Thursday, June 30, 2011


ONE Atton Win!

TWO Atton Wins!

THREE Atton Wins!

(The Corporation For Public Broadcasting will probably sue me if they find out about this, but I couldn’t resist. If you’re one of their lawyers, I’ll save you some time and trouble. The Count couldn’t even get to ONE (ah,ah, ah) if he tried to add up the dollars I’m making by using his likeness. So, feel free to bring me to court. Anyway, I’m still pissed about you canceling Mister Rogers, so I figure YOU owe ME.)

Remember the other day, when I told you about the possibility of a unique occurrence happening at The M Street Softball League in Southie? If not, and you have a couple of hours to waste, you could go HERE and die of old age before you get to that part. Or I could just give it to you in a nutshell, which I think I will.

On June 28th, for the first time in league history, three members of the same family were slated to be the starting pitchers in the three games played on that evening. Since the league has been in existence for 41 years, spanning perhaps 4,000 evenings of play involving 600 different pitchers, I felt this event was worth mentioning.

(Those figures are not fanciful, and I tried to err on the conservative side. It could be 6,000 evenings and 2,000 pitchers. Either way, it’s an amateur league and even a stat-obsessed idiot like me wouldn’t spend the hours needed to come up with the concrete numbers unless there was serious pay involved. Suffice to say, a lot of games had been played before this happened.)

I’m thrilled to report that not only did Jack Atton, Big Jay Atton, and Drew Atton each start their respective contests; they all came away with victories. If, in the future, some other family matches them for the starts, they’ll now have to win every game to completely match the feat. The scores:

Telegraph Hill - 14 Dorset Club – 3

Stats/BSB - 11 Tom English’s Stingers – 10

SWINGERS – 24 Newark Group – 7

(In the prose that follows, I'll be referring to myself in the third person. This is not due to an ego problem, but because I'm writing this partially as a possible report for the M Street website. And also, just a bit of an ego problem, OK, I admit it.)

To begin the evening, Jack Atton notched his league-leading ninth win, running his overall record to 9 – 1 by defeating a game Dorset Club.

[Jack Atton - from a previous season, showing off where he was hit by a line drive.]

The boys from Dorset were 2 - 6 entering the contest, while Jack’s Telegraph Hill squad has led the Moran Division since opening night. Jack was never in serious trouble, but it took a little while for his teammates to put some distance between themselves and the opposition. Mark Preziosi and Pat Kelly both hit two home runs, while Eric MacDonald and Bill Davis had one apiece, to provide the cushion needed.

The most suspense-filled game was Big Jay’s.

[Big Jay Atton - so big only his head fits in the camera lens!]

The Stingers began the night at 6 – 3, two games in front of Stats/BSB in the Feeney Division standings, and had to be considered the favorites to win. And they jumped out to an early lead, plating six runs in the first inning. After that, though, Big Jay settled down, holding the opposition off until the cavalry could arrive in the form of a six-run inning of their own. Stats/BSB took the lead in the fourth, and Big Jay withstood a furious final-inning rally by the team in yellow, recording the second Atton family victory (which was followed by an eruption of fireworks from the park abutting the field, a nice coincidental touch.)

Finally, it was time for young Drew Atton to take the hill and find out if he could complete the trifecta.

[Drew Atton - For The Win!]

Considering that the Swingers were in the midst of a six-game losing streak, and that Drew (0 – 2, entering the game) had yet to notch a league victory, it was far from a given. His team gave him some immediate breathing room, however, going up 6 – 0 before he threw his first pitch. Joe Murphy drove in the first two runs of the game with one of his two doubles, T. K. Skenderian added to his league-leading RBI total (25) with a sac fly, a two-out single by manager Jim Sullivan resulted in two more runs scoring (with Sullivan going to third on a throwing error), and first baseman Jimmy Bickford plated Sullivan with another clutch two-out singleton. From there, Atton led all the way, scattering 12 hits while walking only two (his previous starts had been marred by control problems, but some recent coaching by his more-seasoned family members had helped him straighten out that problem.) Other big contributors to the win were catcher Joey Baszkiewicz (4 hits, bringing his team-leading average to .645, and also providing a veteran presence behind the plate for Drew); Brett Bell with a clutch triple that scored two in the second inning; Carl Iannacci, reaching base four times (his patience at the plate resulting in his league-leading ninth and tenth walks); and Drew’s older brother, Pat Atton, who played CF and made two catches on his knees to end possible rallies.

So, a great night for the Attons, and a fun night at the M Street Park for the 35 or 40 softball-loving fans who were there to enjoy it.

Stuff like this is why I love the game.

Soon, with more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Four Attons And A Softball Game

[Me showing off the sort of training habits that all future softball players should strive to copy - NOT]

I’m afraid those of you who don’t care to read about sports are in for no fun. As you’ll see by what follows next, this is the first official fast-pitch softball post of the year.

BOMBERS – 20 CF – 5
BOMBERS – 29 CF – 7

That’s what happened yesterday.

(There may be a few of you who don’t know what in hell I’m talking about, so here’s the quick explanation. I play modified fast-pitch softball in two leagues, one on Sunday and the other on weekdays. The Bombers are my Sunday team. They play in The Phoenix League, in Brighton, a neighborhood of Boston, and they play a doubleheader every Sunday. They have been in existence, and I have been a member of the team, for 17 years. I was manager of the team for 10 of those years, but I’m just a player now. I am one of only two original members of the team still playing, the other being Ron Johnson [who was manager of the team for the first two years of our existence, but is, like me, now just a player.] I am 54. Ron is, I believe, 59. We are two happy old softball farts, mostly happy because we no longer have to deal with being the manager. The manager is Jack Atton [may his tribe increase!] and he’s held that position for the last five years. The weekday team is named The Swingers. They play in the M Street Softball League, one of the premier softball leagues in Boston. All-Star teams from that league occasionally travel and play in regional tournaments, and they always acquit themselves well. I am currently the manager of The Swingers [and being so has reminded me of every reason I enjoyed NOT managing for the past five seasons.] I have played in the M Street league, and sometimes managed the team I’ve played for, off and on since 1999. There’s more, but that should give you enough to understand anything that follows [assuming you give a rat’s ass.])

Despite the scores above, this has not been the softball season of my dreams.

Last year, The Bombers played in the championship round of their league. We lost in the finals. Until then, we had lost TWO games all season. With the two wins yesterday, The Bombers now have two wins. We are 2 and 6 on this season thus far.

Meanwhile, The Swingers started the year 3 and 1. Yay! I’m a managerial genius! We are now 3 and 7. Boo! I’m an idiot! Fire the bum!

Thus far, I have not been able to put the team on the field that I would have desired. There hasn’t been a single game this season where I’ve had the nine players available that I would put on the field to optimize our chances. I’ve had to patch a line-up together, at the last moment, every game. Therefore, my ability to do the best job I could do as manager has been non-existent.

As with most sports, players win and lose games. Managers, with the very rare exception, can only lose them. The main job of the softball manager is to make sure he has the optimal line-up and positioning of fielders. Given that task completed successfully, the game is pretty much out of his hands. Every so often, a decision is needed on a substitution, a strategy, or perhaps some other niggling detail. In the end, though, the players either get the job done or they don’t. The manager (unless he is also playing) will affect a game in progress, in a positive manner, once in a blue moon – maybe. It’s easy, however, for a manager to screw up a team’s chances. When he makes the right decision, the players still must bring it to fruition. When he makes the wrong decision, it can shipwreck the team without any help. Even then, an outstanding effort by the players can still save the day.

I can honestly say that I feel responsible for one loss this year because of my management. That was our opener. There was a thing I should have done to bring us the win. I didn’t do it. The way I handled the situation was probably sportsmanlike, but if handled differently I might have secured us a win.

A new rule was put into place this season regarding illegality of bats. Composite bats have been deemed illegal for league play at M Street. Without going into a lot of detail, those bats can be literally lethal. In testing, balls have been measured coming off of them at a max of 140+ miles per hour. As you might imagine, this leaves little time for a pitcher, 46 feet away, to react defensively. There have been instances of pitchers losing an eye, having their face crushed, and even dying. Luckily, no such horrific fate had befallen anyone at M Street – yet. In order to stave off the possibility, only aluminum bats are now allowed. In order to be deemed legal, and receive an ASA (Amateur Softball Association) approval, these bats must have been tested at no greater than 99 miles per hour. Aside from the injury aspect, the composite bats are obviously a major aid to hitters. It’s much easier to whack a scorcher with a bat that jacks the ball at 140 miles per hour as opposed to only 99.

In our first game, our opposition used a composite bat in the first inning. One of my players pointed this out to me. By rights, I could have alerted the umpire and had the hit made by that batter ruled illegal, resulting in an out and taking any resulting runs off of the scoreboard. I did point out the illegal bat to the umpire, and he should have made the ruling himself. However, we’re working with new umpires this year and not all of them were up to speed on league rules during the first week.

(That sounds idiotic, but it’s true. The problem is that the umps are trained in ASA rules, and the "no composite bats" rule isn’t an ASA rule. It’s a league rule. Composite bats are not illegal across the board in all ASA play.)

When I told the ump about the illegal bat, and informed him of the league rule, he asked me what he should do. Meanwhile, the other team pleaded ignorance. They said they had no idea that the bat was illegal, and that they had used the bat in previous seasons, and so forth. The umpire looked to me for a decision.

The right thing for me to do, as manager, was to ask for the previous hit to be ruled an out because of the illegal bat and to have the two runs scored on that play disallowed. I erred on the side of good sportsmanship. I believed the other team was truly ignorant of the bat being illegal. Instead of being an asshole in the first inning of game one, I only asked the umpire to remove the bat from the game. Play continued. We were leading by five runs at that point, so I was willing to be magnanimous.

We ended up losing by one run. My fault, totally. It was my job to be an asshole at that point in the game and I didn’t do my job.

The Swingers pretty much need to run the table to make the playoffs now. It’s not impossible. There are 7 games remaining. If I get the opportunity to field the complete squad sometime, maybe it can happen. I’m not counting on it, though. Half the team has higher priorities than softball. Those guys think nothing of missing a few games. In the grander scheme of things, they probably have their heads screwed on more tightly than I do. I don’t miss games for anything less than a death in the family, and I am the only team member who has been there for every game this year. So, this will be my one and only year as manager. I truly can’t understand not making a total commitment to the team once you’ve signed on, and I don’t need this sort of aggravation. By the same token, these guys would be better off with someone who isn’t harboring bad feelings about commitment issues when what we’re talking about is something that should be fun for them. I’m a head case and I can only manage other head cases without getting ulcers.

The Bombers, on the other hand...

[2010 Bombers putting on the brave faces following the loss in the finals. Big Jay Atton is far left in first row. Jack Atton is directly above him, next to me. On my other side is Pat Atton, and above me is Drew Atton.]

The other thing you need to know about me and softball is that I’ve been playing it in organized leagues for parts of five decades. I started in the 1970’s. And I have never been on a championship team.

(Some unkind souls might theorize that playing softball during five decades and never being on a championship team means that I might be the problem. As my skills have declined, I’ve had those notions myself. I know in my heart, though, that I kicked ass for many years. I might need someone to drag my aging butt across the finish line these days, but I consider it fitting payback for the years I was trying to drag somebody else’s butt across the finish line when I was younger. And if I’m a drag on a team’s chance for success, I won’t complain if I gather splinters on the bench. I’m a realist.)

Anyway, given last year’s close call, I was fully expecting The Bombers to win that elusive championship for me. I still believe they will. But the 0 and 6 start sure put a psychological damper on things. Destroying the other team twice yesterday helped to make me a bit more optimistic again. My going 4 for 8, with a walk, and one of the four hits a triple, didn’t hurt. I can still rise to the occasion sometimes, and now that I’ve contributed to a couple of wins I’ll feel like I helped earn that title should we make a strong comeback and win it.

I usually try to give a shout to those guys who played exemplary ball, so I’ll do a bit of that here. The thing is, when you win two games by the combined score of 49 – 12, just about everybody had to play exemplary ball. So, if I don’t mention you, don’t feel bad. Everybody contributed something huge.

We’ll start with Big Jay Atton because he did something yesterday that deserves recognition. He cost himself glory for the betterment of the team. That’s always number one in my book. In the absence of Jack Atton (Jay’s uncle) as manager, due to a family commitment, Jay took over as coach on an interim basis. Now, thus far this year, Jay, an excellent pitcher, is 0 and 4. And the team we played yesterday was one he likely would have torn to shreds and ribbons if he took the mound. However, with a shortage of players (we had the minimum available) he positioned folks defensively in order to maximize our fielding abilities. He put himself at third base instead of selfishly penciling himself in as pitcher. He would have almost assuredly grabbed two cheap wins for himself had he done so. He instead started Joey Baszkiewicz in game one and Drew Atton (his cousin) in game two. They both pitched well, Jay fielded third magnificently, and we won the games. It was the right thing to do and he gets applause from me for doing so.

(His reward, aside from a clear managerial conscience, is the fact that he now sports a 4 – 0 record during his two stints as interim manager. He’s not only the most naturally talented player with whom I’ve played; he’s also one of the most intelligent.)

I mentioned Joey Baszkiewicz and Drew Atton. Both of them performed admirably. And both of them, if I’m not mistaken, also picked up their first career wins as pitchers. Drew has been working hard at learning the craft, has been mistreated by his fielders while pitching for The Swingers, and it was nice to see him be able to pitch his way out of a couple of bases loaded jams. That should help his confidence. Joey, meanwhile, has been something of a pleasant surprise. He’s normally a catcher by trade, with he and I sharing that duty on both teams, and he’s also another guy who will do whatever it takes for the team to prosper even if it means his stats suffer personally. He’s thrown one shutout inning at M Street, and now he’s 1 – 0 for The Bombers. His nickname, until further notice, is Mister Perfect.

Speaking of perfection, Eric MacDonald threw an inning of shutout relief in game one. He also went 3 for 3 with a double and a three-run homer, and 6 for 7 overall. Not bad. Coming close to perfection was Pat Atton (yes, another Atton – Drew’s brother) who went 5 for 6 with 3 walks over both games. Billy Davis went 3 for 3 with a walk in game two. Big Jay Atton had two doubles and a home run, and he led the team with 9 RBI. Seth went 6 for 8, including a double and two triples. Just about everybody fattened up with those 49 runs scoring, of course.

As we lost our first 6 games, I told the team that I wouldn’t post any stats until we won. Now that we’ve made good on that, the stats can be found HERE.

To wrap this up, I’m going to tell you about something historic which will happen at M Street, weather permitting, on Tuesday evening.

(The following was previously published in the South Boston Tribune, in slightly different form.)

M Street Softball Is A Family Affair

by Jim "Suldog" Sullivan

The M Street Softball League is celebrating its 41st season this year. During the previous 40 seasons, the league has seen many family connections on the various team rosters.

Brothers are the most common. The Baszkiewicz family contributed Derek (a fine player for many years, now retired), as well as his younger brother, Joey (who still plays good ball for the Swingers.) On the Dorset Club, there's Alex Lisek, Chris Lisek, and Wes Lisek. There are tag teams of Garofalos and Deanes, Brodericks, Hourihans, and Landolfis.

In the father/son category, Sidewalk Cafe's Mark Senna had the pleasure of sharing the playing field with his dad, Don. Joey Magee, now pitching for Cranberry Cafe, started in the league at a time when his dad was a perennial all-star second baseman. Robbie Rogers, a candidate for the league lead in home runs every year, started his slugging career while his dad, Jack, was still playing at M Street.

This year, however, the league title for players from the same family goes to the Attons. There are four, on three different teams.

Jack Atton, pitcher for Telegraph Hill, is the "old man" of the group. He's the father of Pat Atton and Drew Atton, who both play for the Swingers ball club, and he's also the uncle of Big Jay Atton, pitcher for Stats-BSB.

(I've had the pleasure of being the teammate of all four of them, at various times, and I'm currently the manager of the young brothers, Pat and Drew, on the Swingers. They're all strong competitors, but also nice guys with good senses of humor. I'd be hard pressed to name another similar group of guys who are as talented, and fun to watch on a ballfield, but who are also a joy to just have as buddies.)

Having said all of the above, let me tell you about something unique to league history which will happen on Tuesday, June 28th. All three of the Atton's teams are playing that evening - Jack's Telegraph Hill team at 6:00, Big Jay's Stats-BSB squad at 7:30, and then both Drew and Pat will be competing for the Swingers in the 9:00 game. What's really special is that the starting pitcher for all three teams that night, barring injury, should be from the Atton family. I plan on giving Drew the start in the 9:00 contest. AND, if the opportunity presents itself, maybe Pat will even throw to one or two batters in relief, making it FOUR members of the same family pitching on the same night.

So, why not bring your family down to the ballpark some evening? The newly-constructed stands can accommodate a few hundred comfortably, and the players really appreciate a good crowd to show off for. And, if you come on the 28th, you'll be witness to history.


As of this writing, Jack Atton leads the league in victories, sporting an 8 - 1 record. Big Jay is second in strikeouts. And, with Drew having notched his first win yesterday for the Bombers, he'll take the hill with confidence as he attempts to get his first win in M Street play. It should be fun.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, June 24, 2011

You Want The Truth?

You can't handle the truth!

This has absolutely nothing to do with A Few Good Men or Jack Nicholson. As a matter of fact, it has little to do with anything. I'll give you an explanation, anyway, since I like to hear myself write.

My good friend, Lime, gave me the Versatile Blogger Award.

(Wrong! That sentence actually could be more ludicrous. Her name could be Kumquat and she might have given me the Man Who I Want To Cover In Chocolate And Lick Even More Than Hugh Jackman Award.)

Here is the actual badge of dishonor under discussion.

Now, before we go on, I wish to clarify something.

Hah! It's a cooking joke! Thank you! I'll be here all week! Try the veal!

OK, where were we? Oh, yes. I usually make it a practice to not accept the same award twice. And I have been given this particular piece of disgrace before. It was foisted upon me by the entirely lovely (yet demented) Sweet Pea.

(HERE is the proof, both of my getting the award and, if you click a few more links within that piece, her dementia.)

(Or mine. I'm never 100% sure about these things.)

Anyway, when some internet equivalent to chlamydia is bestowed upon me, I generally try to find a cheap way out. And the easiest is to say, "Gee Willikers! You know, (insert name of idiot here), I'm really very thrilled that you decided to honor me with one of the most meaningless shows of appreciation outside of a daytime Emmy, but I've already had the pleasure. Thanks just the same, and if you're ever going to be in my neck of the woods, give me three days notice so I can alert the authorities and get a restraining order, OK? Thanks much!" Lime, however, is actually a person I consider a real and true friend. We have met. Here's proof.

(You can feel free to make whatever comments you wish about her tongue. I won't, since MY WIFE took that photo.)

Anyway, I like Lime. I liked her even more when she allowed me to use the following photo for the cover art on the CD released by my imaginary band.

(Yes, my imaginary band. But it has real people in it. You must be getting entirely sick of all the links by now, but go HERE. See?)

So, getting back to nothing in particular, and I'll try to tie this all together at some point later on, I was cruising a few blogs I hadn't visited in a while, and when I got to Everyday Goddess, I saw that she had posted the bulk of a blog interview she had done with Eddie Bluelights, one of his "roasts".

(I'm not done with the links. If there haven't been enough to keep you busy, there will be more.)

Her responses to Eddie's questions were good and solid. Meanwhile, here's a link to the time Eddie roasted me (which was actually a roasting by the originator of the roast, David McMahon [may his tribe increase!] with additional dithering [I think that's what they call it] by Eddie. And I thought to myself, "Self, since you have nothing planned for the immediate future, you could do what Everyday Goddess has done and re-post your roast!" (which could get me arrested in some states, but De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum, as my grandfather said the first time he saw Lime's tongue.)

Since I'm basically a lazy sluggard with no ambition, that seemed a good enough way to fill space. So, I went about beginning the construction of said piece, but then Lime told me that she was giving me VD... excuse me, an award... so, I have now decided to combine both the reprint of the roast and the award reception.

(This will be an absolute mess, much like all else you've already been through here today.)

(Did I need to tell you that? No, you knew it wasn't going to get any better. However, I sometimes can't help becoming overly pedantic [is there such a thing as perfectly pedantic?] although I have thus far been able to ignore the voices that tell me to take a machete to DEA agents, just in case any are reading and are willing to let their guard down.)

Here it is, whatever it is.

(I should like to point out that the questions are the actual questions given by Eddie Bluelights and/or David McMahon. The answers, since this is about getting an award and I am (in)famously known for reaming out those who give them to me, are as a person with absolutely no compunction about hurting feelings might give.)

[Note: I am not a person who has absolutely no compunction about hurting feelings. I care. I do not like to hurt people's feelings. So, if this offends you, go and fuck yourself.]

Here's the first of the standard questions. Why do you blog?

Only to please Lime. Have you seen her tongue? Holy Anteater, Batman!

(I'd also throw in some joke about a G-string, given the guitar photo, but it's too much work.)

What's the story behind your blog name?

There isn't one. It's my nickname. Duh.

By the way, do you know why Lime calls herself "Lime"? It's because she has big patches of scaly green skin.

(They don't show up in the photos, but trust me. I've met her.)

She was going to call herself "Crocodile", but crocodiles don't have pits.

(I have no idea what that means. If you do, drop me a line.)

What is the best thing about being a blogger?

Getting to meet people such as Lime who have tongues the size of Rhode Island and gnarly green skin. Otherwise, I can't come up with anything at the moment. I could spout some twaddle about getting to meet wonderful people from other blogs, but the only reason I ever visit them is so that they'll visit me in return. It's all very incestuous, not unlike a circle jerk between hillbilly cousins.

What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?

Get to know Lime! If you're really nice to her, she'll show you her tongue (and she won't show you the green scaly alligator skin. Or maybe it was crocodile. I don't know. You expect me to keep track of this crap?) Otherwise, my best advice would be to not blog, ever, unless you have inordinate amounts of free time for which you can't find any other use. The vast majority of your peers will be slack-jawed droolers who think their cats are uniquely hilarious when dressed in a funny hat and who cannot spell 'lose' (not that anyone should expect a cat to be able to spell anything.) Most of those who don't fall into the preceding category are OK, but still losers (or loosers) of one stripe or another (especially the tabbies.) Occasionally, a true talent will be found, but he or she will have some hideous fault that prevents them from ever becoming truly successful (such as using far too many parentheses for no discernible reason.) I'd estimate that those who graduate from a blog to an actual writing career are about 1 in 500,000. Those who deserve to do so are about 1 in 10,000,000. Me? I'm just a dickwad.

[From HERE. Extra bonus points because the hat is a LIME!!!]

What is the most significant blog post you've ever read?

Maybe THIS ONE. I'll tell you for sure when I get around to reading it. I'm pretty backed up right now (which has nothing to do with reading, actually, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case anyone had some spare Ex-Lax they might like to send me.)

(Nah, don't pay any attention to that. I'm just full of shit.)

What is the most significant blog post you've ever written?

All of them. I especially like this one you're reading now. Or maybe the one about me jerking off in a high school bathroom. Yeah, I'd say that's about the height of my prowess, both literally and figuratively, so let's go with that. Oh, and gratuitous mention of Lime!


That's it for whatever this was. There were some rules and stuff, about telling seven things that nobody knew about you before, but I don't care (and if there aren't seven things within this that you never knew before, I'd be mighty surprised. So would the cats, but they always are.)

And here's where I sign off in the usual way (which is something you should do if you want to reach the lofty heights to which I have transpired, which is about the sort of grammar you can expect from most other bloggers, and get similar awardages.)

Soon, with more better stuff. As a matter of fact, very soon!


[From HERE, and I think that fulfills my yearly quota of cats, which all blogs must meet.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Opinions are like bumper stickers for Obama in Massachusetts. Every asshole's got one.

Really. That's not a dig against Obama, by the way. What possible reason could you have for sporting a bumper sticker for him, if you live in Massachusetts, other than some pitiful attempt to show the world-at-large that you aren't a loser because you were on the winning side during the previous election? You might as well drive down the street with your head out the window, fingers waggling in your ears, going "Nyah, nyah! Nyah, nyah!" It's not as though your bumper sticker made a difference then, nor will it make a difference in 2012. Obama will carry Massachusetts even if Jesus Christ himself is on the ballot, provided Jesus Christ is listed as a Republican. Cretins.

Speaking of cretins, have you ever seen People Of Walmart? If you haven't, and you're too lazy to have clicked onto the link, it's a website devoted to showing photographs of poor mentally incompetent souls who had the bad fortune to be shopping at Walmart while some a-hole with a cell phone camera was in the same aisle. While, yes, some of them have to be seen to be believed, and there is a certain sadistic holier-than-thou thrill associated with seeing a woman in a three-sizes-too-small purple fishnet dress deciding which sort of Cheetos to buy, I feel it's my duty to point out that if you were there to take the photo, then you're a Walmart person, too. Don't turn around! Some other snarkster might be gaining on you.

[Photo from Drummerworld]

The other day, I ventured the opinion that Ian Paice is the best drummer in rock. Some folks expressed the opinion that my opinion wasn't correct.

(That's what sparked this blog entry, by the way. The rest of whatever appears here were things I thought about on my drive to the office today. Yes, I do work long and hard to make your time here worthwhile.)

Some of you averred that Neal Peart was the superior drummer, while another chose Charlie Watts, and I'm sure some of you were at least thinking of your own personal favorite skin basher while leaving unspoken the opinion that I was seriously cracked. Well, of course, De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum, as my grandfather said that time he placed a connection between his septic tank and the neighbor's shower. If everybody agreed on such things, there'd be one flavor of ice cream (peppermint stick, by the way) and Paris Hilton would be outlawed. Peart is amazing, and Watts is tasty as hell. However, my favorite is Mr. Paice, and I would like to take this opportunity to state my case more eloquently than I might have before.

Of course, if you hate drum solos, then that bored the hell out of you (which is probably a good thing, as who wants hell in them?) but, then again, if you hate drum solos, my opinion is you aren't allowed an opinion on who is the best drummer. In any case, can I at least state that Ian Paice is the best left-handed drummer, and leave it at that with no argument?

[Who knew? Our honey bear at work got a day with The Cup!]

Finally, I would like to express my opinion that Boston in 2011 is the most awesome place to be a sports fan, ever.


(Had all of the teams been losing, if would be "They".)

... have now won a total of seven titles, and captured the championship in all four major North American sports, within the past ten years. That is something no other city on the continent can brag.

I'll go a step further and say that we deserve every monomaniacal moment with which we will indulge ourselves. Why? The fans here are the most loyal in all of sport. Allow me to elucidate.

Prior to the current championships won by each of the four teams, these were the droughts through which we suffered:

Red Sox - 86 years
Patriots - 41 years
Bruins - 39 years
Celtics - 22 years

That, folks, is a combined total of 188 years of waiting. You can't name me another city as patient. Through it all, the Boston fans remained loyal. Sure, they kvetched mightily, and paraded their futility as though it were a championship unto itself, but they never stopped being in love. And the reward? Here are the current years since each of those teams has won their respective titles:

Bruins - 0 years
Celtics - 3 years
Red Sox - 4 years
Patriots - 6 years

Imagine that. Every person in the city over the age of six has been alive to see all four teams win a title. The Patriots, for goodness' sakes, are now the team that hasn't won one in the longest time. Slackers!

Cleveland me no Clevelands, and Chicago me no Cubs. While I truly feel for denizens of Ohio's northerly big city, they don't qualify for as high a spot on the misery index as Boston once held. The reason? While the Indians are certainly a pain to root for, and the Cavaliers are now loveable in comparison to their former best player, the Browns are basically an expansion franchise and they have no NHL team. Bzzzzt! Any city without the requisite four franchises doesn't make the discussion. And Chicago? Piffle! Sure, the Cubs are pitiful, but you have TWO teams in baseball and the other one won it all in 2005. I'd entertain an argument from Detroit fans, regarding misery, if the Red Wings weren't so spectacularly successful in recent times. As a matter of fact, maybe I'll still entertain an argument from them, seeing as how the Lions are an unparalleled embarrassment, but the Pistons have only recently fallen on hard times and the Tiggers did make The Series in 2006. Pittsburgh? Pirates bad, Penguins and Steelers good, and there hasn't been professional basketball there since the Pittsburgh Pipers closed up shop in 1972. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. Boston was the most miserable, and is now the most deliriously successful.

So there. Imagine me driving down the street with an Obama bumper sticker, my head out the window, waggling my fingers in my ears and going, "Nyah, nyah! Nyah, nyah!"

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Juneteenth, 2

It’s amazing how much of a jumble of crap is floating around in my head concerning racial prejudice. Here’s where I let some of it out.

(If you didn’t read the first part of this on Friday, please do so now. Really, please do. If you don’t read that, this will be even more embarrassing to me than it already is. In any case, if you don’t read part one and then you make a comment here? It’s likely to be entirely uninformed. If so, I’ll shitcan it, with no apology.)

So, as you know – if you've read part one – I grew up with vastly differing input from my family concerning race. Some tried to instill tolerance, while others taught me (via actions, rather than actual sit-down-and-listen lessons) that black people were to be considered inferior. For my part, tolerance was the winner more often than not, but tolerance isn’t necessarily something to be praised. It’s not quite acceptance of someone as an equal, is it? No, it isn’t. I was willing to live and let live, but that didn’t mean I was denying of thoughts concerning my own racial superiority. I had received more than enough bigoted input to cement that proposition in my mind.

(For what it’s worth, I think everybody harbors at least a smidgen of that inside of himself or herself. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, either – unless you nurture it and make it your entire self-identity. There’s nothing harmful in, say, watching a sporting event and rooting for someone from your own race to do well, all other things being equal. Where it becomes problematic, in my humble opinion, is when you wish evil upon the folks from differing races. Your mileage may vary.)

I had other very interesting lessons regarding race, from both sides of my family.

I’ve written about Si Rosenthal, a Jewish ballplayer for the Red Sox. He was paralyzed from the waist down while serving in World War II. Anyway, he was a friend of the Sullivans, most especially of my Grand Uncle Jim. And, when a black priest from Mississippi, Charles Burns, also a friend of the Sullivans, needed to raise some money to be used in his home state to build a school gymnasium, the Sullivans worked hard with BOTH of these men to see that it got done. The full story is HERE.

The thing of it is, the Sullivans – many of them, anyway – were very outwardly bigoted. They’d toss around pejoratives like coon and nigger, when speaking of black people in the abstract, but when it came to actions with individuals, they more often than not did the right thing. Though not to as virulent an extent as some of the Sullivans - thanks to the influence of the other side of my family - I matured with a somewhat bigoted attitude. I had black friends in school, and I played sports with black kids, but I hardly gave a second thought to casual use of hurtful words, and I generally held a different attitude towards blacks on the whole than I did to the people I knew personally.

I mentioned the influence of the other side of my family. That would be the Drowns, my Mom’s folks. On the other side of my family, there was nothing BUT tolerance and decency. I’ve already told you about how My Mom set me straight on a few things, and softened some of the nastier stuff. Her folks were… well, I’ll relate the most sterling example I can think of at the moment. Actually, I’ll let My Mom relate it to you, as I wrote to her for details when I knew I’d be writing this piece. I pretty much knew the story, but I wanted to be sure I got it right. Here’s what she told me, about my grandfather and his friend, Baron.

Grandpa was working as a claims attorney at the T [Boston public transportation system] when Baron Martin, the first ever black person hired at the T in other than a menial position, was brought into his department. I believe he was brought in as some sort of clerk and Grandpa immediately took him under his wing. Others in the office were not at all accepting of him, but Grandpa stood up for him at all times. When he learned that Baron wanted to go to law school, he helped pay for his education. They became close personal friends, going on trips and vacations together. The story goes, which I'm sure you've heard, that one time at a restaurant, when the check came, the waitress gave it to Baron and Grandma, because Grandma's tan was so dark they assumed she and Baron were a couple and Grandpa was their guest.

Baron went on to become a judge and always credited Grandpa for his education and rise in the judicial system.

[Explanatory for what follows: Bill is my step-father, Maryanne my step-sister, and Grandpa had died by this time.]

Once, when Bill's daughter Maryanne was doing a mock trial with her law school at Baron's court, Baron saw Grandma in the audience and stopped the proceedings and took us (Bill, ME, Grandma and Maryanne) into his chambers for about 20 minutes for a short reunion with Grandma. When he returned to the courtroom, before starting the mock trial, he gave a very moving speech, pointing out Grandma and telling everyone, in detail, what an inspiration Grandpa had been to him.

Grandpa told me once (and Baron corroborated it when speaking to the courtroom that day) that Baron would arrive at work and find "nigger baby" candies at his desk. I don’t remember what he or Grandpa did, but whatever it was they stuck together through it all.

[Jim note - Yes, the candies were actually called, by the candy company, "nigger babies". Sigh.]

So, I had those things in my family history to be proud about. And I had the other input, from family and childhood friends, that told me black people weren’t as worthy of the same level of respect and caring as I afforded to white people. I wasn’t an outright racist, nor was I ready to march for civil rights.

The scales tipped one day in 1968.

I was in downtown Boston with three friends. I was 11 years old; my friends a bit older, 12 and 13. We were at the Prudential Center. We had been bowling someplace, as I remember, and then just goofing around, nothing in particular in mind. We were walking down a stairway that led to Huntington Avenue when six black kids, all of them probably in their late teens, jumped us. They came at us from behind, shoved us down the stairs – I fell about three or four steps – literally jumped on us, and tried to take our money. We fought as best we could, having been surprised and being outnumbered, but they reached in our pockets, got what little we had, and then took off running.

From that point onward, we accepted as gospel anything anyone said that cast a black in a harsh light. And, shortly thereafter, I did what was probably the most reprehensible thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I was going to Boston Latin School at the time. In order to get there from Dorchester, I took a trolley, then a train, and then a streetcar. On the way home, obviously, the order was reversed. Well, one afternoon on the way home, my friends and I were riding in the streetcar. It traveled down Huntington Avenue, the street where the earlier robbery took place.

We always sat in the back because there was a bench seat there and we four could all sit together. In those days, the streetcars on that line had windows that could be opened. It was a steamy day and we had the windows open. I was sitting next to the window on the right side of the streetcar.

We stopped to let some passengers on. And, right next to my window, two black guys – late teens, early twenties – stood. I didn’t see human beings. I saw two representatives of a species that had recently caused me pain. I snuffled up what I could from my nose, brought it up from my lungs, and spat right in their faces. Then I slammed the window shut and laughed at their startled faces while the streetcar started moving again.

As the streetcar rolled, they took off running after it. They kept a pretty good pace, and at one point I thought they might catch it by the next stop. They didn’t. If they had, they would have had every right to get on, drag my sorry ass off, and beat the shit out of me. I almost wish they had, now. For many years, I’ve wished there was some way I could make up for that stupid action. There isn’t, really. Just as the black kids who mugged us generated hate against all black people, I wouldn’t doubt that my actions contributed to those two black guys hating all white people.

What a hideous waste of thought and energy. What a stupid life to live.

A few other things happened that kept the crosses lit on the lawn of my mind. Pa, my grandfather on my father’s side, had his apartment in the projects robbed. Two black kids climbed through his kitchen window and stole his television. He had been sleeping. He heard noise, came out of his bedroom, and saw them as they were exiting.

My home on Caddy Road was broken into. Unlike Pa, I didn’t see it happen. My Dad and I came home and found things awry. Some small things were missing. The cellar door was left open. We had no hard evidence that black folks had done it, but it was now way past my childhood, the neighborhood was more black than white, and so we assumed in favor of the odds.

As I went to Boston Technical High School, located in a black neighborhood, I was, on more than one occasion, shaken down for money as I walked in the neighborhood. "Gimme a quarter, white boy." That happened a good four or five times, at least (and once or twice, it was a dollar instead of a quarter.)

Well, all of that sucked, but it wasn't a reason to automatically treat everybody with black skin as though they were assholes, same as it’s no reason for a black person to consider all white people to be jerks because of the rotten things that happened in the past. But, I had one more idiotic deed to do before I started on the road to recovery from stupidity.

My Mom and Dad had divorced a couple of years prior to the break-in at our house. I would occasionally write My Mom – she had moved, while I stayed in the same house with My Dad – and, after the burglary, I wrote her a letter filled with racial invective. It was “niggers this” and “niggers that” and I basically blamed every societal ill in Dorchester on the influx of black neighbors.

My Mom, once again, spoke truth. This time, she didn’t defend my innocence. That was long gone. She decided to tell me, in nice terms, that I was being an ass. She told me how much that language bothered her, and she asked me to never use it again. She gave me examples of good black people. She may have reminded me of my own black childhood heroes, like Earl Wilson and the Celtics players. Anyway, she started the tide turning the other way.

A few other things happened that helped.

In school, the black kids and white kids mostly kept separate, but in gym class, everybody played basketball. Teams just formed at random, mostly, and I played ball with both black kids and white kids. And the black kids were mostly much more accepting of us white kids than we were of them. I noticed that, and took it to heart.

There was a white kid named Michael. He lived in Roxbury, the black section of Boston, and he was quite poor. He invited me to his house once and it was very rundown. His bedroom contained a mattress and that was about it. He slept on the mattress on the floor, and it was a shockingly bare home to me who had come from relative middle-class wealth. Anyway, Michael hung mostly with black kids, as they were from his neighborhood. And the white kids, behind his back, would call him a nigger lover. Well, the black kids were his friends from the neighborhood, Michael was a nice guy, and I liked him. I hated that epithet being used to describe him. Another point for not being a racist asshole went up on the scoreboard in my head.

Then, after I graduated high school, I needed work. After hanging around and not doing much – being a security guard, driving cab, a few other nothing jobs – my Uncle Jimmy used his political pull to get me hired on with the city. I was assigned to a crew that cleaned streets in Boston’s Back Bay. And I was the only white guy on our crew of eight. They accepted me immediately, in a way that I knew in my heart guys from my neighborhood would NOT have accepted a lone black guy. We shared work, we shared meals, we drank together, we smoked some weed together, we played some ball together, and they became my friends. And then another white guy was assigned to our crew.

One day, early on, we found ourselves alone together. He had seen the way I interacted with the other guys, and how they interacted with me. He said to me, "Do you really LIKE hanging with all those jigs?"

I said, "Yeah, I do. They’re good guys. And I'd really appreciate it if you wouldn't call them 'jigs'. They’re my friends."

I didn’t make much of a dent in his prejudice – he still called them jigs – but it was a big step for me. I was, more than ever before, seeing black people as human beings, not some sort of animals.

Later, I went to broadcasting school and my best friend in class was a wonderful black kid by the name of Kenny Cumberlander. Kenny was a gentle giant with a great goofy sense of humor. He could make me laugh so easily! We were partners in a few class projects, always enjoyed each other’s company, and shared one particularly funny incident.

In a class on sports broadcasting, we were teamed doing play-by-play and color commentary. Well, later on that day, we were both in another class, and somehow the conversation, with our teacher, came to what we had done earlier in the day in the sports broadcasting class. I was explaining what we did. I said, "I was doing the play-by-play, and Kenny was my color man, and..."

Another black student, a young woman named Keisha, jumped out of her seat, indignant. She snarled, "What did you just call Kenny?"

I was befuddled by her seeming anger at me. What the heck did I say? Kenny then turned in his seat, and said, "Keisha, he called me the COLOR man. That’s what they call the guy who does the commentary. Calm down." The entire class – about half black and half white - had a good laugh. Keisha, of course, thought I had called Kenny a colored man, which would have been just about a half-step above calling him a spade.

Since then, I’ve had far too many wonderful associations with black people to think of them ever again as anything lesser than equals. My teammates on the Bombers softball team, for instance, have included beautiful black souls, most notably my current teammate of 17 years, Ron Johnson, whom I consider as good a friend as it is possible to have on a ballfield. He’s shown his intelligence and compassion continually. He was my manager for a couple of years, and then he made me his successor as manager, a job I did for 10 years. As manager, he always treated me fairly and with respect, and as my player he never once complained. Now we're both old softball farts, enjoying our declining sporting years with much shared laughter.

My former teammate, Jimmy Jackson, was one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever played ball with, and he never once let me down when I was manager. He’d do whatever I asked, even to his own physical detriment. I loved Jimmy Jackson. And there were others, of course. Carl Hyman of the Flames, my former weekday team, is one of the most intelligent and classy ballplayers I've ever shared a field with, and Bobby Ridley, the ageless wonder, is still kicking ass at close to 80 years of age. When Bobby started playing the game, black folks weren't even allowed in major league baseball. I consider it a true honor to have shared a field with such a fine gentleman.

I could go on naming black teammates, but you get the point. And I never had a single beef with any of them, something I can't readily say about my white teammates.

Most recently, my nephew, Darian, was born. He’s five now. He’s the product of a white mother and a black father. And he’s a nice little guy who loves playing with me when I come over to his place. And I love playing with him.

If I ever find myself thinking a stupidly racial thought – and, I hate to admit it, but I still do on occasion – I immediately think of Ron Johnson and Jimmy Jackson and Kenny Cumberlander and the good guys I’ve worked with, and I know immediately that for me to think such stupid things about an entire race of peoples is just ignorant and ridiculous. And now, I have black blood in the family. How can I hate black people, as a group, when one of my own is black? Talk about stupid!

And, to get back to the start of this whole thing, My Darker Gray Friend, Michelle Hickman, is a lovely person, regardless of her shade of gray.

I’m not bucking for sainthood here, by any means. I’m still an asshole. But, each day, I hope I’m less of one than I was the day before. I guess that’s the best a lot of us can strive for, black or white.

Thanks for letting me get some of this off of my chest. I owe you one.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Friday, June 17, 2011


This is a repeat. Unlike other repeats, which came on days when I was just too damned lazy to write anything new, this one comes at the request of a friend. Michelle Hickman (more about her below) suggested that we both re-run our pieces concerning race relations and our personal experiences involving same. So, here's mine, and Michelle's will be available at her place.

Even though I was the one to originally suggest a dual posting on the subject, it is somewhat hard putting it out here again. It's one thing to confess to idiocy originally, which - if scary - makes you feel somewhat clean afterward, but it's another thing altogether to resurrect it and make yourself a dope all over again. I do so for two reasons:

1 - Michelle is my friend, and I love her.

2 - The whole point of publishing it in the first place was to possibly do some good, via making folks think (or re-think) their prejudices. That may have been an optimistic outlook, but it's still worth a shot. If this makes one person a bit more tolerant, I suppose it's worthwhile looking like a moron again.

Here's what I originally published on June 19th, 2009.



MDGF (which stands for "My Darker Gray Friend", which is what I call Michelle Hickman, much as she calls me "MLGF", which stands for "My Lighter Gray Friend", which goes back to a comment Michelle once made concerning race relations and how it would be so much nicer if, instead of black and white, we thought of skins in terms of varying shades of gray, and... Hmmmmmm. It seems my parenthetical got away from me. They often do. I start with the best of intentions, hoping to relay a bit of useful information, but end up confusing hell out of you, instead. I'll start over, assuming you’re still here.)

I had some correspondence with Michelle Hickman. During the course of that correspondence, we asked each other a few interesting personal questions; questions that might have been considered too personal by more-easily-offended people, but we pretty much understand that the other one won’t shy away from such stuff. Anyway, one of my questions to Michelle concerned the subject of race. See, she’s an African-American, and I thought I knew from reading her past writings that she had grown up in an area where her family was the only African-American family for miles around, and I wondered what that might have been like for her.

(Here’s another parenthetical, but I promise to keep a firm hold on this one. I use the term "African-American" because, as I recall, that’s how Michelle self-identified in her reply to my question. In addition, she used the term "Caucasian" to identify those NOT African-American. For the sake of flow – and because the others are just plain too much work to type - I’m going to use the simpler "black" and "white" from here on out. I realize that this somewhat negates Michelle’s lovely sentiment concerning shades of gray, but she knows where my heart is at.)

Here was my question to Michelle:

Were there any puzzling racial episodes for you? Was your neighborhood - your part of the world - multiracial? Was there some instance when you thought, "Huh? Why is this person saying that?" or "Am I missing something here?" and you were brought to a realization concerning skin tone that was either enlightening or painful?

She answered in a stark and truthful way, and it was fascinating reading. So much so, as a matter of fact, that I asked her if she might like to do a sort-of joint posting concerning our racial experiences while growing up. She could expand a bit on her original e-mail, while I would write something about what it was like to be a white kid from an almost wholly white neighborhood in Boston. I offered the suggestion that we could co-publish on Juneteenth, an unofficial holiday on the American calendar which is celebrated pretty much exclusively by blacks and the very existence of which is unknown to many whites.

(For a detailed explanation concerning Juneteenth, please go HERE.)

Michelle agreed to write her piece; I said that I’d write mine; and we agreed to link to each other on Juneteenth so that our readers could read both of our pieces and (I hope) enjoy them. And so, here we are, finally, at the point of this thing. Sorry for the delay!

Michelle's piece is HERE (or soon will be.) Mine is below the pretty asterisks.


I expect that, as with many a tale concerning American history, the white person will come off sounding like more of an ass than the black person. And, as is the case in many of those tales, I’ll aver that it isn’t so much a matter of the white person being hateful as it is just abysmal ignorance coupled with societal conditioning.

When I was growing up, my part of Dorchester (a neighborhood of Boston) was Leave It To Beaver land. Today, when I tell people that I grew up in Dorchester, they go "Ooh!" and make a scared face. This is because the Dorchester of today has the highest murder rate in the city. I’ll trade on that for street cred, but the truth of the matter is that my neighborhood was as devoid of trouble – and of anyone unwhite – as Theodore Cleaver’s Mayfield had been.

I’ll give you an idea of just how lily white my childhood was. When I was perhaps three years old, I was outside in the front yard when a black woman walked down our street. I stared at her in amazement. I had never seen such a person. And, after she was out of sight, I went into our house and asked my mother about her. I offered the suggestion that perhaps she had fallen into some mud. I was puzzled as to why her clothes looked clean, and only her face and hands still had mud all over them, but my young mind, uncluttered by any thoughts of diversity, honestly couldn’t conceive of a better explanation for how she looked.

My Mother, never one for prejudice, set me straight. She explained how people came in different colors, and that this, in and of itself, didn’t necessarily make them better or worse. I was fascinated. I soon learned from other relatives, however, that niggers were an inferior type of human. Having been inculcated with similar information from many of their relatives, I received even more bad knowledge from my friends. We grew up mostly reinforcing each other’s ignorance. General neighborhood consensus was that they smelled different. Also, we were willing to concede that there were some good ones. We decided that there were black people and then there were niggers. Basically, the more like a white person you were, the more you were accorded the honor of just being black.


I vividly recall an incident with my grandfather, my father's father. I’ve written at least one story that shows him in a wonderful light – Solomon The Milkman – and it was a nice story, a true story, and he was a decent family man with good core values. However, as with so many of his generation and in those times – the early 1960’s - he was of the firmly-held belief that black people were from a lesser breed than he was.

I had just become aware of baseball, starting my lifelong love affair with the game. Being a young kid, I had my heroes on the local team, the Red Sox. My grandfather, an excellent ballplayer in his youth and also a huge Red Sox fan, was thrilled to hear that I liked baseball. One night, as we visited him and my grandmother, we talked about it at their kitchen table. I said I wanted autographed photos of my favorite players and had written away for them. The first one I named was Tony Conigliaro, who was always my favorite. Nice Italian kid who had grown up locally in Revere. No problem. He asked me which other players I wanted a picture of. I told him Earl Wilson.

He got a look on his face as though he had just discovered me finger-fucking a dog. He put down his drink, grabbed a nearby piece of paper and a pen, and drew a big black squiggly blob. He pushed it toward me and said, "There’s Earl Wilson!" And then he laughed.

I didn’t understand, at all. I liked Earl Wilson because he was a pitcher who had thrown a no-hitter, and he was something of a rarity in that he was a pitcher who could hit well, sometimes actually being used as a pinch-hitter by the Sox. I had never even considered the fact that he wasn’t white.

Until then.

Again, My Mom was the one with the explanation. Later, when I asked her why Pa had done that, she explained about Earl Wilson being black, that Pa was making a sort of joke – something to do with an old musical group called The Ink Spots – and it didn’t mean I had to stop liking Earl Wilson. Nor did I, until he was traded to the Tigers.

Of course, as you've gathered if you've been reading me for any appreciable length of time, the Boston Celtics were my favorite team. Despite having a leprechaun for their mascot, the team often included more black players than white players. They were the first basketball team to draft a black player; the first to have a starting five comprised of solely blacks; and the first to have a black head coach. As you might imagine, I didn't mention my love for the Celtics to my grandfather. And I was the only kid in my neighborhood who liked them. Everybody else adored the whiter-than-white Boston Bruins hockey team (and so did I, I might add. Boston was very much a hockey town, and the racial make-up of the team was NOT the leading factor. Folks just liked hockey. However, had the team had any black players, it would have been interesting to see how they would have been received.)

Then there was the time I bought a comic book and... well, here's the story.

Luke Cage (Hero For Hire) was the first black superhero character to have a whole title devoted to him. I remember visiting an older female relative at her house in Brockton and lying on a bed reading that first issue. She came into the room where I was doing so, looked at Luke Cage on the cover, and got a look on her face as though she had been physically violated. She said, "Is that a comic book about a nigger?"

Until that point, I hadn’t thought that what I was reading was all that unusual. Luke Cage just looked really cool on the cover; that’s why I bought it. The story was good, and made sense, too. He had acquired some special powers – I forget exactly what and how - so he decided that he’d hire himself out, for money, to solve folk’s problems. I figured that’s what I might have done, too, if I had somehow gained superpowers. Anyway, thoughts concerning the race of the main character hadn’t entered into my decision to buy it. Her comment, however, made me feel very radical for reading literature that had such a startling effect on grown-ups. I became a big Luke Cage fan. I bought every issue during its short-lived tenure, and whenever I was outside with one, I made sure that I carried it with the cover showing, just in case anyone was unsure of my credentials as a freedom fighter.


Back and forth chronologically... bits as they come to mind.

By the time I reached the fourth grade in elementary school, it was 1965 and steps were being taken to integrate some of the Boston Public Schools. Our neighborhood school, the Gilbert Stuart, had nothing but white students prior to 1965. That year, however, some black children would be put into the classes, arriving by bus from their own neighborhoods. This was mostly a curiosity to us kids, but a cause for alarm to some of the parents.

My Dad was not a member of the NAACP, but neither was he a Klansman. He had a couple of close black friends from work, and he'd go golfing with them or otherwise socialize, but he wasn't averse to throwing around words like jigaboo and spook, either. Generally, I think he understood that being black wasn't an advantage in America. When discussing some darker-skinned person whom he felt was trying to do the right thing, but who had gotten the short end of it, he would often say something akin to, "The poor black bastard!" with the idea being that the person's blackness was already a strike against him and it was entirely unfair to have the added indignity of whatever else had occurred. His heart was in the right place.

Anyway, on the first day of school that year, he (not so) surreptitiously trailed Stephen Murphy and me as we walked the third-of-a-mile to the Gilbert Stuart. He tried to stay hidden behind trash cans and whatnot, a half block behind us, but we knew he was there (and I can only imagine what the neighbors thought he was doing, skulking along in the shadows.) The idea, of course, was that he would be on the ready to scoop us up and carry us away should any trouble develop, though what trouble might have been instigated by a half-busload of eight-year-olds is still a mystery to me. Needless to say, no trouble developed, he went home, and we kids got along OK.

[Photo from end of school year, 1966. I'm the red-headed kid, whose pants and socks don't quite meet, in the front row. Snazzy bow tie, though!]

The major racial memory I retain of the black kids was of us discovering, one day during recess, that the palms of our hands were all more-or-less the same color. Oh, and they smelled pretty much the same as white kids.


I wasn't an innocent lost in a world of hate, floating along on a cloud of my own pure thoughts. Lest I leave you with that mistaken impression, I'll admit to a few reprehensible acts. I won't admit to them here and now, however, as this is already entirely too long for one day's post. I'll be back on Monday with the darker side of my journey towards enlightenment. It won't be heroic, but it will be the truth. And, I hasten to add, it is NOT where I'm at now. I've learned that...

Enough. Come back then, please.

(Remember to read Michelle's piece!)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If You Were A Bear, Where Would You Have Been Last Night?

Well, where else? Parked right in front of the TV, rooting on your favorite team, the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, of course!

From one set of bruins to another...



Monday, June 13, 2011

Just A Little Bit Of Softball, But Then A Funny Story At The End

The last time that I spoke to you about softball, I said that I was expecting to catch four games in four days. Since the weather forecast called for temps in the high 90's, I expected to get in some good work. I wanted to sweat a lot and attain some semblance of decent shape, something which I haven't really been able to do this year because of multiple rain-outs and - when games did get played - temps in the 40's, from which the most exercise I got was shivering.

As with many things in life we wish for (fame, fortune, pastrami sandwiches that not only make you lose weight but fill in your bald spot) this did not happen. Three of the four games were rained out. And the one that actually got played resulted in a 19 - 18 loss wherein I squatted in mud for two hours. Bleh.

(My day was not as bad as my shortstop's. He not only had his car towed earlier in the afternoon, which resulted in his being 45 minutes late for the game, but he also ended up absolutely drenched in mud when he dove for a ball and did a face plant into a lake behind second base. God bless you, TK. That was truly giving it up for the team.)

I've got four more games scheduled in the next seven days. There will probably be a plague of locusts.

(For those of you who detest softball talk, that's the end of it. Here comes the other stuff.)

There is one saving grace when softball is rained out on a Sunday morning. That is going to Donohue's for breakfast. I'll explain.

MY WIFE is a wonderful woman.

(Duh. If she hadn't been one, I certainly wouldn't have married her.)

Anyway, when she sees my pitiful puss moping around the house on a Sunday morning because it's raining out and I can't play ball, she always suggests that we go to Donohue's for breakfast. That helps immensely. The one thing I like almost as much as playing ball is eating.

Donohue's is in Watertown on Bigelow Avenue, just a short drive (or decent walk) from our home. Aside from it being a great place to forget about the disappointment of being rained out, it's my go-to place for sporting events on TV channels we don't receive in our house. For instance, when game seven of the Bruins - Lightning series was on Versus (which we don't get) MY WIFE and I went to Donohue's, had a swell dinner of turkey tips and vegetables (enough for four meals, actually, as we both took home enough to have another feed), then watched an exciting game on a big screen TV in the midst of an involved and friendly crowd. Doesn't get much better than that, unless you have some good drinks with it and we did. I'll also go there to watch Boston College football one or two Saturdays during their season and maybe enjoy the occasional Celtics game (when we don't have tickets and I feel like being amidst the buzz of other fans.)

The food is top-notch for a bar, there are huge TVs everywhere, the selection of beer is wide and satisfying, and the prices are extremely reasonable.

The owner is actually an Irishman, too (or, at least, an American of Irish descent.) This isn't some damn Fitzi McLeprechaun's chain joint, about as Irish as matzoh and chitlins. This is the real thing - a neighborhood pub, serving good food and drink at decent prices, a fun place to be. J. D. Donohue is the proprietor and a nice guy, friendly, and likely to chat you up at your table. He stopped by yesterday and we discussed his addition of Goose Island to the tap (a craft beer I 'discovered' on our vacation in Chicago, and which I was quite surprised to find in a Watertown pub. Seems J. D. has some pull, so he was able to get it into his place some months before it was to become widely available in the Northeast.)

The best bargain among many, and why this place is almost enough to make me glad when it rains, is the Full Irish Breakfast, served Saturday and Sunday. You get two sausages, a huge slab of Irish bacon, mounds of home fried potatoes, magnificent toasted Irish soda bread, both white pudding and black pudding, beans, fried tomatoes, and 2 eggs prepared any way you wish. The price is an extremely reasonable $11.99. Believe me, I can put some food away, but I couldn't finish the Full Irish yesterday. I came close, but the plate is so loaded...

(You know, this has to have some of you thinking that I was paid off to write this. Heck, it would make me think that if I was reading it somewhere else. Nope. Just felt like writing it up because it's a great place and it was just what I needed yesterday morning. In the spirit of full disclosure, though, J. D. did once treat us to a breakfast after reading a similar review on this blog a couple of years back. I don't, however, have expectations concerning another comp in the future. Just thought I'd make that clear.)

The most amazing thing about this breakfast is that you can walk in and grab a seat on Sunday morning with absolutely no wait whatsoever. It always boggles my mind to see the empty tables in Donohue's on a Sunday morning. Just up the street, there are scads of hipsters waiting to get into a couple of other places that I don't consider near as much of a bargain as Donohue's. Nothing against the other diners and whatnot. I've eaten at those places, too, and not a thing wrong with them. None of them, however, has as tasty an option as the Full Irish, and you don't have to stand in line 20 minutes in the rain before getting your hot and satisfying breakfast. I don't get it. Donohue's is just down the street. Why wait when you don't have to do so?

If you, too, find yourself rained out some Sunday morning in the Boston area, come on over to Watertown and get a Full Irish at Donohue's. Chances are you might see me and MY WIFE. As a matter of fact, chances are better that you'll see us than that we'll see you, because that's what the funny story I promised hinges upon.

We had finished our breakfasts and MY WIFE wished to go to the ladies. She asked me to watch her pocketbook (which she does even if there's no one else within a mile of it, but that's OK. I often ask her to carry stuff in it, so it's only fair I watch it when she's away.) She got up and headed for the restroom. Except she headed straight for the mens room, not the ladies.

I said, "WIFE!"

(No, not really. I used her actual name, of course. I might have more readily gotten her attention had I said it this way, though.)

She didn't hear me. I said it more loudly.


She was oblivious, and walked right into the mens room.

I started to get up to go get her, but J. D. was standing already so he said he'd do so. Just as he reached the door, MY WIFE came out with a sheepish look and a fair amount of blushing.

(Luckily, there had been no one else in there. Had it been a Friday night, with the joint hopping...)

I said, "What did you think when you got in there? 'Huh! When did they put those in here?'"

J. D. and the waitresses laughed, and MY WIFE blushed more before going into the correct room for what she needed to do.

So, as I say, you might see us (or hear us) before we see or hear you. Well, at least before MY WIFE hears or sees you. Then again, you can never be sure just exactly where she might meet you, should you be there, so be prepared.

Soon, with more better stuff.