Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Good Clean Fun (No Freckles Mentioned)

If you don't understand the title, go HERE. Or, considering the reactions of some, don't.

Anyway, this is just recommendation for a trio of old movies you might want to check out when you have some spare time and nothing better to do. They are some of my favorite entertainments, but seem relatively unknown by the general populace. I consider them hidden comedic gems.

The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock

This was the last starring film for Harold Lloyd, the celebrated silent film comedian of the 1920's. It is NOT silent, however, and was made in the decidedly talk-filled year of 1947.

Preston Sturges (Hail The Conquering Hero, Sullivan's Travels, The Lady Eve, among others) wrote and directed this sequel to Lloyd's The Freshman (1925). It picks up the story of Harold Diddlebock, Lloyd's unlikely football hero, 20+ years following his heroics in the big game.

To say that Diddlebock's life has not lived up to his high expectations would certainly be an understatement. I won't give away any subsequent events, except to say that the first alcoholic drink of his life changes his life extraordinarily (and hilariously.)

A wonderful hybrid of the "screwball" genre of comedy so popular during the 1930's and 1940's, and of Lloyd's own particular brand of daredevil slapstick, it is populated by an amazingly good cast of veteran character actors. Particularly brilliant are Jimmy Conlin as Wormy, the racetrack tout who befriends Diddlebock, and Edgar Kennedy, as the bartender who mixes Harold his first drink. Others in the cast include Rudy Vallee, Franklin Pangborn, Lionel Stander, Margaret Hamilton, Raymond Walburn, and a lovely young thing named Frances Ramsden (for whom this was a wonderful theatrical debut and then - probably due to the poor box office results - she dropped from the face of the earth and was never heard from again.)

[Note of warning, and interesting trivia: The film was pulled from distribution after playing in only three cities. Co-Producer Howard Hughes, over the objections of Sturges, decided to drastically edit and then re-distribute the movie. This re-distribution finally took place almost four years later, with the film shortened by 13 minutes, re-titled Mad Wednesday, and with additional scenes of a talking horse inexplicably added. In my opinion, the lengthier original is much funnier, and that opinion was shared by Harold Lloyd himself, who felt that Hughes excised the best bits in the film. I suggest you be sure that the print you watch runs 89 minutes. That is the original.]


Today, if you ask someone who Wheeler & Woolsey were, you're just as likely to get a blank stare as anything else. That's a shame. In their day, they rivaled such teams as The Marx Brothers and Laurel & Hardy in box office appeal.

The specialization of the team was snappy (and somewhat risque) patter, interspersed with sappy (but still entertaining) musical numbers, and a bit of gentle physical schtick thrown in for good measure. Typical exchange:

Girl [trying to flatter Woolsey, king of a mythical country]: Your royal highness is so cute!

Woolsey [after checking her out]: Yeah, well, yours isn't so bad, either.

The one with the glasses and cigar is Woolsey. The "cute" one is Wheeler.

(As might be inferred from the above photo, the boys were known for a bawdiness not usually associated with older films these days. Much of their output came during pre-Motion-Picture-Film-Code days, and for a great dissertation on the subject, check out Bright Lights Film Journal.)

The plot of Diplomaniacs, such as it is, involves Wheeler and Woolsey as utterly incompetent diplomats for an American Indian tribe. They drink themselves blotto when they are the guests of honor at a dinner; reveal their secrets to anyone who will listen; dress in wholly inappropriate manner for functions; get into trouble with pretty girls at every opportunity; and give serious thought to embezzling money they’ve been entrusted to protect. You needn't pay attention, though. Just enjoy the amazingly corny one-liners and routines, as well as the singing and eccentric dancing. It's fluff and nonsense, but very funny fluff and nonsense. I like it, anyway.

[Warning for those of a P.C. nature: The movie includes grossly-caricatured Native Americans and has one scene wherein everyone does a song-and-dance in blackface. Personally, I feel that Wheeler & Woolsey are reprehensible enough white men to offset any slights to other races and peoples.]

Robert Woolsey died from kidney disease in 1938, otherwise the team likely would have continued putting out very profitable films for another 15 or 20 years. Even so, they made 21 features between 1929 and 1937, so they deserve better than to be forgotten.

The Milky Way

One more from Harold Lloyd.

The Milky Way is the story of Burleigh "Tiger" Sullivan, a milkman who accidentally KO's the middleweight boxing champion and is then set up (by a crooked fight promoter who involves Sullivan in a series of fixed bouts) to have an actual title shot against the champ.

Lloyd is brilliant as the milkman-turned-fighter, but Adolph Menjou, in the role of the fight promoter, is downright magnificent, and Lionel Stander, as the stupendously-dimwitted Spider Schultz, cracks me up in almost every scene in which he's involved.

Lloyd, Menjou, Stander, and William Gargan as "Speed" McFarland, the champ

The movie was remade, almost scene for scene, by Danny Kaye, some fifteen years later, as The Kid From Brooklyn. That was a good one, too, but I prefer the original.

[Final trivia note: It was not common knowledge that Harold Lloyd was missing part of his right hand. In an unfortunate accident during his silent film days, what was believed to be a prop bomb turned out to be a real one and Lloyd lost his right thumb and forefinger when it exploded in his hand. For the remainder of his film career, he wore a glove prosthetic that gave the appearance, at least in long shot, of his having all of his digits. Considering the physical nature of much of his slapstick - for instance, his most famous silent scene, from Safety Last, hanging from a clock above a city street, with no process shots or stuntmen involved - his work becomes even more spectacular in retrospect.]

Here's hoping you get to enjoy these films some day. I envy you your first viewing of them.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Face In The Mirror

[This was inspired by a post of the same title, at Long Hollow, written by the most excellent Barbara Shallue. As a matter of fact, the poem below is her work, and good work it is. I have made a few slight changes from her original in order to reflect my own experiences.]

Face in the mirror

You are the face I recognize, the face I know, the face I greet each morning and try to rationalize a reason not to shave.

Yes, the face I love, despite the lines and scars and spots and occasional crusty stuff in my eyelids where in hell does that come from?

You and I have traveled together, collected mementos of Life and other board games.

Your eye-crinkles and mouth-creases... reminders of laughter and reasons to smile and the many, many, many, many alcoholic beverages and cold pills.

Deep lines between your brows... etched during late nights learning to count cards in another vain attempt at not having to work 9-to-5 anymore.

Tiny scar on your forehead... souvenir of the time you used your parents bed as a trampoline and cracked your skull against the headboard when you were three. Or was it twenty-six? I forget.

Dark spots... I've never understood why only part of me freckles and the rest stays white. What's up with that? Freckles are like a permanent tan, but only on part of you. That's really messed up when you think of it.

(And how did I get this one freckle on my penis? I don't recall losing my pants at the beach. And where's my underwear? While we're at it, whose dog is this? And why is he looking at me that way?)

Remember The Alamo!

Is Barbara still reading? You really should visit her place. That's the least she should get out of this. And, anyway, this isn't as funny as it would be if you had seen her original and compared the two.

My Life

Better yet, MY WIFE.

My face.

(Or is it a canned ham...)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 25, 2011

One For All, All For One...

Every man for himself.

You folks who don’t care for it when I write about modified fast-pitch softball don’t have much longer to suffer. Since we last spoke, both my weekday team and my Sunday team were eliminated from playoff contention.

Master Batters – 23 SWINGERS – 7

Moe Howard Club – 15 BOMBERS – 4
Moe Howard Club – 15 BOMBERS – 6

The deaths were relatively painless and the patients didn’t linger. In both instances, we had one foot in the grave before we even got a chance to bat.

On Tuesday night, The Swingers gave up 9 runs in the top of the first inning. On Sunday morning, The Bombers gave up 7 runs in the top of the first inning. Both those amounts were more than my teams scored for the entirety of each game. As has been the case all year long, defensive lapses did us in.

I won’t go into the gory details. Suffice to say that a combined record of 8 wins and 21 losses was not how I imagined this season playing out. The Swingers came within one run of making the playoffs last year, and The Bombers, for goodness’ sakes, went 18 and 2 before losing in the championship round (and valiantly held the lead for 8 of the 14 innings in both of those losses, as well, despite being without four of our starters.)

I came into this season feeling rejuvenated. I had good years for both teams in 2010, the best overall playing I’d done since coming back from my “retirement” in 2007. I was so optimistic about things that I even took on the job of managing The Swingers, a role I hadn’t played since my last year managing The Bombers in 2005. Now I’m feeling old and beaten up again. Losing wears me down. And knowing that I have only four games remaining, all of them meaningless, and that my season in its entirety will be done before August… It’s just depressing. I’ll have to wait nine complete months before playing again, unless I join a fall league of some sort. I’ve never done that before, but I’m seriously considering it this year.

(That’s if anyone will have me on their team, of course. One thing I don’t need as a topper to this miserable season is to shop myself around and find no takers. I’m not exactly the sort of player that’s in high demand. I’m a 54-year-old catcher/first baseman with little power and a balky arm. I will be there for every game, though, and I never complain about whatever my manager asks of me, whether it’s starting for him or just sitting on the bench and being available if needed. That can be a strong selling point considering how many guys don’t show up sometimes. I’ll give it some thought, at least.)

The title of this piece refers to what’s left for my teammates and me this year. With all playoff hopes now dashed, doing something for your own ego starts to be the predominant thought. You still want to win the games, of course, but you also want a good taste in your mouth before you’re done. And different guys have different thrills. Some will go up to bat trying to hit a home run each time. I have a smaller goal.

[Me, somewhere around my 40th hit as a Bomber (1996? I'm not sure.)]

I’m the all-time leader on The Bombers in a few batting statistics. Some of them are records I hold just because I’ve stuck around a long time. For instance, I have the most lifetime doubles (40) and that’s not because I’m a better doubles hitter than everyone else. Give some of the guys now on the team as many years playing as I’ve had and they’ll make my amount of doubles look trivial. As a matter of fact, I expect Big Jay Atton to croak that mark within the next year or two (he has 33, so far, in just a bit more than half my number of at-bats.) On the other hand, I have 160 bases-on-balls over my 17 years with the team. Nobody else is within 55 of that mark and I’m proud of it. It has taken patience, discipline, a damn good batting eye, and the courage to risk taking a pitch that some guys will swing at because they fear being embarrassed by striking out. There are a lot of guys who gladly take a useless fly out rather than risk that strike, even if risking the strike might be more profitable for the team in the long run.

Anyway, the goal I want to reach is 300 hits as a Bomber. For our number of games played each year, I think it’s the softball equivalent of getting 3,000 hits in baseball. And I need two more hits to reach that mark.

I needed those two hits going into the games this weekend, too, but I went hitless. I certainly would have rather had them in games that meant something. And I didn’t feel it was right to mention it last week because individual goals shouldn’t be a focus before games that mean something to the team as a whole. Now, with two games left that don’t mean anything, I mention it. I want those two hits next week. It would mean a lot to me to salvage at least that small bit of glory from this disappointing season.

Well, two games left with The Swingers (Monday and Friday) then two more with The Bombers on Sunday. For all of my complaining about this season, I just want to make clear that it’s still one hell of a nice thing to be my age and be able to get out and run around in the sun for a few hours. The guys I play with are uniformly good company, and a few of them hold very dear spaces in my heart. Winning is nice, but being able to enjoy some laughs and good memories is worth more overall. To every person I’ve shared a field with this year, thank you for that.

Soon, with more better stuff.



Friday, July 22, 2011

Hello! I'm Planty The Potted Plant!

My friend, Suldog, is growing me. That's him below.

You know him as a grown-up man, but I thought a photo of him at the same sort of age as I am would be fun. You see, I'm just a young plant, even though I'm already pretty big! Can you guess what kind of plant I am?

When I grow up, I'll be a great huge grapefruit tree like this one!

That's my Grandfather (on my mother's side) Phil. He lives in Arizona. His photo came from Great Big Plants, where he tells me he is boss over all the kumquats, and he expects a promotion to supervisor of lemons any day now!

This is what my friend, Suldog, will look like when I am a great huge grapefruit tree like my Grandfather Phil.

Yes, he will be very old and look exactly like Victor Meldrew, except my friend, Suldog, is an optimist. He thinks he will live long enough to see me bear fruit. I think he has a better chance at becoming the next Pope, but you never know!

How did I become me? My friend, Suldog, was eating his breakfast one day, and...

(Hmmmmmmmmm. My friend, Suldog, was eating my mother, basically. That's sort of... I don't want to think about it anymore. Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalala!)

Anyway, he took a seed and planted it, and I started growing in about three weeks. Suldog's WIFE didn't know that I had been planted, and she thought her husband was mentally incompetent and making mud pies because he kept pouring water into a bunch of dirt for no apparent reason. When he told her that he was growing a grapefruit tree, she said, "Sure you are..."

But, here I am!

And she really likes me where I am, too! The other day, I heard her say, "You're going to keep that plant out in the yard, right? That's where I'd rather see it than in the house."

See? She loves me just as much as my friend, Suldog, who ate my mother.


If he lives long enough, I wonder if he'll eat my babies, too? Sometimes I wish I had legs instead of roots! I'd run and run and run and...

Well, it doesn't do any good to wish for things you know can't happen. My "friend", Suldog, wishes all the time he was 24 again and could still hit a good fastball, but he's 54 and has to sit on change-ups. Serves him right for eating my mother!

I have friends here in the garden!

That's Sucky The Succulent. And this is Simon Peter Poinsettia!

They were both Christmas presents from Suldog's friends at work. This is their first time out of the house, too! We're all enjoying the sunshine and the many cats, squirrels, birds, and skunks who come to visit us and try to eat us and who leave behind such interesting calling cards!

Did I mention that I wish I had legs? I'd run and run and run and if I had fingers and a cell phone maybe I'd call a cab, instead, or better yet, buy a gun!

(Since I don't have fingers, you may be wondering how I'm typing this. I'm doing it with my nose, which I wish I didn't have when the skunks are here.)

Well, it's been nice meeting you, and I hope you enjoyed the brief respite I provided from Suldog going on and on and on about modified fast-pitch softball! If you're ever in Watertown, stop by and say "Hello!", and maybe call me a cab? Or at least shoot the damn skunks.

(Here's what Suldog says when he's not busy eating somebody's mother...)

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Favorite K and The Sad Sunday

I think it would be good to point out something before we begin. I don’t like losing.

You might be saying to yourself, “Well, Sully, NOBODY likes losing.” That’s basically true, but some people find it easier to take than others. Me? I hate it. When my team loses, it gnaws at me. It festers inside of me until I take the field for the next game. I keep replaying whatever mistakes I made and, despite it being a team game, I often find some way to blame myself for the loss.

Now, this is probably not a healthy thing, and I’m sure psychoanalysis would reveal some sort of repressed emotional need that leads to such self-flagellation, but it is what it is. When my team wins, I’m happy. When we lose, I’m not.

Having said that, the game I played in on Friday, a loss, was almost as enjoyable as some wins I’ve played in. That’s because the people involved, on both sides, made it a fun experience.

SWINGERS – 17 Dorset Club – 13
Stats/BSB – 18 SWINGERS – 6

Last time we talked softball, I was disappointed in my weekday team, The Swingers. Our most recent game was not only a loss, but it was also played with barely half the roster having shown up. Although I hated losing, what depressed me more was the lack of effort shown. I don’t mean by the guys who were there, because they certainly tried hard, but by the guys who WEREN’T there. You can’t show less of an effort than to not even show up for a game. Anyway, I ended the piece by saying that I hoped the team would make me proud the next time we played.

And so they did. The guys played a solid game and we got a win that put us (at least, temporarily) into third place, the final playoff position in our division. That made me happy.

Then came Friday. We lost. And, while we still remained in third following the loss, it became more likely we’ll finish out of playoff contention in the end. The team immediately behind us has three games in hand and they only need to win one of those games to move ahead of us in the standings. But, damn it, the loss was fun, and that’s not something I usually say.

The Stats/BSB team includes a few teammates from The Bombers, my Sunday league team. They have Big Jay Atton, Fast Freddie Goodman, and Joel *****. And, on Friday, Jack Atton filled in for them at third base because they were short of players. The Swingers also have some Bombers aside from myself – Joey Baszkiewicz, Pat Atton, and Drew Atton. We also have two players who used to be with The Bombers at one time, Gary Berman and Josh Lebron. So, with two Attons apiece, and 10 Bombers or ex-Bombers altogether, there was good-natured ribbing and trash talk from both sides throughout the game. Every time Pat or Drew had the ball, for instance, Jack (their father) yelled out to the runner, “Take an extra base! His arm stinks!” When Fast Freddie made a particularly decent catch, I shouted, “You suck, Fred!” Stuff like that.

(One bit that made me laugh: Drew wore Big Jay’s Stats/BSB uniform shirt to start the game, while Big Jay had his old Swingers jersey in his equipment bag and he brought it out and waved it around. Big Jay is about three sizes larger than Drew, so they couldn’t just trade uniforms straight up without Drew’s uniform getting stress tested, but it was still funny.)

Big Jay Atton pitches for Stats/BSB. I’ve been his teammate on various squads for the past 13 years. I had never before faced him as a hitter except in scrimmages and batting practice. Big Jay is one hell of a pitcher, and I would much rather have tried to hit his fastball at age 24 or 34 than at my current 54 years of age, but here we were, so… I'm happy to report that he walked me in our first encounter. And in my second at-bat, he threw me a change-up on the first pitch. I saw it coming and my eyes lit up. I stroked it on a line into right center for a single.

(The truly funny thing about that hit is that I almost never swing at the first pitch. Jay has seen me stand there and take a strike for the better part of the past 13 years. So, he laid one in, nice and fat, straight over the plate and in my kitchen. As I ran to first base, I looked over at Big Jay. He was laughing, and not only because I swung at his first pitch and had gotten a hit. He pointed over at Jack playing third. Jack had been so confident that I wouldn’t swing at the first pitch he had TURNED HIS BACK TO ME ENTIRELY. Funnier still, I didn’t even notice that he had done so. I was expecting Jay’s fastball and I knew damn well I couldn’t pull it, so I didn’t even look to see how the third baseman was positioned. Had I seen Jack standing there like that, one of two things would have happened. Either I would have started laughing so hard that Jay’s pitch would have sailed past me for a strike, or… No, that’s the only thing that would have happened, so I’m glad I didn’t look over there.)

We trailed early on and never got close enough to make the game exciting, so there wasn’t a lot of nail biting in the loss. By the time I had my third at-bat, it was strictly a matter of whether I would end with a perfect day versus Big Jay or if he’d exact some revenge for my previous walk and hit.

No change-up for me this time, so I didn’t swing at the first pitch. It was a fastball for strike one. A high one followed to even the count, then one low and inside for strike two. Big Jay fired again. I swung, and foul tipped it. The catcher held onto it, though, and that was that. I had a hit and a walk; Big Jay had a strikeout. We both had earned something off of the other and, all in all, it was probably a satisfying enough way for the two of us to part as opponents. As K’s go, it’s my favorite ever (which is to say it still sucks, but it’s less painful than any other one in my lifetime.)


And now it’s Saturday, nearing midnight, and I've got a doubleheader tomorrow morning with The Bombers. Winning both games would almost guarantee us a playoff spot. We’re playing the team were tied with for the final playoff spot. If we win, we’ll have a two game lead with four to play, and two of those games likely versus teams we’ve already beaten. Here’s hoping we do what we need to do.

Brighton All-Stars – 19 BOMBERS – 5
Brighton All-Stars – 19 BOMBERS – 10

And last time we talked I was feeling good about The Bombers. This week we sucked. We blew chunks. We were pathetic. We threw away the two most important games of the year thus far.

If you brought somebody to yesterday’s games and told them we were the team that finished first in the league during the regular season last year, they would have thought you were insane.

Last year, after 12 games, we were 10 and 2. This year, we’re 3 and 9. The difference is almost entirely on the defensive end.

2010 149 – 98
2011 137 – 146

That’s runs scored and runs allowed. We’re down one run a game offensively. On a game-by-game basis, that would have put us at 7 – 2 – 3 last year (that is, three one-run wins would have been translated into ties, and the likelihood would have been wins in extra innings in those games given that our overall run differential was significantly in our favor.) On the other hand, we’re giving up 4 runs a game more defensively. And that alone would have cost us about… well, it HAS cost us what you’d expect, more-or-less. We could have handled the slight downturn in offensive production, but the crappy defense would have (and has) killed us.

We still have the two best pitchers in the league. The difference is mostly in how much our outfielders are torturing them. Whereas last year a fly ball to the outfield with two outs would see them walking confidently off the field, they now remain standing out there on the pitchers mound cringing because every fly ball is an adventure. Of yesterday’s 38 runs allowed, only 18 were earned. Ick.

Since this is my blog, and one or two of you give a rat’s ass about how I did, I’ll tell you that I went 1 for 2, drew two walks, and scored twice. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t make much difference. My current stats, compared to last year at this time, show some eerie similarities.

.....G  AB  H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  AVG   BB  K  OB%  SLG%  OPS   Runs 
2010 12 27  13  0   1   0   5  .481    6  1 .576 .556  1.132    14
2011 11 22  10  0   1   0   3  .455    6  1 .571 .545  1.116    11

Pretty much the only difference is that I was in the line-up for one more good game last year.

Enough. We need to win two next week, and even then our fate could be out of our hands. My softball season could be over before August. That is depressing as hell.


Soon. I hope it’s with better stuff.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Easily Amused

Some people get bored. I can honestly say that I have never been bored at any time during the past forty-five years. This is because I am a simpleton. It’s true. I’m not stupid (shut up!) but I am easily amused, and very often by things that others might find simple.

I suppose the most obvious example would be The Three Stooges. No matter how many times I've already seen one Stooge episode - and I've seen all of them at least 20 or 25 times - I can watch it again and get a laugh.

I’m not even so complicated as to prefer Curly to Shemp, or Shemp over Joe. Give me any combination of Moe and Larry with a third stooge. I will laugh.

(This piece isn’t about The Three Stooges, per se, but I do need to say something more about them, so hang with me until I get it out of my system, and then we'll move on to other stuff. The main differences between the episodes with Curly, or Shemp, or Joe, or even the mostly-dreadful late-career movies with Curly Joe DeRita, came from outside of the trio. Curly was a comedic savant, no doubt, but the writing in many of the short subjects in which he appeared was far superior, approaching real wit in spots. Shemp, his older brother and his replacement [following a major stroke necessitating Curly’s retirement from the act], was a wonderful comic, but by the end of his run as the third stooge, the effort being put into the productions, behind the cameras, was less than sparkling. Budgets had been cut and some directors – oh, hell, Jules White – tried to direct Shemp in the same manner as Curly had been directed, even going so far as to ask Shemp to replicate his brother’s trademark clownish mannerisms. When he is forced into doing so, it is, if not painful, at least strained. When Shemp was in the hands of a skilled director, such as Edward Bernds, and allowed to showcase his own strengths of verbal improvisation and wonderfully rubber facial contortions, the films were much stronger. And poor Joe Besser, a truly gifted comedian, was saddled with having his efforts compared to the previous two Howard brothers. Taken on his own, he was a very funny fellow. However, his strength was not the sort of knockabout slapstick that The Stooges specialized in. His was a more gentle comedy, almost pixyish, and couldn’t possibly please those who preferred getting their laughs from someone being hit on the head by a sledgehammer. As for Curly Joe DeRita… well, let’s just say he wasn’t given much to do, and I’ll leave it to future stoogephiles to determine if that was because there wasn’t much he COULD do. Maybe, like Besser, his real strengths just didn’t fit the concept. In any case, while it was great that Moe and Larry finally got some due during the twilight of their careers, belly laughs were few and far between during DeRita’s tenure.)

What other simple things amuse me? Gilligan’s Island would be one.

At times, it makes The Three Stooges look like a Noel Coward play by comparison. It makes me laugh, though, and it doesn’t try to do any more than that, so I love it. Alan Hale (The Skipper) is my favorite among the ensemble. MY WIFE could tell you (with, I'm sorry to say, some major embarrassment concerning what she settled for in a husband) that I'll come apart at the seams laughing at his farcical mugging and then replay the same scene four or five times in succession, laughing like a candidate for the cracker factory – again - every time.

(MY WIFE says I have a medical condition known as "comic amnesia". I think she sees it as an affliction, but I consider it a gift from God. I can laugh at the same joke over and over and over, most of the time not even seeing the punch line coming, even if I've heard it many times before. Affliction? No way! How can having a good laugh be an affliction?)

(Oh, wait a minute. I get it now. It's her affliction. Never mind.)

Anyway, it’s not just comedy that amuses me endlessly.

I can watch The Lone Ranger over and over, even though most episodes are laid out in the same way and contain few surprises. More often than not, The Lone Ranger and Tonto stumble upon a wrongdoing being committed, ...

(They were the luckiest damn vigilantes imaginable. Half the episodes begin with them watering their horses, or doing some other mundane task, when they hear gunshots nearby. They take off to investigate, and...)

... there is often a runaway stagecoach that the duo must chase down and stop, ...

(After watching as many Lone Ranger episodes as I have, you couldn’t get me onto a stagecoach if you promised me I’d get a hummer from Angelina Jolie during the trip. I don’t recall a single episode of that show wherein a stagecoach appeared that didn't end up with it either robbed or as a runaway [because the driver had been fatally shot.] It appears to have been the most dangerous conveyance man has ever invented.)

... then, during the course of trying to track down the evildoer, somebody believes that The Lone Ranger himself is evil because of his mask, but he generally wins him or her over with a manly smile and the display of one of his silver bullets, ...

(How did all of these dunderheads know so much about the damn silver bullets, but never had the faintest notion about The Lone Ranger’s identity before seeing his ammunition? If they heard about silver bullets, wouldn’t they have heard about a guy wearing a mask, riding a great white stallion, and traveling with an Indian companion? Maybe that would ring a bell? Nope. They had to be shown a silver bullet before they put two and two together. The west was full of dopes.)

... and then Tonto usually finds more trouble than he bargained for when The Lone Ranger asks him to ride into town to scout around...

(Well, Bill Cosby mined this claim before me, but it’s so logical I have to mention it. Didn’t Tonto ever get sick of hearing The Lone Ranger asking him to ride into town? After the first two or three times he got ambushed and captured, wouldn’t he have said, "Ugh, Kemo Sabe. You sure me riding into town such a good idea? Tonto like you and all that, but me tired getting head punched in. Why not YOU ride into town? Tonto stay here and do what you usually do while Tonto in town getting head punched in. By the way, just what is it you do while me gone? Silver no speak, but I bet him tell interesting tale.")

... and in the end, there's always either a fistfight or a gunfight - or both - with The Lone Ranger and Tonto prevailing. Then they ride out of town while someone asks, "Who was that masked man?"; the reply comes, "You stupid shit! That was The Lone Ranger!"; then you get a "Hi-Yo Silver!" and some final credits with The William Tell Overture playing in the background. No matter. It entertains the heck out of me every time.

I don’t want to give you the impression that something has to be on TV to amuse me. For instance, I’m tickled to death by softball talk; that is, the things players say to other players, over and over again, on a softball or baseball field. For instance, a pitch can come in a good foot over a batter’s head and odds are somebody on the bench will say, "Good eye!" when the guy doesn’t swing at it. That always blows me away. Or if a pitcher gets two quick strikes on a batter, then runs the count to 3 and 2, some one of his fielders is likely to say something helpful such as, "Don’t lose him now!" Often this happens as the pitcher is beginning his windup. Yeah, that’s just what he needs. He’ll surely throw a strike, now that you’ve reminded him of the situation, instead of one that bounces in the dirt like he was planning to do. Then there are the pure outright lies, such as "Nice cut!" after a batter has taken a totally off-balance lunge at a ball and missed it by half a foot. Priceless.

(I wouldn’t change it for the world. All of those things are said by teammates who are trying to be nice by cheering on their fellow players, and I’d rather be surrounded by loving idiots than intelligent mean-spirited assholes. I’m just saying, though, that stuff is hilarious when you stop and think about it.)

What else makes me smile every time?

When I’m in a crowd at a rock concert, the featured band has finished their set, and I see someone over the age of thirty, who has likely attended more than two or three rock concerts in his life, applauding feverishly because he actually thinks the group won’t come back for an encore of the biggest hit they haven’t yet played unless they are implored to do so via five minutes of insane cheers and manic howling. Does anybody actually believe, while the lights are still down, that the group is packing up their gear and heading out the stage door, but one of them stops and says, “Hold on, lads! Listen to that crowd! Why, I’ve never heard applause like that in my life! What say we go back and give them our most famous song which we inexplicably left out of the original set list?”

Here are some other things I never get tired of:

Reading Mark Twain

F Troop

Having Sex

Leave It To Beaver

Watching Cats Chase Each Other

The Honeymooners


Calvin & Hobbes

More Sex


Filling Up The Internet With This Sort Of Rubbish

Anyway, I’m never bored. There’s always something interesting going on in life, and if I can’t readily find it, I just throw a DVD on and watch the one where Shemp has to be married by 6 o’clock or else he loses his inheritance. As long as I have that to fall back on, I’m good.

Soon, with more better stuff.

[Shemp photo from Like Television... Only Better! The Gilligan's Island cast photo came from, a wonderful tribute site run by Bob's widow, Dreama Denver.]

Monday, July 11, 2011

Life And Death On The Diamond

Up and down. Back and forth. Highs and lows. That’s the way it is with all sports, including modified fast-pitch softball.

Master Batters – 26 SWINGERS – 7

BOMBERS – 19 Dot Rats – 11
Dot Rats – 17 BOMBERS – 10

First, let’s talk about death.

Last time we were together (and speaking of softball), I told you about the great night for the Atton family. It was also a great night for the Swingers, my weekday team in the M Street Softball League of South Boston. We kept our playoff hopes alive with an extremely satisfying win. It was the sort of victory that reminded me of all the good points of being a manager: camaraderie, pulling together in pursuit of a common goal, some guys giving up their own good stats to give the team a boost. In other words, it was fun.

This past Friday? No fun. We had a must-win game. Or, more precisely, ANOTHER must-win game. I’ll explain.

With the previous victory, we had pushed our record to 4 wins and 7 losses. Nothing great, but it was enough to keep us alive for a playoff spot. With six more games remaining total – and only three playoff spots open from our division – I figured we would probably have to win the three games we had left against opposition from our own “C” (or lower) division, and then pull off a couple of upsets in the three games scheduled against teams from the higher-ranked “B” division. The game of this Friday past was against the Master Batters.

(Yup, the Master Batters. Yikes! The Swingers versus the Master Batters. Sounds like two teams full of perverts from the Larry Flynt League.)

Anyway, the Master Batters are from our division, the lesser one. And they came into the game with a 2 and 7 record. If we couldn’t win, we didn’t deserve a playoff spot. And if we didn’t win, we were pretty much dead.

We are now pretty much dead. And we don’t deserve a playoff spot.

In one of the more profoundly disappointing displays of lack of team spirit in this season full of such stuff, only eight Swingers (and that includes me) showed up to play. That’s from a roster of fifteen.

OK, guys have things to do that sometimes cause them to miss games. There are family commitments and crises, surprise work assignments, injuries, or any number of good reasons to miss relatively non-meaningful softball games. But all I ask is that you tell me that you won’t be there. If you tell me, and it looks as though I won’t have at least a starting nine, I can try to arrange for someone else to fill in.

I heard from two guys who told me they wouldn’t be able to make it. And eight guys showed up. That leaves five guys – a full 1/3 of the roster – who didn’t care enough about their team or their teammates to even give us the courtesy of an e-mail or a phone call saying they wouldn’t be there. That’s pitiful.

(It’s possible all five of them had very good reasons for their absences, so I’m trying not to be a total a-hole here. I’m willing to hear them out. I like all of those guys and I hope they like me. And I hope their reasons for missing the game were not anything truly tragic. But I really want to hear something from them before they’ll play again.)

Anyway, we got our asses handed to us. As good as Drew Atton was in pitching for us during the previous win (and he was really, really good), he just didn’t have it in this loss. His control problems returned. His fielders weren’t doing him a lot of favors, either. And, as hitters, we left multiple men on base in every inning (11 total in the slaughter-rule shortened five-inning game.) Let’s face it - it takes a team effort to lose by 19 runs. And that includes this manager. I wasn’t brilliant, by any means.

The bottom line is that we now will probably need to win all of our remaining five games, with three of those games coming against much stiffer opposition than we’ve faced thus far. I’m not the type who gives up easily, but I don’t see it happening.

(If the rest of the team reads this and gets pissed off enough to prove me wrong, there’s nothing I’d like more.)


Now we can talk about life.

Following this Sunday’s doubleheader, the Bombers are sitting with a record of 3 and 7. That’s worse, on a percentage basis, than the Swingers. The Bombers, however, are alive and kicking. The reasons? First, the playoff set-up in that league is more forgiving. There are six spots open for us. Second, the Bombers are getting better, not worse. We’ve won three of our last four, and more guys showed up this week, not fewer. Third, the remaining regular season schedule is against teams we should beat. Finally, we’ve got guys on that team who don’t miss games even when they rightly could be in the hospital.

Jack Atton has been battling kidney stones for the past week or so. He was in the hospital on Friday getting a morphine shot for the pain. He still hasn’t passed the damn things, and he’s hurting, bad. So, what does he do? He comes down and pitches both ends of the doubleheader for us, picking up a win in the first game (and deserving a better fate in the second game, for that matter.)

That’s the kind of teammate I’ll travel to hell with.

(I caught Jack in one of the games. Unfortunately, I made him work way too much, and it ripped my heart out. One of the simplest things in the game, getting the ball back to the pitcher, was a chore for me on Sunday. I’ve developed a psychological problem with it, like Chuck Knoblauch, the major leaguer, had for a while (if you remember him playing second base and not being able to make simple throws to the first baseman.) I had Jack reaching this way and that, bending for throws, and otherwise did a shitty job of it, and I hate that I did that to him in his condition. He replaced me with Joey Baszkiewicz in the fifth inning, and I don’t blame him one bit. I wasn’t traveling to hell with him; I was sending him there.)

There are some good performances to talk about, so let’s do that instead of me continuing with the mea culpa.

Drew Atton bounced back from his bad Friday with the Swingers and went 4 for 7, with a double, a triple, and a couple of RBI. A fine player from M Street, fellow by the name of Cooch (Steve Couturier), played for us for the first time this season and was magnificent at shortstop. He was also a monster at the plate, with five hits that included two doubles and a home run. He had seven RBI in all. He also had the hustle play of the day, tagging up from second on a long fly and not just going to third, but scoring. Speed kills. Robbie Rogers, a tremendously intelligent player and one of my favorite teammates, made his season debut in style, also collecting five hits. Fast Freddy Goodman gave us a 3 for 4 in the first game. Pat Atton reached base six times, three via hit and three via walk. And P.K. (Patrick Kelly) had a killer home run in game one.

For my part, I finished the day 1 of 2, also had a base-on-balls, and I scored once. Aside from torturing Jack, it was a decent enough day, I suppose.


The Swingers try to come back from the dead this Tuesday and Friday. I hope they make me proud. The Bombers will be alive and kicking ass next Sunday. I have no doubt about that.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

One Truly Sick Bitch

I have been given another award.


What in hell is the matter with you people? Have you, at long last, no dignity or self-respect? You all know the drill by now. I get an award and I make fun of the person who gave it to me (like HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) And there's almost no sport left to it when (as is the case here) someone basically begs me to scar them for life. Oh, well. Here goes.

The festering scab on the knee of humanity who gave me this foul bit of refuse is named...



That's really her blog handle - Sick Bitch. I have to say it fits. Anyone who passes such loathsome gas in my general direction deserves that appellation, especially since only one truly sick bitch would take delight in my barbecuing her.

Speaking of barbecue, I'm going to point out what should be obvious to anyone who took the time to go to her blog. Sick Bitch suffers from an eating disorder. If I wanted to take the sleazy way out, I'd make a whole bunch of anorexia/bulimia jokes. However, I admire her courage and honesty in making her malady public, so I'll just sincerely wish her well in her battle and ask her to please forward any pies she's feeling too guilty to eat this weekend.

(Reminds me of MY WIFE's take on an old saw: I was unhappy about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet. MY WIFE says that it would make more sense if it went this way: I was unhappy about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet, but then I said, "Hey! Can I have your shoes?")

Anyway, the thing that most pisses me off about this award is the randomness of my having received it. Sick Bitch decided that she'd hand it off to the last eight people who commented at her place (whomever the poor souls might have been) and I was stupid enough to have left a nice heartfelt response, so this was the reward I got for caring. Now I'm gun shy. If you're sitting in front of your computer, in your underwear, wondering why Suldog never leaves comments at your place anymore, now you know who to blame.

(By the way, if you'd post photos of yourself sitting in your underwear in front of your computer, I'd leave more comments. As a matter of fact, if you skip the underwear, even better.)

(Women, please. I don't need any hairy man butt cluttering up my porno collection.)

Anyway, as with most of these odious travesties, there is a condition attached to the receiving of this award. In order to accept it, I am supposed to tell you a story. I'm pretty sure I can do that.

(Don't get all logical on me at this point. Of course I could just tell the person giving me an award, "No, thank you!" and not have to bother with all of this mean and nasty nonsense. Play along. If you could suspend your disbelief when we sent troops looking for weapons of mass destruction, this should be a piece of cake.)

(Oops! Sorry, Sick Bitch! I won't mention any more carbs. I know they're you're sworn enemies. Me, I've never met one I didn't like. The same goes for naked women sitting in front of their computers and posting photos of themselves, but that's neither here nor there.)

So, a cupcake, a baloney sandwich, and a pizza walk into a bar.

The cupcake says, "Ouch!"

The baloney sandwich turns to the pizza and says, "Wow! That's a crummy old punch line, and a mighty cheap way to mention a whole bunch of yummy carbs just to take a cheap shot at a person with an eating disorder! And, anyway, we walked into the bar, too, so why didn't either one of us say "Ouch!"? This makes no sense at all."

The pizza turns to the bartender, and says, "Do you serve baloney sandwiches and cupcakes?"

The bartender says, "No."

The pizza says, "Good! Gimme a PBR and a shot of Grey Goose, and get rid of these two morons behind me!"

OK, now that the story I was obligated to tell is out of the way, here's another one just for shits and giggles.

(Oog. Shits and giggles. That has to be one of the most distasteful expressions ever uttered. Somebody is sitting on the pot pooping, an idiotic grin on his or her face, giggling while the ass bombs drop. I promise to never use that expression again.)

(Of course, if I had any class at all, I would have deleted the previous paragraph instead of making empty promises, but you knew you were getting the short end of the stick when you came here, so shut up.)

[In case you couldn't guess it, all of the photos from here on out are actual photos taken from Sick Bitch's website. I think she claims they're all of her. I can't vouch for that, but, then again, who in hell would want me to vouch for anything?]

Once upon a time, there was a little girl possessed by the devil.

Since her parents couldn't afford an exorcist, they tied her onto the family horse and took her to the next town over.

There, she enrolled in a class on how to gift wrap a salami.

That didn't cure her of her possession, though, so she joined a coven and made Satan's kid sister materialize.

But she yearned for her childhood days of salami wrapping! Unfortunately, the coven didn't have any salamis to wrap, so she decided the next best thing was to pretend to be carrying a big honkin' loaf of French bread.

The rest of the witches enjoyed pointless pantomime, so she was selected to be First Assistant High Priestess (Perth Amboy) and she celebrated by eating a big gooey cake with valium frosting.

But they used too much food dye in the frosting and it turned her hair red.

Then the pizza finished it's beer and left the bar. Meanwhile, something else.

And everybody lived happily ever after (except for Satan's kid sister, who returned to Hell after eating the cupcake and the baloney sandwich, which was OK by them so long as it got them out of this stupid story.)

The End.

I think the next thing I'm supposed to do is give this case of clap to somebody else. I could, but I won't. I'll be damned if I'll give someone else the opportunity to do to me what I just did to Sick Bitch. I might be a nasty bastard with no moral sense concerning making fun of folks who binge and purge, but I'm not stupid.

And, like it needs to be said (but some folks will be bound and determined to get all up in my grill because they consider it impossible to get any humor out of an eating disorder) this was REQUESTED by Sick Bitch and I'm sure she has taken it in the good humor with which it was intended.

If not, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

How I Spent The Fourth

On Monday, I found myself in the small town of Areola. It's a quaint little burg, the sort you see on picture postcards of New England. It has the requisite white steeple of a Protestant church peeking over leafy green trees; local businesses lining Main Street - an ice cream parlor, a barber shop, a real estate office, a combination five-and-ten/pharmacy, a locally-owned bank, and a hardware store that smells like a hardware store; a smallish two-story brick schoolhouse containing all classes from kindergarten up through eighth grade; and a Little League baseball field sitting just off to the side of the school. The surrounding countryside is dotted with farmland, and it was quite pleasant to drive into town with the windows down, listening to the occasional "Moo!" from a cow, while the melody of chirping birds carried on the warm summer breeze.

I was hungry, so I decided to stop and eat at a joint called Tom's Diner. It appeared to be the sort of place where one might get a decent roast beef sandwich, side of mashed potatoes, savory brown gravy, maybe a nice slice of blueberry pie for dessert, and then some strong coffee for the road. I pulled into a parking spot, went up to the door, and found, much to my dismay, that it was closed for the July 4th holiday. I was on the way back to my car when I heard tires screeching from the next street over.

I watched as five clown cars came careening around the corner. They did "Batman turns", spinning 180 degrees, sideways, until they each came to a stop against a different part of the curb. Doors flew open and squadrons of brightly-painted clowns clambered out. Some sprinted down the sidewalk, while others ran across the street, all carrying hacksaws in their hands. Each clown went up to a parking meter and lopped the top off of it. One very acrobatic clown climbed up onto the lone traffic signal in town. He pulled a blowtorch from his baggy pants and melted a security camera. After shimmying down, he ran back to his car, as did all of the other clowns. They then revved their engines and peeled rubber. As they did so, I noticed that a cheering crowd had lined both sides of Main Street during the excitement.

Areola's Independence Day Parade had officially begun.

I stood transfixed as various floats, marching bands, military formations, and other parade participants now came by, each with its own message concerning freedom.

First up was a flatbed truck loaded with people denouncing various members of state, federal, and local government. They shouted obscenities and racial epithets at one another while flipping the bird to we who were spectators. While quite vociferous, they did not come to blows - nor did the people being given the finger seem to take much offense. As a matter of fact, most smiled heartily and returned the gestures with some vehemence. As the rear of the truck came into view, I saw that it sported a sign saying "Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Will Never Hurt Me!"

A float, festooned with lovely pink and purple flowers, followed behind. Twelve people occupied the float - 7 men and 5 women - and it was divided into four separate areas made to look like the insides of various buildings. In one of the mock buildings, a man and a woman were being married by a Presbyterian minister. In another, two men were being joined in civil union by a Justice of the Peace. The third little building contained two women being hitched by a Wiccan. The remaining three people, in the fourth building, showed neither delight nor distaste, carried no placards or banners showing favoritism toward one religious practice or non-religious belief system, and in general gave the sense that the practices of the others, so long as they did not foist their beliefs on them, affected them not in the least.

Next up came a cadre of marching backyard barbecue chefs. They were deliberately serving very rare hamburgers accompanied by french fries cooked in trans-fat-laden oil. Meanwhile, vegetarians strode alongside, munching tofu burgers and enjoying plates of delightfully crunchy crudités and dip. Some of each were drinking beer, while others sipped wine, drank soft drinks, or enjoyed milkshakes variously made from whole milk, 2%, 1%, and soy. There was some good-natured ribbing concerning the supposed health risks (or benefits) of the other participant's food choices, but everybody seemed to understand that so long as they weren't being force-fed what they didn't want to eat, it was really none of their business what somebody else put into his or her mouth.

Fifteen bearded and bell-bottomed hippies came running up the street. They scattered among the crowd, flicking Bic lighters and burning every American flag in sight. The crowd of citizens did not cheer, nor did they try to enact laws forbidding the practice. However, fifteen veterans of war followed behind, somberly replacing every flag that had been burned. As they did so, they gave a very short speech about how they had specifically fought so that the freedom to do such things as protest via flag burning would be allowed, but that they were very proud of their flag and would see to it that each burned one would be replaced by a new one. Seeing that both sides of an argument could easily be made without interference from either government or legislation, the veterans and the hippies marched off arm-in-arm as the assembled throng cheered lustily.

Speaking of lust, next up was the Salute To Pornography float. A large movie screen adorned each side, and extremely graphic images were continuously shown. However, those people who had no desire to see such things could turn away and ignore it. In order to be fair to the more prudish members of the audience, a loudspeaker on the float blared out "Here comes the porno! If you don't want to see it, shut your eyes! If you don't want to hear it, go "Lalalalalalalala!" for the next minute or so! If you don't want your kids to see or hear it, tell them to shut their eyes and go "Lalalalalalalala!" for the next minute or so! However, please move to the back of the crowd and face the other way while doing so, since you don't want to ruin the enjoyment of anyone else! Thank you!" And the float rolled by without major incident (a few teens were reluctant to follow parental orders, but were dragged away before they could be gratified to a greater extent than their parents wanted them to be.)

I was enjoying myself immensely. A cigarette, I felt, would make my circle of happiness complete. I asked the person to my right if she minded if I smoked. She replied, "I don't care if you burn!" Having gotten the go-ahead from her, I turned to the person on my left and asked if he'd mind. He said that he had a slight asthmatic condition and would prefer that I not light up near him. Totally reasonable response, so, rather than inconvenience him, I removed myself to the back of the crowd and lit up there, blowing my smoke away from everyone.

(On the way, I tapped a few "Lalalalalalalala" folks on the shoulder and let them know that the porn float had gone by. They thanked me for thinking of them, and then asked me if they had missed anything. "Not too much," I responded. "There were some folks walking unlicensed dogs, and a car full of people making jokes about TSA's.")

After I finished my smoke, I returned to my spot at the front (graciously saved for me by the man whose asthma I didn't exacerbate. Ironically, I didn't get to see the Burning Leaves Without A Permit float, and he had to use his inhaler twice while it went by.)

Another loudspeaker announcement was heard: "Here come the women who believe they should have the same rights as men! They're wearing no tops! If you don't want to see titties, turn your heads!" Most of the folks who were returning from not having watched the porno float were now sighing resignedly and walking back to their former non-viewing spots at the back of the crowd. I felt a bit sorry for them, but then my attention was drawn by the marching boobs. Hubba-Hubba! Sure, there were a few grannies with droopies mixed in (and more power to them) as well as a few folks whose breasts were smaller than mine (I'm a 42-A) but the lovely variety of sizes, shapes, sways, bounces, and colors was absolutely dazzling. It was one of the best troops of tits (that's the scientific term) that I've ever had the pleasure of seeing in action.

Next came a collection of Priests, Rabbis, Ministers, Imams, Monks, Practitioners, Nuns, Ascetics, and other assorted religious folk. They were all saying prayers of one stripe or another, with each one realizing that, since his or her deity was the only real one, it didn't matter a whit what the other folks were saying since it was all just talk, so why not let them babble as much as they want and who is it going to hurt? Some atheists tagged along behind. They joked a bit about those in front of them, but not to the extent that anyone had reason to get angry.

The parade was nearing an end. I could see two more floats coming.

The first was filled with AK-47s, pistols, slingshots, cannisters of pepper spray, nunchuks, rifles, nail guns, ice picks, machetes, cricket bats, and knives. All of the various weapons were NOT in the hands of people, and thus were entirely harmless. The people riding the float were explaining to the crowd that expertise with said arsenal - loading and unloading the guns in a safe fashion, taking apart the more complicated weaponry and putting it back together, knowing how such things as safeties worked, sheathing the knives without cutting off any body parts, and also not inadvertently putting out someone's eye with the slingshots - could be an effective deterrent to violent crimes. A copy of the Second Amendment was prominently displayed, and the riders took great pains to point out that it's always better to actually know how to operate your weapon safely than to just rush out, willy-nilly, to buy one while thinking there's no chance that you won't blow your own ass off with it.

The last float was done up in tie-dye, with lava lamps strewn about, and had humongous speakers blasting Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, and Snoop Dogg. The riders on the float were tossing huge fatties of marijuana into the crowd. Those folks who liked pot were lighting up (after first asking the folks next to them if it was OK, of course) and those who didn't like the effect just ignored the joints in the street.

(A few people in wheelchairs and hospital beds followed behind, some being assisted along the route with the aid of friends. They gathered up the leftover weed, toked up, and had some of their most heinous pains and ailments relieved almost immediately. I tossed them the handful of bones I had picked up.)

At the very end of the parade was the Mayor of Areola. He was riding in a 1990 Chevy Blazer, not a limousine, and he was driving himself. His paycheck, equal to the average net income of all residents and thus inexorably tied to the prosperity his administration brought to the town, was proudly displayed. I hadn't noticed before, but there was a reviewing stand right across the street from where I stood, and The Mayor pulled up to it and got out, then mounted the steps to the stage. He stepped up to the microphone and said...

"Fellow citizens of Areola, Happy Independence Day! I'm glad you've had a good time at our celebration, but, as you know, true freedom must be coupled with personal responsibility. We are truly free only if we are willing to accept the consequences of our actions. If you get drunk, you have no right to piss and moan about whatever hangover you might have the next day. And none of us is truly free unless we are willing to extend to our fellow men and women the same freedoms we truly crave. So, please go forth, with love and respect, for all whose beliefs and actions may differ from yours, understanding that they are likely to afford you that same love and respect if you do so. In other words, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And know that every time you build a jail, the possibility exists that someday you might be the one thrown into it. Thank you!"

The crowd reacted with hearty applause, then dispersed peacefully as fireworks erupted in the background. I had to be in Perineum before nightfall - it's right between Connecticut and New York City - so I got in my car and drove off.

Later that evening, as I lay in bed in my motel room watching the 11 o'clock news, I saw that every last citizen of Areola had been arrested and the federal government had declared martial law in the town. It seems that what I thought was a fireworks display had actually been the local Internal Revenue Service office being blown up.

Oh, well. I still say it was the best Independence Day celebration I've ever witnessed.

Soon, with more better stuff.