Friday, April 27, 2012

Ball




In case you're new around here, here's something you should know: I love fast-pitch softball. I love playing it, I love watching it, I love doing statistics concerning it, and I love writing about it.

Some folks find my posts about softball dreadfully boring. I understand. One person's extremely enjoyable activity is another person's drudgery. I think MY WIFE would attest to that.

(Cooking, wise guy. I like to cook, she doesn't. If you thought I meant something else, shame on your dirty mind.)

So, softball season is here again. I'm playing on two teams this year, as I've done for most of the many years I've played the sport. One team plays on Sunday mornings, the other plays on weeknights.

This will be my 18th season with my Sunday team, The Bombers. My other team, Quencher Tavern, plays in the M Street Softball League, one of the premier fast-pitch leagues in the city. It's my first year with them, although I've had eight seasons in that league with other squads.

Anyway, I was going through a file folder full of softball photos and I decided it would be nice to run a post with my favorites. That way, I could get my softball blogging fix while not completely wasting the time of those people who can't stand it when I write about the subject. Everybody likes pictures!


Although it's not an action shot, and was taken in a parking lot, this might be my favorite softball photo of them all. It's just Fast Freddy Goodman and me, following the final doubleheader of the 2007 Sunday season. I love playing ball, but when I look back on what I've enjoyed about my time on a field, it's usually the camaraderie that I recall most fondly. Freddy has been my teammate for over 25 years. I'd trust that New York Jewboy with my life.


Bombers, following our loss in the 2010 championship. It was the closest I've ever come to being on a championship team, and I'm extremely proud to have been their teammate. We had a 14 and 2 regular season, just smoked other teams all year, and then swept the two opening round series. For the championship, though, we were undermanned. Five players were unable to make the games, for various reasons, and that included at least three definite starters. I have no doubt we win the championship if they were there. Still, we held a 1 - 0 lead through six complete innings in game one (games are seven innings) and Big Jay Atton almost dragged us across the finish line by himself, tossing the shutout through six and accounting for the lone run with a solo homer. We lost it in the seventh, then dropped game two, also. The guys pictured all had loads of heart. Despite the smiles, those hearts were a bit broken when this photo was shot.

L to R:

Front Row - Big Jay Atton, Joey Baszkiewicz, Fast Freddy Goodman, Tom Resor
Middle Row - Jack Atton, Jim Sullivan, Pat Atton, Ben Czarnecki
Back Row - Ron Johnson, Drew Atton, Danny Espinosa, Josh Lebron, Manny Hernandez


Me just prior to the 2010 Championship. Being at the field and anticipating the upcoming game is great. The day is always full of heroic promise.


This is just a shot of the field at M Street. I particularly like the evening sun, with shadows from the triple decker apartment buildings to the left encroaching on the field, and the way the various players are reacting to the ball (which appears to be a pop-up to left.)


Another group shot of Bombers, from an earlier year; possibly 2005. The dress code didn't appear to be too stringent then. This shot was taken at Cleveland Circle.

Front - Stu Stone, Jim Sullivan, Matt Widiger
Rear - Jack Atton, Charlie White, Ron Johnson, Matt Stone, Pete Maczkiewicz, Mike Martin, Andy Angelone


You should recognize this one. It's basically my avatar from this blog. The avatar is a baseball card with some airbrushing of the background, while this is the original shot from the 2004 season at M Street with the Sidewalk Cafe team. That was the most talented squad I've ever been a part of, man for man. We lost in a very exciting semi-finals series that year. For the record, it was while I was a part of that team that I hit my most recent home run. Yeah, it's been eight seasons since my last dinger. I was 47-years-old then, and I'm positively ancient now, so the prospects of me hitting another one are growing dim, but hope springs eternal.


Here I'm not quite so ancient. This is me from 1996, my second season with the Bombers, age 39. The shot is at Smith Field, Brighton, where we play the majority of our games. Notice the mullet hair. Also, compare to the previous photo. What can I tell you? Catchers like to squat.


Now back to being 54, from last season at M Street. Not too shabby for a fossil. I like the (almost) squared off lines between my forearm, my front shoulder, and the bat. Notice my rear foot. It's about four inches deeper than my front foot. That's the kind of stuff you have to adjust for when you play on city fields. I'd like to see what A-Rod would do if you gave him a batter's box like that.

(Well, of course, he'd still croak the ball, but he'd piss and moan about it first. We just play.)



This is my all-time hero on a softball field, the ageless wonder, Bobby Ripley. This was taken in 2007 during my final year with the Flames in the Fenway League (I played with them from 2005 to 2007.) Bobby is 78-years-old in this shot. And he wasn't a coach. He played. He's probably still playing. Every time I start complaining about some age-related hurt, somebody should smack me on the back of the head and say, "Bobby Ripley!"


Probably my favorite batting stance photo, from a game at Cleveland Circle, 2010, versus the Reds. I have no idea what sort of pitch that catcher is expecting, though. He looks like he's checking for rain.


Another nice shot of Fast Freddy and me, with bonus of Big Jay Atton. Notice how the bench area slopes toward the field? And Big Jay is standing on the low end of it? And he still towers over Fast Freddy and me? That's why he's BIG Jay.


Guys, in general, don't mind showing off their battle scars, but softball guys, for some reason, seem particularly gleeful about it. This is my good buddy, Jack Atton, showing the aftereffects of being hit in the bicep by a batted ball.


Finally, a shot taken by MY WIFE, following my final game with the Flames. Dirt, Sweat, Knee Brace, Moody Lighting... What's not to love?

Soon, with more batter stuff.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yes, I Ate It



OK, we'll get to the good stuff soon enough, but first here's some GREAT stuff. If you've been as annoyed with Blogger's new interface as I have (on Friday, I said, and I quote, "SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS.") you need suffer no longer. Innominatus, by way of Ivan Toblog, has provided useful advice. Go to the dashboard, click the little gear logo in the upper right corner, and "Old Interface" is one of the choices.

You're welcome. Now, on to more important matters.

On Friday, I promised (or threatened) to show you some video of me eating a Krispy Kreme doughnut topped with a sardine, some tuna, an anchovy, hot sauce, and a hunk of salami. Before you get to see such nauseous footage, though, you need to know why I did it (aside from the fact that I'm a gluttonous idiot.)

Every year, in Somerville, Massachusetts, there is a Fluff Festival. That sounds like a carnival for behind-the-scenes porno workers, but it isn't. It's actually a celebration of the gooey delight known as Marshmallow Fluff, a treat invented in New England.




I attended the Fluff Festival (also more correctly known as What The Fluff?) a couple of years back. I did so because I've been a fan of Fluff since my childhood. Not only did I enjoy it in the ubiquitous Northeast schoolboy sandwich known as a Fluffernutter, but I also used to eat spoonfuls of the stuff right from the jar (on those mornings when my parents were sleeping in and I felt that I could take a big scoop of it without such theft being detected.)

Anyway, I'm at this gathering and there are many Fluff-centric booths and displays. Some were serving up various treats made with Fluff. One of these featured a concoction that made everyone, without exception, say "Yuck!" when they first found out what it was, but which made almost everyone who actually tried it go "Yum!"

It was Fluff, canned tuna, and hot sauce, served on a saltine.

Yeah, I know. Yuck! But I tried it. Yum! It was really, truly delicious. Unless you're willing to try it yourself, you'll just have to take my word for it. It worked. It really did. It was as delightful in reality as it was disgusting in conception.

(If you have the ingredients handy, you should eat some now. I'm not kidding. The combination of sweet, hot, salty, and fishy, is miraculously better than it sounds.)

Having had that revelation to draw upon for inspiration, I decided to... well, first I need to give you some more background.

Here at my place of employment, we periodically have sardine fests. That is, those of us who like sardines bring in three or four tins each, throw them into a communal pile of oily goodness, and feast on them during our lunch hour. As you might imagine, this is not enjoyed by everybody in the office. It takes a particular love for stinky little fish to truly get into the spirit of it.




This past Friday, we scheduled "Sardine Fest 2012". Aside from some sardines, there was canned tuna, canned anchovies, canned smoked trout, a vicious salami, cheese that was strikingly mild and unstinky by comparison, saltines, hot sauce, and one-and-a-half leftover Krispy Kreme doughnuts from a dozen that had been in the kitchen the day before. Recalling my experience at the Fluff Festival, I decided to see if adorning one of the doughnuts with some fish would result in a treat.


[Me, giving a bad name to the Celtics. Hutch is in the background, rather seriously preparing some sardines on toast with Heinz salad creme. This is the very definition of 'to each his own'.]

I have to say it was decent enough to pass muster. And I will now rationalize my consumption of it. You think it was only vile and disgusting, but you're wrong. You see, what I did was make eating a doughnut healthier! I imbued it with all sorts of wonderful omega-3 fish oils, very heart-healthy, and rather than just swallow empty sugar and fat calories, I filled my donut experience with loads of B vitamins, calcium, and protein!

Or I'm just one step removed from a sideshow geek and I was doing MY WIFE a favor by making it much easier to collect on my life insurance. In any case, it tasted good. And I wasn't alone in experimentation. I convinced my buddy, Dan, to try the leftover half a doughnut with tuna and some of the cheese.



We are both still alive, so far as I can tell, and it's probably 50-50 that we'll eat something weird again someday. Stay tuned.

And now, considering the comments some of you made on the previous post, you should either leave immediately or get a barf bag handy. Here's the video.


video


OK, truth be told, a glazed doughnut is better without fish, and fish is better without a glazed doughnut (but neither is as good as a saltine with tuna, hot sauce, and Fluff) and I'll take any of the above over having to watch Toddlers & Tiaras.

Soon, with more better stuff (although I've set the bar mighty high here, you have to admit.)



Friday, April 20, 2012

Rest In Peace, Post Entitled Rest In Peace, Manute Bol (And Other Ephemera You Probably Don't Care About)



In 2010, I noted the passing of Manute Bol. I published a post about his death, and I said some nice things about him. For some reason, that post keeps getting boatloads of hits every day. I'm not sure why. I'd like to think it's because the people clicking onto it enjoy reading about Manute Bol (nice person that he was) but the number of hits it gets, and the short duration of stay for most, leads me to believe that there is something else happening. I haven't the slightest idea what that something else could be, though.

In any case, I have decided to pull the post. Anyone who needed to be made aware of Mr. Bol's passing has certainly found out about it by this late date and, while I don't like to delete stuff, especially a tribute to someone I admired, if I can't figure out why it gets hundreds of page views a day, then maybe I don't want to be party to whatever in hell is going on. So, the post is now gone.

 (If somebody is really interested in seeing it, feel free to e-mail me. I'll send a copy.)

****************************************************************

 Next on today's list of things nobody asked me about, the M Street Softball League begins its 43rd season of play on Monday. My new team, Quencher Tavern, plays in the opener. It's a step up in class for me. Quencher played in the "A" division last year. My previous squad, which I managed and played for the past two seasons, was a "C" team. In baseball terms, it's like going from a double-A minor league team to the majors. I've played on "A" squads before, but I was younger then. Come Monday, we'll begin to see if my 55-year-old ass is up to the task. The mitigating factor is that I'm going to be the backup catcher on this squad, not the starter. And that's fine by me. The returning starter, Nate Spada, is a good one; a better hitter than I am at my advanced age, for sure. So, I'm more than happy to be Bob Montgomery to his Carlton Fisk.

 (My numbers for the past two seasons look good enough compared to his, but he was facing mostly top-flight pitching and, for the most part, I wasn't.)

*****************************************************************

Meanwhile, The Bombers will not begin actual league play until May 20th. It's no fault of the guy who serves as our commissioner - he's a nice guy, does a good job, and has to deal with the restrictions placed upon him by the city of Boston and its parks department permits - but I think that start date sucks.

I would dearly love to see the league begin in April, and end later in September or October, getting at least four or five more doubleheaders in. I love getting out on Sunday mornings in the summer when much of the rest of the world is quiet and drowsy. I'm a Christian, but I feel no guilt about missing church on these Sundays. I really do thank God from deep in my heart when I'm on that field. It's much more of a real religious experience for me than if I were sitting inside somewhere and wishing in my heart of hearts that I was somewhere else, playing ball. Anyway, we at least have a pre-season scrimmage this Sunday, so I get a chance to knock some more rust off before the Monday evening opener at M Street. Here's hoping I don't cripple myself before either season truly begins.

******************************************************************

Finally, today I ate a Krispy Kreme donut that had a sardine, some tuna, hot sauce, an anchovy, and a hunk of salami on it as toppings.




Yes, I did. If any of you doubt the veracity of this claim, I will post video, on Monday, of me accomplishing that gustatory feat. All I'll say for now was that I did it of my own accord and it was delicious. Yup. It's not easy getting in shape for the season, but I'm giving it my best shot.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. The new Blogger interface SUCKS. I've ended up posting this four times before it came out how I wanted it to look, approximately. SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS. Thanks for listening, and have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Reason For The Photo Of Shemp Will Become Somewhat Clear In Just A Minute




Tomorrow is MY WIFE’s birthday. She is going to be the square root of 938,961 divided by the number of championships the Boston Celtics have won. I express her coming age in those terms because women are notoriously bad at math and it’s a 50-50 shot she’ll be pleased with me if she tries to work it out.

(I’ve never understood why women get so pissed if you tell someone their age. It’s as though they all had a stake in some global competition to defraud each other. Men don’t give a hoot how old a woman is, especially after a few beers. Women are the only ones who care, much the same as men are the only ones who might give a damn about what position Shemp Howard would play on an all-slapstick-comedian baseball team.)

(Just so you know, Laurel & Hardy would be the pitcher and catcher, respectively, and I’m pretty sure I’d put Harpo in center field...



... Chico at third base, Harry Ritz at shortstop, and Larry Fine at second. For obvious reasons, Lou Costello would be on first. That leaves Bud Abbott, the rest of The Ritz Brothers, Wheeler & Woolsey, Joe Besser, Joe DeRita, Zeppo Marx, and Shemp, to fight it out over the remaining two outfield positions. Groucho Marx would be the manager, and Margaret Dumont owns the team. Obviously, Moe Howard is the designated hitter. Curly is my closer, and the organist will play Pop Goes The Weasel every time he enters the game.)




So, as I say, tomorrow is MY WIFE’s birthday and she’ll be the cube root of 185,193. What better gift to give her than a blog post that gratuitously insults the mental faculties of women and makes her husband appear to have some sort of weird Asperger’s concerning the relativity of on-base percentage and custard pies? Not to be completely immodest, but I think I’ve nailed it. If you know what’s good for you, the rest of you guys will make sure your wives never see this. There’s no way in hell those dozen roses and box of chocolates can compare.

(I actually bought a wonderful gift for MY WIFE, but it won’t arrive by her birthday. Considering what it is, that’s highly ironic. Of course, since you don’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about, the irony isn’t apparent to you AT ALL. Suffice to say it would be like Vernon Dent, Edgar Kennedy, James Finlayson, and Bud Jamison being the umpiring crew. Ha-Ha!)

(The ball girl, of course, will be Lucille.)

So, Happy 1.6576171 to the 6th power (more or less) Birthday, WIFE! I love you more than Christine McIntyre, Daphne Pollard, June Gittelson, Molly Sugden, Penny Marshall, and ZaSu Pitts, combined! Considering they’d be the starters on my all-physical-comedienne hockey team, that’s high praise, indeed.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(On second thought, considering the following photo...




... I think perhaps MY WIFE can replace Penny Marshall as the goalie.)

P. S. You may be wondering why I’m publishing this the day before MY WIFE’s birthday, instead of on the day itself. It’s because I’m taking tomorrow off and we’re going to a casino. I figure God might allow her to hit some sort of obscenely huge jackpot to make up for her having to be married to me.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dorothy's Funeral



Dorothy’s funeral was yesterday, at Saint Mary’s Church, Franklin, Massachusetts. Long before she died, she thought about what she might like for some of the particulars concerning her service. The funeral home, Oteri & Son, had previously been used by the family for interment of Dorothy’s sister, Patty, and Dorothy had made them aware, at that time, of what she wanted when her time came. It was a pleasant surprise to hear about this, as we had been unaware that she had made known her wishes in that regard. Anyway, I thought some of you might like to know about the music and readings she chose.

The form was the Order of Christian Burial as performed in the Catholic Church. I won’t take you through every bit of the rite, but it is useful to know that it includes the usual important events which transpire during Catholic mass – readings from both the Old and New Testaments; a gospel reading (followed by a homily, or sermon, from the priest, with inclusion of some reminiscence of the deceased’s life, most especially as it would tie in with the gospel reading, if possible); commemoration of The Lord’s Supper (communion); and a final commendation of the deceased into God’s hands.

There are spots within the service where music may be chosen for inclusion. Dorothy chose the following hymns:

Amazing Grace

Be Not Afraid

We Remember

How Great Thou Art

I was especially pleased to see that she had chosen Amazing Grace. It is probably my favorite hymn.

(Before I knew which hymns had been chosen, I had thought that one of them might have been On Eagle’s Wings, which was one of those I had chosen for My Father’s funeral mass. It was also used at a few other burial services I’ve attended, and it never fails to bring me to tears. Truthfully, I was afraid that Dorothy might have chosen it. I didn’t want to break down sobbing, and I could not have gotten through the singing of that song without doing so. As you can see, she didn’t choose it. However, when I opened the hymnal, looking for the other songs, it was the first one I saw. That, and another later coincidence, gave me pause for thought.)

I’ll now give you the complete readings chosen by Dorothy. I should mention that, since this was a Catholic service, one of the three may not be recognizable by even a very devout Protestant. As you may know, the Catholic Church considers inspired several books that are part of the Apocrypha, or extra-canonical literature, not included in the 66 books of the Protestant Bible. One of these is the book of Wisdom, written in approximately 100 B.C., during a time generally considered as a time of silence from God, between the testaments, in Protestant tradition.

Here are the readings, as they appear in The New American Bible, in the order they were read at her mass.

Wisdom, 3:1-6, 9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For, if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality. Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace, He proved them, and as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself… Those who trust in Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide in Him in love, because grace and mercy are with His holy ones, and His care is with the elect.

Thessalonians 4:13-18

We would have you be clear about those who sleep in death, brothers; otherwise you might yield to grief, like those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, God will bring forth with Him from the dead those also who have fallen asleep believing in Him. We say to you, as if the Lord himself had said it, that we who live, who survive until His coming, will in no way have an advantage over those who have fallen asleep. No, the Lord himself will come down from heaven at the word of command, at the sound of the archangel’s voice and God’s trumpet; and those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then we, the living, the survivors, will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thenceforth we shall be with the Lord unceasingly. Console one another with this message.

John 11:20-27

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary sat at home.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died. Even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask of Him.”

“Your brother will rise again“, Jesus assured her.

“I know he will rise again,” Martha replied, “in the resurrection on the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he should die, will come to life, and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, He who is to come into the world.”


After the service, MY WIFE and I spoke briefly to two of those in attendance. One was a hospice caregiver of whom Dorothy always spoke highly. The other was the woman (Gail Eddy) who has taken over the care and feeding of the feral cats that Dorothy so loved. It was a blessing to meet both; one who took such great care of Dorothy in her final weeks, and one who is continuing Dorothy’s good work.

The second coincidence I teased you with earlier? As we left the church, the first thing we saw was a cat walking out of the church parking lot. I had not asked for a sign concerning Dorothy’s well-being – I’m glad to say I had enough faith to KNOW she was well – but that would have done the job, and I’ll say thanks anyway.

And finally, here's an article, by Allison McCall, from The Milford News. I'd like to thank Ms. McCall for her understanding. I was touched by reading this. It is as fitting a tribute as I would have written myself. Allison interviewed me for this piece and it was a distinct pleasure speaking with her.

Soon, with more better stuff.



Friday, April 06, 2012

Thank You, My Friends



This is just a short note of thanks to those who expressed sympathy concerning Dorothy's passing.

There were so many of you who cared. Your expressions of sympathy, and your prayers, were (are) much appreciated.

From a spiritual viewpoint, I have no doubt concerning Dorothy's final disposition. I like to think of her sharing the wonder of Easter morning in the company of He who promised her eternal life.

Be that as it may - and it is - addenda you may find useful or interesting:

First, Dorothy's funeral mass will be held at St. Mary’s church in Franklin on Monday morning at 10:00 AM. The funeral director informs us that Dorothy had planned the readings and picked out the music herself. I'm glad to hear that.

Obituary, from Charles F. Oteri & Son.

Next, here's a very nice farewell from my and Dorothy's friend, Jackie.

And now, a video I found on-line. Most of you only know what Dorothy looked like from my horrible photography. This video shows her in her 'natural habitat', some three years ago, feeding the cats she so dearly loved. I am very grateful to the person who shot this. I never expected to find actual footage of her walking around, so this was a very blessed surprise.

Blog Tails - Ricky Ferreira

The cat shelter so helpful in caring for Dorothy's cats was Purr-Fect Cat Shelter. I'll be making a donation in her memory.

Finally, a reporter from Dorothy's local paper spoke to me on Thursday, concerning a story they wished to run on either Saturday or Monday. I don't have details concerning that yet - when exactly it will appear, for instance - but you could check The Milford Daily News website. By the time you read this, it may be up.

Again, thanks for the love.

Soon, with more better stuff.



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Goodbye, Dolly Ann



My cousin, Dorothy, died yesterday. She was 84. Cause of death? God's grace.

I mean that. She didn't have a great life to live these past several months, so I consider her passing a blessing. She was entirely bedridden, due to her advanced osteoporosis, and her vision had been compromised via macular degeneration. Thus, she never left her bed at the nursing facility (except for perhaps once a week when the staff gently put her in a wheelchair to go down the hall and take her weight, which hovered between 75 and 80 pounds) and she could not entertain herself with such pursuits as reading (which she dearly loved to do.) She spent her days and nights in bed with little to entertain her aside from her roommate's television set (and she had no choice concerning that, as her roommate kept it on both day and night, something which would have driven me around the bend, but to which Dorothy seemed benignly resigned.)

Her other maladies included cancer of the breast (she had previously had a partial mastectomy, thus the use of the singular), lung cancer, a touch of arthritis here and there, and, as near as her physicians could figure, she had lived through 5 or 6 heart attacks during her life (that diagnosis made via electrocardiogram.)

She was not going to get better. Neither were her living conditions. She was not one to complain, or to cry about her circumstances, nor to regret whatever had brought her there, but it was a trial for her. She was in pain during one of my final visits with her, and she expressed it to me. She was in pain before, too, but she never said anything to me when I visited. For her to say something means the pain had to be excruciating.

The staff decided that Dorothy should be administered morphine. She was on it continually for her final ten days. As a result of the medication, she barely opened her eyes a week ago when I made my usual Tuesday visit. Instead of the nice hour or hour-and-a-half chat we generally shared, I was only there for about five minutes. When I realized she was comatose, and wasn't going to be able to speak, I held her hand for a bit, told her I loved her, and kissed her on the forehead before leaving. And I knew, as I left, that I wouldn't be returning. It had been the last visit, and now it was just a matter of when she would be leaving us. And that time came yesterday.

She was a special person. I don't know anyone else on the Sullivan side of my family who would have endured so much pain with so little complaint. That's not a dig against any of my other relatives, past or present, but just a compliment for Dorothy. She was a rock in that regard.

She was intelligent, and she was smart. Those might seem to be the same thing to some of you, but they aren't. What I mean is that she had book learning (a masters degree in education, which she put to good use as a teacher for many years), but she also had common sense and some fair degree of what would be termed "street smarts".

(She was a lady - the feminine of 'gentleman' - through and through, so she rarely, if ever, needed to be 'street smart', but she mostly knew what was what. She wasn't a bumpkin.)

She was devout, a daily communicant in the Catholic church until her physical maladies didn't allow her to continue going to mass. As such, she was fearless concerning her demise. I suppose a statement such as that needs to be qualified by adding the obvious: I'm no mindreader, and I don't know what she feared deep within her soul and in the dark of night, but she never gave any outward indication of being afraid. Her faith was strong, and that was a very good thing for her to have when dealt the hand she was.

She was a funny woman, told a good story, and had a sense of humor concerning herself. As with many from her side of my family, she would often tell a tale using herself as the butt of the joke. She wasn't afraid to look like a fool if she knew that the person she was speaking with would get a laugh. It's a true blessing when someone like that is part of your life.

She was many things, most all of them good, but I think she would probably like to be remembered for one thing above the others. She was The Mad Cat Lady of Franklin.

She used that term when describing herself, by the way. She knew she looked like a loon to some folks, going out in the woods twice every day to take care of a bunch of feral cats. She was their living saint, though, and she cared for these mostly unloved animals, with money she could barely afford to take from her own pockets, for years and years. Some in her town of Franklin regarded her with much love for her good deeds, most others were bemused, and a small minority would have rather she hadn't done anything.

Those cats were her lifeline. She kept them alive and they kept her alive. And they loved her and trusted her. They were not domesticated. They would not come near any other human, and anyone else trying to touch one of them would no doubt have gotten claws and teeth as a thank you for the effort. They loved Dorothy, though. They'd come right up to her, rub up against her, let her do whatever she wanted - pick one up, pet it, whatever.

Dorothy made use of this loving familiarity from the cats to help the cats. They trusted her, so she was able to take those needing medical attention to where they could get it. And, lest you think she was a misguided person without the true best interests of the cats at heart, she took every one of the cats that she could easily capture to be spayed or neutered, then returned them to the pack after the operations. Dorothy also took kittens to a local shelter for adoption. Thus, the pack was shrinking while Dorothy took care of them. It grew smaller with each passing year, and thus less troublesome to those few folks who would have liked Dorothy to stop her humane actions. They didn't understand that, without Dorothy, the pack would have grown and been full of diseased animals possibly spreading rabies and other things to more animals. Dorothy not only kept them fed, she kept them as healthy as it was possible to do.

(She did this with the help of a kindly veterinarian's office, as well as the aforementioned shelter in her locale. They knew of her efforts, approved them, helped her to accomplish the good things at little or no additional cost, and also placed as many of the kittens as possible into loving homes.)

She gained some small measure of fame. She was interviewed for TV and had a couple of stories appear in newspapers. As a result of the publicity, some folks sent her a few bucks to help. That was nice. Of course, with the good comes the bad. She also became blog fodder for her dopey cousin Suldog. And that's where you come in.

I owe you a debt that can't really be repaid. So many of you went out of your way to make Dorothy's life much nicer, these last few months, than it ever could have been without your love. The cards, letters, gifts, drawings, books, stuffed animals, and other nice things you went out of your way to send her, were greatly appreciated by her. Although her eyesight prevented her from thanking each of you personally via mail, she always made sure to ask me to thank you for your generosities. Those cards and such which I didn't read to her, the nursing staff did, getting almost as much of a kick out of them as Dorothy did. They marveled at this frail little woman, best known for feeding cats, getting mail from all over the world.

Having said thank you to you, I don't know that there's anything else to add concerning Dorothy. Her mass will be said, but those arrangements have not been finalized. Given that this is Holy Week in the Catholic church, it may be delayed until next week.

I'd certainly be remiss if I didn't mention my Uncle Jim here. He'll tell me that I shouldn't have mentioned him, and that whatever he did is just what a family member should have done, but that's not true. If he hadn't done it, it never would have been done. He, and his partner John, were the other family members involved in Dorothy's life over the past few years, and their efforts on her behalf were much more of a bother than what I did, which was just visiting Dorothy and enjoying her company. For instance, they will be absorbing all of the funeral costs, settling what little there is to settle, and taking care of all the legal stuff. For that, they should be heartily blessed. They have my blessing, anyway, for whatever that's worth.

If you didn't know Dorothy from previous writings here, and you wish to read more about her, here are the links to the stories I did, in chronological order:

Dorothy


Dorothy & The Cats - An Update


Another Visit With Dorothy

A Favor For Dorothy

Dorothy Says "Thank You!"

Dorothy Leaves Latin School

A Short Story From Dorothy

Dorothy & The Ingrown Toenail

Dorothy & The Handwriting On The Wall

She Killed Me Everywhere!

Oh, and the title of this? Dolly Ann was her favorite nickname. It's explained in "A Short Story From Dorothy".

Again, thank you. And God bless you.



Tuesday, April 03, 2012

N. O. Specific Reason...






New Orleans...

We went there on our anniversary, a little over a month ago. I usually write up something about a trip immediately after getting back from one, but I've had a difficult time finding the right words.

The short version? It was fun. The food was great, the music was fantastic. And it's one of the friendliest cities we've ever visited. I can honestly say we didn't run into one sourpuss or grouch the entire time we were there.

So, why the problem writing about it? I'm not quite sure. There was just something about the trip that made it seem to add up to less than the sum of the individual parts. And I can't completely put my finger on what that something was.

Here's a possibility: We like art museums and theater. There's little-to-no theater in that town (unless you count the people on Bourbon Street, most of whom are middle-aged fratboys who should be permanently confined there for the safety of the nation) and the art museums we visited weren't anything special. Nothing outstandingly wrong with them; just no "Wow!" moments.

Another possible? MY WIFE wasn't as enamored of the food as I was. I like spicy; she doesn't. New Orleans food, in general, is spicy. So, maybe I was worrying about her food, and she might have been worrying that I was worrying about her.

A third possibility is that the guide books kept harping on how crime-ridden the city is, so maybe we were always on edge about where we were and apprehensive that we were about to cross some ill-defined border into a zone where tourists were advised not to go.

Other possibilities? We're old fuddy-duddies, and New Orleans is a city that prides itself on being young at heart, a party town. We planned the trip for only four nights, so maybe we just plain didn't give ourselves enough time to relax between post-9/11 airport hideousnesses. Maybe our trip into the neighborhoods devastated by the floods made us think too much. Or maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves to have some sort of impossibly superb experience because it was our once-every-four-years anniversary.

I truly don't know.

The hotel was fine. It wasn't a palace, by any means, but it was good enough. We had a jacuzzi in the bathroom. That was fun.

We very much liked riding the streetcars. Very pleasant, and the drivers were, without exception, patient with our touristy selves. The passes we purchased were a great bargain, too.



[Photo from Tram Track]


We went on one of the most enjoyable tours we've ever had the pleasure to experience. Our guide was a native who had lost most everything in Hurricane Katrina, so the personal experience she brought to the tour, especially when she brought us over to the Lower Ninth Ward, was inestimably touching. We learned things from her, that's for sure, and she was relentlessly upbeat for someone who had been through so much. Would that we could have such guides everywhere.

We found the clubs on Frenchman Street exhilarating. The number of talented musicians in New Orleans is stunning, seemingly as numerous as catfish in the Mississippi.

So, like I said, we had an enjoyable time, overall, but I think it's not likely we'll plan a return to New Orleans anytime soon. It feels as though we pretty much did everything we would want to do there. Maybe that's all it is. Maybe we were completely satisfied and we don't know how to handle that.

There were two true highlights I wish to share.

We went out to a nightclub (Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse) to enjoy a leisurely evening of drink and music. It's a close space, crowded with tables, and I wanted to watch the musicians work, up close, so I grabbed a table next to the drummer (he was set up on the right side of the small stage.) I got to see him work pretty much from behind his kit, which is what I wanted. Just before the band went on, he said "Hi" to us and asked something about us sitting so close to him; I forget the specific question. Whatever it was, my reply spurred him to say, "Well, then, you won't mind if I cut loose!", to which I gave him a big thumbs up. And watching him work was a revelation. His name is Geoff Clapp and he's the best drummer I've ever heard.

(I later found out he's been recorded, and been on tour, with Wynton Marsalis and other very big names. He's also been awarded "Best Drummer In New Orleans" in a magazine poll, among other accolades. Pretty impressive credits at GeoffClapp.com...)

During the first set, I helped him position his music stand once or twice (it was a crowded floor, as I said, and he had to set it next to my chair.) We became decent buddies during the break between sets. I told him how much I admired his playing (I complimented him on a couple of things he did, stylistically, that a non-musician might not have noticed), and he was kind enough to let me tap out a couple of rhythms on the arm of my chair after I inquired about what brand of sticks he used. We told him we were on our anniversary trip, and he congratulated us by buying us a round from the bar.

After the second set, he had his wife (who was in the audience) come over and snap a photo of us with him. Then he invited MY WIFE and me to a CD release party he and another band were having two nights later. He put us on the guest list (saving us a $25 cover, as I recall) and all in all he was a swell guy to meet, a true gentleman and a great artist at his instrument. I told him to definitely get in touch, should he be touring Boston, and we'd treat him and his wife to a great meal.

Here's the photo...




The other highlight was our actual anniversary, at The Commander's Palace.

Magnificent restaurant, superb service. Emiril rose to fame from there, as did Paul Prudhomme. Anyway, I had mentioned, while making the reservation, that it would be our anniversary dinner. When we arrived, every damn person we met - maitre d', waitress, sommelier, busboys, I mean EVERYONE - wished us a Happy Anniversary. They gave us extra-attentive service (and the service is magnificent to begin with) and gave us a souvenir photo of the restaurant and staff, as well as a menu autographed by the chef (which is a big damn deal in New Orleans, as chefs there are like rock stars.) We had the tasting menu (right side, on the menu below), which was 7 courses, all with wine pairing, and I gave the biggest tip of my life. I recall it was $120, about 30% of the bill, and afterward I seriously wondered if I hadn't UNDERtipped, the meal and the service was that good.

And Geoff Clapp time again! His wonderful wife, Szylvie (I hope I'm not mangling the spelling too badly - she is of Eastern European descent, and charming...) had made sure that our evening would be special, beyond what the restaurant staff did. She had an envelope sent to our table. We were quite surprised to find that it contained a lovely framed black & white shot of us from the evening before, when we had first met them at the club!




Truly, they are two of the nicest people on earth. God bless them!

Here are the restaurant mementos...






So, yeah, we had a hell of a good time. I still can't quite put my finger on why it seems like less than it was. I've certainly painted a picture here of a fine vacation, right? Heck, I even won some money on my one visit to the casino.

Maybe we're just insane to be analyzing it so much.

(MY WIFE called, just as I was about to publish this, and she suggested that maybe I shouldn't publish it. Her reasoning - bless her heart - was that she felt it wasn't quite up to my usual standards in some ways. She suggested that perhaps I had written this only because I somehow felt pressured to do so. There may be some validity in that. My brother-in-law, a wonderful writer, is currently working on a project detailing the many ways that Carnival is celebrated in various locales, and I don't think I'm overstating it to say that he loves New Orleans. He asked me my impressions of the city, and I pretty much told him what I've told you here. I do feel, to a certain extent, that he and others have been expecting me to write about it. Notwithstanding all of that, I [obviously] decided to publish it, anyway. I think doing so has helped to clarify my thoughts a bit more than if I didn't. And, after re-reading this a few times, I've come to the conclusion that the best explanation I can come up with for not classifying this trip as a great one is solely because of the inability to get at the reason for feeling that way. By all objective standards, it was a fine time we had.

Perhaps it is only because New Orleans is a conundrum unto itself that it seems one to me. I am beginning to think that it is a complex city disguised as a simple one. It is full to the brim with both happy and melancholy. It is both catholic and Catholic. It is among the most phony and cardboard tourist-trap places in America, but it is also a deeply spiritual home for those who actually live there; people who were as badly abused by their city as some of the residents were during the catastrophic events in the recent past would not hold the same desire to return, or to stay, had it happened to them in some other city. It is opulent; it is decaying. It welcomes with open arms, but also threatens somehow. It is the pinnacle for some, the final resting place for others. It has the most noble street population of anywhere on earth.

[While waiting for MY WIFE to come out of a shop in the French Quarter, I saw a man sleeping in a doorway. He was dressed in tatters and rags, had lengthy white hair and beard stained yellow in some places by unknown substances, and a dog was laying there with him. He could have been anywhere from 50 to 70 years of age. As I stood there, smoking a cigarette, a well-dressed tourist came by. This person had on a three-piece suit, hair slicked back, what looked like Gucci shoes on his feet and possibly a Rolex on his wrist. He pulled out a camera and, while smiling what can only be termed an oily smile, snapped a photo of the man and the dog. He then went on his way. My overriding thought was that the bastard should have at least left a buck or two in the bum's hat for the privilege of getting such a good photo.

The man awoke, saw me smoking, and called me over. I expected to hear some sad story and get a plea for a handout. Instead, he reached into his dufflebag, pulled out a cigarette, and offered it to me. He asked if I smoked menthol cigarettes, explaining that he didn't and he hated to see it go to waste. Lucky guess on his part, I suppose, since I do smoke menthols. I accepted it and, still having the distasteful thought of the fellow who snapped his photo in mind, I then offered to buy him a pack of non-menthol cigarettes. He absolutely refused.

Someone else, another street-looking person, walked by. He asked that person if they had any smokes they could lend him. The answer was no. I again offered to buy him a pack. He again refused.

He wanted a cigarette. I offered to buy him some, but he would have none of it. And that, in a nutshell, is what New Orleans seems like to me. Friendly, generous, wanting, not wishing to take too much from strangers, though, and basically able to find some sort of happiness in whatever situation God lays in its lap.]

And even this bit of writing is overblown and pretentious, but also true. I think maybe I can't put my finger on it because the city won't allow it. Does that make sense? In any case, I had to publish this.)

Soon, with more better stuff.