Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Day (5 Of Them, Actually - All Saturdays) In The Life

Well, it's finally happened. I've now re-posted so many things, I have no idea if I've previously re-posted the stuff I'm re-posting today. That's a shame - for you. Me? I don't give a damn. I consider this the best thing I've ever written, and I might just keep re-posting this, over and over, between every new softball post. If I could stand to read it the 85 or 90 times I've done so since the first time I published it, then so can you.


A Day (5 Of Them, Actually - All Saturdays) In The Life

Saturdays in the life of me, at various ages.

AGE 10 (1967)

5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and that there’s no school, I literally bounce out of bed and hit the ground running. I take a pee and haphazardly brush some of my teeth. After bounding downstairs, I turn on the huge black-and-white Admiral television.

While waiting for it to warm up, I go to the kitchen, feed the cat, and then pour out a huge bowl of Quake. I drown the cereal in whole milk and sprinkle three tablespoons of sugar on top of it, even though it’s already 50% sugar.

5:10am – I carry the enormous bowl of cereal to the living room, possibly spilling a bit along the way. It’s a cold summer morning, so I turn the thermostat up to 80. The TV is showing an Indian Chief test pattern.

Turning the knob that changes channels, I find nothing but snow on any of the other three Boston stations. I settle down on the shag carpeting and eat the cereal, waiting for the fan-forced gas heat to come pouring out of the vent in the wall. I stare at the Indian Chief and wonder why he’s on a test pattern.

5:15am – The heating system makes the distinctive sound that tells me the heat is just about to come on. I get my body right up next to the vent, in anticipation. The heat comes on. Ahhhhh! Nice! The cat, having finished her breakfast, comes into the living room and curls up next to me - and the heat.

5:20am – An announcer comes on and tells me what station I’m watching, how many megahertz they’re broadcasting at, and where they’re located. He has a distinctive and soothing baritone voice. I wonder if he owns the station and maybe, if I write to him, he’ll tell me why there’s an Indian Chief on the test pattern. Finishing my cereal, I drink the sugary sludge of milk from the bottom of the bowl while listening to the National Anthem and the Morning Prayer. Mom and Dad are sleeping soundly upstairs. They don’t get up until at least 9:30 or 10 on Saturday morning. I am king of the castle!

5:25am – Farm And Market Report comes on. It’s complete gibberish but somehow soothing, anyway, because I know that something to actually watch will be coming on next. I wonder if there are any real farmers in Boston, listening to this stuff and saying to themselves, “Corn ain’t gittin’ a good price today. I’ll wait fer next week to sell it.”

5:30am – Public service program comes on, produced by UNICEF. It wants to tell me about dam building in Africa. I get up and switch the station, to see if any of the other channels have cartoons yet. Nope. It’s either UNICEF or test patterns. I watch a test pattern of (no doubt many glorious colors, but on our black-and-white TV, gray) bars for a minute or so, then decide that dam building in Africa isn’t so bad. While it plays in the background, I open a volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia (Volume XIII, Rabbits to Signaling, as a matter of fact.) A gift from my grandfather, it is my favorite set of books. This particular volume tells me all about the races of man (Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid) and shows a drawing of an Asian in colorful silk robe and funny tasseled hat in front of a pagoda, while a black man is tap dancing. A Caucasian, meanwhile, is pictured in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright split-level with a neatly manicured lawn. He is sharply dressed in suit and tie, staring off into the middle distance as though the cure for cancer lies just beyond his square jaw and steely-blue eyes. I think Caucasians MAY have been the target audience.

6:00amBoomtown comes on. While Rex Trailer and his sidekick, Pablo, are in the bunkhouse deciding what to do today, I go out to the kitchen and start mixing some Aunt Jemima batter to make pancakes. I put bacon in the frying pan.

6:10am – Popeye is saving Olive Oyl from Bluto. Meanwhile, I’m saving bacon grease in a tin can we keep on the kitchen counter. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever using that grease for anything. I guess we just didn’t want it down the drain. I pour pancake batter into the greasy pan.

6:35am – I take the bacon and stack of pancakes (smothered in maple syrup) out to the living room. I eat them while watching Rex and Pablo. I give a piece of bacon to the cat.

– Rex and Pablo leave the bunkhouse and ride into Boomtown. I go get the newspaper that was just delivered on our front porch. I read the funnies and the Red Sox box score. My favorite player, Tony Conigliaro, hit a home run last night. The Red Sox are in first place for the first time ever in my entire life. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, The Wacky Races, and Tom & Jerry await me.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, friendly well-fed cats, good things to eat, fan-forced heat, interesting people, loving parents, and the promise of a sunshiny day playing baseball with friends. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

AGE 20 (1977)

7:15am – The radio is playing something by Barry Manilow. I roll over, curse the DJ, and shut it off. I light a Kool and lay back in my bed, smoking. I then realize that it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work. I sit up on the edge of the bed and roll a joint. My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about five years now, and my Dad is out of town on a business trip. I figure to carry a steady buzz all day, but I especially want to be stoned for the Saturday morning cartoons. Being stoned gets me closer to how I felt when I was a kid and watched them. Not completely, but closer than when I’m straight.

7:25am – Get out of bed, take a pee and brush my teeth. Go downstairs and put the heat under the coffee. While waiting for it to warm up, I go out on the back porch and smoke the joint. Go back in and pour the coffee, adding three teaspoons of sugar and a lot of cream. Feed the cat (a different one) and then go to see if the newspaper has been delivered yet. It hasn’t.

7:40am – Flip around through 20-or-so channels on cable. The best thing available is Boomtown, with Rex Trailer and (now) Sergeant Billy. A Popeye cartoon comes on. Popeye is still beating up Bluto and eating spinach. The spinach looks delicious. I realize that the buzz is creeping up on me.

7:50am – Mix pancake batter and put bacon in frying pan. I decide that I can’t wait that long. Put pancake batter in refrigerator. Leave bacon in frying pan. I can heat it up later. Eat cold leftover egg foo yung.

– Eat cold leftover pork strips and egg rolls in living room while flipping through channels. Hear big crash from the kitchen and then see the cat come running by with half-cooked bacon hanging from his mouth. Go out to the kitchen and mop up grease from the linoleum. Stop cursing only when I hear the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner theme song start playing. Yay!

8:01am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets caught in one of his own traps.

8:02am - I then begin to wonder if Wile E. Coyote has a charge account with ACME. How does he buy all that crap? Why doesn’t he just have a side of beef shipped to him and save himself all this trouble? And what does the ACME delivery guy think when he carts a crate of birdseed, a see-saw, and a two-ton weight to the middle of the desert, and a coyote signs for it?

8:03am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets hit on the head with his own two-ton weight.

8:04am - Smoke another joint.

8:23am – Come to realization that there is only one Pepe Le Pew script, recycled for each new cartoon. Heavy, man!

9:00am – It’s another hour until The Three Stooges come on, so I plug in my bass and put Master Of Reality on the record player. My band has a gig tonight, so this counts as practice. Halfway through Children Of The Grave, I hear the newspaper hit the front porch. I unplug the bass, shut off the record player, and go get the paper. I read the funnies slowly, admiring the artwork. I read the Red Sox box score and then it’s time for The Stooges.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, larcenous cats, good things to eat and smoke, interesting coyotes, loving (if absent) parents, the promise of a day watching baseball on TV, and an evening of being on-stage playing rock-n-roll, with an order of sex and drugs on the side. I could ask for more, but I’m not that greedy.


AGE 30 (1987)

11:05am – The radio is playing a paid program about bowel cleansing. I realize I’m awake. I have a vicious headache. My skull feels as though someone filled it with shredded brown paper bags and then lit them on fire. My nose is clogged beyond belief and there’s a spot of blood on my pillow.

I remember that – again - I have spent every penny of my paycheck on cocaine and vodka. I have no desire at all to leave my bed, but my Dad is downstairs and he hasn’t seen me since Thursday evening. He probably waited up until 2 or 3 in the morning, hoping to hear me pull into the driveway safely, but then gave up and went to bed. The least I can do is drag myself downstairs, force a bleary-eyed smile, and try to eat a bite or two of the lovely breakfast he’s cooked – and for which I have absolutely no stomach.

I light a Kool and shuffle into the bathroom. I pee, dark yellow and foul smelling. I brush my teeth, but it doesn’t help much. I climb into the shower and turn on the hot water full blast. I stand there, letting the steaming water hit me, hoping to quell the headache somewhat and loosen the crap in my nose. My father waits patiently downstairs.

I have a dead-end job and an ongoing dead-end relationship. The only thing I look forward to doing is drugs. I sometimes enjoy playing softball, but half the time I’m coked up when I’m doing that, too. I haven’t played the bass more than three or four times in the past year, and I haven’t been in a band in ages. I don’t give a damn about the Red Sox or anything else. The funnies aren’t funny any more and the latest cat just died from feline leukemia.

The world is a place full of times to endure until I get more money for drugs. I have the promise of a day filled with lying on the couch, blinds drawn, feeling guilty. The only reason I don’t want to die is because I’m already dead. I wouldn’t ask for more because I don’t deserve it.


AGE 40 (1997)

7:00am – The window is open and the birds are singing. It’s sunny, but cool. I realize it’s Saturday and I don’t have to work today. I get up, go take a pee, and brush what’s left of my teeth. MY WIFE is still asleep. I have a doubleheader this morning at Smith Field in Brighton.

7:05am – I light a Kool and sit in my underwear, going over the scorebook from the season thus far. I’m the manager of the Bombers, a good group of guys to play ball with. I’ve played ball with them on Saturday mornings since moving to Watertown in 1994. Today we play at 9am. I’ll be at the field by 8am at the latest. I’ll have 10 minutes, at least, until anyone else shows up. It’s nice to sit there in the cool morning, listening to the birds sing, doing some light stretching and imagining all of the possibilities that the day might hold in store.

7:15am – I finish my cigarette, strip down, and hop into the shower. I turn on the hot water full-blast, letting it wash over my body and loosen the muscles. While standing in the shower, I reflect on how much my life has changed this decade.

I have a good job, which I got as a result of having gone to broadcasting school. I’m off of drugs. I play softball in two different leagues full of good people. Best of all, I’m married to a beautiful and supremely funny woman.

My Dad is dead. He died three years ago. I was clean and sober, and pretty much had my act together, long before he passed away. I thank God for that. If he had died while I was still an asshole, I would now have unbearable guilt. At the time of his death, though, he was proud of me and of what I had worked to become. I had a chance to pay him back for some of those times he stayed awake worrying with a broken heart.

I’m sporadically playing the bass again, as well as keyboards. I also have a collection of other odd instruments, courtesy of MY WIFE. She gives me one every Christmas. I have a thumb piano, a chanter, a triangle, an ocarina, a ukulele and a tongue drum. Someday, I’ll get my act together and make a recording using all of them.

12:15pm – I stop and buy a newspaper on my way home from the games. When I get home, MY WIFE asks me how we did. She likes it best when we split, because then she thinks everybody is happy. After a shower, I settle in, reading the funnies and checking the Red Sox box score. Later today, we’ll go out for Chinese food with my Mom and stepfather, Bill.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, good things to eat, lovemaking, caring relatives, good friends and co-workers, and the promise of many more years playing fast-pitch softball. There’s no cat, because MY WIFE is allergic. I’ll take that trade any day.

AGE 50 (2007)

7:15am – I started writing this blog entry.

1:00pm – I’m finishing it up now. I’ve taken breaks for coffee and cigarettes, to talk to MY WIFE, to eat some leftover sushi, and to play the bass a bit. Still no cat, but later on I’ll watch the Red Sox play some Tigers. This evening, we’ll probably watch Pirates Of The Caribbean. I got it from the library when I returned Shrek 2, which we watched last night. I've got new teeth (implants) that are way better than the old teeth. We’ve got three air conditioners, two televisions (with 80+ channels of interesting stuff on cable), all the food and drink we could possibly want, 49 teddy bears (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) and I have - at the very least - 10 more sunshiny days of playing fast-pitch softball to look forward to this year.

The world is a miraculous place, indeed.


AGE 53 (Thursday, July 22nd, 2010)

Still a miraculous place.

The following is what I usually close with. The reason is because it's what God keeps telling me. Sometimes, when I say it, it's a lie. When God says it, never.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Jazz said...

Actually that's six day and not all Saturdays, but I'm just being picky.

But... wait! it's 8:15 in the morning and you've already played baseball?

You're crazier than I thought.

Suldog said...

Well, it's a re-print, see, and the five days were Saturdays, and the little added bits were today, and I wish I played baseball this morning, and...

Eh. It's all good!

Shrinky said...

I agree, a post like this is worth many re-reads (and this is only my first). Thanks for the fast-speed through the Sully years, it's a pure delight to know most everyone screws up now and then, but can always still make it through to a great, better place!

Suldog said...

Thanks, love. Your kind words are always appreciated.

lime said...

i loved this the first time i read it. it's a marvelous way to give your story and so well done. so worthy of reposting.

Suldog said...

Thank you, Lime. Coming from someone who writes such marvelous reminiscences as yourself, it's high praise.

GreenJello said...

When I read this the first time, I wondered what I would write if I did something similar. Sometimes, I wonder if I want to...the past has been less than kind to me, and the present and future shows much more promise.

Suldog said...

It was a marvelous exercise for me, and came about organically. That is, I hadn't planned on writing anything more than the part about when I was ten years old, but the later bits just flowed after I had done that.

Uncle Skip, said...

I knew I'd heard that closing line of yours somewhere before.

Suldog said...

Here's hoping you keep hearing it!

Craig said...

Wait a minute. . . You mean, like, there's really only one Pepe LePew episode, recycled over and over?

Whooooaaaaa. . . That's deeeeeep, man. . .

And it's not like I needed any, but you gave me even more reasons to stay the hell away from cocaine. . .

And man - ain't it amazing what a good woman can do for your life?


Thanks for this, Jim. What a great way to tell your story.

(And I miss the Golden Age of Saturday Morning Cartoons. . .)

TechnoBabe said...

I don't remember the national anthem being played on TV in the mornings. Those were the days though.

Suldog said...

Craig - Thanks! You're a fine storyteller yourself, so your praise means much.

TechnoBabe - Either you didn't get up at 5am when you were a kid or you're younger than I am. Either one is probably a good thing :-)

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

This piece, along with "The Beer Train" are my two favorites of yours. Loved the bit about Wile E., he's always good for a few chuckles. And the way you connect major themes through the decades is outstanding.

Great job, Jim.

Michelle H. said...

I think you only did this re-post so you could add the softball photo to show off your butt again.

Not that I don't enjoy whirling in the deja-vu that is Suldog. But when you throw in something new like that, it forces me to reread the whole thing again instead of skimming just in case I miss something... er, WAIT!

What I really meant is that I always read every post lovingly no matter how many times it's shown like a bad rerun of The Three Stooges. Whew! Glad I deflected that last comment. Um... great post as always!

Suldog said...

Knucklehead - Thanks, Head!

(I hope you don't mind the familiarity. We've known each other for a while now.)

Your childhood tales are amazingly good, so I'm blushing!

Suldog said...

Michelle - Your logic is faulty. There is no such thing as a bad Three Stooges rerun. I still love you, though.

Cricket said...

I'd agree this is one of your best - very well constructed and written. Well hell, if you're going to repost, may as well post the good stuff, right?

The world is a miraculous place. One of my favorite quotations:

There is a sign of god on every leaf that nobody sees in the garden. The fruit trees are there on purpose, even if no one is looking.

Thomas Merton - A Practical Program For Monks

slommler said...

What a fun read! Sounds like you life has come full circle!! And it sounds rich and full and filled with love and laughter. Good for you!!

Suldog said...

Indeed, Cricket.

Oddly enough, just as I was reading your comment, a co-worker brought me an insect wing he had found outside.

Why? He saw it, was fascinated with its construction, and wanted me to see it, too. Not only is the wing fascinating and an amazing proof of... something, but his thinking to bring it to me is also something I consider the handiwork of Providence (or maybe even Tiverton, which joke nobody else is likely to get, so there's my 'insect wing' to you!)

Suldog said...

SueAnn - Good for me? No. GREAT for me. Thank you!

IT said...

At 10, it was cartoons almost all day, a full morning on TV followed by a couple of hours at the local movie theater.
At 20, Uncle Sam wasn't giving me much latitude.
At 30, I'd bought into leading a "normal" life.
At 40, what's "normal?" I was losing it.
At 50, I'd found a routine. It included working on Saturdays.
At 60, still nuts but faking it.
Today... well you said it pretty well. God don't make junk.

Anonymous said...

"mop up grease from the linoleum"

I bet there are still traces of grease on that linoleum, even if the linoleum has been pulled up and is resting in a junkyard somewhere.


This is a terrific piece! I love how you put it together.

Ananda girl said...

What a great post! I can sympathize with some of your evolution to happiness. Actually a lot of it. I think what I like most is the hope here...and your gratitude for the changes. You know what you have and that, is a wonderful thing.

Suldog said...

IT - I discovered, during my late 20's and early 30's, that the more "normal" my life became, the more depressed I got and the more drugs I did. Since quitting the hard drugs, I've endeavored to keep at least a slight touch of insanity in my everyday existence, and I have successfully obviated the need for the drugs ever since.

Suldog said...

Quirky - That linoleum may still be in place in that house. The grease didn't make it look too much worse, truthfully.

Suldog said...

Ananda - I truly believe the biggest secret to happiness is realizing what good stuff you have rather than focusing on the downers. Once you understand how much beauty surrounds you, and how much you've actually been given, you can ride out an awful lot of storms.

i beati said...


Anonymous said...

This is a marvellous post, Jim and aren't I the lucky one to be reading it for the first time. What a brilliant idea and I love how happy you are at any age, taking and making the most of every situation. You are a gem, and if I could think of one I'd give you an award.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Truly miraculous. Glad you're a part of it.

Karen said...

I remember reading this and enjoyed reading it the second time just as much. I'm glad you got off the drugs :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great read, and great for you. I believe also, focus on the good, and you can get through alot of crap. Of course, you say it better. :)

Ericka said...

leftover sushi? good gods, man, that sh*t'll kill you!

glad you made it this long. ;-)

Daryl said...

I remember that test pattern .. local channel (now Fox) was WNEW and it was there when I would turn on our set to watch westerns ... til my sister came along and she wanted cartoons ... pfffit...

Matt Conlon said...

You know, I remember seeing that test pattern too, but I don't know if it was just something that the TV channel put on for laughs, or if it was the read deal. It had to be in the early / mid 80s.

I hope I never see the day when I'm sharing bacon with a cat. MY bacon.

Pam said...

Since I'm new here, it's all new to me and made for a fine read! You are quite the writer and need to write a book if you haven't already!

LOL! I remember those test patterns on TV. I never did get the thing with the 3 Stooges.

Great people like yourself is what makes the world go round. You have a quirky great sense of humor and I will be back here for sure. I love that softball pose too! Way to go! Keep up the good work!

Maggie May said...

I think its my favourite post too. I really enjoyed reading it!
Glad things worked out for you and that your Dad lived to see it.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Mushy said...

Yeah, seems vaguely familiar, but "more better stuff" can't be beat even the second time around.

Carolina said...

And may you keep re-posting this one, with add-ons, for years and years to come.
Very engaging post. I felt happy reading about your teens, not so when you were 20, sad when you were 30, better when you were 40, content when you were 50. Great writing ;-)

Shammickite said...

I'm amazed that you're still alive.

Buck said...

I notice this is a July post, the first two iterations being published on the 9th and 18th. You are getting later and later, tho. And comments are WAY up, so that's a measure of success.

re: bacon grease. I have a coffee cup full of it behind my stove; it's a mandatory requirement for cooking greens of all types, i.e., collard, turnip, spinach. You use bacon grease when you're out of fatback... or sometimes you use both. That's a Suthun' thing tho, you Yankess prolly don't do that.

Teevee stations also used to play the National Anthem at sign-off, which is an unknown concept in our 7x24 world today.

Kathryn Magendie said...

We are the same age, so this made me laugh - but not AT you, of course *laugh*

I remember when the national anthem would come on - aircraft flying, flag waving, tv snow comes on - :-D ---- and the sugar in the cereal - lawd!

loved this . . .

Hilary said...

A wonderful post, Suldog. So nostalgic early on.. and though disturbing later on.. you sure turned out terrific. Thanks for sharing your Saturdays.

Sandra said...

This is great. Even though you are younger than me, your early years with TV's and test patterns are very similar to my memories of Saturday mornings when I was little. I laughed out loud at the part about Caucasians obviously being the target audience for encyclopedias. :)