Monday, June 30, 2008

I Honestly Never Expected To Have Another Skinned Knee In My Life, But I'm Glad I Now Do

Apparently, I lied last year.

And then, on Saturday afternoon, I wrote a whole bunch of crap about how I was not feeling good about life. It was really down stuff, like the following...

I wake up in the morning and, more often than not, I don’t bounce out of bed with a big smile on my face. Instead, I drag myself to the bathroom. Once there, I get pissed off while taking a piss. And having your dick in your hand should not be cause for thinking of how much you don’t want to face the day. It should make you feel rather nice, actually. I mean, if handling one of the greatest sources of pleasure in your life makes you want to just crawl back into bed, you’ve got problems.

(Ladies, you’ll have to translate that into your own equivalent terms. My apologies for making you work twice as hard for the same return as the men, but you should be used to that by now.)

I went on and on in a like manner. I fully intended to publish it today. On Sunday, because I lied last year, most of that 1,500-word pity party became a lie, too. Lucky for you! Today, I did bounce out of bed with a big smile on my face. A sunburn as well, but that’s OK.

Yesterday, I tore a big gash in my knee. That’s why I’m trashing what I wrote yesterday, and why I was a liar last year, and why I’m happy now.

None of this is making sense, is it? I’m talking in riddles, and not giving you very good clues, either. Sorry about that. Here’s the whole story.

As you know, I retired from playing fast-pitch softball last year.

Pay no attention to the previous sentence. That is now the lie I referenced in the first sentence of this piece. Making a bit more sense now? No? Let me clarify.

Following last season, I fully intended to never play a game of softball again in my life. I had every intention of retiring, completely and permanently. I had decided that this would be the best course of action because I felt that I wasn’t as good a player as I once had been. I felt that not only would I be cheating my teammates by returning, giving them a fellow player with a sub-optimal skill set, I would also have become a pain-in-the-ass to my manager; a person who showed up every week looking to play, but who presented him with the problem of just where to hide him so he did the least damage.

(I had a few of those players in my time as a manager, and I vowed a long time ago that I would never become one.)

I went out with a good year for our brand of ball. I batted .425 and used my brains enough to parlay that into a .525 on-base percentage, via the expedient of drawing a big old bunch of walks. I fielded my positions (C, 1B) decently for a creaky 50-year-old. Although neither of my teams won a championship, which is how I would really have liked to finish up, I had wonderful final games with both of them. In what I figured to be my final two games ever, I went a combined 6-for-8. You can't leave the playing field with much better personal stuff than that.

(You Brits, Australians, and other assorted foreign readers will just have to take my word on that, I guess. If I knew enough about cricket, I’d give you a translation into cricket statistics. If you’re even still with me at this point – and, if you are, I’m both amazed and gratified - suffice to say I had two good games.)

Over the winter, I geared down. I got a bit more out-of-shape than I might have in previous years. I didn’t expect to have to run around any longer, so I pounded some fat onto my body. I wasn’t downhearted, by any means. I expected to coach my former Sunday team a bit. I’d enjoy a bit of sun and camaraderie, watching younger men run around, and perhaps I’d contribute a bit of the knowledge I’d acquired during my 43 years playing the game.

The actual season rolled around and I was a bit itchy to play. It was nothing I couldn’t handle by being honest with myself. I was way out-of-shape, I was relatively old, there were more than enough younger and skilled players picked up during the off-season to fill the roster. I showed up, I coached the bases, I kept the book, I dispensed veteran player pain-in-the-ass wisdom, and I tried to make Jack Atton’s life (he’s the manager) easier. So far, so good.

I told Jack that I was available for emergency duty. If he needed me desperately – if there wasn’t another ninth body available – I’d fill in to keep the team from forfeiting. I told the same to my weekday league manager, Pete Mittell.

As it turned out, Pete was the first one to ask me to make good on that offer. He called me up at work one day and asked me to come play. I did, and full details are here. The short version: On a drizzly and cold evening, I caught two innings, drew a walk in my only time at-bat, scored a run, and that was that. Someone else showed up by the third inning and I took a seat. Perfect season.

As for Jack, he and I discussed the possibility of getting me into enough Sunday games to qualify me for the playoffs, just in case our roster became decimated. He’d get me officially into a game here and there. I’d need nine appearances on the field to satisfy league rules. So far, I had been inserted into three games in a VERY limited capacity. In those three games, I had two at-bats (a walk, a pop out) and one half-inning at first base. No sweat, literally.

Now we come to yesterday. It was an overcast morning. Rain was forecast in much of the New England region. As a matter of fact, it already WAS raining in some places, although not where we were playing. A few of the guys were missing – one at a wedding, one at a tournament in New Hampshire, another on a trip out-of-state – and a few others apparently came to the conclusion that we weren’t going to play because of the rain. You can see where this is headed, of course.

We had exactly nine players available at game time. I started the game. I was behind the plate, with Jack pitching.

We were playing the Reds. They were 8 – 0 thus far, undefeated and leading the league.

We trailed, 6 – 5, going into our final ups. Jack had pitched a good game, the guys had played some excellent defense behind him, and we now had a shot to take the game. Due up for us, to lead off the inning? Jack, then me.

In our previous two at-bats, neither one of us had a hit. Jack had popped out to the pitcher and drawn a walk. I had yet to reach base. In the 2nd inning, I had drilled a sharp one-hopper back at the pitcher, but he fielded it cleanly and threw me out. In the 4th, I popped out weakly to right. Honestly, though, I could feel it. I knew – I really knew – that both of us were going to get on and we were going to win the game.

Jack roped a shot to right center, a clean hit. On the bounce, it went between the center fielder and right fielder, looking like an easy triple, maybe an outside chance at a home run. However, rounding first at full speed on a wet infield, Jack went down. He recovered quickly enough to still reach second base safely. Jack was a bit roughed up, though, so we sent Ron – the only man on the team for as many years as me, fourteen - in to run for him (under our league rules, you’re allowed to replace a hurting runner with the last man to have made an out.)

With Ron standing on second, I then followed with MY FIRST HIT OF THE SEASON. It was a sharp grounder through the hole at second. Ron went to third. The tying and winning runs were on-base, in the bodies of the two oldest men on the team.

(And now, I interrupt this exciting play-by-play to tell you about a mistaken interpretation of the rules. We were under the impression that a team was allowed one [and only one] substitute runner in any given inning. As we would later find out, this wasn’t the case. We could have also substituted for me, which would have been the wise and prudent thing to do. However, not knowing that this was a possibility, I remained on first base. Now, back to the game.)

My good friend, Fast Freddy Goodman, was next up. FFG shot a single to left-center. Ron scored to tie the game. I stood on second base, no outs and no excuses. We didn’t necessarily have to get another hit now. Two productive outs would do it. If we didn’t win the game now, it would be because somebody screwed up.

And then, I screwed up.

The next batter hit a long fly to left. It looked like it might beat the fielder, allowing me to walk home from second. I played it halfway. When the ball was caught, I scooted back to second base. What I should have done (which you know, if you know the game at all) is to have been ready to tag up on this productive out. I should have now been standing on third, one out, and only needed a decent fly ball, or maybe just a nicely placed grounder, to score. Instead, I was still on second base, kicking myself in the ass for not making the correct play in that situation.

Sure enough, the next batter hit the decent fly ball on which I should have scored. Instead, I was still on second base, now with two outs. I was really pissed at myself now. If we didn’t win, going to extra innings instead, I was ready to hang myself. I spend a lot of time talking to guys, as a coach, telling them to always play smart ball, to use their heads. And here I was, still on second, and with the game still in doubt, because I had been a bonehead.

Ariel was next up and now we needed a hit. Ariel swung, and I took off from second. Wherever that ball had gone, I was NOT stopping at third base. I rounded third, huffing and puffing as befits a wickedly out-of-shape 51-year-old, and I saw the catcher setting up to take a throw. I took a path to the back half of the plate, and executed an awkward and ungainly hook slide.

Safe! We win, 7 – 6.

My Bombers teammates came running from the bench, cheering and slapping me on the back. I was pummeled with joy. Jack grabbed me around the shoulders and yelled in my ear, "Retired? Retired, my ass!"

It was possibly the nicest moment I’ve had in my entire 43 years of playing.

I wobbled back to the bench and dropped onto it hard, sucking wind. I had ripped a hole in the knee in my pants, taking the skin off of my actual knee. I was happy as a clam at high tide.

And that’s how I got rid of my blues. I lied last year. Retired? Retired, my ass!

Of course, I realize that nothing much has actually changed. I’m still 51, my reflexes still are not what they once were, and I’m still out of shape. The rest of the young guys will be back next week, so I’ll return to limited emergency duty. But now, if we somehow end up winning a championship - which, with this team, looks to be a possibility - I’ll be able to say I really was an important part of it. I can live on that for a couple of weeks, at least.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, June 27, 2008


In more ways than one.

Due to the kind assistance provided by many of you, I think I've learned how to embed a music file into my posts. The main culprit was Hilary. I followed the instructions she gave me. So, if what you hear makes you violently ill - or just plain violent - blame her.

These are two songs by Live Wire, aka Powerline, the band I told you about earlier this week. I was the bass player. I was also a co-conspirator in the realm of songwriting.

I could just let these tunes sink or swim on their own merits, but I feel the need to say a couple of things concerning them, so here goes.

FLASHBACK was one of three sides we recorded in an actual recording studio with an actual producer using an actual mixing board and actual sound effects. And, actually, I think the production sucks. It's clean, but that's not always a plus. We were a very powerful group in a live setting, but he had us record at a much lower volume than we usually played at, pretty much turning heavy metal (with some bit of punk sensibilities) into relatively weak-ass power pop. In particular, he said, "Jimi, give me your bass for a minute. Now, where are the balls on this instrument? Oh, here they are..." *snip* *snip*

In order to give you a truer sense of how the group sounded, I'm also including a live cut. The sound quality is fairly execrable, as it was recorded on a cheap hand-held tape recorder. It has also been transferred since then, so has the added annoyance of one generation's worth of tape hiss. No matter. LANCE ROMANCE is easily accessible, being a fairly straightforward blues rocker. It opens with a short bass riff, so you'll notice the difference in tone and timbre immediately. LANCE is not safe for work, by the way. It is about sex, lust, and sex & lust. Therefore, of course, it was one of our most popular concert staples. I'm going to type out the lyrics here so you can follow along. If you're easily offended - or perhaps have a thing about good English - you'll be mortified.

I gave her a glance
We started to dance
We had a romance
Deep in the heart of France
I was in a trance
As she pulled down my pants
I stuck out my lance
I gave her no chance

I met her in town
I said, "Look what I found!"
I looked all around
As I pulled up her gown
She made a strange sound
We lay on the ground
And as we got down
She said, "Too profound!"

Lance Romance
Keep it in your pants
I say Lance Romance
Won't you give them girls a chance?

I seen her last night
By the streetlight
She said she might
If I was polite
I said, "Well, shit, outasight!"
The moment was right
We couldn't go slight
We fucked all night!

Lance Romance
Keep it in your pants
I say Lance Romance
Won't you give them girls a chance?

Cole Porter, eat your heart out!

Now, I've followed the instructions on how to embed the tunes, but I don't see anything showing here that would lead me to believe I've been successful. However, I've also directly linked the titles to the website where I've stored them, so just go there, play them, and have your earwax assaulted.

See you Monday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Two weeks ago Saturday, I paid a visit to my cousin, Dorothy. She's my second cousin, I believe. I'm not quite sure how those things work, though, so she may be my cousin once removed or twice removed or forcibly extracted or something like that. In any case, we're related, at least so far as I can figure out.

The visit was spurred by my Uncle Jim in Florida, who I'm pretty sure is actually my uncle, although I don't have any DNA to test, nor do I want any, thanks. Dorothy is my probable uncle's cousin, thus my inability to figure out exactly how we're related. Anyway, Uncle Jim told me that he had been speaking to Dorothy on the phone, and that she had mentioned having a large stockpile of photos and other family memorabilia. Since I have, by dint of writing this blog, become the default family historian, he suggested to her that I should probably be given these treasures. She agreed.

I phoned Dorothy. We set up a time to meet. It would be at her place, since I was more able to get to her than she was to get to me. Anyway, she was the one doing me a favor, by giving me the scrapbooks and such, so...

I hadn't seen Dorothy in quite some time. I believe the last meeting was about 10 years ago, but it may have been longer. On the phone, I suggested that we might go out for dinner when we met, but she said that she was on a strict diet and didn't go out to eat.

Dorothy is in the neighborhood of 80. She has had a partial mastectomy. She now has cancer in the other breast. She is bothered with macular degeneration, as well as osteoporosis and arthritis. Her heart is none too good - she's had 5 or 6 heart attacks, near as her doctors can figure - and she weighs 72 pounds. She is very petite, but that's still an alarmingly low weight. And, oh, yes, she also has lung cancer.

(That's how she said it to me, when I asked her about her medical conditions. It was an afterthought. She had truly forgotten about it for the moment.)

Having given you the bare facts, and probably alarmed you beyond belief concerning this woman's condition, here's something interesting: She still smokes. And why not? As the doctor told her, she's not going to get better, so why have the extra aggravation of quitting?

Better still: After visiting with her, I'm of the opinion - utterly non-medical, but I'll stand by it - that Dorothy isn't going anywhere soon. She's sharp as a tack and has interests that keep her going. She isn't confined to the house and she gets around very well, all things considered. No walker, no wheelchair, nothing like that. Not even a cane. If she hadn't told me about her various conditions, I wouldn't have known. She gives very little outward sign of being ill.

And then there are the cats.

If there is one thing that will keep Dorothy going, it's her being The Mad Cat Lady of Franklin. She says that's what some of the people in town call her. She says it with a smile. She knows full well that what she does, concerning cats, is something that could easily be considered insane. She knows, but she does it anyway. The reason? She's a very nice woman.

See, there is this pack of feral cats that lives in the woods behind her condo. Dorothy feeds them. She has names for every one of them. She also provides them with shelter from storms. Twice a day, she goes down into the woods and brings with her about 15 cans of cat food, as well as a jug of fresh water. There in the woods, she has set up a small shelter for these animals. She pours water in bowls for them to drink. She opens all the cans of food and puts the contents into bowls, laying the bowls in the shelter.

She does this all out of her own pocket.

There is a feline humane society in her area, and they have provided some help. They buy some big bags of dry food every so often, and that stuff is stored in tightly-lidded trashcans near the shelter. Dorothy gives the cats some of this dry food along with the canned. Also, the cat people try to catch some of these cats and spay or neuter them. Dorothy helps them to do this. Once spayed or neutered, the cats are released back into the wild - back into Dorothy's care.

She buys 220 cans of cat food a week. She is on a fixed income.

Crazy? I suppose it depends upon your own mindset. I think what she does is a lovely thing. She truly cares for these animals. Without Dorothy's help, most of them would be dead, or at least living in a way that shouldn't be called living. They'd be starving and diseased, as well as breeding more starving and diseased brothers and sisters. Instead, they have a guardian angel named Dorothy.

(I have to mention this: Dorothy isn't smiling in any of these pictures because she is missing some of her lower teeth. She feels she doesn't look very good when she smiles. I disagree, but I respect her desire to be photographed as she wishes. She is not as severe as she appears in these photos.)

Dorothy can't do much about her own situation. She's terminal - as are we all, when you get right down to it, of course. But, so long as she cares for the cats - so long as she keeps them alive - she has purpose and is useful. And is, one would think, worthy of some sort of special dispensation in the eyes of God. At least, if I were God, she would be.

As I say, she's sharp. She has no delusions. As a matter of fact, she is one of the most delightfully self-aware people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I wish I hadn't spent so much time not being in her company.

I’ll tell you the truth. I had some trepidation concerning seeing Dorothy. As mentioned, I hadn’t seen her in quite a while. I thought she might think the only reason I wanted to visit was so that I could get my hands on the family memorabilia. And, to a certain extent, it was true. She’s blood, but I had never been tremendously close to her. She’s almost 30 years older than me, for one thing. When I was a kid, we didn't visit her branch of the family as often as we did some others. Just one of those things, I guess.

Well, as soon as Dorothy answered the door and we started talking, I knew it had been a mistake to not be in touch with her. She was very close with my Dad when he was a youngster, and she remarked that I looked very much like him. I took it as intended, a compliment.

I was there only a few minutes when Dorothy said that she had to go feed the cats. I knew this was coming, as we had talked about it on the phone. I knew I was going to be arriving at her place close to feeding time. I was interested in seeing the cats, truth be told. I’ve always liked cats, and the idea of 25 or 30 of them in a wild pack sort of intrigued me. So, Dorothy loaded up a sack with cans of cat food, filled a jug with water, and off we went into the woods.

As we approached the area where the shelter was, I saw glimpses of various cats, but none of them were coming very close. Dorothy explained that, while the cats came right up to her and rubbed her leg and such, they probably wouldn’t come too near when they saw a stranger. A couple of them came within about ten feet of us, but most stayed a safer distance away. I saw them all around us, most staying semi-hidden among bushes or other camouflage. There were striped tabbies, tortoise shells, grays, orange and white spotted cats, and just about any other combination of colors you might imagine. One big solid black cat, obviously a Tom - and also obviously the king of this pack - sat on his haunches in the open, about 20 feet from us, staring imperiously, ready for whatever might happen, and no doubt expecting that, whatever it might turn out to be, he'd handle it. Damn regal-looking cat, he was.

I helped Dorothy open the cans and spoon them into the bowls. Being used to how house cats come running when food becomes available, I was somewhat surprised when these cats held their places. Dorothy took the lid off one of the big trashcans of dry food and scooped some out. She added that to the canned food. Then she poured water for them. One smallish cat, which must have been very hungry, then jumped up into the shelter and started eating, but she was the only one. The rest still wouldn’t come near while I was there. The King just stood his ground, staring at me disdainfully. After we began walking back towards Dorothy’s place, depositing the empty cans in a dumpster as we went, the cats cautiously made their way to the shelter. I assume The King waited until the others had jumped on things, so as to make sure he wasn’t walking into a trap. You don’t get to be The King if you’re stupid.

Dorothy explained that every week she drove to the supermarket and bought the food. Many times, people would see the amazing amount of cans in her cart and ask her how many cats she had. She would then explain about the feral cats. Sometimes folks were incredulous. Other times, they gave her money right there in the market, to help her defray costs.

As you might imagine, not everybody is thrilled that Dorothy feeds the cats. She said that there is one woman in particular, another resident of the condo, who raised quite a fuss about it. However, this problem was partially solved when a fence was erected near her apartment’s yard. The fence kept most of the cats from her space, so the war was pretty much in a cease-fire, at least for the time being.

On the other hand, there is another resident who takes over the feeding on those rare days when Dorothy is unable to carry out her self-appointed rounds; when Dorothy is having some sort of medical procedure, for instance.

Well, I’ve told you a lot about her cats, but that was only a small part of the visit. We spent a lot of time sitting on the couch together, poring through family photos and old newspaper clippings, and trading small stories concerning one relative or another. We laughed a lot. We both smoked our fool heads off. It was a real old-time family visit. No TV on in the background, nothing to distract a couple of relatives from catching up.

                      Dorothy in her teens
I feel as though I may be doing Dorothy a disservice by telling you so much about the cats, but not about her. She is a former schoolteacher, with a Masters degree in education. She’s not just book smart, but also intelligent and witty. She was, until her various infirmities made it near impossible to keep up, a daily communicant in the Catholic Church. I may be misremembering, but I don’t recall her saying an unkind word about anybody – and some of the folks we talked about deserved a few unkind words, too. She is very much a lady, in the sense of the word which should convey a picture of a person with manners, someone who cares about other’s feelings, and who, at all times, carries herself with grace.

A Mad Cat Lady? Not for my money - and I gave her some, too, when I left, to help with the feedings. Maybe you feel as I do, that she’s a sweet woman to be caring so deeply about them. The fact that she KNOWS there are a whole bunch of folks who think she’s slightly cracked, yet she does it anyway, speaks volumes to me. She could abandon the cats and save herself some ridicule, but she continues to do what she feels is right; what she feels, I assume, is God’s work. I admire that greatly.

Her physical heart isn’t in such good shape, but her spiritual one is strong, beating steady, and full of love.

I hope I’ve captured our visit accurately, and portrayed Dorothy as the smart and caring person she is, because I’m going to send her a copy of this. I want her to know how much I truly enjoyed visiting with her, and that I’d love to stop by again, soon, and help her feed the cats. I’d like that, a lot.


Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tightening Up My Loose Ends

Just some quick notes concerning this blog...

Ha (and, further unto that) Ha.

Some of you may have been wondering about the dispensation of the 10 (crummy) CDs, the prize from the Celtics contest. Dave, the actual winner, proved that he has a brain when he refused to accept the prize. I offered the 10 (crummy) CDs to the runner-up, Burning Sky, and he showed a startling lack of intelligence, saying he'd take them. They're shipping to him even as I write this. If you find yourself in New Jersey someday, and you hear a whole bunch of crummy music, chances are it will be his place you're near. Or possibly Jon Bon Jovi's.

Speaking of crummy music, I would have liked to have added actual recordings of Live Wire cum Powerline in the body of yesterday's piece, but I truly have no idea how to put music into a blog entry. If you are a fellow Blogger user - or a blogger who used to use Blogger - and you have the know-how on the way to include music in a post, please give me simple (yet as detailed as possible, since I'm much dumber than I sometimes make myself out to be here) instructions on how to do so. I'd truly appreciate it, maybe enough to promise that you will never receive a shipment of 10 (crummy) CDs from me.

The following will mean nothing to anyone except one particular reader, and maybe not even her: Hello, Miriam! I believe it was Jesus who said, "Ask and ye shall receive." Of course, he probably didn't mean, "Ask Jack Atton whether it was him I was writing about and then Jack will relay the story to me and ye, Miriam, shall receive mention in a stupid blog", but that's only because the internet hadn't been invented then. Even if it had, Judas probably would have been the only one interested.

Oh, just to set everyone's mind at ease, I'll tell you that there will be no more blogs about the Celtics until at least October. That is, so long as I find enough other stuff to write about. And you know me. I can get 1,500 words out of finding a rock in my shoe, so you shouldn't have too much to worry about.

Anything else? No, nothing comes immediately to mind. Of course, that's always the case with me, so no big surprise. As soon as I publish this, I'll think of 7 or 8 other things I should have mentioned. By the time I get around to writing about them, you'll be safe at some other blog far, far away.

By the way, if this were a football blog, the title could have been "Loosening Up My Tight Ends." It's not, though, so it isn't.

Soon, with more better stuff, Miriam.

(Notes courtesy of Happy Note!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Faded Glory

Fame is fleeting. That’s the old saying, but sometimes it depends upon what your definition of fame is - and how well-made your bumper stickers were.

I lived in Dorchester, right on the border of Mattapan, for 37 years. I moved to Watertown 14 years ago. If you walked up to everybody living in Dorchester and Mattapan today, showed them a picture of me, and asked them if they knew who it was, you might find a double handful that could identify me. There are probably a few folks who remember me running for state rep, and another two or three who bought grass from me (NOT while I was running for state rep, by the way) and perhaps one or two of my old friends still live in the area.

On the other hand, if you were to ask every resident of those areas if they knew who Jimi LaRue was, I’d be willing to bet big money not a single one of them would have the slightest idea. That’s too bad, because there is actual physical evidence still extant concerning Mr. LaRue’s doings during the year of 1981. Before we get to that, though, here’s some necessary back-story.

In 1979, I was 22 years old, unemployed, and rapidly becoming a decent bass guitar player. I spent the better part of every day stoned and banging on the instrument. As a result of the many hours invested in those pastimes, I had become very good very fast.

I had been in a band already – and you could read about it here and here - but as a keyboard player/vocalist. If you don’t feel like going to the links, I’ll condense the story of that band thusly: The band sucked and so did I. It was fun, though. And while I was in that band, I did what I always did in every band I’ve ever been in. I played everybody else’s instruments as often as possible. Whenever there was a break, I’d jump behind the drums, or pick up a guitar, and try to learn how to do something with them.

From the time I was a kid, I’d always been drawn to musical instruments. I could usually pick out a tune on anything with keys or strings. I was no idiot savant (well, not the savant part, anyway), but I had some innate talent for it. So, as I said, I fiddled (hah! fiddled!) with everybody’s instruments and got so I could at least fake my way on drums, bass, and guitar, as well as the keyboards, which I was already faking my way at.

After leaving that band, my girlfriend of the time told me about a friend of hers willing to sell a bass guitar for $10. I bought it. It was worth every penny of $10, too. It was a hideous instrument, and it was basically (BASSically! Hah!) strung with rusty cable. I didn’t really know any better, however, so I figured if I was really going to learn how to play it, I’d better just buckle down and get on with it. I played it and played it and made my fingers literally bleed. I built up mighty calluses on my fingertips. You can still light a match under them and all I’ll feel is a little bit of warmth.

Then, in 1980, I came into possession of a real bass guitar, which also happened to be a short scale. I was amazed at how easy it was to play. I had been used to stretching my fingers to reach notes on the long scale and pressing down hard on a fretboard that had frets I should have filed down. The strings, aside from having the texture of 16-grade sandpaper, were too tautly strung. This new thing in my hands was a bass? No. This new thing in my hands was HEAVEN! I came to the realization that I had given myself the equivalent of about 5 years training in the space of one year, simply because I had been teaching myself on such a hideous beast of an instrument.

Along about that time, a knock came on my door. It was opportunity, in the body of a fellow named Marty Murphy. I had never met Marty. He was the friend of a guy who lived across the street from me. He had been talking to this friend about how the bass player in his band was leaving to go to college. That friend told him about this guy across the street that constantly played the bass – loud enough for my neighbors to constantly hear it, apparently, and if any of them are reading this, I do apologize - and he said that this guy sounded decent. So, on the off chance that I actually WAS decent, and might be interested in playing with his band, Marty knocked.

I thought I was good enough to play in a band. As is usually the case with me in life, though, I didn’t really know where to take my talent to put it to use. I had vague notions about starting my own band, but no definite grasp of what to do to make it happen. About the only way I was going to truly get into a band was if someone knocked on my door and asked me to do it. Since Marty had done exactly that, I was thrilled.

Without so much as listening to me play a single note, Marty arranged that I’d meet the band the next night. I would go to where they were currently rehearsing, in the basement of the drummer’s parent’s home in Hyde Park. Their departing bass player would be there, playing a few numbers with them prior to leaving for college. Afterwards, they’d run through the same numbers again, this time with me on bass. Then they’d decide if they wanted me. Fair enough.

That night, I dressed in my best black t-shirt, boots and jeans. I drove to Hyde Park. When I got to the street, there was little chance of going to the wrong house. It sounded like someone was using the basement to land a squadron of F-15s, and not always right side up. It was loud, fast, immoral, and destructive. In other words, it was exactly the kind of stuff I liked to play.

I went inside and watched them perform. The name of the group was Live Wire. They were all 17 and 18 – four to five years younger than me – and they were all friends from high school and the neighborhood. It was obvious to me that I was a much better bass player than the guy I was being asked to replace. He wasn’t totally horrible, but he had made the right decision to go to school rather than try and make his fortune in music. I knew as soon as I got a chance to plug in and start playing, the gig was mine. And that’s what happened. They were all smiles while I played, and they offered me the spot immediately afterwards.

(I later found out they were worried that I wouldn’t want to play with a bunch of teenagers. They were afraid that I was going to tell them thanks, but no thanks. For my part, I was worried that they might think I was too old, and not want to play with a guy who was an ancient 23. When one of them asked me how old I was, I shaved my age and said 21. The dumbass I was going with at the time, who had accompanied me to the rehearsal, said, “Jim, what are you talking about? You’re 23!”

I shot her a look that said, “Do you have anything approaching a brain in your head?” but since she didn’t, the look meant nothing to her. Not having any other choice, I then blushingly fessed up to being 23. Aside from looking like a right idiot to my new bandmates, it didn’t hurt. As I say, it turned out we were all worried about the same thing, for opposite reasons, so no harm. We all had a good laugh, except for the girlfriend. She still didn’t get it.)

Me, on stage (possibly the Nu Pixie Theater, Hyde Park)

This was about as perfect a band as I would have imagined forming on my own. They were fresh, totally unjaded, wrote decent pop hooks, had some actual talent, and were all truly nice guys on top of it. They played some covers, but wanted to play mostly originals. Since I wanted to play nothing but originals, I was OK with that. I figured we needed the covers to fill out sets in bars – true – and that we could concentrate solely on originals (including my own) as time went on.

The band members, aside from myself on bass, were Ronnie Bower and Ron Frattassio on guitars, Steve Giusti on drums, and Marty Murphy (the fellow who knocked on my door) as the singer. Marty didn’t have the greatest voice in the world, but he was a hell of a showman. People really liked him. He was also something of a jack-of-all-trades instrumentally, playing a bit of sax, flute, guitar, and harmonica on various songs.

This being 1980, and somewhat the tail end of the original punk movement – Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, et al - Marty had decided to take the stage name “Marty Sucks.” He explained that this way, when the audience might say it, instead of insulting him, they’d just be advertising him. Made sense to me. As we became somewhat popular, people would often shout it out between songs – “Marty Sucks!” - always with a smile and some sincere love. It was pretty cool, actually.

Now, my given name is Jim Sullivan, and I’m glad I was given it, too. It’s a good solid name. No problems with it, really. However, at that time there were at least two other people named Jim Sullivan with some small measure of fame. There was a guitar player with Tom Jones’s band named Big Jim Sullivan. Of more import to me, there was a local writer in Boston, doing concert reviews and such, named Jim Sullivan. I didn’t want to be sharing a name, and since he had gotten it into the spotlight first, I decided to change mine. I went with Jimi LaRue. I thought that it came off of the tongue nicely, had a slightly ambivalent sexual feel to it (I grew up listening to Alice Cooper and other such androgynous freaks, so…) and I had a mistaken understanding of French, so I thought that it meant “The Street”, which was certainly a decent bit of cred to shoot for. The affectation of “Jimi,” as opposed to “Jimmy” or “Jim,” was a fairly obvious rip-off, but what the hell. So far as I knew, I was the first person to rip it off, so it was somewhat original in it’s non-originality.

I could go on for quite some time with stories about this band, and I’ll definitely tell more of them someday for sure, now that I’ve given you the background, but right now I want to eat dinner, so I’ll get to the point of this post and then start cooking my macaroni.

We were solid, we developed a loyal following in the neighborhoods we came from, and we played some semi-big venues around Boston - The Beachcomber in Wollaston, etc. We earned a small-but-steady check as the sort-of house band at a bar/club in Mattapan Square called McCarthy’s. It was a decent-sized joint, holding maybe 200 when filled to capacity, and we did fill it whenever we played there, which was pretty much two weekends a month.

As we gained some fans, we decided to do some self-promotion. We had t-shirts made, the possible only surviving example of which can be seen on this rather large and dirty white teddy bear.

In case you can’t quite make out the lettering, here’s a closer shot.

The tag line is “High-Voltage Rock ‘N Roll.”

We sold a few. After we had done so, however, there arose an argument in the band concerning our name. It seems that one of the guys – I forget who – had come across an album by another group named Live Wire. They were no longer in existence, but they HAD been popular enough to have actual recordings, so this led to an argument concerning whether or not we should change our name. I was of the belief that it didn’t really matter. These other guys weren’t around any more, so who cared? In the end, though, the opposite opinion – that we should be totally original - carried the day, so we discarded Live Wire. We wanted to have something similar, with which we could use the same tag, so we finally decided upon POWERLINE.

Once we changed the name, we had bumper stickers manufactured. We gave these away at our first couple of gigs at McCarthy’s following the name change.

McCarthy’s – now defunct, in case you’re wondering - was located almost directly across the street from Mattapan Station, a trolley and bus terminal. Many of our fans, after seeing our show on a Friday or Saturday evening, did the right thing and took public transportation home, rather than drive drunk. So, they’d roll themselves down to the station and wait for the bus or the trolley. As you might imagine, some folks taking a trolley won’t have any real use for a bumper sticker, or at least no car to put it on. So, not wanting to waste it completely, one of them did something that has turned out to be the only remaining public vestige of our former semi-stardom. He (or she) climbed a pole and put our bumper sticker on a street sign at the River Street bus ramp to the station.

For the past 27 years, it has remained on that sign. Rain has beaten it, snow has frozen it, sun has faded it, and thousands upon thousands of people have passed by it, some on foot, some on busses, some in cars. These days, most have no more clue concerning who the group was than I would if asked about a Taiwanese oompah band. The most amazing thing, to me, is that nobody from the T (the Boston transportation system, owners of the station and, of course, the sign) has ever seen fit to try and remove it, or to even replace the sign. There’s at least one person who’s glad they haven’t. I find it comforting to know it’s still there.

Hey, you take your glory where you can get it. That person could have scrawled “Black Sabbath Rules!” on the station wall with a magic marker, or perhaps spray-painted “Ramones!” Instead, there’s our bumper sticker.

God bless you, anonymous despoiler of public property! You’ve made my day, more than once, for 27 years now.

By the way, just as the original bass player had given me an opening by leaving for college, in 1982 the drummer decided to go to college and that's when the group disbanded. Higher education giveth, and higher education taketh away.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

D = Defense (as well as Destruction, Demolition, and Delight)

I was just born when they won the one above, which was the first.

Now these folks - who last night earned the right to be called "The Big Three" - get to add number 17 to the collection.

The Boston Celtics won championship number seventeen last night, destroying the Los Angeles Lakers, 131 - 92. It was a beating of epic proportion.

For those of you whose first love isn't basketball, let me see if I can put it into terms you can more readily understand.

If it had been a hockey game, it would be your team getting off 67 shots en route to a 9 -1 victory.

In baseball, it would be a 19 - 4 drubbing.

Football? 46 - 10.

Tennis? Straight sets, 6 - 2, 6 - 0, 6 - 0.

Boxing? A knockout in the 4th round.

Soccer? 5 - nil.

It was the most complete embarrassment of an opponent, in the deciding game of The Finals, in the history of the NBA. It was the largest margin of victory ever in the final game of the final series. It was absolutely, completely, utterly over with more than half of the third quarter still to be played.

It was my joy.

The Celtics played 48 minutes of lockdown defense. And I do mean 48 minutes, even though they only needed about 30 of those minutes to win the title. The entire season, encapsulated in one moment, came with less than three minutes to play. The Celtics were leading by 40 or 41 points, and Leon Powe tried to get an offensive foul called on some hapless Laker. He put his body in harm's way, standing his ground and taking the charge, knocked to the floor by the Laker. It was called a block on Powe, but no matter. Any other team in the NBA wouldn't have had a player do that. The player would have sidestepped the man with the ball, giving him a clear path to the basket, saving his body for the celebration. Not Powe, and not the Celtics. They truly don't know any other way to play except the right way.

As you no doubt can imagine, I could go on for some 48 paragraphs, one for every minute of this most satisfying of victories. I won't, though, so be thankful to your God. I'll just mention one other moment that I thought was the embodiment of why this team won so convincingly and unselfishly.

Many past Celtics were in attendance, all of them winners of multiple championships. John Havlicek was there. Jo Jo White. Cedric Maxwell. Tommy Heinsohn. And the greatest Celtic of them all, Bill Russell, the winner of 11 championships, sat courtside. Earlier in the season, Russell sat down with Kevin Garnett for a conversation taped by ABC. It was heartwarming and wonderful. Russell told Garnett that he thought Garnett would probably end up with two or three championships before his time was done in Boston. Russell added that he admired the style of Garnett's play so much, that if he (Garnett) didn't win a ring of his own, Russell would give him one of his. Coming from a man whom he probably admires more than any other past Celtic (possibly more than any other past player, period) Garnett was visibly, touchingly moved.

While the Celtics were celebrating on the court immediately after the victory, the cameras caught Kevin Garnett giving Bill Russell a big bear hug. Garnett, close to tears, said to Russell, "Did I make you proud? Did I make you proud?" Russell said, "Yes, you did." Garnett embraced Russell even harder, leaned in close to his ear, and said, "I got one of my own. I got one of my own."

I bet I wasn't the only person in Boston who got misty.

Final result of our contest: The Celtics scored 1162 total points. The winner of the 10 (crummy) CDs is Dave (NOT my cousin, who had his chances wrecked by the outrageously high scoring in this final game.) So, Dave, whoever you are, I hope you're reading this. Send me your mailing address, at , and I'll get the 10 (crummy) CDs out to you immediately.

(Should Dave not reply within a reasonable length of time, I will come up with some other way to decide who gets saddled with these wonderful examples of music gone wrong.)

They did it! Party on, Boston! Banner seventeen is coming soon to a Garden near you!

Addendum: Just came upon this. Gigantic man-tears moment for me. I'm not kidding.

Thanks, Red!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dad, 14 Years After

My father died 14 years ago today. He was 62 years old.

At the age of 56, while he was in the hospital for something else, he suffered a heart attack. The doctors who examined him determined that he had had multiple previous attacks, but had probably passed them off as an upset stomach or perhaps a muscle spasm. Shortly after this diagnosis, he underwent triple-bypass surgery.

He was never quite the same afterwards. That isn’t to say he never had any good days again, or that he never laughed, but the bad days far outnumbered the good, and the laughs were less numerous than they had been before.

The main problem was this: before the surgery he carried an inner sense of utter invincibility. He had been a boxer earlier in life, so he feared few men when it came to physical encounters. He served in the navy during the Korean conflict, so had discipline and grace under fire. He had briefly attended seminary, so had a rock-solid belief in God. He also had innate inherited intelligence. He wasn’t some pug with a cauliflower ear, ducking imaginary flocks of birds. He was erudite, had a great memory for jokes, and trained his somewhat pudgy fingers to do amazing things with cards. He also trained himself to become a very decent amateur chef. So, he was extremely independent, with a belief that he could accomplish almost anything he set his mind to. He asked others for help on occasion, but he always knew that, when push came to shove, he could do it himself if need be.

After the surgery? He was as weak as a kitten. He became exhausted from a walk around the block. Just getting dressed was a chore. He did almost no exercise because he feared another attack. As a result of the no exercise - and by not giving more than a cursory nod to changing his diet - his heart went from bad to worse. He was regularly in the hospital with congestive heart failure.

He had almost always been a bit overweight during the years that I knew him, but heavily muscled. As time passed following the heart surgery, his weight went up and he lost muscle mass. I recall trying to make him feel better, on a visit to his house in New Hampshire, by giving him a nice backrub. I was shocked when I felt bone under my fingers, where once there had been thick slabs of muscle.

Before I go on, I’d like to make sure that you know my father wasn’t some pitiful character. He had a pretty rich life, overall. He traveled to exotic places, made love to beautiful women, ate high off the hog, and got to realize more dreams than most. One of his favorite expressions, usually spoken about some poor unfortunate soul who never even had a chance to realize his dreams, was “He never got a kick at the cat.” Well, my father had enough kicks at the cat to cost it all nine lives and then move on to a new cat altogether. This is the anniversary of his death, however, so despite the abundance of good times, that’s what I need to get to.

On the day he died, he was in the hospital - again. I had taken the day off from work, and I planned on driving from Boston up to Plymouth, New Hampshire, where the hospital was, and visit with him. Then I’d go to his house in Thornton, about 15 miles up the road, to mow the lawn and do a couple of other housekeeping chores. I was going to get an early start, perhaps 6am or so, to avoid traffic and to give myself plenty of time.

At about 4am, our phone rang. It was my Dad. He told me that he wasn’t feeling too good, that the doctors were going to have him doing some tests, and that I should just enjoy my day off and not make the ride, since we wouldn’t be able to spend much time together. I asked him if he was sure about it. He said that he was. I told him I loved him, he said that he loved me, and I left it that I’d call him the next day, or maybe the day after, to re-schedule a visit.

At about 8am, the phone rang again. It was my Dad’s primary physician, calling to tell me that he was dead.

If I had taken the ride up there as scheduled, I would have arrived at about 8:30 or 9:00. He would have already passed. And there I would have been, alone in Plymouth, crying. In addition, MY WIFE would have gotten that hideous phone call, and then had to wait in dread to pass the news on to me. Instead, I was home, and MY WIFE hugged me as the tears came. MY WIFE gave me the hug, God bless her, but being home to receive it was my Dad’s last gift to me.

He died on Thursday, June 16th, 1994. His wake was on the following Sunday.

It was Father’s Day.

These are some pictures of my Dad, from infancy up to the year of his passing. I hope you enjoy them. If your own father is still living, even though it’s the day AFTER Father’s Day, do yourself a favor. Give him a call. If he's near you, and he likes such things, give him a nice backrub. I guarantee you won’t be sorry. Ask anyone whose Dad is no longer around. Being sorry only happens if, while you have the chance, you don’t take advantage of the opportunity.

My Dad, with his Mom & Dad.

With his cousins, Patty & Dorothy.

Confirmation, probably at Saint Andrew's.

Wedding to my Mom, 1955.

With Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, during my Dad's run for Congress, in 1956.

I'm in this picture, but you can't see me. I'm hiding in my Mom's stomach.

Me, My Grandmother Sullivan, My Dad - Hialeah Race Track, Florida. I was such a snazzy dresser in those days.

With My Dad in Monaco.

With Mom and Dad in Amsterdam.

My Dad with my Grandfather Sullivan, London.

The realization of a lifelong dream. My Dad's thoroughbred race horse, More Now, winner of the first race at Suffolk Downs, East Boston, Massachusetts. He owned a minority share in the horse. It was the only horse he ever owned any part of, although he had money invested in many horses throughout the years...

He and My Mom were divorced about a year later. Not the only factor, I'm sure.

My Dad was Tony Soprano before Tony Soprano. Note the defunct brands of beer - Schlitz and Schaefer.

One of My Dad's lovely culinary creations. He crafted this bird from an apple, using his jackknife, while on an airplane. Nowadays, you could get arrested for such a thing.

Always a well-dressed man. He took many cruises in his later years. No doubt, this was just prior to one of them.

On one of his many trips to Singapore. He worked for Singapore Airlines, so attended many meetings there. It was a long haul to go to a meeting.

My Dad and I in Thailand, circa 1977, I'd say from the clothes and my skinniness.

Hong Kong, same trip as above.

My Dad during a trip to Teheran, Iran. This was prior to the Shah being deposed and Khomeini coming into power.

As I said, always a well-dressed man. Not his car. He looks right at home with it, though, doesn't he?

In the press box at Suffolk Downs. Note the carrot/pepper palm trees on the table, which were no doubt his creation. Everybody else worked there. My Dad hung there. The professional handicappers considered him their equal. He really was quite good.

With his friend, Sidney Yeung, on the occasion of their joint 55th birthday party.

My Dad's street sign. He petitioned the town to have the name of his dirt road in New Hampshire changed. They said OK, as long as he had a sign made. He did, and there it is. He was mighty proud of it. After his death, the bastards changed the street name back and took down the sign. I wish I had it. So far as I know, it was just taken to the dump.


This is what I said to my Dad every night I was in the same house with him at bedtime. It was said as it is written here, without what would seem to be some necessary punctuation. It was said without pauses, like a magical incantation. I haven’t said it for 14 years, but one last time, for good measure.

Good night God bless you.

Friday, June 13, 2008


The word comes from the Bantu languages of Africa. It is what the Celtics chant every time they break a huddle. Part of the definition, as given by Desmond Tutu (with emphasis mine): "It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours... A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people... do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole."

In other words, there's no "I" in "team".

The Celtics, as a team, pulled off what may have been the greatest comeback ever in an NBA Finals game. Trailing by 21 after the first period, by as many as 24 in the second quarter, and by 20 with four minutes gone in the third, they rallied to beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 97 - 91, in Los Angeles, to move within one win of capturing their 17th world championship.

It was as amazing a display of team basketball as I've ever witnessed. And I almost missed it.

There are a whole bunch of Celtics fans who woke up today to find that, while they got a good night of sleep, they missed history. Not too many will cop to it. Most will say, "Of course I saw it! Wow! What a game!" The way to tell if they're lying is to look for the bloodshot eyes and the dark circles under them. Those of us who stayed up for it got about four - maybe five - hours of sleep. If he or she looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, they went to sleep at halftime.

The Celtics trailed by 18 at the half. In the third quarter, they came out strong and cut it to 12. But, the Lakers went on a mini-run and pushed it back to 20. At that point, I decided to have a cigarette. I stepped outside and lit up. I decided that if, when I returned to my TV, the Celtics still trailed by 20 or more, I would go to bed. I finished my smoke and went back in.

O, me of little faith!

When I got back, they had cut it to 14. And, from that point, they just ripped out the Laker's hearts and showed them to them while they were still beating. They cut the deficit to TWO by the start of the fourth quarter. And then, they just showed themselves to be the superior team. Every player on the floor contributed towards the greater good. While the Lakers fell into total dissarray, the Celtics coalesced as a unit.

Paul Pierce was named player of the game, and he deserved it, but a case could be made for others. James Posey was huge, nailing threes from the corner with defender's hands in his face. Ray Allen drove the lane and rebounded. Eddie House directed the offense and contributed 10 clutch points. Kevin Garnett dropped a couple of big shots and kept the pressure on by going to the paint more often than he usually does. Pierce, for his part, brought his usual arsenal of jumpers and twisting, turning moves in the lane, but his biggest contribution came from defending Kobe Bryant about as well as it is possible to defend him.

At halftime - as Doc Rivers related during his press conference - Pierce went to the coach and asked to be given Bryant as his defensive assignment in the second half. He manned up and volunteered to take on the biggest job available. And not only did he take it on, he kicked butt. Kobe was on his heels for much of the final 24 minutes. Pierce even came up with a block on a fall-away jumper. On a fall-away jumper! The whole idea of taking a fall-away is to create space between yourself and the defender, giving up some accuracy to make it nigh impossible to block your shot. Pierce blocked it, on Kobe. Amazing.

There are hardly enough superlatives available for this squad. Let's start with Doc Rivers and his coaching.

Rondo saw his minutes diminished. Much of this was a result of his ankle sprain, which took away his prime weapons - speed and cuts. So, Doc goes with Eddie House, rather than Sam Cassell, to replace Rondo. Great move. Perkins was injured (again.) To go along with his bum ankle, he appeared to dislocate his shoulder. Doc decides to NOT go with Leon Powe or P. J. Brown or Glen Davis, but instead drops James Posey into the lineup, going small. Perfect move. With both he and House in the game, the Lakers had to spread the defense, allowing less doubling and more open looks. Coaching? Doc outdid The Zenmaster again.

I could go on for days. It's not easy to see things in a cold reality this morning, so I'll resist the temptation to call this the greatest Celtic victory in their long and storied history. It may very well end up being viewed that way, by some, later on. For now, I'll just bask in the knowledge that The Green are one win away from hanging banner number seventeen.


Total for the contest = 933, with the easy math of ten games giving us an average of 93.3 per game. There is from one to three games remaining - but I'm tempted to say "one."

(I won't. I refuse to jinx this team.)

Anyway, the likely winning totals are as follows:

One game = 1026
Two games = 1120
Three games = 1213

Enjoy the weekend. I'm cautiously optimistic that the only folks who will enjoy it more than me are 12 guys in green out in Los Angeles. We'll see.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pre-Game Stuff

A few thoughts, and a couple of links for you, prior to game four of the Celtics - Lakers series.

Credit where credit is due: The Lakers have provided the classiest "opening ceremonies" of any team in the league during the playoffs this year, including my Celtics. Whereas every other team beat their own drum, with video highlights and over-the-top histrionics - computerized graphics showing the slicing and dicing of the other team's logo with a sword, for instance - Los Angeles opted for clips of the Celtics - Lakers rivalry that probably showed more Celtic highlights than Laker highlights. I have a lot of respect for that organization. Despite the shallow Tinseltown rep, they do it right.

Having said that, it IS Tinseltown. Therefore, they dragged out the flavor-of-the-month to sing the anthem before game three. David Cook? He did a creditable job, but c'mon! We gave you James Taylor for game one and The Boston Pops for game two. With all of the star power available to you, you give us the guy who won American Idol the day before yesterday? You don't have someone with a bit more history to represent your city? For shame.

For those wishing a little behind-the-scenes look at the playoff experience, here is Rajon Rondo's blog.

Lots of good discussion, and links to other stuff, at CelticsBlog.

The official team website is

I'll see you tomorrow with some post-game stuff.


P.S. Since originally posting this, I came across the following, which is magnificent and deserves wide dissemination. Enjoy.

Powe-etry In Motion

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

8 of 35 = Optimism

And, for our contest, 81 = 836.

Odd sort of a game. The Celtics lost, 87 - 81. They still hold a 2 - 1 advantage in the series. While I would have rather had them win the game - and they had a chance to, right up until the final two minutes - I find myself feeling quite confident concerning the series overall.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined for one of the ugliest offensive displays of the season. They shot a combined 8 of 35 (Pierce going 2 of 14, Garnett 6 of 21.) Kevin Garnett blew two dunks, for goodness' sakes. On a night when the Lakers were given something like 14 or 15 more free throws (big surprise) the Celtics almost stole one.

I would never guarantee a victory, but last night proved to me that the Celtics have the better team. They are stronger defensively. They have a better and deeper bench. They have more weapons than the Lakers. Even in the one area almost unanimously conceded as a Laker advantage - head coach - the C's are proving better.

Yes, Doc Rivers is outcoaching Phil Jackson. I might end up eating those words later, but that's what's happening now. Aside from a maddening tendency to go to Sam Cassell too much (and even that was lessened last night, as Doc gave Eddie House some significant playing time) Doc has made the right moves at the right time. Jeff Van Gundy (God help us) pointed out something last night that I sort of instinctively knew, but hadn't verbalized. Coming out of a timeout, Doc is magnificent. He has called wonderful plays, leading to good scoring chances, way more often than should be the case against the certified hall-of-fame coach Phil Jackson. Here's to you, Doc!

I'm looking forward to Thursday. I expect a game played in the 96 - 104 range by both teams. Kobe will continue to be Kobe, and he won't miss as many free throws as he did last night. If the C's keep up the tremendous overall defensive intensity they brought last night - and either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett has a normal shooting night - then the Celtics will be on the winning side of the score. If both of them have a good night, it could be a walk in the park by the fourth quarter. I'm not predicting that, by any means, but it's a distinct possibility.

For our contest, the average has dropped to just a shade under 93 a game. With at least two games remaining, and a max of four, low score would now be 1022 and high would be 1208. The most likely winners right now are Pete Mittell or Burning Sky for a 5 or 7 game series. Since Pete has no desire to actually own the 10 (crummy) CDs, that means somebody else would be saddled with them. For a six-gamer, it would be 1113. Closest to that is my cousin, David Sullivan, which would keep the 10 (crummy) CDs in the family. As you might imagine, I'm ambivalent concerning that possibility.

By the way, if it goes 7, and the averages hold, my original guess would be ONE point off the total. I'm just saying.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Long Stupid Story

I have a long stupid story to tell. Take your shoes off and get comfortable. Have a glass of milk and some chocolate cake. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

I’m not playing softball this year.

(Hey, I heard that! You’re saying, “Damn it, Jim, you think I don’t know this? You’ve told me this at least 20 times since last summer. Get on with the stupid story!”

Listen up, smarty-pants. If I didn’t tell you all of the little details, it wouldn’t be a LONG stupid story, so it was necessary. Also, there could be somebody else who just now stumbled upon this blog – perhaps while looking for poodle grooming tips – and we wouldn’t want that person to have no idea why I was wearing jeans, would we? No, of course not. Despite the occasional use of profanity, you and I are nice folks – especially you, since I’m the one who uses the profanity – and the wearing of jeans is integral to the story, so if I don’t tell the person looking for poodle grooming tips that I’m not playing softball this year, then he or she won’t understand why my money and credit cards ended up in Saugus, which is why I have to buy the parking lot attendant a nice sandwich next week.

See? It’s all very simple. Have some more cake. I’ll put the coffee on.)

Having retired from competitive fast-pitch softball following last season (which, if you want an even longer stupid story – the WAR & PEACE of long stupid stories, really – you could go here first to read all about my final season, and then come back in a couple of weeks) I was not expecting to be on a ballfield this past Thursday evening. Sometimes, however, our expectations get shot to hell. For instance, imagine how you felt at the beginning of this tale as compared to how you feel now.

Be that as it may – and it may as well be, since we’re going nowhere fast – I was sitting at work on Thursday morning, minding my own business in a pair of off-white chinos, when I get a phone call from Pete Mittell. If you already knew that I’m retired from softball, then you probably remember that Pete is the coach of the team I used to play for on weeknights. Of course, if you just stopped by for poodle grooming tips, you have no idea. As a matter fact, you’re probably dead by now – or, at least, kicking your dog - because how much of my bullshit could you possibly take without having built up an immunity beforehand?

Now, where was I? I know it had something to do with softball...

Oh, yeah. So, Pete calls me and says, "Sully, I need you tonight."

(The name of the softball team is The Flames, and we play in The Fens. If you’re from Boston, then you know that there are a hundred different gay jokes I could make right now. I won’t. They’re too obvious, even for a corny sucker like me. If you’re not from Boston, that’s your problem.)

Here’s the thing: After I officially retired last year, I told Pete that he could keep me on his "emergency" roster; guys to call if he had no other options and he’d otherwise be forced to forfeit a game for not having enough players. Being as he has about 19 able-bodied twenty-somethings at his disposal, I really wasn’t expecting him to call in a 51-year-old broken down catcher to come play on a muddy field in a 55-degree drizzle.

(See above, concerning the meeting of expectations.)

Since I’m a man of my word - the word is "dipshit" - I told Peter that I’d see him at the field by 6:15, which was game time. I wasn’t going to wear my off-white chinos to play ball on a muddy field, though, so first I had to go home and change. I might make it there just as the first pitch was thrown, but I’d be there.

I left work a few minutes before 5pm and hustled home to change. Having retired after last season – did I already tell you about that? – I decided I had no use for the dirty, torn-up uniform pants I had been wearing all year. I threw them out. So, I have no softball pants. I needed to wear something that would allow movement, but also tight enough for me to wear a jock under them without the jock shifting around. I might be dumb, and this might be a long stupid story, but it does not hinge upon me getting my testicles hit by a softball (which, contrary to the name, is not soft at all, especially in comparison with my jewels.)

I found the tightest pair of jeans I owned and put them on. I’ll give you an idea of how old these jeans are. They have a button fly. I think I bought them in 1975. I was rather pleased to still be able to get into them, actually. I checked the pockets to see if I had left any good drugs in them back then, but no luck.

After seeing that the pants fit, I then undid the buttons and slipped my jock on. After doing up the buttons again, I looked at myself in the mirror. The combination of the extremely tight jeans and a jock cup made me look as though I might be heading to do a scene in a remake of Deep Throat. It was an example of extreme untruth in advertising. I still had my old uniform shirt, which I now decided to wear untucked, lest I be arrested on some sort of indecency charges on my way to the ballfield.

The ballfield is over by The Museum Of Fine Arts. I drove towards the museum, planning to park on one of the streets by it. If there were no on-street spots, I’d park in the museum’s paid lot. As it turned out, no freebies were available. I pulled into the lot, up to the automatic ticket dispenser, took a ticket, and parked at the far end, as close to the field as possible. It was about 5 minutes before the game. I opened the trunk, grabbed my cleats (and one dilapidated batting glove) and stuffed the parking ticket into my inside jacket pocket, along with my car keys.

I arrived at the field to the general approbation of my loving former teammates ("Sully? What the hell are you doing here? Didn’t you retire?") and took as good a warm-up as possible considering the lateness and the miserably wet and cold weather. After a few half-hearted sprints up and down the first base line, I was about as ready as I was ever going to be.

Jack Atton was pitching. Just as I was about to take the field to warm him up, I realized that I had my money and credit cards and such in my jeans pocket. I didn’t want my valuable stuff to get muddy and wet, so I asked Jack if he’d mind putting them in his equipment bag until after the game. He agreed, so I gave him my stuff to hold. Then we went out onto the field.

It was fun being back in a game, despite the muddy conditions. I knew my legs would be a bit sore the next day, from the squatting, but I also knew I could certainly use the exercise. What with not playing, I’m easily ten pounds heavier than I had been any other year at this time.

The Flames got off to a quick lead, Jack pitched nicely, and we won, 16 – 2. For my part, I only caught the first two innings. After that, Pete had found someone else to take my place. He asked me if I wanted to take my turn at bat in the second inning. I told him sure, why not? I’m happy to report that I drew a base-on-balls, came around to score, and thus am in the Flames record books with a perfect season. I watched the rest of the game from the bench, cheering on my old teammates and enjoying being on the winning side.

After the game, I was ready to walk back to my car at the museum lot, when Jack said, "Come on, Sully, I’ll give you a ride over there. I’m parked right here."

That was nice of him. I accompanied Jack and his son, Pat, as they drove me to the lot. When we got there, I hopped out, thanked them for the ride, and waved as they drove away. I walked to my car. I popped open the trunk and changed from my cleats back into my sneakers. I hopped into the car, started it, and drove up to the gate.

I fished the ticket out of my jacket pocket, and then went to my jeans pocket for money to pay for my parking. It was at this point I realized that my money, my credit cards, my driver’s license, and every other thing that could have been of any use to me, was enjoying a ride to Saugus in Jack's equipment bag.

Ever have those dreams where suddenly you find yourself naked in public? That's how I felt, except for the naked part. I might as well have been bollicky bare ass, though, since I was in just as uncomfortable a situation.

What could I do? I had no way to get my car out of the lot. I was wearing muddy jeans, it was cold and drizzly, and tap-off for the first game of the NBA playoffs was happeing in less than an hour. I wasn't about to miss that. I gave some serious consideration to trying to squeeze my car through a space to the side of the gate. There might have been enough room. Or I could have gone all action-adventure flick and just crashed through the wooden arm. In the end, I decided not to give myself the future headache of having been caught on video destroying museum property, and I went with the more sane option of copping a plea with the security guard at the gate.

I am nothing if not eloquent. I used my silver tongue, my comprehensive powers of persuasion, and my convivial glibness. Being overwhelmed by my personality, the guy let me go. Actually, it was probably either that I looked overwhelmingly pitiful or slightly deranged. Or maybe the guy just got as sick of listening to me as you probably are right at this very moment. In any case, he was a nice guy, and I tried to get an address from him where I could send the parking fee, once I got my life back from Jack, but he said he was putting it down as a lost wallet - the truth, of course - and that I didn't have to pay at all. I told him that I'd at least bring him a sandwich or something the next time I was in the area. And I will, too. I hope he likes pepper steak and cheese subs.

I got my stuff back from Jack on Sunday, so all's well that ends well, I guess. However, I think God was sending me a message. I said I was retiring from softball - I did mention this to you, I think - and He was saying, "Jim, you can't tell people hundreds of times that you're retiring from softball, but then go and play softball, anyway. If you do it again, it will be a lot worse than just temporarily misplacing the contents of your jeans pocket. And, by the way, don't ever wear those jeans again, unless you're cruising to have me part what's left of your hair with a lightning bolt. Good Me! Those things should have been in the trash back in 1982."

Soon, with more better stuff.