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...