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.)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Umpire




This week's entry in the Boston Herald is all about my experiences as an emergency fill-in umpire. Even if you don't like sports, there are life lessons. If you don't like life lessons, well, there's sports!

Here's the usual handy link!

Thanks very much for reading. I always appreciate it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. The umpire in the above drawing is wrong. Since the catcher has the ball in his hand, and not in the glove, that runner is safe. Just thought I'd point that out so you nitpickers in the crowd would know I understand the rules.

P.P.S. I have no idea how the umpire and the two players could possibly get into that position. Either the batter was sliding head first on his back from third base or the catcher is facing the stands and couldn't possibly have gotten the throw from anywhere except behind the plate and that's impossible with the umpire standing in front of him.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Go To The Boston Herald


Figured I'd cut to the chase. Here's a link!

Thanks for stopping by. Here's the usual lie.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hair (And Lack Of Same)


Here's what happens when you go from being a bass player to being a freelance writer.


Before

After
Well, OK, all of my hair loss wasn't because I stopped being a rock star and became a writer. There were a few years between these photos where I was neither. However, the two photos do rather nicely illustrate what's in my latest piece, which is published in an on-line site called Purple Clover. I hope you'll go read it right now!

(If you don't, the stress you'll be causing me might make what's left of my hair fall out. You wouldn't want to be the cause of that, would you?)

As always, thanks for reading!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Just Pigeons


My piece in the Herald yesterday gave a shout out to various forms of urban wildlife. Among those I extolled as my favorites were pigeons. I know a lot of people don't share my fondness for them, but I think they're lovely birds.

As a follow-up, I recommend the book Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman.


This is how good of a read I think it is: If you don't like pigeons now, you might be a convert after reading this fascinating account of the history of the bird. I found out things I didn't know about them; things that would have made me an admirer even I hadn't been one already. For instance, pigeons were responsible for saving thousands of human lives during times of war, via their amazing homing instincts and the carrying of messages from the battlefront, and some have been awarded their country's highest honors for bravery. As much as I like soft cuddly bunnies and such, you can't say that about rabbits.

Anyway, I thought it a good idea to turn you on to the book since I enjoyed it so much. And now I have done my job and will leave you alone.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. For those who might like more about the book before rushing out to buy it, here's the New York Times book review.

P.P.S. While the Times reviewer seems to take points away for Blechman's first-person narrative, I found it one of the more charming aspects of the book. Of course, I almost always write in the first person, so I would.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rabbits & Pigeons & Turkeys - Oh, My!



I don't know what else to tell you about today's column in the Boston Herald. I suppose I could throw in squirrels, possums and skunks, but that's about it.

Thanks for reading!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Fr. Vinny


Those who have been coming here for a long time know that I'm a nut for men's fast-pitch softball. I've played the game for over 35 years and I rarely miss games. In the Sunday league of which I've been a part for the past 23 seasons, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Sundays I haven't been at the field ready to play. That includes times I've been injured and couldn't play at all. I still showed up to keep the book, coach the bases, etc., because I figure if you're a part of a team, you're still part of the team even if you're in a cast.

Today, I'm missing my games - voluntarily.

And gladly.

The man who performed our wedding ceremony, Fr. Vincent McKiernan, CSP, is in town as part of his 60th anniversary of ordination (yes, 60th.) MY WIFE and I will be attending the 10am mass at The Paulist Center in downtown Boston, where Fr. Vinny will be the celebrant. And I wouldn't miss that for anything, even softball.

I write about it (with no mention whatsoever of softball, for those who dislike reading about sports) in today's Boston Herald. Read all about it HERE.

Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure Fr. Vinny would be appreciative if you offer up a prayer or two as an anniversary gift for him!



Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Two For One! FREE! FREE! FREE!


Step right up, ladies and gentlemen! I've got a deal here you will NOT want to miss! Step right up!

Let me tell you what I'm going to do, folks... I'm going to give you TWO reading experiences for the price of one! That's right, ladies and gentlemen, instead of you coming here and getting just your usual dose of literary nutrition, I'm going to give you the opportunity - and an opportunity it is, my friends - to indulge your appetite with not just one, but TWO excursions into the wonderful world of words, the luminous light of linguistics!

Right here, right now, you're getting what you usually get at an establishment of this sort - a few aptly-chosen adjectives, perhaps a bit of gentle jocularity - but for NO extra cost - not a red cent, because they don't make 'em that color any more - I'm going to give you the chance to slurp up so many syllables, you'll be literally literarily sated.

By clicking the link to your right - THIS ONE HERE! - you will be taken to another read, a second read, an amazing read, at least equal to, if not surpassing, this one! That's saying a lot, ladies and gentlemen, but not nearly as much as I'm about to say, so pay attention! Not only will you have had the words in this space for your brain to chow down upon, but you will be presented with an entirely different concept altogether and allowed to shift gears, mentally speaking, and give your mind the superior sort of workout it has been craving!

Do you want to keep feeding your head the usual diet of triteness, trash, triviality, tripe, and other words beginning with "T", that it has been starving upon? Of course you don't! You know what's what and you want to take advantage of every opportunity to heighten your horizons, boost your brainpower, inflate your intelligence, accentuate your abilities and explode your edification! Let those bullies in the library kick George Sand in your face no longer! Become a he-man (or a she-woman, depending upon what you were when you came in) and pump up your personality with a perfect pastiche of pleasingly priapistic paragraphs or, if you are of the female persuasion, make yourself the envy of your friends, both male and female, as well as undecided, with an immersion into a sea of sexually seductive sesquipedalian semantics, and that's only PART of what's being offered here, folks - only a mere taste of what you can have if you CLICK ON THE LINK!

Not satisfied? Not enough? Tell you the truth, my friends - and that's what you are, my friends, so I wouldn't lie to you - I wouldn't be satisfied, either. I can see you're a person of taste and refinement, not willing to settle for the ordinary and mundane, so I'll tell you what I'm going to do (but keep it under your hat - that is, between just you, me and the internet - because if it gets out that I'm offering such a deal, I'll be trampled by so much traffic I won't be able to meet the demand and will have to face the authorities for false advertising and this is the real deal, friends, believe me.) Tell you what - just for YOU, you understand - I'll give you a THIRD piece of literature, guaranteed to be at least THREE times as wordy as this one and just as incomprehensible! Yes, just click on THIS LINK RIGHT HERE (but only AFTER you click on the other links, please, or else all deals are nil, null and void in every state except shock, which is what you'll leave me in if you don't follow directions) and you will be whisked away to a fertile field of fervid and feverish fecundity (the sort advertised in the back of "those sort" of magazines, folks, but keep it on the down-low or else they'll put me out of business; you understand because you're a person of intelligence and a word to the wise is entirely unnecessary) and I promise you - absolutely rock-bottom, iron-clad, stone-cold and word-to-your-momma GUARANTEE you - that you will never see anything like it before, after, since, previously, concurrently or forthwith, no matter what amount of money you... What's that kid? This makes no sense? Go away, kid, you bother me... and if I'm not telling you the truth, I will not only refund every penny you paid, but twice the amount you didn't! You can't beat that with a stick, ladies and gentlemen, and furthermore, if I can't prove the veracity of every syllable uttered on these pages, as well as the TWO others (TWO others!) I'm directing you to, then I'll shove a toy surprise up my ass and you can call me Crackerjack!

It's a limited time offer, folks, so not to alarm you, but you have to act now because supplies are liniment and I don't want to rub you the wrong way! Hah! Just my little joke to break the tension, folks, so pay no attention to the man behind the curtain - what he's doing is not for innocent eyes! - and scroll up to the first link and click it! If that column doesn't deliver everything I've promised, don't act as though I didn't not warn you, friends, because I am a man of my word, and that word is flabbergasted, which is what you will be for the remainder of your days if you do NOT act NOW!!!


Soon, with more better stuff, friends - IF you click on the links! - and I absolutely affirm that no ambiguities will be attained nor any perquisites left unperked unless my name isn't worth the paper I rode in on, and this isn't paper, it's a computer screen, so what more proof do you need?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hey! Here I Am Again!


Rumors of this blog's demise (started by me) were obviously exaggerated. Or at least a lie, because here I am again! Of course, there isn't anything here that hasn't been here before. It is still just a way to get you to click onto this link to the Boston Herald, which will bring you to my latest piece for that august journal (even though it's only June.)

As always, I'm happy that you hardy few are still coming around to see if I might have reformed or something. Maybe someday. In the meantime, please believe me when I say I'm grateful. I am.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the Herald piece.

Soon, with more better stuff.

(I've been telling that lie for so long, I see no overwhelming reason to stop now.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thanks For Reading


I so rarely use this blog space for anything new and original, I might shut it down soon. In the meantime, though, here's another redirection to the Boston Herald. Today I grouse about the way people applaud.

Really. I'm in total old fart grousing mode.

Thanks for reading! I would say, "Soon, with more better stuff" but I don't want to insult your intelligence.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Uncle's Day!


Yup. I start today's column in the Boston Herald by being willfully ignorant (as opposed to obliviously so, as is usually the case.) Then I realize my mistake (which is also a rarity.)

Why not go there and come along for the stupid ride? Here's a link!

As always, thanks for reading this increasingly moribund blog. Someday, I might actually put some original stuff here and not send you careening off into the ether to find it.

Soon, with more better stuff (although you'll probably have to go to the Boston Herald to read it.)



Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Thank You, Republican National Committee


Sometimes, when I'm stuck for something to write about, God delivers an idea.

Well, this time it was the U. S. Postal Service, the Republican National Committee and MY WIFE, in that order. First, mail was delivered to our house. It was addressed to MY WIFE and came from the Republican National Committee. When she read what they had to say, she knew it was something I could write about and maybe get a couple of laughs.

The result appears in today's Boston Herald. CLICK HERE TO READ IT.

Overall, I still have to say it was a gift from God. That's because MY WIFE is, too. And without her giving me the idea, none of it happens. So, thank you, WIFE. And thank you, God.

Soon, with more better stuff (as long as my sources don't dry up.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Shhhhhhh!


My latest piece in the Boston Herald takes place in the "Quiet Car".




Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Soon, with more better stuff.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day


What I have to say can be found on the pages of the Boston Herald. I hope you find it worthwhile.

Thank you.

Jim


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!


My Mom, at some various stages during our lives, in chronological order...

Christmas, approximately 1961. My Mom with hands on my shoulders.

First Communion, a Catholic ritual wherein parents buy a white suit that will never be worn again.

During my days as a (barely) working musician. Mom seems tickled. Maybe it was a contact high.
My wedding. Mom with hands on shoulders. Niece Alyssa arguing theology with MY WIFE.

Thanksgiving the year MY WIFE was in the witness protection program.

My Mom eating something, which is what people do on occasion.

Mom with my late stepfather Bill.

Our latest Thanksgiving. Mom on the far left.

My Mom is the best mom. At least, that's what I say in my latest piece for the Boston Herald.

If you disagree, too bad.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Prefer Rabbit's Feet When They're Attached To Living Rabbits


However, all other good luck charms you use in order to give the Boston Celtics an edge in tonight's game will be appreciated.

For a more in-depth look at the subject, please see my piece in today's Boston Herald.

(Oh, who am I trying to kid? There's nothing in-depth about anything I do. It's mostly fun - I hope.)

Thanks for reading (and for any curses directed Washington's way.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

I Am SOL* When It Comes To Sol


I like a nice warm day - more and more as I get older, actually - but the sun and I are not best buddies. That's the subject of today's piece in the Boston Herald. I hope you'll head over there (or, better yet, buy an actual hard copy) and read what I have to say. By all means, feel free to leave your own comments concerning memories of sun-related stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Soon, with more better stuff.

*Shit Out of Luck, for those fortunate enough to have not run in the same obscene circles I have.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Deja Vu?


Today, my contribution to the culture is a slightly longer form - with edits - of something those of you who follow me on Facebook may have seen a couple of years ago. As is generally the case these days, you'll need to travel to the Boston Herald to see it.

I was going through some older writings, looking for something I might be able to shine up and sell, and I came upon the piece. It was about half the length, back then, as what you'll find at the Herald today. I like to think it now contains a couple more laughs, too. Anyway, if it sounds somewhat familiar? That's because, like I said, some of it was part of a Facebook post of mine a while back.

What this amounts to is that you came here with good intentions and now I'm sending you to the Herald to read something you may have (partially) read on Facebook already.

Yes, I have my nerve.

As always, though, I truly do appreciate you stopping by and you're definitely invited to the after-party when I cop a Pulitzer sometime around 2023. There will be free pork egg foo yung for those able to show an actual hard copy of today's Herald. For those unable to prove they actually bought the paper, there will be a consolation dinner of canned cocktail weinies.

If you enjoy the piece, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or Linked-In or...

(When you read the piece, you'll understand I'm being a hideous hypocrite by asking you to do that. Or I'm just joking. I suppose you'll decide which it is depending upon how much you like the piece.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Oy Vey?


That's the only clue I'm going to give you concerning my latest piece in the Boston Herald. If that's not intriguing enough to get you to go there, you're a mashugana.

Soon, with more better schmegegge.


Monday, April 24, 2017

The Things I Loved And Miss


(I originally wrote this 7-1/2 years ago. Nothing much has changed since then - I still miss the same things, for the most part - so here it is again. If you weren't here for its first reading, you'll be at least as befuddled as the people who were. The old stuff follows the test pattern, much as was the case in the days of my youth when I turned on the TV at 5:20 am and The Life of Riley came on at 5:30.)




This is something I wrote while under the influence of drugs.

One night, following one of my not-infrequent dental procedures, I was gulping down Percocets while drinking several mugs of coffee. The combination of opiate and caffeine lent itself to a hazy sort of insomnia, somewhat pleasant and especially productive in bringing to the forefront of my mind a raft of nostalgic memories. What follows is my scribbling from that evening.

(It actually WAS scribbling. I usually type anything of considerable length, sitting at our ancient computer sans internet hookup, but I filled four pages of a loose-leaf notebook with this stuff, tightly spaced, while sitting up in bed drinking more coffee, popping more pills, and chain smoking. Considering the circumstances, it was reasonably legible.)

I truly doubt that any one of you will share all of these memories with me. And, no denigration of your mental faculties intended, but I rather doubt you’ll even be able to understand all of them, so don’t sweat it if one line or another is as incomprehensible to you as Sanskrit. Just go on to the next one and the one after that. I’d have the same trouble comprehending your four pages of scribbles. I’m fairly certain, however, that you’ll find at least a few things with which you’ll be able to identify. If I jog a few memories of your own, I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments section.

One final note: These are, as the title says, things. They have little to do with people, at least directly. They are the objects, and the experiences with those objects, which I miss. Had I been in the state of mind mentioned, sitting up and thinking about the people whom I miss, I’d still be scribbling. Memories of things, while inductive to a sort of benign melancholia, reach a point where one has to say ‘enough is enough’ and then you let it go. Memories of actual persons who loved you, but are no longer around, don’t allow such facile closure at 3am.

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

The big old Admiral TV.

(Jackie Gleason on Saturday night, Ed Sullivan on Sunday night, The Three Stooges many mornings, and getting channel 10 or 12 from Providence when there was a good show on one of those and it was not being carried on one of the Boston stations. When we got a converter box, and hooked it up to get UHF for the first time, it was damn near magical.)

World Series games played during the day.

The fan-forced heat coming on while I lay on the rug by the vent reading The Golden Book Encyclopedia (which, by the way, is still where most of what passes for knowledge inside of my head came from.)


The knick-knack shelves and their odd contents.

The Welbilt stove & refrigerator. The spelling was weird, but damned if they weren't well built. From my childhood, until I left that house at 37, they worked beautifully and had never had a single repair.


(I got the photo from here.)

Milkmen, bakery delivery by the Cushman’s bakery man, "Any old rags?", Doctors who came to you, and Pete the ice cream man.

Simpleminded comic books where you didn't have to think too hard and just get lost in the fantasy.




















Sunday funnies that were actually funny, rather than misplaced editorial cartoons.

Sports that knew their season.

The days when advertisements weren’t for things so embarrassing that you feel like running away and hiding if you're in the company of a kid.

(Yeah, this is current. I couldn't find the old Viagra ad I wanted, but this will do for uncomfortable.)


The pure joy of the last day of school.

The Sports Huddle. God bless you Eddie, Mark, and Jim!

The little trolley, especially on a hot summer Sunday when no other traffic was making noise and you could hear it coming from two stops away. And the days when the trolley had real leather seats, lusciously padded, and you could open the windows for the breeze.


Sundays that were Sundays.

Here’s one for us bald guys: Going to the barber and getting a real full haircut, not a 5-minute trim.

Real doubleheaders.

The elevated from Forest Hills to Dover, and then again from North Station to Everett.


The smell of Starlite Cleaners on River Street.

(I still get a vision of childhood anytime I pass by a dry cleaner and get a whiff.)



Ice-cold Coca-Cola in a green bottle.








So many candlepin bowling alleys where I sweated and had fun - Lucky Strike in Dorchester, Sammy White’s in Brighton, Kenmore Bowladrome, Wollaston Bowladrome, The Superbowl in Quincy, The Symphony Hall 55, others in Weymouth, Milton, Braintree, whose names escape me now.

Saturday morning television when it was nothing but cartoons.

For that matter, I miss test patterns, sign-ons, sign-offs, morning and evening prayers, the national anthem, and even farm & market reports.

Huge bowls of Quake.


Insight, The Living Word, Lamp Unto My Feet, Davey & Goliath, and similar Sunday morning television offerings.

Saturday matinees at The Oriental (and a "businessman’s special" at The Cathay Village afterward.)

The towers at Baker’s Chocolate.


Being absolutely mesmerized and delighted in the toy aisles of department stores.

The library in Lower Mills – odd little rooms, great children’s section, friendly and helpful librarians.

When the Neponset River Bridge was made of wood, leaning against the railing and just watching the river go by.

Snow at night and going to bed hoping for no school in the morning.

Listening to the "no school" announcements on the radio and hearing "Boston – no school, all schools."

Sitting in the subway at Park Street Under, smoking, people watching, and letting the trains go by.


Friday afternoon educational movies in the third-floor auditorium of the Gilbert Stuart.

(Getting to the third floor was a bit scary for me, being afraid of heights as I was. There was a huge window to pass by on the landing between the second and third floors. If I was unlucky enough to be on that side of the stairs in our double-file march up, I would shut my eyes and hold my breath as we passed it. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do to increase my chances of not falling through it. But, once we reached the auditorium, it was all good. The films themselves were usually interesting, and, if was something boring, then Stephen Murphy and I would exchange jokes and giggle in the dark.)

Getting a slice of the hideous pizza sold at Park Street station.

(This was on the way home from Boston Latin. Since I hated going to that school, the pizza was the highlight of my school day. How times have changed over such a short span! Pizza was not ubiquitously available then as it is now, so having a chance to get a slice of horrible pizza – and this was easily the worst pizza in the entire city – was still a rush and well worth the quarter spent. Oh, was that pizza bad! You’d sometimes take the first bite and burn the roof of your mouth, concurrently burning your chin when the entire slab of cheese would slide off the hard dough and slap onto your chin. Then, to save your face and palate, you had to spit out the cheese onto the passenger platform. This left you with a piece of doughy cardboard slathered with cheap tomato sauce. Since it cost you a quarter, you still ate it. Hell, if nobody else had been around I would have retrieved the cheese from the floor of the subway. A quarter was a big deal to me then.)

In Concert, Friday nights at 11:30 on ABC.


(The best televised rock music show of my youth. Others preferred The Midnight Special, on NBC – which actually aired at 1am on the east coast –, but In Concert had more metal acts. Also, In Concert was filmed at varying locales, giving it the feel of a true concert experience, whereas Midnight Special had the groups come in and play on a soundstage, introduced by the barely-tolerable Wolfman Jack. There was the syndicated Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, but the performances on that show were often lip-synched, something I despised.)

Powerline

(This was a religious radio program, airing at 11pm on Sunday as I recall. They played some excellent current metal songs interspersed with a bit of evangelism. Odd, but somehow comforting, listening.)

Exploring my parent’s bedroom closet, as well as the downstairs coat closet.

(There was something entirely comforting about those two spaces in our house. They were enclosed, warm, dark, and full of interesting things. I used to like to sit in them sometimes and just forget about the outside world. One of the major problems with growing up is that you can’t fit inside closets and under tables. Or, even if you can, people look at you oddly when they see you coming out from one of them.)

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

I suppose that’s enough pointless nostalgia for one sitting. I’ve got another three pages worth of this stuff in my notebook, but it will wait.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Libertarian Says "More Government, Please!"


The libertarian is me.

What brought me to this sad state of affairs? The recent incident involving United Airlines and their unfortunate passenger, Dr. David Dao.

Where do I connect the dots? The pages of the Boston Herald.

Reasonable people can disagree with my call for action. They might believe the current situation is just fine, or that the necessary corrections will take place organically. I don't.

Anyway, here's where you can find my scribblings (unless, of course, you're near a purveyor of the Boston Herald, in which case you should buy the hard copy and I thank you.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!


Obviously, some of you have big family gatherings today, while others may be enjoying some early morning egg-hunting with the kids. And, of course, there is church-going and prayer. The number of Christians who said to themselves, "Hey! Let me see what Jim Sullivan has to say this morning!" is likely low. So, I expect more of my wonderful non-Christian friends may be reading this.

I wonder how many of my wonderful non-Christian friends feel like clicking onto this link and seeing what I have to say, about Easter, over at the Boston Herald?

Maybe a few. If you do go there - or if you're one of my Christian friends who inexplicably is visiting with me this morning and you go there - you'll find a fun story about a friend of mine and his lost car keys. Here's hoping you enjoy it!

And with that, I am done here today. Happy Easter to you, if you celebrate it. Heck, Happy Easter to you even if you don't celebrate it. It is a joyous day of celebration and I'm sure Jesus would welcome you to his coming out party if you decide to change your mind someday.

Soon, with more better stuff (from me, I mean; Jesus already gave you His best.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Taxes


Not to bum you out, but you realize taxes are due soon, right?


 [photo found at the IRS website, which is quite useful]


I can honestly say I'm not bummed out at all. This is because our taxes are already done AND we're getting a refund from both the IRS and the state of Massachusetts. I was pleasantly surprised. I actually thought we might end up owing, but no, so yay us!

This is not to say that I don't have a few cogent comments to make about taxes. I do so in my column appearing in the Boston Herald, which you can find by clicking onto this red sentence fragment.

Something I did NOT mention in the column is that I've always been treated well by the IRS. In theory, I'm against most taxes, but the people I've dealt with from taxing agencies have always been pleasant and fair to me. I have an accountant do our taxes now, since they've become a bit more troublesome what with my being self-employed, but when I used to do our taxes, I twice made math mistakes and the IRS corrected the math IN MY FAVOR and didn't make a big deal out of it either time. They just sent us a bigger check, with a small note saying something like, "You made a mistake and we corrected it. Your return has been adjusted accordingly." They didn't even say "... adjusted accordingly IN YOUR FAVOR", which I think showed admirable restraint on their part.

That's about all I have to say that I didn't say in the Boston Herald, so you might as well head over there now. Thanks for stopping by!

Soon, with more (allowing for normal use and depreciation) better stuff.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Life Is Good


Two things combined this week to make me realize I’ve got a pretty good life: I went to the dentist and our refrigerator light burned out.

Short history of my dental woes… One side of my family had brutally bad teeth and those were the ones I inherited. Thanks, Dad! About 15 years back, I had most of them yanked because they were gruesome and I had already had enough toothaches to last me a lifetime. I had implant surgery and got a new set of choppers.

My teeth, before

My teeth, after

Since you may be eating breakfast, I won’t go into the details of that surgery. It was amazingly grody. Suffice to say my newer teeth are made of plastic.

Now, you’d think - since I have plastic teeth - I would no longer need to go to the dentist. That’s what I thought, but no. It turns out I still need to visit the dentist every six months to have a thorough cleaning and allow him to tell me my current set won’t last forever and I should invest another nine or twelve thousand dollars for a better-looking new set. I always tell him I don’t have that kind of money to spare, the old teeth work just fine thanks, and I don’t care what they look like because they’re never going to look as bad as my originals did. Then he schedules me for my next six-month scolding.

Meanwhile – watch this transition; it’s so smooth you’ll hardly notice I’m changing topics – our refrigerator light burned out last week.


[Here I wanted to put a photo of our refrigerator without a light.
However, you wouldn't be able to see it, so I haven't bothered.] 

This was the first time such a calamity had befallen me. I didn’t even know where to look for the burned-out bulb. It turned out to be hidden away in a nook on the front of the refrigerator’s ceiling, so I had to reach my hand in at an awkward backwards-facing angle to unscrew it.

Once I had the bulb out, I looked at it with a frown and then shook it next to my ear because that’s what you do. If you don’t hear the “I’m a broken light bulb” sound, you screw it back in because you figure it was just having a little joke with you and now it might work again. It doesn’t, of course, so you unscrew it again, give it another frown, shake it one more time to be sure, shrug when you still don’t hear anything, then throw it away. After that, you realize you don’t have one of those bulbs handy because you’ve never had one burn out before, so you have no light in your fridge until you buy one. This presents no great problem in the daytime, but it surprises you when you open the door at night because you’ve had thousands of midnight snacks in your life and you’ve never had to feel around for the salami and cheese before.

So, I’ve given you five minutes of what are now called, by some, “first-world problems”. What can I say? I have teeth; I have food; I have a refrigerator (with a light); and I live in the first-world, so that’s what I tend to write about. If it helps any, I’m always thankful about it.

You, of course, own some sort of computer or other device on which you can read this, so life in the first-world is probably decent for you also. I have no idea what kind of shape your teeth are in, but I hope you at least smiled once or twice just now.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

My Favorite Team


A few weeks ago, a friend asked me who my favorite Boston sports team was. He supposed it was the Red Sox, but he was wrong. It's the Boston Celtics.

At one time, the Red Sox would have been tied for first. The Celtics, however, have never been any lower than number one. They are my team in a way that the Sox, Patriots and Bruins are not and likely never will be. They are the only team of the four that I have faithfully followed from the first day of my fandom, without interruption, and the only one of the four I followed faithfully while all of my friends did not.

I delve into that, and other reasons for why I bleed green, in today's column in the Boston Herald.




Make no mistake: If you were to ask me which sport is my favorite to play, it's baseball/softball. I've done so for over 50 years, while the last time I actually played a game of basketball was over 25 years ago. But insofar as watching a professional team, I've been to more Celtics games than I have any others. They remain the only team for which I've had a season ticket. They are the only team that I've seen, in-person, during their sport's championship finals. I've attended more playoff games of the Celtics than of the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins combined.

As I said, there were times when the Red Sox would have been my co-faves. The baseball and basketball seasons didn't overlap in any significant way for many years, so there was no reason to make a choice between the two. Now, however, if it comes down to a Red Sox game versus a Celtics game? No contest whatsoever. MY WIFE will tell you I never miss a Celtics game. If I have to be doing something else while it's on, I will tape it for viewing later and assiduously avoid TV, radio, social media and any other ways I might hear the final score, until I have had a chance to watch.

Well, be that as it may - and it most definitely is - you can read more about my love of the green team in today's Boston Herald. I hope you enjoy it. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Soon, with more better dunks.

(See what I did there? Instead of "stuff", I said "dunks". A dunk shot is sometimes called a stuff shot, so... Yeah, it's weak.)


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Opening Day




Spring officially arrives by calendar in March, but in the Boston area it doesn't really get here until Opening Day. Once we see baseball being played, we know it's safe to go outdoors without mittens and boots. If the Red Sox can run around in knickers, the rest of us can ditch the long underwear.


Baseball was a passion of mine for a long time. Now I find myself, with Opening Day approaching, not as excited as I once would have been.

There are multiple reasons for my state of unexcitement. I delve into some of them in my column in today's Boston Herald. You should go there and read about them (or not, if you hate me and want to see me be a failure as a columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper.)

The reasons I don't explore in the Herald are mostly things that have to do with one of my other jobs. In addition to being a writer, I earn a few bucks as scorekeeper for a fast-pitch softball league in South Boston. In that capacity, I'm at a ballpark over there for about five hours every day Monday through Thursday. Not only does that prevent me from watching the Red Sox on a nightly basis; it also pretty much gives me my fill of guys hitting, pitching, fielding, running bases and doing all the other things the Red Sox do. And the guys in Southie PAY for the privilege to do those things and they pay ME part of that money. The Red Sox charge people to see them play, pull down multi-million-dollar salaries, and don't give ME any of it. No contest.

Really - if you know someone playing the game, and you know they give it everything they've got, AND they care enough about it to PAY for the privilege, pro baseball doesn't come close. And that's the major reason I'm not as caring about Opening Day as I used to be.

But, as I say, there are other reasons and I give you some of those in the Boston Herald.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by. I appreciate it. After all, I'm not unaware of the irony of someone who used to give his stuff away for free now making his living complaining about people making a living doing something they used to do only for love.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Some of you don't have access to a hard copy of the newspaper and therefore are physically unable to see the dandy head shot of me that graces the actual print edition. For you, here's what it looks like...



  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

I'm Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. DeMille


Well, actually, I already had my close-up. This past Thursday, I went in to the offices of the Boston Herald and had my photo taken. From now on, it should appear whenever you read my stuff over there (like, for instance, today!)


When I was told the Herald wanted a head shot of me, I said they could use this one.
Then they told me it wasn't the sort of "head" I was back in those days. My bad.


Yes, I have a piece in the Boston Herald today. It's about luck and my sometimes lack of same.

I'm blessed, you understand. God always lands me on my feet, for some damn reason.

Maybe that's not the best way to express that. Let me re-phrase. Whenever I truly need something, God provides me with it. However, that comes under the category of God-incidence, as (Not MY Uncle, But He May Be Yours) Skip's MB phrased it.

I am always provided for, but rarely do I have the sort of luck that... well, hell, read my piece in the Herald. I can't give away the whole thing here, otherwise they won't pay me. And, as a bonus, you'll get to see the lovely photo that was the one chosen from the 80 or 90 shots the photographer took.

(True fact there. You've seen scenes in movies or on TV where a photographer shoots a fashion model and he snaps roll after roll of film - click, click, click, click, click, with accompanying flashes with each click - while the model moves around suggestively and smiles and has her hair blown in the wind and so forth? Well, picture me as the model, except I was more goofy than suggestive and I don't have enough hair left to blow around even if it was a hurricane.)

Anyway, I'm glad you're here and I'll be even gladder if you go over there. I told them that sales were likely to plummet, if they put my mug in their newspaper, but I was only joking. At least, I meant it as a joke. And if you folks would head over there, that would help to keep it that way, I hope.

Thanks, as always.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. You'll have to buy a hard copy of the paper to see my mug shot. Thus far, it's not on the electronic version. They may be trying to gauge whether folks are dying of heart attacks before they disseminate it worldwide.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Virtual Reality






When I was a kid, I read a science fiction story that especially horrified me - Spectator Sport, by John D. MacDonald.

The protagonist was an inventor who had transported himself 400 years into the future. He found a society not hard to imagine today. Virtual reality (though not called that by MacDonald, since the term hadn’t been invented yet) was the main entertainment medium. The greatest reward for a lifetime of work was permanent installation into a virtual world of your choosing.

What made the story so horrifying was that permanent installation involved being lobotomized, having your hands and feet skinned so your nerve endings could feed directly into sensation simulators, and then having your head placed inches away from a 3D viewing screen after technicians had removed your eyelids and plugged various doodads into your temples. Our time traveler, having been judged insane by local authorities due to his repeated claims of having traveled from the past, is lobotomized. A high-ranking official, though, finds proof that he was probably telling the truth about being from the past, so to make up for the unneeded lobotomy, he arranges the great gift of a permanent installation for our hero. When last we encounter our flayed, hooked-up and eyelid-less friend, he is imagining himself riding the range on his way to rescue a girl from having her ranch stolen by unscrupulous black-hatted bad guys.

The way I’ve heard some people rhapsodize about recent advances in virtual reality, it’s not too big a jump to imagine them thinking that final scenario might be fun. I’m a tad more reticent.

It’s not that I’m opposed to escapism. I enjoy movies and television; I read fiction; and a few times during the 70s and 80s I certainly managed to escape reality by other means. And virtual reality has some amazing things to offer. For instance, someone could attend a virtual university. Stanford is making steps in that direction. People can immerse themselves in situations frightening to them and perhaps overcome their fears. There are even wondrous medical uses, such as helping stroke victims to recover more quickly or in the training of future surgeons. The possibility exists for people with traumatic injuries, or victims of crippling disease, to live more fully rewarding lives via such technology.

What worries me is that some people, even with the limited options for escape we now possess, have already become so disconnected from reality that they’ve harmed themselves. We’ve all seen video of people walking into poles or casually traipsing off the edge of subway platforms while texting or checking their smart phones. On the political front, I fear that real-world voting won’t matter much for someone who can live in a universe where he’s the emperor and every desire is virtually granted. If you can immerse yourself in such an alternate reality, the things actual politicians say and do might hardly matter to you.

I’m not a total paranoid. I expect most people will use enhancements in virtual reality in a relatively safe manner and I don’t expect we’ll all be lobotomized and have our eyelids removed any time soon. But it might be worth keeping close tabs om Mark Zuckerberg. I’m just saying.


Soon, with more better stuff.