Thursday, August 28, 2008

Irish Stu

The title? Stu tagged me for a meme. Stu isn't Irish in the least, so far as I know. He's a fine upstanding Jew from Southern California. I'm Irish, though; at least partially. No prizes for guessing which parts. Does it make any sense at all? No. That's the way it goes sometimes, especially here in the happiest place in the universe - Suldogland!

(This won't get any better, so you may want to bail now.)

Here are the rules of the meme (which I think I've already done two or three times, but what the hell. There's a near-endless supply of weird/random facts about me, so I suppose I'm good for at least one more go at it.)

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

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

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

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

Done, about to be done, will be done, and you're probably here because it was done.

Okee-dokee. Here's the dope.

(That would be me.)

1 - I Never Went To College.

For some reason, most folks seem surprised when they find this out. Perhaps they're just feigning surprise and I'm too dumb to realize it. In any case, no all-night keggers, racoon coats, or pantie raids for me. At least, not any that involved an institution of higher learning.

2 - My Uniform Number, In Softball, Is 29.

Most people could give a damn, but those who think about it at all probably assume I chose that number because it has some sort of special significance. Nope. Some guys choose their number because it's the same number as a ballplayer they admire. If that were true, then my 29 would be a tribute to Henry Finkel. Nope. Perhaps it is an important birthdate of someone I love? Again, no.

What it is, is the age I was when I started the Blake & Rebhan company softball team in 1987. I figured, from that point on, as long as I was wearing a uniform, I'd always be 29. Duh.

And, to be truthful, I've always considered 29 to be a somewhat lucky number for me, which leads to the following weird fact...

3 - MY WIFE And I Had Our Marriage Ceremony Begin At 2:29pm on 2/29/92.

It ended August 16th, 1998, at 10:32am.

Just joking. And if you said that to MY WIFE, she would reply, "Oh, I'm sorry! Can I get you a glass of water?" This is why we're very happily married. She puts up with my crummy jokes, and I put up with hers.

4 - In My Final At-Bat As A Softball Player, I Stroked A Single To Center Field.

My final at-bat thus far. If I were to never put on a softball uniform again, I could keep remembering that single and kid myself into thinking I could do it all the time, so why not put on a uniform again, so I would, and then who knows what disgrace I'd bring upon myself? So, one way or another, I'll probably end up playing again. For this winter, though, I'm living on that single.

5 - I Have Trouble Distinguishing The Color Blue From The Color Purple.

Unless we're talking about the novel.

Seriously, I have a bit of color blindness. Certain shades of blue and purple (usually darker shades) are not immediately recognizable to me as those colors. I sometimes have to compare them to other, lighter shades to notice the difference. More often, I'll ask someone what it is. Even more often than that, I'll fake it. I figure it's a 50-50 proposition, and if I get it wrong, nobody's going to throw me up against a wall and shoot me.

6 - My Buddy Just Called Me From Jail Looking To Raise Bail Money.

I'm not kidding. It's part of some fundraiser for muscular dystrophy. He was escorted out of work, by actual police, and is now sitting in a jail cell. He tried to reach me live, but I was writing this and he had to leave a message. I called him back on his cell and left him a message. As soon as I finish writing this, I'll try again.

I always figured that, if either one of us called the other looking for help getting bailed out, I would have been the one calling him.

7 - I Bailed Him Out.

Got through to him. Donated. He'll be released shortly.

We often talk about music, as he is a former bandmate of mine. As I was talking to him about the bail, for some reason he started going on about some Procol Harum record from 1976. I told him, "Hey! Put the police back on the phone! I revoke your bail!"

Well, he laughed.

And there you have 7 odd bits of stuff. Now I get to terrorize the neighborhood, by naming 7 of YOU to complete this thing. Problem is, I honestly can't remember who among you has already done this, or been tagged by me to do it, and I know some of you don't like being tagged, and others of you are on vacation, and, um...

I'm tagging nobody on this one. Be sure to thank God tonight in your prayers. Of course, if you wanted to be tagged - and who could blame you, considering the tremendous amount of cachet you'd get from being associated with a big deal like me? - then feel free to meme to your hearts content.

Soon, with what would almost have to be better stuff.

(Got the photo here, by the way.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Disingenuous Pieces Of Shit

(Please pardon the scatology in the headline, but the only better words I could have used were worse. Some people will read the headline, see the picture, and assume I'm against the Democrats, and for the Republicans, and a whole bunch of other assumptions made without a complete reading of what follows. Fuck those people. They're idiots. You, on the other hand, are OK.)

Big blaring headlines, across the country, from the Democratic convention in Denver:

Clinton Calls For Unity

Clinton Calls For Unity

Clinton Calls For Unity

Clinton Calls For Unity

Clinton Calls For Unity

Ad Nauseum.

Every political season, it's the same old shit. Two (or more) candidates rip each other new ones trying to gain their party's nomination. Then, when the convention rolls around, the losing candidate says, in effect, "Please forget everything I said about my opponent. He/She is a swell person. I was only kidding when I said he/she didn't have enough experience/too much time in Washington/the brainpower of a retarded woodchuck."

Before you get on your Democratic high horse and start calling me a tool for the Republicans, let me tell you that they suck, too. Exactly the same game will be played out when they convene.

I get the feeling that the whole American political system is being run by Vince McMahon. Just as in professional wrestling, the worst of enemies - those painted as hideous blackguards who have no moral compass, and who will cheat at every possible turn to gain what they desire - are, six months later, presented as the closest of best friends and professional colleagues, united in a fight to keep the foul scourge of (fill-in-the-blank political party) from plunging the country into A) a depression, B) a recession, or C) an untenable war and/or peace.

I'm sometimes amazed that anybody in this country votes. When you pull the lever for some of the assholes with which you're presented a choice, you can't help but feel like you've been duped.

On the other hand, I'm amazed that anybody in this country DOESN'T vote. Every election, we're presented with the clearest of clear cut choices. Vote for one of the dickheads or twats that the major parties handpick, or make a statement that you're not satisfied with the choices presented and you expect better next time.

No secret - I'm a Libertarian. Am I asking you to vote for one? Only if the candidate appears to be the best choice by your reckoning. That's all we need as a country, you know. If everybody voted for the candidate they really, truly thought was the best one available - and that includes the Dem or the Rep, if that's what you truly believe - then these horrendous games of political three-card-monte couldn't be played every four years.

Do I really have to say what follows here? Probably not for most of you, but perhaps some of you need to be reminded of it. There are always more than two choices, even if only two choices appear on the ballot in your jurisdiction. There are Libertarian candidates, Green candidates, Populist candidates, Religious candidates, Atheistic candidates, Prohibitionist candidates, Communist candidates, and every stripe in-between. If there isn't a name listed that your conscience can live with having voted for, then you can employ that tremendous American tradition of the write-in vote. If you can't find anyone else worthy of your vote, vote for yourself, for goodness' sakes. If YOU aren't worthy of your own vote, then who is?

"Oh, I don't want to waste my vote!"

I say this with all kindness, but I still have to say it: Quit being an idiot. The only wasted vote is one for a candidate you don't believe in. Anyway, with the way the American political process is set up, your individual vote in a presidential election has about as much chance of deciding the outcome as a muskrat has of being the next Queen of England. YOU DON'T ELECT THE PRESIDENT. The Electoral College meets in December and casts the official vote. It's possible you don't understand how it works. If you don't, here's some good information.

The condensed version: You vote for electors. You do not vote for McCain, Obama, Barr, Lipschitz, Quackenbush, or whoever else. All electors from each state are more-or-less committed to ONE candidate following the popular election. If you voted for any other candidate, your vote is basically tossed down a sewer prior to the electors meeting in December.

What this boils down to is that if you live in a state where the popular vote outcome is a foregone conclusion - Massachusetts, for example, where Obama will win handily - then a vote for McCain will not make a damn bit of difference, other than, perhaps, to your conscience. There is only one vote NOT for Obama that will register with the powers that be. And that is a vote for someone other than McCain. In a state where the opposite is true (a state which McCain can't possibly lose) there is only one vote NOT for McCain that will register with the powers that be. And that is a vote for someone other than Obama.

Confusing? Not really. If a large enough bloc of voters cast ballots for third-party or write-in candidates - ANY third-party or write-in candidates - then that number will be seen and noted. A vote for a losing major party candidate is consigned to the dustbin. A vote for a non-major-party candidate has a possibility of making a statement.

Well, I've gone off on a tangent from my original purpose, my original purpose here having been to spout off a vicious rant concerning the hideous phonies, like Hillary Clinton (and, come September, probably Mitt Romney) who think that you and I are total morons. Hey, if we buy into their crap, and vote for them, then we are.

Soon, with less vitriolic stuff.

P.S. No doubt, some of you are here because I wrote nice little pieces about cats, or because I previously made you laugh. I apologize if I've offended you in any way. Rest assured, that's more than you'll get from the politicians. Anyway, it all builds up inside of me every six or seven months and I have to let it out. If I didn't, I'd be an axe murderer, or perhaps a Lyndon LaRouche supporter. Either way, society as a whole is better off if I vent every once in a while, and I thank you for your indulgence.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another Visit With Dorothy

This past Saturday, I paid another visit to Dorothy. I’ll catch you up on a bit of cat news, and also share a small handful of photos I took.

When I arrived, the first thing Dorothy did was show me a folder full of newspaper clippings, letters, cards, and other stuff she has received since her cats have been "discovered" by the media. It was a fairly thick folder.

A couple of the things she received in the mail were addressed to "Dorothy Luff – Cat Lady." She laughed about that. She told me that she’s received $450 in the mail from you kind folks. She has a hundred different maladies, as you know, and included among them is arthritis, so writing notes of thanks isn’t easy. Dorothy wanted to make sure that I told you how much she appreciates the help.

I arrived at her place around noon, just in time to go down into the woods and feed the cats. I carried a jug of water, while Dorothy carried the small sack full of cat food cans.

As we approached the feeding area, a somewhat strange thing happened. When I was last there, and had accompanied Dorothy into the woods, all of the cats stayed a goodly distance away. The cats always come right up to Dorothy, of course, but when a stranger is with her, they are wary. This time, the cats came right up to within a couple of feet of me, just as though I was someone they knew. They didn’t jump into my arms and shower me with kisses, but they showed very little reticence. It was nice of them to trust me.

(Truth be told, I don’t think they especially trust me. I think they're just becoming used to having more people in the woods with them. What with the reporters, animal control people, cat shelter folk, and the others who now like to take the walk with Dorothy, the cats are probably just more acclimated to company in general. They are still wild cats, but Dorothy says some people seem to think it’s a petting zoo. I suppose the friendlier the cats are, the friendlier people will be to THEM, so it’s probably a good thing.

If I had known how chummy the cats were going to be, I would have gotten more photos of them at the feeding station. I didn't expect to get anything good, so I left my camera back at Dorothy's place. I didn't figure photographs of trees would thrill you much. I did get some shots of cats, though, as you'll see later.)

We stopped in at a neighbor’s place, a good friend of Dorothy. Phyllis is a cat owner herself, and a right big cat she has, too. Long-haired and lengthy, he is a well-fed indoor cat named Puffy, and the name fits. If you saw the Channel 5 piece, he was the cat, sitting in the window, to which Dorothy spoke. Anyway, we had a good long visit, shared stories, and enjoyed some laughs. Phyllis’s place is closest to the cats in the woods, and she always keeps an eye out for Dorothy. She’s good people.

Well, it was just a nice visit, uneventful. Dorothy is still not in great health, but she is still in good spirits. Here are a few pictures of cats and Dorothy:

A small handful of the cats will come into Dorothy's actual yard every so often. I got these shots through her screen door in back.

Dorothy has one house cat, and this is her. I believe she was a feral kitten that Dorothy decided to adopt, but I may be mistaken about that. Her name is Barbie. Very pretty cat, a tad overweight. It looks like Barbie is trying to take a bite out of Dorothy's shirt. Rest assured, she isn't. In keeping with my rep as one of the worst photographers on earth, this may be the only time Barbie meowed during my entire visit. So, of course, that's when I snapped the photo.

As I was leaving, I tried to get a shot of Dorothy and me together. As you’ll see, I failed miserably. I tried quite a few times, holding the camera out at arm's length and snapping. Believe it or not, this is the best of the lot. After this waste of time, I showed the awful results to Dorothy. We both laughed, and she said, "YOUR WIFE must have an awful lot of patience."

Well, when a self-professed crazy cat lady chides you for being exasperating, that tells you something.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, August 25, 2008

MY WIFE Speaks!

During the three years I’ve been writing this blog, quite a few of you have asked whether MY WIFE might ever write something here. Well, today is the day! Due to what I wrote on Friday, she has decided to break her silence. So, without any further ado - since ado not want to keep her waiting - here is MY WIFE!

Hi, I’m JIM’S WIFE. Do NOT send him any nude photos of yourself. Thank you.

I certainly wish to honor MY WIFE’s wishes. To make sure that you don’t send me any nude photos of yourself, here is the address you shouldn’t send them to:

Jim Sullivan
93 Winsor Avenue
Watertown, MA 02472

Thank you.

Friday, August 22, 2008

I've Made Up My Very Own Meme!

Every so often, someone tags me with a meme. When it happens, I both enjoy and abhor it (which is a pretty confusing trick, so I'll explain.)

I enjoy it because it's a compliment. The person who tagged me either likes me a lot, or thinks that what I'll have to say will be interesting, or possibly both. It also gives me a good option for filling blog space. I can natter on about nothing in particular, for a thousand words or so, with as much or as little detail as I desire. It's much easier than writing up an actual true story. When I do that, I have to get all the facts straight, record them in a linear fashion, and maybe even give attribution. An excuse to just make stuff up? I love it!

On the other hand, I abhor it because I always feel obligated to complete the task. As I've mentioned before, I hate being handed unasked-for obligations. And, if I decide not to do the meme, I feel guilty. I know that the person who tasked me with the completion of said meme was probably looking forward to reading my take on it.

So, having explained to you my position on the meme, I will now tell you that I've decided to make up one of my own. And I'm going to tag a bunch of you to do it, too.

Nope! Too late! You can't cut and run now. If you've read this far, you'll have to slog through the rest of it and take your chances on being named at the end. If you do run, you can't hide. Sooner or later, I'll be stopping by your place, looking for my meme, and if I don't see it... well, I'd just better; that's all I'm saying.

Here are the rules:

1 - On your blog, copy the following questions. Write out your responses to them.

(Did I really have to put in that second sentence? Probably not, but some of you might be stoned. It's hard for me to imagine another reason why you'd be here.)

2 - Give a link back to the blog you found this on. If you don't, Bill Gates will come to your house and take back all of that money you earned by forwarding his e-mails.

3 - Until such time as you get at least 20 comments, hop up and down while singing this little ditty which I've entitled "The Perverted Lifeguard Song":

I like women who like to go swimmin'
In nothin' but the skin that God gave 'em
And if they go under, it should be no wonder
I'll jump in the drink and I'll save 'em
There's nothing, you see, more a turn-on to me
Than a lady all wet, limp and breathless
I'll buy her some dinner and if she's a winner
I might even pay for her breakfast
Yum Tum Tiddly-Tum
I'm a perverted lifeguard!
Yum Tum Tickle Your Bum
I'm a perverted lifeguard!

If you're a woman, you don't have to sing it - unless you want to. However, you DO have to do the jumping up and down bit. Nude. And send me photos.

4 - I'm not kidding. Send me photos.

5 - Tag everybody on your sidebar. Tell them to send me photos, too.

6 - If any men send me photos, they'd better be damn good looking.

7 - No, skip that. Just don't even think about doing it. If you're a man and you send me a photo, I'll publish it.

8 - Oh, God, NO! I can just see all of the perverts stuffing photos of themselves into envelopes specifically because they'd get a rush out of seeing their junk published here. Stop reading. Go away.

9 - OK, now that they're gone, let me repeat: Ladies, I want nude photos of you jumping up and down. That's the only reason I'm making up this meme.

10 - I will NOT publish any photos I receive from ladies jumping up and down in the nude. As a matter of fact, I won't even tell anyone you sent them to me. Unless I don't get any at all. Then I'll make stuff up. So, at least one of you better send me some. Think of it as sacrificing yourself for the common good.

OK, here's the meme:

1 - How willing would you be to send naked photos of yourself to a relative stranger?

2 - If I absolutely positively guaranteed that the photos would never be seen by anyone but me, in the privacy of my bedroom, would that change your mind?

3 - What if I promised to burn them up after a reasonable length of time? Say, thirty years.

4 - I'd send you one of me in return, but the only person I have to shoot the shots is MY WIFE. I have a feeling she'd object.

5 - Yes, I'm going to let her read this. She'll probably call me a pig. In which case, if you don't send me any nude photos of yourself jumping up and down, I will have spoiled my marriage for no good reason. How much guilt can you handle? Send the photos!

6 - OK, now I'm not even doing a good job of keeping up the pretense that this is a meme. The last two questions weren't even questions. I suppose I'd better make up at least one legitimate question.

7 - What's your favorite flavor of giraffe?*

Now, here's who I'm tagging:

Everybody in the world, even if you don't have a blog (unless you're related to me - my name isn't Oedipus.) I would prefer that you not have a dick. And, now that I think of it, skip the jumping up and down part. It will only make things blurry. Oh, and you should be at least 18 years of age, too. I'm not looking to get caught up in any interstate kiddie porn stings. I'm just looking for a cheap thrill.

Soon, with... Oh, who the hell cares? Send the photos!

* Raspberry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Roddy Goes To The Hospital

Our friends, Virginia and John Paul, both enjoy fishing. On one of their recent trips, Virginia snared a large trout. MY WIFE and I were invited to share in the eating of this big fish. We're always happy to get a free meal, so we made our way to their place in Milton.

MY WIFE took the T after work, planning to meet me at the Central Avenue trolley stop. I drove from Newton. Once we arrived at Central Avenue, we would drive to Virginia and John Paul’s house, a mile or so up the road. On my way, I hit a huge pothole on Morton Street. When I did so, my right rear window fell four inches into the door frame.

Back-story: Three years previous, I lowered that window and then found myself unable to get it back up. The motor was burned out. At that time, I took the car to the repair shop and I told them that I didn’t care about replacing the motor and I didn’t care if the window could be lowered again. I just wanted the window returned to a closed position. They raised it, and somehow propped it, from within the door frame, to stay up. Whatever they had done had worked marvelously well until I hit the pothole on Morton Street.

Nothing much I could do about it now, unfortunately. I arrived at Central Avenue, parked, and waited for MY WIFE. While waiting, I got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and pushed the window up to the closed position, but as soon as I released it, it fell back to its four-inches-short status.

I thought about bracing it with something. Having nothing else handy, I took an empty cardboard cigarette package, flattened it, folded it in half twice, and then pushed the window up again. I wedged the cigarette package between the window and the door frame. As soon as I let go of the window, it again slid back down four inches, this time taking the cigarette package completely inside of the door frame as a bonus.

There was just too much play between the window and the frame to force it shut with anything short of an actual screw brace. Jamming my rubbish in there would only result in a door frame full of rubbish. While it was slightly amusing knowing that my door frame could be used as a litter receptacle, I also knew that whoever opened the thing up now, to fix the window, would find the empty and flattened Kool package. I imagined the conversation.

"Hello, Mr. Sullivan? We found something strange in your window. You’re not going to believe this, but somebody jammed an empty cigarette package down into your door frame. I don’t know what they were trying to do, but there it was when we opened it up."

"Huh! A cigarette package, you say? Imagine that! Wow!"

"Yup. Like I say, I don’t know what they could have been attempting to do, but there are 15 or 20 similar empty packs on the floor of your back seat, too."

At which point I would probably have to fess up to jamming the cigarette pack into the door frame myself, and then endure finger-pointing and snickering from the mechanics when I went to pick the car up, so I made a mental note to clean out the back seat before bringing the car in to the repair shop.

I gave up on any further attempts at do-it-yourself repair. MY WIFE arrived; we drove to Virginia and John Paul’s, and had dinner. The fish was both ginormous and delicious. They were cordial hosts, and MY WIFE and I enjoyed the evening very much. As nice of an evening as it was, however, the broken window kept creeping back into my thoughts. This was because I hate unforeseen obligations.

For the most part, I am a man of habit. I don’t care for breaks from the routine. I very much prefer to do the same things over and over. For instance, I could be a very happy camper if the rest of my life was spent watching The Three Stooges, eating cookies, and napping. Maybe throw in the occasional blowjob, but you get the point. When something comes up that must be taken care of, I cannot completely relax until it is taken care of. This window was one of those things.

Extenuating circumstances will keep me from fixing something, though, even if NOT fixing it will cost me some peace of mind. In order to get the window fixed, my car would have to be dropped at a repair shop and then I would have to take the bus to work. I would end up walking about a half mile on either end of that trip. As well, I was still involved in my softball playoffs, and being without the car would leave me at the mercy of a teammate for a ride to the field. I could get one, no doubt, but I didn’t want to have to get one. Combining these annoyances kept me thinking that not getting the repair done was preferable for now.

In the meantime, I had to keep rain (as well as insects, birds, squirrels, and maybe a particularly adventurous skunk or cat) from getting inside of my automobile. I put a lumpy sheet of plastic over the gap, affixing it with duct tape. My rather nice-looking Grand Am was now transformed into a semi-junker. A sheet of plastic over a window never looks good. I assumed that other drivers would think that I was too poor to have the repair done. That’s what I would have thought, if it was somebody else’s car. I now drove with shame as my co-pilot.

When our softball playoffs ended, the balance shifted. It now became much more important to my peace of mind to get the window fixed. So, I brought the car in for repair, sucked it up, and took the bus. As long as I was having the window done, I decided I might as well get everything else done that needed doing. I instructed them to do a tune-up, patch one of my tires that had a slow leak, and perform some necessary brake work.

As you well know, anytime you bring a car in for repairs, the mechanic is likely to find something else that needs doing. Such was the case here. I received a call at work.

"Mr. Sullivan? We did the tune-up, replaced the rotors and pads, patched your tire, and we’re working on getting that window up. However, the bushings are shot on your control arm."

I was glad he made no mention of finding a cigarette package inside the door frame, but this was discomforting news. I had only a vague notion concerning what a control arm might do, but having shot bushings didn’t sound pleasant. And I certainly didn’t want to be out of control.


"Yeah, it’s your call, of course, but we can replace the control arm and still get the car back to you today. It will run about $300, though."

Well, when you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, it’s usually best not to argue. I wanted the car in tip-top shape, and having shot bushings in my control arm probably wouldn’t result in that happening, right? I told him to do whatever was needed.

I remember my first car. It was a 1965 Ford Falcon. I could do almost any repair that was needed. There were something like 12 moving parts under the hood, and six of those were hamsters. At various times, I replaced the battery, the alternator, the starter, belts and hoses, all without aid of a real mechanic. I look under the hood of a car now and I am mostly in a foreign country. Everything is jammed up against everything else and the whole shebang is connected in intricate ways to an on-board computer of some sort, and I can’t even see the hamsters. I could take some courses in auto repair, or pay $300 every so often for a control arm with shot bushings. The latter is much easier.

Long story short, I got Roddy back (that’s my car’s name – if your car doesn’t have a name, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but one of you is missing a soul) and all was good. I had solid brakes, a control arm with wonderful bushings, fully inflated tires, and a window not covered in duct tape and plastic. Only one unsettling thing happened.

While I was driving home, and stopped at a red light, I turned to look at the window that had been repaired. I saw, out of the corner of my eye, some sort of inner piece of Roddy now sitting on the back seat floor. I looked down at it. It might have been a piece of the motor from the window, or maybe it was the mysterious control arm with its shot bushings. Whatever it was, the mechanic should have disposed of it. I suppose he wanted to leave me evidence that he had, indeed, done the work, but it was rather like having your gall bladder taken out and, instead of disposing of it, the doctor puts it into your back pocket. You then discover this on your way home from the hospital when you sit down and it makes a squishy noise.

I tried not to alarm Roddy. He had been through enough already. I would dispose of this whatever-it-was once I arrived home. And so I did. I parked Roddy in the garage, opened his back door, and took the offensive mechanical thing out. When I lifted it, I saw, underneath, a neatly folded Kool cigarette pack. So much for hiding my stupidity. There is now probably a note on the repair shop computer:

Cigarette pack found inside door frame. Try not to snicker the next time this dope comes in. We can probably tell him the cuffs are missing from his framistat.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

All Wet

(Puddle courtesy of Xetera)

So, there I was on Friday night, sitting on my bed, smoking and reading. I forget what I was reading, but I want it to be known that what I was smoking was perfectly legal. When you read what follows, you might wonder.

It was raining. There had been severe thunderstorm warnings for a few counties in Massachusetts, but ours wasn’t among them. Still, it was coming down at a decent rate.

MY WIFE came into the bedroom. She said, "Why don’t you put on your bathing suit and go run around outside? I’d do it, if I could find my bathing suit."

I rather doubted that last statement, but I had doubted her when she said she’d run naked in the snow in New Hampshire, too - and she did that - so I said nothing. This wasn’t about her, anyway. She was teasing me, I think. Or maybe she was really trying to get me to do something that I had recently said would be fun. She had read my piece about being a kid and playing outside in the rain.

With a smile, she asked, "Do you think you can even find your bathing suit?" She then turned and went back into the living room.

Little did she know that my bathing suit was in plain sight. It was right there on top of my bureau. I had looked for it shortly after receiving such a good response to the "playing in the rain" piece, and I had found it in a drawer with some old softball uniforms. So, I stripped down, put on my baggies, came out of the bedroom, and said:

"See you in a little while!"

I smiled and waved goodbye. She half-smiled, half had this look of "Oh, God, he’s actually going to do it."

I turned and went through the kitchen, then out the back door which leads to the common area shared by ourselves and the upstairs tenants. One of the things that made this lark less likely to be embarrassing was the fact that they were both away on vacation in Latvia. And it was night, too. So, I knew that the likelihood of my being seen by anyone was remote.

I opened the back door and stepped out into the yard. I was truly hoping to get sopping wet, like some big old shaggy dog, but it wasn’t raining as hard as it had been when I was sitting in my room. I sort of stood there on the porch, getting slightly damp, wondering what to do next.

What I did next was to go down into the actual yard and walk around on the grass. It was too dark to see the ground, so I spent much of my time thinking about how hideous it would be if my bare feet came down on a squishy slug. I walked over to the flagstone patio. There was a puddle there. I stepped into it and kicked the water a bit. I started laughing. I hadn’t felt what it was like to kick at a puddle with my bare feet in more than 40 years. It felt nice.

I looked around at the houses on all sides of our yard. There didn’t appear to be anyone in the windows looking down at the extremely white old geezer in his light blue swim trunks.

Despite having splashed the puddle, I still wasn’t very wet overall. So, I decided to find a way to get wetter. There are a number of big trees overhanging our yard. I walked over underneath one, reached up, and grabbed as much of the biggest branch as I was able. I then shook it, hard. For my efforts, I was rewarded with a pretty good shower.

(Thinking back on it, what with it being dark and all, I’m probably lucky I didn’t end up having a nest full of something fall on me. I mean, who knows what might have been there? I could have ended up with a squirrel on top of my head. He might have thought he hit the jackpot, falling out of bed only to land smack on top of the biggest nut in the world. Can skunks climb trees? Who knows what’s up there?)

Anyway, NOW I was wet! I shook another branch and got wetter still, with my luck continuing concerning not getting wildlife on my head. I looked up through the branches at the dark sky.

** CRACK! **

A bolt of lightning lit up the night. I ducked instinctively - like that would do any good. I’m a lot of things, but I’m not fast enough to see lightning and duck out of the way of it. I then realized where I was. I was underneath a big tree, in the middle of a thunderstorm, and I was firmly grasping a big branch of that tree.


Not wishing to replicate Ben Franklin’s experiments with me playing the part of the kite, I let go of the tree limb. I was immediately rewarded with another soaking, except this time I wasn’t expecting it, so it shocked me. Better that shock than the other kind! I skittered back towards the porch as thunder rumbled.

Now I was wondering just where the safest place was to be. The obvious answer was "Inside, you idiot!" Not being one for the obvious, I stood on the porch, leaning on the IRON RAILING.

Double D’Oh!

I let go of the railing, wondering if just standing on a porch with an iron railing was any safer. Now, I was not only wet, I was paranoid. I decided to let discretion be the better part of valor. I went inside the back door.

Of course, there was no need to tell MY WIFE about the lightning. So, I said:

"I came in because I saw a flash of lightning and it scared the shit out of me."

She just shook her head from side-to-side. Then she looked me over, and said, "You’re not very wet."

This was true. Despite shaking the tree branches, I really hadn’t gotten as sopping as I had hoped. My bathing suit was almost completely dry.

She asked, "Why isn’t your bathing suit wet?"

I replied, "I don’t know. Maybe too much of me hangs over it."

I had placed a towel near the kitchen door, to dry myself with upon re-entry. Part of what I wrote about previously had included a paean to the lovely feel of toweling off after a drenching. However, I was only just slightly moist from the chest down, so I gave my head a good rub with the towel, but not much else needed it.

After the cursory drying, we both went into the living room to watch some of the Olympics on TV. There was a lot of swimming going on, so I felt right in the spirit of things, sitting there in my bathing suit.

After a while, MY WIFE (sensibly dressed in a nightgown, and enjoying a large glass of wine) looked bemused. She said, "I think I’m going to go to bed. Are you going to go out in it again?"


"Well, if you do, tell me. That way, if lightning strikes you, I’ll know enough to sweep up the pile of ashes in the yard."

"Thanks. I wouldn’t want to leave behind a mess."

She trundled off to bed. I continued to watch people butterflying and stroking breasts.

A few minutes later, I could hear the rain. That is, it became loud enough to hear over the telecast. This meant it was coming down in buckets. I decided that, since I still had the swim trunks on, I’d go outside again. This time, I’d just stand in the yard, not grabbing onto trees, railings, or anything else that might tempt God to smote me on the spot.

I went out the back door, and down into the yard. I stood in the wet grass – still no slugs, I’m happy to say – and the rain sloshed down all over me. It felt damn good. I pictured myself as being in a Three Stooges comedy, taking a shower in the rain, so I pretended to lather up, rubbing my wet head vigorously. I kind of wished there were another stooge with me, to enjoy this more fully, but MY WIFE was probably sleeping already and there still weren’t any neighbors in the windows. Oh, well. It was still fun. The lightning flashed again, but I had already decided that if God wanted to off me, there was precious little I could do about it, so why worry? I kicked at the big puddle on the flagstones as the thunder made its noise.

I felt like a kid again. It was terrific.

The rain was letting up once more, so I made my way back to the door. I went inside wet as a flounder and happy as a clam. I grabbed the towel and rubbed vigorously, enjoying the texture. A woman from Zimbabwe was celebrating having won a race in the Olympic pool. She was very happy. That made two of us.

Next time it rains, I’m going to help MY WIFE look for her bathing suit. If she wishes, she can take her glass of wine with her, but why should I leave the woman I love high and dry?

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Cats, More Softball

I don’t have much for you today. Just a couple of things I feel need saying.

First, I want to thank everybody who commented on the latest Dorothy story. While I appreciate all of the commentary – and I think, combined, you set a record for most total words of commentary I’ve received on any one piece - I am especially grateful to the folks from Franklin (Dorothy’s town) for their contributions to the discussion. In a touchy situation like this, it’s always good to hear from those directly involved. Whether we agree or disagree, are able to find common ground or not, it never hurts to remember that "the enemy" isn’t just some faceless entity, but is, in fact, comprised of folks who are probably trying to do what they believe to be right under the circumstances.

The wonderful thing I’ve learned, in reading from other sources, is that the majority of the folks who would like to see the cats removed seem to have no animosity towards Dorothy herself, despite being on opposite sides of the issue. Most of the quotes begin with something akin to, “Dorothy is a good person, whose heart is in the right place, but…” While those words might be seen as PR to soften a harsh position, I prefer to believe that they are heartfelt. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I’ll continue to operate with that belief.

My fervent wish is that the nice people in this remain nice, and a constructive dialogue may be opened between all parties involved. Perhaps some of the folks who would like to see the cats removed might be willing to change their position if they see evidence, from the Animal Control officers and Purr-Fect Cat Shelter, that the spay/neuter and release program is ongoing and effective? I offer this as a proof of sorts: In the story from The Boston Globe, it was estimated (within the context, it seemed to have come from a resident) that the feral cats at one time numbered in the hundreds, but now consist of approximately 15. If the cats aren’t being trapped, then spayed and neutered, what is the reason for the population decrease? Of course, the entities mentioned above should be able to provide definitive records.

Enough about cats. Let’s talk about me.

A few days have passed since my disappointing Sunday. I’m still pissed at the same people I was pissed at then, but not as much. Well, at least in one of the cases.

Jason Atton is someone I’ve played with for about 10 years now. He was one of the guys who didn’t show up on Sunday. The other guys who didn’t show – or who left - were not as important to me, personally, or to the team’s chances. Jason, though, is someone I like a lot and who I absolutely expected to be there. In the week before the games, I told Jack, our manager, that I wanted Jason pitching in any do-or-die situation. My exact words were that I would put my balls on the line with Jason pitching. When he didn’t show up, I was severely disappointed, on both a personal level and as concerned our chances.

Understand that I consider every one of my teammates, on any team, to be important. I can count on the fingers of one hand the teammates whose company I haven’t enjoyed in some way or another. But, when you share any endeavor with someone for many years, you tend to become closer to those people.

For example, my friend, Fred Goodman, is someone I’ve played ball with for about 20 years. I love him dearly for many things, but having him as a teammate is a special joy. He brings us his good humor, as well as deceptive skills. Fred doesn’t look like an athlete, but anyone who has studied the books, like I have, would know that he is one of the best clutch hitters on the team. And he brings a cooler full of ice cold drinks for us, every week, out of his own pocket. Just a tremendously nice guy.

Ron Johnson has been my Bomber teammate for as long as I’ve been on the team, the only person left on the team from my first year (Fred didn’t join this team until my third year on it.) Ron is a great guy, and one of the most unselfish ballplayers with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing a field. As manager during the team’s first two years, he was so ridiculously unselfish that he benched himself in favor of many inferior players. It cost the team, unfortunately. He was obviously the best hitter on the team. When Ron handed the manager’s reigns to me, in the team’s third year, my first act was to see that Ron was cemented into the line-up. He holds just about every team career mark in hitting, and this past year, at age 54 or so, he set marks in batting average and on-base percentage. The latter was a record I held for the past six years or so, and of which I was quite proud. If someone else had broken it, I might have felt differently, but Ron breaking it made me happy.

Jack Atton (Jason’s uncle) is someone I’d go to hell with. How much do I like Jack, and admire his competitiveness? When I decided to step down as manager myself, Jack was the person I chose as my successor. He was the first one I thought of for the job, and I honestly didn’t consider anyone else. When he said he’d do it, I knew the team was in the hands of the only guy who truly cared as much as I did.

Joey Baszkiewicz knows how much I like him. I learned how to spell his name, for one thing, and if that doesn’t let him know, I don’t know what would. His style of play reminds me of my own game, except 20 years younger. He doesn’t stand out as a big-time hero in any one aspect of the game, but he is good at just about every part of it. Joey epitomizes the term “team player.” You can put him at just about any position and expect a solid performance. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard him complain.

I certainly don’t mean to dismiss any of my other current teammates, because they are all nice guys. But the guys mentioned above have been my teammates for 10 years or more. And so has Jason. I’ve played in three different leagues with him, and I truly love playing with the guy. He’s a tremendous ballplayer and he’ll protect your back when it’s needed, too. Great playful sense of humor, just a big kid. I like Jason so much that, when I “retired” last year, I gave him my glove.

Losing is what happens sometimes, so that doesn’t eat at me, but Jason not showing up truly hurt. Until I found out that he definitely wasn’t coming, I never would have believed that he’d purposely miss a playoff series, for any reason. The story relayed to me is that he played a number of games the day before and was too sore to play Sunday. I’d have to have a leg blown off to miss a playoff game, so I couldn’t fathom that.

Jason lives in New Hampshire, so he comes the furthest way of anyone to play. That’s one reason I’m willing to cut him a bit more slack than someone else. He has, in the past, protected me on the field. When I was catching him one game, and was involved in a collision – a player from the other team bowled me over, from the blindside, during a play at the plate – Jay gave him the brushback the next time up. I appreciated that. He wrote me a very nice little e-mail this year while I was going through some self-doubt, bucking up my spirits, and I love him for that. And he makes me laugh.

So, I hope we get to play together again next year. But, Jay? PLEASE give me your solemn word that, if we make the playoffs again, you’ll be there for every game. My heart would just curl up and die if the same thing happened next year.

(Man, I am one disgustingly mushy ballplayer. No wonder people don’t show up. They’re probably afraid I’ll slobber all over them.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dorothy & The Cats - An Update

(Update to the update: If you're returning here after reading this piece already, there is cogent commentary in the "comments" section.)

(If you didn't read my previous piece concerning Dorothy, you may not truly understand much of what is said here. So, for background, here is the original.)

It seems that Dorothy has many friends. Also, a few enemies.

From The Boston Globe, August 9th:

A Franklin condo association's plan to trap and exterminate a colony of feral cats was temporarily called off yesterday due to public outcry.

Roy Blanchard, manager of the property, said his office has been swamped with calls and e-mails demanding that the roundup be called off.

"I've been threatened and the e-mails just won't stop and the phone calls just won't stop," Blanchard said. "People are very emotional about these cats. I'm getting calls from people in Maine. Calls from lawyers."

That's good news. If you wish to add your cheerful greetings to Mr. Blanchard's day, I'm sure the cats wouldn't mind. If you do so, please be polite. Dorothy doesn't want to antagonize anyone. She wants to help the cats, not make more enemies for them.

Roy Blanchard, Property Manager
c/o Pioneer Property Management
15 Florence Street
Franklin, MA 02038

Telephone (508) 528-9242
Fax (508) 541-6113

Back to the story:

[pleased is] 81-year-old Dottie Luff, who refers to herself as the condos' "crazy cat lady." Luff, who has lung cancer, walks into the woods twice a day to feed the cats. She said that there are as many as 15 cats living in the woods, and that they are like children to her.

"My doctor said the cats are what's keeping me alive," Luff said. "I have no intention of stopping feeding them."

For the complete article, please go to: Feral Cats Get Reprieve (via Boston Globe website)

Reading the story in full, one line sticks out.

Marilyn McAneny, a condo association board member and no fan of the cats, said she and other tenants have been waiting for Luff to die before [killing the cats.]

I'm not so unintelligent as to just go off on a rant about that. I understand the context of the quote. The condo association figured that they'd not be immediately troublesome to Dorothy, since she is going to expire at some point. In a way, it could be taken as a kindness, right? It paints a macabre picture, though, of folks who are listening for some soul's last breath to be had, and then taking that as their cue to begin offing a bunch of other living creatures.

(Gee, it's awfully hard not to be sympathetic to their cause, eh?)

More stories:


After reading the Globe story, I decided it would be a good time to give Dorothy a call and catch up on things. Since so many of you have done kindnesses for Dorothy and her cats, I figured you'd like to know. Obviously, a lot has been happening since I last talked with her. As it turned out, there was even more happening than I knew.

When I got home from work, there was a message on my answering machine. It was from my Uncle Jim - Dorothy's cousin - whom you may know from his occasional comments here. When I found out about the Globe story, I told him about it. In his phone message, he said that he had given Dorothy a call, but she had asked him to call back later. The reason was because WCVB-TV, Channel 5 (ABC) in Boston, sent a camera crew out to her place today, did a story, and it was going to be on the evening news at any moment.

(To see the televised story, go here. When you click onto the video, you'll have to sit through a short ad. Be patient.)

Channel 5 did a fair and even-handed job, in my estimation. Dorothy said they were very nice. She had especially kind words for Jack Harper, the on-camera reporter of the piece. When the crew showed up to do the story, Dorothy was unloading the weekly 220 cans of cat food from her car. Jack Harper carried them inside for her.

I talked to Dorothy for a goodly while. Aside from Channel 5 and The Globe, there have been stories in a number of local newspapers. Dorothy says that, between feeding the cats, defending them from being killed, and giving interviews, she hardly has time for anything else. She said it with a laugh, of course. That’s Dorothy. Her health isn’t improving, and she knows it, but she jokes and smiles and loves that her cats have as many defenders as they do.

As a result of the television story, she immediately received phone calls from people she hadn’t heard from in years. For instance, her former pastor, a Father O’Leary, called just before I did. She hadn’t seen him in 13 years. How nice is that?

Here’s something even nicer. Because of the stories in the local papers, the last time Dorothy was at the supermarket buying her weekly supplies, she received a very nice surprise. As she was checking out with the 220 cans, word spread about who the lady was with all of that cat food. The other shoppers started applauding. They shouted encouragement and a couple of them donated a few bucks to the cause. God bless them.

Dorothy talked at length about the very nice people at the Purr-Fect Cat Shelter in Medway, Massachusetts. They’re the folks who supply the dry food for the cats, as well as doing many other services for Dorothy’s friends in the woods. They are at the forefront of fighting for the survival of the cats. No healthy cat that comes into their care is ever killed. All cats accepted into the shelter have a home for as long as they live (or until some kind soul adopts them.)

Dorothy also has friends at the local Animal Control in Franklin. The general consensus there seems to be that the cats pose no real harm to anyone. The population is shrinking now, of course, since they and the shelter have coordinated to catch the cats, spay and neuter those who are healthy, and then release them back into Dorothy’s care. Without the cats breeding willy-nilly, there will continue to be a limited number of them.

One of the most remarkable people Dorothy mentioned was a local veterinarian by the name of Hedley Marks. Whenever Dorothy finds kittens in the woods, she brings them to Doctor Marks. He gives them shots, makes sure they’re healthy in general, and then finds homes for those he can. Some go to the Purr-Fect Cat Shelter, but many end up with loving owners in comfortable homes. How many? Dorothy says that one day, while waiting for a kitten to be given an exam, a secretary decided to bring up Dorothy’s record, just for kicks. Seeing the record, she asked Dorothy if she had any idea how many kittens Dorothy had delivered into Dr. Marks’ care. As it turned out, the number was over 300 during the many years Dorothy has taken care of her cats. That’s quite an amazing number.

Even more amazing is the fact that Dr. Marks has never charged Dorothy a single penny for his services.

(If you’re a praying person, how about offering one up for the good doctor?)

I made a date to visit Dorothy again, a week from this coming Saturday. I plan to be there at about noon, just in time to help her feed the cats. I’ll take a few more photos, if possible, and report back to you then.

Soon, with more better cats.

P.S. I need to thank my faithful reader, Miriam, for bringing the Globe story to my attention. I’d give her blog a plug, but she doesn’t have one. If there’s anything else I can do for you, Miriam, just let me know.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving On


As I write this, it’s a bit more than 14 hours before the first game of our softball playoffs. MY WIFE is at work, or possibly (I hope) on the way home. I’ve been watching TV most of the day – The Olympics and The Little League World Series – and neither one is on now, so I’ve decided to record a few pre-game thoughts about both of those spectacles, as well as my own upcoming games.

Let’s start with The Olympics. We watched the opening ceremonies last night. Great stuff. Sure, China is one of the worst human rights violators on earth, routinely jailing and/or executing dissidents, and, among other nice things, they supply killing machines to conflicts in Sudan and around the globe. But, damn, they sure know how to put on a good show! I’d hate to be the guy from London trying to top that in 2012.

The actual athletics started in earnest today, and included volleyball, boxing, basketball, and handball. I am always surprised to find out that handball isn’t the playground sport wherein you bounce a ball off of a wall and await the return volley of your opponent, but is instead a team sport that more-or-less combines hockey and basketball, and appears to have been invented to torment the goalie.

(I played some goal in ice hockey when I was younger. I don’t know what MY save percentage was, but in general a very good goalie will stop 9 out of every 10 shots taken. In handball, the goals scored during a game run to about 30, while the saves recorded might total 10. In other words, an Olympic-level handball goalie fails in his/her job 75% of the time. And, to my untrained eye, half of the saves that ARE made come about only because the attacker threw the ball directly into the goalie’s face.)

Meanwhile, the 11, 12, and 13-year-old boys competing in The Little League World Series are going through the qualifying rounds before Williamsport, which is where the finals are held every year. The boys involved in these games always amaze me with the level of their play. Most remarkable, perhaps, is their composure – until the game is over. Then, they revert to being the young boys they are. Tears flow from the losers, while the winners have all the comportment of drunken chimpanzees. After a minute or so of that, the coaches round up their squads, and they file past each other, shaking hands. The gleeful winners, without fail, graciously offer true heartfelt comfort to the teary-eyed losers, hugging them and proffering whatever words of comfort they may have at their disposal. It is probably the nicest moment of each game, and so-called adult competitors in professional sports would do well to watch and learn.

Both of these events make for very compelling television, of course. And with my own competition coming up in the morning, I find myself thinking about the relative worth of Sunday morning softball as compared to these televised spectacles.

Am I basically insane to care so much about games that nobody (outside of the players and some immediate family members) will ever know the scores of, or really care about?

The young baseball players, as well as the Olympians, will all have their names recorded in official record books someplace, and their exploits will be talked about by thousands (or millions) the following day; perhaps for years afterward, in the case of outstanding prowess. Our games are recorded "for posterity" only by me, so far as I know. I’m probably the only guy in the league who can lay his hand on scorebooks from more than a year or two ago.

(I have them going back to 1995, and I refer to them often during the season. Having been a manager for many of those years, I actually used the books. I could go back and see what my guys [and our opposition] did against specific teams or pitchers, and use that knowledge to gain a slight edge. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of games where that knowledge came into play in my decision making, but that’s a handful of games my team won that they might have lost without my research. Therefore, I consider it a worthwhile investment of time. I’d rather explore every statistical opportunity, and then know that I made the correct move, than to lay in bed at night wondering if I made a mistake.)

And MY WIFE just arrived home, so I’ll be back.


Now it’s about 11:30pm, 9 and 1/2 hours until my games. MY WIFE has retired for the evening.

I just finished watching the best Little League game I’ve ever seen. Indiana beat Ohio, in 11 innings, 11 – 4. A regulation Little League game only goes 6 innings, so this was close to the length of two full games. The tension was near unbearable, until Indiana just broke it wide open with 7 runs in the top of the 11th.

Getting back to the question of whether or not I’m insane, I don’t think so.

(Well, of course I don’t think so. Duh.)

I play, and keep the stats, because I love the game, and not because other people will remember it years from now. I’m only doing the same as the athletes I’ve been watching all day. None of the great athletes involved in Olympic competition, or the boys in the Little League, plays the games because of the fame that might accrue to them. Sure, there’s the possibility of great fame, and some of them have certainly considered it in their off-the-field moments, but you don’t become a great athlete just because you want to become famous. You become a great athlete because you love the game you play.

(Love can be a kind of insanity, I suppose, but it’s usually a benign sort of insanity, so even if I am insane, I’m not hurting anybody.)

So, I love the games. Evidence of that exists in the fact that I don’t expect to play much tomorrow, if at all, but I still care deeply. We certainly have enough better players than this 51-year-old creaky catcher, so I expect to be on the bench most, or all, of the day. That’s OK. I’m still very excited. The Bombers team this year is one of the best we’ve ever had. I think we should win our first playoff series tomorrow, moving on to another round and then, possibly, to the finals. And the prospect of finally having played for a championship team, after 44 years in my sport, is enough. I contributed to one very big win earlier this season, so I know I’ve earned the right to celebrate, if we win it all.

It’s about midnight. That’s enough bullshit for now. I’m going to bed. On the off chance that I end up playing more than I’m expecting to, I need to make sure I’m well-rested and ready to go. See you tomorrow after the games.


6:10 am

I’m too excited to sleep more. I could have used another hour or two, but I was just laying in bed now thinking about the games and not being able to get back to sleep. So, I made some coffee and here I am.

I’m going to take a shower to get fully awake, and then take a last look at some stats. I doubt I’ll learn anything new – I’ve already looked at every stat I could possibly find meaningful or useful, at least five or six times this week – but that’s what I do. Then, I’ll put on my uniform and go down to the field. I’ll be there a good half-hour before any of my sane teammates shows up.

See you later. I’ll either be the teary-eyed kid or the one who acted like a drunken chimpanzee.


Teary-eyed kid.

In a best-of-three format, we dropped the first two games. We had the lead for one inning in the second game. Otherwise, it was a fairly shabby performance. Our defense wasn’t there, at all. The scores? 24 – 9 and 15 – 11.

I’m not pissed about losing. One team wins, one team loses, and that's the way it goes. Some guys just don’t get it, though. Out of a roster of 17 players who qualified for the playoffs, only 14 showed up. And one of those 14 left after the first game, presumably because he didn’t get to play yet.

They don't get it, and I don't get it. How can you work for a goal, like we did all year, and then not show up when your team is on the doorstep? Or leave in the middle of it, like some spoiled brat? No heart, no guts, and I take it as a personal insult. I mean, I was at the field an hour before game time, a good ten minutes in front of anyone else, and I wasn’t even expecting to play a single inning - and I didn't play at all, as it turned out. Did I pitch a hissy fit and walk away? No. I’m part of a TEAM. These other guys? I'll never understand the mindset.

Any other complaints? No. Jack managed everything as well as he could, considering the circumstances. Ariel pitched game two – which he certainly wasn’t expecting to do – and he stepped up like a MAN and played one hell of a game. I’m very proud to call him my teammate.

Everybody who showed up - and stayed through both games - has my thanks. That won't buy you anything, but all I can do is say it. All of you are in my memory banks as good guys to spend a Sunday with, even though we lost.

Now I’m going to take a shower, have something to eat, and put this season behind me. Time to move on. I can rest easy, with a clear conscience. For a year in which I wasn’t planning to play at all, I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Whatever else I may have done, I never quit on my teammates. That’s more than some guys can say.

Friday, August 08, 2008

"Yowzers! It's MY WIFE!" (A Funny For Friday)

(I'm telling you true - I tried every way I know to make this bigger, but nothing worked. Obviously, I'm still suffering from the after-effects of the martial art demonstrated here. So, click onto it for reading ease.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rain, Rain... Go Away?

I’m sitting in the house on Saturday afternoon. I hear thunder. Looking out the window, I see that it’s started to rain – hard. I immediately become pissed off. I’m supposed to play softball tomorrow morning; a doubleheader that will decide whether we get into the playoffs or not. If it continues raining, the games will not be played.

As I continue to look out the window at the rain, I remember that there was a time in my life when rain was not always seen as a reason to frown. When I was a little kid of six or seven, I often would see it begin to rain and, instead of thinking about the things I could no longer do – play baseball or whatever – I’d run to my bedroom, strip down, and put on a bathing suit. So would lots of other kids in the neighborhood. And then we’d dash out onto the street, cheering and waving our arms and running after each other in bare feet, splashing in the puddles and enjoying hell out of it all.

If I did that now, of course, someone would call the police. They’d think I was a crazy man running around in his underwear, having a fit of some sort. They’d ask the authorities to come before I could hurt myself.

But, why? Why can’t we keep that joy of life as we grow older? Why are we taught to repress happiness? And why do we see other people enjoying themselves and sometimes have the first thought come to mind that they’ve flipped out?

I know that part of it can be concern for a fellow human’s safety – whether the "crazy" guy himself or those who might come into contact with him - and that’s nice. But I think most of it is envy. Subconsciously, we think, "What gives him the right to enjoy himself so much? I’m not enjoying myself. Fuck him! I’m calling the cops!"

I’m sorely tempted to throw on my swim trunks and see what would happen if I went out and started rolling around on my lawn like a big old dog. I’m not going to, of course. I’m too sane. It sucks.

Another joy of being a kid was coming in from the rain. Yeah, sure, it still feels good to get out of it as an adult. It’s not the same feeling, though. Now it’s just relief. When you were a kid, it was moving from one joy to another (if you had taken the opportunity to don that bathing suit in the first place.) If you got soaked as a kid, you came in and stripped down, then you toweled off. Well, maybe you do the same now, but the experience is totally different. A kid mostly isn’t as worried about how others might judge his appearance. If a man strips down and dries off, he might spend a goodly portion of the process giving different parts of his body a critical appraisal. I’m assuming it’s the same for the female of the species. For the most part, a boy (or a girl) just gets dry.

And when you were a kid, you felt the textures of things more. At least I did. The towel itself was a sensory experience. You weren’t just accomplishing a necessary task. You felt the dryness, the friction, the warmth. Maybe you enjoyed the smell of the clean laundry, too. And as you dressed - whether in pajamas or actual clothing - your entire being felt cleansed. You could take a 60-minute shower as an adult and not even come close to that feeling.

So many things we dull ourselves to as the years pass.

Some of our pleasure is lost because of competency. Perhaps you can recall what it was like to read a book when you were in the second or third grade. You’re an excellent reader now. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be able to make it through some of my painful constructions. And, believe me, I thank you for making the effort to become so good at the task. But, when you weren’t quite as good, didn’t you get lost in a story more readily? Didn’t there usually come a time when you became wholly unaware of your physical surroundings? I rarely lose myself in reading now. Now it has to be something truly amazing to transport me. Back then, it could be a page with only eight or nine words on it, and then my mind would do the rest.

If you’re a musician, you may feel similarly concerning music. Before I knew how to play any instruments, music was much more mysterious and wonderful. Don’t get me wrong. Playing has it’s own magnificent bits of pleasure. Just listening, though, and having no idea how the magic was created, was oftentimes better.

Running. The only time I run now is when I have to, whether it’s to reach first base or something more mundane - to catch a train, for example. When I was a kid, I’d run just because I could. I wasn’t trying to get in shape. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t trying to impress someone or reach a goal. I did it only because it felt good to go faster.

Eating. A slice of watermelon on a summer day was an all-involving sensual experience. I tasted the sweetness, I felt the coolness, I inhaled the subtle perfumes released when it was sliced, I marveled at the juicy redness of it, I even enjoyed the light crunching noise as my teeth drove through the fruit’s flesh. Even spitting out the seeds was something to have fun with, seeing how far you could propel them as you did so. Now, I buy seedless watermelon, eat it with a spoon so as not to get my hands sticky, and if juice runs down my chin, I immediately grab a napkin and wipe.

In the time I’ve taken to type out this horrendously melancholy whining, the rain has stopped. I now feel as though I’ve missed an opportunity. I’m alive, of course. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be writing this crap. But I’ve missed an opportunity to live. Being alive and living are two different things altogether.

The next time it rains, I probably won’t get into a bathing suit and go running out the front door, alarming my neighbors and making extra work for the local cops. But I think I will at least go for a walk around the block, allowing myself to get soaked to the skin. Maybe I’ll even run a little bit, if the mood strikes me. And then I’ll come home, strip down, and towel off, all the while ignoring any physical imperfections and just reveling in the feel of the toweling. After I get dressed again – in flannel pajamas, I think – I’ll lie on the floor and read an old comic book. When I finish it, I’ll have a slice of ice-cold watermelon. I’ll let the juices go where they want. And if I feel the need to wash up afterwards, I’ll go for ANOTHER walk in the rain.

That’s what I say now, anyway. That’s because it’s stopped raining.


Since it did stop raining, I got to play ball on Sunday morning. I got to kid myself into believing I was a kid again, except for when I ran the bases. Then, I could only kid myself into believing I was a crippled kid.

We needed to win two games to be guaranteed a playoff spot. We could still make it with one win, but then we’d have to have help from other teams.

We won one game. We got the help. We made the playoffs. This very old crippled kid gets another weekend in the sun

I went 1 for 2 in my limited action as DH. I was sort of surprised to be in the line-up at all, so it was a bonus. I am now batting the amazingly low average (for our league) of .286, which translates to roughly .193 in baseball terms, so I am still below the Mendoza line.

(Oh, if I start explaining all of these things to my British, Australian, and otherwise non-baseball-literate friends, we’ll be here all day. But that’s so cryptic – to them – they couldn’t possibly figure it out without help. The Mendoza Line is a derogatory term used for when a hitter is having an extremely poor season, batting below .200. It is named for Mario Mendoza, a perennially weak hitter who always hovered around that average during his brief stay in baseball’s major leagues.)

After our doubleheader, a few of us headed to Cleveland Circle to watch the games that would decide whether or not we got into the playoffs. Since we only won one of our two, we needed another team to lose one of their two games. If they swept their doubleheader, we’d be out.

The two teams who were playing were there, of course, but so were a couple of other teams from the league, just hanging around and watching. They had played earlier and were just continuing to enjoy being outside in the sun, downing a few after-game brews. I joined Mark, from The Moe Howard Club (yes, named after the famous stooge, with their uniforms featuring a photo of him) on the sidelines. He graciously gave me a beer to enjoy, which I did, greatly. After a bit of softball talk, I went and got myself a shady spot under a tree and watched the game unfold.

When I arrived, The Renegades (who had to lose for us to get in) were leading 7 – 1 in the second inning. This did not bode well, but I had a beer and a smoke and then they were trailing 8 –7. Bacon (the opposition, and easily the best name ever for a Sunday softball team, because what else is better on a Sunday morning?) had taken control. By the time Jack, Pat, and Billy – my teammates – had arrived to watch, it became as complete a blowout as is possible in this league.

Bacon ended up putting about 30 or 35 runs on them, and it was over by slaughter rule in the 5th inning. It was painful after a while, since The Renegades are a really good bunch of guys, but since we needed the loss, we were very happy to finally have the issue settled. We thanked Bacon for helping us. We stood and cheered, like so: “We Like Bacon (clap – clap - clap,clap,clap) We Like Bacon (clap – clap - clap,clap,clap)” They laughed, we laughed, even a few of the Renegades laughed, bless ‘em, and then we went home to shower and to eat whatever it is that playoff teams eat. In my case, it was four slices of toast loaded with peanut butter (which, with a diet like that, may help explain why I feel like a crippled kid when I have to run the bases.)

(I have to mention one more thing. One of the Moe Howard players, as he was starting his drive home, stopped the car, hopped out, and gave me another beer. He’s kind of a young kid – of course, everybody’s a young kid to me – and he told me earlier that he always reads my blog. I know him by sight, a real nice guy, but I’m ashamed to say I’m not sure of his name. I sure did appreciate the gesture, though, so I say, “Thank you, young stooge! May you always have plenty of eyes to poke and custard pies to throw!”)

And that’s about it. Playoffs! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I’ll be sure to give you the full story next week, unless it rains, in which case maybe I’ll throw on a bathing suit and roll around on the lawn until the cops come.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, August 01, 2008

A Rocky (Rockies?) Weekend

I've got my head all wrapped up in softball now, so there's no hope of you actually getting a decent post from me. Sorry!

This weekend is the final of the Bombers regular season. We currently hold 6th place in our league, the final playoff spot. There are 10 teams total. The first and second place finishers get a bye in the first round.

Here are the standings:

Titans    15-1
Reds 13-3
Bacon 12-4
Dot Rats 10-6
Rockies 7-9
Bombers 6-9-1
GangGreen 6-10
Renegades 6-10
MHC 3-12-1
Bags 1-15

We play a doubleheader against one opponent every Sunday. This week, we play the team directly ahead of us, the Rockies. There are all sorts of interesting (to me alone, probably) scenarios.

The only way we can guarantee a playoff spot is if we win both games. Then we would finish in fifth place and get the Dot Rats in the first round.

If we win only one game, then we have to have both Gangreen and Renegades lose at least one game apiece. This is a good possibility, as they play the Titans and Bacon respectively, both good teams. On a normal day, I couldn't see Gangreen or Renegades sweeping those sets. However, Titans have clinched first and have absolutely nothing to play for. And Bacon, while having an outside shot at finishing second and getting a bye, will have nothing to play for (except pride) should Renegades somehow win the first game. Bacon may not give a hairy rat's ass in the second game.

Finally, if we lose twice, we could still make the playoffs, but only if Gangreen and Renegades also both lose twice. Then we would sneak in the back door, undeservedly.

Do any of you actually care, beyond your much-appreciated personal feelings for me? No, of course not. But I needed to put this into writing, to set it in my own head, and I thank you for your forebearance.

Of course, what this truly means to you, in the long run, is that Monday's posting will probably also have to do with softball. Just so you don't automatically skip coming here, however, I'll toss out the faint hope that I'll get my ass in gear and write something else on Saturday, and then if it rains on Sunday, you'll get that, instead.

Vegas has set the odds against such an occurrence at 12 - 1. Oh, wait a minute. Not Vegas. That was Dave Vargas, our shortstop. Still, it sounds about right.

(If you're really masochistic, you could go to The B2-Bombers Homepage. There you will see that we really do have a player named Dave Vargas. Also, even a cursory glance at my statistics will tell you that all the whining I've been doing, about my skills having deteriorated, has not been a lie.)

Soon, with more better stuff (12 - 1 against)
Soon, with more softball stuff (odds-on favorite)