Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Monday (Except That It's Tuesday) Softball Diary - 6

FLAMES – 23 Ghost Riders – 1

There wasn’t a lot of softball this past week, but what little there was certainly was satisfying.

As you can see from the above score, the Flames found a groove. The game was never in doubt. We scored 4 in the first inning, 12 in the second, 2 in the third and 5 in the fourth. That was as far as it went, of course, since there is a 10-run slaughter rule after four complete innings.

(By the way, can anybody explain to me the actual grammatical rule for numbers? When are you supposed to use the number itself and when are you supposed to write it out? Seriously, I don’t know. I’d appreciate the answer.)

I went 1 for 2, with 2 walks, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. That was satisfying. If I were the official scorer, I might have given myself 2 hits, as the time at bat not scored a hit was a sharp grounder back through the box that deflected off of the pitcher’s leg out to the shortstop, who then fumbled it a bit and was unable to make a play. If he had fielded it cleanly, however, he probably had a play at second, so I’ve really got no complaint.

The starting pitcher for the other team was wild. He had no control at all. He only lasted the first two innings and gave up 10 walks. When he was able to get it over the plate, he was just aiming it, not throwing with authority, so the guys walloped his strikes. At 5-0 in the second, he had just walked the bases loaded when Carl Hyman hit a grand slam and that was pretty much the game. After that, it was just a matter of whether we’d close them out in four innings or have to go farther. We were able to close them out in four because of our pitching and defense.

Our pitcher was the ageless wonder, Bob Ridley, whom I believe is 84 this season. That’s not a typo. He really is that old. It was my pleasure to catch him for the four innings he worked. We probably set a record for oldest combined age for a battery. Between us, we’re 134 years old.

Bobby doesn’t rely on power, as you might imagine. Instead, he changes speeds (from slow to slower to “that pitch is hardly moving, so how does it stay in the air?”) and he has great control. Wherever I set up, he hits the mitt. So, it’s my job to try and spot the hole in the opposing batter’s swing and then set up so Bobby can take advantage of that. I was fairly successful at doing so. The few times I made a mistake, we got some really good defense to back us up. All told, Bobby scattered 6 hits, striking out one and walking nobody. The only run came on a leadoff homer in the fourth.

Guys like Bobby make me seriously want to reconsider my decision to retire after this year. Given his example, I have almost 35 more seasons left. I’ve played with some other guys who might give me hope. Jimmy Jackson, from the Bombers, played well into his 60’s. Stu Stone, who just left the Bombers last year, is pushing 60. Pete Mittell, my coach with the Flames, is in his 60’s, I believe.

I’m still retiring. What do those guys have that I haven’t got? They all pitch. I’m a hideous pitcher. I tried it seriously last year and almost literally got myself killed. My skills with the bat are what I have to live on as a player. And those skills have deteriorated seriously over the last couple of years.

Over the past five years, I’ve been whittling my game down to match my remaining assets. I used to be able to hit with some power; I used to have reflexes that allowed me to wait until a pitch was almost on top of the plate before swinging; I used to have some decent speed on the base paths that made up for when I lost the power. Now I can’t hit the ball over an outfield wall if I hit it out of my hand. I can’t stretch singles into doubles. I swing EARLY and I’m still hitting to the opposite field. Between both teams last year, I hit close to .500, but I believe I had only two extra-base hits all season. And I was damned lucky to hit for the average I did. I had an awful lot of bloopers fall between fielders. I’m done. All I want now is to prove to myself that I can get through one more season by using my brain to make up for the physical lacks.

I’d also like to win that elusive championship, of course. The Flames now stand at 2 and 2. I think this is a really good team with an honest chance to get it done. We’ll see.

We had another game scheduled for Thursday, but the league decided to cancel that night’s games since so many guys supposedly wanted to get away early for a start on Memorial Day weekend. I personally find that hard to believe, since I would rather play ball than take a vacation any day of the week, but OK. We’ll get to play that game later in the year, so no real loss.

(The Sunday team, The Bombers, as I’ve explained in too much detail before, is off until June 10th, due to a combination of off-weeks and byes. We will continue to sport our lovely 0 – 2 record until further notice.)

Back tomorrow with the usual non-softball crap I put out here most days. See you then.

Flames statistics

Friday, May 25, 2007

Me, That's Who!

The question to the above answer is "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"
Let me tell you about my twenty-one hours in New York, wherein I auditioned for the show. We’ll begin with how I got there.

There are any number of ways to get from Boston to New York.

Well, not any number of ways. Once you eliminate bicycling, riding a horse, swimming, pogo sticking and other ridiculous means, the number of ways is four. Those are driving, taking the train, flying, or what I chose – the bus.

The bus is easily the least expensive. Since I’m not a millionaire, that’s what I chose. I took Greyhound, whose slogan used to be “Leave the driving to us.” Maybe it still is their slogan. Or it could be, “Hey, we’re not Fung Wah, so we very rarely tip over on off-ramps or burst into flames.” In any case, I bought a round-trip for $31, including tax. The only method that would beat that price is walking and walking would take about two weeks. I didn’t have that much vacation time left, so I took the bus.

I left the house with MY WIFE on Wednesday morning. She was going to work, so she accompanied me as far as Park Street. After she kissed me good-bye and wished me luck, I continued on to South Station. I had a ticket for the 9am bus.

When I got to the gate, there was a long line of people waiting to board. I went to the end of the line and waited. The line then began to move and everything seemed to be going smoothly, except just as I got to the front of the line, the driver (who is also the check-in clerk) informed me that this bus was full and I’d have to take the next one.

See, the thing with busses is that they don’t give a damn what time is on your ticket. You can have a ticket for the 4:30 bus and get on the 7:00 or whatever. I had assumed that since I had a 9:00 ticket, I’d be riding the 9:00 bus. Nope. Lesson learned, which I applied on my return trip. For that one, I got in line fifty minutes before the scheduled departure.

That was in the future, though. The present wasn’t a major catastrophe. Since there were so many of us left at the gate, they put another bus into service just for us. That doesn’t happen with trains or planes, so score a point for Greyhound. As it turned out, we all got onto a half-filled bus, leaving us room to stretch out and get comfortable. All in all, I’m glad I missed the first one. The twenty minutes lost was more than made up for via comfort.

The major problem with the bus is that it’s boring. You can look at what scenery there is, but there really isn’t much to look at on interstate highways, unless you find Roy Rogers Chicken stands and Mobil gas stations fascinating. So maybe you read, or sleep, or you do what I did, which was to watch the driver.

I’m here to tell you that the two drivers I had were true professionals. Driving a bus is not like driving your car. The bus driver is almost constantly thinking a move or two ahead. I guess when you’ve got that much bulk to maneuver in and out of the paths of smaller vehicles, you can’t wait until the last minute to decide what to do. These guys are playing speed chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. As a fellow who’s held a fair amount of driving jobs – cabbie, courier, moving around some heavy equipment like dump trucks and such for the City of Boston - I was very impressed.

Anyway, I got into New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal at about 1:30. I then went out onto 8th Avenue and got a couple of slices of pizza at a local joint. New York does one thing better than just about anyplace else in the world and that’s make pizza. Crispy crust, the right combination of cheeses, delicious!

After eating, I called MY WIFE at work, to let her know I had arrived safely. She again wished me luck and I told her I’d call her later that night when I was in Brooklyn. Zorro, my brother-in-law (not his real name, but wouldn't it be cool if it was?) was letting me crash at his new place in Red Hook (which may or may not be where he actually lives, but wouldn't it be cool if a guy named Zorro really did live in a place called Red Hook?) The plan was for me to meet him at a bar called the Emerald Inn, on Columbus Avenue, after my audition. We would then catch the Sox-Yankees game on TV while having some dinner.

My audition was scheduled for 7pm. This left me with almost five hours to kill. So, I rode the subway.

(No doubt many of you would find this just as boring as I find the bus; maybe even more so. Well, De Gustibus Non Est Disputadum, as my grandfather used to say every time we caught him dressed up in one of grandma’s frocks.)

I decided to take a ride I had never taken before, which was the “A” train out to Far Rockaway. This line actually goes out over Jamaica Bay on a couple of trestles, a very scenic ride. Also a long one, so it fit the bill.

I may not have gone into great detail about this before (perhaps making it the only thing I’ve never gone into great detail about) but I think the New York subway system is utterly fascinating. I’ve studied maps of the thing to the point where I’ve got a great deal of it memorized. This came in handy during this trip.

While I was waiting for the Far Rockaway train, an Asian gentleman toting a couple of suitcases walked up to me and asked, in slightly broken English, if this was where he could get a train to the airport, JFK. I explained to him that there were five possible trains coming through, but only two of them – those marked “Rockaway” in one way or another - would get him where he needed to go, which I told him was the Howard Beach stop. From there, he’d be able to catch what’s called the “Air Train” to his terminal. I told him to get on whatever train I got on and then I’d make sure he got off where he needed to.

When the train came, I indicated that he should get on. He did. He sat across the train from me. When we reached Howard Beach, he looked over at me questioningly and I nodded and pointed to the door. He bowed, said “Thank you” and got off. So I did my bit for U.S. foreign relations, I guess.

As I mentioned before, this ride is quite scenic. I enjoyed it immensely. However, as also mentioned, it is a very long ride. It may be the longest subway ride to be had in the entire world, as a matter of fact. I looked at my watch and saw that it was about 4:00. I didn’t want to take the chance of missing my 7:00 audition, so I decided to get off a few stops before Far Rockaway and turn around, giving myself plenty of time for the return trip.

I got off at Beach 36th Street, an elevated station, and decided to go outside of the station and have a smoke, meanwhile seeing whatever the immediate neighborhood might have to offer. As it turned out, the immediate neighborhood had nothing to offer other than the elevated I had just exited, so I had my smoke and went back upstairs to catch the inbound train, which had courteously showed up on the horizon just as I was taking my last puff.

The ride back was fairly uneventful. To mix things up a bit, I changed over to the “J” train at Broadway Junction station. This line travels over the Williamsburg Bridge when leaving Brooklyn, so that was interesting. In any case, I arrived back in Manhattan by 6:00, plenty of time to grab a Starbucks and then head over to ABC for the audition.


The audition itself was a simple process. We were checked in by staff and then handed a sealed envelope containing the written test. After being seated, we were given some simple instructions concerning the filling out of the answers on a separate form and then we were allowed to open the envelopes and begin the test.

The test consisted of thirty questions, multiple choice, and we were given ten minutes to complete it. In the interest of fairness to ABC, as well as future contestants, I won’t give you any of the actual questions. However, they were mostly of this caliber:

Which of the following states was the last to join the union?

A – North Carolina
B – Vermont
C – Alaska
D – Utah

I don’t think it was a tremendously hard test. There were a couple of questions I had to take a wild stab at, but I knew for sure, by the time we had to turn in the papers, that I had at least 25 out of 30 correct. Of course, I assume the tests change from day to day, so perhaps I lucked into one that matched my strengths.

The tests were very quickly graded and then we were told which of us should stay for an interview and which should go home. We had been given numbers with our tests. I was number 12. They called out the numbers of those who passed the test:

“193... 137... 126... 12...”

Yes! I passed the written test!

Now it was on to the personality interview, wherein someone would decide if I was pleasingly personable enough to make a national television audience root for me. Or perhaps decide that I was a blowhard psychopath. I’m hoping, of course, for the former.

Nobody gets to know the results of this part of the test until later, so I have to leave you hanging. Sorry, but imagine how I feel about it! I thought the interview went OK, but just OK. I didn’t feel particularly sharp and I’m afraid my answers may not have been as sparkling as I would have liked. Perhaps I’m worried about nothing and the interviewer loved me to death. We’ll see. The production staff sends you a postcard in a week or two telling you whether or not you’ll be placed in the contestant pool. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


I could go on and on about more subway stuff, and my return bus trip, and how my feet are killing me because I walked around Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens in new shoes for two days, and how I met John Quinn over at Professor Thom's (nice guy and nice bar), and how swell brother-in-law Zorro’s new digs in Brooklyn are (not to mention the interesting Ukrainian restaurant we ate at, where I had a dish called bigos - basically three different kinds of pork in a stew with sauerkraut) but if I wrote all of that out, you wouldn’t have had this until Monday or Tuesday. As it stands, I’ve been sitting here writing this out while MY WIFE, who is my biggest fan whether I ever win a million dollars or not, is sitting alone watching the damn TV, so I’m going to stop typing and kiss her. See you Monday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Postage, The Preakness, Magazines, Subways & Game Shows

I expect my checks to be returned any day now.

On Saturday, I paid three bills. I wrote out checks, put them into envelopes, addressed the envelopes, placed a stamp on each envelope and put them into the mailbox. On Sunday, MY WIFE said that we had to remember to get some new stamps since the postage rate had gone from thirty-nine cents to forty-one cents this past week.


Only a governmental agency such as the Post Office would raise prices in such an idiotic fashion. No other business entity in the entire world would raise their rate from thirty-nine cents to forty-one cents. A real business would have made it forty cents the last time and not had to bother anybody this time. There’s been some talk about abolishing the penny. Hah! As long as the Post Office is part of the equation, it will never happen.

(Not that I want it to happen. I like pennies. They cost more to make than they’re worth. In that way, they’re a perfect microcosm of government efficiency.)

Back in the days of my youth, when pteradons were likely to swoop down out of the sky and rip your arm off for a snack, postage was something like four cents. When the rates went up, it made sense to raise them just a couple of cents and nobody made a stink about it.

(If I could have somehow worked the word “scents” into that sentence, along with “sense” and “cents,” it would have been really cool. God knows I tried.)

Anyway, raising the rates two cents nowadays just ticks people off. For God’s sake, make it 50 cents and be done with it. Then you won’t have to piss us off again for at least another ten years or so.

Enough of that. I have plenty of other stuff to complain about.

The Preakness was run on Saturday. Curlin beat Street Sense by a nose, literally. Very exciting race. What could I possibly have to bitch about?

Well, this. In the post race coverage, Sportscenter on ESPN gave a number of “interesting” facts concerning Curlin’s victory. One of them was – are you sitting down? – that no horse had won from post position #4 since 2000.

OH MY GOD! Not since way back then? Take away my Old Spice and call me Stinky! Who would have thought that you could go SEVEN WHOLE RACES without the #4 horse winning? It’s... It’s... utterly inconceivable!

Seriously. They couldn’t come up with anything more interesting and less mundane than that? Who’s writing this stuff? The Post Office?

In other startling news, MY WIFE and I have way too many magazine subscriptions.

We now receive Esquire, Best Life, Woman’s Day, Lucky, Giant, The New York Observer, LPN, More, Smithsonian, Body & Soul, Readers Digest and two or three religious publications I can’t even remember the names of at the moment. They are piling up at an alarming rate on our dining room table. If we allow this to continue for another three or four months, we’ll be in danger of becoming one of those stories you read every so often wherein somebody gets buried inside of his own house by a pile of detritus and, unable to extricate himself, dies a miserable and lonely death, the body discovered only when the mailman (there’s the damn Post Office again) notices a stench while he’s delivering even more magazines.

This sad state of affairs has come about because we had frequent flyer miles on an airline facing bankruptcy. Since our miles would soon be useless, we were offered a number of magazine subscriptions as compensation. We wanted Smithsonian. I figured Esquire would be a decent read, too. The rest of them we ordered because, well, why not? We were owed something and since this was what we could get for our miles, we were damned well going to take advantage of it. We had no earthly idea what “Lucky” or “Giant” or “LPN” might be. As it turns out? We still have little idea, since we just plain don’t have the time to read all of these things.

We have enough printed pages on our dining room table to have saved a couple of acres of rain forest if we had just had brains enough to say, “No, thank you.” Instead, we are in danger for our lives. Hell, the damned perfume and cologne ads are enough to kill us via asphyxiation.

(Hmmmm. I probably could have gotten “scents” into this thing right there. Maybe I’ll try again later.)

We had this happen once before, so you'd think we might have learned something from that. Nope. See, we had a subscription to the Financial Times. I won that on-line by picking winners over the course of a football season. I think the grand prize was $10,000. I finished second and got a year of the newspaper.

We had no earthly use for the thing - I think our biggest investment at the time was a jar full of pennies - but I won it, so I wanted it. It started coming and kept coming, every day. We piled them up by the fireplace, intending to use them for kindling or some such, but it was a warm winter and finally we had to admit defeat. MY WIFE called them to cancel the subscription. They wouldn't let her.

They told her that she could only suspend the subscription, not cancel it. This was her response:


Well, after arguing with them for five minutes, she had them suspend the subscription, since it accomplished pretty much the same thing. Except that now we live in fear that someday a computer malfunction will start the delivery again and we'll be forced to find a bigger house to accomodate it.

(Another interesting waste of paper was accomplished by MY WIFE calling the phone company and complaining that we didn't have the phone books we needed. See, we only had the local Watertown directory and we wanted one for Boston. They were very nice and, the next day, there was a Boston directory on our porch. And another one the next day. And another one the day after that. And... well, you get where this is headed. By the time we finally got them to stop delivering them, we had fourteen Boston directories.

By the way, the first time we called, after we had five of them, their suggestion was for us to go door-to-door to our neighbors and see if anyone else wanted one. Uh... no.)

So, anyway, we have all these magazines now. If I’m not buried under an avalanche of “You Could Live To Be 160 And Look Like George Clooney, Too, IF Your Doctor Didn’t Have His Head Up His Ass” articles, I’ll be in New York on Wednesday to audition for “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

(Hmmph! Shakespeare? Let’s see a million monkeys with a million typewriters come up with THAT sentence.)

Yes, I have another game show tryout. If you’ve been keeping score, you know that I’ve had three before, one of which was actually successful. I’m trying very hard to keep this one in perspective. I’ve only spent my possible winnings four or five times so far.

In reality – which I rarely visit, but I do attempt to keep up the pretense – I’m looking at this as an opportunity to ride my favorite subway system and to see the Red Sox play the Yankees in the company of my brother-in-law, who has been kind enough to allow me to crash at his place in Brooklyn. If I pass the audition, so much the better.

The audition consists of a written test and, if the test is passed, a personality interview with staff of the show. If both are passed, my name gets put into the contestant pool for future tapings, with no guarantees concerning an actual appearance on-air. So, while it’s nice to fantasize about winning a million bucks, I think it makes sense to confine my present joy to riding the elevated out to Coney Island and maybe seeing the Sox win while I’m actually within the belly of the beast.

I’ll let you know how things turned out come Friday. Wish me luck.

Who knows? If I actually get to be a contestant and then win the million dollars, I might send every one of you an invitation to the celebration party - if I can figure out the damn postage.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - 5

Tuesday – Game Cancelled
Thursday – Hawks – 16 FLAMES – 14
Sunday – Doubleheader Rained Out

As you can see from the above, it was a pretty crappy week for softball. Out of a possible 4 games, we got to play one. And we LOST the one game we DID play. However, here’s a good joke:

A woman walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, “I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam, I’m a teepee, I’m a wigwam.” The psychiatrist says, “Lady, you’ve got to calm down. You’re two tents.”

What in the name of Lucifer’s Left Tit does that have to do with softball? On Tuesday, the City of Boston got my softball week off to a miserable start by handing out duplicate permits for the field we were scheduled to play on. There were tents on our field, so no ball.

On Thursday, we actually got to play a game, but we lost. We should have won, but I say that every time we lose by only one or two runs, so just give me a dope slap and we’ll move on.

We were up 14 – 9 going into the final inning, gave them 7 runs and then couldn’t score in our half. We had the tying runs on second and third, but that’s as far as they got. Oh, well. I was the DH, so not only didn’t we win, I didn’t even get much exercise out of the deal. I singled to lead off the game, grounded to second later, and then was lifted for another player in the 4th inning. I burned more calories trying to stay warm on the sidelines than I did in the game itself.

That puts the Flames record at 1 – 2, with both losses by a combined total of 3 runs. We have a pretty good team there. I think we’ll be OK. There should be some playoffs in our future, if we don’t keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

Insofar as the Bombers are concerned, just a rainout to report. I hate rainouts. I understand them, but I still hate them. Unless somebody’s building an ark and gathering animals two by two, I’d rather play.

Because of the vagaries of our Sunday schedule, this will leave us with no games for more than a month and thus winless until at least mid-June. Here’s our schedule as it now stands:

May 6th – We had our openers and lost both.
May 13th – Off, Mothers Day.
May 20th – Rained out.
May 27th – Off, Memorial Day Weekend.
June 3rd – Bye week (It’s a 9-team league, so each team has one bye scheduled.)
June 10th – We get to play again, IF it doesn’t rain.

So, that’s 35 days between Sunday games.

These rainouts and unscheduled off days ruin my planned conditioning and weight. As I’ve mentioned before, I lost 15 pounds before the season. Since I hate just about any other form of exercise, I count on playing to keep me at a good weight throughout the summer and into fall. When I lose the chance to play in 3 out of 4 games during a week, I’m likely to gain a couple of pounds. Also, at my age whatever good I accomplish via exercise is more quickly lost, so the inactivity will tend to make the next game more painful than it otherwise might have been. It sucks all around.

It certainly doesn’t help my mental state, either. I use these games as an emotional outlet. If I have a particularly tough work week, playing ball 3 or 4 times evens out the stress and makes me a nicer person to be with. I’m likely to have a short fuse from now until Tuesday, when the Flames are scheduled again. I sure hope we get to play.

That’s all for today – just a bunch of bitching and moaning. Sorry! Tomorrow I’ll talk about postage, The Preakness, magazines, subways and game shows. Oh, Boy! See if you can keep your breath bated until then.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


First, an explanation.

You know how some people have a birthday on or around Christmas and it kind of gets lost? It just sort of gets melded into the larger holiday and that person gets somewhat cheated out of two special days? My Mom's birthday is like that. She was born on May 16th, so her birthday always falls within a couple of days of Mothers Day. As a result, some people believe she gets the short end of things from me.

However, I'll tell you that my mother isn't all that worried about it. A shallow person she is not. She is very intelligent and she understands the situation. This is not to say that she wouldn't want two parties or two bunches of gifts or two of whatever; everybody likes twice as much good stuff if they can get it. But she understands. And I love her all the more for understanding that I love her just as much, even though I sometimes may not show her how much twice in the same week.

This is my birthday card to my mother. You may or may not "get" everything I write here, but she will and that's what matters. These are mainly just short fond memories of times I treasure; times I had with my mother and things we did together. The greater parts of them are from my childhood. So are the pictures, which look the way they do because I only barely know how to use a scanner and photoshop. If I waited until I knew what I was doing before publishing, this space would be blank for about a decade.

I suppose it makes sense to start with the usual Mom-type stuff.

She wiped my tears and bandaged my scraped knees and kissed my boo-boos and made them better. She vacuumed and made the beds. She did the laundry - early on with an actual washtub and scrub board and wringer - and she hung the clothes to dry on the clothesline in the backyard (or, in the winter, on a clothesline we had strung in the cellar) and a bit later we got a dryer. She did the ironing while watching Loretta Young and Mike Douglas. She was almost always ironing when I got home from school, it seemed.

She nursed me through all the usual illnesses and gifted me with my first copy of MAD magazine during one of them, and thank you for trusting me at such a young age with such revolutionary material, Mom. She put patches on my pants, as I needed them.

(Does anybody put patches on pants anymore?)

She gave me eggnog to drink for breakfast - an actual egg stirred into a big glass of milk, perhaps with chocolate syrup. Those were the days when it was considered healthy to feed your child eggs and milk every day, even raw eggs - maybe especially raw eggs. She gave me vitamins.

(One time, I decided that if a single vitamin tablet was good for you, then taking a whole bottle might turn me into Superman. Mom was the one who called the doctor.)

She packed my lunchbox with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, slices of apples or oranges, usually a cookie or two, and always a thermos of milk.

(How many thermoses did I break? Many. You'd drop one of the things and hear that shattering of the insides and you knew without checking that your milk now had big shards of glass in it. Mom always bought me a new one.)

She made dinners of swordfish or fish sticks or tuna casserole. My Dad did much of the cooking, and he hated fish, but when he wasn't around Mom made sure I got enough of the seafood that I loved. She would buy salmon and tuna just for me to eat straight from the can - something I still do often, although now I might spoon it out onto a plate first. She made me macaroni and plain tomatoes, still one of my favorite simple dinners - and one that, as it turns out, is quite healthy.

We would do some cooking together. We made peanut butter cookies. We made bread pudding. She would bake a cake and I would graciously help out by licking the bowl clean. I was always glad to do my part.

Sometimes, we would go out to eat, just Mom and me. We might go to the Liberty Deli in Lower Mills, or perhaps we would end up at a restaurant called Colstone's in downtown Boston. Both of these would be places we visited after we had been to church to say a prayer and light a candle. The Deli after Saint Gregory's; Colstone's after Arch Street. She would put a coin in the poor box at church and let me light the votive candle. She taught me to pray and she taught me reverence for holy places. She gave me a great sense of God as benevolent and likely to listen to me. It was, and is, a good thing.

She sang, always. She loved to sing; still does. She sang standards around the house. She had a lovely voice; still does. She and her sister, Jeannette, actually had their own radio show when they were teenagers, on WJDA in Quincy. The story, as I remember it, was that they had spoken to the station manager and complained that there wasn't enough programming for teenagers. He told them that if they thought so, maybe they could come up with some themselves. They said, "OK" and went on the air. Pretty gutsy stuff, that.

I owe my livelihood to my Mom. Even before I went into kindergarten, she was teaching me to read. I was always the best reader in my class in school. I am still one of the best readers I know and I work with professional readers every day. Without that early acquisition of knowledge, provided by Mom, I wouldn't have the job I have today. I am very grateful for that.

She taught me an absolute love for the written word and she taught me that acquiring knowledge doesn't have to be a drag. She would buy me books at every possible opportunity. I still have a half-shelf of Golden Library Of Knowledge books, which she bought for me - one at a time - from a store downtown every two or three weeks. I learned about dinosaurs and the planets and insects and the elements and animals from far off lands, and learned about them before I had to learn about them in school. I glided through much of elementary school because my Mom gave me such an enormous head start.

While I was in school, she kept a scrapbook. It is in my possession now. Entitled "Jimmy's School Years", it is an amazingly embarrassing collection of inept crayon drawings, declining-in-quality-as-I-moved-into-high-school report cards, class photos (who are half these people?), and other assorted ephemera from my times at the Gilbert Stuart, Boston Latin, the Woodrow Wilson, Boston Latin (again), and finally, Boston Tech. Grades K through 12 wrapped up in one overstuffed segmented package. While it is embarrassing, even for me to look at in private, I am so very thankful she did it.

I remember something I wasn't thankful for and which non-thankfulness I have been ashamed of ever since. One day, when I was perhaps four or five, Mom came home from a trip downtown and she had a small present for me. It was these two small replicas of phonograph records, one reading "YES" on the tiny label in the middle, and the other "NO". I don't know what their actual purpose was, but I suspect they were part of some advertising gimmick. I seem to remember that they came from Filene's Basement, but I may be mistaken.

Anyway, she had had a small little nice thought when handed them by whomever - "I'll bring these home and maybe Jimmy would like to play with them". My Mom came in and handed them to me, saying something to the effect of she wasn't sure if I wanted these but, if I did, I could have them. I behaved like a bratty little shit and said I didn't want them; why would I want them?; something entirely ungrateful. Maybe I was expecting something else from her for some reason? I don't know.

(Silly thing to remember, but I do. And I am ashamed about it. I was ungrateful for a gift given with love. Now, I'm almost willing to guarantee that my Mom doesn't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about. She remembers good stuff about me and forgets bad stuff. Well, I apologize anyway, Mom, and now I feel better.)

Well, you see, I'm getting into small weird things here and, if I keep on like this, it will be a book before long and even then it won't feel like enough. In the interests of getting this thing published by her actual birthday, I'm going to just list a few things now, things that - if you aren't my Mom - may well sound bizarre or psychotic or both. She'll read each and every one, slowly and lovingly, and have memories - perhaps many memories, and strong - conjured by each.

You were the savior of Davy and the unfortunate bearer of bad news concerning Tippy.

You were Sugar's midwife, twice, and every cat's best friend, always.

You were the teacher and player of Fish, Casino, Rummy 500, Chinese Checkers.
You were my pass to the cafeteria at Prudential and then to shuffleboard in the employee lounge afterwards.

You are the gatekeeper of the "For Now" room.

You were the grower of the rose bush, the tiger lilies and my willow tree.

You gave me a box of kitchen matches and a bowl of water.
You were the magician who made stars appear on my bedroom ceiling.

You allowed my jumps down the stairs and piled the pillows to land on.

You put up with marbles in the bathtub.

You made me believe that the second half of The Wizard Of Oz was in glorious color even though I was watching it on a black-and-white television.

You came to see me play at McCarthy's and you actually stayed through the second set.

You were the buyer of South Station bowling.

Your room had the jewelry box filled with shiny things and a Kennedy/Johnson campaign button, the atomizer, the radio that played Jess Cain every morning, and sunbeams that never were as warm after you left.

You were the person with me as I watched The Flintstones, The Addams Family, Camp Runamuck, Hank, Bewitched, That Girl, Fractured Flickers, The Hathaways, It's About Time and I'm Dickens, He's Fenster. At the very least, three of those were shows you really were not terribly fond of, but you watched them with me anyway.

You brought me to a brave radical church and I gained a new circle of friends.

You introduced me to MY WIFE.

You were the saver of newspapers - "Kennedy Assassinated", "Man Walks On Moon", "Red Sox Win Pennant" - and I wish to hell I had been the saver of them, too.

You were the person I reported the Dow Jones to every night. Why? I haven't the foggiest notion.

You were the person who brought me the news of a death of a person I knew; the first death I actually felt and understood the finality of. "Ma died", you said. And you held me close and I knew that in this world where people I had imagined as permanent were not, your love was.

You are possibly the fairest person in the world. At the very least, you always listen to everybody and give serious consideration to their thoughts and feelings. I've inherited some of that, but not nearly enough.

You were my traveling companion on the railway in the sky that took us to Ma and Pa's for Easter.
You are the child at heart who played miniature golf and skeeball, took swings in the batting cage, ate ice cream sundaes and candy bars, and did assorted other young things with great relish and panache, on your 65th birthday.

All things considered, you're probably the best mother I've ever had.

(Hey, I got some of this sense of humor from you, you know, so stop rolling your eyes.)

Something like this could go on forever, but I'll close with this:

I've described a large number of idiotic episodes of my life on this blog and will no doubt relate many more. I've done things that were illegal, immoral, stupid, and that otherwise seemingly reflect badly on my upbringing. Every single one of those things came about through my own volition.

Meanwhile, every good quality I possess - and every good thing I've ever done - came about as a direct result of how I was raised. That may sound like hyperbole, but it is the absolute stone cold truth.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Big Old Pile Of Rants With This Hideously Long Title For No Other Reason Than To See How Much Space One Writer Can Take Up On The Sidebar At U-Hub

Hold onto your hat. There’s no telling where we’re going to end up.

I just saw a promo for a new TV show called “The Universe.” The tagline said something like:

95% of the universe is unexplored!

OK, producers of “The Universe,” here’s a question for you:

If 95% of the universe is unexplored, how do you know that 95% of it is unexplored?

I'll tell you what they'll find, if they truly explore the universe. Idiots. 95% of the people in the universe are idiots.

(Oh, OK, I suppose I have to follow my own logic. I don’t know that 95% of the people in the universe are idiots until I talk to every person in the universe.)

(By the way, do you think I'm excluding myself from this? Nope. I’m not only in the idiots parade; I’m marching up front and carrying a big banner.)

(I basically stole that from someone else. No prize for guessing who, but if you know, then there's a good chance you're not one of the 95%, so at least you’ll have that.)

Getting back to the universe...

From Dictionary.com, comes this definition of the universe: All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole. In other words, everything.

The universe is infinite. It has no end. Don’t believe me? OK, try this on for size. If the universe has an end, what’s on the other side of it? Nothing? If it’s on the other side of it, it has to be something. And if it’s something, you haven’t reached the end of the universe.

Thank you. I’ll be here through eternity. Try the veal.

You know what else fries my ass? I mean, besides the designated hitter rule? And people who put clothes on dogs?

Word. Microsoft Word. That’s what I’m using it to write this thing and for some frigging reason, “ass” has been highlighted in the previous paragraph and now I have to hit the spelling and grammar button to find out why. See you in a few seconds with the answer.

Oh. I see. It wasn’t “ass” it was upset with; it was the question mark. It feels that there should be a period there instead. Like so...

You know what else fries my ass.

Microsoft word assumes that you, my dear reader, are omniscient, and that you know what fries my ass even before I tell you. If you do, please let me know. It will save me an awful lot of typing.

Vegans sometimes fry my ass, although not literally, of course. If you are one and just live that way yourself and don’t try to force your lifestyle on anyone else, more power to you. You’re probably a better man or woman than me – especially if you’re a woman. But once you start giving me the fish eye - again, not literally - and try to pass laws that limit what I can eat, you can take your alfalfa sprouts and shove them up your ass. I’m not trying to cram a pork chop down your throat, so don’t insist that I should eat lawn trimmings.

(Vegan, you do understand that we’re all going to die, right? The only difference between us is that I’m going to enjoy my last meal one hell of a lot more than you.)

You know what else puts the business end of a claw hammer to my groin? I mean, besides Microsoft Word, which insists that you already know and I should have put a period after my groin?

(Or perhaps an exclamation point. My groin!)

(Yup. No problem with that.)

The City Of Boston. They gave out duplicate permits for the softball field I was supposed to play on tonight. That’s why I’m writing this crap. I could have been playing ball and letting my energy off that way, but instead, here I am, taking up your time for no good reason. If you don’t like it, complain to Mayor Menino. See if he gives a rat’s ass.

(I could make another vegan joke here, but it would be gratuitous. Not that this whole thing isn't.)

(Of course, this will make my next softball diary entry 1/3 shorter than planned. This is probably good news for most of you, since your response to it thus far has been less than overwhelming. This past Monday was the first blog entry in over a year wherein I got ZERO comments. I suppose it could have been worse. I could have gotten a whole bunch of people telling me to please shut up about goddamned softball before they come over here and shove an icepick into my forehead. Maybe I got off lucky.)

(I’m still going to keep writing the thing. When you write your blog full of rants, feel free to include me in it.)

Let’s see who else can I offend.

(Or, as Microsoft fucking Word would have it, WHOM else I can offend.)

(Now that I think of it, it’s probably right on that one, so I guess I just offended a whole bunch of grammarians. Good. Fuck grammarians.)

Ah, hell, I’m tired of it. Here’s a better idea. Let’s see if I can come up with something that even the most contrarian prick amongst you won’t be able to argue with.

I think Adolf Hitler was not a nice man.

(I can almost guarantee that there's at least one of you out there who is just itching to take the other side of that. Go ahead; I dare you.)


(“Oyo” is what Microfuckingsoft Word says I meant. Who knows? Maybe I did.)

Still got your hat? I’m going to bed. You can go wherever it is that you go when you're done wasting your time here.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Fragment (consider revising)]

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - 4

Robinson/Paige – 9 FLAMES – 8 (Tuesday)
FLAMES – 9 Drive – 7 (Thursday)

(BOMBERS did not play on Sunday – Mothers Day)

The weekday season is underway and we split our first two games. I’m still kicking myself in the ass over Tuesday’s game. If I do two things differently, we win. If I do just ONE of those two things differently, we at least have a tie game and then who knows?

The reality of the situation is that this is a team game, not a solo event, and some of the other guys have probably had similar thoughts. In a one-run game, it’s easy to find some thing you did and point to it, saying that this is where the game could have been won if I did something differently. But I can’t read the other guys minds, so all I know for sure is what I did.

We were the visiting team for the game against Robinson/Paige (named for Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige, by the way) so we hit first. Pete, our manager, had me in the leadoff spot. I love hitting leadoff. I’ve been doing it for years and I’ve honed my game to make the best use of my skills in that position in the line-up.

In order to be a good leadoff hitter, you’ve got to love stepping into the box against a pitcher who hasn’t established any sort of rhythm. He doesn’t really know yet which of his pitches are on and what sort of control he’s got that day. He’s learned something during his warm-up, but you don’t really know until you’re in the game. The important thing for the leadoff hitter to do is to find out this information as quickly as possible - preferably before the pitcher himself knows. You do this by being patient and looking at what the pitcher has that day. You don’t swing at the first pitch he throws, because then you’re making it easy on him. You’ve learned nothing and he still has his full arsenal available.

I’m a very patient hitter. I very rarely swing at the first pitch and I usually don’t take a swing at all until the pitcher proves to me that he can actually get the ball over the plate. I draw lots of walks, which is a good thing for a leadoff man to do, of course. I pride myself on being able to set the table for the power guys behind me. If I don’t walk, I’m looking to slap the ball someplace – just put it into play and see what the fielders can do with it. I’m proud to say that, in the true leadoff position – that is, start of a game – my on-base percentage is above .600 over the years that I’ve got stats to refer to.

Tuesday, I take a ball, then a strike, another strike, and then I poke the fourth pitch towards right field. It’s a short pop that lands between the second baseman and the right fielder. It then takes a hop towards the foul line. The first baseman, the second baseman, and the right fielder are all chasing it as it bounces into foul territory.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking double. In all the years I’ve played, I’ve always been able to stretch that sort of a hit from a single into a double. Not always a stand-up double, by any means, but I was always fast enough to get to second in front of the throw; even a good throw.

Not this time. The throw was good, I slid, the shortstop made the tag and I was out. Not a question about it; no argument. I was pegged, fair and square. As a result of my thinking that I still had 30-year-old legs instead of 50-year-old legs, we now had nobody on and one out. We should have had no outs and a runner on first. As it turned out, three of the next four guys reached base, one on an error and two via walks. The bases were loaded. If I had been on, I would have scored. Instead, a third out was made and we left the bases loaded, getting nothing. So, I cost us a run there.

(I can rationalize this, of course. It was a hustle play. I was trying to make something happen, which isn’t altogether bad. I’ve got to know my current limitations, though, and I just don’t have the speed I used to. Lesson learned for next time.)

The other instance happened defensively. In the bottom of the first, they have a runner on second with one out. I’m playing first base. There’s a grounder to short. He grabs it, looks the runner back, and then fires to me. As soon as he releases the ball, the runner takes off for third. I see this and get ready to throw over to third as soon as I get the ball. So far, so good.

I took my foot off of the bag early, trying to get the throw off. Safe at first and safe at third, too, because my throw was lousy. I could have had the sure out at first, left them with a runner on third with two outs, and trusted my pitcher to get the next guy. Or I could have released the bag early on purpose, set myself and made a good throw, getting the lead runner. This would have left them with a man on first with two outs. Instead, I got greedy and gave them first and third with only one out. The next guy walks, loading the bases, and the batter behind him singles and drives in two - the only two they get in the inning. If I had taken the sure out, they would have had only one run.

So, two plays where I cost us a run each time – and we lost by one run.

Later, I singled again and scored. So, I went 2-for-4 and my game that night wasn’t a total disaster, but mental mistakes just eat me up inside. I hate playing dumb.


Better news on Thursday. We won our first game of the season, 9 – 7. Jack Atton pitched a whale of a game for us, striking out 7 over the course of 6 innings. My own contribution was neither here nor there. I entered the game defensively in the bottom of the third. Offensively, I walked once and struck out looking once, on a 3 and 2 pitch.

There’s not too much more boring than a guy complaining about a called third strike, but the ump that night was calling pitches across the shins. He did it all night, for both sides, so I can’t rightfully whine a lot. The problem is this: I’ve worked for 40+ years to know my true strike zone. At this late date, I can’t throw that discipline out the window and pull the trigger on that bad of a pitch. If I had swung at it, got lucky and reached base, it’s a wash. That’s what should happen with the walk. If I swung at it and made an out, I’d never forgive myself for doing the boneheaded thing in that situation. What if the ump called it what it should be, a ball? I can more easily live with the bad strike call than I can with the bad decision on my part.

Enough about me. There were some really great performances in this game.

I already mentioned Jack. He was fairly overpowering at times. Half of their hits were of the seeing-eye variety. Every time the situation got tight, Jack got just a little bit extra on his fastball and mowed them down. He struck out 7 and walked none.

Dave Vargas hit a monster grand slam in the first inning, making it a 6-0 game at that point. We never trailed.

Defensively, Mike Minchoff - our catcher – had as good a game as I’ve seen in a couple of years. He got out of his squat and ranged far up the line a couple of times for pop-ups. He also tracked two more down behind the plate. And he stood his ground and made just about a perfect tag play on an attempted sac fly. Having caught for many years, I really admired the game he had. It was almost perfect. I have to say “almost” because of the last play of the game. Great story.

We’re up by three runs going into their last at bat. Jack, doing what a good pitcher should be doing in that situation, rears back and puts the ball over the plate. You don’t screw around nibbling with a three run lead, maybe giving them a couple of cheap walks. You challenge them. OK, so he gives up back-to-back doubles to start the inning. It’s now a two run lead. Time to get cagey again.

He fools the next guy, popping him up to short left. Mike Vasseller, our shortstop, makes a real nice back-to-the-plate catch. One out. The following batter singles cleanly. Men on first and third. The winning run is now at the plate. Jack once again reaches deep and strikes him out. Two down.

Jack works the count to two strikes on the next man. This guy then hits a towering fly to deep left. Their bench erupts. They think they’ve won the game on a miracle three-run homer. However, Carl Hyman, our left fielder, races back as far and as fast as he possibly can, up against the stands in left, reaches high and catches it as he’s leaning into the first row. Now we’re all laughing and celebrating. Great catch by Carl. Ball game.

When we get back to the bench, we hear the rest of the story.

The signal for a change-up was four fingers, waggled back and forth. Jack had looked in for the signal, saw the four fingers, and thought Mike wanted a change-up. Jack thought, “OK, I’ve got two strikes on him, he’s probably anxious to get onto the pitch quickly, so he should be way out in front of it. Good call.” Jack winds and throws the change-up. Of course, the batter walloped it - as described previously - and we were saved by a great catch.

Here’s what happened: Mike had some dirt on his pants and he rubbed it off just as Jack was looking in for the signal. To Jack, it looked like the signal for the change-up. It wasn’t. It was dirty pants. Mike wanted the fastball. Jack already threw the change. Oops!

So, the moral of the story? Sometimes you do something wrong and you get what you deserve – see game one. Sometimes, not so much – see game two.

This coming week, Tuesday and Thursday with the Flames and a doubleheader on Sunday with the Bombers. See you next Monday with the results and (I hope) no more mea culpas.

Go here for stats: Linwood Flames

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Today, I’m a star. I get interviewed, as though I were some kind of BIG DEAL. Tomorrow, I’ll be a bum again.

Kuanyin, of WHO'S YO MOMMA?, has given me five questions to answer. I’m going to do so as honestly as is possible for a big liar like me.

(You can be a BIG DEAL. Go to her site and tell her that you want to be interviewed. Then you can pretend that you’re something special, too.)

(Not that you aren’t something special already. I mean, you read ME. Just being associated with a BIG DEAL like ME has already given you special status. You’re welcome.)

(What’s extra-groovy about asking Kuanyin to interview you is that she’s Hawaiian. She’ll say cool things like “Aloha!” and “Mahalo!” I’m not sure what “Mahalo” means. From the context, I think it might mean “Thank You,” but who knows? It could mean “Get Bent, Mainlander.”)

(Nah, probably not. She seems really nice. Besides, why would she say “Get Bent” to a really BIG DEAL like ME?)

Without further ado – because ado is a don’t, for serious writerly-type BIG DEALS – here is the interview.

Do you feel uncomfortable going alone to dinner, movies, or events? What about going on vacations?

Movies? No. I often went to movies alone when I was younger. I rather enjoyed the solitude afforded by the cool darkness of a theater. Of course, they were porno movies. I would have rather had a date.

Seriously, though, I don’t mind being by myself. I was an only child, so I learned early on to enjoy my own company. I think the only thing I feel uncomfortable doing alone, in public, is eating. There’s something inherently melancholy about a table for one in a restaurant. And I never know what to do with myself while waiting for the food to come. You can’t just stare at the other folks who are eating, unless you’re truly weird and don't mind looking like a psycho.

I’ve taken vacations alone. I much prefer vacationing with MY WIFE. We're true soulmates. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of arguments we’ve had in 15 years of marriage. While on vacation, if one of us wants to do something, the other is either willing to go along with it or gives a blessing to go do it alone, so no problem.

Would you be willing to have frightening nightmares every night for a year if you would be rewarded with a million dollars?

Do I get the money before the nightmares or after?

Seriously. If I had the money in hand, I wouldn’t want it taken from me. That would give me extra incentive to continue. If the money were just a nebulous thing in the future, I’d probably be tempted to throw in the towel during the first couple of weeks.

I think the real deciding factor would be what I might need the money for. If it was for something desperately needed, that I otherwise would have no chance at - perhaps an operation for a loved one or some similar situation – then I’d do it with no hesitation. Otherwise, I don’t know. I haven’t spent $100 on clothes in the past two years and I’m just as happy with top of the round as I am with fillet mignon. Money is very rarely a deciding factor in my happiness.

Do you prefer being around men or women? Are your closest friends men or women?

In bed, I prefer being around women. In athletic competitions, I prefer being around men. Most other times, I’m fine with a mix of whatever is handy.

My best friend is a woman. That would be MY WIFE. She posits an interesting theory, by the way. She believes that you can fall in love with anyone, regardless of sex, and then accommodate yourself to the sexual part of it. I think there may be some truth in that, but I’m still glad her name isn’t Fred.

Would you accept $40,000 to shave your head and go about your everyday activities without a wig or a hat, and without explaining the reason to anyone for your haircut?

Send the check to Jim Sullivan, 93 Winsor Avenue, Watertown, MA, 02472. I’ll be waiting, razor in hand.

I think I started losing my hair sometime around my 20th birthday. That’s an estimate only because I never knew I was losing my hair until I was 23 or so. I was standing in line in a convenience store, one of those with closed-circuit TV monitors to prevent shoplifting. While I was waiting to check out, I looked up at the monitor and noticed the people in line. It was showing a shot from behind us. In my head, I said, “Fat guy, cute girl (nice ass!), bald guy, old lady… Hey, wait a minute! Where am I?” Then I realized I was the bald guy! I was absolutely mortified. I truly had no idea, right up until that moment, that I had a huge bald spot. I paid for my stuff, drove home, and the next day I invested in hats.

I’ve been almost completely bald on top for at least 12 or 15 years. For $40,000, I’ll be glad to go the rest of the way. As a matter of fact, I’ll truly make it worth your while. Send me the check and, after it clears, I’ll shave my entire body. AND send you pictures.

If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, would you? Who would you pick if you chose to do so?

I’ve got a good trick answer to this question, but it’s probably not in the spirit of it. Yes, I’d trade bodies with someone else. I’d like to wake up tomorrow in the body I had when I was 17 years old.

I suppose it has to truly be someone else, though, right? I don’t think I’d do it. I’ve been blessed with a fairly healthy and quick-healing body. I enjoy how it works and I rarely have any significant complaints. Who knows what’s lurking inside of somebody else's body? Some stud with what looks like a magnificent physique might have a hideous disease just around the corner. Better the devil you know.

If I can add one qualifier to the question, I’ll give a different answer. If the change would be for a limited time, with a guaranteed return to my own body in the not-too-distant future, I’d trade with President Bush. We’d be out of Iraq so fast your head would spin. And then I’d grant executive clemency to every person in jail on a marijuana-related conviction; abolish the DEA and the ATF, channeling the money saved into true national defense; and write an executive order proclaiming cell phone use while driving a crime punishable by death. Then I’d have lunch.

Now, I’d be a bit worried about what Bush would do with my body, but I’d take the chance. I probably wouldn’t have to worry too much, though. I bet he’d be thrilled to be such a BIG DEAL for a few days.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Monday Softball Diary - 3

BOMBERS – 4 Dot Rats – 24
BOMBERS – 9 Dot Rats – 22

The regular season is underway. I’ve got 2 down and 34 to go. After that? God willing, another 10 or 12 playoff games. The way we played today, though, doesn’t bode well for too many playoff games from the Bombers.

It was cold and viciously windy. I stretched beforehand and did some running and all of the other stuff you do to warm up, but I wasn’t able to break a sweat all day. I still feel cold and it’s five hours after the games. I feel every single one of my fifty years today.

On Saturday, I re-read The Science Of Hitting by Ted Williams. Great book. If you’re just starting out, there isn’t a better one. Even a geezer like me learns something new in the re-reading. For instance, there’s a section wherein Ted talks about Eddie Brinkman, a light-hitting shortstop from the old Washington Senators. I sort of skimmed that stuff in years past, but I now find good advice that pertains to my game.

I’ve had to change with age. My reflexes just plain aren’t fast enough to even THINK about pulling the ball anymore. I mean, I’ve always been one to look opposite field, since my natural swing is inside-out, but over the past year or so I’ve been popping up way more than I should. So, what does Ted say about that?

“I tried to impress on Brinkman… to be quicker with the bat and to get the ball on the ground when hitting to the opposite field. The tendency to the opposite field is to be late, and when you’re late you’re swinging under the ball and more likely to pop it up.”

There you go. Loss of reflexes = late. Late = popping it up. Solution? Be quicker. Use a lighter bat and, when going opposite field, put the ball on the ground.

Did I make good use of that advice? Only partly. I went 2 for 6, with a walk. The two hits were just what Ted ordered. One was a liner over the second baseman and the other was a hard grounder that went through the five-hole on the pitcher. The four outs were all pop-ups. I'm still swinging too late. I'm also noticing that, at least on a couple of the outs, I just sort of flicked the bat at the ball as opposed to taking a swing with actual power. I've got to concentrate more and correct this stuff. If I don't, it's going to be a fairly miserable year at the plate.

One of the pops might have fallen for a hit on another day. The wind was blowing everything fifteen or twenty feet from where you think it would go when it left the bat. I can honestly say I’ve never before played in a doubleheader where I saw more balls drift as much as they did today. The one pop-up I’m talking about should have fallen between the right fielder and the second baseman, but it blew back ten feet towards the infield and the second baseman grabbed it.

I had a couple of weird plays at first base because of that wind. One was a foul pop that I broke back on, but that the wind held up. By the time I put on the brakes and reversed direction, it had fallen five feet in front of me. Another one was popped about ten feet to the right of second base. I told Ariel it was his, but it blew all the way back to the first base line where I was standing, so I called him off and caught it.

Overall, my defense was OK today. I snagged a sinking liner going to my left and I made a couple of good stops on errant throws. Other than the windblown foul pop, I didn’t miss anything.

Jack Atton actually pitched pretty well, which is not what you’d usually say when the other team scores 46 runs. He honestly did. If we made the plays behind him...

The Bombers defense is truly horrendous - or at least it was today. We gave them – no lie – ten outs in the first inning of game one. Lots of booted grounders, bad throws, that pop-up I didn't grab in foul territory, poor decisions on throws from the outfield. You name the error, we committed it - and not just once.

We were missing Jack’s nephew, Jason Atton, today. He had to work this morning. He’s a big kid (6’7”, I think) with a good bat, and also our other starting pitcher. When he and Jack are both available, one pitches and the other plays third base. With Jason missing, we not only had to pitch Jack in both ends of the doubleheader, but also lost the third base play of them both. This team just isn’t good enough to lose that flexibility and still win.

We did pick up a player who looks like he’ll be a great addition. Conrad Paquette was a good half of our offense today. He hit two home runs in the second game and drove in 7 of our 13 runs overall. He looks like he’ll catch whatever comes his way in the outfield. The only flaw I see in his game is that he seems to want to gun everyone down. He has a good arm, but in our brand of softball, it’s almost always the smart play to hit the cutoff, rather than try to gun someone out at the plate.

As you read this, I’m probably sore. I took some skin off of my knee and shin sliding into second and I’ll be sore in general because, well, I’m 50. The weekday league, where I play for the Flames, starts Tuesday, so it’s back on the horse and work it out. Then another one on Thursday. Back to tell you about those next week.

(For stats, go to Bombers website.)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Twice Totalled

“Firsts” are usually memorable. Some are happy memories, some are sad memories, and others are a bit of both.

I’ve used this space to talk about my first kiss and I told you the story of my first cigarette. I haven’t yet told you about the first time I had sex, but maybe I will someday. I certainly remember that. The first time that someone I knew died - I’ll write about that someday, too. Today, though, I want to tell you a story about my first car.

It was a 1965 Ford Falcon and I acquired it in 1978, when I was 21 years old.

Now, most of the guys in my neighborhood had cars before I did. The reason wasn’t because I couldn’t afford one or because I was less skilled at driving. I just didn’t want a car or see any need for one. I grew up in Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston. Whenever I wanted to go someplace, I took the T. That was (and is) Boston’s public transportation system. And I liked it.

I had always enjoyed taking the trolley or the subway. Heck, when I was a younger kid, I’d go take a ride on the T just for kicks. I’d grab the trolley at Central Avenue, ride it to Ashmont, take the Red Line to Washington (now Downtown Crossing) and switch to the Orange Line and ride the elevated (now extinct) to Forest Hills, and then grab the Arborway trolley (also dead as a dodo) and so forth.

(Of course, the T was a different beast in those days than it is now. For one thing, the only noise you heard in the subway was ambient subway noise. Nowadays, it’s one long uninterrupted announcement – “BING-BONG, this is a Braintree train, please stand clear of the doors, next stop South Station, BING-BONG, please report suspicious activity to the conductor, if you see any unaccompanied packages…BING-BONG, there is no smoking allowed on MBTA property, violators will be subject to fine and arrest… BING-BONG, South Station, change for AMTRAK and commuter rail… BING-BONG, even if we have nothing to say that you actually want to listen to, we like hearing ourselves talk and don’t you just love hearing those same two tones twenty or twenty-five times every time you take a ride? BING-BONG, BING-BONG, BING-BONG.”

And yeah, you could smoke in the T in the old days. Most of you are probably happy that it’s illegal now, right? Not me. There was precious little I enjoyed more than sitting in the subway and lighting up. As a matter of fact, I wrote a two-part story about it.

However, I’ve digressed beyond all reasonable bounds. I apologize. Back to the story.)

Because I liked the trolleys and subway so much, I had no desire to drive. While everybody else was all hot to get their drivers licenses as soon as they turned 16 1/2, I didn’t give a damn. The only reason I ever got one was so that I could drive cab.

Yup. I got my license at age 20 and started driving cab about two weeks later.

(This is really rambling so far. Sorry! I’ll get to the point where I get my first car and then there’s a story worth hearing. You’ll just have to bear with me until then.)

I never took any driving lessons. I learned how to drive from the sitting next to Tom Sullivan and watching him drive for close to 20 years school of driving. Tom Sullivan was my Dad and he was about the best driver I’ve ever known.

(OK, maybe Dale Earnhardt and Mario Andretti were better, but I didn’t know them.)

My Dad was utterly fearless behind the wheel. He wasn’t reckless. He was just a damned good driver. And it didn’t matter what the conditions were, either. Rain, snow, ice, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, plagues of locusts – didn’t matter. As long as he was in a car, he was in control of the situation. It could be raining bullfrogs, with a platoon of nazi tanks on his tail, and… well, maybe I’m stretching it, but you get the idea.

I’m not kidding. He drove in England, Ireland, France, Italy, Mexico, Japan, and Iran. Right side of the road? Left side of the road? No road and he had to make one up in his head? Street signs in English, French, Italian, Japanese, Arabic? It was all the same to my Dad.

After getting my Bachelors Of Driving from him, I earned my Graduate Degree driving for the I.T.O.A. – the Independent Taxi Operators Association. I drove out of the Andrew Square garage, mostly working the Broadway stand in South Boston. And, as I said, that was the only reason I ever got a license - so that I could get a job driving cab. I needed some scratch, so I had a friend take me down to the RMV in his car; I took the tests and got my license. Two weeks later, there I was in Southie, Downtown, Logan Airport, and wherever else my fares took me.

In order to get to the garage, and to get home after work, I took the subway. The only driving I did was when I was behind the wheel of my cab. Soon, though, I became spoiled. I found that I was becoming less and less enamored of the T. I was enjoying, more and more, the ease and speed of getting around in an automobile. My public transportation days were now numbered.

Long story short – as if! – I got the Falcon from a friend. And I’ve always had a car since then. I still love subways and trolleys, but only because I don’t have to ride them if I don’t want to. I’m like a guy with a season ticket to a luxury box at Fenway who likes to sit in the bleachers once or twice a year.


The Falcon was one hell of a car. Not just my Falcon; all of them. Great car. It had about ten moving parts under the hood, and four of those were hamsters. It is, to this day, the only car I’ve ever been able to perform any major repairs on by myself. I replaced belts, hoses, the battery, the starter and the alternator. There wasn’t much else TO replace in a Falcon.

It was built like a tank, too. And thus, we come to the actual story here.

I purchased the car for something like $75. The insurance cost about the same.

Well, one night I’m driving the Falcon home from Brookline. It was a hot summer night, right after a hot summer date. I was hungry, so I stopped at a convenience store. I bought a package of Ring Dings and a pint of milk, and then hit the road again. I’m eating the Ring Dings and drinking the milk, listening to “Born To Be Wild” on the radio, when I come to a red light at Coolidge Corner. I stop, bite into the second Ring Ding, take a big swig of milk and WHAM!

Some son of a bitch had plowed into me from the rear. Upon impact, a projectile stream of milk and chocolate cake went from my mouth onto my windshield and my dashboard. The milk bottle, meanwhile, spurted up onto the cloth ceiling, then down onto the seats and my lap. I sat there for a second, saying a few double-jointed curses while looking in the rearview and figuring out what had happened, and then I got out of the car.

There behind me was a Volkswagen. The entire front end was accordioned, with both wheels leaning in different directions. The driver staggered out, totally apologetic. He was pretty drunk. I was pretty pissed, but his instant apology cooled me off a bit. Well, that and the milk in my hair.

The Falcon? Aside from the food damage to the interior, it had a tiny scratch on the chrome fender. Built like a tank.

Long story short – again, as if – the cops were on the scene almost immediately. The drunk and I exchanged insurance information before they carted him and his wreck off. I drove home, still hungry. I parked the Falcon in my usual spot on the street and went in the house to get something to eat. I then went to bed.


The next morning, I woke up to the sound of my doorbell. I went downstairs and opened the door. There was my neighbor, Joe, from across the street.

“Hi, Joe. What’s up?”

“Jimmy, I’m sorry. I was backing out of my driveway. I don’t know exactly what happened. I guess my foot slipped or… I hit your car.”

“Aw, geez, Joe. How bad is it? Let’s take a look.”

I went outside with Joe to inspect the damage. Not too bad. He put a slight ding in my right rear panel, but nothing too horrible. We exchanged insurance papers.

Long story short – and this time I mean it – the upshot of this whole thing was that I reported both accidents to the insurance companies. Both were totally the other guy’s fault and the claims were uncontested in any way. Since it was a ’65 Falcon, and the book value was less than either of the repairs would have cost, I ended up getting TWO TOTALS on the same car. Strictly on the up-and-up; legal.

AND the car was still fully functional. I had it for another year-and-a-half. It did smell of sour milk for a few weeks, but it aired out after a while. Of course, I spent that year-and-a-half hoping that more people would hit me, since it was such an easy way to make money. Nobody else ever did, though.

That was my first car. Built like a tank. Paid for itself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fill 'er Up

Way back when, I had a job at a gas station. It was a self-serve joint with no repair facilities, no air pump, not even a water hose. It was just four gas pumps and a box-like shed for me to sit in while I waited for customers to drive up. It was open 24-hours-a-day and I worked the midnight-to-eight shift.

“Worked” is a bit of a stretch, really. I sat there for eight hours a night. The most strenuous thing I did on any given shift was to take this very long measuring-stick thing we had, for finding out how much gas was left in the large in-ground tanks and... well, finding out how much gas was left in the large in-ground tanks. That took three or four minutes and then I’d go back into my little shed, write down the figures, and sit again.

The shed was a metal and glass affair, probably 6 feet by 8 feet. There was a door that we were instructed to lock whenever we went inside and (believe it or not) two “rooms” in that little space. In the back half there was a toilet and sink. I sat in the front, where there was a cash drawer and a sliding tray that I pushed out towards the customer when I needed to get his or her money. If they got change, I put it into the tray and slid it back out to them. I had no physical contact with the customers.

The gas station was on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, at the far end of a strip mall. None of the other shops in the mall were open while I was working. And there were no residences anywhere within sight. However, it was diagonally across the street from a place called Boston Bowl and that’s where most of our late-night customers came from.

Boston Bowl was (and is, so far as I know) the only 24-hour bowling alley in Massachusetts. If you got a sudden urge to bowl a few strings at 3am, Boston Bowl was the place to go. Fifty lanes, no waiting. The place also had 10 or 12 pool tables, a selection of video games, and a sort of supermarket of bad drug dealers in the parking lot.

(When I say “bad drug dealers,” I don’t mean BAAAAAAAAAD. I mean they sold bad drugs. Only the very desperate and the extremely stupid made drug deals in the parking lot of Boston Bowl.)

At the time, I was in a band called Live Wire. I was the bass player. We’d rehearse most nights from about 7pm until we got sick of each other (unless we had a gig, in which case we'd play from about 7pm until the audience got sick of us) and then I’d grab a bite to eat at some sub shop or burger place and head on over to my job at the gas station. Since I had little better to do between midnight and eight, I used to cart along an amplifier and a six-string, set them up with me in the little shed, and make rude loud noises all night. What the hell. Nobody was within earshot except for a bunch of junkies and rip-off pushers. Who was going to call the cops if I disturbed the peace?

One Friday night, I’m sitting in the shed torturing the guitar. It’s about 2am, I guess. In pulls this dented monkey-shit brown Olds 88. I stop playing and wait for the driver to get out, come up to the window and tell me how much gas he wants. Nobody gets out immediately and I start to worry that this is some dim bulb expecting curb service. I really don’t want to leave the shed just to have to tell some drunk that it’s self-service and he has to pump the gas. If he was a nasty drunk – and the chances were about 50/50, in that area, that he would be – I really had no desire to argue with him.

So, I’m sitting there in the shed and I notice that there are four people in the car – three guys and a girl. I figure at least one of them must have sense enough to tell the driver that he has to go up to the window and pay me, then pump the gas himself.

Finally, after about 45 seconds of wondering if I was going to have to talk to a whole carload of drunks, the driver gets out and so does the one who had been sitting on the passenger side. The guy who had been riding shotgun goes over to the pump, takes the hose off and sticks the nozzle in the gas tank. The driver comes up to the window and says, “Fill’er up.”

I slide the tray out and say, “You have to pay first, and then I turn on the pump. Sorry.”

He smiles and says, “Sorry? How sorry would you be if I told you I had a gun?”

“Not as sorry as if you showed me you had one.”

He reaches into his jacket and pulls one out. He lifts his hand and, from behind the glass, I’m looking down the barrel of what appeared to be a cannon.

(It might have been a .22, but at that moment it sure looked like heavy artillery to me.)

I say, “Fill ‘er up?”


I turn on the pump.

Having never been robbed at gunpoint before, I’m not sure of the correct etiquette. I start making small talk.

“You know, you can put the gun away, chief. I’ve seen it now. This isn’t my gas. Take as much as you want.”

“Shut up.”

“You’re the boss.”

“Shut the fuck up!”

I shut the fuck up.

His buddy pulls the nozzle from the tank and puts it back onto the pump. I suppose he could have just dropped it. At least they’re neat thieves. He tells the driver that the tank is full, and he screws the gas cap on. I wait for further instructions. I assume that now is when I’ll be asked for the money.

He puts the gun away, walks back to the car, gets in and peels rubber taking off.

I sat there stunned. I was truly expecting, at the very least, to have to hand over the cash. I had considered the possibility that this guy might ask me to step outside. I’m not sure exactly what I would have done if he had ordered me out of the shed. I suppose I would have had no sane choice but to have stepped outside. However, the door was locked and it was pretty thick glass. I might have just ducked under the counter or something. I assumed if I had to step outside, I was probably a dead man. Perhaps, if I ducked, he wouldn’t have wanted to start kicking the door down or shooting and then have the possibility of someone else pulling into the station.

I lit a smoke and pondered what had just happened. I was surprisingly calm, all things considered. I knew that I was obliged to call the police, as well as my boss, but I started thinking.

Was there any way to turn this thing to my advantage?

Yes, there was.

They hadn’t asked for the money, the stupid shits. They just risked a major league jail term – armed robbery - for a tank of cheap gasoline. I had to report this, but what was stopping me from making a profit out of it? What if I took the money and said that they took it?

I attempted to rationalize it. I wasn’t getting paid enough to risk my life, so why not make it worth my while? I assumed that the gas station was insured for such things. If the police somehow caught the bum that pulled a gun on me, what would it matter if I accused him of taking the money as well as the gas? Fuck him and the monkey-shit brown Olds he rode in on.

Oh, for goodness' sakes, stop looking at me like that. I might not be a saint, but I'm not that much of a jerk, either. Well, at least not now.

OK, let me put it this way: What would you have done?

Whatever you would have done, that’s what I did.


Soon, with more better stuff.