Sunday, December 10, 2017

I Hope My Buddy Likes This


About a week ago, I was not a happy camper. But then someone went out of his way to do me a favor. And that's the topic of my column in today's Boston Herald.

Robby and me, prior to a cold game in The Fens about four years ago

He refused any payment for his good deed, so the best I could do was give him some ink. So that's what I've done. And here it is, if you click on the link.

Thanks for stopping by. I do appreciate you reading my stuff, whether here or there or elsewhere.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Pearl Harbor




Pearl Harbor happened on December 7th. My column about it ran yesterday, the 6th. My editor - who knows her history, so don't think unkindly of her - thought that running my column on the day before would work also, perhaps as a reminder to remember the following day.

Here it is.

If you enjoy it, and want to share it with others on the 7th, I won't complain.

Thanks very much for taking the time to travel where my columns show up. I do appreciate it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Looking For Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas?


Well, if you're in the Boston area, or you want to give a gift to someone in the Boston area, you need look no further than my column in today's Boston Herald.

Anthony Mitchell Sammarco

Seriously, the person I talk about is an amazing writer of Boston histories loaded with fascinating collections of vintage photographs and illustrations, and anyone in this area - even SPECIFALLY in their own neighborhood - would find them extremely entertaining. At least, I certainly have.

As always, thanks for reading.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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


Some well-meaning people - including MY WIFE - have been hectoring me for years now to write a book. They are swell people - especially MY WIFE - but I've mostly brushed them off because I wasn't quite sure of how to do it. Now, however, I have an idea for the general outline.

What follows was first written in 2007, when it contained only five days. Now updated to six days, since I've gone past age 60, it will be the preface to my book. My plan is to then fill the gaps in each decade with two or three stories concerning what I did during that time to reach whatever state I was in entering the next decade.

I don't know if it will sell but, while I'm putting it together, I'll be able to imagine myself making the rounds of all the major TV talk shows while promoting the book. I think I'd enjoy that. I don't know if the talk show hosts would, but screw them. This is my fantasy.

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

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

AGE 10 (1967)
5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and 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 static 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 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.

6:55am
– 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.

7:55am
– 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 piece.

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. I've got new uppers (implants) that are way better than my old rotten 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 - a few more sunshiny days of playing fast-pitch softball to look forward to this year.

The world is a miraculous place, indeed.



AGE 60 (2017)



My softball-playing days are behind me. Last year, at age 59, I stroked a line-drive single to right field and started jogging to first base. Then something happened that I had seen happen to other people but which had never happened to me before. The right fielder charged the ball and came up throwing to first base.

As I saw him doing so, my softball life flashed before my eyes. I was fast enough, when I was younger, to occasionally stretch singles into doubles. Now, though, I was about to be thrown out from right field on a clean hit. And I had sworn to myself, years ago when I saw it happen to other old guys, that if it ever happened to me I would quit the game right then and there. It happened, I was out, and I stood on first base with my head down knowing it was over.

(Since my manager was nice enough to not immediately remove me from the batting order, I did take one more hack at it a couple of innings later. I shouldn't have. I hit a slow dribbler back to the pitcher and didn't even leave the batter's box. I just stood there and watched the pitcher throw me out. Not even running was perhaps even more disgraceful than being thrown out from right field. At that point, I told my manager I was removing myself from the line-up. He didn't argue.

I was fool enough to take a few at-bats and play a couple of innings at first base after I turned 60. I mostly embarrassed myself by doing so, but in another ten years I'll tell younger players I played when I was 60 and they'll be impressed.)

I now have new uppers AND lowers. Still better than my originals.

MY WIFE is still MY WIFE. That's the best thing in my life, of course.

As for other less-important things, I lost my job of 20+ years at the age of 55. The company I worked for was sold and I was the only employee fired. I was the highest-paid person on the payroll, so I imagine that had something to do with it. Anyway, I had to find something else to do to earn money, so I decided to see if I could make a buck writing. I had been blogging for more than 10 years, getting a good response, and I had sold a couple of op-eds to newspapers in the year before my firing, and I also had no idea what the hell else I might be able to do at my age besides go flip burgers someplace, so I started writing and sending stuff off to various newspapers and magazines. I was blessed to have a few kind editors buy my stuff.


And now here you are reading my book. The world is still a miraculous place, maybe more so than ever before.

On the following pages, I'll be filling in some of the gaps between the decades. As you've probably gathered, it has been a roller-coaster ride. Here's hoping you'll find it enjoyable.

The following is what I usually closed with on my blog. It's illiterate, but by the time I became ashamed of it I had been doing it for too long to stop and my readers expected it at the end of each column. However, it's what God keeps telling me. Sometimes, when I said it, it was a lie. When God says it, never.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Only 29 Shopping Days Until Christmas!


My piece in today's Boston Herald is all about the countdown to Christmas. There are now 29 shopping days remaining.





Knowing my feelings about such abominations as Black Friday, you might expect me to say exactly what I say. Or maybe I've thrown an unexpected curveball and I've said the exact opposite of what you might expect. Or maybe you don't spend every waking moment wondering about what I have to say (which I would find extremely disappointing, I must say.)

In any case, you can click onto this here link and find out what I have to say, rather than spend all day wondering about it.

Thanks for coming here, and for going there, and for - basically - just being you.

Soon, with more better stuff.





Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!



If you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time, you're probably getting tired of me saying, "If you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time." Be that as it may - and it probably is - long-time readers know Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I've rhapsodized about it before, I'll do so again, and today's piece in the Boston Herald is more of the same.

Here's a link to it.


I hope you enjoy the piece. More importantly, though, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Your coming here means the world to me. May God bless your day and may you be well aware of those blessings.

Soon, with more better stuffing.








Sunday, November 19, 2017

MY WIFE


If you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time (which is a puzzler, but I appreciate your mental illness) then you know that I always refer to MY WIFE as MY WIFE; that is, in capital letters. It is a form of respect.

The Boston Herald, which I am proud to be published in, does not allow me to put MY WIFE in all capitals. Oh, well. They pay me, so I won't get all pouty about it. Otherwise, they are remarkably accommodating of my peccadilloes (and I'm not even married to them.)

Anyway, today's piece in the Herald is mostly about MY WIFE. You should click onto this link and go read it. As a bonus, there's a story about me being a dope. What more could you want? Before you do, though, here is a selection of photographs and/or caricatures of MY WIFE, just in case you want to picture her while you're reading my love letter.

(There'll be another link later, so you don't worry about scrolling back up. I'm always thinking of your ease and comfort! Note: these are not in chronological or even logical order. Enjoy the random love!)



















Here's the link to the article, as promised. Thanks for stopping by!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Thanksgiving Comes First


If you've been coming here for any appreciable length of time, you know what the headline is about. If not, you can find out by reading my piece in today's Boston Herald.



As always, I love you (unless you disagree with me, in which case I still love you but I don't have as much respect for you as I would have the other way around.)

Soon, with more better stuffing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Extra! Extra! Read All About Something That Was Three Days Ago!


That's what my column that appeared in Sunday's Boston Herald was all about.

What a dope I am. I had a blog post all set to go on Sunday, pointing you toward that column, but I completely forgot to publish it. So, now's your chance to catch up on old news. Doy!

As always, thanks for reading (even if I got you over there two or three days late.) God bless you.

Soon (relatively speaking) with more better stuff.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Magazine Man Returns


If you scroll down and look at the left side of this blog, you'll see a sidebar headed "More Stuff To Read". In it, I have listed some of my favorite bloggers. At the top is a blurb reading...

The Best Stuff EVER On The Internet - An Inspiration To Me, As A Writer - Mostly Hilarious, Sometimes Touching, Always Excellent

Understand that I've kept that blurb, and the accompanying link, as the first on that list despite the author having not blogged in FOUR YEARS. That's how much I admire that person's talent. That's how much I want you to go there and read his stuff.

His nom de plume is Magazine Man, and his blog is Somewhere on the Masthead. And I'm happy to announce that he has a new entry available for reading. To say that I was pleased to see something new from him is like saying children are somewhat fond of Christmas. What I was, was rabidly overjoyed. I dove into it and devoured it. I hope you'll do the same.

(As I commented over there, the subject matter of his latest is not my favorite. However, as also noted, ANYTHING by him is a joy to read. I mean that. He could write about ancient Egyptian hydraulics and I'd hang on every word. His talent is immense and he should have been rendered fabulously wealthy by now because of it. So far as I know, though, he isn't a multi-millionaire and that's just another example of the inherent injustice of life.)

I strongly suggest you follow up your read of his latest by exploring his backlog. You'll be tied up for months and probably never visit me again (except to thank me for my having turned you on to him.) Your first follow-up should be In Which My Secret Origin As A Super-Villain Is Revealed, which pulls off the amazing feat of being both scary and outrageously hilarious at the same time. That piece was the first I ever read by him. I'm positive you'll find yourself scared for him, at first, and then laughing out loud a short time later. After that, go back to the beginning of his stuff and start reading forward. You'll be introduced to his family, his magnificently faithful dog, his adventures in self-injury, and all of the other things that made many of us hang on his every written word. Then, after a short while, you'll wonder why in hell his stuff is just sitting out here on a blog for free and some publisher hasn't done the right thing by offering him gazillions of dollars.

OK, I've said enough. Go, enjoy.

Soon, with more better stuff (but nothing better than what you're about to discover over there.)


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Long Time, No Blog


By my count, it has been 20 days since I last posted here. I think that may be a record.

In the meantime, by a not-very-odd coincidence, the last time I had something published in the Boston Herald was also 20 days ago. This is because my editor decided she didn't want any of the other three pieces I submitted in the meantime.

She didn't diss me. She was rather nice about it and offered useful constructive criticism. She did NOT say, "You call this writing, Sullivan? Yes, there are words and punctuation - sometimes very oddly-placed punctuation - but the only place it would truly be appreciated is on the bottom of a birdcage."

As I say, she did NOT say that. AND she bought the piece you can now see by clicking onto The Handy Link Below.

The Handy Link Below.

I would have bought all of the pieces, but that's because I like everything I write. I would also have doubled... no, quadrupled my pay because... well, just because. So there.

Apparently, I've run out of useful things to say here, so you may as well go there. Here's Another Handy Link: Another Handy Link.

OK, I'm done for now. Thanks for stopping by. Here's hoping it won't another 20 days.

Soon (if it's not 20 days - or more!)

Monday, October 09, 2017

Columbus Day




Celebrate - or not. I give a few reasons for both in today's column in the Boston Herald.

Here's the column!

If nothing else, enjoy the day off (if you have the day off, of course. If you don't, then do whatever you have to do.)

Thanks for coming here, and thanks for reading - in both places, I hope.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

A Worthy Cause (& Fun!)


The Jared Kenney Memorial Softball Tournament is what I'm talking about.

You can find out a bit more about it in today's Boston Herald. I write about it there.

Here's a link. I hope you'll go there and read what I had to say.

In addition, should you wish more information, here is a link to the Facebook page of the fundraiser itself. They can always use a donation of something fun to be raffled off; and sports-related items are especially good since it's a sporting event attended mostly by those who enjoy softball. Or, of course, just buying a few raffle tickets at the playing site will benefit the charity, also.






If you have the time, and you're in the area, I expect I'll be there Saturday for at least a couple of games. They'll be ongoing, on two different diamonds, from 8:30am onward. Stop by and say "Hi!" If you don't see me, just ask anyone in the stands if they've seen Sully. Since it's being held in South Boston, it's possible the person you ask will respond, "I'm Sully. Why do you want to see me?" and it might not even be me.

Thanks for reading, of course. I appreciate it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Is Donald Trump "Crazy"?


Maybe. Maybe not. Not my call. That's better left to professionals to figure out.

However, how they go about figuring it out, and if they then decide to make their diagnoses public - and if that's in the best interest of both the general public and of the professionals' paid patients - is the subject of my latest in the Boston Herald.

If you'd like to read what I have to say about it, here's a link.

As always, I appreciate you reading my stuff. Thanks!

Soon, with more better stuff.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Swan Song


[me, Fast Freddie Goodman, Mark Alimo, Rob Chatfield]

Eventually, all the great ones reach an age where they can’t perform to the level they once did. It happened to Willie Mays, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan and Bret Favre. I've decided it’s time for me to call it quits, too.

Sunday, August 27, was my last rock concert ever.

Back when my career began, in the early 70s, I showed the promise of a rising young star. My very first appearance in an arena came at the age of 14 as I sat in the second row at the old Boston Garden for a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. Undeterred by the enormity of the situation, I shared a pipe with my friends under the watchful gaze of David Crosby’s admiring eyes. He looked down at us and took time out from his strumming to give us a big “thumbs up”. Having received such approbation from an acknowledged master, I knew I was on the right track.

Following that auspicious beginning, my career followed an upward trajectory, going higher and higher each time. Not willing to rest on my laurels, I continually added to my repertoire. I won’t go into detail, but suffice to say there wasn’t anything handed to me, in a musical setting, that I did not gladly either drink, smoke, snort or otherwise ingest.

There were hundreds of concerts. Name a big-time act and I can probably dredge up a memory (which, considering my career path, is an accomplishment in itself.) But now, at age 60, I’m taking off my uniform of black jeans, sneakers and sweatshirt for the final time. I will fight the morning after no more forever.

I can say I went out on top, though. For my final go-round, I had VIP tickets to see Deep Purple. They were headlining a bill with Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter. I had never bought a package allowing backstage access to a group, but the people with whom I was going wanted that thrill and – since they were willing to split my cost when I balked at the price – I was going, too.

I suited up for the last time and hit the road, with a mostly non-drinking friend driving. Along the way, I downed five beers, a few shots of some amazing spiced rum one of my other buddies brought along, took a couple of (now legal in Massachusetts) tokes, and otherwise geared up as I usually would. By the time we reached the venue, I was yelling “Rugga Bubba!”, which was as close as I could get to “Roger Glover”, the bass player for Deep Purple and one of my heroes.

After watching some of Edgar Winter’s set – including “Frankenstein”, a definite career highlight for someone as drunk as I was – we went to stand in a line from which we would be ushered into the Purple presence. It was near a beer stand, so I had another. There were about fifteen of us, in varying states of non-sobriety, who were brought into a backstage area and told that Deep Purple would soon join us to chat a bit and sign some autographs.

And then, there they were. I mustered up as much fluid speech as I was able. I think I did OK; at least, none of the group members felt a need to call security. I shook Rugga Bubba’s hand, told him of my own bass playing and how much of an inspiration he was to me as a musician, and did not throw up on him or otherwise embarrass my friends. As a matter of fact, Rugga was so taken by my presence that he reached into his pocket and took out one of his personalized guitar picks and handed it to me. All kidding aside, a very nice fellow.

The other members of the group were similarly pleasant. As part of the package, we were given a photo op. We three who had bought the package together also had our photo taken together, wedged in-between four members of the group. Here is the proof…

[L - R: Ian Paice (drums), me, Fast Freddie Goodman, Steve Morse (guitar),
 Mark Alimo, Rugga Bubba (bass), Don Airey (keyboards)]

After that, we caught some of Alice Cooper’s fine set, then it was time for the last concert experience of my career. Our seats were second row, unobstructed to the stage, and Rugga Bubba played about seven or eight feet from us for the entirety of the show. I would say this equaled Ted Williams’s final at-bat, wherein he hit a home run, insofar as musical finales are concerned. I truly thank my buddies, Fast Freddy and Mark, for talking me into buying the package, as well as picking up some of the cost, and I owe you guys more than just money. I would also like to thank my other buddy, Rob Chatfield, who accompanied us and provided the excellent rum.

Of course, I eventually sobered up the next day and realized that, at age 60, my body just cannot stand the rigors of the arena rock experience any longer. As I leave the game, I have nothing to be ashamed of – although I probably would if I could remember more of it - and I would like to assure the proper authorities that I will not be coaching anyone in following my staggering footsteps.

Thank you and good night! Suldog has left the building.

Soon - but not at a concert - with more better stuff.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Missing Persons



My latest in the Boston Herald is a whole bunch of old fart rambling about people who don't exist any longer. It's not that they died or anything; they don't exist in a professional sense, generally speaking. Or they exist, but not in the same way.

Basically, it's unrepentant melancholia. Oh, boy!

Here's the usual handy link...

Thanks, as always, for reading my stuff. If you leave a comment at the Herald website, here's another thank you. If the comment you leave is uncomplimentary, I take it back.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

In Which I Retire...


... from playing softball.

(My softball friends are now laughing and saying, "Oh, no, not again...")

Yup.

If you want to laugh along with them, please go to the Boston Herald and read my retirement speech.

Why, look! Here's a handy link!

As always, thanks for reading (and thanks for not laughing in my face - although that would be a good thing for a purported humor writer, I suppose.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Multi-Millionaire?


Am I a multi-millionaire?

What a silly question. If you don't know the answer, read today's column in the Boston Herald. You will not only get the answer, but you will probably want to have a jelly donut immediately afterward.

C'mon. Isn't that intriguing enough to get you there? Sure it is. Here's a link!

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

LLWS


Little League World Series.

I love it. It's great. It's...

Well, heck, you could go to the Boston Herald and see what else I have to say about it. I hope you will. Here's a handy link!

Thanks for reading. Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Apologies To Mrs. Hickey


Also to Mr. Doucette and Mr. Russell.

Those were the best teachers I had during my otherwise miserable school years. They deserve a mention, as good and entertaining people, since my piece in today's Boston Herald otherwise makes it sound as though my classrooms were supervised by nothing but ogres and trolls.

Also, I am friends with some teachers - Chris Mauger comes immediately to mind - and if my schooling had been accomplished under the tutelage of such as he, I probably wouldn't be the warped and frustrated individual I am today.

That should cover my ass. Now go read the screed.

Soon, with more better stuff (which phrase proves how much my English classes impressed me...)


Sunday, August 06, 2017

Have A Happy Holiday!


Everybody knows there are no holidays in August, right?

Wrong! You just have to be a little creative about it. And I am, in today's Boston Herald. Read my column and find out about a whole bunch of days you can take off (if you don't mind giving your boss a really flimsy excuse.)

Here's a handy link to the article!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you sometime after my celebration of the coronation of King Otto I of Germany in 936, which took place on August 7.

Suldog? Was in der Holle ist ein Suldog?


See? All kinds of reasons to take days off!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Return of 44


Jason Atton - Big Jay - has been a friend of mine for almost 20 years. He being the age that he is, this means I've known him for half his lifetime.

 [2010 - Me, Fast Freddy Goodman, Big Jay, and Joe Baszkiewicz]

Big Jay has always been an athlete. You name the sport, he's probably played it. And not only has he played it, he has probably excelled at it. He played college basketball and won the USCAA national championship with NHTI (New Hampshire Technical).

[6' 7" and superb at blocking out]

I've played with him on a championship team in men's fast-pitch softball (and it was his pitching gem, on the final day of the regular season, that clinched first place for us, even though... well, more about that later.) I know few people who understand the nuances of games more quickly than Jay, and whose physical gifts could as readily make use of that intelligence. Jay has tremendous reflexes and great hand-eye (as well as foot-eye) coordination, and those are gifts, but it has always been his grasp of the details that impresses me. He may be the smartest player with whom I've had the pleasure of sharing a softball field.

That surprises some people when I say it, but it's the truth. The reason it surprises some is because Jay has a great sense of humor and he often plays the fool just to get some laughs.


But make no mistake, he always knows the score (so to speak.)

Because he has such a firm grasp of the rules of various sports, Jay is also a referee/umpire. He earns a good portion of his living reffing football, etc., and it's never a good idea to challenge Jay on a rules interpretation. He just plain KNOWS.

Now, about that softball game I mentioned earlier; the one he pitched for us to clinch first place in the regular season? That was in 2014. Jay ended that day laying on the bench, absolutely drained, and some of us were truly concerned. It had been a hot day for a game, Jay is a very big man (that's why he's BIG JAY), and his uniform was drenched by sweat. We had no idea how concerned we really should have been.

[Fred wasn't unconcerned; he just didn't know]

A few months later, Big Jay was in Houston, visiting with family, when he suffered a massive heart attack. There was serious fear that he might have suffered kidney damage that would require a transplant, since he was also diabetic (something some of us didn't find out until then.) He was more-or-less in a coma-like state for a long time, and speculation about his brain function returning to normal was also on the table.

I'm happy to report that Big Jay made a recovery from all of it. Hell, happy isn't the word; ecstatic is about right. Lots of people, me included, had prayed hard for the big man. But, since then, Jay's physical state hasn't been totally free from trouble.

His diabetes and (I'm the last person to nag, considering my own bad habits, but it has to be said) his lack of taking care of himself led to more bad news. This athletic man, who loves sports so much, had to have both of his big toes amputated. Jay took it with the good humor and grace he has always displayed - immediately after the operation, he said. "Now I can only count to 18..." - but it was a big blow. Jay pretty much had to learn to walk again, let alone be able to go back to sports.

Since then, he's engaged in some smaller athletic endeavors, such as bowling. If you didn't know about his particular handicap, you'd never guess it from his bowling. Jay still beats hell out of me (granted, everybody beats hell out of me.) Jay also took the field again to ref football, umpire softball, etc., but the one thing he wanted just a bit more - and which I have wanted to see since his heart attack - was to make a return to a playing field and pitch softball.

This past Sunday, he did.

Our regular season ended on Sunday, and there was an all-star game and cookout immediately following. In the week leading up to the game, Jay approached me with a GREAT idea. He would be at the all-star game and so would I, but not as players. We would be umpiring the game - me behind home plate, Jay covering the bases. One of Jay's very best friends, and a great guy in his own right, Joe Baszkiewicz, was one of the 24 players chosen to play in the all-star game. Jay thought it would be great fun if, the first time Joe came up to bat, he was allowed to trade places with the pitcher and throw to Joe.

The idea was greeted with enthusiasm by everybody who had to be in on it. And so, when Joe Baszkiewicz came up to bat, with one out, Big Jay called time, walked to the pitcher's mound, and - to Joe's surprise - took the ball from pitcher Brian Pacheco and got ready to pitch.

I was also in for a surprise. Pacheco walked in to where I was umping behind the plate and told me he would take over. He said I had to catch. The all-star catcher, Tony Hutchins, graciously took a seat on the sideline. Jay had specifically wanted both Joe and me to be involved. I squatted, Joe batted, Pacheco umped - and Jay pitched.

It was the first time he had taken the field in that league since that sweat-drenched gutty 2014 game three years before. It was the first time he had pitched competitively since the heart attack that almost cost him his life. It was the first time Jay had thrown a real pitch since losing his two big toes.

It was magnificent.

Big Jay legitimately got Joe out (Joe may be Jay's very good friend, but he was in the all-star game for a reason and he would have loved to have gotten a hit off Jay, I guarantee that.) Then, next up was Drew Atton, Big Jay's cousin, who was pitching for the other team. I stayed catching and Jay stayed pitching. And Jay retired Drew, too, to end the inning. Jay walked off the field to very heartfelt congratulations from both sides. He was legitimately exhausted, though. Eight pitches in a broiling sun had taken it out of him, so he took a seat in the shade and Fast Freddy Goodman took over umping the bases.

It was as good as sports gets. That Jay asked for me to be included, as catcher, means the world to me. Hell, I'm getting misty just thinking about it again. Thanks, Big Man.

And now, I'm turning this over to Jay, because he wants to say something to all of you.

"I want to say how some days were hard going to a Bombers game hurt that I could not be there playing with my family. But even if I only threw 8 pitches today, it was the best feeling in the last two years, and with those pitches it gave me hope that next year I can play with my family. How each person who said they will pray for me, or asked how I was doing, really helped out. The amount of support I received from the league today - the hugs - lifted my spirits. Me pitching to my best friend Joe, and having Sully catch me, and to share the field with my cousin Andrew, might now be my best moment in my sports career, even overshadowing my national championship season. Thank you."

Soon, with something else (but it won't be better than this. It couldn't possibly be.)