Friday, July 18, 2008
Saturdays in the life of me, at various ages.
AGE 10 (1967)
5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and that there’s no school, I literally bounce out of bed and hit the ground running. I take a pee and haphazardly brush some of my teeth. Going downstairs, I turn on the huge black-and-white Admiral television. While waiting for it to warm up, I feed the cat and then pour out a gigantic bowl of the now-defunct cereal, Quake. I drown the cereal in whole milk and also sprinkle three tablespoons of sugar on top of it, even though it’s already 50% sugar.
5:10am – I carry the enormous bowl of cereal to the living room, possibly spilling a bit along the way. It’s a cold summer morning, so I turn the thermostat up to 76. The TV is showing an Indian Chief test pattern. Turning the knob that changes channels, I find nothing but snow on any of the other three Boston stations. I settle down on the shag carpeting and eat the cereal, waiting for the fan-forced gas heat to come pouring out of the vent in the wall. I stare at the Indian Chief and wonder why he’s on the test pattern.
5:15am – The heating system makes the distinctive sound which tells me that the heat is about to come on. I get my body right up next to the vent in anticipation. The heat comes on. Ahhhhh! Nice! The cat, having finished her breakfast, comes into the living room and curls up next to me - and the heat.
5:20am – An announcer comes on and tells me what station I’m watching, how many megahertz they’re broadcasting at, and where they’re located. He has a distinctive and soothing baritone voice. I wonder if he owns the station and maybe, if I write to him, he’ll tell me why there’s an Indian Chief on the test pattern. Finishing the cereal, I drink the sugary sludge of milk from the bottom of the bowl while listening to the National Anthem and the Morning Prayer. Mom and Dad are sleeping soundly upstairs. They don’t get up until at least 9:30 or 10 on Saturday morning. I am king of the castle!
5:25am – Farm And Market Report comes on. It’s complete gibberish (but somehow soothing, anyway, because I know that something to actually watch will be coming on next.) I wonder if there are any real farmers in Boston, listening to this stuff and saying to themselves, “Corn ain’t gittin’ a good price today. I’ll wait fer next week t' sell it.”
5:30am – Public service program comes on, produced by UNICEF. It wants to tell me about dam building in Africa. I get up and switch the station, to see if any of the other channels have cartoons yet. Nope. It’s either UNICEF or test patterns. I watch a test pattern of (no doubt many glorious colors, but on our black-and-white TV, gray) bars for a minute or so, then decide that dam building in Africa isn’t so bad. While it plays in the background, I open a volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia (Volume XIII, Rabbits to Signaling), a gift from my grandfather and my favorite set of books. This particular volume tells me all about the races of man (Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid) and shows a drawing of an Asian in colorful silk robe and funny tasseled hat in front of a pagoda, while a black man is tap dancing. A white man, meanwhile, is pictured in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright split-level with a neatly manicured lawn. He is sharply dressed in suit and tie, staring off into the middle distance as though the cure for cancer lies just beyond his square jaw and steely-blue eyes. I think caucasians MAY have been the target audience.
6:00am – Boomtown comes on. While Rex Trailer and his sidekick, Pablo, are in the bunkhouse deciding what to do today, I go out to the kitchen and start mixing some Aunt Jemima batter to make pancakes. I put bacon in the frying pan.
6:10am – Popeye is saving Olive Oyl from Bluto. Meanwhile, I’m saving bacon grease in a tin can we keep on the kitchen counter. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever using that grease for anything. I guess we just didn’t want it down the drain. I pour pancake batter into the greasy pan.
6:35am – I take the bacon and stack of pancakes (smothered in maple syrup) out to the living room. I eat them while watching Rex and Pablo. I give a piece of bacon to the cat.
6:55am – Rex and Pablo ride into Boomtown. I go get the newspaper that was just delivered on our front porch. I read the funnies and the Red Sox box score. My favorite player, Tony Conigliaro, hit a home run last night. The Red Sox are in first place for the first time ever in my entire life. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, The Wacky Races and Tom & Jerry await me.
The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, friendly well-fed cats, good things to eat, fan-forced heat, interesting people, loving parents, and the promise of a sunshiny day playing baseball with friends. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.
AGE 20 (1977)
7:15am – The radio is playing something by Barry Manilow. I roll over, curse the DJ, and shut it off. I light a Kool and lay back in my bed, smoking. I then realize that it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work. I sit up on the edge of the bed and roll a joint. My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about five years now, and my Dad is out of town on a business trip. I figure to carry a steady buzz all day, but I especially want to be stoned for the Saturday morning cartoons. Being stoned gets me closer to how I felt when I was a kid and watched them. Not completely, but closer than when I’m straight.
7:25am – Get out of bed, take a pee and brush my teeth. Go downstairs and put the heat under the coffee. While waiting for it to warm up, I go out on the back porch and smoke the joint. Go back in and pour the coffee, adding three teaspoons of sugar and a lot of cream. Feed the cat (a different one) and then go to see if the newspaper has been delivered yet. It hasn’t.
7:40am – Flip around through 20-or-so channels on cable. The best thing available is Boomtown, with Rex Trailer and (now) Sergeant Billy. A Popeye cartoon comes on. Popeye is still beating up Bluto and eating spinach. The spinach looks delicious. I realize that the buzz is creeping up on me.
7:50am – Mix pancake batter and put bacon in frying pan. I decide I can’t wait that long. Put pancake batter in refrigerator. Leave bacon in frying pan. I can heat it up later. Eat cold leftover egg foo yung.
7:55am – Eat cold leftover egg rolls and pork strips in living room while flipping through channels. Hear big crash from the kitchen and then see the cat come running by with half-cooked bacon hanging from his mouth. Go out to the kitchen and mop up grease from the linoleum. Stop cursing only when I hear the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner theme song start playing. Yay!
8:01am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets caught in one of his own traps.
8:02am - I then begin to wonder if Wile E. Coyote has a charge account with ACME. How does he buy all that crap? Why doesn’t he just have a side of beef shipped to him and save himself all this trouble? And what does the ACME delivery guy think when he carts a crate of birdseed, a see-saw, and a two-ton weight to the middle of the desert and a coyote signs for it?
8:03am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets hit on the head with his own two-ton weight.
8:04am - Smoke another joint.
8:23am – Come to realization that there is only one Pepe Le Pew script, recycled for each new cartoon. Heavy, man!
9:00am – It’s another hour until The Three Stooges come on, so I plug in my bass and put Master Of Reality on the record player. My band has a gig tonight, so this counts as practice. Halfway through Children Of The Grave, I hear the newspaper hit the front porch. I unplug the bass, shut off the record player, and go get the paper. I read the funnies slowly, admiring the artwork. I read the Red Sox box score and then it’s time for The Stooges.
The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, larcenous cats, good things to eat and smoke, interesting coyotes, loving (if absent) parents, the promise of a day watching baseball on TV, and an evening of being on-stage playing rock-n-roll, with an order of sex and drugs on the side. I could ask for more, but I’m not that greedy.
AGE 30 (1987)
11:05am – The radio is playing a paid program about bowel cleansing. I realize I’m awake. I have a vicious headache. My head feels as though someone filled it with shredded brown paper bags and then lit them on fire. My nose is clogged beyond belief and there’s a spot of blood on my pillow.
I remember that – again - I have spent every penny of my paycheck on cocaine and vodka. I have no desire at all to leave my bed, but my Dad is downstairs and he hasn’t seen me since Thursday evening. He probably waited up until 2 or 3 in the morning, hoping to hear me pull into the driveway safely, but then gave up and went to bed. The least I can do is drag myself downstairs, force a bleary-eyed smile, and try to eat a bite or two of the lovely breakfast he’s cooked – and for which I have absolutely no stomach.
I light a Kool and shuffle into the bathroom. I pee, dark yellow and foul smelling. I brush my teeth, but it doesn’t help much. I climb into the shower and turn on the hot water full blast. I stand there, letting the steaming water hit me, hoping to quell the headache somewhat and loosen the crap in my nose. My father waits patiently downstairs.
I have a dead-end job and an ongoing dead-end relationship. The only thing I look forward to doing is drugs. I sometimes enjoy playing softball, but half the time I’m coked up when I’m doing that, too. I haven’t played the bass more than three or four times in the past year, and I haven’t been in a band in ages. I don’t give a damn about the Red Sox or anything else. The funnies aren’t funny any more and the latest cat just died from feline leukemia.
The world is a place full of times to endure until I get more money for drugs. I have the promise of a day filled with lying on the couch, blinds drawn, feeling guilty. The only reason I don’t want to die is because I’m already dead. I wouldn’t ask for more because I don’t deserve it.
AGE 40 (1997)
7:00am – The window is open and the birds are singing. It’s sunny, but cool. I realize it’s Saturday and I don’t have to work today. I get up, go take a pee, and brush what’s left of my teeth. MY WIFE is still asleep. I have a doubleheader this morning at Smith Field in Brighton.
7:05am – I light a Kool and sit in my underwear, going over the scorebook from the season thus far. I’m the manager of the Bombers, a good group of guys to play ball with. I’ve played ball with them on Saturday mornings since moving to Watertown in 1994. Today we play at 9am. I’ll be at the field by 8am. I’ll have 15 minutes, at least, until anyone else shows up. It’s nice to sit there in the cool morning, listening to the birds singing, doing some light stretching and imagining all of the possibilities that the day might hold in store.
7:15am – I finish my cigarette, strip down, and hop into the shower. I turn on the hot water full-blast, letting it wash over my body, loosening my muscles. While standing in the shower, I reflect on how much my life has changed this decade.
I have a good job, which I got as a result of having gone to broadcasting school. I’m off of drugs. I play softball in two different leagues full of good people. Best of all, I’m married to a beautiful and supremely funny woman.
My Dad is dead. He died three years ago. I was clean and sober, and pretty much had my act together, long before he passed away. I thank God for that. If he had died while I was still an asshole, I would now have unbearable guilt. At the time of his death, though, he was proud of me and of what I had worked to become. I had a chance to pay him back for some of those times he stayed awake worrying with a broken heart.
I’m sporadically playing the bass again, as well as keyboards. I also have a collection of other odd instruments, courtesy of MY WIFE. She gives me one every Christmas. I have a thumb piano, a chanter, a triangle, an ocarina, a ukulele and a tongue drum. Someday, I’ll get my act together and make a recording using all of them.
12:15pm – I stop and buy a newspaper on the way home from the game. When I get home, MY WIFE asks me how we did. She likes it best when we split, because then she thinks everybody is happy. Silly woman! After a shower, I settle in, reading the funnies and checking the Red Sox box score. Later today, we’ll go out for Chinese food with my Mom and stepfather, Bill.
The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, good things to eat, lovemaking, caring relatives, good friends and co-workers, and the promise of many more years playing fast-pitch softball. There’s no cat, because MY WIFE is allergic. I’ll take that trade any day.
AGE 50 (2007)
7:15am – I started writing this blog entry.
1:00pm – I’m finishing it up now. I’ve taken breaks for coffee and cigarettes, to talk to MY WIFE, to eat some leftover sushi, and to play the bass a bit. Still no cat, but later on I’ll watch the Red Sox play some Tigers. This evening, we’ll probably watch Pirates Of The Caribbean. I got it from the library when I returned Shrek 2, which we watched last night. I've got new teeth (implants) that are way better than the old teeth. We’ve got three air conditioners, two televisions (with 80+ channels of interesting stuff on cable), all the food and drink we could possibly want, 49 teddy bears (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) and I have - at the very least - 10 more sunshiny days of playing fast-pitch softball to look forward to this year.
The world is a miraculous place, indeed.
I originally published this piece in July of 2007. A year later? All good. And, amazingly enough, there are still 6 to 15 games of fast-pitch softball waiting to be played (depending upon whether we make the playoffs and how far we go in them.)
Miraculous? That doesn't even begin to do it justice.
Soon, with more better stuff (which is what God keeps telling me, and sometimes I listen.)