Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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

Some well-meaning people - including MY WIFE - have been hectoring me for years now to write a book. They are swell people - especially MY WIFE - but I've mostly brushed them off because I wasn't quite sure of how to do it. Now, however, I have an idea for the general outline.

What follows was first written in 2007, when it contained only five days. Now updated to six days, since I've gone past age 60, it will be the preface to my book. My plan is to then fill the gaps in each decade with two or three stories concerning what I did during that time to reach whatever state I was in entering the next decade.

I don't know if it will sell but, while I'm putting it together, I'll be able to imagine myself making the rounds of all the major TV talk shows while promoting the book. I think I'd enjoy that. I don't know if the talk show hosts would, but screw them. This is my fantasy.


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

AGE 10 (1967)
5am – I wake up. Realizing that it’s Saturday and there’s no school, I literally bounce out of bed and hit the ground running. I take a pee and haphazardly brush some of my teeth. After bounding downstairs, I turn on the huge black-and-white Admiral television.

While waiting for it to warm up, I go to the kitchen, feed the cat, and then pour out a huge bowl of Quake. I drown the cereal in whole milk and sprinkle three tablespoons of sugar on top of it, even though it’s already 50% sugar.

5:10am – I carry the enormous bowl of cereal to the living room, possibly spilling a bit along the way. It’s a cold summer morning, so I turn the thermostat up to 80. The TV is showing an Indian Chief test pattern.

Turning the knob that changes channels, I find nothing but static on any of the other three Boston stations. I settle down on the shag carpeting and eat the cereal, waiting for the fan-forced gas heat to come out of the vent in the wall. I stare at the Indian Chief and wonder why he’s on a test pattern.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGE 20 (1977)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8:04am - Smoke another joint.

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

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

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

AGE 30 (1987)

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

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

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

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

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

AGE 40 (1997)
7:00am – The window is open and the birds are singing. It’s sunny, but cool. I realize it’s Saturday and I don’t have to work today. I get up, go take a pee, and brush what’s left of my teeth. MY WIFE is still asleep. I have a doubleheader this morning at Smith Field in Brighton.

7:05am – I light a Kool and sit in my underwear, going over the scorebook from the season thus far. I’m the manager of the Bombers, a good group of guys to play ball with. I’ve played ball with them on Saturday mornings since moving to Watertown in 1994. Today we play at 9am. I’ll be at the field by 8am at the latest. I’ll have 10 minutes, at least, until anyone else shows up. It’s nice to sit there in the cool morning, listening to the birds sing, doing some light stretching and imagining all of the possibilities that the day might hold in store.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AGE 50 (2007)


7:15am – I started writing this piece.

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

The world is a miraculous place, indeed.

AGE 60 (2017)

My softball-playing days are behind me. Last year, at age 59, I stroked a line-drive single to right field and started jogging to first base. Then something happened that I had seen happen to other people but which had never happened to me before. The right fielder charged the ball and came up throwing to first base.

As I saw him doing so, my softball life flashed before my eyes. I was fast enough, when I was younger, to occasionally stretch singles into doubles. Now, though, I was about to be thrown out from right field on a clean hit. And I had sworn to myself, years ago when I saw it happen to other old guys, that if it ever happened to me I would quit the game right then and there. It happened, I was out, and I stood on first base with my head down knowing it was over.

(Since my manager was nice enough to not immediately remove me from the batting order, I did take one more hack at it a couple of innings later. I shouldn't have. I hit a slow dribbler back to the pitcher and didn't even leave the batter's box. I just stood there and watched the pitcher throw me out. Not even running was perhaps even more disgraceful than being thrown out from right field. At that point, I told my manager I was removing myself from the line-up. He didn't argue.

I was fool enough to take a few at-bats and play a couple of innings at first base after I turned 60. I mostly embarrassed myself by doing so, but in another ten years I'll tell younger players I played when I was 60 and they'll be impressed.)

I now have new uppers AND lowers. Still better than my originals.

MY WIFE is still MY WIFE. That's the best thing in my life, of course.

As for other less-important things, I lost my job of 20+ years at the age of 55. The company I worked for was sold and I was the only employee fired. I was the highest-paid person on the payroll, so I imagine that had something to do with it. Anyway, I had to find something else to do to earn money, so I decided to see if I could make a buck writing. I had been blogging for more than 10 years, getting a good response, and I had sold a couple of op-eds to newspapers in the year before my firing, and I also had no idea what the hell else I might be able to do at my age besides go flip burgers someplace, so I started writing and sending stuff off to various newspapers and magazines. I was blessed to have a few kind editors buy my stuff.

And now here you are reading my book. The world is still a miraculous place, maybe more so than ever before.

On the following pages, I'll be filling in some of the gaps between the decades. As you've probably gathered, it has been a roller-coaster ride. Here's hoping you'll find it enjoyable.

The following is what I usually closed with on my blog. It's illiterate, but by the time I became ashamed of it I had been doing it for too long to stop and my readers expected it at the end of each column. However, it's what God keeps telling me. Sometimes, when I said it, it was a lie. When God says it, never.

Soon, with more better stuff.


joeh said...

Off to a good start.

Anonymous said...

One copy of your book already sold!! Love it!!! Linda in Tn.

silly rabbit said...

Yay! I love the book set your grandfather gave you. Oh my gosh, how did we grow up with those standards and not end up completely insensitive? It made me laugh, but I clearly recall similar children’s books in my past. Remember Hop Sing on Bonanza?

I wish you the best of luck on your book, though I seriously doubt you will need it. =:]

messymimi said...

When the book comes out, i will pay extra for an autographed copy.

Suldog said...

Mimi (and everyone else) - Nobody I recognize from this page will ever pay extra for anything.

Hilary said...

I always knew you had this in you. I'm so thrilled. :)

Barbara said...

It's about time! I can't wait to read the parts in between... although after reading your blog for so long, I think I know a little bit of what will go in there. I'm sure there will still be plenty of surprises, but even if there aren't, I've always enjoyed re-reading your old posts. :)

Shammickite said...

This book's going to be a hot best seller for certain, put me down for an autographed copy! Maybe two! And you'll probably make millions from the film rights.... I wonder who will play Jim in the movie? Any suggestions?

Craig said...

I love this stuff, Jim! Put me down for an advance order (and if you're signing any of 'em, I'd be honored). . .

Damn right you'll impress the youngsters that you played when you were 60. . . But I so get your experience. I still play recreationally every so often, and I can still hit (tho not with the power I had when I was in my 20s/30s), but I've just got no wheels whatsoever. Altho, with the recent, uh, changes to my vision, hitting could be more iffy than it used to be. . .

Suldog said...

You are ALL so kind! Thank you for the encouragement. As for who will play me if the book becomes a movie, I'd be very disappointed if I didn't get to play myself for the later chapters. As for my younger self, that person probably hasn't been born yet because I wouldn't expect this to become a movie any time before 2140 (in which case I'd probably need some serious makeup to play myself, so skip what I said a moment ago about me playing the part. Make it Louis CK. He'll be about the right age then and perhaps by that time his reputation will have been rehabilitated.)

Suldog said...

Craig - I've found that just carting my old ass out between the lines is enough to get most guys in their 20s and 30s to react with dropped jaws. It's sort of cool. If I thought I could still perform in any reasonable way, I'd milk that for a few more years. Unfortunately, I can't perform in any way other than to make them want to get me OFF the field as soon as possible.

Absolut Ruiness said...

Jim, The Incredible!!! What a ride this book will be! Trust me, you will save some lives and make others better with this one.
"A Caucasian, meanwhile, is pictured in front of a Frank Lloyd Wright split-level with a neatly manicured lawn. He is sharply dressed in suit and tie, staring off into the middle distance as though the cure for cancer lies just beyond his square jaw and steely-blue eyes. I think Caucasians MAY have been the target audience."
This one made me laugh out loud.

"Sometimes, when I said it, it was a lie. When God says it, never."
And this one made me gasp and wonder.

-Your fan from far off.....

Jackie said...

A best seller, I'm sure!!
Question: do you still have the guitar pictured in your "Age 20" photo?

Suldog said...

Jackie - No, I don't own that guitar now.

That one cost me $10 and - as I always say, with a smile - was worth every penny of it. Hideous bass. It was strung with old stiff strings that were actually a bit rusty, but I knew NOTHING and buckled down to learn the damn instrument. Best thing I ever did, because playing with those nasty strings on that horrible bass (the frets were also tough) gave me about four years of training in one year of playing. When I finally bought a decent bass, the next year, I found out I could play it with amazing ease compared to that brutal axe I had been practicing on.