watch by my coughing. I clear my throat about once every ten minutes. A great deal of it’s in my head, though. I know this because I go to the theater with MY WIFE and I might cough once during a two-hour performance. However, I’ve digressed – somewhat psychologically - and smoking is a topic for another day, maybe not too far in the future. We’ll see.)
The only age-related detrimental change I’ve noticed is that my vision is deteriorating. I’m not expecting to go blind anytime soon. It’s just that I now have to wear glasses whenever I want to see anything sharply and in focus. This goes for both near objects and those that are far away. I have two pair of glasses now – one for reading and another for distance.
The reason for the two pair of glasses is that each of my eyes is going bad in a different direction. My left eye is just swell for looking at stuff across the street or down the block, but crummy for reading. My right eye is just the opposite – reading is no problem, but anything more than fifteen feet from me is fuzzy.
You might well ask why I have two pair of glasses rather than bifocals. The answer is simple enough. I have a pair of bifocals, but I hate them. I tried getting used to the things, but all I got used to was having headaches and tilting my head at weird angles to make them work. In order to read, I had to tilt my head back and look down my nose. To see things at a distance, I had to lower my head and look towards my eyebrows. If I just looked straight ahead, I got a headache. Maybe they’re great for some folks, but I find it much less inconvenient to just put on whichever pair of glasses I need at the moment.
Anyway, my vision isn’t so horrible yet that I have to wear glasses constantly. I’ve never worn the reading glasses anyplace but at home. The distance glasses have pretty much been for home use, also. I put them on to bring clarity to the TV. I’ll wear them while driving, but only if it’s nighttime and visibility is less than normal. Otherwise, I’m OK. For instance, I’m not wearing glasses while I type this and I’m not havung any reak problens.
This year, I’ll have to wear the things while I play ball. I could still play without them, but I’d be doing a disservice to both my team and myself if I did. I expect they’ll save me a couple of errors and maybe buy me three or four hits. I truly hate wearing them on a ballfield, though. What I gain in straight-ahead vision is almost offset by what I lose peripherally. I’ve reached the point where they’re definitely a net gain, though, so wear them I will. I expect to be called “Grandpa” much more often this season.
The first time that happened was three years ago. And it was a woman who did it, which made it all the more painful. I liked to think that, since I was wearing a real honest-to-goodness uniform and performing some sort of athletics, I might possibly still be young and sexy. I guess not.
We’ve had, as I recall, five women who have played in our Sunday league over the thirteen years I’ve been a player in it. They’ve all been decent players, so I give them respect. I figure it’s hard enough for a woman to compete in an all-male league, so why should I give them more grief than they’re already getting from some of the rockheads who play? They’re giving it what they’ve got to give and I’d be pissed if I was in their position and heard some of the crap that’s said.
Anyway, Andrea is a pitcher. She can’t hit worth a shit – heck, I’m a hideous pitcher and I popped her up the only time she faced me – but she throws like an ace. It’s fast-pitch, after all, and women certainly have no deficiencies in this sport when it comes to pitching.
In this particular game, I’m leadoff for my team, as usual, and my style was irking her. I’m the most patient batter in the league. If the pitcher wants to throw me four balls, I’ll take them, thank you, and walk down to first base. That’s what I did to lead off the game against her.
Now it’s my second time up. She’s worked the count to one ball and two strikes, all looking. I haven’t swung at a single one of the 9 pitches she’s thrown me in the game. After the second strike, I stepped out of the batter’s box and asked for time. She yelled, “Get back in the box, Grandpa! You’re gonna have to get the bat off your shoulder THIS time!”
I started laughing. My bench was in hysterics, of course. My teammates said:
“Get back in the box, Grandpa! Show that young whippersnapper a thing or two!”
“Charge the mound and beat her with your cane, Sully!”
“Hey, Sully, show the ump your A.A.R.P. card. I think you get a walk on three balls with the discount.”
I shouted out to her, “Grandpa? GRANDPA? Oh, my. You’d think that playing this game for sixty years would earn me some respect, but Nooooooo! Hey, wait a minute! Somebody bring me my glasses. Is the pitcher a GIRL? Damn!”
That broke her up. We resumed play. I’m happy to report that, on the next pitch, I singled off her ass. Not literally, although I tried.
(I’d be less-than-honest if I didn’t tell you that she struck me out the time after that, on a change-up. It was clever pitching. However, in my final at-bat, I walked again. That pissed her off, let me tell you.)
After the game, as is the custom in our league, both teams lined up and exchanged handshakes. When we got to each other in the line, we both laughed and then she hugged me. Ever since then, she’s been one of my favorite people in the league. She hasn’t played more than a handful of games in the last two seasons, having moved out of the area, but I hope she pitches against me this year. I'd be very interested in hearing what she'd have to say when I step into the box actually wearing glasses.
Grandpa Suldog, over and out. See you tomorrow - if I have my glasses on.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Welcome to my virtual birthday party!
I’m 50! Wheeeee!
The sink is full of beer! C'mon everybody! Dive in!
Here come some Sullivans! The sink full of beer is over this way, folks!
I’d like you to meet my Mom and Dad and some lady who I’m sure is very neat, since she gave us these swell bibs!
Have you met my Uncle Jim and my Uncle David?
Here’s my niece, Caitlyn, and my bandmate from World's End, Sean!
Hi, Grandma! Yes, the sink full of beer is over that way!
Here’s MY WIFE’s family!
I’d like to thank you all for coming. The sink full of beer is empty, but the bar is NOW OPEN, so belly up!
Nice party, Jim! Why is there a basketball on my table?
OK, this guy has had enough. It’s time to eat anyway. Where’s the grub?
Burgers will be ready any minute now!
THAT was quick! Yum!
This party is b-o-r-i-n-g! It would be better if there was cake. Where’s the cake?
I think I might go to Stu's Party if I don't get some cake...
Mmmmmm! More Cake!
All right, I’ll sign ONE autograph, but I’m eating cake here!
Presents? For Me? Aw, you shouldn’t have!
Wow! Just what I’ve always wanted!
I’m giving you this painting of Satan wearing a fedora!
I’m giving you a snowman!
Hi, Uncle Jimmy! I’m giving you a magnifying glance!
I’m giving you the bird!
I have no idea what it is, but I sure do appreciate it! Thanks!
Oh, boy! I got a rocking horse!
And a bass guitar! And sunglasses! And hair! Did anybody get me a shirt? No? Oh, well. Rock and roll!
You’ll get my present AFTER the party, big boy!
OK! Party's over! Thanks for coming everyone! Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!
"Great party, Jim!"
"Thanks for coming, McFeeley! Give my best to Fred!"
"OK, Jim, I will. Oops! I see YOUR WIFE is waiting for you! Speedy Delivery to you!"
Boy, what a great party, Blackie! We’d better get some sleep! We’re not as young as we used to be, you know! I bet you I sleep until AT LEAST next Tuesday! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Tomorrow, somewhere around 9am, I will have been on this planet for 50 years. If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH! Oh, God, I crack myself up sometimes. Wouldn’t change a thing? Only an absolute idiot would say something like that. Mark Twain had it right: No sane man, given the chance, would ever agree to live his life over again.
Anyway, what kind of an a-hole would I be if I said something like that, knowing that along the way to this birthday I could have done so many things differently that would have made others much happier? I’ve caused pain, I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve rationalized hideous behavior, all while attempting to make my own life comfier. Wouldn’t change a thing? No, I’m not that megalomaniacal.
However, if we’re talking about my own satisfaction – my own happiness with how this life has gone so far – I’d be afraid to live my life over again ONLY because it could have been much, much worse. I’ve been one of the most blessed people on the face of God’s green Earth.
Proof? I give you Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this quadrilogy.
(Is that even a word? A lot of authors have written trilogies, but I think most of them have stopped at three volumes because they weren’t sure what to call the thing if they went further. However, I [surprise] digress, which has been the over-riding theme of my entire life, I think.)
I have had an amazing life, when you get right down to it. Lots of folks these days pooh-pooh the idea of Leave It To Beaver and similar television shows from the 1950’s. They say that such things are pure fantasy and that America was never really like that at all. I’m here to tell you that those people are dead wrong. I lived that life as a youngster.
Our home was on a quiet side street in a middle class neighborhood. My Dad had a good job and my Mom was a housewife. Well, she worked a part-time job, sometimes, but she was always there when I got home – when I walked home from the neighborhood elementary school. There were always cookies in the cookie jar and a large, cold glass of milk to go with them.
The troubles we neighborhood kids got into were no worse than anything Beaver and Wally had to handle. I was an only child – no decent big brother to bail me out – but the other characters from the show were there. My best friend was overweight and slightly more willing to start us on the road to mischief than I was. Beaver had Eddie Haskell; I had Crazy Lawrence Van Aken.
(I don’t know. Given the chance, I might have traded Crazy Lawrence for Eddie. Tough call. Whereas Eddie Haskell was oily and unctuous around adults, but mean to the littler kids once the adults were out of sight, Crazy Lawrence was really, truly insane. He got his kicks torturing small animals, so the fear we kids had of him was of the “Geez, what if he decides to do that to me?” variety. There were very few instances of him actually hurting us, as I remember. It was the possibility that was scary.)
Our family always ate meals together whenever possible. I was taught to say “please” “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” and if I didn’t do my homework, I was punished. There were creepy girls to be avoided and neighborhood characters, like Beaver’s Gus The Fireman, to hang around with and glean wisdom from.
Our street was quiet and peaceful. We played baseball in the summer and early autumn, football in the late autumn, hockey in winter and board games when it rained. The most trouble anyone ever got into was when he played hooky from school. None of us dared to do anything worse than that.
I’m telling you the truth. My neighborhood in Dorchester was the Northeast’s version of Mayfield. If there had been a billboard with a big cup of soup on it, I would have been the kid who was gullible enough to climb up into it and then have to be rescued by the fire department.
It didn’t stay that way, of course. Times change and so do people. There were many temptations introduced into my Eden – some worthwhile, some truly dangerous – and my parents got divorced. But, for about the first 12 or 13 years of my life? It was Mayfield, I swear.
Aside from having a great place to grow up in, I’ve always been blessed with good people in my life. From grandparents who doted on me, to parents who instilled marvelous values, to really cool uncles who showed me the ropes, I’ve always had a massive safety net to fall back on. I haven’t always taken advantage of the help available to me – that’s part of the family ethic, too, to try to do it on your own before bothering somebody else – but the help was always there if I needed it.
As life went on, and I grew up, I found that I always had good people around me. Whatever I needed, in the way of human help, was there. I’ve had trustworthy friends, decent and kind co-workers, teammates who loved playing games as much as I did, and bandmates who wanted to rock just as hard.
My Dad once told me that we’d never hit the lottery, but we’d never starve, either. He was absolutely correct. I don’t expect to ever be rich, but I know with certainty that I’ll never find myself out on the streets, either – unless I make a conscious decision to muck it up so badly that I put myself there.
I’ve had a bad relationship or two, but when it comes to love, I’m as lucky there as in everything else. MY WIFE is the perfect person with which to share my life. I can’t even imagine finding someone else who could put up with all of my idiosyncrasies. Of course, I reciprocate, so it’s all good.
I’ll tell you about a dream that MY WIFE made come true. I’ve always wanted to own a bobcat. I don’t know why, exactly. I like all cats, but bobcats seem about perfect. Big and powerful, really cool looking, and I bet a bobcat would beat hell out of a dog when it comes to scaring off burglars.
(We’re not taking into account that, as I understand it, it’s near impossible to tame one of the suckers. They’re just really cool, OK? Work with me here.)
Anyway, MY WIFE knew that I’d like to own one. So, for my birthday one year, she bought me one.
No, I didn’t unwrap a big box and have a bobcat jump out and start clawing my face to shreds. We had visited a really nice wildlife sanctuary in New Hampshire, called The Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, a place where animals who had injuries of some sort or another, which precluded them from living successfully in the wild, were brought to recover and live out their lives in some sort of relative comfort.
We enjoyed the place a lot. And they had two bobcats there. It was the first place I had ever had a chance to really get up close and personal with some bobcats. They were as awesome in person as they had been in films and pictures I had seen. I had a great time watching them.
Anyway, on my next birthday, MY WIFE gave me the bobcats. What she did was make a donation to the sanctuary earmarked for the bobcats. I was given a certificate granting me honorary ownership of the bobcats for the coming season. And so, I “owned” not just one, but two bobcats, thanks to MY WIFE.
Great stuff like that happens to me all the time - serendipitous wonderfulness in the least expected places. I don’t think it’s because I deserve it especially. I’m a decent sort, but even a brief reading of the archives here will tell you in no uncertain terms that I’m not a saint. Even so, it appears that God loves me and I continue to be blessed beyond all reason.
Take yesterday, for example. I came home from work and there were two packages waiting for me in the mail. One came from my good internet buddy, STU, and the other came from my cousin, David.
Stu sent me a birthday present, out of the blue - a biography of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, great basketball player and one-time Celtic. I’ll enjoy it immensely, I’m sure.
My cousin packaged up a bunch of old photos and mailed them to me. We haven’t seen each other for many years, but he reads my blog regularly. He expected that seeing the photos would please me; that’s why he sent them. But I think I enjoyed them much more than he could have possibly imagined. The combination of people in those photos (David himself, of course, but also my recently deceased Cousin Joey, my Auntie Ba [also deceased], my Cousin Joan, my grandparents, grand-uncles, grand-aunts, David’s father, David, and mom, Cissy [my aunt and uncle, of course] and me, all from when David was 1 and 2 years old and I was 9 and 10) as well as the place where some of the photos were taken – the apartments on Hyde Park Avenue that I so sorely wish were still around – made it an achingly nostalgic, but truly wonderful, gift.
My Uncle Jimmy did the same thing for me a short while back. He sent me a big envelope full of old family photos and memorabilia. At the time, he also found some old negatives that had apparently NEVER been developed, so he developed them and sent me copies. They were photos from when I was about three or four, of my grandparents and other relatives. It was so magnificently sweet to look at those black and white snapshots and be able to travel back in time by doing so.
Thanks, Stu. Thanks, David. Thanks, Uncle Jim.
Thank you everybody.
I’m just rambling now, really, but what I’m trying to express is that sometimes a dream is realized when you aren’t even aware of it. Sometimes a person is lucky enough to wake up one day and realize that the greater part of his time on earth has seen a whole bunch of small dreams realized, and that they all add up to one huge dream fulfilled, a dream LIFE.
That’s what I’ve had. Praise God, I’ll still have it tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. If the next fifty years are anything close to the first fifty... well, then I won’t be around to see all of them. One person’s heart can only hold so much without bursting.
It turns out this is the story of my life: Soon, with more better stuff.
(I'll be back to swearing and calling people bastards and cursing out the government and bitching about the niggling little details of life within probably about two or three minutes of having posted this, of course. Enjoy the mellowness while you can.)
See you tomorrow!