Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Uncle Roy's Mustache (A Prequel To "Uncle Roy's Wake")

Yesterday, I recounted (reprinted, actually) the story of Uncle Roy's Wake. In it, there was a description of the mild pandemonium caused when Roy's mustache was inadvertently shaved off. His mustache was always neatly trimmed, very close to the lip, and the funeral parlor personnel thought it was just three-day's growth of beard, so they shaved it.

Roy was Dorothy's father. When I first visited with her in June, we talked about her father's wake. She remembered the incident, of course. It also reminded her of a similar (if shorter) story.

At the time of this story, Roy had been stricken with a number of ailments. The chief culprit for purposes of this story was a semi-crippling bit of neuralgia, coupled with arthritis. As a result of these infirmities, Roy was fairly much bedridden. In addition, he had limited mobility of his arms. He could raise his hands only so high, and his grip with either hand was tenuous at best. Therefore, he had to have other members of his family do a number of everyday tasks for him.

Dorothy took care of many of these tasks. She would patiently feed her father, for example, and bring drinks to his lips. It was no doubt quite stressful, but Dorothy - as you know, if you enjoyed her story - is a kind woman with much love. She was a schoolteacher (with a Masters in education, by the way) so one would assume she had patience in abundance, as well. In any case, she did what needed to be done, and did it competently.

Well, that's not quite true. She was competent except in one instance.

Dorothy became tasked with shaving Roy. At best, shaving someone else is a shaky proposition. When you're shaving a part of a person that you don't normally shave on yourself - such as a woman shaving a man's face - it's downright nerve-wracking, especially if you're using something other than a modern safety razor.

When Roy shaved, he used an old-fashioned straight razor.

You can easily slice someone's face to ribbons with something like that, if you don't use it correctly.

Dorothy whisked shaving soap in a mug and applied it to Roy's face with a bristle brush. She wanted to make sure she got complete coverage of the areas she intended to shave, so she overlapped areas not needing a shave. And a bristle brush is not a precision instrument, so she had soap on Roy's upper lip, too. After letting it sit for a bit - in order to soften the whiskers - she started scraping the foam off with the straight razor. She started with the neck and worked up to the chin. She did the chin and jawline. Then she started on his left cheek. She started high, by the ear, at an angle. On the downstroke, she leaned into it just a bit too much. The razor slid easily, lubricated by the soap, and it took off almost half of Roy's short, neat mustache.

Roy was in great pain from the neuralgia, so that may have made the scraping of his upper lip less noticeable to him. In any case, he didn't say a word. Dorothy, however, wanted to scream. Here she was, trying to do her dad a favor, and she had instead turned his facial hair into a freak show. He was now THE MAN WITH HALF A MUSTACHE!

Dorothy was no dummy. She didn't let on to her dad that anything was out of the ordinary. She continued with the shave, being extremely careful not to shave off the other half of the mustache, nor do anything that would alert her father to the fact that he was already semi-hairless. She finished the shave, wiped Roy's face clean of excess soap, washed his skin with fresh water, and applied some after-shave (but NOT where his mustache had been, lest he feel the sting there.)

Dorothy had thought it all out during the end of the shave. She knew that Roy couldn't raise his hands. There were no mirrors in his room. If she could keep him from looking at his own face for four or five days, he might never even know what had happened. Roy's mustache was so neatly-trimmed to begin with, four or five days would more-or-less bring it back to what it had been. Then she could shave him again and leave the newly-grown-back half-mustache intact, with nobody being any the wiser.

She kissed him - mostly on the right side, so he wouldn't feel anything unusual - and left the room.

The only problem remaining was to alert the rest of the family as to what had transpired, and then warn off any visitors from mentioning Roy's lack. So, Dorothy posted a sign, in bold lettering, on Roy's bedroom door:


And, to Dorothy's relief, nobody did. Everybody kept a straight face when they talked to Roy - as hard as that might have been to do - and when Dorothy shaved him again about a week later, all was right with Roy's mustache and the world. Until the wake, of course.

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. In going through some family albums, trying to find a good representative photo of Roy and his mustache, a funny thing happened. There wasn't a single picture in my possession that was worth publishing here for illustrative purposes. Roy's mustache was so neatly-trimmed and fair, it barely showed up at all in the old black-and-white photographs. I could see it, but only because I knew it was supposed to be there. If I had put one of those photos out here for you to look at, and then gone on to claim that Roy had a mustache in that photo, most of you would have just been puzzled. So, that's why no photo of Roy accompanies this piece. If, at a later date, I find a photo that shows the mustache decently, I'll append it here. Of course, by then it won't do you any good.

So, all of the above postscript is basically useless information. Sorry! I'll just shut up and go away now...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Uncle Roy's Wake

Some of you have been asking about Dorothy. I've been in contact, and I'll be visiting again soon. She is very grateful for the love, money, and other good things that some of you decided to send, that's for sure. The cats are doing OK, too.

I have an amusing small story to tell, which Dorothy related to me during a previous visit, but before I tell you that one, I figured a re-print of the following would be a good thing. It contains a detail pertinent to the small story. It also contains a cameo appearance by a younger Dorothy. Uncle Roy was her father, and she is the daughter at the wake.

Tomorrow, I'll be back with the short story. This one isn't short, but it's definitely worth the investment of time to read it. Trust me.



My Dad was not a big fan of his Uncle Roy. Uncle Roy was, according to my Dad, not a tremendously nice fellow. I think the actual term he may have used was "miserable son of a bitch". Uncle Roy might have had some redeeming qualities, but the only impression he made on my Dad (or, at least, the only memory of Roy that my Dad ever talked about) was the following.

My Dad had a fear of heights similar to mine - open heights bothered him greatly - and Uncle Roy used to tease him about it when he was a kid. They'd be in a car, driving over a bridge, and Roy would see that my Dad was uncomfortable. He would then pretend that he had lost control of the car, letting it swerve slightly towards the edge of the bridge and then laughing derisively when he saw how pale my Dad became. He would then call him a sissy. Nice fellow.

Roy was married to our Aunt Anna, the sister of my grandfather. She liked my father and treated him better than Roy did, but I guess it wasn't very hard to accomplish that.

By the time I knew them, they were an older married couple living in an apartment building in West Roxbury. They had adult daughters living elsewhere. I personally never had any problem with them when I was a kid, but I wasn't especially close to them, either. So, when word came that Roy had died, it didn't affect me much emotionally. However, it did affect some plans that my Mom, Dad and myself had for a family vacation.

You see, my Dad worked for Eastern Airlines then. As an airline employee, he was able to travel pretty much anyplace he wanted, free. This deal included his immediate family, too. It was stand-by travel. That is, as long as there were seats free on whatever flight he had in mind, we could use them. This was a courtesy extended by most airlines at that time to other airlines and their employees. I suspect there probably isn't as generous an exchange these days.

At the time of this story, when I was about 11 or 12, we had already used this largesse to spend a week in Fort Lauderdale the past couple of winters. We had also traveled to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and a few other spots in the USA. I was a very lucky kid. I would be taken out of school for many of these vacations. The thinking was that travel would be more educational than school - and so it was. This view was also held by most of my teachers. I was not penalized in any way for missing classes. As long as my grades kept up - and they did - no problem.

My Dad had planned a trip to Europe, the first one for all three of us. It would include stays in both London and Paris, and would take 8 days. We had studied up on English and French customs; had read books about getting the best bargains in hotels and meals and sightseeing, keeping copious notes; had pored over maps and itineraries and tour guides; struggled with the math of exchanging our money for pounds and francs and shillings and centimes; had bought new clothes for the trip; purchased many rolls of film for both a regular camera and a handheld 8mm movie camera that my Dad had recently acquired; we made arrangements with neighbors to take in the mail and feed the cat; had all gone to get passports and passport photos; new luggage had been bought; my Dad had meticulously planned the flights, trains, and other connections to the minute; with my Mom, he had made hotel reservations and planned interesting nights out for shows and days full of scheduled tours; every minute detail was accounted for and we were two days from leaving on this exciting adventure of a lifetime.

Then Uncle Roy died.


Now, even though my Dad was not a big admirer of Uncle Roy, he was a man who knew his duty to his family and to Aunt Anna. He and my Mom seriously considered canceling the trip. However, after speaking with a number of other relatives who knew about the vacation we had planned, they were unanimous in agreeing that we should still take the trip. There was nothing that could be done for Roy now - he was dead. As for Aunt Anna, there would be plenty of other folks there to comfort her and help with the arrangements. My parents agreed, so we continued with our plans for travel, but we would also make an appearance at Uncle Roy's wake, which was scheduled to begin in the afternoon of the day we were to leave.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a wake, it is the viewing of the body prior to burial. Relatives and friends gather to say a prayer or two for the deceased, as well as comfort each other and perhaps trade a few nice remembrances or stories concerning the departed. These days, this is almost wholly confined to funeral parlors. At the time of this story, however, it wasn't tremendously unusual to have a wake at the home of the deceased, or perhaps a relative's. Most pre-burial details would still be handled by a funeral director, and all of the cosmetic and sanitary niceties followed - you didn't just prop the body up in his favorite easy chair - but the coffin would be in the living room (or other suitable space in the house) and the mourners would be free to come and go all day and night, as opposed to the set hours of a funeral home.

Uncle Roy's wake would take place at the apartment he and Aunt Anna shared.


On the day of the wake, my Mom and Dad carefully planned out how we would be proceed. The body was due to first be put on display at around two that afternoon. Our flight was at six o'clock. We would stay at the wake for about an hour or so, then drive to Logan Airport in Boston. At worst, we would arrive at the airport at 4pm. This would give my Dad plenty of time to park our car in the long-term parking lot; for us to check our bags; and for my Dad to make acquaintance with the counter and gate personnel of BOAC, with whom we would be flying. This last was most important, as it would be a serious breach of etiquette to just rush up at the last minute and demand that your stand-by passes be validated. You had to be a nice fellow and shoot the breeze for a bit, in order to be assured of good treatment. It was common courtesy among airline employees.

We spent the morning going over last-minute details, making sure everything was perfect. Bags were packed, lists checked, tickets and reservations were made sure to be in hand. We dressed in our best suits and such, as not only were we going to a wake, but it was also the custom then to dress for air travel - no "I'm with stupid" t-shirts on airline passengers in those days. All of our bags were loaded into the trunk of the car and we started on our way to the wake.

We got to the house at a couple of minutes after two; just right for being among the close relatives and friends, but after the body had arrived from the mortician and the first sight of the remains had been made by the immediate family. Trouble was, the body hadn't arrived yet.

Small talk was made while the slowly growing crowd awaited the arrival of the funeral director. Everybody in the room, outside of Aunt Anna and her daughters, knew that we were on a tight schedule, and they assured my father that everything would soon be right. My father muttered under his breath to my mother, "The son of a bitch tortured me when he was alive and now he's goddamn well doing it after his death."

The body finally arrived at about 3 o'clock. The funeral director was extremely apologetic, explaining that there had been traffic, an unexpected delay at the parlor, etc. He now asked folks to leave the room so that he could set everything up nicely before the viewing.

After about ten or fifteen minutes, he called the family back in. The coffin was set up by the wall, with floral arrangements and candles nicely laid out. The cover of the casket was open, of course, so that we could all see Roy as we said a prayer. However, as soon as one of the daughters got the first look in the coffin, she said, "That's not my father! Oh, my God!"

General hysteria reigned for five minutes or so, until someone realized what had happened. It was, indeed, Roy in the coffin. However, Roy had always worn a mustache. He had light hair and the mustache was also extremely light. He had also kept it trimmed very close to the lip. The mortician, not knowing that this was a mustache, had instead thought that it was just a couple of days growth of beard and had shaved it off when he did the rest of the face. Profuse apologies were once again the order of the day. The immediate family was calmed down and the proceedings continued.

Aunt Anna was a daily communicant at the Catholic church up the street, so a priest was due to arrive to say a few prayers. He was late. Meanwhile, the clock kept moving. It was now well past the original time that my father had planned for our departure from the wake. As we were getting ready to go, priest or no priest, in walked the cleric. There was no getting around it now - we couldn't leave while the prayers were being said.

The priest said a couple of Hail Marys, an Our Father, and a few Glory Be To Gods. My father is looking at his watch and knowing that we had to get out of here now or we'd never make our flight. The priest finished and went over to comfort Aunt Anna and her daughters. Just about everybody else came up to my father and told him to go, now, while Aunt Anna was otherwise occupied, and they wished us well on our trip. We fairly ran out the door to our car.

My Dad was, among other things, a really fine driver. Nothing stopped him and he had no fear. Blizzards, hurricanes and other natural disasters didn't slow him down in the least. When we visited foreign lands, he drove everywhere. Didn't matter if they drove on the left side of the road or the right; he adapted immediately. And, if he had to be someplace in a hurry, he got there in a hurry. Such was the case now. We sped through the streets of Boston, attempting to get to the airport with at least enough time left to not look like total jerks to the BOAC employees.

We flew through the Sumner Tunnel and onto the airport access road. We arrived at the international terminal and pulled up to the curb with a screech. My Dad hopped out and opened the trunk, and we all grabbed our bags and pretty much ran up to the ticket counter, where we checked the bags and had our tickets stamped. We then made our way down to the gate, where my Dad made some small talk with the folks working there, being his usual charming self in explaining why we were so late. At last, we boarded the plane and were on our way to Europe.


We settled into our first-class seats. Another perk of being an employee of an airline, and especially one as voluble as my Dad, was that you often got the empty first-class accommodations. As the plane leveled off and drink service began, my mother got this slightly ashen look. My father asked what was the matter.

"Oh, Tom, I think I forgot to pack the film."

"What? For the cameras?"

"Yes, I'm pretty sure I forgot it. I'm sorry."

"Jee-zus Christ! All of the film? How could you forget something that important? Do you know how much it's going to cost us to get more film? Shit!"

My mother felt like crawling under the seat. She may very well have been willing to trade places with Uncle Roy at this moment.

The rest of the flight was uneventful.


We arrived in London and spent a marvelous couple of days getting to know that great city. We rode on the Underground (still my favorite subway in the world) and visited Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace was a treat, as was a visit to the Tower of London. My Mom and Dad were able to buy some film for the cameras, and if I wasn't such a dope when it comes to this computer age, I would post a couple of photos. All was excellent. The wake and the inconveniences of the past few days were forgotten completely.

The world premiere of the film Dr. Doolittle, starring Rex Harrison, was happening in London at that time. It wouldn't be out in the states for another month or so at least, so my Dad decided that we should go see it at one of London's movie houses. And so we did. It was a marvelous picture and we all enjoyed it greatly. It was a long movie, and was being shown with an intermission. We went out to the theater lobby, which had a full-service bar adjacent. As my Mom, Dad and myself enjoyed drinks of some sort, and while my father smoked a Players Navy Cut English cigarette, he suddenly got this horrible look on his face.

"Tom, what's wrong?", my mother asked.

"Oh, no! I... Oh, shit..."

"What? What is it?"

"I left the car running at the airport!"


When he was telling this story, to my Dad's credit, even after he and my Mom had divorced, he would say at this point:

"There I was on the airplane, laying into poor Connie because she had forgotten a couple of lousy packs of film, and then I went and left the goddamned car running at Logan Airport. What a jerk!"

(My Dad was often the hero of his stories, but he was just as willing to be the butt of the joke if it would get a good enough laugh.)


In his haste to get the luggage checked and get us to the departure gate, he had left the car at the curb of the international terminal - keys in the ignition, the motor running and the driver's side door, as well as the trunk, wide open. He was fairly well ill watching the second half of Dr. Doolittle.

This was before the days of the cell phone or e-mail. The only way to contact someone in the US was to call them long distance. At the time of the realization, it was after midnight back home, so who could he call? And, even if he reached someone, what good would it do? Whatever was going to happen to the car had already happened. It was either towed or stolen. He wasn't going to call the East Boston police department from overseas. In the end, my father decided to just make the best of the rest of the vacation. He wasn't going to spoil it by worrying about something he had no control over, and that made eminent sense.

We enjoyed the rest of the vacation (and enjoyed a couple of very good laughs about the ridiculousness of the situation) and then returned home.


Unbeknownst to my father, one of his fellow Eastern Airlines employees happened to be over at the international terminal the same night we had left. Rock O'Connor spotted my Dad's car sitting at the curb, idling, with the door and trunk open. He said to himself, "Isn't that Sully's car?"

After conferring with another EAL employee, and confirming that it was, indeed, my father's car, Rock put two and two together and realized what had happened. His first thought was to get into the car and drive it over to the long-term lot, assuming my father would check at Eastern first, when he got back, to find out if anyone knew the whereabouts of his vehicle.

Rock's second thought, however, was much better. He decided that it would a fantastic joke if he gassed up the car, then brought it back to the international terminal on the day we were due back. He would pull it up to approximately the same spot at the curb, open the door and trunk, and leave it on, so that when my father came out of the terminal, the car would appear to have been running the entire time we were in Europe, with the door and trunk open, and hadn't been stolen or towed or even run out of gas.

It was genius, but it never came to pass. Rock wasn't absolutely sure of our arrival time, so he couldn't guarantee being there at the right time. He wasn't going to leave the car running, door open, unless he could guarantee being there to watch it and make sure that it wasn't boosted by some creep who just happened to be passing by at the time. So, like many other great plans in life, it went by the boards. Great to think about the look on my father's face if Rock had done it, though.


And that's the story of Uncle Roy's Wake. It was the indisputable masterpiece of my Dad's prowess as a storyteller.

I can sometimes write a decent story, but he could just tell you one. I find that to be a much more difficult feat. The story, on paper, is a good one, but it pales in comparison to what it was like to hear my Dad tell it firsthand. I would give a minor body part to have a recording of him doing so. Sadly, none exists.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Suck, God Doesn't

I came home from the Bombers softball games on Sunday in a funk. I had played terribly, and the team had lost both games we played. I was muddy and sweaty. MY WIFE greeted me with a smile. She looked at my filthy uniform, and said:

"Wow! You played hard today!"

I growled a greeting that included obscenities. The obscenities weren't meant for her, but they came out of my mouth in her direction, unfortunately. Anyway, couldn’t she see that I was a bum who had made three errors and gone hitless? Was she blind?

She continued being upbeat. I continued being a grouch. Then I realized what an a-hole I was being.

I had just come home to a loving woman speaking words of encouragement. Our home was comfortable. There were plenty of good things to eat. A nice hot shower would take away the dirt and sweat, and I had fresh clean clothes to put on afterwards. If I so chose, a bed awaited me; a nice nap with baseball on the radio for my listening pleasure. Meanwhile, she was working to make things even better. She was diligently cleaning house.

Earlier, the games were lost, but I had a chance to spend three hours with a great bunch of guys, my teammates. The field was muddy, but the sun was shining. I got some desperately needed exercise. As I beat myself up for the errors and no hits, guys came up to me and told me nice things. The general tenor of their comments: "It’s just a game, Sully. Relax. We still love you."

And now it’s six hours after the games. I took the cleansing shower; kissed and hugged and otherwise received love from MY WIFE four or five times; had food to eat that three-quarters of the world might consider a royal feast; napped with the amazing XM radio giving me a broadcast of the Colorado Rockies – Cincinnati Reds game (and I absolutely love the Reds’ broadcasters. It was an 11 – 0 Colorado lead, so they were arguing about who comprised Motley Crue. One of the guys was having a hard time convincing the other that there was actually someone named Nicki Sixx); and awoke in time to watch the end of The Canadian Open golf tournament on TV. As I was typing this, MY WIFE awoke from a nap that she took, came out of the bedroom, and the first thing out of her mouth was, "How are you feeling, sunshine?"

I told her I was feeling great. And so I am.

I suck. I’m not a good ballplayer anymore. I was absolutely correct in my judgment last year. I retired. That was the right decision. Due to extenuating circumstances, however, I was asked to play again this year. My teams were short players for a couple of games. I played, and helped them to wins. It felt good.

My mistake since then has been in believing that perhaps I could do more than I had already done. That’s often a failing of mine, believing that I’m capable of more than I actually am. So, I bought a new uniform and some batting gloves, and talked myself into the belief that I was 25 again. I’m not. I’m an overweight, out-of-shape, 51-year-old. I have two bum knees and a bum arm. My vision is not 20-20, and my once-excellent reflexes have deserted me.

But, life is good. God doesn’t suck. I continue to be blessed beyond anything a jerk like me even remotely deserves.

Next week, we have two more games. I’m going to greatly enjoy coaching third base, watching all of my teammates run by me on the way to home. If we win one or two, we’ll go to the playoffs, where I’ll enjoy watching them again. If, for some insane reason, Jack calls my number, I'll be ready to play to the best of my remaining abilities. What I'm hoping for is that the rest of the guys just pound our opposition and I have a good view of it.

Me? I don’t need to run the bases anymore. I don’t need to get to home. I have a lovely home waiting for me after every game, and another awaiting me in Heaven when I die.

(Don't worry. I'm not dead yet, and I don't plan on being so any time soon.)

I have a home in the kind words of my friends, and in the loving embrace of MY WIFE. I have homes in many different cities and towns, friends and relatives ready to welcome me with open arms and a shower of love.

And, perhaps most important for the present, I am now at home in my skin. Sure, I would rather have had a hit and made the plays. But, if I had, I’d still be kidding myself. Now I know, for sure, that I’m absolutely, positively done. I made my contributions for the year - and I’m happy that I could - but now I’m finished. And I'm very comfortable with that fact. If I get back on the field beyond today, it's gravy. I'll enjoy it, but I'll keep reality in my field of declining vision.

Hooray for me! I had a great time. Wish you were there.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ginger Or Mary Ann?

I know. I linked this old piece from yesterday's new piece, and anyone who was really interested in reading it probably already did so. I think it's important to put it out here, though, if only as a warning. You should be aware that I could take every single one of those little meaningless choices from yesterday and go on about them for 1,500 words each. Being aware of that, you should then get down on your knees and thank God that this is the only example of that - so far.

If I get any more comments like this one from yesterday...

Ex-Shammickite said...

Is there an actual point to this? If so, then I'm missing it.

... I will deluge this blog with vapid dissertations (and I'm willing to bet that's the first time in history that sentence has ever been written.)

So, without any further ado - but a "duh!" and a "doi!" are pretty much guaranteed, as well as a healthy smattering of "D'oh!"s - here is...


This is the question which has plagued adolescent boys, and the men who think like them, since time immemorial (that is, 1964.) I personally feel that it's no contest. Mary Ann was warm and caring, could make 67 different main dishes out of coconuts, and had a killer bod. Ginger had the killer bod, of course, but she couldn't cook and she was a tease. What's to argue? Mary Ann, hands down.

Oh, right. This isn't a question about who you'd like to marry, buy a house in the suburbs, raise kids and make mortgage payments with. This is about who you'd like to screw.

It's still Mary Ann.

However, what if your goal is to be a layabout who never does a lick of work in his life, doesn't want kids, would rather live in Beverly Hills and never make a mortgage payment? I guess you'd have to choose Ginger. She could support your lazy ass making B-grade movies and appearing on the next incarnation of "The Love Boat". But you'd still have to put up with Ginger. I bet she fakes it, every time. And I don't think the drapes and rug match, if you know what I mean. Besides, what makes you think she'd put up with you? It's still Mary Ann, even if it means working for a living.

There is a similar question, but slightly wierder.

Wilma or Betty?

OK, I know we're talking about cartoon characters, but these are two sexy little animation cels, eh? Either one is pretty decent, but I'd have to go with Betty. She seems slightly less liable to brain you with a brontosaurus bone. She has also proven that she doesn't care about looks, because she married Barney Rubble. Yeah, I know, Fred wasn't the prehistoric Antonio Banderas, but Barney was, what, four-foot-three? And his eyes had no pupils.

It just occurs to me (yes, it just occurs to me, after 40+ years of considering this question) that both of these women are married! Ah, who gives a damn? It's freakin' Bedrock. If I showed up there, my name would be Jim Sullystone and I'd be showering by having a mastodon blow water out it's nose onto me.

Something else occurs to me. There aren't any female equivalents to these questions, are there? There aren't bunches of women debating the ecstasies of Gilligan versus The Professor. This is strictly male territory. And STRAIGHT male territory, at that. I have the feeling that most women would choose Thurston Howell III, and not for the same reasons that I'd pick Mary Ann. Most gay men would probably just be shaking their heads and saying, "How sad..."

This is because straight guys fantasize about cartoon women. That is pretty damned sad, isn't it...

OK - next question: Marge Simpson or Olive Oyl? Marge has the better body, but Olive doesn't have blue hair. Then again, blue hair could be a turn on...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Frickin' Meme

I have been tagged by the entirely lovely (yet she uses Eeyore's butt as her avatar) Janet. Yes, it's another frickin' meme.

The meme is a simple out for a blogger. You don't have to do anything as complicated as writing about an actual true experience. For that task, you have to start at the beginning, end at the ending, and state actual facts in a linear progression in-between the two. For a meme, not so much. And I very much appreciate the lack of effort needed to fill blog space when you've been handed one of these. Tap out a few insane/arcane/inane/profane paragraphs (or lists or whatever else is called for) and Voila! No need to sweat your blog for another day or two!

Give me an easy way out and I'll take it, every time. Thanks, Janet!

Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.

(Done [twice] and almost done.)

2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog; some random, some weird.

(I'm pretty random, so most facts about me are random, too. The weirdness will no doubt take care of itself.)

3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

(BWAH-HA-HA! This is the best part of these things. It is evil disguised as goodness and light. You can publicly say, "I admire these people so much! I can't wait to hear what they have to say about The 5 Best Ways To Have Sex That Involve Avocados", while what you're really thinking is "BWAH-HA-HA! I can just spout off pure rambling nonsense here, since that's what folks expect from me, but the poor suckers I'm tagging can't get away with that because they haven't built up a reputation for insanity like I have! Pass the avocados, please!")

4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

(Sometimes it's better to just let them be completely surprised by stumbling onto it. Of course, that presupposes that they read your blog regularly without you going to their place and whoring for them to come to your place, which is how blogging seems to work for the most part, at least so far as I can tell. Of course, if I was a better writer, maybe I wouldn't have to be such a whore. Rest assured that nothing which follows here will get me closer to that goal.)


1 – I was once paid to imitate Teddy Roosevelt.

I do voice-overs for a living.

(Actually, I record voice talents, edit those recordings, place music underneath the edited voices, throw the finished productions onto cassette tapes or CDs [or load the finished productions onto digital announcers, and ship those to clients], and a whole bunch of other tasks that carry the job title of either "Producer" or "Music Director" [my actual job title], as well as do voice-overs. It’s just sexier to say I do voice-overs. If I had to live on the money I make solely from voice-over work, I’d starve to death.)

Anyway, the very first television commercial I was hired to voice included a cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt saying, "Bully!" It was for a car dealership’s Presidents Day sale. I said, "Bully!" and was paid the amazing sum of $100 for doing so. Not bad for two seconds of work. At that rate, it comes to $180,000 an hour.

(In case you’re wondering: No, I am not rich. I got $100 for a one-hour session, which was the rate the producer was willing to pay, regardless of how much work I did in that hour. I did a lot of other one-hour sessions for him that included eight or nine different commercial reads. Break those down and you see that I was paid about $12.50 per spot. When you consider that some of those spots ran for a year or two, being played thousands of times...

Still not bad, especially when you consider I had never earned more than $8.25/hour at any previous [legal] job.)

2 – Despite having red hair, whiter-than-white skin, the map of Ireland on my face, and the last name Sullivan, I have more Hispanic blood than I do Irish.

You could never tell by looking at me, but I’m of 25% Hispanic blood. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Barcelo. Her ancestors came from Spain. The Irish part of the equation (Sullivan) is only partially Irish. My paternal grandfather was of Irish and French descent. So, that’s 12.5% Irish for ME, so far as I know.

I’m a mixed breed, to be sure. The remainder is mostly Scottish and English, but perhaps there’s some Welsh, too. There could be other nationalities represented that I don’t know about. All I know for sure is that some of my ancestors didn't let longstanding national grudges stand in the way of a good fuck.

3 – I’ve read the book The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, thirty-nine times.

The first time I read it was when I was in the 8th grade, at age 12. The next year, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn was a required read for school, so I decided to read Tom Sawyer again, first - for the continuity - since Huck is the sequel. I read it again during the summer of the following year. And I’ve picked it up again and again, once each year, in every year since.

Needless to say, I think it’s Twain’s masterpiece. Huckleberry Finn is usually given a higher ranking, but that’s because of the subject matter and the social justice themes, in my humble opinion. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great read, too. And I’ve probably read it somewhere near thirty times. But, despite the stunning dramatic quality of some passages in Huck, it has a couple of serious holes. Tom Sawyer is absolutely flawless.

(I don’t suppose telling you that Twain is my favorite author, and that I’ve never read anything by him that I didn’t like, is really necessary? No, I didn’t think so.)

4 – I hate having sticky hands.

As soon as I get anything sticky on my hands, I want to wash them. If a drop of duck sauce gets on the handle of my fork at a Chinese restaurant, I have to wipe it down with a wet napkin and then go wash my hands. Sticky drives me nuts.

The other day, I had to remove a bunch of masking tape from a wall in our bathroom. As a stopgap measure to prevent damage to a window, we had put a sheet of plastic over it, using masking tape to hold it to the wall. I had to scrape the tape off with my fingernails in spots. I was about to pop a vein by the time I was done. My hands were covered with the residue from the tape. I scrubbed my hands with Bon Ami afterwards, three separate times, before I felt as though they weren’t sticky.

Crazy, I know, but it bothers the hell out of me. So, if we ever meet, don't get any ideas about pouring maple syrup on my hands, unless you want to see me take a nutty.

5 – I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate.

If you’re 20, or maybe even 30, this may not seem like that big of a deal. However, I’m 51. I’ve voted in 8 presidential elections. Not a single winner. Here's who I voted for:

1976 - Roger MacBride
1980 - Ed Clark
1984 - David Bergland
1988 - Ron Paul
1992 - Andre Marrou
1996 - Harry Browne
2000 - Harry Browne
2004 - Michael Badnarik

Ever hear of any of them? Maybe Ron Paul, since he tried to capture the Republican nomination this time around. Maybe Harry Browne, since he had a couple of best-selling books. Maybe not either of them. In any case, they were all Libertarians, so it’s not like I’ve really bucked big odds to accomplish this feat.

(I'm not saying who I'm voting for this year, but the odds are I'm going to make it 9 for 9.)

6 – I once ate a hippopotamus.

OK, this is kind of cheating. I’ve written about this before. As a matter of fact, you could read about it here. Hell of a weird and random fact, though, don’t you think?

7 - I have never owned a new car.

That's what happens when you go around voting for Libertarians and eating hippos.

As a matter of fact, I have owned ONE car built in the same decade as that in which I was living. That was a 1990 Chevy Cavalier, which I purchased in 1994. My current ride is a 1998 Pontiac Grand Am, purchased in 2002. Great car.


And that's it for the random facts. Now comes the time when I pick seven of you to tell stuff about yourselves. Hey! Come back here! No fair looking at mine without showing me yours!

I choose...

Melinda (because she deserves many more readers than she would appear to have from the number of comments she gets.)

Ex-Shammickite (because that's what you get for wanting to be linked here.)

Jody (because I don't believe she's ever been tagged by me before, so what the hell.)

MLH (because she calls herself "The Surly Writer", but she really isn't. Sweetheart, actually.)

DJ Big Mick (because I needed at least one male in this bunch, and he deserves readers, and I think I have to do something to goose him into writing again before he falls into my "Haven't Written In 30 Days? Heave-Ho To You, Pal!" category.)

And that's that. I only tagged five, not seven. That's because I wanted to have wiggle room. If you leave an undesirable comment, then you're number six. If you actually wanted to be chosen by me, but you weren't, consider yourself blessed. Being chosen by me is like "getting lucky" in Russian roulette.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Day (5 Of Them, Actually - All Saturdays) In The Life

Saturdays in the life of me, at various ages.

AGE 10 (1967)

5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and that there’s no school, I literally bounce out of bed and hit the ground running. I take a pee and haphazardly brush some of my teeth. Going downstairs, I turn on the huge black-and-white Admiral television. While waiting for it to warm up, I feed the cat and then pour out a gigantic bowl of the now-defunct cereal, Quake. I drown the cereal in whole milk and also sprinkle three tablespoons of sugar on top of it, even though it’s already 50% sugar.

5:10am – I carry the enormous bowl of cereal to the living room, possibly spilling a bit along the way. It’s a cold summer morning, so I turn the thermostat up to 76. The TV is showing an Indian Chief test pattern. Turning the knob that changes channels, I find nothing but snow on any of the other three Boston stations. I settle down on the shag carpeting and eat the cereal, waiting for the fan-forced gas heat to come pouring out of the vent in the wall. I stare at the Indian Chief and wonder why he’s on the test pattern.

5:15am – The heating system makes the distinctive sound which tells me that the heat is about to come on. I get my body right up next to the vent in anticipation. The heat comes on. Ahhhhh! Nice! The cat, having finished her breakfast, comes into the living room and curls up next to me - and the heat.

5:20am – An announcer comes on and tells me what station I’m watching, how many megahertz they’re broadcasting at, and where they’re located. He has a distinctive and soothing baritone voice. I wonder if he owns the station and maybe, if I write to him, he’ll tell me why there’s an Indian Chief on the test pattern. Finishing the cereal, I drink the sugary sludge of milk from the bottom of the bowl while listening to the National Anthem and the Morning Prayer. Mom and Dad are sleeping soundly upstairs. They don’t get up until at least 9:30 or 10 on Saturday morning. I am king of the castle!

5:25am – Farm And Market Report comes on. It’s complete gibberish (but somehow soothing, anyway, because I know that something to actually watch will be coming on next.) I wonder if there are any real farmers in Boston, listening to this stuff and saying to themselves, “Corn ain’t gittin’ a good price today. I’ll wait fer next week t' sell it.”

5:30am – Public service program comes on, produced by UNICEF. It wants to tell me about dam building in Africa. I get up and switch the station, to see if any of the other channels have cartoons yet. Nope. It’s either UNICEF or test patterns. I watch a test pattern of (no doubt many glorious colors, but on our black-and-white TV, gray) bars for a minute or so, then decide that dam building in Africa isn’t so bad. While it plays in the background, I open a volume of the Golden Book Encyclopedia (Volume XIII, Rabbits to Signaling), a gift from my grandfather and my favorite set of books. This particular volume tells me all about the races of man (Caucasian, Mongoloid, Negroid) and shows a drawing of an Asian in colorful silk robe and funny tasseled hat in front of a pagoda, while a black man is tap dancing. A white man, meanwhile, is pictured in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright split-level with a neatly manicured lawn. He is sharply dressed in suit and tie, staring off into the middle distance as though the cure for cancer lies just beyond his square jaw and steely-blue eyes. I think caucasians MAY have been the target audience.

6:00amBoomtown comes on. While Rex Trailer and his sidekick, Pablo, are in the bunkhouse deciding what to do today, I go out to the kitchen and start mixing some Aunt Jemima batter to make pancakes. I put bacon in the frying pan.

6:10am – Popeye is saving Olive Oyl from Bluto. Meanwhile, I’m saving bacon grease in a tin can we keep on the kitchen counter. I have no idea why. I don’t remember us ever using that grease for anything. I guess we just didn’t want it down the drain. I pour pancake batter into the greasy pan.

6:35am – I take the bacon and stack of pancakes (smothered in maple syrup) out to the living room. I eat them while watching Rex and Pablo. I give a piece of bacon to the cat.

– Rex and Pablo ride into Boomtown. I go get the newspaper that was just delivered on our front porch. I read the funnies and the Red Sox box score. My favorite player, Tony Conigliaro, hit a home run last night. The Red Sox are in first place for the first time ever in my entire life. The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Hour, The Wacky Races and Tom & Jerry await me.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, friendly well-fed cats, good things to eat, fan-forced heat, interesting people, loving parents, and the promise of a sunshiny day playing baseball with friends. I couldn’t possibly ask for more.

AGE 20 (1977)

7:15am – The radio is playing something by Barry Manilow. I roll over, curse the DJ, and shut it off. I light a Kool and lay back in my bed, smoking. I then realize that it’s Saturday and I don’t have to go to work. I sit up on the edge of the bed and roll a joint. My Mom and Dad have been divorced for about five years now, and my Dad is out of town on a business trip. I figure to carry a steady buzz all day, but I especially want to be stoned for the Saturday morning cartoons. Being stoned gets me closer to how I felt when I was a kid and watched them. Not completely, but closer than when I’m straight.

7:25am – Get out of bed, take a pee and brush my teeth. Go downstairs and put the heat under the coffee. While waiting for it to warm up, I go out on the back porch and smoke the joint. Go back in and pour the coffee, adding three teaspoons of sugar and a lot of cream. Feed the cat (a different one) and then go to see if the newspaper has been delivered yet. It hasn’t.

7:40am – Flip around through 20-or-so channels on cable. The best thing available is Boomtown, with Rex Trailer and (now) Sergeant Billy. A Popeye cartoon comes on. Popeye is still beating up Bluto and eating spinach. The spinach looks delicious. I realize that the buzz is creeping up on me.

7:50am – Mix pancake batter and put bacon in frying pan. I decide I can’t wait that long. Put pancake batter in refrigerator. Leave bacon in frying pan. I can heat it up later. Eat cold leftover egg foo yung.

– Eat cold leftover egg rolls and pork strips in living room while flipping through channels. Hear big crash from the kitchen and then see the cat come running by with half-cooked bacon hanging from his mouth. Go out to the kitchen and mop up grease from the linoleum. Stop cursing only when I hear the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner theme song start playing. Yay!

8:01am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets caught in one of his own traps.

8:02am - I then begin to wonder if Wile E. Coyote has a charge account with ACME. How does he buy all that crap? Why doesn’t he just have a side of beef shipped to him and save himself all this trouble? And what does the ACME delivery guy think when he carts a crate of birdseed, a see-saw, and a two-ton weight to the middle of the desert and a coyote signs for it?

8:03am – Laugh like a loon as Wile E. Coyote gets hit on the head with his own two-ton weight.

8:04am - Smoke another joint.

8:23am – Come to realization that there is only one Pepe Le Pew script, recycled for each new cartoon. Heavy, man!

9:00am – It’s another hour until The Three Stooges come on, so I plug in my bass and put Master Of Reality on the record player. My band has a gig tonight, so this counts as practice. Halfway through Children Of The Grave, I hear the newspaper hit the front porch. I unplug the bass, shut off the record player, and go get the paper. I read the funnies slowly, admiring the artwork. I read the Red Sox box score and then it’s time for The Stooges.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, larcenous cats, good things to eat and smoke, interesting coyotes, loving (if absent) parents, the promise of a day watching baseball on TV, and an evening of being on-stage playing rock-n-roll, with an order of sex and drugs on the side. I could ask for more, but I’m not that greedy.


AGE 30 (1987)

11:05am – The radio is playing a paid program about bowel cleansing. I realize I’m awake. I have a vicious headache. My head feels as though someone filled it with shredded brown paper bags and then lit them on fire. My nose is clogged beyond belief and there’s a spot of blood on my pillow.

I remember that – again - I have spent every penny of my paycheck on cocaine and vodka. I have no desire at all to leave my bed, but my Dad is downstairs and he hasn’t seen me since Thursday evening. He probably waited up until 2 or 3 in the morning, hoping to hear me pull into the driveway safely, but then gave up and went to bed. The least I can do is drag myself downstairs, force a bleary-eyed smile, and try to eat a bite or two of the lovely breakfast he’s cooked – and for which I have absolutely no stomach.

I light a Kool and shuffle into the bathroom. I pee, dark yellow and foul smelling. I brush my teeth, but it doesn’t help much. I climb into the shower and turn on the hot water full blast. I stand there, letting the steaming water hit me, hoping to quell the headache somewhat and loosen the crap in my nose. My father waits patiently downstairs.

I have a dead-end job and an ongoing dead-end relationship. The only thing I look forward to doing is drugs. I sometimes enjoy playing softball, but half the time I’m coked up when I’m doing that, too. I haven’t played the bass more than three or four times in the past year, and I haven’t been in a band in ages. I don’t give a damn about the Red Sox or anything else. The funnies aren’t funny any more and the latest cat just died from feline leukemia.

The world is a place full of times to endure until I get more money for drugs. I have the promise of a day filled with lying on the couch, blinds drawn, feeling guilty. The only reason I don’t want to die is because I’m already dead. I wouldn’t ask for more because I don’t deserve it.


AGE 40 (1997)

7:00am – The window is open and the birds are singing. It’s sunny, but cool. I realize it’s Saturday and I don’t have to work today. I get up, go take a pee, and brush what’s left of my teeth. MY WIFE is still asleep. I have a doubleheader this morning at Smith Field in Brighton.

7:05am – I light a Kool and sit in my underwear, going over the scorebook from the season thus far. I’m the manager of the Bombers, a good group of guys to play ball with. I’ve played ball with them on Saturday mornings since moving to Watertown in 1994. Today we play at 9am. I’ll be at the field by 8am. I’ll have 15 minutes, at least, until anyone else shows up. It’s nice to sit there in the cool morning, listening to the birds singing, doing some light stretching and imagining all of the possibilities that the day might hold in store.

7:15am – I finish my cigarette, strip down, and hop into the shower. I turn on the hot water full-blast, letting it wash over my body, loosening my muscles. While standing in the shower, I reflect on how much my life has changed this decade.

I have a good job, which I got as a result of having gone to broadcasting school. I’m off of drugs. I play softball in two different leagues full of good people. Best of all, I’m married to a beautiful and supremely funny woman.

My Dad is dead. He died three years ago. I was clean and sober, and pretty much had my act together, long before he passed away. I thank God for that. If he had died while I was still an asshole, I would now have unbearable guilt. At the time of his death, though, he was proud of me and of what I had worked to become. I had a chance to pay him back for some of those times he stayed awake worrying with a broken heart.

I’m sporadically playing the bass again, as well as keyboards. I also have a collection of other odd instruments, courtesy of MY WIFE. She gives me one every Christmas. I have a thumb piano, a chanter, a triangle, an ocarina, a ukulele and a tongue drum. Someday, I’ll get my act together and make a recording using all of them.

12:15pm – I stop and buy a newspaper on the way home from the game. When I get home, MY WIFE asks me how we did. She likes it best when we split, because then she thinks everybody is happy. Silly woman! After a shower, I settle in, reading the funnies and checking the Red Sox box score. Later today, we’ll go out for Chinese food with my Mom and stepfather, Bill.

The world is a miraculous place full of laughter, good things to eat, lovemaking, caring relatives, good friends and co-workers, and the promise of many more years playing fast-pitch softball. There’s no cat, because MY WIFE is allergic. I’ll take that trade any day.

AGE 50 (2007)

7:15am – I started writing this blog entry.

1:00pm – I’m finishing it up now. I’ve taken breaks for coffee and cigarettes, to talk to MY WIFE, to eat some leftover sushi, and to play the bass a bit. Still no cat, but later on I’ll watch the Red Sox play some Tigers. This evening, we’ll probably watch Pirates Of The Caribbean. I got it from the library when I returned Shrek 2, which we watched last night. I've got new teeth (implants) that are way better than the old teeth. We’ve got three air conditioners, two televisions (with 80+ channels of interesting stuff on cable), all the food and drink we could possibly want, 49 teddy bears (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) and I have - at the very least - 10 more sunshiny days of playing fast-pitch softball to look forward to this year.

The world is a miraculous place, indeed.


I originally published this piece in July of 2007. A year later? All good. And, amazingly enough, there are still 6 to 15 games of fast-pitch softball waiting to be played (depending upon whether we make the playoffs and how far we go in them.)

Miraculous? That doesn't even begin to do it justice.

Soon, with more better stuff (which is what God keeps telling me, and sometimes I listen.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Unrelated Photos & Inane Commentary

You will never read a more truthful headline.

The following pictures were all taken by me. It takes a very brave and stupid man to admit that. I am one of the world's crappiest photographers and these photos are, for the most part, not good. However, just as a mother loves her hideously dirty, ill-behaved, moronic children, and is unwilling to dump them in the river and cut her losses, I am unable to delete these photos without using them in some way. So, you get to see them. Lucky you.

This is me in my studio at work. Exciting, eh?

Here we see an exciting mixing board, which I often use during my exciting days.

This is my production department partner, Dan. He is one of the funniest men on the face of the planet. Not in this picture, though. Sorry!

And here is a flag sticking out of some soundproofing. God Bless America!

Some of you may remember this shot. It was taken immediately following my (yeah, right) final softball game of all time. It gives a good representation of what I looked like following a hard-played game on a hot summer's night. Good shot, actually. That's because MY WIFE took it. She's much better with a camera than I am. But not always!

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Catcher do!

Here is MY WIFE. She is standing in front of a teeny little house. I know it's somewhere in New Hampshire, but I have no idea why we took the picture. Perhaps it was to show people what sort of house we could afford to buy if we liquidated all of our assets and sold our bodies to science - maybe.

I was trying to take a photograph of something just outside of this screen. Can you make out what it was? It was a deer who had come to eat apples from our yard during a New Hampshire vacation. If you look carefully, you can see the deer laughing heartily at my ineptitude with a camera.

Here is our friend, Valerie, amusingly murdering her husband, Jack (who seems rather non-plussed by the whole thing.) Lucky for Jack, Valerie missed him completely because he was so out-of-focus.

Later on, however, Valerie was successful in knocking Jack off. Here we see his ghost coming back into the kitchen looking for revenge (or a bottle of wine; I'm not sure which.)

And finally, here is our refrigerator. You can try to click onto it for more detail, but don't get your hopes up. Yes, the owl cookie jar in the background is wearing a scally cap. Doesn't yours?

And with that, I leave you no richer than you were when you showed up on my blog's doorstep. Next time you'll know better. I have no idea what that means, but then neither do you, so don't get all high-and-mighty.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Softball, I'm Afraid (That Is, I Was, But Not Now)

Got to talk this out. Sorry.

Sometimes, you’re a hero. Sometimes, you’re a bum. And sometimes, you realize you’ve come full circle and the decision you made a while back was the right one.

(Softball talk coming up. Feel free to come back in a day or two when I’ll have something else.)

Last time I wrote about softball, I was a happy guy. I contributed to a win. I got a hit and scored the winning run. Nice. For a guy who truly wasn’t expecting to ever play another softball game, it was a serious rush.

(I’ve given my softball story too many times already, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I apologize, but I’m not going to bore everybody with it again. The quick recap is in the story linked above.)

In that nice game, I wore jeans. I've done that all year. This is because last year I threw away my softball pants, gave away my glove, and seriously was not planning on playing, ever again. So, when I slid into home and ripped up my knee, it was those jeans that got ripped up.

Jack Atton, my manager, begged me to get some softball pants. Well, "begged" isn't the right word, but it's close. Anyway, having that game to put in my back pocket, I needed to get a new back pocket. Saturday, I shopped for softball pants. I figured as long as I was going to play, I may as well do it right, so I also bought a new pair of batting gloves.

Yesterday was the first time back on the field since that nice game. It felt good to be in a real, complete uniform.

The day started well, but ended with me feeling that last year's decision to retire was pretty much spot on. I’m not saying that I have nothing more to contribute to this team, but yesterday has given me a pretty good clue as to how limited my contributions may end up being.

The thing is, this team has a fair chance to win our league. It would be an upset, but it isn’t out of the question. We easily have the best pitching out of all 10 teams. Our hitting is better than most, although we still have a bit too much lack of discipline. Our fielding? Not great. It’s getting better, though, and we only need to field adequately enough to stay within reach of the other team. If we can do that, we’ll win more than we’ll lose.

I’m a catcher and a first baseman. For many years, I was basically the only catcher on the team. That’s not the case now. We have two guys better than me, both defensively and as hitters. First base? I don’t know. I might still be the best defensive first baseman we have, but that’s debatable. As a hitter, most anyone we put there will outhit me. And that’s the crux of this whole thing.

My job, as a leadoff man, is to get on base. I don’t need power, and I’m not there to drive in runs – although, if the situation calls for it, I’m supposed to. I first look for wildness on the pitcher’s part, and if I can draw a walk, my job is done. Then it’s up to the guys behind me to drive me in. If the pitcher has his control, then I have to hit, instead.

In the first game yesterday, I did my job. I played first base. I was batting leadoff. In four plate appearances, I walked three times. I flied to short center in the other at-bat. Behind some magnificent pitching by Al Martin, we won, 17 – 0.

In game two, we lost 11 – 0. I was the DH. I wasn’t batting leadoff, so my job changed slightly. I was in the 8 spot, so the situations I came up in called for me to be looking for hits more than walks. I had two times at the plate. I struck out twice - once swinging, once looking.

Striking out is bad, but not the end of the world. Everyone strikes out at some point in their career. The thing that really bothers me is HOW I struck out. I felt... I don’t know. It wasn’t overmatched, because the pitcher wasn’t that fast or crafty. I guess "inadequate" might be the word I’m looking for. I had no real confidence. Having no confidence in my abilities is strange and unsettling.

In the first game, I knew I could catch up to whatever that pitcher threw me. I could afford to wait, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been a reaction hitter my entire life. I never guess on what’s coming. I just wait for it to come and then react. It’s not as easy as it used to be. My reflexes aren't as sharp as they once were. By the time I decide to swing now, the ball is sometimes not where I expected it to be. I'm just enough off to hit lots of weak pop-ups to right. Anyway, first game, no problem. I didn’t need to swing three out of the four times I batted. I walked.

Second game, the pitcher has a bit more speed than the first guy. He also has decent control. So, he wasn't going to make it easy and I didn’t believe, in my own head, that I could do the job. I didn’t verbalize that to myself at the time, but looking back, I know it was true. I went up there HOPING to draw a walk, rather than trying to work one (or, better, ready to hack.) It's a crucial difference. I was afraid of what would happen if I was forced into swinging.

That’s not easy to admit, but it’s true. I was afraid.

I usually have no problem giving the pitcher two strikes. I’m willing to take two – usually – because I know I can do something with a third strike should it come. Yesterday, after getting one strike on me, I was looking to make contact. I was afraid to let a second strike go by.

The same situation presented itself twice. After taking one strike, I fouled the ball back for strike two, twice. Then, on the first at-bat, I took a weak swing on a high outside pitch for strike three. On the second at-bat, I watched a low inside ball go by. The umpire called it a strike. It wasn’t technically a strike, but he was calling that pitch a strike all day, so I should have been protecting the plate.

Those two at-bats were as bad a pair of at-bats as I’ve had back-to-back in the past ten years. So now, I’m all full of doubts and feeling my age and whining about it here. Sorry about that.

Fuck it. I'm not going out on this shitty performance. Next week, and for the rest of the season, I’ll kick ass and take names. If I'm going to retire, it's going to be like I planned it last year. It will be on MY terms.

Use me, Jack. I'm going to rip it up.

Soon - next Sunday, insofar as softball is concerned - with much better stuff.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No TV, OK?

I've been writing this blog for almost three years now. I quit.

No, not really. That was just a cheap attempt to get you to leave a comment something along the lines of, "Jim, I'm so glad that was a joke. I love you, more than life itself, and if you stopped giving me your stuff to read every day, I'd go and throw myself off of a cliff." Let me begin again.

I've been writing this blog for almost three years now. During that time, I've written some things I'm proud to have written. As a matter of fact, there's a handy link to those pieces over on the sidebar. It is cleverly entitled Some Stuff I'm Proud To Have Written. I have also, however, come up with some things that appear to make a lie out of all the times I've written about my past drug usage not having any lasting adverse effect. Yesterday was just such a case.

Now, some of you seemed to enjoy yesterday's offering. I'm thankful for that, and I won't deny that it had it's good spots. Upon closer inspection, though, I've decided that it has little chance of ending up in the previously-mentioned "Stuff I'm Proud Of" section. And, since I have nothing else prepared for today, I'm going to tell you how it came about, with explanation as to why it is not one of my favorites.

We have no television this week. We have been without TV since last Saturday.

Non-sequitur? No. You see, without TV to occupy my brain and keep it out of trouble, the damn thing gets up on it's hind legs and looks around for other ways to entertain itself. Books are good, so I've been reading more than usual. Music is helpful, of course. A really good session on the bass keeps my mind working in non-harmful ways, and listening to some tasty jazz or metal is good for an hour-or-so of no idiocy on my part. Conversation with MY WIFE is a pleasure, and the parts without conversation are pretty good, too, but she's not always around. And therein lies the problem.

I've used drugs, often. No secret there. I don't use any illegal ones these days, though. When I did, however, it was because I was keeping my brain occupied. My brain enjoyed those forays into unexplored realms. With the first whiff of a joint or snort of cocaine, it yelled "Road Trip!" and claimed shotgun for itself. Oftentimes, it ended up leaning out of the window into the breeze with it's tongue hanging out, not unlike a big friendly dog. But it was usually just fun, and stimulating enough in itself to keep me out of further trouble.

TV, in many ways, serves the same purpose. It sends my brain on a vacation. Granted, it's sometimes a really shitty vacation, with rain and crummy food and a hard bed, but it's enough to keep me from doing other things.

With no TV this past week, I sat down and wrote more often. With no TV, my brain was not dulled. With no TV to give it stultifying doses of inane situation comedies, unintelligent game shows, news it couldn't use at all, and hideous reality series full of people who deserve to be dismembered slowly and then fed to bears, my brain made up it's own ridiculous shows, culminating in the type of crude silliness you saw here yesterday.

(I've got to tell you something. The reference to oral sex with myself was bad enough as given, but you should have seen it before I edited it. If I had put that out here for public consumption, today I'd be in a white jacket with long sleeves that buckle in the back. Somebody would have seen it, sent a van for me, and deposited me in a rubber room. And rightfully so, I might add.)

I don't know if all of this is making sense, really, but I've already given you the excuse. WE HAVE NO TV! The cable just curled up and died last Saturday evening. As is often the case, a call to the cable company was fruitless. Since I am never again going to take a day off from work to accommodate the schedule of the cable guy, they are sending someone out to the house tomorrow, Saturday. I expect that all will be made right. And, by Saturday evening, my brain will once again be anesthetized to the point where it will function as normally as my brain might, but otherwise not annoy other people with the sort of frippery you got yesterday.

If you actually liked yesterday, tough titties. BWIPADA-boobada-bapada-bipada-BWIPADA-boobada-bapada-bipada. Heh. Or, try this on for size.

Soon, with more better stuff (unless the cable guy doesn't come, in which case I'll be writing about shoving grapefruits up my ass or something.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oral Onanism Gets Mentioned In This (And That Works According To The Rules Set Forth, But Not If You Include This Parenthetical)

One of my more faithful readers, Crazy Cath, has tagged me. She's a psychiatric nurse by profession, which may come in handy later. She has asked me to do a meme of sorts. Being a lazy bastard – I should be writing up a few stories spurred by the treasure trove of family photographs that Dorothy gave me during my visit with her - and, by the way, Miriam, I got your letter - but I just don’t feel like putting in the effort, even though they’ll be really good stories and more likely to make you want to return than the following will (or this sentence – what a mess!) – I am going to do the meme.

The meme has the following rules:

1 – Write the title to your own memoir using exactly six words.

2 – Post it on your blog.

3 – Link to the person who tagged you.

4 – Tag five other bloggers.

Here’s my take on the rules:

Rule #1 sounds like a fun challenge. I’ll get to it after I spout a whole bunch of nonsensical filler concerning the other three rules.

Rule #2 (no offense, Crazy Cath) seems rather superfluous. I mean, if you go around composing six word titles to memoirs JUST IN YOUR HEAD, it doesn’t seem like a very useful endeavor, so of course you post it to your blog. However, in the UK (where Crazy Cath is from) they spell endeavor with a “u”, thusly: endeavour. So, maybe they do other things that are wastes of time and see them as perfectly useful endeavours, such as composing six word titles to memoirs JUST IN YOUR HEAD, and, if so, it explains why we whomped their asses in 1776 and have hardly had any trouble from them ever since then, unless you count 1812, which they probably don’t, so why should we? Their generals were all going around inserting superfluous U's into words and composing six word titles to their memoirs JUST IN THEIR HEADS, while George Washington was making actual battle plans. Of course, blogs hadn't been invented then, otherwise he would probably have been ranting to everyone back home in Mount Vernon about how miserable the winter was in Valley Forge, and then where would we be? Spelling color, colour, that's where! USA! USA! USA!

(As a matter of fact, I say we just make it SA! SA! SA! so we all remember just why we won the revolution.)

Rule #3 has been taken care of three times as many times as called for. That’s just the kind of people we Americans are, generos to a falt.

(Shhhhhh! She doesn’t know we don’t actually spell them that way!)

(Crazy Cath doesn’t, I mean. Four times as many times now. Generos! To a falt!)

Rule #4 is what all of you are dreading by this point (or, at least, you should be.) No fair skipping ahead to see if I’ve chosen you. You’ll have to make up your excuses for not doing it when you get there, not before.

OK, I suppose it’s time to give you my six-word memoir title. Here are a few I considered, but decided that they didn’t quite capture my true essence.


(Of course, that’s far more than six words, which is why I’m not using that one.)


(That has the requisite six words, and does tell you something about what you could expect in the memoir, but it’s just a tad too belligerent.)


(The truth, of course, but obnoxious.)


(Wait a minute. Am I inside the parentheses now or outside? I’ve lost track. This is harder than I thought.)


(That’s what she said.)

(No, no, no. I don’t mean Crazy Cath [six times; generos, falt] as she’s a fine moral married woman, and religious, and I’m not really sure that Brits actually have sex, and if they do, they probably call it intercorse. Shhhhhh! She doesn’t know it’s not spelled that way!)


(Too truthful. And if I start talking about those things now, I won’t have a single reader left [not even Crazy Cath; seven times; generos, falt.])})])

{Hah. Curly Brackets. N’YUK! N’YUK! N’YUK! Moe! Larry! The Cheese!}


(Eight times.)




(Nope. That’s only five words, and a lie to boot.)


Yup. That’ll do it. Honest, to the point, crude, and showing up about 500 words later than needed. That's me, in a nutshell.

And now, I tag...

Fat Hairy Bastard, Mushy, Buck, Lime, and John-Michael (the first three of whom will probably be mortified beyond belief to have been tagged in a post that includes a mention concerning sucking one’s own dick, and the other two of whom probably will be, too, but will be too nice to say anything about it.)

Soon, with... Oh, hell with it.

(Wait! That's six words! Can I change my title, please?)

(Ooh! Ooh! That's six words, too!)

(Oh my God! So is that!)

(My goodness! And so is this!)

(Aaaaaarrrrgggghhhh! I can't stop! Shit! Shit!)

(*keels over dead from apoplectic attack*)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Acid Hockey

The other day, in connection with Canada Day greetings to our friends from The Great White North, I mentioned playing hockey. No big surprise there, I suppose. It’s near impossible to mention Canada without mentioning hockey, too. However, I also told you that I played it at 3am, while on acid. True story.

I grew up in Dorchester Lower Mills, a neighborhood of Boston. Ever since I was a little kid, the Boston Bruins owned the city during the winter. I was a big Celtics fan, but nobody else in my neighborhood was. Boston was a hockey town. Even when the Bruins were fighting to stay out of last place, they packed the old Boston Garden.

In my early youth, the biggest stars on the team were Johnny "The Chief" Bucyk and Teddy Green. Bucyk had Indian blood, thus the nickname. He was the scorer on the team, netting 25 or 30 goals a season. Green, though, was probably the most popular player. He was a defenseman. He was also the team’s "enforcer." Terrible Teddy would always be among the league leaders in penalty minutes. With the team constantly finishing in the cellar, watching Teddy Green whale the bejeezus out of someone was the big draw.

The fortunes of the Bruins changed pretty much overnight with the addition of one Robert G. Orr to the team.

You’d be hard-pressed to find another athlete as revered as Bobby Orr is in Boston. Bobby Orr achieved (and continues to hold) a sort-of civic sainthood.

Orr, so far as can be divined, never did anything to even remotely tarnish his legendary status. He started his career with the Bruins and he became part of the business community of the city after his retirement. While he played, he was utterly electric. He truly revolutionized his sport. Nobody had ever seen a defenseman with such amazing offensive skills. His end-to-end rushes are still amazing to watch some 40 years after the fact. He was doing stuff nobody had ever seen before and his opponents hadn't a clue on how to stop him. And he was truly loved. There are still grown men around the city of Boston who will tear up when discussing the travesty of Orr finishing his career as a Chicago Blackhawk rather than as a Bruin.

Anyway, after Orr joined the team (along with other great players like Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers, Fred Stanfield, John "Pie" McKenzie, Wayne Cashman, and Derek Sanderson, who was probably the biggest hero in our neighborhood because he appeared to be as much of an unrepentant addict as anybody had ever seen on a major league team) they became the "Big Bad Bruins". They were a perennial NHL powerhouse, two-time Stanley Cup champions, and local gods. They fought, swaggered, drank hard (except for Orr, it seemed), and ignited a hockey frenzy in Boston. Whereas before the town had been a hockey town, it was now an insane hockey town. Every kid between the ages of 2 and 20 owned skates. Municipally-owned ice rinks were booked 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. TWO expansion teams (The AHL Boston Braves; and the upstart World Hockey Association's New England Whalers, who raided the Bruins for much of their roster) came to life, giving those who couldn't get in to see the Bruins another place to spend those hockey dollars burning a hole in their pockets. And both of them did brisk business, too.

We were like any other group of white kids in Boston. We strapped on the skates and played hockey. When it was cold enough, we skated on the Neponset River. The river was free, so that was our first choice. When the river wasn't frozen, and we could afford it, we booked ice time at one of the rinks. This was almost always done in conjunction with kids from some other neighborhood nearby. We'd pool money, rent the rink, and have at it neighborhood versus neighborhood.

The difference between our neighborhood and the other neighborhoods was that we were usually completely blasted on some substance or other when we hit the ice.

(The other guys might have been, too. I didn't take any surveys.)

Here's the thing: All of the rinks, as I said, were booked solid. The reasonable ice times were taken mostly by organized leagues - school teams, pee-wees, and such. When a ragtag group of neighborhood kids like us (that is, a street gang) wanted to rent ice, the only times left were in the wee hours of the morning. So, when we got the ice, we skated at 1am, 2am, or 3am, and were thankful, too.

Here's the other thing: Drugs were not seen as anything weird or unusual in our neighborhood. By us, I mean. Our parents were your usual good folks who didn't condone their kids ingesting illegal substances. However, we thought absolutely nothing of it. So, in order to stay up through the games, we'd often take stuff that would wire us. Sometimes, some of the guys took black beauties, which were amphetamines. Other times, we would all do some street "mescaline", which wasn't really mescaline, but PCP (an animal tranquilizer) laced with speed. And, as noted, we sometimes played on acid.

As you might imagine, playing hockey on acid is a strange trip. Acid (LSD) was usually seen as an introspective sort of drug. It was something many folks took to explore their inner consciousness. The usual acid-taking setting might have been a comfortable pad with happening music and all-around good vibes. Other times, we took it before a concert. However, we were quite adaptable. Just because we'd be sliding around on ice, being bashed at by guys carrying big sticks, being slammed into the boards, and possibly getting a big hunk of hard rubber flying into our faces at 100-mph was no reason not to enjoy the colors, man.

Watching a slap shot come off of your teammate's stick while on acid was definitely something intriguing. As it flew towards the goal, you saw the trail it left in the air - or, you imagined you saw it, anyway. The lights reflecting off of the ice surface were dazzling and beautiful. And when you checked someone - or were checked BY someone - you wondered if you might have your substance pass right through theirs. The contact didn't hurt in the least and, in fact, just made you feel that much more alive.

We won, we lost, we didn't care.

If you've ever seen the movie Slap Shot, then you might have an idea of how our games went. Those of us sharing ice time (as well as windowpane) were more-or-less The Hanson Brothers, except there were 9 or 10 of us. I say this not because we played only for the fights, but because we were completely innocent of anything other than pure enjoyment of the moment. If that moment included a fight or two, so be it. In any case, the games certainly weren't artistic gems.

And that's about it. As many of those Bruins retired, the team got worse, and we grew up. I don't expect to ever again see as hockey-mad a time in Boston as the 1970's. And to expect such a time to coincide with a time when drug usage was at such a peak is asking for a huge longshot, so that's why I felt this snapshot of that time in my life might be worth viewing. Such a confluence of events is very unlikely to occur again, so the history is worth noting, I think.

(Disclaimer: Luckily enough, we suffered no casualties, either on the ice or in the drug war. None of us ever did drug-related time, nor did any of us die or become irreparably impaired mentally - unless I am and nobody is telling me. Your mileage, and that of others, may vary greatly. By no means would I dismiss the pain of those who weren't as lucky or as blessed.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Take that whatever way you wish.