Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Four Dreams - #3

As we continue the approach to my 50th birthday, here’s another tale about how a dream of mine turned out. You can read the first two entries HERE and HERE.

I never gave much thought to music, one way or the other, until I smoked marijuana. Sure, I enjoyed music as much as the next guy, I suppose, but it didn’t light a fire inside of me. That all changed after I smoked weed for the first time.

If there’s one outstanding reason why I’m an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, it’s because of what marijuana did to enhance my listening pleasure. I don’t know exactly what happened inside of my head, but I liked it. On a lesser scale, I’d equate it to a deaf person suddenly being able to hear. Whereas I previously only heard the music, after pot I was inside of the music. I found myself able to concentrate on specific instruments, riding the sound and feeling the textures. I could “see” tones and timbres. On an almost instinctual level, I suddenly understood melody, harmony, counterpoint and song structure. I was born again, musically speaking.

(I think one or two of you may be scoffing. This is probably because of my professed love for heavy metal, punk, and other forms of “primitive” music. I won’t deny that love. I have it. Along with awakening that portion of my brain that processed music, dope also gave me a strong liking for the adrenaline rush of powerful and/or fast music. That power and speed tends to manifest itself more often in metal and other less-complicated styles. I also dig classical, jazz, swing, and other forms. It’s just that I can find larger supplies of what I’m looking for in metal and such. And I’m willing to sift through the crap inherent in those forms in order to find a big old diamond now and again.)

Anyway, I smoked dope and I became hooked – on music. Get that straight, if you don’t mind my using that word in connection with a drug. Grass is utterly non-addictive physically. Music, on the other hand...

As much as I enjoyed listening to music – and I enjoyed it a lot, as witnessed by how quickly I blew through every penny of my paychecks on records and weed – I now wanted to create that music even more. I wanted to be in a band. There was just one problem. I couldn’t play a single note on any instrument.

Well, that’s not quite true. I had this little keyboard at home.

(I could have said I had a little organ, but I’m not interested in getting sidetracked in those sorts of jokes just now.)

It was a cheesy-sounding little keyboard, with a range of two octaves. It had been my grandfather’s at one time. I picked out simple one-finger tunes on it prior to having ingested THC. Now I started trying to copy Jon Lord licks with my stiff little fingers. I recorded the results onto cassette tapes - some of which I still have - and was that ever a Godawful sound! At the time, I thought it was hot stuff.

Even as doped up as I was - and as subject to delusions of grandeur as I was and still am – I knew that that little keyboard and my fairly non-existent talents couldn’t make it in a band. I had to come up with something better. So, I decided that I was a singer. Yeah, that’s the ticket! My instrument is ME!

Not that I had ever shown any vocal talent prior to that point. What the hell did that matter, though? If I could fake my way into a band, I’d wing it from there and it would all work out.

You know what? It did, more or less. I talked my way into a band with some guys I had met at a church in downtown Boston. We called ourselves WORLD’S END. A guitarist, a bass player, TWO drummers, and me screaming. After a little while, my Dad – God bless him for this – bought me a good electronic keyboard, a Farfisa. I don’t know that I had shown any particular talent in his presence, but he was willing to give me a chance to develop some. Maybe he liked what he had heard on the cheesy little organ. Or maybe he just loved me. In any case, he did it and I was one happy little stoned musical camper.

Once I was in that band, I took every opportunity I could to play the other guy’s instruments as often as possible. Every time someone took a break, I sat down at the drum kit, picked up the guitar, or plucked a few notes on the bass. I discovered, much to my delight, that I did actually have some natural ability to get decent sounds out of any instrument that was handy. I wasn’t some sort of idiot savant, able to play sonatas out of the thin air, but I could always figure out what to do well enough to fake it. I could always get by for a few minutes before anyone caught on to the fact that I didn’t really know what I was doing. By doing this – that is, making myself a pain in the ass to the other band members – in every group I’ve ever been in, I’ve actually become proficient at both drums and six-string guitar.

(A few good stories about World’s End can be found here. If I retell them in this piece, it won’t be ready to publish until my 51st birthday. For the purposes of this story, you should know that I finally ended up playing the bass, not the keyboards.)

I learned the bass while I was unemployed following the break-up of World’s End. I still had my Farfisa and an amplifier. I latched onto a bass from a girlfriend at the time. Some friend of hers was willing to sell it for $10 - and it was worth it, too. The thing was basically strung with rusty cable, but I didn’t know any better. It was hard as hell to hold those strings down or to pluck them, but I wanted to learn the thing and I figured if I was going to, that’s what I had to do. So, I did it.

That turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me musically. I didn’t realize that I was giving my fingers a much more intense workout than a beginning player ever would have had if he took actual lessons. By the time six months had passed, and I had been playing that hideous axe every day for two or three hours, I had callouses on my fingers that were so thick you could light a match under them and I wouldn’t feel the heat. When I had a chance to obtain a REAL bass from my former bandmate, Sean – who was moving on to six-string – I found out that I could pretty much do anything I wanted on it with ease. I had put myself through such an intense apprenticeship on the crappy bass that I had inadvertently progressed to where a third or fourth year player might have been.

My neighbor across the street at the time, having often heard me bashing away, recommended me to some buddies of his who were looking for a bass player to replace their current one – he was leaving to go to school, the silly bastard. I went down to the basement where they were rehearsing at the time, sat in on their originals, and improvised well enough for them to immediately ask me to join permanently. I was now a real live bass player.

The name of this group was LIVE WIRE, but after a year or so, we changed it to POWERLINE, when we discovered that there had been another group, with actual record(s) released, named Live Wire previous to us. I argued that nobody knew who the hell they were, so why should we change our name, but I was outvoted.

(My cousin Joe had tattooed his arm with the name of our band, too. He should have had a vote.)

We played a mix of covers and originals – about 50/50. I was always pushing for more originals. I wanted the band to be more than a bar band. Some of the guys were interested in no more than that, so they pushed for more AC/DC, Judas Priest and the like. Aside from those philosophical differences, though, we all really liked each other and had a grand time together.

We played venues such as The Beachcomber on Wollaston Beach – imagine us playing on the same stage that had once hosted Louis Armstrong and Rosemary Clooney. We played a few small theaters, capacity of 600 or so - places like the Nu Pixie in Hyde Park.

Our best gig, I suppose, was as the house band at a joint called McCarthy’s in Mattapan Square. We played a couple of weekends a month, three or four sets a night. As a result, we worked up a pretty lengthy song list to fill that much time. We rocked the place on a regular basis, the last set of each night composed of almost all originals, since everybody was well-oiled by that time. We filled the place to capacity; I guess 200 or so every night.

After a while, the regulars knew our song lists as well as we did. At certain points during the night, they’d call out the songs and we’d play ‘em. With some of our originals, they had set actions they’d do. During one of our songs, for instance, the floor in front of the bandstand would fill with people doing The Worm a “dance” wherein everybody lay on their backs and wiggled violently. It was loads of fun.

My only studio experience with a band happened with this group. We went into a place in Boston called STUDIO B and cut three sides. Nothing ever came of it. I personally was not enamored of the recordings. They were too thin overall, the bass was sickly-sounding, and the power and excitement of our live performances was nowhere apparent. The producer tried to turn a hard-rocking garage band into power pop. It didn’t work.

The band broke up fairly soon after that because of the same reason why I got a job in it in the first place. One of the guys – the drummer - decided to go away to college. At that point, there were a couple of arguments about whether to stick together, what direction to go in and so forth, and what finally happened was that Ronnie Bower (one of the guitarists) and I decided to form our own band and do nothing but original material. We recruited a drummer and a lead guitarist, both friends from other bands we had shared rehearsal space with, and CITY LIMITS was born.

Well, stillborn, really, as we never got beyond rehearsals. Ronnie and I wrote a few decent tunes together, and this was probably a more talented group overall than LIVE WIRE cum POWERLINE had been, but we just never jelled completely.

I was then recruited to play with another band that I knew from our old rehearsal space in Hyde Park. They had a couple of gigs coming up and their regular bassist had split for some reason. The name of this congregation was P.S. WILD. It was with this band that I performed at the most famous venue I ever played during my career, such as it was. We played a gig at The Rat in Kenmore Square.

Those familiar with Boston will know that name, but you might not if you’re from out of town. Think CBGB, but in Boston, if that helps. Great local dive, famous for launching a few decent acts to a fair amount of fame. Not in my case. It was still great fun, though, and it does give me a small amount of cachet among those who knew the place in its heyday.

From there it was pretty much downhill, but I hadn’t been all that high – in the figurative sense – to begin with, so I didn’t get hurt too badly. I played with three or four other bands, but never anything more than dances or small private clubs. I had some fun, and enjoyed the people, but that’s about it.

Do I have any complaints? No, not really. I suppose I wish that I had some better recordings – or even just more recordings – of the bands I was in. I only have a couple of cassette tapes of rehearsals, one or two live tapes, and the previously mentioned studio recordings that I never liked. I still play, but only for my own pleasure. I haven’t actually played with anyone for years now. I even still write songs. If I have one regret, it’s that I pretty much know they’ll never be played by anyone but me.

Overall, though, I had one hell of a good time. I lived the rock and roll lifestyle, albeit a sort of pauper version of it. I had some minor league groupie action. I had fairly large crowds of people cheering me. Unless you’ve had the thrill yourself, you have no idea how intoxicating it is to have someone yell out the title of one of your compositions because they desperately wanted to hear it RIGHT NOW. Major rush, that was.

I guess I’ll end this with one of my lyrics. See you tomorrow with the fourth dream.

It’s rough and tough
It’s mean and clean
It’s a fast-talking, smooth-walking killing machine
It’s into sin
It’s out of love
It don’t give a damn when push comes to shove
Heart attack in black
Stare a clock stand still
A pill-popper, no-stopper, thrilled to kill
With fame to claim
To be filthy rich
For a self-starting, cold-hearted son of a bitch
It’s rock and roll, son
It’s rock and roll
And I love it

Go To Dream #4

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Four Dreams - #2

Friday is my 50th birthday.

Oh, have I told you that before? I'm sorry. It is the truth, however, and my mother told me to never be ashamed of telling the truth.

Today is Tuesday - and it is the 7th day of my Lenten spring trainging diet. I've probably told you about that before, too, but just in case...

I have given up all flour products and all dairy – excluding what I put into my coffee - for Lent. I’ve already lost five pounds. Of course, the weight won’t keep falling off as easily as it has this first week, but I still expect to have lost 12 or 15 pounds by Easter. I do this as a form of religious sacrifice, but also because it keeps me from killing myself during the first couple of weeks of softball season.

And all of the above finally gets us to the point of this piece, which is the recounting of another childhood dream (I gave you the first one yesterday) and how it turned out. The childhood dream I’m going to tell you about today is my desire to be a major league baseball player and manager.

Every man in the United States, excluding a couple of sissies and maybe some blind kid, wanted to be a major league baseball player when he was a child. This is the stone cold truth, no matter what anybody says. If some adult American male tells you that he never wanted to be a major league baseball player, and he can see you, then... well, you know.

I wanted to be a baseball player, but I wasn’t very good. For one thing, I was always the youngest kid in my gang. As a result, I was less physically mature than the other guys. I hadn’t developed the hand-eye coordination that they had, so I wasn’t a very good hitter. I did, however, have lightning reflexes. My reflexes gave me my one saving grace on a ballfield at that time. I was an excellent reaction fielder.

Balls hit at very fast speeds were in my glove before I even thought about it. Good thing, too, because when I had a chance to think about it, the results weren’t nearly as good. I played first base on our neighborhood team. If a liner came my way, it was an out – period. It didn’t matter where it was, as long as it was within my reach. Same for errant throws from the other fielders. I just reacted and caught them. Give me a slow roller, though, and I became Bill Buckner in 1986. Any time I had to think about what I was doing, I didn’t do it very well.

(My reflexes remained amazingly sharp until last year, when they let me down for the first time ever. I almost got killed by a liner last season, which is why this coming season will most definitely be my last. For the gruesome details, go here.)

Anyway, that was when I was 7 or 8 years old. As I grew to be 9, 10, 11 and 12, things got better. I still wasn’t a great hitter, but I was better than I had been. My reflexes were still sharp, of course, and I became a better fielder overall. I had a bad arm, though, and I’ve never had a particularly good one since, either. That’s the reason I played first base more often than any other position. If there has been one constant failing in my skills as a ballplayer, that would be it. I can’t throw accurately worth a damn.

I played Little League ball, but that was the smallest part of the ball played in my youth. We played pick-up games every day of the week during summer vacation, from the time we all went out until it became too dark to play. As a matter of fact, all of us quit Little League about halfway through the first season because we didn’t get to play enough. Why sit on the bench, with one or two scheduled games a week, when you could play five or six games every day and play every inning of those games? Don’t get me wrong; Little League is great for some kids. In our neighborhood, though, we had enough kids to field two full teams most days, so that was easily the better option.

I wanted to be a manager, too. That’s not a dream a lot of kids have, I suppose. I’ve gone into that at length in yet another piece I wrote some time ago. Since I was the youngest kid in our crowd, I had no chance to be manager in our pick-up games. That was reserved for the oldest and strongest. So managing was strictly a fantasy and I didn’t expect to fulfill it without becoming a better player.

I grew older and caught up to my friends in physical gifts. I reached my teens and played CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) ball. I played for Saint Gregory’s in Dorchester. I still wasn’t any kind of great hitter, but these were the first games outside of that half-a-season of Little League wherein there were actual umpires. I learned my strike zone then and I also learned that, in order to be a good batter, you don’t necessarily have to hit the ball. If your eye is good enough, you can get on base without even swinging. I learned how to draw walks and cut down on my strikeouts. Just as my throwing has always been the worst part of my game, from that point on patience became the best part of it. To this day, I consistently draw more walks than anybody else on my teams and, in most instances, the entire league. I’ll forego humility entirely and tell you that I believe I’ve been the best leadoff hitter in every league I’ve played in over the last 30 years.

Back to the past - I played a bit in high school, but I was a scrubeeni. And since I never went to college, I never tried playing at that level. So, since high school graduation, I’ve played softball.

(I get defensive about softball. Most folks immediately think of fat guys running around in shorts with a beer in one hand. I play fast-pitch softball, not beer league crap. I’ve seen guys who played college baseball come into some of the leagues I’ve been in and flop completely. When you have to get your swing off on a pitch from 46 feet, as opposed to 60 feet 6 inches, it takes a major adjustment. And if you’re an infielder, the ball is on top of you faster than in baseball and you don’t have time to set before you throw; you have to get rid of it immediately. Anyway, fast-pitch is a serious sport, not a joke.)

I obviously never became a major league player. I didn’t have anywhere near the skills. Good field, no power, high on-base percentage, but wicked bad arm. Not too many teams are looking for first basemen with no power. I resigned myself to that fact by the time I was 18.

As I said earlier, I’m going to be 50 this Friday. I’m going to play ball for one more season and then quit. Now, how many major league players can say that they’ve played until they were 50? Unless you count Satchel Paige, just about none - that’s how many. I’ve played ball for at least 10 or 15 more seasons than most major leaguers. When it comes to longevity, I’m a major success.

I’ve also been manager of teams during 20 or so different seasons. It’s not the same as being a major league manager, that’s for sure. It’s closer to babysitting sometimes than managing. That’s OK. I’ve enjoyed it. Last year was my final year as a manager. I’m just going to enjoy playing during this final season.

I take great satisfaction in the fact that there isn’t a single one of the folks I grew up with who is still playing ball. I was made fun of a lot, when I was a pre-teen, due to my small stature and poor hitting. I was picked last or next to last, for a lot of teams, a lot of times. I never gave up, though, and I’m still playing and enjoying the hell out of it. The ones who made fun of me? Long gone, for decades now. I guarantee I could outplay every single one of the sons of bitches now, in every phase of the game – even with my bum arm.

So, I’ve enjoyed playing a game that I love for some 42 years - 43 by the time I retire. The only thing I haven’t done is play on a championship team. I’d really like to go out doing that. If I don’t, though, it will be fine. I’ve had great fun and played with some swell people. I’ve run around in the sun like a little kid for better than four decades.

Dream fulfilled? You bet. Lou Gehrig said it first, showing extreme class under dire circumstances, but I hope he won’t mind if I say it, too, since I firmly believe it. Today I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Tomorrow: Rock ‘n Roll!!!

(Go To Dream #3)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Four Dreams - #1

Friday is the big day, my 50th birthday. I’ve been thinking about how some of the dreams I had for myself turned out. I’ll tell you about one today, another tomorrow, and so on until Friday.

When I was a kid, the first thing I ever wanted to be was a trolley driver. In the neighborhood of Dorchester that I grew up in, there was a little trolley line that ran from Ashmont to Mattapan. The sounds of that trolley – the bell that was rung as it made street crossings, the squeal of the steel wheels against the rails when it was on a curve, the ascending and descending hum as it approached and then departed – were all a part of the background noise of the neighborhood. Late at night, in those uncomplicated days when street traffic was limited to no more than one or two cars an hour after 10pm, I could hear those sounds clearly from my open bedroom window in the summer, even though our house was at least a quarter-mile from the rails.

The trolley was always the first leg of any journey away from the neighborhood, whether to Mattapan for a Saturday matinee at the Oriental Theater (and then a “businessman’s lunch” at The Cathay Village Chinese Restaurant with my best friend, Stephen Murphy – an egg roll, fried rice and pork strips, served with a pot of tea and finished with fortune cookies and “bird seed candy”, just 65 cents) or a trip to downtown Boston, where the varied wonders of Jordan Marsh and a side-trip to the bowling alley at South Station made shopping fairly interesting even for an impatient young boy.

No matter where I was headed, the trolley ride itself was one of the pleasures I always looked forward to enjoying. In the early 60’s, when I was a child, the trolleys that ran on that line were double-ended. That is, there was a seat for a driver at either end of the car. I suppose they had been originally designed for a line with only one set of rails and at the end of the line the driver would then have to have walked back to the other end of the car for the return trip. That wasn’t the case on this line, so one of the driver’s seats was permanently removed on each car. This left sort of an iron pedestal onto which the cushioned seat had been originally fastened. Even without a seat, though, it was a big enough perch for a small boy to sit on (somewhat gingerly) and pretend that he was driving, albeit backwards.

If the rear driver’s seat was taken (there were many nascent trolley drivers in my neighborhood) I would get as close to the actual driver as possible, peering out of the front window as we rode along by the side of the Neponset River, through the cemetery – this trolley line had once been featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not as the only public rail transit to do such a thing – and then up the incline and down into Ashmont Station.

(Some goofball, who I imagine must have been one of my fellow imaginary trolley drivers in his youth, took things into his own hands one night when I was in my teens. After an evening of one – or possibly ten – too many drinks, he hijacked a trolley.

The regular drivers, upon reaching the end of the line in Mattapan, would leave the trolley running with one set of doors open. Passengers could board while the driver went over to the station house for a quick cup of coffee and a smoke. This dope got on the trolley, staggered over to the driver’s seat, closed the doors, released the brakes and took off towards Ashmont. I’m not sure if there were any passengers; I would hope not. His improvised stint as a driver ended when he crossed the open grade at Central Avenue without stopping to see if a car might be coming. There was.

Luckily, as I heard it told, the automobile smashed into the side of the trolley, rather than the more gruesome alternative of the trolley crushing the car. The result was a totaled auto, a dented trolley, minor injuries for the car driver and a jail sentence for the inebriated hijacker who, despite his idiocy, caused everybody in the neighborhood to slow to a reasonable speed and look both ways when driving across those tracks ever after, which was a good thing.)

Well, I never did work for the MBTA, or for any other transit authority with a trolley system, but I did become a trolley driver. Here’s how.

There is a wonderful place in Kennebunkport, Maine, called The Seashore Trolley Museum. It is the final resting place for numerous modes of public transportation and their accoutrements. There are busses, subway cars, subway stations (when the current Orange Line of the T was built, and the old elevated line torn down, Northampton Station was transported to this place almost intact, and it sits there in the middle of the Maine woods to this day, a surreal sight for anyone who ever stood on the platform twenty five feet above Washington Street) and, of course, trolleys of all shapes and sizes and stages of decrepitude.

The folks who run the museum try their best to restore each trolley to its former glory. Many of the cars are literally wrecks, having been shipped here after being in some accident or other and deemed not worthy of repair. Volunteers, who give them at least a pounding out of dents and a fresh coat of paint, lovingly work on these reclamation projects and, whenever possible, refit them with the parts needed to bring them back to actual running condition. Other trolleys, in good shape, were acquired upon the shutting down of whatever line to which they had given many years faithful service.

The museum has its own right of way. They have built tracks, strung overhead electrical wires, and constructed a place where those trolleys in working order can be taken out for actual riding. I don’t have the figures in front of me at the moment, but I would estimate that the route is about a mile long, out and back total.

MY WIFE and I visited the museum and enjoyed it greatly. They actually have one of the double-ended trolleys from the Mattapan-Ashmont line of my youth. They’re called “Dallas” cars, since that was where they originally ran before Boston purchased them. I finally got to sit in the real driver’s seat and ring the bell. This was a vast improvement over pretending while a greasy iron rod poked uncomfortably at my rear whenever a bump was hit.

On my next birthday, MY WIFE surprised me with a gift of membership in the museum. As part of the membership package, one day each year the members are invited to come up and actually drive one of the trolleys. And that’s how I got to be a trolley driver.

The day came and a trolley was put into service on the museum’s tracks. It was one of those known to aficionados as a “Type 5.” Here is a picture.

A retired trolley driver – most of the volunteers are former transit employees - took the car out to the end of the line while we sat back and enjoyed the ride. At the far terminus, while the car was parked, we all gathered around the driver and received a brief lesson on how to operate it. We then each had a turn, under the watchful eye of our teacher, to take the car for a quarter-mile or so spin down the tracks.

It was wonderful. I got the hang of it immediately and was one of the few to bring the trolley to top speed - perhaps 30 mph – before bringing it to a halt and letting some other Walter Mitty drive it back. It was a joy I’ll never forget and one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received. I can only hope that someday I might make one of MY WIFE’s wishes come true in similar fulfilling fashion.

Tomorrow: another dream fulfilled. See you then.

(Go To Dream #2)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

16,874 Miles

I am now going to give you a lesson in how life works. By all indications, I'm the best man for the task at hand.

Last week, I said I was going to take some time off from blogging. The intent was to improve my writing and give you better stuff to read. Over the weekend, however, Sween decided to tag me on a meme. The meme involved telling you six things you probably didn’t know about me.

Yesterday, I decided that I wanted to post something short. I wanted to tie up a couple of loose ends and then direct you to my other blog, Bah! Humbug!, which had the usual once-monthly new posting. As I was finishing up, I remembered Sween’s challenge. I decided to close the piece with that, since I might be able to toss off a couple of quick jokes and make your visit here a bit more worthwhile.

I figured I could come up with six things rather quickly – not waste too much time on it – and then I’d take another week or so off, returning here just prior to my 50th birthday (it’s March 2nd, you know) with something really well-written. Instead, here I am again. Do you know why? No, you probably don’t. Nor will you probably want to, once you find out, but by then it will be too late.

The sixth item in the things-you-probably-didn’t-know-about-me list concerned self-gratification - onanism - masturbation, that is. I made an estimate as to how many times I’ve flogged the bishop over the course of my lifetime. As it turns out, approximately 11,000 times.

Stu, obviously with little better to do with his own life, did the math and figured that I was placing crank calls to Mr. Frankfurter about 12 times a day. Oh, OK, maybe he said per week. Whatever. While I’m fairly untroubled with rigidity problems, I’m not made of steel. The actual figure would be about six instances a week of pud pounding.

God help me, last night I decided to do some math. I wanted to truly find out just how much time I’ve spent putting a leak in the fireman’s hat. Are you ready? No, of course not. It doesn’t matter, though, because here it is.

I figure a reasonable estimate would be 15 minutes for each one-handed date. When I multiply 11,000 by 15, I find that I’ve troubled the talleywhacker for a contribution out of liquid assets a total of 165,000 minutes. Divide that figure by 60 and it turns out that I’ve been shaking hands with Cyclops for approximately 2,583 hours.

Further division – assuming that I get 8 hours sleep every night, which it would seem I might desperately need – shows that 161 days of my life have been spent batting the baloney. That’s more than five full months – almost six, if it’s February.

Wow. No wonder my writing sucks. In the time it took Melville to complete his masterpiece, all I've been doing is whacking Moby Dick upside the head. Call me Ishmael. Thar she blows, indeed.

On the good side, I figure that I’ve burned off at least a quarter-million calories priming my pump. If I didn’t spend so much time jerkin’ the gherkin, I’d weigh at least 500 pounds. Heck, if I could stand doing it 10 or 12 more times a week, I probably wouldn’t have to drop 15 pounds before softball season. I’d already have the body of a Greek God.

(Or maybe a Greek statue. That much wear and tear on my Johnson and it probably would have fallen off by now. On the bright side, I’d be able crush a Volkswagen with my right hand.)

(Now that I think of it, my softball coach is probably going to read this and have second thoughts about wanting me to handle any of the bats ever again. Oh, well.)

So, anyway, the life lesson here is that good intentions are nice, but they sometimes end up as just a five-finger stroll on the pole. You might intend to take time off from writing because you feel you’ve been wanking it, but then you end up not only writing again, but writing about wanking it.

Ah, what the hell, Jim. Maybe it’s not that bad. Get a grip.

P.S. You think you worked up a sweat on stairmaster? The title is derived from how far my right hand has traveled at a rather leisurely 90 strokes a minute. Of course, your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Housekeeping And Six (Or Maybe Seven) Other Things

I've had a few days off and I'm going to be taking a few more. I wanted to post a couple of quick things, though, so here they are.


I received some very good news yesterday.

You may remember my telling you about a couple, one of whom had contracted prostate cancer. At that time, I asked for your prayers for a successful operation and a speedy recovery.

The operation took place in December and was successful. What remained was the follow-up examination. I am glad to report that this examination took place and the patient was found to be 100% clear.

So, thank you to God and thank you to you for your prayers and good karma sent their way.


In that same post referenced above, I said that I hadn't yet made Stu's recipe for Jambalaya. I still haven't. Maybe I'll make it on our birthday, Stu.

(I found out recently that Stu is almost exactly ten years younger than me. We both were born on March 2nd, and both at approximately 9 AM, which I'm sure means something in the greater cosmic scheme, but I'll be damned if I have any idea what.)


There is a new posting over at Bah! Humbug!, so if you've nothing better to do, head on over and visit some of the nice folks who submitted articles for inclusion in this month's edition of A Carnival Of Hijacked Holidays.

(You'll learn all sorts of interesting things about holidays for trees and what UNICEF thinks about our drugged-out oversexed kids, as well as how to get your groove on - or why you might want to avoid such a thing - on Valentine's Day. As a special bonus, you'll be egocentrically directed back here for a viewing of something you probably saw once and had no need of ever seeing again. Huzzah!)


Finally, I was tagged over the weekend.

The monkey-pantsed Sween completed a meme and felt compelled to reach out and touch someone south of the border, namely me. So, without further ado, here 'tis.


1 - MY WIFE and I have matching inscribed wedding rings. They read, "Vous Et Nul Autre." This is Middle French for "You And No Other." We have another inscription on the inside of each ring. We had seen Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey just prior to purchasing our rings and, for some reason, we both thought that it would be really cool to get "... NOT!" inscribed on the inside of our rings. This becomes even more idiotic with each passing year.

2 - I made the last payment on my student loans this morning. Hooray! Considering that I graduated in 1991, this speaks volumes about my money management skills.

3 - As noted above, I graduated from broadcasting school in 1991. I was 33 at the time. I was named the class valedictorian. Considering my age, if I hadn't been the valedictorian, it would have been shameful.

4 - MY WIFE is almost two years older than me. If we were talking mental age, I'd estimate about thirty-seven years older.

5 - This is Ash Wednesday, thus the start of Lent and also the start of my spring training ritual for the upcoming softball season. I am giving up all flour products and all dairy - excluding what I put into my coffee - for the 40+ days of Lent. I have done the same during the previous four or five periods of Lent. By doing this, I will drop 12 - 15 pounds by the time Easter rolls around. If I didn't do this, I would roll around.

6 - Since I haven't said anything truly grody yet, I suppose now is the time. I would estimate that, over the course of my lifetime, I have masturbated some 11,000 times. Since I'm approaching my 50th birthday (March 2nd!) you can do a decent reverse math and figure out the numbers for yearly, mlonthly, daily, houjrly or whkatever elcnse jyou wsant/.

(Sorry about that last sentence. It's not easy typing with one hand.)

Now that I think about it, if I had spent less time on #6, I probably could have graduated earlier and paid off my loans in the last century. Oh, well.


And you thought you wanted me back here sooner rather than later. You were mistaken.

Soon, withgmore bettyer stiff.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Just Another One In The Wind

Today is February 7th, 2007. I have 23 days before I turn 50. This means that I have 23 days until digital rectal examinations become mandatory.

How embarrassing.

(Actually, this may open up a whole new world of possibilities, so to speak. I'll have to do a more thorough study of state law, but I believe that if my doctor enjoys himself too much during the examination, it could be grounds for a breach of promise suit. I do live in Massachusetts, after all.)

Speaking of embarrassing, here's something else to ruin your breakfast. According to the prestigious French scientific journal, Le Monde Du Petomane, we are about to witness a very interesting side effect of global warming. Due to depletion of the ozone layer, wavelengths previously invisible to the eye - that is, the region of the electromagnetic spectrum which passes largely unattenuated through the Earth's atmosphere - are about to become part of the visible spectrum. As a result, some gasses which were previously invisible will now be able to be seen with the naked eye. Chief among these, for purposes of this discussion, is methane.

In other words, we will now be able to see farts. There's something you might want to give serious consideration to before eating that next bean burrito.

(News of this discovery has spurred underwear manufacturers to begin investigating the possibility of sewing some sort of filter into the seats of their product. It will have to be rather wide, since methane gas diffuses rather quickly upon excretion. I don't know what those of you who wear thongs are going to do. In the meantime, I will be investing every cent I have in buying up Beano stock, and I suggest you do the same. There is nothing on God's green earth [this may also change] that will make you rich more quickly than cashing in on other people trying to avoid embarrassment. Huge fortunes have been made on deodarant and mouthwash. I see this as an even better opportunity.)


Now, how many of you bought that, even for just a little while?

It has always been a dream of mine to start a rumor that circles the globe and comes back to me stated as absolute fact. I'd sure like to see this one do it. Think of the possibilities. Well, OK, don't think of the possibilities; they're gross. Still, what do you say we give it a shot? Wouldn't it be fun to see the more gullible among us looking at their asses every time they pass gas?

If you'd like to take part in this social experiment, here's all you have to do. Quote the more serious portions of what I've written above in your own blog. Embellish in your own wonderfully inventive way, if you like, but keep it feasible enough to be at least somewhat believable. I guarantee that if enough of us do this, we will sooner or later see it show up somewhere stated as gospel truth.

(You might throw in something about burps being different colors depending upon what you've eaten or drank. Beer belches could be a deep amber, for instance, while radishes produce a subtle shade of pink. Use your imagination.)

(By the way, here's a fascinating bit of history, not in the least untrue. If this was real, and it was, why not our story? Go here and you'll suddenly realize, as I did, that Wife Swap actually comes nowhere near to being the nadir of modern entertainment.)

Monday, February 05, 2007

What's It Worth To You?

Some of you saw a post I wrote on Friday, in reply to a review of this blog. I've taken it down and thrown it away. I decided that I really didn't want to give those people any traffic, even by way of a post detailing their inadequacies. To those of you who read it and commented so complimentarily, I thank you.

One worthwhile thing those bozos did was spur me to think about what I'm doing here. I think that, too often, I've been seeking your approval. My writing should entertain you, not act as a vehicle for some sort of validation. I certainly love to get comments telling me that I made you laugh or that I touched you or whatever else my writing may have done - induced vomiting, perhaps. However, getting those comments shouldn't be my reason for writing. I should write because I enjoy it. If someone else enjoys it, so much the better.

(After getting that horrible review, I spent a few hours this weekend reading my stuff. I'm a damned good writer, overall. I sometimes get lazy, though, and put stuff out here that I would not have published if I didn't have the ability to publish immediately. I should take the time to re-read with a critical eye before publishing and I don't do that often enough. If I have a glaring fault, that's it. I mean, aside from all the parentheses.)

Anyway, I am what I am - as the noted philosopher Popeye was wont to say - and since most of you seem to like me, I'm not concerned about reviews from people who use Bratz rip-offs as their avatars.

And now, here's some poetry!

What's It Worth To You?

Once I found a nickel
I was rich (or so I thought)
I went down to Charlie's
Oh! The candy that I bought!
First thing, four mint juleps
Always two for just one cent
Next, a root beer barrel
Three cents was all I'd spent
Last, Bazooka Joe gum
Two pieces, to last the day
(It came with a comic
A "fortune", and send away
Just three hundred wrappers
To get some x-ray glasses
See through ladie's dresses
and see the ladie's asses!!!)
Could have saved that nickel
And been rich another day
That would have been stupid
Just like throwing it away
Each day with that nickel
Then the older I would be
The older I became
What's a nickel worth to me?
So, I spent it wisely
On some stuff that brought me joy
Each day, we find a nickel
We should spend it like a boy