Friday, May 29, 2009
Time once again for a visit from my swell pal, Donatello. No, that's not him above. That's Charlie The Tuna, noted suicidal maniac. What does Charlie have to do with Donatello? Read on.
(If you missed Donatello's previous appearances, you shouldn't have. Find them HERE and HERE.)
Before we get to the meat of the matter, however, it's possible you're wondering why I give Donatello's stuff so much space. I mean, this is MY blog, so you would expect to find MY stuff when you come here. However, I get a great kick out of Donatello, so I assume you will also. And he doesn't have a blog of his own. He should, of course, but so long as he doesn't, and I can get away with using his stuff on those days when I'm feeling too lazy to write anything decent of my own, why shouldn't I share his wisdom with the world? Also, in many ways, I consider him a superior writer.
(Let's not get all kissy-ass in the comments, OK? I know I'm pretty good, otherwise you wouldn't keep coming back. That's enough for my ego - for now.)
Necessary background information concerning what follows: Donatello had written to me and, at the tail end of his missive, he said he was signing off because he had to go make a batch of Fuck-The-Man Tuna Salad. You would have written back and said, "OK, just what in hell is Fuck-The-Man Tuna Salad?" So, that's what I did, and his reply follows.
Anyone can tell from my current girth that I like to eat. I'm also not very picky. I like fine Belgian chocolates. I also am rather fond of Circus Peanuts. A cup of fresh-ground Hawaiian Kona hits the spot. Under the right circumstances, so does Taster's Choice. Stone Brewery Ale, yum. Ice-cold PBR on the beach, also yum. I think we're more or less on the same page with this.
[Jim's note: We are, very.]
In fact, the list of things I haven't liked is pretty small. So far, that would include: sea urchins, tripe, and, believe it or not, cotton candy... yuk. I'm always ready to try something new.
I'm sure you remember that I like to cook. On the other hand, I don't like to kill myself in the kitchen. While I'm ready to do what it takes to make just about anything, I favor dishes that look and taste like they were a lot more work than they really were. Everyone needs a copy of The Joy of Cooking. My number two favorite, though, is the I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken. Well worth the investment, if you can find it.
The point is, my cooking-ethic is inspired by my Nana mostly, and Peg Bracken, one of her favorites. You know, lots of recipes that include a can of cream-of-mushroom, or an envelope of onion soup, or ketchup or whatever. 50s era comfort-food. A small digression; do with this information what you will:
1) The secret ingredient is probably lemon juice. Unless it isn't.
2) If the secret ingredient is not lemon juice, it is probably anchovy paste.
So, back to the tuna. I'm sure you've noticed, along with the decreasing quality of, well... just about everything, the decreasing quantity of just about everything. 56 oz. "half-gallons" of ice cream, exciting new packaging that attempts to hide the fact that there are now only 10 oz. of horseradish instead of 12, Lord-only-knows how much coffee in what once was a standard one-pound can etc. And now a standard 6 oz. can of tuna is a 5 oz. can. Oy.
Anyway, having had enough, and having been raised in part by my Depression-Era grandmother, and having enjoyed Abbie Hoffman's humor, I've started making my very own Fuck-The-Man Tuna Salad. Honestly, none of the ideas are particularly original. Sub shops routinely make tuna this way. But it's cheap. And tastes good. And did I mention it's cheap? So, the recipe:
Fuck-The-Man Tuna Salad
5 oz. can chunk light tuna, undrained. The cheaper and fishier the better. Don't use white, you need the fish juice.
1/2 to 1 c. dill pickle juice.
1 c. mayonnaise.
If you like "stuff" in your tuna salad, 1 c. or so of chopped "stuff": celery, onions, chopped dill pickle or what have you.
2 c. plain bread crumbs.
Dump the tuna, liquid and all, into a bowl. Mash it fine.
Add pickle juice, mayo, and any "stuff".
Mix well, it will be pretty soupy.
Add about half the bread crumbs, mix.
Add the rest of the crumbs, mix.
SUPER IMPORTANT STEP: Let it sit, refrigerated of course, for at least a few hours, preferably overnight. This lets the bread crumbs soften and soak up all the flavor.
Before you eat it, check the consistency. If the bread crumbs have thickened too much, add a little more mayo or pickle juice 'til it's how you like it.
This makes approximately 1 quart of tuna salad and costs about $1.50. It also tastes good... a lot like sub-shop tuna, for the obvious reason. The extra fishiness of the light tuna gets soaked into the crumbs so you really can't tell that it's not white tuna. Spreads well, too. The only real disadvantage is that you have to make it ahead.
Bon appetit, and Fuck The Man! Enjoy.
Your swell pal,
Now, I ask you: Where else can you get such a wonderful dissertation concerning the current hideous state of affairs vis-a-vis packaging, combined with great book recommendations and a dandy recipe for cheap sandwiches?
Only here, my friend. Only here.
Soon, with more better stuff.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
William Robert Caddy
I grew up on Caddy Road in the Lower Mills section of Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston.) Caddy Road is a small side street off of a side street off of yet another side street.
One year, as a child, I noticed that our street signs were decorated with small American flags as Memorial Day approached. Until that time, I had never given much thought to the name of our street. It was just a street. When I saw the flags, I knew that our street was also a memorial.
I found out, perhaps by doing some research at a library (this was waaaaaaay before The Internet), that our street was named after William Robert Caddy, a war hero. That's all I found out. I didn't know what war, or what he may have done in that war. Nevertheless, I was proud to live on a street that was named after a hero.
A little later on in life, perhaps in my teens, I was in the neighborhood of Wollaston Beach. I found myself in a little park by the beach and I noticed a marker. It read "Caddy Memorial Park".
Yes, it was named after the same fellow. Obviously, he was an exceptional hero. You don't get the Congressional Medal without having displayed great bravery and valor. However, aside from the fact of his death, there was no further information.
Then computers arrived, Google was born, and searching for things - and people - became much easier. I finally found out the story behind the man for whom my street had been named.
Birth: Aug. 8, 1925
Quincy, Norfolk County, Massachusetts, USA
Death: Mar. 3, 1945, Japan
World War II Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient.
Served with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 28th Marines.
On March 3, 1945, in action against the Japanese on Iwo Jima, Caddy, his platoon leader, and his acting platoon sergeant, were advancing against enemy machine gun fire in an isolated sector. Seeking cover from the murderous fire, the three Marines dropped into a shell hole. After several unsuccessful attempts to advance, he and his lieutenant engaged in a hand grenade battle with the defending Japanese. When an enemy missile landed in their hole, he covered it with his body and absorbed the full impact.
The Medal of Honor was presented posthumously to his mother on September 8, 1946.
(From the "Find A Grave" website - http://www.findagrave.com - I also got the photos from there.)
William Robert Caddy is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii. He had not yet reached his 20th birthday.
I never met the man, of course, but I lived on his street for 37 years. He is the one I remember every Memorial Day.
Perhaps you have an actual relative or friend who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. In any case, this Monday, while you enjoy a burger or a hot dog, and perhaps a few cool drinks, would you please take a moment or two to remember a man or woman who made such enjoyments possible for us all?
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sometimes, a thing turns out to be much better than you thought it would, as well as better than you were willing to believe when YOUR WIFE told you it would be good. This is a story about that sort of thing.
MY WIFE and I went to see Jerry Springer, The Opera. I had resisted it for quite some time. This was because I abhor television shows such as Jerry Springer. I consider them the nadir of... well, of everything. I think I might prefer having piranhas nibble at my genitals than to watch more than a couple of minutes of such crap.
I construct my life in such a way as to avoid - desperately - any undue contact with the types of people who populate Springer, Wife Swap, Sally Jesse Raphael, Judge Judy (or any of the other roving pack of TV pseudo-magistrates), Maury Povich or Steve Wilkos (formerly the "director of security" on Springer - nuff said.) That such cretins even exist is painful enough. Watching them parade their problems on my TV screen, while ostensibly being "helped" through said problems, reminds me of nothing more than the old-time carnival freak shows, wherein you'd pay to see a man with three eyes, two noses, and a bifurcated forehead, the major difference being that the unfortunates of old were earning a living and would have liked, in most instances, to have been more normal, while these modern-day anomalies seem to revel in their grotesquery.
Anyway, I no more desired to see Jerry Springer, The Opera than I did the actual show upon which it drew for material. So, why did I see it? How did it happen? Well, I'll tell you.
MY WIFE and I saw an advertisement, in our local paper, for a benefit show. The idea was to raise money for some folks who had lost their homes due to fire. That was nice, but we decided to go because there was going to be a big band playing. Although we don't dance, we both like big band music - 1940's-style swing - and there aren't a lot of opportunities to enjoy such aggregations live. So, we went to hear the music and, as a nice adjunct, give up a few bucks for a worthy cause.
When we got to the venue, we saw that there was a silent auction. You know the deal, right? Items are shown; there's a sign-up sheet near each item; if you're interested in the item, you write down a higher bid than the previous interested party; and, if your bid turns out to be the final high bid when time expires, you get the item.
We made bids on a number of different things. Usually, if you bid early on eight or nine of the offerings, you'll end up being outbid on the majority of them. We liked everything we bid on, but we expected to be one-upped on most. And that would have been fine. We really couldn't afford to win them all.
We won them all.
I forget the exact amount we had to pony up, but it may have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 - and, in some neighborhoods, that's a half-month's rent. I hope it was at least that much for the folks whose houses burned down.
I was outside, having a smoke and trading lies with another person who lives on the periphery of show business, when MY WIFE ran out and said, "Do we have any money in the bank?" That's not exactly the sort of question that makes you think good news is coming, nor does it bolster the pack of untruths you've just been telling someone concerning your career.
After being told what was going down - that we had been declared winners of about $800 worth of stuff - I said that, indeed, we did have some money in the bank; at least, enough to cover our asses for the moment. There was a branch of our bank across the street from the venue. While MY WIFE stalled the organizers, I went and got the moolah.
For the cash, we got a number of interesting prizes. We had bought theater tickets, restaurant gift certificates, and massages. Among the theater tickets was a pass for The Speakeasy, a theater in Boston's South End. Among the restaurant gift certificates was one for Picco, a place right next to The Speakeasy. And so, despite my reluctance to have anything to do with Jerry Springer, The Opera...
Before the show, we used the Picco gift certificate. Great little restaurant with a fine selection of micro-brew beers. I had two tall Golden Monkeys, a tripel brewed by Victory of Pennsylvania. Two of them had my ass half-kicked, as it is a 9.5% alcohol brew. I would have had more if I didn't have to drive us home after the show. Excellent beer - sweet, spicy, nice head, same as I like my women. MY WIFE had a couple of equally potent glasses of wine. We were pleasantly loopy as we ate our shrimp salads and fish tacos.
After dinner, MY WIFE ordered some ice cream for dessert. I went outside to have a smoke, leaning against a wall like a right degenerate, eyes at half-mast, not caring a whit if the girls walking down the street saw me staring at their boobs. When I went back in, the ice cream was in front of MY WIFE. She was enjoying it greatly. She asked me if I wanted a taste.
"What kind is it?"
"What? Cranberry Squirrel?"
"Cranberry Squirrel... Cranberry Squ... SWIRL."
The cranberry squirrel was really good. It almost made me want to order some pigeon pecan for myself, but I didn't think it would sit too well on top of the Golden Monkeys.
Very enjoyable meal. Great alcohol. We both felt like we were dating again. If we hadn't had a play to go to, we probably would have rented a room. However, we did have a play to go to, so we weaved our way out the door and over to the theater.
And, damn it, the play was hilarious.
It truly is an opera. All parts are sung, excluding the part of Jerry Springer himself. There are three separate high C's hit during the course of the show - two by females and one by the male who sings the part of God in the second act.
Yes, God is a character in the second act, as are Jesus and Satan.
As you probably suspect from the forgoing, rabid fundamentalists might find the proceedings highly offensive. I'm something of a fundamentalist myself, actually, so I felt a tad uncomfortable with some parts of the second act, but not so much that I didn't laugh my ass off. Really, if you believe that God doesn't find the entirety of humanity knee-slappingly hilarious, my belief is that you're going to be severely disappointed when you die, so a bit of ridiculousness concerning a chat show taking place in Hell shouldn't worry you.
(I personally rationalized it via believing that the entire second act takes place inside of Springer's head. If his ideas of God, Jesus, Satan - and other religious notables - weren't up to snuff, well, that was his problem, not mine.)
Oh, one other thing you should be aware of is that it's the most obscene theater production I have ever witnessed. Nary a minute passes without vulgarity that would make most longshoremen blush. This will be a selling point for some of you, no doubt. However, if you would be offended by lyrics suggesting anal rape with barbed wire, soiling yourself for sexual gratification, or an entire chorus belting out "He's a cunt, he's a cunt, he's a cunty cunt cunt", then perhaps you'd be better off seeing a revival of Charley's Aunt.
(It should be noted that the play has won every major award available in London, while thus far more-or-less flopping on these shores. I'm not sure if that says more about us or them. Probably, it just says that watching somebody else's loons is more entertaining than watching your own. I mean, consider the laughs we get from just listening to the French.)
So, once again, MY WIFE was right. I did enjoy the play. Also, as long as I'm in the confessional, she would like it to be known that she very much knows how to sew, thank you, and has made several teddy bears in her life. Sheesh.
Soon, with more better stuff.
Monday, May 18, 2009
As I write this, it is Saturday afternoon. Tomorrow morning, I get to find out if the Bombers – my team for the past 15 years – will get an early leg up on the rest of the league. We sit at 2 and 0, and so do our opponents for the day, the Titans. If one of these teams sweeps the scheduled doubleheader, it should go a long way towards deciding who sits in the winner’s circle at season’s end.
(Speaking of the winner’s circle, you heard it here first: Mine That Bird will win The Belmont. Rachel Alexandra is a fine filly, and a deserving winner of The Preakness, but if Mine That Bird doesn’t have to go wide, she gets caught. And, with the extra ¼ mile in New York, she’ll get beaten by three lengths.
Of course, I predicted that Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle would win the Oscar for best picture, so don’t bet the mortgage money.)
For the 15 seasons previous to this one, the Titans have won the league title 11 or 12 times. My squad, the Bombers, have never won it.
Our overall record, versus the Titans, is 3 wins, 32 losses, and 2 ties.
(Yes, ties. League rules and city regulations being what they are, the second game of a doubleheader is sometimes unable to run into extra innings. Other leagues have permits for the field and we have to vacate at the end of regulation. That sucks. There should never be a tie in baseball or softball.)
The Titans are, by far, the team to beat if your team has any notion concerning a championship run. And, looking at it honestly, we’ve been outmanned most other years. I have rarely had reason to question the heart of my Bomber’s teammates, but we’ve also rarely had the talent to go along with that heart. This year, I think we might.
I’ll see whether that‘s true tomorrow morning - if it doesn’t rain.
Right now, the weather forecast calls for heavy rain overnight. If it stops before game time, we should get them in. If not, our series against the Titans will wait until the tail end of the season to be made up.
Signing off now. Back with the rest of the story after it happens.
So, from the title of this post, you probably know the outcomes.
Titans - 16 BOMBERS - 7
Titans - 10 BOMBERS - 4
And not only that, the Celtics lost to Orlando in game seven. I'm a sad Suldog, indeed.
The games versus the Titans were closer than the scores would indicate. Game one was 8 - 7 going into the final inning. In game two, our first three batters singled, but the leadoff man was thrown out at the plate and a double play ended the inning without a run being scored. That set the pace for the remainder of the game. We had chances, both offensively and defensively, to do much better. We didn't, though.
The good thing - if there is a good thing about dropping two games - is that I know we can play with that team this year. We really aren't that far off. If we meet them again in the playoffs, I like our chances. We'll have gelled more as a unit by then, tightened up whatever shaky spots we had defensively, and be ready for them.
As for the Celtics, they went as far as could be expected with the personnel available. With Garnett and Powe out for the playoffs, they gutted it into game seven. I'm sad that they lost, but not disappointed in the overall effort. They showed heart all year. And they'll come back strong and healthy next year.
So, that's all for today. I'm not a cheerful and happy Suldog, but I know better times are ahead. As I usually say...
Soon, with more better stuff.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
It all began when I decided to collect dryer lint.
Well, actually, it all began when My Mom gave us a present of a do-it-yourself bear.
No, that’s not true. It all began when... Heck, it all began when God created the heavens and the earth, I suppose, but you already know that story, so let me pick it up when I’m about three-years-old.
When I was young, I had teddy bears. You probably did, too. If you didn’t, that’s why you’re the way you are now. In any case, most people who have teddy bears when they are young do NOT have teddy bears when they are old. The teddies somehow cease to exist, going back to the magical place where teddies come from in the first place.
My teddies, however, decided to stick around. They enjoyed my company. As a matter of fact, it seems they enjoyed my company a bit more than I enjoyed theirs. This was proven by the fact that I stuffed them into a closet for quite a few years, beginning when I was 10 or 11, but, upon bringing them out of the closet sometime in my thirties, they bore no ill will or hard feelings towards me and we picked up right where we had left off.
MY WIFE is also beloved by stuffed bears. Thus, it came to pass that my old teddies, and some of her old teddies, as well as a select group of 45 or 50 other ursines of good breeding, now live in our house. They only take up most of the living room - and parts of the dining room and basement – and they don’t eat much.
Why, here they are now!
(Yes, we realize they're not all bears. Some of them are honorary bears.)
One thing that happens when you have a house full of bears is that people who like to give you presents often give you more bears. This is both a blessing and a curse. While it is nice to know that people care enough about you to notice what you like, when they give you the 46th bear to take up residence at your place it is not easy to tell them that you really don’t need any more bears, thank you, and a nice book or some summer sausage – or even cash – would be preferable.
And that brings us to the part of the story where My Mom gives us a do-it-yourself bear. It was a kit, full of fabric and thread and instructions, and, when completed, would be a wonderful handmade teddy. Very thoughtful gift, except for one thing: Neither MY WIFE nor myself is a seamstress. Sure, MY WIFE can darn socks - and I can damn just about anything - but sewing is not on our list of Skills Which We Are Very Good At And Could Be Counted Upon To Perform Should We Find Ourselves In The Midst Of A Nuclear Holocaust.
(Yes, we have such a list. Or, at least, we will any moment now because it sounds like an excellent future blog post.)
The do-it-yourself bear languished in a bedroom, under some old boxes of photos, for six or seven years.
And then I began collecting dryer lint.
You might well ask yourself why I would collect dryer lint. It’s a reasonable question. Of course, you’d get an answer more quickly if you asked ME instead of yourself, but what the heck. I’ll pretend you asked me.
See, every time I emptied out the lint vent in the dryer, I thought to myself, "Self, this looks like a lovely little blanket!" And so it did. Then I’d crumple it up and throw it away like any sane person. Except, one day a little over a year ago, I said to myself, "Self, you must be able to find some useful purpose for this stuff." And so, I began taking the little blankets of laundry lint and saving them.
Once or twice a week - whenever I dried a load of laundry - I’d clean the vent of lint and put the lint into a plastic bag. After a couple of weeks, MY WIFE noticed me putting some lint into the bag. She asked, in much the same way as I pretended you did above, just why in hell I was saving dryer lint.
When she asked me, I hadn’t thought it through far enough to have come up with an answer for such a question, so I improvised and told her I was going to make a pillow with it. I thought that was a pretty nimble answer for spur of the moment. She then asked me if I knew that dryer lint was one of the most flammable substances on the face of the earth and collecting a bag full of it in the basement wasn’t really the safest thing to do. I told her I was going to make a pillow with it. Seeing that I had no real plans and I was just crazy, she stopped asking me questions.
Except, now that she had asked me the question and forced me to come up with an answer, making a pillow had actually become my plan.
I saved the lint, the bag grew fuller, and her birthday approached.
(You might be able to see where this is headed. I didn’t. I’ve explained it more fully, to you, than it was happening in my brain at the time.)
Lest you think the only thing I was going to give MY WIFE on her birthday was a pillow full of lint, I’ll set the record straight. I bought a couple of other things. And I had another idea formulating in my head (yes, the same head that decided to save dryer lint and make a pillow out of it, but that didn’t deter me.)
One day, I was sitting on my bed, having a smoke, and I noticed the do-it-yourself bear kit that My Mom had given us, lo, those many years back. I went over to where it was sticking out from the pile of boxes and brought it into the light. I opened it up and studied the fabric and pattern. I tried to imagine myself actually constructing the bear. It would be a pretty cool present if it were something I actually made with my own two hands, right?
No! It would be a hideous present if it were something I made with my own two hands! I could no more imagine myself sewing that pattern together, in a way that would make a recognizable bear, than I could imagine performing successful brain surgery on myself using a spoon (although, God knows, it has to be fairly clear by now that such a thing probably couldn't make matters worse.)
I put the do-it-yourself bear back under the boxes.
We now come to about a week before MY WIFE’s birthday. I still have the vague idea of making a pillow from the dryer lint, but I’m not entirely sure HOW. I supposed I could buy a pillow, unstuffed, ready-made, then just jam it full of the lint, zip up the zipper, and there you go! Pillow!
Turns out that making a pillow isn’t quite that simple. They expect you to at least sew in the zipper, or even put the whole damn thing together. I could have bought a zippered throw pillow, and then opened it up, took out the stuffing, and replaced it with my lint, but that seemed sort of silly.
And then, I was at work, searching the Internet for pillow-making kits that even a dope like me could do. And, as I continued this fruitless search, my partner in the production department, Dan, came into my studio and looked over my shoulder. He asked me what I was doing. I told him, briefly, about the lint. Being more imaginative than many, he sort of understood. Dan is the type who sees an interesting piece of wood in somebody’s trash and then takes it home and makes a vacuum cleaner out of it. He’s very handy.
So, I asked him if he knew where I could find a ready-made pillow to fill up with my collection of dryer lint. He said he wasn’t sure about that, but he could probably make one for me himself. I wasn’t surprised to hear it.
Turns out that Dan took sewing in high school. He’s a manly man, does lots of woodworking and repairs that involve screws and torches and hacksaws, so picturing him in a sewing class wasn’t easy. However, it wasn’t impossible, either, so I asked him if he was serious about making me a pillow. He reminded me that he and his wife, Mandy, had sewn their own wedding clothes. True. Not bad, either.
Then it all came together in my diseased mind. How much tougher could it be for Dan and Mandy to put together a do-it-yourself bear? Well, tougher than a simple little pillow, obviously, but would he be willing to do it?
Yes, he would. And so he, and Mandy, did. And they delivered the empty bear carcass to me, in a brown paper bag, on the morning of MY WIFE’s birthday.
This surprised MY WIFE quite a bit, seeing as how Dan & Mandy live in Worcester and we live in Watertown and it was Saturday morning and Mandy was wearing a bright green wig and Dan was wearing shamrock headboppers.
They were on their way to a Celtics game. Dan had finished sewing the bear together the night before and asked me if it was all right to drop it off on their way to the game. Sure, I told him, as long as you deliver it in a plain brown paper bag, which, as previously noted, they were doing. MY WIFE was mystified, which is often the case when it comes to my behavior. After they left, I went into the bedroom and stuffed the bear carcass full of the collected dryer lint.
I’m happy to report that a year’s worth of dryer lint is just exactly enough to bring one bear to life.
And the bear’s name is Rosie, since the material is... well, rosy. He doesn’t realize that his stuffing is different from other bears, so if you visit us someday and say hello, don’t tell him. It would probably scare him quite a bit if he thought that he might burst into flames and kill us all in a moment’s notice.
Now my only problem is figuring out what to do with this year’s dryer lint.
(To MY WIFE: Just kidding! I’m eating it.)
Soon, with more better stuffing.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I just finished another piece for my work-related blog, The Talkback Button. It concerns the many wonderfully talented folks with whom I work at Marketing Messages. I hope you enjoy the piece. I'll be back here, tomorrow, with something new and bear-ly interesting.
(That's what's known in the biz as "foreshadowing". Oooooh!)
Soon, with more better stuff.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I don’t often talk at length here concerning my religious beliefs. Sure, I have no compunction about telling you I’m a Christian, but I rarely go into detail about it. Today will be different. If that bugs you, well, it bugged me over the weekend. Explanation (in detail, as usual) follows.
So, you know I had a whole bunch of teeth plucked last Wednesday, right? There’s some background HERE, if you’re some sort of completist. The short story is that I had most of my lower teeth removed. I’ll be getting implants later on this year. In the meantime, I have a lovely temporary denture glued onto three of my remaining teeth. Here are before and after shots.
I apologize for the "after" shot being so blurry, but nice difference, no? Yes, nice. Comfortable, good-looking, functional – no problems. I’m happy.
I wasn’t so happy the day before the procedure. As a matter of fact, I was rather tense. I knew that going through the procedure wouldn’t be a lot of fun, but I also knew that the best way for me to wrap my head around the whole thing, after the procedure, was if I had some seriously fun drugs to take the edge off. However, in the current hysterical climate, telling your doctor that you want seriously fun drugs to take the edge off will actually tend to reduce your chances of getting them. Odd, that, but true. So, since I didn’t relish the thought of sitting around the house for four days, with mouth pain, in a disgustingly sober condition, I prayed for the seriously fun drugs.
I don’t know how YOU feel about such things, but I generally try to avoid self-serving prayer. My utterly untheologically-divined sense about prayer is that asking things for others is looked upon much more favorably than asking things for yourself. In addition, all requests made in a prayer should probably look to glorify God in some way. Getting blasted wouldn’t usually qualify as a way to raise God’s profile with others. However, I assured God that, if He would see to it that I got a prescription for 20 Percocets, I’d find some way to make it up to Him.
Percocet - generically (and hereinafter in this tale) known as Oxycodone - is a synthesized derivative of Morphine. The actual drug is more notoriously known, in sleazy tabloid headlines, as Oxycontin. It is the drug of choice for junkies who rob drug stores to feed their habit. Oxycontin is the pure stuff, and it fetches a premium price on the street. Oxycodone, on the other hand, is a mixture of Oxycontin and Acetaminophen, a.k.a. Tylenol. Effects of both are similar to Heroin and other opiates: euphoria, drowsiness, and a way cool time as long as you don’t get hooked and wind up sticking a gun in some pharmacist’s ribs in your attempts to get more.
Before my dentist yanked the teeth, I discussed medications for afterward. He felt that a Codeine preparation would probably be enough to take care of the pain. Codeine can be a nice fog to travel in, but the pain-relieving efficacy is about 1/6 that of Oxycodone. I argued, successfully, for the latter. This doctor had been my dance partner in my previous bout with multiple extractions, when I had my uppers done some 7 years back. He had seen what a traumatic experience it had been for me; sweating in the chair, pale, and otherwise in a clinical state of shock. At that time, he had told me that he would have given me a sedative had he known how much it was going to bother me. With that memory in mind, he understood my argument for stronger post-operative medications, and he wasn’t averse to giving me something to make the after-effects as non-stressful as possible. Good, compassionate, logical man, my dentist.
So, I had five teeth out, getting perhaps 8 or 9 stitches in the gums; had 3 other teeth filed down to pointy nubs (to act as posts upon which to glue the temporary prosthesis); and was given a scrip for twenty-four tabs of Oxycodone.
All in all, I consider that a good day. Rotten teeth removed; nice, white teeth in their places; and a four-day buzz starting as soon as I could get the prescription filled, which was within twenty minutes of leaving the dentist’s office.
By the time I got home, the Novocain was rapidly wearing off. I had no desire to experience any pain between the time of its diminution and the onset of the effect of the Oxycodone, so I popped two pills immediately. Then, to be on the safe side, I popped a third five minutes later.
Onset of Oxycodone takes about 20 minutes, with peak efficacy starting somewhere around the one-hour mark, continuing to deliver pain relief (and other nice effects) for 4 to 6 hours in total, depending upon body weight, speed of individual metabolism, and so on. After about a half-hour, I found myself really digging just about EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE. Very nice, relaxed, with a mellow yawny sort of background drone in my brain at all times. Don’t operate heavy machinery, but enjoying the company of YOUR WIFE, while watching the Celtics beat Orlando in the playoffs? Highly recommended.
I spent the next two days in a percodanical haze. Scuse me while I kiss the sky.
While it was all very nice, the problem with Ox is that extended use, without adequate sleep, leaves you very shaky. And I mean physically so. The thing is, you know you should get some sleep, and both your body and the functioning part of your brain tell you to go to bed, but things are still so damned interesting that you don’t want to. In addition, when you finally stop moving and put yourself under the covers? Nerve synapses that haven’t been firing go into overdrive. Not pain, mind you; that’s still being taken care of. But you find yourself with twitching legs and mildly itching skin. The itch is pleasant to scratch, but the twitches suck.
Being a person who drank about three pots of coffee, without eating a lot of actual food, did not help to alleviate this condition. I got some sleep, but only in fits and starts. In addition to the twitches and itches, all of the coffee had me getting up to pee every hour or so. I took a short nap the next day, and that helped a little, but I also took more Oxycodone. No complaints, overall, as the waking hours were just fine. No pain, and that’s what I had paid for, but I knew, in the back of my flitting-from-one-subject-to-another-because-all-of-them-were-interesting mind, that getting to sleep again would be a problem that night.
Night came, and I was over-tired. You know the feeling? So tired that you have a long constant yawn going on in your head, but when you lay your head down, and just start to drift off, you tend to wake with a small violent gasp, a sharp intake of breath? There was that, and the twitchy legs and slightly itching skin. I knew I needed to somehow calm myself, otherwise I wouldn’t be any more successful in attaining rest than I had been the previous two nights.
I decided to read a little bit. I picked up a bible study that I’ve been enjoying, written by the late evangelical pastor, Dr. J. Vernon McGee.
Reading from The Word Of God never hurts. In this case, it helped a bit. I was still having some physical shakes, but my head was in a better place. I decided to see if listening to The Word might also be helpful. I slipped a CD into the bedside player. It contained a sermon delivered by Dr. McGee.
(Before you start thinking that I’ve gone off the deep end and put myself in the company of charlatans, let me tell you something about McGee. Not only do I find his teachings enjoyable, and his West Texas drawl entertaining, but he does one thing that no other TV or radio pastor does, and that’s why I’m more-or-less a disciple of his. He NEVER asks for money.)
(Well, let me clarify that. He’s dead. He died back in the 1980’s. So, if he DID ask for money, it would be something of a miracle. The organization he set up prior to his death, Through The Bible, also never asks for money. Sure, if you want to buy a book or a CD, you can. But there is never a broadcast appeal for funds, nor written exhortations via the mail. They are the only ministry I’m aware of with a perfect track record in that regard, so naturally, with my being a contrarian of the first stripe, what dollars I do donate to ministries, they get.)
So, I listened, and got into it somewhat, but still was not peacefully drifting into the arms of Morpheus. Well, actually, since I was taking Oxycodone, it was the arms of Morpheus that were shaking me now and again. I resigned myself to another night of off-and-on sleep. That’s when I heard the small noise.
There are Venetian blinds in the bedroom, thin aluminum ones. And I heard something hit the blinds. Since I had the window open, I assumed a slight breeze was knocking the pull-cord into the slats. I went back to listening to the sermon. Then I heard the noise again, and soon after, again. That’s when I knew that I had a bug in the room with me. It could only be a bug, throwing itself against the window in an attempt to get out, which would have made that noise on such an irritatingly constant basis.
I sat up in bed, turned on the lamp on the nightstand, and looked at the screen. No bug. I looked around the room. There he was, buzzing around fast, bouncing off of every surface available. He hit the blinds a couple more times, but mostly whizzed around near the ceiling, panicked and directionless. Being a bug, he had not devised a systematic approach to his problem. He trusted to blindly flinging himself in random directions, hoping that luck would result in his once again finding the opening he first came through, thus depositing him back outside in the cool night air.
I sighed heavily, I suppose trying to let the bug know my displeasure since no one else was around to hear it. I went and got my Bug Buddy.
Bug Buddy is a marvelous invention for those of us who try to relocate insects rather than just stomping on them. Here’s a picture of one.
You try to put the large end of it, which has a receptacle of sorts, over top of the bug. There’s a lever, built into the handle, which slides a small piece of hard plastic over the opening in the receptacle. Once you trap the bug, you can release him at your leisure. If you’re into such things, you can study him for a while through the clear plastic. I’m more into expediency. I tend to bring the bug outside as soon as I catch him, releasing his sorry bug ass back into the wild.
OK, I got my Bug Buddy and proceeded to chase this bug all over the room. He was moving way too quickly for me to get a real good bead on him. As a matter of fact, he was moving so quickly, bouncing from wall to ceiling to bookshelf to lamp to wall to window to top of a pile of boxes, that I wasn’t even sure what sort of bug he WAS. The configuration definitely wasn’t that of a moth, nor was the speed, but he appeared too small to be a proper bee or wasp. In any case, he was a fast bug and might have had the ability to sting me, so my tracking was also hampered by a fear of being attacked in a fit of buggy panic.
I aimed the Bug Buddy this way and that, going from foot to foot, clad only in my underwear I might add, and ran after the bug as he flew crazily around. He lit for a few seconds on top of a volume of encyclopedias, and I thought I might have him, but just as I climbed up a half-shelf to reach him, and brought the Bug Buddy down near him, he took off again. I climbed down and resumed the chase.
Finally, after about five minutes of this futile hunt, I decided that the only way I’d get the bug out of my room was to throw open the screen window and try to herd him in that general direction. I opened the screen, grabbed a newspaper, and tried to work the bug in the direction of the window.
I lost sight of him. I stopped moving. And I heard no sound! The bug must have flown out the window. I lowered the screen, got back into bed, turned the CD on again, shut out the light, and tried again to drift off to sleep.
And that’s when I heard the sound in the Venetian blinds again.
This time, I didn’t sigh so much as growl. I again turned on the light. The bug was definitely caught in the blinds somehow. I heard him there, but didn’t see him. I grabbed the Bug Buddy. I opened the blinds slowly. And there was the bug, crawling on one of the slats, seemingly unaware of my presence. I brought the Bug Buddy down swiftly, trapping him between a slat and the chamber of the tool. He had stopped fighting. I slid the hard plastic into place, completing the temporary bug-holding chamber, and I then carried the bug to an outside door. Looking at him inside of the Bug Buddy, I still wasn’t sure what he was. My best guess is a small wasp of some sort, but I wouldn’t risk cash on that opinion. I released him outside and he flew away quickly (and, I’d like to think, with gratitude.)
I went back to the bedroom and that’s when I realized something delightful. All of the bug chasing and shelf climbing and shifting from foot-to-foot and other ridiculous activities had calmed me down considerably. I wasn’t shaky in the least. I felt peaceful, relaxed, and definitely ready for a good night’s sleep. And that’s when I remembered my promise to God.
Remember? I had asked for 20 Oxycodone? And I got them? Well, I had said "Thanks!" to God, in prayer, but I still hadn’t made good on my end of the bargain, to somehow glorify Him in return for the favor.
I am of the firm conviction that God sent that bug into my room to accomplish a number of tasks. First, to exercise me in such a way as to calm me down and get me ready for a good night’s sleep. Second, to remind me of my earlier prayer and my need to tell you about it in some way. Third, to supply me with a decent little story via which I could accomplish that task, and I hope this has succeeded. Fourth, to remind me that what appears, at first, to be a curse, often turns out to be a blessing. Fifth, to be reminded of the fact that my willingness to help another creature in peril will often result in more good for me than for the other creature. Heck, if I had just been satisfied with crushing that bug with a swat of some sort, I’d still have been shaking and itching and twitching in bed, and with no good story to tell, but here I was feeling like a new man. And, finally, to get me thinking about how often I’m like that bug, blindly throwing myself around in hopes of luckily coming upon a solution to my problems, when all I have to do is be still and trust in God’s help.
And that’s the story of how God bugged me. It’s a weird little testimony, but it’s the best I’ve got at the moment. If you’re not as religiously inclined as I am, you might just dismiss it as coincidental silliness heightened by drug abuse. Me? As usual, I expect...
... more better stuff, soon.
Monday, May 04, 2009
On Saturday, the Boston Celtics – with whose fortunes I live and die as a sports fan - concluded what may have been the greatest playoff series in NBA history. They went seven games versus the Chicago Bulls, four of those games decided in overtime – one of those a double overtime and another a triple overtime contest – with the Celtics finally winning the series, four games to three.
I have nothing but respect for Chicago after that series. They were magnificent in defeat, fighting until the final buzzer in game seven. Athletic heroics abounded for both teams.
On Sunday, my fast-pitch softball season began. The Boston Bombers, my team for the past 15 years, got off to a 2 and 0 start. It is the first time since 2000 that we’ve started the season by winning both ends of the opening doubleheader.
As the old saying goes, I’m as happy as a pig in shit.
(Yeah, I know. Making any reference to pigs, during the current hysteria concerning swine flu, is chancy. Swine flu be damned! I mention it because it gives me a chance to include this quote I saw in a newspaper. It came from a nurse, my new personal hero of the moment. When asked by a patient of hers if eating bacon could be harmful, she said, “Only if the bacon is still alive and bites you back.”
If I wasn’t already happily married, I would have found out her name and proposed.)
So, the scores:
BOMBERS – 8 Brighton All-Stars – 7 (extra innings)
BOMBERS – 16 Brighton All-Stars – 6
These were big-time team victories. Everybody who played made a contribution. And that’s the best part of this, for me. Individual stats are fun – and I’ll give some in a minute - but the best feeling in the world, as an athlete, is being part of a happy winning TEAM. And we seem to have great team chemistry this year. I’m in heaven.
The great individual performance of the day came from Jason Atton. He went 7-for-7, with 2 home runs. One of the homers was a grand slam. He had 10 RBI in the two games. In addition, he pitched the first game, shutting down the All-Stars when it counted most.
We play 7-inning games. Jay shut them out in the seventh, in a tie game, giving us a chance to win it in the bottom of the inning. We didn’t – more in a minute, and it’s interesting, believe me – and then Jay shut them out in the 8th, giving us another chance to close it out, which we did.
The seventh inning of game one was one of the most bizarre innings of softball I’ve ever been involved with.
We were the home team for game one, so after Jay didn’t give the All-Stars a run in the top of the inning, the score remained tied at 7 – 7. We therefore needed only to plate one run in the bottom of the inning to win the game. And my good buddy, Fast Freddie Goodman, led off the inning with a triple.
Now, when you need one run to win, and somebody gets a triple to lead off, you expect to win. There are just so many different ways to get that run home, even without another hit. So we were feeling pretty good about things.
Joey Baszkiewicz - good guy, good catcher, good hitter – followed Fred. He hit a sharp grounder to the left side. The fielder looked Fred back to the bag and then threw Joey out at first. OK, we’ve still got two more chances and we still don’t need a hit.
With one out, the other team decided to intentionally walk the next batter, Jack Atton. This gave them a chance to end the inning if they could induce a double-play grounder from Drew Prewitt, who followed Jack in our order. Jack, our manager, removed himself in favor of a faster runner, his son, Andrew.
On a 1 and 0 count, Drew put the ball into play on the ground, but not in any way in which the other team could have turned a DP. The infielder came home with the throw. Fred arrived at the plate as the ball did. He clipped the catcher, the ball was loose, he touched home plate... and he was out.
See, in our games, the umpire has the ability to call a runner out for interference if he feels that the runner could have caused bodily harm to a fielder while reasonably having been able to avoid it. We all have jobs to go to on Monday, so you can't wreck a guy. Fred ran into the catcher. Fred could have slid – he would have been safe, for sure, had he done so – but Fred didn’t slide and, instead of us winning, the umpire called Fred out.
Inning still isn’t over, though. Drew is on first and Andrew, running for Jack, is on second. Actually, on the previous play, they had advanced to second and third, respectively, but the umpire sent them back because the interference call is an automatic dead ball call, so their further advance during the play was nullified. The situation is first and second, two outs, Cam Zirpolo coming to bat.
This utterly weird half-inning came to an utterly weird end when Cam stroked a ball to the hole between short and third. It was probably a clear single, and it would have scored Andrew from second, except that the ball hit Andrew as he was running between second and third. The rule, of course, is that a runner hit by a batted ball is out.
And then we won the damn game in extra innings. Jay pitched a shutout top of the 8th, and in the bottom we scored the winner on a single by Buddy and a triple by Greg.
The fact that we blew our chance in regulation but still had enough character to win it in extras is the best thing I’ve seen from this team in a long time. It gives me great hope for the remainder of the season. I’m psyched.
Also psyching to me was our performance in game two. After a win like the first game, sometimes the tendency is for a team to let down emotionally. We didn’t. We jumped on them with both feet, scoring 8 runs in the first inning, another 4 in the second inning, and then cruising behind the excellent pitching of Buddy. In actuality, we had a 15-0 lead before the other guys had a small rally. No problem, really, and we never felt threatened.
My own play was decent; nothing spectacular. I went 1 for 3, also drew a walk, and had a couple of nice little plays at first base. One was a pickoff of a runner during the second game – something I really enjoy, since it’s a play that you have to have some brains to make. Mike Minchoff was catching the second game and he made a great throw to me as I scooted in behind the runner. Very satisfying.
Something else that happened in game two gives me a chance to spout off and maybe teach some younger players something important.
I’m a decent softball player. I’m not great. There IS one thing I do better than just about anybody who has ever played the game, though, and I’m going to tell you about that. I draw more walks, per plate appearance, than Ted Williams or Babe Ruth did in their primes.
It’s an odd thing to have bases-on-balls be your claim to whatever fame is available via Sunday softball games, but that’s what I’m really good at. Ask any of my teammates for a concise portrait of me as a ballplayer and I bet many of them would say, "He draws more walks than anybody I’ve ever played with." It’s true. I’m an average hitter, a fair fielder, and not much of a speedy guy on the basepaths. I can hold my head high as a player only because I’ve developed the ability to be awarded first base, without taking the bat off of my shoulder, on a stunningly consistent basis.
I’ve found, over the course of my softball "career," that there are precious few players who will actually understand what I’m about to tell you. That’s too bad, because anybody who understands this stuff will be more knowledgeable than three-quarters of the other guys on the field.
OK, here’s what you need to know in order to draw an inordinate number of walks.
1) You have to know exactly what constitutes your strike zone, and you have to know why there IS a strike zone.
The first part is simple, but lots of players never bother to really acquire that knowledge and make it their own. The second part is the most important thing to know, but even FEWER players understand that part of the game.
Your strike zone, by the rules, falls between your armpits and the top of your knees. Most guys have a nebulous understanding of this, but they don’t really KNOW it. They have a vague idea that the strike zone is more-or-less between the shoulders and knees, but they don’t know EXACTLY where it is.
In the second game, I was at-bat and the count was 1 and 2. The pitcher throws, I don’t swing, the umpire calls ball two. The pitcher complained to the umpire because he thought it should have been strike three. The umpire told him the ball was high. The pitcher said, and I quote, "But he [meaning me] was in a crouch!"
Well, uh, yeah. That’s why it was a ball. The crouch I was in is how I always set up at the plate. What the umpire understood, and what the pitcher didn’t understand – and what a lot of guys don’t understand – is that the strike zone is from the armpits to the top of the knees as those things are positioned during a batter’s NORMAL BATTING STANCE. It doesn’t matter where your armpits and knees would be when you’re just standing up normally.
Your strike zone is defined by YOU. You, as a batter, always have the ability to present a strike zone that is drastically smaller than it would be if you stand straight and tall. And, as long as the umpire knows that you’re not exaggerating your strike zone for just one pitch, and that the way you crouch or whatever is the way you always bat, he will usually call the pitches accordingly.
It’s not just pitchers who don’t get it. Some batters have no idea, either. They do a great job of getting the pitcher to throw three balls out of their strike zone and then, instead of being smart and staying in their normal batting stance, they stand up straight and stretch themselves out and give the pitcher a gigantic target, putting the bat on their shoulder in an exaggerated way as if to show the pitcher and the umpire that they won’t be swinging at the next pitch. How dumb can you get? Some of these guys probably think they’re displaying intelligence by showing everybody that they know enough to not swing at a 3 and 0 count, but they’re totally negating the advantage they gained by changing their strike zone to one that favors the pitcher. For God’s sakes, stay in your normal batting stance, always!
You have to know your strike zone exactly, by the way, otherwise you have no basis for complaint if the umpire gets it wrong. And there’s no better way to piss off an umpire than if you complain about a pitch that is patently and obviously a strike by rulebook definition. Pissing off the umpire is NOT useful under any circumstances, but it’s especially destructive if your ability to get on base is dependent in large part upon his calls. Never give an umpire a reason to call one against you when the call could go either way. That’s just stupid.
The second part, WHY there is a strike zone, is even less understood. There are so few players who understand this, it’s a crime. They go up to bat knowing only that a total of three strikes will sit them down on the bench, but they don’t know why. So, they swing at bad pitches in order to avoid strikes.
Here’s why there IS a strike zone: It is there so that both the batter and the pitcher will be treated in an equally fair manner by the umpire. The good umpire uses it as a tool to ensure that both players get a fair shake.
With no defined strike zone, a pitcher could throw nothing but unhittable pitches. With no defined strike zone, a batter could wait for the absolutely perfect pitch to hit. The strike zone is there to move the game along and make it incumbent upon the pitcher to throw at least three pitches that a batter can hit and to make it incumbent upon the hitter to swing at at least one of those pitches.
And here’s why that is the most important information you need to know as a batter: The umpire, if he’s competent, KNOWS that’s the reason for the strike zone. That’s why each batter’s strike zone is different. It represents the area where a pitch will come that the batter could reasonably swing at.
The batter does not have to swing at the first good pitch he sees, nor the second. If the pitch is exactly what you want, sure, swing. But, you don’t have to do so. There’ll be more coming. And that’s the crux of being a smart batter. Try to swing at a good pitch, the pitch you want. Don’t swing at the pitch the pitcher wants you to swing at.
If you know the umpire is a good umpire, one who understands the concept behind the strike zone and not just the physicality of it, you can reasonably argue with him on what you consider to be a bad strike call. You can say to him, “I can’t hit that pitch” and he’ll understand the logic behind that statement. Rather than you arguing concerning his competency, and basically telling him that he’s not a good umpire, you are instead arguing concerning the internal logic of the game itself. And good umpires are way more common than a lot of players seem to know. Guys get called out on strikes and blame the umpire, but more often the blame should be on themselves because they presented a strike zone to the umpire within which the pitch they were called out on was hittable.
Is that clear? I hope so. It boils down to what the umpire considers your ability to reasonably get a good cut at any specific pitch. If he feels that you have taken a reasonable batting stance, but the pitch delivered was not hittable from that stance, then it should be a ball and not a strike. If you let a pitch go by that the umpire deems hittable by you, in your normal stance, then he will call it a strike.
Obviously, you have to know your own strike zone intimately for this knowledge to be of real value. If you don’t know what pitches you should reasonably be expected to swing at, why should you expect the umpire to give you any breaks? If you’ve shown that you’ll consistently swing at shit pitches, then the umpire should reasonably conclude that the shit pitch is one you LIKE to swing at, so you shouldn’t be pissed off if you don’t swing at that pitch but the umpire still calls it a strike. You’re the one being inconsistent, not the umpire.
OK, that’s way more than enough about my theories concerning the strike zone. I could go on for another 1,500 words, easy, showing you how different stances will present a different target to the pitcher than that which you’re showing to the umpire, but that’s way advanced and this is long already. Another time.
Bottom line: I’m thrilled that the season has begun and I’m thrilled with HOW it has begun. I can’t wait to get back on the field again. This is going to be a fun season.
Soon, with more better stuff.