Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mad Bucks Waiting - Can You Help?

Crystal McKee is a magnificent writer. Perhaps you already know this? She is listed on my sidebar, and her blog is called Boobs, Injuries & Dr. Pepper.

The reason I mention her here is because her latest series, The Crazy Chronicles, is a goldmine. All it needs is someone willing to work it. And I figure that maybe one of you might have the tools to do so.

The story she tells is both comic and tragic. It is comic because of her tremendous sardonic wit. It is tragic because, well, it's tragic. But Crystal is able to tell her amazing tale without sinking into overt whining. Above all, it is a story that should inspire. How anyone could live through such hideous things, and come out on the other end without spending the rest of her life boring hell out of people via self-pity, is astounding. That she can tell the tale with panache, and a huge dose of black humor, is miraculous.

This story should be making her mad bucks, rather than being published with no recompense. It is easily the most gripping thing I've ever read on-line, and I will snap up at least four or five copies of the resulting book, myself, if it ever hits the shelves.

I wish I were a publisher. If I was, I'd make her an offer NOW. Or, if I were a literary agent - or knew what it takes to become one - I would sign her up quick, fast, and in a hurry. We would both make a million dollars.

Nope. That's a lie. I'd make a million. She'd make ten million. Her story is that good. I'm deadly serious.

If this stuff isn't a best-seller waiting to happen - one that will be snapped up in a heartbeat for movie rights - you can call me One-Ball Jim because I'll eat my left nut. Fame is ready for Crystal McKee. Oprah will have a seat with her name on it, as soon as Oprah reads this thing. I have never been surer of anything in my life.

There is a big old pot of gold waiting at the end of Crystal McKee's rainbow. There is also a pot of gold waiting at the end of someone else's rainbow. I wish it was my rainbow, but I don't have the knowledge or skills to make it happen. How about you? How about someone you know?

You'll find the first chapter HERE. Here's CHAPTER TWO. You'll find the rest of the chapters yourself. I guarantee it.

Soon, with more better stuff - but not as good as what I just told you about.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My XM Saturday

This one comes under the category of “Ringing Endorsements”.

MY WIFE told me what she wanted for her birthday this year. It was XM Satellite Radio. So, being a magnificent husband, I bought it for her.

(She didn’t just blurt, “I want you to buy me XM Satellite Radio for my birthday!” A couple of months before the big day, she said that she thought satellite radio would be a good thing to have. I did the following mental calculation: Birthday Coming + “I think satellite radio would be good to have” = MY WIFE would like this as a birthday present.)

The first step in acquiring this for her was to go on-line and scope it out. So, that’s what I did. I went to the websites of the two main satellite radio providers, XM and Sirius. I checked the programming schedules for both, and decided on XM. What cinched the deal in favor of XM was that they have an entire channel devoted to old-time radio. Both MY WIFE and I love old-time radio shows. This is due to our upbringing.

For her part, my father-in-law was a nut for the stuff. In those days before everything in the world was available via the internet, he had amassed a large collection of cassette tapes from flea markets, garage sales, and the occasional catalog, of all sorts of shows from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. He wasn’t just a fan; he was a fanatic. He had books of history concerning the genre, and could name the entire cast of most of the more popular shows. If you gave him half a chance, he’d pop a cassette into a player and happily watch you as you enjoyed Amos & Andy or Jack Benny.

(Truly, I think he got as much joy out of seeing your reactions to a show as he did from listening to it himself. He felt he was bestowing a treasure upon you. He was right, of course.)

As for me, my Mom was actually on the radio in the 40’s. She and her sister, my Aunt Jeanne, had a local show wherein they spun records and sang as a duet. They were accompanied in this endeavor by a fellow named Don Latulippe, who is (my best guess) in his eighties, bless him, and still sometimes heard on-air in the Boston area via WEZE, a Christian station.

(Interesting story concerning the genesis of my Mom’s show, and illustrative of the difference between media now and then. My Mom and her sister went to the radio station [WJDA] and complained that they didn’t have enough programming for teenagers. The station manager said something to the effect of, “If you think there isn’t enough teen programming, why don’t you two do a show?” And so they did. They went into the studio, with no experience whatsoever, and were teamed with Latulippe – who did have some experience – and there they were, on the radio, singing. Could you imagine anything like that happening in today’s corporate atmosphere?)

My Dad was also involved in radio. While in the navy during the Korean conflict, he was on the USS Mindoro, an aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are huge. They’re big enough to be a small town. And my Dad was “on-air” spinning records and such for the crew. He “broadcast” throughout the ship. After leaving the navy, he auditioned for a couple of positions in radio, but never got one. He soon abandoned that career track, but he retained his love of radio.

(Of course, that’s how I came to have the great pipes with which I make my living. I’m the product of a singer and an announcer. Genes will tell.)

I had those two influences, but I also came to a love of radio on my own. Until certain benign smoke products entered my scene, I was not your average kid. I liked listening to talk radio or sports, rather than music. And – getting back to old-time radio – some of the talk shows I listened to would sometimes trot out a classic radio show to fill time. I heard such one-time staples as The Life Of Riley and Lights Out on a serendipitous basis. And every time I heard them, I loved them.

In many ways, radio was even more of a visual medium than television. The shows were written so as to engage the mind totally. As you listened, YOU supplied the scenery and props. YOU (with some gentle prodding from the sound effects man) created whole cities and towns out of thin air. And, perhaps most important, YOU fleshed out the characters. As hard as it may be for someone who was born within the TV Age to believe, there was once no visual reference for such standard characters of American folklore as The Lone Ranger and Tonto, or Gunsmoke’s Matt Dillon. The radio listener “saw” them only via his or her imagination. Thus, each member of the audience filled in the blanks in a different way. In turn, the characters became highly personalized and, as a result, cherished in a way that having them visually defined would not have allowed.

(Not having a visual reference was a good thing for some shows and characters. For instance, Matt Dillon was played by William Conrad. Mr. Conrad pushed 300 pounds, if I'm not mistaken. If you saw him on a horse, you would have known that there wouldn't be too many bad guys he'd be able to catch up to. The characters of Amos and Andy, two black men, were played by two white men, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, who were also the writers of the show. A goodly portion of the audience, both black and white, had no idea that the actors were white.)

(I won't sidetrack into a discussion of whether or not Amos & Andy was racist. It was. But the intent wasn't. That's my opinion; your mileage may vary. In any case, it was funny. If the characters had been white, the writing would still have been good.)

For anyone with a strong imagination, old-time radio was a marvel. And having radio as the major home entertainment produced a generation of Americans who, for the most part, envisioned nothing as impossible. Or, more correctly, who envisioned the impossible, period. Heading into the 50’s and 60’s, these were the people who would eventually put thousands of satellites into orbit, which brings us - somewhat tortuously, I have to admit - back to satellite radio.

I bought a receiver and sound system for MY WIFE, and gave it to her on her birthday. She liked it, of course. How could she not? There are some 200 channels, covering every possible form of music, talk, sports programming, and the afore-mentioned old-time radio. And they all come in with a crystal-clarity of sound totally foreign to your average AM or FM station. Commercials are limited – on some channels, totally non-existent – and, since the audience is necessarily fragmented and the time to fill so vast when you have 200 channels broadcasting mostly 24/7, the choices made by the programmers cover the full range of possibilities. I mean, where else are you possibly going to hear Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar these days, if not on the 1940’s music channel of XM - not to mention Shoot The Meatballs To Me, Dominick, Boy - and the first person who can tell me what band or person recorded either one wins the Suldog Giant Jackpot, which is up to $3.64 this week.

Since MY WIFE works on Saturday during the day, I spent all of this past Saturday engrossed in the world of XM. Aside from the old-time radio shows and 1940’s music, I listened to two baseball games. If this alone doesn’t sell the service to a baseball fan, then I have no grasp of human nature whatsoever: There are 14 channels reserved for baseball broadcasts. Every major league baseball game played – the entire season of all 30 teams - is broadcast on XM.

(I know. The math doesn’t work. 14 channels divided by 30 teams equals I’m a liar. But it’s true. Scheduling differences between West Coast and East Coast teams, travel days, and other time variables, make it work.)

The best part of these broadcasts, at least for a radio buff like me, is that they aren’t done by announcers specifically hired by XM and thus made bland by the constraints of trying to please a nationwide audience. XM picks up the home team’s broadcast and feeds it out via satellite. So, if you tune in to a game that the Los Angeles Dodgers are playing at Dodger Stadium, as I did this Saturday, you get the inimitable Vin Scully calling the play-by-play. If the Red Sox are playing at home, you get Joe Castiglione. And with regional coverage being picked up, you get the odd mannerisms and quirks of the regional announcers. You get the St. Louis announcer wishing a married couple from Sullivan, Missouri, a happy 50th wedding anniversary, and then wondering if that’s the golden anniversary or the silver one, precipitating a friendly argument with his broadcast partner when he is told that the 75th anniversary is the diamond one. (“Well, it sure wasn’t the ladies who made up that one. That had to be a guy. If the ladies did it, the first one would be for the diamonds. Strike one, a fastball. The ladies wouldn’t leave that hanging until 75 years had passed. Had to be a guy. And a cheap guy at that. Ladies, if you’re waiting 75 years to get a diamond, you picked the wrong man, let me tell you. Ball one, outside and low. You sure about that? 75 years for a diamond?”) You can’t beat stuff like that, especially when delivered in a sort-of southern-midwest-down-home-country accent.

In addition to the baseball channels, there are channels devoted to SEC, ACC, Big 10 and Big East college sports, among others. The National Hockey League has coverage similar to baseball, with a number of channels devoted to their games. It is a sports-lovers paradise.

There are channels devoted to music by decade – 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, right up through the 90’s; by genre - country, hard rock, jazz, classical; and even by artist. Devotees of Led Zeppelin have a channel. There are similar offerings for fans of Frank Sinatra and George Strait. I like Led Zep as much as the next guy, but I can’t imagine listening to nothing but them 24/7. However, de gustibus non est disputadum, as my grandfather said every time my grandmother tried to get him to eat something aside from pickled sardines.

I could go on and on – as a matter of fact, I think I already have – but I think this is an amazing service. The cost is reasonable, about $13 a month, with extended plans that knock the price down lower. I heartily recommend it, without reservation. And I’ll add, for the cynics among you, that this is a wholly unsolicited opinion and I haven’t been compensated for saying this. I’m just trying to turn you on to something magnificent. It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

No, it’s better than sliced bread. You can’t hear The Phil Harris & Alice Faye Show on sliced bread.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

22 Punchlines In Search Of A Playwright

Characters, In Order Of Appearance

DJ Big Mick
Kevin Smith
Daryl E.
David McMahon


Time: Never
Place: Nowhere

(All 12 characters stand on stage, for no apparent reason.)

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and chew it!

SULDOG: Hi. My name is Suldog. (points to Connie) That was my mother. (pause) Well, actually she still is my mother. You might be wondering why she said what she did. (turns to Connie) Mom, just in case these fine people didn’t quite catch what you said the first time, would you please say it again?

CONNIE: What? The opening line of the play?

SULDOG: Yes, please. One more time.

CONNIE: All right.

(Clears throat in an exaggerated fashion, then says line in a very stilted way.)

CONNIE: I… did NOT… pick up a piece… of gum… off… the street… and… chew it!


CONNIE: Was that all right, dear?

SULDOG: Magnificent, Mom. Thanks.

CONNIE: You’re welcome.

SULDOG: The reason she said what she did is because I have a major failing in life, and that major failing is this - I often overestimate my ability to extricate myself from ridiculous situations that I’ve put myself into. For instance, I…

MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

SULDOG: That was my friend, Mushy. You see, what I did here was…

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

SULDOG: Thank you, Buck. That was Buck. You see, I told these people that…

CONNIE: You’re not going to use my line to advance the action, or for any real purpose like exposition. You just had me come out here and say it – twice – so that you could spout off a whole bunch of nonsense. What a gyp!

SULDOG: Mom, it’s not because I didn’t want to make it part of an actual real play that people could enjoy, it’s just that I was stuck with all of these…

DJ BIG MICK: So I hit him with the bucket of mashed potatoes!

(cymbal crash, like the punctuation of a bad comedian’s joke in a nightclub)

SULDOG: Oh, man, this is already getting way out of hand. Look, could we maybe just start over and try…

CONNIE: Do you want me to say my line again, dear? I did NOT pick up a piece of gum…

SULDOG: No, Mom, not…

MUSHY: If we’re starting over, do we all get to say our lines again? That would be the fair thing to do.


MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.

SULDOG: Wait a minute! That wasn’t even your cue!

LIME: Oh! Sorry! What is my cue?

(Suldog looks at script in his hand.)

SULDOG: You say your line after Rooster says, “Who knew their hooves were so sharp?”

LIME: And then I say, “Turn your head and cough, please?” That doesn’t make any sense at all.

SULDOG: I know, I know. You see, I asked all these people to give me…

ROOSTER: Who knew their hooves were so sharp?

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

KEVIN SMITH: The keys to any great date are three kumquats, a bottle of tequila, and two pairs of gravity boots.

MUSHY: He stood in full battle gear; helmet, chinstrap swaying on one side, backpack rising above his shoulder, and rifle, perfectly balanced resting confidently across his right shoulder.

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and…


ALL OTHERS: (general mumbling, until Mushy turns towards Kevin Smith, and says…)

MUSHY: What are the kumquats for?

KEVIN SMITH: Are you asking me for a date?

MUSHY: Hell, NO!

KEVIN SMITH: In that case, you don’t get to know what the kumquats are for.

SULDOG: Nobody cares what the kumquats are for!

LIME: You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever been on a date with him.

(All laugh.)

SULDOG: Ugh. This isn’t anything like I wanted it to be. I wanted to write a nice little play - a few laughs, maybe, and possibly a bit of a tearjerker ending to the first act; bouncy musical number to open the second act; show-stopping dance number near the finale - but this is just absurd, and not a Harold Pinter good kind of absurd, this is just silly and makes no sense at all. I haven’t developed anybody's character or given anyone a reason to care about anyone else or set the scene or done anything at all to justify anyone's actions - not that there have BEEN any actions - and everybody is just saying disconnected lines that mean nothing out of context, except that the whole damn thing is out of context.

CATMOVES: Bitch, bitch, bitch.

LIME: Damnit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!

KEVIN SMITH: You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever been on a date with me.

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum…

SULDOG: Yeah, Mom, you did NOT pick up a piece of gum! Turn your head and cough! There he stood, soft spots all over his brain! The Horror, the horror! Buckets full of mashed potatoes! Gravity boots and kumquats!

KEVIN: You forgot the bottle of tequila.

SULDOG: No, I tried to forget the bottle of tequila, but none of you clowns would let me forget it. Look, would you all please keep quiet for a minute – just ONE minute – so I can tell these fine people (points to audience) who paid good money to see this ridiculous excuse for a show just what in hell is going on here and why none of this makes any damned sense at all?

ALL: Sure, yeah, I guess so, OK, yeah.

CONNIE: You go right ahead, dear.

SULDOG: Thank you.

(pauses; looks around to make sure nobody else is going to say anything.)

SULDOG: OK, here’s the thing. I write this blog. It’s called “Suldog.” And usually it’s just me talking about some stuff I like, maybe the Celtics or the Red Sox or old comedy teams. Sometimes it’s me telling a story about my family, or maybe a funny tale about some job I’ve held in the past. Every so often, I try my hand at satire, although that’s usually a disaster. But, this time, I made a truly major mistake. I went way beyond my abilities. I asked my readers to give me two lines of dialogue, see? And I said that I’d write a play, incorporating those two lines of dialogue into it, and I’d make every person who gave me two lines of dialogue a character in the play. For some damn reason, I thought I had the talent to pull off such a thing.

CONNIE: You’re very talented, dear.


CONNIE: Sorry, honey, you go right ahead.

SULDOG: Thank you. As I was saying, I thought, when I made such a ridiculous offer, that I really could do it. I figured I could work my way out of it gracefully, with it seeming like a real honest-to-goodness play with a plot and a climax and everything else a real play has, but my readers gave me such wildly disparate lines…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots!

SULDOG: See? It’s not that they’re bad lines. I could make any two of them work; maybe even four or five of them. But I’ve got 22 lines that, when taken in relation to one another, make no damn sense at all! I mean, sure, I could say this: (turns to Buck) Buck, why is your sister flapping her arms and making cackling noises?

BUCK: She thinks she’s a chicken.

SULDOG: She thinks she’s a chicken? You should have her committed!

BUCK: Oh, I can’t do that!

SULDOG: Why not?

BUCK: We need the eggs!

SULDOG: …but that’s one of the easy ones. Unless my play is about bestiality, what in the HELL am I supposed to do with THIS?

ROOSTER: Who knew their hooves were so sharp?

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.


LIME: Well, that was my cue!

SULDOG: You’re right. Sorry! Anyway, I don’t think Neil Simon, Edward Albee and William Shaespeare, combined, on their best days, could have made a coherent whole of what I was given to work with.

HILARY: Google is my Bible!

SULDOG: See? That was Hilary, by the way. The line she said earlier…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots!

SULDOG: … was pretty good. I certainly could have made up some sort of shaggy dog story about birds, and then turned it into a small Casablanca parody, and then the line…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots.

SULDOG: … would have been a damned funny pun. However, I couldn’t possibly tie it together with…

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and chew it!

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

DJ BIG MICK: So I hit him with the bucket of mashed potatoes!

(cymbal crash)

KEVIN: It was a strange thing, knowing the dark side of the crocheting world.

CATMOVES: Would you like hamburgers for dinner tonight?

CONNIE: And it was under the bed the whole time?

ROOSTER: I might have done it if somebody saw me.

DJ BIG MICK: So that’s how those footprints got on the ceiling!

(cymbal crash)

DARYL E: Some odd man is asking for dialogue.

SULDOG: Yes. Yes, that was true. Some odd man was asking for dialogue. Me. I was the odd man. I am the odd man. And I did ask for dialogue. Yup. My own entire fault. Nobody to blame but me. I did it. Nobody else. I shackled myself with these chains of idiocy.

DAVID McMAHON: Honey, this is just a stage we’re going through.

SULDOG: Again, good line! Maybe actually useful in the hands of somebody competent. However, it’s me we’re talking about, so… well, David, you may as well say your other line. It will pretty much be wasted here, but we’re running out of time.

DAVID McMAHON: Are you sure, mate? It’s such a good follow-up to the first line. You know, Jim, if you had even the slightest bit of talent, this could have been a killer.

SULDOG: Yes, David, I know. But I have no talent whatsoever. I’m a hack.

DAVID McMAHON: Hmmmmm. I suppose you’re right about that. OK, here goes. (clears throat) Really? Well hurry up and get me a stagecoach! (pauses) That truly makes no sense out of context, mate.

SULDOG: Yes, David, I know, and I apologize. As a matter of fact, I not only apologize to you, I apologize to everybody in this play. You’re perfectly fine characters, I’m sure, but I have neither the talent nor the inclination to develop you into anything worthwhile.

ALL: That’s OK. No Problem. Don’t worry. It’s all right.

CONNIE: You suck!


CONNIE: Well, it’s true. These people are all very nice to tell you that it’s OK for you to have disappointed them, but you’re my son and I have to teach you a lesson. Now, you go backstage, think about what you’ve done, and when you’re ready to write a real play for these people, that’s when you can come back.

SULDOG: Aw, geez, Mom…

CONNIE: Now, now, no whining. Go!


CONNIE: And no swearing, either.

SULDOG: Shoot.

CONNIE: That’s better. Now go.

(Suldog exits, stage left.)

CONNIE: He'll never be back. There's no way he can actually write an honest-to-goodness play with all of these lines in it, at least not before 2026.

(CONNIE looks into wings. When she’s sure he’s gone, and not coming back, she turns to Kevin Smith and says…)

CONNIE: Now that he’s gone, what are the kumquats for?


Friday, April 18, 2008

My Day At The Marathon

Today is MY WIFE's 19th birthday.

Well, OK, it's not really. It's her 19th birthday in the company of me. If I said what birthday it actually was, she'd get pissed. Since pissing someone off isn't my idea of a good birthday present, I won't be divulging that information.

If I was any sort of a magnificent husband, I would be writing a magnum opus concerning the love of my life. It would be full of flowery sentiments about undying love, extolling the virtues of this person with whom I hope to spend eternity.

(Considering where I might be spending eternity, that could be taken two ways. She might not want to accompany me. However, I digress.)

The fact of the matter is I'm a lazy slug-a-bed. Instead of composing a grand love poem, or showering her with effusive praise concerning her feminine pulchritude, I'm going to be re-printing something I wrote a couple of years ago. But that's OK. After reading it, you'll understand that we're soulmates. We are two peas in a slug-a-bed pod.

There are a couple of outdated references. For instance, Mark Loretta (Mark Loretta!) is playing second base for the Red Sox. But, generally speaking, it holds up well. And since this coming Monday will once again see the running of The Boston Marathon, it is timely even in it's untimeliness.

So, Happy Birthday, MY WIFE! It doesn't get any better than this (and more's the pity.)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

You need the proper nutrition on race day. So, when I got up, I fixed myself a proper breakfast. There was leftover ham from Easter dinner, so I fried up two slices of it. Ham for breakfast isn’t any good without eggs, so I scrambled two. And what good are scrambled eggs if you don’t have toast? I popped two slices into the toaster and then slathered them with grape jelly when they popped up since grapes are a fruit and fruit is good for you. I had some coffee, of course; you’ve got to stay awake. I wanted to be healthy about things, though, so I only put half a teaspoon of sugar in it, along with my cream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said, "I’d rather just hang around."

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

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

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

I watched the first three innings and then decided that MY WIFE had had a lovely idea, so I decided to take a nap, too. I put the game on the radio (which is actually my favorite way to enjoy a baseball broadcast, rather than TV) and lay down.


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

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

MY WIFE joined me in watching the trailers cross the finish line. She had started baking some white-chocolate-macadamia-nut cookies while I was finishing up my nap and the first of them had just come out of the oven. The TV cameras were showing some folks further back on the course, not even through Natick yet. The announcers said that these people wouldn’t be finishing the race until 5:30 or 6:00. MY WIFE handed me a cookie, and she had one herself.

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

"That’s awfully slow", she said, as she bit into her cookie.

She finished her cookie and I finished mine. We each took a bite of a second one.

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

I finished my second cookie and lit up a cigarette.

After finishing my smoke, I lay down on the couch and flipped through the cable programming guide. Davey And Goliath was coming on in a couple of minutes, and after that, Leave It To Beaver. We watched a few more runners drag themselves across the finish line. By this time, we were seeing guys wearing viking horns and chicken suits, running the race backwards. The announcers were telling us their stories. I changed the channel.

I mean, what the hell? Who wants to hear about people so childish and unconnected to reality as that?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


John-Michael, a very nice gentleman from Tampa, tagged me to do a meme. He did his in five words. That is, each answer (as well as each category) was exactly five words in length. I don't think he expects me to do mine in five words. If he does, he's going to be sorely disappointed. Pleonasm is my middle name.

(I'm pissed about that, too. My parents could have chosen something that didn't have to be looked up in a dictionary, but their names were Thomas Obfuscation Sullivan and Constance Syllabary Drown, so I shouldn't have expected anything normal.)

(Not really. Their middle names were Charles and Marie, while mine is Shawn. Doesn't explain why I use more words than necessary, though. Maybe I'm just an asswipe. I mean, none of this really has to be in parentheses, either, but here it is.)

Be that as it may - and if it isn't, I wasted that money I spent on the ointment - here's the meme.


1 - Driving the same car I am now.
2 - Living in the same apartment I am now.
3 - Holding the same job I am now.
4 - Still waiting for the Red Sox to win a World Series.
5 - Not blogging.

Obviously, some things haven't changed. Meanwhile, some things have changed for the better. Other things have taken the world on a careening course towards Armageddon. If you come from New York - or you have a copy of Strunk & White - your take on which is which may be different from mine.


1 - Saltines with Peanut Butter.
2 - Saltines with Cheddar Cheese.
3 - Saltines with Cream Cheese & Chives.
4 - Saltines with Sardines.
5 - Saltines.


1 - Give a million dollars to 990 of my closest friends. I figure 10 million should be enough to last me, so why be greedy?
2 - Build my own recording studio.
3 - Buy a whole bunch of superb musical instruments.
4 - Cut a record on which I play everything.
5 - Force my 990 closest friends to listen to it before they get the dough.


1 - Paperboy
2 - Blackjack Dealer
3 - Musician
4 - Barker On A Walking Charlie
5 - Garage Cleaner


1 - Dorchester
2 - Watertown

That's it. I lived in the same house in Dorchester for 37 years. I've lived in Watertown for 14 years now, albeit at two different locations. I've been blessed with stability in my living quarters.


Some folks don't care for this sort of thing. I can understand that. It's sort of like being handed an obligation you didn't expect, and if you don't complete it, the person who tagged you might think you don't love him or her. So, if you don't want to do it, it's OK by me. I'll shed no tears.

However, here are the people I'd like to see do this.

Stoney Charms
Stu, who the last time I tagged him, said he couldn't do it, but the next time I tagged him, he would, so here it is, buddy.


1 - The check's in the mail.
2 - My dog ate my homework.
3 - It was that way when I got here.
4 - Drinking? Of course not, officer.
5 - Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Beer Train

I once hopped a freight train.

(I’ll give my Mom a chance to get up off the floor here. Mom? Just keep saying to yourself, "This happened 35 years ago. My son is now a nice Christian gentleman who knows that what he did then was utterly moronic.")

Here's how it happened.

The Baker's Chocolate factory, on the Neponset River in Dorchester, Massachusetts, has long since closed its doors. However, when it was still a going concern, a rail line serviced it. Long freight trains, their cars full to the brim with cocoa beans, would come into the plant area and unload their cargoes into a set of huge concrete silos.

When the company decided to relocate to the Midwest, those buildings that weren’t abandoned to rats and pigeons were sold to smaller companies. There was a print shop; a gym; a trucking company. The State of Massachusetts bought the administration building and turned it into a welfare office. One of the nicer complexes was redone as an apartment building. Central to this tale, though, is the only one of these buildings that still had access to the rail spur. It had been bought by a beer distributorship.

The trains that arrived now were full of beer. To teenage boys, some of whom had a slight larcenous streak, this was a much more interesting proposition than trains full of cocoa beans. The way that the trains had to enter and exit the spur presented interesting possibilities for relocation of beer.

At one time, there had been a roundhouse for the trains to reverse direction in. It was located across Central Avenue from the factory. However, when the factory closed its doors and trains full of cocoa beans stopped coming, the acreage where the roundhouse stood was sold and a shopping center built. Shortly thereafter, the beer distributorship opened. Trains came again, but they now had nowhere to turn around. They had to run in reverse to leave the area.

In order to get the right image in your mind for the rest of this story, you’ll need to picture a medium-sized river. Train tracks run parallel to the river on the shore of either side. A bridge across the river connects the two sets of tracks. The factory complex is across the river.

The arriving train first travels in a straight line, all the way down the set of tracks on the opposite side of the river from the factory, until the last freight car clears a switch track at the bridge. A switchman disembarks and throws the switch. The engineer then backs up across the bridge. He continues backing the train, in a long semi-circle, all the way down the second set of tracks, on the other side of the river parallel to the first set of tracks, until his engine pulls clear of a second switch. That switch is thrown and, at this point, the engineer can once again drive the train forward, onto a spur that leads to the beer distributorship building. The spur is behind the huge concrete silos mentioned earlier.

We boys from the neighborhood had been watching this operation for years now. We knew the schedule of arrivals and departures, as well as how long it took to perform each maneuver. We knew that each train carried a crew of only two: an engineer and a switchman. It was fun to watch a big old freight train do this curious arabesque of the rails. Whatever knowledge we had acquired had been by osmosis rather than a deliberate collecting of facts for use in thievery. We had no scheme in mind. That is, we had no scheme in mind until we all turned 16 or 17. That’s when we realized there was an opportunity for free beer that summer.

We thought it out. There were three times when a hit could be made, but two of them were no good. The first was when the train stopped on the opposite side of the river, before backing over the bridge. The second was when the train stopped backing up on the other side of the river. The third was when the train stopped to unload. Also, we had to contend with the way the doors of the freight cars were sealed, with a small band of metal that let anyone know if the freight had been tampered with on its journey.

The first stop was no good because the switchman disembarked as soon as the train stopped and he then headed back to the switch. There might have been enough time to open a freight car between the stop and his appearance at the end of the train, but not enough time to do anything once the door to the freight was open. In any case, even if we could boost the beer then, there was no place to go with it except across the bridge into the factory complex - which would be swarming with angry beer distributors once the yelling started - or back up the tracks toward the town of Milton. We doubted we could outrun an angry switchman, along railroad tracks with a wall on one side and a river on the other, while carrying cases of beer. We weren’t about to risk having to swim in the Neponset to get away, and that was a likely scenario no matter which of those escape routes we attempted.

The second stop was no good, either. Even though the switchman and the engineer would both be at the opposite end of the train for this switch, we would have to open the freight car - and take the beer - right in full view of Central Avenue, and thus all of the pedestrians and cars at the shopping center, as that was where the train backed to before stopping. This was at least as bad as the first scenario.

This left the third option, that being when the train came to a full stop to unload. While this might have appeared impossibly dangerous, being in such close proximity to the distributorship and a large number of workers, it was actually perfect:

1) Both the engineer and the switchman left the train then, to enter the building. Nobody was watching the train for at least five minutes while they went inside and shot the shit with the loading dock guys. Usually, it would be well more than five minutes, but we knew we had at least that long, and that would be long enough.

2) The train was completely out of sight of the street once it moved behind the silos. Nobody would be able to see us.

3) Since there was no way for us to actually transport the beer back into the neighborhood during the daylight hours without being seen, we needed a place to hide it. We knew that nobody ever went inside of the cocoa bean silos since they had been abandoned - nobody except us, that is, as we had taken to exploring around in them - so all we had to do was grab the beer and walk a short distance to a door in the silos and stash it there.


I feel as though I should mention here that we weren’t normally thieves. We had the usual inclination towards petty larceny that is common in most boys, but that’s all. We had no profit motive. We weren’t really poor, so that wasn’t our excuse, either. More than anything else, we decided to do this because it was an adventure. We wanted to see if we could do it because it was there, just like the guy who climbed Everest. Also, since we couldn’t legally buy beer, we figured this was as easy as finding someone to buy it for us. It was wrong, of course, but we weren’t really malicious in our intent.


One of us appropriated a pair of wirecutters from his house and we waited for the train down by the bridge. We felt the rails vibrate. The train was approaching, so we all scooted underneath the bridge. There was a small bit of dry land to sit on there while we waited for the train to cross the river.

The train came and did its dance; down one set of rails, backing across the bridge, down the other set, and then forward onto the spur behind the silos. When the train passed over the bridge, with us underneath, it was pretty damned scary. We were about three feet from the bottom of the train. It was loud as all get out and, even though we had seen the train pass over this very strong iron bridge hundreds of times, I couldn’t help thinking that it would be one horrible way to die if the bridge decided to give out. Just as I was thinking that gruesome thought, a heavy black rivet, three inches long or so, fell from above me, landing a couple of feet to my right. Whether this had popped from the bridge, or from the train itself, or had just been sitting on the bridge and been jostled loose by the train, I don’t know. Whichever it was, it wasn't comforting.

After the train had passed completely by overhead, we climbed out and watched it finish its journey towards the beer distributorship building. We then crossed the bridge ourselves and ran towards the spur behind the silos, making sure that nobody saw us from the street. After a quick look up the tracks to be sure no workers were watching, the fellow with the wirecutters put them to use, snapping the steel band on the last boxcar. We slid open the door, as slowly and as quietly as possible, and there it was. Paydirt! Case after case of golden cans of Miller High Life!

We each grabbed a case, scurried back past the end of the train, then took a left and headed towards the door of the silos. We went inside and put the beer in a stack over by the wall.

We now waited for the train to be unloaded. We wondered what they’d say when they found the last car open and five cases of beer missing. We were pretty sure there’d be some swearing, but overall we didn’t think they’d put up much fuss over five cases from a big trainload. And we were right. We heard a “sonovabitch!” and then the door to the freight slam shut, but that was about it.


Since we had nothing better to do while the train was unloaded, we all sat back and cracked open a can of our ill-gotten gain. Let me tell you – you haven’t lived until you’ve had piss-warm Miller High Life from a can. But, hey, we were 16 or 17 and it was beer. We sat in the semi-darkness drinking, smoking, and enjoying the feeling of being dangerous desperadoes.

After a while (after about three cans each) the train began backing away from the loading dock. It repeated its odd little dance, this time in reverse. It backed down to the street and then went forward towards the bridge. As the train entered the bridge and we were sure neither the engineer nor the switchman could see us, we left the silos, staggering just a bit as we were hit by the heat of the summer sun.

We now walked along at a short distance behind the train and crossed the bridge after it. When the train stopped, and the switchman got out to throw the switch one more time, we hustled under the bridge again - this time trying to stifle a fair amount of laughter.

While we sat under the bridge, the thought occurred to us – all at the same time, it seemed – that it might be interesting to take a short ride on the train. We had never seen it go more than five or ten miles an hour, so we figured we could hop off whenever we wanted. We decided to do it. We watched as the switchman walked back up to the engine and climbed in. As the train began backing slowly down the track, we readied ourselves.

We saw the engine pass and we came out from under the bridge. There was a ledge of sorts on the front of the engine and plenty of room for us all to climb aboard and stand there. There were even handy bars and such to hold onto for balance. The crew couldn’t see us since the engine was taller than we were. We jogged along the tracks and, one by one, we hopped aboard and grabbed onto the bars to steady ourselves.


I’ve got to tell you that, as stupid as it was, it was a rush riding in the open air on that locomotive. We rode on past Milton, by Butler Street in Lower Mills, through an underpass that led to tracks along the river by Granite Avenue, and then past the Keystone apartment buildings. The train entered a straightaway stretch of less populated area and picked up a bit of speed. I would guess we were now going along at about 20 miles per hour.

Understand that the train is still going backwards, as it had nowhere to turn around. We were getting a little concerned with how far we had gone, and how we were going to get back when we got off, if we could get off, and we now had to grab onto the train pretty tightly because of the speed. We figured with a cargo of beer that the train had originally come from Milwaukee. While we didn’t expect that it was going to go backwards all the way there, we really didn’t know when we might be able to disembark safely at this point.

We cruised along, passing Neponset Circle, then the Savin Hill MBTA station. The Southeast Expressway was now to our left as we ran parallel to the MBTA tracks on our right. As we approached Columbia (now known as JFK/UMass) station, the train started to slow. We figured this was as good a time as any to get the heck off – maybe our only really good chance for a while - so we got ready to jump. Then the train came to a complete stop. We were now afraid that one of the crew had seen us and was coming for us. We hopped off and ran back up the tracks a little way, watching.

It turned out that this was where the train reversed direction before heading home – wherever home was. The switchman got out and threw a switch. The train lurched forward, onto another track. Another switch was thrown and then it backed up slowly towards where we stood. We took a few slow steps backward, giving our recent ride some room. Before it really came close to us, though, it had cleared the switch and our beer train left for parts unknown.


We had ridden about five miles. Now we had to get home.

We had a couple of choices. We could walk up to Columbia Station or back to Savin Hill. One problem presented itself, though; we had no money for carfare. Hard to believe that between us we couldn’t scratch up $2.50 or whatever it would have cost for the five of us to ride in those days, but that’s the way it was. Since we couldn’t all pay, we decided that we’d sneak into one of the stations together. We figured if we got caught, those of us with money would then pay and the others would do whatever they had to do to get home. In other words, it was one for all, all for one, and if that didn’t work, every man for himself.

If you’re familiar with the MBTA, Boston’s public transit system, you know that the Red Line actually has two branches; one heads to Ashmont (which was near our neighborhood) and the other to Braintree. At that time, the Braintree branch was not yet carrying passengers. It had been built alongside the freight railroad right-of-way where we now were, but wasn’t scheduled to open for another month or so. With no subway trains to worry about, and with the knowledge that the only freight that used this road was the one we had just hopped off of, we didn’t feel we were in any danger. We decided to walk back to Savin Hill, about a half-mile distant, along the new subway tracks. That way, if some of us had to walk all the way, we’d be closer to home. Savin Hill station also looked as though it would be easier to hop the fence to. Although Columbia was closer to us, there was barbed wire everywhere. We started walking.

About halfway there, we felt the tracks start to vibrate. There was nothing in front of us. We turned around quickly and saw that a subway train was coming from the other direction, on our tracks!

We hopped to one side quickly and stood with our backs against the fence that separated the rails from the expressway. There was no danger of being hit. There was plenty of room between where we stood and where the train would pass us. We’d let it pass and then continue on our way. However, as the train neared where we stood, it slowed and then came to a complete stop.

The MBTA wasn’t operating passenger service on these lines yet, but they were running training classes for the operators. The motorman leaned out of his window and cursed a blue streak at us, telling us what damned fools we were. Heck, we knew that. He told us we were lucky he didn’t have us arrested, but there wouldn’t be another train along here for at least an hour, so we’d better hurry our asses up and get wherever the hell we were going and get the hell off his tracks before we got our fool asses run over. Having chastised us sufficiently, he closed his window and continued towards Braintree.

After he left, we came to the realization that we had been - and still were - walking tracks with a live third rail. Until that time, we had assumed there was no danger, since there was supposedly no service on these tracks, but we now knew that if we tripped and fell we could end up fried. We walked onward, but very carefully, towards Savin Hill.

When we got to Savin Hill, we had to cross three electrified third rails to reach the platform – two on the side of the fence where we were now and the one we would encounter when we hopped the fence. We very gingerly stepped over the first one, then the second one, climbed the fence with an iron grip, lest we fall backwards onto 600 volts, and then jumped from the top of the fence far clear of the other live rail – a couple of us (me included) skinning a knee as we landed, since we had made so sure of clearing the live rail that we couldn’t properly land on our feet.

We boosted ourselves up onto the platform, saw after a short while that nobody else was in the station or had seen us, and we lit up celebratory cigarettes. We were now sober, tired, dirty and, if not wholly remorseful, at least somewhat more knowledgeable than we had been a couple of hours ago. We caught the train for Ashmont and got home without further stupidity.

Personally, I didn’t have any more of the beer. I felt bad about taking it and, more important than that, it tasted horrible. I also never hopped another freight train.

This ranks right up there with the most imbecilic episodes of my life. I’d say it’s about tied with the time I actually walked all the way through a railroad tunnel. My friend Mark and I were near Kenmore Square one Sunday, and we wanted to get to a place in the Back Bay, and…

No, I haven’t the time to write about that now. You’ll just have to wait. I promise I won’t do anything stupid enough to get myself killed in the meantime.


Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Some Fun For You, But Not Until You Wade Through A Big Bunch Of Kvetching

Edward Albee, who bears a passing resemblance to my Uncle Jim

Have I told you lately that I love you? Well, it's true. Nothing makes my day like a whole bunch of comments. Therefore, today I am whoring for them. They won't be as heartfelt, but - like an ungainly 15-year-old at the mercy of rampant hormonal change - I am willing to take your pity and pretend it is because I have a hot bod.

I spent a great part of this weekend thinking about writing. I never once actually sat down at the keyboard and tried to knock something out. Every time I considered it, I got mildly discouraged. For one thing, it takes forever for the stone-age computer I have at home to warm up and actually be ready for me to tickle it with my fingers. If it was always on - always willing and pliable, like this slutty computer at work - then I might have gotten past my reticence. However, after waiting five minutes for the frigid electronic bitch at home to be willing to accept my words, my literary hard-on invariably went limp.

It's not all the computer's fault, of course. If I had something that I really, truly had to get out of my system, then I would have waited for it to boot. Fact is, I have a few good stories to tell, but I just didn't find the inspiration to devote a couple of hours to the telling. I will, sometime soon - for all of them - but I just didn't have it this weekend.

(Truth be told, I was enjoying a bunch of other stuff, too. The Masters was on; the Red Sox were playing the Yankees; The Celtics had a couple of games; The Bruins - God, yes, the I-haven't-cared-a-whit-for-about-ten-years-now Bruins - were in the playoffs; and Boston College was winning the NCAAs in hockey.

On the other hand, I had stuff weighing on my mind in a decidedly wish-I-didn't-have-it-there fashion. My Uncle Jim went to the hospital on Thursday. He's now doing OK following a hernia operation, but it was an unexpected bit of bad news. Worse for him to have on his mind, than me on mine, of course.

The rest of it is certainly lesser on the tragedy scale. I should have changed the oil in my car. I put that off after going to the local Quickie Jiffy Speedy Lube and finding a line waiting. I was going to get a haircut, but found a similar crowding of customers at the barber shop. I also forgot to return two Ramones videos I borrowed from the library, so now it's 20 cents a day until I do. I'm telling you - my life is just falling apart at the seams!)

Yesterday, MY WIFE and I went to The Lyric Stage, a small theater in Boston to which we have season subscriptions. It is a nice place to see a production. It is intimate (seats about 250) and after having been subscribers for 17 years, we know a fair amount of the actors and actresses, so look forward to particular productions we know they'll be in.

(MY WIFE subscribed for quite a few years before we met, so her ties go back well over 20 years.)

We saw a play called Three Tall Women by Edward Albee. I was bored out of my skull for much of the production, despite the presence of Paula Plum - one of my favorite local actresses. MY WIFE, on the other hand, enjoyed the play. Afterwards, she surmised that you probably had to be a woman to get it all and enjoy it, even though it was written by a man. I think she's right. The play concerns one woman, now very aged and bedridden, shown in three different stages of her earlier life. The three incarnations of her previous self discuss her own life with each other - what they might have done differently, what they regret, etc.

I spent much of the play thinking about how I would have written the same thing, albeit with a man as the lead. For one thing, I would have lopped off the first act completely. Far too much exposition. Secondly, it would have contained a whole lot more laughs. And I'd have finished it with the main character dying. Well, maybe not that. But, by the time the curtain came down yesterday, that's what I wanted to have happened to all three of her incarnations - and as quickly as possible, too.

Be that as it may - and it may as well be - we now enter the whoring portion of today's post. I'm going to ask you to supply me with fodder for a future post. If you've made it this far, through the muddy mess above, then you deserve to have a little fun. I hope you'll enjoy this.

In the comments, I want you to give me two lines of dialogue. They can be any length, but brevity is the soul of wit.

(Or so I've heard; I obviously don't practice it.)

I will, at a later date, incorporate those two lines - and the two lines I receive from everybody else - into a short play. For instance, you could say something like the following:

1 - "I see you've bought a new hat."

2 - "And that's how I came to have a turnip as my mistress."

In other words, say anything you want. It will be my challenge to jam all of the lines received into one more-or-less coherent story, tying together the wildly disparate into a tame parrot.

(You know I've reached the end of the line, on any particular day, when my puns make no sense whatsoever. That was it.)

Each person who contributes the requisite two lines will become a character in the play. This will be in lieu of any royalties, should the thing ever be produced.

You know your job. Now do it. And I thank you.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?


Fat Hairy Bastard had this at his place. Now, he registered only 23.4%. I have no idea how he got off so easy when you consider that THE VERY NAME OF HIS SITE, which shows up on every page, is considered a swear in and of itself, at least by some folks.

Of course, the question that begs asking is this: What exactly constitutes a swear? Some folks would include everything from "goshdarn" on up. Me? I tend to raise the bar a bit higher. I use "Hell" "Damn" "Crap" and others of that sort on a regular basis, but I consider them very minor league. I don't expect anyone but the most cloistered old maids to find those truly offensive. Hell, I use "shit" and "fuck" like some people use ketchup and salt on french fries - liberally, ubiquitously, but with no malice aforethought. I don't even think about the ramification of using lesser swears such as "crap" until somebody (usually MY WIFE) points out that there might be some readers who would find it crude.

As a matter of fact, about the only curses I really find offensive involve blasphemy. I try very hard to self-censor on that account. You'd be hard-pressed to find a "[Deity's name]Damn" hanging around these pages.

(The other thing I find offensive isn't so much cursing, as it is when someone uses a word as a curse when it shouldn't be. Take the word "cocksucker", for example. I hate it when it is used as a pejorative. I think it's a lovely trait in a person - especially a female person - and if we men who enjoy such things want to keep enjoying it, we shouldn't make anyone feel bad for doing it.)

The only person I worry about, when I swear here, is My Mother. She hasn't said an actual swear in - just an estimate - forever. She's all full of "shoot" and "sugar" and "fudge" and other substitutes. I guess if they perform the same function for you, they're good enough. Me? If I went around saying "Sugar!", instead of what I really wanted to say, I'd build up so much pressure inside of me that the top of my skull would blow off and the resulting bony shrapnel would kill somebody. When you consider such an eventuality, me saying "Shit!" every so often doesn't seem like such a bad trade-off.

(If I ever said "Go fudge yourself!" to someone, I'd deserve whatever happened to me.)

Of course, swearing in general isn't what it used to be. George Carlin had his famous Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV routine. Nowadays, what with cable and all, there isn't a single one of them you won't hear, and on a regular basis, too. Even on the broadcast networks, I think there are only 6 of the 7 that are still verboten. "Piss" has completely lost the power to shock. Everybody says things like "pissed off", even on so-called "family" shows.

(I'm not sure about "tits". I think I've heard it once or twice. And "shit" has certainly shown up on things like NYPD Blue, if no place else. So, Carlin's Seven may be down to four, in actuality.)

Well, I could go on getting cheap shock-value laughs, but I think it would be more instructive to find out if you are as filthy a son of a bitch as I am. Go, find out. Then report back, please. And if you come in at a higher percentage than I did, you should be ashamed of yourself. Go wash out your blog's mouth with soap.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What's The Only Topic I Can Discuss That Has The Potential To Drive Away More Readers Than Baseball Or Basketball?

Let's talk politics.

During the 2006 gubernatorial election here in Massachusetts, there was a lot of talk concerning whether the two "minor party" candidates, Christy Mihos and Grace Ross, should have been included in the televised debates with the two "major party" candidates, Deval Patrick and Kerry Healey.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll tell you that I'm a past state chair of the Libertarian Party in Massachusetts. Therefore, my position is easily discernible. I think that if you're on the ballot, you should be treated equally with all other candidates on the ballot. Your mileage may vary. If so, you're an asshole.)

As I see it, here's the main problem with the U.S. electoral system: the news media. They decide who you should be "allowed" to hear. They decide who "deserves" coverage. If they don't outright decide elections, they certainly have the power to strongly influence the outcomes. Until the news media is held accountable for their decidedly unfair practices, we will never have truly fair elections in this country.

Here is how the deck is stacked against "minor" candidates, by both the media and the incumbents within the government.

First - in many localities - they have to jump much higher hurdles than the "major" (read: media and government approved) candidates. Just to get onto the ballot, they have to collect more signatures, at a higher cost of both time and money, and sometimes from a smaller pool of possible signatories, than the Democrats and Republicans. They have to do this without the aid of the free publicity given the Democrats and Republicans by almost all media outlets.

Next, even while they are struggling to gather these signatures and gain some sort of notice, the major television, radio and print outlets are reporting daily on the major party hopefuls. Before anyone even hears the name of a "minor party" or independent candidate, it has been fixed in the public mind, by the news media, that there are (or will be) only two viable choices. Of course, they are the only viable choices because the news media have dubbed them so.

Then, after the news media have anointed their viable choices, they get together (not unlike a cabal) and stage debates for the public. These dog-and-pony shows are broadcast and reported upon by the media themselves. Having already made the lesser-known candidate's task near impossible, they then try to exclude him or her from these debates (as well as general reporting of their campaigns) by noting a poor showing in polls which the media themselves conduct. When the candidate rightly complains about this favoritism, he or she is portrayed - just this side of the libel laws - as a crank.

After all of this rigging of the possible outcomes, the media then have the absolute gall to scold the public for not coming out to vote in larger numbers. They make a great show of hand wringing and moaning and decrying the fact that a lower and lower percentage of the populace eligible to vote shows up for each succeeding election. Well, shove a red-hot poker up my ass and call me Smokey! What a fucking shock! They effectively disenfranchise these people, by limiting the dissemination of useful information concerning candidates, and then they have the nerve to chide these same people for not voting. Of course, what they are pissed off about is that not enough people are being sucked into getting out and voting for their handpicked candidates.

Well, I'm certainly full of complaints, but do I have any solutions to offer? I'm glad you asked!

1 - Abolish Primary Elections

The choosing of candidates for office is rightly the province of the political party wishing to be represented. Make the decisions at convention or in a smoky back room and let the chips fall where they may. Making the weeding out of unpopular candidates a public process, funded by taxpayer dollars, only encourages less competition from those outside of the entrenched system. The "major" parties reap a bonanza of free publicity for their candidates prior to any other candidates even being heard of by the general public.

As well, those in the public who cast a vote in a primary election have already "invested" their vote in that candidate. Should he or she win the primary, the voter is far less likely to switch allegiances when (if) they finally get to hear another candidate's views.

2 - Limit The Power Of Incumbent Candidates

Let me first elucidate concerning term limits, so that what I say here is not misconstrued.

I am NOT in favor of term limits. As a matter of fact, I think that term limits are one of the most ridiculous and idiotic policies ever foisted upon the voter. If a person is doing a good job, why boot him/her out of office because of the passage of an arbitrary time limit? I don't give a damn if somebody is President For Life, so long as that person keeps winning clean and fair election to the office.

What I am in favor of is limiting the already sizable power of an incumbent to publicize himself freely in an effort to be re-elected. His name and face should already be known to anyone paying attention. Therefore, limit the incumbent's advertising budget and his resources to free publicity via the fawning media. Limit ONLY the incumbent's, not any challenger's.

An incumbent has a readily available track record on which to base a vote for or against his return to office. Additional coverage by the media of anything beyond the carrying out of the duties of his office should be, if not forbidden, discouraged via true equal time provisions. If a media outlet gives air or ink to any incumbent running for re-election, it would probably be a good idea to require giving the same to all opposing candidates.

(It pains me to admit that this runs somewhat counter to true Libertarian philosophy. Libertarianism generally calls for private business to be allowed to do whatever they wish and then let the public decide whether or not to patronize that business. However, since the government limits access to the airwaves through licensing and regulation, therefore in practice limiting freedom of the press to those with the resources to BUY a press, I believe it makes sense to limit the power of the incumbent government to remain incumbent via the expedient of their using that limited press to their advantage.

What drove this home to me, in the gubernatorial election previously referenced, was the exclusion of Mihos and Ross, the "lesser" candidates, from a series of puff pieces done by WCVB-TV in Boston, profiling the home life of the candidates for governor. Healey, the Republican, and Patrick, the Democrat, were shown with their families, engaging in their everyday activities. My, how fucking informative!

What this brought to mind, for me, was the fact that the media wants to butter their future bread by kowtowing to those they feel have a realistic chance at becoming the future governor. They couldn't give a shit less about fairness to the other candidates - and, as a result, to you and me - because those people [and you, and me] will not be of any use to them later.)

3 - Make The Publishing Of Polling Results Illegal

By conducting polls, which may or may not be skewed so as to elicit a desired response, and then publishing those results, the media makes it desirable for voters to see themselves as aligned with a winner. This makes it equally desirable for the voter to not be seen as a loser supporting someone without a perceived chance to win the election.

(When I say "skewed", I mean utterly biased. There are precious few polls conducted without an obvious leaning towards the approved candidates. Many polls ask only if you will be voting for candidate A or candidate B, relegating candidates C, D and E to a nebulous "other" category, if they are mentioned at all.)

When polling results state that Joe Democrat has the support of 55% of the voting public, while Mary Republican has 35%, how much do you think the supporters of Charlie Independent (8%) or Jane Minorparty (2%) want to stand up and shout out their support of those candidates? Nobody outside of the permanently malcontented fringe wishes to be seen as a member of the permanently malcontented fringe. And almost everybody wishes to be seen as an intelligent and likable person by his or her peers. Thus, published polling results send the candidates doing well higher and the candidates doing not as well lower.

There should be only one vote that counts in an election. That is the actual vote on Election Day.

By all means, polls serve a purpose for candidates. They tell the candidates if their message is getting through, and whether or not they may need to try a different tack to appeal to the voters. However, the candidates themselves, not the media, should conduct polls. It should not be the media's job to act as consultants to the candidates.

By abolishing the "horse race" aspect of our elections, we would encourage true debate. We would also discourage voters from staying home because they were given a message, by the media, that their vote will ultimately be meaningless.


Doubt any of the above? Then I expect you know the answers to the following questions:

1 - Who is the Libertarian Party nominee for President?

2 - Who is the Green Party nominee for President?

3 - Who is the U. S. Taxpayer Party nominee for President?

4 - Who were the nominees of these respective parties in 2004? What were their national vote totals?

5 - How many state ballots did they appear on respectively?

6 - Have these parties ever elected anyone, to any office?


1 - The nominating convention has not yet occurred. A list of leading contenders may be found here.

2 - As with the Libertarians, the nominating convention has not yet happened. Here is a list of Green candidates.

3 - Trick question. The Constitution Party is the official name of this organization, formerly known as the U. S. Taxpayers Party. Their nominating convention is just around the corner. Details here.

4 - Libertarians: Michael Badnarik - 397,265

Constitution: Michael Peroutka - 143,630

Greens: David Cobb - 119,859

(Ralph Nader, readily identified with the Greens, did NOT run as their official candidate in 2004. He ran as an independent, garnering 465,650 votes)

5 - Libertarian: 48 + DC (The first time the Libertarian nominee did not appear on all 50 state ballots since 1984.)

Constitution: 36

Green: 27 + DC

6 - Libertarians have been elected to the office of state representative in three states - New Hampshire, Vermont, and Alaska. They have elected mayors in 11 states. In addition, there are currently over 300 officeholders nationwide.

Greens have elected to offices as high as mayor. They claim 226 officeholders currently.

The Constitution Party website does not list current officeholders.


There you go. I have no doubt that, despite my best intentions here, some of you may conclude that I'm courting treason and trying to abolish democracy. As usual, I am fearless in my opinions. Therefore, I invite you to come to my house, and I dare you to try and shoot me! I remain, as always...

Abdullah J. Lipschitz
22 Penguin Way
Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Monday, April 07, 2008

What's Green And Goes Up?

I suppose it’s about time I talk about the Celtics.

(Yeah, I know. The reason why I have about three times as many daily readers now, as I did a year ago at this time, is because I’ve specifically avoided talking about the Celtics. Those people who don’t live in the Boston area, or who actually live outside of North America altogether, have little interest in hearing about my favorite basketball team. Most of my female readers, in particular, have already begun the tuning out process, even as they read this sentence. It doesn’t matter. I can’t help it. I have to talk about the Celtics every so often or else the pressure from keeping it in will build up until I become an axe murderer or maybe even consider voting for Hillary Clinton. It is a public service for me to write about the Celtics. If I don’t, society at large will suffer.

However, in deference to those of you who come here looking for something more than me prattling on about a bunch of pituitary freaks who have found a way to become millionaires via the expedient of putting a rubber ball through a hole, I will intersperse jokes at random throughout what follows. They may not be great jokes, but they should be enough to keep you amused until tomorrow, at which time I’ll be back to my usual of telling you wildly improbable tales concerning my family - many of which are actually true – or talking about the types of topics you’ve come to expect when visiting here, such as why I really like Wheeler & Woolsey, even though all the evidence against such a proposition is truly overwhelming.)

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To keep his pants up.

OK, the Celtics are currently sitting atop the Atlantic Division of the NBA, having completed the greatest one-year turnaround in the history of professional basketball. Last year, they won 24 games. This year, they are at 61 wins and counting. This is despite their having completely ignored all of the excellent advice I’ve given them, such as keep Al Jefferson and fire Doc Rivers.

Q: Why did the fireman wear red suspenders?

A: He wanted to see time fly.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this Celtic’s season thus far. They have played with a level of determination and heart unseen in these parts since Larry Bird last hung up his sneakers.

(That makes little sense. Do you hang up your sneakers? No, of course not. I suspect Bird never did, either. He might have hung up his shorts, but nobody wants to think about that, so I said sneakers.)

Q: Why did the moron throw the clock out the window?

A: Because it’s so hard to get the cows to squat over those little cartons.

Kevin Garnett is just amazing. In all my years of following sports, I have never seen a more intense ballplayer. Of course, intensity, in and of itself, isn’t enough to win games. Put ME on a basketball court and I could be as intense as Garnett, but it wouldn’t do anyone any good. There has to be talent, too. Garnett has the talent.

The other significant additions this year – Ray Allen, Eddie House, James Posey, “Big Baby” Davis – all have particular skills that make them invaluable to a team. And, when I say, “team,” that’s what I mean. These guys have all sublimated some of their individuality for the betterment of the team as a whole. Davis dives for loose balls and boxes out for rebounds, giving up his body for the common good. House and Posey make the extra pass, or bury the dagger-like three. Ray is Ray. He shoots lights out, in streaks. Leave him alone and it’s money in the bank. In other words, they are what folks from around these parts used to take for granted when watching the Celtics, and the biggest reason why Celtic teams of the past won championships. They are team players. They know their roles and they stick to them.

(And watch Posey before a game. He stands there on the sideline, by the scorer’s table, and gives each of the starters a big bear hug and a pep talk. Once you’ve seen that ritual, you just know this is a real team, and not a collection of talented individuals without any idea concerning the concept.)

Q: Why is cream so much more expensive than milk?

A: Cut off his nose.

The holdovers from last year – Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Tony Allen, and Kendrick Perkins – have continued to play the wonderful brand of basketball that made me go so gaga over this team, even while they were leading the league in losses that made you want to throw things through your TV screen. They hustle without let-up. They never quit. They are the heart of this team. They are also the future. And they know how horrible it is to be on a losing team. They will do everything in their power to stop from returning to that situation, now that they’ve tasted winning.

(Whenever one of those four guys enters the game, my heart swells. I was touting them last year, when almost everybody else was calling them bums. In your FACE, almost everybody else!)

Q: How do you stop a dog from smelling?

A: Who cares?

Other players have had limited playing time. P. J. Brown and Sam Cassell are more-or-less insurance policies. They’re here to be plugged into the forward or guard slot, respectively, should Garnett or Rondo be incapacitated. They’re seasoned professionals who will deliver a certain level of performance. Scot Pollard, now out for the season via injury, was the same. Greg Pruitt is a project for the future, and he’ll do fine in the future. Brian Scalabrine is the lost man in all of this. He started a handful of games this year, but now he’s the mop-up. I suspect that’s basically OK by Scal. As long as the team is winning, I think he’s not overly concerned with individual stats. He must be a great guy to be teammates with. He never complains, he always does what’s asked of him, and he never gives less than 100%. God bless him.

Q: If Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton fall out of an airplane, which one will hit the ground first?

A: **SNORT**

Of course, the best story of all is Paul Pierce. He’s in the top 10, in every statistical category, among career Celtics. However, he’s the only one among those legends who has never won a championship. He’s suffered through years of being the lone go-to guy on some pretty bad teams. During that time, he never stopped giving it his best shot. He always played with pride, and he never threw his teammates under the bus. If there were no other reasons why I’d like to see the Celtics win the NBA championship this year, there would still be Pierce. There will not be a happier man in the entire New England region than Paul Pierce, if the Celtics win it all. I want to see him smile from ear-to-ear for about three months.

Q: What’s green and goes up?

A: The Celtics.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Pa & The Big Fish

                                                                                             (Ma, My Dad, and Pa, in a happier time, following this story.)

My Grandfather, Tom Sullivan, was not a lazy man. He worked hard when there was work to be had. He ran his ass off – pretty much literally, as you’d know if you saw any photos of him in his later life - during many years as a milkman for H. P. Hood. When that work wasn’t available to him any longer, he drove a taxi, braving muggers, thugs and thieves every night in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Roxbury, and other sections of Boston. Before becoming a milkman, he did construction work, among other things. However, even if you’re willing to sweat, there’s not much you can do if nobody has a job for you.

In the early 1930’s, the United States was in the throes of The Great Depression. Times were tough. Lots of people were without steady work and, as a result, sometimes without food. Among those without food were my grandparents.

Pa and his wife, Mora (also known as Ma) had been married not too long ago. They now had a son, my Dad. If it had been just the two of them, they might have toughed it out a bit longer without resorting to what follows. However, with a small mouth to feed, necessity took precedence over pride.

My grandfather’s aunt, Etta, was employed in the kitchen at Boston City Hospital. As a result, she was able to offer Pa an out, if a slightly nefarious one. She told him that if he could make it down to the hospital, she’d smuggle some food out of the kitchen. He could then bring it back home to Forest Hills, to feed his wife and child.

The biggest problem with this scheme was being able to get to the hospital and then back to Forest Hills, about a 4 mile journey each way. Pa had no car. Even if he had owned one, he wouldn’t have been able to afford any gas for it. So, Pa had to take the trolley from Forest Hills to Northampton, and then walk to Harrison Avenue, where Boston City was located. It cost 5 cents to take the trolley.

Pa had exactly 10 cents, in pennies, to his name. He wouldn’t have a single cent left after taking the trolley both ways, but he would have the food that Etta promised, and that was more important. He, his wife, and child were very, very hungry.

Well, Pa set out for his Aunt Etta’s place of employment. He walked from Bournedale Road down to Forest Hills, where he got on the trolley. He gave the conductor 5 pennies for the fare, and he rode to the area around Northampton Street. When he got off the trolley at Northampton, the hospital was still a few blocks away, so he walked down towards the building. He was to meet Etta at a side entrance to the kitchen, where she would give him the food.

Pa met Etta at the entrance. Etta told him to wait while she went back in and got the food.

Etta was a small woman, but top heavy. She was very well-endowed; busty, in other words. And what she did to get the food out the door and into Pa’s hands, without being caught, was hide it in her ample bosom area.

The food she had for him was a big fish.

She slid the fish between her ample breasts and walked - as casually as it is possible to walk while a big fish is nestled between your boobs – back to the door where Pa was waiting. When she got there, she pulled the big fish from out of her top and gave Pa a sheet of newspaper to wrap it in. The newspaper barely covered the fish. It was a BIG fish.

Pa thanked Etta profusely for this lifesaving bit of petty theft. They were exchanging small talk when Pa noticed, out of the corner of his eye, his return trolley. He hurriedly told Etta thanks again and then started running to the trolley stop, cradling the big fish in both of his hands.

Unbeknownst to Pa, while he was running for the trolley, one of his remaining five pennies somehow jostled out of his pocket.

Pa reached the trolley stop just as the trolley was leaving. He climbed on board, shifted the big fish carefully under one arm, and reached into his pocket for the five-cent fare. He pulled out four pennies, but the fifth penny was nowhere to be found. He got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach as he realized that he didn’t have the fare. He’s standing there with a big, smelly fish under one arm; four pennies in his hand; and a mean old Boston Irish conductor giving him (excuse this, but it’s the best phrase available) the fish eye.

Pa tried explaining his circumstances to the conductor - his family was starving; he had to get this fish home to Forest Hills to feed them; he had somehow lost a penny - but the mean son of a bitch would have none of it. For want of one cent, the bastard kicked Pa and his fish off the trolley.

Pa now had to walk all the way home to Forest Hills, lugging this big smelly fish that was quickly disintegrating the bit of newspaper it was wrapped in. In the nicest of circumstances, walking 4 miles up Washington Street wouldn’t have been great fun. As it stood, it was a small bit of hell. And it was about to get worse.

Pa trudged along, feeling sorry for himself, gripping the slippery life-saving fish as best he could. After a little while, he thought he heard a small sound behind him. He turned around. There was a cat following him. And another cat. And a third one. When Pa turned around, they looked at him - and at the fish - hungrily. They meowed.

Well, Pa felt sorry for the cats. After all, they were hungry, too. When people can’t afford food, lots of animals don’t get any, either. However, he couldn’t give this fish to the cats. It was meant to feed he and his family for two or three days, and if he tore off pieces and threw them to cats, he’d be starving his wife and little son.

Pa turned around and started walking again. The cats started following again. And, every block or so, another cat joined the parade. Soon, Pa had 5 cats following him. Then 10. Then 20. Then 30. There were tabbies and tigers and black-and-white Sylvesters and red cats and tortoise shells and Siamese. There were cats with bushy tails, stubby tails, and no tails at all. There were one-eyed cats and lop-eared cats and cats so ugly you wouldn’t know they were cats at all except here they were in the middle of this bunch of other cats that had grown to about 50 by this time, all following the man with the big smelly fish clutched ever-more-closely to his chest as he quickened his pace, trying to lose this growling, hissing army of felines looking for a meal.

Pa was walking very fast now. He looked over his shoulder and saw all these cats yowling, and clawing at each other, and spitting, and some of their eyes meeting his with murderous intent, and then he started jogging. He had the fish in a death grip, it’s big head swinging to-and-fro, hitting him in the chest every other step. The cats all picked up the pace, too, and ran after him, meowing and panting and growling.

Pa finally reached Bournedale Road in a full dead-out sprint, having run the last half-mile or so. He bolted towards the safety of his house with close to a hundred pissed-off cats nipping at his heels. He threw open the door and jumped inside, the precious fish safe at last. One or two of the poor cats surely lost a couple of whiskers when Pa abruptly slammed the door in their faces. Ma looked on in amazement as Pa fought to get his breath back. The disappointed cats set up a caterwauling chorus on the front porch, bemoaning the fact that they had come all this way for nothing but the exercise. It was hours before they all dispersed.

The family ate the big fish. Ma cooked it up – she was a fine cook, especially of seafood – and it kept them from starvation for a few days. For the next few weeks, though, whenever Pa saw a cat, he walked the other way. Can’t say that I blame him.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(A gigantic "Thank You!" to my Uncle Jimmy for relating this story to me the other night. I laughed so hard I almost cried as he told it to me.)